28 October, 2020

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Wigneswaran Is Ok, Okay?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The Chief Minister of the Central Province has stated that Hindu and Muslim encroachment as well as Christianization has to end. Right now. The Chief Minister of the Western Province, not to be outdone, has echoed the same sentiments. Rev Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thero, pointing out that a) the archaeological record clearly indicates that the Northern and Eastern Provinces (along with the North Central and Uva) was the heartland of the island’s Buddhist heritage, and b) claims about such remains indicating a thriving ‘Tamil Buddhism’ are not substantiated even in the highly contentious and mythical narratives in recent Tamil literature, not to mention the strange lack of any significant Tamil treatise on Buddhist philosophy, has called for the immediate end to ‘Hindu Occupation’ of ‘Sinhala lands’.

Well, the aforementioned Chief Ministers haven’t said anything of the kind. Rev Gnanasara Thero, perhaps due to reduced circumstances, has been quiet for almost two years now and has not issued utter ultimatums.

But what if they did? Let me repeat, what if they did? What would be the response? Well, we can make an educated guess from the kind of responses we’ve witnessed to any identity assertion by anyone calling himself/herself a Sinhala nationalist or a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist.C.V. Wigneswaran

Racist. Communalist. Chauvinist. Religious Fundamentalist. War monger. Anti-Peace trouble-maker. Anti-reconciliation what-not. Extremist.

And who would respond this way? Let’s not name names, but let us make a quick list of the main categories whose members can’t stop themselves from crying out ‘FOUL!’ if Sinhalese or Buddhists even suggest a historical audit regarding ethnic or religious communities, object to the bandying of myth as fact, or whispered, ‘we are fine with the use of terms such as multi-ethnic or multi-religious but would you mind trotting out numbers and percentages?’

We have the liberals who chant “multi-ethnic, multi-religious” at the drop of a hat, call for the removal of clauses in the Constitution that they believe privilege Buddhism in word AND deed (tosh!). We have self-labeled Marxists and Leftists who have long since abandoned class struggle and cling to those label perhaps to feel good about themselves even as they live political and personal lives that would make Marx turn in his grave. We have religious groups that call for a secular constitution, but who would never dare call the leaders of countries that are in name and practice theocracies based on their faith to do likewise. How could we forget those who draw salaries (big and small) from rights-advocating NGOs? They, like the liberals and Marxists, would not be quiet.

Certain diplomatic missions would not hesitate to issue statements expressing concern. The US Embassy in particular will brief the Secretary of State in Washington. The Under Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs would have something to say, if not then and there, sometime later, perhaps during an official visit or on the sidelines of some multilateral conference. The UNHRC will make note and include it in the carefully written (so as not to displease the Big Boys and Girls in the rights-abuse business) essays read out twice a year, once in Geneva and once in New York. The Secretary General of the UN might also jot it down. Channel 4 might even do a documentary!

Racist. Communalist. Chauvinist. Religious Fundamentalist. War monger. Anti-Peace trouble-maker. Anti-reconciliation what-not. Extremist. That’s how it is. A lovely vocabulary for worthies from the above mentioned categories to draw from. As and when, let us add.

Now let’s take C.V. Wigneswaran. But wait, let me insert a necessary parenthesis here.

[Wigneswaran is a politician. He has to worry about elections. Politicians like to promise what is impossible to deliver. They will pray on anxieties. They know what herd instinct is. They will conjure specters made for foreboding. They will say ‘We will demand on your behalf’ and that’s a fail-safe strategy: if demands are granted they can say ‘we did it’ and if not they will up the ante (remember the ‘little now, more later’ strategy of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam’s Batakotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution, and how it snowballed into a 30 year long war that delivered nothing except electoral victories for various ‘moderate’ Tamil parties?). Wigneswaran needs to get elected. He will say and has said ‘any old thing’.]

The issue here is not Wigneswaran doing the political thing. It is about describing what he says and does, or rather a manifest reluctance do so by the part of the liberals, ‘leftists’, rights-fascinated NGO wallahs, diplomats with tender dispositions that threaten to fall apart at the slightest hint of the slightest hint of prejudice, important ladies and gentlemen in diplomatic and UN circles and the ‘liberal’ media of the West.

Nothing. Well, next to nothing. At best they will express ‘concern’ and at worst they will use the term ‘extremism’ which was what was reserved for the Grandmaster of Terrorism, Velupillai Prabhakaran. Shall we call them hypocrites? Noooo! That would be rude, noh? Shall we whisper ‘complicity!’ Noooh! They are gentlemen and ladies, noh? Shall we say, ‘humbuggery’? No. Let’s just say, ‘we know’. That’s enough. For now.

But there’s another (new) ploy. It goes like this: ‘there’s no point calling people names, it doesn’t help. It’s the communalists who use those terms and they are a small number of people anyway. The majority (of Sinhalese and Tamils, for example) are not intolerant. When some extremist does/says extreme things, we only make it worse if we call them racists, communalists or chauvinists.’

Wonderful. But when last did these noble-of-heart step out of their comfort zones to call out those who call out those ‘rabid, extremist, chauvinistic, communal-minded racists among the Sinhalese or Buddhists’? When did they say, ‘please, let’s not use such ugly terms; it won’t help but will only make things worse’?

Wigneswaran will do his thing. He plays the script to perfection. No issue. Expected. He made a lot of noise. “Well, Prabhakaran made a bigger noise”, did someone say? He was outshouted, however, by the liberals, leftists, well-meaning (yeah, right!) diplomats, some loud people in Geneva, New York and Washington DC, and some high-minded ‘journalists’ operating from the UK. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘deafening silence’. I feel sorry for him. Sorry for Wigneswaran, that is.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com. Twitter: malindasene

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Latest comments

  • 0
    10

    Malinda:

    You are certainly to get a good bashing from some Tamils and christians who are Writing as very devoted sinhala buddhists.

    See what that devoted Sinhala buddhist VISHAVAMITHRA 1984 has witten. HE even has given advices to Tamils living overseas how to screw up other Sinhala buddhists.

    There are Other sinhala people who do not write anything against Nayaru camps, racial discrimination and how Aborgiies are tortured and rotting in Australian Jails. but, they advice the Sri lankan govt how to democratize Sri lanka and give and make them equal by giving them a parallel govt, free land and money too.

    • 9
      1

      This chauvnistic writer has turned out to be a headache to us that long for peace. Anyway, his has been very suppotive to extremists of the day than any one else. Being unable to call a spade a spade has been his greater mistake. What can he bring by articles – which are no worth actually.. not cheer up any average thinkers captured by extreme political mind sets of the day either.

    • 4
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      [Edited out]These chaps are the real prolem to democracy. These chaps think that democracy shoud suuport majority view even if it is against natural justice.

  • 11
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    What a load of utter rubbish from a devoted chauvinist well versed in doublespeak!

    And since his history betrays him there is no need to go any further.

  • 8
    0

    Dear Malinda,
    Are you nuts! Have you ever heard any previous Sri Lankan Governments giving any benefit to Tamils. Let them struggle, call extremism or whatever. haven’t they got what they deserve for trying to ask for parity of status? They are minority and don’t belong to Sri Lanka. All Successive Governments from 1940s to date are doing the needful. They are captured and they are enslaved. Are you crazy to think they can pass some resolution in their Northern Province and get all Sri Lankans to obey! All law implementations and changing Constitution was made for his benefit? It is not at all enough taking the life and properties of Tamils from the time of independence to 2009. They don’t belong here. They are neither Sinhalese nor Buddhists. The genocide will continue until all of them are rid from our beautiful land. All living in the North and East are Kallathonis.

  • 9
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    I’m more worried about Malinda being Ok. Are you OK, Malinda? Malinda, are you OK? Are you OK baby?

  • 3
    1

    Well it is stared by Srilankan majority’s leaders !! Don Stpan !! To capture power Solaman West Ridgeway get the Sinhalese language policy in hand !! He did not only keep his promise to make Sinhalese as official language !! Also take over most of the private run schools !! Make the teaching medium of mother tongue !! That is Sinhala or Tamil !! But he did not make all the school to the same standard of teaching !! Same level of facilities !! Affordable parents including he him self send their children to the elite city schools or school in overseas countries !! Even my school days I never attend any private tuition !! In my school teachers will advice the pupils to stay after school who are week in their subjects !! Now every pupils every where regardless of their city !! Villages !! Schools!! Attend private tuitions out side schools!! Parents are paying spending very high amount of money !! why we sent our children to schools !! If they are not taught well by their teachers !! The government and concern authorities must look on this !! This is an good example how our government is functioning !! The government must stop private tuition !! Not private schools !! Must check every students progress !! Advice the children’s as well as their teachers to take care !! If nessarey take action against teachers whose students are poor in progress !! Stop their yearly increase of salary !! Stop delay their promotions !! This must apply for every government managed department !! Universities !! Institute anything !! Recently we see that Dotors demands their children to be admitted leading schools in the citiys !! And the same people wanted to close down the private run medical college !! The Dotors are most privileged serves employs in the government or sector !! They have given many benefits !! So we the government must start this from our schools !! Make all the school to the same stadardi !! Give equal facility’s to all the school like teachers !! Buldings !! This is the only option to develop the every ones life and also the country !! So that we can live in peace and harmony !!

  • 0
    3

    LTTE should be allowed to coem back and should be allowed to operate in the North.

    Wiggie will love that.

  • 4
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    In its list of demands, the ‘Eluga Thamil’ (Tamils Arise!) rally in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, on Sept 24 included phrases that form the bedrock of Tamil nationalism – ‘Tamil nation,’ ‘sovereignty’ and the ‘right to self-determination.’
    This is because the Sri Lanka government and Tamil politicians supporting the regime are deemed ineffective in preventing the Tamils’ political power base from eroding, and supporters of the rally believe that nationalism is the bulwark against such attrition.
    The rally was called by the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC), a loose coalition of political parties, civil society organisations and religious bodies co-chaired by the chief minister of the Tamil-majority Northern Provincial Council (NPC) C. V. Wigneswaran.
    “Elected representatives cannot deliver the goods unless backed by a peoples’ movement,” said Wigneswaran, explaining the purpose of Eluga Thamil.
    The circumstances that gave rise to Eluga Thamil echoes events in the 1970s.
    In 1972, Sri Lanka’s Parliament, sitting as a constituent assembly, was debating a new Constitution. The Tamils, who are the minority in Sri Lanka, put forward demands for a Federal Constitution to share power with the majority Sinhalese. The Sinhalese, however, favoured a unitary state that concentrated political power in a central Parliament.

    Failure of their efforts to convince the Sinhalese on federalism eventually led to Tamils demanding secession through peaceful, non-violent means in 1976. The suppression of this was gave rise to armed separatism that ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of main rebel group, the LTTE.
    Following the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, a national unity government was cobbled together, pledging to work according to principles of good governance. Although in the opposition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the largest Tamil parliamentary party, provides the regime support, especially on matters of national reconciliation.
    Good governance, however, has not delivered much to Tamils, either in protecting their rights or ensuring security. Sections of the Tamil population that believe this is due to the eroding power base of the Tamils were an important element that called for Eluga Thamil.

    One of many weapons wielded by successive governments in Sri Lanka to diminish the Tamil political power base has been changing demographics in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province, where Tamils are 88 percent, and in the Eastern Province, where Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims are a majority.
    Changing demographics were underway by the 1950s, principally through the state-sponsored settlement of Sinhalese – known as colonisation schemes – in areas where Tamils were the numerical majority. It was believed that Sinhala settlers would vote to ensure fewer Tamil legislators would be elected from these areas, thereby reducing Tamil representation in Parliament. It would also give local government control to Sinhalese. Moreover, large pockets of Sinhalese could threaten the physical security of Tamils through riots and pogroms. This strategy continues even today.

    Demographic changes through settlements have been compounded by two other projects. One is using the almost exclusively ethnic Sinhala military to undermine civic life in the Tamil areas. This is by the military holding large areas of land both private and public. Although some land is being returned to Tamils, it is at a much slower rate than desired.
    The second strategy is for the military to own businesses, ranging from wayside kiosks to hotels in Jaffna. This has led to frequent complaints by Tamil entrepreneurs that they face unfair competition. Further, militarisation has disempowered civilians from taking charge of their lives.
    Holding on to land and running businesses within a militarised environment has led to the continuation of an unstable society with large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an unsure future for entrepreneurs who want to invest in the North. These conditions make populations politically apathetic, as well as serves as an important push factor for outward migration. This, in turn, negatively affects the Tamil political power base.
    This is why Tamils feel they are not in control of their politics and asserted the right to self-determination at the Eluga Thamil rally.

    Another issue connected to fears of changing demographics and the eroding Tamil power base is the complaint of the Tamil identity being challenged by building Buddhist temples in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans are 70 percent Buddhist – who are almost all Sinhalese – and a large majority of the military is Buddhist too. The building of temples is a tangible way of advertising Sinhala-Buddhist control of the areas where they are built.
    The Eluga Thamil rally challenged ‘Buddhisation’ by emphasising the ‘Tamil nation’. Nationalism is certainly controversial, but a mass of people live in northern Sri Lanka are bound by ties of language, culture and shared history. That doesn’t deny differences exist within Tamil society based on caste hierarchies, religious differences and patriarchy. But faced with attacks on social coherence by the introduction of cultural symbols they disapprove, Tamils have turned to nationalism as a bulwark.
    As in the 1970s, Tamils believe that a way to minimise adverse changes in demographics, social coherence and insecurity is through a Federal Constitution where at least a modicum of control could be retained by Tamils in the North and East with Tamil-speaking Muslims by sharing power.
    Although the TNA’s election manifesto calls for a Federal Constitution with a merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces, there is suspicion that the structure of the state under the new Constitution would not share power effectively with the provinces. This is due to the implacable opposition of the Sinhalese to federalism. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said there was no need “to change the unitary character of the Lankan state”.

    These statements have not hindered the TNA’s hierarchy from believing that working without public protest against the government is the best way to forge a Constitution that is beneficial to the Tamils.
    Speaking on the Eluaga Thamil rally, TNA spokesman M. A. Sumanthiran was quoted as saying, “It is not appropriate … to launch a protest … when the party was holding discussions with other political parties in the country on the proposed new Constitution.”
    However, a significant group of TNA senior members, including Wigneswaran, chose to disregard the party line.
    This is because three questions vex those who believe the TNA will not negotiate meaningful federalism with the government: Why the secrecy shrouding negotiations; how would the Federal Constitution pass a constitutional assembly, a large majority of which is Sinhalese parliamentarians who reject federalism; and how will a draft constitution pass in a referendum where 70 percent expressing an opinion will be Sinhalese?
    The Eluga Thamil rally is the expression of Tamil frustration witnessing the bases of their political power being compromised in favour of perpetuating Sinhala hegemony, as TNA members in the committees of the constitutional assembly appear to pussyfoot on pushing for a meaningful federal constitution.
    In the minds of the organisers of the rally and their followers, the only way to keep their political power base intact is by resorting to a mass movement based on Tamil nationalist sentiment.
    The question is whether the organisers of Eluga Thamil have the vision, determination and stamina to continue to press their demands through a mass movement in the event the government and the TNA fail them, or if this spark is destined to only sputter and die.

    • 0
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      Anpu

      “… or if this spark is destined to only sputter and die.”

      It is destined to run against an impregnable wall and fall a hapless cripple. One again. It will neither die nor recover. Cycle will perpetuate until change of dynamics imposed by numerical expansion of a section of their own – the Muslims.

      Soma

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