By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
In venting his spleen on Dayan Jayatilleka my mate Siri Gamage has done a good job of recycling all the threadbare phrases, cliches and the usual litany of complaints of the Tamil lobby. He lumps Jayatilleka, Rajapaksa and the majoritarian Sinhalese into one big gang that had denied rights to the minority Tamils a la Bhumiputras of Malaysia. This, he will admit, is going over the top. This downright lie is totally unacceptable, coming from Siri Gamage who boasts of a Ph.D. attached to rear end of his name. Besides, those with Ph. Ds, unlike ordinary mortals like us, are expected to produce in-depth, original analyses that would throw new light into old and vexed problems. But I was disappointed to see him repeating what Dr. Brian Senewiratne, another propagandist in the Australian Tamil lobby, has been saying for donkeys years. A slavish mentality repeating time-worn propaganda does not add credit either to him as an academic or to the New England University of which he is a Senior Lecturer..
The central theme that runs through his diatribe is that the majority Sinhalese have denied the Tamil minority their rights and it is time to restore democratic liberalism and pluralism, in the interests of peace and reconciliation. As I said earlier he is merely repeating what Sampanthan and Sumanthiram have been telling the world. If he is a Ph. D with a balanced mind he should have paused and asked what rights, what dignity, what respect Sampanthan and Sumanthiram had when they went with cap in hand to get their orders from their deified leader, Prabhakaran.
Siri Gamage accuses the Rajapaksas of running a regime “without rule of law, severely curtailing the media, brutalising society and civic activists, centralising power etc.” Where the hell was he when Prabhakaran was running his slaughter house in the fascist gulag in the Vanni? What dignity, respect and freedom did Wigneswaran and Sumathiram have when hacks from Prabhakaran’s school of law ran the kangaroo courts in the Vanni? Why didn’t Sumanthiran, Wigneswaran and Sampanthan practice law in Prabhakaran’s courts? And why did they function only in Rajapakse’s courts? So can Siri Gamage tell us under whose regime did the Tamils enjoy dignity, respect and freedom? With all the infirmities mentioned by Siri Gamage would he and the Tamil leaders a prefer to live in Prabhakaran’s fascist gulag or in Mahinda Rajapakse’s “centralised power” ?
Obviously Siri Gamage does not know that the Sampanthan, Sumathiran and Wigneswaram regained their lost rights, dignity and respect as human beings – let alone as lawyers — only after the Rajapakses vanquished the Pol Potist regime in the Vanni. Rajapaksa gave them the right to criticize him (despite “curtailing the media”) though the Tamil leaders would have been shot dead at first sight if they dared to criticize Prabhakaran. Above all, Rajapaksa gave the greatest political gift which the Tamil never had before: the right to democratically elect their own political body to govern themselves in the Northern Province, like all the other provinces, for the first time in their entire history.
In restoring democracy to the North Rajapaksa gave the Tamils of the North the political equality that had been denied to the Tamils by the Vellahla casteists during feudal and colonial times, and Prabhakaran later. Though somewhat late – better late than never! — Rajapakse brought the Tamils of the North on par with the rest of the nation when the right to elect their own representatives was granted to the Tamils. So can Siri Gamage tell us who denied the Tamils their dignity, rights, and respect? And who gave them back their birth rights for the first time in their history? I hope he will answer these questions, without going round the mulberry bush, because there is no point in getting a Ph. D if you can’t answer simple questions..
He adds: “In a post-war context where reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamils should be the main focus, repeating the mantra of Sinhala nationalism, an existential threat, denial of legitimate rights of the Tamils as equal citizens etc. can have far-reaching consequences for the harmony and well-being of society.” In the preceding paras I showed how “the legitimate rights of the Tamils as equal citizens” have been restored. But when Siri Gamage says that the Tamils are not treated as equals I seemed to have missed something which he has seen. So can Siri Gamage tell me what are the legitimate rights that others have but not the Tamils?
Take, for instance, two leading examples: 1. C. V. Wigneswaran and 2. M. A. Sumanthiram, who have never ceased to accuse the Sinhala-Buddhists of denying the Tamils their fundamental rights. Both came from Royal College, the leading educational institution of “the Sinhala-Buddhist state”. Were they denied entry to Royal College because they were Tamils, following the example of the Jaffna Vellahla supremacists who not only denied entry to low-caste Tamils but also burnt down the schools of the low castes? Did they face any discrimination at the hands of their teachers, or their fellow school mates? Did the Royalists discriminated against them and forced them to sit on chairs lower than that of the Sinhalese because they were Tamils? Remember how the Vellahla casteists forced the low-caste Tamil children to sit on chairs lower than their to maintain their superior status even in the classrooms? Were they asked to pay fees because they were Tamils? Did the Roman Catholic Church in the south have special seats for the Vellahlas in the front and relegate the low-castes into the back of beyond?
Then they went to Law College, another institution of “the Sinhala-Buddhist state”. Did the lecturers mark them down because they were Tamils? Then they practiced in the law courts run by “the Sinhala-Buddhist state”. Did the Sinhala clients and their confrere reject them because they were Tamils? Wigneswaran even joined the Attorney-General’s Department of “the Sinhala-Buddhist state”. What were the rights denied to him by “the Sinhala-Buddhist state” because he was a Tamil ? Eventually he rose to occupy a seat in the Supreme Court? How did he rise to that height if Siri Gamage’s Bhumiputra policies were operative? And why did Wigneswaran and Sumanthiram uphold, defend and earn their crust by applying the laws of the “Sinhala-Buddhist state” which, according to them, were discriminatory against the Tamils?
If what they say is true shouldn’t they go down on their knees and apologize to the Tamil people for betraying them shamelessly? So can my mate Siri Gamage tell the readers in what respect the Tamils were treated unequally? Did he do his research for his Ph. D., in the garbage bins of the Tamil lobbyists in Sydney? Or has he ever done any research on existential conditions of the Tamils of Jaffna?
If Siri Gamage has done his research as he ought to have done instead of repeating what has been fed to him by the Tamil lobby, he would have known that the denial of the right of education, denial of fundamental rights to even drink a drop of water, denial of the right to worship their common God/s, denial of the right to walk in daylight in Jaffna etc., dominated the Jaffna political culture and not in the south. As an sociologist, does he think the Jaffna culture that created a species called “pariahs”, who were excluded from the Hindu Vellahla society, is inclusive? The denial of the basic right of being a human being – leave aside other distinctions — was a systemic norm in Jaffna anointed by the ruling Hindu ideology. When the Vellahla caste system faded (not died) Prabhakaran ran a one-man regime taking the denial of human right to a beastly level. What kind of kotta kelangu stuffed the mouths of Wigneswaran and Sumanthiram to speak on behalf of the oppressed and persecuted Tamils then?
Chelvanayakams and Amirthalingams did not confront the Vellhala supremacists who ruled Jaffna with an iron fist. Wigneswarans and Sumanthirams, who succeeded them, did not lift a finger to liberate the Tamils from the brutal Pol Potist regime of Prabhakaran. They found their tongues only when Rajapakse liberated Jaffna. As beneficiaries of a liberated society shouldn’t they offer flowers at the feet of Rajapakse for eliminating the tyranny of Prabhakaran and restoring them the right to live freely in a democratic society, without fear of being bumped off?
He also states that Sinhala nationalism is “essentialist in nature in the sense that only Sinhalese can belong in it. No one else.” What a load of codswallop! This again is an accusation borrowed from the Tamil lobby. Does he not know that the “exclusionary Sinhala nation” had elected Europeans, (F. R. Freeman), Tamils (Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan), Muslims (M. H. Mohammed, ACS. Hameed etc) and Burghers (Pieter Keuneman) from majority Sinhala electorates. Is this a sign of Sinhalese excluding the minorities? Mendacious academics who hide their intellectual inadequacies behind Pee. h. Ds bring disgrace to their universities. It also reveals the academic standards of New England University in NSW.
My mate Siri Gamage should stop eating the hay fed to him by the Tamil lobby and start walking on two legs instead of four. He is just another “betel-chewing villager from Sri Lanka”. (to borrow a phrase from the title of one of his papers) who is now posing as a liberal intellectual who has nothing better to offer than recycling second hand theories of other academics/intellectuals, not to mention the propaganda fed to him like poonac to the bovine species.,
Not surprisingly, he complains that Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka is not hitting the ball but the man. How can Dr. Jayatilleka hit balls that are not there? Put plainly, Siri Gamage has no balls – unless he considers his lies, distortions and intellectual perversions as balls. Everybody has a right to hit those balls and if it hurts, wear an extra guard, mate!