Feature Article

"Para Demala"

[TamilNet, Monday, 06 August 2007, 14:22 GMT]
'Para Demala' might have offended the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), but "Pa'raiyar, a prestigious ancestors of the Tamil social formation, would definitely laugh at Basil Rajapaksa for his stupid choice of words," Tamil parliamentarian P. Ariyanenthiran told media Monday. The resignation of five ministers of the CWC from the ruling Rajapaksa government Thursday was triggered by a clash with Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, SL president's brother and presidential advisor, who, in the height of the argument, reportedly chose to call a senior CWC leader as 'Para Demala,' (the Tamil of the drummer-caste), which the Sinhalese think is a derogatory way of calling a Tamil.

The Sunday Leader, a Colombo-based popular weekly, has reported in the week-end edition an inside story on the CWC withdrawal from the Sri Lankan government.

Thondaman Rajapakse
Arumugam Thondaman [L] and Basil Rajapaksa [R]
During a heated argument Basil Rajapaksa had called CWC parliamentarian and Deputy Minister Muththu Sivalingam as 'Para Demala,' a much used racial slur against Tamils, the paper said.

The CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman who was present at the meeting admonished Basil Rajapaksa to mind his language. Hours later, all CWC members tendered resignation, citing to media the abusive language of Basil Rajapaksa.

Mr. Basil Rajapaksa refutes the charge that he used a racial slur to attack Mr. Muththu Sivalingam.

Discussing this phrase of abuse, it should be noted that sometimes back, some southern intellectuals, including Prof. Michael Roberts, have attempted to soften the slur by attributing the meaning 'the other' to the prefix 'pa'ra.'

Both Basil Rajapaksa and the CWC members appear to be ignorant of the sociolinguistic shifts in their respective languages to offend and get offended, Batticaloa District Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Pakkiyaselvam Ariyanenthiran told media Monday.

The Pa'raiyar are a prestigious ancestors of the Tamil social formation.

A cognate of the term, 'Pulaiyar,' is found mentioned in the Brahmi inscriptions, the earliest written records of Sri Lanka, as prestigious chieftains (Parumaka Pulaya) who patronized the Buddhist Sangha. They are very much the forefathers of the Sinhalese, whose elite now try to parade themselves as 'Aryans' and speak of "Para Demala".

The entry, Pariah, from the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
The social ideas of Brahminism, which made Pa'raiyar 'untouchables' and the colonial English which endorsed it a derogatory term in their dictionaries, are obsolete and revolting today, said the MP.

"We live in a world where people take pride in their cultural identities."

Those who watch the subaltern and caste movements in South Asia can see that the oppressed are now boldly prepared to meet the eyes of the oppressors.

'Para Demala' might have offended the CWC, but Pa'raiyar would "definitely laugh at Basil Rajapaksa for his stupid choice of words," Ariyanenthrian said.

It is time Basil Rajapaksa learns another phrase, 'Ma'ra Demala' (the valorous Tamils).

What is repeatedly made clear is that where the Rajapaksa brothers stand on the social question of Sri Lanka. They are not only against the Sri Lankan Tamils, but also against the up-country Tamils, Muslims, Christians, and even against the oppressed classes of the Sinhalese.

"The episode not only reveal the quality of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, but also reflect on the quality of its mentors who try to buttress such naked racism in Sri Lanka for their own greed."

Ariyanenthrian further said he was expressing solidarity with upcountry Tamils on behalf of Tamils in his constituency and elsewhere in the NorthEast.

The Batticaloa MP said that the Sri Lankan state, despite the fact that the CWC had always aligned itself with the ruling party in Sri Lanka, had miserably failed to integrate and respect the upcountry Tamils.

During the heated argument the senior CWC member said if there was a lack of confidence he would resign straightaway. That statement saw Basil going ballistic and throwing, with abuse, a pen and paper at Sivalingam, at which point Thondaman, the CWC leader, got into the act and admonished the Presidential Advisor on the language used and walked out with his members, the Sunday Leader said.

Leader of CWC, Arumugam Thondaman, Deputy Ministers S. Sellasamy, Muthu Sivalingam, M. Satchithanandan and S. Jegatheeswaran handed over resignation letters to President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga Thursday.

"CWC Senior Advisor R. Yogarajan spoke with both Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLFP (M) Convener Mangala Samaraweera on behalf of Thondaman and communicated their decision and the circumstances which led to it...Thondaman was to also inform SLMC Leader Minister Rauf Hakeem his decision to resign prior to sending the letter, stating that he cannot serve in a government that treats him and his members so shabbily," the Leader further said.

The latest reports say that the CWC would continue to support the Rajapaksa government, sitting in the back benches. At a press conference on Monday, Muththu Sivalingam, after long explanations said that they didn't seek an apology from the Sri Lankan president.

06.08.07  "Para Demala"

External Links:
Link: Studying Collective Consciousness over Time in Sri Lanka: Questions for Post-Orientalism


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