Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One needs to be a Tamil to know of the inconveniences and the humiliation we suffer at times..!!!

Grievances of Tamil citizens

Many Sinhalese scoff when reference is made to our grievances. One needs to be a Tamil to know of the inconveniences and the humiliation we suffer at times. It was therefore refreshing to see a Sinhalese gentleman refer to some of our problems. Thank you Mr. Godage, for referring to the difficulties that we Tamil citizens are undergoing, in your recent article on the rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres. Yes our brothers in Jaffna and the north and east are still receiving letters from government departments in Sinhala, we Tamils are still unable to make an entry in Tamil at a Police stations, no ‘Tamil only’ speaking citizen can transact business at our post offices, though Tamil is said to be an official language in this country. W e are also subject to rude questioning when stopped at checkpoints.

The implementation of the 13th Amendment plus or minus or some other constitutional arrangement should be undertaken at the earliest so that the minorities who live in the north and east can feel that they have a say in deciding on their own destiny within a united country. I agree that it is inadvisable to give Police powers to PCs in our small country. In any event if what is intended primarily is to ensure good governance and that we the people are brought closer to the process of governance then is not the District Council as proposed by Dr. Neville Laduwahetty in all his contributions not the answer?

What is indeed sad in our present circumstances is that the people in the south, particularly those who dislike Tamils (though we worship the same Gods and many ‘Sinhalese’ came from India even as late as the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries for silk weaving, cinnamon peeling and toddy tapping and got ‘Sinhalized’) are unaware of the suffering that the people in the north went through over the years, just like the sufferings of the people in the south because of the LTTE’s atrocities. The government should consider compensating those who suffered as a part of the effort to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. Permit me to list some of the atrocities

Yes everyone knows of what happened in one bloody week in July 1983 when almost one thousand Tamil civilians were killed and their properties destroyed in Colombo and the rest of the country and gave rise to the so-called Diaspora. In addition to this were the following atrocities perpetrated on the Tamils which many of our Sinhala brothers are not aware of:

The revenge killing of 60 civilians at Tinnevely on 24th July 1983 – a day after the 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush at the same village. the killing of 40 detainees at the Welikada Prison during that horrible week in 1983. The revenge killings immediately after 30th November 1984 killings by the LTTE at the Kent and Dollar farms, when some unknown elements are alleged to have gone berserk and shot everyone in sight. A large number of such killings took place in Irretperiyakulam in the Vavuniya District, at Chettikulam in Mannar District, and at Valvettithurai as revenge for the slaughter of pilgrims at Anuradhapura by the LTTE, and last but not least came the best known massacre at Kokkadicholai in 1985 where over 80 civilians were killed. The vicious cycle of reprisal killings by both sides has been absolutely horrendous. Yes we Tamils have suffered too because of the atrocities committed by the LTTE.

We now live in the hope that this horrible era is over, thanks to President Mahinda Rajapakse who destroyed the LTTE, which was a curse to us Tamils too. It now remains for him to ensure peace with justice. He needs now to address the causes that led to the militancy. Whilst there are political grievances, there are also socio-economic issues that need to be addressed and education and employment in the state sector are two such important areas. With regard to education, I liked the suggestion made by Mr. Godage that education in the North and East be in the English medium, no one can then ever claim that we have been discriminated against, I have no doubt that students from the south would seek to enter schools in the North and East to secure a good and better education than there is in the south where education in the vernacular prevails. The Universities in the North and East could also teach in English. This would promote social integration and better understanding.

Politicians the world over live on rhetoric, ours are no exception, they must understand that we are living on borrowed time. We cannot leave any room for a recurrence of an insurrection either in the north or the south. As for the ethnic issue, the political package must go parallel to the reconstruction programme. The peace dividend must not be delayed. We must have peace with justice, this is extremely important, for peace without justice is only a symbolic peace. The government must ensure that the rule of law is enthroned, so that all the people of this country can feel secure. Restoring Justice after a conflict may be a hazardous task but it would help to build mutual trust, which is indeed the foundation for a just and lasting peace.

It is only President Rajapakse who can allay the fears of the paranoid who have stood in the way of an agreement from the time of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. If only a settlement had been reached, then not only would the lives of over one hundred thousand have been spared, we would have been a better developed country than Singapore and we would have been the envy of the developing world. If only the President can achieve a just and sustainable peace, he would then no doubt go down in our history as the greatest ruler of this country, as great as the greats of the sub-continent..

S. Ramalingam


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