Thus Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist Country. Sri Lanka belongs to every single denizen of this Country. No single community nor religious group could claim it to be theirs. This is a multi – racial, multi religious and multi linguistic country, said Justice C.V.Wigneswaran, Former Chief Minister, Northern Province and Secretary General of Thamizh Makkal Kootanii.
“It would be unethical to foist Buddhism on us now. It would be counter productive if we try to do so. This is why we identify our Tamil Homelands in the merged North and East and claim a political innovation which gives rise to internal self determination. Of course we claim a separate unit within the merged North and East to the Muslims. If our individuality is recognized, then, in our region we would ensure a secular administration giving equal status to all religions. We would not foist one Religion on the others forcibly” he said in a question-and-answer communique issued on Monday.
The text of the question and his answer is as follow:
Question: My question might embarrass some people. But some in the South are making use of the existing troubled circumstances to stress the idea that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist Country. Recently His Lordship Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith confirmed this statement which has strengthened those that conform to this view. “The Tamils and Muslims are trying to rule “Our” Country. This is a Sinhala Buddhist Country. We will not allow them to rule us” roar many Buddhist Bhikkus. What is your view? Is Sri Lanka a Sinhala Buddhist Country?
Wigneswaran: Sri Lanka belongs to every single denizen of this Country. No single community nor religious group could claim it to be theirs. This is a multi – racial, multi religious and multi linguistic country.
We must understand the reason behind such statements. What they mean is “This is a Sinhala Buddhist Country. All other religions, races and social groups are later immigrants. Therefore all of them must depend on our goodwill and munificence. They by themselves have no intrinsic rights”. This is the point of view expressed by many Buddhist Monks and others. The purpose of such statements is to frighten, enslave and alienate the minorities.
It was this type of talk and thought on the part of Buddhist Priests and some members of the Sinhala Intelligentsia during the past hundred years which led to alienation among communities. They had been brain – washing the Sinhala People and have helped to foster enmity and controversies among communities.
Just like how some Muslim youth were brainwashed to believe that killing non Muslims would reserve a place for them in Heaven to live with 72 young girls, so were innocent Sinhala Buddhists brain washed to believe after 1919 that Sri Lanka (Ceylon) belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists.
But the truth is otherwise.
The original inhabitants of this Island were Tamil Saivites. Even before the birth of the Buddha they have occupied this Island. Their antiquity is connected to the Lemurian Continent which occupied most of the land mass presently identified as Indian Ocean which was engulfed by the sea. The five Shivalingams which are said to protect Lanka situated in Munneswaram, Thirukoneswaram, Naguleswaram, Thiruketheeswaram and Thondeeswaram existed in this Island long before the birth of the Buddha. The present Devinuwara or Dondra Vishnu Devalaya was constructed over the Thondeeswaram Shivalingam.
When Buddhism was first brought to Sri Lanka those who converted to Buddhism were Tamils. DevanampiyaTheesan was a Tamil King. For couple of centuries the Saivite Hindu Tamils of the North and East of Sri Lanka converted to Buddhism and existed as Tamil Buddhists.
The Buddhist archaeological remains of that time were what existed during the time the Tamil Buddhists. Some years ago Professor Sunil Ariyaratna brought out a book in Sinhala titled “Demala Baudhayo” (Tamil Buddhists). He discussed the times when Tamils were Buddhists. The Demala Baudhayo later jettisoned Buddhism and went back to their original Saivite Hindu religion.
In any event Sinhala Language came into being only in the 6th or 7th Century AD. Mahawansa which was written prior to the birth of Sinhala language was written in Pali. On the foundation of the Tamil Language it was the edifice constructed by Pali which produced Sinhala Language.
In Pali ‘Sihala’ means Lion. For the first time the word ‘Sihala’ appeared in Dipawansa which was in Pali having been produced in the 4th or 5th Century AD. May be because Lions lived in the Island during that time this Island was called ‘Sihala’. In the Mahawansa which was in Pali brought out in 5th or 6th century AD, the word ‘Sihala’ is used twice. But the Sinhala Race or Sinhala Language is not mentioned either in the Mahawansa or Dipawansa. It was after these two Pali publications that Sinhala as a language was constructed.
H.A.J. Hulugalle stated in the “Information for Tourists” booklet he brought out in 1947 that the Sinhalese are a mixed race and also that the Sinhala Language was enriched by Tamil.
Mudaliyar W.F.Gunawardene has stated that basically the Sinhala language is a Dravidian Language. Its foundation is Dravidian and the super structure on it was that of an Aryan language. The Aryan language he referred to was Pali.
Those who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka used Pali. At that time the language of the people was Tamil. Thus Pali and Tamil mixed to produce Sinhala. It came into being as a language only in the 6th or 7th Century AD.
Some say since Sinhala derived from Pali, ancient Sinhala existed at the time Pali came into this Island. This is hilarious! This is like saying my grandfather lived 100 years ago. Therefore I too lived from 100 years ago!
Further referring to Dutugemunu as a Sinhalese is wrong. If Ellalan was a Hindu Tamil, Dutugemunu (Thushta Kaamini) was a Buddhist Tamil. (There were no Sinhalese at that time).
Thus historically if viewed at from linguistic and racial perspectives the original inhabitants of this Island were Saivite Hindus who spoke Tamil. It is more correct to say Saivites rather that Hindus.
From pre Buddhistic times until about 200 years ago, Tamils occupied the present Negombo District going upwards North and East up to Kataragama on the South East. Still the majority in the Northern and Eastern Provinces are the Tamils. The Sinhalese never lived extensively in the North nor East.
Actually when Sinhala Only Act was brought in 1956 they should have made Tamil the official language of the North and East. Or in the alternative as urged by the LSSP and CP of that time there should have been parity of status granted to Tamil and Sinhala throughout the Island. Without doing so, forcibly introducing Sinhala as the sole official language of the entirety of Sri Lanka shows the hidden desire, determination and urgency among the powers that be to convert Ceylon into a Sinhala Buddhist State.
Thus Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist Country. But there was a hidden desire among certain Sinhala Politicians and members of the Sinhala intelligentsia to connote Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist Country. May be the traditional expectation among Buddhists that whoever had control over the Dathu (Tooth) of the Buddha should control the Government may have given rise to such thoughts. That was why the Telugu Nayaka Kings of Kandy gave protection to the Temple of the Tooth and showered much munificence on Buddhist places of worship. Kannuthurai, the last King of Kandy took the name of Sri Wickreme Rajasinghe.
Again I repeat, Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Buddhist Country. If it is claimed that since 75 per cent of this Country are Sinhala Buddhist, then we must take the North and East of the Island outside the purview of such calculation and consideration and give those two Provinces the individuality they deserve. Because the Tamils of North and East having converted to Buddhism jettisoned Buddhism subsequently and went back to their original religion Hinduism (Saivaism). Now they are Hindus. There are also Christians and Muslims living there now.
It would be unethical to foist Buddhism on them now. It would be counter productive if we try to do so. This is why we identify our Tamil Homelands in the merged North and East and claim a political innovation which gives rise to internal self determination. Of course we claim a separate unit within the merged North and East to the Muslims. If our individuality is recognized, then, in our region we would ensure a secular administration giving equal status to all religions. We would not foist one Religion on the others forcibly.