None of the present Sinhalese political leaders have the capacity to empathize with the Tamils

wigneswaran-3Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, who is in the UK attending the signing ceremony to twin Kingston with Jaffna, were posed the following questions by Ceylon Today and his responses are stated below:

?: Has there been a threat to your life? Why is the security division talking about political motivations; and your thoughts on their refusal to give additional security?

A: None should stoop to such low level in politics to transform a serious matter into a political gimmick. Political considerations seem to pervade all our institutions and it is regretted.

A person from Balapitiya sent me an email in Sinhala over a month ago. Around end of September, I got a call presumably from the same person, confirming he had sent such an email, explaining its contents. He said he had come to know of a conspiracy; that on payment of Rs 25 million to kill Hon Sambandan and me and to put the blame on the LTTE; making out they are still actively in existence. He gave details as to how he came to know about it, who were to be contracted to kill, and so on. I said I will look into it and sent a complaint to the IGP with a copy of the email and also gave the President a copy of what I sent the IGP. I told them it was my duty to bring such matters to their notice. I did not ask for any additional security.

But the Northern Provincial Council having heard of the threat asked for additional security for their CM. The reply by someone from the government, which spoke of political undertones, was directed to the Chairman NPC who made the request for additional security, not to me, because I never made any request for additional security.

The informer phoned up again a few days ago and said the Director, TID, one Mr. de Silva was harassing him for having given the message to me. He had asked the informant as to why he was helping a Tamil and that he should be ashamed for being a traitor trying to help a Tamil. I brought that matter too to the notice of the IGP personally. The complainant’s name, address and phone number have already been given. IGP promised to look into it. I presume he will send me a report soon.

?: What made you organize the Eluha Thamil demonstration?

A: I did not organize it. I participated on invitation. Several civil society groups together organized it. As Co-Chairman of Tamil People’s Council I was invited to preside. I did so.

It was a rally. Not a demonstration against anyone as such. A rally to tell the world, of our concerns and fears, and existing state of affairs. Closed door negotiations are going on regarding a new Constitution at the leadership level without consultation with the grassroots about its relevance and appropriateness (considering the post war context ) from a citizens and State-society relationship perspectives. It is possible there could be compromise on essentials or basics as far as the affected parties are concerned. It would be too late if we wait until something insufficient is produced. We wanted to flag our concerns. Our concerns were entirely based on what we promised in our manifestos to our people.

If a viable solution is produced we will welcome it whole heartedly. But if not, what?

We must thank this government for having created the necessary democratic ambience for our people to voice their concerns. For thirty years our people had no freedom to state their concerns openly. As such even our representatives thought they could speak for our people without consulting them since for thirty odd years that was how it had been carried on. But this rally enabled the people to realize their role, rights, duties, and responsibilities.

?: Why did you name it Eluha Thamil sounding like Pongu Thamil of the LTTE times?

A: Eluha Thamil is different from Eluha Thamilar. Eluha Thamil means bring Tamil language to the forefront from a socio-cultural rights perspective. Eluha Thamilar means ‘Tamils Arise’. Tamils have remained divided hitherto for several reasons. Tamil language came in as a welding factor to bring the disparate units among us together. So Eluha Thamil was not directed against anyone. It bound all who were interested in their language.

All of us Tamil speaking have common problems. They were set off by the Sinhala Only Act in 1956. If we did not discriminate between Sinhala speaking and others we would be by now functioning as Sri Lankans. It is Sinhala Only that triggered/ precipitated a negative trajectory followed by the subsequent successive violations and breach of the collective rights of the Tamil speaking people, which has given rise today to Eluha Thamil.

As you know the Tamils are very fond of their language and language based identity. The Tamil language has now been accepted as a classical language in the same category as Hebrew, Latin and Greek due to its variegated ancient literature which goes beyond 2500 years of existence.

?: Have you not created difficulties for the government to proceed with its deliberations on the new Constitution by holding this rally?

A: On the contrary we have helped this government. If any deliberations are going to be kept secret, when it comes to light, people, whether Sinhalese or Tamils are bound to find fault with their leaders, processes and recommendations. One would say too much given. The other would say too little given. Prior to such deliberations or parallel to such deliberations we must make the Sinhalese people understand the concerns, needs and rights of the Tamils and the Tamils to understand the hidden doubts and fears of the Sinhalese. We have by this rally brought the matter into the open. There are lots of matters our people both Sinhalese and Tamils should know about each other and about themselves.

None of the present Sinhalese political leaders have the capacity to empathize with the Tamils. Firstly they must be bilingual knowing Sinhala and Tamil or trilingual knowing in addition English. Many are monolingual. Does any Sinhala leader know Tamil history or the antiquity of the Tamil language and their social ethos and aspirations?

Mahinda Rajapaksa made a fanfare about his learning Tamil but it was all political in nature. A political leader must be able to empathize with all his citizens. He must have the will to solve the problems of the people not to precipitate them for their political benefits.

You cannot solve the political problems of our Sri Lankan society without having the capacity to empathize with the feelings of those affected. Our rally will ‘force’ make the government to rethink having come to know what the concerns of our discriminated section of citizenry are.

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