Rajasingham Jayadevan

Interview: Tamil Diaspora is the Product of Downright Failures

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The government must realise, that the Tamil diaspora is the product of its downright failures and must go as far as to revise its failures in a substantive way, Rajasingham Jayadevan said in an interview with Sri Lanka Guardian. Speaking from his residence in London, Jayadevan did not hesitate to recall his past experiences with the LTTE saying that the “failure of LTTE was its own making. LTTE’s fundamental mistake was to move away from a just struggle of the people to a struggle for the redemption of traditional homelands.”

Mr Jayadevan is a social worker, writer, and influential voice of the Tamil Diaspora based in London. He is the Secretary, Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam, and Non Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka and private sector Finance Director.

“One needs to deep think whether Sri Lanka has the capacity to reform its path in a broader sense,” he suggested.

Excerpts of the interview;

Question: Jaya, thank you for joining us today. Let us briefly know your experiences before and after your captivity by the LTTE. True, LTTE is no longer active but we are sure you still have a strong memory that you would like to recall.

Answer: It is seventeen years since my incarceration by the LTTE. My experience post release was inhumane and calculated campaign against me for publicising my experience without fear. The brand name of ‘traitor’ was bestowed on me, and it was an experience worse than my captivity itself in Vanni. Friends became foes and foes became friends. Their campaign of harassment was relentless and all and sundry in anonymity. They campaigned to dehumanise me and my family in a disrespectful manner. Determination and fearlessness strived me through and I am whom I am in my onerous progression to best serve the suffering people in the post war Sri Lanka.

I have no hesitation in saying the failure of LTTE was its own making. LTTE’s fundamental mistake was to move away from a just struggle of the people to a struggle for the redemption of traditional homelands. People became victims to its hegemonic gun hoe mechanism to establish territorial control and the LTTE also failed to realise the fast-changing local and international realities on terrorism and suppression of civil wars. Over thirty years of war saw generational thinking change and the war inflicted untold suffering and pain for the people and LTTE could not preside over anymore when the Tamil feelings having negative towards the LTTE and further because of the untold misery burdened on them by the government forces.

I am very active and heavily engaged in post-war regeneration work in Sri Lanka. In the progressing decay in Sri Lanka, post war reconciliation and revival are facing hammer blow experience.

Q: At least three governments came to power after the end of the Civil War. Certain areas such as infrastructure and other social welfare facilities like education were tremendously improved in North and East since then. But we still hear the same criticism against the central government. We would like to know your take.

A: The post war effort of the government to regenerate the North and East has been bare minimum. It failed to harness meaningful resources for the regeneration of North and East of Sri Lanka. There was no laudable post war plan or consensus politics or even reparation for the victims of the war to revive their lives. Much needed international support was overtly disregarded as the government remained exposed of war crimes charges which is continuing to burgeon the country – a factor influencing the present socio-economic decay the country is facing at present.

The true cause of the war is the anti-Tamil Standardization Policy of the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike of the late 1960’s. It did collateral damage to the vibrant Tamil community and the aftermath was the painful history that is still impacting the country. Whatever the government facilitated post-war efforts are seen as just sweeteners and not substantive programme of work. The government does not have the resources, or the war weary Tamil community is capacitated to respond to needs on their own on the issues facing them.

Q: Tell us about your social project in the post-war period. How did you enable funds and what are the challenges you face?

A: I was a regular visitor to Sri Lanka, though last few years have constrained me due to Covid pandemic and my personal circumstances. I am heavily involved in post-war socio-economic revival work through the charity Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam – UK, I represent. Guided by my brother Late Dr R Narendran we initiated his unique idea of post war village development work. We adopted the downtrodden Pulayaveli Village in Chengaladi in Batticaloa. My bother gave us the much-needed energy to engage heavily in infrastructural development work. His sudden demise a year later in 2017 numbed us all, but his perseverance and determination laid the foundation for us to proceed further. It was uphill task as distance of 5,500 miles between London and Colombo was serious challenge for us. It has been day to day remote control management work. My day starts at 3.00am and with my other commitments in London the charity was able to build good working relationship that helped to proceed further to substantially develop the village.

Deep-rooted corruption from the office peons to the President was draining the state resources.

The devotees and well-wishers of the temple charity provided the funds for the costly work. As we progressed, we earned the goodwill of the people for our effective management and accountability. We are content that the very trust we earned with the diaspora community with our transparent engagement, is helping us to widen our work programme is in a greater scale.

I will be failing if I do not reflect my note of caution in such heavy engagement by anyone. The challenge in managing such broad-based programme has its downfalls as Sri Lanka has created a society that is habitual takers and would not doers they do not understand meaning of reciprocal engagement with their minimum contribution in return. The beggar bowl culture of yearning for handouts has weakened the capacity of the people to progress energetically.

Q: How do you see the present situation in Sri Lanka?

A: The present situation is dire. When international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the credit worthiness of Sri Lanka three years ago, the GoSL did not consider their findings seriously to address the failures responsibly. Instead, Sri Lanka went on the anti- Moody spree to belittle its findings. Following Moody, leading international agencies continued to downgrade Sri Lanka. With their negative assessments and the consequences of Covid-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka paying a heavy price for its failures in its economic management. Deep-rooted corruption from the office peons to the President was draining the state resources. Post-war did not witness downsizing of the military and the bloated unproductive state sector employment. Instead of stretching their hands to the IMF and other reputable international actors, Sri Lanka was playing ping pong in the international arena. Sri Lanka’s hostile stance on war crimes claims by the UNHRC is another factor influencing the decay faced by the country.

Sri Lanka, since independence, has destroyed the four supportive pillars of its foundation. The Burgers, plantation Tamils, indigenous Tamils, and the Muslims were systematically marginalised to establish outright majoritarian rule. The whole political mechanism has now crumbled with the worst form of governance inhibiting Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, all and sundry can become president and legislators and it is norm to tamper with constitution for petty parochial reasons. The nation never produced a national leader to transform Sri Lanka, and election of nationalists have caused untold misery for nation. Mahinda Rajapakse had the golden opportunity to become a national leader with the defeat of the LTTE, but he too was part of the marathon race to extend the curse of nationalist politics.

In Sri Lanka, all and sundry can become president and legislators and it is norm to tamper with constitution for petty parochial reasons.

One need to deep think whether Sri Lanka has the capacity to reform its path in broader sense. It is endless pit to find an answer as the malice inhibiting is so entrenched that and any effort for real transformation will be a dream in Alice in Wonderland. The present economic decay is giving the right message for the need for broad based responsible governance. One wonders how long this will merit when belly aching hunger is addressed.

Q: Sri Lanka cannot effort another armed conflict, but many political commentators are worrying the current social upheaval may lead to an unprecedented violent conflict. How can you and Sri Lankans expatriates help maintain social normalcy?

A: Sri Lanka brewing for social unrest in an unprecedented scale if substantive efforts are not made to bring normally in its economic performance. Sri Lankan expatriate is a vibrant resource and expecting them to help redeem the malaise is daydream. The non-resident community too is going through transformation as the marathon sticks are being passed fast to the next generation who have very little engagement with Sri Lanka. The president of Sri Lanka has made some proposals for diaspora engagement, and these are kneejerk requests without consideration of wider issues involved. His appeal can be only responded if far-reaching package is offered to the expats by the government. The government must realise, the Tamil diaspora is the product of its downright failures and must go as far as to revise its failures in a substantive way for them to engage positively in Sri Lanka.