Thursday, March 28, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

The Tamils in Sri Lanka are no different than their brethren in other countries where the early British colonists had taken them to slave for them in rubber estates, who do not want to fully assimilate with the majority locals. But they who harbor intentions of leaving the country where their ancestors had come to seek a better livelihood that India could not, otherwise, they would not preferred to remain in India.

The Africans who were forced or kidnapped or ‘stolen’ by the White folks in Africa and sent to America especially assimilated with the White majority; they blamed the Whites for practicing apartheid and racial segregation for not allowing them to assimilate.

Yet, in Sri Lanka, the Tamils not only do not want to assimilate, they also want to claim independence from the majority Chingala.

They launched military attacks forming the Tamil Tigers or Tamil Eelam, until their leader, Prabakaran was killed. His sixteen-year-old son, too, was later killed, so the Prabakaran dynasty or leadership could be terminated.

However, the African-Americans today did not want to blame the Whites for stealing their ancestors and selling them to the White landowners in America, citing that they had given them, the Blacks hope.

The Africans in America can be said to be fully assimilated with the Whites in the country and they have also adopted the White way of life speaking in English and eating their food. Africa is the least in their minds.

So few, if ever, African-Americans had opted to return to their native America.

But the Tamils in Sri Lanka still clamor to be independent from Chigala rule. And the Tamil minorities in few other countries, too, do not wish to assimilate; they build their own schools and force the governments to issue land and offer financial assistance.

But, those Tamils and also Chinese who have managed to leave the country to go to England, America or other White countries in America and Europe do not cause the majority population any disturbance; they fully and readily accept their lot living as minorities in these countries.

They do not speak in Tamil or Chinese, but in English, French, German or whatever language the majority there uses everyday, with many of them also using local names as their own.

It is with this perspective, I read Roma Tearne’s novel, ‘Brixton Beach’, and felt some trepidation and pity for her Alice who may very well be her. So the novel moves on the highly superficial and pitiful level with limited historical, psychological, sociological perspectives. 

But it is not Roma’s or Alice’s problem that she was placed in such a sticky situation, but those that were created by the early generation of Tamils in Sri Lanka who thought wrongly how they too could be empowered if they persisted, going beyond political means to take up arms, and in the end, they felt the full brunt of the power of the majority Chingala.

Brixton Beach’ is a novel written by a self-imposed exile from Sri Lanka in England called Roma Tearne. Despite having a Chingala or Singalese father and Tamil mother, yet, she feels more like the former, closer to her mother than father, and being treated or mistreated by the former too. So herein lies her predicament and dilemma of being rejected by the general society in Sri Lanka.

Her political posturing had nothing to do with her, but with those who were earlier, who had tried to champion a cause which could be described as a lost one, which ended with the destruction of the Tamil Tigers or Tamil Eelam group headed by Prabakaran.

But for those in the small group of Chingalas who had fled from Sri Lanka to emigrate to England and other countries in the west, their plight did not end with the death of Prabakaran, the more they dwell on their personal discomforts and issues without fully trying to assimilate fully in the new society they willingly embrace.

This novel dwells on issues which may be Sri Lankan in nature, but they also apply to the plight of the minorities in other countries, and they are mostly the Chinese and also Tamils, especially those in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and other countries, including America and the west.

At the same time this novel can pass for one which can be described as pathetic. It can also reflect the changing times in Sri Lanka and also the other countries where British forces had once dominated.

To add to the spice of life of the main characters in this novel, there are issues concerning the persecution of the Tamils by the Sri Lankans and the military which they control.

Being a minority, the Tamils did not have much of a choice; they could assimilate or reject such proposition.

Surely, there were other minorities in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, who had assimilated well so that their communities are not persecuted, such as the Melayu community and the others.

Fortunately for these communities, they are small and sometimes fractured, so that they could not create leaders amongst themselves to push for greater alienation or self-rule, as what the Tamils in Sri Lanka had tried to do with the establishment of the Tamil Eelam or Tamil Tigers, whose leader Prabakaran was finally killed few years ago, with his sixteen-year-old son, the unofficial successor to the movement, who was shot by the Sri Lankan forces a few weeks ago.

‘Brixton Beach’ may also be about the minorities in the other countries, such as Malaysia, which also has a sizeable group of Tamils, Chinese and other minorities, who were mostly brought into the country during British colonial rule.

Therefore is there is anyone to blame, they are not the majority natives but the British colonists who had caused much consternation, destruction and personal anguish which now allows for the publication of some books and production of some films to be shared.

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