White Paper on Colonial Rule in Sri Lanka
Posted on February 2nd, 2012

By Senaka Weeraratna

As we celebrate our freedom from colonial rule on its 64th anniversary nothing is more conspicuous in our literature and written records as the absence of a White Paper and a Report of a Commission of Inquiry on the period of Western Colonial presence in Sri Lanka commencing from the landing of the Portuguese in Colombo in year 1505 until the inglorious exit of the last colonial rulers from our land in 1948.

Sri Lanka cannot move forward seeking a new destiny until we come to terms with our past ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” the past that shackled this country for nearly 450 years. No period in the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s 2500 year history has had such a tumultuous impact on LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s society and its people as the period of time under foreign western domination.

It may well be said that it was not all undiluted evil. But by any measure of stock taking it is clear that the demerits far outweigh the merits. If otherwise was the case there would not be much to celebrate in what is freely described as the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”grant of independenceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. We still suffer psychologically with a collective mindset that can be hardly called ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”freeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. One has to only look at the mainstream mass media and in particular our English language newspapers to realize the challenge that the country faces in decolonising our minds. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

What is a White Paper? A white paper is basically an authoritative report or guide that helps to confront an issue and solve a problem. Its main purpose is to educate the public, enable an informed consultation on government policy and proposed legislation and signal a clear intention to tackle thorny issues.

The colonial history of Sri Lanka is a thorny issue. The sense of historical injustice is deep ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” seated in the psyche of our people. It is not 1956 but year 1505 that must be regarded as the landmark year. The seeds of separation of our people on grounds of either ethnicity or religion were first planted in colonial controlled territory. The facts are there in black and white written by their own foreign historians.

Local historian Paul E. Peiris observes:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…- They ( the Portuguese)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  found in Ceylon a contented race, and a fairly prosperous country ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦..

and it is melancholy to reflect that they succeeded in producing nothing but chaos. Out of a long list of high – born Hidalgos whom Portugal sent to Ceylon, it is difficult to point to one name as that of an enlightened statesman and high – principled administratorƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦.

No stately fabric remains as compensating for that religious fanaticism to which ample witness is borne by the devastated ruins of those lovely structures which the piety of generations had strewn broadcast over the countryƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ Their bequest to the Dutch was a colony of half ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”castes, a failing agriculture, a depopulated country, and a miserable and ill – conditioned peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ They had in Ceylon an opportunity almost unique in the experience of European nations in the East, but their moral fibre had proved unequal to the occasionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The purpose of researching history is not to stir hatred. It is to bring to surface hard facts to prevent history being distorted or manipulated and historical wrongs and injustices denied to serve ulterior purposes. Sri Lanka has been a victim of foreign domination in the past and there is no guarantee that history will not repeat itself. We won a great victory in 2009 when the country was liberated from the fetters of terrorism. Thanks to wise leadership and our gallant soldiers who sacrificed their life and limb so that the rest can live in peace.

It is an appropriate time to remember a long line of heroic leaders and warriors such as Mayadunne, Sithawaka Rajasinghe, Veediya Bandara, Nikepitiya Bandara, Konappu Bandara (later King Wimaladharma Suriya), Rajasinghe the Second, among others, who kept the foreign conquerors at bay from taking over the whole of the country.

If those who destroyed the time honoured Buddhist citadel and shrine at Kelaniya in 1575 and the unique Buddhist ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” Hindu Temple at Devundara in 1587 followed by the mass destruction of over four hundred temples and four seats of Buddhist learning, had got hold of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, one can imagine what the religious and cultural status of this country would have been?

A White Paper followed by a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all aspects of the western colonial period with a Report to set the record straight is a sine qua non. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Does Sri Lanka have claims for compensation in international law from our former colonial rulers? This is an area that must be explored by the best legal minds in this country if necessary with foreign legal input.

The campaign for Human Rights which have their origin in western countries is increasingly been seen as a strategy adopted by former colonial countries to distract world attention from their own accountability for centuries of plunder, war crimes, mass murder, religious and ethnic cleansing, forcible conversion, and theft of cultural artifacts and the like in poor third world countries, and instead to point an accusing finger at leaders of newly independent countries struggling to find their feet and feed their people. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Coming to terms with our past is a test of maturity. Sri Lanka though small in geographical size has shown the rest of the world right through our history that we are bigger than our boots. So should it be. We can awaken the rest of Asia with exemplary steps not necessarily confined to the economic sphere that we can be a source of light in areas that docile others fear to enter.

18 Responses to “White Paper on Colonial Rule in Sri Lanka”

  1. Sirih Says:

    This is a brilliant idea… All those western colonials need to answer for their crime.

  2. Christie Says:

    I would say; a Brown Paper on Indian Colonial Parasites in the former Bristish-Indian Empire, now the Indian Empire.

    There are different types of colonialism in History. Last is the British Indian colonialism.

    One form is, one group adventured in to another and killed and colonised the land.

    The other did not kill them but joined them and a new group developed.

    Then one group took another group as slaves and together went to another and killed them and started a new free nation. Sometimes the masters and slaves joined the locals and a new group developed.

    Then comes the last afer the abolition of slavery; one group went to another, then both togethrt went to another and colonised. Generally they were partners and minor (in numbers) party used violence while the major (in numbers) used non-violence.

    I will leave the readers to think of examples.

    The island nation had all these forms except the greatest Amerigo type.

    It is incorrect o put Portugese+Dutch in the same bucket as British as British were not alone as colonialists. British came with Indians.

    I am sure you will look at things as they are and see the cause of the present day problems in Ceylon, Burma, Fiji, Mauritius etc. By the way British+Indians prisoned the last King of Sinhalese in Mauritius.

    We may celebrate 4th of February as the day we became free from the British.

    We are not yet free from Indian colonialism and Imperialism.

    Let us unite and fight for freedom from these parasitic colonialists and Imperialists.

  3. Ben_silva Says:

    We need to learn lessons from all foreign invasions so that we can prevent further invasions. I have stated that we allowed weak defence, because of being passive, due to the Buddhist belief system we follow. We are fortunate that we were not wiped out as happened to those in the silk route. Recently, we came very near to losing the country. Even now there is a serious threat to our survival due to 13 A. Indian threat is ever present. Some are of the opinion that we survived due to the native wisdom of past kings. Defence should be taken very seriouslyb to deal withh any Indian threats. Defence should have a higher priority than giving up desires and seeking the fools paradise of Nirvana.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    A White Paper on past Colonisation is a good idea. It will bring together past events and will be useful for preventing such events happening in the future.
    At present, Illegal Migrants pose a threat to our sense of security. All illegal migrants must be deported. Sri Lanka must have proper laws and rules in place for even legal migrants. Do we really need any legal migrants at all here, with our own 20 million population ? Could someone please enlighten us on the types of visas issued by Lanka ?

    Our security is tied to the security of the region. How do we balance Security with our Economic needs ? These are the most important topics up for public debate at present.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    I would like to add that our ancient Defence Systems which worked fine in the old days, went down into parade army mode with Colonisation.
    Buddhism in Lanka too moved from a vibrant philosophy to one which went more toward ritual and chanting, after Colonists took over the country. Let us recover now and reinstate the ancient wise thinking, both in Defence and the Economy.

  6. jimmy Says:

    Fran
    You are one of the guys I like in the forum who write things which are meaningful
    I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT LEGAL IMMIGRANTS . WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
    DO YOU CONSIDER SRILANKAN TAMILS ARE LEGAL IMIGRANTS OR CITIZENS
    IF YOU DO NOT LIKE TAMILS , BE HONEST AND SAY IT INSTEAD OF USING UNNECESSARY WORDS LEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND SO ON

    You are a Budhist and Lord Budha said ” Truth is within you ” That means be honest and tell the truth

    Bonjour merci

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Jimmy,

    I am not the only person who states that there are illegal migrants in Sri Lanka, particularly from Tamil Nadu. Other writers to this forum too state the same fact.
    * Are we naive enough not to think that the ltte sat back and waited without padding up their terrorist outfit with illegal migrants from TN when they held the N&E ?
    (By the way, during JRJs time, a special outfit called TAFFAI was created to stop illegal migration from Tamil Nadu. Also, we all know that the Sirima/Shasthri Pact was abrogated by India, and many thousands who were to go back to Tamil Nadu never went back).

    * Are we naive enough not to think that the Tamil Diaspora are working behind the scenes to build up a case on human rights violations, spread lies, cheat and deceit re Lanka and GoSL ? This is done to create a separate state for Tamil people, so that any number of Tamil people can cross over to Lanka from TN.
    * Are also naive enough not to think that some Tamil Nadu leaders point to Sri Lanka as the place to go to lose Caste, change
    religions, create separatist issues, etc. ?

    Lanka has been smashed to the ground by separatist terrorists for too long. I do not think anyone who cares about Sri Lanka likes anyone who has terrorist/separatist aspirations in Lanka.

  8. jimmy Says:

    My dear friend Fran
    I sadly agree there are very bad elements in Tnadu creating headache for all Srilankans.There are Tamils who do not believe in peace with sinhalese and do things which are wrong and unacceptable.

    Srilankan Tamils should be treated as Srilankans not as something else. If any one have issue they should get Pshyiatric help

    I honestly did not know illegal imigrants came from Tnadu during LTTE rule in North. If they did they could be sent to India . I agree

    I resepct Plantation tamils in Kandy Nuweraliya and other places. They are hardworking folks . They never ask for EElam or anything . Not sure why people are so mean to them . I do not get it
    What is this srima Sastri pact.? It is morally wrong to send these plantation tamils to India? are you serious even to think of sending these people ? It is beyond imagination sorry. Please be compassionate towards these people .
    Good ness these people were killed in 83 riots . I remember some of them cam to North and east as refugees. sad story
    Law and order should be upheld in Srilanka
    we should never ever ever ever ever go back but to go forward , Think of a bright futire for all Srilankans
    Love and respect each other
    (a) national anthem should be sung all over schools every day , national anthem should be sung in all ceremonies
    (b) Budhisim should be given very importance in Srilanka all over the country
    (c) Zero Tolerance against racisim . Sue the monsters who speak or write against race or religion Make them penniless
    Those who commit race related crimes should get severe puishment and it should be transparent to all

    (d) Meditation to all : make it as compulsory in schools .
    (e) spoken sinhala and spoken tamil to children and kids in schools

  9. Lorenzo Says:

    Jimmy,

    1. National anthem should be sung in Sinhala ONLY. No country has 2 versiosn fo natyional anthems.

    2. ALL Tamil Nadu illegal immigrants (HARDWORKING OR NOT) should be sent back to India or if it is not possible, stop being Sri Lankans. There is no land, water for natives. How the hell can SL sustain illigal immigrants?

    3. Sirima-Shastri Pact should be revived.

    4. We can’t afford to be merciful to illegal immigrants. Can’t you understand that? We are a very small country, 50 times smaller than India. So there is absolutely no room for Tamil Nadu illegal immigrants. FULLSTOP. Don’t beg.

    400,000 Tamil illegal immigrants came from India during LTTE rule of Vanni. ALL of them must leave SL one way or the other. We will not rest until that happens. If you wants peace keep SL for SLs ONLY. Otherwise we are happy to wage war.

  10. jimmy Says:

    Let this be my last and final point
    I am a Srilankan Tamil and I truly truly love and respect sinhalese very much. I am very much touched by their true compassion and sincere frienships I had over 1 year . We all lived in one place
    I heard from my good friend from Matara how my sinhala brothers were killed in late 80s by Army. I was in tears when I heard . My undderstanding is Thousands of sinhala youths were killed , disappeared during UNP Rule. Gosh no one cared or talked about it .Why this happened? how could innocent youngsters killed or disappeared in 80s
    The point was my sinhala friends told me so many sad things happened to them also but it was not in media
    we all went thro so much in many many years .
    Very sadly scumbags like Christie and LTTE sympathizers are still living among us or will be born again and again for many centuries
    It is important for sinhala and tamil people to be vigilant and sue or arrest monsters who create hatred among people
    grapevine is an important word in Organizational behaviour. one person like chritie or an LTTE sympathizer can create serious problems by spreading wrong info They create hatred and influence good people who sometimes fail to think logically

    LET US LIVE LIKE A FAMILY NO HATRED OR DIVISIONS ANY MORE

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8
    New International Version (NIV)

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

  11. jimmy Says:

    I never call an one scum . It is wrong
    I do not care using this to Christie because I read his previous comments aboy Tamils and it is very hurtful
    There are people like this transexual among Tamils and sinhalese who love to destroy peace and harmony

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    Jimmy,

    I’m Christian too.

    But understand this thing first.

    SL Constitution with its 6th amendment and PTA OVERRIDES what the Holy Bible says.

    If you can’t understand that you are wasting time.

    We are not crying for terrorists and their families who DESERVE to be sad. Instead we cry for our unitary SL which is under threat from Tamil illegal immigrants, Tamil terrorists and fools.

    Christie is a good man. Most of what he says is TRUE. Unfortunate you cannot agree with him OR tolerate him. You need to do some meditation before telling others to do it. Meditation cannot change our INTOLERANCE of illegal immigrants.

  13. jimmy Says:

    ok Lorenzo brother
    glad you are a christian . I had a great sinhala christian Shalindra ( Born again) who taught me so many things in life . He gives 1/10th to the church . I feel bad I do not give 1/10th . I pray god to give me the strength to give 1/10 to church ( after taxes)
    I said before Budhisim should be given imporatnce all over the country
    As a christian you should tell the truth and never ever ever ever be prejudice to other race. period
    Do you follow christianity in actions rather than words?
    how could you say 400000 Tamils came from Tnadu
    I will pray for your soul .
    bye

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    There are many thousands of Tamil people who rightfully belong in Tamil Nadu, but are in Sri Lanka. Tamils should fix up what is not right for them in Tamil Nadu. Then there will be no need to grab other peoples countries or pieces of it, or attempt to change the language/culture of other countries.

  15. cassandra Says:

    Jimmy,

    I see you have quoted from 1 Corinthians which says in part (and I quote from what you have quoted) “love is kind” and “It does not dishonor others”. But you know, there is a saying that even the devil can quote the scriptures. Because, how come, you also see fit to say such things as “scumbags like Christie”?

    Remember, “love is kind” and “it does not dishonor others”

  16. jimmy Says:

    Agree cassandra

    Christie,
    I truly apologize . I will pray for you to become a good human being

  17. cassandra Says:

    Jimmy,
    Thank you for your assurance of prayers that I may ‘become a good human being’. This implies of course that I am not a good human being. And that’s fair enough, I suppose. I could modestly say I am not a bad person but won’t presume to say I am necessarily a good one. And let me say I have now also said a prayer for you – not that you become a good human being, because clearly you are one, but just a prayer for you.
    Peace be with you, brother.

  18. cassandra Says:

    Jimmy,
    My apologies to you this time. I now realise my last comment makes no sense. Unfortunately I did not read your last comment carefully enough and overlooked ‘Christie’ in there, and hence my response. Anyway, my prayer for you cannot have been misplaced. I believe we all need each other’s prayers and also we need each other in a general sense also, to enrich our lives and give them meaning. Human beings should complement each other, not tear each other apart.
    Peace be with you, brother.

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