A Blaring of the 1956 Sinhala Chauvinist Trumpet ….. AGAIN!

“Way Forward” in Lanka Future and #FAKENEWS, 22 February 2018 where the title reads “The racist anti-Sinhala journalists — past and present”

Officially, Sri Lanka got its Independence in 1948.

However, it was not until 1956 that the masses were truly freed. In the years from 1948-1956, the “British Raj” style of government continued in Sri Lanka. The ruling politicians were all of the kalu-suddha variety. Minorities ruled the country because they were the ones with the education and training, and contacts, required to obtain all the plum positions.

As with any apartheid society, Sri Lanka from 1948-1956 was actually a minority dominated society. The Sinhalese Buddhist majority did not have any real rights. They had no real hope of entering the civil service, law, medicine, journalism, accountancy, engineering, or business. Only a very few extremely talented and hard-working Sinhalese were able to access these fields.

In 1956, the people’s disgust and dissatisfaction of this oppression boiled over. They rejected the apartheid society, and brought SWRD Bandaranaike’s party to power with an overwhelming election victory.

The ruling class at the time were terrified that their privileged positions would now be lost. And so they dismissed the grassroots Bandaranaike-led emancipation of the Sinhalese majority as being based on “racism.” They reduced the huge democratic movement which was based on multiple grievances to simply the “Sinhala Only” policy.

The “Sinhala Only” policy, with later inclusion of Tamil language, was designed to allow the village masses, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims, who did not have the ability to study English, a chance to enter the universities. It was actually a very progressive step, but sadly it was poorly implemented. There is also the argument that it would have been better to enhance access to English education for all first, as a more effective way of bringing about equality.

Nonetheless, it is only right and proper that the language of the majority of a country, which was also the language of the only race that actually settled on, built, and developed a civilization in the country, should be recognized and given its rightful place in that country. There is no other organically formed country in the world, where minority citizens do not have to learn the language of that country.

In Germany, everyone must speak German; in Japan, all must speak Japanese; and in Britain, all must speak English. It is not an accident that these countries are also all rich and developed.

Given the SLPP victory at the recent local government elections, it is important to remember and compare how the anti-Sinhalese mob of the past responded to the similar victory of Bandaranaike 60 years ago.

Just as then, today’s Sri Lankan media (though thankfully confined to the English-language sphere of Sri Lanka’s press), persist in depicting the pro-Mahinda movement as simply “racism.” But the resounding victory of the SLPP is actually a re-affirmation of Sinhalese civilization, and a total rejection of the failed regime of Ranil-Sirisena. It is a longing for the Mahinda-era, where the country was actually heading somewhere, and where everything actually worked.

So it is really interesting to see that back in those days, a prominent foreigner living in Sri Lanka, an artist called Aubrey Collette, decided to draw cartoons such as the ones below:

And this:

Aubrey Collette, original image here.

What are these cartoons showing? Aubrey Collette is comparing the Sinhalese to primitive apes. He is saying that speaking Sinhalese and learning Sinhalese is a de-evolutionary step back to monkey status.

This is ironic, because the Sinhalese language and civilization existed thousands of years before the English were even a race.

At the time when the Sinhalese language was already well-established, the people of northern France and Britain were Gaelic barbarians, who painted themselves in blue ink and wore only fig leaves to preserve their modesty. The race known as “English” formed much later.

The English language itself, with which Aubrey Collette vilifies and condemns the Sinhalese, did not start to exist until 1300-1400AD, while Sinhalese civilization had by this time already produced great literature, poetry, and linguistic masterpieces.

In the next cartoon, you see a 1950s example of #FakeNews:

Here we have a Sinhalese “only” Lion, impaling a Christian missionary on the sword, while trampling a Tamil.

In reality, it was the swords of the Christian missionaries which impaled and beheaded Sinhalese Buddhist babies from the 1500s onwards. It was the Christian missionaries, and their convert Sinhalese Christians, and convert Tamil Christians, and Burghers who were trampling the Sinhalese Buddhists.

Aubrey Collette’s cartoons embody the racist, apartheid government which Sri Lanka suffered under from 1948 to 1956. His cartoons are filled with hatred of the Sinhalese Buddhists, and demands their continued oppression.

Thankfully, he ran away from Sri Lankan in 1960. He tried to set himself up in Singapore later, but was too scared of the government there to do anything provocative, and ended up drawing about Aborigines in Australia.

Today’s cartoonists are doing the same as Collette, spreading racism and FakeNews.

Original tweet here.

Here Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gammanpila are being depicted as both coming out of the cesspit of racism, but accusing each other of being a stinking racist.

The question is however, what has Gammanpila said that is racist? Has he ever said anything about harming non-Sinhalese? Or mistreating them? Or denying them rights? No.

What he does in every speech he gives is warn about the dangers facing the Sinhalese and he also stands up for the Sinhalese and the Sinhala Buddhist civilization which created Sri Lanka.

Just because you don’t like what Gammanpila is saying, does not mean that Gammanpila is a racist.

And one other example, after the election results of February 2018:

Original tweet here.

This is actually a pretty weak cartoon. What is it saying?

It is saying the SLPP is actually a carnivorous plant: that tomorrow, Mahinda’s party will be a monster. But what is this based on? What has the SLPP said or done, which would warrant this sort of depiction?

Cartoons are supposed to be based on facts. But these cartoons have been drawn to deliberately spread fear-mongering and race-baiting.

Today’s cartoons are clearly continuing in the same vein of fake news and the spread of fear to the minorities which was the norm back in the 1950s.

All of this is anti-Sinhala racism, #FakeNews and #බොරුපුවත් which we must all fight against.

*******  ********


This essay is formatted in newsprint manner with many one-sentence paragraphs – a scheme that annoys me intensely. However, I refrained from the alterations of format I usually impose because of my political hostility to the thrusts within this article. However, I have inserted two photographs from the year 1956 to highlight the context and to attract reader interest.

Ironically, the article was an accidental ‘FIND’ arising from my search for information on the 43 Group and the cartoonist Collette. So, ….. let me convey my warmest thanks to the spirit of Aubrey Collette in Valhalla: herein lies evidence of deep-seated Sinhala chauvinism in the 1956 revolution mould.



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5 responses to “A Blaring of the 1956 Sinhala Chauvinist Trumpet ….. AGAIN!

  1. Who is behind The Way Forward? Who wrote this article? Is it anonymous?

  2. Trumpian inspired stuff!!

  3. Gus Mathews

    Thank you for publishing this article on ‘Thuppiah’. Even though the sentiments expressed are in the present day post-Trumpian context may seem extreme, it is a passionate expression of the ordinary citizens of Sri Lanka.

    The transition from colonialism to Independence and self government was hampered by five centuries of racism and commercial exploitation of the ordinary masses. Those who took the reins of power from the colonial masters were clones of the former rulers and as such did not give an iota of consideration for the rural Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim citizens. These clones were elitist and consisted of English educated Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslims and Burghers. So it is not surprising the author of this article directs his/her venom on these colonial clones. It is facile to blame the cartoonist Aubrey Collette as his audience were the English educated elite in the cities and he was playing to their prejudices at that time.

    SWRD in the mid fifties attempted to mitigate the humiliation, sense of uselessness and the downright racism and class elitism that was the by product of the colonial era. Many of these elites referred to the common man in derogatory terms such as ‘sarong Johnnies’ thus classifying the rural Sinhala and Tamils by their traditional attire.

    SWRD was a by product of the times when countries in Asia and Africa were fighting for Independence. Unfortunately in his zeal to right the wrongs of colonialism he threw the baby out with the bath water and relegated the English language to such a low level that the consequences are still being felt today.

    The times were changing and swept up in these changes were issues of identity even among the elites that resulted in the aftermath of the so-called ‘Sinhala only’ legislation. Suffice to say included in the ‘Sinhala only’ legislation there was provision for the reasonable use of Tamil in the North and the East.

    SWRD’s political ideology was Democratic Socialism and he went about ameliorating the needs of the ‘have-nots’ much to the chagrin of the ‘haves’. More than the ‘language issue’ that was a ‘cause celebre’ of the Tamils the ‘Social Disabilities’ act of SWRD drew intense opprobrium from the Tamil politicians as this was a direct threat to their hegemony of ‘casteism’ especially in the North.

    While the author is expressing himself in ultra nationalistic terms his analysis of the indignities suffered by the native population in the systemic degradation of their culture, language and religion even after 73 years of independence is beyond reproach.

  4. This remarkable article is marred – or should I say defined? – by a few inaccuracies. I won’t say ‘deliberate falsehoods’ because I am sure the author, like most Sri Lankans, has been miseducated with regard to history.

    1. ‘Minorities ruled the country because they were the ones with the education and training, and contacts, required to obtain all the plum positions.’

    This is quite untrue, although there was a preponderance of Burghers in the legal profession and in the lower ranks of government employment due to their English skills and elements of European culture that they shared with the British. In the Civil Service and the professions, there were as many or more Sinhalese than there were Tamils and Muslims.

    The educated elite of colonial Ceylon was drawn from all classes but its richest and most powerful members were of Sinhalese origin. Most of the privately owned land in the country was in Sinhalese hands. Sinhalese dominated the coconut enterprise and made fortunes in rubber as well.

    2. ‘The Sinhalese Buddhist majority did not have any real rights.’

    Sinhalese Buddhists had exactly the same rights as any other resident of Ceylon. It is true that the use of English in courts and the bureacracy made it difficult for Sinhala *and* Tamil speakers to make the system work for them. Since opportunities to learn good English were also scarce, this was a great injustice; but it affected all communities (except the Burghers) equally. No-one, as far as I know, has ever seriously demonstrated that the colonial government, judiciary or bureaucracy were corrupt or prone to favouritism.

    The rest of the article comprises the author’s opinions, to which he is, I suppose, entitled. Ultimately, he is claiming nothing but the right of majorities unjustly to oppress minorities. Which, of course, is nothing but Might Makes Right.

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