Sinhala Mind-Set

by MICHAEL ROBERTS, December 2009

One of the fundamental problems facing Sri Lanka today has been an underlying current for some time. Let me present this argument first in abstract terms. I refer to a way of seeing the world that enables a PART to equate itself with the WHOLE and thus to subsume the whole.

In this insidious and yet powerful fashion the Sinhala part subsumes the Sri Lankan whole and provides one of the foundations for Sinhala domination. This attitude can be discerned in Anagarika Dharmapala’s writings. It underpinned the surge of political forces that effected the political transformation of 1956, challenged the primacy of English, made Sinhalese the language of administration and in the process placed the Tamil vernacular in a secondary position.

The 1956 ideology underpinned the triumph of the SLFP-led forces that brought Mahinda Rajapakse to power in late 2005. So, the recent defeat of the LTTE raises the possibility that the merger of whole within the dominant part of the population could poison the prospects of reconciliation.

I do not have the expertise to assess the degree to which such a mind-set prevails among the Sinhala-speaking people, both Buddhist and Christian. There are many persons of goodwill within the Sinhala community who are attentive to the needs of the present hour: a healing touch that is built on a genuine confederative ideology that sees the minorities as an integral part of the concept “Sri Lankan.” However, I do not know what political clout they carry or what proportion of the Sinhala-speaking problem are even aware of the part/whole relationship that I have set up as a PROBLEM.

If you do not consider something to be a problem, then you will not attempt to redress it. So, this little note is a consciousness-raising act. In parenthesis let me note that people who cannot read a text that runs to more than 250 words will not even get to the starting point of internal reform.

For an elaboration of this theme, also see Michael Roberts, “Some Pillars for Lanka’s Future,” in FRONTLINE, Volume 26 – Issue 12 :: Jun. 06-19, 2009 Volume 26 – Issue 12 :: Jun. 06-19, 2009. SEE http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2612/fl261200.htm

66 responses to “Sinhala Mind-Set

  1. I have just returned after a 3 week visit to Sri Lanka where I met with several Tamil business leaders in Colombo. I also travelled to Batticaloa and Trinco, but what I found was that there is no real issue with reconciliation. Actually, there are lots (and I mean lots) of Tamil owned business that are at the forefront of business in Sri Lanka. The strangest thing was that these Tamil businesses have never closed or left Sri Lanka in the past 30 years. May be I am just a foreigner, but I have a very good understanding of the problems in Sri Lanka and I seriously believe that, if there is to be any reconciliation it should come from the Tamil side, because after all it was the Tamils that went about killing thousands of Sinhalese for the last 30 years.

    • THANK YOU, Duque

      IT IS good for insiders –even insiders living outside –to get non-partisan views and readings from visitors.

      Pardon my belated response but I had not mastered this web site system.

    • Flloyd

      There are a great many things left out from your understanding it seems. There are many Tamils living out of the North and East areas of course, many due to the violence (pre-LTTE) that was inflicted on the Tamils as a whole where ever they lived, a huge reason being for a better quality of life and education as their traditional areas of living were severly repressed from full development compared to the rest of the country. Tamils in dominantly Sinhalese areas and areas where there are significant populations of them do get along with them and are essentially part of their society. However, Tamils are at huge risk to even discuss matters pertaining to the North or about dissatisfaction with the State about anything regardless of self-determination. Tamils in Colombo and the south are frequently pressured to vote in elections despite none of parties have an earnest desire to legitimately solve the problems facing the Tamil people. There is harrassment faced by communities in the south to keep their mouths shut and basically have no political opinion. Of course, there are also Tamils who do not believe in the pursuit of the radical separtist movement, but even the ones who believe in devolution are kept under. I think your confusing political opinions with obvious civility between members of communities. That’s all Tamils want: respect, recognition, and to be able to be fully themselves culturally and religiously. Their brethren in the North are being severely subjected to genocidal conditions even after the war. To put it more bluntly: Tamils in those areas are as repressed as their northern counterparts, but without actual restraints. Reconciliation is absolutely from both sides, not just the Tamils. Trust me the Sinhalese have perpetrated a very great amount of injustices that still continue today.

  2. A few of points need mentioning in this regard

    1) The Sinhala are as much interlopers as the Tamils. They just happened to come a bit earlier than the Tamils. They have no claim to “being here first”. The land really belongs to the Veddahs who were cheated (Kuveni to begin with) and then totally dispossessed by the rapacious invaders from India.

    2) If the Sinhala people are just and intelligent as they love to self-proclaim, they should pay the Veddahs a Royalty for the use of the land, like is done in civilised countries like Canada where the original inhabitants are called “First Nations” and given huge benefits, including Royalty on all mineral extractions and mining on their territories. As a start, the Sinhala state can pay 25% of the take from the gates of all the National Parks – Yala, Gal Oya, Maduru Oya etc to the Veddah’s and their descendants.

    3) We must not forget that Vijaya himself was an incorrigible and violent child who’s father not only threw him out of the house, but also banished him and his gangsta pals from the entire Kingdom; and to the misfortune of the Veddahs, this unruly mob landed on the shores of Lanka and took over.

    4) With Vijaya’s and his mob’s genes sloshing around in the gene pool it is no wonder that Sri Lanka is such a violent and indisciplined place.

    5) Adding insult to injury: Flashback to 1985: With Dr. Stegeborn serving as their intermediary and patron, the Wanniyalaeto were invited to come to Geneva in 1985 to submit testimony before the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. But the three Wanniyalaeto delegates were unable to attend because officials of the Sri Lanka Government’s Department of Immigration and Emigration refused to issue passports to them. One of the reasons offered for the refusal of passports was that the Wanniyalaeto were “not real Sri Lankans”. Subsequently, Dr. Stegeborn was declared persona non grata, further obstructing efforts to redress social injustice. I am personally aware of this ridiculous assertion by the Sinhala Officials. Ref: http://vedda.org/wanniyalaeto.htm.

    Worth repeating: In the Sinhala mindset it is the Veddahs who are not real Sri Lankans. (sic) and sick

    6) After the British left in 1948, it took only 8 years for the non-Veddahs to mess things up big time (remember those rogue genes are sloshing around). Here is a litany of woes:

    1956: SWRD’s First Language Riots. Burning and killing and Tamils branded like cattle with the Sinhala letter “Shri” applicable to motor vehicle numbers. National tragedy. In the 1990s when Premadasa threw out the Shri from the number plates it was only 3rd page news. Such is the Sinhala mindset. Short but not sweet.

    1959. SWRD Assassinated, not by Tamils or Veddahs, but by a pure Sinhala Buddhist Priest

    1960s – Emergency Rule becomes the norm. Since independence, Sri Lanka has been ruled under emergency laws for 77% of the time. That should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

    1971. Unruly Sinhala youth aka the JVP cause havoc countrywide and are violently put down

    1975. First post-independence constitution change to suit an individual’s rule, and bogus extension of the life of parliament.

    1976: Tamil militancy given birth

    1977: More language based ethnic riots

    1979: 2nd constitutional tampering to suit an individual

    1984: 2nd bogus extension of parliamentary life

    1987: More ethnic rioting

    1988: 2nd JVP chaos. Even more ruthlessly eliminated.

    1980s: All out ethnic war proceeds. Tanks, helicopter gunships, warships, fighter jets used against local citizens

    1993-94 Assassinations galore: Premadsa, Gamini Dissanayaka, Lalith Athulathmudali and others

    1995 Reign of the Bandit Queen begins (Chaura Rajini. Family bandyism big time

    2001: Chief Justice and President have a world unheard of Secret Swearing in after a rigged election.

    2002 Press censorship, ballot box stuffing, Presidential Body Guard thuggery et al becomes the norm.

    2004 More constitutional tampering aimed at President for Life status attempted but just fails

    And so on ad infintum, with no end in sight

    7) Meanwhile, just about anyone (Sinhala and Tamil) who can escape the local rulers flee as refugees to the civilized west inundating Canada, UK, EU, Australia etc, and importing the penchant for thuggery to their new homelands (note the violent Tamil gangs in Toronto and Paris)

    • non vadda

      What a nice chronological list of BIG LIES !!!

    • Outlook

      The Sinhalese never “came from India”

      The Sinhalese identity and language developed entirely in Sri Lanka.

      They as much sons of the soil as the veddahs are.

      • Sergie

        Have you read “Yatagiyawe yatagiya then” by W. S. Bandara? The book is all about the past and the beginnings of the Sinhalese. Some food for thought! Thinking logically after reading the book show what lot of nonsense the Mahawansa is about. Unfortunately the book is in vernacular. Someone ought to translate it!

      • Sam

        Actually Sergei, the Mahavamsa has archaeological evidence to back itself up. Your weird and wonderful unheard of book written by who again likely does not.

      • Asathya Sri

        Sam

        Things like animal-human interbreeding..?

      • Flloyd

        True, mostly after the arrival of Buddhism from India, but the fact that their language is of indo-aryan origin, which exclusively originated from India, and specifically has been from the prakrit Elu that probably originated somewhere in northern India, clearly indicates that they are just as much Indian as the Tamils. The development has immensely to do with the arrival of Buddhism and the influence of Pali. As for genetics they would have resembled their original ancestors if it weren’t for the lack of woman-kin they had amongst themselves. It even states in their chronicles, and is supported by genetic evidence that the early “Sinhalese” were an amalmagation of the indo-aryans and Tamil women supplied by rulers of the Chera and Pandya dynasties who had formed an alliance with the group early on to fend from the rival Cholas. The Veddah populace was largely incorporated into the developing Sinhalese identity, as even now their language is not their original and is a variant of Sinhalese. If you define Sinhalese as just the genetic composition of the group, than that is inefficient as the Sinhalese gene pool is now largely comprised of so many other groups even colonial groups. The Sinhalese identity is ninety percent culture, religion and language. Tamils on the other hand mostly center themselves around their language, religion though they never had a complete affiliation with one religion since ancient times, and probably their overall appearance in regard to genes that have largely remained intact since ancient times. The Tamils of Sri Lanka are variant of the Tamil populations in India in regard to dialect, food, dress, and certain other customs. If you look at the food and customs of the Sinhalese they are not completely unique, with a huge South Indian influence with slight variations. The Sinhalese did not emerge from the soil of that island, neither could have the Veddahs, they too have immigrated from India thousands of years ago probably from a proto-dravidian stock. To say who has “right” to the land based on arrival and what not is completely absurd. The main point is that the country is diverse and not a monoethnic place as many Sinhalese have strived to make it years ago and even to some extent still regard others as invaders of “their” land. The problem is intolerance and lack of knowledge of others’ cultures and that is what keeps everyone apart.

      • Nimble

        Before thinking of all the actors of a latter scene take of a note of how the Indian subcontinent called ‘Pangea’ moved northwards from the south, probably a land breakaway from the antarctica, and imagine our Veddah’s in an Inuit’s tuxedo. I wonder why our pseudo-historians mutter on much of archaeological evidences without contemplating on geography. It seems after all Darshanie to Tuppahi need to excavate their sciences of myth based on geology as well as zoology.

  3. marcus fernando

    history would repeat

  4. MEL GLICKMAN

    NOTHING…and I mean NOTHING…can justify the brutal terrorism inflicted by the LTTE on Sri Lanka. Their demands for the creation of a mono-ethnic racist State of Eelam – occupying no less than 50% of the Island – is totally untenable. I salute President Rajapaksa for his brilliant campaign in finally defeating the Tamil Tigers – after a prolonged and futile civil war over 30 years and 6 failed cease-fires – while shutting out and ignoring the biased UN, the bleeding heart West, and the press. Would that Israel would do the same with Hamas.

    The Tamils have NO LEGITIMATE CLAIM to independence – historical or otherwise. Their only sordid history apart from being imported by the Dutch and English – who forcibly supplanted the Sinhalese from the East coast – and the Dravidian invasion of Jaffna in 1948 – was the destruction of Budhist temples and defeat of Sinhala kings in Kandy and elsewhere in the 700’s, 1000’s, and 1200’s.

    It was the English colonialists who created the problem in the first place with their anti- Sinhala, pro-Tamil policies.

    This white Canadian with no ethnic axe to grind, after researching the history of Sri Lanka and visiting there, is 100% behind the Government and against the Tamil Eelamists – many living in Toronto, unfortunately.

    The country is re-building at a rapid pace, the North and East are being developed for tourism by the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans – to the benefit of the Tamils; all citizens – Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Christian are living and working peacefully together, tourism is increasing yearly – Germans, French, Asians, Middle Easterners, Australians, British tourists are flooding the country, the Sri Lankan stock market is the highest performing in the world – and all this success is being challenged by false accusations of War Crimes from a dysfunctional UN.

    I resent the Moon Report and its backers. Sri Lanka has nothing to apologize for. The LTTE were the real criminals. Many Tamils – held as human shields – were RESCUED by the SLA from the Tigers – who shot them in the back.

    To accuse Sri Lanka of war crimes is a travesty of justice.

    • shalala

      I am so happy that there are people in this world who can actually think clearly and focus on keeping peace in the country so Sri Lankans ( and by that I mean both tamil, muslim, christian and sinhalese) can live in harmony and peace together.
      To the author off this blogg: By claiming that there were War Crimes will only lead to another war. It was most probably war crimes from both sides at some point (no one here is innocent!), but by taking these issue up now will only cause another war. Do you really want to put the innocent tamil and sinhalese people into this again?

      I so agree with the comment above. Sri Lanka has finally managed to get up again and I can personally assure you (since I went Jaffna some weeks ago) that the tamil and the sinhalese people live quite good together. I actually did personal survey to find out whether the tamil people actually were treated good after the war, and guess what… Yes they are. They are more happy now that this war is over, as they finally can live in peace and not to forget, are treated on the same level as everyone else in the country.

      I am actually so sick and tired of this propoganda which is going on stating that the tamil and sinhalese people can not live together, tamils are treated badly and that they want their own country. Well, the only tamils who actually wish for their own state are actually those living abroad. The rest would rather stay in peace as one unity.
      Tamils living in Sri Lanka are quite happy and I think those people are the ones that should have the most to say at this point. Cus those living abroad are just sitting in their safe sofa watching the news and making storys to make it even worse for those on the tv-screen… quite sad.
      Anyway I hope that the next generation can use their minds and melt together as one, cus thats what the two groups are. Two beautiful groups melting inn to a even more beautiful nation.

    • Flloyd

      What baffles me so much is that anytime there is a remark or suggestion about the political sphere and criticism of the current regime of Sri Lanka, apologists of the regime and avid extremists conclude that whoever talks in such a way to not appease is a ‘terrorist.’ The only terrorists I think are those who try to whitewash the crimes of both the rebels and the government. Unless state terrorism is magically exempt. State terrorism is something still going on, while there are no more rebel activity due mainly because the people of the North and East are weary from the war and the the immense consequences felt by them and as well the intense supervision and meddling of the military and government into the public and private lives of them. Aside, talk of and independent state is not gone, but as long as those continue to spell the terrorism label onto those views, the whole country will never move on. There will always be talk of an independent state, whether there is war or not because it is a view, and not one synonymous with the rebel group exculsively, this view has predated their advent. It is not wrong either to assume a view, it is a radical form of self-determination, but not wrong. It only became dangerous when rebel groups formed to make it happen due to the non-existant political space at the time and will be dangerous if people talk of the emergence of such a group again. Devolution is another view, one more compatible with the interests of the bigger state and current situation of the country. The current mindset of the state and its people is one of a jingoistic triumphalism. The Sinhala-mindset functions strongly at this level, condemning people to be terrorists and looking at the situation one-sided, while not thinking about the future political situation of the Tamils, just talking smack. The mindset can also account for the discrimination against the Muslims currently. Self-determination of the Tamil people is a huge item on the agenda of the Sri Lankan state, so as to ignore it, as the regime has been doing so far, and ignore genuine reconciliation, as well being ignored, will result in a possible reemergence of such a group. The final assault on the rebels means nothing, just many lives gone, with such a current situation. The presence of an organized rebel group is no more, but the Tamils continue to be tortured, raped, and killed by the state. Many still mention the brutality of the rebels, but in no way can that justify the current situation, as the rebel activity is gone. Ah Sinhala-mindset. Ah humanity.

    • Flloyd

      Whereever your getting your information from must be from a twisted place, your view is exactly that of a Sinhala extremist. A lot of your information is inaccurate as well.

  5. Pingback: James Jupp answers Michael Roberts in measured and amiable tones | Thuppahi's Blog

  6. Andy Sergie

    There are so many publications that not everyone is aware of. This is a recent publication and was given lot of publicity. I read through curiosity. Please read it once and I am sure you will be thankful you read it. It gives another interpretation. Everything that Mahawasama contains is not correct which many agree. Well I don’t want to get into controversies; I only mentioned about the book because it gives another view of our race. You are commenting without reading the book. The book is not expensive considered to its size and the amount of research done in writing that. Anyway thanks for your comment and I respect that you are entitled to your views.

    • This is what Professor Wilhelm Geiger had to say about the monk Mahathera Mahanama who compiled ‘The Mahavamsa’: I hope it will be useful to anyone who is interested about the content of The Mahawamsa.

      “We must not forget that ‘The Mahavamsa’ is not a dry chronicle in the modern sense of the word, but a poem. In a poem, embellishments and sometimes also exaggerations may occur. But within these limits I have the strong impression and whoever reads The Mahavamsa without prejudice will have the same — that the author at least wished to tell the truth. He is perhaps sometimes misled by his education and by his conviction, on account of his priestly mode of viewing things, but he never tells a falsehood intentionally”

      — Wilhelm Geiger —

      “The Trustworthiness of Mahavamsa”, The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol VI, No. 2, 1930.0

  7. Andy Sergie

    Sam that was not my comment but of someone else. I only mentioned about the book.

  8. Jane Russell (Dr.)

    Michael,

    Thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned comments on the Sinhala mind-set with which I totally agree. However, it takes two to tango… the Jaffna (and to a lesser extent East coast) Tamils also have a similar mind-set. At their back they feel the power of 60 million or so south Indian Tamils who give them assurance that they too can turn a part of Sri Lanka (the north-east) into a whole — a Tamil whole. Thus we had the claims of 50-50 before independence (which many Sinhalese and Tamils understood to be 50% of Sri Lanka for Tamils and 50% for Sinhalese — it was not this at all but the slogan carried the idea that it might be). And later so many of the Eelamists produced maps showing almost half the land mass and even more of the coastline to be “Tamil homelands”. Even now so many Tamil fundamental nationalists claim that Negombo is a Tamil town. This is all just a fruitless foray into a political cul-de-sac down unresearchable paths of forgotten and probably bloody history: I personally and idiosyncratically believe that domesticated winged dinosaurs were used by Sri Lankan kings as virtual spy planes (launched from the huge cave at Ella) to fight off an army of gigantic dinosaur gorillas from south Indian invaders — which led to the whole Ravanna myth. But I’d never expect to turn such eccentric crankiness into a theory on which to build a modern nation-state… but both the Sinhala Buddhist fundamentalists and Tamil fundamental nationalists seem to dwell in the fields of fantasy best left to JR Tolkein and JK Rowling!!
    (Once, while waiting for a CTB bus at Kurumbacciddy Junction in 1974, I saw a blackboard advertising a lecture by the then proto-LTTE which showed speedboats pulling the Jaffna peninsula across the Palk Straits and joining it to Tamil Nadu… )
    Meanwhile, the real nation-building (including proper historical research) is kicked off the field by the loonies who can shout louder and sloganise more easily ….

    with best wishes and much sadness at so much blood having flowed under the bridge and still so few recognising what a waste of lives it has all been….

    Jane

  9. Pingback: Jane Russell on Nationalist Extremism on Both Sides in the 1970s et seq | Thuppahi's Blog

  10. Once, while waiting for a CTB bus at Kurumbacciddy Junction in 1974, I saw a blackboard advertising a lecture by the then proto-LTTE which showed speedboats pulling the Jaffna peninsula across the Palk Straits and joining it to Tamil Nadu…

    There have been articles on the Federal option for Sri Lanka, published not too long ago. On reading some of them carefully, one realizes that the Federalism envisaged is federating with Tamil Nadu. This is a perfectly logical proposition, already followed by some sections of the Christian church.

  11. Jane Russell (Dr.)

    Hi Chandre,

    Thanks for your comment and the chance to further explain.

    What I was trying to say in my overall comment, of which you have extracted a small portion, is that there are absurdly unrealisable and positively dangerous options posited by extremists within the Sinhala Buddhist warrior camp as well as by the Tamil warriors of the LTTE et al which each camp then takes seriously and thereby can justify their equally crazy antithetical position. It is “50-50” in terms of who can out-trump the other in going more and more into the realms of political fantasy. However, the victims of this assault on the rational instinct are the political moderates who understand that mediation and compromise is the only the way forward and also the civilians who are sacrificed to this warrior mentality.

    The example you use is typical of the kind of impossible scenario sketched out by the LTTE to their less worldly followers as something that could be achieved. Equally, the Sinhalese who talked (and still do) of “sending back to south India” Tamils who refuse to “Sinhalise” — an attitude which played nicely into the hands of the warrior Tamil nationalists who were able to introduce the label of “ethnic cleansing” into the global debate and thereby gain useful support among the human rights lobby and media in the west – are either shooting themselves in the foot or deliberately provoking the Tamils to adopt an even more extreme position. Whether cock-up or conspiracy, it is bad for peace and reconciliation and that is what is required now.

    Two generations of Sri Lankans have endured thirty plus years of civil war plus a nasty backhander from nature with the tsunami: at least the man-inspired misery can be ameliorated … but not if the Sinhala and Tamil warriors continue to dominate intellectual debate.

    • TO ADD TO JANEs Latest NOTE — a friend in London with links across all ethnicites had this to say: “I am aware however that even onetime moderate or liberal Tamils, as distinct from the pure LTTE rump, have of recent become quite paranoid and look on anyone trying to maintain some sanity as being opposed to them, or as being apologists for the government. “Anyone who is not with us is against us” is what they are saying. However, given the hardening pro – Sinhala line within the South, and the apologetic stance taken by many onetime liberal Sinhala intellectuals in the South, such an extreme countervailing reaction from the Tamils is understandable. ….. what is happening now is that the confrontation is widening and the middle ground is fast disappearing.”
      A few months back my sentiments were simlar in that I felt that within the middle class strata and politcoes on both sides in Sri Lanka the situation is reminscent of the 1960s and 1970s [when i lost hope].

  12. Adrian

    ITs all about walking the Talk, we need to address the individuals involved for policy changes, or our time will be waisted on showing off our knowledge to each other, on history of SL, For both Sinhalese and Tamils, the only way forward is true economic growth in terms of education, health and purchasing power, which only could be done by our President, with no war, president could do wonders to make SL the miracle of Asia – over to you Sir! How will you like to be remembered over the years to come?

  13. One curios fact is that the pro Sinahalese resent Indians in general and Tamils in particular, with out going into the problems of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
    There were times when both the communities lived together.
    Why every one is reluctant to talk about it?
    (Why is that people forget that the Tamil and Singala Kings were also friends and some of them were related by marriage?
    How many Kings of Sri Lanka were helped by the Tamil Kings and vice versa?)
    Is it because it would hurt the Sinhalese sentiments?
    With no apologia for LTTE killers, can some one honestly say that the Tamils were treated humanly in the recent past?
    If one were to go by archaeological finds, one would know that all of us are invaders and interlopers in some country or another.
    Why can’t we co-exist peacefully ?
    If Sinhalese resent India’s invasion,why are they clinging to Buddhism,which is from India?
    On Sri Lankan History I shall be blogging in detail with historical references in my site.-shortly.

    • Lankan

      It’s the Tamils who (1) killed an Indian ex-pm and (2) killed over 12000 Indian soldiers. It’s the Tamils who fight against Hindi. So how’s “anti-Indian”? The Sinhalese or the Tamils?

      • Though sounds rational ,on serious thought it is not.
        Just as all Sri Lankan Tamils are not LTTE,the one who killed Rajiv though speaking Tami is not one who can be called one.,
        it is one who has been brain washed into committing this reprehensible act driven by Sinahala extremism..
        As to Tamils fighting against Hindi,why do Sinhalese fight against Tamil,though Sinhalese are a majority?
        In India taken as a whole, Tamils are not a majority.
        High sounding comments should have some information to back up.

    • Sach

      this man rmamanan is an anti sinhalese racist bigot. just check his blog

  14. S Mahinda

    If readers would like to know the truth from all the LTTE propaganda re-inforced by the likes of Michael Roberts, the English PRESS in Sri Lanka and around the world then please read “Sri Lanka The War Fuelled BY PEACE”. This 600 page book by Palitha Senanayake is simply brilliant and for the first time tells in ENGLISH the plight of the hapless Sinhala people marginalised in their own country as well as throughout the world. When only 6% of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities as a whole could speak, read or write English at the time of Independence it would have been a travesty of justice to maintain English as the language of administration in SL. SWRD Bandaranaike rectified this grave injustice against all 3 communities in 1956 when he allowed all of them to use their mother tongue in matters of administration. He reminded the Tamil community that they too have a proud language which they can use instead of ENGLISH. Tamils were blissfully happy to carry on doing everything in English and had forgotten that they too have a language called Tamil until 1956 when SWRD kindly reminded them of their mother tongue to which they paid their gratitude by calling him a racist and an extremist.

    • Bandaranaike was right on Tamil as a language,
      But as to him not being a racist,history speaks otherwise

      • VIJI DE ALWIS

        SOLOMAN WEST RIDGEWAY DIAS BANDARANAYAKE WAS A TRUE REAL STATESMAN! NEVER A RACIST-AT ALL,SIR! I BEG YOU A PARDON! HE WAS AN INTELLIGENT POLITICIAN WHO USED THE CORRECT TACTICS TO SUIT THE TIDE! HE SWAM IN THE TIDE OF THE MOMENT-AND GOT TO THE SHORE! HE MADE SINHALA ONLY IN 24 HOURS. HOWEVER-SIR- SIGNED A BANDA-CHELVA PACT SOON AFTERWARDS-TO GRANT REASONABLE USE OF TAMIL! IS THAT THE WORK OF A RACIST? COME ON, GIVE ME A BREAK. HISTORY, SPEAKS WELL IN FAVOUR OF SWRD. WE- DE ALWISES OF HIKKADUWA LOST SO MUCH AFTER 56. YET, I BECAME AN AWARD WINNING SINHALESE ORATOR AND AN ENGLISH ORATOR WHO HERO WORSHIPS SWRD! AND FURTHERMORE, BECAME A LAWYER, AND REPRESENTED MRS. B. AND SCORES OF HER SUPPORTERS!

      • Thank you for the information. Please forward info along with links so that people may know.

  15. rest

    It is with humility that I type these lines.
    The revenge is not justice, reconciliation or any form of deterrence; though the international powers tend to imply so only when it applies to poorer and socio-economically compromised nation entities.
    Sadly the island renown for her theravada buddhist belief, heritage and peace practices continually being evolved through violence and hatred propelled by outsiders and powerful insiders alike thrive on divisions based on nothing but ‘stirring’ powers, since independence.
    There is no justification for the vicious and most barbaric violence, LTTE terrorism carried out for over three decades within the island and on her neighbour killing one of their most innocent yet prominent inspiring asian sons, Rajive Gandhi.
    It is not Mahawamsa or the LTTE that should decide the future of this treasure island but the all inhabitants, Srilankans of all walks of life who believes in peace, prosperity with tolerance and acceptance of our shared heritage, culture , languages, arts , sciences and beliefs with respect for all,

    • First sane observation I have seen for a long time.
      Blaming Tamils because of LTTE, LTTE .the Sinahalese …is a vicious cycle.
      The majority Sinhalese must adopt a reasonable approach to the Tamils and the Tamils must also let bygones as bygones.
      But genocide…?
      Some how climate has to be created to set it right, by punishing the killers.

      • jan

        I am yet to find a Tamil who has the character to admit the blatant and open discrimination that the sinhalese suffered under Prof Mylvaganum, The health sec, Yogabathan Of the BOC and many others who were in powerful positions . The only thing I hear is discrimination and claim to Land that has no historical perspective. The latest is the canard of Tamil buddhists which is part of a relentless propaganda claiming the whole of SL not the north and the east alone. Their recent arrival, brought by the Portugese, Dutch and the English are conveniently ignored. Having put the Sinhalese at the deep end they then talk of reconciliation. Under these circumstances and Tamil Nadu interference this whole process will never get any where. It is unfortunately pushing the sinhalese to accept regimes that are unacceptable. The Tamils and Sinhalese have to grow up and decide what is in the best interest of both communities. That is good governance and rule of law. A united front with these demands is in the best interest of the country, If not we will be bickering for centuries to come.
        Every one who supported terrorism and the war are killers. So lets not start and end with the final war . Let us punish all those who were involved and that includes the Tamil diaspora. romanan50, I do not think it is feasible.hence best is to forgive all the killers.

  16. Pingback: Disparaging Ethnic Epithets in Lanka: A Chat – Van Arkadie and Roberts | Thuppahi's Blog

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  19. Hi there! Do you know of, or are you familiar with, any Vander Poorten in/from Sri Lanka or in/from Australia?

  20. Pingback: Mixed Messages and Dangerous Oversimplification in President Rajapaksa’s Independence Day Speech | Thuppahi's Blog

  21. Dear Jan,

    I agree with almost all your sentiments — forgiveness of all the killers , once the truth of their killing has been acknowledged by them , is the only way to find enduring peace. And you are right — the rule of law and good governance are in the end the only things really matter – for any country. I believe there is now a Minister of Good Governance in the cabinet in Sri Lanka….and there you have the shame of it : a name is taken in vain and made a mockery of ….how will Sri Lanka ever escape this net of iniquity and lies? Other benighted states have managed it — slowly and imperfectly it is true, but it is possible–look at Lebanon, N. Ireland, the Balkans….they went through a valley of death and have come out the other side…well,hope springs eternal!!

    • VIJI DE ALWIS

      You can’t be more right about Professor Mylvaganam’s innocent victims who suffered in silence! How many lives were shattered? COUNT THEIR PARENTS< SIBLINGS< EXTENDED FAMILY ETC AND THEIR CLOSE FRIENDS! Professor PPGL Siriwardena was my uncle. He related some shocking stories of HOW TAMIL Academics used their positions in the University to engage in endemic corruption to have their TAMIL BRETHREN ADMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY and to see the SINHALESE STUDENTS failed! A COLD WAR? SILENT but BOLD DISCRIMINATION? I can write until morning! WHAT PRICE JUSTICE in Sri Lanka? No wonder Racial Riots and Racial Tension are the ORDER OF THE DAY!

  22. Pingback: Sinhalaness and its Reproduction, 1232-1818 | Thuppahi's Blog

  23. kamal

    Ravana Balaya [An extremist Sinhalese group in Srilanka] by its name is to reveal its, advert and, proximity with Ravana, the so called Tamil King.Lawlessness was his way, so Rama under his crusade epitomize Indian land and formed the warriors of salvage to be plotted exactly in the way the map of Tamil Eelam. Those Rama warriors now living in the land of Eelam represent not only the Tamil but also the entire voluntary crusade of Ramayan for the cause of good; elicited from Indian mainland following Rama, and were speaking many languages. In the times of change and proximity with Tamil mainland they are now speaking Tamil. They did fought for the good and let the left overs as remains of the epics. This population or sanctuary of Ramayana is the remains of the great epic. We do not strain to trace it back and remember the core history of a land. We have to identify the issue by good or bad; not by language or race. These are the traces of many thousand years not of few hundred years of what we studied as text written history. A lot is taught to us by Ramayana viz., Lawlessness & Lawfulness, Polygamy & Monogamy, etc.The Judge lies in everybody’s soul to have a feel before the verdict.

    Say, if I ask ones progeny… it could be hardly traced back upto to 4 or 5 generation only. One generation or one fertile generation consists normally of 25 years… Ramayana is dated back not to thousand years… actually it is dating back to some ten thousand years. It is composed of oral version as epic only. But dynamism is there; the only truth. Or flow of matter. Here we have to substitute matter by population. Land is flown not only by rivers; but also by the movement of population. Ramayan is one such epic in recital form. It needs no proof. Like thermodynamics, fluiddynamics, population has also got its own dynamism guided by mind dynamism. Where a vacuum is created by lawlessness the good forces tend to move in that direction and reinstate karma. Ramayana is one such reinstatement. It needs no proof. It should be understood by good mind, and balanced approach to have a girth of it. And more to say. We do not worry more than the ‘Pattabisheka’ of Rama?. We dont even think what happened to those who accompanied Rama. Had all of them returned back? In a war it cannot be so? Rama only allowed his followers to stay back in Lanka and to protect the main Baratha. I think I am not over dosing? An unrecorded thing never fails to remains as fact; when the fact is fact.

    So is Ramayana. It is easy to read Ramayana than to Live the way Ramayana and Rama taught us.

    King Asoka who committed colonial offences against Indian population sailed off his progeny Vijaya and Sangamitra to Lanka who occupied the Southern parts of the land and mingled with the races of Ravana alliances. He then hid his body into Buddhism for camouflage. These alliances continue to prop in the name of Sinhalism or Brutalism not Buddhism. They have spread their political tie up with Bharatham again even to Tamilnadu with like minded Ravana team. It is the time the wave on their side lashing the plotted soldiers and their family ; subjugating them into rape and slavery.

    Oh Lord Rama. Come again.

  24. TIssa Wellappili

    It is in record how educational opportunity was heavily in favour of the Jaffna’s small minority from 1820 onwards in the classic divide and rule techniques. Not only were many schools established but they found ready employment in the rungs next to the European masters in Colombo. Prof. Kumari Jayawardena’s study ‘From Nobodies to Somebodies’ sheds much light on the 19th century mission school education system. It is in competition to that the Col Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala Buddhist Theosophical Society had to struggle. AD later moved to new direction taking up the cause of ancient Buddhist pilgrim sites in India, setting up the London Buddha Vihara encouraging post graduate studies in meditation in British universities etc. . Vast scale migration took place from India to Sri Lanka and then from Jaffna to Colombo enjoyed the best opportunities. It must not be forgotten that a good part of the same set that received the best of Sri Lanka’s educational opportunities since independence now finance the LTTE with all their Chola dreams coupled with anti Mahinda propaganda in the western press today. Mahinda to his credit is one who can speak in Tamil better than any previous leader.

  25. Andy Sergie

    Some of what Mr. Wellappili say is correct although some facts are not. Going back over the years one find that both Portuguese and the Dutch had schools but most were abandoned with the arrival of the British. The Baptist Missionaries were the first to come then came the Wesleyan Methodists, Church of London and the Anglicans. The American Missionaries too arrived but the government did not allow them to operate in other parts of the country other than the North for the American wars had left a bitter taste in British mouths. All Missionaries including the Buddhist priests sought to make the natives believe the respective doctrines which manifests another thought provoking question. Why would anyone be so interested to ask another to follow a faith? I am not seeking to answer that but say something about the education. The Americans started higher education first where as the other Missionaries were contended by having vernacular and Anglo-vernacular education for it served their purpose of conversion. I have read more than 500 various Mission records of all denominations where in they have published letters sent from then Ceylon to their respective headquarters. It becomes clear that their prime effort was not education but conversions. To the credit of the Americans they started higher education that produced natives with tertiary education. What made them do that? They saw the opportunities that were becoming available in Colombo to serve the government. If one reads the Colebrooke-Cameron papers it could be understood what the commission sought to do. Their aim was to open the government service to the natives instead of importing people from England which eroded the imperial income generated in this country. Getting back to the American Missionaries their idea was to make the natives studying in their schools, graduates or people with superior education and make them take up government jobs. Thus they thought those who took up the state employment would propagate Catholicism among those who worked with them. The natives of the North saw this as a good opportunity to climb the bourgeois. It is not the Missionaries who promoted the education in favour of the Sinhalese or the Tamils. It so happened that education became the mode of climbing the social ladder. The Tamils being enterprising people grabbed the opportunities. Most did not convert themselves though they showed they professed Christianity. Even the Sinhalese did the same more to get titular positions. Life in the North was harsh whereas in the South it wasn’t. So, the natives of the other parts did not bother about education as such.
    If one thinks carefully what human needs are this question can be resolved. For a human, first he must live. To live he must have food. Then comes everything else. The natives of the South could manage with food whereas the in the North the arid conditions made that difficult. Then the social values of the North and South differs even now.
    One must remember the English were Anglicans.
    When the Americans started higher educational enterprises or the so called colleges other denominations too started theirs quickly to compete. So it was simply a case of competing. When one reads old records it can be observed that within a year or so of the Americans upgrading theirs to superior schools the other Missionaries especially the Wesleyan Methodists upgraded their schools nearest to the American schools, to superior schools. The natives of the South and the Buddhist monks were preoccupied with shooting down Christian doctrines and education was not a priority. Thus the South lagged behind the North. The Tamils are hard working. Their life values differed from the Sinhalese. One cannot point the finger at protestant Missionaries for ills of one part of the natives.
    If you look at all religions in the country one could find many sects or splinter groups. Do one need several sects to propagate what Buddha, Jesus or Prophet Muhammad said? All these splinter groups are people giving their own interpretations. Why do they want to give different interpretations?? Let one believe what he thinks is correct. Even if conversions are stopped it will never get eradicated. Why? The bottom line is money whatever the religion is.

  26. Tissa Wellappili

    Sergei – What I cannot fathom is why good schools were not established in a placid town like Matara where John D’oyly was stationed as a GS. Famously he learnt Sinhala from the local priests and a poet[ess]]. Of course friendships if there was not a more calculated policy..

    I have also heard that in the 1830s Methodist priests campaigned colonial masters in London to stop aiding Piriivena education as agreed in the Kandy convention as that amounted to supporting primitive beliefs in their eyes, The campaign bore fruit and that favoure of urban minorities those from Colombo and even more for those from from Jaffna; in addition for Sri Lankans technical education was available only in Madras or London universities that only the rich could afford. I joined the irrigation department in 1968 as an Engineer in 1967. at the time I suppose nearly 75 % of staff at the director / deputy assistant director positions were chaps from the North and the East. My own batch mates in the 4 years previous at the Engineering Faculty were about 50 % Tamil. I recall one of the directors who made his mark in the Mahaveli River diversion scheme Mr H de S Manamperi, a Sinhalese had completed his degree at Madras University. British TV presenter George Alagaiya in his autobiography Passage to Africa made a similar observation about the department of Water Supply in late fifties where his father worked before emigrating to Ghana, A similar percentage could have been observed said of Public Works Department or Railways. Permanent pensionable employment in the Civil Service had its share of corruption, or even excess staff in government departments in Colombo running various private enterprises. I used to hear from one my senior colleagues the uniqueness and achievements of the Mohenjedaro Harappa civilization, perhaps as a reaction to the irrigation works in Sri Lanka Irrigation department was engaged in restoring.

    I suppose numerical advantage in trained man power and business enterprise developed the vision of early Tamil leaders to think of a greater Tamilnadu state on gaining independence, enveloping South India and a good part of Sri Lanka . It is on record that the father of Prabhakaran was an immigrant from India; film actor and chief minister of Tamil Nadu in the late 70s, MG Ramachandran too had grown up in Sri Lanka whose parents had come as immigrants and later went back to India and said to have helped fleeing young men who were suspected for various terrorist activities in the early seventies. Such migrations of people were common in colonial times. They all would have seen relatively more fertile Sri Lanka as a ripe fruit to pluck. The problems Andra Pradesh faced after independence, where a Nizam of Hyderabad ruled gives an insight to the largely Hindu led Congress party thinking on this vexed question of language, race and religion. I hear presently they are seceding to two states, Telengana and Seemandra.

    • Andy Sergie

      Tissa,
      Matara was where the second school in Ceylon was started by the Methodist Missionaries. The first school evolved to present Richmond. The school was known as Eliyakanda School (Browns Hill). The school is no more taken over by the Ruhuna University. There were many other schools they started but sadly most had to be closed down. The third school was the Batticaloa Central, then the Newstead Negombo, and the fifth in Jaffna the Jaffna Central. Eliyakanda School did well but later with other Anglican and Catholic Schools coming up it could not compete. The schools the Methodists started were mainly vernacular, few Anglo-vernacular and even a lesser number of English Schools. It was those Anglo-vernacular and English schools that were raised to superior or collegiate schools later and they were mainly in Urban areas like Galle, Colombo, Negombo, Trinco, Batticaloa and Jaffna. You might be surprised that it took a long time for them to start schools in Kandy. The Anglicans started theirs first in Kandy (the present Trinity).
      You have to look at the question of stopping pirivena education from the point of view of the Missionaries. Why did they come here in the first place? Not because they loved the natives but to propagate their brands of Christianity. They knew they will not succeed in this country. The man who started the first school in Galle, the Rev. Benjamin Clough had his misgivings as early as 1815 and it is on record in a Mission record. As of today how many Methodists are in this country? Something less than 25,000 and even a lesser amount of Anglicans. You can see how successful they were having being here for 200 years. What I observed was that the Missionaries on realising that they will not succeeded in their prime aim turned to education at least to train the scholars to live a Christian life with Christian values. There could be other reasons why the Missionaries campaigned the colonial masters in London to stop aiding Piriivena education. Perhaps they saw what was taught in pirivenas to be false. For instance they taught the earth to be flat, the sun to spin around the earth and so on. This led to teaching wrong mathematics as well. I don’t think it is the Methodists who campaigned against pirivena education. It is the Anglicans who did that because that was the sate religion. Methodists did not have the muscle to do that. Of course some of the Methodist Missionaries did try. For instance Spence Hardy wrote strongly against imperial masters giving patronage to Buddhist functions. If we reverse our roles the Buddhists too would have done the same.
      One of the reasons I saw why these Missionaries had disputes with the Buddhists was because our own Buddhist priests were deceptive. I don’t know whether you are a Buddhist or not, but in Buddhism there is no place for idolatry, black magic etc. which the Buddhist priests practiced and continue to do so even today. For that matter what we know as our religions are not exactly what Buddha, Christ or Muhammad preached. They are interpretations by their followers twisted for their own advantages.
      The first Medical School in the country was started by the American Mission in the East. Why our scholars had to go to either Calcutta or Madras University was when the schools were made collegiate they were affiliated to these two Universities. Later they were affiliated to Oxford and Cambridge.
      When a Tamil or a Sinhalese got into a government department they will promote their own people. Some of the richest people in this country were the Sinhalese but they weren’t much concerned with education then. They were more interested in becoming Mudaliyars, Muhandirams or Arachchies etc. to wield power over the natives. I am not saying it did not happen in Jaffna but they were more enterprising and shrewd and saw where opportunities lay and grabbed them. You being an Engineer would better understand what happened to our education in 1966 and after. Who is to be blamed? This is an interesting subject, but my point is if not for the Missionaries (irrespective of the denominations) where this country would be today? We still follow their system; aren’t we?

  27. Tissa Wellappili

    Andy,

    Richmond College is in Galle, not Matara which is 28 miles away. I know for a fact Matara schools did not send a student to read sciences at University till 1960s. I studied at Rahula College 53- 58., I recall the Principal at Rahula in the early ’50s, a a scholar of oriental languages was a fervent opponent of vivisection and thus Zoology was not taught. Obviously students did not stand a chance for entrance to Medical College. Perhaps students found subjects taught in English hard to follow and in the competitive exams arrayed against second or third generation English literates they fared badly. I must say the College excelled in public relations and getting local philanthropists to donate to the building fund. The BTS school in Galle – Mahinda did far better, Dr S A Wickramasinghe later to become the leader of the Communist party was a product of Mahinda.

    Let me digress, the Principal there, Mr Woodward a Pali scholar wanted to introduce Sinhala as a subject in 1910. Buut parents had opposed by a large majority as that was not accepted as cost effective in the race for employment and he had to withdraw the proposal!
    Dr WIckramasinghe’s wife Doreen Hull, a lady from Liverpool was the Principal of Sujatha College the BTS girls school in Matara in the early 1950s.

    • Andy Sergie

      I did not say it was in Matara. Perhaps I should have rephrased what I said. “Matara was where the second school in Ceylon was started by the Methodist Missionaries. The school was known as Eliyakanda School (Browns Hill). The first school evolved to present Richmond.”
      I don’t know much about the Methodist School in Matara except that it was the second school to start and was called the Eliyakanda School. Perhaps it was not made a superior school for some reason. Since there was a superior school in Galle they would have thought it was not needed but keep it as a feeder school. As far as I am aware, the Methodists had only Richmond, Wesley and Kingswood as Collegiate schools for males in the South and in the North the Batticaloa Central, Jaffna Central and Hartley College. Others were Anglo-vernacular or vernacular feeding the higher schools. Same holds true for Anglican Schools.
      What happened at Mahinda is interesting. Mr. Woodwards efforts were nullified by the natives. After the Colebrooke-Cameron Eastern Inquiry
      the government service was opened to the public. It was the time that everyone wanted to climb the social ladder. Thus English education became important and Sinhalese education took a back seat. However at Richmond Sinhalese became a subject as early as 1900’s. Principals’ Darrell and Small saw to it. Even before Richmond was elevated to a Superior School, a Singhla Pandit was employed to teach Singhalese to the scholars. So you see where the problem was. It was not the authorities to be blamed but the natives who sent their children to these schools – the Singhala mindset. Well religion, language and culture did not mean the same to all natives. Their perceptions about these subjects differed vastly. I suppose that is human nature.

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  29. Seems to me there is some truth in it.
    Before some body jumps the gun I am a Tamil!

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