Featured image courtesy Al Jazeera

Until recently, I have seldom had occasion to disagree with Izeth Hussain. However, while there is much that I agree with in the contents of his article published in The Island on September 6th, 2016, titled “Democracy, Not Devolution, the only solution for the ethnic problems”, I totally reject his statement,

“It has not been understood that the Tamils are also an intensely racist people, very probably much more so than the Sinhalese”.

No community or ethnic group is inherently racist. They may develop and exhibit racist beliefs if they suffer or are led to engage in severe discrimination or oppression over an extended period. This would explain the Sinhalese-Tamil racism that developed in the 1950s, the Tamil-Muslim racism that developed much later, and the current Sinhalese-Muslim racism. None of these are permanent, although reviving the memory of real or imagined past atrocities or exploitation, as well as tendentious interpretations of history and religious texts could be used by the social, political and religious leaders to reinvigorate any dormant racism.

This could happen anywhere. For example, the socio-economic ills of the Great Depression of the 1930s were used to promote previously dormant European- Jewish racism in Germany and many other countries. The atrocities that accompanied the partition of India are still being used to promote Hindu-Muslim racism. Similarly, the atrocities that accompanied and followed the creation of Israel are still being used to promote Jewish-Palestinian racism.

No people are by nature racist. The fault may lie in poor leadership, in tendentious history books or in religious texts. Social and political leaders could work to revise the history books to promote (or to undermine) reconciliation. Religious texts are more difficult to revise, but religious leaders and theologians could help to reinterpret them. An example is the development, sustenance and eventual dismantling of Apartheid. Racism in the USA and elsewhere, and casteism in India and elsewhere are in turmoil and not yet dismantled. Condemning people as racists is itself a racist act that can only promote further racism.

On the subject of devolution in Sri Lanka under the 13th Amendment (13A), what can be done to promote National Reconciliation and to avoid subverting it?

The East is finely balanced with no ethnic groups in the majority but comprising mainly of Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese in that order of population size. The Provincial Council is now led by Muslims, earlier by Tamils. The North is now overwhelmingly Tamil but if the Muslims evicted by the LTTE around 1990 could be persuaded and enabled to return, it would help to restore the earlier healthy population and political balance.

In the East and in the North (and elsewhere too) all those evicted, whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, who are willing to return should be helped to do so and resettled and rehabilitated in the lands from which they were ousted. The leaders of all these and, those permanently settled in the North and East should be consulted before any fresh settlements are planned in the North and the East of people without local roots. The resources of the Diaspora and other foreign aid should be pooled to restore the war damaged economy of the North and the East. The government of Sri Lanka, the provincial leaders and the donors should work together in this exercise.

  • Spiritual Man

    The truth hurts offenders and makes them to rebel agaainst it when they live in falsehood and nurture it.

    When the UNSG Ban Ki Moon, visited SL last week, he told frankly that made some Sinhalese to be uncomforttable and rebellious.

    The GSL stepped aside from the stated truth and “played to the Sinhalese gallery” and missed the opportunity to speak out the truth to the masses.

    The two important truthful matters the UNSG revealed were;

    1. The UN failed to carry out its duty during the last days of war and protect the Tamils.

    2. The masesacre of Tamils in SL and the attitude of GSL was similar to the massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia.

    In Rwanda, one tribe (the Hutus) massacre4d the othe tribe (the Tutsis) and so was in Bosnia.

    Likewise, in SL, the Sinhala soldiers massacred 100,000 Tamils in the “no fire zone area”, during the last days of the war.

    Those who feel uncomfortable to face this truth by the UNSG should sit down, be cool, think and reconcile to this truth.

    • Devanesan Nesiah

      I broadly agree with what UNSG said except for the comparison with Bosnia and Rwanda. That comparison was inappropriate and needlessly provocative.

  • owlish

    The Tamil terrorists were massacring innocent Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese men women and children with their bombs guns land mines and even butchering with macheties all over the country with impunity for over 30 years. They were mad savages with not an iota of compassion. Any decent govt has to step in to defend its people which is what the previous regime did, thankfully despite pressure from the equally mad Western forces who also want blood shed everywhere in the world to make money by selling their weapons. Banki Moon is a stooge of the US whose only concern is the control of and fleecing the less powerful countries. UN+UNHRC = US. If Tamils think US and the rest of the West are interested in their (Tamils’) welfare you are sadly mistaken. They use Tamils as pawns to get access to the strategically located harbours and other benefits they can get from Sri Lanka. Open your eyes and start integrating with the rest of the nation and enjoy the benefits of free education health facilities etc paid for by the majority and live as one nation rather than ghettoising and naval gazing.

    • Devanesan Nesiah

      The one point on which I agree with you is the need for national integration. But this cannot be done unilaterally. All sections of the Sri Lankan population need to participate in working out why disintegration occurred and the terms on which reintegration is possible.

    • Fitzpatrick

      I think Sri Lankan (particularly the Sinhalese ) need to get out the mentality that Sri Lanka is the cynosure of the world. It is NOT !

      Most Americans and Europeans (maybe with the exception of UK) don’t know much about this small tiny island. !

      Any achievement that you can list done by SL pales in comaprison to the ones in China and India !

  • Freddy

    Whatever jargon racism or not I think the community has assimilated and moved on its the Tamil ltte that is currently creating problems for All. Their failed agenda and targetting politicians and innocemt people must be stopped by this Government. To persue locally there should be no problems. And Internationally all overseas attachments must follow a plan with Government to expose and arrest these trouble makers with the help of loyal local Tamils for their own good. Orherwise we allow terrorist to dictate. Like what recently happened in Malaysia.