11 August, 2022

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To Be Or Not To Be Sri Lankan? … That Is The Question!

By Theruni Sebastiampillai

Theruni Sebastiampillai

How do I define my identity? At first glance, the answer would be simple and clear: I am a French citizen with Sri Lankan origins. This would be enough for any administrative paperwork. But in daily life, the reality is quite different depending on the situations that we are facing.

The first question would be:

Am I French or Sri Lankan? I was born in France, I studied in France, I live and work in France. So what could be more natural than to feel French?

Let’s take the example at school. I did not have to worry about my origins. It was not an obstacle. We were in a French school regardless of our origins. We were learning French and consequently its traditions. Of course, my roots have always been a topic of discussion. All my friends were curious to know which country I was from, curious about its traditions and lifestyles. Talking about my Sri Lankan origins, mostly allowed me to stand out from others but it never made me question my “French-ness”.

However, after I completed my higher education and started my professional life, I was faced with an overwhelming question of my identity. My current job at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Paris is the ideal place for me to showcase my Sri Lankan origins all the while being French and also act as an intermediary between the Embassy i.e. Sri Lanka and the various French actors and authorities, i.e. France.  But how many times have I heard people asking me, after meetings or interviews with French representatives, “How is it that your French is perfect? How is it that you do not have any accent?” I was surprised when I was first asked this. My only answer was, “Maybe because I was born and I live here…”

However, in my particular context; I work for the Embassy of Sri Lanka in France and am of Sri Lankan origin. So people might not guess straight-away that I could be French. It is then more or less normal that people would ask these questions. Now, this question would not have probably arisen, had I been working for a French company.

This is when I realized that my roots do take an important place in my life and in my identity. But it is up to me to modulate the importance that I would give to my origins and to my nationality.

The second question which comes to my mind would be: Am I Sri Lankan or just belonging to an ethnic group? My mother is Sinhalese and my father is Tamil. For some, I could be seen as an ideal fusion and proof that different communities can live together in harmony in one country and for others, I could be seen as an atypical fusion and will not really belong to one or the other communities or would not even be a “Sri Lankan”.

Throughout my life and my experiences, I have come to realize that being a Sri Lankan was not the most important fact to know. People will inevitably be curious to know if you are from Sri Lanka, but in reality they will be really curious about your ethnicity. “Really? Are you Sri Lankan? Sinhalese or Tamil?” (Note that generally Muslims and Burghers are not even mentioned). Some will go straight to the point and ask to which ethnic group we belong to, while others will be more subtle by asking from which region in Sri Lanka we or our parents come from and then come to their own conclusions. Either way they still want to know your ethnicity. It is hard to believe that ethnicity is such an important criterion for any relationship to begin!

People consider us first as Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher and then maybe with a bit of luck as Sri Lankan.

However, the reverse situation can also occur. A Sinhalese only considers you as “Sri Lankan” if you are from the Sinhalese community whereas people from other communities will be only recognized in relation to their ethnicity and not as a Sri Lankan; the same goes from a Tamil’s point of view.

I have an anecdote which comes to my mind. While waiting for an oral exam during my A- levels, I saw a young girl. She seemed to be from India or Sri Lanka. Later on, she came to me and asked from where I was from. I answered “I am from Sri Lanka and you?”. She replied “Me too. Are you Tamil or Sinhalese?” I told her that I was Tamil and Sinhalese and she said very spontaneously: “Oh! So you are not Sri Lankan!”…Did I miss something? The only thing I could say is “Oh really! I did not know! That is actually something new! Well, my parents are Sri Lankan and have lived there, so I think it would be quite natural to feel Sri Lankan!”

At first we may think that this girl has made a huge misuse of language, but if we look at it a little closer, the problem is much deeper. One of the many reasons that could explain this type of reaction would be the environment in which the girl grew. We may assume that her parents are both Sri Lankan Tamils and therefore this girl may have lived with the belief that only Sri Lankan Tamils ​​are Sri Lankans and the others are simply Sinhalese, Muslims or Burghers. This may have been the kind of message that her parents, her entourage or even the media transmitted to her, either during discussions or while watching news or even reading the newspaper.

This emphasizes the crucial role that parents have to play in the search for identity of their children. Of course this is not the only factor, but children and young adults will behave, have notions of certain things, and form their identity, which will be heavily influenced by their parents.  The role of the school, the environment that surrounds us, but also our own analysis and openness, will help us shape our identity.

The Sri Lankan Diaspora has, I think, a specific role. Amin Maalouf, Lebanese author who has been living in France says in his book In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to belong: “Their role is to act as bridges, go-betweens, mediators between the various communities and cultures.” And I think this is what we should really keep in mind.

Finally, I would say that individual identity is not fixed. Indeed, our environment, the people around us change every day. We will therefore necessarily observe, analyze and try to adapt to each changing situation; which brings us to constantly challenge ourselves on our “affiliation”, our beliefs and principles.

Now, if I have to self-assess and describe my identity, I would say that I am both French and Sri Lankan, regardless of my ethnicity. In some situations, I would highlight my “affiliation” to France and its values more than the other and vice versa. In any case, I think the balance will occur naturally.

I would like to conclude with another quote from Amin Maalouf which has helped me clear my many doubts. I also feel it would ultimately support the arguments which I put forward in this presentation and might make others reflect on:

“How many times […], have people asked, with the best intentions in the world, whether I felt “more French” or “more Lebanese”? And I always give the same answer: “Both!” I say it, not in the interests of fairness or balance, but because any other answers would be a lie. What makes me myself rather than anyone else is the very fact that I am poised between two countries, two or three languages and several cultural traditions. It is precisely this that defines my identity. Would I exist more authentically if I cut off a part of myself?”

*Theruni Sebastiampillai holds a Master in International Business Management from the European Business School, in Paris.

Theruni Sebastiampillai participated at the French-Sri Lankan Diaspora Youth Workshop “Post-War Reconciliation Dialogue for a Sustainable Peace”, which took place in Paris, on October 27th, 2012. She participated as a panelist on the theme “Individual and collective identity(ies): between search and struggle”. The event was organized by What’s Next!, a forum comprising of post-graduates and young professionals of Sri Lankan origin residing in France. What’s Next! seeks to promote a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka through intellectual exchange and multicultural dialogue.

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    In todays context it matters not who you are or from where you came from. What matters is you are citizen of the world and you are free to believe and live the way you want to. You are free to do what you want, say what you like and go wherever you wish.

    People insist on knowing these things because of their preconcieved ideas and associations. They pre-judge people on their appearances, colour, family, race, religon, country etc. In reality you will find we are all the same. We all have the same feelings, the same pain, the same happiness, the same anger, the same hurt.

    To be really free is to break the bonds of race, religon, nationality, language and all artificial barriers. To be one with all and at peace with the universe.

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      Like a Cyril Mathew this Chetty Mutti author of the article has made it into a race game.
      She is a disgrace to Europe and France an incubator for xenophobia with her Gutter journalism. Hope she is forced to leave Europe for her fantacy.

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    Theruni, France is in Europe, and those who have traditionally lived there for many hundreds of years are “Caucasian” which is a term to denote a dividing mountain range, but more to do with white skin.

    Your parents are from Sri Lanka, a poor third world cuntry, and you have dark skin that is consistent with those who have traditionally lived in South Asia for many hundreds of years.

    Therefore, regardless of whether you were born and educated in that country you call home, you will always be considered an outsider in terms of “belongingness to the land”.

    For political correctness and other matters of decorum and good etiquette,”multiculturalism” etc, you are never challenged on this now, unlike several decades ago, when you would really have been “put in your place” by indigenous people there.

    This is why I brought up my children with their identities firmly established, although they too were born in a “white” country and were, for most intents and purposes, nationals of that land, except for their skin colour.

    That way, they will never face an identity crisis despite speaking, feeling and thinking more like “them” than us. They can not be challenged on their origin and be hurt by it, because they will always value their inherited real identity.

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      Lasantha Pethiyagoda Quote=”Therefore, regardless of whether you were born and educated in that country you call home, you will always be considered an outsider in terms of “belongingness to the land”.Unquote.

      Sorry I cannot agree with you on this one bit. The Sindhis who went to Spain with the partition i/P live very much as Hindus and have a Spanish Name and a Hindu Name. Franco the facista (Spanish blood only) accepted them too as much as the local population as natives. Sure they are industrialist and the richest living the Gran Canarias and the third richest in Mainland Spain- money is the root cause of all good.

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        Hi Julian,

        I gather, from what you and Senguttuvan have said, that you are a member of the Sindhi Indian community in Spain. According to Wikipedia, this community “enjoys a good reputation in Spain” is said to be “hard-working” and to have “integrated well” with Spanish society (hence, I take it, your references to Franco). It also said that the Sindhi people, about which I never very little, are an ancient race from the Indus valley, possibly dating back to the Indus Valley civilization. I also discovered that the words “Hindu” and “Hindi” are also named after the Indus river, as is India. So, please, tell us your Hindi name…we won’t bite!

        Senguttuvan told us you were amusing and widely travelled, in addition to working for this Narendran Modi chap (or perhaps because of it). I am sure that you are widely travelled, but I’m not so sure about your attempts at racist humour, insults and abuse…the are not a sign of the “good breeding” you wish to have, nor are they particularly amusing.

        You have introduced yourself to us as a “third generation professional”, so this identity of being a “professional” is obviously important to you. Then you try to insult me, by announcing to the world that I am “only a second-generation professional”! How silly your prejudices are, apart from your information on me being rather incorrect. Of course, you don’t know anything about the “professional qualifications” of my mother’s father and mother, and his father…I don’t usually talk or write about such things unless I am asked about them.

        Just to clear your’s and your employer’s confusion, my maternal grandfather was Winslow Alagaratnam, who qualified as an engineer in India, and my maternal grandmother was Daisy Alagaratnam, who graduated with a mathematics degree at the University of Madras in India in the 1920s. My grandfather, Winslow Alagaratnam was the first native head of a government department (the Irrigation Department) in the latter stages of the British administration and after Independence he remained in this position under Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake. My grandfather thought highly of Senanayake and later served as the head of the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science. I was very close to him.

        My grandfather, Winslow Alagaratnam, was of Tamil “ethnicity”, and, in his eyes, he was a member of the Dravidian race, though his primary loyalty was to “Ceylon”. He changed his name from Alagaratnam Winslow (an American missionary surname) to Winslow Alagaratnam, proudly wearing a Tamil surname when he was a young man. Though he knew the Tamil and English languages better, he could also speak Sinhalese, like many of the educated gentlemen of his generation.

        He, like other members of my mother’s family identified themselves as “Ceylon Tamils” in addition to the identity of being “Ceylon Christian Tamils”. Their parents and grandparents had been converted to “Christianity” by American Baptist Ministers, who established the first English-speaking schools in Jaffna. Some, like my great-grandparents on both sides wore the names of these American missionaries as their surnames. In other ways, they retained many of the customs of the “high caste” Hindu culture they had been “enlightened” from. Such as wearing a “pottu”, signifying the “third eye of Shiva”.

        You have also intimated that you feel superior to what you think of as “lower castes”, which you spell “cast”. You also judge people as being “high” and “low” bred (which you spell “bread”).

        You can get plenty of help with learning the English language, its correct spelling, grammar and a lot more more, from the commentators, reporters and writers on Colombo Telegraph. But being civilized begins by being civil – polite, in other words. Teasing is fine, gratuitous insults are just tedious.

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          Quote: My grandfather thought highly of Senanayake and later served as the head of the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science. I was very close to him”. Unquote
          Don’t go on ranting about Hindi, Hindu, and Sindhi etc just stay put or take the trouble to go across to reference libraries than use this Forum as your school to try and teach Kangaroo English.
          Quote:” being civilized begins by being civil – polite, in other words”. Unquote
          Sorry you are very often a pest – you request for some knowledge and once given genuinely you twist it and turn back to bite like the convert Alagaratnams of the east(gift of the gab; you should have taken up law and looked for suckers)
          Legend Dr Xuesen Qian, a scientist was respected by the Americans Why?
          Legend Homi Jehangir Bhabha Parsi Scientist was respected by the British Why?
          Why did the British prefer the Parsi community (they had taken refuge in Gujarat India centuries ago) to any Indian or Pakistani? Why weren’t any one of them converted by the missionaries including Sindhi’s etc. I have 3 great nationalities of the west and I live by those nationalities not my race.
          We don’t spend our hard earned money and time to educate you on this forum there our other sites you could pay and learn. Remember anything for free has no value and can be misleading.
          BTW are you trying to look for a match because you invariably end up on a womans thread.

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      I can never agree with Mr. Pethiyagoda. One, I disagree with influencing the life of children to an extent that they are forced to follow my ideologies. Two, I will always love where I live, regardless. I have only one wife, not two women, one to satisfy my needs and another to be loyal to. Three, he is not only seperating himself from the society where he lives in but seperating a generation from a land where that generation was born. Sorry if I made someone feel bad.

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    Identity comes from what you think you are, not from where you were born or to whom you are born. I was born in srilanka and lived in southern Africa for most of my life. I consider myself an African not an Asian or srilankan. Many Africans who fought along with me against apartheid see me as an African not an Asian.

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    After a long while it is refreshing to read someone with a Sri Lankan connection writing attactively and conveying her thoughts with clarity and elegance. Both Sri Lanka (Sinhala and Tamil) and France are fortunate this intelligent lass belongs to both.

    Senguttuvan

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      I agree, Senguttuvan.

      What Theruni has written resounds strongly with me.

      I have found, in Australia, that people have asked me if I was Sinhalese or Tamil as soon as they found out my dark skin was due to my Sri Lankan ancestry more and more over the past thirty-five years. I have not found, though, that people regarded me as less “Sri Lankan” if they found that I was “half Sinhalese and half Tamil”. Of course, that is only in terms of “ethnicity”.

      Most of the white Australian males who have cared about where I “come from” immediately asked me about cricket, assuming I was interested in it. Indian men did too, but also often wanted first to know if I came from India.

      With my features I have also been mistaken, not infrequently, for being Aboriginal (including by many Aboriginal people). On one occasion I was asked by an Aboriginal lady with skin much lighter than my own, where, in Australia, my “mob” came from. When I admitted that I was not born in Australia, she turned to her friends and explained: “No, he’s not a blackfella!”

      Having arrived in Australia only a few years after the “White Australia Policy” was relaxed and Australia was “accepting” dark-skinned Asian “professionals”, when I entered year 11 of high school in a Brisbane boys’ school, I had to decide if I was “brown” or “black”. Though I had been brought up to think that I was brown, rather than black (and that this was a good thing) I soon realised that my school mates couldn’t see the difference, and weren’t in the least bit interested in the distinction. As far as they were concerned I was a “black guy” (in a white school) but they assured me they didn’t “hold it against me” because they were not “racist”.

      When I was growing up in Sri Lanka my parents encouraged me to regard myself as “Ceylonese” and that I was “brown” rather than “yellow”, “black” or “white”. When I was younger, and living in England in the 1960s, my mother trained me to believe that I was “Ceylonese” rather than “English”. This has certainly lessened any loyalty or identification with the land of my birth, Britain.

      As long as I can remember, I have been told, by my mother, who is the only person I discussed such matters with till I was in my twenties, that I am “half Sinhalese” and “half Tamil”. Of course, that meant there was no room for me being “Australian”.

      During the time we lived in Kandy (from 1968 to 1976) several events of relevance to this discussion about racial and national identity happened:

      1. “Ceylon” became the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”

      2. Children became obliged to study in their “native language” and English was steadily removed from the primary, secondary and tertiary education systems.

      3. A land-ownership limit became law, and many of the rich, landed families had some of their land acquired by the government, supposedly for redistribution to the poor, while many, if not all, the tea estates were “nationalised”.

      4. Another front in the Cold War opened up in the new “Socialist Republic”.

      Many of the older generation, and even some of my own, had difficulty with the change from Ceylon to Sri Lanka, and resisted the name change and necessary change in personal identity. “Ceylonese” and “Sri Lankan” are very different words with very different sounds. They are also Singhalese, rather Tamil, though the honorific “Sri/Shri” is found in both the Sinhalese and Tamil languages and scripts. The Tamil, name for Lanka is, correct me if I am wrong, Senguttuvan, “Ilankai”. So Sri Lanka in Sinhalese would be pronounced as “Shri Ilankai”.

      Adding to the difficulty for the expatriate community that started calling itself a “Diaspora” to accept the name change, the American, Canadian and Australian accents changed “Lanka”, with the “a” as in “lucky” to Lanka with the “a” pronounced as in “lanky” or Yankee. This made the new name for the nation sound rather unpleasant.

      And then there was the question of whether you belonged to the land or the land belonged to you…and who had the most legitimate land and property claims. Hence the recent arrival of a number of Trolls.

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        Hope you don’t say hello troll and evade this inquiry. As you are aware Singapore was built by the Chinese professionals and Ceylonese professionals from the north. In the west the Singaporean’s of Ceylonese decent or Chinese decent don’t feel the way the author or you feel why is that?
        I notice almost all my European friends respect them for the way they think and differentiate them from the rest of the Asians.

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        From your description of yourself, I believe you can be identified as a son of Prof Brian Senewiratne, who was one of my esteemed teachers and later, the boss, for a brief period in Kandy at the beginning of the JVP insurrection.

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    Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.- Thomas Jefferson

    Author Author

    To put it simply what are you trying to sell and to whom because there are no idiots here or in public over there as if Sartre did not live till 1980 and the Bard died long before.

    The Bard used less Latin while the French used more.

    This above all: to thine own self be true – Hamlet

    You do not know what you want and yet you are responsible for what you are – that is the fact. Jean-Paul Sartre

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    In Sri Lanka most/some Sinhala Buddhist people do not consider non-sinhala buddhist people as Sri Lankans. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Burghers, Malays, Sinhala Christians, Tamil Christians are considered as interlopers…people who were born and live in Sri Lanka, but still not considered Sri Lankan enough. Most of these SBs don’t say it openly or are not openly racist but most times you see certain contradicting prahases and sentences coming out of the mouths of even educated SBs when you watch them on tv or listen to them on radio. At one moment you will hear them say that we are all “one people one country one nation” ect and then in the next instance they speak about “anya aagamikayin” and “anya jaathikayin.” Which when translated means, non-buddhists and non-sinhalese. Sometime back a SB friend during the olympics was praising Susanthika as the first Sri Lankan to bring and olympic medal to the country. So I asked him, haven’t you heard of Duncan White and the silver medal he got for SL in the 1948 olympics? His answer was, “Well, he was not really a Sri Lankan (Duncan White) because he did not have a Sri Lankan name.” I also remember listening to a Sinhala radio talk show after Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed by the government. One old Sinhala gentleman phoned into the radio station and said, even though Lasantha was a non-buddhist, he was a good human being. It was so idiotic and so upsetting at the same time to know that some idiots in this country still thought like this. I guess the Mahavamsa is one of the biggest reasons that has made SBs think that they are the Buddhas chosen people and that Sri Lanka is exclusively set aside only for SBs. A very beautifully written article by Theruni Sebastiampillai. Well done.

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      N.Rajapakse : Quote” I guess the Mahavamsa is one of the biggest”” Unquote.
      Perhaps it’s the wrong version or the wrong interpretation or both. Mahayana is much more open even to marriage. You may be aware that there are 76 versions of the bible in circulation and only the Pope has the original in Old Latin- so they interpret.

      Similar to religion, patriotism is an emotion, as opposed to a rational thought process.

      Religion and Race should be separated from the state- SWRD the author of this evil

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      if any sinhala buddhists say u (tamil, moor, burger, malay or any1) re a non sri lankan and doesnt belong here tell him to f*$k off. Tell that ur a sri lankan and this country belongs to u too. tell him that many non sinhala buddhists had served this nation and he has NO right to question ur lankan ness. And tell him it is him who truly the anti-sri lankan 1.

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      Hi Namalee,
      You said,
      His answer was, “Well, he was not really a Sri Lankan (Duncan White) because he did not have a Sri Lankan name.”

      I wonder what that man thinks about all the Names Silvas, Pereras, Alwis, Pieris, Carolis,Mendis etc. possibly he must have convinced himself that they are all Sinhala Buddhist names! May even creep in to the forth coming edition of Mahavamsa!

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    Romesh – Tamil literature of recent centuries calls it llankai/Ilangai whereas Eelanadu or Eelam is how the Tamil literarati across the Straits identified us prior to that. Eelanadu also was a popular Tamil newspaper decades ago. I wonder if it is still in print.

    Senguttuvan

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      Do I know You??

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        You might now know Senguttuvan, but Senguttuvan understands you better than you will ever know…He reads very well, you see.

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          If that was the case he wouldn’t spend any time on the forum simply because
          He would be winning the jackpot all the time every time.
          Like the fortune tellers! Ha ha

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      Thanks, Senguttuvan.

      Are you saying Eelam and Eelanadu were Indian names for all of Sri Lanka, or just the northern part? Also, are they Sanskrit, Tamil or Hindi names?

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        This country is no longer Sri Lanka or Ilankai but is actually Sri RajaPakistan…built by the British…financed by the Chinese and owned by the Rajapaksas’ :)

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      Senguttuvan,

      Subramanya Bharathy, the greatest Tamil poet from the era of the independence struggle in India, also referred to the then Ceylon/Lanka / Eelam/ Ilankai as ‘ Singala Theevu (Sinhala Island). He even envisaged erecting a highway by building upon the Adam’s bridge
      A rose is a rose, whatever we may choose to call it. Further, of the various names by which the island has been called through history , the name ‘ Lanka’ – beautiful- describes her the best. The adjective ‘ Sri’ – holy or respected-added in recent years, does not add anything to the original meaning. The beauty is almost eternal, while the ‘Sri’ has been an illusive commodity for long years. This was even as far back as Ravana’s rule

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

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        Dr.Rajasingham says:

        “Subramanya Bharathy, the greatest Tamil poet from the era of the independence struggle in India, also referred to the then Ceylon/Lanka / Eelam/ Ilankai as ‘ Singala Theevu (Sinhala Island)”.

        He was a visionary perhaps, he indicated that Sri Lanka would be the Sinhala state of India long before the Hindian establishment thought about it.

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          You are perfectly right. The one and only Sinhala Buddhist state of Hindustan/India with Schedule class status so that it may have 30% reservations for everything from medicine to education plus the added bonus of subsidises as in Kashmir so that Tamil Nadu may not ask for separation.
          Can the citizen refuse this golden offer NO Lets call for a referendum like Scotland.
          No more tyrants like the Rajapakistans then;)

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    Nice article with load of thinkable context. The main point was,is,will there are no SRILANKAN at all.The word of srilankan came into the dictionary only after the 1972 constitution. Before that there were no srilankan but Sinhalese.
    Sinhalese means not for a single ethnic group but the whole citizen in the country. I am sure you could learn it from your mother, how the singhala ethnic was created. In a summary in the ancient period there was YAKSHA,NAAGA,ASURA,DEWA,ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Later the whole ethnic groups some into the one race called SIW -HELA. Later on it converted as SINGHALA. Singhala people it self means the people have ruts in this country. That’s why this country called as HELADIVE,SINHALA DEEPIYA,SINHALADEEPA,and Serandib and so on.
    From ancient period to now days the other ethnic groups are continually mixing into SINHALA. There are many examples. The main circumstance is the person who mixed into SINHALA ethnic group is continuously enjoying equal rites and privileges. Now days examples are J.R. JAYAWARDANA and CHANDRIKA KANCHENJUNGA.They both are former presidents of this country.

    Tamil coolie,imported here from the Dachau and British periods are only wished remain as Tamils. You know the consequences of this bad wish.
    In my view point, you may have two options,
    One you could absorb into french community.Then your present ethnic features would subject be deterioration.
    Secondly you could be stand as a SINHALA member.
    What ever the decision is, it is up to you.

    w.m.k.Samarasekara

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      Who on earth are you, “w.m.k Samarasekara”, who signs some rubbish with one spelling after his name and has registered as a commentator as “w.m.k Samaarasekera” with two “a”s? How would you best like to be addressed?

      And who is President Chandrika Kanchenjunga??

      Perhaps you’re talking about President Chandrika Kumaratunga when she reached the lofty heights of high office in the Himalayas?

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        Though it was a typing mistake you had clearly identified Madam, CHANDRIKA kumaranathunge.Problem was you didn’t know her pedigree. Don’t you know about NEELA PERUMAL? If not it is the high time to studying Sri Lanka’s history.
        w.m.k. Samarasekara

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          So tell us what you want to say about Neela Perumal, whoever she is. And you can tell me whatever you want to say about what you think Chandrika’s “pedigree” is.

          But try and get the spelling right, before you begin this task.

          It’s not spelt KANCHENJUNGA, which is a tall mountain in the Himalayas, and neither is it spelt KUMARANATHUNGA. You have a lot to learn about our names…

          Just to make your Wikipedia search easier, the correct spelling is:

          KUMARATUNGA

          I’ll explain why this spelling is so important, and the historical significance of variations in spelling of this ancient Singhala name, if you tell us YOUR real name.

          Then the analysis can begin…

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          Dr,Romesh Srnaviratne,
          I was,am,will stand in my real name and real roots of Sri lanka.
          My name is WIJEKOON MUDIYANSELAGE KARUNADASA SAMARASEKARA. Nevertheless I never care about spelling rather than context. 100% following in English, may be your style but not mine. I care about context. Your reply itself stands for you are not aware about NEELA PERUMAL. In short he was a Tamil gentleman who was chief in charge of NAWAGAMUWA KOVIL and predecessor of BANDARANAYAKE family. There are more narratives about,if you like it is your task to learn it.

          w.m.k.samarasekara

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          w.m.k.s,
          It is ‘nilaperumal’. Click the word on google and see geneology of many lankan families,commencing with the Bandaranaikes.

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          @jusrice,

          My only ambition was give some clue to think about SINHALA ethnic. I am herewith repeating this community it self a mixed one which welcomed others to coming into the group and enjoying equal rights and benefits. As an example I quote BANDARANAYAKES and JAYAWARDANAS.

          Furthermore there are many,the author of MAHAWANSA,Venarable MAHANAMA thero, was a PALLAWA descender. Still the venerable thero still gets due respect. Prince,SAPUMAL BANDARA is a another example,

          w,m,k,Samarasekara

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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
      http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

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      C-R-A-P

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    What ultimately matters is what you feel you are. That is probably determined by the extent to which the core values and traditions of Sri Lanka- Sinhala, Tamil ,Muslim or a hybrid, have taken root in a person. Imbibing the best in the west, then becomes the ornament on the Sri Lankan identity. This is how the Chinese remain Chinese and Indians remain yet Indian, despite living long years in the west or being born there. Knowledge of Sinhala an/or Tamil and aspects of culture- religion, literature, music and dancing- would be determinant factors. Food of course continues to be the bridge that binds us to our origins wherever we live. The pride we take in being of Sri Lankan origin, comes from ultimately our pride in our inheritance in tens of culture and values.

    However, if our memories are predominantly of what is bad in Sri Lanka and the factors that made us or our parents to seek fresh pastures abroad, it is inevitable that we will try to wish the Sri Lankan identity away.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    we start with

    no identity

    then we acquire multiple identities – animal/human/divine

    these are all temporary

    and we depart

    with no identity – no NIC or passport

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    wanted to say

    to an unknown destination

    may be need to probe

    no identity more than identity ??

    there seems more truth in no identity???

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    Dr.Ananda Coomarasamy, a son of a Tamil father and an English mother and educated in England was the greatest Lankan of the modern era. What he unravelled of Sinhala culture and Indian philosophy yet remain landmarks. He was the last , if not the only philosopher Lanka produced.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

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      What about Martin Wickremasinghe ?

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        Martin Wickremasinghe was no doubt great , but he cannot be classified as a philosopher.

        Dr.R.N

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          Martin Wickramasinghe was a great novelist and writer, but he did not have a mixed parentage that Coomarasamy had nor the the western exposure.. Incidentally, Ananda Coomarasamy was also a ‘ Cingalese’ to many of his western peers. The word ‘ Cingalese’ was synonymous to being a Sri Lankan, in an era where the Sinhala and Tamil nationalism were subsumed by a more unifying national identity.

          A regrettable and irreversible development.

          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        BdBG – You obviously have no idea of the stature or works of Ananda Coomaraswamy to suggest a comparison with Martin Wickremasinghe. Like chalk and cheese!

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    sons and daughters of sri lanka,
    In this life, we are like passengers who are waiting in a shelter to get in to a vehicle for next passage.
    all are only difference from animal race.
    so we are called humans and we have brains to think, inquire and decide.
    What is this differentiation of human beings like blacks whites, eurasians, American, Indian Sri Lankans. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Burghers, Malays, Buddhists Sinhalese, Sinhalese Christians, Tamil Christians.
    Is there differences rather than what our deeds are?

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      Why did the Sinhala Army torture,rape and brutally kill captured Tamils? Why did the
      Airforce indiscriminately bomb the hospitals and the innocent civilians.
      These are unpardonable crimes committed by barbarians

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    If you love to be called or considered to be a Sri Lankan then go by the rules and apply for dual citizenship with out blaming and or tarnishing the the country you love to call my country. I hope your intension is honest and no seeking publicity.

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      People do not want air their opinions as they worry about white vans /motor cyclists( from military intelligence). The Editor of Sunday Leader has left the country in order save her life.People want to leave the country and escape from the mafia

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    I am encouraged Dr. Narendran chose to add his valuable comments to our discussion.

    Bharathiar died in the 1920s and would not have been aware of the animated discourse on the Lankan Tamil issue, in which our cousins across the Straits since have given us much support – morally and in many other ways. The great poet, who gave the world the immortal “Kannamma” – one of the most beautiful poems in any language in the history of literature – in poetically noting down Singala-Theevu would not have forgotten the island is home for just as long by the Tamils as well. The learned man he was he could not have, in in his mind, conceded the entire Island was inhabited only by one race. In as much as Shivaji Ganesan (or his lyric writer) could not have ignored Lankan Tamils when he referred to Malini Fonseka as “en Singala naatu kili” (My parrot from the Sinhala land) in the movie “Pilot Premnath” a few years ago. Ganesan, after all, is a product of the DMK, whose sympathy to the Lankan Tamil cause is legendary. By the way, I wonder how Sinhala academics down the ages referred to the Tamil part of the Island.

    Ananda Coomaraswamy was considered both by a grateful Ceylon/Sri Lanka and India as a son of both lands for creating consciousness in the USA/West of his era about the tremendous meaning and cultural wealth of the Sub-Continent (inter alia “The Dance of Shiva”) While academic circles in India to the day venerate his name, contributions and memory the present troglodyte regime here did him ill when they recently removed half of the name of the street (former Green Path, Colombo 7) – to rename it irreverently as some contested Pokuna. The people of the area or the City were never consulted in this crude and racially-oriented aberration. It is an indictment to our times the Buddhist priests and the JHU, savagely but not unsurprisingly, stood in the vanguard to this Lankan version of the Bamiyan savagery. To their credit, many Sinhalese wrote to the press expressing their total outrage with the tasteless move by the ruling clique.

    Romesh – Ilangai/Eelanadu were descriptions generally identified with the Tamil majority areas of the Island that we refer now to as the North Eastern Provinces, which both Govts after years and expert consultation, decided to merge in 1987. That is until a maverick judicial official decided to play communal politics while in his office that is expected to be above all divisionary features. That he now sings a different tune against his own earlier move illustrates the hypocritic nature of our times.

    Senguttuvan

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    “Martin Wickremasinghe was no doubt great, but he cannot be classified as a philosopher”

    It is not my wish to contradict my friend Dr. Narendran but I have a different view here. Writers of the calibre and depth of Martin Wickremasinghe are, in my estimate, philosophers as well. It is difficult to make the distinction between writer/philosopher like in the case of milk and water. Among his great works I benefited from two – “Gam Peraliya” and “Madul Doova” which were made into successful and memorable movies. The deep study of the human mind and condition that characterised both works places Wickramasinghe into that class of philosphical works of Tolstoy (Anna Karenina) and Solzenitsyn (The Cancer Ward) in my humble view.

    Senguttuvan

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      Senguttuvan,

      Philosophy, in my understanding is speculating on the unknown or yet to be known on the basis what is known. Martin Wickremasinghe excelled in unravelling what is known , but not generally recognised ,in a sensitive and profound manner.what was. His novels and writings were master pieces on this score. I yet remember the film Gamperaliya based on his novel with the same name, vividly. However, Dr. AC, not only scientifically studied the unknown aspects of what was there, but also took them into the realm of philosophy, as defined above. His thoughts on modern education and the interpretation of the ‘Dance of Siva’ among many others were indeed philosophical. Even his monumental work ‘ Medieval Sinhala Art’ had philosophical interpretation that immensely enhanced its value.

      However, this strand of discussion is a deviation from the essence of Theruni’s presentation.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    if i were you i wouldn’t mention anything about sri lanka at all. after all you weren’t even born there. you could have said your parents came from pondicherry or something like that. then no questions would have been asked. in my case even though i was born in sri lanka ( it’s rather unfortunate ) i don’t tell any one that i came from sri lanka. why should i, after all i have severed all connections with sri lanka and my loyalties lie to the country that i have chosen to live. to tell you the truth i hate sri lanka and chingala people so much i wouldn’t want to associate myself with that country or it’s people in any way. by the way my origins are no longer an issue and it’s irrelevant as far as i am concerned.

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      Aw boo-hoo what a shame, but on the plus side when you do get caught for benefit fraud/credit card cloning/insurance scams and whatnot, the ignorant British media might not report you as being ‘Sri Lankan’. Come to think of it, what exactly is the bad side, for Sri Lankans, of scum like you choosing to dissociate yourselves from Sri Lanka?

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    In the name of Democracy, in order to get more votes leading to victory in elections the politicians made use of the divisions on the basis of Language, Religion, Eyhnicity etc.
    The SWRD Bandaranayake made Sinhala as official language with special status to Buddhism ——this led to suppression of Tamils since 1956—just 8 years after independence.
    SWRD could be considered the Father of destruction of Lanka, leading for the country to be a poodle of China

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    Theruni

    I read your article completely.I read most of the comments too. Some comments are positive and others are negative.My say is this. When you were born you were not a Sinhalese nor a Tamil. YOU WERE A HUMAN BEEN.If your blood was analysed the analysis will never ever can say you are a Sinhalese or a Tamil. Whether you live in Sri Lanka or France be always be a human being.- Hari Dakuma

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    Theruni

    I read your article completely.I read most of the comments too. Some comments are positive and others are negative.My say is this. When you were born you were not a Sinhalese nor a Tamil. YOU ARE A HUMAN BEEN.If your blood was analysed the analysis will never ever can say you are a Sinhalese or a Tamil. Whether you live in Sri Lanka or France be always be a human being.- Hari Dakuma

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    Theruni

    I read your article completely.I read most of the comments too. Some comments are positive and others are negative.My say is this. When you were born you were not a Sinhalese nor a Tamil. YOU ARE A HUMAN BEEN.If your blood was analysed the analysis will never ever can say you are a Sinhalese or a Tamil. Whether you live in Sri Lanka or France always be a human being.- Hari Dakuma

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    I take what Theruni says towards the end of the last but the third paragraph; “Now, if I have to self-assess and describe my identity, I would say that I am both French and Sri Lankan, regardless of my ethnicity. In some situations, I would highlight my “affiliation” to France and its values more than the other and vice versa. In any case, I think the balance will occur naturally.” as her conclusive remark.

    And, I couldn’t agree with her more. But I must predict this bit too for her; Theruni will continue to live in France and regardless whoever she marry, her progeny will be French as much as any Gallic leader. And that too is good for France for French would remain the most patriotic in Europe. What about the pure diaspora Tamils?
    Leela

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      I find it a bit difficult to agree since I see the association of the dodgy Lebanese doner kebab since it shows me that the pecking order of native influence. Anyway, you say “France for French would remain the most patriotic in Europe.” Ho ho If not for the agricultural subsidies which the EU would like to cut the French would be made to eat cake over again ;) Socialism died long ago it’s just the romantic city of gardens and cafes but nothing like breakfast at tiffany’s.

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    Ethnicity is purely a biological outcome of people who developed in one particular geographical region due to natural selection and unavoidable isolation.Now the reality is that we live in a modern world where ethnicity does not matter anymore.
    I write this English and it is the original language of some other people who had developed after blending with several ethnic groups.

    In Sri Lanka, I see ” One People divided by two languages and two cultures “. If I wear those religious signs on my forehead and wear like an average Jaffna person who would say I am a Singhalese if I can speak Tamil also fluently ? Similarly that average Jaffna man goes in to deep South in Sri Lanka and speak Singhala language fluently, who would say that he is a Tamil.

    Why do Buddhists worship Hindu Gods and have shrines in Buddhist temples ? The Tamil people and Singhala people are the same biologically. Over the years of separation, even the people who lived in deep North became naturalised Tamil people.

    How many people do we know of mixed marriages ? Even the Last Singhala King – Sri Wickramarajasinghe was a ‘pure’ Tamil and he had ruled as a Singhala Ruler.Had even written poetry in Singhala Language.

    After all for all the Buddhists, if they really follow Buddha’s teachings does ethnicity matter ? Similarly for all the Christians who believe that all the people are children of God, does ethnicity matter.

    Why do we still talk about differences ? Why can’t we start talking about how to live in harmony?

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    Ananda Ariyarathne

    I comment on your idealism though naive.

    ” if they really follow Buddha’s teachings does ethnicity matter ?”

    Show me one who follows Buddha’s teachings as he taught many years ago.

    Sinhala/Buddhism has its roots in perverted Buddhism taught and practiced in Sri Lanka with large dose of Vijaya myth. The Sinhala/Buddhism is a form of exclusive nationalism which is affront to Buddha’s teaching.

    The narrow parochial Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism does not recognise other ethnicity hence the state is bend on implementing a systematic programme of overt and covert colonisation which they hope will lead to eventual assimilation of “other people”.

    Sinhalasiation in the 1950s was the second step in the wrong direction as far as the “other people” are concerned. Since then much blood has flowed under the bridge.

    My people stand witness to this cruel process.

    You say:

    ” In Sri Lanka, I see ” One People divided by two languages and two cultures “.

    Even in your comment you do not want to recognise (intentionally or otherwise) the existence of my people and our language.

    This is your looking glass. I cannot blame you as you are conditioned to believe in what is taught to you over your life time and come from a sizable majority which hold absolute power over its people.

    For my people our identity and land is important as we are forced to lose both by state machination.

    If you truly believe that you are above the parochial nationalism and a true internationalist then please change the immigration and land laws of this island so that others could come and settle in this utopia that you hold dear.

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    “All definite knowledge belongs to science; All dogma as to what surpasses knowledge belongs to Theology. And in between there is a No Man’s Land exposed to attack by both sides. That is Philosophy”
    – Lord Betrand Russel-

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    Every aspect of Sri Lankan culture needs a “new code of ethics” –

    “a rational ethics” – as a precondition of rebirth

    and it is not automatic.

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    “Why do Buddhists worship Hindu Gods and have shrines in Buddhist temples?” asks reader Ananda Ariyaratne in apparent innocence. The truth and the answer, sadly, evokes much controversy and heat whenever mentioned. Prince Siddartha – that great searcher of those matters that cause sorrow and pain – was born into a family following the rituals and traditions of Sanartha Dharma (said to have been dubbed Hinduisum by the latter invading Moghuls) What more, most here even think Buddha is the name of a person.It is not. It is a description for a learned one (Buddhi/Putthi in Tamil) I realise this is not going to be received well by the JHU types – but that is the reality.

    Senguttuvan

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    It’s Siddhartha Gautama and in the Far East eg. Thailand he is known as “Gautama” and that’s the way I learnt it. “Buddha” meaning “awakened one”.
    In London there are Chain of Nepali Restaurants named as “Drunken Buddha” in the tradition of laughing Buddha etc. and the Sri Lankan embassy tried to get them to change the name and the guys merely laughed it off saying we know better because we come from the Hindu kingdom and the Buddhist kingdom Bhutan which is next to us have never mentioned it- Go find Humor its within you was their answer.
    Believe me there are Buddha Head Potties in the EU because religion is doing away with symbols today as its a cause of wars.

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    This pretty face, this active body, this clever mind, are these I?
    Who am I, what am I, what IS “I”?

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      What is I? It means cover the face, slam the base.shushi!

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    The whole problem with all you guys is wanting to live in the past,
    a past nobody could be really sure of, anyway. Why don’t you live
    (and let live ) in the present and concentrate on intelligent plans
    for the future.

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      elan says:

      “Why don’t you live (and let live ) in the present and concentrate on intelligent plans for the future.”

      The past always catches up the present and determine the future. If you haven’t learned this from your own life you are in denial. Wake up.

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