Print this page

Depressing memories of a ‘battered’ minority

Rate this story
(10 votes)

I am getting a little tired of all the hype of Mahinda Rajapaksa being the worst and most autocratic President of this country. Everyone else has conveniently forgotten J.R Jayewardene the architect of the 1978 Executive Presidency. The all powerful Executive President who could overrule Parliament was created to ensure that the elite UNP could always remain in power. Until then, the UNP had always consistently got over 50% of the votes even though they lost seats in the Westminister Style Parliamentary Elections.

Disclosure: I am a part Tamil Sri Lankan. One who did not even bother getting a green card after living and working for 22 years in the US (Student Visa and 3 H1B Visas). I received University education in Sri Lanka. I am eternally grateful for that free University after seeing the crippling debt my fellow graduate students in the US had taken to get a basic degree.  I live in a remote village and rarely come to Colombo.

1983 Riots the wost in Sri Lankas modern history
While you portray the July 1983 riots as the worst in the modern history of Sri Lanka you have not attempted to explain how it was ignited. You go on to say it was state sponsored. If it was, was there any reason for them to unleash this until a deadly ambush on the 23rd of July 1983 by the LTTE that killed 13 Sri Lanka Army soldiers? Still there are many unanswered questions. Was the LTTE so naive not to expect a Sinhalese backlash of this nature on Tamils living in the south? Was the killing of 13 soldiers done knowing such a backlash will bring disrepute to the Sinhalese government?

That’s exactly the problem. The LTTE set up a trap wanting a backlash in the South. JRJ obliged and jumped in headfirst doing many no no's.

a) The LTTE attacked an Army contingent, a legitimate target. JRJ on the other hand unleashed terror and mayhem through his goons.

b) JRJ allowed the rioting to continue for 3 days before he declared emergency and got the Army to stop the rioting. To make matters worse JRJ made the statement to the Daily Telegraph," Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.
There is no question it was state sponsored. The thugs who came were not the local ones who mainly lived behind the Dehiwala Zoo. The thugs came with a list and they didn’t even stop at a single Sinhalese house. They came to our house and it was the "singhe" surname at the end and my sister’s and mother’s fluent Sinhalese and light skin that spared us. All the other Tamil houses down the lane including the residence of a Colombo Chetty family were burned.

Sri Lanka is still paying the price for JRJ's stupidity/racism or whatever you want to call it. 1983 created the diaspora that is still funding and agitating overseas to punish Sri Lanka. It won’t end till those who were say 20 years in 83 become 70 years old.
The sad part was that the very Westernized, quite a large proportion Protestant Christian Tamils residing in Colombo/Kandy who were attacked in 1983 were probably a UNP constituency that would have been anti LTTE. Most of them left the country and did quite well professionally. Some of them are virulently anti Sri Lanka and want to see it reduced to a beggar nation.

Credit where credit is due: JRJ out foxed Rajiv Gandhi and got him to use the Indian arm to fight the LTTE. So essentially JRJ set in play actions that would result in the LTTE assassinating Rajiv Gandhi.

Corruption has been always present in Sri Lankan governments. One issue that must be noted, the economy was smaller, so corruption in rupees and cents was much lower though percentage wise might have been the same over time. Corruption at that time was literally chicken feed and there was a controversy about chicken feed and Felix Dias Bandaranaike during Mrs B's (Sirima Bandaranaike) time in the 70s.

No corruption charges could be pointed out at JRJ. However, the biggest government project at that time was the Mahaveli Project. It’s common knowledge, the level of corruption associated with the project. The biggest project during say 1990 to 2009 was the war. So does anyone say that there was no corruption with Army Navy purchases during that time?

Law and Order
JRJ put in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It did precious little to actually combat the LTTE menace. Out in the North and East it just drove more into the LTTE fold, or made them emigrate to provide more to cause and coffers of the LTTE.

In the south, extra judicial killings against purported JVPers, more in reality anti government or private grudges were the norm.

You could not travel around the country (I was in the country till 1988). If you had a Tamil name (I have a typical Tamil middle name) you were harassed at every check point.  Being born in the South and being able to speak fluent Sinhalese got me out of many difficult situations.

Even at lesser level we can keep our windows and doors open because there are almost no drug addicts (kudu karayas) ready to steal the smallest thing.

My mother and father were traditionally UNPers. However, once, my mother voted for Mrs. Bandaranaike. It was a case of supporting women. My mother and sisters still support Mahinda Rajapaksa because of the peace he brought to the country. And we don’t have even a remote connection to the Rajapaksa corridors. They too remember the 83 riots.

What of MR's stoking new inter-religious tensions? This was against the Muslims and Christians.

One thing to keep in mind is that no government (including current Yahapalanya) will ever order the arrest of a Buddhist priest. Buddhist priests maybe critical of the actions of another priest. However, if any priest is arrested (other than say for murder or other crimes) they will close ranks and turn against the government.

All that can be said is that the BBS actions against Muslims have been condoned or a blind eye turned. The biggest was the Aluthgama/Dharga Town incident and in no way or manner can it be compared to the state sanctioned 83 riots.

The Christian attacks have been against Evangelical Christian churches. BBS has only marginally been involved in these. I personally know of two.
a) Attack on Evangelical Christian Church and Pastor in NegomboTalahena/Dungalpitiya. That attack was led by the Catholic Priest and the local Catholic Church which was seeing a steady erosion of their congregation to the Evangelical Church.
b) The attack on the Hikkaduwa Church that was televised. The pastor of that church is my cousin. This has been an ongoing battle with a local Buddhist priest of a small temple nearby. The church/pastor had filed charges against the priest for an attack around 2004. As it became evident the Buddhist priest was losing the case he attacked the church (was televised) to destroy evidence.
So at least these two incidents can’t be laid on Mahinda Rajapaske’s lap. In fact MR has quietly blocked the anti conversion Bills that have been tabled often in Parliament.
All government employees hired after 2012 have to pass the Sinhala and Tamil O/L equivalency test. This makes a Sinhalese pass Tamil and a Tamil to pass Sinhala. Can that be called the Policy of a racist President?

Copyrights protected: All the content on this website is copyright protected and can be reproduced only by giving the due courtesy to www.nation.lk' Copyright © 2011 Rivira Media Corporation Ltd., 742, Maradana Road,Colombo 10, Sri Lanka. Web Solution By Mithila Kumara | All rights reserved.