Courtesy of Sunday Island, 18 December 2011, with title “Winning the hearts and minds of our Tamil brethren
As DEW Gunasekera once stated “They are also our people” we need to reach out to them. The ordinary Tamil citizen has gone through real hell since the LTTE and other militant groups started their campaign in the 70s. The Tamil people were not an aggressive people they were a God fearing passive people but Tamil youth who were deprived of opportunity by the Sinhala Only Act and later by Standardization which limited their opportunity to enter University which was a dream of every Tamil youth. We threw Dr. Naganathan and other Tamil leaders in to the Beira Lake when they protested against the Sinhala Only Bill, we attacked them in 1958, 1960, 1977 and then came the burning of the Jaffna Library in 1982 ( by persons who were expected, because of their religion, to place the highest value on learning and the development of the mind) that was followed by the horrific attack of 1983 July by UNP thugs led by Minister Matthew.**
That may have been the last straw for the Tamil people of our country, for those who could afford it migrated in their thousands to the West andAustralia. We cannot also forget the fact that President JR in his dotage sent in the army “to wipe out terrorism” and what a job they did! They had not the sense to draw a distinction between the ordinary Tamil people and the terrorists they indiscriminately set upon the people, broke down their till then entrenched caste system and united the Tamil people. The hate they still have has led to their diaspora organizations working overtime to harm our country.
It is vitally important and very much in the interest of the Sinhalese to study the recent history, the sociology and the psyche of the Tamil people. They were always a God fearing people who placed the highest value on education for that was the ticket to liberation as they had no other resources. Our Sinhala Fascists of the 50s and the 60s never understood the Tamil people. We must at least now reach out to them for they are indeed our people too. We boast of being a Buddhist country, but where is our Buddhism in practice we are as much Buddhists as any other who claims to be a Buddhist; we do not live our religion. Do we have the unconditional love which is referred to in the Karaneeya Metta Sutra in the following form “Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so may we cultivate boundless love for all beings seen, unseen, born, yet to be born….” Etc. etc. Yes those were the words of the Buddha, but do we practice this towards OUR fellow beings leave alone the Tamils? Let us not denigrate the Buddha and Buddhism by claiming that we are a Buddhist country.
We could still make amends for the past, forgive the wretched misguided terrorists rehabilitate them change their mind set show them by deed that hatred is not conquered by hatred but by compassion and by compassion alone as the Buddha has stated. We do now have an opportunity –teach a hundred monks Tamil for a start and tell the Sangha to show the world that we are indeed a civilized people by reaching out to the Tamil people and living the message of the Buddha, yes task them to reach out to the misguided Tamil youth and make them shed their hate. We must show kindness and understanding to these misguided youth. Just imagine how they would have been feeling when they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause.
Let us be honest with ourselves and admit that we contributed very much towards creating this tragic situation. We may be allergic to federalism and devolution but let us administratively empower the Tamil people look after their interests in the areas of their habitation; let us decentralize to enable individuals and localities to participate in decision making and implementation and let us also have Tamil ministers in the central administration in important ministries so that they also become stakeholders in every sense of that word and feel for this country as we do.
Let us remember that there is NO conflict of values between us and the Tamil people, we do indeed have much in common; let us ensure good governance, the rule of law and justice and we would then be giving back to them their dignity. The real challenge just now, as I see it, is how we can, without upsetting the armed forces, who achieved for us this great victory and saved the country from separation, loosen the military’s involvement with power and management in the North and, what MP Sumanthiran recently highlighted, its growing involvement in lucrative economic activity which the MP claims is denying the ordinary people their accustomed livelihoods. By finishing off the terrorist LTTE and also saving the lives of over 300,000 people, we accomplished a huge humanitarian operation and now in this second stage of this operation we must match our words with deeds and reach out to the hearts and minds of the ordinary Tamil people, not their wretched politicians.
Hope the government or the civil society groups prepare a strategy paper to win the hearts and minds of these unfortunate people, we must not look at every Tamil with prejudice as if they were Tigers or Tiger sympathizers. We must win them over in our own interest and do so sincerely. Do hope our civil society will start a mass movement a peoples’ movement for rehabilitation and reconciliation. Do hope the media supports such an initiative.
** Note that there was popular participation in the incitement and attacks as well — though there also were many sinhalese, Burghers, Malays, Moors and Others who risked intimidation and danger in shletering and shepherding tamil neighbours, kinfolk and strangers. Web Editor