March 2, 2010 marks the 195th anniversary of the day when Sinhala chieftains arrogated to themselves an authority which the nation never sanctioned and ceded Sri Lanka to the last of the alien aggressors. On that fateful day in the year 1815, darkness of foreign domination descended on Senkadagala, the last bastion of the Sinhala people.
Then as now, foes from without, traitors from within and intrigues from within and without, all these contributed to the shameful events of 1815. To the British the traitors who betrayed the nation were patriots while the real patriots mourned in silence.
"The Sinhalese during their long history at no time sank so low as to welcome an invader of their country with magul bera and pavada" (Revolt in the Temple). Says Dr. Colvin R. de Silva in his Ceylon under the British Occupation: “It was a repetition of the old and tragic tale. The Kandyans turned with a too facile readiness to the idea to the idea of bringing in the foreigner to settle their domestic differences. The pitcher went once too often to the well. The convenient arbitrator became the permanent master. The Kandyans accomplished their own political doom.”
With the fall of the Kandyan kingdom ended not only the last vestige of national sovereignty but also the end of a civilization which had endured for nearly 2400 years enemy invasions from near and far. No matter what conflicts that occurred then between the rulers and the ruled and between those vying for power all those involved largely remained within one culture, following basically the same traditions – whether Buddhist or Hindu. Even Muslims serving the king had Sinhala titles and surnames.
The last King of Kandy and two his predecessors were Tamils. But what mattered to the Kandyan Sinhala people was not really the monarch's ethnicity but that they upheld the country's time-hallowed cultural and religious traditions and the ancient laws and customs. Buddhist-Hindu harmony thus helped Sinhala-Tamil amity.
But with European encounter all that began to change and the British domination of the whole island drove the last nail into the coffin of the nation’s Sinhala Buddhist identity. Until then – except the Maritime Provinces under Dutch rule – this country was known as Sinhale, which term did not imply a particular race but all the people who lived in the Kandyan kingdom. While the country was also known as Lanka and Hela Diva during different periods, the name Sinhale or Seih-lan (Kingdom of the Lions) figures prominently in the ancient Chinese chronicles including Record of the Buddhist Countries by the famous Chinese Buddhist monk and historian Fa-Hhsien (Fifth Century AD).
It was the British colonial rulers through ethnic representation that first gave ‘Sinhale’ a racial connotation thus laying seeds of social discord. The land they gave back to us in 1948 was not the one that they occupied 133 years before. During the course of their rule they had virtually created two nations within one country. At one level they were Sinhala and Tamil. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, moving an amendment (and injecting the poison of separatism) to the first address of thanks to the Throne Speech, in the First House of Representatives on November 26, 1947 said:
“If Ceylon is fighting to secede from the British Empire, why should not the Tamil people if they fell like it, secede from the rest of the country?” (Constitutional Manoeuvres of Separatist Forces by Manohara R. de Silva)
On the other level they created a ‘pariah’ community comprising Sinhalas, Tamils and members of other ethnic groups who are to date carrying the white man’s burden. They are the people who cannot identify with Sri Lanka’s history, her heroes who fought against foreign invaders, her ancient culture and traditions. They are the pariahs who cannot accept that it was the European rulers who did the biggest destruction to this country, socially and culturally, creating confused nation that has lost its bearings.
The pariahs cannot accept that the Sinhala Buddhists were the biggest victims of this slow religio-cultural genocide the effects of which still resonate in this country. The process still continues and all the sins are heaped on Sinhala Buddhist polity for not willing to negotiate in the name of peace with a bunch of murderous criminals claiming to represent an aggrieved Tamil community. The pariahs are blind to the fact that it was the LTTE that fired the first shots of the war, after being aided and abetted by foreign powers.
It is therefore a small wonder that the Sinhala majority conclusively rejected leaders who signed so-called memorandum understanding with the head of rogue state in Sri Lankan soil. Yet the pariahs shift the entire blame for civilian deaths during the last pace of the anti-LTTE offensive on to the Sri Lankan military – while the Tigers’ numerous violations of the so-called CFA and their human shield which was the prime cause of the tragedy is never cited. The pariahs cannot bear the fact that after 30 long miserable years that Sri Lankans are living without fear of bomb blasts on the road, in buses and trains or at their work places. The pariahs cannot see that the credit for all this goes to our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen.
To the pariahs ‘Sinhala Buddhist hegemony’ and ‘Sinhala Chauvinism’ are the biggest headaches. The NGO peaceniks who hailed Norway’s dubious ‘peace brokering’ conveniently ignore that the Norwegian King is the titular head of The (Lutheran) Church of Norway, which is the official church of the Norwegian state.
Article 5 of the Kandyan Convention was the clause which stated that the “Religion of the Buddha professed by the chiefs and other inhabitants of these provinces is declared inviolable and its rites, ministers and places of worship are to be maintained and protected.” Yet the British violated this pledge before the ink was dry on the paper. And the injustices done to Buddhists since then are clearly evident in the writings of Anagarika Dharmapala, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and L.H. Mettananda and the Buddhist Commission Report among other documents and historical records. These injustices were never really remedied even after 1948 on the grounds that giving pride of place to Buddhism was a violation of the Soulbury Constitution.
On this issue of national identity, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera quoting Samuel Huntington (in Who are We?) writes:
"Throughout American history, people who were not white Anglo-Saxon Protestants have become Americans by adopting America's Anglo Protestant Culture and political values. This benefited them and the country. American National identity and unity, as Benjamin C. Schwarz has said, derived `from the ability and willingness of Anglo-American elite to stamp its image on other peoples coming to this country'." (Sunday Island December 17, 2006)
The last thing Sri Lanka needs is the kind of multiculturalism some Western pundits advocate. As Glenn Woiceshyn states in Multiculturalism Breeds Terrorism it will only create a world of primitive, tribalistic mentalities that form countless sub-tribes based on unchosen identities and battle each other for power and unearned wealth until all values (and lives) are destroyed—which is the ultimate goal of nihilism. Ayn Rand, in her seminal essay entitled Global Balkanization, wrote, "There is no surer way to infect mankind with hatred—brute, blind, virulent hatred—than by splitting it into ethnic groups or tribes. If a man believes that his own character in some unknown, ineffable way, and that the characters of all strangers are determined in the same way—then no communication, no understanding, no persuasion is possible among them, only mutual fear, suspicion, and hatred.’’
Sri Lankans need to go back to their roots. It has to be the basis of our education system, which is today almost totally divorced from our historical, social and geographical reality – which was the foundation of our culture, economy and way of life.
- Asian Tribune - By Janaka Perera