7 July, 2022

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Sumanthiran’s Choice

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof Mahesan Niranjan

I have two Tamil friends. Their names are SriLankan Tamil and Tamil Sri Lankan. “Aren’t they the same?” you ask. No, the order in which the identifiers appear is significant. Tamils often use their dads’ name followed by a given name. My friend Thevaram, son of Sivapuranam, writes his name as Sivapuranam Thevaram. Formally, he is known as Mr Thevaram, yet informally he is addressed as “Hey Thevaram.” He is found under T in the phone book. The British war criminal Tony Blair has the identifier Blair inherited from his father and Tony given to him at birth. “Hey Tony,” is how his friend – the other war criminal — calls him, he is “Mr Blair” in a formal setting and is found under  B in the phone book. Thus, order matters (except in the case of my other friend, Ting Ting).

My friend SriLankan Tamil (SLT for short) has the following take on the politics of Sri Lanka. History started on 4 February 1948, the day the suddhas (white folk) left the island after 500 years of colonial rule, leaving us to run our own business. Our independence was not won in a fight. The struggle in India, the weakened state of Britain after the war, and the discovery that to have a flow of wealth from the poor to the rich, you need not physically control them, were elements that made the suddhas leave. SLT is saddened by the decline since 1948. “Have we built a single yard of railway line on our own?” he often asks. “Have we developed the capacity to build and maintain clean toilets?” he often laments.

My friend Tamil Sri Lankan (TSL for short) has a different view of history. He starts further back in time and claims that we were different nations (the Tamils and Sinhalese, that is) before the suddhas arrived. And now that they are gone, we should get back to where we were and go our separate ways.  “Otherwise, the majority will simply destroy the minority,” he fears. And his fears are not without foundation.

Nationalism articulated by TSL has two causes that eminent scholars of social and political sciences find hard to disentangle. One is the realization by Sinhala politicians that manufactured racism is a big vote winner, and in recent years they have developed it to perfection.  Second is a superiority complex entrenched among Tamils they must necessarily be clever because the suddhas chose them to run post offices. Had you lived in Jaffna in 1976, when the Vaddukkoddai resolution calling for separation was passed and in 1977 when the TULF won a landslide victory with that resolution as mandate, you would have noticed how one type of racism served both as trigger and cover for the other.

SLT thinks that the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution can give a workable level of devolution to the provinces. Its implementation will be a framework in which Tamils, in parts of our country where they have lived for generations, can be empowered to make their own decisions in terms of preserving their cultural heritage and identity. That is no threat to the majority. Nor is it in any way a challenge to the territorial integrity of the Sri Lankan state. The autonomous region of Trento in Italy, the federal governance structures in India and Switzerland are all examples that a small amount of local decision making power actually makes the global state stronger, not weaker.

TSL disagrees. He thinks that the 13th Amendment is a non-starter. He has studied its provisions with a microscope. An example of something hilarious he has found is this: there is asymmetry in how the centrally appointed governor and the elected Provincial Council are supposed to share power. The Governor has discretionary control over certain things which over-rides powers of the elected local body. Now, who decides the topics in which the Governor exercises discretion? It is the Governor himself! “Funny,” do I hear you say?

We can also understand the differences between my friends from their professional training.

SLT happens to be a statistician. As such, his interest lies in average-case analysis. If life for his people can improve on average, he is rather pleased. He is aware that in situations that are polarised – bimodal distributions, the technical term for it — averages can be misleading, but usually ignores this fact. Let me explain. Two World Bank economists trained in statistics went hunting. They encounter a tiger. The first guy takes his gun out, aims and shoots. He misses by a foot to the left. The second guy takes his shot and misses by a foot to the right. The tiger attacks, kills and eats them. Later, when they meet in their reserved corner of Hell, one says to the other: “Machan, on average, we got him.”

TSL is trained in law. As a lawyer, he is interested in worst-case analysis. He concerns himself with each and every potential scenario in which things can go wrong, for it is when things go wrong he gets to earn a living. Let me explain. Once when our TV stopped working, we called in a repairman. The guy took just one look, knocked hard on one side of the TV and it started working again. “50 Rupees,” he asked for that work. Outrageous, but we paid up. Later that evening, we asked our lawyer friend if it was allowed to charge Rs. 50 for just one knock. “Yes,” he replied, “100 Rupees.”

In Tamil politics, my two friends never manage to reach agreement by discussion. Their exchanges on facebook, for example, have very short time constants. It goes like this. One of them copies an article favourable to his particular point of view and clicks “like”. The other makes a comment critical of it. And next we see are blows below the belt. “Oh, you sound just like VP,” SLT would say, to shut TSL up. “But that is just what MR is also saying,” TSL would say. They then part company, agreeing that facebook wall is not the place to have a political discussion — and repeat the same in a few months.

Have you noticed that debate has never been a way of resolving issues in Tamil politics? My friend Thevaram has come up with a theory on that. It has to do with intonation in language – a tool used stress parts of your speech. Such use of intonation for emphasis is not common in spoken Tamil. Let me explain. When Thevaram and his wife Manimekalai disagree on something, their kid Senguthu complains: “why are you guys shouting?”  “No, darling, we are discussing,” the parents would tell him. “No you are shouting,” Senguthu would insist. Note with a slight change of pitch, he can stress the “are.” Handicapped by the lack of intonation, the unfortunate couple have to raise their decibels to stress or emphasize a point. Beating people up when they disagree, tying them to lamp posts and shooting them, are all predictable manifestations of this, Thevaram’s theory claims.

 Enter Hon. Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament.

Terminology from consumer electronics helps to understand Sumanthiran MP. First, we had the radio, converting electromagnetic waves to sound. Then there was the tape recorder which played back recorded material. Remember, these were being sold separately during the Sixties until someone figured out you can package the two in a single box? A Two-In-One it used to be called, and served as a prize gift from a friend returning from a trip overseas. Set the switch to the right, it will act as a radio, switch to the left it will play cassette tapes. And possession of one made the neighbours envious, too!

MP Sumanthiran is the two-in-one of Tamil politics. He has both my friends, Sri Lankan Tamil and Tamil Sri Lankan, integrated in one.

Sumanthiran is appointed to parliament by the Tamil National Alliance. These guardians of Tamil Nationalism claim that, post-war, their call for separatism has ended. To show this to the world, they ditched from membership a gang of three, perceived to be closest to the LTTE. But whether they have indeed distanced themselves far enough from the evils that were committed in my name without my consent, is not entirely clear to me. This is particularly hard to judge because the TNA are exceptionally talented at saying different things at different times to different people, and though Sumanthiran’s discomfort in that setting sometimes shows, his appointment by the TNA puts him in good company of my friend, the Tamil Sri Lankan.

In parliament, Sumanthiran has delivered some admirable speeches, playing a one-man-band of an opposition.  His contribution when the 18th amendment to the constitution was passed, removing the last remaining rusty bolts holding Sri Lanka’s democracy together, was excellent. I found it to be of similar quality to the speech by P. Kandiah, former MP for Point-Pedro, in the debate on the Official Languages Act of 1956. When our hopes were further dashed by the removal from office of our country’s Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, Sumanthiran rose in Parliament to make another remarkable speech. These make him the perfect Sri Lankan Tamil.

So the coin that we see rolling along has two sides: the Sri Lankan Tamil and the Tamil Sri Lankan. How do we wish this man to go further? More to the point, how do we see in the choices he can make, the future of our country? Here is one suggestion in the form of two challenges.

Here is my challenge to Sumanthiran: Leave the TNA.

Recognize that the Tamil Nationalist politics has not made the lives of the Tamil people any better than in 1948. The way our nationalism was articulated has not won us any friends in the world. Promises made to the people, “vote for us, we know how to get federalism” to “accept us as sole representatives, we will carve out a separate state in which milk and honey will flow” have been miserable failures. It is time to think outside the box than sing from the same old hymn sheet.

Here is my challenge to the electorate in the South: Elect Sumanthiran to Parliament.

Recognize that there are issues, serious issues, we Sri Lankans have to address, and they have to be analysed and vocalized. In economic development, in good governance, in education, in irrigation and drainage, in electricity pricing, in running better railways, in building clean public toilets, in making appointments of Vice Chancellors, and in maintaining law and order — just to mention a  few — we have much to develop.  This man is highly talented and can speak on behalf of us all. Recognize also that speaking of the issues specific to the Tamil community — and believe me, there are such issues — is not separatism, for the Tamil people are also Sri Lankan.

If Sumanthiran and the southern electorate — the first time voters of the facebook generation in particular — can rise up to this coupled pair of challenges, and he is returned to parliament on a non-ethnic vote, that would be the desperately needed ray of light at the end of the long dark tunnel our country has travelled through in the last 60 years.

That also will be the beginning of the reconciliation we so urgently need, in memory of the thousands of Sri Lankans we have massacred – some of whose skeletons we are discovering in orderly deep graves in Matale, and others we are refusing to discover in chaotic shallow bunkers of Mullivaikkaal.

Are these graves to be our only achievement since the suddhas left us to mind our own business?

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Latest comments

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    Amen.

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      His only chance is Tamil voters from Colombo District.

      No one else will vote for him enough to enter parliament, due to his TNA connection.

      Similarly, the north will also not vote a Sinhalese in to parliament.

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        did you just say that? :D

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        Dear Muliyawaikkai,

        “His only chance is Tamil voters from Colombo District.
        No one else will vote for him enough to enter parliament, due to his TNA connection. Similarly, the north will also not vote a Sinhalese in to parliament.”

        How True!.

        We need to find a Sri Lankan Suddha, Yes a pure Bred Sri Lankan Englishman to run for President. Quite a few of them were there after 1948, but most left after 1956, courtesy of SWRD Sinhala Buddhist Racism.

        I had a classmate, like that, but he went to Australia.

        So, the Suddha, is NOT Tamil, and therefore the Sinhala Will vote for him.

        So, the Suddha, is NOT Sinhala, and therefore the Tamil WILL vote for him.

        So, the Suddha, is NOT Sinhala nor Tamil, and makes little difference to the Muslims, Burghers and Malays as long he is a good leader, keeps law and order and treats all the communities equally and with respect. the Muslims, Burghers and Malays WILL vote for him.

        So, since independence, over the past 64 years

        1. The Sinhala the have lost the TRUST of the Tamils.

        2. The Tamils the have lost the TRUST of the Sinhala.

        3. The Sinhala and Tamils the have lost the TRUST of the Muslims.

        The Trust have to be built up.

        Separation, is the wrong direction to build the trust.

        We need a SUDDHA for PRESIDENT!

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          Amarasiri;

          “We need a SUDDHA for PRESIDENT!”.

          BUT ALL Sinhalese,Tamils,the Muslims, Burghers and Malays
          ARE LOOKING FOR SUDDHA who wears AN AMUDE.

          VERY VERY DIFFICULT TO FIND.
          But I found one, Named SUDDHA At WELIKDA PRISON.

          Bythe way,REMEMBER the present governing clan also SUDDAHAs TOO.
          [they have American PASSPORTS].
          They are also good leaders, keep law and order and treats all the communities equally and with respect.

          JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA. I R C [WELIKDA], CHANGI [ Singapore]

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      Niranjan,
      Pretty good analysis and something new to think.
      Lot of us proud of you mate.
      I have doubts on the success of your second challenge.
      In the south side, we have Sinhala Sri Lankans and Sri Lankan Sinhala as well. The issue here is percentage of Sinhala Sri Lankans is HUGE compared to the other.
      Main issue related to this is Value given to Quality in the south side. Couple of years back, world class quality designer cloths were abandone in SL. But surprisingly price of Arrow or Timberland shirt and locally made shirts have almost the same price. Quality is not identified so no value is added.
      My point is Sumanthiran will not be valued any better than film star MP Paba in the south because most of the south are Sinhala Sri Lankans.
      Anura

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      Amen indeed.

      This opinion piece, in my opinion, is the result of shifting mindset from entire life of academic books to the current political climate where the focus is on other minority groups.

      Last thing the Tamils need now, after more than six decades, is to call everyone nationalists.

      I would suggest that we all read and gauge Palestinian crisis, Srebrenica moments, Rohingya before connects any dots here

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    Sumanthiran transcends political party. He is a rare statesman and I believe that he will be president of Sri Lanka someday.

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      Amen !

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      As you wish!

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      I join with my friend in America proposing Mr. Sumanthiran to be a Sri Lankan Presidential candidate!

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      Dear Wyatt K,

      A good write up on most of he core issues. So, where will the solutions come from? BBS Mara Racists? More Sinhala Buddhist Racism?

      “Sumanthiran transcends political party. He is a rare statesman and I believe that he will be president of Sri Lanka someday.”

      This is wishful thinking, where Sri Lankna selects their leaders based on CAPABILITY AND MERIT, but we have a few hurdles yo jump over before that happens.

      The religious and racial Myths are in the way.

      The Racist Buddhist Monk Mahanama Myths, is foremost, exploited by Monks, Politicians and many Sinhala Buddhists.

      The religious and racial Myths need to be expunged.

      Europe has done great by marginalizing the Christian Myths.

      Religious and Racial Myths- the Curse of Mankind.

      DeJa Vu…..

  • 0
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    An interesting viewpoint, what do you say Sumanthiran?

  • 0
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    Bravo!,
    Niranjan, this is very rare indeed.

  • 0
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    A highly intelligent and beautifully written piece. One of the best I’ve read in months, and one of the most insightful on the subject I’ve read in years.

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      Well, try first to stay well away from Rajiva’s verbal cholera.

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    Here’s a third option/challenge: the TNA can appoint Sumanthiran its leader and chief negotiator.

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      But the best option would be for the south to elect him to Parliament. The starting point of reconcilliation, begining of the end for racism.

      One doubt if he’s to resign from TNA from which party should he be nominated?

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      If Sumanthiran is above nationalist politics, why can’t he be elected as the leader of UNP and let him contest in the president election? Is he not suitable for this position because he was born as Tamil ? Mind you Karuna was elected as one of the Vice Presidents of SLFP.

  • 0
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    good article .worth the read and reflect not only for the Tamils but for Sinhalese and Muslims as well.

  • 0
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    hear hear,
    Sumanthiran has my vote,
    for parliament,
    for president,

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    As someone who identifies himself as a ‘Tamil Sri Lankan’ because my primary identity was my name, followed by my language and culture, and then my country, I enjoyed reading Prof. Niranjan’s thesis. However, I have to emphasise that all ‘Tamil Sri Lankans’, do not identify themselves as such because of their history as a so-called ‘ Nation’. My nation today is Sri Lanka and it is so to many who call themselves ‘Tamil Sri Lankans’. The fact that we had a Tamil Kingdom in history, does not qualify us to call ourselves a ‘ Nation’. It is divisive in concept and intent. However, my identity as a Tamil, through Karmic influence or a random accident of birth, is however sacro-sanct.. Similarly, my identity as a SriLankan too is sacro-sanct. They go together quite well and are complementary.

    Further, I hope the challenges posed by Prof. Niranjan, are taken to heart by Sumanthiran and the Sinhala electorate. More individuals like Sumanthiran should emerge on the national scene for both the Tamils and Sinhalese to climb out of the deep hole this nation is in. I had thought Mahinda Rajapakse had the potential to be one and catalyse the emergence of such a kind of Sri Lankans, he has disappointed me and failed this nation.

    Further, there is a very profound message for the TNA on this article. It is time the TNA changed its politics. The Tamils cannot afford it any more. The Sinhala political parties, that label themselves ‘ National’ should also change their majoritarian mindset to become truly national.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      “The fact that we had a Tamil Kingdom in history, does not qualify us to call ourselves a ‘ Nation’.”

      Very pertinent point Dr. RN. Yes there was a Kandiyan kngdom too but not qualified for a Kandian Nation.

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        You are wrong here. Just because Kandyan Kingdom which was also a Sinhalese Kingdom does not want to assert itself as a nation that does not mean that it is wrong for the Jaffna kingdom ruled by Tamils cannot assert itself as a nation. This is a typical Sinhala racist view point. The language and religion of the majority of the people in the Kandyan Kingdom are the same as those in the Low-country kingdoms and therefore there is no necessity to assert themselves as a nation separate to the low country nation. The difference between the Kandyan and low country areas is economic as the low country areas were under colonial rule since Potugese conquest and were developed since then while the Kandyan kingom was annexed only in 1815 and saw development late. Sinhala government since 1948 have both politically ( deporting of one million tamils of recent Indian origin ) and economically satisfied the aspiration of Kndyan people and therefore there was no necessity for asserting themselves as a nation. This is not so as for the Jaffna Kingdom which has been the subject of racial discrimnation by the Sinhala regime controlling Srilanka and hence the necessity to assert itself as a nation in order to correct these atrocities. To educate you it was the Kandyan politicians who first demanded for a federal structure in 1926 due their economic backwardness.

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          You may think that speration is the only option. Isn’t is a tunnel vision?

          At the time of independence and even up to 1970s Jaffna distirct was the best in health care and education compared to other districts. This was within a unitary state.

          I do agree that sinhala only language policy in 1956 was most discriminatory. However the response of the tamils were too glandiose. You destroyed all you have achieved in the name of freedom.

          I condemn that state sponsered repression of Tamil protests and 1983 program.

          Hoever if we continue to stand in our bigotory and not change our view points, where will that lead us?

          Yes we made mistakes. Initiated by discriminatory policies by sinhala majority. But the response by Tamils too can not be justified. I am sad that we lack leaders of wisdom to put this country in the right path. That divisive policies yet continue.

          What we need is to have equal rights for all citizens. Have the minorities agitated for this. Law and order put in place not tyrrany. We need democracy practised fully. We should not devide on ethinic and religious line but become inclusive pluraristic society.

          Just because another person has a different view from yours he/she will not become a racist sinhal buddhist!

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            We did many mistakes and WE HAVE TO CHANGE.
            we have to change our attitude irrespective of all races and religion

            When you are in A foreign country, Indians always say they are Indians, not Indian Tamils, Indian Bihris or Indian Gujarati’s.
            They Say ONLY INDIANS.

            Why we cant be like that.
            and
            as per my knowledge, ONLY SRI LANKANS SPEAK VERY GOOD TAMIL LANGUAGE.
            BYGONES ARE BYGONE,

            WE all must be proud SRI LANKAN.

            And,
            IF HON Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament ask for my vote, ITS OR HIM WITH GOOD WISHES.

            JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA. A SRILANKAN Buddhist Sinhalese.

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    If politicians can walk the talk they will make good leaders. The caliber of sincere politicians are hard to come by these days. Their good intention breaks down once they capture power. A Personal observation with most of them over a period of time. It all boils down if the wolves will let the Hon. Sumanthiran, the opportunity to take the country out of the mess?

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    Very clear exposition. BUT. Prof. Niranjan says ‘leave the TNA’- and do what, Professor? Form another political party? Ask 80% of rural Srilankans for their Sinhala vote? We tend to forget that Colombo is not Sri Lanka.The north and East are overwhelmingly loyal to the LTTE proxy-the TNA.The TNA may have changed original policies, but it will take a decade or more for Sri Lankans (North and South) to accept this. And there will always be Tamils with contrary ideas-how can we forget Ponnambalam and Chelvanayagam!

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      The loyalty you refer is not because of the perception of the TNA as an LTTE proxy,but because there is no other viable political alternative. The TNA’s Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde act is yet tolerated by the Tamil electorate, because of this lack of alternatives.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        Someone is a little bit JEALOUS of the TNA and its success

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        I guess it is true that tamils in N &E vote mostly because there is no other alternative. If TNA had candidates for the area I live in (with gov as the only other side)though i am sinhala I would vote for TNA not because I like TNA but bcos I DISLIKE this gov

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      Sumanthiran should leave TNA, form a political party and use either UNP or SLFP as a vehicle to penetrate into the southern electorate. It would be the responsibility of the Sinhala politicians to endorse him. As things are backing anyone in TNA would be the end of the Sinhala politician doing that.

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    Dayan Jayatilake’s third option is ideal. Sumanthiram to be made the leader of the TNA.

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      Sumanthiran will not be able to change the TNA mindset and modus operandi. The TNA is a prehistoric relic- a dinosaur- that is awaiting a political cataclysm to meet its demise. It missed the opportunity to change at the end of the war, but chose instead the same old route and formula. The Tamil Diaspora factor also sustains it to a large extent.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        The good Doctor cant accept the fact that TNA was elected by the Tamil people. His idea of the TNA begging from King Rajapasa and accepting second class citizenship is not acceptable to the majority of the Tamil people.

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          Truer words have not been spoken, as I have mentioned above ….
          Someone is a little bit JEALOUS of the TNA and its success

          This guy lest we forgot came rushing from abroad to “laud” the services of the government and as I often say

          “money talks and bullshit walks”

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            please just because Dr. RN is haveing a different opinion from yours do not slander him.

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      THAT WILL BE THE END OF SUMANTHIRAN.
      Dayan does not realize that Sumanthiran has to become the hhead of a party which does NOT have a communal name, like —Tamil …Kadchi, or —Sinhala_- pakshaya— etc.

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      I think Sumnthiran should continue to be in the TNA without leaving it and starting some other partyb as some commentators here seem to be advising him.It is good to be withing the thick of the hurly burly of tamil politics and try to change it from withinlittle bey little,than to be outside it and align yourself with sinhalese politicians who will try to use him to the maximum resulting in him becoming irrelevan to the tamils.History has shown that once you join with the sinhalese you are finished with the tamils because they will view you with suspicion.

      Sumanthiran should aim to take over the mantle of the TNA leadership after sampanthan one day relinquishes it due to ill health and fatigue.sampanthan could continue to be guiding it through sumanthiran because they both seem to work well together as a team.sampanthan has brains and experience but lacks health and energy while sumanthiran has brains and energy ,but lacks experience,so they complement each other perfectly.However whether Senathirajah and premechandran may vehemently oppose sumanthiran becoming the leader,because tamil politics has been plagued by selfishness from the start with the northern based politicians always trying to dominate the tamils and then wondering why the tamils in srilanka are not united behind them.

      It is time the northern based politicians took a step back and allow tamils from other parts of the country to take over the leadership of the tamils if they indeed want a united tamil population.Sampanthan is from the east,so that is good for the unity of the tamils.When he semi retires and he and sumanthiran lead the tamils a tamil based in colombo and another from trincomalee guiding him will be a good combination for the unity of the tamils.Mano ganeshan should be also made prominent to give a voice to the tamils of indian origin who are based in colombo.The tamils based in the north must take a back seat in the future if they want tamil unity to prosper,because without that unity a minority of 15% tamils in srilanka only of which the northern part is only about 5% cannot continue to achieve anything.That 5% trying to dominate everything is the root cause of the problem because they are a minority within a minority but trying to behave like a majority.After tamils have been united,they must unite with the muslims and for that have to relinquish some of the leadership roles to them too.You can’t hang on to everything and expect unity with others,there has to be give and take and muslim leaders like azath sally should be given prominent roles to lead the tamils too.

      The only way for the minorities of 25% to deal with the majority of 75%,is to unite otherwise they will get picked off one by one with the divide and rule policy of the sinhala leaders who offer some cabinet portfolios etc and disempower them.The minorities have to decide once and for all whether they want permanent political empowerment,or itsy bitsy benefits now and then and for their present and future generations to suffer at the hands of the majority.They must be vigilant not to fall into the trap of the divide and rule policy because already they are so small minorities that going for short term benefits finally they will end up getting emasculated more and more.

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        Only if all leaders act with wisdom without any racist atittude this country will progress forward.

        Even the majority or minotrity does not matter all are citizens of this country. How can a national leader take side of his race /religion? why are we going back in evolution? Why can’t a leaders above devisive policies rule our people.

        We should have a national policies and each district should be developed according to a national policy. This policy making should be done by experts and politicians should only implement them. De politisisation of all public services is a must.

        all politicians should talk about developing his district,village or the country as a whole not speak for tamils, muslims or Buddhists. We need to get above petty politics.

        Most ministers and ministires are ineffective and only given to keep some individuals happy and silent. It is true to majority and the minority both. At the present political enviornment only what the Rajapakse brothers want to do will be done in any part of the island. either you are with them or against them. No matter what you are only they can rule and they will rule. How long this will continue only gods know.

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          CSM,theoretically you may be right,but practically not possible.The minorities have to devise strategies to fireproof themselves because they have been literally burned since independence.Sinhalese leaders have instead of focusing on the economy(probably because they did not have the capabilities like Lee kuan yew)instead concentrated on minority emasculation in order to obtain votes.First they came for the tamils and now they are coming for the muslims.

          Your advice is good if the sinhalese take the first steps towards it.The majority must be proactive and make all the necessary moves to reassure the minorities not the other way about.Sadly 4 years after the war has ended we see the same arrogance and bullying mentality.Must be in the genes no?

          For your vision and advice to be fulfilled,sinhalese should take the first steps.

          Otherwise it will only be theoretical rubbish for an ideal world.In the meantime while until that elusive ideal world sets in the minorities will continue to be burned unless they fireproof themselves.

          The americans took the first steps by electing a black president.These were the same whites who at one time were lynching them.So anything is possible in this world,but the majority has to take the first steps towards what you mention.

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            Of course I agree majority should take the initiative. AISO MINORITIES TOO SHOULD not be hen picking either.

            what we need is a forum of discussion. Moderates should over shadow the extremists.

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    Sunila, ideal indeed! ‘utopia’s a pleasant place, but how do we get there? straight down the crooked lane and all round the square!’

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      If the Americans from slavery to segregation can elect a black man as president not once but twice with a majority in the popular vote as well and if a highly caste conscious nation like india can elect a dalit as their president why oh why can we not elect anybody other than a sinhala buddhist as the head of our country as long as he or she is suitable.

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    Suggesting that Sumanthiran should desert his party under who’s banner he contested,and desert those who voted for him – like the UNP cross-overs is idiotic.
    Why should he?
    He does a superb job in parliament,as the sole voice of reason and rationality, on behalf of the minorities and those suffering state injustice.
    When he spoke on the 18th amendment,there was a chorus of ‘kotiya’ shouts.
    This is proof of his integrity which makes the state uncomfortable.

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      Sumanthiran did NOT contest. He is a National List MP.

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    All failed to see the politics behind this.

    Jaffna number of seats was reduced by 3 last year after updating the electors’ register. That means TNA’s 14 seats will reduce at the next election. How can TNA get those missing seats?

    By getting their MPs to contest from elsewhere!

    If TNA contests from Colombo, it loses. But if 2 TNA candidates contest from UNP, they will be elected. Then they can join TNA position in parliament.

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    If Sumanthiran does as advised and resigns from the TNA, he will cease to be an important voice of moderation in the TNA and he will be reduced to a nobody when the Sinhalese electorate lets him down as it did that other moderate “Tamil Sri Lankan,” Ponnambalam Arunachalam.

    Arunachalam formed the Ceylon National Congress (CNC) and was offered a compact on 07 Feb. 1918 by James Peiris, President, Ceylon National Association and E.J. Samarawickreme, President, Ceylon Reform League, to “actively support a provision for the reservation of a seat to the Tamils in the Western Province so long as the electorate remains territorial.” They reneged on their promise and the isolated founder of the CNC had to resign and form the Ceylon Tamil League.

    Following that, according to C. V. Vivekananthan (Sunday Times, 3 Feb, 2009), Tamils “hooted [at] him in the streets of Jaffna.”

    God forbid such an ignominious end to a rare sane voice among Tamils. Is this advice to Sumanthiran a plot against him?

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      You need the get the historical facts correct. P Arunachalam (PA) cut a backroom deal to get the job, but during that time everything depended on getting the nod of the Governor, who had his plans to split the unity between the Sinhalese and the Tamils in the CNC. However, the governor did not need to do anything clever. PA did something foolish. When the governor visited the North, PA put up a special event for the governor, and at the event made a hint that he would be representing the Western province electorate, if the good graces of the governor permits it. This causal remark may have not been explosive but for the fact that the Wijewardenas who owned the Lake house press seized on the opportunity and published it in the front page, putting the governor into an embarrassing `fait accompli’ situation. The governor was very angry because he felt that he was being manipulated. So all backroom deals were out, and PA was out. Further more, if you are not in the good graces of the governor, during those times you could not be in politics. So PA simply left it to his brother P Ramanathan (a much less enlightened, more orthodox Hindu) to take over the family business of governing both the Sinhalese and the Tamils on behalf of the British.

      see:
      http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2008/03/
      regarding-some-basic-beliefs-of-tamil.html

      and other articles.

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    Sumanthiran – you are a well respected Tamil. Sinhala buddist thugs cannot stomach facts, its distasteful. hence their remarks are obvious

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      Sounds a bit of a racist statement.
      This article by Prof. Niranjan explains the difference between a SLT and a TSL, but what is the difference between a sinhalese living in colombo and speaking both fluent sinhala and tamil, and sumanthiran who is both? SLT and TSL and also speaks sinhala? This is the question that is being debated in another article (on the 13th amendment) written by a Professor of sinhalese background, and posted on Colombo telegraph columns.

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    mr niranjan mahesan wants to become the chief minister of nothern province. congrats

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    How did the Tamils benefit by their little children being kidnapped for slave labour in the terrorist cadres of the LTTE? How did the Tamils benefit by the entire Politbureau of the EPRLF except for Suresh Premachandran who happened not to be there at the time, being murdered by the LTTE in Chennai? How did the Tamil people benefit by being held forcibly in Mullaitivu as human shields by this gang of bestial terrorists ???

    Considering all the above, to me Sumanthiran is an overated talk shop. There are many orators like Sumanthiran in Sri Lanka BUT all of them including sumanthiran can not be Presidential materrial.

    Further talking of Sumanthiran for Presidency, this professor also encourages and /or Pro-Presidential system or else he would not have suggested Sumanthiran to that post.

    Sri Lanka does not need anyone, but TRUST and non interference from outside.
    All will be well for TSL and SLT.

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    It seems like a ploy to suppress rising popularity of hon. M A Sumanthiran. Nothing else. Untenable suggestions.

    1) Most sinhalese wont be voting for him even if he comes out of TNA and stand as independent neutral party.
    2) It is just a ploy of using his popularity to go against TNA and split the strength of TNA. See how quick DJ endorsed the idea happily.
    3) To sideline his political aspiration and fight for his demand for justice.

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    i do not consider converts as tamils. a low caste tamil convert to islam becomes a muslim. after conversion to Islam low caste tamils lose the tamil identity altogether. in other words he or she is no longer linked to the race. in my opinion christian converts should be identified as christians and not as tamils. believers of alien faiths should be identified with their religion and not with the race.

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      And so what is the characteristic of this “race” called tamil? Chelvanayagam, a christian, Nagalaingam, a christian, Hoole, a christian are not tamils?

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      What are alien faiths ?

      Is this a new theory?

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    A good read. But a few problems.The list of concerns prof. highlighted are common to all people all over the country and not confined to the north or Tamils. However,prof. mentioned that there are specific concerns for the Tamil people but not listed them.
    How can Mr.Abraham resign TNA when he is the leader in waiting to take over and may be become the chief minister of the nothern province or even better be the prime minister of the dream Eelam.
    One thing is true,he can talk well even with half truths.

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    aren’t there constitutional constraints barring Tamils and Christians from being eligible for Presidency?

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      And, you should have a brother, who could become the Defence Secretary.

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      i can’t see the primitive sinhala buddhist savages ever accepting a tamil president. bbfs, jhfs, pffs ec. will be in the streets of colombo and elsewhere. bunch of thugs.

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    A somewhat confusing piece. What is the good Professor trying to say or achieve? For years to come Tamils will remain Jaffna, Trinco, Batti, Indian or even Colombo Tamils. But they can all fall back under the reality of “Unity in Diversity” When the next pogrom comes around the thugs in the mobs are not going to ask if you are this Tamil or that. Just being Tamil will do. Remember, they killed even a dog in a Tamil bungalow in Borella in Colombo because he was a “Demala balla” (A dog in a Tamil home) These labels will remain objects of identity for a long time. An academic close to me, who studies SL Tamils in the camps in Tamilnadu, told me even in matters of marriage, they (SLT) prefer to marry among their own. Nothing chronically wrong there.

    The savvy Sumanthiran may have learnt by now there may be a very small number of local Tamils not happy about his sudden entry into the top tiers of the SLT political leadership. One sees many signs of this already. But surely he is mature enough not to swallow the pill now dished out to get into electoral politics. MAS can serve the Tamil Nation and its difficult challenges ahead from the National List until there is an assured electorate for him. Colombo is not – yet.

    TNA appears to be moving in the path where most Tamils want them to – notwithstanding the relentless attacks on them by the usual suspects.
    The regime fears Tamil unity growing behind the TNA and uses various characters to undermine this before the NP elections – now on hold. The latest entrant to this is a well known Reporter-Journalist, widely believed to enjoy proximity to the Rajapakses, whose new stance surprises his readership.

    Senguttuvan

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      So true, the government will use all the resources at its disposal including the likes of Rajasingham Narendran to achieve a split !
      With Tamils like R Narendran do we need ‘other’ enemies?

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        True!

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      Senguttuvan

      Whats your take on Sumanthiran being elected as the leader of ITAK?

      Do you think the old guards ever welcome him with open arms as their fellow Tamil Saivan?

      SJV was an exception.

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        Personally, I believe it is far too early. It is also unlikely the offer will come while Mr Sampanthan is still in reasonable shape. Besides, so far, MAS has shown sufficient good sense not to be unduly ambitious or sinister. As to the Christian factor, I have commented elsewhere in these pages, the Tamil Nation has demonstrated, even when SJVC was around, they are not influenced
        by the religious factor, which they leave at home. What a healthy feature the Tamil voter ignores religion in preference to the better candidate.

        Senguttuvan

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          Senguttuvan

          Thanks for your comment.

          How was your trip to India? Would you like to share what you observed in changing India of course in an article form?

          I have been eagerly awaiting for your comment on Dr.Sivalingam Sivananthan.

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    Tamils are living all over the world.

    How they have protected their culture, language and every thing else while they live in all these countries.

    In Singapore, tamil work only in English.

    In Tamilnadu they are anti-hindi and talk a English-tamil mixed dialect.

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      JimSofty

      “In Tamilnadu they are anti-hindi and talk a English-tamil mixed dialect”

      I suspect you watch and enjoy too much Tamilnadu TV.

      Sinhala/Buddhists are no different to their Tamil brethren, they speak a concocted language, a mixture of Tamil, Veddah, Sanskrit, Pali, Portuguese, Dutch, English,………

      And both people believe their culture is unique.

      Tham-glish and Sin-glish are unique languages on their own.

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    Knowing the track-record of SL Politics and Political henchmen, I would
    wait patiently for an analysis from Hon. MAS himself to all the good and
    bad suggestions.

    With so much of under-hand activities and non-transparency, this Article
    may be a well laid plan to create an upheaval, when changes are under
    unofficial discussion.

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    Another Tamil promise such as Federalism or the separate state.

    Look like you are here to sell Sumanthiran..

    [ Here is my challenge to the electorate in the South: Elect Sumanthiran to Parliament.]

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    If Sumanthiran left the TNA, he would have to become part of the UNP and become one of its national list MP’s like R.M. Swaminathan or the wife of late MP T. Maheswaran. If you look at the number of UNP’ers who crossed over to the UPFA, and the number of UNPers who were/are sympathetic to the JHU and BBS, the UNP still has plenty of racists in its ranks.

    What makes people think Sumanthiran could be elected by the Sinhalese when Kadirgamar, despite all his attempts at Sinhalizing himself, was never elected?

    Sumanthiran should just stay in the TNA and wait for his turn to become the TNA leader when the time is ripe. Until then, those who want to deny the existential realities of Tamil and Sinhalese societies, and think that “life is a speech” have to be content with Sumanthiran’s speeches in parliament.

    Anyone can say how societies ought to be, and discuss that on cyberspace, but very few are doing the hard shoe-leather work of changing attitudes and consciences at grass roots.

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      Tamils want to sell tribalism, bad mouth Sinhala people and every thing of theirs. then from the other side they come say make us something.

      what a shameless approach.

      Don’t you understand how you tamils treat Sinhala people.

      You people worship suddhas and thrash Indians and Sinhala people. At the same time, you say something else.

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      The tamil people did not want Kadirgamar there. If he had been given a few more years, he might well have been elected to the highest office.

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    What a foolish suggestion to leave TNA and the challenge to Sinhala electorate to elect Sumanthiran to Parliament. Sumanthiran in Parliament will solve all the problems because he made good speech in Parliament. Is it only good speech lack in the Parliament? I can remember in 2010 Parliamentary election TNA included a Sinhala candidate to contest under TNA ticket.The idea was to show that TNA is not against Sinhala people. He was elected to the Parliament and what happened? He crossed over within months.

    I don’t know the background of this professor but it is clear that he does not understands politics in Sri Lanka. I don’t know whether some one employed him to create split within TNA.

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    Thank you Professor Niranjan for this bold, revolutionary and statesmanlike idea. A Sumanthiran presidency will be very hard to achieve, but not impossible. To bring it about, it is essential that there should be an organization of united opposition of a kind never imagined before. It would sound impossible to get the Sinhala Buddhist vote for a Tamil, but if the UNP, the JVP, the intellectual and other elites recently energized by the idea of a “single issue candidate”, and every other possible group, can come together, the needed percentage of the Sinhala Buddhist vote can be won over. A group that should be crucially included is the youth. Its talent and blossoming enthusiasm would be valuable assets.

    What is indispensable would be an innovative and imaginative electoral campaign for which the foundations need to be laid now. The establishment will resort to every possible means of holding on to power, ranging from triumphalist rhetoric to intimidation. It is therefore necessary to pool the strategic creativity of the best minds in electoral behavior, including new young talent. In a country where users of social media are only a small minority, we need to find its functional equivalent.

    It’s a worthwhile effort, if only we can summon the needed intellect, passion and the energy. The leaderships of the established opposition parties in particular should learn to forget parochial quarrels and ancient rivalries, and place the national interest above the personal.

    This feat, if achieved, will take us to the long hoped for reconciliation, peace and prosperity. And it will rebuild our democracy.

    Besides, it would stun the world. And erase all our past diplomatic follies.

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      Conceding the good and honourable intentions of Prof. H.L. Seneviratne I am afraid a Tamil for Sri Lankan President is totally unthinkable in today’s majoritarian mindset. Besides, whatever meaning democracy bears in the country the reckless priesthood – always a parallel political power – will never surrender its disproportionate political greed and power.

      Happily, there are many Sinhalese – particularly in the academic ranks – who may think outside the box and who will vote for the right man – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher. But they form an insignificant number. The scourge that destroyed the country from 1956 will not allow that. It is up to the Sinhala majority to change the equation. Will and can they?

      Senguttuvan

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        Should they?

        I see no need for it!

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        Senguttuvan

        The Sinhala/Buddhists may accept a person as equal or important for a short period only when their race is perceived to be in danger. It has always been a temporary arrangement and not indented build a lasting relation with mutual respect.

        Ponnambalam Ramanathan – Riots against Muslims

        G G Ponnambalam – Citizenship act

        VP – IPKF

        Kathir – LTTE entice International Community

        VP – MR election pact.

        Douglas, Karuna, Pillayan and others are further proof if one is needed.

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          :-)

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      Mr Seveiratne, a Historian should know that the Sinhala Buddhsist were ready to accept the Nayakkara Tamils (Andra Thamilsa) as kings as long as they promised to protect Buddhism. If Sumanthiran made suitable Buddhist noises, he would be anointed. Kadirgamar did, and he was in the good books of the Buddhist nationalists – but got shot by the Tamil Nationalsits. The leftist golden brains (NM, Colvin et al) never did the right Buddhist moves, or went to the Dalada Malikava only belatedly. The leftists never made it.

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        kautilya

        “Sinhala Buddhsist were ready to accept the Nayakkara Tamils (Andra Thamilsa) as kings as long as they promised to protect Buddhism.”

        The rule of succession during the Kandyan period was a complicated one and we are not living in a kingdom.

        This country is supposed to be a democracy, stupid people vote to elect very stupid people to the office and opposition.

        Now it incumbent upon every politician to be Sinhala/Buddhist and being a Buddhist alone is not a sufficient qualification to enter politics and be successful at it.

        Further any candidate wants to win office and stay there, needs to inject a large dose of anti minority, a necessary condition.

        In Kathir’s case the SLFP denied him being appointed as the Prime Minister. The harder the Sinhala/Buddhist kick the minorities the better election result the candidate is assured of.

        From Weerawansa to other Sinhala/Buddhists fellow travelers even singing national anthem in Tamil language was a joke and unacceptable leave alone the post of President.

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        Some of us read the Kadirgamar case differently. If the large number of Buddhists like the street rabble-rouser, the semi-literate Weerawansa – and sections of the influential Buddhist hierarchy – talked at some point of coming to terms with a Kadirgamar Premiership, it was more to find an escape route to shield themselves from the outside world against the justifiable charge of racism and the anti-Tamil label against them. This had nothing to do with the Sinhala mindset accepting a Tamil, even one such as Kadirgamar – whose “Tamilness” has always been challenged. Admittedly, the Sinhala perception, particularly in the urban South, is changing, albeit slowly, but not to the extent of accepting a Tamil as President or PM in the foreseeable future.

        Senguttuvan

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          what’s wrong with un”tamilness” of LK?

          It is very mature for a politician to be above “tamilness”, “sinhalaness” or ” muslimness”.
          Not having any statsmen as politicians at present and during past 60yrs had caused all our misseries, conflicts and a war.

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