By Rasika Jayakody –
In response to my previous article, titled “Sinhala hooliganism’s partner in crime“, Kanthar Balanathan, a Tamil engineer and one of the close observers of the secessionist struggle in Sri Lanka, made following remarks on Facebook.
“The problem ( Balanathan was referring to the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka) was created by SJVC ( S.J.V Chelvanayagam ) .
If we look at the sequence,
• GGP (G.G. Ponnambalam ) elected to State Council in 1934
• The ACTC ( All Ceylon Tamil Congress) founded in 1944. GGP asked for 50-50% representation, which was an imprudent and thoughtless demand.
• GGP became the Leader of ACTC on 29-08-1944
• SJVC became the Deputy leader in 1944
• SJVC elected to parliament in 1947 (first time)
• Citizenship act passed on 20-08-1948
• Citizenship act became law on 15-11-1948
• FP (Federal Party – ITAK ) was formed on 18-12-1949
• Tamil politicians defined the Tamils as a distinct Nation in 1951
• SLFP formed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake in 1951
It was speculated that SJVC left ACTC and formed his ITAK for power and popularity,over a portfolio issue. There was no reason to form a “Tamil Kingdom Party (TKP)”. If he did not like the system, he should have left politics and gone back to Malaysia.”
Balanathan also made some remarks over the Sinhala Only act.
” Why can’t we study Sinhalese language, when Tamils elsewhere study Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, Indonesian, and Cambodian?
We want every citizen in Sri Lanka to realize that they are “SRI LANKAN” and that is the only race in Sri Lanka. Anyone else who claim they are ( distinctly) “Muslim” or “Tamil”, can go back to wherever they came from.
The British colonised the upcountry with almost more than half a million Tamils from India. This colonisation displaced the inhabitant Sinhalese after 2300 years of living in their own land. Who is going to answer these facts?
Let us forget the past and move forward as Sri Lankan,”
Some of his remarks are emphatic. Some remarks, one might say, are impracticable. Be that as it may, the crux of his argument was that Tamils never wanted a ‘Tamil problem’ in Sri Lanka. It was the politicians who wanted a problem in their quest to attain political power. If the much debated “Sinhala Only” act had some demerits, as I explained in my previous article, corrective measures could have been taken. But the ITAK, led by Chelvanayagam, was never interested in solutions or corrective measures. He only wanted problems and more problems, to be utilized to inflate his communal fire-power.
Chelvanayagam’s first public remark about secession was made even before the primary resolution of the ITAK, passed in 1949. His secessionist motives were clearly visible in the speech he made on the 26th November 1947, exactly seven years before the birth of Velupillai Prabhakaran. S.L. Gunasekera’s study ” Tigers, Moderates and Pandora’s Package” contains a statement by Chelvanayagam which he made moving an amendment to the first Address of Thanks to the ‘Throne Speech’ in the first house of representation. Chelvanayagam said,
“If Ceylon is fighting to secede from the British Empire why should not the Tamil people, if they feel like it, secede from the rest of the country?”
Chelvanayagam’s early remarks directly contradict the claims by LTTE sympathizers that the Tamil problem was created by ‘Sinhala Only Act‘ or subsequent anti-Tamil riots. They elucidate that Chelvanayagam planted the seeds of secession even before Sri Lanka attained independence from the British rule.
There were two factors that pushed Chelvanayagam towards secession. One was a fear that loomed large in his head about the plight of the Tamils in the “independent Ceylon”. Under the British rule, Tamils enjoyed a better position compared to the Sinhalese in the government service etc. Tamils who came from Jaffna had better educational facilities and the British considered them as honest and obedient workers. The percentage of Tamils in the government service was largely disproportionate to the percentage of Tamil population in Sri Lanka. With independence from the British rule, Chelvanayagam realized that the dynamics were shifting. He thought, much to the detriment of the future of Sri Lanka, that secession was the way forward!
He was also influenced by the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu which was in full swing towards the latter half of the 1930s. By this time, Dravidian movement called for a separate state in Tamil Nadu and even went on to urge the British government to govern their “state” as a separate entity, independent from India. Parallel to Chelvanayagam’s claims on secession in Sri Lanka in 1947, Dravida Kazagam movement was also waging their separatist political struggle in India.
This crystallizes the fact that Chelvanayagam, who was considered as the apostle of non violence, played a pivotal role in triggering a three decade long war that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. However, at a point where Sri Lanka celebrates the fourth anniversary of the war victory, one might ask whether it is necessary to initiatea dialogue over the duplicitous conduct of Chelvanayagam who died more than three decades ago. But a better understanding of opportunistic moves and motives of communal politics will help Sri Lanka identify the key problems that hinder the process of national reconciliation in the long run.
One obstacle to national reconciliation at the moment is the dis-engagement policy spawned by communal politics. Many, who express their displeasure over the government’s “failure” to implement LLRC recommendations, turn a blind eye to the dis-engagement policy adopted by the Tamil chauvinism. As long as mythical concepts such as ‘distinct nationality’ and ‘traditional homeland’ rule the roost, it is an insurmountable task to create ‘national reconciliation’. If Sri Lanka is to achieve the much-needed national reconciliation, the only distinct nationality in Sri Lanka should be the ‘Sri Lankan nation’ and the only traditional homeland in Sri Lanka should be nothing but ‘Sri Lanka’. For instance, identification of Tamils as a distinct nationality is detrimental to Muslims as that would make the latter a less-significant nation. In the same way if North and East is identified as the traditional homeland of Tamils, despite myriad historical evidence to the contrary, that would make the Sinhalese and Muslims in the East, two communities that form a sizable proportion of the ethnic composition of the province, orphans in their own lands (not to mention the plight of the Tamils who live outside their ‘traditional homeland’). This line of thinking will certainly sabotage the process of natural reconciliation of which the creation of a Sri Lankan identity plays a role of great importance.
‘Tamil politics’ in Sri Lanka is still based on Thimphu Principles formulated by the Tamil militants in 1985. History has repeated proven that Thimphu principals do not hold any water.
Tamils, who were bruised and battered by the 30 year long war, do not need further complications. They need solutions. On the contrary, the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora at large do not want to see solutions because that will deprive them of their demands and slogans. That is why they are not willing to come out of the communal cage. While pledging that they would ensure self-determination and autonomy for the distinct Tamil nation in the ‘traditional homeland’, they, in the same breath, say that the government has not made any concrete effort towards national reconciliation in the aftermath of war!
Talk about hypocrisy, duplicity and opportunism!!
*Rasika Jayakody is a Sri Lankan journalist who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org