Category Archives: working class conditions

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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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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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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The Carpentry Trade in the Rise of the Karāva in British Ceylon

Professor Sanath Lamabadusuriya

The Dutch period opened up several new economic opportunities for the locals, and the British period that followed opened up even more. Carpentry was one of them. Colonial economic activity in the maritime provinces required large buildings with extensive woodwork, Carts, boats and ships for transport, barrels for storage and European style furniture. These demands created a new and thriving carpentry industry.

A Coopering Factory …. Such products as arrack and coffee (and later graphite) were packed into barrels for transhipment. The demand would have been considerable so that entrepreneurs who set up coopering concerns would have been among those who became scions of the indigenous capitalist class.

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Stepladders in Learning at St. Aloysius College in Galle

Daya Lelwela, in Sunday Island, 2 May 2010

Having lived past the biblical span of three score years and ten, I thought it opportune now for me to make this reminiscent journey back in time to my days in school [viz. S. Aloysius College] before my fading, patchy memory were to rob me completely of those golden moments that I have cherished all my life and wish to share with you.

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Outreach ECSAT: Aid for the Totally Impaired

Michael Roberts

There are children who cannot walk and are totally dependent on family and others. When such families are encased in poverty as working-class people, their lot is that much harder. ECSAT assists a few of these families in the locality of Galle Town. I joined Roshan and Kumari Kariyawasam on one of their outreach visits (with Roshan’s daughter Padani as company) one morning in August 2020.

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Dunkirk Different! Migrants penetrate England by Small Boat

Sophia Sleigh & April Roach in Evening Standrard 10 August 2020, where the title is RAF plane patrols English Channel after nearly 700 migrants cross”

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The Rajapaksa Reshaping of the Sri Lankan Polity

Asanga Welikala and Roshan de Silva-Wijeyeratne, in Groundviews, 25 August 2020, with this title “The Past and the Present in the (Re)Constitution of the State”  … 

The election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019 marked the beginning of a new era of a Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist ascendancy in Sri Lanka. The Covid-19 pandemic provided an early opportunity for the government to establish an authoritarian governing style, helped by Parliament standing dissolved, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to subject the government to the constitution. In the delayed parliamentary election earlier in August, the government and its allies sought and obtained a two-thirds majority mandate.

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Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Prospects Today

Jehan Perera, in The New Age, 20 August 2020, with this title “Opening door to Lanka reconciliation”

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapakse, second from right, and prime minister Mahinda Rajapakse, second from left, along with new cabinet ministers stand for the national anthem during the cabinet swearing-in ceremony at the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in the ancient hill capital of Kandy on August 12.— Agence France-Presse/Lakruwan Wanniarachchi

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