Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sri Lanka article: the comments stack up...

Yesterday I published an article analysing the fall of the LTTE capital of Kilinochi and I took a look at what the end game could be in Asia's longest running war as well as asking how did it get so bad in the first place.

Predictably, a barrage of comments came my way that painted Sri Lanka as a utopia that has been destroyed by the arrival of the Tamil Tigers and that I am simply a Western stooge trying to disintegrate the country. The bulk of the comments missed the point of the article and as always looked like the rantings of stoked up nationalists.


Comment number one described the economic situation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka being better than the Sinhalese. A visit to the North and East of the country quickly dismisses this fact, but as this area has been decimated by the civil war, it is understandable why the Tamils are in a far worse off position on the island. This is the reason why Tamils are poorer than Sinhalese. Missed the point.

Comment two states that the Tigers will revert to hit and run terror tactics rather than conventional warfare. This is a strong possibility, but their strength will be greatly diminished from their previous high at the end of the twentieth century.

Number 3 misses the point of the article. Again. It states that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka are amongst the most privileged minority in the world. If so, then answer the question that I asked originally. How were the Tamil Tigers able to dominate the life of Tamils in Sri Lanka when they brutalised the local population with punitive laws on personal liberties, extorted money from locals and recruited children into their ranks. Such an organisation could not have existed without corporation from the populace and so they obviously did not feel the privileged status within Sri Lanka in order to accept such treatment 'from their own'. Probably because it was better than the continual rapes by the army of Sri Lanka. I also suppose that torture does not really do any favours for officialdom either.

I will quote directly from Comment 4:

'you say "the state religion of Buddhism" - this is false. Sri lanka does not have a state religion. Buddhism just has to be protected by the state under the constitution.'

I think that qualifies Buddhism as a state religion. Also the comment talks about the happy utopia of the Tamils (again why have the LTTE existed for so long if this is true) and the international groups include the UN.

Five (this is getting tedious) is from 'Doc Ok'. I am just simply going to quote him:

'Your writtig,Mr. Duke, shaws that you just don t know the facts. Tipical wetern style pundith writting with no real insight. Please, if you don t know-do us a favour-don t report.It does more damage than good.-Thanks.'

My spelling is usually atrocious, but he makes me look good...

Number 6 is very true in that Malaysia does favour Malays over other people in the state, but in keeping English were able to avoid one of the most basic facets of the Sri Lankan war, one of language.

Comment seven is also a balanced one, although we agree to disagree on the details, mainly on my claim on the mistrust between the peoples of Sri Lanka.

#8 was a simple comment. The internet makes it easy. You keep writing my little friend.

Number nine makes me laugh in every way. From the description of my skin colour I knew this was going to be fun. And again, the comment completely missed the point of the article: How did the LTTE ever come so big? Simple words are not enough to cause a civil war, it requires far more than that, otherwise Bradford in Yorkshire would have become New Warizistan. The fundamental reason why the LTTE were able to become so big was that the mis-treatment of the Tamils became so unbearable, they decided to run into the arms of the Tigers. Out of the frying pan...

10, I agree with the divide and rule strategy of Britan that was successfully continued by successive administrations in Sri Lanka and by many other former colonies. However, the worst victim of divide and rule, India, has managed to overcome a lot of the worst of this, but is still not perfect, there is more of an effort there than in Sri Lanka. It depends on the will of the leaders, something that was lacking since independence in Sri Lanka, where which the government has simply relied on the 70-80% Sinhalese majority.

11, yes I agree, the Tiger's leadership has not changed, and I will be glad (like everyone) to see the back of them. But even the best state sponsored terrorism could not exist without the will of the people. Why else did the IRA last for so long? It requires support from ground level.

Why does support come from ground level? It is due to the belief of the people that their conditions would be better under militants than under a legitimate government. The UK were able to stop the IRA as they addressed the legitimate concerns of the Catholics in Northern Island. While no paradise, the Omagh bombing and the lack of support afterwards was one of the major turning points in bringing an end to the troubles in Northern Ireland. That never happened in Sri Lanka and so when the LTTE and the SLA went back to war, there was support from the ground up for the LTTE.

Twelve, when you compare to other Asian Diasporas such as Indians, Chinese, Malays, Filipinos, Thais, Pakistanis (in Mirpur), Bengalis (in Sylhet) the investment by Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka has been pitiful.

Comment 13 hit the nail on the head.

Comment 14 it is true that many Tamils have managed to achieve high positions in the capital. Having a command of three different languages is a start. Something that many Sinhalese cannot claim to. In effect it is in spite of the conditions in Sri Lanka, and a result of the higher rate of education amongst the Tamils, something that continues today despite the Civil War.

Number 15 , which is the final comment so far talks about the happy utopia of Colombo. A walk along the streets of Colombo will distill much of this particularly when in the Tamil areas. A sharp knock on the door produces fearful scurries inside, worried about security patrols in the area. Yes, I was mistaken for the army many times on my visits to the island, when knocking on the door of friends and family, unexpected. And yes, I will worry about the forces after the war. There are a lot of arms in a lot of peoples' hands. The numbers of troops employed now, will not be needed once the war ends. Are they really going back to the paddy fields to scratch a living from the earth?


Right, that's my usual reply to a Sri Lankan article. As always, and something that I knew would happen, there would be comments stating that the Tamils are to blame and that Sri Lanka is a peaceful world that was disrupted by a few Tamil Tigers. There was no way the LTTE could have gained so much strength without the support of the people. The only way to have gained that support is if the Tamils thought their lot would be better with the Tigers rather than with the Sri Lankan government.

There is still (unfortunately) widespread support by ordinary men and women for the Tamil Tigers and this support is unlikely to waver anytime soon. How the state of Sri Lanka will address this was one of the big questions asked by my article. Despite the wide range of comments and views, this one fundamental question was not answered. More fearfully, the government of Sri Lanka does not seem to have a solution for this either...

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