The perceptions of the Diaspora
a century ago, the Israeli secret service Mossad abducted from Argentina
Adolf Eichmann, a notorious former officer of Hitler's SS. The former
commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp was tried (and executed)
on several counts, including war crimes and crimes against the Jewish
The Jewish political scientist Hannah Arendt reported on the trial
for the New Yorker magazine. A supporter of the Zionist state (and
refugee from Nazi Germany), she nevertheless criticised the proceedings
for being a politicisation of justice.
Arendt was subsequently pilloried by the Zionist establishment
because her critique - springing from her understanding that the Nazi
Holocaust was systemic, and that the Jewishness of the victims was a
mere detail - embodied a truth which undermines the very basis of
Human rights violations
The core premise of Zionism is that Jews required a separate homeland
(originally in Uganda) for protection from the 'universal hatred' of all
other peoples. Anti-Semitism was elevated from being one of many
chauvinisms to become 'The' bigotry. Even worse, anti-Zionism was
equated to anti-Semitism - even Jewish critics of Zionism are labelled
Norman Finkelstein, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, argues
that “The Holocaust' is an ideological representation of the Nazi
holocaust': it provided justification for Zionist violations of Human
'The Holocaust' (originally a term which meant a generalised
massacre, the capitalisation of the definite article making it
Jewish-specific) became a crime, not by the Nazis against Jews, Gypsies,
Slavs and even Germans, but exclusively by Gentiles against Jews.
It was the dispersal of the Jewish people all over the world which
was originally called the 'Diaspora'. The Jewish model was adopted by
the hegemonic ultra-nationalist ideology among expatriate Sri Lankan
Tamils, who began calling themselves the 'Tamil Diaspora', an evocative
term which has now come into general use.
However, it was not just the vocabulary that was taken over. So was
that chilling belief in 'universal hatred'. The Tamils were portrayed as
the victims of the Sinhalese, not as co-sufferers under an oppressive
The very inception of the Diaspora is seen as a reaction to
'Sinhalese oppression' - not that it was part of the flow, which began
in the 1950s, of middle-class Sri Lankans of all communities to more
This attitude can be seen it respect to the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom.
Ultra-nationalist Diasporic Tamils see it as the work, not of fascist
elements among the Sinhalese, but of the Sinhalese as a whole: it is the
'Sinhala Pogrom'. Notwithstanding the fact that many Sinhalese risked
their lives to save their Tamil neighbours. The parallels to 'The
Holocaust' are clear.
The Sinhalese are the villains; and not just the Sinhalese. Former
BBC correspondent Sam Rajappa, writing in the Chennai-based 'Weekend
Leader', demonises what he calls the 'anti-Tamil Mallu axis' - 'Mallu'
meaning Malayali. 'Anthropologically', says Rajappa, 'the Sinhalese
share common traits with the people of Kerala who share a congenital
hatred for the Tamil race.'
And discussion with many prominent 'human rights' activists from the
Diaspora about the rights of Muslims (whom separatists subsume under the
'Tamil-speaking' category) will elicit many a racist epithet and
The Muslims are representative victims of the hegemonic Diasporic
ideology - the 'Tamil-as-victim' thesis was used to justify the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in their 'ethnic cleansing' of
the Northern Muslims.
The hegemonic ideologues within the Diaspora remain stunningly silent
on this and the other crimes - often against Tamils - committed in the
name of the Tamil people by the LTTE.
Yet the Diaspora as a whole is surprisingly sensitive to criticism by
In March Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner
in Australia, told Australian Parliamentarians and officials that he was
concerned that 'certain elements in the Diaspora in Australia' were
continuing a separatist campaign and were trying to destroy the
He was pointing out that there were concerted efforts on Australian
soil to collect funds, none of which is going to go to Sri Lanka for
rehabilitation. He was warning against a revival of the system whereby a
small minority of separatist forces within the Diaspora, brutally,
expropriated a tithe from every expatriate Tamil as 'donations'. This
system ended with the LTTE defeat and the consequent collapse of its
systemised extortion racket.
The High Commissioner in no way blamed the entire expatriate Tamil
community in Australia or elsewhere. Neither did Rohan Gunaratna of
Nanyang Technological University, who also addressed the gathering,
saying that 'there is a very small fringe group that is in Australia,
that is still supporting the ideology of the Tamil Tigers.'
However, Samarasinghe was deprecated in a rumour campaign among the
Sri Lankan community in Australia, for tarring the entire Diaspora with
the LTTE brush. This is symptomatic of the treatment received by the
government of Sri Lanka and its officials at the hands of the Diasporic
The concerns of the Diaspora with regard to possible war crimes and
human rights abuses in the last stages of the war are legitimate. That
legitimacy has been confirmed not only by the Lessons Learned and
Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) but by the government of Sri Lanka,
which has affirmed its intention to implement the LLRC recommendations.
However, the Diaspora should be wary of the racist ideology of hatred
of the 'Other'. It should especially beware of efforts by the LTTE-rump
to use these sentiments draw them into support of the misguided
resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council.
Today we find a government ready and able to address the legitimate
concerns of Tamils, whether Diasporic or domestic. Specialised
ministries, headed by veteran ethnic egalitarians, D.E.W. Gunasekera and
Vasudeva Nanyakkara, have been set up to deal with ethnic problems.
The Diaspora should do its part. Tamils everywhere should remember
the example of Ponnambalam Ramanathan, who spoke not just for Tamils and
Hindus but for all Sri Lankans - probably why Shaw based on him his 'Cingalese'
gentleman, Jafna Pandranath.