Feature Article

Member of European Parliament envisages converting Tamils to Buddhism

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 30 July 2008, 20:45 GMT]
"Frequently now I wonder whether Sri Lanka would have been a much more peaceful and much more homogeneous place if say 40% or so of the Tamil speaking population had been Buddhists and not exclusively Hindu or Christian. Is taking the Buddhist religion to Tamil people such a difficult task?" wonders Niranjan de Silva Deva-Aditya, Member of European Parliament (MEP) from U.K. and Honorary Ambassador-at-Large for Sri Lanka, in a statement after his recent visit to Sri Lanka as Vice-Chairman of the EU delegation. The Sinhala speaking MEP is tagged with a title, 'Vishwa Keerthi Sri Lanka Abhimani' (universally famous pride of Sri Lanka), bestowed onto him by the Buddhist clergy of Sri Lanka.

Niranjan de Silva Deva-Aditya, MEP
Niranjan de Silva Deva-Aditya, MEP
The Conservative MEP, Mr. Niranjan de Silva, who is popularly known by his shortened name Nirj Deva, is also a member of the EU committees on Foreign Affairs, delegation for relations with India, delegation for relations with the countries of ASEAN and committee on development.

The recent EU delegation to Sri Lanka, led by Robert Evans, Labour MEP and Chairman of the European Parliament's Delegation to South Asia, came down heavily on the Sri Lankan government, in its report last Friday.

According to observers, the aim of the statement on Tuesday by Mr. Nirj Deva, was to clear him from the wrath of Sinhala extremists and media for being a part of the delegation and to reassert his sympathies with the Sinhala agenda. Mr. Nirj Deva has extensive business interests and owns property in Colombo.

The delegation was forced to cancel its main program of visiting Trincomalee due to failure in deliberations between the delegation and the government in facilitating travel to Trincomalee.

Robert Evans, MEP
Robert Evans, MEP
Briefing on the cancellation, Mr. Evans has said: “The last minute cancellation and a catalogue of chaos and confusion meant that the delegation did not fly to Trincomalee, despite repeated assurances and endless complications resulted in the party being turned back from Ratmalana Airport destroying months of preparation, time and expense."

The report of the delegation read out by Mr. Evans at the press conference on Friday while condemning LTTE's violence and urging them to come to the democratic process, accusingly pointed out the Sri Lankan government's deficiency in defending human rights.

The press briefing welcomed the beginnings of the democratic process in the East, but expressed concerns about disarming the 'former paramilitaries' and the continued use of child soldiers by them.

On All Party Representative Committee (APRC) initiated by the Sri Lankan government to come out with constitutional means to resolve the Sri Lankan crisis, the delegation's view put forth by Mr. Evans was that the APRC is incomplete without the participation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Talking about threatened media, Mr. Evans mentioned the killing of 12 journalists and the continued detention of M. Tissainayagam.

There was a veiled warning that Sri Lanka will not qualify for the GSP+ trade concessions, the way the pre-requisites such as human rights and other international conventions are handled at present by the government.

Nirj Deva, who was part of the delegation, differed with the Chairman later.

Nirj Deva with Rajapaksa
Nirj Deva with Sri lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [Photo courtesy: nirjdeva.com]
Nirj Deva with Buddhist Monk
In 2006 he was awarded the title of “Vishwa Keerthi Sri Lanka Abhimani,” by the Buddhist clergy in recognition of his services to Sri Lanka. [Photo courtesy: nirjdeva.com]
Nirj Deva with Sri Sri Shankar
Nirj Deva with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was at a conference organised by a foundation of Sri Sri, in Norway, Nirj Deva was inspired with the idea of 'taking Buddhism' to Tamils, after listening to a Buddhist monk speaking in Tamil. [Photo courtesy: nirjdeva.com]
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Nirj Deva, hit out at the EU delegation head for coming to Sri Lanka and attempting to preach democracy, reported Daily Mirror.

He even apologised on behalf of the British Conservative Members of European Parliament for diplomatic failure in engaging Sri Lanka.

Contradicting the spirit of the EU report, Nirj Deva, in his 9-page statement, sympathetically 'advises' the Sri Lankan government to sort out at least one or two human rights cases so that it can be in the good books of the International Community. He was hinting at the cases of the killings of 5 youth and 17 aid workers in Trincomalee.

He appreciates the 'mature parliamentary democracy' and 'visible independent judiciary' in Sri Lanka.

He says that the Government of Sri Lanka's "remarkable achievement" in resettling "over 90%" of the Internally Displaced People of the East in a short time should be acknowledged.

The facts and figures brought out on 23rd July by TNA leader R. Sampanthan in the Sri Lankan Parliament on the plight of IDPs and planned Sinhalicisation in the East in recent times totally contradict the claims of Nirj Deva.

Mr. Nirj Deva is a dual citizen of U.K. and Sri Lanka. He is proud of his Sri Lankan heritage. He claims that he has great affection for Sri Lanka. He also cites to his Rajput ancestry from North India.

"It is an irony that having so much attachment to his own 'identities', he fails to see that it is an insult and perhaps a blasphemy to expect the Tamils to change an identity of theirs, just because the Sri Lankan state has failed in coming out with a viable model of nationalism," commented a leading Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian to TamilNet.

"This is in line with the Sri Lankan state thinking that by Sinhalicising and Buddhicising the Tamil homeland the Eezham crisis could be resolved."

"The views of such politicians in handling Sri Lankan affairs at such a crucial stage of the crisis, gravely undermines the credibility of the European Union," he further said.


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