By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
Any lawyer who has made it to the peak of his profession carries with him the authoritative air of having achieved the highest intellectual capacity to build up a case on hard evidence and presenting it cogently, logically, rationally to persuade his audience, court, forum, etc., of the unshakeable truth on which the case is based. But there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. C. V. Wigneswaran,(CVW) former Supreme Court Judge and later Chief Minister of Jaffna, is one of them.
After he left the bench and joined the Northern political class obsessed with Tamil extremism allied to Prabhakaran he has played a mean and vicious role of denigrating the Sinhala-Buddhist at every turn. Like most other Tamil politicians he is playing the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist card to the hilt for survival in Jaffna which has consistently and unreservedly rejected pluralism, diversity, peaceful inter-ethnic coexistence with the Sinhala majority, or even the Muslim minority. They have never considered the construction of an enlightened path for reconciliation, overriding the narrow and partisan interpretations of history for separatism. They have never sat down and revisited the failure of their post-independent politics that led them all the way to Nandikadal. As seen in the 13-point demands put to the leading presidential candidates they are going back only to revive the policies that dragged their hapless people into death, destruction and despair.
The only ideology that was allowed to reign supreme in Jaffna by the Vellalar ruling class – they were in the majority– is anti-Sinhala-Buddhism. This ideology has come down from the early decades of the twentieth century. It was honed, weaponised and unleashed as a deadly force against the Sinhala-Buddhists by G. G. Ponnambalam in the 1930s. Ever since then demonising the Sinhala-Buddhist has been the primary platform that dominated Jaffna politics. No politician competing for electoral votes could survive without scapegoating the Sinhala-Buddhists. Following this line, CVW is now performing to beat his rivals in this game of demonising the Sinhala-Buddhists. After the defeat at Nandikadal CVW has stepped into the Northern political stage to revive and activate the failed bid by his predecessors to perpetuate the anti-nation building politics of the Jaffna political class.
The latest exhibition of this campaign surfaced in Colombo Telegraph of October 14, 2019. Consider, for instance, the following story taken out of a long list of complaints made against the Sinhala-Buddhist recently. ( See Colombo Telegraph, — 14/10/2019). In it CVW . spins his stories accusing the Sinhala-Buddhists and the state of victimising the Tamils and then says: . ”How far this is true I do not know. But we are told many families…….” have been victimised. (In the last phrase I am summarising his numerous charges).
Imagine him presenting this case to a judge in a court of law and then concluding by saying: ” How far this is true I do not know. But we are told many families … “etc., etc. Which judge is going to take him seriously? Will not his case be thrown out of court summarily without any further hearing? He goes to court without knowing whether there is any truth at all in his stories of Tamil claims of victimisation but he wants the whole world to believe that the victimisation of the Tamils is true.
If this is the best that a Tamil judge of the supreme court can produce how much truth can there be in most of the wild accusations made by the Tamils in other quarters? This penchant for repeating second and third hand stories has been one of the main reasons that had warped the public discourse on the ethnic issue. Had they checked their facts and stuck to the stark realities the ethnic issue would not have gone so far as Nandikadal. At the core of the ethnic issue is that deep craze to believe that the Tamils are the victims of the Sinhala-Buddhist state and any story is good enough to turbo -charge their imagined or rumoured stories of victimhood. For instance, in the dying days of the Vadukoddai War (aka Eelam war) a Tamil Christian priest in a church in Melbourne (where I live) was swearing that the Sinhala-Buddhist soldiers were throwing up Tamil babies up in the air and pinning them with bayonets as they come down!
Adding fuel to the fires of anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism has been the standard practice of the Tamil leadership. Just last month CVW led another anti-Sinhala-Buddhist rally in Jaffna, along with Suresh Premachandran and Jaffna University students and lecturers. The main objective of this Ezhuga Thamil rally was to turn back the Jaffna clock to the history concocted in the Batakotte (Tamilised as Vadukoddai) Resolution. That version of Tamil history ended in Nandikadal. Reports reveal that CVW’s Ezhuga Thamil rally was a flop. Considering all the failures of the Tamil leadership since independence the time has come for the Tamil people to seriously question the misleading and the disastrous role played on their behalf by the so-called brilliant Tamils. It is time for the Tamil people to rise up and ask CVW and his gang of University students and lecturers : Are you going to lead us down the path of Batakotte Resolution to Nandikadal again?
CVW’s swing to radical Tamilness is reflected, somewhat garishly, in his face which is plastered with Saivite strips of ritualistic ash in technicolour. These strips seem to be more symbolic of his anti-Sinhala-Buddhist hatred than any expression of his spiritual purity. What is objectionable is the aggressive political statement he makes through his face make-up. It is like the Sinhala-Buddhist politicians displaying their pirith noolas, sometimes thick as ropes strong enough to hang them up in the nearest tree. Which reminds me also of the cynic who told a Christian congregation that if Jesus was shot with a pistol then Christian devotees would be wearing canons round their necks now! Not surprisingly, kovils, churches, mosques and temples have become powerful centres of politics more than religion.
The political activity of CVW indicate that he is eager to ride on the back of Tamil youth into power like his predecessors in ITAK (example: S. J. V. Chelvanayakam) who urged the Tamil youth to take up arms against the nation. CVW has also jumped into the bandwagon of Tamil extremism with an eye to claim Tamil leadership in the North. Claiming to be “the sole representatives of the Tamils” is an obsession with Tamil politicians. He is hoping to cash in on the prestige of his judicial background (thanks to the Sinhala-Buddhist state which he condemns) to be the only Tamil worthy of being a respected and hero-worshipped leader, now that Prabhakaran is no longer with them. As the head of the newly established Tamil Makkal Kootani (Tamil Peoples’ Congress) he is making a desperate bid to revive and retain Tamil politics at the same uncompromising and intransigent level defined and pursued by his predecessors, starting from G. G. Ponnambalam in the 1930s’ to Velupillai Prabhakaran.
In one sense he is, like all other Tamil politicians, a prisoner of the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist ideology. Jaffna never had a history of embracing any other ideology. The political fathers of Jaffna and their followers were, from birth to death, bound by two main ideologies : 1. Saivite casteism as defined by the Vellalar guru, Arumuka Navalar and 2. anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics which demonised the Sinhala-Buddhists in the dying days of the British raj as their main enemy. They never took to socialism, liberalism, pluralism, humanism or any other “ism” unlike the South which embraced all the ideologies that were sweeping the world, from Marxism, Maoism, Castroism to neo-liberalism.
However, for a brief period in the late twenties the Tamil youth embraced Gandhism and peaceful co-existence with the rest of the nation. But that was snuffed out swiftly by Ponnambalam’s anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism which became the ruling ideology that gripped the North. Ever since then Jaffna has been the permanent home of virulent Tamil racism, excluding all others as non-Tamil outsiders. Tamil ideologues tried to give it a shine by labelling Tamil racism as sub-nationalism, or Tamil nationalism. But historical events prove that it was a latter-day development that began with Ponnambalam raising Tamil racism in the thirties to protect and preserve the disproportionate Tamil power, privileges and perks in the British colonial regime. Tamil supremacist arrogance closed the minds of the Jaffnaites to any other alternative. Tamil casteist arrogance went as far as dismissing its own low-fcaste people as pariahs who should nt be allowed to walk in God-given sunlight. For instance, the Turumbas, the lowest of the low-castes, were allowed to walk only in the night to protect the purity of the eyes of the ruling Vellalars. In this tight environment, dominated by Tamil casteism/racism, there was no space for CVW, particularly as a new comer to the political arena, to compete with any other rival ideology that would tend to be conciliatory and moving towards peaceful co-existence with the other communities.
Today he is facing similar (not identical) forces that confronted the young G. G. Ponnambalam when he arrived from UK, qualified as a lawyer. To make his name he had to compete with the established and elderly aristocracy consisting of Ramanathans, Arunachalams and Mahavdevas. He had no constructive program to beat the “turbaned aristocrats” (Jane Russell) entrenched in the colonial system. The only card he could play to stand out from the pack was anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism. So to cut his teeth in politics and made a name for himself by rising as the leading pioneer of anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism in the colonial period.
This racist he unleashed in the 1930s remained as the permanent norm for peninsular politics. He defined the aggressive and the intransigent political culture of Jaffna that ran all the way to Nandikadal – and beyond to Wigneswaran. He ruptured the inter-ethnic relations that had lasted for centuries. The most marketable slogan for competing and winning votes in peninsular politics was based on bashing Sinhala-Buddhists. This Tamil tactic was not labelled as racism. It was labelled as minority rights. But when the Sinhala-Buddhist reacted to it and defended their right to preserve and maintain their historical legacies they were called racists.
Ever since Ponnambalam unleashed anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism as the norm for peninsular politics his successors never deviated from it. It was suicidal for any Tamil to champion any other brand of politics that moved towards reconciliation, or peaceful co-existence. Those deviating from this norm were condemned as “collaborationists” or traitors to the Tamils, as seen in the time that Prabhakaran ruled Jaffna. Tamil extremism blocked all attempts at nation-building. Even the best deals offered with international guarantees were rejected by the Tamil leadership. If the Jaffna electorate did not eliminate them with their votes then the guns of Tamils liquidated them. Examples: Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Appapillai Amirthalingam etc. Arrogant and relentless Tamil violence didn’t stop at that. Tamil violence went as far as assassinating Rajiv Gandhi who attempted to keep Sri Lanka united for his own self-interests, with powers devolved to the periphery to appease the Tamil separatists.
Clearly, there was no escape route for any new entrant to deviate from the entrenched political culture of Jaffna. In varying degrees of antagonism Tamil politicians had to conform to its anti-Sinhala-Buddhist ideology. The Jaffnaites were prisoners trapped tightly inside the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist straight jacket. They could move only within the perennial parameters drawn by the cadjan curtains of Saivite casteism which morphed into virulent anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism. Whether CVW likes it or not he had to fall in line with the racism initiated by Ponnambalam and finally consolidated by Prabhakaran. For him to survive in the competitive electoral politics of Jaffa CVW is compelled to dance to the beat of nagasalam choreographed by Ponnambalam and Prabhakaran.
His ambition now is to grab the leadership of the Tamils to be “the sole representative of the Tamils. To achieve this he has to kick out of his way the TNA ladder on which he climbed to seats of power in Jaffna. Having done that, he is now aiming to take over the Jaffna leadership by beating the TNA with his aggressive anti-Sinhala-Buddhist programmes, politics and pronouncements. As Chief Minister he did his damnedest to denigrate the Sinhala-Buddhists and paint them as the sworn enemies of the Tamils. He passed the notorious resolution in which he condemned all Sinhala leaders, from the time of independence, as killers of the Tamils. He was so obsessed with anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism that he could not provide even a toilet at the Jaffna bus stand. Like most of the Tamil leaders he was obsessed with anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics and not with the well-being of the Tamil people.
His latest gimmickry is to take up the 13-point demands put up by the Tamil University students in the North and the East universities. As M. Sumanthiram states, there is nothing new in it. It is the same old, same old – all 13 demands pointing to separatism. Clearly, we are back to square one. We are back to the time when S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and his band of fake Gandhians were ganging up to the draw the belligerent Batakotte (Tamilised as Vadukoddai ) Resolution.
It was a time when the Tamil leadership had pushed Tamil extremism to the bitter end and had nowhere to go except to declare war on the rest of the nation. It was time when the Gandhian Chelvanayakam was delighted with the placing on his forehead a red pottu, consisting of blood drawn from the vein of a Tamil militant. It was a time when the ageing Vellalar Tamil leadership was ready to sit back in their arm chairs and sacrifice the low-caste Tamil youth, hoping that they would win Eelam for them to take over as their permanent lords and masters of the feudal days gone by. The educated Vellalars went overseas to enjoy the greener pastures, with two cars, one to take their children to universities and the other to take their wives shopping.
The sequence of events that happened tell the story of the utter failure of Tamil politics. The precise date was May 14, 1976. The place was Batakotte. The entire Tamil leadership collectively declared war on the rest of the nation and urged the Tamil youth to take up arms and never stop until they had achieved Eelam. They, of course, never expected to land in Nandikadal. That, in short, the failed history of Tamils.
The 13-point demands put up by the Northern and Eastern Universities seems to heading the way of the Batakotte Resolution. History seems to be getting ready to repeat itself, this time as a greater tragedy than before. The oldies are taking cover under the 13-points presented by the Tamil youth in the universities. The oldies are happy that the Tamil youth had taken up their demands, once again. The oldies, of course, have nothing to worry. If the worst comes to the worse, the Sampanthans, Sumanthirams, and the Wigneswarans would come rushing down to the South (which they hate) and take refuge with the Sinhala-Buddhist state providing police protection..The oldies expect the Tamil youth to fight for the tall tales told in Tamil fiction. In relating these tales they will demonise the Sinhala-Buddhists and never mention a word about the miserable failure of the Tamil leadership to serve or save the Tamil people whom they oppressed throughout their history.
The more I look into Tamil politics the more I am convinced of the value of the words of Prof. Kumar David which described the Tamil leadership as a bunch of “congenital idiots”.
More of Tamil politics in the next article.