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The Homeland Myth

The debate on the discredited myth of "Homelands" has again being re-opened in connection with an "open letter" to DBS Jeyaraj written by Chand Wije and a response to this by Wimal Ediriwira, the principal of the Sinhela Centre (London). Both these documents are reproduced below. Wije has been noted over the years for a number of crazy ideas on the SL problem, like moving the capital to the Vanni, enlisting God Vishnu in the fight against the LTTE, the 200 "kalusudda" families, the "river basins" theory, etc. He has now joined this with his own version of Federalism in which the M-Chintanaya notion of "maximum devolution" is extended to minority areas. Wimal counters this by restating his own theory of homelands of which he must be amongst the last few defenders. Even though there are differences in their respective views both are based on a racist ideology. This ideology has led to great conflict worldwide and has caused massive carnage in SL bringing it to the brink of disintegration. Even though the views concerned have been refuted by me before I think they deserve to the restated, if only briefly, in view of the dire straights they have led to in SL .

I may start with Wimal's homeland theory. He sees the world divided into different "countries" each consisting of a "homeland" for a racial-ethnic group. Each group can claim one and only one country as their homeland within which they enjoy Sovereign National Rights (SNR). The country is said to be "owned" by the dominant group whose homeland it is. People of other racial-ethnic origin can live there but they are only entitled to Human Rights (HR), more restricted that SNR, even though they may be full citizens of that country. Naturally these people do not "own" the country. Earlier Wimal had stated that the other groups must "integrate" with the dominant group, but it is not clear if he still adheres to this. If he does not this may be due to my previous criticism of the integration theory. If these other groups, dissatisfied with the discrimination that is exercised against them, and the lesser rights accorded to them, agitate for the recognition of their own racial and ethnic rights, then they become "invaders" and the government of the country can treat them as such. It is clear from this brief statement that this theory is a racist theory.

Like most racist theories this theory does not define its basic terminology. We may cite the following as some problems confronting this racist theory, to which the racists have no logical answer:

  1. What constitutes a "country"? Tamilnadu is said to be a "country" even though it is not a sovereign state and is a part of the Indian union. Thus a part of a State can be considered the homeland of a racial-ethnic group. Thus if devolution is given to the Eelaam region under a devolution scheme it could become the homeland of the SL Tamils. But of course the LTTE does not believe in federalism and wants a "homeland" which is an independent State in its own right. The fact is that there are far few sovereign states and autonomous regions than there are ethnic groups, so we will have to break-up existing states to give all groups a unique homeland of their own, or accept the fact that some unfortunate groups will never be able to have a unique homeland they "own".
  2. What constitutes a racial-ethnic group? Anthropologists may identify broad groupings (caucasian, negroid, mongloid etc) but fine divisions like those between the nationalities in the Indian Subcontinent on the basis of physical charcteristics like genetics, DNA, etc. has proved to be impossible. So very often cultural traits are used, e.g. language, religion, social divisions etc. But these criteria may conflict with each other. Thus on the language critierion we may get one division and a different one on the religious criterion. Sinhela speakers may be either Boduhela or Jesuhela. But a Jesuhela may be closer to a Tamil Christian than to a Boduhela, so should we include them in the Sinhela nation (using the language criterion) or the Christian nation (using the religious criterion)? Even Chand Wije's kalusuddas may identify more with the English language than with the Hela langage even though they may be racially Sinhelas.
  3. How long should a racial group be in possession of a country before it can claim it as its homeland? Wimal claims that the Sinhelas have a 30,000 year claim to SL. He presumably thinks that any ancient prehistoric skeleton unearthed in SL is that of a Sinhela. But could it not well be that of a Tamil? The fact is the historical records show that the Sinhelas migrated from India about the 6th centurry BCE bringing with them some of the culture of India and the Tamils came a few centuries later bringing with them other aspects Indian culture and even ruled the Rajarata (e.g, Elara). Given the 25 century history what difference does 3 or 4 centuries make? Before the Sinhela invasion the Island was inhabited by a number of aboriginal tribes some of whose descendents survived until a couple of centuries back, others got mixed with Sinhalese and Tamils. Given the history of human migration it is difficult to assign any piece of land as the homeland of any ethnic group.
  4. Sometimes obvious Tamils have been claimed as Sinhelas as when Wimal said that Kadirgamar was as Sinhela. Surely the reverse could also be done and obvious Sinhalas like Dharmapala could be claimed as Tamils by the Tamils. We have situations as when the last ruling dynasty of Kandy, in reality non-Sinhela Indians, are claimed as Sinhelas. Many of these aristocratic 'Sinhelas' signed the Kandyan convention in Tamil!
  5. There is no evidence that any part of SL was called Sinhaleh (= Sinhalé) before the Kandyan kingdom quite late in SL history. Yet this is the preferred name for the putative homeland of the Sinhelas. The very absence of a racial name for the country indicates that the classical Sinhalese did not look upon the country in racial terms and simply called it 'Lanka' (a geographical term). The racism of the modern Sinhelas has been shown by me to be a by-product of the Portuguese invasion which led to the rise of the neo-Sinhala (now called Hela or Sinhela). It has nothing to do with the view of the classical Sinhalese. But even so the racist madness just came about in the Great Hela Revolution a mere half-century ago. This laid the groundwork for the decline of SL while the rest of Asia marched ahead leaving SL to wallow in its racist ideology and civil strife.
  6. Finally we may contemplate the position of Wimal and his Sinhela Centre as citizens in the homeland of the English. According to his theory of integration he can claim to be an "Englishman of Sinhela origin". But how has be integrated himself into the Anglo-Saxon culture (which under the SNR should be the only permitted culture)? Is he one of those that Chand Wije calls kalusuddhas? Under the old multi-cultural policy he may have been been able to juggle his twin personas of being both a Sinhela and an English (or is it Singlish?) gentleman. But now Blair is giving up multiculturalism in the face of the Islamic thrust as it has been revealed that over 60 percent of British Muslims want to make Britain into a Sharia state. What will then be the fate of the Sinhela Centre? Will it have to roll up its tent and return to SL (or is it Sinhaleh?) like the prodigal son? Or will he take a leaf out of the Muslims and try to create a mini-Sinhaleh on British soil? If he tries the latter course he can get some good advice from Prabhakaran who has succeeded in creating a de facto Eelaam homeland on Sri Lankan terroritory. Such are the consequences of the homeland theory as it affects Wimal and his Sinhela Centre.
There are many other fallacies in the homeland theory, especially when applied to Asian countries including SL. But I think sufficient has been said that will leave the apologists of this theory to tie themselves into knots in trying to defend their theory.

Chand Wije's error is not as substantial as that of Wimal. Most of his letter to Jeyraj, a pro-LTTE Tamil journalist, is devoted to a critique of Jeyraj's not-too-subtle attempts to defend the LTTE. I have no problem with this. Jeyraj has also criticised the President for the actions against the LTTE in the East comparing it to ethnic cleansing. Chand Wije is quite right in criticisng Jeyraj on this score. It is in his defence of President Mahinda here that he advances a sort of "power-sharing theory" which is advocated by the current President. But his views on the subject are as confused as those of the President. We know that the President advanced in his so-called Chintanaya the absurd theory of "maximum devolution within a unitary state". This shows that he did not have a clue as to what is a unitary state and what is devolution. Chand Wije's confusion is of a similar order.

Victor Gunasekara


An open letter to Mr. D.B.S. Jeyaraj

by C. Wijeyawickrema

In a recent news report retired biochemistry professor Carlo Fonseka has identified you as a "brilliant journalist." He was giving a keynote address at BMICH on 12/19/2006, on the occasion of celebrating Mr. Anandasangaree's recent UNESCO Award (Ceylon Daily News, 1/13/07). This is a significant commendation for you since Carlo is an authority on Sri Lankan history. The late Lal Jayawardena of WIDER in Norway in fact funded him for this history project (Island, 1/24/07).

Previously, you replied to me by e-mail when I sent you a copy of my essay, "An Immoral Report by Six Sinhala Colombo Lawyers." In your reply you said, "Thanks for sending me this article. It has a different perspective and though I don't agree with some points stated it certainly offers much food for thought..." I requested you on 12/30/06 to let me know what you did not agree and why.

Instead, what I have found is your continuation of a journalistic policy which supports at least indirectly, the terrorist outfit of Prabakaran. I cite two examples. In a recent essay (Island, 1/24/07), I.P.C. Mendis quotes your propagation of the Anglican Bishop of Colombo Rev. Duleep de Chickera's biased "wisdom" on statecraft. A priest should concentrate on his religion and not on war strategies.

I am more worried about the second example. In that essay titled, "The continuing agony of eastern Tamil civilians," (1/23/07, http://transcurrents.com), I think you were not fair by President Rajapakse.

Despite a massive collection of data! to the contrary, you hark back on a mythical allegation of "state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka." Since you are operating at international level such statements by you fall into the category of irresponsible journalism.

I quote the last paragraph of your essay. "What is now happening in the East is a monumental crime against humanity with genocidal attributes. Innocent civilians are being decimated for politico-military objectives. Meanwhile Mahinda Rajapakse will continue taking "Malthattus" to viharas, observe "Sil" and listen to "sethpirith" being chanted. May the blessings of the Triple Gem be upon him. "Pin Siddha Vechaava."

Do you have any idea why Buddhists take flowers to temples? It is a symbol of impermanence. Beautiful flowers in the morning whither away in a few hours time! Your story reminds me behavior of the former attorney general of Sri Lanka, Siva Pashupathi or the other one Paskaralingam. They are all now in the terrorist camp. What camp they were in as government servants? Both draw their pensions too.

Buddhism got wiped out from India and in modern times from South Korea because of what you think Buddhist should do in a world fighting to eliminate others' religion. Just like the Cobra Bodisatva who ended up in a kitchen of an old lady while in search of water during a drought had to show her his full fan when she took a stick to hit him thinking it was a garandiya, GOSL had to talk to the terrorist in the language they understand to chase them out of the Marvil Aru anicut. The rest is history now. Because you cannot accept this reality you are talking Bana that you yourself do not really understand.

Did you know that the U.S. president Ronald Regan used this same lang! uage of missiles, the only language that Gadafi in Libya understood? That stopped Gadafi and decades later he became a tamed lamb giving up all his nuclear ambitions. Did you know that the American general George Patten, asked his army chaplain to write a prayer to get clear skies so that the American planes could attack the enemy positions? And the chaplain wrote it and Patton got the clear sky? And this Patton prayer is used by millions of Christians today? Have also forgotten that the American planes dropped bombs in one area of Afghanistan and food baskets in another area of Afghanistan at the same time? If U.S. president George Bush coul! d do that why do you think the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse should not do it?

I am sure that under the Mahinda Chintanaya which is Buddhism in practice modified to suit the world situation in 2007 would make the Tamil people happier in months once the terrorism headache is removed from the island. He will follow what the great Buddhist king Ashoka did in India after the Kalinga war. If you talk to the Tamil people returning home at Vakarai you will understand what I mean. In the past Tamil Christian leaders of the Tamil state party living in Colombo taught their children Sinhala but prevented the Jaffna poor Tamil learning Sinhala. Today journalists like you are not taking the side of the average Tamil. You are backing up the Tamil politicians.

You should use your position as an international journalist to device a mechanism to empower the average person in Jaffna, Batticaloa or Point Pedro! . How that can be done is the theme of my essay that you read. Rather than playing to the tune of the Colombo black white crowd with a Majority Report, I urge you to work for a village council based power devolution and power sharing system for Sri Lanka. This is what all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka needs to get rid of the Colombo control of people via a crazy and corrupt bureaucracy. With all the disasters of land slips, flooding and drought the spatial unit of village council and wards should be based on river basins/water sheds just like the river basin concept is applied in New Zealand.

The system can have a hierarchy so that at the top there are several predominantly Tamil or Muslim districts where the respective ethnic groups can work on their much cherished aspirations. Aspirations can also take place at the village council level without extra police stations as suggested by the Majority Report as happened for thousands of years before the colonial rulers came.

With a Tamilnad gorilla waiting on the other side of the Palk Street and the World Tamil Federation asking for a state for Tamils, this is the only way Sri Lankan Tamil leaders can live peacefully with the Sinhala Buddhists people (not politicians). Where do you think the Sinhala Buddhist people should go?


From: Buddhist-News@yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of Wimal Ediriwira
Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 1:06 AM
Subject: Re: [BNC] Re Chand Wije's devolution and his "An open letter to Mr. D.B.S. Jeyaraj"

Why Chand Wije's ideas are invalid is because his primary premise - that there is an ethnic problem in Sinhalé - is WRONG. There is NO ethnic problem, there is simply a TERRORIST (that is, a law and order) problem.

This is not to say that ANY situation, anywhere in the world, cannot be turned - even overnight - into an ethnic problem. For example, I live in the UK. If I demand (along with a few other Sinhelas) that the Sinhelas should have a Sinhela homeland in the UK - AND if a terrorism is started on this basis - there is IMMEDIATELY an 'ethnic' problem.

And the same will exist ANYWHERE in the world.

The thing is, that Wije needs to relate his arguments to the REAL world - and this means that ANY premises on which arguments are based MUST be valid as REASONABLE (SEE Buddhism!) - by being accepted and existent in OTHER places and countries as well. The moment he gets introverted and tries to study a problem as if it is UNIQUE and FOUND IN SRI LANKA ALONE, then he gets trapped into an UNKNOWN SPECIES syndrome, where ANYTHING or ANY THEORY can be invented!

The fact is that immigrants like Sri Lankan Tamils are NOT unique. EVERY country in the world has immigrants. Even I, and the other Sinhelas in the UK are immigrants in the same way that the Tamils are in Sri Lanka. If he points out that I have not been in the UK as long as the Tamils have been in Sinhalé, it is easy to point out to OTHER minorities - Italians (from even BEFORE the English arrived in what is today called England), French from more than a thousand years ago, Vikings, Germans etc! But NONE of them have demanded, or will dare to demand, that they have a 'right' to have an ethnic homeland for their immigrant population in the UK. It is the same in France - where there are many English who have settled down from as far back as the Crusades! - but would THEY demand a piece of land as an "English homeland" there?

The point is that there are certain universally recognised principles even though many have not been actually put down on paper, but they are explicitly or implicitly accepted and implemented almost everywhere in the world. Such as:

  1. There can be ONLY ONE nation of a kind in the world. E.g. there is only one English nation in the world, only one French nation, only one German nation etc. Therefore, there can be ONLY ONE Sinhela nation, and only one Tamil nation, in the world.
  2. Each nation can have ONLY ONE country, which is its motherland. E.g. England for the English, France for the French etc. Accordingly, the Sinhela ("Hela") nation's ONLY country is Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka"), and the Tamil nation's ONLY country is Tamil Nadu.
  3. When a nation already has its own country, but tries to set up a SECOND country for itself in the motherland of another nation – as the Tamil nation has been attempting to do in Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka") – it amounts to an INVASION. An invasion is an act of aggression against the sovereignty of a nation and a violation of the territorial integrity of its country. It is, therefore, a violation of international law. An invasion does NOT confer any rights of occupation/ ownership to the invaders.
  4. Sovereign National Rights vs Human Rights
    EVERY major indigenous nation of the world (e.g. English, French, Italians, Germans etc.) enjoys Sovereign National Rights (that is, rights as a Sovereign Nation) - e.g. the sole right to its territory, the right to have its language as the only national language, the right to have its culture as the national only culture, the right to have its religion as the national religion, its flag as the national flag etc. - in its own motherland. In the Sinhela motherland "Sinhalé" ("Sri Lanka") therefore, the indigenous Sinhela nation, which has a written history of 2,500 years and a pre-history of more than 30,000 years in the Island is entitled to the same Sovereign National Rights.
  5. People from foreign nations (e.g. Sinhelas, Tamils, Muslims, French, Italians, Indians etc.) who are living as immigrants in, for example, England are NOT entitled to claim Sovereign National Rights (SNRs) in England, no matter how long they have lived in the country. (The immigrants enjoy those SNRs in THEIR OWN motherlands, where they are not immigrants, but are part of the indigenous nation, and are, therefore ENTITLED to such rights there). In the same way, people from foreign nations but who are living in Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka") as immigrants – such as Tamils, Muslims etc. – are also NOT entitled to claim Sovereign National Rights in Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka"), but they ARE entitled to those rights IN THEIR OWN motherlands.
  6. ALL immigrant ethnic minorities living in all the major countries of the world are entitled ONLY to Human Rights (Right to life, right to education, right to healthcare, etc.). Accordingly, immigrant ethnic minorities in Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka") – e.g. Tamils, Muslims etc. – are also entitled to the same Human Rights.
    Tamil propaganda has suggested that the Tamil terrorism is a "Tamil liberation war". Yet, a liberation war can be waged ONLY in a nation's OWN motherland (where alone it is entitled to Sovereign National Rights) but NOT in ANOTHER nation's motherland. Therefore, a Tamil "liberation war" can take place ONLY in Tamil Nadu, the Tamil motherland, but NOT in Sinhalé ("Sri Lanka"), UK, or in any other country.

Wimal Ediriwira
The Sinhela Centre