Are there Second Class Citizens in Sri Lanka?
Posted on August 31st, 2012

N. A. deS. AmaratungaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia has arrived at a definition of the term ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”second class citizenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ following an online discussionƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  conducted by WikiProject Human Rights and WikiProject Sociology which promote online discussions on various important subjects and which is sponsored by Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. The online discussion had also attempted to make a list of countries where second class citizenry had existed in the past and are in existence at present. As Sri Lanka is not mentioned in the above mentioned discussion or lists, and there doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t seem to be any attempt by any interested party to have Sri Lanka included in them, we could see whether there are any people who would qualify to fit the definition coined by this organization. This exercise is relevant and critical for Sri Lanka as Tamil national political parties and other Eelam activists have often categorized Sri Lankan Tamils as second class citizens. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The definition of the term ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-second class citizenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ that had emerged from the above mentioned deliberations is as follows; ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Second-class citizen is an informal term used to describe a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws or criminals, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights and economic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their putative superiors. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them. Second-class citizenry is generally regarded as a violation of human rights. Typical impediments facing second-class citizens include, but are not limited to, disenfranchisement (a lack or loss of voting rights), limitations on civil or military service (not including conscription in every case), as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, weapons ownership, marriage, gender identity and expression, housing and property ownershipƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-As an informal term, second-class citizenship is not objectively measured; however, cases such as the American South under segregation, apartheid in South Africa, Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the parliamentary era, Nazi Germany have been historically described as creating second-class citizenry.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The above mentioned discussion has closely looked at present situations where second class citizenry are supposed to exist. List includes African Americans, Australian aborigines, women in Arab countries, Arabs in Israel, blacks in Cuba, natives and Asians in the US, Kurds and Shiites in Iraq, caste system in India, Brunei born Chinese, people with foreign descent in Japan. It is significant that in such a wide and varied list minorities in Sri Lanka had not received a consideration particularly when so much noise has been made, at various high forums including the UN general assembly, about their alleged discrimination. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ However it is our duty to look at this matter objectively and dispassionately. Second class citizenry is created by systematic discrimination of a group of people in the economic, social and political spheres notwithstanding the fact that they are citizens of the country. Let us take the economic sphere first in relation to Sri Lanka though these three aspects are interrelated and impact on each other. For this purpose we could use the statistics released by the Department of Census and Statistics which are based on a survey conducted in 2009/2010. Veracity of these figures and the reliability of the survey could be gauged by a scrutiny of the Department bulletin available online. Table 1 gives the mean household income figures for some of the Districts in the North and East, and also Colombo, Galle and Monaragala Districts for purposes of comparison.

Table 1 Mean Household Income (In Rupees)

Sri LankaƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Colombo Galle ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Monaragala Jaffna Vavunia Tincomalee Batticaloa Ampara

36451ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  51070ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  31376ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 2261ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  18917ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 39640ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  25623ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  23508ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  24721

It could be seen that the household income in the Districts in the North and East except Jaffna are better than that in Monaragala, a district which has a population comprised almost entirely Sinhalese (> 95%). The low figure recorded for Jaffna could be attributed to the fact that economic activity in Jaffna had been sluggish due to the war and also a significant number of income earners had left the region. On the other hand Vavuniya has developed into a bustling city and the District as a whole had recorded a higher household income figure than Galle District despite the fact that the majority community in Vavuniya is Tamil! Further Trincomalee District, which has a larger Tamil population than Ampara, has a better household income than Ampara. These facts go to prove that there is no discrimination of minorities in the economic sphere in Sri Lanka.

In the field of education too, which had remained the bone of contention since the district quota system for university admission was introduced, it is seen that there is no discrimination of minority communities. Table 2 gives the total number of admissions to the universities in the year 2009/2010 from the different communities (UGC).

Table 2ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  University admissions in the Year 2009/2010 in relation to ethnicity

SinhaleseƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ TamilƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ MoorƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ OtherƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Total

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 17120 (79.6%)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  2898 (13.1%)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  1487 (6.8%)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  36 (0.5%)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  21541 (100%)

It is seen that the proportions of ethnic groups that had gained admission to the universities approximately match the proportions of these groups in the general population in the country. Facilities for higher education provided for the minorities in the areas they live are quite satisfactory. In the University of Jaffna there were 1263 Tamil students out of a total of 1641 and in the South Eastern University there were 434 Moor students, 312 Tamil students and only 90 Sinhalese students in the year 2009/2010. These facts go to prove that there is no denial of opportunities for higher education perpetrated against the minorities.

Another contentious issue is the alleged restriction on Tamil language. Tamil is a national language in Sri Lanka as stated in the Constitution. Tamil is not a national language even in India where there is a large population of Tamils. There may have been lapses in the implementation of the provisions in the Language Act. Often mentioned complaint is that there are no translators and Tamil officials in the government offices to attend to the business concerning Tamil citizens. For instance there are no Tamil police officers in the police stations to take down complaints in Tamil. In the courts of law work is conducted in Sinhalese as very few English or Tamil stenographers and translators are available. These lapses are quoted as deliberate acts of discrimination against the minorities. Unfortunately the Government seems to be totally unconcerned about these matters which apparently place the Tamil and Moor communities at a distinct disadvantage compared to the Sinhalese. A government under siege for alleged discrimination against minorities must be more circumspect and proactive in managing its affairs. Issues that could be resolved without getting into controversy should be promptly and efficiently dealt with.

With regard to the practice of religion there is no restriction whatsoever. Days of religious importance are declared public holidays. There are ministries to look after the affairs of all major religions in the country. In no other country in the world are such recognition and sponsorship extended to minorities and their religions.

Cultural activities of the minorities are also promoted and facilitated. Universities in the North and also in the South East have faculties for the study of fine arts and music. Cultural activities like the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-VelƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ festival with the processions parading the streets of Colombo take place without hindrance and often with the participation of Government ministers, dignitaries and people of other religions.

All in all there is no evidence to prove the allegation that minorities are discriminated in Sri Lanka. On the contrary there is ample evidence to show that they are equally treated as the majority.

2 Responses to “Are there Second Class Citizens in Sri Lanka?”

  1. nandimitra Says:

    There is a mistake we are all second class citizens only the politicians and their families are first class. Can a sinhalese get a job with out getting political patronage is the simple question? We have to go on our bended knees and be a party faithful. Even ths Sinhalese have no rights imagine the rest of the communities. Tamils shout about it, Sinhalese accept the status co which makes them worse off than the tamils. The poor sinhalese have nobody to shout about their predicament.

  2. Kamal Says:

    Who elects the First Class of citizens?
    The public elects the so-called first class of politicians by a secret vote.
    Who goes after the politicians on a bended knee?
    The electors do.
    Why blame some one else without blaming one self?

    Why do people go after the politicians?
    It is mainly to gain undue influence, is it not?
    One’s undue request is to deprive, some one else’s due place, is to go to.
    Is it not?

    Be honest.
    There is a court of law if one has been deprived of the due place.
    I am not saying it is easy, but there is a process and people do get redress.
    Life is not easy, and people make it difficult to themselves by going with a bended knee.
    You may have to bear it for a few years, but a day comes when the first class politician comes to you with a bended knee. That day kick his butt off.

    Remember, we waited for 500 years even to walk on the street with our head high, well we thought so. Then again, we waited the last 30 years to walk on the street and get away with our life.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress