Falling into the Homeland Trap
Posted on November 10th, 2010

By Garvin Karunaratne,

I refer to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s statement to the LLRC that the Wanni areas- the Northern and Eastern Provinces were the homelands of the Tamils  and that peasant settlement done by the Government was the cause of ethnic strife. It follows that these two provinces are not a part of a united Sri Lanka.

 My colleague Tissa Devendra has ably contested the homeland theory- that the Northern and Eastern Provinces are exclusively Tamil homelands.

 As a member of the Administrative Service for around five years I had to inspect cooperatives and paddy collection island-wide and have had to travel in the Northern and Eastern Provinces very often. All over the coastal areas there were small Sinhala fishermen villages. They were not mere fishing settlements but had the infrastructure of small Sinhala traders and bakeries. I used to have a bun, a banana and a cup of freshly brewed tea at many of these kiosks.

 These provinces were  sparsely populated and the entire land in the Wanni areas were full of tanks built by the Sinhala kings of ancient times that had fallen into disrepair.  When I was in charge of minor irrigation work in the Anuradhapura District in 1963 and 1964, I had the occasion to rebuild many of the tanks that had fallen into disrepair. On my visits very often I came across Brahmi inscriptions. Then, in nostalgia, I  crept back a decade to my studies in paleography and made copies of the inscriptions. I could identify the script to relate to the few centuries before Christ, which meant that all these areas were then populated by Sinhala Buddhists- people who practiced agriculture for their livelihood.

 It is of interest to note that Norway made a sinister move to settle Tamil youths from the hill country into the Wanni under the RedBaana Programme without the knowledge of the Government during the reign of President Jayawardena. This was stopped when it was brought to the notice of the Government but the fact remains that it was Norway, a country that had the nerve to do this clandestine “development”, without the knowledge of the host sovereign country, under the pretext of “development”. Norway did pave the path for ethnic strife in order to destabilize Sri Lanka and help the insurgent Prabhakaran.  It was found at the last stages of the War, in May 2009, that some of the RedBana settlers were found among the Tamils taken by the LTTE as its human shield. It needs to be stated that Norway is now making a march back to our shores to investigate-to facilitate peace!  They will bring a Trojan horse to the Wanni  without the knowledge of anyone. Like in the case of the RedBaana Project, by the time the Government wakes up,  the Trojan horse will succeed in enabling the diaspora to resettle and make a case for a separate state. 

 In my opinion the exodus of Tamils into the Wanni commenced with the foray of Anuruddha Ratwatta to Jaffna in the times of President Kumaranatunge. The conquest of Jaffna was so important that forces were withdrawn  from the main land and the defeated Prabhakaran stole into the mainland taking with him a Tamil populace from the Jaffna peninsula.

 The cause for the ethnic problem was not the peasant settlements. The peasant settlements began in the Twenties and Thirties  and there was no ethnic problem whatsoever. As an administrator I have traveled all alone on desolate mud tracks in the Wanni for inspections and have visited many a settlement all alone. I have worked in Trincomalee, and for a short spell in Jaffna and Batticaloa.  The Tamil people faced no language problem because in every Department there were officers who knew Tamil and English and letters that came in Tamil were answered in Tamil. The Sinhala Act was not the cause of any discrimination because provision was made to have Tamil speaking officers in all departments.

 In the Marketing Department my office for the Southern Province was at Ambalantota and my Chief Clerk was A.C.Rajasingham, a Tamil, one of the best chief clerks I ever had. The entire population was Sinhala and Rajasingham was a lone Tamil, highly respected for his integrity. It was for his ill-luck that I left that Department, because later on a number of my Chief Clerks ended working as Staff Officers.

 The 1983 riots where many Tamils were killed in Colombo is quoted as an instance of ethnic strife. This was entirely a creation of President Jayawardena.  There was an intial incident which could have been nipped in the bud by the Police, but I have been told by a number of high ranking police officers that the Police were instructed by President Jayawardena not to stop the mayhem. In fact many Tamils were saved by Sinhala families.  This was not ethnic strife, but a situation that was allowed to get out of hand, entirely due to the machinations of the President. In fact the opposite also happened in 1958, when Derryk Aluvihare, the Government Agent at Anuradhapura  is said to have  ordered the Police to shoot some workers from Padaviya who had gone to Medawachchiya  to help the Sinhala traders that had faced problems from Tamil traders.  In this incident some seventeen unarmed Sinhala people were shot dead and the mayhem did not stop there because the Government Agent had ordered the bodies to be paraded in Anuradhapura. The people in Anuradhapura were about to revolt and kill the Government Agent and every Tamil they could find, but the other staff officers and the Police took control, dispatched the Government Agent in mufti in a van out of the District and restored order. This was a situation  which would have had serious consequences if not nipped in the bud. Under the Emergency Regulations the Government Agents held wide powers and no inquiry could be held.  Among many communities there are minor differences like the caste differences in Jaffna and some other areas. These differences when they erupt have  to be handled and settled with patience and care, like the incident at Anuradhapura.

 Many are the excesses that happen when persons in power act in an irresponsible manner. This does happen in every country- in the USA, a noted instance is the assault on Rodney King by members of the US Police, which did end in riots leaving many dead. In Sri Lanka in 1971 the innocent Manamperi girl, suspected of being a JVP activist  was, unduly manhandled and finally  shot dead by the commandant of the Army at Kataragama. Though coming under Emergency Regulations the Hambantota Government Agent the late Sonny Gunawardena  held an inquiry. The Army found two officers responsible and they were severely dealt with.  What has happened in Sri Lanka is that when such an excess happens if it happens between the Sinhala and the Tamils it is dubbed as ethnic strife- an ethnic problem.

 The ethnic problem as such, was created by Prabakaran and his  militants who wanted to wrest a portion of Sri Lanka as their Tamil State.  Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India  invited Prabakran to India, trained them, provided them with sophisticated weaponry and sent them back to destabilize Sri Lanka, because President Jayawardena  became a stooge of the Western forces and at that time the West was anti-India politically. This  was India’s method of controlling Sri Lanka through Prabhakaran!  The Indian Peace Keeping Force was sent to Sri Lanka  when Prabhakaran reneged and had to be brought under control. Many think that the IPKF was defeated. Instead the IPKF played a dual role. Their task was to keep the LTTE at bay and in the meantime establish  a pro Indian Tamil Force, which made President Premadasa  decide that the IPKF should leave Sri Lanka.

 Thus the Northern and Eastern Provinces  are not the homelands of any group of people. There is no ethnic problem. As Minister Rambukwella states  it is the land of all Sri Lankans.

 May I close with the warning that the Price of Peace lies in Eternal Vigilance.

 Garvin Karunaratne
November 8, 2010

13 Responses to “Falling into the Homeland Trap”

  1. M.S.MUdali Says:

    How many hooligans were arrested after the 1983 or 1958 riots? None.

    That means government backed the criminal elements among Sinhalese for rioting, murdering, robbing and killings.

    Tamil racists, and even foreign countries have more reasons against the Sinhalese dominated governments. I am not for a Home-Land theory but Sinhala racism paves the way for separatist ideals!

    Catholic Church has different ideas of conversions or finding an East Timor in Sri lanka. Sinhalese never..never condemn the Catholic Church in the past when it was publicly allied with the LTTE. UNP-Catholic/Christian combine always supported LTTE and the FOREIGN elements who are interested to help the LTTE.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Some notes here:

    (1) Can a people of a country ‘colonize’ their own country ? ‘Colonization’ is defined as ‘a body of people who settle in a new country but remain subject to parent state’. By this definition, therefore, there cannot be ‘colonization’ in Sri Lanka by Sinhala people. Anyone can move to any part of this island homeland.

    (2) There was no perception of Sinhala ‘racism’ before the advent of the true Colonists who dominated Lanka for some 500 yrs. These Colonists divided & ruled, favoring the Tamil population (in reality for purposes of labor & conversions to Christianity), and thus the Sinhala population feels an enormous sense of being treated unfairly over a long period of time, in their own motherland. This feeling of being unfairly treated must be corrected if we are to move forward as a Nation. Tamil people must stop asking for special favors through various sources, lately through the Rev. Malcolm Ranjit. Everyone must be treated on an equal basis, under one Law.

  3. Chintha Says:

    The problem with Sinhalese is not thier racism. But thier idiotism, tolerance , good nature and stupid divisions (green, blue, cast etc etc) manipulated by the TAmil racist. What ever problem they point fingers at each other. They are so stupid to think the so called “Sinhal Act” created the problem. When this act was brought to effect, only 8% of population was educated in English. When about 90% of population knew Sinhalese, what better language you think is to make the official language. If you look deeply into the actual Tamils who suffered from this , ie the Tamils who knew English but did not know Sinhalese, the actual figure could be less than 2% of total population. The Tamils who knew Tamil only was not effected by changing official language to Sinhales. There is no logic what soever to point fingers at Bandaranaike than stupidity.

  4. Chintha Says:

    1983 riots is also an incident where stupid Sinhalese point fingers to each other and the racist seperarist take full advantage calling it orchestered by the govt. I remember JR blaming it all on the oppesition. There was an involve ment of an oppesition politician , most probably due personal reasons. Well it was clearly not planned and orchestered by govt. If it was, then the govt would have got the Tamil racist seperatist to kill army personel and starteds it. They woul have got Tamil seperatist racist to chase all the Sinhalese students out of the Jafna university. They would have got the racist Tamil seperatist to chase all the Sinhalese from the North. Decades of harassment to Sinhalese in the North and the racist seperasist movement is the cause of it. Well one fact is that the govt did look after displaced by the riots and it was a goldmine for Tamils. If JR gave ordered not to stop it, it represent his personel view. Govts are not Sinhalese only. They comprise of all ethnisities. Calling it govt back is misinformation running riots(The Tamilnut type) Mudali, you seems to be reading lot of Tamil nut garbage lately.

  5. Chintha Says:

    And now to the stupid Sinhalese who are day dreaming learning Tamil, being nice to Tamils will solve the so called “Tamil problem”. Yes it is good to learn another language , it is good to be nice to anyone. But it WILL NOT solve this Tamil racist empire building problem. According to the Tamil racist Seperasist fradulant made up history, SL belonged to Tamils and it is thier homeland . The Sinhalese chased them to Tamil Nadu. Now they have the right to chase Sinhalese and claim thier lost homeland. This is the bogus history they teach thier kids in Europe , Canada and America. They want build thier Tamil only kindom in SL. They can’t have it in India. What a better place to build it than in SL ,where there are these Sinhalese ,week and fighting with each other ,and not knowing what is happenning behind them and trying to be too nice. Remeber Ealam is whole SL not part of it.

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Mudali,

    You are once again showing how unintelligent you are.

    How many people died in 1958 and 1983 riots?

    Less than 3,000.

    How many died in war?

    More than 120,000.

    How can you justify the killing of 120,000 in response to the deaths of 3,000?

    For your understanding 120,000 is larger than 3,000 by 40 times! Tamil racist politics started much earlier than 1958. So it was Tamil racist politics that paved the way to all the troubles in Sri Lanka.

  7. Nanda Says:

    Mudali is saying 3000 Tamils = 120000 Sinhalese + Tamils + Others ?

    To Mudali, every other race except Tamil is racist and Hindus are the most peaceful.
    Root of the problem was Tamil racism. Tamils cheated all the exams, put their own wherever they could. This was the root of the problem.

  8. M.S.MUdali Says:

    But those who bark at me agree that Government did not arrest anyone for the crimes committed against the Tamils.

    In a civilized world, how are you guys going to justify the racist riots and not pubish the criminals?

    Buddhism or Hinduism dont support your arguements! Better try to listen to great Buddha instead of gun runners from Vatican or their agents in Sri Lanka!

    Lorenzo must tell why Catholic Church joined hands with Tamil terrorists! Killing and scoring is not like a cricket match!

  9. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    I dont think the yardstick to measure Govt neutrality is to count the number of arrests of those that committed racial violence, as I dont believe any Govt is equipped to identify them, whether in SriLanka or in any other country. In fact in the East and North many sinhalese were massacred by Tamil racist gangs, during every single racial riot from the 1950’s onward, but I’m not aware of any arrest of a Tamil guilty of such killings. I’ve personally wiorked with Jaffna Tamil executives in the East who the people of the area had told me have committed gruesome murders killing sinhalese during these riots, but they remained free. Also during each JVP riot, many sinhalese were targeted and killed by the JVP gangs and the armed forces retaliated by massacring truckloads – repeat truckloads – of innocent sinhala youth but no one had been arrested. At the time the armed forces and police had large numbers of Tamil, Burger and Muslim personnel too. So my friends, we cannot accuse any Govt of being racist in their conduct by asking the question, as to how many were arrested for these crimes against humanity. I still believe no group had sufferred more than the sinhala youth because of mad JVP uprisings and the brutal retaliation of the armed forces. Neither the Christian Church, AI, HRW, UN Agencies or NGO’s shed a tear for those sinhala youth, not then not today.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree with Mr Sooriarachi that it is mostly the Sinhala Youth that has suffered over long periods of time. Some 500 yrs of foreign rule thrust the Sinhala people into the background in their own motherland. When the Sinhala Youth rose up in insurrection in protest, as was the style of that time, copying from Russia & China, these insurrections were brutally thwarted by what is popularly seen as the Sinhala goverments of those times – we do not recall any TALKS being held with the JVP, as that was not the political style in the region at that time. Question: who gained from the 1983 Riots ?

    The demonisation of the Sinhala people in general abroad began after the 1983 Riots which was, as far as we can see from the observations of nearly 30 yrs, a pre-planned act with many Players involved, both local & abroad (e.g. J.N. Dixit, the then Indian foreign envoy). Question : who were the people advising JRJ at that time, and you will find many answers to the 1983 Riots.
    Suffice to say, that the Sinhala people became a divided group, mostly based on politics & class, thankfully mitigated by the teachings of the Buddha. Even today there are vested interests bent on maintaining this disharmony. So, let’s learn from our history.

    Unfortunately, we can’t reverse history. The world situation has changed a great deal with the end of the Cold War. Let’s move forward now.

    General confusion & disharmony are the biggest problems the Sinhale in general face today. Stop infighting. Look for solutions logically, (less emotionally), with well informed intelligence. See what is happening in other parts of the world and how they solve their problems, but do not copy in a blind fashion. For example, South Korea which turned to Catholicism, has good GDP, but a very high suicide rate, the second highest in the G-40. Create solutions that suit our culture. Use Democracy as a TOOL for advancement. You, as the Voter chose your representatives to Parliament wisely, choosing savvy people with a proven record of serving the public with good and honest intent.

    Use Meditation as a TOOL to calm the mind, see the people & problems clearly without laying blame on others, & look for life supportive solutions that can be achieved with the least of amount of outside (foreign) help. Guard the coast line of Lanka to stop illegal migrants, and be watchful of those who enter the country. Guard the Democratic institutions, for then you guard yourself and your family.

    In short, let’s take responsibility for ourselves, our own actions & our Nation.

    Written with good intent, and not wishing to ‘preach’ – just longing for a lasting peace for the people of Lanka.

  11. Chintha Says:

    Mudali,

    Did the govt punish Tamil extremist who killed and harassed Sinhalese in the NOrth during the 70s??

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    Mudali,

    All wrongdoers in 1958, 1976 (Vadukodai nonsense), 1977, 1983 and 1990 should be punished.

    The 1958 riot was instigated by Chelvanayagam. He should have been punished first. Had they punished him in 1958, a lot of trouble could have been avoided.

    1976 and 1983 Sinhala wipe out in Jaffna is something racist Mudali avoids. Thewse wrongdoers should also be punished. Same goes for the 1990 Muslim wipe out in Jaffna (curse the Tamil only racists who did these).

  13. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Tamil extremism is a by product of Sinhala extremism. Chelvanayakam never went and killed any one!

    The justifying crime is a Sri Lankan habbit. Since the arrival of Portugeuse, criminals become partners in politics. Followers of Jesus Crist never stop crimes under various masks!

    Now Catholic Criminals hide themselves and justify their LOVE affair with LTTE terrorists!

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