Colombo Telegraph

When, Where And How Did Separatism Originate?

By T. Manoharan –

When we speak of separatism, it is generally referred to as dividing the land area of a country into two or more compartments. It may be religious divisions, language divisions or racial divisions, to be ruled separately. This is the type of divisions experienced by the world in general and Sri Lanka in particular. In most countries, separatism is prevented by arms and ammunitions by the ruling governments. Sri Lanka is no exception.

It is also evident that separatism sometimes stems from hunger for additional power or to retain the power already in their hands, even among the same races and clans. This was prevalent in Sri Lanka too as indicated in Sri Lankan history.

To capture power, the eldest son king Kashyapa murdered his own father King Dhatusena, who ruled Anuradhapura and illegally seized the thrown. It is said the rightfully heir to the thrown was his brother Moggallana, who fled to India. Nevertheless, Kashiappa feared Moggllana and constructed a fortress on top of Sigiriya and lived there, according to Mahavamsa. Similarly, queen Anuladevi, who ruled Anuradhapura, to quench her lust, married different men, crowned them as kings and subsequently mercilessly murdered them, according to historical evidence. 

Further the history refers to the killing of Vijayabahu, king of Kotte by his three sons namely Buvaneka Bahu, Mayadunna and Madduma Bandara. They divided the kingdom of Kotte into three, namely, Kotte, Sithawake, and Rigam and ruled separately. Murder and mayhem was the order of the day. 

Therefore, fight for division of the country is nothing new. In fact, Srilanka was divided into so many kingdoms prior to the arrival of the Europeans. After the arrival of the Europeans, number of small kingdoms lost its steam and was ruled by Europeans. Finally the Kandian kingdom which was ruled independently fell to Britain and Srilanka was ruled as a single country. 

When the country gained independence, slowly but steadily, separatism raised its head once again, despite the fact the Britain handed over the rule to all Sri lankans to live amicably. Unfortunately, separatism was in the blood of the Sinhalese from the time the murder of the ruling kings as stated earlier. It is clear that the parliamentary ‘democracy’ became a mockery and was responsible for planting the seeds of separation by depriving the voting rights of the plantation workers simply because they were Tamil speaking Indians and not because they originated from India. If they were Sinhala speaking Indians……..? 

Subsequently, Sinhala only bill was passed in the parliament depriving the Tamils and other minorities of their language rights. Thus, you will note that separatism originated from the Parliament and not from the people. Not only was the language rights deprived but, even the religious equality was withdrawn when Buddhism was given the foremost place via Parliament.

The Sinhalese, who insisted that Sinhala and Tamil languages be given equal rights, were condemned as traitors. Even to-day the same situation prevails. LSSP comrade who spear headed the language rights for the Tamils, namely Regi Mendis’s hand was mutilated. Colvin R de Silva who stated that one language means two nations and two languages means one nation was not taken into consideration. When Dr. N.M. Perera, proposed and Edmund Samarkody seconded a motion on 10th October1955, to make Sinhala and Tamil the official languages, it was defeated by the Parliament. With the passage of time, however, Dr. NM and Dr.Colvin too succumbed to political pressure. 

The Sinhalese politicians go round the country shouting that they will not allow the country to be divided. But they are the very same people who deprived the citizenship and language rights of the Tamils and thereafter accused the Tamils of sowing the seeds of division. This reminds us of a story where a wolf which was drinking water from top of a hillock accused the goat  drinking water in the downstream, as responsible for muddying the water. 

The communal thinking of the majority community is the cause of the cry for separation by the Tamils. But this has not been adequately amplified by the Sinhalese politicians. And the masses have been prevented from understanding the actual problem facing the country. The politicians, so called intellectuals and educationist are responsible for this communal outlook. Because of this, our country has reached a point of no return and the country is on bail from the international court, it appears. 

It is wrong to say that the Tamils were/are responsible for sowing the seeds of separation. There is no proof to say that Tamils were at any time responsible for the deprivation of the rights of the Sinhalese.

When the Sinhalese leaders were enticed by the English language and culture, fashioned themselves as pseudo English men and looked down on the Sinhala language, it was Sir Ponnambalm Ramanathan who initiated the love for the language among the Sinhala leaders. In that, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan asked a question from the Sinhala stalwarts thus “if the Sinhalese are not going to use their language, who else will use it”. Little did Sir Ponnambalam realize that his statement will be the Death Bed for the Tamil language in Sri lanka. It is similar to a dog biting the hands that feed him.

Unfortunately, the Sinhalese and the other minority communities in Sri Lanaka, needs to germinate the seeds of separation to establish their right to rule/live without pin pricks. It is evident, that in order to obtain temporary political benefits, there are Kashiappas,Anulathevis, Puvaneka Bahu, Mayathunna, Mathumabandara and the likes  still in existence in Sri Lanka.

Unlike the King of Kotte who gave himself up to the Portuguese voluntarily, and the Kandian king who was betrayed to the English, the Jaffna and Vanni Tamil kings fought till the last. But, this historical fact is not amplified but eclipsed. Isn’t this a ploy for separation?

When soil is excavated in Ratnapura you get gems, in Kurunegal you get lead

In Trincomalee/ Pulmodai you get limonite in Anuradhapura you get dilapidated olden heritage. But in Jaffna and Mannar you get relatively new human skeletons.

There is a move to draft a new law with regard to Prevention of Terrorism. Good. But it should not be putrid toddy in a new pot. (Puthiya Monthail Palaya Kallu). Terrorism begins with a section of the population considering their religion and language to be superior to others. This should be indicated as an offence in the new law, thus enabling all citizens of Sri lanka to be equal in all respect.

It is imperative for all of us to look to back at the past, pause at the present, ascertain and understand the mistakes we have committed and march forward to the future with determination and courage to ensure equality, peace and prosperity.

Translated by K.ANAGA

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