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It’s the Tamil Economy, Stupid

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The debate on economic competition between nations focuses centres on fair and unfair competition. It is unfair competition to protect local markets from foreign manufactured goods. But it is “fair competition” for governments to subsidise local industries that have “strategic significance”: defence or nuclear energy for example.


Genocide is the ultimate form of unfair competition: as Black July 1983 illustrates. In fact, each stage of the slow genocide of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka has also been an economic project.


Having looked at how the Tamil industrial base was eliminated, the unequal impacts of the ‘open’ economy, the numbers which prove that reparation to Tamils is unaffordable and how the Sri Lankan state has breached its contract with Tamil taxpayers, the rest of this piece focuses on how the genocide by the Sri Lankan state is funded by Tamil assets and the impact of the new Tamil international economy on the relationship between the Tamils and the Sri Lankan state.


Genocide funded by Tamil assets


The SinhalaState has not evidenced the faintest intention of restoring economic parity to the Tamil people on the island.


Following the 2004 tsunami, which hit the North Eastern Tamil homelands harder – because the tsunami waves came from the direction of the North and were more powerful when they hit the Tamil coast – the Sri Lankan government blocked the joint aid distribution mechanism it had agreed with the Liberation Tigers in order to ensure aid reached Tamil areas.


As Karen Parker of the IED has pointed out, there is no adequate explanation for blocking international aid from those who have already lost everything – other than the deliberate destruction of a people (genocide).


The genocidal war against the Tamil people is also financed by the distress sale of Tamil assets.


To cement international relations and finance the war, real estate in the formerly Tamil areas are being pawned off by the state.


For example, after the government “cleared” the East in a 2007 offensive against the LTTE, it entered into an agreement for India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to build a coal power plant on formerly Tamil land, despite the protests of Tamil parliamentarians representing the Tamil refugees displaced from there.


The Sri Lankan State has also invited international oil firms to bid for oil drilling rights off the Northern coast of Mannar.


Every stage of this genocidal war is ultimately about money, not only in its fungible form, but also in the form of assets such as land, titanium and oil that can be transformed into money.


But even in this the Sri Lankan government is not original for financing genocide with money belonging to the victims is not such a new idea.  


Consider Nazi legislation following Kristallnacht – the pogrom named after the vast number of broken windows.


The Nazis decided they could blame Kristallnacht on the Jews because it had been “sparked” by the assassination by a 17 year old Jewish teenager of a German embassy officer, Vom Rath, in Paris.


This would help them finance, for example, the cleaning up of the streets afterwards.


Accordingly, a "fine of 1 billion marks was levied for the slaying of Vom Rath, and 6 million marks paid by insurance companies for broken windows was to be given to the state coffers.


Similarly, Sri Lanka blamed the Tamils for the pogrom and as The Economist noted, the state benefited by taking over the damaged Tamil businesses.


This pattern of profiting from and financing genocide from the victims’ own assets, has continued ever since.


New Tamil international economy


Following 1983, the Tamil economic base has shifted globally to countries where it is safe. The Economist presciently noted this too, 25 years ago, in its article of the 20th of August on the 1983 pogroms: “Another key factor in Sri Lanka’s recovery will be the brain-drain of Tamils. Thousands of Tamil professional people are said to have left the country since the violence began last month.”


“One leading Tamil entrepreneur – and Sri Lanka’s most successful entrepreneurs are Tamil – estimates that 90% of his fellow-industrialists are now contemplating emigration,” the magazine noted.


In their host countries, Tamils are among the most economically successful refugee groups. For example, 1 in every 50 doctor in the British National Health Service is Tamil, as are nurses and other medical workers.


This despite an estimated less than 1 in 400 of every British adult being Tamil.


As an indication of per capita Diaspora income, the average British doctor earns over £106,000 pounds (circa 200,000 USD) or about 4 times the national average.


Sinhala State looks for Tamil investors


But the Sinhala government, NGOs and think-tanks have also noted the relative post-1983 prosperity of the Tamil Diaspora. And in it, they see a potential source of new income.


“The Tamil Diaspora is seen by the Sri Lankan state as an important actor in the ongoing war against the LTTE that needs to be checked,” Jehan Perera writing for the Daily Mirror in Colombo explains.


“It is a fact that many, if not most, who left the country did so in circumstances that were extremely painful and bitter to them.  They left for an uncertain future into alien cultures and societies, in which they would be an underclass for many years,” he concedes. 


“But due to the essentially egalitarian and merit-based nature of the Western societies to which they migrated, many of them and their children have finally prospered.”


The SinhalaState hopes that, once again, they can benefit from Tamil prosperity.


They  hope the Diaspora will ignore previous breaches of contract and help finance the failing SinhalaState – including its present judiciary, police and army.


In order for this to happen, the LTTE, their current rival for the Kavalar/government role, must first be destroyed.


Mr Perera, for example, explains that the Tamil Diaspora has not engaged with the SinhalaState because: “A large part of the reason has been the confidence of the Tamil diaspora that the LTTE's armed struggle for separation, which they support, will end in success.  So long as this belief, and desire, continues there will be little incentive on the part of the Tamil diaspora to engage constructively with the Sri Lankan state. However, recent developments on the ground and in international politics suggest that the struggle for Tamil Eelam will not be successful”


Once the LTTE is destroyed, so the thinking goes, the Sinhala State has an opportunity to persuade the Tamil Diaspora to “engage with it” – by investing money of course.


In his article, Jehan Perera explains this line of thinking: “This means that if the Tamil diaspora wishes to come to the aid of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, they need to be prepared to engage constructively with the Sri Lankan state, and find ways to do so.”


In short, the failing SinhalaState, having alienated all its Western donors on Human Rights grounds can turn to the families of the entrepreneurs and professionals who fled the 1983 pogroms to finance the “protection” of the “liberated” Tamil areas. 


They can be persuaded to invest in the hopes of creating a “new Tamil economy” that can then be taxed by the SinhalaState and will finance its burgeoning army, parliamentary bureaucracy etc. As they did pre-1983.


Notwithstanding the Tamil Diaspora are tax-paying citizens in their new countries, they should also help the Sri Lankan State with its development objectives.


Because, so the Sinhala thinking goes, if the Tamil Diaspora want their internally displaced relatives not to starve, they won’t have any other option.


Apparently, the Tamil cow keeps giving milk long after it has been sent to the slaughterhouse. Whoever said you can’t have your cow and eat it?

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