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Canadian High Commissioner and Kurundi Vihara

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By Chandre Dharmawardana
chandre.dharma@yahoo.ca

According to The Island newspaper, 25 of July, 2023 [1], the Canadian high Commissioner Eric Walsh in Colombo has barged into the controversy on the Kurundi archeological site. The Canadian HC had met T. Raviharan, a politician who spearheads the protests at the Kurundi site. HC Walsh’s explanation is that “Meeting people in different parts of the country, to better understand their priorities and perspectives, is a normal part of a High Commissioner’s role”. These ring hollow if he does NOT meet anyone from the “other side”, or the Archaeological Commissioner and other technical people.

HC Walsh had tweeted on Sunday, July 23 that: “Today, we remember the victims of anti-Tamil violence … l. Acknowledging these terrible events and commemorating the victims are vital steps towards inclusivity and sustainable prosperity in Sri Lanka. We’ll continue to support the efforts of all who are working toward these goals.”

In practice, the Canadian government has worked to polarise the Sinhalese and Tamil expatriates resident in Canada. The normally sleepy Sinhalese community even launched a legal challenge to Ontario’s Bill 104. While the Sri Lankan government is a grieved party that has been maliciously attacked by this act, it ducked the legal challenge claiming a “lack of funds”. This is a pittance of what the government spends on sending delegations to Geneva.

Apparently, the US had asked the war-winning Lankan government in 2009 to join the Afghanistan offensive and other US military projects, in return for unconditional support to Lanka. While Lanka spurned this Faustian deal, Mr. Modi as joined the QUAD and seems to ride high for the time being.

While the horrific pogrom of Tamils in 1983 cost some 400-4000 lives, Canada has conveniently ignored commemorating its own genocide of its aboriginal peoples [2], nor commented on frequent ethnic pogroms in India, the most recent being in the state of Manipur. The death tolls are in the hundreds, thousands wounded, with 60,000 displaced. And yet, the Indian Prime Minister, once black-listed by the US for his role in Gujarat pogroms, is now the darling of Biden, Trudeau, Macron and others. The Canadian HC in New Delhi does not go out “meeting all the parties concerned”, either in Manipur or in Cashmere. Instead, it is alleged that the Canadians have negotiated large sales of armaments to Mr. Modi., and all of Modi’s sins are forgiven!

Sarath Weerasekera (Member of Parliament) had stated that HC Walsh’s intervention should be viewed against Canada’s shocking declaration of an alleged “genocide” of Lankan Tamils. Mr. Thanikasalam, a member of the Legislature of Ontario noted for his Facebook adulation of Prabhakaran had proposed a private member’s Bill known as Bill 104. It claimed that some 140,000-170,000 Tamils had been killed in the last stages of the Eelam IV war, due to genocidal acts by the Sri Lankan Army. I am aware that the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dept. of Global Affairs etc., in Ottawa had indeed given the correct advice to the politicians, namely, that NO EVIDENCE of a genocide exists.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Al-Zeid Hussein had explicitly rejected the genocide accusation on 17th September 2014 [3]. According to the Tamil net, even Mr. Sumanthiran, the spokesman for the TNA had rejected the accusation. Mr. V. Anandasangaree, the veteran TULF politician had in fact accused the LTTE of carrying out such a genocide of its own people. This accusation was made in 2008 December, when he, as the General Secretary of the TULF addressed its annual meeting.

The foreign affairs experts at the Canadian Global affairs Dept. were aware of most of these facts, the diplomatic dispatches, Wikileaks revelations, the analysis of arial photographs and satellite data over the war zone done by the American Physical Society, as well as the work of Lord Naseby in the UK on the death toll at the close of the Eelam war-IV [4]. They were aware how some 300,000 hostages of the LTTE were rescued by the armed forces.

However, once the politicians take a stand, the minions at Global affairs, and the Canadian HC have to eat the truth and vomit out the new “truth” dictated by their political masters. The Canadian politicians, in trying to manipulate the local ethnic vote has ended up with the dynamite of expatriate Tamils in their hands.

The Tamil nationalists attempt to construct an exclusive Tamil “homeland” in the North and East, while recasting history to reduce the role of the Sinhalese and the Muslims to neant. Any Tamil who rejects this narrative is deemed not a Tamil; as in the case of Murali the cricketer! Worse still, Rev. Shantha Francis was harassed and made to step down.

Meanwhile the Sinhalese nationalists attempt to make similar extreme claims. For instance, It is claimed (e.g., by some writers, in the Lankaweb) that there were no Tamil Buddhists born in Sri Lanka during the full length of some 12 centuries, during the whole Anuradhapura civilization!

GG Ponnambalam’s Tamil-racist polemics led to the very first Sinhala-Tamil riot [5] of 1939 that erupted in Nawalapitiya and spread rapidly, only to be equally rapidly put down by the British Raj. This has to be contrasted with the lax manner that SWRD Bandaranaike handled the communal riots that erupted in his days, and the race riots that the JR Jayawardena government allowed to happen. Their culmination was the Black July pogrom of 1983 under JRJ’s stewardship, much like the pogroms in Gujarat or Manipur under Narendra Modi.

The absurd claim that not a single Tamil Buddhist was born in Sri Lanka during the full length of some 12 centuries during the Anuradhapura civilisation was made in the context of the Kurundi vihara by some Sinhalese jingoists, and some apparatchiks posing as Sinhala jingoists. All this was provoked by the fear that T. Raviharan and other Tamil nationalists were trying to carve out the archaeological site around the historic Kurundi temple for their supporters who were claimed to be “long standing” farmers of archeologically demarcated lands.

Consultations of maps prior to the Eelam wars, Google maps that came out during the wars, and the annual reports of the Archaeological commissioner reveal the actual facts. It is into this quagmire that HC Walsh has leapt in, knowing that the Lankan government would let Canada ignore the Geneva convention and other protocols [6] that it should respect.

However, the history of Kurundi Vihara is well known, thanks to the early groundwork of British scholars, the information from inscriptions, the Pali chronicles and more recent excavations. There is no doubt of the ethnic composition of its patrons even a few years prior to the Eelam wars. However, to claim that no Tamil Buddhists were ever part of it even in ancient times, or that all Tamil Buddhists were non-native pilgrims, is as absurd as the claims made by Tamil nationalists like Mr. Wigneswaran.

The archaeological and literary evidence show hat there has always been small Tamil (dameda) and other ethnic communities from the earliest times in Sri Lanka. While this has been a minority, it has been an influential minority, just as it is today.

It is interesting in this context to look at the names of the ten warriors of King Dutugemunu to appreciate the cohabitation that existed among various communities even in the first few centuries BC. These communities consisted of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and others animistic sects, e.g, the Naga people who worshipped God Natha. They could at the same time be part Buddhist, Hindu or Jain. This religious mosaic was criss-crossed by Sinhala, Tamil, Chetty, Kirat, Gujarat and other ethnic identities, further demarcated into castes.

Following the literary norms of that age, the Mahawamsa author rendered even proper names into Pali. So, the “two horse traders became “Guttika” and “Senaka”. Their original names may have been “Kutikkar” and “Chaanakyan”. In the 2nd century BC, horses were instruments of war, and they used their horses to captured power. However, even with the Pali format used, at least two names of the ten warriors stand out.

The most famous warrior of Dutugemunu is known as “Nandi-mithra”. The name “Nandi” has to be traced to the chief of Siva’s hosts, with the face of a cow. Even the folklore grant that Mithra, the uncle of Nandimithra, was a general who worked for King Elara. However, Nandimitra and his parents are unequivocally depicted as Buddhists. Nandimitra was clearly a Buddhist of dameda extraction.

The other clear dameda among these warriors is “Velusumana”. While the form “Velu” is common in Tamil names; it is never found in Sinhalese names. The form “sumana” – meaning a very dextrous or handy person – also exists in Tamil but with a different sense (e.g., in suman-thiran); so “Velusumana” was most likely a dameda. This suggests a 20% ethnic representation even in this very small sample of ten warriors. Other evidence suggests that this may well have been a typical Tamil demographic for most of the Anurdhapura period.

So, we see that Lanka was a strongly mixed multi-ethnic multi-cultural society even in the 2nd century BC. Dutugemunu had many members of the Tamil minority on his side, while Elara also had his supporters among the Sinhalese who were the majority community. The attempt to force exclusive ethnic enclaves, either via armed uprisings, or by legislative fiat has been futile right though the ages.

Even in India, we see the failure of the so-called Indian model in the pogroms in Manipur, and in many other states. But it is this failed “Indian Model” that has been the inspiration for the 13A approach to “power devolution” here. Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe’s plan for provincial governments without police powers may be a valid compromise. But it fails to address the inefficiency and corruption arising from a costly system that feeds several levels of sleezy politicians

[1] Island Article: https://island.lk/canadian-interference-alleged-in-kurundi-temple-dispute-as-ottawa-reiterates-genocide-charge/

[2] A take of two genocides: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3540065

[3] Statement of the Secretary General of the UN Human Rights Commission, September (2015); https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7bhAkM8PaM

[4] Background to Bill 104: https://dh-web.org/Canada/Background104.html

[5] Dr. Jane Russell, Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution 1931-47. https://books.google.ca/books/about/Communal_Politics_Under_the_Donoughmore.html?id=eiBuAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

[6] Canada’s obligations, Bill 104: https://island.lk/ontarios-bill-104-and-canadas-obligations-to-sri-lanka/

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