Right to Reclaim – Part One

Right of the Sri Lanka government to reclaim its historical sovereignty over North of Sri Lanka

by. PBS. Hemachandra

(October 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I have read with great sadness various unsupported attempts to re-write the history of Sri Lanka by some Sinhalese, Tamils and others in the recent past, mainly to support their political agendas without any respect for basic historical facts.

My experience in the Navy has helped me to grasp the realities of history from a grassroots level. I am a retired Lt Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy and worked in the Navy from 1971 to 1986. I have worked about 10 years of this period in shore establishments, Naval ships attached to North and East of Sri Lanka, which are the parts claimed by separatist Tamils to be their homeland without any incontrovertible historical evidence. During this period I had the privilege of being the first Commanding Officer of surveillance command ship SLNS Wickrama, which was deployed as a task group commander to start the surveillance zone between Sri Lanka and India in 1984 to prevent gunrunning, smuggling (contraband and humans as well) and drug trafficking by Tamil terrorists.

I also had the privilege of being the Navy representative to General Weeratunga’s coordinating office established in the North of Sri Lanka to eradicate terrorism, with responsibilities to coordinate naval operations to support ground operations conducted by distinguished army officers including General Hector Kobbakaduwa. I also worked as the executive officer (Second in Command) of the Sri Lanka Navy’s Northern command, which was originally a part of the Task Force to prevent Illicit Immigrants from South India (they were called Kallathonis) after independence in 1948.

I have had the privilege of travelling extensively in the north and east of Sri Lanka and was fortunate enough to visit every corner in the north and east and seen many remains of our unique history, partly because I had the Naval transport facilities and partly because my father, who was a history teacher, stimulated a great interest in me to see engineering marvels of our ancient kings.

But during these visits I have failed to see any historical evidence of a separate independent Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna. If anyone can tell me, or show me the places where I could find artefacts, epigraphs, or inscriptions of an ancient Independent Tamil Kingdom in North or East, or a single tank or irrigation system developed by the so-called Tamil kings of an Independent Tamil Kingdom in the North or in the Dry Zone, I will be most grateful as such evidence would help to review my understanding of history. If any one can tell me where I could find a treaty signed by the so-called Tamil kings with Portuguese, Dutch or English who ruled our country, to assert their sovereignty, I would like to examine them to find out the truth about the claims of an independent kingdom. As far as I know I have found treaties signed with foreign powers only by Kings of Sri Lanka. As far as I know Portuguese historians have recorded that the fiefdom of Jaffna had agreements to pay tribute to the kings of Lanka, like the other chieftains of other regions in the Vanni. So where was this independent kingdom with the power to resist the invading forces of the West and force them to make treaties? In fact when the Portuguese marched into Jaffna it was the Sinhala forces led by Mudliyar Atapattu who reconquered Jaffna, though these forces were defeated later. The march of Mudliyar Atapattu confirms that it was a part of the Sinhala Kingdom that had to be reclaimed from the invading Portuguese forces. There was no necessity for the King of Kandy to send Mudliyar Atapattu to risk his life and the lives of a few thousand Sinhala soldiers if they did not consider it to be a part of the Sinhala Kingdom.

This proves the historical claim that though there were chieftains in the province of Jaffna and the Vanni, Sri Lanka was a sovereign state ruled by the Sinhala kings. Any threat to its sovereignty, whether from the rebel chieftains or foreigners, was resisted. The intervention of Mudliyar Atapattu also confirms the historical fact that the province of Jaffna fell into the hands of the Portuguese from the defeat of the Sinhala forces and not the forces of the Tamils. In the last analysis, sovereignty of the province of Jaffna was passed over to the Portuguese not by the Tamils but by the Sinhalese who drove the Portuguese out of Jaffna and held it for several days before it fell into their hands again. A few thousand Sinhala soldiers, including Mudliyar Atapattu, sacrificed their lives to protect Jaffna. Portuguese historian Queyroz states about the Jaffnapatan “It remained under the Portugezen sway for upwards of 40 years, wrested from the Emperor by Philippo d'Olivero when he defeated the Cingalezen forces near Achiavelli (Achuvely) by the great pagoda”. So by any legal, political and historical assessment it is clear that sovereignty passed to the Portuguese from the hands of the Sinhala king who was the last ruler of Jaffna. It is, therefore, the right of the Sri Lankan government to reclaim its historical sovereignty over Jaffna if it is threatened by any invading or rebel forces.

The forces of Mudliyar Atapattu are not different from the forces of the Sri Lankan government fighting to restore national sovereignty and territorial integrity threatened by Tamil Tiger separatists. It is a case of history repeating itself.

Historical myths, manufactured to support a separatist political agenda, have been one of the fundamental causes for misleading our people into this futile war.

What we require today is for Tamil and Sinhalese leaders to get together and develop a new vision based on historical facts.

These myths, of course, have helped the new mudalalis (businessmen) in the war industry from both sides of the fence. There is no point writing and teaching fiction about past history. Many of us do not care about being an Aryan or a Dravidian. What matters is that we share a common human heritage and primary duty in this day and age, where weapons of mass destruction can be used by any combatant and threatens the survival of the human race. Our moral duty therefore, is to learn to co-exist with mutual respect for cultural differences, sharing our planet as one world. Peaceful coexistence is the only way forward and Sri Lanka is a classic example which can show the way to the future by proving that it is not separate political entities that create peace, but the willingness and the commitment to share the island as the common property and homeland of all communities. As the founder of Sri Lanka, Arahant Mahinda said we are here as trustees of the land, protecting its environment and heritage to be passed on to future generations.

Imagine if both Tamils and Sinhalese got together and spent the money wasted for this unwanted war to develop Sri Lanka. Probably, we could have built at least a few thousand schools for the children who are sacrificed as the first wave in the war, started a few more universities and technical colleges for all our youth to study rather than getting their lives and limbs blown up in land mines and senseless suicide bombs. If their talents were developed we could have exported brains to the world, develop a few more highways to connect all major cities in Sri Lanka, restored all tanks and irrigation systems developed by our fore fathers to make Sri Lanka self sufficient in food, developed industries to employ all our unemployed youth and spent some money for research into harvesting natural sources of energy such as solar, wind and waves. But the war provides opportunities for only a few hundred people to make money out of arms deals, illegal narcotic trade, arms and human smuggling etc. Some leaders use children who should be at school to fight this unwanted war, and use them as the first wave in attacks on military establishments or as suicide bombers while their own children are sent abroad to acquire a good education and a future in affluent Western countries.

During my service in the north of Sri Lanka, the Navy had excellent relations with Jaffna Tamils, especially the fishing folk (Vaadis) as they needed our help to save them from Indian fishermen who used to cut their nets & harass them, search for and rescue their missing boats etc and we depended on them for information about smuggling and illicit immigrants. We did not have the cooperation of the smugglers, most of whom later turned into terrorists. I have interacted socially with a lot of Tamil friends who used to visit our camp, and in fishing vaadis I have met many migrating Sinhalese fishermen from the south who used to come up north for fishing during monsoonal periods, and many of their descendants who could not even speak a word of Sinhalese. During these times I have met many Sinhalese and Muslim people happily living together and carrying on their fishing, bakery and other trades in the north and east. All the communities lived in the north and east very peacefully. Before the 1977 communal problems, there were well over 30,000 Sinhalese and over 100,000 Muslim families living and working in Jaffna alone.

I wish to recall these times of peaceful co-existence and record the times we shared together because there is a sad attempt to engage in the lucrative business of re-writing history to deliberately distort history in order to create deep divisions between the two communities. I thought it is my duty to write my personal experiences to at least clarify some basic facts.
This analysis is in no way a criticism of patriotic Tamils like our ex- Foreign Minister Mr Kadirgamar who exposed extremist Tamils, or Muralidaran who tries his best to bring honour and glory to Sri Lanka in international cricket or my good friend and my room mate during navy training Admiral Sundaram, or many other Tamils who live peacefully with others in Sri Lanka and help to develop Sri Lanka. This attempt is only to expose the racist extremist Tamils and a few Tamil expatriates who fund LTTE terrorist activities and some Sinhalese alleged to be on LTTE payroll through Norway.

The aim of this analysis is purely:

1. To refute the claim of those who re-write the history of Sri Lanka that there was an independent Tamil kingdom in the north or east – a myth which is at the root of the current crisis. I wish to establish that there is no substantive historical evidence that can be drawn from Tamil, Portuguese, Dutch and English historians, or any other credible sources that can give credibility to this claim and definitely not an attempt to say that Tamils migrated to Sri Lanka recently.

2. To provide a better understanding about the history of Sri Lanka so that the international community can appreciate the nature of the Sri Lankan crisis and take appropriate action to stop more blood dollars (very similar to blood diamonds) flowing into the hands of LTTE terrorists and to stop refuge traffic.

3. To expose LTTE terrorists who exploited the safe havens of the West to run passport rackets, credit card rackets, human smuggling rackets, gunrunning rackets, drug trafficking rackets, techniques for suicide bombing etc to collect blood dollars. The attack on USS Cole is a good example. If one examines travel details of LTTE bomb experts one will realize that the boat that rammed USS Cole was set up by them for money.

4. To open the eyes of the small minority of professional Tamils who are able to live in the Western countries only because they got their qualifications from the Sri Lankan free education system, and to inform them that they have a moral duty not to create misery for the lives of the Tamils who were left behind by funding the destabilization of Sri Lanka which has resulted in the deaths and destruction of mainly the Tamil population.

5. To educate these professional Tamils that their blood dollars can help in better ways to provide life opportunities to children in the north and east if their funds are not diverted to the Tiger terrorists who are waging a war for the elusive and unattainable Eelam.

6. To inform everyone that all communal problems in Sri Lanka were initiated by the Tamil-dominated north, which provoked other communities to react violently. For example in 1983 if the LTTE did not kill 13 soldiers and provoke the Sinhala mobs to react, this crisis would not have reached this level of violence. It is common for critics to point the finger at the Sinhalese without giving due recognition to the underlying primary cause of Tamils deliberately provoking the Sinhala majority to react violently to gain political mileage and sympathy from the international community, as stated by Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in-law of the father of separatism, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam. Besides, when I was working up north I witnessed at first hand some of the racist violence committed by the Tamils. The racist violence against Sinhalese students at Jaffna University or poor Sinhalese women and children who lived in the Kent and Dollar farms, 600 Police personnel who surrendered to the Tamil Tiger terrorists on instructions of President Premadasa, are well documented.

7. To re-educate professional Tamils in the Western world who take great delight in boasting about attacks by LTTE on innocent Sinhalese civilians who lived in harmony with the Tamils for centuries.

8. To record that the death toll of all nationalities during the 1983 communal riots, which was provoked by LTTE was around 450, according to BBC reports. S Chandrahasan, son of Chelvanayakam and V. Anandasangaree, President of the Tamil United Liberation Front, are on record saying that Velupillai Prabhakaran has killed more Tamils than all Tamils killed during all communal problems and by provoked return fire from Indian and Sri Lankan armed services put together.

9. To show every one that only racist extremist Tamils and others who finance this needless war can stop the suffering of people (especially Tamils) in Sri Lanka. This problem can never be resolved until racist extremist Tamils drop their arms and accept the principle of co-existing in harmony with the other communities.

10. To explain to all Tamils and Sinhalese that in the past we have inter-married and integrated and have blood relations and share a common heritage, with Hindu gods being worshipped in Buddhist temples. Genealogists have recorded that the elite Sinhalese and even the lower classes have inter-married or are direct descendants of Tamils and vice versa. Even the Tamil castes like 'Kovia', 'Tanakaras' and 'Nalavas' are descendants of Sinhalese. (page 382 "Ancient Jaffna" by Mudaliyar C Rasanayagam 1926) It is also known that the fisher castes like ‘Karreyar’ Parawer’ and Timilaer’ are descendants of migrating fishermen from South India as well as the South of Sri Lanka.

11. To educate everyone that the less Sri Lanka deals with Norway the faster we can resolve Sri Lanka’s problems.

To Be Continued………

(PBS. Hemachandra, M. Com, Post Grad Dip in Bus, MCP, MACS, is a retired. Lt. Commander of Sri Lanka Navy)
- Sri Lanka Guardian