By C.V. Wigneswaran –
Someone asked me; Justice Wigneswaran! you have been a Supreme Court Judge. You have been a Chief Minister. You were much respected during the time you held these offices. After becoming a Member of Parliament you have suddenly become provocative. Why? Are you getting ready for the Provincial Council Election?
My answer was; I am amused! How have I provoked anyone? I simply made a statement which is a historical truth like saying the Buddha was born a Hindu. However much you argue you cannot prove Buddha was a Buddhist. He was born a Hindu. So too the language of the original inhabitants of this Island was Tamil. It cannot be otherwise since the Sinhala language came into being only around 6th or 7th Century AD. It is said by certain Sinhalese that Buddhagosha translated Athakatha in Sinhalese to Pali around 4th or 5th Century. That must be false since there was no Sinhala language at that time. If the Sinhala book was translated to Pali where is the Sinhala original? My understanding is when Bhikku Buddhagosha was collecting information from all and sundry regarding principles and practices of Theravada Buddhism he translated certain Prakrit language literature into Pali. There was no Sinhala Athakatha which was translated. There has been much prevarication up to date with regard to the history of the Sinhalese and their language.
So coming back to your question there was no conscious attempt on my part to provoke the Sinhalese. I only stated a fact and a truth which I thought was admitted by the Sinhalese since Professor Senarath Paranavitharana had identified the Megalithic period people as Dravidians. It was simply my pride in being born a Tamil in Sri Lanka and my mother tongue being Tamil which prompted me to refer to Tamil Language. I love my language and its literature. Its literature is comparable to any other language based literature in the world. I did not think it would upset the Sinhalese.
Now that people like Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka have started threatening me with bodily harm I have asked for the appointment of a Commission consisting of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Foreign historians well versed in South Asian History to go into this question and come out with their historical conclusions. Hon’ Field Marshall instead of sabre rattling should take upon himself the Task of forming such a Commission to get the truth from them for the benefit of all of us Sinhalese and Tamils. If a credible Commission of Internationally recognised historians say Sinhala existed prior to the Tamil language even before 800 BC, I would have to accept that. The important thing is both Sinhalese and Tamils must know about their past as per existing historical evidence.
The Commission could also be asked to check if the Buddhist remains in the North and East from 2000 years ago were that of the time of Demala Baudayos or Sinhala Baudayos. If the Truth as I see it is brought out, there is chance for mutual respect between the major Communities and for Reconciliation. If the Sinhalese know the truth about themselves, there is a chance for them to become more sober and balanced in their attitude towards the Tamils. They would cease to look upon us as illegal immigrants of yester years.
What we should remember as I see it is that Tamils have occupied this Island always from ancient times until today but there have been various waves of arrivals during the times of Pandayas, Cholas, Cheras and so on. The last of these arrivals were during the time of the British. They are all Tamil speaking and therefore Tamils. We identify all students who came from Royal Primary School or came at the time of the Scholarship Exam or at the GCE Ordinary Level or at the GCE Advanced Level and joined Royal as Royalists. We don’t call them RPS Royalists, Advanced Level Royalists, and so on. Thus Tamils have always been living in this country but various waves of Tamil immigrants added to their number. Even today the majority in the North and East are Tamil speaking. To my knowledge at no point in history have the Sinhalese occupied in large numbers the North and East. Only now the Military is doing so even 11 years after the war.
After 1919 when the British were considering self-government for the people of this Island, some of our Sinhala politicians and Sinhala intellectuals got it into their head that they must clinch the Island to themselves viz. the Sinhalese. They started saying that the Tamils have South Indians, the Burghers have the Western powers, the Muslims have Arab Countries, but whom do we have? We must make this Country ours, they thought, and went on to clinch the matter successfully so far uttering lot of falsehoods and stifling proper information about our history coming out.
Many Tamils were scared to point out that the North and East were always Tamil speaking areas. Even if they pointed it out none took them seriously. Even some of our own Tamils thought this is a Sinhala Desa and that they have come here as immigrants during Chola times in the 10th century AD. This was due to paucity of literature about the indigenous Tamils. Now there is plenty of evidence to prove that Tamil speaking people were the original inhabitants of this Island. One of the recent books in English is by Professor Indrapala who now lives in Australia, which he brought out in 2005 which speaks about the antiquity of Tamils and their Language in this Island of ours.
So let me answer your question as follows – I have not consciously sought to provoke anyone. I stated a historical truth. My statement in Parliament has nothing to do with the Provincial Council Election. Hon’ Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Hon’ Wimal Weerawansa and Hon’ Manusha Nanayakkara would like to have me sent back to my Creator even before the Provincial Council Election. I would not like to write any letter saying if anything happens to me one of them would be the culprit since there are lots of others also who would like to give me a release from this life. Que sera sera!
*Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, Member of Parliament