Tamil/Muslim Grievances and Remedies
Posted on November 3rd, 2010

GOMIN DAYASRI

Most of these grievances cut across ethnic barriers and are common to all the communities but to overcome a national crisis Tamil/Muslim grievances should be given priority over the issues of the majority Sinhalese to show that Sri Lanka has a caring majority.                            

 [A] Language

 The present constitutional and statutory provisions relating to Tamil language should be implemented comprehensively. Sinhala and Tamil should be taught to children and adults by an accelerated process. Teaching of English to be enhanced and taught to schoolchildren in a manner it can be comfortably absorbed as a tool for the advancement of knowledge

  The pride of place, should as presently, be given to Sinhala and Tamil languages in furtherance of availing educational, employment and professional prospects and its constitutional importance should not be reduced whereby English language takes precedent to create a privileged social order in society. This could create social unrest and deny the advancement presently enjoyed by a majority of people. The teaching of English should be intensified in schools and it is indeed sad that the Education Ministry sends English teachers to Korea when there is a dearth of teachers in schools. The aim is to create a trilingual society where English be a window to the outside world. The provisions in Reasonable Use of Tamil Language Act of 1958 and the subsequent legislation on the use age of Tamil language along with the constitutional provisions in making it a national language should be fully implemented.

 (a)   Schools- Sinhala and Tamil be taught as the second language to the children of Sinhala/Tamil communities commencing from Grade II on a year by year advancement basis from a determined year (example. All schools to commence the said teaching process in year 2012 in Grade II to be advanced to Grade III in 2013 and so on) that it becomes a compulsory subject at O Level after 8 years of training (language teachers can circulate between a cluster of schools in a region since there will be a dearth of teaching staff which will be the main obstacle); This should be sold as a nation building exercise. In most countries 3 languages are taught at school.

(b)   All students entering the universities and such other similar educational /vocational institutions, to satisfy by passing a basic examination before entering, in Sinhala/Tamil proficiency with a 30% pass mark which should be acquired immediately after sitting for the A level/ on leaving school by a self taught/home learnt capsule prepared by the Education Department. English medium students can select either language course while Sinhala/Tamil student follow the language course that was not their chosen medium.

(c)  Employment-In public/defense sector proficiency tests to be conducted for promotional prospects. A self-teaching book module to be prepared for easy understanding of the basics of the language.  In the private sector it be made a compulsory requirement under the Companies Act for a holder of the status of a company secretary to acquire language competency. The government departments (as is presently in Thailand) to maintain lines of communication in Sinhala/Tamil with the private sector.

(d) Adult education- popularize the learning of the three languages

through the media, which should be a condition imposed by the licensing authority to the media to give effect to publishing/propagating prescribed language modules. English in Sri Lankan way project to be popularized to reach a wider audience.

 Assistance to be sought from foreign sources financially and otherwise for the tri lingual educational endeavor that is deemed to be the prime vehicle for creating a multi ethnic society living in a harmony. For this purpose development of a language teacher- training outfit is essential which will generate much employment opportunities at grass root level.

 Government Departments to have mobile units to cover specified areas with persons proficient in languages to be present on particular days of the week of which public notice is given for the attendance /issue of Sinhala/Tamil documentation. As an immediate measure the creation of a regional pool of officers with language proficiency. The employment of persons with language proficiency notwithstanding the lack of other qualifications in the state sector/police to attend to work associated with translations/recordings.

 A multi ethnic police force will be necessary because of the lack of Tamil/Muslim personnel due to LTTE prohibitions imposed.

 Special language training capsule devised for the training of teachers.

 Benefits of a promotional and financial nature are given to public servants on becoming proficient in sinhala/tamil as an incentive.

 English in the Sri Lankan way scheme to be enlarged to reach the students/people in a rapid manner. Any obstacles of delay should be eliminated, as this should be considered as an accelerated vehicle to widen knowledge. 

 [B] Security Concerns

 Where security purposes permit, land/houses to be released in the High Security Zones to the lawful holders of title with the payment of compensation as prescribed by regulation. Special provision to be made to enable lands/buildings acquired forcibly by the LTTE for their special purposes in the North/East to be returned to the true owners and amendment be made to the Prescription Ordinance to overcome problems of long illegal possession in respect of lands held in wrongful hands on LTTE grants so that lawful owners can recover such lands by court procedure; statutory provisions should be enacted to make such holdings unlawful.

 Notwithstanding the above, the determination for security purposes of High Security Zones and for its future curtailment or enhancement should be exclusively the province of the security authorities without interference from other sources.

 Compensation should be paid for all lands taken for the purpose of High Security Zones to the title holders/heirs on presentation of proper legal documentation and notwithstanding compensation paid, if at a future date such lands can released, such lands be handed only to the owners/their heirs on repayment of a proportion of compensation already received by them/predecessors. Compensation should be on the basis of the same rate paid presently for land acquisitions. Special Tribunals be set up to determine competing claims.

 Multi ethnic Defense and Police Force to be established to give comfort to all communities  Police stations to be staffed taking into consideration the ethnic composition and security in the areas. In such areas a prime officer should be conversant in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

 A Special Unit be established to establish 

 [C] Internally Displaced Persons/Rehabilitation/Reintegration

 This problem has to be recognized from the commencement of terrorist activities as there was an ethnic cleansing exercise carried out by the LTTE and the resulting hostilities, which led to the displacement of Sinhalese Tamils and Muslims, and the incidents of persons crossing from former LTTE controlled areas in recent times. All persons so displaced should be treated equally irrespective of time frames or point of displacement.

 They should be as far as possible relocated in the areas of such displacement and should be given financial and social benefits to regain a degree of normalcy. The work of rehabilitation should be conferred on the displaced themselves with the monitoring of progress. Though outside contractors are introduced the work force- beside highly skilled labor – should be from the district itself where the work is performed. There is much criticism that outside work forces are engaged depriving job opportunities. This should be considered as an employment generating engagement for the locals.

 Relevant state authorities should be coordinated under a high- powered ministry with the establishment of a unit in each pradeeshiya sabha area in the affected regions. The best check on corruption is to give the responsibilities to the affected persons as they keep checks on each other which was the success of the Grama Sabha system; where village vigilance kept corruption and waste under check.

 A common policy to be uniformly established on a district basis for the mode of rehabilitation to ensure level playing fields. The policy to be formulated by skilled persons that include security service personnel, non- governmental organization representatives and nominees of victims. A separate independent monitoring panel should be set up for a district inclusive of the aforesaid representation to oversee the implementation.

 [D] Land Water and Forest

 This is a thorny issue leading to many allegations of ethnic discrimination and is a sensitive subject. The underlined policy should be the land of the nation belongs to every citizen and has the right to possession and enjoyment if possessed of legal title and/or right. Any discriminatory laws such as Tesawalamai should be abolished without any restrictive policies on a prospective basis.

 State Land should be alienated to the needy and those capable of proper utilization otherwise it will be a wasted exercise. Lands not unutilized or under utilized without good reason be reclaimed.

 Land, Water and Forest Commission appointed to device a national land and water distribution policy for the entire island. There should be permanent Commission appointed by the President with a representative from each district to sit when the allocations for such district is under consideration. The members of the Commission to be granted 5 year guaranteed term of office with powers to resolve district disputes alienations and utilization relating to the subjects conferred.

The subject of the Commission should cover all aspects of land and water and forests and inquire into allegations of discriminatory practices and make necessary order that has the force of law.

 [E] Ethnic Ombudsman

 Ombudsman has an official place in the Constitution but a new designation has to be established by creating an Ethnic Ombudsman in every district so that any person affected or concerned relating to any ethnic issue could make a complaint to the said authority and have the matter resolved initially without seeking redress via Fundamental Rights.

 The objective of an ethnic ombudsman is to eliminate ethnic discriminations at the grass root level without permitting it to snowball into a serious grievance. It also permits aggrieved parties to seek an inexpensive uncomplicated remedy in their own locality. To obtain full benefits wide publicity should be given to this project so that the public are made aware, the right parties be selected for appointment and due redress be granted speedily by acting on the recommendations unlike in the case of the present Ombudsman under the constitution who has made the office ineffective by being inactive.

  A report and resolution from the ethnic Ombudsman should be a condition precedent to a Fundamental Rights application on an ethnic related issue. All such applications to the Ombudsman should require a mandatory recommendation within 3 months unless the complainant agrees to an extension. Thereupon in the event of a failure and/or dissatisfaction with the recommendation, an FR application could be made. The Supreme Court should give consideration to the recommendation of Ethnic Ombudsman in its order.

  This process is recommended to make a resolution on ethnic related issues, so that it is expeditiously completed in the districts without reaching the Supreme Court that is expensive and time consuming and vexatious being a court related procedure unlike the informal applications before the Ombudsman, which does not require legal representation. In the event of a direct application by way of a FR application it should be referred to the ombudsman for resolution in the first instance.  A district Ombudsman will be more alive to the issues in the districts and in finding practical remedies. 

The said office holders should be recommended for appoinment on a 3 years stint on a contract basis.

 [F] Cultural affiliations

 Tamil, Muslim and Indian Tamil culture be developed and links strengthened between the several cultures such as on Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day festivities, the bondage between temple and kevel, which are often situated on the same premises. Art song and dance of each culture be separately developed on distinct basis to accommodate the differences between the cultures of the East North and South.

 To give the separate cultures a pride of place and develop it on indigenous district basis such as differences that exists in the cultural patterns of the Sabaragamuwa, Kandy and the South as much as between the East and the North. Indigenous Culture should be treated as the key to civilization.

 South Indian cultural style to be developed among the estate Indian Tamils, while conscious the Hindu influence made its mark in the North and East and requires a religious touch associated with South India.

 To make each community proud of its cultural traditions so that there is a cultural renaissance as witnessed among the Sinhalese after 1956 in the other communities too. Pride of an ethnic community is embedded in its culture and source of ethnic conflict often arise due to clash of cultures.

 G] Links between Youth

 It was observed when the LTTE was brain washing the Tamils in the North and East against Sinhala hegemony, there were two groups of persons who came out against such false propaganda namely Tamil public servants who had lived amongst Sinhalese and Tamil students that had interaction especially in sports with their peers in Sinhala areas, who disputed these false claims.

 Therefore linkages should be established between the schools in the north and south with regular interaction byway of trips sporting events, debates, and cultural events.  All schools in the north and east to have a sister institution in the South for school development projects and lodging facilities on arrival in the south and north/east for participation at events. There should be sporting and educational encounters between these institutions for developing a linkage. Even school magazine should carry a supplement of the sister institution. This project will develop a brotherhood among the communities though separated by distance at youth level that will develop linkages for the future.

 [H] Child Welfare

 Children have been the most affected in areas under LTTE control and their backwardness compared to their peers in other areas is noticeable.

Even presently the operational schools do not provide facilities and are inadequate. The most convenient avenue to reach them is through the radio.

 The Sirasa beam is the most popular as it has strong reception in the North. SLBC should beam from the North and increase its frequency and should be possessed of a workmanlike staff with the hand on the pulse of the Northern and Eastern audience. An often heard complaint during the LTTE days was the weakness of the SLBC beam or music played was not of popular quality or did not have an appealing schedule or presentation not sufficiently professional It did not have a large audience not because it was a state beam but due to lack of quality. People tuned to SLBC listen to news only.

Immediate steps to improve children’s and educational schedules of the SLBC and open more channels appealing to the Northern and Eastern markets, as well as enhancing the state TV coverage in Tamil, which has a smaller audience but will soon expand with the availability of electricity and TV equipment.

 This will be the swiftest way of reaching the children’s mind at home to expand their knowledge at marginal cost.

 The problems of children should be given priority, as the Tamil parents are most concerned of child welfare due to their immense backwardness acquired under LTTE control. The exercise of improving child welfare can win confidence and goodwill.

 [I] Employment

 There is an imbalance in the state corporation and defense sectors of Tamils that should be gradually rectified. Appointment should be on merit with political considerations eliminated as far as possible except for exigencies of service. Teaching of Tamil will open many windows.

 [J] Development

 This is the key area for success. The spin off benefits such as employment opportunities must be for the locals even where they are deemed not so experienced or skilled.

 Where possible local contractors be engaged. Relief orientated subjects identified in consultation with the locals and be considered for early operations, as they will result in twin benefits.

 [K] Human Rights Commission

 A prime vehicle for satisfying local and international standards of maintaining the human rights of the minorities would be through a properly constituted and an independent Human Rights Commission. If such a body functions properly with competent respectable and efficient persons appointed as Commissioners it would bring credit to the country. Many HRC Commissions in the region are held in esteem abroad but not the body that functions in Sri Lanka. If they act impartially and objectively it can more than the judiciary, win the confidence of the Tamil people. The character of the Commission is dependant on the outlook of the members.

 The appointed persons must be considered fair and reasonable where the Tamils get the impression they have another forum to ventilate their grievances on discrimination and walk away feeling that justice has been done. The powers of the commission should be strengthen by introducing statutory amendments. They should have more powers of investigation inquiry and recommendation. Present holders have discredited the office being submissive ineffective and lethargic and acted like political sycophants.

 If this body is invested with additional quasi- judicial manner powers and act independently and impartially during times of peace it will establish our bona fides among the international community and any past omissions during the war period can be overcome. A study of the provisions of the functioning HRC of India and Pakistan will be useful. Let us establish during times of peace, as respecters of human rights -a doctrine that is now a part of international law and adhered to by the community of nations- an active HRC in Sri Lanka. We must hold a more strategic and a mature approach to human rights. If we do, so many lacunas that exist in our system of governance will be overlooked.

 An example is the performance of the Forces at the inquiries into human rights violations where it was decided to be totally transparent and finally all the allegations on human rights violations were dismissed and Sri Lankan Forces were totally cleared of the many allegations previously leveled against it, and international community respected the findings. Had we shied away from our obligations and tried to cover tracks, the result would be different.

 The advantage of transparency and disclosure is that credibility becomes an asset. This is a lesson to be learnt and we must make HRC a near model institution, so that there is an acceptable internal machinery of checking excesses to counter foreign interferences. We must make out internal organs effective so that there is no scope for outside interventions. We become feeble when our internal controls collapse.

 In that sense we must strengthen institutions like the Ethnic Ombudsman and HRC to overcome local and foreign forces from interfering with our sovereignty.

 [L] Law and Order

 This is a wide subject that requires attention but beyond the scope of our present exercise especially due to political pressures on public servants. But in tackling the issue of Tamil grievances it cannot be ignored especially in the functioning of the officers of state vested with the powers of law and order that affects public life.

  The three prime areas are (a) independence of the judiciary (b) effective police service (c) public service that is efficient and effective. Where there is a breakdown in the law and order situation, amongst other problems there is scope for Tamil grievances to surface. Of the aforesaid three services immediate corrective measures are required in respect of the Police.

 Law and order situation has deteriorated primarily where the police are totally incapable of showing results in cases where complaints have been received from Tamil sources on ethnic related issues. The standard answer is investigations are on going without any finality being reached.  It may have been tolerable in times of war but it is a totally unacceptable answer during times of peace. Tamils have a feeling they are second-class citizens because of the treatment received at the hands of the Police. The police must undergo training in receiving complaints of an ethnic nature and to treat complainants with sympathy. The police unlike the Forces lack courtesies since the higher echelons of the Police Force do not give sufficient attention to public relations.

 Furthermore there must be accountability on investigations with a finality being reached to a level of satisfaction.

 An aggressive complaints authority against the Police to be set up for public benefit under the command of the Ministry of Defense with permanent surveillance by a resident team of retired and functioning public servants monitored by the Ministry of Defense and from the Police Commission which office, sadly, does not possess an impressive record on its past performance. In addition Supreme Court must also deal severely with errant police officers. Public opinion through media should focus on the inadequacies of the Police.

 *** All the above aspects are curable by statutory measures with simple parliamentary majorities, administrative rulings, orders of regulatory authorities and presidential directives.

*** These can be made operational within 6 months at the most.

*** Some of these issues to be comprehensively eradicated require over hauling of the entire fabric of governance, which is not attainable. These suggestions are made on a pragmatic and realistic basis maintaining levels of achievability.

 GOMIN DAYASRI

8 Responses to “Tamil/Muslim Grievances and Remedies”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    Gomin says “Tamil/Muslim grievances should be given priority over the issues of the majority Sinhalese” . It is seen in practice that India, TN Tamils (numbering over 65 million), Overseas Tamils numbering over 100 million, NGOs, USA, Foreign Governments, including UK, Canada, EU, Norway, Japan all support Tamils. The Muslim countries including Libya and Saudi Arabia appear to support Muslims. There appears to be no one to speak for the marginalized, voiceless poor Sinhalese. Some Sinhalese are so poor that one mother had to drown a Child as the parents could not support the child. Any one visiting Colombo can see even old ladies begging and without proper shelter. The Sinhalese have lost a good part of their only homeland and appear to be on the decline. In view of the above, why should the grievances of any one else be given priority over the Sinhalese, when all others are helped by rich overseas friends and relatives ? The whole 30 year war that destroyed the country and the Sinhalese was funded by rich friends of Tamils. This preference to others – Is it for accelerated decline of the Sinhalese ? All should be treated the same way.

  2. Chintha Says:

    All along there were no specific grievences faced by Tamils Only. Tamils as a community was doing much better than any other community at the commence of the problem. Sinhala language was never used in North by Tamils though it was the national language. The problem was Tamils together with Tamil Nadu Tamils wants to extend Tamil Nadu into SL and they use fraudulant bogus history claims to justify it. The rest is BS. Still the problem is there.

  3. Ben_silva Says:

    Chintha hit the nail on the head. We face serious external threats. Threats from TN and also from Tamils with a Chola mindset. A proper investigation, similar to that of Needham need to be carried out as to the reasons of the decline of the Sinhalese so that the decline could be arrested. Sri Lanka is the only homeland for the Sinhalese and we have lost a large part of the coastline, Hill country and the Capital. In such a situation it is the Sinhalese who should be helped to stand on their feet and should not be discriminated. Some Sinhalese appear to be blind to the fact that we have lost a large chunk of our only homeland. What is needed is strengthening ourselves and our defences rather than favouring and strengthening potential threats. Appeasement was done by RW and it did not show results favourable to us.

  4. hela puwath Says:

    “… but to overcome a national crisis Tamil/Muslim grievances should be given priority over the issues of the majority Sinhalese to show that Sri Lanka has a caring majority.”

    As long as we keep repeating that we have a “national ethnic crisis”, we are feeding the conspiracy of Tamils, Muslims and the West, against the Sinhelese to deny us a country to call our own, while the Tamils have Tamil Nadu and the Muslims have over 50 or more countries to call their own.

    As been said, there is a crisis facing the Sinhela people. Just look at who holds economic power in Sri Lanka. While it is the Sinhela poor who gave their lives to take back their “only country” – what have they received in return? We now have a country whose wealth and land is owned by Muslims and Tamils. Look at whose-who in the Colombo Stock Exchange. See who controls the largest companies in the country? Go to: [http://www.cse.lk/welcome.htm]. And look who runs all the shops in the major cities in Sri Lanka – Colombo, Kandy, Galle. For sure the Sinhelelese get the supermarket clerks’ jobs and the government jobs – in contrast see who holds the management jobs? See how the Sinhelese have been driven out from prosperous cities and suburbs out in to the countryside. The sinhela children now have to travel for hours in vans to get to the good schools in the cities, while Muslim and Tamil population have “bought-out” the cities.
    So, who needs help? Should paupers show off as a caring majority?

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    We saw what a Tamil reader had written on the net some time ago, that the N&E are natural geophysical extensions of Tamil Nadu. This statement speaks volumes. But, in truth, in Lanka is a separate island and has its own culture for thousands of years, and is not a part of any other country. The Tamils of Lanka should be Tamils of Lanka, and owe allegiance to Lanka and not to other countries or heads of other countries. We suggest that an Oath of Allegiance to Lanka be taken by one and all without delay.

    Tamil people are Hindu, Muslim & Catholic, and marry Sinhala Buddhists. They are generally doing very well in the academic field & economically.

    All decisions at government level should be made for One Country, One People, under One Law. This country is too small to be divided among various discontented/over ambitious folk.

  6. Ben_silva Says:

    Well said Hela puwath.The Sinhala poor made the biggest sacrifice in liberating the country. Unfortunately the Sinhala poor has no voice. Yet all energy of ‘experts’ is spent on helping the privilaged Tamils and others. The economic power is not with the Sinhalese. A similar situation exists in Bolivia, where the native majority lived as second class citizens.

  7. D Godage Says:

    Ben_Silva, Fran Diaz, Chintha and all other Malinda Seneviratna avatars!

    We know whose barrel you are pushing.

    Mr Dayasiri’s views are intelligent and well considerd for our safe and prosperous future. But half-baked, uneducated journalist, poet, philosphers like Malinda Seneviratne (Channa Peiris) who claim to represent the Sinhala Buddhist nation (even without being pure Sinhala!) are distorting the well thout out Sri Lankan views for money from US interests.

    Editor, Lankaweb, Please eliminate this cancer from our website. This stupid ‘sicko’ Malinda Seneviratne is a real threat to this website and the future of Sri Lanka.

    To hell with him.

    Daya Godage, Toronto

  8. Ben_silva Says:

    Nalanda Buddhists and also the native Indians were caring majority. Unfortunately, they got wiped out. So was RW, caring for the Tamils.
    Some thing to think about

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