By C.V. Wigneswaran –
Someone asked me; Tamil Parliamentarians are equating Chinese investments with Tamil separatism. You too made such comments in Parliament. How could you compare the Chinese with the Tamils?
My response was; I am not comparing the Chinese with the Tamils. It was the Tamil Bodhidharman who introduced Kung Fu to China, just for the record. There had been trade relationships between Tamils and Chinese even before the birth of the Sinhala language and from pre- Buddhistic times.
What we have been pointing out in Parliament and elsewhere is that the Tamils who are indigenous to this Country had not been given a chance to invest here. In fact everything is done to chase us away and prevent us from prospering here. When I was Chief Minister we were denied a Chief Minister’s Fund to improve the conditions of our war affected people. But the Chinese from far are trusted and preferred to do business here.
While our traditional lands are being grabbed by the State in several ways, 15000 acres in Hambantota has been given on a platter to the Chinese. If not for the Supreme Court we would have completely parted with our hold on the Colombo Port City. Still there are certain provisions that may bring problems for us. Though the Members of the Commission are to be Sri Lankan citizens nothing prevents the Chinese getting Sri Lankan citizenship and finding places in the Commission!
Why is Sri Lanka in this impasse today? Lee Quan Yew in the fifties wanted to make Singapore as another Ceylon. Such was the prosperity and economic strength of this Country at the time of Independence. Singapore recognized the equality of its several denizens and made Chinese, English, Tamil and Malay as Official languages and they are prospering. WE were more interested in destroying the Tamils and their individuality and trying to falsely portray this country as a Sinhala Buddhist Country forgetting that the North and East and even Puttalam and Negombo have been the traditional homelands of the Tamils from pre Buddhistic times and long before the birth of the Sinhala language.
What our Parliamentarians are asking is why do you not trust us Tamils but trust the Chinese when the whole world knows about Chinese expansionism in recent times. They have been able to get firm footholds in several African and Asian Countries by helping them financially and tightening the screws when these Countries could not pay back in time. We are not anti Chinese but certainly we are against our Country being mortgaged to the Chinese or for that matter any Country.
Successive Governments borrowed heavily to fight an unnecessary war and they are paying for their folly now. I say unnecessary because there was no need to make one language as the official language of this Country when discernible areas in the Country spoke two different languages for centuries. The Sinhalese politicians could easily have mended their fences with the Tamils when the late SWRD Bandaranaike showed a way in the right direction. But the Buddhist Priests who have been given unnecessary importance in political matters did not allow sanity to prevail. SWRD was killed by a Buddhist Priest.
Our debts have snowballed and brought us now to this predicament. The World has come to know what happened during the latter part of the War which was fought without witnesses. Soon the offenders would have to answer to the World. It would be quite difficult to face economic deterioration on the one side and World’s adverse public opinion on the other side. Knowing what is in store for them, the powers that be, have sought the help of a Big Power which is poised against the Democratic Countries. We have now jettisoned non alignment. We have fallen within the orbit of Chinese expansionism. As Honourable Sumanthiran, M.P. pointed out in Parliament when questions were raised why the name board at the opening of the Smart Library in the Attorney General’s Department was in Chinese, English and Sinhala only leaving out Tamil, an official language of the country, the response was not from the Government. It was from the Chinese Embassy!
What the Tamil Parliamentarians have been trying to say is why not mend fences with us, give up your anti Tamil stance, allow investments by the Tamil diaspora and the locals and bring prosperity to the Country. Why bring a Country from afar to invest here?
Even now it is not too late. All the problems of the Sinhalese politicians could be surmounted by recognizing Tamil rights and granting them their legitimate rights. After all, the Corona virus made no distinction between Tamils and Sinhalese. It attacked all equally. In the eyes of Nature we are all equal. It is the wrong perceptions among the humans which have brought such distinctions and divisions. We could together bring back sanity.
If a self independent unit could govern Colombo Port City why cannot a confederal unit govern the North and East? Former Minister Rajitha Senaratne who started politics, I believe, with the humane Vijaya Kumaratunga has asked this same question as per the Newspapers.
A Tamil from France has put forward an interesting suggestion. If the Rajapaksas want only material and financial benefits from China why not give back our lands to us and get such benefits from us? The Tamil diaspora is wealthy enough, he seems to infer.
He has suggested that there are major benefits in giving their lands to the Tamils rather than the Chinese. Firstly we can avoid future bloodshed, killings, disappearances in the North and East. Secondly, both ethnic groups, the Tamil and the Sinhalese can live in peace and harmony. Thirdly, if the powers that be want financial gain for themselves we Tamils could certainly give them three or four times more than what the Chinese are prepared to give. Fourthly, this will save the lives of soldiers who mostly come from poor working class families and remote villages to sacrifice their lives for the glorification of cardboard heroes. Fifthly if the Tamils are given their land back, they will not insist on the same conditions that China has put on Hambantota and Colombo Port City. The Tamils would continue to use the local currency.
It is my observation that principles have not governed the minds of Sinhala politicians so far. Only money, authority and arrogance have. If the Government wants to think out of the box so to say like the Tamil from France, it could still work out something to shake hands with the Tamils and take the Country forward towards Peace and Prosperity with the wholehearted participation of all minorities. There would be no need to become handmaids of distant Countries!