CBK abandons her father and embraces Chelvanayakam -Part I
Posted on May 6th, 2015

H.L. D. Mahindapala

Chandrika Kumaratunga’s memorial lecture on S. J. V. Chelvanayakam (April 25th, 2015) should be taken seriously not because she claims to be a political scientist” (she did so in her first TV interview after she succeeded in her plot to overthrow of the Mahinda Rajapakse regime) but because it is loaded with a political message on the critical issue of majority/ minority relations – the most infectious and inflammatory issue exploding in diverse parts of the globe threatening peace and stability. The majority vs. minority issues can vary from the sexual orientation of gays, to wearing the hijab in France, to Sunni vs. Shite in the Middle East, to xenophobic attacks on migrants in S. Africa, to majorities demanding conformity from minorities, to minorities demanding special privileges on top of what is available in common with others, the plight of the Sephardic Jews dominated by Euro-centric Ashkenazis in Israel, the persecution of Afro-Americans even after Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Act in 1863, (111 were killed by the white Police in America in March 2015 alone) etc. In broad outline, the underlying  issues boils  down to violent explosions that threaten the peaceful co-existence of the two demographics.

Sri Lanka too is stuck in this majority vs. minority issue and it  is necessary to sit up and take notice of Kumaratunga’s talk because she  promises to focus on the possible causes of these (Sri Lankan) problems and the options we have for  its resolution.” She also emphasizes the need  to comprehend and accept the root causes of  (the) conflict and to seek solutions to them.” Comprehending the contested root causes and seeking solutions are two huge undertakings. Above all, her talk deserves minute scrutiny as she raises the ghost of federalism as her solution.

This proposal to go for federalism may be a part of the secret pre-election agreement with the TNA which was not revealed to the public at the time. However, if federalism is going to be the base on which the My-3 regime” proposes to negotiate with TNA then Sri Lankans should gird itself for the looming political battles which will destabilize the My-3 regime” and, of course, the nation. The public, of course, has given her their verdict by hooting her out of public platforms. But her voice seem to carry some weight in  the ruling circles and how far the My-3” regime will go along with her will determine the coming events.

That apart, what are the promising features of her talk that would give hope and confidence to the Sri Lankan polity of her ability to find solutions? After several failures earlier, including her partner in the democratic junta”, Ranil Wickremesinghe, burning her proposals in Parliament and Velupillai Prabhakaran shooting holes in her P-TOMS, has she got it right this time? Has she at least comprehended and analyzed the historical causes  of the conflict without going down the routine track of repeating, ad nauseam, the Tamil accusations  of the majority oppressing the minority? Is this one-sided mono-causal theory the fundamental reason why the numerous solutions ended up in the wastepaper basket? Have we failed to arrive at a lasting solution because we have not comprehended and analyzed  the North-South conflict in all its multifarious dimensions that bedeviled the nation from dying days of the British Raj? Can a solution be found and implemented by blaming only one side? Can a crisis of the  Sri Lankan magnitude — it is, after all, a microcosm of the macrocosmic conditions of the majority vs. minority issues that plague the world — be comprehended and analyzed on a single mono-causal theory? Even in this new post-war phase, when new opportunities are available, should we not think out of the circumscribed Jaffna circle that has closed our mind to the hard realities and the uncomfortable truths that blinded us and obstructed a passage to peace  and reconciliation?

With all her first-hand experiences, particularly in her failures to resolve the issue when she had the  power, Kumaratunga has a responsibility to rethink where she went wrong and consider constructively what new strategies should be introduced to find a way out of the North-South quagmire. Unfortunately, there is no new thinking in her speech either to throw new light on the  past or the way forward. What is most striking in her talk is the uninhibited ease with which she blames the majority (Sinhalese) and exonerates the minority (Tamils). She opens her speech by pouring all her sympathy on S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, his cause and the Federal Party engaged in a long and difficult struggle to win the Tamil peoples’ rights”.

Her talk is a tribute to Chelvanayakam and his struggle to win the Tamil people’s right. This is in stark contrast to her attitude towards her own father, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. Her effusive outpouring of sympathy for Chelvanayakam has not been matched by a similar defence to balance the political equation with a commensurate evaluation of her father’s contribution to the making of the nation. As one of the primary beneficiaries of her father’s political legacy, she, more than anyone else, should have been in the forefront to defend her father’s lone struggle against the entire Westernized, anti-Sinhala-Buddhist elite of all communities, including the kalu-suddhas” in the Sinhala community.

Bandaranaike surged to power in 1956 to fulfill a historical necessity which has been gathering momentum, as an undercurrent, from the fine de siècle phase of the nineteenth  century. One of his missions was to redress the imbalances of colonial history and restore the rights of the Sinhala people who alone fought throughout the five centuries of colonial domination to regain their lost rights. Restoring the fundamental rights of the historical people was the primary mission of all post-colonial leaders and Bandaranaike did what Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser etc., did in leading their people to the  new independent era.

She has never identified herself with 1956” or hailed it as victory of the Sinhala people who were denied  their fundamental rights and oppressed for centuries under colonial rule. For the first time (to my knowledge) she has made a one line concession in her latest speech on the Sinhala Only Act and that too with caveats. I have never read any of her speeches/statements/interviews where she has ever given due credit – leave aside sympathy – for her pioneering father, and his long and difficult struggle to win the (Sinhala) peoples’ rights”. Like most partisan pundits she has assumed that there was no need to address the grievances the of the Sinhala people because they were in the majority and the only duty of the majority was to give into what her father called the outrageous” demands of Ponnambalamian extremism, insisting on  50% of power for 12% of the Tamils of the North. This 50% claim was wrapped in the myth that it was for all minority communities but the Muslims and the Indians did not join Ponnambalam  in the 50-50 cry. It was essentially a demand of Jaffna Tamils to retain their privileged position gained under colonial patronage.

In  the tilted judgment  of the political scientists” plugging mono-ethnic extremism of Jaffna, the assumption is that adjusting historical imbalances and injustices that subjugated and denied the traditional inhabitants of the land their birth rights under colonialism was a crime against the minorities. Their argument was tantamount to saying that the minority had the right to retain and perpetuate the dominant positions they held as a privileged community even though it was at the expense of all other communities. Overall there is no dispute that the Jaffna Tamils were the most privileged community in Sri Lanka. But by stridently propagating their political agenda they managed to propagate the myth that they were discriminated from the 30s when the British were still ruling Sri Lanka.

The fact is that the Tamils of the North  had no substantial evidence to prove this accusation. For instance, the cry of discrimination, raised exclusively by the Tamils of Jaffna from the 1930s, was dismissed as accusations  without substance by the Soulbury Commission which investigated their complaints lodged by Ponnambalam.  In fact, the Soulbury Commission  concluded that the Tamils of the North held a disproportionate share of the coveted government jobs which was the only growth industry at the time. It was a time  when the Jaffna Tamils had emerged as the most privileged community at the end of the British Raj.  Besides, Ponnambalam raised the cry of discrimination in the thirties and forties, long  before Bandaranaike launched his Sinhala Only Act in 1956. Their complaints were based on the fears of losing the privileged position they held under the colonial masters, both in the political and administrative power centers. And any attempt to adjust the historical imbalances was propagandized as discrimination” against the Jaffna Tamils.

Kumaratunga concedes that the Tamils were the most privileged community under colonial patronage. But she does not go beyond that to consider the victims marginalized by the privileges and  positions given to the Tamils of the North by the colonial masters. She skips conveniently the plight of the victims of the historical imbalances caused by colonial patronage. Privileging one community over the other was a common practice of the divide-and-rule policies of colonial masters. The primary task of the post-colonial leaders was to restore a balance and Bandaranaike place in history is in fulfilling this task. This naturally meant restoring the rights lost by the majority because the divide-and-rule policy favoured a selected minority as a counterweight to the power of the majority.

Her failure to grasp the basics of the North-South dynamics confirms her own conclusion: It is truly sad that people of some intelligence and knowledge adopt such attitudes knowing full well how dangerous and destructive they can be to the Nation’s progress.”

(To be continued)

15 Responses to “CBK abandons her father and embraces Chelvanayakam -Part I”

  1. Independent Says:

    This is the problems we are facing.
    We not only keep electing the “brainless” to political leadership but ready to worship them too.

  2. Christie Says:

    Namaste:,සොලොමොන් බන්ඩරනයක ප්‍රතම ඉන්දියනු අදිරදයේ ආන්ඩුකාරවරයාය.

  3. Christie Says:

    Namaste: “The primary task of the post-colonial leaders was to restore a balance and Bandaranaike place in history is in fulfilling this task”
    1. Nationalized only emerging Sinhala businesses.
    2. Deprived Sinhala masses of an English education.
    3. Supported Indian businessmen to prosper more than they were under the British Indian Empire.
    4. Stopped the settlement of landless Sinhalese poor in newly developed lands by appointing the husband of a Tamil woman as the minister of irrigation fulfilling one of the major demands of the Indians who financed his elections.
    5. Traditional Sinhala health system was destroyed by elevating Indian Ayurveda doctors.
    6. Sinhala culture was Indianised and Hindufied
    7. Sinhala language was destroyed and transformed in to Sinhaha Bhashawa.
    8 Buddhism was Hindufied.
    9. All new foundations laid for a prosperous country were stalled, example new factories like cement, Chemicals, railways, research institutions like CSIRO.
    10. Changing names of roads instead of building them.
    11. Destroying Sinhala businesses with Industrial actions by Indian colonial parasite union leaders
    12. Changing names of educational institutes without proper facilities or staff for the Sinhalese.
    These are a few.
    Jai Hind

  4. Dilrook Says:

    If not for the “Sinhala only in 24 hours” slogan, SWRD Bandaranaike and his clan would have been unheard of after his political life. It established a just system where over 75% of the people could have it their way. It must be noted that no agitations, tar brush campaigns and violence occured due to the Official Language Act (1956). None whatsoever. All these started after the passage of the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act (1957) which disturbed the caste ridden Tamil society. Until then “low caste” Tamil students could not go to school. The few who were bold enough to go were abused and made to sit on the floor.

    It is illogical to blame the Sinhalese to the socalled “ethnic problem”. It was created by Tamils and paid the price for it. For instance the “Tamil Eelam” movement was launched in 1923 by the Ceylon Tamil Congress (Wilson, AJ).

    During her term Chandrika made five attempts to divide the nation – 1995 regional councils plan, 1998 first package, 2000 package with changes presented to parliament, CFA and PTOMS. Now she is back with new plans.

    By inviting the daughter of Bandaranaike to deliver the Chelvanayakam speech, ITAK has shown Chandrika’s true character and alligiance.

  5. Independent Says:

    Can you make an alternative proposal to what SWRD did ?

  6. charithsls Says:

    The question is why has she become so much unpatriotic? Is it the greed for power or money or status she wants grab with the help of foreign forces as our dirty ancestors did under the colonial rule. Is it also the hatred towards MR who was building a sense of pride in Sinhalese nation which she wants to destroy as revenge as she knows no patriotic force will ever support her. Also with her union to Vijaya has she become another Christian under the guise of a Buddhist (just like Ranil) & is it not Rajitha who is a great supporter of her in the same faith. Her daughter is married to a foreign Christian. The last may be more true,the born again lot is really a vicious nasty group towards Buddhism because I cannot fathom a true Buddhist will ever utter a word like that.

  7. SA Kumar Says:

    “Tamil Eelam” movement was launched in 1923 by the Ceylon Tamil Congress (Wilson, AJ).- YES
    Official Language Act (1956).-made TE realistic until that TE was non starter so all thanks go to SWRD.

  8. Metteyya_Brahmana Says:

    In general, Sri Lanka is too small for ‘federalism’ so I do not see why this is a serious consideration other than it is being urged by the US Embassy in Colombo. The US is more interested in controlling territory in Sri Lanka for their own purposes (China Containment), so their ideas must be rejected out-of-hand. The REAL stumbling block with reconciliation is not giving Tamil and Muslim leaders more power in the North and the East, it is that these regions are not integrated with the rest of the country because of the genocidal and ethnic cleansing of these areas by the LTTE.

    Rebalancing and re-integrating the North and East MUST be the first step toward genuine reconciliation, as it forces Tamils and Muslims in these areas to grow up with Buddhist neighbors just like Tamils and Muslims in the rest of the country.

    If Sri Lanka is to have a federalism system at all, ethnic and religious integration must be a pre-condition, and just like in America (which is MUCH larger than Sri Lanka), there must be a clear federal-preemption doctrine in the law, perhap even codified into the Sri Lanka Constitution. The way federal preemption works, the Center (Colombo) or national government can pre-empt ANY provincial law or ordinance if it conflicts with national legislation that is intended to manage the same subject matter on a nation-wide basis. This is the law in the United States, and with Sri Lanka being a much smaller country, federal preemption should take on an even greater role to ensure country cohesion.

    Another pre-condition for federalism should be the TNA and all other Tamil parties that are part of provincial government to publicly renounce the separatist goals of the LTTE, and even the idea of incremental Eelam. Such goals are completely incompatible with the very idea of a nation-state, and all Tamil (and Muslim) public officials must publicly accept the fact that Northern and Eastern provinces belong to ALL Sri Lankans, not just their ethnic or religious group.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Is Ms CBK a fit person emotionally to participate in Lanka politics ? After all, she lost her father, and husband, to political assassinations. She lost an eye in a LTTE suicide bombing. We do sympathise with her, but is she fit for the role of being the person to bring about Reconciliation when she herself appears not healed from her past terrible experiences ? She has a record of failed politics after a sympathetic public elected her twice as President of Lanka.


    To solve the internal problems in a permanent way, Lanka People must demand that :

    1. Tamil leaders must officially revoke the Vaddukoddai Resolution calling for Separatism through Violence.
    2. Tamil leaders must officially revoke Separatism.
    3. Illegal migrants must be deported.
    4. The Tamil language must be withdrawn as a National/Official language of Lanka as it is leading to Separatism through Language (India is separated into different states through language), illegal migration from Tamil Nadu, undue foreign interference in Lanka internal matters. As matters stand, the Tamil Language in its capacity as a National/Official language of Lanka, has become a threat to National Security.

  10. Nimal Says:

    Contrary to what is written up here I saw thing differently. While Colombo was burning in 1956 or 1957 my eldest brother and I visited MR SWRD on invitation to his home in Rosemead place where we had to meet W.Dahanayake as well.W.D was the education minister where there was an inquiry over my brother’s wife’s transfer to a godforsaken place because she was one miss Rathwatte closely related to MRS SWRD.A kind of revenge.
    During that meeting at Rosemead place we saw CJVC who had tea with the PM but couldn’t get his driver to take him out of the place to his residence while there were riots in Colomo3 and Wellawatte areas.
    We were brave enough to give him a lift and while in our car he was very silence, seeing the burning of shops in Galle road. My brother asked him what he had done to his own people provoking the majority by tarring the Sinhalese name boards. There was deafening silence from him until we dropped him somewhere.
    In all our big incidents in the island our own people were involved too. One has to investigate the attack on the Airport and Maligawa where some other than the terrorists had a interest.Truly shameful.One can’t do deals with rabid terrorists as one day they will bite back,just as what happened to Ragive G, Premadasa and Fernanopulle.

  11. SA Kumar Says:

    .One can’t do deals with rabid terrorists as one day they will bite back !
    VP killed Ragive G, Premadasa and Fernanopulle but can you tell me CJVC kill any one ?
    there were riots in Colomo3 and Wellawatte areas.- why PM SWRD did not stop (pass curfew) ?

    My Sinhala brother We are Two Nation !

  12. SA Kumar Says:

    My brother asked him what he had done to his own people provoking the majority by tarring the Sinhalese name boards. There was deafening silence from him until we dropped him somewhere.

    Nimal please guess me when your brother asked above question what was CJVC thinging in his mind (deafening silence)
    I know it is very very difficult to guess others mind but as a average person ( not as Sinhala) please tell me ?

  13. Nimal Says:

    SA K
    He proved a peaceful nation and responsible for the death and destruction thereafter just as the separatists have brought the same wroth on their people.CJVC was almost expelled from Malaysia where he tried the same separatist stunt and we were stupid enough to let him in.
    OEG declared Marshall law in the country and the riots were ruthlessly put down. Most of the rioters were just market or street thugs had no political affiliations.

  14. Nimal Says:

    Sorry for the above mistake in grammar. What I meant was ‘he provoked the nation ‘It’s just past 3 AM here zzzzz!

  15. SA Kumar Says:

    Thank you for reply
    As a Mother Lanka Tamil I could not work it out How come CJVC & Amirthalingam all other TULF people declare separate state against 75 % Bhuddist Sinhalase. even 5 year old boy can work out it will end up in Mulli vakkal one day . How come these well educated could not thought about it.

    OEG declared Marshall law by SWRD & Riot started 7 days after curfew by JRJ all We both know to kick out Tamil (Thosa kada , all small conner shop owner) to North ( Kari demila ,Yana vano yanda Japanaya)

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