Response to Dayan Jayatillake- Sri Lanka Guardian Article - Tamil Nationalism is Dead
Tamil Writers Guild published a well-received rebuttal of Dayan Jayatillake's(DJ) provocative writings in May 2009. Now, more than a decade later, after the brutal war that cost over 80,000 lives, displacement of 500,000 Tamils and the exodus of millions of Sri Lankan abroad, DJ seems keen to rub salt to the civil war related and unhealed wounds.
The crux of his presentation is this. The Tamils have not only lost the war but also have lost any room for manoeuvre to secure political rights. All their leaders, from GG Ponnambalam and SJV Chelvanayagam to the spokesperson Sumanthiran of Tamil National Alliance(TNA) have failed and the same goes with the armed struggle.
On the other side of the spectrum, everything appears to be too good for those who govern. The current president has secured a resounding victory and with the blessing of the Buddhist clergy, he has enormous powers.
He is not tied up by any accord that was made with India to bring the war to an end. According to DJ, 'The challenge the Tamil community faces today is the drastic discontinuity in Sri Lankan politics and political history: for the first time since independence, the ultranationalist Hard Right is in office.'
Meanwhile, the ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa apparently has a different approach to accommodate minorities. The two brothers have two different views within the Rajapaksa dynasty.
The Rajapaksa brothers enjoyed unhindered power to run the country and are directly accountable for the human right violations during the war and the Easter bombings.
If we look at these points in turn, the Tamils were led up the garden path since the country's independence and left in a limbo by successive Sinhalese governments. Any agreement for accommodating Tamils rights were torn up or abandoned under the pressure from the Buddhist clergy.
The proxy war against the Tamils which was orchestrated by India, Pakistan, China and a host of other countries and carried out by Sri Lanka was a war to crush the freedom and birth rights of the Tamils who are the indigenous people of the island. The Tamils inhabited the North East of Sri Lanka since 300BC and had their kingdom with nationhood until 1800AD. The systemic genocide to destroy this nation and the violation of rights have been so obvious to ordinary people, let alone the intellectuals, lawyers and the international community that the United Nations had adopted a resolution for a war crime inquiry in March 2014.
Many Tamils considered Prabaharan who steadfastly believed that the chauvinistic Sinhala government would never deliver a meaningful political devolution to Tamils, to be not only a freedom fighter and a visionary but also the product of the continued oppression and subjugation of the Tamils by the Sinhala majority. DJ gloated repeatedly that the Tigers were defeated in 2009 but never mentioned the widespread war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan forces. The fact remains that the Tamil freedom fighters were not defeated by Sri Lankan forces alone. The way the war was conducted, hidden from the world media, will be a subject for another day in the international court.
DJ wrote his lengthy discourse in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic which attacked everyone equally without discrimination. This pandemic induced moral values like co-operation, consideration and caring for your neighbour. DJ being an academic with experience in Sri Lanka, should guide the young generation to forget the past and look to the future with hope of living in a tolerant society, instead of being partially blinded from seeing that Tamils are also an equal nation in Sri Lanka.
The Tamils are renowned to be a cultured and educated people who are peace-loving and industrious. Over 5000 years, they have contributed to the passage of world civilisation from the Indus Valley, South India, Sri Lanka to Malayan Peninsula including Cambodia with the only living ancient language and very rich literature. Furthermore, they are rapidly growing internationally to assert their political power through their huge Diaspora.
It may be that DJ is right that the Sinhalese have the wind in their sails for the time being but that does not mean that Tamils will not have the wind on their sails anytime soon.
Unfortunately for DJ's seeming obituary for Tamils, they have been and will be living with other inhabitants of the island in peace and harmony as they have done for over 2000 years. Therefore, it's better for DJ, the Buddhist clergy and the Rajapaksas to restore the nationhood of Tamils in the North East of Sri Lanka sooner rather than later if they were to realise their dream of keeping Sri Lanka united and intact forever.
Tamil Writers Guild Editorial Board