Category Archives: land policies

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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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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Filed under accountability, British colonialism, British imperialism, centre-periphery relations, commoditification, disparagement, economic processes, historical interpretation, island economy, land policies, landscape wondrous, Left politics, life stories, modernity & modernization, transport and communications, unusual people, working class conditions, World Bank, world events & processes

The Epitome of Scholarship in British Migration History and Much More: Eric Richards’ Publications Galore

PUBLICATIONS  OF  ERIC  RICHARDS:  A LISTING up to November 2018 provided by Robert Fitzsimons of Flinders University

Publication forthcoming:

 * “Migration at Extremes”. Keynote address at the conference Colonial and Wartime Migration, 1815-1918, Amiens, France, 12-14 September, 2018.

*  “Migrants in Crisis in Nineteenth-Century Britain.” In The Oxford Handbook of Migration Crises, edited by Cecilia Manjvar, Marie Ruiz and Immanuel Ness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

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Sri Lanka’s Political Story from 1948-2018 in a Slash-and-Burn Nutshell

Qadri Ismail, in Groundviews, 3 November 2018, where the title is “WHAT, to the minority, is democracy?” ….with emphasis insertedby the Editor, Thuppahi

Maithripala Sirisena violates the constitution, stands to destroy democracy itself. Liberals, overwhelmingly Sinhalese, are aggrieved, appalled, aghast.

As a minority, I laugh. Not the happy laughter of someone enjoying a good joke. But the bitter, mirthless cackle of someone forced to read this script many times before – like every full moon, when the temple speakers blare its bana and you can’t blot out the noise with sleep because the liquor stores are closed.

All postcolonial Sri Lankan heads of government, all of them Sinhalese, have consistently violated the constitution and/or “threatened” democracy – usually by practicing it – and/or oppressed minorities. One could deem it a job requirement.

Just a few months after independence, Don Stephen Senanayake denaturalized, then disenfranchised ‘Indian’ Tamil citizens, already alienated from this country by their naming. Constitutional? Probably not. Democratic? Absolutely – passed by a majority of Parliament. Continue reading

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Land Acquisition Processes in Sri Lanka, 1948-2018

Gerald H. Peiris, being  an article serialized recently in The Island, under the following heading  “Alleged ‘Land Grabbing’ by the Security Forces in Sri Lanka” … with highlighting emphasis being impositions by The Editor, Thuppahi

In view of the significance accorded in recent public debate and discussion on the subject of ‘land grabbing’ in several conflict-ridden countries of the Third World it is necessary to devote attention to a series of facts that are of crucial relevance to a balanced understanding of the related situation in Sri Lanka.

Figure 1 – post-conflict releases of land from the Palali HSZ

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Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka and Sinhalese Perspectives: Barriers to Accommodation

Michael Roberts …. reprinting an article drafted in Heidelberg in 1976 and published in the MODERN ASIAN STUDIES in 1978  … with the pessimistic forecast in its concluding paragraphs being informed by seminar discussions in SRi Lanka in the early 1970s, an article by Martin Woolacott in the Guardian Weekly and news items in UK indicating that young Tamils were receiving military training with the PLO.

Bandaranaike stirring a crowd and Mettananda addressing a crowd of Sinhalayo on Galle Face Green pressing for the Sinhala Only Bill

It is widely recognized that the concepts of ‘state’ and ‘nation’ developed largely out of the history of Europe. In Western Europe the process of state-building preceded and assisted the process of nation-formation. In consequence, the concept of the nation that developed from this process focused on the political community as defined by the institutional and territorial framework. In the tradition of Rousseau, Abbé Sieyes could define a nation as ‘a body of associates living under one common law and represented by the same legislature’.[1] In most lands of Western Europe these developments also produced the model of a single nationality nation or nation-state. In Central and Eastern Europe, the process was different: ‘the nation was first defined as a cultural rather than a political entity’ and the underlying theoretical foundation was in the tradition of Herder rather than Rousseau.[2] Nevertheless, once nationhood had been achieved in these regions there was a tendency to approximate to the model associated with Western Europe. This was made all the easier in such states as Italy and Germany because the majority of their citizens were from one ethnic group; they, too, were single nationality nations.[3] Whatever the dualisms and amalgams in Europe, the export model has been that associated with that of Western Europe—for the simple reason that the predominant colonizing powers were from this part of the Continent.

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Caste Relations over Time: Challenging Frank Conlon’s Reading of My Work on the Karava


In the academic circuit most books are sent to reviewers by journals in the field of study encompassed by the book. My work on Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karāva Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931 published by the Cambridge University Press in 1982 was sent to Frank Conlon, a historian at the University of Washington by the Journal of Asian Studies. His review appeared in 1985. It was, and remains, a serious reading that is not informed by any personal animus, while being obviously guided by his own work on caste interaction in India.


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