Tuesday 14 June 2016

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam- 14 June   2016  
Low Paid Upcountry Tamil Worker

Sinhalese Heritage or Sri Lankan Heritage to Australian Senate?

We learnt today that Mr. Jagath Bandara of Sri Lankan origin has been nominated by the NSW Labor Party to the Senate ticket in the upcoming  Federal elections. As per Sri Lankan News:

Jagath is originally from Sri Lanka and he is the first ever Sri Lankan person of sub continent heritage and the community to be nominated for a Federal Senate ticket by the NSW Labor party. Senate Candidate Jagath Bandara in his statement to ‘Ada Derana’ said, Ever since the day I arrived in this country, I have tirelessly worked with all sectors of our diverse community, worked hard collectively to bring justice for low paid employees and help many workers have the voice they deserve in their respective jobs. The trust that the community has shown in me is an honour and I am grateful for the recognition given to my work.
It has been nearly 20 years since I commenced working with the Union Movement – AMWU and have continued to do so until today.”

What is this ‘heritage?’ Is it of positive or negative value? If Mr. Bandara arrived in Australia from Sri Lanka – 20 years ago – he is one of those who developed the war-heritage that we carry as Sri Lankans. This is naturally shared with others of that community. To my mind, one who is not able to take such ownership is not capable of contributing to policy.

The name suggests that Mr. Bandara is of Sinhala ethnic origin as I am of Tamil ethnic origin. Officially speaking the divisions between the two ethnicities were the root cause of the war in Sri Lanka. One who leads needs in politics needs to be able to identify with and represent the group and not speak as an individual.

In Australia, when I felt that merit basis would not take me any further, I identified  with myself as Sri Lankan – the way mainstream Australians pictured me. This completed the picture of Truth at that level and THAT to me is the Australian heritage I carry with me as a global citizen.  

Had Sinhalese Political leaders likewise carried their Colonial heritage, with dignity – they would not have invoked their past karma which led to Tamils reacting and invoking theirs and hence the  war in Sri Lanka.

It is now common knowledge that the immediate past President of Sri Lanka relied on horoscopes to determine the timing of elections. Horoscopes confirm our positive as well as negative heritages. As an individual, Mr. Rajapaksa still has status in Sri Lanka – confirming that the horoscope reading was not wrong. In fact – it confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa had stopped identifying with his own Party and therefore his fate/horoscope was different to that of the Party’s.

If indeed Mr. Bandara carries Sri Lankan heritage – then it has to be negative in any Nation that is accredited with leadership status in Democracy. Our identities – whether recognized by us or by others in our environment - group us for political purposes. If majority members of the Australian Community of Sri Lankan origin naturally recognize us as Sinhalese or Tamils – then at group level that is our identity. On that basis – Mr. Bandara has Sinhala heritage. This could be activated during times of conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese – unless Mr. Bandara has identified himself through Sri Lankan heritage – as I did. A heritage could be an asset or a liability. Where one experiences costs greater than benefits by the time one reaches the end of that current pathway   – one automatically develops positive heritage value. Where one experiences benefits more than costs – one automatically develops negative heritage value. Unless the experience of an individual is deep enough to override group values – the heritage of the group is also the heritage of the individual. The average Sinhalese carries negative heritage value in terms of Equal Opportunity within the workplace.

Unless there has been dramatic improvements over  the past 10 to 15 years Mr. Bandara’s nomination here in Australia, contributes towards covering-up  Australia’s weakness in terms of Racial Equality. All Australians of Sri Lankan origin need to think against such contributions to preserve their own unique identity and confirm the struggles experienced by them here in Australia. If Mr. Bandara did not face such challenges – then he is not eligible to claim Sri Lankan heritage. He has the responsibility to use merit base ONLY.  

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