The International Council of Eelam Tamils vehemently condemns the recent racist violence unleashed by Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists against the Muslim people living in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The latest racist onslaught on Muslim community has rendered hundreds of people homeless while leaving at least two innocent Muslims dead. The senseless brutal attacks which exploded into five day long orgy of violence, looting, arson and murder was carried out by racist gangs led by Buddhist monks with the acquiescence of the police and state security forces. The latest round of anti-Muslim crimes has once again exposed the monstrous character of Sri Lanka’s ethnocratic state that has earned a murderous reputation for its’ ruthless genocidal policies towards the Tamil nation.
The Sinhala Buddhist hegemony did not start attacking the Muslims just today. It started in 1915 with a politically motivated anti-Muslim pogrom which targeted the ‘Ceylon Moors.’ From May 15 – June 6, 1915, a mosque was attacked and many Muslim businesses were vandalized and looted. The British who were ruling the island at that time, arrested and jailed DS Senanayake, SWRD Bandaranaike, DS Wijewardena, Dr. NM Perera, ED de Silva, H Amerasuriya, and AH Molemure to quell the pogrom. Then Tamil leader Sir Pon. Ramanathan, who was under the illusion of considering himself a ‘Ceylonese,’ travelled to England and met with the Queen to plead with her to release those who were jailed, thus favouring the Sinhalese. Upon returning from England, Sir Pon. Ramanathan’s chariot was pulled by the Sinhala leaders as a mark of respect, instead of by the horses. This incident resulted in the division between Tamil and Muslim communities.
The ‘Ceylonese’ illusion which Sir Pon. Ramanathan and Sir Pon. Arunachalam believed soon unravelled itself when the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony began to expose its ugly face. The pogrom that started against the Muslims in 1915, was soon directed against the Tamils, which led to thirty years of non-violent struggle followed by thirty more years of armed struggle. In the sixty-year war for liberation, hundreds of thousands of Tamils lost their lives and with the help of international governments with vested interests, the war was brought to end after a genocidal onslaught in May 2009. While the Tamils are targeted like in 1983 even today, the attention has been turned in a similar manner towards the Muslims, who have been targeted in the recent past.
The last week’s anti-Muslim violence shows that any community, who wish to emphasize their identity is seen as a threat to the Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony and can expect to be attacked. As the High Commissioner for UNHRC correctly stated, the periodic attacks against Tamils that happens every ten years, is a pattern that is now directed against the Muslims as well. The pattern of economically decimating the Tamils via pogroms is now being gradually directed against the Muslims, too.
The oppression and land grab by successive Sinhala governments, that formed the basis of our liberation struggle, was most felt by the Muslim community in the east as well as the northwest. This drove many Muslim members to actively fight in the struggle for liberation and Lt. Junideen was the first Muslim member to die in combat. However, the unity between Tamil and Muslim communities were undermined by selfish Muslim political leaders, who changed political parties on a whim, which made it easier for our common oppressor to divide and rule. Based on the genocidal war against the Tamils over the last several decades, it was amply clear that the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism would never allow the Muslim community to coexist as equal citizens. Therefore, the incidents in Kandy and Ampara clearly calls for uniting the Tamil and Muslim communities as Tamil speaking people.
If the Tamil speaking people have to protect themselves against the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony, we should unite. Only if the Tamil and Muslim communities in the north and east unite can we stave off the genocidal attacks. There needs to be an honest, self-critical discussion about the past, and serious discussion to promote mutual understanding before we proceed to unite as Tamil speaking people. This is the legacy we can leave to our next generation that can ward of future genocidal onslaughts against us as a people.
-International Council of Eelam Tamils-