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Tamils punishing Tamils?

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( May 12, 2014, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Colonel Hariharan in his latest article published by Sri Lanka Guardian, asks, "The incident raises a number of questions including why it is taking place when the internally displaced persons are being rehabilitated; whether it signifies yet another influx of Sri Lankan refugees to Tamil Nadu five years after the Eelam War; and what are its implications for India"

Yesterday, we met here in Sydney, a senior Tamil couple who have also come from Sri Lanka but with the full intention of returning after providing temporary support to their son’s family. One could therefore conclude that at least in Colombo and Jaffna – rational thinking as to what’s best for the whole family is the basis of decision making. Colonel Hariharan’s question is based on the following information:

"Ten Sri Lankan Tamils, including two women and five children, from Sri Lanka who landed at Aricha Munai off the Dhanushkodi coast (Tamil Nadu) on May 5 2014, have been arrested by police for entering the country without passports. After preliminary questioning, they are now lodged in Puzhal jail near Chennai. The media has questioned the decision to arrest them as they had fled from Mullaitivu fearing for their personal safety and sought refuge in India. Previously such refugees used to be screened at Mandapam refugee camp."

Here in Australia too – boat arrivals are being punished rather than being comforted. Even Tamils are complaining about the ‘attitudes’ of those who have been allowed to stay pending the processing of their applications. The rights and wrongs of this change cannot be taken merely at face value – relative to what happened back then during the height of the war. Genuine refugees would withstand the punishment and feel relieved – provided their current difficulties are not as strong as their previous ones in Sri Lanka. Those of us who seek to make it ‘better for them’ need to be careful not to upset the natural balance within their families and community. Those structures help us strengthen ourselves internally so the net value is merged at society level. If those structures are weak – we start assimilating. Right now, emigration from Sri Lanka is more an individual and/or small unit decision. Those who contribute to the structure of the community provide the leadership in relation to such issues. They need to do so honestly – so that the community is not led by external forces – including Indians. The claim of entitlement to self-governance does not have strength without such true and natural leadership.

We need to also value the work of those of us who go to Sri Lanka and be part of the community damaged by war. It’s a pity that the above group did not have access to such community leadership in Sri Lanka. The Tamil community needs such leadership in Sri Lanka for those who would be more progressive and harmonious in Sri Lanka than outside Sri Lanka. The more we talk about what happened since 1983 – the more active our minds would be in terms of the war. We would therefore not have the solutions that would prevent our community from such suffering in the future. Those who actively work for status on either side of the ethnic border – are likely to keep such memory active and alive. In other words – mentally speaking the war is not yet over for them. But care needs to be taken for this to not get to grassroots level – causing fear for one side and excitement for the other – even mentally – reflected through ‘attitudes’ towards each other. I find such active hostility within the Sri Lankan Diaspora – including from Tamil side due to the excitement associated with war related activities. To the extent I feel connected to the grassroots of the Tamil community – those threats are real when I feel anxiety. That is the ‘built-in early warning system’ that we carry within – through our feelings rather than thinking influenced by external forces.

We tend to want to ‘get’ the benefits we think we can have. But under such war related circumstances we need to think on behalf of the whole. Tamils need to form particular structures through which they provide services in Sri Lanka to share their current sense of harmony or anxiety – instead of activating the war time stories for which they have already received compensation through other countries that have accepted refugees. Likewise Sinhalese whose relatives and friends also emigrated as refugees need to form structures to ensure that they share their current confidence with their community – instead of referring back to how terrible the Tamil Tigers were. Eventually – it is about balancing what we owe our society with what we draw from it. At that breakeven point – we feel harmony. Beyond that breakeven point – our contributions to society would go naturally towards strengthening the structures that support the community. Those who still owe – do not have the authority find fault with others except in an emergency.

The media has failed to reach the grassroots of the Tamil community to prevent the departure of the above Tamils to Tamil Nadu. The media needs to first balance itself – between what it derives from not individuals and / or small groups of readers and writers – but from the issue itself. Once we balance our Benefits from the issue with the Costs – we become independent observers of what happens – without adding our own forces to the manifestation of what happens. These Tamil asylum seekers have confirmed that the Tamil Community as a whole is yet to achieve that balance. If UNHRC resolution was a strong contribution to the solution – this above matter would not have happened at this time through Tamil Nadu minds. The negligence of Tamils at grassroots level by the Tamil Diaspora which strongly influenced the UNHRC Resolution confirms that we are not looking within for the lasting solution but are more focused on finding fault with the external Sri Lankan Government. Finding fault excites the mind away from Peace & Harmony. If due to the UNHRC Resolution, the conditions for Tamils were projected to be better in Sri Lanka – then that has not been communicated to these folks. If not – Tamils should have not sought international involvement in Sri Lanka – but waited until Tamils came outside to help them directly and / or started developing a generation ‘free’ of war related influence. We need to free ourselves from problems that we do not have the capacity to resolve. Tamils who are living in peace anywhere in the world – would naturally share that with fellow Tamils. If Tamils in Sri Lanka are continuing to feel threatened - then one must conclude that the natural passage is not strong enough for an escalated solution.