By V. Thirunavukkarasu –
I read with interest Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s article dated 5th July, 2018 headed “Vijayakala’s Suicide Bombing, Northern Nazism, The Tamil Hitler & North-South Politics”. He says that the LTTE has been described variously by some international analysts, viz ., The Economist (London) as “almost classically fascist”; Emeritus Professor Walter Laqueur as akin to “the European fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s in terms of ruthlessness and fanaticism (Mussolini/Hitler eras) and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, John F Burns as “South Asia’s Pol Pot”
Now, the bone of contention presently is the speech made recently in Jaffna by former Children’s Affairs State Minister, Vijayakala Maheswaran who called for a revival of the LTTE, given the spate of acts of violence involving random killings, especially rapes and brutal murders, the latest being that of 6-year-old Regina. As a State Minister, she should have acted with due introspection, notwithstanding her plea later that it was a slip of the tongue on her part.
On the other hand, the Anunayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, Ven. Wenduruwe Upali Thero, urged former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on the occasion of latter’s 69th birthday, to be a Hitler, since others have called him a Hiter, and take the country forward along with the military. Was It a call, in effect, for a de facto Military administration? Well, even the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government was an authoritarian dispensation so much so that even the Mahanayake Theros dared not challenge, for instance, the infamous Kandy Motor Racing event during that period.
Well, as far as the LTTE is concerned, many a political analyst, local or foreign, has not so much as bothered to go into the genesis of the outfit. Viewed dispassionately and objectively , it is incontrovertible that the LTTE was a veritable product of the acts of the political and economic discrimination against the Tamils, coupled with repression, by all successive Governments since 1948.
Sinhala Only Language Policy – The Reverse Gear
When the Sinhala Only official language policy was unveiled by the UNP and the SLFP in cut-throat competition on the eve of the 1956 General Election, Bandaranaike outdid the UNP with his battle cry “to make Sinhala the one official language within 24 hours”, captured power, and soon had the Sinhala Only Act passed in Parliament, at a time when Prabhakaran had just been born. Badaranaike disregarded stiff opposition in Parliament to the “one Slnhala langauage” (or Sinhala Only ) Bill especially from the LSSP, with front-liner, Colvin R de Silva sternly articulating that it could lead to the emergence of “2 States or 2 bleeding halves”, arising from a future agitation by the Tamils for a separate State.
But Bandaranaike would have none of it, mind you, even though he had himself pledged to embrace a 2 – language policy when he founded the SLFP in 1951, soon after post- Independence first Prime Minister. D.S. Senanayake axed him out of the UNP Government, in connivance with the the British Governor-General, Lord Soulbury, in order to make way for his son, Dudley Senanayake, to succeed him. During that period, C. Suntharalingam, the irrepressible Member of Parliament for Vavuniya, wrote as follows in his Memoirs: “If D.S. Senenanayake’s love for his son, Dudley, did not get the better of his love for the country, the future of the country could well have been different” or words to that effect.
Bandaranaike Succumbs To The Rash Buddhist Clergy
In 1957, Bandaranaike, in order to make amends, entered into a pact with Federal Party leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam (B-C Pact) providing for some measure of autonomy for the Tamil majority Northern & Eastern Provinces. The Buddhist clergy then rose so Indignantly against the B-C pact and, having laid siege on Bandaranaike’s Rosmead Place residence in Colombo, intimidated Bandaranaike, face to face, into unilaterally abrogating the said Pact. And, the KANDY MARCH launched by UNP leader J.R. Jayewardene, lent weight to the campaign of the Buddhist clergy.
And that episode was quickly followed by the first major anti-Tamil riots breaking out in Colombo and certain other areas. Veteran English journalist then, Tarzie Vittachchi, dutifully documented that tragedy in consummate detail, in his book titled “Emergency ’58 – the story of the Ceylon race riots.” It would suffice just to recall what he said in his Conclusion; “This was man’s inhumanity to man”, and “one wonders whether the parting of the ways between the Sinhalese and the Tamils has come”.
Bandaranaike address to the Nation at that moment, touted as a call for peace, turned out to be one that was “adding fuel to a raging fire”, to quote Vittachchi.
Well, the second major anti-Tamil riots took place in 1977 soon after the advent of the J R Jayewardene Government, which had been elected on a 5/6th majority, paradoxically, with the overwhelming support of the Tamil as well.
Nevertheless, Jayewadene seemed less and less inclined to carry out the Election manifesto which pledged to address, inter alia, what had been acknowledged as some of the most reasonable, longstanding concerns 0f the Tamils. However, sometime later, reacting to a propaganda activities emanating from the Tamil leadership critical of the Government, Jayawardena made a counter-attack to say “If you want peace, let it be peace; if you want war, let it be war”.
Then, In July 1979, Jayewardene had the draconian legislation called “Prevention of Terrorism Act” passed in Parliament, supposedly to nip in the bud, the nascent Tamil militant movement. Then the blatant repression mounted instantly by the Government , sending the Brigadier (Bull) Weeratunga mission to Jaffna to “eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations within 6 months” only made the ground more fertile for the Tamil armed struggle to escalate, For, the bodies of some Tamil youths killed during military raids , having been strewn along roadsides, only served to worsen an already dangerous situation.
Followed by the torching of the precious Jaffna Library in 1981 by Government hirelings, on the eve of the elections to the Jaffna District Development Council, added fuel to the fire, and then the 13 Sinhala soldiers ambushed and killed in Jaffna, by the LTTE, was sought to be avenged by the 1983 (Black July) conflagration unleashed by the Government, thus precipitating the 30-year long war which destroyed tens of thousands of lives, both civilian and military, beside colossal destruction to property And , the financial cost of the war was $ 200 billions, as per survey made by former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shiv Sankar Menon.
Some Positive Initiatives Taken, And Then Shelved by Mahinda Rajapaksa
However, In 2006, ruling President Rajapaksa, having made some incredibly favourable pronouncements to the effect that devolution to the maximum possible extent was the need of the hour, soon appointed the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) chaired by a former Attorney-General, C.R de Silva. The LLRC made some concrete recommendations ,while also being critical of successive Governments since 1948, for their failure to address the legitimate demands of the Tamils for power-sharing, thus ultimately leading to the 30-year-long war. Unfortunately, the report remains shelved to this day.
Task Of The Incumbent Government
The incumbent Sirisena-Wickramasinghe Good Governance Government has thus far not lived up to its 2015 election pledges, all the more importantly, to enact a new Constitution, providing also for a substantive solution to the vexed Tamil National question, which, after all, has been the root cause of the 30-year-long war. In order to compensate for the lethargic journey of this Government and missed opportunities, it is most imperative now to fast – track the implementation of its election pledges, no ,longer succumbing to the arch reactionary forces of racial and religious bigotry.
Lastly, It is best for one and all to remember that the late Singaporean Leader Lee Kuan Yew who longed to “Catch up with Ceylon” in 1952, indeed inscribing it as a slogan in the election manifesto that year, recorded some years later in his Memoirs titled “From 3rd World to 1st World” that Sri Lanka lagged behind , having got into “turbulent waters”, as a result of adopting the “Sinhala only” policy.
*V. Thirunavukkarasu, Former Member, Colombo Municipal Council