Two sides to every story

There has been a lot of coverage recently of the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka and tension between the two sides is rising, even here in Canada. It is obvious this conflict must be stopped, but amid all this media attention, the public is forgetting one very important fact.

A war is fought between two sides and, correspondingly, understanding must be given to both sides as well.

Let’s not forget that this cause du jour dates back as far as to 1975 when the Tamil Tigers were formed and demanded the creation of a separate ethnic state of Tamils. Even further back. As with many world conflicts, the original cause is lost in years of entrenched ethnic conflict and animosity that eventually erupted in war.

We need to remember the Sri Lankan government didn’t just decide to kill Tamils. Tamil Tiger suicide bombers have assassinated political figures and Sri Lankan supporters, as in 1993 with the assassination of Sri Lanka’s president Ranasinghe Premadasa. In 2006, the Tigers closed the gates of a reservoir, cutting water to over 60,000 people. This prompted the Sri Lankan government to launch its first major attack on Tiger territory since a 2002 ceasefire. And yet, who are we to judge the Tigers’ motives? We can only pass judgment on the means.

We also need to remember that not every Tamil person is a Tiger. On the contrary, most are civilians. An estimated 250,000 people are trapped in a battle zone and people are said to be dying each day.

Wrongs have been made on both sides, and the GTA’s large Tamil population is right to raise concern. We fully support the protests, the activism, and the cries for justice. This editorial is not meant to pick a side. We don’t have enough expertise to decide who is right or wrong.

Can anyone really have that say?

Our editorial purpose is to press the public to be careful and keep a balanced persepctive. Just as large Tamil populations — innocent civilians — are being persecuted, I urge those in this community to remember the Sri Lankan people living beside you are innocent civilians as well. Sri Lankans and Tamils in this country shouldn’t be persecuted because of their ethnicity and cultural history.

German-Canadians and Japanese-Canadians didn’t deserve the backlash they received during World War Two. The Arab people did not deserve the backlash they received after 9/11. And Sri Lankans and Tamils should not receive a backlash either. Let’s send support for justice across the ocean, and not carry old hatred back with us. Let’s not let history repeat itself.