Translation of original in Tamil and released on behalf of the signatories. Read in full screen here.

A Public Memo to Members of Parliament representing the Tamil National Alliance from the Tamil Civil Society

Download the open letter as a PDF here.

  • Malith Rathnayaka

    It is not difficult to understand that, as usual, the Mahinda Rajapakse Govt. again is not sincere in bring about a solution on the national issue. It is known that several all-party deliberations, since the issue started and ending-up with the APRC, which the Mahinda Rajapaksa himself appointed, have been failures. Having appointed the LLRC, then commencing discussions with the TNA, and then appointing the PSC, make no sense and could be seen as usual delaying tactics. If the Govt. is popular as it claims to be it can reach an agreement with the TNA and implement it. There is no doubt the country will accept a reasonable agreement as it could be seen that all sections of the people want a peaceful country. It is the Govt. that is playing politics on matter with its devious methods. Such methods could lead the country to disaster.

    • Dr.Herath

      I agree with most of the content as well as aspirations except self governance based on ethnicity. Why this esteem gentleman failed understand that fundamental problem is not with the ethnicity, it is the superficial outlook of more deeper problem with the system, namely economic system. Honestly, most of the tamil politicians over the sri lankan history did not serive the poor tamillians but they served thier elite. I am sorry to say that you might think that i am sinhalese speacking but remember i have my own family in the heart of Jaffna, my son has both sinhalese and tamil blood if you believe in such medival practices. The question is the tamils want to fight sinhala regimen, believing that will bring the glory and justice , my freind you are mistaken. what we need is sociopoliticoeconoic freedom and equality. south suffer as much as north at the hands of the regime. what we need is a regime that is acceptable to both north and south with establishment of law, order and human rights. without that pre-requisite no amount of governance by the ethnic orientation is not going to solve the problems faced by many ehtnicities in the country. dear esteemed friends, i really regret you are still living and believeing in division based on ethnic lines, as a human being who opposed war and still believe in justice i cannot fathom your thinking. am i delusional or what?

  • Suren

    Tamil nationhood debate can adopt a strategic two front position.

    1. at the political table of negotiation the immediate issues of existentialist rights (therefore the language of minority)chould be argued for. Here what we are not sure is whether the TNA is doing all it could do strategically. To an outsider like me TNA increasing becoming a one man effort largely based on Hon M. A. Sumanthiran

    2. at a higher ideological level the distinct nationhood and self-determination could be articulated. Here again if one is accepting the role of India and US then the self determination will be solely ‘internal’. As at this juncture of history of South Asia there is no room for a new state. India and China both do not see the geo-political advantage of having the Tamil Eelam as an independent state.

    the front line political activism and representation done by TNA (and others like Mano Ganeshan) can use the language of equal rights as that will be the most valid and acceptable common currency in the Sinhala south and at international power politics, that will force GOSL for any meaningful democratization.

    On the other hand the intellectually liberal II argument of the rights of nation could be held at a more conceptual level as a long term aim. Because right now the so called Tamil public has no freedom even to have a private meeting/seminar on the issue self-determination.
    (here I think the signatories and their proxies needs to re articulate why they believe the Tamils are a nation. This should reformulate the Thumphu principles in the post LTTE context) After all, every nation does not automatically or onto-genetically inherit a state. There are many nations without a states (Quebec. What does it means to be a nation and why should it be articulated?

    but the Realpolitik of the situation is that one cannot marathon when s/he even unable to walk.

    so the responsibility of TNA will be to continue to bring pressure and articulate the Tamil immediate equal rights demand, while the public intellectuals can advance the nation debate. Both these should work hand in hand.
    Intra competition is the biggest enemy of the Tamils whether it is in the military or political filed.
    I wish the TNA became more humble transparent and inclusive
    while the public intellectuals became more supportive of the immediate political targets. Supplementing not side-lining each other.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Suren

      the front line political activism and representation done by TNA (and others like Mano Ganeshan) can use the language of equal rights as that will be the most valid and acceptable common currency in the Sinhala south and at international power politics

      So you are arguing that there should be a strategic two-face approach, where you tell the Sinhalese one thing (equal rights) but have something completely different (distinct non-Sinhala nation) as your real goal?

      TNA & Mano won’t be up to the task, the Sinhalese already don’t trust them. You’ll have to string along someone like Anandasangari for this neat idea.

      • Suren

        Dear Mr Wijayapala,
        I am sure I have no time like you , Blacker and few other full time blogers to reply every post and comment. But must confess you have developed a fine art of taking things out of context.

        1. Mine was a response to the so called ‘Tamil Public’

        2. There is no rule why Tamils should not be a nation while the Sinhalas are ( here Sinhalas have a state of which the hegemonic rule was given to them in 1948 by the colonialists)

        3. Every nation does NOT have to have separate state. a state can be multi Nations or (plurination as they are named now)

        4. The Tamil intellectual debate whether they are are a nation or not is very abstract at this point of history and it is largely a private venture and has no room in public power politics in SL

        5. My point is that Tamil polity must first try to win equal rights. They can continue the discourse on Nation Status at private and intellectual level

        6. This is not to mean that the Tamils must try to cheat the Sinhalas by hiding their actual aim of a separate state while negotiating as you have tried to interpret

  • justitia

    TNA seeks a measure of self government within “an undivided sri lanka”,
    and of/within an undivided northeast.
    This they have stated already.
    Then, the people of the northeast will manage their own affairs, without the present situation of oppression and repression by the military government run by the military governer & imposed by the armed forces and police.
    At present, even a gathering of four persons cannot occur without the permission of the military.This does not happen in any other democracy.
    People are sick and resentful of this “Nazi” style of governance.
    This proposed PSC is plainly another time buying exercise.

    • wijayapala

      Dear justitia,

      At present, even a gathering of four persons cannot occur without the permission of the military.This does not happen in any other democracy.

      How many other democracies have had to fight something like the LTTE?

      • Human

        @Wijeypala, I think I gave you too much credit.

        You are just an apologist like Off-The-Cuff and Yapa.

        Other democracies have dealt with crime while maintaining democracy — the US has had many a terrorist groups and one (al Queda) that killed more people in one attack than the LTTE did in their entire run.

        The United Kingdom is an even better example. They had an IRA but they were willing to reach an agreement respectful of the minority rather than slaughter followed by imprisonment of an entire community (the SL strategy you seem to be supporting).

      • Human

        oh, Wijepala…

        How many other minorities have had to deal with being slaughtered and marginalized by a unrepentant majority that continues to believe that they are the victim.

      • justitia

        Dear Wijepala,
        The LTTE is dead and buried.Should the living continue to suffer persecution in memory of the LTTE. Do they not deserve democratic governance.
        The contined persecution will continue the resentment towards the state which was how/why militancy began and the LTTE was born.
        Let there be talks – but why subject the populace of the northeast (and now the south too) to what is being called ‘state terrorism’?

  • The Phantom of the Opera

    While I don’t object to the possibility of simultaneously working towards both (1) equal rights and (2) national self determination within the context of a federal structure, it appears that the former should have priority. It is through the ‘equal rights’ discourse that the Tamil people aim to achieve the public goods that make them citizens – for example, being able to engage in transactions with the state in their own language etc. Without the rights of language, free and meritocratic opportunities for office and ability to resort to the the law the basic criteria of citzenship does not appear to be fulfilled. (c.f. Rawls’ Right Principle) National self determination, on the other hand, appears to be something that further enriches the life of a citizen, and hence can be considered a secondary priority.

    Nevertheless, as the document above notes, the two may well be interlinked with national self determination in the form of a federal system guaranteeing equal rights. However, that is not a neccesary connection. The TNA can well place issues of language, law and meritocracy at the centre of its talks, while also addressing the more problematic question of national self determination as well.

    It is unfortunate the signatories of this letter failed to deplore the TNA’s reluctance to conduct talks with the Muslim community on the future of the North East merger.

  • MV

    It is questionable whose interests the current TNA leadership are representing, whether that of Tamil people or that of ‘certain others’ in quest of their share of ‘post-war development’ in the island.

    Colombo has mastered the art of deceitful politics and expecting any outcome from these negotiations is like the case of fox jumping for grapes. Neither should one expect push for independent international investigations from those very powers who have engineered Mullivaikkal saga.

    Bottomline, it is perhaps better if TNA makes a firm stand on war crimes and self-determination as the basis for a dignified solution rather than compromising for deceitful politics or being the arm of ‘development’ politics orchestrated in the island.

  • Human

    WIjepala, here’s Tamil Civil Society. Note how they do not express any anger at the LTTE in this document. You claimed they were destroyed by the LTTE. Checkmate?

    On the document — I think it’s spot on. The TNA needs to boycott Mahinda really because he’s the most disingenuous of the whole lot of bad leaders we have had since 1956.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Human

      You are just an apologist like Off-The-Cuff and Yapa.

      For a minute I was worried that you would accuse me of being as much of an apologist as you are!

      Other democracies have dealt with crime while maintaining democracy — the US has had many a terrorist groups and one (al Queda) that killed more people in one attack than the LTTE did in their entire run.

      How has Sri Lanka not maintained democracy? Did the US sit still and do nothing when terrorists killed its civilians?

      The United Kingdom is an even better example. They had an IRA but they were willing to reach an agreement

      Actually it was the IRA that was willing to compromise. The LTTE was not willing to compromise and so it was obliterated. No use crying over spilt milk!

      How many other minorities have had to deal with being slaughtered and marginalized by a unrepentant majority

      The blacks and Native Americans in the US? The Australian aborigines? The Irish Cathlics in N. Ireland (as you pointed out!)?

      WIjepala, here’s Tamil Civil Society.

      Why are only twenty out of these dozens of names from places outside of Jaffna??? How representative is this “Tamil civil society” list???

      The TNA needs to boycott Mahinda really because he’s the most disingenuous of the whole lot of bad leaders we have had since 1956.

      How is Mahinda worse than somebody like JR who conducted two pogroms against the Tamils when there wasn’t a war? And why do you think that the TNA isn’t boycotting him?

      • Human

        “How has Sri Lanka not maintained democracy? Did the US sit still and do nothing when terrorists killed its civilians?“

        Are you serious? The independence and power of institutions have slowly been eroded in favor of an all powerful head of state which now can run for unlimited terms. The army is given the freedom to hold civilians in custody without trial (for years) — (yes, the US does this too with Guantanamo, but that’s on a much limited scale; they also do not do this on their own soil). PTA further gave the army the go-ahead to slaughter any threats they find and bury them.

        Also, areas like the Vanni have no democracy — the areas are under the control of an invasive army that comes from a foreign area. Jaffna has mass areas occupied by the foreign army again as well as restrictions on freedom of movement and expression.

        The US didn’t abridge the freedom inherent in the Bill of Rights like Sri Lanka has chosen to.

        “Actually it was the IRA that was willing to compromise. The LTTE was not willing to compromise and so it was obliterated. No use crying over spilt milk!“

        “The blacks and Native Americans in the US? The Australian aborigines? The Irish Cathlics in N. Ireland (as you pointed out!)?“

        Last I checked the majority have repented and attempted to fix their errors in those cases (unlike in Sri Lanka — which was my point). United States has a Black president right now and Native Americans have autonomy within their regions. Aborigines have been given autonomy and other rights as well. Ditto Irish Cathoics.

        “Why are only twenty out of these dozens of names from places outside of Jaffna??? How representative is this “Tamil civil society” list???“

        Jaffna is the epicenter of Tamil culture in Sri Lanka. The Vanni is undeveloped and restricted.

        “How is Mahinda worse than somebody like JR who conducted two pogroms against the Tamils when there wasn’t a war?“

        JR at least attempted to meet the Tamil demands by getting rid of Standardization in 1977 and didn’t do away with term limits. With him we at least knew he would leave after his two terms were up. Not so with Mahinda — argh..

        “And why do you think that the TNA isn’t boycotting him?“

        You might notice they are talking to them.

      • wijayapala

        Dear Human

        The independence and power of institutions have slowly been eroded in favor of an all powerful head of state which now can run for unlimited terms.

        There isn’t anything unusual with the concept of unlimited terms. FDR was the US President for four terms- does that mean the US did not have democracy during that time?? Furthermore, in parliamentary systems it is possible for someone to be prime minister for decades, such as Robert Walpole.

        The key part, which you have totally (and unsurprisingly!) missed, is that the incumbent President still has to win elections. As long as his opponent is Ranil Wickremasinghe, even a potted plant could remain as head of state indefinitely.

        The army is given the freedom to hold civilians in custody without trial (for years)

        Kindly provide a name of someone who has been held by the SLA for years without trial.

        Also, areas like the Vanni have no democracy

        Then how is it possible that the TNA won the local elections in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, and Vavuniya?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Results_of_the_2011_Sri_Lankan_local_government_elections_by_province,_district_and_local_authority

        “The blacks and Native Americans in the US? The Australian aborigines? The Irish Cathlics in N. Ireland (as you pointed out!)?“
        Last I checked the majority have repented and attempted to fix their errors in those cases

        And how long did it take? The blacks in many places only got the right to vote 100 years after the US Civil War, and it took 40-50 years after that for Obama to be elected President. The British government only recently apologised for the atrocities committed against the Irish Catholics in the 1970s.

        Jaffna is the epicenter of Tamil culture in Sri Lanka. The Vanni is undeveloped and restricted.

        What about Batticaloa or Trincomalee? Colombo? Are those also “undeveloped” areas, or are you simply unaware that there are Tamils living in places outside of the Northern Province? lol

        JR at least attempted to meet the Tamil demands by getting rid of Standardization in 1977

        And he compensated for that by attacking the Tamils in 1977, burning down Jaffna Library in 1981, and then killing more Tamils in 1983! It truly is despicable the way you support someone so anti-Tamil!

        “And why do you think that the TNA isn’t boycotting him?“
        You might notice they are talking to them.

        The question is WHY are they talking to Mahinda, my slow-witted friend, not whether or not they are! If you identify yourself as “anglicised,” kindly demonstrate the basic reading skills to back that claim! 😉

  • Mahesan Niranjan

    It is fair to say that Tamil nationalism grew exponentially during the seventies. I grew up in Jaffna during that time. With my limited cognitive ability as a teenager, it was not possible for me to assess how much of the growth was a response to Sinhala nationalist politics, and how much of it was the racist dynamics of “we deserve better, because we are cleverer, because we score high grades in the AL exams”. Hence, I find it difficult to appreciate the basic premise in this memo: self-determination, Tamil nation, self-governance etc. These concepts have been explored to their limits recently and we know that the Tamil people today are far worse off than they were then. And in the process, the number of people who sympathized with the Tamils’ predicaments has been reduced to zero (or one, if you take David Milliband seriously!).

    In my simple materialistic thinking, I do not see governance / self-governance as an end in itself. Example: Last week, I was in the office of one of the signatories of this memo. His ceiling is falling down. It is in an institution whose entire management is ethnic Tamil. Rumour has it that the institution has, on several occasions in the past, returned allocated budget unspent to the Treasury. Yet the management of that institution cannot get a carpenter in to fix that falling ceiling. (And I won’t describe here the toilets or the table cloth in the common room.) Governance should be seen as a means to achieving an end – providing a decent working environment by fixing the ceiling, in this example.

    Still, I welcome this memo – for two reasons.

    Firstly, it is coming from those who chose to live and work in Sri Lanka, when some of them had good opportunities to seek greener pastures elsewhere. They have worked, and continue to work, under most difficult conditions. I admire this. I think what they view as their priorities, expressed publicly in this way, should carry far greater weight than the views of the likes of me who ran away from Sri Lanka.

    Secondly, the TNA has been hiding behind a screen of ambiguity. I have met people who support the TNA for diametrically opposite reasons – some thinking of it as best placed to carry (in secret) the Tiger flag and what it stood for, and others thinking of it as re-discovered moderates who have detached themselves from the flag (by sacking three of their members?). The TNA has had several rounds of talks with the Government, but does not seem to tell the people what exactly they have been talking about. I think pressure like this will squeeze the TNA out of the political scene – for they will neither be able to wave the flag in public, nor be able to openly and critically examine all the evils the Tamil people have been led through. TNA’s exit will create space for a badly needed new generation of leadership to evolve.

    I can only hope that such a new leadership will think slightly outside the box and not sing from the same hymn sheets of the seventies.

    • Agnos

      Niranjan,

      Agree that the signatories are courageously expressing their views, despite continuing intimidation, thuggery, white van abductions and murder.

      Whether those of us who left Sri Lanka for good share those views is irrelevant.

      On the subject of a new generation of leadership, what can such a leadership do when the ruling mafia is still abducting and murdering people (the latest being two members of JVP dissident faction), and the regime’s apologists find ways to gloss over the bestial nature of the regime. The bottom line is that the current regime has to go, one way or another, before anything tangible can come in terms of political rights, new Tamil leadership or not.

      Here is something for you to think about. Many people point to the defeat of the LTTE to say that “violence doesn’t pay.” But that unfortunately is false. The LTTE faced its defeat only after staying dominant for 25–30 years. From their perspective, violence did pay all those years. And it was finally eliminated by applying greater violence, not through peace talks, not through granting equal rights to Tamil people and persuading them to marginalize the LTTE. In other words, “greater violence” did pay.

      So, before people get worked up over reconciliation, development, political solution, etc., there must be some justice for the mass killings that happened in the Vanni. The typical response by the regime’s apologists that it was the LTTE that was responsible for all of it, doesn’t hold water in the context of all the violence that happened outside the theater of war, and the abductions and murders that continue even today. So, absent justice for such crimes by the regime and a paradigm shift that shows, in actuality, violence doesn’t truly pay, there is no way to prevent someone else’s continuing belief in “even greater violence,” no matter how implausible it may seem in the short run.

      • Human

        Good post, Agnos.

        The bit about violence is especially good.

      • wijayapala

        Agnos, I did not understand your “greater violence” theory. Who is willing right now to inflict “greater violence” on the Rajapaksha regime to win Tamil rights? Or rather, who is willing to risk their lives for another such hopeless cause?

  • James Bond

    There is no reason why the TNA should not have a 2 ponged strategy and participate in the Provincial Council elections while pushing for federal solution based on 13th amendment.

    The social and economic development of the northern region would in some small measure benefit from a TNA Provincial Council one presumes. The northern poor people’s social and economic development should not be held hostage to the grand-standing of Tamil nationalists who claim to represent Tamil civil society as these folk do.

    The failure to de-link issues and the MYOPIC tendency to link everything to the demand for “self-determination” (whose self-determination and liberation is it anyway?) was the reason for the down fall of the LTTE whose leader was a short-sited power hungry megalomaniac! A wise and INCLUSIVE Tamil leadership should not, must not make the same mistake.

  • sinhala_voice

    This memorandum clearly shows that Mahinda administration ONLY defeated the military militia form of the LTTE.

    The IDEOLOGY espoused by the LTTE is live and well from the 1940’s.The essence of which is Tamils can be only governed by Tamils. Using the excuse that Sinhalese are governed by the Sinhalese.

    Not every ethnic group has a state. What the government has to do is to increase the democratic nature of the governance (which is not politics) improve the governance mechanisms. That is ALL the Sinhalese can do at the momoent

    • wijayapala

      Dear sinhala_voice

      This memorandum clearly shows that Mahinda administration ONLY defeated the military militia form of the LTTE.

      In other words, force has been a total failure when it has come to fighting Tamil nationalism, despite its success in defeating terrorism. In other words, the path forward must not involve using force.

      The IDEOLOGY espoused by the LTTE is live and well from the 1940?s.

      Contrary to what many Sinhalese believe, Tamil nationalism is not an ideology or anything pre-planned or organized. It is primarily an emotional reaction to changes that took place after independence. By itself it was harmless, but when Sinhala mobs attacked Tamils out of fear of Tamil nationalism it mutated to become violent and dangerous.

      The above memo actually provides a good clue to the proper way of defeating Tamil nationalism. The nationalists are worried that “equal rights” will diminish their cause. They are absolutely correct. Separatism only became popular after 1956 Sinhala Only. Therefore the solution is to reverse the mistakes of the past. When that happens, the ordinary Tamils will not take the “civil society” ideas seriously.

      • Human

        OMG, Wijepala. That was a really great post. Sorry I called you an apologist.

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam. Ph.D.

    Rt Rev Bishop Rayappu and other signatories of the Tamil Civil Society.
    I support your public Memo to the TNA Members of Parliament. I will be honoured if you would include my name also in The Memo.

  • Tamilan

    majority of these signatories are notorious LTTE sympathizers who turned a blind eye when LTTE bought unforgivable calamity on our people in the name of defense. they still have the audacity claim that they form the Tamil Civil Society.

  • Human

    @Wijepala

    {i]There isn’t anything unusual with the concept of unlimited terms. FDR was the US President for four terms- does that mean the US did not have democracy during that time?? Furthermore, in parliamentary systems it is possible for someone to be prime minister for decades, such as Robert Walpole.[/i]

    There’s isn’t anything wrong with unlimited terms by it self. The problem is when it is coupled with the unlimited power inherent in the Sri Lankan president.

    [i]The key part, which you have totally (and unsurprisingly!) missed, is that the incumbent President still has to win elections. As long as his opponent is Ranil Wickremasinghe, even a potted plant could remain as head of state indefinitely.[/i]

    There’s more to a democracy than simply winning elections. The basic rights of the citizens to such things as free movement and freedom of expression must be honored and all people must have equal say in government.

    And the recent discovery of thrown out votes seems to cast some doubt on Mahinda’s election through fair means.

    [i]Kindly provide a name of someone who has been held by the SLA for years without trial.[/i]

    Vishwalingam Gopithas

    [i]Then how is it possible that the TNA won the local elections in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, and Vavuniya?[/i]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Results_of_the_2011_Sri_Lankan_local_government_elections_by_province,_district_and_local_authority

    Again there’s more to democracy than election. The power of those local organization are greatly constrained by the army and the central government.

    [i]And how long did it take? The blacks in many places only got the right to vote 100 years after the US Civil War, and it took 40-50 years after that for Obama to be elected President. The British government only recently apologised for the atrocities committed against the Irish Catholics in the 1970s.[/i]

    Sri Lanka has had 70 years now. We don’t have the luxury of more time. It’s a modern society today — not the less tolerant 1800s.

    [i]What about Batticaloa or Trincomalee? Colombo? Are those also “undeveloped” areas, or are you simply unaware that there are Tamils living in places outside of the Northern Province? lol[/i]

    I’m aware.

    [i]And he compensated for that by attacking the Tamils in 1977, burning down Jaffna Library in 1981, and then killing more Tamils in 1983! It truly is despicable the way you support someone so anti-Tamil![/i]

    I didn’t say I support JR. I said he was better than Mahinda. Big difference.

    [i]The question is WHY are they talking to Mahinda, my slow-witted friend, not whether or not they are! If you identify yourself as “anglicised,” kindly demonstrate the basic reading skills to back that claim![/i]

    Um, sorry — I misread. Why? because they see it as their only recourse now. But I think it’s hopeless — thus they should boycott them.

    • wijayapala

      Don’t use brackets to italicize. Try the greater than/less than signs below your k and l buttons.

      There’s isn’t anything wrong with unlimited terms by it self. The problem is when it is coupled with the unlimited power inherent in the Sri Lankan president.

      The question of whether or not the Executive President has too much power does not answer the question whether or not SL is a democracy. In the 30+ years that SL’s been saddled with the 1978 Constitution, power has changed hands three times peacefully (not counting D.B. Wijetunge who assumed power after Premadasa’s assassination).

      Oh and FYI, JR did not contest the presidency in 1988 because eventually he became aware of how incredibly unpopular he was. Concern over term limits had nothing to do with it. Go back and learn your history properly.

      The basic rights of the citizens to such things as free movement and freedom of expression must be honored and all people must have equal say in government.

      That’s all nice in Political Science 101, but democracies in practice are another story. The US is considered the world’s oldest continuing democracy in spite of severely limiting suffrage until relatively recently.

      Vishwalingam Gopithas

      Mr Gopithas is a British national, and he is being held by the police not the SLA. Try again.

      The power of those local organization are greatly constrained by the army and the central government.

      How?

      I’m aware.

      Then kindly demonstrate that you have the bare minimum understanding of the diversity of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka so that I don’t have to show everyone here again how incapable you are of holding a conversation on the topic of the Tamils. Again I ask: how come “Civil Society” wasn’t able to find more signatures from Batticaloa or even Colombo??? Are you so dense as to believe that the only Tamils having any brain cells live in Jaffna????

      I said he was better than Mahinda. Big difference.

      JR is better because in just one week his lightly-armed minions killed thousands of Tamils who weren’t being used as human shields by the LTTE, and made tens of thousands more into angry refugees?

      But I think it’s hopeless — thus they should boycott them.

      So then, why isn’t the TNA boycotting the govt?? Think!!!

  • Nithyananthan

    Mr. wijayapala, Greetings to you!

    Due to various reasons two cooking in one kitchen under one roof still living together is neither unusual nor something new to our Society. It can not be called as ‘Separation’. Hope none of us will have difference in opinion.

    Whether I accept all what you write or not, among all, still I do read your commentaries with keen interest. Though often they make me feeling silly, disgusting and less inspiring but most of them are very interesting, inviting, accommodating and above all repelling too – thus catering for all moods, feelings and sentiments. I single and regard you as a well-read, well-informed intellectual and man of acceptable degree of reasonableness and civilized decency.

    Having said so, I wish to draw your attention to one of your assertive statements and write as below in order to correct the essence of the message and control the wide-spread wrong notion among our Sinhalese brethren about the inception of Ceylon Tamils feeling of ‘Separation’.

    Quoted dated 19th inst. To Sinhala_voice: ‘Separation only became popular after 1956 Sinhala only. Therefore the solution is to reverse the mistakes of the past’. I feel the word ‘Separation’ should have be replaced with ‘Tamil Nationalism’ and be written the other way around as ‘Nationalism only became popular after 1956 Sinhala only.’ Let me believe the wrong idea that the statement conveys may not be the fault of your mind but of your naughty fingers on the keyboard. However, your second line stating the remedy is much appreciated and honoured – it’s typical of wijayapala.

    A thought of ‘Nationalism’ never existed in the Tamil politicians’ mind until 1972; and was not only in vocabulary but also even unknown to the general Tamil populace till the Black July 1983. The credit for inducting and naturalizing such feeling undoubtedly and enviously goes to the Sinhalese politicians only – nobody else; Ceylon Tamils will never ever claim equality over it. GV deserves my sincere thanks for patience, tolerance and scrupulousness in moderation. Nithy!

    • wijayapala

      Hi Mr Nithy, thank you again for your kind words.

      Due to various reasons two cooking in one kitchen under one roof still living together is neither unusual nor something new to our Society. It can not be called as ‘Separation’.

      Then what is it called? And what is wrong with my Parippu?

      I feel the word ‘Separation’ should have be replaced with ‘Tamil Nationalism’ and be written the other way around as ‘Nationalism only became popular after 1956 Sinhala only.’

      Technically you are correct; few people in 1956 were talking about separatism even after the violence that year or in 1958. However, I still trace the root of separatism back to 1956. Let me explain.

      Sinhala Only was a terrible mistake in that not only did it alienate the Tamils, but it accomplished little for the Sinhalese specifically Sinhala youth. It did for the first time give the Sinhala masses access to government, which is why some old-timers still refer to it as a “revolution.” However, it effectively barred the Sinhalese from the outside world, and the youth were particularly cognizant of how small the “Sinhala world” was. One of the JVP’s demands in 1971 was that the youth should be able to learn more languages to avoid being imprisoned in ignorance and isolation. Therefore, I argue that Sinhala Only was not a “natural” policy of the Sinhala polity but a distortion, or better yet a political gimmick. It was a monument to the failure of the English-speaking elite to create government of the people.

      Given that it was an aberration, the Tamil leadership rested on solid ground to oppose it. They had the opportunity to embrace the adoption of Sinhala while pleading for Tamil to be included as well. After all, if all Sri Lankans were denied access to government because they did not know English, what justice would there be to deny the section of the population that did not know Sinhala? Although I do not know whether this approach would have worked, I am fairly certain that it would not have provoked anti-Tamil violence.

      As it turned out, a section of the Tamil leadership (ITAK) saw Sinhala Only not as a mistake but as an opportunity. Chelvanayakam reportedly was delighted when he first heard of SWRD’s gimmick idea and sent his congratulations. ITAK responded to this gimmick with its own electoral gimmick of “federalism.” ITAK’s concept of “federalism” was not based on any inherent merit in the devolution of power but more fundamentally on majoritarianism. If the Sinhalese could implement Sinhala Only simply because they happened to be the numerical majority, then why not delineate a subunit of the country where the Tamil-speakers happened to form the majority?

      The problem with this thinking is that it essentially justified Sinhala majoritarianism; whereas the aforementioned “Sinhala and Tamil” approach would have challenged majoritarianism, “federalism” only reinforced it. The Sinhalese also unfortunately smelled a conspiracy when ITAK called itself “Federal Party” in English. As a result, “federalism” became equated with “Tamil Rule” in their minds, and remains so to this day. The current pro-devolutionists are perpetuating this equation by stupidly shrieking that Sri Lanka will return to war without “political solution,” instead of showing how devolution will benefit everyone and not just the Tamils. They are keeping alive the incorrect perception that the Tamils are a threat.

      The other danger with “federalism” is that the Tamil leadership itself did not have a common vision with regard to it. M. Thiruchelvam, who did not himself live in NE saw it as a way to mobilise Tamil electoral power and allow the Tamils to play a kingmaker role in politics. V. Navaratnam on the other hand viewed federalism as the first step in establishing a separate Tamil state, as the Sinhalese feared. It is precisely this ambiguity that allowed “federalism” to slide to separatism.

      Other actions by certain Tamil leaders further entrenched the idea among Sinhalese that Tamil politics carried an anti-Sinhala bent, such as Amirthalingam’s “anti-Sri” campaign. Whether or not it was justified, it deserves to be classified as gimmick because it gave nothing to the Tamils while antagonising the Sinhalese.

      A thought of ‘Nationalism’ never existed in the Tamil politicians’ mind until 1972; and was not only in vocabulary but also even unknown to the general Tamil populace till the Black July 1983. The credit for inducting and naturalizing such feeling undoubtedly and enviously goes to the Sinhalese politicians only – nobody else

      I respectfully disagree. Standardisation hurt the Jaffna and Colombo Tamils, but it helped the Wanni and Batticaloa Tamils. The independence of Bangladesh also gave inspiration to the Jaffna youth that they could fight for their own homeland. Although it is debatable whether 1976 Vaddukkoddai Resolution represented a genuine desire of the Tamils for a separate state, it gave the extremists in JR’s subsequent Cabinet the ammunition to scapegoat the Tamils for everything that went wrong during his regime.

      My intent is not to point fingers at Tamil leaders; the violence committed against Tamils before the war can only be blamed on the Sinhala leaders (SWRD & JR) and the Sinhalese who allowed it to happen. It is simply to show that their general reaction to stupid decisions made by Sinhala leaders was to make their own stupid decisions.

      GV deserves my sincere thanks for patience, tolerance and scrupulousness in moderation.

      If anything, we should be thanking you for your patience, tolerance, and moderation.

      wije

      • Krish

        Dear Wijayapala,

        Your posts in the last couple of days are gems! I am very impressed with your neutrality and rational approach in discussing issues where people are very polarized here. While I always read the posts of Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and David Blacker with great interest, yours is about the best in this blog for your vast knowledge and acknowledgement of mistakes committed by both sides. I feel like writing a lot (as parallels from other countries including my own), but at the moment I would stay on the sidelines and enjoy reading your posts I guess. But I only hope these discussions continue in a sincere manner without ending in fights. In any case, keep up the good work!

        best wishes
        Krish