My mind is in disequilibrium, as most things in Sri Lanka are right now. I was ecstatically happy two days ago, but now things seem to be turning sour.
The president, encouragingly, has made a statement, Thursday, saying, “Ensuring that the nation’s outpouring of joy at the defeat of terrorism, leaves no room for anyone’s feelings to be hurt in any manner is the greatest tribute we can pay to our Motherland.”
However, this may be a little too late to reverse the harmful effect that some of the celebrating yakkos have had on the Tamil Sri Lankan psyche. There are reports of taunting, of forcibly getting people to raise the flag, of publicly burning and flogging effigies of Prabhakaran, of revellers requesting money from Tamil shops to fund their parties. This makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I don’t believe this is the most prevalent manifestation of celebratory joy. The few people on the street I spoke to yesterday were not of that mindset. They seemed aware of the need for a political solution to address the needs of Tamil Sri Lankans and they were not just celebrating a Sinhala victory, but the end of a long war and the hope of a better future for all Sri Lankans. One of the main things cited was the end to the fear of bombs. One guy told me that in his neighbourhood they had got together and made kiribath which they were offering passers-by, sometimes perhaps a little insistently, dhansal style. I asked him whether they were offering the kiribath to Tamil Sri Lankans as well, and he answered me rather sternly that this has nothing to do with ethnicity, that they are sharing their kiribath and their joy with everyone because they are so happy. I felt his intentions were pure.
However, it makes no difference whether this was the sentiment of the majority of people who stayed in their own communities and neighbourhoods and partied it down. What was seen by the Tamil Sri Lankans were the minority of people who decided to venture into the majority Tamil areas of Kotahena and Wellawatte in their flag laden convoys and trample on sensitivities at a time when Tamil Sri Lankans were feeling especially vulnerable. This is truly sad.
I wish more Tamil Sri Lankans would join in and share the joy that most of the rest of us feel at the end of this long war. I wish they would have faith in a better future for us all. I wish they would feel less afraid to come out and express themselves. I wish they’d convince their concerned relatives abroad that things are getting better. I wish they would want to participate enthusiastically in the procees of constructing our collective future. But how can I expect them to, when some of them are being exposed to this humiliation at the hands of a few thoughtless idiotic Sinhalese? Aiyo. May moda yakku ratama kanawa.
It is true that many Tamil Sri Lankans have been saddened at the death of Prabhakaran. This is something I am trying hard to understand. I do not see this as a rational reaction, because in my opinion his existence made their lives much much worse. However, I can see that he was their loudest and perhaps only effective voice (largely as a result of him killing off any other contenders) and I can understand that to many of them he was larger than life. Maybe I can even understand why some of the less rational would have regarded him as a hero. However, I find it very difficult to understand why many of them immediately felt less safe when they heard he was no more. This I think is a prevalent feeling among some of the Tamil Sri Lankan community and it is something that I am really trying hard to get to grips with. This seems to me a product of warped logic. I would have thought the opposite were true – that Prabhakaran’s existence actually made Tamil Sri Lankans less safe. There was an expectation of being less safe long before any of these celebrations started, and as far as I am aware, as distasteful as some of the reports have been, there are no reports of Tamil Sri Lankans actually being harmed or threatened.
Despite these problems we have in understanding the other community and how it is feeling at the moment, we should all realise that this is the immediate aftermath. It’s only been two days. Feelings are running extremely high and low. We are all trying to grips with things. We need to give each other time to process things and come to terms with this immense change in the staus quo in our own ways. We can only try to understand and express our opinion. Trying to force it down another’s throat is how we ended up fighting this long war in the first place.
However, these fisrt few days are also the ones that leave a mark. A confused mind is a very suggestible mind. At this time of great change, when people are trying to figure out what is going on, what is going to be their future, the people who stand up and say this is how I think it should be, this is what we are going to do are the ones who will get the most attention and set the tone. In this light, while understanding their reasons, I think it is a tragedy that Tamil Sri Lankans are either feeling too vulnerable to speak and participate, or are choosing not to do so of their own accord.
I wish the TNA MPs had turned up to parliament on Tuesday.