DR DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
“In Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, an anti-Rajapaksa wave”
– Meera Srinivasan, the Hindu
“When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn…?”
– Where Have All the Flowers Gone
It may seem patronizing on my part, to suggest to the minorities how they should vote. It isn’t. I am a member of the minorities. I am also a member of the majority. As a (non-practicing) Catholic I am a member of one of Sri Lanka’s minorities. As a Sinhalese I am a member of the majority ethnic community.
The Christian community in Ceylon was heavily identified with the West and the UNP. It was a prominent, visible part of the pro-west, urban, anti-nationalist, pro-UNP social bloc (to use a Gramscian term). 1962 was the high point or rather the nadir of this trajectory and identity. The Christian churches and lay community paid for this in spades, three times over i.e. in 1956, 1960 and 1970. The Catholics paid for it more, because they had something more important to lose, which for the most part, they did—their schools.
It took Bishops Leo Nanayakkara and Lakshman Wickremesinghe, and scholar-priests like Monsignor WLA Don Peter, the Rector of my old school, St Joseph’s, to repair the damage, rectify the ‘line’ and bring the churches into the national mainstream. This was sealed by the Catholic vote for Sirimavo Bandaranaike and the center-left United Front in 1970.
The Tamils made exactly the same mistake of identification, most especially as a conspicuous component of Dudley Senanayake’s ‘Hath Havula’, and suffered a discourse and policy backlash in 1956, 1960 and 1970.
Today the minorities are poised to make the same mistake as in the post-independence decades.