If White Australia can apologise to the Aborgines why cannot the three Western Colonial powers apologise to Sri Lanka for their crimes (1505 – 1948)February 22nd, 2016
Right of Reply to Letter to the Editor, Sunday Times
Shenali D. Waduge
This is a response to a Letter to the Editor, Sunday Times from Mr. Raymond Paranavitana titled ‘Mr.
President, Mr. Prime Minister, that was a monumental step forward in building bridges’ published on 21st February 2016.
Mr. Paranavitana, a Sri Lankan living in Australia says as follows:
1) “As a person born in Sri Lanka and residing in Australia there were two things I was quite ashamed of, which I could not justify however much I tried. One was the treatment of the indigenous people of Australia over a period of 150 years by all governments – be they Liberal or Labour……..
2) Also, in Sri Lanka, the attitude of the majority community towards the minorities over a period of 68 years since independence was obtained”
3) “This independence was not obtained by the struggle of leaders of the majority community alone. It was obtained by the struggle of dedicated leaders of all the races living in Sri Lanka.”
4) “In 2008, the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, made a landmark speech, apologising to the indigenous people of Australia for the wrongs done to them over 150 years”
1) Treatment of indigenous people of Australia i.e. Aborgines.
It was not mere bad treatment it was a wholesale destruction of a civilization that had existed for more than 40, 000 years on the Australian continent. There was genocide, ethnic cleansing (Tasmania), mass murder (food poisoning and spread of small pox), rape, enslavement, theft of children ( stolen generations )and plunder of land among other crimes against humanity. The crimes perpetrated against Australian Aborgines by the European settlers under the British Colonial Government can be equated to the other monstrous crimes in history such as the extermination of Aztecs, Incas and Mayans by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors with the support of the Catholic Church and Vatican, massacre and wiping out of the Red Indians in North America (USA and Canada), the rape of Africa by the European powers, and the holocaust of the Jews during the second world war.
Token apologies made by the likes of Kevin Rudd without an iota of monetary compensation which the Jews received from the Germans in bucket full cannot restore the pre – settlement status quo of the Australian Aborgines. Nice words to ‘soften the dying pillow’ of the Aborgines alone however well- meaning cannot take the victims of deliberate extermination anywhere.
It is morally wrong and shameful for someone born in Sri Lanka and had received the best of education in this country including all other privileges to come up in life and then having migrated to another country seeking greener pastures to start denigrating Sri Lanka (the land of his birth) and equate the majority community i.e. Sinhala Buddhists to the murderous European settlers that had uprooted in the most barbarous manner the harmless indigenous people from the soil all over the world. This is the height of ingratitude to mother Lanka.
2) “The attitude of the majority community towards the minorities over a period of 68 years since independence was obtained”.
If one were to study the history of Sri Lanka one would know that most of our current problems in Sri Lanka can be traced to the arrival of the Portuguese conquistadors in 1505 and what happened thereafter to the indigenous people of Sri Lanka mostly Sinhala Buddhists, under the three western colonial powers.
Read the writings of eminent historians such as Paul E. Peiris, Emerson Tennant, Queyroz, Tikiri
Abeysinghe, and G.P Malalasekera on the dark period of our country’s history (1505 – 1948).
All these three Christian powers engaged in forcible conversion of Buddhists and Hindus into Christianity using methods of ‘carrot and stick’. Converted Christians (whether Sinhalese or Tamils) were the privileged lot. Best education, jobs, land and titles were given to them. Even birth was not registered unless one became converted to Christianity under the Dutch. It is a great surprise that Buddhism survived and did not go six feet under the ground or end up as a museum piece as had happened to several other less fortunate civilizations.
Upon gaining ‘independence’ in 1948 the Sinhala Buddhists had every right to engage in a process of rectification of historical injustices suffered under the Christian powers which placed Christianity on the pedestal and treated it as the official religion despite Buddhists being demographically greater in number.
Can Mr. Paranavitana explain by example what the minorities have been legally, constitutionally and legislatively denied which only the Sinhalese have been legally, constitutionally and legislatively given?
The indigenous people of Sri Lanka who gained independence in 1948 had to take corrective measures to remove the divide and rule and other biased policies of the colonial governments. These adjustments were to be expected and not specifically directed against minorities on a prejudiced basis.
Independence necessarily means the removal of all the injustices meted out to the local people by the foreign occupier.
3) “This independence was not obtained by the struggle of leaders of the majority community alone. It was obtained by the struggle of dedicated leaders of all the races living in Sri Lanka”
It is a historical fact that there was no independence struggle in Sri Lanka. Not a single gun was fired after 1848. There was an exchange of letters. But this is not an independence struggle. No blood was shed. No Civil Disobedience movements like in India or wars waged by Japan all over Asia against the western colonial powers. During the entire colonial period the Catholic Church and all other Christian Churches were on the side of the Colonial governments. They encouraged Christians to transfer their loyalty from the local sovereign to the foreign sovereign in the Vatican and other Capital cities of Europe. The Christian Churches never supported the independence struggle of people in Sri Lanka or any other part of the world from the jackboot of western colonial domination.
Sri Lanka was the lucky beneficiary of other people’s struggles in Asia. The only independence struggle against the British were during the great battles of 1818 (Uva) and 1848 (Matale) and these were certainly only fought by the Sinhalese. Most of the minorities and a handful of the majority i.e.
Lascoreens were working for the enemy as Sepoys . This is well documented in history books.
In 2008, Australian PM Kevin Rudd made a landmark speech apologizing to the indigenous people for the wrongs done to them over 150 years. However this statement needs to be corrected. Rudd didn’t apologise to all Aboriginal Australians. He only apologised to the Stolen Generations, a minority who had suffered from government policies which were used from end of the 19th century to the 1970s—and not “since European settlers landed” in Australia. There’s a big difference and a big omission.
Leaving aside the apology in terms of how Aborigines are treated today: The Aboriginal unemployment rate is 3 times the national average. Aboriginal people are still discriminated.
While non-Aboriginal people celebrate Australia Day celebrating the arrival of the British, the aboriginal people look at the day as one where they lost their land, their children, their culture and their freedom. Facts do not show that the Aboriginal people are treated with respect.
Observations and Proposals
a) Sinhala Buddhists deserve an unequivocal apology from the 3 colonial invaders that occupied Sri
Lanka. As much as the Australian Aborigines were the victims so were the Sinhalese Buddhists, the victims in Sri Lanka from 1505 – 1948.
b) There is no rife between the communities in Sri Lanka – we eat, live, celebrate, share woes, work together and we have not had any enmity. The troubles are all between politicians, political parties, rebel and troublemaking groups and their supporters.
c) Mr. Paranavitane’s letter is meant to show that singing the national anthem in both Sinhalese & Tamil is an act to bring people together. However, the people are not the one’s that are divided nor dividing the nation. Mr. Paranavitane says that by singing the national anthem this way we will usher an era of peace and prosperity. By that same logic can he explain how after singing the national anthem in Tamil, in 1949 the Illankai Arasu Katchchi was created seeking a separate state, or when in 2016 when the national anthem was again sung in both languages, the TNA is now pushing for separatism through a new constitution. So what else must the country forfeit or cede to gain the confidence of the minorities? Are we not ignorantly pulling wool over our eyes not being realistic to the larger plot?
d) Moreover, can Mr. Paranavitana showcase how many of those feeling proud about singing the national anthem even knows the Sinhala words, or even the Tamil words, how many actually display the national flag during independence day? If you go around the minority based areas you will hardly see any national flag.
Multiculturalism – a stratagem to displace Buddhism from public life
These new bogus liberal slogans are denting countries that have rich civilizational histories because those propagating liberal political ideologies do not come from nations that have histories to be proud of. Therefore using the gavel of multiculturalism and pushing the notion of national unity countries are made to forfeit their history and erase their national identity. Thus changing national anthem, national flags are all likely casualties.
e) If having more than one national anthem is the way to go to unify disparate people, would Mr. Paranavitana advocate the singing of an Aborginal song side by side when either the Australian national song ‘ Waltzing Matilda’ or ‘ Advance Australia Fair’ is sung on the National Day and all other important events?
White Australia will never agree to that – to give due place to the Aborgines on the National Day.
Then why are you Mr. Paranavitana advocating a change in your land of birth that your adopted country i.e. Australia, would not give even an iota of consideration to?
Sri Lanka’s national anthem was adopted on 22 November 1951. Constitutional recognition of the national anthem came in 1978. In December 2010 the translation of the national anthem was scrapped following a paper produced by the Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister. Therefore the Sinhala version of Sri Lanka Matha remains the official constitutional version to be sung. People cannot be allowed to experiment with a country’s national anthem. The multicultural hamper cannot reverse a generation of history. What it does show is that these notions are all part of a larger plan to take the power from the majority. Local lackeys have been employed to remote control these changes.
Badurdeen Mohamed removed history from the school syllabus in 1972, Chandrika Kumaratunga did the same after becoming President.
National anthems connote the national identity of the country. It is nothing that has to be copied from examples followed in other nations. However, for arguments sake the oldest national anthem is, The Dutch Wilhelmus written between 1569 and 1578 with mysterious words that no one knows the meaning of but Netherlands will not hear of changing it.
Take the case of India. India has 28 states, each state has an official language but the official language of India remains Hindi. India’s national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ composed by Rabindranath Tagore is sung only in Bengali. India’s Tamil Nadu with 72million Tamils makes no fuss singing in Bengali. So why is the problem only in Sri Lanka?
Everyone wants to dabble in what they feel is ‘politically correct’ and the nation has to become a casualty. The present Prime Minister wanted to celebrate 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in 2005 totally ignoring the horrendous crimes the Portuguese had committed.
Sri Lanka’s claims for an Apology and Reparations from the Colonial powers
Multiculturalism is partnered with reconciliation but does not recognize the need to acknowledge, apologize and give reparations to all the crimes committed by the 3 colonial invaders. Mr. Paranavitana speaks proudly about Kevin Rudd’s apology but does not speak about the need for the apology to come to the Sinhalese Buddhists who suffered the most – their Temple Lands were confiscated, Buddhist temples were systematically destroyed, their lands, livelihoods, women, children were raped, thousands were brutally massacred in an attempt to annihilate the majority Sinhalese. National reconciliation almost always conveniently omits the suffering of the Sinhalese Buddhists at the hands of the Christian colonial powers. Can Mr. Paranavitana explain why?
Even the West is waking up having watched and had enough of appeasing to the politically correct theories where the native cultures are replaced with what suits immigrants who left their cultures but want to have their newly domiciled countries give pride of place to the culture they left behind which often conflicts with the native culture. David Cameron can say that all Muslim immigrants have to learn English or leave but when Sinhalese say all citizens must know Sinhalese it becomes a controversial issue.
What Mr. Paranavitana needs to wake up to is that in a sovereign state there cannot be ‘multiple nations’. Multiculturalism cannot be surreptitiously used to de-legitimize a national culture, cast aside historical links and supplant new living styles which are alien and have no roots in either the predominant culture or ancient civilization of the nation.
Shenali D. Waduge