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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 78

Are the Tamils barbarians?

[b]Are the Tamils barbarians?[/b]

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

When the Tamil website, (Honeybee), raised the question: “Are the Tamils barbarians?” ( August 8, 2005) it can be viewed as a dagger pointed at the very heart of the Tamil community. Last week’s killings of Lakshman Kadirgamar, the greatest Tamil since Sir. Ponnambalam Arunachalam who had the courage to transcend Tamil tribalism and the journalist Relangi Selvarajah, a TV presenter at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation, are deadly messages sent to those Tamils who are agonizing over the descent of the Tamils into barbarism.

The significance of this question is not only in the fact that it has never been asked before – it would have been unthinkable, say, two decades ago -- but also in the underlying meaning and consequences that flow from the meaning. Besides, was projecting the collective opinion of a raft of Tamil websites railing against LTTE terrors and horrors. Coming, as it does, from within the Tamil community, it should be considered as a serious issue that must be given due consideration.

Tamils generally are cautious and nervous about raising such subversive issues because they feel that they are poised politically at a point where any aspersions cast on the current Tamil leadership would be detrimental to their political goals. Besides, the defensive Tamils are sensitive to such explosive questions fearing that it may undermine their political strategy of blaming the “other” for everything that has gone wrong in their lives and society. A question like “Are the Tamil barbarians?” is like (1) putting a bomb under the seat of Prabhakaran, or (2) into the core of their collective identity.

As things stand right now both factors are intertwined and the Tamils are at loss not knowing how to separate one from the other. In particular the Jaffna Tamils abroad need a clean image to succeed in their lobbying for the LTTE. They have succeeded so far by blaming the “other” – i.e “the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinists. In the political calculations of the Tamils this is the wrong time to transfer the blame from the “other” to the LTTE leadership. Yet, defying all these pressures and constraints, a formidable section of the Tamils abroad are now boldly questioning the methodologies, the policies, the personalities and the goals of northern leadership that is dragging the Tamil community into barbarism (to quote the Tamil websites).

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