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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Sri Lanka: An Open Letter to the Donor Country Leaders

Ranjith Soysa – Spokesperson SPUR

Why Sri Lanka should not be forced to accept tamil aspirations and re-structure the country against the wishes of the majority in order to qualify for international aid

The prescription of donor countries including India requires Sri Lanka to adhere strictly to the following formula to arrive at a settlement of the issues bedeviling the country while scarcely recognizing the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan Nation and her people.

1) Sri Lanka MUST negotiate with the LTTE terrorists.

2) Sri Lanka MUST address ‘grievances’ and/or ‘aspirations’ of the Tamils

3) Sri Lanka MUST accept the Northern and the Eastern provinces created by the British colonial rulers as the ‘Homeland” of Tamils and both provinces must be considered as a single unit as required by the Tamils.

4) A federal system MUST be adopted with the North East as a single unit and powers to be devolved based on the Indian model.

In short, the apparition that torments the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists has to be exorcised to provide space to non-negotiable conditions of the 8% Tamils in deconstructing Sri Lanka to be an acceptable member of the World Community.

The international community (USA, EU, Japan,Germany and Norway) has been “helping” Sri Lanka for the past 20 years to stop violence which it has decided as an “ethnic conflict.” Some of the Western and Indian media outlets including the BBC broadcast that LTTE is engaged in a “liberation movement.”

The American ambassador suggests that there should be a negotiated settlement to ensure a climate for achieving the aspirations of all communities in Sri Lanka—Tamils, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sinhala.

India who initially equipped the Tamil insurgent groups on Indian soil and intervened in Sri Lankan political affairs in the past has now taken the position that the GOSL should develop a method for devolution of power where there will be a “real” sharing of power with the Tamil minority community. Indian central government, which governs through a coalition that depends on Tamil Nadu votes for its survival, whose former prime minister was murdered by LTTE suicide bombers, is now faced with a problem of how to prevent Indian land and shore being used by Tamil terrorists to smuggle arms and bomb-making material.

Aspirations

The International Community’s (IC) understanding of “aspirations” in the context of Tamils in Sri Lanka needs further elaboration because what the LTTE means by “aspirations” is different to what the IC considers as “Tamil Aspirations.” For the LTTE, it means a separate country carved out of the tiny island of Sri Lanka.

The European way of looking at aspirations can be explained by looking at the aspiration of Turkey to become part of EU. The Pope once rejected this aspiration and more recently when he visited Turkey with heavy military protection he accepted it.

The French Interior minister is more candid on the subject. He says that Turkey is not part of Europe. He says Turkey is part of Asia Minor. He says Russia is not Europe but the Balkans is. He asks the American reporter, “Is Mexico part of USA?” He says NATO is OK and Turkey can have all kinds of trade and other agreements with EU but France cannot support Turkey’s aspiration to become part of EU.

The “aspirations” of Muslims in UK and Europe had to be downgraded to meet the need for “integration” at national level as explained by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In Australia the ‘national will’ is forcing minority communities to adjust their ethnicity-based demands to fall in line with Anglo-Australian value system.. Perhaps, the only country in the world this balancing act is not required is Japan, which follows a strict law of immigration control.

Traditional Tamil Homeland in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka

The aspiration of the LTTE to have a separate country for Tamils is based on the concept of the existence of a traditional homeland in Sri Lanka. There are no historical, archeological, geographical, social, political, economic, military, linguistic or cultural reasons to support this concept.

There is no evidence of the existence of a distinctive Tamil community or Tamil kingdom in Jeffna peninsula before the 13th century. There is ample evidence in Sri Lankan chronicles and inscriptions and also in the records of foreign kingdoms as well as visitors indicating large and extensive Sinhala settlements in the North from the earliest times to 18th century and thereafter to show that the Nayakkar kings of the Kandyan kingdom were the lawful rulers of and legal heirs to the Jaffna region.

While discussing the absurdity of the proposition of some of the Tamil politicians to say that the North and the East provinces had been traditionally Tamil –speaking from the days of the British, Dr K.M.De Silva , Professor of History of the University of Ceylon in his book, “Separatist Ideology in Sri Lanka” says “In any event these two provinces, whether in the form they were in 1833 or 1889 and thereafter , are much larger than anything the British acquired by conquest from the Dutch. More to the point the Northern Province is substantially arger than the kingdom of Jaffna at the time of the conquest by the Portuguese and larger than the Kommandment of Jaffanpatanam under the Dutch. Besides, these British created provinces were never intended to be anything more than administrative units. They did not embody a political identity, despite the political motive behind their creation. Nor were their boundaries well defined. “

A number of research studies have shown that the concept was a “myth” created by a Tamil politician who found that if he were to promote a separate country for Tamils in the island it cannot survive unless the Eastern Province could be added to the Northern Province.

The Dutch and the British attempted to create Tamil settlements in the Vanni Region of the island but all such attempts failed. After a brief flirtation with the idea of bringing Irish labor to work in the coffee and tea plantations in the hilly regions, the British laid down a railway line to obtain much cheaper South Indian labor via boat and train.

Aspirations via the federal path

India opposes the LTTE aspirations for a separate Tamil country in Sri Lanka because it fears that a Tamil country in the south will revive Tamil Nadu demands for a separate country in South India. The demand for a separate state for Tamils in South India began in December 1938 at the Tamil Justice Party convention. In 1939, the Dravida Nadu Conference asked London to create a separate and independent Dravidastan. In 1940 Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution demanding a Pakistan brought Tamil separatist Naicker and Ali Jinna closer until in 1947, Jinna refused to go with Naicker’s Dravidastan plan. The British supported the concept that “India consists of two nations (India and Pakistan)” . When Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka tried to introduce the two nation concept to the British colony Ceylon, the colonial master rejected that proposition in 1926 and1943.

India is promoting a federal state in Sri Lanka based on linguistic lines, despite the fact this path has failed in India itself. Even today the Indian federal army is fighting with various ethnic groups who demand separate countries or separate states within the two dozen or so language-based Indian states.

India’s insistence on a federal model for Sri Lanka on “Indian conditions” began with the tabling of a document by G.Parathasarathy , Indira Gandhi’s special envoy to Sri Lanka at the AllParty Conference in 1984. In his paper he promoted the “North-Eastern province” for the first time. TULF politician, R.Sampanathan confirmed that this document was fathered at a discussion between the TULF and G.Parthasarthy.

Commenting on the document tabled by the Indian envoy, Dr K.M.de Silva , former Professor of Sri Lanka History says “ Only in the Alice in Wonderland world of Indo- Sri Lanka diplomacy do we have annexures to documents published and studied, analysed and dissected, without reference to the main document or documents to which logically they should have been attached.” ( Annexure “C” was Parathasarathy’s and this was another example of Indian diplomatic forays). “The critics of annexures had good reason to believe that the objective of the exercise was to establish a quasi-federal structure in the island of which one unit would be a large Tamil dominated ethnic region.. Thus Parathasary’s (and India’s) influence on the Sri Lankan debate persists. Subsequently, India through its Foreign Secretary, A.P.Venkateswaran persuaded the Sri Lankan government of the day to treat the Indian state system as a model in regard to powers of the provincial system.”

The Federal solution is not practicable

The “F” solution is promoted by India and the IC without trying to understand the history and geography of Sri Lanka. The IC representatives are applying experiences of their own countries to Sri Lanka expecting a simple straightforward solution. Unfortunately, the situation in Sri Lanka is unique that the proposed solution will be the beginning of a new protracted conflict which would create a new Lebanon or Palestine in South Asia.

Geopolitics – 80 million Tamils 15 miles away

"There is no state without a Tamil - but there is no state for the Tamils." World Confederation of Tamils (www.tamilnation.org) Tamil politicians in colonial Colombo, including the Malay-born Chelvanayagam, took an active part in South Indian agitations for a country separate from India, agreeing to join in with a Tamil dream state. He disclosed similar plans for dividing Ceylon as far back as on November 26, 1947. On February 15, 1949 SJVC informed his plans to his voters in Kankasanturai. As part of their anti-Hindi strategy Tamilnad politicians even altered the Rama-Ravana legend to link Northern Ceylon to the larger Dravidastan plan. The fear that a federal Tamil state in Sri Lanka will become a gateway for a Tamil country and become a destabilizing factor in South Asia and in Sri Lanka should not be under-estimated.

Despite the proscription of separatist politics in India after the invasion of India by China in 1962, the dream of a separate Tamil country in India did not die. Tamilnadu politicians act as tamed-moderate leaders due to pressure from Delhi and the intense political rivalry. The description that Sri Lanka has a majority-minority complex is real. With 70 millions Tamils next door and websites and politicians supporting a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, the geo-political realities must be examined properly before recommending remedies which can be more lethal than the disease.

Federal Marriages

Sri Lanka is the only country (a tiny island) in the world to be divided into a federal format in order to solve an ethnic problem. In all the other F marriages (USA, India, Canada, BE, Switzerland) parties already divided became united under one roof by the ‘F’ arrangement.

This was why the Englishman Paul Harris identified Sri Lankan government’s division plan as the “greatest give away in human history.” In all the other federal setups it was a matter of bringing in separate states to form one large federal format due to historical, security and geopolitical necessities. Forced federation such as Soviet Russia and Yugoslavia dissolved of their own weight. The former Prof in Geogarphy at University of Peradeniya, Dr G. H. Peiris has documented recently (The Island ) how and why others still stay as federal states. Those federal states either did not have language-based homeland claims or the overwhelming power of the federal military prevented any regional separatist talks. The only exception to this is Canada where the federal military is not capable of preventing a departure of the Province of Quebec. Any future separate state of Quebec will be further divided as native tribes are asking the same status as French Quebecers.

This is what one can learn from the history of devolution in the United States or in India. Devolution based on the division of land as a solution to an ethnic problem is a slippery path with no end. It is a dream of curing a cancer by feeding it. Just think of what is in store for the Canadian Province of Quebec, if it leaves Canada. An independent state of Quebec will have to do "something" about the people living in the Island of Montreal, the Eastern Townships along the Vermont border and Western Quebec who do not want to be part of it. Also the Cree, Inuit, Mohawk and Montagnais aboriginal groups with homelands covering two-thirds of the Province of Quebec are not willing to give up their ancestral lands without a fight (National Geographic, November 1997). Canada serves as a very good example of the failure of federalism to meet ethnic aspirations. Prof David J.Bercuson, at Calgary University , Canada says “ Canada has paid a high price for its fundamental disunity in its inability to focus national energies on the achievement of economic objectives …But , it continues to pay a high price in other ways as well every time support for Quebec separatism increases…”

Most of the federal states are large countries with some being sub-continents and others continents. Of the largest eight countries seven are federal states. Out of the smaller states with a federal system, Belgium has 50,000 sq miles, Austria 32,377 and Switzerland 15, 943. Generally, the federal systems are evolved during a long historical process with the Swiss federation taking several centuries and USA over 100 years.

Under the colonial system many federal states came into existence in order to preserve distinct territorial units conquered or absorbed by the colonial powers at various stages and the ethnic, religious and regional identities associated with them. eg India, Pakistan. Some were post-colonial creations such as Nigeria or Tanzania. Nigeria when it gained independence was a unitary state in 1960, while it became a “quasi-federal” structure in 1963, with 3 states. It has now gone beyond 30 states with more pressure to create further entities. Nigeria stands as a good example for federal proponents to study, as some of them have proposed the creation of many ethnic regions in Sri Lanka.

In the development of a federal system one notable feature is that it is very seldom that unitary states have been converted to federal states. One example often cited is Spain where traditional regional identities have been very strong with a long history of dissension between the regions. However, the constitution vests a large amount of reserve power on the central government and almost the entire Spanish population is homogenous in respect of religion. Another example of a small unitary country evolving into a federal state is Belgium. Here, the federal system was introduced after prolonged tensions in 1988-89. Belgium, however, has a strong central government with national executive power vested in the king and his ministers, while legislative power is shared by the king. The majority linguistic group, the Dutch accounts only for 55% and the French is as much as 45%. The ethnic and religious identities in the country have long standing conflicting aspirations. Belgium and Spain are both constitutional monarchies.

Another important feature is that in Belgium and Spain regions embody ethnic/linguistic identities while in Sri Lanka, the provinces were created by the British for administrative purposes. -These have never been ‘ethnic regions’ in any sense-. It was expected that the federal system would help maintain the system as a viable political entity and prevent eventual dissolution. But the units are seeking more powers and pursuing separatist aspirations. Some political analysts are of the view that the Belgium federation is heading for dissolution on the Czech and Slovak model.

Australia with a large extent of land and a small population is in the process of negotiating for more powers to the centre with regard to education, health, industrial relations, natural resources and environment confronted by increasing complex issues of modern times.

Indian model minus Pondicherry model

The Harvard-Oxford educated, the late Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam who promoted the Indian model did not want to accept the Pondicherry model which was part and parcel of the language-based Indian state demarcation formula. The reason for this was he did not want to disturb the “traditional Tamil homeland in the Eastern Province”. Such insincere attempts made people even more suspicious of the federal solution as an alternative to a separate country in the island.

If Sri Lanka agrees to follow the Indian model, it has to allow at least (1) one Eelam (Thesawalamai-based), (2) one Tamil state (Mukkuwa law-based), (3) a Malyanadu (Indian Estate Tamils), (4) an Oluvil state (Muslims in the East), (5) one (or two) Sinhala states in the East and (6) the original Sri Lankan state in the south.

The Eelam Map (you cannot legislate against geography)

The Tamil minority community in Sri Lanka enjoys more rights and privileges in Sri Lanka than that enjoyed by Tamils in Tamilnad , India. But the Tamil dream is to have its own sovereign country (see World Tamil Confederation website) on earth. They failed in the Island of Fiji and have no chance in Malaysia or even in India and the best target is Sri Lanka. With this aim, under a federal marriage scheme water conflicts could be used to harass and weaken the Sinhala majority in Sri Lanka.

The Eelam boundary on the Tamil Eealm map (www.tamilcanadian.com) scares any Sinhala person. It grabs 2/3 of coast line. Sri Lanka is a pear-shaped island with a central mountain mass surrounded by a hilly landscape region and coastal plains. Because of this physical geography rivers are short and radiate from the central lands. The only river that could be called a river system is the Mahaweli Ganga which flows through many geographical areas as well as at least 4 administrative provinces making it an essential feature in the economic development of people in these areas.

Their destiny, future opportunities are very closely connected with waters of Mahaweli compelling any far thinking Sri Lankan to fight shy of dividing the territory on basis of ethnicity .

The island’s weather and climate are based on the seasonal Monsoon winds. S-W Monsoons come with a heavy moisture content dropping it on a smaller area. N-E Monsoons on the other hand come from the Bay of Bengal with less moisture and spreads over a vast area. This creates two basic water regiments for the Wet Zone and the Dry Zone. Yet, even the Wet Zone is not free of droughts. With one of the island’s Arid Zones in the Eelam area (Mannar region), the demand for more water for that region could become an issue in the future.

The availability of groundwater resources is influenced by geological history and the demand for surface water is affected by this factor. For example, since Jaffna is a limestone (karst) region, plans to convert the Jaffna lagoon into a fresh water lake could demand diversion of more water from the Mahaweli Scheme to the Kanakarayan Aru (K on Map 2). Further, provision of opportunities to the dense population in the South and the West of Sri Lanka in vast unpopulated areas in the North, North-West and the East will create more intricate issues under a federal set-up. Sri Lanka’s Indian Ocean economic zone management is another area which should receive the close attention of the policy makers before taking the plunge, as consequences will be irreversible.

The Solution

“If the Tamils’ cry for separatism is given up, the two communities could solve their problems and continue t live in amity and dignity” M. C. Sansoni (Sessional Paper No. 7 of 1980)

As the Indian prime minister has suggested, “real” devolution from the concentration of power in the Colombo ruling elites (and officers) is what all the people—Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim—are waiting for. The political and economic power must be decentralized and given to the people.

The PC system and the new election law did not create devolution. It created a new layer of corrupt politicians. After 1980 rulers destroyed the VC, TC, UC-based local government system. Rather than fostering a healthy local government system, each UNP and SLFP local govt. minister abused his powers and weakened local democracy and self-governance. The Abhayewardhana Report on Local Government Reforms (1999) provided in detail why the country needed to go back to the pre-1980 system to overcome the mess we are now in, especially the white elephant called PCs.

Sarvodaya proposed a system of national governance structure based on local building blocks in 1988 as per “The Power Pyramid and the Dharmic Cycle.” From time to time, Arjuna Hulugalle presents his CIMOGG proposal of devolution at the district level with a base which is similar to the Sarvodaya proposal (Island, July 31, 2006). Actually all these are so similar to what was presented by President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan on October 26, 1959 as Pakistan’s new constitution. Under it the whole country was divided into very small constituencies of between 800 and 1000 people. This novel type of constituency was called the “basic democracy.” There were 80,000 such elected units as the first tier of the constitutional structure (Pakistan: old country/new nation by Ian Stephens (1964, page 315).

The geographer Madduma Bandara proposed a river basin-based Provincial Division of seven units in 1987 (Chapter 4 in Fifty years of Sri Lanka’s Independence: a socio economic review, edited by Dr A.V. de S. Indraratna (1998, p.83). Actually this is the best scientific approach for a “united” Sri Lanka where the term united really means unity. The AGA divisions and even the Grama Sevaka divisions should ideally be based on River-Oya-Ela basins. This way we will not have a mind-boggling number of 14,000 GS divisions in the island.

The National Joint Committee in Sri Lanka headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge, Mr S.W .Walpita after examining evidence for nearly 6 months issued its report in September 2004.

The title of this comprehensive report was “A case against a Federal constitution for Sri Lanka” The report not only provides detailed information about the history of the racist demands but deals thoroughly with all issues connected with federalism in relation to Sri Lanka.

In its concluding paragraph it says “ In the forgoing pages, we have endeavoured to set out the legal, political and economic consequences that a Federal Constitution is likely to bring about. Our investigations and experience with erudite individuals and representatives of civil society organizations have conclusively convinced us that Federalism is looked upon by an overwhelming majority of our people belonging to all ethnic groups as a subtle device to divide the country to appease Tiger terrorists’ demand for a separate state. In view of the fact that Sri Lanka does not posses an environment for Federalism , it is most unlikely that it will take root in our soil, and even if it is unlikely to solve the so-called Tamil problem. On the contrary, it has all the ingredients to politically destabilize our country and create further dissension and disunity among different ethnic groups and might, eventually ,lead to mass scale violence and bloodshed, remniscent of the partition of India.”

C.W .Maynes, Editor, of Foreign Policy in his article titled “Containing Ethnic Conflict” (Spring 1993 issue) states that “ specialists in ethnic conflict are wary of federal solutions because they tend to promote secession or partition and even greater intolerance towards the minority groups that are left behind.” The position of the minority ethnic groups in the Eastern, the Northern and the Western provinces under a Federal system based on ethnicity/territory will be similar to the gloomy fate of such groups in African and Balkan states created to give space to racist demands. The arbitrary division of Sri Lanka into provinces by the British resulted in economic and social hardships which the Sri Lankans had to endure for last 150 years. If these arbitrary partition plans of the British in the 19th century was to be the base for the proposed Federal system it will be a case of falling into fire from the frying pan.

The English journalist Paul Harris recently identified the Muslim factor as a future problem for Sri Lanka. He says that the al Qaeda-Taliban groups will sooner or later become actively involved in helping the Muslims in the Eastern Province to meet Tamil Terror with Islam terror. The geographer G. H. Peiris in his new book, Sri Lanka: challenges of the new millennium (2006?), speaks of the growing unrest in the upcountry area among the school going Indian Tamil youth.

Rather than a monster of a merged Northern and Eastern Provinces, Sri Lanka’s home grown solution must be a District-level devolution where elected members of the local government units in a district creates the DC with super powers given to them to operate as almost autonomous administrative units. Such DCs should be allowed to merge for resource use purposes. Thus Tamils can have ten or more DCs where they can achieve their aspirations.

Since the early 1960s Sri Lanka faced a gradual erosion of its structural democracy (i.e., abolition of the Senate, violation of the separation of powers doctrine, disregard for the rule of law and even lying at the question time in the parliament, appointing politicians as SC judges). Since 1978, in addition to structural erosion there was a death of territorial democracy of the worst possible type. The new electoral laws removed the voter from the elected and prevented honest, educated and dedicated local people contesting elections. We ended up with a parliament which is a disgrace to representative democracy in the world. While people were denied the right to select whom they like, they have been forced to select from the list the party leaders decide from Colombo after “job interviews.” Then the number of grama sevakas increased from 4,000 to 14,000 in the 1990s. Politicians use them to spy on people and not to serve people.

Gamsabhawa (village council) and Panchayati system

In India,Gandhi was preaching the use of the Panchyat concept to improve lives of millions of Indians. Gandhi proposed the environment-friendly, people-centered path. Instead, Nehru followed the Russian five year plan industrial path to “modernize” India. Since the conditions of the poor in India did not improve, Indian politicians looked back and re-discovered the value of the Panchyati system. India has placed all its eggs in the revamped Panchayati basket.

The meaning of the Panchayati system is that “God speaks in five people.” If five people agree then God is with them. In Sri Lanka, there was a similar system based on the trinity of Gama-Vawa-Dagoba (village-water tank and temple). The temple became Kovil or Mosque depending on the locality. It became the church, after the Sinhala king in the Central region of the island gave refuge to the Catholics who lived in the coastal areas who were persecuted buy the Dutch to settle down in his kingdom. Some natives in the coastal areas became Catholics during the Portuguese reign (1505-1656).

Sri Lanka should resurrect the Gamsabhawa as the lowest political unit and empower them with legislative and executive powers as India is doing with its Panchayati system. The boundaries of these village councils should follow river basins/watersheds. This way there will be an alignment of political units with ecological units, just like New Zealand has done. This is the way to handle global warming, floods and land slides and droughts.

In proposing a non-territorial approach to power sharing, Neville S Laduwahetty in an article on “Non-Territorial approach says “ New strategies have to be considered since the past forty plus years have been wasted in seeking territorial solution to resolve ethnic expectations. …The moral justification for a non-territorial approach is that except for the 12.6% (now less than 9%) Sri Lankan Tamils, the remaining 87.4%, resounding majority by any criterion, has not expressed a desire for a territorial approach.”

“Another objection is that such a division would isolate major communities along ethnic lines, thus sharpening ethnic cleavages…Conceptually the structure must reflect that Sri Lanka is a unitary state and a homeland for all its citizens who are all equal before the law and where the legislative, executive, judicial powers are centralized and shared among the communities at the centre with administration decentralized to the districts. The core values of this concept are to provide access and opportunities to those rights that foster equality among citizens, to encourage participatory democracy, while neutralizing any ill effects of authoritarianism associated with centralization by involving the periphery with the centre”

Demands of Donor nations’ is not morally justifiable: Elimination of political opponents

Prabakaran, the LTTE leader has eliminated all levels and types of dissent from the face of the earth. He murdered a prime minister, a president and several presidential candidates and so many elected representatives. Why then the donor nations are asking the GOSL to negotiate with Prabakaran is therefore problematic? There are few Tamil politicians who escaped the death order of Prabakaran and they write to UNO, EU, UK and India not to treat Prabakaran as the sole representative of Tamils. Yet, the donor countries are demanding GOSL to treat Prabakaran as a freedom fighter!

Cohabitation of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims

For over two thousand years ethnic groups in Sri Lanka lived in harmony until the foreign invaders created ethnic rifts with their divide-and-rule strategy of controlling colonies. Most of the Tamils live in the south among the Sinhalese. In fact, Tamils under LTTE areas escape under threats of death and the hazard of landmines to come to the government controlled areas! Why then, do the donor nations want to negotiate with Prabakaran and give him a ladder to create a separate country is problematic?Prabakaran and his advisors such as the former attorney general of Sri Lanka Siva Pasupathi have made it very clear that a federal formula if accepted at all will only be a way station to declare UDI.

Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists?

Western media propagates an unfair black mark against the Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka stating that they are fundamentalists and their monks are Buddhist Ayatollas.. It is difficult to understand why Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka are unfairly branded as bad people by BBC and the western media in general. Often they brand the terrorist problem in Sri Lanka as a war between Buddhists and Hindus. What they do not know is that about 20% of sacred space in Buddhist temples is devoted to Hindu Gods and Goddesses and both groups share many common values while outside forces fuel, finance and formulate strategies to fan the conflict to mainly deprive the Sinhalese people of their due place in the country’s affairs.

But in Sri Lanka a unique civilization thrived for 2500 years. In fact this heritage in a tiny island deserves recognition by UNESCO has a world heritage site. While Tamils have a homeland in South India with 80 million Tamils and Muslims have over a billion people and Mecca and Christians have the Pope, Rome and over a billion Christians, for the 12 million Sinhala Buddhists the only place available is a tiny island in the Indian ocean.

The remarkable historical fact is that this nation never discriminated against any of the ethnic groups that came to live with them. There are historical records indicating that in the 19th Century when Christian missionary priests went on circuit to remote villages in Sri Lanka to recruit converts, often time they spent the night in a village Buddhist temple, with the priest providing them dinner and lodging. Since monks do not eat after 12 noon it had to be an extra step to cook a meal for the guest!

What is the reason for such behavior by Buddhists? The westerner had some exposure to this behavior from reading about Gandhi’s life story. They hear about it today from the Dalai Lama. When asked whether he was angry with the Chinese communist leaders for what they are doing to Tibet, Dalai Lama said no. His American audience was surprised.

The Sinhala Buddhist values

Buddhism is based on the basic understanding of the temporary nature of human life. All our sorrow comes because of the temporary nature of everything including the human body, life, relationships, emotions, feelings likes and dislikes. It is in agreement with modern science in describing the human body as a collection of four elements. It is based on any individual’s ability to be a saint or devil. Buddhism never tried to convert others. Rather than say come and believe it says come and examine.

A nation having been moulded in such thinking for 2550 years cannot discriminate against other human beings, because life to them is like dew on the edge of a blade of grass. To tell them to consider that the entire island is not everybody’s homeland but Tamils have a separate one is not morally right.

Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War because the Southern confederation did not have a moral justification to continue with slavery. When the southern army attempted to recruit slaves to fight to save slavery they lost. Similarly, Martin Luther King, Junior made the white America realize that discrimination based on colour is not part of the God’s plan.

The donor countries may be thinking that in Sri Lanka they are shouldering the “White Man’s Burden” but they should also realize that for 500 years the native people of Sri Lanka had to live as beasts of burden and the group that suffered and were most humiliated happened to be the Sinhala Buddhists.

A Federal solution to Sri Lanka is not morally justifiable. It is neither politically viable nor economically sustainable.

- Asian Tribune -

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