The original article with this title sent to THE AUSTRALIAN was 1231 words in length. The text was re-drafted in substantial fashion in prose favoured by the Opinions editor and submitted to me for approval. I decided to be pragmatic and bat within my power-limit; so I accepted the changes subject to minor modifications. However, later, I was rather surprised to find that a different title had been imposed: viz. “Taken in by Tamil Tall Tales.”
I am reliably informed that it is standard practice for editors to choose titles. Be that as it may, my response to the Editor still applies: “would you have chosen such a title if you were speaking about an Aboriginal community?” In other words, I was indicating that it is easy to impose market-enhancing titles of an insensitive character when speaking about people beyond one’s domain.
The result, moreover, is that I have had to cop the flak developing from the emotional reactions of patriotic Tamils impelled by patriotic fervour [outpourings that are significant themselves from a sociological point of view].
As my original title indicates, my principal target was, and remains, the ignorance displayed by so many Australian commentators when they evaluated the phenomenon of Sri Lankan boat people and contemporary conditions in Sri Lanka.
As for “Tall Tales,” I hold that illegal migrants from many countries are likely to present fabricated stories when confronted by authorities in their destination of choice. This surmise is partly based on the stories peddled by 12 Sinhalese from the Negombo area who landed on the coast of Western Australia in November 2008 [eleven were refused entry eventually and flown back to the island]. Since then the yarns spun by “Alex,” the spokesperson for the Tamils on the “Jaya Leskari,” have been exposed in ways that add another notch to my argument. A more comprehensive, albeit incomplete, picture of my explicit conjectures on Tamil migration has been composed as “Tamil Migration Within and Beyond Sri Lanka.” It is available on web in the Lanka Guardian: http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/11/tamil-migration-within-and-beyond-sri.html. It will eventually be posted within THUPPAHI.
The COMMENTS which “Tamil Tall Tales” attracted on the web site of the Australian will also be raided in selective fashion to provide readers with a glimpse of the reactions aroused. further comments are welcomed.
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As a dual Australian Sri Lankan national, what has struck me most about the ongoing debate in Australia about Sri Lankan boat people is the abysmal ignorance about Sri Lanka’s geography and distribution of peoples. This has led to the inability of Australians to put Tamil migration in its historical context and instead to uncritically accept tales of Tamil persecution and even genocide that are patently untrue.
Those known as Ceylon Tamils did not just begin migrating because of the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka. In fact, Tamil migration is a two-stage process and it has been under way for more than a century. Ceylon Tamils began migrating from the north to the south in search of jobs from the late 19th century. By 1921, they constituted 11.5 per cent of the population in Colombo, while Indian Tamils (more recent migrants from the nearby state on the Indian mainland of Tamil Nadu) accounted for 13.4 per cent. So Tamils, (both Ceylonese and of more recent Indian origin), have resided in the city environs for generations. Some Ceylon Tamils have also been a segment of its Westernised elite. However, such status did not protect them during the mini-pogroms of 1958 and 1977 and the major pogrom of July 1983.