Sunday, May 24, 2009

How Looking the Other Way Perpetuates Extremism

The BBC World Service provided a fantastic discussion between 18-year-old Janani Paramsothy, who is a Tamil, living in the United Kingdom, and Tommy McKearney, a former member of the IRA who was imprisoned for 16 years.

Paramsothy supports the Tamil Tigers (LTTE; see my previous post) and wishes to re-locate to Sri Lanka so that she may continue the fight against the Sinhalese majority, who has recently declared victory in their 26-year war over the LTTE.

McKearney offers strategic advice to Paramsothy, suggesting she take less violent and more constructive, diplomatic measures in her cause. However, Paramsothy asks McKearney a tough question that points to the world's dismissal of this colossal tragedy, illustrating further the argument I made earlier (in the post just before this one), that when developed countries turn a blind eye to collective violence and mass victimization, the victims feel forced to take extreme measures.

Tommy McKearney

From the BBC World Service discussion, just after McKearney attempts to tell Paramsothy that not all non-Tamils in Sri Lanka will be unsympathetic to the Tamil plight:

Paramsothy: Can I just ask you, you know throughout your time with the IRA, did you ever feel as if the whole world was ignoring you, or your cause?

McKearney: Many, many times. Very, very often, and on many occasions, it caused us to make some very poor decisions. Possibly one of the worst decisions, one of the worst mistakes we made was to underestimate the decency of the people on the other side. Not all of them, and many of them were far from being decent, but among the English people, among the British people, there was then and remains an enormous reservoir of decency. And I am convinced humanity doesn't change that much, that you will find something similar among the Sri Lankan people...

Paramsothy's question illustrates that as minority groups continue being oppressed without any international support (let alone attention), desperate measures become increasingly attractive. One of the key ingredients that frequently contributes to the creation of extremist groups is a lack of diplomatic involvement on the part of developed countries, which is exactly what happened in the Sri Lankan case.

The 18-year-old Paramsothy articulates the problem more poignantly:

Paramsothy: I think it's in the hands of the international community now ... if they step in to take responsibility for all the Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka, then we'd be happy enough here ... There would be no need for me to go back and I'd continue my life here. But if no one's willing to help those people, then every day that I spend here is another day that people spend dying there ... Every day that goes past, the silence of the world on the matter, there's more and more people dying...

Listen to the entire piece. There is a great deal more, and it is simply outstanding.

(Photos courtesy of the BBC World Service)

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1 comment:

  1. "SRI LANKA: Finding a path to reconciliation - analysis" (IRIN, 6.16.09)