The unifying, winning issue is equal rights for all Sri Lankans. Framing it as a Tamil issue will inevitably lose because this isn’t about Tamil Eelam. It’s about Sri Lanka. Too much from the Tamil side is about how they are being wronged by the bad Sinhalese, how this is never going to work. Well, it can work, but we have to unite as Sri Lankans. I am Sinhala and I believe in equality for all Sri Lankans. I do not believe in Sinhala or Tamil exceptionalism, but I do believe in Sri Lanka. The issue that concerns all of us is equal civil rights for all Sri Lankans.
I follow this TamilDiaspora character on Twitter. He posts some interesting links, but too many of them are about the future of Tamils or Tamil vigils and attacking Sri Lankan thugs and Sri Lankan economic extortion. I agree with many of the concerns, but I think the approach is divisive and counterproductive. The people of Sri Lanka are reasonable and multi-ethnic. The grievances of one race backed on foreign punishment is not a winning national platform. Seriously, calling for foreign economic attacks on Sri Lanka to support one race should be rightly opposed by everyone here.
Civil rights for all Sri Lankans, however, is a unifying issue. All races have their constitution suspended under emergency law. All races have problems with government corruption and inefficiency. All races have language issues in government services. All races have issues with poverty and economic mismanagement. We all want to send our kids to better schools, be able to get better jobs, have access to government services, be able to travel, etc.
These are not Tamil issues. These are our rights as Sri Lankans. Tamils are not asking for anything special and they do deserve better. They deserve equal protection under the law. We deserve equal protection, because these are our family and friends. I know someone in jail for almost two months now under Emergency. His family deserves to get the letters and be able to defend their case in the Tamil language. Not because that is some special right as Tamils but because it is their consitutional right as Sri Lankans. Not because they are Tamil and the UK backs them up but because they are Sri Lankan and you and I back them up.
Frankly, I am as put off by Tamil chauvinism as I am by Sinhala chauvinism. Both sides play the victim and both sides act as if they are owed something special, based on race. They’re not. We have our own cultures, but when it comes down to it we have more in common than apart. We are all have the same basic, fundamental rights as Sri Lankans. Regaining these civil rights is something all Sri Lankans can unite around and benefit from. I think we need to start framing it that way.