THE FLAG AND THE SONG
Recently Mr. Ashraf, the SLMC leader has said that there is no national flag and national anthem on which we could agree. He has reiterated his position at the ceremony in connection with the birth anniversary of the late president Mr. R. Premadasa. We live in a country in which two ministers, namely Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Thondaman have the freedom to say whatever they think on many matters connected with the so-called ethnic problem. They are supposed to be cabinet ministers but the cabinet and the president are not in a position to request them not to make statements on important national issues without first discussing and taking decisions at cabinet meetings. Mr. Thondaman on a number of occasions has said that the north and the east should be given to Prabhakaran for five years. He has made such statements while the government is engaged in military operations against the LTTE terrorists. Of course, theoretically it is not impossible for the government to have a policy of offering not five years but even twenty five years to Prabhakaran while its troops are engaged in operations against the LTTE. However, the question is whether the government has taken a decision to that effect. In the absence of such policy can Mr. Thondaman go on uttering statements that will finally worsen the situation? Mr. Ashraf has thought it fit to canvas for a different national flag and a different national anthem while being a cabinet minister. What would have happened if a cabinet minister made similar statements in an Asian Muslim country such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia?
Mr. Vardharaja Perumal, the former chief minister of the provincial council of the north and east provinces, not to be out done, has said that a national flag cannot be decided on mythical history and that the lion flag symbolises the hegemony of the Sinhala people over the others. It is clear that both Mr. Perumal and Mr. Ashraf are on a warpath against the national anthem and the national flag. They want a new national flag and a national anthem that is acceptable to everybody, meaning of course, every body other than the vast majority of Sinhala people.
On the last Sinhala new year day the Rupavahini telecast a new year programme recorded in Kantalai or former Gantalawa, at the end of which the national anthem was sung in both Sinhala and Tamil simultaneously. Can this happen in Malaysia, a Muslim country where Bhasha Malay is the mother tongue of only about 51 percent of the population. If the Bhoomi Puthra concept practised in Malaysia is adopted in Sri Lanka Mr. Ashraf will not be in a position to arouse the feelings of the Muslims against the Sinhala people. However, he knows that an overwhelming majority of the Sinhala Buddhists are very tolerant as has been proved in the history and because of that he can afford to make statements that are offensive to the Sinhala people. It is unfortunate that the Muslims who have lived without much problem in this country are being turned against the Sinhala people by politicians such as Mr. Ashraf. It is an irony of history that if the Muslims were not settled by the Sinhala king Senerath in certain regions in the present eastern province Mr. Ashraf would not have had a vote base to become a minister.
The Muslim women in Sri Lanka, whether the feminists support it not, follow the Muslim rules with respect to their dresses, more religiously than their sisters in Pakistan or Bangladesh not to mention those in India, as if the Sinhala Buddhists have given them an added impetus to practise their religion. This is a recent phenomenon, which has led to some problems in the Badulla Tamil Vidyalaya where the principal of the school had refused to allow two Muslim ladies to come to the school in their purdhas. The principal happened to be a non-Sinhala Buddhist and for once the Sinhala people were not accused of being chauvinists. Mr. Ashraf's and the SLMC's policies are different from those of Sinhala Marikkars of yesteryear and it is quite clear that Mr. Ashraf is following people like Messrs. Chelvanayakam and Thondaman. Today the Sinhala people are being challenged by Tamil racism as well as by Muslim racism. Just as much the policies of Mr. Chelvanayakam sowed hatred among the Tamils against the Sinhala people and produced a Prabhakaran the policies of Mr. Ashraf will do the same among the Muslims in this country, with the difference that Chelvanayakam and Prabhakaran could merge in the person of Ashraf. In other words the Chelvanayakam phase in Muslim racism could be almost skipped over.
Mr. Perumal on the other hand is on a familiar wicket. The former chief minister who tried to raise a so-called Tamil National Army with the help of the Indian Army, which did not keep any peace in the country, and fled to India after declaring unilaterally a separate state has taken up arms against the national flag and the national anthem. The national anthem is anathema to the Tamil racists. It is not known whether Mr. Perumal while in India organised the Tamils to protest against the national anthem in India which is in Bengali. The Tamils in India do not sing the Indian national anthem in Tamil simultaneously, and even if it is sung, unlike the Rupavahini the Dhooradarshan is far sighted not to telecast such an event. In fact, I am quite sure that the Indian authorities would have brought those who are responsible for such a treacherous act, before a court of law. Also Mr. Perumal would not have objected to his hosts for using the stamp of the Asokan pilllar and the Dharma Chakra in the Indian national symbols. He should have said that by using those symbols the hegemony of the Buddhists is enforced on the others in India. These champions of the "Tamil cause" will not take up such matters for obvious reasons. They would say that India is not their country and that they are interested only in Indian patronage. However, the truth is that in India the national anthem is not sung in Tamil, Tamil is not an official language and that there is nothing particular in the Indian national symbols that represent the Tamilness. It is the case in the other countries as well. The Tamils in Malaysia will never dream of having the national anthem of that country in Tamil. If they do so the Muslim brothers of Mr. Ashraf in Malaysia will make sure that there will not be any more dreams for them. However when the Sinhala people insist that the Sri Lankan national anthem should be in Sinhala only they are branded as Chauvinists and the Tamil and Muslim racists would start talking of a Sinhala hegemony over the others.
This is not the first time that the Tamil racists have objected to the Lion Flag. From the very beginning Mr. Chelvanayakam was against the Lion Flag. In a political biography of Mr. Chelvanayakam written by his only son-in-law Prof. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson it is stated that in 1947 "Chelvanayakam for his part preferred to use Tamil cooperation as a lever to obtain an acceptable resolution of the Tamil concerns relating to citizenship rights for the Indian Tamil plantation workers, parity of status for the Sinhala and Tamil languages, an acceptable national flag for the new state, and the cessation of state-aided colonisation of the Tamil-speaking areas with Sinhala colonists." (page 7). What he meant by an acceptable national flag is described on page 26. "At this time the question of Ceylon's national flag became a contentious issue. A resolution had been moved in Parliament that the Lion flag be accepted as the official flag for the new state. The MPs of the ACTC resolutely opposed the motion, and Chelvanayakam moved an amendment in Parliament on 16 January 1948 that the official national flags of Ceylon should be the Lion flag of the Sinhalese, the Nandi flag of the Tamils and the Crescent and Star flag of the Muslims. Eventually the Prime Minister referred the matter to a committee of both houses of Parliament, its Tamil members being G. G. Ponnambalam and S. Nadesan, a member of the upper house and an eminent lawyer. The committee's compromise on the flag was accepted, but Nadesan wrote a dissenting opinion."
On page 35, we find the compromise. "On 15 February 1950 the 'Ceylon Daily News' reported that an 'honourable settlement' had been reached on the national flag, which would be the Sinhala lion, the symbol of the last Sinhala kingdom of Kandy before its seizure by the British in 1815, placed alongside green and saffron stripes representing the Muslim and Tamil minorities respectively. As a member of the National Flag Committee, Ponnambalam had advocated such a design, while the other Ceylon Tamil member, Senator S. Nadesan (an Independent), dissented ................ The UNP Tamils and the ACTC accepted the compromise, but the FP disdained it and rejected the modified lion flag as the national flag."
In response to Mr. Vardharaja Perumal, I will not say anything on the mythology of Sinhala history here as I am dealing with the so-called myths separately in a series of articles. However, I would like to know from Mr. Perumal the significance of the Nandi flag of the Tamils. The Buddhists who have heard of the Nandi Visala Jathaka story know of a big and strong Nandi or a bull. It is clear that the political nephews of Mr. Chelvanayakam are hell bent on implementing his racist policies against the Sinhala people. The Tamil racists now joined by the Muslim racists are only attempting to deny the rightful place being given to the Sinhala people, the Sinhala language, the Sinhala culture and the Sinhala history.
The national flag of a country should depict its history, its culture etc. The Union Jack of the United Kingdom was created by amalgamating the crosses of various knights. It is Christian to the core and despite the presence of wealthy Arabs in England Mr. Ashraf will not find the star and the crescent in the national flag of the United Kingdom. Neither will Mr. Perumal find a Nandi in the Union Jack. Perhaps the British citizen Anton Balasingham who is in London at the moment could initiate talks with the British home ministry in order to design a new national flag for the United Kingdom acceptable to all in that country. Mr. Ashraf could get an influential Muslim in London to join Balasingham on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Buddhists in Britain, who are not rich and powerful and who have no world-wide Brotherhood (Buddhist Brotherhoods are confined to schools) have no choice in these matters.
The national anthem in Britain starts with the famous words "God save the Queen" and is in English. Inshan Allah, would it be possible to get this replaced by something acceptable to the Muslims in Britain? Anton Balasingham, being a Catholic may have no objection to the British national anthem but I am not sure whether he would agree with the fact that the king or the queen of England has to be the leader of the Anglican Church and the defender of that faith.
Britain, India, Malaysia and many other countries with a history and a culture have made sure that their history and culture are depicted in their national flags and the national anthems. In Sri Lanka the Tamil racists and the Muslim racists insist that the country's history and culture should have no place in the national anthem and the national flag. For them to depict the history and the culture in the national flag is to impose the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony over the others! They insult the Sinhala people by saying that the history of the Sinhala people is mythical, with the support of some Sinhala "scholars" who would like to forget their past in their personal lives due to various reasons. Not satisfied with forgetting their past or denying themselves the personal history in their lives these "scholars" with the money and the "reputation" they get from the Tamil racists and their sponsors in the west would cook up "theories" that would effectively deny the Sinhala people their history. Meanwhile the Tamil racists are busy with making belated myths on a so-called Tamil history in Sinhale. Then finally we have the Sinhala politicians who have betrayed the Sinhala people. There is a Sinhala proverb, which says that even a goat would ask an impotent barber to shave its beard when it comes across one. The Tamil racists and the Muslim racists are having a field day due to the leadership of the Sinhala people, especially during the last twenty five years or so. The Tamil racists and the Muslim racists encouraged by a power hungry and weak Sinhala leadership are attempting to replace the Lion in the national flag, which has a history going back at least to the time of king Dutugemunu, and which represents the history and the culture of the country.
FROM THE PREVIOUS TWO ISSUES