Is Sri Lanka An Ethnocracy?


By C.V. Wigneswaran

Justice C.V. Wigneswaran MP

A Colombo based Journalist asked me; Sir! What is ethnocracy? Is Sri Lanka an ethnocracy?

My response was; A significant statement was made by an International Expert from Israel by name Professor Yiftachel a few years ago when he participated in our International Land Grabbing Conference. He is a highly cited Israeli Scholar in geography and urban studies. He formulated over two decades ago the theory of ethnocratic regimes. He did research into the nature of land grabbing taking place against Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka by the successive majority Sinhala Governments and came to the conclusion that Sri Lanka too like Israel is an ethnocratic regime. 

This reference to Sri Lanka as an ethnocratic regime is very significant. The successive Sri Lankan Governments in recent times have all been ethnocratic in their nature and attitude towards the Tamils especially, and against the Muslims in recent times.

An ethnocracy is a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group to further its interests, power and resources. From the time of Independence the Sinhalese leaders have been plotting and planning against the Tamils to drive them out of the regions they had occupied in Sinhala majority areas during British times and now continue by several ways to take control of areas within the traditional homelands of the Tamils and drive out the locals. The idea seems to be to set up a mono ethnic and religious structure in Sri Lanka so that the Sinhala Buddhists could control this country continuously. Normally ethnocratic regimes indulge in genocide. In identifying the genocide taking place in Sri Lanka against the Tamils, I brought up the Genocide Resolution in the Northern Provincial Council on the 10th of February, 2015 and had it unanimously adopted by the Members. The successive ethnocratic regimes at the Centre in Sri Lanka thereafter decided no more Provincial Councils in this Country. From 2018 or so there had been no Provincial Councils functioning in this Country not only in the Tamil speaking North and East, but also in all other Provinces. Now paying lip service to the Thirteenth Amendment, every successive Government at the Centre, avoids implementing the Thirteenth Amendment. It is in furtherance of their ethnocratic  mindset that the Mahanayake Theros of the four Nikayas recently demanded the non- implementation of the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment.

There is now sufficient evidence to show the Tamils occupied their traditional homelands for more than 3000 years continuously. In fact the original inhabitants of this Country were Tamils. The original Tamil inhabitants swelled up subsequently with the coming of the Pandyas, Pallavas, Cholas, Cheras and the Arya Chakrawarthy groups, all leaving behind Tamil speaking people to add up to the numbers of  the original Tamils who occupied the areas now identified as Northern, Eastern  and parts of Western,  North Central  and North Western Provinces. If you would look at the old title deeds of many a so-called Sinhala family living along the coast from Colombo to Puttalam, they would be found to be in the Tamil language. When I visited Munneswaram Temple during my childhood, the area was full of Hindu Tamils. Now hardly any noticeable number of Hindu Tamils live there.

Sri Lankan state-sponsored colonization schemes were the successive Sinhala majority governments’ program of settling mostly persons from the South in the North and the East and elsewhere in furtherance of their ethnocratic mindset. Within predominantly Tamil speaking areas, persons from outside the said Provinces were brought and settled. This is taking place since the 1950s. According to International Law principles people of the area of colonisation should be given first preference. Not only that. They should reflect the racial demography of the area.

Since irrigation settlements occurred under direct state sponsorship, most of those who were settled in the North and East were ethnic Sinhalese. It was no doubt a deliberate attempt of the Sinhalese-dominated State to marginalize the Tamils further by decreasing their numbers in their own areas. This no doubt was one of the reasons if not perhaps the most immediate cause of inter-communal violence in the early days. 

Shortly after independence, the government of Ceylon started a program to settle Sinhalese in the jungles of the Trincomalee District. The forests were cleared and water tanks restored. As a consequence of these schemes the Sinhalese population of the Trincomalee District which was  quite  low during the time I was a child, rose to  33%  in 1981.In the 1980s the government extended the colonization schemes into the Dry Zone area of the Northern Province, drawing up plans to settle up to 30,000 Sinhalese in the area. Colonization schemes also took place in the areas of Amparai and Batticaloa districts. The Sinhalese population rose in the combined Batticaloa and Amparai Districts to numbers far in excess of the natural projected growth.

The latest activity started by the Archaeological Department is identifying areas in the North and East as Buddhist Areas of worship and destroying buildings of worship of other Religions and building Buddhist places of worship there. Mainly several Hindu places of worship have been destroyed, idols therein robbed and worshippers and priests forcibly ejected and Buddhist places of worship have been built with the assistance given by the Forces to the Department. Just yesterday or the day before the Aathilingeswarar Temple in Vedukkunaarimalai in Nedunkerni in Vavuniya North had been destroyed by the Department and the Wattamaana Parvatha Viharaya has been established in the place of the Hindu Temple. The name of the Viharaya has been newly registered with the Google and is being shown as an ancient Bauddha Temple.

An interesting facet of the antics of the Archaeological Department must be brought out. The possibilities that a Buddhist Temple had existed in the surrounding area may be correct. But such Buddhist Temple must have been there before the Sinhala language was born in the 6th and 7th Centuries AD. There could not have been Sinhalese living in this Earth before the Sinhala language was born. The Department is trying to reincarnate the Tamil Buddhist places of worship of yore into Sinhala Buddhist Places of worship of today by their latest activity. It must be remembered that there was a Commission appointed some time ago, I believe under the Chairmanship of a former Secretary to the Prime Minister who did Geography Special at the University, to collect ancient names of places of worship in the North and East. What the Commission did was having listed all the Tamil places of worship, Hindu or Buddhist, they gave them all Sinhala names. The best example was Weli Oya(Sinhala) for the centuries’ old name Manal Aru(Tamil).

Leaving some time since after the Commission’s work was over, the Department is now identifying Tamil Buddhist places of worship by Sinhala names. In between the time the Tamils who worshipped in those Buddhist places of worship had given up Buddhism and reverted back to Hinduism. But now the new form of aggression through Religion has started to metamorphose ancient Tamil Buddhist places of worship into modern Sinhala Buddhist places of worship. The idea is to show that the Sinhalese occupied those areas in ancient times and extend the age of the Sinhalese to beyond the 6th and 7th Centuries AD!  Religiocracy!

The notion of the “traditional Tamil homeland” became a potent component of popular Tamil political agitations while the Sinhalese nationalist groups viewed the resettlement schemes in these areas as “reclamation and recreation in the present of the glorious Sinhalese Buddhist past”. But the Sinhalese were wrongly advised by their Politicians, Intellectuals and others about their past. The Sinhalese are a recent Nation.

Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island. When Buddhism was introduced there were no Sinhalese. It were the Tamils who were converted to Buddhism. All the Buddhist remains now found in the North and East going back to 2000 years are the remnants from the time of the Tamil Buddhists. (Demala Baudhayo as Professor Sunil Ariaratne informs in his Sinhala publication  under the same heading).Unless the Sinhala Buddhists realize that they are pursuing a falsity trying to make this Country a Sinhala Buddhist Country  which it never was, ethnocracy will prevail and Sri Lanka can never boast of peace and tranquility in this Island ever.

The post Is Sri Lanka An Ethnocracy? appeared first on Colombo Telegraph.

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