LOVE NOTES OF AN ISLANDER-For Dr. Peter Hayes with concern and affection
Posted on April 7th, 2010

Malinda Seneviratne


I address this short note to a person by the name of Dr. Peter Hayes.  He’s the British High Commissioner in Colombo.  I write to him because he’s the representative in Colombo of the British Foreign Office. I write to him in the hope that he will convey to his top man in London, an individual by the name of David Miliband, some observations of a Sri Lankan citizen who is as concerned about decency, democracy, human rights and other things that this gentleman speaks of.  Here goes.

 Dear Dr. Hayes,

 Pardon me for taking your valuable time.  I write to you because I am sure you are a gentleman. I believe you are not the kind of diplomat who will violate all relevant protocol and ask people who they would vote for in a local election and worse, proceed to query them on the justification for picking one and not the other. I also don’t believe you would tolerate any compatriot member of your staff talking down to local employees in the manner of colonial authority to subjugated population or sanction the use of foul language.  I think you are a gentleman.  Correct me if I am wrong.

 Let’s get to business.  You may or may not be aware that there is a reason why Sri Lankans are not particularly fond of the British.  Quite apart from the atrocities committed during British rule, the exploitation of labour, plunder of resources and mindless vandalism that included destruction of reservoirs, Buddhist and Hindu places of worship, the Sinhalese fault the British for the implementation of that pernicious doctrine called “ƒ”¹…”Divide and Rule’, privileging the minorities and casting the seeds of ethnic strife and Eelamists fault them for handing over to the Sinhalese what, in their view was an island made of two distinct nations (never mind the inability to prove this). 

 Consequently, both Sinhalese and Eelamist Tamils believe that the British are to blame for the island’s ills.  I prefer to worry about obtaining compensation for grievous crimes against humanity perpetrated by your ancestors which in fact was part of a larger project that gave you the kind of lifestyle you enjoy today. 

 I write this by way of providing background to my displeasure at some of the tendentious statements made by your Foreign Minister, David Miliband, even though I do sympathize with him on account of the dip in political fortunes that has forced him to beg for votes from anyone and everyone including those who have had a long history of supporting and championing terrorism. 

 Miliband, your Foreign Secretary, spoke about a month ago at a meeting of a group made of LTTE activists and sympathizers desperately trying to distance themselves from their own activist history and disguise themselves as “ƒ”¹…”differently Eelamist’.  More recently, he spoke again on Sri Lanka and her future.  In both instances, it is no secret, that he was currying favour with the voters of his electorate, especially those belonging to the Tamil community.

 He has stressed that “ƒ”¹…”it is very important especially in the modern age that we give consistent messages whatever the audience’ and therefore his second message was an echo, understandably, of the first speech.

 I found this rich, Dr. Hayes, and I am sure you would too: “ƒ”¹…”The first priority concerns the renunciation of violence.  It is through politics that social, economic and political changes occur and not through violence.  Violence doesn’t serve any of the communities in Sri Lanka.’ 

 Why limit the principle to Sri Lanka, right?  (Yes, I know that’s what you must be thinking too!).  What about Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now please ask David why the “ƒ”¹…”consistency’ principle is being short-changed here. David goes on to defend the European Union’s decision regarding GSP Plus and Sri Lanka, citing human rights issues.  He says that the GSP Plus Provisions had to be suspended. Now, you will agree, I am sure, that this means that the EU has to suspend itself and the UK for human rights violations in the aforementioned countries that make the unsubstantiated (yes!) allegations against Sri Lanka sound utterly ridiculous.  Am I correct, Dr. Hayes? 

 David is upset about IDPs.  He says, “ƒ”¹…”When I think about the statistic of a hundred thousand people still in IDP camps I think of individual men, woman and in some cases young teenagers talking to me about all they wanted was to be treated as a decent human being, able to go about their lives in a decent way’.  I love this man and his tender heart.    But I worry about his selectivity and memory loss and you should too since you take orders from him. 

 I strongly suggest that he google (in the very least) two names, “ƒ”¹…”Iraq’ and “ƒ”¹…”Afghanistan’ (for starters), and find out the length, breadth and depth of his complicity in the suffering of people living in those two countries.  He would then hear, as I am sure you have, about the million people turned into IDPs in Afghanistan and the over half a million unarmed civilians killed in Iraq. He will learn about the conditions of IDPs in Pakistan and comparing with what he saw in Sri Lanka would tell whoever chooses to complain about conditions in the Wanni to shut up and be thankful for the privileges enjoyed.   Last week I was in Kataragama and saw Sinhala villagers waiting patiently at a public faucet for water. “ƒ”¹…”We don’t know when it will come, so we wait,’ I was told.  That’s a kind of depravation that does not exist in the IDP camps.  I am sure it is far worse for those that UK-USA action turned into IDPs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 This is the best line, Dr. Hayes: “ƒ”¹…”it is important to recognize the history that’s associated with Britain’s relationship with Sri Lanka’. Tell him I said “ƒ”¹…”thanks for the invite’ and for the footnote, “ƒ”¹…””¦if history is buried then reconciliation never happens.’  Let me add another small observation, before I embrace this splendid specimen of British decency: “ƒ”¹…”We will continue to be aan advocate for the universal human rights that we believe underpin the basis not just of democracy, but of decent societies everywhere.’

 Dr. Hayes, many doctoral dissertations can be written on these three lines, you will agree. This is not the place.  But I will toss some thoughts your way. 

 When you next go to England, go check extracts from the Kings Orders in Council.  There will be some pertaining to “ƒ”¹…”Ceylon’ in the early 19th Century. You will find the following among the “ƒ”¹…”General Orders’ issued too Major D. MacDonald, the Commanding Officer, Kandyan Provinces, 1817-1820 by the Brownrigg, the then Governor of Ceylon:

 “ƒ”¹…”All men above 18 should be killed. All houses pulled down and burnt. All trees bearing fruits of use to human being, felled. All grain should either be destroyed or confiscated.  Irrigation tanks and canals should be breached.  All cattle belonging to the people which were in excess of the requirements of the Army should forthwith be destroyed.’

 Very “ƒ”¹…”British’, would you say?  

 You will discover that the “ƒ”¹…”thinking’ behind this order remained valid until the end of that century: “ƒ”¹…”The only way to get the Sinhala people to work on colonial plantations was to impoverish them.  Every peasant who had 2 and a quarter acres of land, fruit trees and vegetables did not have a reason to work in plantations.  Therefore tanks have to be breached and villagers trying to repair them arrested.’

 Some “ƒ”¹…”history’ wouldn’t you agree, Dr. Hayes? 

 So here’s the bottom line.  Tell David to be consistent. Tell him to be mindful of history.  Tell him to try “ƒ”¹…”politics’ and not “ƒ”¹…”violence’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell him to pull out all British troops from these and other countries in line with the philosophy he advocates in the name of global decency.

 Thank you Dr. Hayes.

 Malinda Seneviratne
Contactable at [email protected]

2 Responses to “LOVE NOTES OF AN ISLANDER-For Dr. Peter Hayes with concern and affection”

  1. Siri Says:

    Very Well said. These British A… H…. like David Millband and Gorden Brown are a curse to humanity. They are so stupid, that I am wondering how a decent society like the English could vote for them as their representatives. These fellows don’t know their mouth from their behind. It is a wonder how they crept into Politics in a country like Gt. Britain. Either the people are very ignorant or their News Media is controlled to portray these donkeys as smart and useful Politicians.

  2. Naram Says:

    Excellent analysis Malinda.

    I would like the Universities of Sri Lanka to initiate projects to analyse the facts behing Tamil Homelands myth comprehensively. We have the excellent work by Prof Lorna Devarajah covering the Kandy Kingdom in the Duth period but far more work from the new generation is needed

    Our children must learn the history of the whole of SriLanka, I understand that there had been a dictat at one stage from Horagolla against the practice of learnig in the CBK time.

    We can be proud of the religious amity that prevailed in the in the 15 th century that continued till the British entry in 1798, the liguistic skills of the famed scholars and Theras of the period and also the rise of printing and translations that came in the Dutch period.

    One should also learn the reasons behind the rise of warlords in Jaffna Peninsula in the Portugese times, massacre of Catholics of Mannar, expropriation of Sinhala land owners to form the new cast – Koviars whose progeny may now be sad ex combatents of LTTE, rise of Tobacco growing in Jaffna in the Dutch time floowed by the massive growth in immigrant labour in the British period along with the sad demise of an educated class from the majority community to fill even the lower rung clerical posts in by 1900 by numbers anywhere near in proportion to their population.

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