23 September, 2020

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Requirements For Tamil Contribution To Sustainable National Change

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The inability of the government to force through its decisions, and the appearance of opposition forces supportive of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining ground, has generated concerns about the government’s longer term stability. The defeat of the government’s money bill in Parliament has highlighted the structural weakness of the government. The difficulty that the government has been experiencing in fulfilling its main election promises, catching the corrupt and passing the 19th Amendment, has eroded public confidence in the government’s strength. Currently the SLFP has a majority in Parliament with 126 seats while the UNP plays the role of a ‘minority government’ with 41 Parliamentary seats from a total of 225 seats. Without the assistance of the SLFP, the government is unable to obtain even a simple majority of votes to implement its plans. If the opposition parliamentarians could have their way it would be former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who would be the Prime Minister.

The anxiety about the government’s stability is especially articulated in the ethnic minority-dominated North and East. Whether in Jaffna, Mannar or Batticaloa the question that people worry about is whether former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is about to stage a comeback. Those are the parts of the country that delivered the biggest majorities to President Maithripala Sirisena at the presidential elections held four months ago. The Tamil voters of the North and East in particular had to contend with boycott calls from within the Tamil polity itself. They also had to overcome the apprehension that the incumbent government would take some action that would prevent them from expressing their will at those elections.   But the voters there were prepared to take risks in voting against the incumbent government because they strongly desired change.

Those from the Tamil polity who wanted the Rajapaksa government to continue and therefore called for a Tamil boycott of the elections were basing their advocacy on a certain logic. They could see the Rajapaksa government was antagonising the international community and wanted this to continue till a point was reached when the international community directly intervened against the Sri Lankan government. This logic is in accordance with a belief in sections of the Tamil polity that nothing positive can be expected from the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan polity with regard to their grievances and aspirations. Therefore, they look towards the international community and to international intervention as their only hope of getting what they want.

Rejected boycott

The large voter turnout in the North and East at the presidential election, however, showed that the Tamil voter did not accept the boycott argument. They had already seen the devastating impact of an earlier Tamil boycott that took place in 2005. The LTTE imposed the boycott at the point of the gun, reduced the Tamil vote that would have gone to Ranil Wickremesinghe and effectively assisted Mahinda Rajapaksa to become the president, a position of concentrated power he held for ten years until his election defeat. Like the present day promoters of a Tamil boycott, the LTTE too thought that the international community would support them against the nationalism of President Rajapaksa. The reality was different and the Tamil population on the ground was at the receiving end.

Wigneswaran MahindaHardly anyone in the Tamil polity was willing or able to oppose the LTTE at that time, when they were at the peak of their power and arrogance, shooting dead those who differed from them. Many democratic Tamil leaders lost their lives for being traitors according to the LTTE. One of the few Tamil leaders to take a different posture publicly was the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, who together with his fellow Tamil Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam, opposed the LTTE’s boycott. The moral authority and courage of the two bishops was not sufficient to overcome the fear psychosis that gripped the Tamil community at the 2005 presidential elections in the face of the LTTE’s military power and the propaganda of Tamil nationalists both locally and living abroad.

During the run-up to the presidential elections of 2015, when the call of a Tamil boycott once again reared its head, Bishop Rayappu Joseph stepped forward a second time to oppose the boycott call. He urged the Tamil people that the way forward was by participating in the democratic process and being part of the process of change that they wanted. This time around, with no LTTE guns to back up the boycott call, the Tamil people rejected the siren call to remain separate and uninvolved in the electoral process. Instead they heeded the call of democracy and, together with their Sinhalese and Muslim co-voters, participated in bringing about the change they wanted.

Bridging role

The anxiety that exists in the North and East of the country today is about a possibility of the return of the old order, in which the ethnic minorities are mistrusted and mistreated and ethnic majority nationalism prevails. When Tamil political leaders make extremist and Tamil nationalist statements they will only give a boost to those who promote extremist nationalism on all sides. Instead, the Tamil leadership needs to reassure the Tamil people and give them, and the rest of the country, the message that they wish to participate in the process of bringing constructive change in the country together, and not separately with the international community. The attempt of sections of the Tamil polity to utilise the international community to achieve their ends increases Sinhalese apprehensions, is counterproductive and can bring about the very situation that the Tamil community fears.

There is a need for the Tamil polity to convey to the people in the rest of the country their needs, fears and aspirations. When I met him recently Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph said that it was his intention to engage in this vocation and that he was gathering a team for this purpose. At the same time it is important that the Tamil polity should learn about the needs, fears and aspirations of the others who live in Sri Lanka. The Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims all need to get to know each other through dialogue and communication. The government appears determined to work with South Africa on the issue of dealing with the past. It has promised that it will establish a domestic mechanism that will meet international standards. In South Africa, there were many who gave leadership to this dialogue, but the person who gave the symbolic leadership due to his moral authority was Bishop Desmond Tutu who was appointed Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In African and Asian societies religious clergy continue to enjoy a great deal of respect, and are also close to the people.

In Sri Lanka, one of those who could be a leader in this dialogue of truth and reconciliation is Bishop Rayappu Joseph. A week ago he celebrated his 75th birthday in Mannar at an event that was attended by the Chief Minister of the North, C. V. Wigneswaran who gave recognition to the important role that the Bishop has played in the life of the Northern Tamil community. He stood in opposition to violence in all its forms and was always for a negotiated political solution. He needs to be recognised for his contribution to supporting democratic institutions when they were under threat. Catholic bishops are required to retire at the age of 75 though there is provision for extension of service. At a time when Sri Lanka is turning the corner and democratic politics that respects human rights is on the ascendant, it is important that a Tamil religious leader of Bishop Joseph’s calibre should stay on in service as an educator and help to bridge the communal divide by getting us to know each other better.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    “…Those from the Tamil polity who wanted the Rajapaksa government to continue and therefore called for a Tamil boycott of the elections were basing their advocacy on a certain logic. They could see the Rajapaksa government was antagonising the international community and wanted this to continue till a point was reached when the international community directly intervened against the Sri Lankan government. This logic is in accordance with a belief in sections of the Tamil polity that nothing positive can be expected from the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan polity with regard to their grievances and aspirations. Therefore, they look towards the international community and to international intervention as their only hope of getting what they want…”
    well said Mr. Jehan Perera

  • 3
    2

    Tamils(as well as Muslims nd Sinhalese) bank on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and not on Prime Minister Wickremasinghe who wants to preach Buddhism in Jaffna and to please Hindu deity in India:

    ”Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wearing a Veshti and a shawl over his shoulder is seen at the Guruvayur Sreekrishna Temple in Kerala yesterday accompanied by dignitaries. In keeping with tradition, he offered ‘thulabaram’ – 77 kgs of sandalwood equal to his body weight”- Sunday times, 19 April 2015

    ”The prime minister also visited a Buddhist vihara, where he stressed the need to preach the Dhamma in Jaffna. The prime minister said Tamil monks could be brought over from India to preach Buddhism, Ceylon Today reported.”
    – Tamil Guardian, 30 March 2015

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      Before preaching Buddhism to Tamils, Ranil should get the Sinhalese to follow true Buddhism and not to terrorize the Tamils, Muslims and Christians.

      If the Sinhalese followed Buddha’s teachings they would not have committed genocide of Tamils.

  • 1
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    Dear Jehan
    Tamils are quite capable of speaking on their behalf. They have the chief minister who accuses the successive sri lankan government of genocide, Sampanthan who in 2012 and 2013 has publickly proclaimed his party’s unwavering goal of establishing an Elam , then the diaspora who are lobbying all political leaders of the west. WE know that during Elam war 4 there were a number of Sinhala tigers( koto) who betryaed this country.
    I urge you to stop your unremitting , dastardly subterfuge.

  • 3
    5

    After 30 years of separatist civil war, after another 30 years of various others conflicts AND pre-1948 demands for a separate Tamil Country…Sinhalese people would like to KNOW what are the Tamil aspirations ? grievances ? requirement ?

    ANY UN INVESTIGATION SHOULD INCLUDE [aspirations / grievances / requirement ] raised by the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

    Are they the same as:
    ———————–

    1. Thimpu Requirements ? Have they changed ?
    2. Oslo requirements ?

    OR Pre 1948 requirements of Suntharalingam ?

    Let’s bring out your requirements have a debate and END THIS ONCE AND FOR ALL.

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      It seems you are living in another planet……..

      if there is no problem for Tamils why then there were Banda-Selva pact…Dudly-Selva pact….JR-Rajiv Feros Khan pact fool?

      Why this problem has gone to UN now modaya?

      You will never learn ….only when they nailed you on head you talk about TAMIL problem even in Bankok..Delhi..and Thimpu ..

      When Tamils are little weak you ask what is their problem he he he …..

      Atleast do you know the background of Suntharalingam ?? He is not like your Modaya Wimal OK?

      Already the International community and leaders have warned many many times this is your last chance if you try to show your thuggery on Tamils another uprise will be unavoidable this will be disastrous even your Buddha can’t help you

  • 3
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    “The Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims all need to get to know each other through dialogue and communication.”

    Well said but how is this to be done? Parliament is where these things should be debated, but they are too much into politics, and power struggles.

    Maybe the National Peace Council can help.

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    The argument that the LTTE boycott was the only reason that brought Rajapakse, otherwise Ranil would have come and resolved the National question is not an acceptable logic. The LTTE _Ranil peace talk started in 2002 and it didn’t move forward for 3 years in finding a soloution. You can’t predict what would have happen if Ranil became President. The reality is that more than 50% of Sinhalese are still hard core Sinhalese who are against the equality concept. Whether it is Ranil or Mahinda or Chandrika they are not willing to challenge the Sinhalese Buddhist extremism. It is an open fact that Mahinda and his family robbed the nation and ruled the nation under a jungle law and destroyed all the humane and civilised governance. But still the hold the support of Sinhalese only on the basis he won the war after a successful genocidal war on Tamils.

  • 1
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    Hello Jehan Perera the good for nothing US educated NGO.

    You or Rayappy or Savundranayakan does not have to tell the Tamils what we need to do. You people have palyed with our lives for a very long time. This time around we shall keep our politicians too in their places.
    “The Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims we all are just getting to know each other through dialogue and communication.”
    Hence do not interfrere with NGO contract.

    You are making the sinhalese more hardcore by your theories.
    Jehan perera, mind your own business and do something worthwhile in keeping with your educational attainment instead of being a HMV.

    Leave the tamil problems to us. we can solve them. You, The Diaspora & Church leave us alone as we have even survived the Devil.
    WHAT IS IT WHITE EASHING RAYAPPU, SAVUNDRANAYAKAM & THE CHURCH ?
    THE POPE SAID EVEN THE ANIMALS CAN GO TO HEAVEN. JEHAN YOU EVEN DON’T BELONG TO THE ANIMA SPECIES & THE HEAVEN DOES NOT BELONG TO RAYAPPU OR SAVUNDRANAYAKAM.

  • 2
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    In certain newspapers there is a Dr. Jehan Perera and in the colombo telegraph there is a just Jehan Perera. Is this the same person or is it a trick ?

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