I went to sleep last week living down Havelock Road and woke up in the brand spanking spruced up renamed SSJ Mawatha. The Sinhalese are a minority within the city limits of Colombo. Those who are Buddhists among them are even a smaller minority. No one had consulted the residents of Havelock road about the change of name of their road. They had no voice. Within the last few months we had witnessed Dickman’s Road becoming Lester James Pieris Mawatha, Guildford Crescent to Premasiri Kemadasa Mawatha etc. The residents of these roads also had no choice on the matter. It was imposed from above. Under the present regime, “Sinhalisation” continues, not only in Jaffna, but also in Colombo. The masses, climbed into an array of vehicles, some parents had kids sitting in the boot of cars as they toured the country viewing the many Vesak spectacles and queuing up outside the generous dansala’s. It took me six hours to drive from Kandy to Colombo. As I observed the thousands of children, grannies and entire families taking their lives into their hands by travelling at the back of tractors, half trucks, etc the police looked the other way. The law is an Ass, they say. But here in Sri Lanka, not only the law, the entire law enforcement system, seem to be braying Asses. What amazed me was the site of adults, presumably parents, sitting inside a car, while their children were sitting inside the boot with their legs hanging out. They were travelling on the crowded Colombo-Negombo Road. Sri Lankans seemed unaware or unwilling to recognise the dangers to themselves and to others. For this great majority, Havelock Road becoming SSJ Mawatha was a cause for celebration. They saw nothing wrong in not consulting the residents of the street, where their majoritarian “identity” was being “imposed” without consultation.
It is the same in Jaffna. When so many Hindu Temples lie in ruin as a result of the war, the majority does not seem concerned about the building of new Buddhist shrines in the North and the East. For the Sinhala Buddhist majority, it is their right, and a cause for celebration. They are not tuned to the sensitivities of others. Almost all of these temples are built with state patronage with the security forces taking a major part. It was the same in Colombo where at the top of the new SSJ Mawatha, was the brand spanking new SSJ centre for Buddhism. State involvement in the whole project was obvious.
Political patronage of the dominant tribe by those in power is so that they can precipitate their rule over the masses. So you will see these politicians associating themselves from world cup cricket to Buddhism.
To the outsider, it is blatantly clear that in Sri Lanka, the dominant tribe has seized control of the state apparatus, and the state functions to precipitate the hegemony of the dominant tribe. The minorities in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa or Colombo are drowned in the majoritarian sea, where their identity is being crushed.
The Portuguese, Dutch, British, South Indian colonisation of Sri Lanka is a part of our heritage as much as the colonisation of the Sinhalese identity, which is as foreign as the others. Buddhism is as foreign to Sri Lanka as Christianity or Hinduism. In fact some will argue that Sri Lankan’s were Hindu’s before the arrival of Buddhism, during the reign of that Devanampiya Tissa, whose “high” IQ was tested with that mango tree riddle.
Drive around Sri Lanka and you will see, statues of British leaders in Sri Lanka removed, Place names changed, Race courses nationalised, Hindu places of worship taken over, Sinhala only imposed, new Buddhist temples in predominantly Tamil neighbourhoods. The “ancient” Naga dipa vihara for instance is a recent “innovation” less than 100 years old.
Now there is an even more recent one, the place where Sangamitta landed. Both places have no archaeological value, as they are not ancient sites. These are as authentic as you putting a stick on the beach and claiming it to be the spot where Vijaya landed.
After Half a century after Sinhala only, the Sri Lankan state has still failed to facilitate the practical use of Tamil language in police stations in Sri Lanka.
Mr Sajith Premadasa states that he wants the population to be conversant in both Sinhalese and Tamil and that a Tamil must be able to go to Cinnamon Gardens police station and make a police entry in Tamil and receive correspondence in Tamil.
I asked him if he speaks Tamil. He said “unfortunately, no”. I asked him if the President speaks Tamil. He says, “No, the President makes Tamil speeches with the help of a teleprompter.”
As a result of this “ethno-religious” madness, hundreds of thousands of burghers were driven out of the country. Over a million Tamils have also been driven out of the country.
The “Diaspora” are not enemies.
They are citizens of Sri Lanka whom the Sri Lankan state has failed to represent. The governments of the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and the Republic of India now represent them.
I inquired from Mr Sajith Premadasa about his statement that no war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka. He puts his Mill Hill School education in North London, into good use in telling me that Sri Lanka committed “excesses” not “war crimes”. I asked him what was the difference between “war crimes” and “excesses”?
He said that he will use the word “excesses” and that I can use the word war crimes.
So, lets use Sajith Premadasa’s word, “excesses”.
Sri Lankans point to the US and the UK to justify “excesses” when those governments request Sri Lanka to put its house in order. A million Americans and British citizens are not living in Sri Lanka because of the “excesses” of their governments.
But over a million Sri Lanka are living in Australia, the European Union, North America and India, because of Sri Lankan “excesses”. Those governments now represent Sri Lankan minority communities in those countries, whom the Sri Lankan state has failed to represent.
They have every right to tell Sri Lanka to put its house in order.
If after over 60 years of independence, the Sri Lankan state continues to fail its citizens who have a minority culture, it has no option, but to devolve power.
Since the opposition in Sri Lanka is so inept, thank god some states and bodies outside Sri Lanka are opposing the hegemony of the majority. Since 2005, the Sri Lankan electorate seem to have moved to the right and this suits those in power, to ensure their continuity in office.
I suggested that a petition be raised about the change of the street name without consultation. I was told that the citizens are today more scared than during Premadasa’s regime and that no one will dare protest.
That’s democracy for you and on Vesak day they were blaring from loudspeakers about “Budhu Guna”.