Two Tamils - Two perspectives ( 3)

| by Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan

(September 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is apparent the thoughts of both Dr. Rajasingham Narendran (RN) and mine, largely in so far as the future of Sri Lankan Tamils is concerned, find convergence. Where we differ is the path we take to gain that objective. It is best explained in the old village folk expression it matters little who and how you cook the rice so long it is well and ready to be served on the table (or the banana leaf) I know RN, is far more competent than I in Tamil literature, can capture this saying in classical Tamil.

I shall here attempt to meet some of his observations.

To assume Tamils have not been “ honourable..truthful” is to ill represent the Tamil case to the world. It needs no emphasis if at all honour and truth is lacking in the conflict, it certainly is not from the Tamil side.

To ignore all that happened in that engineered conspiracy to deny language rights to reduce us to 2nd class status and then to an Uncle Tom position , I believe, will be unacceptable to the Lankan Tamil people. From the original denial of language rights - now resolved to some extent – the programme has now developed now to obliquely deny land rights. The untenable HSZ matter - despite the intervention of the Supreme Court - is just one instance. The SLA's vogue of denying land under the HSZ to their owners on the grounds of their being "unsafe" and allowing the same land to be developed for lucrative cultivation and for the Hospitality trade for friends and relatives in the South is just another.

Dignified peace and unity is what we seek in a, hopefully, united future. While I have no wish to open past wounds it is clear a matter decades old or even older; complex and fraught with suspect machinations to keep the Tamil people under leash cannot be discussed in the cold abstract. Events, players and times inevitably come into play and cannot be avoided - as RN himself mentions names and specific organizations.

RN's comments here leaves little doubt there is hardly any love lost between him and the TNA. As I wrote before, the TNA are not without fault. I wondered how someone who cleaned many Tamil families of their life's savings in a scam Finance Company found a place within their Parliamentary Group. Another friend joins me to suggest this may have something of a Quid Pro nature where the man concerned may have used his editorial advantage to line up a role in the House. The more sympathetic view is that the newspaper coming under constant armed attack - with several journalists and workers brutally killed - is the reason. One also wonders how clean TNA MPs are with regard to the sale of those highly despised Luxury Car permits by which almost all MPs - including Buddhist monks - were found betraying the honour and honesty expected of them. Was it the fabled FBI Director Edgar Hoover who said "there is no such thing as a politician being a little crooked" Yet another area in which RN and I agree is that the choice of the Tamil people in terms of their political leaders certainly limited as of now.

Some of the snow-balling issues in the exacerbating National Question have indeed been due to what RN refers to as “predominantly Sinhalese Provinces being addressed more seriously” at the expense of the others (what else but Tamil dominated) This is really my point. As to his other remark “they can ignore us – and justifiably so” I must hasten to disagree. The reality is in this line of thought they threw us out of the Cabinet between 1956-1965. Consequent to the social hurricane that followed and - on better advise from regional and global leaders - Mrs. B had to repair this distasteful damage and collective punishment to the Tamils. In her 1970 Coalition cabinet she included the unknown and untested Architect Kumarasuriyar from Wellawatta. That her Cabinet included NM and Colvin – former stalwards of Parity - may have been enabling factors in this minor concession.

The Rajapakse administration must avoid the mistakes of the past in ignoring the development of the North-East. RN insists the regime has done much developmental work in the past 3 years. The Tamil people have asked for details of these and the government remains silent while misleading the world everything is well. Why that sensitive list of the dissappeared is still not made public is perplexing. In the Communique issued by the TNA on 14/09/2011 - contradicting Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s statement at the UN in Geneva - they rubbish government claims. No State worth its salt would have liked what the TNA charged “the Govt has been engaged in a constant flow of misinformation to the Int’l community….We urge the Govt to be more forthright and honest in its representations of the situation in Sri Lanka to the international community” So far the government has remained silent to the TNA’s damaging rejection. Just about the only exception was the one that came under RN's name - though I do not insinuate he speaks for the regime.

I do not think I should continue this debate any longer as we seem to be agreed on where we want to go and what we wish to see. The difference is how we get there – and the debate we have engaged is the very essence of that democratic dissent.

As Oscar Wilde was to note "While imagination initiates, it is the critical spirit that creates"

But I must point out the labour that RN puts in to bring us peace and unity is being constantly undermined. To illustrate the mountain of opposition here is what a prominent lawyer and frequent contributor to the Press warned the Rajapakses just yesterday (vide the The Island/Features Column - Ideology of Isolation ) There is little doubt the article is calculated to disrupt the current GoSL-TNA series of talks “yielding (even) mutually acceptable expectations to the Tamil people will be at the loss of their (the Rajapakse government) political base in the South” - a fate no Sinhala government would risk. And to cite another example is what the all-powerful Defence Secretary insists when he stated, in his inimitable language and choice of words "there is no need for further devolution. We have given them enough" These are some examples of the perfidious and toxic politics charaterising the South since Independence. There is very much more being concocted presently - from the ridiculous "they came to Jaffna from Kerala 400 years ago brought by the Dutch for tobacco cultivation" to the rarely sublime and accommodating.The bogey of Federalism to be followed by Regional Councils, Separation, the LTTE should have died with the LTTE. But no, this is now kept alive by an imaginary global conspiracy of a cohesive Tamil diaspora acting in unison to harm the Sinhala State. This fear certainly finds fertilie ground in the minds of the large the present Sinhala generation that has grown up on a large dosage of anti-Tamil propaganda.

I have admired RNs long commitment and passion in the Tamil cause. I wish him a period of pleasant retirement. I did not add “useful to the Tamil Nation ” because that is something that appears to be inherent and deeply imbedded in his nature.