| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( April 23, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This morning I received mail from a Tamil Diaspora friend living in the UK in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Jaffna University v Harvard University’. The reader especially appreciated the message that the Sri Lankan education system must first serve Sri Lankans.
Today’s response was about the news entitled ‘Tory councillor quits over remarks about race’. The BBC article informs us about Councilor John Cherry ‘The councillor, who represents the village of Stedham, made his comments to the Mail on Sunday about a plan by the south London-based Durand Academy to open a boarding school in the village.
He told the paper: "Ninety-seven per cent of pupils will be black or Asian. It depends what type of Asian. If they're Chinese they'll rise to the top. If they're Indian they'll rise to the top. If they're Pakistani they won't."There are certain nationalities where hard work is highly valued. There are certain nationalities where they are uncertain what this hard work is all about."If the children are not allowed out of the site then it will make them want to escape into the forest - it will be a sexual volcano. "Has anyone asked whether these children want to be plucked from their natural surroundings? They have never done boarding before, so they won't know how it works." His remarks have been heavily criticised and led to moves by the Conservative Party to suspend him.’
That brought to my mind remarks at the University of New South Wales that foreign students were bringing the standards down. I was upset by it – not because it was not untrue but because the students were being blamed instead of the University that sought the business money from foreign students who could not make it to the top ranks in their own countries,. One of our nephews said to us ‘It is relatively easier to get an engineering place at an Australian University than in a Sri Lankan University’. I got upset about that too and to the extent we have authority over him in terms of his higher education – I disciplined him. I got upset with him for comparing apples with oranges. Grades are about internal competition. To compare the two - one has to take into account the work and sacrifices that a migrant family goes through to send that student to University here in Australia. It is that total that needs to be compared by a Sri Lankan, with the grading needed by a student in Sri Lanka to get an Engineering place. When we are assessing others’ systems – we need to start from zero base and use current merit basis to assess the current value.
It is like in marriage. We have the system of the family that we grow up with. Then when we get married – we develop own system – bringing into it some of the old system. Some of us bring into it more of the old system. This is ok - so long the old system is higher than what we can develop. Migrants who bring their old system as is into the UK would be doing the right thing if the new system in the UK is of lesser value than their old system. Similarly – the older folks in the UK – as the above mentioned Australian academics were and as the 73 year old British Councilor seems to be – are bringing their old values as is into a new Equal Opportunity world.
The University academic group that made the above observation were my seniors in ranking. Hence I could not discipline them back then. Later that was included when I took action against the University Administrators for unlawful racial discrimination. The British Councilor resigned and was suspended by his Party Administration. The Australian academic group sent me to prison for highlighting racial discrimination.
Both groups may be saying what they believe is good for their local group. It is the parallel of the Sinhalese leaders calling the Tamil Tigers ‘terrorists’. But unless the law as applied by them describes them as terrorists they are merely using their own general habitual language in referring to these groups. If as per the Sri Lankan Government the LTTE were Terrorists their Eastern leader – Karuna should not have been included as a Government Minister by that very same government. As per the Sri Lankan Governments conduct therefore – the LTTE were not Terrorists.
Our actions speak the Truth louder than our words and our feelings which are the causes of those actions are the real driving forces. The question that we need to ask here is whether the older group is protecting their nation or risking its safety. That depends on the level of actual practice of Equal Opportunity principles and values by their nation. When majority practice these principles and values – these ethnic elders are being unjust. But where majority actually bring forward their old habits – and make decisions on that basis – they are keeping the balance going and thus preventing reverse discrimination – which in the extreme leads to bombings and loss of lives. In other words the ethnic elders of one community balances its other side in another community – including old British community. It is also the value of Diversity.
There is the old system and the new system and there is Truth. The system that leads us to our Truth is the system that suits us best. If that is the old colonial system for the British Councilor – we need to accept that on the same footing as we accept Diversity. The official system is the new system and its language ought to have been used in both instances – here in Australia and there in the UK.
To my mind, as indicated above – the speakers ought to have assessed from their side and not judged the other side. In the Australian example they ought to have stated words to the effect ‘When we seek business money from outsiders – our grades would need to be brought down to suit the failures in those countries’ ; in the case of the British example – words to the effect ‘ Our local community gets along better with migrants who invest in our traditional values including in higher education for life and not just for living’.
In her Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Ethnic Resolution: Getting it Right’ , writer Gnana Moonesinghe states ‘At the moment the US and western democracies that stand for democracy, equal opportunities to all and rule of law are hostile to the stand taken by Sri Lanka in not cooperating to improve conditions in some of these areas. But if Sri Lanka were to get alert to the fact that their foreign policy approach should change to accommodate some of the demands from the western democracies, from India and more importantly from Sri Lankans for redress, the situation from the international perspective can change overnight. What with bombs going in Boston there will be hostility to anti national sentiment. Diaspora and the strident voices rising from section of the Tamil community who are not interested in reconciliation in the hope that if reconciliation and healing of war wounds does not take place it would automatically lead to the creation of a separate Tamil nation.’
The Boston bombing needs to be assessed in the environment in which the problem was born. Every problem comes with its own opportunity. If taken as a local problem – one would identify with the solution. Sri Lankan problem to the extent the Government recognized Tamil leadership in Tamil areas has been addressed at the surface level. This has been the case in the East – through Karuna. But that is also acceptance of reality which negates the value of our investments in structured systems based on Common Principles and Values. Even amongst the Tamil Community – Northern Tamils are known to have invested more in higher education than any other group of Tamils. Hence the difficulty in reconciling with Northern Tamils who would refuse to compromise down to reality. They are the parallels of the Indians that Councilor John Kerry refers to and the Tamil groups with lesser investment in Higher Education are the parallels of Pakistanis referred to by the Councilor.
One who feels part of that community would know the Truth. Expressing the Truth for a higher purpose – for example prevention of violence – is healthy. I believe that my expression of Truth about white ethnic problems here in Australia – has been healthy for Australia and my continued efforts to share takes with it the genuine forces that cause healthy outcomes in an Equal Opportunity world. I accept also that it is equally healthy for the older White Australians to share their Truth with their local communities but do so outside official structures that require one to stay within the principles of Equal Opportunity. Once we discover the Truth through our hierarchical path – its alternative – the Equal Opportunity path is merely a theory whose language is to be used to structure our discovery. Majority British of Pakistani origin actively practicing their culture and enjoying high community status through such practice – would identify with the remarks of Councilor Cherry. In fact they may fear losing their children to the ‘new system’ and thus may think again about the high class status that comes with it.
Gnana Moonesinghe talks about the parallel of the above matter as follows: ‘Equally important would be if a chain of human links supported by lawyers, doctors, grass root organizations are got together to provide the moral strength to the people in these areas, who do not have any anchor, who have lost their bearings and their self- respect and self –worth as well. One has still to hear of even a scholarship granted to a promising student to be educated in the countries which is home to the Tamil Diaspora.’
A Tamil educated outside Tamil homeland would not naturally feel the solution that comes with the problems relating to education. One must have the experience to develop solutions internally – bottom-up. Once we seek and attain external education – we have to use the lateral path of sharing knowledge which would then give these scholars membership with Diaspora leadership and not local Tamil leadership. Diaspora has the primary responsibility to satisfy the just expectations of the International Community, through its social conduct. Sinhalese need this strength more from their side than Tamils, because the Sri Lankan government is a Sinhalese government and its conduct is the taken as the conduct of the Sinhalese community – the same way the conduct of the Tamil Tigers was taken as the conduct of the Tamil community.
Once there is injection of foreign elements into the solution – locals lose controlling influence over what happens. But to the extent we conduct ourselves as per our Truth – we influence the issue through the system of Natural Justice. When and where this is seen is secondary to one who believes in Truth. Even conducting oneself as per her/his Truth has the effect of belief. Hence if we are true to ourselves and appreciate more and more the truly positive qualities in us that make us feel good – the negatives would just get forgotten. In the alternative we may surrender to someone who has positive forms of Truth much more than us. It’s when we want it both ways that we encounter problems. This – most migrants are guilty of. For material purposes they want to be British/Australians. For cultural / social purposes they want to be colonialists/ethnics. That is like wanting to act as a good son and a good father at the same time. One needs to be true to the system of the environment that supports her/him. If the current one seems too difficult – they must limit themselves to their old one. That would prevent terrorism for sure.