Within The Ambit Of Historical Background Of Sri Lanka
| by Dr.Sripali Vaiamon
( September 16, 2013, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) M/s Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who was week’s stay of injudicious sight-seeing and investigating with war-affected inhabitants in this democratic Sri Lanka fascinated with the unprecedented development activities taken place in the North after the 26 year civil war. She was anxious to make a floral tribute to Prabhakaran and desired to go to Putumalan but the request was turned down. It is quite natural being a person of the same community to have a soft feeling although the region would not have improved to unprecedented level if not the civil war based on two targets. The evacuation of high caste elements as the abominable caste rift harassed the poor community of Prabhakaran’s category by so-called vellalas and the discrimination towards Tamil community by the Sinhala Governments starting from the Independence.
But towards the end of her stay she had scowled Prabhakaran for his brutal disposition and made in indignant pitch that he was ruthless and odious. The issues of Diaspora glorifying him also have come to her focus. However the treacherous holocaust created by him was crushed by militarily within the international norms of the terrorist war. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had firmly affirmed her that there is no more culture of impunity in the country. Further, SL Ambassador to UN in Geneva had asked her to take an objective and unbiased approach to SL in fulfilling her mandate but not to give credence to unsubstantiated allegations. Everyone is now waiting to see what would be the outcome of her journey and the highlights of her FINAL report to UN as she was prejudiced against Sri Lanka earlier. Her last comment was not that satisfactory as she haphazardly said although she is happy about the post-war developments but sounds rather pessimistic about the progress of the Government particularly relevant to issues on rehabilitation to accountability where Govt. is drifting towards authoritarianism.
Tokyo became one of the brilliant cities in the world after deadly and vicious atomic bomb attack by the biggest nation-US. Similarly killing the bread winners of Tamil families in the North and their school going children Pillay later alleged Tigers as a murderous outfit that also was responsible for massacring big segment of Sinhala population, but now getting unprecedented developments for the North from the Sinhala Government. In comparison to two events I could surmise this is how the nature acts.
TNA who got Dutch courage from Pillay’s visit issued an arrogant manifesto exposing indirectly that they are pro-Tigers and making an attempt to continue Prabhakaran’s second target in his struggle where he was facilitated by Diaspora in foreign countries to annihilate the discrimination meted out to Tamils by Sinhala regimes during the past. Probably in response to this Minister of Economic development recently alleged that their election manifesto does not support any development activity in the North.
Amidst swift development activities in the North in this democratic country where terrorists have devastated, first I compelled to reproach the leading opposition party for not contributing sufficiently for the progress of the Island although they governed more than 30 odd years from the time of Independence. At least for the sake of their voters,UNP voters, besides getting thumping salaries and perks it is their humble duty to perform some apprehensible duties to the country being the most prestigious party with a long history. What have they done other than the Mahaveli project for the past 30 years they were in power. In comparison to the vast amount of projects and infrastructure development activities by the present regime carried out during the last three or four years under the democratic set up Opposition members did nothing. Opposition Party’s deliberation was always how to topple down the Government. That was a repeating track in their daily song. It is alright to criticize any weakness of any project that party in power propose under the democratic set up. They have the right to do so. But they must consolidate with useful programes to improve the country. Mere shouting serve absolutely no purpose. Say for example,if the Leader of the Opposition request for a grant from the Government to put up a fully equipped five story hospital in a highly populated area and obtain aid from various friendly countries in the world to continue construction without any break, his party supporters who are in wealthy disposition will definitely support him. Their voters will be undoubtedly happy to feel that they are doing some work to the country, so that they can cast their votes at the next election too.It must be mentioned here it was early Sinhala governments who started discrimination towards Tamils although G.G.Ponnambalam was with them from the beginging within this democratic country.
Democracy has its short comings in practice as analyzed by Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle viewed it as the least evil form of government. However, on the whole it worked well and had encouraged a great flowering of individual genius in certain countries during the past.
Literary and Political figures in the modern world defined it as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercise directly by them or by their elected representatives under a free electoral system. There is I wonder whether 100% truth is engulfed in it as in the practice the members of the opposition who are also elected by the people have no chance to show their colours.
According to the originator of this term, democracy the meaning would be a government by the people, of the people and for the people. It originated in Greece, somewhere in 508-507 BC during the classical antiquity of prominent philosophers and politicians in the city state of Athens. They defined democracy as a form of government where all eligible voters participate equally through their representatives to create the justice, economic and cultural conditions to suit the general public. They laid the infrastructure for the development activities in the country, according to the approved legal conditions stipulated in the Constitution.
Some level allegations against those who involved in various projects, in this Government as well as previous, to say that they make undue money. Not taking bribes but by getting thumping commissions. That was an accepted norm in all over the world probably from the time democratic set up came into force. To promote business this system has been adopted for a very long period in all over the globe. So generally nobody can level any allegation as making money unscrupulously. But to be fair and honest I proposed in my novel ‘The Therapy’, that govt. must insist for any undertaking where commission is involved, 25% should go to a treasury bond to be utilized for education or health in the country. Because it is a privilege a fair contribution of it should enjoy by the citizens in the country by this adaptation.
The prestigious UNP from the inception consists with aristocratic people and they do not want to get any accusation of getting money, so they did not involved in much of the development activities, likely to be beneficial to the country and people. They frittered away the time safeguarding their prestige, positions personal business and maintained high regard for the concept of democracy.
Srilanka became a ‘Democratic Socialist Republic on the May 22nd, 1972 and introduced a new Constitution and baptized the country as Sri Lanka in place of earlier name, Lanka that had gone into Ramayana or Britisher’s interpretation Ceylon, changed the first line of the National Anthem from Namo Namo matha to Sri Lanka matha. The composer Ananada Samarakoon got deranged and committed suicide. The letter Sri was used for Car labels which annoyed Tamils in the North and they did not get down any vehicle with Sri Number plates. They were adamant not to adopt the Sri Lanka but continued to use Illangai.There was a bit of an outlook of hegemony and created a dissension among the Tamils in the North who were prejudiced from the time of Independance.Although the Constitution amended subsequently this impression as well as similar issues led to a 26 year civil war where the health, wealth and happiness of the people extirpated almost similar to atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the country earned the name as pearl of the Indian Ocean affected unimaginably. At the start it was not a row with the Sinhala Government but with their own people on caste rift. Dutch got down Tamils from Tanjor to do cultivation, particularly tobacco, who were supposed to be Vellalas; a high caste. The rift went on for a long time. Older generation was meek and compliance but the young brats could not resist. Since that by gone era low caste Tamils were treated as stray dogs by the so called high caste tycoons who have become very rich through their farming and business transactions. Early fifties, a vociferous member of the State Council,Mr.Suntharalingam did not allow low caste people to enter their temples and pay homage. Whenever a high caste man walks on the road they have to get down to the gutter until he passes away. Their children were not allowed to attend school. A Scandinavian lady, Else Schonberg involved in a research in the Jaffna and suburbs produced a book, a special Caste? Tamil women of Sri Lanka, where she had illustrated the manner how high class, high caste people treated so-called low caste category in the region with numerous examples. Although old people bend their heads young brats were adamant to go against them. When TULF leader, Mr.Amirthalingam (FP-Vadukotte) in a meeting held in Jaffna on May 22nd, 1972, on the day of the Republic where he said, there will be a day for the Tamils to use weapons against Sinhalese. With his bold utterance Prabhakaren and low caste youths got Dutch courage with a duel target, to fight against their arch enemies so-called high caste affluent people and the Sinhala government for the alleged discrimination . First attack they made on the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Doreiappa on the Sept.17th 1972.A high caste, high class personality.Since then the battle went on briskly. Lamp post murders were a common sight in the North. Most of them had the high caste label. In 1950 Govt. Issued a Disability Act prohibiting discriminations against the low caste. They didn’t care a hoot. In 1957 it was re-issued with strong clauses.
On July 23rd 1983,15 Sinhala soldiers at Thinnaveli were shot down and their bodies were brought to Borella cemetery. When Sinhalese learnt this calamity, riot started. It went on gradually where subsequent Governments had only peace meetings and allowed the country for devastations. Their peace negotiations were absolutely no effect until the present Government militarily crushed the ruthless outfit on May 2009 which was conformed to parameters of International war regulation but it was a terrorist war where the law and sympathy had no place. The rescue operations of the civilians dragged by Tigers to cover them as shields at the last stages were explicitely shown in the TV and film footages how the Red Cross officers and Sinhala military personnel evacuated them with apathy and sympathy while Tigercubs shot them from behind. This was a situation that every intelligent person could draw a line and which was obviously reflects on Human Rights in a democratic regime.
Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in the South East and it has a very long history in comparison to countries in other parts of the world. Our excavations substantiated it beyond doubt. The human fossils discovered at Phahiyangala cave in the Kalutara district is 37,000 years old. At Batadomba Lena, Ratnapura, 28,000 years. At Beli lena and several other places human fossils were discovered. They were living in the hilly terrain of the country. Internet revealed, that the Echo team has discovered 19 caves where these primitive people were associated. Their genetic name or names were unknown. Mostly their profession had been agriculture, hunting or gathering fruits.
Prof.J.B.Dissanayake and literati, Arisen Ahubudu hypothesised the majority of ancient people in the country were divided as Deva, Naga, Yaksa and Raksa and in combination they were called Sihala (Sive+Hela) Hela may have been the dialect that had been used. The term Sinhala is Sanskrit may have been used from time immemorial. There are certain references relevant to these issues in the Indian epics, Mahabaratha and Ramayana.
In the footnote of Seegri Gee, Dr. Paranavithana described Sinhala as Sanskrit, Seehala is Pali, Sainhala is Prakrit.In Seegri Graffiti as an equivalent of Elu or Illu. Hela also had been used as a dialect. Mudliyar Rasanayagam in his Ancient Jaffna accounts that the people came to be known as Sinhala not because they were the descendants of a lion but because they populated the land called Ilam, Silam or Singhlam.The Tamil lexicon published by the Madras University had defined Ilam as the country of Ilu speaking people. Sir Cunningham in his geography of India described that Ceylon was known to Tamils as Ilam or Ilumandalam.The Island also was known as Heladiva, Heladipa as Elu or Hela was the language.
Mahavansa described Sinhalese as descendants of a lion.(This myth has been built on several Jathaka stories such as,Walahassa,Nalapana,Janaka,Padakusalamanawa,Dewadhamma,Susondi,Ghata and Chethiya Jathakas.)
The term Sinhala first I came across in the Epic Mahabaratha.second Parva. Mr.Mohan Ganguli who translated all the 18 books of Mahabharata revealed the term Sinhala appeared in Bk. I, Ch.177. Bk2, Ch.33 and 51, Bk3, Ch. 51, Bk7, and Ch.20.According to the Internet, compilation of Mahabaratha had commenced in 900 BC. Prof.Monier Monier Williams, who compiled the first Sanskrit-English Dictionary, said it was in 1200 BC.
Besides Mahabaratha, the term Sinhala appeared in several ancient Sanskrit classics such as Bhagawatha,Markandya Purana and Brahath Sanghitha. Dr.B.J.Perera contributing an article to Ceylon Historical Journal,Vol.2 says Sinhala appeared in Jaina Canonical works. In an eulogy of the pillar inscription in Allahabad, King Samudraguptha had a phrase as Sakamurundak Sainhalakad, which also referred to Sinhala. Late Mr.Munidasa Coomaratunga in an article published in Prabhashodaya in 1936, states the term Sinhala had been used from time immemorial for the country as well as the language.Our philologists have not explored this region as yet.
The first religion country received was Buddhism. It was during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa according to Mahavansa, the second oldest chronicle of the country; where the earlier documentations beyond 250 BC are not with facts and evidence hence cannot be acceptable says Dr.Hema Ellawala who was involved in extensive research on Mahavansa.With regard to the compilations compiler himself has given an excuse to the readers as –For the serene joy of the pious.
According to Mahavansa first king was Vijaya. In that episode compiler referred to a king that was as Mahakalasena in a kingdom called Sirisavasthu.In that case he should have been the first king.Archeologist Siran Deraniyagala revealed from his recent excavation that there had been a civilisation at Anuradhapura 400 years prior to the advent of Vijaya. That was 900 BC. Up to the last king of the Island, Sri Wikkrama Rajasinghe, there had been 50 South Indian kings who ruled the country. It is in this country where we have now Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka which was established on 22nd May.1972.
Little bit of historical background won’t be boring but if you feel you may skip it off;
The demographic figures illustrated in the 2012 census are follows: Sinhalese,74.9%. SL Tamils 11.2%. Moors 9.2%. Indian Tamils 4.2%.
Ancient travellers who have visited the country have given innumerable names to this pearl of the Indian Ocean. Some of those are as followes: Lanka, Lankadipa, Salika, Thambapanni, Heledib, Heladiva, Sinhala dib, Sinhala deepaya, Serandib, Thaprobane, Ceilo, Ceilan, Ceylan, Zeylan, Ceylon, Eelam, Ilam, Illangai, Illanko, Illumandalam, Siho, Senkiyalo, Thanasareum, Hebanaru, Dasakantarajiva,Ravanapura, Hemanagara, Swarnabhumi, Mandadeepa, Ojadeepa, Waradeepa.
Ceilao was the name given by Portugese when they arrived in1505, which was transliterated by British as Ceylon in 1815 when they took over the jurisdiction.
Although there were innumerable battles in the country due to foreign invasions most ruthless outfit was Tigers who were responsible for unaccountable havocs that had been taken place during the 26 year war. The security forces who engaged had to safeguard the country and the people, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious convictions.
Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who is now in a dispute on Katchchadive which was declared on a final decision of the late Prime Ministers of India and Sri Lanka, may willing to see that the SL Tamils and up country Tamils both came over from her region should be amalgamated and enhance the Tamil population of Sri Lanka. Presently according to recent census they are only 11.2 and 4.2.There’s no reason to have any objection if the amalgamation is necessary.Up country Tamils were almost neglected although they shed sweat to enhance the economy of the country right from the British era. Late Thondaman took lot of interest but apparently nothing much could have been done during the UNP regime.Present Prseident on the 8th of September 2013 vouched that he will pay special attention to empower the economy and uplift them who are still living in lines. While developing agreed to provide facilities such as roads, hospitals, water and electricity. He further said his government has focused on improving the education to provide more opportunities to youths in the estate area.Now it is up to them through their members of the parliament to get all what he promised. They had no agitation or uprising or put forward any of the grievances like those who were in the North. This sounds to me like a completely forgetten landmass after British left the Island.So this is an ideal time to come forward with proposals. But not like gun trotting northerners.
Although the war is over, the prominent Tamil party in the North is on a similar struggle with the Government where the stress had been laid on the 13th amendment of the Constitution. A solution to that may not come up on the Final report of the Secretary of the Human Rights Commission but can expect some worthwhile resolutions to be promulgated by the party in power after the Local Government Elections or subsequent to the highly expected CHOGM.Whatever the solution should be based strongly on democratic set up taking the retrospection of the prideful long history and religious integrity of the Island into meaningful consideration.Let us firmly believe Wighneswaram and Pathmanathan do not transgress the common decency within the ambit of election but await with reasonable expectation!
With deep maternal sympathy for a long time Ms.pillay was awaiting to come over to Sri Lanka to evaluate the human rights situations supposed to have been affected her own people and at last she got the opportunity where mothers who lost their school going children as they were grabbed by Tigers and their bread winners enrolled to Tiger cadres were slaughtered by Sinhala army relentlessly, were confessed to her with pouring tears which melted her heart grievously. Male counterparts added up further burden. Although SL representative to UN requested not to give credence to unsubstantiated allegations but can anybody imagine she could possibly inconsiderate as a gullible mother. She will definitely reflect her sentiment in her final report. The sharp swerve she took day prior to her departure is not at all favourable to the country where she alleged the government is proliferating towards authoritarianism, but as a matter of fact Govt.hold regularly elections and making an honest attempt to conglomerate all the citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and religious differences to get together to a singal constellation to shine in unity under one banner truly within a democratic frame.
‘Human Rights’- is a never ending allegation against SLwhere Diaspora is behind and constantly inciting America and European countries. Deputy representative to UN at Geneva,Manisha Gunasekara, on the 12 th of Sept. 2013 has briefed at the 24th Council that she is pleased HCHR was able to witness the multi-faceted nature of SL’s reconcillation process during her recent visit and uphold the progress already achieved.SL has undertaken a harmonious and holistic approach to reconcillation where a range of crosscutting issues initiated shortly after the war and presently are being continued in the context of the National Plan Action for the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC,in a time bound manner.
But still M/s Pillay was prejudiced from the beginning and being in the same community an unbias report is bit doubtful.
In my previous article contributed to Sri Lanka Guardian, ‘Is it justifiable to address Sri Lanka as predominantly a Buddhist country?’ which was published continuously for more than three weeks, where I highlighted the non-recognition of ‘Mehani Sasna’the Buddhist nunnery as Senior prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta are not in favour of re-establishing, primarily because that they are more proned to Brahaminism influenced by the last Dravidian kings of Kandy. This too should be taken into consideration without further delay as Bodu Bala Sena and other Buddhist groups are eagerly waiting to see a glimmer of hope on the issue as there is a proud history in this democratic country where there is an executive president with sufficient powers at the helm than anybody else in the Island.