Colombo, Jaffna, Poetry, Reconciliation

Extra Time

The latest news
from the family-run,
once independent island,

is the appointment
of a presidential committee
to decide upon which

recommendations to adopt
regarding the erstwhile
ethnic question, which

has been subsumed
into the unitary enterprise
of the war-fighting, now

North and East-occupying,
government dedicated
to paying appropriate attention

to the international human
rights lobby and European
and American states.

Nothing like a committee
to push the football away,
like the many formed

and dissolved
in the past without
achieving laws,

but which gained time
for the family
to work and play.

  • Rabindra

    Hi Indran, pls read the commentary below.
    I do not agree with some of what Shenali says, but it will hopefully make you understand why the Sinhalese have a ‘Siege Mentality”, meaning, that we feel that we (Sinhalese) are under threat, from a world which only tries to understand only the fears and insecurities of the minorities but not the same of the majority Sinhalese here. I like to respectfully urge you to read it through even if you don’t like it. Then you will hopefully know of the fear of the Sinhalese.
    Thank you.

    Shenali Waduge
    Tamil politicians can speak for the welfare and rights of the Tamils, Muslims can demand rights and privileges for Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Catholics can demand their rights but why is it considered taboo for Sinhalese to speak about the future of the Sinhalese or for Sinhalese Buddhists to exercise their rights in a land where Buddhism is enshrined in its constitution? It has always been accepted for everyone to speak on their rights, make their demands but the Sinhalese especially the Sinhalese Buddhists have to be cautious not to upset their fellow ethnic groups or other religious sects. Something is radically wrong in this equilibrium and this argument has nothing to do with exerting the majority status of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka or to undermine other religions above Buddhism. It is simply raising the question desiring to know why does it have to be the Sinhalese that has to all the time be cautious of upsetting the Tamils, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Christians or the Catholics especially when the political leaders have to end up upholding only the rights of the minority ethnic groups putting aside the needs of the majority? That this is a fact is clear because the Sinhalese Buddhists have seen little advance in their economic or social status since independence and statistics prevail to prove this.
    While the world celebrates war anniversaries, holds commemorations pays tribute to those paying the supreme sacrifice and even gloats over the killings of unarmed terrorists without putting them on trial – Sri Lanka is told not to indulge in “triumphalism” and even when the only country to have eliminated terrorism celebrates that fete unaccomplished by even the US or NATO, Sri Lanka is chided and that celebration is twisted to project that the Sinhalese are attempting to show their might over the other ethnic groups.
    The problem at hand is that whilst all Sinhalese in general desire the country to think as Sri Lankan the minorities especially its political leaderships prefer to take the line of projecting minority rights as being suppressed or discriminated for their own advantage and to hide the differences that exist amongst them. This worked perfectly in the past and proves why over 1m Tamils now live overseas a large number of whom to continue their clandestine operations that contributed to USD300m are crying out for a separate Eelaam to which they are unlikely to come to. To continue their clandestine activity they have artfully engaged foreign politicians who do not hesitate to cry “eelaam” if it brings him/her to parliament. The present Mayoral candidate is doing just that. So much for ethics in democracy in the West!
    Needless to say, this has resulted in a false notion of belief amongst the international community that ethnic tensions exist in Sri Lanka and provides a perfect excuse to set their strategic agenda in the region. However, when both minority groups enjoy better lifestyles than the Sinhalese this argument does not really hold true. Even after eradicating terrorism and urging the people to be united as Sri Lankan there is foreign involvement to continuously divide the people. What is happening is that not only is the country being divided but the Sinhales are being divided as well and so long as the Sinhalese are divided it is advantageous for all players attempting to take a piece of Sri Lanka. This is not helped by local politicians who are simply walking into the traps clueless as a result of not devising a strategy on how to take the country forward or how to protect the future of the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims – all those who desire to remain Sri Lankan.
    India is attempting to all the while through statements and through diplomatically channels fund only Tamils, roads only to Tamils, homes only to Tamils, infrastructure only to Tamils, educational facilities only to Tamils which automatically questions India and clearly makes the other communities feel that India is once more upto no good. Whilst other nations are continuously trying to promote the need to devolve powers without knowing anything of the dynamics that prevails in Sri Lanka.
    Thus, the world has come to make the Sinhalese feel that every move, every decision and every act has and will be considered according to an ethnic dimension leaving the Sinhalese reluctant to showcase or be proud of their heritage and feel shy to uphold their culture. Should we continue to be so naïve and bend towards these nuances that are slowly but surely disintegrating the Sinhaelse and disuniting them politically, socially and even religiously? Why should the Sinhalese be ashamed to call themselves Sinhalese / Sinhalese Buddhists?
    Caught up in this scenario the likelihood of the Sinhalese not cherishing their roots, identifying with their roots and protecting those roots is of great concern.
    Why is it that the world does not want even our children to know the great achievements of our ancient systems the “hydraulic civilization” developed by the Sinhalese kings? What significance has been given to the centuries old systems that provide a lifeline to agriculture even today? How many of us know the achievements of the kings – the constructions, the canals, the tanks, the rainwater reservoirs that made Sri Lanka be referred to as the Granary of the Orient? Does enough promotion of our great achievements get publicized enough or do we prefer just to promote our beaches?
    Sri Lanka has a history dating back to 543BC, the remains of these ancient kingdoms in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, the ancient citadels of Sigiriya, medieval kingdoms of Kandy cannot deny the presence of the Sinhalese race and that intermittent invasions by Dravidians from South India through 161BC-1236BC bore Tamils. Despite invasions from South India there is enough evidence to prove harmony between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. It was only around 237BC when Sena and Guttika usurped the Sinhalese throne and in 145BC when Elara took over Anuradhapura that the islands stability became affects. Invasions by Pandyan and Cholas forced the Sinhalese to migrate southward but returned to the dry zones to revive the irrigation systems. The unity was further distanced by the colonial masters. Yet it does not erase the fact that the people of Sri Lanka would have been far more united had the island nation not been subject to divide and rule policies of the colonials that divided people economically, socially and ethnically.
    The very countries that have been dictating to Sri Lanka are today openly declaring that multiculturalism has failed and that immigrants must learn the majority Language. There is no arguing against this. In middle-east countries if non-Muslims must cover their bodies when entering their nation, they must follow the traditions of other countries as well. When people can learn foreign languages to survive as refugees why cannot they learn Sinhalese?
    Let us remind the world that the Sinhalese have been alert at all times despite innumerable barbaric acts by the LTTE since 1983 and they have ensured not to allow any hostility towards the Tamils to take place despite being provoked to do so.
    Spirit of compromise must come equally and naturally and it should not have to be always the majority to compromise.
    The politicization of ethnicity must cease and it must start with all political parties and all politicians. Party manifestos must clearly promote Sri Lankan identity which entails the election commissioner to relook at all ethnic based political parties as they are all a hindrance to unity.
    It should not be only the Sinhalese politicians who have to desist from speaking on behalf of one ethnic group as leaders they are all bound to protect the entire citizenry of Sri Lanka.
    All these measures need to be taken but as long as there are calls coming from all corners of the world which aim to set up Eelaams then it behoves the majority Sinhalese to start demanding from their politicians what they are doing to protect the future of the Sinhalese. For it is unfair to always expect the Sinhalese to make compromises.
    Tamils in particular must realize that the policies of the colonial rulers ensured a privileged group of Tamil English educated elitist class who together with a handful of Sinhalese English educated elitest enjoyed pre and post-independence and it was these groups that decried the educational reforms for it paved the way for lesser-privileged children to obtain education and enter universities.
    We are all in a quandary on how to take the country forward – trapped by economic loans, politicians unable to run their ministries, officials unsuited for their role, a public service that is falling to pieces and productivity at all time low, spiraling cost of living burdening the masses, the dangers of accepting “assistance” by foreign nations with large influx of foreign residents acquiring key jobs and labor, foreign intelligence forging their presence across the island and we simply continue ride of luck.
    Ideally, the Tamils should realize that India would never create an Eelaam either in Tamil Nadu or Sri Lanka, otherwise they could have done it just as Bangladesh was created. Moreover, Tamils need to decide once and for all whether they are Indian Tamils or Sri Lankan Tamils because India and Sri Lanka are 2 sovereign countries and we desire to remain so.
    In the absence of such and if there is continued exaggerations and lies it is time Sinhalese too exert their right as the majority.


    When British PM, German Chancellor and French President say multiculturalism has failed and all people should live intermixed and learn the majority language, why do we have Provincial Councils that divide the country? Why are we making English a national language when only a limited number speak English and none speak it exclusively? Sinhala should be the national language and any other language can be learnt by choice. Even if the Government declare the majority language as the only national language, the importance of English will not be diminished.

    Is it worth mentioning that the four decade attempt and billions of dollars spent to make Canada a bilingual country has miserably failed and 80% of the Canadians still communicate in English only.

    • wijayapala


      I do not agree with some of what Shenali says, but it will hopefully make you understand why the Sinhalese have a ‘Siege Mentality”

      What does any of this have to do with Indran’s poem? He doesn’t even mention the Sinhala people.

  • I read the comment Rabindra. There is, to put it mildly, a partial, I would say willfully blind, and erroneous generalization, in writing that the Sinhalese “have ensured not to allow any hostility to take place towards the Tamils despite being provoked to do so” which according to the author has been the case since 1983. I note at least that he did not include the events of that July in his calculations. But what of all the killings since including the civilians bombed in No Fire zones in the last weeks of the War in 2009? I agree that we must read and we must also point out errors and misreadings. I did not support terrorist acts. But I do support the idea of universal human rights that apply to majority and minority populations alike. I also support linguistic diversity. The country is richer for its variety. For a majority population to enjoy its share of universal rights does not preclude the same for its neighbors who share the same land and water. Sri Lanka belongs to all of its residents and in equal measure. That is the ideal we should work to achieve. And not all Sinhalese fall into the category Sinhalese or Tamil into Tamil or Muslim into Muslim. Let us be precise in our terms. Let us not reduce our arguments to the simplest and usually erroneous terms.