The Illusory Ethnic Question
Posted on February 3rd, 2016

By A.A.M.Nizam – MATARA.

Is there a question called the Ethnic Question” in Sri Lanka? What is the difference between the people living in Sri Lanka other than people belonging to various religions, speaking different languages and belonging to different communities?

The Tamil community in Sri Lanka was a community very much complacent with their status, privileges and wealth during the time of British Imperialist rule due to the patronage provided by the British Imperialist rulers over the majority Sinhalese community despite they being little over 12 percent (including the Indian Origin Tamils in the Hill Country and the Western Province) against the 76 percent of the Sinhalese community.

During the pre-independence period under the British Imperialist rule the Tamil community was the de facto rulers of this country and they occupied almost all the sectors of public life in Sri Lanka and were majority in certain sectors. There were even Inspectors General of Police and commanders of armed forces.  They were majority employees in many public Departments such as Railways, Ports, PWD, Health, Postal, Communication, to name a few.  They were also a majority of lecturers in the Peradeniya University (the only University existed at that time) and majority of teachers in Government schools teaching almost all the subjects except Sinhala Language, Sinhala Literature and Buddhism.  They were able to achieve all these privileges because the British Imperialist rulers desisted other communities having any form of participation in their administrative activities and denied as much as possible opportunities to other communities, especially for the majority Sinhalese community.

In addition to this, they also owned various boutiques such as grocery stores, cigar stores, hotels and restaurants in almost all parts of Southern areas including the remote villages such as Embilipitiya, Tissamaharama and Moneragala. The main economy of the Tamil population in the Northern and Eastern provinces at that time was depending on the money orders being sent monthly by the public servants and the shop owners.  The import export trade was also a monopoly of the Tamil community at that time.

However, with British Imperialist rulers ceasing their hold on colonies in the African and Asian continents, the leading and erudite members of the Tamil community who were resident in Colombo at that time rightly realized that their people will not be able to enjoy this special status forever and when the subject of granting independence to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) was taken up for discussion at the Legislative Council the father of separatism the late S.J.V.Chelvanayagam emphasized that if independence is to be granted to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Tamils living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces should be granted self rule with autonomous status to the Northern and Eastern Provinces since what he called the uneducated Sinhala people are unfit to rule the superior Tamil community.  This view was endorsed and upheld by the cousins and brothers of separatists such as Arunachalasms, Ramanathans, Naganathans, Thiruchelvams and Amirthalingams.

When the people’s government came into power in 1956 under the late Prime Minister Mr. S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike the separatist clan headed by the father of separatism Chelvanayagam started various forms of agitations demanding for autonomous status and self rule for them and they were totally aloof about development of Sri Lanka and helping in building the country.  These agitations gradually aggravated despite attempts to pacify them and get them inducted to nation building efforts made by the late Mr. Bandaranaike and all other leaders of government after him by offering decentralization and devolution models in the form of regional councils, development councils, district development councils etc.  Despite these genuine efforts the arrogant separatist clan aggravated their agitations which culminated in the despicable 1976 Vaddukkodai Resolutiom which paved the way for the ruthless tiger terrorism and destruction of this country for over three decades.

It can be said that the only mistake done by the post independence governments in Sri Lanka is encouragement given to the 1983 progrom which enabled a large number of Tamil community members to flee this country and settle down in western nations as members of the Tamil diaspora.  It is these people who are economic refugees in the western nations and who have no intention of ever returning to this country are now making every effort to destroy this country.

With the vanquishing of terrorism from the soil of this country on 18th May, 2009 under the gallant commandership of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa this country became a free sovereign nation and as it was declared then by Mr. Rajapaksa from that day onward there is no majority/minority communities in Sri Lanka and all Sri Lankans are equal in status and there is no restriction for anyone to reside or travel to any parts of this country and there is no area called homelands” or original habitats” in Sri Lanka.

In this context it is pertinent to ask what it is being meant by the ethnic question”.  Certain politicians including the President and the Prime Minister state at various occasions that a permanent solution will be provided to the ethnic question” being faced by the Tamil community or the people of the Northern and Eastern provinces, and it is amazing to find what this illusory ethnic question” is.  What is that a Sinhala person in the South is getting additionally than a Tamil person in the North or East or anywhere else on an ethnic basis? What right has been denied to a Tamil person since because he was born a Tamil?  It is better the people who talk about a non-existing illusory ethnic question” focus their attention to something else that could benefit the country and the people.

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