12 October 2017

Sinhalese are told that we don’t understand the demands of the Tamils, can someone please explain

Shenali Waduge

We are being repeatedly told by some ‘smart patriots’ that we don’t understand the demands of the Tamils. Who are these Tamils that ‘smart patriots’ are referring to – Tamil politicians, Tamil political parties, Tamil terrorists, Tamil Terrorist Diaspora groups, Tamil Nadu politicians, Tamil Nadu political parties, Tamil high castes, Tamil low castes or just ordinary Tamils. At the other end, who are the ‘smart Sinhalese’ who do understand the concern of the Tamils – are they dollar earning NGO heads, foreign government moles, politicians, academics & political analysts, businessmen thinking only of profit or the ordinary Sinhalese? While all Tamils cannot be lumped together, all Sinhalese cannot be done so too. 

Let’s first take what we do understand

We do understand that the core problem is rooted in the divide and rule policies and germination of ideologies injected into the minds of a handful of people who have used them to stir trouble and make themselves socially and politically relevant and elevate themselves to champion this ‘cause’ they created. 

To this scenario we can place all of the unjustified demands that have come ever since biased education system, privileges were afforded to the minorities purposely neglecting the majority since 1505. However, even while 10% of Sinhalese, Tamils & Muslims were privy to these special benefits 90% of others were not. Why does no one talk about this 90% rather than speak of what the 10% became denied after independence?

Another factor that we understand and continues to work on our mind is that there is a sequence of racist demands by Tamil political leaders covering unfair demands like 50-50 representation, the formation of ethno-racial political parties and the formation of ITAK in 1949 with the aim & objective of creating a Tamil state. We are also aware that across the Palk Strait in India, the Tamil Nadu leaders were also demanding a separate Tamil state. These factors cannot be ignored against any discussion on Tamil demands or Tamil concerns. At no time have we even questioned whether the bulk of the populace in Tamil Nadu, or Tamils in Sri Lanka wanted the demands made by these Tamil leaders except that they voted for them simply because they were Tamil. 

What we cannot also remove from discussion is that armed militancy using Tamils began under patronage of India and South India and included a plethora of armed Tamil groups in which some of these ‘smart patriots’ served as Minister for whatever ‘adverturerism’ they may now claim! 

What we also understand is that the Indian intervention in the form of the 13th amendment & provincial council system came as a solution to the supposed ‘ethnic’ problem. We are now into the 30th year and the 13a or the PC system has not solved but created more problems than we can now solve. Of course the smart patriots will jump to say that the entire 13a was not implemented and this is the reason for its failure. Had such been implemented we would not be having an island called Sri Lanka today and that is the reality that these smart patriots will have to wake up to whether they like it or not. 

What we cannot also omit or neglect is to take stock of all the demands placed over the years by Tamil political parties like ITAK, TULF, armed militant groups including LTTE, EPRLF, LTTE diaspora groups, their resolutions in particular the Vaddukoddai Resolution, ITAK Resolutions as recent as 2013, demands placed by Tamil groups during the peace talks /cease fires like Thimpu Talks, demands for self-autonomy, Tamil Homeland, Internal Self-Determination, CFA, ISGA, PTOMs, etc and whatever new proposals are being made we need to first have official statements that all of these are null & void and are no longer being demanded. These demands have no basis for living in peaceful coexistence and have no basis for any claims of reconciliation.

What we also understand very well is that the present Tamil politicians in particular the TNA remain uninvestigated for LTTE links. Their present chants for re-merger are all aligned to the demands made by racist Tamil politicians and LTTE to carve out a separate autonomous state. The modus operandi has been to play the discrimination card and use well-oiled propaganda from LTTE’s illegal and legal international network to promote it. None of the validity of these discrimination claims have been challenged properly by Governments in power, the Opposition political parties, diplomats, academia, historians or even the media except a handful of patriotic people who have been challenging these claims over the years using the minimal communication modes at their disposal. 

Another aspect that we understand very well that smart patriots tend to conveniently overlook by trying to plug events and solutions happening in foreign climes is the caste divisions among Tamils. Sir Ponnambalam Ramachandran considered the leader of Tamil elite objected to Tamil low castes being given voting rights in 1931 and even cobbled 79 village headman to plead against the decision with the British Governor. He even demanded separate carriages to low castes when the railway service started from Colombo to Jaffna. Let us also remind that when SWRD brought the Social Disabilities Act in 1957 the Tamil elite leaders went to the UK to object to low caste Tamils getting education. They were so petty that these Tamil children were forced to sit on the floor and study! Has that changed? Not at all recently even in the UK a group of people were working on institutionalizing caste once more! Even in Tamil Nadu (translated as State of Tamils) where official language is Tamil, culture is Tamil, 99% people are Tamil – 21% of its 72m are Dalit low caste untouchables. So what is this looking after our own talk! The Chief Minister of the Northern Province bragging about his people is reminded that the budget his PC demands is never spent and returns to the treasury while he’s doing tours speaking of discrimination the money allotted for development is not even used! 

What we don’t understand is what is this discrimination singalong that is being chanted repeated and given oxygen even by smart patriots. 

The Prime Minister recently declared that the new constitution is going to be the answer to the ethnic problem. What is the ethnic problem? We militarily defeated an internationally banned terrorist movement. Who says we suffer an ethic problem and if so what is it? Can we be given in plain language what this ethnic problem is?

The proposals to give autonomy to the North in the form of delegating or decentralizing or call it what you will cannot ignore that the North is just 1 province out of 9 provinces. What is going to be given to the North has to be given to the rest of the provinces which are not even asking for autonomy. Who in the North are asking – its only a group of people who have just over 500,000 votes and who are yet to be investigated for LTTE links. Should we accept their demands given these realities? Moreover, when over 50% of the Tamils are living outside of the North, how can giving ethno-religious autonomy to the North solve an ethnic problem when Tamils are living with the Sinhalese? What is this working around the 13a mumbo-jumbo? To whose whims and fancies or ideologies must the country commit to… numerically? Many Tamils are now coming out to say they don’t want a re-merger of the north and east, they don’t want or understand federalism or confederalism but they do want asbestos sheets to make homes, they do want their children to get education and earn a living, they do want to visit other parts of the country. How many among the Tamils share these sentiments? Well certainly more than the handful of TNA politicians and the smart patriots trying to throw fancy notions. 

Yes, we Sinhalese cannot understand what is it that minorities claim to not have. A tour of Colombo will reveal how many Tamils own land, property, residential homes, flats/apartments, shops. Take a list of companies and see the many Tamils in senior roles. Take the Parliament and see the number of minorities being represented. Take the Government holidays to see how minorities enjoy their festivals and even stamps have been issued for their leaders. Go to Marine Drive and see the many luxury buses that go every day to the North from Colombo. Look at the number of kovils, mosques and churches that are coming up regularly and being developed. So what is it they don’t have. Are all Sinhalese rich, are all Sinhalese living affluent lives? Are all Sinhalese being treated specially by law? Count the number of Sinhalese in prison, go and see the poverty scales of Sinhalese … how unfair it is to be projecting a wrong version by even the smart patriots? 

Where we are going wrong and we will continue to go wrong is by not identifying what the problem is and who are the problem causers. By giving rule to a bunch of people who have no concern for their own people, we are creating more troubles than we can fathom. All of the solutions being put on the table are to secure the political careers of a handful of politicians and power changing hands among them and the political pundits that promote these solutions. 

We gained nominal independence in 1948 and became a republic in 1972 and since then throughout 45 years what have we really achieved? Where have we developed? Who has benefitted, how many have become rich, elevated from poor to middle class etc? 

We don’t need solutions that empower politicians to further trample and dilute our freedoms and rights. The present proposals come in not identifying what the problem is – we can’t be creating constitutions only to satisfy a small number of a minority who are controversial figures and not investigated for their separatist intent. We cannot be plugging solutions that are being offered in other countries just because some smart patriots are quoting them to become champions of these initiatives in Sri Lanka. 

If anyone says Sinhalese do not understand what the concerns of the Tamils are, we want to have these concerns placed in simple language first. We see no reason to be applying this that and the other when we don’t seem to know what is the problem, who is having the problem, why it is a problem to them and who says it is a big problem when in reality what they claim to be the problem or what people claim to be the solution maybe both wrong!

Reality is - ask a Sinhalese and he will have 101 problems, ask a Tamil or Muslim he will give the same .... can we give solutions to all of these 101 problems?