Dr Sudath Gunasekara President Mahnuwara Jesta Purawesiyange Sanvidhanaya
In this essay I refer to all those people who lived within the territory known as the Kandyan Kingdom at the time of signing the Kandyan Convention in 1815 and their descendants irrespective of where they live, here or abroad as Kandyans. The area under reference covers the whole territory within the legal definition of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. However in this article I am referring to the problems of the people living within the two provinces of Central and Uva only, since the Kandyan Peasantry Commission covered only those two Provinces. These two provinces cover nearly ¼ the total area of the country and they together claim about 1/5 the population of the Island, which is roughly around 4.million. Kandyans, particularly those who lived within these two Provinces, 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 the Motherland, the Sinhala nation and Buddha Sasana in this Island.
The Westerners used the word Kandyans to differentiate the lowlanders from highlanders in this Island. Robert Percival in 1803 (11 Years in Ceylon) called those who inhabited the lowland and parts contiguous to the coasts who lived under the dominion of Europeans at that time Cinglese” and those who lived on the hills- Candians (Kandyans), which simply meant the people living on the hill country. Together these two groups Percival call Celonese. Thereby they divided the Sinhala nation in to two rivalry camps, Kandyans and low country people (Udarata and Pahatarata minisu) for the first time in their long history. (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 long tradition. Even Tamils and Muslim minorities in this country were then known as Sinahalayo, which means the countrymen 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 and married Sinhala women as they did not bring women from Arabia, thereby integrating with the natives, unlike the present day communal Muslim politicians like Hakeem who agitate for separate administrative units and try to behave like original Arabians on Sri Lankan soil, although they are only the hybrid set of people whom I have named as ‘Musinghalayo- offspring of Arab men and Sinahala women).
Unfortunately the people of this country, without realizing the future dangers of this 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 great 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 or the world 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, ‘marked by the pride of independence and warlike habits’ (as Percival saw them), fought against these ruthless invaders from 1505 to 1848 and the sacrifices they 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 and Presidents and we would 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 this 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 (KPC) Report that was published under Sessional Paper XV111 1951, none of the post independent governments has at least faintly 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 in the battle against 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, fought and died for 2500 years or more. Shame on all governments responsible for this situation!
Kandyan Peasantry Report of 1951 had identified landlessness as the main problem among the Kandyans. In 1949 it was 39,000. But today it is over 200,000. The other problem areas identified were roads, irrigation, soil erosion and land degradation, education, health facilities, housing, unemployment and poverty. These problems remain unsolved and they have been so acute that today Kandyan areas are rated as the poorest in the whole country. The KPC Report recommended the setting up of a high powered Development Board. This was indeed a super Authority and an excellent institutional framework, but it never saw the light of the day up to date. In 1953 the Cabinet accepted the recommendations of the Commission in principle and a six year development Programme was prepared under the direction of the then Minister for Home Affairs A. Ratnayaka, incorporating the major recommendations of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission.
But it was only in 1958 a C grade sub-department was created to implement that programme. It was placed under a toothless coordinator whose function was merely to disburse limited funds for haphazardly selected and scattered minor road development programme. As against the fully pledged and powerful Development Authority proposed by the Kandyan Peasantry Commission, the new department was only a tiny mole. Subsequently the coordinator was renamed as Commissioner in 1964 and the department was upgraded to B class. Then it went in to a deep and long slumber for about 25 years. In 1989 a Project Ministry was created under the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and they renamed it as the Ministry of Upcountry (may be feeling shy to use the word Kandyan) Peasantry Development. Meanwhile in 1993 JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) also made a study of the project area that resulted in the preparation of a ten-year Master Plan. The main emphasis of this plan was agriculture and rural development. It estimated the cost of implementation of the ten-year programme at RS 15.4 billion. The plan period ended in 2003 with zero results. Again a new organization called Sri Lanka Udarata Development Authority (SLUDA) was established on 24th August 2005 under Act No 26 of 2005 again for identifying, formulating and coordinating, the implementation of development projects within the Udarata Area”. It was packed with political stooges and made another siphon only for them to suck the meager public funds. It also did a natural death in January 2014 with its closure to accommodate the Divineguma, with no service done to Kandyan peasants.
Now you see how all governments have deceived the Kandyan people for 66 years, playing a game of hide and seek policy at the expense of 1/4 of the nation’s population for whom the entire nation is indebted for defending the country for 350 years against the enemy. Beside some scratchy works like few useless roads here and there, the only development that had taken place was report writing and mere lip service only to ameliorate” the socio-economic conditions of the Kandyan Peasants.
In this backdrop, if you observe carefully the sequence and the manner in which this subject has been handled for the past 66 years you will note how reluctant and lethargic and deceptive the successive governments have been in handling the problems of the Kandyans. The meager and ridiculous financial allocation of Rs. 358,691,957 provided (over a period of 33 years from 1961 to 93) to rehabilitate nearly 1/3 of the total population in the country spread over almost 1/3 the area of the country who fought heroically and paid the biggest penalty for independence, further proves this indifference displayed by the then governments towards Kandyans. The foregoing brief note summarizes the ill-treatment all successive governments have displayed towards the Kandyans over the past six decades until, finally both the Department of Kandyan Pesantry Rehabilitation and the Udarata Development Authority (SLUDA) were wounded up by the present Government in Jan 2014.
The demise of the Kandyan Peasantry Commissioners Department
This decision is the latest betrayal in this long chain of ill treatments and conspiracy by all governments against the Kandyans. 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 never took off the ground for 56 years but also the patriotic tribe of proud Sinhala people called Kandyans, as they were dubbed by the British. It is more than evident now that Closing down the Kandyan Peasantry Department and the Udarata Sanwardhana Adhikariya in January 2014 has completed the last rituals of the Kandyan peasants. The Kandyan Peasantry Commissioners Department and the Udarata Sanwardhana Adhikariya were replaced by the Divineguma Development Department on 8st Jan 2014. It is reliably learnt that this new super department at the moment does only Samudhi work, though the office in the central region operates from the former KPC office at Peradeniya. All activities pertaining to Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation has completely come to an end. Why the present Government did this treacherous act against the Kandyans is the million dollar question, I ask from all those responsible for this anti Kandyan decision?
I do not question the rationale for a separate national level super Department with such super powers and resources called Divineguma since it constitutes a separate issue. Why this Government decided to close down the Department of Kandyan Peasantry Rehabilitation which was the only Government Department set up on the recommendations of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission Report (the most comprehensive Reports on the problems of Kandyan people with down to earth recommendations to address the problems of these areas). The KPC Report 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, with 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 keep silent for obvious reasons like ignorance of what happens under their own noses and fear of political repercussions and mainly due to absence of enlightened and fearless leaders among them to fight for their rights, will never forgive the government or those so-called representatives voted for this ill-conceived and treacherous bill that has deprived 1/4 the population of this country nearing 4 million of their legitimate rights. Therefore I request the government to immediately re-establish the SLUDA they have abolished in Jan this year and convert it to the Kandyan Peasantry Development Authority recommended by the KPC in 1951 at least now and hand it over to a competent set of men who are knowledgeable and committed to implement the recommendations of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission with suitable adjustments. That would be the highest honour one could pay to the Kandyans who were in the vanguard in defending the motherland and the Sinhala nation for 350 years. That will also help the Government to rectify the wrong done to Kandyans by this Government by closing down the only state institution, even though it was lifeless, that was there to alleviate their grievances even in a marginal way. I can vouch that, for politicians, this will be a golden opportunity to win over their votes. If this is not done immediately, I don’t think President Rajapaksa or any one in his Government has any right under the sun to ask for the vote of a single Kandyan man or women, as it is his Government which is responsible for this heinous crime of closing it down. One must also remember that closing down of the Kandyan Peasantry Department is both an insult and a deprivation as well, not only to the people of these two Provinces but to all those who are called Kandyans living all over Sri Lanka and even abroad.
Conspiracy to remove all traditional Villages in the Knuckles region.
Adding insult to injury currently a more serious conspiracy is taking place to chase out all Sinhala people from the hill country under the guise of environmental protection and ecological reasons taking refuge under the recommendations of ICUN, a Geneva based international Agency. Under this proposal Knuckles region was declared as a Conservation Forest in 2002 and again an Environmentally Protected area in 2007 and action has already being initiated to remove all the people from traditional villages, 100 or more around the Knuckles mountains that had been there from 3rd, 2nd and 1st centuries BC. sometimes going down to even 500 ft msl in certain villages like Meemure, while keeping deaf, blind and dumb on one of the worst ecological devastations 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 and thereby pausing a serious threat to the survival of the entire life system in the whole Island and the extinction of an ancient civilization from the map of the world.
I am also compelled to ask the proponents of this move whether they consider frogs, snakes, lizards and insects more important than human beings.
This move is an international conspiracy against the Sinhala nation designed to wipe out Sinhalese from the central part of the Island and convert it to the Home of nearly 1.2 m South Indian Estate labourers, who were brought here by the British, in late 19th century to work as cheap coolies on their plantations and left behind as a flock of stateless men on our soil when they left the shores of this Island in1948. The present Government also shamelessly continues the same betrayal by consolidating Tamil settlements within the tea estates. As against the natives they are also provided with unlimited political, economic and social benefits. All these favours are afforded to them on the part of Governments to get their vote. But none of them have the brain to understand the hidden conspiracy of the international anti-Sinhala lobby deployed through their institutions like ICUN. At every election and often even after, these estate Tamils put their vote on sale by public auction and get their things done at the expense of the birth rights of the natives. What a shame on our politicians who betray a nation for short term political gain?
While all successive Governments have granted privileges to this 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 at least for 2500 years as the sole owners of this land. Even after the estates were taken over by the Government in 1972 with so much fanfare no action was taken to ‘nationalize’ them by restoring these lands to their original owners, who happened to be the natives who owned them. No government 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 millions 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, often bogus, even without a preliminary inquiry to all Tamil estate labour by the JR government. Furthermore 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 and 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 ( again as a part of the major conspiracy to wipe out the Sinahla people from the Central Hill Country), thereby uprooting them from their natural habitat. This is how our politicians treat the natives as against the aliens. 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 our own soil, 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. I wonder whether there is any other country or Government in the whole world which treats its own native 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 always 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 while they embrace outsiders and enemies of the nation with both hands just 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? 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. I only hope politicians will have the brain to understand the difference between the political strength of nearly 5 m patriotic Kandyan Sinhalese who treat this country as their one and only Motherland as against 1.2 m South Indian estate Tamils whose eternal allegiance is to India. I hope the President will take immediate action to rectify this serious blunder in view of the forthcoming Presidential election at least.
The deaf, dumb and blind so-called representatives of the Kandyan areas
The present Parliament has over 100 representatives who are supposed to be representing Kandyan areas. 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 all others have been elected by the Kandyans. Therefore 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 who have elected them. We know they have done so for survival as they knew very well that, from nomination day to the last second they sit in their seats at the respective councils, they depends wholly 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 a people ‘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 of Kandyans are gone? Shouldn’t the present day Kandyans be ashamed of their stupidity and servility which were unheard and unknown in the days gone by.
Could any one of the present day representatives honestly say actually as to whom do they represent? Today the candidates for electorates are selected by the party leadership. Even if the candidate happens to be from Timbaktu or be a polpitta people have no choice but to elect him/her. As such they are not representatives of the people and they are also not answerable to them either. Apart from the brain and the inclination to serve the people they also have no feeling for the people, because their survival solely depends on the will of the party leader and not on the will of the voters. As such none of them, in my opinion, has a moral or an ethical right to remain in their seats and enjoy the enormous and princely benefits and perks of office at the expense of the poor people anymore under the guise of representing them. Therefore all those who voted for this bill 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 force them to resign before they are physically chased out by the masses at the next election.
It is also interesting to note that 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 degree of efficiency and the capacity of the politicians as well?
Had at least 1 % 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 present day 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. This is how it happened in Burma when it got Independence from the British. I think it is high time that all governments should stop wooing and pleading estate Tamils on their knees by offering political and economic bribes for shorter political gains at the expense of the future of this nation or should take immediate action to solve this eternal national problem by getting them naturalized as Sri Lankans or repatriated to India or United Kingdom before they declare a Tamilnadu right at the centre of this Land of the Sinhala Nation.
Talking about the lack of leaders among the Knadyans, I remember what 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 against Colombian or Rohana leaders, 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, 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, the present day so-called representatives of the people only seek their own self-aggrandizement.
Maintaining thousands of these parasites today has become the biggest burden and the curse of the nation. Watching these politicians fighting in Parliament or in other councils and driving like bullets and parading on roads in snow white suits surrounded and guarded by dozens of security officers paid by the suffering masses, seeking protection from the very people who are supposed to have elected them, today has become the only glimpse a voter could get of them.
Therefore at least now the Kandyan Sinhalese should take action to select and elect a set of educated, efficient and uncorrupt leaders from among themselves who will represent their interests in Parliament unlike the present day representatives, who are often either parachutists and political opportunists or both and have become a set of arrogant tormentors catering only to the needs of their leadership at the centre but utterly useless to the people in the village or the town. 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 take appropriate measures 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 Man or even a God will be able to prevent that tragedy in the light of the betrayals done by our politicians in the recent past and are being continued to be committed continuously for their personal gain.