That’s politics, whether it’s about salary hikes, securing territorial control or operating space to fiddle around with the share market. The success of Tamil nationalism/chauvinism, at least in the ideological sphere, is that it has cleverly used grievance and aspiration interchangeably, virtually rendering the two coterminous. This is perhaps why ‘addressing minority grievances’ almost always has references to power devolution and is framed in territorial terms.
The power of the lie is such that when the LLRC Report talks of devolution, devolutionists (both of the Eelamist kind and those who believe it’s a democratizing move and not necessarily pandering to Eelamists) cheer and demand ‘full implementation’. They ignore deliberately (and that’s telling!) the caveats in the report which recommend that devolution be framed by the need to ensure justice for all communities and have modalities that prevent and not foster suspicion, antagonism and division. That kind of selectivity, especially from those who pooh-poohed the LLRC when it was set up, shows that they are not in this for peace and harmony among communities but for setting things up for another Eelamist putsch in the reduced circumstance of Tamil Fascism being vanquished military. In short, the legitimizing as ‘ethnic demarcation’ the boundaries that were not drawn on ethnic terms but according to the whims of some errant foreigner who came to this island to plunder, maim and kill.
The truth is that there is nothing tangible in either grievance or aspiration in terms of ‘territory’ as far as Tamil nationalists are concerned. Most Tamils live outside the areas to which power-devolution is envisaged. There is no archaeological evidence that supports the thesis of exclusive traditional Tamil homelands. The demography, especially of the Eastern Province (the North was ethnically cleansed of Muslims and Sinhalese by the LTTE fascists), thumbs a collective nose at territorial claims. Even if one counted out ‘colonization’ (which is by no means illegitimate, either by law or by virtue of historical claims of anyone to any place), one cannot get away from the fact that vast swathes of that province has nothing of ‘Tamil homeland’ written on them, either by habitation or historical account.
Does this mean that there are no minority grievances? No. There are. Only, there are not territory-bound and therefore territorialized proposals are nothing but red herrings that can only lead to further aberrations engendering further antagonisms and dislocations. Non-territorial issues must have solutions where the non-territorial is core and ‘territorial’ elements incidental or peripheral.
Some of the grievances can be called minority grievances because they refer to conditions suffered by minorities. Poverty is a grievance. Poverty among Tamils is a minority grievance. But poverty is not a grievance that is peculiar to Tamil people. Development-lag is a similar grievance. Representational anomalies too. Not peculiar to Tamils. The point however is that Tamil nationalism will not point this out. They will label such grievances as ‘Tamil Grievances’ implying somehow that all is hunky-dory for Sinhalese. Conflict, however, did produce Tamil-specific grievances. For example, IDPs. Now there have been Muslims and Sinhalese that have been displaced for decades, but they are outnumbered by the Tamils who were displaced by the conflict, a displacement caused primarily by the rise of fascism in the name of Tamil ‘liberation’.
Those who represent these people have a right to be part of decision-making processes pertaining to resettlement and reconstruction. This is why elections are important. This is why those elected should be incorporated into such bodies as they are mandated to address these issues. Roping in ‘friendly’ Tamil politicians who cannot claim to represent the majority of Tamils is tokenism. Whether R. Sampanthan, for example, is a bankrupt Eelamist and terrorist-apologist or not is not relevant. He is elected and has the right to represent.
Development, as has been pointed out by many, is necessary but not sufficient in alleviating anxieties. Language issues remain resolved not due to lack of constitutional guarantees (and I am NOT talking about trivialities such as the National Anthem) but problems in resources, resource-allocation and political will. In addition, to the extent that grievances that cut across communities are articulated with ‘minority’ or ‘Tamil’ tag, it is incumbent on the Government to resolve them across the board. This includes concrete measures to address citizenship anomalies that favour the powerful and rich. It includes constitutional amendments and procedural arrangements to ensure good governance. If these things remain unaddressed, the Government (erroneously and perniciously dubbed as ‘Sinhala-Buddhist-Nationalist’) will be accused of neglecting minorities and not as being deaf to the pleas of the constitutionally and variously disenfranchised and marginalized.
’13 Plus’ is a joke because problem and proposal are of the koheda yanne malle pol kind, or like giving cough syrup to correct a sprained ankle. The Government is erring by not pointing this out and instead preferring to play the game within the frames created by Eelamists.
There’s a simple point that needs to be tossed at devolutionists: ‘Demonstrate the territorial nature of your grievances and show how devolution sorts it out for all minorities within and without the Northern and Eastern Provinces’. However, the Government obtains the right to make this point, only if it has shown genuine purpose in correcting the citizenship anomalies and institutional flaws that already exists. There’s no way around it. If you are not serious about democracy then you will be forced to fight on the terms of the separatists, whether they masquerade as democrats or devolutionists.