By Dayan Jayatilleka –
“Many Sinhalese…forget that the Tamils of the North and East occupied our Island even before the birth of Buddha…Long before the Sinhalese language was born out of Pali, Tamil and indigenous dialects, the Tamil Dravidians have been occupying this land for centuries…” ~ Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran, address on August 6th 2017, District Secretariat, Jaffna
The great American poet Robert Frost, alluding to the erection of the Berlin Wall, said that before he built a wall he’d ask to know what he was walling in or walling out (‘Mending Wall’). Similarly, before we devolve power any further, we must realize who, what and where we would be devolving power to, and with what result.
Obviously we would be devolving more power to the Tamil majority North and East. More specifically we would be giving more power to the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils and their respective Chief Ministers.
But are they of sound mind to be entitled to such power? Going by the evidence of Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s latest speech delivered on 6th August at 12.30 pm at the District Secretariat, Jaffna, in the presence of a group of British parliamentarians, I have to reluctantly conclude that we would be devolving power to either lunatics or racists, or both. Extracts follow:
“Hon’ Co – Chairman Mavai Senathirajah, Hon’ Members of Parliament from Great Britain, Members of Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Hon’ Members of Parliament, Hon’ Members of the Northern Provincial Council, Mr. Vethanayahan, District Secretary, Jaffna, High officials of the Centre and the Periphery, my dear brothers and sisters,
While welcoming the Hon’Members of Parliament from Britain heartily let me register our appreciation of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy for arranging this important meeting.
…Firstly let me state the perceptions of the Tamils of North and East in Sri Lanka. The Tamils of North and East of Sri Lanka do not consider themselves as minorities. They consider themselves as the majority in the North Eastern Province for more than 2000 years. It is in the last 100 years that intrusions and incursions have been made into the terrain of the Tamil speaking by people from elsewhere.
…Next the Tamils of the North and East opt for a Federal Constitution to preserve their language, religions as well as their culture, tradition and terrain. They seek internal right of self -determination on the basis of their individuality preserved for centuries. They seek the merger of North and East since the Tamil speaking people must preserve their identity and individuality.
Many Sinhalese…forget that the Tamils of the North and East occupied our Island even before the birth of Buddha. There had been waves of immigrants from India who added to the indigenous Tamil populations.
The Sinhalese have another wrong perception that Sri Lanka is the land of the Sinhalese. Long before the Sinhalese language was born out of Pali, Tamil and indigenous dialects, the Tamil Dravidians have been occupying this land for centuries…” (Colombo Telegraph – August 6th 2017)
Chief Minister Wigneswaran says that the Tamils were the original inhabitants of the island of Sri Lanka, way before either Buddhism or the Sinhalese. Let me be as specific as he has been. He is not merely saying that the Tamils inhabited the island before the advent of Buddhism during the Ashokan era, to this island. He is saying that the Tamils and not the Sinhalese, inhabited this island BEFORE THE BUDDHA WAS EVEN BORN! Furthermore, he is not merely saying that Tamil is an older language than Sinhalese, but that the Tamils inhabited this island EVEN BEFORE THE SINHALA LANGUAGE ITSELF WAS BORN!
The UNP leadership, the NGO led civil society freaks and their patrons the Western embassies want us to devolve more power through a new Constitution, to this guy and the collective that adheres to and the area that houses this thinking.
Wigneswaran’s view is way beyond illogic and way into plain lunacy because the obvious question arises as to what these so-called original (Tamil) inhabitants were doing stuck in the least arable, most inhospitable part of the island instead of strolling down to the rivers and the lush vegetation. How come the Sinhalese, the much ‘later’ inhabitants in Wigneswaran’s fantasy, were settled in the best and largest part of the island while the original ones were not?
These views are not only lunatic, they are downright dangerous. If the Chief Minister thinks the Tamils were the original inhabitants of the island before the Buddha was born and the Sinhala language originated, he and those who share his views are also bound to think that by virtue of this original inhabitation, the Tamils are the original owners of the island. As Voltaire said, if you believe absurdities you will commit atrocities. Those who believe this outrageous myth are bound to adopt, or more accurately, return to, a policy of aggression and expansion, sooner or later. They are bound to try to take over, or in their mind retrieve and restore their ownership of a place they were the older inhabitants of, and they are likely to do so with the support of their ethnic kin across 18 miles of water in Tamil Nadu.
I mean, let’s look at the logic of the illogic. If the Tamils were the inhabitants of the island before the Buddha was born and the Sinhala language arose, where did those Tamils come from? And if they came from across the water, what is to say that those across the water are not entitled to the status of original inhabitants and owners.
Wigneswaran says the Tamils of the North and East do not consider themselves minorities but as the majority in those provinces. Of what relevance is that? If you regard the country as your unit of analysis, then the Tamils of the North and East are a minority. Who says that those two provinces are the relevant, operative unit of analysis? Why not any other province, or a district or town or a lane? Do we not live in a single country called Sri Lankan? Or is it Wigneswaran’s logic that the North and East are the only relevant unit because they constitute a separate country in which the Tamils are a majority?
Chief Minister Wigneswaran wants federalism, merger and internal self-determination. For his conduct what he should get is the dissolution of the Council. But this spineless, corruptible puppet government will not do that. On the contrary it is seriously advocating more powers for the Provincial Councils. This is where the people, the citizens, come in. We must not permit any change that goes beyond the existing 13th amendment and even the implementation of the 13th amendment must be gradual and conditional on conduct. Any change that goes even a millimeter beyond the 13th amendment must be resisted ‘by any means necessary’ (as Malcolm X said).