Tag Archives: Sri Lankan identity

Caste in Modern Sri Lanka Politics

Michael Roberts

This essay first appeared in http://www.transcurrents.com on 24 February 2010 and readers will see blog comments therein.

 

In a recent intervention in the web-site http://www.transcurrents.com (10 Feb. 2010), Lakruwan de Silva has conjectured that caste rivalry between the Govigama and Karāva contributed in a secondary manner towards the rift between the Rajapakse clan and General Fonseka.[1] In his broad survey of caste undercurrents in the history of the Sinhalese, he also refers to the Kara-Govi rivalry that surfaced during the contest for the “Educated Ceylonese Seat” in the Legislative Council in British times in December 1911. In serendipitous coincidence a gentleman named Nadesan recently alluded to this famous occasion when the Govigama elite of that day is said to have backed Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s candidature and helped him defeat Dr. Marcus Fernando for this coveted post.[2]

Let me begin by clarifying the background to this contest. A coalition of Ceylonese activists from the Burgher, SL Tamil and Sinhalese communities had begun to exert pressure on the British rulers from circa 1906 seeking devolution of power. The British authorities responded in miserly fashion in 1910 with the Crewe-Macullum reforms conceding a modicum of expansion in the advisory Legislative Council and introducing the electoral principle for the “Burgher Seat” and the newly-created “Educated Ceylonese Seat;” while still maintaining the existing nominated seats.

Members of the Orient Club, circa 1907 Amadoris Mendis & the Senanayakes in relaxed mood, latter photo courtesy of Kumari Jayawardena

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Waiting for the Jaffna Train

Ahilan Kadirgamar


Courtesy of HIMAL, February 2010 issue, http://www.himalmag. which features everal articles on Sri Lanka

Even as the people of Jaffna – and those who were displaced – make use of their new freedoms of movement, they are confronted with the effect of decades of political stagnation.

Illangai enpatthu nam thai thiru naadu
elil mihuntha iyerkai valam niraitha nal naadu
maanikka muthuhalum maanburu katchihalum manathai kavarthuvudum naadu
yaalpaanam entru sonnal then suvai oorum
panai palamum puhai ilaiyum ondraha valarum

Ceylon/Lanka is our respected motherland
A good land endowed with environmental benefits
A Land where precious gemstones and beautiful sceneries cover our minds

When we pronounce the word Jaffna the taste of honey oozes
Jaffna, where the palmyra fruit and the tobacco leaves grow together

Translation (by writer) of the opening lines of Tamil song, “Ilangai enpathu” by A E Manoharan

Allaippidy, Jaffna in the afternoon. Cricket outside a community centre.

When I visited Jaffna recently, like all those returning home after years away I too sensed feelings of nostalgia welling up inside. This was my first visit in six years, and almost 25 since I had last lived in Jaffna, as an 11-year-old. The opening lines are by A E Manoharan, the Tamil pop star and baila singer who took Jaffna by storm in the 1970s – a time when, in my mind, Manoharan was more popular than the youthful leaders of the militant movements who would emerge soon enough. I have vague memories of going to an open-air Manoharan concert, sitting on the bicycle bar as one of my relatives rode us to where we could hear the loudspeakers. Incidentally, Manoharan composed “Ilangai enpathu”, with its reference to the palmyra fruit, two decades before rights activist Rajani Thiranagama and her colleagues would write The Broken Palmyra, for which she would be murdered.

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Of Traitors and Patriots

Anura Gunasekera

Courtesy of the Island, 8 February 2010

PREAMBLE from Michael Roberts: Anura Gunasekera’s essay is truly important and is inserted here because some threads mesh with contentions I have presented earlier. When in Sri Lanka in May 2009 I penned an article “Some pillars for Lanka’s future” in response to a request from an Indian periodical which addressed the import of President Rajapakse’s version of patriotism. I repeat it here as Preamble to Gunasekera’s intervention largely because it also represents a questioning of the position adopted by the head of state albeit in a less direct manner than Gunasekera. This questioning, and for that matter Gunasekera’s telling commentary, is in line with my opening essay SINHALA MIND SET which stands as frontispiece to my web-site.

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Peace and Reconciliation begins with Books: CANDLEAID at Work

The Memo below was presented on the website for Australia-Sri Lanka Association in Adelaide. It is repeated here with an update because a small body of Sri LankanAdelaidians is about to finalise the legal foundations for a body called WE ARE ONE LANKA which will be pursuing the calls for reconciliation mooted independently in mid-2009 by Mohan Samarasinhe in London and Mohan Sekaram in Sydney through charity work that deliberately reaches across ethnic boundaries and links personnel of one ethnic community with another in fruitful ways.


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Dayan Jayatilleka’s pragmatic politics

PRUDENT TWO-POINT PROGRAM FOR PRAGMATIC TAMIL POLITICS

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Courtesy of http://www.transcurrents.com,  where it appeared first on 13 Dec. 2009 and continues to excite comments. It is repeated here because it is as cogent as pertinent and serves as a means of reflection.

For their part, Tamil leaders have not yet made anticipated conciliatory gestures that might ease government concerns and foster a genuine dialogue”- Sri Lanka: Re-charting US Strategy after the War, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Dec 7, 2009

Sri Lanka is a work in progress, a jigsaw puzzle that we have never been able to complete because the pieces haven’t been fitted together correctly.

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Analytical Anthology: CONFRONTATIONS by Michael Roberts

B. MURALIDHAR REDDY

REVIEW of CONFRONTATIONS in SRI LANKA: SINHALESE, LTTE & OTHERS

Amended and abbreviated version or article in Frontline, Vol. 26, No. 20, 26 Sept 2009

Michael Roberts’s latest book assembles thirteen of his recent academic essays on the cultural and ideological roots of the majority Sinhala and minority Tamil nationalisms in Sri Lanka. It includes a study of the pogrom against the Muslims in 1915 and a remarkably detailed analysis of the projects of Anagārika Dharmapāla (1864-1933), a staunch Sinhala Buddhist who launched a full-throated campaign against British rule and Christian missionaries.

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