17 January, 2021

Blog

India, Sri Lanka And The Legacy Of The British Empire

By Kalana Senaratne

Dr. Kalana Senaratne

Dr. Kalana Senaratne

Review of Harshan Kumarasingham’s “A Political Legacy of the British Empire

In our long discussions about Sri Lanka’s post-independence political history, India’s large shadow falls inevitably upon us, bringing with it a curious and mixed effect; it is both alarming and inspiring at times, but also quite disheartening and dispiriting on other occasions. We were both part of the British Empire, both Mother Lanka and Mother India, but an analysis of our respective post-colonial histories shows the contrast; and as a consequence, there is, somewhere in the air, a sense of jealousy too, drifting from here to there. How differently have we grown since then, how strangely have we acted and reacted, and in what mysterious and frightening ways have our paths crossed over the past few decades?

It is the crucial first decade of this post-independence story which forms the central topic of Harshan Kumarasingham’s wonderful work, entitled: A Political Legacy of the British Empire: Power and the Parliamentary System in Post-Colonial India and Sri Lanka. Published in 2013, the book examines this first decade of, what Kumarasingham calls, the two “Eastminsters”; i.e. countries which altered and adapted the Westminster system to suit their own soil while maintaining core Westminster institutions and conventions (p. VIII). The emphasis placed on this first decade is most apt, for he correctly considers those years to be forming the “critical juncture period” which led to “path dependent” outcomes. Certainly, the manner in which the political leaders intervened in the political affairs of their respective countries has come to have a lasting effect.

Political-Legacy-of-the-Bri.ashxKumarasingham’s argument, or its main thrust, may not be new. But I thought that the strength of his work lies in two factors: firstly, it lies in his emphasis on the critical first decade after independence, in showing how vital that period was in shaping the political and constitutional futures of the post-colonial state; and secondly, it lies in his engagement with both the Indian and Sri Lankan cases concerning this critical first decade, which, as constitutional law scholars who have reviewed the book point out, is one of the first studies to do so. Kumarasingham’s book is an essential read, and precisely because of that, I do not wish to review it in any extensive manner. I will only highlight a few bits and pieces from his work, selectively chosen, before concluding with a few personal observations relating to the book’s overarching theme.

India

Kumarasingham devotes the first few chapters to an examination of India.

He points out how according to many observers, India in 1947, was considered to have many of the conditions necessary to bring about a demise of its democratic institutions (p. 29). But the Indian leadership did much to retain “the governmental essence and structure of the departed imperial power system”, but most crucially, with an “Indian interpretation” (p. 26). It was the work of an elite which ensured India got constitutional democracy: it was a top-down affair (p. 33). Interestingly, there was in this process the creative use of Indian historical culture, rather than the historical culture of the British, to justify Westminster institutions (p. 34).

The discussion on how Indian leaders and constitutional experts worked to adapt the Westminster tradition and institutions, the deliberate attempt made by them to avoid the creation of an American-style Presidency, and the seriousness with which Indian leaders sought to promote secularism, provide useful lessons. In discussing these many aspects, Kumarasingham also sets out a fascinating discussion about one of the principal protagonists of this story; Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister.

His pre-eminent role in Indian politics, that one-man show he came to play especially from the beginning of the 1950s, comes about largely due to the death of Gandhi and Sardar Patel (p. 57). However, Jawaharlal was, at least to my limited knowledge, a jewel-like and mysterious figure. He was a man who had developed a vision for his country and its many peoples, and who had written so elegantly about it. He was also a curious mix of many worlds. Nehru “was quick to dispense with any outward sartorial sycophancy of British culture, preferring Indian dress very early in his political career. Intellectually, however, he gleefully drew upon Western thought.” (p. 50-51).

Kumarasingham also devotes a chapter (chapter 4) to a most important discussion concerning Indian federalism, a structure which is “unquestionably distinctive” (p. 90). The history behind the formation of this structure – the existence of numerous autonomous entities, the role of the Indian Princes who ruled over those territories (and the developments surrounding the formation in 1921 of the Chamber of Princes), the impact of the rise of Gandhi and the Congress party and the resultant decline of the Princes – is fascinating. Kumarasingham also states that along with the commitment to provide for local autonomy, there was also an avoidance of the formation of a loose-federation. Both Patel and Nehru were keen on ensuring that Paramountcy of the Centre was established to prevent any disintegration (p. 96-97). In this regard, Kumarasingham quotes Dr. Ambedkar who informed the Assembly in November 1948 how the draft Indian Constitution “can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances” (p. 105).

And yet, India’s initial commitment to the federal idea came from one of the most visionary and secular political leaderships in Asia (or in the world, too?). This enabled them to develop that necessary trust and confidence, wherein a centre strong enough to resist secession was not viewed with extreme suspicion by the constituent states. It was a leadership which was accommodating, and flexible in the face of self-determination demands (p. 109). Hence its ability to uphold the “ideal of a composite nation with a cooperative federalism protected and conserved by the centre” (p. 112).

Sri Lanka

Lanka, in all its forms and manifestations, is close to us; closer than India. And this closeness, both physical and psychological, makes an ‘objective’ appreciation a difficult task, and we often become very critical of her. This is especially the case at present, when her nastiness is growing by the day and her ruthless eyes peep into us ever so often. After long years of war, one feels that the entire country is in need of some rehabilitation. So Kumarasingham’s analysis of the first decade of post-independence Sri Lanka is one which is of much relevance to us.

The second half of the book is devoted to an examination of the Sri Lankan case.

Kumarasingham’s story begins with the general observation that Sri Lanka did not have any serious signs of doom at the time she gained independence. But the very manner in which independence was sought and granted tells us much about the stuff that went into making Sri Lanka. For instance, that Sri Lanka’s independence was granted by an Order in Council and not an Act of Parliament, and as Sir Ivor Jennings had written, that Sri Lankan leaders had been more worried about the extra time it would have taken to achieve independence through an Act (p. 118), tells us much about our independence ‘struggle’ and the political elite of that era. And “Sri Lanka aimed to be a truly British Westminster and not an adapted Westminster”, partly also due to the fear of India coming to dominate the subcontinent (p. 120).

More critically, this would explain why Sri Lanka’s independence was, in many ways a “personal transaction between the British and D.S. Senanayake” (p. 142), Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister. In Sri Lanka too, like in India, it was an elite-centred affair; but unlike in India, Sri Lanka lacked visionary leaders, as well as a strong political party structure which consistently and continuously asserted the importance of independence. As Kumarasingham points out, the first decade after independence was “characterised by the novelty, incidence and irregular nature of parties” (p. 145); the parties lacked experience, and were dominated by their leaders. While the UNP was formed only in 1947, the Ceylon National Congress, formed in 1919, advocated independence only around 1942 (p. 131).

This also meant that in a small country like Sri Lanka, personalities came to play a large role. In this regard, Kumarasingham’s discussion of the politics of personalities is extremely interesting. Much of this discussion concerns the politics of succession; i.e. the move of the leadership baton from D.S. Senanayake to Dudley Senanayake, the resulting agony of Sir John Kotalawela, and the role of Lord Soulbury in ensuring that Dudley became Prime Minister (esp. p. 149-155). Also interesting is the role and influence Sir Oliver Goonetilleke played in Sri Lankan politics, especially as Governor during Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike’s premiership.

And finally, there was the issue of communalism (as discussed in chapter 7 entitled ‘Sri Lankan Communalism: A Canker Ignored?’). Kumarasingham raises the popular but correct argument that: “The inability of Sri Lankan governments in the first ten years to deal effectively with communalism, especially by utilizing some form of federalism or institutional guarantee to minorities, had a ratchet effect for later years when such options were not easily available to deal with ethnic divisions” (p. 172). The inability to creatively build on the Soulbury constitutional framework to suit the aspirations of the Tamil people was perhaps one of Sri Lanka’s greatest tragedies. But political tragedies don’t fall from the sky; they are the making of rulers and the people. So this failure says much about the Sri Lankan polity and psyche too.

This was also a period that gave birth to post-independence “ethnic outbidding” (p. 192). This, as we know, comes about largely from that (in)famous incident when Sir John Kotalawela does his u-turn regarding the language policy. Kumarasingham states that this “new Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism rapidly brought down the curtain of secular non-sectional nationalism that elites like D.S. Senanayake had idealistically draped over the nation” (p. 192). While the secular and non-sectional credentials of such leaders are always debatable issues, Kumarasingham’s overarching message is clear. The language issue, the Sinhala-only Act, was indeed a path-dependent event (p. 194). And the leaders concerned knew this all too well. As the Prime Minister, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, once reportedly said: “I have never found anything to excite the people in quite the way this language issue does” (quoted at p. 221). That excitement, many decades later, ended up in thousands of deaths and unimaginable destruction.

In the end, Kumarasingham appeared to sum up the gist of his message when writing the following:

“India, which had been predicted to fragment from the moment of its inception, while Sri Lanka was considered the ‘model’, has instead endured while Sri Lanka has faced the more serious and violent threat to its territorial integrity and national unity” (p. 225).

Conclusion

Colonialism came hundreds of years ago, and even though it left some decades back, there is something of it that has left a deep scar, a certain sense which evokes in us the impression that once colonized, things were never going to be the same again. We in small and less powerful countries like Sri Lanka feel it more, and that sense of insecurity is hardly ever felt or realized by the big powers, especially the old colonial powers. It is therefore well that we never forget or belittle the legacies of colonialism, or British imperialism.

However, the critique of colonialism is inadequate, if one is more engaged with the internal politics of the post-colonial state. Critiquing the centrality of colonialism is necessary, but it was this colonialism – its structures and mindset – that in turn assisted the local elite, and successive generations of leaders, to maintain the status quo. This then calls for a sharp refocus on the domestic dimension. But here again, a measured approach is necessary. For the critique of colonialism and that of the local elite leadership, and the resultant nationalism that critique tends to generate, can very easily transform into an ethnically prejudicial, majoritarian form of nationalism. This is unfortunately, and quite often, the problem with the contemporary critique of British imperialism developed by nationalists representing the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community.

There is much that is quite relevant in the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist critique of British imperialism. For instance, the critique developed by the likes of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera involves the critique of the political class that the British inspired and gave birth to in the country, often termed ‘agents’ or imitative leaders (anukaaraka nayakayan). After all, it is Kumarasingham who points out: “Sri Lanka’s elite, unlike their Indian counterparts, were happy to continue with the ‘dignified’ aspects of British monarchical culture and even wanted the country to be called the ‘Kingdom of Ceylon’, which the British thought ‘quite inappropriate.’” (p. 206). In addition, a somewhat careful and generous reading of the concept of Jathika Chinthanaya (loosely translated as ‘national thought’) would show that it is, at least in theory, not dismissive of everything foreign; that it encapsulates the idea of the need to selectively absorb even Western knowledge to suit local culture.

But this critique often degenerates into a harmful rhetoric, and there is a certain ferocious ethnic and religious bias which grips and takes hold of many of its most ardent advocates. This is perhaps inevitable, when the foundation upon which that nationalist discourse is built is one which imagines that while the Tamil and Muslim communities are distinct culturally, that their culture and distinctiveness is an outgrowth of Sinhala-Buddhist culture; peoples and cultures which have been nourished for thousands of years under the shade of the giant Sinhala-Buddhist tree. When this fantasy breaks down, and it necessarily does for it is an understanding shared only by them (and not by the Tamil and Muslim peoples), all manner of dangerous consequences flow.

There is, however, a different form of critique of the British legacy, developed by the likes of Judge CG Weeramantry; one which fuses a nationalist and internationalist outlook toward things. The critique of the British legacy he sets out in his memoirs (especially in ‘Volume I: The Sri Lankan Years’) is quite staggering. His critique is directed also at the brutal manner in which the British crushed the rebellions (such as of 1817). And some of his cosmopolitan admirers might be a little alarmed to note how very close Judge Weeramantry comes to the Sinhala-nationalist critique of British imperialism, when he writes the following about the broader Third World and of the Sri Lankan situation during independence: “Moreover, an elitist class was also left behind which assumed the reigns of rulership but was steeped in the cultural values of the ruling power and had largely lost touch with the grass roots and traditional values” (Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 86).

And yet, Judge Weeramantry’s is not a tasteless critique of everything British or foreign; there is much that he admires of different cultures and religions, and there is never that attempt to essentialize ‘traditional’ (or Sri Lankan, or Asian) values. There is also a very important self-critique, an honest appreciation of our own national weaknesses (especially in his 2005 work on Sri Lanka). It is a voice that most genuinely reaches out to the rest of religious and cultural groups within the country and more globally.

But it may be useful to problematize, to a certain degree, both these versions of critique, for it is necessary to adopt a sense of nationalism (and develop this into a broader internationalism) which is related to the present situation. For the present situation calls for a serious acknowledgment of the ethnic question, the Tamil question, and this dimension is lacking in many of the popular forms of nationalism developed by the Sinhala intelligentsia. While the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist critique ignores this aspect (and reduces a Tamil to a Sinhala Buddhist Tamil or a Muslim to a Sinhala Muslim), the Weeramantry-brand of nationalism adopts a kind of a ‘human rights-nationalism’ to address the Tamil issue. And I have often wondered quite respectfully that that is most suited to that era which Kumarasingham tackles in his book. To be sure, it is necessary; but also, inadequate.

One of our existential tasks then would be to see how we fuse the critique of British imperialism with a critique of ourselves, while synthesizing the nationalist (or, pluri-nationalist), secular and federal impulses to promote greater social justice to our constituent peoples; and to do so, by learning from the best of our own traditions and cultures, as well as from many others. That would only be a start, but a necessary one.

The strength and importance of Kumarasingham’s work lies in providing us with a glimpse of how that task failed in Sri Lanka, and how it did work to a considerable extent in India. India had its leaders, such as Nehru, to discover her. Sri Lanka, that sometimes beautiful, sometimes nasty and wayward going thing, is yet to be discovered in such manner. And it would be a good idea to do so before another big empire, with a red flag, does it for us.

*Kalana Senaratne holds a PhD in international law from the University of Hong Kong. Harshan Kumarasingham’s A Political Legacy of the British Empire: Power and the Parliamentary System in Post-Colonial India and Sri Lanka (I.B. Tauris, 2013) is now available in Sri Lanka

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4
    12

    Well, its a flawed review of a flawed book over a flawed view of the history isn’t it really?

    India failed massively compared to Ceylon. The Nehru-Jinnah showdown resulted in the partition of India in a massive exodus ending up in 3 territories. Even after the partition along religious faultlines India continue to have the largest Moslem minority in any continent. Surely the objective has failed if the Hindu state continue to have a largest Moslem minority population?

    The idea of India is a fallacy anyway. There was never a country called “India” before landing of the Europeans. The religious union was’t strong enough to hold it together in the first place. Further fracturing along linguistic fault lines was barely prevented with federation.

    Ceylon on the other hand existed as a country and a nation of one people. “Ceylon” is a corruption of the word “Sinhale”. The only “Peoples” here are the Cinhales as per any modern definition of a nation. All others are naturalised minorities. If you need a history lesson simply ask. I promise not to mention the Mahavamsa.

    Who are these Tamils anyway? The first wave landed here in the north for British coffee plantations. When coffee failed these Malabar slaves were trained for the Briish civil service. The second wave, over a million was brought again for tea.

    The British did not honor the treaty they singed with Sinhale. That is what resulted in the Uva Wellassa uprising. The British commits genocide of the Sinhala people slaughtering everyone over 18. That is why they needed to bring over 1.5 million Tamils here that disrupted the social cohesion. The British had a habit of doing that. In countries like Fiji, the Malabars out number natives.

    This [Edited out] Kalana is trying to act “progressive” but fails. He fails because of his ignorance. “Tamil nationhood” in Ceylon is akin to robbing Peter to pay Paul. You’d be taking something that always belonged to someone and giving to someone who never had it. I do not see anything progressive here. I can only see something “regressive”.

    • 7
      1

      Vibhushana’ s revised history! It is a blatant and preposterous lie!

      Dr. RN

      • 2
        3

        Dr. RN,

        Its good you responded. Be specific please. Which part is the “lie” ?

        Cheers

        Vib

        • 4
          2

          Worse than lie. Total and utter ignorance spiced with bigotry.

        • 5
          0

          Vibhushana,

          The Kingdoms within Sri Lanka the Portunguese could capture with ease (Kotte), capture after much difficuty(Jaffna) and could not capture (Kandyan).

          Who united Ceylon and brought in under centralized governance? The British.

          When was Lanka a united country with a powerful central authority ? Never before the advent of the British. There may have been a strong King to whom the other less powerful ones paid tribute (Kapang), but there was never a centralized authority, before the British.

          There was a time when the King of Jaffna was supreme and the scared tooth relic was in his possesion and the other Kings had to pay him tribute. The Pandyan King negotiated the release of the sacred tooth relic.

          These are aspects of history hidden from the Sinhala masses and has led to the present circumstances prevailing in communal relations and power structure.

          We, the Tamils know the history of Lanka, more than the Sinhalese have been permitted to know.

          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

          • 1
            4

            Dr. RN,

            If the present world was adjusted back to pre-colonial feudal boundaries there will neither be a Tamil Nadu nor state of Kerala. You will have one single land mass called the Malabar region. If you want the ye old “Jaffna Kindom” back then you will lose Tamil Nadu Im afraid.

            You are confusing Royal houses with ethnicity. Royal houses, even Kandy had a Teligu King just as French kings sat on English thrones. Jaffna royal house was controlled by a Pandayan – South Indian. The throne or the sovereign belongs to the people – not to the individual or his ethnicity.

            Who united Ceylon and brought in under centralized governance? The British.

            Indeed. I thought I had shown this to you before, obviously not. It was the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms that created the administrative structure of the British. If you are in England just pop into the national archives at Kew. The commission report is still there.

            It splits the island into nine provinces. Points made in the report about Jaffna is as follows. Has NO cultivated lands. NO large settled populations, expect for some around the Parish Church. The Parish Church records, of Jaffna reveal presence of 15,200 slaves.

            Although by 1880 there were 250,000 Malabars in Jaffna. The GA Jaffna W.C. Twynam describes how these Malabars were brought over.

            Miserable gangs of coolies….with one or two women to 50 to 100 men , strangers in a strange land , ill-fed, ill-clothed, eating any garbage they came across(more however from necessity than choice), travelling over jungle paths, sometimes with scarcely a drop of water to be found near them for miles, and others knee-deep the greater part of the way in water, with the country all round a swamp; working on estates just reclaimed from jungle , or on jungle about to be converted into estates, badly housed, and little understood by their employers.(CO 54/475)

            There’s your heritage, right here.

            • 1
              0

              Imbecile,

              Why don’t you do a research on the evolution of the sinhala language then you will discover as to the extend of Tamil influence. This fact is well understood and documented by many Scholars including SB Disanayake.

              What you amply exhibit on these forums is your deep-rooted bigotry. Your pastime is tamil bashing. No matter how many times you have been put right, you have no shame. You believe that, if you were to incalcate the lies, they will become true! Your insipid contributions on these forums are preposterous and reckless.

              Sri Lankan tamil calture is unique to Sri Lanka; if you do not agree, show with deeds that is not correct.

            • 4
              0

              Vibhushana,

              The present Tamil Nadu and Kerala had their Sera, Sola Pandiya Kingdoms. They were followed by the Pallawas. There were also minor principlaities. Jaffna and even Anuradhapura and Polonannaruwa came under their influence and reign occasionally. The royal families were linked to those in South India. Parakrama Bahu-1’s wife was Sivakamasundari, a Princes from South India. Even the mythical Vijaya and his band of 700 brigands brought over wives and their followers from the Pandyan Kingdom.

              Yes, there may have been periodic influxes of Tamils from South India to Jaffna. Sir.P. Ramanathan and Arunachalam were second generation Tamils in Jaffna. They were from a cultured, educated and rich family. The workers who came to work in the tobacco plantations of Jaffna, were definitely not the founding fathers of the Jaffna Tamil population. They worked for the Tamils already in Jaffna. They also worked for the Dutch farmers.

              What do you mean by claiming that Jaffna would have been part of the greater Malabar? We were a distinct people in a distinct land, after the legendary Kuari Kandam (Lemuria) was swallowed by the sea. We also have a distinct dialect of Tamil-closest to classical Tamil and distinct culture.

              Further, Jaffna Kingdom was pricipally Tamil from times immemorial. Sri Lanka as a whole had a large Tamil population dispersed over wide areas. There was always a Sinhala minority in the Jaffna Kingdom. They were massacred and chased away when they sided with the Portuguese against King Sankilian. The Koviar caste yet existing in Jaffna are believed to be the descendants of the Sinhala goviyas who were taken as POWs.

              What you quote as said by a colonial government agent of Jaffna, I am sure does not refer to the Tamils in Jaffna. There would not have been any reason for immigrants from South India to trek through thick jumgles and swamp, if their destination was Jaffna. This is the story of the indentured labour brought in for the tea plantations in the hill country. They suffered the worst privations in the trek to the hill country and there after clearing the land. Thousands died. We owe a debt of gratitude for these poor souls, because we are yet benefitting from the sweat,tears, blood and life they shed.

              The Cinnamon plantations in the South also had a huge influx of Tamil labour from South India. They are Sinhalese today. Many toddy Tappers in the SOuth were from Malabar (Kerala) and had Sinhala wives. Their progeny yet bear names such as Ramanlage, Perumalge etc. Neelaperumal was the ancestor of the Bandaranaike clan. Thambi Mudali was the progenitor of JRJ.Going by features, the Rajapakse clan had either a Malay or Indonasian ancestor.

              Let us stop talikn of a distorted past and resolve our problems on the basis recent and well established realities. I also request you to sent in a sample of your tongue scrapping for DNA testing. You will then understand who you are better.

              Dr.RN

              • 0
                3

                Dr. RN,

                Further, Jaffna Kingdom was pricipally Tamil from times immemorial.

                You seem to just pluck things out of thin air without any substantiation.

                Just visit the British archives in Kew and read the report I mentioned. 15,200 “Slaves” found attached to a Parish church. That was 1818 census of Jaffna.

                The Portuguese claimed the Jaffna population consisted of Sinhalese, Bedagaz(Vadegaz(Telegu)) and Muslims. These peoples apparently lived of the sea and game. (Ask me if you want the reference)

                We were a distinct people in a distinct land, after the legendary Kuari Kandam (Lemuria) was swallowed by the sea. We also have a distinct dialect of Tamil-closest to classical Tamil and distinct culture.

                Lemuria, “Tamil Sangam”, are all hoaxes. No one knows who wrote them or when.

                You need to read Robert Knox. When the present day Vellala brought to Jaffna by the Dutch was known as “Bellala”.

                After 1850s when the British brings indentured labour, the Vellala that was brought here had dropped “Ba” and and has become Vellala.

                The process of de-sanrtikisation has taken place as per Bishop Caldwell and the Dravidian movement.

                Your Tamil is exactly the same Tamil script as the Indian Tamil sans “Sa”, “Ba”, “Ha” etc. It certainly is “classical”. It went back to classical just to stand out from Brahmin/North Indian influence. It was a political decision – not anthropological in anyway.

                There is nothing special about your culture. Trust me I know.

              • 0
                0

                Even the mythical Vijaya and his band of 700 brigands brought over wives

                When you said “Mythical” I suppose it means did not happen. The following is Mural found in Ajatha caves, India.

                http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coming_Of_Sinhala_(Mural_At_Ajanta_In_Cave_No_17).jpg

                There was always a Sinhala minority in the Jaffna Kingdom. They were massacred and chased away when they sided with the Portuguese against King Sankilian.

                It seems Tamil were the minority during the Dutch.

                http://jaffnahistory.com/Northern_Province/Sinhala_Villages_of_Jaffna_1695.html

              • 0
                0

                I would like someone to explain why the Chinese Admiral, Zheng He, omitted Sinhala on the Galle trilingual inscription stone tablet which was in Chinese, Tamil, and Persian.
                did Sinhala not have a script then or was is considered unimportant at that time(1400’s)?
                http://maritimeasia.ws/maritimelanka/galle/trilingual.html

                Thank you
                Raj.

                • 1
                  1

                  I would like someone to explain why the Chinese Admiral, Zheng He, omitted Sinhala on the Galle trilingual inscription stone tablet which was in Chinese, Tamil, and Persian.

                  When the British signed the treaty with Ceylon, 15 Sinhala royals signed the doco in Tamil.

                  The Moors made Tamil the language of commerce. At that stage Tamil would have been considered the “link language” in the region. People would have used it as one would use English today.

                  Although with European colonisation, English replaced Tamil as the language of commerce etc.

                  Zheng He made a natural mistake to think Tamil was a language of Ceylon when it was only used as a link language.

      • 0
        0

        So, why did you write the truth ?

    • 1
      1

      You are simpley an inimitable comedian in every sense of the word! This is the only way one can describe your contributions on these forums. Your understanding of history is completely lopsided and grossly inaccurate. This is the result of you devouring exclusively the Sinhala buddhist chauvinistic materials. I truly feel sorry for you!

    • 3
      0

      Vibushana,

      Why do you persist in claiming that that the Tamils were all brought to Sri Lanka by the British? Have you not heard of the armies of Ellara in 100 BC? What about the Hindu temples that were built in Trincomalee and Mantai that predated the arrival of Vijaya, according to the eminent archaeologist Paul Pieris? Pieris also concluded that Tamil fishermen from South India had established a flourishing settlement in Jaffna more than 2000 years ago.

      Then there is the Jaffna Kingdom, a Tamil kingdom established in Nallur in the 1200s; the last king of Jaffna was killed by the Portuguese in the early 1600s. Hundreds of years before this it is well known that there were Tamil soldiers fighting for Sinhalese kings, and intermarriage between Sinhalese kings and Tamil princesses. Some of the kings, themselves, were Tamil. There is a long, long history of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

      The introduction of Indian Tamil estate labourers (slaves) by the British was much later.

      • 1
        4

        Well, thats a kind of a strange name there. Which surname do I use? Although I digress.

        This discussion was triggered by the idea that a “Tamil nationhood” exists within the boundaries of the island.

        A nationhood suggests some kind home or a base for ones culture. Its marks the boundaries where the ethnicity evolved with its traditions and a way of doing things.

        My argument was Tamil culture grew in present day Tamil Nadu and made its presence in the island afterwards. In the contrary, Sinhala language and culture exclusively evolved in the island. I can put forward many evidences to prove my hypothesis.

        A presence of Kovil in Trinco or invasion of Elara does not indicate a Tamil culture/ethnicity evolved here. Its that simple.

        • 2
          0

          Both Tamil culture and ethnicity have evolved in Sri Lanka and India for thousands of years. They have evolved in parallel, with much cross-fertilization.

          The evolution of ethnicity is much slower than the evolution of language and culture. I am told that Sri Lankan Tamil language has differences in pronunciation from Indian Tamil and the “Ceylon Tamils” have long regarded themselves as culturally different to Indian Tamils, though many aspects of the culture are shared (as they are between Sinhalese and Tamil culture).

          The DNA evidence suggests that Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese are genetically closer than either race to the Indian Tamils. This suggests a long history of co-habitation in Sri Lanka.

          Even so, if people are born in a country they should have equal rights as citizens and rightfully call themselves “natives” of the country. Regardless of how long their ancestors have been in the country. There have been Tamils born in Sri Lanka for a long time and they belong to Sri Lanka as much as anyone else. The idea of a “Tamil nation” need not be constrained by geography.

          • 1
            3

            Well, its a long story and I am having to repeat it quite often.

            Human race is split into white/Caucasian, Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black, and Australoid etc. The Asian group where the entire Indian continent have similar DNA.

            The west to east migration that started in Africa all have the same roots. It terms of the script, the base is called the Brahmi.

            Everyone across India had one script in 1 ce. refer here.

            http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/brah11.gif

            Sinhala broke away from this formation and went on it own around 6 ce. Tamil breaks away from the formation 700 years after.

            The reason Sinhala evolved on its own was probably because it evolved in the island separated from the main land.

    • 0
      0

      Hi Vibhushana You are one of those who seems an arrogant and out right illiterate on world history and specially the Ceylon history. Buddhism was introduced into Ceylon by King Asoka’s missionary son and daughter around 243 BC do you agree? If that was the truth then who were the people living in Ceylon at that time? King Theva nambyatheesan was the 4th son of king Muthusivan. He was the King of Lanka at that period. Mahanama Thero in the 5th century AD who feared that the Buddhism would get wiped out from Ceylon, had to run to South India to write his mythical history of Sinhalese and Buddhism. All these were due to his fear, having observed the revival of Hinduism in South India and Northeast of Ceylon he wrote this mythical story in Pali why in Pali? Because the Sinhala language was not and did not exit then. If you want to boast about your numerical majority. It was built by Portuguese bring Tamils, Malayalies in the16th century to carry out the menial jobs and they were given Portuguese names Silva, Pereira and Fernando’s to cover their tracts. These people later mixed with low country Sinhalese and became most vociferous protectors of Sinhala and Buddhism. The Kindyian kingdom was ruled by 9 Nayaker Tamil Kings from Vellore south India from 1739-1815. So Senanayake’s and Bandaranayke’s have Tamil Blood. Mahanama also say’s that Vijaya after ditching Kuvene went and asked the Tamil Pandya King for his marriage and Pandya Women for his 700 followers. By the way do you know the DNA studies recently have shown there is no Aryan genes you have similar to south Indian Tamils. Aryan Myth was introduced by British in the late 19th and early 20th century for the purpose of divide and Rule policy. Unfortunately There were no Jinna among the Tamils at the Time of Independence. India’s story of success to hold 248 minorities by federal form and Central government has been successful. On the other hand Ceylon was a failure. Nation busted and wealth squandered. Still have no will to get out of the rut. The Change of regime not going to produce any difference. First the Mahavamsa Mind set needs to be put into a rubbish bin. Then sit and educate the Brain washed Sinhala people out of this mind set. Learn live and let live policy. Thank you

  • 5
    1

    An interesting work. The tragedy of Sri Lanka was that instead of building on the legacy of our last colonial master we fractured as a nation, into a tribe of brown sahibs determined to mimic as far as possible the old masters, and a rabid coterie of nationalist politicians whose idea of political power was a licence to take what they could out of our national treasure chest. From the moment the ‘Sinhala Only Act’ was forced down our throats like a dose of ‘sinnapodian’ (by the scion of a sycophantic Anglican family – Solomon West Ridgeway – who ‘saw the light’, as it were, the scene was set for an inexorable downward spiral into communalism and its attendant violence. Alas, the lessons of the past 60 years are still to be learnt.

  • 5
    5

    For Sinhala modayas British Colonialism has been a convenient excuse to lacerate the minorities and “keep them in their place”.. Even today the same sick Sinhala Buddhist nationalist record is played by the corrupt and criminal military dictatorship of Mahinda Jarapassa while the equally corrupt leader of the SInhala Moda opposition sits back and claps silently..

    Why has Ranil Wickramasinghe and the UNP leadership not challenged the legality of Rajapaksa’s third presidential bid, when Anura Kumara from JVP and TNA is doing so?

    RW is morally and intellectually BANKRUPT and clearly has a pact with Jarapassa – to remain dictator of the UNP as long as he loses every election so that Jarapassa can remain king in the Miracle of Modayas…

    • 1
      2

      S modaya aka Antany Peter

      Your hatred towards all Sinhalese is made you a puss oozing biter self grandiose cowardice moron. Your writing always give you away regardless of your AKA’s. I have never seen you writing in any of New Zealand news papers attacking the West and New Zealand this prove that you are a coward. Self proclaiming your pseudo intellectuality like a Modaya which fits you like a glove and your self importance that no one give a hoot will not hide the fact you are a ungrateful grub that bad mouth New Zealand country gave you sanctuary to hide and home to stay as a refugee. Your Linkedln profile is full of holes with unsubstantiated academic and employment details. You wrote in Lanka Truth that if Sri were to offer you free duel citizenship you will not take the offer. Lets face it chance of that happening or any other country offering you the same will have a better chance when hell freezes over. Then again if you were to move to Sri Lanka Dr Mervin position as A+++ Moron will be lowered to number two as you will be taking the helm as numero Uno. Finally LTTE is not coming back period so put sock on it you ever wonder why the fair minded hard working Tamil community in New Zealand don’t want a bar of you that excellent self proclaimed education you had must have made you bit of thicki to understand that.

  • 5
    1

    Sri Lanka has never had visionary political leaders. This leadership vacuum is particularly apparent today with the stench of corruption and criminality on both sides of the Parliament of Morons hitting high heaven!

  • 4
    3

    An interesting point on the Tamils of Sri Lanka below:

    TamilNet: What is the impact of this ruling on Eelam Tamils’ long quest for self-determination and independence?

    Rajeev Sreetharan: The fate of justice for Tamils and the concept of fundamental Tamil liberty remains, as they always have, in the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.

  • 3
    0

    One of the most urgent lessons from India to be learnt by Sri Lanka is the devolution of power in the constitution:

    Full implementation of 13 A – A response to Neville Ladduwahetty, Dr K. Vigneswaran, 27 July 2014, http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=107507

  • 4
    2

    [Edited out] Vibushana it is a book about the post colonial Sri Lanka comparing only SL and India. The review is an excellent one.

    The book is not about the ancient history never recorded. Both the book and the views expressed by the reviewer are thought provoking particularly for the younger ones. Where as Mahavamsa history by Mahanama is one sided based on supremacism.I am sure part of your inherited genes are from him. It looks like BBS monks are genetically related too and are continuing that legacy of supremacy and hatred through their propaganda.

    If the fair skinned Aryan Sinhalese can come from Northern India with the support of the NI Kings, borrow language, cast and religion from the Aryan North, Why can not the dark skinned Dravidians just across the Park Straits can not sail or walk via Rama’s bridge before the Aryans arrived in SL.

    You take Kerala and study their history and the role played by the Nampoothiris sent from North India. It is all geopolitics and suppression of peace loving Dravidians.

    Vibushanan just think and figure out why Dr. Ambedkar changed religion and became a Buddhist. If he is alive today I do not what religion or political group he will join. But one thing I am sure , it will not the BBS patronised by the upper cast Sinhalese Leaders belonging to a clan who want to emulate pre Kalinga war Emperor Asoka. Why Kalinga war made him renounce his throne. Will the majority of he voters from the South realise the plight of mother Lanka and put things right

    Sadly the Petty Emperors have not learnt either from Buddhist History and Maha Baratha or from 2005 to 2009 elam war.

    May real triple gem pardon you Vibushana. So is Lord Krishna.

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Kalana Senaratne, You know that I receive your fairness of judgement quite well. You have kept to that reputation and done a fairly decent job of reviewing the book, “A Political Legacy of the British Empire“. I get the feeling that I have read the book myself!

    If your ‘idea’ of presenting a review for the sake of sharing your view on the literary value of the book, I have nothing to comment; That requires a reading of the book myself. However, if your ‘idea’ of presenting the review on CT is for the purposes of political learning of the readers, I need just a little something clarified.

    Does your readership include Vibhushana as well?

    Thank you.

  • 0
    0

    It’s always an intellectual and pleasant exercise to read Kalana’s writing.

    A very similar review for readers’ sake:

    ”Nationalist Indian leaders harnessed Westminster’s plasticity to adapt its substance selectively, with independent India’s specific conditions and governance challenges in mind; whereas its seemingly smooth replication in Ceylon despite key societal and political differences with Britain led to a gradual degeneration of governance that went unnoticed at first, precisely because, outwardly, things had stayed the same” –
    A Political Legacy of the British Empire
    Power and the Parliamentary System in Post-Colonial India and Sri Lanka (2012) Reviewed by Bérénice Guyot-Réchard
    Cambridge University, http://www.cercles.com/review/r66/Kumarasingham.html

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.