Right idea, wrong continent. Photo by Mikey G
As a wave of revolution sweeps North Africa, at least a few Sri Lankan Tamils must be asking, why not here? These are a few reasons.
1. No people
If you’ve ever played Risk, it all comes down to the number of men on the board. There’s also chance and strategy, but with enough troops you can beat anything. There simply aren’t enough young Tamils left. The socially networked and conscious Tamils that could start a revolution aren’t here, they’re in London or Toronto. They can organize hundreds of thousands of people there, but you can’t take back streets you’re not in. This diaspora says that people are afraid to protest here, which isn’t entirely true. They are afraid, but more importantly they simply don’t have the numbers. That ship has sailed. Literally. More here.
2. No unity
In Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, somewhat diverse people have united under their national flags. In Sri Lanka, separatist Tamils have been asking for a separate state. They also haven’t really tolerated dissenting views, waving the violent and jealous LTTE flag instead of anything people could actually rally around. While it seems clear that broad people power can change regimes, it’s unclear whether they can separate countries.
3. No cause
The first two points are, I think, objective. More subjectively, the cause of Tamil separatism isn’t actually right. When almost half of Sri Lankan Tamils live in Colombo or the south, carving out an ethnic state in the North and East doesn’t actually solve the problem. Something more just would be calling for equal rights for all Sri Lankans, but separatists obviously aren’t calling for that. While this is what many Tamils want, there isn’t unity on the issue. Let me qualify that with, IMHO.
I’ve expanded on this for an article in this Sunday Leader, but those are my thoughts. From the 50s to the 80s there were enough numbers, there was a sort of Tamil unity and the government was so crappy that even Sinhalese revolted, meaning there was cause. There was not, however, social media or Al Jazeera so Tamils practicing non-violent resistance actually did get violently suppressed (as DBS has been writing about).
That was a time of violent revolution, but that really didn’t work. As a political scientist goes into here, it’s actually easier for states to crush violent revolutions, and terrorism gave any state a carte blanche after 9/11.
Honestly, the best policy for Tamils of that day would have been to suffer silently, have many children, and let them revolt now. Obviously, no one saw that coming.