Brian Senewiratne, Australia
One Party State in Sri Lanka:
Political Ideology - Anti Tamil
31 October 2005
"...Recent revelations have confirmed that
there may be several political parties in the Sinhala South, but only one
ideology – being anti-Tamil. There is the right wing United National Party
(UNP), the supposedly socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the
so-called “Marxist” Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Marxists of
yester-year, the Lanka Sama Samaga Party (LSSP), the political party of
not-so-clean-shaven men in yellow robes, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and
many more of their ilk. In reality they are all different names for one
party policy – anti-Tamil. .."
Recent revelations have confirmed that there may be several
political parties in the Sinhala South, but only one ideology – being
anti-Tamil. There is the right wing United National Party (UNP), the supposedly
socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the so-called “Marxist” Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Marxists of yester-year, the Lanka Sama Samaga
Party (LSSP), the political party of not-so-clean-shaven men in yellow robes,
the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), and many more of their ilk. In reality they are
all different names for one party policy – anti-Tamil.
The only difference between these parties is the degree of their
‘anti-Tamilness’. It extends from the extreme anti-Tamil chauvinism of the JHU
based on a ‘pure’ Sinhala-Buddhist State, followed closely behind by the
anti-Tamil JVP based on political opportunism which has replaced their Marxism,
the ‘not-to-be-left-behind’ ex-Marxists in the LSSP, and the anti-Tamil stance
of the two main Sinhala parties, the SLFP and the UNP. Every one of these
parties without exception tries to outdo each other in their ‘anti-Tamilness’ to
secure the electoral support of the Sinhala majority which they hope will propel
them to political power (the passport to mega-corruption in Sri Lanka).
This anti-Tamil game has been played since Independence, indeed well before
that. While still under British rule, Sinhala politicians even decided to have a
pan-Sinhalese Board of Ministers, excluding the Tamils despite the fact that
they had some outstanding Tamil politicians supporting the Government, some even
in it. The alarm bells should have rung then. However there is no point in bells
ringing if there are no ears open to hear them. The ears were shut, and these
included those of the British who were more interested in leaving the country in
the hands of Sinhalese capitalists who would play ball with them. Safeguarding
the interests of the Tamil people was as far from British thinking as was their
land from Ceylon, as it then was.
It is this single factor, this obsessive anti-Tamil populism, that has prevented
the building of a nation. After 57 years of Independence, Sri Lanka is still a
State with two warring nations, a Sinhala nation and a Tamil nation. The country
had been unable to emerge as a single nation thanks to the lack of vision, and
of integrity, of a succession of Sinhala politicians. This has not been
recognized by the international community because of a massive propaganda
campaign mounted by successive Sri Lankan governments, especially in the last
three decades. What exists is a Sinhala-Buddhist State that has effectively
excluded the Tamils who form some 18% of the population.
It is not possible to look at the future without looking at the past. I
therefore make no apology for doing so. In the run-up to Independence, two
groups of anti-Tamil Sinhala chauvinists (Senanayake and Bandaranaike) sunk
their minimal differences and combined to form the UNP. They then sucked in some
‘hopeful’ Tamils (who blindly hoped that a single nation was a possibility), to
present a united front to the British. The British were not unaware of the
ethnic tensions and serious Tamil fears of discrimination under Sinhala rule
after they left, but were ‘happy to be bluffed’.
This charade of Sinhala-Tamil unity started falling apart within months of
Independence when the anti-Tamilness of the Sinhala leadership showed its hand.
In one of the first acts of Independent Ceylon, a million Plantation Tamils were
disenfranchised and decitizenised in one of the worst acts of political savagery
in modern times, indeed of any time.
A few Tamils saw the writing on the wall and split from the UNP to form the
(Tamil) Federal Party recognising that a Federal Tamil State was necessary for
co-existence with the Sinhalese.
Following the breakup of Senanayake’s UNP because of the personal ambitions of
one man, S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, the current President’s father, the Sinhala voter
had a choice between a blatantly anti-Tamil SLFP under Bandaranaike and the
equally anti-Tamil UNP under Senanayake. Political power has regularly
oscillated between the UNP and the SLFP based, not on any material difference in
policy, but on the degree of anti-Tamil measures on offer to the Sinhala
As the anti-Tamil measures adopted by successive Sinhala ‘leaders’ came into
effect, the numbers in the Tamil Federal Party swelled and the demand for a
Federal Tamil State was replaced by a call for a Separate Tamil State, Eelam.
Eelam is effectively the creation of Sinhala politicians with no vision and no
interest in nation-building.
The blatant anti-Tamil stance of the SLFP under Bandaranaike, his wife and
daughter have been matched by a similar anti-Tamil stance by the UNP under
Senanayake, Jayawardene and Wickremasinghe (all of them kinsmen).
Over the years, Tamil political parties have merely been suckers who have been
conned into supporting one or other of the main Sinhala parties, which were
trying to get into power and then being ignored once they did.
The plight of the Tamil civilians has been pathetic. They have been subjected to
mass murder, bombing with a total destruction of their property, rape, arrest
and detention without charge or trial, “disappearances”, torture – in fact every
human rights violation that has filled the publications of internationally
credible human rights organizations for the past three decades. Even the former
UN Secretary General has expressed concern at what has been done to the Tamil
people. Yet, the world has done nothing other than to arm the Sri Lankan
Government to bomb and kill its own people.
With a succession of General Elections in the recent past, I have repeatedly
pointed out that Sri Lankan Elections are to elect a Sinhala Parliament – the
Tamils being no more than spectators, if that.
The country now faces a Presidential Election to elect a Sinhala President. It
is not an issue for the Tamils although they are nearly a fifth of the
population. The two leading Sinhala candidates – Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse, the SLFP nominee, and ex-Prime Minister Ranil Wckremasinghe, the UNP
nominee, are as anti-Tamil as each other.
Rajapakse’s anti-Tamil stance has been obvious, made even more so after he
signed a pact with the anti-Tamil extremists in the JVP and JHU. The blatant
anti-Tamil acts of the out-going President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,
the leader of Rajapakse’s party, are too well known to be detailed here. Her 12
year rule has been described as the worst the country has ever had. If her
nominee, Rajapakse, succeeds her in next week’s ballot, it will be more of the
same, perhaps worse.
From the other side of the Sinhala political divide, Wickremasinghe’s anti-Tamil
stance, has recently been clearly exposed by two UNP stalwarts. Naveen
Dissanayake, the son of a former UNP Presidential hopeful, has recently boasted
that it was the UNP which engineered a split in the Tamil Tigers by ‘arranging’
for the renegade Tiger commander Karuna to break away from the Tigers. The
report claims that this had the full support of Wickremasinghe who had signed a
Peace Pact with the Tigers and was supposedly negotiating with them.
The sordid details are interesting but of little importance. One of
Wickremasinghe’s nominated MPs, a Muslim from the volatile East, ‘arranged’ the
split in the Tamil Tiger camp by offering various rewards to a Tiger leader from
the East to break ranks. The MP has left the country for greener pastures, so
has the family of the renegade, now luxuriating in a house in Malaysia,
generously provided by the Sri Lankan government using tax-payers’ money. What
has been left behind is a complete mess in the East, the new ‘killing fields’ of
Sri Lanka. In effect a match was tossed into a tinder box, which was the
ethnically volatile East. The ethnic flames may well be uncontrollable, even
with the unlikely possibility of the introduction of an international
peace-enforcing force. Such are the irresponsible acts of Sri Lankan ‘leaders’.
Small wonder the country is in a mess. With leaders such as this, who needs
Dissanayake goes on to explain Wickremasinghe’s strategy to deal with the Tigers
– to get the Americans and the Indians to fight the Tigers should the war
restart. Apparently this was arranged with George Bush and Sonia Gandhi when
Wickremasinghe was Prime Minister, despite his peace pact and on-going peace
negotiations with the Tigers. Presumably, inviting the Indians to take the oil
tank facility in Trincomalee on the Eastern seaboard, was part of
Wickremasinghe’s ‘strategy’. The Indians can now be invited to defend their
property, in the process killing even more Tamils than they did when Rajiv
Gandhi marched his troops into Northern Sri Lanka at the invitation of
Wickremasinghe’s kinsman, the then President J.R.Jayawardena. The actors are
different but the games are the same.
Dissanayake’s claims were confirmed by Milinda Moragoda, a close confidante of
Wickremasinghe, who was a member of the UNP government’s negotiating team for
talks with the Tigers between September 2002 and March 2003. If evidence of
Sinhala duplicity is needed, there it is in full measure.
What amazes me, a Sinhalese, with no political barrow to push, or reward to
gain, is that the Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and abroad, still feel that it is
possible for the Tamil people to negotiate with the Sinhala government of
whatever political complexion, to enable them to live in equality, dignity and
safety in the country of their birth. As I have said, the Sinhala political
parties, irrespective of their label, have in effect one political ideology – of
being totally and shamelessly anti-Tamil. This anti-Tamil outfit has now put
forward two Presidential candidates who are two sides of the same coin. ‘Heads”
the Sinhalese win, ‘Tails’ the Tamils lose.
If anti-Tamil candidates are all that the Sinhala polity can come up with, and
the inevitable outcome, an anti-Tamil President and a Sinhala State of which he
is the President, then there can be no alternative to the establishment of a
separate Tamil State, Eelam. It confounds me that .. the international
community, cannot see this stark reality. This article is written in the hope
that they will. A remote possibility, since there are none as blind as those who
will not see.