The Tamil Diaspora And Sri Lanka

It has been more than a year since the Tamil Tigers were militarily defeated. But their global support amongst the tamil diaspora is still strong. These days I have been working in Waitrose and there are many Sri Lankan Tamils working with me. And this has given me a great oppurtunity to know, what they think of Sri Lanka. Last week I spoke to this Tamil person (Mathu), who has been in the UK for over a decade, about the war and the tigers. His version of the war is more flawed and biased than that of Rupavahini’s.

Following is an extract of my conversation:

“Why did the war start?”, he asked me.

“Because of misunderstanding between the communities?”, I answered very vaguely.

Mathu- “Who lived in Sri Lanka first?”

Me- “Why does it matter?. I know there are Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims living today”

Mathu- “No, the Tamils lived first and the Sinhalese came in later. Its like you have been living in your home for along time and your visitor comes and kicks you.?”

Me- “But, now the war is over and there is no point in us trying to talk about that”.

Mathu- “No!!!! the war is not over, there is a slight pause and we will start again very soon”

Me- “But what do you think about LTTE child soldiers?”

Mathu- “They do not recruit children. Its just government propaganda.”

Me- “But once saw with my own eyes, UNICEF handing children recruited by the LTTE  back to their parents”

Mathu- “We are a liberation movement and we have less people to recruit from than the Army. So we have to use our own people and their children”

I didn’t think it was worth talking to him any more,  although he wanted to continue. But, I started to wonder if he represents the view of the entire Tamil diaspora, blindly supporting a group which has been branded as a terrorist organization and thinking that the war in Sri Lanka is not yet over. Back in Sri Lanka, Tamils hardly support the LTTE (or atleast Tamils in Colombo generally don’t) and many would not even think of Sri Lanka divided into two. But when we are talking about reconciliation and power sharing as a “permamnent solution” for the conflict, I really doubt if these Tamil diaspora will ever be satisfied even if these are implemented. All they seem to want is a seperate state.

But then I thought, “who cares about the diaspora? We are a sovereign state. We can solve our own problems and develop ourselves”. It sounded nice, but is not practical. We Sri Lankans cannot afford to turn a blind eye on events happening outside our borders. These guys have been funding the tigers for ages and they are still willing to sacrifice a part of their income to restart the war and it is a definite threat for our national security and our future.

So what can be done? I don’t think they could all be satisfied overnight. But many of them could be made to feel better about the conditions of their families and friends back at home. As a first step, the government must encourage the diaspora to visit Sri Lanka. There is fear amongst many of them that paramilitary forces aligned with the government could abduct them when they visit their homes, for ransom. They were referring to several incidents of abduction of Tamil men, who returned home. Most of these, I think, are just fiction. But, we cannot deny that this never happens. Once, they visit Sri Lanka and understand the reality better, I’m sure their hostility towards there own country would have changed at least slightly. Then the government should encourage them to invest in Sri Lanka, rather than waste their wealth in a defunct organization and this will definitely give a big boost to our economy. The benefits of having a Tamil diaspora, feeling “Sri Lankan” are innumerable and we cannot afford to neglect them.


3 comments on “The Tamil Diaspora And Sri Lanka

  1. Jack Point
    August 3, 2010

    That man is an extremist.

    However that is not the problem, addressing the concerns of the diaspora is not the way to go about it, it is better to address the problems at home.

    There are many fundamental unsolved problems : the lack of governance in general and the breakdown of the rule of law in particular, that need to be addressed urgently. A part of this problem is corruption feeds into the other two problems (corruption causes them both and this then leads to greater corruption).

    The result is ever increasing cost of living, declining living standards and a blighted future.

    Sort these out and the diaspora problem will solve itself.

  2. நக்கீரன்
    August 8, 2010

    The LTTE is not a terrorist organization. It is a liberation movement. What distinguishes a terrorist organization and a militant organization is popular support. The Vanni people were well off under the LTTE rule than under the fascist rule of Rajapakse and Co. The question for Sinhalese chauvinists who relish labeling the LTTE as a terrorist organization, how did the LTTE originate in a Buddhist country? As Chandrika Kumaratunga once confessed Prabhakaran is a product of Sri Lanka state violence. If any Thamil Diaspora visits he will be shocked to find how shabbily the IDPs does are treated in North and east. While the government is spending 2020 billion on defence, it is spending a paltry sum of 20 billion on rehabilitation and resettlement. In short the LTTE armed struggle might be over, but the reasons for the war remain as solid now as before!

  3. sittingnut
    January 30, 2011

    i saw this only now.

    “The LTTE is not a terrorist organization”

    deliberately targeting and killing our children and innocents is not terrorism?
    there was popular support for that kind of killing among tamils?

    only a despicable racist fool will believe says those things . நக்கீரன் @ August 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm clearly is one

    nothing justifies what llte did.
    there are real tamil grievances ( though exaggerated by propaganda ), as have all others in sri lanka , but that does not make them ‘reasons for war’. anymore than poverty is a reason for stealing

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This entry was posted on August 2, 2010 by in General, Sri Lankan Politics and tagged , , , , , , , .


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