Wigneswaran’s attempts to construct an alternative history of local Tamils going back to millenia.
Posted on August 27th, 2020

Chandre Dharmawardana

“Wigneswaran …..Presumably hoping for a wider, protracted debate on that element. The Govt side very effectively scuttled his hopes by nixing any such debate during event.”

This sort of thing has gone on since the 1930s. In fact, the first Sinhala-Tamil riot in 1939 August occurred when G. G. Ponnambalam alluded to the ancient history of the Tamils in Sri lanka, while the condemning the Sinhalese as a “mongrel race” descended from the tamils. He claimed at a meeting in Nwalapitiya that Vijaya was Vijayan, and Kashyapa was Kasi-appan. The riot which began to spread widely was put down with force by the British Raj and it ended in a day, unlike the communal riots under Bandaranaike or JR Jayawardena..

In fact, just prior to Independence D. S. Senanayake followed the same tactic of NOT arguin with the Tamil leaders in front of the Soulbury commission. He forebade people like S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who was the leading Sinhala nationalist and spokesman of the Sinhala Maha Sabha and all members of his party (nascent UNP) from making any presentations in front of the Soulbury commission.

G. G. Ponnambalam Senior talked and harangued for three days, claiming that

1. the Tamils are discriminated with respect to jobs.

2. The existence of the Buddhist Temporalities act and place given to Buddhism by  treaty discriminated against tamils.

3. There was no port in the North comparable to Colombo and discriminated against the tamils.

4.  There were no hospitals comparable to Colombo in the North.

5.  The British favoured the Sinhalese.

6.  The expatriate tamils who had been working in British colonies and had come back to Sri lanka because of the 1930s ecomomic depression should be given government employment in preference to the “uneducated” sinhalese.

7. Seananayak’s irrigation schemes favoured the Sinhalese
8. Etc, etc

9. The Tamils, although a small demographic must be given an equal number of seats in parliament (50 for Tamils and any minorities who join his party, and 50 for Sinhalese) – the  infamous  50-50 demand.

G. G. Ponnambalam talked for three days, making the same sort of wild assertions made by Wigneswarn today (but only for a very brief period given to him).

There was no rebuttal. It was implied and made known that GGP’s claims were so preposterous that no rebuttal was necessary.

The Muslim leaders like T. B. Jayah opposed GGP in brief presentations. Some Kandyan leaders wanted power to themselves.

But Soulbury ordered the Ceylon Civil Service heads  of various departments to research each of the claims. Many of the top civil servants were British and tamil, with very few sinhalese. However, the civil service brought out solid evidence showing the highly favourable position occupied by the Tamils in almost every sphere of public and commercial endevours in Sri lanka, debunking the claims of GGPonnambalam.

Meanwhile D. S. Senanayake and others, while publicly boycotting the Soulbury commission, feted and dined them in private and took them on trips in the country to show sights, irrigation works etc., and got them entirely into their pockets.

Soulbury wrote that G. G. Ponnambalam is trying to put justice and fairplay upside down, and rejected Ponnambalam so hard that Ponnambalam’s political future became in doubt.

Then, after letting GGP eat humbe pie for an year or so, DS Senanayake the master tactician asked GGP to join his Cabinet, and even help to draft the Indian citizenship act which denied citizenship to estate workers unless they had 7 years of continuous residence in the country. Vaitiyalingam, GGPonna etc, were involved in drafting that bill whicvh the Tamils mof today blame on D. S. Seanayake. In 1952 GGPonnambalam campaigned hard against the ITAK of SJV Chelvanayagam who pushed a Tamil Nationalist program. That is GGPonnambalam effectively rejected his old policies.

However, after DSSenanayake’s death, the ignorant and naive John Kotelawala

undid all this by going to Jaffna and telling ITAK agents who hosted him that he will make Tamil an official language [where as DS senanayake has said he will not make the official languages issue “a political football” and avoided the issue.

 He wanted to take it up later, “behind the curtain”. I do not know if that was a feasible tactic. Buddhist leaders like Mr. Mettanada, Ven Kalukondayawe  and others were very unhappy with the position taken by DSSeanayake, although Dr. Malalasekera, Baron Jayatilleke and others agreed (or vacillated) that the language question should not be brought out as an election issue.

But this most experienced and cunning politician who had the British rulers in his pocket died when he fell of a horse, and John Kothelawala became PM by accident. 

[The best account of all this is found in the book by the British Historian Dr. Jane Russell, Communal Politics under the Donoughmore commission, 1931-1948, published in 1982 or 1984 by Tissara Prakashakayo. You can also google it].

Today, the situation is different. Just as the Soulbury commission did, the government must give a dignified (non polemical) response to Wigneswaran so that Wigneswaran has no platform to put out his theater and become a Tamil Nationalist hero worth a tuppence.

Gotabhaya, in appointing the task force for the preservation of archaeological sites, is moving in the right direction.

The fact that what Wigneswaran said has got into the Hansaard is of no importance. there are already much worse things said there in the Hansard, from GGPonnambalam Sr in the state council, by SJV Chelvanayagam, EMV Naganathan,  Amirthalingam etc, in the Parliament.

Does any one (except a historian) know much about them?

So what Wigneswarn said is nothing in comparison – he is making sounds to be heard by his diaspora funding agents.

Chandre Dharmawardana

One Response to “Wigneswaran’s attempts to construct an alternative history of local Tamils going back to millenia.”

  1. Vaisrawana Says:

    A very wise comment on Vigneswaran’s childish remarks in parliament on the inaugural day. Outside of parliament, Wimal Weerawansa accorded him the dignity his remarks deserved when he compared him to a drunken relative at a wedding whom the helpless hosts chose to ignore. Sarath Weersekera said in parliament during his maiden speech that Vigneswaran was a child who begged his mother for a lollipop at the supermarket.

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