SELLATHURAI SIVARASA
Sellathurai Sivarasa was born in Inuvil, Jaffna in 1932. He was raised by his mother after his father was bitten by a snake in his residence. He studied in a Tamil school in Jaffna up to the age of eleven, when he moved to Colombo. While in school, he joined the United National Party’s Youth League, before it was transformed into a pro-Sinhalese party. He later worked as a public prosecutor (Crown Counsel) in Jaffna, where he became a Federal Party loyalist and an admirer of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and V. Navaratnam. As a supporter of Tamil politics, he ‘used to always wonder whether the Eastern and Northern provinces together would be a sustainable unit.’ ‘I used to always have that fear,’ he says, ‘and to that extent, I never wanted to break away from my Sinhalese friends. So, federation was a possibility. I didn’t think of secession.’ Into the 1960s, he began to notice the impact of discrimination in the government service on his friends and colleagues and as a result, began to change his position on the idea of a separate state. In the 1970s, he became Director of Public Prosecutions. Outside of the public sphere, he considers himself ‘a man of all religions...’ ‘Although I was born Hindu, am a practicing Hindu,’ he continues, ‘I am quite comfortable in a church. I will pray, very happily pray, to Jesus. I will pray to Allah, and also, I will pray on the basis of Buddhism. I don’t, so to say, pray to Buddha, but I pray on a Buddhist basis.’

THERE WAS NO DISTINCTION

Sellathurai Sivarasa, 81, Jaffna talks about the endurance of good interpersonal
relations between Sinhalese and Tamils throughout the early genesis of conflict
and state discrimination.

In his interview he also talks about his memories of the British Empire in
Sri Lanka…

‘You see, we were all happy because we had so many facilities that the British
had brought in. You see, on the one hand, when you look upon the villagers,
you found that our natives lacked so many things. They were – I won’t say
uncivilised – but the Western influence was lacking and – what can I say –
the modernisation wasn’t there.’