The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province on Sunday regretted that people in South Sri Lanka are portraying him as an “undesirable”, a “ghost” or a bogeyman.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 42nd. Sri Lankan National Games at the Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna, Wigneswaran pointed out that, initially, the organizers had not put him on the list of speakers and had included him only at the last moment. This was perhaps because in the South, people have portrayed him as an “undesirable” or a “ghost” (bogeyman), he said.
The Chief Minister, whose speeches and demands voiced constantly through the media, have been very controversial in the Sinhalese-dominated South, said that he is a much misunderstood man.
He claimed that people were making adverse comments about his utterances without getting his Tamil speeches properly translated into English and Sinhalese.
He appealed to his critics and detractors in the South not to spread falsehoods about him based on a misreading of his Tamil speeches, and create ethnic differences with dangerous consequences. Indirectly referring to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his followers, Wigneswaran said misinterpretation of his speeches is helping some people who have been defeated in elections and who should be in jail for their deeds.
Giving an example of the dangerous consequences of misinterpretations and spreading falsehoods, he recalled how the 1958 anti-Tamil riots were triggered by a false story that one Seneviratne ,a Sinhalese man, had been cut into pieces by Tamils and that his body parts were put in boxes. The story was proved wrong eventually, but not before many Tamils lost their lives or property, Wigneswaran said.
If he had time to prepare his speech, he could have given more information on the Seneviratne episode as it is well described in Tarzie Vittachi’s book Emergency ’58 the Chief Minister said.
Wigneswaran then spoke in Sinhalese from a written script to enable the Chief Guest, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Governor Reginold Cooray and other Sinhalese, to understand what he was saying correctly.
The Chief Minister urged Sri Lankans to learn English so that there could be better communication across linguistic barriers and greater acquisition of knowledge. He said he had begun to learn Sinhalese at the Royal College school in Colombo from the Sinhalese teacher Ellawala, but gave it up in anger because in 1956, Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike made Sinhalese the sole official language of Sri Lanka.
Wigneswaran took the opportunity to praise President Sirisena saying that he is a man of the people, who can interact with the common man, having come from a rural agricultural family.
The Chief Minister, however, declined to accept an invitation to be the Chief Guest at the Gandhi Jayanti celebrations held at the Indian Consulate General in the morning, citing a religious observance as the excuse. (New Indian Express)