Politicians of both communities have created the belief that federalism is separation

The Tamils of North and East of Sri Lanka do not consider themselves as minorities. They consider themselves as the majority in the North Eastern Province for more than 2000 years.

Many Sinhalese identify the Tamils of North and East with the recent Tamil immigrants from South India during British times.

Therefore I would say proper understanding of who we, viz. the Sinhalese and the Tamils, are and our history and reference to our roots and appreciation of same would go a long way in creating the ideal ambience for reconciliation.

Chief Minister Wigneswarn’s address on 6th August at 12.30 pm at the District Secretariat, Jaffna:

Hon’Co – Chairman Mavai Senathirajah, Hon’ Members of Parliament from Great Britain, Members of Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Hon’Members of Parliament, Hon’ Members of the Northern Provincial Council, Mr. Vethanayahan, District Secretary, Jaffna, High officials of the Centre and the Periphery, my dear brothers and sisters,

While welcoming the Hon’Members of Parliament from Britain heartily let me register our appreciation of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy for arranging this important meeting.

We need to share the experiences of others when we are ourselves involved in Reconciliation and Reconstruction. Reconciliation is mind oriented while Reconstruction is physical.

Hence it is necessary for those who are earnest in bringing about Reconciliation in Sri Lanka to appreciate the part that “perceptions” play in our activities. Even our friends from Great Britain may not be quite aware of our perceptions. The majority community and others have their own perceptions with regard to themselves and others. We have ours.

Let me state them for clarity.

Firstly let me state the perceptions of the Tamils of North and East in Sri Lanka. The Tamils of North and East of Sri Lanka do not consider themselves as minorities. They consider themselves as the majority in the North Eastern Province for more than 2000 years. It is in the last 100 years that intrusions and incursions have been made into the terrain of the Tamil speaking by people from elsewhere.

The people of the North and East were Hindus from pre Buddhist times but some of them took to Buddhism a few centuries after Christ but rejected Buddhism and went back to Hinduism later. Though Buddhism was rejected by the Hindu Tamils, Buddhist places of worship were left in tact unharmed. Those who were Buddhists in the North and East were Tamil Buddhists. There were no Sinhala Buddhists at that time. In fact the Sinhala Language came into being only in the 6th century A.D.

Next the Tamils of the North and East opt for a Federal Constitution to preserve their language, religions as well as their culture, tradition and terrain. They seek internal right of self -determination on the basis of their individuality preserved for centuries.

They seek the merger of North and East since the Tamil speaking people must preserve their identity and individuality .

The perceptions of the Sinhalese too should be understood.

Many Sinhalese identify the Tamils of North and East with the recent Tamil immigrants from South India during British times during the past 200 years or so. They forget that the Tamils of the North and East occupied our Island even before the birth of Buddha. There had been waves of immigrants from India who added to the indigenous Tamil populations.

The Sinhalese are allergic to the term federalism since the politicians of both communities have created the belief that federalism is separation or federalism leads to separation. Both ideas are incorrect. Federalism joins together disparate entities of people. This perception of the Sinhalese that Federalism is separation and/ or leads to separation has stood in the way of reconciliation.

The Sinhalese have another wrong perception that Sri Lanka is the land of the Sinhalese. Long before the Sinhalese language was born out of Pali, Tamil and indigenous dialects, the Tamil Dravidians have been occupying this land for centuries. Lots of our Tamil leaders would shudder to say these truths for fear they would hurt the feelings of the Sinhalese. By not informing the truth we are consolidating the wrong perceptions fed into the Sinhalese mind.

Therefore I would say proper understanding of who we, viz. the Sinhalese and the Tamils, are and our history and reference to our roots and appreciation of same would go a long way in creating the ideal ambience for reconciliation.

It is not with a sense of egoistic pride that we speak about the Tamils. We refer to the actual history of the Tamils so that the Sinhalese would shed their wrong perceptions and begin to appreciate the Tamils.

Let me conclude by saying that while we delve deep into the Reconciliatory process, we should be conscious of the role played by our perceptions.

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