WHAT HAS BUDDHISM TO DO WITH THIS TAMIL ETHNIC PROBLEM?
Posted on October 2nd, 2016

Cecil Atukorale ( L.L.B- University of Colombo)

After the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka King Devanampiyatissa in emulation of Ashoka who made Buddhism the state religion of India, made it the state religion of Sri Lanka also and it existed as such for over 2000 years until 1815 when the country went under a Christian power.

Thus, with Buddhism firmly established as the official religion the people soon came to accept and adopt the Buddhist way of life. It required them to believe the sanctity of the lives of insects, animals, birds , no less than human beings and acknowledgment of the conditional right of the meanest animal to retain the breath of life until the last moment permitted by nature –this was the spirit inculcated in the votaries of Buddha, the recognition that all living creatures alike men, animals, deities form a chain of existence of becoming .

Today our political leaders – perhaps with a few exceptions have completely deviated from Sri Lanka’s original heritage and path. Present political system has opted for a Western type of Democracy which has no relation whatsoever to the Sri Lankan spirit and culture and is wholly dependent on systematic imitation of the West, aping its political & economic system from A to Z. We have given a complete go by ; to the gains  of our country.

This is nowhere more marked than when we look at the rash manner in which the Buddhist religion has been demeaned by the Public Representation Committee on Constitutional reforms in the formulation of its recommendations for making a draft for a New Constitution.

In page 18 of the Report this is what it states about Buddhism. As a compromise the Committee agreed to recommend the different formulations of the members as alternative recommendations for the consideration of the constituent assembly:

  1. Retain Article 9 (Chapter II) of the current Constitution with no change.
  2. Heading of Chapter II of the current Constitution should state ‘Religions’ and not Buddhism and retain Article 9 as it is with no change.

iii. Reformulate Article 9 of the current Constitution as follow The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give all religions equal status. The State shall protect and foster Buddhism and the Buddha Sāsana while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14(1) e of the current Constitution

  1. Sri Lanka shall be a secular State
  2. Sri Lanka shall be a secular State while recognizing the role of religion in the spiritual development of people10.
  3. Heading of Chapter II of the current Constitution should State ‘Religions’. The clause should be revised as follows:

The Republic of Sri Lanka will give all religions equal status”

Why are we in such a situation?

Where are the failures and who is responsible?

Are we not, as people of Sri Lanka led by few selfish leaders, responsible for this state of affairs?

What has Buddhism to do with this Tamil Ethnic problem?

14 Responses to “WHAT HAS BUDDHISM TO DO WITH THIS TAMIL ETHNIC PROBLEM?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    A very pertinent question.

    Also read “Vandalising Buddist Shrine at K’kulam: CJ steps down from Bench” published here.

    The main target of Hindustan and LTTE (it’s arm) is Buddhism. It is Buddhism that separates India and Sri Lanka. In India Buddhists have been reduced to just 0.7% of the population. That too mostly unemployed and marginalised Dalits.

    Tamil separatists and their Indian sponsors are determined to wipe out Buddhism from Sri Lanka as they did in India and in all Hindu majority districts of Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is an exception but with Indian housing projects only for Hindus, that too will follow Jaffna, Mulaitivu, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mannar and Batticaloa (near zero Buddhists).

    Even in history the main target of Pandya, Chola, Magha, Chakravarti, etc. invasions was Buddhism.

  2. Christie Says:

    This is a part of the 1815 British and Kandy Convention and agreement.

    Central Points of the agreement[edit]

    The central pionts of the agreement were:
    1.’Sri Wickrema Rajasinha’, the ‘Malabari’ king, [is] to forfeit all claims to the throne of Kandy.
    2.The king is declared fallen and deposed and the hereditary claim of his dynasty, abolished and extinguished.
    3.All his male relatives are banished from the island.
    4.The dominion is vested in the sovereign of the British Empire, to be exercised through colonial governors, except in the case of the Adikarams, Disavas, Mohottalas, Korales, Vidanes and other subordinate officers reserving the rights, privileges and powers within their respective ranks.
    5.The religion of Buddhism is declared inviolable and its rights to be maintained and protected.
    6.All forms of physical torture and mutilations are abolished.
    7.The governor alone can sentence a person to death and all capital publishments to take place in the presence of accredited agents of the government.
    8.All civil and criminal justice over Kandyan to be administered according to the established norms and customs of the country, the government reserving to itself the rights of interposition when and where necessary.
    9.Other non-Kandyan’s position [is] to remain [as privileged as previously] according to British law.
    10.The proclamation annexing the Three and Four Korales and Sabaragamuwa is repealed.
    11.The dues and revenues to be collected for the King of England as well as for the maintenance of internal establishments in the island.
    12.The Governor alone can facilitate trade and commerce.
    Dear friends

    Look at no 5 where British gave protection to Buddhism, So please do not blame British for what Indian Empire and Indian colonial parasites are doing to us today.

    This is Indian jadawaadhaya.

  3. Christie Says:

    Thank you Dilrook. Sorry I didn’t read your post before posting mine.

    Indian imperialists want to destroy Buddhism and they have done it by brain washing us over the years. Look who is going to see (dharshans) disabled god with four hands (may be with two dicks) Tirupathi at three thirty in the morning .

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    What the British promised and what they in fact did after getting into the saddle, are two quite different things.

    After 1815, ALL PROMISES made by the British in the Kandy an Convention were violated.

    Slowly Buddhism lost its pre-eminent position without the Royal Patronage of the Sri Lankan King, and it was supplanted de-facto by the Anglican and other Christian denominations.

    Furthermore, the Sinhala officials soon lost ground, local laws were ignored, especially were they related to land, land was wholesale acquired without any form of compensation, given to British planters and companies, and millions of Tamil slave laborers were imported to work in these plantations against the protests of the former officials of the king, creating the current community of Indian Tamils in the upcountry areas. Sri Lanka lost its sovereignty, and with it the ability to control ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION into the country.

    The situation for Sinhala Buddhists soon became very bad, with Buddhism consigned to the status of an undesirable babar religion. The British, in their delusion that only Western religions are valid, actively discouraged Buddhism. While Christian schools were created and funded by the government, no Buddhist schools were created, and the Temple schools lost royal patronage and tax-exempt nindagam supportrd status they enjoyed under the Sri Lankan kings.

    The British never understood that the Lord Buddha was not a god, barbarian or otherwise; they just didnt care to find out or know about such a trifle matter. It was sufficient that it was in their eyes a barbarian religion.

    This lack of comprehension of Buddhism was there even in the Portuguese/Dutch years when Robert Knox was a prisoner of King Rajasingha. Knox writes that the Lord Buddha was a god worshipped by the Sinhala people, even after living in Sri Lanka for nearly two decades, marrying a Sinhala woman, fathering children with her, and then escaping to England to write his book.

    This neglect and discrimination against the governing power in Sri Lanka continued without change until the time of the Pandora debates which exposed the ignorance of the colonial power and the Christian priests.

    The discrimination practiced against Sinhala Buddhists by the colonial society is mentioned in biogtaphical books about Anagarika Dharmapala. In his early years he was attending a prestigious Christian school, but left in disgust when he could no longer stand the denigration of the Sinhala Buddhists, their history, their religion and their culture. This early experience turned him completely against Christians and Western cultures then dominant in Sri Lanka.

    I, myself, am a product of S. Thomas College. I too witnessed and experienced such denigration of Sinhala Buddhist culture at the hands of some Christian teachers and priests who were teachers. I was punished several times for protesting against such sayings of my teachers and experienced certain other forms of discrination in their unwillingness to recognize and reward my academic performance at school. This kind of behaviour by Christian teachers was not the norm at this school, and there were many really decent and good teachers among them. There were a number of Sinhala Buddhist teachers who helped us cope with this behavior, among them Mr. Arisen Ahubudu and Mr. Coprarahewa and Mr. Cumaratunga. I must also mention that the Tamil Hindu teachers were very impartial and good to us, and me in particular, because I was the best student in their classes.

    It was because of the Buddhist revival spearheaded by people like Anagarika Dharmapala that the gradual disappearance of Buddhism from Sri Lanka was arrested and the trend turned around.

    By the time my parents were forming families, there was again a growing awareness of the greatness of our history, our culture and our religion. I learned mostly the British version Of history in School with liberal doses of Lantin and Greek, but my fathwr coached us in the Asian and Sri Lankan History, and Buddhisn through sunday school. Attending Visaka … a premier Buddhist girls school …, my sisters learned Pali, Sanskrit, and Buddhism in school altough many of them did science in prepatation for medicine. Although many Sinhala people still took at least a Western first name, they began to give their children completely Sinhala names. All of my 4 brothers and 4 sisters had pure Sinhala names, although our parents and grandparents had English first names and Sinhala last names (of course with a long list of ge names identifying every person worthy of note in the family tree). My parents were patriots who fought hard for Sri Lanka’s independence, and anticipated that event by more than ten years in choosing names for their children. In their day, no Sinhala person could get ahead without at least one English name and an English education, but by the grace of the Triple Gem all that has changed for the better now.

    I have talked at length with my parents, grandparents and other elders about what it was like living in Colonial Sri Lanka, and the’s dis cussing had a stong influence on making me the Sinhala patriot that I am, and I am eternally grateful to my elders for that.

    If that situation had persisted without SWRD’s revolution, Buddhism would be a minority religion in Sri Lanka today, and the Sinhala Language and Sinhala Culture completely subjugated by Christianity and a pseudo-western bastard culture would prevail in Sri Lanka today as it does in South Korea today with a severely discriminated against Buddhist minority. Thirty years ago, before the American evangelists went to work, Buddhists were the majority in South Korea.

    My purpose in relating these details is to DEBUNK your statement that the British did not discrimate against Buddhism. They did DISCRIMINATE in many different ways with devasting long term impact, and ENSLAVED our people.

    However, I would also hasten to say that the British treatment of the Sri Lankan people was orders of magnitude better than the treatment by the Portuguese and the Dutch of their subject indigenous people not only in Sri Lanka but all over Asia, Africa and America.

    The British were much less cruel colonists than the Portuguese, the Dutch and other Europeans such as the Belgians in the Congo.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    Oops!

    I meant to say ….

    “This neglect and discrimination against the Sinhala Buddhists by the governing British power continued without change until the time of the Panadura debates which exposed the ignorance of the colonial government and it’s Christian priests.”

  6. Dilrook Says:

    @Ananda

    [Quote] My purpose in relating these details is to DEBUNK your statement that the British did not discrimate against Buddhism. [Unquote]

    What is the context it was said? Please don’t introduce things and take things out of context. The British did discriminate against Buddhism and Buddhists but even then, they did allow the revival of Buddhism by Olcott, Dharmapala, most work of Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, a large number of Buddhist schools, 1931 Act that saved Buddhist shrines, the introduction of the world Buddhist flag in 1881 in Sri Lanka, etc. What happens in Sri Lanka since 2010 is relatively far worse discrimination against Buddhism than what the British did given that they were colonials and rulers today are supposed to be locals. Rulers since 2009 are more British than British colonialists thanks to “reconciliation” (divide and rule).

    MP Cyril Matthew (1981) and MP Venerable Ellawala Medhananda (2008) (thanks Shenali and others for pointing this out) identified a large number of neglected Buddhist shrines in the north and the east numbering over 100. Since 2009, little was done to revive them (let alone resettling displaced Buddhists). Now the government is trying to remove the 1931 Act which will result in auctioning shrine land, convert some to shrines of other faiths and even divide the Sangha along caste and sect (nikaya).

    I don’t see JO leaders doing anything worthwhile (emphasis) about it. Sirisena-UNP government cleverly uses its Justice Minister (much better than the previous Minister of Justice Rauf Hakim) to do it. He earned the respect of JO leaders for saving their close family members from a previous court case despite Field Marshal Fonseka going all guns blazing against him. Therefore, I expect little real resistance from JO leaders to the changes to the 1931 Act spearheaded by the Justice Minister. Of course, they will act differently to the gallery but will not do anything tangible to save the Act. The second Avant Guarde case today seems to be to remind them what awaits them if they resist the removal of the Act.

    This is the sad plight of Buddhism today. Having listened to Major Ajith Prasanna, Attorney-at-law (the only disabled war hero to become a lawyer), who I know personally to be an upright patriot and who sacrificed a good part of his life and a limb in Operation Balawegaya (1993) for the safety of the nation, it gives me chills what more harm politicians of all (emphasised) shades will do to war heroes too. As apolitical professionals, we must keep our powder dry and be vigilant as threats to the nation coming from all (emphasised) politicians. Instead of blindly accepting the least damaging option, we must demand better by rejecting all. That is the only way to get a new breed of nationalist leaders. Otherwise we will be stuck with discards forever. As Ranil and Sirima show, even the worst discards can come back to power if they hang around long enough. But what use for the nation?

    I agree with the work done by DS Senanayake and SWRD Bandaranaike in reviving Buddhism and saving Anuradhapura, etc.

  7. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dilrook,

    My point is valid: the British did not protect Buddhism, Article 5 in the Kandyan Convention document notwithstanding, because the Kandyan Convention was a dead letter soon after the British consolidated their hold on the Kandyan kingdom.

    Your words were “Look at no 5 where British gave protection to Buddhism”. To that extent my point is within the context of your statement, although I agree that the British cannot be held responsible for what the Indians are doing to us today.

    I wrote the rest of the stuff, primarily for the benefit of other readers, on what the British did to undermine both Buddhism and the Sinhalese, including the experiences of my own family and myself to demonstrate the extent to which British attitudes percolated down the chain to affect the lives of ordinary Sinhala people, and their progress as citizens of the country.

    OK, you agree with me then; so there is no difference there.

  8. Lorenzo Says:

    Some commentators CREATE a SHAM disagreement, argue over it and AGREE! Why argue if you AGREED in the first place???

    Reminds me 2 commentators (Vijeypala and Micro if I remember right) a LONG TIME ago during the war arguing PSEUDO ACADEMIC STYLE over which is the BEST for Tamil people – LTTE or EROS – and after days of arguing compliment each other and AGREE!!

    Bystanders think – OMG! These people know a lot. What do we know! Until Moshe Dyan the Great called their bluff and gave them the MILITARY SOLUTION.

  9. S.Gonsal Says:

    Dilrook said

    “I don’t see JO leaders doing anything worthwhile (emphasis) about it. Sirisena-UNP government cleverly uses its Justice Minister (much better than the previous Minister of Justice Rauf Hakim) to do it. He earned the respect of JO leaders for saving their close family members from a previous court case despite Field Marshal Fonseka going all guns blazing against him. Therefore, I expect little real resistance from JO leaders to the changes to the 1931 Act spearheaded by the Justice Minister. “

    This is in fatc is the chilling reality. This is the way the ALL behave. Luckily, Mahanayaka Theros ( despite getting filthy abuse form some Lanakweb readers) stopped this temorarily. We had better support Mahanayaka Theors than the crooks.

  10. Dilrook Says:

    Gonsal and others,

    Actually it gets worse.

    Quoted from ft.lk.

    Wigneswaran is not a racist, says Mahinda

    Former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa took a moderate stance on issues pertaining to controversial Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and the release of Tamil political prisoners that were at odds with his usual rhetoric, in discussions with journalists from the Tamil media yesterday.

    Wigneswaran, the former President said, was not a racist. “The Chief Minister I know I don’t believe is a racist. He is a politician. He cannot show results. Just like this Government can’t show results,” the former President told a group of Tamil journalists during a press meeting yesterday.

    Rajapaksa said that Wigneswaran had been unable to find solutions for youth unemployment in the Northern Province.

    “He has no answers. So to make people forget their problems, he is trumping up nationalism,” the former President claimed.

    He also told Tamil language journalists that he was not opposed to the release of political prisoners being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Rajapaksa said the only thing he was opposed to was the Government interfering politically with the judicial process to release these detainees.

    “We are not opposed to them being released. Namal, who was in jail with them, came back and asked me, why aren’t these people being released? Even to him I said that the problem was that there were cases against these people pending in court,” the former President explained.

    Rajapaksa said that if the Attorney General’s Department wished, they could withdraw the cases, or expedite them. He said that during his presidency, when he attempted to rehabilitate these detainees and release them, their lawyers had demanded that they be produced in court.

    “As per these wishes, I produced them in court. Otherwise by now even those prisoners would be free,” Rajapaksa claimed.

    The former President charged that development in the North had come to a standstill since his defeat, and said the Government had failed to solve the problems of the Tamil people.

    “Are we the only ones who didn’t look into their problems? What has this Government done for them?” he asked.

    Rajapaksa said that the Government was constantly speaking about removing the military from the North. “I don’t know how many troops have already been withdrawn. But tell me how many IDP camps this Government has closed? This shows me that this Government only thinks about politics, not about the Tamil people,” he added.

    Questioned on whether he believed it was still a wise move to hold the Northern Provincial Council election in 2013 given the volatile political situation developing in the North today, Rajapaksa responded that he believed it was still the right decision. (DB)

  11. S.Gonsal Says:

    OMG. Has he gone back to 2010 ?
    Who is talking for Sunil Ratnayake’s release ?

  12. S.Gonsal Says:

    Now they want more than Federal.

    By Dharisha Bastians

    Days after the controversial Eluga Tamil rally, moderate speakers at a book launch in Jaffna last weekend were heckled and shouted down by a group of persons reportedly associated with the Tamil People’s Council chaired by Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran.

    Different Tamil political parties were brought together on one stage at the Saraswathy Hall in Jaffna, for the launch of the Constitution of Sri Lanka from Donomough to Sirisena (1931-2016), authored by former lecturer at the Jaffna University and independent researcher, M. Thirunavukarasu.

    TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree, TNA Jaffna District Parliamentarian M .A. Sumanthiran, Northern Provincial Council Opposition Leader Sinnadurai Thavarajah, EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandran and Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) Leader Gajen Ponnambalam were all invited as speakers at the event.

    Thavarajah, Sumanthiran and Anandasangaree were disturbed during their speeches, when all three of speakers dissented with some of the claims made by Thirunavukarasu in his book.

    The hall was packed to capacity with between 600-700 people, with the disturbance caused by a handful of radicals numbering about five or six people, Thavarajah told Daily FT.

    The book made claims about the historical enmity between the Tamils and the Sinhalese communities in Sri Lanka, but Thavarajah disputed this claim, citing historical references. In his speech, the EPDP Member quoted from documents in the American Library of Congress and Lankan historians that pointed to periods of cohesion between Tamils and Sinhalese in the island, with particular emphasis on the independence struggle.

    Thavarajah said that it was when he began to speak about the ways Tamils had squandered opportunities to reach a political settlement over the years that a small group in the audience began to heckle and shout him down.

    “One of those who were leading these protests was the individual who lit the lamp at the Eluga Tamil rally,” the NPC Opposition Leader claimed. Despite the disturbances, Thavarajah managed to finish his speech, urging the unruly members of the audience to learn to hear out dissenting viewpoints.

    Sumanthiran who spoke after the NPC Opposition Leader, told the audience that the TNA’s policy on achieving a political solution to the Tamil question since 2010 had been to push for a federal structure, while using negotiations with Colombo backed by strong international pressure to get there. Since 2010, the MP said that the Tamil people of the North and East had voted overwhelmingly in support of this policy. Sumanthiran said that the only alternative put forward to the TNA’s proposal of federalism had been from the Ponnambalam’s TNPF which had called for confederation and a referendum in Tamil areas since 2010. However even at the Eluga Tamil rally on 24 September, the organisers had called for a federal solution and this was a sign that even the divergent Tamil politicians and organizations were now coming around to the TNA’s position on a political settlement, Sumanthiran noted.

    During his speech, the Jaffna District MP said certain sections of the Tamil polity were fretting now that a deal on the constitution and a political solution was almost at hand, and added that these elements were making every effort to derail the process.

    Sumanthiran spoke for 20 minutes before the disturbances began. However the hecklers were shouted down by Sumanthiran’s own supporters who were in attendance at the meeting. The TNA Parliamentarian was able to speak over the hecklers and finish his speech, he told Daily FT yesterday.

    Member of the Tamil People’s Council Prof. S. Sittambalam who was moderating the session had tried to stop the hecklers from disturbing the speeches, but to no avail, sources at the meeting told Daily FT.

    Gajen Ponnambalam who spoke next denounced Sumanthiran as a ‘liar’ and claimed his party had never called for a solution along confederal lines. Ponnambalam told the audience that he had never stood for confederation – a power-sharing mechanism that goes well beyond federalism, allows a region to maintain its sovereignty and implies the right to secession.

    When Ponnambalam sat down after his speech, he continued to berate Sumanthiran as a liar, at which point the TNA MP used documents and press clippings to demonstrate the basis of his assertions.

    EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandran also flayed Sumanthiran during his speech, saying he was a member of the Steering Committee on the constitution and accusing the TNA MP of not revealing anything about negotiations. “Instead, he is talking politics about winners and losers at elections,” Premachandran said.

    Both Ponnambalam and Premachandran received wide applause from the audience during their speeches.

    However, when the veteran Tamil politician Anandasangaree stood up to speak, the disturbances resumed. The TULF Leader posed the question to the audience, about the demand for the removal of Buddha statues in the North. “What happens to all the Murugan and other statues in the South, will they have to be removed too,” Anandasangaree noted. The hecklers resumed disruptions in earnest, shouting the senior politician down and ensuring he could not finish his speech. At one point, Anandasangaree even rolled up his sleeves and asked the unruly group to come up to the stage and challenge him. “Tamils will never have a solution because of people like you,” he shouted before he was forced to wind up his speech.

    Reports said there may have been attempts to create an incident as Sumanthiran was leaving the premises following the event, but it had been impossible to get near the Parliamentarian since he was flanked by large crowds. The TNA MP is increasingly viewed as the enemy among nationalist sections of the North for his moderate positions.

    Northern Chief Minister Wigneswaran sent a message to be read out at the book launch, which included a revelation that there was a plot to assassinate him and blame the killing on the LTTE. In his message, Wigneswaran said that when the Tamils demanded their rights, the demands were being misrepresented to show that the Tamils were bent on sharpening communal differences.

  13. Ananda-USA Says:

    Sumanthiran demanding Federalism is now represented as a MODERATE, in comparison to Wigneswaran demanding a “confederation” of sovereign states, just short of outright secession!

    ALL of these Tamils are TRAITORS to Sri Lanka; their avowed purpose is to put pressure on the GOSL with increasingly draconian demands in the hope that the govt will give them the least of what they demand.

    The least is a FEDERAL state, to begin the process of UNRAVELLING our unitary nation and to enable the Tamils to proceed rapidly with the TAMILIZATION of the North and East, expelling all non-Tamils to the hosanna being sung by the International Community.

    Does this mean that after this proto-EELAM is a achieved, their demands will end?

    ABSOLUTELY NOT!

    First, having control of their border, they will IMPORT more Tamils from Tamil Nadu. To accommodate that INCREASED population, they will demand to expand the area under their control by pushing the border areas to the South.

    Second, the creation of this proto-EELAM will not mean they have given up claims based on the majority of the Tamil population living in the South and the Hill Country in the nation’s center. Tamil homelands wI’ll have to created there too, and India will be happy to help that happen gradually with diplomatic, political and financial assistance.

    If Sri Lanka rejects the ETCA, the new EELAM will be happy to accept it and implement it in the expanded Tamil Bantustan.

    Where will this leave the Sinhala people?

    Hemmed in between the Tamil kingdom in the North and East, the Tamil protectorates in Colombo and the Hill Country, and the deep blue Indian Ocean within an ever decreasing area of land.

    We will have to crawl into and CURL UP in our beds just like Prince Dutugamunu, because there is no living space for us in our once sovereign motherland that extended from shore to shore in all directions!

    And this is what the Yamapalanaya government is going to PRESIDE OVER during its reign, bequeathing to the Sinhala people a small fraction of the REUNIFIED NATION they wrested by devious means from the protection of the MR/UPFA government!

    As I have often said, there is NO CURE for the STUPIDITY of the Sinhala Buddhists who abandoned MR/UPFA and allowed the foreign regime change con artistes to destroy our defensive shield!

  14. Ananda-USA Says:

    Culture of intolerance raising its head again in North Sri Lankan Tamil politics
    Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 10:17 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Oct 03 (NIE) COLOMBO- After a seven year lull following the end of Eelam War IV, the politics of confrontation and a culture of intolerance appear to be coming back to dominate Tamil politics in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

    A small emerging group of radicals yearning for a return to the politics of confrontation with the Sri Lankan state in which negotiations on the basis of give and take has no place, is trying to impose its will on other political groups by the use of strong arm methods and disruptive tactics.

    Tamil moderates fear that, as in the past, the silent majority, which does not approve of this confrontationist approach, may be forced, for the sake of survival, to bow to the dictates of this small but aggressive group.

    The main ground for fearing such an outcome is past experience. In the mid and late 1970s, the Tamil moderates deliberately and unwisely created political space for extremist youth and encouraged them, but only to be subdued and consumed by them within no time.

    The extremists did away with moderate democratic leaders. Finally, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) either exterminated rival militant leaders or forced them to become camp followers, to become the sole and uncompromising representatives of the Tamil people.

    The current inadequate response of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to the basic demands of the Tamils in terms post-war justice, restitution, resettlement and restoration of normalcy, and the perceived inability of Tamil elected representatives to get the government to move on these matters in a convincing way, are paving the way for the emergence of radicals as a force in Northern Tamil politics.

    In their defense, moderates elected representatives say that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime deserves to be given adequate time to devise policies, structures and procedures to render post-war justice and restitution without alienating the majority Sinhalese who still have a lurking fear of losing power to the Tamils and other minorities backed by regional and world powers.

    The government has taken several steps towards reconciliation and is in the process of setting up institutions, including a new constitution, to usher in an inclusive Sri Lankan polity based on ethnic equity. A wide spread consultative process on all key matters has already been completed.

    That being so, the moderates argue that hiking demands, which are bound to have an equal opposite reaction from the Sinhalese majority, will only upset the apple cart and bring the process of reconciliation to a grinding halt. The moderates also point out that the international community, which is keen on giving the Sri Lankan government a fair chance, and will look unfavorably at attempts by Tamil and Sinhalese radicals to sabotage the process. The Tamils may lose the international support they have been enjoying so far.

    But these warnings are going unheeded. The Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC), a collection of people and organizations wedded to the politics of confrontation and drawing inspiration from the now defunct LTTE, has been making demands calculated to raise the hackles of the majority Sinhalese, such as withdrawal of the Sri Lankan armed forces from the North and a stop to the settlement of Southern Sinhalese in the North and the putting up of Buddha statues.

    The TPC and its fellow travelers have brushed under the carpet a host of issues which the common Tamil man and woman faces in post-war North – issues which, when resolved, will make a big difference to the lives of the hoi polloi and release energies which could be harnessed for economic development.

    Though the radicals did not make an electoral impact in the 2013 provincial council elections and in the July 2015 parliamentary elections, they have gained visibility in the past year with Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran heading the pack. His assuming the mantle of leader has made a difference as he is former Supreme Court judge. He is constantly in the media due to his hard hitting speeches at every public function he attends. The Tamil media, wedded as it is to confrontationist politics traditionally, is backing him fully.

    But whether with Wigneswaran’s tacit approval or not, radicals have been trying to put Tamil politics into an ideological straight jacket by browbeating those with a different opinion or approach.

    Since Jaffna University is dominated by radicals, the Vice Chancellor allowed a function to mark LTTE leader Thileepan’s “martyrdom” but denied permission to moderates to hold a seminar to commemorate the assassination of human rights worker Rajini Thiranagama.

    At a function held on Saturday to launch a book on the constitutional history of Sri Lanka from a Tamil perspective, a group of radicals associated with the TPC heckled and shouted down TNA leader M.A.Sumanthiran; the Leader of the Opposition in the NPC, S.Thavarajah; and the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader, V.Anandasangaree.

    According to those who were heckled, the trouble makers were not more than five or six but the media portrayed the disturbance as a mass protest. However, the more disturbing part was the attitude of the rest of the 600-strong audience who, as in the past, allowed trouble makers to get away with their act.

    Sumanthiran had been “gheroed” by a similar small bunch of youth in Australia last year while the rest of the audience watched helplessly. Opposition Leader Thavarajah said that he was advised by well wishers not to voice contrary opinions in gatherings like this. He now says that he will not speak at meetings organized by people who cannot tolerate different view points.

    Economist Ahilan Kadirgamar fears that if this trend is allowed to continue, it could gain legitimacy and become uncontrollable eventually as it happened in the past.

    However Sumanthiran fees that the TPC has very little support among the Tamil masses, its support in the Tamil media notwithstanding. Human rights activist Rajan Hoole says that the Tamil masses are more sensible than many of their leaders and will not like to wantonly wreck the Sri Lankan government’s reconciliation process.

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