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Someone asked me three questions; A. The majority of this country are Sinhala Buddhists. What is wrong in calling this country Sinhala Buddhist? B. You welcomed certain aspects of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's policies. Yet you oppose the 20th Amendment which clothes him with power to carry out his policies. Why? C. You are on record as a person wanting peace and reconciliation in this country. Why have you started on the wrong foot? You have already been branded as an extremist, separatist and a friend of terrorists. How are you going to retrieve the respect and goodwill that you have lost in recent times?

My responses were: I thank you for these questions. They are very comprehensive to answer yet topical. Let me deal with them one by one. 

WigneswaranA. Is this Country Sinhala Buddhist? 

Reply: This country at one time in history was the majority Buddhists. But the country was never Sinhala Buddhist. Those who received Buddhism into this country were the Tamils. Devanampiya Theesan was certainly a Tamil. His father was Mootha Sivan. The Westerners who wrote our history did not realize that the Sinhala Language and the Sinhala people came in much later in history. Almost a thousand years after the introduction of Buddhism into this Island did the mixed language called Sinhala come into being. Sinhalese are those who spoke the Sinhala language. Nowhere have those who spoke Pali been called Sinhalese. They were Tamils who spoke Pali. In any event, when this country was divided into 3 or 4 kingdoms, the Citizens were of those Kingdoms. They were not identified as Tamils and Sinhalese as we do today. 

In recent times there is a new language being formed in Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It might be called Tamlish. They speak Tamil interspersed with lots of English words. And that language is very popular in T.V.s, Films, Radios and at various public meetings. Soon with a Tamil background, English will be spoken, or with an Anglo Saxon background, Tamil would be spoken. And that would take the form of a new language.

The Sinhalese language came about by speaking the Tamil and Pali languages interspersed with each other. Tamil with Pali or Pali with Tamil. Even certain Dialects contributed to the formation of the new language called Sinhalese in the 6th and 7th Centuries after Christ (Anno Domino).

So to speak of this Country being Sinhala Buddhist is erroneous. Original Buddhists throughout the Country were Demala Baudayos or Tamil Buddhists. There were no Sinhalese then. Thus Dushta Kaamini was a Tamil Buddhist while Ellalan was a Tamil Saivite.

All this certainly will sound crazy to many Sinhalese who have been conditioned to believe otherwise. We now have many historical evidences which confirm that those who received Buddhism into this Island were Tamils. There was no Sinhalese language at the time of arrival of Buddhism. I have suggested the formation of a Commission to probe into this and write a true history of this country. 

Simply because the majority in this Country are Sinhala Buddhists does not give the right to call the Country Sinhala Buddhist. The North and East have been majority Tamil speaking areas throughout history. They jettisoned Buddhism at some stage of our history. May be because of the rise of the Bakthi Cult in South India which spilt over into the North and East of this Country. This country had been blessed with five Shivalingams from pre historic times. The Naguleswaram at Kirimalai in Jaffna District; The Thiruketheeswaram in Mannar District; The Thirukoneswaram in Trinco District; The Thondeswaram in Matara District at Dondra and Munneswaram in Chilaw. Until 100 years ago Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam Districts were majority Tamil speaking areas. When I went to my friend's house in Negombo as a boy, the parents spoke to me in good Tamil. I found even later the grandparents of modern-day Sinhala Catholics there spoke Tamil and used the Tamil Bible at Services. Their old title deeds were in Tamil.

The miracles performed by Saivite holy men among Hindus must have attracted the Tamil Buddhists back to Hinduism in the early days.

Even in recent times, it was the miracles performed by Sai Baba, which attracted many Buddhists towards him. Therefore the areas in the North and East to which our Sinhalese brethren were only brought in recent times under the guise of colonization and other means must not be termed Sinhalese areas. North and East have been traditionally Tamil speaking areas. Now Buddhism does not exist in those areas. Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are the religions of the North and East. Not Buddhism. How could you then call the entire Country as Sinhala Buddhist?

The country came together as one country only in 1833 under the British. The Jaffna kingdom was not Buddhist. Therefore we must allow North and East to be secular while you call the other seven Provinces Sinhala Buddhist if you want or in the alternative make the entire Country secular. If the majority in numbers must be considered, the majority in the North and East have always been non-Sinhala Buddhist. Certain Sinhala areas in Amparai District were added for Political reasons. But by and large, the North and East are non-Sinhala Buddhist areas. Therefore this country being referred to as Sinhala Buddhist is factually wrong. 

B. Why do you oppose 20th Amendment 

Reply: Supporting good aspects of an administration does not mean we must help to corrupt such administration to indulge in anti-social activities in the future. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely said, Lord Acton. This is true unless the Head of administration has a religious background like Sita's father, King Janaka. He was a saint at heart but an administrator by profession. Such People would never act against the interests of any human being however much they may be clothed with power and authority. In this respect, the present President has a lot of minus points.

(1) He has a military background. Therefore by nature, he cannot brook any opposition. He is used to commanding and others carrying out his commands. Democracy would suffer under him.

(2) He belongs to a political family which has taken over from the Bandaranaikes the whip hand with regard to governance. He would consider himself divinely brought to power to do as he pleases. Twentieth Amendment would clothe him to jettison democracy to the dustbin. All in the name of the people!

(3) He is already conditioned to believe this Country is Sinhala Buddhist which it is not. He would go on to do much mischief, and harassment in the North and East clothed with so much of power wanting to transform Non-Sinhala and Non-Buddhist North and East into Sinhala Buddhist areas. Though he would be committing genocide by his acts, he would not bother much about it because the majority Sinhala Buddhists of other seven Provinces would support him.

(4) He is a suspect in the eyes of the U.N. as having been connected to the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the war, which ended on 18th May 2009. He would do everything to save himself and his acolytes with so much of power reposed in him.

I have referred only to the present incumbent. Absolute power in the hands of any other person too could lead to corruption and dictatorial tendencies which is not healthy to a democratic public life. 

20th Amendment seeks to get rid of the checks and balances placed on the executive presidency. If 20th Amendment is passed, there would be a dictatorship in Sri Lanka for a long time. There could be no doubt about it. For example, I will not be able to write like this. Next day I would be gone! 

C. Are you an extremist, separatist and a terrorist? 

Reply: By nature, I cannot be an extremist, separatist, nor a terrorist. I love humanity. I love all beings. There are no White and Blacks, Westerners and Easterners, Chinese and Indians, Sinhalese and Tamils in my perception. They are all humans. But I also love the truth. Anyone prevaricating Truth, deceiving the people, stating diabolical lies raises my wrath. 

Who is an extremist? 

When you think you are in the middle and I am found to speak against your views, I am an extremist, right or left. Am I not? The Sinhalese and even some Tamils (mainly such Tamils were in the TNA) have set down a view that this Country is Sinhala Buddhist and that both Sinhalese and Buddhism must receive special status. I have started questioning that view. Therefore I am now called an extremist. The moment it is proved North and East were never Sinhalese and that Buddhism was jettisoned centuries ago by the Tamils, then I become the norm, and the Sinhala Buddhists and their Tamil acolytes become extremists. So the word "extremist" depends on the standpoint from which I am looked at from. 

Then the word 'separatist' if used against me it is by those who have a conditioned mind already. They think this country has always been Sinhala Buddhist. Any attempt to question that view would be perceived as divisive and separatist. I ask them to look at it this way. When you go by train on the Yarl Devi, you would notice the passengers to the North starting to talk in Tamil quite loudly after they leave Medawachiya even if Sinhalese soldiers are in the train. This is because the Tamil speaking feel they are on Tamil ground. They were mum earlier during their journey because they were on Sinhala soil. Despite all the colonization and attempts to change the Demography of the North and East by successive governments, the dominant language in the North and East is Tamil.

In 1958, 1977, 1983 Tamils affected by the pogroms in the South were sent to the North and East. They were considered Tamil areas. Tamil might be spoken by Hindus, Muslims, Christians and even Buddhists today in the North and East. Why? Because the separation between Sinhala speaking areas and Tamil speaking areas is already a fact. The Tamil speaking areas have continued to be Tamil speaking from Pre – Historic times. So, to say I am trying to separate the North and East from the rest of the country is a misnomer. What I am trying to do is to give legal status to a situation that already exists. I am not trying to separate the North and the East from the rest of the country. North and East are part of this Island, but they have existed separately with their own language, religions, culture, way of life, climate, topography and so on. They are separate though part of the Island. I want the country to remain as it is but to cloth those who occupied the North and East with powers so that the Southerner would not commit further genocide in the North and East. Already that is what has happened in this country. Steady and continuous genocide! 

The Tamils were throughout this Island. My young days were in Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. My father also worked in Kandy and Tangalle. We used to travel with our father to Mahiyangana and Teldeniya sixty-five years ago. We were chased out in 1958 and thereafter. Now the successive Sinhala majority Governments are trying to change the demography of the North East wanting to make North and East Sinhala Buddhist. So anyone who objects to such attempt by the Sinhala majority Central Governments is called a separatist by those who are conditioned by this false idea that this Country is Sinhala Buddhist. 

Who is a Terrorist? 

As I have many a time asked: "Was Keppetipola Dissawe a Terrorist or a Hero?" If he was a hero, all those who fought the Government of Sri Lanka after 1983 from among the Tamils were heroes and not terrorists. The activities of the Tamil youths was a reaction against State Terrorism. So there are worse terrorists among the Sinhalese than among the Tamils. The Sinhalese Politicians must stop referring to Tamils and Muslims as Terrorists. They indulge in anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim activities, and if the Tamils and Muslims react, the latter are called terrorists! 

So one man's terrorist is another man's hero. I am neither extremist nor separatist nor terrorist. I am questioning the wrong perceptions among the Sinhalese in order to carry them too to find a solution to the Tamil speaking people of the North and East. 

I certainly want reconciliation in this country. How would reconciliation be possible if the Sinhalese stand outside a well and shake hands with us who are at the bottom of the well? Surely you must bring us back to even ground, and we should shake hands on terra firma if reconciliation is to come!

My statements and activities are directed towards the Sinhalese for them to come out of their false perceptions such as this Country is Sinhala Buddhist, the archaeological Buddhist findings in the North and East are those of the Sinhalese, that Sinhalese is an ancient language existing in Sri Lanka from the time Buddhism was introduced, that Tamils are recent immigrants from outside the Island, that North and East were Sinhala speaking areas before the Tamils came from outside and so on. 

It might be difficult to decondition the Sinhalese who have been fed with false information so far by a single individual like me. But I am happy to note that Sinhalese Youth are taking to the Study of their history impartially. One such person phoned me and said: "Sir! I wanted to kill you! But on a study of our past I am reluctantly compelled to agree with you". 

That is the spirit I am expecting from my Sinhalese brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They will retrieve the goodwill I have lost in recent times according to you.

- Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, MP

(Courtesy: Colombo Telegraph)

(This article was published in Fortnightly Magazine 'Abel', October 20, 2020)

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