Distorting history to promote Tamil politics
Posted on June 14th, 2016
H. L. D. Mahindapala
One of the main obstacles standing in the way reconciliation, based on a reasonable and lasting solution, is the refusal of the Jaffna Tamils to face the realities of their history. By and large, the average Tamil knows only two kinds of history : 1. a distorted view of the Mahavamsa – the main target of the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist propaganda campaign launched by G. G. Ponnambalam in the thirties and 2. glorified tales of a Tamil kingdom and Tamil culture, which they claim preceded that of the Sinhala-Buddhists, and, therefore, entitled to a homeland consisting of the north and the east. Tamils know more about the demonised Mahavamsa than their own history. Hardly any of them had even heard of Yalapana Vaipava Malai, written by poet Mylvaganam. They are also surprised that there was a Vellahla betel seller called Moddeley Tambi, the Father of Vellahlas, who led a revolt against the Dutch. They believe in the Tesawalamai only because it is the Jaffna-centric Bible that protects the casteist rights of the Vellahlas.
They are also very sensitive about their history. It is partly because they don’t have a respectable history which can bring glory to them, despite their claim to antiquity. When the Jaffna Tamils boast of the Tamil culture they don’t mean a home-grown culture produced creatively by the migrant settlers who came from S. India in and around the 13th century. No. They mean the rich culture of S. India – the only historical homeland of the Tamils. Culturally, Jaffna is as dry as its land. Nor did they create a humane political culture. From Sankilli who killed 600 innocent Catholics in 1544 to Velupillai Prabhakaran their historical icons have been the worst killers and oppressors of Tamils. They hate to be reminded of their history that denied the basic human rights to their fellow-Tamils. After all, at the end of their so-called great Tamil history they are left with only one great hero : Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tamil Pol Pot who killed more Tamils than all the others put together. He inherited and executed with ruthless commitment the fascist culture of Vellahlas, his political fathers, who never hesitated to kill their disobedient slaves. His DNA runs way back into the blood stream of Sankilli, the first mass killer of dissident Tamils. Hopefully, he will be the last Tamil to kill Tamils on a mass scale.
They are also sensitive about their history because they have mounted their claim for a separate state based on a fictitious geography and concocted history. They detest any counter-narratives as they tend to tear apart their political claims for a separate state. For instance, during the 33 years of the Vadukoddai War they put the lid on the war crimes and crimes against the Tamils by the Tamils claiming that it would undermine the war effort. They would kill (Mrs. Ragini Thiranagama) or beat within an inch of the last breath (D.B.S. Jeyaraj) anyone who dared to challenge their version of events. Now they rush to censor counter-narratives saying that it would hinder the current political process in which they are hoping to go beyond of 13A to a federal state, or to the nearest point of a separate state. However, in the post-Prabhakaran period new winds are blowing, opening up vistas for counter-narratives challenging the conventional and populist version of blaming the Sinhala-Buddhists.
If the current political process of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is to go anywhere near peace then it has to go beyond the history manufactured by G. G. Ponnambalam and S. J. V. Chelvanayakam in the latter’s Vadukoddai Resolution. The hidden history of Jaffna must be revealed to the Tamils, warts and all. So far the Tamils have been taught a Talibanised history, sanitised to glorify its fascist past and demonise the Sinhala-Buddhists. That is a recipe for hate, not reconciliation. The latest chapter was written by Chief Minister, C. V. Wigneswaran who condemned all the Sinhala leaders, from the day of Independence, as genocidal killers of Tamils. When such hysteria is spewed out by a former Supreme Court judge it is difficult to understand how he managed to the balance the evidence before him and delivered an objective judgement. This is hate politics designed to take the Tamils down the road to Nandikadal.
This reflects the thinking of the Tamils at the apex. It is also aimed at bringing out of the poisonous venom that warps the narrow minds of bigoted Tamils. How has Wigneswaran’s distortion helped the understanding history? How has it helped reconciliation and peace? Wigneswaran is carrying on the hate politics promoted by Ponnambalams and Chelvanayakams.It is this pattern of distorting history for immediate political gain that contributed significantly to exacerbate the North – of South relations. Future reconciliation depends on revisiting the Tamil past and evaluating the pros and cons more rationally, objectively, based on historical evidence rather than mono-ethnic extremism that can lead to another bloody crawl to Nandikadal. .
They live in perpetual fear of their known/mythical universe crumbling under the scrutiny of testable evidence. Knowing the fallacies on which their politics is based, they give as much gas as they could to convince the world that they have been the victims of Sinhala-Buddhist majority. Simultaneously, they use every far-fetched strand of history to push their mono-ethnic political agenda. As stated by the brothers, Ratnajeevan and Rajan Hoole, the Vellahla intellectuals who dominate the Tamil ideology would not open up space for a counter-narrative. It is quite plain now that they would go to extreme lengths to cover-up their past like the way the cats claw the ground to cover-up their smelly stuff. They would come charging in, baring their claws, if anyone dared to put out a counter-narrative to the conventional one which blames only the Sinhala-Buddhists. They would exert maximum pressure to silence those presenting a counter-narrative.
Right now their political mythology is facing a challenge from the narrative of Mrs. Subramanium Sivagami, alias ‘Colonel’ Thamilini’s. Her book Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil is exposing the lies propagated by the Prabhakaranists. Ben Bavinck’s diaries too are a severe blow to the sanitised account of the Tamil Pol Potist history. The pioneers in this field like the Hoole brothers, Rajan and Ratnajeevan, had to pay a heavy price for their beliefs. Others like Prof. K. Indrapala, who began his career in historiography by presenting the known facts, recanted under intense pressure, and went back to rewrite his own history to suit the Vadukoddai political agenda. So did Prof. A. J. Wilson, the son-in-law of the father of Tamil separatism. His first explanation for the success of democracy in Sri Lanka, despite all its infirmities, was the impact of Buddhism. Later, as he drew closer to his father-in-law’s separatist ideology, he veered to the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist ideology. Politicising history and sociology to serve the Tamil separatist agenda has been one of the primary causes that worsened the inter-ethnic relations.
Whenever these re-writers of history reach a point beyond which they can’t go to cook the books, they withdraw into a conspiracy of silence, particularly when it comes to hiding the seamy side of their past. However, a new trend is emerging to expose this cover-up. A more convincing counter-narrative is gaining momentum questioning the mono-causal theory of blaming the Sinhala-Buddhist. Bit by bit the one-sided Ponnambalam-Chelvanayakam narrative is coming apart at the seams. The political advantages they gained by maintaining a silence about their crimes against their own people are being demolished under the weight of the new evidence. Having washed their hands off any guilt by passing the buck to the Sinhala-Buddhists, the Tamil elite was sitting pretty as if they had noting to do with the events that dragged their people all the way to Nandikadal. But those who took refuge behind their calculated silence, knowing what happened in history, can no longer wash their hands off their guilt. There is no piety in silence any more. Their role is no longer tenable. Foreign-funded research centres which never dared to peep over the cadjan curtain into the dark recesses of Jaffna society will have to invest more money to dig up new excuses to cover-up the brutal crimes of the Tamil leadership and their political failures. Blaming the Sinhala south for the historical failures of the Tamil leadership has run out of steam. No one is buying Wigneswaran’s resolution passed in the Northern Provincial Council like the way they bought the Vadukoddai Resolution.
International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) and Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) headed by Tamil political activists will have to revisit the past and revise the distortions of history they deliberately manufactured to promote the Tamil political agenda as defined in the Vadukoddai Resolution. Though they claimed to be human rights activists they did not actively pursue programmes to combat the fascist tyranny of the one-man regime run by Tamil Pol Pot. Their agenda was aimed at appeasing mono-ethnic Tamil extremism disguised as minority rights. They manufactured a political vocabulary, ideology and a doxology to praise and justify the evil Genie that came out of the Vadukoddai bottle. A remarkable coincidence is that the political agendas of ICES, CPA, National Peace Council etc., each scratching each other’s back except when they were fighting for the donor’s foreign funds, did not deviate one millimetre from the prescribed agenda in the Vadukoddai Resolution. On the contrary, they engaged in research to rewrite history in accordance with the claims of the Vadukoddai Resolution.
For instance, pundits like “Pakia” Saravanamuttu (PS) who boasts of running a leading research center for good governance has never dared to look at the evil staring in his face. His labours have been to demonise the elected governments of the south ( a variation of the theme of Wigneswaran blaming all Sinhala leaders) and not the fascist regime / culture of the north.. He is the one-eyed jack who claims to hold a Ph.D from a Western university. He seems to be acting on the assumption that he is a latter day Moses who has gone up the mountain in the American embassy and brought down the commandments dictated to him by his Yankee Yahweh for the good of the natives. Besides, licking Western boots has made him act like the proverbial monkeys who never see any evil, hear no evil, or speak no evil about the thing happening on the other side of the cadjan curtain. “After such knowledge, what forgiveness”? Turning a blind eye to the side he favours politically and focusing sharply on the side he demonises is not the best route to find the truth. His partisan politics is demonstrated amply and shamefully in legal suits. He has repeatedly sued the Government of Sri Lanka and boasts of his successes. (Good on him!). But he never took Prabhakaran to court, not even to the kangaroo courts in the Vanni. Why?
Taking on the elected government is another way of accusing them publicly in the eyes of the international court of public opinion. But Prabhakaran was allowed to go scot free. Why? Was it because he considered Prabhakaran to be a milk-white baby that had to be protected from public scrutiny? Or was it because it was politically disadvantageous to expose the crimes of the Tamil Pol Pot in the Vannni? Of course, he could not plead ignorance of what was happening behind the cadjan curtain because the intrepid University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) was in the forefront exposing the grim realities on the ground. So what excuse was there for PS and his hired gangs to be silent? Their vociferous anger was directed only at the elected state and not at the unelected fascist regime of the Tamil Tigers. The total effect of their silence was to be the unacknowledged partners of Prabhakaran’s one-man regime pursuing inhuman rights. Their sham courage was in challenging the democratic state. But where was their courage in challenging Prabhakaran, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity?
Tamils massacring Tamils in the name of Tamils is the equivalent of Hitlerism, Stalinism and Pol Potism rolled into one. PS and his gang maintained a grim silence. They did not shed even crocodile tears for the victims of the Tamil tyranny. According to Shamindra Ferdinando, Deputy Editor of The Island. the “Pakias” in NGOs had collected 28 million dollars over the years. They were paid by their foreign masters to be the watchdogs of political morality. With $28 million all the “Pakias” could have monitored even the quality of the water in Velupillai’s swimming pool in the Vanni? They had the resources, they had the right, they had the ability. But they did nothing. Are they not guilt of Goebbelsian crimes when they fabricated excuses / arguments which amounted to justifying the violence of the Tamil Pol Pot? What was their morality worth if it could not identify the evil that was destroying the Tamils?
The hired human rights activists, serving the interests of the American Embassy more than the victims of the Tamil tyranny, knew the agony and the misery of the Tamils under the Tamil Pol Pot. The following snippet from Bavinck’s diary recorded on December 12, 1990 reveals the plight of the Tamils under Tamil fascism: ”In a long conversation with my friend Daya (Somasunderam), he remarked that there was increasing thought control by the Tigers. All news, which the people hear or read, is totally biased: for example, that it was the government which started the fighting in June, or that the attack on the mosque in Kattankudi was carried out by the army…..
On October 5, 1990, Bavinck wrote : “The attitude of the Tigers to people with different points of view is implacable. The whole of society is being watched by a network, composed of confidential committees in the villages, called sittooravai. These committees report on anyone who expresses himself carelessly or acts suspiciously. Complete families have been arrested. The Tigers’ torture practice, reportedly, is terrible. Many detainees have been killed. I heard a story where a Tiger cadre read out a list of 200 victims, after which, he himself burst into tears.”
The depressing picture drawn by Bavinck reveals that the chances of peace were remote because the necessary conditions for peace were not pursued by the Pol Potist state. The NGOs were holding seminars in the south to change the opinion of the Sinhala-Buddhist. But what programmes were they running to inform the Tamil electorate to change their mono-ethnic extremism? Blaming the “Sinhala government” or the Sinhala-Buddhist culture was the standard excuse of intellectual humbugs from H. L. Seneviratne in USA or “Paki” Saravanumuttus in Sri Lanka and it is their clapping with one hand that helped Prabhakaran to shoot his way through with both hands.
What shines through Bavinck’s account is his moral clarity, his ability to cut out the theoretical cant and assess events as objectively as possible to reflect the grim realities faced by the Tamil people caught in the cross-fire. It is the Tamils of Jaffna who had to face the brunt of the exploding violence. On top of the violence the people of Jaffna also had live under the most trying conditions imposed b by the one-man regime of Prabhakaran. They even siphoned off the food and medicine sent by the Sri Lankan government – the only government that supplied essentials to a rebel-held territory, according to David Feng of UN – to the Tamil civilians. Their lack of honesty and integrity make them the intellectual scums bags thriving on the misery of the Tamil people. Bavinck, on the contrary, displays consistently a genuine concern for the victims of a needless war. He doesn’t hide behind hypocritical morality of saving peace by saving Prabhakaran. That was totally unrealistic.
Peace was unattainable as long as Prabhakaran was allowed to hold the kalashnikov in one hand and a hand grenade in the other. Prabhakaran was committed to fight until death to achieve his Eelam. He has told his lieutenants to kill him if he settles for anything less. So how was PS going to establish peace with a megalomaniac like Prabhakaran who was using violence as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table? PS knew that the final outcome of stopping the war would result only in saving Prabhakaran to fight another day. Besides, Prabhakaran had killed all the peace-makers – Rajiv Gandhi, President Ranasinghe Premadasa, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and nearly got Chandrika Kumaratunga. He had also shot to pieces all peace formulas, from Indo-Lanka Agreement, Norway brokered international agreement signed in 2002, the subsequent P-TOMS, etc.
As stated by Bavinck, Prabhakaran had missed all the opportunities that came his way. So how was PS going to get a solution that would usher in lasting peace through talks? For all practical purpose, there was only one morality available for peace-lovers : get rid of Prabhakaran. It was immoral to stop the war in the last stage when Prabhakaran was on his last legs. Would the Allies have stopped the World War II when they were at the gates of Berlin? Where is the morality in that? It was when the Vadukoddai War had reached the last stage that PS staged a comic drama of trying to stop the war. He was jumping from one Western capital to another hoping to stop the war. What was PS hoping to save by stopping the war? It couldn’t have been peace because Prabhakaran had killed all the peace-makers. PS’s argument of saving lives by stopping the war was a figment of his sick imagination. He knew that Prabhakaran used all ceasefire deals to recoup, recruit, rearm, and renew his fire-power to kill more and more.
Besides, PS never ran around to stop the war and the killing when Prabhakaran was winning in the early stages – a military exercise achieved at the cost of thousands of lives. He discovered the morality of saving lives by stopping the war only when Prabhakaran was losing. In any case, common sense would have dictated to him that the only beneficiary of the stopping the war would be Prabhakaran and if PS did not know that he should not be in the business of peace-making.