For years, pro-LTTE as well as anti-LTTE but pro-Eelam sections of the Tamil population, especially those domiciled outside Sri Lanka saw ‘friend’ in powerful western nations, especially the UK, Canada and the USA. As important was Australia. Large sections of the expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil communities used these countries as bases to raise funds, disseminate propaganda against the Sri Lankan state, whitewash terrorism, legitimate separatism and procure weapons. It appeared logical.
These countries had strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. The LTTE could be used as lever. Even with the LTTE gone, these countries found a convenient ally in such groups to harass the then Government. The ‘common cry’ was human rights abuse, never mind that such rights never figured in the domestic or foreign policy prerogatives of these countries.
Now whether the ‘exodus’ was totally a product of alleged harassment at the hands of the majority community is a moot point. Much of the harassment came from the ‘sole-representatives’ of the Tamils, so-called. Secondly, it has been found that the majority of the ‘harassed’ had actually visited Sri Lanka at one point or another, even during the height of the conflict. Thirdly there’s the greener pastures theory.
Regardless of all this, it can be argued that Tamil expatriates felt safer in these countries, even though the majority communities have been and are discriminatory towards minorities and indeed have been guilty of genocidal treatment of indigenous populations. Well, not the truth is out. Canada wants a two-tier structure of citizenship where communities such as the expatriate Sri Lankans can have their citizenship withdrawn at the discretion of the Government. And who dominates the Government? Well, the majority community.
All of a sudden the pastures begin to look less green. All of a sudden, perhaps, eyes that saw golden opportunity now see a lot of grey. What they do with this new knowledge, we cannot know. If, for example, they considered Sri Lanka a country where they can only be second class citizens they will have to assess the return-option with the second or third or even no class situation in Canada. For the record, Australia is considering similar changes with respect to citizenship. Other countries might follow suit.
People might look back and perhaps divest themselves of deliberately maintained (mis)perceptions about ‘home’. But it is tough when one finally finds the true dimensions and identity of the saviour. If you’ve lived there too long or if your children have grown up there, then there’s little choice in the matter.
Whatever their political preferences were, however pernicious they may have been with respect to their dealings with dubious operatives wearing saviour-garb, these people are ours. They are Sri Lankans or have Sri Lankan blood. They may have hurt us once, but then again we’ve hurt one another enough right here in this island. We get along or have to get along even grudgingly.
We do not know how these laws will operate and what anxieties will be generated as time goes on. We can be ready, however. If a single Sri Lankan feels done in by he or she thought to be benefactor, then there should be space for such a person to consider returning.
In the end there are no saviours. We might have differences, but we are one family. We would be lesser human beings if we looked aside when one of ours is in difficulty.