Opinion Article

International Chakkadaththaar

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 02 October 2007, 13:38 GMT]
The main reason why Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict couldn’t be resolved all these decades was that it was approached as a terrorist issue. The approach, which served the convenience and deceit of the Sinhala politicians, was endorsed by the world system, because everybody had skeletons in their cupboards. It was a general debility of international polity and political ideologies to resolve situations similar to that of Sri Lanka. As a result, the mainstream international system has led the world into an Age of Paranoia. The bigger the State, the bigger is the paranoia, writes Opinion Columnist Ampalam.

Don’t search for the word Chakkadaththaar in the dictionaries. It is not there. It is an obsolete Sri Lankan Tamil term for the fiscal officer of the colonial times. He was also the prison officer vested with the task of arresting those who were challenging colonial authority, especially in revenue. There are many amusing tales on this officer in the Sri Lankan folklore.

'Even Chakkadaththaar slipped and fell from the horse which had failed many before' (Elloarum ea’ri vizhuntha kuthiraiyil chakkadaththaarum ea’ri cha’rukki vizhunthaaraam) is a saying in Sri Lankan Tamil that survived the colonial office.

The Sri Lankan horse is not any individual or organization. It is the Tamil cause.

For more than quarter a century an array of local chakkadaththaars and a regional chakkadaththaar, the then policeman of South Asia, tried riding the horse for their misery.

SL President as Dutugemunu
SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa depicted as Dutugemunu
Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, may try to fool his Sinhala constituency, talking about his reincarnation of Dutagemunu. But, everybody knows that now it is the International Chakkadaththaar who wants to ride the horse and there is no need to tell whom it is.

It is high time for all chakkadaththaars, past and present, to think seriously why this humble horse couldn’t be tamed all these decades. Perhaps those who were grown seeing the sheriff films of the Wild West know better where the sheriff may go wrong.

The national question may be an outdated imagination to the western mind today. It is easier for those who were aggressively monoistic some decades ago to preach pluralism to ancient social formations, which had been blessed with pluralistic heritage until they were disturbed by colonialism.

Of course, the western-modeled nationalism of the by-gone times needs to be revised. Pluralism undoubtedly is a virtue of modern times. But, to what extent the preachers are sure of the practice of pluralism in their own countries? Don’t we see Huntingtons and right wing politics successfully challenging pluralism in several parts of the West?

Application of ideology without considerations to provenance cum context of issues amounts to the worst form of authoritarianism.

"It is high time for all chakkadaththaars, past and present, to think seriously why this humble horse couldn’t be tamed all these decades. Perhaps those who were grown seeing the sheriff films of the Wild West know better where the sheriff may go wrong."
The main reason why Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict couldn’t be resolved all these decades was that it was approached as a terrorist issue. The approach, which served the convenience and deceit of the Sinhala politicians, was endorsed by the world system, because everybody had skeletons in their cupboards. It was a general debility of international polity and political ideologies to resolve situations similar to that of Sri Lanka.

As a result, the mainstream international system has led the world into an Age of Paranoia. The bigger the State, the bigger is the paranoia.

The Tamil struggle remained passive and pleading for several decades during the last century. No one, not even the politically active members of the Tamil community, ever imagined that it would become an armed struggle one day, forcing all the powers of the world to poke their noses to the scene.

The so-called international community, which remained silent to State terrorism in Sri Lanka and didn’t want to stop it all these decades, in the guise of upholding sovereignty of countries, now tries to stamp out a genuine struggle as international terrorism and provides all assistance to a repressive State.

In short, the International Chakkadaththaar wants to ride the horse through might, money and mirages of development, but without citing any meaningful political and structural solutions. Perhaps, he himself has no idea about it, but riding is important. Signs are already there that the Chakkadaththaar is slipping, since the outcome so far from the side of the Sinhala government towards an acceptable solution is only a disaster.

Eyebrows are raised all over the world whether the talk of international terrorism is the new smokescreen invented to replace the 'communist threat' of the Cold War days, in order to create new forms of undeclared military dictatorship governments to sustain neocolonialism.

"The International Chakkadaththaar wants to ride the horse through might, money and mirages of development, but without citing any meaningful political and structural solutions. Perhaps, he himself has no idea about it, but riding is important."
A perusal of the recent statements coming from the American embassy in Colombo shows the US enthusiasm for ‘development’ in the East. Liberation from terrorism and collaboration with the government are to achieve ‘interesting times’ in the East. There are no commitments to any political solution. Concerns for human rights, cautions to the Colombo government and warnings about demographic changes in the East are superficial. They are not substantiated by deeds. What should be deduced is that anything can be compromised for development, but don’t ask whose development.

Britain, the chief lieutenant, which often reminds us of its colonial connections, has gone a step forward. A policy outline released by the British Foreign Office, while repeating the rhetoric and playing the 'development' tune a bit louder, offers its services to resolve the Sri Lankan crisis, citing the 'expertise' it gained in Northern Ireland.

The question of Northern Ireland subsided only in a European Union milieu, in which the former world power itself lost its sovereignty. The Tamil question in Sri Lanka is not the question of Northern Ireland and the Sinhala government is not the British government to experiment a stale expertise.

What we are again reminded of is that no one is really serious in coming out with any substantial solution, but all are in an undue haste for ‘development’.

The crave of the so-called international community is very well understood by the Mahinda Rajapaksha government, which is prepared to sacrifice anything, including cutting its own nose, to remain in power through carrying out a genocidal war against the Tamils and playing with the sentiments of the Sinhalese.

All this time it was the Sinhala leadership that played with the Sinhala sentiments to come to power. A suspicion arises now whether the world powers also want to try a hand at it to gain entry into Sri Lanka.

It is still unclear whether in the post cold war era the involvement of international community has brought in any decisive solution anywhere. Perhaps the humble Tamils of Sri Lanka has been chosen as a test case, hoping successful demonstration of unipolar authority.

It is indeed a remarkable show, completely isolating the LTTE and along with it the Tamil cause. Three cheers for the demonstration. But, what is the point in demonstrating this ability in favour of a repressive government having a genocidal agenda?

The Americans of a by-gone era are even today remembered with thanks by the Tamils of Sri Lanka. In fact, in Jaffna, they are better remembered of than the British. Whatever at that time was progressive, liberal and couldn’t be found through British colonialism were available to the Tamils through the American Mission, which established itself in Jaffna in 1816.

It was an America with a different face. All Tamil revival movements, social movements, education, migration, economic opportunities and the first Tamil leftist movement, which in fact was the first left movement in Sri Lanka, were all in some way connected to the American Mission institutions.

"The Americans of a by-gone era are even today remembered with thanks by the Tamils of Sri Lanka. In fact, in Jaffna, they are better remembered of than the British. Whatever at that time was progressive, liberal and couldn’t be found through British colonialism were available to the Tamils through the American Mission, which established itself in Jaffna in 1816."
The post-war America of Truman Doctrine was a different Avatar. The writer remembers the days when the Peking Wing communists, supporting Vietnam, wrote on the walls of Jaffna ‘Yankee go home’ in red ink.

Why spoiling the walls of Jaffna for something that was happening thousands of miles away, wondered many. Well, America has come to us now, and we believe it is a postmodern America.

A great responsibility lies in the hands of the American people and the peoples of the various nations who are tagged behind America, cherishing the identity of a common Western Civilization, to enhance their information on what exactly is happening in Sri Lanka and to be vigilant about the rights and wrongs in order to steer their governments towards mutual prosperity, self respect and peace of all.


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