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Sri Lanka: Tamil diaspora voices

After the Sri Lankan army took control of the remaining rebel town of Mullaitivu, Tamils in the UK and Canada discuss the future for Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism.

INTHU KUMAR, DOCTOR, LONDON, UK

The land may have been captured but they they haven't won the people. This isn't a victory. I have lived through much of the war.

What is happening now is very hard for us to bear. People are suffering, they are moving
I was born in Jaffna. In 1981 I woke up seeing the Jaffna library in flames. We lived very close by and the army set it on fire.

When I entered university in 1985, that was when the shelling started. From then onwards in my medical career I saw lots of victims, lots of suffering.

When the army moved into the Jaffna area in 1995 I moved on and served in Chavakacheri in LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] controlled territory and then later to Kilinochchi. There was a lack of doctors.

What is happening now is very hard for us to bear. People are suffering, they are moving. They don't want to move into the army areas. I know this is a reality because it happened to me when I was on the move.

In my view you shouldn't use any bombs on civilians. There is so much blood.

I condemn the killing of all civilians and I also feel sorry for Sri Lankan army soldiers, young men being killed.

I don't believe the capture of Mullaitivu will do anything - it will just be an occupying army. I will go back if there is a separate state for Tamils. I believe it will come.

A BAHEERATHAN, DOCTOR, LONDON

Sri Lankan troops (file photo: January 2009)
The government has won a string of military victories in recent months
We are caught in the middle. I don't feel the government has been properly protecting civilians. More could have been done. But I don't trust the LTTE either.

My father was a Tamil MP. He was assassinated because he supported the Indian army intervention in Sri Lanka in 1989.

He thought it was the best solution for our people at that point in time. He angered the LTTE because they rejected it and it is widely believed they assassinated him.

I came to the UK after that. I feel there should be a political solution rather than a military solution. But the Sri Lankan government view is something different.

But I don't have the right to say what people there should believe and do. The people in the field have to decide what happens.

We can't depend on the LTTE on the one hand but on the other hand there has been no acceptable political solution. It's a real problem for people.

Tamil nationalism, Sinhalese nationalism, it will all still continue. I am optimistic as long as the Indian government gets involved.

SUJITH JOSEPH, LONDON, ANALYST

Tamil identity must be maintained somewhere, they should be able to say they are from a place
I was born in Sri Lanka and I lived there until I was 12 years old when the 1983 riots broke out. Our house was almost burned and we were looted, my parents were pinned to the floor, and a mob tried to kill us.

The people who attacked us were our neighbours, most of them people who came to the house and worked for us.

I have been back to Sri Lanka a number of times but I'm finding it difficult to go back to our old house in Colombo. For the last 25 years, many battles have been fought and won by the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan forces. A vast area has changed hands many times.

Now the Sri Lankan forces have the upper hand, but I don't believe they will be able to finish off the Tamil Tigers. Historically no guerilla movement has ever been crushed.

Until the Sri Lankan government stops treating Tamils as second-class citizens and address their aspirations the war will carry on. The world acknowledges that Tamils have legitimate grievances in Sri Lanka and the international community should pressurise to come back to talks.

My personal view is that Tamils will happily accept a reasonable political settlement where powers are devolved and where they have the power to rule themselves and Tamils can maintain their identity in the island.

KUMARATHASAN, PENSIONER, TORONTO, CANADA

I came to Canada in 2001. Before that I lived in Colombo because of war in Sri Lanka.

But before that we were chased out of our homeland in the Jaffna peninsula in 1995. We suffered a lot.

Unless the Sri Lankan government gives a reasonable solution to the Tamils, the Tamil diaspora and people will never give up. The disarming of the LTTE won't end the problem.

Self-determination will solve the problem. What we wanted before was parity and we didn't get it. I was deprived of a job because of the Sinhala-only act - which made Sinhala the official state language.

Many of us suffered. We know that this isn't the end for Tamil nationalism. We have had to leave the country and we have support all over the world.

The humiliation the Tamils underwent will one day be answered.

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