When everyone is focusing on the Perak state crisis and the police’s crackdown on the peaceful candlelight vigils/fasting campaigns, how many have actually paid an iota of attention on Sri Lanka “holocaust”? We have heard the numerous clarion calls for moral support and solidarity for the democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from Myanmar’s military regime as well as condemnation of the Gaza war both locally and internationally, but what about an estimated 300,000 suppressed Tamils being trapped behind the barbed wires in Sri Lanka’s camps?
A forum on the “Conflict and Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka – What Next?” that was held at the Bar Council auditorium got me pondering over some questions. I admit that I did hesitate whether I should attend the forum or not initially but I was glad that I made the right decision eventually. It was another instructive, interesting and meaningful forum that helped me to have a better understanding of the background and goings-on between the Tamil and Sinhala factions.
Going back to the question above – yes – why the double standards? Why the apathy and different levels of concern given to these people? Aren’t they human beings just like anyone of us apart from the differences in skin colour, creed and nationality?
YB Charles Santiago rose: was it because Sri Lanka is not an oil producer, therefore the foreign countries have less concern about it? In other words, because there is no direct financial interest in it, there is no need for immediate action and why should they bother?
Our Prime Minister has chosen not to “interfere” in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and commended the Sri Lankan government for defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but what about the pressure groups, NGOs and the Opposition parties? What have they done to date?
Apart from the recent anti-Sri Lanka rally organised by World Tamil Relief and the coalition of NGO movements at Batu Caves that was dismissed as a “jokers’ protest” by the High Commissioner to Malaysia Dr D D Ranasinghe, what else have we seen? We saw plenty of media coverage on the Gaza issue and protests against Myanmar’s military regime, however, very little attention has thus far been given to the Sri Lankan issue, giving you an impression that it is not worth to be reported or no grave issue has transpired.
This explains why during the Q&A session, former Bar Council president, Datuk Ambiga voiced her dissatisfaction directed against the slow motions manifested by the opposition political parties on this issue. She also questioned about the pathetic attitude of non-Tamil/Indian citizens in the country towards the “holocaust” in Sri Lanka. I fully agree with this given that it was the very time that I felt as a “minority” when sitting in a hall where the majority were Tamils/Indians. And someone can actually count with his/her 10 fingers how many non-Tamils/Indians (excluding media workers) were actually present at the auditorium. I can tell you the answer is simply miserable!
Santiago responded to the questions from Ambiga that a fund-raising campaign was started at the Penang DAP office recently but it seemed like there was no media coverage on it whereas YB R. Sivarasa said that PKR leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did send out a few letters to the Sri Lankan authorities but has been turned a deaf ear.
In the meantime, A. Kanesalingam called upon all leaders of Tamil organisations to get in touch with him immediately to discuss workable ways to bring the perpetrators of the “holocaust” to justice and to release the 300,000 survivors behind the barbed wires. These ideas would be communicated at a preliminary meeting scheduled to be held on 27th June 2009 in London.
Participants from the floor suggested the following:
Again, back to the question, why are we selective, biased, ignorant and practising double standards? Is it because the Perak political impasse is our one and only attention of the moment that we are like clays idol fording a river and unable to fend for ourselves; let alone be distracted or sparing a thought for the situation in Sri Lanka which may be seen to be less crucial and “none of our business”?
Remember this from German philosopher Martin Niemoller?
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
And this song by John Lennon?
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
I dare not say I’m selfless but we need to do something. Yes, DO something, a key point that I have learnt from attending various forums. Imagine if everyone could spare a little bit more concern and discard a little bit of selfishness or self-interest; and being altruistic to try to take ownership of the issue – I believe that a different scenario would emerge, won’t you agree?
So, can we the more “fortunate” bring about the imagined state, a brotherhood of man alive?