21 September, 2020

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Who Will Speak For Tamils At UNHRC?

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Spinning Everywhere

Our mendacious President declared in India that everyone has a right to protest in a democracy. But Tamils are questioned over religious functions and protesters are ducked in dirty engine oil, locked up or disappeared. He claimed to be performing a Suprabhata Seva for Venkateswara. But that seemed farcical given how many Hindu temples have been destroyed by his army. Claiming “a private visit” he reportedly met the head of RAW, Alok Joshi.

The rejection of 5,000 metric tonnes of diesel imported by Lanka IOC on grounds of quality leaves people wondering if it is really for that or his thumbing his nose at India ahead of the UNHRC, declaring himself unruffled.

Now in Jaffna he will open a hospital building, commission generators at Chunnakam and, as Myliddy-folk remain evicted, open a hotel there for soldiers. The TNA revealed that the military had taken over 10,000 acres near Palaly.

A show is on with carpet roads and intense cleanup wherever he goes. The culvert from Palaly Road at Ariyakulam to Subash Hotel has been rebuilt with supporting sand bags. Once he goes the bags need to be removed to prevent blockage. Does he think the public is fooled or is he being fooled by his stooges?

In Rajapaksa’s democracy TNA MPs were kept out of Jaffna development planning meetings. In a measure of progress, in 2011 young Jaffna couples for Rs. 100 could have a screened off area at check points for sexual activity, but today, Rajasingham Jeyadevan reports, Jaffna has a Honeymoon Lodge for quick sex at Rs. 1500 per hour. Recall Rajapaksa’s campaign promise to “create a society with good values and ethics,” and police in Colombo tokenly tearing down “indecent” posters.

Anwar Ibrahim

At the World Tamils’ Protection Conference last weekend in Kuala Lumpur attended by TNA’s Mavai Senathirajah and others, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim called for protection for Tamils and punishment for our killers. Malaysians are fortunate, he said, that they “do not have Rajapaksa,” or authoritarian leaders who shoot or kill their people, adding when “hundreds of thousands are raped and killed and their land taken,” it is not a domestic issue.

Sampanthan or Ponnambalam?

It is time to push at Geneva. Last time the TNA did not go but this year party leaders aver they would, but no team has been named. It really is important that the MPs, especially those who will speak moderately in terms understood by diplomats, go and explain what is happening, avoiding the word Eelam with focus on human rights.

Sampanthan represents what is good in Tamils.  He has good relations with Muslims and, a devout Hindu, is well regarded by non-Hindu Tamils and helped SLMC candidates in the East during elections. His word counts.

Lankan Tamils with the most at stake may not go for want of funds but expatriates, whose needs and experiences are different, will through NGOs. Activists have begun cyber attacks on government sites and 50, including EPF, Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and the Media Center for National Security are down.

My fear is that speaking for us will be TNPF’s Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, now married in the West, whose sidekick Selvarajah Kajendran boasted in parliament during his 2004 maiden speech that the Sinhalese should ready themselves to receive 40,000 Sinhalese soldiers in coffins and in 2007 welcomed the LTTE’s Colombo air bombings. Diplomats in Geneva will be turned off.

In its YouTube videos titled Palaka’ni, TamilNet recently interviewed Gajendrakumar. Repeatedly using the strange word “obfiscate,” he left me shaken by defining the Tamil Nation as a people of the same predominant religion, departing from the long standing position on “Tamil speaking peoples.”

The Clough History

To understand Gajendrakumar’s Saiva mindset, we must go into his good Christian Clough heritage from Caradive. The first Clough was trained at Batticotta Seminary. There were then two Cloughs, presumably his sons, Albert Edward and William Adam. They went as surveyors to the Federated Malay States where Albert’s son was knighted and became a Minister standing for pluralism. William on his return was awarded the King’s LSO Medal. They both had acquired great wealth.  The Cloughs’ relatives included prominent Tamil Christian families – Eliezers, Hitchcocks, McIntyres.

Albert arranged a marriage for his daughter to a Christian that failed. With wealth but limited options, Albert agreed to marry her to GG Ponnambalam on condition of a civil marriage. GG reneged, with a follow up ceremony with 30 Brahmins.

To hide Christian antecedents the Clough name is never mentioned in public or biographies; nor is Mrs. GG. As fallout from the revoked compact, her eldest brother Clough Balasingham contested the Kayts seat against GG’s Congress in 1952. Further, in 1970 in the Jaffna District Court, the five Clough children wrangled over whether dowried daughter Millie should have a share of Albert and Clara’s Malayan rubber estates. The name Albert was buried for a previously unheard of Kasinathar although he signed his last will in 1937 as Albert Edward Clough. It is now claimed this Albert converted for admission to school whereas his father, Clough, was already Christian.

GG’s betrayed Tamil following waned after he joined the cabinet that passed the Citizenship Act. The Ponnambalam household does not seem to have been happy. Female servants could not stay. The related stories were election campaign stuff off Federal Party platforms. After the utter rout of the Tamil Congress in 1956 when only 1 Congress candidate, GG, was returned, GG slowly shifted to Malaya for his legal practice, with occasional forays: losing his seat in 1960, winning it back in 1965 and losing it forever in 1970 when, at the Sri Lanka Book Depot, I witnessed GG come campaigning, and asking a boy “Thamby how is your father?” and being replied “Tell me who he is.” Such was his fall.

In 1972 the TUF was formed. In GG’s absence, M. Sivasithambaram who had worked with the Federal Party during the Satyagraha, had brought the Congress into the TUF. GG came to Jaffna in a huff to break it up. I watched the TUF greet him as he arrived by Yaldevi and garland him as their leader. He went to Palm Court with the crowd following to prevent his intriguing. Frustrated, he took the Night Mail back and proceeded to Malaysia, fading out of Tamil life.

Murugesampillai

The younger GG, Kumar, was married to Additional Jaffna GA Murugesampillai’s daughter, Dr. Yogaluckshmi. When Mrs. Bandaranaike, subject to boycotts for standardization and the Buddhist constitution, visited Jaffna two incidents diminished Murugesampillai. Tamil newspapers widely ridiculed him for washing Mrs. B’s feet at Kandasamy Temple. And when Mrs. B was on a stage with a minister readying a cigarette, Murugesampillai ran up and lit it for him. The Ponnambalams were zeros.

Restoration

But Kumar in the Chandrika era appeared free in egregious PTA cases. His associate A. Vinayagamoorthy is clear that Kumar was supporting not Prabhakaran but his “political ideology.” The Ponnambalam name seemed redeemed in some Tamil circles.

In 2001 the LTTE seeking to gain from Kumar’s murder in 2000, nominated his son Gajendrakumar for the TNA list and rigged the elections. However, Gajendrakumar’s real standing comes through in 2010 when his party polled a mere 4.28%, far less than Douglas! In 2003 Prabhakaran made Kumar a Maamanithan with Yogaluckshmi personally accepting. Since then many in the Diaspora have rallied behind Gajendrakumar. But in Sri Lanka, as noted, his support is nonexistent. If TamilNet is to be credible it must cultivate leaders who have support at home and re-examine some its own anti-Christian and anti-Muslim positions.

The Ponnambalams’ anti-Christian attitudes remain. Yogaluckshmi shamelessly plugs for only Hindus to hold high office in Jaffna.

Consistent Spokespersons

Liberal Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the vast majority of “Tamil speaking peoples,” will not find Gajendrakumar or anyone who justified the expulsion of Muslims and the conscription of children, an acceptable spokesperson in Geneva. To have a credible winning voice in Geneva, we must argue for accountability in a Sri Lanka that is plural and democratic, through spokespersons who have reflected the very same values we root for.

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Latest comments

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    Prof,

    // Yogaluckshmi shamelessly plugs for only Hindus to hold high office in Jaffna. //

    Can we find evidence for this in the public domain, or is it just hearsay?
    And why does she matter anyway (she holds no government office)?

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    [Edited out]

    If you look at the ugly racist politics in Jaffna, it has nothing to do with the Sinhalese but ugly Tamils that are bearers of colonials and rich land owners which are from so called upper class which is nothing but slaves that was imported from india.

    Sandwich between are poor Tamils.

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    This time in March 2013 , Mr Sampanthan and Mr Sumanthiran should attend the Human Rights Council in Geneva.I am certain that it is the wish of the Tamil Diaspora, as these gentlemen are very convincing and articulate.This is perhaps the last time the problems of the Tamils will be discussed at the Council and all the more reason why the these two gentlemen representing the Tamils should be there.

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    A few years a well known Buddhist monk in politics suggested to me that the Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus should form a common front to confront the Christian and Muslim minorities. I told him that the Tamil Hindus and Tamil Christians do not have any political differences and s described the Tamil Christians as Tamil Hindu Christians. Many Hindus have Christian relatives and follow many Hindu cultural practices. Almost the entire population of Jaffna was converted to Catholicism through incentives and force during Portuguese colonial rule. Most of these converts reverted to Hinduism ( Saivaism) the day after the Portuguese were kicked out. The attempt to seek out and give publicity to anti-Christian sentiments amongst Tamil Hindus is as unwelcome as any attempt to seek anti-Christian sentiments among the Hindus and give them publicity. A single swallow does not make a spring!

    Someone in recent times interpreted Auvayar’s couplet ‘ Uluthundu Vaalvaaray Vaalvaar, Matrallaar Tholuthundu Piinsellpavar ( only those who live by ploughing fields- engaged in agriculture- lead a useful life, while the others have to accept food food from them to live)’ , as glorifying the Vellahlas ! The wise Aauvayar – the great Tamil poetess of yore- had glorified agriculture as the most vital pursuit in the world. However, this wisdom was trivialised by bringing in the caste identification into it. Such trivializing, when done by an educated Tamil Christian is indeed resented by the Tamil Hindus. This resentment is directed against the individual and not the entire Christian community. Such incidents should be interpreted with caution and viewed within context, in order not to imagine nonexistent monsters and plant seeds for new conflicts. Nothing is sacred anymore and profanity seems to be the norm.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Ratnajeevan Hoole ( you don’t deserve to be addressed as Professor any more) your vitriolic against Ponnambalams demonstrates what a religious fanatic you are. So you are angry with the Ponnambalams because they reverted back to Hinduism. Man, you are creating a Hindu-Christian divide among the Tamils. Go back and trace your own lineage. I am sure your forefathers would have converted to Christianity for the sake of some positions from the “whites”. Or are you claiming to be a ‘Suddha’ with a British lineage?

    How come Colombo Telegraph publish this type of vitriolic bordering on religious fanaticism which could create animosity between the Hindus and Christians? You have guidelines for readers’comments but no guidelines for your columnists like this religious fanatic Hoole.

    I am not a fan of Ponnambalams but this invective harangue against them should be criticised in no uncertain terms.

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    Ratnajeevan Hoole, you say that Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam is “now married in the West”. Are you insinuating that Gajandrakumar is married to a white woman?

    Man, he is married to a Tamil Hindu girl of Sri Lankan Tamil lineage. She is the daughter of former engineer Kanapathipillai who is now living in Sydney, Australia. Kanapathipillai had been the Secretary of Sydney Saiva Manram until recently and managed the Sydney Murugan Temple, one of the biggest Hindu temples outside the Indian sub-continent. He is a straight forward guy who kept at bay the pro-LTTE elements who were trying to capture the management of this money spinning temple in Australia. Gajendrakumar’s wife is also a lawyer.

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    Hoole attacks most Tamil leaders here but spares Sampanthan. One wonders why. If Yoga, with such a friendly and agreeable nature, had taken after Kumar she would have had greater support than the son, who fails badly in trying to live up to difficult task of living up to the image of the grand-father and falls short of the father’s charisma and conviviality. Being less rash in approach and language will do him a world of good to the young man.

    Did the brilliant lawyer GGP fade away as described by Hoole. Predictably, Hoole brings in his anti-Hindu vitriol here as well.

    Senguttuvan

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    A correction: A few years back—-

    Dr.R.N

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      A further correction: —as any attempt to seek anti- Hindu sentiments among the Christian and—–.

      Apologies.

      Dr.R.N

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    If only Prof Hoole wrote more clearly one would understand better what he is trying to say. The same goes for Dr RN

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    this is one of the rarest time that i agree with rajasingham narendran.i live in chennai and i was a school student in 80s.school in which i studied had many srilankan tamil students and since i was quite politically conscious i could understand their problems.i still remember many had christian names but they used to worship in local hindu temples.i used to wonder how come the christians are worshipping in hindu temple as i become more and more acquiainted with srilankan politics i was convinced that christian and hindu religion with tamils are fungible.in fact i expressed the view in dbsjeyarajs blog that tamil muslims can never integrate with tamils of north east though they may be speaking tamil because for them religion comes first not the language.hence it does not matter whether tamil is a hindu or a christian because for them tamil is a common denominator.christianity is a liberal religion and this also helps tamils in accepting other religion.was not alfred duriappah with a christian name worshipping in a krishnar temple when he was assasinated by prabakaran?i do hope that tamils are not divided on religious lines they should stand united.one feature of hoole’s article have been that he exhibits a strong christian streak i used to wonder why such a learned person should exhibit such a one but let us treat it as an aberration.

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    Dr Narendran:

    A sustained and genuine Sinhala-Tamil alliance is welcome – although I would like not for the purpose of confronting other communities or religions. A few years after 7/83 some peace and reconciliation-oriented educated men and women did make an effort to popularise the thought. Royal College Principals like M/a Bodinagoda, Hettiaratchi, Gomes joined forces with the late Yogendra Duraiswamy and organised a walk from a Hindu temple to a Buddhist one in Bambalapitiya. I am told Royal College provided the venue and other resources for the exercise. Endeavours like this in plural societies, I am sure, will engage much more support than before if they are objectively carried out. Despite the deep wounds, more of recent times, my belief is both Sinhalese and Tamils accept there are much more features that unite them – culturally, historically, in terms of commonalities in religion and even ethnicity – rather divide them. Mangala Samaraweera, then at his heights, supported the idea. It appears with the passing away of some of these fine gentleman the endeavour remains somewhat dormant. It certainly will help peace and unity in the country if the idea is revived – islandwide.

    Senguttuvan

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    If you want to know what an imposter this chap is – you can find an article by another supreme imposter about this shameless chap in the Lanka Academic.

    To waste words on this chap cheapens us except to tell him – do what you like – You will never be allowed among us – probably by all Sri Lankans.

    Dr. N. Satchi UK

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    I fully support Prof Hoole in what he says about the attempts by some politicians in Jaffna to play the hindu-christian divisive card for their own benefit. I believe the collaborator Douglas Devananda used this this very same argument to deny Prof Hoole the VC post at Jaffna university. At a time when tamils need to stay united people like Gajen Ponnambalam are trying to gain popularity by dividing the tamils on religious grounds. Gajen has hardly any support among tamils in Sri lanka and his extremist political stance is damaging to the tamils at this juncture.

    My humble advice to Prof Hoole is to not fall into the trap these people set and avoid commenting on sensitive subjects like this and lose the support many tamils afford him for his commentaries in support of the suffering tamils of Sri Lanka.

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    Dr.N.S.

    You are absolutely correct. If bigotry makes one sick, one should cure the sickness instead of sickening society.

    Dr.R.N.

    The couplet is not from Auvvaiyaar but from Thirukkural. The poet Thiruvalluvar, the author is venerated as the greatest Tamil of all time. Men of letters in several climes have acknowledged his nobility of thought and catholicity of views. Only a scum will give a tendentious caste interpretation to a couplet elevating the central importance of agriculture and the agriculturist. “Pirappokkum ella uyirkkum” meaning, “birth confers no distinctive status” are his famous words. He also said in another couplet “kallaathavarum…..perin” _ “even the uneducated are very good if they keep their mouth shut in front of the learned”.

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      Chanakyan,

      Thanks for pointing out the error. What I have quoted is couplet 1033 from Thirukural. Than you were referring also to the gems of wisdom from the Thirukural. Thirukural is the ‘ Tamil Vedam/ Marai) that is universal in character and trnscends our religious affiliations.

      I apologise to the readers for the mistake due to failure in recall.

      Dr. R.N

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    Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam may or may not have political credentials. However, this personal attack on him by Ratnajeevan Hoole is uncalled for. Hoole represents a Christian fundamentalist mind set that seems to dislike Christians who have reverted to their Hindu antecedents as the Ponnambalam family exemplifies. The issue of Christians returning to their ancestral fold is also seen amongst Sinhalese politicians of a certain era i.e. Bandaraniake, Kotelawala and Wickremasinghe.

    This is not to defend Gajendrakumar but lets not attack him when the likes of Sumantiran, Chelvanayakam, Naganathan and Nesiah, all Christian have also played the Tamil racist card to the detriment of the Tamil people.

    Last point – the Cloughs were political nobodies who settled to have their daughter married to Ponnambalam only because they wanted to have a political connection – so strong was their belief that GG senior would one day be Prime Minister of Ceylon! Lets not forget that GG Ponnambalam was previously married to a French lady. Miss Clough was his second wife. These points of political biography need to be researched and documented for posterity.

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    I always read, for Tamils, Tamils mean a few families or only some individuals who are mostly from Jaffna. Tamils of the East come only when they blew up Sinhala people or slaughtered villages. They played the Tamil game and finally the Sinhala politicians, Sinhala govt and the southern people were at fault. Tamils never accepted their role in their own demise.

    Besides as educated people do they ever talk something valuable or something exemplary. It is venom, hatred and toxic stuff always.

    What is the value of education, wealth and every thing they achieved in their lives. Simply nothing. Poor, innocent Tamils should be happy and genuinely smiling people in comparison to these….

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    Creation of religious divide within Tamils should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Tamils = Hindus + Christians + Muslims. So should the caste system be dismantled. Only a united Tamil front within and outside SL could win their rights. Let’s Go for it !

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      Loud Clear

      Get real. Muslims are not Tamil. We are a separate ethnic group. And not all of us are Tamil speaking any more either.

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        Iqbal,
        Everyone knows that you are not Tamil, but majority of Muslims in Ceylon were Tamil speaking. But your political leaders always exploit the Sinhala- Tamil ethnic problem siding always the majority community to get perks in the govt. – Cabinet posts etc.. .
        There was a saying that your leaders used to take off their caps
        (Thoppi piratti) before uttering a lie and put it on afterwards.
        Presently your famous leader Rauff is the best example

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    Finally no one for Tamils. Yellow Delhi Hindus and India never ever for tamils. Tamils go behind the Chinese you are better off 100%. Take Sri Lankan tamil case. While Sri Lanka government used Chinese, Russians and Pakistan weapeon to crush tamils, India fully supported for that. Actually what Sri Lanka did was what India wanteded.Still tamils go behind India is useless.

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      Nadarajah

      “Actually what Sri Lanka did was what India wanteded.Still tamils go behind India is useless.”

      I don’t want tamils to go behind India.

      What I want is both descendant of all illegal immigrants Sinhalese and Tamils to go back to India and live in their respective homelands.

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    Igbal, yes Muslims are a separate ethnic group. But majority do still speak Tamil. I guess if not for the ethnic issues almost all of the Muslims would still speak in Tamil. The issue here is not if one identifies his/herself as a Tamil or Muslim but having the right to be a Tamil or Muslim and practicing /preserving your own culture, language or religion without fear and hindrance. The Tamil struggle is all about this. It is about Tamil speaking people. It is not about Hindus , Christians …………….or vellalars

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    If I may be permitted to comment on the observations of readers Iqbal and Rani in these pages.

    This question of whether Lankan Muslims are of recent Indian origin keeps recurring – and answered in line with the political winds at the time. A study of the birth certificates of old and respected Families like the Macan Markars, Falil Caffoors, Naleem Hadjiars, Jabir Caders, MH Mohameds will reveal their recent South Indian origins. Nagoor Meera, Mahuthoompillai, Seeni Mohamed, Sinna Thamby, Pitchai Thamby are all popular Muslim names in the littorals of deep South India that were in currency here sometime ago. Nagoor, Kayalpattinam, Keelakarai, Nagapattinam, Tondi, Karaikkal are some of the places from which many of our Muslims came here – in waves . This was largely from around the 16th century and the inflow increased from the 19th century when many petty Muslim traders from that area came and dominated the retail grocery, meat-stalls and eating-houses (small hotels) trades. The occasional Shipwrecks saw the arrival of peripatetic Arab and Kerala traders – some of whom contracted marriages with local women taking advantage of the polygamous features in their religious traditions. But then these were minute in number to the larger South Indian arrivals.

    When Mr MH Mohamed was Speaker I remember attending a musical Concert by the legendary South Indian singer Nagoor Meera. In his welcome speech Mr Mohamed said most Muslims in the island came from the South Indian region and was honoured to associated with the origins of the visiting singer. This is the same message the late Badi-ud-din Mahmud conveyed to Karunanidhi and other Tamilnadu leaders when he lead a Muslim delegation there after the July 1983 events here.

    Despite this if nationals of this country today wish to identify themselves with any race or society in part of the earth for whatever reason – be that Turkish, Arab, Keralite or even Chinese – it is their business.

    Senguttuvan

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      Arabs who visited the island to exchange horses for our spices, gems and pearls also contracted marriages with local women. The Arab features and skin colour yet persist among many Muslim families in the east. They of course married Tamil Hindu or Sinhala Buddhist women, depending on where they traded. They were also Muslims who came on pilgrimage to Adams Peak, who stayed behind and married here. However, the Tamil strand has dominated among the Muslims and is manifested through their mother tongue Tamil.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran.

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    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran.

    “They of course married Tamil Hindu or Sinhala Buddhist women, depending on where they traded” In this case why did majority of Muslims speak Tamil rather than Sinhala. As Sinhala being the dominant language wouldn’t early Muslims have embraced Sinhala as their mother tongue?

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      Probably because they overwhemingly mariied Tamil women and the lesse number of Sinhala women they married were absorbed into the larger community.

      Dr.R.N

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