by Brian Senewiratne, Brisbane, Australia, May 22, 2005
In March 2005, I called for worldwide prayers for Adrian, desperately ill from a serious chest infection complicating myeloma (a type of bone cancer). Whoever looks after things on this globe seems to have listened. Adrian recovered and is now on his way to celebrate his 80th birthday on 29 May 2005. I am now calling for worldwide good wishes to be sent to this extraordinary man (email@example.com).
Adrian is one of very few Sinhalese (others being the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe and my uncle, the late Edmund Samarakkody) to have freed themselves from the shackles of Sinhala chauvnism to campaign for the right of Tamil people to live with equality, dignity and safety in the country of their birth. This is not a fight between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. It is a fight between injustice and justice. It is not a question of who wins the war between Sinhala chauvinism and justice for the Tamil people. What is important is where we stand. It is a tragedy that there are fewer and fewer Sinhalese who can see the entirely justifiable cause of the Tamil people struggling, not for a separate state or even a federal state, but for the basic human right to exist as equals in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious country. I pray that the eyes of the Sinhalese will be opened. Unlike my prayers for Adrian’s survival, this prayer has not been answered.
If prayers are not going to be answered, then it has to be the pressure of the international community, in particular the crucial aid-givers. They must be convinced that the racist, bigoted regime in Colombo (there is not much difference between the government and the opposition) must be brought to book as was the equally repressive and unjust regime in apartheid South Africa. If the entrenched racism in that powerful country has been dismantled, it beggars belief that a poverty-stricken 3rd world country, out with a begging bowl for survival, cannot be compelled to change its utterly intolerant policy.
The ammunition for this international ‘attack’ has been supplied by people like Adrian Wijemanne who has written more sense than any Sinhalese I know of. That is why his survival and function are so important.
The December 2004 tsunami was the defining event. If a major national catastrophe, where more than 70% of the damage was suffered by the Tamil areas, could not generate the compassion and action of the Sinhala government in Colombo, what hope is there for a united, undivided Sri Lanka? Yesterday I met the MP for Batticaloa. He says that, despite all the hype, not a single house has been built by the Government in this devastated area where half the population has been rendered homeless. The damage in the South (both in areas that were damage and even not damaged(!), is proceeding at full pace.
With the tsunami damage, we are not talking of restoring damage from a civil war. We are talking of a humanitarian crisis from a national catastrophe. If a calamity of such proportions cannot get the Sinhala regime in Colombo to rise above its entrenched ethnic and religious chauvinism, what hope is there for an undivided country? If there was any doubt that a separate Tamil state was necessary, the post-tsunami handling of the situation in the Tamil areas has surely provided the answer.
As for Sri Lanka’s political leaders, Sinhala leaders to be specific, the Sinhala people can elect whomever they want. It could be Chandrika Kumaratunga with her 10 year record of ‘leadership’ (read: destruction of the Tamil area and its people), the non-performing Ranil Wickremesinghe (the LTTE called off talks during his regime), Somawansa Amaratunge and his friends whose claim to fame rests on their massacre of thousands of their own ethnic group, the Sinhalese, including intellectuals and even Buddhist monks, and the extensive destruction of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure, including agricultural equipment, in the 1988-89 insurgency, Elle Gunawansa of 1983 Tamil massacre ‘fame’ and his anti-Tamil brethren in the JHU, so be it. If the Sinhala people are comfortable with these people as ‘leaders’, that is their problem. However, the Tamil people, the Tamil nation, which has not elected these people as ‘leaders’, do not need to be saddled with them. If ever there was a case for a separate Tamil State, it is the abysmal quality of the Sinhala leadership, to say nothing of their serious corruption, gross incompetence and complete lack of vision.
If Adrian is spared for a few more years, he may see what he has campaigned for all these many years – justice for the Tamil people. It is in this spirit that I ask you to join with me in wishing him a very happy 80th birthday and many more to come.
Posted May 24, 2005