23 June, 2024


Tamil Politics Needs Re-thinking

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr Vikramabahu Karunaratne gets more things wrong than right, and he does exaggerate, but he hardly ever lies wittingly. Therefore I have no reason to disbelieve the following extract from his column in the Sunday Lakbima of July 1st, reporting a meeting in Matara.

“MP Sumanthiran was the special speaker at this meeting…Sumanthiran explained in very simple way and in an attractive style the meaning of ‘the right of self determination’. “Sinhala are a great people and we respect them” he said and added “So are we, the Lankan Tamils. We expect equal respect and we want to live in our way, within our traditions, in our homeland. We do not want to separate but if that is the only respectable option given to us, certainly we will take it.” (‘Removing the tattoos-Remembering the heroes’, Vickramabahu Karunaratne, SundayLakbimaNews, July 1, 2012)

What, as they say, is wrong with this picture? Firstly, it is a-historical and misses a sense of historical reality. This statement “We do not want to separate but if that is the only respectable option given to us, certainly we will take it” belongs to the past.  It pre-supposes that this path has not been tried. The lived historical reality is of course that it was tried in its most massive, intense and decisive form, that of a thirty years war waged by a powerful armed force. And it failed, it was defeated.

Mr Sumanthiran and those who see no fault in his statement may argue that he means the pursuit of separation by unarmed means, by methods of Gandhian Satyagraha. But that too was tried under a far more stellar leadership of Messrs Chelvanayagam and Amirthalingam and hardly proved fruitful. It was the failure of the peaceful path of secession that led to the armed option.

The historical reality is that four methods of separation have been tested out: peaceful protest (1970s, TUF, TULF), warfare (‘70s to 2009), external entanglement (UDI 1990) and negotiation (CFA’s ‘lines of control’, ISGA proposals).

All four methods failed, which does not mean that they won’t be tried again, in different guises and ratios. However, a rational politician or political party would say of the separatist option “been there, done that, got a whole wardrobe of Tiger T-shirts and won’t go there again”. Instead Mr Sumanthiran reveals that separation is still regarded as an option.

Since we aren’t naive, we must assume that his dogged optimism is based on a combination of external factors such as the Tamil Diaspora, elements in Tamil Nadu, pressure from certain quarters in the West, the campaign in the Western dominated international media, reinforced by and reinforcing a campaign of agitation on the ground.

Such a strategy has to be guarded against and it is only future history that will judge whether or not that version of the secessionist project will be successful.

Questions remain about some of his basic premises, such as “we want to live in our way, within our traditions, in our homeland”.  In a democracy, basic decisions on the form of the state are decided upon by majority vote in the country, state or political unit taken as a whole. While a measure of local self-governance is usually recognised, there is no absolute right of any ethnic community to ‘live in our own way, within our own traditions, in our homeland’. While any area may be considered a homeland of any community – just as I consider Colombo my hometown, where I was born and raised—this homeland is a sub-set of, and secondary and subordinate to, the larger political community; the whole country which is the homeland of all its citizens, irrespective of ethnicity.

Furthermore, what does Mr Sumanthiran mean by ‘equal respect’? If he means that every Tamil citizen of Sri Lanka must have treatment equal to that of a Sinhalese citizen; if he means that no one must have unequal rights and treatment because of his/her ethnicity, then he is indubitably correct. If however, he envisages a bi-polar situation; if he sees Sri Lanka as a Sinhala polity and he wishes to carve out a Tamil polity which will have an equal status, then he is wrong.

This latter conception is perhaps at the bottom of the TNA’s refusal to enter the Parliamentary Select Committee: it sees itself as the representative of a Tamil polity engaged in bilateral talks –as equals–with the Government which represents the Sinhala polity. This is simply not the case.

The crucial question is this: what should Mr Sumanthiran have said instead? While Sinhala racists would contest his claim for equal respect and his perception that it is observed in the breach, no rational and fair-minded person could expect him or the Tamil people to suffer inequity and oppression in silence.

What Mr Sumanthiran should have said is that if equal rights are not granted, then he, his party and his community will struggle for as long as it takes, by all peaceful methods for the elimination of discrimination and oppression in all its forms, for the achievement of equality of rights and freedoms in theory and in practice, and for a reasonable measure of autonomy—all in alliance with the rational, fair minded within the Sinhala and Muslim communities. He should also express determination and optimism that this struggle will succeed someday: ‘yes, we can!’

That is not what he said. Starting from questionable premises he concluded with a threat of separatism. This proves that even the most moderate of TNA leaders has not foresworn separatism, which in turn indicates the collective mindset behind and beneath Tamil politics. Mr Sumanthiran’s discourse also reveals the stark difference between a secessionist movement, however latent, and one for integration on the basis of equal rights. It also points to the difference between a secessionist project and an autonomist one. Mr Sumanthiran’s discourse fails the litmus test of a constructive, moderate partner for a sustainable peace.

Tamil nationalism has to reckon with three realities. Firstly, the demography of the island makes it impossible to make two numerically vastly unequal collectives, equal, except as individual citizens. Secondly, the practice of democratic elections ensures that one fundamental questions of the state, one community will always outnumber the other. (This is why the forefathers of Tamil nationalism were so hostile to universal suffrage and why the Tamil particularist project rises as a pre-emption of the effects of universal franchise.) Thirdly, as the aftermath of WW 2 most clearly demonstrates, throughout history, the post-war framework is drawn up by those who win a war. (If they are enlightened, the post war peace becomes sustainable).

Conversely, Sinhala nationalism must realise that several of these realities, including the military-strategic balance, are up-ended when one steps outside the island.

Is a solution possible? Indeed it is. The Sinhalese do not vote as Sinhalese on every question. The two-party system embeds their natural individualism and fractiousness. It is only the continuing situation in the Opposition (essentially the inorganic character of its leadership) that has created a situation of overwhelming preponderance for one side. If the Tamils can win over a significant section of Sinhala opinion, then they can win equal rights and ‘equal respect’. However, this presupposes that a sufficient number of Sinhalese trust the Tamil political platform enough to risk endorsing it. This in turn means that Tamil politics be sufficiently realistic, rational and moderate, so as not to function as an electoral suicide bomber round the neck of any Sinhala political partner/candidate. It also presupposes a viable Southern Opposition. It most significantly presupposes the evolution of a normal politico-ideological spectrum and two party or two alliance system– centre-right and centre-left—within Tamil politics, so that all major formations in Southern politics have suitable Tamil counterparts who will be coalition partners within any administration and any opposition.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Tamils need not win over racist sinhalese like Dayn Jayatilke to get their rights. Irsh fought for 300 years win their separte state. Tamils will fight they will not be deterred by the racist like Dayan cloaked in a philosophical suit. It is sad to separate from a lot sinhala silent majority who has helped us, Tamil civilians, during state terror campaigns starting from 1958. But we rejoice that we need not bother about the racist like Dayan

  • 0

    Daysn says “…as the aftermath of WW 2 most clearly demonstrates, throughout history, the post-war framework is drawn up by those who win a war.”

    If the post-war framework is drawn up by the victors with far sight like what happened after World War 2 there could be real peace. If not, like what happened after World War 1 there will be another war.

  • 0

    If you check the Census figures, right now most of the Tamils are living in the South. The govt has not settles any of the other groups – Sinhala or Muslims – in the North yet. So, under those circumstances, how wil this new solution will work.

    Again, Tamils have not given up any of their tribalist actions. Thousands of Tamils nadu Tamils have migrated into Sri Lanka during the LTTE time. Tamil politicians are against the govt resettling of people in the lands of the North. Even though the govt helps Tamils at the expense of the South, most tamils are not sympathetic, understanding or considerate towards the govt. I think, the bickering by Tamilnadu politicians is also a result of Tamils living overseas.

    • 0

      Thalaivar says:

      “Thousands of Tamils nadu Tamils have migrated into Sri Lanka during the LTTE time. “

      Where are they now?

      • 0

        This co called Thalaivar shoud have the same IQ and same genes like our Gota. We should put him in the same plane as this puppy dog and send him to the land of safran sarees and skin head thugs

        • 0

          Vasu says:

          “This co called Thalaivar shoud have the same IQ and same genes like our Gota”.

          Both are no different to one time National Leader of Tamils, VP.

  • 0

    Sinhala politics needs rethinking and DJ needs to stop spinning crap – though I suppose we all must sing for our supper!

  • 0

    There are several glaring stupid statements made by a racist-chauvinist politician, masquerading as a diplomat, trying to give advise to a learned supreme court attorney who is absolutely brilliant.

    Sumanthiran is 100% correct, and he can only say from his perspective living under the boot of State Terrorist, the choke of military oppression, repression and suppression. If he oversteps his mark a little he will end up in Kanatte or Jawatte very quickly and the right to bury him by his family, mourn for him by his people will be decided by the racist-chauvinist murderers of his. 5 other Tamil MP’s were murdered in Churches, Temples, Banks and roads. None of the culprits have been brought to Justice.

    After 30 years the Singhala Jingoist finally won the war, using questionable methods and tactics such as chemical weapons, phosphorus bombs, cluster bombs, and massacring Tamil civilians of at least 100,000. They also used heavy artillery and aerial bombs while the racist and chauvinist cheered like crazy.

    That does not mean, since the LTTE lost the war, that Tamils must shut up and take whatever is allowed by the 70% Sinhala Buddhist majority. Mr. Jayatileke, it is only the Tamils in Sri Lanka are terrorized by the state terrorist, but there is a very strong 1 million Tamil diaspora who will fight for the Tamil rights like Mr. Sumanthiran elucided, and even much more. There is also 60 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, and many more Tamils all over the world, who are horrified by the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Sinhalese.

    Remember, might is not right. Tamils have Truth and Justice on their side, and the whole world are slowly beginning to open their eyes and seeing and hearing the truth. The LIES the lying Sinhala diplomats keep saying are not and will not work anymore. No body is listening to the Sinhala racist propaganda, and rhetoric that this is a war on terror. Even if that was true, that war is over 3 years ago, and the time to deliver the Tamil rights has long arrived.

    Changing the rules, goal post and boundary lines can work for a short period and create delays. But eventually time will finally catch up, as the Rajapakses are realizing. TNA attending the PSC is an absolute waste of time and it is another Sinhala Buddits tricks and tactics. Arrive at a just solution with the TNA or face the music for ever, until there is a regime change from this lot of thieving kleptomaniacs. 40% of the Sinhalese or more already know that this regime are a bunch of crooks.

    It is for another few percentage to realize that in the coming months or years. Tamils who fought this war for 30 years did not succeed. So it may be they have to change their game plan and tactics, and get more sophisticated. Gandhi and Mandela led his people to independence without a violent war 60 years ago. Singapore and Slavia, as well as many countries became independent nations without violence. But Quebec decided to remain with Canada for the time being and those people are only separated by a Western language, unlike the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

    Sumanthiran did not call for a separate state. But this type of threat from Jayatileke’s and Ranawaka’s will only increase the Tamil resolve and resoluteness than make the Tamils cow down to the bullies and State Terrorist. Jayatileke, please remember that there will be huge price to pay even during peace time (Non War) by mainly the majority of the people, in their economy, life style, quality of life and standard of living. The problem is the Sinhalese misled by greedy politicians, do not know what prosperity and good life is for their people. They allow them to slave and struggle in poverty like the first family amasses wealth and a few boot lickers have a great life in European capitals at tax payers expense.

    The party will be over soon and the boot lickers will have to return home and look for a real job and or live on their ill gotten wealth.

    Rajapakses will lead Sri Lanka to be a Greece, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda or at best Congo. They are now surviving on the the 6 Billion dollars a year sent by the diaspora, and the poor housemaids in the middle east. That might not be enough at the rate the country is borrowing and have to service the debts with high interest of 6-7 % to the Chinese on wasteful and corrupt projects.

    Stop fooling your Sinhalese and threatening the Tamils Jayatileke and Ranawaka.

  • 0

    These half Sinhalese as DJ are the biggest stmbling blocks that this country face in arriving at a reasonable solution that should treat all it’s citizens alike. Today he has dropped the De Silva part of the name of his father to disguise himself as a full blooded Sinhalese. What a mockery!

  • 0

    The SL Tamil struggle for freedom started just a few years after independence when the Tamil lands were colonized, Tamils disfranchised, and Sinhala only was brought in and forced the Tamils to accept it.

    As DJ says, four methods of Tamil freedom have been tested out: peaceful protest, warfare, external entanglement, and negotiation and all four methods failed.

    But have the Tamils given up???
    NO and NEVER!!!

    There are many more methods to try. The 30 years war is just a small part of the Tamils struggle for freedom; it was neither the beginning nor the end. The end of war is not the end but only the beginning.

    The British never asked the Tamil’s consent before annexing our homeland with the Sinhala land. That’s why we don’t have to, and we will not, accept the Sinhala hegemony. We will do everything possible to end the Sinhala occupation of our historic homeland in the North – East of Sri Lanka.

    When the Jews were thrown out from their land and humiliated and killed in tens of thousands, they migrated to the West as refugees. Today they are not only one of the richest nations all over the world but they are also manipulating and controlling the Western politics and the World politics. The Tamil Diaspora is following exactly what the Jews did. It may take many years but they have not lost any hope. They are determined to achieve their goal.

    This is not an internal domestic issue anymore. Uncle Sam and the Western powers are influenced by the Tamil Diaspora to interfere. Right from independence when we the Tamil countrymen of Sri Lanka asked you peacefully to let us live in peace and dignity, without the interference of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony, in our traditional habitat to protect our Tamil identity and culture your inherent Sinhala racism didn’t allow to accommodate the Tamil’s reasonable request, you attacked the unarmed non violent Tamil protesters. At the end our youth had no choice but to take up arms and today, unfortunately you have to deal with Uncle Sam and the powerful west in order to solve this once internal issue.

    And the Tamils will NEVER give up even if they fail not 4 but 10 times.

    • 0


      You sounds like a another LTTE supporter living outside SL.

      Your writing sounds few more thousands of poor Tamil youths to be perished for your dreamland Peelam one more time. Are you happy to send your own kids that have been affluently living in your master’s western world?

  • 0

    @Ellalan. I admire your spirit and resolve. You are right.
    Since July 1983 I have been in Uncle Sam’s land. Trust me we are working at the highest levels on a few issues.. Keep a positive outlook.’
    Tamils needs a fair and just deal and it is our homeland and island as well.
    Thanks Gamini for your contribution. There will be some wise Sinhalese emerging in the future. Not just war mongers and war criminals.

    But We Tamils will never give up and short sell ourselves….
    Here is one of Sumanthiran’s speeches a few days ago, with a Sinhalese translation.

  • 0

    “Thirdly, as the aftermath of WW 2 most clearly demonstrates, throughout history, the post-war framework is drawn up by those who win a war.”
    This is not correct. Soviet union grabbed large portion of Europe but eventually those countries gained their freedom. Further there is WW 3 except for the fact supper powers are not directly involved.

  • 0

    Dayan is a modern fusion of Hitler´s Reichspropaganda minister Goebbels and his contruction minister Speer( first contruction inspector, later in 1942 minister)

    Goebbels justified everything, their race ideology, their actions against other countries and even the 2nd WW. He found jews guilty for their own politics and justified their elimination. He found perpetrator among victims

    Speer loved luxary, fame, luster and popularity and not really convinced by Hitler´s ideology. In his circle he spoke about philosophy and showed others as if he has a different worldview than the barbaric Nazis

    What is a reason for a “true democrat”, “a philosopher”, “an intellectual” to support such a govt like this in SL?

  • 0


    Hitler was one-quarter Jewish.

    Please advise Dayan, MR clan and all other Sinhala/Buddhist nationalists to check their DNA. They may discover their Tamilndu roots.

    • 0

      I know Native Vedda,

      His mother was a house maid of a jewish elder man in Austria and she was pregnant without any official relationship

      Hitler wanted to study art in Viennna and was refused by Art University

      All this had a impulse later during the WW2

      Do you know anything about the GENOM project?

      This aryan saga of sinhalese is ventilated

      We have to fight for Veddas, then they are the one and only origins of SL

      • 0


        There were five research papers published on Sri Lankan population genetics. I need some time to look for them. Could you let me have your e mail address to forward the lot. I also have few genetic studies conducted in South and North India.

        By the way there is neither an Aryan race nor a Dravidian race. These are linguistic families. Manufactured ideas popularised by nationalists in India and Sri Lanka.

        There are two books on this area of study and the details are as follows:

        Peopling of Sri Lanka, An Outline Based on Genetic (DNA) Studies

        By Subramaniyam Visahan
        Published by

        Tamil Information Centre

        Contact Details:

        Peoples and Cultures of Early Sri Lanka
        A Study Based on Genetics and Archaeology

        By Dr Siva Thiagarajah

        Published by
        Tamil Information Centre
        Bridge End Close
        Kingston KT2 6PH


        • 0

          Really great, Thanks Native Vedda!

      • 0

        Vasu says:

        “We have to fight for Veddas, then they are the one and only origins of SL”

        Thanks for your offer.

        Please you do the talking we will do the fighting. We like to have a revolution without a shot being fired.

        Having seen the destruction in this island for the past 30 odd years I prefer to have our fight (struggle)on our own terms.

        We will struggle to live and Live to Struggle.

        • 0


          I have drawn up a list of related papers based on Genetic studies and the details are as follows:

          A Genetic Study of the Veddas and the Sinhalese
          S. B. ElXEPOLA*
          Pathologist, General Hospital, Badttlk


          Department of Anatomy, University of. Peradeniya

          Blood Genetic Markers in Sri Lankan Populations-
          Reappraisal of the Legend of Prince Vijaya

          By N.SAHA
          Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, National University of
          Singapore, Singapore 0511

          Blood Groups of the Sinhalese
          Author(s): D. F. Roberts, C. K. Creen, K. P. AbeyaratneReviewed

          Genetic affinities of Sri Lankan populations

          Human Biology| December 01, 1995 | Kshatriya, Gautam Kumar

          The legend of Prince Vijaya – A Study of Sinhalese Origins

          R. L. KirkDepartment of Human Biology, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

          Genetic study of Dravidian castes of Tamil Nadu

          Department of Genetics, Dr ALM PGIBMS, University of Madras, Taramani, Chennai 600 113, India

  • 0

    While I may seldom agree with his leftist analysis and strategy it must be acknowledged that Bahu has been unswervingly faithful and consistent in his philosophy and message over the years. As far as I know he is also untainted by corruption and scandal. A very rare honest, principled man and frighteningly brave to boot. When all is said and done, he is morally head and shoulders above all the armchair socialists living out the Marxist dream in various capitalist paradises. At the very least we should give him the courtesy of respectfully listening to what he has to say from the true barricades of reality. Bahu! I salute you!

  • 0

    You are right. Dr Vikramabahu Karunaratne “he hardly ever lies wittingly.” But you do to protect your rank with the leaders in power. The proposal you are you are giving was already tried by Tamil politicians. Before resorting to separation by peaceful means they asked for federal state. They even agreed to accept some thing much short of federalism the Banda/Chelva pact. The Sinhalese responded that with violence. Then Tamils worked in Dudley Senanayake’s cabinet to get minimum justice. The Sinhala leftists responded with “Those, Masala Vade” slogans. Your solution is assimilation and that is not acceptable for the same reasons you have given. First, the demography, where Tamils are world over and will not accept assimilation. Second, true democracy where the minority rights have to be protected, not just majority rule as practiced in Sri Lanka.

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