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Discrimination?

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This book titled “Discrimination” has been prepared by a few civic minded people whose main objective is ethnic amity in the country. The main purpose of this book is to let foreigners, especially the foreign media, know the truth about the cry of discrimination against minorities in Sri Lanka. It is the reader of this book who should be the judge – let him or her form a balanced view of judgement after reading the data and statistics in this book.

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The Childhood Hero of Ceylon

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Sri Lanka -The War Fueled by ‘Peace’

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By Palitha M. Senanayake

This book was first published in Sri Lanka in 2010 under ISBN-978-955-52965-0-2

The forward

‘Truth triumphs at the end’ is a universal maxim that few would hasten to question. This is because civilized thinking is necessarily based on facts to construct models of inductive and deductive reasoning. World civilization cannot move forward for better unless its collective judgments are based on facts and fundamental truths. However, the study of facts, events, and logic presented in ‘Sri Lanka -The War Fueled by Peace”, make the reader doubt, whether truth, by virtue of being the truth alone, could always triumph under all circumstances?

It is a fact that Sri Lanka managed to defeat the most pernicious terrorist organization in the world having grappled with it for 34 years but the reality of the victory is that it was not brought about by the power of truth of the situation but because certain events, that coalesced at a particular time, manage to overcome the covert and overt organized forces that contributed to this conflict. The fact that artifice, as against the truth, held sway for 34 years shows that, had those events not coincided at the time, the conflict probably would have dragged on forever, making death and destruction, continue as they did. Therefore, power and organization may, not only suppress truth, but would also make falsity to mascaraed as the truth. In that respect, the author has made a very valid case of the role played by the vested interests and tendentious propaganda in the Sri Lankan conflict.

The author, with extensive research, incisive thinking and logical reasoning, has a built up a convincing case to prove that everything about the Sri Lankan conflict is exactly the opposite of what is popularly believed to be. The one who is said to be the aggrieved has been the real aggressor while the predicator of all that aggression had been projected as the aggressor. The ‘Peace activists’ under the guise of peace have been promoting the conflict to serve the needs of the national and international questionable elements. Thus, ‘Tamil grievances in Sri Lanka’ is a pretext to draw the support of the international community towards a bigger goal of the privileged Sri Lanka Tamil community.

Sri Lanka could not defeat terrorism not because it did not have the capacity to do so but because its leaders, influenced by powerful sinister forces and sometimes due to their own servile upbringing, refused to recognize the true causes and the forces that contribute to this conflict.

There are reactionary elements in every country or society that will hold on to their privileges at all costs preventing the progressive advancement of nation/society. In such a scenario, the more acceptable way for a responsible regime would be to manage the transition gradually through peaceful means, obviating extreme action. However, when the situation reaches a point where the reactionaries, not only tenaciously resist progressive change, but chose to react with a proxy war to protect their parochial interests, the Government will have no alternative but to vanquish those elements by the use of force.

The world powers have a responsibility to act with empathy, diligence and a sense of reasoning to be worthy of their global advocacy on paradigms of Global civilization such as international justice, human rights, freedom of expression, etc..  On the other hand, if the world powers chose to use these very paradigms to further their political, economic and expansionist ends, such action will bring about a confidence crisis in Global leadership pushing the world in to more chaos and conflicts. This, quite tenably, is the position taken by the author.

This is an enlightening book that opens new vistas of thinking on the Sri Lankan conflict with its national and international dimensions and hence it should be widely read by those who desire an in-depth knowledge of the subject.

Nihal Ratnayake
Director – Editorials
Lake House Newspaper Group
Colombo.

4th January 2010

The Preface

Sri Lanka was mired in a blood-letting conflict for years. The misery it enacted saddened me like any other countryman who wished to live in peace with self- respect and basic human decencies. The protracted nature of that conflict also created a sense of foreboding with regard to the future of the country, making even the lives of our future generations pegged in hopelessness. This prompted me, into some serious thinking about this whole scenario, leading to years of research and analytical thinking as to the causes and genesis of this conflict.

The more I studied this problem, the more it appeared that there were incongruities and paradoxes in our conventional thinking on this subject, and hence for that very reason, the plethora of ‘solutions’ that were meant to address this issue over the years, have had exactly the opposite effect in exacerbating, rather than solving, this conflict. What was even more pernicious was that it was becoming increasingly clear that the forces of vested interests that stood to gain from this conflict were flexing their national and international muscles, in a subtle and complex way to blind the nation and its leaders so that the nation continues on this road of self-destruction. The need of the hour therefore, was clear, objective and ‘non-tendentious’ analysis of the many prognoses available to understand the problem. After all, understanding a problem comprehensively, they say, is equal to solving it in half.

The success of science lies in its unflinching probity into the ultimate truth about the nature of forces and substances that make our planet earth and the universe. There is no room for conjecture in science and even a hypothesis will have a limited life. Therefore, in that context, the truth about this conflict should be of concern to all who are genuinely interested in solving this conflict, once and for all. 

However, it is inevitable that every person who attempts to write on this subject will bring his own prejudice, values and pathos to bear on the facts and judgments expressed because no man is an ‘Island’ of his own making. Yet, being mindful of the purpose of this exercise and the need to unravel this intriguing complex, I have striven to do justice to the subject even though the analysis and conclusions may sometimes appear ‘out of the box’ and against the thinking that is made be ‘popularly held’. If we do not have the courage to call spade a ‘spade’ we will never dig the land to unearth the root causes but instead would continue to scratch the surface. 

It was Rajith Zoysa of WAPS, World Alliance of Peace in Sri Lanka who first suggested that I should make a collection of all my newspaper articles on the subject into a book. In considering that suggestion, it occurred to me that those articles were written in the contexts and times applicable to situations, and a book on the other hand, should deal with the subject matter more comprehensively and systematically. Then, it was my initiation in to ‘Prof. F R Jayasuriya foundation’, a non-profit making organization, by my schoolmate Keerthi Jayasuriya, that laid the foundation for me to accomplish this task.

It was in January 2008, when the Government forces were locked in an intense battle with the LTTE, generating a lot of adverse publicity against the country in the western media, that I decided to make my findings and thinking into a book. However, the task of completing the book took some time and the Government forces were able to complete the armed operation successfully, before the book could see the print of day. However, it is only the armed manifestation of this complex issue, that the Government forces were able to overcome and not the insidious causes and forces that fashioned this conflict. Identifying such subverting and disguised vested interests should be of concern to those who are interested in understanding this conflict. Therefore, from that perspective this book would still serve a vital area of national interest.

While acknowledging with gratitude all those who helped me in this task, I must single out Mr Cecil Dharmasena for kindly undertaking the editing of this volume, Mr D C A Gunawardene, Director, Department of Census and Statistics for providing national census and Mr S. Pathiravithana, former Features Editor of Ceylon Daily News, for all the intellectual inputs. Mr Nihal Ratnayake, Director Editorials, Lake House group. was gracious enough to contribute by volunteering with a Forward.

Palitha M Senanayake
Madilande Walawwe,
Pitagaldeniya.
Kegalle.

15th October 2009. 

Dedication

This book is dedicated to all those persons, who died and were wounded, due to this conflict; the Sri Lankan soldiers in the course of their duty, the LTTE members motivated by misplaced racial condensations to achieve a Pan- Tamil state, and the civilians who were the all too unfortunate victims.

On behalf of all of them, this book intends to espouse the thought that, “violence, brings in its wake, death destruction and immense misery, and is the basal point in humanity. Thus, in the long run, it does not pay to contribute, knowingly or unknowingly, and for whatever reason, towards violence.  Violence is bound to boomerang and has no lasting power, and that is because violence is not based on righteousness.  Righteousness is the only basis of enduring world peace and civilized living.

Book Summary

  • Prologue
  • 1st Chapter   –  From where do we start?                                       page   11
  • 2nd Chapter   –  The Paradox                                                             page   19
  • 3rd  Chapter  –  Geography, Demography, Geology and History.Page   28
  • 4th  Chapter  –   Negotiations                                                             Page    39
  • 5Th Chapter  –  The Current Military operation                             Page   61
  • 6th  Chapter   –  Discrimination in Sri Lankan Society                  Page  80
  • 7th  Chapter   –  The Cause- According to Tamils                            Page  90
  • 8th   Chapter  –  Brutality, the nemesis of grievances                 page  118
  • 9th   Chapter  – Genesis of the Tamil problem                               Page 138
  • 10th Chapter  – Hyped Tamil Grievances Subverting Genuine Sinhala        Page  155
  • 11th Chapter  – Pre- Colonialism to Post- Colonialism.                 Page  170
  • 12th Chapter  – National Integration Vs. Post Independent Dichotomies.     Page  183
  • 13th Chapter  – Colonial stripes on the Tiger                                 page  199
  • 14th Chapter  – Pan Tamil State & ‘Exodus’ in the making          Page  215
  • 15th Chapter  – Propaganda, English media and Dubious media agendas     Page   225 
  • 16th Chapter  – New Face of Colonialism Diaspora and the NGO                page   244
  • 17th Chapter  – The New Strategy of ‘Re- Colonization’.            Page   262
  • 18th Chapter  – West’s Agenda for South Asia and Sri Lanka   page   284
  • 19th Chapter  – India and the Indo -Lanka Accord                      page   293
  • 20th Chapter  –  The Way Forward                                                  page   311
  • Epilogue.

Prologue

The Curtain comes down…

He sat in his makeshift bunker in a small patch of land, ruminating the events of the past few months. Where did he go wrong and what could he have done differently? He had gone through similar situations before but none of those had been as precarious and as sterile as it is this time!

His clothes were drenched, having been buried in the murky waters of the lagoon for hours. That was how he escaped the daytime operation by the Sri Lankan army. He saw his once elite bodyguards being killed by the forces, but he lay motionless buried up to his neck in the sandy mud. These certainly were difficult times. Even more difficult than the incipient stages of his battle when he was young, and was unknown.

His personal pistol, with No.001. inscribed on it, hung around his waist wrapped in polythene to prevent water seeping in. His LTTE identity card issued on 01.01.07 with his designation as the ‘Leader of the LTTE’ and his date of birth, hung around his neck along with the metal tag bearing No.001. He had everything an average member of the LTTE would have, except the cyanide valve which is the hallmark of the movement. That may sound somewhat strange, for death does not seemed to be an option for a man who admonished all his followers to choose between death and their ‘cause’.

Another polythene bag lay beside him. That contained personal paraphernalia, requirements of the hour; his diabetic drugs, insulin; antiseptic cream for the wounds and some dressings and moisturizing cream. However, he held in his hand the most important of all his possessions right at that moment. And that was his satellite phone. He was awaiting responses from a few he had contacted to bail him out of the situation. “If only I could wrangle myself out of this, I will know how!” he thought.

He had no clear news about his son who was manning the ‘boys’ on the other side of the lagoon. Did he die and was he not told about it? Now there is hardly anybody coming to him with the battle updates. Yesterday, even Pulidevan and Nadesan who went with a white flag fluttering could not work it out. There had been too many suicide cadres disguising themselves as surrenders, so the SL army has now become wise. In any case how can I possibly surrender to the SL army?

In a moment of emotion, the thoughts about his wife Mathivathini, daughter Dwaraka and the youngest son Balakrishnan flashed across his mind: will I ever see them again! The world doesn’t seem to be rotating the way it once did, any longer!

He thought about Chris Patten the Chief of the European Union who came all the way to Kilinochchi to shake hands with him. Where is Solheim who promised to get him surrendered to a third party. Where is Bob Rae, Simon Hughes, Keith Vaz and the whole works, his international friends. What is KP (the LTTE’s international man) doing? He is only asking us whether we could release the civilian people. In any case now they had been taken by the SL army, 2 days ago. The last to leave were the ‘Mahavir families’ and most of them were prepared to die with us! But then, why did they go at this crucial hour??

Idi Amin, for all his idiocies, was dead right when he said that ‘the only wrong thing Hitler did, was to lose the war’. People are funny; they all subscribe to the victor and the loser is always wrong. Now that I have lost the war, nobody, even those who idolized me, will have anything in my favor.

“Have I really exhausted all my avenues of saving myself? What happened to those decoys I sent as refugees to tell the SL army that I had escaped in a submarine? It doesn’t seem to have worked. Then the advanced party sent towards the jungle exit near the A35 highway also got killed. That was the only way I could have escaped into the jungle”. He started dosing off for he had not had ‘a proper sleep’ or a meal for days.

Gunfire at dawn shook him awake, and it sounded so close. ‘Wish I could continue dreaming than waking into this nightmare!’ He thought of crawling back into the lagoon water, “but it is awfully sticky and chilly and maybe I will die of pneumonia if I continue in this water. Where are these fellows, my handpicked bodyguards?”

The sound of guns is now getting closer. There is an ambulance parked a few meters away on the water’s edge. “I should get into that and hide myself”, he hoped against hope and took a few steps to run. Just then he saw the advancing soldiers and one of his remaining bodyguards coming out of the nearby bush firing towards them. That is Nithi, the best out of the lot.

“Anna, they are coming” he shouted at him.

That was the last he heard before the guns started to explode. Nithi got thrown in his direction with his head in two pieces. In fact, he fell so close to him that he even felt the taste of blood with parts of Nithi’ head shattered across his face. ‘Taste of death’ he thought and impulsively reached for his gun.

‘Have they seen me or can I run?’ He could only take a few steps forward stealthily: he felt something excruciating hitting him on the head and the whole body became numb. His legs would not obey his orders anymore!

“So, this is it!” he thought, ‘This is what it is like to die!” and the whole thing became blurred and dark and his heavy body just collapsed on the wet sandy mud of the lagoon ending a 34 year period of vainglorious and insolent bravado.

The man who said, “The problem with some of you people is that you can’t see blood. You have to kill!” lay in a pool of blood, but not before he caused the deaths of more than hundred thousand Sri Lankans, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. His moribund acts of deliberately targeting the country’s economic nerve centers, also caused more than US$ 20billion worth of directs damage to the national economy. Then, to accomplish all this, he collected well beyond US$ 15 billion over a period of 30 years from the Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates living in the west.

The tragedy however is that, at the end of all this mayhem and murder in the name of ‘liberation of Tamils’, the ones wealthy, cultured and educated Sri Lankan Tamil community found itself reduced to a pitiable position with some displaced, some disoriented and some living abroad as asylum seekers with gun culture and crime reigning supreme. Even in population strength, as the current numbers would suggest, the Ceylon Tamils population today is estimated to be around 9% of the Sri Lankan population as against the pre-conflict 12 %.

If the country was pushed back by 30 years, the country’s most privileged minority, the Tamils, were pushed back by 100 years. The story therefore, of Sri Lanka’s 33year old ‘Tamil liberation struggle’, is certainly a story full of intrigue and incongruity!

Chapter 1

From where do we start this??

Writing or discussing the massacres and mayhem, Sri Lanka as a nation is undergoing at present, with a fervent wish of ‘wishing them away’ could be a moral compulsion for any one of the country’s citizens. The issue however is that violence, often premeditated and targeting civilians, takes place with such regularity and monotony that it is difficult to decide as to how and where one should start relating these events.

The year 2008 dawned on Sri Lanka, as it did on any other part of the globe. A few hours in to the New Year however, the news broke out that T Maheshwaran, a Member of Parliament representing Colombo district in the United National Party, a Tamil by ethnicity, was gunned down at the Ponnambalam Vaghishwar Kovil at Kotahena in the North of Colombo when he was attending his customary pooja on the first of every month. He had been shot at point-blank range as he entered the Kovil, by a person who had been waiting in ambush for his arrival. Mr Maheshwaran’s security officers had returned the fire injuring the fleeing assailant who was trying to mingle among the terrified crowd. He was eventually overpowered and arrested and his identity was established as Valentine Collin Jonathan, a Tamil from Gurunagar in the Jaffna district in north Sri Lanka.

41year old T. Maheshawaran, in addition to being a Member of Parliament, was a rich businessman owning a few businesses including a shipping company in Colombo. Although a native of Jaffna he had been resident and established in Colombo for the past 30 years. His death left the lives of his wife Vijayakala and 2 children devastated and in a mire of business and politics. Even though he often championed the cause of his fellow Tamils, being an opposition member from the UNP, he was well accepted in Government circles and even among Muslim members and his funeral was overshadowed by the attendance of Government and Opposition politicians’ far outnumbering even members of his own community.

The motive behind the killing was not immediately known but the assailant, a Roman Catholic Tamil, has been serving in the Tamil VIP security circles including that of Minister Douglas Devenanda, a rival Tamil politician. Besides the fact that a micro pistol had been used in the assassination, a hallmark of LTTE killings, this had been a rare occasion where the killer had been apprehended in a condition to make interrogation possible. Since of late, the Mr Maheshwaran had been critical of the Government and particularly of Douglas Devanada his fellow Tamil Minister in the Government. There had also been an earlier unsuccessful attempt on Mr Maheshwaran’s life. The opposition United National Party, as usual, tried to make a political capital out of the situation, accusing the Government of contributing to the event by its recent attempt to economize on Mr. Maheshwaran’s security.

However, as things fell in to place it was revealed that the killer had been contracted by the LTTE to eliminate the Tamil Parliamentarian. The LTTE is an organization that eliminates anybody and anything that stands in its way and the official conjecture was that the popularity of Maheshwaran was not to the liking of the LTTE which seeks to project itself in the role of ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Maheshwaran, equally fluent in Sinhala, was gaining popularity even in his native Jaffna and was increasingly becoming a symbol of communal unity. The LTTE on the other hand had always worked to keep the two communities polarized.

On 3rd January2008 an army bus taking wounded soldiers from the Army headquarters to the Narahenpita Army hospital came under attack at the Slave Island junction in Colombo. The claymore attack had been carried out from the Manning Mansion, one of the oldest buildings and a former Governor’s residence, now made into a hotel. The attack killed 5, including 2 soldiers, 3 pedestrians and wounded 28. There was an A/L student from a prominent school and his mother among the dead. 

On 6th January2008 a Seaman on a tip-off discovered 8.72 kgs of C4 Explosive material and 1kg steel balls, in the vicinity of the ‘Crow Island’ boatyard, north of Colombo. According to the informant the material had been brought to Colombo to trigger explosions in 4 different public places during rush hour in Colombo. 

On 8th January2008 a claymore attack was directed at the convoy of Government Minister Hon Mr D.M Dassanayake at Thudella, Jaela in the western province of Sri Lanka. The minister died while being admitted to the Negombo hospital and his bodyguard too succumbed to his injuries. Although the killings had all the LTTE hallmarks, it was not clear as to why the LTTE should kill this low profile Minister who had little personal and official interaction with the LTTE, making the investigators suspect even political enmity.

When they removed the deceased Minister’s valuable at the hospital mortuary they found a packet of sweets and a storybook the Minister had bought for his13yar old daughter. Mr Dasanayake was such a family man that his ministerial colleagues maintained that he avoided assignment which require official travel abroad, since being away from the family was not very much to his liking; and even when he finally makes a trip, he become a problem for the others in the entourage because of his incessant requests to return home.

The Minister’s funeral was held at his native Anamaduwa with the attendance of a record crowd. Grief was overflowing with people, elderly and young, filling past the casket sobbing, wailing and some even expressing anger at the untimely death. Mr Dasanayake had been a very popular man with his own inimitable style of doing things. As for the identity of the killer it was later established that The LTTE had carried out this attack expecting the ministerial entourage to be that of the Minster Jeyaraj Fernadopulle, a Tamil and a close associate of President Mahinda Rajapakse who also takes the same route home. Hence the assassination of D M Dassanayake had been an assassination due to mistaken identity.  

On 15th January 2008, 27-year-old Chandralatha boarded the Buttala bound Sri Lanka Transport bus no. 62-6427 at Neadalle, a small village town in South East Sri Lanka. She is a teacher in the Maligavila Junior school just 6 miles from Neadella. As the time was around 7.15 am, the bus was packed to capacity with office workers, garment factory girls and even school children. For Chandralatha the bus ride was mere monotony as she took this bus to work every day: but that day being a Tuesday which is the ‘fair day’ at Buttala, the bus was oozing out with passengers and luggage.

The bus started to gather speed after collecting a few more passengers at the halt near the ‘third-mile post’. Climbing the Veliara hill, the crowded bus was proceeding at a snail’s pace. As the bus passed the shrubbery patch of terrain on to its right there was a deafening sound jolting the bus out of its course. There was screaming and whining and the bus skidded and came to rest in the roadside drain and Chandralatha was awestruck.

In seconds screams turned to wails and then they became more decipherable and they ranged from ‘Bomb attack’ to ‘they are throwing bombs’. Befuddled and in a severe state of shock Chanralatha saw people fallen on the floor and outside the bus with clothes torn and blood-spattered with pieces of glass and iron scattered all over. She tried to break free from the crowd but virtually got pushed out with the crowd. In the pandemonium, she fell into the drain but dragged herself on to the edge of the road.

Battered and bruised the passengers just tried to gather themselves when they heard the sound of gunfire. Wails gave way to screams again and those who were on the road started running helter-skelter ‘There! There! They are shooting from atop the mountain’ somebody cried and they all started running towards the shrub jungle for cover. As she ran for her dear life, Chandralatha felt a queer painful sensation down her left arm and Blood started to drip down her sari and the hand became numb. She realized that she had been shot in the arm and in a moment of frenzy and panic she ran faster expecting the next shot to pierce her head. There was unceasing sound of gunfire and Chandralatha ran faster and faster with the crowd fearing that the black-clad gun totting menace would catch up with her any moment.

She thought of her little son still asleep in his cot and her husband working at the village Co-operative. Oh what an end to me! But what did I do to deserve this tragic end? It was a maddening dash. She remembers people tripping over bushes and brushing the trees; falling down and then collecting themselves up again. Even elderly women, driven by mortal fear with eyes wide as ever were scrambling across with their saris tucked up to their knees.

The reverberating sound of firing became less and less menacing and they must have run about half a mile by now. Chandralatha was feeling dizzy but she was determined to save her self for the sake of the little son. The crowd now started talking to each other. Still panting and in shock nobody could talk properly and some could not be made to listen. After having half run, half walked, another good distance, they came upon a by road in the jungle. Then, the sound of an approaching vehicle! A tractor took the bend and it was carrying a load of newly threshed paddy chaff.

The sight of disheveled strangers, with some limping along in blood splattered clothes, made the tractor driver stop his vehicle. The men in the crowd stuttered the confusing details to the tractor driver, and then he volunteered to take all of them to the main road.  Since almost all of them had some injury or the other the driver suggested that they go to the primary hospital close by. Chandralatha felt her legs sore: her stomach started to churn as she clambered and laid herself by the stacks of paddy chaff on the tractor carriage. With blood still dripping down her hand she felt faintish despite the sigh of relief. The tractor started with a jerk and she looked at the sky: it was all spinning around her. She embraced a stack of chaff.

The claymore attack and shooting of the public passenger bus at Weliara took the lives of 30 (13 men 14 women and 3 children) and injured 62, some seriously, whose only concern was to live in peace within their own little worlds. Chandralatha survived to relate the story of the worst experience any human could possibly undergo in a lifetime.

On 16th January 2008, at nightfall two members of the civil defense force, Karunaratne (5264) and Sarath Kumara (36632) came out to the Thanamalvila- Tambegamuwa road near the village called Kalawelgala. They had been put on special alert following the bus bomb blast at a nearby village two days ago. Hence naturally their discussion centered around the bomb blast that took many lives and the possibility of the LTTE members still roaming about in the jungles. They expressed obvious reservations about fighting the ‘armed to the teeth’ LTTE with the type of old weapons they had in possession. Just then they noticed some shadows walking towards them on the road and a more focused look revealed that the advancing party was in uniform. The picture, at once reminded them of the morning news headline where the   Government had promised to provide ‘adequate security to the villages in the area’. ‘This is really quick work’, they thought, but just then the noise of gunfire broke out and both Karunaratne and Sarath Kumara dropped dead on the road. That night the LTTE killed 11 villagers including a school principal name Sugathadasa in the Kalawegala village, some of them while having their dinner.

On 1st of February 2008, a time bomb exploded at the Dehiwala Zoo, in the vicinity of Colombo near the entrance to ‘Kurulu Uyana’( Bird Park). As it was not a crowded holiday and the time was in the morning, the bomb was not very damaging and it injured only six persons, two of them seriously. The bomb appeared to have targeted school children who normally visit the only zoo near Colombo during that time.

On 2nd February 2008 at dawn, the Anuradhapura bound private sector public transport bus from Kandy, in central Sri Lanka, took off sharp on time at 5.15 a m.. Since the bus reaches Anuradhapura, in the North Central Province, around 8.30 a.m., the bus was popular among the en-route office workers of Anuradhapura.  The bus was always well patronized, but on that particular day morning (2nd Feb.) since there was a religious festival at Shri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, the bus had a crowd that it could hardly accommodate.

The bus reached Dambulla, a halfway point, around 7.30 am and the driver Sarath Wijesiri was maneuvering the bus to park at the Dambulla public bus stand. There was this bus from Polonnaruwa obstructing his way causing him to slow down for a few moments. Just then there was a loud explosive noise that made Wejesiri lose his senses. It must have been a few minutes before he regained consciousness to see that the left door was ajar and there were pieces of glass all over the place. He realized that it was a big explosion and the rear side of the bus was considerably affected. He remembered limping out of the bus as if in a daze and coming out to see what really hit him in the rear. There was thick black smoke and nothing was visible but he realized that the explosion had taken place inside the bus! The explosion in the Anuradhapura bound passenger bus at Dambulla killed 19 civilians and wounded 75.  The conductor of the bus. W.A. Sunil, later recounted that two persons who boarded the bus at Matale and got off at Naula could have left a parcel bomb in the rear of the bus.

On 2nd February 2008 afternoon at Padaviya, an agricultural village in the east of Sri Lanka, a passenger bus plying from Parakramapura to Janakapura on the Welioya- Athawetunuwewa road became the target of a claymore attack, killing 12 passengers and injuring17. After the bomb hit the front left part of the bus the wounded driver had taken the bus another 200 yards before he eventually collapsed. The driver later explained that he took the bus a comfortable distance after the attack, because he expected the attackers to shoot at fleeing passengers had he stopped at the very scene of the accident. Therefore, the first thing that struck him after he realized that the bus was under attack was to drive as farther as the injuries would permit him to.

On 3rd February 2008 (Sunday) the baseball team from D.S. Senanayake College (a popular school in Colombo) returned to Colombo after taking part in the baseball tournament at Kandy University grounds. Baseball is not a popular game in Sri Lanka and very few schools have teams playing baseball. D S Senanayake College, being a school patronized by upper-middle-class parents of Sri Lanka was one of the few such ‘outbound’ schools. 7 members of the baseball team and their coach died when they walked into the explosion at the Fort Railway station in Colombo set off by a suicide woman who had come in the previous Vavuniya train.

The public media was outpouring with grief, carrying moving stories of abject despondency of the parents, partly because it was an occasion where 8 promising young sportsman had their lives tragically plucked off in their prime and also because they were not just ‘hoi polloi’, the victims in everyday attacks. Among the many grief-stricken accounts, one stood out for its touching nature. That was the story related by the surgeon who treated the mortally wounded 17-year-old Thivanka Thissera at the Colombo general hospital.

Although Thivanka had serious injuries to his chest and head, he was conscious. The hospital authorities decided to subject him to an emergency operation as that was the only way of saving his life. Thivanka, realizing the seriousness of his condition fervently called out for a member of the medical team in whom his fate rested. But his pleading had a different tone to it. He said that he was the only child in his family and his parents looked after him like a ‘flower’. All the aspirations of his parents centered around him and he felt very bad about the situation he was in purely from his parent’s standpoint. He was not afraid to die but when he thought the gloom and doom that would bring to his parent’s lives he dreaded the very thought of it and felt they deserve a better deal from him for all that they had done to him. So he implored with the Doctor to save his life at least for his parents’ sake.

The Doctors tried their best but Thivanka’s injuries proved to be too lethal. When Thivanka was pronounced dead the following day the Chief Surgeon looked as equally distraught as the parents themselves. The suicide bomb attack on the Fort Railway station in Colombo resulted in the deaths of 16 civilians with 22 injured.

These are the events that greeted the people of Sri Lanka in chronological order over the first 35 days of the year 2008 (i.e. from 1st January to 4th February 2008). It is a series of tragedies where one tragic events emerges, overshadowing the one that occurred just before, giving the impression that for some reason the country’s civil administration has lost control of the situation. This has been happening in Sri Lanka for the past 33 years where a separatist Tamil movement killed Alfred Duraiappah, the Tamil mayor of Jaffna in 1975; and since then the number of persons died as a result of this separatist conflict is estimated to have cost the country 80,000 lives and Us $ 20 billion worth of collateral damage.

The above incidents, include 5 attacks within a space of 9 days, deliberately and indiscriminately aimed at, women, children, infirm, and the infants, killing108 of them and injuring more than 800. These are premeditated attacks against innocent defenseless people who have nothing to do with the Government and the politics of Sri Lanka. Who is responsible for this carnage and how could these people ensure their protection and how did this country manage such depths of absolute despondency! What could possibly be the reason for this?

The architect of these premeditated cruel acts of violence against the innocent civilians of the country is an organization that styled itself as the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), an organization that is fighting to carve out a separate state for the Tamil community in the North of a country where the majority is Sinhalese. They claim that they have been discriminated against and persecuted since independence from Britain in 1948 and therefore, are left with no alternative but to pursue a course of separation.

There are English educated Sinhalese who agree with this position and they write to the English press saying that the cause of all this is the 1956 language issue, the letter ‘Shri’ on vehicle licenses, or the 1983 riots. But haven’t all these been rectified now? Tamil has been made a national language in 1978 and it is now an official language in par with Sinhalese. The letter ‘Shri’ has been done away with in 1991 by President Premadasa. Today the percentage of Tamils who have settled themselves down in Colombo, far exceeds the percentage of Tamils that were there in 1983. Yet these apologists continue to echo the propaganda of the Tamil Diaspora thereby justifying the crimes of the LTTE indirectly. What is the cause, that is so sacred on this earth that is worth fighting for, by killing innocent civilians and what are the life’s rights, these terrorists are aiming to win by snuffing out life itself?

The former President of Sri Lanka, M/s Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranathunge, who reigned for two periods from 1994 to 2005, was a fervent believer of the premise that the present conflict is the result of historical grievances suffered by the Tamil community and their grievance should be addressed by devolving political power to the periphery. She often maintained that ’If you eliminate Prabhakaran, more Prabhakaran would be born!’ She was trying to build up a school of thought that the more a race or a community is aggrieved, the more violent, the repercussions would be on those who perpetrate those grievances. Yet, quite unfortunately, her knowledge of Sri Lankan history never stretched beyond July 83. Her thinking was quite in contrast to that of her own mother (three times Prime minister and former Chairman of the Non-Aligned Nations) who called the Tamils in Sri Lanka “one of the most privileged communities, anywhere in the world”.

Even the leader of the alternative Government to M /s Kumaranatunge, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP believed in a similar solution and during his brief 3year stint as the Prime Minister he entered in to an armistice, a Cease Fire Agreement with the LTTE where he offered them virtually everything they had been demanding and was so optimistically committed to his ‘peace process’ that he even conceded certain concessions that are beyond the office of the Prime Minister.

The question then is, if both these leaders, being members of the Sinhalese community, had such confidence in their solution to this debilitating problem, why could they not implement this solution between them during the last 11 years of their tenure and solve this problem? Beyond that, why is the LTTE so incessantly cruel towards a community that has democratically elected such benign and understanding leaders?

However on the obverse, it was during M/s Kumaratunge’s regime that the LTTE atrocities increased making up to the highest number of deaths of security forces personnel and civilians casualties, and also causing extensive collateral damage amounting to billions, driving the Sri Lankan economy to a negative growth situation.Ranil Wickremesinghe’s regime pandered to the LTTE so much making them entertain the thoughts of separatism to a point where they even banned the Sri Lankan elections in 2005 from taking place in Tamil areas, declaring to the world that ‘the Sri Lankan elections have no bearing to their Ealam territory’. By and large, towards the end of 2005 Sri Lanka as a nation was on the verge of being declared a ‘failed state’. Therefore, an analysis of the recent event connected to this problem may not support this theory of Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe.

Further, if this logic of M /S Kumaranatunge and Wickremesinghe is to be accepted, those communities who had been subjected to grievances all over the world should have spawned equally, or more violent, terror groups in response to the suppression they had been subjected to, for years. In that context, it is common knowledge in world history that there had been ethnically cleansed communities in the world such as, the Red Indians in North America, the Mauries in New Zealand, the Aborigines in Australia and the Incas in South America. These communities have been marginalized throughout the years with suppression by the colonial powers to the point of extinction today. Similarly, there had been Black slaves in the United States and the practice of ‘apartheid’ in former South Africa subjecting those communities to the most violent of legacies for a humankind. Therefore, the paradox is that it is neither in the United States, nor in Australia, Newzealand or South Africa, but in Sri Lanka that this ‘most brutal and ruthless’ terror outfit in the world emerged. How did Sri Lanka, less develop and small, managed this feat?

As responsible citizens of Sri Lanka, it is our duty to pause for a moment and think what really is happening to our country! We have left our fate, on this crucial issue in the hands of ‘political theorists’ and ‘the international community’ for their experiments for far too long. It is not advisable for us to be passive spectators any longer, for with such indiscriminate massacres nobody is safe and next time it could be either you or me! There is separatist’s terrorism in well over 100 countries of the 192 strong UN members: but none has it as badly as we Sri Lankans do.

These unrestrained attacks against the civilians set out above, continue to raise security concerns in the Government and among the civilians in general adding more responsibilities to the already stretched public security apparatus in Sri Lanka. The situation appeared so hopeless that the authorities and the concerned civilians looked askance for protection not knowing where to start and how to coordinate a situation which appeared so vulnerable and equally volatile.

The buses started screening every passenger and often employed an additional person to check the passengers and their luggage. Family members, especially the father and the mother, never travelled in the same bus because they feared that the children will lose both parents if the terrorist set a bomb in that bus. There were security concerns in Central Bus and Train terminals where the Government had to deploy a special Civil Defense Force. The marketplaces heightened their security: big supermarkets started special security programs: school authorities started strengthening their security demanding that parents too should play an active part; every Government office and Corporation had to pay special attention in view of the current indiscriminate carnage. No private sector company, firm, an agency or even the smallest of the wayside boutiques could count themselves out of this situation and even the tutories conducting private tuition classes, which have mushroomed over the years with the competitive University entrance exams, felt especially vulnerable in view of the congregation of young people for weekend classes. Hospitals, co-operatives, Post offices, Petrol sheds, Public eating places: and you name it, they all had security concerns and were working to strengthen, incurring extra costs and effort. And with all that nobody was still feeling safe in a context where the attacks are so unpredictable and indiscriminate.

Such a paranoid security situation in a country, would invariably bring about a host of social and economic problems, in its wake; the farmers could not transport their produce without hindrance to the store, the vendors could not ply their delivery networks without constant interruptions and delay, a passenger could not take his luggage, even a briefcase, without being subjected to extensive checks. A pregnant woman could not avoid the probing eye and would not always yield the respect and chivalry that the Sri Lankan society has been used to: school children could not sometimes take all their books to school; and huge traffic jams ensued at the entrance to most towns as security personnel searched the vehicles for potential car bombs: parking became ever more difficult in the towns with only those areas considered secure, being designated as vehicle parks.

The worst tragedy however, is that these deaths and mortal injuries have become so much of a monotony in the lives of Sri Lankans that they tend to treat such occurrences as mere statistics when in actual fact they should arouse an immense amount of grief and emotion in a country where family bonds are strong. Sri Lanka, with its Buddhist majority consider all forms of life to be so sacred; people even obstruct the job of the ‘stray dog catcher’ through compassion for the animals and the average Sri Lankan even entertains moral compunctions about killing mosquitoes.

 People of Sri Lanka for all their failings deserve a better deal than this and for that matter why should any set of humans undergo such deliberate acts of crimes to be so cruelly unleashed on its innocent people? 

Yet with all this diagnoses, reasoning, and counter-reasoning, the position in Sri Lanka appear complicated, hyped and paradoxical, requiring a comprehensive study as to whether this murderous separatist campaign is a result of this alleged ‘discrimination’ or on the other hand an organized effort to destabilize a small country.

While the Sri Lankan leaders appear to be so apologetic about the activities of the LTTE the FBI fact book for the year 2007 devotes quite some space in its international security status report describing the LTTE as the most dangerous and extremist terrorist outfit in the world. “In its campaign to seize control of the country from the Sinhalese majority and create an independent Tamil state, the LTTE has launched, suicide attacks, assassinated politicians, and committed all kinds of crimes to finance its operations. The rebel groups ruthless activities have inspired terrorist groups worldwide, including Al Qaeda in Iraq” added the FBI report.

This report confirms the happenings in Sri Lanka and dispels doubts entertained by any student of the Sri Lankan conflict as to the nature and character of this organization called the LTTE. The LTTE beyond doubt is the world No. 1 terrorist organization. Having accepted that position, the concern then of the world community should be focused to ascertain how Sri Lanka, being a comparatively insignificant player in world affairs spawned the role model terrorist organization that poses such significant threat, first to Sri Lanka’s own existence and then to world peace in general. Therefore, in the current context of the world, with such hype on ‘war against terror’, the Sri Lankan scenario, should be an interesting ‘case study’.

 

Chapter 2

 

The paradox

 

While the country as a whole is subjected to such misery in the hands of the worst terror outfit in the world, Sri Lanka as a nation has been able to register some positive features to its credit.

 

Sri Lanka is a democracy and its people have enjoyed the universal franchise for both sexes since 1931, making it the oldest democracy in South Asia. It is a two party democracy resembling the British system where different parties and coalitions have emerged as power players at different times as against the American two-party democracies where the two parties are institutionalized. Therefore, Sri Lanka has been a vibrant democracy with independent judiciary and an independent media to sustain and nurture it. What is remarkable is that the Sri Lankan democracy had stood the test of time surviving through many a calamity when other Asian countries have opted to adopt other extreme forms of Governments considered appropriate for the exigencies of time.

 

Sri Lanka’s national literacy rate has been consistently hovering around 90 % and that has been the envy of other Asian countries for some time now. The main reason for this could be found in the free education policy introduced by the Government in 1945 during the Donoughmore reforms on the eve of independence from Britain. Education in Sri Lanka is totally free up to University level and it is managed by the public sector. Even uniforms and textbooks are provided to the students. As a result the incidents of child labor in Sri Lanka are either rare or nonexistent. In Global terms 90% literacy rate could be an exclusive privilege associated with developed countries in the west.

 

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Report for 2007, launched in April 2008, Sri Lanka ranks among the top 25 countries in gender equality. This ranking takes in to account the Education of women, violence against women, Career opportunities for them and their voice in the social decision-making process. Since there are more than 25 developed countries in the world, for a semi-developed country like Sri Lanka to rank within the first twenty-five in a 191member world community, is extraordinary and speaks volume of the Sri Lankan situation vis a vis gender. A new report published in Nov 2008 (CDN 24th Nov.2008) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the gender gap in developing and developed countries for 2008, Sri Lanka is ranked 12th in the list of narrowest gender gap ahead of UK, Switzerland and France. The report ranks Nordic countries as having the greatest equality between the sexes with Norway replacing Sweden at the top.

 

Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health and Nutrition, disclosed over the National news on the 7th September 2008, quoting the Department of Census and Statistics that the current life expectancy rate in Sri Lanka is 76 years whereas in advanced countries such as the United States, it is 78 years. This fact has also been constantly highlighted in the WHO reports over the past few decades and it is indeed laudable for a country with comparatively low per capita income like Sri Lanka to maintain such a high level of life expectancy. An explanation for this could however be found in the country’s public-sector health service which is provided free at state cost. Sri Lanka has maintained comparatively high standards in its public health since independence and free health facilities were introduced in 1956. After the 1977 economic reforms the private sector was encouraged to invest in the health sector and today there are numerous private hospitals offering their services to the Sri Lankan public. Yet the situation today, even after 30 years of active private sector participation, even the wealthy Sri Lankans would concede that the public-sector health facilities are far above that of the private sector in terms of professionalism and competence of Doctors, Nurses and quality of health equipment. Public sector has a wide network of primary and base hospitals spread throughout the country while the private sector hospitals are mainly confined to the major commercial cities.

 

Sri Lanka has the lowest infection rate for HIV in Asia and that position could stand even in a global context if statistics are compared across the international arena. South-East Asia has the second highest percentage of HIV infected persons, 7.2 million, followed by Sub Saharan Africa. Nadira Gunetileka of the Anti-HIV campaign in Sri Lanka wrote to the CDN on 1st January 2007 on the recently concluded World Aids Day celebrations in New Delhi stating, “I was proud to represent Sri Lanka in the World Aids Day press tour organized by WHO due to one reason. It was that we Sri Lankans can hold our heads high and say that we are not among the other South Asian countries with a high level of HIV prevalence.”

 

International Finance Corporation, the Private sector arm of the World Bank in its report ‘Doing business 2007’ has ranked Sri Lanka as the 102nd out of 181 countries for ‘ease of doing business’. The report is compiled annually to gauge the ease in which business can be carried out in countries by measuring the reforms that ease the regulatory burden of doing business. The report identifies Sri Lanka as the leading reformer of business regulation in the South Asian region. “Sri Lanka, the top regional reformer, made it easier for business to obtain credit by strengthening the legal rights of creditors and enhancing the availability of credit information” the report said among other things. This report was issued in Sept. 2008.

 

The Per Capita income of an average Sri Lankan has reached US $ 2045 as per the current Sri Lanka Central Bank and World Bank records and this is the highest for any nation in South Asia. “Sri Lanka is an enigma. With an armed conflict on its hands she has been able to register an economic growth of little over 5 % or more during the recent past” said the Country Director of World Bank, Sri Lanka desk, Ms. Naoka Ishil, addressing National Business excellence awards ceremony organized by the National Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka at the Colombo Hilton on Monday the 19th November 2007. She also reported the level of poverty coming down from 22.7 % in 2002 to 15.2 % in 2007(reported in the Island of 21st November 2007).

 

The World Bank officials arrived in Sri Lanka on the 11th November 2008 to study Sri Lanka’s success story in already achieving three of the MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals) by the year 2008. MDG’s are set for achievement in the year 2015 and Sri Lanka has achieved three goals, Child mortality, Maternal mortality at childbirth and Longevity already by the year 2008, seven years before such goals are due.

 

Sri Lanka also has a cricket team that have achieved international fame winning the World cup for Cricket in 1996, the ultimate for the cricket playing nations, and ending up as runners-up in the year 2007. Although cricket is a game played by about 10 Commonwealth countries the fact that developed countries like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand play Cricket in all its seriousness as their national sport, give credence to winning the Cricket World Cup. The Sri Lankan team has performed consistently well in the game in a manner second to none. The fact that Sri Lanka has humbled the Cricket-crazy India quite often maintaining the upper hand consistently proves the talent and ability of the country’s national players. In a recently concluded Test series between India and Sri Lanka it was Ian Chappel, the Australian commentator who said that “It is to the credit of little Sri Lanka with its comparatively small population to have beaten India so comprehensively and also the number of world class players Sri Lanka has gifted to world cricket is quite amazing”.

 

Every year the ICC, International Cricket Council, the world cricket governing body holds an award ceremony for the Cricket playing nations where they award teams and individual players awards for their performances during the year under review. Among its many awards the ICC recently added an award called ‘the award for the spirit of the game’. This award takes in to account a particular team’s conduct during the year and the contribution it has made to the game in playing it in the correct spirit. Sri Lanka team has always won the admiration of the cricket playing community as a team that is disciplined, honest and benign despite the vicissitudes associated with cricket’s current competitiveness. It is therefore not a coincidence that Sri Lanka won this award consecutively for the years 2006 and 2007 registering its capacity to play the game hard without subverting the rules and the spirit.

 

Sri Lanka, being a small country though, also has a few internationally renowned academics/professionals to its credit. Former Chairman of the Law of the Sea Conference at the UN Mr. Shirley Amerasinghe, former Secretary General of UNTCAD Mr. Gamini Corea, former Director of Research at NASA Dr. Ciril Ponnamperuma, current Vice President of the International Court of Justice at Hague Mr. C. G.Weeramantree, former Under Secretary General of UN Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala are all Sri Lankan who had illustrious careers at international level.

 

In the field of athletics Sri Lanka has two Olympic medalists and in Asian games they have consistently come second only to India overcoming the more populous nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even in Commonwealth games Sri Lankan have stamped their class winning a number of crucial events.

  

The above certifications from International bodies and the performances at international level indicate that the average Sri Lankan is talented, intelligent, educated, flexible, adaptable and above all progressive. These facts also signify that Sri Lanka as a nation has been investing quite heavily on its people; so much so that it appears that the development strategy of the modern Sri Lankan nation has been centered around improvement of its human stock. These facts also help to maintain that the Sri Lankans as a people, are benign considerate and most of all, humane.

 

The question then is how could a nation that has invested so heavily on its people give rise to sectarianism where one section of the Sri Lankan community accuses the rest of discrimination to a point where that section justifies unleashing of brutal terror on the rest of the nation? 

 

The most unfortunate aspect about the country however is the international opinion it has earned over the years in the eyes of the ‘International Community’. As a matter of fact, the impressions about Sri Lanka among the big powers in the world has been negative to such a point, that it would invariably make the Sri Lankan public and their leaders wonder whether it is ‘terrorism’ or ‘International opinion’, that is the most prioritized national issue the country should address itself to right at this moment. 

 

In the highlights of a press conference issued by the UN Secretary-General titled ‘victims of Terrorism’ on the 9th September 2008 Mr Ban Ki Moon expressed concern over the recent military activities in Sri Lanka. Though ostensibly his worries are for civilians, there definitely is a message for the Sri Lankan Government in it where he expresses his reservations about the military activities launched by the current Sri Lankan government to rid the country of the spate of terrorism it has continuously experienced. It however is an irony that the four individuals chosen to speak at this press briefing were complete outsiders lacking in knowledge of the current SL situation when there are many victims of tiger terrorism, in India or Sri Lanka, or even in Britain, who have been bearing up for years the protracted nature of this struggle and its fallbacks. The terrorism highlighted by speakers at this event was of a global nature that may not necessarily find favor with the long-suffering victims of this malady in developing countries. The comments also stood out in their callowness for deliberately glossing over the interconnected nature of global terrorism.

 

What is of particular interest to Sri Lanka in this case is that these comments have come in a press briefing on ‘Victims of terrorism’ and that the Secretary-General appears to be concerned about the supposedly civilian casualties when the Sri Lankan Government is taking some overdue action against terrorism which is within its legitimate rights as a sovereign state. Is the Secretary-General oblivious to the fact again that it is unbridled terrorism that prompted this military action by the Government in the first place?

 

 In such a situation where the Government takes action to eliminate terrorism, does the Secretary-General consider such casualties, if any, to be victims of terrorism or casualties of anti-terror campaigns? If they are termed as ‘victims of terror’ that would tantamount to inferring that the Government is unleashing terror on its people who elected them.

 

Who are the terrorists? Is it the tested and proven internationally banned LTTE or is it the Sri Lankan Government that is trying to cage it? Does UN understand the intricacies of modern-day terrorism and the difficulties confronted by countries trying to eliminate it within? Or should it act or talk in such a way so as to bestow hope in deed or word on those who unleash terror with impunity? If the war on terror is high up in the UN agenda why is the UN trying to pressure the Sri Lankan Government that is fighting the most dreaded terrorist unit in the world? The important thing to note in the UN Secretary General’s Statement is that he is calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflict inferring that ‘if the Government accedes to the demands by the minority Tamils, perhaps the violence may cease’.

 

However, it is not only Mr Banki Moon who has thrown a spanner at the Sri Lankan Government’s recent military operations. Many other UN organizations and Governments of countries who matter in the global scenario have expressed reservations in different degrees about the Sri Lankan Government’s current military operation.    

 

Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic ticket but her general comments on terrorism during her high-profile campaign could be taken as the typical American perception of the Sri Lankan issue. In an interview with the Guardian, as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, she was quoted as saying that ‘terrorism is a tool that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological and others territorial. There were personality-driven terrorist objectives’, she pointed out, ‘the bottom line is you can’t lump all terrorist together. What the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain or the insurgent in Al –Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underlings.” Ms Clinton said,“And I think one of the mistakes has been in painting all forms of terrorism with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against, when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for achieving ends they are seeking. I think we’ve got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d’etre of terrorists.” Here, a senior and experienced US politician, one who had been in the white house for 8 years is admitting that there are different forms of terrorist, probably meaning that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists, but all have a cause and some may cease to be terrorist if we reason out and accede to their raisons d’etre of terrorism.

 

After the Tiger radio station was bombed by the Sri Lankan Airforce in November 2007 the Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, (a Japanese) issued a statement deploring the attack and describing the VOT as a civilian facility. The Tamil.net thanked the Director-General for his stand while Sri Lankan’s abroad including those in Paris demonstrated against UNESCO.

 

The delegation from the European Union that visited Sri Lanka in June 2008 to appraise the situation in the country held a press conference on 12th June to disclose its stand on issues that are of concern to the EU in considering Sri Lanka’s case to grant another term of General System of Preference facility. This preferential facility helped Sri Lanka’s garment exports to the EU on a preferential basis over the years and income from garment exports is among the top foreign exchange earners for the country. The future of 350,000 Sri Lankan employees directly, and another 600, 000 jobs indirectly, depended on the continuity of the country’s Garment industry. 

 

The normal conditions the importers would be concerned when importing goods from developed countries are the compliance factor, the engagement of child labor, financial sustenance of employees etc. But however, in the case of renewing the GSP+ facility to Sri Lanka, the EU had been embroiled in other political factors beyond what would be of immediate and direct concern to the EU as an importer. They wanted Sri Lanka, to find what is called a ‘political solution’ to the country’s problems, to disarm paramilitary forces in the East, allow NGO’s to operate without hindrance, to stop harassing journalists and the media, and to generally improve the Governments record on human rights.  

 

The British minister Lord Malloch Brown made a rather unscheduled visit to Sri Lanka in August 2008.  During the course of interaction with the press, he raised a few concerns on human rights and touched on the GSP+ facility that Sri Lanka is awaiting towards the end of the year 2008. The net effect of his statement is that he can not guarantee the grant of the facility for another year as that solely depend on the measures the Sri Lankan Government would initiate to improve the human rights situation in the country. Since the EU generally take the British lead in matters connected to Sri Lanka, Lord Malloch Brown’s visit bore special significance on the country’s current international image.

 

On July 10th 2008, 3 United States Congressmen: Sherman of California, Pallone of New Jersey and Weller of Illinois: submitted a resolution H. RES. 1388 in the United States Congress. The resolution called on “The Government of the United States and the International community to support a transition to sustainable peace in Sri Lanka by, encouraging an International Human Rights monitoring presence, protecting the work of the civil society and media, facilitating access to humanitarian operations, and retaining democratic principals in which rule of law and justice pervades”. This resolution has since been referred to the Committee on Foreign affairs.

 

The officials of the UN, UNESCO and UNICEF are in and out of the LTTE held areas with no formalities to comply with, in their movements. In 2004 the EU Chief Chris Pattern visited the LTTE held area on his own with no invitation from the Government of Sri Lanka.

 

UNICEF issued a media release when the LTTE camp at Sencholai was bombed in Nov. 2007saying that it was a school for orphaned children. Later reports confirmed that it was a training camp of the LTTE and true the inmates were children because the LTTE recruit children to be trained as fighters. Thus it was plain that UNICEF had acted beyond its purview but no action was taken against the UNICEF head in Sri Lanka even to the extent of calling for explanation.

 

In November 2007 a UNICEF official was caught transporting some ready to eat meal packet in the sensitive area. The explanation given was that they were meant for the field staff of UNICEF. However, as there were thousands of packets that explanation was not found to be plausible. The authorities suspected that these packets were for the LTTE fighting cadres in the jungles. In September 2007 the deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden visited the LTTE area without even the knowledge of the SL Government. Only meek protests were registered by the Government on each of these occasions.

 

David Miliband, the British Secretary of State issued a press communiqué on the occasion of Sri Lanka’s 60th anniversary of independence on the 4th February 2008. Ironically, the former colonial master did not congratulate Sri Lanka for whatever her accomplishments have been during these years, at least even as a matter of courtesy. Instead, the communiqué criticized the country’s human rights record. There was not even a passing reference to the scourge of terror the country is faced with, but there is reference to disturbances to civilian life. Any international opinion maker reading Mr Miliband’s communiqué may well think that the Government in Sri Lanka is just raving mad!

 

There is a strong pro- LTTE lobby within the British Parliament headed by three MPs of the current Labour Government namely Keith vas, Brian Evans and Andrew Dismore. Over the years they have prevailed over the British Government to adopt a cold attitude about the events in Sri Lanka propagating it as a pariah state not sensitive to the legitimate aspirations of the minorities.

 

There is an even more influential lobby within the Canadian Parliament that is sponsored by the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada that acts as an apologist for the LTTE. The supporters of Tamil terrorism by name in the Canadian Parliament are too numerous to be mentioned but it is generally the NDP and the Liberal parties that support the LTTE. On February 4th of 2009 the Canadian parliament convened a special debate on the Sri Lankan situation and the participants of that debate included Jack Layton the leader of the NDP, and the Liberals Jim Karygiannis, Maria Minna, Judy Sgro, Derek Lee, John McKay, Bob Rae and Albina Guarnieri, and some new actors like Paul Dewar of the NDP. The debate was aimed at persuading the Canadian Government to take up the Sri Lankan issue with the International Crisis Group at the UN to invoke R2P on Sri Lanka.

 

The 9/11 attack in New York, made a number of Western countries including the EU face up to the reality of world terrorism and hence banned the LTTE in their respective countries. But Australia is one country where the LTTE is not banned up to this day in spite of the fact that even the CIA has acknowledged the LTTE to be the ‘most ruthless terror outfit in the world’.

 

A galaxy of ‘eminent’ International Human rights personalities visited Sri Lanka from October 2006 commencing with the visit of Mr Allen Rock, UN’s special representative on Child Soldiers. The prominent persons among these included Sir John Holmes, the Assistant Director of Humanitarian Affairs of the UN, and these visits culminated in the visit of M/s Louise Arbour, the Director General of Humanitarian affair of the UN. Mrs Arbour relying mainly on the reports submitted to her by NGO’s and INGOs operating in the country recommended a UN Human Rights Commission to be set up in Jaffna, in the north of Sri Lanka. Consequent to this recommendation a considerable amount of lobbying has gone on within the UN and also in the international diplomatic circles to implement this proposal.

 

The Government of Sri Lanka resisted the proposal as it viewed this move as a further complication to its international relations and further on the grounds that the situation in the country, for that matter even in the north, does not warrant such an international presence. In any event since the function of this commission is to be limited to monitoring only, it would only have served as a propaganda channel for persons with dubious agendas operating in the country.

 

 R 2 P or Responsibility to Protect, is the newest strategy devised by the International community to deal with troubled countries to alleviate their sufferings.  This is the duty of the ‘International Crisis Group’ which is a body formulated as a result of proposals made to the 60th session of the UNO to meet the crisis situations in the world. It functions under the auspices of the UNO discharging its functions under the dictates of the UN Security Council. Mr Gareth Evans, the former Australian Foreign Minister is the current chairman of this organization. He recently visited Sri Lanka on the invitation of the International Center for Ethnic studies, an NGO, and delivered a speech titled ‘The limits of state sovereignty and the responsibility to protect in the 21st century’. That was the eighth Neelan Thiruchelvasm lecture delivered at the BMICH on 29th July 2007. He declared that ‘The International Agencies including the UN has the right to warn, to generate effective preventive strategies and when necessary to mobilize effective reaction within the boundaries of the states. There will be situations when prevention fails and reaction becomes necessary” In defining reaction he says, “Reaction does not have to mean military reaction. It can involve political and diplomatic, economic and legal, pressure, all measures which can by themselves reach across the spectrum from persuasive to intrusive, and from less to more coercive.” Mr Evans’ speech was attractively phrased but it sounded equally threatening.

 

It would be interesting to learn the observations the front-runner in the US 2008 elections Senator, Barak Obama has made about the Sri Lankan situation. In answering written questions posed by Washington post in October 2008 Mr Obama had this to say about the current Sri Lankan situation

I presume both parties to the conflict believe that they can solve the conflict which continues from 1983 by military means. However,r this is unrealistic. It will result only in more deaths numbering thousands. Since 1983 more than 75,000 lives have been lost in the fighting between the Government and the LTTE. The LTTE considers itself as a freedom movement but the EU banned the LTTE as a terrorists organization almost two years ago. It is such a beautiful country and its people are very motivated. I feel genuine responsibility for the people of this country. If the violence increases, the international community has a responsibility to act.”

 

On the 21st May 2008 at the UN General Assembly elections for Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka failed to re-elect itself to a council seat after having contested the Asian region with five other Asian countries.  Seats are allocated for every region such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe etc. Sri Lanka obtained 101 votes (97 is required to qualifying to serve on the Council) but not enough to be included within the first four thereby losing to Pakistan. This was the result of an intense campaign conducted by Bishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and Argentine President Silva who were highly critical of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

 

In May 2008 there had been an attempt, led by the British ambassador to Geneva Nick Thorne to have a motion at the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka but the Government acting through its diplomatic channels managed to avoid it. But it is understood in the diplomatic circles that the same group of European countries who wanted to back it last time may try to present the same sometime this year.

 

On top of all this the BBC has been carrying on a campaign of vilification against the current Government in Sri Lanka. It often misquotes, then quotes from Tamilnet and then have recourse to ‘reliable sources’ (sources whose, not only reliability, but the very existence have been in doubt), whenever they wish to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. It is not that Sri Lanka, placed in the vanguard of this fight against terror, never has issues that deserve exposure, but it is the way the news is presented, devoid of the moment’s empathy, and worst still deliberately constructed to damage the country’s image, that smacks of a malicious intent. 

 

This unfortunately is the position of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the international community. Such an image certainly does not augur well for a vulnerable and small country like Sri Lanka. This is not only unfortunate but appears unfathomable in the context of Sri Lanka’s problems in facing brutal terrorism on the one hand and endeavoring to sustain the living standards of its people on the other. What makes this situation somewhat incongruous is that this should happen at a time when there is a wider realization that ‘global terrorism’ is the number one scourge of the world community and hence the countries should work in co-operation with one another towards eliminating it.

 

 In such a scenario, for the western powers, euphemistically called the ‘international community’, to treat the country that bears the brunt of the worst terrorism so shabbily, Sri Lanka must have done something really unacceptable to the west. Honestly the persons who man the affairs in Sri Lanka must be finding the fight with the ruthless tigers comparatively easy compared to the diplomatic problems it continues to experience with the western powers. The big question then is why is Sri Lanka sandwiched between the worlds worst terror outfit and the western powers that have vowed to eliminate terror from the world?

 

Whether these western powers are right or wrong in their attitude to Sri Lanka is also a matter the preceding chapters of this book will address fairly extensively, However, on the face of things, it does not appear as if diplomacy has worked for Sri Lanka. A person trying to reason out this inconsistent situation would be faced with the following posers.

  • Is it an international crime for a country to fight back when it is faced with terrorism in its worst form, threatening the nation’s territorial integrity and its very existence?
  • Is it because the Sri Lankan Government has adopted a belligerent and intransigent attitude towards solving its long-standing national issue in defiance of the considered views of the International community?
  • Is it because the current Sri Lankan Government has adopted a bellicose attitude towards it minorities disregarding international practices and norms?
  • Is it because of some disoriented perception of the international diplomats on the situation in Sri Lanka, lacking in a comprehensive understanding of the real issues involved in the Sri Lankan conflict?
  • Is it because the ‘International community’ has a hidden agenda, devoid of world peace and humanitarian standards, motivated by economic advantage and global hegemony?

 

For those who are concerned about the country and its people, these posers and their unbiased examination should be of vital importance. Because it is only through careful examination of these that one could identify the reasons that bedevil Sri Lanka for this long. ‘A problem identified correctly’ they say, ‘is half solved’. That alone signifies how important it is to study the factors that have brought about the present state of affairs in the country with the view of making a honest effort in identify the causes that spawn those effects. If the efforts made are not honest then those who attempt to study and analyze this problem could, through their own sectarian interests, could place the blame on one community demonizing that community and the problem will either remain or exacerbate. Therefore, an honest diagnosis of the problem remains the key to addressing any ailment or problem effectively.

 

Science has overwhelmed the human society today because it is based on the ultimate truth and nothing but his truth. Where the absolute truth is not discernible science may rest its actions on a reasonably acceptable hypothesis, but no sooner the truth is unveiled the hypothesis is replaced and the future activities revised according to that factual situation. Hence the maxim that ‘truth triumphs at the end’ should hold good for Sri Lanka as it would for every progressive phenomenon, including science.

 

 In this context, the fact that this problem has been continuing for the past thirty years despite the solutions formulated and executed should make us doubt as to whether we have been wise and honest in our diagnosis. The important motivational factor that will drive any Sri Lankan towards a solution, is the reality that if not for this protracted problem every Sri Lankan would have been much more prosperous and less uncertain about his/her present and the future. Aren’t we all, irrespective of our communal or religious attachments humans with identically common physical, psychological and moral needs?  Therefore, anybody who makes a tendentious attempt at the Sri Lankan problem will only help prolong the agony of the country.

 

Thus, let us approach this study by taking on the questions posed above, one by one. As regards the order of this approach, since Sri Lanka seems to have earned the ire of the International community quite out of proportion, let us examine whether the Sri Lankan Government has been dogmatic and belligerent in its attitude to this problem in shunning the acceptable methods of solving sectarian problems, i.e. absence of dialogue and empathy. Let us therefore devote the ensuing chapter to examine this.

 

Chapter 3

Geography, Demography, Geology, History and Ethnic traits.

 

At the very outset, it would be opportune to get acquainted with basic facts about the country, such as its location, the ethnic/ religious composition, geology, ecology and history so that some idea can be formed of the background the conflict. These basics become so vital in view of the fact that some vociferous champions of the Sri Lankan issues in the West were found to be ignorant even of the location of Sri Lanka. Some others believed and may still believe, that the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka is all Christian and therefore is under persecution in a predominantly Buddhist country. Some others tend to think that Sri Lanka is a savage country where a very primitive people live. Hence the knowledge on such basics would help clear many popular misconceptions about Sri Lanka that have prevented an objective evaluation of the real problem at hand i.e. the LTTE and continuous strife, in all its ramifications.

 

Geography and Geology

 Sri Lanka is an Island of 65,610 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) situated in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of the Indian sub-continent. More correctly it is to the South/East of India and the distance between the two countries, India and Sri Lanka, at their closest point is only 22 miles. It is a ‘teardrop’ shaped island situated close to the equator and therefore is a tropical country with a humid climate and a considerable degree of biodiversity in flora and fauna.

 

According to the National Geographic issue of 1981 “Tourist brochures rightly describe Sri Lanka as an Island paradise. It is blessed with a benign tropical climate and much fertile land. Apart from the fabled palm-fringed beaches, it has cool hills; great areas of forest: much wildlife; a profusion of ancient monuments; many towns and villages of great charm. The variety of multiplicity that you find in Sri Lanka is such that it appears as if much of the great diversity on planet earth has been projected into a little Island in a compact form”.

 

This is about the most concise description of the island that one could come across. What is unique about this little country is the amount of diversity that you could find within that comparatively small area of 25,000square miles. It is not that there is no diversity in other parts of this world and for that matter even in India itself. But, India being a huge country ought to have diversity in keeping with its own size.

 

There is a range of mountains in the center of Sri Lanka, aligned towards the south of the country, projecting up to 8300 feet above the sea level. This mountain range appears as if that is the area from which the whole island has been thrust out of the sea, as the downward sloping valleys surround these mountains. The origins of Sri Lanka’s 18 major rivers are located in this mountain range and therefore the rivers roll down to the sea cascading the mountains and then through the valleys.

 

You can experience the cool climes of the Himalayan foothills in these mountains and again there are areas in Sri Lanka where you could experience the aridness of the Sahara, i.e   towards the north of the island. In fact, it is this diversity that amazed many a traveler to the Island. Marco Polo called the Island the ‘pearl of the Indian ocean’ and Ibn Batuta identified it as Serendib signifying serendipity. Mark Twain, the American poet exclaimed Sri Lanka, “Dear me, it is beautiful! And most sumptuously tropical” and another famous fellow American Professor William Hull describes, ‘Ceylon like Cleopatra, is infinite variety’. Over the years, the Island was known as ‘Sinhaladeepa’ to the inhabitants, but travelers from different dialects and cultures adopted this with a tinge to suit their tongues. Hence it was known as Seylan to Arabs, Sinhalam or Seelam to the South Indians, Celao to the Portuguese, Ceylon to the British and ‘Lankadveepa’ to Indians as identified in the prehistoric Hindu chronicle Ramayana. It is an oddity in the English language that makes spelling of Ceylon start with a C and spelling of Sinhalese start with an S when both those terms are synonymous and symbiotic. The term “Ceylon” is an Anglicization of the term “Sinhale” or “Sihale” and therefore it should have either been spelled Seylon or else, Sinhalese should have been spelled ‘Cinhalese’.

 

It is the Southwest monsoon, that provide Sri Lanka with much of its rain and hence the western and the southern slopes of the country is generally wet and is known as the wet zone. The west and the south are generally glutted with rain for at least 10 out of the 12 months of the year. The northwest and south-east monsoons also bring rain but they are more seasonal and predictable than the south-west. The Northeast monsoon (October- December) could be considered the least active and therefore the northern part of the country remains comparatively, an arid zone.

 

Civilization & Demography

The current population in Sri Lanka is just under 20 million and the majority community in the Island is the Sinhalese comprising 74 % of the population. Of the origin of the Sinhalese race, the legend has it that in 543 BC a prodigal Prince from the Western Indian state of Orissa, Vijaya, after having been expelled from his Country, landed in the west of Lanka and spawned the Sinhalese race. However, there had been habitations in the Island by then. The Sinhalese language, culture, ethos and values have little resemblance with any community in the neighboring India, or for that matter anywhere in the world. Hence whatever the credibility behind this legendary tale, the fact remains that by virtue of the uniqueness of the Sinhalese race, the Sinhalese are a resultant race of evolution of natives with Indian input. It is also said that the author of Mahawamsa is Indian inclined and hence this extra weight on the Indian factor on the origin of the Singhalese race.

 

The Mahawamsa, the ancient Sinhala chronicle records the history of Lanka from 500 BC. The historical excavations are replete with artifacts and stone inscriptions to testify this fact. There are huge man-made reservoirs and pagodas made in the BC era surviving up to this day, former facilitating agriculture and the latter standing erect for the worshippers, signifying the legacy of a prosperous and stable Sinhala civilization in the Island. The ancient Sri Lankan Kings had Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, both in the North Central Sri Lanka, as the capitals of the Island nation. Since these capitals belonged to the Northcentral Sri Lanka and since the civilization was primarily agricultural, the kings had to provide a network of tanks to store water that is abundant in the rainy season, to be used during the rest of the year. This unique hydraulic civilization appears to have had its beginnings in the pre-historic era under the Naga tribe (prior to 500 BC), who have evolved and assimilated into mainstream Sinhala race.

 

As for the Tamils, there are two kinds of Tamils in Sri Lanka: one called the ‘Indian Tamils’ and the other called the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’. The Indian Tamils are the descendants of Indian indentured labor brought to the country to engage in menial work in the Tea/ Coffee plantations by the British Raj during the 18th /20th centuries. These Tamils are mostly settled in the central hills of the country where the plantations are

Population of Sri Lanka by District & By Province (1981 Census)

Province

District

Sinhala

 SL Tamil

  Indian Tamil

  Muslims

 Other

     Remarks

                 

 

%       

%        

%        

%      

%

 

North

    Jaffna

    0.6  

    95.3  

     2.4     

   1.7   

  0.0   

   South Jaffna is now  

         

Mannar  

8.1    

50.6        

13.2       

26.9   

1.4      

Kilinochchi district

         

Vavunia   

16.6   

56.9        

19.4        

6.9   

0.2

 

         

Mulativ  

5.1    

76.0        

13.9        

4.9   

0.1

 

        

Total     

3.0    

86.3       

5.7        

4.7     

0.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East

    Battcoloa

   3.2

    70.9    

     1.2    

    23.9

   0.8  

   Population main towns

    

  Ampara  

   37.6  

   20.1    

    0.4     

    41.5

   0.3 

    & coastal villages

     

 Trin.malee

 33.6  

 33.8    

     2.6     

    29.0    

1.0

 

      

   Total  

    24.9  

  40.9  

     1.2   

      32.3  

 0.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central

  Kandy  

   75.0

   4.9     

    9.3  

     9.9    

  0.8  

    Indian Tamils are

     

  Matale   

  79.9

   5.9     

    6.7   

     7.2    

  0.3   

   dominant in N eleiya                    

        

Nuw.Eliya  

 35.9 

 13.5   

    47.3    

    2.8   

   0.5    

  district

       

Total  

    65.7  

 7.3   

    18.8    

   7.6  

    0.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAB.

  Rathnapura

  84.7  

  2.3   

     11.1  

      1.7   

   0.2

 

      

Kegalle

    86.3   

  2.1 

      6.4   

    5.1

     0.1

 

       

 Total 

   85.4 

  2.2  

      8.9   

    3.3  

   0.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uva  

  Badulla   

   68.5 

   5.7    

    21.1   

     4.2 

    0.5

 

    

    Mon.agala

  92.9 

  1.8   

      3.3    

    1.9  

   0.1

 

     

   Total  

  75.9 

   4.5    

    15.7   

     3.5    

  0.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SP

     Galle    

   94.4  

  0.7   

      1.4  

    3.2  

   0.3   

          

      

  Matara 

    94.6   

  0.6  

      2.2   

     2.6 

    0.0

 

    

  Hambantota

 97.4    

 0.4   

     0.1  

    1.1 

    1.0

 

     

   Total    

  95.1

    0.6    

     1.3  

      2.5 

    0.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NCP

  Anurapura  

  91.3  

   1.4  

      0.1  

      7.1  

    0.1    

 

       

Polonnaruwa

 90.1   

 2.2   

      0.1 

     6.5   

   0.3 

 

        

  Total   

   91.2   

  1.5     

    0.1  

      6.9   

   0.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NWP  

 Kurunegala 

 93.1

   1.1   

      0.5    

    5.1 

    0.2

 

    

   Puttalma   

82.6   

  6.7    

     0.6  

     9.7   

   0.4

 

        

 Total  

     90.0

   2.7  

     0.6   

      6.4   

   0.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WP   

  Colombo

    77.9 

  9.8     

    1.3  

     8.3 

   2.7

 

    

  Gampaha 

   92.2 

  3.3  

     0.4  

       2,8

     1.3

 

      

 Kalutara

     87.3   

 1.0   

    4.1 

      7.5   

   0.1

 

      

  Total

      84.9  

  5.6  

     1.6 

      6.2 

    1.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Island Total 

 

       74.0  

  12.6    

     5.6   

    7.1  

    0.7    

 

 

Source; Department of Census & Statistics; Statistical abstract 1982  

 

located and they represent 5.6 % of the country’s current population according to the last comprehensive census carried on in 1981.

 

There is a Muslim community who also speak Tamil but they have been consistently identifying themselves to be of a separate ethnic entity of its own tracing their ancestry to Arab and South Indian Moor merchants who frequented Sri Lanka for trade. The Sri Lankan Moors make up for 7.8 % of the country’s population. Their habitation is in ‘pockets’ spread across the country but with a noticeable degree of concentration in the eastern province where they were allowed to settle en-masse by Sinhala Kings when they were persecuted by the Portuguese on the Western seaboard in the 17th century.

 

The other Tamil community called the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ is the community at the center of this conflict. The Sri Lankan Tamils are predominantly settled in the north and some parts of the east but they too are spread across the country with a sizeable segment of them, (25%) living in Colombo in the west and other parts of the country. There is little doubt as to the origination of this community as they share the same linguistic, religious and cultural ethos of the Tamils in South India and historians assert that their migration and settlements started around the 13 century AD with the majority of them migrating during the early 19th century to obtain English education in Jaffna. It is difficult to ascertain the current strength of this community as no reliable surveys have been carried in the north and east due to the security constraints but according to the last official census carried out in those areas in 1981 the Sri Lankan Tamils comprise 11.6 % of the country’s population. However, since the north and east have been embroiled in this conflict for the past 34 years the current population ratio of the Sri Lankan Tamils is bound to be much less (with some estimates making it as low as 8 %) due mainly to, deaths of fighting cadres, migration abroad and the hampered growth rate due to incessant disturbances.

 

There are other minorities such as the Dutch burgers of European origin and Sri Lankan Malays of Indonesian origin who make up for the balance 1.0 % of Sri Lanka’s population.

However, since 1981 no country- wide census has been possible due to disturbances in two provinces. Yet the population based on 1981 census could be project to the current situation as follows.

 

Therefore, the Sri Lankan population, community wise, could be presented as follows,

  

   Sinhalese                              74.0 %.

   Sri Lankan Tamils               11.6 %

   Indian Tamils              5.6 %

   Ceylon Moor               7.8 %

   Others                          1.0 %  

 

Religious diversity and their origins

Religions wise, the breakup of the Sri Lankan population is more complex.  Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka during the reign of Emperor Asoka of India around 300 B C. Sri Lanka adopted Buddhism as the state religion and ever since the only religion in Sri Lanka has been Buddhism until the Portuguese invaders in 1505 brought on their wake the Roman Catholic religion. With the Portuguese invasion, the Sinhala Kingdom got pushed to Kandy confining its purview to the central hills and the Eastern slopes. The Portuguese invasion of the coastal areas of Ceylon was however inscribed as a period of turbulence and terror as coercion and duress were employed by the Portuguese to propagate their religion in the coastal belt.

 

The Portuguese also did not take to the Muslim religion kindly. This is because the Muslims had invaded Spain in Europe during the 17th century and hence they perceived Islam religion as a religion with an aggressive and pervading influence. The Muslim traders who were living in Sri Lanka’s western coast at the time were ordered by the Portuguese ‘to just get lost’ from the area of their control. The Muslims, faced between expulsion and extinction went before the Sinhala King Senarath of Kandy who accommodated them in the eastern parts of the country which was part of the Kandyan kingdom in the 17th century. Hence, the Muslim concentration in the present Eastern Province with pockets in the rest of the Island. The native Sinhalese King then lured the Dutch to rid the land of the Portuguese menace.

 

The Dutch having taken over from the Portuguese in 1658, and their religion being protestant Christianity, persecuted the Catholics and propagated Christianity in the coastal belt. The Christian religion in any case is less stringent and pervading in its practices and hence the Sinhala Kings found the Dutch a more than suitable replacement for marauding Portuguese.

 

The British arrived in the scene in 1796 and chased the Dutch. They took over the coastal belt and made two unsuccessful incursions into the Kandyan kingdom.  But eventually the British by their wily and discreet ways lured the Kandyan Chieftains who were disenchanted with despotic ways of the king of Kandy at the time, who was of South Indian origin. The British won the co-operation of the Kandyan Chieftains who revolted against the King and handed the reigns to Britain on an agreement called the ‘Kandyan convention’. Thus, the British became the first foreign power to accede to total power in Sri Lanka encompassing the whole Island land mass. 

 

The British however reneged on the ‘Convention’ which bestowed power on them. This resulted in numerous rebellious situations notable among which were the 1817/18 and 1848 uprising. The British responded with the military might of the empire and quelled the riots with unbridled ferocity. Britain, thereafter lost no time in implementing their infamous time-tested colonial tactics and reforms to make Sri Lanka another colony in its empire.  The British colonization of Sri Lanka lasted from 1796 to 1948, the year in which the country was declared an independent nation.

 

It should be noted that these colonial incursions were made in the name of ‘civilizing the heathens and pagans’. The British take-over however brought no new religion to the country but only consolidated the Protestant Christianity introduced by the Dutch. As a result, and also in spite of all these proselytization, the religious patronization among the Sri Lankan population at the turn of Independence 1948 stood as follows (1946 census),

 

Buddhist                      69.0 %

Catholics               4.8 %

Christians              3.1 %

Hindus                14.3 %

Muslims                7.8 %

Others                   1.0 %

 

This means that Catholics and Christians faiths were taken up by the Sinhalese, the Indian Tamil and the Sri Lankan Tamil communities with Muslims carrying on undisturbed with their religion. In other words, the 6% Catholics and 3.1 % Christians in the country is made up of Sinhalese, Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils. A more in-depth analysis would show that the proselytization among the Tamils (Indian and Sri Lankan) compared to their population strength is higher than that of the Sinhalese. Hence this resulted in a situation where the numerical strength of the Tamils among the Catholic and Christian religions tended to equal those of the Sinhalese. 

 

Just as much as Christians and Catholics have a common root, Buddhism and Hinduism also have a historic relationship. The greatest Indian dynasty known to the world is the Mayura Dynasty of King Chandragupta (400 BC) whose grandson was King Asoka. King Asoka’s character, tempered with valor and humanism, evolved to be the embodiment of Indian ethos over the years with Asoka’s chakra adorning the national flag of even modern-day India. It was King Asoka who dispatched his diplomatic emissaries led by his son, Mahinda with the message of ahimsa (Nonviolence) to Sri Lanka opening a new chapter in Sri Lankan civilization and also in the Indo Sri Lankan symbiosis. However after Asoka, Buddhism which is more intellectual /ascetic and less evocative on mundane matters was gradually suppressed by Indian Brahmins and hence Hinduism based on the ancient Indian edicts re-emerged as the religion in India.

 

Buddhism is a religion that is based on self-understanding and does not accept a creator. Buddhists consider the Hindu Gods such as Vishnu, to be transient states of supernatural beings awaiting eventual Buddahood. The Hindus on the other hand believe, Buddha to be the human manifestation of the most overbearing Hindu God Vishnu. Both communities believe in Karma and the cause and effect of secular matter.  Both accept vegetarianism as the most agreeable diet for human morals and metabolism. 

 

A noteworthy difference however, between these two religions is that Hinduism is a heavy cast structured religion whereas in Buddhism cast system has been abhorred. The Hindus believe that Brahma, the God of creation, spawned the different casts of humans from different parts of his body with a scale of purity attributed to different parts of the divine anatomy. Buddhists do not accept any such privileged or ostracized creation but advocates that a man becomes noble by deeds and not by mere birth.  This, notwithstanding, the two religions have been complementary to each other over the years with Buddhism providing the intellectual solace and Hinduism the supernatural palpability required in day to day affairs. This has been especially so in Sri Lanka where every Buddhist temple has a separate shrine for Hindu gods and every Hindu temple depicting Buddha as the ‘avatar’ of Vishnu. Even ancient Sinhala kings of Sri Lanka have often sought advice from Hindu gurus and have been devout disciples of Hindu Gods while declaring their dedication and commitment towards Buddhism which has nourished the island nations culture, values and ethos. It would be of relevance to mention here that never have there been riots in Sri Lanka on the grounds of religious beliefs, especially between Hindus and Buddhist.

 

 

Pre-Colonial History

The Sinhalese history (Sri Lanka History), before the advent of western powers with Portuguese, records 33 incursions to the country form the states in South India. These incursions have been from the Chola, Pandya and Kerala Kingdoms in India. But the official records refer to all these invasions as invasions by the ‘Damila’. The term Damila in the contemporary use is taken to means Tamils and hence it is popularly believed that all these invasions were by the Tamils in Tamil Nadu which is not really the case. These invasions though they are called ‘Damila invasions’ are actually invasions from different South Indian states as mentioned above. In the Dutch records, the inhabitants of Jaffna peninsula have been described as ‘mostly Malabar Muslims’, which is a community from Kerala, another South Indian state. But the Sinhalese records refer to them commonly as ‘Damila’. Therefore the term Damila in the Sinhala text is obviously meant to mean outside invaders (from all parts of India and even Indonesia )  and hence it is erroneous to believe that every time the Sinhala text referred to ‘Damila’ it should be taken to mean the Tamils of the present day Tamil Nadu. In fact the last King of Kandy had been from Andhra in Karnataka, India.

 

A few books have been written by Tamil scholars making a historical claim of Tamil habitation to the North and East of Sri Lanka. But these texts have seen the light of day only in the 17th century during the height of Tamil power under the Dutch and the British. They even claim that the last King of Kandy is a Tamil. The fact however is that the last King of Kandy, Sri Wickreme Rajasinghe is of Andhra dissent. Andhra is an ancient Kindom in Andra Pradesh in India and he ascended to the Sinhalese throne due to him being a brother to the Queen of King Nareandrasingha of Kandy. King Narendrasingha the penultimate King of Kandy had no heir to the throne. It is because of this practice of calling all Indians ‘Damila’ that the Sinhalese called him an ‘Andra Demala’. The language being Telugu (not Tamil) was not recognizable and therefore termed “andara demala “or “confused Tamil”.

 

Eminent historians like KM De Silva (Sinhalese) and Indrapala Kartheguisu (Tamil) have maintained that the settlements with Hindu people of South Indian origin have commenced in the Jaffna Peninsula during the 13th  century, with Hindu migration due Moghul persecution in India. They always maintain that they were migratory settlements confined to the peninsula with little significance as a kingdom with any degree of suzerainty.

 

Whatever the fictional claims certain Tamil intellectuals may make for the historical ownership of parts of Sri Lanka they are not able to hide the stark reality of their ethnic similarity with the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Tamil Nadu is the home for 62 million Tamils and Sri Lanka just 22 miles south of this southern Indian tip, and has just 2 million Tamils in its northernmost area. Every ethnic group has only one area that could be called its homeland because that homeland is the source of its language, ethos, culture, tradition and genealogy. Hence it is not possible that one community could have sprung up from two different places in those tribal days and then yet maintain an identical language traditions and ethos. Narayan Swamy, the author of two popular books on the LTTE, and also a well-known apologist of the movement, parenthetically maintains in his many writings that, staying in Jaffna is no different to staying anywhere in Tamil Nadu because the language, the food, the customs, beliefs and even the celluloid heroes are identical. That makes it abundantly clear that the communities who inhabit Tamil Nadu and the Nothern parts of contemporary Sri Lanka are one and the same community with an unmistakable identity. A community with a distinct identity could have emanated and evolved only from one place and never from two places. Therefore, the homeland of the Tamils is the Tamil Nadu in India and all that ‘historical habitations’ in Sri Lanka is made up to strengthen their claims to the island.

 

On the other hand, there are no Sinhalese anywhere in the world and for that matter there isn’t a community anywhere in the world, including in India, that has the vaguest resemblance to the Sinhalese in Ceylon. Sinhalese civilization, language, ethos, customs and traditions are unique in their essence and therefore it is logical to conclude that Singhales are a set of people who have evolved over the years to form the mainstream civilization and ethos in the Island of Ceylon.   

 

 

A map of Sri Lanka with Tamil Nadu

A Chart giving the ethnic distribution-district wise.

 

 

Sinhala & Tamil traits.

 

A ‘National Geographic’ published in the 1960 described the natives of Ceylon as “Easy going and friendly Sinhalese comprises 7 out of every 10 of the population in Ceylon. The Tamils, descendants from South India, inhibit mainly the North of the Island and they are more circumspect and thrifty”. To a great extent that is a reflection of the general view held in the Sri Lankan society at the time. However there are generally accepted traits the Sri Lankan society would attribute to the two communities and a broader discussion of those characteristics may take the following pattern.

 

If you borrow money from a Tamil, however small the amount may be, you must return it. On the other hand, a Sinhalese would say “Chee, don’t be silly, you are not going to return that small sum, are you?”

 If somebody’s son is getting married the custom among Tamils is to give cash to the bride’s mother and a gift other than cash is generally not very welcome. Tamil society is particular when bestowing such gifts and often they go to the extent of keeping an account of ‘how much we gave ‘so and so’ so that when their own son is getting married they would expect the same amount from that ‘so and so’. Whereas among the Sinhalese, cash gift is taken as a rather ‘none caring’ gesture, just given to discharge an obligation. A noncash gift is considered an item specially bought with the couple in mind and therefore is considered a memento.

 

Tamils are more particular about the attendance of the invitees for the weddings. If their relations do not turn up for weddings and funerals, that itself would be considered a good enough reason to rescind the relationship whereas Sinhalese would feel bad if somebody doesn’t turn up after having accepted the invitation, but wouldn’t go that far.

 

It is customary for the Tamils to make cash gifts at funerals but the Sinhalese consider it demeaning to accept money but if the inmates of the funeral house are poor the Death Donation Society takes over the responsibility of collecting some funds for funeral expenses.

 

Sinhalese generally enjoy an idyllic lifestyle and they are farmers by generations who look to their paddy lands (mada) for paddy cultivation and non- paddy (goda) for other cultivations and are comparatively conventional in mentality. The Tamils may not confine themselves to farming but could be traders or brokers depending on what is more profitable.

 

A Sinhalese would be helpful even to the extent of parting with his own meal but would expect similar reciprocation from the others too; and could turn offensive when found wanting in the same spirit.

 

The Sinhalese use Coconut oil for cooking and other household chores whereas the Tamils use Gingelly oil in place. A Tamil man is normally associated in the Sinhalese society with the ‘smell of gingelly oil’.

 

The Jaffna Tamils generally consider themselves to be above the rest of the Tamils with a tinge of superiority, so much so, that a Tamil from Jaffna would always identify himself in Colombo circles as a ‘Jaffna Tamil’ with emphasis on Jaffna just to convey that he is no ordinary Tamil. They were considered more intelligent, thrifty and a cut above the rest of the Tamils. Similarly, the Tamils who domiciled themselves in Colombo who have progressively reduced their relationship with Jaffna eventually became ‘Colombo Tamils’, a more cosmopolitan group, and they in turn perceive the Jaffna man to be ‘more conservative’ and ‘communal minded’ than them. 

 

The divisive nature of the Tamil psyche is quite evident in the way they practiced their cast system. Tamils being Hindus, the caste system is at the core of the Hindu religion. They believe that ‘Brahma’ the God, created men from different parts of his body with a purpose and hence expect every section to conduct themselves according Brahma’s wishes. High casts Tamils are not expected to share the same well, the same Temple, same school and even the same mode of transport as the rest of the Tamils. Therefore, it is common knowledge among the other communities that the Tamils practice the caste system to the letter and there are tales narrated among the Sinhalese to describe in awe how events take extraordinary turns in Tamils society due mainly to cast issues.

 

Buddha is on record having revolted against the caste system in the ancient India and Buddhism says that ‘The determining factor of man’s caliber (cast) is that man’s deeds and not his birth”.  Despite the teachings there is some adherence to caste practices among Buddhist too because the division of labor practiced by Sinhala kings eventually got institutionalized as casts. But such practices among Sinhalese are not palpable and mainly confined to arranged marriages.

 

The dowry system at the time of marriage is practiced very stringently by the Tamils whereas this practice among the Sinhala community could be considered circumstantial. This is mainly because the Tamils are culturally closer to South Indian customs where the dowry system is practiced stringently. A Tamil man is expected to demand the dowry according to his profession. This is practiced to such a level of acceptability that a price tag is attributed in the Tamil society to different jobs or professions held by the prospective bridegroom. This, in real terms, means that ‘if the parents of a marriageable girl require a Doctor as their son in law they have to have so much by way of dowry’.  The custom among the Tamil community on dowry is such that when a family has marriageable males and females; the males essentially have to be marketed for a sufficient dowry, for if not, the females in the family would not be able to marry for lack of a dowry.  Sinhalese do not observe dowry with such intensity but it is generally considered that it would be prudent to take bride from a family that has the means to support the new couple rather than just getting married. Often the dowry is considered the privilege, ‘the boost’ of the bride’s father to say that his daughter was given in marriage ‘at this place with so much as support dowry’. Both communities believe in Astrology, Horoscopes and Arranged marriages, but “love” marriages are becoming increasingly common among the Sinhalese. 

In business circles a Tamil businessman is associated with reliability. On the whole, the distinction between an average Tamil and an average Sinhalese could best be described by the fate that befell Rajiv Gandhi when he tried to intervene in the Sri Lankan crisis in the 80’s. Vijithamuni Rohana, a Sinhalese naval rating, attempted to attack Rajiv Gandhi when he was inspecting the guard held in his honor by the SL Government on his visit to Sri Lanka to sign the Indo- Lanka accord. Gandhi escaped that bid unhurt but he was subsequently assassinated by Prabhakaran the Tamil LTTE leader whom he went out of the way to help. Rajiv Gandhi signed the accord in the midst of island-wide riots and Vijithamuni was obviously overwhelmed by the euphoria of the occasion of having to honor the man who has come to make an unwarranted interference in the affairs of his country. His action was not preplanned but a spur of the moment reaction. On the other hand, Prabhakaran’s action was meticulously planned devoid of emotion and even devoid of a sense of gratitude for the man who helped the LTTE.

 

The Sinhalese are generally emotional, effervescent, bubbly and may express anger as a means of rapprochement expecting the detractor to be apologetic and yielding. On the other hand, a Tamil shows less emotion and is calculative and revengeful. Even in religion the Buddhists believe revenge is a sin leading to protracted enmity while the Hindu believes that revenge is their right.

 

The Muslims on the other hand were projected as the craftiest and cunning, who always played out the unsuspecting Sinhalese. There was this famous story about how a Sinhalese and a Muslim bought a cow to rear in a ‘joint venture’.  The Muslim expresses his willingness to concede the front part to the Sinhalese since he was the senior partner and the Sinhalese gratefully accept that offer. But as time went the Sinhalese man kept feeding the cow while the Muslim collected the milk and the dung.

 

These however are general attributes, or rather prejudices, that are popular in the society but there could always be exceptions to these beliefs. A word however must be said about the belief that the Tamils are more intelligent and hardworking than the Sinhalese. The contributory factor to this belief is the high incidence of education among the Tamils. This of course is not due to any extra intelligence of the Tamils but rather due to the educational opportunities the Colonial Government made available to the Tamils as described in Chapter 9. About the ‘hard work’, Linda Van Shegan wrote to the Island of 7th September 1988 under “British Uplifted the education” where she maintains, ‘Even over a century ago Sri Lankan’s were lazy and choose work that did not require too much effort and expenditure of energy. That was the reason why the British were compelled to import Tamil labor from India to work in the Tea and rubber plantations. The situation has not changed at all.’ Gunaseela Vithanage published a rejoinder to this in the 20th September 1988 quoting Sir Emmerson Tennent, The British Colonial Secretary of the time. “Sinhalese will not work in the plantation because they would not work for the pittance offered to Tamil laborers, they would not stay in the line rooms and they would not attend estate work during the paddy harvesting and cultivation seasons. However there is yet another reason why they would not and that is that they were discouraged by the brutal treatment of superintendents and frauds concerning their pay”. Further according to Sir Emmerson Tennent it was the Sinhalese workers who felled the forest for the cultivation of coffee (later Tea and Rubber) cultivations. This work involved cutting down huge trees, burning them clearing the ground and preparing it for planting. This was difficult and arduous work but this was nothing for the Sinhalese peasant who was used to Chena cultivation and the Indian Tamil labor was not equal to the task.

 

This intelligence and hard work therefore is a colonial canard to get the more yielding communities to ride over the Sinhalese. The irony here is that the British could write in glowing terms of the hard work of the Indian Tamil laborers but where did the British leave them after all those years of hard work. They were the most marginalized of communities earning a bare minimum and living in line rooms where the space was only sufficient for the family members to stay standing.

 

Before Prabhakaran and Amirthalimgam ethnically cleansed Jaffna in 1978, there had been 33,000 Sinhalese living there as per the Govt. census. Most of those Sinhalese were engaged in Bakeries and Vehicle repair garages and those two professions were considered the ‘exclusive domains’ of the Sinhalese. Hence Tamils, for all their proclaimed ingenuity had to rely on the Sinhala mechanics to repair their vehicles even in those ‘superior days’. Further as we could observe in the preceding chapter it is the hubris of those who believed in a ‘Tamil superiority’ that contributed to this conflict. The incongruity of such thinking is that, Tamil Nadu was so desperately poor that British colonials were taking shiploads of Tamil labor to all parts of the world under conditions akin to slavery. So how come those who came to Ceylon, a few moons ago from the same Tamil stock, were so extraordinarily superior?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 Negotiations

 

Having acquainted with Sri Lanka and its people in the preceding chapter, we shall now proceed to examine the reasons for the country’s present predicament. If one is to judge the situation based on comments made by leaders of the International community, mainly of the western countries (quoted in the 2nd Chapter), it appears that Sri Lanka’s 30-year-old struggle against the scourge of terror has been due to the Government’s rigid policy towards the LTTE and its inability to understand their aspirations. Let us now examine this position.

Negotiation is the best and the most civilized method of overcoming an issue, dispute or an obstacle. Yet negotiations between two parties on a civil or commercial issue, is different from negotiations between a Government and a subversive group that have armed itself against the Government. Under normal circumstances, if an individual takes to arms against another, it becomes a crime and if a group take arms against the state it is subversion. Both these crimes are punishable by the law of the land because both may have their fall back on the country’s law and order situation and hence on the polity’s peace.

 

However, there are instances in world history where peoples have taken arms against their own State successfully, but in every one of those instance, the State happens to be either feudal or totalitarian. Sri Lanka is a vibrant democracy with an independent judiciary and a liberal press. Therefore, any individual or a group of individuals in a democracy is expected to seek recourse in judiciary for his or their grievances. When the judiciary is hampered by inadequacies of law, a democratic state can change its laws through its own people’s representatives. Therefore, the democratic system of governance obviates the need for the people to take to arms to redress their grievances. Taking arms against a democratic state is not like taking arms against a feudal state or a dictatorial rule because here you are taking arms against the wishes of the people.  Further when a democratically elected state opts to negotiate with a subversive group within its territory, the very fact of holding negotiations may signify that the state has acknowledged the need to treat that group of persons beyond the existing law and order situation. In other words, the state is undermining the basic tenants of democracy.  

 

Further, a Government that negotiates with terrorists do have some stakes in ensuring that the talks will end up in success reining the terrorist back into the mainstream, for failure to do that may mean a loss of face before the international. The message a situation of failure would convey is that, ‘even though the Government has acknowledged the legitimacy of the violence, it is not able to do anything about it’. Thus, the Government ends up admitting the cause and its inability rectify, bestowing a tremendous boost to the subversive group strengthening their position in the eyes of the world.

Therefore, a Government negotiating with a subversive group, will have to bear in mind the following imponderables which are the calculative elements in this gamble.

  1. Whether the subversive group has a problem that can not be addressed within the existing laws of the state.
  2. Whether the negotiations would end successfully by reaching a compromise wherein the subversive element would be reined in
  3. Whether such compromise would impinge upon the rights of other interest groups where a balance seemingly existed before.
  4. Whether such negotiations end up with no compromise bestowing only a degree of legitimacy and publicity to the causes that the group is espousing, thus making the situation worse.

While being conscious of this basic reality, let us now consider the stand Sri Lanka Government has taken on negotiating with the LTTE during the past 30 years.

 

Talks, the first round.

The first round of negotiations, between the SL Government and the ‘Tamil interest parties’ were held in the Capital of Bhutan, Thimpu in the year 1985. The term ‘Tamil interest parties’ has to be used here because at that time the Tamils were represented by the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front), a party voted to the Parliament by the Tamil constituency, and a host of militant groups who had carried out an armed insurrection against the Government of Sri Lanka. Those militant groups comprised of TELO.(Tamil Elam Liberation Organization), PLOT (Peoples Liberation Organization for Tamil Elam), EPRLF (Ealam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front), EROS(Ealam Revolutionary Students Front) and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam). TULF by reason of their election to Parliament in 1977and also by reason of there being no elections in that part of the country due to violence, represented Tamils as a democratic element while the other militant groups by the strength of their militancy, took part in these talks.

 

These talks were held under the patronage of India and Romesh Bandari; the Indian foreign Minister chaired the talks. The background to these talks was the continuing violent campaign unleashed by the militant separatist organizations as listed above since 1975.

 

Separatist sentiments were present within the Tamil community in Sri Lanka for some time and its roots could be identified into the 1920’s when Sri Lanka had communal representation in its legislature under the British. These sentiments had a symbiotic relationship with Tamil nationalism under the Madras Presidency in India at that time but India attaining independence in 1947 and the subsequent crackdown on the Dravidian movement by the Indian Central Government in the early 60’s took the wind out of the sails of the Tamil separatism.

 

However, the separation of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh by India in Dec 1971 renewed the separatist hopes in the south of Palk Strait and hence from 1972 rumblings of a Tamil homeland started to re-echo in the North of Sri Lanka. There was widespread anticipation in that an armed struggle in Tamil areas with the help of India may ensure the establishment of a Tamil state in Sri Lanka and as if to realize that dream the Tamils bestowed the mantle of democratic Tamil leadership on the more militant Amirthalingam from the ailing Chelvanayagam. Amirthalingam encouraged Tamil militancy among the youth, adoringly calling them the ‘boys’. There were widespread anti-government demonstrations in the North and the ‘boys’ literally took part in all these under the direction of Amirthalingam.

 

The first political assassination in Jaffna took place in 1975 when the popular pro-Government mayor, Alfred Duraiappah was shot down in a Hindu kovil and the assassin ironically attained stardom in the tribally charged Jaffna milieu. India commenced training camps in the North of India at Dehradun in 1978 confirming the expectations harbored by the Tamil leaders from 1971 and this opened up a new chapter in the Tamil campaign for a separate state in the north of Sri Lanka.

 

This separatists’ campaign lead to the riots of July 1983 July and the riots resulted in a considerable number of refugees arriving in India and leading to charges and counter-charges between the SL and Indian governments. India accused Sri Lanka of discriminating against the Tamils while Sri Lanka accused India of training and arming the militant groups. However with diplomacy and understanding of each other’s concerns, the two countries were able to establish a working rapport while agreeing to continue to work towards a mutually acceptable solution to the current impasse. Indian Diplomat G Parthasarathy was appointed as the go-between and the ‘Thimpu talks’ in 1985 as a result of this process.

 

The Sri Lankan Government of JR Jayawardene was not very happy having to talk to the terrorist who wrought havoc in the Sri Lankan life during those years but it was difficult for Sri Lanka to turn down the Indian initiative. Sri Lanka always knew that India was the key to neutralizing the Tamil separatist movement. Jayawardene was a hard and calculating bargainer. The fact that the talks had no mechanism to disarm the militants became an issue with Jayawardene and that having talks with armed separatist while they continue to hold arms was tantamount to acknowledging their right to hold arms. But Jayawardene had no choice and his main concern was to keep India happy so that India would stop training and arming the militants.

 

Considering all this, J R appointed his brother H.W. Jayawardene, an eminent lawyer, to lead the Sri Lankan delegation for the proposed talks. This was done to save the formal Government from having to talk to armed guerillas and at the same time not to discount the talks in the eyes of India. The delegation however was made up of competent professionals and constitutional lawyers including S L Gunasekera who had authored a number of books on the Tamil issue.  

 

Even though the primary purpose was to please India, the Sri Lanka delegation was hopeful of reaching a workable compromise with the help of the long arm of Indian diplomacy. The Government delegation made a presentation expressing its concerns which were quite in keeping with any other sovereign state placed in a similar situation and expected the Tamil delegation to reciprocate with proposal to devolve power within a unitary state. But to the utter dismay of the Sri Lankan delegation the Tamil representatives took their presentation time to let loose an acrimonious barrage of accusations at successive Sri Lankan governments and at the end forwarded certain conditions which they called as basic principles in formulating a solution to the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. They also made it a point to mention that these ‘principles’ are the basics and they were none ‘negotiable’.

 

The indomitable nature of these ‘principles’ were such that they were not only unacceptable to the Government from the position of its self-respect and sovereign status but were also steeped in impracticality considering the geographic and demographic realities of the country. Those principals which later became famous as ‘Thimpu Principals’ are as follows,

 

  • The recognition of the Tamil Speaking people as a distinct nation possessed of inalienable right of self-determination.
  • The recognition of the presently constituted North and Eastern provinces, as the exclusive homeland of the Tamil speaking people.
  • The recognition of the six Tamil secessionist militant groups represented at Thimpu as the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people and
  • The grant of citizenship to all Tamils resident in Sri Lanka.

 

The nature of these demands signify separation and that amounted to declaration of war against the state of Sri Lanka. The Government delegation was dumbfounded and caught ‘off guard’ because they had come prepared to discuss a ‘political solution’ within one state and not to discuss the modalities of granting a separate state. The outrageous nature of these demands was that from the SL governments perspective one might wonder whether Sri Lanka should attend negotiations with a set of its renegades only to be told that their act of renege should be ‘recognized’.  This is exactly the situation that the Sri Lanka Government was fighting all this time to avoid and even the purpose of attending this negotiation. In more palpable terms the ‘talks’ turned out to be a situation where a sick man who attended a discussion to cure his sickness was bluntly offered the option of committing suicide. What was even more dismaying and indignant was that these were only the ‘basics’ which means the rest to come would naturally be based on these basic ‘inviolable’ principles.

 

Let us now consider these demands one by one for their practicality in relation to the Sri Lankan situation.

 

  • ‘An inalienable right of self-determination’ is a prerogative of a nation and even according to the UN Charter demanding such a right by a group is tantamount to demanding the right to secede and set up a separate state. As this ‘Tamil speaking people’ are scattered throughout the Island of Sri Lanka, the question then is (assuming that GOSL acknowledges this ‘right to self-determination’), how this particular right is going to be exercised by this ‘Tamil nation’ with its members living scattered all over within another nation i.e. Sri Lanka.

 

  • Historically, there is no basis for this demand as the Eastern province had been a part of the Kandyan kingdom until it was taken over by British by the grace of the 1815 Kandyan convention. As for the north the historical fact is that Tamil settlements took root in the Jaffna peninsula (which is a small part of the Northern Province) from the 13th century but there was no evidence worthy of mention to say that the peninsula was a separate kingdom with a suzerainty of its own.

 

  • Demographic basis for this demand, as when you consider the Tamil speaking people (which includes Muslims) is that, only about 35 % of these people live in the combined North and the East with 65% living outside this area. Therefore if the concentration of Tamil speaking people in the North and East is taken as the logical basis for this demand, by the same logic the rest of the Island would be the homeland of the Sinhalese or the non-Tamil speaking people. That would then make the majority of the Tamil speaking people resident outside their so-called ‘homeland’, a situation which is quite inconsistent with this concept of a ‘homeland’. The most noteworthy of all the inconsistencies here is that the use of the term ‘Tamil speaking people’ in this situation to imply the inclusion of Muslims who are ‘Tamil speaking’ but who do not identify themselves as Tamils. Muslims comprise 7% of Sri Lanka’s population with their own leaders and stands of their own, on national issues. They have never demanded a separate state. The question then is, how these Tamils who claim to be the sole representatives of the Tamils who comprise 11% of the population, arrogate the power to speak on behalf of another minority who has never seen ‘common cause’ with them. It was this position that subsequently led the Muslims to demand a separate state of their own in the east ‘in the event of a separate state being granted to the Tamils in the north’.

 

  • The clause relating to the ‘sole representative’ is the most illogical of all the conditions in that because by the very term ‘sole representative’ you should mean ‘one’ and not ‘six militant groups’ as is the case here. Since none of these groups had any democratic right to claim even to represent the Tamils, leave alone being the ‘sole representative’, the position then becomes clear that all these groups entertained dreams of totalitarian dominance over the Tamil community and for this they seek the recognition from the Sri Lanka government to legitimize this totalitarian dream. The silence of the TULF on this, where they are excluded from the position of being a ‘representative’, tantamount to their complicity to allow the Tamil community to accept armed groups as their leaders and thereby charter a path of violence to achieve their goal of a separate state.

 

  • This demand on ‘citizenship rights’ concerns ‘Indian Tamils’ and has nothing to do with ‘Ceylon Tamils’ with whom the negotiations were held. In any case these citizenships have been since granted as a result of the negotiations Mr Thondaman, leader of the ‘Indian Tamil’ community had with the JR Jayawardene Government. Again, this demand has no relevance to this negotiation because it is the Indian Tamils who were affected by this citizenship issue and they were always treated as a separate community with leaders of their own and were not represented in this Thimpu forum. It should be noted here that the UNP Government, mainly to strengthen its political base hastened to grant citizenship to the members of this group, merely on the production of an affidavit (a procedure unprecedented for granting citizenship anywhere in the world). Further these Indian plantation Tamils live in the center of the country away from the north an east among the Sinhalese population.

 

 

The talks ended only with one agreement and that was to ‘meet again’. The talks however confounded the worst Sri Lankan fears that the Tamils would use the forum to ‘internationalize’ their usual unfounded allegations or unreasonable demands.

 

The study of ‘Thimpu’ Principals become all the more important for the simple reason that the Tamil negotiators, during the many sessions of ‘Peace talks’ that followed over the 34 year period of this conflict, never thought it necessary to budge from this standpoint of the ‘Thimpu principles’.

 

In the modern-day society, there are accepted principles and practices on which the ownership of a person or a state is established to a particular object or a thing. But if a party with no apparent ownership tenaciously claims ownership, exercising extreme brinkmanship in doing so, then the tenacity with which that claim is made and the extremism of that brinkmanship may often create a degree of compunction in the mind of an outsider as to that obvious non-ownership. Then when you employ this tactic consistently the outsider may develop a sense of moral sympathy towards the claimant and eventually tend to view him as the rightful owner. Tamil leaders seem to have realized this proclivity in human affairs and appeared to have placed their faith in same in their bid to carve out a separate state for themselves out of Sri Lankan territory.

 

Although this first round of talks were not fruitful from the Sri Lankan perspective they became invaluable to two persons; one was the king of Bhutan, the host, and the other was the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The King of Bhutan, after having studied the demands of the Tamils against the SL Government with much foresight, started a scheme to repatriate all the Indians that have made Bhutan their abode. Prabhakaran on the other hand was caught up with the word ‘sole representative’ and realized the trivial position of being one among the six ‘sole representatives’ and decided to work towards becoming the undisputed ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils. The Talks were attended by a period of ceasefire.

 

Talks, second round.

The second round of talks with the Tamil representatives and the GOSL started after the Indian Central Government made a direct interference in the Sri Lankan affairs by violating the Sri Lankan airspace in a bid to drop relief items to the LTTE, holed out in the jungles of Vedamarachchi on the 4th June 1987.This act was performed after a flotilla of boats sent by the Indian Government was turned back by the Sri Lankan navy two days before.

 

The incident hit a new low in the century’s old Indo- Lanka relations and there was much resentment in Sri Lanka about this act of aggression by India. India on the other hand maintained that it was done out of humanitarian considerations. This act and the concomitant deranged feelings however created an atmosphere where the two leaders Rajiv Gandhi and J R Jayawardene realized the need to appreciate each other’s concerns and the need to solve this thorny issue in the best interest of the two countries. Especially the Sri Lanka Government found itself cornered by the lack of international support for its cause against India as it’s powerful friends in the international community US and UK deserted Sri Lanka for all intents and purposes in favor of bigger India. A special word should be made of the Indian High Commissioner J N Dixit who often took advantage of the helpless position Sri Lanka was placed in to arrogate for himself the powers of an ‘Indian Viceroy’ in Sri Lanka to steamroll his views and those of his Government over the Sri Lankan leadership.

 

From the Indian perspective, Dixit insisted that whatever the agreement that India and Sri Lanka reached should cover the ‘concerns of India’ as well. When repeatedly asked what those concerns if any, beyond the Tamil issue would be, Dixit reiterated that India’s attitude to Sri Lanka would be determined by the following,

 

  • Reduction and phasing out of foreign military and intelligence personnel placed in Sri Lanka from United Kingdom, Pakistan, Israel, and South Africa and so on.
  • Sri Lanka should reorganize its foreign and defense policies and reduce its involvement with USA, China, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa.
  • Sri Lanka should give some assurance to India that its seaports and Airports would not be utilized by foreign powers antagonistic towards India or which impacted on India’s security interest negatively.
  • Sri Lanka should fulfill the assurance which it gave in 1985 that India would be given an opportunity to maintain the Trincomalee oil tank farms and that Sri Lanka will prevent foreign broadcasting stations like Voice of America being used for military purposes by countries like US and West Germany.

 

Initially Jayawardene rejected these concerns as being ‘excessive’. But the fact that he suggested Dixit to go ahead with the draft accord would signify the position Sri Lanka was placed in at the time.

 

Irrespective of the fact whether the Indo Lanka accord was a step in the right direction or whether it was a requirement of the time, it has to be admitted that the negotiating methods adopted by the Indian officials were commendable. The underlying reality was that with India mediating, the two parties to the conflict, i.e. GOSL and LTTE both had to face the moment of truth and reality. GOSL knew that as long as India remains on the side of the Tamil militants, with the relative international isolation of Sri Lanka, it is difficult for Sri Lanka to overcome them. The LTTE on the other hand, knew that without the support of India they could not survive either. Therefore, India by virtue of their persuasive position was able to ‘hammer out’ an agreement between the two parties.

 

These Talks however were not talks between two parties to the conflict like in 1985. They were more oriented towards achieving results and recognized the role of India as a mediator, adjudicator and finally the arbiter, all rolled into one. It was Indian officials such as J N Dixit, Nirupam Sen, Hardeep Puri and the Indian Ministers Narasimha Rao, Natwar Sing and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi himself who did most of the mediatory talking in this regard having a continuous dialogue with the Government in Colombo, Prabhakaran in Jaffna and even sometimes with MG Ramachandran of Tamil Nadu. It should be noted here that by 1987 Prabhakaran had managed to decimate all other militant groups by then and arrogated the Tamil leadership to himself. Even the TULF, although was still in existence, was not considered a force that mattered.

 

In that respect, and from the point of view of reaching a compromise between two parties with divergent personalities and emotional issues, the Indo Lanka accord should go down in the history as an accord which accomplished so much, albeit inimical to the interest of Sri Lanka, in so little a time. However, the Indian facilitation was finally able to obtain the nod and co-operation of all these parties of interests and the hardest part, had of course been obtaining Prabhakaran’s agreement to the accord. Thus, the Indo Lanka accord was signed on the 29th July 1987 between India and Sri Lanka.

 

Though the Accord was signed between the two countries, it very nearly became an agreement between GOSL and the LTTE. JRJ however insisted that the agreement should be between the two countries partly because of the international connotations and partly because of the Indian role as the underwriter in disarming the LTTE. Broadly, the Indo –Lanka Accord provided for the following,

 

  1. Sri Lanka is to bring forth legislation to create a system of Provincial Councils based on the territorial division of the 9 provinces that existed in Sri Lanka, providing for the election of Provincial Governments that will share power with the Central Government. It would be the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government to overcome all forms of dissent, democratic or otherwise to the Accord in general and to the legislation in particular.

 

  1. The LTTE and the other armed groups are to disarm themselves with the Indian armed forces underwriting this operation for which their (Indian Forces) presence in Sri Lanka would be required for a period as dictated by the requirement of such operation. Operations by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the north and east of the country are to cease during this period and they (SL forces) are to be confined to barracks during this period of operation by the Indian forces.

 

  1. Tamil language is to be given official language status on par with the Sinhalese language in Sri Lanka.

 

  1. The northern and the eastern provinces of the country to be merged for a period of 1year of the Provincial government after which a plebiscite is to be held to determine whether north and east would continue to stay merged.

 

Of these JRJ and the SL Government entertained serious reservations on the merger of the North and East provinces and Tamil being made an official language in par with Sinhala. Jayawardene went through with it partly because he hadn’t a choice and partly because it contained the all-important condition of disarming the military. In his own shrewd way Jayawardene knew that whatever the situation the agreement would lead to India had to contain the LTTE within the agreement and that would not be an easy task. However majority in Sri Lanka realized the danger inherent in this agreement and riots broke out all over Sri Lanka the day Rajiv Gandhi arrived to sign the Accord. Ronald Ragan the US President sent a congratulatory message to reach him in Colombo for ‘the bold effort he had taken to assist in the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka’ and had further stated that he ‘was willing to assist in any manner for implementing its provisions’.

 

The SL Government declared curfew on the 29th July as the opposition parties, JVP and the SLFP was out on the streets protesting against the agreement and the atmosphere in Colombo was tensed. On the 30th morning around 10 am the agreement was signed and as customary a guard of honor was presented by the SL government to the visiting Head of state. A naval rating by the name of Vijithamuni attempted to hit Rajiv Gandhi with his rifle but, but was overpowered by the Sri Lanka naval Chief of staff.

 

Riots continued in Sri Lanka with public utilities and property being destroyed and Indian goods being boycotted. Jayawardene however pressed ahead with his part of the agreement. The Provincial Council bill and the Tamil language special provisions act were passed in Parliament. The JVP continued its campaign of agitation against the Jayawardene government and as Jayawardene mobilized the security forces now relieved from their duties in the North in the southern part to quell JVP rioters. The protests movement went underground and manifested in the form of hit and run attacks against the Government establishments and officers.

 

In the northern front, the Indian Peace Keeping forces were mobilized at Palaly on the 29th June 1987 even before the ‘ink on the agreement could dry’. When commented by the speed with which the IPKF was mobilized in Sri Lanka Lieutenant general Depinder Sing commanding officer of the IPKF commented that they were able to accomplish mobilization in record time because they had contingency plans for mobilizing in (or invasion of ) Sri Lanka through the 54th infantry regiment stationed in Madras from May 1987.

 

In August an attempt was made on the life of the Sri Lankan President J R Jayawardene allegedly by some members of the JVP by throwing a grenade into the Cabinet room in the Parliament. The grenade did explode but the President and the Prime Minister who was present at the time escaped with minor injuries. A senior Minister Mr Keerthi Abeywickreme was killed and the National Security Minister Mr Lalith Athulathmudali was seriously injured in the explosion.  

 

Within a week of this mobilization a ceremony was held in Jaffna to mark the token handing over (not surrender) of weapons by the LTTE. The Sri Lankan government in turn announced amnesty for all Tiger cadres. But two months after this ‘handing over ceremony’ seeds of discord were brewing between the LTTE and the IPKF. The LTTE obviously were reluctant collaborators to this Accord primarily due to their being more geared to fighting than for any peace. The events that followed would prove that Prabhakaran, being the good guerilla or terrorist, he was, was a very poor (or not at all) peacetime leader. According to Depinder Singh’s book IPKF in Sri Lanka, “The LTTE leadership could never understand, or did not want to understand that the Indian Government’s ability to continue to support Tamils in Sri Lanka politically would be enhanced if the LTTE displayed full respect and commitment to the Accord.”

 

Hardly 3 months into the Accord the LTTE and the IPKF got embroiled in the bitterest of wars culminating in the death of 1500 IPKF men and about 5,000 injured, most of them losing at least a limb. The fighting would rage on for 4 years until the conflict reached the next phase where Mr Premedasa assumed duties as the Sri Lankan President and ordered the IPKF out of the country in March 1990. IPKF finally leaves Sri Lanka not only with its mission unaccomplished but with heavy loss in men and armaments and worst of all with its pride badly dented. In a twist of fate LTTE launched a book in the year 1991 titled The Satanic forces describing the IPKF as the ‘worst indiscipline army and a plundering force to have deployed by anywhere in the world’.

 

In the political front, the Sri Lankan legislators passed new legislation installing Provincial Councils. The elections were held, albeit amidst LTTE violence and counter operations by the IPKF, to the North East Provincial Council. A person by the name of Varatharajah Perumal got elected as the Chief Minister. He was in more ways than one propped up and maintained in power by the IPKF’s military arm. No sooner the IPKF made its exit, the Chief Minister of the North/ East also decided to seek political asylum in India but not before he declared a ‘Unilateral Declaration of Independence’ for the North/East province in defiance of the Government of Sri Lanka. That act not only sent the North/East Provincial government into disarray but also confirmed the Sinhala hard-line position that ‘the Indian mediation in Sri Lanka was not impartial and would eventually destabilize the country’.

 

While those were the activities that entailed the Indo Lanka Accord in the North the Accord brought the South of Sri Lanka virtually into an anarchic situation due to the subversive activities of the JVP.  The public transport was only functioning when and where it was possible for it to function. The schools were virtually closed. The banks and Government institutions functioned in fits and starts. Public utilities like the Electricity Board and the hospitals were functioning more as luxuries than as basic utilities. Funds were being solicited from the public in the name of ‘struggle against the Indian invasion’ by invisible hands. All forms of political and personal rivalries were being enacted including murder under the cover of JVP subversion. The country virtually came to an ungovernable position and JR found himself in a situation where his carefully handpicked successors, like Lalith Athulathmudali / Gamini Dissanayake and his natural successor, R Premadasa, were all either revolting or not co-operating with him, in the governance.

 

It was said that even though JR was to complete his two terms in 1990 he had plans of passing an amendment to the country’s Constitution which would enable him to have another term. However, JR’s political life, synonymous with the entirety of the post-independent politics in Sri Lanka, came to a somewhat abrupt end due to his inability to quell the riots that followed the enforcement of the Indo –Lanka accord. Going for a Presidential election appeared to be the only way out for JR and the country and hence he was compelled to call an end to his term and declare elections.

 

During this period, Indian goods and Indian establishments were boycotted and even TATA lorries and buses were set on fire on the roads. Evidently there were number of extrajudicial killing squads in operation, some for the purpose of creating more confusion and some trying to help Government to restore order. However, the subversive activities lasted for 2 full years in the south inflicting untold difficulties to the ordinary masses and by the time they thinned out in 1989 an estimated 50, 000 persons had been killed.

 

Talks: The Third round.

The third round of Peace talks commenced between the LTTE and the Premadasa Government of Sri Lanka in August 1989.

Jayawardene’s Government had fallen out from public grace towards the end of its term, mainly due to its signing of the Indo Lanka Accord.  Jayawardena, after having completed two terms in office was forced by the political reality of the time to relinquish whatever remaining dreams he had with the Sri Lankan polity. In a politically tragic end to a towering and chequered career, JR Jayawardene, after having prevailed so much over his party throughout his tenure, cut a sorry figure towards the end and was not endowed even with the required power to decide his political successor. Given the choice Jayawardene would have considered all three; his Prime Minister: his National Security Minister and his Mahaweli Developments Minister, all as likely successors. But the circumstances the country was placed in, with the IPKF and the LTTE at one end and the JVP and the SL forces at the other end, created a very volatile picture of the Sri Lankan political scenario making JRJ a virtual spent force in SL politics. Law and order situation was under serious threat with JVP resorting to hit and run and underground operations. Anarchy was the order of the day and the economic activity was grinding to halt with southern parts of the country under siege. It was not at all a happy situation for a candidate to offer himself to the fray, especially when the JVP had threatened to kill the first five who come to cast their votes at the Presidential election.

 

Premadasa being the man used to the rough and tumble came forward and won the Presidential election held on the 19th December 1988 by the skin of his teeth. That too, because by virtue of him being the most vociferous critic of the Indo Lanka accord in the JR Jayawardene Government.

 

By then the LTTE had been fighting the IPKF in the most hostile way imaginable. The LTTE wanted the IPKF menace, having named it the most ‘satanic (unprofessional) of forces’, out from Sri Lanka. The LTTE also knew of Premadasa’s anti-Indian stance and that it suited their agenda so well. The LTTE made overtures to befriend Premadasa.

 

Premadasa was a man with a populist philosophy and pragmatic ways in politics and always identified himself with the marginalized section of society. He had a unique record of not losing a single election he contested since he first appeared in the Sri Lankan political firmament as a local government MP in the early 60’s. Even when his party (the UNP) got defeated very badly Premadasa stood out winning with an enhanced majority. He was a man blessed with an extraordinary knack to command popularity and an ability to make things happen.

 

When the LTTE first made overtures in late 1989 the impression it may have created in Premadasa would have been one of a long-lost relative trying to establish contacts now that he has become the President. Having known the persevering and fighting capacity of the LTTE, Premadasa obviously had some respect towards the LTTE as a force that can make things happen. The manner and alacrity with which the rapport was established between the LTTE and the Premadasa government suggested that there was a lot of mutuality between the two parties and that they could sustain a relationship based on common interest. This was a time that the LTTE was weakened by two years of fighting with the IPKF and hence was badly in need of a recess and a time for recuperation. In addition to the IPKF the Varathrajah Provincial government of the North East had been training and arming the Tamil National Army with the help of the Indian RAW, ostensibly to police and take over the law and order situation with the expected exit of the IPKF. The TNA too, had its guns pointed at the LTTE and hence the LTTE was having a hard time in the jungles. Premadasa in his enthusiasm overlooked these factors which discounted LTTE’s position among the Tamils in the north. In his mind, he thought he should make use of this rare opportunity that came his way and was as lavish as he possibly could have been with the LTTE. He took that up as a challenge for his populism which had never let him down in politics.

 

The third round of peace talks between the GOSL and the LTTE commenced on the 25th April 1989, in less than 4months of President Premadasa’s assumption of office. The Government’s chief negotiator was the Minister Mr A C S Hameed and comprised a party that included the President’s Secretary, Bradman Weerakoon. The LTTE delegation was led by Mahattaya alias Mahendraraja and comprised Yogaratnam Yogi and Anton Balasingham. The first round of talks was held in Colombo at the Hilton hotel. Unlike in previous instances the LTTE did not make an issue of the time and place because it was the LTTE, having been cornered by the IPKF that needed the talks badly. The LTTE delegations were initially transported from the jungles of Wanni in SL Air Force helicopters to the Colombo Hilton. The Government also made sure a ceasefire was declared between the LTTE and IPKF at LTTE’s request to facilitate the ‘Peace talks’.

 

What was ‘special’ about these talks was that they were directed more towards building confidence and trust between the two parties i.e. GOSL and LTTE. Premadasa was so immersed in the thought of cracking this vexed issue of the country and for that he had immense faith in his practical approach of dealings with public. Premadasa probably thought that he could disarm the LTTE with ‘unbridled benevolence.’

Premadasa gave them everything that he possibly could at the Sri Lankan taxpayers’ expense. To start with, the maintenance of law and order in the North and East was entrusted to the LTTE cadres in spite of the fact that the police stations in the east were functioning at the time. With the SL army confined to barracks due to Indo Lanka accord, IPKF inactivated by the cease-fire, and Varathraja Perumal in exile in India, the LTTE became the de-facto rulers of the North-East province. They started running a parallel administration and levying their own taxes. At the behest of the LTTE Premadasa also closed down the strategic army camps located in Thondaimannar, Velvettithurai, and Point Pedro. As if that was not enough Premadasa gave them communication equipment, torch batteries, cement, motor vehicles and whatever other items the LTTE thought they would need. Having got so carried away by the bonhomie of the talks President Premadasa in an unprecedented move acceded to a request for arms by the LTTE made through its ideologue Anton Balasingham. He however imposed two conditions on the grant of arms to the LTTE; that the SL army should not come to know about it and that the LTTE should stop their ethnic cleansing activities of attacking isolated Sinhala villages, especially in the east. This period from April 1989 to July 1990 undoubtedly was Prabhakaran’s finest hour in his whole life as a fugitive.

 

Even though President Premadasa’s action appeared ‘downright stupid’ now, at that time it was a gamble that probably the Government thought was worth taking. The other aspect to the psyche of the Sinhala leader mindset at the time was that ‘whoever who cracked the LTTE and the Tamil issue was going to be set for life in power’. The Tamil issue had become such an incorrigible and thorny problem by then and at the same time the LTTE had not, up to then, shown their true scale of ingratiated brutality. The SLAF helicopters were flying the LTTE members all over the north and east. All this was happening while Ranjan Wijeratne The Deputy Defense Minister of GOSL was involved in a ruthless anti-terror drive in the south against the JVP with an unprecedented degree of extrajudicial operation as a result of which there were corpses of Sinhala youths lying even by the roadsides in Sri Lanka.In the meantime Mr. Amirthalingam and his Parliamentary colleague V Yogeshwaran were gunned down in their Colombo residence by three Tamils youths, under the guise of paying a courtesy call on them. Even though there was overbearing evidence to suggest that it was a job of the LTTE, the Premadasa Govt. showed no urgency in either bringing the culprits to book or exploring possible LTTE links. Amirthalingam had been against the withdrawal of the IPKF. By May 1990, the ‘Talks’ had reached a crescendo with regard to ‘building mutual confidence and trust’ and it was time at least then to open up the more serious business of discussing ‘power-sharing’ and ‘assimilation into the mainstream’ etc.. This was felt not because there was a compulsive agenda for the talks but merely because the LTTE felt that they had no more things to ask for from the Government. The IPKF had left in March 1990.The leaders and the hardcore TNA members (about 100) trained and armed by the IPKF had been done to death and the balance had joined the LTTE with their arms.

 

While President Premadasa had been entertaining hopes of peace and a historic reconciliation, Prabhakaran had been telling his cadres that his pact with Premadasa was like Mao Tsetung’s pact with Shankei Shiek; only to drive the Japanese army away. In public speeches he declared himself the rightful owner of the North and East having successfully fought and got rid of Asia’s biggest army’. ‘If I could do that to the 4th largest army of the world’ he said, “the Sri Lankan army in the future would be just a pushover”(Inside Elusive Mind-page208).

 

The inevitable happened on the 10th July 1990 in the Eastern town o Baticoloa. It arose as a dispute between the Batticaloa Police and a Muslim tailor and the LTTE decided that event to be good enough to warrant an all-out war against the Government of Sri Lanka, albeit bringing to naught that exercise of ‘building confidence and trust’ made over a period of 1 year and 3 months, at such costs to the SL Government. By 11th July heavily armed LTTE guerillas launched a ferocious attack on the Batticaloa Police station. The besieged policemen found themselves unexpectedly cornered but fought back. In no time the Police stations at Eravur, Kalavanchikudi,, Kalkuddah, Vellaveli, and Valachhcenai within the same Batticaloa division found themselves surrounded by scores of LTTE cadres armed to the teeth. By 5 pm on the same day even the Police stations at Ampara division, Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu and Samanthurai found themselves surrounded. What had made this act of bringing Police stations under siege was the fact during those ‘starry-eyed Peace Talks’ the LTTE had been in surveillance, cutting drenches and building bunkers surreptitiously, near these police stations.

 

Premadasa was caught off guard. He tried to contact some of the LTTE leaders who were still in Colombo after attending ‘peace talks’ with his offices. In an effort miscalculated more out of desperation he ordered the police officers to give in to the LTTE as that appeared the only way of ensuring their safe passage out of the area. The IGP communicated that order to the Police stations and all but the kalmunai Police station obeyed. ASP Ivan Boteju of the Kalmunai police station fought the LTTE for 12 hours and requested reinforcements which was denied. The LTTE herded 677 Sinhala and Muslim policemen who surrendered and took them to the jungles of Thirukkovil and murdered all of them in cold blood and buried them in mass graves. However, two officer, one feigning death and the other hiding in a buffaloe hole escaped death.

 

Thus ended, the third round of talks between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka.

 

The important thing to remember however was that the LTTE that was fighting for life under the IPKF in the North and East in Jan 89 had now come to control 70 % of the Northern and Eastern provinces by June 1990.

 

Talks; the fourth round.

The LTTE assassinated President Premadasa on the 1st May 1993 sending the already fragmented ruling United National Party into total disarray. Without stopping at that, the LTTE also assassinated Gamini Dissanayake the UNP candidate for Presidency during the run-up to the Presidential election in September 1994. This enabled Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge of the SLFP led United Peoples Freedom Alliance to come to power, winning the Parliamentary elections in August and the Presidential election in October 1994.

 

Chandrika came to power promising a new era of peace and democratic reform in Sri Lanka. True, the period between 1988 to 1992 had been one of the most volatile periods in Sri Lankan public life. But most of the problems relating to the JVP uprising which traumatized the society had been brought under control and democracy had been restored by 1994. She castigated the UNP for ‘17years of corruption and terror’ a description that suited her political expediency more than the reality of the preceding17 years.

 

With an extremely liberal outlook and a spirit of adventurism Chandrika had an ideologically oriented soft spot for the ‘Tamil cause’ in Sri Lanka. She with her husband, Wijaya Kumaranatunge, a Catholic and a film star, had supported the Indo Lanka Accord and had traveled up to Jaffan at the thick of things during the accord in 1987 and had established very close rapport with many LTTE leaders. It was generally known that, that she had expressed her desire to grant all the powers relating to North and East to the LTTE, ‘if she ever came close to a position where such an act was within her powers’. Back in 1987, the prospect of Chandrika, who was not in the SLFP, coming to power in Sri Lanka was a very unlikely scenario.

 

Since South Asia is the home of political dynasties (Sri Lanka much less analogous to other countries in the region), it was the ‘Bandaranaike’ family name that thrust her into SLFP leadership and eventually to power. Great many Sri Lankans considered her to be a sincere and effervescent person whose charisma and unorthodox style was what the country probably required after 17 years of rightist rule. She promised a new approach based on understanding and dialogue to the Tamil issue. The LTTE now in total control of Jaffna and most of the other areas of North and East (thanks to Premadasa), and also having eliminated the cream of the UNP, was waiting for Chandrika to come to power to further their position.

 

The Tamils overwhelmingly voted for Chandrika at the elections and called her the ‘savior of Tamils’ in posters. Chandrika, naturally, could not wait even till she became the President to start negotiations with the LTTE. In two weeks she relaxed the economic embargo of strategic material to the fighting areas. She immediately declared a ceasefire (September 1994) and wrote to the LTTE leader, inviting him for ‘Peace talks’.

 

The venue was chosen as Jaffna, which was the capital of de-facto Ealam at the time and Chandrika’s delegation had no compunction in agreeing to all the conditions imposed at the talks by the LTTE while sitting and conducting talks under the LTTE flag of sprawling tiger and two rifles.   

 

The ‘Talks’, which formally started on the 5th January 1995, as usual centered around ‘confidence building’ again. As the standard practice with the LTTE, Prabhakaran never attended these talks but wrote to Chandrika on the need to normalize matters ‘in view of the long period of struggle our people have been subjected to’. 

 

At this juncture, Chandrika had the opportunity to avail herself to all the experience, the Government and its offices gained through the failed peace talks between Jayawardene/India/ LTTE and Premadasa/ LTTE. But having publicly declared ‘negotiations as the only avenue of handling the LTTE’ and also conscious of her obligation to the Catholic / Anglican Churches and the western NGOs, the architects of her victory, Chandrika’s actions were determined more by her ideological inclinations and personal allegiances than by ground realities and national obligations.

 

Having noticed that this business of ‘confidence building’ was dragging things a bit too far, she commented a few times through her correspondence with Prabhakaran for the need to focus on the ‘core’ issues of this conflict i.e. devolution of power. But the LTTE deliberately scuttled such concerns with the ‘need to alleviate the sufferings of the Tamil community.’ The Chandrika Government, in keeping with the ceasefire agreement offered to establish ‘peace committees’ made up of ‘international personalities’ but the LTTE was not in the mood to co-operate until their ‘crucial issues’ relating to ‘normalizing public life’ were responded to. Chandrika, as suggested by the LTTE, even invited the Norwegian as facilitators of future peace negotiations.

 

In spite of the fact that the Ceasefire agreement between the Government and the LTTE stipulated that a 72 hour notice should be given by either party in the event of a need to set aside the ceasefire agreement, On 19th April 1995 the LTTE attacked 2 naval gunboats of the Sri Lanka Navy anchored at Trincomalee harbour killing 12 and injuring 21 SL Navy personnel. Thus the fourth round of talks between the LTTE and the SL Government came to an abrupt end. In the aftermath of this break down of dialogue Prabhakaran issued a press statement outlining the reasons for the failure of the talks and those were,

 

  • The failure of the SL government to remove the Pooneryn Army camp.
  • Failure of the government to give armed cadres of the LTTE the right to move around with arms in the eastern province.
  • The failure of the Government to relax entirely the restrictions on fishing rights as per the Governments undertaking in the letter dated 14th March 1995

 

These reasons should be viewed in the light of the fact that the original ceasefire agreement was very clear in stating that the camps and the security situation should remain as it is and further the Government had not sent a letter dated 14th March 1994 even though LTTE had cited such a letter in their press statement. Hostilities resumed and in a period of four months and 12 days from the 19th April 1995 the LTTE was able to inflict heavy casualties on the security forces killing 445 Soldiers, 39 Sailors, 24 Airmen, 49 Policemen, and 53 Civilians as well as wounding 475 security personnel. In the process the LTTE destroyed three troop carrier aircrafts (while in flight) of the SL Airforce and four Naval gunboats of the SL Navy. This was the first time that the LTTE showed its capacity to destroy aircrafts in flight (Wages of Sin – page 18).

 

Talks; the 5th round

The groundwork for the 5th round of talks on the Sri Lankan conflict commenced with the signing of the ceasefire agreement on 22nd February 2002 between the UNP Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the LTTE under Norwegian facilitation. After the election victory in 2001 Dec. Ranil Wickremesinghe was in a hurry to score a political point over his rival, the incumbent President Chandrika Bandaranaike. He had his eyes set on the Presidential stakes and thought he could bamboozle the LTTE into a peace agreement undermining their war capability. Ranil always had a rather exaggerated estimation of himself as a master strategist and the lackeys around him fed him on this weakness. As a result, he always underestimated his rival and in this instance LTTE and its machinations. He informed the Norwegian Government, as the facilitators acceptable to the LTTE, of his intentions and requested them to draft a CFA as soon as possible. Eric Solheim’s knowledge on the subject, as always has been, limited to what the LTTE makes him believe. Considering the intransigence of the LTTE and the eagerness of the SL Government to have a CFA, the best way Solheim could answer the tall order was by entrusting it to his ‘drinking pal’ Anton Balasingham, the LTTE ideologue. Balasinham drafted just what he wanted; a one-sided agreement where the LTTE stood to gain all that it wanted without conceding a thing in return; not even a firm commitment to peace on the part of the LTTE. 

 

The CFA, an MOU in effect, brokered by the Norwegians, conceded a package of crucial concessions to the LTTE. It lifted the SL Government’s proscription on the LTTE, created an area within the Sri Lankan state called the ‘LTTE area’ with specified boundaries, recognized the LTTE forces as conventional security forces, acknowledged the LTTE’s right to administer that area including the imposition of taxes and the maintenance of law and order, recognized the LTTE as the ‘sole representative’ of the Tamil community, and plus granted the right to the LTTE to do ‘political work’, any where in Sri Lanka.

 

The agreement also clearly stated that any abrogation of the agreement requires two weeks notice from either party to the facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government. Yet the Agreement was found wanting in its basic essence. There was no clause that upheld the cease-fire with a penalty for violating the truce!

 

The SL Government had entered into three truce agreements with the LTTE before this; between JR and the LTTE (underwritten by India), between Premadasa and the LTTE and between Chandrika and the LTTE. All these agreements contained a clause specifying the conditions under which the truce would automatically lapse in addition to the clause that required a period of notice from either party on abrogation. But not so in the Ranil – Prabhakaran CFA, which only contained the ‘two weeks notice to terminate’ clause with no mention of ‘acts that would cause the CFA to lapse automatically’. Hence it became an open-ended agreement of concessions to the LTTE without requiring even a commitment to uphold the CFA by the LTTE. It was a Cease Fire Agreement with everything but a commitment to ‘Ceasefire’ or just an agreement which allowed the LTTE to ‘have the cake and eat it too’.

 

The clause that enabled the LTTE to engage in ‘political activity anywhere in the Island’ was especially a catch that would enable the LTTE to roam the whole of Sri Lanka while the SL army was to be confined to the non-LTTE area. Ranil was in such a hurry for this agreement and his servility to whatever is western had always been such, that he signed the agreement without even bothering to understand its full significance. But Ranil pontificated as if signing of the CFA was the best thing that ever happened to him in his whole political career and to the conflict in Sri Lanka. It was quite plain and obvious from the way he bragged about the CFA, “See, I have accomplished what Chandrika could not!” Hence Ranil Wickremesinghe thought he scored the political point he was aiming at, while the LTTE received just what they wanted. Prabhakaran and Balasingham would have been laughing, ‘These stupid Sinhala leaders/suckers got played out by us again!’

 

In no time Prabhakaran got to work. He set about killing his political rivals, more than 800 of them during the period of the CFA. Also killed more than 50 intelligence sleuths of the Sri Lanka security forces, who were involved in LRR (Long Range Reconnaissance) operation. They recruited 4100 child conscripts; unloaded eleven shipments of arms and cleared 21 undeclared containers of cargo through the Colombo port (now believed to be claymore mines). The LTTE violated the conditions of the CFA with impunity on more than 3000 occasions (up to Sept’ 2003). These violations were confirmed by the SLMM (Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission) set up in terms of the CFA to monitor the CFA. But the irony was that such violations would not cause this unique CFA to lapse. By now Prabhakaran knew through experience that it is soon after a period of ‘peace’ that the war initiative really comes his way. Ranil Wickremesinghe however boasted of the CFA as the creation of a genius without realizing that the Sri Lankan nation was like the proverbial crab in a pot of water who thought ‘life was nice’ until the water started boiling.

 

Peace Talks were held in many prominent cities of the world starting from Sattahip in Thailand through Düsseldorf in Germany, Oslo in Norway. New York in USA and finally Tokyo in Japan. Prabhakaran sent his men to see the best places in the world for ‘peace talks’ earning a lot of publicity but with instructions to canvass support among the Diaspora and shop for arms in the countries they visited. The LTTE however was not entertained in USA since it was a banned organization in that country.

 

The Government delegation to the talks included leading Government Ministers G L Peiris and Milinda Moragoda while the LTTE delegation was headed by their chief ideologue Anton Balasingham and included the political wing leader Thamil Chelvam and Regional leaders like Karuna and Kaushalyan. As talks ‘progressed’ from one venue to another the LTTE openly stated their inability to accept Sri Lanka’s sovereignty as a state. But the talks prodded on and ‘the getting nowhere’ attitude of talks were so apparent that it appeared as if, all what the SL government wanted was to ‘just talk’ with the LTTE rather than to talk with some objectivity. If at all if there was an objectivity in those ‘talks’ that was to buy time till the ‘Presidential election’ Ranil had in mind. The LTTE on the other hand achieved their objectives of meeting world leaders, meeting the Tamil Diaspora and shopping for arms.

 

At the Oslo talks however by a stroke of some accident, Balasingham agreed to ‘explore the possibilities of a federal solution to Sri Lanka’. This finally came out as a significant breakthrough and it came to be known as the ‘Oslo declaration’. Overjoyed Ranil Wickremesinghe made this declaration quite an issue and tried to convey, ‘see, this is what I told you, my genius has now paid off’. But in no time Prabhakaran admonished Anton Balasingham for signing the Oslo declaration and debarred him from taking any further part in future negotiations. 

 

After about a year into the CFA, the Catholic Bishops of Mannar and Jaffna started casting aspersions that the youth were being exposed to corruption and promiscuity after the CFA. According to Prabhakaran’s own calculations he had by then wrangled the maximum out of the CFA and if he were to continue any further, it may require reciprocal concessions on his part. Hence he refused to co-operate with SIRHAN, the development mechanism envisaged by Ranil, and brought the curtain gradually down on his now ‘legitimized empire’.

 

He started his own development work such as building his LTTE Airforce base at Iranamadu etc.. He then started to criticize the much hyped ‘peace process’ openly blaming the SL Government for ‘not being able to get the USA’s ban on the LTTE waived off’. As the LTTE then boycotted the next round of peace talks in Tokyo, Ranil Wickremesinghe went alone to the Tokyo Donor conference and pleaded that ‘the LTTE had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda’. But however with this withdrawal of the LTTE, the primary purpose of entering into the CFA that of finding an acceptable solution, became unattainable.

 

The functions of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, provided in the CFA and made up of members of Norway and Scandinavian countries, was to make observations and submit their periodic reports, based on those observations. By the time the LTTE walked out of the Peace talks in Sept. 2003, they had violated the CFA 3719 times for the 162 violations by the Government security forces. But that had no effect on the CFA because it was so uniquely designed to accommodate any number of violations. It was such a unique and flexible CEASEFIRE agreement that it was a CFA that could even accommodate unceasing FIRE. Effectively it was a document that bestowed the LTTE the ‘insurance cover’ of a CFA to carry out their criminal and anti-Sri Lankan state activities as usual. 

 

With the LTTE’s refusal to attend the Tokyo round of ‘Talks’ in April 2003, the peace talks collapsed.  Even after the collapse of the Talks, the UNP government communicated a set of proposals to the LTTE on June 03 to devolve power to North and East. The LTTE point blank rejected those proposals. The Wickremesinghe Government then sent what they called an ‘improved version’ of the proposals. That too was rejected by the LTTE. Not to be deterred The Ranil Government sent the third set of modified proposals in Sept. 2003. The LTTE rejected that too. The Government then requested the LTTE to submit its own proposals and when those were submitted those were nothing but some arrangements detailed by the LTTE to hand over the North and East of Sri Lanka to the LTTE. These proposals corroborated with the LTTE’s unwavering stand that ‘should there be talks between the SL Government and the LTTE; such talks should be only on the demarcations of the boundaries of the two countries and nothing else’.

 

Notwithstanding this inference, the SL Government sent a team of Ministers to meet an LTTE delegation in Vavuniya in November 2003 to impress upon the need to be ‘accommodative’ in order to come out of the current political impasse. The LTTE however was not interested in the political ambitions of the UNP and hence the ‘Talks’ automatically got suspended inconclusively.

 

Thus the ‘Talks’, that commenced by granting legitimacy and recognition to the most dangerous terror outfit in the world, sustained on the LTTE’s own terms and conditions, made international news in 5 prominent international cities over a period one year, came to an end having achieved absolutely nothing in return for the Sri Lankan Government and its people.  Not even an assurance from the LTTE that an effort would be made to adhere to the prevailing Cease Fire Agreement. Instead, it was very clear that the LTTE was making the best use of legitimacy and the international acceptance, the CFA bestowed on it, while resorting to its familiar violent ways of furthering its ends.

 

The fact is that, all these rounds of ‘Peace Talks’, apart from being a reflection of  the different attitudes adopted by the SL Government and the LTTE towards reaching a settlement through negotiations, should be evident enough to exonerate the Sri Lankan Government of obduracy and no flexibility in dealing with the LTTE over the years. In fact what stands out, from these discussions by and large is, that the Sri Lankan Government, either due to their eagerness or helplessness (or because of both) has even stretched itself beyond the internationally accepted limitations of ‘a State conducting negotiations with a terrorist group within its territory’.  Such ‘elasticity’ could be observed from the following features of these negotiations.

 

  • Any other country placed in similar circumstances would have wanted the terrorist to lay down their arms as a condition for the negotiations to commence. The SL Government never made this condition at any of the rounds of negotiations for the simple reason that the military and guerilla strength of the LTTE had always been a such a prominent factor in this, that such a condition would have been ‘out and out’ unacceptable to the LTTE as often indicated by them.

 

  • Other than the first two rounds of negotiations that were staged managed by India during the JR Jayawardene regime, all other negotiations were conducted according to the LTTE’s agenda. The GOSL in all these instances, appeared to believe that such flexibility was necessary to bring a recalcitrant group back into mainstream.

 

  • All these rounds of negotiations, other than the first two rounds again, were heavily or wholly weighted towards ‘building confidence’ between the two parties concerned, which meant the GOSL making certain concessions to the LTTE with the view of winning its confidence to ‘bring it in line’. At the end however the talks would eventually collapse even before the core issue of neutralizing terrorism were even taken up, leaving the LTTE with all the gifts of the ‘confidence building’ exercise without having to compromise on violence.

 

  • It was also evident that at these last three rounds of ‘Talks’ the LTTE used its capacity or rather reputation to ‘fight and unleash terror’ as a bargaining tool in the negotiations as it constantly threatened to ‘return to war’ if the negotiations collapsed.

 

  • At the end of every one of these sessions of ‘Talks’, the LTTE re-emerged as a revitalized fighting force, having used the laxity of the GOSL during the period of ‘Talks’ and the legitimacy and acceptance such ‘Talks’ conferred on the LTTE internationally with propaganda mileage.

 

  • It is also a fact that, after every round of these ‘Talks’ the LTTE wrangled the military initiative and killed many civilians and troops. In doing this, the LTTE even violated the terms and conditions of the respective ceasefire agreements which required notice of abrogation by either party. But notwithstanding this tried and tested LTTE behavior, the SL Government was always eager for any rounds of future ‘Talks’ as if its survival depends on its capacity to keep the LTTE engaged in ‘Talks’.

 

The primary reason that could be adduced to the above ‘lack of sagacity’ situation on the part of the Sri Lankan leaders essentially lie in the character and pragmatism inherent in the Sri Lankan leaders who negotiated with the LTTE from time to time. JR, for all his failings and ‘outfoxing’ deals, was a an astute and pragmatic leader. With his knowledge of the west and global affairs, he knew how the west would handle terrorism, despite all that is advocated by them. Premadasa was a populist whose populist politics had always worked for him until he confronted the LTTE. He had great faith in humanity and especially in the downtrodden sections of the society and as the LTTE was popularly thought to be an ‘aggrieved party’, Premadasa thought he could handle them. Given his less than average background in a milieu of high society politicians, Premadasa was determined to triumph with his populist tact and philosophy on an issue that the others could not make headway.  In any case Premadasa probably never believed that groups who claimed to be victims of ‘discrimination’ are capable of sinking down to such depths of treachery as the LTTE did, during their dealings with him.

 

Chandrika Kumaranatunge is the typical third or fourth generation progeny in a political dynasty with a proclivity to simply think and act with a sense of radicalism against her predecessors. Her political liberalism and the inclination to gamble for personal gratification with stakes in family and country overshadowed whatever ‘humane sense’ one could identify in her. Ranil Wickremesinghe too is a man deeply entrenched in western ways. Thrust into politics by sheer family connections, he neither understood the political aspiration of the average Sri Lankan nor was he educated about the insidious realities of the Sri Lankan conflict. His servility to western thinking and advocacy is such that he would blindly believe in what the westerners say, whether it is on ‘terrorism’ or on‘democracy’. Philosophically and politically he belonged to the west and hence trying to do politics in Sri Lanka, essentially an eastern country, he finds his feet in the air; losing 14 out of the 15 elections his party contested under his leadership.

  

Right throughout this period of 25-year negotiations, the political leadership of the GOSL has evolved, from one talk to the next, which meant that there is an apparent loss of first-hand experience from one round of ‘peace talks’ to the next. Whereas in the case of LTTE it was always one leader, Prabhakaran (even though he never attended any of the Talks) who constantly enriched himself with the experience from one GOSL leader to the next. This had the effect of shifting the goal post at every session of ‘Talks’, where the LTTE would put down all their demands anew, invariably with political contempt for the previous regime. With a two party democracy and alternate parties coming to power in Sri Lanka, this tactic went well with successive Sri Lankan leaders and the LTTE always took advantage of this inherent weakness in the Sri Lankan democratic system.

 

It should also be noted that despite all these rounds of negotiations the LTTE has never budged from its original stand of the ‘Thimpu Principles’ enunciated at the first ever negotiations, except perhaps in the case of the Indo –Lanka accord which the LTTE eventually reneged. As mentioned at the initial stages of this Chapter the ‘Thimpu principles’ were neither theoretically nor practically attainable and hence the insistence on those would make any negotiations between the State and the LTTE an ‘exercise in futility’. The LTTE always knew that and it wanted it that way because a compromise would mean an end to fighting and its position as the ‘de facto Government in the North East’.

 

An Army intelligence tapping of a conversation before the first round of Talks under the 2002 CFA in Thailand between Anton Balasingham and the Secretary of the LTTE Peace secretariat M Pulithevan would exemplify this situation. In that conversation the two are discussing the impending new session of Talks and Pulithevean expresses some reservation that since there are more  ‘International players’ this time the LTTE may find the going tough. Balasingham in reply says “Don’t worry we will place an unacceptable demand before the Sri Lankan Government delegation, so that the talks will peter out to be nothing”. Pulithevan enquires as to ‘what would happen if the Sri Lanka Government agrees to that demand’. To this the experienced Balasingham says, ‘then we will place another demand’. This simply is the attitude with which the LTTE took part in all the discussions.

On the other hand, every one of those Sri Lankan Governments who entered in to a dialogue with the LTTE had the overarching political necessity to score points over its  political opponents by having ‘some relationship’ with the LTTE, and the ‘Peace talks’ held out the only promise of political survival domestically while more importantly being a catalyst for foreign aid, internationally. However the cumulative effect of all this was beginning to tell on the SL Government towards the year 2005 and ironically, the ‘cornered’ situation that the SL Government found itself that time was the result of its own propaganda orchestrated by the regimes of Chandrika and Ranil.

 

Therefore, on the issue of Sri Lanka’s continuing misery in the hands of terror, it should now be clear that whatever the reasons for this misery it is definitely not due to obduracy of the Sri Lankan leaders in not holding negotiations with the elements of terror. The International community may point a finger at the Sri Lankan leaders, for ‘lack of sagacity’, for ‘political expedience’ and even for ‘downright impracticality’ but certainly not for either ‘belligerence’ or for‘hubristic bigotry’. It may have been a case of talking too much with knees bent too low but certainly not a case of ‘Not Talking’ or a ‘need to talk’ as expressed by the plethora of diplomats of the ‘International community’ every time Sri Lanka experienced a bout of terrorism.      

 

They say ‘Do not fear to negotiate but do not negotiate out of fear’. In the case of ‘fearing to negotiate’, the Sri Lankan leaders really had no choice since they were under so much pressure from the ‘International community’ and from India to solve the country’s problems through negotiations. However, the county and its people had to bear a heavy costs in terms of lives and property, making a compromise a ‘Hope in hell’.

 

It would be pertinent here to study some of the observations made by certain personalities, outside Sri Lanka but nevertheless who have been associated with the negotiations with Prabhakaran and the LTTE. Izeth Hussain is an ex Sri Lankan diplomat and also a senior journalist who is quite open about his ‘international community inclined thinking’ and very much a defender of negotiations with the LTTE. His many coverage’s during the IPKF operation in Sri Lanka and the Premadasa negotiations were first hand and made good reading. He also wrote about ‘Chandrika negotiations’ in glowing terms. However in his contribution to the Island newspaper on the 20th December 2007 titled ‘Notes on oral history’ he makes certain observations as if he has discovered something new. Mr Hussain commences his article recounting his meeting in April 1995 in Moscow with a senior Indian Diplomat (whom he acquainted during IPKF operation in Sri Lanka) after the LTTE had abruptly pulled out of talks with Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Government.

 

The Indian official began the conversation by asking me whether I was surprised by what had happened. I confessed that I was.  He replied that he on the contrary was not in the least surprised and in fact was expecting this situation anytime. For some time he had been seconded for service in Rajiv Gandhi’s office in which capacity he had headed several rounds of talks with the LTTE headed by Prabhakaran. The purpose of the talks was to persuade the LTTE because they were asking too much by way of devolution and should they moderate their demands the Indian Government would be able to bring about a peaceful solution. The longest round of talks lasted 3 hours and as we know none of it was of any avail. The impression these talks made on the Indian officials was that there was a kind of schizophrenic split in Prabhakaran. ‘For most of the time he seemed a normal human being, but suddenly his face would change and he seemed an extremely dangerous person. Some readers would have gained the same impression from Prabhakaran’s sole appearance in the Sri Lankan TV in 2002. At times he seemed mild reasonable and friendly but suddenly while his face remained immobile his eyes would swivel from extreme right to the extreme left of the room. I got the impression that that was the eruption of a suppressed subterranean when he appears normal’. The impression in the Indian delegation was that the rest of the LTTE delegation dreaded him. On one occasion Anton Balasingham had taken leave from talks to go to the toilet. On his return his hand was trembling so much that it was observed that he found it difficult to pull his handkerchief from the trouser pocket. The summing up of the Indian official was that Prabhakaran was a psychopath and as long as he was there a negotiated solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka was not possible’

 

Mr Hussain also states that ‘considering the stature of the Diplomat in question and the role he played in from the Indian side of the negotiations, it is very likely that what was expressed by Indian diplomat was the official position of the Indian Government’. In conclusion Mr Hussain says, ‘What perplexes me is that the successive Sri Lankan Government has not realized this simple truth about Prabhakaran and also the position of the Indian Government on the issue of talking with Prabhakaran’.

 

It is indeed relieving to realize wisdom dawning on senior journalists like Mr Hussain even at that late stage after so much of death and destruction had taken place. But what Mr Hussain fails to realize even at this stage is that the ordinary people in this country whose common sense is not tainted with political dogmas and ‘ism’s, always believed that negotiations with Prabhakaran was a national and international disaster from the very beginning of the ‘Thimpu talks’. The position was so even when Mr Hussain and other English speaking Diplomats and journalists continued to report optimistically on talks, the Premadasa Government and the CBK Government had with the LTTE. Only thing at that time the wisdom of the ordinary people in Sri Lanka and their protests were denigrated by the English speaking press with pejorative terms as ‘Anti-peace’ and ‘Warmongering’. Of the Sri Lankan leaders it was only President Wijetunge who had the common sense of an ordinary Sinhala villager, devoid of western theories, to understand the LTTE mentality and their shenanigans and therefore, he never attempted pace by talking to the LTTE. 

 

However, in conclusion what should be of interest here is the evaluation of the total picture of Sri Lankan state trying to bring a recalcitrant group of people to the mainstream through a process of negotiations. The first round of talks gave the ‘militants’ immense international publicity: the second round with India gave them Provincial councils and most other demands while still allowing them to retain their arms; the third round with Premadasa afforded still more demands, saved them from the Indians and gave de-facto control over North and the East of the country; the fourth round with Chandrika gave the terrorists still more publicity with Chandrika herself telling the world that the Tamils have a problem and thereby justifying their violence; the fifth round with Ranil legitimized the area controlled by the LTTE as the ‘LTTE area’ and recognized LTTE’s right to exist, the right to represent Tamils as the fascist ‘sole representative’, the right to retain arms with a de-facto diplomatic status as the ‘Government of the monolithic  Ealam’.  This is certainly not getting anywhere in the Government’s objective of trying to bring the recalcitrant into the mainstream but rather drifting away, step by step, from that very objective. But however, the position now is that the above facts leave no room for the ‘International community’ to hold the Sri Lankan Government either indomitable or ‘lacking in humility to negotiate on minority grievances’. The Government has negotiated so much and for so long that it has now become so obvious that negotiating with the LTTE is an exercise in utter futility that could only lead to Sri Lanka being bifurcated and eventually disintegrated.

 

However, coming back to this deductive study of trying to understand the Sri Lankan problem and the international community’s perception of that problem, two more posers would still remain to be studied now. Those would be,

 

1) Has GOSL got engaged in this current offensive with the LTTE out of its bellicose egoism and is this offensive being conducted according to accepted norms?

 

2) Whether the GOSL has taken measures to alleviate the perceived legitimate grievances and aspirations of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, on whose behalf the LTTE claim it is fighting?

 

Of these two remaining questions, let us now proceed to take up the facts associated with question no. 1) in the next Chapter.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5 

The Current Military operation.

 

Mahinda Rajapakse became the President of Sri Lanka on the 17th November 2005 defeating Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP. This was the second attempt of Ranil Wickremesinghe and as result he was disillusioned by the defeat, especially when it was to a candidate who up to then was considered a second rung leader in the SLFP.  On the day of the election, Ranil W was constantly surrounded by newsmen from International news agencies signifying that the international community expected Ranil to win the election. However, in a quirk of fate, the day following, the same newsmen surrounded Mahinda Rajapakse.

 

The 3000 strong western funded NGO community was not happy. It should be noted that the NGO community during the 11-year rule (1994-2005) of Chandrika-Ranil had worked themselves to a strong position from which they could even question the policies and the actions of the elected Government of the day. The NGO’s could label a leader either a ‘Peacemaker’ or a ‘Warmonger’ and their perception of this was essentially based on whether a leader is friendly towards the LTTE or not.  Since Ranil Wickremesinghe had an LTTE friendly record he was portrayed as a peace inclined leader while Mahinda Rajapakse who lambasted the LTTE at the funeral oration of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar in August 2005, was termed a ‘War monger’.  Hence the NGO’s using their international links to the maximum projected the new President of Sri Lanka as a ‘Hawk’ and a ‘Warmonger’ not amenable to the west. The fact however was that the new President was more balanced towards the East and the West and was a true follower of the nonaligned Bandaranaike policies which was quite in contrast to Wickremesinghe whose political outlook was confined to Western theories and neo-capitalist economic policies.

 

Tamils living in Killinochi and thereabouts were not permitted to cast their votes at this election by Prabhakaran on the grounds that ‘We should now show the world that the election in Sri Lanka does not really bother us’. Prabhakaran now is an international figure, thanks to Sri Lankan leaders and their ‘peace talks’. In keeping with that order the LTTE amputated the hand of the only person who happened to cast his vote violating the supremo’s order. Ranil received tremendous support, from the business community, from the private media institutions and even from most unexpected quarters in the form of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge. Towards the final stages of the campaign it really appeared that Ranil was gaining ground and Mahinda was running out of stream.

 

However at the end Mahinda prevailed with the narrowest of margins. Since the victory margin happened to be very thin, Ranil cried ‘foul’ claiming that, ‘had the LTTE permitted the Tamils to vote those votes would have come to him and hence he would have won the elections’. However since the Sri Lankan election law does not have provisions to accommodate speculation on the ‘votes not polled’, Ranil had no tenable cause to challenge Mahinda’s election.  

 

On the 26th November 2005 Prabhakaran in his usual ‘Hero’s day speech’ sent mixed signals to the new President-elect Mahinda Rajapakse. He welcomed Rajapakse as a man from the common stock to the office of President and offered ‘one year’ for him to ‘come out with an acceptable solution to the problem of the Tamil people’. The general mood in the country was that the ‘Ceasefire’ (which wasn’t really ceasing fire) would hold for sometime before something significant happened.The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission instituted by the Ranil- Prabhakaran cease-fire was still functioning.  

 

Defying all hopes for peace entertained by the general majority, at least for one year as promised, the LTTE started attacking the security forces personnel attending to their routine security duties in the North. Just 18 days after the election of the new President, on the 4th December in Kondavil near Palali in Jaffna a claymore attack was mounted on a vehicle carrying soldiers on a routine patrol killing 6 soldiers and injuring 5.  Up to then, since the Ceasefire which was signed in Feb. 2002, the LTTE had not attacked the security personnel in a major way. They had assassinated about 1000 political decanters (Tamil) in the north, 54 military intelligence personnel and some police and military personnel in isolated incidents. But the attack on 4th December had all the signs of a change in LTTE attitude towards the security operations in areas declared ‘non-LTTE areas’ as per the CFA. Incidentally, or coincidentally, this took place a day before the current Army Commander, Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka, took over the Sri Lanka Army as its commander.

 

In order to understand the current offensive launched against the LTTE by the SL Government forces, it is important that the events that lead to this offensive are studied in their chronological order. Hence we shall list out those events, collected from newspaper reports as follows,

 

2005

4th Dec.  A Claymore attack at Kondavil near Pallali in Jaffna takes the lives of 6 soldiers (Injuring 5) who were on a routine security patrol.

 

6th Dec.  Another Claymore attack at Nallure road in Jaffna blast the tractor and the trailer carrying 7 soldiers killing all of them. The Government was naturally disturbed.

 

12th Dec. The three Service commanders hold a press briefing declaring their commitment to the CFA and at the same time proclaiming their readiness to take counter action if the situation demands such action. The government also expressed through a press conference, its readiness to have a dialogue with the LTTE, through the peace facilitators, the Norwegians. It should be noted that all this while the SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) made of International monitors and Norwegian Peace facilitators, were still functioning in terms of the CFA.

 

21st Dec.          The Government receives a response from the LTTE through the Norwegian Monitors for peace talks with the condition that the Peace Talks should be held in Oslo, Norway. President announced that the Government welcomed the LTTE response for a dialogue but digresses from the conditions imposed by the LTTE to hold the talks only in Oslo.

 

22nd Dec.         Two more soldiers on foot patrol in Jaffna were moved down by activating landmines. The residents of Irupalai in Jaffna chase LTTE cadres trying to set a claymore mine in the area. The EU warns the LTTE that a return to war would be costly.

 

23rd Dec.         Two LTTE boats disguised as fishermen and having mingled themselves with 14 other fishing boats ambushed 2 Sri Lanka Navy dinghies and takes three Sri Lankan Navy men into their custody. When this was reported to the SLMM they assured that every effort will be made to obtain their release. The sailors were later reported killed.

24th Dec.  At Mannar, a claymore attack was mounted on a Sri Lanka Navy bus carrying Navy men returning on holiday killing 15 personnel instantly and seriously injuring a further 16.An RPG attack, targeting the bus, had been launched after the explosion.

 

25th Dec.          The Sri Lankan Peace Process Co-Chairs, the EU, Japan and Norway prepares to visit Kilinochchi to meet the LTTE. The Government expresses dismay on this proposed visit since the diplomats had agreed not to meet the LTTE since the LTTE killed Mr. Lakshman Kadiragamar, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister in September 2005. A gunman kills the TUF MP Joseph Pararajasingham at St.  Mary’s Cathedral in Batticaloa. The LTTE blames the Karuna group (its former Eastern Commander, now disenchanted) for the killing.

 

26th Dec.           LTTE guns down the PLOT ( rival Tamil militant group) area leader Thirupan

                    Master in Vavuniya.

 

28th Dec.    Eleven SL Army soldiers on their vacation were killed in an explosion at

                   Puloly in Jaffna.

 

29th Dec.    Eighty Sinhala and Muslim students leave the Jaffna campus amidst exams due to tension in the area.

 

2006

1st    Jan.          Press announces that the Norwegian International Development Minister Mr.  Eric Solheim is due to visit Sri Lanka shortly to initiate a dialogue between the Government and the LTTE. The LTTE holds meetings in Jaffna and orders the University and the GA’s not to obey Government instructions and say that Jaffna would be under the LTTE in the near future. They also maintain that the current attacks are being carried out to confuse the SL security

 

6th   Jan.           An LTTE claymore attack at Kalmaduwa kills 6 SL Army soldiers.

 

8th   Jan.   Thirteen SL Navy sailors went missing after LTTE attacked a Dovra FAC off the Trincomalee harbor. 2 sailors escaped and according to them the LTTE crafts had coalesced with fishing crafts until it came close to the Dovra. Two days later the Government bans fishing around the Trincomalee harbor.

 

11th Jan.  President Rajapakse summons Sri Lanka Peace Process Co-Chairs and ambassadors of other European countries and expresses his distress about the continuing one-sided nature of the Ceasefire and states that the LTTE should not take his patience based on Buddhist nonviolent principles to be a weakness. The Diplomats expressed appreciation of the President’s restraint. US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead warns the LTTE and states that the LTTE would find the return to war more costly.

 

13th Jan.           The LTTE sets off a claymore attack at Chandikulam on the Medawachchiya road and kills 8 soldiers seriously injuring 9. President Rajapakse instructs security forces to act in self-defense. The SLMM announces that they are not in a position to entertain any more denials from the LTTE on account of attacks at Security forces personnel.

 

15th Jan. A bomb explodes at the SLMM parking area in the Eastern town of Batticaloa damaging 5 SLMM vehicles.

 

17th Jan. Two high powered claymore mines were detected in Kodigamam on the A9 highway and defused by the army. EU opines that war would break out soon. President R discusses the security situation with the Cabinet and states that he is prepared to ‘go that extra mile’ for peace.

 

18th Jan. TNA, the LTTE proxy in Parliament, disturbs Parliamentary proceedings by sitting in the well and taking away the Mace, prompting the Speaker to comment ‘Terrorism in Parliament’. Parliament postpones sittings.

 

25th Jan. LTTE’s Daya Master states that the recent killings of the security personnel were carried out by the ordinary people in an attempt to distance LTTE from those activities.

 

26th Jan. LTTE agrees to have talks in Geneva but disagrees with the Government that the CFA needs reviewing as maintained by the Government since the killing of Lakshman Kadiragamar, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister in Aug. 2005.

  

28th Jan.           Outgoing UN Secretary General Koffi Annan says he is excited with the proposed GOSL- LTTE talks and emphasizes the need to renounce separatist agendas. LTTE is in the UN’s list of banned organization and also in the UN’s list of shame for recruiting child soldiers.

 

30th Jan. In Muttur, a Tamil/ Muslim area, at a meeting held at the Nordic monitor’s Office, the LTTE blames Muslim armed groups over the killing of two Tamil men in the area and warn of dire consequences.

 

1st Feb.  SLMM reports a drop in violent activity after the Talks between the Govt. and the LTTE was announced. The LTTE publicly announces mass recruitments to its cadres in the LTTE area.

 

2nd Feb. Canada announces the deportation of an LTTE member for involvement with a criminal gang known as ‘Seelappan gang’ wanted by the Police.

 

7th Feb.   LTTE announces its delegation for forthcoming Geneva talks with the Government comprising Anton Balasingham, Adele Balasingham, SP Thamil Chelvam, S P Nadesan, and Jayam.

 

9th Feb.   The SLMM comprising Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland faults the LTTE for 2381 instances of child and adult recruitments during the CFA and 3400 violation of the CFA as against 162 violations by the Government security forces.

 

12th Feb.          Helen Olfsdottir, the SLMM spokesperson issue a statement claiming that the LTTE and the SLMM differ in their views on child soldiers.

 

15th Feb.          UNICEF issues a statement that the child recruitments have declined. Sri Lanka government criticizes the statement as, ‘LTTE friendly’ and finds that ‘declined’ meant that the recruitment is only down to 43 per month.

17th Feb.          SLMM rejects LTTE’s claim to ‘rights to conduct its training in the Eastern Seas as per the CFA’.

 

20th Feb.          Govt. request Norwegian facilitators to ensure that LTTE engages in meaningful and focused dialogue at the talks due on the 22nd February and expresses hope that no requests impinging on state security will be made by the LTTE. The LTTE however hopes to discuss only the implementation of the CFA and not its review. In the meantime reports reaching from Geneva state that the LTTE has organized a fundraising campaign in Geneva after the talks.

 

22nd Feb. Talks commence in Chateau de Bossey in Geneva.Govt. delegation comprises Minister Nimal Siripala Silva, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.Minister Ferial Ashraf, Ajit Nevard Cabral etc. Norwegian Minister Solheim expresses optimism. Sri Lankan children in Geneva hold a demonstration against child soldier recruitment by the LTTE.

 

23rd Feb.          LTTE refuses to amend the CFA to concede rights to the Karuna faction (ex.LTTE), insists that Karuna be termed a ‘paramilitary’ force and demands that the Government disarms them. Agrees to accommodate Muslim representation in future talks.

 

26th Feb.          Talks end with agreement to meet again in April 2006. Issue a joint declaration. LTTE insist in listing Karuna as ‘paramilitary’, undertakes not to attack security forces personnel, insist on right to do ‘political work’ in non-LTTE areas. No amendments to the CFA.

 

28th Feb.          LTTE announces large-scale recruitment to strengthen its cadres in Kanjikudichchiaru, in the north.

 

16th Mar.         LTTE distributes puritanical leaflets in Trincomalee Govt. control area under the name ‘Rising people’s movement’ prohibiting certain acts such as ‘Looking excessively at females’, ‘using camera phones to take photographs in public’, ‘Drinking and driving’, ‘selling goods at exorbitant prices’ etc. Note that this is a tactic employed by the LTTE to bring the civil administration in Govt. areas under its control.

 

17th Mar.         Zurich Chamber of Commerce in a communiqué maintains that LTTE organized fundraising events for war under the guise of cultural events during its stay for ‘peace talks’ in Geneva.

 

18th Mar.         US Assistant Secretary of State Donald A Camp addressing the US Sub Committee on Asia and the Pacific draws attention to LTTE intimidation of Tamil Diaspora and says, ‘Tigers haven’t given us any reason to be hopeful even after Geneva talks’. Press report mentions that 60, 000 IDP’s, Muslims chased out by the LTTE from Kilinochchi and Jaffna in 1990 are still languishing in Govt. run camps in Chilaw and Anuradhapura.

 

22nd Mar.  Action Group of Tamils for Asylum Seekers (AGTAS) and Tamil Chamber of Human Rights (TCHR) organizes a protest at Trafalgar Square against two recent deportations from Britain of Tamil asylum seekers holding slogans against the SL Govt. (This is when the Nordic monitors have repeatedly  maintained that the Ceasefire is endangered due to 3880 LTTE violations.)

 

23rd Mar.         LTTE supporters bombard all Human Rights Watch websites that allow feed Back, claiming that the Child recruitment by the LTTE is due to socioeconomic conditions.

 

24th Mar.         Nordic monitors say, ‘31 CFA violations by the LTTE since Geneva talks’. LTTE attempts to pass Karuna’s (former LTTE) activities to the Govt. account.

 

27th Mar.         LTTE fires at Mihindupura army camp, no casualties.

 

29th Mar.         LTTE attacks SL Navy’s fast attack Craft. 11 Sailors go missing. JHU urges counter attack.

 

30th Mar.         Norwegians hold an urgent meeting between the representatives of the SL Govt. and the LTTE on CFA.

 

While life in Sri Lanka under the rejuvenated CFA continued in this vein the Government was looking forward to the April round of talks with the LTTE, hoping against hope that some miracle would work out to usher peace to the troubled island. The LTTE continued with its military demonstrations and CFA violations in an intimidating tone declaring that war is inevitable unless the SL govt. takes meaningful action to accommodate the LTTE demands. 

 

The targeting of security forces personnel on their routine patrols/ functions or on their off-duty time continues and on the 10th April in Muruuvil in Jaffna the LTTE targeted a convoy of soldiers killing 5 and injuring more. On the 12th April another LTTE claymore hit a convoy of sailors traveling on the Trinco Habarana road on R &R leave for the coming new year vacation at Thampalagamam. The attack killed 12 sailors and seriously wounded another 13. The LTTE disclaimed responsibility and inferred as usual the possibility of the civilians attacking the sailors as they were angry with the security forces. On the 13th of April 2 policemen on their way to work were caught up in an explosion at Kuchchuveli and were killed. On the 16th April soon after the traditional new year season a claymore mine was set off in Vavunia, south of the town targeting soldiers on foot patrol killing three soldiers.

 

In the meantime on the 17th April the Norwegian Embassy announced that the second round of ‘Geneva talks’ due on the 19th and 20th of April may have to be postponed as the LTTE is insisting that they need to consult their regional commanders before the next round of talks. LTTE’s ‘political wing’ head Thamil Chelvam announced that such consultation had become a necessity in view of the recent developments and since the Government prepares it’s negotiators weeks ahead of the talks, it is nothing but right that the LTTE too make the consultations with their regional leaders on the ground situation.  Thamil Chelvam then made it a point to mention that he would be using the LTTE boats to transport their regional commanders to Kilinochchi.

 

The SLMM however pointed out that any use of the LTTE boats would be a violation of the CFA and undertook to organize transport for the purpose in consultation with Sri Lankan Government. The Government then provided an SLAF aircraft for this purpose but that aircraft was turned down by the LTTE ‘as being too small’ and then the government offered a chopper to transport the LTTE regional leaders. Since the LTTE had not notified the Norwegian embassy about the travel arrangements the Norwegian special envoy John Hansen Bauer arrived in the Island on the 19th April. The offer of a chopper too was rejected by the LTTE at the last hour due to ‘security concerns’ and as a result the Norwegian envoy was making a desperate bid shuttling between Colombo and Kilinochchi to ensure that the talks are held on the 24th  and 25th as scheduled after the postponement.

 

On the 18th April a claymore attack at Veppankulam killed 4 soldiers on patrol and the Government treated it with a sense of extreme anxiety as these killings were thus leading the country to a ‘no war no peace’ situation.

 

The Government issued a communiqué on the 21st April accusing the LTTE of trying to avoid Geneva talks 2 on a false pretext. The Government further made it very clear to the LTTE that the talks would serve no purpose if the LTTE lacks sincerity in trying to come to a settlement through the talks. Even by its own action the Government did not treat the  LTTE request for transport of its cadres in earnest as it should be apparent to the  Government from its past experience that the LTTE, before every round of talks, indulges in certain psychological strategies to wrest the initial advantage of the talks. Even this last-minute excuse about the need to meet the regional commanders could be construed as one of those to test the Government motivation and sometimes desperation for talks.

 

If the history of the last few rounds of SL Government’s talks with the LTTE is critically analyzed it should be clear that the LTTE showed lukewarm enthusiasm (as always the case) towards the talks as if to infer that it is the Government that needs the talks and the LTTE is always secure  with its proven military capabilities. Even during the course of the talks one would always find that the LTTE threatening to leave talks with the flimsiest of excuses. The main reason for this could be attributed to the general impression created by the LTTE through their action and also through propaganda of the pro-LTTE front organizations that the LTTE is invincible as a military force.

 

The Government of Sri Lanka on the other hand, in all previous accessions, except under Mr J R Jayawardene, conducted talks giving the impression that the talks were the only way to solve this problem and hence the Sri Lanka Government was practically at the mercy of the LTTE to reach some acceptable compromise through negotiations. In fact the successive Sri Lankan Governments have been so desperate for peace, even an announcement of a LTTE agreeing to talk peace with the Government was announced with some sense of accomplishment by the party in power.  Knowing this mentality the LTTE too extracted some perverse delight in seeing how far they could push the Government. This demand for transport at the last hour should be viewed in that light.

 

On the 22nd the LTTE announced that the ‘Talks were off’ because the GOSL had not expressed interest in meeting the pre-talk requirements. On the 24th April, 6 villagers, farmers from Gomarankadawala and Moraweva villages close to Trincomalee, were hacked to death contributing to the tension in the area.

 

On the 25th of April a female LTTE cadre disguising herself as a pregnant woman with connections to army personnel attempted to kill the SL Army commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka by blowing herself up when the commander was leaving the Army Headquarters for his midday meal. The day in question was the day on which the army conducted the clinic for expectant mothers connected to the army and the suicide bomber had established such close connections with army personnel hoodwinking them for months as to her real intentions. If it wasn’t for a member of the commando escort of the Army Commander who intercepted when she blew herself, she would have accomplished her long drawn out mission. However the attack left the Army Commander seriously wounded besides leaving 8 dead and 70 injured, mostly Army personnel. Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka was known for his resoluteness and dedication and he had no qualms in calling the LTTE for what they were. Investigations later revealed that the suicide cadre was Kanapathypillai Manjula, recruited by the LTTE as a child soldier. She had lived in Rambukkana with a Sinhalese family and later shifted to Weliweriya after marriage. The LTTE had been helping her with money to purchase houses and three wheelers over the years.   

 

On 27th April the Government announced its decision to take ‘coordinated retaliatory action’ against the terror activities unleashed by the LTTE. All the political parties announced that they had scaled down their May Day celebrations from the original plans in view of the security situation in the country. In the meantime, incidents, real and imaginary, set off security alarms in Colombo as many expected that the LTTE may target the capital Colombo as a part of its renewed terror activities.  On 30th April, the UN issued a statement warning LTTE for killing and then attributing such killings to surrogate groups.

 

On the 4th May Sri Lanka announced its decision to go to Pakistan for its arms as India was reluctant to sell arms to Sri Lanka due to political pressure exerted by Tamil Nadu. Sri Lanka also announced its decision to recruit 5000 home guards to form a civil defense force for the protection of civilians. The following day 3 home guards were found killed in the Vavuniya town. Three Policemen were also injured in the same area through sniper fire. On the 7th May security forces captured a man at Alaidivembu, Eastern province in the act of setting a claymore targeting a soldier convoy. He was later identified as Navaratnam Ananda a member of the LTTE.

 

The following day (8th May) the army closed the A9 road from Muhamalai severing connections with the LTTE area to prevent LTTE from taxing the road users and resumed supplies to Jaffna along the sea route. 12 LTTE’s are killed by the Karuna group in the East and the LTTE blames the Government for aiding and abetting the ‘Karuna’ faction. The Cease Fire agreement Co-chairs, Mr Yashoshi Akashi, the representative of the Japanese Government visited Kilinochchi and the LTTE tells him that no talks could be held as long as the situation remained tense.

 

On 11th May 2008 MV Pearl Cruz 11, passenger carrier was taking 710 soldiers from Trincomalee to KKS in Jaffna after their R &R leave. The vessel was accompanied by 4 FAC of the SL Navy. There were two SLMM monitors Ms Lars Bleryman and Ilka Happlina on board the vessel. Around 30 nautical miles off the Mullaitivu coast the navy sighted a few boats coming towards the convoy and mistook them for fishing boats approaching for help but then the number of boats increased making it 16 in all. The navy fired warning shots but yet the boats kept coming ignoring the warnings. When the FACs went into action the boats fired and the battle in the sea lasted a few hours. A boat, later found to be a suicide boat laden with heavy explosives was exploded in the battle sinking FAC 421. The MV Pearl Cruz changed its direction and went into deeper waters for protection. The remaining FACs however managed to destroy 7 LTTE boats and make the rest flee towards the Mullaitivu coast. 17 Navy men in the destroyed FAC went missing and were presumed dead.

During the battle, the SLMM headquarters got in touch with the LTTE and informed them that there were SLMM personnel on board. The LTTE responded to this by asking them to “take them out” inferring that the SLMM had no business to be on board a troop carrier.

 

The LTTE was right. The SLMM had no obligation to accompany troupes after vacation even though there was nothing to prevent the SLMM from obliging to the SL Government on precautionary grounds. The Issue here is that the LTTE did not expect the monitors to be on board and therefore their presence became an unexpected irritant. The LTTE was not expected to have access to the sea for any of its operations as per the CFA and hence the SL forces, armed or unarmed were not supposed to encounter LTTE threats there. The LTTE as usual have been treacherous to the core in using the CFA complacencies to catch the SL troop carrier off guard to sink it with 710 soldiers. Had the LTTE been successful in that attempt, that would have been a major catastrophe and the SL Navy and the Airforce would not have been able to launch rescue operations with any efficacy.

 

Further this was triggered just before the Vesak festival, the most significant festival for Buddhist in Sri Lanka, with the view of inviting a religious/ communal retaliatory backlash in Colombo and other areas in the south.

 

On the 19th May in the British Parliament, Lord Naseby brought up the atrocities of the LTTE and pointed out the need to take action to check fundraising in Britain. However in Sri Lanka the LTTE announced that it was commencing combat training for children above 14 years and for the civil population numbering up to 70,000 in the LTTE held area.

 

On 24th May Tigers abduct a ‘saree trader’, an Indian National, suspected of being a RAW (Indian Intelligence) agent.

 

On 29th May the EU announces its decision to ban the LTTE notwithstanding arguments by LTTE sympathizer lobbies that it may affect LTTE’s future negotiations with the Government. LTTE sets out a claymore in the Wilpattu national park and kills 6 tourists, including the award-winning author Nihal Siva and a gamekeeper blasting their vehicle to smithereens. At a meeting arranged by the Swedish Lanka Friendship Society, the five-nation SLMM Chief Gen. Ulf Henricsson states that the LTTE is not interested in seeking a negotiated settlement for their problems. He also mentioned that the LTTE had no sovereignty for operations in the sea as claimed by the Political wing leader S P Tamil Chelvam and referred to the threats made by the LTTE to SLMM for accompanying the SL Navy vessels. He further states that, “I would love the SLMM to be empowered by 100 thousand strong security force so that we could act to prevent the violations rather than be a passive spectator.”

 

On 30th May the Government announces that the LTTE had agreed for talks on 8th July in Oslo and the Government intended to take up a few issues with regard to the attacks the LTTE had carried out against civilians and the forces. LTTE shoots a soldier in Kalamaduwa off Vavuniya. The STF soldiers come across a powerful landmine near the STF base near the Kolavil Kovil in Kannagipuram.

 

 On 30th May forces recover 13 bodies of young construction workers in a ravine in the Walikanda area with hands of all of them tied behind. The following day villagers in the surrounding areas, flees LTTE terror taking only the bare necessities with them.

 

On 2nd June the President of Sri Lanka makes a plea to the International community to take more meaningful action against the LTTE for its continuing atrocities. President also holds a special session with the All Party Representative Committee to formulate an acceptable solution. Sea transport becomes extremely risky with SLMM pulling out of all sea operations of the SL Navy. Tigers demand monitors on their boats as well.

 

On the 4th June 9 inmates including 3 LTTE cadres stage a jailbreak from the Batticaloa prison. Tigers take off to Oslo for peace talks from the Colombo International airport after having made their journey from Vanni to Colombo in a SL Airforce helicopter. Before departure Tamil Chelvam announces that the LTTE is attending talks out of respect for Norway and then not to expect big results from the talks.

 

In India on 5th June M Karunanithy who swore in as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for the 5th time announces in New Delhi after meeting with Sonia Gandhi and the Indian Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh, that “The Indo – Sri Lanka policy is my policy” inferring that the Indian Central Government should reflect Karunanithy’s thinking and action in its policy towards Sri Lanka.

 

On 6th June LTTE attacks a CTB bus near the Welisara Navy base, 12 Kms off Colombo killing its crew mistaking the bus for a SL Navy troop transporter. The Church of Ceylon issues a statement requesting both parties to desist from violence and to commence talks.

 

The Sri Lanka Press Institute (A Norwegian funded NGO) holds a meeting chaired by Ranga Kalansuriya and Sunanda Deshapriya of the ‘Free Media Movement’ where concern is expressed about the nonreporting of army excesses by the press and calls for more ‘balanced’ reporting. It emphasizes the need to investigate into the 5 student deaths at Trincomalee as it has taken place amidst unexplainable circumstances. The report of this meeting published in the ‘Island’ on the 7th June expresses concern that such sentiments should be expressed in a context where the SLMM has mentioned about the LTTE violating the ceasefire 3400+ times for the 171violations by the Security forces. Ironically the report says that the death of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar and the attack on the Army Commander Lt. Gen Fonseka have not been listed as ‘violations by the LTTE’ as the investigations are still in progress.

 

In Oslo on 8th June the LTTE refuses to sit with the Government delegation for Talks stating that it was not represented by a Cabinet Minister and therefore it is ‘inadequately represented’. The Government claimed that the composition of the negotiating team was made known to the LTTE on the 30th May before their departure from Sri Lanka. And as the LTTE insisted that the Talks should be centered only on the CFA the Government decided on a delegation headed by the Head of the Peace Secretariat Mr Palitha Kohona who is fully empowered to represent the GOSL’s case even better than a Cabinet Minister. The LTTE also demanded that Finland, Swede and Denmark should be taken out of SLMM as the LTTE have lost confidence in them. India expresses concern over the Oslo failure. However even though the talks did not materialize the LTTE delegation attended fundraising events organized by the Tamil Diaspora in Norway.  The Government delegation returned to the Island the following day but the LTTE stayed on for a few days attending to the Diaspora activities. All in all this particular event should go down in the history as an instance where the LTTE took the Government of Sri Lanka for a ride to get their airfares paid to go to Norway to further their fundraising, arms procurement and propaganda campaigns against the Sri Lankan Government.

 

On the 9th June Karuna faction kills 15 LTTE cadres in Periyakulam and the LTTE kills a family of 4 for in Venkadai in Mannar for not co-operating with the LTTE activists and for suspected co-operation with the security forces. The LTTE still in Oslo involved in fundraising event organizes a big show with its constitutional and legal experts brought down at Government expense from Australia (Siva Pasupathy) and USA (Radhakrishnan) allegedly for Talks. It is also reported that the LTTE is purchasing dual technology in Oslo for their fighting cadres.

 

On 12th of June 2006, Air vice Marshall Roshan Gunetileke assumes duties as the New Airforce Commander. On the 13th June the International press quotes Tamil Chelvam to have said in Switzerland that ‘The Tamils in North- East would soon declare self-rule’. The government expresses concern that the LTTE is getting international publicity after having gone abroad on the pretext of Peace talks on Government account.  The National Patriotic Front issues a press notice calling the Sri Lanka Government to dump Norway as the peace facilitator considering their ‘one-sidedness’ and the international damage they have caused to Sri Lanka’s image.

 

On the 15th June 2006 an overcrowded CTB bus carrying passengers between Yakellea and Kabithigollewa, off Vavuniya in the North Central province gets caught in a twin claymore mine blasts killing 61 passengers mainly women and children on their way to a funeral house of a home guard slain by the LTTE. The blasts also injurer a further 45, some of them seriously. The government announces that it will have to reassess the CFA in view of the continuing LTTE atrocities and informs Co-Chairs of the situation. The following day the death toll rises to 64 and the people in the villages adjacent to Kebitigallewa starts to desert their homes in view of the LTTE threat. The President visits the funeral village and assures protection and compensation for the victims. Japan-US and Switzerland condemns the attack. UTHRJ (University Teachers for Human Rights Jaffna) announces in a statement that the LTTE has already begun the Ealam war. SLMM seeks evidence of attack before issuing statement. Pope Benedict the XV1 condemns the attack.

 

On 17th June the Air Force strafes identified targets in Kilinochchi. The LTTE delegation returns to BIA after their mainly European tour and the Government provides transport under tight security.

 

On 18th June security forces arrest two LTTE frogmen off the cost of Pamunugama 15 Kms north of Colombo after a sea explosion rocks the area. The Bishop of Mannar issues a press statement and appeals both parties, the Government and the LTTE to enter into negotiations. The Mahanayakas issue a statement and appeals to the LTTE to desist from violence.  Tamil Chelvam however issues a statement from Kilinochchi and vows to take retaliatory action against the Government for attacking Kilinochchi. Muslim National Alliance condemns the recent bus attack in the strongest terms. The final death toll rises to 68.

 

On 21st June the press reported that unidentified armed groups have threatened the people in the nearby villages of Kebitigollawe. LTTE hands over bodies of 2 SL army soldiers to the International Red Cross in Vavuniya. Lankans in Australia holds a protest near the Australian parliament. On June 22nd the LTTE kills a wine store owner in Kommanthurai near Batticaloa.

 

On the 24th June LTTE informs Norway that monitors from countries like Sweden and Denmark who are members of the European Union is not acceptable to the LTTE as the outfit is banned in the EU. Norwegian Special envoy Eric Solheim entertains this requests but says that if those monitors are not acceptable to the LTTE then those would have to be changed and that would involve sending off 27 out of the 37 monitors. The Sri Lanka Government however says ‘no’ and emphasizes that the decision on monitors should neither be a unilateral one nor in the hands of the Norwegians and the LTTE alone. Meanwhile Thamil Chelvam at a press briefing says that a resumption of war in the future will find the LTTE resorting to increased use of suicide bombers. 

 

On the same day, at the Government Security Council meeting, the army points to a definite pattern in the recent LTTE attacks that indicate that the attacks were always carried out from places close to schools and religious worship.  A point was made of the statements made by the two LTTE’rs arrested in the vicinity of the attack on the Navy near the Mannar Bishop’s residence. The confessors had maintained that they were sent to video the attack and retaliation in any form from the security forces would have been construed as an attack on the residence of the Bishop of Mannar.

 

On 26th June Morning around 8 am a suicide motorbike riding attacker rammed into the vehicle of Major General Parami Kulathunge, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka army at Pannipitiya 20 km west of Colombo, killing him and 3 others on their way to the Army headquarters in Colombo. He was the third in command of the Sri Lanka army. 8 others were seriously wounded. This incident should be viewed in the light of the fact that the SL Army Commander had been recuperating at the time after the attempt made on his life in April and General Kulathunge was overlooking the duties of the Army Commander.The following day intelligence reports highlighted their previous warnings to the security establishment and warned that some more senior army officers are on the hit list of the LTTE.

 

On 18th June Navy loses 5 men and damages a craft in repulsing an LTTE attack on its base at Kalpitiya, 149 Kms north of Colombo.  The sea Tigers had approached the base mingling with fishing boats. 12 sea Tigers are reported to have gone missing in this attack with two of their boats destroyed.

 

On 27th the schools in Sri Lanka reported very poor attendance due to a bomb scare. Pandemonium ranged at schools with parents coming to withdraw their children before closing time and the teachers refusing to oblige. The Patriotic National Movement blamed the UNP and certain elements in the Police department for ‘scaremongering’.

On the 27th June 2006 a Navy intelligence man was shot and killed by an LTTE gang while shopping in the Mannar Bazaar. The Government’s ally, the JVP is pressuring the Government to pull out from the one-sided and pernicious CFA.

 

On the 3rd July2006 the Government brought to the attention of the International Community and Norway the increasing deployment of civilians by the LTTE in their arms training campaign and suggested that the LTTE may eventually use these civilians as ‘human shields’ in the event of resumption of fighting. The LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham in an internationally released press communiqué admits the Rajive Gandhi assassination by the Tigers and pleads with India for ‘understanding and forgiveness’. The Indian press reports point out that this was vehemently denied by Balasingham himself during the 2004 Peace talks in Oslo and hence that it is not only a ‘monumental mistake ‘ as Balasingham says but the Tiger attitude all this while and the admission at this stage makes the Tiger act a ‘monumental hypocrisy’.

 

On the 4th July an LTTE blast at the Anuradhapura junction in Trincomalee kills 5 (4 policemen and a civilian) and seriously injures two more Constables. In Kilinochchi, the Tigers open a Media Institute. On the 5th July the Sri Lankan President calls on the LTTE to co-operate to find a solution to the vexed problem. The schools in Colombo are issued with metal detectors to detect potential explosives. On the 7th, Thamil Chelvam issues a statement ‘ruling out talks on devolution under the Sri Lankan constitution’. The statement further states that the ‘Tamils rejected the Sri Lankan constitution decades ago’. A new Security plan is introduced in Colombo requiring all the residents to register themselves. The TRO is fined Rs.28 million for attempting to bring its vehicles ‘ duty-free’ to the country with fraudulent documents.

 

O the 7th July, Hon. Mr. Anand Sharma, the External Affairs Minister of State India in a press release states that forgiving the LTTE would be tantamount to condoning terror’. The UNICEF takes action to prevent its logo from being used by the LTTE activist after the SL Government points out such use by the LTTE during demonstrations staged in Geneva. Indian sources rules out the possibility of an Indian involvement in the event of a ‘Break out of war in Sri Lanka’.

 

On the 12th July a claymore explodes near the Nallur kovil targeting two policemen and killing them. On the 13th July the LTTE kills a prominent PLOT activists Ratnam Shri Skandarajah alias ‘Bavan’ in Vavuniya. The President gives in to a Tiger request for safe passage for its Media head Daya Master to the Apollo hospital, Colombo for an emergency ‘Bypass’ operation, amidst criticism from JVP and JHU.

 

On the 15th July the LTTE kills 12 army men by attacking a security patrol in Vakarneri off Batticaloa. In another engagement the Tigers kill 3 soldiers near the Omanthai checkpoint. Tiger communiqué reports that their Lt. Colonel was also killed in that confrontation.

 

On 17th July, the outgoing French Ambassador says that the LTTE should give up violence and the National Movement against Terrorism requests the French embassy to take meaningful steps to curb Tiger fundraising in France. The ICRC reports that they were denied access to the wounded army Corporal captured by the LTTE at Vakerei. The LTTE ceremonially opens the new wing of the Kilinochchi hospital constructed by the Government. The LTTE proposes to swap Sgt Bopitigoda, one of the offices arrested by the LTTE in 2002 for allegedly straying into the LTTE area in search of a foreign pedophile, to two of its cadres in Government custody.

 

On 19th July, the Mount Lavinia police near Colombo take 30 Tamils on suspicion of LTTE connections. Controversy erupts as the Doctors at Apollo hospital confirm that the ailment of LTTE’s Daya Master was a hoax. Security forces discover a claymore in the Eastern University premises. An explosion at the Chunnakam fair misses the target but ends up injuring 13 soldiers.

 

On 20th July, LTTE robs 11 tractors and 9 trucks from the sand miners in Valachchenai. Police Intelligence report that the LTTE has planted spies all over Colombo to gather information about the VIPs. In Canada a Canadian RCPM investigation reveals that the WTM (World Tamil Movement) popularly know as the Canadian arm of the Tigers has been collecting funds allegedly for Tamil causes and have been using those to purchase arms.

 

On  23rd July, reports from London states that 5 TNA MPs including Gajendran Ponnambalam are lobbying British Parliamentarians including Gareth Evans to pressurize the Government of Sri Lanka. The TNA MPs also attended a demonstration organized by the LTTE front organizations in South London to commemorate the LTTE leaders. What is noticeable here is that such events make the LTTE ban, currently in force in Britain an absolute farce. Further, it is nonsensical for the TNA MP’s, who have gone at Sri Lankan Government’s expense to request the British MPs to pressurize SL Government, when the Government itself is awaiting LTTE response for negotiations.

 

On 24th July the Kandy Perahara (pageant) announces a change of route due to security considerations. A security patrol recover anti-tank missiles in Jaffna. A remote-controlled blast at Chavekachcheri kills 2 soldiers. The house of a TNA Parliamentarian in Colombo is attacked and the attack attracts international publicity.

On the 25th July, Minister Devanada’s PRO is killed by an explosion on his way to work. The Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka is reported to be back in the saddle. In the UK, LTTE is reported to have flouted the anti-terrorist laws openly when front organizations hold a demonstration at Hyde Park with huge cutouts of LTTE leader Prabhakaran. Violence breaks out at this demonstration killing one person in a shootout.

 

On 27th July farmers living downstream the sluice gate of Mavil Aru and Verugal Aru complain of lack of water as the LTTE closes the two anicuts. Representation by agrarian authorities fails to make the LTTE open the gates. Continual aggressive activities leave the Government in a quandary.

 

On 29th July, the SLMM meets the LTTE but with the same result. The LTTE maintains that the sluice gate was closed as a protest against the listing (banning) of the LTTE by the European Union. Since the listing is affecting the peace process and even the monitoring activity they impress upon the members from the EU members countries the need to de-list the LTTE.

 

On the 31st July the sluice gate closures reaches the 5th day and the people continue to complain as they run out of drinking water. It is estimated that about 30,000 people are affected by the closure. The Government promises to take up the matter at the highest possible level and informs Co-Chairs. The National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) suggests that the Government should take the LTTE on, as their continuing aggressive activities leave little choice for the government. The War, according to NMAT ‘is no longer a choice but an inevitability faced with an organization as obdurate as the LTTE is’. NMAT spokes person Malinga Seneviratne, cites that the CFA has been violated more than 6000 times by the LTTE with sheer impunity making it a ‘one-sided dead letter’. The PNM also states in a press statement that the present actions of attrition under the cover of peace by the LTTE, is more injurious than a declared war.

 

K P S Gill, India’s Super Cop who is credited with the reputation of flushing out terrorism from the State of Punjab says in a press interview that, “ LTTE has to be dealt with firmly and consistently’. On the allegation that the Security forces harass civilians, he maintains that, “It is one of the techniques of terror to spread such stories about the security forces to affect the opinion of the general masses and the LTTE has been doing it very successfully over the years”.

 

On 31st July in Vavunathivu off Batticaloa, Karuna cadres strike the Selvanagar LTTE camp with suicide bombers and kill 41 LTTE cadres.

 

On 1st August 2006 army distributes drinking water in the affected area and prepares to lunch ‘Operation Mavil Aru liberation’ as farmers express fears of parched-up lands and destruction of their crops. Army attacks an LTTE camp killing 30 LTTE cadres and the Airforce also commences strafing Tiger positions in the East. The LTTE refuses to discuss the sluice gate closure with the Government stating that they have already communicated to the SLMM how the anicut could be opened.

 

On the 2nd August the Air Force attacks Tenham, the LTTE headquarters in the East off Batticaloa and kills 8 LTTE cadres. Farmers who are without water for 10 days hold demonstrations. UNP says withholding water to the farmers is a war crime and holds the Government responsible for the fiasco.

 

On the 3rd August, the forces experience stiff resistance and mortar fire from the LTTE on their way to Mavil -Aru. The LTTE Trincomalee leader declares to the foreign media that the ‘LTTE has pulled out of the CFA’. The SLMM says that they are unable to play an active role since the LTTE has made the officers from EU member countries such as Denmark and Sweden persona none gratis.

 

In another crucial development, the LTTE attempts to attack the ‘Jetliner’, a troop carrier with 800 persons on board, off the Verugal coast with 5 suicide boats while on its way from Trincomalee to KKS in the North. The Navy manages to repulse the attack with no casualties. Earlier in the day the LTTE in its own strategy had fired mortars at the naval base in Trincomalee to divert the Navy’s attention and to keep the officers busy in defense at the base. The Air Force too had been alerted and the Air Force commenced attacking the LTTE mortar firing base in Sampur off Trincomalee.

 

On the 4th August the LTTE invaded the Trincomalee town and started firing indiscriminately at the troops patrolling the town killing 8 soldiers.

 

Destroy or be destroyed

Thus in August 2006, commenced the current phase of ‘palpable’ hostilities between the Sri Lanka Government troops and the LTTE cadres. Up to then the LTTE had been fighting a one-sided war all that while violating the CFA according to the SLMM 6728 times against the Security forces 171 violations, since February 2002. What the Mavil Aru anicut closure did was to push the Government to counter the LTTE shenanigans out of necessity, to provide water to nearly 30,000 of its citizens who had now become victims and to safeguard its self-respect in the eyes of the world. In fact the Government never anticipated facing a situation of an all-out war with the LTTE, and in any case not so early in its tenure. The Government was compelled to play a more conciliatory role up to then mainly due to the adverse propaganda; the NGOs and the hostile press had created against the Government in the international arena.

 

Further, the ‘invincibility of the LTTE’ has become a truism by now, due mainly to the propaganda of the western funded NGOs such as National Peace Council and International Alert. In their theory the LTTE was ‘fighting for a cause’ (not only legitimate but sacrosanct), and until and unless that cause is addressed, the LTTE can never be defeated. Further, it was nobody but President Rajapakse’s own predecessors, Chandrika and Ranil who had lauded for 11 years that the LTTE was an ‘invincible military unit whose causes are inviolable’. They used the Government funds and state machinery going out of their way, to convince not only the Sri Lankan population but also the world of this ‘unquestionable belief of theirs’.

 

The Government, being fully conscious of the LTTE’s unparallel capacity for brutality and destruction in a war situation, would not have bargained for this ‘unpleasant experience’ amidst other priorities. For a democratically elected civilian President, the option of ‘going to war’ would always be the last in his agenda. The LTTE activity however, as exemplified by the above newspaper reports,  left little choice for President Rajapakse, convincing him or for that matter  any ordinary man with common sense, that the choice before the Sri Lankan nation was simply, “Either destroy the LTTE or be destroyed by them.” Hence the LTTE finally compelled President Rajapakse to go to war for the sake of peace and survival of the Sri Lankan nation.

 

The LTTE is a unique organization and it is at its best and quite at home only when there is a fight. The LTTE lives to fight and hence those who confront the LTTE has to fight to live. 

 

The issue however is, if any organization at this juncture, is advising the Sri Lankan leaders to still believe ‘only in negotiations’ without using the military force that is their legitimate right, to protect the country’s law and order, its territorial integrity and most of all its citizens from being subjected to LTTE terrorism, such advice is bound to be treated with not only callowness but also with questionable sincerity.

 

How the military operation is conducted.

Once you exonerate the Sri Lankan Government of jingoism in its current military operation, what now needs to be looked at is whether this military operation is conducted within humanitarian considerations taking maximum possible care to alleviate the civilian population, caught up in the conflict area.

 

At the very outset it must be noted that, even though a particular area of the Sri Lankan territory had been commonly identified as the ‘LTTE area’ for the past about 20 years, the Sri Lankan Government has been providing basic facilities to this area as it would, to all other areas of the country. Sri Lanka is a country that provides healthcare service and education, free to all its citizens. It should be mentioned to the credit of the Government and its officials that despite there being a war in that part of the country the Government has never shied away from its responsibility of maintaining these two vital facilities of free health care and free education in these areas. In fact the officials who manned these facilities in those areas had to undergo untold hardships due to the LTTE activity but still for all these facilities in those so-called ‘LTTE areas’ were maintained just as they were in the rest of the country.

 

In addition, the Government also conducted the general administration in this ‘LTTE area’ as best as they could throughout this period of the conflict. This general administration included all Government departments functioning in other areas of the country which included the District Secretariats (GA’s), Agrarian services, Survey Department, Public transport, Irrigation services, Postal service etc.. Government Banks however were not functioning in these areas due to obvious security reasons and in any event the Banks were broken in to by the LTTE in the 1980’s to collect funds for the movement. It should also be noted that the Government had to maintain all these services with the same standard as in the rest of the country because since the LTTE and the NGO’s were constantly on the lookout to criticize the Government with their hackneyed ‘discrimination’ allegation. Further, as the NGOs and the LTTE operated a very efficient communication network with international news and diplomatic agencies, the Government always received more brickbats and hardly plaudits for its services.

 

The fact however is that the expenses of maintaining all this administrative service plus the education and health which are free, were borne by the Government of Sri Lanka during the entirety of this conflict. Hence this so-called ‘LTTE area’ is called so only because the LTTE was militarily in charge of that area and not because they were governing, in the proper sense of the word, that area. All the salaries of the persons who worked in those institutions including those of the pensioners in that area were paid by the Government. Therefore, we had this situation where the LTTE, including its fighting cadres, were obtaining free health care from the Government hospitals and fighting the Government security forces simultaneously. We also had the situation where the Tamils were obtaining their basic education and then joining the LTTE with that literacy to fight the Government. This provision of free education during the period of the conflict may appear still more anachronistic when the Tamils obtain education right up to the university level at Government cost and then go abroad and join the Tamil Diaspora to fatten the LTTE coffers. Successive Sri Lankan Governments however were not viewing those from that perspective and the Government never tried to use these facilities as a leverage to gain undue advantage at the military front. Electricity is not a service supplied free and in any event most of the areas in the North and East were not having electricity due to obvious reasons. However, where ever electricity was available in the North, it was used by the lucky few almost free because of the weak or almost nonexistent administration in the area by the Electricity Board.

 

The method of making available, the day to day food and other provisions too, to this area was also full of oddities due to the ‘LTTE control’ element in the area. Since part of the A9 highway, the principal highway linking north to the rest of the country was under LTTE control, the Government had to ship consumer goods to the North often by sea, chartering merchant vessels. There had been at least 16 occasions where these provision- carrying ships came under attack from the LTTE and as a result the Government had to provide SL Navy security even for the vessels that carried provisions to the north. The idea of attacking these vessels was to make the Government job as difficult as possible and then when the civilian life is endangered, the LTTE used such situations to ascribe international propaganda mileage to the ‘Tamil cause’. Especially ‘shortage of food in Tamil areas in Sri Lanka’ would always make news in Tamil Nadu prompting India to express concern and intervene.

 

Use of Civilian population.

A notable feature in the 34-year Sri Lankan conflict, in any guerilla war for that matter, is the use of civilian population by the fighting cadres to gain maximum leverage in its tactics to fight the conventional forces. Prabhakaran has read and learned a great deal from the fighting tactics of Cheguvera and Mao Tsetung. It was Moa who said that ‘the rebel fighter amongst his people is like a fish in water’. This is to mean that the moment the fish runs out of water, i.e. the support of his people, it would die. This was the primary tactic used by Prabhakaran during the entirety of his fight with the Government forces. The initial anti-Sinhala and anti-Sri Lankan Government propaganda churned by Chelvanayagam & co. stood in good stead for Prabhakaran in this strategy and he only had to build on this to ensure public support. In fact this theory of ‘fish in water’ was used to such an extent by Prabhakaran and his followers where the fish not only survived in the water but also used insidious methods to create more water around ‘the fish’ to enhance and justify its survival capacity.

 

A terrorist is always a civilian until he pulls out his weapon from nowhere and therefore the ‘element of surprise’ is the most effective weapon in the armory of a terrorist. When such a tactic is continuously employed, it create s a vicious cycle where the terrorist gain more moral and fighting capabilities and the forces operations against them appear clumsy and inhumane. The Sri Lankan forces, after all are made up of persons with families and most of all with persons with humane emotions and apprehensions. The sight of a colleague being shot and falling dead or a situation of death staring at the soldier’s face can bring out the base instincts in any human evoking desperate and brutal counter tactics. This creates a vicious cycle making the situation worse for the Government but of immense value for a terrorist who remains indistinguishable from the civilian population,. This is the reality as well as the main tactic in guerrilla warfare and is the reason why guerilla movements have succeeded against the best equipped conventional forces in the world.   

 

This tactic left the Sri Lankan security forces rattled and drove them to desperation during a greater period of its 34year battle with the LTTE. But with time the forces understood this inherent character of this battle and the fact that ‘desperado response’ only sets an inextricable cycle of violence. This was especially so in the face of the massive propaganda of the LTTE and their effective international communication network. Hence the Sri Lankan forces were convinced that the key to their eventual success lay in their extraordinary restraint in the face of LTTE’s provocative brutalities. In fact, it is the LTTE’s propaganda ‘overkill’ over the years that taught the Sri Lankan forces this lesson in very convincing terms.

 

Therefore, the Government Security Forces have been taught more to tolerate than to fight and that their success rested in ‘not losing the popular support of the civilians even if it is not possible to obtain their support’. This obviously resulted in more casualties in the forces but then again it is the price the nation had to pay to overcome the terrorist menace. The evidence, that this strategy had yielded desired results becomes obvious when you consider the fact that for all this current operation of the Sri Lankan forces there had been only two instances of allegations of ‘civilian killings by the security forces’ and even those are mired in controversy. 

 

The first instance is where the forces are alleged to have shot and killed 5 students at Batticaloa and the other is the killing of 17 Aid workers of a French NGO in Muttur, both in the Eastern province. In the case of the student killing, the army had attacked in response to an explosion in the vicinity targeting their convoy, and in the case of the 17 aid workers there is no evidence to suggest that the army carried out the killing and the only evidence is that the bodies of the17 aid workers were found after the army repulsed the LTTE from the area. The autopsy performed on the bodies of the aid workers later revealed that they had been dead for some time suggesting the possibility that their death could have taken place even before the army took over the area. It was also later revealed that the Army had no motive to kill the aid workers who were helping the civilians with the water supply scheme in the area but the LTTE had a clear motive to kill the aid workers in the face of their impending defeat to place the maximum blame on the advancing security forces for civilian casualties.

 

Whatever the ‘truth’ behind these incidents, considering the fact that the SL forces were fighting the most brutal terror outfit in the world backed by the most effective international propaganda campaign, such events have to be treated with the extenuating perspective that they deserve. This should be especially so in view of the excesses committed by the US forces in Iraq/ Afghanistan and the Israeli forces in Gaza. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Discrimination in Sri Lankan Society

 

In an attempt to understand the paradoxes in the Sri Lankan conflict, we have now studied the facile characteristics of the country and its people. We have also evaluated the Sri Lankan Government’s efforts to negotiate a solution to the conflict and also how the present Government of the country has been pushed to use force to save the country and its people from the clutches of terrorism.

 

Having exhausted the study of all that, in an effort to unravel why the people in Sri Lanka have to endure this misery, earning strictures from the ‘international community’, it now appears that the reasons for all that is not among the areas that we have examined so far. There are a lot of positive features in the Sri Lankan society and the Government of Sri Lanka have only taken legitimate action that would be so necessary for the protection of law and order and the people. What then is the cause of this predicament and the International Community’s ire?

 

Of the popular reasons that are often taunted as being the reason for Sri Lanka’s woes is the alleged discrimination of the minority Tamils by the country’s majority Sinhalese. This is an area, no doubt an important one that is yet to be examined in this exercise and therefore let us make this particular area the subject of discussion in this chapter.

 

Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka located in the western province of the country is a typical cosmopolitan city with a population of 377,396. The capital of any country is a reflection of that country’s state of affairs in general and hence its ethnic mix would indicate the position enjoyed by different ethnicities in the country’s affairs. The population of Colombo on communal basis as per the population census of the year 2001 (Department of Census and Statistics) is as follows,

 

Sinhalese                 31.0 % 

 Ceylon Tamils                        29.0 %.                                                                                      

Muslims                                     31.8 %

Indian Tamils                4.2 %

and Others.                    4.0 %

 

In this communally and religiously mixed city, the majority of the traders are Muslims and Tamils. In the main trading centers of the city like Fort, Pettah, Kotahena etc., the dominance of Tamils and Muslims is quite apparent with the Tamil in control of the wholesale trade and Muslims in general trade. Hence it is the Tamils and Muslim traders who dispatch the near 100 % imported consumer goods (Dry provisions, Hardware, Electrical items etc.) to the length and breadth of the country. Other than these organizations there is the Mercantile sector made up of private and public companies, that deal in a plethora of items from hairpins through vehicles, machinery, electrical goods to fertilizer that play a vital part in the country’s economy and trade.  The perusal of such company profiles would again reveal that they do not carry communal labels as such but yet it is a fact that even in those organizations the representation is heavily tilted towards the minorities.

 

The various professional services available in the city are dominated by Sinhala and Tamil professionals, with the Muslims coming a poor third. The Government service is generally dominated by the majority Sinhalese. The education in the city is controlled by Christian denominated schools but an analysis of the student strength in the schools will reveal that even though the schools are administered by the respective Churches the student population is mostly non-Christian. Many of these characteristics of the Capital city and the country at large are unmistakable signs of a 443-year colonial legacy and independence, granted in 1948 and decolonization since then have changed little. In fact most of the changes independence was meant to bring about have been mired in vested interests contributing to the present situation.

 

According to the last verified census available for the whole country (in 1982) on different professions in Sri Lanka, 35.8 % of its Doctors, 34.9 % of the Engineers,33.6%of the Accountants,42.3% of the Surveyors,32%if the Architects, 34% of the Lawyers, are from this 12.6 % Ceylon Tamil population in Sri Lanka. At the time in 1982, there were 3 Tamil Cabinet Ministers in the 24member Cabinet of Sri Lanka, and they were C Rajadurai, Minister of Regional Development, Mr K W Devanayagam, Minister of Home Affairs and Mr S Thondaman Minister of Rural Development. Further at that time the IGP, Mr. Rudra Rajasingham, and Attorney General Mr. Siva Pasupathy were Tamils. Sri Lanka has also had a Tamil Army Commander, Anton Muthukumau from 1955-1958 and a Navy Commander, Rajan Kadiragamar frpm1966- 1973. For most of independent Ceylon, the office of its Chief Justice too, had been held by Tamils. Therefore, it is a fact that the Ceylon Tamil community in Sri Lanka, rather than being discriminated, had enjoyed social status and positions well beyond its proportionate communal share in the Sri Lankan nation.

 

Further, when you analyze the larger picture, the general picture in Colombo is one where, the Muslim trader retains the Sinhala lawyer to appear on his behalf and the Sinhala lawyer in turn seeking medical treatment from the Tamil doctor. The Tamil doctor then sends his children to a school where the principal is a Dutch Burger Roman Catholic and the Dutch Burger school principal would buy his hardware from the Muslim trader. Hence the position in Colombo is a very secular set up where members of different communities and religions interdepend on each other. Hence intermingling of different communities and religions is quite the order of the day and pluralism is present in a very practical sense in every aspect of the Sri Lankan society with communal and religious considerations definitely taking a back seat. Colombo is certainly a far cry from a city like Belfast where the different Communal/ religious groups live in demarcated areas with acrimonious graffiti adorning the walls separating them. 

 

The sitting Mayor of Colombo, elected on the basis of local government polls is a Muslim named Uvaise Mohammed. In fact, since independence, successive Mayors of Colombo had been members of a minority community for a greater period of the city’s sixty-year post independent history. The election of the Mayor however has had no communal undercurrents and it is Sri Lanka’s two major political parties, the UNP (United National Party) and the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) that battles it out for a majority in the Local Government body, the Colombo Municipality. The party that emerges victorious after the elections appoint the Mayor from among its elected candidates. As a rule, the Mayoral candidate is nominated by the respective parties during the run-up to the elections. These two parties are secular political parties and although the Party leadership have been Singhalese there are Muslims and Tamil members in the parties representing minority interests. The United National Party, Sri Lanka’s oldest political party has been dominating the Colombo Municipal Council for a considerable period with the SLFP mostly confined to the opposition. What is significant here is that the election to the CMC is on the basis of politics and such elections including the post of Mayor have always been on a non-communal/ non-religious basis.

 

The situation beyond Colombo, in the rest of the country, is somewhat similar but in the hinterland, unlike in Colombo, concentrated pockets of minority communal/ religious groups are found interspersed with the Sinhalese population. The concentration of different communal and religious groups, Districts wise, is presented in the following Table.

 

Although the table suggest some segregation in terms of their registered habitat, in practice there is more intermingling with public officers, mercantile workers, traders etc. often engaged in areas beyond where they are registered as resident. However, it is a fact that when a particular community is concentrated in an area it is nothing but natural for that area to retain the characteristics of that community. Yet by and large, the Sri Lankan society is one, where manifestations of communal or religious consideration have not been an overriding factor in day to day activities, whether you are in the Tamil North, Muslim east, or the Sinhala rest.

 

What is apparent is that the people, being human, have basic human necessities and are therefore motivated more by those than other considerations. For instance, people will buy goods from the trader who offers the ‘best deal’ rather than from the trader close to one’s community. It may be that a person who could not stand the competitiveness in a pluralist society may resort to chauvinist communal/religious remarks, but such remarks are an exception and has little appeal. There are organizations such as YMCA Young Men’s Christian Association), YMBA (Young Men’s Buddhist Association) and YMMA (Young Men’s Muslim Association) that are formed to promote the interest of respective groups but in effect they are not different to common interests’ societies or professional groups that are formed to promote a particular interest within the larger  society.  

 

Social discrimination

There are countries in this world that have enacted legislation to ensure that one section of the people in the same country receives different treatment depending on their racial status, ethnicity and religion. A Government like the former South African regime would head the list in this category and such laws that sought to offer discriminatory practices are generally called ‘apartheid laws’. Then there are countries in the world that offer preferential treatment to certain sections or communities over the others. In this case there is no overt discrimination but yet they are held out for preferential treatment due to being disadvantaged over the years due to historical reasons. Malaysia’s Boomi Puthra laws and the Indian Dalit laws come under this category. 

 

Sri Lankan laws neither recognize apartheid practices nor endeavor to prop up disadvantaged sections of its population and hence any institutionalized discrimination is nonexistent in the Sri Lankan society. The current constitution of the country, adopted in 1978, prohibit any form of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or religion under its Clause No 14. Sri Lanka has adopted the Roman-Dutch law introduced to the country by the Dutch and it functions through a judiciary administered by a network of Civil and Magisterial courts throughout the country. The judiciary has been functioning as a powerful independent arm in regulating governance, dispensing justice, often administered in a hierarchical structure with colonial strapping. In fact, the dispensation and administration of justice has been an area that has undergone the least change in the post-independent period, especially because of the sanctity with which the system of justice has always been held in the Sri Lankan society.

 

The independence of the Sri Lankan judiciary of political, communal and religious bias is an established fact with many judgments exemplifying this over the years. The recent judgments proclaimed preventing the government from maintaining security checkpoints in Colombo city (July 2007) and deporting Tamil lodgers from the Colombo lodges (Sept. 2007) despite Government’s fight with the subversive who have consistently used these lodges to plant suicide bombers, could be cited as the latest of such examples of blindness of justice to ethnic and religious connotations.

 

There have been instances where certain laws have been introduced, often at the behest of certain minority leaders, to ensure that a quota of entitlements, especially in employment, is awarded to a particular community to ensure a fair representation of that community in that particular field. But such laws have given rise to anomalous situations where members of that very community are denied admission due to lack of space within this self-imposed quota system when their members were eligible on merit.  In such situations, it is the minority communities themselves that have sought recourse to Law in courts against the administration of such laws on the grounds of ‘discrimination on account of ethnicity or religion’. Therefore, there have been instances in the past where the minorities have demanded the abolition of the very laws which they themselves requested at times to protect their narrow interests.

 

A cursory glance at the Sri Lankan national holiday calendar would confirm this accommodative position of the Sri Lankan Government with regard to its minorities. The country’s 15 % Hindu minority enjoys all three days of significance to their religion (Thai Pongal, Maha Siva Rathree and Deepavali festival) as national holidays; 8 % Muslim minority enjoys the Prophet Mohamed’s birthday, Ramazan festival day and the Haj festival day as National holidays; the 9 % Christian/Catholic minority enjoys the Christmas day and Good Friday as national holidays.

 

Hence, when analyzing the larger picture of the Sri Lankan society for possible discrimination, it becomes a foregone conclusion that, the legislators of Sri Lanka have not left any room for allegations of institutionalized discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, religious, regional or other such parochial considerations through the existing laws. Therefore, the Sri Lanka law does not permit instances where a particular communal or religious group has been singled out for preferential or discriminatory treatment.

However this does not preclude the minorities from enjoying their own traditional laws and customs, such as the Thesawalmei- land ownership law among the Jaffna Tamils, marriage laws of the Muslims and Kandyan Sinhala marriage and property laws among Kandyan Sinhalese.

 

Personal Prejudices.

Then what are the possibilities of Tamils being subject to discrimination on a day to day basis in the Sri Lankan society? Such discrimination, if at all if that has taken place, has to be necessarily at a personal or social level and definitely not on a statutory level. Even in this respect too, Sri Lanka does not have the likes of the RSS or Jana-Sangh in India (i.e. nonpolitical racial bodies). Among the majority Sinhalese there aren’t even political parties that denote racialism. Even a political party such as the JHU is a recent phenomenon that came to existence as recently as 2004 as a result of the two major parties, UNP and the SLFP, deviating from their avowed political paths of non-communal secularism and adopting a course sympathetic to the LTTE. The formation and the role of the JHU would be discussed in detail in the ensuing chapters of this book. Therefore, in the absence of either government policy or socially organized racial policy, any alleged discrimination from the time of independence by the majority against any of the minorities has to be at a very personal level depending on personal perception of individuals.  

 

Even when a society is a proclaimed multi-ethnic/ multi-religious society in practice, there is always room for the prevalence of personal prejudices associated with perceived differences. Every Muslim mosque in the country announces the ‘call for prayer’ several times a day over loudspeakers mounted on the mosque. Due to the dispersed nature of this particular community there are mosques practically at every other junction in Sri Lanka and as a result this loud call for prayer is an irritant to many. Such is the pervading influence of this call that foreigners often tend to think that in Sri Lanka, it is the majority and not a mere 7 %, that is Muslim. It is a common occurrence to observe that when two Tamils get together in a public place they would jabber at the top of their voices for hours to a point of irritating the rest.  Even among English educated Tamils there is a tendency to talk in their own language at common social gatherings much to the uneasiness of the rest. A group of men wearing vettis or a group of women wearing jewelry in their nostrils with ‘pottu’ on their foreheads will instantly attract attention, because they are dressed differently from the rest. A group of women wearing the face veil may also attract similar attention purely because of their conspicuous nature, giving them an identity of being belonging to a particular community or religion. Muslim women have been more conspicuous with their fully covered black dresses since of late, sometimes making ordinary people stop and stare to wonder how they manage to get about with even their eyes covered. Therefore, some form of natural prejudice would always be present in a society where there are different cultural traits and those prejudices may lead to some form of personal discrimination. But such discriminatory manifestations are more often the result of ‘voluntary’ or the results of ‘need to maintain one’s identity over the rest’.

 

Social Status & Discrimination

Beyond this veneer of equality between communal and religious groups, there are established norms and practices that distinguish some sections of the society as being more ‘acceptable’ or ‘respectable’ than the rest of them.

 

Universally, it is affluence and education that would make some sections of the society stand out from the rest of them entitling them for preferential treatment. While conforming to these universally acceptable paradigms of social division, there is yet another important criterion of social distinction prevalent in the Sri Lankan society. This is not a practice endemic to Sri Lanka but rather a commonplace feature in countries with a colonial legacy. That is the social distinction enjoyed by the English-speaking sections of the society over the vernacular majority.

 

At the time of independence only 6.3 % of the Ceylonese population were literate in English (1946 Census) and of that population 1.3% was Eurasians, 2.6 % Tamils and 2.4 % Singhalese. This meant that while 100% of the Eurasians population could use the official language of the time only 20% of the Tamil population and still only 5 % of the Sinhalese population could do the same. This not only exemplifies the position of the Sinhalese vis a vis the Tamil and the Eurasians (Burgers) but the larger picture was that in the colonial and post-independent Sri Lanka 93.7 % of the country’s population had been governed by a language that they did not understand.

 

The situation today is not very different where the country’s English educated elite, about 19% of the population, influence the decisions taken on behalf of the entire country. Even though Sinhala was made the official language in 1956 and Tamil in 1987 the fact remains that it is only the public sector that use the official languages and the mercantile sector, which generate major portion of employment still use English not only as a useful means of communication but more as a privilege language that bestows respectability and social distinction. This makes 90% of the country’s population live with a complex of not being able to live a full life due to their ignorance of the English language.

 

How does this then have a bearing on the discrimination of Tamils? Majority of the Tamils who only speak Tamil also live an unfulfilled life as a result of this, unofficial but realistic, social set up but this is a colonial baggage and has nothing to do with the Sinhalese discriminating against the Tamils. It should be noted that as a proportional % of each population Sinhalese were more disadvantaged as only 5 % of them knew English whereas almost 20% of the Tamils knew English due to long-established English schools in Jaffna. Hence in this case it is the Sinhalese who should complain of discrimination, if at all, rather than the Tamils. 

 

Political discrimination

A significant feature of Sri Lankan society since independence, that effectively underscores any division on communal/ religious basis is the emergence of political discrimination. Sri Lanka received universal suffrage in 1931 and it was the first country in South Asia to experience this ‘one person one vote’ system. With that Sri Lanka was granted dominion status through the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution in 1935. However, by the time the Soulbury Constitution was introduced, on the eve of independence in 1947, the political parties of Ceylon had matured in line with identifiable political philosophies prevalent in world politics at the time. The United National Party (UNP) was rightists in its political philosophy while the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) had a left-leaning socialist, Bolshevik Leninist, philosophy. The Tamil leaders ironically, however ensured that the Tamils were confined to communal parties from the very beginning.

 

The first election to the new State Council was held in 1947 and from that time onwards with two political camps setting shop, the public had been subjected to a new culture of divisive politics even before they could comprehend the impact of independence. With Sri Lanka coming out of hibernation of a 443year colonial rule, the embracing of this political culture at such an incipient stage, would have mixed results on the country’s future course of activities. This was mainly due to the comparatively backward nature of the Sri Lankan polity with limited literacy at the time. However as political power meant power to govern the country, a notable feature in the Sri Lankan society since 1947 has been its polarization on party political lines almost to the exclusion of other considerations such as ethnicity and religion. Since political power was determined by the number of votes, it is quite natural that it is a person’s vote that was the pervading influence and not his ethnicity or religion.  Therefore with the majority Sinhalese dividing themselves on clear party lines there was little room for discrimination on ethnic or religious lines and whatever alienation that was there was necessarily on political party basis and not on communal/ religious basis.

 

In fact, the political culture of Sri Lanka since independence has been very discriminatory on party lines. The emergence of the SLFP in the early 50’s eclipsed the LSSP ( party and the philosophy both) and since then the Sri Lankan political landscape was dominated by the UNP and the SLFP coming to power alternatively during the 60 years since independence. The time the UNP is in power they would appoint their supporters as Heads of the Government Corporations and staff those with their supporters. The Government Corporations have been a significant feature in the post-independent economy as the successive post-independent governments had created a number of national institutions through special acts of parliament. These institutions had a character different from the country’s public service and hence the government of the day assumed full control of the affairs of such Corporations. Their functioning was very much like companies which are fully owned by the Government. Just as much as these Corporations often exercised power of the state they also complimented as a veritable source of providing employment to the supporters of politicians in power.

 

The more powerful the Governing party of the day becomes the more discriminatory it tends to become towards those in the opposing party. Of the 60year independence (1948-2008) the UNP and the SLFP have been in power for 30 years apiece. The 30 years of UNP sent the country to the political right with stronger alliance with the western world while 30 years of the SLFP rule sent the country to the political center-left with close connections with the socialist world. But the important thing is that both these parties used government power to consolidate their positions when in government directly and indirectly doing their utmost to help their political supporters.

 

The criterion for this patronage however, was not ethnic or religious but the political party vote. Both these parties were represented by all ethnicities and religions except of course by Tamils in the North. Tamils in other areas of the country, the Muslims as a whole and other minorities as a whole voted for these two parties and as a result became entitled to their bounties when in power. This political discrimination in the context it is discussed here has been a fact that no party would gainsay. But the point to note here is that such discrimination on the basis of ‘power of the vote’ would create a situation where discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion would become superfluous, diluting the authenticity of such allegations.   

 

A good practical example of how the political interests of these two national parties permeate all other considerations could be deciphered from the fact that how the CWC    (Ceylon Workers Congress), a minority party formed to further the interest of the Indian Plantation Tamil community was able to obtain citizenship and voting rights from the UNP Government of J R Jayawardene in 1985. There were more than 500,000 Tamils of recent Indian origin who had been selected for migration and settlement in India in terms of the Sirimavo – Shasthri Accord. The repatriation of these people was held up due to certain snags involved in the repatriation process. S Thondaman, the charismatic and shrewd leader of the Indian Tamil community who is never short of bright ideas, proposed to JR Jayawardene that if he could be magnanimous enough to grant the citizenship rights to these Tamils, he could be rest assured that this block vote of 500,000 votes would back his political party, the UNP, as long as JR desires. JR Jayawardene granted citizenship to all the 500,000 Tamils merely on the production of an affidavit to affirm that they had stayed in this country for more than 5 years.

 

S.Thondaman, the CWC (Indian Tamil) leader was also known for his skillful manipulation of the two major parties to get the best bargaining position for the 7 seats of his CWC held in a Parliament of 225 legislators. He was known as the ‘Kingmaker’ as he traded his seats in a situation where the two major parties had ended up after elections with a marginal difference in their respective Parliamentary strengths. This situation was described by political analysts as the ‘tail wagging the dog’ situation as the CWC leader with little power would call the shots in the SL Government policy.  Hence it should be clear to any student of Sri Lankan society that the two national parties made up of mostly Sinhalese leaders have viewed power (survival or capturing) as the sole criterion of their patronization to the exclusion of other consideration such as ethnicity, religion or language.

 

With time, the politically expedient games of these perceived National parties would eventually sink to such depths where the SLFP led CBK government would opt to talk and entertain the LTTE despite the LTTE’s assassination of number of UNP leaders and Ranil W, as the leader of Opposition in the Mahinda Rajapakse Government would champion the LTTE ‘cause’, while calling it the ‘Tamil Cause’ internationally, despite continuing atrocities committed against innocent civilians by the LTTE. Such events adequately convince that the leadership of these two parties that have held the reigns of Sri Lanka since independence, is even capable of getting carried away to such inebriated heights of power where they disregard not only the national security of the very nation they profess to lead but even their own physical safety in the face of power.

 

The question then is, in such a social milieu where political power is such a blinding tool (if not the only) of discrimination, is there any room for a minority to cry hoarse of discrimination by the majority on ethnic grounds?  

 

‘Self- Discriminatory’ Tamil politics

This narration however is not complete without mentioning the role played by the political parties that represented the ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ community. It is noteworthy to mention here that the Sri Lankan Tamils of North were represented in the Parliament from the very inception of independence by communal parties that viewed issues on communal lines s devoid of political ideologies. First it was the Tamil Congress of GG Ponnambalam that represented the Tamils from 1948. Mr Ponnambalam for all his communal proclivity (demanding 50- 50 for minorities from the British), had decided by 1948 to support the National government formed and was appointed the Minister of Industries and Fisheries in the first Sri Lankan government of Mr D. S. Senanayake.

 

There was no plausible reason for any minority to accuse this new Government formed in 1948 of ‘discrimination’ because the new Government was more than balanced in its outlook and content in accommodating the minorities. There were 3 Tamil Minister and one Muslim Minister in this new Cabinet of 15. Mr Vaithyalingam Duraisamy, a respected Tamil member from Jaffna was the Speaker of the first Parliament of independent Ceylon.  Tamil Ministers were Mr. C. Sittampalam Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Mr C Suntheralingam, Minister of Commerce and Trade. And Mr. G.G Ponnambalam, Minister of Industries and Fisheries.

 

However Mr SJV Chelvanayagam, the one time deputy of Ponnambalam did not approve of this alliance and accused Ponnambalam of betraying the ‘pride ‘ and ‘interest’ of the Tamils. Mr Chelvanayagam idea was that the Tamils should not have anything to do with the Sinhalese but instead should demand a federal state for Tamils in areas where they could claim a majority. This dispute between the two leaders of Tamil Congress made Chelvanayaganm form his own party which he called the Federal Party in English and Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kachcchi (ITAK) in Tamil in 1949. This indeed is a fact that those who attribute the separatist mentality of the Tamils need to pay heed to, because by 1949 the new Government had not passed any legislation worthy of its office and in any case there wasn’t much time for the people to feel the pulse of the new Government, formed only the previous year.

 

Samuel James Velupillai Chelvanayagam was borne in Malaysia to Christian Tamil parents and migrated to Ceylon at the age of 6 with his mother. The federal Party leader’s deep-seated sullenness towards the Sinhalese was both communal and religious. Joining the Throne speech debate of the first Parliament of Ceylon Mr Chelvanayagam mentioned that ‘If Ceylon can become independent from Britain why we, the Tamils, cannot secede from the rest of Ceylon’ (Hanzard Feb 1948). It is also recorded that, addressing a YMMA meeting in 1949, Mr Chelvanayagam had maintained that, “It is better for us minorities to have our own country rather than to live on the benevolence of the Sinhalese”. He was a man who often viewed the Sinhalese taking over Sri Lanka with a covetous eye calling it unfair to award a country to just 6 million ‘uneducated’ Sinhalese when 50 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu had no country to call their own. 

 

The Federal Party concentrated their campaign purely on communal grounds. With a Government dominated by Sinhalese, replacing the British, the communal politics of Federal Party formed in 1949 became successful in interpreting every issue that was taking place in Ceylon as being ‘anti-Tamil’ to the mainly Tamil speaking polity of the North. This attitude coupled with s demand for a, Tamil state of some form, eventually gathered momentum and the Federal Party was able to dethrone Ponnambalam from the pinnacle of Tamil political power and capture that position. A study of the Parliament Hansard will however reveal that the Federal Party was hardly interested in national issues and its concern had always been how a particular piece of legislation affected the number and position, thereby power, of the Tamil community.

 

Mr Chelavanayagam’s attitude towards national issues soon after independence could be gauged in a nutshell by an example recounted by Mr ECT Candappa in a series of articles to the Island newspaper. According to Mr Candappa, the cement factory in Kankesanthurai ( in the North) was commissioned by the Bandaranaike Government and the construction work was in progress in1958. Mr Chelvanayam, in the meantime made an appointment with Mr Banadaranaike to discuss an ‘important issue’ and this issue was the manner in which the KKS cement factory should operate after commissioning. It soon became apparent that the purpose of Mr Chelvanayagam’s dialogue was to ensure that only Tamil workers should be recruited for the operation of the factory once commissioned. Mr Bandaranaike gave this proposal a lot of thought and then countered Mr Chelvanayagam’s proposal with the following argument, “If the KKS Factory is to have a 100% Tamil employees by virtue of the fact that it has been cited in a predominantly Tamil area the other Industries of the country cited in the rest of the country (mainly in predominantly Sinhalese areas) should not employee persons from other communities except Sinhalese’. Mr Bandaranaike then posed the question to Mr Chelvanayagam whether he was prepared to accept that position. Mr Chelvanayagam was aware that he would not make a deal by agreeing to that proposition because he was well aware that even by then the Industrial sector located in the rest of Ceylon was staffed mainly by the Tamils.

 

While the Federal party was campaigning on a purely communal platform there were other Tamil politicians such as K W Devanayagam who represented the UNP and was elected to the Parliament from the Pottuvil seat in the East from 1948 till 1970 and Chellaih Kumarasuriar of the SLFP who represented the Kilinochchi seat in the North from 1970 to 1977. There was also Alfred Duraiappah, the popular SLFP Mayor of Jaffna who made a valiant attempt to resist the communal politics of the more established Tamil Politicians headed by SJV.  However, as events that followed would prove those voices of co-operation and integration were increasingly getting submerged in a cacophony of divisive and communally hubristic politics of persons such as S J V Chelvanayagam and A Amirthalingam.

 

This communal politics of SJV continued up to the formation of the TULF in 1976 on the basis of ‘gaining Tamil rights’. The TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) was formed by a more overtly militant brand of Tamils headed by Appapillai Amirthalingam with the unqualified blessings of Mr Chelvanayam who was suffering from dementia at the time. The forming of the TULF was the watershed in Tamil political violence which this book seeks to explore in detail. However, the point that has to be noted here is that the politics of the Tamil leaders since independence have been by and large communal reducing the scope of the Tamil community from assimilating into the mainstream Sri Lankan society. What is more significant here is the fact that this abstract and sullen nature of the Tamil politicians contributed in a large measure towards the non-development of the predominantly Tamil areas in North and the unemployment of Tamil youths. The improvidence of this ‘refusal to assimilate’ has to be evaluated against the backdrop of a national leadership, either of UNP or SLFP, that is continually engaged in playing politics of power to the exclusion of all other considerations.

 

Therefore, in this discourse of discrimination in the Sri Lankan society, the facts unearthed should lead us to the following conclusions.

  • There is no institutionalized discrimination in the Sri Lankan society on communal, religious grounds.
  • There is discrimination on language grounds but that is in the use of English language to create a comprador class in Sri Lankan society.
  • There is political discrimination between the two major parties but that does not contribute, rather obviates, communal discrimination.
  • Postcolonial Sinhalese leaders have been mainly concerned with political power and hence the priority had been on the vote than on ethnicity.
  • The Tamil leaders have been refusing to integrate into the mainstream Sri Lankan society since independence and they have shown a great unwillingness to be governed by the leaders of the majority.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

The ‘Cause’ as Claimed by the Tamils.

 

As we observed in the preceding paragraph, Sri Lankan society, on an overview, shows no signs of racism or neo racism as many in the International community either would like to, or has been made to, believe. Yet we have had this incessant Tamil issue in Sri Lanka for the past 90 or so years and a violently conflict in 34 of those years. Moreover, this conflict has cost the country 80, 000 human lives and collateral damage worth over 20 billion US dollars. Such a colossal cost certainly would make an inquisitor on this subject go an extra mile to get to the bottom of this and a more inclusive way of doing that would be to study the Tamil perspective of the alleged Tamil grievances.

 

At the very outset, it should be noted that there were certain inherent characteristics in the social structure of Ceylon at the turn of independence that made the ‘Ceylonese Tamils’ view the post-independence Government of Ceylon with a degree of suspicion as being hostile to their interests and as being supportive of majoritarian Sinhalese. After 443 years of colonial rule the Tamil community in Ceylon, at the time of independence in 1948, had reached the status of one of the most prosperous, educated and also privileged minority communities anywhere in the world. 60% of the Government servants, 65 % of the professionals, 60% of the trade and 70% of the education system were all dominated by the Ceylon Tamils that comprised only 11 -12 % of the country’s population. In comparative terms, the majority Sinhalese who accounted for 74 % of the population were disadvantaged, with their representation being limited to about 25% of the Government service, 15 % in trade: 25% in professions; and around 25% in the education system. But now with independence to Ceylon with a democratic form of Government, it became a foregone conclusion that the Government of the post-independent Ceylon would be dominated by the majority Sinhalese and hence such a Government would, in time, introduce reforms to ameliorate the lot of the Sinhalese.

 

On the eve of independence, the Tamil leaders tried their best to legitimize this highly privileged status quo their community enjoyed through constitutional safeguards but were not entirely successful in their attempts. Sri Lanka had enjoyed universal suffrage with ‘one person one vote’ system prior to independence, since 1931, and Lord Soulbury obviously felt obliged to use democracy as the basis in enacting the provisions in the new constitution at independence in 1948.  Lord Soulbury and Sir Ivor Jennings, the two stalwarts of the constitution of independent Ceylon, were fairer and objective in accomplishing their task, but this however was a notable departure from the customary partisanship exercised up to then by the British towards the majority Sinhalese on matters of governing Ceylon. The Tamils nevertheless felt that they were the rightful heirs to rule Ceylon when the British departed from the shores of the island but what haunted them was the democratic form of the proposed independent Government and the fact that they were outnumbered by the Sinhalese in population. Hence the Tamils became the unwilling partners in the Government of the post-independent Ceylon formed by the United National Party of Mr. D S Senanayake.

 

In such a mental backdrop, where the leadership of one community feels that they were deprived of their rightful position due to disadvantaged numbers (however privileged that position is), resentful sentiments would inevitably pervade and hence it was natural that every step taken by the national leaders to give equal opportunities to all the sections of the population is viewed as a policy of ‘hegemony/ domination due to advantage in numbers’ creating an ‘aggrieved mentality’ among the privileged minorities. This was especially so when such steps lead to a change in status quo of the pre-independent Sri Lankan society. While we may discuss these thing in detail under the ‘Genesis of the Tamil problem’ later, in the current chapter we will evaluate the ‘grievances’/ ‘discrimination’ of the Tamils in independent Ceylon, essentially from the Tamil perspective.

 

The ‘Tamil Grievances’ in fact started with the very democratization of the Ceylonese society. As per SJVC’s biography by A J Wilson, Chelvanayagam addressing a meeting in Jaffna on the 1st July 1947 (after the first election) pronounced that “If we agree to the Soulbury Constitution, the great Tamil community of Ceylon will have to live under the Sinhalese as a caste subordinate to the Sinhalese”. He had further described the Soulbury constitution as a Sinhalese conspiracy and that those who agree to that would be traitors to the Tamils of Ceylon (24th December 1947).

 

The first signs of agitation and physical violence of the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka surfaced when the Sri Lankan Government introduced the letter ‘Shri’ to replace English letters in the colonial registration license plate of motor vehicles in 1957. Initially this change was hardly noticeable but in Batticaloa, Chelvanayagam with a crowd of about 20 persons started tarring the Sinhala letter ‘Shri’ in the registration numbers of these new vehicles. When this campaign started gathering momentum, the Sinhalese, in order to avenge this act, started to tar Tamil Name boards on roads and public places. The campaigns as usual got out of hand and a few Buddhist places of religious worship were attacked by the campaigners. When this news reached the south through unofficial channels with a speculative element, the flames of communal violence ignited and engulfed most areas of the country.

 

Starting from that point the average Tamil or rather the Tamil leaders have compiled a list of grievance as being the grievances inflicted on the Tamil community by the post-independent Ceylonese Government. Following could be considered as an exhaustive list of such issues, in their order, that have come to be associated as the cause of this conflict.

 

  • Disenfranchisement of Tamils of Indian origin through the introduction of the Ceylon Citizenship bill in 1948.
  • Introduction of the letter ‘Shri’ to replace the English letters in the registration of motor vehicles in 1957.
  • Introduction of the Sinhala language as the official language of the Government of Sri Lanka (Bill introduces in 1958 and brought in to effect in 1961)
  • Colonization of Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan Government with Sinhalese.
  • Non-implementation of the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam agreement in 1957
  • Non-implementation of the Dudley Senanayake – Chelvanayagam pact of 1966.
  • Standardization of entry marks to the country’s Universities.
  • July 1983 riots.

 

To these we may now add a host of other grievances that the Tamil community has accrued as a result of the 34-year conflict since the advent of armed insurrection in the Tamil society. Such accretions however should be viewed from the resultant vicious cycle violence, insurgency and terrorism and hence what is important is to study the basics that the Tamils and the world community at large believes to be the causes that gave rise to violence in the Tamil society. Therefore, let us now examine these 8 basic grievances that are popularly considered as the core ‘causes’ of this conflict, one by one.

 

  1. Disenfranchisement of Tamils of Indian origin.

The British colonial administration destroyed the indigenous agricultural methods of the Singhalese and dispossessed them of their lands by introducing the infamous ‘Waste Lands Ordinance’. This especially affected the Kandyan peasantry and their lands so disposed were converted into huge estates managed by Sterling companies in England that grew export-oriented crops such as Tea and rubber. This required large-scale dedicated, in-house, labor and they found such labor hard to come by from among the local Sinhalese peasantry despite them being dislocated. At one stage, the British companies were evaluating the idea of bringing in slave labor from Africa as a solution. But then, having experienced the Indian labor, especially Tamils in the Coromandel coast in India for nearly a century, the British finally decided in favor of the emaciated but more manageable and less costly Tamils to the comparatively stronger but unpredictable Africans. Thus from the mid-19th century the British imported shiploads of Tamil labor from Tamil Nadu to work in the emerging Sri Lankan plantations.

 

One ‘consignment’ after another of indentured labor arrived from Cochin in India at the Thalaimannar pier in Sri Lanka. From the Thalaimannar pier these ‘Indians’ with their families were made to walk a distance, often more than 200 miles, through the jungle terrain to get to their places of work. Some dropped dead on the way and the bodies of those who die were left for the jackals in the jungles. Once in the plantation, they were housed in lined-rooms which were no better than cattle sheds. A family of 6 or 7 lived in a room of 10’ by 6’ using a common toilet of the lined rooms. These people were listed as migratory workers and their condition would not improve up to the time of independence. The British administration however granted them the voting rights when the universal suffrage was granted to the people of Ceylon in 1931.

 

The time of independence about a million of these plantation workers were left in Ceylon by the British. One of the first jobs of the independent Government Ceylon was to introduce a Citizenship Act to determine and define citizenship of the newly independent nation after a 443-year colonial administration. The Citizenship Act so introduced required every citizen of Ceylon to be residents either by decent or by a 5year continuous stay. About 500,000 of the plantation workers could not prove their 5year continuous stay and as a result they did not qualify to become citizens of Ceylon.

 

In actual fact Tamil labor that time was considered migrant labor and most of them used to work for a few years in Ceylon and then go back to India. The laborer thus returned to India may come back to Sri Lanka on his own volition but there was no record kept by the employer to say that the laborer was on vacation. Since there was plenty of people who were prepared to work for their sustenance in Tamil Nadu those who imported labor would bring in persons at random as it did not make a material difference either to the laborer or the employer. Hence the migration of Tamils to Ceylon was work-oriented and not at all person-oriented.  It was indeed funny that people of such transient character with no permanent abode should be allowed to cast their vote to elect national leaders of Ceylon when they did not enjoy that right in their own country India, at the time. 

 

It was the Donoughmore Commission of 1931 that granted these Indian Tamils the right to vote. This was done by Lord Donoughmore to please the Tamil leaders who vehemently opposed the introduction of the universal franchise to Ceylon with the Donoughmore constitution on the grounds that the Sinhalese who comprised 74 % of the country’s population would soon outnumber the ruling Tamil community with the exercise of universal franchise. Therefore, as a concession Lord Donoughmore decided on his own, to grant the franchise to transient Tamil labor and called it a ‘balanced representation.’ Hence the franchise to the Indian Tamils, who enjoyed neither permanent residency in Ceylon nor bare necessities of life, was granted by the British merely to dilute the Sinhala vote strength in the country.

 

Since India and Ceylon were both ruled by the British the question of the citizenship of migrant Tamil workers never became an issue as they all were the ‘subjects’ of the empire. But with India and Ceylon becoming independent simultaneously, the question of citizenship came to the fore with India adopting the position that, those who had migrated to Ceylon at the point of independence not being considered for Indian citizenship and with Ceylon citizenship act requiring a five-year continuous residency for citizens by registration.  This created about 700,000 Tamils officially ‘stateless’ but still resident, at the time, in Sri Lanka.

 

It is a fact that the Indians were considered interlopers by the Sinhalese and their leaders and therefore, were not prepared to make concessions to them. Indian labor issue was one of the many grievances the Sinhalese had against the Colonial masters. In fact, there had been two Citizenship acts in 1948, Act. No 18 where the Ceylon citizenship regulations were set out and Act no. 3 of 1949 which was designed to accommodate Indians and Pakistanis who are resident in Ceylon. Those Indians who were not qualified under act no 18 of 1948, could seek citizenship under act. No 3 of 1949. However, the act no 18 of 1948, required the Indians to apply for citizenship in Sri Lanka and according to ‘The Constitution of Ceylon’ authored by Sir Ivor Jennings, only 7500 application of Indian plantation workers were received by the Government in response to this Act.

 

The Citizenship Act no.18 of 1948 was subsequently challenged in Courts for its validity by the LSSP member for Ruwanwella, MP Dr N M Perera. . The District courts have held the Act invalid on grounds of ‘inappropriate’ and discrimination but the Supreme Court subsequently squashed that judgment and declared the act valid. In reasoning out the judgment the Supreme Court, among other things state in section 4. “The disqualification of a large number of Indians residents in Ceylon is not the necessary legal effect of the two Acts. The circumstance that disqualifies the Indians would disqualify any other community. The language being plain, it is not possible to bring evidence to show that more Indians are disqualified than members of other communities” (Constitution of Ceylon Sir. Ivor Jennings page no.77). 

 

Subsequently however, this matter of ‘stateless persons’ was taken up between the leaders of the two countries (India and Sri Lanka) at various stages and finally Mrs Bandaranaike entered in to an agreement with the Indian Prime Minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 which popularly came to be termed as the Sirima -Shasthri Accord wherein India and Sri Lanka agreed to accommodate these persons on mutual terms.    

 

Yet there is another side to the history of Indian Tamils in Ceylon. From the time the British started to bring in these laborers for menial work in the hill country, the 12 % population of the Ceylon Tamils would have absolutely nothing to do with these laborers even though they shared a common language and were of the same cultural stock. The comparatively educated and well to do Ceylon Tamil would always flaunt his ‘Ceylonese’ identity over and above his ‘Tamil’ identity and would distance himself from the Indian Tamil. The Ceylon Tamil leaders never concerned themselves with the affairs of the Indian Tamils as they were considered a separate community for all intents and purposes with their leadership made up of a few influential South Indian labor contractors such as the Thondamans.

 

What is more significant here is the fact that the Ceylon Tamil Congress headed by the GG Ponnambalam that represented Ceylon Tamils, voted in favor of the Citizenship act of 1948 in Parliament. In any case at that time the Ceylon Tamil community never considered the Citizenship Act as an act of discrimination against the Tamils and they never mentioned this in their original list of alleged ‘discrimination by the Sinhala Government’. This was added only quite recently to this list when the Sinhalese insisted to know these so-called discriminatory practices the Tamils were trying to justify their violence with. The Indian Tamil vote also never affected the Tamil vote because the Indian Tamils were resident among the Sinhalese and they voted in those electorates away from the North and they were voting for the Leftist party candidates (LSSP) in their respective electorates.

 

S Rasalingam(Tamil) writing to the Island of 19th December 2007 under ‘Senanayake and the Federal Party’ describe the thinking behind the Citizenship bill of 1948 and some other interracial politics in that era. ‘Many Tamils led by Ponnambalam was against granting citizenship to Indian Tamils on the grounds of caste. There was a distinct difference between the Ceylon Tamils and the Indian ‘Cooley’ laborers. The Ceylon Tamils who held the most important offices of the administration, professional and business spheres never even considered the Indian Tamils who were doing menial and scavenging jobs to be part of their community. DS and Ponnambalam also felt that the political rights of the Indian laborers would means strengthening the left movement which formed the main opposition to the governing UNP coalition at the time. Political ideology was much strong at that time and DS and Ponnambalam being members of the extreme right always had viewed communists as an emerging nightmare’.

 

Further, this type of commissions and omissions are quite common at the incipient stages of any nation and even in USA, a nation that pontificate as the arbiter of human rights and human opportunity, such vicissitudes were experienced at the nation-building stages. In the US, due to various constitutional and legal anomalies, African Americans could not exercise their right to vote for a long time. Many American states in the south enacted ‘pol-tax’ laws that often included a ‘grandfather’ clause. The effect of this was to allow adult black males whose father or grandfather had voted in a specific year prior to the abolition of slavery to vote in an election without paying the ‘pol-tax’ and to make all others pay ‘pol-tax’ to cast their vote. There being very few blacks who could have voted in America before the law banning slavery, almost all the Blacks had to pay ‘pol-tax’ if they were to vote in an election. It was only after the 24th amendment to the American Constitution was ratified in 1964, that the ‘pol-tax’ was done away with as a pre-condition to voting thereby granting the right to vote for the Black community in general.

.

However, it is rather anachronistic for the Ceylon Tamils to cite this particular issue as a ‘grievance of theirs’ when they have been looking down upon their counterparts of recent Indian origin as ‘subhuman coolies’ all that while.  If at all if this was a grievance, it should be a grievance of the Tamils of recent Indian origin (who are not a party to this conflict) and certainly not of the ‘status-conscious’ Ceylon Tamil community. On the other hand, these Tamils of recent Indian origin had more serious issues than that and most of their problems emanated from the fact of their being indentured labor.  Such a comprehensive list should start from the realistic position of them being uprooted from their natural environment for economic reasons by the British colonials. Even though the Colonial Government wanted the Indian Tamils to vote to decide on the future of Ceylon the Tamils were all the while more concerned about their own future under the British.

 

  1. Introduction of the letter ‘Shri’ for motor vehicle number plates.

The letter ‘Shri’ is not necessarily unique to the Sri Lankan (Ceylonese) or Singhalese language or culture but rather it is a letter widely used in the subcontinent including India to denote ‘respect and purity’. It is more or less a cultural thing of the continent and is also commonly used in Tamil culture too. However, when the letter ‘Shri’ in Sinhala replaced the English letters in the number plates of newly registered motor vehicles in 1956, it created unexpected revulsion in the Tamil areas with Tamil leaders like Chelvanayagam articulating the Tamils not to accept the new method of registration. Hence the number plates of newly registered vehicles were tarred by organized gangs starting from Batticaloa and other parts of the north. These acts spawned ill feelings between the two communities and created the impression that the Tamils were not prepared for national integration while the Tamil leaders interpreted these new indigenous integrative acts as ‘domination by the Sinhalese’.

 

It is natural that issues like these would always prop up in a newly independent state where the majority is trying to assert its long-lost position amidst emerging minorities. However, certain of these issues that had the potential to become controversial, had been taken up at the transition stage by the departing British with the Sri Lankan interest groups and they were amicably resolved between those groups. One such issue was the national flag of the independent Ceylon. The last known Sri Lankan Flag was the Flag of the Sri Lankan Kandyan Kingdom (up country) that was brought down by the British in 1815 after the Kandyan convention was signed, giving the British total control over the Island. The Sinhalese always had the lion as their national emblem and even people in the ‘low country areas’ that was subjugated by the British in 1786 from the Dutch, looked up to the lion as their national symbol. Hence with the Sinhalese opting for the lion flag, the Tamil and the Muslim leaders felt that their representation also had to be expressed through the national emblem. Thus, the national flag for the new independent Ceylon was made with the lion occupying 2/3rds of the flag and two stripes, amber for Tamils and green for Muslims, occupying the balance 1/ 3 rd. In the case of the national anthem it was agreed that due to the difficulty and the impracticability in reciting the national anthem in different dialects the national anthem should be in Sinhalese. In this regard, it should also be noted that there isn’t single nation amongst the many newly independent nations of the time that had a national anthem in two or more languages hence no precedent has been set anywhere in the world for the minorities in Sri Lanka to claim representation for their language through the country’s national anthem. Having established such principles concerning plurality in nationhood there was always room to iron out other trivial issues such as the ‘Shri’ issue. In localizing the motor vehicle registration, the government had to choose a sign that was widely accepted and in that context the letter Shri was acceptable to all. Yet the irony was that SJV Chelvanayagam took the issue to the streets straight away without taking up the matter with the Government and that alone is proof to show that Chelvanayagam was waiting for a confrontation and hence he picked up this very trivial issue. In any case the situation in Sri Lanka from the Tamils point of view at the time may not have appeared just with the Sinhalese being the political majority trying to re-establish their long-lost position and the Tamils being the powerful minority trying to hold their position.

 

In any case English letters were reintroduced to the vehicle registration numbers in 1991 as a concession for this Tamil demand by the Premadasa Government and therefore in the final analysis this issue should no longer exist as a ‘grievance’ in the Tamils list of causes justifying violence.

 

  1. Introduction of Sinhala language as the official language of the Government of Sri Lanka.

This is an issue the Tamil leaders have always brought forward as the principal cause of their alienation and the eventual struggle against the Sri Lankan government. This was also popularly called the ‘Sinhala only Act’ and has been vilified not only by the Tamils but even by the Church and educated Sinhalese. In a pluralistic society, it would be amoral as well as impractical to force the language of the majority down the throats of the minorities; at least that is how it sounds, when you call for ‘down with Sinhala only’. But what was the legislation introduced in 1956 and what is the significance in that being called ‘Sinhala only’?

 

When Sri Lanka became independent after 443 years of colonial rule in 1948, according to official statistics,(General report of census of the Government of Ceylon 1946) only 6.3 % of the country’s population could command any degree of competence in English which was the official language of the Government of Ceylon at that time. This meant that 93.7 % of the country’s population was administered by a language that they did not understand. They were communicated to, on matters of governance in English and hence every time they received a letter they had to rush to the relatively few influential people who knew English in the area. There were ‘Brown sahibs’ on top of the ‘White sahibs’ who exploited and penalized the general masses in their own country for not knowing the language of the King of England. Justice was dispensed in a language the litigants did not understand. Evidence was recorded, Cross examinations conducted and trials done to the satisfaction of all but those who sought justice. Government sponsored education too was in English and that was for the privileged and selected. In short, the 6,3 % minority was ruling the country while the 93.7 % majority were passive spectators relegated to second-class citizenry.

 

The Government of Mr Bandaranaike, elected in 1956, promised to rectify this historical injustice perpetrated by the colonial rulers for 150 years. In fact, it was JR Jayawardene, a legislator then in 1945, who first proposed that Ceylon should adopt Sinhala as the official language. There had always been agitation from the Sinhalese from the time after independence to make Sinhala, the Official language. On the other hand, the Tamil leaders who made such a hue and cry about Sinhala becoming the official language had never even suggested before that, that the Tamils of Ceylon should be made to conduct their affairs in their own language. The reason probably was that, all the Tamil leaders were educated in English and hence there was no need among them to request for the Tamil language and then to disturb the status quo of the time.

 

The Act brought in 1956 was approved in Parliament with both the major parties, the SLFP and the UNP voting in favor and the Leftist Parties and Tamil parties voting against. The Act sought to make Sinhalese the official language and provided for the reasonable use of Tamil in the North and the East and this was to become effective from 1961. The administration and the Courts in the North and East were to function in Tamil and the Act provided for ‘Swabasha’ in education throughout the Island. This ensured every child to have education in his/her mother tongue irrespective of where the child lives. Since all the people in Ceylon knew either Sinhala or Tamil, making Sinhala the official language with special provision for Tamil looked a very fair arrangement at the time. But this was not to be and the bill ran into a series of controversies in the country,  up to this day. Mr Badaranaike probably neither bargained for nor expected such a situation at the time of introduction of the bill since at that time the issue was ‘who would be the one to correct this historical injustice first’, between the UNP and the SLFP. The two parties were competing with one another to bring forward the bill which they considered appropriate.

 

The Tamil leaders demanded ‘parity of status’ for the two languages, Sinhala and Tamil. The Sinhalese argued that there was no reasonability in granting official parity of status for a language that was used only by 12% of the population’. Mr Bandaranaike in any case thought that language should be a symbol of national integration as in India where a language spoken by even less than 50 % of the population was made the only official language. That had become the policy of most of the newly independent countries at the time.

 

There was yet another reason for Mr Bandaranaike to stand firm on his decision to make Sinhala the only official language. Rumblings of separatism had arisen its head in Sri Lanka on the eve of independence with Chelvanayagam forming the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi (Party for a Tamil State)as early as 1949, (hardly a year after independence) and strong links were reported between Chelvanayagam and the pan Tamil movement of ‘Dravidasthan’ in Tamil Nadu. The ITAK of Chelvanayagam in its first annual convention passed a resolution demanding for Tamils, their own autonomous state, guaranteed self-government and self-determination as a nation of their own. It should also be noted here that all this was not long after the Tamils in South India demanded separate state comprising the South Indian states of Madras Presidency (the present Tamil Nadu), Kerala, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and the North East of Ceylon to be made in to a Dravidasthan; a demand they had to forego when the British and Indian leaders decided against the partitioning of India, at independence, on linguistic lines.

 

As reported in the Hanzard issues of the early 1950’s, the Tamil MPs had always been in the habit of making inflammatory statements on Tamil nationalism inside and outside the Parliament and SJV Chelvanayagam W Vanniyasingham, C Rajadurai, V N Navatatnam had in fact earned notoriety in this regard. They articulated about the forming of Pan Tamil state envisaged by the Indian Tamil leaders and vowed to make the north and east of Sri Lanka a constituent part of that state. Sinhalese leaders like Bandaranaike dreaded the prospect of having a Tamil Nadu immediately to the North of the country and it was plain and obvious that such a formation would mean a protracted struggle and the beginning of the end for a small country like Ceylon. Hence integration of Sri Lanka as it stood was paramount in Mr Bandaranaike’s mind and to achieve that he considered language to be the rallying point of national integration (‘Bandaranaike Parivarthana Yugaya’ by Henry Abeywickreme).

 

This is evident when we study the speech made by Mr Bandaranaike joining the Official language bill debate in the parliament in 1958. He said, “ The point I want to make is this; that under this guise of doing nothing, being peaceful and everything else, there is a movement afoot to completely overturn the state. Do you think that people who talk like this will be satisfied with a federal state? That may be the first step only. No, I am sure that there is no Government in this world, with whatever goodwill towards its minorities that can view with complacency such a situation. And as for peacefulness I shall be prepared to place the evidence available to me before the Hon. Members of this house, who are interested; that will make them alter their views as to the peaceful Gandhian satyagraha movement.”

“At their last convention, they mentioned about the Tamil people now being called upon to make the supreme sacrifice and that every Tamil being a soldier in this struggle.” (Towards a new Era. page 462 -SWRD selected speeches).

 

However, having considered this background and the Government’s concerns for integration, it would be interesting to study the reason why this bill, so well-intended for the benefit of both communities, should create the extent of controversy it did.  The Tamils did oppose it but the real opposition came from the most powerful section of the society; the English- speaking elite, of both Sinhala and Tamil, who ruled the country up to then.

Making Sinhala the Official language would mean that all government administration matters, Police matters, administration of security forces, administration and litigation in courts, administration and education in schools and the management of Government Corporations should be done in Snihala. As for the north and east, the court proceedings and the education were to be conducted in Tamil. At the time this legislation was passed, all these above institutions had a more than 150year legacy of conducting their affairs in English with a staff conditioned to work in English and hence most of them were not only linguistically, but culturally too, were English. But now this entire officer corps and the ancillary bodies had to undergo a radical linguistic revolution. This evoked an enormous amount of loathing in the rank and file of all these institutions. This however was accentuated by the fact that these institutions by that time were made up of almost 75 % non-Sinhala staff who had little hopes of learning Sinhala. What really mattered was not that a person was Sinhala by his name or otherwise but whether that person was culturally inclined for the switching into Sinhala. The Church, a powerful element in the post-colonial Ceylon due to their influence on education, and the Catholic and Christian Sinhala population, which was the powerful element among the Sinhalese, all opposed this move. This meant at least  85 % of the establishment that mattered, working against the ‘Swabasha policy’ of the Government.

 

The reforms ushered in by the Official language bill should not be viewed for its linguistic revolution alone for what is more significant was the Cultural Revolution the bill was eventually expected to bring about in the post-independent Ceylon. The English educated ruling class at the time spoke of the vernacular educated masses as ‘tree climbers’ and they were truly the ‘hoi polloi’. Among other sabotaging tactics, the elites were able to instill a sense of uncertainty in the minds of the general public by calling the proposed switch over as a ‘take over of the administration by the uncultured tree climbers’

 

The English press, lead by the ‘Lake House’ went to town against the bill calling Bandaranaike ‘Banda’; a deprecating term signifying an unsophisticated man from a backward village.  They saw no good in any of the progressive reforms of the Bandaranaike Government including the introduction of labour reforms, nationalization of the Ports and transport systems, establishment of a host of new Government institutions to facilitate public services, introduction of new social reforms to create a more inclusive Sri Lankan society, establishing diplomatic ties with the socialist world block etc.. In fact, most of those reforms worked against the powerful elements of vested interest in the society that comprised the 6.3 % of the Ceylonese polity. The anti- Government propaganda campaign was thus let loose at full throttle with not only the blessings but also with active participation of these elements of powerful vested interests.

 

These vested interest groups however lacked tenable arguments to buttress their case against ‘Banda’s popular reforms and in that situation, they found the powerful anti-language campaign launched by the privileged Tamil minority a convenient peg to hang their ‘loss of privileges’. They found opposing Bandaranaike on behalf of an ‘emergent aggrieved minority’ more effective and tenable than opposing him from the standpoint of a questionable colonial legacy. The powerful 6.3 % of the Ceylon population that controlled 80 % of the country’s resources thus got hitched on to the anti-language campaign against the Bandaranaike Government on common grounds and together they called ‘down with Sinhala only’.

 

It is the Church that baptized this act as ‘Sinhala only’ because it said that Sinhala is the only official language for the whole country. In Malaysia Malay language that is spoken by less than 50% of the country’s population was made the only official language but they did not call it ‘Malay only’ and so it is in other countries like Thailand and Latvia. In India about 34% of its people use Dravidian languages as their first language but yet, India has not made Tamil which is the main Dravidian language an official language of the country. The quintessence of the opposition to the official language bill arose, not because of the Tamil community whose leaders never wanted Tamil to be made even a working language at the time but because the powerful westernized elements never wanted their language, English, to be dispensed with because language meant everything to them and their generations to come!

 

There was yet another group that opposed Bandaranaike’s language policy tooth and nail and that was the Marxist political parties (LSSP and CP) that enjoyed 19 seats in the Parliament at the time. Even though they followed the Marxist philosophy the leaders of that movement belong to the elitist families in Ceylon who had learned their Marxism in London. Hence they were educated but were the ‘pukka sahibs’ in Sri Lankan socialist politics. At independence, the two Marxist Parties (LSSP and CP) formed the Opposition to the ruling UNP which meant that they were ‘the Government in waiting’ at the time.  However, with the advent of Bandaranaike’s SLFP, with its center-left policies, the Marxist parties who were more ideological and less indigenous found their political base under increasing threat and their power on the wane. Hence in hindsight they opposed Bandaranaike on everything he did and made the country almost ungovernable with a string of trade union motivated strikes from 1956 to 1959. They were the first to oppose the Language bill in Parliament and that too quite tangibly. As often described by Mr P. Sivasittamperam, the former TULF deputy, ‘It was the Marxist agitation that spurred on the Tamils leaders too’.

 

Although the Marxist Parties died a natural political death due to their inability to feel the indigenous aspirations, the vociferous opposition they staged against the Language bill still reverberates in the unended language debate in the country even to this day and has spawned a leftist elite that articulate the injustice the Bill brought to 12 % minority glossing over the greater justice it brought to 80 % majority after 150 years of injustice.

 

The Tamils now under the leadership of the Chauvinist Chelvanayagam embraced this socially and politically controversial situation with both arms. They were looking for ‘grievances’ and here, was a golden opportunity. Mr S. Rasalingam (Tamil) writing to the Island on the 19th December 2007 under the heading ‘Senanayake’s and the Federal Party’ states, “What was conspicuously lacking in the leaders of the Federal party (ITAK) was the need for ‘bridge building’ and understanding between the two communities. The Tamil public servants who tried to enact the Tamil provisions in keeping with the 56 Swabasha bill were threatened because the Federal Party saw the advantage in clinging on to the Swabasha grievances. The Federal Party referred to have the grievances than Tamil language reforms.”.

 

Hence the Language Bill, opposed by the powerful ‘colonial baggage’ and the trade unionist and the Marxist ran in to lot of turmoil, vilified as the ‘Sinhala only Act’ for propaganda purposes, ended up as the most controversial piece of legislation in the independent Ceylon and the ‘causus belli’ of the so-called ‘ethnic conflict’. There has been so much propaganda created against this bill, even in the Sinhala society that, if you consult 10 Sinhalese on this issue probably 7 of them would concur that it was the ‘Sinhala only’ act that created all this conflict. Ironically, this is despite the fact, that those very people who think on those lines have benefited fully from the reforms introduced by Bandaranaike and have advanced their lot over the years as a result.  Little do they realize that if not for the Swabasha Act, the Cheguevera style Sinhala rebellion that staged an insurrection in 1971 would have yielded more mass support and may have eventually succeeded in capturing power in Ceylon! 

 

  1. Colonization of Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan Government with Sinhalese.

 

This particular grievance has necessarily got to be evaluated from the standpoint of Tamil claim for a ‘historical ownership’ of some parts of Ceylon. According to the most respected historians of Ceylon, K M De Silva (Sinhalese) and Indrapala Karthegesu (Tamil), the earliest known Tamil settlements in Ceylon took route in the 11th century with the Moghul domination of India. Even then those settlements have been confined to the Jaffna peninsula with the jungle stretching into the interior from this side of ‘Elephant pass (the peninsular neck, as the name denotes). The Peninsula had always remained within the ambit of the suzerainty of the King of ‘Cinghaladeepa’ except in occasions where the country was invaded by Indian dynastic Kings of Chola and Pandya.

 

Sinhala inscriptions (Vallipuram Sannasa) relating to the 10th century has also been discovered from the precincts of Naga Vihara (Buddhist temple) in the Jaffna peninsula.

 

According to the records of the Portuguese who acceded to coastal areas of Ceylon in the early 16th century they had encountered Sankilli in Jaffna with claims of ‘war lordship’ over the peninsula.  The Dutch who succeeded Portuguese have clearer records to say how they colonized the eastern sea belt of Ceylon with Tamil population from South India to grow tobacco.

 

Robert Knox is a shipwrecked British sailor who was taken into custody by the Sinhalese King in 1660 at a place called Kottayam in the Eastern coast. He was held a prisoner in captivity by the Sinhalese for 19 years. After ‘God set him free’ he went to England and authored a book called ‘A historical relation of Ceylon’.  This book, even though not very kind towards the Sinhalese, gives an independent account of the country; it’s customs, people, Government etc. of the day. The very fact that he was taken a prisoner at Kottayam, a place near Trincomalee in the Eastern Province of Ceylon and brought before the King of Kandy denotes in no uncertain terms that the Eastern province of Sri Lanka had remained a part of the Kandyan kingdom of Ceylon in 1660.

 

Similarly, there is a plethora of evidence available to prove that the East had never been a part of any ‘historical habitat’ of a Tamil kingdom as claimed by the Tamil leaders of today. Even after all those years of colonization of the east by the Dutch and the British, the Tamils do not make up for majority in the east even to this day (only 32% of the population). On the other hand, even though the Sinhalese still comprise a near 30 % of the Eastern province population, the statistics of the Land commissioner’s department would show that around 55 % of the land in the eastern province still belongs to the Sinhalese, having inherited those from their ancestors. Therefore, this strident position adopted by the Tamil leaders has necessarily been based on nothing but their need to carve out a larger part of Sri Lanka as their acclaimed Kingdom.

 

In post-colonial Ceylon when you consider the need for, and availability of, land for progressive measures like rejuvenating agriculture which was ruined by the British for 150 years, from where should the Government find the lands for the landless? Obviously from areas where there is arable land and areas that are sparsely populated. Sri Lanka’s average population density back in 1946 was 103 persons per Square km.. Considering the population density communally, almost all the ‘Sinhala majority areas’ were populated above this average. It was in the Eastern province where they had the lowest population density such as Baicoloa 29, Trincomalee 28, Vavuniya 6 and Mannar 13.  Therefore, since the irrigation works were in place in the Eastern Province and the land is also available there, where do we expect the Government to send the landless persons other than to the East?

 

It should also be noted that with the British discouraging paddy cultivation during the early part of 19th century, the lands in the Eastern province were abandoned by the people in preference to the commercial crops grown in the hill and southern part of the Island. But now when the accent is back on paddy cultivation it is nothing but right to reclaim those abandoned but fertile lands. Could any Government allow the Tamils to cling on to a demarcation arbitrarily made in 1845 by the colonials to claim all the parsley populated areas in the country in the name of a mythical ‘historical habitation’? Hence these claims are not only preposterous but also extremely counterproductive to an emerging nation.

 

The other important point to note here is that on the eve of independence the Tamil leaders took a lot of time of the departing British to impress them on their trepidations of the likely take-over of the country by the majority Sinhalese. As a check on this, they brought in the infamous 50-50 proposal. In this they proposed that the National Assembly under the new constitution should have 50 % of its seats reserved for the minority communities (to be appointed) while the balance 50 % is to be filled by the members who get elected through popular vote. Lord Soulbury and Sir Ivor Jennings rejected this proposal as ‘a device to convert the majority into a minority through constitutional means’. D S Senanayake in his biography recounts how difficult it was to assuage the Tamil leaders like G G Ponnambalam and S. J. V. Chelvanayagam. “Every time I am called upon to meet the British Under Secretary for Colonies, I find that some Tamil leaders have had a consultation before me and even after I finish my meeting I would find them walking into the office of the Undersecretary probably to know what conclusions were reached at our discussions’.

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2

Area & population Density by District & Province 1997*

Province  District    Land area  Land %  Population    Pop. Density      Remarks

                                   Sq.Km.                                             per sq; Km.

North        Jaffna         2072.25      3.2           1,008,000.        486.4           Only Jaffna is densely  

                 Mannar      2002.06       2.9              126,000.          62.9           populated. Vanni is forest

                 Vavunia     2645.16       3.9              108,000.          40.8          except for main towns &

                 Mulativ      1966.06       3.0                90,000.          45.8          coastal villages

                  Total         8688.53      13.1         1,332,000.         153.4

 

East        Battcoloa     2464.63        3.7             396,000.         160.7         Only main towns and villages.

              Ampara        4539.22        6.9             468,000           103.1         are densely populated.                   

              Trin.malee    2618.32        4.0            306,000.          116.9         Sinhala villages pace out in      

              Total            9622.07      14.6          1,170,000.         121.6         interior areas

 

Central    Kandy         2157.46        3.2          1,368,000.         634.1        Densely populated area

               Matale         1988.59        3.0             432,000.         217.2         Tea & hilly forest.                                        

               Nuw.Eliya   1437.19        2.1             630,000.         438.4         

                Total          5583.24        8.3           2,430,000.        435.2

 

SAB.     Rathnapura    3238.76       5.0            972,000            300.1        Densely populated.

              Kegalle          1,662,77      2.4            828,000.           498.0       Rubber and tea estates &

                 Total          4901.55       7.4           1,800,000           367.2      hilly forest

 

Uva       Badulla          2818.17        4.2            774,000.           274.6      Tea estates and hilly forest

              Mon.agala     5586.87        8.5            342,000.              61.2     No irrigation networks

                  Total         8405.04       12.7         1,116,000            132.8

 

SP          Galle             1673.91         5.0            990,000.           591.4         Densely populated              

              Matara           1246.56         1.9            774,000.           620.9        Coconut & Paddy lands

             Hambantota    2,593.36        4.0            522,000.          201.28

               Total            5,513.83        10.9        2,286,000.         414.59

 

NCP     Anura.pura      7129.21         11.0           720,000.           101.0     All irrigable lands have been 

            Polonnaruwa   3,403.76          5.0            324,000             95.2    cultivated. Forest reserves and

             Total             10,532.97        16.0        1,044,000            99.1       wet lands

 

NWP  Kurunegala      4,772.83          7.2          1,476,000.        309.3      Densely populated.

           Puttalma           2,976.43         4.5             594,000.         199.5     Coconut and paddy lands.

            Total               7,749.76        11.7         2,070,000.         267.1

 

WP    Colombo           652.42           1.0           2,052,000.        3,145.2      Densely populated

          Gampaha         1,398.85          2.0           1,692,000         1,209.6

          Kalutara           1,606.57         2.4            1,008,000.          627.4

          Total                3,657.84         5.4           4,752,000.        1,299.3

 

Island Total            64,651.83      100.0        18,000,000.           278.4         

 

Source; Department of Census & Statistics; Statistical abstract 1982 ( Population projected to 1997)  

 

Despite such lengthy and drawn out discussions on the future of minorities, the point to note is that never in any of those discussions have the Tamil leaders brought forth a ‘historical claim’ for the northern and eastern parts of the country. Their demands had necessarily been designed to ensure a bigger share of everything for their community in the state of independent Sri Lanka in its entirety. The very first instance where this demand for a ‘historical claim for north and the east’ saw the light of day was when SJV Chelvanayagam accused the Ceylon Government of ‘colonizing the historical Tamil areas with Sinhalese’ in 1951 joining the Galoya valley development debate. Further the ITAK Illankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi of SJV Chelvnayagam passing a resolution at its annual convention proclaimed to the world that Tamil areas were being ‘colonized’ with Singhalese under the Galoya valley project in the East.  However, before we venture to examine the veracity of these Tamil claims of alleged ‘colonization’, the overwhelming evidence on the ownership of the Eastern province would confirm beyond doubt that the Eastern province had always been a part of the Kandyan kingdom and it had never been a part of a historical Tamil settlement at any time of the history. Therefore, this history of ownership that SJV Chelvanayagam had been proclaiming to the world about, is no more historical than 1951, the first time he or any member of the Tamil community staked a claim for the ownership of the Eastern province of Ceylon.

 

The Tamil leaders often took the position that the Eastern province and the Northern Province were made in to separate administrative divisions under the Colebrook reforms to facilitate a communal administration in 1845. This is, as usual, is to give a twisted effect to the truth and the truth is that those were only made in to separate province for administration purposes and not communal purposes. Further in making such a claim the Tamil leaders conveniently hide the fact that it was these same Colebrook reforms that divided the country into 5 provinces in 1833, just 12 years ago. Those provinces were North, South, West, East and Central. In that division, the present North is a part of the present North Central and the present East is a part of the present Uva province. Hence those divisions, which were the first provincial divisions by the British did not recognize Tamil majority areas in any of the demarcations and made no indication of an existence of Tamil homeland. All what the 1845 reforms did was to create the North Central province, the Uva province, the Sabaragamuva Province and the Wayamba Province from dividing the 5 provinces further and if the British recognized a Tamil homeland as the Tamil leaders claim, nothing should have prevented them from creating a province out of the present north and east for administrative purposes and then call it the Tamil province.

 

The logical deduction we could now draw from these activities of the extremist Tamil leaders during the pre and post-independence periods is simply that, ‘After having tried their best to legitimize the privileged status of the Tamil community at the time of independence and having realized that those were not successful, these Tamil leaders have now focused their attention in carving out a separate state for the Tamils in the north and east of the country where they formed the majority at present’.

 

 

Galoya Valley development project was the first mega irrigation project of the independent Government of Ceylon. The facts about this project as per the Land commissioner’s department is that, a total of 20,005 families have been settled in the lands irrigated by this project and of those, 6432 have been Sinhala families while the balance 13573 have been Muslims and Tamils (SL Gunasekara Pandora’s Package-page 76). This will show how malicious the propaganda of the Tamil leaders have been when they say that only Sinhalese have been settled in the resettlement schemes of the Galoya development project. There were many Tamil officials who were involved in this project and a well-known personality among them has been Gate Mudliyar MS Kariappa. In his many writing and speeches, the Gate Mudliyar has made no bones about his admiration of the then Prime Minister Mr D S Senanayake and his sustainable development projects. He has always maintained that it was the Muslims in Ceylon that has benefited the most as a community from the Galoya valley project because the lands in the area covered by the project belonged mostly to Muslims.

 

The other serious point to note is the use of the term ‘colonization’ by these Tamil leaders. Colonization is a term used to denote settlements created by foreign powers after having captured weaker countries. Since Sri Lankan government is the democratically elected Government of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka and it is this Government that set up these schemes, the use of the term colonization is highly irrelevant and cynically mischievous in this context and by engaging that term the Tamil leaders have again made their malicious intentions clear.

 

The fact about Sri Lanka is when you consider the population density and the geological reality; it is only in the three provinces of North, East and Uva that mega development projects are feasible.  Hence the first project in the East was started at Galoya on the eastern slopes of the Mahaveli River (the longest river in Sri Lanka).

 

The unreasonable and the non-inclusive nature of these allegations made by these communal minded Tamil leaders become very plain when you consider the fact that there are about a Million Tamils (of recent Indian origin) living in the hill country in lands that belonged to the Sinhalese and up to now no Government have attempted to send those Tamils out of the area on the basis of their ethnicity and for being settled in a ‘Sinhalese area’. Further there are more than 500,000 Ceylon Tamils who have bought land and settled down in the so-called ‘Sinhala areas’ mainly in Colombo and the suburbs. When this was pointed out to the Tamil leaders they maintain that they are not against voluntary movement by people but what they are against is the settlement by the government. Well, voluntary movements are made to settle down in areas of preference by people when they have money to do so. In other words, a voluntary movement is a privilege of the rich. On the other hand, these people, to whom lands were granted by the government, had been landless farmers and they could neither make a living nor make a contribution to the country’s development because they had no money to buy lands.  Hence it is the responsibility of a progressive Government to allocate the country’s arable lands to its able farmers with the view of developing the country and its people. But if the Government distributing land to farmers for agriculture could be termed ‘Government colonization’, then by the same logic people buying lands in other areas and moving in should also be termed ‘Private colonization’.

 

In any country, the lands are owned by persons and institutions through registered deeds and the lands that are not claimed that way become the property of the State. In no country do they have lands belonging to communities. Therefore, these Tamil leaders in Ceylon stand unique in their attempt to arrogate lands of the country to a particular community. Sri Lanka is a country that belongs to all its citizens and hence every Sri Lankan should be able live wherever he chooses to or wherever the circumstances compel him to, without having to be conscious of his ethnicity or religion.

 

Hence as for the grievance of ‘Colonizing of Tamil lands wit Sinhalese’, there could never be a ‘colonization’ of a country by the elected government of that country. The lands of a country belong to its citizens, institutions and finally to the Government and hence there can not be any arrangement in a country where its lands could be owned by communities. The statistics would prove that the government-sponsored land allotments for landless in Sri Lanka since independence have been fair and accommodated all communities. 

 

  1. Non-implementation of the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam agreement in 1957.

 

This agreement was drafted by the Tamil leaders on the aftermath of the language bill as an excuse to counter the developments arising out of the Language bill of 1956.  This pact could not see the light of day since its provisions came under heavy criticism by the Sinhalese, the Buddhist clergy and by the political opposition, the UNP.

 

The Tamils call this as a big let down and have made it a point to propagate the world that ‘see, it is impossible to live with the Sinhalese since the Sinhala leaders never honor the agreements reached to address the legitimate grievances of the Tamil community’. The accusation has gained credibility over the years and even the SLFP itself, after Chandrika Bandaranaike acceded to leadership, has stridently taken the stand that ‘had the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam pact been implemented the Tamil problem would not have arisen and that Mr. Bandaranaike was compelled to abrogate that pact due to UNP’s extremism and political chicanery at the time’. Let us therefore examine the background and the contents of this ‘B-C Pact’ as it came to be known over the years.

 

Since the Tamil leaders lead by SJV Chelvanayagam has been agitating for some time to address the grievances of the Tamils, and also since Chelvanayagam continued to threaten after 1956 to organize a ‘hartal ’(peoples protest) in the north and east, Mr. Bandaranaike initially thought that he should give an ear to these issues and put those nagging issue behind once and for all.  Hence, he suggested to the Tamil leaders to see whether some of their demands could be accommodated in the Regional Council bill which the Government had had in a draft form at the time to decentralize the administration to the regions. Hence initially he was inclined to accommodate the demands made by the Tamil leaders favorably. But when the Tamil leaders put their demands the demands went beyond the scope of the intended Regional council bill and the contents of the B-C pact proposed by the Federal party included the following,

 

  1. The Regional Councils that control the region and the borders of such regional areas to be defined in the act.
  2. The Northern Province is to form one regional council while the Eastern Province is to form one or more Regional Councils.
  3. Provision is to be made in the bill to enable two or more Regional councils to amalgamate themselves even beyond provincial limits.
  4. Provision is to be made for direct election of representatives to the Regional Councils and the electorates to be defined by a delimitation committee. A Chairman of the Regional Council is to be elected from among the regional MPs.
  5. Regional councils are to be empowered with authority over specific subjects including Agriculture, Co-operatives, Lands, Land development, Colonization, Education, Health, Industries, Fisheries, Social service, Housing, Electricity and water schemes.
  6. In the matter of colonization schemes the power of the Regional Councils should include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work within such schemes. The position regarding the area at present, administered by the Galoya Board, requires reconsideration.
  7. The Central government will provide block grants to the regional council and the principal on which grants are computed shall be gone in to. The Regional Council will have the powers for taxation and borrowing.
  8. The official language of the Northern regional council and the Eastern Regional Council shall be Tamil

 

Even though Mr Bandaranaike agreed to consider these proposals once the debate on these proposals elucidated the finer aspects of the issues involved, Mr Bandaranaike himself came to the conclusion that the pact under consideration would eventually cause more problems than it would solve. Hence, he abrogated the pact.

 

The Singhalese argued that the B-C pact is not a solution but only the beginning of a long drawn out struggle for a separate state which would be fraught with enormous danger to the rest of the country. Further it is only a stepping stone to the creation of a separate Tamil state which there never was in the history of this country, and which would be quite impractical considering that Tamil Nadu, (from where the Tamil people originated) is only 22 miles away. They pointed out that the IATK The Party for a Tamil State) was formed by Chelvanayagam in 1949, just one year after independence, and the resolutions passed at that Party demanded “Inalienable rights of the Tamil speaking people for their political autonomy, their rights to the territories which they have been traditionally occupying’ and also of the rights of the ‘Tamil speaking nation of Ceylon’. It was also a fact that Chelvanayagam joining the Throne speech debate of the first independent government of Ceylon came out with his idea that “if the Sinhalese could become independent from Britain why not we Tamils form our own state by seceding from the rest of the country?”. Further in the Biography of Chelvanyagam written by his son in law Prof. AJ Wilson, Prof. Wilson admits that Chelvanayagam had a strategy of ‘little now and more later’ in attaining this Promised Land for the Ceylon Tamils.

 

An important consideration that a lot of people tend to gloss over when evaluating the features of the Sri Lankan conflict is that, they view the Sinhalese as a community that, by virtue of their majority position in Sri Lanka, should not have concerns of being marginalized or overwhelmed by any other community. The fact is that the 7million Sinhalese at the time independence always did consider the 45million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, to the north of Sri Lanka as invasive. This is a fact that has been proved 33 times throughout the history of Sri Lanka and hence the Sinhalese had great apprehensions of being overwhelmed by these southern Indian Tamil kingdoms.  Therefore, the Sinhalese do not consider the Tamil minority just as a ‘minority’ in the common sense of the term but as an ‘arm’ of that communally conscious state of Tamil Nadu just 22 miles adrift of the north of Ceylon. In that light, any concessions granted to Tamils for autonomy in the north is viewed by the majority in the country with a sense of trepidation where you invite more trouble in the future.

 

Therefore, it should be plain to anybody with common sense that the B-C pact was not the solution to an ‘ethnic problem’ but the beginning of a problem that probably would continue over a few generations. If the land and other rights were granted under the B-C Pact as proposed, the protagonist of Tamil terrorism Prabhakaran would have been able launch his violent pursuits from a much more legitimate position than he eventually did.  

 

Yet quite unfortunately it is the Sinhalese leaders like Chandrika Kumaratunge who had been droning the argument that, “Had the UNP not opposed the B- C Pact, there would be no Tamil problem today’. Such arguments are necessarily based on political expediencies of the Chandrika regime which came to power promising peace and then led the country to the verge of separation having also killed the most amount of Sinhalese and Tamils in that regime’s infamous ‘war for peace’.

 

JR Jayawardene in his autobiography has replied Chandrika’s accusation quite effectively as to why he opposed the B-C pact in 1958. He maintains that, what the language bill did in 1956 was to make Sinhalese the official language of the country and if the Tamil grievances emanated from that bill the scope of the B-C pact should be limited to language whereas the B-C Pact sought to alienate land and a host of other such powers to the proposed Regional councils under the guise of new found ‘Tamil grievances’. Chandrika and the likeminded SLFPers and the Leftist Trostkite elements should do well to reflect on Mr Bandaranaike’s speech  made in Parliament on 4th June 1958 where he states, “ Mr Rajadurai in his speech called the attention of the audience to the fact that Tamil people outside India are struggling for the recognition of their human rights and the Tamils in this country can not hope to preserve their language and culture with self respect unless they achieve an autonomous region of their own within a federal set up: And he further said that the Tamils in India, Africa, Malaysia and Ceylon are struggling for freedom, but in a few days the birth of Tamil Nadu will take place bringing the Tamils living under the far flung corners of the world under one flag. That is the ‘federal flag’ to which the Hon member for Kopay (Mr C Vanniyasingham) referred, so proudly in his speech”. – (Towards a New Era . page 463) Mr. Bandaranaike further predicted that the Tamils would eventually resort to violence to achieve this greater Tamil Nadu by the following reference in the same speech, “They know that their own followers under the camouflage of peacefulness are bound to indulge in the orgy of the wildest violence. It is bound to come to that. Surely, we know that. I referred earlier to the speech made by Hon member for Batticaloa. I quoted that in full. That is a speech made on 6th April which appeared in Ceylon observer of 17th April (then under the Lake House backed by the ‘colonial baggage’).   

 

Hence there is no greater betrayal of Bandaranaike than to say that ‘He had to abandon the B-C pact due to UNP’ opposition’, when in fact the abrogation of the pact was a considered move by Mr Bandaranaike to save the country from coming under the Tamil Nadu flag as early as the 1950’s. Ironically those who indulge in this political betrayal in today’s politics is none other than his political progeny Chandrika and the ‘leftover Leftist’ in the form of Dew Gunesekara and Dilan Perera. The tragedy however is that this political chicanery aimed at the UNP by the Chandrika’s SLFP ended up giving immense credibility to the Tamil claim that ‘it is the Sinhala leaders who are responsible for the Tamil grievances and the eventual violence’.

 

  1. Non- implementation of the Dudley Senanayake – Chelvanayagam pact of 1966.

Dudly Senanayake was invited to take over the mantle of leadership of the UNP in 1959 after Sir John Kotelawala, who plummeted the Party to a new low in voter popularity, gave up politics in 1956. Dudley was able to give a fresh outlook to the party with the help of his Deputy J R Jayawardene and finally was able to defeat the SLFP led coalition in 1965. Yet the UNP, on its own, managed only 66 seats in a 145 seat Parliament and even with the support from allies, could only form a minority Government. The Tamil parties, All Ceylon Tamil Congress and the Federal party pledged support to UNP and with their support Dudley could muster 91 seats which was a comfortable majority. Dudley Senanayake formed the Government with ministerial portfolios to Tamil parties but it soon became apparent that the price the Tamils had in mind was beyond ministerial portfolios.

 

They wanted the implementation of the Regional Council proposals presented by them to the previous Government. Dudley, a bachelor brought up in western ways and values had little inclination for meaningful emancipation and liberation of the masses. His politics was mainly based on facile western democracy which in the ex-colonial context was directed more at preserving the pre-independent status quo than bringing the fruits of independence to masses. Since Dudley had a more than just a moral obligation towards the Tamils, he agreed to consider the Tamil leader’s demands for Regional Councils with a degree of autonomy in the North and East.

 

The SLFP led by Mrs Bandaranaike opposed this move tooth and nail. The same forces and the same arguments that supported SWRD to overcome the B-C Pact prevailed over Dudley Senanayake and prevented any bill being brought to the Parliament to implement the Regional Councils. A significant political issue at that point however was the ideological turnaround of the Leftist parties who formed the vanguard in this opposition to Dudley Senanayake’s inclination of granting autonomy to Tamils. The Leftist parties by then had joined Mrs Bandaranaike’s United Front to form a political coalition to defeat the UNP. Therefore, in the interest of their new political alliance, the Leftist leaders had changed their political outlook on the Tamil issue.

 

The protests organized by the joint opposition often showed signs of getting out of control, and when the police opened fire against a massive demonstration held on the 6th January 1966, a Buddhist monk by the name of Dambarawe Ratnasara was killed. Dudley Senanayake finally had to give an ear to the majority forebodings that were justifiably based more on Tamil actions since independence and withdraw his intention to accommodate Tamil demands. This however added one more grievance to the list of Tamil grievances.

 

Yet logically, not conceding to a demand that was rejected before can not augment a list of grievances. The original demand may still remain in the lists as an uncompromised issue and that would be the real grievance, if at all, of the Tamils. Therefore, it would be rather unethical and also dishonest on the part of the Tamil leadership and their propaganda to add every failed attempt made by the Sri Lankan Government to address their ‘perceived grievances’ as yet another item of ‘Tamil grievance’. The mere fact that Dudley Senanayake could not give in to the demands of the Tamil leadership which were considered by the majority as ‘excessive and embodying a separatist proclivity’ can not, in itself, add anything more to the grievances of the Tamils.

 

But the events that lead to this withdrawal of the D-C pact by the Government exposed the much spoken of ‘political sincerities’ of the Leftist leaders who pontificated as colossuses in principled politics.  The question is when did they really betray their principles; was it when they opposed the language bill in 1956 or was it when they opposed the Dudley – Chelvanayagam pact in 1966? The truth is that in 1956 they opposed the Language bill because they were concerned about consolidating the Indian Tamil vote to their party against Bandaranaike and when they opposed the D-C pact in 1966 they were in alliance with Mrs. Bandaranaike against the UNP. The tragedy of democratic politics in the post-independent Ceylon was that the country never had national leaders with national interest in mind but party leaders who were always propelled by their own political interest often at the cost of larger national interest.

 

 

  1. Standardization of entry marks to the country’s Universities.

 From the inception of University education in Sri Lanka, the admission to the Sri Lanka’s Universities had been based on the number of marks obtained by each student at the University Entrance examinations i.e. the Advanced Level examination. During the pre-independent era however there was no big competition for the births in the Universities and the standard requirement was 3 AL passes.  Those who obtained 3 AL passes just walked into the Universities and the majority of those who entered the Universities happened to be students from Jaffna and Colombo, the two districts with the best education facilities. However, the liberalization of education after the Donoughmore reforms and then the introduction of Swabasha education changed this situation and made the University entrances extremely competitive. But still through the 1950’s and 1960’s the districts of Jaffna and Colombo managed to secure the highest number of places in the universities, especially in the science faculties that produced Doctors Engineers etc. This was because those two districts, over a few decades, had schools well equipped with competent teachers and infrastructure to produce high marks among its students. On the other hand, districts like Moneragala and Badulla (both in Uva) were marginalized in education and the students in those districts could never obtain admission to the Universities even though they were obtaining results well above the 3 AL passes, the minimum requirement for the University entrances. While this created an emboldening cyclical effect on the education standards in Jaffna and Colombo it impacted adversely on the education in areas such as Moneragala and Badulla exacerbating the disparity in education right across the country.

 

In 1972 the Government of Mrs. Bandaranaike introduced a system to overcome this malady. This new system was to adopt a flexible system which would take students into the Universities from all the 22 districts of the country by differing the University entrance marks according to the education facilities available in each district. A new entry index, endemic to each district, reflected the number of schools with AL classes, laboratory facilities, competent teachers, and all other such factors in the district that will have bearing on the marks an AL student would obtain at the examination. Hence depending on those variable factors, this entry index would be high in districts where the facilities are high and low in districts where facilities are low. The new system ensured candidates from backward districts a better chance of entering the university.

 

This new entry system, in order to appreciate its appropriateness, should properly be evaluated against the backdrop of the immense competition the Sri Lankan universities started to experience, in admissions in late 1960’under the traditional ‘raw merit’ system. Sri Lanka is a country where the education is free from the kindergarten right up to the university. In this setup, every year about 120,000 candidates get through the University Entrance examinations earning basic entry marks. But since the universities could take only a limited number, about 25,000 at present, into their various streams of learning, the only basis on which the selection (or elimination) had been, the aggregate marks scored by the individual student at the AL or UE examination in his/ her particular stream. Therefore, at the end only those with the highest aggregate marks from Colombo and Jaffna continued to get selected to the Universities leaving behind those who are qualified to enter from other areas. This practice made many a parent and a student disenchanted and even the fact that the number of universities in Sri Lanka were increased from 4 to 20 in a matter of 30 years, did not help their cause either.

 

Another extraordinary feature in the Sri Lankan education system is that all the Universities in the country are state-sponsored and hence the state with its enormous budget on education, cannot afford more higher education facilities than what it maintains at the moment. Further, the facilities available at present are considered adequate to produce the national requirement of higher educated persons. Hence in this milieu, every year about 90,000 university aspirants with basic entry marks are denied entry to higher education, making them chose their next best option as their lifetime career. In a recent speech, Hon Minister for Higher Education Mr Vishva Warnapala released the figures for the year 2007 where he said that there are 131,000 aspirants who have obtained entry marks to the universities for the year while the Universities could accommodate only 20,000 entrants.

 

Apart from the frustration this created among the country’s budding intelligentsia, this catalyzed an imbalanced education system throughout the country which catered only to the students from privileged areas. This system become all the more unfair when you consider the fact that often the performances of the students in marginalized areas have been more credible given the limited facilities available in the areas but yet due to the system, areas such as Moneragala, Badulla and Ampara will never produce the doctors they require for their hospitals and Engineers needed for their development work.

 

 

 

Table 3

Availability of Science Teaching Facilities as per Educational district in 1977

 

Educational             Total          No. of A/L No. of      No. of A/L   No. of        No. of Students         Ratio of Students 

District                    Students     Science      Graduate Science         Science      in Grades10& 11      Science to Non science

                                                   Classes      Science    Classes per   Graduates                                    in grades 10 & 11

                                                                     Teachers  Student         per A/L

                                                                                                          Class          Science   Non Sci.

Jaffna (Tamil)        155,751       51               430         1 for 3054       8.4            4,631       2,469             1.88  to  1

Colombo(Multi-)   191,771       34               309         1 for 5642       9.0            5,194       3,584             1.45  to  1

Batticaloa(Tamil)    48,901        11                51         1 for 4445       4.6                606         605              1.00  to  1

Trin.malee (T &S)   40,928       14                30          1 for 2923       2.8                293         324              0.90  to  1

Vavuniya ( Tamil)   20,557         4                24          1 for 5139       6.0               144          213              0.68  to  1

Galle ( Sinhala)      149,870       32                 6           1 for 4683      1.9              2,473      4,974             0.50  to  1 

Kandy (Sinhala)     201,722       41                 4           1 for 4920      3.5             2,662       5,062             0.53  to  1  

Kegalle ( Sinhala)  131 380        17              34           1 for 7728      2.0             1,568       4,161              0.68  to  1

Bandarawela ( s)      71,118         9               19           1 for 7902      2.1                461       1,172              0.38  to  1

Polonnaruwa (S)      39,098         6                 6           1 for 6516      1.0                147          443              0.38  to  1

Ratnapura (S)         117,940       14                6           1 for 8424       4.5                635       2,306              0.28  to  1

Tangalle (S)             77,640         4                7           1 for 19,365    1.8               508       2,320               0.22  to  1   

 

The above is the situation in 12 out of the 21 districts in Sri Lanka. It is noticeable that Science students are high in Tamil areas whereas it is low in Sinhala areas due to absence of facilities and in certain areas (Tangalle) there were no facilities at all. Science education produce Doctors, Engineers and other professionals.

Standardization of entry was introduced in view of this situation.

 

Source; Parliament Hanzard Hon. Minister, Cyril Mathew’s speech on 7/11/1978       

 

 

Therefore. all these years, such areas had to get professionals and academics from outside their area and hence it so happened that those professionals, stationed without their families in the outpost, were counting the days of the week to get home. This brings about absenteeism and shorter working hours and under such circumstances it would be difficult to expect a devoted service from the professionals and academics serving in the area. It would be the same with Government officers, teachers etc. and as a result areas such as Moneragala will never come out of its backwardness under the present university entry system based on ‘raw merit’.

 

This therefore created a dual problem for these backward areas. On the one hand those who have secured sufficient marks to enter the Universities from the area were prevented from entering the University due to this ‘raw merit’ system and on the other hand the area never receive adequate service from the outstation based professionals and officers.  This is a vicious cycle of negativity and it is in order to correct this situation that the Standardization of University entry marks was introduced by Mrs Bandaranaike’s Government in 1972.

 

The Tamil leaders however treated this system with a lot of contempt and articulated that this is deliberately done to prevent Tamil students from entering the University. They said the ‘Government is designing ways to bring in Sinhala students who have scored less marks over the Tamil students who are more intelligent!’ Further, with the help of their propaganda mechanism already in place the Tamil leaders proclaimed to the world that the ‘Sinhala Government’ is a racist government that does not recognize the merit in Tamils and hence the Tamils are compelled to resort to violence.

 

The factual situation however, according to the statistics of entry to the universities, post-standardization, in the two important professions of Medicine and Engineering, would reveal that there had been no such adverse impact on the number of Tamil students seeking admission and the effect had been only in increasing the intake of Sinhala students in to the Universities. The following statistics will confirm this point.

 

Entry Statistics to the Universities between 1965 to 1970 (Pre- standardization)

                                                          Sinhala                   Tamil

Medicine                                            410                         464

Engineering                                        336                         346

 

It should be noted that this has been the trend in university entrance even after independence (It was more favorable to the Tamils before the independence). The Tamil community despite the fact that their population ratio is only 12 % of the national population continued to enjoy more than 50 % of the limited higher educational opportunities in the country.

 

Entry Statistics to the Universities between 1971 to 1976 (Post- standardization)

                                                            Sinhala                  Tamil

Medicine                                              795                         393

Engineering                                          921                         331

 

What is apparent here is that the drop in the reduction in the intake of Tamil students has been marginal (about 10.6 %) but the accusations made and the propaganda launched by the Tamil leaders are quite out of proportion to this drop of 10.6 %. Further it appeared as if what angered the Tamil leaders most was the fact that there had been an increase of 131 % in the intake of Sinhala students. It should however be noted that the ratio of Tamil to Sinhala in the University intake is still 2 to 3, i.e. 3 Sinhalese to every 2 Tamil and it is a far cry from the applicable proportional ratio, if you consider the population ratio, which is 6 Sinhalese to every 1 Tamil. Therefore, it should be clear that Government never attempted to take entrants to the Universities on a ‘communally discriminatory basis’ as often alleged by Tamil Propaganda but rather on regionally fair basis in the interest of the country.

 

The point to note here is that, had the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, been a disadvantaged community, discriminated against by the Sinhalese for years as alleged, they should be very pleased when standardization was introduced as a basis for the University entrances such as the Dalit cast members in India. But the irony is that when standardization was introduced as the basis of university entrants the Tamils leaders took that up as discriminatory measure aimed against the Tamil community and since then this has become one of their major ‘grievances’ against the Government of Sri Lanka.

 

Standardization is a system adopted by many countries including the United States of America to ensure that the resources of a country is equitably distributed thereby ensuring balanced development in the country. What is called ‘standardization’ in Sri Lanka is called ‘affirmative action’ in the USA where Black students from backward areas are granted more points for University and School admission

 

In terms modern development and for a country like Sri Lanka, education in science could be considered as the most vital field of education. Schedule given in Page … gives an indication of the facilities available in different districts in Sri Lanka as at 1972. These facilities are measured in terms of no. of Advance Level (science) classes available to the student population in the district and the ratio of graduate science teachers available per AL Science class. The schedule marks the Tamil areas with a (T).

 

Accordingly, the time this standardization was introduced the Tamil areas enjoyed the highest number of AL science classes per student population and the highest number of graduate teacher per AL science class. The only exception to this is Colombo where the population is multi- communal. This gives some indication of the situation in Sri Lanka with regard to education after 24 years of independence, albeit a rather improved version of the situation that existed during the time of the colonial Government confirming the position that Tamil areas always had the edge over the other areas in education. Since education is a barometer of advancement of a community it is not surprising that the Tamil community, with such an education system in place, dominated the country’s administrative and professional spheres for so long.

 

What is important is that this exposed the Tamil claim that the Sinhala dominated government is discriminatory in not recognizing merit in University admissions, for merit cannot be evaluated in a competitive situation where the competitors are not placed on a level playing field.  Therefore, the hype created by Tamil leaders is primarily due to their realizing the importance of this reform in eventually causing the loss of the stranglehold they had on the Sri Lankan society. It was this unique monopoly over education that afforded them a position of dominance in the SL society on the one hand and the opportunities to migrate to other advanced countries in the world on the other.

 

This privileged position enjoyed by Tamils in education will be discussed in detail in the ensuing paragraphs and under the ‘Genesis of the Tamil problem’. However, the Tamil leaders when accosted with these glaring disparities in educational opportunities try to defend their position by maintaining that ‘education is the fort of the Tamils’ because they occupy arid areas of the country. This is not a tenable position because in that case what they should request is for those areas to be improved with better irrigation facilities rather than instigating the Tamil youth to take to arms against the standardization of entry marks to the country’s universities.

 

The fact that the Tamils dominated every sphere of Sri Lankan activity through this extraordinary advantage in education helped the Tamil leaders to project the Tamil community as a community superior to the other communities in Sri Lanka thereby creating a ‘superior complex’ among the Tamils in general. This was beginning to create socio-economic issues in the country while racialist leaders like Chelvanayagam always ridiculed the Government saying, “The Sinhalese politicians talk big but if they do not have the Tamil Doctors, Engineers, Accountants and Scientists they will have to close down their country”.

 

However, in the customary way of giving a communal twist to everything the post-independent Sri Lankan government did, the Tamil leaders flaunted this position of standardization of University entry marks as a communally motivated method so as to impress the Tamil youth that they have no option but to take to arms against the state to achieve their aspirations, thereby achieving their objective of creating unrest and agitation among Tamil youth to push them to violence.

 

  1. July 1983 Riots.

If you ask 10 Singhalese, even today, as to what they consider to be the reason for this ‘Ethnic conflict’, it is very probable that more than half of them will readily say that it is the July 83 riots in Colombo. Some would even go a little further to say that it is the ‘Black July’ of 1983.

 

These riots were ignited from incidents that took place in the Colombo General cemetery where the funeral ceremony of 13 soldiers killed in an LTTE ambush at Thinneveli on the 21st July 1983 was held. It was an emotionally charged atmosphere where the bereaved kith and kin of 13 young men had gathered to administer the last rights of their loved ones. By July 83 the LTTE’s war capabilities had not been tested extensively against the SL army and this was one instance where the LTTE had scored ‘one up’ and was also the first occasion where so many army personnel had been killed in one attack. The Government too had reasons for its worry because on the one hand the coffins of the 13 soldiers going to different parts of the country simultaneously may create some trepidation and unrest in the South and on the other the Government seemed to be running out of answer to the LTTE that is becoming exceedingly daring by the day.

 

Therefore, the government, in its perplexity, vacillated about the funeral arrangements for some time and finally the decision was made to have one ceremony for all the dead at the Colombo General Cemetery. Thousands of people had gathered at the cemetery for the mass funeral ceremony. The 13 coffins were brought to the cemetery hours after they were due, making the emotionally charged family members languish in the cemetery for hours. Since the ceremony was a common ceremony it could not accommodate individual eulogies adding more to the ire of the relatives. Finally, when the funeral ceremony was underway the troubles broke off. The Policemen on duty found it difficult to contain the crowds. The crowds after leaving the cemetery precincts started stoning Government buildings and Tamil establishments. The news of the unrest at the cemetery spread to other parts of Colombo and in a few hours the riots engulfed the whole of Colombo and the suburbs.

 

There was anarchy on the streets of Colombo and the Government of Mr J R Jayawrdene found itself placed between the devil and the deep blue sea. It was taken aback by the scale and intensity of the violence. During the months that lead to this, the Government had been advocating restraint in the face of continued violence by the Tamil militants. JR himself spoke of ‘ahimsa’ (nonviolence) in his many addresses to the nation giving the impression that he had not sized up the significance of the threat thrown by the Tamil militants. The Government now did not know whether to reign in, or to do what, with the raging mob violence.

According to the Report of the International Commission of Jurist (British section) – page 74, “The riots left about 400 people dead. It is probable that all of them were Tamils and again no one seems to be sure. 53 political prisoners, all Tamil, were murdered in the Welikada jail on two separate occasions, spaced two days apart.” The report further says, “At the time there were acts of creditable compassion, altruism and even heroism. Several first-hand stories of Sinhalese coming to help Tamil friends, and giving them shelter at great risks to themselves; likewise, when at one stage a call went out to the blood donors to save the lives of Tamil victims, many of the volunteers who came out were Sinhalese”-page 75.

 

Commenting on how the violence was continued on an organized scale the report says, “There is one more political and social, albeit wholly unofficial feature of the Sri Lankan life which must be mentioned here, and that is the so-called ‘goondas’. These are essentially, organized gangs of hooligans available for hire by anyone whom it happens to suit to foment trouble in the streets. It is openly admitted that every political party has its own rented or rentable goonda contingent. There are SLFP goondas, UNP goondas and doubtless goondas serving other political interests. The communal violence which began in Colombo bears every appearance of having been started by hired gangs or goondas”-page 22.

 

The riots targeting Tamils in Colombo and the suburbs that commenced on 23rd July caused loss of life and more damage to collateral owned by Tamils in the vicinity of Colombo. This was most unfortunate and much of the blame for this should lie with the Government who could not even assert itself until the 3rd day into the continuing violence. This made thousands of well to do Tamils destitute, being accommodated in makeshift refugee camps. The graphic details of violence and the site of women and children being housed in temporary huts surviving on handouts made a lot of adverse publicity against the Government and particularly against the Sinhalese.

 

The Tamil leaders made maximum mileage out of the situation to propagate their cause to the world and particularly to India.  The Indian Government, media and the Tamil Nadu reacted to the situation with such alacrity as if they had been expecting this, all this while. The Catholic Church too sprang into action and gave worldwide publicity to the brutalities of the ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ through their well-oiled publicity network at the Vatican. The Christian NGO’s also joined in the fray and blew the events of July 83 so much out of proportion that it was made into a ‘watershed’ to justify and instigate the most heinous crimes the LTTE was to unleash on the poor and helpless civilians for years in the south.

 

While admitting that the July 83 events were deplorable and should have been avoided at all costs what needs to be examined in the current context is whether it is a cause that can be used to justify further violence and alienation or whether it was the effect of the separatist campaign by the Tamil leaders and violence perpetrated by the Tamil militants up to then.

 

These July 83 riots took place in Sri Lanka on the 23rd July 1983. But the first political assassination by the LTTE, that of Jaffna’s SLFP Mayor, Alfred Duraiappah by V. Prabhakaran was recorded in June 1975, and since then the Tamil militants have been active under violent organizations like the LTTE, EPRLF, TELO etc.. The Head of the Sri Lanka Anti-Terrorist Unit IP Bastianpillai was killed by the LTTE in 1977. The establishment of District Development Councils, agreed between JR’s Government and TULF in 1981 as a solution to the ‘ethnic problem’, was not possible because the LTTE and other militant group disrupted the DDC election that were to be held in 1982 with unbridled violence. Along with these events, by the year1983, nine Police stations had been attacked and as a result the balance Police stations were housed within the Army camps of the area. The Tamil politicians themselves were complaining that the Police were not carrying out their normal duties.  14 Banks were broken in to, forcing other banks to put their shutters. 152 people were killed by the terrorist and among them were 71 Police officers, 15 soldiers, 9 politicians [including of TULF], 13 potential witnesses and 44 civilians. This may be negligible today when compared with the estimated 80.000 lives that this war has taken, but at that time those figures would certainly have raised an eyebrow.

Democracy had ceased to exist in that part of the country, as elections could not be held due to violence and in other words there was no civil administration in the North and some parts of the East by July 83. There were intermittent attacks staged by the terrorist on Government institutions. The Sinhala University students (400 of them) in the Jaffna campus were chased out in 1978 and in 1982 some 25,000 Sinhalese who had been living in Jaffna from the times their generations could account for, were chased out and were made to languish in refugee camps in the South.  

Further, the Sinhalese were getting restless with every act of terror reported from the North. Mr.Amirthalingam who was elevated to the portfolio of the Leader of the opposition, by virtue of the ‘past the post’ election system, made the best use of his office internationally, projecting Sri Lanka as a racial democracy voting on communal rather than party lines. He maintained that as a result the Tamils will always be confined to the opposition with the Sinhalese enjoying the fruits of office forever. This was a deliberately concocted lie to mislead foreign leaders as it was the SLFP that was second in the number of votes but TULF secured more seats than the SLFP though those were only from the North. President Jayawardene’s intermittent speeches lazed with non- violence and ahimsa in the face of terrorist atrocities did not go well too with the electorate and it gave the impression that Mr. Jayawardene was soft-peddling the terrorism in the North, not having understood its potential to destabilize the whole country.

 

On the other hand, some Sinhalese were of the opinion that the Tamil politicians were using the hospitality of Colombo and making money while campaigning for a separate state in the North, or in other words the ‘Tamils were having the cake and eating it too’. Even by 1983, Tamils were enjoying the plums of office in the country out of proportion to their share of population. Since more than 70 % of the country’s trade and commerce was also in their hands it was obvious to the Sinhalese that the separatist war in the North was fuelled by the money made in the South. Hence it may have appeared logical to chase the Tamils out of the areas where they made ‘hay’ for their ‘sun’ to shine in the ‘traditional homeland’. Some Sinhalese on a voluntary basis had started to boycott patronizing Tamil shops as it was generally felt that allowing Tamils to thrive in the South was a way of promoting separatism in the North. The Sansoni Commission report, (by retired Supreme Court judge Sansoni), did not mince its words when it placed the blame for the riots squarely on the Tamil separatist campaign spearheaded by the TULF since 1972.

 

It should be noted here that the first instance where communal riots took place in independent Ceylon was in 1958 when Chelvanayagam started tarring Sinhala name boards in the East. Since then no riots took place in the country till Amirthalingam started giving a militant dimension to the separatist campaign and Prabhakaran started interpreting it in palpable violent terms towards the late 1970’s. Hence a new wave of violence commenced in Colombo with unrest breaking out in 1978, 1981 and the worst in 1983.

 

These facts would exemplify that the events of July 83 were the effects of the incessant separatist campaign carried out by the TULF and the Tamils and if the situation was to improve the TULF had to clamp down on its campaign of separatism instigating the youth to violence. But instead the TULF with the backing of the Tamil Diaspora and the Church was so powerful that it was able to project these effects of violence, as the cause to perpetrate more violence afterward, to further its campaign of separatism.

 

The falsity of this position of alleged ethnic cleansing of Tamils in the Sinhala areas and particularly the effect of this much-hyped July 83 could be better observed from the official statistics of the Department of Census and Statistics. According to the Census the Tamil population in Colombo district has risen from 10 % in 1981 to 11 % in 2001 with corresponding increases in other Sinhala areas. On the other hand, the Sinhala population recorded in 1981 in the Tamil areas i.e. 6,659 in Jaffna, 8,683in Mannar, 3,992 in Mulaithivu and 11,255 in Batticaloa has been all but wiped out, recording a zero population by the year 2001. Hence the truth is that the violence of this separatist campaign has ethnically cleansed the Sinhalese from the North while it has not affected the Tamil population in the south but the whole world is made to believe that in Sri Lanka it is the ‘Sinhalese who are ethnically cleansing the Tamils’. This is the difference between the truth and propaganda of the ‘Ethnic conflict’ in Sri Lanka.

 

However, all was not lost for the members of the Tamil community who were subjected to disturbances of July 83. For many Tamils, it eventually turned to be a blessing in disguise. The benefits were in terms of seeking economic refuge in more developed countries of the world as ‘victims of persecution in their home country’. This was really a windfall because for decades the average Ceylonese had been ‘knocking’ to enter Britain and other western countries in search of a better standard of living. Professionals, both Sinhalese and Tamils, wished that they could secure employment in Britain because of the better standard of living and other opportunities a developed country would offer.  The wide publicity afforded July 83 events not only offered the Tamils this much- awaited opportunity but created a situation where your prospects abroad depended on the extent to which you could ‘horrify’ the event of July 83 and its aftermath!

 

Therefore, the events that followed July 83 spawned a situation where it paid for the average Tamil to blacken the name of the country where he was born and educated notwithstanding the fact that it was the free education in that country that made him the professional suitable to be absorbed into a developed western country.  Even though it is 25 years since the events took place, newspaper articles in the English press, as recently as July 2008, would still help Tamils who were not even born in July 83 to migrate to the west. It must be for this reason that even today the Christian and Catholic journalist manning the English newspapers in Sri Lanka give wide publicity to this event, that took place 25 years ago but has never happened since then.

 

On the 23rd July 2008, The Daily Mirror and The Island carried a number of articles on ‘July 83’ to commemorate 25 years of that ‘holocaust’ where thousands of Tamils died’. There is no official figure of the number who died in the July 83 disturbances as the Government did not convene an official commission of Inquiry into the incidents. But there were number of International NGO’s that conducted inquiries into the events and the most popular among those was the report submitted by a British Christian INGO called the International Commission of Jurists. This report has been often quoted by the Tamil Diaspora and the western agents to buttress their arguments to denigrate the ‘Sinhala Buddhist’. The International Commission of Jurists who visited Sri Lanka on the aftermath of the riots put the number died during the riots at 400 (page 74 of the report). The report also states of its inability to certify whether all of those who died belong to the Tamil community, since in a riot of that nature it is possible that there is indiscriminate violence and killings. But over the years the Tamil Diaspora and the English press in Sri Lanka has been able blow this out of proportion to such an extent that today nobody believes that the death toll of July 83 was only 400.

 

On the 5th February 2009, the Canadian Parliament convened a debate on the current Sri Lankan situation where 5 members of the Opposition dealt with the Sri Lankan situation fairly extensively calling UN to invoke the R2P (Right to Protect). They all, in addition to loads of other misinformation mentioned that 3000 Tamils died in the riots of July 83.

 

Political opportunists also joined in the July 83 propaganda bash as it offered an opportunity for the anti-UNP camp to demonize July 83 and then to hold the UNP responsible for this ‘Ethnic problem’. It was during Chandrika Kumaratunge’s time that July 83 was given undue publicity making it the ‘cause’ of all problems in Sri Lanka. Coming from a person of the caliber of Chandrika such posturing is understandable since her knowledge of Sri Lankan history is limited and essentially linked to political expediency. The ‘old’ left the LSSP and the CP after having aligned themselves with the SLFP now for their political survival have been critical of the UNP trying to hold it responsible for the ‘ethnic problem’ in Sri Lanka. The UNP definitely is responsible but a fairer analysis would elucidate that the UNP was guilty in their inability in avoiding it while the TULF and the militant Tamils groups were responsible for spawning it. But since the TULF is not a political threat to Chandrika’s SLFP and the ‘old left’ allies, they try to demonize the UNP for all what happened in July 83 whitewashing the TULF and the LTTE in the process. This is of tremendous value to the LTTE and the Tamil Diaspora for their propaganda abroad for they can say, “if you do not believe us listen to these Sinhala politicians”.

 

Therefore, July 83 is not the cause of, but definitely the effect of, Tamil violence. But July 83 was made into an event of crucial propaganda value by the Sri Lanka Tamils to migrate in search of greener pastures and also to justify the LTTE violence since then. The colonial vested interest of the Church used it for their anti-Buddhist propaganda while the anti-UNP political camp also sought to gain political mileage out of July 83. 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Brutality, the nemesis of grievances

Does LTTE violence correspond to grievances?

 

In the previous Chapter we discussed the primary grievances, the Ceylon Tamil community has been articulating over the years ‘as the reasons that lead their community to violence’.  But with time and with the Tamils taking to violence these ‘grievances’ may have multiplied. This is because when a group of people take to violence against the state to achieve their ends it sets off vicious cyclical of action where the State would resort to Police and the Army powers to rope in the renegades and the latter in turn adopting more sophisticated counter strategies and responding with more violence either as retaliation or to avoid being arrested. Yet even in such a context theoretically once those primary grievances are met the violence should stop and with that the law and order situation should become normal. This should be particularly so in the context of the negotiations the successive Sri Lanka Government’s conducted with the Tigers. The circumstances and the conditions under which these ‘Peace Talks’ were held made it plain that the Sri Lankan Government was very keen in reaching a workable solution with the LTTE.

 

However, the question of amnesty for terrorist and rebel action was never taken up during these discussions for the simple reason that the negotiations never reached that level due to the LTTE’s procrastination but the fact that successive SL Governments were always prepared to hold negotiations in earnest with the LTTE, as equal parties, in spite of the heinous crimes they committed, was indicative enough of Government’s preparedness to squash terrorist crimes. In fact, the successive SL Governments have proved that in practice by making Douglas Devanada and Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan (former terrorist), Ministers of the Government.

 

Therefore, it will not be the concern of this book to discuss the grievances that are the results of ‘violence to redress the grievances’. Instead the focus should be on those core grievances that forms the principal cause of this conflict. After all, it is these original grievances, that forms the nucleus of what is popularly known as the ‘Tamil cause’, the world over.

 

Describing LTTE violence in statistical language however does not do justice to the organization’s proven capacity to be destructive and cruel. Up to the time the Sri Lankan Government commenced the current military operation this conflict has cost the country 80,000 human lives and collateral worth over US $20 billion. It should also be noted that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in a report released on the 12th January 2008 described the LTTE as ‘The most dangerous and deadly extremist outfit in the world’. It is in that light that we should evaluate these grievances that we discussed in the previous chapter to examine whether these grievances could justify the damages caused in their name.

 

However, in keeping with the facts and evidence unearthed in the previous chapter, these 8 original grievances of the Tamil community, what they have eventually petered out to be with time, and their tenability in the current context, could be presented as follows, 

 

  • The letter ‘Shri’ introduced to motor vehicle registration after independence has been replaced with English letters in1991 and therefore there should be no reason for a grievance to exist on that account.
  • ‘Disenfranchisement’ of Tamils of Indian origin through the introduction of the Ceylon Citizenship bill in 1948 was done with the support of the Ceylon Tamil community and therefore this should not be a cause for the Ceylon Tamils to take arms against the state while the Indian Tamils who are said to have been ‘disenfranchised’ are not a party to this conflict. In any case the question of ‘statelessness’ have now been solved with majority of the Tamils of Indian origin obtaining citizenship in 1982 and the balance in stages up to 2002.
  • Introduction of the Sinhala language as the official language with the reasonable use of Tamil in North and East benefited the majority (Sinhala and Tamil) in the country. It was only 6.3 % of the country who were literate in English at the time and it is this 6.3 % of vested interest that campaigned against the bill for displacing their language, English. However, Tamil has been made a national language in 1978 and then an official language in 1987. This grievance therefore should not exist any further.

 

  • Colonization of Tamil areas by the Sri Lankan Government with Sinhalese is a lie that cannot be proved with reliable statistics and there cannot be ‘traditional homelands’ and preferential treatment areas within a country if that country is to treat all its citizens equally. No part of the country belongs to anyone community and the country belongs to all. Settlement of landless by the elected Government is not a ‘colonization’ but a setting up new development areas that contributes to country’s production and economy.

 

  • Non-implementation of the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam agreement in 1957 was due to the forebodings of the majority Sinhalese that the Tamil leaders like SJV were planning to divide the country in stages which would usher in a protracted border war for generations with the Tamil North garnering help from the greater Tamil Nadu in India, only 22 miles away. Such forebodings are reasonable; given the manner Tamil leaders like SJVC have conducted themselves since independence.

 

  • The Dudley Senanayake – Chelvanayagam pact of 1966 too was defeated due to the same forebodings as the previous pact and in any case devolution would not have solved the problem as devolution in 1982 under the DDC’s and in 1987 under the Indo Lanka accord did not alleviate the situation.

 

  • Standardization of entry marks to the country’s Universities is an acceptable practice called ‘affirmative action’ adopted by countries world over and this does not mean a communal basis for entry into the country’s universities. This was originally intended to facilitate the entry of eligible entrants from the disadvantaged regions but the process had an impact on the Tamils as a community as the Tamils monopolized higher education, up to then, in the colonial Ceylon with extraordinary education facilities afforded to them in the north. However, after the Tamils vehemently protested, this entry system has been revised and under the prevailing system the University entrants would be selected, 30% on aggregate marks, 55% on regional basis and the balance 15% on disadvantaged area basis. The Tamil objection to this shows that it is not grievances that they are protesting against, but the loss of privileges enjoyed up to then.

 

  • July 1983 riots is not the cause of the Tamil violence but the effect of separatism and violence that made steady progress from around 1975. The propaganda hype on 83 July was authored by vested interests who were waiting for an opportunity to denigrate the post-independence Buddhist resurgence as well as by political opportunists seeking narrow political mileage. Propagating this as ‘a grievance’ eventually turned out to be a ‘blessing’ for the Tamil community as their members were able to secure employment in developed western countries due to this propaganda hype. It would be a matter of interest here to note that the likes of July 83 have never taken place for the past 25 years in Sri Lanka and it was the one and only aberration whereas in countries like India, riots against Muslims take place monotonously as a matter of course year after year. Further this much- demonized events of July 83, that the Tamils exploit to gain entry into the west, has never deterred the Tamil population in reality from coming and settling down in Colombo and in other so-called ‘Sinhala areas’. In fact, according to the latest census the Tamil population in the south has recorded a sharp increase in the 2001 census when compared with the 1981 census. Majority of the Tamils in Ceylon today (55%) live among the Sinhalese.

 

From the above, it could be observed that of the 8 perceived grievances 1), 2) and 3) are non- existent today: 4) is a grotesque misrepresentation of facts; 7) is a national necessity and a loss of privilege and not a grievance as such to the Tamil society and 8) is a an effect turned in to a cause by sheer propaganda. This leaves out only 5) and 6) which involve devolution of power to the periphery. In this regard, whatever the degree of eagerness the Tamil leaders may have for the regions to be empowered, the Sinhalese would express apprehensions citing Tamil Nadu, 22 miles away and the proven separatist proclivity of the sullen Tamils leaders since the day of gaining independence from British colonials. After all aren’t the Sinhalese entitle to some grievances of their own after having been subjugated to colonialism for a period of 443 years by three successive European colonialists?

 

Yet, despite all those apprehensions of the Sinhalese, the fact remain that attempts were made by the successive SL Governments to devolve power under the DDC’s of 1982 and the Indo Lanka accord of 1987 which were both scuttled by the violence of LTTE.

 

Now, the question a student of the Sri Lankan conflict should be asking is, does the circumstances described above have the potential to propel the Tamil community to take to violence with the dedication and motivation they did for the past 34 years? It is commonly believed that an aggrieved community is compelled to take to arms when they have lost faith in all other avenues of redress, but, is it really the case of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka?  Do the grievances listed above have the potential to spawn the world’s most brutal and deadly terrorist organization in the world? If these grievances posses that potential are we to accept that these grievances are the worst injustices perpetrated on a minority community in this whole world?

 

Then how do these grievances stand against the treatments meted out to the Blacks in South Africa who were subjected to apartheid laws in their own land by the invading whites? What about the grievances of the Blacks that were transported to USA under conditions suitable for cattle and treated as slave property in bondage for centuries by the European white settlers?

What about the grievances of Sinhalese themselves who had been subjected to colonial servitude for 443 years by three European colonial powers? We could go further and empathize with the plight of the Red Indian community in USA; the Maoris in New Zealand; the Aborigines in Australia: who have all been subject to genocide by the European invaders. These communities have experienced inhumanity at its worst, and colonialism at its zenith. But then why haven’t the worst terrorist organization in the world born from among these communities if violence/ terror is a nemesis of the grievances a community had to undergo?

 

Thus, while it should be the purpose of this book to explore such incongruous areas of the Sri Lankan scenario to depict a more balanced and realistic picture of the conflict, the subject matter of this chapter would be to evaluate the size and scale of the LTTE violence, the acerbity of their brutality and the enormity of their destruction and misery as a nemesis of above grievances.

 

Mr Sunderalingam (Tamil) is a native of Jaffna and a retired DIG of the Sri Lanka police. He had left Ceylon in 1972, having retired himself from the police, for better climes in Australia. He had returned to the Island in 2006 after long years to attend a wedding function of a relative and wrote to the Sunday Island of 25th March 2007 reminiscing the life and times of Jaffna back in the early 1970’s captioned “Jaffna I knew”. This article of one complete newspaper page is of pleasant reminiscence and nostalgic indulgence of a very senior policeman, in whose life and career this land had been so much a part and parcel. Yet what prompts him to recount all this is the fact that Jaffna today is exactly the opposite of what it was or what it was intended to be just 34 years ago. In Mr. Sunderalingam’s own words, “Law and order was at its very best during this period and the Jaffna man then was a peace-loving reticent personality. The Northern Province then recorded the lowest crime rate for the country. The average homicide rate was 32 for the year and this was mainly over land disputes or domestic discord. Whatever disputes there were, were confined to minor pockets arising out of localized issues centered on caste-based temple entry and related biases”. “As the Chief of police in the Northern province something that gave me immense pleasure was the eradication of caste discrimination in the region- particularly in terms of Temple entry, use of public wells etc. Of course, it attracted the ire of the influential and well placed high-class members of Jaffna society who misconstrued this process of emancipation. I recall with pride that during this period there was little or no premeditated crimes and the use of firearms was a rarity. Crime was largely petty and not serious. Interestingly, it was cycle thefts that predominated in a region where sometimes a family owns as much as three cycles. The only crime necessitating security force counter was smuggling which was taking place in Velvettithurai.”

 

So this then is the Jaffna peninsular the Tamil militants and the LTTE were able to convert into a killing field after their activities commenced in the late 1970’s. Mr Sunderalingam in his writings was describing the situation in Jaffna as he could observe it from a police officers perspective. The political situation at this time (1972) was undergoing a transformation with Mr Amirthalingam,  known for his militancy and understanding with the ‘boys’, was elected as the Youth wing leader of the TULF, the political party of the Tamils. This was an unqualified endorsement by all the separatist Tamil politicians of the time that the Tamils should adopt a more militant approach in their relations with Colombo.

 

 

From Democracy to Fascism

1972 is an important year in the evolution of Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka. That was the year Sri Lanka enacted its Republican Constitution renouncing the status of a dominion under the British Empire, the last vestige of colonialism. The Tamil politicians objected to the new constitution on the grounds that it enthrones Buddhism by constitutionally providing ‘protection and nurture’ as the religion of the majority. The Tamils in the North hoisted black flags in a mocking display to commemorate the republican constitution. There are some Tamil youths that went a step further. They set fire to Government Transport Board’s buses and stoned the government buildings and vandalized public property. There was one more reason however for all this militant euphoria indulged in under the patronage of Tamil politicians. It was only in December 1971 that India intervened in the Pakistan crisis and created Bangladesh. Many Tamil politicians believed that Indira Gandhi would do another ‘Bangladesh’ in Sri Lanka and for that they needed a corresponding catalyst of a ‘Mukti Bahini’ movement in the North of Sri Lanka.

 

There was one youth who took part in these violent protests very enthusiastically. He was a school dropout from Velvetiturai, on the northern coast of Jaffna. In his boyhood, he was more interested in cowboy films and comics. When the other boys played with bat and ball this boy had a catapult as his favorite toy and he would catch insects and enjoy dismembering them to their death. He ran errands for his ‘annas’, the smugglers who frequented his backyard in Velvetiturai. His father brought a tuition master to help him in his studies. This master, being an ardent Tamil nationalist taught the boy about the glories of ancient Tamil Kingdoms across India and the Hindu legends of heroism. The boy’s name was Vellupillai Prabhakaran.  

 

The Tamil militants, affectionately called ‘the boys’ by the TULF politicians started their activities by assassinating the popular Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah (Tamil) in July 1975. That solitary act by this unknown assassin of killing the SLFP elected Mayor was good enough for Amirthalingam & co. because Duraiappah was one man who was popular and who stood in the way of TULF’s racial politics. All TULF members except Mr. CX Martin (sitting member for Jaffna) boycotted Mr Duraiappah’s funeral. At a subsequent ‘Lawyers Association’ meeting in Jaffna some lawyers confronted Mr Amirthalingam about the killing of ‘Alfi’, as Duraiappah was popularly known to his colleagues. Mr Amirthalingam’s prompt answer was that ‘Duraiappah was a traitor to the Tamil cause and therefore he deserved to die’. Alfred Duraiappah was not only an embodiment of racial harmony but he, being a Catholic, also symbolized religious harmony. Even though he is one among the thousands of prominent Tamils done away with, by the LTTE today his assassination in 1975 and the TULF’s approbation of that act, as future events would prove, was the turning point in Tamil democratic politics.

 

There were quite a few Tamil militant groups operating at the time and they were TELO (Tamil Ealam Liberation Organization), PLOT E (Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Ealam) EPRLF (Ealam Peoples revolutionary Organization), LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam). There was also the more intellectually inclined and militant facilitating unit called the EROS (Ealam Revolutionary Organization of Students). But Amirthalingam, who had earned the title of Thalabathi (General) after the Vadukkodai TULF convention, could not help himself from being impressed by this one man called Prabhakaran of the LTTE (formed in 1976) of all these armed units. The man’s dedication and focus impressed Amirthalingam and most of all what appealed to him was that it was Prabhakaran who assassinated Alfred Duraiappah the Jaffna Mayor whom Amirthalingam and company could not dethrone politically, with all their overcharged racial rhetoric.

 

However, Amirthalingam knew that Prabhakaran was a man, devoid of education, political orientation and with a suspect organizational ability. Hence, he introduces that TULF youth wing leader Uma Maheshwaran to the LTTE and Uma Maheshwaran duly becomes the leader of the LTTE making Prabhakaran the head of the Operations wing of the LTTE in 1978.The LTTE thus strengthened, committed a number of bank robberies and killings of Policemen, SLFP / UNP organizers in the area, and also ‘informers’. Amirthalingam would assess the progress of this project from time to time and would intervene when there is trouble within the LTTE between Uma and his Deputy /Operational head Prabhakaran.

 

This assassination of the Jaffna Mayor was followed by a series of criminal activities that included hold-ups and looting of number of banks and attacks on Police stations. The Tamil militants also ensnared the then Head of the Sri Lanka Police Anti-Terrorist Unit, CID Inspector Bastianpillai (Tamil) and brutally assassinated him, his driver and his bodyguard, at a militant training camp in Chellakilli off Mannar. The mutilated body of the Inspector was found with his genitals severed and stuffed in his mouth.

 

In 1977 Amirthalingam, now appointed the Leader of the newly formed TULF, campaigned on a platform of a ‘separate state’ for the Tamil community. The ‘boys’ carried Amirthalingam on their shoulders from one platform to another. A popular rhetoric attributed to Amithalingam and his wife during this campaign was that the “TULF would not look back in this campaign until they swim in the blood of the Sinhalese and make shoes out of their hide”. This created consternation in the south but Amirthalingam’s wife, when accosted with these comments by the Sinhala press refused to either disassociate herself from or withdraw the statements. Amirthalingam and his TULF won the election decisively in the North by winning the entire North but they could win only 4 out of the 10 seats in the East. Amirthalingam was appointed the Leader of the opposition by virtue of his party securing the second highest number of seats (17) in Parliament even though they polled a poor third to the SLFP on the total number of votes cast. The UNP won139 out of the 165 seats and the SLFP was reduced to just 8 seats on a ‘past the post’ election system of Parliamentary seats.

 

To celebrate the TULF victory the ‘boys’ set off a time bomb in an Airlanka plain in 1977 while it was at the Ratmalana airport on its way to Maldiv Islands, killing 17 and wounding 32, mainly tourists. Newly formed Jayawardene government which a had tourism as a cornerstone of its economic vision for Sri Lanka found this bomb blast crucial for its future activity.

 

 

Anton Balasingham worked in the staff of Virakesari and he later joined the British High Commission in Colombo as a English/ Sinhala/ Tamil translator. After his wife’s death he went to England and by 1979 was living with an Australian woman called Adele. Uma knew him and invited him to do all the writing in English for the LTTE. Uma, Prabha and Balasingham met in a hotel in Madras in 1979 and Balasingham at this meeting was particularly impressed with Prabhakaran who showed him Inspector Bastianpillai’s revolver. Balasingham agreed to help them.

 

It was V. Navaratnam the TULF MP for Kopay who then introduced Prabhakaran to V Bala Kumar, the defacto head of the Tamil Diaspora who resided in London, as ‘the most promising member among the Tamil militants’ and established the coordination network for the LTTE within the Tamil Diaspora. For the first time, Uma decided to go public with the accomplishments of the LTTE in 1979. For this he used his distant relative, a stenographer employed by Amirthalingam. A letter, owning responsibility for a series of crimes, was published under ‘To whom it may concerned’ and was published first in the ‘Lakehouse’ Tamil daily Virekesari on the 25th April 1979 and then in the rest of the national newspapers. The revelation did have an enormous impact on the country in general and the government security apparatus in particular.  According to Narayan Swamy’s ‘Tigers of Lanka’ (page64), the letter to the public press claiming responsibility for the killings, bank robberies and the Avro explosion was typed in the official typewriter of the Leader of the Opposition in parliament, Mr Appapillai Amirthalingam, by his personal stenographer.

 

The LTTE, thus born with the active patronage of the TULF (the democratic but racist Tamil Political party) and with the blessings of other resourceful Tamil forces, went from strength to strength committing one adventurous crime after another. When they attacked a Police station they were cheered with heroism; when they attacked a bank, the crime was justified; when they killed all those, who talked and acted against the separatist agenda of the TULF they were treated with adulation. Thus, the killings with gay abandon, commenced. Then in 1978 they chased out the 400+ Sinhala University students from the Jaffna Campus and then as the first act of ethnic cleansing in 1979 they ejected all the Sinhalese from north, where they had been living from time immemorial. The TULF watched all this in tacit silence but with overbearing approval.

 

It was only on 5th December 1979 that the Government of J R Jayawardene tabled the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Parliament and that too to assuage certain quarters on escalating violence in the north. Even by then there was civil rule in the North and it was only after 1981 June when the LTTE under the leadership of Uma Maheshwaran disrupted the District Development Council poll that the Government deployed security forces to maintain law and order. DDC’s were a form of devolution of power that had been agreed between the TULF and the Jayawardene Government to address ‘Tamil grievances’. Incidentally the events of June 81 signaled the beginning of the end of TULF when the militants bombed the election platforms addressed by the Amithalingam, having set his vehicle on fire. Thus, Amirthalingam and the TULF, having patronized violence among the younger Tamils now found themselves in a situations that they could not control!!

 

Crisis in Civilization

Despite all that violence and killings, Prabhakaran was able to register a remarkable success in one area of the Tamil society. In 1979 Prabhakaran, now a hero, was involved in a discussion with some University students attached to the Jaffna campus. The students were of the opinion, that in a liberation movement politics had to precede violence. Prabhakaran argued that it is difficult to bring the caste-ridden and politically diverse Tamil society under one banner unless violence and heroism precedes politics. He said, “The trouble with you people is that you do not like to see blood, but you have to kill!” Prabhakaran was dead right. With every bank robbery and with every attack on a Police station people started to treat the militants with awe.

 

The position of the Tamil society at the time was that the Tamils in Sri Lanka had advanced in every sphere of Sri Lankan society except in politics and in the armed forces. The hubristic and separatists inclined Tamils considered this a lacuna that had to be fulfilled if they were to assert superiority against the Sinhalese in every way. Now, with the militants taking on the SL forces on equal terms and with every successful attack, the Tamil egos stood assuaged. With Prabhakaran’s heroics against the security forces the Tamils now felt overwhelmed, with their superiority over the Sinhalese confirmed. Prabhakaran was now becoming the unifying force of the cast ridden Tamils and the fact that Prabhakaran was from the ‘fisher cast’ stock did not seem to matter so much anymore!

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Then came July 1983, the most advantageous thing that ever happened to the LTTE and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As expected, India intervened and with the propaganda unleashed in the West by the Catholic and Christian Churches, new vistas of opportunities were being opened up for Tamil violence. Violence may beget violence but as of now violence had begun to pay rich dividends. So why should the LTTE desist from violence? There was no need to even contemplate such an option. The course of action they chose stood vindicated by the encouragements they received from India and the ‘International community’ in the west. The more the LTTE killed the more the Tamil cause got internationalized and accepted globally.

  . 

They planned and executed more than 250 attacks on unarmed innocent Sinhala and public civilian targets. Wiped out entire villages: killed infants by dashing them on the ground or tearing them into two in their parents’ presence, disemboweled pregnant mothers to death, killed young girls by penetrating bayonets between their legs. They bombed public buses: trains: marketplaces: places of worship and every possible place with no sense of respect and decorum. This way they deliberately targeted and killed more than 10,000 innocent civilians, most of whom were the poorest possessing only the bare necessities of life, ignorant of politics and ethnicity. This was an extraordinary course of action by a militant organization, as these activities were not required in the campaign against the government for any reforms but deliberate acts of violence against unarmed civilians. This made the LTTE graduate from a mere militants organization to become the most ruthless terrorist outfit, the perpetrator of genocide. In such a context, could any civilize country or a person, call the LTTE ‘freedom fighters?’ They were killers who pushed the human civilization few centuries back by deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless civilians on more than 250 occasions. Further, the LTTE, despite their ostensible claim to be the liberators of a minority, planned and executed scores of attacks on their fellow Tamil speaking Muslim minority. They killed hundreds of Muslims on Fridays during their prayer at Kaththankudi and Eravur, exterminated villages and expelled 90,000 Muslims from the Jaffna Peninsula with a day’s notice in 1991.

 

Then they turned on to members of their own community. First the ‘informers’, and then the ‘traitors’. Even those who fought side by side with them against the government forces were considered traitors and were punished with brutal death. The LTTE Supremo, Prabhakaran would decide whether a Tamil is a traitor or not. In lamp post style executions, the LTTE killed more than 4000 Tamils( of PLOT, EPRLF, TELO) because they were traitors in LTTE’s view. With this near divine power conferred on him to pass judgment on ‘traitors’ Prabhakaran eventually decided that his mentor Amirthalingam, his leader Uma Maheshwaran and his erstwhile deputy Mahattaya were also ‘traitors to the Tamil cause’ and hence should meet with their destiny in the hands of LTTE’s torture and execution squads. And they did!

Amirthalingam sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind. The Leader of the democratic TULF was shot by the LTTE in his own home in Colombo, before his wife could offer the cup of tea she brought for the young visitor assassin.

 

There are national leaders who have helped the LTTE in various ways. Prominent among them was Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, and President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka. President Chandrika Kumaratnatunge helped the LTTE to achieve global recognition by championing the ‘Tamil cause’ internationally and Ranil Wickremesinghe granted them a demarcated area and pushed for their recognition in the eyes of the world. The LTTE reciprocated their gratitude by assassinating Rajive Gandhi and Premadasa. They attempted to kill Chandrika and assassinated Ranil politically by imposing a ban on voting in 2005 Presidential elections.

 

With all that, the countries in the west still call the LTTE ‘freedom fighters’ and the western funded NGO’s still justify their activities on the grounds of ‘perceived grievances’. If mayhem and murder is the most productive way of delivering justice and ensuring an equitable society, why is civilized society not adopting that method?

When a ruler adopts lynching as the method of dispensing justice, initially he finds it quite effective and responsive. Of all the methods of punishments, killing would appear the most effective, bringing instant results. However, such practices, if allowed to be carried out unchecked, could become habit-forming. Hence the one who execute this power loses respect for life and would justify habitual excesses with a ‘common cause’. It is then that the rot sets in, with violence becoming an end in itself, instead of the means. The necessity to kill and solve problems, would become so habitual like taking drugs or alcohol. The executor however would not admit this but instead would maintain that such excesses are ‘a necessity’ for speedy justice which is an integral part of the ‘struggle’.

 

Justice is a prerequisite for civilized and improved life and when life itself is made so dispensable the purpose of justice will probably lose its meaning. Justice has necessarily got to be secondary to life because its role is to better the quality of life and not to make it so precariously disposable. ‘Civilization’ is to inculcate ways and practices that enhance the value of life and therefore debasing life is an antithesis of civilization. What is the ‘cause’ in life that is so sublime that you could justify that cause by snatching away life itself???

 

The LTTE thus faulted not only in it desired ‘ends’ but also in the means to achieve those despicable ends. A killer programmed by Prabhakaran will disguise himself as an innocent youth seeking employment in Colombo; as an innocent lodger waiting for documents from abroad: as a pregnant woman needing priority treatment; as a polio victim deserving sympathy; as a disabled, unable to get about. The public and the defense personnel will initially fall for such trickery. But eventually it is the pregnant mother, the polio victim, the disabled, the prospective employee and the genuine lodger who suffers. The LTTE tactics will eventually create a society devoid of human benevolence and civilized norms with its members eternally suspicious of each other. The values and paradigms of the civilized society we live in today is the result of social adoption of time-tested civilized norms and ethics in their collective form over centuries of human evolution. If we allow an organization such as the LTTE to take advantage of such human goodness in the name of liberation that would be tantamount to pushing the human civilization back to its primary roots in the jungle. Thus a society, sans civilized norms, would eventually collapse for want of direction and values.

 

Carnivorous animals kill when they are hungry: because they know of no other food other than flesh and blood. Yet it is said that even those carnivores, when they hunt for food, spare the very young and the pregnant by premonition. Now we have this human version of the ‘Tigers’ whose killings are propelled, not by their pangs of hunger, but by their sadistic delight to see spattered blood and mutilated bodies. Even barbarians don’t kill more than what they could consume!  Hence human civilization would be lost for words to describe the type of murder and mayhem that was enacted during the 34 years of the LTTE ‘liberation struggle’ since it would be euphemism to describe such acts, either as ‘tiger hunts’ or just plain ‘barbarism’.

 

Therefore, Prabhakaran is not only an antithesis, but a crisis in human civilization. The impact he has made cannot be judged by 80,000 human lives, US$ 20 billion worth of collateral damage and billions worth of opportunities lost. The misery he invited was immeasurable. There are thousands of houses in Sri Lanka which are awaiting the ‘Godot’. Those are the houses from where young people have gone, Sinhalese and Tamil, either missing or dead.

 

Prabhakaran was a psychopath who had an insatiate ego and what he did has to be expected from a criminal who wanted to take the law into his own hands. Being a school dropout Prabhakaran, from his small days had a proclivity for adventure and crime. He only seized the opportunity thrown at him. The responsibility for this situation should properly be with the Tamil politicians who prepared the background for him and the western NGO’s who justified all his barbarism with a blanket cover of ‘grievances’. Under a man like Prabhakaran the Tamils will never be ‘liberated’ but would subjected to the worse form of despotism.

 

Tamil Nazism

Another notable feature in this ‘violence against the grievances’ formula of the LTTE was that their violence never decreased with the redress of these ‘grievances’. As can be observed in Chapter 7, these ‘grievances of the Tamils’ got redressed by and by with time. e.g. letter ‘Shri’ was corrected in 1991, University admission made 30 % on merit in 1982, Majority of Indian Tamils granted citizenship by 1982, Tamil made an official in 1987 and devolution granted with Indo Lanka accord in 1987. But with these measures the violence did not decrease as it should correspondingly. Instead it increased and the LTTE was at its destructive best from the year 2000 onwards. The violence did not go out of steam when the grievances were redressed but instead it had the opposite effect. How do these ‘theorists’ of ‘violence the nemesis of grievance’ now explain this scenario according to their ostensibly foolproof theory and what do they now advocate the state should do to dissuade LTTE from violence?

 

The LTTE has killed more Tamils than the SL security establishment. They killed Tamils, for being informers, for serving in the government, for their disloyalty to the LTTE and even for disobeying the strict disciplinary conduct of the LTTE. They wiped out their fellow militants, TELO, EPRLF, PLOT in the most brutal way. There was this story of Nithi, former TELO member who was killed by shooting him in the head, tied to a lamp post in the Jaffna cemetery after made to starve for three days even without water. They killed Nithi in such a way so that his brain matter scattered all over the place to terrorize rest of the TELO members. The fact that those militants fought the SL army side by side risking their lives for their goal of Ealam did not make the LTTE any less brutal on them. What is the Tamilness that Prabhakaran has, that Shri Sabatatinum (TELO Leader) did not: that Appapillai Amirthalingam did not; that Uma Maheshwaran did not; that Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya did not? This is the cancer of absolute power.  When allowed in its manifestation of separatism it may separate everything until there is nothing more to separate!

 

The LTTE always insisted since the Thimpu talks, that they be recognized as the ‘Sole representatives’ of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Some leaders like Ranil Wickremesinghe did this. But how does an organization, becomes the sole representative of a particular community. Do the Sinhalese have a sole representative? Do the British have a ‘sole representative’?  Can a democratic society recognize a sole representative? Who is the sole representative of the Americans? But we know that Mussolini was the sole representative of Italy and Hitler was the sole representative of Nazi Germany. Can LTTE then claim to be the sole representative of Tamils without acceding to Tamil Nazism?  

 

Chelvanayagam was born in Malaysia and established his Tamil State Party in Sri Lanka. According to author Narayan Swamy, Prabhakaran’s ancestor migrated to Sri Lanka approximately 200 years ago and Prabhakaran their progeny wanted to establish the Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. Ironically Hitler was borne in Bavaria and he founded Nazism in Germany. Hitler’s unwavering belief in the superiority of Aryans led him to be the founder of German Nazism and Chelvanayagam’s and Prabhkaran’s indomitable belief in the superiority of Tamils made them the founders of Tamil Nazism in Sri Lanka.

 

Prabhakaran’s cause has ceased to be a cause acceptable to the civilized world long ago, but the irony is that the Tamils on a narrow ego ride seemed to have all the patience with him. Tamil Nadu called him the messiah of the Pan Tamil state; the Western International community called him a ‘freedom fighter’ with a cause all along; the western funded NGO’s saw him as a the ‘face and sole reflection of Tamil grievances’. The International human rights organizations glossed over his atrocities and blamed the Sri Lanka Government unilaterally for the concomitant exigencies. But why?

 

Blowing up into liberation

Suicide missions as a trade in world terrorism, was introduced by the LTTE. It can reach the target with precision; because the explosives are carried by a human, with the least amount of suspicion because the carrier is trained in the best art of guile perfected by the LTTE over the years. The LTTE in their 34year war has carried out nearly 500 suicide missions against chosen targets and this method of attack has been the LTTE’s most notable contribution to world terrorism. LTTE also perfected the explosive-laden, ready to wear suicide kit which allows the wearer to mingle with the crowd freely without being noticed. A Tamil youth called Miller was the first candidate to undertake a suicide mission on the 5th July 1987 when he drove an explosive-laden truck into the army camp at Nelliady, the then Army operational headquarters for fighting terrorism in the North. He performed that on Prabhakaran’s orders giving rise to a cult that would set a trend in international terrorism. Since then, up to now Prabhakaran has deployed 343 suicide cadres on different missions during the course of his war against the Sri Lankan forces.

 

Suicide missions have opened up new vistas in mans capacity for destruction, his capacity to generate hatred and his psychological needs to satisfy egoistic martyrdom. It is yet another way of proving that humans are breed of animals whose destructive instincts can bring to naught what his constructive capacity has taken years to accomplish. It is a lesson in human psychology and in baser human instincts. The preparation of a suicide cadre is an extraordinary exercise in human motivation requiring time and nurturing. Initially it requires a lot of brainwashing to implant a sense of inveterate hatred towards the potential target and then an equally strong conviction that the mission would serve the ‘cause’ of the Tamils. Most of this propaganda required for the brainwashing of the Tamils was composed by the early ‘democratic’ or ‘moderate’ Tamil leaders who led the Tamils from the 1930’s. The Tamil leaders who were elevated to the position of national leaders by virtue of preference they received in British treatment, entertained delusions of grandeur for themselves as well as for their community.  Tamils being educated and resourceful than the Sinhalese at the time viewed the Sinhalese as uneducated modayas (fools), who should not be expected to govern the country.

 

The indications were that the Tamil community would be the heir apparent to the British administration in post-colonial Ceylon. When universal franchise was proposed in 1931 the Tamils objected to it because they were mindful of the fact that Ceylon Tamils constitute only 12 % of the country’s population. The Tamils leaders then proposed 50-50 representation in the proposed legislation of the Independent Ceylon but it was shot down by Lord Soulbery and Sir Ivor Jennings as ‘highly unreasonable’. With that their hopes of establishing a minority Government to govern the majority in the new independent Ceylon were dashed. Then they had no alternative but to watch the Sinhala juggernaut take over the country.

 

But the feeling of superiority and the thought that they were being deprived of something that was rightfully theirs haunted the Tamil community. Thus, every step taken by the Sinhalese to redress the colonial injustices perpetrated on the majority during the 443year colonial rule were interpreted by disenchanted Tamil leaders as acts of discrimination against the Tamils. Hence even as early as1960’s, the target and the propaganda of hatred towards the target, were established by these chauvinist Tamil leaders led by St. James Velupillai Chelvanayagam. By virtue of their privileged western education, the Tamils were able to migrate to other countries from around the 1950’s and create a powerful Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. This Diaspora was able to propagate to the world the alleged discriminations against the Tamil community ‘after independence’. The more they spoke of discriminations the better it became for the Tamils to enter Britan and other European countries. The Churches contributed to this propaganda in ample measure because they too had the grievances of being ousted from their once ‘privileged official religious status’ and was on lookout to sabotage the Sinhala Buddhist juggernaut. These forces gave hope to the Tamils that even though they have been deprived on ‘numbers’(population), if they try hard with some sacrifices they could be back in the saddle in Ceylon. Suicide missions were a tangible way of making that sacrifice to regain their lost glory as the No.1 community in Sri Lanka.  Therefore, the social milieu in post-colonial Ceylon was just tailor-made for the criminals to become rebels and for the adventurous fanatics to become martyrs.  

 

To treat suicide missions as an act of either retaliation for perceived grievances or heroism for one’s community is unfortunate and smacks of convoluted logic. These suicide missions were first introduced to the world of warfare by the Japanese kamikaze warriors who jumped into enemy ships with bombs strapped on to their body during World War 11. They destroyed 34 enemy ships and attacked other seemingly impregnable targets bringing Japan within victory against the allied forces. They were not motivated by any ‘grievances’ but rather were bent on proving the greatness of their nation.  That too was a sense of destructive patriotism that ingrained in the Japanese that the victory to Japan can only be achieved through the complete destruction of its perceived enemy. The Red Indians of North America, the Incas of South America, would have definitely had a better cause to fight on the grounds genocide but it is a fact that they never produced suicide bombers in world history like the Kamikaze warriors.

 

In order to understand the LTTE’s ability to turn out so many suicide cadres, practically on a conveyor belt, we have to understand the Tamil cultural and religious ethos. Tamil society is a highly caste structured society where tradition and custom enjoy a big say. Marriage is the zenith of Tamil social life where employment status, dowry system and virginity plays a pivotal role. Often the brother gets married because the sister has to be given in marriage. Family honor and chaste are held in high esteem. A girl losing her virginity, in a manner other than through the customary marriage, is considered an irretrievable sin and the only way she can free her soul ( purify) from that sin is by burning her physical body. Thus, the girls who have lost their virginity make ideal candidates for suicide missions by their own convictions

On the other hand, Tamils have a pretty high impression of the greatness of their Tamil civilization. GG Ponnambalam often articulated this by stating that ‘Tamil culture is the cradle of world civilization’ and that means all cultural ethos in world culture have commenced from Tamil culture. Hindus, especially Tamils, believe that the significance of one’s race is such that when one dies for the sake of one’s community, he can be rest assured that his soul will be reborn in heaven. Hence dying for the LTTE has become a ‘short and sure’ method of going to heaven. 

There is also a Hindu belief that reincarnation of certain Gods take place amongst the humans in the form Avatar (apparition) at appropriate times to protect and guide the Tamil community and Tamil propaganda over the years have made them believe that Prabhakaran is the Avatar Purshusha that has come to save them.  Buddhism in India revolted against parochial traditions and violence embedded in Hindu culture. A Hindu scholar once drew an analogy between Buddhism and Hinduism thus, ‘For a Hindu vengeance is mine whereas for Buddhist vengeance is thine’.

 

Popular Tamil movies show family vengeance extracted, even after generations. Their stories generally revolve around black and white characters where the hero, underprivileged but well-intentioned, triumphs at the end. Mostly the heroes are warriors, invariably good fighters aiming a worthy cause. Celluloid heroes can exert considerable influence even in real life and ex-film stars have become Chief Ministers in Tamil Nadu for the past 50 years.

 

A potential suicide cadre is shown a number of propaganda videos to build up his fanaticism and inveterate hatred. One such video would show a happy and a promising Tamil family relaxing in a park, chatting and enjoying in a happy disposition. Suddenly a plane emerges from nowhere and bombs the park. The bombing leaves all the family members, except a young boy the protagonist, dead. After mourning the death of the family members for weeks the boy learns of the militant movement fighting the Sri Lankan forces. He enlists himself as a rebel fighter and undergoes the training. After some time a need arises to eliminate a Sinhala leader who has killed a lot of Tamil youth. The high command in the rebel group requests for a volunteer suicide cadre for the mission. The response to the request is so overwhelming that the movement decides to hold a lottery to choose the candidate. A lottery is held and each one in the group opens that small chit of paper they picked. It was our boy who is ‘lucky’ in picking the positive chit and he is therefore picked for the mission amidst euphoria.

 

There is a library full of such videos and it is a way with the LTTE to video every one of their operations. The cadres are shown the videos where they attacked army camps with soldiers either fleeing or begging for amnesty in the hands of the LTTE. There is also a video where the ex-President of the Sri Lanka Army, disabled Heroes Association (Abaditha Rana Viru) declare that the “SL Army is fighting for a wage whereas in the LTTE, they are fighting for their country and that is why the LTTE has been successful”. By the way this President of the now defunct ‘Association’ was in the payroll of a prominent but controversial Sinhala Christian businessman, Lalith Kothelawala.

 

A suicide cadre named Menake was apprehended by the police when she was doing her initial rehearsing to accomplish her target of killing the current Prime Minister Mr Rathnasisri Wickremenayake. The moment suspicions about her were confirmed, the security personnel had hit her on the head making her unconscious to prevent her from biting the cyanide valve the LTTE members carry around their necks. She had broached a lot on the mechanics of suicide cadre training in an interview she had with journalist Jan Godwin. In the Tiger movement, they are referred to as ‘sacrifices’ and not suicide attackers.

 

Menaka’s family had eked out a living in a small village in the East where fishing had been the only trade. What is striking about her life story is that she had been a person who had lost all hopes of living a life of dignity at the early age of 8. She had been raped by her own father at the age of 8 and since then, sexual molestation has been a part of her life. The belief in Tamil society is that once a girl become thus ‘impure’ the only way to salvage her purity is through the burning of her soul. A suicide mission will afford the candidate that opportunity. Candidates like Menake could be commonplace in this stringently programmed SL Tamil society and the protracted conflict has only exacerbated this sense of ‘hopelessness’.

 

She was handed over to the ‘movement’ at the age of 17 by her uncle and aunt who were not prepared to take the responsibility of keeping her. The camp she stayed with 151 other inmates had been located in the middle of the thick jungle. Elephants and other wild animals are chased out with the help of guns. She had undergone physical fitness training, arms training, political ideology, Guerilla strategy and methods in this camp. There were supervisors who have earned medals from the ‘Leader’ for their dedication and round the clock surveillance was present. They were told that the ‘Sinhalese were good for nothing but to be killed’ and every single death of a Sinhalese would bring the goal of the Tamil Ealam that much closer. She was taken for her customary last meal with the ‘Leader’ and in her case she had her last meal with Soosay the Sea Tiger head of the LTTE. Menake had never had an opportunity to interact with the Sinhalese until she was arrested and brought to the detention camp at Boosa, Galle in the southern part of Sri Lanka.

 

The suicide kit she had carried had been expertly designed where it would just hide itself within the normal clothes of a person with a minimum of discomfiture to the wearer. The kit is also designed to activate itself with least movements and with a destructive range of 150 meters. Even the cyanide capsule is held in a glass vial round the LTTE member’s neck because at the first sign of imminent capture the member is expected to bite the glass vial so that the broken glass will damage the skin and help the infusion of cyanide into the bloodstream expediting death.

 

Some western tourists, who witnessed a suicide cadre blowing herself up when accosted by the security in Colombo, expressed disgust and dismay and described this practice as a threat to human civilization. However, there are some who treat suicide missions as an ultimate act of altruism and patriotism. Even the former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike eulogized this practice citing that as another piece of evidence to prove that the Tamils have unbearable ‘grievances’ inflicted by the Sinhalese. The less suave Sinhala leaders like DM Jayaratne marveled at the practice maintaining that the act signified the true spirit of patriotism among the Tamils and further added that ‘for all the talk of patriotism among the Sinhalese, it would not be possible to find one who is prepared to die for the community while in the case of Tamils have a bag full. Such stupid utterances often give credence to a Tamil cause and place Tamil patriotism on a romantic plane.

 

Those who eulogized this debasing activity betray their own imbalanced thinking, for there is enough evidence in the world to show that a human being, when brainwashed, obsessed and programmed, has the capacity to act like a zombie, dead to the reason and outcome of his/her action. This is sometimes called the ‘Indoctrination Syndrome’. Shoko Ashahara, a Japanese was the leader of the ‘Aum Supreme Truth Sect’ that commanded 10, 000 followers in Japan and he ordered the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway killing 12 persons and injuring nearly 5000 in 1995. Japanese High Court has now passed the death sentence on him.  Patricia Hearst or Patty Hearst as she was popularly known as a young woman from a balanced and affluent background in United States who had nothing to do with rebel politics. She was abducted as she happened to be present during a bank hold up by a terrorist group with South American origin. After abduction and capture she became a devotee of their cause and took part in hold-ups and robberies for the terror group killing innocent people. She was later arrested by FBI during a bank robbery and was put on trial. During the trial she appealed for clemency on the grounds that she took part in all the criminal activities ‘against her free will and in an imbalanced state of mind’.

The Japanese Kamikaze (Divine wind) pilots were motivated and inspired by the example of Kusumoki Musashino, a Samurai warrior who committed hara-kiri with his followers to evade capture in 1833. The Kamikaze pilots believed that the Japanese emperor was God incarnate and also a lineal descendant of the Sun Goddess. There are also a number of death cults that operate in various part of the world that you often hear about them in public news. Human mind has the capacity to do almost anything and self-destruction is just one of those.

 

Menake has confessed that she would now like to lead a normal life but for the threat the LTTE poses on her existence. So many like her have died in the name of an unspecified ‘Tamil cause’ and for the monolithic Ealam Prabhakaran has promised them. But all what Prabhakaran has managed to achieve is the self-destruction of the Tamil community with a number of graves in their honor starting from the one at Vishvamadhu. The fact however is, that this whole pogrom has enabled Prabhakaran to live like a demi-God with plenty of followers to do his bidding. Tamil leaders emboldened with pride and vanity cultivated anger and hatred among their community towards the Sinhalese majority.  Today a criminal called Prabhakaran is helping himself while the Tamil community is being consummated by their own negative emotions of anger and hatred. Tamils are called upon to die so that Prabhakaran may carry on with his Godly lifestyle.

 

“Hero worship is strongest when there is least regard for human freedom” says Herbert Spencer in his ‘Social studies’ and Harry Emerson Fosdick in Wages of Hate observes that “Hating people is burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.” Racialist Tamil leaders with their prodigy Prabhakaran have proved both of them right.

 

Mahatma Gandhi and Tamils

The Tamil propagandist maintain that in the early stages of their struggle the Tamil leaders used the non- violent Gandhian tactics and in fact the struggle of leaders like Chelvanayagam were against genuine grievances and their means were also just in that they were non-violent. In fact, they always use the Gandhi adjective whenever they refer to Chelvanayagam. This is deliberately done to make a Gandhi out of Chelvanayagam and the purpose of such propaganda is necessarily to gain moral high ground by establishing that the Tamil leaders were initially nonviolent but it was the unreasonable and violent nature of the Sinhala leaders that made the Tamil leaders obstinate and choose violence and eventually resort to terror.

 

To the discerning however, this line of propaganda, betray the very essence of Gandhism of unwavering faith in the power of non-violence. Gandhi himself conducted his non- violent campaign in an extremely violent and a hostile atmosphere and as a result at least on two major occasions Gandhi had to abandon his campaign when his followers took to violence in the face of hostile and provocative acts of the colonial administration. Gandhi believed in the moral strength of the cause he was fighting for and hence was inclined in preserving the purity of his means to achieve that cause. 

 

Martin Luther King of the American Civil Rights Movement was another admirer of Gandhi who honestly believed that the test of Gandhi’s honesty is in his steadfast adherence to the non-violent means against all odds. He spoke and preached about the ‘power of non-violence’ because he believed nonviolence to be a positive and not a negative force in dealing with powers. In Atlanta Georgia where King had his home there is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the Church at the very entrance to his visitor’s lobby. What is unique about Gandhi was his steadfast belief in ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence and he therefore never swayed from what he believed in and for him to achieve his cherished goals from any means other than nonviolence was not a victory. But this ‘Chelvanayagam being another Gandhi’ line of thinking is not only popular among the Tamil propagandists but they often use it as a ruse to blame the Sinhalese even for their violence by stating, “See, it is the Sinhala high handedness that converted us from being Gandhians to the present violent elements”.

 

Coming from an Anglicized background, Chelvanayagam knew little about Gandhi, leave alone adopting his philosophy of non-violence. Chelvanayagams problem was Buddhism over and above the Sinhalese language and he thought it was just not fair that Tamils being so educated and industrious should not have a country when a comparatively few Sinhalese who are not so industrious and also pagans to the core, should have a country of their own. The deposing of the Christian religion however could not have been taken as a cause in the new independent Ceylon because the colonials did everything possible (by unscrupulous means) to convert the locals to their religion. Proselytization was still fresh in the minds of locals and Christianity was synonymous with colonialism. Therefore, Chelvanayagam saw the possibility of using the minority issue as a ruse against the majority in a global climate where the big powers were changing their attitudes from that of aggression and colonialism to equal rights and liberty.

 

Hence Chelvanayagm just organized protests against the Government and since they had no proper means to make them violent they remained non-violent. To this, some of the other Tamils who were more conversant with Gandhi’s struggle in India tried to give a ‘Gandhian’ flavor. Hence they called those protests ‘non- violent protests’ and added the Gandhian strategy of non-co-operation towards the Government. In the sixties they conducted campaigns to post letters without stamps and to break other civil laws. The Government naturally had to act to restore law and order.  True, the lawbreakers were flogged at times; but never were there any incidents of death or serious injury. In parenthesis, it should be mentioned that back in the sixties the Ceylonese Police force would have been rather unprofessional and non-civil oriented since they had just come out of their colonial attitude of master-servant relationship

 

Soon Chelvanayagam and his followers realized that Gandhi was successful in India because in India it was the majority fighting against a Government by a colonial minority, whereas in Sri Lanka the Tamils were a minority fighting against a Government of the majority. And when the protests were confined to Jaffna they become still more insignificant because the majority of influential Tamils live in Colombo. Hence, they gave up the ‘Gandhian strategy’ of noncooperation as it was not workable in Ceylon and looked for other methods of taking control of the country. In this, the South African model appealed to the Tamil Leaders. At the time, South Africa was where, a privileged minority was governing the marginalized majority through the sheer power of the armed forces.

 

In fact, it should be noted that Tamil leaders like Ponnambalam tried to make Sri Lanka a South Africa by legitimizing their 50-50 proposals to the constitutional assembly at the point of independence. In reality, had that succeeded all these protest by Tamils would not have taken place and it would have been the Sinhalese who would have had to take to the streets like the blacks in South Africa in protests against minority rule. Hence the South African delusion was still lingering in the minds of Tamil leaders and accordingly they recognized the need to have a powerful armed force to go with the economic, professional and academic forces they were wielding in independent Ceylon.

 

In any case the Tamil leaders thought that ‘it certainly was odd that when the majority of Lawyers, Judges, Senior police officers, Doctors and traders were Tamil in this country, that the Tamil leaders should get flogged by the ordinary police officers on the orders of the Government of the country. They reasoned out that all this was because the defense forces were in the hands of the Government. It should also be recalled that in 1962 the colonial aligned Christian and Tamil officers in the security forces staged a coop and that failed because the only Sinhala Buddhist officer among the high-ranking police officers Stanley Senanayake leaked the information to the Government.

 

Aftermath of that incident made the SL Government change its policy of recruitment to the forces and placed more emphasis on taking school leavers from emerging Sinhala Buddhist schools.  This changed the composition of the security forces from English speaking minorities to Sinhala majority. But even up to 1971 when the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna struck with its Sinhala rebellion, the Sri Lankan security forces remained mainly ceremonial. In fact, prior to 1971 any suggestion to make the Sri Lankan security forces more combative would have been met with arguments like, ‘whom are we going to fight with, is it India?’ Hence the feeling was that, there was hardly any need for the Sri Lankan Government to have a professional fighting army because we had no neighbors to fight with, and if at all we had to fight with our only neighbor, India, that in any case, would turn out to be a ‘no fight’ situation due to the sheer size of India!

 

It was in this milieu that Tamil leaders contemplated to launch an armed struggle to capture power in Ceylon. Tamil MP Waniyasingham always maintained that if they can build a disciplined Tamil army of 5000 cadres they could always take over the country. Chelvanayagm recruited young people to his ‘volunteer force’ called ‘Pulip Padey’ (meaning Path of the Tiger) and it was this volunteer force that started to tar the Shri number plates of vehicles in 1958. As described in K Narayan Swamy’s ‘Boys to Tigers’ detail plans were made in mid-sixties to lay a foundation for this army. They realized the need to have a shipping fleet to bring the arms and ammunition. They studied how armed struggles were launched to a success in other countries like Cuba, China, Korea etc.  As an initial step, a decision was made to register a shipping company in the name of a Tamil businessman in 1961.

 

The situation at that time however, was different and Tamil society then valued differences of opinion and also there were intellectuals whose opinions counted. Hence ideas were expressed equally against this idea of building a security force and it became difficult to form a consensus. Therefore, the Tamil leaders envisaged that it would be difficult to mobilize all the resources available in Tamil society to support an armed struggle, on which their chances of success depended. But the idea was never given up and the Federal Party politicians headed by Chelvanayagam carried on with their propaganda of brainwashing the Tamils and evocating their tribal instincts hoping that someday the Tamils will rise with arms.

 

Chelvanayagam was arrested in 1962 when riots broke out after a series of separatist protests. After he was released from remand custody he took off to England on the pretext of obtaining medical treatment.  It was during this stay in England that Chelvanayagam took the initial steps in organizing the Sri Lankan Tamils in London into a Diaspora. He also had a number of audiences with Anglican Church leaders in England and what he told them was that the Anglicized Tamils were being victimized after independence in Ceylon. After he returned to Sri Lanka he addressed the Jaffna public and said that there is hope for Tamils because ‘not only Sri Lankan Tamils but even other Tamils living all over the world have realized the need to have a country for the Tamils’.

 

Chelvanayagam realized his dream when a militarized regime was created by Prabhakaran. Therefore, this idea of the ‘Tiger Path’, the making of a Tamil army, importing arms, organizing the Tamil Diaspora, winning the sympathy of the western Churches, owning a shipping fleet, were not Prabhakaran’s ideas but ideas of the Tamil separatist lobby that contemplated the capture of Ceylon from the 1950’s. Therefore, the arrival of a Prabhakaran on the Tamil racist platform was not an accident or an event necessitated by circumstances. A vacancy for a militant leader was created by hubristic Tamil separatism and they were waiting for a suitable person to take over. Prabhakaran, the ex ‘Thambi’ who ran errands for smugglers in his backyard at Velvetithurai, who fantasized acting like a cowboy imitating Clint Eastwood in films and who enjoyed decimating insects to death, just walked into that vacancy. Hence if Chelvanayagam is to become a Gandhi, Prabhakaran has to be made into Shri Nehru.

 

The 1971, the break-up of Pakistan by India gave a fresh impetus to the Tamil leaders. Since the circumstances were somewhat similar they expected a similar performance in Sri Lanka too by India. From 1972 onwards the more militant Appapillai Amirhalingam was groomed to take over the mantle of Tamil leadership from the sedate and aging Chelvanayagam. The rhetoric then continued with the need to militarize Tamil society. In early 1972 when the Constitutional assembly was in session formulating the Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka, the Tamil leaders brought in proposals to make Sri Lanka a federation. Mr Colvin R De Silva, the much quoted ‘Old Left’ leader expressed his inability to incorporate those proposals on the grounds of ‘non-existentialism’. The Tamil leaders then walked out and vowed to carry on with their agitations.

 

Two days later a meeting of the TULF was held in Jaffna attended by S J V Chelvanayagam and Appapillai Amirthalingam. Mr. Amirthalingam addressing this meeting said, “There will be a day for the Tamils to use arms. Therefore, it is very necessary that they have friendly relations with certain organizations in foreign countries”.  It should be noted that at this time there was no militancy among the Tamil youth: the standardization of the University entrance marks had not been introduced; LTTE was unheard of. Hence it should be very clear that the political leadership of Tamils at the time bespoke in earnest for the militarization of the Tamil society.

 

Violent protests were staged against the 1972 constitution.  The protests became even more violent when Mrs Bandaranaike visited Jaffna in 1975. They set fire to Government buildings and CTB buses. Alfred Duraiappah the popular and elected SLFP Mayor for Jaffna in trying to quell the increasing violence and hate speech found himself pitted against the likes of Chelvanayagam, Amirthalingam, Navaratnam and Co. and realized that he was fighting a losing battle. There was one man with black legs popularly known as karikalan (Black legs) taking part in all this violent activity making himself quite at home amidst this mayhem. He was a school drop out and was just begging to find the taste of criminality and violence. He hailed from Velvettithurai and was already a partner in smuggling operations in his hometown. His name was Velupillai Prabhakaran.

 

It was indeed a burlesque of tragical connotations to even to attempt to draw parallels between the Gandhian struggle in India and the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka. Chelvanayagam was a westernized Christian with a typical colonial mindset of preaching love and altruism while practicing aggrandizement. Being a theosophist Gandhi always believed that Truth is God but for devout Christians like Chelvanayagam, who was only Tamil by name, there was no truth beyond the Christian God.

 

Winston Churchill, an extremely talented but a bigoted racist who believed in the supremacy of the British was often contemplating the elimination of this ‘half-naked fakir’ called Gandhi. British Magazine IANS of 20th Sept 2008 reported that the wartime Prime Minister of Britain told Field marshal Jan Christian Smuts of South Africa at a meeting of the War Cabinet in London in the 1940’s; “You are responsible for all our trouble in India –you had Gandhi for years and did not do away with him”, to which, Smuts replied, “I put him in prison-three times- but all Gandhi did was to make me a pair of bedroom slippers.” According to Lawrence Burgis, the war cabinet minute taker, when Mahatma went on a hunger strike during World war 11, Churchill told the Cabinet: “Gandhi should not be released on account of a mere threat of fasting. We would have been rid of a bad man, an enemy of the Empire, if he died”. These exemplify the clash between western and eastern thinking during the 1940’s and in such a milieu an easterner with western orientation, trying to stand astride on this clash, would find such an exercise extremely difficult. The question then is where do we place a man like Chelvanayagam who owed, his migration to Ceylon, his education, his language, his profession and his religion and all else to the colonial west?

 

Even though these propagandists who endeavored to make a Gandhi out of Chelvanayagam could not find common grounds to support their theory, Chelvanayagam by his very actions at numerous times has proved the opposite. When Mavai Senathirajah, a convicted criminal but a militant member was freed from prison in 1971, he was garlanded by Chelvanayagam at the Jaffna Railway station. In 1973, when Sivakumaran, a militant with a notorious criminal record including the killing of several Tamil and Sinhala police officers, got caught in the act of robbing a Peoples Bank branch, instantly killed himself by swallowing the cyanide he had been carrying all along, a statue was erected in his honour by the LTTE and it was Chelvanayagam who garlanded this statue and made not only violence but even the cyanide culture part and parcel of the Tamil struggle. In fact, this was the introduction of the cyanide culture to the Tamil youth.

 

The high point of hypocrisy of Tamil racism was the assassination of the popular Jaffna Mayor A Duraiappa in 1975. That was the first major political assassination by Prabhakaran and if not for the support he received from the TULF leaders, Chelvanayagam, Amirthalingam, V Navaratnam etc. Prabhakaran would not have risen to the pinnacle of Tamil terrorism. It was these very TULF leaders who introduced Prabhakaran to M Chandrahasan, the then Tamil Diaspora convener as the ‘new rising star in the Tamil struggle’. Apart from being a purveyor of smuggling activity at Velvettithurai the only notable achievement of Prabhakaran up to then was the killing of a democratically elected Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah.

 

Mahatma Gandhi publicly said that, “There were many causes that I would die for but there aren’t any causes that I will kill for”. Chelvanayagam’s philosophy indeed was a far cry from this stand. The oddity here is that, the Indian struggle was to liberate itself from colonialism whereas the Sri Lankan Tamil issue was very much to preserve the colonial privileges. Hence as we have already observed, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is full of oddities and this making of a Gandhi out of Chelvanayagam is nothing but another item of propaganda that strives to make a moral justification of an immorally conducted campaign with an unethical cause.

 

The life and times of Mahatma Gandhi and his eventual death could be projected as a unique case study that represents the dilemma faced by modern humanity. Mahatma Gandhi did what is best for humanity with unqualified bonhomie with his bona-fides up front. Further at that time there would not have been a better cause than what Mahatma choose to serve and no man could have been more honest and dedicated than Mahatma Gandhi was to serve that cause. But with all that, Mahatma Gandhi had to have a violent death; the very situation he elected to champion against. What then went awry in the case of so sublime a case as Mahatma?

 

 The irony is that, a man could always be as benevolent as he wished to but he still has to accept the reality that humans are not uniform in their thinking and also in their response to benevolence and love. There are odd people who always try to exploit another person’s benignity and take advantage of the situation or take such kindness as a manifestation of that person’s helplessness/weakness. Such persons always exist amidst us and that is the danger in trying untrammeled goodwill with no holds barred. Humanity can reach the pinnacle of civilization where altruism and understanding are the hallmarks, but still there could be such souls among us who stands out hoping to use the goodness of others. And that is why a country need laws and an executive arm called the police to execute such laws and a judiciary to dispense it. For all those millions of good people one mischief-maker would be enough to create anarchy and spoil an otherwise ‘near utopian’ situation. For millions of ordinary people one Nathuram Godse or Prabhakaran would suffice! That is the reality that we have to guard against in dealing with humans. Humanity is not uniform and to have complete faith in humanity like Mahatma Gandhi did is a luxury that no one could afford!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Genesis of the Tamil problem.

 

Prof. KM De Silva is the most acceptable historian on the Sri Lankan history and his account of the early Tamil settlements in Ceylon runs thus, “There is evidence to support the existence of Tamil settlements in the Jaffna peninsula from the 13th century to the 17th century. But these settlements were mostly confined to the Jaffna peninsula and their status was always that of an area under the suzerainty of the Kingdom in the South. There have been instances where this province aligned itself with the South Indian Kingdoms of Chola and Pandya but that was mainly during times when the Kingdom to its south was weak and disoriented”.

 

Prof. Indrapala Karthegesu (Tamil) Professor of History of the University of Jaffna corroborates with this position in his writings to the Royal Asiatic Society (13th volume pages 53 and 54) but maintains that sparse Tamil settlements commenced in the 10th century. The important thing however is that they both concur on the position that there was no historical evidence to support the position adopted by the TULF at its Vadukkodai convention in 1976. (i.e. that there was a 3000year independent Tamil Kingdom in the North of Sri Lanka).

Despite these statements by well-known historians the real ground situation during the 14th 15th and 16th centuries with regard to Tamil settlements do not appear to be all that tenable with the records of Portuguese and Dutch maintaining that the population in Jaffna was mainly made up of migratory fisherman from India. Dutch records speak of bringing in ‘foreign labor’ from India for tobacco cultivation in the Eastern coastal areas of Ceylon between 1752 and 1796. However, it is evident that it was during the British period starting from 1798 that large-scale migration of Tamils from the Coromandel coast in India took place for the construction of roads and railway lines in Ceylon. 

 

Dr Mahesh Laduwahetti in an article to the Island of 9th February 2008, titled The Oxford English Dictionary and its connections with Sri Lanka’, gives an account of the Sri Lanka’s connection to the making of the Oxford English dictionary. This account also gives some idea of the composition of the demography in the Eastern part of Ceylon during the British times. Quoting from the book “The Professor and the Mad Man: making of the Oxford English Dictionary’ authored by Simon Winchester, he says,        “Oxford University had hired Dr James Murray in 1878 to edit and manage the philology project; lexicon of the English language. He had hired many volunteer contributors who labored for over 20 years to provide material and a major contributor among them had been one Dr. William C Minor. In the book Winchester relates the extraordinary life story of William Chester Minor. How he came to be declared insane, while still retaining intellectual capabilities to enable him to function as major contributor to the OED. William had been born in Ceylon in June 1834 to American parents who had arrived in the Island as missionaries of an evangelical sect, just three months earlier and had settled in Manipay near the Trincomalee naval base. His father ran a printing press and his mother died of TB when the boy was only three years old. William’s father remarried and the stepmother ran a local school. The school library was well stocked and according to Winchester William Minor “received markedly better education than he might have received back in England”. By the time William was 12 years old, ‘he spoke good Sinhalese some Hindi and Tamil’ William had later confessed to his doctors in England and USA that when he was 13 he began having ‘lascivious thoughts’ and fantasized about the ‘village girls who frolicked the Sinhalese surf in the area where he lived’. His parents were extremely pious Christians who instilled a strict behavioral code on William and he was sent back to USA to stay with his uncle. 

 

Dr. Laduwahetti states that ‘The fact that Sinhalese was the language of that region in the mid 19th century came as a surprise to me as it is commonly believed that this part of Sri Lanka was a Tamil speaking area’.

Another important piece of evidence in this regard that challenges that Tamil claims for a Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna was the report of the Cole brook Commission that was appointed by the British in 1833 to take the census of Ceylon. The Colebrook Commission as reported in its volume 1V states that the census of Jaffna cannot be published as the population in the area is migratory. This position is only to be expected as the North of Ceylon is only 22 miles away from the Southern Indian coast. 

 

However, with all these evidence and historical facts the beginning of the current Tamil problem in Sri Lanka could be traced to the advent of British and their conquest of the Kandyan Kingdom of Ceylon in 1815. After the Kandyan Convention was signed in 1815 the British annexed the Kandyan Kingdom and became the first and only foreign power to rule the whole of Ceylon. The last Sinhala King incidentally was of Telingu (Andra in India) ancestry and acceded to the throne by his relationship to the Kandyan Kingship. It should be appreciated that the Kandyan kingdom of Ceylon withstood foreign/European invasion for a period of 300 years preserving its position, after the maritime provinces of the country was conquered by the Portuguese in 1505. The Kandyan chieftains were persons of valor and strategic intelligence and hence protected their Kingdom in the face of incessant intrusions. However, it is the brutality and alcoholism of this last King Shri Wickreme Rajasinghe that made the Kandyan chieftains to conspire with the British and hand over the Kingdom on an agreement to govern within specified parameters. The British gave the impression of being more humane and fair and the Kandyan chieftains too, fell for it in their hour of desperation. The irony however was that the British violated the Kandyan convention even before the ink with which the convention papers were signed could dry.

 

They started this by, passing legislation in 1816 to make working compulsory for the local population on the Vesak full moon day which is the most revered day in the Buddhist calendar. This was despite the clause 4 in the Kandyan convention which specifically expressed protection for ‘Buddhism as the religion of the majority’. In 1818 the Kandyan people started their first uprising against the British for blatantly violating the very Convention on which they ascended to power in the Kandyan Kingdom.

 

The British eventually overcame the uprising with great difficulty but realized the need to control the locals by creating a social tier between the British colonial administration and the local populace. This tier is to be made of local elites who were loyal to the British and at the same time they expected this new social tier to produce the blue and white color workers that the British needed to govern this country. They borrowed a leaf from the book of British planter William Humes who successfully created the Brown Sahib class in India by organizing the Indian National Congress. Hence the colonial administration decided to introduce a western system of education to Sri Lanka.

 

‘Divide and rule’ is a basic tactic adopted by the European colonials to administer the colonies. Divide et empora to colonialism was like ‘Bread to butter’ In Malaysia the British did it successfully to control the indigenous Malays through the ethnic Chinese. The closest parallel to Sri Lanka in this regard however could be found in the Belguim colonization of Rwanda in Africa. In Rwanda, the colonials propped up the 10% Tutsies (who were originally from Burundi) against the majority Hutus. When Belgium finally left in 1962 after years of colonial exploitation the Tutsies were 100 % in charge of the country with a marginalized Hutu population. But the Tutsis realized the danger of having themselves outnumbered so badly by the Hutu majority in the country and hence the Tutsies have been carrying out organized ethnic cleansing of Hutus since independence. Rwanda has been often featured in global news for its communal strife and even today it remains a country of volatile communal relations with frequent reports of communally motivated mass murder.

 

In Sri Lanka, the British employed a number of tactics from this bag of colonial strategies. They reached out to the Burgher community, the descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch in Sri Lanka, and brought in Malays from Malaysia to be employed in the Police and armed forces. These however did not represent more than 2% of the country’s population at the time and hence they cast their eyes on the Tamil population in Jaffna which had by then gained some measure of respectability through their loyalties to the Dutch and the Portuguese. A good portion of the Tamils had become Catholics by then residing in Mannar and Batticaloa and Portuguese had converted these Tamils to the Catholic religion due to the stringent caste system prevalent among the Hindus. High caste Hindus prevented low casts from using the same temple, same well, same school etc. The British however did not take well to these Catholic Tamils as there were religious persecutions in Europe between the Catholics and the Protestants at that time.

 

The British therefore decided that they should create their own Anglicized protestant minority and for this they saw unmistakable potential among the Jaffna Tamil community. Hence, they decided that the proposed education system should start from Jaffna which was at the northernmost point of the Island, 400 km north of the port capital Colombo. British had deployed Tamils in the Coromandel coast of India and had known them to be good servants.  The fact that Jaffna was only 22 miles away from India impressed the British. They realized the potential of Jaffna being turned in to a hub where they could set up educational facilities to create this second- string administration, not only for Ceylonese administration purposes, but generally to serve their colonial interests in the region that included Malaysia and Singapore.

 

The British however had a problem as they did not have sufficient missionary workers in Britain and therefore had to seek the help of the Anglican Church of America. The recent American Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr Robert O’Blake in a message to public newspapers on the occasion of the American independence day on the 4th July 2008, makes it a point to mention that the Uduvil Girls School, commenced by the American missionaries who arrived in Jaffna from New England in 1824, was the first girls boarding school in Asia. While agreeing with the ambassador on that, one may wonder why he singled out this girls school when there were two boys schools with boarding facilities established in Jaffna in the same year, i.e. St. Patrick’s Jaffna and St John’s Jaffna, by the New England missionaries. That was four years after the first Kandyan uprising was suppressed.

 

These schools were the first and the oldest English educational institutes in modern Sri Lanka. Education in Ceylon up to then was based around the Temples and Buddhist monasteries but the advent of Portuguese in1505 had rendered that system increasingly irrelevant to the country’s administration. Hence by 1824 there were 63 Catholic vernacular schools set up by the Catholic Church. Rev. Fr S G Perera SJ says in his History of Ceylon, the British period, “A regulation was passed in 1826 to the effect that no Headman, who did not write and read English, should be appointed. Thus, the advent of English as the official language set a premium on English language which was beyond the means of Catholics, Buddhist and Hindus and all power and influence passed on to the Protestant Ceylonese and those chosen by the British, educated in missionary schools” (pages 115,116). Even though the official language became English there were no facilities for the people to learn English other than through the mechanism established by the Anglican Church. Hence by 1826, the British with the full control of the Island and with English as the language of governance have now taken the first step of their colonial agenda for the inhabitants of Ceylon, that of ‘bringing up a chosen few’ who looked down upon the helpless majority.

 

Up to then no proper census had been done in Ceylon and the British were keen to understand the country and the different communities that inhabit it for their own administrative purposes. Thus in 1832 they entrusted to the Colebrook Commission, among other things, the task of taking a countrywide census of people in Ceylon. The Colebrook commission reported on the Jaffna Tamil population in its volume 4. But they qualified their findings by stating that it was difficult to take proper census of the population ‘since the Tamil population in the peninsula was migratory’.

 

The significance of establishing English education institutes in Jaffna in 1824 should be viewed from the analogous position vis a vis the rest of the Island. It was not until the year 1834 that Colombo, the Capital of Ceylon receives its first British style educational institution by the name of Colombo Academy, the present day Royal College. Hence a generation of Tamils in Jaffna received their English education before it was introduced by the colonial administrators to cosmopolitan Colombo which was the principal port and the administrative Capital of Ceylon.  The colonial Government declared English as the Official language 1826 but did not provide facilities for the people in general (except for those in Jaffna), to learn the language. Even the name Jaffna was coined by the British to the peninsular in place of original name, Yapapatuna in Sinhala and Yalpanam in Tamil. Yapa is the genealogical name of the last known Sinhala Provincial ruler of the peninsula and ‘Yapapatuna’ literally means the ‘Fort of Yapa’.

 

The revolution in education they say is the ‘mother of all revolutions’ and this then was the beginning of the transformation of the people of Ceylon for a palpable change in their traditions, values, perceptions and beliefs. The British generally used a single word to sum up the totality of this transformation and that is ‘civilization’.

 

After the clashes in Jaffna during the 1981 DDC election which the LTTE did not want to take place, it was reported that the clashes had damaged the centuries-old and valuable Jaffna Public library. This made a lot of students in the south know that the best library in the Island had been in Jaffna and it explained to some extent the results obtained by the students from Jaffna at the competitive University examinations. Later it was realized that this library was not only the best in Ceylon but also the best in South Asia. It was established around 1833 in Jaffna while the Colombo Public library had been commenced only in the 1870’s. The Libraries in the rest of the Island came up, as far as one knew, only after independence.

 

Jaffna started to gain ground as a place for English education fast, not only in Ceylon but in the South Asian region and by 1833 it became the center from which blue and white-collar worker needs of the Empire were met. Hence Tamil (from Tamil Nadu) and Malayali (from Kerala in South India) families migrated into Jaffna in search of English education while the employment vacancies of the Empire in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and sometimes in Southern India were filled by those who were educated in Jaffna.

 

In 1833 Colebrook Cameroon administrative reforms were introduced to Ceylon and with this the Country was divided into 5 provinces for administrative purposes replacing the ‘Rata’ system of the Sinhala Kings that existed up to then. The ancient ‘Cinghalay’ was divided into three sub-kingdoms (Rata) for administrative purpose; Ruhunu Rata comprising the South and the East; Malaya Rata comprising the Western and the Central regions: Pihiti Rata made up of the Nothern areas. Those Ratas were further subdivided into ‘Koralays’. The British replaced this administrative demarcation in 1833 with five provinces, i.e. North, South, West, East and the Central. There was no communal basis in these reforms at that time because the Northern Province was made up of a vast area (including the present North Central province) and the Sinhala population overwhelmed any other population that inhabited the province, either on a migratory or permanent basis. The Cameron reforms however, introduced a Legislative Council to the Ceylon Government with provision for indigenous representation on ethnic basis in the council. The basis for indigenous representation in that council was one member to represent the Burger community, one member to represent the Tamils and one member to represent the Sinhalese. This was the beginning of the communal representation in Ceylon, a country known as ‘Cinhalay’ in ancient times to which communal representation as a basis of administration was alien.

 

The second Sinhala uprising took place in the Central province in 1847 and become a serious threat to the British administration of the island. Incidentally the reason for this uprising was the expropriation of the Temple school lands by the British in favor of the Protestant Churches and the imposition of the ‘Pol tax’. The British summoned reinforcement from India and by 1848 were able to overcome the rebellion and execute all the rebel leaders of these provinces, a further subdivision under the British takes place at different times depending on the administrative requirements and accordingly in 1873 the Northern Province is subdivided into North and North/Central provinces. With this subdivision, the North/Central with its Cinhala majority becomes a Cinhalese area and the North which comprised of the Jaffna peninsula, Mannar and a swathe of jungles to its south-east becomes a province of its own. Hence this is the first time in the history of Ceylon that an area is getting demarcated with a Tamil majority population. Therefore this ‘3000year old traditional Homeland’ the Tamils have claimed through their various avenues of propaganda is factually not any older than the year 1873.

 

In 1886 the British demarcated the Eastern province into Uva province and the present Eastern provinces and thus the second part of this ‘traditional homeland’, the present Eastern province (which remains multiracial even up to this day) was born and that too, only in 1886. However, even by then these new demarcated areas were not claimed by Tamil racialist as their ‘ancestral homeland’ as there weren’t enough people and further demographic changes were constantly taking place in these areas. The British encouraged agriculture in the East with the settlement of Malabar/Tamil laborers brought to the country for road construction in 1858.  There was no racial identity called ‘Tamil’ in these areas by then and the population was from the Indian provinces of Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh and Kerala, but they were using Tamil as a common language.

 

The 1871 census published by the British does not recognize any area of the country as Tamil majority area and it was only after in 1880 that the colonial administration of Ceylon recognizes ‘Tamil’ as a language used in Ceylon for administrative purposes. The 1911 census made by the British for the first time recognizes Tamil areas in parts of the country. Therefore, this concept of a ‘3000-year-old Tamil nation’ as articulated from the Thimpu Talks (1983) onwards by the Tamil leaders has only properly commenced from 1911 making it evidently only 72 years old.

 

“In 1899 the colonial Government established 102 English schools in the country and handed them over to the Protestant Christian Missions for management. Of these schools 36 were cited in Jaffna district, 35 in Colombo district, 13 in Trincomalee, 12 in Galle, 3 in Kurunegala and 1 in Kandy. Not a single English school was established in the predominantly Sinhalese provinces of Northcentral, Uva, Sabaragamuva, Kalutara, Matara and Chilaw. These schools were fee levying but operated on a Government grant. It should be observed that 36 out of the 103 schools were established in Jaffna district while Colombo which was the capital of the country from the time of the Portuguese, the main center for trade commerce, center for the main Harbor and Airport, where the English speaking and Protestant community lived, received only 35 schools. That is one less than Jaffna district. Moreover, the Jaffna schools were better equipped, better managed and highly endowed by American and British education cartels. The most step-motherly treatment in English education was meted out by the British to the Kandyan Sinhalese whom the British considered as ‘disloyal and rebellious people’” (Gunaseela Vithanage Island 24th Dec.1988 Communalism- the bane of SL politics

Communalism was slowly but surely taking a stranglehold on the Ceylonese society by then. The Tamil community was emerging and staking a claim for domination through their education in every sphere of Ceylonese activity. British introduced the game of cricket to Sri Lanka but again it was the Tamils who learned it first (from Englishmen) and they formed a Cricket Club by the name of Tamil Union in the heart of Colombo. Incidentally, it was only in this Cricket ground that they had covered stands up to 1970s and hence it was the only venue that hosted international cricket teams to Ceylon. The Burgers had already formed into the Burger Recreation Club by then. The Sinhalese then formed themselves into the Sinhalese Sports Club. The Moors formed themselves into Moors sports club and the Saracens their own. Even sports had become very communal by then and finally when the Cricket clubs ran out of communal names to form sports clubs some clubs adopted Nondescripts and Nomads as names for their Cricket clubs in Colombo.

 

In 1911 McCallum reforms were introduced to Ceylon and with this for the first time Ceylonese were allowed to vote to choose their representative. But it was only those who possessed a certain level of competence in English and an accepted level of means who were eligible for this vote and accordingly only 4% of the Ceylonese population became entitled to exercise their vote to elect a representative.  This Legislative Assembly was made up of 21 members and of those there were 11 commissioned members and 10 non- commissioned members. According to these reforms the Europeans community in Ceylon became entitled to elect 2 members, the Burger community 1member and the Ceylonese community 1 member. Hence now the Sinhalese and the Tamils could elect only one member from the voting rights whereas under the previous system two members, one for each community, were appointed by the Government.

 

Two candidates contested this seat to represent the indigenous Ceylonese and they were Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (Tamil) and Marcus Fernando (Sinhala Christian). The Tamils had about 30 % of the votes and the Sinhalese a little over 30% on the basis of the entitlement to vote. However, at this election Ponnambalam Ramanathan got elected to represent the entire Ceylonese community beating Marcus Fernando, purely because some of the Sinhalese voted for him considering his credentials and the close relationship he had with the British.

 

This election and the subsequent events connected to the election however got interpreted to convey a different message to the Tamil community and its leaders. After the election when Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan returned to Colombo from England he was conducted in a procession from the Colombo port to his residence and this procession was made up of Sinhala and Tamil elites in the Ceylonese society. The Tamil community and its leaders were now beginning to feel that the majority Sinhalese were prepared to accept the leadership of a Tamil and hence in the event of Sri Lanka gaining independence, they opined, that it would be Tamils who would get into the shoes of the British. Parenthetically there were ample signs available in Ceylonese society at that time to make the Tamils feel that way because it appeared that the Sinhalese were not as educated as the Tamils and also that the Tamils as a community was dominating every sphere of Sri Lankan activity including administration. The Tamils were also closer to the British and most of all the election results showed that the Sinhalese are not united and they do not work on communal considerations. Hence the Tamil community led by Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan entertained the thought that they were the ‘indigenous heir apparent’ of the British in Ceylon. 

 

The First World War devastated Europe and particularly made the British Empire not only weak but vulnerable to the sweeping social and political reforms taking place in different parts of the world. The world consensus in general started to look down upon colonialism and slavery as practices against human civilization and instead communism and socialism started to gain ground. The British realized that they would have to sooner or later renounce their colonies, beginning from India.

 

It was in this global milieu that the Muslim Sinhala riots took place in Ceylon in 1915. The riots erupted when the Muslims obstructed a Buddhist procession passing a mosque in Gampola. Since the majority of the Muslims lived all over the country, riots spread to all corners of the country. The British however suspected the riots to be ‘Sinhala/Communist uprising to destabilize the British administration’. They proclaimed martial law arrested the Leftist leaders and murdered a number of Sinhala leaders. Promising young Sinhalese Henry Pediris was murdered and Sinhala leaders like D S Senanayake, F R Senanayake and Sir D B Jayatileke were imprisoned.  It was E W Perera, a very principled Sinhala Christian who traveled to Britain with the ‘shoot at Sight’ order of the British Governor hidden in his shoe sole, to present it to the British Secretary for colonies, on behalf of his Buddhist brethren, to give the true picture of the happenings in Ceylon. The way the British rulers behaved however, convinced the Sinhala elite of the inhumanity of a colonial administration and made them realize the need to launch a struggle for independence.

 

In keeping with this thinking, the Ceylonese leaders formed themselves into the ‘Ceylon National Congress’ in 1919. Here again disregarding ethnic considerations, Ponnambalam Arunachalam(Tamil), the younger brother of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was made the Chairman by consensus from among the indigenous Sinhalese and the Tamils. This further confirmed the willingness of the Sinhalese to accept Tamil leadership on national issues.

 

However, the simmering differences of opinion between the Sinhala leaders and the Tamil leaders manifested during the proceedings of this Congress. This surfaced when the British administration indicated that a consultative committee of local leaders should be formed to discuss the proposed administrative reforms of the Government of Ceylon. The Sinhalese, were of the opinion that any proposed Legislative assembly should elect members based on delimitation and on area basis while the Tamils opted for a communal representation based on education and financial standing. The Tamil leaders also insisted that a seat should be reserved for Tamil representation in the Western province where the Capital City of Ceylon is, notwithstanding the fact that it was a Sinhala majority area. The Sinhala leaders did not object to that but objected to communal representation vis a vis area representation as a matter of policy in the proposed Legislative assembly.

 

A stalemate was the result of this division of opinion and by and by the Tamils, Amabalavannar Kanagasabey and HAP Sandarasagara, started to become more vociferous and articulated the need to have a seat in the western province for the Tamils and it appeared that these arguments were somewhat deliberately made to precipitate a crisis. The majority of the members however had faith in the President of the National Congress, Mr Paonnambalam Arunachalam to reach an amicable settlement to this issue. But the President himself, after some wavering, to everybody’s dismay, took the side of the belligerent Tamil members and walked out of the National Congress.  A number of third parties tried their best to patch up the two groups but it appeared that the Tamil leaders had taken a firm stand not to support democratic reforms in Ceylon. The Sinhala leaders just could not comprehend the complete change of attitude on the part Sir, Ponnambalam Arunachalam, who they knew took so much pain to make the Ceylon National Congress a success. However, the real reasons for this split surfaced much later.

 

Mr Gunaseele Vithanage writing to the island of 29th December 1988 under “Communalism the bane of SL politics” states that, ‘The truth is that the Jaffna Tamils, the English educated among them, were opposed to any advancement of democracy, not to speak of independence. In Jaffna, the liberal politicians of the older generation, such as Sir Vaithyalingam Duraisamy and Mr K Balasingham, had no place now. Instead their places were taken over by more communalist Tamil like Amabalavannar Kanagasabey, HAP Sandarasagara, SJ V Chelvanayagam, G.G Ponnambalam and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan himself. They were all lawyers and elites but chauvinist who believed in an inherent superiority of the Tamils over the Sinhalese majority. They all belong to the so-called ‘high caste Vellala’.

‘They were well aware of what was happening in Europe as a result of the spread of political ideologies like liberalism, socialism and communism, all based on democracy or rule by the representatives of the people. Powerful Kings were being either killed or sent into exile. Aristocrats were stripped off their lands, wealth and privileges. Commoners and the hoi polloi were becoming rulers and giving orders. If democracy comes to Ceylon, the Sinhalese will take the Legislative majority, and with that the power. One by one the Sinhalese will take over the powers that they were made to want under the British. On the other hand, in Jaffna itself the ‘low caste’ with whom the Vellala casts do not share even the Temples and the water wells will definitely come up and become Members of Parliament and end up even as Ministers of government. What will be their future then and more particularly what would be the future of their coming generations?

 

This was the mood in Jaffna at the time and it was this thinking that finally prevailed and influenced Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam not to give leadership to a movement that invited democracy to Ceylon.”

Mr S Piyasena and R Y Senadeera in their book ‘India, We Tamils and Sri Lanka’ give one other reason in addition to the above.

The yearning for independence was everywhere in the colonies and in India there were serious expectations of independence and hence the various states and linguists in India were trying to work out the modalities of independence to India. Since Hindi which was considered to be the language of Northern India was to be the official language of the independent India, the South Indian states, i.e. Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, Malabar in Kerala and Bangalore in Mysore opted to form its own Independent country under the Madras Presidency and called it ‘Dravida Desam’. They also envisaged the formation of a Pan Dravidian Federation comprising the whole of Sri Lanka. Singapore, Malaysia, Hawai, Bali and some states in Africa where the Indian Tamils were in a substantial minority.

As regards the position of Sri Lanka vis a vis this envisaged Dravida Empire. Professor Appadurai of Madras University, Constitutional advisor to the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham, stated in a pamphlet defining the aims and objectives of the Pan Tamil Empire. “Ceylon is already semi Tamil and when Ceylon comes under Tamil rule after independence, the envisaged Free Tamil state (Dravida Desham) will possess the best Tamil harbor in the world.” Professor Appadurai was obviously referring to the Trincomalee harbor in the Eastern province of Sri Lanka. (Page 29).

 

This pamphlet also quoted by Thammita,Mettananda and Godamune in their “Truth about the Indian Problem in Ceylon’ and they all opined that this sudden change of attitude by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was due to his realization that plans were afoot in Tamil Nadu to amalgamate Ceylon to the Pan Tamil Confederation.

 

Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam then formed the Tamil Congress with the racialist Jaffna politicians who had already formed the ‘Jaffna league’ by then in Jaffna. This is a significant event that took place in 1923, for this is the first time a political organization was formed under a racial banner. Without stopping at that Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam made a racially inflammatory speech at the launching of this political movement. He maintained that the Tamils were more intelligent, hardworking and civilized than the Sinhalese and therefore they are racially superior to all other racial groups in Ceylon including the Sinhalese. He also mentioned about a Tamil history of the Vijayanagar Empire (India) and said that the Tamil history in Sri Lanka is more than 3000 years old (Communal politics – J.Russel). This could be taken as the first major step towards racial politics in Sri Lanka.

 

The Tamil Congress started corresponding directly with the Secretary of State for Colonies in the British government through the then Governor of Ceylon Sir Henry William Manning. During this time there was the talk of ‘Manning reforms for Ceylon’ in the air and this was to introduce some semblance of democratic representation to the people in Ceylon. The Tamil Congress, in their very first memorandum to the British Government suggested that, “in view of the importance of the Tamil Community, two thirds as many seats as would be assigned to the Sinhalese should be assigned to the Tamils.” The implication of this would be that in a 50 Member legislative assembly if 24 seats are being awarded to the Sinhalese 16 seats should be awarded to the Tamils. They expected the Colonial Government to award 10 positions to Europeans, Burghers, Plantation and commercial interests groups. Since the Europeans generally sided with the Tamils, the strategy was that the Tamils will be able to hold the majority over Sinhalese with the European support in the proposed Legislative council. Sir Arunachalam however managed to convince the British that the Manning reforms are inimical to the interests of Ceylon and with new Governor Devonshire assuming duties in Ceylon, a watered-down version of the Manning reforms to suit the Tamils, were finally introduced.

 

What is important to understand here is that the Tamil society is a heavily caste structured society that facilitates caste lines of authority which finally serves a few high caste leaders to take the reigns of society. If you are a Tamil, You invariably are a Hindu and if you area Hindu you have to yield to the caste system. The British had to introduce legislation in 1844 to ban slavery in Tamil society as up to then castes such as Koriar, Chanda and Parayas were treated as destined to be slaves of the other casts. Even after the turn of the century members of the Paraya casts were not allowed to frequent the public roads during daytime. In 1933 the Vellala bus drivers struck work protesting against the reservation of seats for the low castes in public transport. The Portuguese were able to convert law caste Hindu to be Catholics in the early days and subsequently with the Protestant Church accepting the Catholic Church as a denominational Church under Christianity the Catholics too were able to obtain English education. Even in Church a non-Vellala was not permitted to wear shoes to the congregation. Therefore, the caste regimentation in the Tamil society always prevailed and now with English, the Vellalas cemented their position in the apex while the new English educated Colonial castes enjoyed their privileges supplementing the position of the Vellala clan. This made the ordinary Tamils ordinary forever yielding to the high caste Vellala.

 

 In 1929 however, some ordinary Tamils with an ordinary leadership formed themselves into an association called the ‘Jaffna Youth Association’. Handy Perimpanayagam gave leadership to this movement and it comprised the likes of K Nasine, E A Cambarr, C Thanabalasingham and AC Kanagasingham. They were non-racialist leftists and therefore were prepared to establish contacts with the Left movements in the South. This was the only Tamil political movement that advocated full sovereignty to Ceylon and full franchise to its citizens irrespective of education, wealth and caste. But their meetings were stoned and their members were threatened and branded as ‘traitors of the Tamil race’. Handy Perimpanayagam was a teacher and the others who gave the leadership held very ordinary professions like clerks. The movement therefore died a natural death due to lack of influence and charismatic leadership.

 

The British social order also went through phases during the 1930’s due to the Bolshevik revolution and other political changes that took root in Europe. These influences led Britain to grant universal franchise to all its citizens in 1929. They also contemplated more democratization of the colonies to prevent them from being dragged into the communist orbit. Hence the Colonial Government decided to introduce Donoughmore reforms to Ceylon.

 

Donoughmore reforms proposed a State Assembly with executive powers made up of 58 representatives (50 elected and 8 appointed). And most of all the reforms proposed the introduction of Universal franchise to Ceylon. The Tamil community was badly perturbed by this proposed democratization. Hence, they mobilized all their resources to fight the Donoughmore reforms. There however were signs of desperation in their protests and their main theme was that ‘Ceylon was not prepared for such democratization and hence it should remain a British colony for some more time’. In this respect, their allegiance to colonialist Britain now appeared to be even stronger than that of the Ceylon European league.

 

The Irish national and Conservative member of Parliament, Lord Earl of Donoughmore with his two assistants, interviewed 140 civil society organizations made up of different communal, religious and interest groups. The Kandyan Sinhala community forwarded proposal to create a federation of states and requested federal powers to the Kandyan region. The fact that the Government of Ceylon was limited to a handful of elites from Colombo and Jaffna was the basis of their argument. The Commission also noted the protest campaign by the Tamil leaders that, in the event of one man one vote, the Sinhala juggernaut will take over the country relegating the Tamils from being ‘administrators to administered’ overnight.

 

The essence of the statements made by A Ramanathan (son of Ponnambalam Ramanathan and the new leader of the Tamil Congress) to the Donoughmore commission recorded in the Memorandum of the Donoughmore constitution from page 4 to 14 could be summarized as follows,

“It is Tamils who built the civilization in this Island thousands of years ago. Therefore, of all the communities inhabiting this Island today it is the Tamils who should be singled out as the true heirs of this Island. This has been proved by the writings of Sir John Marshall and Dr Saize among others. They have proved that the Tamil land is the cradle of world civilization.”

J Russel in his account of ‘Communal politics in Ceylon’ attributes the following statement to A Ramanathan on the issue of universal franchise to Ceylon. “They are counting people just the way they count cattle. 60 to this side and 40 to the other side! How could you possibly treat the educated and cultured Village Headman and the man on the road who cannot read or write, on an equal basis for their entitlement to vote? This will cause the power of governance to be transferred to the hands of criminals and thugs. This will also cause the downfall of the Hindu civilization”  

 

The Donoughmore Commission, despite all those objections, recommended universal franchise to the Ceylonese males above 21 years and females above 30 years of age. Their recommendations however, included the granting of voting rights to the migratory labor that arrive in Sri Lanka for various menial jobs including estate work. This was deliberately done to reduce the proportionate voting power of the Sinhalese and effectively it was reduced from 74 % to 69 % by these reforms. Thus, the migratory Tamil laborers from India, a category of people whom the British never considered more worthier than the sleeping space in a line room, became entitled to the right to elect the Government of Ceylon by just the stroke of an Irishmen’s pen. A right they did not enjoy even in their native India.

 

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who made yet another unsuccessful trip to England to convince the House of Lords as to the inimical nature of universal franchise in Ceylon died of a heart attack upon returning to Ceylon. 

 

Donoughmore reforms also affected the Muslim community in Ceylon as they were not in favor of awarding ‘the right to vote’ to women. There was also a rift between the Malays and Moors as the Malays enjoyed a privileged position similar to Tamils in Ceylonese society. Eventually however the Muslims under the leadership of Marcan Markar adjusted themselves to the changing conditions in the country like other European and Indian minorities. But the Tamils steadfastly refused to accept the changing global and local political scenarios, probably because the potentialities inherent in those changes were too dreadful for them to anticipate.

 

The first election under the Donoughmore constitution was held in 1931 and the Jaffna Tamils boycotted the election as a mark of protest for introducing a ‘one man one vote’ system. As a result only 4 Jaffna seats were represented in the Council. 28 Low country Sinhalese, 10 Kandyan Sinhalese, 3 Ceylon Tamils, 2 Europeans and 1 Moor were elected. The Governor nominated 8 more members. It is relevant to mention here that some elder statesman of Jaffna such as Sir Vaithyalingam Duraisamy and advocate K Balasingham were opposed to this belligerent move on the part of some young lawyers in Jaffna. Former Member of the Executive and Legislative councils, Advocate K Balasingham warned the people of Jaffna of the dangers of following a separatist course of action with the view of amalgamating with the Madras Presidency. In an open letter to the Jaffna public under the title, ‘The Present Political Situation’ in 1934 he wrote, “As I am addressing this letter to the Jaffna public only, I am not suggesting here what other communities might do to bring about a better understanding with you or with each other. As for your self, you will find that magnanimity is often the greatest wisdom even when dealing with those who are acting unfairly towards you. The opportunities of employment under the Government in Malaysia or even in Ceylon will become less and less as years go by in spite of all alliances you may have with Europeans. There is nothing to prevent the Sinhalese also seeking such alliances and of late Europeans have valued the Sinhalese friendship more than yours’.

 

 This letter is a testimony to say that the Tamils were the most privileged for employment and only towards independence that the Europeans changed their attitudes.  But unfortunately, these words of wisdom, caught in the cacophony of Tamil chauvinism, became a mere cry in the wilderness. In the eyes of the larger polity, the young firebrands like Chelvanayagam, Vaniyasingham and GG Ponnambalam had won the day. In any case that was to be expected considering the structure of Tamil society and the changes that were about to take place in the Sri Lankan society after almost 150 years of privileged Tamil status. The Separatists in their ingenuity, appealed to the tribal and linguistic instincts of the Tamil public.

 

The second election to the State assembly in 1936 brought 39 Sinhala representatives 8 Ceylonese Tamil representatives and 3 Indian Tamil representatives making up the 50 representatives. Sir D B Jayatileke was elected as the Leader of the House by a 2vote majority. The Sinhala representatives, though there were 39, were politically stretched from extreme left to extreme right, depending on their ideologies. Sir Vithyalingam Duraisamy, a respected Tamil was elected as the speaker of the state assembly by a Sinhala majority vote. After the 1936 election, for which the local vote formed the basis, the Tamil leaders had to face the unpalatable reality that it was not possible for the Ceylon Tamils to overwhelm the Sinhala majority through a game of numbers. But they made representations to the British Government to increase the number of seats in the Tamil areas on a basis of revised delimitation process.

 

The Ceylon National Congress now under the Presidency of Sir D B Jayatileke decided to go ahead with their campaign to agitate for more democratic reforms and for Dominion status for Ceylon. This was very much in keeping with the political storms gathering momentum in the global political scenario. Britain itself, despite Winston Churchill’s antics and rhetoric, had to face up to the reality that it could no longer continue to be the colonial master. Plus, the World war 11 made it lose all the trappings of a colonial power and also made it financially weak.

 

The Tamils kept complaining to the Colonial Office about the injustices brought upon the minorities after the introduction of Donoughmore reforms. They opined that giving more than 50 % power to any one community is harmful to Ceylon and would lead to chaos. As a result of these relentless complains the British appointed Lord Soulbury to look into these grievances and enact a new constitution to grant Dominion status to Ceylon.

 

Lord Soulbury first took up the question of minority grievances. It should be noted here that even though the British treated them as ‘minority grievance’ the Tamils never called them minority grievances for the simple reason that they were not prepared to be just a minority in Ceylon. For them their complaints were ‘communal injustices’.  After having studied the complaints extensively and comprehensively, the Soulbury commission drew the following conclusions in its ‘Minority Grievances’ section of the Report of the Commission on Constitutional Reform – Sept.1945. “We do not consider the policy of the State Assembly to be divisive because we have not observed such a divisive trend in the expenditure of funds for public development. The Northern and Eastern provinces have been developed well even before 1931.But even afterward, when you take the total expenditure for each province and calculate the expenditure per head in each of the province, the per head expenditure in Northern and Eastern provinces still remain high in comparative terms”.( Pages 43- 47)

 

GG Ponnambalam, a leading lawyer and the leader of the Tamil Congress is now the leading Tamil figure in politics. At this stage, he brought the 50-50 proposal before the Soulbury commission. The essence of this proposal had been conveyed to Lord Soulbury even before he left England on this mission. Ponnambalam addressing the commission explained his proposal “In short, our demand is to limit the representation of the Sinhalese who make up for 69% of the population to 50 %. The best legacy our community (Tamil) has is the extensive representation our members enjoy among State sector services. We will have to preserve that position too for the future.”(Page 43-47).

 

The 50- 50 proposals however were rejected by the Soulbury Commission and further they were described by Sir Ivor Jennings, a member of the Soulbury commission, as, “an attempt to create a majority into a minority and thereby to have a South African type of situation in Ceylon”. The point to note here is that the Tamil elite which opposed democratization on the grounds of awarding voting rights to the ‘low castes’ and the Sinhalese, have now altered their policy position and have taken a purely racialist position against the Sinhalese only.

 

Popular writer Mr. Gunaseela Vithanage writing to the Island on the 31st December 1988 under ‘Communalism, the bane of SL politics describe this change of focus thus, “There is no record of the history of any country where the privileged class in that country have surrendered their privileges without a fight. Apart from protecting their powers and the privileges, they were, as stated earlier, faced with the problem of revolt by the depressed class of Tamils in Jaffna itself.  They had been silent hitherto with the prospect of radical change in the body politics, but they also had begun to be vocal. They were organizing themselves under one union and were talking about joining with the left-wing political parties in the south. This was yet another potential danger for the Tamil elites, just at this stage.

There was also the question of creating the necessary conditions for the taking of the whole of Sri Lanka into the envisaged “Dravida Desham or the Pan Dravidian Federation which was to comprise all the Dravidian states in South India and in some other states. Considering all these aspects, the separatists had to move cautiously. There was, however, one way and that was the way which can not be considered as anti-democratic or anti-nationalist by anyone. That was by arousing and appealing to the dormant tribal instinct or racial consciousness of all the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Tamils as well as Tamils of Indian origin, Jaffna Tamils as well as mainland Tamils, rich Tamils and poor Tamils, high caste as well as low caste Tamils and uniting them under one flag and making such demands from the government as will have mass appeal to the Tamils. But the government will not be able to accede because those demands will be strongly opposed by the Sinhalese majority.

The strategy would have the effect, firstly, of uniting all the Tamils under one flag and secondly, of diverting the depressed classes in Jaffna from their agitation for emancipation, thirdly, halting the march of democracy at least for some time and thus saving their power and privileges and, fourthly, of facilitating the entry of Sri Lanka in to the Tamil empire of ‘Dravida Desam’. The dormant tribal instinct of the Tamil people was the weapon to be used in this strategy. This instinct was sharpest when a tribe is put on the warpath. To go on the warpath there must be an enemy and a cause for the war to inspire tribalism. The tribal leaders found a ready causus belli in the alleged encroachment of the so-called “Traditional homeland’ of the Tamils by the state-aided settlements in the eastern province.  The fact that there was not an iota of evidence to prove their claim at all did not bother the separatists. Their strategy was to enter into a collision course with the Government of Sri Lanka and with the aid of co-conspirators in Tamil Nadu to bring the government down. Hence, they made their first battle cry by demanding, their own autonomous state, guaranteed self-government and self-determination. From the very first post independent Sri Lankan Government the Tamil leaders also accused the government of encroaching on lands in the Eastern province which was multiracial and a part of the Kandyan Kingdom up to 1815”.

 

Discussing the genesis of the Tamil issue in Ceylon without mentioning sufficiently about S J V Chelvanayagam would be tantamount to discussing the LTTE without no mention of Prabhakaran. Samuel James Velupillai was born in Malaysia in 1898 as the only son to a Malay Tamil businessman by the name of Vishvanath Velupillai in Epo, Malaysia.  He was married to a Ceylon Tamil lady by the name of Harriet Annamma Kanapatthypillai of Thelippilai.  This family in Thellipilai had a history of being Catholic during the Portuguese time and being Protestant during the Dutch. But now they are devout Anglicans with a few ordained Priests in their immediate family. The Malaysian father of SJVC, as any father would, wanted to give a sound education to his only son and hence he could not find a better place for this than Jaffna in Ceylon which had earned a reputation throughout the South Asian region for its English education.

 

SJV reaches the shores of Ceylon as a 4year old Malaysian citizen in 1902 with his mother. He commenced his education at St. Johns Jaffna and later comes to St. Thomas’ Mt. Lavinia in the suburbs of Colombo. His contemporaries in this school included SWRD Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake. He becomes a lawyer passing out from the Ceylon Law College but constantly gets drawn into Tamil politics which eventually takes the better of the man. As a Vellala caste lawyer who belongs to the Jaffna elite he joined the Tamil Congress as its organizer for Kankesanthurai and retained the seat for the first time at elections held in 1947.  At the throne speech of the first independent parliament he participated representing the Tamil Congress and during the course of his speech poses the question, “If Ceylon could achieve independence from Britain why not we the Tamils secede from the rest of Ceylon and form our own state?” (Hanzard Feb. 1948).

 

As an Anglican, his first problem was Buddhism in Ceylon and typically he looks down upon the Buddhist as ‘heathens and pagans who needs to be civilized’. In his own perception, Sinhalese are a community that is inherently stupid and palpably uneducated and what often amazes him is the reality that how these 6 million ‘stupid Sinhalese’ could have their own country when the 40 + million Tamils who are much more intelligent and educated have no place to call their own. He probably had asked this question from himself a thousand times and every time he got the same answer, ‘that it is unfair’. ‘The Sinhalese community’ in his view ‘is too little and too stupid to deserve a country of their own’

 

Public statements made by him such as, “Sinhalese are too small to govern us Tamils’, betray this thinking. And he really makes his intentions very clear when he addressed a YMMA meeting in Fort in 1948 where he maintains that. “It is better for us to have our own land than to live on the benevolence of the Sinhalese”. In here he has been truthful when he uses the word ‘benevolence’ for what he means is that however well the Sinhalese would treat the Tamils, there is a compulsive urge among the Tamils to be separate. This truthfulness probably stood in good stead for him for the rest of his life when he concocted all those lies about ‘Tamils getting discriminated in the hands of the Sinhala Government’!

SJV Chelvanayagam missed out the opportunity to become a Minister in the First Cabinet in the Independent Ceylon, because there were 2 senior Tamils ahead of him including his own party leader Ganapathypillai Ganapragasam Ponnambalam. In any case a Ministerial portfolio in a ‘Sinhala government’ could not have quenched his separatist thirst. He quarreled with his leader for accepting a Ministerial portfolio in the first post independent Ceylonese Government and then leaves his party All Ceylon Tamil Congress to form his own party. In his thinking, his leader has betrayed the ‘Tamil cause’. He then proceeds to form his own party on the 19th December 1949 at the Railway Union office in Maradhana, Colombo with some Tamil leaders who shared his thinking.  

 

This party he thus formed betrayed by its own very name the duplicity and the mala fide intentions of the leader himself. He named this party in Tamil, as Ilankay Tamil Arasu Kachchi which means, the Party for a Tamil State in Ceylon. However, he was careful enough to name this party in English and Sinhala as ‘The Federal Party’. This careful distinction was made primarily because to the Tamil polity he wanted to project the picture of a messiah who will deliver them to their promised land which would justify his need to focus on racialism as the basis of his future campaign in the North while to the English and Sinhala speaking people he conveyed the impression that he was only demanding a federal state for the Tamils.

 

States that have amalgamated as Federations in the world have Federal institutions for needs such as Administrative, Investigative, Research of that federation that centrally operates to coordinate the activities of the states within that country. But never have we heard of a political party called the Federal party in any of those countries.  This name ‘Federal’ therefore was deliberately and carefully handpicked by Chelvanayagam to mislead the Sinhala and English-speaking polity that his intentions were only ‘federal’ and hence the emphasis. Maybe his intentions were only Federal at that time, for he had a strategy of, (according to his biography writer and son in law Prof. A J Wilson) demanding little now and more later’ to achieve this promised state of the Tamils. That is to achieve the legitimacy in stages.

 

This is the beginning of Tamil separatism and it was this party that focused and obsessed the local Tamils under the banner of racialism: that organized the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora to finance and propagate the ‘cause’ of the Tamils ; that obtained the support of the Christian and Catholic Churches to its cause ; that established relations with Tamil Nadu to instigate the South Indian Tamils and thereby to pressurize the Central government of India : that established the massive global misinformation campaign against the state of Sri Lanka; that eventually changed its name as the Tamil United Liberation Front and finally metamorphosed in to the violent armed struggle led by the LTTE.

 

Therefore, for S J V. Chelvanayagam, the father of modern Tamil politics, to have founded this separatist ‘Federal’ Party in 1949, the ‘Tamil cause’ should have existed by then;before independence. And more paradoxically, all the incidents that the Tamil leaders cite as reasons for Tamil grievances that manifested into a ‘Tamil cause’ have taken place after 1949. That is the citizenship act was in 1951: the Galoya Valley settlements were in 1952: the language issue was in 1956: Abrogation of the BC pact was in 1956; the letter ‘Shri’ was in 1958; Dudley Chelvanayagam pact was in 1965; standardization of University entrance was in 1972: July 83 was in 1983.

 

Therefore, it is nothing but logical to conclude that the ‘Tamil cause’ was not a result of discrimination by the ‘Sinhala majority’ Government since independence but rather it existed at the time of independence. What happened after 1948 was that Chelvanayagam after having formed the separatists’ Tamil party in 1949 was on the lookout for situations that could be interpreted as reasons for this Tamil separatist campaign. Hence every piece of legislation that was introduced to redress colonial grievances and democratize the country was twisted as being designed to ‘discrimination against the Tamils’. Therefore the ‘Tamil grievances – post-independence’ was nothing but ‘big hoax’ and Chelvanayagam was engaged in a nit-picking exercise to launch his struggle.

 

In the 1960’s the Christian Workers Fellowship appointed a group of Christian academics to study the changes that have taken place in Sri Lankan society since independence. The study groups report was published by the fellowship as a pamphlet in 1967 under title ‘Social Changes in Ceylon’. The significance of this report is in its scientific objectivity devoid of communal and religious prejudices. It is of course written from a Christian standpoint but not from the usual tendentious attitude of the Churches when commenting on Sri Lankan issues, but rather from a democratic and universalize point of view. The pamphlet under the heading ‘Westernization and the Masses’ it says, “Colonial rule also resulted in the creation of an English educated elite- a minority that was able to monopolize the best positions that the society had to offer. Thus, the Christians as a religious group and Jaffna Tamils as a racial group were able to occupy privileged positions in the society out of proportion to their numbers. Mention should be made of the Burgher community who were a Christian minority group in this country. During the early period of British rule especially, the community held a highly privileged social position. As against this privileged social minority was the vast mass of the predominantly Sinhala Buddhist who were in fact an underprivileged majority. Thus, any movement of social recognition arising within the majority has necessarily an appeal to the Buddhist Sinhala sentiments. The early Buddhist- Christian controversies and the Temperance Movement were only the forerunner of a definite political movement such as the Sinhala Maha Sabha of S W R D Bandaranaike”.(page 61)

Then it goes on to say, “In the colonial times, with the opportunity for English education offered specially by Christian Missionaries, Jaffna people began to enter the government services and the professions. This search for employment found them working in many parts of the country as a whole. It is not surprising then that the number of Jaffna Tamils employed in Government service especially appear to be very much out of proportion to their numbers in comparison to the Sinhala people. Then we can understand why with the growth of the Buddhist Sinhala agitation much common bitterness has engendered”.

“The educated man in Jaffna is held in very high esteem. In fact, it has been mainly through English education that the Tamils of Jaffna origin have been able to acquire wealth, power and influence in society. It is a fact that many accredited political leaders of Tamils reside in the south and amass their wealth in those parts. These people are members of the Capitalist class of Ceylon who are essentially right wing in their politics. In the Jaffna peninsula however they are accepted as the leaders of an oppressed Tamil minority struggling for its rights. In this role, the right-wing nature of their politics in the wider national arena gets obscured. It must be noted in this connection that the politics of Jaffna even from Donoughmore times have tended to be peninsula and communal”.

“In fact, apart from the Left-wing political parties, there are no parties with a truly national orientation and appeal in Jaffna politics. But in the left-wing parties, apart from one or two notable exceptions, no political leader acceptable to the caste-dominated society has arisen. Communal politics as manifest in Jaffna appear to be mainly reactionary in content. The struggle for minority seems to be conducted in the interest of essentially the English educated and more well to do middle-class sections. This brand of sterile communal politics only helps to divert the attention from more urgent, vital and wider national tasks confronting people. It also therefore impedes any genuine movement towards a more equitable social order which will help solve also problems of communalism. There does not appear to be a sufficiently strong and organized movement yet for the emancipation of the depressed classes in the peninsula. It is also significant that no purely Tamil speaking person, whether peasant or worker, has ever been elected as member of Parliament from the whole of the peninsula”. (Pages 63 & 64). The Christian Worker Fellowship could not have analyzed the situation any better.

 

Gunaseela Vithanage, a prolific writer on the question of communal politics in Sri Lanka, writing to the Island newspaper on the 29th December 1998 quotes from The State of the World Annual published by a well-known international organization based in London and New York. This is a very informative annual with contributions from experts on different aspects of the state of the world. The following quote is from its 1997 annual issue of the article Transforming Security in which the paragraph under Cult Violence states, “Where ethnic tension does exist however, they did not arise in a vacuum. One of the continuing legacies of colonial and imperial rule is that boundaries are often arbitrary- drawn not to reflect local realities but to serve the purpose of the imperial masters. As a result, people of the same culture, language or ethnicity found themselves separated by International borders and grouped with people of other backgrounds and origins, irrespective of whether they had co-existed peacefully earlier, been at odds, or had no significant contact at all. To steady their rule, the colonial Governments typically favored one local group, often a minority, over the others- Tamils over Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, Tutsi’s over Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi, Christian Arabs over Sunni and Shia Muslims in Lebanon- which generated fatal resentments”.

That is as close as we could get to, in concluding the summary of the facts and situation described in this paragraph on the genesis of the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka.

 

The history of a nation or a group of people is an account of events considered for the sake of its past, but in the case of Tamils in Ceylon, the situation is unique, in that it is an account that is build up for the sake of its future. 

Chapter 10

 

Hyped Tamil Grievances Subverting Genuine Sinhala!

 

The propaganda hype launched by the Tamil organizations on non-existent ‘Tamil Grievances’ is such it appears that the purpose of all that was twofold; to thwart the forward march of the new Ceylonese nation on the one hand, and then to subvert the possible clamor of Sinhalese for redress of their grievances after 443year colonialism, on the other. A glaring incongruity that exists in almost all the analytical studies carried out by different interest groups on the Sri Lankan conflict is in their inveterate failure to appreciate, or gloss over, the basic apprehensions of the Sinhalese who represent 74 % of the country’s population. It appears that the majority Sinhalese, who bore the brunt of 443-year colonial invasion and rule, have no grievances of their own to redress at independence and it is only the Tamils who are entitled to all the grievances by virtue of they, being the minority after independence. In that context, the significance of the need to study the social upheaval during colonial rule becomes all the more important because this protracted ‘ethnic conflict’ did spring after colonial rule and, it was never there before colonization in the early 16th century.

 

Invasion of Ceylon by European powers commenced when the Portuguese landed in Ceylon on the ‘spice trail’ of the Arab merchants in 1505. The initial impressions as recorded by father Fernao de Queyroz, the much-quoted Catholic priest and Portuguese historian of the era, was that Ceylon was a land where ‘every prospect pleased except the man that was vile’. By calling the Islanders ‘vile’ he was referring to the values and beliefs of the Islanders, but nowhere does he record a raging conflict between the inhabitants of the Island. The man in Ceylon may have been ‘vile’ because he did not look like a European in the first place: neither did he have European values nor a belief in the Catholic religion. De Queyroz also accuses the Sinhalese of worshipping ‘trees and stones’ and indulging in polyandry and polygamy.

 

Well, the Sinhalese society was based on agriculture and hence they knew that the wellbeing of man depended on the man’s sustainable relationship with the habitat he lived in. Trees therefore formed an important part of their daily lives and for thousands of years they preserved the thick jungle in the middle of the Island which formed the catchments area for all the Island’s waterways. There was no question of ‘worshipping the trees’ but there is one tree, the Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) that is treated with awe by the Buddhist because the Bo tree was associated in giving shelter to the Buddha when he attained enlightenment. It is a common sight in any Buddhist temple and it forms part of the sanctimonious paraphernalia of the Buddhist. This is purely because of this particular tree’s association with the enlightenment of Buddha and not because Buddhism requires its followers to worship trees. To say that the Buddhist are worshipping trees would be tantamount to saying that the Catholics are worshipping cattle sheds, since Jesus was borne in a cattle shed or a mauger.

 

No stones however were worshipped by the Sinhalese, therefore this general statement about ‘worshippers of trees and stones ‘may have been casually made by the Europeans to disparage those who believe in things other than the Christian God. The three edifices Buddhism expects its followers to worship are, the Buddha (the enlightened teacher), the Dhamma (preaching’s) and Sangha (disciples). Buddhism is a doctrine that advocates a harmonious existence with nature and believes that all living beings have the right to live. Gratitude is a virtue and Buddhist believe that man owes a debt to nature for his existence and therefore it is his duty to ensure the sustenance of his ambiance. It is in contrast to the Christian thinking that all things on this earth are created by the almighty God for the benefit of man and therefore he has the right to use it the way he thinks fit. A Buddhist would always argue that he would rather believe in a ‘God’ that can be seen and felt (that is nature) than the obverse. 

 

The situation with regard to polyandry and polygamy was more complicated. The Ceylonese never believed that the relationship between man and woman should be essentially based on ‘one to one love’ between the man and the woman. ‘Love’ which is selfish in its narrowest sense and a passing infatuation in its essence, was never considered by the Easterners as the basis for any relationship, leave alone a lasting one. More complex forms of love such as Maithree (altruistic benevolence), Karuna (loving kindness) Muditha (Wise/ Brightness) Upekkha (equanimity) had their places in the Ceylonese society but they too were not necessarily the basis of the relationship between man and woman. The primary basis of relationship between man and woman in the then Ceylonese society was symbiosis bond of the relationship and the propagation of own kind through cohabitation.

 

In this, the factors that are high up in the scale of priorities were factors such as family unity, personal security, financial stability and social sustainability before consideration was made of the mere unfathomable impulse between a young man and a woman for their delectable union. Hence there have been instances in Ceylonese society where a suitable bride was brought for two brothers in the family. The thinking here is that through experience it is realized that when brothers get married their spouses create disharmony in the family causing property and other disputes in the family. Hence the one spouse for two brothers is considered a workable arrangement, especially from the parents’ point of view as they would not wish to see their family disunited and disintegrating. It also brought a sense of security and strength to the family.

 

Sri Lankan society bestows a high position to its women and the woman is considered the ‘trunk root’ in a family. Even in religion, Buddhism often draws analogs between the Buddha and the mother in the family calling the mother the ‘Buddha at home’. An inference that the mother is the fountain of compassion in the family.

 

In modern-day international paradigms on gender equality, Sri Lanka is classed with the developed world, and the position in ancient and medieval Sri Lanka in this regard, has not been very different. The breast of a woman was never considered as being ‘sexy’ by the Sinhalese. Breast is the part of the woman’s body that would always earn the maximum care and respect as it is a vital part of nurturing children and of being a woman. Therefore, even today, breastfeeding in public is practiced in Ceylonese society and it is not treated as an ‘act of indecent exposure’ as in the west.

 

Democracy of course was not the method of electing the Government at the time of European invasion and Ceylon was governed by a monarch. In any case democracy was only the means of electing a Government and means alone would not ensure good governance. In the ancient Sri Lankan society, even though it was monarchical, the Government of the day was judged against ten principals of good governance which the Governor had to practice and the governed need to be conscious of. They are known as ‘Dhasa Raja Dharma’ and is comprised of, Liberality; Exemplary Conduct; Straightforwardness; Mildness; Non-hatred, Benignity, Forbearance, Equanimity, Renunciation and Asceticism. The Buddhist clergy always acted as counsel to the monarch whose rule was generally evaluated against these governing principles. The broader acceptance was that, the more reasonable and just the governance is the more prosperous and bountiful the country could become.

 

To the Portuguese however, anything non-European and not in conformity with the Catholic Church was unacceptable and therefore uncivilized. The fact that the Sinhalese did not have industries to kill animals, manufacture arms and brew intoxicants was found to be ‘wired’ and a sign of ‘not being civilized’ in the perceptions of the Portuguese. 

 

Gunpowder was discovered in China in the 12th century AD but the Chinese used them in firecrackers and decorative fireworks. It was introduced to the west by Arab merchants and it was in the west that gunpowder was adopted as a means of killing people and conquering other nations. Portuguese came to Ceylon with the Cross in their hands ostensibly to civilize the ‘heathens and pagans’. But it was neither the ‘benevolent religion’ nor the ‘civilized norms’ of the Portuguese that overwhelmed the Sinhalese. They conquered the coastal areas of Ceylon with the superior weapons made to kill humans and destroy their property.  Those who came to ‘civilize’ these ‘primitive natives’ found themselves deploying the most uncivilized means to conquer and govern. Much against the preaching of Jesus Christ, the son of God and the holy spirit. If Jesus Christ is the embodiment of compassion, the alleged followers of his teaching proved that they were not only the most dispassionate but also the best hypocrites. The irony however was that the Catholic Church, the institution that claimed to protect and foster the teachings of Jesus Christ blessed the aggressor on every step of their way often instigating and forming the vanguard of these murderous missions of invasion.

 

Jesus Christ died because he wished to avoid having to punish his own aggressors in retribution. He pleaded, “Father! Forgive them, for they do not know what they did.” But now the interpreter and the sole authority of Jesus Christ’s doctrine, the Catholic Church is instigating and blessing those who kill humans to propagate that very religion. Would Jesus Christ have pleaded with the father to “forgive those who perpetrate murder with their full knowledge?” And what is worse is, in the name of the holy father!

 

According to the Europeans the 16th century was the century of ‘discovery’. That is essentially from the western perspective. But for the rest of the world it was the century of Invasion, Slave trading and Slavery. Thus, from the 16th century, the Catholic Church had set a precedent for the westerner to view the whole world only through the prism of the west.

 

It was having viewed the world through this prism that they invaded Asia and colonized it: invaded Africa and supplied slaves to the rest of the world; Captured Australia from the aborigines; New Zealand from Maoris: North America from the Red Indians and South America from the Inca’s. In fact, the westerners destroyed all the nonviolent and peaceful habitations on earth, especially those who respected nature. When the western invaders offered to buy the land from Seattle, the Red Indian Chieftain was bemused and responded by saying, ‘You may be prepared to buy the land, but how could I sell land. If I could sell land, it may be possible for me to sell Water, Air, the Sky and the Stars. These are bounties of nature and we are only their repositories just for now.” But the western concept of commercialization and unbridled consumerism did not see the point in Seattle’s statement. Inca civilization believed in the sun God, the generator of all forms of energy on earth. But the west now have the almighty God, unseen and unheard though, they attribute the creation of everything on earth to. Then they have the Pope, the earthly interpreter of God who is also the ‘local Agent’. By virtue of the Pope being the local agent for the creator, he has this open cheque issued to him by the principal. Therefore, the Pope can send his troops anywhere because he is the agent of the commander of all the resources on earth.  The irony however was that the emphasis of Jesus Christ’s advocacy was on compassion /sanctity of life and the creator God was only an explanation. Nowhere has he said that the resources on this earth are only for the exclusive use of those that believed in him. But now the Church and their many denominators have thrown compassion and sacredness of life out of the window and are flaunting this open cheque on the others demanding their right to exploit and plunder them by being the arrogated local representatives of the one and only creator.

 

Being Catholics Christians, Protestants etc. they interpret everything to their advantage glossing over the fact that Christ said to his followers during his famous Sermon on the mount that, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would, that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”. The Church interpreted this sermon to mean exactly the opposite of what it intended to convey when they colonized others; when they enslaved others and when they traded the lives of other humans for slavery. Hence it is in this light of Jesus Christ’s message that the Church’s advocacy stands exposed in its naked hypocrisy!

 

Fascism does not allow you to question what is good and what is bad and the dissenters to fascism have only one way to go. There was no freedom of thought under fascism. Mussolini did not introduce fascism to the world even though he may have brought it into politics by heading the most repressive regime in the post-monarchical Italy. But ‘Fascism’ as a way of doing things was introduced by the Catholic and other denominator Churches much before Mussolini arrived on the world scene. Yet the Catholic religion was not called ‘fascist’ because the Church justified all its one-way command actions with the goodness of Christ and Mussolini on the other hand, had no such cover. Also, the Church did not use their own guns and coercive methods like Mussolini but used the guns of the states that are subservient to them and the opprobrium of the God almighty. It is because of this inherent fascism in the denominational Churches that they had to fight holy wars among themselves from AD 500- 1100. Dean Inge in his Christian Ethics and Moral Problems describes this period of Church wars as, “There were several centuries of unredeemed barbarism, the most protracted and dismal retrogression that the human race has suffered within a historical period (page13).

 

Then, is there any reason to doubt that the Portuguese with the capture of the coastal areas in Sri Lanka would not usher in the most barbaric period in the history of the Island, especially in those areas under them? After all, the invasion of Ceylon was the result of a Bull “Romanus Pontifex” issued by his Holiness Pope Nicholas v on 8th January 1455. The Bull granted the continents of Africa and Asia to the King of Portugal with the exhortation, “to invade, search out, capture, conquer all Saracens and pagans whatsoever and other enemies of Christ wherever and whenever they exist, together with their Kingdoms Duchies., Principalities, Lordships, possessions and whatever goods, movable and immovable, which may be held and possessed by them, and to bring their persons in to perpetual slavery and to apply, appropriate and turn for their use and profit of themselves  and their successors, the Kingdoms, Duchies.., possessions, and goods of those people.”(Gunaseela Vithanage Island 1990.1.25) It was with this authority from the Pope that the Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka and India. And after having invaded what they did was exactly what they had been exhorted to do by the Catholic Church. They invaded, searched out, captured, murdered, pillaged and conquered the people of Ceylon, possessed their goods and held them in perpetual slavery.

 

On the 18th March 1546 nearly 40 years after the invasion, King John 111 of Portugal, apparently inspired by the Roman Catholic Church, sent the following order to his Viceroy in Goa, “We charge you to discover all items by means of diligent officers, to reduce them to fragments and utterly to destroy them, in whatever place they may be found, proclaiming rigorous penalties against such persons as shall dare to engrave, casts, sculpture. Lim, paint or bring to light any figure in metals, bronze, wood, clay or any other substance or shall introduce them from foreign parts, and against those who shall celebrate in public or in private any festivity which have any gentile taint, or shall abet or shall conceal the Brahmins (Hindu priests and Buddhist monks), the pestilential enemies of Christ.”(Quoted by Sir Paul E Peiris in his book ‘Ceylon and Portuguese’).

 

Note the term ‘enemies of Christ’. The irony here was that Christ had no enemies while he was alive, not even Judas who betrayed him. But these pious followers of his religion have created enemies of Christ in pursuance of that religion merely to satisfy their bellicose instincts and unbridled greed. However, in pursuance of this order the Portuguese systematically destroyed all the Buddhist temples within the territory under their control together with the schools attached to them. The Buddhist monks, teachers as well as novices were either killed or driven out of the territory. The great seats of learning at Totagamuwa, Keragala and Wattala were brought to the ground. The lands belonging to the temples were expropriated. The ‘Dark Age’ set in, in the southern Sri Lanka and Buddhism in the coastal areas became a persecuted religion, weak and ineffective.

 

Professor C.R Boxer, a Catholic but an authority on Portuguese history in the course of an article entitled “Christians and spices, Portuguese missionary methods in Ceylon, 1518-1658.”in the May, 1958 issue of the magazine History Today states the following, after describing the various methods used by Portuguese to destroy Buddhism in Sri Lanka. “It was obvious that these disciplinary and coercive measures, if they did not actually force the people to become Christians, gave them every encouragement to do so, and made it very difficult to remain anything else. Deprived of their priests, teachers, holy men, sacred books and places to worship, not to mention the public exercise of their respective cults, it was confidently expected that the ‘false to Moorish’ religions would wither and die on territory controlled by the Portuguese” ( pages 348 and 349).

 

However, the biggest damage the Portuguese inflicted was, to the Buddhist education in the island. Sri Lanka was naturally influenced by the education system in India as much as it was by Buddhism from India. The greatest period of Indian education was during its Buddhist dynasties and there were internationally renown seats of higher learning such as Nalanda, Vilambi, Vickremeseela, Jaggadala and Odantapuri that lasted a millennium and a half. In Buddhism, the first of the three root causes of evil in man is Avijja (ignorance). And the other two are Lobha (avarice/ craving) and Dhosa (hatred). Hence education received high priority under Buddhism. The influence of Buddhism on the Indian education system is well documented in a Government publication titled 2500 years of Buddhism in India and also from the research work of Prof. S Dutt of the Delhi University. “Buddhism introduced the monastic pattern of education to India replacing the previous ‘Gurugraha’ system which meant the ‘House of the Teacher’.  It was the monasteries that later graduated to be Universities, higher seats of learning. India could claim to have possessed the ancient most Universities in the world”.

According to Dr. G. G Coulton an authority on Medieval Europe who has authored many books on the subject including, ‘Medieval studies’ and ‘Friar’s Lantern’, ‘The light of learning came to dispel the darkness in medieval Europe from quite an unexpected quarter. The Arabs who were Muslims by religion conquered most of the countries in southern Europe and northern Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea (650-1200). They were a people avid for knowledge. They soon began educating themselves and the others within the lands they conquered. They assiduously learned the works of Greek writers on science and philosophy and translated those into Arabic. They established a network of schools and universities extending from Cordova in Spain to Basra in Persia. They exchanged scholars with the Buddhist universities in India which were flourishing at the time.’

‘It was also the Arabs who introduced the decimal system to Europe replacing the Roman system after having acquired it from the Indians. It is the decimal system that is universally used today’

 

It was this system of education that the Buddhist of Ceylon had been heirs to, over the centuries. There was a system of Primary, Middle and Higher level education known as Pirivenas and they were essentially attached, either to the Temple or the Monastery. According to ‘Mahavamsa’, Kings and Ministers in ancient Ceylon vied with one another to found and endow the Pirivenas.

 

In 1658 The Dutch were able to chase the Portuguese from the maritime provinces of Ceylon with the help of locals. The ‘low country’ Sinhalese co-operated with the Dutch mainly because it was difficult to expect ‘any colonial invader to be worse than the Portuguese’.  The Dutch in any case proved a better alternative to the marauding Portuguese. Initially the Dutch were preoccupied with elimination of Catholics as a policy from all their protectorates. Because by then, it was with the Catholics that the Dutch, who are Christians, had issues, even in Europe. Hence in keeping with that policy, by their many proclamations issued, between 1715 to 1748, they made the ‘harboring or giving protection to a Catholic priest’, an offense punishable by death. Fr. SG Perera in his book ‘Historical Sketches of Ceylon’ tells the story of how the persecuted Roman Catholic Priests, Portuguese as well as Sinhalese, fled to the up-country Sinhalese Kingdom where the Buddhist King of Kandy gave them sanctuary. Not only were they given sanctuary, but were also given free grants of lands to build Churches of their worship. The book also details how King Narendrasingha of Kandy intervened when the Dutch seized Father Francis Gonsalvez and made him a prisoner. The Dutch eventually released Fr. Gonsalvez (pages 110 to 156).

 

An act of this nature may sound unusual or rather unbelievable from the Catholic or Christian perspectives but for Buddhist, religion means some spiritual goodness and an advocacy of good human conduct and compassion towards living beings. This was the attitude the Buddhist Kings of Ceylon adopted for years against the Hindu religion and the Buddhist believe that every religion has something good to offer to mankind. From this standpoint a Buddhist will always view religious persecution as something unbelievable and may attribute it to a person’s own depravity. This attitude of the Buddhist was even confirmed by Robert Knox the 17th-century British prisoner in Ceylon who maintained that “The Buddhist believe that there could be other religious entities and that there is a pantheon of Gods”- Historical Relation of Ceylon (page 62)

 

However, once the Dutch achieved a certain degree of control over the Catholics, they turned their attention to the ‘pagan’ religions of Buddhism and Hinduism employing subtle methods to convert them. Professor Tennekoon Wimalananda in his book, “Buddhism in Ceylon under  the Christian power” quotes Sir James Emerson Tennent, The Brish secretary for colonies at the time, “With the view of converting Buddhist to Protestant Christianity, public proclamations were made to the effect that no native would aspire to the post of Mudaliyar or be permitted to farmland or hold office under the Government who had not undergone the ceremony of baptism and become a member of the Protestant religion” (page 116). The immediate effect of this had been on the Headmen and ‘Vidanes’, who had by then converted themselves under Portuguese in similar circumstances, now embracing the Protestant religion.

 

The Dutch started to use education and the schoolhouse with the Church, as the nucleus of all their activity in the village and as a result it became difficult for the general public to keep away from the religion of the ‘occupying Government’, without alienating themselves from day to day governance. Even marriages were solemnized in Church school premises.

 

The British defeated the Dutch in 1798 and took over control of the maritime provinces of Ceylon. The Kandyan Kingdom of Ceylon however continued the Sinhala reign and managed to stay free of foreign domination all those years. This could be attributed partly to the valor and determination displayed by the Kandyan peasantry and partly to the fact that the mountainous Kandyan terrain was different to that of the maritime areas.

 

The situation in the Kandyan Kingdom too started to change towards this period with the accession of King Sri Wickreme Rajasingha to the Kandyan throne. Rajasingha was a Thelungu (Andra}, by decent but became the heir to the throne through his line relationship with the former King of Kandy, Sri Narendrasinha. Narendrasingha married a princess from Andra and he had no children to succeed to the throne. Hence after his death the Queen’s clan from Andra Pradesh in India became powerful and her brother Kannaswamy acceded to the throne and was enthroned Sri Wickreme Rajasingha. The traditional practices of succession in the Sinhala Kingship did not bar foreigner acceding to the throne provided that non- Singhala Prince declares his allegiance to the Sinhalese kingdom and accept Buddhism as his religion, which Sri Wickreme Rajasinghe did.

 

Sri Wickreme Rajasinhe however, soon became very unpopular among the masses in general and it so happened that his popularity was only in the brutal methods he employed to punish the detractors of the Kingdom. As a result, he soon started to lose the allegiance of his Ministers (Kandyan Chieftains). Ehelepola, a Kandyan chieftain who was persecuted by the King sought refuge in the low country. The King suspected that Ehelapola would conspire with the British to invade the Kandyan kingdom and passed the death sentence on Ehelepola in absentia. Since Ehelepola proved elusive the King subjected his family to extreme torture and death. This did not go well with the rest of the Kandyan Chieftains and they prompted Ehelepola to seek British help to drive the brutal tyrant away. The British appeared more diplomatic and reasonable than the previous European powers.

 

The initial intention of the Kandyan Chieftains however was to obtain British help to dethrone Rajasingha and then chose one amongst themselves to succeed the King. The practicalities of this mutiny and the British guile however led them to sign a convention with the British known as the Kandyan convention. The Kingdom was thus ceded to Britain through a convention signed between the Kandyan chieftains and the British on the 2nd March 1815. Ehelepola was exiled in Mauritius where he lived in luxury till his death in 1829. A monument made by the British in Arsenal, 18 Kms north of Port of Spain, titled the ‘Prince of Kandy’ still remains at the place where Ehelepola’s remains (ashes) were buried under Buddhist rights.

 

Among the many clauses of this Kandyan Convention, its Article 5 related to the position of religion under the new dispensation. “The religion of Boodhoo professed by the Chiefs and the inhabitants of these provinces was declared inviolable, and the Rights, Ministers and places of worship are to be maintained and protected”.  The Kandyan convention meant everything to the Kandyan Chieftains, but to the British it meant no more than assuming total control of the Island of Ceylon.  They did not bother to have two sets of rules, one for the maritime provinces and another for the Kandyan kingdom, and hence they commenced their business of running the whole country with the customary colonial practices.

 

Majority of the Ceylonese i.e the Sinhalese were vegetarians and Buddhism abhors eating flesh. A Buddhist by his religion is expected to practice ‘Maithree’ (Benevolent kindness) in deed and thought to all living beings. Full moon day in every month is of religious significance to Buddhists as Buddha has chosen the full moon days to coincide with religious activities and sermons. Sinhalese being farmers conducted even their agriculture according to the full Moon (Poya) day calendar. Hence the social life revolved around the Buddhist temple where the villagers congregate on every full moon poya day which is essentially a holiday in the Buddhist calendar.

 

The British paid no respect for these traditions and beliefs and as early as 1816 they made the Vesak full moon day, the day that marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha, the most pious day in the Buddhist calendar, a working day. The new colonial Government then started to expropriate the temple lands which were gifted to the Temples by the state for the purpose of gaining income to sustain the temple and run the educational institutes within those temples. By 1818 the Kandyan Sinhalese rebelled against the British.

 

1st Sinhala Rebellion

Wellassa (present-day Uva) was the most prosperous area of the Kandyan kingdom and as the name itself denotes; ‘Wellassa’ meant ‘hundred thousand paddy fields’. In 1818, the British in accordance with their ‘divide and rule’ policy appointed Hadjee, a Muslim, as the Muhandiram of Wellassa, a predominantly Sinhala region. With time misunderstanding and friction fermented between the Muslim administrator and the Sinhala peasantry on grain, cattle and Temple issues. Soon the issues manifested in the form of a rebellion. The then Government agent Badulla dispatched a small contingent under Hajee’s leadership to counter the rebellion. But the Government delegation was captured and killed by the rebels. Bewildered, the GA Mr Wilson lead a force by himself to meet the rebellion, but he too was overcome by the rebels. This prompted the British to declare martial law in the whole of the Kandyan Kingdom.

 

Then the British picked on the able Monarawila Kappetipola to handle the rebellion and sent a large contingent of British soldiers under his command. Keppetipola visited the rebels and after empathizing with their cause decided to take their side. He dismissed the English army and told them to get back to Kandy with their arms, saying that it was unbecoming of the Sinhalese to use the weapons of the enemy against the enemy.

 

The rebellion flared up and spread to other areas under the leadership of Kappetipola and the British lost control over Dumbara,, Bintenne, Hewaheta and Kotmalay. The British called for reinforcements and with superior arms they annihilated the Sinhalese and their chieftains one by one exterminating areas in their entirety. There was wanton destruction of civilian life, property and agriculture. They destroyed even the jak and coconut trees in the area to ensure that nobody could live and survive in those areas- post-rebellion. In an act of calculated contempt and revenge against the Sinhalese for daring to rise against the King of England the troops set fire to villages and entire areas. Hundreds of people, rebels and civilians indiscriminately, were executed in the most atrocious of manners. Some were publicly tortured and executed, some summarily by firing squads and some were made to simply die of hunger while still some others died of lack of medical treatment. The marauders destroyed even the peasantry’s harvest having killed their cattle. Because it was difficult to distinguish between the rebels and the ordinary, the British executed over ten thousand boys over the age of 14 years indiscriminately.

 

It was genocide in the true sense of the word and no government would be able to recoup the damage that was done to this entire Wellassa region by the British even for hundreds of years. As a crude testimony of that genocidal ‘scorched earth’ policy even today Wellassa region stands as, sparsely populated area, with least agriculture, no industry and as the least developed area in the country. The ablest and the most patriotic Sinhalese were killed by the British leaving out the lackeys in positions of power. 

 

The London Times of 1818 reported, “The plan of destroying all the grain and fruit trees in the neighborhood of Badulla seem to have been completely carried out into effect, a dreadful measure”. Justice Lawrie, Senior Persuine Judge of colonial Ceylon in A Gazetteer wrote, “The role of English rule in the Kandyan country during 1817 and 1818 cannot be related without shame!” Even to this day in the once prosperous Wellassa, a string of tiny villages are found on remote mountaintops and far away valleys. In these non-accessible villages live the descendants of the few survivors who hid themselves in remote hamlets and escaped the wrath of the marauding British troops

 

By 1819, there was hardly a family where the breadwinner was not killed.  There were no youth members of the families as all of them were indiscriminately killed. This on the one hand ensured that there is no future generation and on the other made it difficult for the remaining members to eke out a living. Cholera and smallpox was rampant in the villages and the people just died due to lack of privation (Food and shelter).

 

People continued to die in Vellassa, even after the rebellion was crushed due to water-borne diseases. The spread of water-borne diseases had reached epidemic proportions in the aftermath and there was a tenable explanation for that increase in the spread of water-borne diseases. Irrigation, water management and agriculture were the quintessence of Sinhala economy and culture. In those times, it was difficult to find a Sinhala village without an irrigation network to support the village. The British knew this and they also knew the strengths and weaknesses of the system and hence at times of conflict, in order to eliminate people en mass from certain areas, they introduced malignant agents into common village waterways. The most convenient way of doing this, at times of conflict, was by dumping a dead body into the village water reservoirs. Whatever the veracity of that allegation against the British colonial command, the fact remains that such acts of genocide would not be beyond those who evidently practiced the ‘scorch earth’ policy to drive away the inhabitants.

 

 Kappetipola and his lieutenant Madugalle were arrested in Nuwara kalaviya in Anuradhapura in Oct. 1818, sentenced to death on the 13th November and the execution carried out on the 26th November 1818. The then British Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals in Ceylon Mr Henry Marshall admired the heroism of Keppetipola and was sympathetic to him and had visited him in prison few times. He compared Kappetipola to the Scottish freedom fighter, Sir William Wallace, whom the English executed in 1306 for ‘treason’ against King Edward1. After the execution of Keppetipola Marshall took the skull to England and preserved it in the Phrenological Society of Edinburgh. The study of Keppitipola’s role in the rebellion prompted a British historian to note that, ‘Had the rebellion been successful he would have been honored as the patriot of Ceylon, instead of being stigmatized as the traitor and eventually punished with death’.

Moneravila Kappetipola remained a traitor in the gazette notification of the Sri Lankan Government even after 57 years of independence and one of the first acts performed by the Mahinda Rajapakse Government was to revoke that gazette notification proclaimed on 1st January 1818. The said gazette made Keppitipola a traitor and as a result his descendants continued to be traitors with their properties confiscated by the Government.

 

The genocidal measures adopted by the British Government seemed to have reverberated in Wellassa for generations to come by not only keeping the average villager in poverty but also threatening their lives with waterborne and other epidemics which were results of the transformations the conflict caused to the traditional agriculture methods. These actions rendered vast areas of land desolate and abandoned. Since the area was a valley with natural water flows that were used in paddy cultivation, the abandonment of the area made these irrigation systems go awry making the area waterlogged and eroded. This created a breeding ground for diseases like Malaria and in the latter half of the 19th-century Malaria became an epidemic in this area taking up more than 50,000 lives. Most of the Wellasa lands were eventually sold to British capitalist who bought them up at 1shilling per acre to set up their plantations.

 

Justice Lawry made a further note in the historical records, “The rule of the British in the Kandyan country during 1817 to 1818 cannot be related without shame. By 1819 hardly a member of leading families, the heads of the people, remained alive. Those whom the sword and the gun had spared, Cholera, Smallpox and Privation had slain by the hundreds.”

 

The British soon learned their lessons from the Kandyan rebellion that almost cost them the Kandyan Kingdom of Ceylon. Hence, they instituted a policy to make the Kandyan Sinhalese leaderless by adopting the two-pronged strategy of reigning hose chieftain who could be enticed and destroying those who would not be. They realized that it was the Buddhist temples that formed the nucleus of the Sinhalese resistance to the British and set about destabilizing the Temples all over the country. Over and above all this they realized the need to promote a minority as the second string in administration as Sinhalese have to be watched and eventually subdued.

 

By then the British had acquired considerable experience in managing colonies. They had introduced, Chinese to Malaysia to govern the indigenous Malays, Malayalee’s and Tamils from South India to administer the Hindi majorities in the northern Indian states,: Tamils to Singapore to subdue the native Chinese, Indian Tamils to Burma with preferential treatment since they could not trust the Burmese. The idea here is to relegate the community that nurtured the mainstream civilization of that particular country (colony) over the years to a position of insignificant power within that same country.

 

In some countries, they educated the carefully chosen among the majority. It was the Englishman Thomas Babington Macaulay who advocated that western education should be given to Indians and Ceylonese so that it will produce ‘a class of people Indian in blood and color but English in taste, opinion, morals and intellect. In Ceylon, the case is now more complicated as the British have come to treat all the prominent Kandyan families with extra suspicion. Hence it was in keeping with that policy that the British started to look for possible minority groups in Malaya, Burma, Singapore, India and Ceylon to create this second string of administrators. How the British chose the Jaffna Tamils and set about in the task of educating and creating a privileged minority in Jaffna was dealt with in the previous chapter.

 

By 1826 English had been made the official language in Ceylon thereby effectively preventing the locals with no English education from obtaining employment in Government, Trade Commerce and plantations. All that was left for the non-English educated was the Sinhalese Notary practice, native Aryurveda profession and teaching in the few vernacular schools available.

 

Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary of the British Government wrote to the Governor of Ceylon no the 2nd October 1837 informing him among other things that ‘the moral and religious education of the people of Ceylon was the most important subject to which his attention should be directed’. What the secretary for Colonies meant by the term ‘moral and religious education’ was not necessarily the good moral conduct of the people.  What he meant was the conversion of people to the European ways of life and values. Ironically it could not be taken to mean even converting people to the doctrine of Jesus Christ because Jesus never advocated his followers to go out to the world and colonize plunder and exploit less powerful countries. Hence colonization was the policy of the Europeans and not the policy of the religion they claimed to profess. The non- flesh-eating, nonalcoholic, nature-loving, idyllic Sinhalese were considered uncivilized and in any case they were heathens. In order to make them civilized, the British started few campaigns. The two main items of these campaigns was the introduction of liquor trading shops and legalizing of animal slaughter in every town of the Island. It was C. R. Buller, the government agent of the Central Province who first drew attention of the administration to this state of affairs after the disturbances. In his report Buller pointed out that there were very few schools in the Kandyan areas in the years 1815-1848 and in fact the Government had put up only 4 schools. He contrasted this with the speed with which the Government’s excise policy had dotted the Kandyan areas, not hitherto noted for their consumption of liquor, with alcohol taverns. During this same period, the government had granted permission for the construction of no less than133 Arrack taverns (page 178). Thanks to British even today in the area of per capita liquor consumption, Sri Lanka remains the highest in South Asia and within the first few countries in the whole world!

 

The other area of tangible discrimination against Sinhalese came in the form of land alienation. Acres and acres of land had been donated by Sinhala kings to the Buddhist temples to sustain those not only as places of worship but also as the centers of secondary and higher education. There were two types of temple lands; Bandara lands and Rajakariya lands. Bandara lands were granted for the immediate needs of the temple and every temple in the village was a center of primary education. Rajakariya lands on the other hand were given as a source of income depending on the role played by the particular temple in the field of higher education. Rajakariya lands were large extents of lands cultivated by peasants on a service tenure basis. These lands were managed by the Boards of trustee of the temples made up of the priest and laymen and the income used in the maintenance and development of the ‘Pirivenas’, centers of higher education.

 

Professor Tenakoon Wimalananda in his book Ceylon under Christian powers gives a full account of how 1,573,369 hectares were expropriated by the British Government between the period 1833 to 1886 from the Buddhists and their organizations and given to British companies. Among the buyers were the Archdeacon of Colombo and other members of the Church of England hierarchy. According to the Report of the Buddhist Commission of inquiry 1956, out of the lands thus sold to British capitalist 800,000 hectares belonged to Buddhist temples in the Kandyan region. This expropriation not only left the Buddhist temples and Pirivenas without their principal means of income but also left a considerable segment of the tenant cultivators without a source of employment. ‘Owing to this the Buddhist temples and their seats of learning went to rack and ruin and the Buddhist by and large became impoverished’ (page 180).

 

Vidya thadathi vinayam’ is a Sanskrit stanza widely advocated in Buddhist education meaning ‘education imparts discipline’.  The Buddhist thus became impoverished, uneducated and undisciplined. To add insult to injury the British administration with their second ring local colonial lackeys employed subtle means to ridicule Buddhist beliefs to dent the self-confidence and hopes of the majority.

 

The 2nd Sinhala uprising

The second Kandyan uprising took place in 1848 and it originated in the Kandyan town of Matale. The rallying point of this rebellion was the series of unjust taxes imposed by the British. Again, it was the Buddhist priest that convened this struggle with the leadership conferred on the infamous Puran Appu. The Singhalese mindset was that no struggle could be launched unless it is backed by a person who was worthy enough to take over the Kingship eventually. Hence, they elected a person called “Gonagaleygoda Banda’ who claimed lineage to the Kingship of Ceylon. One township after another in the Kandyan region fell to the rebels. The battles raged for almost a year and it was said that the British started packing their bags.

 

But now after almost a few generation of colonial rule the British had managed to create a group of people who would not want the British to leave. The local elite, since their privileges and positions had a symbiotic relationship with British administration, supplied intelligence to the British to crush the rebellion. The other point is that Gongaleygoda Banda the man chosen to be the King after this rebellion, could not live up to the enthusiasm of those who manned the military operations and he was eventually found to be a pretender.

 

With that, the remaining rebel fighters lost their moral, the only weapon in which they had the edge over the British troops. Die they did, the Sinhalese in hordes, more in trying to prove their valor and love for the country than in trying to overcome the British establishment. The British captured all the leaders and destroyed them and their families. The Sinhalese realized their limits and that the liberation of the country was now more complicated than just fighting the British.

 

Puran Appu, the macho power behind the rebellion was asked whether he had anything to say before he was hanged for rebelling against the King of England. He spontaneously said, ‘Tell your King that he would not be ruling over this land had the mothers in this country given birth to ten men like me!” That epitomized the patriotic fervor prevalent in the Kandyan areas against the British. But that fervor was increasingly becoming a fickle flame by then, caught in the tempest of colonialism perpetrated by an empire on which the sun never set.

 

The cause of the Sinhalese now was all but practically dead and they were rendered leaderless, helpless and more importantly with no sense of self-confidence and respect. The Christian hierarchy now started to intensify their campaign of subtle conversion and it was a propitious time for them to start their Island wide campaigns, propagating the virtues of Christianity, with a corresponding ridicule of Buddhist beliefs and practices. These virtues however, were more temporal than spiritual.   

 

A group of local scholars led by the Ven. Migettuwatte Gunanda thero and Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala thero waged a relentless battle against this onslaught. They challenged the Christian Church for an open debate on religion, Buddhism vs Christianity. The Church agreed expecting to use the opportunity to further propagate Christianity. Hence a series of public debates were held island wide arguing out the fundamentals and the relevance of the two religions.

 

Migettuwatte Gunananda thero was a scholar well versed in English and Christianity. Though he was a Buddhist priest he had been baptized a Christian in his young days to receive English education. He had also studied Christianity in order to equip himself to counter the relentless Church propaganda. When the debates finally got underway Rev. David de Silva of the Wesleyan Mission found Ven Gunananda with his insight into Christianity and Buddhism, a tough opposition. Much to the Church’s dismay, the Christian doctrine got lashed at every debate by the well prepared Buddhist Priests who appealed to reason and intellectualism above unquestionable dogmas.

 

The debate held at Panadura in the western province proved to be a landmark in Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka. An American Scholar by the name of Dr.Peebles attended this debate and published it in America titled ‘Buddhism and Christianity face to face’. This book reached a young ‘Theosophist’ in the United States of America called Col Henry Steel Olcott in1873.  Born on the 2nd August 1832 to Christian parents in the State of New Jersey, United States of America, Col. Olcott was a graduate from the University of Columbia.  Essentially a man of the soil he was the editor of the widely circulated American newspaper ‘Tribune’. The break out of civil war in America made him join the army and rise to the rank of colonel, but in keeping with his intellectual pursuits Col Olcott then studied law for a profession.

 

Col. Olcott was a theosophist who believed that ‘Truth is above all religion” and is an avid reader of philosophy and matters temporal and spiritual. Intellectualism in Buddhist philosophy appealed to him. He gave up his promising practice as a lawyer in the state of New Jersey and arrived in Sri Lanka with Madam Blavatsky, another theosophist. Having arrived in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, Col Olcott was much moved by the unjust practices perpetrated on the benign majority by an unscrupulous minority who wielded administrative power. He took to the cause of the Buddhists as his own ‘calling’ in life. Thus, with the patronage of the local patriots and philanthropist the Buddhist Theosophist Society (BTS) was formed in 1880 to uplift the lot of the Buddhist.

 

The situation in Sri Lanka at the time could only be left to one’s imagination. In a wider sense, it was an era where ‘might was right’ and the values and beliefs of the indigenous people were consigned to the barrows. Although the basic characteristics of the traditional Sinhala Buddhist lifestyle were still prevalent among the population, the BTS realized the need to have an organized formal education for the Sinhalese Buddhist to counter this westernization and indoctrination. The locals had to be taught, to accept their values, culture and education ‘as good as any’ to restore their self-confidence and to redeem them from the servile mentality. Education has to be the foundation on which any civilization is built shaping its values, perceptions and the way forward.

 

By then the colonial Government of the day was aiding 177 missionary schools throughout the Island while only two Buddhist schools, one at Panadura and one at Dodanduwa were registered under the Dept. of Education.  Having realized this glaring discriminatory practice in educational facilities and more importantly to lay the foundation for Sinhala Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka, Col. Olcott mobilized the local philanthropists in the country and started a string of schools to educate the Buddhist children of Ceylon.  The first of these the ‘Buddhist English Academy’ in Colombo (present-day Ananda College) was set up on the 1st November 1886. The success and inspiration of this act lead to the establishment of 8 more similar institutions in the major towns in the country. Thus, the Sinhala Buddhist started to learn the official language of their country 62 years after it was taught to the Tamils, Christians and other minorities in the country.  The revival in education set Buddhist renaissance in the country, albeit late, but yet better than never.

 

The BTS also recognized the need to exchange ideas and the importance of public discourse and hence initiated a vernacular newspaper called the Sarasavi Sandarase. The Government after Donoughmore reforms in 1931 established 38 Central schools all over the Island taking BTS schools as a model and in 1945 made education free. It indeed is an quirk of fate that an American should be instrumental in reviving Buddhist civilization in Ceylon, 62 years after Missionaries in his own country set up shop in Jaffna at the behest of the British colonial Government to destroy Buddhism.

 

The irony of the evolution of human civilization in this globe from the16th to the 20th centuries is that nations emboldened by their physical attributes, having arrogated all the paradigms of human civilization to themselves, straddled the globe and conquered smaller and weaker countries in the name of ‘civilization’, only to realize after centuries of conquest, exploitation and plunder that civilization and global peace lay, not in the conquest of others but in treating them as equals.

 

The paradox however is that all these injustices had been perpetrated on smaller nations, by the use of force, under the direction of the Catholic/Christian Church, in the name of Jesus Christ that embodiment of human compassion, who refrained even from using force against those who betrayed him.

 

Sinhalese may not have been ‘civilized’ enough to build massive ships, armaments and commercial empires but they were civilized enough to know that robbing, killing, deceiving and plundering the weak is not ‘human civilization’.

 

The Sinhalese reached the post independent period of their country as perplexed and directionless community. For five centuries, they have been rendered leaderless and divided; denied education and basic needs; subjected to genocide by the British and have survived by the grace of their fate. Their thinking has been made servile to European and British ways with the level of self-confidence as a community extremely low. With the Brown Sahibs among them now taking the leadership they have been made to perceive everything that is Sri Lankan and Sinhalese as ‘backward’ or antiquated.

 

The British accomplished the desolation of the Sinhalese in stages. When the Sinhalese revolted against the British in 1818, which was reported as the biggest revolt the British faced from the inhabitants of any of their colonies, the Sinhalese were strong, united, confident and they almost pushed the British out of the Island. But by 1848 when they staged the second revolt, they felt the presence of ‘Brown sahibs’ within them and hence the lack of unity and purpose. And after 1848 the Sinhalese could never mobilize themselves to stage even an effective campaign against the British because they as a community was so disoriented and depraved. But they still remain the majority in Sri Lanka, as the only unique civilization that can be called Sri Lankan.

 

A few empirical situations of the post-independent Sri Lanka will elucidate to what extent the thinking among the Sinhalese have been devoid of unity and cohesion. Even in the face of this cruel racial onslaught of the LTTE the Sinhalese could not form themselves into a united front even to save themselves from the imminent physical harm the LTTE posed. A political party titled ‘Sihala Urumaya ( Heritage)’ was formed in 1998 by a few patriotic Sinhalese when they realized that the Sinhalese needed a political party to champion their cause. What made them realize this was the fact that they could not get a single MP, either from the UNP or the SLFP, to propose a commemoration in Parliament for the Anuradhapura killing where 184 Buddhist pilgrims lost their lives. Even though there had been more than 300 deliberate attacks by the LTTE on Sinhalese civilian targets the successive Governments took no attempt to build a sense of revulsion and condemnation among the people in the country against such barbarism. The worst was, under Chandrika’s regime; any attempt to remonstrate against ethnic cleansing by the LTTE would be looked down upon as ‘Sinhala jingoism’.

 

But when the ‘Sihala Urumaya’ political party started their canvassing with emphasis on the plight of the Sinhalese, they found that there weren’t many who thought of themselves as Sinhalese in the Sri Lankan electorate. They found that there were SLFP’ers, UNP’ers, JVPers, in addition to Tamils and Muslims only in the electorate and hardly any ‘Sinhalese’. Thus, Sihala Urumaya polled only 1 % of the vote at the 1999 hustings from a constituency that is 74% Sinhalese. Therefore, of today’s Sinhalese community, it could be said that they have no sense of what they are and the challenges before them, or of a ‘communal sense’ even to the extent required to survive as a community. It is only their detractors such as the Tamil Diaspora and the Christian media who are conscious of the 74 % factor and are calling them all types of names such as ‘chauvinist’, ‘jingoist’, ‘extremist’ etc. to get them hanged by the international forces.

 

In the end, the purpose of putting all this down on record is to state that it is the Sinhalese who have genuine grievances after a 443year colonial rule and not the Tamils who pontificate facile grievances to save their privileges accrued during this period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

Pre- Colonialism to Post- Colonialism.

 

By now, the study of the conflict in Sri Lanka should appear to be one of the most intriguing of experiences, not only to an outsider but even to an average Ceylonese who have been overwhelmed over the years by popular myths that have encapsulated the truth.

 

Myth no.1 is the thinking among the western countries that the Government of Sri Lanka should seek a negotiated settlement to the conflict. But the GOSL has negotiated many times over the past 23 years, often with no pre-conditions and in a manner and way that no other Government of a country has done, stretching itself to the limits of its own very existence. 

 

Myth No.2 is again the belief patronized by the west that the current military operation underway against the terrorist is a bellicose exercise to drive away an already marginalized minority. But the fact is that the current operation was not even an option considered by the Sri Lankan Government as a solution to the conflict but solely an operation necessitated by circumstances to protect the democratically elected Government and the people of Sri Lanka from ruthless terror.

 

Myth no.3 is the popular belief that the Tamil minority in the country have been subjected to harassment and marginalization since independence pushing them to a situation where the minority have no option but rise up in arms to challenge the Government, when the fact is that the Tamils have taken to arms to protect their pre-independent privileges from the now liberated but truly aggrieved majority.

 

The truth about the conflict in Sri Lanka is that it is driven by popular myths that hide the true nature of, and reasons for, this conflict.  The question then is why isn’t Sri Lanka extricating itself from these mythical beliefs that have brought this terrorist misery upon itself? The answer to that is, extricating the issues from these hyped myths is not all that simple, however much the country and its people would love to, because there are powerful national and international forces that drone these myths wishing to see Sri Lanka remain as it is, mired in terrorism.

 

For instance, Britain, a major player in this ‘International community’ would never want anybody to believe that it is their ‘divide and rule’ policy that created this conflict in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, it is in their interest to project an image of a ‘once peaceful Ceylon being transformed into a pool of blood after independence’. Hence it would do everything within its means to project that image, however inimical that may be for the country. Such a posture on the one hand would justify Britain’s colonial past and on the other would offer room for Britain to interfere in the affairs of Sri Lanka. But there are historical facts about Sri Lanka that will stand on Britain’s way in their attempt to project such an image. The most salient among those is the fact that Sri Lanka existed in one peace before the advent of British in 1815 or for that matter the European colonialist in 1505 and that there was no raging ethnic conflict in Ceylon between the majority and any of the minorities at that time.

 

Therefore, in order to assess the full impact of colonialism, and its contribution to the present conflict, it would be necessary to study the pre-colonial Sri Lanka as against the post-colonial position that ushered in the present ‘Ethnic conflict’. Such a study will reveal what Sri Lanka was before the advent of colonialism and, the social and economic milieu the colonialist left the country in, after 443year of colonialism.

 

Pre- Independent Scenario

Another popular misconception held by many about the inhabitants of Ceylon at the time of European invasion in 1505 is that the Island was inhabited by many communities and Sinhalese among them were the majority. The fact however, was that there were no ‘majorities’ and ‘minorities’ in the current sense of the word in the ancient ‘Sinhaley’ as the island was then known to its inhabitants. ‘Sinhalese’ was not a name of a community as it was the term that described all the people who inhabited the Island called ‘Sinhaley’ and the civilization of the Island, up to that point, evolved eclectically.

 

During medieval times people came to the Island from many parts of the world and mainly from India. Some were traders and explorers but some made the island their home. Those who made the Island their home got assimilated to the mainstream, learned the language of the Island and accepted its religion. The language of the Island and even the religion evolved with time and with periodic influences, giving rise to the unique civilization that became known as ‘Sinhaley’. The fact that the ancient name of the Island was ‘Singhaley’ was evidenced even by Portuguese history where they name the Island to ‘Ceylan/Ceylao’by twisting the original name ‘Sinhaley’ according to their phonetics. It was however the British who formalized the name ‘Ceylon’ for ‘Sinhaley’ commencing with the letter ‘C’ and then made ‘Singhalese’ into a separate community starting the spelling of the community name with the letter ‘S’.

 

Dr David Trotter, research specialist in aboriginal behavior and Phonology, from Washington, writing to the Island newspaper on the 19th January 2008 maintains that the human settlements in Sri Lanka are as old as 125,000 years. Excavations and testing have found sites as old as 34000 and 65000 years. He quotes UNESCO to say that the Anuradhapura civilization to be as old as any Indian city and therefore, is not a civilization secondary to or developed as a result of Indian advancement. Linguistically he rules out the popular theory of the Sinhala language originating from either South Indian or even North Indian Sanskrit base and identifies an Indo- European cognate in Sinhala as a unique feature to disapprove those myths. As examples, he highlights the synonymous nature of Sinhala words ‘watura’, ‘Rajina’ and ‘Hakuru’ with common European words like Water, Regina and Zucker. He concludes his article thus, “As such Sinhala language stands as a lone branch of Indo European language, as ancient as any known Indo-European language”. In conclusion of his article he makes the poser. “Now the question is, did Indo Europeans come to Lanka or did they sail out of sunny Lanka which had all the ingredients of a thriving proto historic civilization at the time”.

 

Indian epics, Ramayana and Janaki harana refer to a civilization in the Island of ‘Lanka’ even before the arrival of Vijaya to the island. Nagadeepa is the oldest name for the current ‘Jaffna’ which was said to have been inhibited by the Naga’s, the ancient most dweller communities of Lanka, before 600 BC.  Even today the ‘Naga vihara’ (Buddhist Temple), a perpetual place of worship, stands amidst other ancient landmarks in Jaffna. The term Sinhala is an abridged version of ‘Siv hela’ which means the four Hela communities making up the ‘Singhaley’. Those four Helas, of the prehistoric and protohistoric times, were made up of ‘Yakshas’, ‘Nagas’, ‘Rakshas’ and ‘Devas’, the most primary known dwellers of Lanka even before the recorded advent of Vijaya from India in 500 BC. Hence Sinhaley is a nation that has evolved from four communal (tribal) groups that inhibited Lanka from pre-historic times.

 

The civilization of Singhaley continued to be eclectic through medieval times and evidently the genealogy of many present-day Sinhala leaders have been traced to their ancient migratory descendants. President JR Jayawardene’s ancestors have been traced to a Muslim called ‘Thambi Mudiyanse’ while President Premadasa ancestors are claimed to be from a particular cast in India. Even SWRD Bandaranaike is said to descend from an Indian called ‘Nayaka Pandaram’. The fact that these tracings may have a tinge of political expediency in them would however not hide the eclectic character of the Sinhalese civilization.

 

The rulers of the island also made sure that the nation remained homogenous but accommodative. A good example in this regard was the grant of land by King Senarath of Kandy to Moors when they were driven out by the Portuguese in 1623.  The King ordered the Moors to adopt Sinhala names and assimilate into Buddhist culture.  Evidently even today certain Moor members have Sinhalese family names adorning their common Muslim names. Lorna Devaraja, the historian and expert in Ceylon Moor history, in her 1994 publication in the Golden Jubilee Souvenir of the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home under the heading ‘A Study in Ethnic Harmony –‘The Muslims in the Kandyan Kingdom (c1600-1815)’ observes how Muslims took part in many Buddhist religious activities. “Even more noteworthy in this respect is the case of Ahamadu Lebbe of Dodandeniya (a village in Udunuwara, west of Ambakke) which was the part of the land belonging to the well-known Ambakke Devale. Judging from the service he had to render, the Lebbe was an eminent man in the area. It was said earlier that all obligatory services performed towards the state or religious institution were based on the caste of the performer”. This eclectic nature however was not confined to the citizenry but it also permeated language culture and even religion. Hence the Sinhala language has been enriched with words from Thelungu, Tamil and Malayalam and Buddhism in the island has been greatly influenced by Hinduism from South India.

 

Recorded proceeding of the Donoughmore Legislature gives an account of the Singhala thinking during the 1930’s. Mr B H Aluvihare was a Barrister who hailed from Matale. He was a Member of the Ceylon State Council in the 1930’s. A debate ensued in the State Assembly over the recruitment of ‘non-Ceylonese’ teachers. In the course of this debate the question arose as to whether there was anything called the ‘Ceylonese culture’. The opinion of most speakers in that colonial time was that there was nothing called ‘Ceylonese culture’ that was worth talking about. But Mr Aluvihare stood up and said,

“Ceylonese culture is like Sinhalese people. It is one of the most hybrid things on earth. It is influenced by Portuguese and Dutch cultures and today mixes up with the British. In ancient day’s it arose from the trees of the Vedda (aborigine) culture. It was enriched by Hindus and Aryans of the Ganges and was touched by the South Indians. I am not certain whether to some extent we have not been enriched by the Negroes of Africa as well. I am also not certain that we can claim to be unaffected by the adventures of the traders from Arabia”.

“Therefore, Sir, it is a hybrid culture and it is certainly rich because it has been enriched. So, when you ask what Ceylonese culture is, the answer is that the present day culture has come to us from all corners of the earth. It has enriched us and if ever we do boast of anything, it is that we have the wealth of the four corners of the world. It has enriched our mind, our vision, our literature and that is what enables us to boast of the breadth of vision and breadth of thought.”

 

The chronicles that give a historical account of Sri Lanka is made up of three volumes written at different times of the country’s history. They are called Deepavamsa, Mahavamsa and Chulavansa. Mahavamsa (Greater genealogy), as the volume in its entirety is normally referred to, provides a documented version of the continuity of the civilization for two and half millennia in the land historically referred to as ‘Sinhaley’ or ‘Lanka’.  The expressions and narrations are well supported by archeological finds and epigraphical records of historical ruins abound in the island.  Certain facts could also be corroborated with ancient chronicles found in India, China, Burma and Thailand (Siam). Those, being Buddhist countries, had long-standing relations with Sri Lanka. Mahavamsa is a ‘kavya’ constructed according to Alankara conventions prevalent in ancient Indian literature and as such it harks back to South-Asian history. Professor Geiger, a German national has done considerable research into the Mahavamsa’s compatibility with other historical chronicles in the region and published his works from time to time. Published writing of the Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Thsang in the 14th century mentions the name of Mahendra as the missionary who spreads the true doctrine in the land of ‘Sinhaley’.

 

Evidence in support of an unbroken civilization in the Island called Sinhaley is simply overwhelming. Indian chronicles Mahabharatha, Katasarit Sagara, and Divyavadana refer to Sri Lanka as ‘Singhaladweepaya’ (meaning Island of the Sinhalese). Indian works of gemology and astrology refers to the Island as ‘Sinhala’. The Agastimataya mentions the word Sinhala in reference to Sri Lanka in fifteen places. The Allahabad Prasathi inscriptions of King Samudragupta of India refers to ‘Sinhala’ as a nation evolving by the strength of the plow belonging to the Suriya dynasty worshipping the Sun God, adopting the lion as the symbol of their national insignia. Tiraparaguram cave inscription in Tamil Nadu give reference to ‘Sihala’ as the language of Sinhalay. Pattuppstti, a poetic Tamil works refers to Sinhaladweepa as “Ilam”. KB Subramanya, the famous epigraphist of the continent admits in his many writings that the term ‘Ilam’ is the Tamil adaptation of Singhaley having passed the intermediary stage of Silam and Lilam.

 

The world knows Sir Samuel Baker as an explorer in the 19th century and his published works has a permanent place in the history of early world explorations. A lesser-known publication of his is the ‘Eight Years in Ceylon’ giving a faithful account of his life in Sri Lanka during the colonial period. In his preface to the first edition of this book he wrote, ‘Eight years wondering in Ceylon have made me develop my love for this beautiful island which can only be equaled by my love for old England. During this period, my delight has been in tracing the natural resources of this country, in observing the immense relics of its former prosperity, and contrasting the past grandeur and energy of an extinct race with the pathetic and selfish policy of our present system’.

 

The mythical Tamil history surrounding the current Ealam campaign came to the fore at the turn of the 20th century and it was the furthered by Mudaliyar C Rasanayagam who authored the book ‘Ancient Kingdom of Jaffna’. Rasanayagam is not a historian but an avid Tamil nationalist turned historian to serve Tamil nationalism. Tamils of Ceylon at the turn of the 20th century felt the need to have a history of their own, because by that time Tamils had education, power, wealth and status but lacked in evidence to create a credible history to become the rulers of Ceylon.

 

In his “Ancient Jaffna”, Rasanayagam who is extremely popular among the Tamils however admits that his writings were for the ‘greater glory of the Tamils’. Dr.Krishnaswamy Aiyangar of he University Madras, makes the following comment in his forward to this ‘Ancient Jaffna’ in 1926. “The attempt of the author to derive the name Ilam does not appear to us to be quite as successful, because the word Ilam seems to be directly derived from the Pali word Sihalam. A strict Tamilising of the word Sihalam would make it Ilam”.

 

Some Tamil leaders and scholars also quote a text called ‘Yalpana Vaipavamalai’ that they claim was authored as early as 1736 by Mailvaganar Pulaivar, an inhabitant of Jaffna Peninsular on the instructions of the contemporary Dutch administrator of Jaffna. Such claims however betray the very basis of this acclaimed ‘glory’ attributed by them to this ‘Tamil Kingdom’ for if that was as ancient and as civilized as the Kingdom of ‘Sinhaley’ was, why wait till the Dutch order you to document the history of your Kingdom. That also confirms the Sinhalese assertion that the ‘Tamil history’ was manufactured by the colonialist to counter the Sinhala permeability over the island and to discount its effects for the convenience of the colonialists.

 

Portuguese Father De Queyroz (no friend of the Sinhalese) in his book ‘Temporal and Religious Conquest of Ceylon’ says. “After the city of Cotta (Kotte) became the Metropolis, there were, in the Island 15 kinglets subject to the Singhalese King of Cota (Kotte) who therefore was considered to be the Emperor, the same title claimed by the Sinhalese Kingdom of Candea (Kandy). These Kinglets were DinavacValave, Putalao(Puttalam), Mantota (near Mannar), Tanagama, Muliauali, Triquilmaley, Cuttiar (Kodiar near the Bay of Trincomalee) Matecoloa (Batticaloa), Paneva (Panama), Vintenna( Bintenne), Orupula, Mature and the point of north Jaffnapatao”.

 

The Dutch priest Baldaeus, who was with the Dutch forces that captured the coastal areas from Portuguese with the help and on behalf of the Sinhala King wrote an authoritative work entitled “A true and exact description of the great Island of Ceylon in 1672. He records that, on the 18th August 1613 King Senarath of Kandy summoned his councilors from the various parts of his Kingdom to ‘ensure his eldest sons right to succession’.  The councilor who attended included among many others the ‘King’ of Cotiarum, Matecoloa, Panua, Palugam (which together encompasses the entire eastern province), and one Namacar, representing the Ruler of Jaffnapatanam (the present Jaffna peninsular). Thus there is a surfeit of literature available with the Dutch and the Portuguese to prove that the colony renamed Ceylon was an Island of one civilization. And also, to prove that Jaffna in the North and Batticaloa in the East fell within the purview of the King of Kotte in the South.

 

Historical accounts of the Portuguese are of special significance because they were the first European colonist of the Island. Father De Queyroz further records of two important agreements in his book published in 1667. One of those is the Portuguese agreement in 1561 entered between the Portuguese and the Provincial ruler of the Jaffna Peninsular, Aryachakrawarthie and the other is between the one entered into in 1580 between the Portuguese and King Dharmapala of Kotte. The present-day Tamil separatists have been flaunting this first agreement of the Portuguese which is known as the ‘Nallure accord’ in evidence of independent rule at the time by Tamils to their followers. But what they have been hiding from their followers was the fact that De Queyroz specifically states that the Nallure accord was signed by Aryachakrawarthie as the Provincial ruler in Sinhalese language acknowledging the subject nature of the Jaffna province to the Kingdom of Kotte.  Further, Aryachakrawarthie is not from the present- day Tamil Nadu but said to be from present day Orissa in India. The second agreement too, between the Portuguese and the Kotte King clearly states Jaffna (Yalpnam) as being a subject province of the Kingdom of Kotte.

 

Eventually however, with exile of Dharmapala to Portugal, King Senarath of Kandy takes control of the peninsula and the other Portuguese historian Phillipus Baldaeus accounts the recapture of Jaffna in his 1672 publication of ‘A true and exact Description of the Great Island of Ceylon’ thus,

“Jaffna was wrested from the Emperor-King Senarath by Phillipo D’olivero when he defeated the Cingalezen (Singhales) forces near Achiavelly {Atchuveli) by the great pagoda (Buddhist Pagoda) in 1618”.

 

There is also a plethora evidence to prove that the present names of places in the North are in fact Sinhala names adapted to Tamil. In the north most of the villages carry the term kamam such as Malikamam, Kodigamam, Velikamam etc… In Tamil, ‘Kãmam’ does not mean village or other such adage that is usually used at the end of a Tamil village name. On the other hand, in Sinhala the name of a village generally ends up with the term ‘gama’ e.g. Gadagama, Hungama, Labugama etc… Also in Tamil, there is no ‘Ga’ sound and hence ‘Ga’ becomes ‘Ka’ when translated into Tamil. This is evidence enough to say that these places that end up with ‘kãmam’ originally carried the Sinhala name ending with ‘gama’ which, with time turned in to the Tamil pronunciation ‘kãmam’ as it is in the nature of Tamil language to end names with an additional ‘m’.

 

There are also Sinhala names identified as old names for certain Tamilized villages in the North and East and the following could be given as such examples,

 

                              Sinhala Ganthalawa            becoming  Kanthalai in Tamil

                                  -do-   Valihena                becoming  Valachchenai in Tamil

                                  -do-   Sambukola            becoming  Sambuturai in Tamil

                                  -do-   Kadurugoda          becoming  Kandarodai in Tamil

                                  -do-   Valigama               becoming  Velikãmam in Tamil

                                  -do-    Multota           becoming  Mullaitivu in Tamil

                                  -do-        ‘Ten’arachchi becoming Tenamarchchi in Tamil

                                  -do-       Veda aracchchi           becoming Vedamarachchi in Tamil

                                  -do-       Kodigama     becoming  Kodikamam in Tamil

                                  -do-       Malligama       becoming  Mallikamam in Tamil

                                  -do-       Hunugama       becoming  Chunnakam in Tamil

                                  -do-    Yapapatuna        becoming Yalpanam in Tamil

and then becoming Jaffna for the pronunciation requirements of the British.

 

On the other hand, there is no evidence, worthy of mentioning, to support the idea of an existence of a parallel civilization, independent of the Sinhalese civilization either in the Indian epics or in the Portuguese and Dutch writings on the Island. In any event, the overwhelming nature of evidence in favor of Sinhalese civilization is such that it would not have been practical for another civilization to co-exist in this Island of 25,000squre miles. This should be particularly so in view of the practice in ancient times where one main tribal civilization overwhelms the other insignificant civilizations by the use of arms and other assimilating factors.

 

It may be that when the Capital of the Sinhala Kingdom got shifted to Dambadeniya in the south towards the 13th century and with that the area beyond Mulaithivu was rendered a jungle making Jaffna peninsular a desolate land for migratory fishermen. Since Sinhala culture was based on agriculture with focus on the irrigation tank and also since the last man-made tank to the north of Anuradhapura was in Iranamadu, it would be consistent with historical evidence to believe that the area beyond Iranamadu including the Peninsula was a jungle not easily accessible from the south. In any case the land in the Peninsula is so arid that it was difficult for an agricultural community to survive there. R L Broheir, the British administrator and author who has written a range of books on Ceylon, in his 1934 publication of “Ancient Irrigation works of Ceylon” says in page 35 “Every ancient irrigation works in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is the work of the Sinhalese kings and Sinhalese engineers”

 

A professor in linguistic anthropology made a contribution to the public press sometime back comparing the similarities of the Tamil dialect in South India and Sri Lanka as they are used at present, noting that in comparison the Sinhala dialects in Southern and Upcountry Sri Lanka present a greater divergence than that between the Tamil dialect in southern India and in Jaffna. This shows that the Tamil language in South India and Sri Lanka are more closer to each other than Sinhala language that has evolved in different parts of the country. This fact is a valuable piece of evidence to disapprove the theory of an ‘ancient, unique Tamil civilization in the North of Sri Lanka independent of Tamil Nadu’ in Southern India.

 

Mahavamsa is criticized by some, even by Tamil University scholars, because it does not provide a historical precedent that might support their ‘historical claims of recent origin’. It is also anathema to the Anglican and the Catholic churches because these successors to the western civilization would like everybody to believe that it is only after the advent of the westerners that this country became civilized. Such thinking has to be pursued by them because it is also the very basis of the action of their predecessor to colonize countries like Sri Lanka; to ‘make them civilized’. They called those who did not believe in a creator God, ‘heathens and pagans’ because they are incapable of adapting to a multi-religious society as they can not see a civilization beyond their Christian religion and faith. 

 

Recently, after the communal disturbances and concomitant international propaganda, a school of thought was established by the Anglicized lobby in Sri Lanka to advocate that Mahavamsa is the cause of communal trouble because it has divided the nation. Also a publication was made some time ago written by a prominent professor (Christian) to deride the Sinhala Royal ancestry and to depict them as criminals who have acceded to power by having either ‘robbed or killed’ their predecessors. This was done to denigrate the grandeur of Sinhala Royalty and culture; knowing very well that their own cultural ancestors from Europe murdered plundered and pillaged the people in this country to no end in order to capture and govern this country.

 

Let us therefore accept the fact that when the western colonization arrived here this country was known as ‘Sinhaley’ and its inhabitants were ‘Sinhalese’. The country was ruled by the Sinhala royalty and there were some fishing villages in the Jaffna Peninsular populated by migratory fisherman of Indian descent. (The best piece of evidence we have for this is the Cole brook Commission that the British themselves appointed where it is said that the Jaffna peninsula did not have a permanent population as recently as 1833). In addition it is an overbearing fact that all these big players of modern day Tamil racism who stake claims for ‘a historical homeland’ could not count a habitation of their own older than a generation or two in the island: Chelvanayagam arrived in 1902 and Prabhakaran’s ancestors came to Velvettithurai in the 18th century ( Illusive Mind – Narayan Swamy).

 

 

 

Transformation

443 years of foreign invasion changed all that. Sinhalese civilization was made into a community and they very nearly became extinct due to colonial repression by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. If ever there was genocide in Ceylon such genocidal practices may have taken place between 1796 and 1948 during the period of British rule. Sinhalese, by the villages were exterminated, their habitats made inhabitable, their sustenance annulled, livelihood transposed, education denied and their religion demonized. As if that was not enough migratory populations across Palk straights were adopted, educated and stabilized to rule over the Sinhalese. Foreign labor was also brought to work as policemen (Malays), laborers (Indians) in road construction and plantations. During this period, as it was necessary for the colonials to administer and to shape the destiny of this nation in keeping with their values, it became a pre-requisite for them to make the ancient history of the Island and its values as obscure and vague as possible. Hence the Sinhala nation and its civilization were often at the butt end of ridicule from various colonial quarters during this long period of 443 years.

 

443 years is a long time, a time that will take about 8 generations of humans to pass through their families. After 443 years of colonial rule, at its best (or worst), the colonials left the country in a much more complex position than they originally found it. Singhaley was no more and instead we have the communally splintered Ceylon with a number of communities called Sinhalese, Ceylon Tamils, Indian Tamils, The Moors, The Malays and the Burgers. Similarly, on religion, the country was no longer Buddhist with some Hindu influence and Moor protectorates. Instead there were Buddhists, Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Parsis and the Hindus.

 

Independence.

The British granted independence to Ceylon on the 4th February 1948 with a democratic system of governance. This happened, neither because the British renounced its colonial policy nor was it due to agitation by the Ceylonese to regain their country, but rather due to a confluence of global events. Europe was devastated after the Second World War where millions of its citizens died and billions worth of property destroyed. The ‘League of nations’ formed to eliminate the causes of ‘future war’ identified colonialism and slave trade as the primary cause of conflict among nations and called for their elimination. Communism and Socialism were becoming increasingly popular among backward and exploited nations as alternative political doctrines to capitalism and feudalism. Britain was economically bankrupt and its power as a colonial master was in the vane. The continuing Indian Independence struggle too was a source of embarrassment to Britain.

 

The Japanese attacked all the British Colonies to drive the British out of Asia. However western propaganda called them the ‘yellow peril’ and accused them of violating the humanitarian practices of war. The British had enough trouble in India and hence dreaded the prospect of facing the spread of communism in their colonies. The world as a whole was entering a new phase in its civilization and Britain was really in a haste to grant independence to its colonies. India won its independence in August 1947 and Ceylon too was granted independence in 1948.

 

As for Ceylon, the independence in 1948 was not won but granted. To win something, you have to work towards it until you deserve it. India practically won independence because there was a national movement that fought for independence for nearly 40 years. The significance of that struggle was that it brought forth true indigenous leaders. But in Ceylon, there was no independent movement worth mentioning and hence there is some doubt whether true leaders emerged to take over the country at independence. The Ceylonese leaders did announce with some pride and accomplishment that, ‘See, we received freedom without shedding a drop of blood!’ But alas! the Sri Lankan nation has shed enough blood since independence.

 

The problem however, is not with the DS Senanayake and the group of people who took power from the British. To their credit it should be said that, if not for them the Vellala Tamils would have taken over and Sri Lanka would have either become another South Africa or Rwanda ensuring incessant bloodbaths. With independence, the administrative policy of ‘divide and rule’ came to an end but it was only the ‘rule’ element that lost its place with ‘divide’ remaining in all its ‘splendor’.

 

DS Senanayake with his UNP was in power but yet it was an uneasy ‘Kingship’ with different interest groups vying with one another in jostling for power. The Sinhala Buddhists led by L H Mettananda made representations to DS to redress the long-standing colonial grievances of the Sinhala Buddhists. The Christian Churches immediately reacted and D S Senanayake told the Buddhists that he could not go beyond the ‘Soulbury constitution’. He obviously did not wish to upset the apple cart and he felt the nation owed its independence to Lord Soulbury. Again because, independence was not won, but was gifted.

 

After 443 years, even the global scenario had changed. There were no monarchs ruling the countries; or at least those who were, were either on their way out or reduced to mere national symbols. Some countries had chosen universal suffrage as a means of electing Governments whereas some believed in the rule of proletariat. There however, was something common to both these systems i.e. the thinking that development and the well being of a modern nation depended in affording equal opportunities to all its citizens.

 

 

Communal and religious dichotomies in Independent Ceylon

The Cinhaley civilization, with some migratory fishing villages in the Jaffna peninsula found itself made into a ‘Sinhalese community’ forming only 74% the new nation of Ceylon. Ceylon Tamils at 12%, Indian Tamils 6%, Ceylon Moor 6 % Malay 1% and Others 1% made up the rest of the Ceylonese nation. Religion-wise too, there were fractures. The pre-colonial Buddhist society with Hindu influence and some Muslim traders is now made into a nation of, Buddhist 69.0 % Hindus 14.3 %, Catholics 6.0 %, Christians 3.1 %, Muslims 6.6 %, Others 1.0 %.  The point to note however is that even though different communities had their own demographic strengths, such strengths were of little consequence as it was the 12% Ceylon Tamils and the 9.1 % Christians that were practically in charge of the administration of the country.

 

The Sinhalese had a ‘colonial baggage’ and that was to redress their 443year old grievances. The privileged Tamils had ‘colonial baggage’ too, but that was to preserve their 150year old privileges. Yet the main division in the post-independent Ceylonese society however was not communal; it was lingua cultural. After 443 years of colonial rule there was this 6.3 % of the Ceylonese population that had acquired their competency in the ‘official’ language. They were not only colonial in their language, but were also so, in their values and outlook. That was the ‘colonial baggage’ of the new nation and was the most powerful element of all the interest groups because, political power aside, it was this group that was running the country, controlling its administration, Industry, Commerce, Plantation, Trade and most of all, the press. This powerful interest group was not communal but mainly cultural. They were made up of 100% Eurasians, some Singhalese, some Tamils and some Muslims. Thus, in practice the cultural dichotomies of the post-colonial Ceylonese society stood as Eurasians, Malays, English speaking Sinhalese, Sinhalese, English speaking Tamils, Tamils, English speaking Moors and Moors.

 

Poverty & Economy

In the early 1950’s Ceylon did not have a mechanism to calculate the social and economic indexes generally required by a country. Therefore the Per capita Income at the time was not known. 1952 is the first year in which the Household Expenditure Index was calculated and it stood at Rs. 200/ in that year. There was no proper index that reflected the people’s economic well being at the time but it was omnipresently evident that there was abject poverty among the majority. My earliest personal recollection of the poverty in Ceylon was in the early 60’s. Those days, you could find enough villages, especially women hanging around our ancestral house situated in the village, day in and day out. They came for a meal and would do all the mundane work in our house. The problem at that time was that there were too many people for anything and everything. We could also see village boys and girls walking to the village school every morning in ragtag clothes and barefooted. There were enough school dropouts around for us to employ at home to run errands and those were the days that we supplied all our acquaintances and relations in Colombo their, ‘domestic servant requirements’. The situation has changed so much today that my mother often tells me that, ‘the time when the workers came to our house with a sheaf of beetle for the traditional New year is gone and it is now our turn to pay homage to them at the New year time’ for such is the scarcity of manpower today.  

 

The country had no industries then and it was a tea garden and the raw material supplier to Britain and other industrialized countries. Even though Ceylon produced 6 % of world rubber we imported even the most primary of rubber finished products to the country. Sri Lanka that was once known as the ‘Granary of the East’ was by then importing 90% of its staple food, rice. Rice farming was the least rewarding pursuit and with that being so, the average villager had only a hope in hell. Health and education were made free on independence because that was the only way you could sustain the average Ceylonese. 

 

However, there is a colonial canard that is doing the rounds to say that Lee Kwan Yu, visited Ceylon in early 50’s as the first Prime Minister of Singapore, and he was so overwhelmed by the state of affairs in Ceylon that he had blurted out saying that ‘one day I would make a Ceylon out of Singapore’.  If that story is true, Lee Kwan Yu may have been impressed by the facile beauty of Ceylon which was practically a Tea garden then and the seemingly peaceful atmosphere in the city of Colombo. Those who lived in this country know what poverty, what desolation, what hopelessness, the people of Ceylon had resigned their lives to, in that era, soon after colonialism.  Situation in the 50’s may have been no better for if not they would not have toppled a Government when the price of rice went up by a mere /25 cents. Such stories like the one about Lee Kwan Yu are spread by the vested interests to impress upon the general public to say that, ‘The British left an orderly Ceylon and it is the local rulers who messed it up afterward’. 

 

The relevance and the authenticity of such stories and their propaganda value could only be evaluated by those who lived in this country and hence experienced the economic and social conditions in Ceylon during the 1950’s. Therefore, the first discernible social dichotomy of the post-independent Ceylon was the abject poverty/ social helplessness of the country’s teeming majority as against the power and riches of its privileged westernized minority.   

 

Apart from poverty, the other point of economic relevance was the Country’s dependence on Britain in the post independent era for its economy and finance. Mr A S Jayawardene is the most well known Central Bank Governor in Sri Lanka for he held that position for a period exceeding that of any other CB Governor up to now. In a newspaper interview [published I the CDN of 25th November 2008] he recounts how he did his research study in the London School of Economics in the late sixties and his publication revealed how the entire world tea trade at the time was handled by 13 British decision makers. During my stay in Britain in the early 1980’s I remember coming across many consumer reports in the press where it was mentioned that Tea, which remained the friendliest item in the London housewife’s shopping bag for 25 years from fifties to seventies, is showing signs of getting out of control in the early 1980’s. It should be noted that this was the time that the economic value of Tea Industry in Sri Lankan declined from, ‘very profitable’ in the fifties to ‘nonviable’ in the seventies. This shows that the stability to the overseas consumer has been due to the ‘Price fixing’ by British cartels and that such stability has been at the cost of producing country’s economy. This is proof that the Sri Lankan economy declined after independence not so much due to mismanagement but because Britain was still controlling the world tea trade.

 

 

Politics

Independent Ceylon had its share of political divisions. In fact, the political factions took root even before the nation was born. There was the UNP that was pro-colonialist, neo-capitalist and anti-communist. The main opposition to the rightist UNP came from the left politics. Leftists like Philip Gunewardene, Dr. N. M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva and Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe advocated the Marxist political doctrine in independent Ceylon quite aggressively. But most of these left leaders had earned their indoctrination to socialist politics in the west and hence there was a dash of colonialism in their Left politics. Although they advocated egalitarianism they definitely were a cut above the rest in the Ceylonese polity. All the leftist leaders were from affluent backgrounds and barring a few, they used English as their home language. They conducted their internal party meetings in English and came out to the public in Sinhala.  Their adherence to those doctrines, were more theoretical and less practical. The worst was, that they never recognized the 1948 transition from colonialism to independence even by name and held the post independent rulers of independent Ceylon with the same breadth with which they identified the colonialist, thereby effectively preventing the ‘feel’ of independence among their followers. Thus, as for the leftist leaders, independence or no independence, all that mattered was Lenin and Marx and they made their followers believe that independence is only when you achieve the ‘socialist utopia’.

 

Introducing the universal suffrage may have been the best that the British did to Ceylon at the point of independence. But the irony of democratic practice in Ceylon is that party politics was introduced to the Island even before the country became independent. As a result, the Ceylonese did not realize the significance of being a member of an independent country before he became a member of a political party. Their allegiance was just transferred from colonialism to party politics. Therefore, with people identifying themselves with party colors and symbols, independence meant sliding from colonial servitude to party servitude for the majority in Ceylon. Only a few realized that a political party was a mere means of electing suitable set of people to govern the country.

 

This is so evident even after 60 years of independence in that the people of the older generation still believe that what is important is their Party, no matter what happens to the country. They proudly acclaim that ‘green’ or ‘blue’ (party colors) blood run in their veins. The gullibility and the lack of right perception among the people in Ceylon at the time should better be felt than imagined. Even today, after 60 years of democracy, there are still people who refuse to view the Government and its activities objectively, because ‘they belong to the opposing party by generations’. The opposition’s job was to oppose, no matter how beneficial a piece of legislation was to the country, for that was the only way of justifying their existence and a possible ascendance to power in the future. The opposition did not have to be responsible. Quite unfortunately, this could happen only when the general public is not aware of their responsibility in a democracy.

 

How inimical is political dichotomy sans responsibility for an emerging country? But that exactly is what the post-independent Ceylon had in its formative years as a nation. They say that, ‘In India you do not cast your vote but you vote your caste’. Similarly, it will be equally true if you say that, ‘In Sri Lanka, the voter votes for his past rather than for his future!’.

 

This position in Ceylon however is in contrast to the situation in post-colonial India where the Indian Congress party was the main nationalist front that ushered in independence and then governed the country for the next 50 years. With due fairness to DS Senanayake, it should be said that, even though he was a man of the soil he did not have a cohesive political philosophy to navigate the newly independent Ceylonese nation with its inherent complexities. He was a political rightist and a strident anti-communist. Thus, he kept the country hitched to the capitalist and colonial course.This limitation of DS Senanayake, coupled with complex social dichotomies, effectively prevented the new Ceylonese nation from adopting a cohesive and inclusive national philosophy required for a new nation in its way forward.

 

Tribalism.

The Tamil leaders too, knew that unless they cried aloud of “discrimination’ the government would give in to popular reforms that will benefit the majority Sinhalese. It is not that the average Tamil did not have their ‘colonial baggage’ to be relieved by the new independent Government of Ceylon but it is just that the Tamil leaders subtly manipulated such grievances using the tribal instinct to redirect them towards the new Government which they called the ‘Sinhala Government’. Hence when the Government of DS launched the biggest irrigation scheme in independent Ceylon, the Tamils opposed it stating that it was a ‘colonization of Tamil areas’. The Gal-Oya Valley irrigation scheme was started because at that time about 80% of the rice requirement of the Island had to be imported. In an Engineering project of that nature the location has to be decided by ecology experts and engineers but Chelvanayagam opposed the location of this scheme on communal grounds.  Although the settlements of people were on a communally proportionate basis Chelvanayagam’s position was that no Sinhalese whatsoever should be settled in ‘Tamil areas’. Even though this so-called claim of a ‘Tamil area’ had no tenable basis, the Singhalese leaders were not prepared to expose Chelvanayagam, either because they did not know the history of Sri Lanka or they did not have the confidence to take him on. The paradox here was that this objection of Chelvanayagam to Sinhala settlements in what he called ‘Tamil areas’ was made at the same time while on another issue he had been demanding that 1million migratory Indian Tamil labour should be settled in the Up-country area which (in his own terminology) should be a ‘Sinhala area’.

 

Social Dichotomies

Mr. Sunimal Fernando is a Presidential adviser and coordinator of the present Presidential task force (set up in 2007) on “English as a Life skill”. It had been noted by him in his observations that English language education after independence had weakened in Sri Lanka while in India it had strengthened after independence. The reason for this position is most revealing and following is an extract of his speech that dealt with this reason,

“Sri Lanka’s social elites of the colonial and immediate post-colonial periods were highly westernized. They crafted and delivered an English language product to serve as a hallmark of their exclusive elite status which was defined by them largely if not wholly in terms of westernization. English was crafted by them as a gateway to the west, as a rejection of one’s cultural roots. A language therefore that should be spoken as an Englishman would speak it-unblemished diction, perfect in grammar, and with technically perfect pronunciation.

The colonial and the post-colonial Indian elites in contrast were not westernized in the same way. They were strongly rooted in their own culture and tradition. And westernization was not the hallmark of elite status in India, as it was in our country. English was crafted by them simply as a tool of communication, as a life skill and not as a language as such or as a gateway to elite status. Indians spoke English the Indian way. They had no obsession with perfect diction, perfect grammar or perfect pronunciation. Unlike in Sri Lanka, the post-independence process of democratization, social justice and social inclusiveness in India therefore did not demand the dismantling of English which in India was not a privilege or a trademark of elite status, but simply a life skill, a tool of communication.” 

Mr. Fernando should be congratulated for having the courage to spell out the incongruities of the use of English in Sri Lankan society, even after 60 years of independence. Even today, not even a good 10 % of the Sri Lankan populace could claim a fair competence in this language but the irony is that it is this 10% that run the affairs of state making the balance 90 %, by and large, mere spectators of policies and practices in the country.

 

Therefore, the Independent Ceylon, DS Senanayake inherited was a country that was economically inequitable, racially fractured, religiously suspicious, politically immature and socially discriminating. Thus, a foundation for a protracted conflict was already in place. It needed a cohesive nationalist philosophy to bring all the groups into a common path with an inclusive approach for nation-building. Such a cohesive force should not only accommodate the emerging aspirations of different interest groups but it should also draw the line where group aspiration should end and national aspiration should begin. A common belief was that, in a multi-racial society a reasonable arrangement should be one that give weight to different communities according to their communal proportion. But in practice the real power did not rest with the demographic numbers of different communities but with the vested interest groups that represented the 6.3 % elite of the Ceylonese population. Naturally, this group would have the biggest stakes in any attempt to change things and therefore would tenaciously use all means morally and immorally to preserve the existing status quo. In any case it was too much to expect from a leader like DS Senanayake, who himself belonged to this particular 6.3 % elite club, to come out radically in establishing a new national Character.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

National Integration Vs. Post Independent Dichotomies.

 

DS Senanayake who took over the unsteady state ship of independent Ceylon had an untimely death, three years into his Premiership in 1951. Dudley Senanayake, a Minister in the DS Government succeeded DS as the Prime Minister. But Dudley being a man borne to luxury toed the same capitalist line as his father.  A compassionate man, who tried to ameliorate the lot of the poor, albeit with handouts, when the requirement of the time was social reforms for social advancement. During this time Sri Lanka’s application to join the UN was forestalled by Russia since Ceylon was not considered ‘fully independent’ due to the presence of British troops here. ‘Rice riots’ broke out in Ceylon in 1953 when the price of rice was raised by 25 cents causing the deaths of several and with that Dudley gave up politics.

 

Sir, John Lionel Kotelawala, a Knight of the British order, succeeded Dudley as the Prime Minister and as the leader of the UNP, but proved to be a leader too indomitable in the face of people demanding the fruits of independence. In 1956 SWRD Bandaranaike was swept to power by an awakening polity to whose aspirations, the UNP had not been sensitive, during their 8 years of rule.

 

Bandaranaike was swept to power as he promised to give effect to popular reforms including ‘making Sinhala the official language’. There had been agitation on this for some time in the country and even the UNP had promised to make Sinhala the official language if they were returned to power.  Hence Sinhala was made the official language by the new Government in 1956.  In the first place, this was a move introduced to correct a historical injustice perpetrated on the people of Ceylon by the Colonials for well over hundred years. Up to then, 93.7% of the population of the country was administered by a language they did not understand. The highest position, a Sinhala or Tamil speaking person could aspire to, was to become either a Local Notary, a Native Physician or a Vernacular Teacher in the few schools that were available for vernacular students.

 

Nelson Mandela was born in apartheid South Africa in the year1918 but he could study and learn to graduate as a lawyer from the South African native college of Fort hare in 1938. But here in Ceylon 93.7 % of the natives were governed by a language they could neither understand nor learn and the maximum stages of accomplishment they could achieve through their native languages were rather irrelevant to the statecraft proper. Hence the majority of people in Ceylon were reduced to the position of aliens in their own country for not being conversant with the language of the King of England. Therefore, denying the rights of the language to the majority in a country, in practice, could be worse than the practice of apartheid.

 

First attempt at National Integration.

Bandaranaike’s idea of making Sinhala the official language was two-fold. While it intended to recognize the language of the majority as the language of administration, a basic right in any part of the world, the bill was aimed at making language the rallying point of the new nation. Bandaranaike was aware of the moves that were still being made by the leaders in Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu) to make Sri Lanka a part of their Pan Tamil nation and noted with dismay the inflammatory speeches made by Tamil leaders like Chelvanayagam and Vanniyasingham making strident claims for Tamil superiority and separatism. Even as early as 1956 Bandaranaike realized the danger posed by these hubristic Tamil elitists and called their federal proposals a ‘grand bluff’. He posed this question taking part in the language debate in Parliament ‘You think the people who talk like this will be happy with a federal arrangement?” Hence when the Tamils demanded ‘parity of status’ for Tamil language he considered yielding to such demands would be a wrong signal in encouraging Tamil hubris and pan Tamil aspirations.

 

True, the Swabasha Act (vernacular) liberalized the education, administration and brought governance closer to both the Sinhalese and the Tamils but the powerful vested interests in the country ensured that the Swabasha act remain mired in controversy, lacking in effectiveness,  so that they could continue in English with the entailing privileges. It was ‘just impossible’ for them to metamorphose themselves, linguistically and culturally, to work in a language that was up to then, was used only for the household servants and the hoi polloi. There were many justifications made in resistance to the official language bill and the primary argument was that since English is an International language it is difficult for a small country like Ceylon to develop without English. The vested interest English lobby has been so powerful in Sri Lanka, that not only that they prevented the resurgence of Sinhala and Tamil after independence but also carried out a smear campaign, ever so subtly to convince the country and the ruling class, that all the ills of Sri Lanka in the post independent era emanated from the Official Language Act.

 

Marxist political parties, LSSP and the CP were the first to object to the Language bill. They have been vehemently opposing all progressive reforms introduced by Bandaranaike from day one conducting hundreds of strikes through their trade unions making governance impossible for Bandaranaike. They did not see any good even in the Bandaranaike Government’s introduction of the Employee Provident Fund scheme, for the first time in Ceylon.

 

Marx who advocated ‘rule by the proletariat’ in Russia did not have to advocate ‘indigenousness’ as Russia was not a colony at that time. Even the likes of Owen in England did not have to dwell on that. Hence the local socialist with all their down to earth rhetoric missed the point that was most relevant to Sri Lanka at the time, i.e. indigenousness. Instead they classed the ancient Kings of Sinhaley with the ‘Capitalist class’ and ridiculed them as ‘Gadol Modayas’ (Brick fools) for making lasting monuments. The picture they painted of the ancient Sinhaley was similar to Tsarist Russia. The fact that the Marxist doctrine was alien to local ethos became ever more apparent after Bandaranaike’s SLFP made its entry into politics in 1952 with center-left and indigenous policies. SLFP made heavy inroads into the Marxist vote and by 1956 were able to form the Government and become the alternative political force to the UNP.  The Marxists on the other hand were getting marginalized and were clinging on to the estate Tamil vote to survive in politics.

 

Hence the Marxist argued that ‘Bandaranaike, with his language policy is dividing the nation’ when in reality language bill was intended to integrate the nation by restoring the rights of the majority and offering an equitable position to the minorities. The Marxist, blinded by their socialist dogmas, their own elitism and their political interest in the Plantation Tamil vote, did not wish to acknowledge the reality that the Ceylonese nation by then was badly fractured with the principle dichotomy being the one between the English speaking and the vernacular population. However, their acerbity to Bandaranaike reforms was based, above all, on their own apprehension about their political future, in a milieu where Bandaranaike was hijacking their egalitarian political slogans.

 

The Tamils on the other hand demanded parity of status for the Tamil language. It should be noted here that up to this point the Tamil leaders had never requested that their language be recognized as a language of administration at least in the north and east of the country. They were quite happy being governed in English even though that meant the majority of their own people being denied the basic right of communicating with the Government and access to education. The government refused parity of status to Tamil as the Ceylon Tamil population at that time was only 12 % of the country’s population but granted the reasonable use of the Tamil language in the North and East making Tamil the language of administration in those provinces. In addition, the reforms granted every child the right to have education in the child’s mother tongue irrespective of where he lives in the country. Therefore, from the average Tamil man’s position the bill, really was a bonus because up to then he had been denied those rights and no Tamil leader had made a representation on those issues.

 

Chelvanayagam however decided to make use of this opportunity. He instigated massive protests campaigns in Colombo and in Jaffna demanding nothing but parity of status for Tamil language. Conducting a series of meetings in Jaffna he told the Tamils that ‘if Sinhala was made the only official language the great Tamil nation will soon be reduced to a low caste status in Ceylon’. The irony here again is that Chelvanayagam had never demanded these basic rights for his people before and had never even indicated in any of his speeches in Parliament of this need. He started protesting only after these unsolicited rights were granted by the Bandaranaike Government. Did that mean that he was protesting against the Government granting those basic rights to the Tamils? What took the better of Chelvanayagam again was his typical hubris; he wouldn’t care whether the Tamils received these basic rights or not, what he wanted was that the Tamil should get parity of status with Sinhalese or nothing at all. He would have been happy if the Government withdrew the bill, even though that meant putting the ordinary Tamil back into darkness. What he wanted was to continue to keep the Sinhala man in the dark.

 

Bandaranaike offered reconciliation and Chelvanayagam forwarded a set of demands which came to be known as the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayagam pact.  In those demands Chelvanayagam included the alienation of land in the North and the East to Regional councils managed by the elected representatives. If implemented this would have meant 33.3 % of the country’s lands and 66.6 % of the coastal areas being brought under the administration of the Tamils in the north and east which comprised only 12 % of the country’s population. The majority of the Sinhalese as well as the UNP opposed the granting of those demands. They argued that the 1956 Language reforms were only to do with the language and had nothing to do with lands therefore any concessions to Tamils should be only on language. Chelvanayagam struck to his demands and advised fellow Tamils not to cooperate with the Government to implement the reasonable use of Tamil language in the North and East. Even though the average Tamil stood to benefit from the 56 reforms Chelvanayagam preferred to have a ‘grievance’ than to reap the benefits of the reforms.

 

Ire of the Brown Sahibs.

However, those who were worst affected by the 56 reforms were neither the leftist nor the Tamils. They were the 6.3 % of the Anglicized Ceylonese population that administered every sector of the country. They recognized the significance of the Sinhala language becoming the official language of the country and realized that the vestiges of colonialism they had built up over generations are now under a serious threat. However, they could not bring forward a tenable argument against the language reforms and hence they clambered on Tamil opposition claiming that the ‘language reforms are dividing the nation’. The Catholic and Christian Churches played a very significant but insidious role in the anti ‘swabasha’ campaign. The LakeHouse group, the country’s premier newspaper group, owned by the Wijewardene family (Buddhist) but managed by their son in law Esmond Wickremesinghe, an Anglican, spearheaded this smear campaign against Bandaranaike. They did not see anything good about restoring language rights of 93.7 % of the country’s population. They vilified and demonized Bandaranaike calling him names and made Chelvanayagam and Tamils the victims of reforms. They lamented that soon this country will be governed by the ‘tree climbers’.

 

  1. L. Fernando, the Catholic political correspondent of the Daily News, took this campaign personally upon himself. He wrote two books, one titled The Three Prime Ministers of Ceylon, praising DS, Dudley and Sir John and another titled ‘Bandaranaike legacies’ criticizing Bandaranaike and his reforms as ‘hate politics’. What Fernando effectively advocates is that the Sinhalese should be benign and allow themselves to be subjugated indefinitely instead of demanding justice denied to them for centuries. ‘It is true that Buddhism, which was introduced to Ceylon long before Christianity had suffered much under the Yoke of Christian rulers of the west, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. But to make amends to the past it was not necessary to discriminate against the Christian minority in Ceylon in 1956, for that in effect is copying the evil policies of foreign rulers from the west’, wrote JL Fernando, in his ‘Bandaranaike legacies’. On the face of it, this statement looks very harmless, magnanimous and empathic. But the subtlety in this is that J L Fernando is accusing Bandaranaike of religious discrimination in 1956 when there was no grounds whatsoever to accuse Bandaranaike on that count. He was leveling this accusation while writing on the language bill because he probably can not see the Tamils away from the Christians as those two minorities stood to lose heavily when the forces of freedom eventually took over the country. Again, he makes this comment about ‘Buddhism being introduced to Ceylon from India long before’. Here again, a subtle attempt is made to put Buddhism on the same pedestal as Christianity as being ‘introduced to Ceylon’. Thereby he attempts to hide the fact that the circumstances under which Buddhism was introduced to Ceylon 2500 years ago, was far different from the coercive methods used by the colonials to introduce their own religions to Ceylon in the 16th and 17th centuries.

 

Virendra Tazzi Vittachchi, the Editor, ‘Sunday Observer’ of the Lake House group ran a weekly ‘Fly by Night’ column ridiculing Bandaranaike and his people’s Government, more to tickle the vanity of his boss Esmond Wickremesinghe than to enlighten the reading public. Incidentally, Tarzi Vittachchi too brought out a book “Emergency 58” highlighting how Sinhala mobs ran about in Colombo during the ‘anti-Tamil tar’ campaign in 1958. In that book, it was all criticism directed at Bandaranaike and there was nothing about how the first salvo of the 58 riots was fired by Chelvanayagam by tarring the vehicle number plates in Batticaloa/ east.  Aubrey Collett, that popular ‘Lake House’ cartoonist of the time showed no mercy towards the Prime Minister either. To the extent that his cartoons were famous he made Bandaranaike infamous.

 

The irony of all this was that when the Editor, the Political columnist and the Cartoonist of the leading newspaper join their boss to vilify a particular target, they will not carry anybody’s opinion in their press in defense of that targeted victim. Hence the Language bill to restore language rights of the majority in Independent Ceylon was not entertained for the customary ‘freedom of expression’ that these scribes write so much about, by the premier newspaper group in the country. In such a situation, where the Language bill was lampooned by the premier newspaper group, with publications in all three languages, patronized by 80% of the country’s readership and 100% of Government and bureaucracy, how would one evaluate the chances of that new legislation receiving the acceptance of the general public?

 

Mercantile Sector, dubbed ‘the country’s Engine of Growth’ that accounts for a good portion of the country’s economy and commerce, rejected the official language provisions out and out.  They maintained that it was not possible for the private sector to work in Sinhala or Tamil. This was mainly because the entrepreneurs of the private sector came from anglicized backgrounds. In any case they were not prepared to take in ordinary people who were educated at ordinary schools into their companies. They preferred to take in Ordinary level qualified persons from reputed ‘branded’ schools in preference to even highly qualified persons who have studied at ‘ Unbranded’ schools. Independence or not, your school is a symbol of your class and that is a legacy of colonial education. We may discuss more about these ‘branded’ schools under ‘education’.

 

Hence the well-intentioned Language Bill then stood, protested by the leftists, torn by the Tamils, vilified by the press, resisted by the Government departments, questioned by the Courts, and totally rejected by the Private sector. First, they expressed astonishment how it would be possible to run establishments like Banks and Insurances companies in Sinhala. Minister T B Ilangaratne initiated the Singhala working- Peoples Bank and the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and proved them wrong. Then they said that it was not possible to give education in Swabasha as there wasn’t enough material. Prof. F R Jayasuriya and a Dr Harischndra Wijethunge translated the necessary books and rectified the inadequacies in education. It was indeed a difficult transformation. A transformation welcomed by those who were governed and powerless but despised by those who govern and are powerful.

 

In the final analysis, even though the language reforms were meant to bring redress to 93.7% of the country’s population it was made to look as if it was not going to be in the greater interest of the country and is chauvinist and revengeful in character. That was the power of the 6.3 % Anglicized minority in Ceylon! Hence the first genuine attempt at national integration got mired in controversy. This was also the first instance where the democratic will of the people was pitted against the vestiges of colonial interests.

 

World history is replete with instances where the elements of vested interests have reacted when their privileges were at stake and that they would go to any lengths to preserve the status quo. This probably is why in countries where popular revolutions take place, they eliminate the elements of vested interest. The situation in Ceylon however was different because the rulers of the post-independent Ceylon were, but a part and parcel of these vested interests. English that was a necessary evil imposed on people under the colonial rule had now been transformed into necessary privilege willingly adopted by the new independent Ceylon.

 

The Mother Tongue

The context in which any discussion on the need for independent Ceylon to adopt its indigenous languages for its administration and education should not be viewed either from a sense of nostalgia or with an overbearing feeling of patriotism.  We have to view this vital issue from a progressive mindset and the stand any nation takes on this vital issue in this modern era should be practical, devoid of emotion.  When a country like Sri Lanka continues with an ‘official language’ that only 6.3 % of its people understands it is bound to give rise to the following issues.

  • The state is violating a fundamental right of 93.7 % of its people i.e. the right to be communicated and educated from a language they understand.
  • Those who have not learned this alien official language will never be full citizens of the country and they will live with a lifelong complex of not being able to learn this ‘super language’. For this reason they will live an ‘inadequate life’ not making a full contribution to the progress of the nation. To shut out 93.7% of a country’s citizens this way certainly is a crime with which no state can expect to make progress.

 

  • Psychological studies have overwhelmingly supported the position that the best medium to impart education to a child is his mother tongue. Sir Ivor Jennings, the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ceylon was one of the first to advocate this in the context of Ceylon. Even empirically the results of the various examinations, pre-independent against post independent, will show that there was a tremendous improvement in the exam results after ‘Swabasha education’ was introduced. The improvements in the results have been such that it has prompted comments from senior academics to admit that ‘it is only now that the students understand the fundamentals of their subjects whereas earlier they had been learning more of English’. Also such students have not show any inhibitions to work in English or other international languages when required because those students who studied in Swabasha got through with distinctions and they are employed today as senior professionals, not only in Sri Lanka but also in different parts of the It could be said with authority that 32 out of the 51students who studied at Grade 12 A (Advanced level) class at Ananda college (Swabasha) in the year 1973 are today employed abroad as Professors, Engineers, Accountants and Scientists in countries like USA, UK, Australia and Canada, because they are contemporaries of, the author of this book.

 

  • A person’s inventiveness is at its best when he uses his mother tongue because he is more at ease and would be in his full natural self. An interesting feature noticed by the English literary critiques in Sri Lanka is that the country has produced the highest number of books written in English after 1970’s contradicting the common belief that the standard of English in the country came down after the 1960’s. This proves that writing is more to do with inventive thinking and people had become more inventive even in the use of English in the post-1970 era than during the pre-independent era.

 

  • Use of the mother tongue has a symbiotic relationship with national self-confidence. Just as self-belief of a man in his ability for accomplishment spurs him to greater heights; it is the collective confidence of the people that make up that nation that would determine the progress of that nation. Good examples in this direction would be Japan, China and Korea that have developed their countries within the last 50 years from a ‘zero’ situation. One could argue that these countries are big and hence a small country like Sri Lanka should not draw parallels with them. But yet there are countries smaller than Sri Lanka, such as Belgium, Holland, Israel, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland with smaller Populations, that have upheld themselves using their mother tongue. On the other hand we could view countries such as Tanzania, Tahiti, West Indies, Ruwanda, Zimbabwe and Uganda, that have renounced their vernacular languages and adopted colonial languages as their official language What could we say about their progress during the past 50 years? In fact, these countries appear disoriented, desolate and mired in some problem or the other and are considered retrogressive. A few years back at a forum on ‘national productivity’ by UNIDO, it was revealed that the labor productivity of China of a particular year was 28 as against India’s 22. A lady participant at this discussion expressed surprise and in private mentioned that such a disparity is striking because ‘after all India even have English; and then posed the question, what if China had English? What this lady failed to understand was that, if China had English and the native language side by side as in India, China probably would not have reached that level of productivity. After all the biggest resource a country like Sri Lanka has is its human resources and when full potential is not made of that resource, it would be difficult for a country to develop.

 

6)  During the past 60 years almost all the people who learned English used it only for their personal advancement and hence English contributed little by way of national advancement. For instance in a nation where 10% of its people are conversant in English there aren‘t even 1% of persons who could translate a work of English into Sinhala. This is because those who knew English only knew

       English and those who knew Sinhala only knew Sinhala. This was necessarily so because of the social order we inherited which differentiate rather than assimilate people on the basis of English. Further this purely personal advancement through English has contributed negatively by causing ‘Brain drain’ and even the Tamil Diaspora is a result of English education.      

 

One could always argue that the solution to this is to teach everybody English and adopt it as the mother tongue. That solution should be evaluated against our country’s experience that even after 150 years of British rule only 6.3 % of the population learned the language. In that light how many years would it take for the entire population to learn English? Even if such a proposition is plausible such a prospect would be similar to a person wearing the clothes made for another.

 

Adopting the mother tongue does not necessarily mean that Sri Lankan’s should live like frogs in a well in a globalizing world. There are so many international languages the people in this country can learn and that should be done to bring technology and cultural advancement to the country rather than in a discriminatory sense as has happened in the post-colonial Ceylon. Such languages, when properly taught, should not pose a problem for the locals to pick up those languages and this could bear witness to the fact that Sri Lankans who go to countries like Russia, China, Japan and Germany to study, have learned their respective languages within a few months and have done exceptionally well in their studies.

 

There are so many international languages in this world so why this servility to just one. Different nations such as China, Japan, Russia, France, Germany and Korea today have specialized in different spheres of activity and hence their technological know-how is recorded in their own respective languages. English probably has a comparative advantage only in a few fields like IT, and that too is because of the United States. Therefore, if we do not keep a balance in our ability to adapt to international advancement we would soon be left behind. Especially with China making great strides in industry and economy and Britain sliding down to be just Britain (no more Great), as predicted by the Newsweek magazine in its August 2009 issue, unless we learn some Cantonese in the future, we would still be like ‘frogs in the well’ despite our competence in English.

 

Further the point is that the term ‘International’ means among nations and for that Sri Lanka should first build a strong nation sans linguistic servility to one international camp. To build a strong nation we need to develop our vernacular language with the correct balance in International languages so that the people and the country will develop with their language and self-confidence. Therefore, the case made for Sri Lanka to go international with English today, is a case of a ‘cart before the horse’. At present, most of these elite families in the country have sent their spouses for higher studies abroad and as a result billions of country’s hard-earned foreign currency is taking flight this way today. The chances are that almost all those students will eventually find employment in the respective countries where they are studying such as Australia, UK and USA and will probably never come back to Sri Lanka for permanent residency. Hence the net result would be that Sri Lanka is gifting professionals to developed countries after having paid for his education in local and foreign currency. Of course, there are problems of limited educational and job opportunities in Sri Lanka but this remedy as it is far worse than the disease itself.  This is one instance where the English-speaking elite in this country is solving their own problems in a very individual way at the cost of the broader interest of the nation.

 

Frankly, this business of English speaking elitism and its exclusiveness in Sri Lanka is such a deep-seated malaise that it blurs the perception of those who are afflicted with it. Often it is like ‘sleepwalking’ where you have gone the whole hog without realizing that you have done so. My father studied at a BTS school and though he was well versed in his English it was the stanzas from ‘Subashithaya’ and verses from ‘Salelihini Sandeahya’ that he would murmur to betray his lighter dispositions. His knowledge of English was such that I am yet to meet a man who takes so much trouble to attach the most appropriate meaning to English words in their respective contextual contexts. When the missionary St Mary’s College in Kegalle refused Buddhist students to its fold my father volunteered to teach English free at the BTS School (Kegalu Vidyalaya) that came up as an alternative. But for all that patriotism and indigenousness of my father, when a man in our village wore a European trouser in the sixties, he would promptly remark, “when did he learn English to wear that trouser?’ The home language of my family has always been Sinhala but when we go out into the society and in the presence of ordinary people my mother had the habit of addressing us, the children, in English. I found it a bit unusual but as I would later conjecture, that it was to establish our ‘elite status’ when among the unacquainted.  Therefore, my father and mother both perpetrated this discriminatory practice, but quite innocently and without being fully conscious of what they were doing.

 

On the whole, this problem is not with English in its use as an international language but rather in its use as a tool of exclusivity in the broader national context, leading to national disintegration and social dichotomy. Why it is necessary to dwell so much on this subject in a discussion on the current conflict in Sri Lanka is because, not only that this social dichotomy on language has prevented national integration but also has been the prime contributor to this conflict. The suave Sinhalese majority which included Anglicans, Catholics and Buddhists were against the introduction of the Sinhala language because it meant erosion to their power in Government, Economy and General status in the society. More than all else, they expressed great forebodings about the future of their children with the limited employment opportunities available in Sri Lanka at the time. ‘Would our children have to live under the children of the tree climbers?’ they would ask themselves.

 

The average Sri Lankan had by then got used to the concept of a society where there is the uneducated majority governed by an educated few. That was the negative throwback of colonial thinking and in that mental psyche they could not envisage a progressive society where everybody gets educated and every job becomes professional, performed by a trained and educated person. Hence in their negative mentality they exclaimed “what will happen to this country if everybody becomes educated? There won’t be anybody to be governed and to do the real menial jobs”. In a parallel to ‘Too many Indians and no managers’ in colonial India, in Sri Lanka they envisaged a situation where there will be ‘Too many managers and not enough Sri Lankans’. Hence Bandaranaike’s language bill was vehemently opposed by the Sinhala elite calling it ‘impractical’. The colonial Sinhala society was also heavily structured as the colonial Tamil society was and hence even the non- English-speaking Sinhalese believed this when the educated masters of their community continue to say this. Hence it was the Sinhala elite that patronized the notion that 1956 Language reforms was the cause of all Sri Lanka’s ills’.

 

On the other hand, the elite Tamils used the Language bill to tell their fellow Tamils that “See, this is what we have been telling you all these years. Sinhalese are going to relegate the Tamils to a second-class position. We were the first community in Sri Lanka and now we even do not have the parity of status.” This went well with the tribal instinct of the average Tamil who was made to believe that they were superior to the Sinhalese. The fact that the language bill brought benefits to the average Tamil, especially to those resident outside the Jaffna peninsula, who was hitherto denied the right to communicate with the Government in their own language and to receive education, was lost in the cacophony of protests of ‘not being equal’. It also served the Tamil elite to keep their elite position in the Tamil social hierarchy which they perpetuated up to then, denying language rights to the average Tamil. Further, the effects of the language bill were more palpable on Tamil society than on the Sinhala, by virtue of the fact that Tamils held more Government jobs far outnumbering the Sinhalese. Hence the Tamils, like the Burghers, were compelled to learn a language which for years was considered of little significance to the advancement of their careers. The Tamil society therefore got more polarized on the thinking that their problem was to thwart the ‘Sinhala menace’. Hence, they propagated this idea nationally and internationally and if somebody doubted their stance, all that they had to do was to tell him “ask any educated Sinhalese and they will confirm what I say!” The role played by the Anglican and Catholic Churches in augmenting this social dichotomy among the English educated and the vernacular is no less significant and because of its egregious nature, the role of the Church in the post-independent Ceylon is dealt with as a separate subject in a preceding paragraph.

 

Education

Since ‘education is the mother of all revolutions/ transformations’, independence sans a suitable education system would make that independence meaningless. This was especially so in the case of independent Ceylon which had to rely so heavily in its colonial education system to mold its future citizens of a newly independent nation. Therefore, the subject of education in post-independent Ceylon needs to be studied in the depth that it so deservedly warrants.

The three objectives of the colonial education system was to,

  1. a) Generate blue collar workers required for colonial administration,
  2. b) Spread of the Anglican religion and
  3. c) To marginalize and decimate the majority.

 

After independence, the schools continued to produce not only blue collar but even white- collar officers for the new administration. But conversions to Christianity on account of education and preference to minorities (Jaffna Tamils) naturally ceased to be official policies. But comparatively, the Tamil areas had more schools, more teachers, more laboratory facilities and an improved level in the education standards due to improvements effected over the years. Hence the Tamil areas continued to produce the highest number of University entrants ensuring the dominance of Tamils as a community in crucial professions like Medicine, Engineering and Accountancy. Even in Colombo, there was a considerable number of Tamil students who sat for the AL examination. This situation contributed to many Tamils migrating in pursuance of greener pastures, mostly under the guise of doing post-graduate studies or furthering their education. Tamil leaders were quite mindful of this position and hence would do anything to maintain this advantage in education. In every way, they tried to influence the national thinking by instilling notions like ‘Tamils are more hard-working’, ‘Tamils are more honest’, ‘Tamils are more intelligent’ into the national psyche.

 

From 1953 Chelvanayagam had been campaigning for a university campus in Jaffna which he openly said ‘would be for the exclusive use of the Tamils’. When questioned about his demand for a ‘Tamil only’ campus, Chelvanayagam was hubristic enough to maintain that, “it was because, the Tamil students are more intelligent than the Sinhalese!”

The University Grants Commission report of 1959 (11years after independence) had this to say in its page 302, ‘If we calculate the number of Tamil university students as a proportion to their communal strength, there is one Tamil University student for every 302 members of the Tamil population and this is equal to the University opportunities available in the United States of America. However, in the case of Sinhalese the position is a regrettable one university entrant for every 3212 members of the population’. Although the report did not compare the University opportunities of the Sinhalese to any particular country, it was speculated that the position was comparable only to the least developed countries in Africa.

 

Whatever the veracity of these claims of superiority in intelligence of the Tamils, there were widespread allegations that the Tamil university lecturers, who were in the majority in the universities, were helping Tamil students by leaking out examination papers and also helping them in their practical exams. The National Commission report on Education of 1962 confirmed these allegations thus, ‘Evidence has also been presented by …….. Witnesses that the markings of university exam papers have been partial on communal grounds supported by statistics that certain fields of education have been the exclusive domain of one community. This unfortunately, has been found to be true’ page 156.

 

In detail, the evidence unearthed confirmed that the Tamil Students made it a point to scribble the Tamil letter (OM) in the right-hand corner of their English answer scripts as a method of indicating that the student is a Tamil to the examiner. After 1962 when Swabasha was introduced to education the favoritism became more rampant as the Tamils were answering in Tamil and hence the examiner had no difficulty in identifying the community of the candidate. Hon. Mr Cyril Mathew however brought a startling piece of evidence to the Parliament in 1978 to expose the partiality of Tamil examiners. He presented 50 answer scripts of Tamil students of the 1977 April (AL) Zoology paper where Tamil examiners had been partial in giving more marks to Tamil students for drawing the life cycle of the Mosquito. He was able to build up this case because what was asked for in that question was a plain diagram and the method of marking was common to all candidates (1978 Nov.7 Hanzard).   

 

While this system continued in the North, there were three sets of schools in operation in the rest of the country i.e. the area that was deliberately neglected by colonial education. There were the missionary English schools set up by the colonial education, the Buddhist English schools set up by the Theosophical society of Henry Steel Olcott, and the Maha Vidyalayas (central schools) set up by the Government after the Donoughmore reforms. In 1945 as a prelude to independence the Government Ceylon introduced the Free education bill and made education the right of every child. This bill ran into stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and the Anglicized Ceylonese. They expressed grave reservations that ‘if every Dick, Tom and Harry gets educated who will then be there to do the ‘uneducated work’? Who will pluck coconuts for us?’ W T Leslie Fernando in an article to the Daily News of 12th April 2009 describes how the Church and it hierarchy opposed the Bill of CWW Kannangara, the then Minister of education.

 

With education becoming ‘free’ in 1945 the Government registered 402 vernacular schools that functioned in many parts of the country, with no Government registration up to then, so as to give education to the masses. The government-owned Central schools admitted children free on scholarship from those vernacular schools. The Missionary schools however were classed as Government aided (as from the colonial days) but owned and managed by the Missionaries and hence they did not open their doors to the public. The Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS) schools were managed by the Theosophical society but not aided by the Government and hence they had no facilities to accommodate public entry. This secondary education schools structure of independent Ceylon, with their scale of ‘status’, was a mere ‘carried forward’ from the colonial period. The missionary schools were considered the best schools and even among them the Anglican schools were considered the ‘exclusive’ in Sri Lankan education. They were patronized by the best families in the Island and hence their pupils were most well to do and privileged. The people who became Prime Ministers and the Ministers of independent Ceylon (even though they were Buddhist) studied at these schools. A school like St. Thomases’s would have their assembly halls decorated with the photographs of a number of Prime Ministers of independent Ceylon and that fact alone would be an advertisement to the school to attract more students from well to do exclusive Sri Lankan families. Hence it was a cycle of exclusivity where the elite families patronized these schools and the students in turn achieve august positions in the society more by reason of their family influences and English education than through merit.

 

 There was yet another phenomenon that ensured the domination of this exclusivity and that was the ‘Old Boys Associations’ of these schools. An ‘old boy’ of these schools would always help another younger member of the same school or an affiliate school so that this exclusive class factor was always preserved among their own circles. The Mercantile sector which accounted for about 60 % of the country’s economic activity was the exclusive domain of these products of missionary schools and hence it was not difficult for a student from any of these schools to find employment after basic education as they enjoyed good reciprocation from the Private sector institutions. This was more due to the ‘brand’ of their school than due to their education. Similarly, it was equally difficult for a student from outside these school circles to find employment in these private sector institutions for not having studied in any of these reputed schools. This was despite the fact that the basic education was the same in all schools as it was the Government Department of Education that conducted certified examinations at different levels of education for all schools.

 

These exclusive schools then continued to be the trendsetters in the education system of independent Ceylon and the trends they set were invariably colonial. Even what they did in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘discipline’ were not in keeping with the needs of a country beginning to break away from colonial shackles.  But whatever it is that these schools do become acceptable to the society in general as these are the ‘most respectable schools’ in Ceylonese society. The BTS schools were originally formed to check the menace of missionary education and their attendant conversions. But by operating within the same ‘traditional’ set up where the missionary schools were the trendsetters, the BTS schools adopted a competitive but a yielding attitude towards these trendy practices. Even though the BTS schools eventually proved to be better than the missionary schools their competitiveness was within the same colonial confines. The Central Schools that also imparted English education came a poor third in social acceptability and employability. Even though the students of these schools excelled in their studies they were not considered acceptable to the private sector job market. Therefore, given the circumstances the students from non-missionary schools faced in their employment prospects, the fact that most of the JVP (People Liberation Movement) leaders of the 1971 and the 1989 insurrections came from the marginalized Central schools, may not have been a mere coincidence.

 

Sinhala Rebellion.

The majority who write and advocate solutions to the Sri Lankan conflict are either not even aware or just gloss over the fact that the Sinhala youths have taken to arms twice against the Government of Sri Lanka.  Those in the west, gonged with propaganda and the local elites blinded by their vested interests and prejudices believe that the rebellion, just as the grievances, is a monopoly of the Tamils.

 

While the people of Sri Lanka were meandering along, with different interest groups enjoying their conclaves of power, unable to create an inclusive sense of nationalism, the Sinhala youths from the most marginalized section of the society (non-English speaking Sinhalese) rose up in an armed insurrection against the Government of Sri Lanka for the first time on the 5th April 1971. Considering the fact that this was 23 years after independence and that the youths who took part in that insurrection were either in their late teens or early 20’s it could be said that they were the children born during the first few years of post- independent Sri Lanka.

 

This was a premonition the British entertained when they granted independence to Sri Lanka. They knew that a country like Sri Lanka with a marginalized majority would be highly vulnerable to communism that started to sweep world politics from the early 20th century. However, the rulers who took over Sri Lanka, except SWRD Bandaranaike, were sadly lacking in their vision as to the type of nation that could be built out of the colonial remnants left behind by the British. The new leaders like DS were stridently anti-communist and even refused to have diplomatic relations with countries like Soviet Russia due to their communism. But they had little understanding of the causes of communism and hence did little to prevent communism getting rooted among the greater Sri Lankan polity.

 

A youth named Rohana Wijeweera returned after his education at the Lumumba University in Soviet Russia and founded an organization called the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (Peoples Liberation Organization) in 1962. He identified the potential among the Central school educated youths who were denied employment opportunities and social status by the ruling elite. Thus, the unemployed Sinhala educated youth became the bedrock of his organization and among them Wijeweera commenced the famous five lectures of the communist indoctrination.

 

The movement grew in strength commanding a dedicated group of young girls and boys. The articulated speeches of the JVP leaders were so appealing that young people responded to them so overwhelmingly by donating then and there, the jewelry and other very private possessions, in an impromptu gesture of goodwill, at public meetings. The JVP while having a propaganda wing overtly introduced armed training to selected members of the organization under very discreet circumstances. The security establishment got wind of this arms training and started to raid their places of discreet company and arrested the leader Rohana Wijeweera when he was with some comrades in a safe house at Borella in Colombo on the 1st April 1971. The Army intelligent reports stated that at the time of arresting the JVP leader their movement was 100,000 strong.

 

 Their plan was to attack 100 Police stations in the country and take the police officers under their control. The attack however could not be executed according to the plan as Wijeweera was arrested quite unexpectedly. The JVP however struck on the 5th July 1971 by attacking the 100 Police stations simultaneously. Some police stations were completely overrun by the JVP youths while some remained under siege for days. The Government of Mrs Bandaranaike however mobilized the armed forces to suppress the insurgency. Emergency armaments and helicopters were rushed from Pakistan and India. The insurgency lasted for about two months. 12,000 youths were reported killed and another 5000 were arrested and placed in rehabilitation camps.

 

An incident that took place during this insurgency however became an event that would eventually have a special bearing on the thinking of the Tamil separatist movement. The JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera was held in a prison in Jaffna when the insurgency broke out. A busload of JVP youth from the south, having disguised themselves as a ‘group on a pilgrimage’, arrived in Jaffna and attacked the prison during the night. Their attack was successful but they could not find their leader in time to rescue him before the reinforcements arrived. Yet the scale and intensity of the attack was such that it damaged the prison premises extensively and freed all the inmates.  This impressed the Tamil separatists lobby that was evaluating even then the prospect of an armed struggle against the Government. It showed them that even though the Government was big and has armed forces, a small motivated group can make the government establishment vulnerable if they apply their small but concentrated power at one place at a time.

 

Reasons for the 1971 JVP insurrection, was purely economic and social and not at all racial like the LTTE terrorism of today. But the commitment of the JVP youth was no less strident. The main theme of the rebellion was ‘It is better to die standing than to live in servitude’. At that time, there was little hope of the revolution ending on a successful note and the JVP therefore was more emotive than practical with youth dying en masse. Comparatively, in the case of the LTTE, the rebellion was more organized with massive propaganda and Diaspora financial support and therefore death for them was only their last option.

 

The second JVP uprising was in 1987. This time the JVP was not trying to implement the theories of Marx and Engel’s but were more practical in choosing their cause. The direct intervention by India, in Sri Lanka’s security operations to neutralize LTTE terrorism and the subsequent Indo Lanka accord were unpopular among the Sinhalese majority. Even the JVP Leader himself had been talking about Indian hegemony in South Asia and its likely fall out on Sri Lanka. Hence the JVP’s second revolt was against the Indo Lanka Accord. JR’s move to establish private Universities in the country too, did not go well with the JVP. For years the country had been used to a system of free education with its concomitant competitive University entry system and that ensured only the most talented students securing entry into the country’s Universities. In this backdrop, the introduction of fee levying private Universities was viewed as a method to award degrees to the ‘moneyed’ instead of the ‘brightest’. Hence the JVP labeled the Private Universities as ‘Degree shops’.

 

Even the JVP’s anti Government operations, the second time around, were more insidious and organized. They closed all the schools with one anonymous telephone call; closed the banks by dropping a note discreetly at the paying counter and stopped the entire transport system by shooting a bus driver or conductor in some corner. Towns got deserted in minutes with shops putting up shutters and transport coming to an abrupt halt. Policemen pursuing JVPers were ambushed and killed. The suspected informers and those who aired their views against the JVP activities were killed. People’s identity cards were collected by masked activists at night to prevent their use in day to day activities. One by one they killed all those who supported the Indo Lanka Accord.  It was a situation where the country’s affairs were controlled or rather sabotaged, by an insidious hand. The Government was baffled not knowing how to overcome the situation because the saboteurs could not be identified.

 

The 1988 Presidential elections were held under these conditions. The JVP wanted to disrupt the elections and they threatened to shoot the first five that come to vote at every polling booth. The UNP forwarded R Premadasa as its Presidential candidate while Mrs Bandaranaike contested from the SLFP and Ossie Abeygunasekera from the Leftist Alliance. Premadasa campaigned on an anti-Indian platform even though it was his party that signed the unpopular accord with India.  Polling was conducted under strict security conditions and the turnover at polling stations was very low by Sri Lankan standards. R. Premadasa won the election on a narrowest of margins beating Mrs. Bandaranaike to the second place. President Premadasa with his Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne set about restoring law and order, which was the priority at the time. It as a ‘Martial law’ like situation in the country. The situation was finally brought under control after about 4 months but the country paid a heavy price in terms of collateral damage and the human cost of the damage varied from 12000 to 18000 young lives. More people went ‘missing’ than reported killed.

 

After every one of these insurrections the response of the Government in power had been rather cosmetic and they blamed everything on lack of employment opportunities for the youths. It should be mentioned that the Government and the English speaking elite in the country never looked at the JVP rebellion with the same degree of understanding they extended to the LTTE.

This alienated them further from the accepted social norms setting the cycle of revolt and reaction to condemn them to be permanent social misfits. The English educated elite in Sri Lanka would just condemn the Sinhala educated youths as ‘JVPers’ or ‘mentally deranged’ persons who had twisted perception s and values. Thus they were permanently consigned to the ranks of the socially outcasts.

 

The Government having spent millions on their education finally had to shoulder the responsibility of finding employment for them which was not at all an easy task and required additional votes in the Government budget every year. Hence the well-intentioned free education of the independent country had now gone awry. By educating the youth in Arts and Commerce streams (mainly Sinhala) the government was creating additional social obligations of finding employment for them and on the other hand the Tamil youths who dominating the science streams were migrating after education and joining the Diaspora and contributing to the LTTE war chest. Hence the free education that was meant to educate the youth to develop the country was creating two groups of anti-establishment youths; one demanding reforms within while the other aiming at the total destruction of Sri Lanka.

 

Nationalism.

We now see that the Sri Lankan nation has been drifting with no sense of focus and requiring national integration. Attempts at national integration were sabotaged by vested interest groups. The strong Tamil community and the pervasive English speaking Catholic/Christian minority is proving to be too powerful and have resisted mainstream integration. A common Sri Lankan nationalism was the need of the hour but the ‘intellectuals’ writing to the English press would cry ‘blue murder’ at the mention of nationalism. They would cite ultra-nationalist, such as the Japanese during the Second World War or Hitler’s Nazi Germany and argue that nationalism is the antithesis of progress and national harmony. Nazism is an extension of nationalism and is the shortened form for Nationalist Socialist Party (Natsci). Fascism in Italian means ‘integrated whole’ and fascism too is a form of nationalism. But those are extreme cases.

 

Nationalism to a nation is like food to a man. A nation cannot survive without it but too much of it will make the man obese and sick. How did Japan rise up to be a world economic power within 30 years from that horrific nuclear devastation? There was nothing in that country except Japanese nationalism. Abraham Lincoln laid the foundation for American nationalism after having defeated southern separatism in 1860. If not for Gandhi, India would not have been the nation it is today. Everything in this world, including science, is good in the right quantity and too much of it, is certainly harmful.

 

There is no way an independent nation like Sri Lanka, after 443 years of colonial rule could consolidate itself without a strong sense of nationalism. But the ‘intellectuals’ who prefer the colonial status would have none of it. They would blame all the ills of the new nation on ‘Sinhala nationalism’.  This was because the Tamils and the Catholic/ Christians feared the takeover of the country by Sinhala Buddhist and hence the best way to prevent that was to blame everything on it as a harbinger. But the fact is that, none of the rulers of independent Sri Lanka came from a common Sinhala Buddhist background until probably Mahinda Rajapakse did so in 2005. DS, Dudley Sir John, Mr and Mrs Bandaranaike, JR, Ranil and Chandrika, all came from English speaking backgrounds and were the products of prestigious missionary education. All these post independent leaders of Sri Lanka, except perhaps for Mrs Bandaranaike and Premadasa (4 years), thought in English and did also in English.

 

During the course of my employment, I have met many foreign consultants who had served in different parts of the world, mainly in countries of South Asia. The main complaint they appear to have against the government of Sri Lanka is that the Sri Lanka Governments constant change of policy on many important economic and social spheres of activity and that prevents the dedicated pursuance of a consistent policy over a period of time. This is the result of Sri Lanka not having a considered national policy on anything. They cite India and say that, ‘In India the governments can come and go, but the development activities on vital areas of activity continues.’ Take the case of the Sri Lankan economy; there is no clear policy as to what is expected of these two vital arms of the economy, private and public sectors, with their roles defined with the broader paradigms established. When the UNP is in power the ascent is on privatization as if that is the only method of economic and social development whereas the SLFP is known to swell the Public sector by creating new public-sector institutions to meet the broader public needs of an emerging nation. It is not just the emphasis but a complete change of policy. There is no clear policy on exports and import substitution either. Take education; its methods and standards fluctuate from one end to the other with every change of government, often with one government undoing what its predecessor had only introduced. What is Sri Lanka’s national policy on the all-important area of conservation and generation of energy which requires extraordinary and sustainable long-term planning?

 

For that matter do we Sri Lankans have the correct vision as to how the state should deal with those who take to arms against the elected Government of the country? One Government comes into power and start negotiations and start pandering terrorism in the name of peace. They learn bitter lessons and probably get thrown out of power at the end. Then the party that succeeds to power makes the same mistakes all over again and learn the same bitter lessons all over again. This, incidentally afforded Prabhakaran, the opportunity to outlive all his contemporary Sri Lankan leaders.  

 

However, while mainstream integration and nationalism is generally looked down upon in the SL society, there are interest groups within Sri Lanka that promote their own brand of nationalism within the country. There is Nazi type ultra-nationalism in Sri Lanka among the Ceylon Tamil community who always thought of them as being superior to the Sinhalese and other communities in the Island.  It was this nationalism that eventually gave rise to a form of Fascism under Prabhakaran. Then there was ‘anti-nationalism’ by the Christian and Catholic Churches that accounted for about 9 % of the country’s population which promoted the idea that colonialism was the best thing that ever happened to Sri Lanka and that there is no future without English and western values. In this struggle to reestablish colonialism in Sri Lanka, the northern Tamil youth found natural allies in the western Church, the ex-colonial western governments and also in the Sinhala elite,

 

 That famous Indian Author DF Karakas said of Gandhi, that “Out of dust he made us into a nation”. Is Sri Lanka waiting for its own Gandhi to unify different interest groups in the country into a nation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Colonial Stripes on the Tiger.

 

Having studied the background and the insubstantial nature of the ‘Tamil Grievances’ let us now consider the forces that have contributed the LTTE to be the most organized and successful terrorist organization in the world.

 

The Church

Evidently the ruling elite in Sri Lanka, during the past 5 centuries have changed their religion in keeping with the religion of changing regimes. They were Catholics under the Portuguese, Reformist under the Dutch, Anglicans under the British and some of them were reconverted to Buddhism after independence. That is an indication of the relationship between religion and state power during colonial time. Since it was a few ruling elite families that reconverted themselves to Buddhism at independence, the bulk of the Christian segment in the ruling elite remained entrenched in their religious/cultural setup, forming the most significant power block in post-independent Ceylon.

 

The legacy of the Anglican/ Reformist/Catholic Churches in Sri Lanka was that of colonial crusades, of forced conscriptions, of inciting with allurements and of religious genocide. However, having lost the position of ‘religion of the rulers’ after independence, the Christian Church was finding it difficult to adapt itself to the role of the ‘ruled’, especially by those whom the Church describe as ‘uncivilized’ for centuries. The Church however had the support of the 6.3% English speaking minority, who controlled the country’s administration, commerce, trade etc. and whose interests were closely linked to that of the Church. Whether Christians, Buddhist or Hindus, they were all culturally converted. In fact, what is important is the cultural conversion because what invariably passes for ‘religion’ in the modern world is the culture of the area that had adopted that religion. For instance Christian culture is western culture; Islam is based on Bedouin tribalism and Hinduism, essentially Indian and Buddhism is a mixture of Indian and Far Eastern cultures. Hence the ruling class of independent Ceylon was western in its outlook as against the local majority which is eastern and south Indian.

 

In this backdrop, the Church was obviously placed in a situation where its interests were threatened by the emerging Sinhala Buddhist juggernaut. But yet there was little the Church could do to reverse the situation other than to grudgingly hold their prejudice and antipathy towards the majority Buddhist. It was in this milieu that the powerful Tamil community started manufacturing their grievances on issues such as the ‘language issue’. The Christians could not have picked any of their lost privileges as ‘grievances’ but now this ‘grievances’ coming from a minority is a good idea to thwart a possible onslaught of the liberated Sinhala Buddhist majority. By taking the side of the Tamils, the Church would be saving itself and the status quo of the English-speaking elite while projecting an image of the ‘supporter of underdog’. Therefore, the Church, in independent Ceylon, used all its power to project the Tamils as the underdogs for it would not be proper to ‘bless an aggressor’.

 

In 1962 the senior police and security forces officers staged a coup de’tat against the elected Government of the day. All the senior officers of the Security forces (Army, Navy and Air force) and the Police at that time were Christians and their plan was to take all the elected leaders and the opposition leaders into custody and appoint themselves into a ‘Junta’ style government. They almost succeeded in their effort but for the only Buddhist Senior Superintendent of Police among them Mr Stanley Senanayake. Mr Senanayake having realized the religious/cultural nature of the coup in the making informed his father in law Mr. P De S Kularatne who in turn informed Mrs Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister at that time. It was after this that the government started taking in recruits from Buddhist schools to the security forces.

 

At the very outset, it should be mentioned that the majority among the Christian community in Ceylon are patriotic and often have split loyalties towards western and eastern cultures. They have relations and close friends among the Buddhists and the Hindus and are conscious of the fact that, a few generations ago their predecessors were either Hindu or Buddhist. Therefore, at their social level they do not consider Buddhist and Hindus as ‘heathens and pagans’ as their religion advocates. But individuals and their thinking do not matter and what matters is the thinking and the voice of the Church which is parochial and hegemonistic. The Church follow the standards set by the Vatican, West Minister or other such denominational hierarchy that they are a part of, and that line is often contradictory with the Sri Lankan national line.

 

The Church had been consistently ‘sympathetic’ to the needs of the Tamils and helped them in innumerable ways to built up a Diaspora from the 1960’s. Chelvanayagam visited West Minister Abbey in 1961 as an Anglican and painted a biased picture of, Christian Tamils suffering at the hands of the Sinhala Buddhists, before the Anglican hierarchy. It was the Vatican through its communication network that disseminated to the world the events of July 83 depicting the Sinhalese Buddhist as ‘uncivilized barbarians’. From that point onwards the western funded and the Church guided NGO community unleashed its propaganda machine to justify all the heinous crimes committed by the LTTE as ‘retaliatory activities’ prompted by the July’ 83 incidents. Ironically even though the LTTE has now come to be known as the ‘world’s most ruthless terror organization’ none of its organized criminal activities received the same publicity that July 83 received in the Vatican. After the massive propaganda on July’ 83 riots many humanitarian organizations focused their attention on the conflict in Sri Lanka and one such organization was the World Council of Churches.

 

The World Council of Churches is an organization representing the Protestant Christian Churches in the world through the National Christian Council in every country. It is a highly prestigious and a democratic body representative of all the Protestant Christian Churches. It should be noted here that the richest countries in the world are protestant Christian countries hence the Council is one of the most powerful bodies with a say in world affairs. Their reports on world trouble spots are always made on first-hand observations and therefore are relied upon by the International community and even by the UN. In the early 1990’s the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka requested the World Council of Churches to send a team of experts to Sri Lanka, ‘to study the situation in the country as a whole and make known to the wider ecumenical community the country’s problems and the challenges facing the Church there.’ A team comprising experts in different fields of human affairs with a balanced representation from east and the west visited Sri Lanka in November 1990 and spent time in the country to gather facts for their report.

 

They visited trouble spots both in the North and the South and spoke to the inmates in refugee camps and to ordinary people to ascertain their views and also conferred with the dignitaries of the Christian churches both Protestant and Roman Catholic. But what is diabolical is the fact that the Commission for Justice and Peace, National Christian Council of Sri Lanka which was responsible for arranging the itinerary of the visiting team had so arranged it, that the members of the team met with only those Tamil politicians either demanding a separate autonomous state or Sinhalese politicians supporting and justifying the separatist demand and violence. Thus, the team was made to meet Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam, MP, a leading member of the Tamil United Liberation Front, the racialist Tamil political party which was most strident in demanding a separate state for the Tamils. They were also made to meet with Mr Vasudeva Nanayakkara MP a prominent member of the Trotskyite Lanka Sama Samaja Party who has been more vocal about the Tamil cause than Tamils themselves.

 

It would appear that the National Christian Council had no knowledge of any politician or organization, or a political party or an individual who was opposed to the Tamil demand for separatism. In this respect, the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka did a great disservice to the World Council of Churches in misleading and the WCC and thereby contributed to create a partisan picture of the situation in Sri Lanka. The WCC team naturally prepared their report on the basis of the material made available to them and on the views and opinions and complaints of those whom they met during the short period they were in Sri Lanka.

 

The teams report has been published as an official publication of the World Council of Churches under the title ‘Plurality, Passion and Power’. The local edition has been published by the Commission for Justice, National Christian Council, 368/ 6, Bauddaloka Mawatha Colombo 7. The report in its introduction says that ‘the team was sent to see for themselves the situation in the country as for, and to make known to the ecumenical community the country’s problem’. This means that the report was intended for circulation among the Christian community throughout the world. The report has been held as an authoritative document on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Even the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees in a report to a joint meeting of the ILO and UNHCR on the refugee situation in Sri Lanka has listed the WCC report as a reference document in its list of referrals (vide UNHCR report on meeting in May 1992).

 

After setting out the percentages according to ethnicity and religions in Sri Lanka, the report says: “Following independence from British colonial rule in 1948, and the establishment of a democratic electoral system of representation, it was inevitable, in a multi-ethnic society that the majority community would tend to exercise absolute power. The problem of safeguarding the interests of the minorities was compounded when in 1956, in spite of vigorous protests from the opposition; the Sinhala only act was passed establishing the Sinhala language as the only medium of instruction. The warning of Dr. Colvin R De Silva an opposition leader, proved to be one of the most tragic prophesies of modern Sri Lanka politics: ‘two languages one nation and one language two nations’.   The perception by the Tamil minority that they were being marginalized and that their needs were largely ignored by the Sinhala majority with the claim that Sri Lanka should become a Buddhist nation led to much bitterness and counterclaims to establish the north of the country as a separate Tamil state”.  A body as acceptable as the WCC cannot do a better job in lending it’s authority towards the falsification of situation in Sri Lanka and also in justifying the armed separatism of LTTE that was at its peak at the time. Let us now analyze the distortions of facts and the biased conclusions drawn in this report, one by one.

 

1) The WCC report says that it is inevitable that in a country like Sri Lanka which became independent recently with representative Government, the majority community would tend to exercise absolute power and trample upon the legitimate rights of the minorities and even to resort to ethnic cleansing. But no such thing in fact has happened in Sri Lanka. Rather than domination, the majority Sinhalese had not been even conceded their just share of rights in a society that was dominated by the Tamils on one side and the Christians on the other.

 

2) The WCC report says, ‘in spite of vigorous protest from the opposition the ‘Sinhala only’ act was passed, establishing Sinhala language as the only medium of instructions. This is a flagrant falsification of facts. There was no vigorous protest in the first place because both the UNP and the SLFP voted for the bill and it were the Marxists and the Tamil Party (The only racial party) that objected to this bill. On the other hand, the bill did not make Sinhala the only medium of instruction but made Tamil the medium of administration in the north and the east and ensured education of Tamils in their mother tongue anywhere in Ceylon. Sinhala was made the ‘official language’ throughout Sri Lanka. The term Sinhala only was coined by the Anglophile elite to denigrate the bill because the bill said that there is only one official language while granting language rights to the north and the east. The report also creates a false impression that the 56 bill took away the language rights of the Tamils that they had enjoyed up to that time, whereas the actual position is that neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils had any language rights before the bill and it was only the colonial lackeys who had the language rights (i.e.English) up to 1956.

 

3) The report also says about Dr Colvin R De Silva’s hackneyed prophesy of two languages one nation and one language two nations. This statement in fact was very effectively countered by Mr Mettanada, Principal Ananda College who asked Dr De Silva why he could not see the very obvious of two nations already existing in colonial Ceylon i.e. English speaking and Vernacular speaking. Such a division relates to cultural social and economic differences whereas the Language bill was introduced to minimize that position. All what the Bill did not grant the Tamils was the ‘parity of status with Sinhala’. This is a hubristic demand from a 12 % minority and how could this not grating of an unreasonable demand lead to two nations. What this Leftist fail to mention is that this same Dr Colvin R De Silva authored Sri Lanka’s first Republican constitution in 1972 ( much after that ‘prophetic’ remark) and that constitution was called the ‘watershed in majoritisation’ by the Tamil United Liberation Front. At the constitutional assembly when Tamils demanded either ‘parity of status’ or ‘devolution of power’ Dr De Silva told them quite bluntly that “From the time we can remember this country always had a unitary government ….. This is a small country……. The damage that could result to this small nation living in this small country by dividing into several units and then bringing them together (in a federation), is demonstrated by our history. Whenever the state of Lanka was divided into parts and sub-kings were appointed to them under the control of one emperor, enemies here and abroad exploited such divisions to put one against each other. The final result of such hostile strategies was the loss of our very freedom to foreigners. The people of this country know this and I do not believe that they would be prepared, even for a moment to do away with this unitary character of this country”. (Proceedings of the Constituent Assembly March 15th 1971.). 

 

It has to be admitted that this report has been extremely misleading and considering the world bodies to which this report would be acceptable in view of the credibility of the WCC and their seemingly good intentions, the damage that this report would have done to the country and the Government was considerable. This explains the reason why the western countries are so prejudice against successive Sri Lankan Governments.  This report has done more harm to the Sri Lankans in general and Sinhalese in particular than all that anti-Sri Lankan propaganda by the Tamil Diaspora.           

 

It should also be borne in mind that it was the World Council of Churches that sponsored the LTTE office in London which commenced its operation from 1984 as an anti-Sri Lanka propaganda center. It churned out thousands of literature, often based on questionable facts, denigrating the SL Government and the Sinhalese Buddhist. However, it is not the World council of Churches (proper) that is responsible for this malicious occurrence but rather those who have misled the WCC by giving a very one-sided picture. This was deliberately done and even the WCC would not be happy with that if they get to know this. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the National Christian Council (NCC)of Sri Lanka, its head, the Bishop of Colombo Dilip de S Chickera and the lay organization of the NCC, the National Peace Council with its Director Jehan Perera. They have very surreptitiously misled an otherwise well-intentioned organization to make them believe and act in a manner the local Christian church wished. It is a fact that the LTTE survived this long perpetrating all those brutalities mainly due to the patronization they received from the west and hence the Protestant Church in Ceylon should take responsibility for good part of the activities of Prabhakaran and this war. It is indeed deplorable that men of religion should have a hand in killing of innocent people and the Church has been blinded by power and malice going against the very doctrine they profess to uphold. If the Church truly believes in what they profess to believe, in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that embodiment of compassion towards human beings, they would not have indulged in malicious artifice of this nature. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’. (John 8; 32). The Anglican Church of Ceylon if they believe in the above from Bible should be in bondage with sin for hiding the truth and propagating falsehoods.

 

The heads of the different Christian denominations in SL issue press statements from time to time, on the ongoing conflict, blaming mostly both parties to the Sri Lankan conflict for violence. These statements are issued as if these churches are oblivious to the fact that on the one hand you have the legitimate Government of the country bending over backward for peace and on the other the intransigent, ruthless and totalitarian terrorist LTTE. These statements seemed to blithely ignore the fact that the government of a country has a legitimate right to the use of arms without which no Government in the world could function. In fact, by issuing such a message you are discounting the authority of the legitimate Government and elevating a terrorist organization to the level of the Government. The Church is aware of this and these statements are issued precisely for the purpose of influencing the thinking of the locals and western nations accordingly.

 

Let us analyze one Christmas message, among the many such double-edged messages, issued by the Archbishop of Colombo Most Rev. Nicholas Marcus Fernando the Head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. The Christmas message issued to the public through the press published on 25.12.1997 says, “In our country today we are speaking of races and nations, of religions and cultures, of Ealams and Tri Sinhalese and fighting for them, shedding blood and killing ourselves. We are blind to our own foolish and suicidal rush while the world can only laugh at our boost of 2500 years of civilization”. Although the situation in Sri Lanka is not exactly how this statement describes, this is probably how the good Archbishop would like the others to believe the situation in Sri Lanka to be and that must be why he had worded his message that way. Even though the Archbishop uses first person plural ‘we’ in his message it is quite obvious that he refers to the Buddhist. ‘We’ is being used to blur the finger pointing because if he says ‘the Buddhist’ then it could be construed as religious prejudice. Therefore, without this inherent sophistry, this message could be redrafted to read as follows, ‘Look at these Buddhists. They are fighting for nations, religions and races blinded by their own follies. In this scenario of senseless and suicidal fighting, the 2500year history they boast of should be made the laughing stock’. What does the Archbishop exactly want the Government of Sri Lanka to do? Just lay down the arms and surrender to the terrorists? Haven’t we forgotten that 638 Police officers who were on duty in the Eastern Province during Premadasa ‘Peace Talks’ in 1990 surrendered to the LTTE and they were shot and buried in one mass grave by the LTTE.?

 

The Christian dignitaries also make pilgrimages to Kilinochchi in the name of ‘peace’ and eulogize the most ruthless terror leader and his activities. These are mostly done for the consumption of the Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE sympathizing Governments in the west. Jesus Christ said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, but the Church on the contrary seems to bless the war makers more. Jesus Christ had no ‘cause’ even against those who plotted his murder. He died for the sins of humanity because violence was not in his armory. But the Church appears to justify the barbarism of Prabhakaran in the name of some elusive and unspecified ‘Tamil grievances’. These grievances are so holy to the Church that the Church even justifies mayhem and murder perpetrated on innocent lives in the name of these ‘causes’. Even though Buddhism is a philosophy that differs from Hinduism fundamentally as a religion, in religious observances there is little to choose between Buddhist and Hindu practices. They patronize the same temples and Kovils worship the same Gods. But the LTTE‘s hatred for Buddhism is extraordinary, just as much as their affinity towards Christianity is also extraordinary. This has been made plain by their many attacks on the Buddhist places of worship, killing of Buddhist monks and carrying out international propaganda against Buddhism in particular.

 

When Taliban rulers decided to destroy the priceless Buddha statues at the Bamian valley in Afghanistan the whole world spoke against that act irrespective of religion, mainly because it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The LTTE was the only organization in the world that issued a statement justifying that act.

 

The propaganda of the Church is very subtle. In spite of the ‘peace follies’ committed by successive SL Governments that bestowed a semblance of legitimacy on the LTTE, even today the Church will advocate ‘negotiations’. They wish that the legitimate Government keep talking till Prabhakaran musters enough military muscle and international diplomacy to attack and overthrow the Sri Lankan democratic regime. They will express concern about ‘Human rights’ violations oblivious to the fact that the reason for these violations is the presence of a brutal terror outfit in our midst. The Church is very loud on Army excesses and thereby, provides a subtle platform for the LTTE in the international media. If a journalist wishes to expose national defense, for the benefit of the LTTE, he could always seek refuge in the Church under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’. This way the Church has been marshaling international opinion against the SL Government to make Sri Lanka, a pariah state in the eyes of the ‘International community’. On the face of it, there appears nothing wrong with the activities of the Church, because their modus operandi is ‘peace’, ‘human rights’ and ‘press freedom’. However, if the Government tries to muscle the Church for their subtle strategies, the Government will invariably stand accused of another basic violation to its list and that will be the ‘violation of the rights of the religious minorities’.

 

Recently the Bishop of Colombo issued a press statement on the aftermath of the visit by Ms Louise Arbour, the Commissioner of Human rights in the UN. This appeared to be a timely release to add pressure on Ms Arbour who in turn would add pressure on the SL Government to accommodate a UN human rights mandate in the country. Such a mandate was originally requested by the Bishop of Jaffna. The intention of the Church is to cause foreign intervention in the country by some ruse.

 

The son of the Bishop of Colombo Vijith de Chickera runs the Lanka Monthly Digest LMD which is very influential with the Sri Lankan business community. That too propagates ‘putative peace’, very subtly over business ethics, to the Sri Lankan corporate sector. The English media in Sri Lanka is exclusively dominated by the Christians and those with a ‘western international’ mindset. Not only that they churn out putative peace propaganda day in and day out, but also acts as a filter for the international news agencies making sure that only ‘anti-Sinhala Buddhist news’ gets highlighted in the international media.

The previous regime of President Chandrika Kumaranatunge came to power on a platform of ‘peace’ and survived her term on ‘peace’. But her activities caused the deaths of more than 40,000 Sinhala and Tamil lives, of the armed forces, of the LTTE and of civilians. That was an unprecedented damage compared to the previous regimes that did not talk so much about ‘peace’. The LTTE became more nationally and internationally powerful during her time causing the most damage to the Sri Lankan economy. The Church had no compunction however of all these killings and in fact Chandrika was the darling of the Church because she shared the western concept of putative peace for Sri Lanka.

During the ‘Jaya sikuru’ campaign launched by Chandrika in 1998 an Army mortar fell into a Church premises accidentally and the LTTE made International propaganda out of this issue saying that the Government is ‘anti-Christian’. Army spokesperson at the time Lt Col. Sarath Munasinghe, blurted out in defense during a press conference saying ‘why the LTTE is making such a religious issue of this when the LTTE has planned and killed so many Buddhist priests, Muslim Muthauwwas and Hindu Priests? Mr Munasinghe was made to retract his statement by the Chandrika Government. The Army spokesperson was innocent and he was only talking in comparative terms, but the Chandrika Government was more sensitive and hence had a policy of not contributing to any evidence where the Church could be implicated with LTTE activities.

It is a well-known fact that the Catholic Church, the northern sect at least, has been cohabiting quite openly with the LTTE and their activities for the past 30 years. There have been instances where Catholic priests have been apprehended at road checkpoints with arms and ammunition in their possession and there were also instances where arms have been discovered in Church premises in the North. The Church has defended, directly or indirectly all the heinous crimes committed by the LTTE including the attack on Sri Dalada Maligawa and the Sri Maha Bodhi. In fact the Church has been obtrusively partial in justifying the killing and mayhem created by the LTTE to a point where it amounted to the Church issuing ‘divine license’ to the LTTE to kill and create mayhem in Sri Lanka. The thousands of atrocities committed under this license include the cold-blooded murder of 33 young Buddhist monks on their way to alms by shooting them at point-blank range and hacking them to pieces.

 

The Church hardly runs out of excuses and even when it does it has been creative enough to enact some action or other of the army as ‘being responsible for the retaliatory acts of the LTTE’. The Government security forces were always projected as the ‘aggressor’ and the LTTE the ‘retaliator’.

 

Mr Basil Rajapakse came out with an interesting episode in a recent interview in public media. According to him the present President had sought the blessings of the Catholic Church to visit Madhu shrine when he was the Prime Minister. The Bishop of Mannar had responded saying that if the Prime Minister is to visit the Madhu shrine, it may be necessary to obtain the permission of the LTTE for the purpose. That incident, to a point had added more strength to the current President’s resolve to liberate Madhu area from the LTTE.

Madhu shrine at Mannar in the North with its statue of our lady is a shrine venerated by all the Catholics in Sri Lanka alike and since it is considered to possess’ miraculous powers it has become a ritual for the Catholics to make an annual pilgrimage to this site. The LTTE held sway over this area for a long time, apparently with the blessings of the clergy in the shrine. Capturing by Government forces proved difficult mainly due to the religious sensitivities associated with the premises. The Government however launched a concerted effort in May 2008 and liberated the area from the LTTE. The displeasure of the Church for this activity became quite clear when it chose to describe the liberation as ‘Coming into occupation of the Church by the forces’. The propaganda of the Church has been such that it appeared that the security forces, rather than attempting to free the country from a bunch of terrorists, have got embroiled in a vicious cycle of never-ending violence with the LTTE and hence the Army is to be blamed for everything.

 

Further the Church’s allegiance to the LTTE was such that when the shrine was finally liberated by the security forces from the LTTE the statue of our lady was removed by the Church to the LTTE area further North. In the meantime, LTTE attacked the Madhu shrine, (an act Army always refrained from doing), and killed 6 soldiers. The Church issued a press statement blaming the ‘invasion of the area by the Army’ for the current violence.

 

In September 2008 the Sri Lankan press reported the Sri Lankan ambassador to Italy making a representation to the Vatican on its official news bulletin regarding inaccurate reporting, especially concerning the way it had reported news on July/August multiple atrocities in Sri Lanka by the LTTE. The news reporter had allegedly described the LTTE as a ‘liberation movement’ and had exonerated it from all allegations connected to the recent ‘wholesale’ murders. This is in spite of the fact that the international news agencies the world over had credited the LTTE with lot of violence calling it names such as ‘the most dangerous and ruthless terror outfit’, ‘the world’s no.1 terrorist organization’ and the ‘new Pol Pot regime in Asia’. Hence the seemingly innocent portrayal of the LTTE on the part of the Vatican newspaper could not have been due to ignorance but essentially due to their insidious loyalty to the terror organization. The bottom line however is that this partnership between God and the Devil has brought so much misery to the innocent people Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Hence this dangerous game of hunting with tigers while holding the Bible aloft by the Catholic Church hierarchy has to be addressed, sooner than later, by the ordinary Catholics in this country who belongs to both the Sinhalese and Tamils communities.

 

Jesus was kind and magnanimous yet firm in preaching that lofty testament against the Roman imperialism and priest proud Godism. He rose like a phoenix in the midst of all that and stood for the divinity of humanity devoid of crass hypocrisy, class mired materialism and pedantic riches. He resisted Jewish ecclesiastical order and demanded social justice in the name of God. Big temples, Great Churches, Hierarchical Godmen, Bishops, Mullahs and Acharyas are a mundane part of the capitalist establishment that is anti-Jesus in spirit.

 

Emperor Tiberius and the priestly class of Pontius Pilate did not take to him kindly. They crucified him for preaching against them and their vested interests. Mao Tsetung, Ernesto Che Guevera and many others also probably did the same thing. The difference is that they anticipated reaction from the vested interests to their advocacy and hence were prepared to safeguard themselves. But the Church today would condemn the true freedom fighters and join hands with anybody to consolidate their own power because the Church is so hierarchical, domineering and steadfastly entrenched in power. It is the biggest multinational company, selling religion that costs them nothing.

 

If ever Jesus Christ is born again to this world, as said in the Bible, he will be born with a different name and he will preach against the vestiges of interest and religious empires like the Vatican. And then, this time there will not be an Emperor Tiberius/ Pontius Pilate and their Jewish hierarchy, but it will be Vatican and its hierarchy that will crucify the new messenger from God on his second coming!

 

Chandrika and Ranil  

Although Chandrika and Ranil represent two political parties, they represent the same class and thinking. They both belonged to the 2nd generation of Sri Lankan post-independence aristocracy that came to power purely on account of their family legacy. It was during their period from 1994 to 2005 that the LTTE emerged as the most successful terrorist organization in the world and came closest in forming their own state of Ealam. Thus, it was them who contributed most to the power of the LTTE, nationally and internationally. Premadasa was also responsible for strengthening the LTTE by allowing a sizeable area to fall under its control but then when Premadasa realized that he got played out, he changed and turned against the LTTE. Premadasa was not committed to the western concept of putative peace but he believed in his populist philosophy and was deceived by Prabhakaran’s bona fides. He never espoused a ‘Tamil cause’ but Chandrika and Ranil were inveterate LTTE supporters because they cannot come out of that western ideology to observe things in their correct perspective. Chandrika escaped assassination by losing an eye and Ranil was politically assassinated by Prabhakaran. But yet even today, Chandrika and Ranil would serve the cause of the LTTE. They may say that they are not for the LTTE but for the ‘Tamil cause’, but then isn’t it this thinking that ‘the Tamils have a legitimate cause’ that has created Prabhakaran, the LTTE and this war? Therefore, those who propagate a ‘Tamil cause’ are the ones who are really responsible for this conflict because it is they who have justified all these atrocities in the name of a non-existent cause. Even if Prabhakaran is eliminated, if this justification of the ‘Tamil cause’ remains, that can give rise to further militancy even in the future.

 

Chandrika and Ranil had no palpable experience under colonialism but on the other hand, they witnessed their family positions threatened by emerging locals. They saw only the good side of the colonial remnants; the English language, the social status, the western social etiquette, the western music and the parties etc. Hence, their antipathy towards the locals and servility towards what-ever is western.

 

Chandrika’s period of 11 years probably was the most unfortunate period in the post-independent history of Sri Lanka. She came to power pledging to deliver peace to the Sri Lankan nation. Spent the entire period of her tenure; talking about peace; experimenting the western theories of peace; postponing all other development activities saying that the ‘ethnic problem’ had to be solved before everything else. She was a strong and committed advocate of the ‘political solution’ as the only means of bringing peace to Sri Lanka and ridiculed her critics by telling them ‘go and fight the LTTE if you can!’. In every speech, she delivered during her visits to foreign countries and at International forums, she made it a point to say that the “Tamils in Sri Lanka has historical grievances and I will bring a political solution to solve those grievances”.  She blamed all the problems of Sri Lanka on the ‘Sinhala Jathivadaya (racialism)’ and identified July 83 as the cause of the ‘ethnic conflict’. The NGO’s backed by money from Christian countries held sway during her time and they were given prime time over state-run media institutions to propagate the ‘Tamil cause’ and to convince the Sinhalese that the only solution to Sri Lanka’s ‘ethnic conflict’ was ‘devolution’ of power and by this ‘devolution’ they meant abdication of powers by the Central Government to a point where the regions become autonomous states loosely connected in a Federation at the center.

 

In her own twisted logic, she introduced the thinking that LTTE was a monster created by the past chauvinist Sinhala leader, which included her own parents. Even when the Central Bank was set ablaze by the LTTE in the 31st January 1995 with hundreds’ dead and injured she said that ‘the bomb attack signified the need to offer a political solution to the LTTE’. She did offer a so-called political solution with a Confederation but the LTTE rejected it out and out. Even after the LTTE rejected her offer she had no tenable alternative but glibly meander along, blaming the Sinhalese and the LTTE both. But Prabhakaran on the other hand had grasped the mental state of leaders like Chandrika Kumaranatunge. After rejecting Chandrika’s offer he is supposed to have told his followers, “Look at these stupid Sinhala leaders. We killed hundreds of their people and then they gave us District Councils in 1982. We did not accept that and went on killing them in thousands. Then they offered us Provincial Councils in 1987. We did not accept that too and continued on our path killing tens of thousands of them. Now they are offering us a Confederate. So we are getting closer to our target of a separate state and all what we have to do is to kill more of them and then they will offer the separate state to us”. Chandrika Kumaranatunge is a good leader for a country which wishes to inflict self-destruction upon itself! 

 

MHM Ashraff founded the Muslim Congress in 1990 when the LTTE was having a free run in the Eastern Province harassing Muslims during the Premadasa ‘Peace talks’ and it had nothing to do with any ‘alleged marginalization of the Muslims by the Central Government’. But Chandrika in her speeches referred to ‘grievances of the minorities’ in plural to signify that even the Muslims have been harassed by the Sinhalese. She arrogated all the powers to reform the alleged ‘Sinhala Chauvinist mindset’ from a prejudiced and convoluted thinking she had been bred with. Her attacks on the Sinhala establishment had been so vitriolic and catty that a group of Singhalese decided to form themselves into a political party called ‘Sihala Urumaya’(Heritage of the Sinhalese) in the year 2000 to protect the interest of the Sinhalese. It should be noted that up to that time the Sinhalese, who are castigated as ‘racialist’ by Tamil propaganda, never thought of forming into political party to promote communal interest. Even Sihala Urumaya never advocated that the minorities be deprived of their rights, and all it demanded was that the heritage of the Sinhalese, as the mainstream national force in Sri Lanka, be recognized. Further the ‘Sihala Urumaya’ never advocated the Sinhalese to take arms against the state to redress their grievances. But Chandrika called the formation of this party a ‘horrible scenario’ and did everything to destabilize the party while at the same time doing everything within her powers to whitewash the LTTE which had become killing machine by then. Chandrika who promised to eradicate extremism but in the end invited Muslims to be extremists and even pushed the Sinhalese to the fringe of extremism.

 

The fallacy of her prognosis and the sagacity of her solutions were becoming evident during her own Presidential tenure. She organized ‘Peace caravans to tour the country with the message that ‘we should all be Sri Lankan before we become Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims’.  The caravans were received with enthusiasm in the south by her loyalist and party supporters but when it turned to the North, sections of the Tamil population obstructed the caravan and forced it to abandon the northern part of the journey saying that ‘they were Tamils before they were Sri Lankans’. Faced with such incongruities she would respond saying, “See, I told you that the Tamils are really disenchanted. We have to do something more to win their hearts and minds”. Such was her delirious indoctrination towards ‘Tamil grievances’.

 

The sheer asinine nature of her approach to the conflict in Sri Lanka could be judged by the results she achieved in that front during her tenure. Even though she said the ‘political solution’ was the only solution she had to engage the army most of the time, sometimes to keep the LTTE at bay and sometimes to assuage her own personal ego. She called such fights “War for peace” and they were only knee-jerk reactions lacking in will and purpose. On the one hand, she spoke of eliminating the LTTE and on the other she spoke of granting a political solution where the North and the East would be handed over for administration to those with separatist inclinations. In the morning, she would castigate Prabhakaran for being intransigent and in the evening, she would justify his fight as being the result of Sinhala chauvinism. In the year 2000, she tabled a Constitution for the country in Parliament where it was proposed that Sri Lanka should be fragmented into 8 autonomous regions and then linked into a union of federation. The UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe opposed it, not on the grounds of fragmenting the country, but merely because there was a provision to revert back to the West Minister type of Parliamentary governance. The UNP saw the constitutional amendments as a ruse to prevent Ranil from becoming the President and to make Chandrika the Executive Prime Minister for life. 

 

In world history armies have vanquished enemies and restored peace, law and order even on enemy territory. But never in the history of man, has an army ever fought a war to liberate an area for the purpose of handing it back on a platter to the very elements that have launched a psychological and physical war against the state. Sri Lankan army was doing just that for eleven years under Chandrika’s Presidency. During this period of desolate fighting in fits and starts the Sri Lankan army lost 20,000 of its cadres and the LTTE lost an equal number with civilian casualties also estimated at an optimistic 10,000 ( SL army factbook). On one operation called ‘Jayasikuru’ alone the army lost nearly 14,683 of its cadres. Even collateral damage due to war have been the highest during this period. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka was attacked; the main international airport in the country was attacked: the country’s main oil storage facility was attacked; number of leading tourist hotels were attacked; major army camps which exceeded 1000 soldier strength at strategic locations (Elephant Pass, Mullaitivu) were reduced to rubble.

 

Sri Lanka achieved negative economic growth for the first time since independence in the year 2002. Major international insurance facilitators like Lloyds refused reinsurance facilitation to Sri Lankan Insurance industry. The crime rate increased and the road accidents peaked in the year 2004 making World Bank officials call the Sri Lankan roads ‘veritable death traps’. It should be noted that no extensions to the country’s highway network was made during this 11year period. In villages, the farmers were committing suicide due to their inability to make ends meet and in urban areas the average wage earners were complaining of the cost of living. Chandrika who denounced and deplored the undemocratic practices of the previous regimes, established the record for holding the most ‘horrendous’ of elections in the history of Sri Lankan elections with the holding of Wayamba Provincial council elections during her administration.

 

The only notable ‘achievement’ during this period of her rule was the ‘Privatization’ (selling), of a number of state enterprises that catered to the needs of the ordinary public on international advice. Ironically even those state enterprises that made profits over the years while rendering public service were also sold to private individuals of her choice and preference, raking in considerable funds, more into the purveyors of such schemes than into the Government coffers. She was quite brazen about the benefits accrued to her and her supporters as a result of these lucrative side kicks of governing the country. When certain members of her party opted to criticize her on policy (or lack of it,) of governance, she would promptly shoot back in ridicule to say, “Those who could not afford a lunch packet before 1994 (the year she came to power) are now wearing gold from head to toe, but have now forgotten their past and are beginning to criticize me”. Today she is the owner of 4 mansions/ palaces in 4 high society world holiday resorts (2 in London) in addition to all those unobtrusive shares she holds in various companies of her wheeler/ dealer affiliates. This is a far cry for a woman who went public in 1995 about how poorly she lived in England after her husband’s death in 1987, ‘managing her children’s clothing with what her friends and well-wishers donated her’.

 

She was the perfect high bred colonial Sri Lankan. She invited Prince Charles for Sri Lanka’s Golden Jubilee independence celebrations and addressed the nation in English. Maybe, Prince Charles may have been impressed with her diction and articulation, but the rest of the nation, for whom the message was meant, did not understand her speech in English!

 

She often mentioned about her father being killed by a Buddhist monk; not because she believed in anything that her father stood for, but just to find a reason to indulge in Buddhist bashing. Her associations with the Buddhist clergy were only for political reasons but she was quite at home with Christian clergy with her English and European background. The Buddhist stanzas (Jayamangala gatha’s) were alien to her and her expressions at state ceremonies betrayed her apparent inconvenience amidst Sri Lankan traditions. But when the Christmas carol parties visit her during Christmas, she was seen singing ‘Silent Nights’ quite at home with the choir.

 

The Sinhalese believed that when the rulers of a country are unjust and corrupt even the nature would not be kind to that country. As if to prove this belief, Tsunami, the worst natural disaster to strike the country in centuries, struck Sri Lanka on the 26th December 2004, the last days of Chandrika’s tenure. That day being the ‘boxing day’, she had gone to England to spend her Christmas vacation. When 39,000 persons died with 85,000 families made homeless there was no Head of State in Sri Lanka to decide on the emergency matters required to cope with a national disaster of that magnitude. She came to Sri Lanka after vacation only on the 28th December 2004. Her family and friends were in London and hence it was customary for her to go to England for every vacation. Incidentally, she became the first ever Sri Lankan leader of the post-independent Sri Lanka, apart from the Governors of the colonial times, to come to Colombo to attend to official duties and rush back to her home in England. She managed to get her daughter married to an Englishman and her son ‘Vimukthi’ can not speak a word of Sinhala. There are so many such families among Sri Lanka’s elite ruling class even today and it is a fashion among them to say that they are not very familiar in their mother tongue. They maintain that even though their ‘mother tongue’ is Sinhala that ‘their tongue’ is essentially English. But in the case of people like Vimukthi it would be a case of even the mother tongue not being Sinhala, and only that his ‘Grandmother tongue’ is Sinhala.

 

Chandrika introduced English medium back into the mainstream education. Today hundreds of schools have sprung up to teach little children how to say, ‘good morning’, ‘tata’ and ‘bye bye’. They charge exorbitantly but assuage the thirst of millions of Sri Lankans who are made to think that English, not so much education, is the passport for their offspring’s future. With this change, again she has legitimized the social dichotomy that has been a malaise in the Sri Lanka society since independence. With this move in the guise of ‘no future without English’ she has effectively consigned the majority of people in this country back to a confirmed second-class position. The effects of this ‘no future for the majority’ will only be felt after some time when the children who grow up with the present education system reaches adulthood. The English educated will find universities and job opportunities even overseas adding to the flight of resources from the country while the locals will remain what they are or even become poorer. The point is, English education may help the individual while it strains the nation as a whole and saps national progress.

 

The debauchery of Chandrika does not stop with her own aggrandizement.  She was married to a ‘heartthrob’ film actor and a Catholic and they say that she and her children have been baptized. But knowing Chandrika and her sleazy relations with men, religion may not have been the factor that attracted Chandrika to her handsome husband whose name was linked to many female heroines of his day. After she became the President she handpicked another film star, the film world’s successor to her late husband, who was a Provincial MP in the UNP and made him her very personal Press Secretary with de facto powers far in excess of this designated office. She had a penchant for film stars and good- looking men. She was notorious for not keeping to a schedule and not keeping appointments. She even kept foreign dignitaries waiting for hours. It was a popular secret that she held ‘inebriating’ parties for her circle of friends at her official residence and her closest confidante was the wife of a well known influential Tamil Businessman who’s electronic and other media channels carried out open propaganda for the LTTE.

 

Apart from all this, the biggest damage she caused to the national psyche of the average Sri Lankan is to preach day in and day out, anti-national rhetoric and to project ‘Sinhala racialism’ as being the cause of the so-called ‘ethnic conflict’ in the country. The fact that her prognosis is not only wrong but is in the obverse could be seen from the results she achieved in the peace front. The anti-national lobby, including the INGOs always stood by and defended Chandrika in all her activities. But ironically, when the country was in the moribund grip of the LTTE in 2004, with no peace in sight, these NGO activists had no sympathy for the Government and the country. NGO conveners like Nimalka Fernando wrote to the international press stating that Sri Lanka was a ‘Failed State’.

 

The first time in 1994, Chandrika came to power helped by the mood of the people who wanted a change from the 17 year UNP rule. She was also helped by the western NGO’s with their massive propaganda networks. The majority in Sri Lanka was also naïve enough to look up to traditional families for leadership and they thought that ‘a Bandaranaike’ can do no harm to the country. The assassination of her rival candidate, Gamini Dissanayake by the LTTE a few days before the election, and the resultant squabbles within the UNP also helped her. However, the second time, she was running a tight race with the UNP rival Ranil Wickremesinghe and it was the LTTE bomb that targeted her and blinded her in one eye, that helped her win the second time. On the whole Chandrika was a second- generation colonial hybrid who took the whole country for a ride with her political connections, western influence, and missionary background coupled with a debonair and effervescent personality.

 

Ranil Wickremesinghe is man of a different mold. He is an introvert, less liberal and very authoritarian. His father was Esmond Wickremesinghe, head of Lake House press that vilified Bandaranaike for making Sinhala the official language. His uncles (father’s brothers) were Bishops of the Anglican Church. His mother was a Buddhist hence he is yet another typical hybrid colonial Sinhala Buddhist of the second generation. An old boy of a school considered elite in Colombo; he was brought in to politics by his uncle J R Jayawardene and was swept into Parliament during the UNP tide in 1977. Even though he was a lawyer, it is said that the only Court case he appeared was the case between Dudley and J R for the UNP leadership back in1972, representing JR’s interest. He had little interest and knowledge on Sri Lankan history and Buddhism and his reference to facts on history and Buddhism have been received with much amusement in the knowledgeable circles. Ranil is a political upstart badly lacking in touch with the common masses. His idea of running a country is similar to the role of a Managing Directors in a company where the profitable sectors are encouraged and unprofitable sectors eliminated. He modeled himself in Bill Clinton’s image and preferred to address the nation seated on a bishop’s chair in full European suit. During his tenure as the country’s Prime Minister from 2001 to 2003 he visited George W Bush, the American President so many times that it is said that Bush told him, “Now how many times you have seen me on these problems? I think it will do a lot of good if you see your own President (Chandrika Bandaranaike) equally often, on these issues”. Ranil is a neo capitalist who is not capable of a vision beyond western values and standards.

 

Since he became the leader of the UNP he has now lost 3 Parliamentary and two Presidential election and all the Provincial and Village council elections that were on offer. He won only one Parliamentary election in 2001 and that too, only to be thrashed out by the voters after two and a half years as the Prime Minister. Especially after 2005 his political party’s (UNP) share of the vote has registered a steady decline and today it is as low as 30 %. But for all the democracy he preaches he still has no ideas of handing the leadership to somebody who is better received by the polity. He advocates will of the people in governing the country but for his own party, it is just his own obdurate will only. Generally, the loyalty demanded by the political party leadership in Sri Lanka has been such that they feel that democracy, country and everything will come to a standstill if the political party is not looked after and the UNP has been promoting this thinking so vehemently. Ranil talks of concepts like democracy and Party politics as if they are the ends and not the means of governing a country. With all that talk about the party however it was under Ranil’s leadership that the UNP went bankrupt with no funds to pay even its electricity bills in 2008.

 

For all his democracy, he signed the Cease Fire Agreement with the LTTE accepting them as the ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils. This ‘sole representative’ is a fascist concept of the LTTE and for Ranil to have entered into such an agreement, he probably consider himself to be the ‘sole representative’ of rest of the people living in Sri Lanka. CFA is the biggest achievement Ranil could crow about but it recognized the LTTE for its brutality and betray all the non-LTTE (Tamil Muslim and Sinhala) members of Parliament in the North and East who were elected and who had consistently demonstrated their faith in a democratic mechanism for governance despite the violent threats of the LTTE. Being an organization that negotiated with a recognized Government of a UN member state, the LTTE was thus elevated to the position of quasi-state in the eyes of the international community.

 

The agreement did not require LTTE cadres to be disarmed, rather it imposed certain conditions on the part of the Sri Lankan Government which would require the Government to weaken its legitimate forces and loosen its grip on the country’s overall security situation in order to accommodate ‘LTTE civilian activity’ and putative ‘peace’. It had clauses to strengthen the military capability of the LTTE as it required GOSL to disarm non-LTTE Tamil paramilitary groups and to offer to integrate those cadres within the SL armed forces ‘for services away from the Northern and the Eastern provinces’. The CFA did not have any provisions on Child soldering and not even on the continued recruitment of child soldiers.

Generally, even the other clauses of the CFA too, were designed to advance the separatists ambitions of the LTTE. By accepting those terms, the GOSL has acknowledged LTTE’s right to control the areas it had usurped from the democratic Sri Lankan state by the use of arms. Most of all, the CFA did not specify under what aggressive circumstances that the CFA could be considered ‘violated’ by either party, thus creating a situation where the LTTE could indulge in any violent activity with no risk of violating and annulling the CFA. As a result, according to SL Monitoring Mission the LTTE violated the ceasefire 6728 time against the 171 violations of the SL forces. In other words, this was a Cease Fire Agreement that facilitated fire: an ‘Agreement’ unworthy of its very title. Thus, the Agreement spelled doom to the SL armed forces and civilians while granting all the wishes of the LTTE.

 

In pursuance to the signing of this CFA, ‘Peace talks’ were held in a number of world capitals starting from ‘Sattahip’ in Thailand through Oslo, Brussels, Washington, Tokyo etc. giving LTTE all the publicity it required to be acknowledged as a legitimate international player. Ranil Wickremesinghe boasted to his constituents that he has now cornered the LTTE and they cannot ‘go back on their word’. He initiated a rehabilitation program for the North East called SIRHAN with international assistance. But the LTTE was wiser and after having obtained all that publicity and concessions they could, pulled out of the CFA in April 2003 citing ‘Government’s inability to obtain the LTTE proscription in USA lifted’. This in itself shows that the LTTE got all their ‘dirty linen washed’ by the Government and the moment they thought that the Government could not do any further they pulled out. Ranil was left high and dry. He was clinging to a clause in the Oslo declaration that mentioned that ‘The LTTE would explore the possibilities of a federal arrangement under a unitary state’. This was a declaration that the LTTE officially disowned subsequently and Prabhakaran publicly requested explanation from Anton Balasingham (Chief negotiator) for agreeing to this provision.

 

Eric Solheim in a book he authored on the Sri Lankan peace process maintains that Ranil was in a mighty hurry to come to peace with the LTTE and wanted him to draft an agreement for the purpose. But Solheim, as he knew little about the aspirations on both sides entrusted the job to Anton Balasingham, the LTTE theoretician. Balasingham drafted the agreement but Solheim had given it to Ranil without disclosing that fact. Finally, Ranil had signed the agreement drafted by the LTTE theoretician. That explains the extreme one-sided nature of this peace agreement that never brought peace.

The biggest problem with Ranil is that he considers himself to be a ‘master strategist’ and the cronies around him in the party feed him on this thinking of his. Nothing could be more dangerous than a stupid man having implicit faith in his ‘intelligence’.

 

Ranil neither has children nor a firm family establishment in the accepted sense. In Countries like USA a person’s candidacy to contest Presidential election would not be accepted unless you have a firm family unit and children.  The thinking in that is that that a leader with no children has no future and hence such a leader would not worry about the nation’s future. Ranil’s future has been in the past, and so would Sri Lanka’s if the voters ever elect him to lead the country.

 

With leaders like Chandrika and Ranil the Sri Lankan nation needed no enemies like Prabhakaran!

 

Ranasinghe Premadasa

Ranasinghe Premadasa’s contribution to the success of the LTTE as a leader of Sri Lanka is not in any way second to the contributions made by Chandrika and Ranil.  It is these three leaders who governed Sri Lanka for 17 years (from 1988 to 2005) that brought the LTTE to be the internationally recognized, conventionally armed, organization that controlled a fourth of the Sri Lankan territory by the end of 2005.

 

Premadasa being a man of ordinary background, experienced resentment from the elites threatened by his meteoric rise. Hence, he harbored an inherent vengeance towards this class of people and considered the alleviation of poor as the calling in his life. Since he had to assume office at a time when the JVP was at its peak with insidious underground operations, his Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne had to resort to extraordinary methods to restore normalcy in law and order. Being the efficient man, he would repair craters created by LTTE bomb blasts in no time and make things appear as usual. This efficient restoration some people attributed to Premadasa’s requirement to suppress evidence.  Premadasa did not have to kill to become the President and hence he could have in any case maintained his popularity without resorting to killings. Therefore, whatever they say about underhand operations during Premadasa’s Presidency, a good 90 % of it has to be elite propaganda to ensure that a commoner like Premadasa would not come to power in Sri Lanka again.

 

Even though he helped the LTTE in every way including the gifting of arms he did not talk about a ‘Tamil cause’, probably because he had first-hand experience about the true cause of the ordinary Singhalese in Sri Lanka. When the LTTE offered peace talks to him he was evidently elated. His thinking was that ‘that he was going to crack what his suave predecessors could not’. His better connected political rivals in the party like Athulathmudally and Gamini Dissanayake had tried their hand with the Tigers before and had failed. Hence, he wanted to prove his point this time and that was to show everybody that he was always above his ‘polished’ rivals in the party. Prabhakaran too is a man from ‘Korair caste’ (Fisherfolk) and that touched a code with Premadasa’s own modest family ancestry. He mistook Prabhakaran’s grievances to be the result of colonial oppression and did not for a moment expect him to be an extension of Tamil neo-nationalism, which is a result of colonialism.

 

If Chandrika and Ranil supported Prabhakaran due to their colonial inclinations and the need to preserve their status quo, Premadasa supported him due to his anti-colonial inferiority complex. Just as Premadasa did, there are many ordinary Sinhalese who supported Prabhakaran because they mistakenly thought of him as anti-imperialist revolutionary.

 

Premadasa however had to pay with his life for his folly.  The suicide cadre who set the bomb for him had been among his personal staff for 5 years. That shows the determination and commitment with which the LTTE members carry out their orders and the stupidity with which the Sinhala leaders accommodate those!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 14

 

Pan Tamil State and ‘Exodus’ in the making

 

The Tamil struggle in Ceylon, contrary to popular belief, commenced in the pre-independent, and not the post independent era i.e. before 1948. This is because the aim of Tamils was to form a Pan Tamil state and the ‘grievances’ were manufactured as a ruse to start the separatist fight.

 

* Ponnamabalam Arunachalam, having been elected as the Chairman of the Ceylon National Congresses in 1919 by a majority of Sinhala leaders, left the movement and formed the Tamil Congress in 1923 in order to form an alliance with the Pan Tamil state to be formed with India. This was the first time a political organization was formed under the racial banner and speaking at this launch Arunachalam asserted the superiority of Ceylon Tamils over all other communities in Ceylon. Further it was at this meeting that he announced that the Tamil history in Ceylon to be more than 3000 years old.

 

*Thereafter, Tamil leaders who aspired to take over the Government of Ceylon after the exit of British opposed every piece of progressive legislation introduced commencing with their opposition to the Donoughmore reforms in 1929 that introduced universal franchise to Ceylon. Having failed in their attempt to thwart those reforms they boycotted the first Ceylon State Assembly under Donoughmore reforms formed in 1935.

 

* Thereafter Tamil  leaders ( GG Ponnambalam) forwarded the 50-50 representation in the National State Assembly to the Soulbury Commission in 1945 but that demand too was turned down by the Commission with the remark, “ an attempt to create a majority in to a minority and thereby to have a South African type of a Government in Ceylon”.

 

* In 1945 Tamil leaders join the Catholic Church in its campaign against the introduction of free education to Ceylon and vote against the bill.

 

* In 1948 at Ceylon’s independence throne speech SJV Chelvanayagam Tamil Congress deputy, makes an inflammatory speech posing the question ‘If Sri Lankan could secede from Britain why can’t we the Tamils secede from the rest of Sri Lanka?”

 

* In 1949 GG Ponnambalam’s deputy, SJV Chelvanayagam forms the political party named ‘Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi’ (Party for a Tamil State). 

 

As has already been discussed, if terrorism is the nemesis of oppression, the most marginalized societies like the majority Blacks in South Africa and the minority Blacks in the United States should spawn the worst terrorist organization in the world. Yet it is from Sri Lanka, where the most privileged minority lived, that the most odious terror outfit was born! Therefore terrorism, contrary to popular belief, is not so much about ‘grievance’ but it is about potential and hope. Tamils in Sri Lanka hoped that, with the power they had in the Sri Lankan society and the international world, they could overpower the Government in Sri Lanka and capture, either a sizeable part or the entirety of the country, to form a Tamil Kingdom of their own.  The Pan Tamil kingdom comprising the Southern Indian states and Sri Lanka was mooted in the 1940’s on the verge of Indian independence.

 

  

Even after India became independent, in one piece, Chelvanayagam and his Tamil cohorts did not give up the idea of this Pan Tamil state. He worked at it with the leaders in Tamil Nadu, because he felt that it was a very workable idea. His thinking was that it was not right that the Sinhalese, who are uneducated and idyllic, numbering only about 6 million in 1948, should have a country of their own when the Tamils who are more intelligent and hard-working, numbering nearly 42million at the time, are not having a country to call their own. Further the Tamils saw grand opportunities in grabbing the country from the Sinhalee who are not that circumspect, racially conscious but are overt and friendly.

 

At the time of independence in 1948, the Army Chief of Staff in Ceylon was Major. Anton Muthukumaru, a Tamil, and the Defense Secretary was Sir Kanthaiah Vaithianathan, a Tamil too. Major General Anton Mutukumaru became the first Sri Lankan Army Commander in 1955.Even at the time Chelvanayagam became serious about forming a separate state by military means in the 1960’s the Sri Lankan army numbered only a few thousand (statistics not available) soldiers and officers who were mainly trained on ceremonial duties. Even in 1978, the first year in which the Sri Lankan Army’s Fact Book records its verified strength, the army had only 8489 rankers and 481 officers. The Volunteer Force had 1280 rankers and 59 officers. Considering the fact that this strength is after having broad-based the army recruitments (post 1962 coup and post 1971 JVP subversion) the strength of the Sri Lankan Army in the early 1960’s could well be anybody’s imagination. It is this army of a few thousand ceremonial cadres that the Tamil leaders in the 60’s thought they could overpower with 5000 ‘well trained Tamil guerilla force’ to form a South African type minority Government. This, as we now see, was not altogether an unattainable objective.

 

The inherent susceptibilities in the Sinhala Buddhist ethos of ‘ahimsa’ also gave hope to the Tamils. Buddhism is a religion that advocates impermanence in all worldly matters, and it teaches that life, as it is, is more a source suffering than a pleasurable pursuit. Human mind, pivotal in Buddhist philosophy is the sole source that can be developed through meditation to achieve higher plains in worldly wisdom, to usher in relief to mankind and thereby, to overcome human suffering. It identifies ‘human avarice’ as the cause of all human sufferings on earth. Nirvana is the ultimate bliss and that is a state of mental awareness that can lead one to permanent redemption from the two extremes of worldly pleasure and miseries. “Buddha” means the ‘Enlightened One’ and Buddhism advocates the avoidance of all forms of extremes and adherence to the middle path as the solution to all temporal issues.

 

In keeping with this doctrine, a Buddhist should treat the present form of his birth as an ephemeral phase of his long journey in ‘samsara’ and hence should practice asceticism and mindfulness with the view of attaining that ultimate mental awareness. Therefore, a Buddhist is a person who see impermanence in all worldly things and that includes race, cast and even religion. This outlook makes Buddhism a rather pacifist, if not a pessimist, religion in terms of today’s world where individuals and nations are fighting for worldly possessions and dominance.  Whatever the practicality and the sustenance of this philosophy, this line of thinking has made Buddhism lose its position in today’s world of ‘aggressive religionism’.

 

Hence Buddhism, being the religion practiced from ‘Kusinara’ (present-day Afganistan) to Japan in the Far East in olden days, is today confined to a few countries like Sri Lanka Myanmar, Thailand etc. Countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh cannot talk about their history without reference to Buddhism. This declining nature of Buddhist influence in the world has been evidently attributed to the non-aggressive and pacifist nature of the Buddhist philosophy. Tibet is a case in point in the recent world history. When the communist regime of Mao Tsetung was getting ready to invade Tibet in the 1950’s the Tibetan leaders were chanting ‘Seth Pirith’ and advocating ‘ahimsa’ from their Temple tops. Tibet did not even have an Army that was worth mentioning about. This is a characteristic of Buddhist ethos over the years and Sri Lankan society is no exception. However, this makes the more aggressive religions entertain ideas of subjugating Buddhist countries to prevail over them. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Tamils thought they could make Sri Lanka into Hindu country like India if they have state power.

 

This particular characteristic of Buddhist countries creates problems for them in a world where two organized religions, namely Christianity and Islam, are contemplating world domination. Buddhism is often treated as a ‘lose’ religion. If a Buddhist and a Christian intermarry, the chances are that the couple will become Christian. The Christians think that they could convert the Buddhist with Western influence and allurements. In this backdrop, not only the Tamils and Christians, even the Muslims think that they could add Sri Lanka into their ‘Muslim belt’ in South Asia.

 

There was a story doing its rounds after the Non-Aligned Summit was held in Sri Lanka in 1976.  Libyan leader, Col. Gaddafi visited the Island for this summit. It was said the Gaddafi was so taken up with the possibility of making Sri Lanka a Muslim country that he held a few closed-door rounds of talks with the prominent Muslim leaders in the island in this regard during his stay. According to the story he had promised financial help and had also given a strategic master plan to the Muslims on how Sri Lanka could be gradually made into a Muslim country. “It is a fact that I visited Buddhist Sri Lanka for the Non-Aligned summit in 1976, but my grandson when he visits this country, we have to ensure that he would be visiting a Muslim Sri Lanka” Col. Gadaffi is supposed to have said.

 

Buddhism is also a religion that does not demand unquestionable faith from its adherents. On the other hand, it advocates inquest and conviction through comprehension as the basis of the follower’s loyalty and faith. Sha Ruk Khan is a mega Indian star, a Muslim by birth, and married to a Hindu. In addition to his acting, he is a man who has read quite extensively on social and religious matters because; professional acting requires the actors to be knowledgeable about their roles. He has played the main role in a number of Indian epics and this is his version on Buddhism published in the News week- January 16, 2006. “Buddhism, I think, is a more natural religion, a way of thinking which is still not fanatically irreligious. So, I thought that was a nicer path to explain to everyone around the world. Instead of talking Christianity, Islam or Hinduisms -to explain that everyone speaks the same. I think Buddhism is universal because it doesn’t have a fundamentalist aspect”

 

The Tamil leaders however would not say this to the world even though they know that a Buddhist are soft religious targets. They, with the help of their Christian allies would try to project to the world that Buddhist are the worst chauvinist in the world. The Tamil Diaspora made a film ‘The Teardrop of Buddha’ with Norwegian funds and depicted Buddhism as the worst religion in the world. Copies of this film were distributed all over the world. The power of propaganda is such that if you want to kill a man you can always accomplish it in such a way so that you need not kill him yourself. All that you have to do is, make him appear a criminal and arouse so much human hatred against him, so that somebody who has the power to kill him, would do so. The Tamil propaganda machine had been so organized and has been well tuned, over the years, designed to capture the attention of the western audience and the people who matter. Anton Balasingham is the former translator of the British High Commission in Ceylon and it is people like him with the best understanding of western ethos that fine-tuned this propaganda machine in the 60’s.                                                                              

                                                                                     

The Tamil leaders of the 70’s, like Amirthalingam, in their quest to form their own guerilla force also studied the JVP insurrection in Sri Lanka and the reasons for its downfall. The main reason for its downfall was the JVP’s inability to make itself acceptable to the Sinhala masses through articulate propaganda. In short JVP had not touched the correct codes with the Sinhala masses that could arouse human emotions and apprehensions in them to bring the public behind the struggle. This was not difficult in the case of Tamils because they only had to stir the tribal instinct of the Tamil public and they had been doing that from the turn of the century anyway.

 

The other reason why the JVP was not successful was that it did not receive foreign support for its revolution. JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera wrote to Mao Tsetung and Fidel Castro in 1970 seeking their blessings for an armed struggle in Sri Lanka. But those revolutionary leaders did not even reply him, mainly due to the cordial relations they had with the then Government of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Therefore, the Tamils never wanted to rely on such unreliable political connections for their foreign support. They already had a good number of Tamils working in western countries and they knew with time they could always increase their Diaspora numbers and that would eventually form the nucleus of their foreign support.

 

The fact that it is the ambition and hope of Tamil leaders, rather than the dubious ‘grievances’, that is the driving force behind Tamil subversion could be seen even when we analyze the activities of other similar terrorist groups operating in other countries of the world. In Ireland, it is the support and blessing IRA received from the Irish mainland and even to some extent from the Irish Diaspora in the United States that emboldened them on their ambition of taking the entirety of the Northern Ireland under their belt. In Jammu and Kashmir in India, it is the diplomatic support they receive from the Pakistan Government and from the terror activist across the border that sustains this struggle. There is hope that they can eventually win their independence from Indian rule. Aggression of Israel is the result of unbridled support from the United States and that makes the Israelis think that they could overpower the Palestinians and establish their Jewish state. Terrorism in Palestine is the result of the support they receive from Arab countries coupled with the hope that they could eventually wipe Israel from the face of the earth.

 

PKK terrorism is the result of support they receive from Turkey and they too are driven by the ambition that they would be able to form their own state. Basque guerillas lost their momentum the moment they lost their support base and with that the hopes of mounting a serious threat to the Spanish Government. Hence the Basque movement is now fading away. ‘Shining Path’ believes that they could continue to be a threat to the Government in Peru and their survival rests on such hopes. If you analyze the different terror groups that operate across the borders in African countries, it again becomes clear that it is the support they receive across the borders that egg them on. This is not to say that these parties who fight do not have reasons of their own but the point is that it is not the reasons but the quantum of support they can marshal and the ambitions they entertain that determines their activities rather than those ‘grievances’ in the end. If a minority group is powerful enough and if they can convince their people as to the workability of their goal in achieving a separate state for themselves, they can even create ‘grievances’ to justify a military struggle for their cause.

 

Why is Osama Bin Laden gunning the West and the United States and is it because of grievances? Osama represents the modern Islamic thinking that abhors western domination of the world and that is his grievance. The motivational force behind him is a combination of hatred and Islamic aspirations of dominating the world. However, what sustains him in this expedition of his is the oil money of the Saudi sympathizers. The rise of Osama is a sequel to the rise in Arab oil wealth and the Muslim thinking that they can reverse the western domination and establish ‘Sharia’ law in the world.

 

Terrorist leaders do not always hope to work towards forming States (Nobody has, since Fidel Castro). The free use of arms, with no norms, brings about an addiction with it. Hence, once the terrorist leaders get used to arms they just want to continue in that state whether they achieve their original intention or not. Like drug addicts the terrorists get hooked on arms!

 

Therefore, for terrorism to be rooted in a country, an identified group within that country has to receive, diplomatic inspiration, material support and arms training. India, under Mrs Gandhi did all that to the Sri Lankan Tamils in the late 1970’s. It held out hopes to the Tamils by carving out Bangladesh out of Pakistan:  offered military training to Tamils in the North Indian Military Academy in Dehradun in 1981 (Narayan Swamy- Boys to Tigers): canvassed its cause in world bodies like the UN and bailed out the LTTE when they were cornered in the jungles of Vedamarachchi in 1986.

 

The facts to support this theory that terrorism is ‘inspiration based’ and not ‘grievance based’ are even available in world history. World history is replete with inhuman activities, of man against man, such as genocide, colonialism, exploitation and human slavery. The societies that have been subjected to the most horrendous forms of terror and genocide in the world, such as the Red Indians, Aborigines and the Maoris, or for that matter even the majority blacks in South Africa, have not spawned terrorism in the world despite the heinous crimes perpetrated against them.

 

In retrospect, it could be said that the world today, sans colonialism, is a far better place than it was a few centuries ago, especially with regard to marginalized small communities. But then what makes terrorism thrive in today’s world than in the past? There is terrorism in almost 92 out of the 152 UN member states?

 

This is mainly because some outside country/group justifies terrorism in the other country for moral, emotional, religious or strategic reasons. There could always be some degree of differentiation between different communities in a country due to linguistic or cultural reasons and these are often subjective and relative. For instance, a Tamil may not feel as a Sinhalese would, in Sri Lanka because he belongs to the minority. But then a Tamil could go to Tamil Nadu just a few kilometers away and feel quite at home whereas a Sinhalese would not.  Such conditions do not give a cause for Tamils to take to arms. But if the Tamil Nadu leaders think of invading Sri Lanka they probably can create a situation by patronizing a Tamil subversion in Sri Lanka.  

 

Therefore, the Tamils in Sri Lanka nurtured the worst terror outfit in the world because they were ‘the most the privileged and powerful minority anywhere in this world’ as Mrs Bandaranaike often observed. As things stood at independence they were very likely to succeed in their attempt to overpower the SL Government and establish their own state. And that explains why the worst terror group was borne among the Tamils of Sri Lanka as opposed to other countries and their minorities. Even the Blacks in the United States would have become terrorist if they had a reliable avenue of support from a kindred source. The point about countries like the United States, China and the United Kingdom is that they are superstates and are so powerful that no minority group would ever think of subverting them. On the other hand, a State like Sri Lanka is so incipient and unstable; a powerful minority group could always entertain the hopes of overpowering such a state.

 

For that matter, it is not only the Tamils, even the Muslims in Ceylon would have entertained hopes of forming their own state if there was a Muslim country in the close proximity emitting influence over the region like India does.

 

The Internationally isolated Sinhalese!

The Sinhalese community is a solitary community in the international arena and unlike the Tamils and Muslims in Ceylon there will not be any other international group or country that will raise a cry on behalf of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. This position has been empirically proved by how the world communities have been reacting to the situation in Ceylon since independence.

 

The Tamils first entertained hopes of forming a separate state in the 1940’s. For this they established their propaganda and then created their ‘causes’. Then they armed themselves against the Government and carried out the most brutal terror campaign in the world. Even if all that is treated as debatable, the fact remains that the LTTE has carried out more than 250 premeditated attacks against defenseless civilians, mostly Sinhalese, mounting to genocide, over the 35 years of their operation. But unfortunately, neither a world body nor a Government, especially from the west, has raised a voice expressing concern over these atrocities. The Western Governments have been literally justifying such actions on the grounds of ‘legitimate Tamil grievances’. It may be that the west has ‘condemned’ these atrocities from time to time but such facile ‘condemnations’ are invariably coupled with equally damning condemnations of the Sri Lankan Governments activities. The West imposed sanctions against the democratic Government of Sri Lanka during a good part of the years when her citizens were deliberately targeted, killed and maimed by the LTTE. Therefore, these putative ‘condemnations’ has more to do with pontificating the ‘civilized standards of the west’ than a need to call a stop to those activities. The west never speaks or acts for the Sinhalese.

 

Could a human being in this world hold humanitarian grievances, however legitimate and sacrosanct, as a justification for taking away another human being’s right to exist? But the world community, by and large, have been silent on these atrocities against the Sinhalese and there was no palpable action, not even from the few Buddhist countries in the world, to say that the LTTE should stop these massacres of innocents. The best that most of these countries did was to condemn both, the Government and the LTTE.

 

Take even the two JVP insurrections. The government had to use extra-judicial operations in both those instances and the army was let loose. Hence there were genuine human rights violations in that dicey situation and many persons went unaccounted. The situation was many times worse than at any time during the war with the LTTE and it was the scale of sheer violence in the country during that time that prompted famous Indian journalist Anita Pratap to write a book ‘The Island of Blood’. But strangely enough neither the members of the international community nor INGO human rights organizations came to the rescue of the Sinhalese victims. Even though the Government in this case was made of a Sinhala majority the point to note is, had the Government even being Tamil, there would not have been so much of dance and song by the International organization. This should make the Sinhalese realize that, if they lose power in Sri Lanka, genocide of Sinhalese would soon follow, without so much of an international noise.

 

To be very precise, it is the Sinhalese community that has been historically threatened by the South Indian intrusions in the past. Particularly the Chola’s of South India have invaded the country with devastating consequences. When I was a small boy, my mother used to relate the famous story of the Sinhalese Prince Gemunu who successfully fought the Chola dynasty of India and drove them back to India. The story goes to say that the Prince had a habit of sleeping crouched in his bed. The queen (mother of the prince), having noticed this extraordinary sleeping posture had inquired from the prince about it. The Prince’s response was, “Mother, how could I, stretch my arms and legs? To the north it is the odious Cholas and to the south it is the desolate and infinite sea”.  This fable, I am sure has been told by every Sinhala mother to her children and it exemplifies the Sinhala psyche. The Sinhalese justifiably think that they are very much a threatened community sandwiched between the hostile South Indians and the vast ocean into the south. And that thought, as events have proved time and again, is not just a foreboding!

 

Madduma Bandara is ‘little boy hero’ who has a special place in Sinhala heroism. But all that Madduma Bandara did was to offer himself fearlessly before the Royal executioner (in 1814) when his elder brother hid behind the mother in fear of impending death. As the numerical strength of Sinhalese has been low, compared to those who invaded their country, the Sinhalese historically venerated those who fearlessly die in defense of their nation.

 

Exodus

The Indian journalist MR Narayan Swamy has authored two popular books on the LTTE, i.e. ‘From Boys to Tigers’ and ‘Inside an Illusive Mind’. In both these books he refers to the LTTE’s frequent use of Leon Uris’s famous book ‘Exodus’. He maintains that the loyalty of the LTTE to this book is such that they generally treat it as their Bible (source of inspiration and guidance). What does this book then have to do with ‘Tamil Grievance in Ceylon’?

 

Leon Uris’s ‘Exodus’ is about how the Israel was formed by bringing in Jews from 82 countries from all over the world. It was Chelvanayagam’s colleague E M V Naganathan, one time MP and an ‘acclaimed descendent of the Chola Empire’ who first propounded this Exodus theory on Sri Lanka in the 1960’s. He often said, “If the Jews could come to Israel from 82 countries and find their State amidst Arab hostility, why cannot the Tamils who live in 68 countries find a state for themselves by dislodging these puny and internationally isolated Sinhalese”.

In reality therefore, it is the Sinhalese who are marginalized and threatened and the Tamils, having realized this have projected an obverse scenario with calculated propaganda to eliminate the Sinhalese and capture a country for the Tamils.

 

The World Tamil Movement (WTM) was formed by Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates in Canada in the 1970’s. The purpose of forming this organization was to unify and strengthen the Tamil community dispersed in all parts of the world and to explore the possibilities of finding a place that can be called ‘a home’ by the Tamil community. The WTM in their Articles of Association, acknowledge the fact that the ‘Tamils are a Nation without a State’ and the movement’s avowed objective is to find a state for the Tamil Nation.  There was Tamil ultra-nationalism in India from the 1940’s and this, no doubt, was encouraged by the presence of a strong Tamil community in the north of Sri Lanka. However, the scope of the WTM increased with the scope of Tamil ‘unrest’ in Sri Lanka and with the formation of a plethora of Tamil militant organizations in the late 70’s in Sri Lanka, the WTM started to define its objectives in more specific terms.

 

Sachi Ponnambalam, a Tamil nationalist and a relation of GG Ponnambalam, has authored a book, “Sri Lanka – The Tamil National Question” (ZED Books Ltd.). There he details the formation of the Tamil State in Sri Lanka with Tamil Nadu and establishing the Capital of this State in Trincomalee as the first phase, then the annexing the Hill country of Sri Lanka (where plantation Tamils live) as phase 11 and the assimilation of the rest of Sri Lanka in the final phase. An American journalist, Stephen Long writing to the Island newspaper in September 2008 from Sacramento in the United States, describes the series of meetings the WTM had with the US Tamils back in 1981in Sacramento. According to Stephan Long the matters discussed at this meeting were not confined to the wellbeing of Tamils in US and other countries in the world. The meeting also discussed about Sri Lanka’s demography, it’s foreign relations and it’s foreign Aid Consortium and also the possibilities of establishing a Tamil Elam there.    

 

The LTTE Insignia

The LTTE insignia, ‘The Prowling Tiger’, also dispels whatever doubts one may entertain about the ‘Tamil problem in Sri Lanka’ being driven by ultra-Tamil nationalism. King Rajaraja 1 of the Chola Empire invaded the island of Lanka in 993 AD. History records that Rajarajah’s powerful army crossed the ocean by ships and burned the Kingdom of Lanka where Mahinda V was the King of Sinhalas. Mahinda’s army was routed and he sought refuge in the Southern Rohana (southern part of Lanka). The Chola army captured Anuradhapura, the Kingdom of Lanka. Chola’s then made Polonnaruwa their Kingdom, a city close to Trincomalee, the best natural port in South Asia.

 

In 1018 Raja rajah’s son Rajendra 1 made further inroads to the Island and, captured Mahinda and took him prisoner to the Chola Empire, invaded and occupied the land up to Gampola in Lanka’s mid-country. It was Kassapa, Mahinda’s son who drove away the Chola army in 1070 and restored Sinhala Kingship in the whole country as King Vjayabahu1. That was about the biggest and the longest incursion made by the Cholas into the Island of Lanka in their 33 invasions of the Island. The insignia of Rajarajah and Rajendra1 was the ‘Prowling Tiger’. Prabhakaran was inducted to the Chola history by his tuition master, to whom he was entrusted by his father, when he was not faring well in his studies in the 60’s. Instead of studies Prabhakaran became more and more interested in the Chola invasion of Lanka and he carefully chose the insignia of the invaders who caused the biggest and the longest incursion into Lanka, prowling tiger, as the insignia of the LTTE. Hence the ‘Prowling Tiger’, the LTTE insignia, signifies invasion of Lanka, and not grievance of the Tamil community. 

 

Therefore, it now appears that, the principal grievance the Tamils have, the world over, is not having a country that can be called their own. This grievance assumed a new dimension with the advancements the Tamil community received under different European colonizers from the 16th to 19th centuries, and with the presence of an Island to its immediate south occupied by a civilization that reached ‘near disintegration’ due to the same European colonization. Further the Tamils realized, in keeping with the global sentiments of post WW11, that the strategy of eliminating the Sinhalese lie in having a ‘grievances’ modus operandi.  This then is this much hyped ‘Tamil Cause’ in Sri Lanka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15

 

Propaganda, English Media and Dubious Media Agendas.

 

People living in this part of the world have not understood fully, the part propaganda plays in their day to day lives, and hence there is less emphasis on the need to decipher truth from what is dished out in the form of news from media, on a daily basis. This is a dangerous scenario because believing falsity to be the truth can lead one to act and behave in a way that is exactly the opposite of how one otherwise should behave in a  situation. Propaganda is so powerful that it can make you patronize what you should abhor: denigrate what you should treat with respect: belief in what you should not and uphold what you should condemn.

 

These dimensions of propaganda are of special relevance to today’s world where propaganda has replaced arms as the means of capturing power and control of world affairs. Alliances are formed by winning over other countries to your side by the use of propaganda and this has obviated the need for subjugation by arms. Americans would demonize the Communists, creating hatred and prejudice in the minds of people in third world countries and vice versa. That way, world political blocks are created without arms.

 

Governments are formed under democracy by canvassing the votes of the people and this again has replaced the use of arms for this purpose. Similarly, a Government formed by telling the truth to the people will always do an honest job than a one that has influenced voters with propaganda. Democracy is good if the best candidate wins at the election but when the candidate with best propaganda wins the election, how good would that democracy be? But the reality in countries like India and Sri Lanka is that it is the candidate with the most money to spend on propaganda that wins elections instead of the most suitable.

 

The emergence of propaganda as a tool in influencing mass movement and subjugating people mentally than physically was however realized by the world powers, soon after the Second World War. By the end of the Second World War, English language, culture and values had spread to every nook and corner of the world and was well entrenched in the lifestyles of ruling elites and decision makers, in the ex-British colonies. Britain found this situation as a new platform to continue the colonial exploitation without arms. All that was necessary was to improve the efficiency of its propaganda mechanism and expand its areas of operation. The west realized that with propaganda they could achieve more at a lesser cost than they ever did with arms. In every way, psychological subjugation was better than physical subjugation.

 

Take ‘democracy’ for an example. Democracy is only a method of electing rulers and it doesn’t ensure wise governance in the long-term interest of the people. It is only the means and not the ends of running a country. But the west would always insist on ‘democracy’ as a panacea for all ills disregarding, the foresight with which the people of a country would elect their leaders and also to what extent democratic governance is feasible in countries with social and security imbalances. This is especially evident in ex British colonies where the subjects were deprived of their basic education for generations and are made to think servile. It is also a proven fact that universal franchise holds little hope in a society where basic human requirements such as security, hunger, education and shelter are not met. The irony of democracy is that in a democratic society, the sagacious wise man and the myopic illiterate both have one vote each. Therefore, in such a context what is the type of Government, a country with more fools than wise, would elect?   

 

Hence the West’s insistence of democracy, irrespective of the situation and circumstances reminds one of the popular Sinhala adage of ‘offering the monkey a shaving razor to shave itself’. But the catch here is that a democratic type of governance makes a nation most susceptible to the capitalist economic system and the western global propaganda. Hence it is clear that the west started to adopt propaganda in place of arms as a means of subjugation. They established institutions like the British Broadcasting Corporation to give a ‘British twist’ to what is happening in the world. But Britain, the world superpower at the time, faced bankruptcy with its economy in shambles after the war. Therefore, at the Breton woods Post War Conference, Britain formally handed over the baton of colonialism and economic imperialism to the United States, its English-speaking ally, as the new leader of the ‘Free world’.

 

In the first place, the idea that the Second World War is about a ‘Free world’ defeating a ‘demonic axis’, in itself is, loaded propaganda. It is also so, about Britain and the victors granting independence to the ex-colonies through their own benevolent magnanimity. Japan entered the Second World War to chase the European from Asia and a careful study of the World War 11 will reveal that the Japanese bombed only the European colonies in Asia. Even the principal grouse of Hitler was the disproportionate domination of the world by certain powers that are not ‘people friendly’. To start with, there was no free world at the time the Second World War began. And worse, it is not Britain that spearheaded the battles that defeated Germans and the Japanese, thereby ensuring the victory of the Allied forces. It is the Russian army of Stalin that overcame the invincible German army and their war machine having got them to cross the Siberian desert, when Britain, all this while was pondering hard on ways and means of facing the superior air and naval strength of Germany.

 

After the war, Britain would have wished very much to cling on to its empire where the sun never set, but the consensus of the world, after having analyzed the causes that lead to conflicts and wars, was that ‘as long as colonialism and armed domination remained in the world there will be no end to wars’. Hence to rid the world of wars, colonialism had to go and a more equitable world order had to be established. Britain therefore was compelled to give up their colonial policy. But an average Sri Lankan, with servitude to all that is British, believes that it was Winston Churchill who saved the ‘free world’ by defeating Hitler. This is the power of propaganda!

 

Sri Lanka is a small country unheard of, and unencountered by the world powers at large, especially countries like the United States of America. When I visited North Dakota in the United States in 2008, I had to go to the post office in Fargo (one of the principal towns in the State) to post a letter to my family back in Sri Lanka.  The Counter officer at the post office looked at the address and looked at me with a bemused expression. He asked me, where this country ‘Sri Lanka’ is. I tried to show him with the help of the map that was there but the marking in that map was not very clear. Then he asked me for the second time too, whether I was sure that there was a country called ‘Sri Lanka’. I had to tell him that I was quite positive unless something has happened during the past two weeks, since I left the country only two weeks ago.

 

So much for what people in this world know about Sri Lanka! In such a backdrop ‘who cannot say what falsity about Sri Lanka, and not get away with that’?

 

The feature in propaganda is that it either fills the vacuum where truth is absent or ensconced the truth with some facts known already. Either way propaganda submerges the truth and thereafter prevents the truth from emerging. The power of information is determined by the specter in which it can operate and hence what prevails over the masses at the end is the one that has the widest reach and not the one that is truthful and balanced.

 

The influential Tamils in Sri Lanka realized this as early as the 1960 and hence commenced their global propaganda network against the majority Sinhalese. They were able to do this because Tamils in Sri Lanka were the most powerful minority in the country with English language at their disposal with the global reach available to them in the form of Tamil professionals working in western capitals form the 1960’s. Over the years, there is nothing that the ‘Tamil Diaspora’ has not done to propagate the alleged ‘Tamil cause’ to the world. They have written to print media, made representation in the electronic media, held workshops, held seminars, made films, lobbied News Channel owners- Officials and Legislators in their host countries, maintained close ties with the human rights INGOs, liaised with UN organizations, lobbied international power centers, created and maintained websites. In one instance a Tamil lawyer acted as an impostor when the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister was due to address the UN General assembly back in 1984.

 

President JR Jayawardene confesses in his autobiography that when he attended the international forums of Heads of State in late 1980’s he was treated as if he was a Leader of an apartheid state such as South Africa. The Tamil Diaspora’s methods of propagating were not confined to persuasive skills and artifice. They even bought over international journalist and local newspaper editors.

 

It was not at all difficult for the Tamil expatriates to take the average westerner, with a little understanding of the South Asian culture and customs, for a grand ride with purposeful mendacity. The Hindus have a ritual, or an expression of faith, during the festive seasons of their temples where they hang themselves from iron hooks as an act of penance. Also, they roll themselves bare bodied on the temple compound to fulfill their vows.  These activities are filmed by the Tamils and distributed among the Diaspora to be shown to people in western countries as ‘cruelties perpetrated by the Sinhalese on Tamils’. They also film the brutal attacks carried out by the LTTE (sometimes in army uniform) on remote Sinhala villages and show them in the west as ‘SL army attacks on Tamil villages’. The LTTE has the practice for filming all their attacks to be used on new recruits for heroism and also for their own propaganda and training purposes. Even the main piece of evidence in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was the LTTE’s videotape. In any case the catch here is, if those films are truthful attacks on a Tamil villages by the SL army, a Tamil villager should have been prepared with a sophisticated camera at the right time to film all that; and you cannot expect those ‘hand to mouth’ poor villages to be ready with such videoing from the beginning to the end. Besides, could a villager have the courage and patience to do all that, and to do it so well, if the army was marauding, looking for every one of them in every nook and corner, as shown in the video?

 

During JR’s time in the 1980’s he realized how badly the country’s image had been tarnished by Tamil propaganda and organized some official publications called ‘The Truth about Lanka’ to tell the world the true situation in the country. A feature in the Sri Lankan society, even as late as the 1980’s, was that the members of the Tamil community held key Government and diplomatic positions. Hence during 1983 all the Sri Lankan ambassadors to the key European countries like, Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands and US were Tamils and Jayawardene highlighted this fact at international forums as further evidence of Sri Lanka’s pluralistic policy. Jayawardene probably thought that having Tamils as key ambassadors was convincing to the international community. The reality however was that even Jayawardene himself was not aware that all his official efforts to counter Tamil propaganda in Europe had been negated by those very Tamil ambassadors in those countries, at Government expense. Even the very situation of having Tamil ambassadors in key European states was not a mere coincidence but something that was planned within the Foreign Ministry by the powerful Tamil interest groups. Hence all this while, Sri Lankan Government had been ignorantly propagating anti-Sri Lankan misinformation, instead of ‘the truth’ through its own diplomatic channels.

 

However, the perverted brilliance and the casuistic nature of the propaganda campaign of these Tamil expatriates could be gauged from their achievements abroad. They were able to convince the average South African that the ‘Sinhalese Government’ was committing apartheid in Sri Lanka while it was the Tamil leaders themselves who attempted to form a South African type minority administration in Sri Lanka when the country gained independence from Britain (with their 50 -50 demand). Further the Tamil militants were able to obtain training under Hamas in Palestine in the late 1970’s while they were at the same time trying to create an Israel type situation in Sri Lanka.  The most paradoxical of all that however was that they were able to convince the western Human rights organizations and sometimes the UN staff that the Sri Lankan Government is violating the basic human rights enshrined in the UN Charter while patronizing the very organization, the LTTE, that is the cause of all such questionable incidents.

 

Thus, the Tamil expatriates from the 1970’s were able to infiltrate all international news channels, mainly the BBC to ensure that persons who man the key positions in these news organizations are either patrons or sympathizes of their misinformation campaign. They hijacked not only the English service but also the Sinhala service of the BBC. The Sinhala service of the BBC was headed by a Sinhalese Christian called Priyath Liyanage who migrated to the UK as a ‘male nurse’ in the 1970’s. That time, quite a number of Sri Lankans migrated to UK for employment and study but at that time creeping into UK in the guise of a ‘male nurse’ was one of the methods adopted by them to outsmart the British immigration laws. This man eventually ended up as the head of the ‘Sandeshaya’ Sinhala broadcasting unit with the help of the powerful Tamil expatriates and ever since he had been grateful to the Tamil expatriates by not only helping their kith and kin to come over to UK but also by unscrupulously tarnishing the image of his community and the country.

 

In any case the BBC is colonially inclined and had not been able, even after 50 years of postcolonialism, to treat its ex-colonies with a sense of equality. When reporting news about its former colonies the BBC has always shown an inclination to trust, either the disgruntled elements, the opposition or the rebels over and above the official news channels of the elected Government. In the Sri Lankan scenario, the BBC have been parroting what the Tamilnet had been dishing out calling it a ‘reliable source’. This again is a nuance of their subconscious resentment about having to let the colonies earn their independence grudgingly.

  

British Magazine IANS of 20th Sept 2008 reported that the wartime Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill, told Field marshal Jan Christian Smuts of South Africa at a meeting of the War Cabinet in London in the 1940’s; “You are responsible for all our trouble in India –you had Gandhi for years in South Africa and did not do away with him”.  In another instance when Mahatma went on a hunger strike during World war 11, Churchill told the Cabinet: “Gandhi should not be released on account of a mere threat of fasting. We would have been rid of a bad man, an enemy of the Empire, if he died”. Churchill’s behind closed door-candid observations at Cabinet meetings about people and issues during the war, had been recorded for posterity by one of the war cabinet minute takers, Lawrence Burgis.  Hence, we should know that Churchill would not have hesitated to maintain world colonialism even at the cost of a person like Mahatma. Churchill also believed that the ‘Nations that were colonized deserved that fate because they were inherently inferior’. This explains the truth about Churchill that, though extraordinarily talented, Churchill was an obnoxious racist.  In 2002 the BBC poll of the 100 greatest Britons of all time, Churchill was proclaimed, ‘The Greatest of them all’ based on approximately a million votes from BBC viewers. But the irony is, when Churchill is voted as the greatest of them all, such results speak more of the values of the BBC and its patrons than about Churchill himself. In the end, the fundamental difference between Hitler and Churchill comes down to the simple reality that the former was on the losing side of the war and the latter on the winning side. The rest is propaganda. 

 

Bruce Fein is the former Attorney General of USA under President George W. Bush. He is a person with Harvard credentials and upon his retirement he engaged himself as an American lobbyist. He had been quite open in his criticism of the LTTE for a long time and in a column, he wrote to the Washington Post on 3rd February 2004, he unequivocally defended the then secretary of State, Madeline Albright for declaring 30 organizations as ‘Foreign Terrorists organizations’ under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty act of 1996. This list included, quite prominently, Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam. He further said that, ‘the designation pivoted on the indiscriminate use of violence by the Government PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey) and the LTTE to intimidate civilian populations and to cow the democratically elected Governments in Turkey and Sri Lanka to capitulate to their secessionists demands. The Tamil Tigers seek a secessionist state in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, through terrorism. Characteristic of like organizations, the LTTE undertakes auxiliary activities that strengthen its terrorist torso and sweeten its public face; political organizing, advocacy, diplomacy, social service and humanitarian aid etc.”

He even opposed the medical assistance program provided by international organizations to the LTTE ‘medically assisting the LTTE however facilitates terrorist abominations. Its injured members more quickly returned to terrorist duties’. He concludes his article by saying, ‘If the law sustains a constitutional right to assist foreign secessionist terrorists’ organizations against countries with which we are at peace, then the law is an ass, an idiot.”

Now this same Mr Bruce Fein issuing a statement four years later on 22 Jan. 2008, criticized the FBI story, titled ‘Taming the Tamil Tigers’ and challenged the legal correctness of the State Department’s listing of the Tamil Tigers, as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’. He also advocated independent statehood for Sri Lanka’s Tamils through legal channels, based on the United States ‘Declaration of independence, Natural and International Law and Historical practice’. Mr Fein, having got himself into a completely reverse gear, now in 2008 says that,

 

1)    The Sri Lankan Government is a terrorist state.

2)  One million Sri Lankan Tamils were permanently de-franchised and denied citizenship by the Sri   Lankan Government.

3)   The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka’s President Ranasinghe Premadasa took place, a long time ago.

4)  In 1983 the Government sponsored race riots slaughtered 400 Tamils and displaced hundreds of thousands. 

5)  Sri Lanka has aligned itself with the enemies of the United States, including Iran, Cuba, Saddam   Hussein and PLO’s Yasir Arafat.

 

Now what brought this complete change of heart by this lawyer and lobbyist to make the LTTE a very tenable liberation movement worthy of its causes in 2008 given the fact that he first came to limelight in 2004 criticizing the Tigers in the most uncompromising statements? He who said that the American law is an ass and an idiot if it cannot contain movements such as the Tigers, eventually decided to go out of the way to try making the American law a real ‘idiotic ass’.

The secret is that he has since been hired by an organization called ‘Tamils for Justice’. When confronted with this fact by the ‘Asian Tribune’ Mr Fein maintained that ‘the organization called ‘Tamils for Justice’ is neither a front organization for the LTTE nor does it take instructions from any other organization within or outside the United States’. Mr Fein however, could not fool around with such statements because; one of the stated objectives of this ‘Tamils for Justice’ is the De-proscription of the LTTE in the United States. Therefore, in this setup Mr Fein will no doubt use all at his command to do justice to the LTTE thereby strengthening its jackboot over the innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka and also adding to the problems of the Sri Lankan state. But the bottom line is, why should a person like Bruce Fein care for these Tamils in a faraway land when the world faces so much turbulence right under the very nose of the United States? The answer is that, Bruce Fein’s new-found interest in justice to Tamils is due to the fact that the LTTE and their front organizations are now doing justice for Bruce Feign by hiring him at a big fee!

 

The Tamil Diaspora and the local Tamil leaders even falsified Sri Lankan history to create a ‘Tamil history’ to justify their struggle. From the broader perspective, such attempts could be viewed in line with the attempts of German historian Walter Frank who distorted German history to suit the Nazi philosophy.  Evidently these distortions of Ceylon history received an added dimension after the TULF leader Amirthalingam officially started to justify militant activities in the 1970’s drawing an analogy to Walter Frank’s suggestion that, “we as Historians of modern Nazi Germany would be considered to have accomplished our mission, if we can create a history that the Nazi forces can carry in their backpacks.” One of the first lessons, the LTTE imparted to their new recruits is, this falsified history of Ceylon. 

 

The Local English Media

The biggest patronization to the Tamil disinformation campaign on Sri Lanka however did not come from the Tamil interest groups proper. Knowingly or unknowingly, the most effective patronization of the Tamil disinformation campaign came from the English- speaking community in Sri Lanka lead by the Christian churches. Almost all of the high officials in media institutions, Editors of English newspapers and local representatives to international news agencies in Sri Lanka were either Tamils, Christians or Anglicized Buddhists. This is because all such jobs required proficiency in the English language and it was only the Tamils Christians and the kindred groups who had obtained this proficiency in English for generations. There were Buddhists who had obtained English education but such people were often not considered ‘suitably proficient’ by the owners of the English media institutes. It was the people from Christian schools that had earned an image for being the best in the business of English speaking and writing.

A fact about the English-speaking community in Sri Lanka is that, even if one is a Buddhist, when exposed to all that pro- Tamil sophistry in the English media, one may end up being ‘brainwashed’ and programmed to think only on those lines. Therefore, these Sri Lankan English speakers and writers would vary in their partisanship towards this ‘Tamil cause’; some are under strict instructions by the Church to denigrate the Buddhist majority; some are sympathetic to the Tamil community for what they underwent in 1983 and yet some are mere victims of incessant but subtle anti-majority bashing. Yet all these people, whatever their position and the degree of their motivation, patronize the anti-majority, pro-Tamil line and this has been happening for the past few decades. In fact, the nature of this patronization has been such that it made the Tamils themselves believe more and more in their ‘cause’ making the Tamils dedicate themselves with more vigor and purpose.

 

The tragedy of this situation, as far as the Sri Lankan nation is concerned is, that these small English-speaking Sri Lankan community has been acting as a filter to all the information that goes out of the country into the International press. Thus, when a foreigner reads about the Sri Lankan situation in the Sri Lanka press, he gets the impression that the Tamils are discriminated against; when a foreign news agency contact their local agent, they too receive only information sympathetic to Tamils. Hence all the information that the world receive on the so-called ‘ethnic conflict’ is from the Tamil sympathetic and anti-majority perspective. This helped all that disinformation spread by the Tamil Diaspora, gain currency. Is it then, any wonder that the west is prejudiced against the Sinhala Buddhist and sympathetic towards the Tamils?

 

Since 1983 the English media was carrying Tamil aligned propaganda incessantly and this helped no one but the LTTE and the other militant Tamil organizations that was unleashing violence against the Police, the Security forces and at times even against the civilians. They were justifying all these heinous acts in the name of ‘historical grievances’. Writers like Dayan Jayatileke were at the forefront of this exercise. It was a situation where criminals were at large threatening the law and order situation of the country, but the Tamil politicians, the Church, and the English media, were justifying and whitewashing all their activities in the name of these perceived grievances. Worst was, all that violence was blamed on the Sinhalese leaders and the customary ‘Official Language Act. ‘Had they given this concession, or that, to the Tamils’ the media said, ‘all this violence would not have arisen’. Majority of the Sinhalese do not read English papers, and those Sinhalese who read have a conformist mindset to all that is written. This unchallenged and unbridled ‘majority bashing’ continued in a major way for about 5 years since July 1983 and it is only around 1988 that the first attempts were made by S L Gunesekara, an erudite lawyer, to expose the falsity of Tamil propaganda.

 

Mr Gunesekara is a former Member of Parliament and a close confidante of Mrs Bandaranaike wrote the ‘Analysis of the Indo Lanka Accord’ giving out historical facts about the Tamil attempts to undermine the aspirations of the Sinhalese even before independence was granted to Ceylon. It was he who first said that ‘every item, that has been construed as a ‘grievance’ by the Tamils has been done so to thwart the introduction of progressive legislation to democratize and to redress the colonial grievances of the Sinhala majority’. He also said that ‘offering to negotiate with Prabhakaran is as ludicrous as offering to negotiate with someone who is demanding your wife’. Mr Gunasekera is a respected lawyer, a suave member of the Sinhala elite with a razor-sharp mind on logic and reasoning and more paradoxically, is a Christian by birth. However, he calls himself an ‘agnostic’ and just as agnostics are rare among Christians, those who could counter Tamil propaganda were also rare in the English media in Sri Lanka at the time. 

 

Inspired by SLG, a few more people started to write to the English media and prominent among them were Mr. Gunaseela Vithanage, a former educationist and a person who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Citizen D of Kandy’. The problem however was not the absence of proper writers projecting the Sinhala perspective, but that the media organizations, the Editors etc. of English media, would not carry such articles and would just dismiss them as ‘Sinhala Chauvinism’. It was Mr Gamini Weerakone, the editor of ‘The Island’ (English daily of the Upali Group) who ventured out in late 1980’s to give space to the Sinhala perspective in his paper. But the English press, by and large, was maintaining a pro-Tamil line even in the face of unbridled LTTE atrocities.

 

The irony however was that, even the most heinous of LTTE atrocities could not sway the general English educated opinion towards the Sinhalese because there was this popular thinking that ‘brutality of the LTTE was a nemesis of Tamil grievances’. Hence the more atrocities the LTTE committed the more they started to blame the past Sinhala leaders for creating conditions to spawn an organization like the LTTE. Hence the more atrocious the LTTE was, the more apologetic the Sinhalese thinking became making it a grand recipe for self-destruction of the Sinhalese.

 

Of the English newspapers, the Daily News is the English daily with the biggest circulation, but being Government managed, it had to toe the Government line. This meant that whenever the peace talks were underway between the Government and the LTTE, they had to ‘whitewash’ all the tiger atrocities. Generally, at other times they tried to tread the thin line differentiating ‘Tamil cause’ from the LTTE atrocities but they would never acknowledge that the Sinhalese too have rights and grievances of their own. Even when the Government is at war with the LTTE, the perception of the English media was so biased that, even the mere questioning of the much-hyped Tamil grievances is an act of ‘Chauvinism’ by ‘extremists’. The ‘Daily Mirror’ is inveterately pro Christian and anti-Sinhala. It is owned and operated by the relations of Ranil Wickremesinghe and hence when politics come in to play the situation becomes worse. The ‘Leader group’ of newspapers in Sri Lanka is owned and operated by Christians and Tamils and it consistently operates as the voice of the tigers in the non-Tiger area. The Island group of newspapers, owned by the Upali Group is the only media organization that tries to give a balanced perspective of things but even they publish a lot of pro-Tamil baloney, maybe for the purpose of giving a ‘balanced perspective’.

 

There was a time during the 1990’s that if you write to the English press in Sri Lanka, questioning and reasoning Tamil grievances, the press will probably carry your ‘opinion’ in their paper but with a footnote to say that ‘it is this type of extremist thinking that has led to the current unfortunate situation in the country.’ On the other hand, if you write about Tamil grievances your writing would considered ‘civilized’ and ‘fashionable’. The end result however was that the English press in Sri Lanka, that was patronized by the English speaking and governing elite in the country, made even the most barbaric acts of Prabhakaran appear justified and civilized. 

 

Shanie Jayawardene, Thisaranee Gunesekara,. Dr Jayadeva Uyangoda, Dr. Jehan Perera,  Kumar Rupasinghe,Sunanda Deshapriya, Victor Ivan, Prof. Tissa Jayatileke, Kumari Jayawardene, Nimalka Fernando, Prof. Rohan Edirisinghe (all Sinhalese) and Kumar David, S Naganathan , Rohini Hensman, Rajan Philips, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu (Tamil) are a few among many who often write defending the LTTE and expounding the ‘Tamil  cause’ to these papers.  During the Second World War, Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda chief of Hitler justified the atrocities of Hitler but he was a German and operated from Germany. But the situation in Sri Lanka was as if a plethora of Goebelsian thinkers were operating in Colombo to justify Prabhakaran’s crimes in the North! What made it worse was that the majority of them were Sinhalese, the community against whom Prabhakaran had launched war and his indiscriminate cruelty.

 

The above writers are inveterate supporters of the LTTE for social, political, communal, religious, ethnic and even fiduciary reasons. But the support for the LTTE is not limited to the writers who justify the LTTE activities unobtrusively. Even Ministers in the present Government have been guilty of doing the bidding of Prabhakaran. Dr Tissa Vitharana is the Minister of Science and Scientific Research in the present Government and is also the Chairman of the All-Party Representative Committee convened by the Government to address the ‘political solution’ to the current crisis. During an interview to the Sunday Times (the Sunday paper with the highest circulation), in 1998 under the ‘Rajpal Abeynaike column, Dr Vitharana, when asked to comment on the ‘terrorism’ of Prabhakaran, states, “See, even Nelson Mandela was a called a terrorist sometime back”.

At that time Dr Vitharana was a Minister in the Chandrika Cabinet and what he failed to realize was that if Prabhakaran could be compared to Nelson Mandela, then by the same logic, Chandrika had to be a John Voster. Such an analogy by a Government Minister only highlights the bias in his thinking and the ignorance in his knowledge of the activities and life of Nelson Mandela and Velupillai Prabhakaran.

 

During the Presidential campaign in Oct. 2005 a press advertisement often appeared under ‘100 Women for Peace’. The advertisement condemned the war and urged the Government to negotiate with the LTTE. The advertisement however was subtly worded in such a way to say that both parties are responsible for the atrocities and hence both parties should eschew violence. It was another one of those attempts to put the Government and the LTTE on an equal platform and was designed to benefit Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidacy against Mahinda Rajapakse. Most of the signatories to this advertisement (100 women) were NGO cabals who have been advocating putative peace. However, there was one notable signatory and that was Mrs. Iranganie Serasinghe. Mrs Serasinghe is a reputed and gifted actress who plays the ‘mother role’ in films and teledramas and hails from a traditional family in Kegalle. When she was confronted on this by some acquaintances, she had promptly said that she signed it because it was for peace and especially because she could not say ‘No to Tissa’. Dr Tissa Vitherana is also from Kegalle and incidentally is a relation of Mrs. Serasinghe.

 

The other Cabinet Minister who has a fundamentalist leaning towards Tamil grievances is the Minister of Constitutional Affairs Mr. Dew Gunesekera.  He often writes to public papers about a “Sinhala only act’ and also about the ‘Horrors of July 83’. He was a strong supporter of Chandrika’s PTOM (Post Tsunami Operational Mechanism) through which the Chandrika Government offered to give the administration of all Tsunami aid to the country for reconstruction to an LTTE controlled Council together with the sea coast of the Island in 2002. The Headquarters of this Council was to be located in Kilinochchi. It was the Supreme Court judgment that prevented this from taking effect. Mr Gunesekera was recently quoted by the national newspapers to say that “The Tamils are citizens of this country”. He had made this comment in a context to mean that it is not proper to wage war against citizens of the country. The fact that the Tamils are citizens of this country is not a ‘discovery’ made by Mr Gunesekera. The problem with apologists of this ilk is that they deliberately mix up the Tamil community with the LTTE and call a halt to the ‘war’ only to bail out the LTTE.

 

Both these Ministers are from Sri Lanka’s ‘Old Left’. This old left had been against Bandaranaike’s as it was Bandaranaike’s policies that sent them to the political oblivion. However, being leftist and supporting the LTTE, Tissa Vitharana and Dew Gunesekera will find themselves in the company of, the Church, the English- speaking elite, the Tamil Diaspora, the UNP and the Western capitalist countries. That company is all capitalist colonialist and hence it is incomprehensible to note that how left politics (old or new) could keep company, ideologically with such groups unless the Old Leftist has become Capitalists now.

 

The subtle nature of the English media’s prejudice against the majority could be discerned from some of the selected letters they carry in their papers as ‘letters to the editor’. A person called Jayatissa Perera gets a lot of space now in the Island newspaper. In a letter published 0n 9/9/20008 captioned ‘Why are they so studious?’ Mr Perera deplores the state of the Universities in the country and complains that most of the time the students are demonstrating against ‘this’ or ‘that’ and as a result the University education gets disturbed. Simultaneously he details his encounter with a Tamil University student who had studied for medicine from a bunker in the north eating just ‘wade’. The bottom line impression Jayatissa Perera strives to impose by this writing is that the Tamils are studious and persevering whereas the Sinhalese are just good for nothing.

 

If one takes trouble to study the unrest in the universities for the past 30 plus years he will realize that it is only the Arts faculties of the respective universities that indulge in this ‘unrest’ activities. What is special about these Arts faculties is that those who come out of these faculties have no hope of a future and they have to spend the rest of their lives performing ‘satyagrahas’. This situation has come about particularly because the mercantile sector in this country has closed the doors to these graduates terming them ‘misfits’. Yet, for the likes of Jayatissa Perera ‘unrest’ is an exclusive right only the minorities are entitled to. When a Tamil demonstrate it is because of the ‘oppression’, but when a Sinhalese demonstrate it is because they are either not ‘cultured’ or ‘haven’t had an education in a good school’.

 

In another letter Mr Perera writes about the persevering nature of the Tamils and says that a Tamil he knew survived by collecting, cleaning and reselling the banana leaves thrown out from Tamil eating houses. He seemed to be so immersed in the ingenious nature of this project he does not seem to observe the threat such activity poses to public health. If a Sinhalese had done it, Jayatissa Perera would have been one of the first to condemn it on the grounds of public health.  Then again, when the names of the students who got through the Government Scholarship exam were published in the papers Mr Perera wrote an open letter to those students advising them to be open minded an act beyond ‘communal considerations’. He says communal thinking and ‘Sinhala only’ is the bane of this country. This man appears to be a teacher in some elite school. All what I have to ask him and the editor who published his letters is, why bash ‘Sinhala only’ now because since 1987 parity of status has been given to the Tamil language? Further this man has the audacity to advice the students to be non-communal when he, being one of those elite Sinhalese, had been writing letters to the papers all this while eulogizing the Tamils and denigrating the Sinhalese on a racial basis. It is the likes of Jayatissa Perera who needs to come out of this communal minded thinking where they attribute different characteristics to people just because they belong to different communities.

 

Jean Arasanayagam and Anne Ranasinghe are two well-known personalities in the field of English literature in the high echelons of the English speaking westernized segment of the Sri Lankan society. Jean is a Dutch lady married to a Tamil and Anne is an English lady married to an Anglicized Sinhalese. They have accomplished many a literary works dealing with issues, aspects and characteristics of the post-independent Sri Lankan society. Their works are very popular among the English-speaking Sri Lankans and are widely read by foreigners who wish to understand the Sri Lankan society. The irony however is that both these ladies, due to their limited understanding of the values and history of the Sri Lankan society, ends up pandering to the popular notions of their associates and thereby sends the wrong signal to the outside world.

 

Jean Arasanayagam recently launched her new book ‘Fire Sermon and the Sack’. The book is an account of the JVP insurrections of 1971 and 1989 and the LTTE conflict. Fire sermon is the firebrand speeches of the JVP and ‘The Sack’ on the other hand is the sack in which a ‘border village’ mother carries her child wounded during a clash between the Government troops and the LTTE.  While her heart weeps for the ‘misguided’ youth who supported the JVP she completely overlooks the plight of the Tamils caught in the fights in the so-called LTTE area where the LTTE often uses civilians as shields for publicity purposes and thereby for world sympathy. The irony is that her work misses the core areas of this conflict as she is neither aware of the problems of the JVP youth nor those of the civilians in the so-called LTTE areas as she composes her poetry cloistered in the comforts of a Colombo residence. The irony again is that she dismisses the political grievances of the JVP youth as ‘misguided’ while no such reference is made of the LTTE youth who are rabid racialists. Hence both these poets, knowingly or unknowingly, with their compassionate, sensitive and also popular writings have put the Government’s efforts to quell terrorism in a spin, have created a lot of propaganda material that could be used internationally by the separatist Tamils in general and Prabhakaran in particular.

 

 

Hence a Tamil could propagate anything about the Sri Lankan conflict abroad and the gullible will not question it. But even for those who wish to go beyond Tamil propaganda to understand the conflict in depth, the Sinhala writers in English have manufactured a lot of partisan material that will confirm Tamil misinformation in the minds of an outsider, preventing a true comprehension of the situation in Sri Lanka.  

 

Local Media and their Dubious Agendas.

While those who write to the English media on Tamil grievances are ‘conformists’, those who write to the Sinhala media espousing the same line are considered ‘new thinkers’ and ‘progressives’. Popular Sinhala newspapers like ‘Ravaya’ with their down to earth and candid style of journalism have not only justified the LTTE atrocities but have been even glorifying their exploits. Victor Ivan is the man behind this newspaper and he generally exudes sincerity and transparency in his work. He was an ex JVPer and carried Chandrika’ thinking on the conflict during a good part of her 11year rule. But when Chandrika became so indefensible and her misdeeds exposed, Victor authored a book on Chandrika titled ‘The Rogue Queen’, criticizing her to smithereens. In the book Victor admits having done so much to ensure her victory in 1994 with a mistaken belief in her ideological commitment and sincerity of purpose. However, he has not confessed so far about his inveterate propaganda support for the Tiger movement during the past so many years.

 

The trouble is when people with such influence and standing makes mistakes of such monumental proportions, the cost, the nation has to pay becomes so prohibitive, far exceeding the rewards earned by such individuals for making such ‘mistakes’. Victor Ivan and his colleague Sunanda Dehapriya espoused the line of ‘media freedom’ to justify their propaganda for years. Sunanda Deshapriya of the ‘Free Media movement’ however, was recently exposed for financial irregularities for funds received from the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a pro LTTE NGO. CPA is an NGO who always invited foreign interference into the Sri Lankan conflict, even physically. They invited Gareth Evans, the Chairman of the International Crisis Group (R2P), to Sri Lanka in Sept. 2008 and got him to threaten the Sri Lanka Government to stop operations against the LTTE. Sunanda Deshapriya is now stationed in Geneva, carrying out pro-LTTE propaganda on ‘Human Rights’ against the Sri Lankan Government. It is indeed an irony that a supporter of the LTTE that is responsible for 100,000 deaths and countless misery in Sri Lanka could simultaneously act as a campaigner for ‘Human Rights’ against the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka! Yet, this is the power; a corrupted media man could have in the name of ‘freedom of media’ that the west and its media considers to be so sacrosanct. 

 

‘Lankadeepa’ of the Vijaya Newspaper group is the most popular Sinhala daily in circulation. Due to the newspaper group owner’s close relationship with the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the newspaper carries articles espousing the ‘Tamil cause’. It may not justify the LTTE activity in its brazen form but it accommodates the NGO putative peace activists and the apologists of the Tiger movement. This in fact, is unobtrusive support for the LTTE, for such propaganda makes the Sinhalese apologetic and accommodates all LTTE crimes for the sake of ‘historical mistakes’ of the past Sinhala leaders. It opines that unless you grant the ‘legitimate’ rights of the Tamil people the LTTE can never be defeated. But the reality had been for the past 25 years, the situation has been that the more you grant the Tamils the more powerful and the more demanding the LTTE became.

 

Lasantha Wickremethunge is a Christian Sinhalese who manages the Leader group of newspapers. It is a national newspaper group with a range of English, Sinhala and Tamil newspapers. He adopted a style of investigative news reporting thereby sensationalizing the media and achieving a reasonable percentage of patronization among the readership. He was particularly harsh on the Government and this made him very popular in the UNP camp. In fact, he became an adviser to the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.  He sought refuge under ‘Press freedom’ to indulge in most of these campaigns that bordered on personal vilification and vendetta and with time he changed his line of criticism from anti- Government to pro-Tiger. Thus, he was able to influence the thinking of the legitimate opposition of the country to a point where they saw no difference between being anti Government and pro-LTTE.

 

Lasantha Wickremetunge took part in the Geneva peace talks held under the Rajapakse government in 2006 as a Sri Lankan journalist. But he dined, wined and stayed with the LTTE during his stay in Geneva. He had such a rapport with Anton Balasingham, the LTTE Chief negotiator that he pattered on the table and raised his thumb every time Anton Balasingham scored a debating point over the Sri Lankan delegation during the talks. He was so blind in his hatred; he even cheered the LTTE when they steadfastly refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Sri Lanka as a nation. 

 

We have had propagandists who made freedom fighters out of serial killers and invented causes out of mere effects, all that disguised as ‘Peace’. Yet, now we have a ‘national newspaper’ group extolling the skills, brilliance and virtues of tigers, just for their violence, mayhem and murder; for their attempts to tear this very nation asunder. Reporting in derisive terms, the ‘Sunday Leader’ called the other newspaper groups either the ‘Government press’ or ‘Rajapakse private media’ jibing at their ownership and inclinations in reporting. But the irony is we now have a ‘Tiger press’ operating from Colombo in the name of ‘freedom of media’ and that freedom included freedom to justify anarchy, separatism and unbridled violence.

 

The difference between Tamil Chelvam (LTTE’s political wing leader) and Lasantha Wickremetunge was that the latter uses more sophistry and has a Sinhala sounding name and hence could be more convincing to the gullible. Could Winston Churchill have allowed Geobels (Hitler’s media man) to have operated from London during the Second World War in the name of ‘Freedom of the Press’?

   

The role played by national news reporting and journalism in a democracy cannot be overemphasized in offering a sense of direction and a regulatory impetus to a nation and it is often believed that the media is the ‘fourth estate’ of the nations governance with the three preceding being, the Legislator, Executive and the Judiciary. Placed in a position as august as that, it would be the bounden duty of those who man the media institutions to conduct the affairs of their institutions in a manner that is worthy of such responsible positioning. Sri Lanka as a nation is no longer in a position where it could allow psychopaths to score debating points when what is at stake is the state’s law and order, national security and the country’s very existence.

 

It was Voltaire who said that, “I do not believe in what you say but will defend your right to say that to my death”. He said that in order to champion press freedom during the emergence of the enlightened age in Europe. But Voltaire would be turning in his grave if he gets to know that the very tenants that he espoused for the benefit of man against tyranny is twisted in such a way to serve tyranny itself! 

 

Therefore, these anti-national forces, supported by NGOs like ‘Reporters sans frontiers’ tried their utmost to undermine the elected Government of the day under the guise of ‘press freedom’. They issued passes to Tiger activists as Journalists and infiltrated the national security system and when they were caught, cried hoarse about the threat to journalism and press freedom. The list of journalists killed in Sri Lanka submitted to the UN included scores of ‘journalist’ with questionable credentials for anybody, even an LTTEer, could pontificate as a journalist.  This list even included the Tiger activists killed when the government bombed the Voice of Tiger radio station 2007. There were even instances where Tiger activists have officially protected themselves with ‘journalist passes’ issued by the Department of Information. Hence freedom of the press in Sri Lanka had been transformed to mean ‘freedom to undermine the democratically elected government with pro-terror propaganda’. And then attempts to correct this position is being denounced by the western media as ‘undemocratic and totalitarian’.

 

Is Human Rights, symbiotic with Terrorism? 

A lot of noise had been made by various parties, mainly the INGO’s and NGO’s about the violations of human rights in Sri Lanka during the past few decades and as a result UN officials and western HR organizations such as the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have constantly reported the situation in the country pointing a finger at the Government. As a consequence, Ms Luis Arbour, UN Human Rights Commissioner visited jaffna in late 2007 and there was a frenzy of activity during this visit by the NGO’s with a proposal to establish a UN, HR monitoring mission in Jaffna.

 

Mr. S Murugan (a Tamil) writing to the Island of 30th December 2007 under ‘Luis Arbour (UN Human Rights Commissioner) visit – a view from Jaffna’ described how meticulously the LTTE planned the propaganda campaign with the help of the INGOs stationed in the Jaffna peninsula. Petitions had been prepared by every NGO at the behest of the LTTE on ‘HR violations in the area’ addressed to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, detailing the human rights problems of the Tamil people and their sufferings. They also requested direct intervention to help the lot of the Tamils. He says it is laughable to note these front organizations, pontificating various names, handing over their petitions one after the other. He is suggesting that either the UN Commissioner or the Government should have posed the following questions to them in order to question their integrity in making these petitions. 

 

* What was the role these NGO’s played when 100,000 Muslims were chased out from Jaffna in 1993 with 24hour notice?

* What was their role when the 23,000 Sinhalese were chased out of the Jaffna district from 1978 to 1982?

 * What was there role when the 300,000 Tamil people were asked to walk out of Jaffna in October 1995?

* How was their reaction when the Jaffna Tamils were reduced to the level of beggars on the roads of   Kilinochchi in obeying the orders of Prabhakaran in 1995?

* What did they do when University professors. School Principals, Government agents, and other Public officials (Tamils) were killed with impunity by the LTTE?

 

He further says that “Being a citizen of Jaffna, suffering in silence with fellow Tamil citizens from the North I chose to tell the world about the tactics of the LTTE to make use of the UNHCR Commissioner’s visit to advance their cause to divide our country. Sri Lanka is a small Island with a long history of Parliamentary democracy. Democracy with all its weaknesses provides enough space for the destructive elements to destabilize a country. A section of the print and electronic media plays havoc in portraying this Island nation as a racist country discriminating against the minorities, the Tamils and the Muslims. They disseminate their news in such a way to show that the Sri Lanka Government is a Sinhalese Government and they look after only the interest of the Sinhalese. But the stark truth is that the economic and social conditions of majority of the Sinhalese are pathetic and far from satisfactory. The reality is, as a typical third world country, all the citizens of the country undergo the same social and economic difficulties irrespective of their ethnicity or race. Two Sinhalese insurrections in 1971 and 1988 are good examples to show the agitation of the disillusioned Sinhalese youth against the Government of the day.

 

Situation in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu deserves special mention. My relatives and friends along with other Tamil citizens are unfortunate to have been trapped in the areas under the jackboot of the LTTE. I am unable to understand as to why in this age of globalization with vast strides in information technology, the international community has miserably failed to protect the unfortunate people trapped in the Vanni areas. Their sufferings have been adequately documented in the publications of the UTHRJ. The Human rights of the Tamil people continued to be trampled by the LTTE without the people having a voice or means to escape. The Jaffna people underwent the same experience for nearly 10 years till April 1996 when they had the opportunity to cooperate with the security forces to liberate themselves from the so-called liberators. The myth that the LTTE was invincible was broken and that is now history. I remember certain NGO’s making a point to the Government to discourage the forces capturing Jaffna in 1995/96 stating that such an eventuality will cause the deaths of thousands of Tamils. Nothing of the sort happened and the forces just walked into the peninsula with the minimum of casualties. It is difficult to find the opinion of the people in Kilinochchi because for one thing the general public would not be allowed to speak and the other is even if they are allowed to speak in this context, no one will utter a word against the LTTE. The average Tamil’s right to speak and act democratically has been systematically eroded during the past 30 years to the point of zero. There is generation of Tamils who knows not what democracy means”.

 

He further states “If people in Kilinochchi or Mulaituive complains to the visiting dignitaries either from the UN or from any other foreign country they know the fate that will await them once these dignitaries leave the area. The existence of underground torture camps/ prisons in each village in the Vanni is no secret to the inhabitants in the area. There are thousands of relatives of the victims of LTTE who are in a state of inaction due to fear psychosis. Therefore, complaints are very rare and if at all, very discrete. The family of Rajini Thiranagama was a good example. They waited till all their family members migrated to the UK to take up their grievance against the LTTE”

 

“The plight of the Tamils would have been worse in places like Jaffna if not for the fact that the Government intervened in time to save them from starvation. It has to be stated that in Mulaitui and Kilinochchi the major part of the food, medicine and other emergency supplies sent by the Government or the foreign donors are grabbed by the LTTE in the name of a national struggle. Successive Governments have nevertheless shown strong commitment to feed its citizens in these areas made inaccessible due to the LTTE terror”.

 

“It has to be accepted that the LTTE is by far the most sophisticated and the best- knit terror outfit in the world. Though Al Qaeda stunned the world on 9/11 they could be considered amateurs when compared with the capabilities of the LTTE. It has a fleet of ships, a master network to procure arms, human trafficking capabilities, a proven and tested drug smuggling network and an advanced fund collecting and laundering mechanism. It has a very effective disinformation campaign where they cultivate friendship with important members holding public office in western countries and in India, through whom they accomplish their disinformation campaign.  Ever preparedness among their cadres to die, carrying cyanide capsules around their neck and the Black Tiger suicide cadres who are human bombs directed at desired targets are unique to the LTTE. Therefore, the LTTE is not just a threat to peace in Sri Lanka but also the biggest threat to world peace”.

 

“It has been the practice and tactic of the LTTE to occupy houses adjoining the Kovils, temples, churches and hospitals and then to convert those into camps. Initially we thought that this was for their own protection; but later it became increasingly obvious that this was deliberately done for the purpose of inciting the security forces to attack and then they could gain publicity mileage out of it saying that the security forces attacked either the hospital or the temple. The propaganda mileage is more important to the LTTE than the lives of the very people who they claim to protect and liberate. We the people of Jaffna are sick of these tactics because such tactics not only add to our misery but jeopardize our lives. But just imagine the plight of the Tamils during the previous regime of CBK, when the Government officially announced that the LTTE cannot be militarily defeated. Do we have any choice but to tolerate the LTTE for whatever they are?”

 

“But we as Tamils could at least now look to our past and the terrain we have been put through in the name of ‘freedom struggle’. This when you evaluate with the chance of attaining this goal and then sustaining that situation, the outlook is very very bleak. The Tamils should be intelligent enough to imagine what the future could hold for them under a despot like Prabhakaran. If we must rise it is now when the LTTE is on the mat. Enough is enough; it is now or never for Tamils.”

 

Mr. Murugan could be one of the few Tamils who could see things in their proper perspective without being swayed by the emotional Tamil tribalism or propaganda for separatism. The western diplomats with no knowledge of the real situation in Jaffna and the UN officials who acts without foresight should take major part of the blame for the situation. When a senior LTTE cadre Kaushalyan was killed sometime back the LTTE made a lot of hue and cry about it and accused the Government. A condolence message was sent by a person none other than the Secretary-General of the UNO Mr Koffi Annan. Later it was found that he was killed by a rival group. Yet the important thing is how on earth could the Secretary-General of the UN, who is mandated with the solemn duty and responsibility of maintaining world peace and security and the interest and wellbeing of its member states, issue a condolence message on the demise of a terrorist. Kofi Annan violated the UN charter by that act and the Sri Lanka Government with its characteristically ineffective diplomacy took it lying down.

 

If one is to write about the propaganda that set the conflict in Sri Lanka on fire, there is enough material available to book of few hundred pages. Such is the power of media on this conflict that it would be no exaggeration to maintain that this is a conflict fought more in the media than in the places of palpable conflict. Whatever the weight and gravity of the crimes committed by the LTTE the propaganda mechanism was always more powerful to pull such crimes along and make the LTTE always a ‘legitimate player’ in a ‘Just conflict’. The Sri Lankan Government always lagged behind, often disoriented and see-sawing between, whether to corroborate or counter such propaganda.

 

Boomerang

The LTTE, having got carried away by its own unchallenged power, murdered four important figures that eventually backfired on them and proved too much for their propaganda to accommodate. This was partly because 3 of those persons themselves were the very wheels on which their propaganda was running and the fourth person was an equally well known international figure who had earned a reputation for poise and balance in his diplomacy. Those persons are, The Jaffna University Professor Rajini Thiranagama, Tamil Parliamentarian and Human Rights lawyer Neelan Thiruchelvam, Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rajan Kadiragamar.

 

Rajini Thiranagam was the author of the book ‘Broken Palmyra’. Rajani was a Doctor in medicine and a lecturer in anatomy at the University of Jaffna. She was murdered by the LTTE in 1989. The Palmyrah tree is the symbol of the Sri Lankan Tamil society. The tree can absorb external threats or even explosions by bending over, but when there is something rotten inside it, it will not last long. Hence Rajani Thiranagam’s book Broken Palmyra signified the current degradation (in 1989) within Tamil society, the LTTE and its fascist ways. The Thiranagama family migrated to Canada in exile and they formed the first anti-LTTE Tamil lobby in Canada. In Sri Lanka, the murder of Rajini Thiranagama led to the activation of an organization called the UTHR J comprising of university teachers in the Jaffna University. UTHR (J) is an acronym for ‘University Teacher for Human Rights (Jaffna)’. It was in fact founded in 1988, the worst period Jaffna has been through in its entire existence, with tension and thousands of Tamils being killed in the course of fighting between the LTTE and the Indian Peace Keeping forces, IPKF.

 

The prominent among the UTHR (J) activists were Rajan Hole, Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University and Daya Somasunderam (psychiatrist) and Rohini Hensman, the journalist. The UTHR J group believed that human right violations irrespective of the community should be reported and condemned.  They were based in Colombo for security reasons but gathered first-hand information through their network of informants in the North and East and compiled their reports on the true situation in the north. They genuinely felt for the average Tamil and knew that things had definitely gone haywire in Tamil society and created an information base to correct it. The UTHR (J) received the Martyn Ennals award for Human Rights Defenders for the year 2007 and their reports reached the international media, highlighting the atrocities of the LTTE.

 

But they faced intense criticism from the ‘Peace lobby’ especially after the CFA in 2002. According to the UTHRJ’s Rohini Hensman (Island 10th Dec.2007) the UTHR J was accused of Tiger bashing and not being even-handed not only by the Tamil community, but even by the Sinhalese and the Government (of Ranil W at the time). She argued, “How could you be even-handed in your criticism when one party is violating the ceasefire many times more than the other party? If the LTTE is conscripting child soldiers and if the Government is not, how can you criticize the Government for it? There were Human rights seminars conducted by the ‘Peace lobby’ where no mention was made of the Muslims being evicted from Jaffna and the killings of Sinhala villages by the LTTE. The deafening silence maintained by the NGO’s is because they did not want to rock the peace boat by highlighting them. But the UTHRJ believed that such abuses must be highlighted with the same vigor since such atrocities have the potential to destroy the Tamil society more than anything inflicted on them”. Such arguments confirm the fact that even though the University teachers realized, rather late, the pernicious nature of the LTTE and its inimical impact on the Tamil society through their genuine concern for the Tamils, the ‘Peace lobby’ did not do so because their agenda was to destroy both these communities, Sinhalese and Tamils, and make a lot of money in the process. 

 

Neelan Thiruchelvam held a Doctorate from Havard and has been the son of Tamil Cabinet Minister from 1965 to 1970. A suave intellectual, who had a lot to do with the western society, and hence mastered the art of exploiting the conditions in the west, to advance the cause of his community. He spearheaded the Human Rights wing of the Tamil propaganda mechanism and was responsible for tarnishing Sri Lanka’s image in the early stages. He founded the CPA (Center for Policy Alternatives), brought in a lot of western funds, employed high society Sinhala Christian women and brainwashed them with ‘human rights’ and ‘Tamil grievances’. It is not that the ‘human rights’ is a bad stand to take, but Sri Lanka being a country with so much economic deprivation and exploitation, there were enough and more issues a true crusader would have realized as opportune and pressing than the comparatively cosmetic ‘human rights’. He was dubbed a ‘moderate’ in the Sinhalese circles and enjoyed good rapport with all the Sinhalese leaders. Neelan was the constitutional expert in the TULF but irrespective of all that there was no Tamil who could co-exist with the LTTE after it was nurtured to be so powerful by the likes of Neelan himself.

 

Dr Neelan Thiruchelvam was murdered by the LTTE in 1999 and with his murder the LTTE earned the wrath of all the international HR personalities with whom Neelan had cultivated close connections. The Canadian Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatius could be cited as just one example among the many such high-profile personalities.

 

When Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 the whole world including the western apologists were embarrassed by the activities of the LTTE who had been up to then pontificating as the noble fighters of a ‘worthy cause’. The killing and the investigation that identified the LTTE as the perpetrators was too much of an act to be glossed over by the International community and particularly by India itself. The LTTE lost the sympathy of Indians except for a few neo-communalists like Vaiko and MGR. With India turning its back, even the climate in Tamil Nadu became too hot for the LTTE.

 

Laxman Kadiragamar (Tamil), former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, was an intellectual and a diplomat who could make himself at home anywhere in the world. He studied his subjects well and always had at his fingertips the answers to the questions he anticipated from his international detractors. Being a Tamil, he could always present his case more convincingly and he was instrumental in changing much of the world opinion that was hostile to Sri Lanka. As a result, he was well known in the diplomatic circles and to the Foreign ministries of almost all the countries in the world. The fact that he was murdered, while the CFA was still in operation, led to considerable revulsion among Foreign Government Heads and Foreign Ministers of the world who knew this affable and benign personality so well.

 

Hence the Tamil leaders and expatriates, with the help of the Church and other elements of vested interests, built up the propaganda for Prabhakaran to operate with all his macabre designs. But howver, with time, Prabhakaran became a victim of his own hubris and recalcitrance, and being the illiterate criminal he was, became a law on to himself and started to challenge the very powers that created and sustained him. The Sri Lankan Government, all this while has been a passive spectator in this propaganda game, even after 40 years, for want of a clear policy and conviction to counter anti-Sri Lankan propaganda that has inebriated the world for a good five decades.

        

Media is a double-edged sword and a powerful force of civilization, It regulates the people in a society and just as much as it has the power to regulate, it also has the power to deregulate the society. Hence the power of the media is extremely vulnerable and open for abuse. A few influential and rich people with an agenda of their own can bamboozle the masses, din all falsehoods into them, in subtle and complex ways, so that the country can be taken on a course different from that of the elected Government. In a way, it is really questionable whether media could be called the ‘fourth estate’ in the light of the inherent character of the three preceding estates, Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. Executive and Legislature are elected by the people and the Judiciary has to function within the framework of the laws enacted by the Legislature. But media on the other hand neither derives its power from an elected body and nor is accountable to an elected body as a matter of course. But however, as media cannot enjoy any more power than the sovereign power of the people, it has to function within the laws of the land and ‘unlimited freedom of expression’ is nothing but the freedom of the wild ass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

The New Face of Colonialism, Diaspora and the NGO’s

 

The Diaspora.

The word ‘Diaspora’ is of Greek origin and initially used to describe the displacement of Jews from the lands of Mesopotamia. The Jews, thus scattered in different parts of the world eventually became a force to reckon with and their significance and the impact on local populations warranted the term ‘Diaspora’ to be coined to describe them. However, the use of the term Diaspora to describe the Sri Lankan Tamil population living mainly in western countries is a misnomer as these Tamils do not comprise ‘displaced sections’ but are the most educated sections of the Sri Lankan society who have willingly migrated to countries for better economic conditions, often against the will of the Sri Lankan government that had educated them at the tax payer’s expense.

 

The term ‘asylum seeker’ originated in world parlance when the Reformist and Protestant Churches broke away from the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The Reformist persecuted the Catholics and Catholics persecuted the Reformist giving rise to the term ‘religious asylum seeker’ in one country and the other. When communism started to spread its wings in the 18th and 19th centuries those who did not want to live under communism became ‘political asylum seekers’ in noncommunist countries.  When colonies became independent there was yet another kind of asylum seekers. They are the ‘local sahibs’ who did not wish to stay under the local administration after independence. Hence at independence, quite a number of wealthy Sinhalese and Tamils sought ‘colonial asylum’ in Britain which was granted.

 

The British granted independence to its colonies like India and Ceylon ‘grudgingly’.  Accordingly, in their ‘master psyche’ they always thought that ‘these people cannot run their countries like the way we did’ and hence issues that cropped up after independence was interpreted as a sign of this ‘inability to manage their own affairs’. With such a prejudiced mindset, Britain would readily grant asylum to people who sought such asylum from their ex-colonies just to prove that point. Hence any person inimical to the new independent State was in a position to seek asylum in Britain. This could even include rapists and criminals. Therefore, in effect, opening the doors for asylum seekers with no proper reference to the country of their origin, is an unfriendly act at best, and a threat to the maintenance of law and order of the new nation, at worst.  

 

 From the 1950’s Sri Lanka experienced brain drain of its professionals. Even though Sri Lanka introduced free education to educate its people for the country’s future needs, the most educated would not stay in the country because they could always find better terms of employment in Britain. Because the Sri Lankan education system was linked to the British system, a Sri Lankan professional could enter Britain with the minimum of adaptation. This was again good for the individual and the country that is taking in such educated persons, but not so for a developing country. Since Tamils were the most educated community in post-independent Ceylon, most of the professionals who migrated to UK from Ceylon were Tamils. The Sri Lanka Government had to introduce a ‘Bond’ to prevent the flight of professionals to Britain, but they would even pay the value of the bond and still migrate abroad. Just as it is difficult to arrest the migration from village to urban areas when the villages are not developed, developing countries like Sri Lanka had no answer to the flight of the country’s qualified people to its ex-colonial epicenter. Those who stayed in Ceylon did so, only because they could not meet the local and British migratory requirements.

 

From their very young days, a Tamil is told by his/her parents that his/ her future depended on how hard he/she could study to secure employment abroad. Tamils had the best education network in Sri Lanka and access to the best facilities in schools in the North and hence they were entering the country’s universities in hordes. Therefore, it appears logical, why education was so much of an issue for the Tamils. In the first place, these people came to Sri Lanka from India in the 19th century because of English education and then they dominated the Sri Lankan society through education and finally after independence they started to migrate to countries with better conditions of living and employment. This trend continued through the seventies and any visitor to the British Council, the British facilitation center in Colombo, would always notice that the majority who patronized this place were Tamils. Tamil education authorities would maintain the best education facilities, the Tamil examiners would help Tamil students to enter the local universities, Tamil university professors would help them to chose the correct curriculum and pass the exams with high grades and finally to migrate to Britain and the west with the help of their relatives and friends. The Sri Lankan taxpayer who paid for all this education was therefore cast in the role of a provider of educated professionals, to Britain, than to Sri Lanka. Any attempt to change this position would be met by a huge cry of ‘DISCRIMINATION!’.

 

By the early 80’s about 250,000 Sri Lankan Tamil professionals had migrated to Britain and other English- speaking countries in the world. SJV Chelvanayagam and other Tamil leaders have been visiting them and organizing them from the 60’s as a source of funds and propaganda for the TULF. It is a fact that when you work abroad under alien and inhospitable conditions, your level of patriotism and with that your need for a national identity, rises. The life of a third world expatriate in a developed country is necessarily one of superficial existence, a life that satisfies only your physical and material comforts, often at the expense of your psychological and egoistic needs. A colleague of mine who now lives in Australia mentioned something to mull over when we were discussing about life in a foreign country and life in Sri Lanka. He said that “We who live abroad suffer in comfort while you, who stay here enjoy in discomfort”.

 

Even though the statement appears contradictory and somewhat enigmatic, I am sure what my friend meant was the lacuna of satisfaction in psychological and actualization needs of a Sri Lankan in a western country. Therefore, in this backdrop, it is natural that the Tamils too, when engaged abroad experience a rejuvenated surge in patriotism/ tribalism and hence the need for a national identity is more palpably felt.

 

Then came July ‘83, a huge blessing in disguise for the Tamils who were exploring ways and means of going abroad in search of greener pastures. The events in fact erupted in the south, mainly in Colombo (‘Sinhalese area’, according to Chelvanayagams terminology) as a result of an ambush that killed 13 soldiers at Thinneveli in Jaffna (north). But the event was of special significance because at that time it was the highest number of army personnel killed in one single attack by the LTTE. The Sinhalese, even though they are the majority in the island, always entertain forebodings about the Tamil minority in the north because the Sinhalese view them as an extension of the vast Tamil Nadu state lying just 35 Kms away from the north. Hence the Sinhala psyche was apparently disturbed by this particular event where the Sri Lankan army is now been successfully confronted by the Tamil rebels.

 

As far as the Sinhalese were concerned this was a new phase, a dangerous one at that, in Tamil militancy. Hence there may have been some overreaction to the situation on the part of the Sinhalese, having read the ominous signs. There was also this thinking by the Sinhalese, that since the Tamils make a lot of money in Colombo, all this agitations for separatism is done with that money made in the south and hence the best way of containing that was to drive them out economically from the south. However, whichever way you interpret the events, the fact is that the 83 July events were the results of the separatist militancy by the Tamils backed by Tamil politicians. The ‘Sansoni Commission’ that investigated into the riots of 1978, that broke out under similar circumstances, identified Tamil separatism as the cause of those riots and recommended that the separatist campaign be called off to restore peace.

 

In spite of that recommendation however, there was no abatement in the Tamil separatist campaign and instead it appeared to be assuming an added dimension with the militants overpowering the democratic politicians at the abortive District Council elections of 1982. Leader of the TULF, Amirthalingam too, made a number of derogatory statements against Sri Lanka during his many visits abroad as the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the irony of Sri Lankan democracy is that the Tamils in Sri Lanka will ‘forever have to be in the opposition in a country where people vote on strictly communal lines’. This is far from the truth and Sinhalese have never voted on communal lines. Amirthalingam became the Leader of the Opposition from 1977 to 1982 not because he polled the second highest number of votes on a communal basis, but because the SLFP, the alternative to the UNP, could not obtain enough Parliamentary seats under the ‘First past the post’ electoral system, even though the SLFP obtained more votes than Amirthalingam’s TULF.

 

The world news agencies however did not know the reasons for the July ‘83 disturbances and hence they only reported the rioting. The Church fired the first solvo to depict the Buddhist as the aggressors of July 83. It was three days of anarchy in the Colombo city. The underworld, the burglars and even ‘personal score settlers’, had a field day making the best use of the situation. But the propaganda credited all the atrocities to Sinhala Buddhist. I have met many Tamil families who came over to UK after these riots and every one of those families mentioned that they were able to come out of the situation due to the help they received from their Sinhala friends. But the propaganda lumped all the Sinhalese as an uncivilized set of people feasting over the misery of Tamils. Even by then the Tamil international propaganda machinery was working well and they received all the help they needed from the Vatican and the Anglican Church.

 

The fact that July 83 is the cause of the ‘ethnic conflict’ is another of those well-orchestrated lies by the interested parties. The following will give some indication about the organization and the resolve the Sri Lankan Tamils possessed, even as early as the 1970’s to undermine the Sri Lankan state.

 

  • Renuka Fernando accompanied her brother’s family to Kenya in 1978 when her brother accepted an assignment with an Engineering firm in Kenya. The brother was married to a Tamil lady and hence the Sri Lankan Tamil organizations in Kenya established contacts with them in 1978 upon their arrival there. With time, Renuka became privy to the type of activities her sister in law was initiated to, in the Tamil organizations and, in her letters to me, which were very regular then, almost half the space was occupied by her trepidations on what the Tamils were planning to do, to Sri Lanka.

 

  • On my first overseas appointment as an Accountant in a British firm in Saudi Arabia in 1981 I found an Indian counterpart as my co Accountant and that Indian happened to be a Brahmin Tamil by the name of V Rajaraman from the state of Tamil Nadu. After some time, it occurred to me that Rajaraman had expressed a lot of interest about the Tamils in Sri Lanka, by the questions he asked me and the knowledge he evinced. It became apparent to me that for him to think of all that in that very communal line there must be an organized disinformation campaign in Tamil Nadu against Sri Lanka as early as the late 1970’s.

 

  • Even in England back in the 70’s Tamils behaved differently. They were moving only among the Tamils and it was very evident that the Tamils had a whole lot of things to discuss beyond the primary purpose for which they had arrived in England.

 

  • Shanthi Soyza is an ex-St. Thomas student, a colleague of Chandrahasan, the son of SJV Chelvanayagam. Both of them went through a period of apprenticeship in an Audit firm in Colombo in the 1970’s. Judging by the activities of Chandrahasan in those comparatively peaceful days, Shanthi Soyza was convinced that Sri Lanka was in for a lot of trouble with the Tamils in years ahead. Hence while employed in Australia as an Accountant Shanthi De Soyza became the Secretary to WAPS, an organization of Sri Lankans formed in the 90’s to counter Tamil propaganda.

 

  • Aravinda Ediruppuli worked as the first officer in ‘Lanka Rani, a Sri Lankan merchant vessel in the 70’s. Being my mate (Jayantha’s) brother, I used to meet him whenever he was in Sri Lanka and our discussions generally centered on politics; whether capitalism or socialism was best suited for Sri Lanka. In one of those discussions he blurted out that it is neither capitalism nor socialism that Sri Lanka should guard against but Tamil militancy since he was aware that the Tamils were fortifying themselves with a merchant navy to attack Sri Lanka soon. He had a few Tamil officers as juniors and judging from their enthusiasm and determination he said it is inevitable that a communal war will engulf Sri Lanka very soon.

 

Hence the Tamils, abroad and even locally, were fully organized by 1983 and the 83 events only provided them with evidence in embellished form to tell the world, ‘See, this is what we have been telling you all this while’ and help change roles from ‘aggressor to the aggrieved’. 83 July was the ‘effect’ of separatism but the propaganda made the events of July 83 the ‘cause’ of separatism. In this respect, the contribution made by the English media in Sri Lanka to uphold this position should be termed as an ‘abomination’. There were Sinhalese who wrote to the English newspapers and English electronic media channels placing the blame solely on the Sinhalese Buddhist and propagated to the world that, ‘Now of course the Tamils have no alternative but to seek a separate state!’

 

Something very noticeable about the English language media in Sri Lanka is, that it is very subtly anti-Buddhist and pro Christian. Since it is managed and staffed by the English- speaking elite who are mostly Christians the media’s pseudo sympathy to Tamils is determined by the extent they desire to be hostile to the Buddhist. These anti-Buddhist campaigns are carried out in an extremely sophisticated way so that no one really feels that it is anti-Buddhist. For instance, if one writes and says that ‘July 83 is a blotch on the 2500 years of civilization’, nobody could say that the writer is partisan but he has conveyed the message that July 83 was the work of the Sinhalese Buddhist because Sri Lanka’s Buddhist civilization is identified to be 2500 years old.

 

The English press carried article after article as if to say that the riots of July 83 were the worst thing that took place on earth and Commemorated 83 July every year calling it the ‘Black July’. Etc.Etc. University professors like Tissa Jayatileka and his journalist wife would write to the papers about the riots and how uncivilized the majority in this country were. It is the National Peace Council (sponsored by the National Christian Council) that was in the forefront of propagating and making the Buddhist culpable for the riots of July 83. They conducted seminars, pasted posters and wrote articles to national newspapers to commemorate July 83. At the end, the propaganda was able to turn the ‘effect’ of separatism to the ‘cause’ of separatism thereby furthering the cause of separatism among Tamils.

 

What happens, when an effect of a problem becomes a cause? In some families, the ‘drinking’ habit of the breadwinner is the cause of poverty. Poverty is the effect and drinking is the cause. But what happen if poverty, and not ‘drinking’, is identified as the cause of the problem? There will be donors to dole out money to alleviate poverty and that will encourage the breadwinner of the family to drink more and hence die that much earlier and the family too will undergo more turbulence due to excessive drinking. That is what happens when you mix up the ‘effect’ to be the ‘cause’; you exacerbate the situation with solutions worse than the disease. And that was exactly what happened in Sri Lanka when the effect was construed as a cause by unscrupulous parties who were aiming to fish for NGO funds in troubled waters. Instead of discouraging sepa