Are Tamils waving LTTE flags "terrorists"?

by Dushy Ranetunge

Apologists in Sri Lanka are quick to defend Mahinda Rajapakse in pointing to LTTE flag waving protestors in London as evidence of proscribed terrorists on British soil plotting to divide the "motherland". They are confused as to why Britain is turning a blind eye, refusing to crack down, accusing London of harbouring and even tacitly supporting secessionists to underpin a perceived master plan of colonial/European/Western domination. Its "divide and rule" they say. Another favourite explanation is that it is all being done for electoral expediency of British parliamentarians.

 The above is a display of weakness of Colombo’s thought and policy in relation to what is going on. As long as this attitude persists, the present regime’s desire to reconcile its relationships with the Tamils, the West and overcome its war crimes conundrum will remain an uphill task. The mindset of the present regime gripped with a Serbian style nationalism liberally branding opponents "traitors" seem incapable of rising above a certain water mark and this will directly impact on Sri Lanka’s fortunes and the destiny of Sri Lankan citizens.

 Successive Sri Lankan regimes insecure and lacking in confidence have repeatedly attempted to buttress their domestic popularity in covering themselves with the "national" flag of religion and nationalism.

 Over the decades this policy has alienated Tamils, Burghers, and even English speaking Sinhalese who have reacted in different ways. All these communities have emigrated in large numbers and have withdrawn from the state sector.

 It is only the brave from the elite English speaking educated Sinhalese or Tamil communities who will aspire to participate in the Sri Lankan state. Those of the calibre of Lakshman Kadirgamar who venture into the state sector are indeed a rarity, irrespective of ethnicity.

 The Sri Lankan state no longer functions at the optimum available to it in terms of its human resources. It has alienated entire sections of its population, often the highly educated and skilled in the republic.

 Those who do venture in, run the risk of leaving with their reputation in tatters. One observes those sitting on the LLRC with sympathy and you can forget about those "experts" who expressed their "expertise" about the Channel 4 war crimes video on behalf of the Sri Lankan state.

 While the vociferous nationalistic Sri Lankan mind wants to brand those who waved the LTTE flags in London as terrorists, London appreciates the nuances of the Sri Lankan problem and the alienation of sections of its population.

 It recognizes that Sri Lankans are rallying to the LTTE flag as a means of protest against inherent weaknesses of its make up which has alienated sections of its population.

British intelligence routinely monitors the Tamil Diaspora and advises the government. The LTTE hardcore in London is a small group, which is being "empowered" by Colombo’s behaviour.

The successive riots leading up to 83 riots, Sinhala only, the burning of the Jaffna library etc were acts that "empowered" the LTTE and facilitated the rallying of Tamils to the LTTE flag.

The recent Tamil national anthem fiasco, is yet another such empowerment. Disrespect for Tamil and English languages have been a major issue of contention and the recent anthem fiasco once again underpins the insensitive behaviour of the Sinhala nationalist mindset that empowers the LTTE flag.

Colombo needs to come to terms with the fact that just as some Americans continue to wave the confederate flag, some Sri Lankans will continue to wave the LTTE flag.

The British establishment recognizes the need of Colombo to urgently address governance issues. It recognizes that the global turbulence of the Tamil Diaspora is a direct response to weaknesses of governance in Colombo, leading to the empowerment of the small group of fumbling radical Tamil separatists who are heavily monitored by British intelligence.

The isolation or the empowerment of this core LTTE group is directly correlated to Colombo’s behaviour. Hardliners in Colombo expect Britain to crackdown on the Tamil community in the UK similar to the way it does against Tamil activists in Sri Lanka, without appreciating that such action would be impossible and would be deemed illegal, as it would be action against an entire community and would be defeated in the courts.

Tamils engaging in activity that is deemed terrorist logistics/violence would be disrupted by British authorities, but the answer to Sri Lanka’s problems are in Colombo.

Sri Lanka needs to change, to take the bull by the horns and change its behaviour for the better, building a rainbow nation (not a Sinhala only one) uniting its many talents and races creating space for all communities.

 It would be incredibly foolish to think that Mahinda’s unity forged with an army larger than the British army would last the test of time.

Sri Lanka needs to change. It needs to forge a new nation, uniting its estranged peoples, not with empty words to an empty United Nations or empty Oxford Union which had to be filled in the last occasion he addressed it with bus loads organized by the High Commission in London, but with change in behavior and deed.

Until then, as Colombo fumbles with poor governance, the LTTE flag will continue to fly around the globe by Tamil sons and daughters of Sri Lanka, protesting at Colombo’s foolishness.

The present regime is depending excessively on Kadirgamar’s "terrorist" strategy to encourage foreign governments to crack down on LTTE activists amongst the Diaspora without fully appreciating that it is running out of fuel. With poor governance, if Sri Lanka continues its present strategy in a post LTTE world, it runs the risk that at some point, that Kadirgamar’s "terrorist" strategy will begin to unravel.

The United States was the first country to list the LTTE as a proscribed terrorist organization. Others countries followed it over the following years. The Sinhalese need to understand that globally the Tamils have the sympathy of host communities and the Sinhalese are perceived as the aggressors.

Now with a democratic grouping agitating as the Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam, increased democratic activity and the moving away from terrorism since 2009, the LTTE is building a case to push for de-proscription globally.

Already, the ignoring of those waving the LTTE flags in the West is an indication that the lobbying of the LTTE that its cause is a liberation struggle and not a terrorist one is slowly, but steadily gaining currency.

This argument was used in the past as well, but less convincingly, as the LTTE were carrying out terrorist attacks negating it. But in a post LTTE world, attitudes are changing.

Colombo is indirectly helping in this endeavor with its record of poor governance. The recent fiasco in London and its delay/inability to address the war crimes issue is further damaging Sri Lanka, giving momentum to the Tamil cause who are now on a high after the May 2009 downer.

The concept of separatism is not unlawful internationally. Only Terrorism is. If the Tamils mobilize a democratic movement for separatism and the Sri Lankan state crushes it militarily, it will further weaken and isolate Colombo internationally.

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