If you think Naziism or apartheid are long gone, you would do well to continue reading. Last month in Sri Lanka, 500 Tamils were forcibly evicted by police from the capital city of Colombo. They, along with 300 others who were detained, either lived in the capital or had been visiting for reasons including medical treatment. The police chief’s explanation: ethnic minority Tamils cannot stay in the capital “without a valid reason.”
“Police didn’t listen to us. They tried to beat us, they where scolding and they put us into the vehicles,” explained a 54-year old mother. “They made us to leave the place with whatever cloth we were dressed with. We didn’t even take our clothes.”
Although Naziism may be dead in name, the philosophy behind it is alive and well in Sri Lanka. Even that country’s opposition leader
agrees, comparing this to the treatment of Jews in Germany and blacks in South Africa. Norway and America condemned the mass eviction, and several non-governmental organizations called it a disgrace to humanity.
So should all of us simply join the chorus of condemnation, and then proceed to forget Sri Lanka? If the eviction were an aberration, perhaps. But Tamils know it is just the latest in a decades-long story of state terrorism that amounts to genocide.
If you don’t care much for Sri Lanka, consider this: the U.S. is sending $60 million in aid to the Sri Lankan military. As the Tamils fight a war of liberation, exactly what kind of military has Sri Lanka shown itself to have? It’s not pretty. The armed forces have been criticized repeatedly for murdering journalists, professors, students and members of parliament. The air force is known for bombing schools, churches, refugee camps and orphanages. The army blocks food and medicine from reaching hundreds of thousands of Tamils displaced by the war. Last year soldiers massacred 17 non-governmental organization workers by lining them up and shooting them at close range.
Surely it is reasonable that, when I give up hard-earned money to taxes, I assume it goes to improving our country or maybe helping the needy overseas, not to filling the coffers of a wildly murderous military. Especially at a time when our own forces are near breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, why are we throwing money at Sri Lanka?
And let’s not forget the Indian Ocean tsunami – how well do disaster victims, many still in temporary camps, fare when an army that kills civilians is given free money? I don’t like seeing my taxes go to random pork barrel spending, let alone foreign military oppression.
During the Holocaust or apartheid in South Africa, the international community did not act fast enough. After the atrocities of Rwanda, we said “never again.” As the horrors of Darfur unfold, Americans are finally taking action. We must do the same for Sri Lanka.
The Nazi-style mass eviction of Tamils is one part of a long genocidal streak, and we cannot sit back and watch. As our government funds the Sri Lankan military, inaction implies not just neutrality, but complicity.
Ahilan Sivaganesan, a junior at Rice University in Houston, has lived in Cincinnati for 20 years.
U.S. shouldn’t help Sri Lanka regime with our tax dollars