20 May, 2022


Sri Lanka At The Point Of No Return After A Mere 65 Years Of Independence?

By Nethra Goonewardena

When we were in our youth, life in our physically beautiful country seemed worth living. We had just emerged after nearly 450 years of colonial rule and we had our country back. There was hope in the air of a fresh start whereby all Ceylonese would be given a fair deal. All of us could sniff the air of freedom and look forward to a meaningful future. Bliss indeed was it then to be alive and young. Our national university was one of the best in the developing world if not in the world at large, our politicians listened to and sought advice from the educated segment of the country, our institutions were functioning as they should as there was respect for our Parliament, Judiciary, the Public Service and our Press from all citizens including our political leadership. Talking of the latter, those who entered politics then were educated and people of reasonable means. Those who aspired to high office utilized their personal finances to manage their election campaigns and conquests. Today, in sharp contrast, men and women of no means, for the most part, enter politics, become millionaires overnight, and, to add insult to injury, they and their offspring flaunt their ill-gotten wealth in the most tasteless fashion imaginable!

The destruction of our national institutions that began with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1956), continued with Sirimavo Bandaranaike(1970) and that almost ended with J.R. Jayewardene(1977), is virtually complete today under Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Our political rot began as soon as we set about the process of our post-colonial state formation in 1948. The key task before our leaders was national integration. We started with what we thought was a project of undoing the harm done us by our colonial rulers. What we ought to have done was to put right the shocking errors committed by the colonialists and their local collaborators and keep intact the good that was done by them, not throw away that good along with the evil. In a sense, our national integration project was doomed from the start. Under the first independence government headed by D.S. Senanayake, we disenfranchised the plantation Tamils because our Kandyan ‘elites’ thought they should be disenfranchised. These plantation workers had kept our economy going whilst suffering near awful living conditions and receiving a pittance as wages. Our Kandyan ‘elites’ and the non-elites alike, disregarding the dignity of labour, considered it below their station to do an honest day’s work and refused to work on the tea plantations, which is what made it necessary for the import of this indentured labour from southern India in the first place. The political need to disenfranchise these plantation workers arose from the fear that they would vote en bloc for the Left as the Lanka Sama Samaja Party had by then either successfully unionized or were about to unionize them. Instead of bringing together all our different ethnic groups and building a united country, we thus began on a note of division that has dogged us to-date and played havoc with our nation-building project post-independence.

The next significant error of Sri Lanka was also committed by the government led by D.S. Senanayake. That error was the ‘disenfranchisement’ of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike from the United National Party (UNP) leadership. Bandaranaike, the Leader of the House of Representatives, Minister of Health and Local Government, was heir apparent to succeed the ageing Senanayake. But a combination of tradition (handing things down from father to son, in this instance from D.S. to Dudley Senanayake) and political intrigue led to his being sidelined. Before he could suffer from the ultimate insult of being dumped politically, Bandaranaike quit the UNP and in 1951 formed his own party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). From all accounts of those close to the UNP leadership of that time, it was widely known that Bandaranaike’s arrogance and cocksureness were key aspects of his personality that made some of the UNP stalwarts of the time wary of handing over the leadership of the party to him. There might also have been a degree of envy on the part of the less enlightened members of the ruling party that contributed to this fateful sidelining. Whatever may the reasons be, this sidelining of Bandaranaike has had dire consequences for Sri Lanka.

Bandaranaike was a politically ambitious man scorned. It is said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Until Bandaranaike began his counter-offensive on the UNP, we did not realize how much more damaging and destabilizing would be the fury of this scorned ambitious man. He exploited ethnicity and religion to come to power, throwing education and principle to the winds. The Buddhist Sinhala lobby, like the Jewish lobby in the United States and the Hindu nationalist one in India, plays a significant role in our national politics to the detriment of the body politic in our country as the Jewish lobby and the Hindu nationalist lobbies do in the United States and India respectively. There was a resurgence of narrow religious and ethnic nationalism in Ceylon immediately after independence and this revival resulted in the agitation for a special status for Buddhism and for the Sinhalese. Hence there were various social, political and economic forces at play in the early 1950s countering any moves made by the early UNP and the Left parties like the Lanka Sama Samaja/Equality Party (LSSP) and The Communist Party (CP) to build and nurture a Ceylonese nationalism. Disregarding the positive developments around him as represented by the inclusivist policies of the UNP and the Left, Bandaranaike chose to exploit ruthlessly and without compunction the narrower extremist Buddhist Sinhala nationalism to win the national leadership in 1956 and this, sadly and tragically, was the beginning of the end for Sri Lanka.

Bandaranaike was a prisoner of the Buddhist Sinhala nationalist extremists who had helped him to come to power and this latter group was now demanding their pound of flesh. They wanted the ‘Sinhalisation’ and ‘Buddhisification’ of Ceylon overnight. Bandaranaike began by introducing ‘Sinhala Only’ and dethroning English as the official language of Ceylon. This dethronement of English and replacing it with a national language, in and of itself, was not a bad thing to do. But, his inability to give similar prominence immediately to the other national language, Tamil, and also preserve English as a language to bridge the gap between those who spoke only Sinhala or only Tamil was a monumental mistake. Under the enormous pressure of the extremist forces that he had unleashed in order to capture political power at all costs, Bandaranaike had no option but to do away with English overnight and seek to replace that language with Sinhala (and later, Tamil) in an apparent bid to usher in equality. All that Bandaranaike succeeded eventually in achieving was a ‘degradation of equality’. He thereby also succeeded in opening our national Pandora’s Box. The hasty introduction of Sinhala to replace English without giving Tamil its due place paved the way for narrow ethnic nationalism that, with the passage of time, degenerated into violent ethnic conflict. Today Sri Lanka is a country tragically divided along ethnic lines. The first casualty of this awful ‘Sinhala Only’ policy were the Burghers of Ceylon, the descendants of the Dutch and the Portuguese colonialists, a colourful segment of what used to be Ceylon’s wonderful ethnic mosaic.

The second casualty of ‘Sinhala Only’ was the non-Sinhala segment of Ceylon, made up of the Tamils and Muslims of the island. The anti-Muslim project is ‘thriving’ as we write. Its latest target is the Maharagama branch of the Muslim owned business enterprise named ‘Nolimit’. The Bodu Bala Sena (“ Buddhist Force”) is actively seeking to disrupt inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony, to the meagre extent we have it today. The Buddhist Force’s avowed aim reportedly is to make Sri Lanka a Buddhist state in which the other religious groups can remain intact so long as they play a subordinate role to Buddhism. It is not different from their attitude to ethnicity. The ‘logic’ of this Buddhist Force (one suspects it is the militant arm of the Jathika Hela Urumaya /JHU as the ideology is identical) is that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese. Other ethnic groups can and should accept the pre-eminence of the Sinhala majority and make do under the benign supremacy of that majority. This attitude is reminiscent of the late President D.B. Wijetunge’s viewpoint that the Sinhala people are like the sturdy tree on which other ethnic groups like the Tamils and Muslims can entwine themselves and draw nourishment and sustenance from their generously mighty host!

To return to our historical narrative, while S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was doing his bit to dismember Ceylon, the Tamil politicians were faring no better. These Tamil ‘elites’ had split, along personal rivalries and jealousies, into two factions, and the Tamil Congress that housed them all at the beginning under the mercurial leadership of G.G. Ponnambalam was now divided into two: the Federal Party under the leadership of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and the other lot comprising of the remainder of the Tamil Congress. Both political entities played games from the word go. To begin with they were believers in the pernicious caste system and wanted to keep all the non-vellalas out of the general scheme of things. They, the vellala masters, would take care of things so long as the ‘low’ caste rest kept quiet, voted them in at elections, and remained grateful for the morsels that fell off their vellala tables. Meantime they said and did one thing in Colombo and a diametrically different another in the north and east of the island, invested in land and property and in commercial affairs outside of the arid north and east . These Tamil political leaders were the latter day Jekyll(s) and Hyde(s): advocates of a separate state when in their constituencies and partners for national unity when in Colombo. The duplicity of the Tamil politicians was matched by the insincerity of their Sinhala counterparts. These latter, taking a leaf out of their tribe in the north and east of our island home, got used to the habit of exploiting the under-educated members of the Sinhala majority. The goigama Sinhalese and the vellala Tamils thus became a potent and explosive mix. Initially there was a compact of convenience cemented by caste and class between the goigama Sinhalese and the vellala Tamils to share the spoils of political power. The rest of the country was asked to put up or shut up which, for the most part, they did in the early years following independence.

The above-outlined state of affairs apparently worked until 1971, at which point the youth of our country decided to challenge the establishment. It was the marginalized youth of the south that fired the first shot. The marginalized Tamil youth were not too far behind. Though the Tamil youth banded themselves together around the early 1970s and committed sporadic acts of violence at that time, their major salvos were fired only in the 1980s. The more enlightened amongst the youth wanted both segments, that is, the disaffected non-elite Sinhalese and Tamils, to fight together to defeat the upper class/caste oppressors. But that, sadly, was not to be as the narrow and intransigent Tamil nationalists saw to it that the progressives amongst the Tamils, Muslims and the Sinhalese would not be allowed to come together. And we know now where such tragic dissipation of Ceylon’s youthful energy has taken the country. To the point of no return as the title of this essay asserts.

What Bandaranaike began in 1956 has come full circle today. In the intervening years there were isolated times when we seemed to almost recover our lost sense of purpose and get back on track. One such moment was in 1965, when we voted into office the National Government led by Dudley Senanayake. The other was when in 1970 we elected into office the United Front Government led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Both governments, however, in the end let us down badly. In the first instance, it was ironically the LSSP and CP-led opposition to national unity that largely caused the downfall of the 1965 National Government spearheaded by the UNP in coalition with the Federal party (FP) and a small group of others prominent among whom were C.P. de Silva and Philip Gunawardena, formerly of the SLFP and the old Left respectively but now belonging to minor new political formations. Ironic because it was the LSSP leaders Colvin R. de Silva and N.M. Perera who stood for equality of all Sri Lankans up to the 1950s, then abandoned their principles and coalesced in the early 1960s with the SLFP now led by the widow of the assassinated S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, that gave leadership to the infamous masala vadai line. It was principally the N.M and Colvin-led opposition that disparaged prime minister Dudley Senanayake (the slogan the Left used to brainwash the Sinhala extremists was Dudley ge badey, masala vadai) and his national government. These were the men who stood for parity of status for the Sinhala and Tamil languages and talked of equality of all Sri Lankans in their heyday up until their fateful fall in the early 1960s when they, too, like lesser mortals before them, sacrificed principle for expediency and succumbed to the temptations of political power in the form of crumbs from the SLFP table! Perhaps it was their dismal performance at the 1960 general election, when they contested 101 seats and faired abysmally, that convinced the Left leaders that they will not be elected into office on their own steam. Hence the clutching of the ‘saree pota’ of Mrs. Bandaranaike to parachute into power.

In the second instance in regard to the government of the United Front of 1970, it was the uncongenial coalition of such disparate partners as the SLFP, LSSP and CP that let the people of Ceylon down. The right wing of the SLFP led by that evil genius of the SLFP, Felix Dias Banadaranaike, destroyed the so-called ‘golden brains’ of the Left. Having compromised virtually on all of their principles, the LSSP and the CP were ingloriously kicked out of the government in 1976. Mercifully the people of Sri Lanka put these now ageing men of the old Left out of their misery by booting them out of public office for good and all in the evening of their lives in 1977. The entirety of the old left was wiped out in that dreadful victory scored in 1977 by the other evil genius of Ceylonese politics, Junius Richard Jayewardene. Both evil geniuses, Felix Dias Bandaranaike and J.R. Jayewardene, by the way, were children of two judges of the Supreme Court of Ceylon at a time when clowns of the kind we find in our Supreme Court today like Mohan Pieris and Shiranee Tillekewardane were not even accidentally permitted to be anywhere near Aluthkade! We thus see how badly our national institutions have broken down today to the detriment of our beloved country.

The destruction of our national institutions that began with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1956), continued with Sirimavo Bandaranaike(1970) and that almost ended with J.R. Jayewardene(1977), is virtually complete today under Mahinda Rajapaksa . It is an interesting coincidence that both the governments of 1970 and 1977 gave us two autocthonous Constitutions, The First Republican Constitution of 1972 did away with the Soulbury Constitution that came into being in 1947 immediately prior to independence. This 1972 Constitution was replaced by the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. Despite glaring shortcomings in both these home grown Constitutions, all was not yet quite lost. There was a glimmer of hope left as our Judiciary managed to survive the machinations of the two Bandaranaikes and Jayewardene-headed governments. ‘Beeshanaya and Dooshanya’ Ranasinghe Premadasa and well meaning though erratic Chandrika Kumaratunge were not exactly models of democratic leadership, but, bad as they were, even they could not totally destroy our social fabric despite the horrors of Premadasa lackeys like A.J. Ranasinghe, H.L.D. Mahindapala, ‘Anuruddha Tilakasiri’, DIGs A.C. Lawrence, Sylvester Joseph and SSP Ronnie Gunesinghe and Sarath Silva, Anuruddha Ratwatte, and the PSD goons of Kumaratunge , to name only a handful of villains. It is important to remember that despite their villainy, these botlickers and lackeys of our earlier political leaders were not as crass or as incompetent as their counterparts under Mahinda Rajapaksa. Today we have hit the lowest depths imaginable. One needs only to look at the Silvas, Mervin and Duminda, suspected and not brought to book murderers, for confirmation although several others unnamed here are not too far behind.

If we have not hit rock bottom today, how else would we have a Mohan Peiris play the illegal role that he does in Aluthkade supported by the Hettiges and Tillekewardenes? Loosest of loose cannons like Rajpal Abeynayake at Lake House and SLBC, Lucien Rajakarunanayake and Bandula Jayasekere in the Presidential Media Unit, Ambassadors of the kind of Jaliya Wickremesuriya, Asitha Perera, Palitha Kohona, Sarath Kongahage, ministers like Nimal Siripala de Silva, Basil Rajapaksa, G.L. Peiris, Sarath Amunugama, Bandula Gunewardena, S.B, Dissanayake, Rishard Bathiudeen in our Cabinet, and suspected murderers and drug dealers like Mervin Silva and Duminda Silva as bosom buddies of our president? Then there are the other brothers of our leader, the extraordinarily powerful Secretary to the Ministry of  Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the remarkably pliant Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. Nor are these all! We also have the three mediocre presidential sons who are doing their bit to make our country their fiefdom. What chance is there for the survival of national institutions given these lowly types that call the shots? We are surely at the end of the road as a viable modern state.

G.L. Peiris, so fond of rubbishing all and sundry except himself, does not realize what a standing joke in poor taste he has become within the educated segment of our country and outside our shores. His vile political ambition has made him sacrifice any scruples he may have possessed prior to entering politics in 1994 after a most distinguished though not unblemished academic career during which he served as Professor of Law, Dean/Law and Vice Chancellor at the University of Colombo. Peiris’s unscrupulous and chameleon-like character becomes more apparent when we focus on the fact that this once remarkable man of letters has been a member of every government, regardless of which political party headed it, since his entry into politics in 1994. His uncanny knack for shifting allegiances and ability to hoodwink successive heads of state of Sri Lanka are as noteworthy as they are frightening. Imagine what we citizens might be in for if Peiris were to realize his political ambition and become president of the republic one bleak day! Lest we forget, let us forever bear in mind that G.L. Peiris is the man, as Minister of Justice in the mid-to-late 1990s, who manipulated the appointment of Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake as the first woman justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka when he failed to ensure his former Law Faculty colleague succeed him as Professor at the University of Colombo. It is the same man who was, among several others, at the forefront of the illegal impeachment of a few days ago of the very same Dr. Bandaranaike, the Chief Justice. Could ambition ever be made of sterner stuff? Could any other man in national politics today be leaner and hungrier than G.L. Peiris? Perhaps the only other educated person that is as despised as Minister Peiris today is his namesake Mohan Peiris who is purported to have replaced Dr.Bandaranayake. As in the infamous Jayewardene era when we had two Members of Parliament for the single constituency of Kalawana, today we have two Chief Justices in our country!

Our Judiciary today is destroyed, our national press is run by inconsequential mediocrities, our government is run by those who suck up to one Rajapaksa or the other and includes murderers, rapists, drug dealers, land grabbers and worse. Our universities are led by the most despicable bootlickers imaginable. The few decent citizens who try to do an honest job are obstructed at all times by those in borrowed cloaks of power. Our hospitals and schools are riddled with incompetents at the top. Our transport system, which is an apt metaphor for our governance today, is in such a mess that it is a wonder we are able to get from one destination to another and survive to tell the tale. Our bus drivers and drivers of vehicles that escort our potty politicians around are number one killers in the country. Those who drive the politicians around, like the politicians themselves, are a law unto themselves and they are immune from any form of accountability. Not a day passes without our hearing of a horrible road accident. Most bus drivers are either on drugs or alcohol or both while on duty. And the Police (that, by the way, is another highly corrupt entity in our country) never ever arrests any of these lawless drivers. The reason is known to all. The owners of these private buses are senior officers in the Police or their kith and kin. So the drivers of the buses have licenses to kill! A handful of citizens who obey the road rules are penalized if they should make the slightest unwitting error, but the murderers on wheels go scot free. This is but one example of the culture of impunity that prevails in our country today. If one is a toady of the Rajapaksas, there is nothing he or she cannot do. If you are a law-abiding citizen who exercises his right to dissent, you do so at your own risk. There is no guarantee that you will live to disagree with the Rajapaksas on another day! Ask Prageeth Ekneligoda or Lasantha Wicrematunge if you can.

Sri Lanka today makes the headlines for the vilest of reasons. A recent study carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the sister company and research arm of The Economist magazine, based on economic forecasts up to 2030, roughly gives us a picture of the socio-economic conditions that children born in 2013 will face when they reach adulthood. In an attempt to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead, Sri Lanka was ranked 63 in a list of 80 countries. Based on this EIU study, The Washington Post opines that “you are worse off being born in any of these three countries, according to the data, than you are just about anywhere else, including Sri Lanka, a poor hot bed of ethnic violence, oppressive Vietnam or even Syria”. We will soon have yet another press release from Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Rubbisher-in-Chief, the one time Rhodes Scholar, External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris rubbishing these research findings as well. The rubbishy Central Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal, and Sarath Amunugama, the Senior Minister who has nothing better to do but deputise for Mahinda Rajapaksa at international financial gatherings will also jump on the Peiris bandwagon and, with a little help from ministerial colleague Wimal Weerawansa, tell us that all is hunky dory in the ‘Wonder of Asia’. They will then proceed to inform us, backed up by ‘statistics’ only they believe in, that all this EIU research is a part of an international conspiracy to tarnish our unsullied image. This is today’s Sri Lanka.

Now the last nails in the coffin of our island home are being nailed. There is talk of a 19th and 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Given the bankrupt and impotent political opposition in Parliament, it is matter of time before these Amendments come into being. Hence our conclusion that the finishing touches to the project that began with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1956, pushed vigorously forward by his widow Sirimavo with the help of her Marxist hangers on in 1970s, and accelerated beyond imagination by J.R. Jayewardene post- 1977, are now being put irreparably and irrevocably under the guidance of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers three. We are now managing the death of Ceylon instead of nurturing the kind of future we envisaged for ourselves in 1948. The national tragedy of our country is the greater because we did have politicians, civil servants, academics, legal luminaries, diplomats, creative artists , and men and women of standing in our civil society who were eminently competent and capable of guiding and leading Ceylon to greater prosperity and continued glory. I have in mind politicians of the calibre of C.W.W. Kannangara, Dudley Senanayake, M.D. Banda, Vincent Perera, Bernard Soysa, M.H. Naina Marikkar, Gamani Jayasuriya, Mangala Moonesinghe, V.Anandasangaree, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Sarath Muttetuwegama,civil servants like Gamani Corea, Shirley Amerasinghe, Vernon Mendis, Ben Fonseka, Raju Coomeaswamy, D.C.R. Gunawardana, Neville Kanakeratne, Bradman Weerakoon, M.D.D. Peris, academics such as E.F.C. Ludowyk, C.W. Amerasinghe, I.D.S. Weerawardena, Ian Goonetileke, K.W.(‘Carl’) Goonewardene, Gananath Obeyesekere, Stanley Tambiah, E.R. Sarchchandra, S.Mahalingam, E.O.E. Pereira, Fred Bartholemeusz, Reggie Appadurai, Hilary Crusz, M.S. Sultan Bawa, V.Appapillai, Terrence Seneviratne, Stanley Kalpage, W.R. Breckenridge, Newton Gunesinghe, legal specialists like R.K.W.( Raja) Goonesekere, T.Nadarajah, H.W. Tambiah, M.C. Sansoni, Chris Weeramantry, H.L. de Silva, Neville Samarakoon, A.R.B. Amerasinghe, Mark Fernando, giants of the arts like Lester James Peris, Sumitra Peris, Sunil Santha, W.D. Amaradeva, Victor Ratnayake, Tissa Abeysekera, Gamini Fonseka, Henry Jayasena, Iranganee Serasinghe to mention a few that come readily to mind. But the lesser breeds amongst us managed to keep the good and decent away from positions of influence.

The Sri Lanka government of today instead of being a force for good is a social, political and economic menace to our country.

Only a miracle could save Sri Lanka. But, then, miracles do not happen that easily, do they?

Contemporary Sri Lanka reminds us of the lines from Nissim Ezekiel, a now departed poet friend from India:

I have never been a refugee

Except of the spirit,

A loved and troubled country

Which is my home and enemy

It was Ezekiel, also, who penned:

Confiscate my passport, Lord

I don’t want to go abroad;

Let me find my song

Where I belong .

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Well said Nethra
    It very sad to see what is happening to our country these greedy, rouge and murderous regime has brought this country to its keens it is just a matter of time.
    This is the only opportunity our country had after defeating ruthless terrorist LTTE. But these short corrupt leaders has already squandered the opportunity.
    I remember the transcript of the Gold CD that has been released in Singapore to commemorate Lee Kuan Yew: 1967-68 (I believe year is correct) when c Lee Kuan Yew came to power he said that he will make Singapore into another Sri Lanka. 10-12 years later When JR came to power he said that he will make Sri Lanka into another Singapore.
    This clearly show how these power hungry leaders serve themselves rather than serve the country.

    The sad part is still there are people (even in the west) lick the ass of these thugs.

    I wonder what is saying hugging the Jaya Srima Bodi.

  • 1

    Excellent article. Two names have been missed, Late S. Thondaman and his grandson the present minister Thondaman. They have exploited the upcountry labour force for their own personal benefit. These are two traitors who have kept the upcountry hardworking estate workers poor and voice less. By using the block votes they get from the estate workers they come to power. Then thy sell their own support to any government that gives them (Thondaman’s) what they personally want to improve their own finances. These assets they build in Sri Lanka are then taken to India and stored. These are two traitors who have to be mentioned in this article as traitors who suck the blood of upcountry hardworking estate employees.

  • 1

    An excellent analysis of the plight of Sri Lanka since ‘independence’. Good to see some Peradeniya University academics included in the list at the end but I can’t see why Mr V.Anandasangaree is there!! Bit of a loose cannon.

    • 1

      Why do you say so? Can you give examples?

    • 3

      “Good to see some Peradeniya University academics included “

      …tradition gathered from Hora_Oru shape, shape, shap, ship 1/2 maggots in a pera gediyas storeaways from across the Malabari straights in Portuguese ships??

      Cambridge beat the f8ing Oxbridge rotten lot last March at the hustling UNHC… will mauratius play it’s part to post phone a grand indictment of all groups left centre right just for fun???

  • 0

    a brilliant study of where we are and where we will end. please translate this into the other two national languages, because herein lies the remedy for our re-independence if understood by the voter.
    when i was a youngster i joined a local chapter of the sri lanka jaycees. i was impressed by its creed, which read like this ( so many years ago was this, i stand to be corrected if i have erred).
    ” we believe that religion gives meaning and purpose to human life
    that the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignity of nations
    that economic justice can best be won by free men through free
    the earth,s great pleasure lies in human personanilty
    and that service to humanity is the best work of life.”
    i hope our future generations a serene LANKA.

  • 2

    Dear Leela (one of many avatars):

    This is not the first time you mislead yourself. I cannot recall any
    Visvalingam (1920s)in the Tamil National struggle. I have seen you bringing this name even before. Are you confusing someone else with our friend the Engineer from CIMOG?

    You might not be in the depth to figure our GGPs 50/50. His suggestion was to prevent the oncoming onslaught of the Sinhala juggernaut from drowning the Tamils, Burgher and Muslims where the suggestion was 50% of seats in the House to the Sinhalese and the rest to the other communities. So where is this incendiary suggestion of 20% Tamils holding 50% of the seats. Somehow the Sinhala literates then managed to convince the Sinhalese along the lines that you parrot. Even the celebrated ECB Wijesinghe and the elitist Sinhalese of Colombo 7 fell for this (Remember the play “Fifty Fifty”) is indicative the communal virus was gradually contaminating our then healthy body politic. The country was to witness later the vision of GGP when the Sinhala Only wave and the Children of 1956 (panashaye dharuwo – courtesy Gunadasa
    A, Nalin de S et al) destroyed our country and its peaceful society gradually from thence. Agree?

    You, coming under various names, take a keen interest in the National Debate. Who will believe you if you feign ignorance of what the National Question is. Even the Sinhala side and this and previous Govts have identified our main crisis by this name on and off.

    I will leave it at that.


    • 0

      Why would I want to mislead others or myself for that matter by quoting an unknown man when we have enough material to show that Tamils wanted a separate country since long before independence.

      No, I am not confused about Doctor Visvalingam of CIMOG or other Visvalingam that I know of. I am talking about a Visvalingam who DBS Jeyaraj mentioned in a write-up as an unknown man who first proposed a separate country, which he named ‘Elom’. I remember very well that the point Jayaraj wanted to emphasize was that there were no takers for such a proposal at the time. Like you, he too aims to promote Sinhala discrimination as the reason for Tamils to demand separation. Anyway, if you happen to talk to him, you may ask him whether it is true or not.

      OK, even if 50% seats are to be reserved for others (not Sinhalas) as you say who do not form even 30%, is that fair proposition?

      I have no doubt that Tamils should have been allowed to use their language. No question about it. But if not for domineering attitudes and background by Vellahlahs throughout that time things would have been sorted out by dialogue.

      A question was posed and an answer was requested from horse’s mouth and you ducked it. So be it.

      p/s Sometimes, it’s fun to be an avatar. Want to try it!

      • 4

        “” A question was posed and an answer was requested from horse’s mouth and you ducked it. So be it. Leela “”

        fresh water lake Leela- Narahanpita waters edge Leelo,

        Hey , you duck we know the water bird you are- The Larks don’t bark It’s Brown Boars and Bacon the mania.

        Come you lost the plot log back `we all live in a yellow submarine…ring a ling starry star.

        tell us more at Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • 2

    Excellent article. Two names have been missed, Late S. Thondaman and his grandson the present minister Thondaman. They have exploited the upcountry labour force for their own personal benefit. These are two traitors who have kept the upcountry hardworking estate workers poor and voice less. By using the block votes they get from the estate workers they come to power. Then thy sell their own support to any government that gives them (Thondaman’s) what they personally want to improve their own finances. These assets they build in Sri Lanka are then taken to India and stored. These are two traitors who have to be mentioned in this article as traitors who suck the blood of upcountry hardworking estate employees.

    Please allow me to comment on the remarks of reader….

    The late S. Thondaman was a honourable man. His name was never involved in any matters of a pecuniary nature or distasteful controversies since he entered Parliament in 1947. He came from a wealthy plantation-owning family and his father was one of the first to own a motor car long before independence. During an Estate Strike
    when the White Sahib threw our several hundreds of workers from their line homes the late Thondaman p

  • 2

    Please allow me to comment on the unfortunate remarks and unsubstantiated charges of reader Park.

    The late S. Thondaman was throughout a honourable man. His name was never involved in any matters of an opaque pecuniary nature or distasteful controversies since he entered Parliament in 1947 till he died around the year 2000. He came from a wealthy plantation-owning family. His father was one of the first to own a motor car in the hill country long before independence. During an Estate Strike when the White Sahib threw our several hundreds of workers from their line homes, the late Thondaman pawned his wife’s jewellery to pay the necessary deposits to Court to prevent these poor workers from going to jail. They and the entire Estate working class remember their leader for his long sacrifices of this nature even whenever his name is invoked today.

    He did not have to take money from here to India. The Thondamans come from a wealthy land-owning family in deep South India. At the time of his death, he hardly had any asset of any high value here. Even his estate “Wavendon” was mortgaged to raise funds for CWC purposes.

    It was he who produced a crop of new leaders in the Indian Plantation community – Senator Annamalai, M.S. Sellasamy are two legendary names he produced that come to mind presently. There could be many more. Contrary to what has been recklessly alleged, he gave the marginalised Estate coolie a political voice and a respected persona.
    If the once emaciated, shrunken-face estate worker is now clad stylishly and goes in his own car as a leader that is largely due to the efforts of the late Thonda.

    As to working with other Govts, there is absolutely nothing wrong for a small party working with larger political parties to secure terms favourable for both sides to work together in so far as the country’s
    interests are not prejudiced. Karu Jayasuriya did it in recent times.
    SBD, Mangala S have all done this in their individual or party capacities.

    The use of the term “traitor” has been used here irresponsibly, slanderously and totally out of context.


    • 0

      I knew Mr Thondaman Sn personally and had many discussions with him here and abroad. From what I was told by others that it was his father who earned money from recruitment and managing labour. As for Mr Thondaman Sn, he was a simple and a honest man. Hence, I fully agree with everything that Senguttuvan wrote here.

      If only Tamil leaders of the North followed his example their people wouldn’t be in this predicament today.

  • 1

    Nethra, Thank you for this succinct, honest essay, on the sad tale of Ceylon which was once called the “Pearl of the Orient”. Sad is the fact that many of us who left for greener pastures may never return to our once resplendent isle.

    • 3

      Senguttuvan please’

      from the top; of the Deccan plateau. 0,0,0 Hindia

      Senguttuvan, we have missed Plato thought perhaps you were at Bamba pansala inter cultura, and as usual it’s a cry `Socrates for these 2 flags of nationalist.
      clash- The fashionable HYENA, තරච්ඡයා Crocuta crocuta(latin) with a vertical sword.
      The Shiv Sena (anti Tamils of Mumbai) Tiger emblem flag.
      The Jaguar Tiger Tamil flag- (`Weretiger` Supernatural Man-Eater of Ancient Chinese) Hun Chinese nationalist.
      I think both are unwanted additions to a white flag of the island more in green forest and the indian ocean.
      Could you enlighten on binning the flag of Werewolf Medival Europe as none have the DNA
      Or of China please??

  • 3

    Dear Leela,

    I recall you mentioned earlier you knew Mr Thondaman Snr and his able
    P/Secy the late Thiru. He (ST)was one of the humblest and earthly wise political leaders I have known. I was pleased to hear Sam Wijesinghe,
    who knew, perhaps, all significant Parliamentarians from Independence to now say some fine things about him including the fact, although not lettered to the extent of the other giants of his time, Sam W said he was the best Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee he recalls.
    The giant of Indian journos Kuldip Nayar wrote the first man he calls on and seeks advise on his visits to study the Lankan political scene
    is Thonda Snr. That every major town from Nuwara Eliya to Colombo
    – almost entirely Sinhalese – formally gathered, with Buddhist clerical leaders in attendance, to pay homage to his cortege before burial in Colombo is proof political divisions were forgotten to respect “one of the greatest political leaders of Sri Lanka” (CBK)
    Although he had strong links with his ancestral Indian village, it was his wish he should be buried in the soil of Mother Lanka. His ashes were later immersed in the waters of the river in his village in India. As the Indian Govt then said in a condolence message “Thondaman was an illustrious son both of Sri Lanka and India” – a distinction shared only by the legendary academic Ananda Coomaraswmy.


    • 0

      I returned from the UK after a long stay there to start a business here in early 1983. Both my GM was a Tamil. He introduced Thiru to me and through him I came to know Mr Thondaman Sn. Often, I used to visit him late in the evening at his modest apartment in front of the Royal collage which was not far from my house. I did not know much about politics then. So, it was very interesting to listen to his opinions and anecdotes. Though I had a difference of opinion on few things, I have always appreciated and agreed with his resolve for equal rights and better standard for his people. I realized he is no racist. If not for his wise approach, I thought, not just malaya nadu but the entire country would have set in flames at that time. What I appreciated most is his non-confrontational tactics to solve citizenship question of estate Tamils. As far as I knew, even the strongest Sinhala nationalists could not oppose it ethically and morally. As for me, I have supported Mr Thondaman’s approach. And I have conveyed the general opinion at village level to many ministers I knew personally at the time. I wish Northern Tamils had elected him or found a one like him as their leader.

  • 6

    It has become a habit for Sinhalese writers when they write about the downfall of Sri Lanka and the deterioration of the country or some criminality they some how go and find something from the Tamil community. They call it the balancing act. As far as the Tamils are concerned they only asked for their legitimate rights, equal treatment and security for their lives and property. They did not want to dominate over any ethnic group. We saw how the 50 50 was misinterpreted and was used to make Sri Lanka as what it it is today. Democracies are of many kinds and some of them have complex formula 50 %0 was such a proposal that is all. The author brings the Tamils their caste system etc is line with apportioning some portion of the blame on the Tamils. As far as every policy economic, political, infrastructural,educational, industrial even religious were completely formulated and implemented by 100% Sinhalese. It they have failed miserably and made a failed state why do you want to implicate the Tamils and their caste system and other practices into this equation. The caste system is prevalent everywhere in Sri Lanka. But VP successfully eradicated this overnight among the Tamils. It never played any part what so ever in the Tamil politics. The so called lower cast Tamils were economically weak uneducated and did not own any land. That is all. Every Tamil political party Tamil congress Federal Party even the LTTE gave a place for them as equals in the party structure. Please don’t for one instance blame the Tamils for Sri Lankans failures. It is the Tamils who worked so hard in the tea estates public sector and all areas to build up Sri Lanka. They took all jobs that the Sinhalese refuse to take and worked under the constant threat of communal riots and thuggery. They developed and invested in Sinhalese areas not in Tamil areas. The only mistake they did was they trusted the Sinhalese, they loved their country, they were comparatively honest, worked hard, studied hard. For this they are paying dearly.

  • 3

    Well it looks like somebody is going to be tied to the tree.

  • 2


    Now you know that Thonda Snr. lived on Rent at the Racecourse Avenue
    flat. As far we know, he did not own property in Colombo.

    The Lingam you sometimes refer to is probably Prof. C. Suntharalingam – one of the famous Lingam Brothers. Justice Nagalingam was acting
    Governor General (?) and the other was the brilliant C. Thiagalingam QC. The Professor was a Maths teacher and a colourful member of
    Parliament in the 1950s and a remarkable debator. It is said he was invited to teach Maths to Prince Charles at the Palace. He maintained a farm in the Vanni where he chose to live most of his latter years.


    • 6


      My Tamil friends proudly tell me he was a former maths tutor to the Queen, was he?

      They also tell me when Queen visited Ceylon in the 1950s she removed her gloves to shake his hands, an unusual gesture.

      • 0

        “My Tamil friends proudly tell me he was a former maths tutor to the Queen, was he? They also tell me when Queen visited Ceylon in the 1950s she removed her gloves to shake his hands, an unusual gesture. “

        I heard the same story in 1960s.

        • 2



          Can you confirm it?

          • 1

            good one…at sight pleas! loving it no dal`it` anpu too much parripu other wise blues???

            Anpu, enna poo peria poo rosa poo, Is it because Tao lost his shoe or Ramanujum and Sakuntal were never known while there were many other worldwide and east- she lost her shoe and went back to colony looking it.

  • 1

    “Buddhisification”… :) funny though interesting word. Never heard before unlike the more famous “evangelization” or “islamisation” etc. To me it sounds definitely like a less cruel / less violent version than the other 2 as Buddhism essentially promotes Ahimsa.

  • 0

    My Observation is JAYANTHA AND MAHELA are the Same persons in different pseudonyms.

  • 0

    The simple real truth was tamil or other language speaking communities,can live any where in the sri lanka,without any difficulties from majority sinhalese buddhist.eventhough compared with other western or oriental countries,majority sinhalese buddhists are provide & sacrificed much more unimaginable equal rights to the other national communities.current government or private sectors,top to bottom posts are merit basis for equaly representating whole communities.learn from the past,presently concentrate to develop our country,for the better future generations.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy

  • 1

    Dear Native Veddah:

    Prof CS could have been Her Majesty’s Maths teacher rather than
    her son’s. Tku for correcting me.


    • 1

      Wellcome back Senguttuvan. I missed you.

    • 2

      Chola `weretiger` copy cat poone from ancient Yang & Yen.

      Alu gobi…andde fundde. no sunday no no monday no dansal.

      It took the scottish warriors who saved the english crown for deacdes winnning it for them- A 200 years to have an election which they lost. How can a gang of villagers move by proclaiming they are the best in the world because the best of Tamils are not from TN or JT. JT’s are perpetual conmen supreme Dr Transparency to Emil of readers digest fame.
      Tel means gahe del!!

  • 0

    Hey people. Did not realise that the Madamuleme Modaya was a tree hugger.
    Wow!Its all going to be OK.
    Kissing trees?

    • 0

      Destined to be ruled by a Mara-Modaya

  • 0

    Is it not a paradox that those who voted for the Senanayakas,Bandaranayakas, Jayaewardenes and Rajapakses
    over the 65 years since independence have to bitterly complain
    at the end of 65 years.

  • 1

    Thank you very much for writing this article.Politicians are using Racialism as a best weapon for them to come to power.”Sinhala only” means only Sinhalese.As you stated the bill doesn’t clearly stated what the position of other races and this is the basic reason for the Tamils to go for FEDERALISM and to a separate state.I know well a tamils can’t live with equal status in other provinces ,(other than North and East).Because the majorities are Sinhalese in other provinces.It is natural a majority will take upper hand and will have affection on their own race and religion.Tamils are not demanding a separate state but a place to live in peace without quarreling or fighting with our brothers.This is the best solution even in our personal life.Being away from the place of danger.What Tamils can do if Sinhalese has in fear that this will establish a separate state.

  • 1

    Dear Ms Nethra Gonawardena,

    To do justice to the long article you have written is no easy task in a short comment. Hence I will do so in several comments. This is the first. I hope you will provide feedback.

    Certain statements you have made quoting history starts from the middle, bypassing relevant History. Unfortunately this has resulted in arriving at wrong conclusions.

    Before we examine what you have written, I feel that some relevant History needs to be stated.

    Before the Kandyan Kingdom capitulated under a Treaty, the hill country was the domain of the Kandyan King. When the British arrived here, 85% of Lanka was under forest cover. The forests too were the property of the Kings. Only a very small fraction of Land was privately owned and that too by Royal grants in exchange for services or grants to Temples.

    The people used these lands for cultivation and animal husbandry and the country was self sufficient.

    The British dispossessed and evicted the occupants of these Lands by enacting Draconian Laws.

    1. The British enacted the Crown Land Enforcement Ordinance in 1840 to claim the unoccupied and uncultivated land in the Kandyan kingdom (Farmer 1957:90- 91). As a result of this ordinance, 90% of the land in the Kandyan highlands was designated as land belonging to the British Crown (Herath et al, 1995:77).

    2. The Waste Land Ordinance Act of 1897 (and the Crown Land Encroachment Ordinance in 1840), annexed more lands as crown lands where villagers could no longer claim them according to the new British imposed rules (Roberts 1979:233, Obeysekara 1967: 98-100).

    3. The majority of the Sinhalese villages effectively lost the structural prerequisite of land tenure systems (Obeysekara 1967:101).

    4. The ‘Land Settlement Ordinance of 1889’ allowed the colonial authorities to sell these STOLEN lands at will. “Many villagers in the Kandyan area were deprived of their high lands formally used for chena cultivation or grazing the cattle” (Mendis 1951:85).

    Now let’s look at what you say

    “Our Kandyan ‘elites’ and the non-elites alike, disregarding the dignity of labour, considered it below their station to do an honest day’s work and refused to work on the tea plantations,…”

    You made this statement because you either overlooked or was ignorant of the events that preceded the creation of the Tea Plantations.

    Would you work as a domestic slave if your land and abode is forcibly taken from you by some law that is enacted and you were asked to till the land you owned and clean the toilets of the house you owned for the thieving new owner?

    The Sinhalese were not prepared to slave on the Land they owned. Their interest was growing food for self sufficiency not Cash crops to enrich a Slave master.

    Can you blame them?

    A Tyrannical govt evicted the original inhabitants.
    A Tyrannical govt brought slave labour and settled them on that land.
    A Tyrannical govt destroyed a self supporting economy and made it dependent on a non essential product that the world can do without.

    Let’s look at the position of the evicted and dispossessed original inhabitants 150 years later, in 1946, just before independence.

    “According to the 1946 census on population in the agricultural sector of the island, 40% of the agricultural peasant families found in the former Kandyan Kingdom were landless while there were 26% landless agricultural families recorded in the wet zone” (Herath 1995: 79).

    How do you solve this Humanitarian and Economic Quagmire that we find ourselves in, for no fault of ours?

    By evicting the Aliens, handing over the land to the original inhabitants, destroy the tea plantations and convert the land to food production?

    Non of the above is possible and the reasons are obvious.

    In any solution, the FIRST priority is to deal with those who were wronged, the evicted and dispossessed Sinhala Peasantry.

    Has that been done?
    Attempts were made and was met with Racist objections. Instead of solving the problem it has got compounded and more vexed. Why?
    Due to racist and UNJUST claims to Land.

    You said “Under the first independence government headed by D.S. Senanayake, we disenfranchised the plantation Tamils because our Kandyan ‘elites’ thought they should be disenfranchised”

    As I said above the first Indian origin Tamils who came here to work are Aliens. They have no citizenship rights. Look around the world, the situation is the same even today, world wide.

    But we have their progeny, who were born here and has lived all their lives here, which should be considered on SYMPATHETIC grounds. However that is subordinate to the rectification of the Original Sin.

    The Citizenship Act of 1948 attempted to weed out the Indian Aliens from those who could make a claim for Citizenship. It imposed proof of intent to make Lanka their home and just not a transit point to make money from. The Act was tested in the Privy Council UK, when Lanka’s Supreme court was subordinate to it and was upheld. Surely the Apex Court of the UK which gave us independence knew what was just and what was unjust?

    The Backbone of the Middle East is the migrant worker. In some cases the migrant population approaches the indigenous population. But even today that migrant worker has no right of citizenship. The USA is fighting to arrest and repatriate illegal immigrants. In 2013 undocumented immigrants in the US was estimated at 11.3 million. The Mexican constitution grants its citizens freedom to cross its borders.

    “The study from Pew Research Center found that half of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants have lived here for at least 13 years and as many as 4 million have U.S.-born children”. (Washington Post)

    As you well know though those children become US citizens the parents are not and are deported when caught, breaking up the families asunder.

    David Cameron has issued a direct threat to illegal immigrants that “we will find you and make sure you are sent back to the country you came from”, as Labour and Ukip attacked his latest crackdown on benefits for new arrivals from the European Union for not being tough enough.

    The prime minister said he would make sure migrants from the EU would only be able to claim benefits for a maximum of three months, down from six months, unless they have very clear job prospects. The government claimed this would save the taxpayer £500m over the next five years.

    But in a sign all parties are now anxious to be seen as committed to cutting immigration, both Labour and Ukip attacked the prime minister for not going far enough to tackle the issue. (The Guardian)

    Nation building was filibustered when Greedy claims were made on the Land and Land remains the main issue in Nation building to this day. All the other excuses are given to cover this Greed for Land

    Kind Regards,

  • 4

    “”I don’t want to go abroad;
    Let me find my song
    Where I belong .”2

    Distant Drums of Mallaca Straits with Upali Wije the kingsmen.

    THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME- he recorded the song before that trajic plane crash.

    …I have a loving mother
    Just up in Gloryland
    And I don’t expect to stop
    Until I shake her hand.

    She’s waiting now for me
    In heaven’s open door
    And I can’t feel at home
    In this world anymore….

    [Edited out]

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