Tamils for Obama
Sections of the Tamil Diaspora are on a virulent campaign against the TNA. Most Tamils abroad are not engaged in politics, because it is dirty and dangerous. Slanderous stories are put out against those not in agreement. Fear of being labelled, leaves the field open to virulent sections of the Diaspora to speak on behalf of all others.
In the US this mantle of Tamil leadership has defaulted to Tamils for Obama. As fair-weather friends, they were Tamils for Clinton when Hilary Clinton seemed likely to win the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 and then, when Obama did, they re-Christened themselves as Tamils for Obama. Now, in 2015, as Obama’s term is ending and Hilary seems likely to be the Democratic Party nominee and ultimately president in Jan. 2017, they wrote shamelessly to her on 10 May 2015 signalling their willingness to turn-coat again: "We are Tamils for Obama. We would like to remind you that before the nomination was settled in 2008, we were Tamils for Clinton. We are still here and eager to offer our support again. We were among your supporters before, and we haven’t changed our minds."
Anti-TNA, Pro-Violence Videos
I have received two videos from the ‘tamilsforobama’ address this past week as the Sri Lankan elections near. They promote the LTTE and its defunct vision at the expense of those who engage with the Sinhalese state.
The first video is from www.pathivu.com. With a catchy tune, the words are by Kasi-Anandan who received the LTTE title Maamanithan. His politics is best summed up by his words at a political meeting in 1972: "Mr. Duraiappa, Mr. Subramaniam, Mr. Arulampalam and Mr. Anandasangeri are enemies of the Tamil nation. They do not deserve a natural death. Nor do they deserve to die in an accident. The Tamil people, especially the youth, must decide how they should die."
The words in the video by this now elderly Kasi-Ananthan (born in 1938 but who looks quite young and chic in a black ponytail), are directed at young Tamil males with repeated references to thamby, younger brother. The phrases are few and repeated with images of M. A. Sumanthiran, R. Sampanthan and Mavai Senathirajah flashing, as some claim of being a traitor or betrayer is sung. They are accused of betraying S. J. V. Chelvanayagam while having his portrait at their meetings, of calling meetings in the name of Prabhakaran while drawing phlegm from the throat and spitting it out on the faces of great heroes (i.e., dead LTTE-ers), of shamelessly boasting that they would be ministers (as an image of Sumanthiran is flashed), and of waving the Sri Lankan flag opposed by "Father Chelva" (as an image flashes of Mr. Sampanthan waving the flag).
Needless to say, the statements and images of these three respected Tamil leaders are propagandist and out of context. For example, the flag was Wickremesinghe’s which he had suddenly invited Sampanthan to hold up with him on May Day. It was not a case of Sampanthan going about with a flag as suggested. In fact, Sampanthan has explained that the TNA is for national unity, and that he cannot disrespect the flag when he is asked to hold it.
That the second shorter video is of the same provenance as the first is seen from the use of the very same images. It is more focused against Sumanthiran using a hot speech by Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, who comes across as taking LTTE positions and rejecting any engagement with the Sinhalese. Although elected by the TNA, Wigneswaran sounds angry and out to undermine the TNA.
Smiling at Sinhalese
The point about engagement with the Sinhalese is forcefully put across by the videos with the three smiling TNA leaders greeting or being seated next to Mahinda Rajapaksa, or Ranil Wickremesinghe, or Sarath Fonseka, or Chandrika Kumaratunga. The point is similar to the LTTE’s complaints against Mr. A. Amirthalingam for having tea with JR Jayewardene during the District Council deal in the 1980s.
The position of the videos’ authors is that no one for Tamil rights should engage with the Sri Lankan state, have tea with Sinhalese or smile at them – all of which, to be sure, "Father Chelva" did. Short of the failed method of going for an armed struggle (which brought out the worst in all of us), how does one gain Tamil rights without talking to Sinhalese leaders?
Or, are we to say, as this motley crew seems to want us to, that we will not take anything from the Sri Lankan state, not use Sri Lankan passports with the lion seal, and be happily administered by Sinhalese? That position is shallow and suited only to those on foreign passports who live abroad. Tamils in Sri Lanka need our police, our soldiers, our lecturers, our ministers, our government agents, and our Chief Ministers, Governors and MPs, all drawing salaries from the state. For that we must talk to the Sinhalese and, yes, smile at them too when we meet them to discuss power sharing. Sustainable development is participatory governance.
We badly need that power sharing. The Sri Lankan state is very racist and it is easy to see why those abroad want none of it. But, engagement does not mean endorsement. Not war, but engagement is the civilised way of winning rights and living on in Sri Lanka for those who want to do so, or cannot afford people smugglers to flee. We must all vote for engagement, and against corruption and those whose ways are violent.
Full Agreement with Rajapaksa
Mahinda Rajapaksa in a recent interview told us "Not to be fooled by what is being said. It’s all just mud slinging, my hands are clean. I have not robbed nor have I murdered."
Yes, I fully agree with Rajapaksa on not being fooled. A person most dear to me was working for an INGO when the tsunami struck in 2005. Her foreign managers were away for Christmas. As the senior-most person on site, she was asked to give the leftover budget to tsunami relief. She personally carried the cheque – as I recall, for US$ 2 million – which ended up in the helping Hambantota fund. A few months later, when newspapers raked it up, the INGO issued a statement that it had indeed been intended for that Hambantota fund. For an INGO to buckle down like that, imagine the fear of those days. That is the tip of the iceberg as the body of Wasim Thajudeen is exhumed.
Surely, no one wants to return to those days. All voters must direct their destiny through the power of their ballot. For Tamils, engagement is critical to winning Tamil rights. We must vote only for parties that are for democracy and against corruption. The preference vote is there to choose the most democratic elements from our party of choice. We need to consolidate the gains of Jan. 8 as the only means of securing a safe Sri Lanka. It is only in a safe Sri Lanka that minorities can be happy and feel secure.