Because of the harsh weather conditions in the North & East,
education replaced agriculture as the salvation for the Tamils. Many
attained high ositions as Executive Civil Servants, Professionals and in
business. Many lived in Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo's prestigious
residential area. The Buddhist monks and lower class Sinhalese resented
this and blamed the British for favoring the Tamils and other
communities over them during the era of colonial rule. This, according
to them, was the obvious example of British policy of "Divide &
Rule." The result was that on attaining independence from
Britain, the newly elected Sinhalese governments capitalised on this
popular Sinhalese conviction and justified everything to advance the
wellbeing of the average Sinhalese at the expense of the average Tamil
and others.. The final cut was when they denied Tamils equal access to
the University through an equivalent of "affirmative action"
in the U.S. The difference was that in Ceylon, the affirmative action
was in favor of the majority ruling community against the others who had
no effective voice in the national parliament. It was reverse
"affirmative action," while in America the majority were
struggling against "Reverse Discrimination."
The Constitutional developments in the United States in 1968 were
fascinating to one who arrived from a land where discrimination was soon
to be legalized. It was not only legalized in Ceylon, but given
Constitutional sanctity by the 1972 Constitution. The majority community
and the majority religion were placed on a pedestal and protected
against any and all incursions and intrusions by anyone. The majority
had privileges and immunities denied to the rest. The rest did not dare
to ask for equal treatment, as that would be asking the court to
violate the constitution.
The Warren Supreme Court in the U S had spread its wings in the opposite
direction. It was granting superior rights and privileges to the
discriminated against minorities. The minorities needed this to catch up
with their more fortunate brethren, they argued. They were in fact
indulging in reverse discrimination. The majority were being penalized
at the expense of the minorities, the very opposite of what was rearing
its head in Ceylon. Professor Bork acidly characterized this court
as one that indulged in "the hearts desire school of Constitutional
jurisprudence." "If you want something
passionately enough, it was guaranteed by the Constitution." The
court in effect were granting constitutional sanctity to the justices'
political preferences. The Warren Court embraced the liberal conscience.
They vomited over past discrimination imposed on minorities and
compensated for it by giving them superior rights and privileges over
the majority, thereby, from the conservative standpoint, violating
the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. They
granted unequal protection in favor of the minorities, instead of
granting them no more than equal rights, equal protections and equal
immunities with the rest. They indulged in affirmative action in school
admissions, which led to the Bakke case challenging the court for
indulging in minority favoritism. They granted to Congress, the
national legislature, powers never conceded to it by the framers of the
Constitution. They were watering down this most valuable Federal
Constitution in favor of a more powerful national government, much
against the intent of its framers. They ignored the fact that the
framers had very reluctantly conceded minimal powers to a central
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. These limited conceded powers could only be
changed by the consent of two thirds of the individual states'
legislatures. These changes were being made instead by judicial fiat by
the court that had unconstitutionally and illegally assumed imperial
powers, not conceded to them by the framers of the constitution.
The framers intended power to remain with the people in their states,
with which government they had the closest contacts; not the
Federal government who ruled them by remote control. The Tamils, who are
noted liberals, would side with the conservatives on this issue, preferring more power to be
vested in local regional governments than in the all powerful central
The Warren Court, like the early Federalists, such as Alexander
were apparently opposed to popular rule. Hamilton once told an
democrat "Your people ..... is a beasts." They were like
my grandmother who believed that "some people were born to rule and
the rest to be ruled." Governor Morris, an original delegate
who was asked to create a new charter for the United States in 1787,
viewed FREEDOM for the people as coming from the privileges and
immunities granted to them by law, not by the whims of the mob,
Hamilton and Morris may well be right, but is that what the framers
enacted? To them State powers could only be weakened by 2/3 of
their legislators, not the dictates of an unelected elitist court. The
focus was in favor of peoples rule. The laws that governed were
ostensibly chosen by the populace; and not by the elevated gentlemanly
and ladylike uppercrust, like Alexander Hamilton, Governor Morris and my
grandmother. They were sadly overuled, but overuled they were. We are
bound by the views of the framers as expressed in the Constitution,
however misguided they may have been. Or were they? Popular
peoples' rule seems to have won the day over the elitists. Maybe because
there are more of them.
When I returned to the United States in 1968, the country was
totally polarized. Students were against the Vietnam war, the more
conservative working class was loyal to the government and supported its
every action. I was in downtown New York to witness the construction
workers stage a march in support of the war. It began at City Hall and
proceeded downtown. One single loud voice cried "U.S.A" and
the crowd echoed "All the way." Some students who raised
their fingers in a V ,[ a peace sign] in protest against the marches
were beaten up. The students regarded the police as 'pigs' The
police viewed them as college educated, kooky-eyed, long haired faggots.
These oddballs stood for cutting military expenditures and increasing welfare for the poor; they sympathized with the indolent over the
hardworking,, god fearing Americans; they espoused free sex
over accepted morality . I watched the chaotic Democratic Convention on
TV with the police and demonstrators battling each other with contempt
for each others philosophies in their hearts..
During this period, there were civil rights marches by blacks and
defiant violations of discriminatory laws in the south. They rode in that
section of the bus reserved for whites and sat in segregated restaurants and
demanded service. The rights of these protesters and activists were upheld by the
courts and also would have been by Bork's strict followers. Here, they were
being granted equal rights, protections and immunities. In the words of
Thaddeus Stevens when introducing the Equal Rights Fourteenth
the Constitution "Whatever law punishes a white man, shall punish a
black man in precisely the same way and to precisely the same degree. Whatever law
protects the white man shall afford equal protection to the black man. Whatever means of redress that is afforded to one shall be afforded to
all. Whatever law allows the white man to testify in court shall allow the
black man to do the same" These constitutional guarantees were resented
only by bigots who were convinced that the different treatments were justified
because of innate"white supriority" over their black
counterparts. Ceylon [Sri Lanka} was suffering from the bigots malaise. Sinhala
were deemed to have superior rights, not because they were innately superior
the rest, but rather because they had been treated as inferiors by their
previous colonial rulers. Once they were freed from British rule,
majority rule meant subordinating the rights of others, who had been favored by
their colonial predecessors in power. . They believed in "unequal
protection" as the hallmark of their nation's right to upgrade the
role of a battered majority. They concluded that it was time for them to get their own
back. The majority had to be treated as superiors to prove their superiority.
They could not prove that by being treated as equals. It was to this pathetic
mob that Britain granted independence. Overcoming inferiority was their
theme and the hallmark of their rule. Equality was but a meaningless concept
the west was trying to foist on them. This was the extent of the width and
the breath of their education. The world was viewed with a jaundiced eye, and
was destined to remain so. Cataract surgery was an evil foreign invention
designed to cloud their firmly framed vision, which was able to
distinguish right from wrong as no one else could. The majority
was the sole repository of widsom.
In Ceylon, therefore, S 29 of the Constitution, bequeathed to us by the British
and preventing discrimination on grounds of race and religion, was abolished in 1972. Sinhalese Buddhists were placed on a pedestal over
everyone else. Sri Lanka and the US were moving in opposite directions. In
the US people resorted to the courts to claim their rights. In Ceylon, the
rights of minorities were not protected by law. The only people whose
rights were protected were those of the ruling majority. These rulers were too
short sighted to realize that a government that denies people legal
rights is inviting violence in opposition to it. What alternative is there?
The Sinhalese governments just could not seem to appreciate this. They
assumed a majority could get away with whatever they wished as long as they
controlled Parliament. They did not learn their lesson even
when Tamils resorted to violent opposition as the only alternative left. They
remained unbelievably short sighted. While in America, violent opposition to
white rule gave way to non violent opposition, which in turn gave way to
legal resort to the courts, in Sri Lanka, as Ceylon was called since 1972,
non violent opposition was ignored and legal clauses to enforce minority
rights were non existent. .
The only alternative the opposition had to prevent being downgraded and reduced to third class citizens was to resort to violence.
Discrimination was validated by the '72 and '77 Constitutions. There was lip service
toward equality with no legal ability to effectuate such a right, since
inequality was the foundation of the Constitution. After 1977 the parting of the
ways of the two communities was finalized. The highly revered Tamil
leader, S J V Chelvanayangam, who espoused non violence and tried in vain to get a
federal state, made independence his election pledge in that year.
When his successor failed to honor that pledge, the younger generation determined
that they had no alternative but to fight their way toward attaining a separate state. Expecting equality of treatment under Sinhalese rule was
a dead letter. The minority in the national Parliament had no ability to
demand equality of treatment. The law was against, rather than for, the minorities. It was against regional majorities because they refused us a
Federal Constitution.. Sinhalese rulers failed to realize that if you
deny human rights by law, that you foster frustration and desperation, both
dangerous elements for an opposition to feed on.
Americans in turn should view Sri Lanka as they do Russia today. Russia is seen as a
conglomerate of different nations with different
people, languages and customs. Sri Lanka is a union of two nations of two
peoples with different religions, languages and customs. The British amalgamated
the two nations for reasons of administrative convenience. They should have
left it as two nations, but did not. Here lies the source of the islands
Thousands upon thousands of Tamils were affected by this
discrimination, economically and otherwise. Many were forced to emigrate. They all
supported the move toward a violent break away from Sinhalese dominance.
All prospects of a legal solution were dead. They formed associations in
England, Australia, Europe and America.
I was sent to Geneva between
1986 and 1992 to present our case to the Human Rights Commission of the
United Nations. This was till I trained those in Geneva how to present our
case. The L T T E, which emerged as the dominant Tamil party to form an
army and navy to fight the Sri Lankan army, navy and air force, sent
representatives to London & Paris. I worked with and for their
representative in Paris at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva,
when their twice yearly sessions were held. While America was moving away
from the "back to Africa" and "separate nations for
separate peoples" movements; Sri Lanka was moving toward two separate nations. While American
rebels like Mohammad Ali were being hailed as proud and successful American
Citizens, the Tamil leader who fought for the rights of his people was branded "a Terrorist."
The irony is that the Sri Lankan government persuaded the American government to do the same.
Once the Tamils had committed themselves to attaining a separate
state by forming their own armed forces, the Sinhalese rulers in turn
determined that they had to quash this movement with the armed violence of their
armed forces. Negotiations to change the status quo died time after time. Now
in 2003, we have a Prime Minister who is hopefully committed to
negotiation. We can but hope and pray that the Sinhalese will realize the folly of their
ways. They must realize that their belief that we must live as inferiors
on our own soil is far from tolerable. Their idea that the national majority
have superior rights over regional majorities has to melt and drip away.
The sad part is, many Sinhalese do not think they did anything wrong.
According to them, discrimination was justified, so they could regain the rights
they they had lost under the British. Are they yet trying to regain
their rights 55 years later?
How long does all this take, even if this were true. Can they ever adjust to
the 21st century? Can they ever realize that people other than
have "Human Aspirations" also?
from Wakeley Paul, Esq.'s