Sri Lanka: one country -- two nations

For a long time, the government of Sri Lanka has been quite successful in projecting an idyllic image of peace and "Buddhist" harmony to the world. Because of this image, it has won the respect and confidence of many nations. It has been the head of the nonaligned nations and now wants to host the Indian Ocean Peace Zone Conference this year. It has been successful in obtaining large amounts of foreign aid from generous donor countries of the developed world who thought that the aid went to finance urgently needed economic development.

From time immemorial, we the Tramils of Eelam, have lived in what is now called Sri Lanka along with the South Indian Tamils who lived 18 miles away in South India. Unlike the Sinhalese who claim that they came from North India, we the indigenous Tamils did not come from anywhere. Our own language, religion, and territory have been clearly different and separate from that of the Sinhalese. Even the foreign conquerors such as the Portuguese and the Dutch had administered the two nations separately; but it was the British who brought both nations under one rule in 1833 for administrative purposes. And in 1948, when they left Ceylon, they bequeathed the Tamil territory to they Sinhalese.

In 1949, immediately after independence, Sri Lanka took away the votes of one million Tamil plantation workers who had been living there for more than a century. Education, employment, land allocation, religion, employment, land allocation, religion, and cultural life became saturated with the violent racial values of the successive Sinhalese governments of Ceylon. Tamil areas suffered from lack of development and, if any development was planned at all, it was done only for the purpose of colonizing the Tamil areas with the Sinhalese population at the expense of the Tamils. This rapacious colonizing policy is the most virulent cause of resentment among the Tamils and the most dangerous aspect of the Sri Lanka government's rule over the Tamil Eelam.

Once we asked for only a federal structure of government by which we could maintain our area intact while still remaining within Sri Lanka. But this was not acceptable to Sri Lanka, which has given the Tamils a series of "bloody" replies in the form of state-engineered race riots, where the communal thugs destroyed houses and property, murdered and wounded hundreds of Tamil men, women , and even children. The most serious aspect of this carnage was not the attitude of the thugs but the attitude of the government, which acted as if it were dealing with enemies at war. The police and the armed forces who aided the lawless Sinhalese had the blessings of the government. The present President openly announced "If you want war, we will have war; if you want peace, we will have peace." Of course, "peace" to him means complete subservience of the Tamils to the Sinhalese. We now realise that coexistence of Eelam Tamils with Sri Lanka is not a feasible proposition; at any cost we have to be rid of our bondage heaped on us by the callous British colonialists.

Since the present government came to power, the defense budget has increased fivefold, and the new guns are aimed at the Tamil nationalists who, after 32 years of efforts at harmony with the Sinhalese, have now realized the need for a separate state. The political "stability" and "peace" that Sri Lanka sells to the world to attract foreign investment does not emanate from the integral cohesion of the two nations but is totally and deplorably dependent on military might financed by other nations. As long as the Tamils cannot have their own free nation of Eelam, foreign investment or any investment will be sitting on a "powder keg." For Sri Lanka to call for an Indian Ocean Peace Zone Conference is similar to Idi Amin trying to organize a human r ights symposium.

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