Anguish!! Reading Mike

 Image from by Sachi Sri Kantha, 16 October 2015,

When the essay “Anguish as Empowerment …A Path to Retribution” was presented on the 22nd March 2017, I received several private email comments from good friends. My recent little essay on Ëxtremist Cricket Fans” has led me to look over this set of remarks and a tirade of sorts directed at me by an embittered Tamil nationalist named Kathiravan espousing the cause of Eelam in February 2011 in the Blog Comments within Colombo Telegraph (and rehashed by me in Thuppahi = see ……………………….…………….

The unsolicited readings are too valuable to lie in the cupboards and I am waxing bold by presenting them to the world without the permission of my friends within the present reflections on EXTREMISM.A.  Comment from Professor Gerald Peiris of Kandy,[1] 25 March 2017

Michael, …Your interesting paper requires a fairly response that has to venture into issues such as the distinctions that need to be made between ‘civil commotion’ and ‘pogrom’, and ‘reconciliation’ and ‘reparation’ in the context of ethnic relations in Sri Lanka; and more generally, the impulses identifiable in large-scale episodes of violence perpetrated on civilian populations – those that range from Nagasaki or Dresden in 1945, the ‘9-11’ (was it 2001?), and Iraq in 2003, to Gal Oya in 1956 or Colombo in 1983. Unfortunately, I do not have the time just now to attempt that type of response, being preoccupied with other work, but shall certainly try to document my thoughts later.

Best regards, Gerry

B. Comment from Niigel Kerner of England and Dehiwela,[2] 24 March 2017

RE: Anguish as Empowerment and A Path to Retribution …. …. Valuable one Mike. Recommended it to all those I value. Thanks. Nigel.

C. Lal Wickrematunge,[3] Friday, March 24,

Dear Michael,

Interesting take indeed. Let me share some thoughts with you

  • Sri Lankans including Ceylonese from early times have been drawn heavily to one emotion. Sorrow.
  • Films, Songs, Art and other forms which sell most have Sorrow as the theme. Take a funeral. The family and close relatives become IMPORTANT. Their Sorrow makes them important within the community.
  • The rituals and Bana too at these ceremonies perpetuate the same emotion. At times I wonder if Sri Lankans by and large fear to be happy. “Duka” sells.
  • Living inside the cage of Sorrow Sri Lankans do not think it is within their lot to be content or happy. Any reforms suggested by any authority, be it government or otherwise is readily opposed.
  • The Tamils too have over a period of time morphed into this. We are also very high amongst the “giving” index.
  • Same emotion derives alms and handouts.
  • Another widely used term in Sinhala, “Monawa Karannada. Laba Upang heti” illustrates this.

So, Anguish is along these lines. You are in the park

Regards, Lal

C plus: Apropos of Lal’s Remarks see

D.  Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya of Perth,[4] 1 April 2017

As always this is to say that I enjoyed greatly reading your thoughtful  reflections on  the dynamics of SL history…..As for me all’s well except that age is catching up!! Warm regards .… Laksiri

*** ***

XYZ. Kathiravan, An Angry Tamil, confronts Roberts,[5] 21 February 2011

 As a self claimed ‘Historian’, will Michael Roberts agree that the Tamil people of the island of Sri Lanka have a distinct language, culture, value system, customs different to those of the Sinhala people and that they have lived in the island as a sovereign people governing a defined territory in the north-east of the island prior to the advent of colonial powers? Will he agree that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka have been subject to violations of their individual and collective rights including thieir right to life by a permanent Sinhala majority since the island gained independence in 1948 from the British? Will he agree that Tamils were subject brutal violence by Sinhala goon squads and the almost all Sinhala security forces even before the rise of Tamil militancy? Will he agree that the successive Sinhala dominated governments in Sri Lanka signed pacts with Tamil leaders to gain political power and dishonour the pacts immediately after?

Will Michael Roberts agree that the Sinhala political establishment in Sri Lanka has systematically denied the Tamil people of all civilised avenues to raise their grievance – democratic, constitutional, judicial and non-violet that led to the rise of armed resistance in self-defence and restore their statehood based on their right to self-determination? Will he agree that at every parliamentary elections held in the north-east of the island since 1977, the Tamil people in spite of coming under the occupation of an ‘alien’ army had demonstrated their political will to exercise their right to self-determination. Leaving a side the LTTE which is an inevitable outcome of the brutal nation oppression of the Tamil people, will Michael Roberts agree that the Tamil people as any people aroung the globe are entitled to have a political view about their identity and their right to decide their political, cultural, economical and social future? The Tamil Diaspora at large have been and will continue to speak up for the legitimate rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and will be willing to invest in the Tamil homeland only when it regains the political authority to decide its own destiny.

Why should the ‘Historians’ simply keep barking about terrorism and LTTE when the fundamental causes of the long drawn out conflict in Sri Lanka is yet to be resolved, the rule of law and true democracy for all in the island to be restored, alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are independently investigated (not by the alleged perpetrators) and genuine reconciliation achieved to bring peace to the island and the region?

I only hope that as a ‘Historian’ you will positively contribute towards achieving this nobel (sic) goal.

 Sri Lankan fans boo cricket team

 Indian rioters at Panchikula, August 2012 =  

  Fire bombs hit police, May Day Paris, 2017 = 


[1] Professor Gerald Peiris of the Dept of Geography Peradeniya University has been a colleague and friend since the 1950s. Apart from having a remarkable ethnographic memory, I consider him to be among the leading scholars in the inter-related fields of economic geography-politics-history in Sri Lanka. In taking issue with some of the claims in a recent article by John Holt on Sinhala-Muslim conflicts in Sri Lanka, Peiris has crafted a lengthy article which expands on a shorter piece in The Island and is due to appear soon in Thuppahi.

[2] An Aloysian like me, our friendship has its basis in our attachment to the game of cricket and my appreciation of Nigel Kerner’s engagement in unpublicized philanthropic work in Sri Lanka. Kerner has also hosted the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Soul Sounds Choir at his manor in midland England.

[3] Lal Wickrematunga is the brother of the late Lasantha Wickrematunga (murdered in January 2009). I got to know him during his service for the Board of Control for Sri Lanka Cricket in the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to that, he played cricket for St Benedict’s College and served in the Ceylon Police as a junior officer. That body of experience renders his comments thoughtful and pertinent.

[4] Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya was a senior colleague in my early days as a teacher at Peradeniya University before he moved to Colombo University as Professor of Sociology. Having migrated to Perth in Australia, he has participated actively in the discussion of multi-cultural affairs and immigration issues.

[5] I could not locate the Colombo Telegraph reference … BUT the note has been reproduced in Thuppahi at



Filed under accountability, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, Buddhism, communal relations, cultural transmission, democratic measures, devolution, discrimination, disparagement, economic processes, ethnicity, fundamentalism, governance, historical interpretation, Islamic fundamentalism, landscape wondrous, language policies, life stories, modernity & modernization, Muslims in Lanka, political demonstrations, politIcal discourse, power politics, reconciliation, religiosity, religious nationalism, riots and pogroms, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, terrorism, the imaginary and the real, trauma, truth as casualty of war, vengeance, violence of language, war crimes, women in ethnic conflcits, world events & processes

3 responses to “Anguish!! Reading Mike

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