Feature Article

Third Mu'l'livaaykkaal in the name of 'development'

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 10 March 2010, 12:50 GMT]
After abetting a military defeat and subsequently blessing a political defeat, the coterie of countries propping up Sri Lankan state is now bent upon enacting a third Mu’l’livaaykkaal, by bringing in a ‘development defeat’ of Eezham Tamils through handing over development management to the Sinhalese, said a concerned group of diaspora Tamils who recently had an experience of negotiating development in a peace-facilitating European country. Funding agencies of this country, citing their present choice of a Sinhala NGO for implementation of programmes in the island, advise Diaspora Tamils seeking development funds for the North and East to work under the Sinhala NGO.

Responding to Tamil objections some diplomats seem to have said that at the moment they have no other option, as there are no credible Tamil NGOs in the island for them to fund. They urged the Tamils to form some in the island if they can.

Meanwhile, some academic circles in the West advised the Tamils not to accept subordination in development but to work for the creation of their own outfits to handle funds and projects independently.

But everybody knows how will Colombo respond. The preparedness of some agencies in the West to handover the management of development to Sinhalese will only encourage Colombo further in not allowing Tamil NGOs to function. Besides, the participation of diaspora Tamils in the Sinhalese-managed NGOs will be used by Colombo to get easy acceptance to its nuanced, multi-faceted genocide programme in the island, Tamil circles said.

A line has to be drawn at some point where the Tamils have to tell point blank to the donors about their reservations and should think of alternative steps, Tamil circles further said.

The donors know well that without political power the Tamil development can’t take place.

But the international community, totally impotent either in taking charge of the national question of genocidal proportions or in bringing out any political solution, is knowingly imposing subjugation in the name of development only to gain its own inroads into the island. They do it so explicitly, expecting the hapless victims to collaborate, Tamil diaspora circles said.

Despite mounting criticism from Tamils, what adamantly implemented are the US Senate Committee recommendations and the International Crisis Group recommendations, said concerned diaspora circles.

Meanwhile, a section of development activists in the diaspora think that the ‘defeated’ Tamils should now think of engaging with the Colombo government to do at least little good to the affected people. The very 'defeated approach' would not lead to engagement but would rather make them ‘engaged’ by Colombo, is the opinion in the other sections of the diaspora.

Nevertheless, it was heartening to find that some Tamil academics have come out with valuable observations on the development discourse.

“Development in the North and East is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem,” was the comment of an academic.

Denouncing the militarized approach of Colombo’s post-war development, Tamil academics categorically pointed out that for any meaningful development the prerequisites are de-militarization first and then a political solution.

In their opinion, the development model in the East has failed to get appreciation from the people of that land and even the neoliberal programme in the parts of the country free from the war was spatially and socially uneven. Citing the failures, “Development on whose terms and whose values,” they asked.

Some academics were not blaming the unitary system in the island for the misery and were advocating for constitutional reforms and state re-structure. But they expressed no confidence in seeing any signs of political will in the present government of Sri Lanka in carrying out the re-structure. For that matter, no government since the inception of modern state in the island had the will power. Then, what is the point in some academics still harping on a united Sri Lanka and ‘overreaching Lankan identity’ for solutions, is the question in Tamil circles.

Such theoretical rhetoric coming from sections of Tamil academics provides only an excuse that is calculatedly exploited by many of the Western countries to justify their actions such as the insult of placing Tamil development under Sinhala management, Tamil circles said.

There need to be a broad consensus of the various shades of Tamil diaspora opinion in bringing out a political solution and in offering maximum support to resettlement and livelihood revival of the people in the North and East of the country by channelling support through independent channels that are legally recognised, commented an academic, even though he was sceptical of finding free civil society organisations to carry that out in the island.

But the important point he made that needs careful perusal by the development enthusiasts in the diaspora is that do it through independent channels.

The diaspora’s resources are microscopic when compared to the resources dumped in by the giants of development onslaught in the island. There is no point in diaspora collaborating with them and wasting its energy and resources as the Tamil proverb goes saying about dissolving tamarind in the river.

The diaspora is under tremendous pressure at the moment on several fronts: emotional, financial, political and personal. Diaspora’s money flows in millions into the island in paying bribe and ransom to Rajapaksa’s forces, in personally helping devastated kith and kin, in providing emergency medical assistance to them and in providing them with save passage. Every family in the diaspora has its own commitment and the diaspora is exhausted.

But sadly there is a vicious campaign about diaspora’s resources. From certain international organisations to Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa intentionally exaggerate diaspora’s money to vilify and weaken the only independent resource of Eezham Tamils at the moment.

Whatever little resources the diaspora could manage have to be deployed in an intelligent way in empowering people in developing themselves.

Rather than being carried away by the currents, at least some core and credible development institutions of the diaspora need to engage themselves in assessing what is happening in the name of development, in preparing the society to resist damages and in devising alternative ways of people’s empowerment. The diaspora also needs to look after its own development. These are more important than wasting time and energy in going behind forces that are not even prepared to consider that assistance to Tamils should be given to Tamil hands.


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