Crying 'Tiger, tiger' is not just a
poetic first liner in this country which is yet recovering from thirty
years and more of bloody ethnic-b ased internal war. Many have been the
false alarms in this country, especially in the metropolis, during the
war when people would react with terror at the slightest rumour of a
possible attack by separatist militants known for their ruthless
slaughter of civilians in urban guerrilla strikes.
The danger, during the war, was obviously real and people throughout
the country, north and south, had to be vigilant and ready to react with
safety measures in any military contingency.
Today, however, the Eelam separatist movement has been shattered
militarily and is also politically almost defunct. While there are
sundry Tamil politicians who do tentatively make noises in support of an
ethnic Tamil nationalist cause, rarely does this advocacy actually
mention secession and the formation of a separate ethnic State. Indeed,
in the post-war period, elections at provincial as well as national
levels have shown remarkable support among Tamil people for Sri Lankan
national causes, the last but not least being the presidential and
parliamentary elections in 2015 in which the critical issue had been the
restoring of genuine democracy, good governance and inter-ethnic
The Tamil diaspora, which, at one time, was demonised as being the
principal funders of secessionist insurgency, has already diversified in
to a range of different political tendencies with only a very tiny
minority of people harking back to the days of LTTE insurgency. Many, if
not most Tamil activist groups overseas have long discarded separatist
goals. Some of the groups who, at one time, were vilified as financiers
of separatism and 'terrorism' are today very publicly and actively in
support of national governmental initiatives in Colombo. These same
groups, during the war, were prone to summarily dismiss or ignore Sri
Lankan national issues as not being of interest to the Tamil community
since that community was defined by them as a separate 'nation'. Such
rhetoric and such political discourse is almost unheard of, these days.
Indeed, ever since the end of the war, the periodic detection of
former LTTE arms caches reflected the considerable success of the
security forces in obtaining the co-operation of the Tamil civilians in
the North and the East in their uncovering of weaponry and other
insurgent assets. These weapons and equipment had been either hurriedly
secreted away or discarded by Tiger cadres giving up militant activity
and attempting to merge with the population.
Indeed, in recent times, it has been certain groups of Sinhala
politicians and activists who have kept the 'Tiger terror' fires burning
in their attempts to whip up Sinhala exclusive nationalism by nursing
the old fear psychosis that prevailed during the war but had begun to
fade after 2009.
In the post-war situation there yet remains residual ethnic
sensitivities due to the failure of the previous regime to
constructively address the underlying problem of ethnic inequality and
discrimination. Hence, while the minorities - not just the Tamils -
continue to worry about their future as proper citizens of Sri Lanka,
the ethnic majority Sinhalese are naturally concerned about that
continued minority sensitivity, and, thereby, are sensitive to issues of
their own ethnic identity in relation to the other ethnic communities.
These sensitivities reflect on the future stability of the country
and need assuaging politically and socially if this country is to usher
in genuine social peace in the long term. For such a fundamental problem
of State as the ethnic conflict is, only sweeping political structural
renewal, as in the form of constitutional reform, will provide a serious
No one should know this better than the intelligentsia of this
nation, especially those who claim to be expert in constitutional law,
particularly those who have actively engaged in finding structural
solutions to the ethnic problem in past decades.
Yet, today, some of these intellectual bigwigs are among the first to
start alarm bells ringing the moment another cache of old Tiger weaponry
is unearthed. If the lower ranks of political rabble-rousers indulge in
such antics, they could be contemptuously dismissed as what they are -
plain, opportunistic rabble-rousers.
But when senior intellectuals indulge in the same?
For too long have ethnic politicians opportunistically seized the
slightest excuse to dangerously fan communal flames.
Crying 'wolf' is a popular European reference to a Greek fable about
the repercussions of constant lying. Aesop, the legendary Greek writer
of what later became known as 'Aesop's Fables', reportedly wrote a tale
of a shepherd boy who had fun misleading his village people about an
imminent attack by wolves against his herd of sheep. Since sheep, in
that ancient pastoral era, were a hugely valuable asset of the
peasantry, it was not surprising that the poor villagers did not
hesitate to come running to rescue their herds whenever this mischievous
young shepherd gave his false alarm about wolves.
Likewise, today, the nation is beset by criers of 'Tiger!' - not just
those rabble-rousers but, also, from among the intelligentsia and even
elder statesmen. Do these much-vaunted political leaders and 'thinkers'
want to be also dismissed as mere decrepit 'rabble-rousers'? What does
that do to our national civilisation? Where, then, is our own standard
of responsible politics and civil behaviour?