A Brief Overview of Post-Independence

History of Communal Relations in Sri Lanka

| by Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

(September 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The problems of a section of Jaffna Tamils in the post-independence years were portrayed by Tamil politicians (also from the same section) of the day , as those of all Tamils. This was a historical mistake of immense proportions.

The Vaddukottai resolution was the outcome.

Add This is where we stand now. How do we proceed into the future? Should there be a change in our approach- from both the Sinhala and Tamil sides?

This was the result of the advantage they had by way of high quality schools, the propensity for hard work, the sacrifice their parents made in investing in education and the conditions in Jaffna -over crowding and lack of opportunities- that had to be left behind.

The American missionaries who were directed to Jaffna, by a suspicious British colonial administration paved the way for the development of an excellent school system in Jaffna. This was an inadvertent advantage that became a problem for the dominating section of Jaffna Tamils in the post-independence period.

Other sections of the Tamils in Jaffna, the Tamils in the Vanni and Mannar and the Tamils in the East, did not experience the same circumstances nor advantages. The plantation Tamils were virtual slaves, looked down upon by all so-called Sri Lankan Tamils. Basil Rajapakse calling Muthu Sivalingam a Para-demala, which is much referred to, was totally uncivilized. However, how we the Sri Lankan Tamils looked down upon and treated the plantation Tamil was also uncivilized and disgraceful. This class of Jaffna Tamils were also veru much in the fore front of oppressing other Sri Lankan Tamils in the name of caste. The Jaffna Tamils, who had the advantage of a good education, also wielded an influence disproportionate to their numbers in national political affairs.

The affairs in Sri Lanka in the immediate post-independence period, were very much skewed in favour of a section of Jaffna Tamils. The Sinhala dominated governments had to correct this situation and empower the majority Sinhala community. This was natural and had to inevitably happen. the Tamils were no more intelligent than the Snhalese and no more capable either, although many Tamils thought they were. They enjoyed calling the Sinhalese ‘Modayas’- handicapped by their very identity!

How the Sri Lankan governments tried to correct this imbalance was wrong, short sighted and brutal. Instead of investing in education in the South and other disadvantaged Tamil areas and bringing in a time framed affirmative action program, the governments forced the pace through Sinhala only, dismantling of merit based selection processes and of course the standardization schemes for University admissions. The language used by the Sinhala politicians and some societal leaders to justify their actions were insulting, inflammatory and unwise These measures while advancing the cause of the Sinhalese, set back the country as a whole. The section of the Jaffna Tamils who had planned their entire life on following a particular path to education, employment and prosperity, were literally caught with their pants down!

These Jaffna Tamils who had the advantages in their favor and had come to consider their advantage a God-given right, reacted vehemently (and later violently)and tried to hang on to their inadvertent and disproportionate advantages, misled and egged on by their so-called leaders, who were also stupid not to comprehend that the times had changed. A clash was inevitable. The riots, the murder and mayhem became a way of life. Short sighted actions and equally short sighted reactions, orchestrated by the extremists on both sides led to the civil war and its aftermath. The advantaged section of Jaffna Tamils were in the vanguard of Tamil reactions and have exposed the other Sri Lankan Tamils to the outcome. The Governments in Sri Lanka, failed to act rationally and in a far sighted manner to nip evolving and excalating problems in the bud.The governments became a part of the evloving problems.

The balance has been corrected in favour of the majority Sinhala population now. However, the tide has turned against all Sri Lankan Tamils. All Tamils from the north and east are a disadvantaged people now. There has to be affirmative action in their favour. The Plantation Tamils have progressed thanks to Saumyamoorthy Thondaman’s political acumen and vision.

This is where we stand now. How do we proceed into the future? Should there be a change in our approach- from both the Sinhala and Tamil sides?

A time for wisdom- based sober thought to prevail has come.

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