A Widow's Journey.
September 2, 2010 6:06 AM   Subscribe

A Widow's Journey [MP3]. "In 1989, Appapillai Amirthalingam - the most prominent political figure of the Tamil community - was assassinated at his home in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Twenty years on, the Tamil Tigers have been defeated by the military. Appapillai's wife and son travel back to their homeland in search of his legacy in an attempt to understand what the future holds for Sri Lanka's Tamil people."
posted by chunking express (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From BBC's Documentary Archive.
posted by chunking express at 6:07 AM on September 2, 2010

There is so much tribal divisiveness in the world; Tamils vs. Sinhalese, Jews vs. Palestinians, Armenians vs. Turks, Croatians vs. Serbs, Irish Catholics vs. Irish Protestants, Hutus vs. Tutsis, Russians vs. Chechens, and so forth endlessly. It's very unproductive. I live in the city of Toronto, in which there are members of pretty much every ethnic group, and we are all Canadians, and have no need to fight with each other. Tamils and Sinhalese could all consider themselves to be Sri Lankans. They could cooperate on making a better Sri Lanka, rather than competing over who gets to have what pieces of the island.
posted by grizzled at 6:15 AM on September 2, 2010

I was just thinking about this the other day. It's been about a year since the final few battles, no? Then the government decided to keep all the Tamil people in makeshift camps of some sort for a couple of months, with the promise of letting everyone go in a few months.

I really hope the damn government learned something from all this. I really hope instead of going forward along the same path that got them here in the first place, they decided to change course and make things right for the Tamil people.

Does anyone know if the current administration are committed to peace and to growth, or are they just a bunch of dickwads who have learned nothing from 20 plus years of civil war?
posted by bitteroldman at 7:20 AM on September 2, 2010

Tamils and Sinhalese could all consider themselves to be Sri Lankans.

Except that it's my understanding (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) that the Tamils didn't want to be Sri Lankan and wanted to establish a Tamil homeland in the northern end of the country. If we had a Separatist movement here in the States, would we treat them any better than the Sinhalese did?
posted by JaredSeth at 7:43 AM on September 2, 2010

At what point does the need for social cohesiveness and the economies of scale outweigh the right of self-determination? I'm all for representation in government, but at some point you can't further subdivide a country and have a functioning state. Trying to guarantee every ethnic group a homeland where they have sufficient demographic weight to ensure that they can win elections is insane.
posted by Oktober at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2010

Grizzled, it's Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Toronto gets along because everyone's basic needs are more or less met. If Toronto were instantly made as poor as Sri Lanka, I'm sure we'd have tribal war. Look at what happens with suburban/urban voting patterns as it is...
posted by anthill at 9:51 AM on September 2, 2010

If we had a Separatist movement here in the States, would we treat them any better than the Sinhalese did?

We already had one 150 years ago. I'm not really qualified to talk about the treatment of the defeated, but here's a jumping off point.
posted by now i'm piste at 10:04 AM on September 2, 2010

anthill: It's true that poverty does make populations discontent and prone to violence, but I don't think it's only a matter of poverty. War tends to be expensive (not counting Rwanda, where they just use machetes). The flag of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam depicts automatic rifles, which for some reason the impoverished Tamils are able to afford. I really do not expect outbreaks of ethnic violence in Toronto, even if there were to be horrible economic problems. That's not the way we think. Crime rates would certainly go up.

JaredSeth: True, the Tamils did not want to be Sri Lankan. But they could have chosen differently. Of course, it's not entirely their fault. The Sinhalese were not exactly welcoming of the Tamil immigrants. But there are alternatives to separatism. The US has had a successful civil rights movement, rather than creating a separate homeland for African Americans (although the Nation of Islam still prefers that option).
posted by grizzled at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2010

The Sinhalese were not exactly welcoming of the Tamil immigrants.

Many of them weren't immigrants but simply part of separate nations on the island of Sri Lanka before it was unified under British rule. (There are also descendants of Indians Tamils from TN on Sri Lanka, but they mostly live in the cities and are descended from clerks used by the Raj).
posted by atrazine at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2010

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