In late 1965 I set out on an oral history exercise interviewing retired British public servants about their experiences in Ceylon. This work has been clarified earlier in two Thuppahi Items. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
“The Portugese, the Saviours of our Culture?” = This is the title of a scholarly article written in the Ceylon Historical Journal in the 1950s by B. J. Perera BA (History) University of Ceylon who was our teacher in the University Entrance class. It was of course “dead against” the version given by nationalist historians after independence. However his interpretation simply put was that the Mughals had conquered Hindu India and ruled it for a couple of centuries and converted a large part of the Hindu population to the Muslim religion as had happened in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia and the Maldives, which had been either Hindu or Buddhist. The evidence in Bali and Java of the existence of Buddhist and Hindu relics supports this view.
Priyan de Silva, in Daily News, 5 November 2018, where the title is “Little Valley: where ethnic harmony reigns”
“I was entrusted with this grocery business by my father in 1991. I was 24 years old at the time,” said S.R.A. Bandula, weighing the few 100 grams of groceries that Valliamma had asked for. At the same time, 23-year-old Mohamed Rifad was leaning against the counter and munching on a few parippu wades while listening to our conversation. I was in the Little Valley colony situated in the Suduwella Grama Niladhari division of the Deltota Divisional Secretariat in the Central Province. The little grocery store run by Bandula and his wife Anoma Kumari is the first building on the narrow street that runs through the colony. “My father started the business when people could only afford to buy one beedi or half a cake of washing soap at a time,” recalled Bandula.
The street that runs through the colony was lined with small cottages which are in fact renovated line rooms and home to people from all three ethnic communities in Suduwella.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.