The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

18th August 1996



Conspiracy charge: no evidence

By S. Gurunathan

A man who was charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1989/90 has been acquitted by the Trincomalee High Court due to lack of evidence.

The suspect, Vinasithambi Rajendran of Navaladi in Batticoloa was found not guilty by High Court Commissioner P. Balavadivel presiding over the Trincomalee sessions of the North-East High Court.

The only evidence submitted by the prosecution was the confession made by the suspect to an Assistant Superintendent of Police. The defense said the suspect had not given the confession voluntarily.

Saudi Lankans reach out to cancer victims

From Mohammed Qassim

Sri Lankan expatriates in Saudi Arabia are to donate a pulse oximeter valued at around Rs.300,000 to the cancer hospital at Maharagama. Lakshantha Fernando Secretary of Sri Lanka Expatriates Association (SLEA) in the Saudi Kingdom said they wanted to help poor Sri Lankans in some way and felt in donation to the cancer hospital would serve a valuable purpose.

The SLEA which represents some 200,000 Sri Lankans in the Kingdom regularly organizes charity fairs to raise funds to help the Sri Lankans. It has also established a Sri Lankan expatriates benevolent fund to assist the Lankans in the kingdom who need financial assistance.

Officials of the society will hand over the equipment to the Minister of Health in Colombo soon.

Wira- "sinha" joins his tidy little menagerie

By H.L. D. Mahindapala

Apart from the implications of "sinha" in his name V.L. Wirasinha's verbal antics in The Sunday Times of August 11, 1996 entitles him to a permanent place in the tidy little menagerie he proposed for the Sri Lanka flag. The bit about the flag will come later. First, let me deal with his trivia. Mr. W (CCS-1935) confesses that he had never encountered the word "beef" other than in the context of devouring it.

Let me confess that it delights me no end to improve his vocabulary and his level of comprehension. I believe it is still not too late for him to learn that one of the meanings of "beef" in the OED is to "complain".

Consider also the inanities about the flags of US and UK. The stars in the US flag is for each state, as stated by Mr. W., and not - I repeat not - for the minority Afro-Americans. Like the indigenous Tamils the Afro-Americans constitute 12 per cent of the American population. Are the Afro-Americans and other minorities - e.g. the indigenous Indians, Hispanics etc. - represented in the American flag? Surely, Mr. W. is old enough to comprehend that the issue was representation given to minorities and not representation given to the WASPS, or to the new breed of DWEMs ( Dead White English Males) dominating the states.

Then again, Mr. W. a Govigama Christian, concludes that the Union Jack represents the union of Scotland, Ireland and Wales (?) Here we must say: "Father, forgive him for he does not know what he is saying". The Union Jack is formed by the union of the crosses of Scotland (St. Andrew), Ireland (St. Patrick) and England (St. George). What place do the Welsh (1.9%) have in it? What place do the Asian and W. Indian minorities (2%) who keep "Great Britain" moving today, have in it? Besides. The Union Jack is essentially a religious flag which confirms with its three crosses the supremacy of Christianity over all other faiths in "Great Britian". By waving the Union Jack at the highest national level it demotes other faiths to a level of non-existence. The Union Jack mentality dominates even the Royal household of England. They will dare not take any critical steps (even in their domestic affairs) without the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury. And the blessings of the Archbishop of Canterbury are always invoked when the English troops go to war. His Grace, Rt. Rev. Runcie, the previous Archbishop, gave his blessings to Margaret Thatcher's forces that waged an imperialist war in the Falklands Islands.

So What is Mr. W. beefing (I "adore" that salty expression) about a piffling matter of inland fishing in Sri Lanka? Before preaching to the Sinhala-Buddhist shouldn't he pontificate to those who follow the crosses in the Union Jack and tell them to abide by the noble principles of Lord Jesus? Wouldn't that put an end to the Christians butchering Christians in the N. Ireland? Shouldn't this Govigama Christian, who is so concerned about communal harmony, first set the example by exerting maximum pressure on the majority Protestants who have "kicked and bullied" the minority Catholics - not from his arbitrary date of 1931- but for centuries? Does he know that it is compulsory to learn English in N Ireland up to the age of 13? Wouldn't he raise Cain if Sri Lanka followed this undemocratic, unchristian approach of his "Great Britian" but making Sinhala compulsory to all children?

As opposed to these practices under the three crosses, Mr. W. would note, if he still has any of his 20-20 vision left intact, that the bo-leaves in the Sri Lankan flag are confined to the Sinhala section only, demonstrating amply that Buddhism is not only "innocuous" but also designed to "foreshadow" its benign place without dominating other faiths. In assessing multiculturalism or secularism of western democracies it is necessary to consider whether the western models have followed the Sri Lankan example of declaring Thaipongal, Vesak or Ramzan as public holidays. Therefore, in practice, the granting of "foremost place" to Buddhism gives it only a status of primus inter pares and not supremacy as Judaism is in Israel, or Islam is in Muslim countries or Christianity is in the Catholic and western countries.

Leaving these aside, I must agree heartily with Mr. W's proposal that the Sri Lankan flag should be redesigned to represent a "pluralistic menagerie" with a bull (in a china shop) for Tamils and a lamb (bleating in the maw of Tiger) for the Muslims. However, I regret that his "tidy little pluralistic menagerie" does not include an appropriate symbol to represent the ex-colonialists. Such political animals ( a nice Aristotelian touch, eh?) need a place in our national flag and may I suggest, as a mark of recognition to the ex- CCS types who continue to genulflect to the Union Jack, that the Sri Lankan flag should also include a jackass with its tail right up in the air!

As for his Christian dove Mr. W. should realize that its wings have been kicked to bits by the jackasses. The Christian dove is, indeed, relevant because if there is one institution that straddled both communities it is the Christian Church. The Church had all the opportunity, more than any other institution in Sri Lanka, to build bridges of understanding and promote communal harmony among the two communities - an issue that is so dear to Mr. W's heart. Instead, it played politics to extend their ecclesiastical imperialism in Tamil constituencies. One clear example, is the return of Bishop Kenneth Fernando from Jaffna after meeting Velupillai Prabhakaran. When I interviewed him soon after his return from Jaffna he was so elated as if he had been given an "audience" by a political saint. He even confirmed to me that Prabhakaran was a "humane person".

I couldn't believe my ears. If His Grace considers Mr. Prabhakaran to be "humane" what is he going to call Herod? A saint? Listening to such profane distortions of Christian values I came to understand why Lord Jesus was outraged by the money-making, politicking, whited-sepulchres of his time and whipped them out of the synagogues.

Demonising the Sinhala-Buddhists for their blunders and elevating the Tamil chauvinists who have committed crimes against humanity, or rationalizing their criminal behavior by blaming it on the Sinhala-Buddhists, has been the stock in trade of some of the leading - but not all - Christians. Sadly, Mr. W's. language borrowed directly from Tamil propagandists, his repetition of allegations that do not stand the test of any objective scrutiny, his targeting of "innocuous" Buddhism, his glorying in the congratulations received obviously from an anti-Sinhala-Buddhist clique, his mock treatment of "Siddartha Gautama Buddhists" (why drag in Siddartha Gautama?) indicate clearly that his Christian piety is as great as that of Genghis Khan.

In fact, his utterances about communal harmony are as credible as those of Uriah Heap - one of the biggest sanctimonious humbugs in English literature. Consider the push for secularism in Sri Lanka by some of the Christians. Have these Christians launched a global campaign against all the other states that have established Catholicism (e.g., S. America, Philippines etc.) or Anglicanism (e.g. England) as state religions? It their contention that only Christians should be given the right to establish religious states but not the others, even if the religions of those non-Christian states are "innocuous"? If they are such committed secularists why don't they protest about the President of America taking the oath by swearing on the Bible or invoking God (which is always Christian and not Muslim or Hindu)?

The religious and racial minorities have always adopted double-standards in raising secularist, democratic, or liberal issues in relation to Sri Lanka. Take, for instance, the downright racist line of the Churches? Has Mr. W. "read and understood" the import of the divisive politics contained in the speeches and the political propaganda of those in the Christian hierarchy who have launched an international campaign to demonise the Sinhala-Buddhists? Has he "read and understood" the speech of the Vicar General of the Diocese of Jaffna, Fr. S.J. Emmanuel, who, using the old Judaic (not Christian) political slogan, told an audience in Canberra recently: "Let my people go" (to the hell of Prabhakaran?).

In Melbourne, where I live, there is a Rev. Richard F. Wootton of the Uniting Church who runs a so-called human rights front essentially to white-wash and glorify Mr. Prabhakaran's "efficient state". Is this Christianity or perverted Churchianity? Where in the Gospels of Mark, Mathew, Luke and John - the only available records of Lord Jesus's mission on earth - do you find justification for such violence? Since Fr. Emmanuel claims he "has educated hundreds of Catholic priests" at Ampitiya, he would be competent to give some reference from the words of Lord Jesus to back up the politicizing of Christianity for the division of Sri Lanka. We look forward to it.

'Calculated distortions'

By M. Sivasithamparam

H.L.D. Mahindapala in his article in the Sunday Times of August 4, 1996 has chosen to drag my name. Usually I ignore remarks of scribes like Mr. Mahindapala because his opinions have no impact on reasonable people, be they Sinhalese or Tamils. But I want to take this opportunity to correct his calculated distortions of the Tamil problem.

Let me begin with 1920. He calls the Tamils breaking away from the Ceylon National Congress as chauvinistic politics. I don't know whether he includes the Revered Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam among "Chauvinist" Tamils because it was Sir P. Arunachalam who led the exodus of Tamils from the Ceylon National Congress. Does he realize he speaks thus of the founder and first President of the Ceylon National Congress? Let me give the facts of Sir P. Arunachalam leading the Congress.

In 1918 Sir James Peiris, President of the Ceylon National Association and Mr. E.T. Samarawickrema gave an undertaking that the seat in the Western Province would be reserved for a Tamil.

In a letter, written by these two gentlemen, dated 7th December, 1918, they wrote "we are anxious to do all that could be done to secure as large a representation as possible to the Tamils. We are prepared to pledge ourselves to actively support for the reservation of a seat to the Tamils in the Western Province."


On the strength of this undertaking, Sir P. Arunachalam persuaded the Jaffna Association to attend the conference on Constitutional Reforms held in Colombo. But the promise was never kept and Sir P. Arunachalam left the Congress in disgust.

In a statement to the Times of Ceylon on 14th December, 1921 he said "James Pieris and his friends have by their blunder wrecked the Congress, destroyed its power and prestige, reduced it from a National Congress to one representing mainly a section of the Sinhalese". It remained thereafter till its demise, not a National Congress but a Sinhalese Congress.

Dr. K.M. de Silva had this to say on this episode. "The Political Process which would eventually guarantee the permanent Sinhalese domination of the politics of the Island, when talent achievement and merit by themselves would be inadequate to reach the pinnacle of political leadership, if you happened to be a Tamil.

Tamil League

Besides, Arunachalam's eventual disenchantment with the Congress served to underline the fact that for many Sinhalese responsive co-operation between the Sinhalese and Tamils presupposed, the essentially subordinate position by virtue of their numerical inferiority and that the status in a Ceylon polity could seldom be anything more than that of a Junior Partner (Taken from two articles by Professor K.M. de Silva on the National Congress.) To Mr. Mahindapala this is "excrescence of Tamil politics." To counter these plans of Sinhalese leaders, Sir P. Arunachalam founded a Tamil League. Unfortunately he died soon after.

Mr. Mahindapala then castigates Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam (Snr) for making the demand for balanced representation before the Soulbury Commission. This crude arithmetical formula 50:50 was coined by scribes like Mr. Mahindapala of Lake House.

Since the Sinhalese will form a permanent racial majority which could not be challenged by any known political process, Mr. Ponnambalam demanded that one community should not have a permanent majority over all other communities and enunciated the principle of balanced representation and this balance was between the Sinhalese on one side and all other communities on the other - not merely for Jaffna Tamils as Mr. Mahindapala surreptitiously tried to make out.

He quotes from the book by Michael Roberts what Mr. Arasaratnam is supposed to have said. He does not quote directly from any writing of Mr. Arasaratnam himself. We do not know from where Mr. Arasaratnam got his information of the Sinhalese Board of Ministers offered 57% to 43%. As far as I know, there is no document or statement that such an offer was made.

In fact, Sir Arunachalam Mahadeva was a Member of that Board of Ministers and at no time did he state that such an offer was made. Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam (Snr) himself has denied that such an offer was ever made to him who was then the undoubted leader of the Tamils of Ceylon. This is a belated attempt, after all the Chief actors of that period had tried to show that Sinhalese leaders were always fair to the Minorities.

Safe guards

But let us look at the chauvinistic way in which the Provisions of the Soulbury Constitution were nullified by Sinhalese leaders. The Soulbury Commissioner's conceded that the fears of minorities were justified and although they did not accept balanced representation, they recommended that safeguards should be provided in the Constitution. Two safeguards were provided -

1. Section 29 which prevented Parliament from passing any Law that conferred a privilege or imposed a disability on one community and not doing so on other communities.

2. System of demarcation of electorates on the basis of population and area. They calculated that the North and East would get more seats.

But the Sinhala Governments set at nought the second safeguard by snatching the franchise from nearly a Million Tamil Plantation workers, resulting in their population being taken into account for demarcating seats but they did not have the vote.

Thus we had the disgraceful spectacle of seats in the up-country with less then 10,000 voters while seats in the rest of the country there were 20,000 to 30,000 voters. The only Sinhalese Ministers converted a device meant to give increased representation to Tamils into one to give more seats to Sinhalese. In the first Parliamentary Elections 7 Tamils were elected from the Up-country and not one was elected in the 1952 elections. The Sinhalese leaders completed the process by having a uniform number of seats for each province in 1972.

Section 29 proved quite ineffective when Citizenship Act and the Language Act were passed. This is what Mr. Mahindapala calls the "Magnanimous Spirit" of the Sinhala-Buddhists. Is this "Magnanimity" or perfidy?.

Mr. Mahindapala has repeated the old canard that the British gave a disproportionate share of jobs to the Tamils. This is just not true. The only section of public service where Tamils were in fair numbers was the middle-rung service like clerical servants, Apothecaries, Public Health Inspectors. Recruitment for these posts was by written examinations.

The British

The British did no favor to Tamils. The Tamils got selected on merit. This is the reason why after Independence written examinations were done away with and selection was by interviews and the number of Tamils selected dropped drastically. On the other hand, the number of Tamils in the Police, Army, Navy and Air Force were never more than 10%.

I also wish to give another instance of the magnanimity of Sinhalese leaders. Admissions to Universities on merit was done away with and all types of formula were worked out to keep out many deserving Tamil students from the Universities. On one occasion, the Tamil student had to score a higher aggregate than a Sinhalese student.

The yellow stripe

Mr. Mahindapala gloats over a narrow yellow stripe in the Sri Lankan flag. I want to ask him how many persons outside Sri Lanka know that the yellow stripe is the symbol of the Tamils. Also this yellow stripe often gets wound round the flag post.

But we want to know from Mr. Mahindapala and others how four bo-leaves got into a flag designed by a Special Committee on the National Flag and approved by Parliament? Bo-leaves plainly represent a Buddhist Country. When they added the bo-leaves, why were not a Nandhi and Crescent-moon added to make the flag truly national?

The T.U.L.F. has always condemned the killing of unarmed civilians by whatever agency in whichever part of the country.

Of course, Tamils have also made mistakes but they were mistakes any people struggling for freedom and justice have to make. There is nothing for which the Tamils have to repent. Before God and man we are an oppressed people fighting for our rights as many other peoples in many other countries have done.

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