25 May, 2024


Tamils, The North & The State

By Vishwamithra1984

Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” ~Charles de Gaulle

When we discuss in our high-sounding socio-political conversations of reconciliation or accommodation, we simply mean a genuine feeling of empathy, based fundamentally on compassion and kindness. Whether one is a Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim or a Burger, reconciling oneself to the feelings, ambitions and desires of the other is not an easy human endeavor. Centuries-long myths have taken their toll and prepped the hearts and minds of our people. And it is not specific to Sri Lanka alone. All humankind has proven to be most receptive and consequently susceptible to the moods of the contemporary world. From the dawn of time, man has ventured out to be part of a group, family or a sect. Instead of living alone, he had realized that numbers give not only strength, they give a sense of belonging.Wigneswaran Maithripala

That sense of belonging gave man his desire and ambition to endeavor out together and conquer what was to be conquered. That desire for conquest is still going on unrelentingly. That unrelenting ambition of man has helped land a man on the Moon; it has propelled him to carve out lush green fields out of desert sands; it has given us the smartphone and fax machine and it continues to drive him through the proverbial peaks and valleys of victory and defeat. Man’s mastery of the universe, though not complete by any standard, is breathtaking and mind-boggling. And when the spirit of man continues to conquer everything around him, as Jawaharlal Nehru uttered in his Independence address: “a moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance”.

Yet when one comes back to the basics of human decency and human graciousness, time and time again he has failed to contain his mean anger and primeval fears; he has resorted to the most wicked endeavors of violence and man’s inhumanity to man has been well chronicled for all to see. In the words of Herodotus the father of history, “It’s impossible for someone who is human to have all good things together, just as there is no single country able to provide all good things for itself”. Man’s unyielding march towards bettering himself has given the world all wars and conflicts; it has left the world with more questions than answers, it has redirected the journey towards self-centered parochial ends. And in this pursuit of parochial ends and selfish goals, he has invented cocoons that nourish him; he has produced bubbles that protect him and patriotism, nationalism are essential parts of those cocoons and bubbles. To quote French President Charles de Gaulle: “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first”.

So the Tamil question that Sri Lanka is attempting to grapple with today, is just a microcosm of this vast fabric of human behavior, a dynamic which has been associated with the development of man since his early beginnings, since the early Neanderthals walked out of their caves. Man’s natural propensity towards coalescing with likeminded men and women has ultimately resulted in the formation of families, communities and nation-states. In order to protect and expand those protected habitats, Mauryan and Greek Emperors and the Caesars of the ancient world and since them, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Nehru, Ayub Khan have all crossed their national boundaries. In doing so, the notion of preservation and protection gave way to fulfilling a primordial yet ravenous thirst for conquest. And their fellow countrymen chose to follow their leaders wherever they went.

Given this historical context and the peculiar manner in which the ‘South Indian’ psyche, the patriarchal ancestor of our Northern Tamil friends, is placed in the montage of international relationships, a gradual turn to extreme violence to attain their ‘legitimate’ national homeland claims seems to be a logical step in the chain of events. Time and again our local pundits, both Sinhalese as well Tamils have sought refuge in worn out pages of the Great Chronicle (Mahavamsa) and dust-laden Tamil scriptures. In order to satisfy that ancient need for cultural nourishment and inevitable sense of belonging and identity, both adversaries resorted to this sterile pastime of history-dwelling. Instead of learning from history, they chose to exploit it their respective ends.

The dismal failure of peace talks between the two parties since violence broke out in 1983, especially in Timpu, displayed this belligerent stance adopted by them. Chauvinists of either party had a heyday while an attempt at genuine peace suffered an abortion.

Prabhakaran was a direct product of that environment which created great animosity and mistrust between the two communities as much as Chelvanayakam was in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Chelvanayakam and the Ponnambalam brothers were, in terms of their own interpretation, let down by the prevailing Sinhalese leadership at the time. Evidence does exist that they were greatly disenchanted with the Colombo-and/or-foreign-educated Sinhalese political elites. Time after time the Sinhalese leadership made promises in order to secure the support of the Tamil leadership in the Legislature and each time, firstly by S W R D Bandaranaike and thereafter by Dudley Senanayake reneged on those promises.

But, by the time the Tamil Establishment led by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) of which the Federal Party (FP) was a coalition partner was meandering in the wilderness of inclusive socio-political partnership with the majority Sinhalese Buddhists, the Tamil youth had lost their patience. Emergence of a terrorist wing among the Northern Tamil community became almost a natural progression of the in-equilibrium between the two major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Whichever manner one tries to interpret it, whether flowing from the ancient days of Dutu Gemunu or at the turn of the 20th Century, the mistrust continued to be aggravated with each legislation passed by the post-Independence leaders of Sri Lanka. A thirty-year war, although protracted beyond one’s wildest imagination, presented itself as a logical necessity prior to a commencement of meaningful dialogue among the parties, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims.

Nevertheless, Tamils in the North seemed to possess a unique trait in that, its unwillingness to be absorbed into the mainstream socio-economic polity of the country and hesitancy in identifying with the day-to-day issues of national significance has contributed greatly to the sense of suspicion the Sinhalese majority holds against them. The empathy that the Sinhalese leaders and elites showed towards the Tamil community was not reciprocated by the Tamil brethren. On the other hand, the Muslim community is seen to be on the other extreme of this spectrum. Both leaders as well as the ‘commoners’ of the Muslim community readily lent their mite whenever the occasion arose and history bears testimony to this fact.

This attitudinal problem which has infested the Tamil community as a whole cannot be grappled with unless and until some objective conditions are created and material changes effected by way of legislation, leadership changes and even coercion. Tamils standing apart from national problems, such as cost of living, unemployment, infrastructure development, freedom of expression and of the Press etc., and assuming a not-so-important attitude towards these day-to-day issues that matter to all ethnic groups has compounded the concern.

In other words, Tamil leadership and their major players in business, academia and opinion leaders must start to come out of their shells and be seen as average ‘Sri Lankans’, not necessarily just ‘Tamils’. Then and only then the majority of Sinhalese people would accept them as equal partners in a pluralistic society. They must understand that road to amity runs both ways, certainly not a one-way street. Then only would they understand the meaning of such a profound quote of Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables: “Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings”.

Economic problems do not recognize color, creed or religion. Economic problems do not wait to surface whether they were created by the UNP, SLFP or a combination of both. If the Tamil leadership is willing to display some semblance of political acumen – especially of J R Jayewardenesque type – then there might be a common path emerging for all parties to tread on. Don’t forget that, as much as the traditional left was rejected by the Wijeweera-led Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the traditional Tamil politics was also challenged and replaced at least for thirty long years- though based on socio-ethnic grounds as against class-based economic principles- by the Prabhakaran-led Liberation Tigers Tamil Elam (LTTE). Change as a constant thread that runs through the fabric of human history is very appealing when change appears as a necessary condition of hope. Or else, we might as well awake to the reality of truism penned by Joseph Conrad, in his celebrated masterpiece, Heart of Darkness “We live as we dream – alone. While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.”

The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Although Neanderthals disappeared a long time ago,they have left enough of their gene pool to dominate the world today.

    Is Yahapalanya going to give us Vishvamithra’s wishes.

    Having observed the Odds I wouldn’t bet on it, even as a small time punter.

    The Dude with the beard in the picture said even as late as last week, that their Ancestors ( ref Vishvamithra ) will intervene to give Vellala the Federal State the same way as they did in 1987.

    It was in the Hindian English rag yesterday.

    SLMC Sec,Segudawood has already drawn up the boundaries of their Caliphate to present to Ranil’s 225 Member CA.

    It runs contiguous from East to the South.

    But I am willing to put a few Bob on what the Fitch and also Moody say.

    That is our Economy will be in the reverse, no jobs, hungry poor and the Mavawamsa land will be in debt up to its eye balls and begging for a bail out.

    I will a also put a few more that the Hierarchy of the Yahapalanaya’s Family net Worth (Asset Values) will be a f******* lot ‘more than in 5 Years even if our inhabs are in depression..

    And finally I will put at least 20 bucks that the Bedouin Prince and the bearded one’s ancestors will force a deal with the promise of a Bail out.

    • 3


      “Although Neanderthals disappeared a long time ago, they have left enough of their gene pool to dominate the world today”

      I agree, the evidence is so stark. KAS take a look at yourself in the mirror and you and I will agree that Neanderthals are alive and kicking.

    • 3

      KAS, thanks for being such a clown and a natural born loser for people’s entertainment.

    • 1

      Visvamithra is TG, pulling the line for Tamil christians.

    • 2


      By your write up there is no doubt that you are hard core punter and always bet on 100 to one odd horse and lose. Try your bad luck

  • 5

    K.A Sumanasekera,
    You really need a proper spliff & size no 10 women. Your mental disorder hopefully cured.

    • 4

      Jamis Muthu Banda

      “You really need a proper spliff & size no 10 women. Your mental disorder hopefully cured.”

      Did it help you to cure yours, does your brain work faster than your Willy?

  • 2

    As +50% Tamils inhabit the South an essay on “Tamils, the South and the State” would be of equal or even more relavance. In the scheme of things Tamils whose religion is Islam have now bared their plans for all to see creating a “Kashmir” to grapple with. Tamils in the plantations are quite happy in their abode, wouldn’t budge for all the gold in the world. It is time Tamil political class went back to the computer and recalculate their real strength in numbers and pull their ostrich heads out of sand.


  • 5

    Well, our Wingeswaran sitting there next to My3 hail from a Shudra sub-cast called “Vellala”.

    Shudra is a Hindu “untouchable” cast. Had he lived in Tamil Nadu he would be in a caste reservation frequently discriminated and undergoing inter-caste violence. The anonymous author who penned this article would have been in a similar predicament.

    Wingeswaran ended up as a Supreme court judge in a Buddhist majority country. Had he lived in Tamil Nadu he would be one of millions trekking down to the local canal, bending down to their knees and openly defecating to clean his bowels.

    I give an example from a recent news here.

    There will be these small Guppy fish downstream that fight for undigested bits from Wingeswaran’s daily Kotta Roti too.

    So what do gain from this knowledge? If you are Tamil untouchable then be greatful to be living in a Buddhist country. If not you’d be down in a canal mooning a fast flowing stream of water on a daily basis.

  • 3

    First and foremost to do is make all Srilankans proficient in Singhala and Tamil. Why Raviraj and Joseph were killed because they are proficient in Both Languages.

  • 6

    Ultra-nationalists of both sides stand to LOSE their power and priviledges if peace prevails among us and the ethnic problem is resolved. That is why they are doing everything possible to derail reconciliation (SinhaLe campaign, Wigneshwaran’s audacity, Segu Dawood’s intransigence etc.).

    We cannot afford to let these fear and hate mongers carry the day – we have ALL suffered too much. Peace is the only option.

    Tamils have fought for issues that matter to other communities as well – freedom of expression and unemployment come to mind.

    Peace and reconciliation are indeed two-way streets. Moderates from both sides need to speak up when the ultra-nationalists try to provoke the “other” with threats, violence and media-savvy misinformation campaigns.

    This land belongs to us all. Each of us should be able to live ANYWHERE on this island without fear of prejudice and violence.

  • 0

    “This land belongs to us all. Each of us should be able to live ANYWHERE on this island without fear of prejudice and violence.”

    North AND East are for us and the rest for all of us.


  • 2

    It is because of the successive governments policy of ethnic cleansing !! Since independence !! Even before in 1947 it’s started in the name of Galoya development !! More state aided majority’s settlement !! In east Kathalei and Ampara !! Manual aharu !! Kent n Doller farms !! Followed by many till today !! Violence against Tamils by state !! It’s supporters !! Armed forces !! Prison massacres many !! Educational policies!! Building of bhudist temples in our land !! Those are till today existing !! You must tell the majority’s leaders to come out of their shell not to us as we are already !! I was employed many years in out of the country !! I always tell that I am a Srilankan !! But I had seen many in those countries they called themselves Sinhala !! Not Srilankan !!

  • 5


    You say:

    “In other words, Tamil leadership and their major players in business, academia and opinion leaders must start to come out of their shells and be seen as average ‘Sri Lankans’, not necessarily just ‘Tamils’. Then and only then the majority of Sinhalese people would accept them as equal partners in a pluralistic society.”

    Your talk is baseless Dear! I think you are used to this type of illogical talk!!

    Dear Vishwamithra1984!

    The Root Cause of all the problems that we have been facing in our country is the imaginary and false doctrine of the Siňhala nation, the ‘ĀRYAN’ – SIŇHALA – SIŇHALESE – ‘THĒRAVĀDA’ BUDDHISM – LAŇKĀ Doctrine with one – to – one correspondence and the successive governments of Srī Laňkā dominated by the Siňhala Buddhists formulating their policies based on this imaginary and false doctrine and unilaterally implementing them.

    Para – 28 of the UN Experts Report says:

    “After independence, political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, SINHALA-BUDDHIST NATIONALISM GAINED TRACTION, ASSERTING A PRIVILEGED PLACE FOR THE SINHALESE AS THE PROTECTORS OF SRI LANKA, AS THE SACRED HOME OF BUDDHISM. THESE FACTORS RESULTED IN DEVASTATING AND ENDURING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATURE OF THE STATE, GOVERNANCE AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN SRI LANKA.”

    Para 8.150 of the LLRC Report says:

    “The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.

    The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    Dear Vishwamithra1984! It is the ‘Sinhala nation’ that has to break its shell formed with the false and imaginary Doctrine ‘Aryan’ – Sinhala – Sunhalese – Theravada Buddhism – Lanka and come out to be seen as an average ‘Sri Lankans!’ Not the Tamils dear!!

  • 7

    vishwamithra knows some good quotes, and he is bit articulative also. However he does not seem to have understood the basic problem Tamils are facing. From his point of view he may think he is correct, in fact he is because his views are molded according to what he sees nd experiences. But an ordinary Tamilians views and experiences may say some thing different, which our vish cannot comprehend. He is opinionated, he has closed up, he is not ready to listen or try to understand what other persons point of view is.

    He says “Tamil leadership and their major players in business, academia and opinion leaders must start to come out of their shells and be seen as average ‘Sri Lankans’, not necessarily just ‘Tamils’. Then and only then the majority of Sinhalese people would accept them as equal partners in a pluralistic society.

    I will ask him a simple question, an Indian will first identify him self as an Indian and then only as a Tamil (that is why Indian National anthem is in a minority language), that is because in India a Tamil Muslim can become the president of the country and a Sheik can become the PM. This is because the Indian political system respects differences and accept differences, that is the starting point for equal partners in a pluralistic society. Can a Muslim or a Tamil ever become the president or PM of Sri Lanka?. What the hell are you talking about your theory, you are an opinionated shallow rot, trying to pose as a great thinker by using some quotes. There are quotes for any thing..

    There are two important things that have contributed to the ‘historical fear and mutual distrust among Tamils and Sinhalese, one is the fear of Indian invasions and the loss of identity (Buddhism started in India, its not to be seen there now) and continuation of a majoritarian democratic system augmented by frequent ethnic violence and intimidations. Tamils lived in fear, living in fear and will live in fear unless there is a political frame work to alleviate this fear in terms of concrete devolution.

    I saw this article yesterday and thought this doesn’t even qualify for reply. But when I saw this rubbish in the Daily Mirror I thought even a half hearted reply needs to be given. Donot be a frog in the well come out and see the world with open mind.

    • 2


      “Tamils lived in fear, living in fear and will live in fear unless there is a political frame work to alleviate this fear in terms of concrete devolution.”

      Can you explain how will +50% Tamils out side North East live free from fear when devolution is grated to North East.


      • 1

        simple, they will have a place to go back, they will be happy. Do not mix-up Tamils of Indian origin and Sri Lankan Tamils because their problems are different.

        • 1

          Mr Roger

          All Tamils and Sinhalese are of Indian origin whatever is their religion or date of arrival.

          The isuue is one of languages.

          That is why I alaway say the discussion must begin with the definion of ‘Tamils’ in the context of a ‘political solution’. My simple question is:

          Is it only Hindu and Christian Tamils or all Tamil speaking people scattered across the island irrespective of their religion or date of arrival?

          It is duty bound by TNA to enlight us as to whom they are representing. A group of Tamils have asked for a separate unit based on their religion!

          Every one is dodging the question which makes it very difficult to devise a suitable devolution model which can satisfy at least 90% of the Tamil speakers. Mr Roger, I refer to your model as “holiday destination model”


          • 3

            human race started from ancient man and woman (may be adam and eve) only time and distance gave rise to different people (races), socio-cultural groups are formed manyly from text based comprehension of cultural dynamics. Hence culture is strongly linked with language.

            Then why do people celebrate differences, because they are different. Reconciliation begins when differences between people are accepted and accommodated into a political frame work.

        • 1

          You have raised issues that are bound to touch a raw nerve of any Tamil nationalist.
          Tamil nationalists have been predominantly Tamil elite oriented. It has widened in course of time from Jaffna Tamil Hindu Vellala to Jaffna Tamil Vellala to inclusion of some Eastern Tamil interests– but all elite.
          Although the Federal Party started with the notion of Tamil Speaking People it failed to speak for the Hill Country Tamils and Muslims. The East was not fully conquered by the FP for various sectarian influences on all sides.
          The Tamil Eelam map of the LTTE and several of its rivals pretended to speak for Tamils on the west coast. But no Tamit nationalist understood the problems of Tamils living outside N&E.
          Even the leaders who were predominantly Colombo-based, did not speak for non-elite Colombo Tamils. They cannot imagine how all ethnic groups coexist without conflict in Kompani Veediya or North Colombo.
          There is the question of class and class interest that transcends ethnic and religious identity. That was why the BBS failed a few years ago in Colombo North.
          As for your key question, there are mechanisms still in existence in several former socialist countries that accommodate minorities without large defined territories or homelands.
          The point is whether anyone at home is interested in such people.

  • 1

    The Tamil leaders, ever since they lost their desired share of state power, craved only the Tamil vote.
    Deep down, they are conservative, anti-worker and natural allies of the UNP. They also sided with colonialism and imperialism all along.

    Even when the left, before it fell victim to temptation of cabinet posts, defended the just cause of the Tamils, the FP and TC were hostile to it. It was an expression of class loyalty above Tamil loyalty.

    During the MR regime they were silent about the planned theft of EPF and the killing of a young FTZ worker. They were silent on Weliweriya. (Of course, they side with the polluter company in Chunnakam too.) They care far less for the fishers deprived of livelihood by Indian poaches than some Sinhalese politicians. They shouted against Sampur thermal power station but ceased after it became an Indian project.
    Such is their love for the Tamil people.

  • 0

    This is my story I was very proud of being Srilankan until 1983 riots.
    we owned an oil mill near Colombo for 65 years and have given employment for nearly 200 people the whole complex was brought down by arson we were lucky to migrate to a developed country and educate our children we learnt in real life the true meaning of human rights,dignity and rule of law to name a few. In 1983 the property was valued at 30 million rupees after a quarter of a century the ministry paid me a some of Rs five hundred thousand as compensation. end of story. I really wish at least now people will be informed and start living as good human beings

  • 3

    Communal violence did not begin in 1983. There were riots against Tamils as far back as the 1950s. Sinhala nationalists justified those riots because ‘Tamils were making too many political demands’
    So in their minds it was ok to beat up, rape and kill people, loot and destroy their homes and businesses because they ‘asked too much’
    We have the Mahindapala racist writing articles on this website justifying an anti tamil riot back during British rule (1930s i think) because ‘Tamils mocked Sinhala historic writings’
    Once again the justification for physical violence is incredible
    And the first major communal riot that was recorded was i believe in 1915 when the Sinhalese went on the rampage against muslims. And AGAIN the justification was that some muslim apparently ‘threw a stone at a monk’
    So it justified riots?
    Can you see a pattern here?
    Tamils only turned violent in Sri Lanka during the late 1970s when some finally said enough is enough. That was the period when the LTTE started to form.
    And dont forget that it was the British who handed over the north and east of the Island to the Sinhala ruling class. It was a Tamil kingdom before that.

    • 0

      The Portuguese and Sinhalese army took that kingdom
      And VP’s ancestors put up a valiant resistance

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