Sri Lankan Tamil refugees say they got along well with the Sinhalese before the war
Posted on November 21st, 2019

By Piyumi Fonseka Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, November 21 ( It is sad to see the communal attitude of some Sri Lankans including people around me. I felt like sharing this story with you all. Please spare a moment and read it.

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees say they got along well with the Sinhalese before the war

Pictured with me are Sri Lankan Tamils who had fled to Tamil Nadu by boat to save their lives at the height of the war.

During my higher studies in Kerala, India, I wanted to meet Sri Lankans living in Tamil Nadu refugee camps and write about them.

Although I went with two of my friends from Chennai, I had second thoughts on whether the refugees would speak to me because I am a ‘Sinhala Buddhist’. However I did go to a camp anyway with the belief that as people of my country, they will talk to me.

What happened there is what you all need to know.

They first wondered why I had come to visit them all the way from Kerala. But after doubts were cleared they took me in and welcomed me as if I was like one of their family. They told me that I was the first Sri Lankan to visit them at the camp since they left Sri Lanka and settled in the camps in the 1990s.

The refugees told me how nicely they used to live in harmony and peace before the war in Sri Lanka, how dismal their lives in the refugee camp are and how longingly they dream about returning to their motherland.

But at the same time they were scared to go back, ambivalent about as to how fellow Sri Lankans will welcome them as a considerable number of them had affiliations with LTTE members in the past. They said all they wanted was to die in the country of their birth.

Simona, a 70-year-old mother of five, had a son in the LTTE who died at the age of 22 in the war. Her husband had also died in a shell attack.

Before the war, we were living happily and peacefully with Sinhala people. We had a beautiful life in Sri Lanka,” she recalled.

The inmates of the camp did not let us leave without having lunch which was made in one of the houses in the camp. We were served rice with potatoes, beans and boiled eggs.

Those women who, I felt, were like my mother or aunt, hugged me and wished me good health. I was in tears.

As a journalist and a Sri Lankan, that day is cherished as one of the most unforgettable days in my life.

Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, we are all Sri Lankans. But we are labeled as Buddhists, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers. It is true that there are extremists in every religion. But, why are we looking at everyone with the same lens? We all have such short lives. Why waste time spreading hate? Wouldn’t it be the greatest victory for Sri Lanka if we all can get together as one strong army and work for a brighter future?

3 Responses to “Sri Lankan Tamil refugees say they got along well with the Sinhalese before the war”


    Yes, the Tamils and Sinhala people had no problems in living together until the self styled leaders of Tamils became too ambitious and began promoting racially separatist ideas among the Tamils, especially among Tamil youth. Such action eventually led to the emergence of Prabakaran who resorted to extreme forms of terrorism and deceit in order to have a Tamil enclave within the island, thereby undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the predominantly Sinhala country inhabited since historic times by the Sinhala people, with a culture founded on Buddhist norms and principles. This is the only country of the Sinhala people, the place where their culture, their language and their non-violent and innocent way of life originated and sustained. It is a nation with social values that can be adopted by anyone. If Tamils are not willing to abide by these values, they have the choice of returning to Tamilnadu – their own historic homeland where their culture, language and way of life originated and developed. Live and let live is all what the peace-loving Sinhala people expect from all those have made Sri Lanka their home.
    Daya Hewapathirane


    Prior to the arrival of European colonialists the Sinhela Buddhist majority and the minorities who made the country their home, lived together for centuries without conflict. Christianity led to divisions within the Sinhela community. The divide and rule policy of the British with preferential treatment accorded to the minority Tamil community, led to divisive feelings and polarization of the Sinhela-Tamil peoples. With independence, the well-established, Western educated and economically well-off Tamil elite began to feel the erosion of their power, influence and identity. They felt threatened in the absence of the preferential treatment that they enjoyed under the British. This was the beginning of ethnic conflicts in Sri Lanka. With increased globalization, conflict and violence between the communities escalated. In Sri Lanka the connection is readily evident between the ethnic conflict and the economic-cultural system introduced by European invaders, along with the spread of globalization, and Western-Christian norms.


    Tamils are a small non-indigenous minority community of Sri Lanka amounting to a mere 15.4% (including the 4.2% of Indian Tamils), and the Muslims account for about 9% of the total population of Sri Lanka. The Sinhala community who form the historic mainstream community of Sri Lanka amounts to more than 75% of the island’s population. In combination, the Tamil and Muslim minority communities of Sri Lanka amounts to about 25% of the 22 million total population of the island.

    Tamils and Muslims are non-indigenous minority communities of Sri Lanka who settled in the island at different times in the past, coming from their own motherlands. The Tamils came from their motherland, the Tamilnadu where their culture and language originated. In many sovereign nations of the world, non-indigenous communities have settled down and have merged with the dominant, mainstream host nation into a single file. Those settling down in host countries have a bounden duty to merge with the host nation as a single coherent nation. It is basically, a state of mindset, not necessarily physical interaction. Within these host countries, legal, civic and human rights of the host nation are what all settler communities are entitled to and expected to observe, not any special rights and privileges. Sri Lanka wants all minority communities such as the Tamils, Muslims and others of whatever label, to become a part of the mainstream Sinhala Buddhist Nation, just the way minority communities are expected to do in all countries of the world, especially in places like Canada, Australia, USA, UK, Norway. They should help to strengthen the Sinhala Buddhist nation founded on the noble Buddhist principles of non-violence, tolerance, compassion, where peaceful co-habitation has been the cornerstone from historic times. “Forgiving and forgetting” has been the attitude of the Sinhala people, even to those who have harmed them repeatedly in the past, because they know that eventually justice and truth will prevail
    for the good of all citizens.

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