A submission to LLRC
Posted on December 13th, 2010

By Charles.S.Perera

The Secretary,
Mr.S.B.Athugoda
The Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission,
The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations & Strategic Studies,
24 Horton Place,
Colombo “”…” 07,
Sri Lanka.

 Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Commission,

In ancient times it was to the elders the people took their problems. It had been so in Asia Africa , Europe, and even with the American Indians. The King Alexander went to the priests to consult oracles. In Sri Lanka the elders including the Buddhist Monks were consulted by the kings and the people to get their advice. These elders knew the people their customs, their beliefs, the way they lived and were able to impart wise counsel.

 Hence, to appoint Sri Lanka’s own respected elders to inquire into what happened during the military operations and learn from the findings the solutions to our problems is most appreciable.

 For the people of Sri Lanka the most reliable investigators in to their past to understand what went wrong , and advice what steps should be taken to avoid a recurrence are their own seniors-the wise elders, who knows their customs , and the way they act in a given situation according to their religious and cultural dispositions.

 Therefore, Mr Chairman and distinguished members of the Commission, permit me as an ordinary Sri Lankan who had lived in a village with the Tamil, and the Muslim as immediate neighbours, and studied in a Christian School with their children to make my modest contribution from my experience and knowledge, of what I think of the unfortunate three decades of terrorism, and my ideas of its probable beginning and my candid opinion what facts have to be taken into consideration, to find a solution for a reconciliation of the two communities- the Tamil and the Sinhala.

 The key to the solution for a reconciliation I presume is the extent to which the Tamils could be made to understand the Sinhala, without their veil of suspicion.

 The definition of the word ” reconciliation” is: re-establishing of cordial relations. If in the context of LLRC, reconciliation is to re-establish cordial relations that existed between the Sinhala and Tamils before the terrorism began, it would be a vain attempt as in reality, even in that distant past, there had been no cordial relationship between the Tamils in the North and the Sinhala in the south, or between the Tamils in the North and the governments.

 Even if we were to look further back in to the history of Sri Lanka, there had been no cordial existence between the two communities. Each one had existed without an outward show of any real dislike but with distrust. There was a story among the Tamils that one could trust only three Sinhalaya, the dead, the unborn, and the image of the one on the wall. That in short was the situation before the commencement of the armed terrorism.

 The Tamils did not mix with the Sinhala. Most of the Jaffna Tamils who came to work in the south came alone, leaving their families back in Jaffna. The young Single Tamils working in government departments or provincial offices in the south lived in what was called “chumaries”. The traders, the barbers, and the other merchants lived in their shops , boutiques or their saloons.

 Therefore the Tamils coming to South to work kept their distance from the Sinhala. I do not know the statistics but the intermarriages between Sinhala and Jaffna or Batticaloa Tamils and vice versa were few or none at all.

 That is to say there was no social interaction between the two communities. Those executive officers who were provided with Government quarters brought their families along with them but even among them it was not many who came with their families.

 In the South as well intermarriages were insignificant despite a greater Tamil population. The non existence of social contact between the Tamil and the Sinhala families sealed the development of deeper social relationships. Hence the absence of a cordial relationship between the two communities.

 Permit me Mr.Chairman , to write about the history I read in the Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon by E.W.Adikaram, in which he says that immediately after the arrival of Venerable Mahinda Maha Thero , during the reign of the King Devanampiyatissa in the 2nd century BCE, Buddhism spread through out Sri Lanka.

 At that time there had been neither Tamil settlements, nor Chola invasions from south India. Though there seem to have been visitors or immigrants from the North of India, visiting Brahmins, merchants, and persons invited by the Sinhala Kings.

 But during the reign of the King Suratissa the first Chola invasion had taken place. Sri Lanka during three centuries of peace had grown rich. Two merchants Sena and Guttika, visiting Sri Lanka had seen that Suratissa a pious King had not prepared a military defence system and was not ready for any military opposition. The two Indian merchants profited from the situation and defeated the king in a military intervention. They reigned for 20 years.

 That was the first invasion by the Tamils. Sena and Guttika were finally defeated by the old King Asela, and regained the kingdom. He was hundred years old when the Dravidian Elara from Chola invaded Sri Lanka, defeated King Asela in battle and reigned over the territory for 25 years . During this period many people left Anuradhapura to Rohana in the South.

 That is how the Tamils had come to Sri Lanka- as invaders, marauder, and looters of rich temples, and palaces. Some of these invaders may have settled down, and started settlements. The King Gajabahu who carried out a successful military offensive against the Cholas brought 12000 Cholans to Sri Lanka as prisoners from South India and allowed them to settle down with all their Hindu Gods and Goddesses- Vishnu, Natha and Pattini impacting thus the purity of Buddhism.

 We do not know much about early settlements in the North. The Archeological Department does not seem to have made archeological research, and it is time now that excavations are begun in the North and the East to ascertain what type of settlements had existed in the peninsula, and elsewhere. There had nevertheless been Buddhist settlements to which the Nagadipa Purana Vihara stands witness.

 This reference to history is to show that the present day Tamils come from these different stocks of invaders. Thus, they still continue to live with that mentality of invaders and therefore their attitude towards the Sinhala have not changed. The Tamils remain ” outsiders” without any feelings of patriotism to Sri Lanka despite it being their motherland.

 These unpatriotic Tamils remind me of the Biblical story of the woman who took away a child from its mother and claimed the child was hers. They were brought before the wise King Solomon to decide to whom the baby belonged. The Wise King Solomon listened to them and as there was no solution other than satisfying both of them ordered the Child to be cut into two and give each one a part. The woman who had stolen the baby from the mother, agreed to the Kings decision. But the other woman wailed and pleaded with the King to give the baby to the other woman , as she would not want the baby harmed. The King Solomon then knew the baby’s real mother.

 The Tamils who demand division of Sri Lanka for them to have a part of it to set up their Tamil Eelam are like the wicked woman in the Biblical story who took away the baby from its real mother.

 How could we expect the Tamils to be patriots when they want to mutilate our motherland, without loving it as it is with whatever defects they find in her ?

 This had been the history, and we have much to learn from it. The Tamils having lived with the distrust of the Sinhala, their anger and jealousy burst out in 1983. Helped by India , with the environment which had already been created by ambitious high caste Jaffna Tamil politicians like Chelvanayagam, Ponnambalam, and the Sundaralingams terrorism was its natural consequence.

 During the thirty years of terrorism in the North and East, the people who suffered the most were the Tamils living in those areas. As it had been during the days of the ancient Kings, it was the awakening of the Sinhala Buddhists lead by a man from Ruhuna who had taken over reins of leadership, that defeated terrorism and brought peace to the country.

 However the Tamil population of the Indian origin brought in by the British do not fall into the category of the Tamils of the North. They have not created problems as the Tamils of the North and live peacefully with the Sinhala.

 We should now forget the past leaving aside the history just mentioned, and find a solution to build some sort of “ cordial relationship” that had not so far existed. The change of this unfortunate attitude of distrust has to come from the Tamils.

 It is easier to understand the problem, if we see that there are two types of Tamils in Sri Lanka:

 The first are the ordinary Tamils who want to live peacefully, but who could be influenced by the second type of Tamils appealing to their inborn Tamil sentiments.

 The Second type of Tamils are the Educated Tamils, the politicians , the journalists, and the expatriates Tamil Community. They are the manipulators of Sri Lanka Tamil opinion.

 It is the mentality of the second type that has to be changed, to make them understand the inane danger of distrusting the Sinhala their own compatriots, and to convince them of the necessity to work along with the Sinhala for the benefit of the country which is also their motherland. They should not remain ” outsiders “, but citizens ƒÆ’†’  part entiƒÆ’†’¨re along with others. And that they should refrain from manipulating the ordinary peace loving Tamils.

 APRC had been sitting for several years but it had not attempted to convince the Tamil political leaders to agree to support a political system where the political parties are not identified with a community.

 What is important is to substitute communal identity with the identity of citizenry. All citizens are Sri Lankans. This should have been agreed upon at the APRC, but perhaps the subject had not even been broached in the discussions.

 Therefore Mr. Chairman , this transferring of Communal identity to the identity of citizenry should be the aftermath of the “learning lessons” from past events. It is the educated Tamils , that should convince the ordinary Tamils to accept Sinhala without prejudice, without mistrust, as partners for the creation of a Nation.

 What has to be buried and forgotten, is this complex of being an “outsider ” arising from the “primordial instinct of being an invader”. That is why people like Narapalasingham of the Tamil Sangam want to write a new history of the Tamils discarding Mahavamsa as an irrelevant writings of a prejudiced Buddhist Monk.

 The American Blacks were not invaders, but brought as slaves wrenched from their African families and grew up to become a sort of “adopted American people”, and therefore was assimilated into the main stream of Americans without problem to the extent of being able to make one of them the President of America.

 Therefore if the Tamils could integrate into the main stream of Sinhala population without hatred, but with a fraternal attitude they could repeat the American miracle, having one of them as a President of Sri Lanka.

 There is no other ethnic minority group in the world of Nations that have been well looked after like the Tamils in Sri Lanka, still while minorities among other Nations have integrated and live amicably with the majority, the Tamils in Sri Lanka refuse to integrate. They study Constitutions of different Nations and propose federalism for separation, rather than for integration with the majority.

 In foreign countries the neighbourhood relationships are not very cordial, it is true even among their own kind, let alone with the immigrants. Therefore the immigrants tend to flock together. The diaspora Tamils may have experienced this difficulty in white neighbourhoods even if they do not want to accept it, but they will not have the same difficulty in integrating into Sinhala neighbourhoods in Sri Lanka, as it is evident in the South.

 Mr. Chairman, and distinguished Members of the Commission, the people of Sri Lanka did not have to fight to get Independence from the British, though the early Sinhala rebellions against the Colonial rulers were ruthlessly clamped down. It was the National leaders who “negotiated” the Independence in 1948. Therefore, the people did not see a real difference in the transformation of Sri Lanka from a British Colony to an Independent Nation in 1948.

 Therefore, when Mr.SWRD Banadaranaike formed the SLFP in 1956 his landslide victory at the election after which he became the Prime Minister marked the real Independence of the people. SWRD Bandaranaike’s desire was to make this Independence meaningful to the people, revitalising the old national values, and make of Sri Lanka a great Nation among the other Nations of the world.

 It was in that noble effort he declared Sinhala the National language, and even mutilated the ancient National flag of Sri Lanka to make it acceptable to the Tamil and the Muslim Communities.

 His motive was a large hearted effort to give Sri Lanka a Nationhood. But as usual the Tamils led by the high caste Tamil political Nobility made it an occasion to condemn the noble act of SWRD Bandaranaike as a discrimination against the Tamils.

 The 12 percent of the Tamils wanted more than even the equal rights with the Sinhala. They wanted a separate “Raj “an Eelam all for themselves. Even the subsequent grant of reasonable use of Tamil for administration purposes did not satisfy them.

 Was it not similar to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, manipulated by the British breaking away from greater India to form a separate Pakistan despite Mahatma Ghandhi asking him to be the Prime Minister of an undivided India ?

 The terrorist Prabhakaran was the same, he was never satisfied with what ever political solution was proposed to him, he wanted the Tamil Home land and nothing less.

 It is the same now with those who want to negotiate, on behalf of the Tamils. They will continue demanding the ” pound of flesh”.

 Mr.Chairman, I pray that this respectful Commission will find a solution to satisfy them, without breaking away Sri Lanka, and convincing them to give up their divisive politics to agree to create a true Sri Lankan Nation.

 Too much have already been sacrificed to satisfy the Tamils. Sri Lanka is today in the “eve” of rising above its poor developing status to become a full fledged National State., with a developed infrastructure, a comfortable economic development, with one flag, one language and one National Anthem. We cannot sacrifice all that to satisfy the Tamils who given more will demand more.

 The Tamils should integrate in to Sri Lankan society, without their divisive politics with sincerity to make this Island home a true Nation of Sri Lankans. The Tamils should at least now after the terrorist debacle, love Sri Lanka as true patriots.

 However, we had been fortunate to have had Tamils who had risen far above the norm of real patriots to bring honour to Sri Lanka, two of them we could never forget are the late Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar and Jeyraj Fernandopullai. Another Tamil patriot I cannot leave without mention is Karuna Amman or Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, who is an example of a Tamil man who was ready, having had been a terrorist, to forget the past and preferred to accept Sri Lankan citizenry, to narrow communalism.

 The lessons to be learnt are not only from the conflict we had with Tamils and terrorist, but also from the way the Sinhala , Tamil and Muslim politicians opposed to the President and the government behaved through out the five years since 2005 during the decisive military operations carried out by the Sri Lanka Armed Force.

 Mr. Chairman , the behaviour of the main opposition party UNP during the Military operations against the terrorists was most deplorable. The fight against terrorism was a national issue and the opposition politicians should have cooperated with the government giving it moral support. But unfortunately to date the opposition parties to the government have not stopped their virulent attacks against the government.

 They think that the political role they have to play as the opposition to the Government is to find ways and means of defeating the President and his government. And in that effort they continue to divide the Communities and allow the Tamils to foster their opposition to any type of unity with the Sinhala.

 Mr. Chairman, while you and the distinguished members of your Commission are carrying out a very difficult and a most praise worthy attempt to find solutions for the reconciliation of the Tamils and the Sinhala , the members of the UNP the main opposition to the government are requesting the President to cooperate with an international inquiry, warning that if the President does not act wisely, he could be summoned before an international court on various allegations levelled against the Sri Lankan government.

 This is most distressing and lamentable , when the Government has already appointed you and your distinguished members to this Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to make a complete inquiry to find dependable solutions.

 We the people are quite satisfied and we do not for an instant doubt your ability to do a better and a comprehensive inquiry and come to reliable, satisfactory and acceptable conclusions, more than any international inquiry conducted by a panel, foreign to our culture, way of life, and our way of thinking could ever be able to accomplish.

 Mr. Chairman, I wish you and the distinguished members of the Commission every success.

 Theruwan Saranai,

 Charles.S.Perera

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