Romanticizing the Past as a form of Political Deceit
Posted on March 25th, 2017

R Chandrasoma

It is a weakness of the system of memory-recall in humans that the good things that happened to us remain vivid in our memory while the misfortunes and travail that dogged our life tend to be pushed into oblivion. Nobody gets any joy in recalling an unpleasant past. Historians show the same weakness – their record of the past is more a eulogy than a substantial statement of the facts. That politicians ‘manufacture history’ is well known but there are ‘manufactures’ that are so outrageously wrong that a rebuttal is necessary.

The Prime Minister (RW) while lambasting the opposition has repeatedly stated that ‘Ceylon’ – Sri Lanka – before the British left our country – was only second to Japan in in the ‘well-being’ of  its people. This ‘fact’ is now taken as Gospel by leading members of the current government and a story is related of the tragic decline of our once-prosperous nation by the practice of the wrong kind of (divisive) politics.

Let us interpolate a remark about Japan. In the years before the Great War Japan was an industrial giant about to embark on a vast military adventure that changed the world. Her Naval Armada and Carrier- based Air force routed both the British and American Naval forces in the first phase of the Pacific War. It exported good to all the world and its people were famous for their skill and ingenuity. To  place Sri Lanka in the same league table with this Asian colossus is a category error –like saying that a donkey is second only to a horse.

Let us recall some of the salient facts about ‘Ceylon’ before the British left our shores. In the Great Malaria Epidemic of 1934-35, over half a million people died – mostly children and young adults.  (The total population was about five million.) Parts of Sri Lanka – the so-called malarial districts – had emaciated populations that were bereft of schools, hospitals and markets. They battled it out with no help from the ‘Government’ of the day. Fetish worship, devil-dancing and magic were the chief means of alleviating this intolerable existential misery.

A curious social anomaly existed that complicated greatly the social profile of the nation of the time – the existence in the large towns of ‘Kalu Suddhas’ that aped the life-style of the Colonial Overlord and constituted a cultural subspecies that concealed – by their social dominance and loyalty to the Foreign Overlord – the true misery of the common peopled. These ‘comprador bourgeoise’ had a great time battening on the largesse of the foreigner – they lived in commodious bungalows with lush green gardens and troops of servants – parts of Colombo that foreigners admired greatly. Perhaps that ex-brigand from Singapore saw the Kalu-Suddhasa in action in their green villas of the metropolis with dancing servants and food and wine in abundance and mistook the oasis for the encircling desert.

What was the stark realty in the 30’s and 40’s of the last century? Most children died at birth. Births were mostly in hovels – hospitals and doctors were unknown except in those green neighborhoods were the Kalu Suddhas and their fond offspring lived. The force of mortality acted on young adults as much as it did on infants and children – TB and Enteric Fever were killers of the young. There were no jobs for the rural poor and women of all ages led a life of hard work and servitude.

This is only an apercu of the dismal state of our land when the alien was our overlord – a period of oppression and dire hardship for the masses while a few had it good – thanks to their ‘symbiosis’ with the hated foreigner. As stated earlier, to speak of Sri Lanka as being only second to Japan is like saying that a hog is only second to a lion because the fleas on the hog are as good as those on the King of the beasts. We know, of course, that in the wretched game of politics it is often part of the winning strategy to lie and to deceive. In this case, however, the untruth insults the vast multitudes that died in misery in a land under the heel of the conqueror.



2 Responses to “Romanticizing the Past as a form of Political Deceit”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    I completely agree with Chandrasoma!

    Wicked Wikunanasinghe’s memory is shaped only by the KALU Sudda’s who lord ed it over an abjectly poor, destitute population largely abandoned by their own leaders.

    It remained for SWRD’s revolution to create a government of the majority of the people, by the majority of the people, working for the benefit of the majority of the people!

    The Kalu Suddas supporting the UNP have still not shed those Pukka Sahib attitudes the elites inherited from their Colonial Overlords

    One more thing: Japan was a largely feudal society under the Tokugapwa Shoganate (founded in 1603 by Tokugapwa Ieyasu and isolated from foreign countries to preserve its culture) at the time Commodore Matthew Perry steamed into Tokyo harbor in 1853. It because quickly apparent to the Japanese that they could not confront this power unless they modernization Japan. In 1854 an agreement was signed with the US opening up Japan to the world. The Shogante fell and was replaced by a government again led by an executive patriotic Emperor. This government was led by a group of young progressive patriots who sent Japanese abroad to learn everything necessary to create a modern technologically driven modern state. With the short space of 40 years they had succeeded brilliantly not only to transform Japan into a modern state politically and technologically, but also to create a world-class military capable of defending the nation. This was demonstrated to a shocked world when the modrrn Japanese Navy demolished the Russian Pacific Fleet in the Battle of Tushima straits May 27-28, 1905), to emerge as a world power capable of standing toe-to-toe with the Colonial Powers of the West!

    That is the power of Native Japanese Wit and Native Japanese Patriotism!

    Can we Sri Lankan Patriots do less??

  2. Nimal Says:

    I don’t agree with this article.Colonials set up hospitals where ever they could that goes for schools and other facilities.My grandmother died at child birth to my father and his twin sister,sadly his twin sister and his mother died at Talawa,where hadly anyone lived until the Royal engineers set up the train station,the first hospital and school and a Buddhist temple further interior in a place called Ralapanawa where my grand father’s sister lived all her life up to nearly 104 years.
    Most of the poor people were settled by a person named Evlin Karney who is now buried in the same grave as our grand mother at Talawa.First cementry was created in Talawa by the colonials and with the help of our Kalu Sudda familes in Nuggegoda and Mirihana.We are proud to be called Kalusuddas.
    They the colonials did so much and we are one of the few countries that is blind to it but the emerging population is beginning to understand it and the days of pulling wool over the eyes are ending

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