British Sri Lankans and terrorism


by Sunny
19th May, 2006 at 4:57 am    

Ravi4 made some excellent points in the previous thread on the violence in Sri Lanka, regarding the British angle. So I’m posting part of it here, to concentrate on how all this affects British Sri Lankans and Tamils.

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I understand most people of Sri Lankan origin resident in the UK are Tamils. Most of them rightly condemn the SL Government forces’ violence and brutality, and the hardening of the Government’s position on Tamil autonomy. Most see the UK Government’s position as too supportive of the Sri Lankan government and not critical enough of its abuses, and there’s something in that argument.

But most Tamils here also seem to have a naively uncritical view of the LTTE and Prabakharam, in spite of their oft-demonstrated violent, intolerant and autocratic nature. Hearing some UK Tamils, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the LTTE was a misunderstood Social Democratic movement, instead of a virtually maoist, militaristic grouping with enormous personal power given to Prabakharam.

Prabakharam’s disastrous decision to enforce (at gunpoint) a Tamil boycott of the November elections to help the extremist Rajapakse gain power and thus justify an LTTE return to war seems to have begun to stir some discontent amongst UK SL Tamils. Virtually everyone else has spotted this tactic for the transparently self-serving piece of cynical dirty politics that it is. Yet there has still hardly been an outcry against the LTTE leadership.

Given Sri Lankan Tamils’ notorious educational (and class/caste) snobbishness – at least amongst the high profile middle classes here – I’m constantly amazed at how much blind faith they persist in placing in Prabakharam and his clique. A man most of them would not allow in their house, employment or welcome into their family by marriage in better circumstances is entrusted with the future of their “ancestral homeland”. The more stereotypical educated Tamil émigré Balasingham is clearly just a mouthpiece – he obviously doesn’t drive the LTTE’s political strategy. (If he does, then clearly he isn’t half as clever as he seems – sort of a Tamil Ming Campbell.)

Should the Tamil “community” be doing more to push the LTTE leadership towards more democratic/pluralistic politics, full respect for the rule of law and due process, and particularly to give up suicide bombing, even if they do see the LTTE as a legitimate force for the protection of the Tamils in the North and East of the country? Shouldn’t they be pushing this agenda when contributing money to projects back in Sri Lanka, when going back there, or offering their services for free there? (as many young graduates do, taking financial and security risks that their parents would never dream of)

Ironically – and here I know I’m exaggerating – might the very success of Tamil emigration have contributed something to the deficiencies of the LTTE leadership? Tamil emigration has given the North (and the LTTE) a source of serious financial support and wider political reach. But it has also meant that a large proportion of potential Tamil Nehrus, Jinnahs, Mandelas are now doctors, accountants and lawyers in the UK, Canada and Australia. Has that made it easier for a Prabakharam to emerge as the dominant personality in the Tamil independence camp? (Not that we can or should turn back the immigration clock now.)

I’m not asking Tamils to apply their reputed snobbishness to the LTTE. That reputation for snootiness is in any case to a large extent unfair. And caste, class and educational snobbishness is a wholly unacceptable way of addressing this (or any other) situation.

But I would be happier if Tamils here made a bit more use of their intellect and common sense, attributes they’re rightly praised for, when it comes to thinking about and influencing events in the country that they or their parents originally came from. That would give the cause of Sri Lankan Tamil self-determination a much better chance of producing a successful – and democratic – result.

Although that shouldn’t mean we treat the Rajapakse Govt and the SL security forces as whiter than white either.

Ravi4
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Many have also mentioned the BBC’s coverage. Coincidentally, they wrote a recent article on BBC coverage regarding the Sri Lankan conflict. It’s quite amusing.

Also amusing is Mirax’s comment in the above mentioned thread: “This thread is so civilised and polite – imagine if this was Indo-Pak or hell, an Israel-palestine discussion! It is good thing that you guys are not carrying too much emotional baggage and that this is not a ‘fashionable’ cause like with the Palestinians where outside ’supporters’ also become infected with bilious hatred of the other side.


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Filed in: South Asia,Sri Lanka






12 Comments below   |  

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  1. Ismaeel — on 19th May, 2006 at 8:52 am  

    Sunny,
    it’s Prabakharan : )

  2. Roger — on 19th May, 2006 at 11:19 am  

    There’s also the question of financial support- voluntary or not- from the Tamils in the UK.

  3. mirax — on 19th May, 2006 at 11:33 am  

    It’s ravi4 who wrote it like that and I did wonder about it since I speak the same language but decided that it was probably a SL Tamil thingy. The first time I heard spoken SL Tamil, I thought they were speaking a completely different language!

  4. mirax — on 19th May, 2006 at 11:43 am  

    >>There’s also the question of financial support- voluntary or not- from the Tamils in the UK.

    When I was in Australia, I encountered (for the first and only time) fundraising among SL Tamils for the cause. The fundraisers emphasised that the money was for charity but quite a few of my SL friends had doubts about this though no one openly challenged the story.

  5. sonia — on 19th May, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

    Interesting post.

    I still think its worth evaluating all this in the context of diasporic community dynamics.

  6. Prescott_Luva67 — on 19th May, 2006 at 12:08 pm  

    The fundraisers emphasised that the money was for charity but quite a few of my SL friends had doubts about this though no one openly challenged the story.

    Some of the money is genuinely used for charity…some of it isn’t. The LTTE are VERY good at their propaganda and will be quick to ‘shoot down’ any form of dissent and questioning.

    As I mentioned in my previous article – their interest is Power, not the wellbeing of the Tamil people. If that were the case, they’d allow the democratic process to take its course.
    Many of the Tamil politicians who have done so are anything but a bunch of weaklings – they will fight just as rigourously for Tamils, just through peaceful means.

    “This thread is so civilised and polite – imagine if this was Indo-Pak or hell, an Israel-palestine discussion!

    I havn’t had the time to look into the previous discussion again but the situation isnt a case of race v. race. Race happens to be an issue but in my opinion the war in SL stopped being about it a while ago.
    SL is not an apartheid state and I’m yet to see a Tamil being spat on or refused anything due to their race.

    There is a myth that the Tamils are unwilling subjects in a race-oriented state – I’ve lived and travelled extensively for 20 years of my life without seeing any evidence of it.
    Some terrible things have occurred in our recent history but the majority of folks have had nothing to do with it and to end the war is an ‘unfair’ mess on every single person who carries a Sri Lankan passport – that includes Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers (mixed/Portuguese-Dutch decent) and other Creole minorities.

  7. Prescott_Luva67 — on 19th May, 2006 at 12:11 pm  

    I still think its worth evaluating all this in the context of diasporic community dynamics.

    That is something I’d like to see more on as well. I’m glad Sunny reposted Ravi’s comments as they are well tempered.

    I do know that the Canadian Intelligence services have done a lot of research into the Tamil/SL community presence in Canada, I’ll try to find something online – most of the stuff I have is back home :(

  8. Mr M — on 19th May, 2006 at 1:40 pm  

    Anyone read about this?

    http://www.asiansinmedia.org/news/article.php/music/1321

    Seems this person has been denied entry for lyrics deemed supportive of the LTTE.
    Hadn’t heard of her before I stumbled on this, but she sounds pretty crap tbh.

  9. Prescott_Luva67 — on 19th May, 2006 at 2:06 pm  

    I admire MIA for her talent but her videos are a different matter.

    The song ‘Sunshowers’ has a lyrical reference to the PLO and ‘never surrendering’ – which might have something to do with it.

  10. mirax — on 19th May, 2006 at 3:46 pm  

    Sunshowers is a euphemism for suicide bombers, I think. A morally illiterate young woman.

  11. Ravi4 — on 20th May, 2006 at 8:58 am  

    Ismael’s right – it should be Prabakharan. (Most of the people I know pronounce it Prabakharam, hence the typo!)

    This thread is very civilised – but I guess that must be because PP isn’t frequented by the average LTTE supporter. Whenever I’ve expressed these views in SL Tamil company, I have got a fair amount of negative feedback (although some support too). Arguments used are on the lines of middle class “bourgeois” preoccupation with democracy and human rights, when what we need now is revolutionary solidarity to save our “ancestral homeland” blah blah. MIA is an example of that opposing view.

    Prescott Luva says SL is not an apartheid state and Tamils are not spat on etc. That’s all true. But I think the poison of recent history runs very deep and I fear it’s too late to go back to the unitary multi-ethnic state of the 1950s.

    As I said in the last thread: There is still widespread SL Tamil support [in UK, Australia, Canada and in SL itself] for at least very extensive autonomy for the North and the East, and a general preference for independence, even if there is also a definite war weariness. Although things in Sri Lanka are a lot better than they were in the 1970s and 1980s when many SL Tamils left the country, there is still a general perception (and I believe reality) of anti-Tamil discrimination, and wide distrust of all the main Sinhala dominated political parties. (Unfair towards Wikramasinghe in my opinion.) As far as I’ve been able to find out, no Tamils were involved in the protests about BBC reporting – though I may be wrong.

    The challenge for Tamils abroad who have any sense is to try and influence events back in SL so that we don’t end up with an LTTE/ Prabakharan military dictatorship. Self-determination? yes. Nutty militaristic suicide bombing dictatorship? no.

    Let’s see what happens to LTTE support here in the UK in light of the just announced EU proscription and any other further developments – particularly if there’s a return to full scale war.

  12. Vikrant — on 20th May, 2006 at 11:37 am  

    My interest in SL-LTTE war has been minial to say at the least. I know a couple of LTTE Tamil Sri Lankans who live just down the street and hence i was under impression that many SL Tamils support LTTE. btw wasnt LTTE funded by Indian intelligence services in its initial years. I think the support ended after LTTE came up with their grand plan for an Eelam encompassing Tamil Nadu and Northern SL.

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