1 October, 2022


The Dress Rehearsal In Trincomalee

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

…it is clear that under natural ecological conditions intra-species aggression is seen in defence of territory or as nature’s solution to over-population. However, in the animal world, aggression rarely ends in actual death, there being some inborn inhibition to killing. It is pertinent to ask why such inhibitions do not operate in man, virtually the only ‘unhinged killer’…there were several incidents during racial riots and the war itself, of direct slaughter of civilians. This kind of ‘unhinged killing’appears to take place usually where human warfare occurs as reactive rage.” – Daya Somasundaram, from Scarred Minds

The New Frontiersmen

Elections to the District Development Councils were scheduled for early June 1981. These were being hailed by the Government and its supporters as a means to finding a political solution to the Tamil problem. Despite this, the UNP government of the day chose a strange way to usher in the DDCs. It may be explained, in part, as a perverse reaction to the attack on UNP and non-TULF candidates by Tamil militants, and the TULF’s silence on these. These included the killing of Mr. Thiagarajah, former MP for Vaddukoddai, and some policemen.

A train-load of election staff was sent from the South, many of whom did not have a clue to what election duty meant. The train stopped at Kurunegala. Minister. G.M. Premachandra, and Jayewickrema Perera, both top UNPers, addressed the election staff through loud speakers. They told them, “You are our frontier forces, you must come back with victory.” This trumpet-call was recounted by a man from Galle, who was then on election duty. He was reminded of this while witnessing the violence at the North-Western Provincial Council elections under the PA government in 1999.

In Jaffna there was a high-powered team including Ministers Gamini Dissanayake, Cyril Mathew & Festus Perera, G.P.V. Samarasinghe, secretary to the cabinet, Chandrananda de Silva, later commissioner of elections and subsequently defence secretary, and Colonel Dharmapala, defence secretary. There were also a large number of policemen brought into Jaffna under DIG Edward Gunawardene. The mindset implicit in this exercise also throws some light on the 1983 violence. Gamini Dissanayake addressed the election staff. He told them, according to the man from Galle above, to close the polling booths at 10.00 AM and cast the remaining votes. Some innocent guy asked him, “For whom should we cast them?” The Minister replied, “Why, to the animal (i.e. elephant) of course!”

The operation was so botched up that the UNP got no benefit out of it. A high point of the exercise was the burning of the Jaffna Public Library by Edward Gunawardene’s men. There had of course been militant attacks on policemen. But the considered opinion of some senior police colleagues was that Ponnambalam (Brute) Mahendran, who was DIG, Jaffna, would have handled the situation competently if not for the presence of Gunawardene and his men. The operation did achieve, however, something notable.

Until this time, with all the reservations the Tamils had about the State, there was hope that a political solution would be arrived at through negotiations between the Government and the TULF. The Government’s conduct during the elections to the DDCs – the much awaited political solution – greatly tarnished that hope. Two months later there was anti-Tamil violence in the South where the President himself blamed a section of his own party. The outrage among the Tamils occasioned by the burning of the library and the press of the Eelanadu – the only independent provincial daily in this country – was smothered in the Colombo press. What was left of liberal traditions could not be contained by the developing polarisation in the country. To responsible Tamils, both here and abroad, it seemed clear that the Tamils needed English journals of their own to highlight their concerns.

One group of Tamils in London who were associated with the Standing Committee of Tamils – a charitable group supporting work among Tamil refugees – collected contributions and started the Tamil Times. Despite the misrepresentation in this country, it has been a responsible and moderate monthly, which never supported the separatist cause in its editorial outlook. It is nearing 20 years of publication without missing a month, resisting all attempts by the LTTE to control it. About the same time, another group around the late K. Kanthasamy started the Saturday Review in Jaffna.

We may draw attention here to the political significance of the expression ‘frontier forces’, its operational significance and the reaction to it among the Tamils. There is also an implied injunction that it is the patriotic duty of the Sinhalese to go to the North-East and to win over the land so that it becomes in every sense part of their undivided Sinhalese nation.

This idea of a frontier thrust had been discernible from the 1950s in closed official circles, but in the early 80s, it became part of the conscious and deliberate overtones of the Accelerated Mahaveli Programme. This was the key project of the Jayewardene Government of 1977, and was placed under Gamini Dissanayake. The mixed and confused objectives of the programme can be discerned from the following quotation from Patrick Peebles (Colonization and Ethnic Conflict in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, Journal of Asian Studies, February 1990): “As late as May 1982 Mahaweli project officials claimed that Dry Zone settlements would defuse ethnic tension by reducing unemployment. They were unduly optimistic. Earlier colonization schemes had divided the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority long before either Mahaveli River development or ethnic violence accelerated… The UNP consciously evoked the image of an idyllic Buddhist past in which the Dry Zone irrigation provided the resources for a prosperous and cultured civilization. Officials of the Accelerated Mahaveli Programme appealed directly to this mythical past, in which Tamil Hindu invaders were hated enemies, to mobilize Buddhist support”. What was most contentious was land settlement within the largely Tamil speaking North-East.

The atmosphere of that time was full of populist overtones, offering to the Sinhalese poor through land settlement the twin goals of economic prosperity and putting the Tamils in their place. It had something of the idealism and the tragedy of the European crusades of the Middle Ages. To a circle among the Colombo elite within and close to the ruling UNP establishment, generally in their late 30s and 40s, securing strategic land by proxy became a heroic obsession. In particular, after the July 1983 violence, they used their personal influence to divert state resources to this end, giving rise to armed Sinhalese border villages. Violence and massacres by both sides escalated from 1984, and instead of the prosperity promised to them, these Sinhalese villagers became civilian shields and chattels of the armed forces.

Herman Gunaratne, the author of ‘For a Sovereign State’ finds authority for this crusading zeal by quoting what D.S. Senanayake is supposed to have told the Dry Zone settlers at Padaviya about 1950: “Today you have been brought here and are given a plot of land. You have been uprooted from your village. You are like a piece of driftwood in the ocean; but remember that one day this whole country will look up to you. The final battle for the Sinhala people will be fought on the plains of Padaviya… Those who are attempting to divide this country will have to reckon with you… the last bastion of the Sinhala.” (p. 201)

These are words quoted from the memory of a grandson of D.S.S., Ceylon’s first Prime Minister, a member of the author’s circle of activists. The words however reflect the concerns of this circle in the 80s rather than anything easily discernible in the early 50s, although Tamil leaders had already voiced their concerns regarding colonization. Padaviya is located in the north-eastern corner of the Anuradhapura District, close to the narrow border strip separating the majority Tamil speaking former Northern and Eastern provinces. It had featured crucially in communal violence in 1958. (See Chapter 14.)

It must be pointed out here that the atmosphere in the early 50s was far different from what one might imagine now. The following is from an obituary written in 1971 (Sun 10.6.71) by Mervyn St. C. Nicholas, a Tamil, who was elected to the governing body of the All-Ceylon, UNP Youth League founded in 1949: “I was yet a student at St.Joseph’s College, Trincomalee. Subsequently when I organized and founded the UNP Youth League at Trincomalee, he [George Kotelawela] was a tower of strength. He was then in charge of the Essential Services Labour Corps (ESLC) at Trincomalee and Kantalai… A score of years ago Kantalai was thick virgin forest and malaria was rampant in the area. Added to the bargain was the first years after the holocaust of global war II… His was the ‘never say die’ attitude. With the ‘giant’ sons of Aiyampillai – both Kanagasingam and Rajasingam the doughty lieutenants of the then Civil Defence Commissioner – Sir Oliver Goonetileke; our George was able to open new vistas for the present denizens of Kantalai and Trincomalee and its suburbs. His pioneering spirit did not wane and he moved on to Polononnaruwa and other parts of Tamankaduwa to ‘conquer’.”

In the post war years many saw the Essential Services Labour Corps as an appropriate means of utilising surplus labour in clearing jungles and constructing colonisation schemes. Among the office bearers of the Society were a fair mixture of Tamils and Sinhalese. The president was Captain A.C. Kanagasingam and George Kotelawela was the secretary. The Society absorbed workers being disbanded by the British Navy and from other war-related employment, and the Society was paid by measurement of the work done. Its patron was Sir John Kotelawela, an uncle of George. The society opened up new land for schemes in Kantalai and Tamankaduwa (presently Polonnaruwa District). The same scheme of co- operative self-employment was provided for the Malayan Pioneer Corps formed of persons who had returned from Malaya after the war.

The following extract is from the Daily News report of 2.5.1951. Dudley Senanayake, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, met the Society at a dinner in his honour at the Trincomalee Rest House. He said, “It was my father who first visualised the Eastern and North Central Provinces as the granary of the Island, and several years ago, had put schemes into operation in the midst of scorn and opposition from those who felt that money is being wasted in the jungles.”

Captain Kanagasingam welcomed the Minister as one who stood for the ‘best policy of the UNP’. “We members of the UNP here”, he said, “stand not for political advantage, but to see the betterment of conditions in this country….”

Mr. S. Sivapalan, MP for Trincomalee, speaking after dinner said: “I do not at the moment belong to any party, but I will let the old proverb say for me that wherever “Mary went the lamb was sure to go”.”

Mr. A.R.A. Aboobucker, MP for Muttur, declared that “it should not be understood that these areas which are to be developed are for the benefit of the Sinhalese alone but for the benefit of the people of the area”.

That was a time when the UNP had a significant following among the Tamils. What members of the Government such as Dudley Senanayake then told the Tamils and the Muslims of the North-East was that these schemes, mainly in the NCP and EP, were aimed towards realising the ‘granary of the Island’. There was nothing said then about the ‘ancient glory of the Sinhalese’, that is so evident in the Mahaveli Programme rhetoric of the early 80s, and its increasingly visible overtones of putting their ‘traditional enemies’, the Tamils, in their place. If there is substance in the quotation above, from Dudley’s father D.S. Senanayake, the ‘father of the nation’, then the Sinhalese settlers were already being charged with communal rhetoric. D.S. Senanayake had shown his colours by the manipulative manner in which he introduced the Citizenship Act.

As for the two Tamils quoted above, Kanagasingam was the defeated candidate; Sivapalan, the successful independent candidate was evidently fishing for terms to join the ruling UNP. They had no problems about the colonisation schemes. The Muslim MP for Muttur evinced awareness of reservations about these schemes but did not apparently himself share them.

George Kotelawala went on to earn the historic distinction of becoming MP in the Parliament of 1965-70 through the Supreme Court disqualifying the candidate who got the largest number of votes at a bye-election. Following his death in 1971, Dr. N.M. Perera against whom he had stood for election several times paid tribute to him in parliament as ‘a man who had no enemies’. Thus several persons from all communities who worked on these colonisation schemes in the early days harboured no agenda and genuinely believed that they were for the country’s good.
However five years after that convivial meeting in Trincomalee, Gal Oya colony erupted in communal violence, within a short time of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s ‘Sinhala Only’ government being voted into power. In this scheme in the interior of the Eastern Province, Sinhalese elements largely drawn from the workforce attacked the Tamils who were there in significant numbers as settlers, professionals, government servants and traders. Tarzie Vittachi wrote: “Until Deputy Inspector-General of Police Sydney de Zoysa went there and threatened to arrest even Cabinet Ministers if they incited the mob to violence, the politicians made inflammatory speeches against police action.”

Mr. A.B.S.N. Pullenayagam, who was then GA Batticaloa, which also covered the present Amparai District, on hearing about the violence in Gal Oya asked for an army contingent from Colombo. The contingent came promptly, but, owing to a misunderstanding, turned up in Batticaloa. Mr. Pullenayagam quickly redirected them. Upon reaching Amparai, they found the Tamils in the circuit bungalow protected by a police party under ASP Merry, a Burgher. A crowd of Sinhalese had surrounded the bungalow and between them lay the corpse of an attacker killed by the Police. The Army dispersed the crowd. Then the Tamils started leaving Gal Oya. Mr. Kanagasundaram, a Tamil, who was the chairman of the Gal Oya Development Board, also left for Colombo. Next day, the Sinhalese took shelter in the circuit bungalow fearing that the Tamils in turn would attack them. The violence was thus not spontaneous Sinhalese action, but resulted rather from passions being stirred by political agents.

The Sinhalese populace was shamelessly charged with communal passions from 1956 by both the SLFP and the UNP. Dudley Senanayake took an openly communal line against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact signed in July 1957. With the signing of the Pact, Chelvanayakam called off a satyagraha (a non- violent) campaign he was threatening to wage – the Federal Party then had a mass base. In response to this intended non-violent campaign, government politicians had called upon the settlers in Padaviya to prepare for a Tamil invasion from Trincomalee – in other words to form a strike force. But after the signing of the Pact things calmed down, and the Minister of Lands (C.P. de Silva) ordered 400 downstream allotments in the Trincomalee District to be given to Tamil families who were losing their jobs at the Trincomalee Dockyard owing to the pullout of the British Navy. However, the vigilance committees of these already emotionally charged Padaviya settlers forcibly occupied these allotments. During the 1958 violence, these vigilance committees led by ex- servicemen attempted to attack Tamil refugees in Anuradhapura. They were thwarted by firm Police and Army action in which 11 of them were killed. (See Vittachi.)

The violence in Gal Oya during 1956 claimed the lives of more than 150 Tamils (Vittachi) – a number comparable with the all- island casualties in the 1958 violence and the official casualties in Colombo during the 1983 violence. Its publicity impact was subdued by the isolation of the area. Kantalai erupted during the 1977 violence claiming the lives of 30 Tamils. What was once advanced as the Island’s granary was yielding a bitter harvest of blood and bitterness. It had reduced the Tamils to living under an ever-present threat of violence and in total distrust of the State – even when they sometimes found it useful to vote UNP or SLFP for reasons of survival amidst uncertainty. These perceptions were to some extent shared by the Muslims of the Eastern Province.

From about this time there has been an unwritten state-agenda shared by all governments – to subdue the assertion of a Tamil identity with a regional character by advancing Sinhalese settlement in the North-East. Over the years, it has become part of the instinctive working of the state machinery, from which the Tamils have been progressively excluded from any real influence. One manifestation of the agenda is that in both the Amparai and Trincomalee Districts where the majority of the population have been Tamil speaking (i.e. Tamils or Muslims), the Government Agents have all been Sinhalese from the mid-60s.

To the Tamils, and the Muslims to a significant extent, the idea of home, homeland and borders came to be intertwined with security, identity and antipathy towards the State. These factors contributed towards the rise of the militant movement in which the Muslims of the East too played a significant role. It is one of the greatest and tragic failures of Tamil nationalism that the alienation of Muslims was part of the logical extension of its internal violence and intolerance.

*To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder” published in Jan. 2001. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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  • 2

    ” Tarzie Vittachi wrote: “Until Deputy Inspector-General of Police Sydney de Zoysa went there and threatened to arrest even Cabinet Ministers if they incited the mob to violence, the politicians made inflammatory speeches against police action.”

    What went wrong with Sri Lanka was that the authority of Police Officers and Public Servants of this caliber were strangled and eliminated with ever increasing vigour by the expanding hordes of politicians, over time. Legendary DIG Sydney de Zoysa threatened to arrest the rabble rousing politicians as reported by Tarzie Vittachue. From what I have heard of him, he would have shot them too, if the need arose!

    My father who trained under Sydney de Zoysa at the Police Training in Kalutara,had much to tell us children about this colorful personality and great police officer.

    Dr. Rajan Hoole, thanks for this excellent presentation of the facts from the past,that many have forgotten or choose to bury and the underpinnings of a pernicious Sinhala nationalism that had begun to raise its ugly head with the advent of politicians like D.S. Senanayake. This laid the foundations for the Tamil poltical reactions and the thought processes and violence of the LTTE. Men of the caliber of The Ponnambalam brothers- Ramanathan and Arunachala, on the Tamil side, also began to doubt the intentions of the Sinhala leaders like D.S. Senanayake. The advent of parochial Tamil politics and the slide in the quality of Tamil politicians was thus seeded.

    The ordinary citizens- sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims- were inadvertently caught in the vortex of the insidious schemes of despicable polticians and paid a price this country is unlikely to recoup.

    Incidentally, Chandrasenan-a flamboyant Tamil , who favored wearing silk suites- was Chairman, of the Gal-Oya Development Board in the late sixties and early seventies. I took an instant aversion to him and his silk suites, when I had the occasion to see him as a young undergraduate in the late sixties!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran


  • 1


    SJV.Chelvanayagam began his legal career by devilling in the chambers of Sir.Francis De Zoyza KC.who happened to be the father of Sydney,Stanley.Dickie and Bunty. If I remember right Sir.Francis had a daughter as well who went on to become a one-time Miss.Ceylon!

    • 0


      Thanks for the information.


  • 2

    Edward Gunawardena,who has taken to Journalism,after retirement,wrote as recently as two years ago that it was the LTTE that burned the Jaffna Library!!!
    Of-course he came out with his discovery only after the LTTE was defeated!!!

    • 5


      “Edward Gunawardena,who has taken to Journalism,after retirement,wrote as recently as two years ago that it was the LTTE that burned the Jaffna Library!!!”

      Edward Gunawardena is neither a historian nor a civilian, for an ex policemen lying is not unusual, actually it is associated with his line of duty.

      However, many professors of history believe the Aryans built this island, brought irrigation engineering, introduced Hindu religious practices, ….. all the way from Bengal and Gujarat.

  • 0

    Much of the narratives make interesting reading but, again, I am troubled by a few things:

    There are anonymous sources, particularly, the “man from Galle” talking about the malpractices during the elections for the Jaffna DDC in 1981. I guess that it is already time to reveal the identity of the source to give him or someone on his behalf a chance to confirm or contradict the text.

    The author cites Herman Gunaratne [writing in 2005] quoting what D.S. Senanayake is supposed to have told the Dry Zone settlers at Padaviya about 1950: “The final battle for the Sinhala people will be fought on the plains of Padaviya… Those who are attempting to divide this country will have to reckon with you… the last bastion of the Sinhala.”
    DSS talking of forces trying to divide the country in 1951 is a little over the top for me, although I have not put much past the man in political manipulation. What the reader needs to know is whether the author accepts ad verbatim the narrative of Gunaratne, whose credibility I am inclined to doubt.

    Also Mervyn St. C. Nicholas, a Tamil, who was elected to the governing body of the All-Ceylon, UNP Youth League founded in 1949 is supposed to have said in 1971 that “A score of years ago Kantalai was thick virgin forest and malaria was rampant in the area.”
    This needs to be corrected. Much of Kantalai was forest but there were thriving Tamil villages in the area, especially the ancient “Kanthalai kiraamam” which suffered as a result of the colonization scheme.

    The statement that S. Sivapalan contested the 1947 parliamentary election for Trincomalee as an independent is untrue.
    SS was the Tamil Congress (ACTC) candidate. He did not quit the ACTC with SJVC and Vanniyasingam. I have the impression that he was in the government with GG Ponnambalam and other ACTC members. There was some friction between SS and GGP. However SS contested in 1952 on the UNP ticket and lost to the Federal Party (ITAK) candidate NR Rajavarothiam— who as a young man was a supporter of the Jaffna Youth Congress with no political ambition, but strongly persuaded by SJVC to contest. (I can vouch for this as would his son still in Trincomalee.)

    There seems to be only one source for the number of killings in Gal Oya in 1956, namely Tarzie Vittachi. I am not sure of his sources/sources. This matter needs clarifying since as a group South Asians are rather weak in arithmetic when it comes to history and politics.
    R Sampanthan’s father, also a Rajavarothiam, was attacked in Gal Oya and decided to leave his post there to settle in Trincomalee for good. (Luckily he settled his family there, his hometown, only a few years earlier.) If the number was as large as 150 did the FP fail to expose it in Parliament? If it did its duty is there a record of its statements in the Hansard? At the time there were at least two FP MPs from the Batticaloa District.
    It is not that I question the scale of violence but think that relying on a single source for details is dangerous. I hope that someone would clarify this matter sooner than later.

    On Tamil Times:
    According to Wikipedia “In its early years the magazine [Tamil Times] supported Sri Lankan Tamil militantism but following the takeover by Kandiah (publisher) and Rajanayagam (editor) in December 1987 the magazine took a moderate editorial stance.”
    I was in London since early 1984 and am inclined to agree.
    The Tamil Times accommodated S Sivanayagam– a ‘moderate’ and former editor of Saturday Review resident in India at the time –who soon became an ardent supporter of the LTTE. When I crossed swords with SS in the Tamil Times, I was asked by the Editor to soften my blows in consideration of his age.
    Later the Tamil Times took a visibly anti-LTTE turn but not editorially hostile. However, relations soured in the 1990s and SS, in Europe since 1993, became founder editor of the LTTE-controlled Hot Spring. A founder co-editor of Tamil Times joined the Hot Spring team.

  • 0


    Later the Tamil Times took a visibly anti-LTTE turn but not editorially hostile……

    So what you are struggling to say is that it was like the Dr.Jekyl and Mr.Hyde syndrome!

    • 0

      I suggest no such thing.
      I knew the editor well. He had his biases and preferences. But he was by no means a hypocrite.

      The Editorial of TT generally avoided siding strongly in issues of a controversial nature. That is not a bad editorial policy for a ‘neutral’ magazine.
      But with time the magazine appeared to receive more articles from people critical of the LTTE. There were a few who defended (at times aggressively) the LTTE and the TT published them too.
      With rare exceptions, people who write regularly to journals prefer ones where they can find support from the readership, and subtle signals go a long way.

      Also, with the arrival of Hot Spring, blatant LTTE propaganda found a platform with no challengers.

      • 1

        Kandiah – Rajanayagam combination who took over and controlled Tamil Times are responsible for the demise of that publication. To say that they were neutral is not correct, both were pathologically anti-LTTE. They both lost credibility among fair minded Tamils for their unprincipled stand of remaining silent regarding atrocities committed by Srilankan government and its security forces. Tamils did not mind constructive criticism of LTTE but they wanted Tamil Times to expose the government. People got fed up with them and stopped paying their subscription, and naturally it collapsed.

        • 1

          I am astounded by your comment. It is being pro-LTTE that certainly is a pathological condition. Its effects are similar to being pro-Nazi.

          Rajanayagam and Kandiah were very sane persons who justifiably harboured an intense (not pathological) fear of the LTTE, intensified after the murder of the dissident Sabalingam in Paris. Did Rajanayagam tell you about the time Kittu called him for a meeting in a cold underground cellar (?) in London? Rajanayagam certainly did not shield the Sri Lankan state, but worried about how much criticism of the LTTE his readers would take. He very rightly had no illusions about the LTTE. History will judge him a great man, who stood up when all around him those he knew well, Including Eliezer and Wilson, were succumbing to terror and hatred, or to sheer opportunism.

          He took the initiative to start the Tamil Times just after the burning of the Jaffna Public Library in 1981, when the Tamils were not polarised among themselves and there seemed to be a common cause. Later he came to the realisation that the Tamils had to be saved from themselves.

          Has not the LTTE era left the Tamils in a pathological condition with dysfunctional institutions, not knowing right from wrong? It is pathological persons that judge the sane to be pathological. Simple notions like being fair-minded completely lose their meaning.

      • 0

        Dr GS
        There is nothing called neutrality in real life.
        But there is something called honesty. I think that Rajanayagam was an honest journalist, despite differences of view that I had with him. I have questioned Rajanayagam’s editorial policy on occasion, but the man listens and accommodates views to the contrary.

        Anyone comparing the TT and Hot Spring cannot miss the difference in journalistic quality.

        Political awareness of the Tamil diaspora has overall been sentimental. The circulation of TT was based mainly on its social pages where people advertise themselves and members of their families. Mr Kandiah who maintained good PR with subscribers would unfailingly call the subscriber if renewal was late, and use subtle means to remind. He never meddled in editorial matters. It was his illness that hurt circulation. R&K made a good team which made a success out of a failing journal. They did not take over TT. It was handed to them to run.

        I cannot speak for all Tamils to say what they wanted, but am certain that there was a wider spectrum of views among those in the UK than among the diaspora elsewhere.

        Quality is seldom measurable by popularity.

        • 1

          How can you call Rajanayagam a honest journalist. The cardinal principle in journalism is “fact is sacred and comment is free”. First of all any journalist must place the truth. Even half truth amounts to lie. Rajanayagam failed in this miserably. For reasons best known to him, he refrained from making any criticism of the government or its security forces. Kandiah was more of a manager and it was Rajanayagam who controlled the subject matter. I can assure you that most of Tamils in UK are fair minded, and they were hurt by the behaviour of mainly Rajanayagam and to a lesser extent that of Kandiah. Rajanayagam is a person who wishes to be the darling of Sinhalese and attacks Tamils unreasonably to please them. I have confronted Rajanayagam on few occasions and told him off when he tried to defend the government in a foolish manner. To call his writing quality, you must be not in your senses.

        • 0

          Dr GS
          I hope that you can be more specific about half truths.

          Like each of us, Rajanayagam too is entitled to his political views and prejudices. But not saying something to someone else’s liking is not being untruthful.
          The Tamil diaspora, for understandable reasons, has been very subjective in its view of political matters. That applies to all parties in times of conflict.

          To take a detached stand, even if biased to some extent, is good.
          In fairness, he published everything readable, short of libelous text, that he received. That was more than could be said for the pro-government newspapers an the pro-LTTE newspapers distributed in London.

          If LTTE supporters did not know how to use the space in TT, that was their problem. Some fared poorly in debates

          Good journalism is not simply bout popularity alone.

  • 2

    For Sinhalese, the north and east is part of their homeland they were forcibly pushed away from successive tamil invasions, drought, plague and then by the British.
    All these parts mentioned in the article have been part of Kandyan kingdom.

    The tamils grew in population with tamils brought to SL by colonials and then rejected any Sinhalese from these areas, trying to establish them as ‘tamil areas’
    So government just corrected the historical injustice done to the Sinhalese.
    I see nothing wrong in it.

    Any country would settle its poor people where there are no people.

    • 3

      sachooooooooooooo the stupid II

      Nuisance needs you. Go find her Paddikam.

  • 5

    Dear sach,

    Your arguments may seem rational, but you have to move away from them.

    I’m a retired teacher, who has now made two sorties in to the “Tamil areas” with other retired teachers. In June about 45 of us made it to Jaffna on a three day trip. At the very end of October 28 of us were very fortunate to complete a three day trip to Trincomalee, and what I saw, heard and felt may be of some interest to you, although we are expected to discuss the 1940s to the 1980s. Only one other Jaffna participant spoke fluent English.

    The borders of Kingdoms, whether Kandyan, Raja Rata or Jaffna kept changing, is my common sense view. The Sinhalese were also invaders, as Native Veddah and Amarasiri tirelessly remind us. We have to accept the present and plan for the future. Drought, plague, foreign invasions, they have all got to be accepted. Our ancestors also invaded from India, very likely more from South India than from North India. Remember that just ten generations ago, I would have had 1024 ancestors (likely to have been slightly fewer, since there may have been overlapping; I hope you understand). We have to accept all of that.

    Even sixty years ago, in school they taught us that “Ceylon Tamils” had been here as long as the Sinhalese. Many Tamils, two thousand years ago would have been Buddhists, and many Sinhalese are half Hindu – just watch how they behave in a kovil. Even witih

    If we want peace and sanity, Governments just must not “correct historical injustices”; those words are euphemisms for what I saw between Thiriyaya and Batticaloa, but I must warn you that I’m not a historian. On our own trip to the East, we received sponsorships and had tickets waived because of connections to the military. I did not to complain when receiving these benefits; now I would not like to let the the side down.

    To be completed later. . .

    • 3

      Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Sinhalese are now visiting the areas that were the Theatre of War. The group that I went with were all over sixty years of age. The same people: a trip centred upon Jaffna in June, and the other centred upon Trincomalee at the very end of October.

      All of us were thinking of the past when visiting Jaffna, and the War in particular, while also sight-seeing. The emphasis in June was on paying homage to war heroes. First stop was Elephant Pass where all Sinhalese bus loads pay their respects to a man from Hasalaka (that is a place near Mahiyangana) who succeeded in his suicide mission of blowing up a Tiger Bulldozer. He serves as a symbol of the Sinhalese dedicated to safeguarding the unity of the country. I’m sure that there were many soldiers of that sort; the intricacies of the opposition to the Tigers from within the Tamil community weren’t really known, but there was one guy who procured a copy of the Fallen Palmyrah (I helped him find it), and he had read it (with some difficulty he said!) by the time the Trinco trip came round.

      Even before arriving at Elephant Pass, I realised that Military Camps were far too obvious if we wanted to speak of normalcy, and I feel that tactfully reducing them would be acceptable to the Sinhalese. But what struck me was that the present regime is far too cautious about leaving everything in tact, including lots of mistakes in the English accounts of what had taken place. I feel that all are afraid of tampering with those monuments of the Rajapaksas. Well, I, too observed silently, but was later pleasantly surprised to find this on the net:


      A monk who is actually a human being, and a Buddhist!

      I find among the infuriated comments that have followed, this one which, perhaps, summed up my feelings:

      “Palitha Perera 1 year ago
      (venerable thero) according to my point of view i think the best to stop racism ,nationalism and all the other probs is keeping ur ideology with you. Trying to change the system make things worse.” 

      It will be difficult to remove this monument, and I must say that what is emphasised there is poverty stricken background of Gamini Kularatne, which somewhat tempers the glorification of war. Would it not, however, be possible to also show that many a Tamil civilian suffered? Even more challenging for someone to find the inspiration to illustrate something of the life of a Tamil martyr (man or woman) who fought bravely but futilely AGAINST the Sinhalese, and show that all suffered? I’m only hoping for something like that to happen, and why don’t we hear more of monks like Dambara Amila Thero? Dr Hoole is another hero; translating these histories in to Sinhalese is also a necessity.

      A lot more sightseeing of this sort. I’m not really SAYING anything, am I? I’m only drawing the attention of readers to these pilgrimages. There was no overt racism in what was being done, so much so that I succeeded in getting my (now rather mellowed Marxist) friend, Piyaratne, a life-long supporter of the Socialist Equality Party, to join in the trip to Trincomalee with his equally committed wife. Piyaratne had earlier refused to visit the Theatre of War “with a lot of racists. By the way, one of his prized possessions is a copy of the Sinhala translation of Dr Hoole’s first book: “The Broken Palmyrah”. Rajani Thiranagama is known to all in Sri Lanka. Dr Hoole (burdened with a “strange” surname) is not so famous.

      For the second trip, I was ever so enthusiastic about visiting Pigeon Island, but alas, that was not to be. We spent an extra-ordinary lot of time visiting Thiriyaya, and that disconcertingly is becoming another very popular place of pilgrimage. “Disconcerting” because the majority seemed to believe literally in the story of “Thapassu and Bhalluka:


      The absolute impossibility of all this neither Piyaratne nor I commented on, but as my friend observed these people did not protest against our rather academic, as opposed to their venerational, attitude. Nobody pointed out that this shrine was more Mahayana than Theravada, and that many of the Tamils of centuries past were devout Buddhists. We were glad that we visited these places, and all I am trying to draw attention to is the new mythology which is getting spun. The devout at one time, at the top of the hillock (these ARE scenic places), commented on how high the stone gateways were, testifying to what giants the Sinhalese of those days were; at another time they commented on the narrowness of some steps, which showed that people had had smaller feet! That’s religion for you. Any religion!

      But the practical implications of all this became more apparent the following day: We visited Seruwila and Lankapatuna; there was the occasional comment about how there are Buddhist ruins everywhere in Sri Lanka! So hallowed is the land. Even the Hot Springs at Kinniya taken over by Buddhist monks, and how tastelessly new the asbestos roofed buildings around. And soldiers and Army shops in abundance. All of which is fine, mused Piyaratne and me, but must there be organised settlement of Sinhalese from outside. By now it was the third day of the trip, and I was exhausted, but when I was told that there is a temple which owns 12,000 acres, and how the prelate was parcelling it out at an acre to a family, I mused that these deeds would not be without dispute. Everywhere the presence of the armed forces, and the defeated Tamils trying to look cheerful, and selling us beli-mal drinks. The other owners of this land – the wildlife, elephants in particular are “protected” by the seemingly endless “high tension electric wires”.

      Yes, we’ve got to be much more concerned about this than about the suave Arjuna Mahendran and his unholy deeds!

      The Trincomalee Fort area is dominated by the Konneswaran Hindu Temple. The devout Buddhists prayed piously there as well. These retired teachers were nice people, but Logic had not been a subject much studied by them.

      Dr Hoole has dealt with the 1950s – a period that we have all only read about. The broad outlines seem correct, going on what we were told and taught in our youth. Those who complain that his historiography is lacking in certain respects may be right, but he’s been doing a pretty good job – from a Tamil perspective. I don’t take myself seriously, but I must testify to the fact that we have to be making efforts to ensure that the wisdom of Ven. Sobhitha and of Dambara Amila Thero must also be presented to students.

      As it is, there are still too many prominently displayed maps and lists of soldier-heroes in schools for the growing generation to grow up more balanced than their elders. Meanwhile, on that trip ten days ago, I missed the (fast disappearing!) coral reefs, and the elephants in the area that we traversed.

  • 3

    ”Thanks for your contemporary narrative and thought provoking sentiments.

    It is sad how history has been distorted in Sri Lanka and with time has become our ‘Cyanide’ capsule, in a national sense.
    The distortion of history is a well entrenched process and is unfolding quite insidiously. The government and the media are playing their nasty games quite well and our so-called ‘Academics’ do not have the spine, intelligence, skills or the honesty to challenge this process. Our politicians who live the lie quite well, add spice to this lie, quite brazenly with silver , but forked tongues.

    The danger is that our history will be big lie/fraud soon to the extent that we will not know who we are/were in reality, regardless of what science is unfolding for us. Our history will be a myth as are the parts of the Mahavamsa that deals with our origins.

    We are becoming increasingly a people who refuse to deal with facts and ground realities and hence bound to ultimately
    fail. The likelihood is that we will inevitably fail.

    I was talking to the people in a village in Batticaloa, where I spend most of my time now, a few days back and asked what they would do if I bring in a plane to take them to France to live. To the last person they said that they will all try to climb in!

    This will be true of our whole island, regardless of how we identify ourselves!

    Is this not sad after almost seventy years after indenpendence and the blood we have shed in the name of our land?

    We have become a people who know very little of the world and probably even less of ourselves and our country. The little we know of our country is also a concocted lie!


    Dr.Rajasingham Narebdran

  • 2

    There are eyewitnesses still living who are known very well to the author who were living around the library at the time. When the library was burning they were in hiding, but saw Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Disanayake at the burning library grounds. Why has the author not elaborated on that?

    Athulathmudali was also there in Jaffna, flying over it on at least one occasion when there were tar bombings which burnt the skins of many students in Jaffna. But they have erected a statue in front of the Public Library in Colombo showing Athulathmudali with children around him reminiscent of Sunday school Jesus pictures.

    People in the South boast of these two men very much, but the Tamils are scared to hear their names or to relate what they saw.

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