20 October, 2017

Darkness At Noon On The Ethnic Front

By Izeth Hussain

 Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

In my article “Re-thinking the Ethnic Imbroglio“, I pointed out that the prospects for a political solution of the ethnic problem “are nil, or almost nil”. With the definitive military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 we expected that, sooner rather than later, there would be a political solution and there would ensue noon-tide glory in the resplendent isle of Sri Lanka. Instead, what we see looks much more like darkness at noon. I argued that what we need in this situation is a re-thinking of the fundamentals of the ethnic imbroglio. In this article I will continue my own rethinking on the fundamentals, and point out that just now the most important desideratum – the desired but missing thing – is a paradigm shift in our thinking on the imbroglio: we must give primacy to attitudinal change over Constitutional and institutional change.

My sense of darkness deepened when I read the headline news in the Island of January 29 that the Ministry of Defense will carry out investigations into the nexus between the TNA and the LTTE in the past. There is, of course, everything to be said for such investigations because a healthy society should place a high value on truth, which means that it is imperative to establish the truth about what happened in the past. But is this the time for it? We must take certain inescapable facts into account. The Defense Ministry is not just another Ministry but the most powerful one, and its Secretary Gotabaya R is second in power only to the President. His power derives not from the sibling nexus but from his credentials as one of the authentic saviours of the nation. Furthermore the Defense Ministry is regarded as having a nexus with the Sangha, and together they constitute the most powerful force in the country, which can countermand the will of the people because of the nexus between the Sangha and the Buddhist majority. It is also an inescapable fact that a system of devolution is usually difficult to operate. Considering all these facts, the conclusion becomes inescapable that if the investigations really get going the successful operation of 13A will be jeopardized. Its successful operation will really be impossible without flexibility and trust between the Government and the TNA, and that will become impossible with the investigations. We are forced to the conclusion that the Government is not in earnest about 13A or is thoroughly ambivalent about it.

As for the TNA, it has no enthusiasm for 13A, as I pointed out in my last article. I must flesh that out a bit as there is a contrary view on the TNA’s position on 13A. Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s Budget speech in December was subjected to a brilliant critique by Dayan Jayatilleka, in the course of which he quoted the following: “It should be understood by all clearly that the present Provincial Council cannot be a vehicle of change for the betterment of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East”. That was a categorical statement, and it was not made under LTTE duress. He also declared that the Tamils had wanted devolution for the North East only and not as part of a system applicable to the whole island. I find that idea depressing for reasons that I need not go into here. It remains that the TNA eschews separatism and violence, and is willing to make a try at making the NPC successful. The TNA position on moving towards a political solution is therefore slightly more positive than that of the Government, and that is why the prospects for a political solution are “almost nil”, not nil.

But it has to be expected that the TNA will not really commit itself to 13A, if at all, until the Indian General elections and its aftermath. I have argued in my last article that India is not ancillary to but an integral part of our ethnic problem, for which reason the Indian elections could be of crucial importance. The expectation is that the BJP will form the next Government together with its like-minded allies and some other parties. The new Government could turn out to be quasi democratic and quasi neo-Fascist just like the one in Colombo, and a tougher line on the ethnic problem is quite possible. The omens at the moment are not good at all. Jayalalitha is talking about doing away with the maritime boundary between the two countries, which on the face of it could seem to be a fair-minded proposal for equitable sharing of maritime resources. But it has dangerous implications because without the boundary the Indian Ocean can come to be seen not as separating but bringing together Tamil Nadu and our North-East. That could lead eventually to a Tamil Nadu irredentist claim on our North-East. We have got accustomed to belligerent noises on Kachchaitivu, which we must now take seriously. As the Agreement on Kachchaitivu was never ratified by the Indian Parliament, it is not valid under international law, and it is possible that a BJP Government may wrest it away from us.

The kind of negative developments indicated in the preceding paragraph pale into insignificance compared to what is threatened in the following statement by Yaswant Sinha, the shadow BJP Foreign Minister: “The BJP during the NDA rule advocated political settlement for the Tamils within a united Sri Lanka, but that position is different now. Eelam is a distinct possibility. Bangladesh, North and South Sudan are all independent countries today”. He might mean that the Tamils could fight again, this time with Indian and other foreign support, and establish Eelam. But that seems a messy and very uncertain process. He probably means therefore that India might impose a Cyprus-style solution: Indian troops invade Sri Lanka, establish Eelam, after which the Indian troops hold the frontier, in a process comparable to what happened in Cyprus. I wrote two articles on that possibility, neither of which seemed to make any impact on the public. But H.L.D.Silva wrote, some months before he passed away, that he had originally thought that I was being “fanciful” but later – describing me as “an Ambassador of experience” – took my argument seriously.

It seems serious that a prospective Indian Foreign Minister says “Eelam is a distinct possibility” but probably our Government will explain it away as arising out of the BJP’s need for Tamil Nadu votes. But the senior Vice-Chairman of the UNP, Lakshman Kiriella, who recently cited Yaswant Sinha’s statement quoted above (Island of January 28), raised a question in Parliament as far back as last April about a BJP threat to carve out Eelam. Therefore the recent statement of Yaswant Sinha should not be dismissed as arising out of electoral compulsions. The Government’s reply to Kiriella was that no Indian Government would agree to the break-up of Sri Lanka. I wrote a letter to the Island making certain clarifications. At one time the orthodoxy prevailing in Sri Lanka was that India was determined to break up Sri Lanka. Later the orthodoxy was that no Government in India would ever agree to the break-up of Sri Lanka. It is true that India would not like to see separatist movements succeed in neighboring countries as that could set a bad example for India. But the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, under Indian aegis, was seen as an accretion of strength for India. That is something that we should always bear in mind.

What should we do? As neither the Government nor the TNA is really in earnest about 13A, for the time being it’s darkness at noon on the ethnic front. But this situation could change, and change very radically, in the second half of this year consequent to the Indian elections. If it’s not a hung Parliament, and a fairly stable BJP Government is installed in power, and it turns out to be tough and even threatening, the Sri Lankan Government and the TNA could conceivably become earnest about 13A. I recall Dr. Johnson’s remark that nothing so wonderfully concentrates the mind as the prospect of being hanged on the morrow.

However, I wonder whether Constitutional and institutional changes, without attitudinal changes, will suffice to bring about an effective political solution and authentic ethnic reonciliation. Human beings are not automata, they are thinking beings, and they act in terms of how they think. That means that even if we have an excellent Constitution and excellent institutions, they will not amount to much if we are still full of hatred and distrust towards each other. I concluded my last article with three suggestions that could bring about crucially important attitudinal changes. It may be that if we give primacy to bringing about attitudinal change, what is at present darkness at noon could turn into dusk.. I have in mind Hegel’s observation that it is only at dusk when the shades of night are falling that the bird of Minerva – the owl symbolizing wisdom – spreads its wings and takes flight.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    It will be best to have an attitudinal change accepting that Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic country and the demands of the minorities to maintain their identities through adequate devolution are reasonable. Unless this attitudinal change occurs especially amongst the majority community, namely the Sinhala Buddhists, the danger of India annexing the North and East will ever remain real.

    Sengodan. M

  • 2
    6

    Its quite an imbroglio isn’t it really? Its not necessary You really to think that hard. To make it simple just work backwards.

    “Tamil Eelam” historically implausible, economically nonviable and socially unworkable.

    I would like ANYONE to prove this statement false. This is ESPECIALLY true now given the aftermath of LTTE.

    Now, India or even Big Brahmin may forcefully create it artificially. Given the above scenario, sustaining it will become an unpleasant experience for all.

    Power brokers in India wasn’t fully cognizant of this back 1980. Tamil Nationalists have acquired an incredible propensity to tell barefaced porkies and being accepted as fact. I suspect what happened then was India did not really understood when taken for a ride.

    Now things are different. Only so as far as India is concerned I suspect. Although idiots like David Cameron still fall for Tamil Nazi tricks.

    Taking away the threat of Tamil Eelam simplify things. That means it can no longer be used as leverage for any kind of power devolution. If power devolution must happen it must happen on its own merits, under the aegis of the Sri Lankan Parliament with the blessings of the Sri Lankan collective – its that simple really.

  • 3
    5

    If you have an ethnic problem, you find your answer. Don’t drag others.

    If Arabs in SL have an ethnic problem, go back to Arabia.
    If Tamilians in SL have an ethnic problem, go back to Tamilian Nadu.
    If Sinhalese in SL have an ethnic problem, go back to Bengal.

    • 13
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      If you have a mental problem go to Angoda!

      • 1
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        The ‘beyond Angoda / Mulleriyawa’cases? Probably join UPFA??

    • 0
      1

      this one is not a sinhala

    • 2
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      Fartima

      You .barainless fool go back to your loony bin in your mental hospital.

  • 2
    4

    India will never invade sri lanka to establish “eelam”.

    • 1
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      justice

      “this one is not a sinhala”

      Why should they?

      Hindians believe Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of India.

    • 0
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      Justice,unfortunately a cyprus style solution is a distinct possibility due to the blunders of mahinda in antagonising india and US and chumming up with china.With prodding by the US an indian intervention will solve the problems of everyone except the sinhalese and chinese.So that option is a distinct possibility under a BJP government and on the table now.

      Nothing is permanent in life as Bhuddha said.One day you are up and another day you are down,but life goes on.2009 was a year of euphoria for the sinhalese while a year in the future may be one of dejection.

  • 2
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    13A, reconciliation, APRC, LLRC etc…
    We are talking about it, putting up hair splitting arguments until cows comes home.

    Our leaders and Sri Lanka should be ashamed that we are bunch of idiots living in stone age who can’t get anything done other than fighting and killing each other. @#$%&*&%$#

  • 7
    1

    Izeth Hussain,

    I agree with you an attitudinal change is needed, and especially in the Sinhala Buddhists’ thinking: They should shed the racist, Sinhala Buddhist supremacist Mahavmasa thinking as the sole owner of the island.

    It is only logical that unless this attitude of the Sinhalese changes, no solution to ethnic or religious problems is possible.

    We don’t even need be a political science genius, or to think about what BJP will do, and so on. Sinhala politicians fail to understand the 2000 odd years of history of the island.

    The island accommodated one country at certain times, was a part of Chola empire at one time, and 2 or 3 separate countries for several centuries at a time.
    This happened because of its proximity to the countries that constituted ‘India’ during the past. This phenomenon should be held firmly in the minds of the Sinhala politicians form the South. Depending on the geo-political realities existing, any one of the above alternatives is possible. Right now it has become untenable as single unitary state.

    From the time of independence Tamils wanted some form of federal system to protect their identity and their geographic integrity, but all Sinhala rulers since independence have failed to satisfy Tamils aspirations. Instead, the state and the governments have been taking more and more steps to dismantle and deny the existence of the Tamil nation in the island.

    This continues at an accelerated pace now with Gothabaya’s militarization, land grabbing, Sinhala colonization and humiliation of the Tamil people. They think by brute force they can achieve this dismantling just like how they eliminated Tamils’ defense – the LTTE by resorting to genocide of Tamils near the end of the war.

    An independent war crimes investigation will bring out the truth as to whether genocide of Tamils took place, and who are culpable if so.
    This will shake the Sinhala Buddhist psyche and its ruling elite to the core.

    Then and then only, with a sharp blow on their heads so to speak, an attitude change in Sinhala minds is possible.

    As always form the beginning Tamils are willing to accept a federal system like that in Canada. However until the evil things done to the Tamils by the Sri Lankan state and its handlers since independence are established nothing will change.

    I believe this the fundamental problem in Sri Lanka regarding the ‘ethnic problem’.

    • 3
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      Well said Thiru.

      • 1
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        Dear Mr.Thiru,
        At my view,Buddhists in Sri Lanka have no rights to claim that Buddhism is their own religion.Sinhala language may be their own language,but not Buddhism.
        Buddhism is a Worldly religion followed by billions of people all over the World.At the same time Buddhism is not a religion at all.
        Buddhism is a high philosophy devised on Humanism the way of life.Buddhism is humanism.Humanism is Buddhism.
        What is less in this World?What is less in Srilanka?
        Lack of humanism is the root cause for all the conflicts we confront today.
        So, I express my idea in making Srilanka a Humanist country.Please make Humanism compulsory subject in all the schools in Srilanka from 2015,January.
        Starting from year 3 to Universities.A degree holder in Humanism will be well recognized in the World.
        If it is implemented successfully all the differences will fade away gradually.

    • 0
      1

      The reality is this thinking is held only by a small section of SL which is vocal. That is why the individual relationthips and social bonds between Sinhala and tamils were not destroyed even during a war for 30 years.

      Thiru tries to over emphasize this. The reality is differnt. That is exactly why many critics of SL gov and Sinhala extremists are sinhalese. At least the process has begun.

      SO what about the Tamils taking responsibility for sustaining war and prolonging human suffering for 30 years. And that SL gov waged a war that was forced upon itself.

      So when will Tamils acknowledge this?

    • 1
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      Thiru

      “As always form the beginning Tamils are willing to accept a federal system like that in Canada.”

      Have you consulted sach and convinced her your intentions?

      Did she really understand the whole idea behind federalism?

      If you have, then you can bring rest of the Sinhala/Buddhist in line.

    • 0
      0

      Thiru,

      “We don’t even need be a political science genius, or to think about what BJP will do, and so on. Sinhala politicians fail to understand the 2000 odd years of history of the island”

      India did invade Goa, Portuguese occupied Goa, to claim its historical possession.

      BJP or for that matter, Congress can invade North and East Sri Lanka and claim that theses areas belong to India. Look at Kashmir. Turkey did that to Cypress.

      May be India can go beyond and say the whole Island belongs to India. It will solve the China problem too. USA will go along with it too.

      China claims Taiwan still.

  • 1
    0

    Thiru,

    “The island accommodated one country at certain times, was a part of Chola empire at one time, and 2 or 3 separate countries for several centuries at a time.”

    Most times when the island had three kingdoms they were all sinhalese (Ruhunu Maya & Pihiti) .Later on It had Kotte, Kandyan and Jaffna Kingdoms. Cholas ruling sri lanka was no different to the British ruling sri lanka through might.

    The biggest problem is not with the sinhalese but with you self fish Tamils, asking for a share which can neither be justified historically nor through shear numbers. It is the deep rooted inferiority complex of Tamils which is your biggest problem

    • 1
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      Ravi Perera

      “The biggest problem is not with the sinhalese but with you self fish Tamils, asking for a share which can neither be justified historically nor through shear numbers.”

      How would you justify Sinhala/Tamil illicit occupation of my ancestral land.

      How far back would you like to go in order to historically justify your claim to this land, or for that matter a Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto?

    • 1
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      Ravi perera

      I am surprised that you are talking of Tamil inferiority complex but let me tell you the converse is the truth ie Sinhala inferiority complex. There is no need for the Tamils to feel inferior to anyone above all Sinalese who are born dull wits.

      Your intellectual inferiority is palpable when you try to argue it is the shear number that should matter in resolving the ethnic problem in Srilanka. For your information although Tamils are small in number they are a nation apart as such they are entititled to right of self determination including separation.

  • 1
    1

    For India to invade Sri Lanka risking the lives of their troops and massive reprisal attacks on Colombo-based Tamil civilians the rewards must necessarily be substantial and sustained.

    India would have little to gain by venturing into Sri Lanka that way, economically or strategically. I believe that Indian leaders will be astute and logically sound in their militaristic manoeuvres. Therefore the concept of Eelam in its conventional sense would still be highly theoretical.

  • 0
    1

    Pirana,

    “There is no need for the Tamils to feel inferior to anyone above all Sinalese who are born dull wits.”

    Oh the sinhalese are dull wits. The Tamils don’t feel inferior to the sinhalese not only because they are so intelligent but because of your good looks too.

    “Tamils are small in number they are a nation apart as such they are entititled to right of self determination including separation.”
    You mean Tamil Nadu.

    By the way how is the nuclear Bomb coming from the super rich Tamil diaspora which is suppose to be 5 times bigger than Sri lankas economy.

    • 1
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      Ravi Perera

      I don’t quite understand your logic in bringing in the Good looks or the lack of it of the Tamils in to the discussion forum. You and people like you are deluding yourself by thinking that the Sinhalese are” better” looking than the Tamils??? Most of the Sinhalese are dark unrefined godayas and Gamayas who must first learn a lesson or two in refinement and social etiquette like good manners etc.

      Are you one of those Sinhalese who is living in the cloud cockoo land thinking that the Sinhalese are Kalu Aryans?? What a joke. You Sinhalyas have good looks that would put Gorillas to shame.

      Your other wishful thinking that the Eelam Tamils have to go to Tamilnadu is concerned let me give you this unequivocal message : we Eelam Tamils will continue to live in Eelam for ever where we have lived from time immemorial. We will achive Tamil Eelam at any cost even it means spilling every drop of blood we as Tamils in Eelam have. We reject the Sinhalese claim for the sole owner ship of the island of Eelam. The fact that we have temporarily left our beloved Eelam doesn’t mean that we will desert our beloved Eela matha to whose well being we have sacrificed over 150000 young Tamil lives.

      Either the Sinhalese people understand this reality and agree to a peace deal with us Tamils other wise I can say with absolute certainty that your Sinhala race will perish . We have no choice but to send you all to an early nirvana en mass.

  • 0
    1

    Veddo,

    [Edited out]

    • 2
      0

      Ravi Perera

      [Edited out]

      Thanks, for your intelligent and highly provocative comment.

      Its going to take quite a few months to work out what is in your mind and why you find it difficult to put it in words.

      May be you are suffering from writers block.

  • 0
    0

    Pirana,

    “You and people like you are deluding yourself by thinking that the Sinhalese are” better” looking than the Tamils??”

    You Tamilas are the ugliest race in the world. Gorillas are better looking than you guys.

    “Most of the Sinhalese are dark unrefined godayas and Gamayas who must first learn a lesson or two in refinement and social etiquette like good manners etc.”

    Most of the Tamils are super godayas and hadi gamayas who talk big but mostly live like scavengers in foreign countries.

    “We will achive Tamil Eelam at any cost even it means spilling every drop of blood we as Tamils in Eelam have.”

    Byu the time you achive your Tamil Eelam even the rest of the million also would have perished and you will have to bring n people from your homeland -Tamil Nadu to fill the Dreamland Eelam.

    By the way are you a refugee too in Toronto ?

    • 1
      0

      Ravi perera

      I am neither a refugee nor do I live in Canada. Sadly recently the quality of your comments are deteriorating, why ? Perhaps due to mass hysteria and guilty complex over what you all did to te Tamils in Vanni- which is about to come out in the open soon. You people must repent for your sins ask for forgiveness and try to make amends for yourevil past in order to achive your salvation other wise what will face in your life is all doom and gloom.

      I get the distinct impression that by writing in this forum I am demeaning myself .

    • 1
      0

      Ravi Perera

      “You Tamilas are the ugliest race in the world. Gorillas are better looking than you guys.”

      I completely agree with you.

      They share their DNA with their Sinhalese brethren.

      “Most of the Tamils are super godayas and hadi gamayas who talk big but mostly live like scavengers in foreign countries.”

      I completely agree with you.

      They share their DNA with their Sinhalese brethren.

      “you will have to bring n people from your homeland -Tamil Nadu to fill the Dreamland Eelam.”

      Like in the good old days,they all will become Sinhala/Buddhists in few years time.

      • 0
        0

        —- “they all will become Sinhala Buddhist in few years time”

        Well said Vedda

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 1
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      ela kolla

      No, your parents were not descendants of Aryan Germans. Genetically speaking you are a descendant of Tamilnadu Kallathonies.

      If you can’t make up your mind please do check your DNA.

  • 0
    0

    “Tamils had wanted devolution for the North East only and not as part of a system applicable to the whole island” observes the Writer. This is more or less correct. It was not the Tamils who wanted devolution
    for them. The truth is the rest of the Provinces – excepting the NEP – did not need it and, therefore, they did not ask for it. Both Indian and Lankan Constitutional experts who went into the matter for years wanted it only for the upcoming NEP. The problem was although JRJ knew this is the reality, he was mortally afraid Of the Sinhala extremists in his divided Cabinet. Some of them were working in cohorts with Wijeweera of the JVP surreptitiously. This cabal was capable of rousing their ilk outside – lead by the Buddhist monks and the JVP extremists. Therefore, the missing of the bus was an entirely Sinala affair and the whole country Suffered as a result since then.

    “That could lead eventually to a TN irredentist claim on our NEP” Is Hussain trying to fool the readership here. Tamilnadu is part of the Indian whole. They cannot make a call of this nature by
    themselves. This should be elementary even to a novice Political student. If Hussain, on the other hand, is trying to inflame the Sinhalese, then it is a different matter. Then again, Hussain contradicts himself when he notes “No Indian Govt would agree to the break-up Of Sri Lanka” I do not dispute that.

    “Ministry of Defense will carry out investigations into the nexus between the TNA and the LTTE in the past” Well the MoD, under its present leadership, has done many strange things. Detaining elected MPs and PC officials will be at a devastating cost. It is clearly aimed at winning the Sinhala electorate in the eve of the March Geneva Resolution that, from all signs, will go against the Rajapakses. The usually gullible Sinhala electorate will be told, post-April, the Geneve debacle is because they wanted to arrest Tamil MPs and PC members.

    Has the highly opinionated Hussain, gone awry in the usage of the word “Orthodoxy” – and well out of context

    R. Varathan

  • 0
    0

    As usual a good article by the writer.very practical,concise and precise.

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