By S.Sivathasan –
With all deference to a man of letters reputed for integrity and objective analysis, I address this communication from a public Forum.
The writer confined his critique to a thirty year frame from 1983. Prince Charles said quite correctly, that the most difficult thing for humans to do is to forget the past. Knowing full well that there is neither a picturesque outbreak nor a precise end, I wished that we turn a fresh leaf from 2009, at least when we express our thoughts and anxieties. But that was never to be. So only in passing, I want to touch on the Donoughmore era, since birthmarks on the body politic cannot be wished away.
Under the new dispensation of 1931, a declining voice in state affairs agitated the Tamils. Governor Caldecott’s perception on a major question bedeviling Ceylon in 1938 was “all our political fissures radiate from the vexed question of minority representation”. In this backdrop, GG Ponnambalam, found that weakening representational strength of Tamils and the experience of the Pan Sinhalese Ministry in 1936 had alarming forebodings of marginalization. He seized the opportunity offered by the Reforms Despatch of 1938, to present a convincing thesis about Balanced Representation for the minorities, encompassing – Ceylon Tamils, Indian Tamils, Moors, Malays and Burghers – all taken as one entity. Even though a case was made out with great forensic skill, by the Tamil leader, it failed to cut much ice with Whitehall.
What results flowed thereafter in the next eight decades? A single ethnicity ‘Tamils’ enumerated as such with the same nomenclature till 1901, was bifurcated from 1911 census into Ceylon Tamils (CT) and Indian Tamils ( IT). This classification continuing to date has brought down the Tamil population by 2,293,000 (CT+ IT = 26.69% in 1901. It is 15.37 in 2011 a decline by 11.3 2% = 2.293 million). Compulsive expatriation of the former and legislated repatriation of the latter brought this debilitation of numerical strength.
With sustained effort, minority population was reduced from 30.5% to 25.1%. Tamil population saw a drastic reduction by over11%. Sinhalese population went up from 69.41% in 1946 to 74.88 % in 2011. Ethnic composition in state employment however is around 97% or more for the major entity and 3% or less for the minorities. For the major community, a near monopolistic dominance in the legislature, driver’s seat in governance, a hand on the till and fingers on the jugular of levers of employment secured this.
State entities are loathe to revealing ethnicity in employment statistics. But just one officer from Marga Institute, by spending just 1 day or less on information available in the public domain, can do an ethnic headcount and disclose it. In the pages of the Telephone Directory, in the official section, are names of most holding senior positions. They range from the Presidential Secretariat to Ministries, the Judiciary, Departments, State Banks and semi government institutions. Why Marga? To have Dr. Gunatilleke’s directions for the exercise. Why a person of such eminence for a task so prosaic as this? For reasons of authenticity and credibility when results are disclosed. If the figures depict fairness and do not touch his heart, he may remain silent about the outcome.
The Economic & Social Statistics – 2013 of the Central Bank, gives Public Sector employment in 2012 as 1,244, 315. The trained staff of the CB can provide the ethnic count for this number for 2013 when it publishes the report in April 2014. Attrition per year may not be less than 35,000. In a few years the ethnic deficits can be made good. Contented minorities will certainly throw their weight towards reconciliation and harmony.
I like to recount a relevant anecdote. In an Indian National Congress conference in the twenties CR Das, a Hindu from Bengal, an eminent lawyer and Congress leader gave very many employment statistics to highlight the fact that Moslems were gravely discriminated against. He urged remedial steps to redress the imbalance. But the Hindu dominated Congress would have none of it. Later Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an ardent Congressman and respected as an intellectual became India’s first Minister of Education. In a book of his he wrote, “On the day CR Das’s plea was rejected, the seeds of separation were sown in the minds of the Moslems”. Dr. Gunatilleke told us 42 years ago very cryptically, “Employment is sharing of national income through that means”.
In the reckoning of the powers that be, Tamils will compete for senior positions only if they are there in junior ones. So squeeze them out at recruitment level. Sinhala only went up to a point. Tamils were getting qualified. So shut them out from equal opportunities at Universities. A Minister who was credited with high intelligence had said “If you want to destroy the Tamils, first destroy their education”. Hence standardization. Yet a few were getting recruited. So now brazen non recruitment of Tamils is standard policy. No longer are branches lopped off. The government strikes at all roots at the very source. Yet Tamils are continuously told that they are absolutely equal and only diabolical racism is holding them back from reconciliation.
No attempt is made here at any comprehensive presentation. For six decades and more the country has written and rebutted ad nauseam on this repulsive subject. Only because a noted personality has issued a call, I have indicated my response in the briefest manner possible.