Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

US, EU blacken hopes for Tamils

Article Author: 

Desperate people do desperate things. The world has witnessed many instances where minority groups _ discriminated against, taken advantage of, and who want to attempt to improve their lot for their children’s future _ have resorted to violence against their oppressors. It is a human reaction that when requests and negotiations fail, people will fight, often physically, for their rights. Often when a government is the oppressor, the United Nations, a super power or a neighbouring alliance of countries, will put pressure on that government to show restraint and end the discriminatory practices.

The United States has correctly branded Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the pilots and hijackers aboard the 9/11 planes as terrorists. But President George W Bush is leading the White House and persuading its allies in misusing the label ‘‘terrorist’’ when referring to those minorities who are fighting, sometimes violently, their oppressors. These ‘‘Davids’’ of the world, in most cases, are only standing up to their ‘‘Goliaths’’ in the only way left to them after all else has failed.

It is extremely hypocritical that while Mr Bush touts democracy as being a main reason for the invasion of Iraq, when the Palestinians duly elect their democratic government in a free and fair vote, Mr Bush and his White House colleagues refuse to deal with them. The Hamas government is labelled a terrorist organisation, when in fact the Palestinians are in a desperate fight against their oppressors.

Last Thursday, under pressure from the US, the European Union agreed to label the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka as a terrorist organisation by June 1, unless it renounces violence. Yet the Colombo government historically discriminates against Tamils in Sri Lanka, limiting their education opportunities, denying them a place in government employment and restricting them in many other areas. This week, men in soldier’s uniforms gunned down an entire Tamil family and the second-highest Tamil Tiger leader was assassinated. Late last month, the Sri Lankan navy moved to close the shipping lane in the north which provides the only link to the outside world that the Tamils have. This vital transport route, if closed, would bring starvation and further destitution to the Tamils, so they retaliated with every means that they had available and a navy vessel was sunk with the loss of some sailors’ lives.

When the tsunami struck Asia, it wiped out many homes and infrastructure in the region which is under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but international aid remains blocked and certainly no government expenditure has been forthcoming to this desperately poor area.

In June 2003, the US, EU, Norway and Japan raised $4.5 billion in pledges of aid for the Colombo government but tied much of it to the progress of peace talks with the LTTE. Peace broker Norway has failed to bring the parties together for months as the supposed cease-fire continually is broken. Because no progress has been made in peace talks, it is unlikely these pledges will be called upon any time soon. This quartet of powerful nations is to meet again on May 30 to decide their future role in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE’s political-wing chief, S P Thamilselvan called the EU move ‘‘shocking and surprising’’, and added that the Tamil people were ‘‘banking their hopes’’ on the peace process. For the US and EU to be blacklisting the already downtrodden LTTE is humiliating for them and sending them further into global isolation. The Tamils began their fight in 1972 and reports suggest 60,000 lives have been lost since then, with more than 200 dead in April alone. Blacklisting puts travel restrictions on their leaders, freezes bank accounts and puts in place other hurdles at a time when the only solution appears to be just the opposite.

When the four big powers meet on May 30, they need to find a way to give the Tamil people some hope for the future. Because if not, desperate people do desperate things.

Published May 24, 2006.

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.