No Problem in Doing Honest Job for Tamil or Sinhala Paymaster

by Sebastian Rasalingam

[This is a response to Mr. Wakely Paul’s article titled “Rasalingam Appropriate Candidate For Sinhala Knighthood” that was posted here on March 5th]

Thank You Mr. Paul.

Looking at the qualifications of Mr. Wakeley Paul I see that he is an extremely distingushed and educated person, with such labels like Cambridge, Stanford, London, New Jersey etc. I salute him because my heart warms to see that people can actually reach such distinction. I will address his letter as best as I can, and with the respect he desreves. I for one was brought up in Jaffna, lived in Mannar, Hatton and Colombo. Thanks to my son I managed to get to Canada for my last days. I managed to get a bit of education because our family were christians, although today I value the richer Hindu tradition (but without its caste system).

In the early days at school I had my own little stool that I took from class to class as I could not aspire to sit on normal-sized chairs. It was in Hatton that I acquired my wife who is from the Indian estate-Tamil community. When I arrived in Colombo I was actually treated with a bit more dignity by the Sinhalese and even the Tamils. Undoubtedly, things have changed a lot today.

In our days we used to cut important articles from newspapers and make scrap books. Some of the books and pamphlets published at that time are also in my possession. So I have a treasure trove of old material that perhaps only historians and archivsts have. However, what I write would be strongly coloured by my personal experience and the somewhat “self-taught” nature of my knowledge. What ever be its short coming, they come from a life experience that is very different to the world from which most Tamil writers (like Mr. Wakeley Paul) come from. This of course implies that I do not accept many things that are accepted as “valid without question” by the Wakeley-Paul stratum of society.

It is indeed true that Mr Ponnambalam Ramanathan (PR), interceeded on behalf of the Sinhala leaders like F. R. Senanayake and Baron Jayatilleke who were senselessly imprisoned after the Sinhala-Muslim riots. In fact, that was how PR affirmed his position as THE Leader of both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. His victory in the 1911 elections was mainly due to the support of Hector Jaywardana, Francis Soyza and other sinhalese. His opponent Dr. H. M. Fernando was deemed a low-caste and did not get the support of the Sinahla leaders. At that time, in the early part of the 20th century, race mattered litlle.
What mattered was that all these people were upper-caste elites of the two communities. PR was a man who even attempted to get the caste system included in the legislative enactments.

The race rivlary began later, mainly with the machinations of Governor Maitland in establishing “communal” representation. Arunachalam Ponnambalam (AP) attempted to use this to carve out a seat for himself in Colombo, and some writers claim that Sir James Peiris and E. J. Samarawikrama “promised to fix it” for him with the Sinhalese (The eminent historian K. M. de Silva disputes this claim),and then later failed to keep to their word. Even if two people “promised it”, what kind of democratic process and what kind of political simple mindedness is it to expect that there would be no contest by others who were not party to such deals?. To make matters worse, AP invited governor Manning to Jaffna, and tried to craft a private deal with the governor. The newspaper magnate D. R. Wijewardene learnt of this (through one of his reporters ?) and managed to get a copy of the secret submisson made by AP. He splashed it in his newspapers, to the utter discomfort of AP. People like AP felt that positions in the legislature were theirs almost by divine right. When that did not materialize, it became “deception”.

I know a bit about plantation workers because I lived in Hatton and got married to one. Mr. Paul says “This insidious scheme by Senanayake [Rasalingam’s hero] to increase Sinhalese representation in the Central Province seems to be lost on Mr. Rasalingam.” D. S. Senanayake’s citizenship act was probabaly drawn up by Ivor Jennings, and it allowed for citizenship to anyone who had 7 years permanent residence. What is the current situation for a Hispanic worker in USA? Is it not surprising that the legislation was considered more than just by the Lords of the Privy council? It was the Indian government which
let down the Indian workers. A tactical politcal decision by Thondaman was that the Indian workers should destroy their passports and become “stateless”. G. G. Ponnambalam who had urged responsible cooperation (since the advent of the Soulbury commission) and became a moderate, supported the citizenship act. He accepted the danger posed by the Marxists who were trying to cut into the state sector.

The main issue brought up by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam in the 1952 election, in his fight against Natesan was the UNP citizenship act. Chelvanayakam lost the election. Simlarly, E. M. V. Naganathan campaigned bitterly against G. G. Ponnambalam in Jaffna, bringing up the Indian citzenship act. Here again Naganathan lost badly. Basically, many Tamil leaders like Natesan and Ponnambalam, and the Tamil voters, did not take the citizenship act in the way Chelvanayakam tried to present it. The Tamils themselves (and not just Senanayake) did not want too many “Indian Tamil” members in parliament. Even the Federal leaders did not want to have much to do with the Indian Tamils, but they saw this as a fine excuse to attack the Tamil Congress. The Jaffna public did not buy it.

In the estate sector, most people totally distrusted the Federal Party Leaders as they had always regarded the Plantation Tamils as a low-caste group who should not have the franchize. In fact, the recommendations of the Donoughmore commission in this regard were brought to nought by the joint action of the caste conscious Tamil leaders in collusion with their Sinhala collegues of the state council.

Mr Paul also raises questions about Senanayake’s colonization policy. This is a favourite emotive issue brought up by the Federal party since 1948. Ponnambalam brought up the same colonization issue in front of Soulbury. Soulbury completely rejected it, and newspapers of the time went to great lengths to point out that more Tamils had come to the south (since the opening of the Railway) and that the Colonial government had acted impartially. However, these questions remained frozen during the war. After independence, the colonization schemes were under Dudley Senanayake. I believe that he too was a man of great integrity who tried to foster a common polity rising above communalism. Dudley had appointed a number of distinguished Tamil civil servants to run the Galoya board, and this allegation of racist colonization is really directed against Dudley and his civil servants. Michael Roberts, an ex-Peradeniya-Australian historian who is reasonably impartial (at least in my view), has discussed these issues in his essay on “Tamil Nationalism, Subjectivites and Issues”. In discussing A. J. Wilson’s book he says “In his brief review of D. S. Senanayake’s policies, in the 1940s he asserts that Senanayake had a concealed agenda’ involving the colonisation of the Tamil homelands (p 71). This is a reiteration of the unsubstantiated verdict presented previously in “Break-up”(1988) where he argues that the land settlement programme ‘set in motion’ by Senanayake constituted a threat to what had hitherto been an UNEXPRESSED right of possession by the Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces as their homelands”. The Soulbury commission had already given the rejection of this, but A. J. Wilson and other Tamil nationalists continue to harp on “rights which they themselvs recognize as “unexpressed”!

Roberts goes on to say, (among other things) that A. J. Wilson has probably “not read B. H. Farmer’s path-finding work, “Pioneer Peasant Colonisation (1957)…he does not attend to the overriding perspective that informed both Senanayake and the key officials who moulded peasent colonisation in the two decades 1935-1955. These men acted as “Ceylonese”. They did not conceive of the Eastern Province or the relevant portions of the Northern province as Tamil districts. Their conceptualization was guided by the distinction between the wet zone and the dry zone….Further, to invest Senanayake with ulterior motives is to treat a whole array of decent and excellent administrators, several of them tamils, as catspaws, fools and/or manipulators. I refer here to such individuals as Edmund Rodrigo, G. L. D. Davidson, Frank Leach, L. J. de S. Seneviratne, Sri Kanthia, K. Kanagasundaram, M Rajendra…(sic)…The historian Roberts goes on to add that “unless new evidence is forthcoming, for the moment we must say that (a) in the…context of the early 20th century most men and women of the western-educated class did not conceive of the Sri Lanka tamils as anything but Ceylonsese; and that (b) any conspiratorial theory that regards colonisation policy in the period 1920s to 1955 as a land-grabbing exercise remains unsubstantiated”

However, the views of Historians, the judgments of the Privy Council, the conclusions of the research sections of the Soulbury commission-none of these will matter to those who have already come to their conclusions because of the poltical beliefs that they have imbibed from their young days, living in
Karuvakkaatu (Cinnamon Gdns).

Mr. Paul points out that “The Vaddukottai resolution (1976) was spearheaded by Tamil students in the North and East who were denied their right to equal access to the Universities.” Right of access to universities may have been very improtant to the children of the Vellar. But let me remind him of what happend just about the same time in Mavattipuram, where Mr. Shanmugathasan (communist party, china wing) led the fight for rights of basic SCHOOL ENTRY for low-caste Tamils. S. J. V. was challanged to re-contest his seat on the caste issue. The Badudeen Mohamed’s minstry should have included quotas and some sort of affirmative action for the depressed castes, and enforced elementary democracy. Tamil society has never been democratic and that is the basic problem why a man like Prabhakaran could thrive.

Mr. Paul says that Senanayake must be one of my heros. I grew up in jaffna and I still remember the smell of the sewers in most parts of Jaffna. That is because Jaffna, although a major city, was prevented from becoming a municipality by the Colombo Tamil leaders. They were the absentee Land Lords who would have to pay extra taxes if Jaffna became a municpality. I believe it was D. S. Senanayake who forced the issue and made Jaffna a municipality.

A “Knight” in the exalted world of Mr. Paul is an honorific given to people of his ilk by the Britsh Raj. In my stratum, a “kutiraikkaran” is just a lower caste job that we have to do, to earn a living.

I don’t see a problem in doing an honest job, be it for a Tamil or Sinhala pay master, as long as I am evaluated on the quality of my work, and NOT on the basis of my caste, race or religion.


  1. raj said,

    March 8, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

    It is the Tamil caste system not Hindu caste system. Even Tamil Christians in Jaffna had followed the caste system. For those of you who did not know, the Iavalai church had a line marked beyond which the lower castes weren’t allowed to go forward ! Another inconvenient truth by humble old Rasalingam living in Caanda under the Canadian welfare system.

  2. raj said,

    March 8, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

    I don’t even know what this guy is ranting about addressing the right of access to universities and the lower caste Tamil people. At least by that time I was schooling with kids who were from all kind of castes. I even had college professors who were from the lower caste. Not that it did matter to me. My best friends were the sons of my barber and my dhoby. My parents did not care. I don’t know what kind of society these Raslaingam’s come from in Jaffna. But then again he is a Jaffna man from that era and he has purified himself by marrying an up-country lady. I am sure he is not going to say that she was a girl picking tea leaves and living in the lines in Hatton !

  3. Sri said,

    March 9, 2008 @ 1:00 am

    Thank You Mr Rasalingam,
    but please look at you yourself. Why did you respond only to Mr. Wakeley Paul despite equally excellent observations and comments from others .Is it not for his qualifications and his standings in society? You exploit caste merely to evoke sympathy to buttress your arguments -a beggars wound!

    You disclose eloquently the causes of your bitterness about the oppressive social order that existed up to the recent past in the Tamil socity in Sri lanka..
    It is understandable!
    But the situation is very different today Mr Rasalingam!.
    The several decade’s long conflict had transformed the traditional Jaffna society and a new egalitarian social order has emerged.
    Now the so called oppressors have to go in procession in bended knees for even small favours before the offspring’s of the past oppressed.

    These are irreversible changes and those humanists who stand for human dignity and equality must thank the conflict for these worthy by-products.

    But you seem to need replies to other points in your articles.
    You seem to be a follower of outdated majoritarian democracy where the minorities including all underprivileged communities have to survive at the mercy of the ruling classes.
    The modern trend is participatory democracy where we have various tiers of governments like municipal councils, village councils etc if you don’t like separate states, autonomous regions, federal and semi federal set ups.
    .The idea is to have different homogeneous groups for gender, caste, tribes and for all economically, educationally and socially backward groups and allow them to address their unique problems democratically

    If Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnampalam Arunachalam fought for communal representations it is not a sin! It is a form of power sharing ct the centre under a unitary set up. You have to call them only farsighted!. Even today many constitutional experts advocate Tamil and Muslim Vice Presidents to the Republic of Sri Lanka as part of a solution to the present conflict.

    Further the standardization system as implemented in Sri Lanka never addressed the caste issues. It was never meant to be an affirmative action for depressed castes, on the contrary it has affected the backward communities in the districts more than the advantaged groups because the elites in each district usually had a monopolistic hold on all resources including educational resources within the districts.

    Moreover the issue at Mavidapuram during the 60s was about temple entry and not about school entry. Why you try to mislead is beyond my understanding.

    Finally Mr Rasalingam,I am sure you are old enough to be above all the petty bickering for positions and posts to compromise on your integrity. Thank you again!

  4. Murugan said,

    March 9, 2008 @ 4:57 am

    Uncle Rasalingam,
    Thank You.
    Your first hand experience of history is very valuable, and I am learning a lot from you, so please write more.

    I think you may have a valid point that it was the SL Tamils who first started communal politics under G.G.P. in (1934).
    Furthermore, you are correct in implying that the SL Tamils (and I would add Sinhalese) would be much better off today if both SL Tamils and Sinhalese had embraced Ceylonese nationalism.

    But here is where your argument falls short:
    If GGP had never embraced communalist politics in 1934, then would it have followed that SWRD would never have embraced communal politics in 1956? No.
    My argument is: The fact that the Sri Lankan Tamil leadership embraced communal politics first is immaterial to whether or not the Sinhalese leadership would have eventually embraced communal politics.

    In other words, Sinhala Buddhist hegemony would have evolved anyways. Even if the SL Tamil leadership had continued to promote ‘Ceylonese’ nationalism, it would not have mattered because the political system was and is still today set up for the Sinhala Buddhists to monopolize power.

    Just think about it:
    1. One man One Vote System Competitive elections
    2. 70% of the electorate is Sinhala Buddhist
    3. Centralized Unitary State.

    It was only a matter of time until a power hungry politician would have mobilized that 70% of electorate based on
    ethnicity & religion.

    Democratic elections provide a great medium for communal rhetoric to spread in a multi-national country that hadn’t yet fully established Ceylonese Nationalism. These centrifugal politics would have naturally emerged during elections. It doesn’t matter who started it.

    My Main point is:
    Whether or not Tamils had embraced ultra-nationalism first doesn’t effect whether Sinhala Only politics would have emerged. The political system in Sri Lanka was set up so that Eventually some SWRD-like political entrepreneur was going to manipulate ethnic/religious differences in order to gain power.

    I don’t want to make you ‘cringe’ uncle, But I will now provide my crudely simplified version of history:
    The country was set up to descend into communalism (explained above) which snowballed into federalism (SJV) then secessionism (TULF) then full out war(LTTE, TELO, PLOTE) and now the formation of 2 de facto states (‘LTTE held territory’).
    -The intransigent 1956 mentality of the elected Sinhalese Leadership has persisted and become more uncompromising since 1956.
    – IT IS THIS stubborn ‘Sinhala Only’ / Sinhala Buddhist IDEOLOGY that has propelled the Tamils to descend from communalism towards federalism then to secessionism. Then armed struggle gained wide support post Black July (which the LTTE provoked by killing 13 soldiers). And armed struggle initially became feasible because Indira armed/trained the Tamil militant groups.
    – And since 1983, LTTE intransigence + continued Sinhala intransigence + 25 years of Eelam War –> has divided the people so far apart that we have nearly become two separate countries fighting one another over borders. (Eelam War III and now in Eelam War IV).

    Rasalingam makes a good point that the Tamils had communal politics long before SWRD. But don’t falsely assume that communal politics is the problem. The root of the Tension in Sri Lanka is not Communal politics itself. The Tension is that Sri Lanka has communal politics without Power Sharing. You can’t have communal politics with One Community (the 70% Sinhala Buddhists) holding 100% of the Power. The monopolization of power by the Sinhala Buddhists continues under the smoke screen of universal suffrage.

  5. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    March 9, 2008 @ 9:55 am

    Mr Rasalingam raises far more questions than what he seeks to answer. From what he writes one must gather R is close to a 100yrs which is why Murugan, in his own useful and readable rejoinder, respectfully calls him “Uncle” R should be congratulated both for his antiquity, if you will, and an alert and entertaining mind.
    Why did you have to carry a small stool from class to class?
    Did you suffer a physical disability? Why do you say “you acquired a wife” taking us back to the days of the Slave trade. R must have been subject to some social stress during those days in Mannar, Jaffna and Hatton for he says “when I arrived in Cbo I was treated with a bit more dignity by the Sinhalese – and some Tamils”
    I realise these questions fall within the realm of the personal domain but Mr R seems to have a mental block with some sections of the Tamil community – caste, social strata etc
    You are right in that Jaffna Tamils – both high and low caste – treated Indian Tamils in general and Estate Tamils in particular
    with some disdain then. The worm has since turned as you will notice to the extent even the more prominent Jaffna families are now vying with each other to establish their Family Tree in Tamilnadu. The Kallathoni, sadly, is now travelling on the reverse journey.
    You are equally right we had strange Tamil leaders in the Temple Entry and other issues. Equally, we had leaders with higher ideals – both from the higher and other castes – who resisted these injustices successfully both legally and on the ground. You say Thondaman asked his people to tear their Passports. But were there PPs then? I thought all you had to do to go to India is to arrive at the Fort Railway Station and buy a ticket to T’Mannar and off you go to Dhanuskodi in Indian soil.
    No hassle of the demeaning Visas then. I have not heard Jennings’ name being mentioned with the drafting of the Indian Citizenship Act – although many suspect Kanthiah Vaithianathan
    (who packed the Foreign/Defence Ministry with his people the Ministry was called Kandiah Grocery Stores, I am told) and GGP to have have lent their wisdom to this Bill. You cite Kingsley de Silva and Michael Roberts – both of whose credentials are questioned by the Tamil intellegentia as to their neutrality.
    “Discovering and re-writing history” is one of the traits of some historians. This why there say “If you need to study serious history on a subject first study the history of the historian himself” In your piece you quote Roberts with the strange notion of Expressed Right of Possession of the East by the Tamils. What is the need for this complication
    when the ancient Temple in Trinco and the Tamil language-cultural traditions have been there for over
    4,000 years. Roberts asked me for evidence through an Australian friend and I asked him to delve into the archives of the Royal Asiatic Society and Paul Peiris’ oration to re-affirm history, which some are working day and night to alter. Our man Nalin de Silva – even as late as last Wednesday in the Island’s Midweek Review –
    insists Tamils came here 400 years ago brought by the Dutch for tobacco cultivation. That is the kind of academics and historians the JVP, JHU, MEP young intellectuals are fed with.
    You have only added fodder to this trail of mis-information by your earlier piece that has been quoted by the chauvinistic fringe here – which is why many of us doubted if you are a Tamil at all. You write as if Badiu din Mahmud would have done the right thing if he was persuaded so – presumably by the Tamil side. Friend, Mrs B’s Govt of 1970 did not want such a course. They simply wanted to reduce the intake of Tamil youth into the Medical, Engineering, Dental, Agriculture Faculties by SOME means. And so was born Prabakaran and company. For God’s sake, get this nonsense of “the Tamil leaders fighting for the right of access to University intake for Vellala children” out of your clearly prejudiced mind. The bulk of the Lankan Tamil youth that entered the University till the early 70s were from non-Vellala families.
    I am beginning to understand your probalem – in a way. Don’t feel too bad about Tamils living in “Karuvakkadu” because here
    too there were/are many non-Vellalas from the Tamil community. Don’t feel too bad if you fall within the “Kuthiraikaran” equation because the days of those strange social distortions and injustices are getting obscurer by the day. It is now, like in Obama’s USA, you are judged by merit and by no other consideration although I must say on the caste equation Tamils still have not reached a 100% clean sheet. We soon will.

  6. Fairplay said,

    March 9, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    This is an Eye opener for all Tamils. Mr.Rasalingam seems suppressed within the Jaffna society and raised his head with dignity when he reached Colombo ; a cosmopolitan society.

    Colombo knew nothing about caste system and I myself have not experienced such discrimination in SL until I came to Canada and became fully aware of such a disgraceful notion and confronted those who tried to influence me into such a phenomena.

    Again, yes ,the Kallathonis are on the reverse path. Those who called the Indian Tamils as “Vadakkathaiyaan” Northerners and ” “Thottakaattaan” Estate coolies are falling at their country and feet for refuge.
    This may be called retribution for the disgraceful treatment of your own origin.

    Colombo Tamils stood neutral for everyone.

    The drawback during the Srima regime was that there were Leaders to represent the Indian Tamils and Jaffna Tamils only.

    Had there been a Leader to represent the Colombo Tamils, like Mano Ganeshan, the state affairs toward Tamils would have turned a different dimension in handling Tamils affairs.

    In fact most from the Northern peninsula would have reached colombo and prospered in all dimensions.


  7. Satheesan said,

    March 9, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

    This is a really good article. Bitter truth for some of our nationalistic friends. Sir, please keep writing to fedealidea forum.

  8. harshana somapriya said,

    March 10, 2008 @ 2:10 am

    #ilaya seran senguttuvan ,
    Do you still consider ‘district quota system for university admissions’ something wrong & worth fighting a war against it?
    I’ll tell you my personal experience. I studied for A/L with two of my friends, one going to a school in Gampaha district & other travelling 5 hours daily to go to an elite school in Colombo. At the A/L exam the friend who went to Colombo obtained higher marks but failed to enter Engineering faculty, but the other with lower marks got qualified under the district quota system. If you look at the table with cutoff marks for each district, you can see how the students from Colombo, Galle & Matara are made to score much much higher marks than to those from Vanni districts, eastern districts & Nuwara Eliya.

    Cutoff marks for 2006/07 are available at: UGC

    But still I do consider this standardization is something positive, because we donot have a school system with equal facilities in Sri Lanka. And since we have a free education even at university level, it is vital that all sections of our country are given a fair chance. ( It is the tax money of all citizens that pay the costs of all graduates)

    It is wrong to say, ‘(govt.) simply wanted to reduce the intake of Tamil youth into the Medical, Engineering, Dental, Agriculture Faculties’. You may not know that there’s a saying among Sinhalese villagers, ‘Kolombata kiri, apata kekiri’, which means that the priority is given to Colombo & the villages are illtreated. This is a measure to allow the poor under previleged rural youth to shackle the barriers & bear the fruits of higher education. It is extremely rude to summarise it as a fascist act of then govt. Those who benefited from it, include students from all communities of this country.
    True, that there are short comings, for example even the students from shanties in Colombo have to take the hightest marks in the island to enter Universities. But since we are a poor country we cannot afford to have perfect systems. What we should strive is to let all who pass A/L to proceed with higher education in areas they like.
    So please don’t try to portray this standardisation process as a pure injustice to Tamils. ( since the students from all communities are in both sides of advantaged & disadvantaged from this system)

    I would like to thank Mr.Rasalingam for writing to this forum. Your views will bring a new dimension to our thinking.
    We can build a strong solution to our problem only on basis of truth. A solution crafted on false foundation will not last long, or bring peace to the unfairly advantaged community.
    Having said all these I have to ascertain my Tamil friends that almost all Sinhalese (90%+) accept that there are specific problems faced by the Tamil community which require fair solutions. What is required is to provide constructive support & stimulus to draft & implement a ‘fair solution’ (or at least to take a single step in the right direction) & to stop the deaths of poor Sinhala & Tamil youths who are dying for the wrongs of others.
    ( who ever started the communal politics first it is the elites of both communities, but those who suffer immensely today are those from the less fortunate groups of both communities)

  9. mihina said,

    March 10, 2008 @ 3:43 am

    Ha Ha ha

  10. bismeth said,

    March 10, 2008 @ 4:27 am

    Re – comment by Ilaya Sevan Senguttavan

    Mr Rasalingam mentioned that Badi’s Ministry should have introduced quotas for depressed classes, referring to non-enfranchised estate workers of Indian origin.However, you grasp the monkey’s tail by referring to the standardised marking system introduced by Badi. Please note that this sytem was introduced to prevent widespread abuse by Examiners from predominantly Tamil areas who made a mockery of the merit system by unfair script markings to give their candidates an advantage over those from the other areas. Now who is distorting facts here, i wonder.

  11. dias said,

    March 10, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

    The truly sad part is not that that our fathers and forefathers royally screwed things up then, but that we – the present generations of Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, and others – are miserably failing to evolve a mutually agreeable formula for now. And it is highly unlikely that we could even come close to talking about practical solutions until we change out mind-sets to think in terms of “we” and “us” – all Sri Lankans – as opposed to “them” vs. “us”. At a time in human evolution where space travel has become a reality for ordinary people, in Sri Lanka, we are still trying to figure out how to merely get along with one-another! What is fundamentally needed is what every religion preaches mutual compassion – a commodity that appears to be in very short supply on the island, especially among warring intellectuals.

  12. 2 nd generation said,

    March 10, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

    What a lot of crap, stop being silly.

  13. S Rasalingam said,

    March 11, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

    I see that I should have answered the comments as well, and not just the main article by Wakeley Paul.

    It is not easy to do this because there are too many threads to follow. However, there are a number of valuable comments here and I will try my best.

    #1 reply to raj
    Indeed, Catse system is an Indian cultural phenomenon which exists in our part of the world, even if yoiu are a Christian, not only among Tamils, but also among the North Indian Hindus. But the Jaffna Tamil Christians were a bit less caste-conscious than the Hindus. We should take a modern interpretation of Hindusim (e.g, Vivekanada) instead of, say, Navalar.
    Thank you sir.

    #3 reply to Sri;
    We all get tired after one hour of writing it out in long hand and getting one’s grand-daughter to type it into the internet..

    But now I will gladly reply your comments.
    Indeed, I agree that the war in the North has turned Tamil society upside down, with the place of women, lower castes etc., all modified. All social up heavels have this effect, and Marxists and other people claim that all social progress occurs by such periodic clashes (caused by the inherent contradictions in society). They think such conflict is NECESSARY. That is where I disagree. Given the right leadership, one can achieve change without excessive conflict. The “constituionalist” approach to getting independence from the British worked in Sri Lanka without the bloodshed and fire that happened in India. The Marxists were not happy with it and wanted a revolutionary, violent process sealed in blood, to make it a “true independence from the imperialist”. Colvin, NM Perera and others continued to claim that Ceylon had secret clauses with the British and there was no true independence.
    The Soviet bloc continued to block our admission to the UN.
    As for majoritarian rule etc., I don’t quite follow your reasoning, and berhaps I will be able to touch on them in answering the other comments.
    Thank you sir.

    #4 comment by Murugan.
    I like your write up, it is logical and would form an excellent basis for further reflection.; and no one really has the answers to all the difficult and valid questions you raise. I will give my thoughts on some of them.
    Do not for one moment think that I am putting all the blame on GGPonnambalam. Ity takes two to Tango.
    In fact, there were other communalist upstarts in the early Donoughmore era. But GGP and SWRD were two extremely talented and effective leaders, even when it came to racis! . But Baron Jayatilleke and DSSenanayake managed to keep the lid on Sinhala nationalism in the 1930s. This was partly because even GGP and SWRD were not true ingrained racists – they were debating-club types who were ready to use the racial stick to further their political ends. When DSSenanayke showed that he can contol the Sinhala extrimists by shutting them out during the Soulbury commission (where GGP was give full reign to attack the Sinhala, while DSSennayake ordered a dignified silence), I think GGP developed the confidence that he can work with DSS. I strongly doubt that GGP joined DSS’ government purely for personal gain. He felt that he could perhaps achieve some thing, and little by litlle he had become a moderate politician who did NOT have to use the racial ploy to gain a top place among the Tamils. But SJV and EMV were the younger generation. They were subject to the racial rhetoric of the 1930s, and their racism was definitely ingrained, and they had a reason to attack GGP and capture the leadership of the tamils.

    SWRD was basically a democrat with a racist cry for oppotunistic reasons. The Satyagrahas and civil disobedience programs of Arasu Kachchi
    (this is how they write this word in english newspapers, and somebody had criticised me for it) produced a very heated political situation where SWRD or anyone else could not do anything.
    Later on Dudley too failed. You cannot have political
    deals if there is no basic trust between the communities.
    SJV and friends thought of the Sinhala as invaders of the “homelands” and decided to adopt the tactics used by Nehru and others against the Britsh invader. The sathyagraha method works if you are the Majority, fighting a minority (e.g., the british) who is in power. The Tamils were a minority, fighting a majority. History shows that direct confrontation using civil disobidience does not ever
    work in such circumstances. It would be like some small group of people in China attempting to confront the chinese government.
    Minorities have to use more subtle methods. The Jewish community in the USA have done that. They
    basically control many aspects of US administration, foreign policy etc.
    see my article:

    Finally, although democracy and one vote for one man is a very bad system, it is the best we have ( so said, I think, Churchill).

    #5 reply to Ilaya seran senguttuvan

    In the old days an Indian “cooolie” could not just come to Ceylon, or just leave as they wished. In fact by 1939 India shut off all arrivals of “coolies” from India, and this and other matters were taken up in the 1941 Indo-Ceylon talks between Senanayake and Bajpai.
    Incidentally, even in the 1930s, many estate workers did not “just take the train”, but walked it through in the “Paadayathraa” style.

    The concept of “unexpressed rights” was NOT introduced by Michael Roberts, but by Wilson.

    Senguttuvan’s comment about historians suggests that we should only go by our (i.e, tamil ?) historians, while they have their (sinhala?) historians. It is also said that we need to study the “history of the historian”.
    I must very humbly BEG TO DIFFER shraply. The worst thing is to set up this kind of ethnically acceptable histories, and begin “witchhunts” against historians who are labeled as “traitors to the cause” or what ever. It is of course true that people can have biases, and worst still, they can actually have political agendas which means they will suppress parts of information and present only parts favourable to their case.

    But this is a standard problem in the law of evidence and court procedure.
    How to handle is well known.
    The defending lawyer will make up the best case for the accussed and supress all the evidence against his client. The prosecuting counsel will put the best case to damage the accussed and not bring out stuff that would weaken the presecution. The Jury is expected to weigh the evidence and arrive at a conclusion. The jury does not have to study the “history of the prosecuting lawyer or the defending lawyer”. In the same way, we need not study the “history of the historians”. But we need to study the history written by Tamil authors, Sinhalese, Englsih, French Indian and other writers, and we (the JURY) have to make up our conclusion. The histroians are the experts consels. The public are the jury.
    I fully agree with Ilaya seran senguttuvan that Dr. Nalin de Silva writes nonsense. His recent articles in the Island claims that “western” truth in particular is not relavant to us ( and fogs it up with irrelavant allusions to quantum science and relativity), and claims that the only point of view applicable in SriLanka is the “SinhalaBuddhsit” point of view. This is a Maths Prof. who has failed to excell in maths, but succeeded in cheap polemics.
    It is both true that Tamils came here 400 years ago,
    and obviously much earlier, even according to the Mahavamsa. As for the year 4000 BCE, anyone can believe anything htey want. In fact, the Indian citizenship act of Senanayake says that 7 years permanent residence makes the Indian worker a citizen. So you don’t need 4000 or 400 years. Once you are a citizen, ALL citizens have equal rights, and this debate about who came first is as stupid as the question of weather a stone has a male lingam or a female lingam. You can make it inot either shape.

    The “homelands” claim of Chelvanayakam and others was the most divisive and unnecessary claim of all. I disagree completely with it. But that will need a whole article. You ndon’t argue about it, but you occupy it, instead of living in Colombo 7.

    However, let me thank you, Ilaya seran senguttuvan for expressing your views clearly and politely.

    #6 and #7 by Fairplay and satheesan.
    Thank you for your nice appreciative comments.
    Fairplay is absolutely right in noting that we need “cosmopolitan” societies for growth to occur. Mono-ethnic enclaves based on misplaced nationalism is the death warrent on such self-isolated ethnic groups. This is why I believe that the “Ceylonese concept”, or equivalently, he “Sri L:anka concept”, is the way for the futur.

    I don’t know enough about Mr. Mano Ganesan’s politics. But if he has the breath of vision to at least occassionally speak out about the iniquities often heaped on other (i.e., nonTamil) communities, then you have a politician who can become a statesman.

    #8 Thank you Mr. harshana Somapriya. You have interesting inputs about this standardization problem. But I think people are making too much of a fuss about getting into university. This one-track mentality of getting a job in the govt. or the professions was an old, outdated Jaffna concept. But today with the open economy, people who didn’t go to university are often doing better than those who went there and spend 7 years trying to get a degree that should have taken onlt 4 years, because of LTTE or JVP campus strife.

    I think the other comments need no reply from me.

    Thank you very much.

    S. Rasalingam.

  14. ilaya seran senguttuvan said,

    March 12, 2008 @ 8:23 am

    Harshana Somapriya (8) I am with you that the intention of the District Quota System had salient features. But this is one of those goods things that was done the bad way. Dr Mahmud could have set what he perceived as “distortions” in the educational system through other means without rocking the boat. I am told he was advised so – by learned people like Dr Premadasa (?) Udagama, who I believe was the Ministry Sec then – but Buddy chose his perilous path. To conclude the earlier system was totally unjust to the talented University aspirant in deprived areas is may not be all true. In fact, the earlier system produced brilliant students who went to serve the country and the world with great distinction. 2 names come to my mind – one the NASA scientist Dr George Ponnaperuma.
    The other my friend Uswatta-arachi, who still proudly proclaims he is a product of a village and a Central school. Dr U, thereafter, was a brilliant product of Cambridge U and the
    UN/N’York. There are hundreds of others. It is the radical approach to totally overhaul our earlier-good education that resulted in the poor crop of students coming out of the system. While the earlier system produced Doctors, Engineers and other professionals; Clerks and accountants the “revolution in education” that began in the
    1970s is now producing domestic servants, cooks, labourers etc nearly a million of them in the Gulf countries by which this country is now identified as a country producing “slaves and
    labourers” Bismeth’s (10) comments are not worth responding because he clearly comes out only to defend a man of his faith – now a regular feature whether the position of the person concerned is right or wrong. Bismeth is a product of that notorious School of Cyril Mathew, who unleashed the the false but venomous charge that Bismeth puts forward. On the whole, Tamil Examiners you refer to were responsible for producing some of the most respected, useful and patriotic Doctors,
    Engineers, Architects and so on whose names are celebrated
    by every community in the country. You have done a dis-service to good Tamil Examiners by your wild and
    distasteful accusation. They were, of course,
    all Tamils – to Bismeth’s warped mind and displeasure.

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