செவ்வாய், 8 டிசம்பர், 2015

Case for Reparations for Tamils

Case for Reparations for Tamils
[TamilNet, Sunday, 06 December2015, 19:28 GMT]
MacArthur fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates's historical narrative of the troubled history of racism in the US, which rekindled serious debate on systemic discrimination of blacks, starting with slavery, provides a stark parallel to a similar history behind Eezham Tamils from 1940s, about a decade before Ceylon gained ‘independence’. Similar to Coates characterization of white supremacy that lies at the core of the broken social contract for blacks in the U.S., the Sinhala Supremacy within the ruling elite and Sinhala population in general, is the root of the decades long evil oppression of Tamils, descending to State sponsored mass killing of Tamils leading to genocide. It is ironic that those accused by Coates, the past and current US policy makers, are now aiding and abetting the Sinhala supremacist political class to relegate the Tamils to subservient second class citizenship in the island.
Journalist, Ta-Nehisi CoatesJournalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates says, "Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we [Americans both white and black] reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole."

Tamils can substitute a similar frame-work of Sinhala supremacist policies, working in continuum of parallel streams rather than the blacks' sufferings delineated with different discriminatory eras: Sinhala colonization (75 years from 1940), Language supremacy (60 years from 1956), Buddhist supremacy (45 years from 1972), Discrimination in education (45 years from 1970), suppression of freedom (35 years of PTA and mass incarceration, abduction, torture and rape from 1979), general embargo, food and medicine blockades (30 years from 1985) and finally the crime of the century, Mu'l'livaaykkaal mass killings in 2009.
D.S. Senanayake
D.S. Senanayake, the First Prime Minister of Ceylon
It can be argued that the earliest seed for the racial animosity against Tamils was planted and adversarial political posture was pursued even during pre-independence years when pan-Sinhala Cabinet of ministers was formed in 1937 without any Tamil members, to punish the Tamils for the election Boycott in 1931. D.S. Senanayake who functioned as Minister of Agriculture under this cabinet started the State aided Sinhala colonization of the Eastern Province in 1940.
If one sets aside the key difference between the racial issues in the island and US – the political struggle for secession – the compounding moral debt in the island of ‘Sri Lanka’ shows no signs of abatement, and the island becoming a whole again is a mere pie in the sky, short of separation.

Tamils Against Genocide [TAG], a US-based rights organization that seeks legal redress to war-affected Tamil victims, commented on Coates article, "in post-Mu'l'livaaykkaal context, the open question of whether justice for Tamil genocide will be delayed or denied is located in an even more compelling, and practical question. Will the train of racially motivated injuries inflicted on the Tamil community by the majority-Sinhala-Buddhist ‘Sri Lankan’ state since the end of British colonial rule, be ever remedied, and if so by whom? What mechanism is there to check the complicity of the West and the UN in whitewashing Colombo's crimes and in allowing the systemic oppression and 'genocide' to continue?" TAG pointed out as the parallel issues raised by Coates article.

Coates, in his article, was wise to focus less on the evils of slavery and more on the systemic and institutional ways in which African Americans have been beaten down, discriminated against, and terrorized over the past 150 years. While Coates used reparations to trigger dialogue and did not expect actual compensation, Coates adds: "the payment of reparations would represent America's maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders."

TAG said, "Ceylon has no such moral barrier to confront, as independence arrived without a struggle, and instead of the presence of worthy founders who fought for independence and setup high ideals for the island's evolution into a mature nation state, ‘Sri Lanka’ was left with insecure majoritarianism driven by Sinhala supremacist thinking, and a political class characterized by lack of political wisdom and statesmanship, sought to undermine non-Sinhala citizens to pursue a Sinhala supremacist ideology.

"The post-independence history presents a case for Tamil reparations to meaningfully acknowledge and cure the continuous train of government policies inflicted on Tamils, from the disenfranchise of Hill Country Tamils in 1948 to racial discrimination preventing Tamils from university admission to Mu'l'livaaykkaal in 2009, to post-Mu'l'livaaykkaal North and East, under de facto military occupation.

"The case for Tamil reparations is compelling. It is analogous at least to the case for affirmative action policies implemented in post-segregation American society, enacted to cure the ills of invidious racial discrimination that that polarized American society along race lines and institutionalized the creation of disadvantage in Tamil communities to create quasi-apartheid like stratification in the body politic. In this state logic, Tamils, from Jaffna to Kandy, are non-Sinhalese, and as such, second class citizens. Affirmative action did not cure the disease of racial inequality in American society, still evident in the contemporary age, most recently through police violence targeting blacks, from the killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

"Under the current political climate, the improbability of justice for Tamil genocide or the case for Tamil reparations reflects Sri Lankan state's ability to dictate the narrative of post-genocide reconciliation and perception of Tamil liberty in the Tamil mind and broader community itself. Such improbability should not preempt the acknowledgement by the Tamil community that the degree of state-sponsored injustice inflicted upon reasonably rises to warrant not only justice for genocide, but reparations.

"Dissenting views from Sinhala intellectuals, should be expected. When segregation was lawful in 20th century American politics, not many White Supremacists consented to racial equality for African-American either," TAG said reflecting on the issues Coates narrative as applied to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka living a drunken lie in the treatment of its citizens while bathing in Sinhala supremacist thinking pervading all strata of Sinhala society, is an apt description, noting Coates view of what should change in the US. Coates writes, " [a]nd so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans," Coates concludes.

Equivalently, what is needed in the island is a healing of the Sinhala psyche and the banishment of Sinhala supremacy guilt.

Reparations for Tamils would mean a revolution of the Sinhala consciousness for a political solution where every citizen enjoys peace, freedom, including the constitutionally acknowledged right to secession of the nation of Eezham Tamils, due process and equal protection of all citizens under law.


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