Regarding some basic beliefs of Tamil Nationalism which have misled the Tamils.

by Sebastian Rasalingam

Part I

There has been a number of articles recently, e.g, Groundviews (Feb.22, 2008) on "Ethnos or Demos?- questioning Tamil nationalism, and various responses to it. Other news media have published other articles, e.g., that of Mr. Rohana Wasala (The Island, 18-March-2008), as well the comments made by the Island columnist Shanee, mainly touching on the Estate Indian citizenship act and its relatiuon to the Tamil question. Some clarity can be achieved if the historical settings to these issues were revisited.

A distorted picture of the Indian citizenship act (1948 and 1949) was launched by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and others partly as a means of attacking G. G. Ponnambalam, who at that time held the leading position in Tamil politics. At the end of the Soulbury commission's sittings, a sense of healing between the communities took place, largely because Senanayake had imposed a dignified silence, instead of a heated exchange between communities in front of the Soulobury commission. It was at this point that G. G. Ponnambalam, Arunachalam Mahadeva, Natesan and others called for "responsible cooperation" with the Sinhalese leaders and supported the new Senanayake government.

Chelvanayakam and others proposed the two-nation concept (instead of the failed fifty-fifty approach). One aspect of this proposal was to regard the Sinhalese as invaders of the Tamil homeland which had already begun to be defined, for example, with the formation of a society calling itself the "All_Ceylon Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jaffna", coming into being in May 1940 (Hindu Organ, May 13, 1940). The Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi (ITAK) hoped to use the example from India, where the mass Satyagrahas finally drove out the British, as the weapon to unleash against the Sinhalese.

This policy required a deliberate attempt to discredit the Seananayakas and others who stood for the "one-nation of Ceylonese" concept. Collaborators with the Sinhalese automatically became traitors or " thurogis". Thus it was how G. G. Ponnambalam was declared a traitor by the ITAK. With this turn of events, the ITAK was not a pan-Ceylonese party even for appearance's sake. Its task was to destroy any bridges which existed between the two communities, and insist that the Tamils, with their grander history and destiny, are utterly different from the Sinhalese, and should seek its own "Arasu".

In 1952 the language issue had not come to the front stage. Senanayake had indicated his support for parity of administrative usage for the two languages, but clearly did not wish to make this into a public issue. The burning battle that took place between the ITAK and the Tamil Congress (TC) in 1952 was over the Indian citizenship act. Ponnambalam and Natesan of the TC were contested by Chelvanayakam and Naganathan, and it was during this election that the highly distorted picture of the Indian citizenship act was presented to the Tamils of Jaffna. The ITAK as well as the Marxist leaders in the South went around building a picture of Senanayake as a sinhala racist who has rendered a million Tamils "stateless". Senanayake's citizenship act, drawn up with the help of leading Tamils (like Vaithiyalingam), and most probably with the advice of Senanayake's principal constitutional Guru, Ivor Jennings, was actually an unusually liberal document, when viewed against the practices that existed at that time in other parts of the world.

The Canadian "Indian" citizenship act, applied in 1952 to (native) Canadian Indians, required that an Indian be judged "civilized" by a white government official before he could enjoy the rights of schooling, health care and other basic amenities. Or else he had to remain shut out from the external world in "Indian Reserves". Senanayake's citizenship act required seven years of residence in Ceylon as a condition for citizenship. Compare this with the Hispanic workers in America today. The Hispanics were the original inhabitants of California, New Mexico and Southern Texas. But Spanish is not a recognized official language, and California does not attempt to reserve its borders to Hispanics as their homeland. The millions of Hispanic workers are so essential to the US economy that it would collapse if they were to go on a mass work-stoppage. And yet, a Hispanic worker cannot even get a "green card" without jumping through many hoops.

The ITAK had to build up a repertoire of original sins committed by the "Sinhalese invaders of the Tamil home lands", if its political program of driving a wedge between the two communities were to succeed. Note that this is already in the period PRIOR to the arrival of "Sinhala Only". I list the following which have become "accepted beliefs", mainly among the Colombo Tamil intellectuals of the younger generation (i.e., those who grew up after the World War II).

The litany of sins began with the famous claim of "deception" of Ponnambalam Arunachalam (AP), by the Sinhalese leaders, in the early 1920s, in regard to the "Colombo seat". At that time, all politicians, be they Sinhala or Tamil, were beholden to the Governor for their political positions. If the Governor had given even the slightest indication that he wanted AP appointed to the Colombo seat, the Sinhala leaders would have rushed to execute the Governor's wish. AP himself realized that the Governor needs to be wooed, and that is why he invited the Governor to Jaffna, received him lavishly and presented a secret proposal asking that he be appointed. Unfortunately for AP, the Lake House press managed get a copy and to splash the "secret memorandum", ensuring that the Governor turned against a highly embarrassed AP. Not surprisingly, it heralded the end of AP's political career. AP claimed that two Sinhalese leaders who had promised to support him had deceived him, and left politics claiming to be "disgusted with such "deception". And yet, this incident which reflect the vanity and political incompetence of Arunachalam Ponnamblam has become the primodial "origin sin" cited by Tamil Nationalism.

Regarding some basic beliefs of Tamil Nationalism which have misled the Tamils.
Part II


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