BY DARSHANIE RATNAWALLI
The unease I have long felt about Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka crystallized into distaste on Sunday 13 June 2010 when I came across his interview in that day’s Lakbima. It provided a startling glimpse into the dimension of reality Dr. DJ either inhabits for real or wants to sell to the unwashed masses. The way he tells it, there are lessons to be learnt from the whole Dutugemunu episode (api dutugemunu rajathumagen padam igenagatha yuthuy) because king Dutugemunu handled this dichotomized collective identity thing rather well. He had the right idea about how to manage a country whose intrinsic dichotomy was manifest on the geographical level. In 2nd century BC finding himself the leader of a country afflicted with a dichotomy so evident that it could have been rendered in two colours in a cartographic representation, king Dutugemunu showed his stuff. There were those people inhabiting those areas and these people inhabiting these areas and never the twain would meet. They were in fact going to separate. Our hero nipped that in the bud. But after the war he rendered unto those people the administration and cultural identity of those people and did not try to force on them the admin and cultural imprint of these people. Hence the valid lesson 2000 years later.
“Api Dutugemunu rajathumagen padam igenagatha yuthuy. Ohu rate wenama rajjayak ethi kireemata uthsaha kala dravida bala sena winasha kala. Eheth yuddhayen anathuruwa ohu e pradesha palanaya kireemata ema wesiyange sanskruthiya hondin danna dravida yuva rajek path kala. Buddhimath palakayeku washayen ohu siyalu deyama balaya pawichchi kara wisandeemata uthsaha kale nehe. E wagema ohu mudagath pradeshaye wesiyange sanskruthiya saha jeewana ratawa sahamulinma wenas kireemata uthsaha kaleth nehe. Demala jathikayange samuhika ananyathawa wenas kireemata uthsaha kaleth nehe.
We should learn from King Dutugemunu. He destroyed the Tamil battalions who tried to establish a separate kingdom in the country. But after the war to govern those areas he appointed a Dravidian yuvaraj well conversant with the culture of those people. As a wise ruler he did not try to solve everything through force. And he did not try to change completely the culture and the lifestyle of the people in the salvaged areas. Nor did he try to change the collective identity of the Tamil people.”
Any sane person reasonably abreast with the Dutugemunu episode (161-137BC) and it’s almost impossible to live in Sri Lanka and not be abreast with this particular segment, would at this point be struggling with disbelief(that the ability to acquire information either passively via unconscious absorption during long association or actively under the imperative of a questing mind, both widely held to be elementary signs of intelligence, should be missing), nausea (that they should be missing in such a prominent personage or that a personage missing them should be so prominent)or laughter (No idea why it’s a laughing matter. But one person I pointed this out to did laugh. Maybe it was indulgent laughter as in ‘whatever will the impudent fellow say next?’)
But what if the above historical sketch by Dr DJ does not deserve the scorn, ridicule, incredulous amazement and the violent distaste contained in the above reaction. What if Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka has merely become attuned to the vibrations and emanations of a parallel universe in the multiverse, presenting an alternative reality that finds expression in an alternate history?
In the historical universe or the actual world the sentence “king Dutugemunu appointed a Dravidian yuvaraj to govern those areas’’ has a hard time standing up due to the absence of a) a Dravidian yuvaraj b) those areas during the period under discussion. What Dutugemunu had in the way of a yuvaraj, was Saddhatissa who was his own brother and eventual successor. Similarly a pear shaped island in the Indian ocean, southeast of India, coordinates 7 N and 81E, comprising of those areas and these areas wherein those people and these people respectively were domiciled together with their respective cultures and collective identities had no existence in 2nd century BC in the historical universe we occupy. This is not to say that such an island where such conditions prevailed is not real. It is an alternative reality, having a real and actual existence in a parallel world, a parallel universe in the multiverse or possibly a different branch of the single universe, which is every bit as real as the world or universe or branch of universe we occupy. And we will call that parallel universe, Dayan Jayatilleka universe or djverse for no other reason than that one needs to call it something for ease of reference. In the djverse then, the sentence “king Dutugemunu appointed a Dravidian yuvaraj to govern those areas’’ stands up proudly, without diffidence or excuse sure that it won’t induce the better class of reader to gag.
We need a compass. To pin down our location in the multiverse, I am going to have to do something boring, tiresome, and even slightly distasteful. There’s a popular hypothesis about the Neanderthals, that due to a short lifespan the elder Neanderthals were hindered in imparting the acquired wisdom of the ages to the younger generation, so that all Neanderthal inventions would get reinvented every ten years or so. Imagine some Neanderthal elder spirit doomed to stick around the clan for an eternity; every ten years he would say ‘oh not again’ with increasing frustration as the spear sharpening tool is invented for the nth consecutive time by the current bright young Neanderthal. The next paragraph may enable many of you to relate to that Neanderthal spirit. In each new book, PG Wodehouse used to tell his old readers to let their attention wander for the duration of time it took him to put the new readers abreast of the conditions, constants and laws of the Wodehouse universe; and preparing to use the next para as an identifier, a locating device for our actual universe, I too have to caution that it would be skipable for most of you. If you have lived in Sri Lanka, chances are that you have picked up most of this during your commodity wrapper reading. Apparently this is not the case for everyone.
“By the third century BC, Dravidian intrusion into the affairs of Sri Lanka became more marked. In 177 BC, two south Indian adventurers usurped power at Anuradhapura and ruled for twenty-two years, to be followed ten years later (in 145BC) by another, Elara, who maintained himself in power for a much longer period -for forty-four years, according to the Mahavamsa-…These Dravidian attempts at establishing control over the Anuradhapura kingdom appear to have been motivated partly at least by the prospect of influence over its external trade.
Apart from this, there is evidence from archaeological investigations conducted at Pomparippu in the north-west of the island in 1956 and 1957 of a culture which bears some resemblance to the south Indian megalithic culture;18 the similarities are most noticeable in the Adichchanallur site just across the water from Pomparippu.19 There are striking similarities in the style of urn burials and the characteristics of the pottery and the associated objects found at these two sites.
The settlement at Pomparippu and a possible one at Katiraveli in the east of the island need to be treated as isolated occurrences, not as evidence of widespread Tamil settlements.20 These two settlements could be dated between the second century BC and the third century BC. For many centuries thereafter there is no inscriptional or other archeological evidence, or literary evidence, of Tamil settlements in the country. There were, of course, Tamil mercenaries who were brought to the island occasionally from about the fifth century AD, but more particularly from the seventh century AD onwards. Their presence in the early stages was for short periods and served a political purpose. They fought on behalf of aspirants to the throne and on behalf of rulers whose position was insecure. Thus Sri Lanka from very early in its recorded history had seen groups of persons from southern India enter the island as traders, occasionally as invaders and as mercenaries but their presence was of peripheral significance in the early demography of the island.”
–K.M.de Silva- A History of Sri Lanka-2005 ed. Pg. 13–
“Set against the cautionary note above, and writing as a non-specialist layman, let me sustain my suggestion that ancient history, and for that matter, medieval history, is of little use to us today by venturing to make two bold statements. In effect I am deliberately belling the lion.
1. Vijaya did not exist. Vijaya is a symbolic idea.
2. If Elāra existed as a chieftain in the second century BCE, he was not a Tamil; and, indeed, the Sinhala-Tamil opposition carried no meaning in that century…
… Two, Elāra: in the fourth century Dīpavamsa, which predates the Mahāvamsa by 150 years or so, there is a relatively brief reference to the struggle between two chieftains named Gāmini and Elāra (Elāla). But there is no suggestion that Elāra is a Damila (Tamil). It was Mahānāma, writing at about the time when Dhātusena had displaced invading Tamil chieftains, who rendered this battle between two ancient chieftains into an epic Sinhala-Tamil conflict. He did so while constructing a broader saga that rendered Dutugämunu into a warrior hero and defender of the Dhammic way. In brief, Mahānāma read his present into the past in order to underline his principal claim, namely that Lanka or Hēladiv was a place selected to preserve Buddhism in its pristine form, with the Sinhala cast as the chosen people.”
–Dr. Michael Roberts – History as Dynamite. Let Us Circumscribe History Talk- Island 1 January 2000-
“Our observations on the ethnic aspects of Sri Lanka’s history up to about the end of the 12th century have to remain brief. They are, in fact, repetitions in summary form of what has been stated in a large volume of historical writings. Yet our sketch is adequate to show the lack of substance in the assertions that ‘Throughout the centuries from the dawn of history the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between them the possession of Ceylon’. Quite clearly, such a contention does not conform to any of the scholarly interpretations of known facts of history that relate to the nature of links that bind Sri Lanka’s main ethnic groups to the island as a whole and to its different parts.
Discarding, then, the claimed primordial origin and continuity of the dichotomous possession of Sri Lanka by two national groups as a distortion of the country’s ancient history, we can now … ”
Professor G.H. Peiris’ ‘An appraisal of the concept of a traditional Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka’ – The Island- 25th March 1999
At this point however, we should be guilty of nitpicking, unless we take a small break from the clever sarcasm and consider the very real possibility that when Dr. DJ set out to recount that interesting exemplary tale starring Dutugemunu, the Dravidian Yuvaraj and Those Areas, he was hazily informed by a hazy notion of Parakramabhahu vi of the 15th century AD and not Dutugemunu of 2nd century BC. Substitute the name Parakramabhahu vi for Dutugemunu in the above quoted portion of the DJ interview and we get an alternative reality whose points of divergence from the known universe while considerable are not so epic as to render it totally alien. One doesn’t mean to harp. Nothing alienates a discerning readership than harping. But the mind of an academic who fails, despite being closely associated with the ideology of the conflict for so many years, to distinguish between Dutugemunu and Parakramabahu vi and be cognizant of the implications of the 1600 years separating them, excites the emotion known as horrified fascination and invites speculation along interesting lines. For the sake of the discerning readership, we will now swallow the horrified fascination, rein in the slanderous speculation, make allowances for chronological confusion and concede that the Dutugemunu-Tamil yuvaraj-those people-those areas segment narrated by Dr DJ should perhaps not be taken so literally. What matters is, not its details but the essence which is that in the djverse, at some point in history, not clearly fixed in Dr. DJ’s mind (may one be allowed a small sigh here, discerning readership?), the dichotomous possession of this island by two national identities was achieved.
At some historical period, never mind if it was BC or AD, those people, those areas, their culture and identity configured themselves in counter point to these people, these areas, their culture and identity and created a context, which was identical to or at least brought to mind, the Russia-Chechnya situation, Mindanao in the Philippines scenario and the Basque county in Spain picture. Keep this in the forefront of you mind. It is one of the great constants of the djverse. You will sense it lurking subliminally behind many of his pronouncements as a taken for granted charter, legitimizing them and investing them with sense. If ever a DJ pronouncement makes you goggle and wonder where it is coming from, consider the pronouncement in conjunction with the Great Constant and you will understand where it is coming from.
“His diagnosis of why the bulk of the international community urges a solution of territory based political autonomy, leads him to three conclusions: Eelamist agit-prop, Marxist intellectual influence and politicians with a “here-and-now”perspective. None of these explain India’s secular state, quasi federalism and linguistic regions, Chechen autonomy, Spain’s autonomous Basque region, or Mindanao’s autonomy in the Philippines, to name just four disparate examples.”
-Dayan Jayatilleka in response to Malinda Seneviratne on what would explain the pressure towards territory based political autonomy for Sri Lanka – Hostage to the past. The Devolution Debate & Historicism.-
Ingress of other peoples into a land, the etymology of whose name proclaims it to be the land of a certain peoples (England, Scotland, Ireland, Normandy, Wales, Cornwall Brittany, Sieladipa), doesn’t ipso facto dichotomize it. But if you are interested in a historical situation where this was the case, where patterns of migration, invasion, assimilation and acculturisation went on under the smokescreen of a few centuries, and when the smoke cleared you found the landscape dichotomized like apples and oranges, then Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain is your case. There, long term Anglo-Saxon ingress not only led to the dichotomous possession of the territory by two distinct identities but also left the Briton identity spatially fragmented in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.
In contrast to this primordial scenario involving state systems and social milieus that were…well primordial, is what transpired when state systems were more advanced, evolved and tenacious. Then, incorporating and integrating impulses came into play and the ingressing population got incorporated into the existing social, political and cultural order. This is what happened re Normandy. Invading Viking populations were incorporated by legitimizing their occupation, by allowing them to hold conquered territories as homage paying vassals, who accepting the overlordship of the French king, were entrusted with protecting the said territories from further raids. When they became unwilling to express their subservience to this overlordship, due to attaining equal status with their overlord since becoming Kings of England and being in reality more powerful than their overlord, they were forcibly excised from the equation.
The background to the conflict is to be found in 1066, when William, Duke of Normandy, led an invasion of England. He defeated the English King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, and had himself crowned King of England. As Duke of Normandy, he remained a vassal of the French King, and was required to swear fealty to the latter for his lands in France; for a king to swear fealty to another king was considered humiliating, and the Norman Kings of England generally attempted to avoid the service.
What one found in Sri Lanka, when the smoke cleared after the tumultuous events of the 13th century AD was that; instead of retreating in a south-south westerly direction to lick the wounds on its spatially fragmented self, thus leaving those areas free to blossom into an Other identity, a certain identity still continued to infest those areas like a chemo resistant tumor, thus denying those who like to keep it simple (because it would be too much of an intellectual challenge otherwise), the clear cut those areas-that collective ID/these areas-this collective ID universe. That was probably why the strong potential of a distinct Other collective identity evolving (at least) in the Jaffna peninsular starting from the 13th century (if not earlier), and transforming that geographical space into its cultural heartland, had failed to attain actualization in Sri Lanka of our known universe even as late as the 16th century.
When the Portuguese arrived on the scene in the Sri Lanka of this universe they failed to find a collective identity or a presence in Jaffna, which was ethnically and geographically separately identifiable and distinct from the obvious one Lanka presented to them. In other words, an Other collective identity, which could leave a clear, separate and distinctive imprint on the collective consciousness of the outsider was conspicuous by its absence from the kingdom of Jaffna; so that classification glitches identifying the Jaffnese as Sinhalese appeared not only in their official missives, but also in the narrative pages of that unusually perceptive and eminently citable Jesuit chronicler Fernao de Queiros.
In his book Jaffna under the Portuguese which includes extensive research into Portuguese records, Professor T.B.H Abeyasinghe narrates in pages 24, 25, 26, 27 how Lancarote de Seixas proposed in 1630,
“… that Portuguese casados should be settled in Jaffna on a large scale and the lands there be distributed among them.25…
… When Goa referred these proposals to Lisbon, the authorities there consulted two old Asia hands, one of them being Belchior Botelho da Silva, who counted at least a decade of experience as a captain in many parts of the island.27 …
… The decision of the Lisbon authorities was embodied in a letter dated 15th March 1634. The views of the two old Asia hands seem to have influenced the authorities in Lisbon, particularly on the need for caution and for not rocking the boat. …
… The decision of the Lisbon authorities was founded on natural justice. It was also founded on misintelligence. A principal factor they took into consideration in arriving at their decision was the possibility that the implementation of the two proposals would lead to rebellion. This is clear from a statement in their letter of 15th march 1634 “…se nāo deve fazer novidade….porque de outro modo escandalizar junta tanta gente e de animos tāo inquietos e pouco fieis…” (no innovation ought to be tried…because otherwise people of such restless spirit and little faith will be scandalized…) But in referring to people of restless spirit and little faith, the Lisbon authorities were thinking of the Sinhalese of the Kotte Lands and not of the Tamils of Jaffna, as the phrase “como sāo os chingalas” (as are the Sinhalese) which follows the extract quoted above makes clear. Three decades of rebellion in the Kotte lands had implanted among the Lisbon authorities a wholesome fear of attempting anything likely to cause unrest among the Sinhalese. To that fear and to the misintelligence among the Lisbon authorities that Jaffna was inhabited by the Sinhalese, the Jaffna mudaliyars owed their survival.”
In an adjacent footnote (31), Professor Abeyasinghe has some words to say on the prevalence of this persistent misintelligence (it had persisted in the minds of Lisbon Authorities even after consultation with two old Asia Hands, one of them with over a decade of experience as a captain in many parts of the island).
“Such misintelligence was not confined to Lisbon. The Count of Vidigueira, after serving as viceroy at Goa for 7 years (in two terms) and after a term as President of the India Council in Lisbon, still believed in 1626 that the inhabitants of Jaffna were Sinhalese. ANTT Doc. Rem. Livro 24 doc 18 (no folio numbers) Even Fernão de Queiros’ work was not free from this error. See pp. 357, 361, 366, 371 etc.”
Even if one is tempted to dismiss such misintelligence (even though it be regarding so elementary a ground reality) prevalent among your Lisbon authorities, your count Videgueiras and your captain Botelho da Silvas as so much ‘bureaucratic’ blindness, an ingrained inability to be sensitive to the human element of a given equation (you can’t really, you know dismiss it like that, just ask your selves if the Spanish could have been blind to the Moros in the Philippines or if the Basques of Spain could have been sort of fuzzy, hazy or invisible to the French battalions of Napoleon or if Chechens and Russians could have seemed fully interchangeable to a traveler to 17th century Russia), but even if you could, you can’t dismiss the prevalence of this misintelligence in Queiros’ work so easily.
Queiros was a Jesuit chronicler. The penetration of the Portuguese into Jaffna through their Jesuit, Franciscan and Dominican missionary arm predated that of the political, was more extensive and necessarily involved closer human contact. His narrative has drawn comment for its exactness. Even when he doesn’t get the details right, he shows an uncanny ability to communicate the essence, see for example his description of the nature and dynamics of Aryachakravarthi rule.
And yet he tends to use the word ‘chingala’ when writing about Jaffna in much the same way as he would use the word ‘negro’ if he was writing about Africa; as a common noun, a generic name for the Jaffnese.
On page 363 of ‘Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon’, we meet for the first time 12 modeliares, who have just excited the wrath of the king of Jaffna. And when we meet them again on page 366, they are 12 heads on a block. Those heads are ipso facto categorized as chingala heads.
“… But because the others asked him to submit to the Portuguese, promising them tribute and vassalage with a feigned heart, as he had done before , till time brought about a change of circumstances, he was still so full of obstinacy, that he ordered the 12 Modeliares, who were of this opinion and had represented to him the complaints and losses of the natives to be arrested. …”
“…. Among other things he found a block with 12 Chingala heads which the King ordered to be cut off, because they pointed out to him how necessary it was to make peace with the Portuguese even though only deceitfully, for to him the faintest dream of a crime was proof enough, and this cowardice as a necessary consequence, made his subjects exceedingly cowardly, …”
Queiros using the word ‘chingala’ as a synonym for Jaffnese;
“… but when they saw the course (of the ships) they posted men on the way as best as they could and the Prince of Jafanapatao instructed a Chingala and he came to have speech with the Viceroy and…”
In the same vein, when two Portuguese scouts land in Jaffna to ‘case the joint’, they are immediately surrounded by ….you guessed it …the Chingalaz.
“… others already blamed the viceroy for a sluggard for not sending some to discover these rat-traps (as D. Antonio de Noronha called them). Two sailors both brave men, Pero Travacos, a native of Cochim, and Braz de Couto of Truquel in the Boroughs of Alcobaca, offered to go and discover them. They landed with all precaution, but were at once surrounded by the Chingalaz within sight of the Manchua in which they went and by the dawn watch there came a letter from the Prince (brought) by a Christian sailor who had been a prisoner there after a shipwreck, in which he said that if the Chingala whom he had sent should be killed, he would also kill the Portuguese. But that if he were set free, they would be restored. Here some voted that the Chingala should be hanged, little caring for the lives of the two Portuguese worthy of a better reward. Others (as if it were necessary) made a subtle distinction between deceit and trickery, (saying) that the Chingala was only trickish and deserved praise rather than punishment. ..
The persistence of a synonym;
‘Vincente Carvalho. Captain of a foist, seeing himself attacked by 200 men who sought to kill him, said to them: ‘Take me to your King, for I have some things to communicate to him on which depends his safety.’ The delighted Chingalaz made their way to the fortalice where he was; and as they had to pass by the Broad street where D. Antonio……’
When a Portuguese reinforcement arrives to rescue some besieged Portuguese, the Jaffna King sends to them with his message, the bearer of which is …
‘Upon this message D. Antonio halted keeping the Chingala and sent word to D. Constantino de Braganca, who getting rid of the other people who were with him came to Nelur in a manchua by a different route and communicating with the Captains of the relieving force, he ordered them to reinforce the praca, the next dawn breaking through the Enemy, and to send (to the King) that evening by one of the prisoners the head of that Chingala hostage with this message…’
In fact, Queiros could be said to have had a rule of thumb; when a common noun is needed for a native of Sri Lanka, wheresoever the locality under discussion , use the word ‘chingala’.
‘But it was enough that the King knew the delicacy of Portuguese faith, for to show off his valour, he killed the Chingala to whom he was entrusted and fled to our men in sight of an army.’
Etiquette according to Queiros; when a common noun is needed for a native language of Lanka, use ‘chingala’ ;
“These terms [written] in the Portuguese and the Chingala languages, were signed and authenticated and the Prince was handed over and sent in a ship with the Modeliar in good custody….”
And yet Queiros could classify too.
“…the Prince who was superintending the war had arranged to attack the Portuguese with 6000 men divided into eight parties, and that the King had remained in the fortalice relying on the promises of the Chingalaz, Badagaz and Moors who served him, and…”
And he could and did use the word chingala in specific contexts;
“… that they should not trust the Chingala guides because they knew that the Viceroy by setting foot in that Kingdom was setting foot in Ceylon also; …”
“… and shall we not believe that it was for these and other causes which we shall mention, that God delivered Ceylon to the Hollanders and animated the Chingalaz to carry on against us so lengthy a warfare?”
And Queiros could project the word ‘chingala’ on to a Jaffnese context purely in order to enrich it too.
“… And as the fortalice was not on the seashore, nor capable of defence, and as it did not then appear necessary to preserve it, because it would necessarily remain in a continuous state of siege, on account of the tenacity of the King and of Chingala courage, the Captains wrote to the Viceroy, ‘that it did not seem creditable to our arms to remain locked up with the enemy within sight, since we were accustomed to vanquish more experienced and valorous nations, …”
In the multiverse there are many universes where the potential of an Other collective identity emerging in Jaffna (at least) starting from the 13th century (if not earlier) and manifesting itself in varying degrees of strength by the 17th century saw actualization. In this universe too, that potential can be sensed but only by the conspicuous absence of its realized state. That absence is so conspicuous because of the contrast;
“In summary, then, the war poems of the Kandyan period present us with a picture of cakravarti figures vested with superhuman character, devotional followers and fighters, Sīhala sen, all oriented towards defending a valued territory that was variously referred to as Lakdiva, Tun Sinhalaya, Siri Laka, uda pata rata, et cetera. These add up to a powerful sense of collective self-perception linked to territory. What we see here is a Sinhala consciousness with a significant measure of patriotism. Underpinning this was an explicit notion of sovereignty47 I am reluctant, however, to refer to this form of thinking as a ‘nationalism’ of the sort found in Europe and elsewhere from the nineteenth century48. There was no theory of self-determination supported by the principles of jurisprudence that had developed in Europe. Nor was there an egalitarian ideal and the democratic thrust associated with the idea of popular sovereignty. But the resistances mounted by the people of Sinhalē in support of a hierarchically constituted dynastic state did amount to practices of liberation.”
–Michael Roberts- Language and National Identity: The Sinhalese and Others over the Centuries- Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer 2003, pp. 75-102–
“… However, the sturdy defence of the centres of Sinhalē from invading colonial forces can be interpreted as practices of self-determination. …”
–Michael Roberts-Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815- pg.147-
“Indeed, de Silva had quite explicitly stated in the 1970s that the resistance of the Sitavaka and Kandyan kingdoms in the face of repeated efforts at conquest by different imperial powers amounted to a “protonationalism” or “traditionalist nationalism;” while yet marking the fact that they had a “mixture of ingredients that would constitute modern nationalism anywhere” (de Silva 1979: 134-35). As far back as the 1970s, I recorded my reservations about this characterization (1979a:29-30).”
–Michael Roberts-Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815- pg.144–
What shows up in contrast, is the absence of a counterpart Other identity evolving (at least) in the Jaffna peninsula starting from the 13th century (if not earlier), and attaining the ability to manifest itself by the 17th century as a presence, ‘which was ethnically, geographically and linguistically separately identifiable and distinct’ and which could present in reaction to imperial conquest, a response that amounted to as ‘protonationalism or traditionalist nationalism having in its makeup a mixture of ingredients that would constitute modern nationalism anywhere’ (as per K.M de Silva) or ‘a powerful sense of collective self-perception linked to territory, incorporating in its makeup a significant measure of patriotism, an explicit notion of sovereignty and practices of liberation and self-determination, oriented towards defending a valued territory’ (as per Michael Roberts).
“The relative passivity with which Jaffna accepted foreign rule stands in strong contrast to the strength and frequency of resistance movements in the south. Jaffna rose against the Portuguese on three occasions, two of them within the first two years of their occupation. On each occasion, it was the arrival of foreign troops from Tanjore or from Kandy- that acted as a catalyst for rebellion. After 1629, for thirty years, Jaffna accepted foreign rule without demur”
–Tikiri Abeyasinghe , Jaffna under the Portuguese pg 13–
“The defence arrangements the Portuguese made for Jaffna were greatly influenced by the assessment made by the leading Portuguese officials in that kingdom on the nature and character of the native inhabitants of Jaffna. Oliveira considered the Jaffna man as generally passive or weak (fraco). His successor as captain-major, Lancarote de Seixas, came to the same conclusion: he found the Jaffna man “quiet and mild, without any military training” and therefore unlikely to rebel unless instigated by outsiders. To them, the post-conquest history of Jaffna bore this out clearly. Luis de Freitas de Macedo, with many years of experience in Jaffna, came to a similar conclusion about the Jaffna man’s nature, as did the chronicler Fernāo de Queiros, basing himself on the observations of those who knew Jaffna well. The result of this assessment was that in Jaffna fortification was begun later, proceeded more slowly, and when it was completed, Jaffna, for its population and area, had fewer forts than was the case in the southern territories the Portuguese held in the island.”
– Tikiri Abeyasinghe-Op. cit.- pg 17-
“… There is, in addition, no historical record of resistance to western rule comparable in scale and intensity to that in the Sinhala areas. The historical record, in fact, is one of acquiescence in subjection. For instance, the Portuguese did not lose a single soldier in the conquest of Jaffna”
–The Traditional Homelands Of The Tamils Separatist Ideology In Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal- K.M. de Silva- pg. 29–
“There are some parallels between Moro separatism in the Philippines and the Tamil separatist agitation in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka. In both cases there is a concentration of a majority of the population of a distinct minority ethnic group in a part or contiguous parts of the country. … The Moros of the Philippines draw sustenance from support they receive from co-ethnics in the Malay world, just as the Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka draws sustenance from co-ethnics in Tamil Nadu …
The differences between the two movements are even more significant. The principal difference is that Moro resistance has a much longer history than that of Tamil separatism but, more to the point, the resistance has not been directed exclusively at the post-independence regime as is the case with Tamil separatist agitation, but at colonial rulers as well. Indeed the Moro struggle was the one persistent anti-colonial resistance movement directed against the Spanish and their successors as colonizers in the Philippines, the Americans.92 It took a decade or more of bitter fighting before the Americans broke the back of the Moro resistance. Once they had done so they adopted a deliberate policy of subjugation of the Moros through a combination of policies ranging from: sustained demographic change which reduced the Moros to the level of a minority even in Mindanao; large-scale investment in and exploitation of the rich resources of Mindanao and the south by US, and Philippine capitalists; to the creation of a bureaucracy led and manned by Christians to facilitate colonization. …
… The Tamil separatist agitation has few or no anti-colonial antecedents; it is a post-independence movement which seeks to establish a historical basis through a revival of a Tamil political entity with a brief independent existence in Sri Lanka’s long history. There were several episodes of resistance to the Portuguese by the Jaffna kingdom, but these were clearly overshadowed by the greater consistency and longer duration of the resistance by the Sitavaka and Kandyan kingdoms. Once the Jaffna kingdom succumbed to the Portuguese there was little or no opposition to the Dutch or the British who took control of the region. Thus it would be true to say that after the 17th century there was no record of anti-colonial resistance to link this pre-colonial past to colonial rule and post-colonial struggles. The linkage with the pre-colonial past is attempted through one single piece of “historical” evidence, the extract from the Cleghorn minute which plays such a significant role in the construction of the separatist ideology. …”
–K.M. de Silva- Op.cit. pgs.66-68-
I think it behoves the opinion leaders and change agents of a Nation as well as those whose dearest wish it is to be identified as such, to conduct themselves just so that posterity’s epitaph on them shall not be ‘He only missed being a double digit IQ by a tick-tock’. Even if that be a not exactly inappropriate summation, (in fact specially if,) it still behoves them to keep it under decorous wraps. When these wraps were thrown off so spectacularly and with such abandon on 13 June 2010 in the DJ interview, I felt (in addition to the distaste) a certain delicious frisson, similar to what members of the public experience upon opening gossip rags and seeing revelations about the famous. See this sentence for example;
“Rajapakse rajaya uthuru negenahira pilibandawa ara George bush irakaya sambandawa kala weradi e akarayenma sidukaramin yanawa. Apata uthuru negenahira mudagath pradesha ho ema pradeshawala janathawa pilibanda pehedili weda piliwelak nehe” – In respect of the North-East the Rajapakse Government is committing in toto the same mistakes of George Bush re Iraq. We don’t have a clear program of action regarding the people of the salvaged areas.
After Bush’s intervention in Iraq changed a certain status quo undesirable to Bush, a new status quo came into being, and it was imperative that this new status quo be as transient as possible because it was a dark status quo. The free world viewed it with concern, shrank from it, whenever the subject came up in refined circles, conversation stopped, people either blushed with shame or broke whatever they were holding or thumped tables or muttered angrily. That was why it could not be allowed to be become permanent, this dark status quo of Bush occupying Iraq. The fact that it was inevitable (as inevitable as the Allies being in charge of vanquished Germany for a short time) did not excuse its unnecessary prolongation. And that was Bush’s mistake, failure to be prompt in introducing a more tenable status quo, prolonging a dark, untenable status quo unnecessarily.
When the Rajapakse Government reestablished the writ of the realm in the LTTE held areas, they too changed a certain status quo, but here unlike Iraq, things merely reverted to the status quo ante. In the djverse then, this status quo ante with the North and East snugly under government control bears comparison with Iraq under US. So that the accusation directed at George Bush; failing to feel a throbbing urgency about changing a state of affairs, which containing hues of occupation/invasion, was repugnant to the free world, fits the MR government like a glove, in toto, e akarayenma.
It gets better when Dr. DJ decides to ditch the fancy speak and talk dirty (to make sure the proles don’t miss the gist I suppose)
“lokayata sri lanka rajaya penenne pitasthara akramanikayeku lesayi”- The world sees the GOSL as an alien invader
Why is this? Thirty years ago the world did not see the Sri Lankan government as an extraneous invader or an occupier. In the actual universe, even during those thirty years, GOSL’s right of domain over those areas wasn’t redefined. All governments, whatever their ideological bent, whatever their intellectual limitations, doggedly maintained legal continuity of its domain over LTTE held areas in a hundred different ways, subsidizing public institutions including salaries of personnel, transporting essential items albeit restrictions, etc.
But I suspect that it’s not in this mechanistic legal sense that Dr. DJ introduces the alien invader, occupier motif to the picture. It’s more through a sense of what’s morally and ethically fitting in the djverse. Thirty years ago, the leaders of the free world did not fling down their napkins and leave the table hissing ‘occupation’ when the Sri Lankan leader approached. That was because they didn’t know any better. But now, they have been appraised. Of the historical realities. Of the djverse. Realities even king Dutugemunu, as he existed in the djverse, did not ignore.
In the Sri Lanka of our known universe, the alien invader/occupier motif has no relevance to the GOSL, either in the legal or the moral sense, whichever way you position the government, a modern state which came into being in 1948 or the legatee of Sinhalese Kingship.
In Sri Lanka at the time of Portuguese advent all power centres were incorporated under one sovereignty, which could function as an umbrella. All invasions and occupations of Lanka’s territorial space could be regularised by taking them under this umbrella of sovereignty as homage paying vassals to a rightful overlord. Awareness of this state of affairs comes down to us courtesy of the articulations, implicit or explicit of different chroniclers and commentators belonging to different eras.
Fernao de Queyroz in “The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon” (Goa 1667);
“after the City of Cota became the metropolis there were in the island 15 kinglets subject to the King of Cota who therefore was considered to be Emperor, and the same title is in these days claimed by the King of Candea. These Kinglets were of Dinavaca, Uva, Valave, Putalao, Mantota, Tanagama, Muliauali, Triquilimale, Cutiar , Batecalao , Paneva , Vintena , Orupula, Mature, Candea and the point of the North,Jafanapatao.
‘Of these the first that tried to free himself from the subjection to the king of Cota was Ariaxaca Varti, who being naturally proud and not brooking haughtiness of the officers of that king, took the life of the one that governed there, and the king of Ceylon preparing to punish him, they say, he went to meet him at Ceytavaca and took him some verses wherein he so flattered him with praises of him and his ancestors that he left him completely vainglorious and satisfied, and the verses being helped by a goodly present, he not only made him desist from war, but also obtained Olas from him (what we should call Provisions) and the title of King of Jafanapataõ, which his successors preserved paying in acknowledgment only some tribute; and because this was the beginning of their greatness, his descendants from the name Aria, were called Ariavance, which means, the generation of Aria ’
-Book 1 pg- 48 -49 –
The details of the above paragraph are incorrect or warbled. But they are so much obiter dicta, its real essence being the nature of the relationship with the Arya Chakravarthis.
Phillipus Baldaeus in the chapter 14 of his “A true and Exact Description of the Great Island of Ceylon” 1672 (trnsl Pieter Brohier) narrates that on 18th August 1613 King Senerat summoned his Councillors from the various parts of his Kingdom to ensure the right of succession of his eldest son. The councilors who attended included amongst many others, the “Kings” of Cotiarum, Batecaloa, Panua, Palugam and one Namacar, the envoy of the King of Jaffnapatam. From the proclamation resulting from this gathering;
“Cenuwiraed by the Grace of God, Emperor of Ceylon, King of Candy, Setevaca , Trinquenemale, Jaffnapatam, Settecorles , Manaer, Chilaw, Chitaon Panua, Batecaloa , Palugam and Jaele, Prince of Ove , Denavaque, Pasdan Corle, Velaren, Cotamale, Mewatre, and Ventane, Duke of Willagamme, Gale, Ody and Jattenore, Count of Quartercorle, Harkepatte, Odogodaskary, Corwitty and Bategedre. Peace to all whom it may concern.
Whereas we lay sick in bed and not knowing the time of dissolution we have therefore assembled together all our principal officers of state to consult with them as to secure the tranquility of our country and to the well-being of our beloved son Comara Singa Astana…
… and we do further command all kings and princes, all dukes, counts, ecclesiastics, nobles, governors, heads of all lands and provinces, captains and presidents of all councils, admirals, chancellors and all other persons … of every province, town and village jointly and severally that they acknowledge the aforesaid princes, as guardians and rulers of our Empire until such time as the hereditary prince shall come of age and for greater security we have jointly with the crown prince and all the assembled kings, princes, nobles and potentates affixed hereto our signature and confirmed it with our seal of office… Thus declared at the Imperial Palace at Digelege this 19th day of August 1613.”
Professor Senerath Paranavithana commenting on the 14th century Madavala inscription(1359 according to his computation) in 1961;
“A noteworthy point in the Madavala inscription is that Marttandam, the Arya Chakravarti is referred to as a perumal only, while Vikramabahu is styled Chakravarti Svamin. This indicates that the Arya Chakravarti, though he was powerful enough to dictate terms to the Gampola monarch, had not assumed regal titles. The de jure right of Vikramabahu to the sovereignty over the whole island is recognized by the treaty … …The Kotagama and Madawela inscriptions are thus witnesses to the utmost expansion of the Aryachakravartis of Jaffna “
–The Arya Kingdom in North Ceylon” 1961 Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (New Series0, Vol. VII part 2 pp. 174-224)–
“Every one of the Sinhala states in the middle period seems to have been described as tunsinhalaya or trisinhalaya or tunlaka (see Appendix). One of the shortened speech variants of this concept was sinhalē (hereafter rendered as Sinhalē). This terminology marked the idea that the kings were the rulers of the whole island. Informed by the fact that there were subkingdoms within the realm as well as the Kingdom of Yālppānam in the north beyond the depopulated, jungle-clad north central districts, historians have regarded this claim as a ‘fiction’.26 But their yardstick has been governed by modern conceptions of state authority based on regular forms of surplus appropriation and administrative controls. Their modernist ideology has not countenanced the possibility of different forms of allegiance and rule. What one found was ‘tributary overlordship’, where rule was constituted by rites of homage accompanied by gift-giving from subordinate to superior figure.27 In consequence, during the period of triangular conflict between the Portuguese, Dutch and Sinhalese-in-Kandy (1638–58), Rājasinha II addressed the Dutch commanders with such phrases as ‘the Captain-Major of the nation of my Hollanders’ and consistently referred to ‘my lowland territories’ and ‘this my island of Ceilao’.28 Indeed, in one letter he stated unequivocally that ‘the black people of this my island of Ceilao, wheresoever they might be, were my vassals by right’.29 In subsequent decades the Kandyan court adhered to the constitutional theory that in administering power in the Maritime Provinces the Dutch were ‘the guardians of the seacoasts’.30 The practices of the Dutch sustained these perceptions. One governor, Pijl, referred to himself as the ‘king’s most faithful governor and humble servant’, called the king ‘His Majesty’ and spoke of ‘the King’s castle at Colombo’.31 It may be partly for this reason that he was bestowed with honours by the King of Kandy and inscribed in the annals of the Kandyan court as ‘Governor Unnāsē, Prince of Love’.32 The Dutch letters to the King of Kandy were liberally sprinkled with high-sounding epithets that catered to the imperial claims of its rulers: for instance, groot magtisten en onverwinnelijk keijser or ‘invincible emperor of supreme power’33 These letters, whether by messenger or borne by ambassadorial parties, were placed on a silver tray and held above the bared head of an appuhāmy, a respectable native. During the long journey to Senkadagala (the city of Kandy) they were lodged at night in a separate shed with white linen and its own sentries.34 Likewise gifts ‘were [generally] wrapped in white linen, a traditional mark of respect reserved for the king’.35 In effect, the indigenous theory of overlordship received confirmation from the Dutch.36 It was possible for Kīrti Srī Rājasinha (1747–82) to be praised conventionally, and thus in a profoundly evocative manner, as ‘the divine lord King Kīrti Srī, the chief of the whole of Lanka’.37 The Kingdom of Kandy (or rather, to be more precise, Sinhalē), then, was a centre-oriented galactic polity of the type identified by Tambiah.38 It encompassed tributary states through acts of homage carrying powerful ideas of superordination and subordination.”
Michael Roberts- Language and National Identity: The Sinhalese and Others over the Centuries- Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer 2003, pp. 75-102
In our actual universe the alien motif has no applicational validity to Sinhalaness anywhere in Sri Lanka, even in its northernmost tip. Circumstances arose in the thirteenth century that eventually, in due course and in the fullness of time could have rendered this motif a natural fit (not an artificial or forced fit) for Sinhalaness in certain areas of Sri Lanka. In the multiverse without doubt there exist parallel universes, where these circumstances prevailed. But in our actual universe they were overcome and the Portuguese found only one brand in the market. It was an umbrella brand which sheltered beneath it many brands. While the flagship brand was undoubtedly Sinhalese Buddhist, which represented the common majority, there were niche, exclusive brands which were positioned higher, such as the Vanniyars.(Pg. 190- D. G.B De Silva 1996 JRASSL, (NS) Vol. XLI Special Number) The reason it could function as an umbrella brand was in all probability the umbrella sovereignty.
“The Sinhalaness of the Sinhala rulers was an incorporative form of collective consciousness, either assimilating others or encompassing others (for instance, the Yon or Muslims) into the hierarchical order of their society as distinct categories.”
–Michael Roberts-Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815- pg. 114–
“But I believe Obeyesekere to be correct when, on the basis of the Mahavamsa and other readings, he asserts that “the idea of sovereignty” was evident before Western rulers wrought their effects (1995:235). At a relatively early stage of the encounter with Western imperialism, this idea was expressed in no uncertain terms by Rajasinha II in the 1650s when he told the Dutch that all the black people in the island were his vassals (above: 55, 78)….”
–Michael Roberts op.cit pg 114–
“…Indeed he told them that “the black people of this my island of Ceilao, wheresoever they might be, [are] my vassals by right.” During the military alliance with the Dutch that was designed to oust the Portuguese by force of arms he held fast to the policy of treating the Dutch as his hired guns. His early letters (in Portuguese) were not only written under the head “Most Potent Emperor of Ceilao,” but also referred to them as “my Hollanders” and addressed the Dutch commanders in charge of a specific fort as so-and-so captain major of, say, “my fortress at Gale [Galle].” Indeed, they were spiced with references to “my black folk,” “that fort of mine,” “my vidanas,” “these lowland territories of mine” and “my said island.” In other words, Rajasinha II “did not recognize Dutch claims to sovereignty over the coastal areas” (Dewaraja 1995a:189)”
–Michael Roberts op.cit pg 78–
“…that all the black people in the island were his vassals (above: 55, 78). The fact that he made this statement in Portuguese should not gloss over the fact that he spoke as a Sinhala Buddhist cakravarti. His assertion was, in our terms, a constitutional proclamation. As a statement of position, he was encompassing the Muslims and all the coloured indigenes as well as recent migrants from India within his cakravarti domain.”
–Michael Roberts op.cit pg 114–
“One should not forget that in the context of depopulation, the kings of Sinhale in the Kotte period actually brought in immigrants from Bengal and southern India to settle parts of their territory (C R de Silva 1972:93). Also see D G B de Silva 1996 and chapter 5 above.”
–Michael Roberts op.cit pg 234 (fn 20)–
Indeed it was not only in the Kotte period that immigrants were brought in but from much earlier.
“It is significant that in the late thirteenth century some of the Sinhala kings appear to have induced a few immigrant chiefs to move across from southern India in order to re-settle specific districts that had been abandoned. The Malavara dignitaries, for instance, are described in one of the documents as having “cleared the jungle when there was no one else” (D G B de Silva 1996: 158, 172-73, 177). The Sinhala kings granted them land rights to these areas or, alternatively, responded to requests for land in this manner.12 Parakrama Bahu II (1236-70), in particular, pursued a programme of irrigation works and resettlement that attempted to recover the Nuvarakalaviya and Tamankaduva regions so that this migratory influx seems to have been linked with such policies.13 ”
–Michael Roberts op.cit pg 74–
“It is exactly around the time of Dambadeniya rulers that we could chronologically place the arrival of the two groups of dignitaries from South India referred to in the VBVP Vanni Bandara Vitti Potak (Those from Malavara desa); and the VP Vanni Puvata (the dignitaries from Ariyavamsa), and their investiture as Vanniyas. …
From a comparative study of the Culavamsa and the Sinhalese folk historical tradition, one could conclude that the early visits of immigrant chieftains to the island and their investiture as Vanniyas was closely related to the restoration of the irrigation works and re-settlement of people, firstly, in the Nuvara-vava area (Anuradhapura;) and secondly, in the other parts of the Nuvara-kalaviya, north-western parts of the island and in the Jaffna peninsula.”
–Pg 158: D. G.B De Silva 1996 JRASSL, (NS) Vol. XLI Special Number., New Light On Vanniyas And Their Chieftaincies Based On Folk Historical Tradition As Found In Palm-Leaf Mss. In The Hughnevill Collection–
“Nobles of the Ariya-VamsaThe arrival of this group of dignitaries in the time of King Bhuvanekabahu is given in some detail in the VP. The king could be identified as the first ruler by that name who ruled from Dambadeniya and Yapahuva, who as noted earlier, was a popular figure in the sub-continent….
….These dignitaries from Ariyavamsa came with a vast retinue consisting of artisans and craftsmen among others. They also brought their own forms of worship. Even the introduction of small-pox which seems to have been alien to the country is mentioned.
The importance attached to this family could be seen from the lands which were granted to them in a wide ranging area which included Puttalama and Munnessara in the north-west; Jaffnapatam in the north and also a number of villages in the Nuvarakalaviya.”
–Pgs 160-161: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
“The resettlement of the Kala Oya district which commenced with the first group of immigrant Vanniyas as referred to in VBVPRANKvanni Bandara Vitti Potak: Rate Attange Niti kandaya, saw further expansion during the rule of Bhuvanekabahu I, with the settlement of immigrant chieftains of the Ariya Vamsa in the same area as well as in the north-western littoral, and in the Jaffna peninsula.
The lands alienated to the chieftains of this family included Kattamankulama or Kandakkulama (Ilangasimha); Yapane (Divakara-Kumara-Vanniya-Suriya-damana); Kala Vava and Amane (Rajakaruna); Puttalama rata and Munnessarama (Vanaviraja); Eppavila, Katiyava and Amgamuva (Ilangasimha Divakara).”
–Pg. 173: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
“Others may have been incorporated within the state of Sinhale, but Sinhale was not an egalitarian order. Apart from the hierarchies of caste and class, there were the hierarchies of religion and speech community. Laka was Sinhala, as I have indicated earlier, and lakvasiyo was equivalent to Sinhalayo … … one gains an insight into the content and form of Sinhala consciousness, a collective identity that was decidedly king-centred and thereby reflected and constituted a hierarchical form of unity. This unity, therefore, did not make its adherents into a homogenous mass…”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 114-115–
The direction or the polarization of the different affiliations and loyalties that existed within Sri Lanka from the 13th century even up to the early 19th century conforms eerily to field lines of a force field generated by one magnet or one brand.
“…., Ralph Pieris was influenced by the evidence from Knox to stress that one of the vanni unnähē (that is, vanni rajavaru, or chieftains) in the distant regions of the forested north, “though paying tribute to the Dutch in Jaffna, stood more affected to the Kandian Court ” (1956: 235, emphasis mine).”-
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 148–
“The extended reach of this “Ruler of the Sinhalas,”27 who was also referred to as amhakam Sīhalindo (“our … Sinhala king”),28 is illustrated in a striking fashion in the strength of the connection with the Vädda people on the north eastern, eastern and south eastern frontiers of Sinhalē writ small. By the standards favoured by intellectuals in their cloisters, these partially sedentary hunter-gatherers should have been outside the control of the king because they occupied marginal areas and did not provide valued surplus products for the state coffers. But, as we have seen (above: 76, 86), fragmentary data mounts up to point in a contrary direction. Vädda archers were an important element in the king’s fighting forces. They were among those used for acts of execution,…. Above all, the distant Vädda regions to the east and north east were considered a haven in times of crisis and threat. It’s probably because they were deemed trustworthy–and in this sense integral to the kingly order–that they provided the bodyguards for the pretender-king of 1817-18. In brief, these people of the margins were sentimentally attached to the cakravarti figures at the head of Sinhalē.”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 148–
“In the Kingdom of Kandy-as-Sinhalē the spatial centre of potency and decision-making was concentrated at Senkadagala and the Kandy Plateau… Its potency was such that, as fragmentary data indicates, the Väddas as a body of named people were regarded as an integral part of the state and their lands a haven in times of foreign danger. Likewise, from one outstanding instance in 1817-18, it would appear that even the distant little “chiefs of the Vanni” (vannirajavaru) were patriotically attached to order of kingship in Sinhalē (below: 70-78).”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 14–
“… There are glimpses of allegiances to the King of Kandy that did not arise from force exercised by the latter. The evidence is indirect and emanates from incidents during the massive war of liberation against the British that developed in the years 1817-18 in many parts of the former Kingdom of Kandy. This was a struggle to restore the status quo ante and was therefore oriented towards a restoration of kingship, namely, a king of the Sinhalese. As such, a pretender king provided a focus for rebel loyalty. This king selected the shrine of Kataragama as his springboard and surrounded himself with a body of Vädda archers (P E Pieris 1995c: 277-80). Among those who joined the rebel forces one found (a) Kivulēgedara Mohottalā of Wālapana, a headman of Vädda lineage, (b) several headmen in the distant Vanni areas of Bintänna and Wellassa and (c) Kumārasinha Unnähē of Nuvarakalāviya.18 These expressions of allegiance to the old order from such outlying localities is suggestive because British rule could not have had a severe material impact on such places in the course of two years. In other words, they suggest that the chieftains and headmen of the Vanni, the epitome of fissiparous principalities in the imagination of modern scholars, remained attached to the idea of Sinhala kingship.”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg.76–
That Kumārasinha Unnähē of Nuvarakalāviya now, let’s explore him, because he can lead us to a chain of vanniyars extending right up to Jaffna, who with their tendency to exhibit affinities and loyalties in a certain direction can serve us in the stead of compass needles. Kumārasinha Unnähē of Nuvarakalaviya also known as the Nuvara väva Suriyakumārasigha Mudiyansē of Bulankulama or Suriyakula Kumarasinha Vanniyā of Nagura or Nuvara or Sūriyakula Kumārasinha or Kumārasinha Kanem Wannian of Bulankulama was the brother in law of Pandāra Vaniyā. (D. G.B De Silva op.cit Pgs. 191, 187, 203-fn:137).
Before he joined up in the massive war of liberation in 1817-18, he had had some interesting times.
“In the time of Sri Vikrama Rājasimha, Kumārasimha Vanniyā of Nuvara-väva had to take refuge with his brother-in-law, Pandāra Vanniyā near Mulliyaveli and later at Pannagama in fear of the king.104”
–Pg. 182: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
This was because,
“On occasions the cakravarti of Kandy wielded the big stick against dilatory little kings. Thus, Rajadhi Rajasinha (1782-98) fined Raja Vanniya of Puttalama and Kumara Vanniya of Munnessara for non-payment of tribute and even imprisoned the latter for nine years (D G B de Silva 1996:182).”
–Michael Roberts op. cit- pg. 76–
Kumārasinha Vanniyā of Nuvara-väva, who was the last Maha Vanniyā under the Kandyan rule (Pg. 191: D. G.B De Silva op.cit) could find refugee from the wrath of Sri Vikrama Rājasimha with Pandāra Vanniyā, because Pandāra Vanniyā held his lands in the former Dutch territories inherited by the British in 1799 and was therefore outside the red hot circle of immediate Royal reach. But the ties that bound, in reality extended beyond the red hot circle of immediate reach.
“The Dutch occupation of the North-Western littoral and the Jaffna Peninsula and the extension of their influence over the northern Vanni districts helped to prevent the Kandyan Court from exercising influence over the Vanniyās in their territories, but the king exercised some influence over these northern Vanniyās and he was still able to enlist their support against the Dutch during the incursions of his troops into the Dutch territories as observed by Knox. Even in Dutch official records, the fear of the Vanniyās opening the way for the Sinhalese armies to invade the peninsula has been expressed several times.109 These fears became a reality in British times when Pandāra Vanniyā, many years after the power of the Vanniyās had been broken by the Dutch, led the Sinhalese troops in a sweep over the Vanni, commencing from Batticaloa and threatening Elephant Pass after he successfully laid siege to Mullaitivu.”
–Pg. 183: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
“The Bandara Wannian, a chief of one of the British provinces, who had once been pardoned for rebellion, again revolted, and, with the assistance of a large body of Candians, at one time, nearly overran all the northern districts.
On the approach of his troops towards the village of Cottiar, a small party of the Malay regiment, stationed there, found it necessary to retreat. But that important tract of country was almost immediately recovered, and the enemy driven beyond the frontier by the light company of His Majesty’s 19th regiment of foot, which was detached for that purpose from Trincomallee.
On the 25th of August, the Candians, in great force, attacked the Government-House at Moletivoe, which being untenable, Captain Driberg of the invalid Malays, withdrew the few soldiers, who were stationed at that post, in good order, to boats, which had been sent thither to secure his retreat, and carried them in safety to Jaffnapatam.
Two numerous parties of rebels and Candians penetrated into the province of Jaffna as far as Chundicolum, and the Elephants’ Pass. From the former place they were driven by a small party of the 34th regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Downing, who was detached from Jaffnapatam, and succeeded in burning and destroying the magazines collected by them.
The other party surrounded the small redoubt at Elephants’ Pass, and unfortunately surprised one European soldier, and two privates of the Jaffnapatam independent company, whom they barbarously murdered.
They remained there for a day and a night, but retired on the approach of Lieutenant Jewel of the 19th regiment, with a detachment from the garrison of Jaffnapatam, of which place he was then commandant. Next day the enemy entirely evacuated that valuable district.
The Bandara Wannian came down, in person, towards Vertivore, with a great force, but retreated almost immediately on the approach of Major William Vincent of His Majesty’s 19th regiment, with a part of the Mannar independent company.
…………the good fortune to surprise the Bandara Wannian’s troops at Cutchilamadu about five o’clock in the morning of the 31st: killed a great many of his people, took forty-six prisoners, and got possession of one Cingalese gun, mounted on a low carriage, carrying a ball of one pound and a half weight, fifty-five stand of arms, twelve pikes, two swords, two creeses, one bayonet, one barrel, and two baskets of ammunition. Sixteen houses, in which the chief of the Wanny had lodged his provisions, were burned, and his people were dispersed in different directions through the woods.
Captain Driberg and Lietenant Jewell proceeded to Trincomallee; and, after arriving there, set out on two separate expeditions to clear the Wanni district of the remains of the enemy, and to restore the public tranquillity. “
–A Description of Ceylon…By the Reverend James Cordiner, A.M…Candian Campaign in 1803 Pgs (243-246)- Printed 1807–
“… Vanniyās formed a single class or caste intermarrying within their families, irrespective of whether they lived in the king’s territory or outside, whatever language they spoke; or what laws and customs they followed, the only exception being the Mukkuvās of Puttalama area and on the eastern coast.”
–Pg. 191: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
“What language the Vanniyās used; or customs they followed; and private laws they used could have varied according to circumstance; but as Vanni chieftains they had received Sinhalese names on their investiture. They were supported by a hierarchy of local officials in the Rata Sabhās, when they adjudicated over matters concerning violations of local custom including failure to oblige with duties in respect of maintenance of irrigation work and agriculture.135Some of them like the Malalas had fully assimilated into the local social and cultural milieu as seen from the positions they held at the Court and outside; one of them as the leading Vanniyā at Kaluvila; and two of them as the prelates of important places of learning. However, one also finds the Vanniyās retaining their original language (as Knox found at Nuvara väva); and some of their laws of succession, (as Hugh Nevill found existing among the chieftains of Hurulla which were similar to those of Malabārs and the Mukkuvās).”
–Pg.190- 191: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
In fact if one were to say that the Vanniyars wheresoever domiciled and favoring whatsoever language and customs, were the King’s Vanniyas, one would only be repeating a foregone conclusion.
“The “väddan” and “vannilayō” were among the forces of Rājasinha I of Sītāvaka (SH 1999:v.565); and in describing Rājasinha II’s preparations for battle against the Portuguese in the year 1638, for instance, the Rajasiha Hatana describes how he assembled forces from various regions, including
From Ratdala, Kitulāna, Yāla, Panama and Māgampura; from Wellawāya, Pālugama and Tirukkōvila from the Vädipattu and the great harbour of Kottiārama; and from many a land of the famed Vanniyäs.15
P E Pieris’ reference to the “King’s Vanniyās,” albeit a passing remark, is in line with this information (1995a: 45).”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 74-75–
“It is stated that the chieftains of Jaffnapatam had immigrated to the territories of “Kaylo” Vanniyā in protest against the introduction of land Tombos by the Dutch, but this information too comes from the Dutch sources.82”
– Pg.176: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
In fact it was ‘avowing not to return except with a Sinhalese army’, that they left.
“Knox has observed that Kayle Vanniyā maintained regular correspondence with the king of Kandy. YVM refers to the amicable relationship that existed between the Vanniyās of Jaffna, and the Sinhalese in Jaffnapatam, as well as with the Kandyan Court. It records that they sought the intervention of the Sinhalese king in Jaffna during the time of Varotaya, the Āriya Cakravarti ruler of Jaffna.110 This echoes the latter day approaches made by Vanniyās to the king of Kandy requesting the invasion of Jaffna and his undertaking to transfer allegiance to the Kandyan king.”
–Pg.183-184: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
All this may sound like a love feast but it was actually an incorporative state system in action, whose inbuilt integration impulses kept resisting forces of fragmentation to the very last.
“Within a world view that understood rule and allegiance in terms of “tributary overlordship” through acts of däkum, it was feasible for this idea of dominion to survive even after imperial powers from beyond the Indian Ocean seized territory within the island. As we have seen, the Dutch rulers along the littoral were regarded as “the guardians of the coast” just as the Väddās were understood to be the guardians of the eastern margins (above: 76). The latter viewpoint in effect reiterates the position maintained by Rājasinha II in the mid-sixteenth century and the data assembled by T B H Abeyasinghe to reveal the ‘constitutional claims’ that were adhered to by the court at Senkadagala (chaps.4 and 5 above).”
– Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 154–
“…because the British were fully alive to the fact that “presents sent to the Kandyan court “in times of Friendship [were] considered… a Tribute.” Indeed, as a preamble to this affirmation, Wilson, then acting as Governor, looked upon their letters on this subject as “a curious specimen of the Style of that Court & their tenaciousness of Forms which they look upon as points of Homage from European Nations.”24…
… Letters addressed to the King of Kandy as “the Great Lord of Three-Simhala” on the one hand, and gift giving and embassies on the other, were acts of homage and allegiance that signalled subordination. They renewed the Sinhala viewpoint: the King of Sinhalē was the overlord of Lankā.
No better illustration of this perception can be provided than the opening lines of Ähälēpola’s convoluted palm-leaf letter to D’Oyly sent on behalf of the king on 15 July 1812:
That merely by Ambassadors Coming provided with presents in the former Customary manner in order to present to the unequalled most profound happy great loving divine light’s grace of our God and lord Supreme, bearing one Umbrella over Tri Sinhalē, … Besides in the time of Rajasinha god and Lord Supreme – like the Orb of the Sun destroying the Multitude of Darkness as it were his Enemies, having expelled the Portugueze Host and introduced the Hollander Host, after it had been fixed (for them) to reside in places on the Margin of the Sea Coast coming also annually without fail on an Embassy provided with presents, on account of their occupying without surrendering some Korles [districts] from our Territory, … (Vimalananda 1984:73, my emphasis).”
– Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 92–
Let us now go back to the Vanniyars for a bit.
“In the time of the Dutch Governor Hendick Becker (1707-1716), the king of Kandy had the envoys of Don Gaspar Nitchenadarajan and Don Diegoe Puvinallamapanar, chained and sent to the Dutch together with their written documents after refusing them an audience.105”
–Pg. 182: D. G.B De Silva op.cit–
This was because,
“That the Dutch had immediate jurisdiction over certain chieftains was recognized by the kings of Kandy-as-Sinhalē. On one occasion two Vanniyārs who sought to outflank the Dutch Company by seeking protection from the king were denied this path. Indeed, Narēndrasinha (1707-39) even arrested their messengers and sent them on to the Dutch in Colombo (P E Pieris 1995a: 35; Arasaratnam 1966: 109).
The latter action should not be construed as a denial of Kandyan claims to overlordship. Rather it was an affirmation of levels of authority and overlordship. In the Kandyan view, as we shall see, the Dutch in turn were subject to their king’s authority. There were two tiers of overlordship of this type.”
–Michael Roberts op.cit- pg. 77–
Now let us get back to Dr. DJ before we forget him (which as I have come to realize more and more during the writing of this long, long piece is much the best thing we can do). But before we leave him amidst the vast, soulless spaces between the many parallel worlds of the multiverse, hoping in a general, impersonal sort of way that he will eventually manage to find our actual universe, there are at least two more pronouncements of his, that due to affording great scope for having fun, we can’t resist.
Even though that interview he gave to Lakbima was the first time in memory that something that should have been kept under wraps was so spectacularly and sensationally denuded of wraps, there have been previous instances when these wraps had parted slightly affording us tantalizing glimpses of an epitaph worthy intellect. In one such instance, it looks back on the Bandaranaika-Chelvanayakam pact with misty eyed nostalgia.
“The independent Public Service Commission was in existence when “Sinhala Only” was implemented in 1956, the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam pact was thwarted in 1957, ethnic rioting took place in 1958, and the Dudley Chelvanayagam pact for District councils was aborted in 1966.”
Dayan Jayatilleka- The 13th Amendment and the international system –
If asked to give a subheading to the above paragraph without prejudice I’d choose “Four Evils, The Independent Public Service Commission Was Powerless To Avert”
“… Furthermore, it is the only such reform to take place exactly three decades after the abrogation of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact of 1957 which made for Regional Councils. Those who say that the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th amendment were “hurried” and “externally coerced” forget the fact that from another point of view, they amounted to a Caesarean surgical intervention, bringing forth a power sharing solution that had been thwarted from 1957, …”
Dayan Jayatilleka- Op. cit. –
If any paragraph demands the subheading, “You Can’t Keep A Good Thing Down Forever”, it is the above paragraph.
“… Thus the fourth annual convention of the FP held on 19 August 1956, claimed that
“the colonization policies pursued by successive governments since 1947 of planting Sinhalese populations in the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking people is calculated to overwhelm and crush the Tamil-speaking people in their own national areas … “
A year later at a special convention of the Federal Party held at Batticaloa on 28 July 1957 it was claimed that
“State-aided Sinhalese colonization of the Northen and Eastern Provinces will be effectively stopped forthwith.”
This last was aimed at reassuring its adherents, and was at the same time an expression of hope at the possibility of achieving this objective through a pact which the then Prime Minister, S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, had negotiated with the Federal Party leader, S J V Chelvanayakam, and signed only two days earlier. There
“…It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes the powers of the regional councils shall include the power to select allotees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal-Oya Board in this matter requires consideration.” “
–K M de Silva -Separatist Ideology In Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal-Pg. 8–
There is a certain episode that I used to be reminded of when I read the above. In 1919 Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes said
“The White Australia is yours. You may do with it what you please, but at any rate, the soldiers have achieved the victory and my colleagues and I have brought that great principle back to you from the conference, as safe as it was on the day when it was first adopted.”
He too said this in a spirit of achievement after successfully blocking at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, a move, which would have threatened the White Australia Policy. But of course it is not an ipso facto similarity. Much depends on context. Beam S J V Chelvanayakam into Chechnya as a Chechen, to Philippines as a Moro, to Spain as a Basque and have him read the same lines “State-aided Sinhalese colonization of the Northern and Eastern Provinces will be effectively stopped forthwith” with the relevant modifications and he will come across as progressive, poignant and heroic. It is the Sri Lankan context, the particular reality of the Lanka of our actual universe that shows him up (and invariably his co-signatory of the pact) as callow and ignorant. But so what, it was 1957, back when the old world was dead and the new world was young, callow and ignorant.
In 1957 South Africa was still Apartheid, the White Australia policy was somewhat dismantled but its total annihilation was still 18 years in the future and good old USA was still applying the National Origins Formula and restricting immigration on the basis of existing proportions of the population, with the aim of maintaining the existing ethnic composition of the USA, with its cherished Nordic European component intact. The piece of legislature that were to bring about in the fullness of time, an ethnic composition, which is supposed to have made it feasible for an Obama to be elected president was still 8 years in the future.
“This pact was not implemented, but in compelling the then government to confront this issue, and to do so on terms satisfactory to the FP the latter had won a major victory. A theory of dubious historicity had been elevated to the level of a fundamentally important principle that should guide relations between the two disputants in the ethnic conflicts of post-independence Sri Lanka. In less than a decade of its first enunciation this theory, now refined as “the traditional homeland of the Tamils” had become an indispensable and integral part of the political ideology of the Tamil advocates of regional autonomy and separatism.14”
–K M de Silva -Separatist Ideology In Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal-Pg. 8–
It happened in 1957 and we may now look upon it as a quaint episode made possible by the state-of-the-art of that era as well as grave perceptual and knowledge deficiencies of the parties concerned. The B / C pact ain’t no diamond nor a thing inherently beautiful, which will look good in any setting. It needs the proper setting, the right context to look good. Export it into the Russia-Chechnya setting, the Basque county in Spain situation and to the Mindanao in the Philippines scenario and it will look Ok. Alternately, beam it into the djverse; identical context.
“His diagnosis of why the bulk of the international community urges a solution of territory based political autonomy, leads him to three conclusions: Eelamist agit-prop, Marxist intellectual influence and politicians with a “here-and-now” perspective. None of these explain India’s secular state, quasi federalism and linguistic regions, Chechen autonomy, Spain’s autonomous Basque region, or Mindanao’s autonomy in the Philippines, to name just four disparate examples.”
Dayan Jayatilleka in response to Malinda Seneviratne on what would explain the pressure towards territory based political autonomy for Sri Lanka – Hostage to the past. The Devolution Debate & Historicism.
A relevant question is; is the 13th Amendment or equivalent a diamond, a thing of inherent beauty and intrinsic worth, which will look good in any setting, context or universe? How will it look against the landscape of the Sri Lanka of the actual universe? Does one always need to beam oneself into a parallel reality before one can truly appreciate its worth? Dr. DJ certainly seems to think so. But then any resemblance Dr. DJ’s thinking has to the mental activity produced in the normal state by a deductive, absorbent and questing mind is purely accidental. As we have shown.
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