Whither the Sri Lanka Tamils? By E.A.V.Naganathan in Ground Views of 4th July
Posted on July 5th, 2013
Mario Perera, Kadawata
ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The objective of NaganathanÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s article is put in focus in his second paragraph. ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“If we claim to be a nation-in-waiting we must think in territorial and historical terms. The Ilankai Tamil claim to statehood is sui generis. For those interested in learning about the founding of the Tamil state in 1215 AD, I would recommend reading webpage ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Kingdom of JaffnaÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â on www.google.com which is accompanied by a formidable bibliography plus maps, illustrations of historical monuments, genealogies etc.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The gist of his contention can be presented as follows: We once had a kingdom. It was a solid historical entity consolidated by links with the former colonial powers. We now have every right to reclaim that heritage. To do so we need external help, of powerful foreign nations. The onus of seeing this Tamil dream realized rests on the United States.
Commentator ‘yarlpadi’ gives a cogent reply:ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“He should get his co-thinkers in this move to advice many others in the world in this revanchist enterprise. For example he and the high-powered lawyers in his cohort should advice the Iroquois Confederacy to re-establish their sovereignty in New York .They could follow it with persuading the original inhabitants of Australia to reclaim their land too. Then they can agitate for the restoration of the Mayan empire in South America. Why stop there? He could persuade the Saxons to restore their ancient kingdom and expel the Normans. They ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ and the Tamils of Ceylon should disregard all the historical developments of last several hundred years, pretend that time has stood still, and go back to the pristine times of old.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
These reflections also apply much nearer home, to India which was nothing more than an amalgam of kingdoms and principalities before being brought under one rule by the British. What if they all claim a return to their pristine status? They certainly had a much longer duration and were much more stable duration than the so-called ephemeral Kingdom of Jaffna!
Indeed the attempt to make a river flow backwards leads to utter even inconceivable absurdities. Such an endeavour can only be termed apocalyptic and should be limited to visionaries with heads up in the sky, their brains swathed with clouds, their feet nowhere near the ground, and their hands frenetically trying to keep their pants in place.
What is astonishing is that the writer calls himself a ‘historian’ while taking a Nelsonian look at the past. When such writers get lost in the clouds they lose sight of ground realities. The history of a country first and foremost deals with ‘home’ truths. Authors who like drowning men have no straw to cling on resort to the strategy of dwelling interminably on things conceived as occurring in other times in other climes while being blind to what transpired at home. So does the author do a mental trip through 18th century Europe trying to bolster his claim. What he forgets is that the process of nation formation in Europe is a very recent process, that occurred a few centuries ago, and not in the least applicable to an age old civilization and country such as Sri Lanka, a country with one of the most ancient written recorded histories.
Suffice it to say that this much vaunted Kingdom of Jaffna was a fiefdom of the sovereign who ruled in the South. As late as the 15th century a prince (Sapumal) son of the overlord reigning in Kotte fought the king of Jaffna, conquered him and in a scene reminiscent of the Iliad, bound to him his chariot and dragged him across the city in a display of utter contempt. Such was the esteem the subjects of the conquered kingdom had for Sapumal, they even divinized him as ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œSapumal PerumalÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢.
The author requests that foreign archives be scrutinized to dig out proof of links that existed between the kingdom of Jaffna and former colonial powers. When the Portuguese arrived in Lanka, the country was divided into several kingdom. Each kingdom entertained relations with foreign countries, as the puppet king of Kotte did with Portugal. Sitawaka also maintained foreign relations. Kandy too did so, much more than the others. Just think of the absurd idea of each of these kingdoms claiming independence based on such relationships.
The kingdom of Jaffna was never a stable one. Its only claim to stability was based on the infighting going on between the kingdoms of the South, in short on the vagaries of history. Such were those times. The vassal nature of the ‘Kingdom of Jaffna’ is all the more brought into evidence considering that the elite Tamils of the pre and post Independence era never even gave an iota of consideration to it. The author rues that fact calling it an oversight! Let him however be mindful that they were men of greater stature than what he could ever imagine himself to be.
Recreating this nebulous past is an imaginative exercise and would confirm the Latin adage: quot capita tot sententiae (as many opinions as there are heads). The author would do his kinsmen a great favour by focusing his mind on the PRESENT. As with the case of Humpty-Dumpty, all the kings horses and all the kings men cannot resurrect the past he so fondly evokes.
There is however one aspect of this trend, as represented in this article, that should catch our attention. The fight for Ealam has gone beyond our shores and is being fought in foreign arenas. The clamouring, the shouting, the saber rattling is now occurring abroad. The endeavour is the search for foreign ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œmercenary governmentsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ to take over from where the LTTE left, and indeed the seekers of easy booty are many. He foresees the USA as the eventual champion of the Ealam cause now clothed as the lost heritage called the Kingdom of Jaffna.
In his own words: ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“But why seek an alliance with another strong state?ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦. Our sole purpose would be simply for enlisting our allyÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s sponsorship and active support for causing a UN administered plebiscite to be held in the Tamil areas to ascertain the free and democratic wishes of the Tamil peoples regarding their future political status, thereby facilitating their historical claim to recovery of the sovereignty lost in 1619.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Coming to think of it the LTTE too resurrected that ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œkingdomÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ for a while with many white nations fighting their cause in international forums. No need to probe into archives for all that happened under the midday sun.
In an often quoted line Marx remarked, ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“history repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farceÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â. History did repeat itself as a tragedy, which as Naganathan knows, took hundreds of thousands of human lives. So when he talks about ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œTamil nationhoodÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ he is re-enacting the same drama, and re-igniting the same fire, in ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œits phase of a farceÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢. Henry Ford, said wisely ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã¢â‚¬Å“we want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinkerÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s damn is the history that we make to-day.ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â That history, which was made today was enacted before the eyes of the whole world on the banks of the Nandikadal lagoon.
Like ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œJohn BrownÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ the kingdom of Jaffna long lies molding in the grave. Yet ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œhistoriansÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ like Naganathan and others are ensuring that its soul goes marching on strengthened by the Christian words of comfort: fear not those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul! The stance of the author therefore should not be taken lightly and should open our eyes to the content and impact of words such as ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œReconciliationÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢ which are sugar coated poison thrown as food for the gullible. As long as the soul marches on it will seek what it considers to be its corresponding body to resurrect.