24 June, 2024


Response To Mahendran Thiruvarangan On The CM’s Chinthana

By Dayan Jayatilleka –  

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

If an ethnic group which accounts for 4% -10% of the populace is defined as a nation, just how small does an ethnic group have to be, to be recognised as a national minority or minority nationality? Are there no such entities as minorities, in the Chief Minister’s scheme of things?

The basic points I am making here do not change even if one were to prefer the higher figure of roughly 10% for the Sri Lankan Tamils which is found in certain source material. The UN Chairperson of the Working Group on Minorities, Prof Asbjorn Eide of Norway, clearly stated on a working visit to Sri Lanka during the CFA years, that going by international, and chiefly UN criteria, Sri Lankan Tamils are not a nation enjoying the right of self determination but a national minority deserving of equal rights and enjoying, arguably, the right to autonomy.

Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s “two nations” theory is the same concept that underlay the British-inspired partition of India and Pakistan.

It is not merely the Sinhalese who do not accept the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation without a state. No country does. Most importantly, the Two Nations thesis is rejected by India and goes against the most enlightened definition of Sri Lanka, namely that contained in the Preamble of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

The dangerous upshot of the Two Nations theory that it lends credence to the cautioning of the defence hawks that there is a latent secessionism or a secessionist project by incrementalism, aimed at establishing a state for “a nation without a state”. Therefore, say the hawks, devolution should be denied or delayed.

Can any democratic political party in the island’s South, ranging from the UNP to the JVP, be convinced into recognizing the Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East as a nation? If not, isn’t the Chief Minister’s very definition of the problem such that it precludes a solution? In the alternative, doesn’t the Chief Minister’s definition of the problem, which precludes domestic support from the South, leave an externally propelled partition as the only ‘solution’? Was that the problem from the very start?

Perhaps still more negative is the other consequence of Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s thesis. By classifying the Tamils of Sri Lanka as “a nation without a state” rather than a minority without autonomy or equal rights, he deflects the struggle for the achievable goals of minority rights and more equitable inter-ethnic relations, devolution of power and anti-discrimination, pre-empts a civil rights movement and locks the Sinhala and Tamil communities into the protracted zero-sum game of a struggle over nationhood — an eternal tribal conflict— on this small island.

Is there an alternative? Yes there is and is internationally recognised. Thus it is still more significant that Justice Wigneswaran chooses to ignore it. He deliberately sets up a model in which there are only two contending discourses and trajectories. His alternatives are the acceptance of a two nation theory or submission to Sinhala Buddhist domination and a variety of internal colonialism as it were.

The third discourse, which he conspicuously ignores, is the same one that all Sinhala chauvinists in and outside the Government and state also shun. In this regard, Chief Minister Wigneswaran and his southern opponents are at one. The absent discourse is that of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987 and its definition of Sri Lanka, which was subscribed to and fought for, weapons in hand, by the most enlightened and modernist elements in Sri Lankan society and politics at the time, supported politically and strategically by the most advanced polity in the South Asian region. What does the Accord say?

“Acknowledging that Sri Lanka is a ‘multi-ethnic and a multi-lingual plural society” consisting, inter alia, of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims (Moors) and Burghers;

Recognising that each ethnic group has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity which has to be carefully nurtured;

Also recognising that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups;

Conscious of the necessity of strengthening the forces contributing to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and preserving its character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi- religious plural society , in which all citizens can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfil their aspirations…”

This is the truly pluralist vision of Sri Lanka; a vision of a multiethnic, multilingual, multi-religious society in which each ethnic group has a distinct identity. It is not a definition of a vision of ‘two nations’ or of the domination of one peoples over the other.

Related posts;

Brother Bernard And The National Question by C.V. Wigneswaran

Wigneswaran’s ‘Two Nations’ & The State’s Two Blunders by Dayan Jayatilleka

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

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Latest comments

  • 1


    ” Even that Monk Mahanama, a Tamil Buddhist of the time, wrote the Mahawansa 500 years after events – that allowed him a lot of time and space for inventive history. As we see now, he did a fair job of distortion.”

    So the latest addition to Tamil list is Mahanama. You Tamils are full of Cock stories.

    Which ever way you look at Sri Lanka is the country that gave birth to the Sinhalese civilization just as much as Tamil Nadu did for the Tamil and Andra did for Telegus.

    There are many Telegus and Keralites who have been assimilated into Tamil race in Tamil Nadu due to years of living there. In the recent years over a million Poles have entered UK and in due course they will be assimilated into those societies. In Sri Lanka it is no different. There had been many migrants from different parts of India who played a part in the evolution of the Sinhalese race from the original tribes. Now a days you find many estate tamils specially in Matugama/Matara areas being assimilated in to the sinhala race.
    It is you Tamils who talk of fictitious homelands inviting the Sinhalese to dig history.

    “The US State Dept maintains a list of Lankan top politicians who are in the “Red” List of Global drug smuggling. At least two of your Sinhala Ministers have their nicknames beginning with “kudu …” Say what?”

    I would agree with you here. But there antiques are generally not known to the wider public. It is not the case with you guys.

    • 3

      Ravi Sinhala speaking demela Perera

      “Which ever way you look at Sri Lanka is the country that gave birth to the Sinhalese civilization just as much as Tamil Nadu did for the Tamil and Andra did for Telegus.”

      I have asked several times this before and will ask you once again:

      What is Sinhala Civilisation?

    • 0

      I meant to take Ravi Perera on some of his erroneous beliefs but, with many things in mind, didn’t quite get to it earlier. When he says “There are many Telegus and Keralites who have been (sic) assimilated into Tamil race in Tamil Nadu due to years of living there” he exposes his ignorance of Tamilnadu life and politics. Telugus and Malayalees are very proud of their origins and do not assimilate easily. MGR, though a Malayalee (Keralite) remained one to the end. Yet he was voted into several times by majority Tamils in Tamilnadu. Vaiko, is of Telegu origin but makes no attempt to hide this although his electorate is the deep Tamil South.
      Do not take these leaders to be like cricketer T.M. Dilshan (Tuan Mohamed Dilshan) who “assimilated” into the Sinhala whole and became
      something else.

      It is misunderstanding and falsehood such as this the Sinhala side has
      confused themselves with. I still remember the instance where the late
      Somarama Thero, the inspiration to BBS, JHU and so on – in his TV arguments with the late Minister Ashraff, confidently proclaimed there is no country in the world that sings the National Anthem in more than one language???

      R. Varathan

  • 1

    Karen Parker, J. D
    “The situation in Sri Lanka, for many years now engulfed by armed conflict between the Sinhala-controlled government and the Tamil people, must be understood in terms of an “imperfect” de-colonization process by the British. Once again, two distinct countries – in this case the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation — were amalgamated under “unitary” rule by the colonizers.

    The Sinhala and the Tamil people in the island of Ceylon are as distinct as say the Finns and Italians. The colonizers understood this clearly. The first colonial power on the island, Portugal, was only able to conquer the Tamil country more than 100 years after it conquered the Sinhalese one. In 1621 the Portuguese captured the Tamil king Sankili and killed him. The Dutch took over the island from the Portuguese, and apparently were able to exercise some loose governance over the Tamil areas but mostly ruled from the Sinhalese lands. When the British came, they were able to establish a unitary rule. This was not without protest from Britain’s own early administrators, as the first of them said, and I paraphrase here, “I do not know how we are going to do this — these people are really different”, recognizing that in this case, the forced marriage of unitary rule would never work. (28) And in fact during the British administration, the two peoples were probably less amalgamated together than in other areas where the British created “unitary” states: there was clearly a governance recognizing the very different natures of these people.

    In the de-colonization process in Sri-Lanka, there was an attempt between the Tamil and Sinhala leadership to try out a post-colonial unitary state despite the historic situation of the two countries. In the first two constitutions, there was an agreement between the majority Sinhalese people and the numerically fewer Tamil people for a government structure that would guarantee that the Tamil people would not become fatally submerged under the Sinhala. So there was an attempt to avoid submersion in the language of the Constitution of 1947. Before the ink was dry, the Sinhala leadership began to violate the terms. There were a number of subsequent agreements between the Tamil and Sinhala leadership to re-negotiate on various occasions, beginning even as early as 1950 and 1951. However major pacts between Tamil leadership and Sinhalese leadership that allowed the rights of the Tamil people and the rights of the Sinhalese people to be dually respected in a jointly run island also failed. (29) In evaluating this situation then, in light the right of self-determination, we can see that this was an “imperfect” de-colonization process. The attempts to negotiate and re-negotiate to try to keep open ways to guarantee rights for the Tamil people failed for nearly 30 years, at which point the combined Tamil leadership said that “unitary” rule was no longer an option.30 Since 1982, a war has ensued defending that right of the Tamil people to self-determination. “

  • 1


    Pls read and read a few times on what I have written. Just ask your self if you have answered/challenged the main points I have written

    • 0


      Thanks for the advice.

      What about you reading again and again the information provided to you by me and others?

  • 2


    “What is Sinhala Civilisation? “

    Google sinhala civilisation and see what comes up. May be you can borrow Vanniya aththos computer

    • 2

      Ravi Sinhala speaking Demela Perera

      “Google sinhala civilisation and see what comes up. May be you can borrow Vanniya aththos computer”

      Tell us, as a Sinhala speaking Demela, what do you perceive as Sinhala Civilisation.

  • 1


    Is Vanniya aththa also ignoring you.. Poor Vedda starving starving..

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