A permanent solution to the National Problem in Sri Lanka
Posted on October 15th, 2015

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara:  President Senior Citizens movement Mahanuwara. 12.10.2015

 I don’t think there is any other word so often used, misused, abused and more confused than the word ‘national problem’ in Sri Lanka in contemporary literature. To analyze and understand what it means first of all one has to know what Sri Lanka is and then what the Sri Lanka Nation is.

Sri Lanka as it is known today in international parlor is the Island lying at the southern tip of the Indian Subcontinent separated only by a 22 mile stretch of sea. This has been in existence as a separate land mass for billions of years and from the earliest times in history it was known as Sihala deepa or Lanka deepa (which means Island of the Sinhala people). According to ancient Indian astrologers it was called Lanka deepa as it was centrally located on the planet. ‘Lankiiyati Bhu madhyaye ankeeyatiti Lanka’ was how it was defined. It means it is called Lanka as it lies at the centre of the earth as they saw it. Lanka derived from lakshaya meaning centre. Also ancient Indian literature like Puranas (Vahni purana) called it Lanka bases on its beauty and splendor. ‘Raman (beauty) thesyamiti Lanka’ Sri Harsha said. Both Ramayanaya and Mahabharataya consistently use the word Lanka or Lankapura perhaps in the same sense to refer to this country.

At the same time historically it was also known as Sihala deepa meaning the land of the Sinhala race.  This too goes back to antiquity. The word Sinhala is attributed with at least two meanings. The most common interpretation is that is the Land first inhabited by a Prince called Vijaya of the Sinha clan from Northern India who landed here in 647 BC. Those who disagree with this hold the view that this Island was inhabited by local people belonging to four tribes namely, Yaksha, Raksha, Deva, and Naga who were called Sivhela (the four hela tribes). Therefore the land was called Sinhala ( Siv Hela=Sinhala) they argue. According to Mahawansa it was called Lanka at the time Viijaya landed.

Vijayo lala visaya-Sihabahu narindajo

Esa Lanka manuppatto- Satta bhacca satanugo”

(Mahavamsa Chat V11 28)

(Prince Vijaya the son of King Sihabahu has reached Lanka at this moment with a retinue of seven hundred men)

Therefore it is nothing but logical to surmise that this Island was known as Lanka not only at the time of Mahavamsa being compiled (Vth C. AD) but also at the time of the Buddha 6thC.BC. The term Sihala also had been in usage long before. For example it is mentioned in Garuda Puranaya, Jotistatva and Mahabharata (tat deepavasin Sihala). According to Mahavamsa it was called Tambapanni, by Vijaya and his people after they found their palms had got red coloured when they touched the ground on their arrival. It was probably from this the Greco-Roman map maker Ptolemy called it Taprobane. However the word Tambapanni also appears in Garuda Purana and in Valahassa Jatakaya among the Jataka Stories. These evidence show that even Tambapanni had been in use long before Ptolemy.

It is also interesting to note that this Island was called Lanka long before that. For example during the time of Mahabharata and Ramayana compilation. Lanka also means resplendent. That way Lanka also means beautiful or glittering. Naturally located almost at the center of the tropics where you get sunshine the whole day throughout the year it is no surprise that with its evergreen forest cover surrounded by blue waters and sunshine it had been glittering throughout the year down the ages. South Indians called it Eelam meaning the land of the Sinhala people from very early times. This is clearly proved when you read the Malayali saying ‘EElam (land of the Sinhala people) Kandavar Illam kanukka illei’(man who saw the land of the Sinhalese will never come home).

In later years Arabian travelers like Edrisi and Iban Batuta and Marco Polo called it Serendib, and many other names followed. Ceilio. Cerendib, Ceilan, Paleimundu, seeladib, and finally Ceylon, by the British, as eachone could pronounce it.  Nevertheless it is curious to find that all these words meant one of two things; that is either the land of the Sinhala people or the resplendent/beautiful Island. Therefore firstly it is established beyond all reasonable doubt that this land had been the land of the Sinhala people from the beginning of history and even extending beyond historical times. Secondly it is even more important to note here that this country had never been called the Land of the Tamils as present day they claim, though they have been struggling to do so at least from the 2nd century BC.

I reproduce here a piece written by me some time back to The Lankaweb  to save  my time and for your convenience.

How many nations are there in this country?
Posted on November 9th, 2011

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara:  President Senior Citizens movement Mahanuwara. 9.11.2011.

This has been a very big puzzle for me for quite some time. I have no doubt that majority of you who read this note might have had the same problem.  This is mainly because vey often people who mater in society, when they speak at public forum use to say…”me rate Siyaluma jatinta’ meaning all nations in this country. What baffles and confuse me is the question as to how many nations are there in this country. Because I always thought there is only one Nation in this country. You would have heard and noticed this lose utterance over the TV, Radio the press, at public meetings and even at private conversations. I have seen this happening very often. Our politicians starting from the President, Prime Minister downwards, academia in universities including even some professors of Sinhala and History, few top erudite religious dignitaries, some so-called intellectuals who have got disoriented or brain washed in the course of their political and ideological transformations and many more go on uttering these lose words repeatedly like parrots most probably without knowing the seriousness of the damage they to the Nation that is Sri Lankan. In my opinion it is no surprise our self seeking unpatriotic politicians who woo for minority votes to come to power, people who do not have that spiritual sentiment that infuse the sense of nationality and  those who do not have a proper Jatakaya (birth) are the people who indulge in such nonsense. Of course those who really do not know the actual meaning also may use it. But they could be corrected where as the other categories cannot.

When all these big shots either driven by their personal agendas or in their ignorance of the real long term implications go on repeating it like parrots, minorities also begin to think they are separate nations. The most dangerous thing about this trend is the psychological transformation of the perception and attitude of the people that would settle down permanently in their minds and become irreversible. In this instance I would like to draw a parallel between the division of the Sinhala people living in the hills and the lowlands in to two rival groups as Kandyans and low country Sinhalese by the British. Until around 1803 then they were one nation. But since then these artificially created two groups behaved as if they were two different nations and at the early stages of agitation for constitutional reforms in the 19th century they even asked for two separate federal states. Thanks to the fact they all belong to one race, speak the same language, professed the same religion and have common roots the differences were patched up and went back to square one. As such why can’t this band of ignoramus understand that this country, like most other countries in the world has only One Nation’? The funniest thing is at the same time these very people talk, of one nation, some times in the course of the same speech.  They say jati bhedayak neti ekama jatiyak. So it is no wonder that the ordinary people get confused and also begin to think that this country has more than one nation. The situation is made even worse when top Politicians from high flat forms describe this country as a multinational society. Minority communal elements meanwhile make the maximum use of his confusion. It is like the famous panina rilawunta iniman bendeema.

As for me from my small days I thought we have only one nation in this country. That was how the teachers of our day have taught us in school. According to them we are called the Sinahala nation and the country Sinhale, meaning the land of the Sinhala people. They also told us that that could be either because we descend from Vijaya (a man from the Sinha race whose father Sinhabahu is said to have killed the lion father)  who is supposed to have found this nation or because we descend from the Sivhela namely, yaksha, Raksha, Deva and Naga who had been living in this Island long before Vijaya arrived in the 6th century BC. Since this Island had been known as Lanka or Lankadeepa or Lanka dvipa (the resplendent Isle) even from the time of legendary Ravana we were also called Lankan or Lankika Jatiya, meaning those who were born in Lanka. They also taught us that meanwhile there had been South Indian Tamil invaders, starting from 2nd century BC, who had been trying to capture this country from time to time. But every time they attempted to do so they were defeated and the Sinhala Kings ruled this country continuously until 1815 until the British ceded it to United Kingdom by deceit.

Those invaders who were left behind from very early times got absorbed and integrated to the main stream and became Lankans or Sinhala people while some of them retained their religion and culture. Also in between there were others especially the Arab traders who came from time to time in small numbers, not as invaders but as traders who were later known as Muslims going by their religion. Most of them got married to local Sinhala women and even took Sinhala ge names and lived among the Sinhala people. But all these men got absorbed in to the main stream while retaining their religious identity only. In addition to the language of the country, that is Sinhala, they also spoke Tamil. This may be due to the fact that most of them came from South India and also they did business with both local and Indian Tamils across the sea.  But the important thing to note here is that almost all these people, both Tamils and Muslims knew the language of the Land. So, even today nearly 95 % of the population in this country is conversant in Sinhala. The estate Tamils who were brought by the British after 1840s, even though they were deliberately kept separated from the local as a community also learnt Sinhala as they came in contact with the neighbouring Sinhala villages.

So if you take the language as the dominant factor that unifies a nation, in this case Sinhala, what is the other name by which you should name this country? See our immediate neighbour India, then countries like Thailand, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Spain and England to name only a few. All these countries are named after the dominant language spoken in those countries.

It is only at the Donoghmore reforms the Tamil politicians tried to establish a separate identity. With the growth of Tamil communal politics they assumed a Tamil National” attitude and Tamil nationalism emerged which in later years tried to assert as a separate nation within this country. No wonder these minions behave like goliaths when there are no statesmen of stature to draw the line and tell everybody that this country has only one nation and those who talk of many nations will be charged for treason or deported to their original places. Tamils of Sri Lanka who agitate for nationhood here seem to be ignorant of the fact that there is no Tamil Nation in South India which in fact had been the original Home of the race called Tamils on this planet. In fact India has even banned agitation for a Tamil nationhood by law in spite of the fact there are over 70 million Tamils living there.


Although the idea of nationality is difficult to define the term nation in modern society is generally used to describe a community of race and language, geographic unity, community of religion, common political aspiration and, above all,  historical development over a long time. This is of course not universal. But however it is essentially a sentiment of unity, spiritual in character and the will of a people to live together as Laski put it. The unity is the outcome of a common history. The Sinhala people even in this context had been a nation at least from the 6th century BC in this country. Even the four groups who lived here previously got identified as one nation as Sivhela or Sinhala. That is why the land was called Sinhale meaning the land of the Sivhela or Sinhala. With the introduction of Buddhism in 307 BC they became Buddhists and ever remained as The Sinhala Buddhist Nation’ in this country. With all the vicissitudes of history even in 1815 more than 90 % of the people in this country came within this category.

The other thing is Tamils have a motherland in south India and Muslims a motherland in Arabia where as the Sinhalese have only this tiny Island of 25,000 sq miles as heir motherland on this planet. This was indeed their only motherland from the dawn of history. Thousands of archaeological, epigraphical and literary evidence often running even to prehistoric times spread all over the entire length and breadth of this country bear enough evidence to this conclusion that has been proved beyond all doubts. Therefore it is irrefutable and un-negotiable by any standards

In this historical backdrop Tamils, Muslims and any other minor ethnic group in this country that forms a part of the Sri Lanka nation or the Sinhala nation is only an integral part of the ”Nation Lankan or Sinhala’ as this country had been known as the land of the Sinhala people right through out in history. No man or woman can contradict it unless he or she is an incurable lunatic. Therefore in the first place at least now these minority ethnic groups should understand their limitations and  due role within the Lankan nation, and concede to this historical reality and learn to live with the major community without running to America, India and other countries asking to tame the Sinhala nation and thereby creating unwanted problems for us as well as for themselves. I am positive that the big majority, who are sensible, are prepared to do so. For those who are not prepared to concede to this irrefutable reality, I think, it is high time that they should renounce their craving for this day dream and go back to their own motherlands without trying to dream of a motherland on somebody else’s country and claiming illegal ownership of someone else’s soil by going round the world just denigrating our country.

Secondly on the part of our politicians I think it is high time that first they should rise above petty party politics and assert and behave as statesmen and write this provision in to the Constitution of this country and declare that anyone agitating, behaving or instigating, aiding and abetting others to talk, act or behave as separate nations or agitate for separation, contravening the law of the land, shall be charged for high treason.

Not only any Sinhala politician whether it is President, Prime Minister or an ordinary MP who cannot concede to this rule and affirm and swear before taking Office in front of the Sri Dantadatumwahanse /Sri Mhabodhinwahanse and the Mahanayaka Theras of this country as it was done in the days of the Sinhala Kings should never seek political office in this country.

People of this country should immediately start to deploy an Island wide public agitation campaign to get this historical injustice and blunder rectified at least now.

Now we came to the second issue of nationality.

4 Responses to “A permanent solution to the National Problem in Sri Lanka”

  1. Lorenzo Says:


    IF anyone wants to create a mini Tamil Nad in SL, there should be a method to send them to Tamil Nad.
    IF anyone wants to create a mini Arab in SL, there should be a method to send them to Arabia.

    There is NO national problem in SL. It is ONE nation, ONE nationality.

    1 official language 1 nation. 2 official languages 2 nations.

    This is the reality.

  2. ranjit Says:

    I think time has come for the Sinhala people to come forward and say in one voice that this land belongs to Sinhala people only,others who was living side by side with the Sinhalese for thousands of years can live as normal citizens in Peace and Harmony without agitating or fighting for unnecessary demands. From my birth I know only a Sinhala homeland.We never talked about separate nations when we were small at all. I had Tamil & Muslim classmates but they never demand or talked about living separate or separate land etc. All lived together as one family. So why can’t we live like that now simply because of Unpatriotic politicians in this country who care a damn about Sinhalese or Sinhala land except getting richer day by day and getting fat.

    I fully agree with Dr.Sudath 100% on his comment “secondly on the part of our politicians I think it is high time that they should rise above party politics and assert and behave as statesman and write the provision in the constitution of the country and declare that anyone agitating,behaving or instigating,aiding and abetting others to talk,act or behave as separate nations or agitate for separation,contravening the law of the land shall be charged for high treason”.

    We need a Sinhala Buddhist leader with guts and a strong backbone to stand tall amongst the Sinhala people and the Sinhala nation. It should be one language,one nation,one flag and one law from Dondra to Point Pedro. President Mahinda had the chance to take our Sinhala nation in the right direction with 2/3 majority but he failed because of party politics,corruption and division among the Sinhalese people etc. He was our only hope but unfortunately the Ungrateful people in this land rejected him for worst crooks in politics UNP. For this situation I blamed all politicians not only one or two but all who were only think of themselves not the people or the nation. I blame two Mahanayakas too.They just sit and enjoy all the Royalty from both sides and do nothing to safeguard the Sinhalese or the Sinhala nation or even the Buddhist religion. I am dreaming for the day that Sinhala people can really have real freedom and have a real Sinhala Buddhist leader to make true Sinhala nation for all peace loving citizens to live in Peace and Harmony like the olden days or like in our younger days when our country was called CEYLON or Shri Lanka.

  3. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The difference between India and Sri Lanka is that India NEVER had a “king of India’ till the formation of the British Empire. then Queen Victoria became the first “Ruler of India”
    in contrast
    Sri Lanka had many “kings of Sri Lanka” throughout her written history of 2300 years, and long before the British Empire.

    This not only established a sense of a “nation state” in Sri Lanka but validated that Sri Lanka worked well under the union of the Buddhist Sanga and the Royal courts. New Delhi cannot even comprehend that, nor can the Tamils.

  4. SA Kumar Says:

    Sri Lanka had many “kings of Sri Lanka” – You mean Kings of Sinhala Lanka ?

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