‘We don’t want to fool the Sinhalese and get our dues’
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran refuted the claim that he was standing in the way of a practical and pragmatic solution to the Tamil problem as projected by some political figures to the media. When Ceylon Today questioned the Chief Minister why he had opposed the interim proposal while the TNA leadership has welcomed it, the outspoken CM pointed out that the ethnic problem or the Tamil problem or the National question is basically a problem of the Tamil-speaking people of this Island. It is not a problem of the Sinhala-speaking or the Buddhist Sinhalese though it is made out that way. So, the solution to such problem should solve the Tamils' basic concerns and complaints.
He responded further on email that, "Some of us say why not we fool the Sinhalese and get our dues. I am not in favour of it. Any benefit we get constitutionally must be with the full consent of the Sinhalese community, at least the majority of them. Otherwise we would continue to bicker and quarrel. Parliament, a few days ago proved to us what we are capable of. This should not happen with regard to the Tamil-speaking, the CM noted.
"What is our complaint? That the Sinhalese political leadership since Independence have managed to take full charge of all political power may be consequent to the Territorial Representation which was brought in during the time of the British and used their privileged position to undermine the rights and powers of the minorities especially the Tamil-speaking minority of the North and East where, in fact, the Tamil-speaking are the majority from pre Buddhism times. It must be noted that our areas are different from the rest of the Island.
We speak Tamil; most of our people are not Buddhists but Hindus, Christians and Muslims. We have an ancient culture of our own which is commonly conformed to these religious groups despite their religious differences. Many in the early part of the Christian era in the North and East were Buddhists, Demala Bauddhayo as Professor Sunil Ariyaratne calls them, but they gave up Buddhism when the Bakthi cult took charge during the latter part of the first millennium (after Christ) and reverted again to their earlier religion Hinduism.
Thus, we have rejected Buddhism long ago. So, giving a foremost place to Buddhism in our areas has no meaning for us. The Buddhists who complain about Christians and Muslims convert Buddhists to their religions by giving temporal benefits are doing exactly the same that is trying to convert others to Buddhism by force," he noted.
He also pointed out that the Tamils have occupied discernible areas as our traditional habitats. Our areas fall under Dry Zone while rest of the Island falls under the Wet Zone. Topographically, geologically, climatically we are different. We have no proper rivers but Tanks.
Despite all this, that is not considering our individuality, the Sinhala majority in this Country brought discriminatory laws since Independence overlooking the rights and aspirations of the Tamil -speaking people of the North and East. When we protested we were violently silenced. Our complaint is that our individuality is not being recognized and the demographic changes are fast taking place in the North and East to tilt the population balance in favour of the majority community, he added.
The continuous policies pursued by our Political Parties in the North and East so far have been to usher in a political system which allows the space for our People to govern themselves un-interfered by the Centre who will continue to be majority oriented by virtue of the Electoral system.
Regarding the words used in our Interim Proposals - Ekiya in Sinhalese and Orumiththa in Tamil the Chief Minister noted that the English word is missing. Somebody who thought he could fool all the people all the time must have put that there. Ekiya in Sinhala is Unitary in the English language. Orumiththa in Tamil is United in the English language. If it was the intention to include united into the Draft then the Sinhala word should have been Eksath. The draft seems to tell the Tamils they are going to get a Federal form of Government by the use of the word Orumiththa (United) while informing the Sinhalese that the constitution will continue to be Unitary (Ekiya).
Such prevarication will only harm us the minorities specially the Tamil-speaking in the long run. When the matter goes before the Supreme Court for interpretation they will have no difficulty in saying that the Sinhala Text prevails and the Sinhala word is Ekiya and therefore the constitution continues to be unitary. What that means is they will hold that the Centre controlling the periphery has been recognized by the Constitution because it is a unitary constitution. Our freedom will be curtailed. We would be again at square one!
He also noted as soon as a Federal form is accepted by the Sinhalese the benefits accruing to the Sinhalese would be: End of the problems with the Tamils. The Tamils will come into the mainstream of the country's life; Diaspora investment will start flowing not only into the North and East but elsewhere too since they would feel safe with a Provincial Government empowered to look after their interests;
Coming in of valuable Foreign currency to enhance the State's coffers; Movement of people from Province to Province without having any constrained feelings and valuable finances presently spent on State Security geared around with the thought of safety from Tamils will be saved for development.
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