17 October, 2021


CBK Abandons Her Father & Embraces Chelvanayakam

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

H. L. D. Mahindapala

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Chandrika Kumaratunga’s memorial lecture on S. J. V. Chelvanayakam (April 25th, 2015) should be taken seriously not because she claims to be “a political scientist” (she did so in her first TV interview after she succeeded in her plot to overthrow of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime) but because it is loaded with a political message on the critical issue of majority/ minority relations – the most infectious and inflammatory issue exploding in diverse parts of the globe threatening peace and stability. The majority vs. minority issues can vary from the sexual orientation of gays, to wearing the hijab in France, to Sunni vs. Shite in the Middle East, to xenophobic attacks on migrants in S. Africa, to majorities demanding conformity from minorities, to minorities demanding special privileges on top of what is available in common with others, the plight of the Sephardic Jews dominated by Euro-centric Ashkenazis in Israel, the persecution of Afro-Americans even after Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Act in 1863, (111 were killed by the white Police in America in March 2015 alone) etc. In broad outline, the underlying issues boils down to violent explosions that threaten the peaceful co-existence of the two demographics.

Sri Lanka too is stuck in this majority vs. minority issue and it is necessary to sit up and take notice of Kumaratunga’s talk because she promises to “focus on the possible causes of these (Sri Lankan) problems and the options we have for its resolution.” She also emphasizes the need “to comprehend and accept the root causes of (the) conflict and to seek solutions to them.” Comprehending the contested root causes and seeking solutions are two huge undertakings. Above all, her talk deserves minute scrutiny as she raises the ghost of federalism as her solution.

This proposal to go for federalism may be a part of the secret pre-election agreement with the TNA which was not revealed to the public at the time. However, if federalism is going to be the base on which the “My-3 regime” proposes to negotiate with TNA then Sri Lankans should gird itself for the looming political battles which will destabilize the “My-3 regime” and, of course, the nation. The public, of course, has given her their verdict by hooting her out of public platforms. But her voice seem to carry some weight in the ruling circles and how far the “My-3” regime will go along with her will determine the coming events.

That apart, what are the promising features of her talk that would give hope and confidence to the Sri Lankan polity of her ability to find solutions? After several failures earlier, including her partner in the “democratic junta”, Ranil Wickremesinghe, burning her proposals in Parliament and Velupillai Prabhakaran shooting holes in her P-TOMS, has she got it right this time? Has she at least comprehended and analyzed the historical causes of the conflict without going down the routine track of repeating, ad nauseam, the Tamil accusations of the majority oppressing the minority? Is this one-sided mono-causal theory the fundamental reason why the numerous solutions ended up in the wastepaper basket? Have we failed to arrive at a lasting solution because we have not comprehended and analyzed the North-South conflict in all its multifarious dimensions that bedeviled the nation from dying days of the British Raj? Can a solution be found and implemented by blaming only one side? Can a crisis of the Sri Lankan magnitude — it is, after all, a microcosm of the macrocosmic conditions of the majority vs. minority issues that plague the world — be comprehended and analyzed on a single mono-causal theory? Even in this new post-war phase, when new opportunities are available, should we not think out of the circumscribed Jaffna circle that has closed our mind to the hard realities and the uncomfortable truths that blinded us and obstructed a passage to peace and reconciliation?

With all her first-hand experiences, particularly in her failures to resolve the issue when she had the power, Kumaratunga has a responsibility to rethink where she went wrong and consider constructively what new strategies should be introduced to find a way out of the North-South quagmire. Unfortunately, there is no new thinking in her speech either to throw new light on the past or the way forward. What is most striking in her talk is the uninhibited ease with which she blames the majority (Sinhalese) and exonerates the minority (Tamils). She opens her speech by pouring all her sympathy on S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, his cause and the Federal Party “engaged in a long and difficult struggle to win the Tamil peoples’ rights”.

Her talk is a tribute to Chelvanayakam and his struggle to win the Tamil people’s right. This is in stark contrast to her attitude towards her own father, S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. Her effusive outpouring of sympathy for Chelvanayakam has not been matched by a similar defence to balance the political equation with a commensurate evaluation of her father’s contribution to the making of the nation. As one of the primary beneficiaries of her father’s political legacy, she, more than anyone else, should have been in the forefront to defend her father’s lone struggle against the entire Westernized, anti-Sinhala-Buddhist elite of all communities, including the “kalu-suddhas” in the Sinhala community.

Bandaranaike surged to power in 1956 to fulfill a historical necessity which has been gathering momentum, as an undercurrent, from the fine de siècle phase of the nineteenth century. One of his missions was to redress the imbalances of colonial history and restore the rights of the Sinhala people who alone fought throughout the five centuries of colonial domination to regain their lost rights. Restoring the fundamental rights of the historical people was the primary mission of all post-colonial leaders and Bandaranaike did what Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser etc., did in leading their people to the new independent era.

She has never identified herself with “1956” or hailed it as victory of the Sinhala people who were denied their fundamental rights and oppressed for centuries under colonial rule. For the first time (to my knowledge) she has made a one line concession in her latest speech on the Sinhala Only Act and that too with caveats. I have never read any of her speeches/statements/interviews where she has ever given due credit – leave aside sympathy – for her pioneering father, and his “long and difficult struggle to win the (Sinhala) peoples’ rights”. Like most partisan pundits she has assumed that there was no need to address the grievances the of the Sinhala people because they were in the majority and the only duty of the majority was to give into what her father called the “outrageous” demands of Ponnambalamian extremism, insisting on 50% of power for 12% of the Tamils of the North. This 50% claim was wrapped in the myth that it was for all minority communities but the Muslims and the Indians did not join Ponnambalam in the 50-50 cry. It was essentially a demand of Jaffna Tamils to retain their privileged position gained under colonial patronage.

In the tilted judgment of the “political scientists” plugging mono-ethnic extremism of Jaffna, the assumption is that adjusting historical imbalances and injustices that subjugated and denied the traditional inhabitants of the land their birth rights under colonialism was a crime against the minorities. Their argument was tantamount to saying that the minority had the right to retain and perpetuate the dominant positions they held as a privileged community even though it was at the expense of all other communities. Overall there is no dispute that the Jaffna Tamils were the most privileged community in Sri Lanka. But by stridently propagating their political agenda they managed to propagate the myth that they were discriminated from the 30s when the British were still ruling Sri Lanka.

The fact is that the Tamils of the North had no substantial evidence to prove this accusation. For instance, the cry of discrimination, raised exclusively by the Tamils of Jaffna from the 1930s, was dismissed as accusations without substance by the Soulbury Commission which investigated their complaints lodged by Ponnambalam. In fact, the Soulbury Commission concluded that the Tamils of the North held a disproportionate share of the coveted government jobs which was the only growth industry at the time. It was a time when the Jaffna Tamils had emerged as the most privileged community at the end of the British Raj. Besides, Ponnambalam raised the cry of discrimination in the thirties and forties, long before Bandaranaike launched his Sinhala Only Act in 1956. Their complaints were based on the fears of losing the privileged position they held under the colonial masters, both in the political and administrative power centers. And any attempt to adjust the historical imbalances was propagandized as “discrimination” against the Jaffna Tamils.

Kumaratunga concedes that the Tamils were the most privileged community under colonial patronage. But she does not go beyond that to consider the victims marginalized by the privileges and positions given to the Tamils of the North by the colonial masters. She skips conveniently the plight of the victims of the historical imbalances caused by colonial patronage. Privileging one community over the other was a common practice of the divide-and-rule policies of colonial masters. The primary task of the post-colonial leaders was to restore a balance and Bandaranaike place in history is in fulfilling this task. This naturally meant restoring the rights lost by the majority because the divide-and-rule policy favoured a selected minority as a counterweight to the power of the majority.

Her failure to grasp the basics of the North-South dynamics confirms her own conclusion: “It is truly sad that people of some intelligence and knowledge adopt such attitudes knowing full well how dangerous and destructive they can be to the Nation’s progress.”

*To be continued

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Latest comments

  • 6

    1. Let us get one thing clear. There is NO SUCH THING AS A MAJORITY. The human species is made up of a collection of minorities right down the individual minority of one. This is why the defense of minorities has become of such paramount importance to the species. If so called majorities were allowed to determine the future of minorities then the species would soon destroy itself. I know that this is difficult to understand and it is very unlikely that anyone from this island that has a national average IQ of just 79 and is therefore effectively mentally retarded will get the point.
    2. There is no “East-West Conflict” but a conflict between those who are willing to submit to a code of conduct known as “civilized behavior” and those who think that they have something better to offer but whose behavior is much worse than anything they criticize in this “civilized behavior” that they oppose.
    3. I do not know what Nkrumah and Nasser did but I do know that in our neighboring South Asian region Mahatma Gandhi initiated the art of non violent imperial regime change and Jawaharlal Nehru showed how hundreds of ethnic communities could be welded together within a state. Bandaranaike on the other hand was an abject failure in this respect and he could not could not even hold together just two ethnic communities and so went on a mad mission aimed at building a mono ethnic mono religious state where minorities would be tolerated but marginalized and would have to accept this status quo if they wished to be citizens.
    4. The Sinhala people are a MINORITY like all other minorities and therefore every possible measure has to be taken to protect their rights and defend and advance their interests and this can be done only within a constitutional and institutional and procedural and systemic framework that facilitates all MINORITIES defend their rights and advance their interests.
    5. To follow the British Imperial principle of “Privileging one community over the other” – in this case the Sinhalese community over all others – is something that only a nincompoop or some kind of egotistic stage strutting tub-thumping minority supremacist panjandrum would advocate.
    6. It is time that the inhabitants of this tiny island fashioned a state than can equally protect and defend the rights of all the several MINORITIES who currently reside thereon and create the conditions within which they can co exist harmoniously.
    7. If dear madam Kumaratunga can do this successfully that would be fine. I would strongly recommend that she keep in mind the fact that “only minority rights can protect majority rule” and if she is able to understand this simple principle and the dynamics that it implies and work towards their strengthening, she will most certainly succeed.

  • 2

    CBK is [Edited out]

  • 4

    Mahindapala has a primitive mindset.. Chnadrikas speech ,if she actually means it, shows political maturity on her part.
    Let us not forget how the Bandaranaike and Dudley pacts with Chelvanyagam were not implemented due to Primitive’s like Mahindapla. We need The Singhalese and Tamil languages with English as the bridge.
    This national government of today and the future has to implement reforms and heal wounds within a collective Sri Lankan identity. The results of this will bear fruit in a decade or so. Forget the[Edited out] like Mahindapala and concentrate on the majority of Srilankans who are peaceful, educated and hospitable.

  • 2

    Thanks to JVP, CBK got into power on the sympathy vote of our Sinhala women.

    She manged to keep Ranil in the wilderness for over a decade because Ranil and his team were so pathetically deficient and overtly pro Prabakaran..

    Thanks to her ex servant , CBK has done a Lazarus and parades around now as a Political Scientist.

    She is even trying to disparage well educated and , experienced real Political Scientists who have real PhDs which are the results of 15 to 20 years of hard work..

    She reckon she knows how to fix the Ethnic issues which have been with us since Francisco arrived in Colombo…

    And her magic wand will give us Chela’s old Federal Party.

    Instead Uncle Chelva’s two, now we need three Federal States …Right.

    Bathdeen and Hakeem didn’t join My3 just only to make money,

    They did that well when Rjapaksa was around.

    Now the problem is can the 80 % inhabitants be planted in one Federal State?.

    Ideally what we should have is optimum 5 States.

    That is at least an immediate improvement on the 9 mini Alibabas and their thieving entourages.

    With constitutional restraints on the central Govt with any changes can only be made with a majority of votes in each State plus a unanimous agreement of all states.it can work .

    But TNA Abraham has already ruled that out.Hasn’t he?.

    He says no one can touch the number of MPs in the North and the East as well.

    And no immigrants will be tolerated if it is to bump up the numbers..

    There goes the Multiple Federal States with equal population density..

    So the Elite PM even if he scores,he will have his wok cut out to implement his MOU which he signed with the Vellala Boss Sambandan..

    I am not happy our Deshapremis booed CBK out of the first Sira meet to thank the public. I mean the Elite , Vellalas, Anglicans , Muslims and the JHU for Electing him to appoint Ranil the cousin as the PM.

    Our TV and Radio Jocks should drag her to their studios and grill her on this U Beaut Federal System which she has formulated.

    And force her to explain how it is is going to give us Dalits a happy ending..

    I mean to our Ethnic problem.

  • 1

    CBK has missed her bus and its time she stopped talking about ethnic issues any more. She has lot to explain for her sins if she were to straighten her record in history. Let bygones be bygones. Because it is the weak and the meek that had faced the music. Let the brave majority enjoy all the spoils of the war. Long live the Sri Lankan Democray of the numbers.

  • 0

    To Rohan Ayya or Rohan maththaya from this tamil boy aged between 30-40

    outcome extremism our generation lost the English teachers who competitive as British teachers

    so prepositions, grammar, sentence alignments not yet utterly learnt

    again Mahindapala lokku uncles generation What have done to us? if late great noble politician CWW Kannangara wasn’t stand for free education most of Colombo telegraph comments you can see Sinhala fonts or tamil fonts instead English or native or people who uses English is first language like British, American, Australian or any of above native Sri Lankan who born there writes as Sri Lankan opinions….

    I don’t wanna see clear analyses but Hon. PM Ranil & President Mahithri mind-set may lead our paradise nation to fastest developing Asian country in a decade ……. there Mahithri won’t be president according to his sworn but whoever must address nation Sinhala Tamil Burger…… no any other ethnics…..muslim not language Christian not language even hindu not a language Sinhalese Christians Sinhalese Buddhist are exists same as Tamil muslims, Tamil chirstians too so Burgers whom mostly uses English we accept them as Burgers ……

    this separatism must narrowed….. unless we be another india 40 % of indian nationals primary challenge food and sanitation simply toilets….. we had war , we had bombings , we had suicide attacks, we went extreme of hatred but still Sri Lankans never reluctant to aid a person who in hunger or thirst…..

    if a Tamil or Sinhalese says I knocked or request a cup of water from opposite community they refused to give NEXT moment either I wear wear cyanide capsule in my neck or reach Mahinda Rajapakse to accept me as one of the 57 lacs slaves….. or accept Moda matti gong thummulu wimaley as my commanding officer…..and call Akkey to porn actress pavithra wanniarachchi

    Can any one prove the refusal of cup of water from opposite ethnic…. ? that’s my Sri Lanka……………. and Cholan note not only Sinhala house maids goes to Middle eat upcountry Tamil ladies too….. Sinhala youths too shine in internationally university, journalism, art….. don’t under estimate of course Bandaranaike was racist not entire Sri Lankans….catholic Banda not racist actually, he was planning to raise Sinhala strong nation in his view…. democracy allow you to explain why it’s wrong or predictions not brutal sarcasm against highly educated scholars

    you write something what you can speak boldly in front targeted audience…of course my name too a nickname …..but from my end no humiliations to legends…. Banda in some way a legend to Sinhalese brothers sorry former generations to now….. if you not respect his hero your hero never be respected…..

    Cholan a brave emperor of Tamil don’t use his name for hide yourself LOL

    Good bye Cholan….

  • 0

    SWRD was a SOB
    IF it wasn’t for his policies Sri lanka could be a a developed country

    • 0

      If it wasn’t for JR there would be no 83 riots or the LTTE.If Chandrika was not there Sri Lanka would not have been 12 years behind. If MR did not come into power then there would still be a war. Now we have the MY3(CK,RW,MS) we can take SL back to the good old days of a 3rd world country. Iraq, Lybia here we come!

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