Dr. Wijeweera’s constructive response to Manohara De Silva

Many of us are grateful to Dr. BS Wijeweera for his valuable comment, though only on one aspect of Manohara De Silva’s ‘Paper’, it is a most constructive comment. He has dealt with what is undoubtedly the most important aspect of what Dr. W describes as Manohara De Silva’s ‘thesis’ that there is a linkage between the 17th Amendment and the 50-50 demand of GG Ponnambalam. Our thanks also goes out to Dr. Gunadeera for his perceptive comment.

Dr Wijeweera traces the genesis of the 17Th Amendment and rubbishes Manohara’s so called thesis by conclusively proving that there is absolutely no link whatsoever between the intention in the 50-50 demand of Ponnambalam and the concept underlying the 17th Amendment. He states that the Amendment was proposed and steered through Parliament by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, and asks, "would any one seriously suggest that he would be a party to any conspiracy to deny the majority community its rightful place"? As Dr. Wijeweera states, if the conspiracy theory is true then the PA and the JVP appear to have been "willing carriers of the anti-Sinhala virus germinated by GG Ponnambalam". Is this theory not both preposterous and ridiculous in the extreme?

Dr. Wijeweera traces the genesis of the concept that underlies the 17th Amendment. The concept had been a recommendation of the Youth Commission of 1990 chaired by the respected Academic who was a University Vice Chancellor Prof. Lakshman Jayathileka, and as Dr. W states "it would be most uncharitable and illogical to impute any sinister motives to their recommendations". He has set out the reasons for the recommendation and the imperative need the Commission saw to have independent depoliticized key national institutions because of the lack of public trust in our national politicized institutions. Dr W gives an account of how the 17th Amendment came to be adopted and goes on to state that the responsibility for the 17th Amendment must be assigned primarily to the UNP, the JVP and certain sections of the PA….. "it would be incredulous to drive a nexus between the above formation and the earlier 50-50 demand and the separatist project".

Dr Wijeweera has traced the genesis of the 17th Amendment and shown clearly that even the Tamil political parties were opposed to it. To allege a communal bias merely because Article 41B (3) states "in making appointments to vacancies in Commissions the President shall take into consideration the ethnic factor" or because Article 41A (3) requires that three members of the CC represent minorities, introduces a sectarian, bias is to go over the top. It is indeed such thinking that has created our problem; it is the unreasonable fear of a small section of the 74% Sinhalese and their actions that has led to discrimination against the minorities; are they also not Sri Lankans? If we are to build a Sri Lankan nation then we must disabuse our minds of such thinking. The President wants all communities to line up under one flag; how is it possible for the minorities who number just 25% to feel that this is also their country and that they are equal citizens in it unless we reach out to them?

Manohara would need to accept that racial purity does not exist in this country. It is an accepted fact that many ‘Sinhalese’ came from various parts of India adopted the language and culture of where they settled and became ‘Sinhalese’. Even those who accompanied Vijaya are said to have brought wives from present Tamil Nadu. In subsequent centuries, particularly during the Dutch period, those who knew how to tap toddy and peel cinnamon were brought from Kerala and have become Sinhalese. (They of course brought with them our Appa and Indiappa). Just as many immigrants from India became Sinhalese, Professor Hennayake has recently, in a series of articles in the Island, stated that English Government Agents in the Eastern Province, Lushington and Denham amongst others, have in their administrative reports recorded that many Sinhalese became Tamils or got Tamilized by living in predominantly Tamil areas of the Eastern Province. We are indeed a heterogeneous society.

The first question that comes to my mind is how a man who has become a President’s Counsel could have been thinking on the lines he has; when the question was put to an eminent psychiatrist who had read Manohara De Silva’s booklet "Constitutional Manoeuvres of Separatist Forces’, he stated that whilst the book was good in parts, Manohara had expressed unreasonable fears and seen conspiracies where none existed or was possible. He stated that such persons suffer unfortunately from paranoia and that is why they entertain such unreasonable fears and are haunted by various possibilities. "Not for a moment would I say that they are indulging in politics, they sincerely believe in what they say" he added.

I am reminded of the ‘Bhasha twins’ , FR Jayasuriya and KMP Rajaratne as they were then known of yesteryear, who also entertained unreasonable fears and their campaign which fuelled and exacerbated the problem, which could have been settled through dialogue, remains with us fifty years after they are gone. I am certain that they would never have imagined that the issue would take a hundred thousand lives, create a million strong organized Diaspora and rent this country apart and set us back a hundred years. Yes communalism has indeed been the curse that has almost destroyed our country.

What is the reason for our so called Buddhists, (many of whom are in fact Hindus worshiping Hindu Gods), being paranoid, having prejudice, being xenophobic, racist and bearing hatred for our fellow countrymen on account of their race? This in no way accords with a Buddhist way of life; we should be having thoughts of Mettha and Karuna as the Buddha himself preached in the Karaneeya Mettha Sutra wherein it is stated " Just as a mother would protect her only child, even at the risk of her own life, even so may we cultivate boundless love for all beings….…Born yet to be born, seen unseen…" etc etc. so let us get over our Xenophobia and reach out to our ethnic and religious minorities in a Buddhist spirit, with much Mettha.

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