Why does Arun Siddharth stand out from Tamil leaders?
Arun Siddharth has an opinion & he has a right to his opinion. How many have listened to him or believe him? Why is his narrative different from the rest? What makes his narrative different from the rest? The UN/UNHRC/Western diplomats have for years felt comfortable in believing the lies of a bunch of ailing oldies. Would they ever take Arun & other Tamils who were victims of LTTE & give them a voice in Geneva?
The People’s Convention for Good Governance was held at the BMICH on 25 February 2023 with Dr & Mrs. Walter Jayasinghe invited as Guest of Honor. Richard de Zoysa was the convener. The Speakers included Maithri Gunaratne, Omar Khan, Prof Arjuna Parakrama moderated a panel on education that included Dr. Tara de Mel, Prof Harendra de Silva & Nile Anandappa. Shehara Parakrama, Sharhan Muhseen & Murtaza Jafferjee of Advocata spoke on economic reforms. Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu moderated panel on ethnicity which included Selvi Sachithanandan, Ishan Jalil, Jeremy Liyanage & Arun Siddharth. A poverty alleviation program across districts in Sri Lanka as envisioned by Dr. Sarath Seneviratne some 15 years ago is to commence by raising funds from local & international donors.
Arun Siddharth introduced himself as hailing from Jaffna, born in Jaffna, educated in Jaffna & still living in Jaffna. He apologizes for any grammatically incorrect English and attributes it to not studying in English.
Arun raised some significant points that thus far so-called Tamil politicians & Tamil NGOs as well as Tamil society leaders have failed to admit or conveniently brushed under the carpet for their own benefit, as funding would not have come their way, if they presented a notion that there was no ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
Thus, when Arun confidently declared there was no ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, there was naturally pin-drop silence. He echoed what majority of people have been trying to tell the world ‘there is no ethnic conflict between Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers or Malays, though there may be issues” & Arun attributes this to politicians which is absolutely correct. All politicians are guilty of fanning ethnic politics for their own political & personal gains. In addition to politicians another bunch of people wish to present notion of conflict as it is only when such happens a bunch of people calling themselves ‘conflict-resolutionists’ can enter & meddle in internal affairs of countries & advance their agendas.
Arun refers to Maithri Gunaratne’s claim that the 1956 Official Language Act is the root cause of the conflict. This is the conveniently flagged hyped reason promoted by the educated & their followers, primarily because its real objective is an anti-Sinhala Buddhist campaign.
Arun presents why he disagrees & it aligns with many others who question how 1956 Official Language Act can be the root cause of the conflict. Arun cites the formation of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress based on ethnicity in 1944 by G G Ponnambalam, an elite politician from Colombo. This was 12 years before the Official Language Act of 1956 & 4 years before independence. ACTC was formed during colonial British rule.
Arun then shows how S J V Chelvanayakam separated from the ACTC to form the ITAK – Illankai Tamil Arasu Katchchi in 1949, just a few months after independence in 1948. Both ACTC & ITAK were based on ethnicity & not based on unity, Arun quite rightly points out.
Arun goes on to say that there are some elite politicians living in Colombo, who cannot speak even in Tamil nor do they live in Jaffna. Interestingly it was alleged even Chelvanayagam could not read or write in Tamil! Even C V Wigneswaran (born 1938) was living all his life in Colombo & wen to live in Jaffna only after become the first Northern Chief Minister in 2013. For 74 years he was living in Colombo.
This is the point that many should take serious note of. Arun says that it was these elite non-Tamil speaking, Colombo living Tamil politicians who spoke on behalf of all Tamils & claimed the Sinhalese were discriminating Tamils, marginalizing Tamils, not giving Tamils rights & because of these elite non-Tamil speaking Colombo living Tamil politicians, majority of Tamils are today suffering. This is a key factor that the international community & the researchers in the UN should take note of, in case they too have ignored this ground reality & facts.
Arun humbly declares that his grandparents are toddy tappers & that he has gone through terrible caste-based discriminations by fellow high-caste Tamils. He says that while some may say the conflict in Sri Lanka is 30 or 40 years old, the caste-based conflict between Tamils is over 700 years old.
Arun shows a copy of the 1957 Prevention of Social Disabilities Act – he says that for 66 years the Act was not applied in the North & East & the “some animals who are more equal than others” are together discrimination their own for over 700 years. Arun says that to avoid another armed conflict emerging the caste discrimination must be resolved first. It brought to light how Tamil militants were all low caste who took up arms as that was the only means to show their might over the high caste Tamils.
Arun says that they do not want power sharing based on ethnicity. Power sharing should be as Sri Lankans not for individual wishes of people.
Arun refers to the June 1987 Eagle Mission 4 by India, dropping parippu over Jaffna violating Sri Lanka’s airspace to show off their might. Arun says that the IPKF committed many war crimes including killing his uncle in the Jaffna university. He asks why nobody is asking justice for the killings by Indian soldiers. Arun asks the UN Representatives at the conference why they are not questioning the Indian crimes in Sri Lanka? If they do not wish to talk about all the crimes – then all crimes should be forgotten. In short Arun says, no one should hand pick crimes.
Arun takes up 13th amendment & Tamil political demands for land & police powers. Arun says that these elite Tamil politicians denied land rights to low-caste Tamils through a foreign land law known as Thesavalamai that was applicable to Malabars (who came from India) which was codified during Dutch rule in 16th century. Arun says that he cannot buy land in Jaffna because of this law. Arun rightly says that what people seek is an independent police not a politicized police. Police powers under 13th amendment will only lead to a politicized police per every province, as police has to report to a political party leader who is the chief minister of a province.
Arun says that there are over 30 women members who have arrived from Jaffna who are from the Jaffna Womens Front. He says amongst the audience, there are also many who have had their parents abducted by the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups. Arun says that his wife lost her father when she was 5 years old. Her father had been abducted & remains
“disappeared” as they have not found the body only rumor that his dead body was burnt on tyres. Arun says there are many who have had their sons, daughters, brothers, fathers abducted by LTTE & other Tamil militant groups, but no one is talking about these abductions. Perhaps the UN, international bodies & even the HR & civil society organizations may like to respond.
Arun says he is denied entry to the Jaffna Press Club as it is an elitist club of only high castes/class Tamils. Arun is banned because his truth is inconvenient for them. Arun says that because people hide the truth, the truth does not come out & those that speak the truth are sidelined (like him). Arun quite rightly says that if people start to speak the truth, problems can be solved.
Arun says he attended workshops related reconciliation & peacebuilding and adds that the Tamil NGOs do not invite him but some South NGOs had invited him. Peacebuilding was to be discussions & dialogue. He says that the participants from Jaffna at the conference could not speak Sinhala. Arun says the problem was communication not ethnic. He says the communication connection is what is dividing the people not the ethnicity. Arun quotes Mandela “if you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head, if you talk to a man in his mother tongue, it goes to his heart”. Arun says that until a solution to the communication gap is found, there is no reconciliation.
Arun was asked to wind up his speech by Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu who should himself provide answers to most of Arun’s questions. Pakiasothy asked Arun to elaborate on the communication aspect. Arun asks why Tamils do not want to study Sinhala though they willingly study languages of other countries to migrate. Arun says his 3 sons do not have any opportunity to study in Sinhala because the administrators have not provided Sinhala teachers. He gives example of Malaysia & says Sri Lanka should follow a similar solution.
Arun says he & likeminded people would like to contribute to the country’s economy and get close to the South & rebuild the country.
Shenali D Waduge