19 May, 2022


Seventy Years After Independence: A Modest Balance Sheet 

By V. Thirunavukkarasu –

Vallipuram Thirunavukkarasu

Seventy years into Independence from British rule, it is apt to draw up a modest balance sheet, having regard to the different dispensations comprising the two ruling parties, viz., the UNP and the SLFP and their respective allies.

Well, one of the first acts of the DS Senanayake-led UNP Government, was the decitizenising/disenfranchisement of the Plantation sector workers, ironically as Independence dawned. It was an anti-Tamil and anti-working class step, and was thus 2 birds with one stone. The Plantation workers , as is well known, were imported by the Colonial Government from the neighbouring Indian State of Tamil Nadu.

So, the Plantation workers, given their early identification as “Tamils of recent Indian origin” were isparagingly referred to as outcasts or coolies” by the likes of Anagarika Dharmapala. Those hapless workers had perforce to toil, all the harder, for the good of the country in the Tea, Rubber and Coconut estates which then combined to constitute the mainstay of the country’s economy. Importation of the Indian labour was occasioned obviously by the unwillingness or inability of the country’s populace to lay their hands on such demanding, arduous work in the Plantation sector, DS Snenanayake lamented thus: “The Sinhalese have been misunderstood and their generosity forgotten. I do not think there is any community like the Sinhalese who who have consented to penalize themselves in order to give privileges to others…… The Indians have a big country, and we have this bit for ourselves. We want this country for ourselves” (Hansard – 8th November, 1948). And, CWW Kannangara talked of the “menace of the Indians swamping the permanent population, and went on to add – ” only traitors will not oppose their enfranchisement”. And, Dudley Senanayake, who succeeded his father, DS as Prime Minister in May 1952, said: “The UNP has succeeded in liquidating the Indian menace in Ceylon by the simple device of denying the vote to Rsamasami and Meenachchi” while, on the other hand, prominent Trade Union leaders at that time, Natesa Iyer and A Mahadeva, prophetically warned of the dangers that could be triggered by racism, but such patriotic warnings fell on deaf ears.

It was the LSSP leader, NM Perera who protested then against the Plantation Sector workers being not enfranchised, debunking the bogey of swamping as an entirely imaginary fear created by irresponsible people.

Language Policy – The Next Phase 

The next phase was ,of course, the power hungry , opportunistic “Sinhala Only” language policy to capture power by doping the Sinhala constituency. Of course, the LSSP stood up most vehemently against it, warning of future calamities and bloodshed. The LSSP also played a indefatigable role on behalf of the Plantation workers, also identifying the Plantation sector epicentre of the Sri Lankan revolution by the likes of Edmund Samarakkody.

Unfortunately, however, the LSSP, later began to waver, so much so that the Party failed to defend, say, the much needed Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact against its racist detractors. And, the LSSP which was so disproportionately powerful when in the Opposition, lost its fire and brimstone once it entered the coalition Government with the SLFP in the 1960s Then came the policy of standardization of marks for University admissions during the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government in the 1970s, causing detriment to Tamil medium students, driving them to frustration which gave a fillip to the nascent Tamil armed struggle.

It was in 1971 that the JVP’s Blanquist-style insurrection was launched involving mostly Sinhala educated unemployed youth. Tens of thousands of Simhala youths were killed. It was then a few years later that the Tamil armed struggle began to take root, and forge ahead gradually, and the advent of the JR Jayewardene Government, far from bringing about a favourable situation especially in regard to the the underlying Tamil National question, given especially the overwhelming support the Tamils had extended to Jayewardene in 1977, enamoured as they were, of the incredibly rosy promises to them as incorporated in the 1977 election manifesto. There have been quite a few detailed articles which appeared in recent days in the national as well as the regional media on the 1983 “Black July” massacre of Tamils, and so it is hardly necessary to dwell on it again. And I would confine myself to making a passing reference to the second insurrection launched by the JVP in the 1980s, which again was crushed

Let me now crave the readers’ indulgence to quote some excerpts from my book titled “Lesson Not Learnt – Power-sharing Indispensable for Unity and Peace” published in November 2012:

“Quite tragically, none of the rulers since Independence have striven to unify the country to pull together with peace and amity, In point of fact, none of the leaders stood tall to steer clear of pitfalls such as racism, racial and religious supremacist ideology, which indeed has been the primary undoing of this country, One can go on ad infinitum with instances of unbridled rabble-rousing, but the more and more it is resorted to, the longer will it take for Sri Lanka to leave the 3rd World status behind…………..In Sri Lanka, the concept of pluralism has seldom been in the consciousness of the ruling elites that pursued the trajectory of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony, with a penchant for autocratic and unilateral approach, unmindful of, or oblivious to, their responsibility to build up unity in diversity. The nett result was violence and war, and at the end of the day, an economy in shambles. And, very sadly, the worst hit are the have-nots who constitute the majority in this country”

*V. Thirunavukkarasu – Former Member, Colombo Municipal Council

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Latest comments

  • 0

    What Tamils say always, even though what ever we have, we always feel inferior because of our past history and the Sinhala govt di dnot accept us with the both hands giving us a Hug. I think the best solution is buold so em more buddhist temples. Make Ki,inochchi another Colombo. build an international air port, the new parliament for the smaller caucas and a commercial metropolitican. In two generations times they have forgotten everything. Even the coolies who are stranded in the west will come back.

  • 1

    Harping on the past and crocodile tears for low caste Tamils by another adherent to Vellaha supremacist ideology. The balance sheet is modest for the rabble rousing, racist, Tamil Terrorists and their like minded supporters and the carnage they created. There are means to head back to your squalid homeland of TN across the Palk Straits. Sooner the better.

    • 1

      ” DS as Prime Minister in May 1952, said: “The UNP has succeeded in liquidating the Indian menace in Ceylon by the simple device of denying the vote to Rsamasami and Meenachchi”
      This is how racist leaders spoke in public then. I know for a fact that they still do, in private. Until this changes, this country will continue in its race to the bottom.

  • 0

    Dear Mr Thirunavukkarasu
    In the future whenever you mention the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils kindly make it a point to mention the fact that Tamil polical leaders at the time also supported the move.
    And whenever you mention 83’Black July the fact that LTTE was already in existence is also important. Selective history reporting is no good. What is the use of writing about Sinhala only with no mention of its twin: 50-50 demand?


    • 5

      The truth is different to what reader Soma tries to project.

      A few Tamils in Parliament voted with the Govt on the Citizenship issue, while most voted against it. SJVC broke away with GGP on the same issue. Those workers who had toiled for this country’s good for over a 100 years then should have been settled as “Ceylonese” at that time. Remember they were “invited” by the ruling British to come and help the plantation industries. Other countries like Malaysia, the West Indies countries, S. Africa naturalised Indian workers (“coolies” if you like) who were resident in those countries for periods even as 10-20 years.

      Like many other Sinhalese, some genuinely ignorant of the facts, you twist the story. GGP’s 50/50 was 50% of the seats in Parliament to Sinhalese and the other 50% to Tamils, Muslims/Malays, Burghers and the few British then. The radical Sinhalese side twisted the story to suggest GGP wanted HALF of the seats to Tamils. This lie was calculated to mislead the gullible Sinhalese. The mischief makers succeeded. In less than 40 years, consequent to the Indo-Lanka Pact all the Stateless were naturalised by the Sinhala-majority government!!!!!Now many in the Sinhala side say if 50/50 was granted in 1948 Ceylon would have been another “Paradise” Where do you now stand, dear Soma?


    • 7


      “In the future whenever you mention the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils kindly make it a point to mention the fact that Tamil polical leaders at the time also supported the move.”

      Don’t you understand these two stupid people work closely against their own respective people.

      RP-VP marriage of convenience.
      MR-VP marriage of convenience
      Tamils voting for the war criminal Fonseka
      VP working against the Tamils since 1983 on wards and ultimately winning the war for MR.
      JVP- MR marriage of convenience …………….
      SLFP- Lefties marriage of convenience which led to ….. between 1970 and 1977.
      …. ………….stagflation ……….

      Stagflation is a condition of slow economic growth and relatively high unemployment, or economic stagnation, accompanied by rising prices, or inflation. It can also be defined as inflation and a decline in gross domestic product (GDP). Stagflation is an economic problem defined in equal parts by its rarity and by the lack of consensus among academics on how exactly it comes to pass.

  • 1

    A well-written brief essay on the subject of the complexities of seven decades of our
    Post-1948 history. One would have thought these comments would have attracted
    considerable comment from regular readers than it so far has.

    The gentle and affable Thiru, said to be earlier from the Govt.
    Clerical service, has long morphed into Left politics. He has a substantial grasp of the complex events of the times of this Island in permanent conflict – more with itself. Had he a place in a political party with a much wider base than he is now, he would have enjoyed a wider audience to the advantage of the political discourse of the country in general and her minorities in particular.

    R. Varathan

  • 1

    More Tamils live in Colombo than in North ..
    What does it tell you ?
    Tamils are more happy to live with Sinhalese than with Tamils in North ..
    Without eeelam now they fight in North as many gangs .
    Tamils are better with sinahslese ..
    Why cast system is destroying India now ..
    Please do not bring that to Sri Lanka ..
    With cast system Tamil will never get peace .
    You can get everything but people will never get peace ..cast system is most evil thing today in this modern world ..
    Before you ask eeelam to something to get rid of your cast .
    Then Sinhalese will be happy to see peace and give you something. In return to unity in Sri Lanka

    • 2

      “More Tamils live in Colombo than in North ..
      What does it tell you ?”
      I don’t know if you are too thick to know, but it is for the same reason that your women are in Dubai.
      “Ignorance is like your penis. You keep it to yourself, even if you are proud of it. You don’t whip it out and flaunt it in public”

  • 5

    Since independence Sri Lanka’s political situation gradually fell into a vicious cycle of no return. Well written Mr.Thirunavukarasu, I wish to add some more. British gave us independence on a platter but we don’t seem to know the value of it. There seems no chance to get out of this mess as a result day by day country is gradually sinking into economic crisis and the rupee value continue to decrease. The second major issue is that we are fast becoming a sickly nation. A greater number of the population is suffering from Non Communicable diseases which are costing a huge sum to import medical drugs. The third major factor is the fuel import, Sri Lanka is not an oil-producing country but according to statistics there are more than 7 million automobiles are running in the streets consuming nearly one billion litres fuel per month. It is a well-known fact that the majority of the government departments are running at a great loss and most of them are overstaffed. Workers strikes have become daily occurrences in Sri Lanka. The facts mentioned above are only a handful but if you dig further, more dangerous facts would unfold.

  • 2

    A very good article. This country was nearly 500 years run by foreign invaders dutch, Portuguese and Brits. When compared to 70 years after the rule changed to Sinhalese what are the positive changes in this land in terms of social, cultural and economic development of the people. During the period of British, some Sinhalese families and Tamil families changed their religion, names, culture and enjoyed the benefits of higher education in our occupiers land, high level administrative posts and powers under their govt became landlords, particularly become owners of estates (Tea, Rubber, Coconut etc.) in the upcountry which was developed using the labour brought from India. Tea, Rubber and Coconut industry was the backbone of the Srilankan economy. Who are these Sinhalese and Tamil Families, DS SEnanayake, SWRD Bandaranaiyake, Rajapakse, Jeyawardena, Arunachalam andSelvanayakam (Look at the names of Nayaike, Nayagam – I assume they are from Naiyakar vamsa from INdia). Even after the independence in 1948 these families are continue to control the country’s politics and power. Divide and Rule policy which they learnt from their masters still continue to destroy this country. The social, cultural and economic development deteriorated since 1948 and now it is almost a bunkrupt nation rely on China, USA and India. The ordinary Sinhalese and Tamil are live under poverty while the top level families who became beneficiaries under Brits continue to enjoy all benefits at the expense of ordinary citizens. When we Sent back Indians did we send all of them. No? When Indians were brought this country, did we oppose the Brits? No, When British established industries, did we oppose it? No, When the Brits built up roads, and train service did we oppose it? No, Today, almost every one eat bread imported from wheat. Why can’t we stop importing wheat and dhal? We can’t because it is the only food we can afford to eat. You don’t make policies for race and religion. You should make policies for people.

  • 6

    Pluralism means all communities willing to be less rigid in their attachments to tribal identities and becoming flexible enough to develop multiple allegiances and hybrid identities that are necessary in today’s rapidly globalizing world. People must shed their narrow sub-nationalisms and move towards building an overarching Sri Lankan identity so that all citizens can feel at home. In short it’s a two-way street.

  • 0

    For 70 long years, we have managed to keep our liabilities at top, never, ever came down, but keep doing best at it. They say, One does not know the value of something that is not hard-earned.

  • 3

    The irony is that the Sinhala polity wasted the energy of the country for 70 years of minority bashing and Ceylon morphed in to Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka …the Sinhala polity has succeeded in bringing the country to its knees and selling it lock stock and barrel to China.

  • 3

    Yet another balance sheet for the past seventy years.
    We need budgets for the future years. The budget must address the issue of corruption/nepotism/impunity.

    • 0

      K.Pillai “The budget must address the issue of corruption/nepotism/impunity.”

      you mean allocate more funds for corruption etc

  • 4

    Thanks, Mr Vallipuram Thirunavukkarasu,
    You have written sense. In fact I have found that you always talk sense. The question is, where do we go from here?

  • 2

    What Comrade T has missed to explain is why the LSSP went astray.
    The treachery of the 1960s was mainly against the working class.
    There were several genuine LSSP leftists who remained principled for long.
    How does Comrade T explain the 21st Century conduct of Comrades Vasu and Bahu?
    Is not there something fundamentally flawed about the LSSP, like its Trotskyism.

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