By Dayan Jayatilleka –
It is not my habit to respond in the press to those critics whose names (or pen-names) are not recognisable from the public domain, but reader D Siriratna’s views are both so outrageous and typical (of Sinhala racism) that I have decided to make an exception.
He writes that “there is no such [anti-Muslim] extremism in Sri Lanka”. I shudder to think of his definitions of “extremism” and “anti-Muslim” and just how extreme hate speech has to get for him to regard it as extreme.
Mr Siriratna goes onto opine that “these July ’83 incidents were only a reaction to an action that took place in Jaffna. Suffice it to say that there would not have been any reaction if there had been no action. So, the blame for the July ’83 incidents should be laid fairly and squarely on those who were responsible for the brutal killing of soldiers.”
This is curious argumentation and demonstrably false several times over.
Firstly, if July ’83 were “only a reaction” to the ambush of the 13 soldiers, how and why were there attacks on unarmed innocent Tamil civilians in 1977, 1979 and 1981?
Secondly, how does one explain the savage racist attacks on Tamils in 1958, amply documented by Tarzie Vittachi in his volume ‘Emergency ’58’?
Thirdly, the sane and justifiable reaction to the ambush of 13 soldiers should have been for the armed forces to hunt down and eliminate the LTTE terrorists responsible, not for Sinhala mobs to lynch innocent unarmed Tamil men, women and children as they did in July ’83. In which civilised society is the burning alive of unarmed civilians a condonable or understandable reaction to the combat deaths of soldiers? What kind of barbarian could even put forward the ambush of soldiers as a justification for the savage slaughter of innocent citizens?
Reader Siriratna then says that “Dr. Jayatillaka (DJ) has referred only to the July ’83 incidents, totally ignoring the very grave incidents which took place during the last 30 years which were thousand and thousand times worse than the July ’83 incidents, details of which would occupy more than one full page of this newspaper. So D. J. why harp on July ‘83. There were attacks on Sri Maha Bodhi, Dalada Maligawa, Arantalawa, Kebitigollewa, numerous bomb explosions, in Colombo and in outstations, killing thousands of innocent civilians etc., etc., All these acts should be taken into consideration, before rushing to conclusions and harping only on July ’83.”
Mr Siriratna is oblivious to the stupidity of his own remarks. Every single one of the massacres he lists of took place AFTER July ’83. Not one of them occurred before July ’83. This does not in any way excuse those fascist atrocities against Sinhala civilians. What it does mean however, is that these subsequent massacres cannot explain the previous one. A cause cannot come after the effect. Therefore any commentator or historian has ample justification to regard July ’83 as a watershed and ‘harp’ on it. Before July’83 the armed separatists numbered only a few dozens, while after July ’83 they grew by the thousands and obtained Indian training as well. Furthermore, my emphasis on July ’83 was because I drew a parallel between the run-up to that dreadful atrocity, for which we are still paying the price, and the current build-up against our citizens who belong to the Muslim minority.
Siriratana goes on to make the point that “DJ refers to 70 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Yes, with such a large number of Tamils in India, according to the Indian Constitution, the sole official language of the country is Hindi.” He fails to notice that (a) India has linguistic states, i.e. states in which the regional language is officially recognised, and that (b) in India as a whole, English is designated in the Constitution as an additional language used for official purposes.
The writer says passionately that “DJ appears to be totally ignorant of the great pain of mind which the Buddhists are experiencing for having to consume/use halal certified foods, drinks, butter, cheese, coconut oil and even tooth paste. In fact, a referendum should have been held to ascertain the views of the Buddhists over their being compelled, with no choice, to use halal certified items…”
Well, Mr Siriratana, if you and others like you experience “great pain of mind”, please spare yourselves the agony and just don’t buy or consume such products. How is it that in Sri Lanka, Buddhists or anyone else “are compelled with no choice” to buy halal certified products? In a free country and a free market economy, who compels them and how?
Mr Siriratana concludes by reminding us of the Tamil languages special provisions bill, the DDCs bill and the provincial councils bill, and asks, “so, Dr. Jayatilaka, are we to keep on granting solutions ad infinitum? Where do we stop?”
The answer, my dear Mr Siriratana, is not to “keep on granting solutions ad infinitum” but to actually implement any single one of them in full, at the time of “granting”—for instance, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact of ’57 (which was supported by Mr DA Rajapaksa).
Mr Siriratana makes much of the J.R. Rajiv-Gandhi Peace Accord, but fails to comprehend that had JR Jayewardene implemented—or been allowed to implement – the Provincial Councils that he agreed to on June 19th 1986 at the Political Parties Conference, there would have been no Accord or IPKF in 1987. There were no Indians at that conference in June ’86, only the UNP and the parties of the Left led by Vijaya, Colvin, et al. A stubby volume of the detailed agreements reached on Provincial level devolution was printed by the Government Press. Much of it was authored by Dr Colvin R de Silva. The conference had been convened in response to letter addressed to President Jayewardene by Vijaya Kumaratunga.
While thanking Mr Siriratna for his kind suggestion as to how I should improve my knowledge, I’m afraid I have no intention of departing from my practice of reading books on specialised subjects only authored by those who have the internationally recognised academic credentials to write them. When I wish to be enlightened on matters of archaeology and/or heritage, I shall read or write to my friends, the credentialed and respected scholars Profs Sudharshan Seneviratne and Nira Wickremasinghe.