"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

On National Unity
"A Compelling Need to Learn to Live together  Peacefully and with Self Respect"

Colombo Hindu College Prize Day Speech
6 April 1979

[Including
Comment by Reggie Michael, Editor of the Sri Lanka  Independent, 20 April 1979
Comment by C.V. Velupillai, General Secretary, National Union of Workers, in Sri Lanka Tribune,13 October 1979]
Comment by S.P.Amerasingham, Editor, Sri Lanka Tribune, 25 August 1979 : "This is the full text of the speech made by Nadesan Satyendra in proposing a vote of thanks to the President Mr. J.R. Jayewardene on the occasion of the prize day at the Colombo Hindu College, Ratmalana. on April 6, 1979. We are publishing this now at a time when there is a new interest in furthering national unity. This speech offers much food for thought."]


His Excellency J. R. Jayewardene President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Mrs. Jayewardene, the Honourable Minister of Education, Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne, the Honourable Minister of Trade and Shipping Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali, the Principal of Colombo Hindu College Mr. K. Jeganathan, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am happy to be present here this afternoon and participate at this Prize Giving function of Colombo Hindu College - a function which has been honoured by the presence of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

Colombo Hindu College filled a need and represented a vision, some may now call it a dream, of certain sections of the Tamil community in Colombo to establish a full fledged secondary school where their children may be educated in the medium of the Tamil language and in an atmosphere of Hindu thought and culture. 

This was the vision of those who founded this school 25 years ago and this building itself was constructed by the Hindu Educational Society from monies obtained as voluntary contributions, by members of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Of course even at that time there was some debate as to whether the school should be established in Colombo or whether it would be wiser and more useful to establish the school in the. Northern Province.

We find here in this hall, the. photographs of the Founders of this school - the late Mr Justice Nagalingam, the late Sir Kandiah Vaithianathan, the late Mr. S.. Mahadevan and my own father Mr. S. Nadesan. 

My own connections with Colombo Hindu College are therefore rooted in not only the contributions of my own family but also in the contributions made by the late Mr. S. Mahadevan and by his life-long friend and partner in business the late Mr. S. Rajendram, whose daughter I married. The late Mr. S. Mahadevan gave much of his time to the cause of Colombo Hindu College and functioned as Secretary of the Hindu Educational Society in the early years of its existence. I am happy to see that the members of the families of the late Mr. Justice Nagalingam, the late Sir Kandiah Vaithianathan and the late Mr. S. Mahadevan have continued to maintain a link with the school and many of today's prizes have been awarded by these families.

It is therefore perhaps not altogether surprising that immediately after my graduation I myself undertook to function as Principal of Colombo Hindu College in l957. Those were times when many of us shared the vision of the Founders of this school and we were prepared to work together to create an institution which would satisfy the felt need of the Tamil community in Colombo for a school of their own.

Much has however happened since 1957. I myself parted company with the College in the immediate aftermath of the communal riots of 1958 - riots which surfaced the cleavages that existed between the two major communities that inhabit Sri Lanka. We have during the last 22 years seen various attempts to bring together these two communities and I believe, at least I would like to believe, that there is a growing recognition amongst thinking sections of the people of this country. that there is a compelling need to learn to live together peacefully and with self respect. A nation that seeks development, a people who desire economic advancement must secure peace, and the only way in which peace can ever be secured is by cultivating justice and fairness. There is no other way and let us not fool ourselves about this.

His Excellency the President is committed to the establishment of a just and. free society in Sri Lanka and in this commitment he has the support of all of us. His Excellency has shown the way and has given the lead to the people of this country, but I believe that it is necessary for all of us to recognise that justice and freedom cannot be secured only by the efforts of any one man even it be His Excellency the President. 

It is a matter of urgent importance that all of us who belong to Sri Lanka whether they be Sinhalese or Tamils should face up squarely to the challenge of creating a just society. A just society cannot be achieved merely by the utterances of platitudes. All of us know this in our hearts. It is perhaps important that some of us should also say that which is in our hearts. In Hindu thought it is said that there is dharmam when word and deed coincide. That is what truth is about and it is only on the basis of such truths that a just and free society can be built.

The recent constitution that His Excellency the President has introduced reflects the strength of his commitment to bring about a certain fairness, a certain balance and is a reflection of an attempt to achieve a resolution of some of the basic problems that divide the Tamils and the Sinhalese in this country. 

The implementation of that which the Constitution envisages is a matter not only for His Excellency the President but it is a matter for all those concerned with the government of this country and to all of us in Sri. Lanka. The Sinhala community, by virtue of the very fact that it is the majority community, carries with it the heavy responsibility of securing a climate where the members of the minority community are encouraged to live with self respect, where members of the minority community are encouraged and given confidence to found their families, plan their future and look upon Sri Lanka as their motherland.

Justice is not only a matter of enacting suitable laws. Where liberty and justice die in the hearts of men, no law and no constitution can be of any avail.

This then is the challenge that all of us face in Sri Lanka today. Nothing is resolved by treading the path of confrontation. Brave and heroic speeches on either side do not help in getting people together - they only divide and separate. I believe that there is a need to recognise that whatever may be the historical reasons, the factual position is that many thinking Tamils do feel problems of discrimination yet remain in this country - discrimination in respect of employment in the public sector, discrimination in respect of education, discrimination which sometimes finds expression in attitudes at the workplace and so on.

The people of this country are not fools. We cannot solve problems by ignoring their existence and the future of Colombo Hindu College is in a way inextricably linked with the whole question of the future of Tamils in Colombo and in Sri Lanka. In so far as the Tamils of Sri Lanka are concerned, I can only say this. The new Constitution has for the first time recognised Tamil as a national language of this country and has created a frame within which much can be done if we can work together.

Implementation of Constitutional provisions must necessarily involve participation in the process of implementation. Not much purpose is served by standing outside the frame and dictating to others what they should do. Things don't work cut that way. Clearly there are no instant solutions for the accumulated problems of centuries. But at least the President of this country has taken an important first step in endeavouring to bring our peoples together. Neither the Bandaranaike Chelvanayakam Pact of 1956 nor the Dudley Senanayake Chelvanayakam Agreement of 1965 went so far as to provide for the Constitutional provisions which we now find in the Republican Constitution of this country. Let us recognise this for what it is.

Solutions will have to be worked out and balances will have to be struck in the process of a working partnership. Let us not co-operate out of fear or compulsion. There can be no true cooperation on such a basis. On the other hand, let us not fear the prospect of working together to find some answers at least to the problems that all of us face in Sri Lanka. Even if we do not succeed in all that we seek to achieve let us at least be able to say that we tried without losing our identity as a community and without losing our self respect.

In so far as the Sinhala community is concerned, I believe that more and more of them have begun to realise that separation can come in this country only by the acts of the Sinhala community alone, acts which make it impossible for any self respecting Tamil to be part of Sri Lanka and to publicly acknowledge his loyalty to this country. The future then, lies in our own hands. The people of Sri Lanka have in their own hands the power to shape that future and in the final analysis everything depends on what they themselves want to do.

Finally, it is my pleasant task to thank the Minister of Education Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne and the Minister of Trade and Shipping Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali for their presence here this afternoon. Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne has brought to his office the skill of an experienced civil servant, the humanity of a devout Buddhist and the inner strength of a man who has found a spiritual affinity in the teachings of Aurobindo. Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali has brought to the Cabinet an agile and reflective mind, nurtured in the law and having its roots in the days when he was President of the Oxford Union. It is said that of  those who are well endowed, much is asked. Both Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne and Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali. have much to contribute to the resolution of many of the problems that the people of this country face and will face in the years to come.

Your Excellency, Colombo Hindu College has been honoured by your presence here today - a presence which is a measure of your support for the school and for what the school is seeking to achieve. It is said that behind every successful man, or perhaps by his side, is a distinguished lady. We are grateful to you Mrs. Jayewardene, for having participated in this function and on behalf of the Parent Teachers Association of Colombo Hindu College it is my privilege and my pleasure to thank both of you for having been present here with us today.

Comment by Reggie Michael, Editor of the Sri Lanka  Independent, 20 April 1979

I see that Nadesan Satyendra the dapper, dimpled and deft very deft; I almost said left, son of legal eagle S. Nadesan, Q.C.,  acknowlegedly one if not the sharpest brains of the Sri Lanka Bar has delivered himself of some glittering gems of wisdom in his prize day speech at the Colombo Hindu College, Ratmalana.

With that show of courage, which peeps out of an extremely skilfully crafted speech this impermanent Permanent Secretary has surely sung his swan song in the Government service in which he was as out of place as a Picasso in a gambling den, if artist wife Jaya does not mind, like one of her eye catching paintings in a musty court house.

The speech was studded with searing home truths which needed urgent utterance particularly before the head of State. Often, those in the seats of power are compelled to breathe only the perfume of praise, manufactured by the sycophantic coterie of confidants, the palace guard. The odours of fact hardly assail their well preserved nostrils.

Lawyer Perm: Sec: Saty with well chosen words that never leapt the bonds of government service decorum, served his home truths with, I imagine, the usual twinkle in his eye, softening his well timed shafts. Quinine is always much more effective with its sugar coating.

For the think tanks of our readers here are a few straight-from the shoulder driblets from Saty's tap. Lest I be be misunderstood I hasten to add 'tap of thought '.

Here goes: 'A just society cannot be achieved merely by the utterances of platitudes."

And again: "A nation that seeks development, a people who desire economic advancement must secure peace and the only way in which peace can ever be secured is by cultivating justice and fair play. There is no other way and let us not fool ourselves about this."

Then again; " the Sinhala community by virtue of the very fact that it is the majority community, carries the heavy responsibility of securing a climate where the members of the minority community are encouraged to live with self respect, where members of the minority community are encouraged and given confidence to found their families, plan their future and look upon Sri Lanka as their motherland." 

More Satyendra straight - lefts. "Nothing is resolved by treading the path of confrontation. Brave and heroic speeches on either side do not help in getting people together - they only divide and separate.''

Rambler dips his pen in salute to a man who though plumed in governmental power had the courage to hit without hurting, to bash without bruising, to dare without destroying the Government he served so briefly and so uncomfortably well.

Comment by C.V. Velupillai, General Secretary, National Union of Workers, in Sri Lanka Tribune,13 October 1979

The reprint of Mr. N. Satyendra's prize day speech at the Hindu College in the Tribune, is most appropriate and welcome at a time when there is so much rethinking on national unity.

When the Ceylon Daily News carried a major part of Mr. N. Satyendra's address, I wrote a brief note to the letter to the editor column but it was not published. For the benefit of your readers I attach a text of that letter.

"Mr. N. Satyendra, the distinguished Attorney & Secretary to the Minister of Labour, needs be congratulated for his forceful speech at the Hindu College prize giving last Friday, as reported in your journal of the 10th instant. 

He has stated the case of the Tamil speaking people with restraint and dignity. It is true that there is a growing recognition amongst thinking sections of people in this country that there is an urgency more than ever, to live together in peace with self respect. I underline and emphasis the word 'self respect'. Mr. Satyendra has hit the nail on the head when he says that the economic advancement of the nation perforce is linked with peace. It is not the peace that one finds in the grave yard but a peace that springs from the practice of justice and fairness. 

The Sinhala community, as Mr. Satyendra rightly says, by virtue of the very fact that it is the majority community, carries the responsibility of creating a climate for the minorities to live without fear and be assured a place of honour in nation building. The new constitution has no doubt provided certain concessions to the Tamil speaking people. To make it a reality it has to be activised through the length and breadth of the administrative framework. 

The late Jayakar and Sapru played an important role in India's freedom movement. It is hoped that men of Mr. Satyendra's caliber will contribute to the strengthening of justice and fair play in our every day life.

Bold, clear and thoughtful views on burning problems are essential to shape public opinion and when it is expressed by men who are not attached to any political party or group, such views compel respect. Mr. Satyendra and his ilk have a definite role to play in our troubled times.

 
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