Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings -  Fr. Chandiravarman Sinnathurai

Transforming Dialectics into Dialogue -
A Humanising Concept

16 December 2006

THE ABOVE PHOTO reveals the venom of demonisation of the so-called enemy � the Tamils. In the heart of the Sri Lankan metropolis; a spitting-distance from the Colonial Central Railway Station, the distorted billboard image of the Tamil leader Mr Prabaharan is portrayed as a monster-Dracula surrounded by skulls of heroes who have given their young lives for liberation. A mocking caricature of the Tamil struggle this is.

The Sinhala people will have no hesitation to vent spleen by throwing tomatoes at the image. Not excluding of course, one would think, of spitting at the image conjoined with racist abuse. They must be muttering the ancient derogatory phrase �Para Demelu� � a catchphrase for belittling the Tamils.

The picture-perfect evidence exposes the hold of the state propaganda on the minds of the masses. It is no doubt having the intended effect on the psychological dynamics of the Sri Lankan society. Invoking the racist ideological atrocities of Mahavamasa and viewing Tamils as �traditional adversaries� are a volatile lethal mix and a mesmerizing violent occupation of the Sinhala Buddhist polity. As a consequence the Tamils have faced persecution, victimisation, death-squads, mob violence and serial pogroms. The Mahavamsa �text of persecution� have ignited emotions and acted simply as a catalyst to conflict. Starting from the top:

a) the presidency ─ guardian of the Buddhist nation;
b) the system of governance ─ protecting and fostering state religion � Buddhism;
c) the armed forces ─ generally viewed as chauvinistic death squads by Tamils;
d) the legal machinery and to all the encompassing government departments and organisations are inherently institutionally racist.

Christian theologians would see such a system as a structural sin. The bias against the Tamils � to put it mildly is, a historical fact[1]. Buddhist clergy has not helped in this regard; Buddhism is singularly a Sinhala Theravada preserve and therefore the saffron-robed politico monks are pre-eminent propagators of the Buddha Sasana consciousness. Put it simply, such a rationale among other racist ideas, locate its core values and ideological components within the following tripartite formula:

1) Dhammadipa � A spatial concept of the island giving historical priority to Sinhala race, Sinhala language, and Therevada Buddhism. Sri Lanka is seen solely as a hallowed Buddhist territory: One race, one language (Sinhala pamanak � Sinhala only) and one religion. Hence the idea of Sri Lanka being a pluralistic society is anathema to the majoritarian system. This is something that the West has chosen to ignore.

Demonopolisation of a single religion (i.e. Theravada Buddhism) and promotion of pluralism has not been seen as the fundamental building block of the peace talk�s agenda. In order to overcome this roadblock to peace, the state of Tamil Eelam is envisioned, as one European academician puts it �to be constituted by history, territory and language but not by one specific religion.�

2) Bhumiputra: Only the Buddhist Sinhalas are seen as the sole sons of the soil. Hence the fiction of a united country and a unitary constitution is all part of a bigger myth. Within a Bhumiputra concept none other than the Sinhalas have claim to the �hallowed� land. Hence, secret colonisation of the Tamil homeland, militarised encroachment, and slow-genocide [2] are all-natural propulsion of such an ideology.

One must be reminded that Sri Lanka was not a one-nation state until it was established as a unitary state under the British in 1833. The prior Colonisers, the Portuguese and the Dutch ruled it as a divided colony. The Tamils had their own Kingdom.

3) Eka Chatta: Devolution as suggested by many pundits is far from orthopraxy. In other words it is utterly unworkable within the Mahavamsa orthodoxy. Centralised power is the only possibility of survival for such an ideology. ( Ref: Schalk: Articles 9 and 18 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka as Obstacles to peace. Uppsala/1990).


Dialogue is absolutely essential for conflict resolution. However, prior to engaging in any open and frank dialogue, one should be mindful to dislodge certain myths. And that is fundamental, only if the dialogue is aimed at transforming conflict, in order to create conditions for peace, justice, good governance, equity, empowerment, human rights and civil liberties. Dialogue of the deaf is not conducive to positive results. When one listens to the other � which can be a painful experience, then slowly doors begin to open, walls begin to crumble, and the demonising fog begins to shift as one begins to see eye-to-eye the humanity of the other.

"We are not chauvinists. Neither are we lovers of violence enchanted with war. We do not regard the Sinhala people as our opponents or as our enemies. We recognise the Sinhala nation. We accord a place of dignity for the culture and heritage of the Sinhala people. We have no desire to interfere in any way with the national life of the Sinhala people or with their freedom and independence. We, the Tamil people, desire to live in our own historic homeland as an independent nation, in peace, in freedom and with dignity." Velupillai Prabaharan


Peace study scholars, negotiation practitioners and conflict resolution facilitators have identified the following three small mistakes that can be big hindrance to Dialogue:

1) There is a general assumption that all conflicts are based on misunderstandings that there is always blame on both sides. There is no evidence for believing that this is always the case. It is really an assumption. It is an unfounded assumption that could only be made by people who do not suffer under injustice and oppression or who do not really appreciate the sinfulness and evil of what is happening.

2) There is an argument that a person can be neutral in all cases of conflict. In fact neutrality is not always possible, and in cases of conflict due to injustice and oppression, neutrality is totally impossible. If we do not take sides with the oppressed, then we are, albeit unintentionally, taking sides with the oppressor, because it enables the status quo to be maintained; it hides the true nature of the conflict, keeps the oppressed quiet and passive without justice and it brings about a pseudo-peace without justice. The injustice continues and everybody is made to feel that the injustice does not matter because the tension and conflict have been reduced.

3) There is a commonly held view that one should always seek harmony and a �middle way� in every dispute (especially if you happen to be Christian). It assumes that tension and conflict are worse evils than injustice and oppression. This again is a false supposition based upon a lack of compassion who suffer under oppression. Such a view supports reconciliation only to justify a form of escapism from the realities of injustice and conflict.  [Jim Stutzman and Carolyn Schrock-Shenk: � Skills for Conflict Transformation Lecture Notes.]

In the final analysis, the insistent pursuit of an illusory neutrality in every conflict is a way of siding with the oppressor.


Sri Lanka has to take seriously the responsibility of building peace with Eelam Tamils and avoid playing �Tom and Jerry�. Its implicitly clear that military solution is not the answer. The International community ought to put in place an arms embargo to Sri Lanka if they are genuinely concerned of the human rights record. It is tragic that only the opposite has happened thus far while over 700,000 innocent Tamils are facing economic, food and medicine embargo in the North-East Tamil territory even as we write. While on the other side, Sri Lanka�s war economy has created many mushrooming war millionaires! 

Any reasonable Dialogue has to first consider overcoming the foundational problem: the above mentioned tripartite formula: Dhammadipa, Bhumiputra, Eka Chatta. Without that fundamental change, all else will be cosmetic and farcical. Dehumanisation and demonisation of Eelam Tamils will not solve one iota of the crisis.


[1] http://www.tamilnation.org/conferences/cnfCA99/avis.html

[2] http://www.tamilnation.org/saty/060902chargeisgenocide.htm



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