Category Archives: Sinhala-Tamil Relations

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 Eastern Regions of Sri Lanka in British Times

Michael Roberts

My D. Phil dissertation at Oxford in the early 1960s centred on British agrarian policy in the mid-nineteenth century and therefore included the British efforts to revive the tank irrigation systems of the Sinhala past. Several British colonial personnel as well as visiting dignitaries were captivated by the ruins of the Anuradhapura/Polonnaruwa periods which they observed during adventure trips. A few saw it as a challenge for their imperial capacity. Some British governors, notably Ward, Gregory and Gordon, took up the prospect.

 Sir Henry Ward and SJV Chelvanyakam

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Democracy under the Gun in Sri Lanka

Jayadeva Uyangoda, in Sri Lanka Guardian 24 September 2020, where the title is “The End of Sri Lanka’s Democracy”

The debate on the proposed 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s 1978 Constitution is gathering momentum. The proposal, which has been published in the Government Gazette, is indeed a constitutional bombshell, literally. Its provisions are very destructive in their objectives as well as consequences. 

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Sri Lankan Expressiveness: Warm Gratitude and Vicious Vituperation

Michael Roberts

I did not see the article that highlighted the manner in which the Tamil people of Vishvamadu feted and lamented the departure of the Sinhalese Military Commander of that arena, Ratnapriya Bandu, when it was originally placed in the public domain in late 2018. This striking presentation was the result of a combination between Shenali Waduge in Lanka and the SPUR organisation in Melbourne, an alliance that immediately indicates orientations laced with sentiments of a chauvinist Sinhala hue.

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Confronting Tamil Distortions: Webinar in Their Face Sunday 27th September

Global Webinar to Combat Baseless Propaganda of Tamil Tiger Agents

A group of Sri Lankan professionals have teamed-up for a two-hour Webinar on Sunday, 27 September at Sri Lanka time 7:30 in the evening which will go globally live for a presentation of cogent facts and data to combat the still-prevailing misinformation campaign undertaken by the former Tamil Tiger agents now operating within the Tamil Diaspora worldwide.

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Caste, Ur and Tamilness among the Tamils in Metropolitan London

Jane Russell. reviewing article by Thanges Paramsothy entitled  “Caste Within the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora” in Anthropology Matters Journal, Vol.18 No 1 (2018)

I usually avoid reviewing academic articles. Many are derivative and ones that employ original research can be turgid and dull. But that is not the case with this article by Thanges Paramsothy, currently South Asia Program Scholar at Cornell. While replete with sociological and anthropological information about Sri Lankan Tamil caste groupings, both past and present, it is also full of revealing insights into a social system that has been a veiled inner sanctum to many outsiders.

a toddy tapper

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Language of Governmentality: An Incisive Comparison

Chandre Dharmawardana, in a COMMENT directed at the moderate voice of Daya Wickramatunga in Thuppahi Commentary, 5 August 2020  …. here raised in status because of its salience and wisdom

Daya Wickrematunga is said quoted to say:  “Our Constitution should include that amendment. The 13th amendment that prescribed equal powers to the provinces, with equal status to the Sinhalese and Tamil languages, was aimed at that. It went to show that the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy of SWRD was wrong.”

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A Poignant Farewell at Vishvamadu in 2018: Rathnapriya Banda’s Work of Reconciliation

Shenali Waduge. in an article presented in June 2018 and entitled  “LTTE village & a Sri Lankan Military Officer show the world what Reconciliation & Peaceful Coexistence is all about” …. ith highlighting emphasis added by The Editor, Thuppahi

It was a farewell that has shocked & left plenty of critics speechless. It has put to rest & completely nullified the lies that have been spread against Sri Lanka’s Army. The culprits include foreign governments/envoys, INGOs/NGOs, UN & even the present government in particular the Tamil leadership & the LTTE diaspora who must be startled at the pictures emerging of an entire village weeping as they bid farewell to a military officer who had played the role of their mentor, their father, their brother, their advisor & virtually their leader. Col. Rathnapriya Bandu has done what Prabakaran, Wigneswaran, Sivajilingam, Sumbanthiran, Sambanthan or even Tamil Nadu politicians could not do & do not want to do. In a world that plays divisive politics of divide & rule he has shown that it takes a hero to unite & Col. Bandu is one hero that we must all salute. No former LTTE village would ever carry a Sri Lankan Military officer on their shoulders & weep as he bid goodbye if he was no hero in their eyes.

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Milinda Moragoda’s Heavy Burden in Delhi and the World-Around

Shenali Waduge, in her Facebook Page, 11 September 2020, https://www.shenaliwaduge.com/can-moragoda-deliver-a-sri-lanka-first/ fbclid=IwAR0ENoSao7UVsWL5vdkIb0fLN61HCL_Sn49DJldGZ8MgQqI5gfaXj5UCnm8 .… where the title is “Will Moragoda deliver a ‘Sri Lanka First’?”

With much thought and strategy Sri Lanka has appointed Moragoda as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Delhi iced with cabinet ranking, the first such fringe benefit afforded to a high commissioner. No doubt, Sri Lanka is thinking the Moragoda magic will provide much relief to Sri Lanka, given the appointment is being made against tremendous objections.

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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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