Letters to the Editor
25th February 2001
That all Tamils want Eelam is a facile assumption that needs further examination. When the ethnic problem started in 1956, none of the Tamils asked for Eelam. They objected only to being second class citizens in Ceylon and wanted to be regarded as equal citizens in every way with the Sinhalese. This was not granted, although the Tamils kept pressing for it continuously from 1956 to 1976.
It was only in 1976 that the Tamil leadership, in desperation, asked for Eelam as they felt that the Sinhalese would never agree to what the Tamils felt was a just demand for equality of status. Even so, many Tamils did not sincerely want Eelam. They preferred equality of status in an undivided Sri Lanka, for they realised the disadvantages that Eelam would bring to both Tamils and Sinhalese.
Unfortunately, the ethnic riots of 1983 (when many Tamils were killed and their houses burnt) made more Tamils feel that Eelam was the only solution to the ethnic problem. This is the view held by Prabhakaran and the LTTE.
Many Tamils who fled, or as some would say, had been driven away from Sri Lanka, also advocate Eelam.
Nearly 20 years have passed since the ethnic riots of 1983, and many Sinhalese have realised the mistakes they have made, and many Tamils, too, are beginning to realise the great advantages of living in peace and friendship with the Sinhalese in a united country.
However, the main problem of the Tamils-that feeling of being discriminated against and being regarded as second class citizens- remains. If the new constitution lays down clearly that the Tamils and other minorities – Muslims and Burghers–are not second class citizens, and are not to be discriminated against in any way, Sri Lanka can take a great step forward.
We can then reasonably hope for a change of attitude on the part of a majority of the Tamils and even the LTTE!
Some Sinhalese may feel that there is no discrimination against the Tamils. This may appear to be so in theory, but if the Sinhalese were to ask their Tamil friends they would soon realise that, rightly or wrongly, the Tamils and other minorities, feel a sense of discrimination.
This is what must be set right. It needs not only a constitutional safeguard. It is also the way the minorities are welcomed and treated in day-to-day activities.
So let the Sinhalese, especially the leaders, build bridges of real friendship with their minority neighbours and acquaintances. This will bring us all closer to the day when we shall all 'leap to a single bugle, march to a single drum'!
This is with reference to 'Visa agony at Indian HC' by Frequent Flyer on February 11.
When I handed over a visa application in November last year, I was asked to pay Rs. 3,190, issued a receipt and told to pick up my passport at 4.30 p.m. In the evening, I too, was sent to window 7 and after half-an-hour asked where my spouse was. When I replied that I was divorced, the woman visa officer went into the office, returned after a while and told me that I would not be issued a visa.
On being questioned why, she said that I had already been issued a few visas earlier and they could not give me another one. She doesn't know how to talk to people. Even the fee was not refunded to me. We hope the High Commissioner whose grandfather was the Mahatma, would take into account his words:-
'You are not doing your customer a favour by serving him, he's doing you a favour by letting you serve him. Because without the customer you have no job.'
The High Commissioner should advise his staff.
I think the letter from 'Frequent Flyer' is justified. I myself have been wanting to complain about the female officer at window 7!
I visited the High Commission five times and was appalled at the way she treats people. I have seen mothers with children being treated like dirt. A Japanese girl who had booked a full ticket from Japan including hotel accommodation was told loudly that her visa was rejected, while I was there.
I've seen a European who must have been in his eighties given the same treatment. To go there is humiliating.
Another Frequent Flyer
After the abortive impeachment motion in Parliament against President R. Premadasa, Gamini Dissanayake lamented that the country was ruled by the three great 'P's– Premadasa, Paskaralingam and Prabhakaran.
In reality they have created many problems for the people, the country and for generations to come.
This reminds me of three more 'P's namely the Politician, Proctor and Policeman, who should never be trusted or taken seriously.
Politicians - People clamour to lower the cost of living and for a better quality of life, but are now paying for the cost of lying by politicians.
These demi-gods have ruined our country, expect to have a say in everything and are unwilling to leave matters to the specialists.
Proctors - Arabs live on the exports of dates, whilst proctors to Sri Lanka live on dates.
Policemen - These custodians of law and order in the country bend forward and backward to the dictates of politicians.
They create fear in the minds of the people.
With reference to the letter by Manjari Pieris, I feel that religion should not be argued on, but has to be practised. To live as decent human beings, do we need to get into a particular compartment of a particular religion? We see people jaywalking, motorists who do not care about their fellow drivers, photos showing people doing religious activity but who indulge in falsehoods, drink liquor and smoke.
All religions convey the message of love. Whatever religion one may observe, if one understands love, then all beings will be respected. Do other religions teach that anger-pride should be overcome? Has Manjari Pieris seen the Cross? The message from Christ is that you should love even those who crucify you.
There are religions that teach of "God". Whether God exists or not, they benefit because they believe that their sins will be "forgiven", whatever that may mean. They resolve to remind themselves to lead new lives forgetting the past, whereas Buddhists wallow in the karma quagmire. Buddhists believe–that karma follows you like a shadow that cannot be wiped away.
Let us practise our own religions and not argue. Let us think of heaven and nirvana after practising the basics. Don't all religions teach generosity, kindness, honesty, mercy, respect for others etc?
Manjari Pieris should read the writings of the Maha Sangha Nayake of Malaysia and also Ven. Walpola Rahula who stress that all religions are sacred. The Buddha has been the greatest teacher but is He properly understood by His followers? When will our island be a Dharmadvipa?
I read with interest the letter by Manjari Peiris in The Sunday Times of February 11.
Though I belong to a different faith, I am a keen student of Buddhism and it appears as if Manjari Peiris has a wide knowledge on this subject.
All this time I was under the impression that the Dalai Lama who is respected internationally, is a Buddhist leader. In fact I had the opportunity to listen to an interview with him by Larry King on CNN.
I was impressed by the way he answered questions without hurting the feelings of the followers of other religions. I am sorry to note that such a great man is not a Buddhist.
However, I still admire him like the thousands of others all over the world, for what he is.
Since I am studying Buddhism, I think a knowledgeable person like Manjari Peiris would be able to give me some valuable answers to the following questions:
* How can one recognize a person as a Buddhist?
* What should a person do to be a good Buddhist?
* As a Buddhist, should one criticize other religions?
* Could a person who praises and respects other religious teachers, not be a Buddhist?
* Could you kindly recommend a good Buddhist teacher?
The English cricket team is touring Sri Lanka to play a 3-Test series. They will play the first match at the new Dambulla cricket stadium.
When we played our inaugural Test with the English team in 1982, Board officials and cricket lovers would have been optimistic about the support from the colonial masters for the betterment of Sri Lankan cricket. That probably was the reason for inviting the Englishmen to be the first team to play a Test on Sri Lankan soil. After all, we Sri Lankans do believe in auspicious times and lucky people to start new ventures and always invite those who are considered lucky, generous and faithful to be the chief guests at such occasions. But the chief guest was not lucky, generous or faithful.
It is 19 years since we played our inaugural Test with them but we never got more than a 'one-off' Test with the country we looked upon to develop our cricket.
This is no better than the occasional stopover matches played by them en route to play the Ashes–Tests with Australia in the past.
Now the 'Englanders' have been invited to play the inaugural match at the newly constructed Dambulla stadium. Someone has to play the first match at the new venue, no doubt. But I say, that such an honour - if it is an honour - should not have been bestowed on the Englishmen, considering the step-motherly treatment meted out to us as far as Test cricket is concerned. I don't think that the Cricket Board officials think so. For them Englishmen are still their masters. They do not feel ashamed to go down on all fours to pick a few crumbs falling off the tables getting the occasional kick on their rumps in the process.
Our cricketers led by Arjuna and now Sanath have proved and continue to prove that we need not beg or cajole the Englishmen for our survival as a cricketing nation.
When we played the last match on English soil, cricket commentator, West Indian Malcolm Marshal stated that with the defeat inflicted on the. Englishmen the Sri Lankans underlined the fact that Sri Lanka will never again play a one-off Test with England.
He simply relayed the message we Sri Lankans could not convey until then. Maybe the Board officials should borrow a bit of pride from people like Mr. Marshal and stand tall rather than lick the boots of the Britishers.
It would have been a fitting gesture to invite India or Pakistan to play the inaugural match in Dambulla.
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