Rather than run to India and Western countries Tamil leadership must evolve plan to work with majority communityby Arjuna Hulugalle
As the government and the TNA grapple to unravel the conundrum of the ethnic problem, a question can be posed whether the TNA could learn from the experience of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka at a trying moment in history in the nineteen sixties.
In the colonial period, which had lasted 450 years, it was natural that the Catholics and the Christians had an edge in every respect. Their schools were prestigious with a life line of financial and intellectual inputs. The Catholics got it mainly from Italy, France and Ireland and the Anglicans and Methodists from the Commonwealth countries and the US.
In business, in the public service, in the armed forces and in the ownership of property they had preferential status and their prominence was disproportionate to their numbers. Post 1948, the introduction of one man one vote, the C. W. W. Kannangara policy with compulsory and free education and the use of the veranacular made a sea change inevitable.
It was in 1960, that the Catholics were at the cross roads. Parents occupied the Catholic schools when their take over had been decided by the Government. The Bishops and the Catholic hierarchy rejected the Government move. They supported the Archbishop who already in 1959 had come out with the statement “Our schools should not be touched. We will fight to the end, even shedding blood.” (Dinamina – June 30, 1959).
At that time, there was one Bishop, namely Leo Nanayakkara, the newly ordained Primate of the Bishopric of Kandy whose lone voice dissented. His view was that the Catholics of Ceylon had to merge into the mainstream and not be identified as a force representing a foreign element and “stick out as a sore thumb”.
Catholics, he maintained, had to be patriotic Ceylonese and stand equal shoulder to shoulder with the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Reason prevailed and the Church turned to that advice. Today, no one talks of a “Catholic problem” and Catholics are as prominent and successful as they were then. The Church is now recognized as an indigenous body well integrated into the local psyche. It has, however, maintained its accessibility to intellectual enrichment from the four corners of the planet. This benefit it shares with others in such places as Aquinas University College.
Rather than running to India and to western countries, the Tamil leadership has to mature and give serious thought to evolve a plan to work with the majority community and the other communities. That will require true strength of character and intellectual prowess, which the Tamils have in abundance, albeit stifled by myopia in the past and therefore made to wilt and remain dormant and latent. It is a question of reawakening self confidence in their culture, values and capacity.
The Tamils have no reason to feel less or feel victimized and marginalized. The majority of them work and live outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces and have proved it can be done in harmony. They are making a very substantial contribution to the quality of life in the country. In the capital city, Colombo, together with the Muslims and the Up Country Tamils they form two thirds of the population. The majority community is in the minority. Can we then talk in all honesty that there is discrimination?
Will there be a Prince among men, like Leo Nanayakkara, to lead the Tamils out of the wilderness and take the message to the people of Sri Lanka that the “Country belongs to all” and we can develop this country through our collective strengths without succumbing to the seduction of paying obeisance to persons abroad. That does not mean that we as a people should turn away from our friends abroad who genuinely want to assist us, get to know our issues with an in depth understanding of them and share the common heritage of humanity
My Comment on the above article:
Both the Catholic example and the running to India scenario just does not have any merit in the argument presented. Further the lives of the Tamil speaking people outside their majority areas where they have integrated into the community in a way just like the minority communities in most countries have done also have no bearing on this case.
The reason I say this is that if you are willing to be under the radar, you can succeed anywhere, just as many people of Tamil origin pretended to be Sinhala so they will not suffer the state sponsored discrimination. The fact for example that the majority of the private sector shareholding of the Colombo Stock Exchange is non Sinhala is another example of being under the radar. The minute the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist realizes it they will want all this nationalized!
So it is back to the main topic, where Tamil people should be allowed basic freedoms enjoyed by the rest of us around the island, where they are not guilty until proven innocent in every thing they do. If they cannot hold a meeting of 5 people in a home without express permission of the Army (forgive me if I have got the exact number wrong, as it changes from day to day at the Army’s whim) then there is something grossly outrageous in the actions of the Sri Lankan government. It is not the TNA who should make the first move here. It is the Sri Lankan government who must be more reasonable in their dealings with the Tamil people and take account first of their basic grievances before even getting close to the devolution issue, which is really a red herring.
Once the people of Sri Lanka have the same rights no matter where they live then we do not require devolution or evolution, we will just be one nation Sri Lanka and a multi ethnic nation living in harmony.
It is this Sinhala Buddhist Inheritence misnomer that the so called Sinhala Buddhists should disown as none of them are either Sinhala or Buddhist, which gene testing will reveal once that becomes readily available, and the Tamils will realize they are not Tamil either! We are after all Sri Lankan adhering to some temporary race and religion suitable to us at the moment.
As far as the Diaspora be it Sinhala or Tamil are concerned, my advice is to shut up, as you are suffering from a Minority complex in your adopted homelands, and only become part of the discussion if you want to come settle in Sri Lanka today.