24 January 2014

Lie is followed by truth and hopefully by embrace*


There was one factor which worked for the LTTE. For decades. Propaganda. This, more than anything else, was what tripped the Sri Lankan security forces.  The LTTE, as a unit, was the Grandmaster of the Lie.  When lie is received as truth, it is more potent than truth, the LTTE showed the world.   Successive Governments were put under immense pressure to bend to the will of Prabhakaran by powerful sections of the international community who had purchased without a second look the LTTE lie.  It took a lot to overcome this handicap.

Now it is all over.  Lies will not resurrect Prabhakaran or the LTTE.  The Lie, though, will sustain the Eelam Project.  That’s not what I am writing about though.  I am writing about a particular lie that sustained the LTTE.  In a word, ‘persecution’. 

Countless Tamils found ‘persecution’ a convenient escape-clause.  They rushed to diplomatic missions in Colombo, obtained visas, went to the relevant countries and said they were political refugees.  I am sure some were actually worried about their futures. No one wants to live in a war zone.  Saying ‘Prabhakaran is making life hell for me, please let me stay in your country’ is of course not going to get you a visa.  You have to blame Governments, not terrorists, regardless of the truth of the matter. 

Once there, there has to be justification.  One has to live the lie.  One has to dutifully sign petition, attend rally, wave flag and spit out the vocabulary of the oppressed. One has to claim persecution, talk about horrible atrocities, crimes against humanity, genocide etc., as one builds a new life for oneself and one’s family. 

No one should grudge a ‘better life’ to anyone, even if that ‘anyone’ is someone who got to graze on that greener pasture through lying and vilifying his/her country of birth. Desperation prompts crime, some petty some not, some forgivable and some not. These were, in my book, forgivable as far as individual was concerned. Not collective, though.  The aggregate was pernicious and their collective politics helped cause untold suffering to all communities in Sri Lanka, especially the Tamils.   

They’ve got to find some way of forgiving themselves for all that.

Some lies can be made to live for centuries and even millennia.  Others, however, have short life-span.  Like this.  The truth comes out in ways that were not envisaged.  The lie of persecution was stripped naked by a simple statistic:  nearly 75% of Sri Lankan Tamils granted ‘refugee status’ in Canada have returned to Sri Lanka for visits or vacations.

This is the product of the right hand not knowing what the left hand does, or, more appropriately, all body parts doing something that the body as a whole doesn’t know.  The ‘body’ being Tamils belonging to the Sri Lankan Diaspora and the ‘body parts’ being each of the Tamils who fall into the category of those who visited Sri Lanka. 

If visits and vacations were possible, then ‘persecution’ has to be a myth. We are not talking about some handful of ‘refugees’ surreptitiously entering Sri Lanka by boat and braving landmine and bullet to spend a few precious minutes with their loved ones and sneaking back to Canada.  We are talking about 75% of these ‘refugees’.  That’s telling, isn’t it?

The study that threw up this statistic refers to a small sample size, admittedly, and one that might under normal circumstances persuade us to reject, except that systemic persecution and ‘death-threat’ was and remains a monumental lie.   

It is reported that at a Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board hearing in 2006, it was found that of 100 Tamil claimants refused refugee status and forced to return to Sri Lanka, none had suffered abuse by Sri Lankan officials or military.  All things considered, ‘refugeeing’ was nothing more than an easy means of leapfrogging the ordinary immigration system. 

I have no quarrel with anyone fleeing a war zone. I have no quarrel with people trying to improve life chances. I am naturally upset when such people believe it necessary to vilify my country in order to get ahead in their lives, but that’s something I can forgive more easily now since the terrorist threat no longer exists. 

There are two important things to understand here, I believe. We can focus on the lie or we can choose to focus on the ‘truth’. The lie is that there was persecution.  Forget it. Let’s focus on the truth.  Our Tamil brethren who fled the country for whatever reason still love this land enough to want to visit, want to holiday here.  After all the animosity, suspicion of one another, anger, bitterness, death, dismemberment, displacement and all manner of unnamed losses, they still want to come, even if it is in a now-and-then sense. That is a truth we should celebrate and on which we can build hope for a different tomorrow. 

Secondly, now that persecution has been shown to be a lie, those who believed the lie and acted accordingly ought to correct their filtering systems and also their systems of political response.  We suffered for three decades thanks to powerful players believing the lie (or acting as though they believed it).  Unnecessary death was the intended or unintended outcome.  It should not happen again.

There was a lie.  It’s now known.  Let there be truth hereafter. 

There’s a child in Toronto. A Tamil child.  She knows little about truth and lie.  I am convinced that her being is made of the rhythms of her ancestors and that they are Sri Lankan made.  She should not be made to pay for the fact that her father or grandfather uttered a lie so that her father or herself, respectively, could lead a life without wondering which direction death would arrive from the next minute. 

There was a lie.  That’s past tense. Let the future be lie-free.

 *First published in 'The Nation' on August 29, 2010.
Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com


Reactions:

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Food for thought. Reconciliation is taking place in all shapes and sizes within Sri Lanka, while others need to lie to hide from their own truths and risk giving up the 'good life' in their new found countries at the sake of those trying to forgive and move on.

Anonymous said...

The Lie is also necessary for the continued reception of funding by various NGOs and Civil Society activists who argue that Tamils are immediately subject to white-vanning, rape and attack in Colombo streets.
Today, these bogus refugees are hand in glove with Canadian and British parliamentarians, and so no serious immigrations proceedings will be taken against them. So in that sense, the lie will hold for another generation.
I am right now trying to counter the 8 sittings of the standing committee of the Canadian Parliament on Human Rights, where they only invited Tamil plaintiffs and Human Rights groups to present the case (presented very damagingly to the Sri Lankans). Our side, including the High Commissioner, was excluded!
Thanks anyway for the 'Malinda words'

Anonymous said...

The Lie is also necessary for the continued reception of funding by various NGOs and Civil Society activists who argue that Tamils are immediately subject to white-vanning, rape and attack in Colombo streets.
Today, these bogus refugees are hand in glove with Canadian and British parliamentarians, and so no serious immigrations proceedings will be taken against them. So in that sense, the lie will hold for another generation.
I am right now trying to counter the 8 sittings of the standing committee of the Canadian Parliament on Human Rights, where they only invited Tamil plaintiffs and Human Rights groups to present the case (presented very damagingly to the Sri Lankans). Our side, including the High Commissioner, was excluded!
Thanks anyway for the 'Malinda words'

Anonymous said...


'Lies' are still required by the Tamils living in the western countries to go on with their so called cause, as well as the NGOs operating worldwide. Only last afternoon a Representative - Jacqui Rai- from a NGO called CWS ( Christian World Service) , gave a completely warped account from a church pupit ( Trinity Methodist Church, Pakuranga New Zealand ), while a Sinhalese Reverend looked on, backed by a Tamil Reverend. I really do not know WHEN this false propaganda will stop, but I can only say, that TAMILS are a most UNGRATEFUL, DECEITFUL lot, who dont deserve to get anything out of Sri Lanka.

sajic said...

'Persecution' can take different forms. It doesnt have to be physical only. It started surreptitiously soon after Independence. I do not excuse the present-day activities of the diaspora or the NGOs. But any analysis or criticism should include the pre-LTTE years as well.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

Needling can take many forms too. It came long before independence, at least as far back as Ramanathan's chauvinism. And it came on top of many forms of persecution of the Sinhalese, especially the Buddhist element of their identity. Can't talk about just one, can we?

sajic said...

True. The harassment of the sinhala-buddhist identity was wrong and regrettable, but it was pre-independence. Colonial govts (not Tamils) were responsible. We are talking post independence.In spite of Ramanathan's so-called chauvinism he was chosen by the Sinhalese leaders to carry their petitions to the British govt. (Not so chauvinistic after all, he supported them!)
Actions of post independence GOSLs were mistaken and provocative. I think you will agree.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

yes. provocation, however, was never a one-way thing. there was reneging by a lot of people. there was brinkmanship too.