| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(November 09, 2013 London Sri Lanka Guardian) CHOGM is but a meeting of Commonwealth Heads whose sell-by-date have long expired. But it plods on like Dad’s Army, the British TV sitcom based on WW 11 where war veterans still believe they are fighting for Britain in their colonies.
C’wealth holds no more clout than the British empire whose colonies have moved on and gained autonomy. There are no more bunga boys to keep on pulling the ropes 24/7 to cool their heads from tropical heat; air-conditioning was yet to be discovered. And no more palanquins to chariot them across the arid deserts across India which in their halcyon days constituted much of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But they are coming here. And one more burning question that every Sri Lankan should ask of the government is who is footing the bill for the grand party for the CHOGM delegates. Is Commonwealth coughing up some kudos or is the government spending like there is no tomorrow and burdening citizen Perera, Mohamed and Appapillai who would rather their hard-earned money is well spent on their own families rather than fatten up the coffers of their elected politicians who are already draining people’s funds.
Sixty eight years since Ceylon gained independence from British colonialism, ethnic Tamils have yet to gain parity with the majority Sinhalese. Seven Buddhists brought branches of Bodhi Tree from India to propagate Buddhism to the isle and established the isle a Buddhist nation with the extrapolation that this isle would be exclusively a Sinhala nation.
The Senanayakes, Madugalles, Obeysekeras and others swear by all deities they are the true propagators of Buddhism and who carried seven Bodhi branches all the way from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka. Incidentally Bandaranaikes were not part of this pilgrimage but they would curry favour with the British by sheer force of being contractors of toilets as the Senanayakes contracted to be carters if one goes by the yarns of the late ganja addict Manik Sandrasegara.
Tamils have a tendency to discredit fellow Tamils as was seen in the insurgent period when the LTTE wanted to reign supreme over other militant Tamil groups. “Oor erandupattal koothadikku kondanddam” is a wise old Tamil saying which translates into, “If the village splits hairs the comedian wins”.
The comedian here is the majority Sinhalese who would use this opportunity to entrench their Buddhist hegemony while Tamils are fighting over who should become the fighting force for Tamil rights within a majority Sinhalese.
The fall of the LTTE is easily attributed to the dissent among Tamils. It is entrenched in Tamil genes they should put down fellow Tamils and that is the essence of what went wrong with Tamils gaining parity with the Sinhalese.
Having said that, to this very day, this writer depends on Sinhalese editors to publish her pieces. Not a single Tamil website credited this writer by publishing them. No wonder, Tamils are in this dire situation. One Tamil cannot bear to see another getting some prominence. Why should we blame the Sinhalese?
It was none other than H.L.D. Mahindapala, chief editor of The Observer, who persuaded Lake House chairman Sunil Rodrigo to recruit me to the Daily News when Independent Newspapers folded during Christmas of 1990. This was the time when all Tamils were portrayed as Tamil Tigers. However much I disagree with his writings he nurtured me and continues to be my pillar of strength. For this I am eternally grateful.
On a personal note, when this writer was nominated to Asia Pacific fellowship in journalism at UC Berkeley in the US, it was a senior disgruntled Tamil journalist, T. Sabaratnam, now pushing up daisies who telephoned the US embassy and told them I was an LTTE sympathiser. Thankfully the attache telephoned this writer and joked why this man had a grudge. However, the fellowship was awarded in 1993 just one and a half yearsinto Daily News.
Sabaratnam depended on Thondaman’s ministry to plug in news to earn extra kudos as did most Lake House journalists with their favourite ministries. He also stayed late after working hours to go limping (he was afflicted with polio and he wore Verti, the traditional Hindu vestment which our incumbent governor wears during ceremonies) to the VDT room to remove this writer’s by-line for the Colombo edition.
Having served the government mostly in Thinakaran, the Tamil HMV of Lake House where he was at loggerheads with the editor, he was moved to Daily News and he got just as far as India and no further for his sucking up to the governments in power.
Speak no ill of the dead is a fine dictum but it is incumbent on those who survive that this is a dictum which needs to be addressed whether the departed is a charlatan or saint.
Which brings us to the split and spoil amongst Tamil militants. The LTTE went on a rampage circa 1980’s killing opponents and parading their bodies in public as warning to those who dissented with them. Lamp-post exhibitions of those killed were the hallmark of the LTTE and they struck terror all across the North and East.
The LTTE then turned their anger on Muslims who they believed were traitors and who told Muslims who were an integral part of the commerce in Jaffna were intimidated into fleeing the peninsula where they settled for centuries and enjoyed parity with the Tamils were hounded out lock, stock and barrel due to the paranoia of the LTTE they were moles of the government.
Muslims, not unlike the Burghers were law-abiding citizens and they are well-known for their hospitality. Apart from astute business acumen coupled with worldly wisdom, the Muslims of Sri Lanka produced some of the finest scholars.
Tamils have a tendency to harp on their caste and Hinduism to castigate others who are of lesser caste. Caste is not a God given prestige; rather it is man-made and exploited to be subservient striking the fear of God into those they deemed lesser mortals. Ergo, the North and East.
The Brahmins if truth be told took to vegetarianism not because they abhorred killing of life form. The kings of yesteryears felt that their servants who went out to kill animals and bring their carcasses were short-shrifting them. So they preached that killing animals was sin; Brahmins bought this canard and took to vegetarianism and were smug they belonged to the supreme caste.
Having been carried away with musings of bygone days it is now time to reflect on CHOGM. Is t a dead parrot as we all know or is it something the government show-piecing to thwart war crimes?
There are some serious allegations against the government for its conduct on the military offensive which annihilated surrendering Tamil civilians and it certainly has much blood on its hands.
CHOGM will soon end but war crimes scrutiny will not go away. The Rajapaksas are in for a long haul and what with new evidence from Callum Mcrae and the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka video the government needs to prepare for porridge time in Hague; the war criminals’ refuge.
Ane UNHCR commissioner Navi Pillai has gathered her evidence first hand and the evidence is mounting.
(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)