In the years 2001-01 or so when I was developing the manuscript which eventually became Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period, 1590s-1815 (Yapa Publications, Colombo, 2004, ISBN 955-8095-53-2) I posed an issue within my own mind: in what ways did the intellectual currents and specifically the understandings of statehood and/or nationhood among the colonial powers impinge upon and influence the thinking of the Sinhalese peoples? This meant that I had to get to grips with European history and the growth of nationalist concepts therein. Lacking competence in Portuguese and Dutch I had necessarily to concentrate on the intellectual strands in Britain and England, a topic I already had some familiarity with because of my teaching work at Peradeniya University in the 1970s.
This strand of research meant a reading of books and essays by Linda Colley, Chris Bayly, Norbert Peabody, Susan Bayly and Gerald Newman among others. A particular line of inquiry was directed towards the implications and meanings attached to the word “nation” or like terms in English writings from the 16th to early 19th centuries. This investigation encompassed the available data on the manner in which British personnel in Sri Lanka in the period 1795-1815 deployed the term. Through happenchance and a pointer from some friend in Sri Lanka, I was led to chat with a Sri Lankan historian who had, quite unusually, completed a dissertation on English history in the 18th century. This was SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda whose thesis for the University of London (via King’s College) is entitled The Life and Writings of Robert Orme (1728-1801), Nabob, Historian and Orientalist.
In the course of an informative chat, Tammita-Delgoda clarified aspects of the Francophobia that coursed through articulate elements in 18th century England, including Richard Hogarth (1697-1764) who was among the cartoonists who lampooned French visitors and those English devoted to French manners, while extolling the figures of speech embodied within the terms “the Roast Beef of Old England.” These motifs were incorporated into my distilled writings on the topic “The Vocabulary of Nation” which was a sub-section within one chapter in my book.
Even though he was educated in UK and had written A Traveller’s History of India (Interlink Books, 2003), a highly successful guide book that can match and compete with such series as Lonely Planet, Tammita-Delgoda has apparently chosen to live and work in Sri Lanka. After that informative conversation with him way back, I had no contact with him till this last month September 2014, though I was aware that he had collaborated with both Nihal Fernando and Stanley Kirinde in producing coffee table books that brought the work of these two outstanding artists into the purview of those interested in Sri Lankan art, culture and imagery.
As I grappled with my studies of Eelam War IV, an outstanding essay by Tammita-Delgoda on Sri Lankan Army operations printed by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies at New Delhi came to my attention; and was incorporated into some of my writings. This study indicated that Tammita-Delgoda had shown initiative in securing access to the battle theatre as a war correspondent embedded with the military. As with much reportage of war, this involvement may not have been with the spearhead platoons at the front of battle, but his account reveals that he was embedded among the advancing troops.
Embedded? In the context of a war theatre with relatively static frontlines involving defensive fortifications on one side (that of the LTTE) what does embedded mean? This morning I caught the ABC News on television as it featured Lyse Doucet, the intrepid Canadian reporter for BBC, as she talked to and reported on the battles taking place about 60 km beyond Baghdad between Iraqi government forces and ISIS troops (also called ISIL and IL). Among those she spoke to was an Iraqi survivor, one of only 60 people from a group of about 500 who had been gunned down by ISIS. Having heard her long ago reporting from Afghanistan Lyse Doucet and John Simpson are among my war reporter heroes. The issue I have to address now is whether Tammita-Delgoda should be placed on the same shelf. There is no doubt that he is well-ahead of most journalists who visited the Sri Lankan battle theatre. This derives in part from his success in securing the privilege of being embedded with regiments over a continuous period of time in contrast to those (usually foreign) reporters who were taken to the front for a day or for short spells.[i] However, in part his ‘magic’ derives from lucid prose and clarity of analysis.
Though I had utilised Tammita-Delgoda’s Sri Lanka. The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudumattalan in my studies, I remained unaware of other stories he had penned on the war and its immediate aftermath (such as the processing of Tamil escapees at the rear of the battlefront) way back then in 2009. Within his memory bank, moreover, there must surely be a storehouse of knowledge which the world could continue to tap. In Tammita-Delgoda one has a relatively independent witness to the fighting, one blessed with acumen and a facile pen….Nay more: a camera and a store of images on Eelam War IV that is quite invaluable. These images can now be added to the stock brought to the world by Kanchan Prasad and an unidentified stringer on the helicopter that bore Ban-Ki-Moon over the “Last Redoubt”[ii] on 23 May 2009; and must be studied in juxtaposition with the propaganda images and videos trotted out by both the Tamil spokespersons and the Government of Sri Lanka and its acolyte press agencies.
Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda
B.A Hons (Wales), M.A Medieval Studies (York), Ph. D History (Kings, College,London).
Fulbright Fellow 2005-2006, Centre of South Asian Studies, Anne Arbor, University of Michigan, USA. Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (UK). Visiting Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies(JNIAS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (2012). Chairman of Judges, Gratiaen Prize for Literature 2007
Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda has been a Visiting Lecturer and Dissertation Supervisor at the Bandaranaike Centre of International Studies(BCIS) since 2010. He specializes in South Asian studies and the Indian Ocean.
One of the few non-combatants to have been allowed into the war zone during the final stages of the Eelam War, he has appeared on radio and television internationally and his work has been featured in the national and international press – The Independent (UK), The News on Sunday (Pakistan), The Sunday Island (Sri Lanka), His case study Sri Lanka. The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudumattalan was published by the think tank for the Indian army, The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi, in its prestigious Manekshaw Series (Paper No.13, 2009). His Review Article of the Eelam War, Manekshaw Paper No. 22 A (CLAWS, 2010), “Ashok Mehta, Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict. How Eelam War IV was Won,” has also been widely read.
He is the only Sri Lankan to speak on the conflict at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst RMAS (2009). He was also invited to give a special presentation to a Delegation from the Royal Thai Government. He has lectured on Insurgency, Guerilla War and Terrorism at the United Services Institute of India (USI), New Delhi (2007, 2012) and the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi (2012).
In Sri Lanka he has spoken on the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka’s Strategic Future at various venues; amongst these are the Officers Career Development Centre (OCDC), Sri Lanka Army, Buttala (2012), Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA), Diyatalawe, Sri Lanka- Junior Staff Command Course and the Commando Regiment Headquarters, Ganemulla (2014).
Historian, art historian and occasional writer, Dr. Tammita-Delgoda is better known as an authority on the art and culture of Sri Lanka. He has taught and lectured on this subject in the USA, UK, India and Sri Lanka. In 2005-2006 he was Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he taught the first course ever given in the west on the Art and Architecture of Sri Lanka.
His 1st book, A Travellers History of India (UK, USA, 1994), a sweeping survey of Indian culture and history for travellers, is now in its 4th edition worldwide and has been translated into Chinese and Russian. In 2003 Dr. Tammita-Delgoda was commissioned by the late Foreign Minister Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar(1932-2005) to produce a work on eminent Sri Lankan contemporary artist Stanley Kirinde, The World of Stanley Kirinde (2005) to represent the heritage, landscape and culture of Sri Lanka to the outside world. This was followed by a study of medieval Sinhalese culture, Ridi Vihare. The Flowering of Kandyan Art (2007) and Eloquence in Stone. The Lithic Saga of Sri Lanka (2008) in collaboration with Sri Lanka’s most celebrated photographer Nihal Fernando and Studio Times.
In 2009 Dr. Tammita-Delgoda delivered a series of lectures on Sri Lanka’s art and culture as part of Asian Art Week in London. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (2012) and has spoken at the Teen Murti Memorial Museum.
His recent work has focused on the Indian Ocean, its geopolitics and its environment. Part of this “The Kalpitiya Peninsula .A Unique Eco-System” has as just been published in the Quarterly Journal of the India International Centre (IIC) (Autumn, 2012). His latest study on trade, connectivity, shipping and politics in the Indian Ocean was published by the Indian Council on World Affairs, in Transforming South Asia: Imperatives for Action, “A Key to the Future Commonality, Divergence and the Path to Convergence” ( New Delhi, 2013).
Two theses supervised by him have recently been published as books
Chulanee Attanayake China in Sri Lanka, (LAMBERT Academic Publishing2013)
Chamara Sumanapala, A Tale of Two Continents: Maoism, Revolution and Guerrilla War: Sendero Luminoso and India’s Naxalites, (LAMBERT Academic Publishing 2013)
At present he the editor of a series of books, Studies by the Public, to be published by the Bandaranaike Centre of International Studies, (BCIS) Colombo, on various areas of foreign policy, military studies and the Indian Ocean.
 I initiated a new course entitled “Nationalism an d Its Problems” in 1972.
 The “Last Redoubt” describes the area between the Nandikadal Lagoon and the sea, some 12 x 2 km or 2.5 km, within which some 200,000 or so Tamil civilians were hemmed in from mid-February 2009 virtue of LTTE fiat. Since this segment of the terrain held by the LTTE also housed the Sea Tiger forces, and quickly became their main centre of operations, It is quite ridiculous for anyone to call it a “No Fire Zone” or “Safe Zone” (though this is what both GSL and such powerful figures as Robert Blake continued to do.
[i] Muralidhar Reddy is a partial exception in that he went to the front on numerous occasions on short visits, while he and Prasad had a five day spell in mid-May 2009. Apart from Reddy’s writings in The Hindu and Frontline there are some useful reports from the short-term visitors: for example see Hull & Srilal 2009 and David Gray 2009 listed in Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, (2014: 234-35 in connection with chapter on “Visual Imagery.”
[ii] The “Last Redoubt” describes the area between the Nandikadal Lagoon and the sea, some 12 x 2 km or 2.5 km, within which some 200,000 or so Tamil civilians were hemmed in from mid-February 2009 virtue of LTTE fiat. Since this segment of the terrain held by the LTTE also housed the Sea Tiger forces, and quickly became their main centre of operations, It is quite ridiculous for anyone to call it a “No Fire Zone” or “Safe Zone” (though this is what both GSL and such powerful figures as Robert Blake continued to do.