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Friday 22 August 2014

On the Tamil problem

The days when it was claimed that there was an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka are over. It appears that India is of the opinion that the problem in Sri Lanka is linguistic and not ethnic. There were others who said that there was a conspiracy (kumanthranaya) by the west and it was the work of Uncle Sam. Though USA is in the forefront of the activities against Sri Lanka it is not that country that initiated the problem in Sri Lanka. The conspiracy theorists, they are not theorists in any sense of the word as used in western knowledge as these people are not capable of creating any new abstract theories on anything, have no explanation of a phenomenon, and just come out with the word conspiracy, without analyzing and offering some appropriate explanation. These people should be called conspiracy dreamers but often they are considered to be the cream of intellectuals in Sri Lanka by vociferous politicians who have no future in politics involving people (people politics) but continue to be in media politics thanks to proliferation of electronic TV channels and FM radio.

It is clear that India under the BJP is attempting to think fresh on the problem in Sri Lanka hitherto known as the ethnic problem. It is the duty of Sri Lankans who can think to help India to understand the problem. In this regard I have made my humble contribution in the form a booklet published  with the title “Prabhakaran Ohuge Seeyala, Baappala ha Massinala” (Prabhakaran, his granduncles, uncles and cousins) . It was translated into English as “An introduction to Tamil racism in Sri Lanka”, but is unfortunately out of print. The Sinhala original was first published in 1995, and it is in the fourth edition at present, though as usual was ignored by the so called intellectuals and the media of the country.

The general opinion among the “intellectuals”, opinion leaders, and most politicians especially of the TNA, and other Tamil racist parties and UNP is that the problem started with the Official Language Act or the Sinhala only Act. The Sri Lankan “intellectuals” and opinion leaders have been made to say so by the English intellectuals who are entrusted with maintaining the hegemony of the Judaic Christian culture and Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya, undermining the Sinhala Buddhist culture and the relevant Chinthanaya. The Sri Lankan “intellectuals” who cannot think, and who have been discouraged to think by the western education they receive at schools (the so called Buddhist schools are worse in this respect) and the universities, repeat what the western masters and mistresses have taught them. SWRD Bandaranaike and the SLFP are blamed for the Sinhala only policy together with of course the Bhikkus, and lay people (Upasaka Upasika) who are branded as extremists.

It is not difficult to argue why Sinhala should be the only official language of the country. In fact it is easily justified, especially in view of the facilities granted to the usage of Tamil in official activities, and it has to be emphasized that it is only in Sri Lanka that a postgraduate degree could be obtained in Tamil medium in many subjects. In fact research could be conducted in that language leading up to a Ph. D.  There may be pundits both Sinhala and Tamil who would say that research leading to a Ph. D. or any other postgraduate degree should be conducted only in an “international” language such as English, but we ignore the opinions of those who cannot think and who have been trained to repeat empty utterances including the sentence “Shakespeare never repeats”. No wonder that there is nothing new in the postgraduate theses produced by these “intellectuals”.

It is not my intention to say that if Hindi that is spoken by less than fifty percent of the Indians could be the official language of India (together with of course English until the government decides otherwise) then why not Sinhala, the language of about seventy five percent of the population, and the language understood by about ninety percent of the people of Sri Lanka, be the official language of Sri Lanka. The concept of official language may not had been there in the ancient days but Sinhala had been the language of “raja sabha” and from thousands of inscriptions that can be found all over the island it can be easily concluded that the official announcements by the kings had been made in Sinhala. The late Mr. Gamini Iriyagolla who has been unfortunately forgotten by modern day “patriotic” politicians had evidence to say that the pact between the Arya Chakravartins and the Portuguese in the seventeenth century  was made in Portuguese and Sinhala and not in Tamil, indicating that Arya Chakravartins who paid obedience to the Sinhala kings at Gampola and Kotte considered Sinhala to be the official language.

There was a poor attempt by some Tamil racists to show that Tamil was also an official language of Sri Lanka based on the “trilingual” inscription found in Galle. The reason for this inscription to be in Chinese, Persian and Tamil is obvious. The inscription was meant for foreign traders who came to Sri Lanka, especially on the silk route, and that is why it was written in the above three languages. If the trilingual inscription “proves” anything it is that the Tamil traders were foreign and occupied the same status as the Persian and Chinese traders. Nobody would claim that Persian and Chinese were also official languages of Sri Lanka at that time and Sinhala was not used for communication in the country based on the trilingual inscription.

Anybody who wants to understand the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka has to answer number of questions some of which are mentioned in “Prabhakaran, ohuge Seeyala Baappala ha Massinala”. If the Tamil problem commenced with the Official Language Act in 1956, why did Chelvanayakam establish the Thamil Illnakai Arasu Kachchi (Lanka Tamil State Party) way back in 1948 to campaign for a separate state? Why did Naganathan in the debate on the vote of thanks to the “Throne Speech” in the first sessions of the first Parliament state that the Sinhala people have got their independence, now it is time for the Tamils to win their independence from the Sinhalas or words to that effect? SWRD Bandaranaike was in the UNP then and an SLFP had not been in the dreams of anybody during that period. SLFP was established only in 1951, and adopted the Sinhala only policy only in 1952 prior to the Minneriya elections.

The so called students of the Tamil problem also have to answer why there were communal politics not only in the State Assembly as documented by many “researchers” but also in the Legislative Assembly established in the early nineteenth century. Why did Ponnambalam Ramanathan emphatically state that the Muslims were ethnically Tamil though he could not prove it convincingly? Why did the Muslims on the other hand state that they had come from Arab and settled down in Sri Lanka after getting married to Sinhala women? However, that hypothesis or story did not explain why the Muslims spoke Tamil. If the Muslims are descendants of Arab fathers and Sinhala mothers they should have spoken either Arabic or Sinhala and not Tamil? 

Apart from those questions one has to answer why the English appointed only one Sinhala to the Legislative Assembly with one Tamil and one Burgher member completely disregarding the percentage of Sinhala people in the country, and their history.   A good hypothesis or story should not only be consistent with “facts” which are also very often dependent on the story but answer as many as questions relevant to the problem. The Sinhala only Act story  does not answer any of the above questions but the story that the English did not want to give the proper recognition to the Sinhala Buddhists their culture and their history would answer them and is consistent with the “facts”. It is the English who created the problem, and it is they who maintain the problem using the dispersed Tamils, the western governmental organizations, the Tamil racist parties and of course the UNP their agent in Sri Lanka with assistance from USA.  

Nalin De Silva