A few weeks ago, an English language newspaper carried an article written by a Ms. Shenali Waduge, which, sadly, made a) an incorrect and biased analysis of the status of those of the Tamil community, and b) gave reason for the current political deadlock between the two ethnic communities at conflict; the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
In her piece, Ms. Waduge judged all Tamils en masse – regardless of caste; ancestry, lineage, pedigree; political ideology, religious affiliation, internal mechanization and malfunctions, moral reasoning or the lack of any, righteousness, propensity to evil, desires, books read, schools attended, experiences, favourite time of day, favourite food, favourite sport, favorite celebrity, personal hopes, private dreams, secret wishes etc– failing to recognize the quiet and simple fact that each person that made up the Tamil community were individuals; humans, beings who had by virtue of birth, chance and happenstance, some things (race, language, rituals, perhaps) in common.
[Ms. Waduge must know that it was never her choice to be born a Sinhalese; she could just as easily been born Tamil.]
Titled ‘Tamils must first be reconciled with Tamils’, Ms. Waduge chose to interpret this diversity (dictionary meaning; being different, varied) of the Tamil community as divisive (dictionary meaning; causing disagreement, discord) saying ‘Unknown to most, especially those seeking to champion the cause of the Tamil people, is the reality that Tamils are far more divided that they promote themselves to be’.
She goes on to accuse the Tamils (once again, en masse) of being recipient of an elevated state of financial and social status quo, – ‘While Tamils, whatever caste or class they belong to’ she says, ‘feel happy that Sri Lanka’s conflict is now over (newsflash; the conflict is not, as evidenced by the contents of her article, only the war is) there is an inherent gratitude that they cannot shrug off (emphasis mine; is Ms. Waduge offering this statement as fact, or as a decree she is insisting must be upheld?) towards the LTTE for their financial and social status quo.’
She offers just one fact as support to this astonishing statement; by her logic, all Tamils are grateful to the LTTE because they got to go abroad; this, she reasons 1) increased the finances of the Tamils in Colombo and the suburbs – ‘practically all the Tamil families in Colombo and the suburbs, have at least one member of their family now living overseas and what many of them cannot forget is that it is the LTTE that they have to be thankful for.’ 2) broke down caste systems – ‘Tamils that have gone to make a home overseas are now ready to compete with their own having the power of money to gain the position they were denied because of their caste.’ (Is this, I can’t help but wonder, like the Sinhalese that go to Italy or Dubai?)
These two statements are supported by two incongruous observations; ‘Anyone doing marketing in Wellawatte will agree that it is the most expensive place to shop and there is no bargaining, not even for vegetables’ Ms. Waduge exclaims, ‘and vendors have even stated gleefully that some shoppers do not even wait to take their change!’ and ‘It is easy to pick the expatriates that arrive now to Sri Lanka. The male youth wear earrings and the young girls are in micro minis, the once shy Tamil women are not shy to wear shorts and all speak in incomprehensible English with equally incomprehensible accents!’
By this logic Ms. Waduge dictates that all those of the Tamils community are linked in some way to the LTTE – an organization she mistakenly identifies as being representative of all Tamil people, not a ruthless terrorist organization consisting yes, of Tamils, but not representative of the ideology of all of the Tamil people.
Whilst misinterpreting the cause of the LTTE to be the cause of all Tamils, Ms. Waduge interprets the objectives of the Tamil National Alliance to be just the opposite; concerned with issues pertaining to their caste only.
Citing the LTTE’s forced use of child combatants she says, ‘why were the TNA politicians silent – because the children who were kidnapped were not Colombo Tamils or high-class Tamils, but poor low-caste children?’ – failing to recognize and draw attention to the same silence by which Sinhalese political parties largely ignore the systematic degradation and physical, sexual and emotional abuse faced by scores of Sinhalese and Muslim housemaids in the Middle East – an abuse that continues to this day.
She goes on to judge the intentions of the Tamil diaspora en masse, accuses them of not having any legitimate cause to protest and of being unwilling to give up the perks and privileges of 30 years of war, decimating thus, in one paragraph, the Tamils diaspora’s legitimate calls for equality and justice.
For the purpose of exposing the faulty line of reasoning and clear bias employed by Ms. Waduge in her argument, I ask that she measures the Sinhalese community the same way in which she measured the Tamil.
She will find the Sinhalese community to be equally diverse – but would she interpret that diversity as divisive?
She will, similarly, find that those of the Sinhalese community who leave the country to live and work in, say, Italy, enjoy an elevated ‘financial and social status quo’ – but would she insist they be grateful to successive governments for gross economic mismanagement contributing to unemployment?
The offspring of those Sinhalese living in Italy wear the same earrings and micro-mini skirts Ms. Waduge speaks of, and by extension, speak in ‘incomprehensible English with incomprehensible accents’ – why has Ms. Waduge not judged them?
If the Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka were to, by some strange turn of events, be subject to inequality and injustice, would not Sinhalese domiciled abroad – even if they’ve never stepped foot in the island – agitate on behalf of their community?
It is thus evident, in the flawed nature of Ms. Waduge’s observation, interpretation, argument, conclusion and judgment relating to the Tamil community that she is in the grips of a deep bias – a bias that has impeded her ability to asses a situation logically and fairly.
What is even more disturbing, unfair, irresponsible and dangerous is Ms. Waduge’s propagation of such a flawed theory, the spreading of which could well cause further ethnic divisions and lead to increased communal disharmony.