By R. Hariharan –
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is neither a stranger to the inner circle of New Delhi polity nor an unfamiliar personality in the North Block. However, during the last one year his profile has undergone a welcome make over. The fortunes of this seasoned political leader, known more for his failures than successes in his repeated forays for power, pulled a political coup of sorts. In league with Maithripala Sirisena, another political veteran though from the opposition, he thwarted former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s bid for power twice!
The duo defeated Rajapaksa’s electoral bid for a third term as president in January and seven months later they outsmarted Rajapaksa’s attempt to comeback to power using his loyalists in the seemingly more powerful coalition – the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), in the recently held general election.
As a result Prime Mininister Wickremesinghe now enjoys power with a public endorsement of his political agenda twice within a year. Despite political obstacles the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena duo had made some progress in living up to the expectations of the public. Their promises include increasing the accountability of the executive president to the parliament, empowerment of the prime minister and cleaning up the administration of corruption and cronyism. Their work done so far, though still not completed, has restored Sri Lanka’s credibility which was eroded both at home and abroad by former president Rajapaksa’s autocratic style of governance.
Wickremesinghe is heading a national alliance government, the first since 1977, in which the ruling United National Party (UNP) and the main opposition the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have come together. This has increased the chances of promoting a national agenda to focusing on development in an environment of unity, peace and harmony. Former president Rajapaksa, failed to do just that despite his singular success in getting rid of the LTTE once and for all. He frittered away five years of peace that followed the military victory in May 2009 by focusing on strengthening his support base. As a result the socio-political environment was vitiated by acrimony, distrust, religious and ethnic polemics and strife.
This has increased the chances of the present government making further progress in its reform agenda despite the widespread cynicism in the political milieu. But Wickremesinghe would be more confident than ever before when he visits New Delhi today for the first time after becoming prime minister.
There is a lot of convergence between the leadership in India and Sri Lanka in their outlook than before. Wickremesinghe’s agenda to correct Sri Lanka’s tilt towards China after Rajapaksa had succumbed to its “fatal” charm in the areas of strategic security and trade was one such area. So it was not surprising to find the Ranil- Maithripala duo welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s renewed efforts to build a broadened and enduring relationship with Sri Lanka when he visited the island nation some months back. They reciprocated his desire to get rid of other kinks in the relations between the two countries that had appeared during the earlier regime. This makes the Sri Lankan leader’s New Delhi visit a special one as Sri Lanka government probably enjoys greater credibility in the corridors of North Block than Rajapaksa ever did.
Both Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena have also shown their readiness to act upon the concerns of both India and the West including the US, which were dealt with superficially during ten years of Rajapaksa rule. These issues are sure to be included in Modi-Wickremesinghe talks even if they are not aired in public due to national sensitivity over some of them in both countries.
Both India and the West were irritated by Rajapaksa’s ploy to twist their concerns over his government’s dismal human rights record during and after the ethnic conflict to whip up Sinhala nationalism and encourage xenophobia for his political advantage. Similarly, he distorted their insistence on resuming the political dialogue process with Tamil polity to resolve their long standing demand for equity with Sinhala majority as encouragement to Tamil separatism.
This had created problems for India as its negative fallout in Tamil Nadu politics adversely affected the fortunes of successive governments in New Delhi. This had cramped India’s efforts to meaningfully contribute to build a win-win relationship with Sri Lanka. This weakness was exploited by China to enter Sri Lanka in a big way.
Though the coalition era has ended in New Delhi, ethnic amity in Sri Lanka will continue to influence India’s policy not only due to its impact on Tamil Nadu politics, but also in the interest of national security. India and Sri Lanka are geographically too close to each other making their national security interests complimentary than contentious. This makes it necessary for them to build a mutually reinforcing relationship, notwithstanding their unequal sizes and strengths.
Political dispensation for Sri Lanka Tamils will continue to remain one of lynchpins to progress India-Sri Lanka realtions. The Wickremesinghe government had tried to break the impasse in resuming the dialogue process with Tamils within the ambit of 13th Amendment (13A) to the Constitution which is supported by India. However, it will be politically difficult for the Sri Lanka government to grant land and police powers envisaged in the 13A to the provincial councils. We can expect this issue to come up when Modi and Wickremesinghe meet, though it is a moot point whether it would go beyond making cordial statements.
For both India and the West, Rajapaksa reneging on his promises to them attend their concerns went beyond matters of Sri Lanka’s internal politics; it became a challenge to their strategic power assertion particularly after he got cozy with China and provided a welcome strategic foothold for China in Sri Lanka in India’s close proximity and midway in the Indian Ocean sea lanes through which bulk of global maritime trade is conducted. This assumes special significance in the light of China increasing assertion of is naval power in Asia- Pacific region, particularly in the Indian Ocean.
From the Sri Lankan perspective, there are some issues where it needs India’s help and understanding. The UN Human Rights Council Rights Council (UNHRC) discussion on Sri Lanka’s follow up actions taken on the US-sponsored resolution passed session three years back would come up on Friday, after the report of the UN Human Rights Commissioner is presented. Though the US is likely to modify its insistence on a UN sponsored international inquiry by accepting a domestic inquiry with the assistance of the UNHRC, Sri Lanka needs Indian support to broaden its support base. Though the US move has met with some political criticism in Tamil Nadu and agitation by fringe elements egged on by the Sri Lanka Diaspora, India had always supported domestic inquiries in preference to international ones. In view of this the compromise solution suggested by the US would probably be supported by India.
The second issue is Indo-Sri Lanka trade. During his Colombo visit, Prime Minister Modi had revived the idea of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Sri Lanka. India had mooted the idea and it almost came through in 2008. However, in the face of protest from local business, the Rajapaksa government developed cold feet and gave it up after that. Sri Lanka is facing exceptional economic crunch and problems of debt servicing for the servicing the loans it had incurred. Even the IMF had been lukewarm to the idea of lending more to Sri Lanka to service Chinese loans.
So Sri Lanka urgently needs India’s hand holding to see it through its crisis. However, it will be difficult for Sri Lanka government to openly support CEPA as it is probably a no-go area in Sri Lanka politics. However, it appears Sri Lanka would not be averse to work out an economic arrangement similar to CEPA though it may be called by a different name. This was indicated in a report in Sunday Times, Colombo which quoted Sri Lanka Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva as saying that CEPA issues were likely to be among other important issues during the bilateral talks between the two leaders. He added, “We must push for such agreements with countries like India. However, we must not blindly enter into such agreements. We must study in detail our own experiences and that of other similar countries to negotiate the best deal for us. Any bilateral or multilateral trade agreement that benefits Sri Lanka must be pursued.”
*Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence officer, is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group, and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail:email@example.com Website: www.col.hariharan.info
Thamilan / September 15, 2015
If your intelligence services guided the Indian Government correctly, Sri Lankan Tamils wont be in this plight today.
Kumar R. / September 15, 2015
If only India had acted more intelligently, courageously and with at least some degree of moral integrity, then not only would that have avoided Sri Lanka from the current plight, but importantly secured a leadership role for India in this part of the world.
Instead, it was India’s own doing that has now made this behemoth of a nation now cow down in shame
(a) shivering at the mere thought of China,
(b) having to beg Sri Lanka for a “friendly” kiss-and-make-up, and
(c) being the servile second-fiddle to the U.S.
Spring Koha / September 15, 2015
Ranil, of the perpetual smile, is there for the legendary virundhu. Everything else is supplementary.
‘Uppittavarai ullalavum ninai’ – a very old tamil saying- which means – always remember the person who offered you food. Your Mr Moody banks on it, and our Ranil will not forget it.
I only wish I had a chance to approach that groaning table.
God bless the chefs!
Manisekaran / September 15, 2015
Mr Harharan, if India supports and washes srilankan regime in the name of internal enquiry. One day the very same India will also see the same fate!No one id bigger than nature’s course. The curse will be on you all who are callous now. This world has seen many fallout of arrogant heads.. I have seen one arrogant couple years yelling here..and he will die with worm infested body..same goes to all those callous creature.
Ryan Stanislaus / September 15, 2015
Your indifference to the Human Right violations in Srilanka is apparent by your description of the strong Tamil view as being supported by only “fringe elements” of Tamil Nadu and “egged on by Tamil Diaspora”.Remember the overwhelming majority of SriLankan Tamils elected TNA which does not support the US and Modi’s ” internal investigation” of the violations.
You are more interested in bilateral trade than solving the pangs of pain of a community long subjected to discrmination ,violence, torture and sexual abuse.
You have no idea of how the Tamil poulation feels on this issue. You cannot subjugate a community with great language and cultural heritage. Do not foolishly dream about building your trade and profits over the dead bodies of Tamils.
Manisekaran / September 15, 2015
You should plead to a human with heart at the left part of the body below his shoulder not to one with clothes with three colors..and dharma(??) Chakra is only the life..
Native Vedda / September 16, 2015
“You have no idea of how the Tamil poulation feels on this issue.”
I am not sure as to why you are confining the war crime issue to the last leg of the war?
Colonel was and eye witness to the atrocities committed by the Hindian IPKF.
Hindia will not allow a fully holistic investigation for many reasons:
Its involvement in destabilising this island, training, arming, funding, …….. many Tamil militants groups.
Its share of war crime committed between 1987 and 1990.
The investigation would eventually lead to New Delhi for aiding and abetting Sri Lanka.
An International Investigation in this island might open a floodgate. Hindia fears that if precedent set in this island it might spread to Kashmir and beyond.
Hindians accepted the surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troop in Bangladesh. There had been clear evidence of atrocities committed by Pakistanis. However Indra made a deal with Bhutto, as a consequence all of them were sent back to Pakistan without being investigated for war crimes.
When push comes to shove Hindia would put its neck out to save Sri Lanka unscathed.
alex / September 15, 2015
Unfortunately the Colonel has little regard for human rights or Tamil rights. He’s a military man and to him crushing rebels (peaceful or militant) is the only reaction. He couldn’t care less if the Tamils are able to run their own affairs or if the Sri Lankan state continues to crush them under the boot of its military.
krishnan / September 16, 2015
Native vedda, India is spelt as INDIA not Hindia. Majority of Indians speak Hindi but the country remains as India like the majority of Sri Lankans speak Sinhala but the country was Ceylon before and Sri Lanka now.
Paul / September 16, 2015
Google and check the word Ceylon is derived from the ancient Tamil word for the island Eelam. The word Serendib is derived again derived from the Tamil word for the island CheeranTheevu( The island of the Cheras the ancient Tamil kingdom of Chera modern day Kerala) When you visit the island, you can see the similarity between both the Sinhalese and the indigenous Tamils from the north east to the people of Kerala. One of the largest communities in Kerala is still the Eelavar or Eezhavas who are stated to have migrated from the island. The original people of the island other than the Veddas are these ancient snake worshipping Tamil Nagas . Similar to the ancient Tamil speaking people of Kerala. Recently they have uncovered a Naga rock edict in eastern Sri Lanka from a Hindu temple that has Tamil Brahmi dated 200BC.
The aboriginal Vedda
The Veddas, the aborigines of Sri Lanka whose ethnic origin dates back to the very dawn of evolution are considered to descend from the yakkas or are related to the hunting tribe called Vettar in South India or to the Savaras of India or the Mundari people (Hugh Nevill 1886, Seligmann 1911, Parker 1909). Whatever the historical and literary reference may be, it is evident that a group called Veddas have lived in the jungle solitude in Sri Lanka throughout and remained in complete isolation for 2,500 years. These Veddas were also called Pulindas and Sabaras. The Veddas appear to be basically pre-megalithic people, reaching beyond 1800 B.C. Today they are reduced to a few hundreds verging on extinction. Presently they are being evacuated from their traditional territories to agricultural land and very soon they would be an extinct ethnic group. Today, the identification of Veddas has become quite controversial for most of them have been absorbed into the main communities. They range from fully Sinhalized groups in the South to the fully Tamilized groups in the Eastern coastal belt of Sri Lanka. (Brow, J. 1978). Seligmann ethnography is the standard account of the Veddas, which defines Vedda country as Vedda ratta, an area of about 2400 sq. miles. The area contains the whole of the present Batticaloa District parts of Polonnaruwa, Badulla and Monaragala Districts. “Formally it is known to have embraced the whole of Uva.” (Seligmann 1911 p.4) In a sense the great portion of the population of the Eastern part of Ceylon appears at some time or other have been called Vedda rata. (J. Baely. pp. 278-320
In the Vedda hunting community, in almost all their religious rites the arrow (dart, lance, Vel) takes the central role. The arrow or kanai is the predecessor of the lance or Vel. The forms of arrow used by them are of two types, the ordinary hunting arrow and the long bladed, short handled ritual arrow or the Āyudha. The arrows are about 3ft long and are headed with a sharp iron bit nearly six inches long and an inch wide. These arrows vary greatly in the size of their steelhead, Vedda arrows are wider near the stem. (Hugh Neville. 1887). Worship takes the form of dancing and singing resembling that of Kraunci verriattam. It is directed by a priest usually called Kapura it is possible that there is another older name, referring to them which may have been recorded. The dancer becomes often inspired into ecstatic frenzy. The spirit invoked in the arrow is probably identified with Kanta Yaka. An arrow is thrust on the ground and the Vedda dances around it in high frenzy with the ceremonial arrow in hand and hair let down. His offering are coconut, betel leaf, araconut and cooked rice. The arrow dance the simplest of the Vedda dance is performed imploring good luck in hunting or when a spell of ill luck has attended.
Vedda boys learn archery from an early age
Vedda boys learn archery from an early age even today.
The arrow is said to exercise protective power. They leave tiny babes upon the sand for hours together with no other guard other than an arrow struck on the ground by the side. Their belief in the efficiency of this has received no shock, they never know such a child to be attacked by wild beasts. The Veddas also believe in the protective power of the āyudha when stuck on the door of a vacant hut. They say that they are the children of their god’s symbol. They believe that they themselves are protected as his children, calling themselves the Iya Vamsa or sons of arrows. The Veddas are never seen without their constant companion, the bow and arrow (Parsons 1907). The tradition of Alakital6, seen among Murukan devotees to this day may have had its gneiss in this belief system of the Veddas.
A comprehensive picture of Vedda religion and ritual given in the study made by H. Parker and Seligmann on the Veddas the aborigines of Sri Lanka almost a century ago, reveals a striking parallel between veddoid religious belief system and that of the Krunchi.
Further our study reveals, many indications which justify the assumption of the common origin of the Veddas of Sri Lanka and the wild tribes of South India such as:
1.The Veddas and the Krunchi are basically pre-megalithic people.
2.The beliefs of Veddas bear the closest resemblance to the nature worship of aboriginal tribes of South India.
3.Their dance circling around the planted arrowhead tipped shaft in the center resembles the Kuriñci verriāttam around. Vel.
4.The god of the hills worshipped by the Veddas is similar to the hill god of early South India. The natural environment, the hilly tracts, streams and large trees were associated with the abodes of deities. Among these the rocks or hill tops received their greatest respect and they considered large rocks as the abiding place of unknown invisible deities, there are quite a number of dancing rocks in Vedda habitats (Parker p. 193). A high rock hill Natcima Vel Atte Malai, considered sacred by Veddas is called Vel Appa Malai by the Tamils. Among the Veddas of this area the names Vela and Vel latte are common. (Bell, p.5 )
5.The striking parallels between the God of the rock Malaisamy or Malayan indicates that the hypotheses that the primitive form of Gala Deviyo worshipped by the Veddas is the same as the god of the hills.
6.Their worship of Kanta Yaka, most likely refers to Kanta Cāmi or Kantan which also means warrior in Tamil.
7.Etymological clues: “The Vaedda dialect as probably did the old Sinhala approaches far closer to Tamil than modern Sinhala in its pronunciation”. (Hugh Neville. p.88.) The Vedda dialect, their spoken language is identical with Elu which was the spoken language of ancient Sri Lanka, which is semi-Tamil; as to the grammatical structure it is essentially Dravidian and simple (Emaneau, M.B 1961). Examples:
Vedda dialect – meanings in Elu & Tamil
1.Muruwnin Elu dialect denotes ananku the ancient Indian god Muru.
2.Moriga arrow in Elu
3.Muru is a form of ananku, in Elu and Tamil.
4.Kanta boda hill side.
5.Kur spike; same as in Tamil
6.Iyaka, Iya arrow. kanu, vellu in Tamil
7.Ira sun ray
8.Ira pojja sun. iravi in Tamil.
9.Neya Yakūn kindred spirit, neya is friendly in Tamil
10.Taraka star, taraki in Tamil
11.Kanta elephant.(mount of Murukan)
12.Yakas includes both benevolent and malevolent deities
13.Appa father, same as in Tamil
14.Elam young, same as in Tamil
The above similarities and other evidences are far too numerous to be considered as coincidences.
Names of Veddas
The names Kanta, Vēlan, Valli, were common among the Veddas while the names of other gods in Hindu Pantheon were unknown to them. Whence came these names designating the deity Murukan and his Vedda consort? Not from contact with or contiguity of the surrounding the Non-Vedda people of Ceylon in whose neighborhood they have lived for centuries.
Native Vedda / September 16, 2015
Thanks for your comment.
It is only part of the history.
Kandy was also part of Veddah land until it was made a separate kingdom in 1470 or there about. The Kandyan kingdom employed best of Veddah archers in its regular army. Veddah men and women guarded boundaries of Kandyan kingdom.
Paul / September 17, 2015
Even as a Sri Lanka I know this basic fact that Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India but is not the mother tongue of the majority of the Indians. Even many of these so called Hindi speakers in reality speak similar sister languages and not Hindi Eg. Rajasthani, Awadhi, Maithili, Hariyanawi, Urdu, Bojpuri etc. get your facts correct Indian
Pacs / September 16, 2015
It was India before and Hindia now
Walt / September 18, 2015
Hari and India have repeated that the LTTE is still around.
Then RAW India must be at it once again training terrorist as it trains terrorist against Pakistan.- runs in the blood.