Word On The Tamil Street

How are Tamils reacting to the end of war? I’ve been watching the flag convoys thru town and them seem to be mostly Sinhala and Muslim. Which is fine, but I wondered how the Tamils feel. So I called a few friends and walked around the Tamil parts of town. Most people were scared to talk, certainly not on camera. On camera they say that if Mahinda does what he says and Tamils have rights it’ll be good. Off camera, they are hurting for their relatives in the north, believe that Prabhakaran may be alive and worry about the flag convoys running thru town.

Trishaw Johnny

I called up a trilingual friend and picked him up in what turned out to be a pretty Sinhalese Buddhist neighborhood. We drove to Kochikade to have a look around that more Tamil hood. So we’re walking around and peeps basically won’t talk, certainly not to the camera. Gave a trishaw driver my ID and explained this that and the other and his opinion is still somewhere between the lines. He says Prabha isn’t dead. He said there was good and bad on both side. Between the lines he seemed a bit bummed that LTTE had got thrashed.

Barside Chatties

Then we went round the corner to Kotahena and caught some bit tipsy guys getting out of a bar and having a chat on the street. They were quite excited and, in my opinion, lovely. They were Sinhala, one mentioned from Matara, and spoke of how all races should be as one and how expats should come back here and build. Matara fellow was very clear to say ‘we love them’, as in Tamil people and that we are together. I mentioned that Tamil people don’t have full rights and are in camps. They said we need to give it time. They also said they understood how they must feel right now. They were quite sweet. And a bit drunk.

Garland Seller

Spoke to a fellow selling flower garlands and a man hanging about. He said the war is incomplete. Tamil people still don’t have equal rights. Can’t say if Prabhakaran is living or dead.  But if he’s alive or dead, should give Tamils equal rights. When they see Tamil people they see different, at checkpoints.

Of Mahinda’s speech, if he does what he’s talking good. If everyone can go where they want, which Tamils can’t do. If it goes like this, the country will be good. All should be in peace. Again, he was clearly not comfortable. These seems to be the rote reply. I’m really not sure what he or the other people who talked truly feel. He said the people with flags were wrong. The right way is to be at home and celebrate. Not going around, showing and disturbing other, mocking others. Wrong it seems.

Another guy in that hood also spoke, as YouTubed below

Lassi Lady

Popped round the corner to get some samosas and sweet lassi. A flag convoy passed with a faux coffin for Prabhakaran.

She said, ‘You don’t celebrate when someone dies’. I asked her what race she was and said mixed. I asked if I could film an interview and she said no.

Hood Friend

Off the record, the Tamil friend I was with says many Tamils are not happy, they are just keeping quiet. Prabhakaran was a leader, whatever’s said, and many seemed to feel that he protected Tamils up there. Now they’re not sure. Certainly all or even most Tamils don’t support most of the LTTE, but I’m just repeating.

Mostly, he said that people are really concerned about their families in the north who are suffering. He told me a friends relative was raped and basically disappeared. This is a tertiary source and I can’t confirm, but I’m sure there’s at least one story of this. I should add the Army is extremely professional on the whole, in my experience.

There are also stories that Prabha has escaped with a cadre of 3000 hard core fighters or something. There are also rumours that the flag convoys have smashed up Tamil house and people. This is serious and I checked as much as I could and found nothing of the sort. Let me know.

Wellawatte Friend

Also called a friend in Wellawatte and actually took notes. These are the notes:

Wellawatte is tense.

Mahinda’s speech: Didn’t like speech, pouring oil and flame. This is time to celebrate, not about peace. What I feel, educated ppl, who regard humanity, they never go for these cheap celebrations, they stay home, worry about lives lost, pray. That’s not patriotic. Sri Lankans should be Sri Lankan. If you have the freedom to celebrate, Tamils have the freedom to mourn. They should have respect for everyone.

Still ashes over flame. The flame is covered with ash. Whoever can come and fan it, it will burn out. You remember 1983. If something happens somewhere, it will become a big flame. That’s what people are expecting.

However, during 83 who saved us, the sinhalese people. My fathers friends. They had conflict with the neighbors, they fought them, they sent us to batti with security.

I do not see sinhalese or tamils, only those who have humanitarian instincts and who don’t have. Whoever have good mind and heart care for people in the hospitals and IDPs.

All in all, I think there is danger here and that this Tamil uneasiness must be addressed for the country to develop as it needs to. As one. There is something to celebrate, but there is so much to mourn that I personally don’t feel it. There is a real danger in these flag convoys in that one terrorist attack could set them off into something worse. But I don’t believe that and I believe that we have come a long way since 1983. I also know that our armed forces are professional and can secure the city.

However, Tamils are A) scared to speak and B) frightening themselves with rumor because they don’t trust the information getting out. These are all functions of the crackdown on freedom of speech and media, basically fear. Beyond that, they are hurting because their relatives are hurting. However, they seem to hold hope of equal rights and freedom. I have the same hope, in time, but we have a lot of work to do before we can all celebrate in earnest.

Uploading the actual video interviews now. Will post.


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