Category Archives: land policies

The Early Phase of Sinhala-Tamil Rivalry in Ceylon, 1931-70s

Michael Roberts[1]

The factors promoting political agitation among the Sri Lankan Tamils since the 1920s, particularly the developments after Sri Lanka secured independence in 1948, have inspired a large literature.[2] Three turning points in the temporal progression of this agitation have often been marked: one in 1956 when an electoral transformation helped enshrine Sinhala as the language of administration and placed the majority Sinhalese peoples in a dominant position in the political dispensation; secondly, in the early 1970s when militant Tamils placed secession at the forefront of their demands; and, thirdly, in July 1983 when an anti-Tamil pogrom in the Sinhalese-majority regions that involved state functionaries as well as people from many walks of life alienated the mass of Tamils and sparked an expansion in the militant separatist struggle.[3]

  Bandaranaiake in rhetorical mode

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Ken Dharmapala’s Pessimistic Evaluation of the Sri Lankan Situation–2016 and Now

Michael Roberts

Mark Salter’s feisty “Comments” placed recently in the Thuppahi Item conveying Padma Rao Sundarji’s Q and A Session with Erik Solheim sustains the combative stance he has adopted in previous Colombo Telegraph interventions.[1] I rarely engage in the verbal fisticuffs that are the standard pattern in blog commentary. Most bloggers hide behind pseudonyms and their physical location in the world is not self-evident. Nor does the format enable citations and bibliographical listings that may sustain an argument.[2]

Yesterday, however, in once again reading the sixty-four (64) comments that were inserted way back in time in response to my article of 5th April 2016 about “Attempts to Rescue Piräpaharan et al in 2009,” I came across a set of comments by Ken Dharmapala that I deem pertinent to our reflections today – as they were, indeed,  pertinent then in 2016.

 “SINHA-LE” agitations of yesteryear pertinent to Dharmapala’s critical thrust

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Barron’s Mss History of British Planters via Three Case Studies

Tom J. Barron … a typed Manuscript I discovered in my study; …. an article drafted in 1972/73 [see below]; …..an essay that does not seem to have appeared in print [see elaboration at the end] …Highlighting emphasis is the work of The Editor, Thuppahi

The history of British plantation enterprise in Ceylon is a relatively neglected topic. Most historical works on 19th and 20th century Ceylon mention the estates, but few have troubled to give them any special attention. In some ways the neglect is rather surprising for by the 1870’s. if not earlier, Ceylon was celebrated throughout the world as one of the most progressive and enterprising centres of tropical agriculture. The reputation of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and of its most distinguished director, Dr. G. H. K. Thwaites, extended far beyond Ceylon, and Ceylon’s contribution to the science of botany and to the study of agricultural economics was widely regarded as second to none. But, for reasons that are not difficult to detect, the planters have never greatly appealed as heroic figures to the historians of independent Ceylon. For the most part the estates were situated in the hills of the central highlands, remote from the affairs of the mass of her people; the capital and business organization which supported these enterprises were largely imported from Europe; the proprietors, superintendents and assistants who ran the estates were mostly British by birth; and the labour force was recruited principally from South India. There is another difficulty, too; considered from the standpoint of independent, nationalist Ceylon, the planters, who relied upon and openly supported the imperial political and economic systems, are not very sympathetic individuals. Dr. Bastiampillai speaks for many people in Ceylon when he refers to the planters, in his book on Sir William Gregory’s administration, as ‘petulant and peevish,’ ‘self—interested’ and ‘unreasonable.’ It is interesting to note, however, that recently some local historians (of when Dr. Lal Jayawardena and Dr. Michael Roberts are principal) have begun to challenge the notion of the ‘dual economy,‘ to question the theory that most Ceylonese were unaffected by the changes introduced by large-scale plantation agriculture, and to re-examine the achievements which the planters made. Continue reading

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The Jaffna Peninsula Plus: Fundamental Water Issues

Jeevan Thiagarajah,  courtesy of Daily News, 31 July 2017, where the essay is entitled “Jaffna: Dead or alive”

Many things can be inferred in the title today! The intent is to say Jaffna can become an arid dessert if it runs out of water. The Jaffna Peninsula is unique in geology and aquifer conditions. The limestone is an important aquifer, and together with thin sand layers form an extensive cover providing a source of drinking water and irrigation across the Jaffna Peninsula. The suitability of water for any use is determined not only by the total amount of salt present in the water but also by the type of salt that is present.

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James Taylor, Tea and Empire in Victorian Ceylon

“Tea and empire. James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon ” by Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine … is now in print,  July 2017, Manchester University Press, 272 pp, ISBN: 978-1-5261-1905, Price: £25.00

 

This book brings to life for the first time the remarkable story of James Taylor, ‘father of the Ceylon tea enterprise’ in the nineteenth century. Publicly celebrated in Sri Lanka for his efforts in transforming the country’s economy and shaping the world’s drinking habits, Taylor died in disgrace and remains unknown to the present day in his native Scotland. Using a unique archive of Taylor’s letters written over a forty-year period, Angela McCarthy and Tom Devine provide an unusually detailed reconstruction of a British planter’s life in Asia at the high noon of empire. Continue reading

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Scots in Planting and in Ceylon

Tom J Barron: Scots and the Coffee Industry in Nineteenth Century Ceylon” in Tom Devine and Angela McCarthy (eds)

The Scottish Experience in Asia, c.1700 to the Present ……………………..pp 163-185

Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Chapter First Online: 23 November 2016

Abstract   This chapter examines the role of Scots in the coffee enterprise in Ceylon in the nineteenth century. It finds origins for the Scottish contribution in fields where Scots were established: West Indian planting, engineering, the colonial civil service, the army, business and mercantile activity and banking as well as agriculture. Family ties and chain migration are seen as elements in the recruitment of Scots for employment in Ceylon along with targeted campaigns and press appeals. How and why the social basis of migration changed in the late nineteenth century is outlined along with the difficulties which arise in estimating how large was the Scots presence. The chapter ends by indicating that their experiences in Ceylon offered Scots the means to seek further employment opportunities elsewhere. Continue reading

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Narrating Tamil Nationalism: Subjectivities and Issues

 Michael Roberts,  being a reprint of a review article in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, s., Vol. XXVII, no.1, April 2004 …… with a review of this essay by Bandu de Silva having appeared earlier Thuppahi. The version here has highlighted emphasis to aid the reader –clearly a ‘work ‘in 2017.

     ONE

Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson, now regrettably with his maker, remains Sri Lanka’s leading political scientist, with numerous books associated with his name. He had secured eminence as early as the 1970s, when attached to Peradeniya University, and this reputation enabled him to move to a Professorship at the University of New Brunswick around 1972. It was his considerable scholarly reputation that encouraged the president of Sri Lanka and leader of the right-wing United National Party, J. R. Jayewardene, to utilise his consultative services in the political negotiations and constitutional engineering that occurred in the period 1978–83. His participation was facilitated by K. M. de Silva, a confidante of the president as well as Wilson’s long-time friend.

 Wilson     KM dde Silva Continue reading

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July 19, 2017 · 3:39 pm