Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On War, Peace, Indi, The Diaspora and The Locals...

I read this post by Indi and it slightly incensed me. "Slightly incensed" might even be a oxymoron, though not to be confused with being attacked by one of those chaps selling incense sticks.

I can't really define exactly why or how the post got to me but it's something to do with the way Indi has simplified things, condensing them into neat little packets of logic, ones that are often irrefutable yet you just feel are wrong. Also, for a grown up, albeit it one with American or Canadian background, he uses the word "like" far too much and too often.

I asked K, one of my daughters, the other day to see how long she could last without saying "like" in a sentence, except where it was genuinely needed as a word. She managed about twenty seconds of conversation before like crashing and like burning. She's fifteen.

I have some thoughts and comments on what the Blogfather tells us and there are too many of them, in too rambled a fashion, for me to whack them up on his post as a comment.

His post begins with a sarcastic line insinuating that he can't comment on the phone hacking scandal going on here in the UK because he doesn't live in the country and therefore isn't an expert.

"Isn't it funny that Sri Lanka experts are usually sitting abroad?" he continues.

Errr no, it's not Indi. First off, I think you're confusing the word "expert" with someone who can hold an opinion. Secondly the number of people in the Sri Lankan diaspora is approximately ten per cent of the total population of Sri Lanka.

It's a high figure compared to most other countries. The comparable figure is eight per cent for the UK and Wikipedia states that there are approximately two million French nationals living outside of France, which has a population of about sixty three million. Wikipedia of course can be wildly wrong about things, something to bear in mind.

Lastly, another reason it's not funny is that many Lankans live abroad as a direct result of the conflict. You, my esteemed reader, don't need the likes of me to tell you that many Lankans left their homeland for safety, seeking refuge in other international communities.

Should these people have a voice? Should their opinion matter? Ask me those questions and you'll hear a resounding "yes". But you knew that anyhow.

Indi goes on to say "the war is over and the only people that can't really accept it are either abroad or facing abroad".

Well I can't figure out what he means by "facing abroad", but forgetting that, I wholly disagree with the sentence, in as much as I understand it. My view is that everyone I've come across, which isn't a huge amount of people, say forty thousand as an example, but is a wide cross section of folks, accepts that the war is over. It's just that many, me included, believe that the consequences of that war remain, in fact will remain until they're addressed instead of brushed under the carpet.

If a chap goes out and does a bank robbery and kills someone in the process then it's not appropriate to just forget about the robbery the following day, to say to people that they should accept it was in the past and move on. The family and friends of the person killed will be affected, there will be consequences of the act, they need to be dealt with. Only then can many actually move on.

I have come to realise something that I think is crucial in Sri Lanka moving forward; there isn't right and there isn't wrong, there are only different views and different perspectives.

Many years ago in the business environment I learned about the phenomenon called helicopter vision. It's something most good business people possess. Imagine you're in a helicopter. As you lift off you see everything on the ground in great detail but you don't see a wide range. The further the aircraft climbs the wider a range, but the less detail on the ground, you also see.

I reckon you can figure out where I'm going with this.

The thing is, the views from the helicopter, at whatever altitude, are "correct". There are no wrong ones, just different ones, showing varying things.

And the "locals" in Sri Lanka are the people who, for the last thirty or so years, have had to worry about lots of the day to day issues that those of us in the diaspora haven't. Issues like the cost of living, like whether you or a close relative will get killed in a bomb blast. Those are things that diasporic types like me haven't really dealt with.

But, there are also many in the diaspora who do have close family and friends back in the motherland, who have had to worry about day to day issues as well.

So the view of people living in Sri Lanka is often a ground level one. Totally valid, totally genuine and as real as it gets.

But people not living in Sri Lanka are higher up in the helicopter and can see a bigger picture, missing out on lots of the detail. Their view is not wrong, not invalid, just different. They (we) need to remember that we didn't all go through the day to day agony that many in Sri Lanka did.

When people in the island talk about the war being over and say that people should move on, it's a wholly understandable view. As is that of the diasporic people who can look at a wide ranging picture, one that takes little or no account of the finer, but very important, details that affect people every day.

It's not actually about where you live, it's about how much you know and how much you care.

37 comments:

Jack Point said...

An excellent post. I think you need to tackle politic a bit more often.

I have often wished that the diaspora would not get so involved in matters here since they have little, if any stake, but your post is making me rethink that assumption.

indi said...

Fair enough. I don't mean to tar the whole diaspora with the same brush, and I in particular am ill-suited to do that

indi said...

btw, what I meant by the expert comment was literally the people with the title 'Sri Lanka Expert' (or something similar) from HRW, ICG, etc.

David Blacker said...

While I accept your 'helicopter vision' point, RD, I think I also distinguish another two points of view that unlike the view from the helicopter, becomes more of a right/wrong issue.

I think there's a broad division between one set of people who think that think that the final stage of the war (say post-CFA) was necessary, even right. And then there are those who think that the state's offensive against the Tigers itself was wrong and a crime. Your example of the murder committed during a bank robbery is therefore interesting. You see the robbery as analogy for the offensive, and the murder as an additional war crime, right?

Most people on this side of the fence (mine, if you like) is of the robbery being committed, and a bank guard accidentally shooting a bystander in the process of stopping the robbers.

To then be targeted and attacked for that is seen as hugely unfair; especially since the attacking is now being done by some of the gang that survived, along with their lawyers and friends of the dead.

Ch4, for example, begins their film by suggesting that the Tigers were running this law-abiding quasi-state that was then brutally attacked by the frothing maniacs in the south.

It's an absurd position, I'm afraid. I too did think that Indi's post was a bit simplistic and narrow-minded, but for a whole lot of young people in the south, the attitude is that there was nothing wrong done, and that we should be allowed to get on with our lives now that the war's over.

Anonymous said...

David- as much as I take issue with many things that the CH4 doc did and did not do. I do not recall any moment that made the Tigers sound like they were running a law abiding state.

They were definitely painted as ruthless murderers who invented suicide bombing. The difference is that they were terrorists, and not a democratically elected government who were supposed to protect ALL its people.

RD I am glad you wrote this post, and it has also made me think again about the greater diaspora.

n said...

"The difference is that they were terrorists, and not a democratically elected government who were supposed to protect ALL its people. " - I love that line...makes it sound so easy. Perhaps we could have asked the LTTE cardres to wear ID badges and stand aside so the army could have shot them more easily?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

JP + Indi - Thanks. If I've made you look at a different perspective then that's, for me at least, a big achievement.

DB - Thanks, as ever for your comment. My bank robbery analogy was purely to illustrate my point about the war being over, but not necessarily the consequences of what happened during the war. I hadn't meant it to be an analogy for how the conflict finished. If I did, I guess I'd say something along the lines of the police deciding to kill everyone in one part of the bank, including the robbers!

My opinion on the CH4 doco is similar to Anon's; that the LTTE were painted, even described specifically, as "one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations to exist".

N - Hey, thanks also for the comment. I think your "suggestion" is clearly a bit tongue in cheek, but there were perhaps other ways of achieving peace.

ravana said...

Anonymous- Go back and look at the Ch4 video. David is right about that.

RD - one thing you have to consider is the influence of culture. The concept of forgiveness in Buddhism is different from the concept of forgiveness in the theistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. In a culture which is largely influenced by Buddhism, many Sri Lankans do not buy into the notion that there must be a confession and forgiveness must be requested by the perpetrator for reconciliation to take place. There is no equivalent of the word 'sorry' in the Sinhala language, at least, not one that is used with the same frequency and in the same way as in English. Forgiveness is seen as something that is not contingent upon the perpetrator asking forgiveness. (Was there a reconciliation process required for the South to move on after the atrocities of the JVP era?)

This deeply ingrained cultural belief is entirely different to the standard view held in many Western democracies built upon Christian values. When the diaspora comments on what is 'right' and 'wrong', therefore, they often adopt a Western perspective, one which ignores not just the Sri Lankan cultural context, but also often ignores a deeper analysis of the root causes of the conflict in our colonial history. The fact that diaspora commentators are being interviewed by non-Sri Lankans, with very little understanding of historical and cultural perspective, often exacerbates the problem, and, for me, the vast majority of these discussions seem overly simplistic.

Secondly, it is easier to stick to principles when you don't have to deal with economic and political realities on a day to day basis. For a lot of the people on the ground, Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim, I don't think it makes a jot of difference whether there is a proper accountability process or not, as long as they can live their lives in freedom and have the opportunity to give their children a better life. I think they tend to worry about education, health care, roads and jobs, rather than some alien principle espoused mainly by the diaspora and foreign governments. The diaspora can afford to worry about these higher order needs on Maslow's hierarchy because their lower order needs are taken care of. It seems a little unfair, therefore, on the Sri Lankan resident population to enforce a different ranking of values and priorities from outside. Don't you think?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgiveness

N said...

Sorry, couldn't help the sarcasm but I've heard that one so often. The bare fact of the matter is that when the CFA went into action, the LTTE controlled pretty much the entire north and the east. They did not negotiate in good faith, the diaspora was silent as was the international community while moderate Tamils were killed left right and center.

The LTTE set the stage for the way it ended, they held all the cards and played their hand if not abetted then at the very least emboldened by the silence of their 'people' abroad (not intended to mean ALL Tamils abroad, just the LTTE supported). They were at the end of the day a monstrous organization and required a monster to kill it. World War II took the firebombing of Dresden down to the ground to win it (amongst many other unspeakable acts). I don't like war, I think it's a terrible thing but the LTTE made this inevitable.

Do we need to look at ourselves and ask what happened? Yes, but having the UN or Channel 4 beat us over the head with it while we are trying to make ends meet in a recovering country with a high cost of living and corrupt politicians is not going to elicit much sympathy.

It will be a longer harder road than what Channel 4 wants and Sri Lankans will be in the midst of it long after Jon Snow has moved onto another spectacle to cover.

Like you said there aren't simple answers and oversimplifcations are rife. At the same time the pressure should be on the GOSL to improve governance and ensure equal rights for all rather than a witchhunt for some 'genocide' that ended the war. That at least might be somewhat productive.

apologies for the long comment and possible incoherence...its been a looong day at work.

Dominic Sansoni said...

I hear the sound..... of distant drums

God Bless Jim Reeves

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Ravana - As hard as I try I can't see what you and DB talk about in the C4 doco. I honestly feel that the LTTE was portrayed as a ruthless terrorist organisation, albeit with some respect for the way it ran the north and north east. This talk of C4 praising the LTTE is, in my humble O, just a defence mechanism conjured up by the GoSL.

N - "corrupt politicians" ??!!! Never!

The whole "poor little Sri Lanka, after we bravely defeated terrorism when no other country could do it and the whole big bad West is picking on us and bullying us" is becoming laughable!

The point you make about Maslow's hierarchy etc is exactly what I was trying to say too in the post; that when many people in SL were/are worried about shelter, food, warmth and basic level security, it's very hard to point out issues at the top of the pyramid.

Overall, I think both sets, the locals and the diaspora, could gain huge levels of understanding and move forward more easily if they saw these differing, but both real and accurate, views of the one situation.

Heshan said...

Spot on - the average Sri Lankan in Sri Lanka could use a little more perspective. But you can't blame them entirely, considering that freedom of information has its limitations in SL. Theoretically, a medium like the Internet could fix this problem, but my experience is that the vast majority of those who log on do so just to reinforce their pre-existing views, as opposed to exploring alternate viewpoints.

But I still think the press censorship is the biggest culprit, as far as lack of perspective goes. When you've been exposed to one viewpoint for so long, you're bound to look at other viewpoints with a bit of suspicion. To translate this into practical speak: the vast majority of people in the South of SL believe that the one-size-fits-all approach which was used to defeat the LTTE can be used as a means of conflict resolution in many other arenas. They've been conditioned, via the media, to believe that a single person/entity is capable of superhuman things. That's partly where the "move on and forget" attitude comes from. Lingering on past events is outside the scope of the "one-size-fits-all" solution.

n said...

So the average person’s situation on the street, whose trying to make ends meet in an environment where taxes are high (partly to pay for the war expenditure) which will be made worse if Channel 4 and the LTTE related diaspora have their way with sanctions, boycotts, etc is laughable? Not sure many people here will agree with that.

I’m not talking about the government’s line; I’m talking about the average person and the consequences they face if Channel 4, etc have their way. With all due respect I don’t think that’s very laughable.

Confab said...

I haven't read Indi's article. And to be honest I've avoided most articles on this issue. But in my view, the UK and the US should not be calling for any inquiries until and unless similar inquiries are held regarding their own actions in numerous conflicts that they are and have been involved in. Simplest example is the invasion of a sovereign nation. Surely that amounts to war crimes?

Pots and Kettles being black should not throw stones while in glass houses yeah?

David Blacker said...

RD & Anon, yes, CH4 does say that the Tigers were terrorists who used suicide bombing, etc. But like the rest of that film, it says one thing, but shows another. So the words are completely lost when the only visual images we see are of Tiger courts, uniformed Tiger policemen, and a functioning urban area. The impression given is of a peaceful, functioning society. There is no way you can show a courtroom and leave a viewer without the impression that the Tigers were a law-abiding administration; especially when you then go on to accuse the other side of horrendous atrocity after atrocity, show image after image of suffering civilians that you claim have been attacked by the GoSL, and not show a single image of any Tiger atrocitiy without first adding the prefix that it was "claimed by the GoSL to be a Tiger act". Guys, I make propaganda films for a living -- 30-second films that convince people to buy and do things they normally wouldn't -- I know how to manipulate the psyche with the judicial use of image and voice. Did you come away from the Ch4 film thinking the Tigers were as bad as the GoSL? Of course not.

RD, I would still find issue with your analogy of the cops killing everyone in the bank, along with the robbers. Hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians survived the last stages of the war; in fact the vast majority. It was a small percentage that were unfortunately killed. Many of them survived because SL Army soldiers were killed and injured actively trying to get them out. Hardly the act of the genocidal force that Ch4 and many in the diaspora would like to portray them as.

On the comment about the GoSL being supposed to protect ALL it's citizens, while the Tigers are absolved of all that 'cos they are terrorists, all I have to say is tough shit. When you pick up a gun or support those who do so, you damn well take your punishment like an adult, and not like a whiny little schoolgirl. You don't break into someone's house, rape his children, and then squeal "hey you're a law-abiding citizen and I'm a criminal" when he beats you to death.

Finally, most of the anger and deep bitterness over these allegations I feel both as a Sri Lankan and a former soldier comes from the fact that the diaspora sat on its pudgy arses all throughout the last decade and did abo-fucking-lutely NOTHING -- sweet NOTHING -- while the Tigers dragged us all back to a war in which MY friends died, and in which I was endangered every time I set out on my way to work in Colombo. You did nothing and said nothing when the Tigers pulled out of the CFA, when they murdered hundreds, assassinated ministers, walked out of talks, and forced the Tamils to boycott elections. Where the fuck WERE you guys, when your voices should have been heard, when thousands upon thousands of men, women, children, and babies could have been saved, who wouldn't have to grow up without arms, legs or eyes? Where WERE you guys? You have failed your people here in SL, utterly; stood by while the Tigers doomed them all.

And yet now, you suddenly wake up. Why? Because you care about the future of the Tamils here? Don't make me laugh. All you care about is personal vengeance; to get back at the Sinhalese bastards. Well, I'm not Sinhalese; and with all respect, you guys can go fuck yourselves. All you do is make it harder and harder for any moderate to make any difference in SL.

Sorry for the rant, RD, and you don't need to fuck yourself either :D At least not until we have a few Stellas in London.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DB - You and I definitely saw C4's portrayal of the LTTE differently!

I won't tackle your individual points because I see little to gain by that, I won't change your opinion and you probably won't change mine.

The only thing I'd like to say is that I feel you're portraying the diaspora as if it's one body of people with one set of views, something I don't agree with.

I think the diaspora (the SL one) consists of millions of people, millions of views. From my personal angle I don't think I've ever deserted SL. Though I've never lived there I feel as though I've been increasingly engaged with the country over the years and am trying to carry that on with my kids, where possible.

Though I didn't go through what you did, I think I understand and feel empathy and sympathy for you anger and bitterness. Out of interest how would you feel if someone told you to put it behind you, that the war is over now and that's all that matters?

No need to apologise for that rant DB. And I couldn't fuck myself even if I wanted to! x

rajivmw said...

Hi RD,

I agree that all Sri Lankans, whether living here or not, deserve to be heard. And I agree wholeheartedly that locals and the diaspora need to gain much more understanding. But I must take issue with some of your responses.

You disagree with David Blacker and Ravana who feel that C4 treated the LTTE with kid gloves. That's fine, everyone is entitled to their own interpretations and opinions. But then you suggest that they are just parroting GoSL-conjured talking points! RD, you and I both know these two gentlemen and in my humble O, that just seems absurd.

Then you go on to say this:

'The whole "poor little Sri Lanka, after we bravely defeated terrorism when no other country could do it and the whole big bad West is picking on us and bullying us" is becoming laughable!'

That may indeed be laughable, but as far as I can see, no one on this thread has said any such thing. What N pointed out is that elements of the diaspora and the international community, by indulging the LTTE for so long, have to face up to their own fair share of responsibility for what happened here.

He further states that a lot of the current external pressure is being applied in the wrong places at the wrong time, thereby exacerbating tensions rather than soothing them. I happen to agree with him entirely.

You may not, and you may have your reasons, so let's hear them and see if maybe we can arrive at common ground.

But RD it doesn't serve the cause of understanding when you yourself resort to caricaturing opposing arguments. Or lumping the reasoned positions of thoughtful people with crude GoSL propaganda.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Hi Rajivmw,

Thanks for your comment. I feel bad, I didn't mean to sound harsh towards either DB or Ravana, both of whom are friends whose opinions I respect, though often don't agree with!

To clarify what I meant, hopefully in more mature words, I think that it was the GoSL that latched on to George W Bush's "if you're not with us you're against us" words in the fight against terrorism. It is indeed absurd to suggest that DB or Ravana would parrot something that they haven't thought about, I didn't mean to do that.

Regarding the external (international) pressure, my opinion is that the GoSL should understand that in order to take advantage of the benefits provided by being part of an international community it also needs to adhere to some, or all, of the rules. For the record, I also think that applies to other countries.

Your last sentence Rajiv is wholly correct. I apologise.

Rajiv, are you familiar with Edward de Bono and his 6 thinking hats? If so, then that's one way in which I think people could find common ground, if the genuine desire for progress and forward movement exists.

David Blacker said...

RD, when I say "diaspora" here, I mean those calling for the investigations, sanctions, etc. I do know that there are many views in the larger diaspora, particularly since many of my relatives and a couple of good friends are in that diaspora. I certainly wish that those other views would be heard as well, but all I hear is the one view, the same view I heard voiced on the streets of London, Ottawa, and other cities, under the shade of the Tiger flag.

When I say that these people we hear have let their people down, I'm not talking about your emotional or physical connection to SL, but the responsibility those supporting the militancy had to the people that that militancy was supposed to be standing for. They did not raise a murmur as thousands were doomed to a horrible fate, a fate that was crystal clear to anyone who wasn't blinded by the rhetoric of Tiger invincibility. Worse, they continued to support that militancy. In the light now of their claimed bleeding hearts over the fate of those Tamils, their past silence is damning. How dare they speak of caring for the Tamils when those people's blood is as much on the dispora's hands as the GoSL they rave against, if not more so?

As for putting this war behind me, I am more than prepared to. I owe it to my dead friends to live the life of peace that they gave their teenage lives for. I have friends who are former Tigers. I have eaten in their homes, and our children have played together. I hold no grudge against them. But I believe the Tiger leadership was scum. I would have happily put a bullet in the back of every one of their heads, naked, bound and draped in their bloody white flags that everyone's making such a big deal of. They didn't deserve to live. Every day of those last weeks that those bastards lived was bought with the lives of Tamil civilians. They should have surrendered after Mullaitivu, and they'd have been treated with honour. There was still a lot of respect between the fighting men. But they hid like rats behind old women and little children, and the Army exterminated them like vermin; and I'll be damned if I'll shed a tear, or allow a soldier to be charged for that if it is ever in my power to prevent it.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Fair enough DB. My own opinion is similar to yours about the LTTE. I am fully in support of the LTTE's defeat, I think it's a very good thing for Sri Lanka and its people that the LTTE no longer exists.

Yet I would like to see investigations. That doesn't mean I support / did support the LTTE.

ravana said...

RD, I have to prepare questions for quiz, so I am afraid I don't have time for a lengthier answer. I will do so tomorrow, but perhaps it might help if you would clarify a couple of things for me.

I'm not saying, I'm against them, but I think it's important to keep in mind what investigations would achieve. Who would these investigations benefit exactly and what end would they achieve?

Secondly, to clarify: you think the C4 video was a balanced portrayal of the Sri Lankan situation? You don't think it was in any way hyperbolic?

Thirdly, you say, "Regarding the external (international) pressure, my opinion is that the GoSL should understand that in order to take advantage of the benefits provided by being part of an international community it also needs to adhere to some, or all, of the rules." Which rules? Who makes up these rules? Who enforces them? Is this process democratic? Is a rule for one a rule for all? If not, why should we follow these rules? Which international community? The UK, EU and the US - is that your definition of the international community?

Fourthly RD, I think you missed the point completely with regard to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Your response strengthens my view. The diaspora interfering in a domestic problem within a sovereign country, not out of a sense of compassion or understanding of the needs of the citizens of that country, but out of a need to satisfy the diaspora's own needs and manifest their own cultural values upon an independent population is just plain wrong. It's a neo-colonial mentality. It's undemocratic.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Ravana - Thanks for your comment. You know, part of the problem here is that I feel I'm getting drawn into a "I am right, you are wrong" type of argument with you and that wasn't my intention. To briefly answer your questions though:

Re investiagations. I think they would/should be into the full extent of civilian deaths that took place in the final few weeks of the conflict. They may achieve some comfort, they may also exonerate the GoSL of any wrongdoing. If there really is nothing to hide then everyone would be satisfied.

I don't think that the C4 doco was totally unbiased no. I think it set out to prove a point, to draw some attention to something and it succeeded. But, in a country in which journalists are far freer than in some to publish what they believe without fear of reprisal, and despite News International, I fundamentally believe in the British media. Not in every newspaper, every doco or everything, but my fundamental belief is there.

Thirdly, re the international community, I'm not sure of my answer here. I think the UN is the most logical answer and, as I've stated so many times in so many platforms, I really believe that injustices, breaking rules of war etc should see the perpetrators punished wherever they're from.

Fourthly Ravana. It makes me sad to hear the increasing volume of people talk like this. You, the Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka, but I'm sorry to tar you with one brush, all want the international pound, dollar or yen. You want tourists, foreign income and to trade with the international community. You (Sri Lanka) are an international citizen, not a Zimbabwe.

Undemocratic? hmmm...

I hope quiz night is good!

RD

n said...

Here’s some ground reality on what the CH4 documentary does in Sri Lanka.

I am a moderate. I care not about whether someone is a Sinhala, Tamil, etc, etc. All I want is a just and free society in the country. I’m no Gandhi but I moved back with the express desire to make a difference in the country I love in some small way.

Yet what the CH4 documentary and the calls for international investigations does is polarize society in Sri Lanka. The sensationalism inherent with their claims combined with the fact that the perception is that the west mollycoddled the LTTE (til recently the LTTE used to openly raise funds in the UK, when I lived there in the early 2000’s they had an office in London and even after proscription their front organizations raised funds) and the diaspora happily contributed to the LTTE without asking for accountability validates the GOSL position that they are fighting against ‘western conspiracies.’

The irony is that these results in those of us who are moderates being squeezed completely out of the equation in the country. To those issuing clarion calls for international investigations and sanctions, we are GOSL puppets mouthing the western bully theory (as you described it). To the GOSL if we criticize their actions we are in cahoots with the ‘western conspirators.’

The reality is that those of us in the country, who are the ones who can somehow in the long term try and push for equal rights, accountability, etc are the ones who are paying the price. We will be stuck between a hard place and a dictatorship long after CH4 has moved onto its next sensational story and long after the second generation LTTE-Diaspora has moved on with their lives in the London suburbs.

The CH4 documentary was supremely unconstructive but at least it got them ratings and publicity…which in the end is what I suspect they were after.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Thanks N, that's an interesting eye open on your viewpoint. For what it's worth I consider myself a moderate too.

I often wonder about the issue of the LTTE operating in London and liken it to Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, doing the same, as I'm sure you're aware. Though I'm no expert in the legal aspects, my understanding is that both organisations, within the UK, operated within the law and were therefore almost untouchable. I don't necessarily think it's right, but I think it's consistent, not something that was against Sri Lanka specifically.

I guess ratings and publicity is what most of these documentary makers are after, but maybe some are out to achieve other goals as well.

Thanks

n said...

Sorry to nitpick, but Sinn Fein was actually first a political party that predated the IRA. It was never officially the IRA's political wing though closely associated with them. The LTTE started as an armed outfit. If the TULF had an office in London it would have been less noxious.

The equivalent for the LTTE raising funds and operating openly in London in the early 2000's (after numerous assassinations and suicide bombings in Sri Lanka) was if Al-Qaeda had an office in Colombo and raised funds after the 2007 tube bombings. Amongst all the craziness Bin Laden did also have some reasonable points about disenfrachisement and oppression in the middle-east by western supported governments.

David Blacker said...

To add to N's point on Sinn Fein, they were actually the political side of the Republican struggle; the military side was the old IRA, and so Sinn Fein was seen as the political wing of the IRA, even though it wasn't really. However, the bombings, murders, and other acts of terror were conducted by PIRA (the Provisional IRA), a totally different bunch to the old IRA. So Sinn Fein couldn't really be prevented from having offices in London, though we subsequently know that they had connections. On the other hand, the Tigers were the damn Tigers. Adele Balasingham, who helped train Tiger women and handed out cyanide capsules to them, still lives over there in the UK, untouched and unbothered by any government investigation. She is a terrorist.

My main point is in questioning why there was so little done by the 'western' governments, advocacy groups, the UN, and the diaspora to prevent the atrocities committed by the Tigers for 30 years. It is only in the last few years that even lip service was provided by the UK to half-heartedly proscribe the Tigers. After having been silent and uninterested for 3 decades, it seems bloody hypocritical (if not downright hostile) to pick this moment to wake up and make a big noise. Diaspora populations in Canada, the UK, and all over Europe directly funded the bombs and bullets that were killing, not just Sinhalese, but tens of thousands of Tamils as well. And those governments did bugger all to stop it. So excuse us if we're not now moved by this sudden apparent concern for civilian deaths.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are out of your depth RD.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - yes totally. I'm not really up to the intellectual standards of the esteemed commentators here. That's why I rarely blog about politics!

Anonymous said...

N,

the problem is that the regime here is now all-powerful. All checks and balances have been removed and they rule with impunity.

The system of law and justice has been corrupted and due process does not work anymore.

Unless the regime is checked, people's rights will be eroded further and they will be sacrificed to meet the rulers ends.

An investigation that reveals the full extent of what went on is likely to put them on the back foot and perhaps build enough pressure to remove the PTA, Emergency and put some proper checks in place.

The reaction to the FTZ protest is a good illustration of what can happen, unarmed protestors attacked, killed, factories deliberately damaged. This is not the first instance, remember the boys who were killed in Angulana? The mad man who was drowned in Bambalapitiya?

What happened in the North can happen in the South, if the regime is opposed. The sympathy they display towards Gadaffi should serve as warning enough as to what to expect.

n said...

@Anon - No argument there. I know all what you have said because I actually live in the country so am exposed to and have to deal wtih this crap every day. What happened in the North did happen in the South, the JVP insurgency of 1989.

My point is that CH4 and the call for international investigations strengthens the GOSL hand and gets the people behind it. The FTZ protest actaully resulted in the bill being pulled off the table (for the moment).

If the International Community shut up and let the people in SL concentrate on 'normal' things like Indi has suggested that actually weakens the GOSL. Then the talk of 'international conspiracies', etc cannot be used as a excuse by the GOSL for increasing our cost of living, ignoring the rule of law. The more normal issues we have to deal with the more people will realize that the current regime does not work.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

N - I see your views here but I don't see that the international community shutting up would weaken the GoSl. To my mind that would mean the GoSL would just think there are no calls for anything from the international community and then carry on as normal.

n said...

My bad..I should have elaborated there. They should put pressure in other ways, quietly lobbying at higher levels. For example JP has an interesting post on an international bond that is being issued by American banks, lobbying in those situations (i.e. including some 'strings' with the bonds) without making a big deal about is the way to.

The bottom line is the way the international community is engaging with SL is comprehensively nonconstructive.

n said...

to add to my previous comment, I'm yet to see any results from the way the international community is currently pressurising the GOSL except making their hand stronger. Maybe I'm missing something?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Thanks N - I understand your viewpoint better now. I agree about the lack of results so far, yet my feeling is that the continuation of pressure, as well as what you suggest, might be the best way to bring about change. I guess what we're both missing is the benefit of foresight!

Electra said...

Great debate.
I just wanted to add my two cents in case you haven't seen it yet - http://electra.blogsome.com/2011/07/19/the-war-is-over-a-response-to-indi/.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Hey Electra, long time! I've been reading and following your post with interest. I think we said similar things, just that you did it with much more eloquence, intelligence and knowledge! x

Anonymous said...

n,

thanks for the clarification, I agree with what you say. The govt is using C4 as a rallying point.

David B

"Finally, most of the anger and deep bitterness over these allegations I feel both as a Sri Lankan and a former soldier comes from the fact that the diaspora sat on its pudgy arses all throughout the last decade and did abo-fucking-lutely NOTHING -- sweet NOTHING -- while the Tigers dragged us all back to a war"

Thanks for that, I think I've finally understood your position and I share your frustration.

I would still think an investigation would be the best way to deliver a short, sharp shock to the government and get them to step back from centralising power, but then I never supported the Tigers and have cursed them (silently) for all they did to drag the country to war.