C.V. Wigneswaran, the present Chief Minister of the Northern Province, was one of the keynote speakers at the launch of Kusal Perera’s book, “Unearthed”, which contained a collection of articles espousing the cause of national reconciliation. In his speech, reminiscing about his days at Royal College and in lighter vein, he mentioned how he invited [...]

Sunday Times 2

Ivan and Wigneswaran “Unearthed”


C.V. Wigneswaran, the present Chief Minister of the Northern Province, was one of the keynote speakers at the launch of Kusal Perera’s book, “Unearthed”, which contained a collection of articles espousing the cause of national reconciliation. In his speech, reminiscing about his days at Royal College and in lighter vein, he mentioned how he invited Philip Gunawardena to deliver a speech to the Royalists, which according to him, was forbidden territory as Philip was a renowned Marxist. In order to establish the progressive mindset, he had as a student forgotten the fact that Phillip Gunewardena was then a powerful Minister of Food and Agriculture in the Bandaranaike Government.

Victor Ivan has been striving to achieve the concept of 'one-nation' without an ethnic divide.

One of the most important ethical principles I learnt at Royal was, of racial equality. If one is to be very grateful to one’s alma mater, as students, whether we belonged to any race, we had the same human frailties’ and same aspirations without any cultural or racial impediment. We spoke the same language, ate at the same thosai boutique, ‘Saraswathi’ and flirted with the same Burgher girls while enjoying a cup of tea at the ‘Lion House’, saw the same films and got into trouble having cut school and played truant. We were friends then and even now, irrespective of the ethnic violence that made them migrate to other countries. Our heroes were the cricketers and enemies were the Thomians.

From the day I could rationally analyse the ethnic divide, I was wholeheartedly for peace, reconciliation and devolution of power, and more power to the Tamils. I was pained when successive Governments, who had given promises to the Tamil people, reneged on their promises as soon as they came into power. We have in our own very small way, stood for equality, devolution of power and in every approach would support a party that understood the sufferings of the Tamil People.

Even more than the UNP, I was drawn by the charisma of Vijaya Kumarathunga and his policy of appeasement to the Tamils. Privately and publicly, we espoused the cause of the Tamil brethren, but have often got beaten and been called traitors. But for us, reconciliation for the Tamil people is a Sine qua non for our own development.

We remember the good old days with nostalgia, the days in which we spent our time as members of one nation. Our children could not enjoy the camaraderie we had not only with the Tamils, but also with the Muslims and the Burghers. We want at least our grand children to have that nexus!

Chief Minister Wigneswaran: Tamils lived in Sri Lanka for more than 2000 years and therefore qualify to be thought of as a separate nation.

One of the reasons why Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated was that from being a rational, tolerant man who had Tamil friends and believed in the Marxist ideology of equality, he became an extremist. He wanted to vanquish the terrorists which was a good thing, but, he did not want to have appeasement with the minorities. So the country, as a whole, voted for Maithripala Sirisena, in spite of the massive propaganda that was unleashed by the formidable and invincible Mahinda Rajapaksa, who did not foresee the forces, especially among the Sinhala Buddhists who wanted peace with the Tamils. No amount of false, biased and chauvinistic propaganda against Maithripala Sirisena’s clique, could help MR sway the Sinhala Buddhists, who voted for change.

The so called LTTE offspring, the TNA and Sambanthan, got onto platforms with Rauff Hakeem to bring about the change and it did change the Sri Lankan political history forever. Maithripala was elected. It must be said that in the last one and a half years, if there is one factor which everyone who voted for Maithripala Sirisena would be proud of, it was the fact that he never changed his policy towards the Tamils. He did and is doing everything that is possible for reconciliation and appeasement.

I do not think any single Tamil leader or Mr. Wigneswaran could point a finger at Maithripala Sirisena, about the ways he has tried to bring about national reconciliation; the platform on which he came to power. My lament is that historically, all these years, the Sinhala Buddhists and the Sinhala Christians, irrespective of the various obstacles, have been disillusioned not only by racists Sinhala politicians but more so by racist chauvinist Tamil leaders who represent Tamils in this country.

This was very visible when Kusal Perera invited Messrs C.V. Wigneswaran and Victor Ivan to deliver two keynote addresses, not on the book he was launching, but on, nation building. In the course of his address Mr. Wigneswaran asked a very pertinent question. How could the Tamils trust the Sinhalese? He then continued to state that in some places of the nation there is a belief and assumption that Sri Lanka is one nation. However, he stated that they were a group of people who had lived in Sri Lanka for more than 2000 years, speaking a common language and having their own way of life and that therefore they qualify to be thought as a separate nation. He referred to the International Covenant where a group of people who live within identifiable borders as demonstrated in this context, have even been ruled by kings and other recognized sovereigns. Therefore, they can be identified as a different nation.

Whereas, Victor Ivan on the other hand, laboured to establish that the rift between the Sinhalese and the Tamils was due to myopic jingoism of the political leaders, and that unlike in India, we have failed to come forward as a nation. For him, the concept of a nation is where Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims forge ahead with one identity of a Sri Lankan nation. He compared India to Sri Lanka; he stated that Sri Lanka has only three languages whilst India has 487 languages and that India was able to resolve this problem quite successfully, but Sri Lanka was unable to find a solution.

He condemned not only the Sinhalese Buddhist leaders but also leaders of the Tamils, like Arumuga Navalar and said that India was able to achieve solidarity because the Indian leaders had very clearly understood and were convinced that they should liberate India from the British dominion and there was a clear understanding to build the Indian nation and to ensure an Indian State.

Though I do not entirely agree with Victor Ivan, especially his conclusions on India. The present position in Kashmir, such as the manner in which the Indian Government treats the tribal people, clearly establishes that Victor Ivan was not correct in his India’s One Nation theory. Nevertheless, Victor Ivan should be commended as a person who has been striving to achieve the concept of a Sri Lankan ‘one-nation’, without an ethnic divide and giving the Tamils and Muslims due recognition and providing them with the status of equality.

Wigneswaran, on the other hand, is a typical Tamil politician who was the first to refute the concept of one nation. I was disappointed and dismayed at the manner in which Wigneswaran was able to illustrate his point by virtually acting like a suicide bomber, insisting that two nations have existed in Sri Lanka for the last 2000 years, shattering the hopes, not only of Victor Ivan but all those Sri Lankans who had aspired that we would one day stand united as one Sri Lankan nation. Wigneswaran, on the other hand, speaks of a separate nation which ruled a part of the country and a separate state under a separate king. Any reconciliation to bring the two races under one nation has been aborted by Wigneswaran’s own failure to criticize the Tamil leaders who had espoused the fragmentation of the island into two nations of the two races.

Wigneswaran has made every single Sinhala, rationale, non-racist person, believe that the only appeasement to the national question is through Federalism to which most Sinhalese will not agree. The mistrust of the Sinhalese towards the Tamils or their leaders, will grow and will pave the way for the Southern racists, who are hell bent on making the Tamils a subject race, to go on the offensive and this may lead to another war in which thousands would die and all those who gave their lives, including persons like Vijaya Kumarathunga, would think whether it was necessary to take up the cause of the Tamils and lay down their lives for national reconciliation.

Wigneswaran’s recent statement about Jayalalitha’s victory and his taciturn on the recent floods in the South would make the racist in the South point a finger at the Government and claim it is weak, and may ultimately start another war.

As the Chief Minister, the manner in which he quantifies his theories would only make every person, who wants these divisions to be removed and who aspires for ‘One Nation’ to be doomed as long as Wigneswaran and other Tamil Leaders resolutely campaign for a Federal State, which according to the majority, is a cover for separatism. So again, Victor Ivan and others who stand for devolution and reconciliation will have to live to fight another day.

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