By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Readers, don’t miss a treat: Go to the following link and you will find a must-listen video of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka (PCR) addressing a Paris crowd of Hela Urumaya followers:
Now this is not what I say but it is what PCR says to an adoring crowd who keeps applauding a string of falsehoods and baseless conjectures uttered by him. He appears as a messiah, come to deliver. He doesn’t deliver at the end but manages to provoke the motley crowd of credulous people. Put in a nutshell what PCR says is firstly that the Sinhala are a rare race of people born to a unique island that surpasses all the world’s countries and secondly this race is about to be wiped out by minorities that entered the island under the welcome protection of a benign host population. He particularly picks on the Muslims at conclusion.
Responsible Ministers of government should be wary to avoid making historical claims that can be easily checked for truth. On the other hand, PCR doesn’t bother hammering out one lie after another. First, he states that our island is the most ancient of all countries and that Sri Pada is more ancient than the Himalayas! Lanka is older than India! PCR doesn’t bother about the evidence but the audience applauds. PCR forgets that although Sri Lanka is an island today it most probably was not so for long geological years. At least this is what geological scholarship states. Massive tectonic and land mass changes have taken place and major metamorphing of land blocs and oceans are known to have taken place all over the earth. In a research paper geologists CB Dissanayke and Chandrajith says the following: “In the final analysis, the comparison of mineral occurrences, mainly gems and graphite in Sri Lanka, South India and Madagascar in this study indicates that the fit with Madagascar is far closer than hitherto promulgated by other researchers who had juxtaposed Sri Lanka with South India.” The researchers point out evidence for a Madagascar, South India and Africa (Gondwana) linkage.
Second, PCR points out that the Sinhala language is the oldest language in the world next to the Hebrew language. Again, an assertion picked from the air. The fact is that the Sinhala language came to the island with the original migrants of India that already spoke an Indo-Aryan language. The early migrants came from Bengal, Magadha and Kalinga and the languages in these areas are variants of Indo-Aryan, not dissimilar to each other. Sinhala is an amalgam of all these already prevailing languages. Pali came to influence the language later. The original migrants also brought with them the Brahmi script. Even PCR’s gospel, the Mahawamassa, says that King Vijaya used to communicate with Kings in India. This should have been in a preexisting common language. According to Dr. C.E. Godakmubara, the Sinhala Grammar Sidathsangarawa was based on the Tamil Grammar Virasolium in the 11th A.D So, there again goes PCR’s weird thesis.
It is a common racist strategy to begin by establishing that the chosen race is superior to all else. This gives a sense of false-pride to the audience. Most races and communities would like to think they are special. The Sinhala people do have a lot to be proud about-there is no doubt about that; but most nations and civilizations do have special things to be proud of. The ultra-conservative Japs believe that they derive from the Sun God. This is fair so long as such claims are harmless.
However,PCR does this at the beginning to prepare his audience for what follows: PCR cons his way at this next stage, too, and the Paris audience applauds. Tamils, he says, came to Lanka when the Mogul invasion of India took place. This would make out that the Tamils were here around the 12th or 13th centuries AD. Perhaps PCR didn’t realize that this is too recent a date. Professor KM De Silva, our contemporary historian, in his book, History of Sri Lanka, states that from archaeological investigations conducted at Pomparippu in the North West of the island in 1956 and 1957 one notices a culture bearing similarities to the South Indian Megalithic culture. He states that this culture had arrived in around 500BC. Aryan settlement and colonization, according to the Professor, preceded the Dravidian only by a few centuries.. KM states that Sri Lanka in the first few centuries after the Aryan settlement “was a multi-ethic society ( a concept that emhasizes and a spirit of live and let live) rather than a plural society in which tension between ethnic and other groups is a main feature).”
Professor KM makes another important point namely that ethnicity was not an important point of division in ancient Sri Lankan society. The wars fought by Gemunu and Elara were not Sinhala-Tamil wars as maliciously projected by Mahanama. Many, fighting on Gemunu’s side were Tamils who had embraced Buddhism. There were Tamils of the Buddhist faith, fighting on the side of Elara. One of the generals on Elara’s side was Mitta a Buddhist. Mitta’s sister’s son Nanda Mitta a Tamil (Buddhist), was one of the generals fighting in Gemunu’s army. Mahanama maliciously described the wars as Sinhala -Tamil wars.
PCR next takes on the Muslims by making another palpably false statement,namely that the Muslims came to Sri Lanka when they were driven out by Portugal (around 12th century Ad). The evidence is different. The first mention of Arabs in Ceylon appears to be in the Mahavamsa in an account of the reign of the King Pandukabhaya. It is stated that this king set apart land for the `Yonas’ ( Arabian traders) on the side of the western gate of Anuradhapura. (Perera B.J. `Ceylon Historical Journal-Vol.1′). This may indicate an Arab presence in the island even before the coming of Islam, in 7th century.
Having gotten away from his captive Paris audience PCR next comes to his intended thrust, namely to instill scare and fear among the Sinhalese as a result of the activities of the Tamil and Muslim communities. This is the ultimate racist strategy. He gives a long account of the threat from the LTTE Diaspora. The threat from the Tamil Diaspora is real and PCR is right at last. But, then, that has been a recent development. PCR avoids our own contribution to the making of the separatist militant movement. Only if we recognize our own deficiency here that we can be prepared to get about reconciliation so that Tamils and Sinhalase could live in harmony as in the past that Professor KM De Silva refers to. There is no doubt that the Tamil Diaspora represents racism. On the other hand one cannot bring down racism by the kind of counter racism that CPR advocates both against Tamils and Muslims. Unfortunately this has been the dangerous flaw of extremist nationalism.
In a similar vein PCR states that these Muslims were able to settle down because of ‘our compassionate Sinhala Buddhist people.’ PCR avers later that Muslims are now threatening Sinhala Buddhists. PCR brings out statistics to point out how the Muslim population has grown and is growing. He ignores that the Sinhalese have also grown in numbers over the years. PCR’s implicit support for the anti- Muslim violence by militant Buddhists is evident when he defends the Grandpass Mosque attack.
I said at the beginning that Champika Ranawaka fails to deliver in the end. This is because all he does is to create fear among Sinhalese and create aversion. The hard fact is that the existence of the Tamil and Muslim communities is established and cannot be reversed even if we desire to commonsense would demand that these three ethnic groups live together and build up harmonious relationships settling their issues amicably. Leaders like Champika Ranawaka should work toward such an end. There is no other way for the Sinhala and for Sri Lanka. Champika’s rhetoric only suggests that the Sinhala must push out or obliterate the other minority communities. In the immediate post 1956 years we saw racist-thinking rabble rousers try that and Sri Lankans have experienced what all that process led to. Prey, do you offer a better way of elimination, Champika?