BUDDHIST ETHNO nationalism
- Masquerading as Sri Lankan 'Civic Nationalism'
Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa's Theory of
Interviewed (appropriately enough) by the Hindu Chief Editor N.Ram, 7 July 2009
my theory is: there are no minorities in Sri Lanka, there are only those
who love the country and those who don�t... No way for federalism in
this country. For reconciliation to happen, there must be a mix [of
ethnicities]. Here the Sinhalese, the Tamils, and Muslims inter-marry.
In my own family, there have been mixed marriages: Sinhalese with
Tamils, Sinhalese with Muslims. This is Sri Lankan society..."
Comment by tamilnation.org
Rajapaksa's genocidal record, it seems that his theory of
reconciliation may be simply stated: kill off as many Tamils as
you can and then marry those that remain alive. It is this Sinhala society which
President Rajapaksa seeks to pass off as a Sri Lankan society - albeit with a
Sinhala Lion flag , with an unrepealed
Only Act, with
Buddhism as the state religion, and with the Sinhala
name 'Sri Lanka' which the Sinhala majority
gave the island
unilaterally in 1972
President Rajapaksa says that 'there
are no minorities in Sri Lanka, there are only those who love the
country and those who don�t.' Perhaps he may want to attend to the words of
the Bengali poet and writer Pramatha Chauduri, more than 80 years ago -
" To love a country means to love its people because human beings
love other human beings. If there is someone who loves, not humans
but the soil, then we can conclude that he is no human but a slab of
inanimate matter. Science after all, has discovered a law under
which matter attracts matter inexorably and blindly... A Bengali is
kin to another Bengali because, in the field of mind, the link of
language is like a link of blood."
To love a country means to love its people because human
beings love other human beings - not a slab of matter. And the link of
language is like a link of blood. But then this not unknown to a
Sinhala ethno nationalism which seeks to masquerade as 'Sri Lankan civic
"...In the Sinhala language, the words for nation, race and people
are practically synonymous, and a
multiethnic or multicommunal
nation or state is incomprehensible to the popular mind. The
on Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhala Buddhists carried an emotional popular appeal,
compared with which the concept of a multiethnic polity was a meaningless
abstraction..." [Sinhala Historian K. M. de Silva in Religion, Nationalism and
the State, USF Monographs in Religion and Public Policy, No.1 (Tampa, FLA: University of
South Florida 1986) at p31 quoted by David Little in Religion and Self Determination in
Self Determination - International Perspectives, MacMillan Press, 1996]
In the Sinhala language, the words for nation, race and people are
practically synonymous, and a
multiethnic or multicommunal
nation or state is incomprehensible to the popular mind. And President
Rajapaksa, if nothing else, is a populist tuned to the popular Sinhala mind. Hence 'there are no minorities'.
Hence there is 'no way for federalism'. Hence, inter marriage is the answer to
the question of reconciliation - together with,
opera reforms of the 13th Amendment which will enable an executive
Governor appointed by a Sinhala President to rule the Tamil areas.
Meanwhile give the Tamils in prison camps access to cricket commentaries in Tamil!
President Rajapaksa is clearly a thinking man and we cannot deny the internal logic of
his thinking. It
has to be said that President Rajapaksa has made no mean contribution to
theory and the practise of ethnic cleansing. [see also
Indictment Against Sri Lanka -
The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils ]
The human drama of some 300,000 Tamils fleeing the LTTE in the weeks before its
elimination as a military force moved the world as it watched in shock, awe, and
eventually great relief. What is their present condition in the Vavuniya IDP
camps and what will be their future? And what is the nature of the political
solution Sri Lanka�s government has in mind? President Mahinda Rajapaksa
responds to N. Ram �s questions in this first part of an extended interview to
The Hindu in Colombo. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President,
participated in the conversation, filling in some details and adding his
insights. P.M. Amza, Sri Lanka�s Deputy High Commissioner in Southern India, was
also present during the June 30 meeting at Temple Trees, the former official
residence of Prime Ministers.
N. Ram: Mr. President, are you satisfied with conditions in the Vavuniya IDP
camps where close to 300,000 Tamils are housed?
President: I sent some people close to me to the camps. They went and stayed for
several days. They spoke to the girls, the Tamil children, and others. And they
came and reported to me. I don�t rely on information only from the officials. We
released people over 60. You know, a 74-year-old man, when he was released he
immediately came here and went to Singapore. He was the man who had the money
list, the other list. [Velupillai] Prabakaran had given lists to many, not to
just one person. This man escaped; he was one of the leaders.
I would say the condition in our camps is the best any country has. We supply
water. There is a problem with lavatories. That is not because of our fault. The
money that comes from the EU and others, it goes to the NGOs and the U.N. They
are very slow; disbursing money is very slow. We supply the water tanks; we have
spent over [Sri Lankan] Rs. 2 billion. Giving electricity, giving water, now we
are giving televisions to them. They have telephone facilities. Schools have
been established. Some of the leaders are using mobile phones.
I had a special meeting on the disposal of waste. I sent a special team of
specialists to see how mosquitoes can be eradicated.
We know there are shortcomings. Slowly, we have to overcome them. In some camps
there are no problems. What these people I sent told me: they are satisfied with
the housing, the shelter. They have undergone much worse conditions earlier
[when they were under the LTTE�s control]. Their problem is movement, freedom of
movement. Since there are security concerns, I don�t know how to do that
So I said: �We have to identify these people. So if anybody takes the
responsibility, we are ready to send them.� We have called an all-party meeting
for Development and Reconciliation. The reconciliation part, all parties must
participate. The TNA [Tamil National Alliance] must participate.
Resettling displaced Tamils
NR:Why can�t more Tamil IDPs be sent back to the places they hail from,
provided of course their security and wellbeing can be assured? Why not a grand
gesture of sending tens of thousands of people to safe places where they can be
looked after � at this stage, in the Eastern Province, the Jaffna Peninsula, and
the Indian Tamil areas?
President: You must remember it is only one month, my friend. I said on the 20th
of May that as soon as possible, we must send them to places where they can
stay. My problem is that we have to get the certificate of de-mining from the
U.N. We have already sent people back to several places; you can get the
details. As soon as we get the clearance, I�m ready to do that. But before that
I must get the clearance from the U.N. about the de-mining. I can�t send them to
a place without basic facilities. Now we�re spending on electricity, on roads,
on water. We can�t send them back to a place where there are just jungles. Every
square centimetre has been mined by the LTTE. If something happens, I am
Lalith Weeratunga (Secretary to the President; LW): Sri Lanka is adopting a very
good system. We are de-mining the paddy fields first; then you can get into rice
cultivation. The other thing is that the U.N. has been so slow in de-mining.
It�s the Indian companies that have been doing the good work.
President: And the [Sri Lankan] Army. They�re doing the best work.
My personal feeling is that as soon as possible, we have to re-settle these
people. We have to send them to the villages. But my problem is that to provide
security for them, I will have to recruit another 200,000! I don�t want to do
that. Now I am recruiting Tamils to the Army and the police. I was always for
that. I said: �Have a Muslim regiment and a Tamil regiment.� All these people
started opposing it for political reasons: �No Muslim regiment, no Tamil
regiment.� Not by the Sinhalese who welcomed that, but by the Tamils, by the
You know, the mothers of our soldiers � some of them though their sons had been
killed by the LTTE � when we told them that these people [Tamil civilians
fleeing the LTTE] were coming and we must send them food and meet their other
basic needs, these mothers contributed. The mothers of ex-soldiers contributed.
Bikkus contributed. But not some Tamil businessmen. I had to remind them, shout
at them, plead with them to get that support.
NR: Another issue is three doctors under detention: one may be an LTTE man; the
other two are government doctors. Why can�t they be released now?
President: I told them to organise a press conference. Let the doctors come and
say what they have to say.
LW: They were lying through their teeth [about civilian casualties in the No
Fire Zone]. And they are public servants, paid by the government. If they go
scot-free, it will set a very bad precedent.
President: Everybody is worried about the doctors. So let them explain to the
public, to the journalists, who can question them, why and on what basis they
said what they said. Let the pro-LTTE journalists also question them.
The question of Tamil leadership
NR: How do you see the post-Prabakaran situation evolving politically?
President: My view is this. Most Tamil people believed they had a leader �
whether he was right or wrong. This man [Prabakaran] made them proud. It was a
ruthless organisation, it killed people, those are all immaterial for others.
They thought: �There is a leader who is keeping us up in the world.� Suddenly
that leadership vanished, after thirty years. Immediately they couldn�t digest
it. Many of them know he was wrong. It will take time. Some of these people, the
older people, can�t accept it yet. Still the Internet � �KP� [Selvarasa
Pathmanathan, the former head of the LTTE�s �Department of International
Relations� and chief arms procurer who is at large and on Interpol�s most wanted
list] and the rest are sending messages, right? �You don�t worry, the
organisation is still there,� and so on. Their propaganda machinery is alive, to
get the money. Things that they bought individually, they are not giving it.
There are Sinhalese businessmen here who invested the LTTE money. We know it but
various powerful people protected them.
My fear is this. Now, to collect money again, somebody will have to plan
something here. Just one incident. Just to upset the world and then to show they
have started the movement � so that they can continue to collect the money. They
think that will help. But we are very vigilant.
In this whole thing, we have to think aloud. I have warned my party people, all
party people, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, that �I don�t want any
statement, anything that creates a disturbance among our three communities.� Now
my theory is: there are no minorities in Sri Lanka, there are only those who
love the country and those who don�t. They tried to twist that but I still
maintain that position.
NR:That was in your speech of May 19.
President: Yes, in Parliament. And in my Parliament speech, I spoke in Tamil
also. And I spoke only in Tamil when I gave a small message when we started the
new ITV Tamil channel, Vasantham.
LW: The public service is learning Tamil. Some are following courses of 40 hours
of spoken Tamil.
President: I learnt that in one school the master said: �If the President can
learn Tamil, why can�t you all? You are students. You must learn Tamil.� We are
paying people in the public service for learning Tamil, to encourage them.
LW: There is a one-time payment if you pass Tamil. But if they go for classes
also we pay. H.E. [His Excellency] has issued a directive that with effect from
July 1 we will not recruit people to the public service unless they know Tamil �
and vice versa, that is, Tamils must know Sinhala, Sinhalese must know Tamil.
President: Let them learn, let them learn. I can remember that in 1970 as a
young MP I said that we must teach all Sinhalese Tamil and all Tamils Sinhala.
If that had happened, I think there would have been a different world.
Comment by tamilnation.org
" Much is made in Singapore of how policies are egalitarian,
especially the ethnicity policy. But an example from the literature
on North America, French in Canada, may be apt. In French Canada
(and in adjacent parts of New England) the French language is spoken
by a minority of about 5 million, surrounded by a sea of 270 million
English speakers. In that situation, the Qu�b�cois express the
feeling (LaPonce, 1987) that legal egalitarianism is simply not
enough, and have attempted to legally restrict and diminish the
domains of English within the French-speaking territory. Though this
enrages many English Canadians, who feel that egalitarianism is what
the law requires, and is inherently fair, the francophones, however,
contend that egalitarianism is not equal, because it does not lead
to equal outcomes, but in the case of Canada, to English dominance.
In this situation, the only way to guarantee equal outcomes, that
is, that French speakers will be French-dominant bilinguals, is to
create a “safe haven,” a reserved space for French, so that the
overwhelming dominance of English can be kept at bay. Similarly in
Singapore, the egalitarianism seems to exist only on paper; the
outcome of the policy has not led to the strengthening of Tamil, and
the housing policy has guaranteed that no territory for Tamil will
exist. In the final analysis, egalitarianism is not equality if one
group is ten times the size of the other, whether in North America
or in Singapore. "
Tongue-Tied in Singapore:
A Language Policy for Tamil? - Harold F. Schiffman
In the final analysis, egalitarianism is not equality if one
group is ten times the size of the other, whether in North America
or in Singapore or for that matter in Sri Lanka. And
the continuing Sinhala
colonisation of the Tamil homeland with renewed vigor by the President
Rajapaksa regime is directed to ensure that no territory for Tamil will
exist. And without territory, the Tamil language also will cease to
exist in the island of Sri Lanka - and so too will Tamils as a nation of
NR:There was this famous and prophetic statement in the 1950s [in 1956, when
Sinhala was made the official language]: �Two languages, one country. One
language, two countries.�
President: Yes, by Colvin [Dr. Colin R. de Silva, the LSSP leader who between
1970 and 1975 was a key Minister in the Cabinet of Sirimavo Bandaranaike].
NR:Now about your political solution. You talked about the 13th Amendment plus.
President: I am waiting for them. The TNA representatives must come and
participate in the discussions [on the political solution]. I am getting delayed
because they haven�t done this yet. [On July 2, leaders and representatives of
22 political parties, including the TNA, participated in the inaugural meeting
of the newly constituted All Parties Committee to build a consensus among
political parties for development and reconciliation, giving priority to the
speedy resettlement and rehabilitation of the war-displaced.] I am waiting but
it will be after my [re-]election [as President]. I must get the mandate. After
that, the political solution comes. Even tomorrow I can give that � but I want
to get that from the people. Even today somebody said: �The 13th Amendment. We
are not for�� I called them and gave them a piece of my mind. I called our party
leaders and told them: �Now what I�m going to tell you, you�re not going to tell
anybody. It�s between you and I.� Only party leaders were there. But today a
professor from a university called me to say, �Thank you very much.� I said:
�For what?� He said: �This morning you have warned all the people about racism.
And what you said has been highly regarded. This call is to thank you.� I asked,
�How do you know?� He said: �No sir, I just heard.� This professor, a Tamil man,
had immediately got the news. �Whether it is Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, I am
telling you all. No racism. Don�t try to create problems for me.�
[As for the political] solution, I�m willing. I know what to give and I know
what not to give. The people have given me the mandate, so I�m going to use it.
But I must get these people [the TNA representatives] to agree to this. They
must also know that they can�t get what they want. No way for federalism in this
country. For reconciliation to happen, there must be a mix [of ethnicities].
Here the Sinhalese, the Tamils, and Muslims inter-marry. In my own family, there
have been mixed marriages: Sinhalese with Tamils, Sinhalese with Muslims. This
is Sri Lankan society. No one can change this.
NR:You have this idea of a Second Chamber.
President: Yes, I want to get representatives from the Provinces involved in
national policy-making. And if there is anything against a Provincial Council,
they can protect their powers constitutionally. I have an arrangement in mind �
this is what we call �home-grown solutions� � but the idea needs to be discussed
and the details settled. I don�t want to impose any arrangement.