| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( September 30, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last night at the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum here in Sydney we had a robust discussion on Sinhala Nation, Tamil Nation and Sri Lankan Nation.
This morning I read the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Are The Tamils And The Sinhalese, Same Or Different?’ by Dr. Laksiri Fernando – who was also part of last night’s discussion group. I understand that Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s article is in response to Professor Hoole’s response to Dr. Laksiri Fernando’s article “Some Ethnic Differences Observed by Robert Knox”
During last night’s discussions on ‘Practical Reconciliation’, reference to Nation was taken as Sri Lanka by some & Sinhala Nation by others who recognized also that there was a Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka.
In the above article Dr. Laksiri Fernando states ‘Ethnicity and race are two different phenomena. Ethnicity is primarily a sociological phenomenon but race is basically a biological or supposed to be a biological category. Tamils and Sinhalese are not two races or offspring of two races. This is same in the case of the Muslims. They are ethnic communities and in that sense there are recognizable differences.
Ethnicity by and large is defined by language, culture, religion, history and sometimes by claimed common ancestry. Ethnicity also overlaps, in some instances, with human groups which are influenced by hereditary or environmental factors. Nepal is a clear example. In the case of the Tamils (including South Indian) and the Sinhalese, at present time, these influences are more less the same. Even if there are differences, these differences are extremely marginal. Internal differentiations (also in ethnic terms) are great in the case of both communities.’
To my mind, the summary of this is that Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims & Burghers are not different races but one race and different ethnicities .
There was also some criticism last night when I tried to ‘reconcile’ a policy based approach to project based approach. To me the race argument applies also to Nation argument and also to policy argument. To my mind when measured through the hierarchical system - they are all about the levels at which we stand when we explain something. When measured laterally – they are equal ways of describing a factor.
To my mind, the above discussion between Professor Hoole and Dr. Laksiri is academic. It holds little value to the Sinhala Nation supporters or Tamil Nation supporters. Most Sri Lankan Nation supporters would acknowledge and soon forget about it – unless they are able to use it in their own academic work.
During question and answer time I said that Jaffna Tamils feel more satisfied now with the establishment of Provincial Government in North through their independent party TNA (Tamil National Alliance) as opposed to being Governed by the Sri Lankan Government affiliated party and that the TNA victory was confirmation of self-governance. I felt that that did not go down well. To my mind, it would not – with those who read at the physical level.
When questioned by pro-Sri Lankan government person, some participants claimed that Australia also recognized ‘Indigenous Nationhood’. To me that is quite different to the Sri Lankan issue due to the Administrative structures that we Tamils claim we are able to effectively work at country standards and beyond.
To me nationhood below country level needs to be a declared facility – as in the user-pays systems - ‘my bus’; ‘my train’ - here in New South Wales, Australia. Tamils have been declaring their claim of nationhood ever since the British left and I take it as it being a case of self-dignity when they were ‘told’ through the ‘Official Language Act 33 of 1956’ which under section 2 states :
‘ The Sinhala language shall be the one official language of Ceylon: Provided that where the Minister considers it impracticable to commence the use of only the Sinhala language for any official purpose immediately on the coming into force of this Act, the language or languages hitherto used for that purpose may be continued to be so used unti1 the necessary change is effected as early as possible before the expiry of the 31st day of December, 1960, and, if such change cannot be effected by administrative order, regulations may be made under this Act to effect such change.’
Then came other issues which were ‘received’ by Tamils as being oppressive. Tamils opposed and continue to oppose even now - 57 years later. If indeed Tamils have achieved nationhood – they would continue to oppose any ‘telling’ and ‘giving’. Owners ‘share’. It is the duty of every person who realized Tamil Nationhood to oppose any interference / oppression - lawfully in official circumstances and/or through their Truth in unofficial environments. Tamils who believe/d that they have/had the right to use arms in the unofficial environments to protect their nation – are freedom fighters and not terrorists. Likewise Sinhalese and even Sri Lankans. They would use arms only to defend and never to attack.
The pro-Sri Lankan Government group had difficulty accepting that Sinhala nation and Sri Lankan nation were different. To me that is also the parallel of Race and Ethnicity being different – as claimed by Dr. Laksiri Fernando. Sinhala status is below Sri Lankan status in a vertical system. It is of equal status to Tamil as well as Sri Lankan – in a lateral democratic arrangement.
To my mind, whether they are different or whether one is a subset of the other depends on our purpose. As per our Australian, Racial Discrimination Act 1975 both have equal value as national origin. Section 9 of this Act states:
(a) a person requires another person to comply with a term, condition or requirement which is not reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the case; and
(b) the other person does not or cannot comply with the term, condition or requirement; and
(c) the requirement to comply has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, by persons of the same race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as the other person, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life;
the act of requiring such compliance is to be treated, for the purposes of this Part, as an act involving a distinction based on, or an act done by reason of, the other person's race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.’
In common terminology – the last three are about not bringing the past into our current activities through which status is allocated. Once we become Australian – our past should not be activated for the simple reason that the new group would not know about our past nor we about them. Hence Equal Opportunity laws. Hence ‘Descent, National or Ethnic origin’ in the above Law. If the past is activated between two Australians of British origin that is below Australian level and only the essence of that combination needs to be brought into wider Australian society – as their motivating Energy. Likewise between two Sinhalese or two Tamils. When one is a different origin – the common measure as per the law needs to be used. These laws need to be constructed accordingly so that no one language has higher status than the other in common area.
Race and Colour are current observations and hence are banned at all times when we are allocating status. Hence the differentiation between ethnicity and race has no practical value to the ordinary Australian nor to the ordinary Sri Lankan struggling to realize independence one way or the other.
To my mind, one who has realized Sinhala Nationality would have little difficulty relating to Sri Lankan national values. Likewise one who has realized Tamil Nationality. Similarly one who has realized Sri Lankan Nationality would have little difficulty becoming Global.
The Australian Police listed me as ‘Sri Lankan’ in the Nationality field. I discovered through the Court Processes that to these Police, place of birth is factor in measuring nationality. I kept protesting that I was legally Australian but they failed to change the records. I expect that the Sri Lankan soldier would also distinguish between a Tamil and a Sinhalese at sight and would have little difficulty listing a Sinhalese as Sri Lankan and a Tamil as Tamil in the Nationality field. The questions need to be tightly defined as per the majority workforce in an organization.
Now I appreciate that these Police Officers, many of whom like the Sri Lankan soldiers, are also from the countryside would not know the difference between Legal definition and blood relationship. A gay colleague of mine said to me that his parents had not left their home area in rural New South Wales and that he was the first one in their family to live in Sydney. Hence I was able to appreciate that to the Police Officers who arrested me ‘Nation’ was the country of birth. It is not surprising considering that to my relatives from Vattukottai their birth relative is closer relative than legal relative through marriage. Hence the Energy underpinning the Vaddukoddai Resolution 1976 would have been diluted to that extent. We, the People are the resolution of independence.
Talking about science in terms of race and ethnicity, I said to a fellow participant in the above discussion - that it was like Einstein’s confirmation that he travelled with light to discover the relativity theory. When we measure at mass level – we measure through our physical senses. When we measure at force level – we calculate and know. Deeper than that is the Truth – where we have to become It and have the experience.
Only those who experienced Sri Lanka have attained Sri Lankan nationhood. If their realization is expressed as theory – that is the path that would lead the next generation to realize independence through Sri Lanka. That is the express highway. Those who seek to realize through their local paths – must limit their expressions / claims – to their local areas. One who stated ‘The Sinhala language shall be the one official language of Ceylon’ was dismissing himself as a Ceylonese / Sri Lankan.
A pro-Sri Lankan Government participant at yesterday’s meeting talked much about the Kandyan kingdom. Some Tamils responded that we also had our parallels in North. I stated that we had the Thesawalamai Law. To me a community that is governed by Thesawalamai Law is a legal Tamil kingdom. By making Sinhala the ‘only’ official language – the then Ceylonese Government was effectively enforcing its Kandyan customary laws on non-Sinhala people. Thesawalamai Law is applicable only to Tamils of Northern Sri Lanka – wherever they may live in Sri Lanka and sometimes even beyond Sri Lanka. Likewise, a local language should be applicable by law as the official language only to those who know that language and that language only.
One lady shared her experience that she did not have her promotions in Colombo because she did not pass the Sinhalese language exams. This requirement was mandatory even though her work area was within the Tamil culture only.
If one needed to state what the official language/s was/were – of an area – the customary past of the decision makers need to be left behind when they come into multicultural Capital – in this instance Colombo. In local areas language of majority in that area would naturally be the customary language and to confirm it through legislation confirms one’s fears of invasion. To my mind, Sinhalese who depended on majority vote turned away from a multicultural system that was already in functioning well in Ceylon/Sri Lanka. THEY started this war by setting the laws that would give them high distinction.
Sinhala Nation and Tamil Nation already exist in Sri Lanka. Tamil Nation existed before 1706 when Governor Simons facilitated the birth of Thesawalamai Law.