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What do the Tamils really want?

“It may be urged by some Sinhalese that there is, in fact, no discrimination against the Tamils. This may appear to be so in theory, but if the Sinhalese were to make private enquiries from their Tamil friends they will soon realise that, rightly or wrongly, the Tamils and other minorities, feel a sense of discrimination. It is this feeling of discrimination that must be set right.”
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by N. Pullenayagam

(March 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) That all Tamils want Eelam is a facile assumption that needs further examination. When the ethnic problem escalated to its acute form in l956, none of the Tamils asked for Eelam. They really objected to being second class citizens in Sri Lanka and wanted to be regarded as equal citizens in every way with the Sinhalese. This was not granted although the Tamils kept on pressing for it continuously from 1956 to 1976.

It was only in 1976 that the Tamil leadership, in desperation, asked for Eelam as they felt that the Sinhalese would never agree to what the Tamils felt was a just demand for equality of status. Even so, many Tamils did not sincerely want Eelam. They preferred equality of status in an undivided Sri Lanka, for they realised the disadvantages that Eelam would bring to both Tamils and Sinhalese.

Unfortunately the ethnic riots of 1983, when many Tamils were killed and their houses were burnt, made more Tamils feel that Eelam was the only solution to the ethnic problem. This is the view taken by Prabhakaran and the LTTE, and one cannot blame them for it. Many Tamils who have left, or as some would say have been driven away from Sri Lanka, are also advocating Eelam.

But now nearly twenty years have passed since the ethnic riots of 1983, and many Sinhalese have realised the mistakes they have made, and many Tamils, too, are beginning to realise the great advantages of living in peace and friendship with the Sinhalese majority in an united country. Still the great problem of the Tamils remains, that of feeling discriminated against, and being regarded as second class citizens. If the new constitution lays down clearly that the Tamils and other minorities, the Muslims and Burghers, are not to be second class citizens, and are not to be discriminated against in any way, a great step forward would have been achieved, and we can reasonably hope for a change of attitude on the part of the majority of Tamils - even of the LTTE!

It may be urged by some Sinhalese that there is, in fact, no discrimination against the Tamils. This may appear to be so in theory, but if the Sinhalese were to make private enquiries from their Tamil friends they will soon realise that, rightly or wrongly, the Tamils and other minorities, feel a sense of discrimination. It is this feeling of discrimination that must be set right.
It needs not only a constitutional safeguard. It is the way the minorities are welcomed and treated in every day activities that is also important. So let our Sinhalese majority, especially its leaders, be building bridges of real friendship with their minority neighbours and acquaintances. This will bring us all closer to the day when we shall all ‘leap to single bugle, march to a single drum’!
- Sri Lanka Guardian

3 comments

Anonymous said...

I agree with the fact that Sinhalese can not believe that they are discriminationg Tamils. The majority of the Sinhalese do not want anyone discriminated. I also agree with what the author calls as feeling a "sense of discrimination." Sense of discrimination in Tamils' mind is the set of word that should always be used with this problem.

Sri Lanka is a democratic country.A salient feature of a democracy is the rule of the majority. Having 74% Sinhales and only about 19% Tamils, it is unavoidable that the control in political bodies go to the majority. This obviously create a sense of discrimination as it is close to impossible to win a majority in an election. That is also the reason to demand for the merger of the North and the East. The combination gives the minority Tamils a political power in a larger geographical area. If the Esat east is separated, power is divided among Muslims, Tamils and the Sinhahese to reflect democracy.

Since the day of "divide and rule" ended in 1948, minorities felt threatened in a democratic system. This was wrogly worded as discrimination, while it was really a feeling of sense of discrimination. This side effect of democracy is hard to avoid completely,but can be kept at bay by reducing that "feeling' of discrimination. This is the only possible attempt we can make to "set this right."

If we look at Iraq, a Sunni from a minority that has only about 35% ruled the country for years. It was only because of it was a dictatorship that suppressed the desires of all communities.

We can endeavor to overcome this feeling of discrimination only by a proper leadership that attempts to remove this feeling of discrimination. As a Sri Lankan, I am really concerned about the plight the people have been going through in the East and the North. We must immediately provide proper leadership and listen to the basic needs for a start and look at the burning issues of the people. Not the burning desire of the Tamil politicians for power.

Anonymous said...

bsfhhiTamils do talk of Discrimination , grievances but so far no one has yet specified what these are. SL is a country where the majority 80 % are Sinhalese and tamils 3.9 % Tamils from the latest statistics by the World factbook on stastistics. This change is largely due to mass emigration to western countries and the conflict from the 80's.
I have visited Jaffna during my school days and the facilirties like science laboratories in Jaffna schools were very much superior to some of the Colombo schools .
The attitude of the people have to be changed rather than goverment legislature to accomodate all communities and live in harmony . The myth of this Elam dream should
be banished for good, and all communities should live in harmnony . The question what the Tamils really wants still eludes us . They have their Language as an official language ( This is not the case even in India , despite 70 milliion Tamils ) The orange strip in the SL flag represents the minorities , their relgious ceremonies are public holidays in SL . The discrimination in SL is not only for the Tamils but to the Sinhalese as a matter of fact. It is a matter of who knows who even in the Sinhala circles and not who is best for the job. If this policy and attitude can be changed , SL would reach another milestone in its history .

Anonymous said...

Total deceit to say Eelam started in 1976 with a sight on 1956..Way back in 1913 Chelva, Ponnambalam, Arunachalam , Nadeasn demanded Britishers a separate state if not 50-50 power share..Be honest to accept Chelva's norm as "LITTLE NOW, MORE LATER".. Please avoid bamboozling true facts any more..

It is pathetic that EElam promoters ask for a traditional homeland denigrating the noble meaning of Motherland Concept.

Could you specify then, where is your Motherland & when did the tradition begin as homeland?

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