30 October, 2020

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An Open Letter To Secretary John Kerry

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Dear Mr Secretary 

Welcome to Sri Lanka and we are indeed happy to welcome a Secretary of State from USA on an official visit to our shores since 1972 when one of your predecessors, William Rogers visited Sri Lanka.

We in Sri Lanka read with dismay of your welcoming statement during the visit of our Foreign Minister to Washington last February which stated “we welcome you to USA after your 30 year war with the Tamil People” which our Foreign Minister did not see fit to correct in his response for reasons best known to him.

It would appear that both your Embassy in Colombo and those in the State Department which you head and responsible for briefing you, failed to brief you of the correct facts on Sri Lanka.

KerrySri Lanka did not have a war with “Tamil People”. They constitute 11.2% of our population and are very much a part of Sri Lanka’s population. This community has contributed immensely to the development of this country and its economy not forgetting the fact that they have enriched our culture in so many ways. Members of the Tamil community made immense contributions to our struggle for freedom from Britain. Members of the Tamil Community have occupied all positions in this land excluding those of Prime Minister and President. They have occupied the key post of Speaker of the State Council prior to Independence. They have also occupied posts of Leader of Opposition, Cabinet Ministers in every cabinet since 1948, Chief Justice, Attorney General, Army Commander, Inspector General of Police to name a few after Independence. 56.5% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population live outside the Northern Province considered the traditional home land of Tamil people. In fact hundreds of thousands took refuge in Colombo during the war waged by LTTE terrorists between 1983 and 2009. Houses of all communities were subject to search by security forces during their routine operations. It must be underlined that successive governments did not intern our Tamil citizens during the conflict with LTTE terrorists as done by USA with persons of Japanese origin during WWII. Those living in government controlled areas carried on with their normal lives and were not deprived of employment in both the State and Private sectors.

What did happen was that a group of young men from the Tamil community decided to take up arms against the democratically elected government of the country to achieve their goals. They were assisted by way of arms, training and safe havens by our neighbour India. India having close relations with the Soviet Union at that time wished to punish Sri Lanka for following a pro-western foreign policy adopted by our then President who believed in close relations with the west, especially USA whose naval craft were permitted to call in Colombo. He also provided land for a relay station for Voice of America in Sri Lanka. It was by no means “a war with the Tamil People”.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation. As is the case with many countries with an ethnic and religious diversity, Sri Lanka too has its problems. The current government is making efforts to address this issue. No nation with diverse populations is immune from problems involving prejudices against minorities. Notwithstanding an African-American now holding the highest office in USA, we regularly read of incidents especially involving Police forces in different states based on ethnic and racial prejudices.

You may or may not have heard of a recent faux pas by the Leader of the British Labour Party in wishing British citizens of Tamil origin for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April. Perhaps he too had not been briefed by his ‘advisors’ that Britain does have British citizens of Sinhalese and Tamil origin.

Therefore I thought it opportune to write this letter in order to correct the misconception reflected in your statement in welcoming our Foreign Minister.

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    Re:
    “What did happen was that a group of young men from the Tamil community decided to take up arms against the democratically elected government of the country to achieve their goals”

    Rajeewa’s statement implies that one fine day Tamil youths woke up and decided to take up arms against the democratically elected government!!! Hilarious!! Does he expects that the world is ignorant of the many STATE SPONSORED POGROMS against the Tamils took place with Govt. ministers, Budhist monks walking with the voters list directing the Sinhalese mob to attack Tamil homes and Tamil people. Unspeakable crimes were committed against the Tamils. rape,arson, murder, imprisonment, killings of Tamil prisoners with the army, police and prison wardens looking on doing nothing!! In a similar orgy in 1981, I think the Jaffna library with rare ancient books and manuscripts were set on fire aided and abetted by govt. ministers! If the war was not against Tamil People, why did the Govt. aerial bomb whole villages in the Tamil areas? Why did they shell from the sea village after village bombing temples and churches with people sheltering inside?

    Re: You may or may not have heard of a recent faux pas by the Leader of the British Labour Party in wishing British citizens of Tamil origin for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April.

    I see no fault in the statement by the British labour Party, because they are aware that Tamils were picked up by the Sri Lankan Government and persecuted. Can you deny that innocent Tamils were reped, killed, robbed, abducted in white vans. Even elected Tamils were killed in broad daylight in Colombo eg. Raviraj, Maheswaran, Pararajasinham.

    The world has not forgotten the sufferings of the Tamil in the hands of the Sinhalese Government!!They know that Tamils were treated step motherly by the Sinhala government.

  • 6
    6

    This man gives a potted version of history. Who was the Tamil President or Prime Minister? Until Sri Pavan, there was no chief justice. Nagalingam was Acting CJ for a while but was quickly replaced by Basnayake.I cannot think of a Tamil IGP. What is the need for these lies when you want to write a letter to the Secretary of State. He has sufficient resources to know what had happened. The Tamils fought a war of self-determination as their rights were denied them since independence. Quite rightly, the Secretary characterized this as a war with the Tamil people. Still, there is an army of occupation in Tamil lands and the lives of the Tamils are not secure. There must be accountability for the crimes committed against the Tamils over the years since independence. If alleged, there was genocide, the allegation must be subjected to a decision by an appropriate tribunal.

    Sri Lanka may be multi-ethnic but religious and ethnic minorities are subjected to violence. Let alone the historical violence against the Tamils, the desecration of mosques and churches have been common. The Sinhala-Buddhist Mahavamsa cult has required the denial of rights to other people on the island. The writing of such letters by those with the mindset of that cult is not going to hide the truth from people who have greater resources of finding out what did happen in the country.

    • 5
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      Ponkoh S,

      IGPs Rudra Rajasingham and Anandarajah need to be mentioned although the former was only Tamil by name. Of the Chief Justices Sharvananda served as CJ for many years and later as Governor/WP.

      May I use this space to make a correction to my comments elsewhere in this page where instead of “anti-Tamil atmosphere” I have mistakenly written anti-Sinhalese. I regret the error.

      Kettikaran

  • 1
    1

    Rajeewa

    ”I always considered, through my years in the public service of Sri Lanka as Secretary to several Prime Ministers and Advisor on International Affairs to three Presidents (as well as of course in my 7 years as Government Agent of 3 Districts in the East and South of this country) that the basic lessons I had acquired through my US exposure and experience, of general election procedure and processes on the one hand and the executive treatment of minority issues on the other and the basic principles which governed such action were valid for our own country”- Bradman Weerakone’s letter to thee then-PresidentRajapakse in 2013, part of an exercise where Fulbright Scholars were requested to write a letter, for their 60th Anniversary, to the President referring to what they learned through their exposure to the US political system during their stay in USA.

    • 0
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      Another minority member in the US is succumbing to police brutality as we speak..so what did these Fulbright scholars learn in US other than the academic subject of their thesis…you are far better of being a minority in SL than in their host country..truth is so darn inconvenient, is it not?

  • 3
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    The way former President treated the Tamils after 19 May 2009 made him say that.

  • 3
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    Why did many retired Simhalese civil servantstell LLRC that the ethnic minorities were treated unfairly from 1948 till the present? Why has LLRC website been down more than up?

  • 3
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    Dear author
    Unless we accept the truth ew can’t move forward.
    Please read:
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/fulbright-days-and-a-plea-to-leadership-2/

  • 1
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    ”The current government is making efforts to address this issue.”

    But the rajapakssed bureaucracy is a barrier to the efforts.

  • 2
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    1.”What did happen was that a group of young men from the Tamil community decided to take up arms against the democratically elected government of the country to achieve their goals.”

    When and why did they take up the arms?

    Educated Sinhalese gave the answers to LLRC whose website is ”whitevanned” so that the citizens would not read them.

    2.”It must be underlined that successive governments did not intern our Tamil citizens during the conflict with LTTE terrorists”

    The author hasn’t heard about PTA’s effect on Tamils. Why have the UN and international jurists been asking successive governments to remove it?

  • 4
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    Rajeewa Jayaweera,

    No amount of sweet talking about Tamils and hiding the true facts will make lies become the truth:

    Tamils have been persecuted and oppressed since independence by the racist Sinhala dominated state and its leaders, and a genocidal assault on them was carried out in the last stages of the war which was clearly against the Tamil population.

    The whole world knows the truth, thanks to Callum Macrae and Channel 4.

    Don’t think you Sinhalese racist guys are so so smart that you can hide a pumpkin in a plate of rice!

    • 2
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      Very rich for you to talk about persecution of tamils by sinhalese. When british left this country and handed over the power to its citizens, 90 % of public servants were tamils. Tamils were the privileged minority who controlled all finical academic and state levers. Yes you lost your control over the sinhalese, which you accrued by the divide and rule policy of the british colonialists. You cry foul when lost rights of thev sinhalese are restored. You were so powerful then that your leaders insisted on 50-50. We all know how the university lectures favoured you atb exams; we know how Loganathan made sure that for the next 20 yrs the tamils would be at the helm of the newly created bank of ceylon. The injustice done to sinhalese by british colonialists and the discrimination suffered by sinhalese has still not been undone.

  • 2
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    “we welcome you to USA after your 30 year war with the Tamil People” should have 30 replaced by 67:
    start from disenfranchisement of 75,000 Tamils of tea estates in 1948 till at least the end of Rajapakse regime though the end of regime does not mean the end of rajapaksised bureaucracy which still remain barriers to the road to democracy/goodgovernance.

  • 3
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    “They (Tamils) have also occupied posts of Leader of Opposition, Cabinet Ministers in every Cabinet since 1948..” I am afraid this is an inaccurate portrayal. From 1956 to 1965 – almost a decade –
    SWRD and Mrs.B rubbed salt into the wounds of the Tamil Nation in the Island by refusing to accommodate even a single Tamil in the Cabinet. I wonder if it was so for Deputy Ministers as well – then called Parliamentary Secretaries. The message in that anti-Sinhala atmosphere was a deliberate attempt to suggest Tamils have no place in the country, even at the smallest level. Probably, the rapidly alienated Tamil youth of the time took note of this somewhat unwelcome hint.

    Graciously, it was left to the 1965 Government of the late Dudley Senanayake to correct this gross injustice by bringing in Senator M. Tiruchelvam, QC into his Coalition Cabinet which the Sinhala media derogatorily dubbed as the Hath Havula. Presumably, Mrs. B was made to appease India and world opinion by bringing in the hitherto unknown Architect C. Kumarasuriyar when she formed her Cabinet in 1970.

    Kettikaran

    • 0
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      Kettikaran- You have forgotten to mention the services rendered by the
      ‘Jaffna cigar’ smoking, food commissioner Mr. Alvapillai, who always wore cotton suits. He brought food to the nation in difficult times and believe it or not, Mr. Philip Gunawardene, one time food and agricultural minister under Srimavo, Govt. held him at high esteem,
      protected him in office against communal forces and gave him a free hand to deal with food imports,and distribution,while he was attacking the Tamils in the parliament, like what his son is doing now.

      I belong to the old school and there were Tamils everywhere,many served
      as permanent secretaries. There were very high senior officials in all
      three armed forces and Police and some of them served as heads. We had
      distinguished people like Senator Nadesan, GG and SJV, who held the floors with dignity,whether in the law courts or parliament or senate
      and students flocked the courts and Parliament to listen to them.
      Universities had many Tamil dons. doctors and Lawyers excelled in their
      professions and people felt that there was no need to go abroad for medical treatment. Do not forget the cricketers like Sathasivam. Sathi Kum, Neil Chunmugam who played for all Ceylon teams and there was
      ‘Ethir’ who brought the Asia cup for high jump to Colombo and a Tamil swam the Palk strait waters and got into the Guinness book of records and many excelled in sports too.

      Today the President is finding it difficult to find educated Tamils
      to serve in presidential committees, head govt. organisations and institutions . They have all vanished to foreign lands. in disgust, due to spread of communalism by the successive govts. and started their life all over again, undergoing severe hardships. What a shame !

  • 0
    4

    Well said.

    Hope MS can bring the communities together.

  • 2
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    Rajeewa,

    Thank you for educating Kerry on our behalf.But i think the dumb American is aware of the 40,000 odd civilians murdered by the Sinhalese state which was not at war with the Tamil people?

  • 4
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    LTTE never jumped l from the sky one morning suddenly…it is your grandfather..father..and your cousins were responsible for the creation of LTTE….

    If Sinhalese think they can rule Tamils by force more LTTE will come in future…….this is certain ..even Kerry`s government has told this many times.

    Yes there were Tamil Military commander and Navy commander in the past all joined during British rule ..but today how many Tamils are there …even in the Police top posts?

    How many Tamils are there in foreign service ?

    When Mr.Hameed was foreign minister 25% staff of foreign service were Muslims more than their percentage…..it was allowed by big nose emperor JR…..

    There were excellent Tamil career diplomats in the past today there is a drought because of racial selection ..

    How many Tamils are in Customs department today?

    How many ministry secretaries are Tamils today? zero is the answer

    SL Airline has got excellent well experienced Tamil staff why they can’t become CEO or MD ?

    Singapore Airlines was built up to todays successful position by Tamil staff many were SL origins..

    Can you Tamil in SL become a President or PM ? NEVER EVER but in USA a minority can become President….

    The truth is when a country mix politics with religion and language this country will never prosper…..recent Tamil national anthem (which is there since 1948) protest is a good example that Sinhalese and Tamils need different administration ……

    US government know very well what is happening now in SL and what happened during massacre in Mullivaaikaal they have satellite pictures and conversation recording of killing orders ..one fine day all this will come out

    • 1
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      “Can you Tamil (sic) in SL become a President or PM..” You know this is biting the Sinhala side so badly, besides educated and decent Sri Lankans, even those rabids from the Sinhala supremacist side are rethinking the issue. They are now looking for a showcase appointment aimed at India and the global community. Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was more a Tamil only by name, almost made it until a very desperate and ambitious radical Sinhala leader conspired with sources in the army to have him killed so that his chances for upward mobility are not disturbed. The blame was, of course, placed on the LTTE. Charles Gnanakone was made the scape goat. The man, we learn, died a premature death as a result – although from what is known he had spent much time and resources in helping the IDPs in housing and social welfare.

      But that’s fine with me. If the Sinhala Nation agrees on a Tamil candidate as PM or President, even as a short-term measure, I think that will be a seminal step to be looked forward to in our continuing 6 decade stalemate of deepening prejudice.

      Backlash

  • 1
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    I too don’t believe that it was ‘hunky dory’ for the Tamils as Rajeewa tries to portray. If it was as good as that, then there wouldn’t have been a need for an LTTE uprising. But he’s mostly factual and with regard to Sivakumaran’s comments, what Rajeewa has said is that Tamils had occupied all positions EXCEPT the Presidency and the Prime Minister-ship. Though they had only a decorative value for the Tamils, Sharvananda was made the Chief Justice and Rudra Rajasingham was IGP.

  • 3
    3

    Sri Lanka did not have a war with TAMIL people but in North-East for every Tamils person there is a Sinhala army ……for what?

    Tomorrow if Sinhala mobs attack Tamil homes in the west ..police and security forces will look other side and Sinhala mass media will blame Tamils as usual….

    Yes Tamils are living in the Colombo and other areas …for generations and have Hindu temples…

    The difference is these Tamils bought properties and built Hindu temples with their own money…

    But today there is a Buddhhist templeS appear DAILY in north.east where people are Hindus and these temples are Being built by the state…..and during the recent visit to India Ranil Wockramasinghe has requested Tamil Buddhist Monks from India to come and teach Buddhism in SL ..WHAT IS THE MOTIVE?

    Sinhala colonisation is at its peak in North-East with government funds to dilute the Tamil population..

    Finally US embassy has got Tamil translators and every news Tamil news paper and web site is monitored and translated in English and forwarded to Washington …thus US ADMINSTRATION if fully aware of SL history as well as current situation ..NO WORRIES

  • 1
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    ok so who’s next with “an open letter to Kerry”…. feel free to line up and send them in otherwise you will probably feel you missed out and hold it against the telegraph …. dont foregt to add all your letters and “qualifications” at the bottom too … pffff

  • 2
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    It’s shocking how the blind thirst for revenge would make people (who probably live in the ‘west’) prefer to make the northern province into Libya or Iraq rather than leave the past behind to try and achieve peace

    • 2
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      Do you mean why the Rajapakse regime prevented psycho-social help for those who went through Mullivaikkal and Menik Farm?

    • 1
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      @ lynx

      rather than leave the past behind …?????????

      If your own sister..wife..or mother raped and killed by racist SL Army will you forgive them and embrace them?

      Why talk about northern province Tamils in both North and East all affected by SL MILITARY action….

      This is why today request for inquiry for this massacre has gone out of SL …..

      Can you or your past and present politicians tell that LTTE members have raped even a single sinhalese girl?

      They could have done this for 1000s but why this never happened ???? think yourself

      All these butchers should go to ICC at The Hague…after to prison to accompany ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor …

  • 2
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    1.GoSL mlitarising the North in 1961/2 in anticipation of satyagraha turning into armed struggle in 25yrs – Neville jayaweera’s memoirs (Neville Jayaweera was sent to Jaffna as GA in 1963-1966)

    2.”Prime Minister S.W.R.D .Bandaranaike (SWRD) expanded the horizons of the Sinhala people in 1956 but simultaneously drew in the horizons of the Tamils and diminished them as a people……. Now in my 84th year, I am asking President Mahinda Rajapaksa the same question that I put to Mrs Bandaranaike 50 years ago – “Excellency! Don’t you think that you should finally heal the wounds inflicted on the Tamil people and effect a total reconciliation? ” – Will President Rajapaksa Expand Horizons For The Tamil People? Neville Jayaweera (a and a retired Government Agent), 3 November 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/will-president-rajapaksa-expand-horizons-for-the-tamil-people/

    ”Building a consciousness of nationhood is not a responsibility that can be left to politicians and constitutional lawyers. …. It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. It requires a new way of looking at history, and helping young minds climb out of the constraints placed on their understanding by the sectarian myths, legends, and memories that are embedded in their ancient chronicles, whether they relate to their Aryan origins or to their Dravidian origins. This does not mean that children should be ignorant of, much less that they should reject, their rich historical inheritance, but that they should acquire a more global view of history and be equipped with a critical sense that will enable them to stand back and look at their respective narratives more objectively. …. Unless and until Sri Lanka can produce leaders who can realize that truth, and are willing to act on it, it will continue to be dismembered by conflict, long after the LTTE and Pirabhikaran have passed into history ” – Why Sirimavo refused to visit Jaffna after 1964 cyclone By Neville Jayaweera, 18 January 2009, transcurrents.com

  • 4
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    Neville Jayaweera, former Government Agent(1963-1966)to Jaffna, shares his diary with the public – he was sent to Jaffna after the Federal Party(which got overwhelming support from the Tamils from 1956 onwards) staged a massive non-violent sit-in protest in 1961 against ‘Sinhala Only’ Policy and intended to continue non-violent protests :

    ‘’…….. “Mrs Jayaweera, I know that you have hardly settled down in Badulla after the hard time you both had in Gal Oya, so I don’t know how you will take this suggestion. My government is having a serious problem coming up in Jaffna, where we have to implement the Sinhala Only Act in all government departments from October this year. But the Federal Party is resisting it strongly and giving us a lot of problems. They are now planning to launch a big campaign in October, called the Secessionist Movement, to coincide with the implementation of the Sinhala only policy. I understand that your husband did a very good job at Gal Oya. So we are hoping that he will do a similar job for us in Jaffna. Would you object if I transfer him now to Jaffna?”
    ………………….. Dias then went on to spell out a remarkable vision of events he said are bound to unfold in the not too distant future. He had a deep conviction that within the next twenty five years or so, the Tamil protest will develop into an armed rebellion and that the Government must prepare from now (i.e.1963) to meet that outcome. He said that my principal role as the GA of Jaffna, while enforcing the Sinhala Only Act, will be to help him develop counter measures for dealing with the anticipated uprising, and then proceeded to unfold to me his grand strategy for containing it.
    Even as Dias was unfolding his grand strategy it struck me that he seemed to have taken a leaf from Germany’s famous Schlieffen Plan of 1905 to encircle Paris in the event of war. The centrepiece of Dias’s strategy to contain a future Tamil revolt was to be the establishment of a chain of military camps to encircle the Northern Province, all the way from Arippu, Maricchikatti, Pallai, and Thalvapadu in the Mannar District, through Pooneryn, Karainagar, Palaly, Point Pedro and Elephant Pass in the Jaffna District, and on to Mullaitivu in the Vavuniya District and Trincomalee in the East. He said that there were already two military camps of platoon strength in Pallai in Mannar and in Palaly in Jaffna and a rudimentary naval presence in Karainagar, but that he wanted to upgrade them.
    He said that he was aware that any attempt by the government to establish permanent military camps in the Northern Province was bound to trigger massive protests from Tamil leaders. However, he seemed to have thought out a masterly subterfuge to disguise their true intent. He said that he was planning to make a huge public issue of two national problems, namely, illicit immigration from India into Sri Lanka, and smuggling from Sri Lanka into India, and argue that in order to choke off this two way flow, which was obviously detrimental to Sri Lanka’s national interest, his proposed military camps were absolutely necessary. The whole military operation was therefore to be disguised as if it was a measure to cope with two major national problems -illicit immigration and smuggling – and without seeming grossly unpatriotic, no one could raise a dissenting voice against it. ……………’’’ – Into the turbulence of Jaffna, Neville Jayaweera(government Agent in Jaffna District,
    1963-1966), 5 October 2008, The Island

  • 0
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    “….a recent faux pas by the Leader of the British Labour Party in wishing British citizens of Tamil origin for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on 14 April…” In a way the faux pas lies more on the Lankan side. Sinhala and Tamil Christians do not consider this their New Year – and rightly so. The fault is in the nomenclature. GoSL should correct itself by referring to the event in future as Buddhist Sinhala and Hindu Tamil New year, which is what it is. Do they have the gaul to do it?

    Kettikaran

    • 0
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      @ KETTIKARAN

      Not necessary for any change…

      There was no celebration for Sinhalease 75 years ago having noticed this Buddhist Ayatullahs copied Tamil New year and told Sinhalease to celebrate this …. thats it ….…indeed this is 110% copy …

      TAMIL NEW YEAR IS CORRECT

      PS: Even Kanday Perahara initially started as a Hindu festival …but following the Siam Buddhist Monks protest who were there during Perahara ..more Sinhala elements added …today just one piece of Perahara indicate Hindu element that is with a procession of Chettiars

  • 0
    0

    Rajive,

    by all accounts you are a very helpful and decent chap. That of course says nothing about your intelligence. Is it so difficult to understand that in order to get “a group of young men” from any community to take up arms there has to be some solid reason to motivate them in the first place? I know that you are sincere in your belief that “a group of young men from the Tamil community” suddenly took to arms “to punish Sri Lanka for following a pro-western foreign policy”.

    But things do not happen that way. It takes decades of goading to get young men to stop chasing skirts – or sarees as the case may be – and pick up guns to shoot some other young men whom they have never met or known. It takes something quite different to torture and to rape and to bomb unarmed civilians with nothing to show by way of remorse or enlightenment despite the allegedly Buddhist culture that prevails. American soldiers have the good grace to come down with PTSD and as many forms of psychiatric symptoms as possible once the enormity of their acts of war sink into their consciousness BUT our boys and girls it seems are quite at home with what they have done.

    I do not blame you. I am well aware of the news doing the rounds according to which the national average IQ is 79 which is considered to be borderline mental retardation. In other countries those who are unable to perceive reality are held down to the lower rungs of economic and political activity. Here they are pushed up to the top of the ladder right up to the presidency. So I do suggest that you sit down and think things out before saying things that simply do not make any kind of sense.

    Furthermore to respond as you have done to what John and Ed have said is really sad to see. It proves very clearly that you do not get the point. When the donkey ignores the carrot it can be sure that the stick will land heavily on its back. The wicked white monkeys have no qualms about breaking black donkeys backs. It is ok to be a donkey. Maybe it is better to be a donkey than to be a brown mangy. BUT there certainly is no reason why you should have your back broken.

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