Category Archives: British colonialism

Anti-Muslim Violence Present and Past

Shamara Wettimuny, in Sunday Observer, 14 July 2019, where the title is “A brief history of anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka”

The recent Easter attacks targeting a number of churches and hotels devastated Sri Lanka. Over 250 people were killed, and many more injured. Within days of the attack, it emerged that the perpetrators of the attack were affiliated to radical Islamist groups in Sri Lanka. However, the identification of the perpetrators as ostensibly adherents of the Islamic faith opened the floodgates of discrimination and violence against the broader Muslim community in Sri Lanka.

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The Goyigama Lansiyaas

A Wandering Laankikaya

Following is an interesting piece by former Sri Lankan (Sinhala) DIG of Police now domiciled in Canada. This appeared some time ago.

Recently I njoyed reading a lively discussion in a newspaper about the ‘Govigama Burghers’. The first time I heard the term ‘Govigama Lansia’ being used in lighter vein was by my cousin the late Neville Algama. He referred to his friend and classmate at Royal College V.T. Dickman as ‘Govigama Lansia’.

Siva Rajaratnam that affable Attorney- at- law who hailed from Trincomalee became a dear friend of mine after he cross-examined me for several days before the Sansoni Commission. He too had been a classmate of Dickman’s. In 1980 when I was the DIG–Metropolitan, Siva invited me to his Royal College batch mates’ annual get-together at his Wellawatta Rohini Road residence as the guest of honour, although I was not from that Reid Avenue school.

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The Force of the Moors. Reflections Historical and Ethnographic

Wilfrid Jayasuriya

“The Portugese, the Saviours of our Culture?” = This is the title of a scholarly article written in the Ceylon Historical Journal in the 1950s by B. J. Perera BA (History) University of Ceylon who was our teacher in the University Entrance class. It was of course “dead against” the version given by nationalist historians after independence. However his interpretation simply put was that the Mughals had conquered Hindu India and ruled it for a couple of centuries and converted a large part of the Hindu population to the Muslim religion as had happened in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia and the Maldives, which had been either Hindu or Buddhist. The evidence in Bali and Java of the existence of Buddhist and Hindu relics supports this view.

Mattayaas in the Gal Oya and Eastern Province interior

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A Review of the Book BUDDHISM TRANSFORMED

Premkumara De Silva,** in The Midweek Review of The Island, 17 May 2005, where the title runs ” Anthropology of ‘Sinhala Buddhism’ “

The disciplinary identification of “Buddhism” in Sri Lanka as an anthropological object began in the late 1950s as part of a growing field of “peasant” or village studies in South and Southeast Asian societies. In Sri Lanka, the work of Gananath Obeyesekere, Edmond Leach, Michael Ames, and Nur Yalman is central to this inaugural moment. These anthropologists have identified the integration of the diverse beliefs and practices of Sinhala Buddhists within a religious worldview that is in accordance with fundamental Theravada Buddhist teachings. Within this academic exercise Obeyesekere insisted on the term “Sinhalese Buddhism” to convey the idea of full variety of religious practice, popular and esoteric, in Sri Lankan Buddhism. He argues that Sinhala Buddhism should be seen as “a single religious tradition”, and not as composed of separate “layers” to be analysed in isolation from each other.

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Buddhism over Time in Colonial and Independent Sri Lanka

Abstract of Article by Ananda Abeysekara entitledBuddhism and ‘Influence’: The Temporality of a Concept” Qui Parle, 2019, Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 1-75.

For almost three decades the concept of “Protestant Buddhism” has been the object of critique by numerous scholars such as John Holt, Charles Hallisey, Anne Blackburn, Erik Braun, Alicia Turner, Steven Kemper, and others. They claim to tell a different story about the relation between religion and modernity (“Protestantism”) in South Asia. By extension, these scholars seek to reconstruct the temporal relation between the past and the present, questioning postcolonial conceptions of history, time, and religious practice. But this story of temporality is staked on the question of “influence,” which has a genealogy that includes not just colonial, missionary, liberal politics but also contemporary legal-political questions about foreign influence on democracy and sovereignty. This article contests the ways in which the critiques of Protestant Buddhism conceptualize colonial and postcolonial forms of time, translated into universal forms of self, agency, responsibility, etc. The article argues that the question of influence, which animates parts of the story of secular ways of inhabiting time, obscures not just how the encounter with the temporality of a tradition is an encounter with power. It obscures how even modern sensibilities of inhabiting time, ironically, require coherence even as they are repeatedly said to be constituted by “heterogeneous” forms of everyday life.

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Remembering SBD de Silva: A Scholar in Every Fibre

Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, in Sunday Island, 16 June 2019, where the title reads “One Thing Leads to Another – Memories of a Great Guru”

SBD de Silva, at 92, acted like he would live forever. To the very end, he kept drafting in almost imperceptible scribble – with pen or pencil, whatever being handy, glasses falling off his nose, peering over some text or daily/weekly newspaper – filling an A4 until no blank space was left, and then, so as not to break his concentration or the sentence, without looking, reach for another blank…

Like Scheherazade of the 1001 Nights who had to keep narrating to save her life until each dawn, so did SB, by day and by night, keep writing as if fresh insights, expressed in perfect words, would make him immortal. Yet, ambushed he was by impermanence. But such dedication to his craft and to the country was sheer dream to witness, let alone to hope to emulate, yet must be upheld as a beacon of scholarship for future generations.

 SBD de Silva (1926-2018) at a diplomatic reception in the 1950s. His classic, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, tracks our own economic history midst that of the world.

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The Building Boom that transformed Colombo over 100 Years Ago

Hugh Karunanayake,  courtesy of THE CEYLANKAN from Sydney, Journal 86, Vol XXII, May 2019

Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then called, had hardly any commercial or mercantilism during the nineteenth century when it was gradually emerging from a peasant society into a plantation economy. There were two major factors which contributed towards the commercialization of Colombo as a city. The first was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 which made a tremendous impact on trade relations between the occident and the orient.

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