I have a feeling that we are destroying ourselves without knowing it and the extinct is soon to arrive by our own foolish acts committed without any foresightedness and a frog in the well attitude governed by extremism in both sides of the divide. But I sincerely hope saner counsel prevails in double quick time and set things in order underscoring the human factor.
History – the past seems to be the spectre that is haunting us with precious blood flowing like rivers in a backdrop of a theatre of horror. I think we should at least till we settle ourselves finding space to remove our stances and seek reconciliation, forget about the highly interpretative and dubious history.
Let’s remember however that ‘Hope brigs eternal in the human breast: man never is, but always to be blest’
With that preamble let me introduce to the English reading public what most Lankan Tamilians see as Lankan History. The book is in Thamil and written by Kalabooshanam P.M.Sellathurai from Periya Poaratheevu in the Maddakkalappu district. He is a member of the Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Kadchi (Lankan Thamil Government Party) since its inception. Please note that in Thamil ‘Arasu’ means either State or Government. When the Thamil Arasuk Kadchi was formed, the founders hurriedly translated it as Federal Party instead of a federal Government set up, and failed to explain what they meant by ‘Government’. This had caused trouble and there is a never ending war on the use of the word Federalism.
The writer is a social worker and had been chairman of local councils in the area, and other institutions. He had edited a few journals and authored several books in Thamil. He has written more than 200 articles to the press and received several appellations.
The title of the book is Ilankayin Ina Nerukkadikku Theervu Enna? (What’s the Solution to Lanka’s Ethnic Crisis?). It’s available from Irasamma Pathipakam, Periya Poaratheevu and priced at Rs.200/-per copy. Within the 90 pages, the book has the following chapters:
Lanka, Lanka’s Ruling Dynasty, The Sinhala Race misled by Erroneous History Books, Sinhala Leaders and Joint Rule, Only Two Separate Governments were there from the beginning, The Pristine Mantra called Aiynthiran, The Vijayan Dynasty, A Political Constitution without the consent of the Thamilians, Joint Government and the UNP, The Solution of two Superpowers and What Solution is there for the Ethnic problem. The book also has a bibliography of 41 books mainly Thamil.
The book has a Foreword by Kadiraman Thangeswari. She is an Archaeology Special graduate from Kelaniya University and a former student of Emeritus Professor Senaka Banadaranaike. She had been a State Cultural Officer in the Maddakkalappu District and presently represents the electorate as a Member of Parliament on the Thamil National Alliance (TNA)
She lists why the Thamilians in Sri Lanka are degraded and had lost their equal rights with the Sinhalas. They are:
01. The rise of Sinhala Racism among some and the subjugation of the Thamilians as second class citizens
02. Scheming of some political leaders to make Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist Country
03. Attempt to destroy Thamil and Thamilians in the struggle for political power.
04. Failing in this attempt staging yearly genocide against the Thamilians
05. State Terrorism enforced strongly in destroying the Thamilians.
This columnist doesn’t agree totally the assumptions of MsThangeswari, but yet there is an element of truth in what she says. Just as much as the Thamil people are driven to embrace Thamil Nationalism vis-à-vis Sinhala Nationalism, one must grant that some who claim that the majority community should be the dominant race in the country is a fact. The extremists among them have legitimate reasoning. But the irony is that we are all living in the 21 st century and that there is a world outside our little island that watches our primitive instincts. While the majority of the people in Lanka want to live with amity and peacefully in this blessed Buddhist country, a handful of persons masquerading as if they voice the aspirations of the majority Sinhala people are trying to put the clock back due to their ignorance of the past history and bubbling with enthusiasm to make this country a mono-racial and mono-religious state.
Similarly, once a dormant and collaborative political leadership among the Thamilians failed to convince the worthiness of their community in building up a united nation by explaining and justifying their cause while understanding the reality of the numerical superiority of the largely accommodative Sinhala people. Understanding in realistic terms was missing from both communities and a flagrant atmosphere naturally arose with suspicion of each other.
I have hopes that it is the Lanka’s younger generation understanding the technological world and uniting through the inevitable use of the English language that would bring peace and amity in this country. The exclusiveness of nearly five generations of Thamilians and Sinhalas and Islamites has prevented understanding among people and thinking in parochial terms.
Getting back to Thangeswari, we find that she states that the extremists who rely on the Mahavamsa should know the background behind the writing of this ‘historical document’.
The codification was written in the 6th century A.D. by Bikku Mahanama Thera. It begins only with the history of Lanka from 543 A.D. (the arrival of Vijaya from Kalinga state in India.
Particulars regarding the Thamilians of this country had been hidden and distorted. Historians have pointed this out with evidences.
Further, Thangeswari says that “Vijayan was a Thamilian Prince. When he came to Lanka, there were the Yakkas and the Naagas (Thamilians) already living in this country. Hey were the descendants of the Thamilian King Raavanesan.”
Now let’s see what the writer of the book under review Kaabhhohanam P.M.Sellathurai says. He speaks about the Lost Lemuria continent which comprised Madagascar, India and Lanka and the Maldives He cites an article written by Dr Shiran Deriniyagala in The Island of Feb 20, 1994 where he says that this confederation was in existence before 7000 years. A Soviet researcher had said Australia, Africa, Antarctica, South America, India, Lanka, Indonesia, Java, Sumatra and other places were belonging to the same continent and later were subjected to a deluge and got separated and some portions submerged in the deep ocean.
Lanka was known as Naavalanthevu in ancient Thamil Literature. He also refers to the Late S.Paranavithana’s admission that those who speak Sinhala and Thamil are the descendants of ancient dwellers in this country the Naagas.
The following are the author’s observations:
Devanambia Theesan was the first Thamil king of the country who adopted Buddhism. Bhuvenakabahu (Chenbakaperumal) were Thamilians. Vijayabahu, Vikramabahu, Manaparanan, Gajabahu 1, Bhuvenakabahu 5, 6 and 7 were all Savaites according to Chulawamasa. KirthiSri Rajasinha entered into a treaty with the French signing in Thamil. E.T.Kannagara in his book Jaffna and Sinhala Heritage says that Dutta Gamaini was a descendant of the Naagas.
Hambantota was once linked with the eastern province. Saivaites were living around Kathirgamam. They were Thamilians. When the king adopted Buddhism the people also became Buddhists. Since Sinhala was the language due to Buddhism, the Thamilans also turned Buddhists and Sinhala.
The author writes in similar fashion and it is difficult for me to put in English what he says. However the book reveals so many facts and assumptions that one has to consider them to changing our preconceived notions of extreme nationalism. Once we realize that we are all one people really, speaking different tongues due to the placement in different locations and worshiping different religions, the animosity against each other might vanish. It is the ignorance that pervades amongst us that drives us to continue a wretched war situation.
The writer does not give an answer to the question he posed in the book, but suggests at this point of time what he calls “Inaipaadchi” (Joint Government?) would be the best answer.
I think the legislators in this country belonging to different political parties must meet individually and collectively unofficially and exchange views in a friendly manner some of the issues having an open mind and remembering some of the hidden facts so that a better understanding could develop. The pitiable situation of the Thamil speaking people in this country could be removed only when the 75% of the Sinhala representatives in unison agree to have two friendly administrations.
As a Thamilian I feel sad for my community. As a Sri Lankan I feel disillusioned over the state of affairs.
Let us curb our animosities and feel for the humankind as good Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.