4 October, 2022

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Our Loyalty To HM Elizabeth II

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

When Queen Victoria died and flags were lowered to half-mast, her son, the new King Edward VII, in 1901 ordered them back up saying “The Queen is dead. Long live the King.” 

It shows the mixed sadness of a sovereign’s death and the happiness of the succeeding sovereign’s  ascension. It is that mixed feeling perhaps that made Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke criticize the lowering of Sri Lankan flags ordered by Ranil Wickremesinghe.

I really see no harm in lowering flags. After all, she was our Queen until the Republican Constitution of 1972. Indeed, when a former President dies is it not the decent thing to accord a state funeral with lowered flags, although the President long ceased to be our President?

Indeed Wickremesinghe, Jayatilleke and I belong to a vanishing generation that grew up surrounded by symbols of the late Queen.

We would remember learning our cursive handwriting from copybooks that carried her picture. We carried umbrellas that had her picture in the handle, umbrellas that are now auctioned at $1000 or more. Indeed, street corners had letterboxes with the marking EIIR, for Elizabeth II, Regina. I remember dropping off a letter before 4:45 pm in Nallur in the confidence it would be delivered by 9:00 am in Colombo. Things worked a lot better when she was our Head of State.

The Queen was so admired that when she came to Ceylon in 1954 and went by train to Kandy, my father was Vicar of St. Mary’s Veyangoda. My mother stood at the Veyangoda Railway Station with my brother Rajan who was 5 years old just to wave at her. They were luckier than I because they saw her and her smile clearly. In 1975 when another brother and I stood at Trafalgar Square when she passed by in a carriage for the 25th anniversary of her ascension, it was so crowded that we could make out only her pink dress  and moving hand. We went home and viewed her better on TV.

The Queen in Colombo 1954 with Mayor Rudra

In fact, for several years my wife was made-up  with the Elizabethan hairdo shown in the exercise book by her mother who admired the Queen and avidly read “Woman & Home,” a British fashion magazine. The Queen was a style-setter for many middle-class girls till they became marriageable and had to sport longer hair.

For Anglican Christians like me, she was “Defender of the Faith,” a title given in perpetuity by the Pope to Henry VIII and his successors when he wrote a text upholding Catholicism against the then emerging Protestant Heresies.  Because the title was in perpetuity, even after Henry VIII quarreled with the Pope, he was entitled to carry the title. At every mass we would Pray “For Elizabeth our Queen.” She lived honourably upholding the title. Prayers for her were stopped in 1972 when we became a republic, although some form of it may have been continued in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth.

Tamils looked to Elizabeth II when the Trincomalee RAF Airbase was taken over in 1957 immediately after Sinhala Only. Nothing happened because we did not understand the limits of power after independence. Likewise, we had hopes over the Kodeeswaran case and had some happiness when the Privy Council sent the flawed decision back for review. However, that review did not happen after the 1972 Constitution did away with protections of the previous Constitution’s Article 29.  So many Tamils, whether Christian or Hindu, have a soft spot for Queen Elizabeth.

Whatever brickbats may be thrown at Elizabeth II, she remains a Queen we loved and was better than many of our subsequent Heads of State.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    Most people in Sri Lanka now think that the rule under British Monarch is much better than the rule under Sinhalese political leadership. Our young Monarch (Namal) now says that Oppression of protests is necessity and blamed Gota for not using his power and praised Ranil for using it. What a Family rule in the name of democracy?

    • 3
      1

      “Most people in Sri Lanka now think that the rule under British Monarch is much better”
      Not many people who tasted British rule are old enough (like 90+) to comment.
      But there is among us a political tradition that longs for all manner of ‘good old days’ that they knew little about.

    • 3
      1

      “Tamils looked to Elizabeth II when the Trincomalee RAF Airbase was taken over in 1957 immediately after Sinhala Only.”
      I incline to the view that the takeover of bases , not Sinhala Only, was the major cause of our subsequent economic downturn. By the 60’s, there were restrictions on many imports, and foreign exchange. The British bases were an ecosystem in themselves. The British invested vast sums, Britain being still a significant power at the time.Money trickled downwards to the contractors, ship-chandlers, even the scrap merchants clearing out old planes and boats. There was a Schweppes (remember? ) factory in Trinco, lots of bookshops to cater to the sailors. The icing on the cake was the vast repair workshops where thousands of Ceylonese worked, soaking up the latest technologies, for which they now have to go abroad. Then, there were other installations, like cold stores and warehouses in Colombo and Trinco. There were of course the famous oil tanks built for a real Navy. The prim and proper wouldn’t like being reminded of the many lucrative venues of “entertainment ” for the military.
      All this collapsed with the grandstanding of SWRD. It could have been handled with much more finesse, as in Singapore. In fact,, the Maldives took over some of Katunayaka’s functions, and trained Ceylonese worked there. LKY was more nationalist than SWRD, but he knew on which side his bread was buttered.

    • 2
      1

      Extensively discusses the role of Queen Elizabeth II over the past 7 decades for the United Kingdom and its common welath countries. Experts are of the opinion that such a queen is very important to maintain peace and harmony in the country. Almost everyone in Europe respects her. I have experienced how sad some Germans are. So are the French and other nations. Her wisdom and leading character symbolize the gentleness and discipline of the country.

      That is why I believe that in a country that has been at war for 3 decades, we, as a country, should have a President who is a symbolic leader to maintain peace and harmony. We had this model before the 1978 constitution. Peace and harmony were at their best in those days. Today, YouTube and TV channel creators even spread vile words through their channels of low-spirited people. It is like garbage heaps in nature. Hatred, jealousy, hatred and other anti-human activities are common in Sri Lanka. I have heard that some YOUTUBERs are abusing their citizenship rights. It has nothing to do with not having “rights”; But they must be able to maintain peace and order.

  • 10
    1

    Dr. Hoole,
    All CW countries did it. It is a civilized gesture. If all other CW countries are acting why should we not act like other CW member states? Are we such a superior nation? So, the whole world knows that our children are malnourished and are not being fed properly. The Rajapaksa government has failed to provide the children with the food they need.
    .
    Whoever speaks against Sri Lankan relations in the UK, their favorite country is Sri Lanka. The other day I heard some legislators in the UK Parliament mentioning Sri Lanka. Our people are very negative. They are far from reality. They always make every effort to distort the information from their ethnic and primitive point of view.
    I wonder how Dayan Weerawansa (nee Jayathilaka) connected with Eruopeans every time he was ambassador. Europeans are not familiar with his double game, but we know very well that he is more familiar with Mahinda Paraya and his vicious politics.

  • 8
    3

    I applaud S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole for a poignant piece.
    .
    Yes. The Exercise Books we used at schools quietly reminded us of our bond to the Brits. Jeevan Hoole feels more nostalgic than I do because she championed his religion, I suppose.
    .
    My anguish is that she carried out her responsibilities towards us without any emotion. Her obligation to preserve the good name of the monarchy stood in the way, I suppose.

  • 4
    5

    Hoole,

    A beautifully written nostalgic piece! Thanks

  • 4
    0

    Where on earth did you find the exercise book and the umbrella? I recall them well, having used them in the 1950s. I believe a couple of ER postboxes can still be found in SL. One on the Negombo – Chilaw road, at Kattuwa, if memory recalls.

    • 2
      0

      SP,
      ER mailboxes aren’t uncommon, but there are still a few GR boxes around.
      If Gota assumes the Throne again, maybe there’ll be new GR mailboxes!

      • 2
        2

        Any and every GR mailbox will be overflowing with mail, old codger.
        So much so, he might have to keep multiple boxes at each location to prevent letters of insults and complaints getting lost!

  • 2
    2

    When she was your HEAD of state, did you work in the field or inside the big house?

  • 0
    2

    Jeevan says ” She remains a queen we loved” She belonged to a true royal family whose generations served citizens and were involved in charities at great cost to their privacy without robbing the nation. Their empire disciplined other nations. We too received schools, english and technical education, tea plantations, roads specially in the hill country, and political government. UK has a monarchial constitution, never dictatorially abused by this queen of destiny for 70 years. Her children love their mother in spite of their divergent personal lives. Her long lasting marriage is an example of love, with obedience to her God who lavished her with orb, scepter, crown, mantle and throne at her coronation by archbishop at Westminster Abbey church.

    • 3
      0

      “UK has a monarchial constitution, never dictatorially abused by this queen …”
      She couldn’t have even if she tried.

  • 1
    1

    People here in the UK have great respect for her. Now we have a king who is losing his temper because he has got a pen that won’t write when he wants. He was caught on Camera swearing. Very poor behavior from this new King of ours. At the age of 73, he has still not learned good behavior although educated in very high private schools. Old age has its advantages but not in the field of politics, a good example is the current state in Srilanka.

    • 3
      0

      The English language has changed a lot and codes of conduct too.
      To swear is only human.
      In fairness, Charlie is a friendlier person than the mother.
      (BTW, QEII had the benefit of a Duke by her side who drops all manner of bricks all over.)

      • 1
        0

        “All manner of bricks,” SJ, you’re certainly right there.

        Remember his invitation to the Queen when they were shown the urinal at Anuradhapura!

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