26 August, 2019

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Reading Against The Grain: Notes On Wigneswaran’s Speech On The National Question

By Mahendran Thiruvarangan –

Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s speech delivered at the Bernard Soysa Centenary Commemoration Meeting last Monday carries special significance for a number of reasons[i]. It is a speech that we need to read closely, carefully and critically. As a speech that has the national question at its heart and as a speech delivered by none other than the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial council, many of us may want to read the ways in which the speech frames the (Tamil) nation or the (Tamil) national. Chief Minister Wigneswaran tries to address the national question by highlighting the failure of the post-independence Sri Lankan state to include the Tamil nation within its imagination. He underlines the astute, progressive positions the Left parties took in the past with regard to the national question, while highlighting rightly where and when the Left went wrong and how they contributed to deepen the majoritarian structures of the state. Wigneswaran recalls his decision to stop learning Sinhala, as an act of resistance, after the introduction of the discriminatory Sinhala-only act and bemoans that it has rendered him unable to explain to the Sinhala speaking people in the South the predicament of the Tamils under the hegemonic state. All in all, I read this speech as one that believes that engaging the South on the national question is imperative for the two communities on the island to co-exist with trust in one another. What prompted me to write this piece is the need to move beyond the nationalist paradigms of state formation that Wigneswaran presents in his speech and to address the national question without furthering the polarization of our communities.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran frames the Tamil nation as a pre-given, ontological entity, an argument on which his entire speech rests:

The Tamil speaking people of the North and East of Sri Lanka are a Nation without a State. They have a number of characteristics which qualify them to such a description – a long history in Sri Lanka which goes to pre-Buddhistic times, a language, probably the oldest living language, which binds them all and distinct cultural practices.  The areas of residence of this group of people were delineated even from the time of the Dutch and the British, though certain tinkering was done after independence to change the demographic base of these areas of residence. And the tinkering continues up to date.

We need to unpack the crux of Wigneswaran’s speech in order to understand the national question in a more nuanced way. First of all, the Chief Minister of the Northern Province has chosen to describe the Tamil nation as a collective constituted by Tamil speaking people. In Sri Lanka, if I may run the risk of overgeneralization, the Tamils, the Muslims and the hill country Tamils speak Tamil as their first language. However, the economic, religious and cultural tensions and unevenness between these communities do not allow the creation of a unified, singular Tamil speaking community. Therefore, I wish to distinguish them as different political communities as much as I desire to see solidarity among them in challenging the majoritarian state. Political discussions on the national question should take into account the grievances and aspirations of these communities and the conflicts existing between them without simplifying them under the banner of Tamil speaking people or the Tamil nation.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran draws upon a theory that delineates what makes a community a nation: long history of existence within a territory, possession of an old language, distinct cultural practices and territorial boundaries. These criteria, for me, are arbitrary; however, fortunately for Wigneswaran and others who subscribe to this framework, the Tamil community satisfies these criteria, and thereby can constitute itself into a nation. By contrast, according to Dayan Jayatilleka’s theory which specifies a community’s numerical strength as the primary determinant of nationhood, Tamils are not eligible to be a nation, for their population is, according to Jayatilleka, only 4% of the total population of the island[ii]. As some have pointed out, the statistics provided by Dr. Jayatilleka are incorrect. As I do not believe that we can discuss the national question by setting numerical benchmarks, the debate over the statistics mentioned in Jayatilleka’s article is not relevant to my concerns in this piece. A major problem with these two theorizations of the nation is that they do not examine the character of the state vis-à-vis all of its fractured peoples. They do not take into consideration the ways in which majoritarian states, as in the case of Sri Lanka, alienate and systematically discriminate against cultural, religious and ethnic minorities who do not qualify to become nations. Coerced into accepting the hegemony of a (majoritarian) nationalism that enjoys the patronage of the state, these communities have to exist within states as subordinate groups. Though Wigneswaran states that the Tamils recognize the aspirations and identity of the Muslims, he does not say where the dominant narratives on the national question place the Muslims in a continuum that has the community and the nation on its two ends. His speech does not tell us how he situates the hill country Tamils and other ethnic communities in the island which include the Burghers and the Malays in relation to the national question. Wigneswaran’s speech confines the focus of the national question to communities that have already and unambiguously defined themselves as nations and leaves out the other oppressed, minority communities occupying the margins of the Sri Lankan state.

Underscoring the presence of Buddhists within the Tamil community in the past, Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s speech, to some extent, complicates the ethno-religious binarism that dominates the narratives on the national question in Sri Lanka. However, the notion of distinct cultural practices that Wigneswaran invokes as a criterion to decide whether a community can consider itself a nation contributes to an essentialist narrative on culture that deserves critical scrutiny. The Tamil culture associated with the Tamil nation is Jaffna-centric, class-marked, castist and patriarchal. Any claim to a unified Tamil culture masks these internal dimensions of cultural unevenness. Such a view, however, does not mean that culture should not be a consideration in our attempts to frame the national question. We should reflect on how we need to position culture and ethnicity vis-à-vis the majoritarianism of the state, but such a reflection should encourage us to move away from cultural essentialism. Is it necessary for us to foreground cultural distinctions between the Tamils and others when the task at hand is to constitute ourselves into a political community that works towards its emancipation along with other oppressed political communities on the island? Is it necessary for us to invoke narratives about cultural uniqueness when what is required on our part is to challenge the ways in which the majoritarian state uses culture as a site to establish its authority? What we need is an oppositional consciousness—a consciousness that can be shared even by people who do not share our cultures or speak our languages—that resists the attempts to ethnicize and culturalize state power with a view to establishing the hegemony of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Definitions of Tamil culture or predicating the Tamil nation’s legitimacy on a ‘pristine’ Tamil culture will keep the communities in the country divided along cultural lines and pave the way for the culturally powerful groups within the Tamils to maintain the inequalities within the community along lines of caste, class, gender and region.

Tamil nationalist narratives often turn to colonialist historiography and cartography to justify their claim that historically the Tamils have lived within the island as a distinct nation. Wigneswaran does the same in his speech. The following account, a version of what Sir Hugh Cleghorn, British Colonial Secretary wrote about the island in 1799, is often cited by Tamil nationalist activists in their speeches and writings[iii]. The description of the demographic composition of colonial Ceylon in this account exemplifies the limitations of colonial historiography:

Two different nations from a very ancient period have divided between them the possession of the Island. First the Sinhalese, inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts, and secondly the Malabars who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners.

What is interesting in Sir Hugh Cleghorn’s account is that it describes the community that lived in the Northern and Eastern regions as Malabars. Perhaps, the Colonial Secretary, for some reason, wanted to make connections between the people who inhabited the Northern and Eastern districts of colonial Ceylon and the people who lived in the South-Western coastal regions of India. This colonial historical narrative simplifies and dichotomizes the cultures of the two communities that inhabited the island and overlooks the cultural and religious connections that had existed between them historically.

Gayatri Spivak’s work on colonial historiography revolving around India argues that colonial administrators produced and promoted epistemologies about the hill districts in Northern India in order to territorialize cultures and communities in such a way that the rulers could divide the colonized into various racial groups and pit them against one another, and thereby easily and effectively exercise their control over them[iv]. Tamil nationalism embraces colonial historiography uncritically, without examining the imperialist agenda behind it. In post-colonial times, situating our political processes within frameworks of knowledge passed on to us by colonialism or allowing our politics to be overdetermined by colonialist territorializations of the colonized would give free reign to Euro-centric ideologies of colonialism to (mis)shape our understanding of ourselves, our communities and our shared histories. On the other hand, colonial historiography does not help us understand all of the hegemonic and non-hegemonic social changes that happened in our countries and how they have altered the make-up of our territories. There is no room within this historiography for the plantation Tamils to explain their relationship to the island. It does not support the struggles of the Tamils from the North and East who, in colonial and post-colonial times, moved to the other parts of the country, particularly to territories within the Sinhala nation in search of employment. This historiography denies these communities the national status that it accords the Tamils who live in the North and East regions. The reliance of a supposedly counter-hegemonic project like Tamil nationalism on exclusionary historical narratives produced by colonial powers weakens its potential to transform the state and society in radical ways.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s wish to name the 57th Street in Wellawatte as Tamil Sangam Lane strikes a discordant note with mainstream Tamil nationalist narratives which rigidly situate the Tamil nation within the Tamil homelands in Northern and Eastern parts of the country. Wigneswaran recalls his pre-teenage days in the mid part of the twentieth-century when he played cricket along with his friends in the in the venue where the Tamil Sangam has its building now. Stating that the majority of the people who live at 57th Street are Tamil speaking, the Chief Minister justifies his wish to see the street named as Tamil Sangam Lane. The colonial historiography that he draws upon to legitimize the existence of the Tamil nation does not state that Colombo 06 has been a part of the Tamil nation, albeit Tamils have lived there for a long period of time. This is an instance where we see the insufficiency of nationalist claims over territory in supporting the aspirations of a section of the Tamil community in the island. The Tamil people, who live outside the North and East regions, including the ones who recently migrated to Colombo from the Northern and Eastern provinces, do not have a secure status in either the Sinhala nation or the Tamil nation. Defining the Tamil nation within the territorial boundaries of the Northern and Eastern provinces has a dangerous corollary in that it gives recognition to the view that the rest of the island belongs to the Sinhala nation or other, non-Tamil nations. Tamil nationalist narratives fail to understand that the exercise of boundary-building that they promote would be detrimental to the Tamils living outside the Northern and Eastern provinces.

The Sinhala-Buddhist state does not allow the 57th Street in Wellawatte to have a Tamil name. On the other hand, for mainstream Tamil nationalism, it may not be an issue that concerns the core of its political activism. While Tamil nationalism protests against state sponsored Sinhalization and Buddhisization programs in the North and East, I cannot say for sure that its representatives will unswervingly demand the state to re-name the 57th Street as Tamil Sangam Lane, for Wellawatte does not exist within the Tamil national imagination. As Qadri Ismail puts it memorably, “[i]f the southern Tamil refuses to migrate [to the Tamil homelands], Tamil nationalism will stop worrying about her, write her off” (167)[v]. The Southern Tamil question hinted at in Wigneswaran’s speech produces a criticism of the state and the ruling elite; however, as a repressed subtext, it stops short of translating into a critique of the Tamil nation.

The territories linked to the nations in Sri Lanka that we discuss under the national question are internally uneven and always already transnational.  Socio-economic inequalities within these territories and the movement of people, laboring people in particular, across the territorial boundaries of the Tamil and Sinhala nations compel us to move away from dichotomizing nationalist narratives that cling on to cultural essentialism and histories of territorialization handed down to us by colonialism and nationalist historians of the past. Liberating our understanding of the national question from orthodoxies promoted in the name of history and culture will help us re-imagine our struggles around the national question as part of our larger quest for justice and equality.


[iii] Sir Hugh Cleghorn’s quote appears differently in different books and articles. The quotes included in Asoka Bandara’s The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy and K.M. de Silva’s Regional Powers and Small State Security: India and Sri Lanka, 1977-1990 have a section that describes the Sinhalese as the “earlier settlers.” Interestingly, a citation included in a paper titled “Tamil Eelam: Reversion of Sovereignty” presented by a Working Group of the International Federation of Tamils, at the London Seminar, Towards a Just Peace, February 1992 (found at http://tamilnation.co/selfdetermination/tamileelam/9202reversion.htm) does not have it.

[iv] “The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives.” History and Theory, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Oct., 1985), pp. 247-272.

[v] Abiding by Sri Lanka: On Peace, Place, and Postcoloniality.  Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    This is the work of a true intellectual.
    I hope every politician–Sinhala, Tamil et al–will take the time to read and digest it.

    • 4
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      Unfortunately, Sinhalese have been barred from reading this instrumental voice by racist so called diplomats like dirty Dr, DJ.

  • 4
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    Great article from a real academic from the University of Peradeniya. Congratulations

  • 2
    1

    On a first reading of this contribution,it is my opinion that what it’s author said has much validity.
    I think therefore my views and perspective on the Tamil national question in Lanka has to be re-considered following further study and research.
    I would therefore prefer to delay commenting at this stage..

    • 2
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      Having give thought to the points discussed and seen the references relied upon, and the points advanced.I am of the view that Peradeniya University academic has missed out on many underlying historical facts.For instance he selectively bases his argument on the British Colonial Secretary’s Sir Hugh Cleghorn’s minutes ignoring the fact that the Portuguese and the Dutch who colonized the island earlier did not merge the N&E of the country for administrative purposes with the rest of the country like the British did.The Cleghorn minutes is a historical reality because that is how the island was populated when the British took over the island.

      Why has the author of this article also failed to provide even an iota of proof to buttress that the said minutes was for the purpose of enforcing a divide and rule imperial policy?

      All the three European colonizers had their own imperial interests which is absolutely true,and to say British imperialism used the divide and rule policy to strengthen their hold on the island is equally true,but to argue the spurious point that the Tamil nationalist narrative relies on 18th century British imperialist historiography when even the Sinhalese Mahavansa acknowledges the presence of the Tamils in the N&E and the Sinhales in the rest of the country is a glaring defect.

      This article by it’s author Mahendiran Thiruvarangan is contrived and couched in pedagogic language with inaccuracies,just to overawe.trivialize,cloud issues and distort facts, and denigrate and side track the speech by the Chief Minister of the NPC.
      Pople in Colombo are aware that 57th Lane is an adjunct connecting Rudra Mawatte which was so named in memory of a one time Colombo Mayor.He was a Tamil and a member of the LSSP when he got caught up in a dilemma and defied the party’s stance to boycott her visit.As mayor of Colombo and it’s first citizen he felt he had a duty to take part in the Welcome accorded and was expelled by the party. LSSP’s political decision to boycott her visit,is also understandable..

      Any way what is the fuss now about a name change for 57th Lane. Why should it undergo a name change just because the Tamil Sangam building with Sangrapillai Hall happens to be located there as long as the authorities tolerate it’s presence,considering the fact that when the name of a street is changed the people resident are inconvenienced to change their addresses,their passport details,their identity cards,notify their banks and service providers etc.,etc.

  • 2
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    The Rajapakse’s , Sinhala people here in CT, all keep on harping that Tamils and Sinhala people are living peacefully in Colombeo and South.

    Vignesawaran’s point is that the same Sinhala people refuse to name a 57th lane Tmail Sangam Lane

    Wigneswaran is pointing out the hypocricy

  • 2
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    There are two clearly separate issues, that CVW had spoken about. He was quite assertive of that in his speech.

    It is academic sabotage to link them together even for argument sake.

    He referenced the issue of naming – in this case re-naming – a street only to illustrate the difficulties faced by Tamils on a daily basis.

    The Tamil national question does not encompass 57th Street, or Colombo, or for that matter any other region Tamils inhabit today.

    Playing with words is intellectual dishonesty.

    Residing in a particular part, area, or region of the land is not the grounds on which Tamils are staking claim to Nationhood.

    Tamils live in every nook and corner of the Globe, today. No Tamil is staking a claim for nationhood in any part of the world other than in NE of the island, now ingeniously called SL

    SL and Ceylon are geographically identical. But, the identity stops there.

    Ceylon is a partnership of two nations.

    Tamils in present day Ceylon may choose to live either in the land of the Sinhala nation or in the land of the Tamil nation. How they wish to be treated in their land of choice is up to them.

    The Tamils living in the land of Tamil nation have an inalienable right to object, demonstrate, struggle, and even fight for the right to live the way they choose to live.

    • 0
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      This is a great article:

      @ Nathan,

      By the same analogy, if Ceylon is a partnership of two nations, Shouldn’t

      Sinhalese in present day Ceylon (which is BTW called Sri Lanka: Nathan seems to forget that) may choose to live either in the land of the Sinhala nation or in the land of the Tamil nation. How they wish to be treated in their land of choice is up to them. So why is there a huge debate by the TNA and making claims that there are Sinhalese (or Muslims who were chased out by the LTTE) migrating to “traditional” Tamil land in the north?

      Shouldn’t:
      The Sinhalese living in the land of Tamil nation have an inalienable right to object, demonstrate, struggle, and even fight for the right to live the way they choose to live.

      • 2
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        Thank you maya for seeking clarification.

        Here is what I had said:

        ‘Tamils in present day Ceylon may choose to live either in the land of the Sinhala nation or in the land of the Tamil nation. How they wish to be treated in their land of choice is up to them’.

        There are two components,

        1) may choose to live – pertinent word ‘choose’
        2) how they wish to be treated – pertinent word ‘wish’

        Based on this,

        1) The Sinhalese living in the land of Tamil nation may ‘choose’ to live, not be ‘planted’ to live.
        2) The Tamils living in the land of the Sinhala nation do not wish to be treated differently from the Sinhalese themselves.

        Again, here is what I had said:

        ‘The Tamils living in the land of Tamil nation have an inalienable right to object, demonstrate, struggle, and even fight for the right to live the way they choose to live’.

        Based on this,

        The inalienable right to object, demonstrate, struggle, and even fight for the right to live the way they choose to live’ is conditional, namely, for the Tamils living in the land of Tamil nation; not for the Tamils living in the Sinhala nation.

        The inalienable right of the Tamils do not extend into the Sinhala nation. Neither, the inalienable right of the Sinhalese extend into the Tamil nation.

        If this clarity was missing in my original input, I regret.

      • 1
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        Maya,
        The point is wigneswaran is not against migration of ordinary Sinhalese to the north or east- what he and the tamils are opposing is government aided colonization. The tamils in the south have not been brought in by government programs but on their own initiative.they have no issue with Sinhalese settling down in the North on their own initiative.

        S

  • 0
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    1. Interesting article that at its core the following question:
    Is it necessary to define the Tamil Speaking Peoples as a nation – which has the effect of alienating other political communities and does not adequately deal with divisions within the group of Tamil Speaking Peoples?

    Short Answer: yes it is necessary to frame the issue in terms of nationhood, because international law requires it. The formulation of the question in different terms will reduce the legal entitlement of the Tamil Speaking Peoples in the North and East.

    Long Answer(!):

    2. The author questions the validity of the attributes of a nation and the problems of non-homogeneity within groups identified as nations. This has long been a criticism of the idea of a nation and is nothing new. How are the Muslims going to be treated? How will oppressed castes be treated? Is the identity of the “Tamil Speaking Person” that of a Vellala Tamil Hindu from Jaffna?

    3. The above line of attack is typical “individual rights” advocates’ line of attack. While valid, they don’t address the real need among societal groups to have group rights. International law well recognises the fact that groups have a legitimate claim to rights. The solution is to ensure that individual rights are not affected within the group, whilst ensuring rights for the group. So the question of the non Vellala Tamil Hindu having problems within the Tamil Speaking nation is not applicable to challenge the Tamil Speaking Nation, but to ensure that the Tamil Speaking Nation does not favour any particular sub group. It is not different from ensuring that the head of a country doesn’t promote his family. No sub-group should be favoured or disadvantaged. But that is no reason to refuse to recognise the existence of the larger group or its attendant rights.

    4. CVW’s argument has been framed in terms of international law that articulates the right to self-determination. Whether the author likes it or not group rights in International Law give greater recognition to nations. The attributes of a nation referred to by CVW are those recognised by law. They are not arbitrary in the sense that they are the attributes that have been used by groups to stake a claim for group based rights such as self determination.

    5. CVW’s argument if framed merely as individual rights would not recognise the Tamil Speaking Peoples’ aspirations. It would also not entitle them the protections afforded by law. Minority rights are distinct from the right of self-determination. This can be compared to the rights of the African Americans in the US or Muslims in India. The right of self-determination comes with having an identified territory as well. CVW has based his argument so that the rights of Tamil Speaking Peoples are not compromised.

    So the answer to the question of the author is – yes it is necessary to frame the issue in terms of nationhood, because international law requires it. The formulation of the question in different terms will reduce the legal entitlement of the Tamil Speaking Peoples in the North and East.

    S

  • 4
    2

    A good eye opener for all Sri Lankans. I hope people of all shades, colour, creed and caste will think in terms of “ONE NATION” called “SRI LANKANS” that would accommodate all ethnic communities to live in PEACE.

    It is strange to hear of people like Mr. Vigneswaran, a Professional turned politician campaigning for a “SEPARATE” ethnic based “Tamil Nation” within a “Unitary State” embracing all such communities. I believe, Professionals must be Politicians and Politicians must be Professionals; but NOT the type of Mr. Vigneswaraan. This “Half Baked” Professional Politician is certainly doing his ground work to bring in another catastrophe to the country. If that happen Mr. Vigneswasran’s name will also be added to the history books along side of Prabahkaran.

    It is a great MISFORTUNE for Tamil people to have leaders like Mr. Vigneswaran.

  • 2
    2

    Brilliant,incisive article.
    I hope many people,particularly the theorists of Tamil separatism will reader it and ponder.

  • 1
    1

    Excellent article. Needs to be read by all.
    in his remarks on 57th lane and his childhood, not only did Vigneswaran say he played cricket there with the population of children from teh street, but also pretended that they were the much adulated West Indian cricketers Where is that dreaming today?

    To be fair to the Chief Minister, he did raise some pertinent questions in the conclusion of the text. But the historical framing,the political of the national question was all wrong.

    But I did enjoy his forthright critique of the left’s alliance with the government.

  • 4
    1

    The question is, is there homogeneity in every nation? Or more precisely in any nation? Is lack of homogeneity adequate reason for denying nationhood?

    It could be plainly seen that in Sri Lanka majoritarianism is simply threatening the continued existence of ethno/religious minority identities. It either seeks drive them away or assimilate them?

    So,what is the solution to preserve the identities of each and every distinct group, not necessarily the Jaffna Tamils alone?

    What does this author say about the right of self determination of a people?

    Sengodan. M

  • 3
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    great questions Sengodan. Western countries believe in the rights of the individual and individual groups. THey have also been advocating “multiculturism”, especially since the end of the colonial era and the modern “civil rights” era. Now how much they practice what they preach is a different question. Think of Switzerland banning minarets on mosques and France banning the hijab in public places.

    Canada spends a lot of time hyping its “multicultural” policy in contrast to the US culture which hypes assimilation regardless of cultural/ethnic origin. But for the most part, the success of the Canadian society depends much on the assimilation of the new immigrants and the french-bilinguals to an English speaking society. I really do not see much real cultural diversity in Canada, despite their vehement PR.

    India, on the other hand, is a good example of a culturally heteroqeneous society that still does function as one nation/state. How do they do it? We should look to them for advise and models.

    Is it their parlimentary system (vs. our executive presidency)? Is it their use of English (continuous use after independence) as the main language of the state (and the corresponding de-emphasis on ethnic languages and culture – at the upper and upper-middle class level)? Is it the fact that no language group in India is a super majority (unlike the Sinhalese speakers in Sri Lanka)?

    If Sri Lanka is to be partitioned along sinhala vs tamil speaking lines, then we’ll have to figure out how to re-allocate land currently occpied by minorities who live among majority coomunities(sinhalses in tamil areas and vice versa). Israel and Palestine have tried to do a similar task and keep failing miserably. Is there a will among SL sinhalese and Tamils to separate themselves geographically based on the language they speak? How chaotic would this process be? (think partitioning of India in 1947).

    If this were to happen, wouldn’t the westerm countires have egg on their face, for advocating nation-building for specific ethnic groups, instead of their “multiculturism is best” mantra?

    • 1
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      Rahul:
      You are right India on the other hand is a good example of a Culturally Heterogeneous Society.
      Your Dad is Indian Mum Italian a perfect mix in a perfect World.
      But the only difference between Western Countries and India is your Mum presided over the mass killing of Tamils.
      As for the Land you can bloody have your Land back when we return to our Ancestral Home in the North and you and the Army will have to vacate the North and you and your Italian mum can go back to the Vatican .
      Fair isnt it.

    • 1
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      Rahul,

      Given the opportunity an overwhelming majority of Tamils in the North will opt for greater autonomy rather than secession. But the dilemma they face is that in the South any step towards further devolution is looked upon as a further step towards secession,which it need not be! How to get over this predicament?

      Sengodan. M

  • 1
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    Thiruvarangan has highlighted how the northern province based Sri Lankan Tamils have to define themselves in terms of an inclusive Sri Lankan state. I have been a votary of such a position for long. Dayan Jayatillke in his response to Thiruvarangan, refers to the definition of Sri Lanka provided in the Indo-Lanka agreement, which was the basis for the 13th amendment. I do not see a contradiction. The definition in the Indo- Lanka agreement provides a panoramic perspective of how Sri Lanka should define herself politically and socially. The present government, is singularly incapable of doing so going by its post-war performance on the political front. However, we cannot give up hope, as miracles do happen. This is the government.we have and have to deal with, until fate decries otherwise. Let us not match its stupidities with our own, even when provoked to the extreme. This is the reaction expected and let us not oblige.

    What is important is that Sri Lankan Tamils and other minority communities demand their rights as distinct communities and individual citizens within the context of a united Sri Lanka, where power is devolved substantially to the provinces/regions, while they share power at the centre. This should be the focus of the minority communities on the whole and that of the Tamils of the northern province in particular. It is a critical necessity considering how the political forces are coming into play due to both internal and external factors. The moment of truth is at hand for the Sri Lankan government and the different communities in Sri Lanka, it is time to display intelligence, wisdom and political sagacity.

    Reverting to feudal history and unnecessary terms to reinforce, what are in many other ways legitimate demands, will only make solutions more difficult and distant.

    I consider Mahendran Thruvarangan’s input not only crucial at this stage , but a welcome one, especially coming from a thinking, erudite and young Tamil man. This portends well for this country and the Tamils.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

  • 1
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    It is nice to invoke Spivak and Mr. Quadri from the Postmodern loom but what this otherwise bright young man does not realize is that this loose talk of post-nation is affordable for such affluent bourgois like Spivak and Quadri but is necessary given that the language of self determination and nation hood is all we had to speak of ethnic parity.

    To point out that the Jaffna elite do not represent the interests of the Batticolo man or the upcouontry tamils, for that you dont need a spivak or postmodernism..

    After all when we get hammered periodically including Mr. Mahendiran they would not think you are batti man or a upcountry man… so please dont join the post–nation trend because it is fashionable ….and display as a badge of a progressive tamil… look again at what the tamil left from Shanmugathasan to current Tamil left parties are saying about this before you open the postmodernist mouth.

    • 1
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      Mr. Namal Raj:
      Are you saying that one should not use new perspectives and theoriies and insights to understand modern predicaments and continue to use unproductive old ones?Should we stick to feudal systems of thought and sink further into the morass of sectarian violence and conflict between nations and groups?Should one then apply this ancient perspectives in the area of science and continue to believe that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it?
      I think both Sinhala nationalists and Tamil nationlists will gain a great deal of insight if they expand their reading a little.
      For example,in the context of Mahendran’s remarks about the Cleghorn minute:It is important to learn how to read and interpret historical documents–whether it is the Mahavanmsa or the notes of Dutch predikants in the Vanni as Michael Roberts and Ratnavalli did.They would benefit from such a study as much the Tamil theorists who put so much stress on Cleghorn — with some even invoking the Ramayana.

  • 2
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    Mahendran:

    You have given a true and accurate account of why the Tamils are Justified in asking for a Nation and there are three important reasons.

    1) We have lived in the North & East for Centuries where we have had our Kingdom.
    2) We are a distinct Ethnic Group with rich culture and Language
    3) But equally Importantly we have tried to reason out with the Majority Sinhalese to be treated equally for the last 64 Long Years but what we have witnessed is Rivers of Blood .

    Let me tell you my friend it doesnt matter whether you Speak Sinhalese or the Langguage of Love the Sinhalese are Born Racists and 20 million of them except for about 250,000 Decent ones will never give you your rights.
    Dont blame the Leftists and our own politicians who were just Pawns in the Grand Scheme of things.
    The Sinhalese have everthing at their disposal to put down any rebellion and Prablaran had the right approach as force is the only thing MR and his Cronies understand.
    What are you going to achieve by naming a Street in Tamil in Colombo and I dont consider we belong there as it will only justify the Majority renaming Streets in Jaffna in to Sinhalese Names.
    When we have an effective Government in the North & East after elections in India then all the Tamils can return Home and you dont have to worry about Tamil Sangam in the Colombo.
    As for Dayan he belongs to Club headed by MR who is a master of deception and a Bunch of LIARS.

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    Thiruvarangan forgot why and how the CV’s two different nations stories started. The Failure to reconcile the between the Tamils and Sinhalese ended up here. He can’t remember neither G.G. nor SJV wanted to define this nations notion. Sir Pon Arunachalam merged the Tamil parties into UNP. After Tamils trying that much to live with Sinhalese, now we have to do this to have separated from Sinhalese.

    Thiruvarangan misunderstanding that CV’s prime aim is of explaining the National question is , if he can change the street name he can solve Tamil-Sinhalese problem. In fact, he trying to show how Thiruvarangan and Sinhalese leaders are petty on their behaviours as well as on their talks. The Tamil Sangam is an institution. Naming the lane with that does not make that lane as Tamils property – it is something like naming college lane. But, as word “Tamil” is there Sinhalese leaders are being petty on that. Same Thiruvarangan is trying to show the Tamils nation question is invalid because the lane naming attempt has been. Legality of the Tamil Nation does not get affected by these petty matters. Tamils have successfully renamed Road in Canada with Tamil name. As they have tries name a Canadian road with a Tamil name the should not claim their ancestral land in Eelam is stupid talk. In Sigala Sri lanka up to Kathirkammam, Theiventhiramunai, Maturai(mattara)” there are Tamil names still exist.” After having declared columbo as Sinhalese heartland Thiruvarangan can’t he can’t agree for Tamils Heartland.

    Just because 120 millions Muslims living in India, Pakistan did not elect to stay with India. The fact now that Tamils have spread all over the country does not affect National question. These type of matters eventually negotiated. TGTE has declared in its Charter of Tamil Eelam that it will be tri-lingual country. This is a way to deal with the leftover Tamils in the Sinhalese land. Basically it will be a hold to be impartial for the both Nations on the minorities issues. Just because of there are some Tamils in other parts, suggesting the impossible of living together is denying what has been happening in Sri lanka from Mahavamsa days. Now, Sinhalese blame LTTE, but 1915, they did not have LTTE to have Sinhalese-Muslims communal struggle, even when they were ruled by Whites. Now that, Sinhalese-Muslims division is in full swing back again and Muslims still have not declared that they do not need their claim of separate unit.

    Now, in Lanka, only Sinhalese makes law. Tamils are marginalised. To prevent this, treating the Sinhalese minorities those will come in Eelam fairly can be used. If that does not work, Tamil Eelam will be able to use its UN membership to raise the voice of the Tamils left in Lanka. Now, even at the UNHRC, nobody can Talk for Tamil, but Sri Lanka has full membership and manipulating all countries to support is oppression.

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