Ever since I read reports that all citizens
of this country will be compelled to
register themselves in terms of 'ethnicity'
there has been a rising rebellion inside me.
I have no qualms about declaring my race. In
fact I have been called a "Sinhala
Pirapaharan" by no less than R. Sampanthan
of the TNA at a function during the time I
used to blast Pirapaharan and the LTTE in
editorials and columns I was writing at that
I am still being called a 'Sinhala-Buddhist
chauvinist' by my liberal friends, which I
find to be quite humorous. But I resent
being tagged by race or religion by fiat of
the Rajapakse junta.
I get the feeling of being inanimate like
the number plate of my car. My plate has WP
and the letter P which stands for Petrol.
The other letters and figures are supposed
to be some kind of secret code by which my
address and the place where the vehicle is
kept can be identified. The rage inside me
is whether some political junta and their
cohorts could reduce people of this country
through this process of registration to
inanimate objects that can be picked and
chosen for their purposes?
I am aware of many senior and responsible
citizens who do not want to be identified by
race for reasons of their own. We are Sri
Lankans they say. Why should any government
panjandrum be empowered to cow down these
people into doing what they do not want to
Mahinda Rajapakse is now striking refrains
of high statesmanship while claiming
military victories. Equality of all people
and races, human rights, peace and harmony
are his refrains. This is a multi religious,
multi racial, multi lingual society; he
says, in so many words - words that have not
emanated from the lips of Rajapakse, often.
It simply isn't logical to affix racist tags
on people like those sent to concentration
camps, in the age of peace and tranquillity,
In the name of security
What causes worry among citizens of all
communities are these strict 'security
measures' being adopted when this so called
'war' is over. It could be said that the
terrorists may resort to urban guerrilla
warfare as well as in the villages. If so
why they did not do it all the while the
conventional war was raging is moot point.
On the other hand if such strict security
measures are called for the 'war' is by no
It can be pointed out that racial and
religious tags have been used down the years
albeit for no sensible reason. For example
if you meet with a traffic accident the
first query of the policeman recording your
statement would be: Nama, Gama, Aagama. The
first two queries, name and place of
residence are certainly called for but why
religion? Does one's faith make a traffic
offence less or more heinous?
We once told a recording policeman our
religion was, 'free thinker.' He glared and
asked what the hell that was. He then asked
for our parents' religion and then recorded
my religion in accordance.
Do Sinhalese exist?
A Tamil businessman, a millionaire and
perhaps a billionaire by now related his
experience with the police. When asked for
his race he said: Sri Lankan. The policeman
would have none of that. The businessman's
name was Cage (suitably altered by us to
avoid identification). The policeman's eyes
lit up because it was a Western name.
Burgher, no? he asked and recorded
accordingly despite protestations of the
It is ironic that in these times when
learned academics, social scientists and the
like are questioning the validity of various
ethnic groups the government wants
definitive answers about your race. For the
past many years there has been the
deconstruction of Sri Lankan history and
some claimed that the Sinhala race was a
myth! The theory was that the Sinhalese were
no more than Tamils!
Research on genetics
In this context, our dear friend and
Gentleman at Large About Town, Ananda
Chittampalam sent us a research paper done
on the genetic composition of Sinhalese,
Tamils and Veddahs titled Genetic Affinities
of Sri Lankan Populations by Kshatriya
Gautam Kumar of the National Institute of
Health and Family Welfare, New Mehrauli
Road, Munrika New Delhi 110067 India.
We could not make much of the genetic
research quoted but will reproduce some
It says: The Bengalis, the Tamils and the
Veddhas are considered parental populations
for the Sinhalese. The Bengali contribution
(genetically for the Sinhalese) is 25. 41 %,
the Tamil (India) contribution is 69.86 per
cent and the Veddha contribution is only
For Sri Lankan Tamils, the Sinhalese, the
Bengalis and Indian Tamils can be considered
ancestral populations. The contribution of
the Sinhalese to the Sri Lankan Tamils is
55. 20 %, the Bengali contribution is 28.7 %
and the Indian Tamils is 16.63 %.
The report adds: 'The results indicate a
predominant influence of the Sinhalese (who
already have a high contribution from Indian
Tamils) and Bengalis to a lesser extent.'
This is a subject which can cause 'blood
boil' among many people. We through this
research could provide a basis for Sri
Lanka's ethnic composition and need not be
taken as the last word on the subject.
We wonder how people of mixed marriages
would record their identities for the
benefit of the Defence Ministry. If a Tamil
woman with a markedly Tamil name married to
a Sinhalese registers herself as a Tamil
would she be considered a subversive
element? What of children of such mixed
marriages? Perhaps it would have been sorted
out with the officials of the Department of
Census of Statistics and the Elections
But officials of these departments would be
quite different to security sleuths looking
for subversive elements under the bed.
And what of the increasingly Gay Community?
Would they be categorised as males or
Bureaucracies have ways of inventing
stupidities such as in filling forms. Mark
Twain when confronted at an Immigration Desk
and asked to mark a form which included a
query on his 'Sex' wrote: Anytime!