26 May, 2019

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Are We Ready For Change?

By Godwin Constantine

Dr Godwin Constantine

Dr Godwin Constantine

This is a great moment for Tamils, for Singhalese, for Muslims. This is a great moment for the country. Ultimately there is a feeling of relief, a hope that human dignity and democracy will be restored in this country.

The 2015 parliamentary elections were significant in many ways for Sri Lanka. Notably it is a watershed election where people from both sides of the ethnic divide have decisively rejected extremism. In the North, the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) which campaigned with an extreme Tamil nationalist stand, challenging the moderate Tamil National Alliance was unable to secure a single seat. In the South, the Mahinda lead UPFA campaign capitalized on communal hate politics and fear—such as fears of the re-emergence of the LTTE under the UNP government—but failed to maintain even the support they obtained in the Presidential election. More importantly the controversial Bodu Bala Sena, contesting the polls as Bodu Jana Peramuna, failed to win a single seat.

If the Sri Lankan general public is saying, “enough is enough; let’s move away from communal politics and get along with life,” will the present government listen to the faint voices of its people? If one considers the events that led up to the Presidential elections and its aftermath, and up to the parliamentary elections, we could sense that a democratic atmosphere, where people’s voices would be taken into account, was setting in. Of course there were hiccups in ‘yahapalanaya,’ with corrupt politicians raising their ugly heads once in a way, and wrong people being appointed for important positions. Nevertheless, President Mithripala’s efforts to put principles before politics need to be commended.

MaithripalaHowever, a major challenge facing the new government will be ethnic tensions. It has been and will be the main issue, which will test the international credibility of the Sri Lankan government. Thus far the president and the prime minister have taken bold steps to ameliorate the situation jeopardizing their own political popularity. The release of land from military control and reduction in the number of army camps, though small in measure according to some Tamil politicians, are significant steps in the right direction to achieve a lasting political solution.

At the end of war in 2009 Mahinda had an historic opportunity to find a lasting political solution for the ethnic conflict. He as the President could have used his influence on the masses to find a reasonable political solution. Instead, he chose to disregard the separate identities of different races in Sri Lanka and articulate a nonexistent monolithic Sri Lankan identity. During his tenure he concentrated on material development of the North-East in terms of building roads and restoring the damaged infrastructure, hoping that these measures would bring political dividends. The Ethnic conflict, however, was not based of material deprivation. On the contrary, when the ethnic conflict intensified – in the 70’s and early 80’s – the North and the East had thriving industries and flourishing agricultural prospects. There were train and bus services, and there were roads that connected the North and East to every nook and corner. All these were destroyed by the war.

In the 90’s the ethnic problem was mostly viewed as a ‘terrorist’ problem due to the extremist position taken by the Tamil militants. This overshadowed the root cause of the conflict and the consequences and the ramification of the conflict came to be the targets for action. As long as the root cause is not identified and sorted-out politically this conflict and uncertainty is going to remain with us.

In Sri Lankan Tamil politics the ‘Vaddukoddai Resolution’ was a watershed, which marked the transformation of Tamil politics to its extreme form, and ultimately resulted in armed struggle. Though the geo-political reality did not favor armed struggle, the logical growth of unsettled conflict resulted in it.

The ‘Vaddukoddai Resolution’ is an important document for many reasons. This Resolution needs to be revisited to understand the issue that has put this country in the present predicament. Reading this document closely one may wonder how many of the issue stated in the resolution are applicable to the present context.

Most of the issues stated in the Resolution have been solved or made unimportant by the open market economy. Some issues, though legally corrected, have not been changed changed in practice. The ‘land issue’ has assumed a different dimension in the post-war period. With the military occupation of civilian land and state sponsored activities to change the cultural and demographic patterns of areas in the North-East, the land issue is likely to be one of the major obstacles in finding a durable political solution for the ethnic conflict.

The second and a much more important issue facing Tamils is the right to live with dignity as Tamils in Sri Lanka. This is a very subjective issue which can be ignored or overlooked conveniently. However, Sri Lankan history is replete with examples of injustices inflicted on Tamils that have been rendered them inconsequential, probably by informal institutionalization of partisan attitudes.

These important issues can only be adequately addressed by adopting a reasonable power sharing framework. Meaningful power sharing while preserving the unitary character of the Sri Lankan state will benefit all communities. To achieve this all extremist views and dwelling in the past should be done away with. All communities should be ready to forgive and leave the past behind. Indulging in the past will prevent us marching forwards.

There has to be mutual trust and give and take between both communities to find a lasting solution. Erasing the ethnic identity or undermining the importance of ethnic identity will never lead to peaceful coexistence. It is the acceptance of diversity and adoption of an inclusive approach that will solve this conflict. We as Sri Lankans should ask ourselves, if a Sikh can become the Prime Minister of India or a Tamil speaking Muslim can become the President of India why can’t a Tamil or a Muslim become the Prime Minister or a deputy Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Are we ready for it? Are we mature enough to accept it?

*Dr. Godwin Constantine – Senior Lecturer in Medicine, University of Colombo

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  • 16
    0

    “If a Sikh can become the Prime Minister of India or a Tamil speaking Muslim can become the President of India,why can’t a Tamil or Muslim become the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister of Sri Lanka? Are we ready for it? Are we mature enough to accept it?”

    Well,well, let that be decided by future generations , I do not think such a turn around for that sort of Maturity could become possible during our generation.

    • 11
      1

      This is possible if we all think as Sri Lankans.

      • 7
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        The first requirement is a show of allegiance, and a COMMITMENT to Sri Lanka (to serve ALL of it’s people) and NOT to a fantasy. There are such people among the Muslims and the Tamils , but unfortunately not among their politicians.

        • 2
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          Ramuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

          “The first requirement is a show of allegiance, and a COMMITMENT to Sri Lanka (to serve ALL of it’s people) and NOT to a fantasy”

          I hate to agree with you.

          And NOT to a fantasy land, Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto, which is in the process of being built.

    • 5
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      Dr Godwin Constantine, RE: Uthungan

      “If a Sikh can become the Prime Minister of India or a Tamil speaking Muslim can become the President of India,”

      and an African American can become a Two-term president of USA,

      “why can’t a Tamil or Muslim become the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister of Sri Lanka? Are we ready for it? Are we mature enough to accept it?”

      Not yet. Why? Are they ready? The Average IQ of Sri Lankan population is 79 and still need to evolve. Until then the politicians will exploit them.

      1. Sinhala Buddhism is Not Buddhism.

      2. Mahawansa is an Insult to Buddha.

      3. The Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils along with the Other Paras must recognize and accept that they are Paras in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, as proven by the DNA in the bodies of Paras.

      References:

      1. Mahavamsa- An Insult To The Buddha! December 21, 2013 |
      By Sharmini Serasinghe

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mahavamsa-an-insult-to-the-buddha/

      2. Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people: their relations within the island and with the Indian subcontinental populations.

      Lanka Ranaweera1,3, Supannee Kaewsutthi1,3, Aung Win Tun1, Hathaichanoke Boonyarit1, Samerchai Poolsuwan2 and Patcharee Lertrit1

      http://www.nature.com/jhg/journal/v59/n1/full/jhg2013112a.html

      Abstract

      Located only a short distance off the southernmost shore of the Greater Indian subcontinent, the island of Sri Lanka has long been inhabited by various ethnic populations. Mainly comprising the Vedda, Sinhalese (Up- and Low-country) and Tamil (Sri Lankan and Indian); their history of settlements on the island and the biological relationships among them have remained obscure. It has been hypothesized that the Vedda was probably the earliest inhabitants of the area, followed by Sinhalese and Tamil from the Indian mainland. This study, in which 271 individuals, representing the Sri Lankan ethnic populations mentioned, were typed for their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable segment 1 (HVS-1) and part of hypervariable segment 2 (HVS-2), provides implications for their settlement history on the island. From the phylogenetic, principal coordinate and analysis of molecular variance results, the Vedda occupied a position separated from all other ethnic people of the island, who formed relatively close affiliations among themselves, suggesting a separate origin of the former. The haplotypes and analysis of molecular variance revealed that Vedda people’s mitochondrial sequences are more related to the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils’ than the Indian Tamils’ sequences. MtDNA haplogroup analysis revealed that several West Eurasian haplogroups as well as Indian-specific mtDNA clades were found amongst the Sri Lankan populations. Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.

      Keywords: ethnic groups; genetic relationship; mtDNA; Sri Lanka

    • 4
      1

      The question has been posed by a Tamil, and most responses have been by those belonging to minorities. Yes, the responsibility for creating a meritocracy, such as you envisage, devolves upon us, who form the majority.

      However, we cannot suddenly elect a minority person. We can only create conditions in which, if such a person is the most suitable, he gets elected. It would be ridiculous, to expect Sinhalese politicians to deliberately groom a Tamil successor. Give some thought to it. The question is a valid one. However, no answer to it can be as simple as we would like it to be.

      It is good that we can at least pose such questions today.

      • 10
        1

        Dear Sinhala Man,
        Tamils are not asking to elect a Tamil as President or Prime Minister because they know that it will not bring any tangible result to their suffering. Has the election of an African American as the President of USA, had any effect on dignity or livelihood of blacks in USA. Please do not waste time on this.

        What Tamils want is to allow them to live with same rights and privileges of Sinhalese, in dignity and safety on their lands of historic habitation, governing themselves without interference from Sinhalese. You must concentrate to deliver this arrangement, to bring an end to the animosity between the ethnic groups.

        • 4
          1

          What do you want, you must decide. It is not for me to dictate to you. Yes, I’d like you to be happy in your own country.

          As for me, I want this to be one country. You are free to disagree. I’d be sad if we separated.

          • 2
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            Sinhala_Man

            “As for me, I want this to be one country. “

            Hindians will make sure it remains one country. In case at a later date if the Sinhala man wishes to carve out his part of the Sinhala nation as a separate state, he needs to get authorisation from Hindia.

            Further this island will remain one country only when its constitution recognise its diversity and multiple nations within it.

            There is an urgent need to recognise the First Nation, Veddahland.

            I am sure you are familiar with the idea and practice of “unity in diversity”.

          • 3
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            Dear Sinhala man,
            When you say what you want you must decide, you are accepting the term right to self determination, which majority of Sinhalese are not willing to allow Tamils to exercise.

            TNA has put forward the demand and has got the mandate from Tamils which clearly states about sharing of power on a federal basis for the merged North-East region.

            This principle has been accepted by India in 1987 and Western countries in 2002 as fair. Will the Sinhalese agree to it and settle the problem once and for all.

            • 2
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              I hope you don’t find my response ambivalent. I was never for the War, but I always hoped that Tamils would stay as Sri Lankans.

              Yes, we were all born free, and if conditions become so bad that we have to think of two separate states on this little island, I, personally could and would accept it. However, I can’t see it being accepted by more than a few thousand Sinhalese.

              Also, it would not make economic sense.

              Then, there’s another problem. Let’s consider Scotland. The Sots decided, very narrowly, to stay in the U.K. about a year ago. It is possible that the demand for a referendum will come up again five years from now. Becomes a bit of a joke, doesn’t it.

              As a kid I dreamt of “World Government”; I’d like to see nations states becoming less important. “Native Veddah”, you, too, talk sense. Perhaps we will see a “South Asian Union”, rather like the “European Union”. There will again be problems, as in the case of the threatened “Grexit”.

              I’d like not to get in to arguments on this controversial subject; instead let’s treat each other as dignified human beings! I don’t have the time to think out a more coherent response; sorry!

  • 4
    4

    Elite , Anglicans and the Vellalas have to change going by the proceedings of the Oath taking ceremony of the new PM Batalanada Ranil .

    Ranil had to make a separate announcement after taking the Oath to serve as the PM.

    The second statement must be a first, in any inauguration of a PM , since his uncle Junius gave us the Republic.

    The statement which is a promise to the President and the Constitution that Batalanada Ranil will never divide the Srilankan nation, nor encourage any division , neither accept financial assistance from any quarters which will compromise his promise to abide by his commitment for no division of the Nation.

    Wonder why this second statement was necessary?.

    • 2
      1

      Although your questions of the last six months were to bolster the chances of the Murdering Rajapakse Clan, this question is valid and needs an answer.

      The second statement or more properly an oath, which is if I am not mistaken, is a first. It only can mean Tamil/Sinhala reconciliation has been rubbished, and / or that it is an attempt to lull the Sinhala racists like Sumanasekera.

      Knowing that Sinhala / Tamil politics is only a teledrama, I am not concerned. However as hundreds of real people get killed from time to time as a result of the teledrama, I am curious to know, why the second oath.

    • 1
      1

      Although your questions of the last six months were to bolster the chances of the Murdering Rajapakse Clan, this question is valid and needs an answer.

      The second statement or more properly an oath, which is if I am not mistaken, is a first. It only can mean Tamil/Sinhala reconciliation has been rubbished, and / or that it is an attempt to lull the Sinhala racists like Sumanasekera.

      Knowing that Sinhala / Tamil politics is only a teledrama, I am not concerned. However as hundreds of real people get killed from time to time as a result of the teledrama, I too am curious to know, why the second oath.

    • 1
      0

      Dear Sumanasekara

      For your information. Ranil was taken to courts on Batalanda.(He did not use unscruplus methods to stay away from courts) and he was exonerated. Most Srilankans would agree with all his mistakes he is the most honorable politician in Sri Lanka until the advent of Maithri.Let us see what happens to your heros.

    • 0
      1

      Dear Sumanasekara

      For your information. Ranil was taken to courts on Batalanda.(He did not use unscruplus methods to stay away from courts) and he was exonerated. Most Srilankans would agree with all his mistakes he is the most honorable politician in Sri Lanka until the advent of Maithri.Let us see what happens to your heros.

      Dr C P Thiagarajah
      Dont you agree that Sihalese were discriminated in favour of Tamils (only need to look at the standards of schools in Jafna compared to say galle or Matara during pre independence era))and Muslims

      • 2
        1

        Dear Abey,
        You statement that Tamils were favoured by British over Sinhalese and Muslim regarding standard of schools is not quite true. The only school that British government established during the entire period of their rule was Royal College. All the rest were started by various missionaries.

        Prior to the British take over, economy of Tamils were centered around agriculture, fisheries, small indusries and foreign trade. This is same of Sinhala areas too. British completely distorted it and introduced a new economy centered around plantation, which activity was in the south.

        All the developments took place in the south and all the centres of power were in the south. Tamils in the north had no option other than to invest in education to stay competitive. They had welcomed the missionaries to set up school, though majority of them resisting conversion.

        You cannot deny that the average Tamil is more intelligent and hard working than Sinhalese. It is the Sinhalese racists who did not like the Tamils prospering brought legislative and executive methods to deny Tamils their place. How Tamils are prospering oversees goes to prove it.

        • 1
          2

          “You cannot deny that the average Tamil is more intelligent and hard working than Sinhalese.”
          What kind of nonsense this? As an authentic Tamil I am truly embarrassed to read this.Did someone do an nation wide IQ test to come to this conclusion?
          It is violation of the rules of inference that the Tamils are more intelligent from the fact that they entered the professions and universities in large numbers at one time.The parsimonious interpretation of this that it was bec.thanks to the Christian missionaries,they had more schools in Jaffna. Indeed the Tamils who lived in Batticaloa did not experience such academic or professional success.And they were Tamils too…
          And Dr. too making such nonsensical and provocative comments…

          • 1
            0

            I am sorry that you cannot accept the truth. Royal College is a multi-ethnic school where the facilities to study were available to all equitably. There were brilliant Sinhala students, but on the average, Tamil students performed better. In our days where university admission was on merit, out of my class of 150, 10 of the 32 Tamil students became doctors, in comparison to only 05 of the 75 Sinhala students. Does this not go to prove my point. Lack of professionals is not only confined to Eastern Province but also to non-peninsular parts of Northern province, probably because of the poulation density. I can categotically state that if there is a level playing ground in Srilanka, Tamils will do better than Sinhalese in education. Why not ask the government to carry out IQ study on the variuos ethnic groups in Srilanka.

            • 2
              0

              Dear Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam,

              You don’t display much intelligence making statements that could inflame the Sinhalese and precipitate more bloodbaths. Please could you desist from saying the sort of things that you have said above.

              To say that one race is more intelligent than another is, in any case, nonsense. However, my observation (and that is after teaching for many years) is that Tamil students apply themselves better, and deserve the success that they have had.

              Few members of the public have studied the development of English Education in Ceylon in the 19th Century; I haven’t either, but I did some proof-reading of the origins of Richmond College, this being the book:

              http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=features/richmond-s-rich-history

              That the British Government set up just one school is correct: Royal Academy, run as a Church of England school. However around 1850 (you will find very precise dates and facts in the book) the Colonial Government decided to grant generous financial support to “Superior English Schools” and by about 1860 there were seven such schools: Royal (Government run); Richmond College (Galle) and Wesley College (Colombo) run by the Methodists; Bishops College, Mutwal (later to become S. Thomas’ Mt Lavinia) and CMS, Kandy (now Trinity College) run by the Anglican Church Missionary Society; and two run by Roman Catholics: St Benedict’s College, Kotahena and St. Patrick’s, Point Pedro. All boys’ schools.

              Not long after you had S. John’s, Chundikuli, and Hartley (isn’t that also somewhere near VVT? – I’m sorry, I’ve visited the Peninsula only twice.)

              What is almost certain is that Hindus (given the polytheistic nature of Popular Hinduism) were more welcoming of the missionaries, than the Buddhists. It’s much more complicated than your mischievous writing (sorry, but you’ve asked for that reprimand) makes it out to be.

              For about a year now I’ve been getting in to occasional fits and posting comments under my present pseudonym. If you’ve seen some of them you would have observed that I’ve been trying to promote reconcilliation. I beg of you to desist from writing the sort of provocative racist stuff that you have been churning out recently. We now have an opportunity to heal the wounds that we have inflicted upon each other; please don’t fritter away this opportunity by churning out your sort of twaddle.

    • 1
      3

      I believe that Dr Godwin Constantine is naïve in his argument. Dr Constantine is looking at the information from the surface. Pluralism in this nation is to have “one island with two nations” attitude among people. This is not possible due to the geopolitical pressure from India. This is also known as the big brother effect, where India wants to be a regional super power.

      State Department’s personal “Shirin Tahir-Kheli” in her book “India, Pakistan, and the United States braking with the past” notes that:

      “Following is a direct result of the Gandhian doctrine in 1970s. R&AW created a terrorist organisation to stop Sri Lanka from developing quickly economically and forging ties with other nations in the West or China. RAW funded and armed the terrorists to wreak havoc in the country . “

      Many have noted these inherent problems of the RAW intelligence failures. One good example is the RAW involvement ousting of President Rajapaksha in the 2014 December presidential election.

      I hope India would understand the status quo of this nation, which is a fragile democracy.

      India must acknowledge that All Sri Lankan nationalities are not dispensable!

      India has been inconsiderate of her people historically. In situation like Sardar Sarovar Dam, about half million people were displaced and most people perishing after moving to urban slum areas.

      @prabathw2

      • 1
        0

        Raw is only a weak link now. Initially in the ‘Singhala only’ period Tamil leaders went to India seeking support. They were turned away by Indira Ghandi and Karunanidy. It was much later that raw got involved. This is a good account of what Tamils feel.

  • 0
    0

    The Name Sri Lanka should be replaced first. Meaning of Sri and Lanka are same. So it shows some sort of weirdness.

    • 0
      0

      Wierdness?
      What can be more WIred than a flag holding lion or a holiday every full moon day?

  • 1
    1

    No forgiving or forgetting unless there is a repentance.

  • 0
    0

    @ Dr Godwin Constantine &Amarasiri…
    ====================================
    why can’t a Tamil or Muslim become the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister of Sri Lanka? Are we ready for it? Are we mature enough to accept it?”
    ===============================================================

    Yes when Scientists make embryos out of sugar molecules and grow wings on Pigs to fly .. then we may hope for such illutions to materilize to realities ,meanwhile let us atleast pray that this marraige between the devilish & the Godly will not land the vulnerable communities and the poor in general in between the devil and the deep blue sea.

  • 4
    0

    One good thing that has been decided by voters is that no member of the Buddhist (and, I believe, of any other religion) Clergy cannot ever become an MP.
    Many contested, but have been rejected by the predominantly Buddhist voters.
    Clergy of any religion should not contest for any elective office.

    • 0
      0

      @Justice,
      Isn’t it better to elect clergy than who are honest than to elect convicts and alleged criminals into parliament? Even the man sentenced and behind bars was elected from the UPFA.

  • 1
    3

    This is a utopian concept for Sri now for Sri-Lankans. Mahawamsa has become the bible for most Sinhalese and they wanted positive discrimination after independence. Tamils were discriminated (have to achieve more under standardisation)and Sinhalese and Muslims were admitted to centres of higher learning to redress the shortage of these two minorities in the public and academic sector.

    They all got degrees but nobody knows how they performed towards the growth of the GNP and in the academic field. But in India and USA and in UK there was no such meddling and therefore the best talents were recognised and rewarded with the highest posts. Some descendants of those discriminated are holding high positions in the UK.

    Respect is given only to the talent. Therefore allow the Tamils to conduct their affairs in their homeland and they will grow intellectually and the Sinhala masses will respect them. After independence Tamils were reduced to non-entities except those who have strayed from their community for reasons of religion castes etc. There should be a turn around.

  • 4
    0

    This is an honest view point and a most welcome article at this juncture. There are signs though developing slowly of the Sri Lankan electorate maturing politically.

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
    3

    All these people are sooooo… naïve
    ==================================

    I believe that Dr Godwin Constantine is naïve in his argument. Dr Constantine is looking at the information from the surface. Pluralism in this nation is to have “one island with two nations” attitude among people. This is not possible due to the geopolitical pressure from India. This is also known as the big brother effect, where India wants to be a regional super power.

    State Department’s personal “Shirin Tahir-Kheli” in her book “India, Pakistan, and the United States braking with the past” notes that:

    “Following is a direct result of the Gandhian doctrine in 1970s. R&AW created a terrorist organisation to stop Sri Lanka from developing quickly economically and forging ties with other nations in the West or China. RAW funded and armed the terrorists to wreak havoc in the country . “

    Many have noted these inherent problems of the RAW intelligence failures. One good example is the RAW involvement ousting of President Rajapaksha in the 2014 December presidential election.

    I hope India would understand the status quo of this nation, which is a fragile democracy.

    India must acknowledge that All Sri Lankan nationalities are not dispensable!

    India has been inconsiderate of her people historically. In situation like Sardar Sarovar Dam, about half million people were displaced and most people perishing after moving to urban slum areas.

  • 2
    0

    The comment that the Tamils be given an opportunity to live in dignity implies that he Sinhalese are living in Dignity. Prey who are the slaves in the middle East majority are sinhalese buddhists, who are the most economically down trodden it is the Sinhalese buddhists who are economically cleansed from the economic centres in colombo. The rights of the Sinhala Buddhists are sold by the rulers who pretend they are the saviours of Sinhala buddhists. For example the previous govt had a catholic as a governor of the central bank, Catholic as chief justice and attorney general , Visisted vatican 4 times but when he was asked to stop the races in front of the dalada maligawa he ignored the request of the mahanayake and allowed half naked dancers to dance in front of the Maligawa yet he started his political campaign from the temples pretending he was the only one who could save the Sinhalese buddhists. So it is not only the Tamils that have to be given an opportunity to live in dignity but also the Sinhala budhists.
    With regards to the recent political changes can members of the previous corrupt govt bring change to bring about a truly responsible transparent govt. This is a mere eye wash to yet again fool the people of this country.God save sri lanka

  • 0
    0

    Why doesn’t CT give captions and titles to the pictures you publish — like the one of Srisena in a temple in today’s issue?Where was it taken ?When was it taken and why?

  • 6
    0

    Good view point. Prabakaran was not created by RAW. Later he was armed by RAW. We have the habit of blaming others for our short comings. If we put our house in order we will be in control of our house. Even MR was thrown out with out side help because he allowed his family to corrupt the system. If he had maintained a clean record no one could have poked their finger into our affairs.

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