Last of Sri Lanka’s Burgher Ladies

A nostalgic tale in You Tube Video composed by Kel O’Neill and Eline Jongsma, here:…. Published on Aug 2, 2010

The comments over the years within the original website are revealing: a mix of rank prejudice and hate on the one hand and sensibility on the other . Those interested in this dimension of Sri Lankan history set within the development of Colombo as the island’s hegemonic centre” in British times should consult M. Roberts, Percy Colin-Thome & Ismeth Raheem, PEOPLE  INBETWEEN, Colombo, Sarvodaya, 1989.

They should attend in particular to the tables and data in the Appendices on the one hand and the two charts highlighting the prejudices of the Sinhala people in colonial times (for ‘good’  historic reasons) — prejudices revealed for instance in the writings of Piyadasa Sirisena and Anagarika Dharmapala. If readers think the Tamils did not have similar prejudices, re-visit that idea. I assert that counter speculatively albeit confidently. The data in People Inbetween happens to be sourced in the southwest where I grew up.

SEE … The thrust of the tale is that one cannot comprehend thethinking of (some) Sinhalese without attending to the colonial intrusions in the era of European expansion and how that body of sentiments was transposed unto a historical consciousness that goes further back. More recently, I have been guided by Young and Senanayake’s Carpenter Peretaya and other evidence to elaborate upon the Manichean demonization that transposes and equates ancient ogres with more recent and/or contemporary threats –a deadly process of conflation. SEE The Collective Consciousness of the Sinhalese During the Kandyan Era: Manichean Images, Associational Logic”,

SOME COMMENTS within the Original Web Ste

Dear friends, please consider wht the old lady said in the beginning in this video. she said there are no separations. no matter ur tamil, Sinhala, Muslim or Burger. Now days political and politicians are make separations to do the politics.. we all Srilankans


Mental Retard

There was no separation, only classism. Ur just spewing liberal jargon. My great grandfather was a brown singhalese who married a white dutch


The burghers enjoyed their apartheid then ran away when their life of privilege came to an end.


Warren Wickremesooriya

Whether you like it or not, the burgers are a part of Sri Lankan history. It’s a part of our story. Accept it. Personally, I think Modern Sri Lanka is partly the way it is because of them. It’s silly to deny such a big chapter in our story.



Agree with you. Mixed racial is not a big deal in my opinion.


Preveena Vijayakumaran

I’m from Canada but both my parents are Sri Lankan. Growing up in a Tamil household I was only taught of two groups of people in Sri Lanka which were Tamil and Sinhalese. I was aware that different types of religions as Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhism, etc lived in Sri Lanka. I never knew about these Burghers, I’m honestly fascinated because I’ve never knew their were a different ethnicity in group in Sri Lanka.



study some history , preveena, and dont rely on your parents for accuracy. not only burghers. malays, tamil muslims (moors) who think of themselves as a separate group from Tamils (hindu/christian). lanka was very multicultural before sinhalese nationalism ruined it. having said that, on the other hand jaffna tamils were themselves quite haughty about sinhalese, in particular Vellalas, themselves quite caste predjudiced. what a mess. tragic. but that’s why you are now Canadian.


Mental Retard

+Pallathur1917 it wasn’t nationalism, it was socialism. Branadnaika was a socialist, conquer and divide. thats how he got in power. No one wanted be separate. race/ethnic mixing was going on

Evan Melder

Marasinghe-devil’s spawn -doesn’t mara mean devil -thats what you are-hope my English is better than yours you stupid brainless moron. It is the burghers who brought good looks to Sri Lanka and I wish I was one.  You must be a scrawny ugly man and a crude one at that. ,



All Nationalism is inherently racist, b/c it automatically creates an outgroup, usually hated. Nationalism is a European invention from 1800’s only. Unfortunately Sinhalese nationalists like Bandaranaike, who got what deserved at the hands of one of his own “Buddhist” monks, exploited Sinhalese racism for power, and set the stage for the long conflict that followed. Sri Lanka is a beautiful tragedy.



I love the lady who quite forthrightly says “This is my home”. She has to be admired. Inspirational.Wish I could meet her.



I am proud of being mixed of both cultures and knowing there is one and only race the humanity. Stop racism and discrimination give the new generation an new perpective of respect and care for life in a world of all kind of cultures and believes.



Freedom of thought, freedom of speech. Nothing anyone says can alter what a person thinks. He or she is embedded in his or her own ideas. Reading the comments once again, points to racism through and through. I think it’s better to keep ones thoughts to ones self. I and some others may think it’s racism, but the person posting some comments clearly think it is not. So be it.



These negative comments about the ‘Burghers’ display the racism that has torn Sri Lanka apart and is continuing to tear it apart. The strength of a nation that comes through embracing and celebrating diversity is obviously not something that these negative commentators have any notion of. Hopefully most viewers will just enjoy the video for what it is – an interesting historical documentary of a small segment of Sri Lanka’s population and its colonial past.




You must be one of those assholes who think you are the best among all human beings. You should associate with dogs and learn some manners.

Salt &pepper

tamils are native to srilanka not sinhalese

gastric creeb

I have associated much of my life with burgher people. I am Sinhalese and was adopted by a burgher lady who I loved as a mother. However I have to say that although Burghers married Sinhalese ( probably high class Sinhalese) they in my opinion had a high opinion of themselves. I believe they looked down on the Sinhalese people. I would like to know who the colonists displaced. What they took from Sri Lanka and what Sri Lanka was like before they came. I have looked at old photos of Sri Lanka and it looks like the people lived well. So as much as we are told we need other cultures to enhance Sri Lanka do we really need them to dominate the country?

Allan Jelen

beautiful burger ladies i always loved them charming ladies the browns and darkies always jelous of their nice color

Fabian Pinto

I’m from Bombay, India. I grew up in similar culture like the Srilankan Burghers. Bandra East Indians, Anglo Indians.

Chandra Weerasinghe

Burghers means city dwellers!! They are of the Portuguese and Dutch origins mixed with all races living in Sri Lanka. then called Ceylon. However they became a vanishing tribe once the successive governments adopted the policies facilitating the Sinhala and Tamil majorities who were deprived of their due rights for several centuries !!

Ian Foenander

Are there any foenanders


whores !!!!!


I think the narrator is trying to portray Srilankans as some evil doers, the ladies clearly like the country and acknowledged that it is a good place. There will always be differences between clans of people and the majority will always have the power that is human nature. Segregation was never an issue, the main reason why the Burghers left the country was because they were given a pathway to citizenship in Australia, if you didnt realize Australia has a much better living standard than Srilanka.


And the Sinhalese are running away now together with the Tamils… That’s “THEIR” problem is it??? Stop being so blind and engrossed in your own ideas… Look around you and read…!!!


Also take a look around you in case you’re still “IN” Sri Lanka. How many Sinhalese are leaving the country??? There’s a major brain drain taking place. I wonder what our next generation will say about that in the years to come. The previous generation just “ran away”… I don’t think so!!!


Filed under British colonialism, communal relations, cultural transmission, heritage, historical interpretation, island economy, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, world events & processes

2 responses to “Last of Sri Lanka’s Burgher Ladies

  1. Earl Forbes

    If any of you are interested in the recent history of The Burghers. please read my research paper on ‘The White Australia Policy, Ceylon Burghers & Alice Nona,’ published by The Ceylon Society in The Ceylankan,
    Journal 59, Volume XV, Number 3, (August 2012).
    Earl Forbes

  2. Hugh

    There isno doubt that western culture and lifestyles were transported through the Burgher community to whom we all should be indebted to, not only for the much adored pale skins amongst us, but also for the western ethos that everybody in SRI Lanka is striving for. Unfortunately most of the Burghers did not strive to be an industrious and stable community most young Burghers opting for a “living for the day”lifestyle. Those who have migrated to Australia however have prospered enormously and are not only doing well but has set the pace for Sinhala and Tamil migrants as well. SRI Lankan culture as it stands today owes significantly to the influence of the Burghers.

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