Foreign Relations, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

National referendums and the aspirations of a diaspora: a Saturday morning reflection

A week ago (Saturday 12 December 2009), I came across a news report about a referendum organised by Tamil nationalist activists in France, in order to [quote] say yes or no for independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam in the island of Sri Lanka [unquote]. The article, published in Tamilnet, further said that polling was to take place in 30 centres in Paris and suburbs and in five centres out of Paris. A so-called [quote] Formation committee for the country council of Eelam tamils in France [unquote] was mentioned as the chief organisers of the referendum, supported by [quote] 61 Eezham Tamil organisations and two NGOs in France [unquote].

This is not the first occasion that a referendum of this nature has been organised. A similar event held in Norway was given relatively substantial publicity back in May 2009. At a first glance, it appears that the idea of referendums on Tamil Eelam was developed by diaspora Tamil nationalists, i.e. Tamil nationalist hardliners who continue to support the concept of Tamil Eelam (a separate state for ethnic Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka). Referendums on Tamil Eelam seem to be used  that has come to being in the aftermath of the decimation of the LTTE, which culminated in the assassination of all its senior leaders including supremo VP.

It may be easy enough to guess who organises these referendums, but reading the Tamilnet article this morning, I was struck by one question: what are they expecting to achieve through them? It is true that events of this nature enable them to make their voice heard locally (i.e. within the countries where they are based). Even that publicity tends to be largely marginal, as the Sri Lankan question does not constitute a key foreign policy or strategic priority to many of the Western states with large Tamil communities. Nonetheless, looking through Facebook and elsewhere, I noticed a sense of tremendous enthusiasm among young diaspora Tamils over today’s referendum in France. The thoughts that follow largely concern this group of energetic youngsters, their ‘diasporic’ politics and the future ahead of them….and us.

There is one group that tends to capitalise on referendums or any other events organised by hardline Tamil nationalist groups: local politicians in each country. In effect, some local politicians seem to notice the advantages of courting the nationalist hardliners of the Tamil diaspora, as increasingly large numbers of its members are part of their local electorates. This is especially relevant with regards to the second generation; youngsters of Tamil origin are native speakers of the local language, are brought up in the local culture, and their citizenship functions as an asset they can use in voicing their positions on Tamil nationalism. A few weeks ago, I came across an interview with Jan Jananayagam, British Tamil banking professional cum aspiring politician. In explaining her views on diaspora youth and Tamil nationalism, she notes that being fully part and parcel of the local society provides them with added leverage to pick up a phone, call their local MPs and put their concerns forward. Some local politicians do seem to show an interest in garnering the support of Tamil vote banks in their respective electorates.

I find the current operational dynamics of hardline diaspora Tamil nationalism considerably worrying, as their strategies are near pointless. Despite efforts to express their concerns through pacific measures such as locally organised referendums, it is more than crystal –clear that such steps are only reminiscent of the Sinhalese saying Palu gé valan bindinava (literally ‘breaking pots and pans in an abandoned house’). Events of this nature also seem to serve a purely ‘psychological’ purpose, which Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka describes as ‘the emotional gratification of the Tamil diaspora’ (referring to hardline Tamil nationalism in the Tamil diaspora in one of his numerous submissions to GV, especially during his ambassadorial tenure in Geneva). While teaching several smart young French Tamil undergraduates in the recent past, one observation painfully struck me: they (especially those harbouring hardline nationalist – separatist positions) all have a very strong sense of affection to their country of origin, that island nation they have heard a lot about, that many of them (or probably the majority of them) have never been to, never experienced in real life. In many cases, their deeply-felt desire to engage themselves in Tamil nationalist activism  is indeed a product of their imaginaire, built and shaped by the experience of growing up with exiled parents, in the middle of two worlds – that of their parents and the world ‘out there’. Their upbringing has made them extremely sensitive to ‘Sri Lanka’, which they view through the prism of what they have heard from their folks at home, what they hear around them, what they read, and the overall ideas, influences and individuals that condition their perceptions of the island.

For a Sri Lankan and a Sinhalese in particular, who is willing to talk to any interest group irrespective of their ideological positions on the ethnic question, talking to young diaspora Tamils can often be a simultaneously heart-touching and somewhat frustrating experience. Their views of the Sinhalese community are generally marked by a high level of negativity. Some of them do have friends from the Sinhalese diaspora, but little interactive discussion seems to take place among them. Last summer, a group of young Tamil protestors at Parliament Square (London UK) told me that after nightfall, Sinhalese youth would drive around Parliament Square, shouting abuse at them, and at times throwing bags of waste. Two years ago, a brilliant French Tamil student of mine with deep affections to Tamil Eelam, explained how she dreamt of going to Sri Lanka after a degree in Business Studies to start her own firm there. Another student who did an in-class exposé (oral presentation) on Sri Lanka ended her rendering with a hope for ‘Tamil independence’…..Another young lady, who had visited Sri Lanka for the first time at the age of 19, saw herself settled down in northern Sri Lanka after the conflict – under ‘their’ rule…

These interactions point at a sorry situation: irrespective of political views, Tamil diaspora youth harbour a strong affection towards Sri Lanka. The extent of misinformation, misunderstanding, misjudgements, lack of knowledge in Sri Lankan history and critical thinking are phenomenal. Making them see things in a different light, re-read history, understand the perceptions of ‘the other’, are all extremely difficult tasks, which in many cases, are very likely to end up in total failure. Yet, it is clearer than ever that something has to be done. Someone has to take the initiative to ‘engage’ the young Tamil diaspora in the post-conflict socioeconomic and cultural life of Sri Lanka  – i.e. the ‘real’ Sri Lanka, not the tear-drop terre natale of their imaginaire.

It is indeed high time that the government of Sri Lanka and its diplomatic apparatus elaborated a sincere, inclusive, far-sighted and long –term plan to engage constructively with Tamil diaspora youth. Virtually all of them are proud inheritors of a culture that prioritises education and hard work. Irrespective of the country they live in, the passport they travel with and the language they are most comfortable with, getting to know them, one instantly notices that familiar energy, that zest for hard work and the deeply-felt need to gain good results – not strange to those familiar with Sri Lanka’s Tamil community and its colossal contributions to the island in every field. They love Sri Lanka, and political views put aside, their affection to the island is an extremely sincere one – way more sincere than the patriotism of many a Sri Lankan politico. As they enter the job market as qualified and well-trained professionals (many of them with skills that could tremendously serve Sri Lanka’s post-conflict economic revival), a concrete strategy of luring their support and attracting them to post-war Sri Lanka would strongly benefit the economic, social and cultural development and transformation of our land. It is vital to amalgamate such a strategy with timely reforms of Sri Lankan citizenship, which needs to encompass a broader scope of eligibility; similar to the concept of Irish citizenship (anyone with immediate Irish ancestry, through at least one of his/her parents/grandparents, is eligible for Irish citizenship. Given the size of the Sri Lankan diaspora and the speed at which it is expanding, and pondering on Ireland’s history of immigration and our own, methinks a more inclusive citizenship policy will serve us best in the 21st century (in an insightful article published in his blog, Mr Indi Samarajeewa has recently voiced the need for citizenship law reform in a relatively similar vein). Right from the First Citizen and diplomats to Citizens home and abroad, Sri Lankans should never forget the salient reality that despite passports, languages and political views, Tamil diaspora youth are all sons and daughters of our land. Acknowledging so, helping them discover, live, enjoy and love the ‘real’ Sri Lanka will be among the greatest achievements the Head of State and the diplomatic machinery could achieve in post-war Sri Lanka.

  • London Dole

    Nice try Weerawardhana, but your veil is wearing thin.

    The Tamil youth (like all youth) must look to their parents for moral guidance and education. Nobody in their right mind ever relies on any government to do this job!

  • what is wrong in asking for a Referendums.

    The Sinhala people should understand that the governments from 1948 have done a huge damge to TAMILS

    so better tamils look after thier GOVERNMENTS and COUNTRY

    You Sinhala people can still beat the Drum and do ur work independently in south lanka….without messing TAMIL LIVES..

    so FREE TAMIL EELAM SOON ( with Democratic ways )

  • Rajendra Chozhan Thangavelauthashanmugam

    Chaminda, you have purposely ignored something. These very people i.e. the young Tamil Diaspora, watched on TV screens, how their kith and kin had been butchered by the Sri Lankan armed forces. They have friends and relatives in internment camps to describe their experiences. You cannot erase them over night, because you want their support now.
    Unlike some of their relatives in Colombo, they don’t want to show a blind eye on atrocities committed on their people. They know what human rights are and they experience it in the host countries. This something the Sinhala youth in Sri Lanka have never experienced. So it is not possible to fool them for petty benefits.
    However, there is hope if the Sinhala government make some genuine attempts. First is the government should allow an international impartial team to investigate the war crimes and punish the perpetrators.
    This attitude of “we have eliminated terrorists and come and join us now” won’t make any impact on the Tamil Diaspora.

  • Muruges

    The elected government is the representative of the majority of most countries. In Sri Lanka, every government from 1948 todate have betrayed the Tamils. All Agreements, Pacts and Understandings have been abrogated, torn, ignored and even the basics, not implemented.

    It will take a long time for the Tamils, especially those of us who got beaten , houses burnt and lost relatives from the 1956 era to trust any present-day Singhalese leadership, who tend to be products of 2nd and 3rd. rate schools.

    One can consider this Class Bias, but schools do mold character and more exposure to world thinking, leading to think more like Statesman. Ofcourse there are exceptions and we the country, get what we deserve.

    So, Unless and Until the vast majority of the Singhalese population start wanting a better, a more unified and prosperous country like Singapore and elect a Statesman to lead, Sri Lanka is doomed to travel like the path of a growing bull’s tail- downwards. (maatu vaal in Tamil)

    Dec. 19th. Today is voting day in Canada, I do not want to be late, I am going to vote..

  • Atheist

    Muruges,

    I don’t know whether there are two commentators with the name ‘Muruges’ running amok on GV. But, my answer is directed toward the ‘Muruges’ who claimed to have left Sri-Lanka “long before Praba was born” on the thread entitled “The Structure of Tamil Names”. My reason for suggesting that two different people are sharing the same pen-name is because the Muruges on another post claims to have left Sri-Lanka in the 60’s.

    So, Muruges (the one who left “long before Praba was born”) I am surprised you don’t know about Anantharajan, a former principal of St. John’s College Jaffna. This leads me to believe that you are neither connected to the Jaffna Christian elite nor the Jaffna Hindu elite. Through the process of elimination, it is pretty obvious that, as far as elite schools are concerned, you are not from a Kandyan setting either.

    So, you are a Colombo man, eh? Even then, to the likes of you, there seem to be only two “first class” schools in Colombo: The Royal and St. Thomas’, Mt. Lavinia. Are you trying to tell us that you are a “gentleman” product of one of these schools? If so, didn’t they teach you anything about self-respect? Don’t “first class” schools teach one to maintain one’s decorum even in the midst of adversity?

    I know there are some Sinhalese people who get down on their knees and keep apologizing till kingdom come at the mere mention of racial riots.
    You don’t have to concoct hollow arguments about not returning to Sri-Lanka because of your supposed fear of the Sinhalese, namely the “products of 2nd and 3rd. rate schools”.

    By the way, I cannot stomach class snobbery, but I only mentioned the Anantharajan circle because you tried to put down ordinary Sri-Lankan people based on the schools they attended.

    Muruges, Sri-Lanka is not going to do a nosedive just because you don’t show up. To them, it is all about “good riddance”!!!

  • Agnos

    Chaminda,

    You and many others ignore the enormity of the crimes that the Rajapaksa government committed against the Tamil people. What does the continued support to such a murderous regime by Sinhalese masses and intellectuals mean to the Tamil people?

    The failure by many Sinhalese to realize this–the speed with which they talk about forced reconciliation and integration; the hubris with which they pontificate that Tamils have no choice but to integrate, even as Tamil civilians are still struggling in illegal internment camps, being arbitrarily abducted and killed–only adds insult to grievous injury.

    Far from shunning Dayan Jayatilleka as the depraved war criminal that he is, you and many others quote his words as gospel.

    Sri Lanka will have to pay a heavy price for committing unimaginable war crimes against the Tamil people; any expectation of reconciliation before such price is paid is grossly misplaced. I say this as someone who has never advocated a separate state for Tamils; full recognition of individual rights, including language rights, in a secular state with independent judiciary and professional defense forces and police committed to fairness and the rule of law, would have been sufficient to give confidence to the Tamil people. But that was too much to hope for in Sri Lanka, and none of that will happen in the near future.

    The mobilization in the Diaspora to democratically express their will to vote for or against a separate state should be placed in that context. As free people, they are entitled to do what they like, and they will remain implacable enemies of Sri Lankan regimes for generations to come until Sri Lanka has paid enough of a price for the grave crime it has perpetrated on the Tamil people. This being the case, any suggestion that the GoSL and its desperado diplomats can reach out to Tamils in the Diaspora in any shape or form is ludicrous; instead of doing that, any whistleblower willing to report war crimes to which he/she was privy to, should come out in public and seek leniency for their crimes.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Superb! Congratulations.

  • Dhiraj

    Dear agnos,

    Threats will not work. Prabhakaran threatened Sri Lanka and looked what happened to him in the end. Many diaspora Tamils like you think of yourselves as a super-powerful community. Perhaps there was a time when you mattered because you funded the LTTE and lobbied for it, but the LTTE has now been destroyed in Sri Lanka. Tamils can vote for Tamil Eelam in whatever country they have migrated to, but it won’t matter a bit on the ground, in Sri Lanka. Pretty soon, all these referendums will be old news, like a bad fart that wafts away.

    Diaspora Tamils will be isolated and alone if they do not decide to work with Sri Lanka in developing the north and the east. They can scream and shout and stamp their feet, but it really won’t make a difference on the ground. They can put their energy into fruitless causes (the LTTE was one) or they can chart a new course and actually work towards improving the lives of fellow Tamils IN Sri Lanka. The choice is with the Tamil diaspora, and frankly, the signs are not encouraging.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Agnos,

    Your post of December 20, 2009 @ 6:32 am refers

    You state
    I say this as someone who has never advocated a separate state for Tamils; full recognition of individual rights, including language rights, in a secular state with independent judiciary and professional defense forces and police committed to fairness and the rule of law, would have been sufficient to give confidence to the Tamil people. But that was too much to hope for in Sri Lanka, and none of that will happen in the near future.
    Unquote

    Quite right Sri Lanka never gave Tamils their “RIGHTS” but she is still the ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD where Tamil is a National Language.

    With a Govt having Tamil ministers like Mr C. Rajadurai Minister of Regional development’ Mr. Devanayagam Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Thondaman Minister of Rural Industries, a Tamil Chief Justice called Sharvanandan, A Tamil Attorney General called Siva Pasupati, and a Tamil Inspector General of Police called Rudra Rajasingham how could the Judiciary and the long arm of the law be “Independent and Just” ?

    All of them by the way, held office in 1983 didn’t they?
    (Please correct me if I am wrong)

    It looks like you are one “wise and Just” Tamil who have got hurt by Dr DJ’s excellent performance at the UN in defending his country from western hegemony

  • Velu Balendran

    It is time that everyone – Sinhalese & Tamils – try to figure out why the different ethnic groups are behaving the way they do.

    The Tamil sentiment is that the land where their forebears lived for millennia are theirs and not Sri Lanka’s. It can be part of SL only with Tamil acceptance and not otherwise. The war was waged by the Sinhalese to take over Tamil lands by committing genocide in many forms and enslaving them. This will not be the end of the story.

    The Sinhala sentiment is that SL is the only country for the Sinhalese. By hook or crook they will make SL a country of the Sinhalese ruled by the Sinhalese as they see it fit. (I resist from elaborating further).

    No one can deny that every bit of Tamil land is now under alien (practically 100% Sinhala) army occupation (e.g. 40,000 purely Sinhala troops in Tamil speaking Jaffna alone). And the enslavement of Tamils behind barbed wire is plain to see. If the Sinhalese people think that in the aftermath of their war victory they can write silly articles like this one without understanding Tamil sentiment, good luck to them. (DJ praising this is laughable!) But the Diaspora Tamils – down to the ones who were not born in SL – know what they want.

  • Anjali C

    Chaminda,
    I am part of the Tamil Diaspora, and I thank you for this and for your generosity towards Tamil youth of the diaspora in your article — clearly unacknowledged by many of the respondents here. But as you well know, and can see even from just the few comments here, the task ahead is monumental. The damage done to the Tamil psyche has been enormous and cannot be easily healed. There is no trust left to be restored. I begin to think the only hope lies with the older generation who at least have some experience of living in a multi-cultural SL, with friends and family from different ethnic communities. The GoSL has certainly not helped the situation, with its triumphalism and actions after the LTTE were defeated. Still, we can hope. I hope someone relevant has the forethought and wisdom to listen to your suggestions.

  • wijayapala

    Off the Cuff,

    Quite right Sri Lanka never gave Tamils their “RIGHTS” but she is still the ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD where Tamil is a National Language.

    Tamil is one of four official languages in Singapore. When making a point in CAPS, you should try to ensure that it carries some relevance.

    On Even post-war, discrimination runs deep in Sri Lanka comments section, you suggested that the Tamils should seek legal means to achieve equal language rights, thus acknowledging that they don’t have such rights at present (unless you would like to dispute Marisa’s assertions about “post-war discrimination”).

  • wijayapala

    Anjali C,

    But as you well know, and can see even from just the few comments here, the task ahead is monumental.

    For whom?

    There is no trust left to be restored. I begin to think the only hope lies with the older generation

    What about your generation? ***Wasn’t it the older generation (Sinhalese and Tamils) that started the entire mess???***

  • Kannan

    Charminda, I want to thank you for attempting to lay out the case for the Sri Lankan state to engage the young Tamils in the Diaspora who are passionate and engaged in regards to the ethnic conflict and status of the Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka. As a Tamil who had to leave Sri Lanka in 1983 due to the riots as a 13 year old my own views have changed over the years due to my experiences living first in India and then in the United States. While I do see a possibility of reconciliation between communities and equal citizenship for Tamils (both in letter and sprit), I do feel there needs to be a sea of change in the narrative starting with the liberal/progressive section of the Sinhalese community (such as you). The narrative is usually that the Tamil nationalist are unreasonable and the ball is in the Tamils court to compromise in regards to the question of a separate state/Federal state (North and East united) as Dayan states. I would argue that the ball is in the court of the Sinhalese progressives to agitate/demand that current laws on the book are upheld, when the human rights of Tamils are violated or suspected of being violated that the state act (white van abductions, the execution of combatants who surrendered, rape of women in camps, property rights of Tamils where the state confiscated land for High security zones, state sponsored colonization extra). As a Tamil whose family was forced to leave the country in 1983 due to state sanctioned violence I feel unless the state institutions are reformed where all Sri Lankan citizens have their fundamental rights equally respected there cannot be a foundation for peace and engagement as you rightly state. It is important to understand the Tamil Tigers did not arise out of a vacuum. They were helped and nurtured by the failure of the Sri Lankan state to build inclusive institutions and define citizenship based on multi ethnicity.

    On the other hand the Tamils in the Diaspora need to take into account the ground and regional realities affecting the Tamil people. While conducting a referendum is their right they need to ask themselves how would help those Tamils in Sri Lanka who have been unable to leave the country. It would be wiser to lobby and be firm on basic civil/citizenship rights for the Tamil people while engaging segments of the southern progressive political parties in concert with domestic Tamil voices in Sri Lanka to help craft a permanent solution. This is not going to be easy and it may be a gradual implementation from the perspective of devolution of power. However basic human rights, equal citizenship rights and economic development issues can be fast tracked on a shorter time frame. The price paid by the Tamil people due to the policies/actions of the Sri Lankan state and those who claim to represent them (LTTE) have been a disaster. Only politics based on engagement and reason by all segments in Sri Lanka would lead to permanent solutions to the pressing issues faced by Sri Lankans of all communities.

  • Agnos

    Dhiraj,

    There was no threat; but simply put, you can’t send your white vans to kidnap and murder people in the Diaspora. They will use that freedom and their economic power for a moral purpose. And their memories are not short. If you think it is only through the LTTE that they can influence events on the ground in SL, you are pathetically mistaken.

    Off the Cuff,

    My problem with DJ goes back to the days when he supported the Premadasa regime. Along with HLD Mahindapala, he kept defending Premadasa in newspapers, when his regime was responsible for some atrocious crimes, whether against the JVP or Tamils. Some of my innocent friends at university were abducted by the SL Army and killed for no reason. The buck stopped with Premadasa and anyone who supported him knowing full well that he Ok’ed such atrocities carries the same guilt, the same responsibility. Over the years DJ has shown an infinite affinity to thuggish politics, whether of the Premadasa kind or the Rajapaksa variety.

    As an American citizen, I share the contempt many in America have for the UNHRC. On the Internet, you can read commentators like Charles Krauthammer and many others to see American’s very low opinion of the committee. As such, all this hoopla in Sri Lanka about DJ’s highfaluting act at the UNHRC was amusing to me. Why would I be taking that as a biggie? The Europeans might have wanted to pass some resolutions to placate the restive Diaspora, but assume they had been successful; it would still have amounted to nothing in the end; the UN is an impotent institution, with a dithering leadership placating every tin-pot dictator’s wishes and claims of sovereignty. So DJ’s performance in Geneva was overrated. There are many other avenues to bring war crimes charges and they will be more effective; with the information coming out from SL slowly— Channel 4 Video’s validity, sexual abuse in the IDP camps, the GoSL claim that Fonseka had revealed official secrets against Gota–war crime investigations are just getting started. We will stay at it for the next 20 –30 years.

    I know these Tamil ministers in JR’s cabinet were there; and the IGP and CJ were there. Not sure myself if all held their positions at the same time, but doesn’t the fact that none of them could do anything to stop or bring to justice a single person among the racist criminals who organized the pogrom in 1983, tell you something?

    Talking to people like you brings to mind the Tamil saying that goes something like this: ” After an all-nighter to discuss Ramayana, the question you have is, what is the relationship between Rama and Sita?” I don’t have time for that kind of discourse.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijayapala,

    I try to make factual comments to the best of my ability (I dont claim to be infalible) and enjoy engaging with forthright people who are willing to listen to others.

    Due to my engagement with Disgusted aka Belle, I became aware of the type of Govt Singapore has which of course is Economicaly far ahead of SL but has restricted freedoms that Divisisve writers are ever ready to magnify and condemn in SL but do ignore it in Singapore.

    Religion
    The government, although secular, was concerned, however, with the social consequences of religiously motivated social action and therefore monitored and sometimes prohibited the activities of religious groups. The authorities feared that religion could sometimes lead to social and implicitly political action or to contention between ethnic groups. Islamic fundamentalism, for example, was a very sensitive topic that was seldom publicly discussed. Throughout the 1980s, the authorities were reported to have made unpublicized arrests and expulsions of Islamic activists. The government restricted the activities of some Christian groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses who opposed military service, and in 1987 the government detained a group of Roman Catholic social activists, accusing them of using church organizations as cover for a Marxist plot. The charismatic and fundamentalist Protestant groups, though generally apolitical and focused on individuals, aroused official anxiety through their drive for more converts. Authorities feared that Christian proselytization directed at the Malays would generate resentment, tensions, and possible communal conflict. As early as 1974 the government had “advised” the Bible Society of Singapore to stop publishing materials in Malay. In late 1988 and early 1989, a series of leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, condemned “insensitive evangelization” as a serious threat to racial harmony. Official restatements of the virtue of and necessity for religious tolerance were mixed with threats of detention without trial for religious extremists.

    Yes I was aware of the status of Tamil in Singapore when I wrote my comment as a poster on a CBC web site corrected me when I mentioned the status of Tamil in SL. I used the wrong word “official” then and not “National” as I have done now.

    Singapore

    In Singapore, the Malay language is the national and official language, since it is the native language of Malay Singaporeans, who were the original inhabitants of the land but are now a minority due to mass ethnic Chinese immigration and who, as of the 2000 census, make up only about 14% of the total population of 4.55 million. Three other languages enjoy official language status, including English, which is the language of business and governance and the medium of instruction in public schools; Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_language#Singapore)

    Sri Lanka

    The Department of Official Languages at present functions as a facilitator for the effective implementation of the language policy as enshrined in the articles 18 and 19 – Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (1978) that recognizes Sinhala and Tamil as national languages and English as the link language.
    (http://www.languagesdept.gov.lk/)

    Tamil is taught at University level in Sri Lanka and the Jaffna and the Eastern Universities are in Tamil speaking areas

    Hence Sri Lanka remains
    “THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE TAMIL IS A NATIONAL LANGUAGE”

    Re your Comment on my advice to Marisa

    As you can see from the foregoing, Sri Lanka’s SUPREME LAW the Constitution ALREADY RECOGNIZES TAMIL AS A NATIONAL LANGUAGE.

    There is no legal method that can by pass the “SUPREME LAW”. Hence my advice to Marisa and to “ALL Tamils” to use the law to assert their LEGALLY GUARANTEED RIGHTS.

    I believe that it’s the best way to assert ones rights not defeatist talk.

    Can you see a better way?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijayapala,

    I have made several attempts at posting a reply to your comment but for some reason I am experiencing problems with the GV servers.

    Hence I will try to post it in several parts

    Part 1

    I try to make factual comments to the best of my ability (I dont claim to be infalible) and enjoy engaging with forthright people who are willing to listen to others.

    Due to my engagement with Disgusted aka Belle, I became aware of the type of Govt Singapore has which of course is Economicaly far ahead of SL but has restricted freedoms that Divisisve writers are ever ready to magnify and condemn in SL but do ignore it in Singapore.

    Yes I was aware of the status of Tamil in Singapore when I wrote my comment as a poster on a CBC web site corrected me when I mentioned the status of Tamil in SL. I used the wrong word “official” then and not “National” as I have done now.

    Singapore

    In Singapore, the Malay language is the national and official language, since it is the native language of Malay Singaporeans, who were the original inhabitants of the land but are now a minority due to mass ethnic Chinese immigration and who, as of the 2000 census, make up only about 14% of the total population of 4.55 million. Three other languages enjoy official language status, including English, which is the language of business and governance and the medium of instruction in public schools; Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_language#Singapore)

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijayapala,

    This is part 2 ….more will follow

    Sri Lanka

    The Department of Official Languages at present functions as a facilitator for the effective implementation of the language policy as enshrined in the articles 18 and 19 – Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (1978) that recognizes Sinhala and Tamil as national languages and English as the link language.
    (http://www.languagesdept.gov.lk/)

    Tamil is taught at University level in Sri Lanka and the Jaffna and the Eastern Universities are in Tamil speaking areas

    Hence Sri Lanka remains
    “THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE TAMIL IS A NATIONAL LANGUAGE”

    Continued in part 3

  • wijayapala

    They will use that freedom and their economic power for a moral purpose. And their memories are not short.

    Aren’t you making a huge assumption that the Tamil diaspora is united and has one voice? My impression is that it has as much diversity as any other community.

    If you think it is only through the LTTE that they can influence events on the ground in SL, you are pathetically mistaken.

    How can they influence events?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijayapala,

    My original reply to you has now appeared after a long delay

    http://www.groundviews.org/2009/12/19/national-referendums-and-the-aspirations-of-a-diaspora-a-saturday-morning-reflection/#comment-12104

    This makes the shorter posts redundant

    Singapore frowns on Religious Conversion Zealots as shown by the folowing statement

    “Official restatements of the virtue of and necessity for religious tolerance were mixed with threats of detention without trial for religious extremists.”

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Muruges,

    Your post of December 19, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

    Learn more about Singapore before you start asking for that system in SL.

    You may have to be prepared to forego a lot of things that you are not prepared to do under the SL system

    The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That is, until you get to the other side.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Agnos,
    Your comments of December 22, 2009 @ 7:53 am

    You state,
    The Europeans might have wanted to pass some resolutions to placate the restive Diaspora, but assume they had been successful; it would still have amounted to nothing in the end;
    Unquote

    Are you not trying to gloss over the real aim of the “Special Session” that was held just days before the main session was due? What was the hurry? Could they have not waited a few days to start the “PLACATING”

    Are we talking of justice here?
    Do you believe that SL could take a serious attempt at undermining the SL Govt by a Group of Western Govts who wanted to “PLACATE” their vote banks as nothing serious?

    It failed as people like DJ spoke out without mincing words. His speech and those of others at the UNHRC is available on the Net (for those who are interested)

    Sri Lanka did not refuse an International Inquiry but instead asked the movers of that resolution to commence inquiries from HR violations that preceded the alleged HR violations aimed at SL, like the “Blanket Fire Bombing” of Dresden, the Iraq War and the like. Any guesses as to why they did not have the GUTS to agree to that? If they did, they could have had the Inquiry they wanted on SL.

    You state
    Channel 4 Video’s validity, sexual abuse in the IDP camps, the GoSL claim that Fonseka had revealed official secrets against Gota–war crime investigations are just getting started. We will stay at it for the next 20 –30 years
    Unquote

    Don’t delude yourself, Ch 4 Video was challenged TECHNICALY and proved to be a fabrication. That challenge was an open one. Why no technical rebuttal from Ch 4?

    Before that the Times on line brought out another fabricated story. This writer wrote to Times on line pointing out why I consider it as a fabrication. Available on GV at the following link http://www.groundviews.org/2009/09/28/doing-the-right-thing-freedom-for-vanni-idps/#comment-9618

    I received an automatic reply from them but the challenging article never got published on the Times Website.

    According to the CIA the LTTE even bribed US congressman and who they thought were State Dept Officials. With the billions of US$ available to them buying media personel to spread their lies is peanuts.

    You talk of sexual abuse in IDP camps. Remember there are many NGO’s working in these camps including the UN and the Red Cross. A statement about the camps from a Tamil Eelamist Nessan Shankar Raji is also available on the Net.

    You need to read writers like Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan

    I do not make any excuses for the 1983 Mob Violence. But don’t forget that many Tamils were saved by thousands of Sinhalese who risked their families’ lives and property to save Tamil neighbours and friends. They were hidden, fed and taken to safety when the mob attacks subsided. How many Tamils acknowledge that fact publicly? I have seen less than ten doing so.

    While acknowledging that Rudra Rajasingham a Tamil was the IGP, you ask me why no one got prosecuted. The AG at the time was also Tamil, Siva Pasupaty (the LTTE legal advisor now living in Australia). He is the one who has the power to decide who should be prosecuted or not.

    Both the CJ and the AG are untouchable by the SL President. As at the moment I do not know how many were prosecuted over 1983, I cannot comment on it. But did not those gentlemen right on top of the law enforcement and the Judiciary have a responsibility towards the Tamil community?

    You are a US citizen and you would be aware of what Mob Violence did in the USA. I have seen documentary films that showed police using their batons on fallen women’s genitalia. The atrocities perpetrated by the KK and the Police puts 1983 into insignificance (no attempt here to absolve responsibility). If the coloured people kept harping on the past as you seem to do they would not be having an Obama as your President today.

    Move forward from the actual ground situation existing in SL today, Use the Legal system to get the Constitutional Rights guaranteed to the Minorities enforced. And drop divisive and inequitable demands such as Traditional Tamil Homelands.

    Every inch of SL is home to all citizens and unless that is recognised and even if you are prepared to wait, in your own words “We will stay at it for the next 20 –30 years” you will achieve nothing. Other than more destruction

  • No Frames

    @ Velu Balendran

    Yes, you are right and wrong. Tamils lived for one and half millenia in Notrh nad East. But that was under the rule of Sinhalese / Tamil Buddhist Kings. War was waged over because of Tamils did not want to see Sinhalese settling in North and East, where they have been living for two and a half millenia. The genocide and ethnic cleansing was done by Tamils (LTTE), not by Sinhalese. If that is the ase there should be no Tamils in South! But currently it’s the Sinhalese who could not settle anywhere in the country. Your intellectual dishonesty is clearly shown here.

    There is nothing called “Tamil land”. There wasn’t any like that or there won’t be any in the future. There will be only “Sri Lankan” land, where everybody has equal rights in settlement. Your grumbling shows that still you think N & E should be for ONLY TAMILS. Until Tamils have that mind set, the Sinhalese will always push the Tamils to the limits.

  • London Dole

    Hi Anjali,

    First and foremost I must congratulate you on your earnestness regarding peace building in Sri Lanka. A sophisticated belle like you – the epitome of multiculturalism – married to a Chinese, living in the world’s greatest city, New York, is ready to abandon all the luxuries to live amongst poor Sri-Lankans. I sort of imagine you a beautiful bell visiting The Met and numerous other art galleries with your kids at your leisure hours. Can your life be compared to the lives of people like us whose shoddy digs in Wembley are cold, damp and overrun with mice? Yet, unlike you, the Diaspora here does not want even to visit SL without making arrangements for luxury accommodation beforehand; they constantly worry about the state of Lankan loos and other toilet facilities, including the dust and the heat.

    Anjali, I’m so sorry to hear about the damage inflicted on the Tamil psyche in the Diaspora. As you suggest, I, too, hope that in reading Chaminda Weerawardhana’s article all these racists will gather around to help put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

  • Off the Cuff

    Velu Balendran,

    Your post of December 21, 2009 @ 4:00 am refers

    You state
    No one can deny that every bit of Tamil land is now under alien (practically 100% Sinhala) army occupation (e.g. 40,000 purely Sinhala troops in Tamil speaking Jaffna alone). And the enslavement of Tamils behind barbed wire is plain to see. If the Sinhalese people think that in the aftermath of their war victory they can write silly articles like this one without understanding Tamil sentiment, good luck to them. (DJ praising this is laughable!) But the Diaspora Tamils – down to the ones who were not born in SL – know what they want.
    Unquote

    Velu, Govt forces are not occupation forces when they are within their OWN country. With your classification British forces in Britain, USA forces in USA, French forces in France, Canadian forces in Canada are ALL “OCCUPATION” forces.

    Your contention becomes true only if SL Govt forces are in occupation of another country which they are not.

    In the century 16xx (17the Century) there was a Dutch Fort which was established at Elephant Pass to protect the Dutch from the Army of the Sinhala King of Kandy. The Dutch say it was to protect the border of the area under their control from the Sinhala King’s border. Here is a link to the National Archives of the Netherlands which contain the above document proving that the Sinhalese were living in the areas that you fraudulently claim were occupied “Exclusively” by Tamils.
    http://www.nationaalarchief.nl/AMH/detail.aspx?page=dpost&lang=en&id=682#tab2

    The Sinhalese as they are presently known arrived in Sri Lanka in 543 BC from a Kingdom in what is now called India. The Sinhalese developed in SL by intermixing with the population that were living in SL at that time. The original migrants numbered just 700.

    As against this you must be basing your claim for a “Tamil” land within SL by claiming that due to the proximity of Sri Lanka to “Tamil Nadu” the Tamils would have migrated to SL before the 700 Sinhala ancestors. On the surface your claim looks logical but only if you ignore one Factor that stands out a mile.

    Can you give a logical explanation as to how 700 migrants that established the Sinhala race in Sri Lanka turned the Tamils into such a “SMALL” minority when the growth rates of the population of the two communities were more or less the same?

    Hence now the question is who really is the “ALIEN” if the argument is based on your logic.

    What is laughable is not what DJ says but your logic and the attempt at distorting history.

    Every inch of Sri Lanka including the Atolls is Sri Lankan Land. It does not belong to ANY ethnic community. Its common property and ANY citizen of Sri Lanka has a right to live where ever She/He pleases.

    Accept the Reality and bring peace to this land

    BTW Velu there were Tamil Commanders in Jaffna, not many Tamils were brave enough to do that. The LTTE vilified them with “Graffiti” calling them traitors for serving the armed forces of their country.

  • Agnos

    Wijayapala,

    You are right that Tamil Diaspora has as a lot of diversity, but I know by talking to a cross section that many share my views. I can’t reveal how the Diaspora can influence events in Sri Lanka, but they can.

    Off the Cuff,
    You show no capacity for honest self-reflection, no capacity for telling the truth, denying in knee-jerk fashion every crime committed by the Rajapaksa regime for all the world to see. In other words, you show the same symptoms as the hardcore LTTE supporters. Ch4 video’s validity has been affirmed by an ex-FBI forensic expert recently. The only people who say it was fabricated are the regime and its supporters, known to be liars, thugs and war criminals.
    Why would I take their word at face value?

    IGP’s, CJ’s and AG’s cannot do anything in a situation where racism is institutionalized. These people–as was the case with Kadirgamar– got appointed for their subservient loyalty to certain ruling politicians, not out of a basic desire to respect merit or treat Tamils in general equally.
    Pradeep Jeganathan speaks from his Colombo-centric experiences, which have no relevance to what we, people from the North-East, experienced at the hand of the SL armed forces. Why I should I read him when my own first-hand experiences, in the North as well as the South, give me a “superior” understanding of the conflict? As I said, I don’t have time anymore to waste with you on Ramayana. This will be my last post in this thread.

  • wijayapala

    OTC,

    As you can see from the foregoing, Sri Lanka’s SUPREME LAW the Constitution ALREADY RECOGNIZES TAMIL AS A NATIONAL LANGUAGE.

    And as I already pointed out, whatever the SUPREME LAW says is irrelevant if it’s not implemented. In this case, Tamil as a “national language” is mere semantics and is hardly even worth the paper it’s written on.

    Using your logic, one could argue that there are absolutely no social inequalities in Sri Lanka, because the SUPREME LAW states that Sri Lanka is a “Democratic Socialist Republic.”

    There is no legal method that can by pass the “SUPREME LAW”. Hence my advice to Marisa and to “ALL Tamils” to use the law to assert their LEGALLY GUARANTEED RIGHTS.

    Unfortunately the justice system has failed the Tamils (as well as everyone else) on too many occasions. You do know that Sri Lanka has an abysmally low prosecution rate of **4 percent**, right?

    Alan Keenan’s article on the Bindunuwewa massacre case is but one example why the Tamils have no faith in the broken system:

    “But the final hearing was truly shocking. As the solicitor general repeatedly referred to the ways the Tamil inmates had been murdered—“beaten, stabbed, and some even roasted alive” he would say with a flourish—one of the justices began to mock his emphasis on the word “roasted.” This brought much laughter from the other justices and the defense lawyers, and even, most disturbingly, from the government lawyers themselves.

    “This conduct was only the most grotesque example of the judges’ utter disdain for the crimes under consideration and for the state’s responsibility to determine the truth. The proceedings were filled with bad jokes and undignified behavior, lacked any sense of gravity of the case, and indicated no awareness of the state’s obligation to protect the inmates whatever their political sympathies.

    “Not one justice, not one lawyer, not one courtroom observer—as far as I could tell—was Tamil.”

    Keenan’s more comprehensive study of the case and its inept handling can be found here.

  • wijayapala

    Agnos,

    I can’t reveal how the Diaspora can influence events in Sri Lanka, but they can.

    Why not?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijayapala,

    Your post of December 24, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    Originally you contested my statement about Sri Lanka being the ONLY country where Tamil is recognised as a National Language to which you stated that it’s the same in Singapore (your post dated December 21, 2009 @ 8:53 am).

    This was replied with references (by my post dated December 22, 2009 @ 9:39 am) to show that Sri Lanka is indeed the ONLY country that gives Tamil the status of a National Language.

    Your latest post makes a generalisation about the justice system, as I had recommended its use in getting the law enforced. I do not believe such generalisations hold water as there are very important decisions delivered by the Judiciary against the Govt of the day.

    What follows are details of a landmark case involving Four very prominent Tamils who were acquitted by a Sinhala majority bench which delivered a Fearless Judgment against the Govt of the day.

    Appathurai Amirthalingam, M. Sivasithamparam, K. P. Ratnam and K. Thurairatnam were arraigned at a trial-at-bar on the 18th of June 1976 charged with sedition. The basis for prosecution was the Vadukkodi Resolution which amongst others advocated methods other than peaceful means to secede from Sri lanka.

    The trial-at-Bar was before three Judges, J. F. A. Soza, H. A. G. de Silva and Siva Selliah, All of whom were Judges of the High Court and two of them were Sinhalese.

    Mr. Shiva Pasupathi, A. G. prosecuted.

    Messrs S. J. V. Chelvanayagam Q.C, G. G. Ponnampalam Q.C., Mr. M. Tiruchelvam Q.C. and some seventy five other Tamil Counsel appeared for the accused.

    These were the preliminary objections raised

    Firstly, that the 1972 Constitution of Sri Lanka is invalid and consequently this Court itself is a nullity.

    Secondly, that the Emergency Regulations under which the accused has been indicted are invalid per se and in so far as they relate to the constitution of the Court.

    This is the Judgment delivered

    The Court, having heard submissions throughout the month of July 1976, determined on September 10th 1976 as follows.

    “In these circumstances the time honoured and judicially settled principle of justiciability that a court or tribunal which owes its creation to a particular Constitution cannot embark upon an inquiry into the validity of that Constitution demands to be accepted. We therefore hold that the validity of the Constitution is not justiciable by us.”

    On the validity of the Emergency Regulation, the Court said-

    “We hold that there has been no valid declaration of a state of emergency by the President as set out in Section 134 (2) of the Constitution and that there has been no delegation of the legislative power by the National State Assembly to the President as envisaged in Section 45 (4) of the Constitution. Consequently Regulation 59 of the Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulations No. 5 of 1976 published in Gazette No. 213/5 of May 17, 1976 as amended by Regulation 59 (1A) published in Gazette No. 214/16 of May 28, 1976 can have no sanction or validity in law. We cannot therefore continue to exercise any further jurisdiction in this case to try the accused for the offence for which he has been indicted. We accordingly discharge the accused from these proceedings.”

    As you can see from the above, the Judicial Decision delivered by the Sinhalese majority bench was fearless in ruling against the Govt of the day. They were concerned with Justice not Politics.

    I thank you for the link you provided me which helped me to gain a better understanding of certain aspects which I was not aware of, though I cannot comment on the percentages quoted by you as I have not found an authoritative reference.

    I have refrained from commenting on the Bindunuwewa case as I could not access any case records. Similar cases are found in Western democracies and specially in the USA where biased juries, police and justices have all connived to subvert justice during the Civil Rights fight of the coloured people. This did not deter the coloured people from using the judiciary to establish their rights and they did it.

    The difficult part is getting the Minority rights into the Constitution and that has been achieved. Next comes the implementation and I proposed that the aggrieved Community to do what they did in 1976 as the Law is available and what is required is the indomitable will to use it. Defeatist talk won’t help.

    I requested you for any alternative solution that would be better than what I suggested.

    So what strategy would you want them to adopt?

  • wijayapala

    OTC,

    I do not believe such generalisations hold water as there are very important decisions delivered by the Judiciary against the Govt of the day.

    Thank you for your example. I have another to share. Kodeswaran was a civil servant whose salary was cut because he refused to sit for a Sinhala examination. The Colombo District Judge ruled that Sinhala-Only violated Article 29 of the Soulbury Constitution and was therefore void. The government did not challenge this ruling and did not take it to the Supreme Court, but simply ignored it and Sinhala-Only remained.

    Pres. Mahinda Rajapaksa followed this tradition by refusing to appoint the Constitutional Council under the 17th Amendment which would make it harder for him to appoint lackeys to the civil service and police. He can get away with it because he’s the President.

    On the topic of the much abused Article 29, an unfortunate Mr. Kodakanpillai in 1952 challenged the removal of his name from the electoral rolls as a result of the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948. The Kegalle District Judge upheld his claim only to be overruled by the Supreme Court, which refused to rule on the constitutionality of the Citizenship Act discriminating against the upcountry Tamils.

    Defeatist talk won’t help.

    Neither will pretending-there’s-nothing-wrong-talk.

    I requested you for any alternative solution that would be better than what I suggested.

    The first and most important step you can take is to acknowledge that the Tamils have a raw deal. You’ve indirectly done so by comparing Sri Lanka with heavily racist Jim Crow-era USA (which certainly isn’t a compliment!), but only after you couldn’t come up with anything to defend the state.

    A lot of Sinhalese have the foolish belief that by admitting that the Tamils got shafted, they would be legitimizing the LTTE and Tamil Eelam, when the truth is that it is their sickening lack of empathy that the separatist have fed off of.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijeyapala,

    My question was and I quote
    “So what strategy would you want them to adopt?”
    Unquote

    I wrote about the Tamils and you have failed to answer that haven’t you?

    You are totally misinformed about the Citizenship Act. of 1948.
    In 1948 the Highest Court was not in Sri Lanka. It was the PRIVY COUNCIL in the UK.

    The above Act was challenged right up to the Privy Council and the FINAL JUDGEMENT was delivered by the British, NOT a Sinhalese majority Bench.

    I do not mean to be harsh but what you stated is an absolute HALF TRUTH.

    S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the leader of the Tamil Arasu Kachchi, contested the Citizenship Act before the Supreme Court, and then in the Privy Council in England, on grounds of discrimination towards minorities but the decision concluded that the Citizenship Act stipulated conditions well in line with those of European states.

    Please note that the case went up to the ‘PRIVY COUNCIL” in the UK and it was held that the Act was WELL IN LINE TO CONDITIONS OF CITIZENSHIP OF EUROPE.

    You seem to have gullibly believed Eelamist propaganda.

    You were wrong when you contested my statement that Tamil has a Constitutional status within Sri Lanka that is the HIGHEST in the World.

    You were wrong when you tried to show that Sinhalese judges were not capable of being IMPARTIAL and FEARLESS in delivering Judgements against the Govt.

    You are wrong a third time when you tried to show that the Ceylon Citizenship Act was not within the Standards of Citizenship that existed at that point of time in the Democratic World and specially the West

    Appapilai Amirthalingam who later became the Leader of the Opposition would have even lost his CIVIC rights which would have terminated his political carrier if not for Impartial and Fearless Sinhalese Judges that graced the Judiciary. So please don’t try to “TAR” the Judiciary, as there are many Judges of ALL communities (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher etc) who are similarly impartial and fearless. Such baseless generalisations fall outside the bounds of fair comment.

    You are wrong a fourth time when you try to read my mind

    The case of USA was pointed out to show you that EVEN IN THE FACE OF SUCH AN ADVERSE ENVIORENMENT the Coloured People in the USA never gave up their legal fight to enforce the “Bill of Rights” (It was also just a paper then).

    You in your haste misunderstood that example as intent by me to defend the govt.

    You have actually missed the Woods for the Trees.

    Starting the blame game is an endless exercise as the History of the Sinhalese is very long indeed.

    My view is that the Tamils should use the LEGAL SYSTEM to force the pace of enforcement of their Constitutional Rights which are already enshrined as the PRIMARY LAW of this country within the Constitution.

    This will also mean that they will have to drop “INEQUITABLE” demands such as the “Traditional Tamil Homelands”

    They fought and WON such a legal battle in 1976 when 78 Lawyers defended Appathurai Amirthalingam, M. Sivasithamparam, K. P. Ratnam and K. Thurairatnam on the Sedition Charge.

    Why can’t they do it NOW?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Agnos,

    Your post of December 24, 2009 @ 6:55 am refers

    You state
    IGP’s, CJ’s and AG’s cannot do anything in a situation where racism is institutionalized. These people–as was the case with Kadirgamar– got appointed for their subservient loyalty to certain ruling politicians, not out of a basic desire to respect merit or treat Tamils in general equally.
    Pradeep Jeganathan speaks from his Colombo-centric experiences, which have no relevance to what we, people from the North-East, experienced at the hand of the SL armed forces. Why I should I read him when my own first-hand experiences, in the North as well as the South, give me a “superior” understanding of the conflict? As I said, I don’t have time anymore to waste with you on Ramayana. This will be my last post in this thread.
    Unquote

    So who in your “OPINION” is a Moderate Tamil?
    The above statement speaks volumes about what your intent is.

    Any Tamil moderate is a SL Govt Lackey?

    You have conveniently forgotten that Siva Pasupathi WAS the AG and he was UNTOUCHABLE by the SL President.
    Who is he? A Sinhalese?
    Is he not the LTTE Legal Adviser?
    Did he not submit a petition to the Australian Govt in order to try and stop the recent IMF Loan to SL?
    Do you seriously believe that the SL Govt did not know his LTTE leanings when he was appointed as the AG?

    Agnos, you appear to be nothing but a LTTE propagandist. When your contentions are challenged and your intent is exposed, you blame me for not being honest.

    You are the one who brought up the CH4 video. You say that it was recently proven. Strangely the people who commissioned that investigation is no other than the London Times whose FABRICATED story about the 20,000 killed I had challenged. I provided you the link to what I wrote even before I knew that the latest attempt was from the same source. You have avoided referring to that in your latest post, why?

    Don’t you find it strange that the USA govt with all the resources at their disposal has not challenged the PUBLICLY available Technical document that challenges the authenticity of the CH4 video issued by the SL Govt?
    Why is it that the UN is not doing her own investigation? Ms. Navi Pillai would be very interested in doing that wouldn’t she? Are they also short of resources?
    Why is that none of the Western Govts have challenged it? Absence of investigative resources again?

    Whether you reply or not you remain exposed as a propagandist whose attempt at propaganda has failed

  • wijayapala

    OTC,

    I wrote about the Tamils and you have failed to answer that haven’t you?

    Nope, you just failed to see my reasoning. Maybe typing in CAPS will help:

    The Tamils won’t get JUSTICE if they don’t get any SUPPORT from Sinhalese such as YOURSELF. And as long as they’re ISOLATED in this way, without even EMPATHY, they’ll continue to have a Tamil vs. Sinhala PERSPECTIVE and we in turn will have to be fearful of them and maintain a GARRISON STATE in perpetuity.

    Please note that the case went up to the ‘PRIVY COUNCIL” in the UK and it was held that the Act was WELL IN LINE TO CONDITIONS OF CITIZENSHIP OF EUROPE.
    You seem to have gullibly believed Eelamist propaganda.

    So let me understand correctly: to be a good PATRIOTIC Sinhala who doesn’t gullibly BELIEVE Eelamist propaganda, I have to use EUROPEAN standards to judge what is JUSTICE and what isn’t???? Do I need to REMIND you that this is the Privy Council of the SAME British Empire where nonwhites were legally INFERIOR to whites???? This is the PRECEDENT we’re supposed to be following??

    Not just me but our OWN G.L. Peiris had “gullibly” spoke HALF TRUTHS.
    http://federalidea.com/fi/2008/12/post_73.html
    “Prof. Peiris commented that the court refused to look into the element of discrimination contained in the law, which was so framed as to disfranchise only the Indian Tamils. He said the fact that the second of those laws, the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act stipulating one’s paternal grandfather and great grandfather had to be born in the country to be entitled to gain citizenship rights, which was a devious and indirect means adopted to disfranchise the Indian Tamils was not taken into consideration. He correctly diagnosed the impact of that decision: “That was the beginning of the process of disillusionment on the part of the minority communities with the judiciary of the land.”
    (I think either Sabaratnam or Peiris goofed on the Acts- the Ceylon Citizenship Act came first and laid out the “grandfather clause,” while the Indo-Pak Act came 2nd).

    Speaking of the “grandfather clause” and how it’s a perfectly normal and civilized WESTERN legal precedent, are you FAMILIAR with its role in American HISTORY (you seem to be interested in the history of the US Civil Rights Movement)?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause
    “The term originated in late-19th-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states which created new restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose ancestors had the right to vote before the Civil War. The existence of slaves prior to the Civil War effectively excluded African Americans while allowing poor and illiterate whites to vote.

    The case of USA was pointed out to show you that EVEN IN THE FACE OF SUCH AN ADVERSE ENVIORENMENT the Coloured People in the USA never gave up their legal fight to enforce the “Bill of Rights”

    I do not mean to be harsh but what you stated is an absolute HALF TRUTH.

    You LEFT OUT that the “Colored People” (BTW that term is no longer politically correct) in the USA only began to achieve VICTORIES against injustice when WHITE people of CONSCIENCE began to support them. And even that was insufficient- Cold War geopolitics forced change as developing countries which the US and Soviets were competing for were getting turned off by the US’s HYPOCRISY on equal rights.

    I’m sure there were PLENTY of whites with a same MENTALITY as yours: encouraging the “coloreds” to use legal means and stay away from confrontation, but THEMSELVES (the aforementioned whites) lacking the COURAGE to acknowledge injustice DIRECTLY. This mentality did not HELP the blacks nor the US as a whole and certainly did not BRING ABOUT change.

    You were wrong when you contested my statement that Tamil has a Constitutional status within Sri Lanka that is the HIGHEST in the World.

    Kindly explain how the status of Tamil in Sri Lanka is the HIGHEST in the world, given that you’ve indirectly ADMITTED that the status of Tamil in REALITY is in the toilet. I’ve already pointed out Singapore as having Tamil as an OFFICIAL language. The Indian central government does not acknowledge Tamil as an official language, its federal system allows STATE governments to establish their own regional OFFICIAL languages (which probably is why the Tamils want federalism).

    You in your haste misunderstood that example as intent by me to defend the govt.

    Forgive me but I haven’t seen you CRITICIZE the system in any SERIOUS way. If you can tell me that somewhere you acknowledged that the Tamils had a raw deal, I’ll take your word for it and retract what I said earlier.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijeyapala,

    Your contention is that the Tamils can’t do anything until the Sinhala mindset is changed. That will be a very long wait as we are talking about a population of over 15 million. That mindset cannot be changed by adopting a confrontationist attitude towards a majority, who the Tamils themselves rode roughshod on, when they held sway during and immediately after the Colonial Era.

    Continued confrontationist action by the Tamils will only help to polarize the communities more and more, ultimately succeeding in polarising even the liberal Sinhalese, who will feel threatened by uncompromising Tamil Chauvinism.

    Sinhalese Wickramabahu has been espousing the cause of the Tamils all his adult life, where has it got him? You can see the ground reality within a month as he is a Presidential candidate himself.

    For people like him to succeed in changing the “MAJORITY MINDSET OF THE MAJORITY”, the Tamils themselves must change. They must work towards erasing the memory of being the Colonial servant who obediently wielded the whip over the majority when power was with them.

    My contention is that they should use the tools of peaceful change that are already available to them, to expedite the implementation of the Fundamental Rights, via the Justice system.

    They did it before and proved that it can be done when the “Future Leader of the Opposition and the First Tamil to hold that exalted position in the SL Parliament” together with three other Tamils charged with Sedition was SUCCESSFULLY defended in the Supreme Court in front of a “SINHALA MAJORITY TRAIL AT BAR” by no less than 78 lawyers.

    The FACT that the three member Trail at Bar had a “Sinhala Majority” did not stop the “SL Supreme Court” from dispensing Justice. As a Sri Lankan I am proud of that fact and as a Sinhalese I am prouder still.

    You attempted to prove that the Tamils can’t get justice from the SL Supreme Court due to the preponderance of Sinhalese Justices.
    That’s why I stated ….. “Appapilai Amirthalingam who later became the Leader of the Opposition would have even lost his CIVIC rights which would have terminated his political carrier if not for Impartial and Fearless Sinhalese Judges that graced the Judiciary. So please don’t try to “TAR” the Judiciary, as there are many Judges of ALL communities (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher etc) who are similarly impartial and fearless. Such baseless generalisations fall outside the bounds of fair comment.”

    It was you who brought up the Soulbury Constitution and the Citizenship Act in order to prove that in SL the converse was true by citing a case under section 29 of that constitution. The final Arbitrator of that Constitution is the Queen via the Privy Council. Higher courts are in existence to correct mistakes of the lower courts otherwise thee is no need for them.

    Kodeswaran could have taken his case right up to the Privy Council as appeals to the Privy Council was abolished only in 1972 but he did not. Why? If it was a question of money the Tamil Community could have financed him, why did they not do so?

    I proved to you that The Citizenship Act was not decided by the Sinhalese but by the “British” at the Privy Council which was the Highest Appellate Court of Sri Lanka at the time and that the Privy Council held that the Citizenship Act met European Standards which broke your argument about alleged Bias by the Sri Lankan Courts. My concern was your misrepresentation to convey institutionalised bias by the SL Judiciary

    In the USA the Coloured People never gave up their legal fight to enforce the “Bill of Rights” as Coloured parents and even their children were brave and willing to “TEST” the rights guaranteed by the bill. Even in the face of threats of grave physical violence, they went to what were till then ‘Completely White’ schools.

    If not for such brave people who were willing to “TEST” the enforcement of the Bill of Rights that document would have still been a ‘piece of paper’. The first Victories were won by subjecting the Law to a rigorous Test by people who were ‘BRAVE’ to do so. Not due to the reason adduced by you, which really robbed the credit to whom it was rightfully due.

    And I quote “ the USA only began to achieve VICTORIES against injustice when WHITE people of CONSCIENCE began to support them”.
    I call them coloured as discrimination was not limited to the people of African origin.

    The coloured people never asked for an “Exclusive Traditional Homeland” in this respect the struggle of the coloureds differ from what the Tamils are asking. Those who really owned that land were the Apaches, Sioux, Mohawks etc who were distributed all over USA and beyond.

    As I wrote previously, Tamil is treated as a National Language ‘ONLY’ in Sri Lanka.

    India
    The official language of the Union is Hindi with English as a secondary official language; states in India can legislate their own official languages. Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any national language.

    The Indian constitution draws a distinction between the language to be used in Parliamentary proceedings, and the language in which laws are to be made. Parliamentary business, according to the Constitution, may be conducted in either Hindi or English. In addition, the constitution permits a person who is unable to express himself in either Hindi or English to, with the permission of the Speaker of the relevant House, address the House in his mother tongue.

    In contrast, the constitution requires the authoritative text of all laws, including Parliamentary enactments and statutory instruments, to be in English, until Parliament decides otherwise. It merely requires that all such laws and instruments, and all bills brought before it, also be translated into Hindi, though the English text remains authoritative.

    Singapore
    Classical Tamil is dying a slow death. The National University of Singapore does not have a Faculty in Tamil. Singapore does not allow Ethnic Enclaves and Housing is provided strictly on Ethnic Ratio.

    It does not allow unrestricted freedom for religious conversion and Jehovah’s Witnesses have had restrictions placed on them. The Govt virtually monopolises the media

    Singapore’s first opposition MP is a Sri Lankan born Tamil. Jeyaretnam was elected in a by-election in 1981. He was charged for alleged fraud in 1984.
    In 1986, Senior District Judge Michael Khoo found him innocent of all charges but one, but the prosecution appealed and the Chief Justice ordered a retrial in a different district court, denying Jeyaretnam the opportunity to appeal to the Privy Council in Britain. At the retrial, Jeyaretnam was declared guilty on all charges. The judge sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment (later commuted to one month) and fined him S$5,000, sufficient to disqualify him from standing for election for a period of five years.

    Judge Khoo was transferred from Head of the subordinate court to the AG’s chamber which was viewed as a demotion. When Jeyaretnam called for an enquiry into the transfer, alleging that the CJ and the AG were “beholden” to Lee Kuan Yew, the allegation was dismissed as “scandalous”.and Jeyaretnam was expelled from parliament and disbarred.

    Since the trial had been held in a district court, Jeyaretnam could not appeal the conviction, but he did appeal his disbarment to the Privy Council. The Council duly reversed the judgment, noting:
    “Their Lordships have to record their deep disquiet that by a series of misjudgements, the appellant and his co-accused Wong, have suffered a grievous injustice. They have been fined, imprisoned and publicly disgraced for offences of which they are not guilty. The appellant, in addition, has been deprived of his seat in Parliament and disqualified for a year from practising his profession. Their Lordships order restores him to the roll of advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore, but, because of the course taken by the criminal proceedings, their Lordships have no power to right the other wrongs which the appellant and Wong have suffered. Their only prospect of redress, their Lordships understand, will be by way of petition for pardon to the President of the Republic of Singapore.

    The right of appeal to the Privy Council was severely restricted by a change in the law the following year.

    Jayaratnam was persecuted incessantly and his total Court fines were nearly SGD 1 million.

    In 2001, after his damages installment was overdue by one day, Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt, disbarred and prevented from taking part in the elections that year.

    He resigned from the leadership of the Workers’ Party in October 2001, and SUBSISTED BY HAWKING ON THE STREET.

    There is more to this story search and read it. It’s a good example for those who hold Singapore as a model for Sri Lanka.

    The Tamils should use the tools available to them now and act like the Coloured Children and their parents who had the COURAGE to take on the racist white establishment in the USA. They were fearless of the consequences of white reaction and violent reaction did occur. Still they were undeterred and persisted and finally one the day.

    Its up to the Tamils to chose to wait until the ‘majority of the majority’ changes its mindset without they themselves contributing to that process positively. It would take a very long time anyway or chose the path I suggested and force the issue of implementing what is already in the Constitution.

  • wijayapala

    Dear OTC,

    Are you by any chance a lawyer?

    Your contention is that the Tamils can’t do anything until the Sinhala mindset is changed. That will be a very long wait as we are talking about a population of over 15 million.

    It literally took 100 years from the end of the US Civil War for the blacks to win civil rights legislation, and again that ONLY happened with the support of white people. You have yet to cite a single example of a minority achieving rights WITHOUT the support of the majority.

    In the USA the Coloured People never gave up their legal fight to enforce the “Bill of Rights”

    And to remind you yet AGAIN, the “Coloured People” would not have WON their legal FIGHT if there were no sympathetic whites (like President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s) to ENFORCE desegregation. You can’t dance around that!

    That mindset cannot be changed by adopting a confrontationist attitude towards a majority, who the Tamils themselves rode roughshod on, when they held sway during and immediately after the Colonial Era.

    Kindly explain how the Tamils “rode roughshod on” the Sinhalese?? If you’re referring to the Tamils as a community, are you including the washermen and other untouchable castes as “riding roughshod”?? Or the upcountry Tamils who didn’t even have civic rights????

    Were there anti-Sinhala POGROMS in Jaffna of the type we saw in 1956, 1958, 1977, and 1983?

    They must work towards erasing the memory of being the Colonial servant who obediently wielded the whip over the majority when power was with them.

    How were the Tamils (again as a COMMUNITY) a “Colonial servant” any more than our own Radalas and ancestors of Jayawardene, Bandaranaike etc.???

    Continued confrontationist action by the Tamils will only help to polarize the communities more and more, ultimately succeeding in polarising even the liberal Sinhalese, who will feel threatened by uncompromising Tamil Chauvinism.

    You’re missing one point- the Tamils at present lack the STRENGTH and UNITY to pose a threat to even the most hopelessly paranoid Sinhala. If ANYONE can and should make a DIFFERENCE, it therefore should be us.

    The FACT that the three member Trail at Bar had a “Sinhala Majority” did not stop the “SL Supreme Court” from dispensing Justice. As a Sri Lankan I am proud of that fact and as a Sinhalese I am prouder still.

    Yes, you’re much like the whites who were PROUD after the Civil War that blacks no longer had to work without a salary, but would get all jumpy and defensive if anybody pointed out that the blacks had an inferior status.

    That single ruling which you bring up repeatedly like a broken record (presumably because you couldn’t find any other example to support your argument) is IRRELEVANT because it had no IMPACT on Sri Lankan history:

    It did not stop the 1977 riots.

    It did not stop Jaffna Library from being set aflame in 1981.

    And it did not stop the big one in 1983. (No doubt you are also PROUD that there were many Sinhalese who protected Tamils that July, while violently refusing to accept that these Sinhalese were heavily outnumbered by those who were not so kind!)

    As I wrote previously, Tamil is treated as a National Language ‘ONLY’ in Sri Lanka.

    And as I’ve asked you for the umpteenth time, what does it mean to be a “NATIONAL” language?????? You haven’t answered what that status confers in REAL LIFE.

    Again by looking at the REAL status of Tamil in SL, one could conclude that “National Language” means “a language that is acknowledged only in semantics and on paper, but not necessarily implemented as a language of govt.” Would you dispute this definition?

    Thank you for the cut-and-paste job on the Indian Constitution. As I told you previously, the Indian “federal system allows STATE governments to establish their own regional OFFICIAL languages (which probably is why the Tamils want federalism).

    Singapore
    “Classical Tamil is dying a slow death.

    Evidence?

    It’s a good example for those who hold Singapore as a model for Sri Lanka.

    Where did I hold Singapore as a model for SL? I pointed out that Tamil is an official language there, and thus Sri Lanka is hardly unique in that respect.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Wijeyapala,

    Sri Lanka remains the ONLY country where Tamil is recognised as a NATIONAL language.

    This statement still remains unshaken by your counters bringing Singapore as an example where it is only an “official” language (which I was aware of) and where even India does not define a National language. Tamil does not apply throughout India and there are over 60 million Tamils and probably close to 80 million if the Muslims are also Tamil speakers (which I am not sure of, just making an assumption by taking the case of SL)

    As pointed out to you the National University of Singapore does not have a Faculty in Tamil. Classical Tamil is dying there. You asked me for proof. It’s available on the web if you care to look for it.

    Here are a few extracts from just one such source on the web, a paper titled
    “Tongue-Tied in Singapore: A Language Policy for Tamil?”

    The writer is a Fulbright scholar and has been a student of Tamil for 40 years, a teacher of it for 30 of those years, and has concentrated his research on this language—its structure, its socio-cultural context, its grammar—for most of his academic career.

    The Tamil situation in Singapore is one that lends itself ideally to the study of minority language maintenance. The Tamil community is small—Indians constitute around 7% of the population, but Tamils are only 4%—and its history and demographics are well known. The Singapore educational system supports a well-developed and comprehensive bilingual education program for its three major linguistic communities (Gopinathan, 1994; Gopinathan & Mani, 1983) on an egalitarian basis, so Tamil is a sort of “test-case” for how well a small language community can survive in a multilingual society where larger groups are doing well. But Tamil is acknowledged by many to be facing a number of crises; Tamil as a home language is not being maintained by the better-educated, and Indian education in Singapore is also not living up to the expectations many people have for it (SINDA report, 1991).

    I will not address the second issue in this paper, but the first one, failure to maintain Tamil, is one that affects Singapore’s ethnicity policy and is therefore cause for concern in many quarters. It is a fact that educated Singapore Tamils are not keeping Tamil as a home language, and have difficulty getting their children to see the value of it. Uneducated Tamils in Singapore continue to speak Tamil, but are not becoming very literate in it: but since they leave school before having to pass lots of tests, are not troubled by this. Educated people who love Tamil are upset that Tamil is becoming thought of as a “coolie language” and regret this very much.

    …………….. In fact educated “Tamils” in Singapore are often able to speak only LT, but their mother tongue is in many cases actually English. As Gopinathan and Mani (1983) put it, this is a case of subtractive bilingualism—English replaces Tamil, and Tamil is subtracted from the equation.

    In Singapore (and in Malaysia) language status policy is not under the control of the Tamil community, and Tamils are therefore in the position that Telugu or Kannada speakers are in Tamil Nadu: they are a tiny minority, have no say in overall policy formulation, and are forced to work within the provisions set by the larger society.

    The local people, however, loudly disagreed; they held that the reason for the decline and fall of Tamil in Singapore is angilak kalappu, or mixing English (and Malay) words in with pure Tamil; eliminate this and all would be fine. At one point in the proceedings I was asked for my reactions to this, to which I replied that as a student of language maintenance I saw at least two other problems: one is that Tamil does not have a homeland or territory (LaPonce, 1987) in Singapore,[4] and secondly, Singapore Tamil speakers tend to not speak Tamil with their children, arguing that if people do not speak Tamil, the language will most certainly die out in Singapore. People argued back with me, saying that even when they do speak with their children, the children do not reply in Tamil, and do not learn it. They had no answer for the territory problem, which is also a domain problem. Tamil has lost almost all the domains it used to have (Sobrielo, 1985, quoted in Ramaiah 1987, p. 13), and is reduced to the domains of home and family, and then only for the uneducated.

    I hope that you now agree that TAMIL IS DYING A SLOW DEATH IN SINGAPORE.

    BTW this is a copy and paste (not a Cut & Paste) and is edited for brevity. Only a fool will try to claim ORIGINALITY of every comment s/he makes on the web. Retyping is a waste of time when authoritative sources are already available on the web.

    Since you are the one who challenged my statement reproduced at the beginning of this comment the onus is on you to prove otherwise. The only way of logically doing it is to show any other country that has defined the status of Tamil as a National language (not just an official language)

    I will comment on the rest of your post in my next post

  • Chaminda Weerawardhana

    Thanks very much for all your comments/discussions, and my apologies for being late to comment. Given the large number of comments, I may refrain from commenting on specific ideas, – but I will definitely take your collective feedback into account when writing my next submission on the ethnic question, in an effort to continue this timely discussion.

    Dr Jayatilleka: many thanks for your comment. Anjali, Kannan & others from the Tamil Diaspora: thanks for reading and commenting – your views need to be read and heard by the wider Sri Lankan community, especially within Sri Lanka.