The Hypothetical, Hypocritical Tamil Land
Posted on October 4th, 2022

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

For quite some time the Government of Sri Lanka stands accused of grabbing Tamil Land on various pretexts as security, preserving historical sites or establishing agricultural communities. This would have been a very serious charge, one amounting to racism, if not for one detail. 

There is not a single square inch of this Island that has been designated to a particular race. Hence, there is no area in Sri Lanka exclusively for Tamils or for that matter, any other community.  As such, not an inch on this Island has been designated for even the majority community, the Sinhalese. 

This is apparent as those who claim the North and East of the Island as Tamil Land” never declare that the rest of the island is Sinhalese Land”. If they did, they must then explain the reasons for nearly 52 percent of the Tamil population to live outside the Tamil Land” and inside the Sinhalese Land”.  

This includes most of the politicians who fight for the Tamil’s exclusive homeland, which is perhaps the greatest irony of all. They not only live mostly in the Western Province, but are also protected by the Sinhala Policemen and officers tasked with the parliamentarians’ security. 

The Native American’s Plight vs the Tamil Land

When the majority community does not claim exclusive ownership of any part or whole of the Island, there is only one way a minority community could have a designated land mass. That is, if they are forced to live in a certain area – usually the least desirable. 

This is not a farfetched theory. Despite the modern civilisation we claim, as present times, the original settlers of the lands that are now recognised as the United States of America are still confined into very specific areas known as the ‘reservations’. The term reservation however is misleading as these so-called reservations have done little to preserve the values of this ancient civilization. 

The natives do not choose to live exclusively in these designated areas due to some historical nostalgia. If they had a say, they would claim a right to live in any part of the USA of their choosing without losing their culture or traditions. 

Instead, they are forced to live in these reservations. The opportunities for education, employment or even healthcare within these reservations are very limited, which forces these communities to live in deprivation. It is thus a matter of little wonder that social ills as crime and alcoholism rank high in these communities. 

Without adequate resources and support to move out of these reservations these people are without choice or freedom of movement. It is not by accident that these natives are over represented in the US’s homeless statistics. 

Funny how this contentious matter is yet to attract the attention of the UNHRC or any other righteous organisation. Conversely, every real and perceived misstep taken by Sri Lanka gets added to its ‘accountability’ file by the UK led core group at the UNHRC. 

A Land of Opportunities 

The so-called ‘Tamil Land’ is not an area designed or designated to hold a minority community at gun point or by deliberately depriving opportunities. The genesis of this Tamil Land story is the complete opposite to that of  the American natives’. 

The North, which is a peninsula, is the most parched land of the Island. Yet it is not an area without opportunity or resources. Some of the best, A-grade facilitated schools are found in the main district of the North – Jaffna  also has its own university. Likewise, the healthcare available in Jaffna is comparable to the other major cities. 

It is noteworthy that in Sri Lanka, both education and health are funded exclusively from the Sri Lankan Government’s coffers. However the taxes collected only from this so-called ‘Tamil Land’ are insufficient to meet the expenses of either of these services. Hence, the schools and hospitals are mostly financed by taxes paid by non-Tamil citizens such as Sinhalese and Muslims living in the rest of the Island. 

Thus, if the North and East were to be actually recognised as ‘Tamil Land’, its entire system would collapse. Taxes are not only used to fund schools and hospitals but the entire administration. 

False Friends are Never Good News

Between the North and East holds one third of the Island’s coastal belt. While the eastern coast is a popular tourist destination for surfers around the world, the sea surrounding the peninsula is rich with marine life. 

Interestingly, the livelihood of the northern fishermen are not threatened by the Sinhala or Muslim fishermen. In fact, during off seasons, these fishing communities migrate into each other’s spots and so enjoy a sense of co-habitation. 

These northern fishermen however face almost daily attacks from the Indian poachers. They not only steal the catch that is rightfully the northern fisherman’s but also cause damage – sometimes irreparable – to the marine floor with their bottom trawling. 

The only force that stands between the northern fishermen and the Indian poachers is the Sri Lankan Navy. It is especially noteworthy that those who promote the ‘Tamil Land’ claim are opposing the presence of the Sri Lankan Military in these contested lands. If the Sri Lankan Military was indeed removed, it is obvious that the northern fishermen would be absolutely helpless against these poachers, who do not hesitate to use violence to chase away the legitimate fishermen. 

India, both as the Central Government and as a State (Tamil Nadu), has always played an active role in supporting self-autonomy for Sri Lankan origin Tamils (but curiously not the Indian origin Tamils, living in the centremost parts of the Island). Yet, they not only refuse to intervene and deter their own fishermen from attacking the Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen, but have attempted to justify it. One Indian judge had allegedly suggested legalising it and so resolve” the recurring problem. 

Tamil Land – Seed of a Poisoned Fruit 

Unfortunately for the separatists, the so-called Tamil Land has never been Tamil only. Fuelled by separatism and extremism, the other non-Tamil communities living in the North and East  were terrorised and forcibly cast out from these areas during the 1980s and 1990s. Forced to flee with nothing more than a few possessions as clothes, the ousted Sinhalese and Muslims lived for decades as refugees in camps maintained by the Sri Lankan Government. 

Since the conclusion of the war against terrorism, those residents and their descendants wish to return to their ancestral properties. This must be facilitated before anymore talk of this ‘Tamil Land’ can take place. Otherwise, it would amount to immorally justifying the ethnic cleansing that took place. 

After nearly 30 years of terrorism this continued talk of a non-existent ‘Tamil Land’ is not a step forward but backwards. To escape terrorism, both the wealthy and educated left the country. Having settled in mostly in the West, these who had emigrated do not have any plans on returning. Their properties lie abandoned and forlorn. 

During this time, nearly two generations lost their future as well as their families. Those who survived the war have since then rebuilt their lives. Sadly for these survivors, the UNHRC and its satellite groups were and are still too caught up in the hypothetical dead and missing numbers to worry about the surviving. Fortunately though for these victims, both the Sri Lankan Government and local philanthropists helped them get back on their feet. 

It is time, we as a nation learn from our past and refuse devil’s advocates a place in our heads to mess it again. 

ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com

(The views and opinions expressed in this column are writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ceylon Today)

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe

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