Few days ago, I received an email from Mr. Villa Anandaram (currently living in Canada), a friend of 50 years standing. He had visited Sri Lanka two months ago and his email was a touching document for me. He had given me permission to share it with the readers of this website. I also include three pertinent photo clips which he had attached with his email. My thoughts are appended at the end.
Anandaram’s email Message
“Hi Sri Kantha,
I was in Sri Lanka for a month and returned two weeks ago.
‘Buddha, Buddha everywhere, nor any Dharma to be seen.’ was my compelling impression of the current plight of the island. Buddha statues are everywhere and in all sizes; in hospitals, street corners, junctions, buses, three-wheelers, airports, shops, even toilets – you name it. It’s not the Buddhism (that was preached by the Enlightened One) that I saw, but a cult of Buddha.
Everyone is out to make money at the expense of other’s suffering; thanks to Mahinda Chinthanaya. In addition to Rajapaksas and Buddhist monks, the Colombo city is controlled by bus drivers and three-wheelers. Buddha is paid respect by the passengers in moving busses, by lifting their bums as if they were letting their gas out. Stray dogs roam government hospitals and are paid respect too, because Buddha was born a dog in one of his previous lives. Wasn’t he never born a human, at any time? Why humans are treated so badly?
Military and police presence is visible and prominent not only in Tamil areas but also in predominantly Sinhala areas on my route to Batticaloa from Jaffna. Their vehicles, camps and checkpoints are decorated with big and small Buddha status. A dead dog was left unattended in the hospital hallway, giving it enough time to be reborn as another Buddha. My landlady who plays Pirith (Buddhist religious chanting) all 24 hours was seen scolding someone in derogatory words for some unreturned borrowed money. She reminds me of the grandma character from Shyam Selvadurai’s novel, ‘Hungry Ghost’. Hypocrisy in any religion is no surprise. In Sri Lanka, it is elevated to a fine art form.
Can we live together? Of course, we are going to live together. Land is being colonized and we are going to have mixed neighbourhoods. The issues that we had before are different from what we are facing now. A generation ago, we had to compete for limited university seats, jobs in government sector which was the largest employer in the country and government sponsored colonization. Colonization will continue, despite the opposition from Tamil MPs. Their opposition to supplying water to Jaffna from Killinochchi with the ridiculous argument that it will increase Sinhala colonization will in fact backfire on Tamil unity and more Sinhala colonization.
The all-powerful government will continue to colonize the land and if water is needed it will deliver it. If Killinochchi deprives the Jaffna farmer from receiving water, those farmers are going to abandon their land commit suicide or migrate elsewhere, giving more land to the government to colonize it with Singhalese. As for higher education students (including Sinhalese) do not totally depend on government-run institutions. There are plenty of colleges preparing these students for foreign diplomas. Those who can afford are targeting these schools, with the idea of running away from Sri Lanka.
Jaffna has a large aging population living with no hope and ambition. The young ones are either dead, or detained in camps or have emigrated. There are no hardworking, entrepreneurial business men in Jaffna. The businesses they do are for day to day living. Short term jobs are available due to construction and development work. But the traditional idea of joining government sector, climbing up in ranks and retiring as directors, and head of the departments are not there anymore. For Tamils, that older route is permanently shut now. One good example is my sister Meera who worked for the Department of Aesthetic Education. She was the only one who could work in all three languages, holding not only a degree which others did not possess, but a PhD. She was denied the promotion openly, sighting that she was a Tamil. There are ways for Tamils to exist but without any hope and no ambition. In Colombo, there are businesses owned by Muslims and Upcountry Tamils are being employed.
With the government planning to erect nine monumental Stupas in each province of the country in appreciation of the noble service rendered by the armed forces and police to defeat terrorism and bring lasting peace to the country, Tamils can live side by side with the majority and in constant reminder that they are a conquered race.’
Anandaram is correct in his thinking. Tamils (both indigenous and recent Indian-origin) are treated by the Sinhala-dominated government as a ‘tolerable garbage’. I teach my students that there are essentially four forms of ‘garbage elimination’. These are, burning, dumping, reducing and recycling. During the civil war period, Sinhala-dominated governments of both parties (UNP and SLFP) practiced first three forms; reducing, burning and dumping strategies. Reducing the number of young Tamils; Burning the Tamil cultural assets and records; Dumping the valid and invalid Tamils as refugees to other countries. Now, the strategy is recycling; i.e., recycling the remaining Tamils, as ‘Tamils turned Sinhalese’. Recent Indian-origin Tamils in the tea, rubber and coconut estates, due to the short-sightedness of the political leadership, are being recycled as ‘Tamils turned Sinhalese’ at a quicker rate and in two generations, they will become fully fledged Sinhalese by the year 2061, when Halley’s Comet visit us next time.
Postscript to Anandaram’s photo
The signboard language presented in Tamil, cautioning bathers in sea, is not the Tamil what we learnt at grammar school. It says, ‘Kavanamayirankal Kadalil kulippa apathanathu’. The correct form should be ‘Kavanamayirunkal! Kadalil Kulippathu Aapathanathu’. I have indicated the three errors found in the signboard in the bold form. Why errors like this creep into public signboards? Is it due to lack of educated Tamil officers employed in government services or due to the ‘who cares?’ attitude of the ruling government? A generation ago, we had politicians like Tamil pundit K.P. Ratnam, who would bother to bring this sort of ‘Tamil killing’ to the attention the appropriate minister concerned in the parliament. Now, the Tamils are blessed with dimwit sycophants like Douglas Devananda and Arumugam Thondaman Jr.!