Tamils Must Live Without Caste And Class
Anyone keen to know and understand the dynamics of Sri Lanka’s conflict will need to also realize that the cries of discrimination by the Sinhalese was an orchestrated plan to keep hidden from the world the fact that Tamils were and wanted to continue to remain divided by caste and class so that only a handful of Tamils would between themselves enjoy education, social and political development.
Now that Sri Lanka’s military has eliminated the terrorist factor, what remains is the need to vanquish the caste and class divisions that continues to remain unabated. While the military continues to do a remarkable service it is now left to the civilians to abandon centuries of discrimination and to allow these marginalized Tamils their right to live just like the high caste/class Tamils.
However much Tamils may try they cannot deny or excuse the many riots that have taken place over decades because Tamil low castes could not bear the unfair and unjust treatment of their own people.
Mullaitivu is just one of the districts that formed a nexus of these low caste non-Vellala Tamils to be recruited to the LTTE. Today, the entire district comprising 6 AGA divisions (Maritimepattu, Oddusuddan, Puthukudiyirippu, Thunukkai, Manthai and Weli Oya) is a home to a little over 90,000 Tamil civilians, 34,000 of whom are located in Maritimepattu.
Little does any observer need to be told how appreciative these ordinary men and women are for the manner Sri Lanka’s armed forces continue to assist them. Contrary to what Colombo-based Tamil politicians taking orders from neighbouring India will declare, the people of Mullaitivu have struck a close bond with the military having realized that they are not the enemy afterall. It is natural for the military to be regarded as they have been when these people have been told day in and day out nothing other than the cruelties inflicted by the Army and the Sinhalese people. To change that attitude and fear it not only takes time, it needs the patience of the military and the understanding of the ground realities that prevailed for these people to think so.
However the civilian and military efforts are being undermined by the cast/class factors. These factors are manifesting themselves in the public sector service mechanism too. A good example is when Government appointed officials in key areas like education turn out to function with a lackluster attitude because they belong to the high caste and do not wish to uplift the status of their own people. The people of Mullaitivu are disgusted with the situation wherein most feel that they were ruled by Jaffna Tamils and the Jaffna Tamils want to continue to ruin them even now.
The Government cannot recruit looking at people’s caste or class neither can a Government look at the caste/class in determining which Tamil public servant should serve. Naturally as a Tamil, we would expect all Tamils to be keen to undo 3 decades wherein children of the areas like Mullaitivu have been neglected educationally and socially. Nevertheless the truth of the matter is far different and is posing a greater tragedy to the reconciliation.
Foreign governments seem to have neglected to place the significance of the caste/class factors that divide Tamils which is far more detrimental than the bogus propaganda promoted about Sinhala oppression. The Colombo-based Tamil politicians themselves part of the higher class/caste are all the while attempting to hide this truth.
What needs to essentially be done is to create more communication channels – open forums that villagers can come face to face with public officials and put across their issues.
This is what leads to severe criticisms about Sri Lanka’s public service something shared by all the citizens throughout the entire country. Once again what the Government needs to realize and what the President needs to wake up to is that his entire legislative bodies from Ministers, to the line Ministries, their officials, advisors, consultants and trickling down to the public sector need to realize they are supposed to be working for the people and that service now needs to rejuvenate itself from the pace it is currently functioning in.
There is a limit to what the military can do to make up for the shortcomings of the public sector apparatus and this calls for the President to intervene to wake up the entire public sector of Sri Lanka.
By Shenali Waduge