SLAAS: Stoking fires of separatism
A few months ago, the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA)
with its total membership of approximately 50,000 professionals issued a
unanimous statement rejecting the 13th Amendment (the 13th A). The 13th
A, we should recall was imposed on Sri Lanka by Indian gunboats and the
threat of an invasion.
It created a non-existent exclusive traditional Tamil Homeland in the
Northern and Eastern provinces which were only demarcated for their own
colonial purposes by the British in the 20th century.
There was massive resistance in the country against the 13th A, but
the ruling government yielded to Indian military threats. Previously the
OPA had done a study on the working of the 13th A and found it to be
most inefficient and a waste of national resources. I have been involved
with the OPA several times including as an invited speaker.
Another organisation I have been actively involved is the Sri Lanka
Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS)which I led in 1986 as
its youngest General President. Usually in an organisation, members
especially those who have taken a leading role like myself should deal
with its internal matters within the organisation itself. But not when
the larger issues of the sovereignty of the country are at stake.
I am writing this article knowingly to bring to the notice of the
country, the government (which funds the SLAAS) and the defence
authorities of an amendment to the SLAAS Constitution which will help
stoke again the fires of separatism which started in the early 1970s.
This is an attempt to grant provincial autonomy to new proposed branches
of the SLAAS which will also have the power to raise funds.
Now on surface, this would sound harmless as other organisations such
as the SLMA Sri Lanka Medical Association have branches. But given the
history of distortion and falsification of facts by pro-LTTE elements
within the Jaffna academic community, huge questions relating to the
country’s sovereignty is raised in having a branch of an academic
This has especially become central because the annual sessions of the
SLAAS last December was to be held in Jaffna University, but was
postponed due to separatist incidents there.
Jaffna University students had begun commemorating the death of LTTE
supporters in the war and were arrested by defence authorities. There
was even an uninformed academic who wrote to a newspaper saying that the
students had a right to remember their LTTE fallen. Another academic,
like me, a former General President of the SLAAS wrote blaming the
defence authorities. But all these are uninformed opinions which go
against well-known precautionary practice in the West in the case of the
only Western parallel to the LTTE, namely the organisations of Hitler
and Mussolini. We must learn from history and from examples of these
The Nazis had brainwashed the entire German population on its racist
ideology, demanded special exclusive areas (Lebensraum) parallel to the
invented Tamil traditional homelands and mastered their signature salute
which the LTTE copied. After World War II, there was thus a period of
denazification imposed by the winning allies covering the whole gamut of
German society which had been tainted by the Nazi virus.
There was unanimous recognition that a military defeat alone would
not be sufficient to get rid of the falsehoods and racist ideology which
fed the Nazis. This meant no commemoration of any Nazi events and
wholesale banning of all Nazi ideological elements and literature.
Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, some of these bans still
The LTTE ideology was parallel to that of the Nazis and is not to be
confused with other armed uprisings without a Nazi type orientation. The
prevention of LTTE ideology re-emerging including through the arrest of
potential sympathisers as in the University has thus strong
This precaution increases when one remembers what was done in Jaffna
University when the area was under the LTTE. Let me refer to the 1917
expedition by Paul Pieris and Rasanayagam of the Royal Asiatic Society
RASSL (of which I am currently the President).
Their most extensive finds were Sinhalese Buddhist artefacts, some
with Sinhalese inscriptions identical to similar findings elsewhere in
the country. The sites they explored corresponded to descriptions in the
Sinhalese text Nam Potha such as Kadurugoda, Hunugama. Weligama. These
RASSL finds became the core of the Jaffna Museum. During LTTE rule,
unknown to the Archaeology Department under whom the museum comes, the
constituents of this collection was renamed by Jaffna academics as
belonging to a spurious invented “Tamil Buddhism”, separate from the
rest of Sri Lanka. This was a total fabrication similar to the
fabrication of an exclusive Tamil traditional homeland.
After the final defeat of the LTTE, formal archaeology based on
scientific principles was again begun in the Northern and Eastern
Provinces by the Archaeology Department, some in association with
Western academics. The reaction of Jaffna academics at this attempt on
real archaeology is very revealing in that they were afraid of
scientific archaeology exposing the artificial history that they had
developed. The best source is the LTTE organ TamilNet.
Opposing this scientific archaeology, TamilNet wrote “Ancient remains
of Buddhism in Tamil land are not a cultural property of today’s
genocidal Sinhala-Buddhism… The signboards in the archaeological site
give a Sinhala name Kadurugoda for the site. … The Archaeology
Department has also translated the name Chunnaakam of the nearby town,
from Tamil into Sinhala Hunugama, even though the latter was never in
Kadurugoda and Hunugama incidentally were the Sinhalese names found
in the Nam Potha and written about by Rasanayagam (the author of Ancient
Jaffna) in 1917. When describing the RASSL 1917 Buddhist finds, TamilNet
mischievously states “It was a significantly different form of Buddhism
that was practiced in the North of Sri Lanka than was practiced
elsewhere throughout the island.”
Quoting named and unnamed Jaffna University academics, the LTTE site
TamilNet makes it obvious that like the Nazis earlier, they are not
interested in facts or science. Let me quote from these LTTE sources.
“N/E archaeology should be less ‘a priority than restoring
sovereignty of Eezham (Eelam)Tamils.” “Unless Tamils … are vested with
sovereignty heritage studies .., are meaningless and dangerous to the
people concerned, a Jaffna academic said”. “Why should Archaeology
Department conduct excavation, it is [not] the utmost priority now,
asked a senior academic in Jaffna.”
“Sri Lanka conceives archaeology as a weapon of structural genocide
in the island”. There is “much resentment in Jaffna over priority given
to archaeology…academic circles in Jaffna commented”. That "the North
and East of the island of Sri Lanka should first be subjected to
‘archaeological’ investigation … before its ‘resettlement’, is a demand
for the cultural genocide of Eezham Tamils … Eezham Tamil nationalism is
a necessary reality".
"Ever heard of ‘archaeology’ being first priority in a conquered
territory… writes an academic from Jaffna on Colombo’s heritage
genocide. Colombo’s use of archaeology against Tamils is not new….”
“What is the point now in engaging in one-sided ‘archaeology’ rather
than coming out with political formulas to resolve the national
question, if the intention is not genocide?” “This is a heritage
Separatism is very much on the agenda still among some academics in
Jaffna as in TamilNet reports. Most revealing are the remarks of Prof.
Sitrampalam once UGC member and once Senior Professor of Archaeology of
He states bluntly “What was refused to Pirapaharan cannot be given to
others is the position of Mahinda Rajapaksa. But the demand of
Pirapaharan, was also the demand of Chelvanayakam and others even
before". This same gentleman Dr. S.K. Sitrampalam, who is also the Vice
President of Ilankai Thamizh Arasuk Katchi (ITAK), the main constituent
of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) further states that “the
Mullivaaykkaal (LTTE) war was like Kurukshetra (the war of the
Mahabharata epic) and Tamils should never forget it”.
If there was any doubt that Sitrampalam and some other Jaffna
academics are LTTE mouthpieces such statements confirm it.
Let me give one more example. At the time of LTTE control in the
Eastern Province, the Kanniyaa Hot Wells were run by the LTTE who issued
tickets with their snarling Tiger emblem to those who wanted to bathe
there. But after the LTTE was defeated, the LTTE ideology still remained
in some quarters. TamilNet complained “The Government Agent (GA)of
Trincomalee … stopped the Trincomalee Pradeshiya Sabha from maintaining
the Kanniyaa Hot Wells stating that it belongs to the Department of
The LTTE had put up a huge billboard claiming that the site was built
by the mythical Tamil king Ravana, and TamilNet complained “The GA also
directed his men to remove the name board put up by the Pradeshiya Sabha
stating that the ancient King Raavanan(Ravana) founded the hot wells”.
TamilNet complained further that “The GA told that the name board put by
the PS had given 'wrong historical information' … and directed the
Trincomalee PS to stop collecting money from the public for maintaining
the hot wells … as the PS has no legal status except the Department of
Archaeology….. (and that) “some Buddhist priests, claimed that the
bricks found at the site belonged to Anuradhapura period”. But
eventually, during the last couple of years, the Archaeology Department
did begin excavating the site and found it to be that of a Buddhist
The academic position among certain Jaffna academics is indicated by
these following final remarks:"If the intention is the preservation of
cultural heritage, the best way to do it is recognising the
territoriality of Eezham Tamils in their homeland”. And “Why should
monuments built by Tamils … remembering their struggle be destroyed,
asks an academic in Jaffna, responding to the destruction of the
memorial for Thileepan [LTTE] who fasted unto death”. There is no doubt
that if left to themselves, some academics in Jaffna would convert
academia into a pro-LTTE effort.
In opposing scientific archaeology, Jaffna academics quoted by the
TamilNet includes also Western governments as accomplices.
"Sri Lankan state is not the only culprit to this cultural genocide…
All countries that have been giving funds, training and scholarships to
Sri Lanka and the UN agencies have to be equally indicted….Western
donors are funding Colombo’s cultural monster … Until the national
question of Eezham Tamils in the North and East is politically resolved,
no funding should be given to Colombo’s cultural agenda in Tamil
homeland, …Western academic and cultural institutions have a responsible
role to play in influencing their governments against abetting cultural
Clearly, there is among certain sections of Jaffna academics remnants
of a strong LTTE ideology and opposition to scientific work in the field
of history and archaeology. The Archaeology Department however did
revive their work after the LTTE’s defeat and found large-scale remnants
of Sinhala Buddhist remains all over the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
These were publicly shown a few months ago by the Archaeology Department
at the Royal Asiatic Society.
LTTE propaganda and false information is found in publications all
over the world. When over 10 years ago, I had won a prize for a paper at
the World Futures Federation sessions in Finland, I was asked later at
dinner why Sinhalese Buddhists ate Tamil meat. I traced this to a book
published by the TULF on whose politbureau was that alleged “moderate”
Neelan Thiruchelvam which book mentioned that Colombo butchers were
selling Tamil meat. Alarmed, I thought we should have in Sri Lanka a
conference to discuss all published material from all ethnicities on the
I rejoined the Section F committee of the SLAAS dealing with social
sciences and helped them organise a three day conference on the ethnic
issue. We did not ask for new papers but having surveyed all the already
published literature, we asked the authors to present them in an open
milieu for discussion. During this meeting, most of those who had
written falsities were exposed while those who had written the vilest
did not attend. But unfortunately, institutional memory in some
organisations is rather limited.
In the SLAAS itself, the majority who do good work are those from the
natural and allied sciences who would not be aware of the false
propaganda that had been done on Sri Lanka and especially through some
current academics still serving in Jaffna.
If it was a well-informed community like those that banned Nazi
propaganda, the present resolution to give provincial autonomy to the
SLAAS including ability to raise funds would not have been presented.
I’m sure it was done in good faith, but without knowledge of the
If scientific work was limited to say study of the geology or the
natural fauna of Jaffna, then such a provincial resolution would not be
a danger. But not in the case of social sciences, where we have ample
proof of Jaffna academics falsifying facts in their search for a racist
The SLAAS annual sessions last December could not be held in Jaffna
but were held in Colombo. When this particular resolution came up at the
Annual General Meeting, I objected but I do not believe that the
enormity of the step been proposed did sink in.
As few others objected the Annual Meeting postponed a decision to be
taken later which comes in a few days’ time on January 24. I do hope
that our SLAAS colleagues would not fall into a future trap of
sponsoring separatism through the LTTE propagandists not interested in
scientific facts still existing among some members of the Jaffna,
When I was General President in 1986 the President of Section C (the
one covering engineering subjects) was Prof. Thurairajah. Years later in
discussions with him and others, the University Teachers for Human
Rights UTHR was formed, some of the discussions taking place at my house
and my wife a University academic becoming a founding secretary of UTHR.
Later to my great disappointment I found that Prof Thurairajahwas a key
consultant to the LTTE on engineering and construction matters. Over two
decades ago I fielded at the SLAAS a lecture by one Peter Schalk who
later turned out to be the major ideologue for the LTTE in the Western
Prof Peter Schalk had also falsely claimed to his Swedish authorities
that he was affiliated to the SLAAS which he was not and his own Uppsala
academic authorities wrote to us as they inquired into some misdeed by
That query and the SLAAS reply did not deter Peter Schalk. He set up
a separate link with Jaffna University and created a nexus.