The Real History of Srilanka – Part 4

Part-2 of this series outlined the background of the “Sinhala Only” Bill in 1956 & traced its outcome – or debacle, depending on one’s point of view. It was a prelude to the “Policy of Standardization”, implemented in 1970.

This was an excruciatingly difficult topic to write about. I had to look beyond many lies, propaganda & over-simplification. The more I read about it, the more I felt that I was merely scratching the surface of a complex, multi-layered problem.

I’m greatly indebted to Professor K.M. de Silva, former Vice-Chairman of Srilanka’s University Grants Commission (UGC) for his unbiased analysis of the issue. His report helped me make sense of the many disparate nuggets of information that I unearthed in this research.

Background

In the Colonial epoch, most of the modern schools in Srilanka were run by missionaries. They offered free English Medium education – but since these schools were predominantly in urban area like Colombo or the Jaffna peninsula, access to these schools was well nigh impossible for the masses that lived in rural areas.

Huge swathes of the Srilankan population were illiterate, or semi-literate. In villages, Buddhist monks taught the upper strata of the society in local temples – but the curriculum was limited to the Sinhala alphabets & simpler works from  Buddhist literature, such as stories from Buddha’s life. The monks were literate, but even their education was mostly centered on learning Pali scriptures by rote at the Pirivena (Buddhist University).

The Battle for Civil Service Jobs

Even 15 years after independence, the biggest employer remained the government & Civil Service jobs were much sought after. Students vied for a B.A. Degree (Liberal Arts) to get a shot at these jobs. Srilankan Tamils dominated enrollment for B.A. Degrees & ergo, had a strangle-hold on government jobs.

Once the balance of power tilted in favor of the Sinhala Buddhists after the “Sinhala Only” Bill, Tamils found it exceedingly difficult to land Civil Service jobs. They turned their attention, hard-work & enviable coaching skills  towards Engineering, Medicine & Science streams. By the mid 1960s, Tamil students were the top-dogs in these streams.

Concurrently, education became free in Srilanka. Enrollment in schools soared & in the early 1960s, literacy rates touched 90%. Many Sinhala students graduated with a B.A. In liberal arts – only to find that neither the government nor the private companies had enough open positions to absorb them. They realized painfully that Liberal Arts degrees had become irrelevant. They turned their sights towards Engineering, Medicine & Science streams – only to find that the Tamils were fairly entrenched in those fields.

Pressure on Universities

In the 1960s, after Sinhala & Tamil medium schools ousted English in the secondary schools, the number of available university seats became woefully inadequate. The universities increased the number of seats very often to accommodate more students. Meanwhile, efforts were on to create new universities for the growing nation. Even 2 Buddhist Pirivenas in Colombo were converted into universities.

But, such expansion was very slow, because of paucity of funds & resources. Many aspiring candidates were bitterly disappointed when they couldn’t secure an admission. University education was, very simply stated, their meal ticket. This resulted in heated competition for the scarce seats in prestigious institutions like the University of Ceylon.

Around the same time, intense political pressure was applied on the selection criteria used by the universities. The Viva-Voce method had already been abandoned & Entrance Exams were the main criteria for admissions. But, this became unmanageable in the late 1960s, because of the sheer number of students passing out of schools. So, they were dispensed with & Srilanka started using the scores from the GCE A/Level (+2 or High School Senior Year) Exams.

But, none of these steps appeased students from backward districts, as most of them failed to qualify for seats. They struggled to compete with the urban elite on pure merit. The universities started feeling the heat – and intense political pressure from the United Front Coalition, which made it an issue during the elections.

Flash Point

After the introduction of the “Sinhala Only Bill” & students were educated in their mother-tongue, universities had to contend with students educated in 3 different languages: Sinhala, Tamil & English. The Burghers & students that attended International Schools had an English Medium education. Only they & the Muslims were permitted to take their exams in English.

Srilankan Tamils who formed at mere 11% of the population occupied 35% of the seats in the Science streams & 45% of the seats in Engineering & Medicine. Such superlative performance led to allegations of general bias & deliberate grade tampering by the Tamil examiners.  Thus, the clamor for seats dyed itself in vulgar ethnic colors & plunged the nation into a sordid communal conflict.

In a Nutshell

At its core, the “Policy of Standardization” started out as a program aimed to help disadvantaged Sinhalas, especially those living in geographically backward areas, that did not have access to quality education during the European rule. It was an Affirmative Action Program. As a side effect, it decreased the number of Tamils enrolling in universities.

This policy made it increasingly difficult for the Tamils to secure a seat in the Scientific & Technical streams. As a result, it aggravated race relations in the country. The Tamil youth in the North-East saw this as a discriminatory policy, aimed at hobbling their high status. This led to their alienation from mainstream Srilanka.

A Word of Caution: It is very easy to trivialize Affirmative Action as an anti-Tamil policy, driven by Sinhala Buddhist Nationalists. In reality, it was much more than that. The entire country was seized with the disease of creating a “Level Playing Field”.

To illustrate, Practical Exams for Science subjects at the GCE/A Level were abolished – catch your breath – because rural schools didn’t have the infrastructure for well-appointed labs. To this day, even schools with labs seldom use them. Students ace exams solely on rote learning & enroll in Medical school without even touching a pipette.

Policy of Standardization

In 1970, Srilanka under the stewardship of the United Front Coalition implemented the “Policy of Standardization”. Its main aim was to increase the number of Sinhalas graduating from universities & to simultaneously deter Tamils from hogging a huge part of the much sought after streams of higher education.

Thus far, entrance to universities was solely based on merit. But, after the introduction of the policy – All the raw marks received by the students were normalized to a uniform scale, so that the the number of students qualifying in each medium was proportional to the number of students taking that exam in that medium. The ostensible reasons for introducing standardization was to level the playing field, to make up for the differences in the facilities, teachers & grading standards that the Sinhalas & Tamils had at their disposal.

Later that year, the qualifying marks were lowered for students from the Sinhala medium.  So, the Tamils had to get a higher score than the Sinhalas to secure an admission to the Professional & Science streams. These steps ensured that more Sinhala students qualified for admission.

But this policy did not change the fortunes of the Tamils much. For e.g., their share of admissions dropped from 35.3% to 33.6% in the 1st year. The actual threat to the Tamils was more symbolic – the rise of the Sinhala bureaucrats & their diplomatic will to swing the system to uplift the majority.

Standardization, RIP

In August 1977, the new United National Party government of Julius Jayawardhene summarily abolished the Standardization of marks. This was a bold move & was seen as a step in the right direction.

But when the exam papers were evaluated, Tamils scored significantly higher than the Sinhalas for the hotly contested professional courses. It was feared with reason that Tamils would once again vastly outnumber the majority in qualifying for these seats. When this news leaked to the Sinhala Nationalist parties,  allegations of rampant favoritism among the Tamil examiners were thrown again & mud-slinging ensued.

The new government made a clever move: It stood by its decision to jettison standardization. But for 1977 alone, it also allowed students who would have benefited from standardization, to enroll in universities. This move increased the number of seats, as well as the number of Tamils, Sinhalas & rural students enrolling in the universities. Thus, it made all sections of the society happy.

Machinations of Minister Mathew

Many Sinhala nationalists couldn’t digest the demise of standardization. In 1978, they reignited communal feelings by claiming that the Tamils could only occupy 35%-40% of the university seats consistently by colluding with the examiners that graded the tests. Their mouth-piece was none other than Cyril Mathew, the Cabinet Minister for Industries & Scientific Affairs.

Minister Mathew was a bitter critic of TULF & a rabid nationalist that pushed the interests of Sinhala Buddhists. When the Parliament was in session, he brandished some exam papers from the 1977 Science stream, which the examiner had graded generously. While this did not prove any widespread bias on the part of the examiners, it was enough to reaffirm the opinions of those Sinhalas that thought the worst of Tamils & Tamil examiners.

Such orchestrations were towards achieving a bigger objective: Quotas for various ethnic groups, based on their population %. Interestingly, the Indian Tamils supported this: they felt that they would benefit by proportional quotas. But, the government was steadfast. The Policy of Standardization was dead & they had no plans to resuscitate it. They were not interested in quotas for ethnic groups either.

Summing Up

So, ethnic preferences ceased to play a role  – but something far more insidious took its place. That’s the subject of a later post.

Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, clarion calls for a separate quota for Tamil Medium students are becoming increasingly vociferous. At least in Srilanka, standardization is buried & lies rotting. Once started, such programs never end in India – Political will is severely lacking & shameless vote bank politics are par for course. Its a good thing we are too benumbed to care.

Here is the next post in this series – Do check it out.


Comments

  1. Quote

    Experience from the field: Sharing the perspective of my ex-LTTE friend.My friend is now settled in Toronto as a software architect.His name is Jagatheeswaran (Jugs).

    It is a long story I will break it up. All I want to do is share the perspective of a person on the other side. We have to accept at all time “Perspective is reality”. For all of us our perspective is reallity.

    <Turning Point 1:

    Time is 1985. Jugs is returning from school with his 3 friends.Rounded up by the army.His only fault he is talking tamil.Taken to an abandoned house and tortured on information on who the LTTE guys were in his town.

    For the following reason.
    So there was this practice of being LTTE by night and normal civilians by daytime.A normal school teacher would become a LTTE guerilla after night fall particiapte in a attack and at dawn comeback to town and go to school to do his daily job.

    After 3 hours of torture one of freinds losses temper calls the F#$#$ B#$#$# words to soldiers. A soldier takes a machine gun puts in his friends mouth and press the triggers. His friends brain literally explodes on my friend’s face. Life will never be the same again.They are beaten for 3 more hours before the soldiers just walk out and continue on their daily routine patrol.

  2. Quote

    /** The more I read about it, the more I felt that I was merely scratching the surface of a complex, multi-layered problem.
    **/

    I just felt the same when reading your part-2 and that’s why i termed that post as superficial..

    Btw, When i read this post, i felt that it was well written, fair enough, and genuinely neutral, without any emotions. The flow of events are well depicted, and its definitely a quality post.. i got a feeling that the events are analysed as it is without the writer’s opinions superimposed..

  3. Quote

    Kumaran – Thanks for your comment.

    And thanks for sharing your friend’s harrowing experience – BTW, I felt that your comment isn’t directly relevant to the topic of this post.

    Your friend went thru a shocking experience. But that still doesn’t justify terrorism. It seems to be that soldiers the world over lose control of themselves & do unspeakable things. Abu Ghraib is another example.

    Srilankan army has detained many fishermen from Tamil Nadu for the same reason. Some of them sneak in arms & supplies to LTTE. The mainstream media hardly reports this, because condemning the atrocities of the pre-dominantly Sinhala navy sells. Insulting fellow Indians doesn’t.

  4. Quote

    There are lot of things for us to understand in historical perspective.. particularly in how the social structure was changed largely influenced by the britishers..

    1. I could not comment on how the srilankan society was, before the british imperialism.. but after that, the society got acquiring the european model of nobel and serfs system.. the educated become a separate nobel class, and fortunately/unfortunately tamils were major part of that educational elite class which is equivalent of a european noble..

    And this is one of the major factor that has to be considered, if we would like to understand the historical perspective..

    2. Sri-lanka is one best example of how majority / minority classification can lead to devastation.. particulalry when numerically minority was found advantageous, it causes resentment among the majority.. this kind of british divide & rule (of majority/minority & higher caste/ lower caste) is ignorantly followed by many of the native people, both in srilanka & india..

    3. The caste system of india contributed a major role in stability of the society.. because it provided ample diversities, that infused higher level of toleration among the people..
    although caste system existed in sri-lanka, the tamil – srilanka dual identity subsumed all of those.. and when a situation consolidates to “YOu & me” type, the conflicts gained momentum..

    Even in india, when larger identities takes role, we see increased clashes.. eg: north-indians and south indians, tamils/karnataka etc..

    This is my interpretation.. ( hope i will not be alleged or caricatured this time )

    4. The very purpose of education itself got changed.. instead of seeing education as a means to enhance knowledge to serve the society/nation, an environment was created (who else.. its by britishers), where education was seen as more of means to lead luxury life, and attain power.. This kind of power struggle is also one of the historic reason, for various clashes, both in sri-lanka and india..

    If we look in to the pre-british india, the brahmins who got access to highest education, had a sole purpose of serving society.. they are bound by numerous restrictions, which was religiously followed.. like the brahmins who managed the temple are banned to engage in trade, like selling food grains, earning for their personal life, etc..
    ie, education was given more with responsibility of the learner..

    and it is to be noted, that this social structure got changed, when british took over, and the brahmins were elevated to the european noble class because of introduction of british education system..

  5. Quote

    Senthil – Thanks for your comment.

    It is uncultured & nasty to brand people or a post. Don’t try to sneak it & justify it now. You may have your reasons, but state your points politely like others. You don’t have special waivers to be rude. If you can’t control your instincts to brand & label – expect a retaliatory hit.

    Now about this post.

    This post was extremely difficult to write about – an uphill task, because it is an extremely deep issue with many layers. I wouldn’t say that about the last 3 posts.

    You may think writing a post is about presenting the facts – you are entitled to your view. I write posts to convey the big picture, to share my insights (right or wrong). My posts are primarily about my opinions based on facts. BTW, if you think your posts are a clinical presentation of facts & are fair, you need a reality check. They are peppered with your opinions.

    Charles McCabe said in the San Francisco Chronicle – “Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art”. To each, his/her own.

  6. Quote

    Senthil – This line from your 2nd comment caught my attention:

    >> hope i will not be alleged or caricatured this time

    LOL 😆 You stop allegations, name calling & caricaturing us & others. We promise not to do that to you.

    1. The caste system was already in Srilanka. We can not start with the British to understand what happened in Srilanka. The British exacerbated the problem by creating a *new* elite. They even created a caste of Mudaliars to lord over others.

    2. Agree with you.

    3. You seem to think very highly of the caste system. Maybe it worked earlier, maybe it didn’t. It is an anachronism in this day & age.

    4. Whether we like it or not, the world has changed. If people want to shun modern amenities & live like their ancestors, they can do so. Right now, they have a choice. Earlier, they didn’t.

    Let me quote Nannool, an old book of Tamil grammar – “Pazhayana Kazhidhalum, Pudhiyana Pugudhalum – Vazhuvala, Kaala Vagayinane”. Translated it means, “The old getting discarded, the new gaining acceptance – isn’t an error of ways, just a sign of times”.

    My humble opinion – We should save what matters the most to us, because we don’t have the option of saving everything. If we oppose every change, we’ll also lose our most cherished traditions.

  7. Quote

    Another excellent post Priya. I have a few questions:

    1. Julius Jayawardene abolished standardization, but Cyril Matthew seems to have been a minister in his cabinet and he opposed it?

    2. While the Srilankan focus seems to be on leveling the playing field, what did they do for the economy? Is it fair to say they simply ignored industrializing etc and focused on beating the tamil advantage down?

    3. Abolishing practicals because the rural schools didn’t have labs is shocking. Not that Indian governments haven’t done any similarly idiotic things.

    You have stopped the post with a cliffhanger. Can’t wait for the next post.

  8. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, Cyril Mathew wanted standardization back, yet he was in UNP 🙂

    The Civil War & the rise of the left wing JVP did cripple the nation’s economy. But, Srilanka initiated many development projects & 5 year plans – Hydro-electric power, Oil etc. They did try socialism like India, but changed to capitalism little by little. They have a ready-made economy – Rubber, Tea, Agriculture, Fisheries & Tourism. They should have focused more on their infrastructure, I feel.

    Perhaps I’ll write a more detailed post on their development plans later.

  9. Quote

    thanks Priya. Look forward to understanding what they did for their economy other than the british-time “industries” – tea, rubber etc.

  10. Quote

    Sukumar – I better do my homework then 🙂

  11. Quote

    I agree that this comment was nothing relevant to this post.

    My intention was to share some experiences of how the transformation a individual goes through with reference to Srilankan tamil issue from a first-hand experience perspective. No way justifying terrorism or violence. just to look at it from a different perspective, so we can address those issues as individuals.

    Basically from my firend’s life I was able to understand ( not justify ) how the mentality of a rebel/terrorist starts,manipulated by the leaders for their personal goals and what it takes for them to leave that path and become mainstream. My friend is a living example of that.

    The other issue is that my comment is incomplete. I am too lazy to write a long post. So thought of breaking it up as you go through your posts. Lazy me. :-).

    But if it is disconnected, then I think it would be better to for me to blog it as a complete post.

  12. Quote

    Kumaran – No problem, it is indeed very interesting to know how a terrorist is created. I’m sure most of our readers would like to know what they, as individuals can do, to make the world a better place.

    Don’t worry about continuity, people routinely break long comments into smaller pieces.

  13. Quote

    Priya,

    Once again, learning a lot from your posts. I used to think that affirmative action was necessary and worked. But, am forced to rethink it. Any kind of action to equalize various strata of society overnight does not seem to work.

    In SriLanka’s situation, perhaps the answer might have been to have a 20 year plan to bring some semblance of parity and start by having sound education policy that started at lower-grade level and included urban, sub-urban and village population. Such a plan may not be popular in the short term and would lead to government’s being overturned etc. When politicians take up the interest of the country rather than their own, it is possible.

    Ganesh

  14. Quote

    Great one, Thanks for educating us. I think the root cause for all the issues are government jobs, government college seats. it was obvious that my father generation people are very eager to get in govt. jobs because of stability, 9-5 job, under the table money, benefits and more respect, in India as well as Sri Lanka. As usual Sri Lanka politicians played their divisive role to get voter bank’s vote. Now i think we got the sense from both the sides pain-points, one side a well educated population dominating in all fronts, other side a less educated population with living in poverty but sadly they are majority in overall population. This is more than enough to create friction between majority and minority.

    But based on real time experience, to get prosperity, it is not necessary that one should be well educated and should be in govt. jobs, that all are stereotyped, and just to follow the crowd. My opinion is, may be for comfortable and lazy lifestyle, those are really required ;-). I can show millions of people with less education achieved high in their life. But the basic education is fundamental right for each and every citizen of a country, there is no comprise to it. I think Sri Lanka’s rural people should be waited for first their urban get educated and getting rich and then to pass down wealth/knowledge to them, but as usual politician’s won’t let them think that much. In India, we were waited to get Chennai, Bangalore and others to get wealth and obviously now they are spending money to all over india now, rural people also getting benefit from it. For example, more people from Bangalore, Chennai visiting tourist spots and spending lot of money etc.. and we can always migrate to Chennai or Bangalore. It is not like we have to get visa to go Colombo from rural Sri Lanka.

    Since you touched Tamil Nadu’s planing to give reservation to Tamil medium students, still we have any open spots? i thought all are already reserved.

  15. Quote

    Ganesh – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Affirmative Action is needed, but as you say, Srilanka could have thought their policies thru. But to be fair to them, they announced the “Sinhala Only” policy 14 years before Standardisation. They gradually improved their secondary schools to accommodate more students.

    What made the situation worse was, the govt didn’t think deeply – at least, not deep enough – about generating employment opportunities. They seemed to think that education, clearing up a few civil service jobs, starting some infrastructure projects etc were enough.

    No group that’s on top will give up their high status without kicking & screaming. Some angst is understandable, but plunging into terrorism is a tad too extreme.

  16. Quote

    Subba – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    I agree with you – a majority wallowing in misery & a minority doing well, is a Molotov cocktail waiting to explode. But, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Srilankan politicians were simply cultivating their vote bank. They did good things for the majority, though they focused on short term gains mainly.

    Yes, a college degree is not necessary for prosperity. All people knew back then was, a cushy white collar job = prosperity. That’s the trouble. We can’t expect villagers to patiently await their turn, while other become prosperous 🙂 When good things happen, everyone wants their share.

    31% of the seats in Tamil Nadu are Merit seats. Perhaps the govt is unhappy with so much merit 😉 They may think 20% is adequate merit to carry us thru this millenium!

  17. Quote

    Priya your comment “misery & a minority doing well, is a Molotov cocktail waiting to explode. “ reverberates with me. I had blogged http://contraviewer.blogspot.com/2008/11/ceos-killed.html on this subject and what my small things which I could do for handling these conditions.

  18. Quote

    Kumaran – Thanks for the link. Will read it & post my comments in your blog.

  19. Quote

    I dont know if its related to this post.. just want to share my understanding..

    One more reference of mudaliar in general..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudaliar

    Even brahmins, iyers, vellalars and many other present day castes had the title of mudaliars.. its more evident that pre-british caste system is not structured and rigid..

    i remember earlier, karthik also pointing out the fact that there were both upward and downward movement of castes..

    One reason i understood why caste became rigid after british domination is because of the categorization & classification of native people by them..

  20. Quote

    Sethil – I moderated a comment of yours that was tiresome & irritating. For the very last time – branding something categorically is a barbaric practice. You are free to do that in other blogs, not in this. And I see that whenever we pull you up, we are “alleging”.

    I don’t care whether you change or not. Just don’t expect us to validate your behavior. If you are uncivil – your comment will be deleted. As I just did. Don’t ever think that you can get your points approved in this blog simply by repeating it ad nauseum.

  21. Quote

    Senthil – This is not related directly to this post, so let’s not go down this road too much. In a subsequent post, I’ll deal with other castes in Srilanka in greater detail. Perhaps that would be a more suitable place. I’ll just make a few points in response to your comment.

    The very term “Jati” denotes “By Birth”. “Varna” was a slightly looser grouping. “Mudaliar” was a caste created by British. I don’t see how that proves the flexibility or the rigidity of castes. Even the kings of yore routinely “converted” lighter skinned people to Brahmins in South India.

    The relative superiority of castes has changed historically, before & after the British. The Nadar community in Tamil Nadu is an example of how an oppressed community enjoys a high status now – AFTER the British came. Likewise, professions that were important once, but became unimportant later – would have seen a downturn in their status – even before the British came.

  22. Quote

    Priya,
    Very interesting post. Could not come out of the #Mumbai and even give comment earlier.

    Standardization and destandardization both seemed very dramatic. What triggered the 1977 abolition of standardization? Any event?

    Proportional admission seems to be a good idea.

  23. Quote

    Vamsi – Thanks for your comment.

    What triggered the abolition of standardization – Interesting question. Jayawardhene wanted to establish a just & fair rule – Dharmishta. So, he abolished a policy that was widely unpopular among Srilankan Tamils. He made other conciliatory moves to win over the Tamils. Plus, he wanted to show a clean break from the previous govt of Sirimavo Bandaranaike – he even had the constitution rewritten.

    If we want to view it cynically, they found a better alternative to meet their objectives – the subject of my next post.

    I’ll pen a separate post to trace the growth of Tamil Terrorism – perhaps I’ll cover the + & – of Jayawardhene in it.

  24. Quote
    pk.karthik said December 3, 2008, 12:31 pm:

    Amazing Analysis…Priya this truly enlightening.

    But I have a doubt on one statement
    “Once the balance of power tilted in favor of the Sinhala Buddhists after the “Sinhala Only” Bill, Tamils found it exceedingly difficult to land Civil Service jobs”

    I agree that Sinhala population is 93% Budhists,but they do have sizable muslim and christian minorty.Does the Sinhala only bill applies to them

  25. Quote

    Karthik – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    What a wonderful question to raise. Yes, the Tamils were not the only people that suffered. Anagarika Dharmapala was the prime mover of Buddhist revival in Srilanka. Thanks to his efforts, Buddhism became a part of the national identity. Unfortunately, this alienated many minorities.

    Sinhala Christians did face hardships. In part because they also held privileged positions under the British. Considerable number of Christian army officers retired after the introduction of the Sinhala Only Bill, to cite an example. Even recently, churches were pillaged.

    As far as I know, Srilanka has only Tamil Muslims & Malay-Moor Muslims. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss what replaced the Policy of Standardization – and the role of the Muslims in it.

  26. Quote
    pk.karthik said December 3, 2008, 1:39 pm:

    Thanks Priya ,

    Churches i know were pillages in the North and North East,but this is news to me that it has happened across the country.

    Some muslims do exist among Sinhalese. The moors who intermarried Sinhalese are taken as Sinhalese i presume. I am not sure on this but just a thought.

    What has happened to the Burghers?How are they treated ?are they treated as Sinhalese or as Minorities?

  27. Quote

    Karthik – Yes, the animosity between Buddhists & Christians is a bit more deep rooted than that.

    Muslims who consider themselves Sinhala – I don’t know enough about this now to answer. Perhaps I can add some points around this, when I write about the Moors. Thanks for your question.

    Burghers are a very small non-Sinhala minority now, representing utmost 0.2% of the population. They were probably blind-sided by the Language bills, I think. After that, many of them emigrated to Australia & other English speaking countries in droves.

  28. Quote

    Just wanted to share some info I had got from my srilankan friend during our discussions years ago.

    Regarding Muslims who were tamils. For some during the course they sided with the sinhala. There was a mini hindu-muslim tension brewing among tamils itself. The muslim tamil sided with the sinhala army.

    There was a war within a war. Complicated. PHEW!!!

  29. Quote

    Kumaran – Thanks for sharing this.

    Identity is indeed a complex thing. Should Sinhala Christians side with the Sinhala Buddhists who beat them up, or join hands with the Tamil Christians to oppose the state religion? Should the Tamil Muslims hang out with Tamil Hindus, even though they share their values with the Muslim Moors & Malays? Should the Tamil elite join hands with other Tamils, or side with the Sinhala elite that faced similar problems?

    Tight spot for all concerned.

  30. Quote
    Arby K (subscribed) said January 25, 2009, 4:02 pm:

    Interesting analysis.

    Two of the strongest characters of any living being is the necessity to survive and improving oneself. Unfortunately, to work in a functioning co-existing society there needs to be certain compromises needed to make, by all sides concerned. Unfortunately, when the rule of the people is based on the emotion of the people, these compromises are rarely made.

    The native Sinhalese chose to use their number to shove in their “pro-Sinhalese” agenda, while the Tamils based in Sri Lanka chose to hang on to their roots instead of adopting their nation. Same thing happened in India during the British rule and continues to happen still.

    I have a query about the current political setup in Sri Lanka, though it is probably unrelated to the post. Is there any divisive politics played in Sri Lanka (to the extent we see in India or more). They have an elected President and an elected Parliament, which can give a sense of ambiguity in leadership (Seen when Kumaratunga was the President and Wickramasinghe was the PM). When we have opposing parties in power at the same time, they have to play to their votebank all the time. Not exactly an ideal scenario, in my views.

  31. Quote

    Arby K – Thanks for your comment.

    I believe there’s another sinister dimension to the Sinhala-Tamil strife. And I think it goes beyond average prosperity, religion & language. Plan to cover that, once I get thru my posts on the Death Penalty.

    The divisive politics in Srilanka is terrible, with the extreme right wing lunatic fringe claiming that anyone who’s not a Sinhala Buddhist is an outsider. And the Marxist JVP joining the fray. Plus, the situation in the North East – where Tamils believe is theirs – doesn’t help.

Leave a Comment

(required)

(required)

Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.