by Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
(From The Tamil Weekly)
The battle in which an ambitious and aggrieved
young Sinhala Prince ‘Dutu’ Gemunu defeated the ageing Tamil
King Ellalan (Elara-in Sinhalese) to become King in ancient Sri
Lanka, has underscored Sri Lankan ethnic politics in the past
sixty years. The anguished cry of a restless ‘Dutu’
Gemunu that he was unable to sleep because of being hemmed in by
the Tamils on one side and the deep ocean, on the other,
resonates in most Sinhala hearts to this day. Very few
have paused to consider how Gemunu acquired the prefix ‘Dutu’
(evil), the respectful homage he paid to the ‘Just and
Righteous’ King Ellalan upon his death and the memorial he
subsequently erected in memory of Ellalan. Niro
Dissanayake (Asian Tribune-21/10/2005) in an interesting,
forthright, intuitive and largely objective article titled, ‘The
Dutu Gemunu Principle––Why Prabhaharan is the Singhalese’s best
friend’ has while highlighting the role Dutu Gemunu continues to
play in Sinhala political life states the following:
* "Imagine the King Dutu Gemunu being reborn in
this period. He is 20 years old on the 3rd February’1948. He
realizes the Sinhalese are on the verge of losing the conflict
which raged for 2000 years. The unified country is no more and
has a foreign master. The North and East of the country are
devoid of Sinhalese. The Sinhalese have no power, no future etc.
etc. He decides to go to battle".
* "He has the following objectives:
1. To give the Sinhalese permanent
political power which they will never lose again and remove the
political power from the Tamils.
2. To give the Sinhalese economic power and
remove it from the Tamils
3. To remove the possibility that Tamils in the
future having an independent country.
4. To give the Sinhalese ‘their country’ unified
and whole back and remove any external countries which may
challenge the status".
* "King Dutu Gemunu, if you like, is an
amalgamation of Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes, the Jayewardenes,
Premadasas etc. etc. They may appear to fight among themselves,
but each and every one of them follows these basic principles".
Niro Dissanayake continues on to identify events
in post-independence Sri Lankan history that gave effect to the
Dutu Gemunu principles. I agree with his conclusion that
the ‘Cupboard is bare’ with regard to Tamil leaders at present,
while disagreeing with him on the alternative leadership
available. If these are the alternative leaders, who will
determine our future as Tamils, it will be like scraping for any
scrap at the bottom of the empty cupboard! I hope this
attempt to identify future Tamil leaders is also not part of the
evolving Dutu Gemunu strategy. Niro Dissanayake’s article
should be compulsory reading for all intelligent Tamils with an
open mind. I have to compliment Niro Dissanayake for his
thoughts and thesis.
Reading his article was like breathing in
cool fresh air in the arid desert of meaningless discourse based
on charges and counter charges currently taking place on the
ethnic problems in Sri Lanka, following the pattern over the
past several decades. It is apt for me as a fast ageing
Tamil Sri Lankan, born a few years before independence to
explore what the modern day ‘Ellalan’ (read Tamil leaders) did
to counter and further the Tamil cause in response to the
‘Dutu Gemunu’ (read Sinhala leaders) strategy.
In all human confrontations, whether in normal
day-to-day life, politics, war or games, where two individuals,
groups or teams are involved, every move has to be overcome or
neutralized to succeed and further the initial objectives.
If this fails, one party loses and has to call it a day, with
the option available to deploy new tactics in future
confrontations to further their objectives. A refusal to
engage again will signify that the defeat in a battle has also
conceded the war and the objectives for which it was waged.
In such instances of conflict, there have to be clearly thought
out long term objectives, an awareness of tactical options
available and suitable to the circumstances, an ability to use
the tools available appropriately and the moral fiber to pursue
short term objectives consistently despite occasional or even
frequent failures in order to achieve long term goals.
In the case of a group of people such as the Tamils in Sri
Lanka, the leaders and the people have to also have a sense of
destiny and their visions for the future must find confluence,
if their struggle has to confront strategies such as those of
modern day Dutu Gemunus. What is fundamentally
important is that the goals are profound, unimpeachable and
morally valid. The tactics and tools deployed must also conform
to these criteria. This was the essence of Gandhianism
that resonated around the world and laid the foundations for
what India is destined to become in the future. The Sinhala
leaders (Modern day Dutu Gemunus) were justified in their
pursuit of power and a better life for their people.
However, they were wrong in trying to achieve
these at the expense of the Tamils and other minorities. For the
latter they stand condemned in the world today. They could
have aspired to be Gemunu’s without acquiring the prefix ‘Dutu’.
Their tactics lacked moral scruples and these have led to the
contradictions, depravities, degeneration and loss of values,
hypocrisy, corruption and cruelty that have pervaded the Sri
Lankan society as a whole today. Morally unacceptable
tactics, when resorted to as a guiding principle in an
individual’s, a people’s or a nation’s life cannot bring about
satisfactory outcomes. This is clearly exemplified in the
instance of Sri Lanka.
While our neighbours have progressed and are on
the road to prosperity, we have degenerated, our institutions
have declined and our nation is wallowing in muck. One has to
reap what one sows (‘Kela kela dhey, pala pala dhei"––
Sinhala and ‘Vinai vithaithavan vinai arruppaan, thinai
vithaithavan thinai arruppaan’––Tamil). The belief in
cause and effect (Karma) underpin both Hinduism and Buddhism.
While the Hindus believe in mitigation through divine grace, the
Buddhists believe that there is no cop-out – the consequences of
one’s actions- good or bad, are unalterable and have to be
borne. Sri Lanka is fast becoming a country which any one -
Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, who has the opportunity –– legally or
illegally, will abandon in search of greener pastures. This is
the result of almost sixty years of the application of Dutu
Gemunu principles! We will soon become a nation of left-overs!
The Tamils, on the other hand, are fast losing the moral high
ground they occupied during the course of the so-called ethnic
conflict in Sri Lanka.
This moral high ground that held up solidly even
during the worst years of civil war and the accompanying
brutality and beastliness, has rapidly eroded during past few
years of the ceasefire due to the lunacy of the LTTE. I
use the word lunacy deliberately, because the LTTE strategy over
the past few years has been totally irrational, erratic and self
The results are unfolding now to the greater
detriment of the Tamils. Any one who does not discern this
is trying to play the proverbial ostrich. This is one major
success of ‘The Dutu Gemunu strategy’ for which Niro Dissanayake
considers Prabhakaran the best friend of the Sinhalese.
The LTTE’s lack of perspicacity, political
sagacity and wisdom has played into the hands of the Dutu
Gemunu’s and left the Tamils with an ‘Empty Cupboard’ with
regard to potential alternate leadership. The Tamils
today are a forlorn people without any hope for their future in
the land of their birth and that of their ancestors.