Category Archives: colonisation schemes

Sri Lanka’s Course, 1948-2020: Missed Opportunities, ONE

Sugath Kulatunga

At independence we had a stable democracy, a sound economy, and an effective public service and external assets equal to 100 percent of annual import value. We were second to Japan on almost all social indicators and above South Korea as late as in the mid-sixties. Singapore’s per capita income was just a little bit higher than Sri Lanka at that time. It is now over USD 64,000 whereas ours is USD 3852. The immediate looming question is why Sri Lanka with better physical resources failed to advance like Singapore.

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Shihan De Silva Jayasuriya’s Wide-ranging Work on Portuguese Creole and the Kaffir

Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya of the University of London has been researching the Portuguese in the East for over twenty years and has generated a significant number of studies on Portuguese Creole peoples, their life-style ad  languages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Her output of work has been as varied as commendable and I begin with a summary of one article dealing with “a nineteenth-century manuscript in Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole” because i am presently fashioning an article that refers to the work of Hugh Nevill on the Kāberi Hatana in order to ‘educate’ those who have touched on African slave labour at Galle without possessing any background information on the topic. This essay is in process and will appear soon….. Michael Roberts

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PUL ELIYA Comments reviewed critically by Ceylon Civil Servants for ROHP

“PUL ELIYA” QUOTATIONS AS PRESENTED to the CCS and other personnel

I quote some passages from a book by Dr. E. Leach entitled “Pul Eliya A Village in Ceylon” (Cambridge, 1961). He is a socia1anthropologist who lived for several months in Pul Eliya, a Dry Zone Anuradhapura area village, in the mid 1950’s. There are some interesting passages pertaining to Government regulations and their practical implementation. While these views pertain largely to the 1940’s and 1950’s they are, both implicitly and explicitly, held to apply to most of the 20th century for he has also delved into past records. I present some for your comments.

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Under Scrutiny: Edmund Leach’s PUL ELIYA

Michael Roberts

In late 1965 I set out on an oral history exercise interviewing retired British public servants[1] about their experiences in Ceylon. This work has been clarified earlier in two Thuppahi Items.[2] Because of my strong interest in colonial agrarian policies, I was familiar with the books produced by two outstanding Cambridge University scholars: BH Farmer and Edmund Leach. Farmer’s book on Pioneer Peasant Colonization in Ceylon (1957) reviewed British efforts to develop the dry zone of Sri Lanka via irrigation projects emulating the captivating efforts in ancient times. As such, it focused on DS Senanayake’s inspirational role in this set of enterprises. Leach’s detailed ethnographic experiences in a village arena in Anuradhapura District provided detailed ground-level data and interpretations in this field.

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Introducing PUL ELIYA by Edmund R. Leach

This is a ‘servicing item’ introducing an anthropological study in the North Central Province which appeared in 1961 and, as such, is an essential preliminary to an impending item that was one aspect of the Roberts Oral History Project of 1965-69, namely. the comments on some of Leach’s findings from several British and Ceylonese public servants with some experience of the Dry Zone and its villages and/or colonization projects…. with thanks to Nadeeka Paththuwaarachchi of Colombo environs for her typing work.

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Portuguese Colombo in 1662 via the Sketches of Esaias Bourse

Chryshane Mendis, in The HistoryFreek, 4 May 2020, where the title reads “Colombo in Transition 1662: Through the Eyes of Artist Esaias Boursse

This short essay serves as an introduction to a rare collection of sketches of Colombo and its environs in the year 1662.

Sinhalese soldier and labourer

Esaias Boursse was a servant of the VOC who made over hundred sketches of daily life in Colombo, mainly focused on the People and the work they were engaged in. This collection is called the “Tijkenboeck” and is held by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This album containing 116 sheets of drawings came into the possession of the Rijksmuseum in 1996. Its value outweighs the poor quality of some of the drawings in that it captures scenes from within a city which was being transformed from its Portuguese outlook to the Dutch; thus some scenes depict street views of Portuguese Colombo- a phenomena never before captured in drawing except for textual descriptions.

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Pushing the British out of Ceylon, 1918-1956: Issues

Michael Roberts

My essay on “The Basis of British Power” (July 2020) was instigated by articles from Prabath de Silva and Leelananda de Silva on aspects of the Donoughmore Reforms and subsequent developments. Vinod Moonesinghe has seized on secondary dimensions to press some hoary old strands of Trotskyist thinking and to laud (A) the intervention of SWRD Bandaranaike and  the MEP forces for getting rid of British military bases in the 1950s and (B) the radical political messages of the young LSSP politicians who burst onto the scene in the late 1920s and early 1930s.[1] This is linked to the standard Marxist belittling of the achievements of DS Senanayake and associates in the interpretation of the island’s path to independence.

.Vinod RG Senanayake

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Elephantine Problems in Sri Lanka’s Jungles and Villages

Kamanthi Wickremasinghe, in Daily Mirror, 23 June 2020, where the title reads “Sri Lanka’s vanishing Elephant Corridors”

  • As many as 16 areas that have been identified as elephant passes are yet to be declared and included in a gazette
  • Area residents told the Daily Mirror that more land had been cleared during the curfew period
  • According to research conducted by CCRSL elephants have well delineated to comparatively small home ranges of 50-150 sq. kilometres
  • In Galgamuwa 60 acres of land belonging to the Thorawa Mailawa Temple were leased out to a private company

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A Statue Obliterated in Bristol: Radicals for Floyd in Righteousness against the Slave Trade

Gurminder K. Bhambra, in New York Times, 12 June 2020, with this title “A statue was toppled. Can we talk about the British Empire? “

The statue of the slave trader Edward Colston falling into the water on Sunday after protesters in Bristol, England, pulled it down.Credit…Keir Gravil, via Reuters

BRIGHTON, England — Tens of thousands of people protested in British cities in solidarity with those rising up against police brutality against black Americans in the past week. They highlighted similar injustices in Britain. Protesters in the city of Bristol drew connections between a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, and the histories of colonialism and the slave trade. On Sunday, they toppled the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, trampled over it and rolled it into Bristol Harbor.

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The Veddas in the East of Ceylon in the 1950s

L.C. Arulpragasam, in Sunday Observer, 13 October 2019, where the title is  The Veddas and the Gal Oya scheme: Ultimate resettlement at Bintenne”

In the Jungles of Bintenne: In 1950 I undertook a sociological survey along with Mr. Kuda Bibile, a University colleague, of the Veddas living in the jungles of Wellassa and Bintenne in the Badulla District of the Uva Province. The only authoritative study of the Veddas at that time had been done by Dr. C. Seligmann, a German anthropologist, in 1911. I carried his heavy tome around with me on my entire journey.

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