Speaking Up Together
My bishop, the Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, did us proud declaring today that there has been a complete collapse of democracy in the CJ’s impeachment and that we “as a Christian Church cannot remain silent in this situation. Such silence will be dishonoring to our Lord and a betrayal of our identify as His people.” Similarly UNHCR’s Navenetham Pillay described it as a “calamitous setback for the rule of law” and warned that Sri Lanka would have serious repercussions at the UNHCR in March. Many Tamils saw these as hopeful signs of escaping from the clutches of the Rajapaksas. When the US dropped Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe from a US military programme because of his being in command where war crimes occurred, the Government’s impolitic response that they will go to China, also gave hope that riling the US so would make retribution in Geneva more likely.
The Matale mass grave from 1987-89 with 70 skulls, it is hoped, will convince the Sinhalese that that the massacres 70,000 in Mulivikal and 60,000 from the JVP by our government are but different sides of the same coin and until there is accountability and punishment of those responsible, no one is safe.
Ruki remarks in her chapter on the disappeared cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda that Sandya Ekneligoda has shown increasing concern about Tamils’ problems, and is working with several families of disappeared northern persons. Her efforts have also exposed the new purported CJ who was forced to withdraw before at court his statement to the UN Committee against Torture that Prageeth was living abroad. For her efforts a Deputy Solicitor General has accused Sandya of the “crime” of bringing the country into disrepute! Let us all then be criminals like her. With minorities under attack, Tamils need to make common cause with Sinhalese and Muslims. For minorities include not just other communities but also Sinhalese in exclusion.
We need think-tanks to gather and analyse information and create opinion, whereas now on matters like multi-storey buildings in Jaffna and water from Iranaimadu, opinions we like are stated as fact. The TNA’s website tnapolitics.org is to be welcomed but it needs improvement – news is stale, links do not work and that to donate by bank transfer has no SWIFT code. At the university, holding arts faculty midterms has forced students to return although only two of the four arrested students were released. These students remain adamant that they will not attend lectures after the exams. Their talents may be productively tapped when given trust and autonomy.
Kabir Hashim, Senior VP-UNP, says the Government is turning on minorities and whipping up communalism for electoral gains because the euphoria from winning the war is running out. Again on Tuesday TNA MP Sritharan’s Kilinochchi office was searched and a computer confiscated. TNA sources attribute this harassment to EPDP organizers in Kilinochchi who are vying with him for votes. The name of EPDP MP Chandrakumar repeatedly comes up.
The Sinhalese language is thrown around freely in Jaffna, even by commercial establishments. Advertisements by banks targeting women, children et al. use words like Sisu, Kantha, Jeyasiri. When banks do not care whether their target audience understands, the real message is not commercial but that the Sinhalese are our rulers. Most offensive are the popular Gunasekera luxury buses from Colombo to Jaffna carrying Sinhalese slogans by Buddhist Sakthi Force proclaiming, “This is our Sinhalese Empire.”
There is also a move to give supposedly historical names to all Tamil villages and they have begun in the East, renaming villages while gerrymandering boundaries to create Sinhalese majority local government councils.
The US-based International Policy Digest, advocating for NGOs, has listed 367 Hindu temples destroyed in Sri Lanka and gives a translation of a notice in Sinhalese by “Sathumeya Communication Mathumeya” that is terrifying the people of Kantharodai. It claims that “Kathurgoda” is the burial site where 60 Buddhist monks died “under” Sankilirajah, that Tamils are forcefully occupying land belonging to the Archeological Department and “It is our utmost duty to reclaim this place” in order to “safeguard Sinhala Buddhist heritage.”
Gunatilleke and Daily News Attack Tamil Academics
A most offensive tirade has been launched by Susantha Gunatilleke (CDN 21st), and an editorial (CDN 22nd), attacking Jaffna academics. They claim that northern academics are complicit in the falsification of archaeological discoveries that cast light on ancient place names; they went into paroxysms of feigned righteous anger against the restoration of law and order in the North; and they never tire of talking of the army seeking to regiment the views of the intellectual community.
The Daily News and Gunatilleke do not want any academic discussion on Tamil Buddhism. Their goal is to suppress knowledge of Tamils having been largely Buddhist and Jain (until the Saivite crusade of the Thevaram period from the seventh century, vitalized by the Cholas), with our own Epics Manimehalai and Silappathikaram. For then they can argue that anything Buddhist in Sri Lanka is Sinhalese. Gunatilleke is against autonomy for Jaffna’s SLAAS and instead wants Jaffna social scientists to present in Colombo where Gunatilleke and cronies can harangue them into silence.
Their complaints about LTTE thought-police and a few academics joining the LTTE to advance LTTE hegemony are legitimate. But recall that the vast majority of Tamil academics were disengaged and many went so far as to help UTHR gather information and sheltered them as needed. Many others saved Federal Party archives and Amirthalingam’s documents and photographs when the LTTE went about burning these. It is absolutely vulgar for a national newspaper to editorialize as if all Tamil academics worked for the LTTE when many were heroic and some paid the supreme price.
Eating Tamil Meat and Neelan
The Editor and Gunatilleke become exactly like the LTTE when they call Neelan Tiruchelvam an “alleged ‘moderate’,” because in Finland Gunatilleke was asked “at dinner why Sinhalese Buddhists ate Tamil meat,” which he traced “to a book published by the TULF.” That is evidence against Neelan? Mano Ganeshan in a Lakbima interview (15.11.2009) has said there are Sinhalese government politicians who had “gone to the level of eating Tamil flesh,” and certain “Tamil politicians wanted to swim” in Sinhalese blood.” Hijacker Sepala Ekanayake was seen at Welikada running around with a massacred Tamil prisoner’s head. Other reports say the prisoners were feasted on. There were many savageries in that war with Muslim infants having their heads smashed against a wall by the LTTE and 70,000 civilians directed to shelters and massacred. Photos indicate Sinhalese troops engaged in necrophilia. But what I find unbelievable is that Finns are so insensitive as to ask Gunatilleke if Sinhalese eat Tamil flesh. They are too well-mannered for that; I do not believe him.
Tirade on SK Sitrampalam
Professor Sitrampalam is also virulently attacked for remarks of polemical value he made such as Prabhakaran wanting what Chelvanayagam wanted. Senior VP-FP, he has written extensively on Tamil Buddhism. As an academic he will condemn iniquities whatever their source. Today since it is Rajapaksa who is doing terrible things to Tamils, he will attack Rajapaksa. Likewise in 2006 he was a rare person standing up to the LTTE. When I was appointed VC and LTTE stooges moved a resolution at Jaffna’s University Teachers’ Association to condemn my appointment, Sitrampalam stood up and explained why mine was a legitimate and desirable appointment. The resolution failed. His house was stoned that night and his name-board at the university broken. It is men like Sitrampalam with backbone who hinder the government’s oppressive intents. Hence the attacks.
In the midst of these calamities, a farmer in the Mankulam-Mallavi area who has not lost his humor grumbled about his new problem added by the government “as if the war atrocities he suffered are not enough.”The Wildlife Department has released some 18 domesticated elephants with the intention of returning them to the wilds. But they trample his fields and fell his coconut trees and even when he lights crackers to chase them off as he does with wild elephants, they lumber into his compound for food.