28 May, 2024

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Sunak’s Path To No. 10 May Have Begun In Ceylon

By Rifat Halim

Acres of newsprint have been devoted to Rishi Sunak’s rise. He is said to be the first Asian to occupy No. 10 Downing Street.

This is not correct. Asia begins with the Tigris river. Boris Johnson’s great grandfather was a Turkish politician. He should have been called Boris Kemal, as Johnson is the maiden name of his great grandmother.

Sunak is definitely the first person of Indian Subcontinental origin, as well as the first Hindu. Not many are aware that Sunak’s path may have been forged by Ceylonese in 19th century Britain.

Ceylon was separately administered from British India. It separated from British India in 1802 and was administered as a crown colony.

But, the island was informally part of British India. Some Indian laws applied like the Indian Penal Code in Ceylon. The Ceylon Rupee was pegged was to the Indian Rupee, which was in turn pegged to Silver.

Ceylonese who visited Britain were known as Indians or Hindus (irrespective of their religion). The word Hindu was then not a religious affiliation but a generic term for people from the subcontinent.

Three people from Ceylon were path breakers for the vast Indian subcontinent. The first Asian to be called to the bar was a Sinhalese Christian Harry Dias. The word “Cinghalese” was used to describe all the people from the island.

Sir Harry, as he was later known, was admitted to the bar in 1847. Sir Harry’s admission to the Middle Temple was cheered throughout the British Empire. It was only in the mid 1830s that Catholics and Jews were allowed in the professions. In the case of Sir Harry, he was an Anglican, which dominated the British establishment.

Sir Harry was the first non-European to be allowed in the British Empire. He later became the first Sinhalese to be knighted.

He paved the way for another statesman from Ceylon – Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy. Sir Muthu was the most prominent family in Ceylon. He was the Tamil member of the Ceylon Legislative Council, a post that his family monopolised for many years.

Sir Muthu became the first Hindu (in a religious sense) to be called to the Bar. Sir Muthu was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1862. Like Sunak, Sir Muthu may have taken his oaths with the Bhagvad Gita. He was the first non-Christian or non-Jew to be called to bar.

Sir Muthu was a path breaker. The barrister was a bridge builder between the East and the West. He was an expert in Western and Eastern languages. While practicing law in London, he translated the Sanskrit play Harischandra into English. The play was performed for Queen Victoria in 1863 with Sir Muthu as a lead player.

He was not just a bridge builder in the arts. Sir Muthu was the first Asian to break into the upper echelons of British society. The Tory Prime Ministers David Gladstone and Lord Palmerston were his friends.

Sir Muthu was one of the few from the East who socialized with the British establishment. In the 1860s, he once ran into a British official in a London bar. He had known the British official when he was a domineering administrator in Ceylon. The administrator had been condescending toward Sir Muthu. He had been treated as a lowly native.

In London, the tables were turned. The administrator was just minor colonial civil servant. Sir Muthu was moving in exalted circles. As it happened, Sir Muthu was about to attend a party hosted by Lord Palmerston that evening. Sir Muthu asked the official “will I meet you at Pam’s tonight?” to drive home the change in status.

Sir Muthu cleared the way for another Asian pioneer, who was also from Ceylon. James Peiris was a Sinhalese Christian who was an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1880s.

In 1882, Sir James (as he was later known) was elected the President of the Cambridge Union. Sir James was the first non-European President of the Oxford or Cambridge Union. No other coloured was elected as Oxford or Cambridge Union for nearly another fifty years.

Sir James was a Liberal in Britain and later became one of Ceylon’s leaders. He was the Vice President of the Ceylon Legislative Council and was the Acting Governor of Ceylon. He was one of the very few natives who acted as Governor in the British Empire.

There was other Asians path-breakers in the 19th century. In the 1890s, two Parsi gentlemen from Bombay Sir Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Mancherjee Bhownaggree were elected to the House of Commons.

Sunak’s elevation is the culmination of a long series of events. The British have been broad minded towards Asian from the 1800s. This is in contrast to many other societies.

Sunak’s rise is not surprising. In fact, it was overdue given the advances made by Asians, particularly Ceylon, that were made in 1800s.

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Latest comments

  • 17
    5

    Rifat Halim I beg to differ.
    Namal Rajapaksa is claiming all credit for Rishi Sunak’s appointment as first Asian Hindu PM of UK.Apparently he has mentored Rishi.

    The archaeological dept of Sri Lanka have dug out genealogy evidence that Rishi Sunak’s ancestors were Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhist. They have family connections to the Rajapaksas.

    The Sri Lankan Govt is planning on building a massive stupa honoring Rishi. Namal will lay the foundation stone.

    • 10
      12

      Unlike those who were born in Ceylon/SL and later gained some power in Britain, Rishi Sunak was born and bred in England. Even though he has declared he is a proud Hindu, he is a besuited Englishman, who shares his country’s values; the country’s secular culture allows him to call himself a Hindu, with only a superficial nod to the Hindu faith.

      • 10
        2

        Dear Agnos,
        .
        I don’t disagree with you.
        .
        In other words, I agree with you. I’ve looked at a lot of Rishi during the past four months oar so. He’s a fine specimen of a human being; intelligent, articulate, and as a politician he has yet to reach his prime.
        .
        And he’s as much of an Englishman as a guy could get. However, as for him being a Hindu, let him decide that, and let us not label that aspect of him as superficial.
        .
        Please tell me if i was fair by you when I told this to Professor Jeevan Hoole: I’ve come in for a lot of flack for tying to piece together what sort of person is behind the mask of anonymity. I think that you had made a comment favourable of him (even if the opposite it wouldn’t matter in this context). I said that I haven’t the foggiest notion except that you’re an agnostic (like me, although my sociological classification is “Christian”.)
        .
        “Oh my gosh,” he said. “I hadn’t figured that out”.
        .
        How significant was this observation? Let us (who are not-interfering in the private beliefs of others) not label the faiths of others as “superficial”. I will have no problem with not seeing a response to this query, but I think that you will understand that it has relevance.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 3
          7

          SM,

          I am speaking broadly that people in secular, capitalistic societies have a value system–the constant search for more and more wealth, the rat race — that is not conducive to any serious religious faith, regardless of what they claim. I am not singling out Sunak.

          As for what you told Dr. Hoole, I am fine with it.

    • 3
      0

      How dare these people denigrate the highly sophisticated, cultured and civilized the talented British Nation?

      • 1
        2

        Hanchopancha,
        “How dare these people denigrate the highly sophisticated, cultured and civilized the talented British Nation?”
        My humble, thinking is that, the intention was to ELEVATE, THE HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED, CULTURED AND CIVILIZED THE TALENTED BRITISH NATION to that of the HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED, CULTURED AND CIVILIZED THE TALENTED, EMANCIPATED SOCIETY, NURSED BY 2500 YEARS OF CULTURE OF PRINCE VIJAYA AND KUVENI AND THE PRINCESS’S FROM THE PANDYA KINGDOM OF SOUTH INDIA, Choosing NON-ARYANS FROM SOUTH INDIA!!??
        Those immersed in Buddha Dhamma of Sri Lankan “SHADE” – differs from precepts of Gautama the Buddha, only to suit one’s needs/fancies!!??
        Electing in their wisdom, after “CLEANSING THEMSELVES”, thoughts of being mismanaged by the ‘MaRa’ “Looters and Robbers”, 2010 to 2015, the CAUSE OF THE POVERTY, MISERY AND CURRENT PLIGHT OF STARVATION AND SHORTAGES!!!
        Close to “BEGINNINGS OF PRISTINE SUNAK FAMILY’ and THE ORIGIN OF 700 PANDYA PRINCESS’S before Sunak Family, sprinted on to Kenya/Tanganyika in East Africa, seeking greener pastures and then with acquired African ‘Riches’, embarked migration, heavenly pleasures in famous port city of Southampton in Old Blighty???
        Close enough!! Department of Archaeology research stitch-up!!??
        Timing is of essence!!!??
        USEFUL FOR UNHRC 2023; Principal Sponsor, current HR motion, is colonist Great Britain!!!??

    • 3
      0

      Rajash,
      “Apparently he has mentored Rishi”
      Alternatively, did he mentor King Charles III, whom he met as Prince of Wales, officiating on behalf of QE II at the CHOGM Hambantota!!?? Namal was the then Prince of the ROYAL FAMILY OF Sri Lanka and “Prince Regent” SL and aspirant to the Presidential Throne in 2019!!???
      Just think about it???
      Latter may be true!!!
      Charles III would have been enamoured his appeal to Prince Regent and incoming Presidential aspirant, Namal to bring to book (apprehending and Charging) Rapist of Victoria in Tangalle, killing her British citizen Boyfriend, who tried Protect Victoria being sexually abused!!!
      Only after appeal of Charles III – then Prince of Wales – Namal’s Cousin Vidhana Pathirana was arrested, charged, after months, if not year, regarding the Khuram Sheik murder and imprisoned with 20 year custodial hard labour (RI)!!??
      Never would have mentored Rishi Sunak (RS), whose intellectual capacity is much higher, diverse and right royally above the SL Prince regent could ever display or demonstrate, to mentor RS

    • 3
      0

      rajash
      i beg to differ.Sri lankans are good at trying to claim credit for everything great that happens in the world.Ranasinghe premedasa also stated that nepal had started copying his gamudawa i remember.You may be right to a certain extent about sunak ancestry having sinhala bhuddhits but they were certainly not srilanka sinhala bhuddhist as you try to portray,but were ceylon bhudhists.It might be just a word change but comparing sri lankan bhuddhists to ceylon bhuddhists is like compaaring a abid do to a poodle,but even more importantl you have failed to mention that it was in rishi sunaks maternal line that there were sinhala bhuddhits and that his great great grand father was a hindu while his great great grandmother was a sinhala bhuddhist.

    • 2
      0

      rajashh

      typho.should be rabid dog to a poodle.As for your namal it si laughable.Just because once he met sunak in london and told him how he could become the primeminister one day copying his father’s populis policies and drinking thambili with the pavement vendors do you really think that would have helped sunak to becomethe primeminister in a first world country.Third world and first world politics is different and you must be crazy to thnk that half hour meeting only that namal had made him the Pm of UK.

      • 3
        0

        Shankar – appreciate your comment.
        ====
        my above post is meant to be satirical. making fun at Namal.

        • 0
          0

          rajashh

          satirical indeed.You must be a member of the namal fan club which is large indeed.
          however i hav to admit one thing which is where namal may have contributed to sunak beating boris johnson. namal taught sunak his fathers mourning exercises that mahinda did until he got fat due to his love of rice and curry and gave up by 2015.Sunak who is only 42 does this diligently everyday before he goes to work.can you imagine boris douing this the fat lab of lard that he is.he would have died.

          https://twitter.com/azzamameen/status/888073062456770562

          • 0
            0

            shankar- You must be a member of the namal fan club which is large indeed.
            =====
            I didn’t know there is one. DO I need reference from you to join?
            ====

  • 7
    0

    I fail to see what is the link to Sri Lanka ? (Ceylon)

    • 6
      0

      ‘I fail to see what is the link to Sri Lanka ? (Ceylon)’
      .
      That’s because there isn’t one.

    • 0
      0

      A14455

      sunak’s great great grandmother was a sinhala bhuddhist in ceylon.refer rajashh.

  • 10
    2

    I don’t know how to respond to respond to this article.
    .
    The Turkish roots of Boris Johnson are known. The other stuff that is written here is too far-fetched for me to respond to.
    .

    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

  • 3
    0

    It is amusing that some world leaders who make it to top positions, somehow have some connection to Sri Lanka….even Kamala Harris supposedly had Sri Lankan connections until it as disproved.

    • 4
      0

      Ashan,
      “It is amusing that some world leaders who make it to top positions, somehow have some connection to Sri Lanka—- until it as disproved”
      That’s because the EPICENTRE of Asia is in SRI LANKA!!!???
      So the initial claim is made, until the reality dawns and the peripheral locations in ASIA, which are away from the Asian Epicentre – which is Sri Lanka – is determined in due course of time. Nothing was disproved, but going through a process of ‘MANUFACTURED TRUTH’, which turned out to be a MISADVENTURE?? This happens in all Ventures!? No Surprises THERE!? NO DISAPPROVALS TOO!?

    • 0
      2

      No it is not because it was disproved. it is because this woman is the laughingstock of the whole world. Now no one talks of her Tamil connections.

  • 6
    1

    We always relish a share of a shine, however insignificant, however remote.

  • 7
    3

    Sinhalas like to claim some connection even tenuous with indian origin high achievers I suppose this gives them some sort of elevation from the now bankrupt beggar status.

    The sinhala racist mentality has resulted in the bankrupt beggar status of sinhala land vis a vis of countries like south korea, Japan , even vietnam that comparatively have experienced massive destruction and are all industrial powerhouses (cf arson of sri lankan businesses that employ sinhalas resulting in) ; and some even employ sinhala slave labour!!! Dont delude yourself that the sinhala slave labour is treated other than slave labour as I have observed exploitation in countries that even have stronger labour protection laws!!!!

    • 0
      3

      I have rarely seen Sinhalayas claim anything or anyone from overseas as anything theirs. The tamils on the other hand.

  • 1
    2

    Gus why do you post such racist comments about the Sinhalese? Don’t the Sinhalese have Tamil blood? Do you think the Tamils and Muslims are any different? Who claims to have the World’s oldest language? Who claims to be descended from Arabs? Do you think there is no Tamil slave labour in the Middle East? Google it.

    • 6
      0

      Gus is indeed racist I admit and I suspect he is a Malaysian/Singaporean Tamil of Sri Lankan ancestry from the way posts. No one claims Tamil is the oldest language but it is the oldest fully developed living language and the only ancient classical language that is still living. Old Greek, Arabic, and Chinese, even Hebrew are different from modern versions. Hebrew was also a dead language from even the time of Christ and was only revived again in the 20th century. Modern Tamil is different too from old Tamil but a person well-versed in Tamil can still understand ancient poetry, still written in old Tamil. Funnily it is not modern Tamil but Malayalam that has retained many of the aspects and vocabulary of old Tamil.

      • 5
        0

        Many languages and dialects long before Tamil but their life span was far less and they did not last as long as Tamil. Tamil has lasted for at least 5000 minimum. They may be some African, Australian and other ancient tribal languages or dialects that have lasted far longer than Tamil and still exist but they are just dialects, not fully developed ancient classical languages whose oldest written form is around 2500- 3000 years ago, and has given birth too and enriched many other languages, which are also rich and classical. Sanskrit may be slightly older than Tamil definitely its written form goes more than 3000 years ago. But it has been dead for more than 2000 years, whereas Tamil is still thriving and evolving. Proto-Dravidian is basically Old Tamil, as more than 85% of the proto-Dravidian vocabulary is still maintained in Tamil and not in other Dravidian languages or dialects. However, they have maintained other aspects of Proto-Dravidian that modern Tamil has now discarded.

        • 0
          10

          “Tamil has lasted for at least 5000 minimum.”
          What is the oldest extant text in Tamil?
          How old is the Brahmi script or its southern branch?
          What fraction of literate Tamils can read and understand Sangam Tamil, unassisted? I would say about as that for classical Greek and Greeks of today.
          As a matter of clarification:
          What is the size of the word stock of proto-Dravidian? What is that of modern Tamil?
          How do we explain the difference?
          That besides ow does it explain the ‘illiteracy’ of todays Tamils to read or write in Sangam Tamil?
          *
          Do we want to stagnate in a nearly dead classical Tamil or get out of the current mess which disallows Tamils to work in Tamil as effectively as for example the Koreans, the Thais, the Japanese and others.
          *
          Chinese has the longest history as an existing language, but it needs to modernize its script, I think. But that is not easy.
          Persian has been Arabized, but retains a significant part f its Persian source.
          *
          Tamil has better features for a Tamil to be happy about than its age.

          • 8
            0

            As usual nit-picking on another Thamizh’s comment trying to find fault and thereby favour with the Chingkallams. Google and read Thamizh is the oldest living language. Yes, we do not want to stagnate and get out of the current mess and use Thamizh effectively like in Japanese, Thai or Korean. This is the fault of the current Thamizh leadership, and people and the fact that thanks to the British empire, Thamizh people are under the yoke of other people. However, this does not still change the fact, that Thamizh is the oldest language in the world linguists, the fact that modern Farsi is Arabised or has retained a significant part of its old Persian source has no relevance to this fact. With Self hating Thamizh like you, we will definitely not progress

            • 0
              7

              It is healthy even for a piglet not to comment on a subject when its understanding of issues cannot transcend petty personalization of issues.

          • 6
            0

            SJ, Chinese indeed has a long history as an existing language, however, there is no such thing called a Chinese, Indian or European language. Han Chinese has many dialects the modern ones are Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, and Shanghainese, however, they all use the same characters or writing, and common to all dialects, it is a pictorial form of writing. India also has many languages and dialects and so does Europe. This ancient Chinese writing would have been in old or Archaic Chinese, which is not the same as modern Chinese dialects, although they are related to daughter languages or dialects. Hindi/Punjabi/ Bangali are to Sanskrit. However, in the case of Tamil is the same language. Modern Tamil is still a continuation of Old Tamil. It is still the same language, this is the reason Tamil is considered the oldest living language. If we use your argument, then modern Indian Sanskrit-based Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi. Marathi which uses the Devanagari Sanskrit script can claim to be very ancient languages on the basis of the ancient Devanagari Script used the amount of Sanskrit words in their vocabulary and they are Indian languages like Sanskrit. We need to use commonsense.

            • 0
              7

              SSS
              The language is known as Chinese as much as Tamil is as Tamil.
              Han refers to the majority nationality. That does not identify a dialect.
              I know no language or dialect called Han Chinese, please educate me more on that.
              The written language can be understood by all regardless of dialect. But the spoken word poses issues as each character a distinct pronunciation in any dialect. But There are no regional version of any national newspaper or textbook.
              The current writing system has lasted millennia, Even 2nd Century BC Oracle bone texts are readable far more simply than any ancient Indian manuscript. “From the linguistic aspect it is important to notice that the inscriptions are written in Chinese language and are readable and understandable if the vocabulary is known. The characters are also constructed in the same patterns as those of later date, although the shape is in many cases not that of the standard characters.” (http://www.chinaknowledge.de/Literature/Historiography/oracle.html)
              The attemt to unify speed by making Mandarin the standard dialect has yet to succeed, There are problems arising from tone in Chine: some dialects have four tones and some only two. Affinity to dialect is strong as in Italy and even New York city.
              Unifying the script by alphabetization too failed.
              That apart, there is no Tamil text longer than a sentence that goes back a century or two before Christ.
              Let us give the many millennia age of Tamil fairytales a rest, and get on with modernizing it.

              • 2
                0

                Have lost the argument debate but still want to be spiteful and cannot acknowledge defeat and stick to straws. This means as per your argument from a linguist aspect, Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Marathi are all Indian languages and should be lumped together as Indian languages and all declared as very ancient languages, that have been there for thousands of years, after all, they all use the Sanskrit Devanagari script of or a script derived from Devanagari and most of this daughter language vocabulary is Sanskrit so they are one and the same. Ancient. The same for western European languages, especially the Latin languages like French, Italian, and Spanish, as they all use the Latin script and are of Latin base. Therefore they are as old as Latin. Now even Malayalam hardliners and extremists, let alone the Kannada and Telugu ones are trying to prove that their language is the mother of Thamizh or as ancient as Thamizh, due to the similarity in most of the vocabulary. The daughter stating mother looks like her and not the other way around. Your argument is the same. Maybe they will love you. You can see how sad and silly your argument sounds.

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