Feature Article

Army and Archaeology Department at work in Tamil homeland

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 April 2010, 06:56 GMT]
If the fort of Jaffna which was the symbol of colonial and post-colonial oppression of Eezham Tamils, and which continues to be the seat of occupying forces of the Sinhala State, has to be preserved with the funds of the Netherlands government, why should the monuments built by Tamils in their own land, remembering their own struggle, have to be destroyed, asks an academic in Jaffna, responding to the destruction of the memorial for Thileepan who fasted unto death in the struggle against Indian imperialism at Nalloor.

The Times Tuesday carried an article “Archaeology sparks new conflict between Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese” by Jeremy Page, on Sri Lanka building Buddhist stupas in Tamil homeland, claiming them as ‘ancient sites.’

Ancient Buddhist stupas in Tamil homeland are never a problem to Tamils as long as they are ancient monuments. They are part of the heritage of Eezham Tamils that have to be protected and preserved by them.

But what the Sri Lankan state has been engaged in for decades, was building modern stupa complexes in such sites and in other imaginary sites, so that they become nuclei of Sinhala colonies intended for the demographic genocide of Eezham Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims in the island.

The process is accelerated after the war, with Colombo having a clear agenda of establishing Sinhala army cantonments and Sinhala colonies in the ‘conquered land’ to keep Eezham Tamils under permanent subjugation.

After the war, one of the first acts of the Colombo government, even before caring the people affected in the war, was ‘archaeological survey.’

Jeremy Page, citing a senior member of the fundamentalist Jatika Hela Urumaya (JHU), says, President Rajapaksa has agreed to take immediate steps to restore Buddhist sites in the north and “the army and the archaeology department were already working on it.”

There are hundreds of ancient Hindu sites in the Sinhala heartland, such as in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and as south as in the Dondra Head. Eezham Tamils do not claim that they should be rebuilt into modern temples or should become centres of Tamil colonies.

Right in front of the Dalata Maligawa in Kandy there is a complex of historic Hindu temples. Does that mean Tamils should go and take over them and have a colony there?

Page citing Robin Coningham says the country has to move past the ethnic issue and “that debate will never be answered by archaeology.”

Coningham is right. But, who is going to do that?

Page has touched the point how British colonial Orientalism was responsible for shaping the historiography that contributed to the ethnic crisis in the island.

Even now, those who provide fund for ‘heritage’ in the island continue to do that.

As long as governments engage in acts like providing money to Colombo to restore the symbolic army headquarters in the heart of Jaffna city as a priority before anything else, and international organisations such as the UNESCO provide funds to the All Sinhalese cultural establishments to do work in Tamil areas using Tamils as subordinates, the picture will never change.

Considering the context of the island of Sri Lanka, the funding agencies have a responsibility in insisting Colombo to hand over heritage management of the homeland of Tamil nation to Tamils and in funding them directly. If not possible, they should refrain from funding.

Archaeology Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne, cultural advisor to Colombo and head of the Central Cultural Fund, whom Page catches admiring Mahinda Rajapaksa as a “smart politician,” visited Jaffna recently and delivered a series of lectures at the University of Jaffna on ‘preserving heritage.’

Sudharshan, whose academic writings are above parochialism, is now put to implement Colombo’s agenda in subtle ways, was the comment heard in the sidewalks.

Page says, according to Sudharshan “The emphasis from the President is that there should be a balancing of Buddhist and non-Buddhist sites.”

A news item in The Hindu Thursday about the tourism department ‘identifying Ramayana sites’ in the south to attract Indian tourists to Ravana’s Lanka, shows how the ‘balancing’ is going to be – fake and myth to Tamil Hindus to balance the crafty Sinhala-Buddhist colonisation denying land of the nation of Eezham Tamils in the north and east.

External Links:
TimesOnline: Archaeology sparks new conflict between Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese



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