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Sri Lanka’s civil war

A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam vehicle with soldiers (© Ulflarsen; source: Wikipedia)

THE plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils, the rising crime rate among the Tamil community, and Ponggal wishes dominated the Tamil press headlines during the week of 12 to 18 Jan 2009.

Tamil newspapers have always reported on the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers). These stories are usually buried in the inside pages. However, during the past week they were splashed across the front pages of all the newspapers, and were accompanied by gruesome pictures of wounded and dead children.

The civilian casualties in this war have been a grave concern to Tamilians everywhere including here in Malaysia. Indian Malaysian politicians have urged the Malaysian government to speak out against the Sri Lankan army’s atrocities against Tamil civilians.

Special resolution should be passed was the headline on the front page of Tamil Nesan on 12 Jan. MIC Youth advisor S Velpari urged the Malaysian government to call for a special United Nations (UN) resolution on the Sri Lankan problem.

Velpari said while MIC Youth condemns the Israeli action against innocent Palestinians, at the same time it also demands for the world to take urgent action over the situation in Sri Lanka. “What is the difference between Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the situation in Sri Lanka?” he asked.

Velpari said only UN intervention could stop the carnage there. “Innocent Tamil civilians and children can be saved,” he said. His call has received lots of support from other MIC politicians and Tamil groups in the country.

Tamil Nesan also followed up on the issue with a 13 Jan editorial. Titled A ceasefire should be enforced in Sri Lanka, the paper urged the Sri Lankan army to immediately end its military operations. This would enable Tamil civilians to receive food and other medical aid.

A 2006 memorial for the victims of the
Sri Lankan civil war
(© Noaman Ali / Flickr)
“The Sri Lankan Tamil issue cannot be solved via military action. The Sri Lankan government has to realise this,” it said.

India was asked to play a more active role in bringing the two warring parties to agree to a ceasefire. The paper described the Tamil Tigers as “fighting to safeguard the rights of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.”

The editorial concluded by saying that any attempt to exclude the Tamil Tigers from any talks regarding the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka would ultimately fail.

Crime stories

The high crime rate within the Tamil community was reflected in the number of reported crime stories. The murder of Ipoh Barat MIC treasurer N Sitamparam was widely reported on 13 Jan. All papers described his murder as “brutal”.

Malaysia Nanban also reported on the plight of an Indian Malaysian couple who were injured during a robbery in their shop. The 18 Jan report, titled They asked for rice, they turned violent. Husband and wife slashed, narrated the story of grocery shop owner M Munusamy and his wife S Pavalam in Bagan Serai.

The couple had opened their shop earlier than usual because some “customers” wanted to buy rice. However, when the shop was opened, four masked men stabbed the man and slashed the wife on the head.

Among the items they stole were cash, a large sum of gold, and an expensive saree, all of which were meant for their daughter’s wedding to be held in 10 days. The husband was admitted to the hospital and is in a stable condition, while the wife was given outpatient treatment.

Another stab victim who was not so lucky was Kalaivani Koren, a 74-year-old woman from Kampung Bernam, Hutan Melintang, Perak, whose murder also made headlines in the Tamil papers on 18 Jan.

Although all papers carried the story, Makkal Osai offered more details. The report, titled Old woman who lived alone found dead in her bedroom, gave a dramatic account of how Kalaivani’s two young granddaughters, who live nearby, found her body in her bedroom in a pool of blood.

The paper also detailed poignantly how Kalaivani, shortly before her murder, had prepared coffee and breakfast for her grandchildren. The police have not yet found a motive for the murder, which has shocked the community in this sleepy village.

(Public domain; source: Wikipedia)
Ponggal wishes

Ponggal, a harvest festival and the start of the Tamil New Year, is celebrated by Tamilians all over the world on 14 Jan. The Tamil papers carried Ponggal wishes from many Tamil leaders in Malaysia and India.

Tamil Nesan carried a special message from MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu. Headlined Through hard work we will succeed, he generally painted an optimistic outlook for Indian Malaysians. He said that the community needed hard work, knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to uplift itself in the face of challenging economic times ahead.

He listed the MIC’s achievements in advancing education among Indian Malaysians via AIMST University and TAFE College. “Many Indian Malaysian families who were caught in the cycle of poverty have been able to lift themselves out of it thanks to education and entrepreneurial skills,” he said.

He chastised those who were quick to blame the government for not giving them adequate opportunities. “We should not forget that the government has given lots of opportunities for advancement to our community … If people do not make use of the opportunities given, they should blame themselves and not others.”

The Ponggal editorial by the editor-in-chief of Makkal Osai, M Rajen, was more sombre. Titled Let darkness end and let good times begin, his opinion piece touched on the darkness that still shrouds the community.

“In terms of education, economy, finance and other fields, no matter how much we compete with other races, our achievements are still not at all satisfactory,” he lamented. He noted that although the Indian Malaysian community is in the minority, it has the highest number of criminals in the country. He called this situation “depressing”.

Rajen also highlighted the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils: “The care and concern that we show the Palestinians should also be shown to the unfortunate Sri Lankan Tamils. The world should condemn the cruel air strikes against the Tamils.”

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