Posted on August 11th, 2019

Sugath Samarasinghe

The Tamil Net recently carried a news item to the following effect concerning a statement reported to have made to Tamil net by Mr. Mano Ganesan, our Minister of Reconciliation.

The SL Archaeology Department is the evil of all heritage related tensions in the North and East, and thirty-two Sinhala only experts currently advise it. This ‘Sinhala’ Archaeology must be reconfigured, said SL Minister of ‘National Integration’ and Hindu Religious Affairs Mr. Mano Ganesan, in an exclusive interview to TamilNet on Monday. The conservation of the protected sites in the North-East, including the ancient traces of the Tamil Buddhist heritage, must be carried out with the advice of Tamil historians. Mr. Ganesan said he would be moving a cabinet paper to this effect. At least five Tamil experts must be assigned the specific task, he said. Ganesan also warned Tamils against falling prey to the heinous designs of the anti-Muslim extremist monks who want to set the Tamils against the Tamil-speaking Muslims.

Can archaeology be ‘reconfigured’? one might ask. As far as we know, archaeology can only preserve, conserve already existing ancient ruins and whatever lies under the earth undiscovered. That is how the lost city of Pompeii or Mayan civilization of South America, Pyramids of Egypt, Greece and Rome were rediscovered. So were the ruined cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Nobody ‘reconfigured’ them as far as we know, nor can anyone legitimately do that. History is history, period. Only new discoveries can throw any new light on it.

The latest effort to ‘reconfigure’ history when  the Mannar Mass grave was dug open ended with egg on the face of all interested parties in the North and elsewhere and also the likes of the National Reconciliation Minster Mano Ganesan who anticipated to support the bogus claims of ‘genocide’ by the Armed Forces. The DNA tests done in the US showed that the skeletons found were over 500 years old confirming the contrary theory that they were probably the victims of genocide of the Catholic Malabars of Mannar allegedly by Sankili. No wonder that people like Ganesan are angry with the Archaeology Department who professionally did the excavation.          

Can anybody in sane mind say: The SL Archaeology Department is the evil of all heritage related tensions in the North and East,”?  Is the fact that Sri Maha Bodhi sapling from India was brought to Jambukolapattana of the Northern Peninsula recorded in the Mahavansa be disputed when all the rest of the story is corroborated by physical evidence? Has the Archaeological Department concocted when the Gold Plate of Wallipuram was unearthed there? It said that a representative of King Vasabha reigned there on his behalf. When the archaeologists discovered an inscription in Kayts Island written in Tamil for the benefit of the visiting foreign traders on customs regulations, was it a fabrication? One could go on and on, but why go that far? The majority of the people living in the Jaffana Peninsula were called Malabars until Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who was Director of the Census and Statistics Department named them as ‘Ceylon Tamil’ in his census report of 1911. There is of course the writings of British writers such as Emerson Tenant and others who describe the state of affairs and other artifacts found in the Northern Province which may not to the liking of the likes of Mano Ganesan and the ‘Tamil Historians’ who are looking to ‘configure’ history to fit their present day ideology which is communal. I believe there are many like them who are laboring to give a Tamil twist to the history of India too.

Then there is the very transparent Tamil place names still found in Jaffna Peninsula like Walikaamam, Chunnakam etc. which are obviously corruption of original Sinhala village names. So what is the ‘transfiguration’ that can be done? Mr. Ganesan’s anger appears to be that such stand out instances could not be wiped out, to be consistent with the fictious history developed by Tamil Historians. The Archeological Department of this country is one of the oldest Departments established by early British Archaeologists like H.C.P Bell, H.W Codrington and later continued in the same tradition by eminent local scholars like Prof. Paranavithana, Dr, C.E. Godakumbure and Prof Deraniyagala and currently Prof. Raj Somadeva who are internationally accepted.  Thus, this Department had been established quite long before the present Tamil project ever started. As the world knows the discipline of archaeology is an empirical study corroborated by epigraphical and other recorded evidence, now further supported by DNA. Hence, where is the room for reconfiguration by anybody?

Any one in sane mind would expect a Minister for National Integration and Reconciliation to be a man who is impartial. Can this man be seen as an impartial judging by what he has told an avowed Eelaam website? The very purpose of reconciliation is to bring about some kind of consensus and tolerance among disagreeing parties most of whom are wrought with emotion. This has to be done with a lot of sensitivity and understanding. It is natural that all parties involved have sensitive issues and grievances perceived or real. This Minister by his brash utterance seem to think that only the Minorities have grievances. What about the grievances of the Majority? They have many issues like the illegal encroachments by other communities in places like at Muhudu Maha viharaya in the Eastern Province, Kurugala in Sabaragamuwa and Gurukanda Viharaya in the North which are all lawfully pronounced by the Archaeological Department to name a few. The latest is the resistance confronted by this Department in Kinniya hot water ponds by parties led by politicians and other extremists who lay claims to a latter day built kovil on an archeologically declared cite. And they call from housetops the lack of Rule of Law in the country!          

The grievance of the majority community is that the minorities could shamelessly engage in provocative activities at will. One of the latest being the damages caused to Buddha statues in Mawanella. The majority Sinhalese are not allowed to conserve any ancient places of worship in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, though they have not objected to Hindu and Muslim places of worship in other provinces. In fact, the Secretary, Ministry of Muslim affairs has recently claimed that there are some sixty odd unauthorized mosques in the country already. It is common knowledge that ‘church planting’ as a policy is carried out throughout the country at will, by Christian Evangelical Movements. When these activities are resisted there are cries of lack of religious tolerance in this country, raised even in international publications. The assumption of the minorities and the likes of Mano Ganesan that they are able to engage in such patent communal activities, that they are entitles to do so since they are minorities, but the majority community is not entitled to lodge their protests. Such provocative activities are taken as given but the impression seems to that the majority has no right to be provoked. It is this type of provocative activities that lead to the eruption of communal and religious conflicts in this country. If one is unable to grasp this reality or is not willing to understand this reality, one does not qualify to be a Minister of national Integration. So under such a dispensation communal and religious tensions will continue in this country since such a minister or a twisted policy will lack credibility of all parties. Therefore, whoever becomes a Minister of Reconciliation has to be a man of broad vision who can maintain a delicate balance between the competing interests among all communities. This certainly a challenging task that cannot be expected from its present incumbent. So we will never have communal harmony in this country in the near future. Fork it is common knowledge that if you work a sum in the wrong way, you always get a wrong answer.               Sugath Samarasinghe

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