Why Sihala Urumaya is contesting Jaffna
By Malinda Seneviratne
Sihala Urumaya candidate, Jaffna District, interviewed by a special correspondent

Q: Why did the Sihala Urumaya decide to contest in the Jaffna District?

A: First, the Jaffna peninsula is a part of the geography of Sinhala Buddhist civilization; in fact it was known as Sinhale to cartographers from the Arab world, Greece and China, right down to the end of the British occupation of this Island.

I think it is unnecessary to invoke any new ‘evidence’ on that; - it has been carved in gold and stone, and documented in the most continuous - and unchallenged - historical chronicles in existence anywhere. Nevertheless, given the volume of propaganda that’s been carried out, lubricated by ‘filthy lucre’ and other inducements, some of them lethal, we do challenge any and all of the "traditional homelands" velendas to say that these areas have not been among the traditional homelands of the Sinhalese, and latterly of the Muslims to whom the Sinhala Kings provided refuge, till the racist project of ‘ethnic cleansing’ began some three decades ago.

Second, Jaffna is where ‘ethnic cleansing’, which has since been extended to the northern mainland and eastwards towards Weli Oya and Gomarankadawala, commenced.

The common people of Jaffna were held hostage while that ‘policy’ was executed: the Tamil people silenced, the Muslims ‘given time’, and all but those Sinhalese, especially bakers, who were an integral part of the Jaffna economy, hounded out. All this started long before the July ‚83 riots.

This is not a matter of saying ‘you started it’, although the ‘aspirations’ of the Jaffna Tamil communalists go back to the 1920’s and beyond, but it is a matter of fact that the ‘communal riots’ of 1958 were opened by the ‘Federal’ Party in Vavuniya over a week before that plague came to Colombo. It was in 1976 that Sinhala students were evicted from the Jaffna University by Uma Maheswaran’s thugs, i.e. when Prabhakaran was still suckling on the TULF’s udder gulping the milk of racism.

Students at the University in Jaffna continue to show remarkable academic prowess: twelve of thirteen medical students were awarded First Class degrees, surely a matter for the Guinness book, although less than half the prescribed syllabus had been covered. Tamil students from Jaffna continue to take their undergraduate and graduate studies at Peradeniya, Moratuwa and Colombo to this day. The last Sinhalese civilian was murdered and hanged in Jaffna in 1987.

So we come to Jaffna to reclaim our heritage and to take back the lands and properties of the Sinhalese and Muslims plundered by the LTTE in its earlier avatars - the Tamil Congress, the Federal Party, the PLOTE, the EPDP, the EPRLF, and the TULF.

Q: Your constituency is the Sinhala speaking people. Now in Jaffna, as you mentioned, there are no Sinhala civilians. As such, what are your chances, realistically speaking?

A: Our constituency in Jaffna consist of everyone who wants to be freed from the tyranny of the LTTE. Yes we recognize that the vast majority of the voters actually living in Jaffna are Tamil. They are roughly half the official figure, and it must be pointed out that the necessary "corrections" with respect to the relevant number of members to be elected have not been made. There are also some 10,000 Muslims living in Puttlam who are registered as Jaffna voters. There are over 40,000 Sinhala refugees whose home district is Jaffna and are now lodged elsewhere.

Regardless of numbers, we believe, above all, that the aspirations of the Tamil people converge with ours on more than one issue. Any "liberation" must necessarily begin with them being liberated from Prabhakaran. The LTTE thinks and talks through the barrel of a gun. Such people have to be dealt with militarily.

Both the PA and the UNP have been hand in glove with the LTTE for many years. They have played hide-and-seek with the LTTE and has played football with Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese. We are not here to play games. The Sinhala voter everywhere and the Tamil people in Jaffna have lost their voice, many of them been silenced, some forever. Both these groups of our citizens have been, in effect, dis-enfranchised; - unlike the some 400,000 Tamil people who live in and around Colombo and an equal number who are citizens, permanent residents, or ‘political’ asylum-seekers in Europe, North America and Australasia, who are very vocal indeed.

The Tamil polity has been slaughtered by Prabhakaran. The innate dignity of the farmers, fisher-folk, skilled-workers and traders who constitute the Tamil polity, not only in the Jaffna peninsula but among the Mukkuvars of Batticaloa who have a much longer history of residence in Sri Lanka, cannot be resurrected until the racist forces, both here and abroad, are defeated comprehensively. That is our „political solution to this racist insurgency. The supreme gift of friendship that we can offer our Tamil friends is to rescue them from these forces.

The "political package’ we propose then is to bundle the LTTE and its ball-boys (Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim) and sink them along with the vast volumes of Eelam propaganda where they belong—in the sea of oblivion. Given at least two decades of pro-LTTE propaganda and war-mania, over more than half a century of Gobbelsian propaganda for an ‘Eelam’ - which is the Tamil transliteration of Sinhale, - and considering the fact that the Tamil people in Jaffna have been denied the opportunity to listen to what we or anybody else, including themselves, have to say, it is quite possible that the Sihala Urumaya will not get a single vote. But an election is not just about winning. The political does not begin with the dissolution of parliament and end with the announcing of the ‘victors’. We have come to articulate our point of view, to give voice to the voiceless and to unravel the bundle of lies that has come to be called a ‘history’ of "Tamil homelands". Time is longer than life.

Q: So is it merely a symbolic exercise, or a move calculated to enhance the image of the Sihala Urumaya for the benefit of your campaign in the other districts?

A: Of course not. Our image has been crafted over at least 25 centuries, and has its place in the totality of the history of the human cultural heritage. We don’t have to reassert that through a ‘parliamentary election’ however gruesomely it might be conducted. Today the Sihala Urumaya has begun to set the tone of politics in the country. It is because of us that the PA, the UNP and the JVP have suddenly remembered Buddhism, the Dalada Haamuduruwo and the Venerable Maha Nayakas.

If our opponents have to learn of the culture of the country from us, do you think it is necessary for us to expend our energies on ‘image-making’?

Q: The UNP, PA, JVP, Purawesi Peramuna, Bhoomiputra Party are also contesting in Jaffna. So you are not the only Sinhala party. How are you different?

A: I have already outlined our approach to the current political drama.

All the parties you mentioned, excluding the Bhoomiputras, have fielded candidates virtually in all-Tamil lists. We are happy that the Bhoomiputra Party is also fielding a list of Sinhala candidates in Jaffna. We wish them well. The other parties have, by entering into these unholy deals with ‘Tamil Groups’ who between them could secure only 13,479 votes, i.e., just 2%, in 1994, surrendered to the idea of a geographical entity that is ethnically cleansed of Sinhalese and Muslims.

Those thirteen thousand five hundred votes gave them 10 seats in Parliament, - and converted them into power-brokers between the PA and the UNP! The breakdown of that figure is even more interesting. Douglas Devananda’s group polled 8813 votes, - 8638 (98%) of them from Kayts - and got nine seats in Parliament as representatives of the voters in Jaffna district!

The EPRLF of Vartharaja Perumal, the man of no fixed abode or occupation, whom J R Jayewardene appointed as Chief Minister of the ‘temporarily merged’ Northern and Eastern Provinces, and whom Chandrika Kumaratunga has placed on the PA’s National list, received 150 votes. Of the 4266 votes cast in the Jaffna Polling Division, 4192 (98% again) went to the Muslim Congress, while the "Tamil Groups" whom President Kumaratunga is so anxious to pacify collected 74 votes between them.

This time round, the PA is contesting under the banner of the EPDP. Let us not forget that the E in the EPDP stands for ‘Eelam’! The PA has Varadaraja Perumal on their National List, the same man who ‘unilaterally declared Eelam’ some time ago.

The joke of it all is that the PA and the UNP are often labelled ‘Sinhala Parties’ or the representatives of the Sinhalese people!

A: Most of our candidates do. We have people who lived in Jaffna before 1983, people who have engaged in business in the north and a couple of retired army and navy officers. Speaking for myself, I‚ve been to Jaffna only once before, in 1980, for an inter-school chess match with St. Johns College. At the same time, it is not that I do not have any other personal connections with Jaffna.

Besides there being many Tamil people who are our family friends, my father, who moved for the revocation of the Official Language Act because he believes that the State has an obligation to speak with its citizens in their own tongue, quit the LSSP while yet an undergraduate when it decided to ‘come to terms’ with the SLFP in 1960. The correctness of his judgement has come to be demonstrated by the subsequent history of the LSSP, which has adopted the neo-colonial ‘order’ known as ‘globalisation’, and now advocates the legalizing of fascism under the proposed constitution.

In the late 50‚s and early 60‚s my father campaigned in Jaffna for the LSSP. Most of the ‘comrades-in-arms’ whom he continued to work with have moved on - Kanesan of Kaithady South, Vice-President of the GCSU; Visvanathan of Nallur, lawyer, whose book on ‘Civics & Govt.’ - one that was said to have been far superior to that by AJ Wilson [S J V Chelvanayagam’s son-in-law] was shunted out in favour of Wilson’s as the ‘prescribed text’ in schools; Nagalingam, the first and only non-vellala Senator [from Chunnakam]; the President of the Beedi Workers Union and several other men of vision all of whom carried the handicap, ‘electorally’, of being of a ‘low’ caste.

In that battle against ‘communalism’ which the LSSP and the CP were engaged in at the time, he had stumbled upon the nature of the obscurantism that governed the Jaffna ‘vellala’ in their treatment of the ‘low-castes’; the shameful satyagraha that C. Suntheralingam, one-time Professor of Mathematics in the University College, to prevent ‘low-caste’ people from entering the Hindu temple in Nallur is a part of the record. It should also be remembered that the youth insurgency in Jaffna was initially aimed against vellala domination. Much later, as Director of Industries under T. B. Subasinghe my father exerted himself to get Tamil entrepreneurs to establish manufacturing industries in Jaffna; unfortunately for the economic development of that peninsula, most of them were part-time workers whose principal occupation was as professionals in Colombo. But, as I said earlier, our politics is larger than going to parliament. We are in this for the long haul. And, as I said earlier, we come to articulate a point of view that has for too long been ignored or silenced.

Q: Over the years the Sinhalese and Tamils have grown suspicious of each other. Do you see this changing anytime soon?

A: Actually the people of Jaffna were very cordial and quite hospitable when we went there to hand in our nomination papers. We went in friendship and when we left they returned our embrace with as much warmth. As for the Sinhalese, we are a tolerant people.

We have suffered in silence when our most sacred places of worship were attacked and when Bhikkus were slaughtered like cattle by Tamil „liberatorsš. When racist politicians orchestrated a riot against Tamils in Colombo, we did our best to protect our friends. Yes, there is reason for mistrust on what have come to be represented as ‘two sides’. It was under the UNP government, perceived again as a Sinhalese government, that the Jaffna library was burnt. The PA government made a big noise about providing bricks and books to rebuild it. But nothing had been done. Where did the money go?

Naturally the people lose faith. Which is why these corrupt parties who are „Sinhalaš only in name, and those drug-runners, arms dealers, and traders in ‘refugees’ who seek to proclaim a "Tamil Eelam" , - a highly profitable enterprise -, have to be defeated. That is the necessary precondition for liberty, equality and fraternity to flourish in this Island.