Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Independence a Farce

by K. Mylvaganam, February 12, 2008

60 years back, when there was no racial animosity – not superficially at least – everyone, the Muslims, the Burgers, the Sinhalese, the Malays and the Tamils, participated with pride and hope in the celebrations of the 4th of February 1948...Frankly, I feel like kicking myself now for having donned that green attire and for not knowing then what it means now to us.

The talk of the town, I mean Sinhalese town, from the beginning of the year was the 60th “Independence Day Celebrations.” There were lots of preparations made, millions and millions of rupees were spent and what happened on the 4th of February? It was “Pus vaanum” - a firecracker that died away silently. There were hardly any spectators, and even those who had to be there on compulsion were terrified of a sabotage act by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Even the President, whatever he may be, one has to accept him as an eloquent orator, cut his normal lengthy deliveries to a few minutes and his voice was not the same as it used to be.

Peace and Amity

60 years back, when there was no racial animosity – not superficially at least – everyone, the Muslims, the Burgers, the Sinhalese, the Malays and the Tamils, participated with pride and hope in the celebrations of the 4th of February 1948. Of course, the Sri Lankans did not shed even a drop of blood to achieve independence, unlike our Indian brethrens. To Sri Lanka, independence was virtually served on a silver plate for the mere asking. I was only 15 years old then. We were supplied with “Green” shirts free at our college and we all lined up along the road and waved our hands at the procession that passed by. Frankly, I feel like kicking myself now for having donned that green attire and for not knowing then what it means now to us.

As I said above, this racial hatred had not crept into us at that time. But we started feeling the pinch of it in the 1950s. The United National Party was very popular among the Tamils even then. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party was not yet formed in 1948. It was the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) that held the monopoly, one could say. Thanthai S.J.V. Chelvanayagam and others, who formed the Federal Party, were originally in the ACTC.

S.W.R.D. Bandaranaiyake was in the UNP and he formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party later and captured power on a communal cry of “Sinhala Only in 24 Hours.” Actually, I hear, there were only two ballot boxes in those days – one was Green for the conservatives and the other was Red, which represented the Leftist party. The election slogan was, “Podu Podu Pachchai Peddi Pona Murai Venra Peddi” meaning “vote vote for green box that won last time.” Unfortunately never in the history of Ceylon or Sri Lanka has Jaffna ever elected a leftist to the parliament. The only exception, of course, was Mr.P. Kandiah from Vadamaradchchi. He was a communist and jewel of a fellow. He won his constituency definitely not because of his party affiliation but simply because of his exceptional personal character. He was a symbol of honesty, sincerity and dedication.

The Good Old 1940s and the Downfall Thereafter

In the 1940s there was social harmony, political stability, prosperity in its own way and above all ethnic amity. Tamils and Sinhalese lived all over Sri Lanka without the least amount of fear. The Sinhala Only bill sowed the first seed of racism in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, things began to tumble down and within 10 years the death knoll was rung.

In 1956 a peaceful demonstration against the Sinhala Only bill was crushed with force in front of the parliament itself. It is ironical that this happened right in front of the parliament that is to make the legislatures for Law & Order in the country. Yet the young and old were beaten up by hired hooligans. And similar acts of violence were repeated in 1958 - notoriously known as the 'Emergency 1958' - and quite frequently thereafter, culminating in Black July of 1983. Ethnic division and violence gathered momentum like a snowball on a down slope. And now that is the rule of the day in the Tamil homeland and elsewhere where the Tamils live. Rape, Cold-blooded Murder, Abduction, Torture, Ransom and Burglary, aided and abetted by the government forces are day-to-day affairs.

Methodical and Planned discriminations

Disenfranchising almost one million Indian Tamils from the estates and the Sinhala Only bill gave the start for the ethnic problems in this country. The divide was set and the cancerous contamination of racism began to spread in leaps and bounds in arithmetical proportions. On their election platforms, the prospective candidates both from the UNP and the SLFT thundered venom of hatred against the Tamils. Politicians changed their policies from time to time to suit the need of the hour. S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake proposed a Federal system to the North and East in the mid-forties. He did not get enough support to have it implemented. But it was the same person who brought about the Sinhala Only bill in 1956. It was the same person who abrogated the Banda-Chelva Pact, which was much inferior to the federal system he himself proposed in the forties. In the forties J.R. Jeyawardene proposed the Sinhala Only and it was vehemently opposed by none other than the same S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake. The Lanka Samaamaja Socialist Party (LSSP) proposed parity of status to the Tamils, but its stalwart Colvin R. de Silva was the one who sculptured the constitution in 1948 depriving the Tamils of their rights.

Now after 60 years of the so called “independence” the plight of the Tamils is worse than anytime before. Those living in the “liberated areas” both in the north and east are leading a life in perpetual fear. Both the armed forces and the paramilitary groups are having a hay day in these areas. There the women are raped, people are killed without any provocation, houses are burglared under the cover of the curfew, and abductions and ransom demands are galore.

There is no freedom of the press. Presses are set on fire, TV and radio stations are shut and journalists are hunted down.

An e mbargo is imposed in the North and in Vanni. The North is completely cut off from the rest of the island and the people are virtually held in an open prison. Only the rich and the privileged few can afford the price of the flight to Colombo. A trip that took only 7 hours by train from Jaffna to Colombo now takes more than three days by ship and train or bus, provided one gets the pass and the tickets for the journey. They don’t come cheap either.

A Few Pertinent Questions to You, Mr. President

Is this the “Independence” we are talking about? Who are enjoying that independence today? If it is for the Sinhalese, why was there not a single Sinhalese civilian at the “Independence Celebrations” on the 4th February 2008? Why didn’t the Prime Minister of India, who was invited to grace the occasion as Chief Guest turn up? Why were there thousands and thousands of army, navy, air force and police personnel at the celebrations? Why did the President, his brothers and some privileged ministers have to come in bullet-proof vehicles? Why did you spend millions and millions on this Thamasha [party] while the tsunami victims are still dwelling in makeshift huts?

Will be Charged for War Crimes.

Mr. President, I say the answers are “Blowing in the Wind” to quote the saying of Bob Dylan. You are sowing the venom of hatred among the Sinhala masses and you are sure to reap the harvest quite soon; such actions do boomerang. You are notorious in letting down those who were your ardent supporters. To quote a few; you dumped Mangala Samaraweera who master-minded your victory and Sripathy Sooriarachchi, your strong and a formidable supporter. You show no gratitude to the LTTE, who put you on your present pedestal. You tried to give the boot to the JVP, who gathered tens of thousands of votes from their vote bank, but they were too good and they outsmarted you and now you have become their slave. You are forced to dance to their tune. All these are for what? It is for power and power and nothing but power only. Your hands are dripping with the blood of innocent civilians. The curse of the widows whose husbands were killed and the wailing of the mothers whose children were massacred by your forces on your orders in your capacity as the Commander-in-Chief will haunt you. There is something called Retribution and that will surely lead you to your downfall. The day will come for you to answer for all your sins in the highest court for War Crimes. The fate of the renegade Karuna must be a lesson for you.