The perils of simplistic thinking
Some positive comments
on the situation relating to Lankan migrants and refugees
returning from Britain to this country, in the recently released
UK Human Rights Report for 2011, should alert those prone to be
critical about this country on allegations of human rights
violations and kindred questions, to the dangers of succumbing
to simplistic thinking on issues pertaining to Sri Lanka.
The Report says forthrightly that contrary to reports in some
sections of the Western media there is no evidence whatsoever
that these returnees to Sri Lanka are being abused or harassed
in any way by the Lankan authorities.
If one needs to have an eye-opener on the factual situation
of our communities, this is it. Whereas the allegation in some
quarters is that the sections of the Lankan populace in question
are subjected to the grossest abuses, nothing of the sort takes
place and even investigations conducted by the British
authorities are confirming this. In other words, our citizens
who have left this country for whatever reason are most welcome
to return to this country and be integrated with the rest of the
Sri Lankan public.
This does not mean that lawlessness and law-breakers would be
tolerated but those who have in no way transgressed the laws of
this land are most welcome to return and settle down here and
prove productive citizens. They could rest assured that they
would be treated with the utmost cordiality and respect.
The relevant disclosure in the UK report is a slap in the
face of those who have been mindlessly criticizing this country
on Human Rights and so-called accountability issues. In the face
of the evidence in the British report how could one contend that
citizens are discriminated against now on grounds of ethnicity?
This issue is of the profoundest relevance because all too
often facile generalizations are made by particularly sections
of the West on issues deriving from our conflict. Besides,
issues are not probed in depth before pronouncements are made.
For instance, even some members of the world community who
visited this country recently and who went on an observation
tour of the once war affected areas of this country, referred to
those sections of our citizenry whom they spoke to in welfare
centres, as ‘ethnic Tamils’, without going into any specifics.
True enough, those few persons and families who are still
remaining in the centres for the displaced in the North, are
part of the ‘Ethnic Tamil’ population of this country, but their
situation is not representative at all of the totality of the
Tamil community of this country. Therefore, referring to the
displaced loosely as the ‘Ethnic Tamils’ of this country,
without qualifying the use of the phrase, could convey an
erroneous impression among those who are not familiar with the
‘ground realities’ of Sri Lanka.
The latter are likely to carry away the impression that all
members of the Tamil community partake of the condition of the
displaced and this is, of course, far from being the case. In
fact, sections of the state are now concerned that such loose
labeling could convey to the world outside a totally distorted
picture of the condition of the Tamil community.
For instance, a substantial number of Tamil citizens live
outside the North-East among other communities in Southern Sri
Lanka in a most cordial manner.
Foreign observers and commentators would do well to make
these fine differentiations lest the truth about Sri Lanka is
distorted. To do this effectively they must study the Lankan
situation in an unbiased fashion. This is yet to come to pass to
the desired degree; hence the many misconceptions about this
Therefore, the realities of this country are complex and Sri
Lanka’s image has suffered considerably as a result of the
international community, willfully or otherwise, choosing to be
indiscreet about the realities of this land. Concerned quarters
would do well to be specific about the different sections of our
citizenry they are choosing to comment on.
It is far from the truth that an ‘ethnic conflict’ is on in
this country. If this were so, returnees would be subjected to
the worst harassment but the world knows now that nothing of the
If Sri Lanka were the scene of an ‘ethnic conflict’,
communities would not be coexisting cordially in Southern Sri
Lanka and outside. Thus, the truth about Sri Lanka is complex
and could not be analyzed in simplistic, superficial terms.