Permit me some fair/reasonable space to respond to your columnist Dushy Ranetunge, who taking advantage of the weekly slot allotted by your paper, has liberally sprayed his/her anti-Sinhala venom in an article titled, “Sinhalisation continues, not only is Jaffna, but also in Colombo” (Sunday Leader – 22.5.11). I presume you publish critiques of “Sunday Leader” articles.
The first two points made by DR are well taken. One; “Buddhism is as foreign to Sri Lanka as Christianity or Hinduism”, True. One supposes then that even Hinduism is alien to India; Christianity is alien to Rome (Italy), UK, USA, Europe and South America, etc., and Islam to most of the current “Islamic” countries. So for instance, in the US, many churches have transgressed on native Indian land, constituting “colonization” (to use DR’s words) by the English/Americans. It seems that such imposition of alien religions have been universal and not confined to Buddhism alone. Two; the Government has still failed to implement the use of Tamil language by the Police. True, our Police Stations are remiss on this. I think action is on to rectify this shortcoming as soon as practically possible. But could DR enlighten us as to whether Tamil is used in say Maharashtra, Madhya/Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, etc., in Indian Police stations, or Scotch or Welsh in UK police stations, Spanish in US police stations or Tamil in Malaysia which has a 60% to 40% Malay-Tamil ratio as against a 75% to 20% (or less now?) here! I ask this to know whether such reduced attention to a minority language is peculiar to Sri Lanka only, or more or less universal.
Now for the other items in DR’s anti-Sinhala venom sac: No consultations with the residents of the streets/roads where names were changed from English personages to names of Sinhalese personages, says DR. Reference is made to Havelock Road, changed to “SSJ Mw”; Dickman’s Rd to “Lester James Pieris Mw” and Guildford Crescent to “Premasiri Khemadasa Mw”.
The residents had no choice DR says. Assuming that to be true, the inference is that when the original English names were given to these roads, the English colonialists consulted the residents before naming, or alternatively DR considers that even though not so consulted it is better that the old colonially imposed names be retained, rather than, local names given by our own governments without consultation with the residents, in spite of the fact that some of the colonialists so honoured were guilty of human rights abuses and crimes against the Sinhalese. DR makes no harsh comments regarding the English names being given without consultation (assuming so – DR may correct me if wrong) but reserves it for ‘Sinhalisation’. No mention is made either that Tamil names have also been given by our Governments without consultation, e.g. Rudra Mw, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mw, and Muslim names too, e.g. Sir Macan Markar Mw, T. B. Jayah Mw, etc. There were no consultations in these cases too, I believe.
So it seems DR has no objection to Imperial/Colonial English names being retained as against substitution with Sinhala names, despite (a) that Colonial names too were non-consultative, like DR says ours were, (b) some of the colonial ‘gentlemen’ so honoured were guilty of crimes against our country and its people, and (c) that the Sinhalese so honoured were men deserving of our honour, and/or the name commemorated a significant event for the vast majority or our people. The “No Objection” approval or Certificate for Colonial Names is given by DR on the grounds that (i) the European and South Indian colonization “is a part of our heritage”; and (ii) such colonization is equivalent to Sinhala “colonization” which itself is foreign. Regarding (i) one recollects the attempt by the UNP Leader Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the entry of Portuguese colonialism, under the guise of commemorating the 500th anniversary of Portuguese “association” with Sri Lanka!
Such are the ways of those liking to lick the backs of our colonialists. DR prefers the retention of the colonial “heritage” to the introduction of our own “heritage”. This is not to decry the retention of some foreign names, now part of our usage where the personage/event honoured deserves such honour. These are many such persons who though foreigners, deserve honour and respect. Regarding (ii), to DR, a time difference for “Sinhala Colonisation” of 2000 years or more as against 500 years by westerners is no difference! DR’s remark here needs little further comment and must be thus disposed of with contempt.
“Ethno-religious madness” resulted in “thousands of Burghers” and “over a million Tamils” being driven abroad. The point is taken, despite the hype with regard to the numbers, Black July 1983 was unforgivable. That was not however a State sponsored pogrom but the work of one UNP Minister waiting for any incident to spark an ethnic conflagration. Regrettably, these things happen. The 1948 Hindu-Muslim inferno saw similar migrations. Conversely, Tamil ethno madness by the LTTE did the same thing to Sinhala colonists in border areas and Muslims too.
DR says “the Diaspora are not enemies”, claiming they are Sri Lankan citizens whom the Sri Lanka Government “has failed to represent”, and are now represented by the EU, US, Canada, Australia and India. This Diaspora thus appears to consist of a strange type of “Non-enemy” Sri Lankan citizens! Attempting to sabotage Sri Lankan events abroad, demonstrating against Sri Lankan Ministers/Officers on official trips abroad, urging the UN to haul Sri Lanka and its President and Military Commanders before UN War Crimes Tribunals for destroying a Terrorist outfit, setting up a bogus secessionist “Trans National Government of Tamil Eelam” abroad (they may even set up a “Trans Planetary Government of Tamil Eelam”, who knows, with help from the NASA Shuttle, no doubt with further help from Hillary Clinton and Robert Blake) are some of the “friendly” acts of these “non-enemy” Sri Lankan Citizens, “Venom to thy work”, DR. may have muttered when spouting such anti-Sinhalese Poison.
T20 World Cup