Book Launch by British Tamils Forum in association with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils
Posted on October 28th, 2016

Mahinda Gunasekera

By Email
84 Tambrook Drive
Agincourt, Ontario
M1W 3L9, Canada

October 27, 2016

Hon. James Berry, MP
Chair and Registered Contact
All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils
Copies to: Officers of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils

Dear Sir,

Book Launch by British Tamils Forum in association with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils

On October 24, 2016  titled ‘Proliferating Buddhist Structures in Tamil Homeland sowing the seeds of Disharmonyat the Atlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster  

I am writing to show my displeasure at your participation and support given to the British Tamils Forum which was earlier involved in actively funding and promoting the extremist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which engaged in all forms of violence including suicide terrorism to break up the unitary state of Sri Lanka causing a rift amongst the constituent communities making up the national fabric of the island nation.  You are once again providing a forum to the GTF who are now attempting to mislead the public and wrongly bring up issues of a religious nature on this occasion to again stir up new feelings of bitterness amongst the multi-religious people of that country who are peacefully coexisting with each other. You are no doubt aware that the LTTE was designated as an international terrorist organization by the UN Security Council per Resolution Number 1373 of 2001, whilst the UK authorities took action to proscribe the same group effective March 2001, which proscription continues to remain in force.

The Sri Lankan people have undergone a great deal of strife for a period in excess of three decades and have since been able to usher in an era of peace following the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers on May 19, 2009, thereby eliminating terrorism from the land bringing all violence to an end unlike ongoing gun fights experienced in other conflicts elsewhere. Steps have since been taken to demine 6700 sq. km. of the land and resettle the nearly 300,000 displaced civilians, rehabilitate the 12,000 plus former fighting cadres of the LTTE and release them to society, restore infrastructure, re-establish democratically elected local/provincial councils, and pave the way towards normalization of living conditions within a short space of time.  These tasks were speedily achieved as a result of the state allocating 85-90 percent of the development funds of the national budget running into several billion US dollars to the areas formerly occupied by the Tamil Tiger terrorists in the north and east, generating vast improvement in the economies of the region registering a 22-27 percent increase in the GDP whilst the index gained by just 6-7 percent in the rest of the country. The private sector and civil society members in the south also made valuable contributions to uplift their fellow Tamil citizens to rebuild their lives.

In the present situation, where Sri Lanka has been taking vigorous measures to bring about healing and reconciliation amongst the constituent communities, it is most disheartening to note that the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and members of the pro-LTTE organizations of the expatriate Tamil groups such as the GTF are continuing their separatist and divisive policies to prevent the healing process, in pursuit of their objective of breaking up Sri Lanka in order to establish a mono-ethnic separate state for the Tamils with western intervention.  It is therefore the main reason why they tend to stir up issues of this nature in western cities such as London, New York, Toronto and other EU centres where they have been granted refuge during the period of the ethno-terrorist conflict in Sri Lanka (having bypassed culturally and linguistically linked Tamilnadu in South India just a 20 mile boat ride away), where western politicians are known to disregard all principles and support their cause to woo their votes to win elections.

Proliferating Buddhist Structures in Tamil Homeland”

This is a ‘red herring’ that is being dangled before western eyes by pro-LTTE expat Tamil groups to mislead them into believing that Buddhists in Sri Lanka who are predominantly Sinhalese are attempting to bait the Tamil populace into another violent conflict by putting up Buddhist structures in the so called Tamil Homeland” thereby sowing seeds of disharmony. Firstly, it must be stated that there is no region within Sri Lanka that is considered a Tamil Homeland”, even though presently, the northern province is predominantly Tamil while they make up about 40 percent of the eastern province’s population with the non-Tamil Moors and Sinhalese being in the majority. The only place which can be deemed a ‘Tamil Homeland’ is the semi-autonomous union state of Tamilnadu in South India where over 72 million Tamils live. The Tamil leaders of the north have been objecting to the resettlement of the 27,000 Sinhalese evicted prior to 1981 and the 75,000 plus Moors (Muslims) driven out of the north in 1990 on 48 hours notice. The few Sinhalese numbering about 100 and the small proportion of Moors who have been resettled in the north are facing severe harassment from Tamil politicians and their thugs. By blocking the resettlement of the previously evicted Sinhalese and Moors, these Tamil separatist elements are seeking to create a mono-ethnic region of the north, while at the same time these Tamils are able to freely move to all parts of the south and live amidst the Sinhalese people without any problems. The greater majority of Tamils numbering over 55 percent live outside their falsely claimed traditional homeland” in the north and east, in mixed ethnic surroundings.

Sri Lanka is the motherland of the Sinhalese people who originated in the island that founded the Nation of Sinhale (Sinhaladeepa) and developed the unique hydraulic irrigation civilization, culture based on Buddhist values and the Sinhala language, which is a living proof of their written history of 2600 years contained in the recorded texts called the Deepavamsa, Mahavansa and Chulavansa and other ancient works of Sinhala literature.  Sri Lanka faced 17 invasions since 230 BC from South India where Tamil forces entered the land to plunder and pillage, only to hold on to pockets of territory for short periods till they were defeated and driven out by the indigenous Sinhala people.   Some of the invaders are likely to have remained and become assimilated with the Sinhala people. The Tamils first came as settlers only in the 12th century as per Tamil historian, Prof. Karthigesu Indrapalan, and therefore arrived much later than the Sinhalese who were in occupation of the entire island.  Prof. S. Krishnaswamy Aiyengar of the School of Historical Studies of the University of Madras writing the foreword on August 29, 1926, in Mudaliyar  C.Rasanayagam’s book titled ‘Ancient Jaffna’, has stated that the word ‘ILAM’ (Eelam) said to denote a Tamil Homeland in Sri Lanka  has been derived from the Pali word ‘SIHALA’ meaning Sinhala, also confirmed in the Tamil Lexicon published under the authority of the University of Madras (refer page 328), that the Tamil word Ilam did not refer to a Tamil land but to ‘ the land of the Sinhala people’. Tamils are therefore late settlers in the Sinhala Homeland.  (http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2010/11/09/invasions-violence-atrocities-and-plunder-characterize-tamildravidian-involvement-in-sri-lanka-from-230-bce/ )

The final invasion launched by South Indian Dravidians was in the latter part of the 13th century by the Pandyan Emperor Kulasekera who established a kinglet in Yapa Pathuna also called Jaffnapatam, confined to the Jaffna peninsula and a narrow strip on the northwest coast up to Mannar.  The sizable number of Sinhala residents present in Jaffna during the Dutch period in 1695 would have had to flee the area or assimilate with the Tamils who were able to previously establish a sub-kingdom of Jaffnapatam.  According to a map found at the Beeldbank National Archives in the Netherlands shows that more than 85 percent of all the villages in Yapanaya or Jaffnapatam had Sinhala names. The rebels of Jaffnapatam under Kanakasooriya Cinkaiariyan Arya Chakravarti were subdued by the forces of King Parakramabahu VI of Kotte led by Sapumal Kumaraya around 1450, who regained suzerainty over the territory compelling the sub-kingdom to once again pay tribute to the emperor whose seat was in Kotte.

J.P. Lewis, a British officer of the Ceylon Civil Service, in 1896 presented a paper before the Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon branch, titled ‘The place names in the Vanni ‘. He said Vanni was colonized by the Tamils only recently. The original Sinhalese inhabitants had been driven out and new Tamil place names given. Some place names were Tamilised versions of the original Sinhala names.  Horsburgh published an essay on Sinhalese place names in the Jaffna Peninsula”, in the Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, 1916. He said that the Sinhalese had earlier occupied the north portion of the mainland, which is now Tamil country. ‘There is ample evidence carried in stone all over Mannar and Mullaitivu district. In Jaffna the evidence is in the place names,’ he said. At least thirty of the place names in Jaffna were Sinhala in origin. He pointed out that Tamil place names which ended in ‘kalappu’, ‘vattei’, ‘palai’, ‘kam’, ‘pai’ and ‘vil’ were meaningless in Tamil. ‘Vil’ is bow in Tamil, ‘pai’ is net or sail. However the names made sense when they were seen as translation of Sinhala names. Valikamam and Vimankam have no meaning in Tamil but made sense as the Tamilised versions of Weligama and Vimangama. Chunnakam was Hunugama, Kokkuvil was Kokavila, Uduvil was Uduvila, Tanankalapu was Tanankalapuwa, Saravattai was Sarawatte and Manipai was Mampe. Tamil historians of the time, namely, Rev. S. Gnana Prakasar and S.W. Coomaraswamy wrote to the Ceylon Antiquary agreeing with Horsburgh and giving their own lists of Tamilised place names. The recorded history and the Rock inscriptions in Proto-Sinhala, Prakrit or Sinhala provides ample evidence to support the Sinhalese being the original inhabitants of the region.  Even the first Tamil rock inscription was by the Sinhala King Vijayabahu I in the 11th century, erected at a port of entry outlining the permitted items that could be brought in terms of the Customs regulations prevailing at the time. Nothing further need be said to debunk the claim of a Tamil homeland within Sri Lanka much touted by the TNA, GTF and other Tamil separatist groups. (http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2016/07/02/sinhala-place-names-in-ancient-jaffna/)

In 1505, a Portuguese fleet with mounted guns headed for India were blown into the Port of Colombo by adverse winds. They used their military superiority to control the western seaboard and monopolize the trade. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese in 1658 and took over their colonial possessions and further obtained a narrow coastal strip on the eastern seaboard from the Sinhala King of Kandy in violation of the treaty to hand over the territory to the king in return for a monopoly of the trade. The Dutch encouraged Tamils from the Malabar coast of South India to settle in the Jaffna peninsula as well as the eastern seaboard to grow tobacco by incorporating Tamil land regulations known as Thesavalamai. The British took over the Dutch colonial possessions in 1796 and later in 1815 gained control over the entire island in terms of the treaty referred to as the Kandyan Convention, where the Chieftains of the Kingdom of Sinhale deposed of their South Indian Tamil King and ceded power to the British.

The British soon breached the terms of the Agreement wherein they undertook to protect the Religion of the Boodhoo, imposed unfair taxes, neglected irrigation works needed for local agriculture, and other rights and customs of the indigenous Sinhalese people resulting in the Uva-Wellassa Uprising of 1817-1818 which was brutally put down by the British with the help of Indian mercenaries, who followed a scorched earth policy making the region uninhabitable and even ordering the killing of all Sinhala youth. They later proceeded to confiscate the lands of the Kandyan people without a penny in compensation which they sold to British capitalists at Ceylon Cents 50 per acre which was less than even the survey costs. They even forced the Sinhalese to provide free labour to build roads and railways to serve the new plantations of cocoa, coffee and tea belonging to the British. Yet again the people revolted in 1848 in the Matale rebellion to drive away the unjust foreign ruler, which was also put down with brute force. As the Sinhalese who had been dispossessed of their lands were unwilling to give their labour to the new masters, the British arranged to bring in over a million deprived Tamils from South India who were willing to work for a little food into the heartland of the country. These actions of the British resulted in landlessness amongst the indigenous Sinhala population and extreme changes to the demography of the social mix with the vast majority of Tamils arriving in Sri Lanka after the advent of European colonials to the island.  The British policies of divide and rule and greater access to English language education for Tamils in the north enabled this minority of roughly 11 percent to dominate the civil service and professions. After grant of independence by the British in 1948, and the introduction of free education and expansion of the school system in all parts of the island along with the switch to the national languages, the dominant position enjoyed by the Tamils gradually declined which the Tamils deemed as being discriminatory making them seek a different path including violent ways that would allow them to form a separate state through the break-up of the unitary state of Sri Lanka.

Buddhist Structures in the North of Sri Lanka

The first Royal Capital of the main seat in Rajarata was regained in 161 BC by King Dutugemunu from the Chola South Indian Tamil invader Elara who held sway in Rajarata for 44 years. It remained the capital for a total period 1400 years till it fell to another Chola invader named Rajaraja I in 993 CE. The Royal Capital of Rajarata was relocated to Polonnaruwa also in the North Central Province (NCP) by King Vijayabahu I in 1045 after ousting the Cholas from Anuradhapura.  As the Rajarata kingdom encompassed all regions of the north, Mayarata in the centre and Ruhuna in the south, the Sinhala people were settled throughout the length and breadth of the island. Having embraced the Teachings of the Buddha which was received during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa from the missionary monk Arahat Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka of India in 307 BC, Buddhism has flourished during the past 2323 years in the island making it the foremost religion with over 70 percent adherents even today.

The Sinhala who ruled from Anuradhapura the Royal Capital of ancient times built magnificent monuments to honour the Buddha and his Noble Disciples where well preserved ruins of one of the greatest civilizations of Asia exist to this day –  now recognized as a UNESCO City. The monarchs who ruled the island constructed numerous other temples to house the monks and provide special places of worship to consecrate the relics of the Noble ones in all parts of the island. In a survey carried out in the 1900s, it was observed  that there were 276 Buddhist archaeological sites in the north of Sri Lanka, where it is feared that many have been vandalized and destroyed by the Tamil Tiger terrorists that controlled the Vanni region for almost 21 years, with intent to erase the historical remains of the prior Sinhala presence in the north in order to claim this region as the traditional homeland of the Tamils. Following the defeat of the LTTE, efforts have been made to mark these Buddhist sites by erecting images of the Buddha, which are serene and calming to the mind, and certainly not causing any disharmony to the resident population. These are part of our national treasure and steps must be taken to restore and maintain these sites without resorting to the barbaric actions of the Taliban as seen in Bamian, Afghanistan. Even the military camps established in the north to prevent a resurgence of Tamil Tiger terrorism too had erected Buddha statues to enable security forces personnel to engage in their spiritual practices, which have not been dismantled after the closure of some of the camps.

Conclusion

It must be pointed out that the entire island was occupied by the Sinhalese prior to the arrival of Tamils who came first as invaders and nearly twelve centuries later as invaders cum settlers. It is the motherland and the only homeland of the Sinhala people who have no other place to call home unlike the Tamils whose homeland is in Tamilnadu, South India, while large Tamil communities are present in South Africa, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, etc. which are former British colonies to which they were previously taken as indentured labour. Whilst Sri Lanka remains the motherland and only homeland of the Sinhala people, the Sinhalese recognize the fact that other ethnic communities have later settled in the island sharing this homeland as equal citizens. The citizenship rights enshrined in the national constitution including the Right of Freedom of Movement must apply equally to all citizens. Therefore, the Buddhist Historical Sites of the north or any part of the island which forms the heritage especially of the Sinhalese Buddhists must be accessible to them at all times, just as much as Hindu Kovils, Mosques, Christian Churches, etc. be accessible to persons of the respective faiths. The Right to Freedom of Movement goes much further, and gives the right to each and everyone irrespective of their faith to freely move within the island, and even relocate and engage in lawful means of livelihood.

The leaders of the Tamil community representing political parties aligned with the Tamil National Alliance such as the ITAK, EPRLF, PLOTE, TELO, etc., and pro-Tamil Tiger expat groups such as the GTF are attempting to block the free movement of the Sinhalese into the northern areas, by which means they seek to create an exclusive Tamil region, a precursor to forming a separate state, with the backing of western powers.  They are vehemently protesting the re-settlement of the evicted Sinhalese and Moors who were former long time residents of the north, and by their latest move claiming that Buddhist structures in the north would cause disharmony in order to prevent access to Buddhists to their heritage sites. The Tamils however, are free to move freely, take up residence, construct their temples or churches in any part of the island, which right they want to deny to the indigenous Sinhala people. The Tamils fail to realize that their foolish actions are leading to disharmony and possible conflict.

Please do not rush to reach any conclusions based on one sided views being presented by Tamil extremists just like the UNSG’s so called three member Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka headed by Marzuki Darusman  which looked at data submitted by one party to the conflict to prepare an incredible report based on so called ‘credible allegations’ to indict Sri Lanka on war crimes charges and violation of International Humanitarian Law, which material they recommended be locked up for the next 20 years.  I trust that you will be fair minded and make a careful study of the various aspects before you once again extend your support to the wild allegations coming from the extremist fringe of Tamil separatists who seek to create a second exclusive homeland for the Tamils in addition to their original  homeland in Tamilnadu, South India.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

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