Having read one of my previous posts titled 'Is there a need for political solution to the North East problem?' one of my friends opined that I had not been impartial and tended to be an extremist. She is of the view that the majority community tends to discriminate the minority communities wherever it is the case and has been a universal phenomenon as it is an outcome of power relationship. So the Sri Lankan case has been no exception. As far as Sri Lanka's case is concerned we need to see the historical developments too to get a better understanding about the matter at issue.
Close observation on the subject reveals that most of the 'grievances' that Tamils talk about are of course direct result of reactionary policies adopted by the post independent Sri Lankan governments against the discriminatory policies adopted by the colonists against the majority community. So the Tamil's grievances are result of lost privileges enjoyed by them at the expense of the majority community. The clamor for rights by the Tamils can be seen to have been most vociferous about ten years after the independence, precisely speaking after Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandranayke came into power. (While continuing this discussion we should be mindful of the fact that the violence unleashed against the Tamils in 1983 was purely politically motivated with vast number of looters involved)
As it is well known the strategy adopted by the colonists especially by the British had been to appease the minorities giving them extra privileges as a means of making the administration easy in their colonies. Most of the jobs in the government sector including the three armed forces and the police were occupying the minorities mainly Tamils and Burgers. Even among those the middle level and top level positions were occupied by the minorities. A notable case in point is the Public Works Department (PWD) where the poorer segments of the society had the opportunity to get minor jobs especially in road construction. Almost all the positions from the top to the bottom were almost exclusively occupied by the Tamils. There had been no generosity on the part of then administrators to offer at least laborer positions to the majority community. Of course the command in the English language was also one of the main criteria to get a government job. But that was also strategically maneuvered by the colonists by establishing more English medium schools in Jaffna and other parts of the country exclusively for Christians. So the approach followed by the colonists and their cohorts had been clearly selective at the expense of the majority community. This vastly disproportionate occupation in the sectors of employment and education by minorities created a significant discriminatory factor in a country where 73% is the majority who can boldly and undisputedly claim that their presence in the country in more than two millennia made significant impact in its culture and society. The efforts made by the successive post independence governments to correct this monumental discriminatory policy by giving the majority community their rightful position in the society were seen and continue to be seen by the Tamils as a move made against their well being. Obviously, the privileges they enjoyed were bound to curtail significantly as against the proportionate representation by the Sinhalese. The hardest hit segment of the Tamil society was the English educated Vellala Jaffna Elite who had been enjoying the superficial privileges unimaginable to any minority anywhere in the world. These frustrated sentiments of Elite Tamils were very smartly hijacked by their patrons, Vellala Jaffna Elite politicians who were instrumental in creating and writing a mythical Tamil history and 'Tamil homeland fantasy', mainly conceived in Colombo Cocktail parties. The demand for irrational and stupid 50-50 Tamil representation in the parliament by G.G. Ponnambalam shows how heavily Tamil politicians had been intoxicated with the privileges bestowed upon to them by their colonial masters.
The effect of loss of superficial privileges enjoyed by Tamils had such an effect in them that they went to the extent of leveling some stupid and wild allegations against Sri Lankan governments as a couple of them described below
'Colonization of the majority community in the Tamil Homeland to change the demographic balance' has been one of the major allegations leveled against the post independence governments. As was discussed in my many previous posts the 'Tamil homeland' is just a mythical and fantasized theory created by the power hungry politicians with no ground at all. Demanding a state for an exclusively single community based on a fantasy and denying other communities to settle in an imaginary homeland is therefore the stupidest thing one can imagine. This demand is perpetuated in the backdrop of more than 50% of the Tamils live out of the so called homeland while enjoying all the privileges. In this backdrop settling the majority community in the so called homeland can easily be justified if the homeland theory is applied as it is the Sinhalese who were the original inhabitants in the areas with the flourishing Sinhalese Buddhist civilization as evidenced by the widely spread monuments, archeological remains and irrigation systems found in the districts corroborated by chronicles as well as Tamilinized original Sinhalese place names.
'The special 'patronage' given by the government to the Buddhism'. This is seen as a discriminatory policy. As I mentioned earlier the culture of the majority community has made indelible mark in the island's history for more than two millennia. The Buddhism is the pivot around which the majority's culture revolves around. Unlike many other countries where the major religion be it Christianity, Islam or Hinduism there have been no persecutions or killings of the followers of other religions in Sri Lanka nor have there been instances of demolition of the religious places or discriminations or restrictions imposed. Then how on earth it becomes special patronage to Buddhism if other religions in the country too are equally treated and respected?
At present there are no discriminations against minorities or instances of loss of privileges enjoyed by the minorities. Difficulties especially faced by the Tamils during the war time due to security implications are almost non existence now. I quote below what I discussed about this subject in one of my previous posts with slight modifications.
(1) Education Opportunities- Tamils enjoy free Education provided by the government at all levels with no discrimination at all. There are universities namely Jaffna, the Eastern and the South Eastern and their affiliated collages in the provinces. Tamil students continue to study any other university in the country with no restriction at all while the Sinhalese students are denied to the NE universities with number of student being killed and severely assaulted. Tamil students face no restrictions at all in entering the universities irrespective of where they are located in the country.
(2) Employment opportunities: There are no restrictions whatsoever in terms of employment opportunities in whatever sector except armed forces. Close on the heels of the defeat of world's most ruthless terrorist organization it is yet to take a little more time to ease restrictions Tamils to enter the armed forces. However, restrictions to enter the police service have been eased giving opportunity to Tamil youth to join the service from the provinces. It is a common knowledge that the lack of employment opportunities is common to every community in the country.
(3) Language: The Tamil language is the main language of communication in the North and East of Sri Lanka including every government officers and departments.( However, there are still some shortcomings in the police stations in certain areas. It is also being fast redressed with the recruitment of Tamil speaking officers.) It is the minority Sinhalese in the provinces that face difficulties in the government departments and other institutions as there are no Sinhala speaking officials there.
(4) Opportunities to engage in politics, democratic process and Administration: People in the NE have fullest freedom to elect their representatives to the parliament as has been done by them after three decades. All other administrative matters of the people in the provinces are addressed by the government officers and elected members to the Pradeshiya Sabhas and Provincial councils from the same provinces with no restrictions. Institutions such as provincial councils and other government institutions are functioning as same as other parts of the country with no restrictions imposed. The North Provincial Council will be set up soon after its election due in this year. Other government institutions are also functioning addressing the day today needs of the people with no restrictions at all. These institutions are vested with all the powers as other institution in the Southern part of the country are. The language of communication of all these institutions is Tamil
(5) Development: The development activities were taking place at a minimum level in the two provinces due to the three decades old war. Now the development activities have been taking place at a pace that the southern part of Sri Lanka would feel envious. Eastern province was the first beneficiary of these projects. They were started while the war was raging in the north. Anyone who visits those provinces can witness this. Unequal development and wealth distributions to the provinces have been a common problem faced by Sri Lanka from the independence. It seems the Rajapaksha regime has been doing its best to redress this.
(6) Freedom of movement: The restrictions faced by the Tamils during the war time have vastly been reduced now. There are virtually no check points in the provinces. There is no restriction to a Tamil person to travel any part of the country including the deep south of the country. The problem of High Security Zones(HSZ) will be solved in due course with the improvement of security situation.
(7) Freedom of living in any part of the country: Tamils face no problem at all to live anywhere in Sri Lanka as they have been doing so for ages. Tamils can buy a land and live any part of the country with no restrictions at all. However, Sinhalese had not been allowed to do so though they were the original inhabitants of those lands before Tamils were brought to the country by colonial powers.
So don't Tamils enjoy the equal rights as Sinhalese do? What problems do they face to ask for a 'solution'? It is, however, bizarre to note that it is the majority community in many instances which is at the receiving end at the expense of being so generous by the successive governments to the minorities. Rebel will discuss about this in a future post.