Former Judge of the Supreme Court and parliamentarian and former Chief Minister of the North Justice C.V Wigneswaran has traced the history of the Sinhalese and Tamils and the roots of the two communities and the different cultural backgrounds they have been nurtured right throughout history.

#Justice Wigneswaran was answering the question of whether enmity between the Sinhalese and the Tamils would ever end.

Justice Wigneswaran’s sons are married to Sinhalese and he studied at the Royal College before taking to law and joining the judiciary.

Justice Wigneswaran said the following tracing the history of the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

As a Judge who had settled hundreds of cases I am pretty sure the Sinhala -Tamil enmity as you call it is not deep-rooted. It is a created enmity. The culprits have been the politicians. Most Sinhala politicians at the start in the early part of the 20th century, were born Christians. Their forefathers had imbibed the Western way of life. With Independence, they had to make the transition from being Brown Sahibs to so-called Nationalist Leaders. Buddhism, the National Dress and mouthing Anti Tamil sentiments gave them the necessary tools to make the transition. Most of them ostensibly converted to Buddhism or simply shed their Christian background, donned the so called National Dress and paid lip service to Sinhala language and Buddhism in order to ensure sufficient Sinhala votes from their constituents in a changed atmosphere where the British had consented to give Independence to the Island.

A person like SWRD Bandaranaike who had openly canvassed for federalism for the IsIand in 1926 on return from Oxford, had brought in the Sinhala Only Act in 1956.  Why? Because he had to fight against the villainy of D.S. Senanayake who overlooked SWRD’s claim to seniority and made his son Dudley the Prime Minister. Dudley after some time resigned and Sir John Kotelawala became Prime Minister. To beat Kotelawala at the general elections, SWRD asked for the support of the pancha maha balavegaya in return for the making of Sinhala the only State language. The Buddhist clergy, Ayurvedic Physicians, Teachers, Farmers and Workers all rallied around to make SWRD win the general election in 1956 and he was therefore forced to grant their request to make Sinhala the only Official State Language.  Actually, the Sinhala language was ill-equipped to take over as the official State language having come into existence only in the 6th and 7th Centuries AD. But the Sinhalese borrowed a lot from Hindi and other languages. When Professor Malalasekera was Ceylonese High Commissioner in India, he searched and compiled many Hindi and Sanskrit technical terms to be used in our official glossaries after adopting them into the Sinhala language. Professor’s son Indra and I were classmates at Royal. I got this information from him.

Sinhala music and dance forms received their inspiration from the North Indian States and States other than Tamil Nadu in the South. My sitar master at the Chitrasena School of Music and Dance had his degree in music from Bathkande University.

The Russian ballet forms too inspired Sinhala dance and drama.

Thus the Sinhala language and its fine arts are recent and largely borrowed.

What is interesting is that ethnically too they are somewhat hybrid! They are Dravidians speaking a language owing its origins to Tamil and Pali. Recent DNA tests have identified the Sinhalese to be Dravidians. Until about the 6th century AD the lingua franca of the Island of Sri Lanka was Prakrit.  Buddhism ushered in a new language taking its roots from Tamil, Prakrit and Pali around the 6th Century AD. Prior to the 6th century AD, there was no Sinhala language or Sinhalese Race. The Mahawansa, the Choolawansa and the Atta Katha all were written in the Pali language. There is no reference to the Sinhalese language or race in any of these old texts. The Sinhalese were born with the birth of the Sinhala language.

Thus there was no Sinhala language before the 6th Century AD. The first inscription found in Sinhala is dated 7th Century AD. The first Sinhala Grammar book came out in the 13th Century AD.

The theories of Aryans coming to Sri Lanka from abroad have been banished from our history books since that theory is no more valid!  So ethnically the Sinhalese and the Tamils are not different. It was a political conspiracy hatched by the Sinhalese Politicians in the early part of the 20th Century which brought about a schism between the Sinhalese and Tamil-speaking people. The linguistic differences within the same race have been accentuated.

When this is realised the chances of continuing with the created animosity between the two linguistic groups would slowly diminish.

But for that, we must have a genuine impartial ancient history of our Country to be caused to be written. This could be done by the Government with aid from UNESCO. Indian and International historians too must be included in the Committee working on this project.

Lots of genuine historical facts need to be brought out in these books on history.

For example,

  1. that the Tamil language is the oldest language spoken in this Island.
  2. Buddhism was introduced initially among the Tamils and there were a considerable number of Buddhists among the Tamils living throughout the Country. Mahawansa refers to thirty-odd Tamil Chieftains being overcome by Dushta Kamini (in the present Eastern Province) during his journey towards Anuradhapura from the South. There is no reference to any Sinhala Kings or Chieftains. In fact, Dushta Kamini was a Buddhist Tamil while Ellalan the King in Anuradhapura was a Saivaite Tamil. There were no Sinhalese born yet!
  3. That the Sinhala language is very recent. It was a mixture of Tamil and Pali.
  4. DNA tests have confirmed that the present-day Sinhalese are Dravidians.
  5. Even in recent times during the coronation of Don Juan Dharmapala, Tamils from Madurai were brought here and they mixed with the Sinhalese and call themselves Sinhalese today.

If these truths are brought out officially by the Historians both local and International the chances of the Sinhalese shedding their false beliefs and willing to grant federalism to the North East would improve. Only the granting of true federalism, more relevantly confederalism, would solve the problems of the North East Tamils permanently and give way to peace, reconciliation and amity.