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Tamil~Sinhala couple hope for peace in Lanka

by R C Rajamani

(June 02, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) War-torn Sri Lanka was once a nation of peace where the majority Sinhala, the minority Hindu Tamils and other smaller groups such as Muslims and Christians lived in perfect harmony. For over 150 years during British rule, people of different communities lived in peace with mutual understanding. The late S Thondaman, leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress and the late Appapillai Amritalingam, the founder of the moderate Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), perhaps the first Tamil political outfit to take cudgels in the Tamil cause, were loved and admired by all communities.

What changed all this was the widespread anti-Tamil riots in July 1983 ~ the turning point in the ethnic conflict ~ when Sinhalese mobs killed and looted Tamil homes and property in Sri Lanka. The riots fanned the flames of ethnic hatred, and precipitated a full-scale war in the island’s north and east that has divided the island nation and uprooted tens of thousands in the last 25 years.

The Tamil problem has defied a solution largely due to the irreconcilable stands taken by the parties concerned ~ the parochial Sinhala politicians and the short-sighted, extremist Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But the real hope of peace finally returning to the beautiful emerald green island comes from the common people who know no communal or religious differences. Epitomising such hope is the Tamil-Sinhala couple, Mr Satya Kumar and Mrs Renuka.
Married for eight years, the couple’s courtship goes back 20 years while they were in the same school at Mahawella village near the district town of Matale in the picturesque Kandy province. They have two children, 8-year-old Kartsre and Madhu (3).

Mr Satya Kumar, 38, says that his ancestors came to Kandy region some five to six generations ago from Tamil Nadu. Renuka, dressed like a Tamil woman, does not speak fluent Tamil but understands the language. Reflecting the communal and religious amity that exists at people-to-people level in the island, the couple regularly visits Buddhist and Hindu temples.

“We come to Matale every Friday to worship at the famous Muthumariamman Koil (a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Durga),” says Satya. The couple had come to the temple just after visiting various Buddhist temples during the previous 3-4 days when the whole nation celebrated the famous annual Vesak festival that commemorates Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and liberation. The unique event fell on 19-20 May that was celebrated in India too as Buddha Purnima day.

Every Purnima (full moon day) is sacred for the Buddhists who call it “Poya”. The couple never misses praying at a Buddhist temple every “Poya” which is a public holiday in Sri Lanka.

Mr Satya, who works in an herbal garden in his village, is not naïve politically. He seems to understand the ethnic conflict well. Just a day earlier he bought a second hand auto-rickshaw for Rs two lakh. He hopes to supplement his meagre income by plying the auto.

Answering questions in Tamil, he says a solution can be found to the Tamil problem with “give-and-take and mutual understanding.” Having visited the war-torn areas in the North, Mr Satya Kumar is full of sympathy for the suffering common Tamils. He says the Tamils are not able to express their will freely in Jaffna. “The government and the Sinhalese people must understand that the majority of Tamils want peace and are against conflict,” he says.

However, a confident Mr Satya predicts that he will be able to see peace returning to Sri Lanka in his lifetime. “Porthurindhu paarpome” (Let’s wait and watch for that day).
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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