In the End, A New Beginning? We'll Make Another Way?

Dear Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam--

This started out as a comment on another "South Asian" blog, on which I haven't been inclined to participate, but felt compelled to by your comment. However, it got "excessively long" and "boorish." So I am posting it here, in another place where I also feel public discourse on Sri Lankan and diasporic politics has a long way to go. Thank you for posting your comments, despite their apparently "excessive" length. (Brevity may be the soul of wit, but pithy remarks do not make for much of a discussion.) My friend V.V. undertook the unenviable task of generating a decent discussion, and while there are some points where we may differ, I think she has done an admirable job.

AVIAF, I sense that you are engaged with the politics of Sri Lanka, and that this involvement provides the impetus for your responses. I believe the same can be said for Groundviews. However, the difference is the extent to which we are each willing to be upfront about the limits that constitute our positions and sites of intervention.

I have been following Groundviews since its inception and find it to be a commendable example of using new media technologies to create a forum for public discourse. I do believe that it has, in some measure, expanded the availability of views not commonly articulated in Lankan media subject to heavy-handed censorship. As its creator, Sanjana Hattotuwa, has noted, this censorship is largely self-enforcing, as we all know what happens to those who do not comply. I agree with Sanjana that it is vitally important to create a forum for political critique and dissent, and find the following agenda to be quite valuable, given the position from which he and others are writing:

It's quite simply to bring to light commentary that shames a government employing the same tactics as the entity it is fighting against. It's a larger problem (can liberal democracies really combat terrorism when they are bound to constitutional rule and human rights? Or must we become our enemy to defeat it, and if we do, can we really go back to democratic governance?) but the commentary on it in mainstream media in Sri Lanka is woefully inadequate and for a number of reasons ranging from self-censorship to open terror, aided and abetted by members of the Government (essentially thugs in parliament), against those who do speak out.

This means that you'll get to read on our sites stories that critique the government for acting the way it does precisely because it is bound to uphold democratic values. Else, we may as just be living under the terror of the LTTE. [link]

I find, however, that Groundviews is also subject to its own limitations. The last sentence quoted above is especially telling to me. The author, and perhaps many who write for Groundviews, can still imagine themselves in a realm outside the war (and impoverishment), not living completely "under the terror of the LTTE," nor perceiving the full impact of state terror in areas both under and outside army control. (In several ways, I can too-- I am writing here after all-- albeit under the cloak of anonymity.) A variety of reasons for this have been mentioned above in your previous comment (#19).

I cannot speak for anyone but myself here, but this is what I know of "the conflict": Amongst several of my family members, life without war is a distant memory, it is something to manage, it is "ok," and is something that they can only hope their children's children could possibly imagine. (That is the kind of deeply personal, "emotional" argument that I contend with every day of my life, and what makes it difficult to write at all, let alone get out of bed in the morning most days.)

As you have noted, AVIAF, Groundviews and its sister site/newsletter, Vikalpa (in Sinhala)/Mattru Vazhi (in Tamil; meaning "another way") is created under the auspices of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based NGO concerned with the strengthening of civil society and public policy debates. Taken together with the links provided in comment #34, the claim to provide coverage of "life on the ground" is not convincing. I encourage the effort made towards providing these "perspectives," but what is being presented clearly demonstrates a differential of power in terms of who is able to speak, when, where, and about what.

For example: The point raised (in response to Sanjana and V.V.'s suggestion about mobile web expanding potential access to Groundviews) about mobiles in Jaffna is especially telling; this point also did not even occur to me, despite being one on the other end of the line who has waited for these shutdowns to pass-- and that's what we understand to be a bloody good improvement in communications. Add to that the fact that, as Sanjana himself has said,

"In Sri Lanka, the significant deterioration of democracy in 2006-2007 has resulted in a country where anxiety and fear overwhelm a sense of civic duty to bear witness to so much of what is wrong. No amount of mobile phones and PCs is going to magically erase this deep rooted fear of harm for speaking one's mind out," says Hattotuwa. [link]

Publicity necessarily entails risk, the risk of exposure, of harm to loved ones and one's self. Minimizing these effects are an important part of what needs to be worked out, on the ground. This will not happen, as one commenter has suggested, by making Sri Lanka an international cause a celebre for the likes of Brangelina and Madonna. Arms manufacturers and dealers will continue their trade, either way. Instead, the need is for "grounds" for creative and inspiring political leadership and the nurturing of intimate, discursive communities in which participants can develop a sense of care and mutual regard, rather than an abstractly conceived "reasonable" discussion.

Whether intentional or not, it is somewhat disingenuous to present a few Groundviews accounts as representative "coverage" of life in the regions of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Batti, Trinco, when the audience is clearly outside, whether in Sri Lanka or abroad. I am not trying to argue for an "authentic" place or experience from which to speak -- I, myself, am writing from a diasporic location! But look at who is having this debate. I would like to suggest that the overwhelmingly Colombo-based authors of Groundviews be somewhat mindful of their location and the implicit arrogance of claiming to present the "voices" of the marginalized. That said, I do find Ruki's posts to be a little more self-aware.

Despite the above-mentioned limitations and blindspots, I don't think that Groundviews necessarily has to step away from the phrase "citizen journalism" or its attendant claim to "ground." Rather, just as the blog specifies its location as a "Sri Lankan" one, I would like to see a self-critical awareness of the ground upon which it stands. Otherwise, the authors are likely to reproduce the very same national space they seek to change.

Unfortunately, the willingness to concede our own limitations appears to be a difficult task. The response to the critical points raised by you, AVIAF, and others is... frankly, appalling. "Why don't you start up your own blog?" because the internet is "free" and "fair" is hardly a rejoinder. As you've rightly pointed out, while "anyone" (provided the access, time, and elementary skills) can start up a blog with any number of free hosts, templates, etc, not everyone has the financial and institutional support to create, establish, disseminate, and moderate a forum like Groundviews-- in short, to produce "effective" public discourse. If only that were the case... what a different Sri Lanka we would have today.

But, to which I also say:

Stay tuned; we're working on it.

. . . . . . .

An endnote: I've long felt the frustration of not being able to have an ongoing, politically engaged and informed discussion about the issues that face Sri Lanka and its diasporas. In "South Asian" circles, people ask to be "enlightened" and educated on their own terms, while discussion about Sri Lanka (and Bangladesh, and Nepal, and Pakistan, and Afghanistan and the Maldives) gets drowned out by the I <3 My India brigade or the well-meaning, but oftentimes patronizing "South Asian" (i.e. also Indian) activist. I've been criticised for not disseminating information, but I refuse to play native informant for those who don't want to take the time-- I don't see writing for the blogosphere as an endpoint of my political work. A site such as Groundviews is clearly billed as being on the ground in Sri Lanka and as we have seen, this claim can be subject to much debate. However, Sri Lankan, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala diasporic communities have been variously active in the politics of Sri Lanka in relation to their current locations. And as I count myself among that group, for many reasons, some more self-interested/invested than others, I want to have a place where those issues are worthy of meaningful thought and debate, rather than invective and polemic, or shallow 'representation.' And I know there are others out there too.

So, yes. Let us know if you're interested, folks -- what kind of forum would you like to see?

Summary: 
An engagement with a commenter on Sri Lanka

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Comments

Thank you for creating

Thank you for creating another forum for this debate to take place, and for not asking me to start my own blog! I think all of two readers (me and my mom) would be its audience, given the response my writing style has evoked. On a larger aspect however, I find it interesting that these tools of new media that are supposed to democratically connect people with interest in Sri Lanka, simultaneously may limit the quality of that debate, or access to that debate, by limiting commentary. Not all of us have grown up used to the art of a soundbite, or to respond to pith in a complex debate. We may also think in interconnected ways, instead of a rather simplistic linear logic (especially in the case of Sri Lanka), thus causing us to present arguments with “18” different embedded angles. Lest anyone jump to the conclusion that I am somehow presenting myself as somehow superior and intelligent, that is not at all the case. I welcome, and indeed yearn for, a complex discussion with tangents like shooting stars, about Sri Lanka, which doesn’t lend itself to any limiting framework unfortunately!

So you got what you asked for! But please, do tell me if I am not welcome, and I shall not stay a moment longer.

I find it interesting to see responses evoked on the previous blog SM to opinions that dissent. It seems as though there is a large majority of people who become defensive about their initial posts, including Sanjana himself, when attacked, even going so far as to suggest that the playing field isn’t quite level. What playing field? Instead there is a lot of “ I agree with almost nothing of what you said”. I find this quite funny, because I had no idea I was asking anyone TO agree. The defensiveness is interesting, from a socio-anthropological view for what it says about the pressure to conform. Or self-congratulate. Or congratulate in general. So, let me state in advance, that I tend to be belligerent, ornery and absolutely uninterested in having anyone like me or having a lot of people listen to me. And I am absolutely comfortable with people disagreeing, and with holding other opinions. I also am of the view that “reason” is a Lacanian justification of opinion, which is to say, we all have our own reasons, to butcher Pascal, of which reason may know nothing. In fact the only reason why I came here to post, was in response to what Kettikili said, to the effect of: even if there are only two people reading this thing, that’s two people who’re enough.

Kettikili, thank you for your honesty about the situation that you face in your family, and the life that you lead, in fact the life that we all lead, those of us who are connected to the war in Sri Lanka, a war of competing narratives and histories, of competing truths. I appreciate that honesty, and I wish I could reciprocate. However I have taken an ideological stand, that I will not reveal my ethnic identity even. Should I choose the name “Pakiasothy” or “Edrisinha” or “De Cruz”, false narratives will be automatically attributed to my position. Should I say I am from Batticoloa or Buttala, geographically-driven politics will be attributed to me. Paranoid? Sadly so. Above all, I want a dogma-free debate. Quite irrationally, I want a debate driven only by compassion, and justice (note not logic or reason). I hope that will be enough, at least for me. As to suffering, well I believe that all suffering is absolute, and your sorrows count as do mine, and those of others. But in Sri Lanka, I believe also that the Arundhati Roy quote about India, and I remember it not very well, is true: that something worse is always happening to someone else. It is that, and the ensuing paralysis, that is most difficult to live under.

With regard to groundviews, I recognize the points you make about ruki. I think that your response was quite fair. I don’t have anything further to add on the point about groundviews.

I think there is some interesting work being done by Viluthu, especially towards setting up alternative presses in the war-torn areas. She’s had quite a few run-ins with both the LTTE and the GoSL. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, but she’s walking the tightrope relatively well. Now that’s a real grassroots view. And she does advocacy work in Sinhala, English and Tamil. A site like Groundviews would never attract her. CPA would never attract her, for its “corruption”. I don’t think I am half as educated as you, but I understand what corruption viscerally means, what it means to pander to international donors and their “colonial” view of the conflict, what it means to live in Colombo, and interact with NGO-types, to “work on the conflict during the day” with words, and go to H2O in the evenings. Strong words I know, but I do feel that it is true. Ludicrous that everyone in Colombo knows who Sara’s newest affair is, while CPA does very little to connect true grassroots voices or foster them. And in the Sinhala areas, there are enough Sinhala groups that are engaging in these questions. We must do more to connect the voices of rural Hambantota and Vakarai. Currently they exist on different planets.

I am more interested in the questions of what do we do? What are the prescriptions? What do we do next? (Besides of course, having Angelina Jolie adopt a Sri Lankan baby. I think Sri Lankan babies have enough identity problems as it is no?).

These are the questions that occupy me presently. Without looking at the meta issues of what is a negotiating table, and who should come to the table – again, I find this a hackneyed question. Sri Lankans have been wrestling unfruitfully with the formal issues of representation, because of the intensely fragmented nature of our society, that quite inconceivably exists in a society with a strong bipolar presence of the LTTE and the GoSL. I am particularly worried about increasing Muslim militancy. Of course it was only a matter of time in a society where security has broken down and impunity reigns even and ESPECIALLY for the forces stamped with the legitimacy of government, but the increasing arming of fragmented groups is a severe concern.

Now with only the Red Cross, the UN and the churches operating in Jaffna, I am also worried about continued disruption particularly to education and children, as well as the usual problems of supplies etc and general living conditions, under a shifting security situation.

I also think that negotiation is a perpetual unceasing process, driven by shifting power imbalances (of which military power is only one source), and different dialogues from track 1 to track 1 million. The extremely difficult structural question in Sri Lanka revolves around constitutional issues.

hence the moniker: I will find a way, or I will make one. I know someone who has eschewed all politics in Sri Lanka, and particularly the politics of development, to save one life at a time. That's all he wants to do. Not to save many lives, but to save one life.

I don’t have any answers. I am watching and waiting, and thinking- all not very well.

Back to Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

Thanks for the comment,

Thanks for the comment, layman, I appreciate it. I'm aware of your point about "grad student" discourse, but I started out writing this comment to one person in particular, and although I thought about changing the tone given a more general audience, I decided against it. I wasn't writing for a larger audience. Sorry if it isn't your style, but I don't think we all have to sound the same all the time, anyway.

Didn't mean for this entire post to come across as petty-- if anything, it was venting some frustrations I have about South Asian blogging on Sri Lanka. (A lot of those unassigned frustrations actually apply to this blog too. Maybe even especially so.) I meant to link to the Sepia Mutiny thread right off the bat, but why I didn't name them is, well, I actually thought that might come off the wrong way. (Damned if you do, damned if you don't, but now that I look at it again, I am more inclined to see what you said.) And I especially didn't want to malign my friend, who was the original writer of that post. She's an amazing person, and one of the few people who (IMHO) has said anything sane on the subject in that forum.

You are right insofar as my snark about comment length was directed towards SM Intern's response to AVIAF. I understand the point in not posting a lengthy comment if the writer wants it to be read-- just as this post isn't likely to find too many readers. But the idea that a comment that tries to respond to another comment should follow some unspecified rule of length, to me, is ridiculous-- and I don't buy the rationale behind it. Why is one lengthy comment (that tries to think through the issues at hand) seen to bury discussion, while 100 silly comments are not?

This is my basic problem with the way that forum is run. If something is important to me, and I'm trying to work through it, soundbites don't suffice. Sorry if that rubs the wrong way.

If this is being said because I haven't commented there before, I'll be honest-- there are a couple of reasons why I find myself not participating in the debates there:

1) In the past I've found that there were few commenters who were listening to one another, and the more thoughtful responses have tended to get drowned out in the noise. Others may find it worthwhile to struggle through that, but I really didn't have the time or energy.

2) Until the more recent spate of posts by V.V., I have not seen any engaging analyses of or brief thoughts on Sri Lankan politics, history, and culture on the part of the bloggers. (Simply "being Sri Lankan" doesn't make for a vigorous debate.) That, in addition to other aspects and regions of South Asia, is my primary interest when reading these blogs, and when it isn't forthcoming, I don't feel it's worth the effort. Again, this isn't to paint all SM readers with a broad brush-- I have encountered some interesting comments there. But unfortunately, these few get drowned out by the rest. It seems as though quantity of comments is encouraged over quality.

3) Any attempts at pointing out the shortcomings of these posts/discussions has been met with hostility. Not at all surprised to see that being extended here.

Anyway, on this occasion, I found that VV's post generated subsequent discussion that was quite interesting, and surprisingly free of polemics-- even if there were obvious personal agendas behind some of the more extreme statements.

Anyway, have to leave-- can explain more later.

valid points, especially the

valid points, especially the one about those of us asking him to set up his own blog

but man, reading this response reminded me how i can't bear grad student types. good luck with your efforts, but i think your 'public audience' will be a very small and select group of people if the writing style is anything like this post

also, i'm by no means an SM fanboy, but not mentioning their name comes off as petty and small

Desi Italiana: Is there one

Desi Italiana:

Is there one non South Asian blogging here about South Asian politics?

I thought one of the points of this blog was to have a more complex and inclusive understanding of what South Asian means. It's hard to do this without being the least bit introspective about one's own perspective, and taking criticism productively without being defensive about it.

So I am posting it here, in

So I am posting it here, in another place where I also feel public discourse on Sri Lankan and diasporic politics has a long way to go.

This does sting a bit, even if it's true :)

aviaf: Thanks for your

aviaf:

Thanks for your comment.

I think all of two readers (me and my mom) would be its audience, given the response my writing style has evoked.

I know the feeling. There were days when the only people reading this blog (besides us) were my mom and people looking for topless pictures of Shilpa Shetty.

...I understand what corruption viscerally means, what it means to pander to international donors and their “colonial” view of the conflict, what it means to live in Colombo, and interact with NGO-types, to “work on the conflict during the day” with words, and go to H2O in the evenings. Strong words I know, but I do feel that it is true. Ludicrous that everyone in Colombo knows who Sara’s newest affair is, while CPA does very little to connect true grassroots voices or foster them. And in the Sinhala areas, there are enough Sinhala groups that are engaging in these questions. We must do more to connect the voices of rural Hambantota and Vakarai. Currently they exist on different planets.

Ok, the bit about H2O made me laugh. But whether you're right or wrong about Colombo NGO culture (I don't know), it is very easy to appropriate your particular point of view into the larger "NGOs ARE THE DEVIL'S SPAWN" narrative which the government likes to promote - a narrative which I find inconsistent with the rest of your comment.

Most of the criticism I've seen recently of NGOs operating within Sri Lanka has revolved around the idea of Western States using NGOs to meddle in the sovereign business of Sri Lanka. The NGOs apparently do their masters' bidding by accusing the Government of Sri Lanka of violating human rights, the rule of law, and its own constitution in its pursuit of its goal of destroying the LTTE. The folks who tow this line condemning "The NGOs" are probably the least likely to fault them for partying it up at H2O instead of going into Vakarai.

This conversation is a recipe

This conversation is a recipe for spiraling into nasty sniping, defensiveness, feelings of being stepped on, and a lot of other things that are not that useful. This is directed to no one in particular, but for the future: can everyone just take two seconds before they hit "Submit" to reread what they've written and make sure that they're comfortable with it and that it's not overly unfair to the person they're responding to?

In any case, I'm sorry I introduced the topic into the comments thread because it detracts from what are the more pertinent points raised in the post.

Dear AVIAF-- thanks for

Dear AVIAF-- thanks for responding with your lengthy comment. :) I'd like to address the comments below, and have to run, so I hope to get back to you soon. Please do stick around.

Dr Anony: This does sting a

Dr Anony:

This does sting a bit, even if it’s true :)

Well, as I relayed to you off-blog, anything I said above obviously applies to me too. ;) But I am working on it. Before I had a chance to say that, however...

Desi Italiana:

Sorry if I come off as rude, but honestly– if you see a scarcity of Sri Lankan stuff, why don’t you write it?

I wasn't actually referring to a scarcity (if anything, that idea is part of the subject of another post) but the approach to it.

followed by this:

Who in the world sees as you a “native informant?” I think people who have asked you in the past to relay what you know have done so because it comes across that you know about SL politics, not because you are Sri Lankan, a native, whatever.

yet preceded by this:

and people would absolutely benefit from your knowledge about what is going on (like myself).

I think you just made the case for me.

My reference to "native informant" wasn't about being explicitly referred to as a "native" anything, nor do I think of myself as that. Instead, it was about being placed in a role where one has to disseminate objectified knowledge to others who clearly have their own personal and socio-political agendas.

Now I'm sorry if I come off as rude, but unlike you, DI, when others (on this blog and off) have asked me for information, they have already done some reading themselves, told me about what they were reading, thought through it, and asked specific questions to supplement that. So that, in the process, we could have a discussion, not a transmission of knowledge.

I'm not interested in writing to make other people feel like they "know" what's going on in Sri Lanka, so they don't have to feel guilty, or so they feel more South Asian. There have been times throughout my life where I have felt this kind of responsibility, and I quickly realized that it wasn't engendering significant engagement on the part of those who claimed to have an interest.

This point may seem redundant to you, but you aren't the one who is faced with the choice of either seeing a gap, or filling it. I'd like to go beyond that.

But I'll humour you: As for why I haven't done the latter? Given other things I have going on in my life, the effort required to do this single-handedly is beyond my capacity. The task of generating a discussion has to go beyond one person. (Does this really even need to be said?)

Anyway, thanks for unintentionally reminding me of the baggage I have to shed. I'm not here to drop knowledge or to write a simple, linear narrative of the history of the political present.

I'm here to generate a discussion, something that I think is urgently needed in all Sri Lankan communities. And I know I'm not alone in that.

That's the first step.

Ketti: Didn’t mean for this

Ketti:

Didn’t mean for this entire post to come across as petty– if anything, it was venting some frustrations I have about South Asian blogging on Sri Lanka. (A lot of those unassigned frustrations actually apply to this blog too. Maybe even especially so.)

Sorry if I come off as rude, but honestly-- if you see a scarcity of Sri Lankan stuff, why don't you write it? It strikes me as really odd that for someone who has access to writing and publishing would complain about others not writing about things that you are clearly very familiar with and well-informed about-- and people would absolutely benefit from your knowledge about what is going on (like myself).

In “South Asian” circles, people ask to be “enlightened” and educated on their own terms, while discussion about Sri Lanka (and Bangladesh, and Nepal, and Pakistan, and Afghanistan and the Maldives) gets drowned out by the I <3 My India brigade or the well-meaning, but oftentimes patronizing “South Asian” (i.e. also Indian) activist

.

Yes and no. This has been stated in various comments in the past, so it's a bit repetitive and redundant. I do agree with you that South Asia often means India really, but there have been instances when other locations get discussed.

I’ve been criticised for not disseminating information, but I refuse to play native informant for those who don’t want to take the time

Who in the world sees as you a "native informant?" I think people who have asked you in the past to relay what you know have done so because it comes across that you know about SL politics, not because you are Sri Lankan, a native, whatever.

And BTW, "native" does play a role in this blog. Is there one non South Asian blogging here about South Asian politics? Nope.

Dr Anon, I'm not sniping or

Dr Anon, I'm not sniping or being defensive at all :)

Vivek,

I thought one of the points of this blog was to have a more complex and inclusive understanding of what South Asian means. It’s hard to do this without being the least bit introspective about one’s own perspective, and taking criticism productively without being defensive about it.

Absolutely-- there are various meanings to South Asian. I was responding to what I mistook as Ketti saying that she's expected to be the "native informant," but she cleared up what she meant.

Ketti, I read your comment, and I think we'll just have to agree to disagree here. If I wanted to get out the word about the I/P conflict, I'd write a blog about it because I can since I'm a blogger. If I wanted someone to address the Madhesi situation, then instead of asking other bloggers do to it, I'd do it, even if I wished that someone would take the time to immerse themselves into that. I do understand your frustration, because I also feel that way sometimes-- maybe people are being lazy and not making an effort to, say, understand Maldivian politics or what's going on in Bhutan. At the same time, when people are working full-time, don't spend that much time in the classroom, and find it difficult to read and inform themselves because of work and family responsibilities, then I can also see that people just don't want to write about something they have a general grasp of but are not knee deep into it. So they prefer to write what takes less time.

[...] there was one comment

[...] there was one comment following on kettikili’s discussion on the lack of quality discourse on Sri Lanka that left [...]

"what kind of forum would you

"what kind of forum would you like to see?"

Maybe one where all the contributions are not-Tamil centric. Sri Lankan Tamils are 12.6% of the Sri Lankan population. Let's hear the voices of the other 87% for a change.

Sam, I totally agree. Where

Sam, I totally agree. Where are all the other voices? Sinhala, Tamil, hill country and Muslim? Is there one site where they all converge? Or are they doomed to conduct their own dialogue in only their own communities, particularly when they are from Sri Lanka and are not diaspora? Tell me a site you think has decent coverage and I will go and contribute my two cents just as I am sure others on this blog will.

Vivek; agreed that point about ngos can be easily subsumed into larger GoSL rhetoric. However I am not making the point, as you rightly pointed out, that ngos are western spawn although I do like the colloquialism. In general though, I am suspicious of ngos that do receive bilateral funding. Because of the conditions attached to that grant money, these ngos are not allowed much latitude on their operations. It is also true and a little known fact that most of these bilateral donors are pressured and lobbied by large tamil diaspora organizations and constituencies and so tend to toe a rather noncritical tamil line. Having said that however thee are other reasons why they tend to be uncritical of the LTTE for example. This is because working in the northeast (well east now) is almost impossible without the tacit approval of the LTTE or TRO(and no I am not equating them!although that IS a separate issue). So for very real reasons of operational capability NGOs are limited in their advocacy capabilities. Not to mention the personal risks involved, even if and especially if, cf. Kethesh Logeswaran., you are tamil. So I think that the criticisms raised here and on sepia mutiny about the lack of critical discourse about tamil facism is real. But there are real reasons why, although it does not excuse the lack of critical tamil discourse by Sri lankan diaspora tamils on diaspora websites, which I would like to see more of.especially those who are caught between a defense of the tigers as the only viable tamil representation and an understanding of their fascist trajectories. Where is the debate that mines that complexity on any site?

Finally, quite randomly, another question is about the JVP. Many remember them as an extreme voice of rural sinhala leftist politics. But the truth is, from Matara and beyond, with the exception of perhaps parts of Hambantota and UNP Sajith Premadasa's constituency there, it is the JVP that gets things done from delivering water pipes to ration cards. And let's not forget that bravery of the insurgency in the 80s. What happened to them that they are now in bed with SLFP whose strongest ally is JHU?!!!

Just a note to say that I am

Just a note to say that I am glad to see that this discussion is still going on in some form, although I am, at the moment, drowning in deadlines and unable to contribute more substantively. Soon, I hope. Thanks to PTR for this.

V.V. (#15): Just a note to

V.V. (#15):

Just a note to say that I am glad to see that this discussion is still going on in some form, although I am, at the moment, drowning in deadlines and unable to contribute more substantively.

That is my perennial problem. Hope you can come out again soon-- even though I know your schedule gets crazier and crazier by the minute.

AVIAF, sorry for taking so long to get back to your response.

However I have taken an ideological stand, that I will not reveal my ethnic identity even. Should I choose the name “Pakiasothy” or “Edrisinha” or “De Cruz”, false narratives will be automatically attributed to my position. Should I say I am from Batticoloa or Buttala, geographically-driven politics will be attributed to me. Paranoid? Sadly so. Above all, I want a dogma-free debate.

I understand the wish for a debate without dogmatically imposed identity markers, and I know a few people who have encountered assumptions about their politics simply on the basis of their surnames. I have been careful at times to avoid revealing information that could potentially identify or label me. Mostly because I worry for the safety of others around me. But yes, also because I am sometimes sick and tired of a label defining me-- "Tamil" becomes an individualized collective identity, a singular "I/we" without the singularity. (There I go again with the jargon.)

But that is also exactly why I have chosen, at this moment, to work with it. To paraphrase a friend of mine, as much as Sri Lankans need to work on a political process that is inclusive of all communities, we need to have an internal debate about what, exactly, it is we aspire to in the name of each of these communities. And from where I stand, with what I know right now, the need for a robust, agonistic debate is most apparent amongst Tamils. The fear, paranoia, numbness, hopelessness, and despair is palpable within our/their diasporic communities as well.

So without making a direct declaration that "I am a Tamil," I let it be known sometimes, to challenge the self-evidence of identity politics and contribute to the diversity of Tamil political engagements. What I say, do, think -- my stance -- does not represent or stand-in for a group of people.

It is only a fragment of wider communities whose depth and reach cannot be known by a single word or name.

And it is on that note that I vehemently disagree with Sam's comment (#12) on the kind of forum he would like to see:

Maybe one where all the contributions are not-Tamil centric. Sri Lankan Tamils are 12.6% of the Sri Lankan population. Let’s hear the voices of the other 87% for a change.

Nevermind the question of where these statistics are from, who/what they are supposed to define, and to what ends. I don't need to point out the dozens and dozens of Sinhala diasporic and Sri Lankan websites, or a handful of Muslim political sites. Should I point out the absurdity of dividing the SL polity into homogenously "Tamil" and "non-Tamil" blocs? Should I mention the absence of Hill Country Tamil discussion online? Or ask you, Sam, to consider the conditions that have made some forms of political discourse from specific groups of people more possible than others?

Yes and no-- none of these important questions gets to the heart of what disturbs me most about the comment. The problem lies with the logic of numbers and the making of majorities/minorities, through the assumption that census categories are existential truths and political positions.

So, according to this logic, V.V. on Sepia and me on PTR = Tamil-centric. And we may only write as long as we are accompanied by six others-- mostly Sinhala-identified even if not Sinhala-speaking, I think it's safe to assume.

This is a fundamental problem -- the making of minorities, the creation of monolithic communities by stifling dissent and debate, the idea of majority rule governing a centralized state -- that leads us to where we are today. Not just in SL, but the world over.

Sam, you say you want to hear from "the other 87% for a change" and I welcome the opportunity whenever it might arise. But I have to ask: Would you be so quick to protest if the numbers were reversed?

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