The mythical ethnic problem – I
Posted on April 11th, 2012

By Nalin de Silva Courtesy The Island

According to the “accepted” version of the ethnic problem the Tamils are being discriminated against by the Sinhalas or the Sinhala extremists, and injustices have been caused to the Tamils after the independence was declared in 1948. This version states the following among others. The Tamil leaders had been very patient with the Sinhala governments and after discussions had failed, as a last resort had wanted in the seventies to establish an Eelam in the Northern and the Eastern provinces, which are the homeland of the Tamils who constitute a separate nation. (This homeland is referred to as the traditional habitats in the infamous J. R. Jayewardene “”…” Rajiv Gandhi Pact signed in 1987).

The Tamils had lived in this country as permanent settlers from a very distant past going back to the time Vijaya is supposed to have come to this country. Mahavamsa is a myth that has gone to establish the Sinhala Buddhist supremacy in the country. It is considered on the same level as the Thripitaka (the three baskets of Dhamma) by the Sinhala Buddhists. The Official Language Act marked the beginning of the problem while standardization scheme adopted at the admission to the Universities worsened it, after the 1972 Constitution justified the discrimination of the Tamils. Prabhakaran had no option but to engage in an armed struggle and the Tamils have been able to convince the western countries that there Sinhala Buddhist supremacists are discriminating against the Tamils.

The human rights of the Tamils have been violated over the years culminating with the military operations that saw the defeat of the LTTE, which was a national liberation movement. The diaspora living in the western countries have been successful in convincing those countries of discrimination against the Tamils and violation of human rights and the west has taken the issue at international fora due to humanitarian considerations. In order to solve the ethnic problem power has to be devolved to the Northern and Eastern provinces so that the Tamils could “govern” those areas looking after themselves.

What many people forget is that S J V Chelvanayakam established the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi in 1949 long before the Official Language Act and that there has been communal politics before 1948 as has been described by Jane Russell and many other authours. Even these authors only describe and do not analyse the problem and tend to forget that as far as English colonialists were concerned it all began with the appointment of one Sinhala and one Tamil to represent the two communities Sinhalas and Tamil speaking people that included the Muslims in the Legislative Assembly ignoring the percentages of Sinhalas and Tamils of the population, history and culture of the country.

At the beginning there was no Muslim representation and when the Muslim leaders raised this matter Ponnambalam Ramanathan said he represented the Muslims as well, as they were Tamil speaking. Later the English appointed a Muslim member to represent the Muslim community. The Tamil politicians and their theorists also forget that had the Dutch not imported labour for their tobacco cultivation there would not have been a so called ethnic problem. Various people claim that the problem has been internationalized recently but the problem had been internationalized from the very beginning. In fact, the problem is not an internal problem as such but a problem created by the western colonialists, especially the English.

How much the west is interfering with Sri Lanka is illustrated by the report of the missing of Premkumar Gunaratnam alias Kumar Mahaththaya alias Mudalige Noel before the official inauguration of the Peratugamee Samajavadee Pakshaya formed by Janarala, a dissident group of the JVP with support from some ex members of the Trotskyite X group. The X group itself was split sometime ago, a section of members calling themselves belonging to an organisation called Eksath Peratugamee Pakshaya. It is the other section of the X group which has now decided to work with the Janarala or the dissident group of the JVP either as members or advisors and it is clear that at least the Peratugamee part of the name Peratugamee Samajavadee Pakshaya (PSP) has been given by this section of the X group.

The PSP talks of Sinhala Buddhist supremacy, injustices to the Tamils caused by the Sinhala governments, advocates maximum devolution to the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, with a leading official of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) being one of the ex X group members working with the PSP. It is the PSP that the west plans to use to create unrest, to say the least, among University Students and other youth, and with a leading official of FUTA agitating for increase of salaries of university teachers and for so-called democratic rights, supported by UNP and JVP, it is not difficult to predict what these anti-Sinhala organisations and individuals are up to. The PSP is doomed to oblivion in time to come the way the other Marxist Parties have gone in Sri Lanka but in the short term they would be able to create havoc in the country.

Whether Kumar Mahaththaya was abducted by the government or not what is interesting is that he has come to Sri Lanka with the “blessings” of the Australian government under the pseudonym Mudalige Noel. It is clear that the Australian government has issued the passport number N 1016123 to this Mudalige Noel knowing very well that he is Premkumar Gunaratnam. It is none other than the Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka who has given the details of the passport of Mudalige Noel, who is supposed to be an Australian citizen. Apparently the High Commissioner has been there at the airport when Kumar Mahaththaya left for Australia in the wee hours of Tuesday.

Mudalige Noel has overstayed his visa and Sri Lanka has the right to send him off without even informing the Australian High Commission in Colombo. However the million (Australian) Dollar question is what made the Australian government to issue an official passport to Kumar Mahaththaya under the name Mudalige Noel. Has he changed his name officially in Australia and if so when did the change take place? In any event Australian Federal government would have known that Kumar Mahaththaya and Mudalige Noel are the same person and what were the reasons for the Australian High Commission not to divulge these facts to the Sri Lankan government when the latter was searching for Kumar Mahaththaya. This is only one incident regarding the behaviour of the west that has come to light in the recent past but the involvement of the west against the Sinhalas is clear from the very beginning of the colonial rule in this country.

Going back to the mythical ethnic problem what would have happened if the English governor had appointed say five Sinhala members, one Tamil member and one Muslim member as unofficial members to the Legislative Assembly in the first half of the nineteenth century. There would not have been a so called ethnic problem as the Tamil leaders would have known their position and the strength in the country. Instead what happened was that they were accustomed to the idea that the Tamils were equal in strength to the Sinhalas, if not more, and that the Muslims did not have a separate identity but were Tamil speaking people who could be represented by the Tamil leaders.

From the time of the Dutch it is clear that the westerners have used the Tamil leaders against the Sinhala people, commissioning a Tamil Vellala Mudaliyar to write a so-called history book by the name Yalpanam Vaipava Malai denying the Sinhala kings the right of the Eastern coast of the country, which the Dutch wanted to control. The process still continues and in between we know that the English transplanted Tamil labourers in the plantations as a buffer against any possible uprising by the Sinhala upcountry people whom they were scared of even after massacring the Sinhala leaders in the 1817 “”…” 18 independence struggle by the Sinhalas against the English colonialists.

(To be continued)

One Response to “The mythical ethnic problem – I”

  1. AnuD Says:

    All the Lay people in Sri Lanka understands the reality and talk about that.

    But, the problemis with the politicians both governing party, oppositionand the retired. They use that terminology, political solution, national question and so many other terms.

    Most recently, RanilW and CBK had used those terms and CBK in India had talked about giving political solutions to Tamils.

    Is it possible Academics and Scholars in Sri Lanka ask these people to have some consensus at least in the issues that affect the whole sri Lanka.

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