12 December, 2019

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Dilemma For The Sinhalese; Who Is A Tamil, Politically?

By Raj Gonsalkorale

Raj Gonsalkorale

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Subramanian Swamy today urged Sri Lankan Tamil Community as well as its senior respected leaders like Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan to try for a working arrangement with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for the sake of Tamil issues – Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, 1st November 2018

This is the season for horse trading. The constitutional issue, some say crisis, has precipitated many avenues for this. Some cynics say, not so cynically, that this is the time to have been a member of Parliament as one could have retired rich, set for life. The value of a vote has reportedly kept us with the devaluation of the rupee! Principles, values, traditions and what was sacred for older generations have been consigned to history and the younger generations are exposed to the new world where power and with it, money, have become the idols of worship. 

In this turbulent political and cultural climate, it is worth examining what some Tamil political parties and Tamil politicians maybe demanding for their vote. Ironically, it is also rumoured that elements of the Tamil Diaspora are pouring hard currency into the coffers of some political parties and to the pockets of some individuals seeking to keep one shade of political opinion in power.

Be that as it may, or may not, for many Sinhalese, there is some confusion as to who Tamils are, politically, and why all Tamils do not seem to be demanding identical, fundamental political rights, and if they are, why they are not doing so as a single Tamil community.

The Sinhalese have their own divisions, but they are primarily on caste basis, and this too has become less relevant and evident in politics over the years. Kandyan Sinhalese and low country Sinhalese were two divisions of importance to some at some point in time, but this too has faded in political importance. Division based on religion is probably of greater importance politically than division based on caste or regional bias, although this too is evident only in some parts of the country . In some sense, one could argue that there is a greater degree of egalitarianism within the Sinhala community than within the Tamil community, politically speaking.

It is said that caste divisions play a greater political role within the Tamil community, and regional bias too plays a greater role. The Tamil community comprises of Northern Tamils who seem to regard Eastern Tamils next in the pecking order, and Tamils of recent Indian origin way down in the pecking order in the eyes of Northern and Eastern Tamils. Hardly any Northern or Eastern Tamil political leader seems to promote and support and canvass issues that are specific for the Tamils of recent Indian origin who reside primarily in the plantation areas. There is no record of political leaders of the North or East visiting plantation areas and vice versa. Then there are the Tamils who live in other areas of the country besides the North, East and Central areas (plantation territory), who are a mix of all these sections of the Tamil community. Statistically, more Tamils live outside the North and the East of the country.

In this demographic and anthropological landscape, Sinhalese are in a quandary as to how “Tamil” political demands are to be viewed and how they are to be addressed. To them, and probably to the Tamil community itself, demands vary. 

The Northern and Eastern seem to base their demands on what they refer to as the historical Tamil home land. This is much debateable anthropologically, archeologically and demographically. 

This lobby however also seems to be saying that community inequalities and discrimination against the Tamil community could only be addressed if the North and the East is given an adequate degree of political autonomy.  This view does have a relationship to the traditional homeland theory. 

For the Sinhala community, there are two issues. Firstly, the debateable and contested historical homeland theory. All mainstream political parties of the “South” seems to be saying that this cannot be the basis for arriving at a consensus on a solution that addresses Tamil community issues as this belief (of a homeland theory) is not acceptable for the Sinhala community.

Secondly, the Sinhala community finds it difficult to accept that greater political devolution for the North and the East would address Tamil community issues considering that such an outcome would produce greater inequality amongst the Tamil community in the country given the current demographics. Some Tamils would be more equal than others they say paraphrasing George Orwell. In view of the demographics associated with the Tamil community as outlined earlier, there appears to be a justifiable basis for this concern.

Then there are the Tamils of recent Indian origin and their demands. They live within mixed communities in the plantation sector and they play a very significant role for the economy of the country. In fact some contend that the economy could collapse completely if the members of this community should down their tools for a month. This community however is one of the most disadvantaged and badly treated communities where servility from them had been taken to an extreme although no thanks to Northern/Eastern Tamil political leaders, their situation has improved compared to what it was some years ago. 

The wage rises and better living conditions demanded by this community is entirely justifiable considering the contribution they make to the economy of the country. Treatment as equals is a human right they must have and there cannot be any debate about that.

Finally, the Tamils living in other areas of the country. Many of them are either members of political parties in the “South” or they vote for candidates of these political parties. The Tamil community in these areas are far more entwined with other communities while maintaining their cultural identity, in other words they are better integrated.

The 13th Amendment, with whatever its flaws, provided avenues for greater participation of communities living in the provincial geographic areas in the politics of their areas, and to varying degrees, in political administrative matters and political policy issues within guidelines. If the premise for having provincial councils is to give people a better say in how they wish to be governed, which is what democracy is all about, the solution to address issues of inequality and discrimination should be a mix of central power sharing and devolution on the basis of the concept of provincial councils. Traditional homelands should not enter into a discussion and a solution has to be worked out from a contemporary outlook and not a historical outlook. This should apply to all communities and their singular outlook should be the future of the generations to come and less so, the demands of the present generation.

Perhaps Mr Subramanium Swamy, who is a good and steadfast friend of Sri Lanka, and not just of Mahinda Rajapaksa, could be the pivot that is needed initially to sit with all Tamil political leaders from all parts of the country and assist them to arrive at a consensus on a new mindset as to how best to work with the Sinhala and Muslim communities in the country which would usher in a climate where discussions could occur without being driven by valid and imagined fears of a division of the country, of Federalism, and secret agenda’s. 

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    “Suppramaniam today urged Sri Lankan Tamil Community as well as its senior respected leaders like Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan to try for a working arrangement with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for the sake of Tamil issues”

    I can’t believe I agree with Suppramaniam on this statement. After all, the joker can also think smart!

    • 3
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      You know who is thinking that Subramanian is smart? A Clown!

      • 6
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        A typical out pouring of a Sinhala racist, who like most of the Sinhalese are not in favour of sharing land and power with Tamils in an effective and fair manner. if there should not be a Tamil homeland, then there should not be a single entity called Sri Lanka in the Island. The first and foremost injustice is merging of Tamil kingdom with the rest of the island without the consent of Tamils. Secondly he seems to be confused about the divisions of Tamils in Sri Lanka who appear to be divided in demanding various things. He should understand that there are two sections viz Indigenous Tamils and Tamils of recent Indian origin. It is obvious to any fair observer that problems faced by these two communities are different. Despite reiterating in these columns that 90% of Tamils living outside north and east are those of recent Indian origin and 90% of Indigenous Tamils are living in their traditional areas in north and east, This fact does not seem to penetrate the numb skulls of Sinhala racists. When it has been proved by geology, archaeology and genetics that the island was once a contiguous landmass with Tamil Nadu, the people who lived on both sides were the same people with same civilisation speaking Tamil or some form of Tamil and that Sinhalese ethnic group evolved from Tamil ethnic group with input from other south Indians and Bengalis, I do not know why these Sinhala racists still harping about Tamil claim for a homeland in the island. Any Sinhalese who claim that the entire Sri Lanka belong to them and Tamils have no right being recent immigrants or invaders is an abject racist. This is why I have been telling that Tamils will never get justice without foreign intervention like in other countries which faced similar racism. Please remember that Tamils are demanding the restoration of their lost sovereignty.

        • 1
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          Gnana,

          Your only hope is Internatonal community. No sinhalese will ever vote at a referendum to grant a tamil homeland. If you are confident SL was once part of Tamil Nadu and the present day sinhalese evolved from Tamils (Confirmed by the fact both communities have similar characteristics….you know what I mean), pls give all these facts and figures to the international community and get your homeland.

          I personally don’t mind granting Jaffna Peninsula, if we can cut it from the rest of the country and kick it towards Tamil Nadu. East has never been yours and will never be yours. Yes, when the British invaded us you did have a homeland which included Vanni, but prior to the Jaffna Kingdom, Vani had been part of the Maya kingdom . So we will not grant Vanni. We have started settling people in areas north of weli oya too. In the next 25 yrs we will complete the project. In order to stop this it is not a bad idea for you to Start another rebellion. This will give us an opportunity to send another million Tamils to Toronto.

          Good luck

      • 2
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        You know some times, Suppramaniyams can outsmart Subramainyams!. It’s all depending on what you are going to get out of it rather than personal profiles of outcasts.

        • 1
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          Clown
          You need to be considerate towards Mr Gon Salkorale. He would not understand the nuances between Supramanium and Subramanium.

          • 0
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            I think Mr Gon Salkorale has tried his level best to woo the support of Srilankan Tamils towards opportunitic politics.
            He wrote many examples where Srilankan Tamil’s demands are unacceptable to sinhalese or those demands are untenable in his opinion.

            I think he could have thought or discussed with some of his Tamil friends on the tamil aspirations before penning this article in the current context.

            End result of this article is further insinuates and Insults the collective intelligence of Tamil polity. He could read Mahesan Niranjan’s article feel the pulse of northern politics which is not very disimilar to its southern counterpart.

  • 12
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    How can Subramaniam Swamy who is detested by the Sri Lankan Tamils overall have any influence on the thinking of their leaders. Bensen

  • 10
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    From the way you write you seem to be a Sinhalese racist. Get your facts correct. statistically 52% of the island’s Tamils ( indigenous and Indian origin ) live in the north and east and 70% of the indigenous Tamils live in the north and east and out of the rest of the 30% more than 90% live within Colombo and its suburbs due to economic reasons ,as all governments from independence have deliberately neglected to develop the Tamil areas , so that the Tamils will always have to come south and be economically dependent on the Sinhalese areas. Further during the war and even now there was and still a policy of the Sinhalese armed forces , deliberately harassing and chasing out Tamils from the north and east , so that run to the south and these ethnically cleansed areas now can be settled by Sinhalese. If there was any development or employment opportunity in the north and east the government will immediately give these jobs to Sinhalese from the south than to local Tamils. You must also remember that many indigenous Tamils living along the Negombo, Chilaw and Puttlalam area now considered Sinhalese, are still living in their ancient land , as all these areas until the north of Colombo was part of the Tamil homeland. Many of these so called Sinhalese living along the western coast , were Tamil a generation of two ago. Most of the Tamils living in the Sinhalese areas a Indian origin plantation Tamils who have always been living there. The division between the Northern and Eastern Tamils is very little and many intermarry quite freely especially amongst the Vellalar families. It is the Sinhalese who deliberately try to exacerbate and deliberately try to create caste religion and regional divisions amongst the Tamils , to divide and weaken them politically, just like they successfully divided the Muslim Tamils from the rest of the Tamils, whilst glossing over caste regional and religious divisions amongst the Sinhalese.

    • 6
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      Contd: Despite all the glossing over by the Sinhalese state and Sinhalese Buddhist Fascists to create a pan Sinhalese identity, the Sinhalese are still divided on the basis of caste, region and religion. Just go and read the marriage columns . Even now 90% of the Kandyan Sinhalese even from the lower castes consider themselves above the low country Sinhalese and will never intermarry into them. Of course divisions are more glossed over compared to the Tamils , as the Sinhalese are the majority and are ruling the country now and Tamils are the minority and are being constantly discriminated and harassed , so it is easy to exacerbate and exploit their divisions by racist Sinhalese governments, establishments and Sinhalese racists. Sinhalese will still only elect upper castes and Buddhists as their leaders. A Christian Sinhalese like Bandaranaike and Jayewardene had to convert to Buddhism to become leaders. Tamils on the other hand will accept low castes and non Hindus as their leaders, they look for who is best to lead them and that is not based on caste religion or region. Chelvanayagam was a Christian, Pirapakaran belonged to the Karaiyar caste , that 50% Vellalar Sri Lanakan Tamils consider lower to them. Sampanthan is from the east( so where is this so called division of northern and eastern Tamils?) This proves that Tamils are far more egalitarian than the Sinhalese. This the reason non Tamils like MGR was able to rule Tamil Nadu , as Tamils accept anyone who is good and will fight for them. No other Indian state will accept an outsider as their leader but Tamils are very secure and will. In largely Brahmin hating Tamil Nadu Tamil Brahmin Jayalalitha reigned supreme and may Tamil Brahmins do very well in all fields. This will never happened in Sinhalese ruled Sri Lanka. You and your article are a good example. More suited to Sinhalese extremist sites like Lanka lies

    • 1
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      Mega bore, self appointed high caste siva sankara Sharma, what employment opportunities did your hero Velupillai Prabakaran create for the Tamils in the North and EP. Get real man you are in a Tamil fantasy.

    • 1
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      Sass,
      What employment opportunities did your LTTE provide for the Tamils? To be kidnapped and made in to child soldiers and sucide bombers. And for women’s equality to become Freedom Birds, I suppose!!!

  • 10
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    I am a Brahmin from Jaffna and despite being a Brahmin , we Sri Lankan Tamils, irrespective of caste, religion or region , consider Indian Tamil Brahmins like Subramaniam Swamy, Mani Shankar Iyer, Hindu Ram, The India RSS chief Sheshadri Chari and the late Cho Ramaswamy , Tamil traitors and detest them. They go around identifying themselves as Tamils but everything they do is against all Tamils. Indian or Sri Lankan . With Tamil Brahmin leaders and mouth pieces like these, no wonder the ordinary Indian Tamil is suspicious and generally does not like Indian Tamil Brahmins. The author of this article is finding all sorts of excuses as why not to grant any just rights to the Tamils in the island. You can see his writing oozing with anti Tamil comments ,deliberately exacerbating difference amongst the Tamils and glossing over the caste regional and religious divisions amongst the Sinhalese. Of course the Sinhalese have been ruling the island since 1948 and all successive Sinhalese government since independence have gone out of their way to create a pan Sinhalese identity ,even from recently Sinhalised South Indian immigrants , who make up 50% of the present day Sinhalese , by giving them all sorts of rights and perks denied to the Tamil speakers , so that they remain content and proud with their identity , as it is advantageous to them , especially if your Buddhist.

  • 8
    3

    contd: On the other hand they have deliberately gone on a campaign of making life hell for all the island’s Tamils, of dividing and ruling them on the basis of caste , region, origin , religion , deliberately creating and exacerbating divisions and then exploiting them, whilst doing the opposite with the Sinhalese and made life hell for them , that certain section of the island’s Tamils who were the most vulnerable like the Colombo Chetties, many of the west coast Tamils and Barathas( Paravans) have decided to make life easier for them and become Sinhalese. Despite all this it to the credit of the Indian origin estate Tamils and the indigenous Tamils , irrespective of caste region or religion to have remained staunch and proud of their ancient Tamil identity and fight together as Tamils. Despite suffering deliberate Sinhalese state sponsored language, education, employment discrimination against all Tamils. Constant victims of state sponsored anti Tamil pogroms, violence at the hands of the Sinhalese police and armed forces, large scale ethnic cleansing/displacement that saw 1 million Indian origin estate Tamils made stateless and forcibly sent to India and another million indigenous Tamils displaced to the west. Constant anti Tamil barrage just like this racist author from the Sinhalese media, state and establishment. Through all this they have been proudly remained Tamil. You can see his racism oozing out when he stated the history and claim of the Tamils to the north and east is debatable. If this debatable so is the history and claim of the Sinhalese to the rest of the island is also debatable , as the vast majority of the present day so called Sinhalese are descended from recently migrated Indian Tamils and many of their so called monarchs and aristocrats are of Tamil origin, especially all their so called greatest monarchs.

    • 2
      1

      “Sinhalised South Indian immigrants , who make up 50% of the present day Sinhalese”

      Don’t talk rubbish man. it is the coastal belt sinhalese who make up less than 9% of the sinhala people who are suppose to have come from South India. But these sinhalese groups are heavily sinhalised and fully intergrated biologically and culturally. If at all the coastal Sinhalese may have had their origins in Kerala.Their rabid anti tamilness confirms this.

      You say you are a Brahmin. Wether you are a Brahmin or sakkiliya it does not matter for us sinhalese. You are a demala.

      Just accept man that you buggers have been defeated. Finally you will be left with only Jaffna Peninsula.We will need another 25 years to complete the project.

      Your only hope is to sell your surangana katha to international community and hope for a miracle.

      Sad for you thanbi

  • 12
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    Subramanian Swamy is the last person from whom Sri Lankan Tamils will seek advice. The author is an ass for suggesting that we take the advice of a donkey.

  • 9
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    Dear Raj Gonsalkorale,
    You are right on the cast systems and Tamils of different demography. This is identical to the Sinhalese because in the past both Tamils and Sinhalese depended on this system for existence. It is not so now after the several years of foreign occupation and the recent British system if you understand the recent history. But soon after independence from the British you must be fully aware how the Tamils employed in almost all the services including the Army, Navy, Airforce, the Police force, the Administrative, the executive, the Judiciary et all were laid off; even the Tamil youth were prevented from entering higher institution of studies. The Tamils had to run back to their homes in the North and East during every Sinhalese riots against Tamils in all the provinces for their safety. The Tamils living outside of North and East were employees or business owners who were the lifeline for all Sri Lankans. Do you know what happened to those who lost their hard earned properties and the suffering of those who survived? Non of them forcefully chased any Sinhalese or other neighbors to grab their properties! Do you know who grabs whose properties and who destroyed the geese that lay the golden eggs? Incidentally even today the whole world can see the state of the upcountry plantation workers being treated like beggars in Sri Lanka! Do you know how the division is being made deeper and deeper? Are you able to see how the other Countries in the region endeavor to develop with integrity among all the rest of the world and how Sri Lanka lose its former integrity and got rolled down to this miserable state? Who is responsible for the creation of the diaspora? and what is wrong in their supporting their grieving kith and kin?

  • 3
    2

    RG,
    Cultural Identity is not a fixed (collective) view of oneself. Identity is a fluid, dynamic behavioral pattern, which changes ALL the time, whether you like it or not! How we view ourselves. Eg members of all communities (Sinhalese, Tamil and even many Muslims) have become Westernised. So culture changes. It is foolish to resist change. Go with the flow I guess.

    Buddhism says life is dynamic, because the Cosmos I’d inherently dynamic and we are part of it.

    So when you try to resist you get big problems.

  • 9
    0

    Raj Gonsalkorale, What is central to your argument is:
    All mainstream political parties of the “South” seems to be saying that this cannot be the basis for arriving at a consensus on a solution that addresses Tamil community issues as this belief (of a homeland theory) is not acceptable for the Sinhala community.
    .
    What has the acceptability for the Sinhala community got to do with the hard facts on the ground.
    .
    Subramanian Swamy may or may not be a friend of Tamils of South India. Why would you expect Tamils of SL to consider him as a friend. Tamils have no issue with MR wanting him as a friend!

  • 3
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    Raj Gonsalkorale is not aware as to back ground of the (one and only) Subramanian Swamy. He is the Dayan Jayatilleka of India. He changes alliance to suit. For example he called Sonia Gandhi as the ‘modern Durga’ but changed his mind. He led a one person party for quite a while, abandoned it and joined BJP with a carpetbag. He was hoping to be the Finance Minister. Modi was shrewd and let him direct his piss outside, from inside the BJP tent. Swamy claims that his PhD mentor was a Nobel Laureate in Economics. But Nelson Mandela mentored Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa.

    Just before Swamy joined BJP, he came up with a cure for the ills of India, namely ‘disenfranchise Indian non-Hindus’. He has pushed his way up in the MR house-guest list.

    .

    To cut a long story short: Raj Gonsalkorale must update his knowledge on Swamy.

    Raj is understandably concerned about our predicament. His grasp of the reasons as to why, is very very sketchy. He needs to look at this again with an open mind.

  • 3
    0

    Idiotic piece. The Tamils could equally damn well say “What does the Sinhalese want, a UNP government or an SLFP government?”. Fact is, every individual is different and has different aspirations, and it is not possible to make them all identical. You just negotiate with the elected representatives of the Tamils (at this point in time, it happens to be TNA), just like any foreign government negotiates with the Sri Lankan government in power, even knowing that all Sri Lankans do not agree with the government. That is how it works.

    Its not like the Sinhalese were happy to give Tamil Eelam after Vaddukkottai resolution when Tamils unanimously called for it.

    And even if you want to unite the opinions of all Tamils, Mr. Swamy who has no following among Tamils anywhere in the world would be the last suitable choice.

    Tell you what. Any write-up where you pretend to ‘advice’ the other side for their own good is a waste of effort. People are not fools and they will see it very easily that your kind advice to Tamils is not for their benefit but for your / your race’s benefit. You are clearly batting for the Sinhalese ( just as much as Swami is batting for North Indian Brahmin Hindu Nationalists ) so just stick with representing Sinhalese and advising them. Tamils certainly have enough intellectuals among themselves, they don’t need your advice or the advice of the Subramaniyan Swamis of the world.

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