World Day of Social Justice 2021: Lip service

Monday, 22 February 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

K. Balasingham



World Day of Social Justice fell on 20 February 2021. As I get older, I am increasingly convinced that days like this are commemorated by a well-meaning few, while the majority, steeped in their ways of injustice, use people like us to say that all is well. We are tools in the majoritarian project. I am truly sad to write this after years of human rights advocacy and five years wasted on the Election Commission – would a people truly believing in human rights have voted in a Government that massacred so many of us? That never punished anyone for the 1983 riots? That pardoned anyone convicted of massacres of children? etc.

The sure test of whether the world’s commitments to rights is real, will come in the next few days at the UNHRC where we will know if all these calls for justice for those slaughtered by Sri Lankan forces and their commanders will be translated into action, while the Government hides behind Commissions and more Commissions. Instead of these Commissions let the Government throw behind bars one of the ministers behind the 1983 riots, or one of the commanders behind the bombings in Mullivaikal, or one of the Ministers or Secretaries of Defence at the time.

Do Tamils believe in human rights?

The majority of the Tamil diaspora too fails here. I recently was asked to write a preface to a book (that should have been released some weeks ago) about Sri Lankan atrocities. I wrote the requested piece in anger asking myself what I have in common with a President who can boast of killing, and with Sinhalese soldiers who rape Tamil women and then shoot them; and indeed, what I have in common with the LTTE that kept as hostages Tamil civilians fleeing the Sri Lankan army and shot those who tried to get away. I mentioned a few lines (less than 10%) about LTTE culpability. The funders (some Tamil doctors in London) have stopped replying the mails from the publisher, my student at Peradeniya. Likewise, I am aware that the nationalist newspaper Uthayan did not publish some of my articles because they touched – just touched – on LTTE atrocities.

Can this be said of the UNHRC too? That its Commissions and Reports are ‘all flatulence and no excrement’ – to claim there are rights with a big noise and then do nothing as they have done since the year 2009. We will know soon.

Justice must be for all, not just for our side.

Injustice is a long Sri Lankan tradition

We Sri Lankans know we are a very racist society but will not say so. People like D.S. Senanayake were as arch-racist as they come. Anyone reading the State Council Minutes of the 1930s will readily recognise that our European planter on the Council badly wanted labour from India to do our menial work that the Sinhalese were not prepared to do, but wanted Indian Tamil labour to be imported with no rights. Most Sinhalese Councillors supported the planters but without any rights for the Indians.

Support for more Indian labour came ironically from the very nationalist Sinhala Maha Sabha. Its spokesman Siripala Samarakkody (brother of the Trotskyist Edmund Samarakkody) agreed with E.C. Villiers (a British Planter on the Council) that to meet their quota it was crucial to have more labour during the months October to December. Samarkkody said that the Sinhala Maha Sabha fully considered this matter consulting every shade of opinion and decided to take the best and most practical course in the interests of this country and consent to importing Indians!

The colonial Indian government would allow labour to be sent out only if they were given the same rights enjoyed by all colonial persons. Manipulations by Sinhalese leaders ensured that the Indian government would send Tamils to Sri Lanka with guaranteed rights in their statutes, but Sri Lanka had no authority to enforce Indian laws. That was the excuse, the perfidy, that knifed in the back Tamil labour coming to work here for a pittance.

For example, regarding the Elephant Pass Salterns, when a permit to import labour came up in the State Council, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the Council on 23 June 1938 referred to his seeking permits to employ 25 Indians at 65 cents a day. He proposed to raise the pay to Rs. 1 a day so that he might persuade us to go there. No takers!

Bandaranaike’s statement in the Council on 23 June 1938 is an outright excuse for laziness and to keep out Indians: “Surely, it seems a monstrous position to say that there is unemployment in this country when it is possible for 800,000 workers from other countries to obtain work in this country.”

The Father of the Nation, DSS, with Speaker Francis Molamure proposed a literacy test for the vote in 1928. Domicile of Origin was a condition which even most Sinhalese could not satisfy whether in 1935 or even in 1948.

K. Balasingham is the hero

Quoting from R. Hoole and K. Hoole (2021, in press), K. Balasingham is the hero: “K. Balasingham (9 November 1918), combined intellectual excellence with deep humanity. He quoted from the Donoughmore report to point out that the denial of franchise to the Plantation Tamils, on whatever pretext, was not an option open to the Council: “We [the Commissioners] could not recommend a further grant of responsible Government unless the Government were to be made fully representative of the great body of the people… When a considerable increase of responsible Government is being recommended, therefore, the question of franchise becomes of first importance.”

“On literacy and franchise, Balasingham pointed out that the then current (post-war) trend was towards universal adult franchise, as also in Hungary, where 25% were illiterate. He added, “Take the case of Russia where illiteracy is much greater. They have universal suffrage. And it may come as a surprise to some of those who advocate property and income qualifications to know that in that country the possessors of unearned wealth are disqualified from voting and many of those who opposed the extension of the franchise here would be disqualified in Russia. The actual worker who earns his daily bread is the man who is given the vote in that country. The beggar is disqualified, so is also the plutocrat with unearned wealth.”

“Balasingham pointed out that the criterion for the franchise is residence and the restriction of it sought by a dominant section of the House was contrary to the law: “The law as it is today is this, that every British subject who resides in this country for six months in one electoral area is entitled to the franchise. That includes Indians, Europeans and everybody else … residence is the test of franchise throughout the Empire…

“Some members appear to think that domicile is the test of franchise. Domicile is something apart from franchise. Franchise depends on residence. There are exceptions. 

“In answer to Kannangara’s objection to giving Indian labour the vote because they are a privileged group, Balasingham said, “The country as a whole has gone on bended knees to the Indian Government to ask them to allow Indians to come here; and would it be wrong for the Indian Government to say, after having gained bitter experience in many parts of the world, “You shall not have the Indian coming over to you unless you house him well; provide him with good water and medical aid; and when he is old and infirm send him back to us, if he wants to come back to India.” That is all that has been done. Is that a reason why a British subject who has been residing in this country should not be given the franchise?”.”

Those were days when A.F. Molamure bullied minorities as the Sinhalese are still doing. Again, quoting Hoole and Hoole (2021): “How strong the pressure on council members not to oppose Speaker Molamure’s motion [seconded by D.S. Senanayake] was, was reflected in Molamure’s bullying speech (5 November 1928), which reiterated the communal polarisation taking root: ‘Some members spoke against the grant of the same franchise to the Indians. And so far as I can see, it is only the Sinhalese members who have spoken against the grant of the same franchise to the Indians.

The eldest child

‘It is not a question of fear on the part of the Sinhalese; it is a question of foresight; it is a question of self-preservation. We know it for a fact, Sir, that the Sinhalese form the largest section of the people of this country. Among the brotherhood of communities, the Sinhalese community, as I say, is the eldest child of this mother Ceylon. Therefore, if the younger children are going astray, is it not up to the eldest child to point out their waywardness, to point out that they are treading the wrong path? The younger children should respect the views of the eldest child, especially on a matter which has come up for the first time in the Council, a matter which affects the preservation and safety of this country…

‘Now exception has been taken to the fact that [D.S. Senanayake] said that we Sinhalese members of the Council are voicing the sentiments of three million Sinhalese. … If my honourable friends have any doubts about it, I throw out this challenge to them. Let them go out to the country and make this their platform cry: ‘Send me in and I shall not discriminate between Ceylonese and non-Ceylonese,’ and let his opponent say: ‘My policy is to save Ceylon for the Ceylonese.’”

This is why the Sinhalese are grabbing anything they can.

Continued Speaker Molamure, “After all, it comes to this that we all see the menace, but some of us will not open our eyes to the menace before us. They all see the spreading of the tree of Indian penetration. Some would like to prune the tree; some would like to cut it down; some would like to water and manure it and make it overshadow this Island so that this Island will be trodden down. In the past many people have referred to Ceylon as Lipton’s tea garden; perhaps in the future many people will refer to Ceylon as the Indian banyan tree.”

This at a time when the bogey of Indian penetration is being raised again among Sinhalese to prostitute ourselves before China to justify our huge loans.

Researching Balasingham as I wrote this, I came across a piece on G.G. Ponnambalam by one Sachi Sri Kantha, accusing me of ‘anti-Hindu bias and censoring tactics practiced by a Tamil Wikipedian prig with the handle name Obi2canibe [aka Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole].’ These are the norms of the Ilankai Thamil Sangam to put out unverified and untrue defaming statements, denying me justice while pontificating on justice for Tamils. I am so glad I left that crowd behind in returning.

Several things like this from our past are coming together nowadays as if to haunt us. Our heroes are all dressed up rogues. K. Balasingham, a true intellect and hero, was rejected by Tamils voting 2:1 for G.G. Ponnambalam in 1936 who made deals with DS and became a Minister. Even as Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the descendant of converts, complains against conversions, communalists like Don Stephen Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Francis Molamure seem to have many Christians in their family closets, let on only by names like Don Stephen, Francis, Don, etc. and their marriages into prominent Christian families including Anglican clerics who would never give their daughter to a non-Christian. Everything about us is fake as I show in my book ‘Heritage Histories’. 

As I write about the fakery surrounding us, it appears that the Prof. Thurairajah Memorial Prize for the best student at University of Jaffna has been announced as being awarded to a Mullaitivu boy while a Mannar boy has proved that his marks were reduced by 6 to make him second. I hope he will find justice.