The response below was sent to Tim King of Salem News, who posed the question cited. I am most grateful to him for contacting me, because many foreign journalists are content with simply consulting members of the Diaspora (almost exclusively Tamils supportive of elements if not all of the LTTE agenda) and Tim writing to me I think helps to introduce some balance into the article – which otherwise amply establishes the point I make about the dogmatic approach of expatriates. The full article may be accessed at http://www.salem-news.com/articles/january172013/maid-honor-tk.php

Tim King:
I noticed that.  I don’t mean to sound naive, but I wonder if international incidents like this unite all Sri Lankans in your opinion, to some degree?  I am asking Tamil activists and writers and they don’t think it makes any difference at all, but if you want to answer the question above it would be useful for the article, thanks so much.

Response:
Surprise has been expressed with regard to the execution of Rizana that ‘all sides came out in favor of saving the girl, Sri Lankan Muslims, Tamils, and plenty of Sinhalese’. I found such surprise strange, but realize that understanding of the actual situation in Sri Lanka has been distorted by not just the years of conflict but by the presentation of Sri Lanka by expatriates.

Within Sri Lanka there are hardly any animosities based on race itself, and most Sri Lankans treat people of other communities simply as human beings. This is not to deny that there are resentments based on perceptions of discrimination, as well as instances of violence, and this in turn has led to resentment of terrorist activity. Tamils have felt oppressed by a majoritarian political dispensation that they felt hijacked the state, and this can translate into the feeling that Sinhalese have supported such a dispensation, but this hardly ever precludes willingness to interact positively with individuals.

The situation is different abroad, where memories of discrimination, and of three outbreaks of violence, have fuelled deep bitterness. This is exacerbated by reportage that concentrates on negatives – just as on a smaller scale some Sinhalese expatriates are conscious only of terrorist activity. Appetites that feed on themselves will not be able to see the suffering of individuals like Rizana objectively. Within Sri Lanka however we continue to interact, in schools, in offices and in commercial life without registering or bothering about the race to which those we interact with belong.

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