Posted on May 1st, 2020

By Rohana R. Wasala

The online Asian Tribune of February 21, 2020, carried a profusely illustrated article under the title A Historical Leadership Program Launched by Professor Nandana Wijesinghe”. The event was reported to have been conducted on the weekend -14th -16th February 2020 at the Ridee Viharaya Conference Centre, Ridi(ya)gama, Kurunegala, organized by this professor who, according to the news report, heads the Department of Sociology, University of Peradeniya. Having read the Asian Tribune article, I wanted to find out something more about the university don involved, for his name was new to me. So I did a google search, and what I incidentally came across was an extremely unpleasant surprise to me as a patriotic journalist.

I am not a professional journalist in the sense of a person who is earning a living by their journalism. It is not a vocation for me, but an avocation, a hobby. I don’t write articles and have them published for any material reward or gain, financial or otherwise. My broad journalistic focus is threefold: education, culture, and current affairs; the last has dominated my attention over the last ten years out of more than two decades of freelance journalism. The overriding objective of my journalistic exertions is, apart from desired self-fulfilment, national service in the form of trying to project to a global readership, through the medium of English, a correct view of Sri Lanka’s domestic political landscape that is characterised at the grassroots level by benign and inclusive Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. An apparent documentation error committed by Nandana Wijesinghe has betrayed or misrepresented me to the members of his specific global academic community that is relevant to my aforementioned journalistic objective as a friend of the long entrenched local and international anti-Sinhalese Buddhist propaganda brigade whose diabolical distortions have done and are still doing near irreparable damage to Sri Lanka.  Following is my story in this connection:    

Asian Tribune editor K.T. Rajasingham published an article in his online paper on September 19, 2010, that, he claimed, consisted of a part of the evidence that he had allegedly given before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (May 2010 – November 2011). When I read this article I thought that KTR was guilty of grossly misrepresenting the facts relating to the so-called Sinhalese-Muslim Riots of 1915. So I immediately replied to him in an article under the title The Truth about the 1915 Riots” published in The Island of September 21, 2010 ( My reply article began thus, following it with a few paragraphs quoted from KTR’s: 

QUOTE Mr K.T. Rajasingham, editor of The Asian Tribune, carried a part of his evidence given before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in his online daily news publication on September 19, 2010. It contained the following patently erroneous references to the so-called Sinhalese –Muslim Riots of 1915. END OF QUOTE 

The paragraphs that I quoted from KTR at the beginning of my reply article were as follows:

QUOTE After the Kandyan Rebellion of 1817-18 to overthrow British rule, the British, by a proclamation dated November 21, 1818, greatly reduced the privileges granted to Sinhalese chiefs and changed the guarantees on religion given in the Kandyan Convention. Consequently, it was absurd that the Sinhalese wanted to celebrate a clause in a convention that was no longer in force.

Also, the government agents of Kandy had informed the trustees of the Gampola Buddhist temple that in taking their annual Perahera (procession) in Kandy they would not be allowed to beat drums or play any musical instruments within 100 yards of a new mosque in Castle Hill Street.

The trustees turned to the courts, arguing that a perahera of the old Kandyan kingdom was permitted in terms of the Kandyan Convention of 1815. The District Court of Kandy decided in their favor, but on an appeal by the government the Supreme Court reversed the judgment. The trustees then appealed to the Privy Council in England.

In the meantime, Buddhist preachers went about the country urging Buddhists to demonstrate against Muslims. Incidentally, the anniversary of the birth of The Lord Buddha fell on May 28, 1915, and a procession began that night. The celebrations were marred by an incident near the mosque, where some 25 men were arrested on charges of housebreaking and rioting.

Sinhalese attacks on Muslims continued, spreading from the central province to the western and northwestern provinces until June 6, 1915. Muslims sustained heavy losses. According to available records, losses sustained included 86 damaged mosques, more than 4,075 looted boutiques and shops, 35 Muslims killed, 198 injured and four women raped. Seventeen Christian churches were burnt down…….END OF QUOTE

Professor Nandana Wijesinghe (NW) erroneously attributes to me these paragraphs from KTR’s Asia Tribune article quoted in my The Island article titled The truth about the 1915 riots” above mentioned. NW does so in a paper published in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (JIABU, Vol. VII, 2016) titled ‘Buddhist-Muslim Collision in Sri Lanka: A Partial History’, where the first footnote reference is to me (Rohana R. Wasala) as a source of information (He gives the WEB link to my Island article). Thus, Nandana Wijesinghe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, wrongly attributes to me KTR’s deliberate misrepresentation of the 1915 incidents. Wijesinghe doesn’t seem to have read my article at all. He must have run his eyes through the first six short paragraphs of my article (which were actually paragraphs quoted from KTR as copied above) and come to the conclusion that I was merely propagating the long prevalent anti- Sinhala Buddhist version of the 1915 unrest. This sort of crass negligence is not worthy of an academic researcher of Nandana Wijesinghe’s stature. It is regrettable that the lecturer had not read my article at all apart from taking a hurried glance at the first few paragraphs or had not read it carefully enough to properly understand it. One reason why he apparently misread the very beginning of my article was that the quotation marks duly inserted in the original text had been inadvertently omitted in a typographical mishandling committed during the digital transference/printing process at the newspaper office (which was beyond my control). But the text of my article makes it very clear that the five paragraphs after the opening (copied above) are extracts from KTR’s problematic article. That is, the opening paragraph is mine, at the end of which there is a colon (:), which  indicates a ‘list’ of the ‘erroneous references’ previously mentioned. Paragraphs 2 to 6 are reproduced from KTR’s Asian Tribune article, which contain those references. My article holds KTR’s distortion of the factual history of the 1915 clashes to derision and offers an authoritative historical account of the fateful events of that year as reflected in the famous cause célèbre known as the Gampola Perahera Case. 

The fact that I totally rejected KTR’s narrative about the 1915 Sinhala-Muslim conflict was the very reason I wrote that reply; it was just a newspaper article, though; there was nothing academic about it, but it was based on some authentic literature I had read relevant to the subject. The more important reason for Wijesinghe’s mixup was probably that he was anxious to quote something that confirmed his own prejudices.  In his paper, Wijesinghe betrays a decidedly anti-Sinhala Buddhist frame of mind. The subtitle ‘A Partial History’ could be an attempt to salve his conscience.

Nandana Wijesinghe announces his prejudices in his opening paragraphs:

QUOTE Sri Lanka is no stranger to eruptions of communal violence.  The most glaring testimony to this stands in the form of the notorious thirty year civil war that was a result of conflicting Sinhala and Tamil political ambitions.  Obviously, these expressions of violence do not emerge overnight but rather progress around a number of events spanning extended lengths of time, finally escalating into their terrible forms.  The recent controversy springing out of the Buddhist-Muslim clash clearly shows the dangerous potential of communal rifts to disintegrate societies and dissolve them in rivalry and hatred.  A look into the historical underpinnings of Buddhist-Muslim exchanges provides valuable insights into the contemporary dynamics of this relationship. END OF QUOTE

He accepts the notorious myth that the thirty-year civil war was a communal conflict, not an armed conflict between a democratic sovereign state and a treacherous terrorist organization assisted by foreign vested interests, bringing misery to all peaceful Sri Lankans. Then, what does he mean by ‘Buddhist -Muslim exchanges’? Verbal exchanges/negotiations or armed confrontations/clashes? Imprecise vocabulary is not a mark of academic writing.

Describing the background to the breakout of violence between the two communities in 1915, Wijesinghe writes:

 QUOTE Tensions between the two communities were running high with the Buddhists complaining about the increasing number of mosques springing up in the area, and the Muslims retaliating by objecting to a Buddhist procession conducted in the vicinity of a mosque.  On 29 May 1915, a Buddhist mob torched a mosque and began to attack Muslim homes and businesses.  Soon the violence spread to Central, North Western, Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. END OF QUOTE

This is the section (consisting entirely of fabricated information) for which he incorrectly mentions my name in a footnote as the source. To anyone who cares to read my ‘The Truth about the Sinhala-Muslim Riots of 1915’, it will be clear  that these blatant lies are not found there; not even in the extracts from KTR given at the beginning of that article, i.e., paragraphs 2 to 6. Wijesinghe must have borrowed them from some other faulty source/s, unless he has himself manufactured those fictions, which, however, is not conceivably possible.

Lankaweb online forum (November 06, 2014) carried an updated version of my Island article. I deleted the introductory part that referred to KTR, including the above mentioned extracts from his Asian Tribune article. This is the preamble to the updated article which I renamed What happened in 1915?” (

QUOTE The following is an updated version of an article of mine entitled The Truth about the 1915 Riots” published in The Island on September 20, 2010. It has been specially prepared here for Lankaweb News and Forum readers. The real cause of the disturbances traditionally described as the Sinhala-Muslim Riots of 1915” has sometimes been deliberately obscured by opponents of Sinhala Buddhists as merely something to do with the native (Sinhalese) capitalist class, just emerging under the auspices of the British, exploiting communalism to advance their interests. The truth about what actually led to the ‘riots’ was otherwise as revealed at the court case instituted in 1913 by the aggrieved authorities of a historic Devale/temple near Gampola important to Buddhists challenging the government’s subjection, at the behest of some members of an extremist Muslim group, the issue of a permit for holding an age-old perahera to the fulfillment of an unjust demand insisted on by the latter.

 The principal source of information about the famous Gampola Perahera Case was the book Studies of Some Famous Cases of Ceylon” by Walter Thalgodapitiya (Formerly of the Ceylon Judicial Service and Commissioner of Assizes), M.D. Gunasena & Co. Ltd, Colombo, 1963. The late Justice Thalgodapitiya had an unblemished reputation as an incorruptible legal functionary and a great human being of impeccable honesty. His analysis of the case is unlikely to be disputed by anyone, in my opinion. END OF QUOTE

(The Lankaweb article is available at

 To return to Wijesinghe’s JIABU paper/article, among the conclusions he draws are the following:

QUOTE Especially in light of the current upheaval in the international community regarding the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, it is imperative that the island strengthens its existing cordialities with friendly nations, most of whom are Muslim countries.  If domestic conditions turn unfavorable to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, it would be logical to assume that these countries would be less inclined than they are now to show their solidarity with the island nation. END OF QUOTE

This is very shallow reasoning. It amounts to advocating an undignified offer of mea culpa to uncommitted human rights violations out of mere servility; but it was in accordance with the treacherous Yahapalana thinking. 

The concluding paragraph quoted below summarizes the anti-Sinhala Buddhist mentality of the sociological researcher, Nandana Wijesinghe.

QUOTE Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Sri Lanka, as this essay shows, are not a recent phenomenon.  However, they did become more pronounced in the recent past with the renewed interest of BBS, among others, in the Muslim community and the threat they pose to the Sinhala-Buddhist community.  Since Buddhist monks comprise a very potent tool that shapes public opinion, it is extremely important that they deliberate on their views and stances before involving the public in certain issues because though their actions are fundamentally oriented towards the preservation of Buddhism and the Sinhalese, if their actions themselves serve to warrant international interference in Sri Lanka to probe the Human Rights condition of the country, the very entities that they strive to preserve will be the first to be compromised. END OF QUOTE

It is strange that this academic was not informed enough about the existing local realities (not exclusively those uncovered with evidence by the BBS – Bodu Bala Sena) relating to the problem of the menace posed to Sri Lankans of all races and religions and worldviews, especially to Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus who together form over 80% of the population,  from Abrahamic religious fundamentalists (not from the mainstream adherents of those religions), when he wrote to that international journal. These monks do ‘deliberate on their views and stances before involving the public…’; there is nothing wrong with their actions, but whatever can they do if they are misreported to the world by indifferent media, and immature ill-informed academics? (A personal opinion)

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