Tag Archives: tamil

The Imperils of Difference

This week, the paradox of reality will crystallise in the Island of Sri Lanka, rising above the fog of war to reveal two contrasting tales left behind in the aftermath.

On May 18th 2010, for the island’s majority Sinhalese community, a week of victory festivities will culminate in a swelling of unity and national pride, as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse celebrates 1 year since crushing the Tamil Tigers and ending three decades of armed conflict.

For every victory party, there must be a losing side, and the juxtaposition between the Tamil and Sinhalese communities of Sri Lanka illustrates the grim reality of war: there can be only one winner.

Tamils across the world will travel down a very different path, one bathed by the shadows of sorrow and grief as they pay respects to an estimated 100,000 Tamil civilians killed in the bloodshed, almost 40,000 who perished in the final days of the war according to the United Nations.

The outbreak of civil unrest that paralysed the island for almost half a century stemmed from the systemic oppression of the islands minority Tamil community by successive administrations, dominated by the majority Sinhalese.

With the legitimate grievances of the islands Tamils largely ignored, a groundswell of support calling for self determination emerged, giving birth to the militant outfit the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who, for over 30 years engaged in high intensify war fare with the Sri Lankan armed forces in their quest for an independent homeland in the North and Eastern provinces of the island.

Although the guns are silent, the Government’s insistence that the nation is now a unified melting pot of ethnic and cultural harmony, standing under one flag and one identity, remains questionable.

Amid a web of post-war idealism lies a continual underbelly of violence, corruption and prejudice feeding the current regime, the same bad eggs that unleashed a plague of civil war years ago.

That almost 90,0000 Tamil refugees, who by definition of the very word embody the ugly misfortunes of war, remain imprisoned in military camps according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) isn’t a surprise to anyone with an iota of knowledge regarding the Sri Lankan establishment’s approach to internal affairs, no matter how inhumane or illegal.

That Sri Lanka remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world, fearful of the swift arm of sedition and censorship by a Government adamant on hiding the reality behind victory isn’t news to the families of dozens of news workers killed during the war and the aftermath.

It is the failing of international instruments of justice and democracy, bodies like the United Nations and the entire Western World, to decry the fact that an entire population languishes in incarceration based solely on their ethnicity and place of residence, or diagnose the symptoms of dictatorship illustrated by bouts of media suppression, that should raise the alarm of the conscious and socially aware.

Then again, to acknowledge and to act, once must be paying attention in the first place.

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel popularised a phrase for the current global attitude towards Tamils in Sri Lanka in his landmark White House address in 1992, “The perils of Indifference”, i.e. when no one gives a damn.

“Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.”

After being forsaken by the world for decades, their cries met with a deafening silence, anyone that survived the onslaught of war awoke to a world encaged in barbed wire and an international community singing the praises of their enslavers.

A year to the day and the lack of genuine interest towards Sri Lanka’s deteriorating social fabric continues to mask the stench of its decline into the pits of totalitarianism.

Global leaders refusing to acknowledge the ground realities and unable to accept their complicity in the genocide ease the burden of guilt by heralding the utopian ideals of “unity” and “reconciliation” they believe will sweep the island like a magic wand, turning streams of flesh and blood into rivers teeming with hope and virtue.

To think that time and empty condolences can heal the wounds of war, and erase the memories of sorrow and loss burned within the corneas of a generation of Tamils, many who have lost almost everything and everyone, merely reflects the inability of most of God’s creatures to fathom the magnitude of loss endured by those who now have nothing left.

For all the tragedy that indifference has bought upon the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, the policies of divide, of “us” and “them” that set the war machine in motion remains the most haunting.

To see the Australian Government in recent months adopt this xenophobic mindset by rejecting asylum claims of Tamil nationals  to stem the apparent “flood” of “boat people” only serves to illuminate the daunting reality faced by Sri Lanka’s victims of war:

Your incarceration is inevitable, be it as 2nd rate citizens at the hands of your vanquishers, or herded into offshore Australian detention facilities like sacrificial lambs for Kevin Rudd to appease the Gods in return for a popularity boost.

To have the audacity to console them with the argument that their very survival is a gift in itself is an insult, however for the thousands that remain incarcerated across the world, genuine refugees with unquestionable grievances; this fact may be the only “spark of hope” that remains for them, unless of course the Tamil Diaspora have anything to say about it.

The fighting formations of the Tamil Tigers may have been annihilated in the final days of the war, but the yearning for freedom and equality, which fostered a generation of militancy and fuelled its rise up the ladder of infamy, continues to consume the hearts and minds of the Diaspora.

When the Sri Lankan Government chose to forego its opportunity of a dignified victory by enslaving the vanquished, it succeeded only in opening up a new war front, different enemy, different theatre, same struggle.

On a day of reflection, the next generation of Tamils will light a candle in remembrance, their silhouettes stretched across landscapes a gentle reminder to the architects of their brethrens demise that the rumblings of agitation and desire for freedom remains steadfast, so to, their thirst for vengeance.

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Stranger Than Fiction

With Sherpas in Nepal taking spring cleaning and morticianary to new heights and women’s cleavage unleashing boobquakes across Taiwan, 2010 has ushered in a sneak peek into the impending Armageddon that awaits us. Natural disasters across the globe have killed thousands in the past few months, and more importantly it seems (to the Western world anyway), stifled the aviation industry and proven once and for all the diminutive force of man, triviality of our civilisation and mercy at the hands of Mother Nature as we push upon the brink of mass extinction.

With the transformation from utopian paradise to inhospitable hell currently underway, mankind has once again befriended divine intervention in hope of salvation, as it has for many millennia. From Hindus praying for the manifestation of the Lord Shiva, to Christians calling upon the 2nd coming of Jesus, and Tom Cruise waiting for Xenu to bea(t)m him up, humanity has rekindled its bonds with the unknown in an attempt to deal with what may well be the unimaginable.

Whilst we look to heaven, the worlds’ smartest man has turned his attention to a different kind of celestial body, one that he believes poses a threat that may dwarf that of earths self implosion.

World famous theoretical astrophysicists Stephen Hawking has reignited debate and set UFO conspiracy theorists abuzz over the existence and nature of extra-terrestrial life, stating that “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational..The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like”.

On “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking: Aliens” broadcast on the Discovery Channel this week, Hawking, who despite being crippled by neuromuscular dystrophy is still considered a pioneer in scientific research, went onto deliver an ominous warning to the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) community and mankind as a whole: Aliens may invade us in search of resources to replenish its massive transportational devices and move on, leaving a devastating aftermath and a distant memory of a race that once inhabited this blue marble of ours.

In making his assertions clear, Hawking delivered one damning swipe at the state of mankind that should have pierced through the conscience of everyone, believers or sceptics alike:

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet”.

Amid all the rhetoric used by social activists, environmentalists and religious leaders to galvanise the compassion that characterises our species, this frank assessment of the sum of thousands of years of human evolution, from servants of the land to enslavers of our dominion, remains, in my opinion, the most brutally confronting (and accurate) summary of our time on this planet.

With the threat of intergalactic domination peeing on our doorsteps, it appears the Australian Government has heeded the warning and implemented a decisive action plan to secure our borders and deal with the “alien invasion”, one that has already begun according to the Establishment. Not the green skinned & blue blooded /particle manipulating/warp speed travelling/photon cannon wielding kind, but rather the brown skinned & red blooded oppressed, abused, maligned and victimised ones = aka refugees.

The handling of Australia’s refugee crisis by the overlords in office only serves to reaffirm that Hawking’s answer to the equation of earth + intelligent life = screwed and evil and manipulation are merely predispositions of the Homo erectus are frighteningly accurate.

Now, call it coincidence or a sign from above (god or the aliens), I was fortunate enough to watch District 9 over the weekend, and both the issues of alien life and the inhumane treatment of those that are “different” from us as covered in this post were portrayed in an oracle of  what possibly awaits us in the not too distant future. The similarities between District 9 (the actual locale) & Xmas Island in their purpose are indicative of the xenophobic frame of mind we employ to deal with the “other”, be it from the other side of the galactic swamp, or a  stones throw across our crystal blue oceanic waters.

I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t had the privilege of viewing this masterpiece, but never in 26 years has the uncertain future we face as a race trivialised in my mind the expensive automobiles, social and personal insecurities, egos, pursuit of the opposite sex and the desire for all human beings to find solace within their own misery by demeaning and degrading each other (from the impoverished, to the people you call friends), as it has thanks to a culmination of events (global and personal) this month.

Lest we forget, for soon our memories may be all we have left.

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Mrs Doubtfire for PM?

From its early days as a colonial dumping ground for practitioners of petty theft, murder and incest, Australia has blossomed onto the global stage as a nation that embodies the principles of democracy, equality and freedom of speech. As the fabric of society continues to disintegrate in areas of conflict around the world, citizens of this fine country have vicariously endured their pain and agony whilst sipping on a VB and chuckin a few on the barbie. What once was, 200 years ago, a land crawling with barbaric madmen banished from the motherland and into the pits of eternal damnation, this land has flourished into the “lucky country” and now boasts some of the world’s most livable cities.

Our justice system, acceptance of all and free speech has often been cited as a testament to our positioning as a relatively ideal and liberal utopia in an area littered with failed states and dictatorships. We have long professed ourselves as a nation as far away from a police state as America is from finding Osama.

The scathing condemnation handed down today by a supreme court judge regarding the arrests of 3 Tamil men for providing funds to a proscribed organisation proves otherwise. Take a peak at what lies beneath the land down under and one finds a mindset of racism and violence that has governed our law enforcement since the oppression and near elimination of the aborigines since the arrival of white settlers in Australia.

The excess levels of force and deprivation of civil rights endured by the accused is just another example of an increasingly hostile and racist police force, and more disturbingly, points to a culture of intolerance employed  by our Government. Gripped by a fear of terrorism and a wave of xenophobia (seen recently with the vilification of asylum seekers by the both sides of politics, the media and sections of society) Australia appears to be travelling down a slippery slope of division and hate mongering, once embodied by a red haired clown from Ipswich named Pauline, now spearheaded by a Geek and a man obsessed with budgie smugglers.

The lessons learnt from the fascicle arrest and handling of Mohammed Haneef in 2007 promised to usher in a new era of policing that would attempt to strike a “balance between protecting the rights of people and protecting the nation”. Someone clearly forget to read the memo.

Except Robin Williams.

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