Category Archives: LTTE

The Potency Borne by Pictures

Michael Roberts

This little presentation is a DEDICATION. It illustrates the potency and power of friends in producing an academic booklet in 2011. As it happens, the booklet bears the title Potency, Power & People in Groups and was financed by the good friends Godfrey & Amar Gunatilleke of the Marga Institute.

The “Acknowledgements” and the “Foreword” taken together spell out the names of those friends who assisted this project. But let me single out Anura Hettiarachchi for his aid in this project and in the endeavours leading to my book on Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period (Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004) because he was struck down by heart failure recently.

To Anura, then, in gratitude I place this item in my website.

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Caste in Jaffna

Prashanth Kuganathan** whose title runs thus: “Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste”

A SYNOPSIS: Since 1983, war has dominated the perception of Sri Lanka. This has affected scholarship on the country, such that the subjects of an overwhelming number of research proposals and publications have been on the war and the prospects and prescriptions for peace. This survey paper is an attempt to locate the system of caste in transition in the Jaffna Peninsula by reviewing recent literature written after the commencement of the war. While detailed ethnographies of caste in Jaffna may have temporarily come to a halt, caste practices have not and remain a salient part of everyday life among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As the war ended in 2009, it is therefore important that social scientists on Sri Lanka revisit the topic of caste, that is an integral part of not just Tamil culture or society, but being Tamil itself. As the study of caste is dominated by research in India, a microanalysis of Jaffna and Sri Lanka, particularly the nuances of this system in transition due to war and militancy, could contribute to the macro-study of caste at a sub-continental perspective.

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House of Lords Debating Sri Lanka & Its Truth Commission Today

HOUSE OF LORDS: Sri Lanka Truth & Reconciliation Commission 

A topical question on Sri Lanka was raised by Conservative peer Lord Daniel Moylan in the House of Lords on Thursday, December 1st which was followed by additional supplementary questions that were answered by Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia & the UN).

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Punishing Rajiv Gandhi: Two Moments

Michael Roberts 

The Thuppahi items on the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi have recently attracted a range of “Hits” …. that is, visitors/viewers. I am puzzled as to why; but list them below – with added reference to the first hit on Rajiv on 30th April 1987 when a Sinhala nationalist seaman from Ratgama attempted to assail him for imposing what is known as the “Indo-Lanka Pact” on Sri Lanka in a conscious move to assist the Tamil liberation movement. Wijemuni De Silva’s blow in fact hit Rajiv’s shoulder in a glancing blow because of the Prime Minister’s quick reaction. It could have been fatal (see “Clobbering …….…,” at https://thuppahis.com/2019/08/08/clobbering-rajiv-gandhi-as-chastisement-in-1987-a-guti-dheema/).

 

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Confronting Two Calamities in Eastern Sri Lanka in 2005

Dennis B. McGilvray, in India Review 5(2-3) November 2006, special issue on public anthropology, …. where the title reads  Tsunami and Civil War in Sri Lanka: An Anthropologist Confronts the Real World”  …. with highlighting in different colours imposed by the Editor, Thuppahi

Recent calls for a new “public anthropology” to promote greater visibility for ethnographic research in the eyes of the press and the general public, and to bolster the courage of anthropologists to address urgent issues of the day, are laudable although probably too hopeful as well.  Yet, while public anthropology could certainly be more salient in American life, it already exists in parts of the world such as Sri Lanka where social change, ethnic conflict, and natural catastrophe have unavoidably altered the local context of ethnographic fieldwork.  Much of the anthropology of Sri Lanka in the last three decades would have to count as “public” scholarship, because it has been forced to address the contemporary realities of labor migration, religious politics, the global economy, and the rise of violent ethno-nationalist movements.  As a long-term observer of the Tamil-speaking Hindu and Muslim communities in Sri Lanka’s eastern coastal region, I have always been attracted to the classic anthropological issues of caste, popular religion, and matrilineal kinship.  However, in the wake of the civil wars for Tamil Eelam and the 2004 tsunami disaster, I have been forced to confront (somewhat uneasily) a fundamentally altered fieldwork situation. This gives my current work a stronger flavor of public anthropology, while providing an opportunity for me to trace older matrilocal family patterns and Hindu-Muslim religious traditions under radically changed conditions.

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Engaging the Politics of Conflict in Sri Lanka: Padraig Michael Colman

Michael Roberts

Padraig Michael Colman is an experienced journalist and writer who pursued his trade in England and Europe before moving to Sri Lanka with his vivacious Sri Lankan wife Tiny and a coterie of dogs. They settled down awhile in Uva district; but have moved to the outskirts of Colombo in more recent times…. and have since moved back to Great Britain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Playing to the Western Gallery? Shehan Karunatilaka

A Simple Silva

Shehan’s intervention with his prize-winning book at the present juncture is significant. He states the obvious re corruption, cronyism and expresses thumps his bleeding heart for the suffering people of Sri Lanka (and YES, Shehan, do please gift the prize money of 50,000£ to the suffering masses in the island).

In an article published in the Financial Times, he laments that “I would like to write from a Tamil woman’s point of view. I mean, that would be calling in a lot of grief if I get it wrong”. (Financial Times) …. … …………………………………. https://www.ft.com/content/fa8c6ebb-7c93-4b54-8337-b6f568234d78

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The Machinations of Vellala Lawyer Leaders that Deepened Tamil-Sinhala Divisions from the 1920s-to-the-1960s

Sebastian Rasalingam, reproducing an article presented in 2008 in The Sri Lanka Guardian in October 2008 with this title “An Excellent and Timely Feature on the Tamils” **

 Please permit me to make some comments on the recent article on the “Sri Lankan Identity” by R. M. B. Senanayake, continuing a discussion in a previous article by Anne Abeysekera. Both these articles, written by authors who are familiar with the English-educated Sinhalese point of view, deal very inadequately with the issues of Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka and in erstwhile Ceylon. In fact, the modern generation, even the Tamils, are on the whole unaware of the true nature of the present conflict and the role of Tamil nationalism. They are misled and mesmerized by simplistic histories concocted by the great political agenda set in motion by the Tamil leaders of the pre-1956 era. In fact, I will outline below how the battlelines were drawn in the Donoughmore days, by G. G. Ponnambalam (GGP) and others who followed.

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In Memoriam. The War Dead … within “A Clear Blue Sky”

Elmo Jayawardena, in The Island4 March 2021, where the title reads “A Clear Blue Sky” … bearing this ’emphasis’…. I publish this article just so that we can remember how sad the times were during the war for both sides. Let us hope and pray such will never happen again)

The one unforgettable memory that Selva always carried within himself was the colour of the vast Jaffna sky, spotless and shimmering in brilliant blue. It appeared as if the Gods had decided to spread a sheet and tucked it taut to the corners of the horizon as if to show off how perfectly they could do things. Off and on there would be fluffy white clouds, being sheep-dogged by winds aloft, harmless cartoons scattered in the sky, men and dogs, trees and castles or whatever a child wanted to imagine them to be. The clouds were seldom grey and laden with rain. That’s how the dry climate came about to roast the soil where Selva’s family toiled under the merciless sun, for generations, to grow chilli on. The kochika as they called it, were the thin and long kind, blood red, extremely hot and mouth-burning. Selva’s people sold the chilli harvest at the week-end market in the closest town. That was Vaddukodai, located an hour’s distance away, by bullock cart, from their nameless village of nowhere and no one; just blood red kochika and blue skies.

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Religion within Tamil Militancy and the LTTE

  Iselin Frydenlund, presenting her article in Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion, May 2018, …. one entitledTamil Militancy in Sri Lanka and the Role of Religion” …. https://sangam.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Tamil-Militancy-in-Sri-Lanka-and-the-Role-of-Religion.pdf  … OR … https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Tamil-Militancy-in-Sri-Lanka-and-the-Role-of-Frydenlund/4cbf5235611dd3407dfa3a2962e6ea635ac50674 … with highlights and pictures being impositions by the Editor, Thuppahi

Induction of Tiger recruits into fighter ranks with receipt of the kuppi containing cyanide

Tiger soldiers relaxing in camp with cyanide kuppi around their necks Pix by Shyam Tekwani

 

Historical Background

Understanding the role of religion in the Tamil insurgency requires an understanding of Sri Lanka’s cultural mosaic and of the development of modern nationalism before and after independence from British colonial power. Sri Lanka is a geographically small yet culturally rich and complex island, with numerous ethnic, linguistic, religious, and caste subgroups. The majority of the population identify as ethnically Sinhala, and they speak Sinhala, an Indo-European language. The great majority of the Sinhalese are Theravada Buddhists who live mostly in the south and central regions of the island. A small minority of Sinhalese are Catholics, and some also belong to evangelical Christian churches. The largest minority group in Sri Lanka is the Tamils, who speak Tamil (a South Indian Dravidian language) and comprise several subgroups. The largest of these are the so-called Sri Lankan Tamils, who traditionally have lived in the north and east. The so-called Indian Tamils are labor immigrants from India who were brought in by the British to work in the plantation sector in the highlands. The majority of Tamils are Hindus of the Śaiva Siddhanta tradition, but there are also a significant number who are Catholics and a few to smaller Evangelical denominations. The Tamil Muslims identify based on religious belonging, not on a common ethnic identity, and they speak Tamil. Historically, the Muslim communities are scattered throughout the island; they form a stronghold in urban trading centers in the south but are also farmers in the Tamil-majority Eastern Province. Social stratification based on caste and regional identities was strong in precolonial Lanka, and then the colonial classifications of the island’s inhabitants produced new identities with intensified religious and racial signifiers. These were reproduced in the emerging Tamil and Sinhala nationalisms of the late 19th century.

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