‘It doesn’t solve anything’

Vigil.jpg

The Tamil-Canadian community in Winnipeg is minuscule compared to the one in Toronto, but they’re also making their voices heard. More than 100 of them gathered Sunday evening on the steps of the  Manitoba Legislative Building for a somber candlelight vigil that centered on prayers and songs. “We can only pray to God now,” said Dr. Mathu Singarajah, a dentist. ”Nobody else can listen to us.”

They held candles, signs, black flags and pictures of children whom they see as victims of the Sri Lankan government’s assault on civilians. While people in Colombo and elsewhere celebrated the apparent end of the 25-year civil war, those at the vigil mourned the deaths of innocent people and wondered what, if anything, had been solved. ”It doesn’t solve anything,” Singarajah said. “People’s grievances aren’t going to be over. This government is so ruthless. They don’t want to give us our rights. As long as that is the case, the problems will go on.”

Anita Subramaniam, a young woman who helped organize the vigil, served as spokeswoman for the group. “I think this is far from over,” she said. “The diaspora all over the world are watching their relatives die and aren’t going to let this go.”

The Tamil community organized the vigil after hearing that 25,000 civilians had just been killed. Because independent journalists aren’t allowed to travel freely in Sri Lanka — some have even been barred from entering the country — casualty numbers can’t be verified and tend to vary considerably, depending on the source. “They need to let the UN go in and investigate,” Subramaniam said.

Two brothers, Neelan, 15, and Vaelan, 10, addressed the gathering, filling in partly for their father, Dr. R. Sri Ranjan, president of the Canadian Tamil Congress, who was away in Toronto. “These are human beings being killed and discriminated against, and it is especially our responsibility, living in a developed country, to act against it,” Neelan said. 

Among a handful of non-Tamils at the vigil was Nataly Kuduku, an immigrant from Sudan (top right in first photo). He had heard about the vigil on TV and felt compelled to participate. “Whatever is happening in Sri Lanka has happened in Sudan,” he said, holding a photo of starving children. “I want to add my voice with that of the Sri Lankans.”

Vigil2.jpg

Here’s a video of the vigil uploaded by Peace Alliance Winnipeg:

40 thoughts on “‘It doesn’t solve anything’

  1. It doesn’t solve anything

    Well, a more accurate statement would be that it doesn’t solve everything. My hopes are seldom realized in this cruel world, but it would warm my heart to see the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora take advantage of the current situation to beat the ever-living crap out of the Tiger thugs who have been coercing them for so long. It’s not exactly as if the Tigers can go to the FBI or RCMP or MI5 for protection, no?

    That said, we certainly need to keep an eagle-eye on the GoSL to make sure they aren’t up to their typical schemes of moving in Sinhalese to colonize N’rn Sril Lanka/not use foreign aid to rebuild the north of Sril Lanka/interning Tamils (by far the worst problem), etc. No IMF $$ to GoSL until these concerns are addressed convincingly! That’s what to focus on, not dumb-ass pro-Tamil Tiger marches.

  2. We like to pretend on blogs like this that, say, Arabs aren’t associated with terrorism–but, let’s be honest–Tamils need to be more careful not to be viewed as crazy–i.e., we don’t want the average Japanese person to laugh at the notion of a good Tamil business partner . . . . the world is not so PC as American or Canadian or UK university campuses would want it to be. . . . my Mommy is from Chennai, and she professes to be “appalled” as to the real prospects of northern Sri Lanka going forward, in spite of the fact that Southern India has been developing. I hope she’s being too pessimistic. I want international aid to Sri Lanka (which they desperately need b/c they’ve spent so much on their (hey, successful) military campaign) to be conditioned on reasonable re-development in the north. I’m cynical enough to realize it won’t be optimal, but we need to ride the issue to make sure it’s reasonable.

  3. The leader of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has been killed along with his son and other Tiger commanders, according to reports. Prabhakaran was ambushed and shot dead while trying to flee government troops as special forces closed in on the last rebel fortifications, it was reported today. However that account of events was disputed by a military spokesman who said that there had been no identification of Prabhakaran as yet.

    Don’t know if it’s true–a lot of my sources are cynical and suggest he’s hiding out in the UK or Malysia. At any rate, I hope that the stories that he’s a Christian are true, just so that he’ll be buried, and then I can piss on his grave. If he’s cremated I can’t do that.

  4. but we need to ride the issue to make sure it’s reasonable.

    rajapakse is a rabid sinhala nationalist who will sieze on this military victory to recolonize northern sri lanka with sinhalese and marginalize the tamils. beaten up for 20 years by the ltte, shot at by both sides in the last 2 years, and it is still downhill from here – a truly sad tale.

  5. Well, Ajit, the rabid Tamil nationalist Prabhakaran certainly met his match with Mahinda Rajapaksa. And oh, don’t forget Rajapaksa’s government is currently propped up by two Indian Tamil (that is Tamils of Indian origin in Sri Lanka) political parties – the Ceylon Workers Congress and the Upcountry People’s Front. I’m betting Prabhakaran is somewhere in hell right now, wishing he did not keep Tamils from exercising their franchise at the last Presidential elections and thus ensuring the defeat of peace dove Ranil Wickremasinghe. But it’s too late to change things now. As for the Tamil diaspora who funded war, violence and terror in Sri Lanka, well, I think they deserve a bit of bitterness after living in the comfort of western countries while cheering on the use of their brethren in Sri Lanka as cannon fodder by Thalaivar aka The Sun God.

  6. Rob,

    I’m going to throw another stereotype at you–brace yourself–but a positive one held by many wannabe-Fonsekas in SL–that Tamils abroad are also largely entrepreneurial/indomitable in commerce/white collar professions and steadily accumulate wealth. It would follow then that the capitalist class is largely abroad and they are left with the likes of Lalith Kothelawala–which is extremely troubling. You can have arse loads of foreign capital flooding in but with no capable hands to take it…what will a ‘newly reformed’ tiger conscript do with funds when he/she’s rarely seen commerce outside an informal economy, outside the rents extracted by agents abroad. What will a youth educated in the state-succors-all ideology of Mahinda Chintanaya do? Sing the praises of our ‘brave boys’ to a stack of dollar bills? Protest the racist terrorist Tigers and the evil, terrorist-enabling, elite, anti-Sinhala Buddhist Western press…OH WAIT… the former have left the building and the latter are no longer interested.

    now, what? We all agree that a symbol representing great evil died recently–we are all better for it. But in the longterm, all organizations are villains–all accumulate mistakes, others remember, collate and analyze them How long will it take for the GOSL to assume the mantle of public enemy no.1?

  7. Melvin,

    I’m no racialicious fan and don’t get offended by this in the least (as it is the norm among vociferous–if not brave–Singhalese critics of the LTTE) to mockingly reference the habit of Prabha-boosters to refer to him as “Thalaivar.” I’ve often wondered whether this is just the creativity of the existentially aggrieved or just a snide swipe at Tamil folkways. What do you think?

  8. Well put Sam!

    Ajit – We all know that Rajapakse is terrible and that the government has blood on their hands but I think this is the time to acknowledge that we Tamils have been mislead and have missed many opportunities to really push for a political solution. I think its time to try to take the positive aspect of the situation forward and push for a political solution. The Diaspora definitely needs to shake out of their dream and use their power to hold the GoSL accountable. The time has now come, to walk the talk!!!

  9. It’s amazing how some people think so highly of themselves. Yeah, out of 20 million odd Sri Lankans, the capitalist class – lo and behold composed of only Tamils – is out of the country. Wow. Another grandiose claim like how the Sri Lankan Tamils are apparently like the Jews and speak the purest form of Tamil in the world and are the most intelligent desis and once “Tamil Eelam” is achieved they would turn it overnight into another Singapore and teach the world a lesson. Except can someone tell me of Jewish suicide bombers and child soldiers?

  10. Nayagan, I think it’s time to keep the pressure up on the US/UK to make sure that any aid to GoSL only goes if they are on a reasonable road toward treating the North/Tamils . . . . Honestly, I can’t think of what else to do . . . . I think GoSL is now facing the decision of going with the Sinhala chauvinists, or not–I am hoping for the latter, but we’ll see. . . . I’m not naive.

  11. What will a youth educated in the state-succors-all ideology of Mahinda Chintanaya do?

    Look, honestly, I don’t know. And my on-the-ground knowledge is pretty slim–the only people I know in Sri Lanka are some fairly Anglophile Colombo Tamils, who haven’t exactly played a major role in the war. . . . that said, for all its faults, one actually has the sense (perhaps naive) that one can “do” something in Sri Lanka, unlike in India, where they specialize in a freaking thousand “no’s” to any glimmer of change–that said, India is a big country, and I am perhaps overly influenced in that assessment by my parents and my own trips to parts of India. But you can’t just set up business in India–in Sri Lanka, well, a few transactions, and–you’re all set!!

  12. People are celebrating in the south while hundreds of thousands are suffering a few hours away…that disparity continues to define Sri lanka.

    Why don’t people realize the hard part starts now? A country with an economy on the brink. A massive population of internal refugees. Large parts of the nation destroyed by decades of war. Massive and widespread corruption. A large conventional army with no conventional war to fight. A guerilla force no doubt regrouping in the jungles. Zero substantive political devolution. A war won with the death of thousands of civilians.

    But we’re greeted with fireworks…I wonder how long they’ll last?

    We all paid attention to Sri Lanka for the last month because the fighting was intense. We have to make sure we continue to pay attention to Sri Lanka now that the conventional conflict has ended. How the government acts now will set the tone for the next generation’s Sri Lanka. There is no war to butt out of now. The international community can help guide that development.

  13. As an American, I sometimes feel for the “little guy” or underdog. Reading the posts on here (some obviously by Sinhalese – is Sam an acronym for Sinhalese Are the Man?), I’m led to believe the GoSL is a kind, loving entity that couldn’t harm a flea, and these dirty Tamilians got what they deserved.

    Nonetheless, thank goodness the conflict is over. Unfortunately, I don’t see the losing side graciously stepping aside. Pride and nationalism will draw this out until the last Tamilians are eliminated from Sri Lanka. The Tigers certainly met their match with the (Chinese funded) Mahinda Rajapaksa. BTW I’m curious how much humanitarian aid he’ll get from his great Communist friends.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6295258.ece

    The ‘smart’ Tamilians should pack up and leave Sri Lanka. Their Tiger brothers ruined any chance of post-war peace with decades of attacks on Sinhalese civilians. Sounds like North SL is a dump anyways. I don’t understand why the well-funded diaspora doesn’t take them on in their host countries.

  14. Among a handful of non-Tamils at the vigil was Nataly Kuduku, an immigrant from Sudan (top right in first photo). He had heard about the vigil on TV and felt compelled to participate. “Whatever is happening in Sri Lanka has happened in Sudan,” he said, holding a photo of starving children. “I want to add my voice with that of the Sri Lankans.”

    true. there have been rwandan , kurd voices in the mix in toronto as well. these are echoes from their past. unfortunately, arguments like “when a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes” will continue to be made – and should never be acceptable.

  15. Tamils need to be more careful not to be viewed as crazy–i.e., we don’t want the average Japanese person to laugh at the notion of a good Tamil business partner . . .

    and i insist that the crazy tamil is not a perception i hold here. the tamil community is an essential part of Toronto the Good. i dont have any personal agenda here – no relatives or friends in the community – but one had to wonder at what led to a hitherto law abiding community to rush an expressway, or 70 something grannies and granddads sit in the rain for hours. i know i support them. when someone’s relative dies, one doesnt first parse whether the relative was a good person or a wastrel or someone who added to the net worth of society. one shows up and offers sympathy and support. it’s not for the person who is gone, but for the person who is left behind. it’s the honest, honorable thing to do.

  16. I am sorry to disagree – eliminating the active LTTE leadership and military control dose solve something – certainly it does not solve everything.

    Now, the sri lankan tamils deserve autonomy, respect and full participation in their country. Yes, that is far from solved and will be an ongoing struggle…

  17. Khoofi, Seriously, WTF with the Rwandans and Kurds? The goal of South Asians is to be like Europe/Japan/North America, no? Not to wallow in this Third World sh!t.

  18. Seriously, WTF with the Rwandans and Kurds? The goal of South Asians is to be like Europe/Japan/North America, no? Not to wallow in this Third World sh!t.

    This doesn’t make any sense. It just reads like a deranged stream of thought that was best left in your brain.

  19. Seriously, WTF with the Rwandans and Kurds?

    not sure why you’re peeved. the rwandan example is especially apt – and should resonate with canadians. the genocide stems from the plane crash that killed the rwandan president of hutu origin. that was the catalyst for the massacre of tutsis and moderate hutus by a hutu militia. general dallaire, a canadian who was in charge of the un peacekeepers through the genocide documented the horror he saw, and the shame he has faced in being unable to do anything to save several thousands from being killed in front of his eyes. he literally let the massacres happen in front of him. i wanted to draw this parallel because like i have argued with fellow canadians – it is not sufficient to wait for the death toll to go past a high water point before taking action. if there are people asking for help, and a people calling for action, one has to listen.

  20. Khoofi, Yes, you are a good guy,and i have no problem with you — I wish there were more people like you, in fact, My concern is that you are going to get “‘played” by cynical people–the Tamil Tigers are a Stalinist/totalitarian outfit–in spite of the fact that the Tamils have been mis-treated by the GoSL (I am no shill for the GoSL–they are bad, OK!). Just be careful–I am concerned that you seem to be too moved by the “authentic anger” of the Tamil demonstrators. Anyway, you are your own man–I am not trying to be a jerk towards you, ok? I respect you–just be careful and cautious.

  21. said Dr. Mathu Singarajah, a dentist.
    Anita Subramaniam, a young woman

    Does anyone else know what caste, state, etc, Singarajah/Subramaniam come from? I know they’re Tamil but can they be Malayali, Sinahalese or Keralite as well?

    /Typical SM Commenter

  22. rob,

    it’s unnecessary to import your chauvinism from other theaters into this one. Or is it your wish to see the Toronto gov’t adopt a divide-and-confuse strategy amongst a large chunk of their tax base with intra-community snitching, Tiger-loyalty testing and other hallmarks of Stalinist administrations? And do you feel conflicted? So ready to let the Muslim omelet disappear while the Tamil edition’s disappearance may genuinely cause you pain?

  23. This writer claims

    http://news.rediff.com/column/2009/may/19/guest-blood-on-our-hands-but-this-too-shall-pass.htm

    We asked the Sinhalese in private many a time how they proposed to navigate their way in the coming period. They wouldn’t divulge. But we know that it is not as if they have no solution of their own to the Tamil problem, either. We know they already have a blueprint. See, they have already solved the Tamil problem in the eastern provinces of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. The Tamils are no more the majority community in those provinces. Similarly, from tomorrow, they will commence a concerted, steady colonisation programme of the northern provinces where Prabhakaran reigned supreme for two decades. They will ensure incrementally that the northern regions no more remain as Tamil provinces.

    Is this true ?.

  24. Police arrest 10 at Tamil demonstration in London

    LONDON (Reuters) – British police arrested 10 people on Tuesday after protests by Sri Lankan Tamils outside the houses of parliament in central London turned violent.

    The arrests were made in the early hours when demonstrators spilt out from a main square in front of parliament and into surrounding streets.

    Hundreds of Tamils have been demonstrating for weeks in front of parliament, calling on Britain to do more to stop the war in Sri Lanka, where government forces on Monday declared victory over Tamil militants after a 25-year civil war.

    Police said the 10 arrests were for public order offences and said three officers were treated in hospital after breaking up the demonstration. There was no information on whether any of the protesters was injured.

    Protesters were back in the square on Tuesday morning, but in far smaller numbers, police said.

    Tamil protests cost the Met almost £8 million
    Demonstrations by pro-Tamil supporters have cost the country’s largest police force almost £8 million, it was revealed today. Speaking in front of the Home Affairs Committee, Sir Paul said the cost of policing the Tamil demonstrations – “just short of £8 million” – was more than the cost of policing the G20 protests, which came to £7.2 million

    …”When that happens they tend to put their women, children and babies at the forefront, which makes it difficult for us to use force.”

  25. At any rate, I hope that the stories that he’s a Christian are true, just so that he’ll be buried, and then I can piss on his grave. If he’s cremated I can’t do that.

    Ya, he’s a converted christian and the Norwegians (and the West) are his protectors; that’s why there’s so much heartache in the western press over their dream of a Christian East Timor in th South vanishing into smoke. But, rest assured, the crack dreams of Caldwell and Mueller are going to cause much more havoc in India itself before final resolution (hopefully in our favor)……

  26. Those that I know who lost husbands and children, fathers and uncles, role models and mentors, friends and family, either due to Prabhakaran’s wrath or due to SriLankan government’s tactics, don’t exhibit the same amount of hatred and contempt as some commenters do here. First of all, people who experienced true personal loss and mourning seem to have little energy left with which to hate after all these years. Second of all, to hate is to seem too simple.

    On a lighter note: Nayagan, don’t forget the earlier alias or nickname for Prabhakaran — ‘thamby’ (younger brother). It is interesting that the only person ‘thalaivar’ supposedly thought worthy of appeasing was ‘puratchi thalaivar’ (revolutionary leader) MGR.

  27. I’m trying to understand this whole SL conflict. This is what I know/think I know: 1. There are 2 populations of Tamils in SL: An ancient and indigenous community who has been there for thousands of years; and another new community that’s been there since after 1860 due to the British.
    2. The Sinhalese SL started discriminating against the “new wave” of Tamils, because these Tamils had very good jobs, were over-represented in the colleges, corporations, etc. This happened in ’53 after the death of one of the SL prime ministers. After this leader’s death in ’53, his wife started discriminating against the Tamils. 3. The Tamil Muslims do NOT involve themselves in this civil war.
    4. There are no Tamil Brahmins in SL. 5. Indian Tamil Brahmins do NOT support the SL Tamil’s movement. 6. Things in SL really came to a boil in July ’83. HORRIBLE things happened to Tamils at this time, and I’ve seen pictures and read documents about this. 7. The Tamils did horrible things to the Sinhalese, such as blow up parts of a very holy Buddhist Temple and leaders and civilians. Moreover, a Tamil Christian killed Rajiv Gandhi.

    From my perspective, I believe that Sinhalese are wonderful and peace-loving people. I also get the impression that they’ve done their best for peace (I could be wrong).

    What do you think about all this? Are the Tamils still being discriminated against?

    I personally am confused about a new immigrant wanting their own homeland. This smacks of expansionism.

    • Tamilians do not have Unity. They are divided by Caste and money
    • Tamilians do not have a common goal. Sitham pokku Sivam Pokku
    • Any body can kill a tamilian and nobody can do anything about it
    • Tamilians vote in Tamilnadu – Rs. 500
    • Tamilians Life in Srilanka – Rs 0.00
    • Shameful Tamilians will celebrate the killing of another Tamilian
    • Majority Sinhalese killed innocent minority Tamilians. Tamilians went on hunger strike and protested peacefully. Sinhalese still killed Tamilians. So What should Tamilians do? Start LTTE I guess
    • Unless Tamilians are economically strong nobody is going to bother killing Tamilians. All the poor Tamilians will be considered dead weight to earth and will be killed. International community will do nothing about it because there is no leverage
  28. I found these two blog-posts on IBNLive (by Subramanian Swamy and Suhasini Haidar, who, as it turns out, is also his daughter) extremely insightful. They provide detailed background on the history of the Sri Lankan-Tamil conflict, the role of India, and particularly on Prabhakaran, that I found very useful:

    Subramanian Swamy’s blog: Sri Lanka Post-LTTE

    Suhasini Haidar’s blog: The Guns are Silent

  29. Wait, SS and SH do not give enough of a background in their blogs. Here is something that will keep you occupied for the entire weekend.

    Disclaimer: I don’t know who K.T.Rajasingham is (i.e., I don’t know his politics, if any) but having come upon his unfinished book by chance, I was intrigued by his style of writing and impressed by the detailed references he provides. A search for his name on google indicates that he is a journalist and that he frequenly comes under fire by Tamil sites. (In fact, he seems to be hated with a mind-boggling intensity.) Yet Sangam.org carries links to more of his chapters than Asia Times online. (I was not familiar with these sites previously.)

    Yet the book draws me and the fact that it seems unfinished is intriguing. I found several historic facts, incidents and post-1983 details credible (i.e., in line with what I knew and had learnt). And he certainly did not shy away from criticizing the LTTE.

  30. The majority of tamilians in Srilanka are people who settled in Srilanka from 10th century. infact when this conflict started, the tamils british brought as tea plantation workers were discriminated by the local tamilians!

  31. 33, I just wanted to clarify a few things in your understanding, my comments are in italics below, hope it’s helpful:

    I’m trying to understand this whole SL conflict. This is what I know/think I know: 1. There are 2 populations of Tamils in SL: An ancient and indigenous community who has been there for thousands of years; and another new community that’s been there since after 1860 due to the British. 2. The Sinhalese SL started discriminating against the “new wave” of Tamils, because these Tamils had very good jobs, were over-represented in the colleges, corporations, etc. This happened in ’53 after the death of one of the SL prime ministers. After this leader’s death in ’53, his wife started discriminating against the Tamils.

    - The Tamils affected were the “old school ones” for the reasons you’ve identified. The “new wave” faced significant discrimination too, but in different forms, like loss of citizenship etc. Reading some of the background materials here would be useful. The conflict predates ’53, but you’re right in that significant radicalization of the political sphere occurred around then, not in ’53 itself, really in the mid to late 50s.

    3. The Tamil Muslims do *NOT* involve themselves in this civil war.
    • they’ve had to become involved, mostly as affected individuals, unfortunately due to some terrible events
    4. There are no Tamil Brahmins in SL.
    • not true. There are, just not in the same numbers as Indians. Don’t really understand the focus on Brahmins, but anyway
    5. Indian Tamil Brahmins do *NOT* support the SL Tamil’s movement.

    – blanket statement, certainly not true among many people I know

    6. Things in SL really came to a boil in July ’83. HORRIBLE things happened to Tamils at this time, and I’ve seen pictures and read documents about this. 7. The Tamils did horrible things to the Sinhalese, such as blow up parts of a very holy Buddhist Temple and leaders and civilians. Moreover, a Tamil Christian killed Rajiv Gandhi. From my perspective, I believe that Sinhalese are wonderful and peace-loving people. I also get the impression that they’ve done their best for peace (I could be wrong).

    -Most people are peace-loving. That doesn’t mean they can’t get co-opted by ethnic ideologues. And that doesn’t mean peace happens

    What do you think about all this? Are the Tamils still being discriminated against? I personally am confused about a new immigrant wanting their own homeland. This smacks of expansionism.

    The war and its aftermath (1000 people have died since the war “ended”), as well as the daily humiliation faced by Tamils in the south of Sri Lanka, among other things, is a testament to the ongoing discrimination. As for your last comment, I suspect that was due to your initial understanding of the issue. Just as an FYI, Sri Lanka as a modern unitary territory emerged only in 1802 when the British created their first Crown colony unifying two Sinhala kingdoms: Kandy and Kotte, and the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna

  32. This is so wrong -

    A number of children in camps for people displaced by Sri Lanka’s Tamil conflict have been abducted, international human rights groups say. Source