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Wednesday 5 November 2014

Communal politics of Tamil leaders

I was not shocked when the Chief Minister of Northern Province wanted the government to handover the custody of the seventy five children who lost their parents due to the landslide in Koslanda to the Northern Provincial Council or in effect to some Tamil organization(s) in the North. C Vigneswaran is only continuing with the communal politics of the Tamil leaders of the nineteenth century. It may be that the Chief Minister among other things assumes the following. All the seventy five children are Tamil. The Tamil children who lost their parents should be brought up by Jaffna Tamils. Otherwise they will lose their cultural identity. The TNA is the   representative of Tamils in the Uva Province (and the whole country), though there are other parties such as the UPFA,  unlike the TNA that contest in the Uva and poll votes not only among the Sinhalas, but the Tamils as well. The basic thinking of the TNA leaders does not differ from that of Prabhakaran. The UPFA even in Uva is identified not with the left of the left parties in the coalition but with the SLFP.

The uncles of Vigneswaran never considered the Tamils in Uva and central hills as their brethren. The plantations were owned by the elite whether they were English Scottish Burgher Sinhala Tamil or Muslims and the central hills together with the Sinhala poor villages provided the servant “boys” to the elite. It was the LSSP though misguided by Marxism (Karalasingham’s words to the effect that estate workers were the vanguard of the proletariat  revolution) that established trade unions in the plantation sector to be hijacked by Thondaman. The politics in Uva has evolved since the days of Bracegirdle and it is Thondaman, Mahinda Rajapakse and few others who could address the Tamils in the central and uva provinces. Chelvanayakam attempted to unite not only the Tamils but the Tamil speaking people in the country against the Sinhalas, but it failed in no time especially in the central hills.  Ashraff wanted to go alone after Vadukoddai but Hakeem finds it difficult to do so. Vigneswaran has no appeal to the Tamils in the central hills but he thinks the TNA or rather Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi (ITAK) is the sole representative of the Tamils in the country, though before Chelvanatakam the estate workers were kallathonis to the elite Tamils as well.

If Vigneswaran thinks that the Tamil cultural identity will be destroyed or diluted as far as the seventy five children are concerned, he can rest assured that unlike the Judaic Christian culture that pays lip service to cultural identities Sinhala Buddhist culture has protected not only Tamil Hindu culture but Christian and Catholic cultures as well. It is under the so called Sinhala governments since 1948 Tamil Hindu culture has flourished in Colombo and it is  well known that Hindu Kovils with Theru and other festivals go from strength to strength in the suburbia as well as in towns such as Matale. After all, Vigneswaran who was brought up in Colombo has retained his Tamilness in spite of the western Christian education he received at a leading school in Colombo. What Vigneswaran should try to understand is that in and around Koslanda there are Tamil Hindu men and women who could be in charge of the Tamil Hindus among the seventy five children.

It is clear that the TNA leaders who were proxy to the LTTE are playing communal politics in order to satisfy the dispersed Tamils in the western countries. Vigneswaran and others could join with Hakeem against the Sinhala people on behalf of the Judaic Christian culture but they would be resented by the Tamil leaders in the central hills.  The Tamils in the central hills having lived with the Sinhala villagers for more than hundred and fifty years do not mistrust the latter. The Tamil children who lost their parents should be brought up by the government, which more than anybody else could make sure that all the communities in the country integrate with one another in the shortest possible time.

The TNA on the other hand wants to segregate people and communities as they can survive only by satisfying the west and their pawns the dispersed Tamils in the west with their communal politics. The TNA leaders are against integration as Shivajilingam has clearly stated his opposition to Yal Devi running to Jaffna. Apparently he has said that it was they who stopped Yal Devi running to Jaffna some decades ago. It may be that they helped the LTTE to bomb Yal Devi and thus prevent social interaction among the Sinhalas and Tamils. Yal Devi connects Colombo to Jaffna and a highway from Colombo to Jaffna will ensure more and more interactions among the Sinhalas and the Tamils.

We do not have to take lessons from South Africa or any other country on so called reconciliation as we know how to coexist without diluting the cultures of each other. We have respected each other absorbing from the cultures of others. However, the TNA leaders such as Vigneswaran and Shivajilingam are against reconciliation or whatever meant by that term and look for segregation without allowing the Tamils and the Sinhalas to interact. It is the communal politics that will guarantee the survival of the Tamil leaders at least in the short term. In the long term with development taking place these communal leaders will find their place in the dustbin of history but it is the short term we have to be careful.

The communal politics of the Tamil leaders is not new as the leaders of the nineteenth century also were engaged in communal politics. Of course, they were driven there by the English governors and officials who introduced communal politics with the establishment of the legislative council in the early nineteenth century. The English nominated members to the legislative assembly on a communal basis and to make it worse they gave equal status to the Tamils, Burghers and Sinhalas in the country. The English nominated one each to represent the three communities totally ignoring the history, the population etc., of the country. The Sinhalas who had a history going back to several thousand years and constituted about 70% of the population had one member representing them while the Tamils and Burghers each with a recent history and with lesser percentage of the population also had one member representing each in the legislative assembly.

Though the people or individuals are equal in law cultures are not equal as anybody who has gone to a western country knows by experience. There various versions of Judaic Christian culture dominate and the other cultures are only in the category of also ran as in the London Marathon. The Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist culture does not envisage to be the dominant culture but what is expected is to recognize it as the significant culture in the country. The communal politics of the Tamil leaders under the auspicious conditions of the English never agreed to give that status to the Sinhala Buddhist culture and the so called ethnic problem in Sri Lanka is due to this fact and nothing else.

It is unfortunate that in Sri Lanka as in the western countries it is the Judaic Christian culture that is the dominant culture as we are still following the norms introduced by the English in education, professions, culture, economy and politics. The communal politics of Tamil leaders only help the westerners to maintain that status and people such as Sumanthiran cannot be unhappy with the status quo.     

Nalin De Silva