4 December, 2020

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Inter-Ethnic Friendship: Sharing Some Thoughts

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan

Dr. Charles Sarvan

What follows was prompted by Mr Kandappah Appu’s article titled ‘My friend Palitha’ in the Island, 19 June 2020. I am sorry it has reached me so late. Though we have never met, over several years Mr Kandappah has proved to be a very supportive friend. His article was personal and so mine must also be, though that goes very much against my nature. 

I was born Charles S. Ponnuthurai and entered the University of Peradeniya in 1957. At that time, first-year students had to share rooms; thereafter, we had the luxury of single rooms. I suppose it had to do with alphabetical order that my room-mate was Tilak Ponnamperuma, from Elpitiya. (Having graduated, he joined the army and rose to the rank of general.) Through him, I made friends with his friends, all from rural areas in the South. As I once wrote, they were not “Sinhalese friends” but friends who, apart from other far more interesting and important qualities, happened to be Sinhalese Buddhists – even as I happened to be a Tamil. I visited their homes, and was warmly received, even as my mother welcomed them to our home in  Colombo. Indeed, I was so often in the South that a friend from Balapiitiya, Dharmasiri de Zoysa, asserted I wasn’t “Charlie” (as I was known to friends) but “Harlie”, the caste to which he belonged: he claimed me as one of his own. Yet another Sinhalese friend once quoted Charles Lamb to me: “Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother / Why wert not thou born in my father’s dwelling?” In my innocence (innocence sometimes is ignorance) I didn’t realize that what he was actually saying was: “Why were you not born a Sinhalese?” As the poet W B Yeats wrote in ‘The coming of wisdom with time’, during the lying days of his youth, he “swayed” his leaves and flowers in the sun. Now he withers “into the truth”. My Sinhala then, though limited, was idiomatic and, perhaps most important, free of accent. I was often taken to be Sinhalese. I felt (and mistakenly thought) I was a “Ceylonese” with other Ceylonese, though of different ethnic, religious and class groups: unity in diversity.

In 1958, I went to a village not far from Gampaha to help a (Sinhalese) friend re-sit his university examination. To abbreviate matters, the riots of that year saw me sheltering in a police station which was beset by a mob with Buddhist monks at the fore inciting, in the name of the Buddha, most un-Buddhist behaviour. Eventually, I was taken to Royal College which had been turned into a temporary refugee camp. Yet this same friend when, years later, I mentioned the “credo” that all peoples are equal, and should be treated equally and fairly, branded me a racist! This, I must say, is not an unusual ploy, attack being the usual defence. Victims of ‘racism’, when they protest are said to be over-sensitive, to have “a chip on the shoulder”; even to be racists themselves.

I now quote from an article, ‘Racism and Exceptionalism’ first published in the Sunday Leader of 17 January 2010 and included in my Public Writings, Volume 2: True, he’s Tamil but not one of those Tamils in general whom we distrust and dislike; want to expel or subordinate. “He’s a Tamil but not a Tamil Tamil: you know what we mean?” He or she is turned into an exception, serving only to prove the rule, to confirm the generality. Those individuals whose life and conduct confound the racist (or religious) myth and image are made exceptions so that stereotypes, unquestioned and unchallenged, continue to have their justification and existence. In this way, racist attitudes are preserved and perpetuated […] in a mode known as ‘Block thinking’, a varied reality is fused into one indissoluble unit.) So it is that, even those who are suspicious of (if not hostile towards) Tamils in general may have a Tamil friend or friends; socialise, and be of mutual company and help. The contradiction, the inconsistency, is “rationalised” away on the basis of their friend (or friends) being an exception. It’s an almost no-win situation: if you “behave”, you are seen as an individual, made an exception; if you don’t, then not just you, but the entire group is blamed. In the very early 1960s, as a young man in London, I was befriended by an elderly English couple. Once when I asked them whether they ever visited the West End, they reacted with alarm: “Oh no, there are far too many foreigners there!” Having got to know me as a person, they had forgotten that I too was a foreigner, and a non-white at that.

One can perhaps set up three categories, the first consisting of those who are racist in thought and nature. (Often, such individuals and groups, avoiding the opprobrium attached to “racism”, claim they are “nationalists.”) Then there are those from religion and politics who see advantage in stoking, and keeping alive, a negative image of other ethnic groups, religious difference being a component of ethnicity. The third group is made up of those who are not aware of the nature and degree of their prejudice. Here the work of Mahzarin Banaji and other researchers is apposite. Our brain, like a computer, quickly processes data so that we can react, and get on with the business of living. We cannot, in daily life, pause each time and reflect but must “jump to conclusions”. The question, “What role does our implicit association play in our beliefs and behaviour?” led researchers to the Implicit Association Test – a concealed test where the respondents did not realize what was really being tested.  It was found that our attitude to aspects such as “race”, colour and gender operate on two levels. The first is what we (like to) think or believe is our attitude; the second is our unconscious but real attitude, that is, the immediate, automatic, association we make before we have had time to think. We don’t choose to make unfavourable associations with one group, but it is very difficult to avoid doing so if that group (or contrasting object or category) is frequently, if not constantly, paired negatively with another. Indeed, it was found that even those discriminated against could come to share in this negative association. For example, it was found that people of colour who took the Race Implicit Association Test (Race IAT) in the USA had stronger associations with whites than with those of their own skin-colour. An Implicit Association test conducted on a sample of Sinhalese on attitudes to Tamils (as on those with a white or fair skin-colour) will be revelatory, illumining and sobering. (End of quote).

When young, I was advised not to discuss religion or politics with friends who belonged to a different group for then one ran the risk of damaging or destroying friendship. But of what value, I wonder, is a friendship if what is most important, most ‘immediate’, in life cannot be discussed? Isn’t language the most important tool we have for communicating our thoughts and feelings; our wishes and fears? Yet few Tamils talk with Sinhalese friends about ethnicity, the elephant in the sitting-room of their daily lives. Perhaps they feel embarrassed, even ashamed. It would be insensitive and tactless, even impolite. It would do no good, contribute nothing that’s positive. Beside what can that friend do faced with a thick, sharp and seemingly impenetrable wall of thorns? So silence reigns; awareness and understanding are not created and things go on as before, only worse. If Tamils don’t speak, can Sinhalese friends be reproached for not hearing? Nelson Mandela in his autobiography says that feelings of ‘race’ are far more potent than those of class. Many a socialist has become with time a racist. To use a Biblical analogy, for every hate-filled and violent Saul who becomes a peaceful Paul, many a socialist Paul becomes a racist Saul – and is proud of the conversion! John Griffin, a white journalist, temporarily changed himself into a black man in order to experience how it was to be African in the USA. The resulting book, ‘Black Like Me’ was published in 1961. Tamils can’t expect Sinhalese to assume Tamil or Muslim identity but something like a “You as me” (empathy) can be attempted through communication in friendship.  

Professor Sarah Churchwell in an article titled, ‘Moonlight and magnolias: The fictions that sustained the American South’ (New Statesman, 21 – 27 August 2015, pp. 34 – 37) deals with Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ pointing to the novel’s fallacy “that systematic racism could be solved by the compassionate actions” of a few noble individuals. “This is the consolatory promise of individualism, that the nation can be redeemed collectively by isolated instances of benign action”. It is so also with all acts of personal succour and kindness rendered to victims during times of group-persecution. Sri Lankans know that during anti-Tamil riots, including the ghastly pogrom of 1983, there were instances of Sinhalese who risked themselves and their families to give shelter to Tamil neighbours and friends. While such actions are highly meritorious, Churchwell points out that a few white men standing up for Native Americans did not alter the latter’s History; the injustice, tragedy and suffering that befell them. Much as we would wish it were otherwise, History and a people cannot be “redeemed collectively” by the “benign action” of a few individuals (Churchwell). Such individual action redeems only the individual and not the group.

And yet friendship (of all kinds) enriches life in several ways. But if friendship is to have real depth and meaning, vital aspects of existence must not be ignored and passed over in silence. Wilfred Owen in his poem ‘Strange meeting’ writes: “Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.” If I have a hurt that’s not visible and I don’t mention it, how can my friend know I am in pain? But it will be counter-productive if one were to be accusatory, or even reproachful: the intention must only be to communicate; to share experience and the consequences of that experience. Accusation almost invariably spawns counter-accusation. Such exchanges generate much heat (emotion) but little light (understanding). And it is not only a matter of one talking but also of listening to the other; of seeking to understand – with patience, and a truly open and honest mind. It’s not only a matter of being understood but of oneself understanding. What is urged is frank communication between friends so that friendship gains depth and becomes truly friendship. While etymologically the word ‘companion’ means a person with whom we have shared bread (com + pane), ‘friend’ means much more including not only closeness and affection but also understanding.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Sadly politics on all sides disrupted ethnic harmony.

    US election is interesting. I can’t breath event and other similar events triggered an angry backlash from the largest minority. It was sold to the majority as a threat which galvanized majority support to Trump.

    If you remember Rajapaksas did the same in 2009 and 2014. Succeeded in 2010 but failed in 2015. They will definitely do in 2024 too.

    • 9
      2

      My dear friends,
      :
      I have a dream to see tamils, sinhalese, muslims and others be together to the manner … the following video will show u its reality…
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef0P_-tcX2k

      Once all oldies are died out and new generations would only focus on the SRILANKENNESS.. this country would be the best place in the world, no doubt.

      • 9
        1

        There are inter marriages between Sinhala and Tamil couples going back to many years.
        In some marriages both the families get on well and accommodate the couple.

        There are some cases where the couples have the flee the country because either the Tamil family did not accept or the Sinhala family did not accept the son in law or daughter in law which ever the case may be.

        I think the new generation is very open minded.

        I had lots of Sinhala friends who come home and specially on Fridays have traditional home made Dosa dinner.
        we revise together for exams.

        we never looked through the telescope of ethnicity even to this dya

      • 13
        2

        LM@
        Like the Author, having lived in the period pre1956, I quite understand and see the shift in attitudes. I believe it was in 1956 (the year I entered the University of Colombo), that prompted the chaos with political interference in education policy. In our times in school, there were no “this that and the other” (Sinhalese Tamils Muslims Burghers), but together each having one period of the vernacular but conversing in common language English with a few words of any other lingo thrown in. Like Machan etc. to add flavour. Early education period of a child can warp thinking processes.
        Fortunately, in the Uni these differences never came into play as we were already conditioned to be brothers and to this day our friendships continue in contentment and joy. As a Sinhalese, I am proud that when I married, the bestman was my Tamil friend, who continues to be my all-weather friend. Later he married a Sinhalese and is very happy with children and grandchildren.
        Then segregation into Sinhala Tamil streams in education divided the races into two different blocks and planted discord. Mental ideas of difference of Tamil/Sinhalese got lodged in the brain fuelled by politicians’ rhetoric.

        • 9
          3

          Ferryman,
          .
          Thank you so much !!!… Even if Eagle EYE aka ULTRA RACIST of CT forum (octagenarian) and Ms Pasquale (sexagenarian) branded me as
          being a tamil no means a sinhalaya…. i was born to an original sinhala family that produced prominent monks to srilanka… incl late rev. WALPOLA rahula. As everyone down there, I was also born into BUDDHAGAMA (which I believe is not real buddhism ). And I grew up in that culture upto I left the country for europe. Even as a young teenager, I always thought, anyone born to srilanken soil should be connected with equal rights. I stood against my relatives being against MUSLIMS and TAMILs. They treated them as foreigners.. and keeping them always above….. this is really racial looking back… to my surprise, our people deliberately ignore it yet today to see it right… they should all see them in a mirror…
          Since my thoughts and minds were not a match with my family and lanken society I stayed back in Europe after my education, even though I thought of returning to home country later, but now I made my mind up thinking, no purpose of going back to my roots, since a bunch of extremists/ultra sinhala racists returned to power today inorder to continue their loot… this happened not by its own but with the direct mediation of the VOTERs of the masses.:::

          • 3
            0

            Yes.They should all see themselves in a mirror.
            We come crying into this world with a blank memory. Then in the formative years, ideas are formed as gathered from the environment, each depending on what parents elders and others around put into it. The prejudices implanted early stick in us, unless as you grow up you think for yourselves. This can be by having schools without religious and ethnic bias as we had, to show that everyone is a brother in the karmic cycle. You will be judged on how you relate to everyone else in school.
            Schools should teach the children early to put oneself in the others shoes and realise it is the accident of birth that differentiates ‘YOU’ and ‘THEM’.
            Unfortunately, SL has travelled in the wrong direction so long, that unless there is a cataclysmic occurrence or Herculean effort by the people, can they reverse direction, what with the multitude of schools and political parties each with a religious or ethnic label, holding the populace in their grips.

            • 2
              1

              Dear Mr Ferryman,

              Thanks, my wish is to see more of you the kind of senior citizens, educated seniors of this country would finally wake up from their long slumber… today generations would not care much about anything. Did you notice that I happened to add you guys a link on ” sinhala song- composed on ferry accident on Nilwala river, the manner today s youth reated on the song”..?
              .. song text was all about “mini goda galanawa- asayi bayai”; but young girls and boys on the stage were dancing to the baila song of Anton jones…. that would reveal the deteriorating levels fo the society as of today… I ddont find young ones being as such, but those media institutions, should be banned if at all we are to promote good culture to srialnka. Maha sanga stays as if they are only to support vicious poltiicians being their the FLOWER decorations of the political parades. Their role played a crucial role inthe past, but today, it has become to teh same ” superstar levels”: Those cheewaradariyas and media are to be blamed for the appalling levels of the society of the day.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNd6sZ5cZZo

        • 2
          0

          In fairness to history, the culmination of Sinhala Only in 1956 and hence divisional notions which became very much of an issue, had a background of 17 years before that.
          Seeds of division started as far back as 1939 when GG.Ponnambalam sought to seek 50-50 creating a situation of “minority rule over majority” thinking in State Council days, the seeds germinating in bloodshed finally. All are to blame for not sharing the cake that was Ceylon then, by mutual trust and consensus.

          • 0
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            Sorry divisive (not divisional).

        • 2
          0

          Dear Ferryman,
          .
          I read most of this more than 24 hours ago; Prof. Sarvan and you are of a somewhat earlier vintage. I agree with you about how wonderful everything was in our salad days, but wasn’t that all in a society that was somewhat feudalistic?
          .
          Most of what has been said about our being educated together has a class bias. We had no notion of what it was like in the schools that were referred to as “vernacular”.
          .
          Those who attended those schools had low expectations regarding social mobility. They were content with their lot. The changes were possibly too fast, and all of us could have done much more to ensure that there are fewer monolinguals in our community.
          .
          Prof. Sarvan befriended guys from different “ethnic’ backgrounds – but that was in the University, entering which was proof that you had “made it”. These were all persons who faced the future with confidence.
          .
          Having worked in State Schools, I’m conscious of how much we have failed to reach out to groups different from ours. Also we have all lived during a period when populations swelled, technological developments have caused interpersonal barriers to fall – and there have been the political manipulations.

          • 2
            0

            The problems were caused by sudden changes in education policy and “Sinhala in 24 hours”. Wherever sudden changes are made or occur, there are countervailing forces acting. Instead, doing anything gradually gives time to adjust if things are not going correctly.
            It is the same in Nature. Sudden storms and rain cause havoc. But if the weather changes gradually, destruction is least.
            Success was achieved by Singapore gradually, by changing directions of social behaviour and adjusting to changes like racial issues of Malay Chinese Tamil.
            Admitting that there was a need to change so as to meet new challenges, as in SM your last para, the cure should have come gradually.
            You cannot build Rome in a day.

            • 1
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              Thank you Ferryman.

              How the Sinhala only policy was implemented please? is it a more overnight event or a more structured event?? Is their any commentors who can substantiate this please through fact checking??

          • 3
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            S_ M
            When you think of your ‘good old days’ it would be helpful to keep this in the background:
            SL population
            1950….7,678,000
            1960….9,890,000
            1970…12,516,000
            1980… 14,750,000
            1990…16,990,000
            2000…19,238,600
            2010…21,026,000
            AND
            SL land area remained the same with much reduced forest cover.
            Say thank you, Soma.

            • 0
              0

              Thank you, Soma.
              .
              Now, if we were to survey the “development of homo sapiens” from the time they first emerged, from their first hunter-gatherer days:
              .
              I won’t try to provide exact data, but for millions of years, a few humans co-existed with Nature, doing little damage.
              .
              Humans got “civilised”, and numbers grew – from the time of the pyramids, the Greeks, the Romans (even I’m too Eurocentric, as you see).
              .
              Population began to really take off after about 1800 A.D. at an ever faster rate – there’ll be plenty of line graphs showing this. Life expectancy increased, birth rates remained about the same. Upto about 1960, every woman tended to have between 5 and 10 children -and all those children survived into adulthood.
              .
              This is reflected in the figures you gave for Sri Lanka. Had you gone back much further, when would you have had only a million on this island? May have been around 1800.
              .
              I used to teach only English – but one had to provide meaningful content. Whenever I said that sort of thing, genuine puzzlement by students. One thirty-year-old had died the previous week, but their 70-year-old “Seeya” was still hale and hearty.

            • 1
              0

              Thank you Soma.

              (1) What we need is a graph showing all the (milestones that FP/TULF stated based on their self proclaimed leadership & their policies/actions) vs (population growth/breakdown) vs number of each segment of our communities died since Independence.

              (2) We need to map all the self proclaimed Tamil Leaders and their connections around the world/interest specially financial historically throughout the graph period above.

              (3) If the above graph is conjested then a same scale graph showing each community share of the National opportunities/poverty eradication/opportunity through good policy making vs population breakdown and growth.

              (4) Footnote to explain each milestone/FP & TULF actions from formation of the parties to date.

              (5) Draw conclusions & discussions.

              The above scope should be assigned to our sociology/political science/anthropology/history students of each university and ask them to do a research work and list all the references too.

              Then we as a Nation sit-down and analyse and compare the discrepancies between each group work.

              This should be part of the Presidential Taskforce scope who will be assigned to come up with some serious PR exercise to unite our Children and net work them fromNorth to South and East to West.

              • 1
                0

                The same should done for Muslim politics/JVP politics/GOSL politics.

                This will help us evaluate crimes/criminals, National planning for any GOSL to come, lessons learned, security measures and Nation security planning etc

                • 1
                  0

                  Each MP’s historical politics vs deliverable list vs milestone vs progress report to produced. Their surgery activities and reporting to be evaluated.

                  This will help us come up with a “job specification” for all the elected and this should parked under various “committees” who will do a telecasted investigation/scrutinising of parties/MP’s/Ministers/private enterprises/LG elect etc on behalf of the voting public.

      • 2
        2

        Sadly the new generation has intense anti-Muslim sentiments that was not there a few decades ago. Islam will be the largest minority creed in SL so it is important people have harmony.

        Extermination of LTTE helped bridge Sinhala and Tamil unity. But come an election what USA did will happen in SL once again. Otherwise there is no way of winning elections for some. It didn’t happen in 1956. No one killed minorities to win elections! US has set a very bad example.

        • 0
          0

          The time is now 3.30 a.m. on Friday,the 6th – probably about forty hours after your comment, GATAM. Still no idea of how the election of the next POTUS will turn out, although Biden is now favoured.
          .
          The system of government there is clearly unsatisfactory. And almost impossible to change, although I wonder how Nebrska and Maine adopted a more rational system only very recently.
          .
          Two articles on Colombo Telegraph deal with it. This came first:
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/why-the-world-is-counting-on-a-biden-victory/
          .
          I made lots of observations on ethnic relations in Sri Lanka in terms of subtle corruption tobeseen there.
          .
          The second, sent post haste from HongKong to London by Prof Kumar David, written when the outcome seemed depressing. Remarkable, isn’t it? All readers here probably agree that Trump is odious.
          .
          But there was one person who told me something different. “Good for Sri Lanka if Trump wins because Biden’s running mate is Tamil.” Much that is wrong with education – and “Twitter” seems to cater to the needs of such minds.

        • 0
          0

          GATAM
          Minorities killing minorities like the Easter bomb?

          Soma

      • 2
        1

        Dear LM
        The average more importantly the majority of the Sinhalese population are kind hospitable, humane and peace loving souls. I have many a tale to narrate on this matter. On anther day and time perhaps sooner than later, time and mood permitting
        Its only the power mad politicos who are hell bend on divide and rule dictum. It is sad though but it is the reality
        Please keep up the good work and keep the SRILANKANESS afloat. Don’t leave the sinking ship. There is still life left for all of us in the land of DHARMA

        • 1
          0

          Dear, good RN and I exchanged greetings many years ago.
          .
          What you talk about has been said by Prof. Sarvan in his penultimate paragraph, starting with Harper Lee’s hero, Atticus Finch. Individual kindness when faced with a crisis is insufficient. All undone by larger evils relating to legislation – see the gay abandon with which we tamper with constitutions.
          .
          I hope that this won’t be resented: all comments so far have been constructive, but are they by “average Sri Lankans”? No.
          .
          Royal College: SJ; STPS, Colpetty – Soma; Trinity College (probably) Lasantha Pethiyagoda, and big surprise, STC, Gurutalawa (now in the doldrums, although still private) Prof. Sarvan (in her glory days) and Ferryman (from deductions drawn!), myself, and my classmate Rajan Hoole.
          .
          I think that we could “explain” most ofthe others, too. Where are those who studied at Ambegoda Vidyalaya (other side of my hill – where are the pupils of Dhiloraj Canagasabey’s mother-in-law taught English with great dedication around 1970?)
          .
          Prof. Sarvan has written about “Estate Schools”. I have visited them, and the State-run Vidyalayas. Have we developed “friendships” with them? Even if “yes”, insufficient.

          • 3
            0

            Dear S-M
            Nice to hear from you
            Yes we are living in interesting and same time difficult and dangerous times with despots in power all over the globe. This they say is KAIYUG
            Yes its a pity that elements within our elements are a grave danger to humanity.
            But I am certain humanity will survive all the trials and tribulations no doubt

            I Have a brief comment on R. Liyanage’s essay . please if you have a moment visit
            her comprehensive and well researched essay

            PS
            If you are on WhatsApp and willing , please get in touch on my email id
            rknrajah@gmail.com or visit http://www.Kasinfoundation.com
            A good friend from here in UK Tim Pare has started a worth while project in Maskeliya and Nuweraelia. Please visit http://www.Tealeat Trust web site

            • 2
              0

              Part2
              Yes people are great in SL are great in name dropping of schools and people
              RW wanted to Know ONLY Royals and Royalist. Remember Arjuna of Central Bank and others famous and not so famous and notorious souls, of course
              For my sins or glory had all my ,Primary, Secondary and Higher educations in Catholic Schools and Colleges.
              St. Thomas College Matale was my last and higher education College They were very good institutions before the nationalisation of schools under SLFP in the Sixties
              RN

            • 1
              0

              Thanks, dear Nadarajah, (“Ratnam” was your father, correct? See, even in such a simple matter as addressing you by name, I have to work things out because of conventions as superficial as systems for naming infants! The now dominant “European system” demands “surnames from us. Haven’t you noticed Tamils – mainly Hindus – and Sinhalese with “ge” names adjusting in not always consistent ways. That is not dishonesty; our “confused” but not unintelligent responses.)
              .
              I will get in touch with you. We don’t want to be swamped with the meaningless contacts suggested for us on Facebook. I recently, carefully, put Prof. Sarvan in touch with “Wanigs” (the cohort nickname – in a school where the Upper-class British system of not using first names prevailed. It disappeared when the last Britisher died there in 1964) whom he hadn forgotten for close upon seventy years. It is only such “small-scale” changes that individuals can effect.
              .
              Youngsters reading this, don’t be afraid to tell me in a comment that you don’t understand! Red and green thumbs can be ambiguous. There’s nothing “dishonest” in all this. Even Victorian Tennyson said “the old order changeth”. No, that is what is desirable. If your mind doesn’t contribute the continuation of that poem, I won’t be communicating what I wished to!

  • 5
    1

    “they were not “Sinhalese friends” but friends”. That is a good one.

    Then again, “He’s a Tamil but not a Tamil Tamil”

    Marxists speak about contradictions – antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions.

    The classical Marxism defines, The contradictions between classes as antagonistic contradictions that could be resolved only through a class struggle whereas differences like ethnic, racial are only non- antagonistic that could be settled peacefully.

    But reality had shown that ethnic and racial differences are much more deep rooted and often violence breaks out among them to resolve or to teach a lesson.

    Yes, these differences are much more complex, but very natural much more natural than class differences. –very pessimistic outlook,but reality.

    The minorities are lesser humans!

  • 9
    1

    Prof. Sarvan,
    I joined JP Hall at Peradeniya in Oct. 1967, ten years after you entered the University. I did not feel the alienness across the communal divide that you did. Perhaps some kind of separateness had become more accepted than in your time. But 1956 was a very sensitive year as I gather from Nadesan’s speeches in the Senate. At the time of the ’58 violence he observes that despite the unconscionable attacks on Tamils there was hardly any Sinhalese holding high office in political, educational or religious life to condemn the violence and express regret.
    On the contrary there were, he says, senior Tamil citizens who went out on to the street in Jaffna to tell Tamils to desist from violence against Sinhalese, even if their success was varied. The atmosphere of ’56 is also captured by how Selvi Perinpanayagam who scored several centuries for Royal was denied the award of schoolboy cricketer of the year, although placed first by selectors from the umpires association, because he was a Tamil. By then things were looking ugly. Perhaps at the time I entered we had quietly learnt to negotiate differences, often by leading separate lives. However, I was openly then a supporter of the Federal Party at school (STC) and at University and had frank arguments with Sinhalese friends, but they were civilised.

  • 9
    3

    Before talking about “inter ethnic friendship” its important to evaluate the law makers of SL’s mental capacity, sincerity and their commitment to their own flock . Looking at 20A voting, the Muslim politicians of SLMC, the single Tamil Politician and Diana Gamage who is supposed to be the owner of the SJB party voting against their own party decisions to support 20A for personal benefits, its clear that they have become “Traitors” to their own flock. Further “slimy” politicians – Ali Sabry (once supporting burial now supporting cremation), G L Pieris who supported a completely different stand on the amendment when he was with SLFP, Wijedasa Rajapakse, Vidura Wickremanayake, Yuthukama foul mouth leader, Dayasiri, Vasudeva, Gammanpilla and Wimal Weerawansa all collectively were saying different stories regarding 20A, at the end fell at the feet of Gotabaya and voted for 20A. Hence, its clear that SL “monkey and slimy” politicians should be reformed to be honest to their own flock first. Will this ever happen? Unless the politicians are honest there will be no inter ethnic friendship leave alone harmony will ever be seen in this country.

  • 7
    1

    Popular politics plays hell with inter-ethnic relationships..it is in the long term interests of popular politicians to keep a healthy distance between communities, to be exacerbated close to elections..and the stupid masses are now conditioned to see the enemy created by these political vermin than recognize their real enemy, the manipulative politician..

  • 3
    2

    Dear Dr Saravan

    Thank you for sharing your personal exposure/experience and the respective interpretaion of the said events to narrate the Sinhala/Tamil relationship.

    Just as so many Sri Lankans I have now extensively travelled/lived/worked from Western/Asian/America/Mideast countries they all have the same stories to tell us if not worse. Many of them managed matters without generalising them nor did they interpret and taken matters to new heights done by the FP/TULF. A common denominator been their for every Tamil misery that you have rightfully stated as riots etc.

    If you lived in “Ratha Pottu Mafia 1970-1977-1981 killing fields in Jaffna” you will question/revise all your experiences/analysis/conclusions I am absolutely sure about that. it is a shame we have not put this on the records to date or the records that exist have the same Mafia spin and interpretation on it unless you lived through what I have been through you will not see that.

    The hate was built on FP interpretation of things as we started to administer ourselves. Sri Lankans Tamils were never in any equation of hate until FP introduced us to that correlation.

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      Starting with the Citizens act 1948…if this is not a Micky taking of another mans space am not sure what else is..then the Sinhala only act much later in 1956 onwards. If both these does not put you on the hate list as the FP now self appointed themselves as a Tamil Custodians over and beyond the National boundaries and set out to make this global issue conniving with the Tamils Nadu…as am sure TN would have seen as FP talking care of Indian Tamil interest who would blame them.

      The reality was different where in the post Independent Ceylon that required the elected to focus on their respective constituent needs……..the absurd interpretation of being an elected MP to pursue National agendas not affecting their respective electorate one has to now revise and analyse socially ion you are interested in Tamil peoples betterment?? SJV and his mates had the opportunity as free citizens of SL to represent the Indian Tamil in upcountry….they did not speaks volumes.

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        Caste issue in Jaffna where I grew up would have given any social/community interested party more than enough to battle for rest of their life’s so this FP mafia choose something very soft so far away that was remotely the interest of a Jaffna man to pursue their life style/wish list that you only had to follow Suthenthiran paper to understand…all that is undemocratic/non factual/against the law and hate monkeying was through this party paper.

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        Dear Thiagarajah Venugopal
        It looks like that we are in the same age group. May be I am wrong
        Yes as a youngster growing up in Sri Lanka in the mid Fifties I can remember the aforesaid events and narratives
        . Thanthai as he was known, the leader of the FP. I met him in 1956, Schooling at St.John Boscos Hatton , when I accompanied my late father to get an autograph from SJC, in Devon Estate Patana which was senior Thondaman’s tea estate. I have reasons to believe that , SJC also owned tea estate(s) Palmerston Talawakelle.

        That aside I can concur with with your sentiment well articulated above.
        Here we are in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, have we moved any further forward. Sadly no is the firm answer. These politicians and so called leaders of people are so parochial and little minded that there is no known cure. No panacea
        This goes for the Upcountry leaders of the past and the present. No two words about it. Their policy seems always to be divisive and not to be counted
        What hope do we have for the future of Sri Lanka. Being a born optimist , there is still some hope I HOPE
        Ratnam Nadarajah

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          Dear RN Sir

          Thank you for sharing. I am born 1963.

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            Dear RN Sir

            Not enough reference was even made of the fact Late Hon SJV and Late Hon SWRD studied and grew up together too?

            FP story telling has completely made a mockery of the facts vs fiction. then they have made this fiction into history too.

            If we were lost what chances then our next generation has when we are gone?

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            Dear TV
            Thanks, and sorry I assumed wronglly, to be in my age group. I was born almost a decade before. So I am an old man
            comparatively speaking
            I appreciate your integrity of expression and fearless of the opposition
            We need more fair minded souls in this insane world and testing times
            RN

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              Dear Sir

              You look no further… from Jaffna (North) /Tamil Nadu/Upcountry/East of SL mostly Tamil areas since Independence ruled by a handful of people and one party rule mostly.

              When change came in the form of much needed enlightenment amongst people in 70’s wanted alternative then came the guns/thuggery etc.

              Same trend in Malaysia and other foreign spaces too.

              Then you read the Tamil news papers and the type of headlines sucks all over the world is the same….we run one party rules in democracies and want to file cases against 20a?? no one makes a better fool out of us than ourselves?

              All the problems exist in this Tamil community world over to this outdated form because (1) Bollywood not allowing people to mentally develop (2) Politicians find it easier to run Mafia shows under this cover infects all else around it too

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                Dear TV
                I couldn’t put in more forcefully and succinctively than you have said above. Please bear with me for a moment:
                I was standing on the platform at Fort railway station in August 1970 waiting to board the Podi Manikai. A well dressed older gentleman standing close smiled at me and I responded back and enquired is he waiting to go to Kandy. There started our brief but memorable conversation. It transpired that he was Tamil from Kopai and a board member of a fairly large organisation. He said I double Quote here
                “Thaumbi, Sinhala man needn’t kill our people but our OWN People will ruin US all”
                End of quote
                There you are Venu, this is our brief history, I can go on and on but CT readers have no stomach for same. Besides there are more burning issues to consider

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    So one to continue their lifestyle someone had to feed them (just as I do to some ignorent trolls/souls in the CT too) so they propagated all that was a considerate admin be it not so perfect as we were all learning on the job we reached the milestone of 1970. All that took place thereafter I hope you will get to find even before the “war” taken to the Armed forces of Sri Lanka. If you live in a bubble of some books wrote by the Tamil experts on Sinhala crimes am sorry you are not even a Tamil I dare say…because I grew up in a household that eat/breath all our peoples problems in a developing country 24/7/365.

    Please find out what happened to the Sinhala family who was running the bakery in Karainagar for a stater…I will leave that to your referencing.

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    So please do not glossover things and make irrational conclusions based on personal events…..I have been the victims of all kind of crimes…in all the places from Vaddukottai to all over the world and most of the crimes came from Tamil speaking of the respective countries too ++ all other racial prejudices…even after all the racial riots where I lost few neighbours in Karainagar came home in body bags during the riots I find to hard to draw the conclusion you have drawn that is to generalise all with exceptions…if you think I am wrong speak to all the Tamils who lived during the war and currently living after the war and refusing to return to Jaffna may just give you the required substances for a different conclusion from your experiences. I agree with RH Sir his comment above.

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    Being a fellow man is also earned status just as we do around the world when we apply for citizenship..specially in a newly born country we are all learning to live with each other is when the educated Tamils show (majority uneducated Tamils had nothing to do with this except drawn in to this misery by the FP folly) they are keen on helping the Sinhalese in all areas possible…so we lost the trust collectively because maybe there are plenty of Suthenthiran sister papers in Sinhala media too would have spit venom on the FP position that always looked to undermine the Sinhalese need to be equal with others too.

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    Race relations is quite a sensitive topic.
    Friendship might enable us to overlook the antipathy between the two communities.
    The good relationship between individuals might continue, but between communities it has got widened over time.
    Is the gap reversible?
    Your guess is as good as mine!

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      N
      “Friendship might enable us to overlook the antipathy between the two communities.”
      *
      The diaspora of both communities have their own imagined notions of antipathy.
      Despite the war, during and after it, Sinhalese and Tamils have been able to live next to each other.
      Anything similar would be unimaginable in Belgium. The bitterness towards rival communities is personal in several European countries.
      There is something civilized about our inter-community relations, and that is despite the political leaders and not because of religious leaders.
      Let us work on it.

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        TQ SJ.

        “Despite the war, during and after it, Sinhalese and Tamils have been able to live next to each other”.

        (1) If the FP/TULF/TNA wanted to be a force for change as some of the current stewards such as Hon Sumanthiran shouldn’t be dragged into old day politics of their party leaders they would have capitalised on this but they did not ???

        (2) GSOL accommodated TNA just as they did with JVP speaks volumes…..even an opposition leaders seat.

        (3) This is when you show leadership one ever had one in the first place??

        (4) The NPC did not need to be perfect but one would have stood shoulder to shoulder with Hon MR then and delivered all that is outstanding for the Northern landscaper the past 50 years? The armed forces under Hon MR did more work together things in order in the Northern landscape as Tamil youth started loitering around with no productive activity for them?? they started leaving for work in many countries under TNA in Jaffna since the end of war?? or ended up courts/police custody repeatedly….I know because I have spoken to many of them in Malaysia too. Then our Hon Jaffna Judge get fired upon too???

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    Dear Thiagarajah Venugopal
    It looks like that we are in the same age group. May be I am wrong
    Yes as a youngster growing up in Sri Lanka in the mid Fifties I can remember the aforesaid events and narratives
    . Thanthai as he was known, the leader of the FP. I met him in 1956, Schooling at St.John Boscos Hatton , when I accompanied my late father to get an autograph from SJC, in Devon Estate Patana which was senior Thondaman’s tea estate. I have reasons to believe that , SJC also owned tea estate(s) Palmerston Talawakelle.

    That aside I can concur with with your sentiment well articulated above.
    Here we are in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, have we moved any further forward. Sadly no is the firm answer. These politicians and so called leaders of people are so parochial and little minded that there is no known cure. No panacea
    This goes for the Upcountry leaders of the past and the present. No two words about it. Their policy seems always to be divisive and not to be counted
    What hope do we have for the future of Sri Lanka. Being a born optimist , there is still some hope,
    I HOPE
    Ratnam Nadarajah

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      Dear RN Sir

      I am of the believe we should allow our people to think for themselves once again based on the facts we provide to them to analyse.

      Our folks I mean the entire Sri Lankans never had a chance since Independence to evaluate matters for themselves.

      (1) It is because we are a developing country and needed time to develop skills to analyse so be educated voters to choose their wishes/representation in the Nations parliament.

      (2) Most of the time since Independence the so called “representatives” running around in their own bubble (a) sincerely want to help (b) learning on the job so they can be helpful (c) some were damn right abusive that they felt the British Inheritance they had should be guarded for themselves and all use of language or religion was just a vehicle (d) For those who want to do good the category (c) was a hurdle/burden because of the non corporation is one think but then to fabricate all the good intentions into fake news was even harder specially when you have very innocent souls trying to feed their family.

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        (3) For example up North then people like my Father and Hon Alfred Thuriappa and many others try to change this criteria by challenging the existing FP order alone become a life threatening event?? then what are the chances for an average man to make them heard? eventually this thuggery was exposed however people were left destitute/limbo losing their children to the same folly – for me party politics is different I respect all those who differ in their thoughts as to what the solutions are etc always given but not even able to analyse matters democratically exposed the same to be dictators?? They themselves were the victims to their own making sone thing then to take all others with them is a no go territory? then unable to come forward/acknowledge failures and let others do the work and support them shows the extent of this duplicity/evil??

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          Therefore the war affected people throughput the land need some time get their thinking together away from the war loads??

          I really think we still have an opportunity but India should vacate Jaffna/be a good neighbour by protecting territorial integrity using their own Navy and resources, 13 should never be discussed and we go about starting all over and build the Nation from scratch.

          People of India should have a harmonious relationship with Sri Lanka and her citizens vis a vis etc.

          We do have the current GOSL and the Military to give that space to the masses to do just that…and am sure all future GOSL will enjoy this laying the ground work/foundation for their creative/du diligent contribution to Nation building.

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