Category Archives: Left politics

For Lanka’s Future and Serenity: Skanda’s Appeal from the Heights of Haputale

Somasundaram Skandakumar …. with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi

A path to prosperity for Sri Lanka will ONLY evolve when the majority community that so passionately talks about Buddhism have it in them to abide by Lord Buddha’s profound teaching, in their hearts, minds and in Public.

It was the Lord who wished for ALL beings to be happy. It was the same Lord who said that when ALL beings are happy, nature will smile on the Country and prosperity will be assured from the ensuing blessings.

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Dissecting the Federal Option for SL Tamils in 2005 — An Important Appraisal

  Gerald Peiris, whose original refereed essay in 2005 in Faultlines, Volume 17, Journal of the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi …. is entitled “Federalism and the ‘Federal Option’ for Sri Lanka” ….. Its Table of Contents is reproduced at the end of this presentation.

On Federalism as a Modality of Conflict Resolution

“The successful operation of federal systems requires a particular kind of political environment, one that is conducive to popular government and has the requisite traditions of political cooperation and self-restraint.  Beyond this, federal systems operate best in societies with sufficient homogeneity of fundamental interests to allow a great deal of latitude to local government and permit reliance upon voluntary collaboration.  The use of force to maintain domestic order is even more inimical to the successful maintenance of federal patterns of government than to other forms of popular government.  Federal systems are most successful in societies that have the human resources to fill many public offices competently and the material resources to afford a measure of economic waste as part of the price of liberty”.

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Bonapartist Autocracy in Sri Lanka from 1977 Onwards

Uditha Devapriya who notes that the article that followw here was published in two parts by “The Island” in its “Midweek Review” of December 2 and December 9, 2020. It has since  been edited to incorporate information which at the time of writing the author was not able to add.

 Napoleone di Buonaparte

I: Viewed in retrospect, the yahapalanaya regime seems almost a bad memory now, best forgotten. This is not to underrate its achievements, for the UNP-SLFP Unity Government did achieve certain things, like the Right to Information Act. It soon found out, however, that it couldn’t shield itself from its own reforms; that’s how 2015 led to 2019. Despite its laudable commitment to democratic rule, the yahapalanists reckoned without the popularity of the man they ousted at the ballot box. November 2019, in that sense, was a classic example of a populist resurrection unparalleled in South Asia, though not in Asia: a government touting a neoliberal line giving way to a centre-right populist-personalist.

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The ROHP in Ceylon, 1966-70: Interviews and Select Transcriptions

Michael Roberts

The Roberts Oral History Project involved many stages and a range of tasks. The interviewing process has been clarified in two items –embracing personnel in Britain and thereafter in “Ceylon” (yet to become “Sri Lanka”): https://thuppahis.com/2020/12/04/the-roberts-oral-history-project-in-the-1960s-origins-outcomes/#more-47446 AND https://thuppahis.com/2020/12/06/adelaide-university-initiatives-a-michael-roberts-oral-history-project-1965-68/#more-47494.

While this work was in progress a partial consolidation was pursued by transcribing the spoken word into written typescript. The ‘engine’ for this process was my wife Shona Roberts. Looking at some dates I find that some of this work began at Bath Place Oxford itself. The bulk of the work, however, was undertaken in Sri Lanka when we were living in an annexe at Siebel Place off Peradeniya Road in Kandy.  I could not type then, so the task was wholly Shona’s — a difficult job managing the spools and demanding rewinds often. I chipped in by listening and correcting the typed scripts [which then had to be re-typed]. All this was seen to in the period April 1966 to mid-1970 – a stage that saw the birth of our second child Maya Samantha in February 1967 and also involved child-minding and housekeeping tasks.

It would not be amiss to cast Shona as the “Heroine of Siebel Place.” The Adelaide University records indicate that there are a total of 1720 pages of transcripts!

Shona with Kim and Maya

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Adelaide University Initiatives-A: Roberts’ Oral History Project 1965-68

VISIT https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/83263 ………………. Michael Roberts. Oral History Project :  303

154 interviews by Michael Roberts of retired public servants who had served in Sri Lanka (mainly in the Ceylon Civil Service), politicians and other notables.

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The Burgher Exodus from Sri Lanka: A Reading in 1988

Barbara Crossette, in New York Times way back in 1988 …. where the title runs thus “Colombo Journal; A Proud People, Scattered and Forgotten by Time”

In Sri Lanka, a country torn by violence, the holiday season is perhaps most poignant for a small minority that has not been part of the ethnic strife at all.  They call themselves the Dutch Burghers, but the name, most generously defined, can cover a rich ethnic mix of Portuguese, Dutch, British and other Europeans who settled here over several centuries.

The Burghers, who are Christians, also number among themselves the Eurasian descendants of Europeans and high-born Sinhalese or, less often, Tamils. Ethnic Sinhalese account for about 74 percent of the Sri Lankan population of about 16 million; Tamils, 18 percent. Continue reading

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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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