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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Chandrika & the Tamils

Raj Swarnan, October 1998

In an interview given to a foreign correspondent, the Sri Lankan President, Her Excellency Madam Chandrika Kumaratunge revealed that "Tamils are not originals to this country". This interview was telecast on the state television, Rupavahini, and viewed by many people.

Regarding the President's statement, the secretary general of All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam wrote an article in the Tamil Dailies, Thinakkural and Virakesari and also in Sunday Leader, a weekly English news paper.

In his article, he stated that "commenting on the issue whether Sinhalese or Tamils came to Sri Lanka first, is like asking whether the hen or the egg came first". This article appeared on 26th September 1998 in Thinakkural.

Regarding his article I wrote a reply on 5th October 1998, stating that comparing the "hen or egg" question with "Sinhalese or Tamils" may not be appropriate. "Hen or egg" comparison may be correct when we do not know about both things, that is, neither about the hen nor the egg.

But here in this case, it is clear that the Sinhalese history starts after King Vijaya, whereas the history of the Tamils is still not clearly known. Even Paul E.Peiries, a Sinhalese historian states that there were Tamils and Hindu settlements in Sri Lanka long before Vijaya's arrival. And also he confirms the presence of 5 Eeswaras in pre-Vijaya history.

So, it is clear that Sinhalese are not 'originals' to this country.Then who are the original people of this country? That question has to be answered by historians. What is important is that Sinhalese are not the originals to this country. Tamils may be small in number, but one cannot say that they are not 'originals' to this country. It is not the fact that the majority people are the originals of a country. (e.g. Australia, America, Mauritius, Fiji etc...)

The reason for the President to make such a statement is very clear. The particular interview was given by the President during her South African visit recently. The President wanted to create a false picture about the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. That is, she wanted to compare that to the South African struggle and tell the South African majority black people that in Sri Lanka also, a minority people, Tamils, like the South African Whites, are fighting with an innocent majority, the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Thus, creating a false image about the Tamils of Sri Lanka among the South African government and public.

After many articles appeared in the Sri Lankan press accusing the President for making a statement like this, she suddenly changed her tone and said in Kandy that "the historians tried to change the history and that created the ethnic conflict".

After nearly a month, the Director of Information, Mr.Ariya Rupasinghe, sent a letter of denial to the Tamil Newspapers that the President never made such a statement and it is baseless to accuse the President that she made such a statement. He also pointed out that one cannot even imagine that President Kumaratunge would make such a statement, as she knew the history of Sri Lanka better than any others.

Such a denial was also published in the Sunday Times (South African newspaper) sent by the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in South Africa, His Excellency Gamini Munasinghe.

..... a copy of the video cassette of the interview telecast on Rupavahini, where Her Excellency Mrs.Kumaratunge stated that "only a minority group is fighting for a separate homeland, who are not even originals to this country", is in the possession of the ACTC General Secretary Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam. The denials by H.E Gamini Munasinghe and Mr.Ariya Rupasinghe are incorrect and it is notable that the President never denied that she made such a statement until today.

Therefore the international community should understand that   successive Sinhala leaders have continuously denied that the Tamil People are the originals and have used that as a reason for denying them equal rights.True, that we never expected a statement like this from President Kumaratunge, but we now regret for our foolishness to cast a valuable vote to her and elect her with an unprecedented majority of 62% votes.


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