Militant vs. The Indifferent Voter

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( January 24, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘The Impeachment Debate, Sumanthiran and power devolution’ by Mr. Sebastian Rasalingam.

File Photo: LTTE Leader Prabhakaran with other senior member in early 80s
Questions similar to those raised by Mr. Rasalingam passed through my mind also. In addition, I stated that to me – the speech in parliament by Mr. Sumanthiran in regards to the Impeachment was that of a lawyer and not of a politician. When in parliament, the first duty is to Parliament and not to the Courts.

Mr. Rasalingam states ‘Sumanthiran stated that he has 21 years of professional experience practicing in Colombo. For at least 18 years, he implicitly and explicitly supported the murderous regime of Prabhakaran, and never denounced the kidnapping of children, forcing children, women and civilians to become fighters, training orphans into suicide bombers etc. When the constitutional rights of the Tamils were denied by Prabhakaran by preventing the Tamils from voting in several elections, the TNA (and Mr. Sumanthiran) went along with it. Prabhakaran himself ruled the Tamils for three decades, but the Sampanthans and Sumanthirans never told him to legitimize his rule by a vote. After all, the cyanide king came to power by killing the TULF leaders like Amirthalingam. So the LTTE-TNA cannot claim that the 1977 TULF victory legitimized them.’

If the common Jaffna voter had been an active participant in Governance – Prabhakaran would not have succeeded in his militancy. An active opposition is far more valuable than thousands of indifferent voters. Prior to armed militancy, the Jaffna voter was largely indifferent to national level politics. Similarly, until the impeachment of Chief Justice, not many Sri Lankans even thought about independence of the Judiciary. Most thought at the individual level until something ‘interesting’ happened at the national level. Prabhakaran escalated the Tamil issue step by step to National level and beyond to Global level. The indifferent voter on the other hand, when s/he has no opinion about what’s going around her/him but is driven by living the average life without strong purpose, but enjoys the benefits handed out from the National level – accumulates the ‘gap’ as a debt to the environment from which those benefits are received. Hence at the political level, Tamils through their indifference, accumulated negative karma. Then one day they woke up and accepted Prabhakaran’s ways as ‘right’.

If we wake up from sleep and make decisions before we have had time to take in the reality around us – we express the net memory of the past – as registered in our minds before we went to sleep. Tamils who keep talking about the old and become indifferent to their current reality would vote as per their old.

Mr. Rasalingam states ‘Think of this theater of judicial impeachment under power devolution, with some local land-owner high-caste chief minister (possibly a Mervyn-de-Silva Chelvam of the North), pitted against a regional `chief justice' selected from a tiny caste-based pool of local lawyers. The regional chief minister would have got away with it without even a news headline. In the present system, at least all the light is focused on one national stage.’

Today, I received a response from an engineer to my Sri Lankan Guardian article ‘ The Dismissal – Australia and Sri Lanka’ with special focus on the caste system. I responded as follows:

You say in relation to Karma 'For me as Valluvar & Auvvaiyar too said this is the investment for this life only'

This is as per each one's belief. If you believe that the effects of our work and sacrifices are reaped only in this life - full stop - I must accept that. But to me - only material returns - such as money and status are reaped in this life. If so one does not need to believe in God - beyond time and space limitations.

I do believe that I brought the essence of my previous karma into this life - just like I brought the essence of my life in Sri Lanka to Australia. I do find that my karma supports my work beyond the seen and the known. To me these are Natural Powers that we carry with ourselves. They are not easy to develop but as per my experience they work. Those who believe in God would identify with this.

You say also [“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”, Karma is mostly the same, in other words, the causes and effects of your deeds.]

I agree. But unless the system in which we operate is reliable - we are not able to identify with the reactions. At the physical level - the force divides itself into two - and hence 'opposite'. At the source level - it is One. Hence yes, I am the cause and the effect of my deeds. But how many deeds are purely MY deeds - for me to know what factor in me caused the deed? Unless we take responsibility for the whole - as if we and we alone caused it - we would not identify with the connection until we make calculations and match the total causes to the total effects of a particular deed. For example who caused the pain for Ambulance Driver Sritharan who lost his daughter due to bombing by Sri Lankan Government forces in April 2009 and who caused the further pain when his son lost his leg due to LTTE cadre firing at him to stop him from leaving Puthukudiyiruppu? Would Valluvar & Auvvaiyar say that it was caused by the person who bombed or the person who used the gun?

Taken as an individual - if I hurt because of this - then the reason for my pain is because I include the victims as part of myself. Hence I cannot attribute the reason to the Government or the LTTE but only myself and the side I include as my side.

Closer to home - let's take the engineer in you and the Tamil in you. Which one am I responding to now? Which one caused the expressions to which I am responding? If you step into my shoes (for which you need to lose your identity as Eeeee) - you will have the experience as I had it. Because this is not possible - we need to take equal space to have our say. We could do this more as professionals than you as engineer and me as accountant or engineer's wife. Your identity with my husband Param as an engineer gives you common grounds through which you are better able to step into each other's shoes. This has been an issue with our engineering group which brings as is - what happened when you were in Uni - rather than the essence of your investment in each other. Otherwise you need to give Equal time and focus to the ladies (Lllllll being the only one who fits both) as you take up. This does not happen. Through affirmative action, the contribution made by a spouse who did not have the experience with you back then - needs to be given priority over your repeated tales of the old. As you would appreciate - it is easier to make mass out of force than the other way around. Hence once expressed on behalf of majority force - it is difficult to go back to plan from zero base and divide the current available resources into equal halves. Confirmation of this weakness is in the emails with many of your engineering mates. At the national level - to my mind - you match eye for an eye - discrimination for discrimination and then you go to international stage and cry poor.

You state 'I feel the word "Nalavar" or "Vellala "may be omitted from this article & instead used toddy tappers & farmers accordingly.This only indicate the work they do usually & nothing else.Please note that Our Saints Appar and Sambanthar fought against the imposition of Sanskrit and the caste system.'

I would have been the first one to use those common words as per their work - if they were called those names today because of the work they do. If you believe that the caste system does not exist today - then to me you are the parallel of Sinhalese leaders who say that there is no discrimination due to race. My inclusion of this passage was due to Professor Hoole's expressed belief that Jaffna suffers from the caste system. Professor Hoole as a Christian is more of an outsider than an insider to this issue. Again, your commonness as Engineers ought to have helped you identify with the genuine part of Professor Hoole's expressions.

Once we make it 'common' we have an identity crisis. Your above statement is the parallel of saying that we should call ourselves 'Sri Lankans'. Between you and I - as per my observations - you would run faster than I to claim the status as Tamil. Likewise, between me and Param, Param would run faster to claim higher status as Vellalar with these folks. Likewise between myself and a Sinhalese - the latter would run faster to claim the status as Sri Lankan. Likewise between you and your White Anglo colleague the latter would run faster to claim status as British. You may pretend and hide. I don't. To the extent, I believe I could include others and help them override their 'local' forms which are obsolete in today's society - I do not express the differences. Beyond that I certainly do. It is also better for the Vellalar that I do - because they would be better aware of the reactions from a level playing field than from high up - where they tend to live in their own imaginary world.

You state 'Pongal is generally celebrated without any affinity to any division of people such as farmers etc as a secular festivals better called as "Thamilar Thirunaal"or the Prosperity Day of the Tamils.'

Why Tamils and not by all farmers? Because we do not know of another group - other than Tamil and that too mostly Hindu Tamil group - who say thank you on this day. Christmas is celebrated more generally than Thai Pongal and yet we attribute and appreciate Christians and their deservedness on this special day. If I am to say just Eeeee - it is less recognized than when I say Engineer Eeeee. Amongst Tamils - Tamil Researcher Eeee is more particularly recognized than Engineer Eeeee. Hence particular identity is needed for minds to come together. They are like surnames.

****End of email conversation*****

Jaffna is still alive with memories of LTTE and its promises of ‘Separate State’. Unless the Jaffna memory is actively involved in National and Global level debates, each time they ‘vote’ / wake up – it would be as per those old memories. Educating the common voter needs to take place as per the voter’s environment and not through academic language to get it ‘right’ at that global level. If Mr. Sumanthiran had used the language he is using at National level – it is highly likely that he would not be in parliament. If he is not in parliament – his speeches would not be heard except as part of general membership of the legal profession.

The indifferent voter gives form to hearsay. The militant on the other hand invests actively through physical efforts to show her/his side. By getting rid of that active militant, the Government of Sri Lanka gave life to the sleeping voter who is recording the pre Prabhakaran memory. That’s what happens if we do not develop belief as if the voter was part of us or educate the voter so as that the voter would oppose us democratically.

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