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A Texan Tamil's Jambu-stained words hurled at the Sri Lankan President

By Sebastian Rasalingam, Toronto

It is with deep pain and a sense of futility that I read the seemingly well-articulated "ataappali" of my fellow Tamil George Willy in Texas, directed at President Mahinda Rajapaksa on his visit to the US.


President Mahinda Rajapaksa, First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Bandula Wijay, chairman of the organizing committee, Attorney George Willy, Sanjiv Arora and Consul General of India, Houston ~ pic: courtesy of indoamericannews

However, as an old man who grew up during the Donoughmore era, I am probably several decades older than Willy, and heard fine speeches from the silver tongues of the Ramanathans and Ponnambalams of an earlier era. I cringe with pain because we Tamils continue to play the same tune and propagate the same myths which we collectively believe.

Even some Sinhalese, the anglicized minority who read no Tamil, have begun to believe in our own grandiose speeches, where we nurse this beggar’s wound of Majority discrimination against the Tamil minority.

Here we have George Willy, with his non-Tamil name, telling us how important Thamil is to the Tamils, even though there is not a single Tamil quotation in his speech. We are told of red stains from the "Jambu" fruit ("perunaval" in Tamil), where as the perunaval only leaves a brown stain!

As Dr. Jane Russell, the British historian has noted, the Tamil politicians have exploited the Elara-Dutugamunu story even more than the Sinhalese. It was G. G. Ponnambalam who brought the Mahavamsa into modern politics in the 1930s, claiming that it was a false piece of propaganda, and in the next instant claiming that it was really a history of the Tamils, with the aboriginal Veddas taken to be Tamils, Vijaya transmuting into Vijayan, Kasyapa into Kasi-Appan and Parakaramabahu a 66% Dravidian. He went on to incite the Sinhalese in Navalapitiya for the first Sinhala-Tamil riot in 1939! George Willy is unwittingly or wittingly playing the old fiddle of G. G. Ponnambalam.

mp3 Audio of speech by George R. Willy

George Willy says, "Do not make the mistake that sparked the ‘58 riots." Most Tamils of today are too young to know the truth about 1956 and 1958. It was the Tamils and not the Sinhalese who made the mistake. By 1949 the Ilanakai Thail Arasu kadchi (ITAK -Tamil Sovereignty party) had already resolved in Maradana that the "invaders" must be driven out of "the traditional homelands" of the Tamils.

The Tamil-language publications of the ITAK 1952 election expressly said it. If the ITAK really wanted federalism, there was a large and powerful Kandyan group supporting it in 1948 and 1952. But the Tamils made the mistake of NOT going to the country for Federalism. Instead, federalism was talked about in English only in Colombo, to appease the Thiruchelvams, Milroy Pauls and other Karuvakaddu types. ITAK was just a false front for a more ambitious Arasu idea. This idea failed electorally in 1952, but they stoked the 1958 fire by taking advantage of the 1956 Language bill!

It was this same idea that reared in fully grown from in Vadukkoddai, Thimpu and Kilinochchi.

George Willy says, "Do not hold back Tamil youth who want to get into universities." It is amazing that the rich upper-caste Tamils could raise this much ire and fire about the less than 1% of the children who enter the school system and finally end up in University.

What about the school dropouts, and the unstated barriers against the Tamil children belonging to the socially disadvantaged castes to get a decent education?

How many of the Tamil university entrants are Vellalars or Rich Colombo Karaivars?

Why are there NO Tamil undergrads from the socially disadvantaged castes?

This iniquity has existed from the beginnings of Navalar’s times through Ramanathan’s attempts to include caste discrimination in the constitution. Even in the post-Vadukkoddai era, Shanmuganathan of the Communist Party had to lead a campaign in Mavattipuram regarding the ITAK’s attitude to schooling, Temple entry, and even the right to draw water from a well.

And yet George Willy says, "Do not make the Tamils feel as though they are second class citizens". He does not seem to know that the Tamils admit only of a ruling caste and the others are just subject castes?

Interestingly, the LTTE’s was not only a fight for Eelam but also a rejection of the leadership of the Thimpu-Tamils like the George Willys, Wakeley Pauls, Ponnambalams and their (s)ilk.

George Willy lives in America discovered by a Spaniard. Most of California and some southern states of USA are the "Traditional Homelands" of the Hispanics living in the US. But have the Hispanics any rights whatever in the US?

There are many more Hispanics in America than the possibly 10% Tamils now left in Sri Lanka. Ask what would happen in the USA if the Hispanics asked for a strip on the US flag, or what the Tamils had in Sri Lanka even in 1960.

Tamils have to be politically less naive and follow the subtle and successful politics of S. Thondaman who, without slogan, Sathyagraha or slaughter achieved every single political objective of his people through cooperation with the majority and working towards national unity.

Watch from about 6 minutes in. Speech by George R. Willy to President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Related: 'Your Excellency return us to paradise, return us to paradise'


Sebastian, from your article it is obvious either you are a pro government-who couldn't take the honest requests of George Willy or you are jealous of the wide acknowledgement and cheer Mr.George Willy's speech got. Besides being a good successful Tamil, George Willy is a real citizen who is in love with the country he was born. You on the other hand is just another useless person writing useless articles.

Posted by: Srilankan Citizen | October 25, 2010 04:24 PM

Dear Mr.Rasalingam,

A well written and unique analysis, highlighting crucial points.

In my view the majority of the expatriate Tamils (and for that matter majority of the expatriate Sinhalese), do have a completely different set of aims objectives and priorities with regard to the sinhala-tamil issue, compared to those still living within Sri Lanka - the former being based on a deep sense of injustice and revenge leading to confrontation and separatism. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, whose tried and tested formula of divide and rule had set these fires burning, Sri Lankan peoples had coexisted in relative harmony for centuries. Thanks to the selfish motives of the colonial masters and the equally selfish Tamil and Sinhalese politicians, Sri Lankans have continued to grab at each others’ throats, and in the process losing out on their fair share of the 'Global Cake'.

From a modern perspective our differences are negligible and our similarities are overwhelming. It is up to us to demonstrate to the ‘global big boys’ that we are no longer fooled by the hatred and conflict that they had sowed for centuries, and still continue support covertly. is time grow up....and grow out of neo-colonialism.

Posted by: Dr. A. De Silva | October 25, 2010 05:49 PM

Sebastian Ramalingam can apply for a position with government of sri lanka.
He who lives in Canada does not seem to know its history with the Quebecois.

Posted by: krapp | October 25, 2010 08:18 PM

Sebastian Sir, since you grew up in Donoughmore era and listened to the fine speeches of Ramanathans, you must be at least 90 plus now. What is your definition of ""successful politics of Thondaman "" ?. Many of my former classmates and current friends from the Upcountry do not agree with Thondaman's style politics and they say their community is still by and large second class and with Mahinda Chinthanya they will loose their identity and culture too over a period of time.

Since you are 90 plus and claim you know better than the people you have quoted, you must enlighten the current politicians both Tamils and Sinhalese with the Donoughmore Constituiton and its effects and the 1948 constitution and Salisbury provisions, and its effect, SWRD Constitution and its effects, Colvin- Srimavo 's constitution of 1972 and its effects, JR's constitution of 1978 and its effects and currently Mahinda's constitution and its effects, in a constructive way, then say why they should follow Thondaman's style.

PS : I thought in the East after PC elections some tamil Politicians are following the Thondaman style of cooperating with the party in power. In the North though there is no PC elections yet still Tamil Politicians are following Thondaman style of cooperating with the party in power.

Posted by: Disciple of Murphy | October 25, 2010 09:31 PM

It is high time that the minorities and the majority realise that talking about old stories and old wounds is not going to help us in the future. Today the world is competitive and overwhelming. Time waits for no one and the longer we gloss over the past and talk about what could have been, the likelihood is that we will miss the bus and be relegated to a banana republic or being refugees forever.
We need to face the new era with a fresh outlook and a broad sense of belonging to a single nation where everyone can have an equal opportunity for success. This cannot be achieved by mere words but by making a difference in our own lives especially when dealing with other communities not our own.
It is observed that the govt is making some efforts in this direction and if these are sincere and true it is the duty of every Sri Lankan to support it. At the same time we have to disapprove and condemn undemocratic and corrupt actions by whosoever, be it the govt or opposition.

Posted by: SriLankan | October 25, 2010 10:07 PM

This is the type of Misbegotten nitpicking that is done by sorry souls who have nothing better to do ! At least this man tried to get a message across to a president, albeit a rather overrated piece of prose but nevertheless a real attempt.

What can his detractors' do ? Caste aspersions at an analogy he has used ! I tell you has appreciation (or lack of it) of the English language and the true understanding of same dropped to levels as low as this ?

Mr. Rasalingam smacks of yet another half educated Rajapaksa crony who probably shared the night shift at the 7-11 store !

Posted by: Ravana | October 25, 2010 10:29 PM

Dear Mr Rasalingam,
You do bring up some valid points about the caste system in the tamil community. A sad truth and something the tamil community must get rid off.
And the refusal to deal with Federalism which may also be a valid point
However you make statements like these and its apparent you must be making a mockery of our intelligence:

1)'Most Tamils of today are too young to know the truth about 1956 and 1958. It was the Tamils and not the Sinhalese who made the mistake'
The utter stupidity of this statement does not deserve much to be said

2)'follow the subtle and successful politics of S. Thondaman'
Excuse me, but i have family and friends in the hill country who will STRONGLY
disagree with this claim.

3)He went on to incite the Sinhalese in Navalapitiya for the first Sinhala-Tamil riot in 1939! (G G Ponnambalam)
So once again it was the tamils fault that the Sinhalese cant debate about history and need to resort to violence to vent their frustrations eh?

So to sum up.
You can join the Sri Lankan government (if you have not already). There is a real shortage of Tamil stooges the government needs.

Posted by: Thangam | October 25, 2010 10:38 PM

Well analysed and well researched and well written. Its the expatriate Sri Lankans of all the races creating the problems for us. They may have the money power like those of their western counterparts but leave this island to us and the islanders will take care of it.

Posted by: Anna | October 25, 2010 10:58 PM

Ahaha! Ohoho!!

Like the little boy who exposed the truth about the King wearing no clothes this Sebastian Rasalingam has exposed the naked truth about Wily Willy's "speech"

Sathyameva Jayathe

Posted by: Dawood | October 25, 2010 11:33 PM

The caste discrimination in early Jaffna has made Sebastian Rasalingam to speak against the entire Sri Lankan Tamil nation, but later he found that it has become an advantage for him because he has a huge audience of Sinhala racists applauding and appreciating him .

The problem is you hardly find people of his age to challenge what he is saying so he happily goes on saying that most Tamils of today are too young to know the truth about the past.

We should take what Sebastian Rasalingam is writing with a pinch of salt. I have seen most of the Sinhala racists who write articles not only quote Sebastian Rasalingam but also praise him like he is one of their saviors.

Posted by: Theesan | October 26, 2010 12:25 AM

Dear Mr.Rasalingam,
First of all I suspect you are a Rajapaksa crony hiding behind a tamil name to justify your stupid utterances which are contradictory. You couldnt stomach the popularity of George Willy's speech to your master. What point you are trying to drive at, by ridiculing one of the best speeches ever?

Posted by: LAnkan | October 26, 2010 01:50 AM

This is exacrlt what I told one of my very good Tamil friends when he sent me the link of WIlly's speech. He is not a REAL Sri Lankan tamil for he has set his shop in the US and many other counties and most probably a US citizen and will NEVER ever even think of going back to Sri Lanka how ever the situation improves. If that came from a Tamil in Sri Lanka it would have mattered the most.

Posted by: garawi | October 26, 2010 02:10 AM

Mr Rasalingam is a wise man with his heart in the right place.

Mr Willy spoilt this rare opportunity to make an impression on the President with respect to his bona fide about theplight of Tamils living in Srilanka.

He got this opportunity to share the podium with the President not because he is a Lawyer but for his position with the Association.

His photograph against a book shelf full of Law Books itself is an indication of his mindset.

Foreigners must pass the Law Institute Exam of the State that they want to practice to get become a US Attorney.

Immigration Lawyers on the other hand are actually Immigartion agents and only a short orientation course is needed to act as one,

In the English speaking West there are thousands of Immigration agents catering for their own ethnic groups and it is not a big deal.

But he could have used his position with the Association to convince the President that there are good people in the Diaspora who are genuinely interested in the welfare of the poor. the dis advantaged and the lower caste people as Mr Rasalingam has pointed out .

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2010 02:32 AM

Dear Sir

Since you seem to know so much, i like to have two questions clarified. why waste all your wisdom in Canda and how did you get in there Claiming that you are a traumatized refugee?

Posted by: Maharaja | October 26, 2010 03:37 AM

Mr Rasalingam, are you suggesting the Tamils should sell their birth right to gain development?

Posted by: Vino | October 26, 2010 04:57 AM

Dear All, Tamils has suffered enough. U need a start some where. If you try to look and faults, there wl be many more and find fault on them and only ones who wl be left back wl be Tamils. Remember Obama became the President of US. So make a start. Things will fall in line.

Posted by: R J Dasa | October 26, 2010 06:32 AM

Willy is making awareness on forgotten part of the history. also it is a warning not to continue for political purposes. Since President had been using Emotional Intelligence to win election, I am sure for the next election , he will build a tomb for name sake Ellara ,which will cost ten times more than actual cost like our over head bridges and roads- this is very positive and this will be on the expenses of the tax payers but Gamunu built it with his wealth.Willy is giving ideas for more corruption.


Mr Sebastian ! is this your name?

Posted by: Nandhini | October 26, 2010 08:00 AM

Dear Mr. Rasalingam I feel sorry for you.

Even at this very old age you carry the hatered against high caste Tamils. Guess you are living too long in Canada, or because of your age you are not in a position to understand what has happened to the caste system. VP the man you love to hate (I am not VP supporter) had broken the backbone of caste system in the North & East. Caste has lost it's mojo and today it is nothing and you are still talking about 40 years back, I can undersatnd how much you could have suffered 80 years back, but Mr. Rasalingam get rid of that hatered. Past is past.

By the way, you sound like a Dravidian movement man, or pure Tamil extremist.

GW is a Catholic, what is wrong in his name? His name doesn't make him a less Tamil.

Comment by Dr. A. De Silva - Excellent!

"Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, whose tried and tested formula of divide and rule had set these fires burning, Sri Lankan peoples had coexisted in relative harmony for centuries. Thanks to the selfish motives of the colonial masters and the equally selfish Tamil and Sinhalese politicians, Sri Lankans have continued to grab at each others’ throats, and in the process losing out on their fair share of the 'Global Cake'.

From a modern perspective our differences are negligible and our similarities are overwhelming. It is up to us to demonstrate to the ‘global big boys’ that we are no longer fooled by the hatred and conflict that they had sowed for centuries, and still continue support covertly."

Posted by: Sakthi | October 26, 2010 08:01 AM

Here we have George Willy, with his non-Tamil name, telling us how important Thamil is to the Tamils, even though there is not a single Tamil quotation in his speech

How funny a man named Sebastian should say this.

This is the level of Sabesatians criticism. Narrow and pointless. Best ignored

Posted by: Anbu | October 26, 2010 08:39 AM

Sebastian Rasalingam

Mr I think you have got some sort of dementia('aaralai') as lot of facts in your article are incorrect and your inferences are self serving and Hippocratic First of all what language is your first name Sebastian, did George Willy chose his name? Does having a non Tamil name excludes some one from fighting/appealing for the rights of Tamils Mr wise old man?

Why are you hiding in Toronto If you or your family was not discriminated and or not 2nd class citizen in Srilanka. Mr Willy did not just talk about discrimination in education alone.

My father was a Government servant He can write and speak Sinhala fluently he even taught Sinhala to me and my cousins but he refused to sit the Sinhala language examination forced on him and fellow Tamils and forfeited promotions and salary increments in support of Mr.Kodeswaran's cause.

The Mavatapuram temple entry, was not against ITAK it was against Mr.C.Suntharalingam and his party who contested against SJV Chelvanayagam in KKS electorate man.

When I was at school in 60s and 70s the cast system among Tamils were much improved and during the LTTEs hay days almost wiped out.

Even during my time at the university they were many in your word low caste Tamils were studied with us we liver together visited each others home socially and interacted with matrimonially as well. Man you are still living in the 40s and 50s mentality the cast consciousness is in your mind.
I as a young student took part in the ITAK's activities to eliminate cast consciousness against my grand mothers irk.

Just Read on you wise old man what a Sinhala Gentleman Who were wiser than you and gentler than you and were able to do much more than you said below
Events of 1961 and 1972, as viewed by a Sinhalese Official
[source: Bradman Weerakoon: Rendering Unto Caesar, 2004]
(Notei: The BC Pact referred to by the author, stands for Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact made by FP leader Chelvanayakam in late 1950s, with Sirimavo’s husband Solomon Bandaranaike. The author also misidentifies the year of FP’s satyagraha campaign as 1962. It happened in 1961. The army’s coup d’etat occurred in January 1962)
During Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s First tenure of office

“The Federal Party, which had voted to defeat Dudley’s minority UNP government at the vote on the ‘Throne speech’ in March 1960 gave its support to Sirimavo Bandaranaike and the SLFP in the July elections.

In return the Federal Party expected some movement on the proposals made in the BC Pact which had been further elaborated in its statement of minimum demands which had been put both to the UNP and the SLFP.

These referred to the four basic objectives of regional autonomy for the Northern and Eastern Provinces, suspension of state-aided colonization, Tamil language rights especially regarding entry of Tamil speaking persons to government service and amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1948 which had deprived thousands of up-country Tamils of their right to vote.

However, Sirimavo’s immediate priority concerns were elsewhere and had more to do with reviving the economy which was in decline. But her economic policies of increasing state control over the commanding heights of the economy while providing relief to the majority was of little help to the Tamils as the industrial enterprises were located mainly in the South and the preference for Sinhala language proficiency in the public sector did not enable the Tamils to reap any benefit from this policy.

The other strand of her policy of exercising more state control over education through the virtual take-over of the assisted schools also indirectly created resentment among the Tamil middle classes and the Tamil Christians. Education in the Jaffna peninsula – the heartland of the Tamils – was largely in the hands of missionary schools.

Sirimavo although educated throughout her school year in mission schools – Ferguson College in Ratnapura in the primary classes and then St. Bridget’s College, Colombo, a leading Roman Catholic institution, was to pursue a determined policy of bringing the assisted schools under state control and eliminating the difference which existed between the privileged and the well-endowed mission schools and the state-run schools.

Some of the leading schools which had opted to remain outside the state system and be fee levying private institutions, continued but with the changes introduced by Sirimavo a large number of important schools, including her own St.Bridget’s lost the grant-in-aid from the state which had enabled them to run without charging fees.

These in future were to be under the direct control of the state as regards recruitment of staff and the content of the education they imparted.

Her education policy, which was seen as part of the socialist orientation of the government was much resented by powerful elites, especially in the city of Colombo and among the higher bureaucracy, which had largely been recruited from the leading public schools. It was to trigger one of the principal challenges Sirimavo had to face, the attempted coup d’etat in January 1962.

The state take-over of assisted schools meant that state patronage and financial assistance, extended from colonial times to schools run by religious denominations, would cease.

This followed earlier moves to curtail the visas of the nursing nuns of the Catholic orders who had for many years been the mainstay of the country’s health institutions, particularly in the cities. The prime minister’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs (NQ) Neil Quintus Dias was well-known for his strong stand against ‘Catholic Action’ as it was then called. His actions in regard to the defence establishment and police were also being watched by the upper echelons of the three Forces which were then largely manned by non-Buddhist officers who had had their secondary education mainly in the denominational schools.

As these actions of the government continued, and there rose a need to lobby against the schools’ take-over, an important religious dignitary, Cardinal Gracias, came over from Bombay, in a hurried visit to talk to the prime minister. Although he was courteously received and given high hospitality, Sirimavo did not retract from the stand she had taken. The Cardinal returned to Bombay with the mission unaccomplished.

The seeming lack of interest by the administration to the problems of the Tamils, as articulated by the FP and put forward in the Minimum Demands, led to the FP calling for a non-violent hartal at its party convention in Jaffna in January 1962 [sic].

On 20 February 1962 [sic], Chelvanayakam led the satyagraha by lying down on the floor in front of the entrance to the Jaffna kachcheri and blocking entry to it. This soon became a mass movement of defiance to government authority and when on April 14 a postal service was inaugurated by the Federal Party, the government moved to declare a state of emergency.

The armed forces were sent in, the satyagrahis were dispersed and the Federal Party members were arrested. The satyagraha had collapsed but its echoes and the images of a Sinhalese army in occupation of the ‘Tamil homeland’ began to reverberate and form the genesis of the militant movement which was to emerge later.

Brigadier Richard Udugama, later to be Army Commander, was an important figure in the restoration of law and order in the North.” (pp. 106-108)

Posted by: Panamkottal | October 26, 2010 09:21 AM

Mr. Rasalingam is correct in many ways, although he emphasizes mainly the innner discrimination in Tamil society as his main point.

The more important point is, history should be used to unite people and not divide them.
Wise speeches are those which unite people rather than create recrimination and emphasize division.
One takes up one's disagreements behind the curtain. That was what D. S. Senanayake tried to do, but Banda and Chelva brought it to the open stage and set fire to even the curtains.

The Tamils and the sinhalese could have easily had a federal system, but the window of opportunity, which came up several times, was not picked up because the upper-class tamil lawyers who led the politics would not settle for anything less than a kingdom of their own.

Mr. Willy seems to suggest that Rajapaksa is a descendant of Dutugamunu, while he is a descendant of Elara, or some such thing. But this is utter naiveté. Race is a cultural thing and not a biological thing. The ancient Tamils got sinhalized and ancient sinhalese got tamilzed, depending on the rulers who governed the country.
There is no pure "race" going to Elara or Dutugamunu.

"Tamil" and "Sihala" are merely cultural labels.

Mr. Rasalingam is also correct in pointing out that only 1% of the kindergarten gets into university. We need to worry about the other 99% who only go through various parts of the school system, and that is where all types of economic, social, caste and other discriminations set in. That is a much much bigger problem than the university entrance problem that the upper class parents worry about. I thank Rasalingam for emphasizing it

Mr. George Willy is an immigration lawyer, and so, for him, it is business as usual to portray the discrimination faced by his clients as the most important thing. His speech is mostly good business. He has been trained well by his Jesuit Fathers who taught him the basics of casuistry.

Posted by: Bodhi | October 26, 2010 09:35 AM

Rasalingam iya, have you heard about divide and rule policy in your grand old age? what you have done either knowingly or not, given fuel to the Sinhala racist blogers cast as a wepon . which is a hipocracy as the similar cast system is present in Sinhala as well but these racist modayas will forget or hide it and make mountain out of your moll.

Posted by: Panamkottal | October 26, 2010 09:41 AM

I heard this story from a well read and learned Jaffna lady some time back. she confirmed the story of the Ponnambalam's. Todays youth like us know nothing of the history and politics that was present 40 years back or more. I am even a minority than the tamils from Sri Lanka. I never felt insecure in SL. However as we all know when the truth is put out once it is bitter to accept. Infact It was Ramanthans who are responsible for the loss of the tamils today. Because Ramanathans were not given the head post in UNP at that time he seperated from the party and formed ITAK. If he was really with the TAmil people and was working for their welfare he could have at least stayed with the party and got the president's post. In sinhala this is called BALA THANHAVA. Ramanathans are no exception. Lastly the tamil diaspora today lavishing in the west will not send their children to fight a war for their so called home land, they are but living in luxury and having posts in UN. Poor souls do not know the politics of politics........

Posted by: Interested Minority | October 26, 2010 09:43 AM

Great grandpa Rasalingam iya vannakkam, Have you read the speech made in Srilankan parliament by one of Tamils true son who did not exile in Canada like you? pl find it in the Tamil week

Posted by: ggrandson | October 26, 2010 10:22 AM

Mr Rasalingam say's "However, as an old man who grew up during the Donoughmore era, I am probably several decades older than Willy, and heard fine speeches from the silver tongues of the Ramanathans and Ponnambalams of an earlier era" Donoughmore era was from 1931-1946 Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan died on the 26 th Nov 1930, his younger brother Sir Pon Arunasalam died on the 9th Jan 1924. The only silver tongue oration you would have heard, would have been from G.G.Ponnambalam QC.

In general; One must understand quite well the history of the past, the present , before trying to shape the future. We don't want to make the same mistakes over and over again. History gives us an insight to understand peoples[ politicians] mindset. like reading the various comments on this article and other. I would just ignore this old man and few commentators, it seems their past memories are failing, also they have no recent memory of the barbarism shown by MR and universal denial. Politics is like a chess game, let us watch the people of Srilanka play with the MR &CO. We expatrites have the duty to check any foul play, but Do we have any say!or can we prevent any catastrophy?

What we admire in George is his guts to speak out his mind in 'six minutes' as a Tamil and being 'Bumiputra', what most of us do not dare to say. Even if we want to say many of us, have no guts even to speak the naked truth. Let me say this, iF MR has any conscience, and be judicious he could correct himself after this speach and try to do justice to all his citizens in Srilanka.

Posted by: Dr.Easwaran | October 26, 2010 10:32 AM

A quick google search on Sebastian Rasalingam displays the following....

"I am an old Tamil who grew up in Jaffna during the 1940s. I still remember the smell of the sewers of Jaffna"

Of course, Fonsekea's suggestion that the country belongs to the Sinhala majority, and the innuendo that the other communities live by the good grace of the Sinhalese, is offensive and politically incorrect.

Even the Eastern Tamils were disenchanted with the nature of the Jaffna-centered racism of the LTTE. Hence Fonseka's statement is actually far more mild than the exclusive "Afrikaanar racism" of the Thimpu Tamils.

Thousands of protesters gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 21, 2009, to ask for the Canadian government to intervene in what they are calling a genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka.(AP) I have cringed with pain and clutched my head in anguish, watching my grand children's friends in Scarborough, Ontario, going out, with their friends, to join protest marches in the streets of Toronto

. These young people are given the Tiger flag which is an insult to the best traditions of Hindu society or the Christian values taught by the prince of peace.
(The LankaWeb - 08/05/09)

and on and on and on............

Posted by: Rationalman | October 26, 2010 11:05 AM

More than the article I liked reading the comments. What is sad that most of the people who are commenting on these live abroad and has not been to Sri Lanka or lived for more than a month for the passed 10 - 15 years. majprity commenting dont want to think is this true? is this what really happened. No they are very happy spreading hatread. Let me tell you someting the Canadian and US tamils you people are not living in the north and the east of SL let the people of the country deside what they want you people abandoned the country. All tamils didnt leave the country it is the few of you wha are talking big that ran away so shut up. let Sri Lankans decide what they want for their country and how they want.

Posted by: kanch | October 26, 2010 11:08 AM

One must recognize that there is a positive side and a negative side to Georgy Willy's speech and Rasalingam's ripost.

George Willy fails to thank Rajapaksa Govt. for getting rid of the LTTE monster which converted the next generation of Tamil youth to cannon fodder, and the speech makes no recognition of the speedy attention given to the 300,000 IDPs, most of them being now settled - much better than in Katrina affected New Orleans!

George Willy fails to remember that it is not Tamil custom to put the guest in the hot seat by making demands in public. All contentious issues must be settled out of the public view.

George Willy also puts out a "Tamils verus sinhalses (Elara versus Dutugamunu)"
image which Rasalingam has rightly condemned. History must not be used as a divisive sword at this juncture of our history, or indeed, at any time.

Finally, it would be best if these Diaspora Lawyers left our politics to us, living in Sri Lanka.

Posted by: Nadesan | October 26, 2010 11:22 AM

Mr. Rasalingam

Well Said, about hypocrites.

Posted by: Ravi | October 26, 2010 11:58 AM

"George Willy, with his non-Tamil name"

Correctly pointed out by Sebastian Rasalingam, with his
nin-Sinhalese nama!

Posted by: Rara | October 26, 2010 12:39 PM

It’s really surprising the author relates 1950 Jaffna to 2000+ Jaffna.

Many of us who grew up in Jaffna during the war time didn’t see THAT Jaffna the author was writing about.

Perhaps the author should first meet some of the younger generation of Tamils from Jaffna.

Posted by: ECHO | October 26, 2010 01:30 PM

I admire George for his guts to speak in open what has being done in Sri Lanka by Mahinda regime with the help of some of our neighbors other dictatorial states with the concurrence of America and some of the European Countries to wipe off the Tamil race in Sri Lanka. Mr. Ramalingam you sound like that you are in your late 80's or early 90's Sir, It’s high time you leave the current Tamil generation to resolve their problem which your generation could not resolve for the past 50 years. Do not henpeck what George has done to open the ruler’s hearts and mind over our problems. There is absolutely nothing wrong for someone to yearn to return to the paradise and live in peace and dignity and not as a second class citizen or a slave

Posted by: Martin Thomas | October 26, 2010 01:42 PM

Mr. Rasalingam,

I have sympathised with you earlier for the pain of mind you, your wife and family endured under a few Tamils in the earlier years. You are not alone there - but with the passage of time and the changing world, these people forgot their experiences and moved on.

In that spirit of accomodation that is inherent in every Tamil I wish you peace and happiness in the evening of your life.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | October 26, 2010 03:47 PM

Sebastian's piece is like "some one" standing on the ground barking at the moon!!!! You can see the frustration of not being able to "reach up" to the level of the target!!

What is the point in nit picking at the name and the colour of the stain of the Jambu fruit and not quoting anything in Tamil?

I hope your "masters" are satisfied with your output!!! If you are very happy and loyal to your masters, you should join them in the ruination of Sri Lanka!!!

Posted by: sam | October 26, 2010 04:46 PM

It is interesting that most people agreeing with Mr. Rasalingam's comments are Sinhalese. It is similar to many westerners with a prejudiced understanding of Islam who are quick to endorse the views of a Muslim who criticizes his/her own religion.

Mr. Rasalingam, name one community, one race that is perfect? All you have done is to provide ammunition to the anti-Tamil racists. Nothing more.

Posted by: Kaz | October 26, 2010 05:35 PM

Panamkottal says:
"When I was at school in 60s and 70s the cast system among Tamils were much improved and during the LTTEs hay days almost wiped out."

A war is a great leveler and indeed, the caste system among Tamils in Sri Lanka may have got somewhat weakened, at least for the moment.
But look at the Diaspora. There are so many Kovils and Temples for SL Tamils in Scarborough, and it is clear that they cater to different castes and sub-castes. Only just recently, Selladurai of Toronto was charged for attempting to murder his daughter because she was dating a Tamil boy who was "low caste"
see Toronto man ran down daughter with minivan

While George Willy talks of " don't make Tamils second class citizens", one has to see the glaring internal "second-class" treatment meted out to the Tamil populace by the Tamil upper class.

So Rasalingam may well be completely correct. There is reason to feel that the S.J.V.Chelva
& co. wanted to keep the North and East under wraps, to prevent the slow march of democracy
with universal franchise, women's rights, causeways opening up low-caste villages etc., thus
eroding their power. Later when Sinhalese hooliganism took to the streets, their effort became politically meaningful, and most Tamils started supporting them.

Posted by: David K | October 26, 2010 05:51 PM

George gave a great speech . I am proud of him He was very honest and a moderate

Posted by: Anonymous | October 26, 2010 07:28 PM

Rasalingam is suffering from a complex
and is supporting the regime who was responsible for the massacre of innocent
Tamil civilians, with the excuse of a war on terror.

Posted by: Ravi | October 26, 2010 08:43 PM

Sebastian Rasalingam has shown a disgusting history of supporting the oppressor and showing absolutely no concern for the thousands of fellow Tamil victims at the hands of the racist regime of Rajapaksaa; this has made him unworthy of ever being taken seriously by Tamils, even if what he says about the caste issue within Tamil society may be true.

True to form, he ignores the fact it was Rajapaksa himself who has encouraged the celebration by supporters of himself as the modern day Dutu Gemunu. In interviews, Rajapaksa has talked about how he is from the jungles of the South, and how he was relishing the fight with VP. In that context, Mr. Willy's reference to the Gemunu-Elara history is not not out of place. Someone had to speak truth to power, and it can only be someone like Mr. Willy whom the Rajapaksas' white vans cannot abduct.


The demise of the LTTE did not come by fair means; it was achieved by mercilessly ending the lives of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians and maiming still more thousands. What have you been smoking to feel that it is something that deserves anyone's congratulations?

And whatever you are smoking must have addled you so much that you say, "All contentious issues must be settled out of the public view," as if that has ever worked in Sri Lanka for Tamils in the last 60 years.

Posted by: Expatriate | October 26, 2010 10:51 PM

I wish all Tamil Diaspora cogitate about Sinhalese and Sri Lanka in line of Sebastian Rasalingam's thinking.

Posted by: Leela | October 27, 2010 05:00 AM

Posted by: David K | October 26, 2010 05:51 PM , Because a Tamil man has runover his daughter because she married a lowercast person out of over 2000 thousand Tamil population,you think All the Tamils are cast concious.And you Sinhala can beat them up and justify and make them 2nd class citizens.

Okey for argument shake all the Tamils are terrible cast conscious people and making lowercast people feel 2nd class citizens, Does it give you any legitamacy to be a racist ,Opress and cause Genocide of Tamils?

What you say re different Kovils are for different castes and base less lie you are creating man.

Posted by: Panamkottai | October 27, 2010 08:08 AM

I could not agree anymore with comments made by "Thangam | October 25, 2010 10:38 PM"

Posted by: M FERN | October 27, 2010 08:33 AM

Interestingly, Panamkottai has assumed that I am a
Sinhalese! If Willy can have a name like George, and if Rasalingam can have aname like Sebastian, why can I not have a name like David and yet be a Tamil?
I have at least given two pieces of evidence (Temple distribution in Scarborough, The existence of caste sense leading even up to
murder and "honour killing") in support of my claim that the Diaspora Tamils retain their Orthodox ideas pretty well intact, even in a Canadian environment. Panamkottai has given none to suypport his claims.

Why does Panamkottai then assume from this that I endorse genocide etc etc? What I am saying is that we in Tamil society have not only tolerated, but condoned enormous discrimination where a hand full of Periya-Dorei ran the show while the rest of the people had to accept that bent in two. This was the situation even in the 1960s and it must have been much worse in the days of Rasalingam. A super Periya-Dorei like Prabhakaran could emerge and hold the fort (Kottai) for 30 years was because of this in-grained attitude of our people who are ever-ready for a commanding master ( சேனைத்தலைவர், i.e., cenai-t-talaivar) who will order us around, and we hold our head in respect and tolerate intolerable situations.

The Scarborough situation, and Panamkottai's evasion of the real issues make me feel that we will not be out of the woods for another two generations even in Canada. George Willy is also transferring all the problems onto the Sinhalese, without one iota of introspection. Rasalingam makes the mistake of casting all the faults on us, and forgetting the Sinhalese hooligans unleashed by JRJ.

Panamkottai also says "
The Mavatapuram temple entry, was not against ITAK it was against ..." Actually, Rasalingam was correct here as Shanmugathasan began by hurling the gauntlet to S. J. V. Chelvanayagam asking him to resign his seat and recontest on the Caste issue, and Mr. Suntaharlingam jumped in to "defend" his temple, and that was a side issue which however hit the headlines. Chelva did not accept the challenge, and in fact died not long after.

Posted by: David K | October 27, 2010 12:48 PM

"I am probably several decades older than Willy, and heard fine speeches from the silver tongues of the Ramanathans and Ponnambalams of an earlier era."

I think he is hiding something. Sir Pon Ramanathan died on 26th November 1930, at the age of about 79years old. I quote below what Sir Pon Ramanathan said in 1928, when Sinhalese wanted to chase the Up Country Tamils away long before the Independance in 1948. his speech in the Legislative Assembly [Page 1791 Hansard Volume 111-1928]
“ The Sinhalese tossed in a storm 2,500 years ago were washed ashore on this island. How can they make up their minds and call for the 'Indians' to “Get Out “ The upcountry worker of India arrived in this island under different circumstances. The Sinhalese would not kill a scorpion or a snake and choose to shoo them away. (But) their conduct in this instance was not consistent with the Buddha Dhamma and Santhana dharma."
It is not the Federal Party but the mind set of the Sinhalese which created this mess. During 1956 and 1958, quite a lot of Tamils were killed. The main question is "Why the police did not take action?" It is the state apparatus with the support of the majority of the majority community which perpetrated the crime. There is no point in arguing on this any more but I wanted to point out even Sir Pon Ramanathan, who was quoted by this purported old man, was dismayed by the despicable conduct of the Sinhalese. Ramanathan died in 1930 this old man must have heard him for sometime to judge the depth of Sir Pon Ramanathan, say for five years. This old man must have known Sir Pon Ramanathan since 1925. This old man must have also been somewhat aged at that time to understand the greatness of Sir Pon Ramanathan, say he was 25 years of age. So this man must be about 110years old now. Surely Toronto Star would have published about this old gentleman. It is great to see this old man to surf the web and promptly retort a speech which he found inimical to his motherland. Something foul is smelling here.

Posted by: K.Easwaran | October 27, 2010 06:26 PM

Does this person knows what's happaning to esate Tamil people.. If not ask him to find out and write about ratnapura Tamils .

Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2010 07:43 PM

Being a "frequent flier" to Scarborough I am astonished to hear that there is caste discrimination among our brethren there.

I love the take away food shops run by the Tamils.Not only they give a descent tasty feed, but also they are cheap as chips.

In fact one shop owner always spoke to me in Tamil despite all my attempts to talk in English.

I wonder whether the high caste people buy food from these outlets? when they don't allow the lower caste to go to the same Temple?

I have a couple of friends who entertain me well . I don't think they are caste conscious.

Recently I also came across a posting here that a Tamil couple in Colombo who brought down two kids from the North to study is Colombo are now shunned by the family and friends because the kids are from a lower caste.

Thank heavens Sinhalese don't have this problem.

As a poor kid ,only discrimination I encountered was the "Doby" woman who came to our house sat on a small bench. No body asked or forced her to do it.

Besides we were as poor or even worse than them.

My father however alawys went for a drink with this woman's husband.

A grand daughter got into peradeniya and became a Civil Engineer.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2010 10:20 PM

Sebastian Rasalingam, Toronto

Sir, I am not ready for neither academic nor intellectual debate with you, for known reasons.

Well done Sebastian Rasalingam, you may be a real Tamil, otherwise you wouldnt have written these comments.

Do you know that "Sebastian" is not a Tamil name.

Please dont find any fault with great George Willy, who did some best to the saddnes Tamils.

Hope you are not having any hidden idea to be a Minister or even as an Ambassador for Sri Lanka or you not even Rajapaksa's supporter!

Who ever you are, hope you will receive a personal letter from Rajapaksa.

Anyway I doubt whether this is your orginal name or just used for writing your comment posing you as a Tamil. Good luck.

Posted by: Stanly | October 28, 2010 01:59 AM

Dear Sebastian
I look forward to your articles. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Ceylonese of Vedda Bengali Malay European Dravidan extraction | October 28, 2010 03:47 PM

Rasalingam has been constantly highlighting the duplicitous nature of Tamil leadership though many Tamil comentators are reluctant to admit. George Willy has wasted a golden opportunity to set a forward looking agenda and signalled the continuation of divisiveness. Though ISS talks about accommodating nature of Tamils, from a Sinhalese point of view there is no evidence at present of such accommodation. Therefore from a Sinhala point of view, the most prudent course is still the demographic re-engineering of North & East so Tamils will never be able to resurrect separatism in Sri Lanka.

Posted by: Hela | October 29, 2010 03:04 PM

Thank you all your comments, and excuse me for the delay in reading and replying the comments. Also, I thank the Editor of Transcurrent for correcting the error in the Island newspaper and putting in my correct name. In the old days, newspapr editor's write back to you at least thanking you when they accept a contribution, and readily correct any errors. Now a days, the pace of life seems to be too swift for all those old-world civilities.

1. Some have pointed out that "sebastian" is not a Tamil name. Of course, it is my baptismal name. If not for it I could not have got any schooling what ever, during my time.

But I was irked by George Willy's lip-service to the Tamil language. He prefers to use the non-Tamil word (sanskrit-pali-sinhala) "Jambu" when a good Tamil word exists, while inconsistently talking of his devotion to Tamil.

2. I was baptised in 1925, and too young to even see Ramanathan. In any case none of us in our stratum of society could even get within earshot of Ramanathan. But much later on, Mr. Natesan (son in law) organized a commemoration and some bits of Ramanathan's speeches were broadcast on a loudspeaker and we listened to his sonorous diction from a distance.

3. In my writings, I have concentrated on the inner contradictions of Tamil society, without taking the easy path of blaming the Sinhalese. I believe that the caste structure created a dominating mindset which led to the possibility of dominant men like Ramanathan, Ponnambalam, Chelvanayagam, and Prabhakaran coming into power with scant attention to the dominated society. The comment by David K seems to agree with this.

This does not mean that I under-estimate the suffering and pain undergone by Tamils (esp. those living in the sinhala areas from 1958 up to 1983) under attack from the Sinhalese hooligans.

But that aspect has been documented and emphasized all the time, with NO MENTION of our own errors. Unless we introspect and reconstruct, we will always be where we were in 1935. George Willy has even gone back to the Elara era and that is why I have this sense of futility. Was he asking that Rajapaksa respect Prabhakaran in the same way as Elara? That would be an insult to a just king. Was he asking Rajapaksa to "do more for the Tamils"? Or was he threatening that "another Prabhakaran" would be born?

The 1983 pogrom was pushed via a common objective of JRJ and Prabhakaran. The latter wanted to split the cooperation between the Urban Tamils and the UNP, while JRJ and the sinhalese thugs wanted to take vengeance on the 1977 riots and the insurrection in the North.

These are, of course, all partial truths, and even a simple judicial inquiry on 1983 has not been held. Who delayed the enforcement of law and order? Why did the Tamil IGPs and DIGs who controlled the Colombo areas remain passive? What was, for example, Minister Matthew's role in all this, as was alleged?

4. But the bottom line is, unlike the Hispanics of America, or the Jews of new York, who worked for their communities without provoking the majority, our political leaders were self-serving lawyers like Ponnambalam and Chelvanayagam who pursued the creation of their own impossible dreams of kingship while putting into harms way, the poor and under-privilaged. If they wanted a proper settlement, they should have cooperated with SWRD Bandaranaike from the 1930s onwards, when there were many efforts, even by Banda himself, for fedaralism etc. Even in 1956, I think Banda used "sinhala only" as an opportunistic slogan. If the Tamil leaders had joined Banda's government which was really an anti-colonial movement(expunging colonialists and the JRJ-type confirmed racists), as did Marikkar and other Muslims, the resulting good will would have lead to a happy federal settlement. BUt we even tar-brushed the "Sri" car plates.

So the Ponna- or Chleva-Nagathana click never wanted to make such concessions, even with Dudley. It was Thiruchelvam's influence that always led to some softer approaches.

Any way, that was how I saw it, and I was in colombo in that era, working at Malay street, living among the Sinhalese. There, I realized that Sinhalese society was far fairer to me and my wife (Estate tamil from Hatton) than I had ever experienced, living among my "own people".

But we have to stop thinking in terms of "Our own people", and think in terms of the "every one".

We have to make very serious adjustments in our narrow view of society.

Tamils have to criticise and examine their own social structure, which is actually far ahead of that in Tamil Naadu.

The LTTE war has produced some leveling and and an occasion to revamp, but at great cost. Women were NOT emancipated by Prabhakaran, but used as a weapon. The genocide was caused by Prabhakaran, and not by the SL government. Ask (privately) the millions of working, non-politicized Tamils living in the south, escaping the Prabhakaran genocide.

The revamping would be done by new leaders, arising in the North and the east,and not from sharp-mouthed Diaspora lawyers.

There are very few of my own generation left now. My views may indeed be coloured by outdated prejudices and hence you are welcome to make your own formulations.

The Hindu doctrine, with its Manu Dharma, has produced a mindset which self-perpetuates because those who come to power somehow make themselves the dominant caste. So tamil society has a built in anti-democratic mechanism which is very dangerous.
On the other hand, although I was brought up as a christian, I think the Hindu doctrine of moderns like Vivekananada is much richer and more humane than that offered by western religions. So, our ancient culture and language, with suitable modernization, is a gift that we need to preserve.

You cannot do that if you are a minority which is foolish enough to begin a war with a Majority that is five times your size, and sacrificing the next generation for the coronation of a select few.

But my message is simple"

  • Use history to unite people and not to divide them
  • There are no Tamils descending from Elara, or Sinhalese descending from Gamunu, today in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankans are as mixed as a band of temple mongrels running loose.
  • Go for a multi-ethnic society. Follow the xample of the Jews of new York who have not asked for Yiddish in every New-York police station., but looked for a domineering role in banking, professions etc. We had that in the 1950s, and lost most of it by pursuing a chimera.
  • (I thank my daughter who agrees with me politically, and for typing this into the computer, and for blowing up the letter size so that I can read all this).

    Posted by: sebastian rasalingam | October 31, 2010 11:25 AM

    How can Tamils practice the caste system (it is built in the Hindu religion)and then turn around to accuse Sinhala community of racism? Is this sheer hypocricy or not?
    They also keep spreading the lie that ethnic tensions started in 1956 when Sinhala was made the official language of the country. Wasn't it in 1910 that the Ponnabalam brothers were agitating for 50/50? Wasn't it even before Independence in 1948 that SJV Chelva was clamouring for a seperate state for Tamils? Do Tamils not know of these facts or are they deliberately trying to re-write history for their advantage and gain.
    Finally, why do they keep blaming the SL army for the civilian deaths in a war that the LTTE were callously using their own people as human sheilds? Why do Tamils try to cover up this naked barbarism by blaming the SL soldier? Why do Tamils lie through their teeth when they know that these lies can easily be nailed down with facts. Why are they so greedy to have Tamil Eelam when they already have a Tamil Nation in Tami Nadu which is twice the size of SL? How many countries do they want? Since Canada supports them so much and is a huge wealthy country why don't they ask for a Tamil Eelam in Canada?

    Posted by: Hemamali | November 1, 2010 07:20 PM

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