Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC)

The coalition of Muslims and Tamils is a Sri Lanka based organization-comprising Muslim and Tamil identified persons who as a general principle are committed to pluralism and social justice in all its forms. Specifically, we are committed to the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Tamils in the country, particularly in the north and east, and to a just and equitable solution to the ethnic conflict. We can be contacted at:

Friday, June 29, 2007

Territorial Claims, Conquests and Dispossesion in the ‘New East’: The growing concerns of the Muslims of Ampara

The new flag for the Eastern Province, introduced by the government, displays three animals: a lion symbolizing the Ampara district, an eagle for Trincomalee and a fish for Batticaloa. Batticaloa has long called itself the land of the “singing” fish, but why an eagle was chosen for Trincomalee is unclear. The use of the Sinhala lion to represent the Muslim dominated Ampara district is terrifying: erasing the Muslim presence in the east, it is a potent symbol of the reality on the ground- the Muslims do not count in the larger context of our ethnic conflict.

The east is the testing ground for the success of any resolution to the conflict. All of our communities need to feel a sense of well being and belonging for peace and stability to prevail. But recent actions of the government and forces aligned to it are increasing the sense of insecurity felt by different communities. The use of the lion for Ampara district suggests that this is a continuation of the post-independence Sinhalisation of the Eastern Province that has found new and brutal fervour under the administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

We speak here with alarm and with concern of specific acts by state agencies that continue the dispossession of the Muslim people through land acquisition and demarcation by the state. The Muslims of the Pottuvil region, who are already in a insecure position have in recent times felt the brunt of the heavy hand of state sponsored programmes. These programmes have created anxiety and fear in the community. The Pottuvil region is multi cultural and multi ethnic, with an ethnic break down of 78.11% Muslims, 19.79% Tamils and 2.11% Sinhala. Traditionally, the different communities had co-existed peacefully with 90% of the population engaged in agriculture and the rest 10% in other forms of employment.

We give here four incidents or acts that have a direct bearing on the welfare of the people of the region:

1. The gazette notice dated 1454/26 of July 2006, declares that 1531 hectares of land of the Lahugala district secretariat of the Ampara District will be declared a National Park, which will be referred to, hereafter as the “Lahugala-Kithulana National Park”. Since the borders of the Pottuvil and Lahugala Divisions are still under dispute (ref. Alfred Silva commission) Pottuvil Muslims feel that through this move the government is trying to take over land along the Lahugala Pottuvil main road that the Muslims have had access to and had been the means of livelihood for most of the people there.

2. On the 25 of the September, 2006, a letter signed by the Chair of the Lahugala Pradeshiya Sabha, to the Ministry of Public Administration, with copies to the President and the Minister of Labour Mr. Merwyn Silva, requested the annexation of the three gramasevaka divisions, Sarvodaya puram, Sinna Ulle, and Pasarichennai, (Periya Ulle) with the Lahugala Division, citing discriminatory practices of the officers against minority Sinhala and Tamil villagers. The ethnic break down for these three gramasevaka divisions shows an overwhelming Muslim majority: (91.5% Muslim, 4.7% Sinhala, 3.8% Tamil). So the motive for moving a Muslim majority area into a larger Sinhala unit in this instance is easily apparent.

3. In December 2005, official inquiries were made about identifying all the places of Buddhist worship and Dagabas in the Ampara district. A letter dated and signed by the G.A. of Ampara addressing the Pradeshiya Lekam makes this request. In Pottuvil alone they have indicated 07 places as sites of Buddhist heritage (Sangamankanthai, Kirimetiaaru, Pottuvil town, Muhuthumahaviharai, Eatham, Thaharampolla, Rottaiviharai).

4. It has also been brought to our notice that a thousand acres surrounding the Shasthiravelli STF camp in the Pottuvil region was previously under consideration as a High Security Zone, which had led to annexation of land that has traditionally been used by the people of the region. Now it has been declared as Shasthiravelli Temple land. There was a protest by the people of Pottuvil demanding access to this area in April 2007.

It is unclear whether all these four concurrent developments have progressed any further. For instance it is not clear if the request for the three gramasevaka divisions, Sarvodaya puram, Sinna Ulle, and Pasarichennai, (Periya Ulle) to be annexed to the Lahugala Division will go forward. The Divisional Secretary of the Pottuvil District in a letter to the G.A. Ampara gave a detailed response, denying all charges of discrimination. He further noted that fishermen who came from other parts of the country indulged in unlawful occupation of state land and transgressed existing rules governing the buffer zone of the coastal areas and had been demanding permits for their illegal activities which were not acceded to by his office. As far as we know the matter has not progressed beyond this point but there are clear signs that there is growing pressure to push this issue further.

These acts of acquisition or potential annexation, taken in isolation, might seem purely bureaucratic or in the interests of military security. The policies can in fact be justified as being driven by important principles such as the conservation of nature, the right to equality for all ethnic communities and fair governance, the preservation of Sri Lanka’s ancient history and national security. While these principles should be recognized and not dismissed, it is important to recognize the context in which these policies are being implemented and the agenda of those pushing these policies. If one approaches it from the perspective of history, the history of the minority communities, these acts emerge as part of a history where state-aided programmes have brought about demographic changes in the east. In this instance, these acts appear to be aimed at dispossessing the Muslim majority population of their land.

Pottuvil is politically an isolated division but it has featured prominently in the demographic and administrative battle for the East. Situated on the edge of Ampara district with a majority Muslim population, it has been used as the entry point for Sinhalisation of the east. Muslims politicians often neglect this division, leaving it to the consideration of one or the other of the two ruling parties (UNP or SLFP). It is sandwiched between two Sinhala areas, Panama and Lahugala. Lahugala and Panama are two non-contiguous areas brought together as one DS division-Lahugala DS. When the Ampara district was created, a large Sinhala population was added on giving the district one of the oddest looking boundaries – a coastal belt linked to a truncated inland area, making crystal clear the ethnic agenda of the central government to avoid the emergence of a clearly Muslim-majority district. Like in other areas of the East and the North where new Sinhala names have proclaimed the expansion of the Sinhala colonization programme, Ampara too has undergone symbolic and demographic changes owing to state aided colonization programmes.

Ampara remains the play thing of ambitious politicians. The M.P for Ampara, who was formerly the Deputy Minister in charge of Mahaweli Development is back in power as Minister for Planning and Implementation and is in an influential position to steer the course of events in this unfolding story of annexation. He has, in fact, written a letter to the District Secretary of Pottuvil on 20th April, 2007, requesting/demanding that the thousand acres surrounding the Shasthiravelli STF camp be allocated to the Shasthiravelli temple.

The developments cited above follow other recent changes in land demarcation. In December 2005, the boundaries of the Pottuvil region were redrawn (which are still in dispute), where some of the land belonging to people from Pottuvil was brought under Panama Pattu, causing great difficulties to them, where language and transport were concerned. Furthermore, and more importantly, grazing land that was traditionally used by the Pottuvil people was brought under Panama Pattu, leading to loss of access to this land and the subsequent decline in the 40, 000-cattle-strong livestock economy of the district. The redrawing of the boundaries of the Pottuvil region discriminates in many ways against the Muslim majority population The people of Pottuvil had already been dispossessed, by the enactment of the buffer zone in the region following the tsunami. The redrawing of the boundaries exacerbates the situation of shortage of land for the people in the region. . They were not consulted in any of the actions; they had no say in what affected them most. The annexation of land by the state, land that has been traditionally used by the people of the region, as grazing land and for seasonal cultivation spells great loss to the economy and the welfare of the people. Steps need to be taken to protect forest cover and to ensure that the land is used in a sustainable manner; but this should be done by taking into account the needs and rights of the local people. Arugam Bay in the Pottuvil region, is one of the biggest tourist attractions, not only of the east, but of the entire country and is a piece of prize real estate coveted by politicians and big business alike. In the wake of the tsunami and its destruction, the state instituted land-protection programmes including a buffer zone, which were perceived as serving the interests of big business from outside at the expense of those of the people of the area.

The acts of annexation are accompanied by other symbolic representations of appropriation, symbolic of conquest and hegemony. Buddhism in Sri Lanka, which in its fundamentals is a religion of peace and tolerance, is an integral part of state hegemony and is often experienced by minority communities as state aggression. Conquest of land is symbolized by what is perceived as Sinhala Budhisisation. In this respect, the erection of the statue of the Buddha among minority dominant areas has always spelt trouble, exacerbating ethnic tensions and in some instances, leading to outright confrontation.

Much of the time, the erection of a statue is not done by local Buddhists but by groups or agencies associated with the state. For instance, Ulle, a majority Muslim area in the Pottuvil region and a tourist hot spot, has been at the heart of the controversy of seemingly competing interests from the time of the tsunami. Two days after the tsunami in the midst of the disruption, dire loss, and anguish felt by the people all around, a statue of the Buddha on a podium was erected under cover of night, leading to acrimony and unnecessary conflict. In this climate, we cannot but be alarmed at the Buddhisisation, topographically, on the part of the state and see it as a sign of a Sinhala-Buddhist domination.

There are other disturbing accounts accompanying our narration. On March 21 2007, the JHU and the breakaway LTTE group TMVP, led by Karuna discussed issues collaboration regarding the protection of the cultural heritage of the eastern province. At the meeting, the JHU also raised issues of conservation in the East. This meeting was a part of a wider JHU strategy to take to another level the protection of Buddhist cultural and religious sites and to champion environmental issues. The JHU politician Champaka Ranawaka is the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. Thus the JHU is in a powerful position to push forward its campaign. Reports of the meeting contained references to “evil elements” that were seeking to destroy cultural monuments. In the context of the JHU’s anti-minority rhetoric this ‘evil’ can mean only one thing. Subsequently, we have had people of the region report to us that members of the Karuna faction had been threatening the people of the area with eviction orders from the “sacred Buddhist lands” they were “occupying.” This has created considerable panic among the people, who have been exposed to a number of strategies to progressively dispossess them of their land. Also, TMVP, like its parent organization, the LTTE, has been attempting to establish its dominance over the Muslim community in the east, and is mimicking the LTTE’s policies of violence against Muslims targeting and appropriating their lands. Like the LTTE, whose ideology and practices it finds impossible to break away from, the Karuna faction too, is deeply mired in ethnicising the conflict in the east, increasing the sense of insecurity felt by the Muslims of the region. The collaboration between Sinhala Buddhist forces and TMVP itself might be short lived, but it emerges from the ultra-nationalists positions of extremism from both the Sinhala and Tamil communities, who insist that Muslims are interlopers and aliens on their homeland. Such actions if not condemned and eradicated from their very inception, can intensify fears of ethnic cleansing and exacerbate ethnic hostilities beyond repair.

The massacre of ten Muslim labourers in Radal Kullam (Radella) on September 17 2006, has made the Muslim community even more vulnerable in the face of increasing threats to their security and livelihood. Apart from the massacre itself, what followed in its trail has sparked wide spread controversy, in particular the manner in which the government and forces allied to the government covertly tried to cover up the incident. While the local Muslim community claimed that the STF was responsible either directly or in complicity with local Sinhala Home Guards, the state and its allies sought to blame the LTTE. Those determined to blame the LTTE went to the extent of virtually taking hostage the sole survivor of the massacre, by diverting the ambulance from a hospital in Kalmunai to Ampara; by forcing the survivor to give an interview to MP A.L.M. Athaualla and by preventing the victim’s family from meeting him in the first few days. The state media on the other hand reported that the Muslims were blaming the STF because the STF had taken an active role in curbing illegal felling. Local Muslims, however have a different version. They placed the cause for the massacre on a series of conflicts over land, including one incident that happened just a day before the incident. This particular conflict arose over the attempt to use an area of the burial grounds, specifically demarcated for Muslims, to bury a Sinhalese person and STF intervention on behalf of the Sinhalese community. Local Muslims feel that the massacre was a warning to the Muslim Community; they should not vie for control of the land.

The issue of land grabbing and dispossession in the East is a complex and acrimonious issue, with political actors and ethnic communities exchanging charges that the opposing communities are using multiple methods to secure more territory. Forcible annexation and violence, land sales, poverty and a host of other factors have altered and continue to alter the ethnic geography of the east. An additional issue is the ethnicisation of bureaucracy and administration with administrative divisions marking ethnic boundaries. The issue of land is tied to this ethnicisation of state bureaucracy, with Central Government, line ministries, GAs, land officers and GNs all forming a part of the struggle for securing and maintaining control of the land. This is the corollary of the ethnicisation of politics and the ethnic conflict itself. Thus, policies that show, for whatever reason, ethnic biases are viewed with suspicion. It is important to study and understand local situations and histories in addressing the fears and well being of different communities.. For instance, since its establishment the Ampara District has never had a GA from Sri Lanka’s minority communities. Local communities be they Muslim, Tamil or Sinhala often become the pawns of powerful blocs, testing the limits of age-old coexistence. Where the Muslim community of the east is concerned, the threats they face do not come from neighbouring Sinhala communities but from the state.

As we have noted above, the progressive dispossession of the Pottuvil people, through decree and by state sponsored forces, put the Muslim population in the region as a whole under great stress. There is an acute shortage of land in the region and the Muslim population feels the economic down slide accompanying these acts of appropriations. The continuing trend of land grabbing is alarming. Land is the corner stone of any solution to the conflict in the east. It is a crucial factor in the resolution of the ethnic conflict in terms of power sharing. The state and other interested parties must act with the utmost caution in any policy implementation that might affect any particular community unjustly or serve to deepen ethnic disharmony. The issues we have highlighted above deal with the Muslims in Pottuvil but this a larger problem common to other communities in the East. Even as we write, we have reports of the gazette notification of the declaration of large areas of land in Trincomalee, in the Sampur division, being taken over as High Security Zones. This needs to be looked into in careful detail as well.

The entire country is turning into a battleground, in the war between the State and the LTTE. The recent expulsions, of Tamils from Colombo, remind us of past acts of pogroms and ethnic cleansing: July 1983 and October 1990, the eviction of Muslims of the north by the LTTE, the slaughter of Sinhala peasants in the east by the LTTE. In this context we also need to be concerned about other less spectacular and yet as significant and insidious moves by the state against ethnic minorities, increasing the fears and insecurities of the marginalized. The Muslims of the east feel beleaguered by the increasing violence and uncertainty surrounding them. They are over powered by state actions over which they have absolutely no control. This state of affairs needs to change immediately.

Peace and security for all the people in the east will be the ultimate test of any programme of power sharing. It is the primary responsibility of the state and other political and civil organizations to address the fears of the minority communities in the east, as an urgent issue, whether they be Muslim, Tamil or Sinhala, and work toward putting an end to the terror that is stalking the region. We request civil activists and concerned persons to explore this matter further in order to arrive at a just and equitable alternative to state aggression against minority communities.


Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence

The coalition of Muslims and Tamils is a Sri Lanka based organization-comprising Muslim and Tamil identified persons who as a general principle are committed to pluralism and social justice in all its forms. Specifically, we are committed to the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Tamils in the country, particularly in the north and east, and to a just and equitable solution to the ethnic conflict.
We can be contacted at:
Please visit our website :

Saturday, May 05, 2007


An Open Letter to the President, Mahinda Rajapaksha, with regard to the SLFP proposals to the APRC.

Dear Mr. President,

It is with great disbelief followed by disillusionment and despondency that we read the SLFP proposals to the APRC. And we write this letter to you, as the President, of the entire country and its peoples, and not just as a person representing a minority political opinion of the population, in the most sincere hope that you will act with integrity, intelligence and with a sense of responsibility, despite the stance that your own party has taken viz a viz the ethnic conflict and a negotiated settlement.

In this country, the people have been witness to a long drawn out war that has been characterized by a miserable lack of wisdom and foresight. Time and again, valiant leaders, thinkers, activists fought hard for a meaningful solution. Time and again, they were defeated, by opportunistic forces that cared none for the people. In this regard we remember Kethesh Loganathan who died less than a year ago, and who gave an entire life time to solving the conflict. In his book Lost Opportunities he traces all of the moments of opportunity that were missed by the leaders in bringing peace to the country. In the end, he joined the Peace Secretariat early last year, in the hope that this government had the will to solve the conflict. He sacrificed his life, living and dying for peace. So have scores of others. Yet, we have, in the face of all this thought, activism, struggle and sacrifice, and the suffering of the people, in the north and east, and in the south, a miserably dilettantish effort, by a principal political party of the country, the majority party today. It is not merely disappointment that assails us but despair. We are surprised that you as the President, and the leader of the government, have given your approval to a document that goes against the grain of all recent efforts toward arriving at a solution.

The SLFP proposals demonstrate that its leaders have, on the one hand, no sense of history, no sense of political resilience, no sense of vision for a united Sri Lanka, and on the other, no empathy with the people of this country, and heinously and outrageously, no accommodation of minority interests at heart. The SLFP itself and you, Mr President, had been party to a much more progressive set of proposals that provided a constructive framework for strengthening a pluralistic and united country. Yet, the party seems to have forgotten its own historical and bold initiatives as a part of the People’s Alliance to devise a political solution that would create a power-sharing arrangement within a united and federal Sri Lanka. Why this U-turn now?

The present SLFP proposals reassert the supremacy of the centre, despite their lip service to orientalist tacks, asserting that their model proposes an indigenous solution, based on grama rajya. But if one read the scanty set of guidelines set down, by way of proposals, one could see that it is really a very ‘western’ oriented model, with all powers given to the centre, and under the executive presidency, to the President. When the SLFP proposes the unit of devolution as the district, it completely undermines the hard work that has so far gone into in devolving some measure of power to the north and the east on the basis of ethnicity and language. The district as the unit of devolution is part of a very old story, in that when it was tried through the District Development Councils it proved to be a total failure. Surely, Mr. President, you should know that the district as the unit of devolution is not going to be acceptable to the vast majority of the people in the north and east. Why have you forgotten them? The proposals are at best, unrealistic and in pathetic denial of all the lessons learnt in history, and at worst, so viciously anti-minority, that if taken seriously, will catapult the country onto a dangerous, no return path of further blood shed.

Here, Mr. President, we appeal, in the sincerest hope that you do have the interests of the people at heart, to take cognizance of the realities around us, and to address the fundamentally flawed approach of the SLFP proposals, proposed in your name and in no other, with a commitment to peace in the country. The proposals are set in your name; they invoke the Mahinda Chintanaya. At a time, when even high ways are built in the name of the Mahinda Chintanaya, one does not know how serious the architects of the proposals are in their commitment to any kind of intellectual thought. Mr. President, we appeal to you to take stock of the situation and to assess, what your government has offered us today, after nearly 25 years of conflict and war. You have a personal responsibility for what has been put on the table.

Today, the people of the country are facing many different kinds of authoritarian forces assailing them. We are a country at war with ourselves. Aided in no small measure by the fascism of the LTTE, the general tenor of the country is one of fear. The government in its bid to win the war against the LTTE, at any cost, has not fared well at safeguarding the basic rights of its people. It seems to be in a contest with the LTTE, in a mad drive to surpass it in violating individual rights. Today, the mass of people have been rendered passive bystanders, while intimidation of media personnel and other activists carried out by high ranking government personnel goes unchecked. For the minorities, this trend strikes terror in their hearts. As Muslims and Tamils, from the north and east, we long for peace, we long for democracy. We don’t believe that democracy can be won or secured through suppressing dissent and brutalizing entire communities. We want an end to the killings in our midst by all quarters. We want to live in amity with our brethren of all communities. Toward this, we need an equitable solution to the ethnic conflict, where we would feel we have a chance to move on as full fledged people of this country. The SLFP proposals have dashed all our hopes on the ground. The minorities have been given short shrift and have become total non-entities.

Once again, dear Mr. President, we hope you will rise above the short sightedness of the proposals and demonstrate to the world, the people of this country, especially the minorities, that despite appearances, you are really committed to the material notions of justice, equality and peace. We need a strong assurance from you that you wish to lead us into an era of reconciliation and not into further bloodshed, hostility, and eventually the total collapse of dialogue.

Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC)

Sunday, April 22, 2007


-Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole-

Distinguished guests, friends – Good Evening.

Slide 1
My mandate is speak on the educational scene in Sri Lanka as it pertains to Tamils. To give a complete picture I have printed my talk and will read only relevant sections to give more time for discussion.

Slide 2
This talk must of necessity begin with attitudes of the Sinhalese people towards their Tamil cohabitants of the island and vice versa. I would summarise it as Nazism – a sense of superiority and destiny explain a lot of what has happened. The attitudes are exclusivist.

Slide 3
We find in the Mahavamsa, a chronicle taken as serious history by the Sinhalese, the king Duttugemunu is in a depression after emerging victorious in a battle where several Tamils have been killed. The Buddhist Church counsel him not to worry about “any hindrance in [his] way to heaven” since he had killed only a human and a half – that is the a Tamil who was Buddhist and another part Buddhist. And then the counselors reveal their full attitudes to all Tamils by saying: The rest of the Tamils are “not to be more esteemed than beasts”! That is, a Tamil counts as human only when he is Buddhist.

We see this coalescing into Nazism in the 1930s as the Sinhalese consider themselves Aryan and admire Adolf Hitler. The newspaper Viraya calls for a leader of the Sinhalese like Hitler, saving the Aryan race from degeneration And then D.S. Senanayake, Sri Lanka’s soon to be first Prime Minister on New Year’s day 1939 says at a public meeting: ‘We are one blood and one nation. We are a chosen people. The Buddha said that his religion would last 5500 years. That means that we, as the custodians of that religion, shall last as long’.

Slide 4:
Echoing the same sentiment, perhaps even trying to outdo Senanayake, SWRD Bandaranaike at a public meeting in Balapitiya in 1939 spoke these words: “I am prepared to sacrifice my life for the sake of my community, the Sinhalese. If anybody were to try to hinder our progress, I am determined to see that he is taught a lesson he will never forget”

At the end of the meeting, a Mrs. Srimathie Abeygunawardena in a congratulatory and adulatory way ‘likened Mr. Bandaranaike to Hitler’

Slide 5
Continuing the Bandaranaike promise to teach those who hinder Sinhalese progress, Minister Champika Ranwake said recently of the Tamil tigers, that if they cannot be dealt with by legal means, they would use any other means available to them

Slide 6
I apologize if I hurt the feelings of Sinhalese in putting things across rather openly. They have held power and abused it. But would we Tamils have been better rulers if we had held power? The indications are that we Tamils and Sinhalese are cut from the same cloth. It seems to me that we Tamils merely lacked the opportunity to be as nasty as the Sinhalese have been. We have shown similar prejudices, but simply lacked the opportunity and the power to be as nasty.

For example, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan after opposing same seating for the low castes in our schools in the legislative assembly manages to this day to be a great Tamil hero.
In 1960 when DS Senanayake was prepared to give us a Tamil university, GG Ponnabalam wanted it to be a Hindu university. The Federal Party wanted a Tamil university. As we fought, the government established a Tamil university fund with Rs. 100 promising to build it once we made up our minds. We never did.

TULF leaders in their speeches have threatened to make lampshades from Sinhalese they have skinned – harking perhaps back to Hitler’s lampshade experiments?
As for prejudice, indeed many a Tamil here – mostly Jaffna Vellahla I am sure as is the characteristic of well-to-do Tamils – would have heard private conversations saying that the Sinhalese are fools and that the Muslims are untrustworthy. We all know that temple entry has been for long prohibited to the low castes and one of our leaders took a leading part in it. We teach in our school texts that the low castes are imbued with bad morals.

Where we Tamils held power as in today’s Jaffna … when I was made Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna …

Slide 7
Oru Paper, editorialized from Canada thus:
“[T]here are a few Christian who are unable to reconcile their minds to the fact that they had deserted the religion of their forefathers. This grievance they carry against the whole community. The Hoole brothers, Lakshman Kadirgamar [Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister murdered by the LTTE] and D.B.S. Jeyaraj of Canada [a well-respected journalist] belong to this category. As for Ratnajeevan Hoole as Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University, this much has to be said. He should not be allowed to roam free in Jaffna’s Tamil Hindu society, particularly in the university campus where there is even a Saiva temple.” [Emphasis as in the original making the threat to my physical safety all the more ominous]

You will note the dismissal of all Tamil Christians as traitors to the Hindu religion. You will note also the public call to murder. And you will note further the assertion of presumed nexus that Tamil = Saivite

Slide 8
“What Business does Hoole have in Nandhi’s University?,” asked a student union poster. You will recognize that Nandhi is the bull-god that adorns strangely and unfittingly the emblem of University of Jaffna. The new theoretical notion of symbolic racism that has emerged in political science circles, is demonstrable here as it was in Adolf Hitler’s methods.
Thus even as the Sinhalese say that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese Buddhists, we Tamils seems to be saying that the North-East belongs only to the Saivite Tamils.

Slide 9
In further evidence of Tamil Communalism we note that
Tamil intellectual leadership by the Vellahlah caste that orchestrates this Jaffna-centric Caste-Hindu Nazism (Tamil Sangam of NY even today carries an article on its web-site describing Roman Catholics as low caste). Incidentally the Vellahlas shout from the West while many Roman Cathoic Tamils die fighting for the LTTE. If you take any Tamil leader, you will find the he is highly likely to be Vellahla, Hindu and from Jaffna and he would say that we are all united and have no problems. The rest will remain silent because of what this vicious crown can do to them for not falling in line – physically of you are in the North-East or through slander in the web pages they control if you are outside.

Disfranchising of Estate Tamils is rarely described as the beginning of problem – because Jaffna Vellahlas were not affected?
SJV Chelvanayagam who broke off from the main Tamil party on this was rejected by the Tamils in 1952. Ramanathan’s son-in-law Nadesan’s election slogan against Chelva was Velah curusa? (Muruha’s Vel or Jesus’ cross?)

Slide 10
It is clear that the good and bad are there in Sinhalese and Tamils alike. We seem to have allowed our ancient civilizations and prejudices to get the better part of us.

Slide 11
Therefore I do not mean to put down the Sinhalese or the Tamils. I do not say that the Sinhalse are all bad or that the Tamils are horrid. We all seem to have just given into our base nature.

Slide 12
Thus when power passed into the hands of this exclusivist community at independence, with effective control over an equally proud Tamil community, something had to give. Wityh that preamble I will now focus on education as is my mandate although there is a much larger story to tell.

Slide 13:
Sri Lanka has had very high achievements in education.
For example, Batticotta College was the first modern western collegiate institution in Asia established in 1823 by the America Ceylon Mission.

The first girls’ school in Asia was by the ACM in 1823 at Uduville
University of Ceylon was established in 1921 as University College as a part of the federal University of London

Slide 14
Some hallmarks of the achievements are that
In 1924, the US President’s sister was resident in the President’s Bungalow at Batticotta
Cyrus Mills, President of Batticotta (1848-54), moved on to found Mills College in Oakland, CA in 1852. Mills is a vewry prestigious liberal arts college

Sir Ivor Jennings, Vice Chancellor of University of Ceylon (1941-55), later went on to be Master of Trinity House and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University

Slide 15
It is appropriate for me to focus on education because of its sensitivity. As the Sinhalese took on control of the state, they introduced standardization for university admissions in 1970, i.e., adding 28 marks to every Sinhalese candidate, effectively giving Tamils lower grades for the same marks. This led to Tamil militancy and the earliest calls for separatism.

The policy claimed that a Tamil in a 3rd rate school in Badulla was privileged over a rich Minister’s son at prestigious Royal College.

Those who benefited were the rich Sinhalese and not the Sinhalese masses
The government of the time justified standardization by alleging British favoritism for Tamils But was there real favoritism?

Slide 16:
Let us look at the pre-colonial situation. The Sinhalese, for example Sterling Silva of the National Institute of Education, claim they were more literate that Europeans.

As for Tamils, literacy seems to have been no more than 30% among upper caste men. A survey from 1815 shows that there were only 2 women in Jaffna who could read.

It is therefore safe to say that the Sinhalese, particularly the men, were far more literate than Tamils, perhaps because of the Buddhist religion’s tradition of learning, greater friendliness to women and rejection of caste.

Slide 17
Tamil graduates are largely agricultural. Tamil MPs too (exception after LTTE began nominating Tamil MPs and standardization). In Jaffna Bishops need to be from agricultural Caste. Till recently Christian priests too. Thus learning and status and caste all went together.

On the Sinhalese side, the fisher-folk are perhaps more educated. Some of the great scholars come to mind. But Sinhalese leadership has been always agricultural. Powerful and able Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva was not even considered for PA leadership because of his caste

On both sides, the lower castes do the fighting. Not a single family member of a sitting MP in the army. Rarely a Vellahla is in the fighting cadre of the LTTE There is one good thing about the war – as the Vellahlas flee, more of the others are filling the vacuum on the Tamil side – so we have lower caste graduates, lower caste priests etc. The Vellahlas I suspect are the leadership as always in Toronto and London shouting for Eelam.

Slide 18
So was there favoritism for Tamils by the British? It would appear from the first table on the number of schools in Jaffna shortly after the missions moved in around 1815, the British (that is Wesleyan and Anglican Missions) put up only 39 schools enrolling about 1500 students while it was really the Americans who built 79 schools enrolling 3106 students. Few mission schools were established after that. Thus we may safely say that the main educational thrust came from the American mission and not the British.

If we look at university admissions figures, we find no basis for saying that the Tamils had a disproportionate share of university seats, by saying which standardization was justified. We see from the Table 2 that in 1967, before standardization, the Sinhalese at 69.5% of the population, had 84.1% of university seats. That is, a community over-represented at the university and with all the powers of the state was claiming that the minorities were having a disproportionate share of university places. If anything, the Jaffna Tamils were over-represented but not Tamils as a community. Today they have increased their population to 81.1% through depopulation of minorities and correspondingly increased their share of university places to a similar figure!

We may conclude that so called favoritism was a fiction to dominate the universities

Slide 19
Did Jaffna dominate then? Are my figures hiding the disproportionate share of seats held by Jaffna folk? This Table shows in 1967 before standardization, Jaffna at 5.78% of the population, had only 3.8% of arts seats and 5.9% of science seats. Today, at 2.619% of the population, depopulated Jaffna has 2.3% of Arts seats and 3.1% of the science seats.

These figures by the way are from liberal Sinhalese who came out against standardization and recent UGC figures.

Slide 20
These summary figures are from Uswatte Arachi, a respected Sinhalese scholar, and the UGC. These merely confirm the loss of position of the Tamil community in the Sri Lankan polity.

Slide 21
If anything these figures show the losses of the Jaffna community as their share was distributed among other Tamils and other districts. This table shows the latest cut off z-scores for admission to the prestigious seats in the universities. A score of 1 means 1 standard deviation above the norm.

Vavuniya, a traditionally backward district, was above Jaffna as recently as 2 years ago. It is probably because some of the displaced teachers and students from Jaffna re-settled here. It had taken these past 4 years of ceasefire for Jaffna to rise above Vavuniya, albeit slightly. I suspect that with the resumption of war, next year’s numbers will be lower again.

The table also shows how Ratnapura and Matara have come up while Tamils backward districts like Mannar remain far behind.

Slide 22
Today the Tamil situation is propped up by the standardization policy that we opposed so vehemently. In the G.C.E. A.Level results of 2005, out of the first 165 students from the much sought after medical/bioscience stream, there are only 5 Tamils!

Jaffna is now a backward district and will have fewer places without this classification. Batticaloa where performance is lower than in Jaffna, is fighting for backward status. It shows that someone from Jaffna used influence to give Jaffna a status of which Batticaloa was more deserving.

The only good thing – as standardization moved towards regional quotas under criticism, lower castes and regional peoples entered the university in greater numbers. Originally regional quotas were used up by the regional high castes. But combined with the war, as these high castes move to Toronto, London and Oslo, the lower castes left behind now suddenly have a chance.

Today it is no longer possible to look at a graduate and assume caste as before in my time.

Slide 23
When quality and merit took second place, a break down was imminent.
As Tamils got details of the discrimination and broadcast them to world, the Office of Commissioner of Exams was blacked out to hide the enormity of standardization. This led to bribery to change marks as those inside the commissioner’s could do anything with the marks in safety. When the there was a change of government in 1977, these scandals came to light but many of those who had had their marks changed to gain entry had already passed out of the university.

Soon naturally, merit ceased to be the norm in university recruitment too.

University of Ceylon journals collapsed. If you go to SOAS or LSE libraries for example you will find they who had regularly subscribed to our journals have now dropped their subscriptions.
Universities became a hot-bed of communalism. A practice run of the July 1983 riots in May was done at University of Peradeniya and the lessons learnt applied in Black J.uly
More recently, a dark skinned Tamil lecturer was accused of being an LTTE member when he visited Ruhuna University and harassed.

An Eastern Univ. Lecturer was denied MPhil registration until legal action was taken
There is increased Tamil-Sinhalese tension at universities. For example, there is high tension when Tamils light crackers following an LTTE battle victory and in response the Sinhalese students ask for contributions from Tamils for the families of fallen soldiers

Slide 24
As an example of the collapse of the university system, the title of professor itself has become cheap. Originally the best of applicants became professors – some very young people became profs in the early years and later in the new universities with no research
In response the UGC introduced a points-based system with minimum conditions for papers, producing PhDs etc.

The academics counter-responded by producing local journals, self-edited journals, vernacular papers, lots of PhD theses with no publications, self-published books and so on.
The UGC countered with more points for foreign journals, reputable book publishers
The debate is ongoing on as the academics argue that the new rules are colonial and anti-national development!

Slide 25
Today there is a quality crisis. Standards of scholarship are poor. Standards are much poorer in peripheral universities – for example a Peradeniya/Colombo professor would have 10 journals papers, a Jaffna, Rajarata Prof. might have 2-3 plus vernacular articles in magazines
BUT there is a core group of 100 or so scholars in Sri Lanka who regularly publish in indexed journals. Sadly, these are nearly all Sinhalese. Tamils, if they are good, can migrate and do. Thus the inimical effects of this deterioration are worse in the North-East.

Slide 26
An important issue is can communalists teach?
In the 2002 elections many dons including a previous Vice Chancellor Maduma Bandara stood for election as candidates of the Sihala Urumuaya.. The Urumaya’s main plank is that Sri Lanka is for the Sinhalese, Tamils are invaders and are welcome in Sri Lanka only if they become Sinhalese. What chance does a Tamil student stand in the class of a professors whose advocates these views?

Slide 27
As for the universities in the North-East, they are characterized by low quality and few professors, few PhD-holding staff etc.

Several students come “horse-riding” – that is somebody else sits the public exam in your place They are a hot-bed of activism and vote rigging. Jaffna. A student leader had boasted that he had voted 100 times.
Degrees have been issued to those who never sat exams. (When issued degrees are not withdrawn after exposure, it is clear who is behind the scandal).

Slide 28
In the North-East universities there is little freedom therefore. For example
Council members who voted for me to be Vice chancellor were threatened with punishment
The University Teachers’ Association (UTA) of Jaffna University refused to join the students’ union in protesting against my appointment Prof. Sittrampalam who spoke at the meeting had his house stoned and name-board broken When UTA wanted to meet again, it was told not to
When Vavuniya Campus Community was to meet, the LTTE asked them not to, just minutes before the meeting.

Slide 29
Academics at Eastern University have been shot. They are openly callous to each other. When Jaffna staff fled and the Easterners insisted on their return under threat of termination of services, a doubtful Easterner asked “What if they return and are killed?” To that this person had said, “Oh we simply hold a memorial meeting and lay a wreath!” Several academics have fled, depleting the limited doctoral staff.

VC Santhanam and Yuvi Thangarajah, Actg. VC and potential VC candidate was kidnapped by Vanni LTTE for saying regional aspirations must be recognized Ramakrishna and Bala Sugumar (Dean/Arts, Easterner) was kidnapped and released subject to eh VC resigning and he fled the country on release. Several Eastern PhD level staff, Dr. Kobindarajah and Dr. Thirtuchelvam have fled. S. Raveendranath, Present VC and northerner, has been kidnapped presumably by Col. Karuna’s forces.

Slide 30
Today there is chaos in Tamil universities.
I am here on special leave. No free election of a VC can take place, given the threats that have been made to those who voted for me. University of Jaffna has been closed for months
Nothing is known of VC/Eastern University

Slide 31
There are special issues for Tamils. Starting New Universities is a problem even as we want development of Tamil areas Can we be a university of Tamils only? Imagine Toronto students going into a class of Tamils only. How enriching would that experience be?
Who is there to teach if we started a university? No one Would we be stuck in cattle-shed universities and kept out of the big national universities? With the war, any university we put up will be of poor quality and we will lose our places in the better universities in the south and be shunted to these new universities without staff. The Engineering Faculty is an example of many of us fearing that once we get our own faculty, we will lose our present admission to Peradeniya Ironically when the government authorized engineering for Jaffna, Jaffna effectively declined by saying it had to be in LTTE controlled areas.

Slide 32
Today, University of Jaffna, a university run by the government, has a huge monument to fallen LTTE heroes. On July 5 2006 Tamilnet reported that the person covering for me as VC Jaffna lit a lamp at a Black Tiger Commemoration by this stainless steel monument
Would the government fund such a university? Do we expect the government to view the university with any favor under these circumstances? From Toronto and New York it is easy for Tamils to say let the government keep its money. But the people stuck there cannot afford to do so.

Slide 33
A difficulty of management is indicated by the person covering for me and who worked closely with those who prevented my working in Jaffna labeling me a traitor in the LTTE’s, has been labeled by the same as a traitor. Apparently he raised the Sri Lankan flag on independence day. This situation must be noted by cheerleading expatriate Tamils.

Slide 34
Now let us look at schools. University academics play a role here as consultants to the Ministry of Education and bring with them a lot of their baggage. But the situation for the Sinhalese is far better in their schools. Not for the Tamils though.

The tradition is for an incoming government to reverse everything done by the previous. But in school matters there has been a refreshing continuity from UNP to PA under CBK. Highly sophisticated educational methodology is at work. All governments have been seriously committed to quality at least among the Sinhalese. Because of this commitment big World Bank and ADB loans were obtained for schools, training programs for teachers, etc.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge took a personal interest in education and appointed herself the Minister. On the UGC we therefore got every penny we asked for. We were able to open 2 new universities and a medical faculty for Eastern University, an IT Faculty for Vavuniya. The UGC recommended an Engineering Faculty for Jaffna. All this development for the North-East has been jeopardized by the resumption of hostilities.

Another factor is that even when political authorities are willing, the bureaucracy with a Nazi mind-set will try to hold up anything for the Tamils.

Slide 35
The National Institute of Education under law is in charge of all school education. Let us look at how its bureaucracy operates:
The Director General and the 6 Assistant Directors General are all Sinhalese.
Out of the 22 Directors of Education: 20 Sinhalese, 1 Muslim, 1 Tamil
10,000 teacher vacancies in the North-East
14,000 excess teachers elsewhere (But North-East vacancies can’t be filled because the over-all cadre has excess teachers).
NIE courses of study only in the Sinhalese medium – eg: Diploma in Agriculture, Diploma in Media, Diploma in Drama and Theatre. (Diploma in Special Education has been offered in the Tamil medium since 2005 because of protests.
No Tamil in NIE’s Printing, IT, Media, Administration, and Finance Divisions
At least 15 subject areas do not have a single Tamil on the staff. These are the 13 technical subjects, education management, and research.
The Library does not have any Tamil staff.
The NIE obviously does not think it serves Tamils.

Slide 36
The NIE thus becomes the vehicle for jingoist ideology. School history books are distorted to teach prejudice. They are written by Sinhalese academics and catch them young to spread prejudice.

Tamils in government are shy to object. To raise questions when one sits on high level committees, to is to break up relationships. Many of us choose to remain silent and through our presence endorse these books.

Slide 37
When English medium was reintroduced in schools I was hopeful that the bias would disappear. But at the NIE even for English medium books the hiring practices did not change.

Slide 38
Just to take one example from a Social Sciences Textbook:
The Tamil king Ellalan is rendered in English texts in the Sinhalasised form Elara.
The obsolete racial grouping Aryan is used to describe the Sinhalese In the story of Vijaya, the so-called founder of the Sinhalese people, the Tamil textbooks say that wives for himself and his mates came from Madurai while the English and Sinhalese texts say they came from Mathura. Mathura s you know is a North Indian city.

The so called Aryans are described as settlers.

Vijaya, although he killed Kuveni, the Queen of Lanka, to ascend the throne, is said to have migrated and been the first king. But the Tamil king Elara [really Ellalan as it is rendered in Tamil] is said to have invaded in the English version and worse, in the Tamil version, as having been an oppressor (ahkiramippu). And this our Tamil children have to study.

Slide 39
The Yakkas and Nagas, who pre-dated Vijaya, are mentioned as if they were of some unknown race although there is ample evidence that the Nagas spoke a Dravidian tongue (if not Tamil) and also lived in South India.

Hinduism is said to be an influence from South India in the late period. Perhaps this is the most explicit claim of Hinduism having arrived after Buddhism, against all the evidence to the contrary. Indeed, who and of what religion was Mooththa Siva (meaning the Elder Siva), the father of the first Buddhist king of Lanka? Who was Kasiappah the Sinhalese king?
Roman Catholicism is listed as a religion separate from Christianity.

The Sinhalese claimants to an Aryan heritage also claim Mohenjadaro as their – Harappa (Harappa is rendered in Tamil as Oorarappa, thereby showing that the Tamil translator knew nothing of the subject) as. (This apparently happened because Ha in Tamil uses a special letter which can easily be misread for the two Tamil letters Oo and Ra).

Slide 40
The Buddha is said to have visited Sri Lanka 3 times. As you might know, no source outside Sri Lanka makes this claim Mahinda, the Buddhist missionary to Sri Lanka is said to have been Emperor Asoka's son or nephew. Again no outside source says this.
The Buddhist heritage of Tamils is never mentioned nor that Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka is suffused with Hindu practice so much so as to make it more Hindu than Buddhist. Thus every Buddhist site in Sri Lanka is a place where Sinhalese once lived and were displaced by Tamil invaders School texts gloss over the fact that the first Sinhalese King to convert to Buddhism was the son of Mooththa Siva (a Tamil name meaning “Elder Siva”) and that a Sinhalese hero-king was named Kasy-Appah, as Tamil Saivite a name as any for Siva, meaning the God of the Saivite place of pilgrimage Casi in India).

Slide 41
Christians are as slighted as the Tamils are as if to make us anti-national, strange and out-of-touch. A grade 2 book depicts the various communities through pictures where Hindus and Buddhists are in local dress whereas Christians are in business suit. As we all know, all of us today dress alike. Even ceremonial clothes at a wedding are often the business suit for the man, whether Christian, Buddhist or Hindu at least for a part of the ceremony. Tamil Christian women always marry in sari.

And the NIE experts teach the school children that the food of Burghers, the Sri Lankan descendants of the Portuguese and Dutch, is cake.

Slide 42
When government encourages myth-making to assert Sinhalese dominance, saying academically atrocious things is a quick path to greatness and ready-made audiences at public lectures. Some of these absurd claims by senior acdemics are that Carbon dating proves that 2000 year old ashes in a Dagaba are those of the Sinhalese hero Dutta Gemunu. The claim is not as scientifically proper that the ashes are 2000 years old but rather that the ashes of Duttugemunu.

The Buddhist scriptures include the deeply mathematical theories of quantum mechanics and relativity long before western science had heard of them.

Pali had been developed in Sri Lanka! To challenge these claims in Sri Lanka is to be communal or colonial so they go unchallenged.

Slide 43
The following data on the state of Tamil schools I owe to the work of my wife, Dr. Dushyanthi Hoole, whom I gratefully acknowledge.

Slide 44
The first picture shows that schools in the Tamil districts of Kilinocchi and Mannar have few access roads. The second shows that some schools in Mannar and Kilinochchi have no buildings.

Slide 45
In this slide note that Kandy is a developed district, Moneragala is a backward Sinhalese district and the North-East is Tamil.

These are percentage figures. The NE has the smallest percentage of teachers and resources in the good category. Overall numbers too are small for the North-East schools

Slide 46
For example, when it comes to teachers in Kilinochchi, 67% not trained (as opposed to 23% average). 50% of English teachers are voluntary (as opposed to regular teachers elsewhere). So the actual numbers are worse than shown in the previous slide

Slide 47
The schools in the North-East are largely without a playground. The textbook position is the worst. While all schools are supposed to receive free textbooks, the North-East does not get them and when they do they are not on time. The not available (red) in Kandy and Moneragala are likely to be from Tamil schools.

Slide 48
The ranking of schools says it all. The North-East Schools have most schools in the lower ranks. In the human resources category, the Kandy schools in crimson and Monaragala schools in blue have most of their schools scoring in the highest category 70-80 whereas North East Schools in white are mainly in the 60-70 range. And this is because of voluntary teacher.
But in resource allocation, NE schools fare only about 35% while Kandy schools are at 80% with Gampaha as standard.

An Education Ministry study found 1st-5th graders in Jaffna faring poorer than students in Kilinochchi

Slide 49
Despite this poor situation in our schools Tamil Saivite-Jaffna Nazism continues its game. Consider Tamil Language School Books.

Tamil language school texts are the only books written by Tamils, the others being translated from Sinhalese as written by Sinhalese. When we are put in charge, would things be better. Alas!

In these textbooks we see what we do when we hold power. Let is examine the mythology we have round, first, CW Thamotherampillai a great Tamil scholar and one of the first 2 graduates of Madras University, second, the Jaffna Saivite leader Arumuga Navalar Myth and finally, about caste.

Slide 50
Church Records show that Thamotherampillai was born to a Christian Assistant Priest Cyrus Kingsbury of Telliappalai American Mission Church and received infant baptism.
However, the Grade 6 Tamil school text says he was born a Hindu and pretended to be a Christian to win privileges. Academics like Sivathambi and Shanmugathas now admit this but nothing happens to change the textbooks

Slide 51
As for the Navalar Myth about the Bible translation project.
The Tamil New Testament was translated by Missionaries as early as the 17th century in Jaffna and full translations were done in India by the 18th century. Parallel translation projects were begun in Madras and Jaffna to IMPROVE the translations with regular consultations According to CMS and Methodist archives The Jaffna Project was under Peter Percival and other missionaries who knew the source languages (Greek, Hebrew and Latin) and Tamil They employed Tamil Pandits of whom Arumuga Navalar was BUT ONE. The CMS lists Elijah Hoole as another.
Their job was to refine the Tamil that the missionaries came up with

Slide 52
But our Tamil textbooks teach that Arumuga Navalar who knew no source language translated the Bible. One book refers to “The Bible written by Navalar.” Isn’t this what you the Tamils here believe?

Ironically the Jaffna Bible, called the Union version, was discarded by the Jaffna parishes after 50 years of use because of its heavy use of Sanskrit in favour of the Madras version chosen for “its excellences” of Tamil idiom

This is rarely mentioned. Most of us think we are using “The Bible written by Navalar”

Slide 53
Caste too is inculcated through texts. For example,

We teach our children at school through a poem or limerick that it is those who live by tilling the ground who truly live. The lower castes also memorize this Further, Eastern gods are played down in favor of Jaffna’s Siva, Muruhan and Vinayagar
Again, the story of the lamb that trusted the wolf and was eaten up ends with the moral that every caste has its intrinsic moral qualities

Slide 54
I must say something about Muslims, the 2nd minority in Sri Lanka.
They have been cultivated by government. Even armed as home-guards. The LTTE reviles them and generally have banned them from the North Badiuddin Mohammed was used as Minister of Education to implement standardization. In an effort to wean Muslims away from Tamil, they have been allowed to study in English but their love for the Tamil language has been obvious from the leaders they have produced who have been better at Tamil than any Tamil leader.

As a result of standardization, I am aware that Tamils felt it was quite fare to allow horse-riding. It appears that Muslims also may be resorting to the practice. I have seen court papers and affidavits from a Muslim girl claiming that at Kalmunai her AL exam hall was a discussion session with invigilators during which answers were written by the candidates. She further claimed that because she did not cooperate parts of her answer book were removed by the examiners. If this is not an isolated practice, I believe that Muslims must come forward to look into it.

Kuwaiti+Government funds for Rs. 4000 bn upgrade of South Eastern University!
I wish them well.

Slide 55
Earlier when the LTTE’s Prabhakaran and Karuna amman worked together as partners, their grip on the Tamil community and institutions was total. Now that they have turned their guns on each other, the cracks and chasms in the community are showing through.
Eastern University has two factions quietly quarreling with each other.

Slide 56
As we Tamils fight and kill each other, our numbers tell it all … the population statistics tells it all.
As Tamil speaking peoples we were close to 30% at independence
We abandoned the estate Tamils and a half of them were repatriated to India under the Srimavo Shastri Pact.
We offended the Tamil speaking Muslims and they no longer want to be called Tamils.
We massacred each other, yea more of us than the Sinhalese ever managed to kill, and today as many of us decided that it is better to live abroad and are here; we are down to 11.2% in Sri Lanka.

And then we seem to have used Eastern boys, literally boys, to fight and die for us as we northerners shouted Eelam from Paris, Oslo, New York and Toronto, denying that all this was happening. As Karuna and Prabhakaran clash, we will kill some more of ourselves.
The greatest danger we Tamils face is ourselves. At least in Sri Lanka we seem to be heading to be a depleted community of uneducated coolies. And we in the West will, blind to reality, sing of what a great people we are!

Slide 57
Ominously Minority Rights Group International, in its Annual Report, 2007 says, to quote:
“The biggest jump of all is Sri Lanka which saw a return to conflict last year and which moved 47 places since 2006 to be ranked 14th in 2007. Minority Tamils and Muslims are not only caught up in fighting between government and rebel forces but are targeted for human rights abuses including abductions and disappearances because of their minority status.”
If we truly are interested in Tamil well-being and Tamil education, we must obtain control of a federal area through negotiations quickly. Time is against us. Another few years of war, through death and migration, there will be no Tamil people left to speak of.
The war must stop before we are totally destroyed as a people.

Thank You

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sri Lanka Democracy Forum

invites you to a meeting
commemorate the life and memory of

Kethesh Loganathan,
who was brutally gunned down at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 12 August 2006,
Saturday, 31 March 2007
from 6.30 to 9.30 pm

the Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1
(nearest tube: Holborn

Keynote Speaker: Hon. Bob Rae
(former Prime Minister of Ontario, Canada),
speakers from Sri Lanka and the Diaspora…

"A former militant, academic, journalist, and tireless advocate of human rights and a return to democratic values in Tamil politics, Kethesh was one of the leading activists of the dissenting Tamil community who firmly believed in a negotiated democratic political solution to the ethnic conflict as opposed to the bleakness of a maudlin Tamil nationalism"
-Sri Lanka Democracy Forum


Appeal to the Commission on Investigation to probe the rape and murder of a young mother in Mannar

30th January 2007

Attn: Mr. S.D Piyadasa - Secretary to the Commission on Investigation (appointed to probe the incidents of grave human rights violations)

Appeal to the Commission on Investigation
to probe the rape and murder of a young mother in Mannar

On June 08th 2006, Mary Madeleine (age 27), her husband Moorthy Martin (age 38), son Dilakshan (age 7) and daughter Lakshika (age 9) were brutally tortured and murdered in their home in Vankalai- Mannar. Mary Madeleine and her daughter were raped and stabbed in their chests and vaginal area. Madeleine and her family had fled Sri Lanka and lived as refugees in India for many years. They returned in 2004 when there was some hope for peace and settled down in Vankalai only to be killed in this despicable manner.

Neighbors saw three Sri Lanka military personnel near their house around the time of murder but, while the soldiers have acknowledged that they were there carrying out a routine check up, the then Mannar army commanding officer ruled out any possibility of his men being involved in these murders. The family members of Mary Madeleine who came forward to testify at the court were summoned often to the police station and retained for long hours without any explanation. Journalists and civilians who took photographs of the scene have been arrested and detained till they produced the film rolls. Military also continuously visited Vankalai village after this incident and humiliated Mary Madeleine’s neighbours and relatives and inquired about witnesses’ whereabouts and details. At the end, when an identification parade was held on 23rd of June 2006 none of the witnesses who previously testified were present at the court hearing (ref: Case no. MC Mannar 203/06).

In this context, we would like to highlight similar previous incidents in Mannar, including the rapes of Ehambaram Nanthakumar Wijakala and Sinnathamby Sivamani, by members of the Mannar police’s Counter-Subversive Unit, on 19th March 2001. Wijakala was pregnant at the time of the rape and Sivamani, mother of three children, had her younger son witnessing the cruel sexual assault committed on her while she was under police custody. Despite threats to their lives, both these courageous women filed fundamental rights cases for unlawful arrest and detention and custodial rape. They identified three police officers and nine navy personnel as the perpetrators of these crimes. The accused, who were transferred from Mannar after the incidents, filed a petition requesting the transfer of their cases to Anuradhapura due to alleged threats against their lives. Since then both victims and their family members underwent continuous harassment at the hand of the military and repeatedly received death threats. The case dragged on for over four years, in the course of which Wijakala has gone missing and Sivamani received many threats to the effect that she will be killed if she comes to Anuradhapura for the court hearings. The case was listed to be heard in Anuradhapura High Court on September 21, 2005 but both the victims did not turn up.

We, the Mannar women, are calling on the newly appointed Commission of Investigation to include the Mary Madeleine family rape and murder case, which falls within the stipulated period (June 8th 2006), in their investigation.

We believe that a fair hearing and proficient judgment on this case will break the silence of many women who have suffered and borne the scars of brutal crimes of the war in the last two decades. We firmly believe that the proceeding of this case can bring about much needed witnesses and a victims protection mechanism that will open space for victims to access the judicial system locally and internationally.

Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kethesh Loganathan : His life and death shall not be in vain

We remember Kethesh Loganathan today, with great sadness, perhaps with even greater sadness than that sad day of 12th, August, 2006. Kethesh had fought hard for decades for a life free of violence, a land free of discrimination for the minorities, of inter-ethnic harmony and coexistence. .

He worked hard toward this, where ever he was, in whatever position, whether it be as a founder member of the EPRLF, as co-Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives, or as the secretary of the Peace Secretariat. He worked hard for a negotiated settlement, against child conscription, against military excesses and against the myopic and fanatical nationalism of the LTTE. He longed for peace and he died dreaming of it.

His life and death shall not be in vain. As the coalition of Muslims and Tamils, we hope that all of us who long for peace and democracy can come together to make that dream come true.

We will remember Kethesh again and again and in remembering renew our pledge for solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka who long for peace, who have lost dear ones, the youth, Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala, who are being forced into fighting a meaningless war against one another, the displaced in their abject state of homelessness and all the people who have stood together in the darkest moments of our country’s history of loss and hoplessness. We remember Kethesh so that we may raise our collective voice against the violence permeating our lives, that his memory may give us the courage to struggle on for peace in this country.

Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence in the East

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Muslims want presidential commission

Monday, October 30,2006
Source : Daily Mirror

The Northern Muslims driven out of the province by the LTTE in 1990 have called for the appointment of a presidential commission to inquire into the circumstances which led to their displacement and take immediate measures for their resettlement. The call was made at a ceremony held at the Palavi junction in Puttalam, where nearly 100,000 of the evicted Muslims have been living temporary shelter for the past 16 years, to mark the 16th anniversary of their expulsion from the North.

Musali Peoples Parliament (MPP) President S.M.A. Niyas said the Government should prepare the ground work for the resettlement of the displaced Muslims from Mannar and Kilinochchi.

He said issues faced by the displaced Muslims should be included in the talks between the Government and the LTTE, noting that remedial measures had not been taken, despite an increase in the number displaced from 85,000 in 1990 to 125,000 this year.

The MPP was formed by the Muslim IDPs from Musali division in Mannar.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forcible Expulsion of Northern Muslims

Of Sri Lanka- An Awareness Campaign

October 2006 London


27th of October -5th of November 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Impressions: war and peace in Mutur

What have war, ethnic cleansing, inter-ethnic hostilities done to us? The town of Mutur and surrounding areas in Mutur district were the site of intense violence, of acts of ethnic cleansing carried out by the LTTE and forces of the State, including bombing, wanton killings and forced mass displacements and a general air of indifference by politicians just a month ago. Today, attention has shifted elsewhere, to Muhamalai, to Habaranna, to Galle and the continuing tragedy of the armed forces and the LTTE clashing and killing each other, in which more people are going to be displaced. We still do not know about the actual numbers of people displaced this year. This is a short impressionistic imprint of a village in Mutur district today, a village unable to recover, unable to recuperate in the continuing condition of war and instability. In this predominantly Muslim village, whose people want to remain unidentified, many of the people have come back, most of them reluctantly, to their houses, broken apart by bombing and shelling. And they have taken up residence there, not knowing where else to go. But they live in fear and loss. They feel totally helpless.

“War is not outside us, the war and the violence is inside us. It’s in our children’s drawings. Our children draw the story of displacement in their sketches of that August month, and subsequent days of bombing and shelling, finding our friends gone; each one of them is a record of our history; each carries pictures of the hill of Kiranthimunai where young Muslim men were separated from the women by the LTTE so that they could be massacred. You know all about that. They draw multi barreled gun, some of them have not even seen it. They draw pictures of fleeing people.”

What we present about Mutur is not confined to it only. After the devastating war in the Trincomalee District in the past few months, the areas in and around Mutur, including Sampur, have become a land pock marked with the war that has swept through it like the ferocious tsunami that hit the shores of Sri Lanka. But the war has not just created destruction, it has ripped into the very fabric of society, normalcy, community bonding, trust in one another and in one’s neighbours. The situation in this town is representative of other Tamil and Sinhala villages overturned by this cruel war, very much like what happened in April in the towns and villages of Trincomalee, where one was attacked from all sides. Yet some aspects are specific to it too, in this war of very specific targets, mistrusts, fears. We of course continue to hope, against all hope. Please do listen to us.

“We live amidst the constant battery of the Multi (mulit barreled cannon). Just mere artillery shelling is nothing to us. It’s like child’s play now. When the multi pounds from our side, it uproots the buildings, the buildings take off into the air, as though they have left our bodies. It feels like that.”

“We are ready to run, take off, any moment. We feel that as there are no people in Sampur, LTTE will use our villages to attack the forces from. The LTTE is in neighbouring Alinagar and other places. We will be mere cannon fodder. The Muslims are ranged around the camps of the forces. If the LTTE attacks the camps, then that’s it. We will be just crushed like ants. We cannot go through Kiranthimunai, and the terrible fleeing.”

“We cannot forget Kiranthimunai which is now part of our local history. What happened at Kiranthimunai is forever in our minds. We walked all the way to Thoppur. There was no water anywhere. We dipped the ends of our sarees in puddles on the way and squeezed the water out. The cloth was a filter for the mud. This is the tale we will tell our children.”
She does not cry or speak much, this woman who lost her child in her tummy when she ran miles, falling, falling on the way.

“Allah gave me this gift of child. But I did not take care of it properly. People say now, you could have left the place early, gone to Trinco. It’s through my carelessness that I lost this child”

“ So many pregnant women lost their babies. We are afraid now to have babies. If we are to run again?”

A six month pregnant woman cannot feel life in her tummy. Her husband had disappeared, given up for dead at the hands of the LTTE. But he appears one day, with injuries that he does not want to talk about. In her sorrow of her missing husband, she had not thought of looking to her own welfare. In any case there is no gynaecologist , nor any facilities in her area. How can she go to Trinco given the way things are in the area?

“We are numb with no feelings left. We are left speechless. A Tamil man who fed the fleeing Muslims,on the way, in a neighbouring village and who transported some of them in his van was shot dead by the LTTE for helping the “Sonis” “So, you are giving soda to the Sonis?” He was asked. His family seems to have vanished from the place. We cannot look to any assistance from Tamils, how can we?”

The people are in shock, feeling depressed with their state of total helplessness. The tragedy of Mutur is a very specific tragedy. At the same time, it is part of the tragedy of war and peace in Sri Lanka. It’s the same story in Sampur when Tamil women walked hundreds of miles to get to safe places, with a large number fleeing to Batticaloa. Trincomalee has become an epicenter of insecurity and violence. The majority of refugees fleeing to India are mainly from Trincomalee, who first cross overland to Mannar and then crossed illegally to India. Following the Marvil Aru sluice dispute, Sinhala villagers from the area fled the place in sheer terror. The phantom of Kebethigollewa and Welikanda, where Sinhala border villagers were massacred by the LTTE, driving them from their homes and villages.

Tamils in the district like the other communities are caught between the terror of the LTTE and that of the state. A woman from a camp for displaced people in a government controlled area, who had remonstrated with the LTTE for taking away her 14 year old child for training way back in March, was told by them, “you can wear these very same clothes that you are wearing and go and live among the Sinhalese as a Sinhalathi (Sinhala woman). How can I do that, what are my means for doing that?” Everybody knows she would not be able to find a safe home in the ‘Sinhala’ areas. The violence has had a direct impact on relations between communities with an increased level of suspicion, tension and even communal violence as was seen in the riots against Tamils in Trincomalee Town during the Tamil and Sinhala New Year. The riots were ironically and cruelly set off by a bomb in the market place that claimed victims of all the communities.

The tragedy of Mutur is not purely a tragedy of one town or district. Mutur a predominantly Muslim town has Tamils too. 17 aid workers (mostly Tamil, with one Muslim) were allegedly massacred by members of the armed personnel in Mutur town at the height of the war. With LTTE’s acts of ethnic cleansing toward the Muslims, Tamils in Mutur feel beleagured and lost. There is a shortage of Tamil speaking doctors in the area, but Tamil doctors are scared to go to Mutur district, fearing danger from the armed forces and perhaps reprisals from Muslims in the area, though this is not so strongly articulated.

While the destruction of lives is one of the tragedies of the war, the greater tragedy is that of how communities, who have not merely co-existed, but had communed together and been interdependent, both in times of well-being and adversity, have been cleft apart. The other tragic irony is that the conditions of war have actually not left any of the communities in the east untouched, and all three communities have been affected by both the LTTE and the armed forces. This very vicious war that has and continues to divide people according to ethnic lines, has deliberately tried to pit people against each other. At the same time, the conditions of war and the modus operandi of the LTTE and the state, bind the people in one common thread of suffering that all marginalized feel.. A Tamil woman from Mutur district said, the army would stay here for 10 or 15 days. After that? Is it war again? This could have been a Muslim woman, a Sinhala woman. When a Sinhala woman in Kantale displaced from the Marvil aru area says, I will go back if the artillery battery stops, it could have been stated by a Tamil woman too. Even in the face of increasing communal suspicions against the other community, there is a realization that one’s own security is tied to that of the other. For a number of Mutur Muslims, until their Tamil neighbours return, there can be no return of ‘normalcy.’

The impact of violence on the people is at multiple levels. But media and political focus is on statistics- how many killed, how many displaced or on particular incidents which captures the attention of the media and the general public. There is something beyond the direct victims of the violence – an affect population. Nobody asks how many cannot sleep at night in their own homes (where the house is still standing?) and how many have to find refuge in numbers in one house or in a public building in their own community; how many cannot farm, fish or trade out of fear or security restrictions; how many are in debt as a direct result of the violence, destruction and displacement or simply because they cannot withdraw money from banks as the banks do not have money (in Jaffna and Killinochchi); how many patients who cannot get their regular doses of medication for diabetes, cancer or any such disease; how many are traumatized?

In this continuing state of instability and uncertainty, one cannot move on. This is perhaps the most debilitating state of existence for the majority of people here: They, we, cannot move on beyond the state of war. For they are surrounded by war; it can resume any time. People who speak for peace or war for peace cannot remain silent in the face of this. Both the LTTE and the Government have by their actions further ethnicized this conflict, forcing the civilians to become part of the war efforts. In this war of ethnicity, the people have been given short shrift, their needs, fears and aspirations unheeded to. Their voices unheard.

By Coalition of Tamils and Muslims for Peace and Coexistence (CTMPC)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Some Reflections on Muslims and the Peace Process

by Fara Haniffa
source : lines May 2006 /August 2006

Given the particular demographic that I represent I feel that I would most usefully contribute towards this discussion of human rights and the peace process if I talk a little bit not about the many human rights violations that occur on a daily basis almost, and continues to undermine the possibilities of a just peace, but on the larger more general issue of inclusiveness and the question of minorities. I believe such an intervention will help broaden our discussion on the peace process from a rights based perspective as well as identify some of its shortcomings that do not get adequate press.

From its inception the peace process, in the hands of both the UNF and the UPFA regimes has been significant in its practices of exclusion. These are troubling and go against many of the accepted principles of conflict transformation. The UNF regime was only minimally inclusive of the President and the opposition, marginalized Tamil representatives other than those sanctioned by the LTTE and reduced Muslims to a group “not directly party to the conflict.”
[i] The current government too through the minimally transparent process by which the P-TOMS agreement was entered into continued this exclusionary practice. I would like to spend a little time on the issue of Muslims within the peace process, their exclusion in discussions on representation at talks, the discussion of human rights issues and the critique of war in general.

Now the Muslim issue is getting more press today and there is more of an attempt at Muslim consultation and there are more mechanisms in place to ensure that this is done than at any other time during the process. The P-TOMS for all its failings and the problematic processes through which it was formed must be recognized as a precendent of some importance. Therefore this presentation is not principally a litany of Muslim exclusion. I want to raise certain questions regarding the manner in which Muslim issues have been dealt with and make certain points about the peace process in general that I think might be useful for this discussion.

Many of the discussions that I have attended in the past three years on the peace process have featured one standard argument against Muslim participation in the negotiations. The argument is that Muslims do not “deserve” such participation. They do not deserve it because they did not participate in the armed struggle or did not join the Tamil political struggle for minority rights. The fact that this claim still has currency even at a time when the Muslim issue is on the peace process agenda is cause for concern and merits inquiry into the nature of inclusion. But I will not deal with that now. Muslim participants at such workshops address the issue variously through claiming that Muslims did in fact participate in the initial stages of the armed struggle, that Eastern Muslim politicians worked closely with the Tamil leadership on the language issue for instance, that they supported Tamil aspirations, that Muslim members of the Federal Party were amongst those that were beaten up during the Satyagraha at Galle Face and so on. Much of the above is valid and historically accurate and constitutes a part of the history of the conflict that is yet to be written. I want however to depart from that kind of back and forth and suggest that the very fact that we are viewing the current situation as a prelude to a sharing of spoils is problematic. While one is sympathetic to the arguments put forward by Tamil nationalism and the narrative of its long struggle, it is essential that we take a more long term view of the peace process. While conceding Tamil aspirations it is imperative that in refusing to recognize the deep feelings of anxiety and marginalization that are being shown by the Muslims, we do not set the groundwork for a future where conflict, again, is an inevitability. We owe it to the future to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

One other point is crucial here. We need to be self reflective and be critical of the valourising of armed struggle that is also implicit in this discussion. This is true not just of those celebrating the Tamil struggle but also those in the south that are calling for war in the aftermath of the assassination of foreign minister Kadirgamar. While there may be justifications for armed struggle in certain instances it must also be tempered by a recognition of the consequences of militarization. The brutalization of society that is a requirement of war, the undervaluing of humanity and the demonizing of a fellow human being that war entails, that becomes part of the everyday of any society at war, are not sufficiently considered in this discussion. The valourising of confrontation in everyday life, the proliferation of small arms, preferring confrontational methods of solving disputes rather than consultation and consensus, are all part of the everyday reality that we as a society at war for over twenty years have internalized. The fact that it is large numbers of civilians that sacrifice their lives, livelihoods and homes, and that women and children, and amongst those the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable suffer the most heinous abuses of war we have come to recognize even if we do sometimes forget. But the larger impact of the war on the country is only discussed by us in Colombo in terms of the damage to the economy and infra structure. The brutalization of society even at a distance from the front and the depletion of our humanity we are yet to come to grips with and address adequately. Any discussion of human rights must be informed by such a realization.

The next point I want to address is that of minority aspirations in the context of the peace process. Minority political agitation in the context of ethnic majoritarianism has been the reality of the Sri Lankan situation. However the particular meaning that the term “minority” has accrued in Sri Lanka has not been conducive to rights based agitations by minority groups on the basis of their minority status.

Uyangoda states that unlike in India, minority status in Sri Lanka does not grant any community constitutionally accepted privileges or special entitlements. According to Uyangoda, the appellation “minority” has in fact meant a justifiable ground for discrimination. Therefore in Sri Lanka the political category of minority is deemed to entail political disabilities and a lower value to community self esteem. It is in this context Uyangoda argues that the Tamil nationalist claim that we are not a minority but a nation derives its meaning.

Such a devaluing of minorities have had consequences in other arenas. For instance Muslims are less than a foot note in the grand narratives of Sri Lankan history, and Sri Lankan Muslim minority self identity is based on constantly shifting ground that can find no strong widely sanctioned narrative of entitlement on which to stabilize itself. The Muslim psyche too has been pervaded by this sensibility to the extent that, in the ongoing religious revival and political reawakening, Muslims consciously distance themselves from the term “minority.” I argue elsewhere that the success of the piety movement in the country is attributable in part to the possibility of identifying with a larger global Muslim Umma that is profoundly exotic and not limited by the beleagured minority position that Muslims are forced to occupy. Recently, in a discussion on valuing minorities, one Muslim civil society actor from the east stated angrily that the term minority must be stricken from the dictionary. Eastern Muslims constantly assert their majority status in the eastern province and the Oluvil declaration mirrors Tamil nationalism in calling for recognition of Muslim nationhood.

Both the LTTE and the Government want the Muslims to take a back seat in the peace process and trust them to see that Muslim interest are looked after. Her Excellency the president’s address to the Muslims in the after math of the P-Toms in fact was a splendidly charismatic articulation of such a position. Is this any way to respond? She asked them. The problems with such a claim are the precedents. Neither the Ceasefire Agreement, the various rounds of the peace talks nor the recent P-Toms has articulated Muslim interests in a way that recognizes Muslim positions. And the paternalism that goes against all principles of inclusiveness that must inform such processes I think reflects a fundamental failure to understand Muslim aspirations. Earlier rounds of peace talks promised Muslim inclusion at the point of discussing “substantial political issues.” What “substantial political issues” might entail have not been clarified. Further the exclusion of Muslims from normalization talks must be queried as there are substantial areas of Muslim interest in any such discussion. The security and livelihood guarantees for the return of the expelled Muslim in the three districts of the North, and the issue of taxation have to be addressed at the highest levels. It is well known that Muslims have felt discriminated against and directly targeted in the aftermath of the CFA. Muslims feel that their livelihoods are being systematically undermined, that they have no freedom of movement and fear for their security. They feel threatened both by the LTTE as well as the mostly Tamil bureaucracy. The regardless of the veracity of some particular allegations these are concerns that merit inquiry. Such concerns and anxieties were not adequately taken account of in the history of the current peace process. In fact there is hardly any forum where Muslim human security concerns get an adequate hearing. In such a context Muslims struggle to articulate their discomfort with a process that sees them only as spoilers. While this failure by either the government or the LTTE to adequately comprehend the Muslim position is partly attributable a lack of information, it is rooted I suggest in this negative status accorded to minorities. The best argument for the inclusion of Muslims is the need for a peace that is acceptable to all and that as I stated earlier, will not lay the groundwork for conflicts in the future. However such an inclusion of Muslims can only happen after questioning of and shifting our internalized positions regarding minorities.

Let me conclude with one final point. In our post colonial nation building zeal not only did we internalize the marginal status of minorities we undermined the possibility of valuing our multiplicity. In pursuit of particular kinds of nation states we lost sight of the fact that our unusual and concentrated diversity within an Island state was a resource that could culturally enrich all our lives. The fact of plural perspectives enhancing any discussion, a notion that most of us subscribe to we have not been able to translate to a valuing of our ethnic others. We have lost all knowledge of our shared pasts. For instance, the census as recently as the end of the 19th Century had a category of Tamil Buddhist, and todate, we have Muslims in the Hill country that have Sinhala ge names. We have lost this history today and the ghettoisation of communities continues. In the aftermath of a conflict that has fractured our polity along a variety of ethnic and regional fault lines there are no shortcuts to reversing this process. This is a sad trend that we must address in the peace process as well. We have to consciously work towards reversing the value laden labels of minority and majority. For instance, it is essential that any power sharing agreement be adequately cognizant of local minorities. Tamils and Muslims in the South, Sinhalese in the North and East, Muslims in the North, and Tamils and Sinhalese in any Muslim South Eastern Unit. I suggest that the issue of preventing minority marginalization is made a priority discussion agenda at the peace talks in order to shift the conversation atleast briefly away from the issues of majority entitlement.
[iii] If this is done I think we will take a small step towards ensuring a future plural polity that can at a minimum ensure human rights and human security for its citizens.

[i] The Preamble to the Cease Fire Agreement refers to Muslims as a group not directly party to the conflict.
[ii] Uyangoda Jayadeva. (2001) Questions of Sri Lanka’s Minority Rights. Colombo. ICES p.05
[iii] This is a suggestion that was made in the consultative process to the document on a National Vision for Multicultural Sri Lanka more than two years ago.