Hon. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Dear President Kumaratunga:
I got all choked up when I heard of your announcement to adopt a ‘Tamil’ child orphaned by the tsunami. What a wonderful gesture it is, for the ‘ethnic’ Sinhalese president of the country to adopt an ‘ethnic’ Tamil child, at a time when the country is torn apart precisely by this ‘ethnic’ difference. Your secretary’s statement that it is a ‘personal decision’ and not a ‘political’ one, adds to the nobility of your decision.
In an era in which your neighboring country, India, has experienced difficulties with adoptions across ethnic and religious lines (Brahmin v. non-Brahmin, Hindu v. Muslim), your intention is indeed a courageous one and I commend you for it.
I would like to, however, ask that you follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice in a similar situation.
Gandhi was fasting to protest the Hindu-Muslim riots, where the Hindus and Muslims were killing each other. A remorseful Hindu, who had killed an innocent Muslim to avenge the killing of his own son by a Muslim mob, approached Gandhi to beg for clemency. The Mahatma said to him: "Go adopt a child… Be sure it’s a Muslim child… Only, raise him as a Muslim…"
Please adopt a Tamil child, Ms. Kumaratunga, but be sure to raise that child as a Tamil.
Be a good mother and talk to that child in Tamil. Teach him/her the Tamil language (you have to learn it first, of course). Sit with that child, all day if you can, and teach him/her the wonders of his/her heritage – the arts, the music, the drama, the literature, the customs and the magnificent history. Raise that child to be a proud Tamil – a Tamil child that has every reason to be proud of his/her Tamil ancestry.
Sri Lanka, painfully divided along ethnic lines, needs a magnanimous gesture like the one you have just announced.
Just - please do it right.
Sincerely and with warmest regards
Posted January 12, 2005