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Tamil diaspora wary of ‘victory

[Al Jazeera, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 09:49 No Comment]

20095206718849734_3 As the Sri Lankan government basks in its self-declared victory over Tamil rebels, the news of an end to almost three decades of civil war has been met with scepticism and criticism by many Tamil descendants in Malaysia.

The Southeast Asian country is home to a sizeable Sri Lankan Tamil community, many of whom were first brought here by the to work in the British administrative services during the colonial era.

Over the years many have kept in touch with relatives and friends back home in Sri Lanka’s northeast, and as with other parts of the diaspora there is continuing and strong support for a Tamil homeland.

Ethnic Indians make up about eight per cent of Malaysia’s population, and are mostly Tamils.

S Senthe, a chartered accountant based outside the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, echoes the feeling of many, describing the Sri Lankan military’s victory over the Tamil Tigers as "shallow" and saying it would lead only to "superficial peace".

‘Blatant discrimination’

Senthe said he had little doubt the struggle for a Tamil homeland would continue after the Tigers’ defeat, but on a more intellectual and sophisticated level.

"The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, about one million scattered around the world with many holding high positions in big corporations, will fuel the next stage," he told Al Jazeera.

"But it will not be through an armed struggle like before."

Senthe said the world must try to understand why the Tamils were forced to take up arms.

"It is because of the intransigence and unwillingness of the Sinhala government to address long-standing grievances of blatant discrimination," he said.

Recent months have seen the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora stage huge protests in major cities around the world demanding international intervention to bring peace and aid to the escalating humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict.

Protests

In Malaysia, several ethnic Indian groups held protests outside the High Commissions of India and Sri Lanka, as well as the US embassy.
Among the groups calling for action was the Kuala Lumpur-based Global Peace Initiative (GPI), which in April petitioned the Indian government to stop its military assistance to the Sri Lankan army and to save the Tamil minority there.

S Pasupathi, a lawyer and the coordinator of the GPI, said the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to allow independent media and aid agencies access to the war zone showed it was unconcerned about the plight of Tamil civilians.

He said the government may have won the war but "are far from achieving real peace".

"The mental and emotional scars resulting from decades of fighting are not that easily healed," he said.

‘Oppressive’

"As long as the government acts in a very oppressive nature, any reconciliation in real terms between the Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu or Muslim Tamils will be hard."

While the government may have declared victory, he said, Sri Lanka will not see enduring peace "unless the dignity of the Tamils is restored and some form of autonomy is considered".

There were also doubts over the Sri Lankan government’s claim that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE commander, was killed in the final battle earlier this week.

M Manogaran, a member of parliament of Tamil origin, said he does not believe official claims that the LTTE has been totally wiped out because there was no evidence.
But he stressed that the more important and contentious issue is the plight of the injured and displaced civilians in the war zone.

"Why is the government not allowing international aid groups and government representatives into the area to verify the extent of the damage?"

He also alleged that China, Russia and India had a role in providing intelligence and arms for the bloody conflict.

Manogaran said even the Tamils in southern India were sympathetic to the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, particularly because of the prolonged suffering of civilians in the war.

"The Sri Lankan government should look at the root of the Tamil struggle before it can work out any form of lasting peace," he said.

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