By Dr. Nilanga Samarasinghe
The speech of the former Supreme Court Judge, former Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council, and the new Jaffna District Parliamentarian, CV. Wigneswaran in his first address to the new Parliament has caused more controversy in the country and internationally than the President’s speech at the opening of the Ninth Parliament.
His speech aroused suspicion and fear about creating a new round of ethnic conflict amongst Sinhalese, Tamils , and or Muslims, regardless of race.
History is the study of the past. It’s the exaggerated rhetoric of winners. It makes no difference whether it’s set in England, Russia, India, or Sri Lanka. The universally accepted truth is that history is not history itself, but the historical story in which history is written. It varies according to the author.
Sri Lanka is no different. We have no problem with Tamil being the oldest language in the world. But you need not be a rocket scientist to understand that it is a blatant lie. As modern science reveals, Homosapien sapiens or humans originated independently of each other in three places on Earth at the same time. Anthropologists have found that Caucasian men originated in present-day Iran or Persia, Mongolian men in China, and Negro men in Central Africa.
Modes of Communication
Language itself consists of two parts, written and oral. Oral languages date back to the beginning of mankind. Scientific discoveries have shown that even animals use different sounds, the same as a very primitive language to maintain communication within their species.
It is similar to the primary sounds of a newborn used until he or she masters a language. In the continual journey of man in search of new habitats along the way from his origins, the isolation in the new geographical boundaries led to the emergence of many different languages that exist today. The process evolved into fertile languages independent of each other and sometimes feeding on each other.
Therefore, if someone says that one language is older or superior to other languages, it should be based on some hidden agenda, because it is unscientific. Especially if a politician makes such a statement, it is definitely for some political gain. It’s deceitful and has to be defeated. (Pride in one’s language, culture and ethnicity is acceptable but that’s another thing)
The other serious statement made by Wigneswaran is that the natives who first inhabited Sri Lanka were also Tamils. It may or may not be so in my opinion. And it is far away from the genetically proven and widely accepted concept that Veddhas are the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka. India is separated from the Island by a very narrow strip of seawater. Throughout history, people have migrated across the Indian subcontinent from time to time to Sri Lanka.
Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala Nation in the written history of Sri Lanka, and 700 of his men too were a group of people who migrated from India. There is no doubt that Indians came to Sri Lanka as groups before and after that. It is generally accepted that the Caucasians originally from Iran or Persia, entered Europe across Turkey and Germany, and to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
All Caucasians (except Mongolians of Northeastern India) are their descendents. The descendants of the lower part of Deccan Plateau have adapted over thousands of years to the tropical climate, and grown up with different social and cultural identities. Some of the Caucasians who entered India thus, moved into the island of Sri Lanka through Southern India or Northern India. After thousands of years, this group of people acquired a different social and cultural identity and a different name. Do we still refer to them as Caucasians, Indians or Tamils?
The island was called ‘Sinhale’
Because the island they entered was called ‘Sinhale’ by the natives, they have become proud Sinhalese. There are many hypotheses too that logically explain the origin of the island Nation. One (popular) of them is the Sinhalese Nation was created by King Pandukabaya (in his regime ) by amalgamating four types of blood or the four factions of Islanders.
It is undisputed that the Caucasians who inhabited Sri Lanka or Sinhale were Sinhalese just like those Caucasians who inhabited Russia were Russians and those who inhabited America were Americans.
Those who came to Sri Lanka from different countries at different times became part of the dominant citizens of the land by embracing integrating and including the local culture of the land. But those who came later in large groups, as invaders, immigrants, or for trade and settled in specific areas wanted to continue their cultural and religious customs as where they came from.
Consequences and responsibilities
We respect the right of such ethnic groups to live in certain areas to maintain their pre-existing cultural and social values without confronting the values of the major ethnic group of the land and therefore not being able to become the part of the dominant citizens of the country.
We also need to understand their repentance too. It is understandable that they are demanding the right of self-government and claim of homeland in the areas where they mostly concentrated, in order to live as first citizens themselves. But their historic decision to preserve their traditional, social and cultural identities without integrating and including to the existing system where they live was their own decision, not a coercive one imposed on them by the country’s major ethnic group.
Therefore, they are historically responsible for the consequences of their decision. (The right of the major ethnic group to like or dislike sharing the power to some extent is also to be respected by the others). Even in the super-democratic, federal and loosely attached confederation States (like Switzerland ) in which human rights are considered to be well integrated in to society (Western countries), immigrants still need to adapt/integrate to the country’s major socio-culture in order to enjoy all the civil rights as citizens (if they want to ). It is ironic that those (Diaspora) who do not even bother to complain about it when they live in there take up arms and fight for it in the land where they grew up.
As man becomes more and more modern, economic ability not ethnic, social, and cultural, values decide whether you belong to the first or second class (citizen) of your own motherland too.
I invite you to recognise a new Nation that is being built in the new world in the new global economic context exists today. It is known as the ‘transnation’. In Sri Lanka, he lives as a Sri Lankan, becomes an Italian in Rome, an American in America and a ‘white man’ in England (Although having brown or black skin).
As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, this new Nation includes top businessmen and their children, rich politicians and their children, wealthy Government officials and their children. The children of Wigneswaran, Gotabaya, Basil, Chandrika, Nalin de Silva, and the children of Sampanthan and Rauff Hakeem, who are considered minorities in Sri Lanka, belong to this transnation or Sankranthi Nation. It can be named ‘Nation without borders’ too.
The middle class is also trying to sell all their possessions to send their children to a western country not to be brought back and see them live as Sri Lankans but to see them live in a Western country as the above said transnational. The middle class is also trying to sell all their possessions to send children to a western country not to bring back and see them living as ‘raw Sinhalese’ but to see them living in the same country as the above said, transnation people.
Therefore, Wigneswaran’s public declaration of that “our language is the oldest language in the world” and “our Nation is the first Nation on Sri Lankan soil” is a deceptive mode to rekindle the racism blaze.
In conclusion, we must understand that the prevention of Wigi’s attempt to ignite the flames of Tamil racism is not meant to ignite the flames of Sinhala racism. We should stop Wigneswarans project of continuing to emanate new Prabakarans and stop the country being drawn into a blood bath again.
The weapons we could use in this new war are not the same as the previous war that defeated Prabakaran. The new enemy is well educated, intelligent, internationally recognised, and well connected to the world leaders and international organisations. His strategies are different. The State too must be ready with new strategic weapons to counteract Eelam Diaspora’s strategies. We should emphasise that just releasing watchdogs of Sinhala racism to bark on Wigi is not the answer.
What we must do to design a new strategic plan:
• Establish a centre to observe racist movements (Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim)
• Give powers and resources to take action against racism.
• Establish a special legal branch to take legal actions promptly, locally, and internationally.
• Establish branches in every country proactively against Diaspora racism acts.
• Give comprehensive training to occupied persons. (employing military or ex-military persons is not just enough. They should be given very professional training to counteract anti-national movements then and there vigilantly.
• Organise anti-racist movements inside these ethnic groups.
• Encourage, motivate, and provide resources to carry out their activities independently.
• Bring very strong acts and regulations to stop any kind of hate speech and activities evoke racism and religious unrest.
• Define such speeches and actions more precisely and elaborately.
• Organise a strong apolitical civil movement nationally and internationally to protest against such traitors.
About the writer:
The writer is a Researcher at University of Lucerne, Switzerland