Category Archives: language policies

Thomas Meaney, A Review Article, courtesy of the Author and the London Review of Books,… with emphasis by highlights added by The Editor, Thuppahi … SEE www.lrb.co.uk

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Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World by Steven Kemper, Chicago, 480 pp, £31.50, January 2015, ISBN 978 0 226 19907

Tamil: A Biography by David Shulman, Harvard, 416 pp, £25.00, September 2016, ISBN 978 0 674 05992 4

The Seasons of Trouble: Life amid the Ruins of Sri Lanka’s Civil War by Rohini Mohan, Verso, 368 pp, £16.99, October 2015, ISBN 978 1 78168 883 0

Independence was handed to Ceylon’s elite on a platter. ‘Think of Ceylon as a little bit of England,’ Oliver Ernest Goonetilleke, the first native governor-general, said. This was a point of pride. Don Stephen Senanayake, the country’s first prime minister, remarked: ‘There has been no rebellion in Ceylon, no non-cooperation movement and no fifth column. We were among the peoples who gave full collaboration while Britain was hard-pressed.’ After independence in 1948, Ceylon alone among the former colonies not only retained but promoted the monarchy: the Union Jack flew alongside the Ceylon flag; a new constitution was drafted by a former LSE professor, Ivor Jennings; Colombo debutantes were presented at Buckingham Palace; and, thanks to some genealogical ingenuity, George VI was recognised as the latest monarch in the ancient line of Kandyan kings. While the rest of the empire in Asia smouldered – in India there was Partition, in Malaya the Emergency, in Burma the civil war – Ceylon became Whitehall’s model for the transfer of colonial power. ‘There was no fight for that freedom which involved a fight for principles, policies and programmes,’ Solomon Ridgeway Bandaranaike, the anti-colonial head of state who took power in 1956, said when he reviewed the transition a decade later. ‘It just came overnight. We just woke up one day and were told: “You are a dominion now.”[1] Continue reading

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February 10, 2017 · 1:03 pm

The Anti-Tamil Gal Oya Riots of 1956

 tambiah-pic-22Stanley J. Tambiah[1]

My own first hand and indelible experience of ethnic riots happened in June 1956, when as a twenty-seven-year-old social scientist, recently returned from graduate studies in the United States, I took a team of thirty three students (twenty-six Sinhalese and seven Tamils) to conduct a survey of some newly settled peasant colonies in Gal Oya Valley.+ The Gal Oya Multipurpose Scheme was Sri Lanka’s first and largest post-independence development project, whose tasks were flood control, provision of irrigation for cultivating the “maximum acreage of land possible,” and generation of electricity for domestic and industrial use. The Gal Oya Development Board, appointed by the Sri Lankan government in 1949, was modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Damodar Valley Corporation, but was actually more circumscribed in its structure and powers than these two giant corporations. The largest component of the board’s agricultural plan was the settlement of landless peasants from depressed villages with families and some agricultural experience on small paddy and highland allotments. (Provision was also made for larger-scale cultivation, marketing, and processing of cash crops by cooperative agricultural and industrial undertakings.) gal-oya-44

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A Rejection of Reconciliation via Namo/Namo: Weeraratna’s Hardline Sinhala Majoritarian Statement*

Senaka Weeraratna … See Note ** at end

senaka-weeraratnaThe primordial national identity of this country is Sinhale and religious identity is Buddhist. These two historical identities should not be allowed to be dispensed with in order to embrace an artificial secular identity (Sri Lankan) that has neither roots to the soil of the country nor been shaped either by history, common values, heritage or destiny. Continue reading

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Anthropology and History in the Mix in Political Analysis

Muralidhar Reddy, in Frontline, Vol 26/20, Sep. 26-Oct. 09, 2009, a review article

Michael Roberts’ collection of essays on Sri Lankan identity is a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere polluted by callous accounts.

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SRI LANKA, a country of 20 million-odd people of distinct identities, is witnessing a series of momentous events in the post-Prabakaran period. Michael Roberts’ latest book is a collection of 13 analytical essays, most of them written by him an d others edited by him, on the much-debated issues of collective “Sri Lankan identity” and the cultural roots and ideology of the majority Sinhala and minority Tamil nationalisms, and a detailed study of the projects of Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), a staunch Sinhala Buddhist who made a conscious effort to swim against the tide and launched a full-throated campaign against British rule and Christian missionaries.
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Understanding Extreme Sinhala Nationalism

aa-lionelLionel Bopage, in The Island, 10 April 2002, reviewing article entitled  Sinhala-ness and Sinhala Nationalism by Michael Roberts (see details below)

Current conflict in Sri Lanka is explicable by nothing less than an analysis of Sri Lanka’s entire history. But “all history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography. Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself,” says Emerson. In his article “Sinhala-ness and Sinhala Nationalism” Dr. Michael Roberts presents a broad but concise ‘culturalogical’ perspective of the development of Sinhala consciousness between the 16th and 20th centuries. This helps us to better understand today’s events in Sri Lanka that are mostly justified in the name of history and culture.

There was a continuing force of oral story telling and poetry among Sinhala people until the mid-twentieth century. However, faced with the task of superimposing capitalism on a feudal (or Asiatic type) set-up, the British colonialists proceeded with building infrastructure needed for the capitalist economy, bringing the country under one administration and making English the language of administration. Against this background, Michael explains how various communities such as Burghers, Jas, Yons and Ceylon Tamils came to occupy niches in that socio-economic order.

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Gems and Nuggets within the Commentary on SINHALA MINDSET: Reflections

Michael Roberts

A chance event led me to study the comments responding to “Sinhala Mind-Set,” one of the signature ‘tunes’ introducing my web-site thuppahi.wordpress.com – the other being WHY THUPPAHI. The present collection of responses has been cast in spasmodic fashion between 2009 and 2013. They are from Sri Lankans for the most part, with Mel Glickman, Jane Russell and one “Duque” being the only personnel outside this specific ‘embrace’ of nationality. Several facets of the information and thinking inscribed in these comments are pertinent to the situation facing Sri Lanka in the 2010s. I have therefore presented them again with significant segments highlighted to assist or stir readers, while proceeding to add reflections of my own in this companion piece. The aim is to promote provoke debate.

1364002696fea9-4 ssinhala-ness

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The Full Monty: Commentary and Debate around Thuppahi’s Sinhala Mind-Set

I reproduce here the series of sporadic comments on my opening ‘signature’ entitled SINHALA MIND-SET. These occurred for the most part between 2010 and 2013 and I have taken the liberty of highlighting segments of the commentary as guidance and as a stirring of the brew. I invite readers to use these thoughts as an inspiration to serious reflection on the situation in Sri Lanka today in its recent ‘evolution’ after the end of Eelam War IV. I will be presenting an article with my own thoughts so you will have scope for two bites at this mango. This second post will include a bibliography, but an even more extensive bibliography on “Disappearances” is in the planning stage.

 aa-jane-r Jane Russel aa-xcharlieCharles Ponnadurai aka Sarvan michael-2015Roberts

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