Is there an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka?


Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is on a three-day visit to Sri Lanka. I don’t know or care whether the GoSL invited her or not. What I do care about is what the Indian media has to say about her visit. According to them, she will “push for a political settlement of the vexed ethnic issue between the Sinhalese and Tamils… First, I don’t have any problem with them telling us what to do. But I have a big goddamned problem if they, or for that matter any other external entity, force us to do what they want us to do. The freedom to take decisions regarding our country is ours, not theirs. Now I should also mention that their External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has already stressed to the SL government the necessity of reaching a political settlement acceptable to all communities. So I think it is okay for me to tell those Indians in case they intend to force us to do things we don’t want to do, bugger off… Anyway, what kind of political solution/settlement they are talking about? To find a political solution to the ethnic problem, first there should be an ethnic problem. If there is an ethnic problem, the people who say that there is such a problem should be able to define it. If someone claims there is an ethnic problem, be it the Indians or Kumar Rupasinghe or Ranil Wickramesinghe, they should first define what an ethnic problem is, and then make a valid, rational argument that such an problem exist in Sri Lanka, and provide a political solution to it. So far, I believe, no one has done that successfully. If anyone who reads this article thinks there’s an ethnic problem in SL, please do those 3 things… Here’s how I do it. I don’t believe there is an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. But if there is an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka, it is the inability of the Sri Lanka State to fulfill Tamil aspirations that include acceptance of Tamil right to self-determination and recognition of their homeland. Basically, this is our inability divide this country and give them a separate state. Of course we are (even Ranil) never going to be able to do that, mainly because of our great patriotism (for me though, it’s a matter of freedom. I’ll elaborate on this some other time). So since we are not going to be able to give them exactly what they want, no matter what we do it won’t be accepted by the Tamils. Of course given the current situation they might willing to compromise. But as time goes by, as it often happens, they will want more, and then a little bit more, and try to drag us towards exactly what they want. The result is another undesirable armed struggle… My solution is to do nothing. If there is a solution, that is to colonise those exclusively Tamil areas with Sinhalese Army families like Sarath Fonseka proposed. We can put in some Muslims too. We have a right to do that. Before the Tiger Terrorists started murdering and banishing civilian Sinhalese and Muslims, there were Sinhalese and Muslims in those areas in the North. Even if that wasn’t the case (it was the case) all people have a right to live anywhere they like within SL. If Sinhalese and Muslims aren’t allowed or unable to live in those areas only because they are Sinhalese or Muslims, then I’d say they are the victims of the ethnic problem… Colonise isn’t done just to make sure that we know it before the Tamils even think about guns again. One of the main reasons for Tamil racism, and their need to have a separate land, is the fact that live separately in those god forsaken lands in the North. I mean look at the south. In every district in the south there are thousands of Tamils and Muslims living alongside the Sinhalese… However, there’s always some tension between different races. The only solution to this is to transform this ultra-Buddhist, half-feudal, half-authoritarian country into a secular, liberal,, truly democratic country, where no one feels inferior or superior to another. In this kind of a country, Nalin de Silva should be in heaven.


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