Among the five reasons listed in the UN report as ‘obstacles to accountability’ is the ‘role of the Tamil Diaspora’. “Some refuse to acknowledge the LTTE’s role in the humanitarian disaster in the Vanni, which is creating a further obstacle to accountability and sustainable peace”, the report claims.
There is no doubt that Diaspora Tamils have been the most vigorous voice against the killing that took place in Sri Lanka while the establishments in every country remained silent.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in disgust. The inaction of western and international governmental bodies radicalised a huge number, particularly of young people.
It is no exaggeration to say that young Tamils in the Diaspora are more politicised than during the last 30 years of war. New waves of youth are involved in political activities. Various youth organisations were formed as the result of this politicisation.
Tamil Solidarity aims to bring together the best of these youth to wage a principled fightback against the Sinhala chauvinist regime and is calling for a united struggle of all the oppressed masses.
This politicisation is definitely not a favourable outcome for either western imperialism or for the Sri Lankan regime. They prefer the controllable ‘diplomats’, those who will keep society passive on their behalf, not the youth who rebel in anger against injustice. During the war, ministers/MPs in the then Labour government in Britain made numerous promises in an attempt to buy off and control the protesting youth. It kept none of these promises.
The establishments sense a ‘danger’ in the direction that this Diaspora youth movement may take. Quite correctly young people are drawing the conclusion that the attack on the oppressed Tamils is also a fight against all oppressed masses. More and more young people are actively participating in local politics in their respective countries against the injustices; against racism; against the attack on minorities; against youth unemployment; and against the attacks on their public services.
Furthermore there is also an emerging insistence on democracy; the urge to work with trade unions, left organisations and other organisations that campaign for rights and against oppression.
The establishment wishes to undermine this process. They wish to pacify and derail this anger, understanding that increasingly the rage is directed at it. And they want to push these youth to the right of the political spectrum.
Accusing the Diaspora of silence over the alleged crimes of the LTTE is one way of doing this is at this stage. With this aim they propagate the Diaspora’s complete dismissal of the LTTE and expect its cooperation in the so-called ‘development and reconciliation’ in a united Sri Lanka.
Strong campaigning groups, such as Tamil Solidarity, while standing firmly against the Sri Lankan regime, consistently questioned the methods of the LTTE. We carefully explained the reasons behind the defeat of the LTTE. One of the Tigers’ key failures was not appealing to the struggling masses in the south of Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and around the world.
We also criticised the LTTE with regard to the internal killings, attacks against the Muslim population, and the shooting of civilians in the final phase of the war. The majority of the active layer in the Diaspora will not deny these facts.
This analysis is important, not just to criticise the LTTE but to advance the struggle. This is a crucial part of working out a strategy for the next stage of the struggle. This is completely different to the UN’s agenda behind its attack on the LTTE.
The idea that the Diaspora somehow wants to promote terrorism is completely false. However, in the face of the immense violence against the Tamil-speaking population in Sri Lanka, the Tamil youth’s first response will not be directed against the LTTE leadership, all of whom have been murdered by the government of Sri Lanka. Instead their focus, undoubtedly, will be against the murderous Sri Lankan government and the western establishment who continued to keep their silence.
Advising the Diaspora that their key role is to denounce the LTTE is aimed at paving the way towards Tamil cooperation with the Sri Lankan state. Such collaboration may not be with the current government, directly responsible for the genocide, but it may be with future Sri Lankan governments that the west will hope to do business with. At the same time, it is equally important for the Diaspora Tamils to distance themselves from the mistakes of the LTTE, allowing no room for right-wing bodies such as the UN to attack Diaspora campaigns.
A mere understanding of the role of imperialism, and the desire to resist it, is not enough. Building a serious independent organisation that uncompromisingly defends the rights of all oppressed masses is the key to taking the struggle forward. This should be done on the basis of not only opposing the Rajapaksa government and his cronies, but also should base itself on opposing all forms of oppression. A thorough understanding of society’s class forces in action is required to build a movement that will be capable of bringing about fundamental change.
This movement can be built by bringing together progressive activists, trade unions and socialists. But it’s no easy task, as several barriers must be overcome before the trust of the masses can be won. The betrayal of the once powerful organisation of the oppressed masses, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), is still fresh in the minds of the working masses in Sri Lanka.
The LSSP’s decision to join the right-wing government in 1964 and subsequently denying the rights of minorities in the 1972 constitution set the background for the weakening of the working class and a heightening of ethnic tensions. The working class’s strength had been constantly attacked by the subsequent right-wing governments. Today the rump of the LSSP is actually in the government playing the rotten role of covering up war crimes.
Similarly the betrayal by the Tamil parties will also not be forgotten. In the absence of a genuine and independent mass organisation of the workers and poor, parties like the JVP have muddied the water even further by mixing Marxist and anti-establishment rhetoric with Sinhala chauvinist Buddhist nationalism.
Against this background winning the trust back from the masses to build a fighting movement may seem impossible. However, rebuilding such a movement is the only way to end the oppression, exploitation and war. Furthermore, there are genuine forces in the south who still firmly stand on the side of the oppressed masses. The United Socialist Party, for example, never steps back from its consistent fight against brutal Sri Lankan governments. Nor has it ever waived in its support for the right to self determination of the Tamil-speaking masses. During the war USP members risked their lives and campaigned vehemently to stop the war which was widely reported in the mainstream media in Tamil Nadu, India.
We must join forces with such organisation and strengthen our fight back. We should also appeal to the oppressed masses in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu to join forces with us.
It would be foolish to place hope in the Sri Lankan government or any external power to deliver a solution for us. The attacks against the minorities in Sri Lanka have never been higher and yet the current government has completely ruled out any effort towards a political solution.
The president infamously declared that: “There are no minorities in the country”. Neither will the UN or any state powers advocate any political solution either. The right to self determination is out of the question for all such powers.
Some even argue that opposing imperialism may alienate any potential support from the so-called ‘international community’, the western governments. But, in the long run, the oppressed masses will not gain anything by allying with any oppressor. Instead there is much to lose – the valuable support of those who fight against them – and they cannot be trusted to act in anything but the interests of their own capitalist classes.
For example ordinary Tamil people cannot call the British Conservative (Tory) party an ally on the basis of some MPs’ mere rhetoric of human rights. This would be a betrayal of the millions of working people in Britain, of all backgrounds, who face the constant barrage of attacks on jobs, public services, such as health care provision and education, and benefits from the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition government.
By allying with such an anti-working class party Tamils would, not only lose potential support from those challenging these cuts, but would also betray the Tamil masses by creating false hope.
In fact the pro-big business approach of the Tories stands diametrically opposed to supporting any form of fightback by the poor and the workers. Their interest lies purely with the bosses and business people who want to hide the massacre that took place in Sri Lanka and instead to promote the establishment of free trade zones in the north. These will be sites of concentrated exploitation of Tamil-speaking youth. Rajapaksa has already promised ‘cheap labour’ in the form of so-called ‘rehabilitation’ of the ex-Tigers! So the question of who to ally with is a crucial one. That should be those who genuinely fight back against inequality and exploitation.
Amidst the world economic crisis and food shortages, struggle against governments who are making similar cuts in jobs and public services has been increasing in Europe and beyond.
In London,UK, over half a million workers marched on 26 March against the Con-Dem government. In Portugal, and Spain hundreds of thousand marched for the same reasons. Massive class battles are taking place in Greece. These governments, while attacking services, are also attempting to whip up racism and other divisions in the respective countries. There is an attempt to point the finger of blame at immigrants, on the basis of pressure on limited services and jobs, in the hope that they will be scape-goated. If the blame for the cuts is directed at other sections of the working class and poor it allows governments to carry out its policies in the interests of the rich and big business.
This is a similar process to that of the Sri Lankan government which attempted to divert attention and divide opposition through Sinhala nationalism so it could carry through its brutal policies.
We, the workers, ethnic minorities, the young and the poor, bear the brunt of these attacks. As minorities in these countries, Tamils are also on the receiving end of racial and other abuses whipped up by right-wing parties and the media. These attacks must be confronted.
Let it be known that wherever we are we will stand against oppression of all kinds and fight back. This fightback will further be strengthened if we make common cause with the struggles starting to take place across Europe.
No rights can be won without a struggle. In this light, that youth have joined the anti-racist marches and workers’ demonstrations in Britain and Belgium is a significant development. That Tamil-speaking people joined the May Day protests across Europe this year is also a good step forward. And it is such solidarity and unity that sends fear into the heart of the oppressors, be they in the Sri Lankan regime or its counterparts.
Unite to build fight back
It is understandable that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are hoping against hope that the UN report may mark a step towards in support for their struggle for rights.
It is understandable that some poor Tamils in Sri Lanka hope some ‘outside force’ may come to their aid. But there is no point in creating any illusions for the sake of giving temporary comfort. However, Tamil Solidarity will demand that the UN at least takes some steps to implement the recommendation made in its report. If the UN fails to take serious actions against the Sri Lankan government its hypocrisy will be further exposed.
But the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is trying to use this longing of the Tamil-speaking people to create a vote bank for itself. It does so by creating hope that the UN and even India will help. There is an attempt to hide the fact that India played a crucial role in the war. It is important to remember that the Sri Lankan government could not have won the war without the support of India and China.
That the Indian government refuses to make any criticism of the current Sri Lankan regime, even after wider acceptance that mass murder took place during the war, should be of no surprise. It will be criminal for the TNA to create illusions in the very forces which played a part in the mass murder of Tamils and which still continues the policy of further exploitation of the victims.
The TNA, while becoming increasingly ‘friendly’ with the current murderous regime with the hilarious argument that they have no other that option, refuses to seek an ally in those forces who continue to fight for the rights of the Tamil-speaking people.
The TNA is clearly taking the path of its forerunner, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), which ‘talked the talk’ in Tamil areas to gain votes while joining hand-in-hand with the oppressors in the parliament. This is one of the reasons that forced the youth to take up arms eventually.
The youth and the activists in Sri Lanka should break away from this sort of misleading politics. They should join forces with the real fighters and campaigners in the country. There is much to gain for the oppressed masses by opposing the government on various platforms, much more than playing pointless ‘negotiation’ games.
There are journalists, activists, and the genuine left in the country who continue their fight for the rights to self determination of the Tamil-speaking masses. Ever since the end of the war they are forcefully speaking out against the emergency law, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
The government claims that it has won the war against ‘terrorism’ but still keeps these draconian laws. These campaigns should be strengthened. Those forces vehemently fighting for media freedom and democratic rights, who are even risking their lives to do so, must also be supported.
Most importantly the creation of free trade zones promised by the regime to Indian, Chinese and western governments must be energetically opposed. These zones will not be so-called ‘rehabilitation’ centres, as the regime wants to portray them as. Rather they will be sweatshops where war victims and ex-LTTE members will be forced to work for as little as possible remuneration.
The rebuilding of strong trade unions is urgently required as the best organisations to oppose these cruel working conditions. Such workers’ organisations could also effectively challenge the inhuman treatments and low wages that already exist. Rocketing food prices, for example, will be another ‘fire starter’ for a mass movement against the government, as was the case in Tunisia.
‘Negotiations’ and ‘cooperation’ with the oppressors will never deliver good results for the poor and oppressed. To win and defend our rights the urgent task is the building of independent parties of the workers and poor and strong and democratic trade unions