Sri Lankan Tamils and Tamil Eelam – Thamizhchelvan

Srilankan Catholic priests support LTTE leader Prabhakaran for Tamil Eelam.

Freelance journalist at work.“After suffering for more than three decades and losing everything, Sri Lankan Tamils have developed hatred for war and the separate Eelam demand, and yearn for a peaceful life in their own land. They desire only a political solution without affecting the sovereignty of a united Sri Lanka. Any sensible government would ensure this and take the war-torn country on the path of progress. Rajapaksa’s government has miserably failed, but the responsibility must be shared by the Indian government and the State of Tamil Nadu.” - Thamizhchelvan

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa inspects troops from an army vehicle during a war victory ceremony in Colombo.It is more than four years since the LTTE was crushed, and it is sad and unfortunate that the Sri Lankan Tamils are yet to see a lasting solution to their continuing problems. President Rajapakse has not lived up to the commitments he made during his victory speech; Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) which control the Sri Lankan Diaspora are trying to revive Tamil militancy; the UPA government is inadequate and has no idea how to go about the issue; Tamil Nadu political parties including the ruling party are not interested in anything constructive but are continuing their political dramas; the separatist outfits keep harping on a separate Tamil Eelam.

The United States is moving against Sri Lanka through the UNHRC, not in the interests of the Island Tamils but as a check against China’s growing influence in Sri Lanka and to facilitate the Church’s agenda for a secessionist Tamil state.

This scenario serves as another great opportunity for the Generic Church to play its divisive game to achieve its long time agenda of creating a Tamil Christian Nation. In the absence of the LTTE, the Generic Church has unleashed all its forces such as human rights organizations, NGOs, Tamil separatist outfits, Dravidian parties, writers and columnists to achieve its objective.

Human rights organizations focus on the ‘war crimes’ and ‘human rights abuses’ allegedly perpetrated by the SL Army; the NGOs work over time in evangelical activities and convert the vulnerable war-torn people in the guise of service; Dravidian parties (ruling and opposition) and separatist outfits keep the Eelam agenda alive in Tamil Nadu besides exerting pressure on the UPA government at the center; writers and columnists use the media, print as well as web, to build mass opinion in favour of a separate Tamil Eelam.

While Tamil Nadu and the SL Diaspora are attempting to give life to the Eelam cause, the Sri Lankan government and Buddhist clergy are trying to Sinhala-ise the Island. As a result, the poor hapless Tamils in the island nation are bearing the brunt of Sinhala chauvinism. After suffering for more than three decades and losing everything, they have developed hatred for war and the separate Eelam demand, and yearn for a peaceful life in their own land. They desire only a political solution without affecting the sovereignty of a united Sri Lanka. Any sensible government would ensure this and take the war-torn country on the path of progress. Rajapaksa’s government has miserably failed, but the responsibility must be shared by the Indian government and the State of Tamil Nadu.

LTTE leader Velupillai PrabhakaranSri Lanka’s missed opportunity

There cannot be two opinions on Rajapaksa’s decisive action against LTTE; it deserved to be decimated. But regarding the rehabilitation of the Tamils, his government should have gone on a war footing for rehabilitation and ensured a peaceful livelihood for the Tamils. He had a great opportunity to implement the Thirteenth Amendment, which could have thwarted the attempts of the US and UNHRC to act against SL. He could have earned the respect and admiration of the Tamil community and ensured a united Sri Lanka in the real sense, after almost six decades. Had he attempted to implement the 13th Amendment immediately after winning the war against LTTE, he would not have faced opposition from the Sinhala people as they saw him as a hero then. But he wasted more than three years and gave more than enough time to Sinhala chauvinists and the Buddhist clergy who are now bent upon scuttling the implementation of the 13th Amendment.

On the contrary, his subsequent actions have dismayed the Tamils:

  • He bifurcated the NE province to make separate entities of North and East;
  • He banned singing the national anthem in Tamil;
  • He dragged his feet on the rehabilitation process;
  • He gave permission only to Christian organizations like Caritas to serve the internally displaced Tamils in the army controlled camps;
  • He ignored India and flirted with Pakistan and China;
  • Internally within the country, he earned the wrath of a section of the populace by insulting and harassing former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka who had made a major contribution to the nation during his tenure in the military;
  • He impeached the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Shirani Bandaranaike, for ruling against the government, particularly the two bills (Town and Country Planning Amendment Bill and Divi Neguma Bill) proposed by minister Basil Rajapaksa, the President’s brother;
  • He encouraged corruption and nepotism.

Rajiv GandhiIndia’s missed opportunities

The Tamil civilian protests started only after the Sinhala Only Act was introduced by Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike in 1956. Repeated protests by Tamils and suppression by the regime slowly snowballed into civilian riots. The first major riots took place in May 1958 (“1958 Riots”).

Although there were incidents of civilian riots intermittently between the 1950s and ‘60s, India never felt the need to interfere as successive SL governments exercised control over the prevailing situation. However, as the situation deteriorated and led to the formation of extremist militant groups and armed struggle in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi felt it appropriate to support and train the nascent Tamil militant groups – a huge blunder by the Government of India.

Indira Gandhi encouraged and trained Tamil militant organizations to gain the support of MG Ramachandran. This worsened the situation in both Sri Lanka and India, as it turned out to be a case of catching a tiger by its tail. Both MGR and Indira Gandhi passed away in the mid-1980s, but their blunder caused heavy damage to both nations in general and Sri Lankan Tamils in particular.

Rajiv Gandhi, who took up the mantle with the sole qualification of being the Prime Minister’s son, signed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord in July 1987 in an attempt to put an end to the armed conflict and control the migration of Tamil refugees into India. As mandated under the Accord and also on the request of Junius Richard Jayewardene, Rajiv Gandhi sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force to disarm all militant organizations and make them participate in the administration of the northeast. As the LTTE wanted to dominate the Interim Administrative Council, it refused to cooperate and this led to repeated skirmishes between the LTTE and the IPKF. The Tigers were actually not interested in peace and indulged in attacks on Sri Lankans and waged guerilla warfare against the IPKF.

At this juncture, it must be clarified that Rajiv Gandhi didn’t order the execution of Prabhakaran when he came to meet Maj-Gen Harkirat Singh in September 1987. At that time, the IPKF had no plans of fighting the LTTE. Reliable sources within the IPKF say that the decision to fight the LTTE was taken only after the insurgency escalated and 12 LTTE leaders captured by the SL Army took cyanide pills and died, and subsequently the Government of India announced a reward on Prabhakaran dead or alive.

It is reliably learnt that the para-commandos missed Prabhakaran by a whisker once when they raided his camp. The Government of India, acting in the national interest, ordered the Indian Army to get Prabhakaran, dead or alive. The LTTE led by Prabhakaran was liquidating leaders of other Sri Lankan Tamil political parties besides killing thousands of innocent civilians, both Tamil and Sinhala. It had eliminated hundreds of soldiers of the IPKF, and was recruiting Tamil children into the terrorist outfit to train into future LTTE terrorists.

Meanwhile, Ranasinghe Premadasa, son of Richard Ranasinghe, became the third President of Sri Lanka; in India, Rajiv Gandhi lost the elections and VP Singh became Prime Minister. The LTTE had a tacit understanding with Premadasa and continued the fight against the IPKF. In 1989, Premadasa asked India to withdraw the IPKF and VP Singh obliged under pressure from Karunanidhi, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. By March 1990, the IPKF completely withdrew from Sri Lanka and within three months the LTTE turned against Premadasa and assassinated him in May 1993. It previously eliminated Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. Thus, the move of sending the IPKF proved disastrous with the loss of 1255 soldiers. It was a disaster because New Delhi did not have an end objective in sight when it sent in the IPKF and therefore had no well-defined exit plan or time frame for their exit.

New Delhi should have resisted the pressure from both Colombo and Fort St. George and mandated the IPKF to crush the LTTE and should have withdrawn the IPKF from Sri Lanka only after compelling the Sri Lankan government to implement the 13th amendment. This would have checked the influence of China over Sri Lanka and brought a lasting solution to the civil war and asserted Indian supremacy in South Asia. But this did not happen.

Later, although the Jayalalithaa government in the state and the Narasimha Rao government at the center checked and controlled LTTE activities in the country to a large extent, the Indo Sri Lanka relationship could not see marked improvement as Eelam War III erupted in the island nation. Both Sri Lanka and India blundered by allowing western forces to play a role in the ethnic crisis in the name of mediation.

Only after the BJP-led government came to power did the SL Tamils issue receive some kind of attention. Ranil Wickremasinghe, second son of Esmond and Nalini Wickremasinghe and nephew of Lakshman Wickremasinghe, Bishop, Church of Sri Lanka, was Prime Minister. He cooperated well and the peace process brokered by Norway was supervised by the NDA government. In February 2002, Prabhakaran signed the cease fire agreement (CFA), as did Ranil Wickremasinghe. However, both prime ministers lost their respective elections, which caused a set back to the peace process.

The UPA government failed to rise to the occasion, and in Sri Lanka, Percy Mahinda Rajapaksa went on the offensive during the Eelam War IV and finally decimated the LTTE by May 2009, with maximum help from China and Pakistan. Even after the decimation of the LTTE, the UPA government was not proactive on the issue, and as it was mired in corruption and scams internally, it failed miserably in external affairs due to policy paralysis. This led to Sri Lanka moving closer to China and Pakistan, and India yielding to pressure from western countries to go along with them against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. Any sensible government would have acted pro-actively, not only in the interests of the hapless Tamils of Sri Lanka but also in the national interest. The UPA gave scant regard to both.

Ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi: He is the self-proclaimed chief of the fictional Dravidian race.Dravidian parties and their dramas

Ever since civil war broke out in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s, the Dravidian parties have been playing politics and have done absolutely nothing constructive in the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils. They have used the issue only to gain political benefits here in Tamil Nadu.

Though initiated by MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi was the main culprit in taking up the separatist agenda of Tamil Eelam set by external forces. He allowed the LTTE to gain foothold in Tamil Nadu and to roam around freely with weapons. His party was even indicted by the Jain Commission for its role in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Even as the Vajpayee government was proceeding in the right direction, he and Vaiko’s MDMK and Dr Ramadoss’ PMK, ditched the NDA in 2003 for selfish reasons. Later, after joining the UPA, the DMK continued its dramas, totally ignoring the interests and aspirations of the SL Tamils.

On the other hand, the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK shifted its stand on the ethnic issue and started supporting the agenda of “Separate Tamil Eelam”, calling the LTTE “fighters” instead of “terrorists”. After regaining power in 2011, she facilitated the passing of a resolution in the state assembly calling for amnesty for Rajiv Gandhi’s killers and for a “public referendum” on Tamil Eelam, knowing well that such resolutions passed in state assemblies have no use.

She allowed pro-Eelam parties like MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi), VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi), etc., to campaign in favour of revival of LTTE though it is officially banned in India. She gave a free hand to separatist outfits like Nedumaran’s Tamil Nationalist Movement (TNM), Sebastian Seeman’s Nam Thamizhar Katchi (NTK), Kolathur Mani’s Dravida Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), etc.

In May 2013, when NTK leader Seeman brought Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik to Tamil Nadu to talk in favour of a separate Tamil Eelam, supporting the revival of an armed group like LTTE in a public meeting, Jayalalithaa remained a mute spectator and allowed him to get back to Kashmir. While soft-pedalling the Church sponsored protests against the commissioning of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, she also allowed the PMANE (People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy) leader SP Udayakumar to launch the “Tamil Students Movement” backed by the Church, for separate Tamil Eelam, from the premises of Loyola College.

The few hundred strong “Tamil Students Movement” boycotted classes and unleashed violent protests on the streets. Instead of taking stern action, the Jayalalithaa regime knowing well that the majority of the student community was not interested in the so-called Eelam cause, facilitated the TSM to carry on with their protests for several days across the state by closing down students hostels attached to colleges.

While the TSM was an attempt by the Church sponsored separatist forces to bring the student community to the streets a la 1983, the fishermen community has been perennially used to create confrontation between India and Sri Lanka. As observed by Radha Rajan, editor, Vigil Online, traditional fishermen have a very sound knowledge about the seas and know the ocean boundaries of both Sri Lanka and India. They are not crossing over to Sri Lankan waters without knowledge and out of innocence, but they are pushed from behind by vested interests from Western countries who want to create confrontations between India and Sri Lanka and keep the issue alive.

While incidents of Sri Lankan fishermen crossing into Indian waters are very rare, why are Indian fishermen sneaking into SL waters so often? The fact that Tamil fishermen used to help the LTTE by ferrying them and smuggling arms, ammunition and fuel during the conflict must not be forgotten. All political parties in Tamil Nadu indulge in sordid politics of one-upmanship on this issue.

As Jayalalithaa continued with her separatist pro-Eelam politics, despite being Chief Minister, Karunanidhi developed cold feet and feared he would lose his “Leader of Tamil Race” status. To reassert his status, he revived the dead and forgotten Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation (TESO) to ‘show’ that he and his party has not lost their focus on the SL Tamils issue.

In such a confused scenario, the Sri Lankan Tamils remain a hapless lot with no solution in sight.

Archbishop Chinnappa & Chief Minister JayalalithaaEmerging picture

A close look at the Sri Lankan Tamil issue after the “Sinhala Only Act” of 1956 suggests that Sinhala chauvinism, the Buddhist clergy’s rabidity, and the effete political leadership caused the civil unrest within the island nation leading to the emergence of Tamil militancy. India’s Sri Lankan policy lacked consistency and allowed domestic political compulsions to influence foreign affairs. The Generic Church exploited the situation to the hilt and positioned itself to play on both sides of the civil war, thus influencing Colombo and pushing the separatist forces from behind. With such a strategy, it could hardly lose either way!

With the decimation of LTTE, the Church adjusted its strategies. Indeed, it spread its tentacles like an octopus – it influences the US and UN; has influence over Sri Lankan diaspora through TGTE and GTF; has influence over SL government; influence over the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu and the present Tamil Nadu government; and influences the present Indian government with an Italian as Congress President at the helm of affairs.

The above picture must be seen in the backdrop of the formation of separate countries by the Church by creating divisions in non-Abrahamic nations, and against the clarion call given by Pope John Paul II in 2000 for evangelization of Asia in the 21st Century. The happenings after the Eelam War IV point towards the separation of the northeast of SL.

BalachandranAfter Eelam War IV 

After the decimation of the LTTE, significant things happened: The final stages of Eelam War IV created 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were placed in various camps (mostly schools) in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee districts. Though Rajapaksa made a commitment that Colombo would resettle all 300,000 people in their respective places by the end of 2009, it took over three years for the government to close the camps (September 2012). The largest camp was at Menik Farm on the Vavuniya-Mannar-Anuradhapura border, with 200,000 IDPs. Being in a low lying area, it bore the brunt of floods during monsoons, causing the hapless IDPs to suffer without proper health care and medicines.

The Sri Lankan Army came under sever attack for alleged war crimes and human rights violations. Western human rights groups and NGOs spread all sorts of allegations across the world. Channel 4 released video transcripts of alleged war crimes by the SL Army which spread like wild-fire. Human Rights Watch released a report of alleged “sexual crimes” against Tamils by SL security forces between 2006 and 2012. Titled “We will teach you a lesson”, it had 140 pages documenting 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual violence of people in the custody of the military and police from 2006 to 2012.

After a sustained campaign by West-sponsored HROs and NGOs, Rajapaksa constituted the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Enquiry in May 2010. Its final report, containing 388 pages of analysis of 1,000 oral and 5,000 written submissions, was released in November 2011, four months before the tabling of the US Resolution at the UNHRC Summit in Geneva.

The US tabled a Resolution in March 2012 asking Colombo to explain how it would address the alleged violations of humanitarian law and would implement the recommendations of an internal inquiry (LLRC) into the war. The resolution encouraged the UN Human Rights Office to offer advice and assistance to Sri Lanka. Fully pressurized by the Tamil Nadu government and Tamil political parties and by the US, India joined 23 other countries to vote in favour of the US Resolution against Sri Lanka.

Channel 4 released a video showing the alleged killing of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran’s son Balachandran in the custody of SL Army. This created an emotional surge across Tamil Nadu and led to the formation of the Tamil Students Movement aka Students Federation for Freedom of Tamil Eelam which conducted protests across the state for several days demanding (i) a public referendum on Tamil Eelam (ii) International probe against war crimes by the SL Army and (iii) India’s voting against SL in the UNHRC summit at Geneva.

India voted in favour of the US sponsored UNHRC Resolutions against Sri Lanka at Geneva in March 2013, along with 24 nations; 13 voted in favour of Sri Lanka and 8 abstained. Earlier, caught in a dilemma due to its inconsistency over SL and internal compulsions due to the strong opposition of Tamil Nadu parties and withdrawal of DMK as an alliance partner in the government, India attempted to bring amendments to the text of the resolution, but did not succeed. However, after intense lobbying with the US, India was able to water down the resolution, though its content and wording was stronger than the one passed in March 2012.

On July 5, 2013, Rajapaksa issued a proclamation ordering the Election Commission to conduct elections for the northern, central and north-western provincial councils. Nominations were filed between July 25 and August 1, and the elections are scheduled for Sept 21. The Northern Province is having elections after 25 years.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, made a seven-day visit to Sri Lanka during the last week of August, and met Rajapaksa, some ministers and government officials, and political leaders, NHRC officials, civil society and members of the general public, particularly victims of the war.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi PillayWar crimes & human rights violations

Whether Sri Lanka likes it or not, it will remain on the UN agenda for a few more years. Things will get tougher every year at the UNHRC. The speech given by the Sri Lankan representative at the UNHRC in March 2013 showed that Colombo had learnt nothing from the session of March 2012. It must understand its options are limited. It cannot win with the support of China alone. India’s support is a must, as India would bring in a few more countries in favour of Sri Lanka. Colombo should go deep into the reasons why India, which supported it at UNHRC in 2009, voted against it in 2012 and 2013. It should address India’s concerns. Sri Lanka must realize that India and China are also working towards improving their relationship through trade and other avenues despite anomalies at the borders. Any sensible government in Colombo would have maintained a healthy relationship with India as well as China.

India too must introspect where it went wrong. India may not have the tradition of acting as “intruder”, but to assert supremacy in South Asia it should help its smaller neighbours. Indira Gandhi did that with Bangladesh. India failed Nepal when it sought her intervention, and did the same to Sri Lanka, forcing it to go to China and Pakistan.

At the end of her Sri Lanka visit, Navi Pillay addressed a press conference where she made some significant observations, pointing towards the fact that the West (US/Europe and the Church) focuses on the creation of an independent state out of Sri Lanka. Initially, for the sake of formality, she expressed satisfaction at Sri Lanka’s steps towards resettlement, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the relatively short period since 2009 in both the Eastern and Northern Provinces in terms of the numbers of new roads, bridges, houses, medical facilities and schools built or rebuilt; improved electricity and water supplies; and removal of most landmines.

Secure in the knowledge that she was backed by the Generic Church, Navi Pillay bared her fangs with impunity:

  • She moved to the main ‘agenda’ and spoke of the need for a holistic approach to provide truth, justice and reparations for war victims, to bring reconciliation, dignity and lasting peace;
  • She expressed opposition to the military’s involvement in civilian activities such as agriculture, education and tourism;
  • She mentioned complaints about acquisition of private land to build military camps and installations, including a holiday resort;
  • She took exception to the presence of the military in war-torn areas and urged for demilitarization at the earliest;
  • She observed that the continued large-scale presence of the military and other security forces was perceived by many as oppressive and intrusive, with the continuing high level of surveillance of former combatants and returnees bordering on harassment;
  • She expressed concerns about the ‘sexual harassment and abuse’ allegedly perpetrated by security forces and urged zero tolerance on such matters;
  • Expressing concern for the remaining detainees, she urged the government to expedite their cases and demanded the ‘repeal’ of the Prevention of Terrorism Act;
  • Underlining the need for counseling and psychological support in the North, Pillay objected to the restrictions imposed by the authorities on the activities of NGOs;
  • She urged the government to broaden the mandate of the Commission of Enquiry on Disappearances to ratify the International Convention on Disappearances;
  • She advised the government to invite the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka, ideally before submission of her report to the Human Rights Council in March;
  • She expressed serious concern “at the recent surge in incitement of hatred and violence against religious minorities, including attacks on churches and mosques, and the lack of swift action against the perpetrators”;
  • She voiced serious concern at the “harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and journalists” and said the freedom of expression is under sustained assault in Sri Lanka;
  • On the controversial impeachment of the Chief Justice and apparent politicization of judicial appointments, she opined such actions have shaken confidence in the independence of the judiciary;
  • She concluded with the gratuitous observation that ‘Sri Lanka is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction’, and warned that ‘it may sow the seeds of future discord’.

Needless to say, her final report which will be submitted to the UNHRC soon, is expected to be extremely hostile in tone and content. Sri Lanka’s reaction to her press meet was on expected lines. The Minister for External Affairs said Navi Pillay was “unfair, wrong and biased and her tone and tenor showed distressing lack of balance”. Pointing out that the findings of a report recently prepared by a group of UN agencies in Sri Lanka came to the opposite conclusion, he said that Pillay had “formed her views before reaching the shores of the country.” He took objection to her “trenchant criticism” of the presence and role of the army in the north, which she labelled “obtrusive and oppressive” and her criticism that “Sri Lanka is moving towards authoritarianism.”

Cho S. RamaswamyIntellectual warfare

The war may have ended in May 2009, but the intellectual war continues in the media and cyber space. The West has unleashed a battery of writers and columnists and television journalists against Sri Lanka, to project the SL Army as barbarians and the LTTE as holy cows. But the Sri Lankan government is adding insult to its own injuries by its arrogant conduct, intimidating journalists and suppressing freedom of press. However, there are a few sane voices from reputed strategic experts.

Despite reports of repeated government-sponsored attacks on a section of the Tamil Press in Sri Lanka, there were also reports of a section of the Tamil Press writing in favour of the government. In Tamil Nadu, the English daily The Hindu and the Tamil weekly Thuglak are branded as Rajapaksa loyalists. But those observing the SL Tamil issue for over three decades vouch for Thuglak’s approach being consistent with Indian interests, while The Hindu is considered pro-China.

Recently, Thuglak editor Cho Ramaswamy sent two senior correspondents (SJ Idhaya and AA Samy) on a week-long tour to Sri Lanka to find out the ground realities about the SL Tamils. He published a 12-part series, after which the hate propaganda literally died down in TN. The pro-Eelam voices and separatist forces indulged in cheap mudslinging, but could not contest the contents of the series.

Yet varied opinions emanate from Sri Lanka itself, from widespread appreciation of the Thuglak reportage to dissatisfaction. A respected senior journalist and writer Arundati Rajasingham said, “There is no free media in Sri Lanka. Foreign journalists are usually not given visas or allowed to travel here. The fact that Thuglak got visas to travel throughout the island indicates that it had the tacit support of Mahinda Rajapaksa. This undermines its objectivity. It looks like sponsored journalism. Several of the people interviewed by Thuglak cannot be trusted. It’s sad to read these articles as I had until now respect for Cho Ramaswamy. I saw him as a balance to the Dravida people. But it seems he has compromised a lot. This is propaganda.”

Other SL Tamil Hindus voiced the same opinion. On the Internet, Church sponsored writers and columnists continued their hate campaign against Sri Lanka to generate support for a separate Eelam. As they fear Sri Lankan Tamils asserting their Hindu identity, they spew venom on Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu leaders and savants like Arumuka Navalar, Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Waithialingam Duraiswamy, et al., and simultaneously spread hate campaigns against Sinhala Buddhists. Rabid Christians like Prof Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole and Mrs Hoole belong to this category. The former aspired to become Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, and became more raucous when that failed. But they got a fitting riposte from columnists like Romesh Jayaratnam.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has a battery of writers who not only write against the West, but also against India. They criticize successive Indian governments from the time of Indira Gandhi. The IPKF inevitably gets special attention from them.

Royal Flag of the Jaffna KingdomAspirations of Sri Lanka Tamil Hindus

SL Tamils seem to have no aspiration for a separate Tamil Eelam. They want equal rights through a federal structure within the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. They are fed up of the three decade war and yearn for peace. They hate the false propaganda going on in Tamil Nadu and are unhappy with the SL Diaspora. They want a strong leadership which can take care of their interests; the reports of Thuglak corroborate this.

Although SL Tamil Hindu intellectuals partly agree to this, they feel that Tamil Eelam is inevitable within a decade or two. They say that LTTE and Prabhakaran brought them to this sad state by initiating hostilities against India when the people wanted the support of India. They blame Prabhakaran for turning against Premadasa within three months of IPKF’s retreat and for rejecting Chandrika Kumaratunga’s liberal Constitutional proposals in 2000 and for undermining Ranil Wickremasinghe in 2004 and helping Rajapaksa win the 2005 elections by forcing the people to abstain from the elections instead of voting for Ranil.

KataragamaHindu temples not destroyed

Demolition of Temples: There has been a sustained campaign in Tamil Nadu that hundreds of temples in the North have been demolished and that Sinhalese citizens are being settled in Tamil areas. Even DMK supremo Karunanidhi expressed concern and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take up the matter with Sri Lanka.

Thuglak gives an opposite picture. It quotes Saravanapavan, Tamil National Alliance MP: “Of course, they are building new Buddhist temples here but there is no information that Hindu temples were demolished here”. Yogeswari, Tamil Mayor of Jaffna, says, “Hindu temples were not demolished. The Government refurbishes each and every Hindu temple here at a cost of several lakhs of rupees”.

Tamil staff in the Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs Department of the SL Government have affirmed that the government has been renovating many temples destroyed in the war. However some sources say Buddhist shrines are being built by the Army and in certain Hindu temples separate Buddhist sannidhis (sanctums) have been constructed in eastern Lanka (Verugal, Sampur, Thirukovil, interior Batticaloa, Kantalai, etc). Thuglak quotes government sources saying that these Buddhist shrines have been built for officers of the Armed Forces and their families, who reside in those areas, and that local people have not objected. But the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet says Buddha sannidhis have been constructed even in famous ancient temples like Tirukketiswaram and that renovation work undertaken by the management of Muneeswaram Temple has been stopped by the government.

It is pertinent that Buddhist sannidhis in Hindu temples and Hindu sannidhis in Buddhist temples have always been the tradition because Buddhism derives from Sanatana Dharma.

As for the complaint that the SL government is settling Sinhalese in Tamil areas, Thuglak quotes an Army official, “A law called Thesawalamai Law (Thesawalamai Pre-emption Ordinance of 1948) exists here. Except the Tamils of Northern Province, no one either from Colombo or from the Southern Sri Lanka could come to the North to buy properties here. A Tamil has been appointed as the Government Agent (Collector) here. He has all the data regarding the land. No one can amend the documents of several years all of a sudden. Sinhala settlement is an impossible issue. Only the lands of few Tamil Muslim families, who were chased away by the LTTE in 1983, have been returned to them”.

Yet other sources say appropriation of private lands and Sinhala settlements have happened in Eastern and Northern Province areas such as Trincomalee, Amparai and Batticaloa, and also Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya.

Sri Lankan Navy arrest Indian Tamil fishers for fishing in Sri Lankan waters.Fishermen

Talking of the “capture and torture” of Tamil Nadu fishermen, Thuglak quotes A. Sagayaraja, President of the Jaffna Marine Development Association: “there are large numbers of fishes in the Sri Lankan coast. Hence the Tamil Nadu fishermen sail up to the Sri Lankan coast for fishing. In the past we stopped fish trade due to the fear of war and took up other jobs. Because of this Indian fishermen began to exploit our waters and were fishing there. However, many of us have since returned to the fishing trade. Hence we are forced to deal with the presence of Indian fishermen in our waters now. Indian fishermen use new technology and sophisticated fishing methods compared to us. Hence we find it difficult to keep up with them or compete. There is a ban on using trawler mechanized boats here. However Indian fishermen use double nets on the single nets and take away all the fish. If GPS equipments are fixed in the boats of Indian fishermen and monitored through satellite links, the truth as to where they do fishing will be exposed. Will the Indian government do it”?

Cardinal Malcolm RanjitQuestion of Independent Eelam

With the IPKF’s exit, the people of Eastern province started losing interest in independent Tamil Eelam and with the ouster of Col. Karuna from LTTE, they dropped the idea of Tamil Eelam totally. Muslims have also been a considerable force there and hence LTTE couldn’t control the east for long. Eastern Province has faced the elections twice after the exit of the LTTE. Even in the Northern Province people have given up the option of Eelam after the defeat of LTTE.

Tamils of Sri Lanka aspire only for equal rights within the constitutional framework, though some intellectuals feel the creation of an independent state may be inevitable. It is unfortunate that Tamil Hindu intellectuals of Sri Lanka have resigned themselves to the idea of separation from Sri Lanka and feel that their Buddhist brethren would never dilute their chauvinist tendencies. Though they accept the divisive role of the Church, they insist that Sinhala Buddhists caused the problem and forced the Tamils to take to arms and militancy which was later exploited by the Church.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse clearly exposed the hidden Church agenda when reacting to Navi Pillay’s report: “UN human rights chief Navi Pillay’s visit to the island nation was influenced by propaganda from elements of the LTTE that was defeated in a civil war in 2009. The re-emergence of terrorism is still a threat. Elements of the Tamil Tigers and their supporters are working to increase international pressure on Sri Lanka. Their intention is the division of Sri Lanka and the establishment of a separate State for Tamil Eelam. The country’s internal matters have featured on the agenda of many international NGOs and even at the UNHRC sessions. The visit by Ms. Pillay is another instance of this attention.”

This should not be construed to be in favour of Hindus. Mahinda Rajapaksa plays with the Church to weaken Tamil Hindu revival. In February, when the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh organized a grand celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary in Colombo, Rajapaksa tried to scuttle it by not giving permission at the selected venue. The organisers changed the venue at the eleventh hour and successfully held the function with an attendance of more than 10,000 people.

Meanwhile, Rajapaksa, whose wife is a Catholic, has invited Pope Francis to visit Sri Lanka.The invitation is believed to have been accepted by the Vatican. The last papal visit was in 1995 by John Paul II. This is a classic example of how the Church plays on both sides securing a “win-win” position.

The Buddhist clergy, however, has miserably failed to stop the aggressive progress of Christianity in Sri Lanka. It has failed to produce a true Buddhist leader in politics. Since Independence, all Presidents of Sri Lanka have been Christians or Buddhist converts with a Christian background or Buddhists with Christian spouses. And in the madness of Sinhala chauvinism, they made common cause with Christians against Hindus without realizing the common civilisational ethos they shared. On the other hand, SL Tamils made the mistake of giving more importance to linguistic identity than religious identity. They too made common cause with Tamil Christians and ultimately paid a huge price for their blunder. They have never been able to produce a strong Hindu leadership; the Church with political foresight was able to place its people in leadership positions among both the Sinhala and Tamil people, and influence them.

Christian missionaries destroy family and social relationships.Understanding the Church

Any strong non-Abrahamic nation is a challenge to the Generic Church. It will singularly focus on such nations to christianise them. As a start, missionaries descend on the target region and begin evangelization in the guise of educational and medical services; thousands of NGOs work amongst the masses; divisions are created in native society along linguistic and communal lines; inculturation is employed to confuse the natives; the missionaries are supported by their respective governments so that influential fields like judiciary, academia, media and the executive are infiltrated. Western concepts like ‘secularism’, ‘pluralism’, ‘human rights’ and ‘religious freedom’ are sold; huge lands bought, crosses planted and prayer houses and churches built. Finally christianisation is complete by creating divisions and if required by terrorism too, as evidenced by the Goa Inquisition and the continued support to insurgency in northeast, Maoists and LTTE.

This is what happened in South Korea, South Sudan, East Timor. The same thing happened to Goa and India’s north-east and is happening in other partly christianised states. This is being attempted in Sri Lanka, which is close to Tamil Nadu. The north-east of Sri Lanka, culturally connected to Tamil Nadu for centuries, is being made into a Tamil Christian nation. Recall that European missionaries descended on these soils in the 15th and 16th centuries. They early on took control of language (hijacking the ‘Tamil’ language) and cultural ethos (through inculturation). (This writer wrote a five-part series, “Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil” in Vijayvaani.)

So, if at all a separate Tamil Eelam happens, with the help of UN, US and Europe, it can only have a Christian identity. The SL Tamil intellectuals who say Eelam is inevitable must bear this in mind and work towards a Buddhist-Hindu Identity for a unified Sri Lanka.

Buddhist monks protestGeopolitical conundrum

To help Sri Lanka acquire a Buddhist Hindu identity, India needs a government which is Hindu in mind and body. A Hindu government in India will not only assert the supremacy of India in the region but also the progress of non-Abrahamic nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, et al. That is why the Generic Church and the West, particularly the US, do not want a Hindu party ruling India; they will apply pressure to thwart the emergence of a Hindu Rashtra / Rajya.

The Buddhist clergy and the Sinhala Buddhists have a huge responsibility to make Sri Lanka stand united with a Buddhist-Hindu identity. They must realise that both Sri Lanka and India have centuries-long civilisational ties. They must respect the fact that Tamil Hindus are as native to Sri Lanka as Sinhala Buddhists and have equal rights over the land. And lastly, they must introspect and consider the huge losses their nation had suffered in the last three decades due to the ethnic conflict. Realising the surge of the Abrahamic cults within their nation, they should shun Sinhala chauvinism and improve ties with Tamil Hindus. India, China and the US have a stake in Sri Lanka. As of now, China seems close to Colombo, but SL cannot afford to ignore India and US will not allow China to gain a foothold in the region.

Radha Rajan, editor, Vigil Online, says, “The US wants a unipolar world and a multi-polar Asia because it wants to check China. The US will not want even India to emerge as the unchallenged regional power – economically or militarily. China wants a unipolar Asia and a multi-polar world; and that is why it is investing heavily in economic projects in Africa and in Asia. Russia is at least making some motions of regaining its national self-respect but Putin’s nationalist objectives are now slowly giving way to personal desire to stay in power as PM or President. So Putin’s Russia is no longer a threat to America’s dominance in world affairs. America’s dominance is also eroding which is why Assange and Snowden happened. Assange and Snowden happened because of a weak America which they hit with a mortal blow with their leaks weakening it further. Even in this global political meltdown India failed to seize the wonderful opportunity that world affairs presented to get involved actively in Nepal and Sri Lanka. That is why America and China grabbed the opportunity and started influencing Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal too. Putin’s Russia and UPA India have allowed all monsters to run loose and the consequences will be felt sooner than later”.

In this scenario, the forthcoming provincial elections in Sri Lanka and general elections in India gain a lot of importance.

Tamil National AllianceElection scenario in Sri Lanka and India

Whether the West likes or not, the UPA government controlled by an Italian is most likely to lose its mandate in the forthcoming general elections and the ‘Hindu’ Bharatiya Janata Party likely to be elected as single largest party. A BJP-led government will certainly improve Indo-Lanka relations and help resolve the SL Tamils issue. In this backdrop, the elections (September 21) to the Tamil dominated Northern Province gain significance as they are happening after 25 years. The Eastern and North Central Provinces are also going for elections. The Tamils are present in significant numbers in the East. The ruling UPFA, UNP and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are contesting in all ten districts, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the five districts in Northern Province whilst the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), a constituent party of the UPFA, is contesting separately in seven districts.

As per the 2012 census, Sinhalese comprise 75% of the population, and Tamils 15% (Sri Lankan Tamils 11% and Indian Tamils 4%). In 1981, the corresponding figures were 74% (70% in 1953) and 18% (24% in 1953). The religion-wise figures in 2012 are Buddhists 70.2% (69.2% in 1981 and 64.3% in 1953), Hindus 12.6% (15.5% in 1981 and 19.9% in 1953), Muslims 9.7% (7.5% in 1981 and 6.7% in 1953) and Christians 7.4% (7.6% in 1981 and 8.9% in 1953). The reduction in Tamil population is mainly due to migration to Tamil Nadu as refuges and also to North America and Europe.

Interestingly, the Democratic People’s Front (DPF) headed by Mano Ganesan has announced it will support the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in the Northern Province elections. The DPF says the TNA will win the Northern Provincial Council election and that the Tamil people should unite for this. Interestingly, a known critic of the LTTE and leader of TULF, Anandasangaree, is likely to contest the elections on a TNA ticket from Kilinochchi district.

The surprising announcement in TNA’s election manifesto is a demand for an “international probe into LTTE’s war crimes” along with those of the Armed Forces. The manifesto promises to fight for the Tamils’ right to self-determination within a united Sri Lanka. It promises to negotiate with the center on the expansion of provincial powers over land and the police. The manifesto speaks of demilitarizing the Northern Province to the level of pre-1983 status. The TNA has committed to encourage Muslims (driven out by the LTTE) to return and to provide all facilities for their rehabilitation.

SL Tamil intellectuals are a bit skeptical about the Muslims as they feel that Muslims do not identify themselves as Tamils and hence the term ‘Tamil Muslim’ is a misnomer. Citing the two incidents of Muslims voting for the ‘Removal of Indian Tamil’ in 1949 and ‘Sinhala Only Act’ in 1956, they say that the idea of Tamil Muslims is absurd in Sri Lanka, akin to the idea of ‘Tibetan Korean’ or ‘Iranian Hindu’.

Justice C. V. VigneswaranThe Justice Wigneswaran factor

The TNA constituted a committee from all its five constituents to decide the Chief Ministerial candidate, viz. R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, MA Sumanthiran and Selvarajah of the Federal Party, Sangiah and Krishnapillai of the TULF, Suresh Premachandran and Sarveswaran of the EPRLF, Selvan Adaikalanathan, Srikantha, Henry Mahenthiran and Karunakaran of the TELO and T. Siddharthan, K. Sivanesan, and Ragavan of the PLOTE.

They unanimously selected Justice Canagasabapathy Visuvalingam Wigneswaran. Initially, a majority of the members preferred Mavai Senathirajah, as he is a seasoned politician. But R. Sampanthan, leader of the alliance, reportedly put his foot down and prevailed over others. The fact that Justice Wigneswaran is an erudite scholar and regarded highly in legal and social circles, and would be best suited to tackle legal issues pertaining to the functioning of the Northern Provincial Council post-elections, weighed in his favour.

Justice Wigneswaran retired as a Supreme Court Judge in 2004 and after some reluctance, entered the political arena. Well versed in Sanskrit, he is known for beginning his speeches with a Sanskrit hymn or Guru Vandana.  Recently, he has released a book (a collection of lectures) titled Some Thoughts on Hinduism. He has written extensively on the subjects of “Hinduism and Conflict Resolution”, “Hindu leadership on Peace and Harmony”, and the “Role of Hinduism in reconciliation and co-existence”.

Reflecting his understanding of ground realities, he says, “Civilians in the North have lost loved ones. They don’t know the whereabouts of others, their properties are occupied, and they have no jobs. People from the South cultivate lands forcibly held by the army, and the produce is sold to the owners of these lands. There are a large number of widows.” Stressing that much needs to be done for them, he says he would negotiate with the government to fulfil its duty and responsibility in this regard.

Arundhati Rajasingham says, “The Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka also appears to be finally changing for the better, as evidenced by the choice of Justice Wigneswaran. He has openly stated that the Tamil Nadu politicians do not have the Sri Lankan Tamil concerns at heart but only have the next Indian elections in mind. He has urged that the street demonstrations in Tamil Nadu should stop as they serve no purpose at all! That was a powerful statement to make. He is instead interested in cultivating New Delhi, a wise move as the power is there. He wants Colombo to implement the Rajiv Gandhi sponsored Thirteenth Amendment in full with the transfer of land and police powers to the regions and a re-merger of the East and the North.”

However, Sinhala writers are a bit skeptical about him; Sinhala Buddhist organizations have registered protests against him. But the fact that his two sons are married to Sinhala Buddhists weighs in his favour; moreover, he is more of a ‘Colombo’ person interested in a united Lanka. When the majority, say 85% to 90%, of SL Tamils is Hindu, what is wrong in a Hindu becoming chief minister? The TNA seems set to win handsomely and that would give an opportunity for Rajapaksa to make amends for the last four years after the war.

India-Sri LankaConclusion

The present dispensation in India is in a pathetic state and has no respect nationally and internationally. The change of guard at the center, which is imminent within a few months, will be good for Sri Lanka as well as the Sri Lankan Tamils. Three things are very important: Sinhala Buddhists should shed their chauvinistic tendencies and Sri Lankan Tamils should assert their Hindu identity so that Sri Lanka acquires a Buddhist-Hindu identity in order to keep the alien forces away. India should proactively engage Sri Lanka and educate it about the importance of Hindu-Buddhist civilisational unity which would go a long way in improving the relationship and help resolve the issues. Sri Lanka should reciprocate and cooperate. – Vijayvaani, 14 September 2013

References

• India’s Invasion by Invitation – 1987
https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/indias-invasion-by-invitation-1987/
Sri Lankan IDP camps  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_IDP_camps

 • “We Will Teach You a Lesson”: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces

http://www.colombotelegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Report-by-Human-Rights-Watch.pdf

• India votes for US resolution on Sri Lanka

http://in.news.yahoo.com/india-votes-us-resolution-sri-lanka-121523544.html

• Full Report of the Army Board on LLRC Observations Released

http://www.defence.lk/news/pdf/FINAL-LLRC-REPORT.pdf

http://www.army.lk/docimages/image/LLRC_2013.pdf

• Students Struggle Committee for Tamil Eelam (SSCTE) to stage massive protest on March 18

http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2013/3/81836_space.html

• Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at a press conference during her mission to Sri Lanka Colombo, 31 August 2013

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/Media.aspx

• Sri Lanka’s Peiris picks holes in Pillay’s report

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/sri-lankas-peiris-picks-holes-in-pillays-report/article5087003.ece?ref=relatedNews

• The Jaffna version of the Tamil Bible: By Peter Percival Or Arumuka Navalar?

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-jaffna-version-of-the-tamil-bible-by-peter-percival-or-arumuka-navalar/

• Arumuka Navalar: Fake Images and Histories

http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2013/03/31/arumuka-navalar-fake-images-and-histories/

A Rejoinder To Hoole: Tamil Hinduism And Arumuka Navalar

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2013/04/a-rejoinder-to-hoole-tamil-hinduism-and.html

• THUGLAK – Tamil Fortnightly (June-July 2013)

https://www.facebook.com/thuglakweb?fref=ts

• Understanding Thesawalamai

 http://www.infolanka.com/org/srilanka/hist/72.htm

• Gotabhaya Rajapaksa criticises Navi Pillay visit

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/gotabhaya-rajapaksa-criticises-navi-pillay-visit/article5089460.ece

• Rajapaksa invites Pope for Lanka visit

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/rajapaksa-invites-pope-for-lanka-visit-113080201026_1.html

• Sri Lankan provincial council election, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_provincial_council_election,_2013

• Sri Lanka Census of Population and Housing, 2011

http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/CPH2011/index.php?fileName=pop42&gp=Activities&tpl=3

http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/CPH2011/index.php?fileName=pop43&gp=Activities&tpl=3

• Parties in Sri Lanka preparing for PC Elections

http://pandithnews.com/2012/07/01/parties-in-sri-lanka-preparing-for-pc-elections/

• Democratic People’s Front supports TNA in the Northern PC election

http://www.lankasrinews.com/view.php?200dBmYYdac44QWAA334ea44Y5Bee033RlOmmcddccmOlnR220eBB5Y4aae43ISMQQ4caddYmBdd02

• Anandasangaree in TNA’s candidates list for the North

http://www.theindependent.lk/news2/628-anandasangaree-in-tna-s-candidates-list-for-the-north

• Justice Wigneswaran is TNA’s CM candidate

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/justice-wigneswaran-is-tnas-cm-candidate/article4917556.ece

• ‘I’m not a politician, I only wish to serve my suffering people’

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130721/news/im-not-a-politician-i-only-wish-to-serve-my-suffering-people-53745.html

• Retired SC judge Wigneswaran: A New Tamil Moses

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/retired-s-c-judge-wigneswaran-a-new-tamil-moses/

One Response

  1. This is well detailed and fairly written. I have been following the issue for more than three decades and can say that this article is the best to appear on the subject so far.Sri Lankan Buddhists and Tamils (basically Hindus ) belong to one Dharma family, as Ananda Coomaraswamy so well explained long ago.. Recovery of this sense of identity can only be the real foundation of lasting solution. Language based hatred is fostered by vested interests . Sri Lankan Tamils should recover their sense of cultural identity based on the work of the old Sri Lankan Hindu savants. As it is, the challenges are enormous, considering the nature, power and resources of the forces involved.

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