Before anyone gets offended, let me just say that I left Sri Lanka when I was a small boy. So forgive my tone in this post as my attachment to the motherland is a bit strained.
Why did so few others notice until now?
We don’t have oil.
I’m sorry I have to be so curt on this, but that’s pretty much the only reason the West could care less until now. And the sudden surge in media atttention is also thanks widespread Tamil protests (by individuals some of whome are less than sincere about their intentions, but I’ll get into that later).
Do you think anyone would have cared about South Africa’s apartheid if it didn’t have diamonds? Do you think anyone would have cared about the Bosnian/Serbian conflict if the region didn’t have oil and natural gas or if it weren’t a former member of Yugoslavia, a breakaway Soviet republic? Do you think anyone would cared that Kuwait was invaded if it didn’t have oil?
Here’s another conflict for comparison… Most people had never heard of Darfur until recently and yet people have been killing each other en masse in Sudan for as long as the region has been populated. In fact, there have been two prior civil wars which had a combined death toll several orders of magnitude greater than the estimated deaths in the current conflict.
“Organized killing” this time started only a few years ago and even then it wouldn’t have made a blip in the media if Mukesh Kapila didn’t draw attention to it in 2004. What no one seems to point out is that “organized killing” took place in the prior conflicts as well. Where were they then?
So getting back to the war in Sri Lanka, here’s a quick breakdown of what’s happening…
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE (Eelam, pronounced e-lám, is the Tamil word for Sri Lanka) have been fighting the government for an independent state within the country citing widespread, systemic and institutionalized violence and bigotry toward the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The government, meanwhile, has been fighting the LTTE citing widespread, systemic and institutionalized violence and bigotry towards all non-Tamils. Notice a trend here?
Any group of people who blow themselves up killing dozens of innocent people including pregnant women are not fighting for anyone’s “liberation” and are in fact terrorists. Any group that forcefully make Marxists and political dissidents disappear in the middle of the night in unmarked vehicles is similarly not fighting for anyone’s safety and security either.
I will not and cannot accept Tamil Eelam as being fought for by the LTTE.
This is not a reflection of my opinion of Tamil people as I have Tamil family members who I will gladly give my life for without a second thought. It has everything to do with the fact that the LTTE is fighting for the principle of being weaker separately than being stronger together. A Tamil Eelam is no less ridiculous to me than a Sinhalese Lanka or Muslim Lanka.
LTTE tactics are deplorable and its treatment of descent within its own power base (which is dwindling to nothing right now) is unconscionable. The LTTE has made use of more suicide bombers than any other terrorist organization in the world and it pioneered the use of women in such attacks with the assasination of Rajiv Ghandi, then Prime Minister of India.
Now what’s the deal with the protests and why don’t I trust some of the protesters?
Because of the banner they carry, which doesn’t stand for Tamil ideals or even Tamil freedom. It is in fact the banner of an organization that has done more throughout its existence to wipe out any hope of a peaceful nation where all citizens are treated equally. It is the banner of an organization that has spread dispair, threats, violence and death among innocent people including its their own communities if they differed the slightest from the core ideology. It is the banner of an organization that employed children to commit incredible acts of violence.
These are not Tamil values. Nor are they the values of any decent human being. Leave the banner, and I’ll invite to you to my home, sit down with you and have some tea. Keep it, and you are an enemy to your own people.
And now we’re hearing news that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tigers has been killed…
While I don’t rejoice in the death of any human being, I feel less compelled to feel sympathy for this man who has manipulated so many into doing his bidding. My sympathy is with the innocent people who have suffered for his indulgence while he and thick-headed Sinhalese people threw knives at each other.
If this will bring an end to this 24 year old tragedy, then so be it.