It has been common practice for some years to a have a ceremony on 1 January each year making public servants take an oath swearing to uphold ourselves as one nation committed to our work. That was fine with most of us.
This year some creeps seemed to be at work. This year’s Circular from the Ministry of Public Administration (shown here) seemed innocuous but was sinister in reality. It referred to an oath to be taken. The oath was given on a different sheet of paper for each language. The mischief was that the oaths were different in the Sinhalese and Tamil languages. While the English and Sinhalese seemed innocuous, the Tamil version reflecting the world view of the new government, got employees to swear to being moulded into one ethnic group. It seemed to portend doing with greater vigour that which Sinhalese nationalists are already doing in the North and East: planting Sinhalese, encouraging mixed marriages, etc. through financial rewards. As openly stated by the rabid nationalists including a former presidential candidate in 2010, Tamils are welcome only so long as they agree that this is a Sinhalese country. That is Tamils must agree to be moulded into the same people as the Sinhalese, changing religion and intermarrying. The idea is common to the two big political parties in Sri Lanka.
The English oath said under one flag, but the Tamil oath said under the shadow of one flag. Being under the shadow suggested the usual meaning of being second class citizens under the Sinhalese flag.
The reaction was mixed. In Colombo people just read the oath without even realizing what was going on, like sheep being prepared for slaughter. Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole questioned why the Election Commission put the Tamils working for the Commission through this indignity when an independent commission is not bound by PubAd Circulars. He said he did not attend the ceremony.
In Jaffna, shockingly, the import of the circular went past many unnoticed. Not at the Jaffna municipal Council, however. The Mayor Immanuel Arnold, the municipality coming under Public Administration, went through the motions of participation after deleting the offensive phrases. Some others at the municipality followed this while some Members of the Municipal Council such as N. Lohathayalan refused to attend the ceremony.
At the High Court however, the judge for the Northern province, Annalingam Premshankar, who as a learned judge should have known that he was entitled to throw out a circular that was so clearly wrong, went the other way, the way a court reporter angrily called collaborationist with Rajapaksa racism.
As shown in the photographs, Judge Premshankar organized a grand ceremony with the press invited. Everyone had to sign the oath which had not been required anywhere else. Is a seat on the Court of Appeal the end game wondered a lawyer who was aghast at his servility.
That same lawyer added, “Before we had the burqa ban which was widely implemented until good sense prevailed and the ban was lifted. Today’s incident shows there are several crazy communalists round us who are energized and emboldened by Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election. We the good and sensible people of Sri Lanka need to be vigilant lest we be washed away by the communalist tsunami sweeping away Sri Lanka’s settled way of civilized life.”
For the video of the event at the Jaffna High Court click here (Watch around Minute 14 is the oath swearing to be one race)
(By Arun Gopi Ratnam)