Kandyan “Peasants’ A people on the verge of extinction from the map of Sri Lanka due to the fault of those who have governed Sri Lanka since Independence
Posted on November 18th, 2014

Dr Sudath Gunasekara President Mahnuwara Jesta Purawesiyange Sanvidhanaya

In this essay I refer to all those people who lived and their descendants presently living within the territory known as the Kandyan Kingdom at the time of signing the Kandyan Convention in 1815. This area at present roughly constitutes about 1/3 of the territory of the Island and also about 1/3 the population of the Island, that is about 7 million. They were the heroic people who sacrificed everything including their land, freedom and lives in tens of thousands in battle against three powerful invaders, Portuguese, Dutch and English between 1505 and 1815 and subsequently against the oppressive rule of the British colonial intruders in 1817-1818 and 1848 to protect their Motherland, the Sinhala nation and Buddha Sasana in this Island.

Kandyans

The Westerners used the word Kandyans to differentiate the lowlanders from highlanders in this Island. Robert Percival in 1803 (11 Years in Ceylon) called the lowlanders –Sinhalese and those who lived on the hills- Kandyans, which simply meant the people living on the hill country. Thereby they divided the Sinhala nation in to two rivalry camps, Kandyans and low country people (Udarata and Pahatarata minisu). (The word ‘Kandyan’ was adopted from the word kanda, which simply meant mountain in Sinhala). Prior to this division the people of this Island were one indivisible united nation called Sinhalayo, which simply meant the people of the Sinhale – the name by which this country was known for millennia. The fact that the name used to refer to this country in the Kandyan Convention was also Sinahale, confirms this. Even Tamils and Muslim minorities in this country were then known as Sinahalayo, they being the citizens of the Sinhale. To that extent they all were Sinhalese, although ethnically they were different. (Muslims even adopted Sinhala ge names Like Mudiyanselage, and Vidanelage etc, thereby attempting to integrate with the natives, unlike the present day Muslims who agitate for separate administrative units and try to behave like original Arabians).  

Unfortunately our own people, without realizing the colonial conspiracy, continued to use these terms, that is Udarata and Pahatarata, in later years, sometimes disparagingly of each group to the detriment of the unity of the Sinhala nation. The Sinhala nation has paid a very high price as a result. Therefore at least now Sinhala people in this country must think afresh and act as one indivisible nation called the Sinhala nation, (irrespective of in what part of the country they live) as we were known up to 1815 from the birth of this nation in the 6th century BC.

Today we would never have had a nation called Sinhala or a Country by the name Sri Lanka if not for the heroic battles the Kandyans fought against these ruthless invaders from 1505 to 1848 and the sacrifices made. If they had not defended the country in battle we would have definitely lost the 2500 year old Sinhala Buddhist Civilization forever and this country would have been known today only as an insignificant tiny Island in the Indian Ocean on the World map by the name of some unknown European invader, explorer or a sea pirate just like America and many Islands in the Pacific are known today.  We would also never have had Senanayakas, Bandaranaikes, Jayawardhanas or Rajapaksas as our Prime Ministers as Presidents and we would also have had Dicks, Toms and Harries instead. We would also have had no Buddhist monuments like Ruwanweliseya and thousands of Buddhist ruins as they would have been razed to the ground by the invaders.

As such the whole credit for defending and protecting the 2500 year old Sinhala Nation, Sinhala Country and the unique Sinhala Buddhist civilization should squarely go to these heroic and patriotic people called Kandyans.  Therefore all Sinhalese should be ever grateful to those great people for having protected this country and the Sinhala race for them.

Although such is the historic realty it is a tragedy that, apart from compiling the Kandyan Pesantry Commission Report that was published under Sessional Paper XV111 1951, none of the post independent governments has at least recognized the sacrifices they have made in history and made any genuine attempt to ameliorate the problems of Kandyan people or and taken suitable steps to rectify the historical injustices inflicted upon them by the invaders. Similarly they also have miserably failed to restore their lands and birth rights they had lost to the invaders.

What a bunch of ungrateful people we have been. Instead of recognizing and engraving their due place in rock, all governments have forgotten and betrayed them throughout history.  Having neglected them politically, economically and socially, today they have been reduced to mere paupers and refugees in their own motherland where they have lived and died for 2500 years. Adding insult to injury the latest conspiracy is being now hatched to chase out all Sinhala people from the hill country and make this region the home of nearly 1.2 m South Indian Estate labourers, who were brought here, in late 19th century to work as coolies on colonial plantations and left behind as a flock of stateless men on our soil, when the British left in1948. The present Government also continues the same betrayal by consolidating Tamil settlements within the tea estates. As against the natives they are also provided unlimited political, economic and social benefits. All these favours are afforded to them on the part of Governments to get their vote and win over the representatives even after getting elected from a different political party. At very election and often even after, these estate Tamils auction their vote and get their things done at the expense of the birth rights of the natives.

While all successive Governments have granted privileges to a set of foreign collies who worked for the British and repatriated all they earned to India and continue persistently to treat India as their Motherland in this manner, no government has restored even an inch out of some 600,000 acres forcibly taken over by the British to Bhoomiputras who have lived there for 2500 years as the sole owners of this land. Even after the estates were taken over by the Government in 1972 no action was taken ‘nationalize’ them by restoring these lands to their original owners. No government also has taken any tangible steps to date even to restore the forest cover on the deforested hills or at least on degraded and marginal lands which form the prime watershed of the Island. No government seems to have realized the devastation these exposed high lands  do by carrying  away thousands of tons of soil annually in to the sea turning the Heartland of the nation in to an unredeemable barren sterile desert.

Governments paving the way for a Tamilnadu at the center of the country

Meanwhile it must also be pointed out that no Government has taken any action, to prevent the rise of a separate Indian Tamil enclave, a Malayanadu, right at the centre of the country. All regimes have allowed them to establish, expand and consolidate, Tamil settlements in these areas that pauses a big threat to the sovereignty of the future Sri Lankan state. The 13th Amendment to the 1987 Constitution granted Sri Lanka Citizenship merely on an affidavit even without a preliminary inquiry to all Tamil estate labour by the JR government. While allowing direct foreign aid to flow freely from India and anti Sinhala and anti Buddhist countries of the west to the plantation areas the government also has provided the estate sector billions and appointed Ministers from among them lavishly without any rational basis., with no regard to the threat they pause to the  future of the natives. While this is how all the Governments have acted when it comes to Estate Tamils the same Governments have denied the right of Sinhalese people displaced by Victoria and Kotmale reservoirs due to their own actions those displaced as a result of Walapane earth slips to be settled within the estates due to protest by estate Tamils and chased them out to the Dry Zone, thereby uprooting them from their natural habitat. This is how the Sri Lankan politicians treat the natives as against the aliens. I wonder whether there is any other country in the world which treats its own people in this manner.                                                                                                                                        

While they chase out Sinhala people from the Hill country in this manner look at the swift action taken by the Government to settle Estate Tamil victims of the recent Koslanda Tragedy and the speed with which the Government has acted.

The Government has taken a decision to build new houses immediately for those who have lost their abodes due to the Koslanda disaster, The Badulla District Secretary Rohana Keerthi Dissanayake said. According to him, the required land has already been identified. The Physical Planning Department and the National Building Research Organization have examined these lands.

Mr. Dissanayake added that the Government will commence building the houses once their recommendations are received. The Badulla District Secretary revealed these details at a meeting held at the Bandarawala Divisional Secretariat to make inquiries into the facilities accorded to the displaced families. Bandarawala Divisional Secretary E.M.S.B. Jayasundera was among those who joined in this meeting”.

(News.LK the Official Govt News Portal of Sri Lanka 9th Nov 2014)

This is how the Sri Lankan Governments react when Indian estate labourers are involved (who always treat India as their motherland and whose allegiance is also with India) in contrast to the stark indifference shown towards the Kandyan peasants. We have no objection what so ever as Sinhalese and Buddhist for helping someone in trouble. But what irritates and hurts our minds is the way they ill-treat the Sinhalese, the sons of the soil, de facto as well as de jure heirs of this land, who have sacrificed so much in history to protect this nation for posterity. This clearly proves how our own Governments treat Sinhalese as outcastes and Kallathonis while they embrace outsiders and enemies of the nation with both hands hoping to win their vote.

Doesn’t this clearly show how all the post independent governments have given in to estate Tamils for short term political considerations while betraying the sons of the soil? Don’t these displaced natives have a birth right to be settled in their own surroundings that once belonged to them? Why should the government of Sri Lanka get permission from South Indian estate Tamils, who had been here only for few decades, to settle a Sinhala victim of a land slide on Sour own irrespective of where it is located?  The funniest part is that most of these estates belong to the state as they had already been nationalized in 1970s.

Meanwhile these Governments also have not done anything to solve problems like roads, irrigation, health and education of those poor Kandyans who live in valley bottom villages wedged in by sprawling plantation raj on the mountains..

 Conspiracy to remove all traditional Villages in the Knuckles region.

The next conspiracy against the Kandyans that will have far reaching repercussions on Kandyan society is the initiation of action to remove all the remaining people from traditional villages nearing 100 around the Knuckles mountains that had been there from 3rd, 2nd and 1st centuries BC by declaring  this area as a reserved and protected forest area, going down to 500 ft msl in certain places, as a world heritage on environmental grounds on the recommendation of the ICUN, while keeping deaf, blind and dumb on one of the worst ecological devastation in the world that has been going on for centuries on the central hill country through deforestation, and resulting soil erosion, land degradation, drying up of streams and underground water resources that in turn affects  the survival of the entire life system in the whole Island.

The demise of the Kandyan Peasantry Commissioners Department

The latest in this chain of betrayals by all governments against the Kandyans is the winding up of the 56 year old Department of Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation set up under that classic Report on Kandyan peasants on the recommendations of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission of 1949 and the Kandyan Area Development Authority set up few years ago. The new Divineguma Department set up on Jan 1st 2014 has replaced the above two. I see this as the climax of the long chain of betrayals of the Kandyans. With this act they have finally killed and buried for good, not only the subject of Kandyan peasantry rehabilitation that was breathing its last breadth throughout but also the patriotic tribe of proud Sinhala people called Kandyans, as they were dubbed by the British.  Closing down the Kandyan Peasantry Department and the Kandyan area Development Authority in January 2014 has completed the last rituals of the Kandyan peasants.

It may be pointed out that the central objective of the entire government machinery is uplifting the standard of life of its people. As such, although it is difficult to understand the rationale for a separate Department with such powers and resources called Divineguma, whose objective is improving people’s welfare, is a noble act on the part of any Government. There is no debate what so ever on that issue. But the question I pause here is as to why this Government decided to close down the Department of Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation that was the only Government Department set up on the recommendations of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission (the most comprehensive Reports on the problems of Kandyan people with down to earth recommendations to address the problems of these areas). It was undoubtedly one of the best documents ever produced in this country by eminent people for the rehabilitation and amelioration of historical injustices inflicted upon a set of patriotic people who had lost everything for the sake of posterity in the process of the heroic battles they fought against the enemy over a period of 350 years, that has no parallel perhaps in any other country. Therefore I see the closing down of the KPC Department as the biggest disgrace and betrayal against the Kandyan people by any Government in this country. The Kandyan Sinhalese, though silent, will never forgive the government for this ill-conceived decision.  Therefore I request the government to establish the Kandyan Peasantry Development Authority recommended by the KPC in 1951 at least now and hand it to the correct men to implement the recommendations of the Commission with suitable adjustments. That would be the highest honor one could pay to the Kandyans who were in the vanguard   in defending the motherland and the Sinhala nation. I can vouch that if this is done one does not need to do any other thing on earth in these areas to guarantee the votes bank of these people. It want be second to the victory over the LTTE Terrorism, perhaps it will go down in history even as a more important event as it will mark a turning point in the annals of a heroic nation.

The deaf, dumb and blind representatives of the Kandyan areas

The present Parliament has over 100 representatives who are supposed to be representing Kandyan Peasants. In addition there are also hundreds of Provincial Council members including five Chief Ministers 20 other ministers, five Governors and thousands of Pradesiyasabha Members. We know that a good number of them are non-Kandyans.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         But other than the Tamil and Muslim members who represent only the interests of their own community, I think that all others represent the people of these regions. But isn’t it a tragedy and an unpardonable omission on their part that there was not a single member in Parliament, Provincial Councils or the Pradeshiya sabha, either in the Government or the Opposition who had the guts to stand up and speak one word against this gross ill-treatment and historic betrayal in Parliament or any other forum. Thereby all these members have collectively and individually betrayed the people whom they are said to be representing. We know they have done so for survival as they knew very well that from nomination to the last second they sit in their seats at the respective councils depends on the pleasure of the party leadership under the present ‘democratic’ system that prevails in our country.  I pity them. But what a disgrace on their part as the descendants of those  proud Kandyans who were once described by Robert Percival as ‘whose countenance was erect, his looks haughty, his mien lofty and his whole carriage marked by the pride of independence and they are men with war like habits’ .Alas where those lofty qualities are gone? Could any one of them say actually whom do they represent? Today the candidates for electorates are selected by the party leadership. Even if the candidate happens to be from Timbaktu people have no alternative but to elect him/her. As such since they are not representatives of the people they are not answerable to them either. They also have no feeling for the people. As such none of them, in my opinion, has a moral or an ethical right to remain in their seats and enjoy the benefits and perks at the expense of the people anymore under the guise of representing them. Therefore all of them should resign forthwith if they have an atom of self respect, I am sure which they don’t have. If they don’t do so the people of these electorates should demand and force them to resign before they do further damage or they are chased out.

According to the Task Force report of 2003, Kandyan areas fall within the poorest category in the Island. The lowest human Index of 0.694 for the Island is also reported from the Kandy District. Similarly lowest per-capita income in the whole Island and the poorest infra structure facilities, education and health facilities are also reported from Kandyan areas. What do all these indicators show, Isn’t it a mirror image of the interest, lethargy, indifference and the degree of commitment all successive governments have displayed towards the Kndyan areas and their people. Does not this show the efficiency and the capacity of the politicians as well.

Had at least 5 % of the recommendations of that wonderful Kandyan Peasantry Commission Report of 1951 been implemented by the successive governments today the story of the Kandyan people would have been much different. At the same time if the Nehru-Kotalawala agreement of 1953 had been implemented there would have been no Tamil Problem in the upcountry areas as well. They would also have been naturalized and integrated to the Sri Lankan society like the Kauravas and Salagama people. At least the present government should persuade Arumugam Thondaman to ask his people to learn the language of the natives and try to integrate with the Sinhala society like how the Kauravas and Salagamas who came from South India in the days gone by have done or leave this country and go back to their much loved motherland in South India without trying to live in Sri Lanka as South Indians.

 I remember once Rev Ellawala Medhananda Thera said that even buffaloes have leaders.  But the tragedy in this country today with the Kandyans is that they don’t have a single leader who has the guts to stand up and utter one word, either in the Parliament or in any other forum, against these gross discriminations and injustices precipitated on Kandyans. Leaping like frogs from one side to the other, not on principle but purely for survival and personal gain, dancing to the beat of the party leadership like the monkeys at the Sunday fair that perform acrobatics to the command of the snake charmers, washing dirty linen of the leadership, massaging the leaders legs, singing hosanna praising the Kings new clothe, hewing wood and drawing water to the leadership among many other servilities known to everybody, that cannot be stated here, they only seek self-aggrandizement.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Maintaining thousands of these parasites has become one of the biggest burdens to the nation. Watching these politicians fighting in Parliament or councils and driving like bullets and parading on roads in snow white suits surrounded and guarded by security officers has become the only glimpse a voter could get of them after you elect them.

Therefore at least now the Kandyan Sinhalese should take action to select and elect a set of educated, efficient and uncorrupt leaders who will represent their interests in Parliament unlike the present set, a headache and a burden to the people. They should be men/women who are committed to agitate and fight on behalf of the rights of whom they represent and restore their lost rights during the 350 years under colonial rule and thereafter to date. It is a pity and a tragedy too that unfortunately today we don’t have Kandyans of A. Ratnayaka’s, M.D. Banda’s or M.B.W. Mediwaka’s caliber in politics.

If Kandyans fail to do this at least now without repeating the follies of the past, the day the Hill country of this Island becomes a Tamil Kingdom and Malwatta and Asgiriya temples becoming Hindu or Muslim Head quarters, (already large number of temple lands are occupied by non-Buddhists mostly Muslims) and the Kandyan Sinhalese getting extinct or at least becoming a minority, is not that far. No one will be able to prevent that tragedy in the light of the betrayals committed in the past and are being continued to be committed by all politicians of all political parties.

5 Responses to “Kandyan “Peasants’ A people on the verge of extinction from the map of Sri Lanka due to the fault of those who have governed Sri Lanka since Independence”

  1. Christie Says:

    It is a sad story. today Kandy or Kanda is Malay (Nadu) that will be joined with the North and the East and most of the coast of the island.

  2. Senevirath Says:

    වටරැක විජිත වැනි ඉස්ලාම් බික්ෂුවක් මල්වතු නා හිමි වී ලෙබ්බේ කෙනෙක් දියවඩන නිලමේ වෙන තුරු උ ඩ රටියෝ නිදා සිටිනු ඇත. බුසු සසුන රජයෙන් ඈත් කල ඒ ජා ප යට ඔවුහු හැම දාම චන්දය දුන්හ

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    The same thing has happened to Colombo.

    They TAKE OVER town by town.

    Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Negombo, etc.

  4. Nimal Says:

    Having all my brothers and sisters married from the Kandyan stock like the Ehalapolas,Dullevas,Bandaranaykes,Ellawalas and lastly Rattwattes,could say that they are a bit pompous and responsible for their own demise. Some of the siblings of the latter mentioned have become thugs and they seem to be in politics shaming all my relatives.
    I think they are all from the Indian stock with a Hindu background but very much detached from the Tamils we are familiar with.
    Their ancestors did us the favour by signing the Kandyan convention with the suddas that brought true freedom and prosperity to the people. There were two attempts to grab power for themselves in 1818 and 1848 that could subjected us to tyranny that we suffered prior to 1815.I am glad those two attempts failed that gave us 100 years of prosperity with a strong sense of justice and fair play which had been eroded since our so called independence.
    We all know our two bit nationalists seem to live in the Sudas Western countries as bogus refugees and heluizinate

  5. Nimal Says:

    I am sorry that I have to resubmit this again as one of my staff was in a hurry to use the computer had submitted the comment above by accident without me going through it.
    Having all my brothers and sisters married from the Kandyan stock like the Ehalapolas,Dullevas,Bandaranaykes,Ellawalas and lastly Rattwattes,could say that they are a bit pompous and responsible for their own demise. Some of the siblings of the latter mentioned have become thugs and they seem to be in politics shaming all my relatives.
    I think they are all from the Indian stock with a Hindu background but very much detached from the Tamils we are familiar with.
    Their ancestors did us the favour by signing the Kandyan convention with the suddas that brought true freedom and prosperity to the people. There were two attempts to grab power for themselves in 1818 and 1848 that could subjected us to tyranny that we suffered prior to 1815.I am glad those two attempts failed that gave us 100 years of prosperity with a strong sense of justice and fair play which had been eroded since our so called independence.
    We all know our two bit nationalists seem to live in the Sudas Western countries as bogus refugees and hallucinate about our back home culture without really contributing to the country and it’s people who are suffering immensely at present. Unlike these pseudo patriots living among themselves in the Western countries, a few of us have invested heavily in the island, thus paying heavy taxes and suffering the same short coming as the rest of the innocent population. There are many burning issues in the country and no political party is willing to tackle them.

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