Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Burning

We move haltingly, as though we are walking on a frozen lake or a rotting swing bridge, and not on the smooth hot tar of Queen Street. There have been the messages to the facebook group set up to promote the event, there have been the e mails to organisers, there have been the comments on that indymedia thread - abuse, promises of violent confrontation, warnings about the safety of family and friends.

For Kiwi political activists that sort of thing is, at worst, irritating, the sort of empty machismo that the anonymity of the internet both encourages and quarantines. For people exiled from Tamil Eelam, though, it is terrifying. Many of the people marching down Queen Street today were driven from their homes by the violence of the Sri Lankan state. There are stories of helicopters strafing villages, of cluster bombs landing in schools, of police with long batons beating parents in front of their children. The people these exiles left behind in Tamil Elam have become hostages in a huge open-air prison. The safety of the hostages depends, in part, upon the behaviour of their friends and families in the diaspora. Even when they live in relatively democratic societies like New Zealand, the Tamils share in the imprisonment of their kin. The phrase 'we'll be watching you' was repeated incessantly on Facebook and on indymedia: it was a promise, and a threat.

Now we eye the footpaths of Queen Street anxiously, examining each of the photographers in turn. There is a trusted man, one of the organisers of today's march, carefully photographing flags and placards, avoiding headshots. There is a junior reporter - for the Herald, or the Sunday Star-Times ? - snapping dutifully away. There is a Japanese tourist, bewildered and intrigued by this sudden eruption of anger and grief on a Saturday afternoon, adding a few photos to show to his in-laws, bits of exotica fit to sit beside bubbling mud pools and ice cream-white mountains in his slide show. How can we tell, though, who might be shooting this march from a more secluded, a more cowardly location - from some seventh-floor office, or a parked van with tinted windows?

It is not only surveillance that has been promised us. 'There's supposed to be a demonstration of Sinhala fascists on its way, coming up from the bottom of the street' someone mutters. 'Doubt it. They might try to ambush us from a side street though' someone else ventures. In London, in Canada, and in Germany, large pro-Tamil demonstrations have been disrupted by tiny but violent groups of right-wing Sinhalese; could the same thing happen in Auckland? I notice that the police have made a blue line about halfway down Queen Street.

As the main body of the march leaves Aotea Square the chanting begins. STOP THE KILLING - WE WANT PEACE! NEW ZEALAND - HELP US! LTTE - FOR TAMILS! Bilingual placards echo each slogan. I watch a small boy hoist a flagpole; the wind unfurls the huge banner, showing a tiger jumping out of a field of brilliant red. The tiger's eyes are red and angry; they stare over our heads, off into the far distance. At least a dozen marchers hold up the same large, slightly faded photograph of a portly, middle-aged man, a man whose faint smile is almost hidden by the sort of moustache that is still popular in South Asia, but which is noawadays the preserve of porn stars and cops in the West. A group of teenage girls begin a new chant: OUR LEADER - PRABHAKAN! PRABHAKAN - OUR LEADER!

I have been criticised by a number of people on the left for attending and speaking at the last pro-Tamil demonstration, and for publicising this one. This message, which art historian and Labour Party member Paul Litterick left on my blog, is representative:

I suspect the reason there is so little support for the Tamils among the majority is that the Tamil Tigers are a bunch of murderous racists, responsible for massacres of civilians, ethnic cleansing of Muslims, arms dealing and credit-card fraud in several countries. They are not really the sort of people you would want on your side, if you want any sympathy from the rest of the world.

This march is the action of a United Front. In a United Front groups and individuals with a range of views come together over an issue on which they agree. Everyone on this march shares the demand for an end to Sri Lankan attacks on the people of Tamil Eelam. To claim that everyone on the demonstration agrees with all the views of a particular organisation on the demonstration would be nonsense. One might as well accuse all of the Tamils of being Marxists, because the mostly-Pakeha Marxist group Socialism Aotearoa is here today.

I am not surprised that the defenders of the Sri Lankan state's actions struggle to understand the notion of a United Front: the Sri Lankan state tries to brand all of its opponents as terrorists, instead of recognising the diversity of their viewpoints. It is more disappointing that some people on the left don't understand the concept.

Along with most of the twenty or so non-Tamil members of this protest, I am walking behind a small, handmade Global Peace and Justice banner near the front of the march. We want to help show the media, the Auckland public, and the snap-happy Japanese tourist that Tamils are not the only people who care about the bloody occupation of their homeland. A group of young Tamil men jog ahead of our banner, and begin to trail a Sri Lankan flag down Queen Street. I've seen that banner, with its golden, impassive lion holding an upright, unstained sword, waving about in the wind at Eden Park to celebrate a splendid century by Aravinda de Silva. Now the flag signifies burnt villages and shrapnel wounds. The young men spit on the lion's face, and stamp on its sword.

Suddenly half a dozen voices begin can be heard just behind us. I turn, and see the crowd surging and blurring, as people fall over each other. Have we been attacked? Is somebody firing a rifle, or swinging a knife? Are the supporters of the Sri Lankan government making good their threats? I push towards the centre of the confusion, and see two bodies wrestling. I see a marshall trying to pin another man on the hot tar. The marshall seems calm, but the other man's eyes are huge and wild. His whole body is shaking, and he screams the same phrase - is he screaming in Sinhala, or in Tamil? - over and over.

A third man grasps desperately at the left fist of the screaming man, trying to prise a cigarrette lighter loose. I see a small flame flicker, and I notice that the screaming man's clothes are drenched in some sort of liquid. 'He's trying to set himself on fire! Stop him!' a woman screams, falling to her knees beside the melee. A cop pushes her aside, and begins to grapple dumbly with the marshall. 'It's alright, sir, he's one of us', somebody shouts in the cop's ear. 'He lost half his family in Sri Lanka. It's alright. He's alright now.' The screaming has stopped, and the exhausted man is being tenderly frogmarched towards the pavement. He shakes more gently now, and begins to sob. The cop shrugs, picks up the little yellow lighter, and wanders away. Later, there are contradictory accounts of what the screaming man had been trying to do in Queen Street on that hot Wednesday evening. Someone told me that he had been trying to imitate the Indian journalist who recently immolated himself in a vain protest at his government's indifference to the plight of the Tamil people. Someone else insisted that the man had merely wanted to burn the Sri Lankan flag. The flag did eventually burn, at the end of the march. It is still burning on youtube, where a group of supporters of the Sri Lankan government can be found making fresh threats against 'Tamil terrorists and their friends'. They were filming us, after all. I hope that nobody loses relatives in Tamil Eelam because they had the temerity to burn a flag.

44 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

Point of information: I left the Labour Party at the beginnig of this year.

I have no criticism of you attending the demonstration or supporting the Tamil cause. I think the LTTE is wrong to pursue its cause by such barbaric means.

I chanced upon the demonstration last Wednesday, whilst on my way elsewhere. I did not see the events you describe. However, I was disturbed to see the procession being led by boys dressed as soldiers and carrying toy guns, as well as girls wearing what appeared to be martyrs' head-bands. At the very least, is was in very bad taste.

4:22 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Fair enough Paul. The young people you mention at the end of your comment were play-acting: the boys were playing Sri Lankan troops, and the girls playing their civilian victims.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Noww I see. It did not look like that.

9:29 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

what is barbaric? - if someone tries to shoot you - wouldn't you try to shoot them first? whether the Tamils are right or wrong they are fighting to survive - in such a struggle the ends justify the means.

Whether you are for or against the Tamils - there is no unbarbaric war...

it's an oxymoron ... how do you recommend the Tamils peacefully allow themselves to be slaughtered ... or peacefully defend themselves?

------------------------------------

the mealy mouthed Labour party sent that poor girl back to Sri Lanka - they were useless...John Key I like a lot - he is taking good action for NZ - Labour were hypocritical.. pretending to oppose the US! - they were in Iraq and Afganistan ...we are well rid of them...

2:49 am  
Blogger Paul said...

But the Tamils are the agressors. They started the war and have been pursuing it vigorously. And what do I call barbaric? The woman who blew up herself in a crowd, a couple of days ago; that's barbaric.

It really angers me that some people on the Left seem to have no moral sense. The will support any movement, regardless of the tactics it employs. Perhaps people should look at the origins of the conflict in Sri Lanka and ask themselves whether it is really worth the slaughter.

9:26 am  
Blogger maps said...

Like the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, the Sinhala-Tamil struggle is a complex dispute between two peoples, a dispute with tangled roots in the distant past. We can play all sorts of 'who started it?' games with these conflicts, depending how far back we want to go and which events we want to highlight. We can also play many 'which is worse?' games, comparing, say, suicide bombers to cluster bombs or white phosphorous, and declaring one or the other side more morally reprehensible. I'm convinced that games like these lead nowhere useful.

I think the correct approach is to take a step back from the tangle of events, and ask: what are the fundamental causes of conflict? Even if - and it's a big 'if' - Hamas rather than Israel was responsible for breaking last year's ceasefire, the fact remains that the underlying cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the occupation of Palestinian land.

Likewise, even if - and it's an even bigger 'if' - the Tamil Tigers were responsible for the breakdown of the 2002-2008 ceasefire, the fundamental cause of the conflict in Sri Lanka is the fact that the Tamil people do not have control over their own affairs. They have demonstrated time and again that they want either a state of their own or very wide regional autonomy. Until that desire is met, there will be no peace.

We should use these fundamental problems as our guide to the conflicts in Palestine and Tamil Elam, rather than judgements about the moral qualities of the various actors. Whether or not Hamas/The Tigers broke the ceasfire, we can be sure that the military onslaughts by Israel/Sri lanka will not bring settlement of the fundamental problems prompting conflict any nearer. Thus our basic position should be one of opposition to the military attacks and solidarity with the people being attacked.

10:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case anyone is wondering what Richard Taylor looks like:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_7CMjORlni08/SZLCZuLZT-I/AAAAAAAABMA/X7svXZVGlZs/s1600-h/Personal+-+Victor+Me+Panmure+the+Basin+etc+008BC.jpg

10:57 am  
Blogger Paul said...

In other words, you think the correct approach is to find an underlying reason for a conflict which justifies your support for one side and excuses the slaughter of innocent people. It is OK for Hamas to fire rockets at buses and homes, because Israel is occupying Palestine. It is alright for the Tamil Tigers to murder people by suicide bombing, because the Tamil people deserve self-determination.

On that point, why should they have their own state? Sri Lanka is a nation state; it is an island, to boot, so its borders are indisputable. It is recognised as a nation state by the other nation states. The Tamils want both their chunk of Sri Lanka and a sizeable chunk of India, just because. Their campaign, like that of Hamas, is fundamentally racist.

11:53 am  
Blogger maps said...

Solidarity with a people under attack does not have to translate into uncritical support for a particular organisation drawn from that people. I protested a great deal about the invasion of Iraq; that didn't mean I was a supporter of the Baath party. I can protest the attacks on Gaza and Tamil Eelam without endorsing tactics like suicide bombing.

I think it's important to cite sources when you accuse 'the left' of being undiscriminating support for every Third World political organisation, and support for tactics like suicide bombing.
I don't believe that such generalisations hold water.

From 2001-2004 I attended dozens of demonstrations against the actions of the US and its allies and Israel in the Middle East; I can only remember one speech from a member of a far left groups which expressed support for suicide bombing, and even then I wasn't sure if I had interpreted the speaker correctly. I remember robust discussions of the role of religion in politics between Marxists, feminists, and Arab supporters of Hamas and other fundamentalist groups.

On last Wednesday's demonstration representatives of Socialism Aotearoa and the Communist League talked of cross-racial unity along class lines, and said that Sinhalese workers should defy their corrupt ruling class and show solidarity with the Tamnil people. Unrealistic, perhaps, but hardly uncritical support for suicide bombing.

I support the right of the people of Tamil Eelam to self-determination. I think it should be for them to decide whether they wish to remain a part of Sri Lanka or not.

I'm in favour of any people having the right to self-determination, with the proviso that their self-determination will not lead to the oppression of another people. I wouldn't, based on what I've been told, support the campaign to establish an independent Sikh state in the Punjab, because Sikhs are only minority in that region.

Such a problem doesn't exist in Tamil Elam: even before the beginning of war thirty years ago, the region was overwhelmingly Tamil. It may just be that Tamils would decide they want some sort of co-federation with Sinhalese - that would have been enough for them in the '50s, but decades of oppression and pogroms have left them understandably embittered. Many now believe they can never again trust Sinhalese.

This is a sad state of affairs, of course - I wish that the sort of cross-racial class unity that the socialists on last Wednesday's demonstration invoked existed - but we can hardly blame Tamils for being embittered. And if they don't get to decide their future, who does?

12:17 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

I said "some people on the left," people such as Joe Carolan, who disrupted a protest about the Israeli invasion of Lebananon with loud calls to support Hizbollah, an organisation that fires rockets at civilian communities.

Being an Art Historian and a former Labour Party member, I am of course both unqualified and ideologically impure; but at least I do not have to keep company with people who support racial murders.

1:43 pm  
Anonymous Ruby said...

@Maps
A great piece of writing as usual :)

@ Paul
I understand your views and believe me, none of us Tamils like the war, we do not agree with innocent lives being lost. We are not an aggressive race by nature. Since independence we have been pleading with the government for equal rights and fairness. We did believe in Ahimsa the Gandhi way and that is how we expressed our views for almost 30 years after independence. But what did we get? We were insulted, mistreated and ignored. Living like 3rd class citizens in our own country.

Do you realize how many people were killed during peaceful protests? Do you know how many people were let to die when they were holding hugerstrikes so that the government would lend them an ear? Do you know that Tamil MPs were told to leave parliament so that others could discuss certain important matters? We were not even represented in appropriate proportions to begin with. When they refused they were humiliated by urinating on them. This is how we were treated. Do you know how many anti Tamil riots took place during those 30 years? Tamils were humiliated and slaughtered.

Weapons were not picked up by the Tamils until the 70s in pure frustrations and desperation. What else could we do? It was the only way. We were driven to this!!! So please do not make insulting and misleading statements like :” The Tamils are the agressors. They started the war"

It would really help you to understand the Tamil issue better if you do some reading about the pre war times. How we lived during the colonial period and after the British left. Where our kingdoms were and how the Tamil kings ruled. Our rich history is important to have a holistic view.
The truth is that the average Sri Lankan (Singhalese) believes that the Tamils are not equals. They believe that we have no rights and should live by their laws off whatever their government grants us. This is not acceptable. Tamils want to live with pride.

The Sri Lankan government is repeatedly stating that Sri Lanka will be nation where Tamils and Sinhalese can happily live together. How? How will the Tamils ever be able to trust the SL government? Their statement does not even represent the view of the average Singhalese in Sri Lanka. Just browse the net and look at comment under articles how many Sinhalese racist comments there are. Being called Tamil low lives and being told to go back to India where we apparently came from, being a pest in their Singhala Buddhist country. You really believe that Sri Lanka as a united country is going to be able to give us a good future with people like that in it? I don’t think so.
We have lost trust in the government as well as the Sinhala people now.

The systematic genocide that is taking place is evident. Targeted bombings in so called ‘safe zones’ that have been created by the government where Tamils are encouraged to go to. Media bans. Ever wondered what the government has got to hide?
There have been a huge amounts of evidence that the riots that took place in the 50s, 60s and 70s were carried out by thugs hired by government officials. But who was going to listen to the small voice of Tamils? What about the forced evacuations of land in the North and East where Sinhala people an among them thugs that have been resettled. This is all to reduce the density of Tamils in the North and East. It also gives the government an advantage when it comes to elections. Tamils have seen this with their own eyes. People from my own family and circle of friends have disappeared. Army soldiers taking them away for questioning and they never return. Please read about the true plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka before you make your judgement. Those who personally suffered there and have family there know the truth.

The way the LTTE are fighting may not be agreeable with you and even with some Tamils but the truth is that they are our sole representatives. We have no one else. Their aim, a separate homeland is the goal of all Tamils. In order to live with respect, dignity and a fair go at live we need Eelam.

The LTTE have weakened and I realize we are near the end. The thought of what will be after is really scary. At last I am not in the country. Those who could afford it have left Sri Lanka. Those who couldn’t are still stuck. We have managed to get most of my family out of there but I still have some who refuse to like my grandparents. They are too proud to leave what they believe is their homeland. They say they would prefer to die on their land at the hands of the SL government there than on foreign soil.

Reality is SL will never be peaceful until Tamil people’s right for self-determination is recognized whether they like it or not. The war is not between the LTTE and the Sl government. It is between the Tamil people and the Sl government. It is the people’s war. Our struggle for freedom will never end.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

I am relieved that the end is near because the Tamil Tigers are a bunch of psychopaths. Life for all people of Sri Lanka can only get better once they are driven into the sea.

You do your cause and your people no favours by suppporting the Tigers, who are recognised by most thinking people as some of the most vicious killers going. But, as you say, your struggle for freedom will never end, so no doubt your courageous warriors will find new and more unpleasant ways of killing innocent people.

6:06 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'The Tamil Tigers are a bunch of psychopaths...The Tamils want both their chunk of Sri Lanka and a sizeable chunk of India, just because...'

Comments like these seem to me to echo the approach to inter-ethnic conflicts which I criticised in a recent post, in that they

a) deny any rational reason for the actions of one party, preferring essentially psychological explanations (they're psychopaths)
and

b) slide from condemnations of a particular organisation to condemnations of the entire people from which the organisation is drawn ('the Tamils' want both their chunk of Sri Lanka and...)

As such they seem to me entirely unhelpful.

Here's an analogy: I'm very strongly opposed to the Israeli state's recent attack on Gaza, but I wouldn't want to implicate all Israelis in these attacks, and I wouldn't want to deny that there is an historical and sociological foundation for these actions (we could discuss the role Israel plays as a US ally receiving massive funding; the historical experience of the Holocaust, which has understandably made many Israelis very concerned about 'security'; and the interest that some Israelis, especially better off Israelis, have in their arms-industrial complex, and thus in military confrontation).

Do I justify Israeli actions by noting these factors? No, but I do lay the foundation for rational political debate. If I were simply to call the Israeli government a 'bunch of psychopaths' (and with Avigdor Lieberman in government I could be forgiven for doing that!), and then conflate the Israeli population with its government I would only being laying a roadblock in the way of any discussion.

I think that Paul has unfortunately laid a roadblock with some of his comments here.

9:18 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

At least I didn't mine the road. I think you are obfuscating the issue by accusing me of psychologism. I gave good grounds for saying that the Tigers are psychopaths: they practice suicide bombing; in fact, they invented it. They bomb groups of civilians. To strap explosives round your daughter's body and send her off to kill herself and innocent people is an act of insanity, as is her willingness to carry out your instructions.

And it was Ruby who identified the Tigers with the will of the entire Tamil population, not me: "The war is not between the LTTE and the Sl government. It is between the Tamil people and the Sl government. It is the people’s war."

I think you will find the reason why so few non-Tamils were on the demonstration is that most people think the Tigers are monsters, with good reason.

And speaking of roadblocks, I did not take very kindly to your "art historian and Labour party member" designation of me, with its implication that I was unfit to comment, because of my education and former affiliation.

I see no point in being slurred and misrepresented, so I will leave this discussion.

10:17 pm  
Blogger maps said...

No such implication was intended, Paul. My Masters was in Art History, with a bit of philosophy mixed in, and I voted (very reluctantly, admittedly) for Labour in the 2005 election.

10:46 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Sorry. I was a bit touchy on that point

12:11 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

If you are wondering what I look like you can see me each time I post! I also have images my Blog EYELIGHT.

Maps has also several - mostly unflattering images of myself.

12:38 am  
Anonymous Ruby said...

Hmmm...I said so many things in my post. Yet Paul only addresses a couple of sentences as it suits him :)
And that too he misinterprets. When I said this is the war of the Tamils against the SL government I wished to point out that the war is not against the Sinhala people and the struggle for freedom is not limited to the LTTE.

Paul, I assume you have never lived in Sri Lanka. I am also sure none of your family members have been threatened and/or killed by the SL army. So you are certainly not in a position to judge whether our life in SL will be better if and when the war is over. I think we Tamils are in a better position to judge that. We have lived there before the war too. Believe me, life was not pleasant.

You constantly keep talking about suicide bombings. Are you even informed about the atrocities the army is carrying out in the North and East??? Do you even know about their tactics? If you would inform yourself about that first you would be able to judge who the real psychopaths are. You can call it state terror. Read about the Tamil massgraves within army camps, rapes and tortures. So you really believe that all the people the army has buried there are LTTE? What about the 60 school girls they bombed at Senjolai? What about the 100s of Tamils who have disappeared? They too are LTTE are they? Come on....give me a break!

Seriously, as I said in my last post, please obtain a more complete picture of the affairs.

1:01 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

well Paul - you wont find any war that doesn't involve what you call "psychotic" or "insane" (atrocities are committed by just about all soldiers in all wars (see Joanna Bourke "An Intimate History Of Killing") - the allies - the goodies - bomb Dresden - my uncle probably assisted in that atrocity - he was English and an RAF bomber pilot - the Germans kill Jews and so on - the Japanese slaughter untold civilians and others - then the US (who murder thousands of surrendering Japanese; in fact all combatants mostly killed prisoners in all wars...civilians and unarmed soldiers in fact are the majority of victims in all wars...) drop two nuclear bombs (on civilians) - later they blanket bomb Vietnam and start using phosphorous bombs and lovely cluster bombs for children to pick up in Cambodia - the Israelies push the Palestinians form their land and undertake terrorism against the British and the Palestinians (who also counter attack and commit "atrocities" - or is it self-defence?) ... as time passes the US supply massive amounts of munitions to Israel and help them set up and use them to attack in the Middle East to "Divide et Imperum"...
the Palestinians (including later the Hezbollah and the Hamas and so on) finding that they have to fight to survive at all - start using suicide bombing as one more weapon in the fight - because - hullo hullo! - they don't have tanks or bombers or nukes or the massive military hardware the Israelis have - so - to immorally fight back they adopt, as well as pointing rifles at the enemy and squeezing the triggers of said rifles - rather extreme measures (including also the odd suicide bomba bombas) - as they struggle they are called "insane" ...


and meanwhile in Sri Lanka ..after the pogroms and the cups of tea and the the cakes and ices... a bus packed with Tamil school children is blown up (but that's o.k. as it wasn't a suicide bomber that did that - it was a claymore mine) - it is well known that the Tamils will be killed by the Sinhalese if they surrender so they fight (boot on the other foot the Tamils would or might slaughter the other lot...nothing new there...undoubtedly have done quite bit already) - what tactics do they adopt ... how do the fight this war in a non-insane way?

If you think suicide bombing is insane - it is only one method of war and may or may not be justified according to circumstances - then what about the US-backed Israeli targetting of civilians and their use of napalm etc? The Sinhalese (none of who are "insane " or "psychotic") attacks on the Tamils is not "terrorism" ... they kill the Tamils kindly..they are cruel to be kind; cruelly kind in fact...

No! (I...I ..I am, starting to see it!) - it's not WHO you murder it is HOW you murder!! Of course!! The Tamils are all psychotics...no wonder!! No wonder they are being slaughtered!!

How do the Tamils conduct civilised and gentle defence... of their lands and people? Of course - I forgot - they are all psychotic... they do suicide bombing...

yes ...I am beginning to see - we should firebomb and exterminate all the Tamils - they are all ... insane - wipe them off the face of the earth (they are terrorists you see)...that will stop the insanity...

1:42 am  
Blogger Paul said...

The fact is, your guys are going to lose this war very soon. And after three decades of slaughter, they will have achieved nothing, other than to make your people notorious for savagery. Of course, you can say that you tried peaceful protest and it did not work, but you embraced the methods of violence with alacrity.

I am in a position to make a judgement about the well being of Tamils in Sri Lanka: I hold to Dr Johnson's position that there has never been a good war or a bad peace. I don't have to go to Sri Lanka to decide what is better. Once the psychopaths are out of the way, I think things will improve.

Your argument about the government's atrocities is conventional and flawed: 'you accuse of us of doing wrong but look how much worse is our opponent.' Whatever the other side does, what your side is doing remains wrong. Killing innocent people is never right. So I will keep on about the suicide bombings.

1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Whatever the other side does, what your side is doing remains wrong. Killing innocent people is never right.'- Paul

yes, I’m somewhat confused as to why the high moral ground needs only be occupied by the Tamils, if I have Paul’s position correctly, and I think I do, it is ok for the Sri Lankan govt to deny Tamil people citizenship in Sri Lanka (as they did to roughly 50% of the Tamil population soon after independence) it is ok for Sri Lanka to deny the Tamil people a voice in the Sri Lankan govt (the infamous ‘oaths of allegiance’) and of course, it is ok for the Sri Lankan govt to bomb, murder, rape and kidnap Tamil people if they are peacefully protesting for their rights (30yrs of unarmed struggle).

None of this Paul has chosen to criticise, he has however wished for the utter destruction of the cruel merciless Tamil Tigers killing ‘innocent people’. My question is why your moral strictures have only to be followed by one side Paul, if you really are St Paul and deny all violence in all struggles then you should really show some consistency and also critique Sri Lanka for their horrendous record of brutality. Why don’t you criticise the Sri Lankan army, Paul? Why don’t you display some knowledge of the history of the situation before leaping in and passing judgement?

Tom.

10:24 am  
Blogger Skyler said...

Report from Auckland March Against Onslaught on Tamil Communities by Cam: http://indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/76826/index.php

11:23 am  
Blogger P.Dhayaharan said...

Hmmm….let’s not jump ahead of ourselves by saying that it is a 'fact' that "we guys" going to lose!

Losing a battle is not considered as losing a war!

The definition of victory and loss in this particular war especially is a bit complex as you already know (or should). LTTE has not always had land. Loosing governance over the land does not directly equate to a lost war.

Land may be lost (even that we do not know), but definitely the hearts and minds of Tamil people are not going to be won by the Sri Lankan forces. If anything the determination to want freedom will become even more stronger.

The struggle will take new shape and form, which will make things rather difficult for Rajapakse and his raciest government. On top of that the government is going to incur large costs by attempting to 'govern' in areas where there is no support from the people. The dying economy of SL is going to suffer even more.

On the end, there is only going to be more pain for both Sinhalese and Tamils by trying to force two separate nations to be ONE country! A dream, that has already cost a lot of lives!

Only permanent solution will be two different countries! Split the artificially created one country in to two proud nations!

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Ruby said...

@ Paul
The fact is that there is also no ‘good’ way to defend when being attacked. What are you exactly suggesting? The Tamil people should have ‘peacefully’ died and ‘voluntarily’ been wiped out??? I would like to know what event gives you the basis to claim that the Tamils ‘embraced the methods of violence with alacrity’. How much do you have to endure so that an armed struggle can be justified in the eyes of people like you? You want to give me a number or percentage of population that has to die first? I think it is your argument that is flawed here.

I would also like to point out that suicide bombing is not a ‘targeted’ civilian attack compared to the government’s bombings. One man’s suicide bomber or in your case ‘psychopath’ is the other man’s martyr.

You still refuse to look at the bigger picture including the root causes of the war. As they say…ignorance is bliss :)

1:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ruby, I believe you are wasting your breath on people like Paul. Human beings develop the skill of judging and evaluating situations by looking at the bigger picture rather than sitting in a cocoon. Paul can let us know once he has developed that skill and we can discuss this further then. There is no value in talking to a brick wall.

2:08 pm  
Anonymous Cameron said...

Maps thankyou very much for this excellent report on the Tamil demo. I also wrote a report about the demo and posted some pictures on indymedia yesterday.

4:26 pm  
Blogger George said...

Paul, I have had neither the time nor the implication to join this debate, but your views strongly echo mine.

I regard appeals to history to justify atrocities as the refuge of cowards, who will not justify their actions by appealing to the present.

I will also say that there are many Tamils in Auckland who were not at that demonstration, and will never associate themselves with LTTE sympathisers. These same people are actively targeted for intimidation, harassment, extortion, and assassination by the LTTE in Sri Lanka, and by their supporters overseas. If you cannot find many people in the Tamil community willing to publicly state pro-peace positions, it is in part because they have been shown that doing so is a dangerous prospect.

The LTTE is banned internationally in large part for its activities outside Sri Lanka. As well as continually suicide bombing civilians.

I study, every day, a nationalist movement. There were awful things that happened to this group in the past. And every day, I am convinced of the lack of worthiness of ethnic conflict as a dispute resolution process.

Cameron, I think you are a fool to be associating yourself and smearing the name of Indymedia with these supporters of murderous fascists. Activists are often naive, and want to believe that the world is divided up into simple "oppressor" and "oppressed" groups.

8:04 pm  
Blogger George said...

@Anon

"None of this Paul has chosen to criticise"

That is because none of this Richard Taylor has chosen to praise.

I have only condemnation for the gross human rights abuses carried out by the Sri Lankan military. I'm pretty sure Paul agrees with me.

'innocent people'

If you sincerely believe that all non-Tamils are worthy of being killed, then you are a psychopath, on the same level as the suicide bombers who profess this attitude.

8:10 pm  
Blogger George said...

Those who are interested to know of the LTTE's activities outside Sri Lanka might start here:

Human Rights Watch - Funding the "final war"

http://www.hrw.org/en/node/11456/section/2

8:12 pm  
Anonymous Ruby said...

Most of the Tamil community were present at the demonstration that day and this is a fact. You did not need to be a supporter of the LTTE to show up that day. Anybody and everybody who had respect for humanity did.
Hahhaha..George you amuse me. Believe me LTTE have far more important things to do then trace people's families of non supporters.
The LTTE are the Tamil people's sole representatives. The Sri Lankan state terrorism gave birth to our armed struggle and there is no doubt about that. This has been well documented. This has been proven not only by the thousands that have come together for the protests worldwide but also the fact that TNA is in parliament proves this. The TNA is a Tamil party that is openly a proxy for the LTTE. The Tamil people of Sri Lanka voted them in.

11:34 pm  
Anonymous Ruby said...

This in turn shows it is the will of the Tamil people. So taking a minuscule proportion of the population and claiming that this represents the majority or the general opinion is really ridiculous...

11:38 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Goerge

"I will also say that there are many Tamils in Auckland who were not at that demonstration, and will never associate themselves with LTTE sympathisers. These same people are actively targeted for intimidation, harassment, extortion, and assassination by the LTTE in Sri Lanka, and by their supporters overseas. If you cannot find many people in the Tamil community willing to publicly state pro-peace positions, it is in part because they have been shown that doing so is a dangerous prospect."

Give some evidence for this.

I think you made most of this up.

12:04 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

" George said...
@Anon
"None of this Paul has chosen to criticise"
That is because none of this Richard Taylor has chosen to praise. "

I am not a "leader" in any protest movements - no one takes that much notice of what I say here - of course they are interested in my comments no doubt - but that they would be concerned I might censor them as your ambiguous post here implies is nonsense. The Tamils and the LTTE are not cowards.

Actually your comments are contradictory - whose side are you on?
Are you an 'agent provocateur'?

12:15 am  
Anonymous Kaftan Kaveman said...

The LTTE employ tactics that include suicide bombing. Does this mean that the Sri Lankan government is righteous, that Tamils should be slaughtered, that no person should recognise that they have a case?
Americans dropped Atomic weapons on Japan.
Does that mean that we should support the Axis powers?
Grant Fox kicked the ball every time he got his hands on it. Does that mean that we should support anyone playing the ABs?

Look, the LTTE may or may not have employed terrorist tactics such as indiscriminate suicide bombings. The Sri Lankan Army has bombed schools. This is a war, and war is very bad. Shooting uniformed 17 year olds and 12 year olds as the Allies did in WWII is not exactly "heroic".

You dont judge a conflict between a rapist and a teenage victim based on whether or not she kicked him below the belt.
The fact is, rape is wrong.
Similarly, an ethnic majority that dominates and oppresses a minority is wrong.
Whether the LTTE kneecaps people or not - and even if they are the wrong people, the sri lankan state is the aggressor, the tyrant, and the villain here.

12:45 am  
Anonymous Ruby said...

Maps, Cameron, Richard, Kaftan and everyone else who sees the wider picture. Hope you realize how much your sympathetic words mean to the wider Tamil community.
We are in a very desperate position. We are trying everything we can, talking to MPs, rallying in front of the parliament, looking for ways to send human aid into Vanni which seems to be impossible still. Politicians and other people are expressing their sympathies but failing to take action in any form.
Although our long term vision is eelam, all we ask for right now is cease fire. We are begging the SL government to let our people survive.

If you have time, read the article below. Jaffna was the cultural capitol of the North. That is where I am from. There is not much left of it. Apparently we were 'liberated' 12 years ago by the SL army. What a joke. If and when the war ends without a political solution for the Tamils, this is the kind of life that we Tamils can expect, possibly worse than this:
http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=1541

10:51 am  
Blogger Sam said...

Hey I was one of the photographers on the march, hope I didnt cause any undue concern. I regularly blur or crop out faces when I take photos on anti fascist demos or where I think people wouldnt want there identity revealed for any reason. If you think that people might be at risk in future please post a comment on indymedia or consider approaching photgraphers, most of us amatuers would be happy to avoid faces. Would actually make taking photos more challenging and therefor interesting. At this demo I was unsure but everyone seemed open and no one made an attempt to hide their faces with placards or anything so I assumed it wasnt an issue. In future I will definetly approach organisers and ask people if they mind me taking their pictures on demos such as this one.

I did see one guy in a shirt and dress pants filming from doorways taking panning shots at head level and occasionally focusing on individuals, I pointed him out to one of the organisers of the march as he stood out as the only really suspicious person filming/photographing the protest.

I agree with George that uncritical support of the LTTE is counterproductive and I agree with everyone else that Tamil communities are in immediate, terrifying danger and this fact and the far greater state violence should never be forgotten. I do not think ghandian non-violence will work when facing an enemy that has no qualms about wiping you out and when you have no access to the wider world or when the wider world is quite happy to ignore what is going on to maintain an ally in the ongoing global war of terror.

The report George linked to is a good place for evidence of the claims he made.

11:40 am  
Blogger Sam said...

Oh and the assertion that George is an agent provacatuer is entertaining. He is simply unwilling and unable to blindly and foolishly follow whatever is the accepted position in left wing movements at the time.

It often amazes me the level of blind support for oversease struggles from left wing groups in NZ. - This isnt aimed at this blog or anyone in particular more just a frustration I and he share.

11:51 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Sam

You seem to take away with one hand as you give with the other...

Why were you photographing the demo?

No one is giving "blind support". Informed, but, yes, skeptical, support more likely - but the point is first and foremost we don't want one group A to exterminate or kill off many (or any really) of group B. It is called compassion.

4:42 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"Maps, Cameron, Richard, Kaftan and everyone else who sees the wider picture. Hope you realize how much your sympathetic words mean to the wider Tamil community.
We are in a very desperate position. "We are trying everything we can, talking to MPs, rallying in front of the parliament, looking for ways to send human aid into Vanni which seems to be impossible still. Politicians and other people are expressing their sympathies but failing to take action in any form.
Although our long term vision is eelam, all we ask for right now is cease fire. We are begging the SL government to let our people survive."

Thanks - the situation seems desperate and terrible - and it certainly needs a lot more publicity. The middle road politicians of NZ are pretty weak and often corrupt - you might even get more from John Key than you would have from the Labour Government - however - were pretty bad in regard to other peoples (and in regard to the NZ People - people on low incomes got very little from Labour). They implemented the anti-terrorist laws, interfered in Fiji and the Solomons and Indonesia, hammered Maori on the sea and foreshore issues, kept a man in jail for at least year without trial, raided Tuhoe houses, shot down criminals, helped police rapists and killers, sent that poor girl home to Sri Lanka and so on...they were (and always have been) useless. But bourgeois politicians are useless in general - keep lobbying though...

And keep on protesting.

4:59 pm  
Blogger Sam said...

Richard I regularly take photos of demos for indymedia and give whatever left wing groups/people ask for them. Normally I write stories for Indy with my pics but this occasion I didnt for a couple of reasons but mainly cause I'm rather tired at the moment.

Informed support is where I am at and I definetly support the Tamil people in the face of obvious and overwhelming state violence.

9:34 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"Richard I regularly take photos of demos for indymedia and give whatever left wing groups/people ask for them. Normally I write stories for Indy with my pics..."

Masquerading as a pro lefty eh?!! Oldest trick in the book!

Just joking - Maxwell Smart


PS but I did notice you didn't capitalise Indymedia.

12:52 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I used to go everywhere to demos etc in the 70s or late 60s to 70 with a Pentax but my pics were not for political ends only I took things of interest. Actually there is a picture of me taking pictures at the Rogers Demo (opposite the former Hotel Intercontinental on the corner of the road that // to Symonds and beside Albert Park) to the in 1969 where the NZ Police and the US Secret service brutally attacked demonstrators. They actually went ape and beat up passers by, journalists, anyone they could get hold of...the savagery was incredible. But my friend was filming the whole thing and an American Secret Service guy cracked him on the jaw - but he was trained in karate etc so he just did a backward roll and continued filming! So Shadbolt used a still from the film - which shows me trying to get photos without a flash...in his book "Bullshit and Jellybeans".

I was trying to use fast B&W asa film and low speed and fairly wide aperture but I deeded a flash - even then it would be hard to avoid blur.
I suspected this but the camera was "as if" I was recording it all - but none of the filming stopped the police actions which were unprovoked and very brutal.

1:07 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Of course the shot by Shabolt isn't about me! It is the action of the protest etc....I just happened to be there!

History in the making!

1:10 pm  
Blogger George said...

The LTTE are holding Tamils against their will as human shields.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COfu60hTwtY&feature=rec-HM-fresh+div

10:38 pm  

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