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November 15th, 2004

Reflections on the Pongu Thamil (Tamil Resurgence) Festival in Toronto: V. Anandasangary

From the disbanding of EROS 18 years earlier to the breakaway of Karuna’s faction recently, the number of our Tamil brethren killed in internecine strife between armed Tamil groups exceeds those killed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Among the victims of internecine strife are educationists, human rights activists, Tamil university students who demanded justice, fellow militants, community and political leaders and ordinary folk. Even amidst the winds of peace, Tamil women are daily stricken to widowhood on their own Tamil soil, not by aliens, but by their Tamil brothers. Even daily encounters with atrocities of infants having their father or mother murdered for their political stand is yet to stir anyone to Boil or Surge Over in protest.

The current paralysis applies not just to humble folk, but more poignantly to great names of Tamil militancy. Addaikalanathan of TELO whose leader Sri Sabaratnam was cut down without remorse, trembles and cringes in silence. Suresh Premachandran who lost his leader Padmanaba and more than a dozen comrades in one fell swoop, is cowed and shrunken in fear.

Mr. Sampanthan praised our fallen leader Amirthalingam as the pride of the deer herd. It is only because of the gun, and not of their own will, that Sampanthan and our erstwhile self-acclaimed general, Senathirajah, transformed themselves into sorry stags that lost their antlers. Those who lost their leaders to Tiger assassins would do us a service if rather than pay sham homage to their leaders, and cloak themselves in falsehood, they dissolve their parties and openly join the Tigers.

Our students in Jaffna, unlike those abroad, need to struggle with scanty facilities, and yet the Jaffna Public Library remains closed by order of the political wing of the LTTE. Yet no one has Boiled Over with indignation over the plight of our students, demanding the use of the Library. Were anyone is to demand it, I would likely be the only taker for that task. Given these circumstances, is there any meaning in those safely distant Boiling Over on foreign soil, and for what? It is rather the bounden duty of expatriate Tamils to Boil Over demanding the cessation of these cowardly acts of Tamils drowning Tamils in rivers of blood. To this end intellectuals, human rights activists and the quality media must raise their voice. This is the social responsibility of everyone. What is the use of Boiling Over for empty rights, when the Tamils’ right to life has been desecrated on their own soil?

The demand for Tamil national rights would remain a mere slogan as long as the expelled Muslim community in Jaffna, of largely poor tailors, is obstructed from resettling. This is a bitter truth. Suresh Premachandran who escaped Padmanabha’s assassins by a hair’s breadth, has lived to join the LTTE’s Tamil National Alliance. By this quirk of fate, he has changed his label from Traitor to Super Tamil Patriot. In all the world it is our own soil that has earned renown for such magical transformations. Doubtless, it is divine providence that Sivasithamparam who narrowly survived dying a traitor in the hail of bullets that killed Amirthalingam, lived to attain sanctification as a Great Patriot. Some it seems have all the luck.

Canada that is a forerunner in respect for human rights must not only strive for peace in our land, but must also aid and impel the Tamil people to uphold human rights that are being torn to shreds in our land. We must seek to revive those happy times when Hindus, Muslims and Christians in our North-Eastern motherland get together, without fear of the gun, and Surge Over with delight. That would be the celebration of ‘Pongu Thamil’ in the true sense of the original festive meaning (- the pot of milk rice surging or boiling over on joyous occasions).

Instead, if in a terrorised society where dissembling and acting have become the norm, broadcasters, newspapers, students and people blindly follow the herd to keep the show on the road, the time of painful reckoning must surely come. Unseen by the mob and its controllers, every wail of death and every injustice is definitely driving a Tamil son or daughter to Boil Over in rage. Is this what we want?

I appeal to you Tamil people living abroad to examine your conscience. Rise up and surge over for the basic rights of your brethren robbed of all rights, whose silent tears stain the soil of your motherland. Not only in our motherland, but also in foreign lands, the denial of our rights owes not to the Government alone. That the Tamil groups should also respect these rights is my fervent plea.

You may recall that I am the only Tamil representative who repudiated Anton Balasingham’s fiat that the sole task of the Tamil Alliance is to do their bidding and nothing else. Moreover, it is to me that my anguished ex-colleagues who bore this utterly demeaning insult with sealed lips confided their grief in tears. When chauvinistic Sinhalese parliamentarians insulted Norway’s Special Envoy Eric Solheim, who was then in the public gallery of the House, I am the only Tamil parliamentarian who rose to his defence. Perhaps, I may have become more controversial than other Tamil political leaders who fear to speak up, that too in a vain hope of preserving their position. Being ‘yes men’ is not the task of leaders. To question what they see amiss is surely among their duties. Truth always hurts, and to speak it today can be fatal. When such is the tragic plight of leaders, who can deny that the people have been reduced to sheep and cattle?

My friends, who have been anxious for me because of the political stand I have taken, have pleaded with me to go with the herd as suits our time and place. Swaggering militant champions of the past, our venerable leaders, students and journalists are among those, who stricken with terror, are jostling with the herd. Does this mean that I too must follow suit? Democracy means that it is not the guns, but rather the people who dictate. Thus it was yesterday and today and so it must remain for all time. It ill becomes a self-respecting leader to let himself be robbed of the right to judge and proclaim what is right and wrong, and live in shame a counterfeit leader. I have no desire for the latter.

Dear Tamil people, when the day dawns you rise up and Boil Over against the present injustice and shame, that very day will I too make haste to Surge Over in solidarity with you.

Thank You

V. Anandasangary

The President

Tamil United Liberation Front

A note on the translation:

The translation has attempted to reproduce the spirit of the Tamil original, and may be technically inexact in places. After many years of silence, Mr. Anandasangary has come alive as among the ablest practitioners of the Tamil language who could put across simple truths about democracy and the current predicament of the Sri Lankan Tamils in a manner that is homely, transparent and laced with comic irony. The style and diction are reminiscent of times when the likes of Sivaji Ganeshan and Kannadasan dominated the Tamil cinema and were forerunners in popular culture. Translation has not been easy. In trying to translate Pongal, objections were raised by those who love the language that it is a festive term that evokes sweetness and good-neighbourliness. For this reason they hold the term utterly misplaced when applied to a celebration of hate and personal aggrandisement as Pongu Thamil indeed is.


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