Tamil Diaspora, Taliban and the Muslim politics

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Pro LTTE supporters caused a major disruption at a meeting attended by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians M.A. Sumanthiran and Shanakyan Rasamanickam in Toronto, Canada on Saturday (20).


Although the demonstration against the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the disruption of its meeting in Canadian city of Toronto by the supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on last Saturday might be seen as a new development by many, it was not something to be surprised. The possibility of such things happening has been there for a long time. 

TNA Parliamentarians M.A Sumanthiran and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, had been forced to leave from a meeting they held in Toronto, which is home to the largest Sri Lankan Tamil community in the Western world by a group of Tamil Diaspora, who branded them as ‘traitors.’ The rioters had claimed that the Diaspora wanted a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka and not a political solution within Sri Lanka as the MPs of the main Tamil amalgam were stressing at the meeting.

The Police had to intervene and lead the two Parliamentarians out from the ugly scene. The TNA spokesman Sumanthiran had reportedly faced a similar issue in similar meetings recently in Australia and in Switzerland. It was reported that the protesters had carried flags of the LTTE despite the organisation having proscribed in Canada far back as 2006. The LTTE was designated as an international terrorist organisation in Canada after the outfit resumed their offensives against the armed forces whilst a ceasefire between them and the government with the blessings and facilitation of the international community was in force.

Given the bitter rivalry between the TNA and other Tamil political parties in the north including those groups that were once constituents of the TNA might be jubilant over the incident, especially over what befell Sumanthiran, the thorn in their flesh and the rising star of the main Tamil alliance. However, if the protesters were in fact serious in seeing a separate State for Tamils within the territory of Sri Lanka, other Tamil parties too would have to face the same music if they go abroad for membership drives or fund raising. 

One might recall that most of these protesters or their parents were those who fled the horrors of the war while many LTTE cadres chose to blow them up with the hope of that the rest of the Tamil community would achieve the “Thamil Eelam,”. It must also be recalled that some LTTE leaders especially Kasi Anandan who is known by many Tamils as “poet laureate of Thamil Eelam” severely criticized them as cowards. 

It does not mean that those who fled the country while the LTTE was fighting for Tamil Eelam were against the concept of separate State for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Many factors such as poverty, fear and the need to look after the elderly parents contributed for them to leave the country after coming to Colombo in various pretexts, as the LTTE prevented them from leaving the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 1980s and 1990s. 

“Even the Oxford educated Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to be carried away or dragged by the extremist currents in his country”

Some of them, subsequent to being settled in Western countries named their children after the famous leaders of the LTTE, despite them being hesitant to leave the greener pastures in the developed world to fight for the Tamil Eelam cause. They financially contributed to it, in spite of some of them doing so after being coerced by the fact that their kith and kin were then in areas under the control of the LTTE who ran a de-facto government in the northern parts of the island. However, large majority of the Tamil Diaspora wholeheartedly prayed for the victory of the LTTE. Now they want the Tamil political parties such as the TNA to fill the vacuum created by the decimation of the LTTE leadership.

There are no objective and subjective factors currently prevailing including the geo-political context that would lead to peaceful creation of a separate Tamil State in Sri Lanka, as Norway separated from Sweden in 1905 or Czechoslovakia divided into Czech and Slovakia in 1993. And the reality on the ground is that the Tamil political parties including those that took up arms in 1980s are not prepared for an armed struggle for that purpose now. Would any Tamil Diaspora group that presses for the Tamil Eelam be prepared?  

It was the moderate Tamil leaders who in 1976 conceptualised the Separate Tamil State as the solution to the problems faced by the Tamils and it was the various youth groups that were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause in the eighties. Subsequent to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 all Tamil parties and groups except the LTTE abandoned the Tamil Eelam demand and accepted the India-sponsored provincial council system as the political solution for their problems. 

With the LTTE continuing their attacks against the other Tamil groups as well as the armed forces of India and Sri Lanka, Tamil parties including the former armed groups except the EPDP started to seek a fresh political solution which was never articulated as to what it was. In fact, it was the LTTE and the EPDP that had a clear cut picture of what they were standing for.  The LTTE fought for the Tamil Eelam and got decimated and the EPDP stood firmly for the provincial council system describing it as “Union in the centre and autonomy in the region.”  

Towards the end of the year 2000 some surprising political changes took place in respect of the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. The UNP, abandoning the obstructing policy hitherto practiced by both main parties as the main Opposition, accepted President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s move to invite Norway’s facilitation for peace talks. The LTTE that was hunting the leaders of other Tamil parties invited them for talks and the latter in turn readily accepted the LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil people. They neither openly accepted the Tamil Eelam concept nor did they declare that they were for autonomy within an undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka, as they do now.

In a situation where a large number of families in the north are heavily dependent on the financial support of the Disapora, the latter’s ideological influence have become a hindrance to the free decision making process of the local Tamil leaderships. The TNA leader R.Sampanthan, as the then leaders of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), during the 14th convention of the ITAK in Batticaloa in 2012 put it as “The Diaspora’s political initiatives, and public statements on behalf of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka must not negatively affect the situation here; they must not prove to be obstacles to our efforts here. It is the efforts that are made by the people in Sri Lanka, which are made in accordance with the situation in Sri Lanka, and with sensitivity to this situation that will finally bring about concrete results for the Tamil Nation.”

This is what has happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan as well. They are currently being ideologically sandwiched between the international community that presses them to adhere to the internationally accepted norms and groups more extremist than them such as the Al-Qaida and the ISIS which are accusing them for betraying what they call “Islamic values.” Even the Oxford educated Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to be carried away or dragged by the extremist currents in his country. 

Fortunately for the Sri Lankan Muslim leaders, there are no pressure groups within their community, at least on moral basis. Hence, the MPs of the SLMC and the ACMC who vociferously criticized the SLPP and the Rajapaksas during the last year’s general election are so free to simply justify their support for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and the budgets presented by the same SLPP.

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