COLOMBO: The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has assured the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) that the Tamils see the Muslims as a distinct “nation” inhabiting Sri Lanka.
Defining a “nation” as a “historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture,” Lankan Tamils and Muslims look upon themselves as distinct nations or nationalities while being citizens of Lanka, and demand appropriate special rights.
However, a recent statement by the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC), headed by TNA member and Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran, had identified the Muslims as a “group” (kuzhu) and not a “nation’’ (desam), causing dismay in the SLMC.
The dismay stems from the Muslims’ fear that, as Tamil-speakers, they might get subsumed under the “Tamil” identity if the Lankan government accepts the Tamil demand for the unification of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a single Tamil-speaking province. Today, the Muslims are a factor in at least the Eastern Province.
Clarifying the Tamil position at an SLMC-organized seminar in Batticaloa on Thursday, TNA spokesman, M.A.Sumanthiran, said that the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the dominant group in the TNA, under whose name and symbol the TNA fights elections, has always referred to the Muslims as a “nation” in all its documents from 1949 till date.
“And the Tamils have endorsed this in every election,” Sumanthiran pointed out.