Opression, Fundamentalism and Sri Lankan Tamils

So whats the relationship? Does oppression necessarily result in fundamentalism? This is a theme explored in a book i’m reading right now. As per the authors and evidence put forward there is a clear correlation between the rising of fundamentalist groups and the opression of those classes of a society.

This is plainly obvious generally, one has just got to look at numerous examples all over the world like the Uighurs, the Iraquis, Hezbollah, Christian fundamentalists in the US and not to put too fine a point on it; the LTTE.

Tamils in Sri Lanka are still, if not opressed, a very restricted group in terms of movement in society. Take their representation in the government and public sector for instance, this has spiralled down at an alarming rate since the de-nationalization of the Tamil language since 1956; an act seen by many Tamils as aimed at disowning the Tamil speaking population from Sri Lanka.

Now there is only scant representation of Tamil youth in Sri Lankan governance and none of it can be called particularly strong. Older and more powerful tamil politicians are few and far between.

Language is a major issue here. Its almost impossible to get anything done at most public services if you cannot communicate in Sinhalese or perhaps English. This arguably, is one of the first issues that needs to be addressed, along with the issue of the devolution_of power. (TEDx Colombo will be hosting a talk by Dr. Rohan Samarajiva on language policy for the future, this weekend.)

More power to provincial governments will give them incentive to serve the local population. In turn giving more power to voters in deciding who they want to take office. These are but some of the changes brought on by the 13th ammendment and its many modifications aimed at promoting diversity rather than supressing it; which has seemed to be the general overall trend of politics since independence from the Brits.

Barriers to devolution like strong vested interest in the Executive Presidency continue to bar progress. the EP is almost a tyrannical representation of everything wrong with the current system of governance to some; above the law, all powerful, unquestionable. It throws the concept of a government that ‘serves the public’ right out the kitchen window.

Change is needed, and it is needed now. Opression at this point will only create outlet to more fundamentalism and resentment among the unfairly treated. The LTTE is down, but not completely out. They still have support from the diaspora who burn from the wounds suffered a long time ago.

If the government avoids making serious long term policy changes to secure equality and yeilds to the easy way out and decides to rule the country with an iron fist-like approach by supressing dissent; perhaps it wouldn’t not that far fetched to imagine a re-emeregence of the LTTE or some other similar group in the next few decades, if they manage to raise enough grassroots level support from a group of people that feels ‘left out’ of Sri Lankan society.

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3 comments
  1. En Kural said:

    Good observation. This issue will not see an end till Tamil speaking people feel they are equally treated & honored. This was caused by few politicians.
    If we were able to get independence to this country with the help of all communities (Senanayaka's, Ponnambalam's & Marikkar's)why couldn't we continue that unity? Why was it necessary to make Sinhala the state language & ignore other communities? Who asked for it? Were Tamils, Muslims & Burgers consulted? Or given any respect to their views & opinions?

    What started in a document lead to militancy and ended up with a bloody war. Killing so many lives and slowing down the development of a 3rd world country (or a developing country – to feel a lil better).

    Here in Colombo, I'm being asked too many questions at check points just because there are few lines written in Tamil, in my NIC. Compared to a guy who's NIC is written only in Sinhala. Thank god I can speak Sinhala.

    Just imagine the state of another Tamil guy who can't speak in Sinhala… State of emergency is on even after war and he can be arrested just for questioning. For 14 days. Will he be given a translator? If he's the bread-winner of a family? Who'll take care of the family?

    Will any of those guys including me ever feel that I'm honored and respected in my own country?

  2. PseudoRandom said:

    I think rather than pure oppression, neglect in any form has the potential to result in fundamentalism. The problem we face when sorting this out is that when you try and appease one group, you overcompensate and end up neglecting another. A compromise is required, but compromises aren't attractive to selfish voters…and at the end of the day, that's what the majority of politicians really care about no?

    With regards to En Kural's comment, I'm not sure how much 'unity' there was during the move for independence. At least from the cultural resistance angle, it seems to have been a very 'every community for itself' approach. My knowledge is quite limited on the matter though, so I may be wrong.

    Gutted that I'm missing TEDx, hope it goes well!

  3. Jee in da house said:

    it takes 2 to slap a high 5…

    If a community strongly believes they created this country or have more right to a country by virtue of the fact that their great grand parents roamed here, however right will be viewed as selfish by people who have had half their history taken from them when they were landed here against their wishes. Well yes i'm speaking about the hill country tamils who claim an Indian ancestry…

    Facts do speak louder than words…. if tamils were accepted in sri lanka, wud they move in droves to the shelter of western nations and make a new life for themselves? The diaspora has a lot of strengths to brag about… if they collectively send back money to Sri Lanka than LTTE…. imagine where Lanka will be today?

    I recently read an article about a rural village school that denied admission to 3 kids of the same family and when the concerned tamil mother inquired… she was told that if praba was alive we wud have been afraid and taken ur kids but now that he is dead we are not afraid and therby we choose not to admit your children… phew.. now talk about inciteful behaviour…

    i am tamil and i have indian parents… i share citizenship to both nations.. but i'm less of a sri lankan to most sri lankans and less of an indian to most indians… hell i'm less of a tamil to most tamils … but i love this country being that its the nation i have grew up in… and the people here. I count myself to be lucky to not be in the wrong part of town and my knowledge of english and my apparent bashful usage of it helped me out of quite a fix…
    but yes i do concur with en kural's sentiments.. what happens to the guy who does not know the language? what becomes of him? his family and their welfare?

    ppl say sri lanka has come a long way since the last 25 years ….. yeah if u measure it by D*** inches…. destroying LTTE just eliminated their menace.. the problem remains…

    right now the president is all about political solution…

    I'd say work towards eliminating these invisible cultural differences each community purportedly has… and ensure all people see eye to eye..

    We have enough and more politicians in each community campaigning for their own rights… for decades…

    How many going to campaign for lanka.. ? lanka as in one big family of sinhala, tamil, muslim and burgher…

    Look at Labour & Conservatives?
    Republicans & Democrats?

    They campaign for share of View.. not for Share of race..

    That can only happen when u change mindsets, and years of ingrained attitudes..

    Look at our flag.. it seeks to advertise to the world about the various races in the country.. look at the flag of other nations? Japan for example …. what do u see.. one unified view..whats is sri lanka's unified view?

    something went rili F&*($ing wrong 40 years ago.. no point blaming ppl for the view they have cos.. they were taught to behave that way and they aint gonna change over nyt.. neither the affected tamils nor the sinhalese..

    Radical revamp… is required… slowly..

    case in point Malaysia, singapore…

    we are an EFFING melting pot of cultures dude… accept it… i wake up with a kimbula bunis and a kiri thae, eat thosai for breakfast, bus onu edupain bambalpitiyaku, vedata geela thava kopi ekak bonuwa, bounce for lunch with the team mates… guess waht i'm having.. BURIYANi… and.. then finish work.. off to the watering hole.. share an irish dark and heaf home for a spaghetti.. and off to bed to dream about… megan fox..

    ITS NOT ONLY colomba boys hu have this life.. a lot of sri lanka lives that way.. and its about EFFING time they learnt to accept it instead of playing egos…

    trust me …ego kills talent… its been doing that to sri lanka for a long time..

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