Tamil academic: Oppression 'normalised' in Sri Lanka

Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a law lecturer at Jaffna University, told a Melbourne audience that oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka i

Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a law lecturer at Jaffna University, told a meeting in Melbourne on June 12 that the pervasive oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka is leading to the "normalisation of abnormalcy".

Guruparan was delivering the annual Eliezer memorial lecture, in honour of Professor C J Eliezer, a noted mathematical physicist and campaigner for Tamil rights.

Guruparan spoke of the pervasive presence of the Sri Lankan military throughout the Tamil areas of the north and east of Sri Lanka. There are numerous military bases and the army intervenes in every aspect of daily life: "Organising reading camps for school children, organising village development committee meetings, conducting pre-school teachers training, recruiting farm workers and pre-school teachers into the civil defence force to work in Sri Lankan army-run farms and Montessori schools, filling teacher shortages are examples of projects through which the army seeks to normalise its presence in the north and east".

Guruparan said this militarisation of daily life "directly and indirectly hampers free thought and expression. It impedes self-development, interest in community affairs, public life and politics". People fear that if they talk about self-determination, this will provoke the military, and hence remain silent. This results in the "internalisation of the oppression".

Foreign governments and NGOs also pressure the Tamils to abandon their aspirations for self-determination. They talk of the need for "compromise", but: "The advice for compromise is not directed to the Sri Lankan government but rather to the Tamils".

Guruparan said it is essential for Tamils to resist "the normalisation of abnormalcy". They should "learn not to live with militarisation and to internalise oppression ... We need to educate our children that what they see around them is not normal and that they should not accept it as normal".

He spoke of the need for a "democratic mobilisation" of the Tamil people, and "a bottom-up political movement".

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