That efforts should be made by Sri Lanka authorities to make
inroads into the Tamil Diaspora is not a matter for surprise.
that the Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 28-31 August 2008
was titled an International Conference on THE SRI LANKAN
DIASPORA – THE WAY FORWARD spoke volumes. So did the patronage
extended to the Conference by the Sri Lanka Ambassador to
Malaysia. So too did the fact that
conference was sponsored by a so called Federation of Sri
Associations in Malaysia in collaboration with the Department of
Indian Studies of the University of Malaya. The sponsorship
served to sharpen the awareness of the Tamil people who live in
many lands - Tamil people who know full well the continuing
genocidal onslaught on Tamil Eelam by
Sinhala/Sri Lankan nationalism backed by an
amoral New Delhi/Indian foreign policy.
that a 'Sri Lankan Diaspora' presumably consisting of Burghers,
Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are concerned to meet in different
parts of the world to map out the 'WAY FORWARD'. [see
TamilNet on the 'Sri Lankan
Diaspora' Conference in Kuala Lumpur]
The question that will arise in many Tamil minds is - 'WAY
FORWARD' for whom? A Sinhala nationalism which dares not speak
its name and which for many decades has sought to masquerade as
ethnic' Sri Lankan 'civic
nation' (albeit with a
Sinhala lion flag,
Buddhism as the State religion and an
unrepealed Sinhala Only law)
now seeks to
extend its tentacles within the Tamil diaspora by masquerading
as a 'multi ethnic Sri Lankan Diaspora'.
We ourselves received an invitation on 28 June 2008. The
invitation read -
We in Malaysia are hosting a conference
on the Sri Lankan Diaspora. I am
attaching a flyer for your information. We would
appreciate if you could give it some publicity on your
website. I am in touch with Mr Varadakumar in London and
have visited him and he recommended me to you. Your kindness
will be much appreciated. You or your representative are
most welcome to cover the conference. The registration fee
will be waived. Thank you and best wishes.
Conference Organising Committee
We agree with the remarks
in the TamilNet on 6
September 2008, that -
"...Meticulous efforts are being made
for sometime now by Colombo, its
international abettors and by
other aspirants for united Sri Lanka to capture the
soul and mind of this diaspora, not by straight forward
means of meeting the Tamil aspirations but by intimidation,
insinuation and by catering to the greed of certain affluent
sections of the diaspora..."
meticulous efforts include the efforts of the
International Crisis Group (with Board Members Lord Patten of
Barnes, US Ambassador Thomas R Pickering and former Australian
Foreign Minister Gareth Evans ) which frankly and openly
urged in February 2008 -
"So long as there is
widespread support for
militancy in the diaspora,
peace in Sri Lanka will be hard to come by... ...Western
governments’ policies on Sri Lanka should consciously
to open up political space within their Tamil
communities for non-Tiger political voices. Those
governments with significant Tamil populations should engage
representative civil society groups directly,.."
For the distinguished members of the
International Crisis Group, the roadblocks to peace were
'separatism' and 'militancy' - not the
decades long oppressive rule by a permanent and alien Sinhala
majority within the confines of a single state that had led
struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and, in the last
Tamil armed resistance.
Wisdom is not always a function of gross
national product and western governments (as well as others such
as Malaysia) may want to recognise that the Tamil people are not
stupid. The struggle for Tamil Eelam is not about what the LTTE
may have done or not done. The struggle for Tamil Eelam is about
the democratic right of the people of Tamil Eelam to govern
themselves in their homeland - nothing less and nothing
more. An independent Tamil Eelam is not negotiable. But an
independent Tamil Eelam will negotiate with an independent Sri
terms on which two independent states may associate with one
another in equality and in freedom. Sovereignty, after all,
is not virginity.
The Tamil people are not devoid of wisdom.
They know that if the armed resistance to the genocidal
onslaught by a
murderous Sinhala nationalism fails, they will be left only
with Tamil pleaders, supplicants and collaborators who may gain
some crumbs from their master's table for themselves (and their
next of kin) but will do nothing to oust the alien Sinhala army
from the Tamil homeland and prevent continued alien Sinhala rule
of the people of Tamil Eelam. Tamils in many lands will
therefore question those who claim (as the Kuala Lumpur
"..Unless the current generation takes
steps to co-operate in a positive manner, to network,
to promote, to review and to update its academic, commercial
and linguistic, cultural and other activities and create a
global infrastructure to coordinate these activities, there
is a distinct possibility that the Diaspora as we know it
today will not only diminish but quite possibly disappear in
the course of time..."
The Kuala Lumpur
failed to recognise that it is only those who are independent
co-operate in a positive manner, network and
become inter-dependent. It is only in freedom that
'academic, commercial and
linguistic, cultural and other activities'
can flourish. It is only in freedom that
truly independent 'global infra structures' may be created to
coordinate those activities. Otherwise these structures
themselves will become instruments to further the assimilation
of the ruled by their rulers.
The first question
that those Tamils concerned with 'coordination' may have
to answer is - can this 'coordination' of
'academic, commercial and
linguistic, cultural and other activities'
be ever accomplished by acquiescence to
alien Sinhala /Sri Lanka rule and/or by petitioning
the Sinhala rulers ?
"The organs of middle class political
life can only be dangerous (to the ruler) so long as they
are independent. By taking away their independence they
become fresh sources of strength for the Government...The
dissolution of the subject organisation into a disorganised
crowd is the inevitable working of an alien despotism..."
Sri Aurobindo in Shall India be Free?: Unity and British
International conferences concerned with
the 'disappearance' of the so called 'Sri Lankan'
diaspora, should start by recognising that "it is at the heart
of national consciousness that international consciousness lives
".. It is the fight for national
existence which sets culture moving and opens to it the
doors of creation... It is at the heart of national
consciousness that international consciousness lives and
grows. And this two-fold emerging is ultimately the source
of all culture..."
Frantz Fanon at the Congress of Black African Writers, 1959
And without heart, we churn out the
products of desiccated calculating machines. The report of the
Malaysian Tamil Scholar
in the TamilNet on 6
September 2008 that
"A point, said to be a practical issue,
brought out by some of the participants was that the term
‘Tamil’ was not acceptable to any of the governments or
universities facilitating such conferences."
makes for interesting reading. The term
‘Tamil’ was not acceptable to any of the governments or
universities facilitating the conference but there were some who
called themselves Tamils who were willing to participate! Given
that the conference was held in the land where Subhas Chandra
Bose founded the Indian National Army, the Conference Organisers
may have wanted to pay attention to that which
said many years ago in relation to Jawarhalal Nehru -
"...If he really wants to serve..., he must first of all
make sure of his foundations. For if he doesn't take care to
seek solid ground under his feet, the ground won't seek his
feet either: consequently, he will never be able to stand
perpendicular anywhere..." (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
quoted in the Lost Hero, a Biography of Subhas Bose by Mihir
Bose, Quartet Books, 1982)
If you really want to serve the Tamil
diaspora then you must learn to stand perpendicular. It is only
then that the ground will reach out to you. It is therefore not
surprising that in the event a 'large section of the
activists of the Ceylonese Tamil community (in Malaysia)
especially its younger generation boycotted the conference.'
The words of Gramsci should remain a
constant reminder to those 'academics' and 'intellectuals'
fearing the 'disappearance' of the so called 'Sri Lankan'
"...The error of the intellectual
consists in believing that it is possible to know without
understanding and especially without feeling and passion...
that the intellectual can be an intellectual if he is
distinct and detached from the people-nation.. History and
politics cannot be made without passion, without this
emotional bond between intellectuals and the people-nation.
In the absence of such a bond the relations between
intellectuals and the people-nation are reduced to contacts
of a purely bureaucratic, formal kind; the intellectuals
become a caste or a priesthood...' Gramsci
(quoted in James Joll's Gramsci, Fontana, 1977)
It appears that the reality that the 'Tamil
diaspora' is not the 'Sri Lankan Diaspora' somehow eluded
the Conference organisers. Furthermore, the reality that the
Tamil diaspora is not a subset of the so called Sri Lankan
Diaspora also eluded the Conference organisers.
The Tamil disapora is not simply the Eelam
Tamil diaspora. The worldwide Tamil diaspora is not simply the
oppressive Sinhala rule in the island of Sri Lanka. British
colonial rule also dispersed Tamils from their homeland in South
India and the North-East of the island of Ceylon (as it was then
known ) to many lands. In the 1840's Tamils went to
Trinidad in the
Caribbean, Guyana in South America, and
the coast of Africa; in the 1860's to the British colony of
in the 1870's to the Dutch colony of Surinam; in the 1880's to
Fiji. Others migrated to the French colony of
Reunion. Some migrated to Burma now known as
Mynmar (and which until 1937 was a province of British
India) to work on the plantations or to work as clerks and book
keepers. Tamils from
Tamil Nadu went to work on the plantations in central Ceylon
and in Malaysia.
Tamils who had resided in the North of the island of Sri Lanka,
in search of white collar employment.
Today, more than 70 million Tamil people live in
many lands across distant seas - in
Guadelope & Martinique
New Caledonia &Tahiti ,
United Kingdom, and
The growing togetherness of Tamils living in
many lands is not simply the togetherness of the Eelam Tamil
diaspora. It is much more. It is a growing togetherness rooted
shared heritage, in a
rich language and literature, in a
vibrant culture, and consolidated by
and given purpose and direction by a shared aspiration to create
a future where they and their children and their children's
children may live in
freedom and in
with the other nations of the world. It is a growing
togetherness which cries out sometimes in pain and sometimes in
joy: 'Yes, we may live in many lands and across distant seas,
but we too are a people!'
And, that Tamil diaspora is not about to
digital revolution has rendered State boundaries
increasingly porous, not only to the market but also to
human rights and
and deep rooted kinship ties are finding fresh
avenues for expression.
Google search for the word 'Tamil' returns
more than 46 million pages.
receives more than 50,000 visitors every
week from many parts of the globe and around half are from Tamil
Nadu - and for many of them the words that
we have carried on our
for several years -
resonate with their own being, with their own existence
and with their own aspirations. Many of them are moved by the
truth of something which Velupillai Pirabkaran said -
"உலகெங்கும் தமிழன் பரந்து வாழ்ந்தாலும்..
தனியரசு உருவாகும் வரலாற்றுப் புறநிலை
They are moved to recognise that the struggle
for Tamil Eelam is also their struggle. They recognise
of reason in the words of Golda Meir in 1948 -
"..We always had faith that in the end we
would win, that everything we were doing in the country led
to the independence of the Jewish people and to
a Jewish state. Long before we had dared
pronounce that word, we knew what was in store for us...I
want to say to you, friends, that the Jewish community in
Palestine is going to fight to the very end. If we have arms
to fight with, we will fight with those, and if not, we will
fight with stones in our hands... During the last few years
the Jewish people lost 6,000,000 Jews, and it would be
audacity on our part to worry the Jewish people throughout
the world because a few hundred thousand more Jews were in
danger. That is not the issue. The issue is that if these
700,000 Jews in Palestine can remain alive, then the Jewish
people as such is alive and Jewish independence is assured.
If these 700,000 people are killed off, then for many
centuries, we are through with this dream of a Jewish people
and a Jewish homeland..."
Tamils living in many lands recognise the truth
of something else that Golda Meir also said on that occasion -
" We are not a better
breed; we are not the best Jews of the Jewish people. It so
happened that we are there and you are here. I am certain
that if you were in Palestine and we were in the United
States, you would be doing what we are doing there, and you
would ask us here to do what you will have to do."
The Tamils in Tamil Eelam are not a better
breed; they are not the best Tamils of the Tamil people. It so
happened that they are there and we are here. If we were there
and they were here, we would be doing what they are doing there
and we would ask them to do what they will have to do.
Tamils living in many lands and across distant
seas recognise that though they themselves may not relocate to
Tamil Eelam when it is established, Tamil Eelam must be
established if they are to live with dignity where ever they may
continue to live - live with dignity,
thanmaanam, and not as wandering nomads without a state of
And it is the growing togetherness of 70
million Tamils - a
nation without a state - that Sinhala Sri Lanka fears
as a threat to its assimilative agenda. It is therefore
encouraging to note that Sinhala Sri Lanka has begun to
recognise the force of that which Tamil Nadu leader
Suba Veerapandiyan said in June 2008 -
"..ஈழப்போராட்டம் மூன்று முனைகளில்
தங்கியுள்ளது. அதன் முதல் முனையானது ஈழத்தில் உள்ளது. அங்கே
உயிரைப் பணயம் வைத்து அது நடைபெற்றுக் கொண்டிருக்கின்றது.
தமிழ் மக்களிடையே தங்கியுள்ளது. மூன்றாவது முனையானது
இந்தியாவில் இருக்கின்றது. இந்திய அரசின் மாற்றம் என்பது தமிழக
கட்சிகளின் மாற்றத்தை பொறுத்ததாக அமையும். தமிழகக் கட்சிகளின்
மாற்றம் என்பது தமிழக மக்களின் மாற்றத்தை பொறுத்ததாக அமையும்..."
"...The struggle for Tamil
Eelam rests in three fronts or battlefields. The first
battlefield is in Tamil Eelam. There the struggle is progressing
with lives being put on line. The second battlefield is in the
living in many lands. The third battlefield is in India. A
change in the policy of the Indian government will depend on
a change in the approach of Tamil Nadu political parties.
A change in the approach of Tamil Nadu political parties will
depend on change amongst the people of Tamil Nadu..."
organisers truly concerned with the future of the Tamil diaspora
(and not diverted by
the limited wisdom of those such as the International Crisis
Group) may want to pay greater attention to something
Marc Herold wrote about Obama and Afghanistan recently -
Buchanan points out, candidate Obama has absolutely no exit
strategy from Afghanistan other than a presumed military
victory. He utterly fails to understand the axiom of the
guerilla strategy: the guerilla wins if he fails to lose.
For the guerilla it is not about winning pitched battles, it
is about continuing the fight... Anatol Lieven of King’s
College (London) puts it aptly. Afghanistan is 'becoming
a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the U.S. and NATO
breed the very terrorists they then track down.'."