– by Shenali D Waduge –
Now that Jusice Wigneswaran who “did not want this position” and who was “forced into this position” under “so much pressure” as the TNA’s common candidate for the post of Chief Minister we are forced to view him as joining the list of others attempting to seek the goal of separatism clearly articulated in their party Constitution and election manifestos. Whatever Justice Wigneswaran may say in interviews, speeches and statements he cannot change the TNA manifesto in which the goal is a “separate Tamil Homeland”, “self-determination for Tamils” – none of these slogans remotely equates to signal any desire for peaceful coexistence with the others or even the other Tamils of lesser castes and creed except to create a Tamil Only landmass. No one can fault the rest of the country for viewing them with distrust because no country and no citizen will tolerate any political party or members attempting to slice out a piece of the sovereign nation simply because they come up with a bogus homeland theory and a set of grievances which are NOT exclusive to Tamils alone. So if by its very actions TNA is mistrusted for ulterior motives the country has every ground to do so and Justice Wigneswaran needs to concoct a better argument to whitewash the TNA.
In an interview with Ada Derana on 17 July 2013, Justice Wigneswaran says that the TNA were silent throughout the LTTE reign because of the “voice of violence” though he does not admit that TNA openly said that “Tamils were represented by the LTTE”. Justice Wigneswaran is very correct when he says that the “problem” emerged far before Prabakaran was even born but he conveniently omits to give the history of that separatist quest. Imported Christian Chelvanayagam started by creating the ITAK (name stands for separatism) in 1949 which was artfully disguised as the Federal Party in as suave maneuver to hide the separatist agenda behind the federal slogan.
Maybe Justice Wigneswaran can answer how at the departure of the British following independence, a 6.6million population country was able to run with less than 180,000 English educated people of ONLY Sinhala and Tamil elite, majority of whom had to convert to Christianity to obtain English education and who had automatic employment whereas the majority of the country knew only Sinhalese? Was it possible to educate 6.6m in English or get the 180,000 to learn Sinhala because the administration of the country had to be run and the administration could not be run in English. The Sinhala-Only issue has been hijacked by the Tamils because it was really a case of non-English speaking majority against a handful of English speaking people who did not want to share what they were enjoying and to this list the guilty are both the elite Tamil and the elite Sinhalese. Sinhala Only did not mean Tamil was prohibited from being spoken. By 1956 Tamils constituted 50% of the clerical personnel of the railway, postal and customs services, 60% of all doctors, engineers and lawyers, and 40% of other labor forces.
Justice Wigneswaran speaks about the need for trust but why has he omitted reference to the fact that Tamils themselves broke or severed the trust which evolved since 1923 to the 1931 demand for 50:50 representation when in reality there were more imported Tamil plantation workers than Tamils in Sri Lanka? What Justice Wigneswaran also cannot hide is the Vaddukodai Resolution which called for Tamil youth to take up arms.
Moreover, the agitations that the Tamil elite made were more against the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act brought in 1957 because it meant that “low caste” Tamils could also attend schools and kovils hereto denied to them. Justice Wigneswaran, the very people who you now represent wrote continuous petitions to the UK Government pleading to cancel the seating directive! Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan even requested the Colonial Office in London to encode caste into legislative enactments. How about in the refugee camps where high caste Tamils refused to share toilet facilities with the “low castes” and authorities had a time handling related issues.
These are the same people who are today telling us they want to have a separate land to rule their own and Justice Wigneswaran is echoing these same sentiments! What these elite Tamils feared was that once these “low castes” obtained education they would pose a challenge to their status quo and the best strategy to give them the upper hand was to claim to champion a cause brought about by a rift between the Sinhalese and Tamils – this would hide the divisions amongst their own but also ensure the upper hand remained with the same elite who launched satyagrahas, tarring of Sinhala letters on vehicle registration numbers. All these took place ONLY in 1957 and not in 1956. If Sinhala Only was being objected then the agitations should have begun in 1956 but no sooner the Social Disabilities Act was introduced in 1957 only the elite began to agitate. Sinhala Only was only a ruse but Bandaranaike was gullible to Chelvanayagam’s pact which had nothing to do with language issue but everything to do with devolving regional powers so that the elite could continue to rule over the “low castes”.
Justice Wigneswaran may also like to answer at which time in governance was administration run in the Tamil language for Tamils to feel that making Sinhala Only denied them a right. With over 300,000 Tamils living in Canada are their rights to function in Tamil also denied? How many knew that in 1956 permission had to be sought to speak in Sinhala!
The Tamils must come clean that they did not want a reversal to what they had been unfairly enjoying for 200 years therefore it worked well to create an “ethnic-discrimination” and “language-discrimination” grievance created by not those who were aggrieved but by English educated Tamils who did not speak Tamil at home! Justice Wigneswaran is it not true that ALL those demanding Tamil language rights were studying in English? From not functioning at all in Tamil the bogus “grievance” enabled the “reasonable use” in 1956 and thereafter Tamil gained official language status following the Indian intervention in 1987. Not a bad gain in a strategy of “ask a little now and ask more later” by Chelvanayagam. The minorities continue to use this strategy as politicians are easy prey.
Keeping to the same mantra Justice Wigneswaran also cites standardization as a grievance. Can he please explain why Tamil elites opposed equitable distribution to university admission? How wrong is it for anyone to oppose university admission to students from Batticoloa, Vanni and other less privileged areas – Tamil elites opposed standardization in 1973 because “low caste” students would also gain university education.
All that the Buddhists wanted at independence and especially through the Sinhala-Only bill was for Buddhists to reclaim their cultural and religious heritage that had been targeted for elimination. Have Buddhists significantly gained anything post-independence apart from an internationalized continuation of what they suffered from during colonial rule? Is there really a place given to the Temple, Tank and Paddy that characterized Buddhist rule of yonder years?
How united are the Tamils?
We continue to hear that Tamils wish to live amongst their own in their “own homeland” but we cannot but hesitate to ask exactly what happened in 1871 where Vellalas, dhobis, barber castes were attacking each other, or in 1923 when Vellalar’s were attacking the Paramba caste on a petty issue of hiring drummers for funerals, in 1929 when Vellala’s objected to the Government directive on “equal seating” because they did not want to share the same bench as the “low castes” who by their law had to sit on the floor and this was how the low caste Tamil children had to sit when they finally gained admission to school because of a “Sinhala” Prime Minister or in 1931 when the Vellala’s attacked the Pallar caste also for hiring drummers. If Vellala rule was that low castes could not hire drummers in the same year it is not difficult for people to understand how Tamils would have lived under their own people! Why did Tamils demand 50:50 representation when Tamils at independence were just 733,000 and Sinhalese population was 4.6million.
Justice Wigneswaran may also like to ask on what existing grievance did it necessitate for Tamils to demand a separate Tamil state from the British Empire when the British and NOT the Sinhalese were ruling Sri Lanka? Why did Tamils create an ethnic-based political party the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944 if Tamils wanted to live in peaceful co-existence? Why did the Tamils refuse the British policy of one-man/one-vote system? More importantly if the Tamil-speaking communities can co-exist with the majority without making extremist demands why is it that ONLY the Jaffna Tamils demand special rights to live in peace and harmony? When Justice Wigneswaran joins the chorus of TNA asking claiming the armed forces are a nuisance and demanding that they go, we are simply shocked that a former Justice would treat with ridicule the magnanimous effort that sacrificed thousands of lives to save so many Tamil people who are today going about their affairs without fear and when Justice Wigneswaran from Colombo says the military is interfering he is completely off track because the body language of the people in the North does not say anything of what the nicely living Colombo Tamils are claiming to exist in the North.
Justice Wigneswaran as a very senior lawyer and Judge you may like to tell us with what logic you can argue that it is a human rights grievance for supposed “Sinhala Only” to prevail but when “Tamil Only” was declared in 1990 by LTTE in a defacto area created by them with own post-offices, currency/notes, stamps, court houses etc… it met the approval of the Tamils?
Where Justice Wigneswaran attempts to show a bogus grievance scenario we can show with evidence how Tamils were discriminating their own! The best example is the manner they watched Tamil police officers on duty being gunned down.
So on what basis does Justice Wigneswaran argue on the need to build TRUST when all the while Tamils are either covertly or overtly attempting to separate and declare a Tamil Homeland? Are we to be foolish and buy the slogans that attempt to disguise these end objectives?
Justice Wigneswaran, if Tamils want to live in a land of their own when that land is across the Palk Strait where politicians are ever ready to garland their brethren why are Tamils fleeing to western hemispheres and not Tamil Nadu. Going to the West they have to lock up their Tamil language and learn French, Spanish, German etc….so is there no grievance about learning these languages and being denied the right to work in Tamil?
How would standardization have remotely affected Prabakaran who did not even study beyond O/L and neither did his other school dropouts to bemoan the issue of university entrance? Did the elite Tamils most of whom wanted to continue the rigid caste system of keeping Tamil low castes enslaved under the Tamil Vellala’s who objected to Tamils from Batticoloa and other areas gaining university admission. Come clean on these lies that are being spread unnecessarily to hide the truth.
Prabakan broke away from the caste by converting
The only way that most “low caste” Tamils were able to revolt against the caste was through the gun and by converting which explains why many of the LTTE were only namesake Hindus whilst most had even changed their names. Count the suicide cadres both female and male to see how many would have been converted which facilitated their indoctrination to sacrifice their life. People of the Book are those thinking themselves martyrs for committing suicide.
So who does Justice Wigneswaran the TNA common candidate really represent?
We are certainly perplexed. It is not difficult to conclude that TNA does not represent ALL Tamils just as LTTE did not represent ALL Tamils though LTTE were All Tamil. In terms of numbers we need to realize that the society in which Tamils live, the worship of the high castes by the low castes still remains inspite of the massive numbers of new rich Tamil expats who have created a new social block outside of the rigid system that existed. These new rich are all the while looking for economic opportunities and even if they can manipulate political opportunities they are ever ready to join the bandwagon – yet the tussles amongst the Tamil Diaspora groups also reveal inner caste chaos though that is hidden from global lens more so because the West cannot understand how caste functions. Yet Tamil Nationalism cannot hide caste wars!
Therefore can Justice Wigneswaran tell us with the caste factor amongst them how can devolution provide a solution to this supposed divide because even Prabakaran used Tamils as his child soldiers and cadres but what can the TNA show to have done differently? When we are well aware that a Tamil Homeland exists in Tamil Nadu run by Tamils for Tamils why are there 11million of untouchables amongst the Tamils and Tamils live in poverty and suffer hunger and malnutrition?
Please also answer how;
· In a “Sinhala” state – how is it that Muslims and Tamils make up more than 2/3 the population in Colombo?
· In a “Sinhala” state – how is it that the main wholesale trading is virtually run by either Muslims or Tamils?
· If Buddhists run Sri Lanka why is the commercial activity of Sri Lanka in the hands of non-Buddhists and in the capital itself the Sinhalese remain the minority populace?
· In a “Sinhala” state – how is it that Tamils and Muslims can purchase property, land and live wherever they like but when a Sinhalese want to live in the North it is termed as “colonization”?
· In a “Sinhala” state – how is it that no Tamil, Muslim child is denied education in any school be it national, international, semi-private etc?
· In a “Sinhala” state – where does it deny Tamils or Muslims employment in either Public or Private sector because of their ethnicity? Yet, do Tamils and Muslims not openly declare they do not sell to Sinhalese (Buddhists), they do not employ Sinhalese (Buddhists)
Justice Wigneswaran in the interview also bemoans the fact that “people from outside are going to be brought in” and that “outside people are going to take land” – going by the same argument Justice Wigneswaran may like to count the number of Tamils who have bought land outside their supposed “homeland” and who reside amongst the Sinhalese in their indigenous land. Should the Sinhalese then ask these Tamils to vacate?
Justice Wigneswaran brings up Singapore to showcase a perfect nation that treats minorities – well he is just absolutely wrong. Lee Kwan did not tolerate political dissent particularly ethno-political dissent – Is that not what TNA is all about? Public debates on ethnic rights are banned in Singapore, restrictions prevails on open discussions about race and religion, ethnic minorities cannot concentrate in residential areas of their choice, apartments are allocated on the basis of ethnic ratios so that the country’s ethnic majority remains the majority in all residential areas and to prevent formation of ethnic enclaves – you do not see ONLY Tamil apartments like in Colombo or even ONLY Tamil areas and ONLY Muslim areas. The best example that Singapore adopts is that selling to OTHER ethnic groups is PROHIBITED. This is what Justice Wigneswaran does not want to do in the North but he does not object to Tamils buying land and residence in Sinhala areas.
In August 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Singapore confirmed that
· Malays are NOT allowed to join some sections of the armed forces,
· Job advertisements specifically say “Mandarin-speaking” even for jobs that do not require it – just like the foreign NGOs in Sri Lanka specifically use conversant in Tamil knowing that Sinhalese would not qualify.
· Singapore Government is encouraging influx of Chinese nationals to counter the growth of Malay Singaporeans.
· Jehovah’s Witnesses are banned in Singapore and members if found are imprisoned. Sri Lanka has yet to address this.
· The Special Rapporteur confirms that “Malay individuals continue to be underrepresented in senior positions of the armed forces, the police and intelligence services as well as in the judiciary”.
Since Justice Wigneswaran praises Singapore system, Sri Lanka’s politicians may adopt similar policies for then Sri Lanka would certainly go the way Singapore is developing MINUS ethnic-politics of the nature that exists now hampering all development and breaking all peace.
The credibility factor
When anyone garlands a picture of Prabakaran no one can blame us for wondering if the person harbors the same sadist terrorist tendencies that warrant him to worship a man responsible for killing thousands and denying fundamental right of education to the scores of children he trained as child soldiers. Similarly, no one can blame us for harboring resentment against the TNA for enough of evidence suffices to prove its connection to the LTTE so when Justice Wigneswaran garlands the picture of Chelvanayagam the imported Christian the architect behind the separatist agenda from whom LTTE borrowed to justify its terror, no one should blame us for the mistrust and doubt arisen following a former Supreme Court judge joining a band of separatists claiming to be fighting for democratic rights. Doubts are further heightened by the fact that in 2011 Justice Wigneswaran prior to joining the TNA as its common candidate held the view that “I do not see any possible solution to the ethnic conflict immediately, unless extraneous pressure, inland or foreign, compels the powers that be to relent.” which simply says he’s the best man for the TNA job given that Justice Wigneswaran holds that other than “a handful of persons like Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne, Mr. Weliamuna and a few others the majority of Sinhala masses do not want a solution”.
In this same interview in 2011, when asked what exactly the Tamils want, Justice Wigneswaran says that the “Tamil-speaking people want to look after their affairs themselves. In legal terminology that is the right of self-determination. They want to be governed in the North and East in their language. They want to go back to the land of their forefathers from temporary living quarters provided by whomsoever. They want their security, law and order to be in the hands of their siblings and progeny not in the hands of outsiders”. – why then Justice, are Tamils living more amongst the Sinhalese or using whatever slogan they can come up with to live overseas amongst “outsiders”?
Justice Wigneswaran also says “they want their lands and properties to be administered by themselves; not by outsiders”. They want to elect their own representatives without being dictated to by outside agencies, military power or financial power or administrative power. They need to preserve their language, culture, religions and their way of life without outsiders building statues and vihares in their midst with military might. They need to be freed from mercenaries amongst their midst who plunder and rob at the instigation of outside agencies” How are close to 1million Tamils preserving their language and culture functioning in a foreign language in Canada, France and Germany?
When Justice Wigneswaran lights a lamp at the Memorial of Chelvanayagam and says “My suggestion is that a federal constitution is the best for our country” and that “Federalism is what the non-violent Chelvanayagam asked” we know where he and TNA is going.
The most alarming part of the interview which fits the puzzle in toto is when Justice Wigneswaran says “Of course the Indo-Lanka Accord could be a starting point” – We would like to have archaeological and historical proof that a separate Tamil civilization existed in the North to remotely consider a separate identity given that annually more Tamils either attempt to go overseas or move residence to live amongst the Sinhalese.
If the Judiciary is to function as an independent body the laws need to ensure that no judge upon retirement takes up politics as a profession because this is likely to create further tensions than providing solutions because they would vye for this post-retirement job vacancy.
More than anything we are very hurt that Justice Wigneswaran choses to speak of the Sri Lankan armed forces as being a nuisance and interference when they lost life and limb to bring peace to us from LTTE terror – no one has any right to belittle that achievement.