"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

President D.B. Wijetunga's Tamil bashing

February 1994

Tamil civilians, both young and old, men and women, who bore the brunt of the attack by Sinhala thugs in 1958, 1977 and again in 1983, in Colombo and elsewhere will remember the raised sarongs of the gang leaders who led the cowardly attacks. Today, in an election year, Tamil bashing has once again reached a crescendo - it is, after all, the tried, tested and time honoured way for Sinhala political leaders to stay in power in Sinhala Sri Lanka.

On the one hand, Sri Lanka bombers rain terror from the skies on hospitals, churches, and schools in the Tamil homeland, in revenge attacks for the routs suffered by the Sri Lanka armed forces at Pooneryn, Janakapura and elsewhere. Sinhala thugs who dare not set foot with any assurance of safety on Tamil land, have now taken to the skies to carry out their cowardly carnage.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka President D.B. (Ethnic Problem? What Ethnic Problem?) Wijetunga is bent on feeding Sinhala chauvinism with what it wants to hear. His recent speeches indicate that he is relishing the prospect of riding Sinhala chauvinism to UNP victory in the polls - with his sarong metaphorically tucked up.

In early January President Wijetunga expanded on his theme of Sinhala supremacy in an interview reported in the Indian Express on 7 January.

"Sri Lanka President Wijetunga has dismissed the possibility of a special devolution of power to the troubled north-eastern region of the island.. "I cannot allow two or three classes of citizens. I cannot agree to making minorities super class citizens and the majority second class citizens..."

Not unnaturally, Sinhala chauvinism, which claims the right to rule the Island, also regards devolution of power to the North-East as making the Sinhala majority second class citizens i.e. no longer first class rulers.

What is more, according to President Wijetunga, 'if the majority race seeks the assistance of minority races for power, no fruitful activity can take place.' President Wijetunga expanded on this thesis at a meeting at Kurunegala with recent DUNF convert ex Minister and Sinhala supremacist Premachandra by his side. Making a fervent plea for the Sinhala people to unite behind the ruling United National Party he declared:

"The majority race should be safeguarded for the livelihood of the minority races. When the tree is safe, the vines can get entangled in it and grow. If the majority race is divided and it seeks the assistance of minority races for power, no fruitful activity could take place." (Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 30 January 1994)

So much then for sharing power in a multi ethnic plural society! President Wijetunga went even further when speaking at Anuradhapura, the old Sinhala capital. He told a UNP convention on 2 February:

"Our children should be able to claim that this country is the Sinhalese land (Sinhala Deshaya). There are no races according to Buddhism, but every country has a majority race. However much I try I can't become the Prime Minister of England. Neither can I be the leader of Japan, India or even Tamil Nadu. They have their majority races. In our country the majority (Sinhala) race is divided because of elections. The major (Sinhala) political parties trust minority races and pledge to offer them everything, whether it is good or bad... Thousands (of Tamils on the plantations) were given citizenship due to this bondage." (Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Island, 3 February 1994)

In February 1985 the United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group reported: "We do not accept... that there is any justification for denying civic and political rights to the million or so Tamils of Indian descent who work on the tea plantations."

But to Sinhala chauvinism, the citizenship rights granted belatedly, during the past few years, to Tamils on the plantations reflect the 'bondage' of dependency of the majority community on minority votes to win power.

On 5 February, at election rallies at Udunuwara and Gampola in the Sinhala Central Province he asserted aggressively what has come to be known as the KGB line (the Kandyan Goigama Buddhist line):

"The Presidential election is due to be held. The powerful UNP has selected me as its candidate. I am watching in which direction the people are moving....

The majority community in this country are Sinhalese. Therefore the Sinhalese should govern the country. They governed the country in the past and will do so in the future. The minorities should assist and guide them."

He threatened without too much subtlety:

"If we say that Eelam should be given to the North and the East and ask the Tamil people in the South to go there what would happen? What would they eat? Only the sand of the earth. What are the sources of revenue there? North is not a fertile area. Everything has to be sent from the South. If food items were not sent there for one day all the residents there would starve. Are there rivers and canals in the North? Is there rubber, spices, electricity, medicines in the North? All this has to supplied from the South."

He concluded with a return to to his 'clinging vine' theme:

"If the majority (Sinhala) community is not divided the minority communities would twine around the majority like the vines around a sturdy tree."; (State controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Observer 6 February 1994)

President Wijetunga's comments about electricity, food and medical supplies to the North expose the genocidal intent of the economic blockade imposed on the Tamil people by the Sri Lanka government during the past three years and more. His espousal of the 'clinging vine' model for minorities exposes the underlying psyche of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism which lays claim to the island as a Sinhala Deshaya (land) and which perceives the Tamil people as 'twining' round the ruling Sinhala majority.

That the executive head of the so called democratic Sri Lankan state should openly and brazenly claim that the Sinhala people, because they are a majority, have the right to rule, gives the answer direct to those non governmental circles in the West and aid donors who believed that the conflict in the island may be resolved on the basis of structures for a 'multi ethnic plural society'. The harsh political reality is there for all to see - there is nothing multi-ethnic or plural about Sri Lanka's body politic.

But ofcourse, President Wijetunga's recent speeches do not say anything new. As long ago as 1953 arch Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist D.C.Vijayawardene wrote:

" The history of Sri Lanka is the history of the Sinhalese race... The Sinhalese people were entrusted 2500 years ago, with a great and noble charge, the preservation... of Buddhism.. The nation seemed designed, as it were, from its rise, primarily to carry aloft for fifty centuries the torch that was lit by the great World-Mentor (the Buddha) twenty five centuries ago..."

In 1957, then Sinhala Opposition leader, J.R.Jayawardene declared:

"...The time has come for the whole Sinhala race which has existed for 2500 years, jealously safeguarding their language and religion, to fight without giving any quarter to save their birthright... I will lead the campaign..."

President D.B.Wijetunga's recent statements therefore serve only to underline the political reality that in the island of Sri Lanka there are two peoples, the Tamil people and the Sinhala people; that each of these peoples have a separate national political consciousness; that each trace their origins to different sources; and that it was continuing oppressive alien Sinhala rule that led to the rise of Tamil armed resistance.

And, here, the words of the leader of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Pirabaharan on Maha Veerar Naal in November 1993 will provide food for political thought for all those concerned with securing a lasting and just peace in the island of Sri Lanka:

"I do not believe that there will be a radical change in the hardened attitude of Sinhala chauvinism... Because of the rigid and hardline attitude of Sinhala chauvinism, the creation of an independent state is the only path open to the Tamil people. We have no alternative other than to proceed along that path."

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