Category Archives: Left politics

The Plantation Economy in British Ceylon: The Downtrodden Indian Tamil Labour and the Dispossessed Kandyan Peasantry

Uditha Devapriya, in SAT MAG” of The Island on September 19 and September 26, 2020.

PREFACE: This essay does not present a complete history of plantation slavery, which anyway has been covered many times before by scholars of repute, including Professor Asoka Bandarage, whose Colonialism in Sri Lanka went through a second edition recently. Rather, it counters Sinhala nationalists and those opposed to Sinhala nationalists who equate the position of African-Americans with that of Tamils and Muslims, indicating a failure to distinguish between minority communities which thrived under conditions of colonialism (and neocolonialism) and those which suffered under those conditions. It also counters certain “Marxist” and rightwing academics who see the plantation system as capitalist, and who, while either sympathising with the plight of Estate Tamils or ignoring them outright, single out Kandyan Sinhalese peasants for what they allege to have been their innate laziness under British colonialism, a myth demolished by S. B. D. de Silva in his underrated and unread magnum opusThe Political Economy of Underdevelopment.

Tea Plantation labour in Ceylon – circa 1890s

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The Democratization Process in Ceylon, 1832-1948

Michael Roberts: “The Democratization Process in Sri Lanka,”  being the text of an Illustrated Lecture on Video presented to The May 18 Memorial Foundation in Korea in early September 2020 …. as part of a series encompassing several countries — organised by Professor Inrae You. The Lecture was, as I understood it, for highschool students.

The democratisation process began in the period of British rule in the 20th century. It would however be unwise to start with the early 20th century. One should look at the prehistory of the island of Ceylon before that. Ceylon, Ceilão, Sihalē had forms of autocratic kingship well before the European colonial powers came to Asia and set up their colonies.

Rajasinghe II of Sihale ruling from Mahanuvara and receiving homage (dakuma) from the Dutch

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Confronting Welikala and De Silva-Wijeyeratne: One

I sent the Article by Asanga Welikala and de Silva-Wijeyeratne to 24 personnel** in various parts of the world on the 29/30th August inviting Comments ….. and these THREE comments from Hugh Karunanayake, Gerald Peiris and CR de Silva are the first ‘burst’ ….. Michael Roberts 

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Rajapaksa Populism: Reflections from Udith Devapriya

Udith Devapriya iDaily Mirror, 15 August 2020, where the title reads Four lessons from my father”

My father was the first in his family and my mother’s, to foretell Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rise to power in the 1990s. At the time the man was in charge of Labour and Vocational Training, a threadbare though challenging ministry if ever there was one. Challenging, not because one could not do much in it, but because by then the SLFP’s approach to labour had begun to depart from its traditional vantage point.

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Ideological Blindness at Peradeniya in the Early 1970s: Inattentive to the Emerging Tamil Storm

Michael Roberts

Recent mail exchanges with a British gentlemen seeking information on British plantations led me to Tom Barron and his stay at Peradeniya University and to the Ceylon Studies Seminar of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While my essay on the latter has been aired before, the emphasis then was directed towards highlighting the inspirations behind this intellectual activity and identifying the many hands invloved in the ‘works’. However, it has dawned on me — today — that there is a subsidary stream within my review that demands emphasis …… in fact a gasp of amazement and exasperation. When leading intellectuals with substantial input within the governing circles of the day could be so blind, is it a wonder that the ethnic split between Tamils and Sinhalese developed astronomically!

 Sathiah

Sam  CR Gerry … every one of them alive to the developing undercurrents of ethnic hate

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Erudite Voices seeking Limits on Election Landslide

I = Rajan Philips: “On your marks, get set – for the weakest parliament to face the gravest crises” 2 August 2020, https://island.lk/on-your-marks-get-set-for-the-weakest-parliament-to-face-the-gravest-crises/

II = Lucien Rajakarunanayake: “save Democracy froma Two-Thirds Majority,” 3 August 2020,  https://island.lk/save-democracy-from-a-two-thirds-disaster/

III = Sumedra S  Amarasekera: “Reality of two-thirds power in parliament,” 3 August 2020, https://island.lk/reality-of-two-thirds-p: ower-in-parliament/

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Lanseelam in 1985: Cut and Thrust ….

“EELAM INSPIRES LANSEELAM BY BURGHERS”….. Appendix ONE in People Inbetween by Roberts, Colin-Thome & Raheem, Ratmalana 1989, Sarvodaya Book Publications, pp.

1, Deebuey Street, Lan Sea Park, A. 5071.

1 January 1985.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write on behalf of the Lanseelam Association of Australia Inc., a body which was recently formed for the purpose of defending the rights of Burghers in Sri Lanka.

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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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Gotabaya’s Governance in Groundviews Gunsights

Borella Junction 24.25 July 1983  —Pix by Chandragupta Amarasinghe –here juxtaposed with the Pix deployed by GV which, in my reading, may not be from the July pogrom but from other moments of violence

COLOMBOPEACE AND CONFLICTPOLITICS AND GOVERNANCE

Sri Lanka And The US: A Pogrom And A Black Death At The Hands Of A White Policeman: Salutary Lessons

The Scene The morning of July the 25th 1983 is etched in my brain. I saw a group of people running or walking very fast away from the environs of Colombo. On…

LIONEL BOPAGE 06/20/20on 20 Continue reading

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Irangani Serasinghe: A Beacon for Her Times …. Versatility Unconfined

Madapatha Uditha, in The Island, 17/18 June 2020, with this title “Searching for Irangani” …. while highlighting is an imposition from The Editor, Thuppahi

Irangani Serasinghe turned 93 on Tuesday, June 9

If the reputations of actors can be compared to shares in a company, there’s no doubt that Irangani Serasinghe’s has always been oversubscribed: public interest in her career in not just the cinema and television, but also the theatre, has never been matched by an adequate level of quality in coverage by the media. There’s never been a shortage of articles, of course, and Kumar de Silva’s sketchy yet comprehensive portrait of her does establish the links between several aspects of her life and family and the career she eventually chose.

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