Pressed by a friend in Australia, I revisited my academic journey as recorded in my old CV listings and feel that it may possibly be beneficial to the numerous personnel venturing into Sri Lankan history and politics via the stimulation of social media to have these items marked as targts for criticism and, even possibly, inspiration. I commence by listing Articles — but not books – presented in the period 1965 to 1999.
An Editorial Note from Michael Roberts, 27 January 2022
Recent items on the Senanayake family and on DS Senanayake (Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister) in Thuppahi touched on his work in promoting peasant agriculture . One of Sri Lanka’s foremost researchers in this field is my friend and colleague from undergraduate days in Ramanathan Hall and Peradeniya University in the late 1950s, namely, Gerald H Peiris. As it would be of wider benefit, I asked him to present Thuppahi with a list of his research work on agriculture and the island economy.
From KM. De Silva: DS. The Life of DS Senanayake, (1884-1952)
A NOTE from Thuppahi: printed in 2016 this book of 135 pages is clearly meant to provide a distilled assessment of DS Senanayake’s career. Our readings of this work by Kingsley De Silva must take note of this precising intent on the author’s part — though we must also be aware of Professor De Silva”s conservative UNP affiliations….. and be grateful to Iranga Silva of the ICES in Kandy for making the text of the whole book available to us in a convenient form.
It is no easy task to pen down few words on the life history of a colossus like Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, but nevertheless I will try. Life has its ways, its own twists and turns at times one would not expect; such was the shocking yet inevitable demise of Dr. Deraniyagala. The mystery of life will take us on many paths, and in the case of Dr. Deraniyagala, it took him to explore the mystery of life itself! While digging the earth to unravel humanity’s origins, perhaps he too realized where his journey would end, in the earth; and it eventually did come to pass on the 5th of October 2021. The Man who studied the past, of the lifeways of past peoples, now himself joined them; Siran Upendra Deraniyagala is now a person of the past!But what of his legacy? Will he be only a person of the past or will he be remembered in the present? Unlike the mystery of life, this is an easy question with a simple answer. Yes. Siran Deraniyagala will live on! Decades later even after fading from living memory, his name will be remembered even centuries on.Such is his legacy. Therefore let us briefly marvel at the amazing life of of Dr. Siran Deraniyagala.
Chandre Dharmawardana, whose preferred title is “Political Rhetoric, or Sounding the Death Knell of Sri Lanka’s Agriculture?”
A quote attributed to the Greek play write Euripides says that “ Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. Reading the news from Sri Lanka, one can only wonder if a prescient Euripides had Lanka’s successive rulers since 1970 in mind.
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.
The concept of the ‘Traditional Tamil Homeland’ as promulgated by its exponents is based on the notion that, from the distant past, the island of Sri Lanka comprised the territories of two distinct nationalities that were arbitrarily unified in the formation of British Ceylon in the early 19th century. My survey, which draws from several authoritative writings, some of which have been authored by reputed Tamil scholars, shows that such a notion does not conform to known facts and unbiased interpretations of the country’s history.
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.
Renuka Sadanandan, in Sunday Times,22 September 2019, where the title is “Lanka’s friend in need and deed“
J.R. Jayewardene entertaining guests on the lawn of the President’s House once asked British MP Michael Morris if he smoked. When he replied no, the President inquired if his father did. Receiving a positive answer he presented Morris with a box of Cuban cigars, saying that President Fidel Castro regularly sent them to him. Back home in the UK, his father called to thank Morris for the cigars, informing him that he cut them in half as they were so strong! “You can’t cut Castro’s cigars in half Father,” he recalls his horrified protest.
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.