Dushy Ranetunge reports on continued Sinhalisation of Jaffna and Colombo. The article was originally published in the Sunday Leader and has been republished in full below.
I went to sleep last week living down Havelock Road and woke up in the brand spanking spruced up renamed SSJ Mawatha. The first thing that came to my mind was as to how long it would take to type in Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mawatha into a vehicle’s satellite navigation system. I suppose by the time you got round to it, you might be in Panadura.
The bright sparks who come up with street name changes are perhaps unaware of the costs involved as a result of their foolish actions. But then, they may not be aware of satellite navigation and perhaps don’t care, as long as their ethno-religious madness is satisfied. They prefer to keep the population in the dark ages.
The Sinhalese are a minority within the city limits of Colombo. Those who are Buddhists among them are even a smaller minority. No one had consulted the residents of Havelock road about the change of name of their road. They had no voice.
Within the last few months we had witnessed Dickman’s Road becoming Lester James Pieris Mawatha, Guildford Crescent becoming Premasiri Kemadasa Mawatha etc. The residents of these roads also had no choice on the matter. It was imposed from above.
Under the present regime, ‘Sinhalisation’ continues, not only in Jaffna, but also in Colombo.
The masses, climbed into an array of vehicles, some parents had kids sitting in the boot of cars as they toured the country viewing the many Vesak spectacles and queuing up outside the generous dansala’s. It took me six hours to drive from Kandy to Colombo while negotiating ‘dansala’ traffic.
As I observed the thousands of children, grannies and entire families taking their lives into their hands by travelling at the back of tractors, half trucks, etc., the police looked the other way. The law is an ass, they say. But here in Sri Lanka, not only the law, the entire law enforcement system, seem to be braying asses.
What amazed me was the sight of adults, presumably parents, sitting inside a car, while their children were sitting inside an open boot with their legs hanging out. They were travelling on the crowded Colombo-Negombo Road.
Sri Lankans seemed unaware or unwilling to recognise the dangers to themselves and to others. For this great majority, Havelock Road becoming SSJ Mawatha was a cause for celebration. They saw nothing wrong in not consulting the residents of the street, where their majoritarian ‘identity’ was being ‘imposed’ without consultation.
It is the same in Jaffna. When so many Hindu Temples lie in ruin as a result of the war, the majority does not seem concerned about the building of new Buddhist shrines in the North and the East. For the Sinhala Buddhist majority, it is their right, and a cause for celebration. They are not tuned to the sensitivities of others. Almost all of these temples are built with state patronage with the security forces playng a major part. It was the same in Colombo where at the top of the new SSJ Mawatha, is the brand new SSJ centre for Buddhism. State involvement in the whole project was obvious.
Political and religious patronage of the dominant tribe by those in power is so that they can precipitate their rule over the masses. So you will see these politicians from world cup cricket to Buddhism.
To the outsider, it is blatantly clear that in Sri Lanka, the dominant tribe has seized control of the state apparatus, and state functions to precipitate the hegemony of their tribe. The minorities in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa or Colombo are drowned in the majoritarian sea, where their identity is being crushed.
The Portuguese, Dutch, British and South Indian colonisation of Sri Lanka is a part of our heritage as much as the colonisation by the Sinhalese, which is as foreign as the others. Buddhism is as foreign to Sri Lanka as Christianity or Hinduism. In fact some will argue that Sri Lankan’s were Hindus before the arrival of Buddhism, during the reign of that Devanampiya Tissa, whose ‘high’ IQ was tested with that mango tree riddle.
Drive around Sri Lanka and you will see, statues of British leaders in Sri Lanka removed, place names changed, race courses nationalised, Hindu places of worship taken over, Sinhala only imposed, new Buddhist temples in predominantly Tamil neighbourhoods.
The ‘ancient’ Nagadipa Vihara for instance is a recent ‘innovation’ less than 100 years old. Now there is an even more recent one, the place where Sangamitta landed. Both places have no archaeological value, as they are not ancient sites. These are as authentic as you putting a stick on the beach and claiming it to be the spot where Vijaya landed.
Half a century after Sinhala Only, the Sri Lankan state has still failed to facilitate the practical use of Tamil language in police stations in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Sajith Premadasa states that he wants the population to be conversant in both Sinhala and Tamil and that a Tamil must be able to go to Cinnamon Gardens police station and make a police entry in Tamil and receive correspondence in Tamil.
I asked him if he speaks Tamil. He said “unfortunately, no”. I asked him if the President speaks Tamil. He says, “No, the President makes Tamil speeches with the help of a teleprompter.”
As a result of this ‘ethno-religious’ madness, hundreds of thousands of burghers were driven out of the country. Over a million Tamils have also been driven out of the country.
The “Diaspora” are not enemies. They are citizens of Sri Lanka whom the Sri Lankan state has failed to represent. The governments of the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and the Republic of India, now represent them.
I inquired from Mr. Sajith Premadasa about his statement that no war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka. He puts his Mill Hill School education in North London, into good use in telling me that Sri Lanka committed “excesses” not “war crimes”. I asked him what was the difference between “war crimes” and “excesses”?
He said that he will use the word “excesses” and that I can use the word “war crimes”.
So, lets use Sajith Premadasa’s word, “excesses”. Sri Lankans point to the US and the UK to justify “excesses” when those governments request Sri Lanka to put its house in order. A million Americans and British citizens are not living in Sri Lanka because of the “excesses” of their governments.
But over a million Sri Lankans are living in Australia, the European Union, North America and India, because of Sri Lankan “excesses”. Those governments now represent Sri Lankan minority communities in those countries, whom the Sri Lankan state has failed to represent.
They have every right to tell Sri Lanka to put its house in order. If after over 60 years of independence, the Sri Lankan state continues to fail its citizens who have a minority culture, it has no option, but to devolve power. Since the opposition in Sri Lanka is so inept, thank god some states and bodies outside Sri Lanka are opposing the hegemony of the majority. Since 2005, the Sri Lankan electorate seems to have moved to the right and this suits those in power, to ensure their continuity in office. I suggested that a petition be raised about the change of the street name without consultation. I was told that the citizens are today more scared than during Premadasa’s regime and that no one will dare protest.
That’s democracy for you and on Vesak day they were blaring from loudspeakers about “Budhu Guna”.