I was raised in the middle-eastern kingdom of Bahrain for 12 years. The only divisions in society that you could see there, were the natives and the expatriates. The ‘expats’ comprised of many nationalities ranging from Srilankans to Indians to Filipinos to Ethiopians. In that community you were judged by who you were and what you did, not by where you’re from and where your parents originated. While growing up the best way to keep in touch with happenings back here was by calling relatives or watching CNN. It was very late when I found out about the ethnicity issue, the Sinhalese, the Tamils and their difference. I wouldn’t say it was because I was naïve or ignorant, it’s because people there chose not to let something as stupid as ethnicity come in the way of things. So then I learnt my dad was Srilankan-Tamil and my mom was Sinhalese.
Then I returned to Srilanka during the CFA and so there was no real problem with my ‘ethnicity’ as I was still going around with my passport. With the onset of war again and me getting a national identity card is when I realized what kind of difference my ethnicity made. The information on my NIC were written in both Sinhala and Tamil, neither of which I could read but it was noticeably different from a friends ID which was only in Sinhala. But the extra language made and still makes all the difference at the check-points. I get asked about my family’s history, get my Sinhala tested and asked about some police report I have no idea about. Even when I meet a new person or go for a job interview and say I’m Srilankan there is also the reply question of “Tamil or Sinhalese?” to which my reply is I prefer to say Srilankan but my ID says Srilankan-Tamil.
I mean I really don’t get why this ethnicity shit has to make a difference. I call myself a Srilankan because this is where I come from and this beautiful country is the one I call home. I don’t want to be judged because of where or not my ancestors were from. I don’t want to be given difference circumstances or opportunities just because of something I had nothing to do with. Our leaders talk about achieving unity, so how about starting by scrapping this whole ethnicity ‘tag’ because most of us love this country and in it, want to be recognized as SriLankans!