Feature Article

NPC Minister responds to SLA Commander, British Archaeologist on Jaffna Fort controversies

[TamilNet, Sunday, 05 August 2018, 21:45 GMT]
The recent statement made by Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, the SL military chief, who claimed the SL military as the rightful owner of the Jaffna Fort, was invalid, illogical and a fabricated one, said Education Minister of Northern Provincial Council Sarveswaran Kandiah, in an exclusive interview to TamilNet this weekend. “There is no rule stating that all the fortresses [in the island] should belong to the [SL] military,” Dr Sarveswaran said. Senanayake should mind his own business by confining himself to the leadership of the elected leaders in a democracy and by refraining from intervening in the civil affairs in the North-East, the NPC minister said. He was also responding to British Archaeologist Professor Robin Coningham's proposition of ‘visitor experience’ and ‘tourism’ shaping the so-called post-conflict future of Jaffna through advancing tangible and intangible heritage.

The NPC Minister was pointing out the dangerous implications of the Sinhala Theravada Buddhism-promoted and SL State-patronised tourism of colonisation-outlook, a paradigm introduced by the Rajapaksa brothers. The unitary state of Sri Lanka, including its current president Maithiripala Sirisena and the Sinhala polity as a whole, still upholds the same paradigm and its outlook, he said.

The Sinhala tourism is very much instigated and supported by the unitary State, its ministries and the Buddhist monks to prepare the Sinhala people to occupy/colonise the lands of the Tamils in the North-East, the NPC Education Minister said.

The Tamil people view all the SL military represented by the three forces of the unitary State of Sri Lanka as a force of occupation, he said.

The SL military was dealing with Tamils as they were its enemy for more than 35-years. The World knows about its last-phase war crimes.

Although it is named ‘Sri Lanka’ Army, it is mostly a Sinhala military and it is an occupying army in the minds of the Tamil people, Sarveswaran said.

Therefore, if the military is stationed at the Fort of Jaffna, the Tamil people will not be visiting it, he argued. He was citing precedence-setting examples from Naiynaa-theevu in the North to Trincomalee in the East.

As long as the political and the police powers are with the unitary State, “the tourism, as being promoted now, is a danger to our identity and existence,” he said.

“Army is a disturbing factor for free movement and tourism. It should be ousted from that place.”

The Jaffna Fort could continue to be under the purview of Archaeology and Tourism, but bereft of the SL military presence, Sarveswaren reiterated.

* * *

The NPC Minister characterised the genocidal trend of Sinhala tourism from the South to North also as an outcome of ‘identity crisis’ on the part of the Sinhala Establishment.

Now, they want to claim all the other identities also as their own, he said.

In Trincomalee, the Sinhala Buddhists have Sinhalicised the hot wells in Kanniyaa, Trincomalee.

Now, they are portraying Kanniya as the bathing place of the ‘Sinhala’ kings of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura in the past, he said.

They have even gone to the extent of hijacking King Ravana as one of their ancestors, he noted citing the existence of a Sinhala Buddhist group known as the “Ravana Balaya”.

“It is commonely believed that the period of King Ravana's was at least 10,000 years back. He was a Saivite. That is all in the Ramayana. However, the Sinhala Buddhist monks have started to claim Ravana also as part of their legacy. During the times of Ravana, there was no Sinhala [language] at all.

“We have a date for the Buddhism. It was only after many centuries since the advent of Buddhism Sinhala gradually evolved into a language in the island”, he continued.

* * *

The issue of archaeological evidence regarding the identities of the people in the island has been one of the controversial issues between the Tamil and Sinhala rulers almost from the times of ‘Independence’, Sarveswaran observed.

The Sinhala polity operates with the thinking, based on a myth that the entire island was a Sinhala-Buddhist one.

This polity wants to convert the whole island into a Sinhala-Buddhist Nation. This hostile establishment tries to eradicate the identities of the people, other than the Sinhala people as much as possible.

Sarveswaran recalled the traumatic burning of the Jaffna Library, which contained a lot of textual evidence capable of proving the antiquity of the Tamils in the island. Besides, a large section of Tamil literature, publications and other evidence in written and photographic form, have been systematically eliminated from the National Library and the State Archives. There are no proper Tamil officials tasked to look after or protect these pieces of evidence, he said.

Furthermore, the Buddhist monks and the occupying military also engage in mischievously planting artefacts in the North and East, particularly in the forest lands in the North. Then, they showcase drama-like ‘excavations’ of the so-called remains of the existence of ancient Buddhist temples.

They either destroy the artefacts connected to Tamil heritage or try to put new Sinhalicised evidence, he said.

The archaeological matter has become one aspect of eliminating the Tamil identity and establish the Sinhala-Buddhist identity for the entire island through many ways, he said.

* * *

“I am not very much clear about what Conning[ham] meant by [the term] post-conflict,” he replied to a question on his interpretation of the contemporary politics attached to the external Establishments funding the archaeological excavations of Professor Robin Coningham from the UK.

However, Sarweswaran was clear on key issues prevailing in the island.

“Only when we get at minimum a substantial autonomy for the North and East with the powers of policing and lands under our purview, this tourism would not be a danger for us,” he said.

Sarveswaran was appreciative of the discovery and said that Prof Coningham, who had come across the evidence of the pre-millennial antiquity of the Jaffna Fort and the pieces of evidence connecting Jaffna with Saivism/Hinduism and the culture of South India, was contributing to prove the antiquity of the Tamil civilisation in Jaffna.

However, “[I]t is very much necessary for any genuine archaeological [expert] people, wherever they go, [that they also consult] the local government or the provincial government people,” he said.

“The things should be done with our knowledge,” he said subtly pointing to the lack of contact between the British Archaeologist, the Central Cultural Fund and the NPC.

“In the provincial government, we have Education and Culture with us. The Archaeological matter is also very much connected to the culture,” as it is about the antiquity of the people.

The subject of archaeology should also be owned by the people of the North and East through regional archaeological centres, he said.

* * *

“In practice, Sri Lanka is gradually converting itself like Pakistan”, where the military has been running the politics,” he said.

Because of the undue place, given to the Buddhist monks in the past, the monks went to the extent of assassinating CWRD Bandaranaike.

The SL unitary state and the Sinhala polity are now giving the same ‘undue place’ to the military in shaping the civil affairs, especially in the North-East.

Thus the Sinhala South, through according its military an excessive space to determine civil affairs, has worsened this paradigm, risking Pakistan-like tendencies in the future, he said.

“Therefore, the Sinhalese who advocate democratic governance, the Sinhala progressives and their intelligentsia should re-think the undue place they are giving to the Buddhist monks and the Army.”

* * *

The NPC Minister of Education assailed the SLA commander Mahesh Senanayke also for making false claims at the Jaffna Fort on 02 August as if he had a dialogue-based rapport with the NPC Chief Minister.

The same SL military commander had previously gone on record in the South, giving statements to the effect that the NPC Chief Minister was not in a position to “lecture him”, Sarveswaran observed.

He described the latest narration of the SL military commander as a “joke”.



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