Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tamil Canadians: A Community Transforming Itself and Its Freedom Struggle

by Pragash Pio -   BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)

The last couple of months have been a turbulent time for Toronto and its Tamil community with constant mass mobilizations; the successful subversion of the police force’s violence tactics of repression; large scale marches and occupations from Parliament Hill to downtown Toronto; the mass media’s failure to effectively represent the community’s message; a courageous highway blockade led by students and youth as an attempt to get the attention of Canadians in the midst of a genocide; the revelation of the ugly face of the Canadian state’s and media’s racism; and, finally, the failure of the Canadian and international political establishment to take any effective action to prevent the mass murder of 20,000 Tamil civilians. The Tamil Canadian community now finds itself slowly recovering from the shock of failing to stop the Sri Lankan state’s genocide of our family and friends.

A mere eight months ago, the Tamil Community would never have imagined that they would be in a situation where the LTTE’s (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam a.k.a. the Tamil Tigers) armed resistance would be broken, leaving 300,000 Tamil civilians defenseless and trapped in concentration camps. More shocking to the Tamil community has been the role of the international community, whose ambiguous demands for “human rights” some Tamils had bought into over the Tamil Tiger’s unambiguous call for national liberation.  For its part, the “international community” is not free of culpability. The United Nations and western states, while decrying the armed tactics of the Tamil Tigers, ignored the Sri Lankan state’s mass slaughter of Tamil civilians and even actively helped the Sri Lankan state to cover up casualty figures.  The Tamil community has now awoken to and is adjusting to the reality that fair-weather friends shouldn’t be relied on and new allies need to be found along common lines of resisting oppression.

Now the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle must take on the difficult task of transforming itself, but there is hope to be found in history. This will be the second great transformation of the struggle, the first since it moved from non-violent, Gandhian strategiesto an armed resistance movement in the 1970s and 80s. Except this time, unlike then, the Tamil community has reached a consensus and a level of solidarity never before seen. Tamils must not be swayed by the Sri Lankan state and its collaborators, who are already trying to break the solidarity of the Tamil community by sowing confusion. The Tamil community and its leaders must not lose their commitment to breaking the occupation of Tamil Eelam, the release of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in concentrations, and the liberation of all minorities on the island called, at least for now, Sri Lanka. In the coming weeks and months the whole Tamil community and its allies tirelessly strives towards these goals.