Canadian Double Standards ….. Both At Home & In Lanka

Professor Chandre Dharmawardena

According to The Island newspaper, 25 of July 2023 [1], the Canadian High Commissioner Eric Walsh in Colombo has barged into the controversy on the Kurundi archeological site. The Canadian HC had met T. Raviharan, a politician who spearheads the protests at the Kurundi site. HC Walsh’s explanation is that “Meeting people in different parts of the country, to better understand their priorities and perspectives, is a normal part of a High Commissioner’s role.”  These words ring hollow if he does NOT meet anyone from the “other side”, or the Archaeological Commissioner and other technical people.

HC Walsh had tweeted on Sunday, July 23 that: “Today, we remember the victims of anti-Tamil violence … l. Acknowledging these terrible events and commemorating the victims are vital steps towards inclusivity and sustainable prosperity in Sri Lanka. We’ll continue to support the efforts of all who are working toward these goals.”

In practice, the Canadian government has worked to polarise the Sinhalese and Tamil expatriates residing in Canada. The normally sleepy Sinhalese community even launched a legal challenge to Ontario’s Bill 104. While the Sri Lankan government is a grieved party that has been maliciously attacked by this act, it ducked the legal challenge claiming a “lack of funds”. This is a pittance of what the government spends on sending delegations to Geneva.

Apparently, the US had asked the war-winning Lankan government in 2009 to join the Afghanistan offensive and other US military projects, in return for unconditional support to Lanka. While Lanka spurned this Faustian deal, Mr. Modi as joined the QUAD and seems to ride high for the time being.

While the horrific pogrom directed against Tamils in 1983 cost some 400-4000 lives, Canada has conveniently ignored commemorating its own genocide of its aboriginal peoples [2], nor commented on frequent ethnic pogroms in India, the most recent being in the state of Manipur. The death tolls are in the hundreds, thousands wounded, with 60,000 displaced. And yet, the Indian Prime Minister, once black-listed by the US for his role in Gujarat pogroms, is now the darling of Biden, Trudeau, Macron and others. The Canadian HC in New Delhi does not go out “meeting all the parties concerned”, either in Manipur or in Cashmere. Instead, it is alleged that the Canadians have negotiated large sales of armaments to Mr. Modi., and all of Modi’s sins are forgiven!

Sarath Weerasekera (Member of Parliament) had stated that HC Walsh’s intervention should be viewed against Canada’s shocking declaration of an alleged “genocide” of Lankan Tamils. Mr. Thanikasalam, a member of the Legislature of Ontario noted for his Facebook adulation of Prabhakaran, had proposed a private member’s Bill known as Bill 104. It claimed that some 140,000-170,000 Tamils had been killed in the last stages of the Eelam IV war, due to genocidal acts by the Sri Lankan Army. I am aware that the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dept. of Global Affairs etc., in Ottawa had indeed given the correct advice to the politicians, namely, that NO EVIDENCE of a genocide exists.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Al-Zeid Hussein had explicitly rejected the genocide accusation on 17th September 2014 [3]. According to the Tamil net, even Mr. Sumanthiran, the spokesman for the TNA had rejected the accusation. Mr. V. Anandasangaree, the veteran TULF politician had in fact accused the LTTE of carrying out such a genocide of its own people. This accusation was made in 2008 December, when he, as the General Secretary of the TULF, addressed its annual meeting.

The foreign affairs experts at the Canadian Global affairs Dept. were aware of most of these facts, the diplomatic dispatches, Wikileaks revelations, the analysis of arial photographs and satellite data over the war zone done by the American Physical Society, as well as the work of Lord Naseby in the UK on the death toll at the close of the Eelam war-IV [4]. They were aware how some 300,000 hostages of the LTTE were rescued by the armed forces.

However, once the politicians take a stand, the minions at Global affairs, and the Canadian HC have to eat the truth and vomit out the new “truth” dictated by their political masters. The Canadian politicians, in trying to manipulate the local ethnic vote, have ended up with the dynamite of expatriate Tamils in their hands.

The Tamil nationalists attempt to construct an exclusive Tamil “homeland” in the North and East, while recasting history to reduce the role of the Sinhalese and the Muslims to recant. Any Tamil who rejects this narrative is deemed not a Tamil; as in the case of Murali the cricketer! Worse still, Rev. Shantha Francis was harassed and made to step down.

Meanwhile the Sinhalese nationalists attempt to make similar extreme claims. For instance, it is claimed (e.g., by some writers, in the Lankaweb) that there were no Tamil Buddhists born in Sri Lanka during the full length of some 12 centuries, during the whole Anuradhapura civilization!

GG Ponnambalam’s Tamil-racist polemics led to the very first Sinhala-Tamil riot [5] of 1939 that erupted in Nawalapitiya and spread rapidly, only to be equally rapidly put down by the British Raj. This has to be contrasted with the lax manner that SWRD Bandaranaike handled the communal riots that erupted in his days, and the race riots that the JR Jayawardena government allowed to happen. Their culmination was the Black July pogrom of 1983 under JRJ’s stewardship, much like the pogroms in Gujarat or Manipur under Narendra Modi.

The absurd claim that not a single Tamil Buddhist was born in Sri Lanka during the full length of some 12 centuries during the Anuradhapura civilisation was made in the context of the Kurundi vihara by some Sinhalese jingoists, and some apparatchiks posing as Sinhala jingoists. All this was provoked by the fear that T. Raviharan and other Tamil nationalists were trying to carve out the archaeological site around the historic Kurundi temple for their supporters who were claimed to be “long standing” farmers of archeologically demarcated lands.

Consultations of maps prior to the Eelam wars, Google maps that came out during the wars, and the annual reports of the Archaeological commissioner, reveal the actual facts. It is into this quagmire that HC Walsh has leapt in, knowing that the Lankan government would let Canada ignore the Geneva convention and other protocols [6] that it should respect.

However, the history of Kurundi Vihara is well known, thanks to the early groundwork of British scholars, the information from inscriptions, the Pali chronicles and more recent excavations. There is no doubt of the ethnic composition of its patrons even a few years prior to the Eelam wars. However, to claim that no Tamil Buddhists were ever part of it even in ancient times, or that all Tamil Buddhists were non-native pilgrims, is as absurd as the claims made by Tamil nationalists like Mr. Wigneswaran.

The archaeological and literary evidence show that there has always been small Tamil (dameda) and other ethnic communities from the earliest times in Sri Lanka. While this has been a minority, it has been an influential minority, just as it is today.

It is interesting in this context to look at the names of the ten warriors of King Dutugemunu to appreciate the cohabitation that existed among various communities even in the first few centuries BC. These communities consisted of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and others animistic sects, e.g, the Naga people who worshipped God Natha. They could at the same time be part Buddhist, Hindu or Jain. This religious mosaic was criss-crossed by Sinhala, Tamil, Chetty, Kirat, Gujarat and other ethnic identities, further demarcated into castes.

Following the literary norms of that age, the Mahawamsa author rendered even proper names into Pali. So, the “two horse traders became “Guttika” and “Senaka”. Their original names may have been “Kutikkar” and “Chaanakyan”. In the 2nd century BC, horses were instruments of war, and they used their horses to capture power. However, even with the Pali format used, at least two names of the ten warriors stand out.

The most famous warrior of Dutugemunu is known as “Nandi-mithra”. The name “Nandi” has to be traced to the chief of Siva’s hosts, with the face of a cow. Even the folklore grant that Mithra, the uncle of Nandimithra, was a general who worked for King Elara. However, Nandimitra and his parents are unequivocally depicted as Buddhists. Nandimitra was clearly a Buddhist of dameda extraction.

The other clear dameda among these warriors is “Velusumana”. While the form “Velu” is common in Tamil names; it is never found in Sinhalese names. The form “sumana” – meaning a very dextrous or handy person – also exists in Tamil but with a different sense (e.g., in suman-thiran); so “Velusumana” was most likely a dameda. This suggests a 20% ethnic representation even in this very small sample of ten warriors. Other evidence suggests that this may well have been a typical Tamil demographic for most of the Anurdhapura period.

So, we see that Lanka was a strongly mixed multi-ethnic multi-cultural society even in the 2nd century BC. Dutugemunu had many members of the Tamil minority on his side, while Elara also had his supporters among the Sinhalese who were the majority community. The attempt to force exclusive ethnic enclaves, either via armed uprisings, or by legislative fiat has been futile right through the ages.

Even in India, we see the failure of the so-called Indian model in the pogroms in Manipur, and in many other states. But it is this failed “Indian Model” that has been the inspiration for the 13A approach to “power devolution” here. Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe’s plan for provincial governments without police powers may be a valid compromise. But it fails to address the inefficiency and corruption arising from a costly system that feeds several levels of sleezy politicians. The creating of provincial councils led to an order of magnitude increase in corruption in the country.

The Kurundi Vihara dating back to the 2nd century BC should be administered by a cultural panel under the authority of the Archaeology Commissioner. It should not be under politicians, monks or kurukkals who are ready to convert it to money making or vote getting concerns.


[1] Island Article:

[2] A take of two genocides:  Canada has assigned Nov. 30th (in winter and during the daylight restricted period) as the commemoration day for indigenous people, but the Tamil Genocide Education act designates seven whole days in May to comemmorate the genocide of Tamils and to “educate” the school going children and the public about it. Canada’s attempt to correct the injustices against aboriginal people came after many fact-finding commissions. There were no such investigations regarding the alleged “Tsmil Genocide.

[3] Statement of the Secretary General of the UN Human Rights Commission, September (2015);

[4] Background to Bill 104:

[5] Dr. Jane Russell, Communal Politics under the Donoughmore Constitution 1931-47.

[6] Canada’s obligations, Bill 104:


Filed under accountability, ancient civilisations, Canadian politics, centre-periphery relations, cultural transmission, discrimination, disparagement, ethnicity, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, legal issues, life stories, LTTE, politIcal discourse, propaganda, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, Tamil migration, trauma, travelogue, world affairs

6 responses to “Canadian Double Standards ….. Both At Home & In Lanka

  1. Edward T. Upali

    Even at the time of King Gemunu, to be working as a mercenary in His Majesty’s Service would have been very attractive for Jaffna Tamils!! The tradition continues even now.

    The Government of Sri Lanka still continues to be the preferred employer for Jaffna Tamils, and now they do not have to change their religion to secure employment.

    In spite of much bickering an allegations of discrimination, some have been appointed as Supreme Court Judges, Attorney Generals, Governors of the Central Bank, and Heads of Many Gov Departments.

  2. Sachi Sri Kantha

    I know Prof. Chandre is a physicist of some recognition. Does he believe that Mahavamsa chronicle is a historical document of worth, instead of being a religious tract propagating Buddhism of Mahavira sect.

    I’m sure that Prof. Chandre will agree with me that controlled air flight was experimented by many air travel enthusiasts and experimenters in the 19th century and perfected by Wright Brothers, only 120 years ago. If we believe that Mahavamsa is a historical document, air flight by humans (Buddhist priests, nonpareil!) was demonstrated in Ceylon, – during King Devanampiya Tissa’s period (~ 250 – 210 BC)!! Will Prof. Chandre explain to me the logic in the following verses in Mahavamsa, as it appears in Wilhelm Geiger translation of 1912?

    “(The king) then asked: ‘By what way are you come?’ And since the answer was: ‘Neither by land nor by water are we come,’ he understood that they had come through the air.” (chapter 14, verse 15)

    “‘We will not mount into the waggon; go them, we will follow thee.’ Saying this they, full of holy desires, sent the driver away; and they rose into the air and by their miraculous power they descended to the east of the city in the place where the first thupa (afterwards stood).” (chapter 14,verses 43-44).

    This demonstrates to me, that the celebrated author of Mahavamsa was a great fiction writer, with fantastic imagination of air travel.

  3. Chandre Dharma-wardana

    Is the Mahawamsa, with its recording of miraculous events, a reliable text?
    The Mahawamsa and all texts of that era state as “matters of fact” events that seem to modern readers as miracles based on mere fantasy. However, they also contain very accurate reporting of certain matters as explained below. Historians who deal with ancient texts spend a lot of time on sorting out the good from the bad, and are expert at it. So we should follow them rather than the views of poltical commentators.

    An avowed purpose explicitly stated by the Mahawamsa author is clear from every chapter. Every chapter ends by stating that it is written for the “serene joy of the pious“. So, the belief system of the pious, hell and heaven, miraculous powers to deities and holy men and so forth all hold.

    Furthermore, accuracy was felt to be important in regard to one crucial issue to satisfy the serene joy of the pious. For instance, everyone who had the means maintained a chronicle of their meritorious acts (Pin Potha) that was to be recited on their death bed. In fact, I think this was how the tradition of writing chronicles developed in early Buddhist societies.

    Reading the “Pin Potha” was also supposed to increase the piety of the reader and the listener. So, even the Mahawamsa author tried to give an accurate chronology of the meritorious deeds of the rulers of Lanka -that was a duty imposed on chronicle writers. This is why the Mahawamsa turned out to be so valuable to Indian historians who at first could not sort out their early royal dynasties.

    Given that the Mahawamsa records events already several centuries old when the Mahawamsa was chronicled, the early records are inaccurate. But the chronology from about the time of Emperor Asoka has turned out to be unusually accurate for that age in regard to clarifying Indian dynasties and their chronology by relating them to what is in the Pali Chronicles.

    The accuracy is said to be better than what is found in comparison with other ancient histories (e.g., Hebrew texts, Indian or Greek texts).

    Historians of different mindsets have supported the value of the Pali chronicles. For instance, both Karthigesu Indrapala in his relatively recent book on Ethnic Identities, and Wilhelm Geiger in the 1930s have commented on this reliability of the Mahawamsa.:

    The chronicles have also been of importance from a linguistic historic point of view. See: Hinüber, Oskar von. 1983. The oldest literary language of Buddhism. Saeculum 34. 1–9. Also published in Selected papers on Pāli studies, 177–194. Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 2005.10.7788/saeculum.1983.34.1.1

    Sachi Sri Kantha (SSK), well-known in Tamil Nationalist circles, quotes a stanza from the Mahawamsa and claims that the celebrated author of Mahavamsa was a great fiction writer, with fantastic imagination of air travel. ..

    Contrary to SSK’s conclusion, the Mahawamsa author, like almost everyone in those times, did not have to fictionalize anything. They actually believed in the possibility of levitation; they believed that “arhants” and holy men used this miraculous power. In addition, there were legends of flying machines used by the likes of Ravana in Lanka .

    The “Pushpaka Vimana” of Ravana (who took it from Kubera; Rama returned it to Kubera) is the most well-known example of a vimana or flying machine. Vimanas are also mentioned in Jain texts. On top of almost every Hindu temple or pyramid, one can find a Vimana structure, and often they are rounded, saucer-like objects; Shiva is said to fly on a bird, Garuda.

    SSK who writes about Tamil culture cannot be ignorant of all these..Even today, Mr. Nardendra Modi and many millions upholding Hindhuthva orthodoxies believe that “holy men” do have such “special powers”. In fact, under Modi, the Indian Association for the Advancement of Science has been asked to investigate into such powers, and funds have been allocated for such research. This shows why India will stagnate for ever with its Gods and its Manu Dharma and all that, while Sri Kantha and his ilk perhpas want to uphold all that while laughing at a fifth century writer who held similar beliefs? Certainly, Mr. Wigneswaran seems to want all that back.

    So, the Mahawamsa author is reporting exactly what his readers expected him to say, in re-counting the legends that were already well-accepted in his day and already found in the even older Dipawamsa.

    If the Mahawamsa author gave a new twist to the stories, he remained within the chronology without erring as far as possible in recounting the meritorious deeds of rulers who built temples, stupes, constructed water reservoirs etc., and also included the legends that went with them.

    This does NOT mean that he invented the legends and produced fiction. He was an excellent anthropologist in holding onto legends and reporting them for posterity. We would be poorer without those legends.

    Mahawansa writer was true to the “known facts” as accepted during that epoch. He differed in emphasis from, say, the Dipawamsa when he made the Elara-Gemunu battle the center stage of his story and wrote the greatest epic poem in the Pali language. His Pali text, easily memorisable as it was in verse, was also a “best seller” of his age and went East and West along the Silk route.


  4. Sachi Sri Kantha

    I do appreciate the response of Prof. Chandre, defending the Mahavamsa author. Let us stick to the essential issues raised in my query, rather than diverting to extraneous thoughts on Narendra Modi’s as well as Mr. Vigneswaran’s political campaigns.

    Apart from his comment about me (‘well known in Tamil nationalist circle), I wish to inform Prof. Chandre that I’m also a zoologist (entomologist) by education and training, and I have been interested in the theme of flying, for the past half a century.

    Prof. Chandre shouldn’t confuse issues by equating ‘flight’ to ‘levitation’. Flying is DIFFERENT from levitation. Here are the dictionary definitions.

    levitate: ‘rise and hover in the air, esp. by means of supernatural or magical power’ (The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2001, p. 980).

    fly: ‘(of a bird or other winged creature) move through air under control. (same source, p. 655).

    Whereas, flying is achieved by controlled directions to move from point A to B, levitation is simply hovering in the air for few minutes at most, WITHOUT directed movement from point A to B.

    Prof. Chandre also uses the word ‘legend’, which is defined in the dictionary as ‘a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated’ (p. 973). The last two words in this definition are important.

    The quoted passages in my previous communication refers to movement in air using controlled directions, and not simply the exhibited power of levitation. As I’m clueless in Pali language, maybe Prof Chandre could tell me the exact word used by Mahavamsa’s author in Pali, for this sort of movement. I had simply relied on Wilhelm Geiger’s translation from Pali to German to English.

    • Edward T Upali

      1. This is in reply to both Dr. Dharmawardene and Sachi Sri Kantha. In spite of what some naysayers say, it is very evident that Mahavansa is a book that documents both historical facts as well as some religious beliefs that prevailed at the time of its writing. However, it has enabled modern historians to establish, with some degree of certainty, that those events actually took place and to corroborate them by checking with existing archeological ruins, writings on stone etc.

      2. Although I am not a Physicist (Dharmawardene) or an Entomologist (Sri Kantha), I would say the process that has been followed to establish the veracity of events described in the Mahavansa is definitely more complicated, perhaps than studies in Physics or Entomology. As Mr. Sri Kantha has done or Mr. Vigneswaran often does (Shame on members of the Supreme Court), one cannot quote one paragraph from the book and say, therefore the book is garbage. Until someone with more integrity, intellectual honesty and knowledge of history proves otherwise, Mahavansa will be considered a great historical chronicle.

      3. In regard to the Wright Brothers flying, as referred to as the first instance of flying, by Sri Kantha, is incorrect. Wright Brothers were the first to fly heavier than air aircraft. The first instance of flying lighter than air, aircraft was much earlier. The first fully controllable airship, the French Army’s La France, made a series of successful flights in 1884, over 100 years before the Wright Brothers. By the end of the 19th century, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin built the first rigid airship, which had an internal aluminum structure and individual gas cells filled with hydrogen to provide lift. Both these flights were earlier than the Wright Brothers’ flight.

      4. In regard to Mr. Sri Kantha’s comments on flying, I can only say that those of us who live in Sri Lanka have seen birds, bees and butterflies travel long distances in air, at some speed. So may be some humans could, but the practice has died out due to the availabilty of “modern comfortable flying” !!

      5. Most of us still believe that in some “geographical gods,” such as the ones in Kataragama or Saman in Sri Pada, have super natural powers. Such beliefs did not and do not require a great stretch of imagination. Similarly, we have believed that ancient Arhants could fly or appear very quickly at some location; viz Buddha appearing in Nagadeepa, Kelaniya or Sri Pada.

      6. Similarly those of us, who grew up in Jaffna, believed in gods having six heads or having snakes round their heads, or heads of elephants. We also believed as described in the Ramayanaya and Rama flying to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita. We believed in the historical tale of Rama even though, Ramayanaya epic has not been verified by archeological research. These stories might have been folklore. But lot of us still believe in the Mahabharata, & Ramayanya. However in contrast to Mahabharatha or Ramayanya, most of Mahavansa has been verified by authoritative historians & archeologists,

  5. Sachi Sri Kantha

    Here is my brief response to the comment by Edward T. Upali.

    First, despite his reverence and admiration to the Mahavamsa chronicle, it appears to me that Mr. Upali has NOT even read a page of Mahavamsa, either in the original Pali or in Sinhalese or English translation. To quote him, “one cannot quote one paragraph from the book and say, therefore the book is garbage.” Please note, that I had never mentioned that Mahavamsa chronicle is ‘garbage’. What I stated was that “celebrated author of Mahavamsa was a great fiction writer, with fantastic imagination of air travel.”

    In fact, the central issue of Mahavamsa’s proposition – that is the introduction of Buddhism to ancient Lanka – was IN THAT one verse or sloka (not paragraph, as mentioned by Mr Upali). As Geiger had written in his introduction (p. xiv), “Mahinda arrives in Ceylon in marvellous fashion, flying through the air”. I do not deny the fact that Mahinda arrived in Lanka, during Devanampiya Tissa’s time, as Asoka’s emissary to spread Buddhism doctrine. This is ascertained in more than one sources. But, how feasible it is for Mahinda to ‘fly through the air’ and land in Lanka? This is why, I asserted that ‘author of Mahavamsa was a great fiction writer, with fantastic imagination of air travel.’, about an event which happened nearly 800 years before his time. Mahanama could have easily described that Mahinda traveled by boat (in crossing the sea) or either on horse back or walking (while traveling in the land). But, he attributed ‘miracle powers’ to Mahinda (the human) to fly. There is NO supporting evidence for Mahinda’s flight into Lanka. This is my brief here.

    Secondly, Mr Upali’s assertion that “may be some humans could, but the practice has died out due to the availabilty of “modern comfortable flying” ” is totally unsupported by zoological evidence. It is simply gibberish!

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