“Insane fury” of Tamil leaders terrorised, bloodied and oppressed Jaffna
Posted on June 16th, 2012

H. L. D. Mahindapala

In the main, political discourse on the north-south crisis has raged throughout the Vadukoddai War blaming only the Sinhala ” chauvinists” and “extremists” of the south and exonerating Jaffna and its past. In  most instances, judgements have been passed as  if Jaffna was the glorious kingdom that gave Tamils their prosperity, liberty and security and it is the Sinhala “chauvinist” demons who took it away from them. At the same time, most studies mourned the absence of more research into the political culture behind the cadjan curtain. But this very lacuna enabled them to put the blame entirely on the Sinhala south by concluding that absence of evidence of the past is also absence of guilt. It also helped to manufacture an ideal past that never existed. Besides, keeping Jaffna in the dark helped the Jaffnaites to play the role of the underdog victimized, oppressed and discriminated by the majority. The social studies were focused almost exclusively on the south, with foreign and local researchers exploring every nook and corner –from Kalutara Bodiya to Vihara Maha Devi Park — to demonize the south.

Consequently, Jaffna came out as a squeaky clean domain free of any guilt or responsibility for the worsening of the inter-ethnic relations, or for the explosion of the futile Vadukoddai War. A whole new school of social scientists cropped up — particularly in America led by S. J. Tambiah — with the sole mission of digging up all the dirt they could find to denigrate the Sinhala south. This growth industry also helped to keep Jaffna off the radar screen. In the end, when the hero they produced to beat the Sinhalese turned into an abominable monster, liquidating their leaders and kids, they blamed the Sinhalese saying that he was their answer to Sinhala politics. This argument is based on the premise that Jaffna would not have taken to violence if the Sinhalese gave the Jaffnaites exclusive rights, over and above the rights of  the other communities, at the time they demanded, even if that meant the denial of the rights of other communities. The fact that the Sinhalese resisted their ever increasing demands — from  imaginary grievances to  anti-national  aspirations, from extra seat in the Western Province in the 20s’ to Eelam in the 70s’ — is projected as the reason for turning the Jaffnaites into violent monsters.

But the hidden history of Jaffna tells another story. It reveals the history of Tamil leaders, driven by “insane fury”, slaughtering non-combatant civilians, engaging in mass murders of dissident Tamils. ethnically cleansing non-Tamils from the peninsula, persecuting and enslaving prisoners, imposing ruthless and humiliating social norms on the lower-castes, and generally running  fascist regimes from the beginning (Sangkili) to the end (Prabhakaran) reducing segments of Tamil citizens into subhuman slaves. Behind the cadjan curtain the ruling elite of Jaffna ran an ethno-centric gulag which demanded conformity and obedience to the ruling masters of Jaffna. The  Vellahla elite , for instance, deluded themselves into believing that Jaffna was their exclusive comfort zone, which no outsider can disturb, because it protected their feudal and colonial privileges and the right to exploit human beings by denying them their basic rights, particularly human dignity. Incidentally, the elitist priviligentsia were happy to go along with the colonial and post-independence regimes as long as their sense of superiority and comfort zone were not disturbed.  

Some glimpses of the past of Jaffna can be gleaned from Yalpana Vaipava Malai (A Garland of Significant Events of Jaffna). If scholars and students fossicking in the past of Jaffna, hoping to discover some reliable strands of history, fail to begin or end with Yalpana Vaipava Malai they will, at least, make a passing reference to it. It is a chronicle that claims to have laid the first written foundations for the history of Jaffna. It is a slim book of 58 pages, none of which is larger than a half-size A4. It can be read from cover to cover in one sitting. Nevertheless, its influence seems to have gone beyond the limited pages in recreating and shaping the image of Jaffna’s past. Its translator, C. Brito, wrote in his preface (July 10, 1879) that this “work is looked upon as one of the great authority among the Tamils of Jaffna….” In fact, when Mudliyar C, Rasanayagam wrote his book, Ancient Jaffna, (1926) he relies on it to write a more sophisticated version of the same material  with some additions. 

The author of Yalpana Vaipava Malai, Mylvaganam Pulavar, says in his preface that he wrote it “(A)t the request of illustrious Dutch Governor (Jan) Maccara” (1736) and he admits that he had drawn from “the materials collected from “the Kayilasa-malai” and other ancient works”.

This chronicle is supposed to be to the Tamils what the Mahavamsa is to the Sinhalese. But this comparison is exaggerated. Neither in depth nor in length does Yalpana Vaipava Malai bear any resemblance to Mahavamsa. Neither in genealogy nor in chronology does Yalpana Vaipava Malai come anywhere near Mahavamsa. Neither in content nor in  raising a historical consciousness does Yalpana Vaipava Malai achieve anything on the historical scale of Mahavamsa. Neither in the narrative nor in the main mission of  recording a fairly comprehensive history of the people does Yalpana Vaipava Malai aspire to be a rival to Mahavamsa. The uniqueness of Mahavamsa as an insightful record, throwing beacons of light into the past to enlighten and guide the future, remains intact.

It is commonly acknowledged that Western Orientalists — Vincent Smith, Max Muller etc., — were drawn to the Aryan culture in the East and they focused mainly on Pali and Sanskrit languages, paying less attention to the Dravidian culture and Tamils. They took to the exploration of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist and other texts of north India than the Dravidian branch  of Hindu (Saivite) culture of S. India. Likewise the British administrator-scholars like George Turnour, H.C.P. Bell, J. P. Lewis focused their studies on the culture-rich south and hardly on the arid north. In fact, the prestige of the Mahavamsa rose to iconic status because the translations and commentaries were done by Western Orientalists like Wilhelm Geiger and George Turnour. Mahavamsa, for instance, is synonymous with Geiger. Yalpana Vaipava Malai, however, failed to attract foreign scholars or win plaudits even from Tamil commentators who dismissed it as lacking in “independent historical evidence, being mostly based on legendary stories, epics, folk tales, ancient place names and few obscure sources.” (p. 47 — Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, A Study of its Origins, Murugar Gunasingham, MV Publications, Sydney.)

Nevertheless, the significance of Yalpana Vaipava Malai  as a guide to the past of Jaffna has been underrated. It reveals, in between lines, some glimpses of the realities of the political culture of Jaffna. There are nuggets of information which give an insight into the pre-Dutch past of Jaffna. One nugget confirms the strong presence of the Sinhalese in the peninsula in the early days. The Vallipuram inscription goes further to establish that Jaffna was a part of the Sinhala kingdom. Yalpana Vaipava Malai also confirms that the Sinhalese rebelled against the rulers of Jaffna, sometimes jointly with the Vanniyars from time to time. On one occasion the Sinhala-Buddhists created a “great disturbance” and the king executed the leader, Punchi Banda.(p.19 — Ibid))

The kings of Jaffna suppressed the Sinhalese brutally. From time to time they were executed, enslaved or driven out. It also reveals that the Vanniyars too were not happy with Jaffna rulers and they too took up arms against the Jaffna tyrants. Mylvaganam says that “the tyranny of kings had caused….the large diminution of population (and) to compensate for that he received an accession of new subjects of various races…” (p.35) Periodically the kings had to send for new migrants from S. India to replenish the depleted numbers in Jaffna. There were a couple of rulers who took an interest in learning. Other than that Yalpana Vaipava Malai stands as a bland collection of disconnected stories with no passionate or committed sense of history running through it.

All in all, it gives a negative picture of Jaffna.This is most clear in the single figure that dominates and casts a long shadow across the pages of the chronicle: Sangkili. He is a malevolent figure and the author makes no bones about it. Mylvaganam Pulavar devotes the most number of pages to Sangkili. He does it not to praise him but to condemn him. If Dutugemunu is the central figure in the Mahavamsa for the great services he rendered to the nation and the sangha then Sangkili emerges as the central figure in Yalpana Vaipava Malai not for doing any good but for being a mass murderer, a tyrant and “the unscrupulous behaviour by which he was afterwards distinguished”. (p. 26 – Ibid). This bastard son of Pararjasegaram VI is portrayed almost as a demonic force. His treatment of Tamils and non-Tamils smears the pages with  the blood of the innocent victims of the Tamil  rulers. Apart from the persecution and decimation of Tamils and the Sinhalese the author also reveals how the numbers of Malay community were reduced “by the oppression of kings” and how Sangkili drove them out of Jaffna. The remnants settled down in Chavakachcheri (Java-kachcheri) and “Savang-kodu”. (p. 34 – Ibid).

Yalpana Vaipava Malai reveals that Jaffna was not inclined to tolerate either Tamil dissent or the existence of minorities.  The “other” was anathema to  the Jaffna-centric  political culture. Apart from the anti-Sinhala, anti-Christian and anti-Malay persecution Yalpana Vaipava Malai also records the hostility towards the Moors (Sonakars) who settled down in “South-mirisuvil”. First, it claims that they were originally Tamils by race but had embraced Islam. This was a theme that was picked up later  by Ponnambalam Ramanathan and rejected outright by the Muslims.

Later the Moors established a new settlement in Nallur. It is in Nallur that the Muslims met their kismet. Mylvaganam says: “The Tamils viewed their presence with displeasure, as they thought that it might be detrimental to the causes of their religion when the time should come for the restoration of the temple. They tempted the Sonakar to leave the place, with money and entreaties, which when they found unavailing, they had recourse to a plan that proved effectual. They put a quantity of pig’s flesh into the wells of their enemy by night. When the defilement was discovered, the Sonakar were in great distress of mind. They could neither drink water nor cook their meals with it, and they saw themselves driven to the necessity of choosing between starvation on one hand and emigration on the other. They chose the latter and sold the place for whatever money they could get from the Tamils and retired to the east of Navanathurai.” (p. 55 – Ibid)

This stands in utter contrast to the responses of the Sinhalese kings who gave refuge to the Muslims persecuted by the Dutch in the East and the Catholics persecuted in the West.

Yalpana Vaipava Malai reserves the most severe strictures to Sangkili’s massacres of Catholics and Buddhists. Obviously, the massacres were morally  repugnant and unacceptable to the author, as it should be  to anyone. He wrote: “It was the sworn duty among the Paranghis (Portuguese) to endeavour to spread their religion wherever they went. By the force of their preaching number of families embraced the Saththiya vetham (Christianity) at Mannar. As soon as Sangkili heard of this conversion he put six hundred persons to the sword without any distinction of age or sex. This took place in the month of Adi (December) of the year Kara (1544). His insane fury longed for more victims and he fell upon the Buddhists. The followers of Buddhism were all Singhalese, and of them there were many in this kingdom,. By an order which he issued he expelled them beyond his limits and destroyed all their numerous places of worship. They betook themselves to the Vannis and the Kandiyan territories, and not one Singhalese remained behind nor ever after returned hither.” (p.33 — Ibid)

The scattered stories in Yalpana Vaipava Malai, when pieced together, confirm the chronicler’s perceptive characterisation of the Jaffna political culture as ” insane fury (which) longed for more victims…” It encapsulates the intolerance, intransigence, mono-ethnic extremism, tyranny, ethnic cleansing, oppression, persecution and denial of the basic human rights throughout the first phase of Tamil history in Jaffna. From hindsight that was not availble to Mylvaganam Pulavar it can be argued that in all stages of its history — from Sangkili to Prabhakaran — the Tamil political culture never deviated from the brutal tyranny with which the Tamil rulers imposed their fascist will on the Tamil people to establish a mono-ethnic culture excluding all other communities.

Jaffna was the dark side of the Sri Lankan moon that was kept hidden from public view because any exposure of its bloody past — particularly the past in which the Tamil leaders oppressed, persecuted and liquidated the Tamils –would undermine their claim to be the underdog and diminish their claim to be victims of the majority Sinhalese. Any objective and in-depth exploration of the peninsular political culture and history will reveal that when they point a finger at the Sinhala majority four fingers are pointing at them. Their pretentious claim to be the poor victims of the “Sinhala chauvinism” is contradicted by the “insane fury” of Tamil leaders who never gave the oppressed Tamil people the right to walk in daylight or enter a temple to worship their common God.

For instance, with all its infirmities the best of Tamils — and even the worst of Tamils — found refuge in the south when they had no space in the north under Prabhakaran. At all times the three-star democracy of the south has always been far superior to the five-star  ” insane ”  tyranny of the north. The freedom to break the rigid casteist bonds that restricted the Tamils in Jaffna, and the easy going life-style to enjoy the cosmopolitan south was resisted by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam. He refused to buy a house in Colombo fearing that his children will lose their Tamil identity. This represents the blind racism of Tamil leaders who wanted their children to exploit the resources and opportunities of the south to the maximum without losing their mono-ethnic extremism rooted in Jaffna.  This ingrained attitude shut the door to compromise and multi-ethnic co-existence. The south was good enough to be exploited and maintained as a bogey-man to explain their systemic failures coming down from Sankili to Prabhakaran but never a safe  haven to retain their feudal and colonial powers, privileges and positions. It was this Jaffna-centric culture that was expressed unequivocally in the popular adage: “The son shines in Colombo while the father reaps the harvest in Jaffna.” 

To be continued



8 Responses to ““Insane fury” of Tamil leaders terrorised, bloodied and oppressed Jaffna”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    100% true.

    The good thing is this “Yalpana Vaipava Malai” is not to be found anywhere!!

    It is a MYTHICAL book.

  2. Vijendra Says:

    Leaders should lead with a vision to bring about peace, harmony and prosperity to the people they lead. Politicians of a democratic country, who are paid by the tax payers, should be exemplary and capable of representing all ethnic groups and not a single ethnic group to the exclusion of the others. They should certainly learn from history while planning for the future and not try to live in history as history is dead.

    For a country to be prosperous, the leaders must pull together with a common vision to achieve the desired outcomes. Separation along ethnic groups is a sure way to continue the hatred of the past into the future. If all Sri Lankans are to live as Sri Lankans in the future, there must be a common legal Sri Lankan identity and each and every Sri Lankan should be able to relate to it and hopefully aspire to uphold it. Anyone going against such an identity should be taken to task. The question is “have we defined who a Sri Lankan is and what code of conduct is expected and tolerated of such a person.” I believe our legal system does this. However, if the answer is “no” should we not do that at least now? Shouldn’t there be a true Sri Lankan code of conduct for each and every Sri Lankan to live by, including all the so called political leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origin? By extension, shouldn’t there be consequences when they flout this code of conduct?

  3. AnuD Says:

    Unlike ANURADHAPURA which retained the same name, as I understand it, Since the time it began, name of the YAPA-PATUNA has changed from time to time. It looks it’s earliest name was the Naga-Deepa whichmeant Naga people lived. At one time, it had been called Yapa-Patuna because the tribe lived in their were called YAPAs. I think, the word Jaffna is the word pronounced by Portugeuse.

    I don’t think VIJENDRA’s preaching applies here why Tamils are busy and are ONLY interested creating a Tamil enclave. They use Tamilnadu and now talk about it and use other foreign powers to achieve it.

    Now, I consider the SINHALA-BUDDHIST as some honorary or respectable word and not something to feel disgusted as a Tamil thuggie or a Tamil Suicide bomber or a Black tiger.

    I think, Mahavamsa is ONLY one book Sinhala people. there are numerous books written at different times. In the internet there is a book Ceylon – buddhist Chronicle, I never heard that book in Sinhala and, how ever, that books contain amazing stuff relating to the world probably things revealed by Arahat monks.

    I think, the next group following a similar trend is Muslims. they are also building their chronicles.

    Sri Lankan temples had villages around the temple – “GAMVARA” – gifted by Kings to the temples. I think Colonials destroyed all those customs. Some of those destruction were not reversed even though Sri lankan people began to govern the country. Those things may haunt us one day. Many of the Christian Churches, Muslims mosques are built on these lands.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Vijendra says :
    “Leaders should lead with a vision to bring about peace, harmony and prosperity to the people they lead. Politicians of a democratic country, who are paid by the tax payers, should be exemplary and capable of representing all ethnic groups and not a single ethnic group to the exclusion of the others. They should certainly learn from history while planning for the future and not try to live in history as history is dead”. This advice must apply to Tamil leaders of Jaffna especially. It is they who appear to have misled their own ethnic group plus caused ample trouble for the rest of the country, globalised their problems and leaning heavily toward Separatism to hide/deflect Tamil caste negativity/poverty. Also, history never dies. History is a good teacher, always. All able politicians & statesmen learn from history.

  5. LankaLover Says:

    මේක නම් හැම සිංහලයෙක්ම සහ ලංකා රජය කරවන කෙනෙක්ම කියවන්න ඕන පොතක්! අනාගතය ඒ ලෙසින්ම වර්ෂ 2000 දී කියපු පොතක්… ඉතාම දිගු දැක්මක්! http://www.kalaya.org/files/Prabhakaran_Ohuge_Seeyala_Bappala_ha_Massinala.pdf

  6. Lorenzo Says:

    Tamils’ identity is Tamil Nadu. That will never change. How can you expect them to change that? That is their ONLY homeland and they are attached to it.

    ALL Tamil songs, movies, dancing, etc. come from TN ONLY!! NOTHING from SL!!

    If SL was Tamil homeland, it should be the opposite.

    Don’t try to bury history.

    It is better to bury TNA leadership to solve the problem than history!

  7. myopinion24 Says:

    hello hello year 2012 going on 2013 dialing 1950 did i hear “innane fury” yes i did . at this rate i am looking forward to a united Sri Lanka perhaps sometime in 2112!

  8. Lorenzo Says:


    Make it 3112.

    UNITARY SL – NOW! Those who cannot unite in unitary SL will NEVER be united in a united SL.

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