Gouvernement d’union nationale et abolition du régime présidentiel à Colombo

Le SLFP a rejoint l’UNP, la JHU et les partis musulmans pour former un cabinet d’union nationale à Sri Lanka, ce qui rend plus difficile un retour au pouvoir de l’ancien président Rajapakse à l’issue des élections législatives qui doivent avoir lieu dans quelques mois. Ce cabinet élargi présente au Parlement le 19ème amendement à la Constitution, qui met en place des nouvelles institutions consacrant l’abandon du régime présidentiel. En dépit des difficultés de l’exercice et des tensions inhérentes à tout processus de ce type, cet essai de réforme politique radicale représente une “grande première” qui pourrait servir d’exemple.
Nous reproduisons ci-dessous des extraits d’un article de Rasika Jayakody paru dans le Daily News, qui analyse ce processus.

Maithri-Ranil-Chandrika Trinity Checkmates Mahinda by Forming National Govt Comprising UNP and SLFP


Rasika Jayakody

When he defected from the Rajapaksa administration to challenge Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency in November, last year, he only had the support of eight Parliamentarians of the UPFA who accompanied him in a face of a government that seemed invincible. The large majority of UPFA Parliamentarians criticized Sirisena’s move calling him a traitor who betrayed the party and its voters. In response, Sirisena said that he was still the legitimate General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and he never left his party where he started his political career over four decades ago.

However, in his run up to the presidency, 28 MPs, who represented the UPFA, joined hands with him, putting a damper on the election campaign of the former President who was running for his third term in office. Addressing his election meetings, Sirisena confidently said that he would regain his position in the SLFP following his “victory” at the presidential election.

A few days after his election victory, a sizable proportion of Central Committee members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party aligned themselves with the newly elected President, accepting him as the “by-default” Chairman of the SLFP. They said Sirisena had the backing of the majority of the SLFP Central Committee members and appointed a new board of officials with the new President as the head of the party.

Fearing a possible split in the party, the SLFP seniors, decided to urge the former President to relinquish his positions, making way for President Sirisena to become the official Chairman of the SLFP. At a meeting held at the Speaker’s official residence, former President Rajapaksa told the new President that he was ready to transfer the powers of the SLFP. Soon after this transfer of power, President Sirisena was formally appointed as the Chairman of the party by the Executive Committee and the Central Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

However, there were some seniors of the SLFP who still wanted “Mahinda” to lead the Parliamentary election campaign of the party as the Prime Ministerial Candidate. Some of them even attended the rally held at Nugegoda extending their support to what they termed as the former President’s Prime Ministerial candidature. Realizing the possible consequences of this trend, President Sirsena got his party secretary to issue a special statement on behalf of the Central Committee, prohibiting the members of the party from attending events organized by other political parties and organizations.

As a result of this measure, no senior SLFP Parliamentarian attended the rally which was held in Kandy to promote the former President who was on a feverish mission to return to active politics probably as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA coalition. With little or no support from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the pro-MR rally in Kandy ended as a disappointment.

Taking a step further, Sirisena drew the support of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party MPs by allowing them to join the government before the Parliamentary election. With this move, 26 MPs of the SLFP accepted ministerial portfolios from the government extending their support to the national led unity government, led by Maithri-Ranil-CBK troika. This new national government project, initiated by the UNP and the SLFP, came into play at an important juncture where the government’s 100 day programme is concerned.
During the special Cabinet meeting held on March 15 at the Presidential Secretariat, the Cabinet of ministers widely discussed the differences of opinion on dissolution of Parliament and the proposed constitutional amendments. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Jathika Hela Urumaya wanted to “water down” the 19th Amendment as they wanted to preserve certain powers of the Executive. When Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe distributed a draft of the 19th Amendment among Cabinet ministers on March 12, Ministers Rajitha Senaratne and Patali Champika Ranawaka hit out at the amendments saying it had ignored the recommendations of the SLFP and the JHU.

Therefore the Cabinet meeting ended with a lot of negative sentiments with regard to the constitutional amendment. At the same time, the United National Party was in a hurry to complete the 100 day programme and go for a Parliamentary election on April 23 while the Sri Lanka Freedom Party wanted to buy more time. As part of their plan to get the Parliamentary elections postponed, the SLFP asserted that the 19th Amendment should also accompany electoral reforms. This was backed by the Jathika Hela Urumaya and Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, Convener of the Movement for a Just Society. The SLFP also expressed willingness to form a national government with the UNP, if the ruling party wanted more time to introduce electoral reforms and the 19th Amendment simultaneously.

The United National Party vehemently rejected the idea of forming a national government with the SLFP before the election. The UNP seniors said they were only willing to form a national government after the forthcoming Parliamentary election. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made his position clear saying that the present government only had “oxygen” to exist until April 23. A lot of conflicting views were expressed by the UNP and the SLFP in this regard and it appeared as if the country was running into a political crisis of some sort.

It was against this backdrop that President Sirisena, fresh from his visit to London, convened the Cabinet meeting on March 15.

At this meeting, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to entrust President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with the task of holding discussions and arriving at a final decision on issues such as dissolution of Parliament on April 23, introduction of constructional amendment and finalizing electoral reforms. The Cabinet also listed down certain areas where everyone could agree upon when it came to the abolition of executive powers held by the President.

This included reduction of the Presidential term from six years to five years, provision for a citizen to challenge the President under fundamental rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, terms pertaining to Presidential pardon, two-term restriction on re-election of a President, provisions on appointment of Cabinet ministers and ministry secretaries, definition of the head of state and the head of government, and prevention of arbitrary dissolution of Parliament by the President.

The Maithri-Ranil-CBK troika realized that it was important to get the SLFP to play an active role in the introduction of the constitutional amendments. On one hand, they needed the two thirds majority in Parliament to get the amendments passed in the country’s legislature. On the other hand, the President too needed a strategy to further consolidate his power in the SLFP as some members of the party were greeting his decisions with a modicum of suspicion. He needed a “trump card” to position him as a leader whom the party could rely on at difficult times.

UNP’s compromise strategy

Settling for a national government before the election was nothing short of a compromise for the United National Party. But, it was a compromise that the UNP could not avoid. They needed the two thirds majority in Parliament to introduce constitutional amendments and go for the election as soon as possible. In this process, the UNP will now have to share the “credit” with the SLFP for the 19th Amendment.

However, no one can undermine the role the UNP played in the battle against the Executive Presidency, especially when Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power. It was the UNP who first decided that the abolition of the Executive Presidency should be the main rallying point for the opposition alliance at the presidential election. This was when certain political pundits pompously pointed out that slogans such as ‘abolition of Executive Presidency” were not appealing enough to the public.

The UNP’s compromise will also allow President Sirisena to dissolve Parliament soon after the implementation of the 100 day programme. The President will now be in a position to justify his decision to the rank and file of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party as he has also allowed the SLFP to join the government accepting ministerial portfolios. Hence, from the UNP’s perspective, it can be construed as an act of taking one step back to jump two steps forward.

The United National Party prefers to have the Parliamentary election before the end of June. At the last Working Committee meeting of the party, the UNP appointed a special committee to look into immediate social welfare measures that need to be taken before the Parliamentary election. The committee comprised of Ravi Karunanayake, Sajith Premadasa, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Harin Fernando, Gayantha Karunathilake, Eran Wickremaratne and Ranjith Maddumabandara.

The party also decided that immediate development programmes should be carried out at the grassroots level to draw more public support to the party at the election. Although the party is preparing its election machinery for an early election, the dissolution of Parliament is in the hands of President Maithripala Sirisena who is also the Leader of the rival political camp. However, at a meeting with the heads of media institutions last week, President Sirisena said that he would not be “insincere” to the feelings of the UNPers who elevated him to the Presidency at the recently held election.

Irrespective of the outcome of the election, the Maithri-Ranil-CBK troika has already arrived at the decision that there should be a national government in the country for at least another two years. This has been repeatedly stated by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on numerous occasions. However, the ministries held by each party will be proportionate to its share in Parliament. Therefore, it is important for both parties to get a bigger share in Parliament and become the “majority stakeholder” of the new national government.

Joint Cabinet support total abolition of Executive Presidency

The joint Cabinet of the new national government met at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday evening to discuss the future of its programme and the proposed constitutional amendment. The meeting was attended by new members of the Cabinet who represented the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. In a major development, the joint Cabinet decided to adopt the 19th Amendment to the constitution without amendments. This means the Cabinet arrived at a principled agreement that the Executive Presidency, which was introduced by the late J.R. Jayewardena, should be abolished in its entirety.

With this new development, the President would be the Head of State and the head of the Security Forces. However, a question arose with regard to the head of the government and the head of the Cabinet. The 19th Amendment, which was adopted by the Cabinet, was silent about the head of the government and it actually remained a grey area.

However, a senior Cabinet Minister, who spoke to the Daily News on Monday night after the Cabinet meeting said that for all practical and tactical purposes, the interpretation would be that the Prime Minister would function as the head of the government.

The Cabinet also adopted the provisions of the 17th Amendment to the constitution which includes the setting up of independent commissions. The setting up of independent missions, which was also a key aspect of the political campaign of the common opposition at the last presidential election, will be done as part of the 19th Amendment to the constitution.

With this decision, the Elections Commission, the independent Police Commission, the Public Services Commission and the Constitutional Council will be set up as part of the process to reduce the powers of the Executive.

The Cabinet agreed that the Executive Presidency should come to an end with the end of President Sirisena’s first term. After the President’s first term, the Presidency will be more or less a ceremonial figurehead as in India and several other Western countries. President Sirisena has already stated that he will not contest for Presidency again and this will be his last term in office.

Ranawaka wages lone battle

However, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka who is also the General Secretary of the Jathika Hela Urumaya vehemently opposed the move saying the Common Opposition campaigned for the removal of the excessive powers of the Executive Presidency and not for the total abolition of the system. He was of the opinion that the total abolition of the Executive Presidency would destabilize the country and would go against the mandate of the new government.

The remarks made by Minister Ranawaka irked several senior members of the United National Party who were strong advocates of the total abolition of the Executive Presidency.
At this point, Minister Laskhman Kiriella responded to Ranawaka stating the original idea was to fully abolish the Executive Presidency and the present President can retain his powers until the end of his term, in accordance with the provisions of the constitutional amendment.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera strongly responded to Minister Ranawaka saying the those who were involved with the opposition campaign from the beginning were pushing for the total abolition of the Executive Presidency. The Foreign Minister said the JHU joined the opposition campaign much later.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, while endorsing the Cabinet’s decision, said there should be a more comprehensive constitutional amendment under the new Parliament which will be convened after the next Parliamentary election. He said the 19th Amendment was only an amendment to the present constitution implying that it should not be considered as the end of the road.

President Sirisena, addressing the Cabinet meeting, said the government was already late in terms of introducing much needed constitutional amendments. What he emphasized was the fact that the government had no time to waste over trivial matters. He also added that the national government should work fast and take every possible action to get the amendments passed in Parliament without any delay. The President has already made his position clear stating that he was for the total abolition of Executive Presidency and he did not want to cling to his presidential powers eternally.

Although there are some concerns about politicians who have been included in the joint Cabinet, the first meeting of the ministers produced a satisfactory outcome with two main parties arriving at a settlement on the total abolition of Executive Presidency.

National govt puts a damper on MR plans

The newly formed national government has certainly diluted the campaign to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa back to power. Although the pro-Mahinda parties are already planning to hold another rally in Rathnapura, it is clear that the movement has lost momentum with the SLFP joining the UNP-led Cabinet. The pro-MR parties were constantly urging the SLFP to name Rajapaksa as its Prime Ministerial Candidate at the election and the SLFP’s decision to join the national government is a severe blow to their campaign. By joining the national government, the SLFP has given a clear indication to the pro-MR supporters that the party was not interested in accommodating “Mahinda” at the election.

At this point, if former President Rajapaksa wants to be a Prime Ministerial Candidate at the next election, he will have to form another political movement with the support of hardcore MR loyalists. But, it is now becoming clear that the former President does not want to take a political gamble by contesting without the support of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Therefore, he will take a backseat at the upcoming General Election as the two main parties will seek a mandate for the formation of a national government.

That was what former President Rajapaksa meant when he congratulated he national government formed by the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

He said he was laughed at when he spoke of a national government during the time of war. “But I will not laugh at the new national government,” Rajapaksa said wearing a typical Cheshire cat smile on his face.
“I am having a rest these days. So I should not talk about the developments on the political front,” Rajapaksa said when he attended the prefects’ investiture ceremony held at the Samarasinharama Dhamma school in Thelijjawila, Matara, on the day the national government was formed. Determined to get a fiery comment from the former President, a journalist who was present at the event asked Rajapaksa whether a national government was good for the future of the country.

In response, the former President calmly said it was yet to be seen. He avoided further questions by bringing forward Mahinda Yapa Aneywardena who also joined the national government just hours before. “If you have any questions about the national government, ask our “national government ministers,” said Rajapaksa with a wide grin.

“I have nowhere to go these days, except temples. I accept invitations from Dhamma schools. The children who come from the distant areas speak of the success of Dhamma schools. A Dhamma school is a good place for producing a disciplined set of people.”

“According to Buddhist doctrine we are able to face victory and defeat in the same manner. Children should be able to face victory and defeat alike. Do not betray the country. Respect the country in the same way you respect your parents, “he said.

“Sri Lanka : Democracy at Work” by Eric Meyer

The South Asia Democratic Forum (www.sadf.eu) organized at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, 21st January 2015, a post-electoral briefing on Sri Lanka, which was attended by an international audience including South Asians, and European MPs.
We publish here the text of the intervention of Eric Meyer, who was invited to present his views in the discussion panel.


In the decades after Independence, Sri Lanka used to be regarded as one of the most advanced democracies in Asia.

Then after 1971 (the first JVP insurgency and its suppression) and 1978-83-87 (the beginning of Eelamist rebellion and civil war, the establishment and manipulation of a presidential system, foreign intervention by India and its failure), Sri Lanka came to be branded as the sick man of South Asia.

After more than 40 years of civil war, of social and political violence and of growing lawlessness, the results of the presidential vote and the conditions of the transfer of power to the new President show the resilience of the democratic system in Sri Lanka, and a democratic maturity which was unexpected a few months ago by pessimistic observers.

Sri Lankans could share the words of Radhika Coomaraswamy (former U.N. Undersecretary general in charge of the rights of children) : « the elections made me triumphantly proud of my country ». But does it mean that Sri Lanka is back at square one ?


The high voter turn out, above 81.5%, is remarkable (the highest in the history of the country), as compared with the previous presidential elections of 2005 and 2010 (73-74%); even in northern Jaffna it was more than 66%, while in 2005 it was 1.2% because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had imposed a ban on voting, and in 2010 it was 25% in the aftermath of the bloodbath and repression of the previous year. This progress is the result of a return to more settled conditions and of a political will for change.

The overall result shows a margin of 3.7% between the two candidates, rather similar to that witnessed in well-established democracies : 6,217,162 votes (51.28%) went for Maithripala Sirisena, the common candidate of the opposition who had resigned a few months before from the Rajapaksa government, against 5,768,090 votes (47.58%) for Mahinda Rajapaksa. Regional breakdown shows that the north, east, and the large cities, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Sirisena ; that the rural areas of the South voted in favour of Rajapaksa but with a reduced majority ; and that in the Centre and Centre north, the balance was rather equal. If one extrapolates to assess the vote of the ethnic groups, it is clear that the great majority of the Muslims, of the North/East Tamils and of the Up-country Tamils voted for Sirisena ; and that a small majority of the Sinhalese, especially in the countryside, voted for Rajapaksa (about 52%).

But it is also clear that between 2010 and 2015, Rajapaksa lost in the Sinhalese majority areas about 10% of the votes – and more than 15% in urbanized areas (Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Galle) and in the north central rural districts (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa). Without this shift, Rajapaksa would have won even if all the minorities had voted against him. It is therefore inexact to affirm, as he did after the results, that he lost only because of the vote of the minorities.

There are no opinion polls age-wise or by occupation in Sri Lanka, but most observers consider that the young people who voted for the first time chose Sirisena, and the postal votes (open only to civil servants and members of the armed forces) follow the general tendency.

In a democratic election, the marginal difference is meaningful. What is the message sent by the voters who made the difference – the young people who voted for the first time, the members of the minorities who decided to cast their vote this time, the people of the large cities? Rajapaksa had at its disposal almost all the media which he had for the last six years forced into submission, but his opponent had young supporters using social networks, and many professionals such as lawyers who were outraged at his high-handed style. Family ‘bandyism’, growing corruption, unethical behaviour, lawlessness and impunity, price hikes of basic commodities were denounced by the various groups supporting Sirisena : it is significant that the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party founded by nationalist Sinhala Buddhist monks, on one side, and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the party which before 2009 supported the Eelamists, on the other, abandoned their extreme nationalist rhetoric to focus on these common themes ; so did the well-organized Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which was behind the two revolutionary attempts of 1971 and 1987-89, and the pro-western United National Party (UNP). In addition, the atrocities committed by the Bodu Bala Sena, an extremist self-styled Buddhist Force encouraged by Mahinda’s brother Gotabhaya to outflank the Jathika Hela Urumaya, alienated the Muslim minority and many Christians.


According to press reports and a few independent testimonies, it seems that Mahinda Rajapaksa, under the influence of his brother Gotabhaya, was prepared, if the election was narrowly lost, to proclaim a state of emergency under the pretence of maintaining public order, to postpone the proclamation of results, and to stage a ‘legal’ coup d’état. For that they needed the support of the Inspector General of Police, the Army Chief, the Judiciary (Chief Justice and Attorney General) and the Elections Commissionner. The Chief Justice Mohan Pieris, who was with the President during the election night against every principle of separation of powers, seems to have been involved from the start, but the refusal of the Attorney General and of the other VIPs derailed the attempt.

Then Rajapaksa contacted Ranil Wickramasinghe (the head of the United National Party, whom he knew well) who decided to come to the President’s residence, where he was able to persuade Rajapaksa to finally accepted his defeat by giving him a few assurances. It may be that the visit of pope Francis four days later made it difficult to plunge the country into political turmoil. Finally, the main political actors acted with restraint and responsibility, in spite of temptations to the contrary : democracy passed its second test.


Mahinda Rajapaksa and his supporters still control of a part of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party electoral machine : they may win the legislative elections which are due in April – May, and try to reimpose their power, especially in view of the relative weakness of the UNP especially in rural constituencies. The question is whether Maithripala Sirisena will be able to get rid of the most corrupt individuals in the party (of which according to the statutes he is now the head instead of Rajapaksa), impose new leaders, obtain the support of the majority of the SLFPers, and consolidate his power. Or will Rajapaksas continue to pull the strings, claim to represent the majority, brand Sirisena as the traitor who owed his election to the vote of the minorities and was manipulated by the former President Chandrika Bandaranaïke ?

The illegal activities of members of the Rajapaksa entourage may continue. Private security firms connected with them, which employ ex-soldiers, had recently imported huge loads of firearms. In addition, various paramilitary groups (including Tamil ex-LTTE armed groups who defected to Government) are still roaming about the country. Civil disarmement is going to be a huge problem for the Sirisena administration.

Vested interests are likely to suffer high losses if the Sirisena administration succeeds in cleaning up the country – for which it was elected : new rich groups derive their wealth from building and transport contracts, but also from casinos, prostitution, drug trafficking. The army and navy are controlling a large part of the reconstructed economy and a share of the lands in the war zones of the north and east and members of the armed forces derive large benefits from it. It will be difficult to eradicate corruption in the political class.

Finally, the cost of electoral promises might prove difficult to finance : with a taxation system which allows a lot of tax evasion, the rise of the salaries of public servants, of the pensions, of social allowances, of the guaranteed purchase price of agricultural products and so on will require new resources hard to find.


Maithripala Sirisena was the common candidate of a very heterogeneous opposition alliance. Its programme envisioned a series of constitutional reforms by a caretaker cabinet during a 100-days period, and in a second stage after the parliamentary elections, a National government formula for at least two years. Among the immediate reforms, the repealing of the 18th amendment to the Constitution which allowed the indefinite candidature of the President in office, and gave him full control over the Police, Justice, Electoral, Bribery and Human Rights Commissions ; the return to an electoral system based on constituencies instead of the present Preference Vote system ; the revision of the current budget ; and the reestablishment of a civil administration in the former war zones.

But the components of the coalition differ on several basic issues which will come into the fore sooner or later. As regards economic policy, the UNP, which controls the key ministries in the caretaker cabinet, has a history of favouring free enterprise and foreign investments ; while the JVP and the JHU, although with different ideological/moral arguments, converge in their radical critique of global capitalism and multinationals and will put pressure on the government.

As regards the political reforms long promised by successive governments but never really implemented to give the linguistic and religious minorities better rights, especially the regional devolution envisioned by the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the position of the monks of the JHU (and of its present lay leader, Champika Ranawaka) is or was the opposite of that of the left-oriented intelligentsia (illustrated by the interview with the Indian press of the new Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera who promised to fully implement the 13th amendment)

On other issues such as the role played by the army in the reconstruction of the North East, the place of Buddhism and Buddhist monks in the polity, the activities of International NGOs in the country, opinions also differ.

The National Advisory Council just set up by the President, is going to be the forum to discuss and hopefully settle some of these issues. It comprises : Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Prime Minister, leader of the UNP, Chandrika Bandaranaike, the former President (1994-2005), Champika Ranawaka, leader of the JHU, Anura Dissanayake, leader of the JVP, General Sarath Fonseka, who led the Army against the LTTE, lost the election of 2010 against Rajapaksa and was emprisoned by him, R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TNA, Rauf Hakeem and R. Bathiuddeen, leaders of the main Muslim parties.

Rebuilding democracy after one of the bloodiest civil wars in Asia, and decades of authoritarian rule and attack on human rights is a difficult exercise which is being undertaken by the Sri Lankans themselves. The burning issue of war crimes committed during and especially in the final phase of the conflict is constantly raised by the Tamil diaspora and by Human Rights organizations abroad. The Sirisena programme does not elude the question but considers that it must and can be tackled by the Sri Lankans themselves*. The sensible but too limited proposals of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) set up by the Rajapaksa regime were never seriously implemented. Whether the Sirisena administration will be able to do it will be the third and most difficult test of democracy. European democrats should give it enough time and support to pass it, while monitoring the progress of human rights in the country and keeping a tab on undemocratic activities abroad.

* « Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of national independent judicial mechanisms »

Radhika Coomaraswamy: je suis fière de mon pays

Nous reproduisons ci-dessous l’article publié dans le blog de DBS Jeyaraj par Radkika Coomaraswamy, célèbre juriste sri lankaise, militante des droits humains, et jusqu’en 2012 sous-secrétaire générale des Nations Unies chargée de la question des enfants dans les conflits armés.

“Why The Elections Last Week Made me Triumphantly Proud of my Country”


Radhika Coomaraswamy

There are times in one’s life when one becomes very proud of one’s country. For many it is when we win in cricket or in war. This is triumphant pride where we defeat someone else- an external sports team or an internal enemy. For this kind of pride we need “an other” whom we compete against or dislike without restraint. It is a mixed blessing, filled with pride, but especially in the latter case also fear and hate.
pic by: Anura Srinath – www.anurasrinath.com

pic by: Anura Srinath –

However there are times when pride can transcend the obsession with “the other”. In Sri Lanka it could be when we are immersed in its astounding natural beauty or when we live up to our own values and expectations. For me the elections last week were a very important moment- at least for my own personal connection to this island.

Democracy in Sri Lanka had taken a bashing for decades but especially since 2009. We saw things that were absolutely surreal- like something out of a bad Fellini film. And yet we were constantly warned against change, pointing to the possibility of chaos that an Arab spring could bring such as in Libya, Egypt and Syria- no-one of course mentions Tunisia where its has been a great success.

What saved us was the courage of individual politicians who by acting jointly have given us the following moments to savour in our lifetime -no matter what happens in the future: –

Firstly, our public servants, including our rule of law institutions and the security forces showed us what they can do if there is proper leadership and an atmosphere which even holds out a prospect where their professional independence is respected. :- a judiciary that refuses a last minute effort to break election laws by state media institutions; an Elections Commissioner who is proactive in ensuring a free election, constantly surrounding himself with monitors and the press so that no-one could “get at him”; a police force that finally does its job arresting those who did wrong and thwarting many acts of violence and intimidation, an army that refused for the most part to allow soldiers out of the barracks and if stories are true refused to pervert democracy and shoot its own people. (Egypt, Libya and Syria failed because the armed forces did not show this restraint unlike in Tunisia) Also if reports are true, an Attorney General who refused to push for the Proclamation of Emergency. We must also remember the countless public servants who made this election a success. This commitment to democracy by our public services and institutions more that anything will convince the world that given the proper leadership we are not a failed state or a banana republic- the image the rest of the world presently has about us and that brings shame to many of us working in this field.

Secondly, after years of being ruled from the top by people with a monarchical dispensation, it was wonderful to see dialogue and discussion slowly begin to take the place of threats and scaremongering. Particularly interesting has been the slow transformation of the rhetoric of both the TNA and the JHU. From bottom line thinking, inflammatory language and vitriol, both sides have publicly begun to affirm the need for discussion, dialogue and understanding. For many of us who have been watching the political scene for decades this has been extraordinary development. It is also interesting to see the slow transformation of the rhetoric of the UNP and the JVP- the former beginning to speak of limitations to neoliberal policies and the JVP agreeing to serve on the Advisory Council. The JVP and the JHU’s indefatigable struggle against corruption will hopefully continue holding the feet of the present government to the fire as well to ensure that this election is not another recycling of the spoils. These are all good signs, moving us away from the bottom line, boycott politics of the 1970s and 80s that got us into this mess in the first place to a more deliberative democracy focusing on process and substance. If this holds we are truly moving toward becoming a modern democracy.

The inauguration of the 6th Executive President was an absolutely chaotic affair. For some, freed from years of repression and intimidation, it was nostalgia and an affirmation of freedom and spontaneity- a carnival for a people’s president. Others, having been accustomed to years of a disciplined Colombo, were mortified- believing that this was a sign of things to come and that the coalition will lead us down the road of chaos and disorganization away from the “stability” of the last few years. The Cabinet appointments as well as the appointments of Secretaries and Governors should dispel such fears. These are appointments for the most part- though not all- based on merit and competence. We hope at least they will contribute toward effective governance.

There are still many obstacles are ahead and the promises and the expectations may never be fulfilled. In addition, the discourse and rhetoric of fear, rumour, darkness and hatred is still trying to make a comeback. It is true that the minorities did make a difference in this election but we must also ask why the former incumbent’s share of the Sinhala vote dropped from 65% to 55%- that is what made him lose the election since the minorities have always voted against his policies. It is the split in the Sinhala vote more than the minority vote that delivered this election to M. Sirisena. To see it as anything else is to deliberately obfuscate the issues.

We have also not resolved the ethnic issue and a lot of political landmines remain in that area. Yet we must ask- “how can the terrorists and violent rebellion ever come back?”. There is no leader, the people of Jaffna have no stomach for violence and even the irresponsible and self-absorbed diaspora are strangely talking about Mahatma Gandhi. The western countries and India, especially after this election, will not tolerate fund raising or clandestine mobilisation. Where is this threat? The issue is not military- it is political- how do we find a political solution, how do we win hearts and minds, develop the economy and livelihoods and treat people with respect and empathy. The appointment of a civilian governor to the northern province with familiarity on these issues is a step in the right direction.

We still do not know if any of the pledges of the Coalition will be fulfilled in the next 100 days. We have two active, political parties- the JHU and the JVP as well as a reinvigorated civil society that will now have the freedom to be vigilant to make sure it happens. If the pledges are implemented, we will have fundamental transformation in our political system and our rule of law institutions- hopefully they will ensure that democracy is entrenched no matter what happens after April.

At this time we must also remember all those who are not with us who would have also savoured this moment- among them- my mentor Neelan Tiruchelvam and his wife Sithie, Charlie Abeyesekere , his daughter Sunila and her son Sanjay- and also, though we had very divergent political views especially on the ethnic question, HL de Silva and SL Gunesekere who in their life time fought very hard for democracy and the rule of law. As Sunila’s daughter Subha wrote in a moving piece,

“So you see, democracy is not just a system, a structure. It is also a feeling. It is a feeling within each one of us; a desire to be led by the things we believe in and the people we see those things in. It is a desire to stand up, to feel powerful in our own way, to wield that power in the face of despair and frustration. It is a feeling that inspires other feelings; it gives us courage, it gives us hope”.

The arrival of the most popular religious figure in the world the day after the appointment of the cabinet of ministers seals this moment we can savour. We may not all be of the same religion or even religious at all but this is the Pope who has said that religion and religious institutions are not all that matters- it is one’s own spirituality and doing what is right that is the most important. May his blessings entrench our gains, help us transform hope into reality and vengeance into justice with mercy.

Après le succès de Maithripala Sirisena (51,28%), le programme des Cent premiers jours

Maithripala Sirisena a été élu Président de Sri Lanka à une courte majorité (51,28%); les élections n’ont pas donné lieu à des incidents majeurs et le taux de participation a été élevé (environ 70%). On trouvera sur le site de Ada Derana une présentation détaillée des résultats: www.adaderana.lk/presidential-elections-2015/

Nous reproduisons ci-dessous le programme des cent premiers jours du candidat vainqueur, ainsi que la liste des réformes socio-économiques qu’il a promis de mettre en oeuvre.

100 Day Work Programme After Maithripala Sirisena Becomes President – Detailed diary description

January 2015

Saturday January 10
The new President, Maithripala Sirisena, will take his oath of office
Sunday January 11
A Cabinet of not more than 25 members, including members of all political parties represented in Parliament, will be appointed with Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister
Monday January 12
In order to strengthen democracy, a National Advisory Council will be set up inclusive of representatives of parties represented in Parliament as well as Civil Society organizations.
Parliament will meet Tuesday January 20
The Standing Orders will be amended and, in terms of Proposal 67/10 now tabled in Parliament, Oversight Committees will be set up comprising members of Parliament who are not in the Cabinet will be established and their Chairmanship will be given to representatives of all Ministers in consultation with the leaders of all parties represented in Parliament.
Wednesday January 21
The process will begin of abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system and replacing it with an executive of a Cabinet of Ministers responsible to Parliament, and of repealing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with legislation to establish strengthened and independent institutions, including a Judicial Services Commission, a Police Commission, a Public Service Commission, an Elections Commission, a Commission against Bribery and Corruption and a Human Rights Commission. This will be through a 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which will be presented to Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible.
Wednesday January 28
An all party committee will be set up to put forward proposals to replace the current Preference Vote system and replace it with an Mixed Electoral System that ensures representation of individual Members for Parliamentary Constituencies, with mechanisms for proportionality.
Tuesday January 29
A Vote on Account will be introduced in Parliament to implement special measures to provide relief to the people by reducing the rising Cost of Living.
Thursday January 22
A Code of Conduct will be introduced for observation by all representatives of the People.
Wednesday January 30
Salaries will be raised and direct and indirect taxes on necessary goods and services will be reduced.

February 2015
Monday February 2
An Ethical Code of Conduct will be introduced legally for all representatives of the people.
Thursday February 4
Independence Day will be celebrated with re-establishment of Democracy and Good Governance and the Sovereignty of the People.
Thursday February 5
Special Commissions will be appointed to investigate allegations of massive corruption in the preceding period
Friday February 6
A Bill to implement the National Drugs policy will be tabled, following adoption of the Policy by Cabinet.
Wednesday February 18
Independent Commissions will be established and required appointments made
Thursday February 19
The National Audit Bill will be introduced and passed within 3 weeks
Friday February 20
The Right to Information Bill will be introduced and passed within 3 weeks

March 2015
Monday March 2
New elections laws will be prepared in accordance with the proposals put forward by the all party committee
Tuesday March 17
Amendments to change the system of elections will be placed before Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible
Wednesday March 18
The National Drugs Policy will be passed by Parliament
Thursday March 19
The National Audit Bill will be passed by Parliament
Friday March 20
The Right to Information Act will be passed by Parliament
Monday March 23
The Constitutional Council will be set up and the process of making appointments to and establishingIndependent Commissions will begin

April 2015
Monday April 20
A Parliamentary system will be put in place instead of the Executive Presidential system.
Thursday April 23
Parliament will be dissolved and free and fair elections held under a caretaker government. Following that election, the Prime Minister will be appointed from the party getting the highest number of seats at such election, with a Deputy Prime Minister from the party getting the next highest number.
A National Government of all parties represented in Parliament will be established to govern for a period of at least two years.
Under that government a National Policy Framework will be formulated to deal with the principal challenges the country faces, and a political culture will be developed to act in accordance with that Framework.
The nation is suffering from authoritarianism, and decisions taken by a few family members with no consultation of or care for the people. The destruction of ethical and socio-cultural values has led to grave suffering, through massive waste and abuse and corruption and absolute impunity. We need therefore to provide immediate relief to those who are oppressed, and embark on social and economic reforms that will restore normalcy and lead to prosperity for all.

Projected socio-economic reforms

The salaries of public servants will be raised by Rs 10,000 a month. Immediate relief will be provided by a payment of Rs 5,000 in February. A consolidated salary scheme will be put in place then, to cover all arrears
Full relief will be provided on the loans given to public servants for the purchase of motor cycles. Those who have paid previously will be refunded.
Graduates from whom virtual slave labour is obtained will be given regular appointments in a systematic fashion, and opportunities for promotion will be provided in accordance with suitable criteria.
An allowance of Rs 5,000 will be paid to pensioners, pending adjustment of anomalies in pensions.
Rs 1 million of the deposits in State Banks of each pensioner will receive interest of 15%.
The Samurdhi Allowance will be increased to 200% of the present rate to a maximum of Rs 2,000.
Pregnant mothers will be given an allowance of Rs 20,000 to supplement nourishment.
Excessive taxes will be lowered to reduce prices on ten essential food items. At the same time, special provisions will be put in place for protection of those producing such goods locally.
The current excessive taxes on fuel, amounting to around Rs 40 billion a year, will be removed and the benefits of this reduction in cost will be passed on to consumers.
The efficiency of both state and private transport services for the public will be improved through providing appropriate incentives to the transport sector.
The price of a cylinder of domestic gas will be reduced by Rs 300.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of rice will be Rs 50.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of potatoes will be Rs 80.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of tea leaves will be between Rs 80 and 90.
The guaranteed purchase price for rubber will be Rs 350 per kilogramme.
The guaranteed purchase price paid to dairy farmers for a litre of milk will be raised by Rs 10 from the present Rs 60.
Relief of 50% will be provided on loans taken by farmers, and the remainder will be compounded to allow for payment on easy terms.
The low quality fertilizer that threatens life as well as soil and produce will be replaced by fertilizer of better quality that conforms to regular standards
Instead of low quality fertilizer tea smallholders will be provided with fertilizer of better quality that conforms to regular standards
Compensation of Rs 1 million will be paid to fishermen who lose their lives at sea through an insurance scheme with state contributions
An insurance scheme for crops will be introduced for farmers with state contributions
A new pensions scheme will be introduced for farmers and fishermen.
A pensions scheme will be introduced for Three Wheeler Drivers, Masons and Carpenters and those engaged in small scale retail trade and other informal occupations.
A pensions scheme will be introduced for migrant workers, and the interest on their NRFC deposits will be increased by 2 ½%.
A programme will be put in place to ensure support and protection for the families of migrant workers in the Middle East and elsewhere who provide an invaluable service to the country through their labour
Relief will be provided on the interest and penalties payable on pawned gold items upto a value of Rs 200,000
Measures will be taken to provide relief to those caught in a debt trap though falling prey to various promises made by finance companies, credit card scams and pyramid schemes
New laws will be put in place to prevent abuse of women, abuse of children and sexual harassment of women and measures taken to ensure that women and children can live without fear in Sri Lanka, with responsibility undertaken to enforce the laws effectively
Measures will be put in place to protect those of all races widowed during the conflict, and their families.
So as to increase the participation of women in political decision making, legislation will be introduced to ensure at least 25% of women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.
To fully overcome the unemployment problem that affects our young people, we will put in place a million jobs programme for local and foreign employment and for self-employment
We will strengthen provisions that enable young people to hold opinions and express them freely, and illustrate them creatively, and to freely enjoy the rights associated with youth
Wi-fi will be made available free of charge in Centres in every town to facilitate Internet access
The Youth Parliament will be given financial powers to implement projects relating to youth proposed by the Youth Council and other youth organizations, and will receive an allocation of Rs 250 million for this purpose for 2015
Those engaged in Small and Medium Industries who have fallen into a debt trap and been blacklisted by CRIB, and those who suffer the same because of credit card debts, will be relieved from this through an easy repayment scheme.
Instead of the hijacking of the economy by a few individuals engaged in deals with regard tocasinos and drugs and ethanol, we will develop a national business sector working towards the prosperity of the country, in particular by establishing schemes of credit on easy terms for Small and Medium Enterprises.
To develop more jobs and increase exports we will regain the GSP+ provisions that were lost
We will review the current programme to integrate finance companies and banks
An institution will be established to regulate and develop micro-finance
A Bureau will be set up to protect Small Enterprises
To promote the Trishaw business, a government office will be set up inclusive of Trishaw drivers and the banking sector
We will set out to raise to 3% the current 1.8% allocated for the free Health Service.
All drugs needed by patients attending government hospitals will be made available without shortages in those very hospitals.
An intensive programme will be implemented to swiftly get through the waiting lists for patientsat government hospitals.
Government hospitals will offer services to out patients until 10 pm every day.
We will put a stop pending investigation into import of fertilizer and chemical substances suspected of contributing to kidney disease, while immediately preparing plans for short term and long term measures to deal with the problem, and ensuring their implementation.
Steps will be taken to put in place an effective institution to regulate trade in food items,cosmetics, drugs and other essential items
Steps will be taken to strengthen ayurvedic health services
Measures will be taken to efficiently coordinate services in Western, Eastern and Indigenous medicine and provide a unified service to the people
We will set in place a programme to systematically eliminate the drug menace, that includes heroin and ganja, and institute with international support a comprehensive, quick and effectiverehabilitation scheme for youngsters addicted to these substances
A special consolidated Task Force will be set in place to deal with drug abuse
Pictorial warnings with regard to the dangers of smoking will be increased to 80%.
Casino businesses which were granted excessive tax relief in opposition to the advice of the Mahanayakes and the views of the people will have their licenses revoked
We will put a stop to the Ethanol scam which avoided payment of required taxes
We will set out to raise to 6% the current 1.7% allocated for free Education
Powers with regard to universities which are now exercised by the Minister will be restored to the universities through the University Grants Commission, and the politicization of the universities will be halted.
Mahapola scholarships at universities will be raised to Rs 5000.
Provision will be made for all those who qualify in three subjects at Advanced Level to study towards obtaining a degree or diploma
A fair scheme for admission to Grade 1 will be instituted and implemented transparently. Those who have suffered from abuse in this regard will be provided with immediate relief.
Delays in admitting students to schools will be stopped and all students will be guaranteed entry to Grade 1 at the beginning of the school year
The Circular regarding religious education in schools will be made applicable to all schools, and a committee with representation of all religions will be established to monitor its implementation
International schools will be made subject to monitoring by the State
Current excessive taxes on fishing boats, nets, equipment and engines will be removed
We will put a stop to the incursions of foreign boats into our national waters
Measures will be taken to revive the European Union market from which our fish is now being excluded.
A Meteorological Inquiry service will be established to provide accurate information immediately to fishermen with regard to storms and other dangers.
Immediate steps will be taken to repair irrigation channels that have fallen into disuse.
Immediate steps will be taken to clear up reservoirs that have silted up.
The heroic members of the armed forces who are deployed in menial work such as cutting grass, sweeping roads and clearing drains will go back to only fulfilling the regular duties appropriate to the forces
The present politicization with regard to promotions in the police force will be replaced with a transparent scheme based on capacity, skills, commitment and efficiency
The seniority of officers of the regular police force will be safeguarded and any irregularities arising from integration of the auxiliary police force into the regular police force will be corrected
There will be an immediate stop to using members of the armed forces for the protection of Ministers and politicians and their family members. Police protection will be provided in accordance with clear specifications, and the practice of Ministers and politicians inconveniencing the public by travelling with security vehicles will be halted
Steps will be taken to provide land ownership and proper housing to plantation workers instead of their current confinement in line rooms
Facilities will be provided in schools for the children of plantation workers in the Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Matale and Kegalle Districts to have access to education in the Tamil medium upto university level including in Science
Relief will be provided to all those illegally displaced for various reasons from their homes and lands
The value will be calculated of the housing and land of which residents of Colombo have been deprived, and that will be deducted from the housing loans they are now paying
A programme will be implemented swiftly to provide housing to the hundreds of thousands who have no shelter
A democratic civil administration will be put in place in North and South
Through legal and social means steps will be taken to prevent actions and speech that lead todenigration of other races and religions and of religious leaders, and spread hatred between those of different races and religions
Protection will be provided to all places of religious worship
National and Local Councils of religious leaders will be set up to promote reconciliation between those of different religions and work effectively against the spread of religious animosities
Measures will be taken to preserve and protect archaeological sites
Outlets for alcohol will be removed from the vicinity of places of religious worship ncluding the Temple of the Tooth, and car races in those areas will be stopped.
Proposed amendments to the Buddhist Temporalities Act will be finalized after consultation of the Heads of Buddhist Orders to obtain their advice and guidance and approval.
A programme will commence to develop pirivena education and train teachers for religious instruction
The foundation will be laid for an International University which will also work towards raisingeducational standards at pirivenas to international standards
Laws will be passed swiftly to put a stop to ill-treatment of animals
Hindrances to the work of Civil Society groups concerned with economic and socialdevelopment, environmental issues, and with issues of Good Governance and Human Rights, will be removed
A culture will be established that safeguards and values the independence and artistic integrity of practitioners of the arts
Both immediate and long term measures will be taken to safeguard the independence of media personnel and institutions
The Right to Freedom of Thought and Expression will be strengthened
Parliamentary proceedings will be telecast live
Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of nationalindependent judicial mechanisms
Their positions and rights will be restored to victims of political revenge and punishments, including former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, and 43rd Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
A respected Foreign Service free of political interference will be re-established
Areas designated by law as Environmentally Protected Lands will be protected and care taken to safeguard their boundaries
Areas of environmental importance which are now subject to threats of destruction will be further identified and necessary steps taken to protect them
Steps will be taken, using contemporary international technological knowledge, to restore areas of environmental importance that have been harmed or are suffering threats
The Wild Life Protection Ordinance will be effectively implemented without fear or favour
It will be compulsory to have an Environmental Assessment Study at the very inception of any development projects

Présidentielles 2015: nouvelle analyse

Après le rapport de deux chercheurs de l’Université de Colombo reproduit antérieurement (slkdiaspo.hypotheses.org/4222), nous attirons l’attention sur une nouvelle analyse préélectorale, à deux jours du scrutin, qui parvient aux mêmes conclusions sur la base d’une méthode différente.


Présidentielles 2015: l’analyse de deux chercheurs de l’Université de Colombo

L’analyse pré-électorale proposée par deux chercheurs attachés à l’Université de Colombo, qui avait fait l’objet de fuites dans la presse, est la seule à ce jour à avoir été publiée et à avoir exposé les méthodes employées. C’est à ce titre que nous la proposons ci-dessous à nos lecteurs.

January 01, 2014

We, the undersigned, wish to put the record straight regarding a research we two jointly have undertaken to develop an empirical model to analyse the Sri Lankan voter behavior at Presidential elections over the past 10 years with the objective of contributing to the body of social research.

1. This research team was jointly led by us; T L Gunaruwan, Senior Lecturer attached to the University of Colombo and D S Jayaweera, an independent policy analyst, currently the Director General of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

2. There is no formal involvement of the University of Colombo or SLTDA in this research, as it is the case with regard to most of our research activities, and any involvement one could imagine is limited to the extent of us being employed at these organisations, and the research team being comprised of several junior researchers and research students attached to the University of Colombo, and our academic and research contact points at several other Universities.

3. Our interests were purely academic and research in nature, and thus, we never released any of the interim outcomes of our still-ongoing research to media. However, we have recently observed several news items in media pertaining to a “Colombo University survey” on presidential elections, some of which even contained our names, but with some contents we cannot claim ownership.

4. Even though we cannot exclude the possibility of there being other surveys conducted by other researchers attached to the University of Colombo and other academic and research institutions on this subject, it would be unfair if such are quoted or published without the explicit consent of any such researchers, including us, and more so if the contents are not properly reported so that misleading opinions could be developed in the minds of the readers.

5. Since we realise the possibility of these numerous reports quoting out of context our research and their various outputs, we thought of putting the record straight by releasing to media the outcomes of our research as it stood at 27th December 2014, while requesting all concerned to avoid using these for any marketing or propaganda purposes. We, however, have no objection of anyone or organisation using these for further research work or for their internal planning and strategic decision making purposes.

T Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, Senior Lecturer (Economics), University of Colombo, and

D S Jayaweera, Policy Analyst (Currently the DG/SLTDA)

January 01, 2015

Attached: Outcomes of our Research as at Dec 27, 2014.

SURVEY ON VOTING PATTERNS – Presidential Election 2015

(Survey conducted by a research team of the University of Colombo)

Sample :

(a) Relatively smaller sample (little less than 1000) compared to total population of little over 15 million. Survey forms were collected at convenience, and therefore, district-wise or electorate-wise representative sampling could not be realised. The results have to be perceived having proper understanding of this aspect.

(b) Over 80% of the sample were Sinhala Buddhists, and thus this sample has that bias, given that the overall share of Sinhala Buddhist voters is approximately 70% of the total votes.

(c) No survey responses were obtained from North (except one respondent from Jaffna, and two from Mullativu), while much larger number of responses were obtained from East, North Central, Western and Southern provinces. Only a few responses were obtained from Central, Uva, Wayamba and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

(d) Sample characteristics indicate that it is overwhelmingly biased towards Mahinda Rajapaksa, as out of those who have cast their votes in the respective elections, over 75% had voted for MR in 2010 and 2005 elections (when his national average stood around 58% in 2010 and just above 50% in 2005).


1. Around 20% for the first time voters and nearly 13%-15% of the total respondents are still undecided. This indecision is still substantially high, and means that a lot could still change, particularly through the events and behavior of parties over the next two weeks.

2. Only 1% of the respondents in the aggregate sample pronounced preference to vote for a third candidate, while nearly 3% would vote for no one. These ratios are 2% and 7%, respectively, with regard to fresh voters. This indicates the likelihood of relatively lesser share of votes polled by any candidate other than the two main contenders, while the cancellation rate also is likely to be relatively low (please note that this percentage is compatible with what was observed at past national elections).

3. In the face of it, 44% to 39% split between MR and MS in a highly “MR-biased” (as explained in “d” above) sample points at the highly competitive nature of the forthcoming election, where the possibility of MR’s share going below 50% is substantial.

4. The present survey thus adopted a different approach to examine the trends. The 2015 vote base was divided into “new votes” and “non-new votes”; and the share of votes polled by individual candidates were considered with regard to “new votes”, while the “shifts” away from MR (in 2010) to MS (in 2015) and vice-versa were estimated and applied on to the population with regard to “non-new votes”.

5. As per the survey results, MR would obtain 38% of the “new-votes” while MS would obtain 33%. The balance would be accounted under votes obtained by other candidates, non-voters, and those who are still undecided.

6. With regard to “non-new votes”, nearly 28% of those who voted for MR in 2010 would shift towards MS this time and 11% would still be undecided, while 4% of those who voted for Sarath Fonseka in 2010 would shift towards MR in 2015 while 11% would be undecided. It is interesting to note that nearly 30% of those who voted for MR in 2005 Presidential election would deflect towards MS in 2015, and around 9% of those voted for Ranil Wickramasinghe in 2005 would deflect towards MR in the coming election.

7. Applying the basic survey results to the overall population, and using the 2010 election results as the basis for projections, it could be estimated that the chances are greater for MS to win this election with around 53% of the total valid votes, assuming that the absentee voter ratio stays unchanged at around 25%.

8. This pattern was cross examined through an “ethnicity based” analysis. This was attempted because the survey sample appeared overwhelmingly “Sinhalese”, and any shift calculated based on such a biased sample would only apply to that particular ethnic electorate. The results indicated the likelihood of MS securing a lead of over 2 lakhs of votes over MR in this electoral block, paving the way for an MS victory with a likely preference for him in Tamil and Muslim electorates. The survey results indicate that MS could secure the required 50% of total valid votes if he manages to get around half of the Tamil and Muslim votes, while MR would require over 60% of the Tamil and Muslim votes if he is to surpass MS in the overall competition and to cross over the crucial 50% threshold.

9. The results thus indicate the importance for both candidates of their margins secured in the Sinhalese electorate, which accounts for over 112 lakhs or three-fourth of the total number of registered voters. For instance, one lakh of lead lost for MS in the Sinhala electorate than the above indicated survey estimates would necessitate him to secure over 57% of minority votes (compared to nearly 50% required in the case of two lakhs of lead in the Sinhala electorate) for overall election victory.

10. Based on the survey estimates and a hypothetical 35:65 ratio of minority votes split between MR and MS respectively, the ethnicity specific analysis would yield an overall outcome closer to that projected under (7) above, with nearly 60 lakhs of votes (53%) polled by MS, 50 lakhs (44%) by MR, and 3% going to others.

11. However, it must be emphasised that nearly 20% of the first time voters, and around 13% of the overall electorate, are still undecided, which could go into either camp over the next two weeks, and could either reinforce or reverse the overall estimates made in this analysis. It is interesting to note that only less than 1% of the overall respondents pronounced interest in constitutional reforms or economic hardships such as high cost of living or unemployment. An overwhelming majority expressing preference for MR was for his war effort, strong leadership against external intervention, national unity and not reverting back to war or separatism, and those preferring MS were largely owing to accountability, transparency and governance issues in the MR rule. It is therefore very clear that the Sinhalese vote base, largely reflected in the sample surveyed, is sensitive to the national issue, and those still undecided among them, even though a majority has not given reasons for their indecision, are prone to tilt towards the camp which assures them of peace and national security. Strategic sail through the next two weeks of campaigning is therefore likely to be crucial for both candidates.


This analysis therefore tends to indicate a probable victory for MS at the forthcoming Presidential elections. However, there is a significant share of undecided voters, which makes the competition still wide open for both parties; and the estimates made in this analysis are likely to be influenced by the decision that will be made by these undecided voters over the next two weeks.

T L Gunaruwan (University of Colombo) and D S Jayaweera (SLTDA)

Joint Survey Analysts

December 27, 2014

“Une étude novatrice de Delon Madavan sur les minorités tamoules à Colombo, Singapour et Kuala Lumpur” par Éric Meyer

Delon Madavan a soutenu brillamment sa thèse de doctorat en géographie à l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne le 26 septembre 2013.

Le travail de Delon Madavan associe dans une même étude Asie du Sud-Est et du Sud. Cette démarche, trop rare dans l’univers cloisonné des études aréales, est particulièrement pertinente, s’agissant des minorités tamoules établies sur le pourtour du golfe du Bengale, aire de circulation « connectée » bien avant l’impact colonial britannique. La propension spécifique des populations tamoules à émigrer concerne un large spectre sociologique, allant des travailleurs manuels (les coolies) aux marchands et gens de mer, aux artisans, et plus récemment aux professionnels du secteur tertiaire maîtrisant la langue anglaise et les outils informatiques. Delon Madavan analyse parfaitement la complexité de ces populations, et pose d’emblée la question de la création et des limites d’une identité tamoule transcendant cette hétérogénéité. Il conclut à juste titre que « la communauté tamoule est avant tout une agrégation d’expériences individuelles »
Parmi les concepts utilisés, ceux d’appartenance ethnique et de diaspora retiennent l’attention. Delon Madavan, dans le premier chapitre puis dans la dernière partie de sa thèse, montre comment le sentiment d’appartenance se fonde sur l’usage et la célébration de la langue tamoule, sur la large diffusion d’un imaginaire commun par la production cinématographique de ‘Kollywood’, et plus récemment sur le culte de l’héroïsme et sur le rêve d’un État national développés par les militants séparatistes sri lankais. Il évoque aussi la place tenue par les stratégies d’alliance qui maintiennent la cohésion par des mariages croisés (sans toutefois surmonter les segmentations internes de caste en dépit des efforts des militants de la cause tamoule). Le terme de diaspora, tel qu’il est défini comme « applicable à toute communauté post-migratoire caractérisée par une dispersion dans plusieurs pays à partir d’un foyer d’origine », est utilisé à bon escient ; il gagnerait à être mis au pluriel, pour prendre en compte l’importance de la segmentation des communautés tamoules ; à cet égard, la diaspora issue de la ville de Jaffna, qui fonctionne en réseau de Colombo à Kuala Lumpur, Singapour, Londres, Toronto ou Paris, répond mieux à cette définition que les communautés de travailleurs tamouls des plantations de Sri Lanka et de Malaisie, qui ont pourtant des origines communes et des destins parallèles, mais n’ont pas conservé de liens.
L’étude est menée dans une perspective géographique, son objet étant d’analyser l’inscription dans l’espace urbain du fait ethnique. Les terrains choisis sont les quartiers tamouls de Colombo, Kuala Lumpur et Singapour, cités qui ont en commun d’être des créations coloniales mais que distinguent leur composition ethnique et leur évolution politique depuis les indépendances. La méthode comparative est utilisée par Delon Madavan comme un procédé heuristique qui permet de prendre du recul pour mieux comprendre les situations particulières. Le plan qui juxtapose et combine dans des grandes parties thématiques le cas des trois cités permet de mener une véritable comparaison .
En ce qui concerne la ville de Colombo, le travail est totalement novateur, en dépit des difficultés considérables inhérentes à toute recherche sur Sri Lanka, et plus particulièrement sur les Tamouls sri lankais, dans un contexte politique marqué par la guerre opposant le gouvernement aux militants séparatistes des LTTE (Tigres de Libération de l’Eelam Tamoul). Le choix de ne pas traiter de la période postérieure à la défaite militaire des séparatistes (mai 2009) est amplement justifié par l’exigence de sérieux qui distingue le temps du chercheur de celui du publiciste. Il n’existait jusqu’à cette thèse aucune étude sur les minorités tamoules de Colombo, ni même d’étude géographique ou sociologique de qualité scientifique concernant cette cité, sur laquelle l’auteur aurait pu s’appuyer, et les données statistiques au niveau local étaient difficiles d’accès. En outre, le climat de violence urbaine généralisée interdisait à Delon Madavan de mener une enquête ‘au fil des rues’ comme dans les autres capitales, d’autant que ses origines tamoules le rendaient potentiellement suspect aux yeux des autorités en dépit de sa nationalité française, et que sa posture de chercheur ne le mettait pas à l’abri des pressions des militants. L’auteur explicite les moyens qu’il a employés pour surmonter ces obstacles, et la thèse prouve à l’évidence qu’il est parvenu à relever le défi.
Les analyses qu’il propose, illustrées par une cartographie abondante et inédite d’excellente facture, donnent une image précise de ces communautés. Elle révèlent l’existence de deux espaces tamouls géographiquement et sociologiquement séparés, l’un au nord de la capitale (Kotahena) et l’autre au sud (Wellawatte, Dehiwela) ; et la genèse en deux temps de ces quartiers, d’abord à la période coloniale, Kotahena, situé à proximité du port, ayant accueilli les commerçants et les manœuvres indiens, et Wellawatte les fonctionnaires et membres des professons libérales anglophones venus de Jaffna ; puis à partir des années 1970, Kotahena servant de refuge aux ouvriers des plantations chassés par la politique de nationalisation (comme en Malaisie), et Wellawatte de refuge aux Jaffnais chassés du nord de l’île par le conflit. Il en résulte ce qu’on pourrait qualifier de paradoxe de Colombo : « malgré la guerre, Colombo devient [ou plutôt reste] le principal centre de convergence des flux migratoires qui transforment la géographie de la population dans la ville (…) La part des Tamouls y augmente considérablement alors que celle des Cingalais ne cesse de diminuer » – ce qui contribue à la tamoulophobie de la communauté majoritaire. Les interviews menées par l’auteur, dont des extraits bien choisis soutiennent la thèse, montrent que cette nouvelle migration est perçue comme temporaire (« ils sont à Colombo mais pas de Colombo »), que l’espace n’est pas approprié, que « le logement est perçu comme une adresse », et que l’arrivée des nouveaux migrants ne réinjecte pas de particularisme culturel.
Cette situation, qui distingue Colombo des deux autres cités étudiées, est sous-tendue par la politique discriminatoire du gouvernement sri lankais à l’égard des minorités tamoules. Les développements que l’auteur consacre à ce sujet témoignent d’une remarquable exigence d’objectivité scientifique et d’un détachement de tout discours victimaire, sans s’abstraire d’une empathie pour le destin tragique de ces communautés.
Les qualités de chercheur de Delon Madavan, son dynamisme et sa détermination, sont mises en évidence par cette étude, mais aussi par ses travaux antérieurs sur Jaffna, par l’organisation d’un colloque international sur les communautés tamoules et le conflit sri lankais en Sorbonne en février 2010, et par l’animation du présent carnet de recherche sur Sri Lanka et ses diasporas depuis mai 2012.
La nouveauté et la justesse des analyses, la qualité de l’écriture, de la cartographie et des illustrations, font de cette thèse une production scientifique de grande valeur qui mérite une large diffusion.

Eric Meyer, membre du jury de thèse, Professeur émérite, INALCO

PS: Cliquer pour lire le résumé de la thèse

Conférence de presse de Navi Pillai, Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits Humains

A l’issue d’une semaine de visite à Sri Lanka,où elle s’est entretenue notamment avec les familles des personnes disparues durant les années de violence qui ont traumatisé le pays, Navi Pillai, Haut Commisssaire des Nations Unies pour les Droits Humains, s’est adressée aux journalistes de la presse locale. Accusée à tort, en raison de ses origines tamoules, d’être à la solde des LTTE, la Sud-Africaine, l’une des juristes internationales les plus respectées, a porté un jugement sévère sur les dérives autoritaires du gouvernement et sur le comportement offensant de certains de ses membres, mais aussi sur l’attitude irresponsable d’une partie de la diaspora tamoule.
Nous publions in extenso son discours introductif, et invitons les lecteurs à consulter dans la presse les échanges avec les journalistes qui ont suivi.

Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at a press conference during her mission to Sri Lanka Colombo, 31 August 2013

Good morning, and thank you for coming.
As is customary at the end of official missions such as this, I would like to makesome observations concerning the human rights situation in the country.
During my seven-day visit, I have held discussions with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and senior members of the Government. These included the Ministers of External Affairs, Justice, Economic Development, National Languages and Social Integration, Youth Affairs and the Minister of Plantations Industries who is also Special Envoy to the President on Human Rights, as well as the Secretary of Defence. I also met the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, Leader of the House of Parliament and the Permanent Secretary to the President, who is head of the taskforce appointed to monitor the implementation of the report of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
I had discussions with politicians who are not part of the current Government, namely the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Tamil National Alliance; in addition I met with the National Human Rights Commission, and a total of eight different gatherings of human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Colombo, Jaffna and Trincomalee. I also received briefings from the Governors and other senior officials in the Northern andEastern Provinces.
I thank the Government for its invitation and its excellent cooperation during the planning and conduct of this very complex mission. It stated that I could go anywhere, and see anything I wished to see. And, despite some disturbing incidents which I will go into later, that commitment was honoured throughout.
Even though this is the longest official visit I have ever made to a single country, I am acutely conscious that I was unable to see everyone who requested a meeting. Nor will I be able to do justice to all the human rights issues facing the Sri Lankan people and government. Since I will be providing an oral update to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in late September, and a full written report in March next year, I will today confine myself to a few key issues that crystallized during the course of the mission.
I will divide these human rights issues into two parts: those related to the vicious and debilitating 27-year conflict between the Government and the LTTE, and its aftermath; and those that relate to the whole country.
Some media, ministers, bloggers and various propagandists in Sri Lanka have, for several years now, on the basis of my Indian Tamil heritage, described me as a tool of the LTTE. They have claimed I was in their pay, the “Tamil Tigress in the UN.” This is not only wildly incorrect, it is deeply offensive. This type of abuse has reached an extraordinary crescendo during this past week, with at least three Government Ministers joining in.
Firstly, let me say, I am a South African and proud of it.
Secondly, the LTTE was a murderous organization that committed numerous crimes and destroyed many lives. In fact, my only previous visit to Sri Lanka was to attend a commemoration of the celebrated legislator, peacemaker and scholar, NeelanTiruchelvam, who was killed by an LTTE suicide bomb in July 1999. Those in the diaspora who continue to revere the memory ofthe LTTE must recognize that there should be no place for the glorification of such a ruthless organization.
I would like to pay my respects to all Sri Lankans, across the country, who were killed during those three decades of conflict, and offer my heartfelt sympathy to their families, all of whom – no matter who they are –share one thing: they have lost someone they can never replace. I have met many people during this visit whose relatives or spouses – both civilians and soldiers –are known to have been killed, or who are missing and may well be dead.
It is important everyone realizes that, although the fighting is over, the suffering is not.
I have been extremely moved by the profound trauma I have seen among the relatives of the missing and the dead, and the war survivors, in all the places I have visited, as well as by their resilience. This was particularly evident among those scratching out a living among the ghosts of burned and shelled trees, ruined houses and other debris of the final battle of the war along the lagoon in Mullaitivu.
Wounds will not heal and reconciliation will not happen, without respect for those who grieve, and remembrance for the tens of thousands of Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and others who died before their time on the battlefield, in buses, on the street, or in detention. As one wife of a missing man put it poignantly: “Even when we eat, we keep a portion for him.”
Throughout my visit, the authorities, at all levels, have been keen to demonstrate to me how much has been achieved in terms of resettlement, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the relatively short period since the conflict with the LTTE ended in 2009. And the reconstruction achievements, made with the help of donor countries, UN agencies and NGOs, are indeed impressive:in both the Eastern and Northern Provinces, large numbers of new roads, bridges, houses, medical facilities and schools have been built or rebuilt; electricity and water supplies have been greatly improved; and most of the landmines have been removed. As a result, the great majority of the more than 450,000 people who were internally displaced at the end of the conflict have now gone home.
These are important achievements, and I understand the Government’s concern that they have perhaps not been sufficiently recognized. However, physical reconstruction alone will not bring reconciliation, dignity, or lasting peace. Clearly, a more holistic approach is needed to provide truth, justice and reparations for people’s suffering during the war, and I have repeated my previous offer of OHCHR’s assistance in these areas.
There are a number of specific factors impeding normalization, which – if not quickly rectified – may sow the seeds of future discord. These are by and large to do with the curtailment or denial of personal freedoms and human rights, or linked to persistent impunity and the failure of rule of law.
From the very beginning, I have placed great hopes in Sri Lanka achieving true peace and reconciliation after the war. I welcomed the LLRC report as an important step in that direction, even though it side-stepped the much-needed full, transparent, impartial investigation into the conduct of aconflictthat saw numerous war crimes and other violations committed by both sides. The Human Rights Council has expressed a strong interest in seeing progress in the implementation of the most important LLRC recommendations, and proper investigation of the many outstanding allegations and concerns.
The LLRC report contains a broad range of excellent recommendations regarding concrete improvements on human rights, and I was interested to receive a briefing on the extent of the implementation of some of those recommendations from the Permanent Secretary to the President. My Office will closely examine that update and future developments in the implementation of the LLRC, and I will of course make reference to any genuine progress in my reports to the Human Rights Council.
I will now briefly outline some of the other issues that were raised during my visits to the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and which I have in turn raised with various ministers.
I welcome the forthcoming elections to the Northern Provincial Council and hope they will proceed in a peaceful, free and fair environment, and usher in an important new stage in the devolution of power.
I was concerned to hear about the degree to which the military appears to be putting down roots and becoming involved in what should be civilian activities, for instance education, agriculture and even tourism. I also heard complaints about the acquisition of private land to build military camps and installations, including a holiday resort.
This is only going to make the complex land issues with which the Government has been grappling even more complicated and difficult to resolve. Clearly, the army needs some camps, but the prevalence and level of involvement of soldiers in thecommunityseem much greater than is needed for strictly military or reconstruction purposes four years after the end of the war.
I understand the Secretary of Defence’s point that the demobilization of a significant proportion of such a large army cannot be done overnight, but urge the government to speed up its efforts to demilitarize these two war-affected provinces, as the continued large-scale presence of the military and other security forces is seen by many as oppressive and intrusive, with the continuing high level of surveillance of former combatants and returnees at times verging on harassment.
I was very concerned to hear about the vulnerability of women and girls, especially in female-headed households, tosexual harassment and abuse. I have raised this issue with several ministers, the provincial governors and senior military commanders who attended my meeting with the Secretary of Defence. I challenged them to rigorously enforce a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse.
I have also been following up on the status of the remaining detainees and have urged the Government to expedite their cases, either by bringing charges or releasing them for rehabilitation. I also suggested it may now be time to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act which has long been cause for concern.
Because of the legacy of massive trauma, there is a desperate need for counseling and psychosocial support in the North, and I was surprised and disappointed to learn that the authorities have restricted NGO activity in this sector. I hope the Government can relax controls on this type of assistance.
I met many relatives of missing or disappeared civilians and soldiers who are still hoping to discover the whereabouts of their loved ones, and they emphasized theurgent need to resolve this issue – something that was made abundantly evident at the two very moving meetings with relatives of the disappeared that I attended yesterday, to commemorate the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearances.
I asked the Government for more information about the new Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances, and stressed the need for it to be more effective than the five previous commissions of this kind. I was disappointed to learn that it will only cover disappearances in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which means that the many “white van” disappearances reported in Colombo and other parts of the country in recent years will not fall within its scope.
I urge the Government to broaden the Commission’s mandate, and seize this opportunity to make a comprehensive effort to resolve the disappearances issue once and for all. I therefore welcome the new proposal to criminalize disappearances in the penal code, and hope this will be done without delay. The Government could also send a clear signal of its commitment by ratifying the International Convention on Disappearances, and by inviting the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka, ideally before I report back to the Human Rights Council in March.
The Human Rights Council will also be looking to see something credible in terms of investigation of what happened at the end of the war and many other past cases.
I was pleased to learn that the case of the five students murdered on the beach in Trincomalee in 2006 has been reinvigorated by the arrest of 12 Police Special Task Force members known to have been in the vicinityat the time of the killings. I will be watching the progress of that case with interest, as well as the other infamous unsolved case of 17 ACF aid workers murdered in the same year, just a few kilometres to the south.
I also requested more information about the Courts of Inquiry appointed by the army to further investigate the allegations of civilian casualties and summary executions, and suggested that appointing the army to investigate itself does not inspire confidence in a country where so many past investigations and commissions of inquiry have foundered one way or another.Unless there is a credible national process, calls for an international inquiry are likely to continue.
The recent deployment of the military in support of police to control a demonstration in Welawariya, which resulted in at least three deaths, has sent a shockwave through the community. I stressed to the Defence Secretary the need to urgently complete and publish a proper investigation into this incident.
Too many other investigation files remain pending, for instance the custodial deaths of prisoners in Vavuniya and Welikada Prisons in 2012. The Government has since announced police powers will now be transferred from the Ministry of Defence to a new Ministry of Law and Order, but this is at best a partial separation as both Ministries will remain under the President, rather than under a separate civilian ministry.
I have also reminded the Government that Sri Lanka desperately needs strong witness and victim protection legislation, which has been languishing in draft form since 2007.
I expressed concern at the recent surge in incitement of hatred and violence against religious minorities, including attacks on churches and mosques, and the lack of swift action against the perpetrators. I was surprised that the Government seemed to downplay this issue, and I hope it will send the strongest possible signal of zero tolerance for such acts and ensure that those responsible (who are easily identifiable on video footage) are punished.The Minister of National Languages and Social Integration told me that he has proposed new legislation on hate speech. We have recently concluded a study of such laws and would be happy to assist in this area.The same Minister, along with the Minister of Justice, expressed to me his support for a visit by the Independent Expert on Minorities, and I hope this can happen as soon as possible. I also applaud the Government’s policy of introducing tri-lingualism all across the country.
I would now like to turn to a disturbing aspect of the visit, namely the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders, at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens who met with me, or planned to meet with me. I have received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after I arrived there inTrincomalee, several people I met were subsequently questioned about the content of our conversation.
This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced. Utterly unacceptable at any time, it is particularly extraordinary for such treatment to be meted out during a visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. I wish to stress that the United Nations takes the issue of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter, and I will be reporting those that take place in connection with this visit to the Human Rights Council.
I urge the Government of Sri Lanka to issue immediate orders to halt this treatment of human rights defenders and journalists who face this kind of harassment and intimidation on a regular basis. More than 30 journalists are believed to have been killed since 2005, and several more – including the cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda¬– have disappeared. Many others have fled the country. Newspaper and TV offices have been vandalized or subjected to arson attacks – some, such as the Jaffna-based paper Uthayan, on multiple occasions. With self-censorship fuelled by fear, journalists report that there are articles that they dare not write, and others their editors dare not print. Freedom of expression is under a sustained assault in Sri Lanka. I have called for the right to Information Act to be adopted like many of its neighbours in SAARC.
The war may have ended, but in the meantime democracy has been undermined and the rule of law eroded. The 18 th amendment, which abolished the Constitutional Council which once recommended appointments to the independent bodies, such as the Elections Commission and Human Rights Commission, has weakened these important checks and balances on the power of the Executive. The controversial impeachment of the Chief Justice earlier this year, and apparent politicization of senior judicial appointments, have shaken confidence in the independence of the judiciary.
I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.
Ending on a more optimistic note, yesterday, at the Government’s suggestion, I visited the Youth Parliament. This unusual institution, founded in 2010, is filled with bright, enthusiastic students from all across the country, and dedicated to a tolerant and all-inclusive approach. The parliament draws on elected members of youth groups who meet once a month to discuss key issues such as the importance of Amendment 13 to the Constitution and the LLRC (indeed they claim they actually debated the latter before the National Parliament).
I hope that the current and future members of the Youth Parliament, three of whom delivered excellent speeches in my presence, will, when they graduate to the main political stage, usher in a new era of tolerant coexistence in this beautiful island, where – despite the problems I have listed above – I have been greeted with great warmth and hospitality.
Thank you.

For further information or media requests please contact Rupert Colville (+ 41 79 506 10 88 / rcolville@ohchr.org )

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L’armée sri lankaise réprime violemment une manifestation pacifique

L’armée sri lankaise déployée dans des localités proches de Colombo, à Weliweriya, a réprimé très violemment (3 morts selon les sources officielles, plusieurs dizaines de blessés) une manifestation pacifique de villageois cingalais se plaignant qu’une usine locale de gants de caoutchouc ait cessé de traiter ses effluents toxiques, rendant ainsi l’approvisionnement d’eau de la zone impropre à la consommation. Le frère du Président, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, est tenu pour responsable de cette répression menée par les unités qui ont écrasé les LTTE en mai 2009. De nombreux observateurs notent que ces violences interviennent exactement trente ans après les massacres anti-tamouls de juillet 1983 qui sont à l’origine de la guerre civile qui a ensanglanté le pays, ajoutent que cette fois le gouvernement s’en prend à des Cingalais et risque de perdre l’appui de la majorité que lui avait valu sa victoire sur les LTTE.

Lire à ce sujet : http://groundviews.org/2013/08/02/weliweriya-gampaha-black-thursday-2013/

“Le Trésor” (Nidhanaya) retrouvé

Le chef d’oeuvre cinématographique de Lester James Peries, Nidhanaya (Le Trésor), présenté en 1972 et dont il n’existait que des copies usagées, va pouvoir être restauré, grâce à un double du négatif retrouvé au service des archives cinématographiques nationales indiennes de Pune, alors que l’exemplaire conservé à Sri Lanka était gravement détérioré. Ce film avait obtenu le Lion d’Argent à la Mostra de Venise en 1972. Sous-titré en français, il a été présenté à plusieurs reprises en France par la Cinémathèque et au festival de Deauville (2001), ainsi qu’à la télévision, et figure parmi les films étudiés dans les écoles françaises de cinéma. Il s’agit du plus original et du plus achevé des films du grand réalisateur sri-lankais, qui vient de fêter ses 94 ans.
On peut lire le récit de cette redécouverte dans http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/19565

“On the specificity and relevance of Sri Lanka in the history of modern South Asia” by Eric Meyer, Inalco, Paris

This unpublished paper was read at the International conference on Sri Lanka, Peradeniya, 23-25 February 1998.

There has been and still is an ‘insular’ tendency among historians of Sri Lanka (especially those writing on the ‘modern’ period), who often take it for granted that historical developments in the island are strongly specific and little connected with those of the rest of South Asia, except in the remote past or during short periods usually depicted as traumatic. In that respect historians (and in some measure other social scientists) inherited a colonial approach which insisted on the specificity of Ceylon. On the other hand, historians of the Indian subcontinent have hardly paid any attention to the island, implicitly recognizing its separatedness, or possibly considering it as an minor appendix unworthy of study. It is significant that when the Economic and Political Weekly (Febr 17, 1996, pp. 395-398) published a previous paper of mine on the comparative history of Sri Lanka and India during the modern period, they chose to add a caption of their own which read thus: “A comparative history of India and Sri Lanka reveals that there is more to be gained by recognizing the specificity of historical developments in Sri Lanka rather than by regarding it as a microcosm of India” – which was not exactly what I had in mind when writing that paper – And when the Lanka Guardian shortly aferwards reproduced it on their own initiative, they retained that caption as a matter of course.
Before revisiting and revising for the conference some of the arguments developed in that paper, I thought it useful to briefly review a few well known general histories of both countries, and to explore the reasons behind these enduring representations.

The standard History of India originally published under the British raj by V.A. Smith (Oxford, 1919), regularly reprinted and revised afterwards, is quite explicit on the matter: “Ceylon, although geologically a fragment detached from the peninsula in relatively recent times, always has had a distinct political existence, requiring separate historical treatment, and its affairs will not be discussed in this work, except incidentally” (1958 ed. p. 1). Smith actually uses Ceylon historical data to discuss the chronology of ancient India (one of his major concerns), and for the rest treats the island as a foreign country visited by Mahinda, Fa Xian, Indian, Greco-Roman, and later Portuguese traders, and occasionnally invaded by South Indian armies; there is not a single mention of Ceylon after the 16th century, not even of its annexation first by the East India Company, then by the British Crown.
V.A. Smith’s guidelines were implicitely adopted by well known Indian nationalist historians such as R.C. Majumdar (An advanced history of India , 1946, with subsequent revised editions). Although the theorician of a ‘Greater India’ in the 1930’s, Majumdar significantly enough does not include Sri Lanka in his study of what he calls ‘Indian colonies’ which he restricts to South East Asia countries (see for example his treatment of maritime trade where “commercial intercourse with China, the hellenic world, Ceylon, and Farther (sic) India” are on the same level (1978 ed., p. 129). In the other allusions to the island (starting with the Ramayana myth), Sri Lanka is always represented as a far off country. And it disappears after the 17th century. Smith and Majumdar’s biasses could be attributed to their focussing on North India. But take Nilakanta Sastri’s own Advanced history of India (1970): although the author of a classical History of South India, and a contributor to S. Paranavitana’s History of Ceylon vol 1 (1959, part. repr. 1993) with valuable chapters on South India, he does not devote to the history of Sri Lanka more significant developments than his predecessors – except to mention the problem of stateless Tamils after independence.
Romila Thapar’s History of India (vol I) first published in 1966 was undoubtedly the best informed and most perceptive general study of ancient India, and remains so in its revised version published in 2003 under the title Ancient India. Out of the 14 occurrences of ‘Ceylon’, one mentions the Ramayana as proof of the Arya penetration in the Peninsula, two associate Ceylon with Burma and other South East Asian countries as strongholds of Theravada Buddhism, one notes the importance of the Pali canon recorded in Ceylon together with Chinese writings as sources on Indian Buddhism; two point to the foreign relations between the Mauryan and Gupta empires with Ceylon; two deal with trade across the Bay of Bengal and put Ceylon and Burma on the same level; and the rest concern the relations (wars or alliances) between the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Pallavas and Ceylon (note the use of the term Ceylon and not the Sinhalas). In volume 2 of the same history by Percival Spear, Ceylon is practically absent: when dealing in three pages with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, the author never mentions their presence in Ceylon; the Dutch merchants fare a little better with two occurrences, and the English merchants with one. Afterwards, the island altogether vanishes from the picture as if it was never taken over by the British, nor emancipated from them, just to reappear together with Nepal and Burma as a country with which Nehru’s India relations “were not always happy” (sic).
Finally turning to American histories with a political science outlook, Stanley Wolpert’s New History of India (Oxford University Press, 1977) almost totally ignored Sri Lanka until Tamil Eelamists forced their way into its third edition (1989), compelling the author to belatedly admit that “India’s importance to Sri Lanka the tiny independent island suspended like a tear below Tamilnadu (sic) has always been enormous” (p. 431). One may speculate that a future revision will recognise that the importance of Sri Lanka to Rajiv Gandhi’s India was also significant.

The long standing Indian representation of Sri Lanka as a very distant country has certainly been fostered by the Ramayana myths, by the negative image of the sea-to-cross in the brahminical views (even in the Mahavamsa myths travel by air was preferred…), and by the northern origins of all these cultural traditions, including Buddhism. Other well known interconnected factors must have been at work, such as the fact that cultural links with North India vanished after Buddhism disappeared from Bengal, and that the empires centered in the Ganges valley, the Panjab or northern Deccan never extended to Sri Lanka.
Descriptive historical/geographical writing in/on India was until the XIXth century little valued and hardly practiced among Indian literati. It was generally left to outsiders from the West, Al Biruni (XIth century) being among the first and most brilliant: for them, developments in Sri Lanka were hardlyrelevant: what they constructed as ‘events’ was only what happened in the area between central Asia, Persia, Bengal and northern Deccan. The Southern part of the peninsula was seen as the locus of culture rather than history.
When the British established their raj first in Bengal and afterwards in the rest of India, they upheld that tradition for intellectual as well as practical reasons: orientalists such as William Jones (and the Frenchman Anquetil-Duperron before him) opened the field of Indian/sanskrit studies through Persian; and their successors such as Bopp and Max Müller were busy establishing or imagining Indo-European links rather than considering South Asia as a linguistic area by itself. On the other side, utilitarians such as James Mill were mainly interested in studying the predecessors of the British with a view to legitimise the new raj as the triumph of civilisation over barbarism. They complained of the lack of historical material for their reconstruction, attributing it to the mythical mentality of the Indians which they condemned as primitive. They adopted a periodisation which overstressed the advent of Islam and the British take over, and a geo-strategical approach which focussed on the North-west frontier and secondarily on the Indian Ocean, leaving the South of India and South East Asia as dark corners to be studied by locals (and in the case of Ceylon, to be administered by the Colonial Office).
On the other hand, the orientalist reconstruction of the history of Buddhism starting with Eugène Burnouf in the 1840s was a long drawn-out affair, which soon followed a specific course with the extensive use of Chinese, Tibetan and other Central Asian material. Contrary to Indian Brahmins, Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka were always as keen to preserve written records as their Chinese, Tibetan, Siamese and Burmese brothers, for a variety of reasons among which uncertainty about the survival of the Sangha is commonly stressed. There was a wealth of documents, contrasting with the dearth of evidence as regards India which historians had to cope with. The western production of knowledge about Buddhism and its history therefore adopted a multicentric view which may have reinforced the distinctiveness between India and Sri Lanka.
When Indian historians such as R.C. Dutt and R.C. Majumdar undertook to emancipate themselves from the British influence, they actually retained an ‘All-India’ representation which fitted with their nationalist outlook, and tended to underplay regional specificities. After Independence, historians of the ‘Aligarh school’ who recovered the history of Mughal India similarly sustained a north-indocentric view, and marxist historians focussing on socio-economic systems were more interested in aggregates than in specifics.
With the development of regional studies especially since the late 1960s, and the growing influence of the school of ‘Subaltern studies’ in the Indian intellectual landscape in the 1980s (which are contemporary with the crisis of the central state in India), the stage was set for a reappraisal of specifics. But as yet the outlook with a few exceptions remains indo-centric and turned inwards, as if an interest in comparative history could be interpreted as an interference with the affairs of an independent state.

If we now turn to the historians of Sri Lanka, the picture is apparently quite different: most of them have an acute awareness of the importance of India; but at the same time most of them stress separatedness from the so-called big brother – or rather the big ma-bap . They tend to historicise it by admitting close contacts in earlier periods and denying them in later times.
An exception to that tendency is found in the works of G.C. Mendis, who first developed the theme of Ceylon as ‘a miniature of India’. Mendis had a fair knowledge of Indian historiography and Indian historians, as well as a deep interest in the first fifty years of British rule in the island. For example in his widely read Ceylon today and yesterday, first published in 1957 and revised in 1963, he devotes several pages to sketch the political and cultural relations between the two countries, and insists that these relations had always been much closer than the relations between Ceylon and South East Asia and between India and South East Asia; according to him, Sri Lanka was culturally ‘a unit of India’ until the 16th century (p. 29 of the 1963 ed.). He nicely delineates the slow and progressive de-linkage of Sri Lanka from India: first the development of Muslim states in North India and the Deccan would have cut Sri Lanka from the great northern tradition, then Portuguese and Dutch rule in Sri Lanka would have distended links with South India and limited the Islamic influences, without however deeply affecting the Indian characteristics in its culture and social organisation. According to him it is paradoxically when both Sri Lanka and India were under the British rule that the gulf widened between them, notably as the result of the so-called Colebrooke-Cameron reforms (1833).
After Mendis, the emphasis is put on growing specificity rather than on enduring similarity. The standard History of Ceylon volume I of the University of Peradeniya edited by S. Paranavitana (1959, partly reprinted in 1993), devotes extensive developments to the religious and political history of India, but in juxtaposition to rather than in combination with the history of the island: the authors of these chapters (among whom are R.C. Majumdar and Nilakanta Sastri) are not familiar with Sri Lanka. In that work and in its shorter version (C.W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana, A Concise History of Ceylon, 1961), the relations with India in the earlier periods of Ceylon history are depicted as a great heritage from the North, while their role during the so-called ‘period of decline’ is represented as destructive, or at best as introducing from South India a less valuable ‘little tradition’.
In the volume II of the Peradeniya History of Sri Lanka edited by K.M. de Silva in 1995, relations with the continent are not dismissed as irrelevant, but the focus is more on the history of the Portuguese in India and on the history of maritime trade in the Indian ocean than on the relations with inland India. In the index the 46 entries on Goa contrast with 17 entries on Tanjore, a single entry on Madurai, the absence of Vijayanagar and only 2 entries on the Mughal Empire.
Volume III covering the ‘British period’ appeared much earlier in 1973. K.M. de Silva wrote the opening and closing chapters of the book, on the two periods during which the question of the links with India arose (the first and the last years of the raj). He stresses(p. 11) that the importance of Trincomalee for the control of India which appeared vital at the start to the British policy makers (Pitt and Dundas) soon receded in the background after Nelson’s victories; but the interest in a comparative study in the historical evolution of both countries seems to recede as well. In his own History of Sri Lanka (1981), K.M. de Silva shifts the emphasis towards the inside history of the island, and attributes the delinkage, contrary to the wishes of Wellesley, to the failure of the experiment to administer Ceylon from Madras with South Indian methods and agents, especially in the matter of fiscal policy. India reappears during the last phase of the British raj, with a few pages contrasting the courses taken by the Indian and Ceylonese national movements, and interpreting the nomination of a Ceylon Government representative in New Delhi in 1943 as proof of the emancipation of Ceylon from the British tutelage in diplomatic matters, rather than as a guarantee that the island would not be included in an Indian confederation.

The resilience of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as compared with its extinction in India, the length of the colonial impact in the coastal areas of the island, and the apparently smooth transition to independence in Ceylon have usually been stresssed as the major distinguishing factors between the island and the sub-continent. But there are other particular features more or less linked with them, such as the taxation structure, the extension of the plantation system, the impact of Roman-Dutch law on society, the early development of communications and education, etc., which are no less important. On the other hand, the severance of the links between the two countries since the XVIth century has been generally overemphasized and has led to underestimate certain elements of continuity in migration patterns or socio-religious influences and behaviour.

The beginnings of the modern period in Sri Lanka are signalled by the rise of the maritime trade from the XIVth century onwards under the impulse of Muslim merchants. The next phase involved the expansion of the European demand for spices (a market eventually captured by the Portuguese in the XVIth century). The development of coconut and arecanut cultivation, cinnamon peeling, gem digging and pearl diving provided important export resources for new States which came into existence along the western coast in interaction with South-west India, such as the kingdom of Kotte. The west-east routes of trade linking Sri Lanka with the Middle East and Europe on one side, South East Asia and the Far East on the other, became more important than the north-south axis linking the island with the peninsula. But south Indian groups especially from Kerala such as weavers, fishers and agricultural labourers continued to trickle in and were integrated into the caste system of the Sinhalese if they settled in the South-West.
After the annexation of Kotte and of Jaffna by the Portuguese, the channels of exchange with India were kept open by the new Sinhala kingdoms established in the interior at Sitawaka and Kandy. Even under the Dutch who expelled the Portuguese in the middle of the XVIIth century and attempted to cut Kandy from access to the coasts, the Indian connection was maintained through the north and east. The Kandyan kings married princesses from Madurai and in the XVIIIth century a Nayakkar dynasty of South Indian (telugu) origin came to power in the highlands. As protectors of the Sangha, these rulers played an important role in the revival of Buddhism. By the end of the XVIIIth century however, they were finally cut from the mainland by the British conquest, and their authoritarianism intensified by the British intrigues made them unpopular.
The establishment by the successive European powers of a system of direct rule in the coastal regions left a deep imprint on the economy, society and institutions, which distinguished Sri Lanka from India and brought it closer to the Javanese experience, especially under the Dutch. The island was integrated, together with Kerala and the Indonesian archipelago, into a network which linked it with the world market of agricultural products, whereas the larger part of India under the Mughals was the major world centre of textile manufacture and exports. As a result, Ceylon was much more dependent on a limited range of products over which it had no control. The Salagama, a South Indian weaver caste turned into cinnamon peelers, produced under a system of compulsory labour the main article of export, which was exceedingly profitable for the Dutch Company. But these profits were imperilled by frequent revolts encouraged by the Kandyan authorities.
In areas controlled by the Dutch, the Roman civil law was imposed much earlier and more efficiently than under the British in India. Individual land rights became the rule, instead of the traditional undivided rights in a family share of the village land. Personal and familial law tended to erode status hierarchies, although the Dutch recognised the hegemony of high caste Goyigama and bestowed honorific titles upon their headmen, the so-called Mudaliyar of the Low country, who formed a kind of landed gentry. The courts of law became the focal point of public life, and a class of lawyers, generally recruited among the Burghers of Dutch or mixed descent, became very influential. Together with the Mudaliyar, they formed the backbone of a new élite in the XVIIIth century. The early development of western education ensured the continuing power of these groups imbued with a colonial and urban culture, to an extent which is not found in any XVIIIth century European settlement in India.
As a result, at the turn of the XIXth century, when the British took over from the Dutch, western influence was by no means a new thing in Sri Lanka. What the British did was to extend it to the interior and generally make it more pervasive. Unlike in India, they had not to deal with the legacy of a vast imperial system, nor with the dynamism of an autonomous trade economy, nor with the intricacies of a highly caste-conscious peasant society. While they returned Indonesia to the Dutch after the Napoleonic wars, they reinforced their control on Ceylon between 1796 and 1815, because of the strategic value of its ports (Trincomalee, Galle) for ruling the South Indian coasts. But as soon as they found themselves unpopular as a result of a succession of political mistakes, they delinked the Ceylon administration from that of Madras and made it a separate Crown Colony. Afterwards the British undertook to rule the island like any other colony, with administrators who had made their careers in Africa, South East Asia or the Caribbean rather than in India; but a glance at the biography of Ceylon civil servants suggests that many of them were the sons, brother or cousins of Company servants and officers of the Indian army. Moreover, the British could not ignore that Ceylon, with its ancient civilisation deeply influenced by India, was not just another “sugar island” which they could fill with slaves or coolies and govern at will.
Instead of transforming Kandy into a tributary ‘princely’ state as so many upland areas of India, they attempted to conquer it in 1803: the war ended in failure. They then added fuel to court intrigues so as to destabilise a young king, until then rather popular, and eventually succeeded in annexing the kingdom in 1815. The cession was recognized by the aristocracy and the Sangha in a written convention by which the British undertook to protect the Kandyan traditions and privileges, including State protection of the Sangha – a very uncommon feature in South Asia. But the Kandyans were soon disillusionned and in 1817-1818 they joined en masse a rebellion stirred up by the appearance of a pretender. This rebellion can be compared to the great upheaval of 1857-1858 in India, in that it involved people who had lost faith in the fairness of the raj. But there are also obvious differences: it flared immediately and not long after the annexation; and its repression weakened the Kandyan aristocracy to such an extent that it could never recover. While the British chose after the Mutiny to come to terms with traditional forces and pamper the princes, in early XIXth century Ceylon, where they felt the legitimacy of their rule to be more secure, they did not hesitate to foster the missionaries and openly denounce the contents of the Kandyan convention by severing the links between the State and the Sangha. The missionaries gave a major impulse to the development of English medium education in Colombo, Jaffna and to a lesser extent Kandy and Galle, and they insured the formation of an anglicised elite conforming to the program proclaimed in India by Bentinck and Macaulay.
But an exclusive focus on the elite, which has been a general tendency in the historiography of modern Sri Lanka, leaves in its shadow deeper enduring features in the ‘subaltern’ stratas of society, which can be glimpsed at in the works of social anthropologists. The study of popular upheavals such as the 1817-18 rebellion and subsequent pretender appearances, the analysis of ‘mentalités’, of medical and bodily practices, the history of religious revivalist movements, of rituals and pilgrimages (such as Kataragama), now a major field of research in India, have not received in Sri Lanka a comparable attention. A better knowledge would probably show more time continuity and more space proximity with India than usually made out.

The economic strategies developed by the British in the early XIXth century were parallel in both countries. They aimed at dismantling the impediments to free enterprise. Until 1832, the East India Company retained the cinnamon monopoly and manipulated prices to suit its interests on the continent. The Colebrooke-Cameron commission of enquiry pointed out this anomaly and on the basis of its report the monopoly was abolished together with the corvée system which supposedly hindered the development of free enterprise, while private appropriation of uncultivated land was encouraged shortly afterwards. These measures enabled European adventurers and speculators to lay hands more easily than in India on a substantial part of the highlands and open coffee estates; but the reluctance of the local villagers to accept working conditions akin to slave labour led the planters to attract coolies from Tamilnadu, first on a temporary basis, and later when tea replaced coffee as the major crop, as permanent labourers.
At that stage, the evolution of Ceylon radically deviated from that of India, in spite of similarities with some regions of the sub-continent such as Assam, Coorg and Travancore. The strength of the plantation economy model was such that when the coffee estates were abandoned in the 1880’s as a result of a leaf disease and of South American competition, the island was so dependent on that system that tea was promptly adopted as a substitute, soon followed by rubber. Contrary to a common view, the plantation and the subsistence sectors did not operate in watertight compartments but were linked, so that any crisis in one sector affected the other. Enterprise was by no means limited to Europeans: in the latter part of the XIXth century, Ceylonese invested in estates (especially coconut) the wealth amassed in their indirect involvement in the plantation economy: between 1868 and 1906, 72 per cent of the land areas sold by the Crown were acquired by non-Europeans. The estates eventually provided a large amount of various resources to the local population: regular employment in coconut and rubber estates, casual employment on tea plantations; arrack, coir and latex manufacture; carpentry and wood products; transport, building, trade in agricultural produce, and derived activities in towns and roadside markets. The rising standard of living on the island at the beginning of the XXth century stood in clear contrast with the continuing subsistence crises on the continent and contributed to attract Indian immigrants whose numbers eventually exceeded that of the indigenous Tamils of the North and East.
The colonial state backed the planters’ interests because its budget depended on custom duties paid by that sector. For want of a survey and settlement on Indian lines, the administration was unable to lay the basis for a general land tax. The only taxation based on agricultural production was the very unpopular paddy tithe, levied by tax farmers or commuted to a fixed payment, which was finally abolished in 1892. This is in obvious contrast with India, where the taxation of agricultural produce was the mainstay of the budget and a decisive factor in the development of rural discontent and of the nationalist movement.
The ‘plantocracy’ was very influent in government circles just as in ‘sugar islands’ (at the beginning civil servants were quite often involved in the planting industry, and later, the Planter’s Association became the most powerful lobby in the country). They successfully agitated for cheap land, public roads for their private use and an abundant supply of cooly labour. The government devoted a substantial part of its budget and of the labour provided by poll tax commuters to the building of roads and later railways in the plantation areas. It promulgated in 1840 an ordinance proclaiming as Crown Land any uncultivated or irregularly cultivated land (such as by slash-and-burn cultivators) for which nobody could furnish a written grant, and sold it for a song to the prospective planters. When these Crown lands became scarce, European and Ceylonese middlemen entered the game and prompted the villagers to part with the remaining lands. A new legislation establishing a system of land settlement failed to arrest land alienation, which restricted the living space available for village subsistence cultivation. Moreover, indiscriminate deforestation by plantations led to soil erosion and silting of paddy fields, drying of springs, scarcity of fuel wood, and scarcity of grazing grounds for cattle. Thus landhunger and environmental problems in Ceylon were much more the result of plantation expansion than in India, where agrarian relations were closely intertwined with the various taxation systems.

The supply of stable and obedient South Indian cooly labourers, very often from untouchable castes, was ensured through the activity of kanganies, usually elder labourers who were given advances by the planters to recruit new workers whom they controlled through indebtedness (and not under an indenture system like longer distance migration to Mauritius and the Caribbean): in that respect only, Indian as well as Ceylonese colonial authorities considered that Sri Lanka belonged to India as much as Assam. The travel and working conditions were appalling until the end of the XIXth century, when the conversion to tea and the intervention of the colonial authorities slightly improved the situation. From 1901 onwards, population growth was more rapid than elsewhere in South Asia; until the 1930s, the continuing immigration of Indians, either supervised by the planters, or spontaneous (notably in urban employment) was an important contributing factor. A comparative study of Indo-Lankan migrations in the long term would probably suggest that there was more continuity than commonly supposed with the movements of the pre-plantation period, when at the request of the kings, the aristocracy and the monasteries, coolies and skilled workers came over to work in the fields and the workshops of the Kotte and Kandy kingdoms. The big difference during the British period was that the new masters openly discouraged the integration of the immigrant workers in the local rural society, and eventually decided to organise their mobility to suit their own needs. The final turning point occurred in 1939-1940, when India decided to ban the free flow of migration to and from Ceylon in retaliation for discriminating measures against Indian workers in Government employment in the wake of the great depression.
In the British imperial system centered on India, Ceylon occupied a marginal place, but the economic links with the continent were significant, through the activities of the same banks, managing agencies and export-import firms. Indian businessmen were present in the rural credit market (the Nattukottai Chettiar from South India), the rice and the textile trade (the Borah and the Sindhi from Western India) and the retail of imported goods (Muslim merchants from Kerala). Their competition was resented by the Sinhala traders, especially the Karava from the west coast, and contributed to tensions including severe anti-muslim riots in 1915. Communal violence was until then almost unknown in Sri Lanka, and in any case less common than in India. The 1915 events, caused by conflicting economic interests as much as religious differences, were a portent of things to come.
The exclusive emphasis on plantation agriculture led to the neglect of peasant subsistence agriculture. Paddy cultivation suffered from the lack of concern for irrigation and the abolition of corvée labour by which the reservoirs and channels used to be cleared and repaired. Any attempt at restoring the hydraulic works of the dry zone was foiled by the persistence of malaria until the 1940’s, and the competition in the town and plantation rice market of cheap paddy produced in India and Burma. Even the abolition of the paddy tax in 1892 did not substiantally improve the condition of the subsistence peasantry, nor increase rice productivity. As a similar stagnation occurred in the heavily taxed paddy producing areas of eastern India (in contrast with the development of Punjabi agriculture), the responsibility of the plantation system on one side, and the zamindar system on the other, are probably not the only factors responsible.

There is a tendency to overstress the rationality of the British raj in South Asia. Recent research has shown that there was a large amount of improvisation, expediency and contradictions in the colonial practice both in India and Ceylon. But in the latter country the authorities had at their disposal a much denser network of civil servants, better communications and information systems, and therefore more efficient tools to impose their policy. The nationalist answer to British raj has been constructed as the major trend in XXth century India’s history, until some Cambridge-based historians started to question that exclusive emphasis on the basis of local level studies in political mobilisation. In comparison, Sri Lanka’s path to freedom has usually been described as relatively smooth, uneventful, and rather parochial: but if the emphasis is put on India’s regional and not national history, the difference is less obvious.
In both countries there was an attempt by a section of the British administration in the second half of the XIXth century to restore the authority of the traditional elites. The services due to temples and to Kandyan chiefs were registered and caste hierarchies were acknowledged by some officials, especially in Jaffna (although they were never recognised in censuses as in India). A conservative brand of Buddhism was encouraged and an attempt at ‘moralising’ social practices was made by condemning polyandry, and exposing corruption in the administration of temple properties. The decay of the Kandyan aristocracy was attributed to alcoholism (which the British had themselves fostered by encouraging the opening of taverns up-country for fiscal reasons), and Government Agents, like Revenue Officers in rural India, imagined they could restore the ‘natural leaders’ of the people to their former position.
At the same time the dynamism of the westernised low-country élite was censured exactly like that of its Bengali counterpart. Its economic success was condemned as speculative and exploitative of the peasantry, and its pretensions to represent the nation were denounced as unauthentic. Its members were barred from access to the higher administrative posts while at the same time English missionary schools and the professions were liberally open to these so-called ‘brown sahibs’. Members of this new bourgeoisie were ethnically diverse and divided into rival coteries, but had much in common: English was their second or often first language, coconut or rubber property their favourite investment, law or possibly medicine the career to which they destined their children.
As in India (and more especially Bengal), religious revivalist movements were started by members of the élite in an attempt to counter missionary influence in education. As early as the middle of the XIXth century, Arumugam Navalar tried to recreate a Hindu saivite tradition in Jaffna; by the end of the century, the Anagarika Dharmapala played a major role in the development of a Buddhist revival first supported by the theosophists (who were also active in India during the time of Annie Besant and B.G.Tilak) and later emancipated from their influence. Dharmapala kept close links with Eastern India where he spent a large part of his life restoring the sacred places of Buddhism.
Again as in India, the period of the First World War witnessed an upsurge of nationalist militancy and a stiffening on the part of the colonial authorities, a face to face which could erupt into open conflict. The first centenary of the cession of Kandy in 1915 provided such an opportunity, but it is rather the panic of the colonial authorities than any intentional plot which was at the basis of the troubles. The execution of rioters and the emprisonment of the main Sinhala leaders of the nationalist movement aroused the sympathy of large segments of the population, including Tamil moderates, at a period when in India the Congress and the Muslim League came together against the raj; but it did not lead to a vast non-cooperation movement comparable to that which challenged British rule in India after the 1919 Amritsar massacre. In the early 1920s, the colonial authorities in Ceylon were able to manipulate the potential rivalries between the communities to break the movement, by imposing for a decade a communal system of representation more or less modelled on the system set up in India at the same time, where they similarly manipulated on a wider scale communal differences.

These events are not very different from those which encouraged the growth of the Indian mass movement. Among the deeper causes for the different trajectories of the national movements in India and in Ceylon, the length and depth of the colonial impact may be a contributing factor, as also the lack of leaders as determined and cohesive as the westernised Indian brahmins. The gap between the anglicised elite and the local dominants was possibly wider in Sri Lanka, and the kind of mass mobilisation which made the non-cooperation movements so impressive in India might have beeen more difficult to organise in Ceylon. Finally, Colombo was certainly not a place where political debates as lively as in Calcutta or Bombay would normally take place, and the Ceylon National Congress founded in the aftermath of the 1915 repression remained a weak organisation, riven with factional rivalries. Coterie was also a characteristic of local Indian politics, as shown by the recent studies of the ‘Cambridge school’ of historians of India, but the national leadership of the Indian Congress proved able to rise above parochial interests.

Four specific factors in the Sri Lankan situation require special mention. The first is that the British chose to make Ceylon a showcase of gradual home rule. The second is that even if Ceylon welcomed Gandhi and Nehru, its élites generally regarded developments in India with some diffidence lest they should impinge on Ceylon’s independent ways; in the 1930s and 1940s, the group led by D.S. Senanayake who was to become the Prime minister at independence, was quite clear on this point. Moreover, anti-Indian sentiments were fuelled by the national-populist propaganda of party and union leaders such as A.E. Goonesinha, who accused immigrant workers of being responsible for the large scale unemployment in urban and plantation areas during the depression, and Indian traders (especially the Chettiar) of depriving Ceylonese owners of paddy, coconut and rubber properties of their lands. These developments are exactly parallel to those which led to the separation of Burma (another Buddhist country) from India, but they never took in Ceylon a violent turn as in Burma, probably because the Ceylonese élite had then chosen the parliamentary way which gave them better prospects for political advancement than crisis and confrontation.
The third factor is the lack of social tensions in the rural world comparable to those which underlay Gandhi’s mass mobilisation. After the abolition of the paddy tax, in spite of the repression of slash-and-burn cultivation, of the persistent depressed state of paddy cultivation, and of the landhunger resulting from plantation expansion, there was until the depression no widespread peasant discontent, because most peasants could draw some advantages from the opportunities created by agricultural expansion in the plantation sector, especially in small holdings. When the depression set in, the villagers whose numbers had been inflated by an early population growth found themselves deprived of these opportunities or even thrown out of employment. The dramatic malaria epidemic of 1934-35 owes its deadly character to the fact that many peasants were undernourished. To counter the prospect of an impending crisis, both the colonial government and Ceylonese leaders such as D.S. Senanayake were quick to revise the land policy hitherto biassed towards the estate sector, along the lines suggested in 1929 by the Ceylon Land Commission. Land redistribution to peasants in the wet zone, and later the large scale restoration and creation of hydraulic works for paddy cultivation in the dry zone, with at the same time, the first lines of a Welfare State being set up, with free dispensaries and schools, all that succeeded in defusing peasant unrest to an extent unheard of on the continent.
The fourth distinguishing factor is that in Sri Lanka the British upheld a taxonomy based on so-called ‘racial’ and linguistic categories, while they reinforced in India a taxonomy based on caste and religious categories. Some of the reasons behind this choice are obvious – the fact that Buddhism gave no legitimacy to caste distinctions, and the weakening influence of traditional elites notably in the Kandyan regions after the repression of the 1817-18 rebellion. But it should be noted that even if in Jaffna the British actually upheld caste discriminations (notably under the ‘proconsulates’ of Dyke and Twynham who administered the peninsula during most of the XIXth century), they never gave it an official sanction. In a country where education was more encouraged than in most parts of India, and where the colonisers entertained serious hopes to convert to Christianity a significant section of the population, language was seen by the rulers as a more immediate marker of identity than religion; but at the same time the use of English relativised that marker. The construction of ‘race’ as the major category provided a convenient way out, not only because it fitted with the European ‘xenology’ of the time, but possibly because its very imprecision allowed inclusive or exclusive manipulations under a pretence of scientific formulations.

The transfer of power by the British to the Sri Lankan élite was a long drawn out exercise. A Legislative Council established during the XIXth century had been opened to unofficial representatives elected on a narrow and communal basis. The enlargement of the electorate in the 1920’s under Governor Manning had left the communal system intact, the colonial motto being then ‘divide and rule’ in Ceylon as well as in India. But in the late 1920s, the Donoughmore Commission, sent to the island about at the same time as the Simon Commission to the sub-continent, suggested a different course: the abandonment of separate electorates, the universal franchise and a system of limited home rule and dyarchy. While the Governor retained law and order, justice, finance and foreign relations, a Board of Ministers (without a Prime Minister) elected by a State Council was to manage home affairs, education, health, agriculture, industries and communications. The reforms were adopted in 1931 – well before the provincial devolution of 1935-37 in India. Sri Lanka thus served as a test case of gradual decolonisation, possibly to show the Indian nationalists the benefits they could gain from a collaboration with the raj.
The political class reluctantly accepted the new system. Universal suffrage compelled them to play the electoral game, without giving them full responsibility, and even its supporters such as the trade unionist Goonesinha lost their influence when confronted with the emergence of a marxist movement led by the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. The communal system of representation died hard and led many politicians to revive caste, religious or ethno-linguistic loyalties to ensure vote banks for themselves. The rise of communal politics in the 1930s was in a way the outcome of the majority rule implicit in a representative system in which the institutions did not provide for a measure of federalism. Some leaders of the Tamil minority in Jaffna induced their people to boycott the elections for two years, and they later advocated an equal representation for all the minorities (about 30% of the population) and the majority. On the other side of the deepening divide, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike started a communal movement, the Sinhala Mahasabha, reminiscent of the Hindu Mahasabha in India, without hovewer acknowledging any filiation.
But at that stage there existed in Ceylon no separatist movement comparable to that advocated by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. During the Second World War, whereas the collaboration of the Muslim League with the British, in contrast with the Quit India movement of the Congress, paved the way for Pakistan, the good relations of D.S. Senanayake with the British and his ability to integrate the Jaffna Tamils into the political system, ensured the independence of Ceylon as a unitary state. On the other hand, the Ceylonese leadership (mainly Low-Country Sinhalese), partly in order to gain the support of the Kandyans, excluded the Indian immigrants (especially the plantation Tamils) from land distribution and from some government jobs. India retaliated with a ban on migratory movements, and a serious crisis developed in the plantation sector in 1940. At independence, most of the immigrants were disenfranchised and became stateless; their fate remained for decades a major bone of contention between India and Ceylon.
Furthermore, the movement towards complete independence of Sri Lanka followed a path very different from that of India and Pakistan: the new opportunities created by the war had practically opposite effects. After 1942, the island became the headquarters for the anti-Japanese war in Southeast Asia. The economy benefitted immensely from various contracts, from the demand for rubber and graphite. In addition, a planning apparatus was set up which laid the basis for a welfare state which was to become a hallmark of the Sri Lankan polity after independence: agricultural prices were guaranteed for the producer and controlled for the benefit of the consumers; public services were better organised, the health and education systems were given a sounder footing, malaria was partly eradicated by systematic spraying of DDT.
On the political side, the extensive powers given to the military, far from arresting the march to independence, encouraged it: the unfailing support given by D.S. Senanayake to the war effort made him appear as the perfect partner in view of the transfer of power, at the very moment when the Quit India movement threatened the British raj on the continent. In a way, Ceylonese independence from India was guaranteed by the same circumstances which provided for the creation of Pakistan, and was prepared by the same man who presided over the August 1947 transfer of power. As early as June 1944, Lord Mountbatten, then commander in chief, persuaded the war cabinet to examine a draft Constitution submitted by D.S. Senanayake. The report of the Soulbury Commission sent to Ceylon by the end of 1944 served as a basis for a negociation which lasted for three years – not because there were actual obstacles, but because the Attlee government chose to give priority to the burning Indian issue. Ceylon independence was therefore proclaimed only in February 1948, although it had matured during a longer period than on the continent.
Compared with the violent conditions that prevailed in India, Pakistan and Burma, the transfer of power in Sri Lanka appeared as a transition as smooth as had been the take over the Low Country in 1796 and that of Kandy in 1815. Defence and cooperation agreements ensured that Britain kept an influence on foreign relations and economic affairs. The more radical nationalists such as Bandaranaike, and the marxist leaders who were becoming popular, could therefore describe the operation as a case of non-genuine decolonisation.

A comparative study of the history of Sri Lanka and India is relevant not only for the understanding of modern developments in the island. The study of Sri Lankan history can also shed some light on certain aspects of Indian history and contribute to its critical examination. If one considers India as a unit throughout the modern period, the history of Sri Lanka appears as basically specific: the limited relations between India and Sri Lanka have always been of a nature different from those between the centre of India’s power (be it Delhi or Calcutta) and any of its peripheral parts. If on the contrary the focus is on the regional aspects of the Indian world, there are more similarities for example between Kerala and Sri Lanka than between Kerala and Rajasthan. Again in the words of G.C. Mendis (op. cit. p. 17), ” as far back as 1831, Colebrooke (…) considered a knowledge of Ceylon helpful for an understanding of India.”: although hardly fulfilled, the project remains valid.

To quote this article:

Meyer E., 2013, “On the specificity and relevance of Sri Lanka in the history of modern South Asia”, in Sri Lanka & Diasporas, http://slkdiaspo.hypotheses.org/1756 


Vote du Conseil des Nations Unies pour les droits humains (version française)

Par une résolution intitulée « favoriser la réconciliation et l’établissement des responsabilités à Sri Lanka » (A/HRC/22/L.1/Rev.1), adoptée par 25 voix contre 13, avec 8 abstentions, le Conseil encourage le Gouvernement sri-lankais à mettre en œuvre les recommandations formulées dans le rapport du Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme sur les conseils et l’assistance technique qui pourraient être offerts au Gouvernement sri-lankais dans ce contexte et les recommandations et conclusions qui y figurent, s’agissant en particulier de la création d’un mécanisme de recherche de la vérité faisant partie intégrante d’une approche plus globale et inclusive de la justice transitionnelle. Il lui demande de mener une enquête indépendante et crédible sur les violations présumées du droit international des droits de l’homme et du droit international humanitaire. Il demande une nouvelle fois au Gouvernement sri-lankais d’appliquer efficacement les recommandations constructives formulées dans le rapport établi par la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation, et de prendre toute mesure complémentaire nécessaire pour honorer ses obligations légales et l’engagement qu’il a pris de prendre des initiatives crédibles et indépendantes pour garantir la justice, l’équité, l’établissement des responsabilités et la réconciliation pour tous les Sri-lankais.
Le Conseil encourage d’autre part le Gouvernement sri-lankais à coopérer avec les titulaires de mandat au titre des procédures spéciales et de répondre officiellement à leurs demandes encore non satisfaites, notamment en leur adressant des invitations et en leur accordant l’accès voulu. Il engage le Haut-Commissariat et les titulaires de mandat au titre des procédures spéciales concernés à fournir des conseils et une assistance technique au sujet de la mise en œuvre des mesures susmentionnées en consultant le Gouvernement sri-lankais et avec son accord. Enfin, le Conseil demande au Haut-Commissariat de lui présenter un compte rendu oral de la situation à sa session de septembre 2013, et un rapport complet suivi d’un débat sur l’application de la présente résolution, en mars 2014.
Ont voté pour (25) : Allemagne, Argentine, Autriche, Bénin, Brésil, Chili, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Espagne, Estonie, États-Unis, Guatemala, Inde, Irlande, Italie, Libye, Monténégro, Pérou, Pologne, République de Corée, République de Moldavie, République tchèque, Roumanie, Sierra Leone et Suisse.
Ont voté contre (13) : Congo, Émirats arabes unis, Équateur, Indonésie, Koweït, Maldives, Mauritanie, Ouganda, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Thaïlande et Venezuela.
Abstentions (8) : Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Éthiopie, Japon, Kazakhstan, Kenya et Malaisie.

Présentant le projet de résolution intitulé «Favoriser la réconciliation et l’établissement des responsabilités à Sri Lanka» (A/HRC/22/L.1/Rev.1), les États-Unis ont indiqué qu’ils appellent les autorités de ce pays à prendre des mesures pour instaurer une paix durable après 27 années de conflit. Le projet de résolution reconnaît les réalisations et souligne les défis qui restent à relever, notamment en matière de droits de l’homme et d’état de droit. Le projet de résolution encourage le Gouvernement de Sri Lanka à mettre en œuvre les recommandations constructives de sa Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation, ainsi que celles issues du rapport de la Haut-Commissaire. Les États-Unis se sont dits prêts à soutenir Sri Lanka dans ces efforts. Enfin, le projet de résolution souligne le rôle constructif du Haut-Commissariat et des titulaires de mandats au titre des procédures spéciales, qui fournissent l’assistance technique et encouragent le Gouvernement de Sri Lanka à coopérer.
Le Pakistan a observé que Sri Lanka a pris des mesures pour mettre en œuvre les recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation. Le Pakistan est préoccupé du fait que le projet de résolution contient des éléments provenant du rapport du Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme, lequel ne tient pas compte du processus de réconciliation interne en cours. Le rapport du Haut-Commissariat, non conforme aux dispositions de la résolution 19/2 qui demandait un rapport sur l’assistance technique, contient des recommandations qui outrepassent son mandat. Dès lors, le projet de résolution, qui se fonde sur un rapport dont la crédibilité est mise en doute par le pays concerné, ne peut être vu comme une base raisonnable pour encourager ce pays à adopter une attitude constructive. Depuis 2009, date de la fin du conflit, Sri Lanka a fait de grands progrès en matière de réconciliation, en informant de façon constante le Conseil des progrès accomplis. Pendant 30 ans, le pays a subi le terrorisme international financé depuis l’étranger. Le Pakistan estime que Sri Lanka doit disposer de suffisamment de temps et d’espace pour mener à bien son processus de réconciliation. Il ne doit pas être soumis à des décisions arbitraires. La situation sur le terrain n’appelle pas de mesures urgentes du Conseil. Ce dernier ne doit rien envisager qui soit contraire à ses propres objectifs. Le projet de résolution créerait un mauvais précédent et aurait un impact négatif sur la réconciliation nationale. Sri Lanka a maintenu ses institutions démocratiques tout au long du conflit, il faut aider le pays et non pas le critiquer.
L’Inde s’est inquiétée de la lenteur dans la mise en œuvre des recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation sri-lankaise. La délégation appelé Sri Lanka à accélérer ce processus, y compris les enquêtes et la reddition de compte. En tant que pays voisin, l’Inde a estime que Sri Lanka doit entendre les appels de la communauté internationale.
L’Irlande, au nom de l’Union européenne, a également appelé Sri Lanka à mettre en œuvre les recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation et à coopérer avec les mécanismes des Nations Unies. Compte tenu des faibles progrès réalisés, l’Union européenne estime que la situation de Sri Lanka devrait rester à l’ordre du jour du Conseil. En conséquence, les États membres de l’Union européenne se prononceront en faveur de la résolution.
Le Monténégro a estimé que le projet de résolution constitue une avancée importante susceptible de mettre la population sri-lankaise sur le chemin d’une paix durable. Le Gouvernement doit agir en faveur de la promotion de la justice, élément essentiel d’une authentique réconciliation, comme l’a souligné la Haut-Commissaire.
La Suisse a affirmé sa préoccupation quant à l’établissement des responsabilités et au processus de réconciliation à Sri Lanka. Le projet de texte prévoit d’intensifier les efforts en ce sens. La Suisse se félicite de la réaffirmation du rôle des titulaires de mandat. Pour la Suisse, il s’agit d’une résolution «importante et constructive».
La Sierra Leone a rappelé qu’elle avait elle-même connu dix ans de guerre civile, au terme de laquelle elle avait opté pour une réconciliation véritable. C’est la raison pour laquelle elle appuie un texte qu’elle juge équilibré. La seule manière de susciter une véritable réconciliation est de mettre un terme à l’impunité et d’établir les responsabilités.
Le Brésil a déclaré suivre de près la situation des droits de l’homme à Sri Lanka. Des difficultés subsistent et des progrès sont constatés, notamment dans la restauration des infrastructures et le relogement des personnes déplacées. Le Brésil reconnaît les efforts consentis par les autorités sri-lankaises. L’examen périodique de Sri Lanka par le Conseil, en 2012, démontre la volonté de coopération de ce pays. La Haut-Commissaire devrait accepter l’invitation à se rendre à Sri Lanka, car la coopération doit aller dans les deux sens. Le Brésil appelle Sri Lanka à mettre en œuvre les recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation, pour prouver l’engagement sans équivoque de Sri Lanka en faveur des droits de l’homme.
Le Venezuela a dénoncé la sélectivité et la partialité de plus en plus préoccupantes du Conseil, au détriment surtout des pays en développement. Le Conseil ne doit pas agir sans le consentement des pays concernés. Depuis le rétablissement de la paix, Sri Lanka a témoigné de son engagement en faveur des mécanismes des droits de l’homme, notamment en donnant des informations régulières sur les progrès accomplis. La mise en œuvre des recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation ne doit pas être le motif d’une ingérence étrangère. Ce projet de résolution ne se fonde pas sur le dialogue véritable, clé de voûte du Conseil. Le Venezuela est préoccupé du fait que cette résolution crée un précédent et renoue avec les pratiques déplorables du passé. Ce projet de résolution ne favorisera pas la réconciliation et la paix, car il n’obéit pas au principe d’universalité et d’objectivité, qui doivent régir les travaux du Conseil.
L’Équateur a déclaré qu’il avait toujours condamné les violations des droits de l’homme, indépendamment des faits et des auteurs de ces actes. La situation des droits de l’homme à Sri Lanka doit s’améliorer, cela est indéniable, notamment en ce qui concerne le traitement des minorités ethniques, estime-t-il. Cependant, le pays a pris un certain nombre d’initiatives, en particulier la création d’une Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation. C’est la raison pour laquelle l’Équateur votera contre le projet de résolution.
Sri Lanka a déclaré que le projet de résolution la concernant est «inacceptable» en raison, notamment, de son caractère intrusif. Le paragraphe sur les progrès accomplis ignore toutes les mesures positives prises par le Gouvernement, en particulier la réhabilitation de près de 12 000 anciens combattants, dont 594 enfants soldats, ou encore les avancées économiques et politiques dans le Nord du pays. Le projet met l’accent sur des allégations non avérées et sur lesquelles Sri Lanka a déjà répondu dans le cadre de l’Examen périodique universel, a ajouté le représentant. Les paragraphes opérationnels sont politiquement motivés et prouvent la partialité des rédacteurs de la résolution. Certains dispositifs s’appuient, par exemple, sur le rapport de la Haut-Commissaire qui outrepasse le mandat que lui a confié le Conseil, a encore déclaré le représentant sri-lankais. D’autres paragraphes affirment tacitement que les mécanismes et processus nationaux mis en place sont déficients, alors qu’ils sont récents et n’ont pas encore fait leur preuve. D’autres paragraphes imposent à Sri Lanka de coopérer avec le Haut-Commissariat et ses mécanismes en violation, des résolutions 60/25160/251 de l’Assemblée générale et 5/1 et 5/2 du Conseil. Sri Lanka dénonce également une attention incompréhensible sur son pays, alors qu’il y a de nombreuses violations des droits de l’homme ailleurs dans le monde. Si la politisation et la création de processus parallèles perduraient, le Conseil subirait le même sort que la défunte Commission des droits de l’homme, a prévenu la délégation.
L’Indonésie a déclaré que, dans cette période de transition difficile, Sri Lanka devait bénéficier de l’aide de la communauté internationale, ainsi que du temps nécessaire pour mener à bien son processus de réconciliation. L’Indonésie se félicite de la détermination de Sri Lanka et de son engagement indéfectible en faveur des droits de l’homme, en dépit des grandes difficultés qu’elle rencontre. L’Indonésie a souligné l’engagement constructif de Sri Lanka avec le Conseil, comme en témoignent le grand nombre de recommandations acceptées lors de son Examen périodique et ses engagements volontaires. L’Indonésie appelle Sri Lanka à ne pas relâcher ses efforts et continuer à renforcer la crédibilité et l’efficacité du processus de réconciliation.
La Thaïlande a applaudit les efforts consentis par les auteurs du projet pour trouver un terrain d’entente entre toutes les parties. Elle s’est cependant dite préoccupée par le fait que le projet se fonde sur des éléments tirés du rapport du Haut-Commissariat, qui outrepasse son mandat. La Thaïlande n’est donc pas en mesure de soutenir ce projet de résolution. Sri Lanka a coopéré constructivement avec le Conseil et doit continuer à mettre en œuvre les recommandations de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation.
La République de Corée a pris note avec satisfaction des efforts accomplis par Sri Lanka. Rappelant son expérience de pays colonisé puis déchiré par la guerre, elle se félicite de la création de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation, prenant note des engagements gouvernementaux en faveur de la mise en œuvre de ses recommandations. Elle se félicite aussi de la décision d’organiser des élections dans les provinces du Nord. La République de Corée comprend que Sri Lanka doit s’approprier ce processus d’établissement des responsabilités, les organes des Nations Unies devant jouer le rôle qui leur incombe dans ce processus. Elle votera contre le projet de résolution.
Le Japon a souligné l’importance de tenir des débats constructifs au sein du Conseil afin de faire progresser les droits de l’homme. Il se félicite des progrès accomplis par Sri Lanka tout en constatant que de nombreuses difficultés persistent. À titre bilatéral, le Japon se félicite du fait que Sri Lanka se dit prêt à relever tous les défis, en organisant notamment des élections dans les provinces du nord. Il exhorte le Gouvernement à mettre en œuvre toutes les recommandations qui lui ont été faites, y compris pour l’établissement des responsabilités. Pour toutes ces raisons, le Japon s’abstiendra lors du vote.
Les Maldives estiment qu’il faut établir les responsabilités s’agissant de toutes les violations des droits de l’homme commises par toutes les parties, de même que promouvoir la réconciliation et aider Sri Lanka. Le rapport de la Commission des enseignements et de la réconciliation sri-lankaise est au cœur du processus de renforcement des institutions. Les Maldives estiment que la résolution n’est pas nécessaire à ce stade, Sri Lanka devrait avoir le temps et l’espace nécessaires pour mettre en œuvre les recommandations issues de la Commission et de son Examen périodique. La coopération avec la communauté internationale permettra de travailler de manière constructive et dans le respect mutuel.

On trouvera la version anglaise de ce texte officiel à l’adresse suivante :

Bref commentaire (EPM):
On soulignera un certain nombre d’explications de vote intéressantes, notamment celles de l’Inde, du Pakistan, de la Sierra Leone qui souligne son expérience de dix ans de guerres civiles, et du Venezuela qui défend la ligne définie par Chavez et que le gouvernement sri-lankais a toujours soutenue. On notera que le Qatar, qui pourtant cherche à travers Al Jazeera à se construire l’image d’un pays attentif aux questions humanitaires, mais qui par ailleurs exploite les migrants et migrantes sri-lankais, s’est prononcé contre la motion. Enfin, sauf erreur de décompte des votes, la Corée après avoir annoncé voter contre la motion s’est prononcée en faveur de celle-ci.

Les fantômes du passé (suite) par Eric MEYER

La macabre découverte à la fin de l’année 2012 d’une fosse contenant plus de 140 corps dans l’enceinte de l’hôpital de Matale, tout près du poste de police de cette petite ville située au nord de Kandy, a suscité une émotion considérable et une quantité d’hypothèses contradictoires. Selon les enquêteurs, les squelettes portent des traces de torture, et l’inhumation remonte probablement à la fin des années 1980, lorsque les jeunes rebelles singhalais du JVP ont affronté les milices gouvernementales. Mais des politiciens locaux se sont empressés d’imaginer d’autres explications, comme pour faire retomber la chape de silence sur « les années de terreur » : la répression par les Britanniques de la rébellion anti-coloniale de 1848, les effets d’un glissement de terrain, ou d’une épidémie meurtrière comme la malaria de 1935, ont été évoqués. Inversement, un député du JVP (qui est rentré dans le jeu parlementaire) a rappelé les massacres perpétrés par les forces spéciales de la police et de l’armée dans divers camps en 1989, notamment à Suriyakanda, plus au sud. Un observateur averti de la politique sri lankaise, d’origine tamoule, a même évoqué prudemment l’hypothèse d’une implication de membres haut placés de l’appareil militaire dans le massacre de Matale, les rebelles singhalais ayant été victimes des mêmes pratiques utilisées ultérieurement contre la rébellion tamoule par les mêmes services (http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/15975).
Quiconque a lu Le fantôme d’Anil (Anil’s Ghost), l’excellent roman de Michael Ondaatje, écrivain canadien d’origine sri lankaise, paru en 2000, ne peut manquer d’en rapprocher l’exhumation de Matale. Anil, médecin légiste née à Sri Lanka, envoyée par la Commission des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies pour enquêter sur les origines d’un massacre, à peine débarquée à l’aéroport, prend contact avec la terrible réalité de Sri Lanka (Le fantôme d’Anil, traduction de Michel Lederer, Paris, Editions de l’Olivier, 2000, page 17)
« Et pourtant, les plus sombres des tragédies grecques étaient bien innocentes comparées à celles qui se jouaient ici. Têtes empalées. Squelettes enfouis dans une fosse au milieu des fèves de cacao à Matale [l’original anglais est plus précis : ‘Skeletons dug out of a cocoa pit in Matale’] . Pendant ses études universitaires, Anil avait traduit des vers d’Archiloque : ‘Selon les lois de l’hospitalité de la guerre, nous leur avons laissé leurs morts pour qu’ils se souviennent de nous’. Ici, il n’y avait pas de gestes semblables à l’égard des familles des morts, pas même la mention de l’identité de l’ennemi »
A ce jour, seuls quelques écrivains, cinéastes et artistes sont véritablement parvenus à exprimer l’intensité de cette violence extrême qui a traumatisé la totalité de la société sri lankaise. Le public connaît mieux les films que les œuvres d’art, mais il nous faut signaler ici les œuvres du plasticien Jagath Weerasinghe, archéologue de profession, co-fondateur d’un collectif d’artistes contemporains (www.theertha.org)
L’exhumation du passé de Sri Lanka ne fait que commencer. L’histoire de la violence reste à écrire. Elle concerne tout autant les Singhalais que les Tamouls. Les implications politiques d’une telle recherche sont lourdes de conséquences. Un tel travail de mémoire demande du temps et du courage – les historiens de la France de l’Occupation, ou ceux de la partition de l’Inde en 1947, en font l’expérience. Mais les chercheurs ne peuvent s’y dérober. Sinon les fantômes du passé continueront de hanter l’île.

Nouveau rapport sur Sri Lanka de la Commission des Nations Unies pour les Droits de l’Homme

Un nouveau rapport sur Sri Lanka daté du 11 février 2013 vient d’être mis en ligne par les services du Haut Commissaire aux Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies, en prévision de l’examen de la situation des droits de l’homme dans le pays lors de la 22ème session qui se tiendra à Genève du 25 février au 22 mars 2013.Il comprend notamment une analyse critique des réponses et non-réponses apportées par le gouvernement aux recommandations de la LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) dont le texte avait été pris comme base d’évaluation lors de la 21ème session de l’organisation.
Le texte de ce rapport dans sa version anglaise est disponible ci-dessous:


‘Gamperaliya’ (village upheaval) in the Kägalla district, by Eric Meyer, Inalco, Paris

Nous publions ci-dessous le second article inédit d’Eric Meyer sur l’histoire de Sri Lanka à la période coloniale. Il s’agit de matériaux pour l’étude micro-historique des bouleversements survenus dans la société villageoise (c’est le sens du mot singhalais ‘gamperaliya’) d’une localité du district de Kägalla, sous l’impact du développement d’une plantation de thé et d’hévéas.
This is the second in a series of unpublished papers by Eric Meyer on the social history of Sri Lanka during the colonial period. It provides material for the micro-level study of village social upheaval (it is the meaning of the word ‘gamperaliya’ in sinhala) in a Kägalla district locality under the impact of the development of a tea and rubber estate.

Gamperaliya in the Kägalla district
Material for the historical study of a Kandyan village in its relations with a plantation

The selection of the H*** village and G*** estate was the result of my previous research (1975 to 1978) into the archives of the Kägalla district, which showed the special interest of three localities in which plantations had developed inside a village area and for which detailed information pertaining to the British and even the Kandyan period was forthcoming: the Rangalla village / Yatideriya estate, near Bulatkohupitiya ; the Dorawaka village / Madeniya estate near Warakapola ; and the H*** village / G*** estate near Kägalla. It appeared that the first two areas were too large and too populated to be studied in depth, and that no estate documents were available. H*** had only 49 houses, and I had access to G*** estate (state-owned since 1975) and its records.
After a careful study of the written documents of the British colonial administration in the Sri Lanka National Archives in Colombo and the kacceri record room in Kägalla, a house to house survey was made, in August 1979, with short interviews, which helped to draw genealogical charts and a village plan (together with documents of the Survey Department including an aerial photograph), to figure out the secular trends of the high and low land market in the village by comparing paddy tax registers (especially 1881) with the cultivation officer’s data (1979), and to check written information regarding land sales by villagers to the estate. Further data was collected in the estate records including an old plan. Interviews with members of two influent families, and in the nearby villages of A*** and T*** with elders, a monk and a head teacher, elicited the local view of the history of the area. Much later, additional precise information was found in a sinhala ola leaf manuscript of the Dissawe Lekammitiya of Hatarakorale kept in the Peradeniya University Library.
The enquiry revealed a case of social revolution in a Kandyan village very similar to what the well known Sri Lankan writer Martin Wickramasinghe had depicted for a southern low-country village in his novel Gamperaliya (Village upheaval). Among the few village monographs on Kägalla district, Tamara Gunasekara’s Hierarchy and Egalitarianism located further east near Aranayake provides a wealth of fascinating material often similar to that of H*** ; some comparison can also be made with Jayantha Perera’s Nuwaragama in the same area, and in the Central Province with monographs by Newton Gunasinghe and Kalinga Tudor Silva. The present paper made up of half-worked material, is provisional and focusses only on social history ; it does not pretend to be a piece of scientifically founded ethno-history. Only the initials of names of localities and village families are given, while those of public officers and professionnals are mentioned in full.

Overview of the village history before 1900:
By the mid-18th century, Mawata pattuwa, where H*** village is located, was crossed by the main path (still locally known as the king’s road, Raja mawata) connecting the Dutch-occupied low-country with the Kandyan kingdom, which ran distinctly south of the present Kandy road built under the British in the 1820s. Between the line of forts at Ruanwella, Menikkadawara, Arandara, and the Leuke – Attapitiya area under the Balane pass leading to Kandy (and the minor Balatgomuwa pass leading to Gampola), it was a rugged and circuitous route crossing rivers on creeper footbridges (edanda), with ascents and descents, blocked with thorny checkpoints (kadawat) – the ideal place for guerilla warfare, which enabled the kingdom to resist the attacks of the successive European powers until 1815. Owing to its strategic importance, many villagers along the path were enlisted as warriors, scouts and spies in time of war by the governor (Dissawe) of Hatarakorale, in the so-called nanayakkara and atapattu services. Such was the case in H*** village, whose Radala caste lord, bearing the honorific Tänannähe, was in 1747 the mohottala, secretary to the Dissawe (the powerful military chief Leuke Dissawe the elder), in charge of the organization of the military service. The Dissawe Maha Lekammitiya, rewritten under the orders of Leuke at the beginning of the reign of Kirti Sri (december 1747), bears testimony to his political will of reinforcing the atapattu organisation of Hatarakorale, the bulwark of the kingdom facing the Dutch territories : it provides an updated list of the families attached to the military service in the different villages of Hatarakorale. Following the usage of the Lekammitiya, we shall apply in this study the term Radala to the families listed as such in 1747, which were clearly distinguished from the families of soldiers of a lower grade, styled Hewayo.
In the same H*** village there were three families of Hewayo, two of Naide or Rate caste (now Goyigama), the K*A* naide and the W*A* naide and one of Padu (now Batgama) caste, N*P* aya. Ralph Pieris (1956 : 302) wrongly states that the title -nayide is reserved to respectable persons of artisan castes : according to the 18th century onomastic the suffix was generally applied to hewayo of ‘good’ caste, while the suffix -pediya or -aya was frequently but not always applied to hewayo of Padu caste, and -dewaya to hewayo of Vahumpura caste. Whatever their caste, surnames of the hevayo generally alluded to their military prowess or duties (in this case : Victorious Chief ; Defender of the City). Three families from the neighbouring village of A*** were also involved in the military service : a Radala nanayakkara, R*, and two hewayo, R*A* naide and W* pediya, while a W* family hailing from a third village, D***, was serving in a special unit of lancers.
After the British accession, the Radala family members (who then sported the full patabändi name of S* M* M* instead of Tännanähe) were spared together with the other Hatarakorale chiefs who followed Molligoda Adigar in his support for the British during the 1817-1818 rebellion. But they lost most of their power with the abolition of the rajakariya system after 1833, the banishment of Molligoda, and the abandonment of the old Raja mawata when the British opened a cart road to Kandy about 5 miles to the north and established their administration in the new town of Kägalla. They however retained substantial headmanships in the 1850s (division officers and paddy tax assessment officers in Mawata pattuwa). They continued to reside in their small manorial house (walauwa), enjoy the product of their paddy fields and chena lands, and exert an authority over some families of the village through the control of land. The paddy tax receipts (wattoru) of the 1860s show that in addition to their paddy fields they possessed rights over chenas cultivated with hill paddy by the N*P* family, but that the former soldier families K*A* and W*A* had their independent properties (paraveni pangu). Other families that do not appear in the 18th century lists are mentioned in 1882 : one (H*R*) was that of a long established high caste Vedarala (medical practicionner) who possessed substantial fields and gardens : his traditional occupation made him independent from the service system and the Radala lord ; another (H*K*) was that of a group of poor oboe players, Berava by caste, from a neighbouring village.
In addition, the S*M*M* retained a measure of control over the neighbouring village of D*** which had been given them as nindagama by the Kandyan kings, and they enjoyed the services of its (mainly Padu) families (18 pangu + 1 high caste paraveni panguwa), which consisted in cultivating the fields of the reserve (muttettuwa) and delivering its produce, but also included personal service such as carrying the baggage of the proprietor on journeys. In the late 1860s ans early 1870s, the colonial policy makers, following the Indian example, decided to foster the interests of the hereditary aristocracy : the administration undertook to register the services due by tenants of so-called feudal villages to their lords. At the enquiry, the S*M*M* could not establish their rights to services in H*** village (the enquiry mentions : « nindagama, sannasa lost, services prescribed ») but they succeeded in having the entirety of the large village of D*** recognized as their nindagama, in spite of the absence of sannas (written grant). The fate of some their caste fellows in the neighbourhood was worse : in the village of A***, the nindagama claim of the survivor of the local R* family was « rejected by reason of long desuetude ». On the contrary, some families belonging to the ordinary soldier class during the 18th century were on the rise : the R*A* who hailed from the same village of A***, had obtained from the colonial administration posts of headmen and paddy tax evaluators (wibadde lekam) in the 1860s, and they were able to register a small nindagama under their name at the Service Tax enquiry early in the 1870s.
However the fortunes of the S*M*M* family were already declining : in February 1873, the head of the family, Kiri Banda, was heavily indebted to a Chettiyar moneylender of Kägalla, Kaliappa Chetty, who obtained the judicial sale of all the family property, advertised in detail in the Ceylon Government Gazette : 11 paddy fields and 3 gardens in H*** , 7 paddy fields in D***, together with « the services or rajakariya due from the tenants of the ninda village D*** as noted in the Service Tenures Commissionner Registry ». It is likely that a part of the land was purchased by a member of the R*A* family, Appuhami, who appears in the Grain tax commutation register of 1882 as proprietor of one of these paddy fields ; but the rest of the lands were still registered under the name of S*M*M* Kiri Banda and his brothers Ukku Banda and Punchi Banda, who together owned a considerable extent of 5 amunam 4 kuruni of paddy fields in H*** . However this property must have been mortgaged to outsiders, and R*A* Punchi Appuhami appears in 1898 as the proprietor of another of these paddy fields purchased at a fiscal sale. As regards the family property in the village of D***, they were acquired by a member of another Radala family of the area, B* Banda, who attempted to have these lands surveyed in 1888.
The reasons for this state of things are not given but allusions in the colonial diaries of the time, and in today’s village talk, regulary mention alcoholism : Kägalla town, the new district capital, was easily accessible from the H*** area. The new Kandy road opened by the British was lined with licensed taverns which sold local arrack and imported whiskies, to the great benefit of low-country renters and the colonial budget. There were also unlicensed gambling dens, which became famous in the early 1860s when a low-country adventurer, Sardiel, known as the Robin Hood of Ceylon, scoured rich travellers and squandered his plunder in these places. Another new activity in the town was linked with the establishment of local courts : proctors, surveyors, notaries, most of them outsiders, swarmed around them, and the Kandyan villagers became an easy prey to their speculative activities. It is likely that the S*M*M* brothers became embroiled in this environment.
The 1880s mark a turning point in the agrarian history of the district. The coffee crisis led the British planters to turn to new products, first tea, and later rubber, which could be planted on former chena lands at mid-elevation. The Assistant Government Agents were instructed to survey highlands and effect ‘chena settlements’ and later ‘forest settlements’, reserving an area for the villagers and declaring the rest Crown eventually for sale to planters (Meyer 1996 : 197 sqq and further publication on chena settlements and forest settlements in Kägalla, on this site). The highlands of the Mawata and Kandupita pattu, south of Kägalla, were never settled, but some of them were surveyed in 1880 and after, under the orders of Government, by private surveyors styled ‘chena surveyors’, as in the case of M*** (the chena plan 300 carefully drawn in December 1880 by young Philip Francis Ondaatje – the grandfather of Michael Ondaatje, shows the detailed location of fields, gardens and chenas). It is likely that the survey attracted the attention of the Kägalla landed interests. But the sale of land to planters started only some 20 years later, when a new local administrator, Bertram Hill, lifted the restrictions put by two successive Assistant Government Agents, F.H. Price and Walter Davidson, who wanted to keep Hatarakorale for Kandyan villagers as « the garden of the East » and to direct the planting interests towards the Kelani Valley in the south of the district. The first isolated sales occurred in 1894, and the movement accelerated in 1898 to pre-empt an attempt at enforcing the new waste lands ordinance promulgated in 1897 to stenghten the hands of the administration against land speculation.

Land sales and estate formation.
By 1900, land speculation was in full swing in Hatarakorale (Meyer 1992, and detailed study fortcoming on this blog). The careful but useless survey and settlement enquiries of the 1880 and early 1890 were a thing of the past, branded by civil servants in Colombo as « chena unsettlement », and successfully challenged in the Courts of law. Chena land was being sold cheaply by villagers, who had no written title against the Crown, to planters, through intermediaries, who pocketed substantial speculative profits, and the planters began to open the land and force the hands of the administration. A new ordinance passed in 1897 to clear the mess and strenghten the rights of the Crown led to the progressive establishment of a Land Settlement administration : but it remained understaffed, was busy in other parts of the country (Matara, Kurunegala), and considered it was too late to intervene in Kägalla. The formula adopted in that district was to issue ‘Certificates of Quiet Possession’ (CQPs) delivered by the Assistant Government Agent after enquiry with the local headman: the Crown withdrew its claim to the land (usually upon payment of a paltry sum by the planter) and left the planter to settle with the villagers and the intermediaries without guaranteeing title against them. Of course deals of that kind entailed a lot of underhand pressure and corruption, a certain amount of uncertainty too, and big firms of Colombo lawyers became experts in the game, which could be very profitable or prove ruinously expensive. When the Government Agents were cooperative, it was all the better for planters : it was the case with successive Agents for Sabaragamuwa, the superiors of the Assistants at Kägalla, especially E.B. Alexander and Thaine.
In the H*** area, two would-be planters, Fellowes and Harper, started to buy village land and build up bit by bit what was later called G*** tea and rubber estate. But it was a long drawn out affair, and in March 1912 when the plantation was opened nothing was settled. By that time, the planters had hired the services of the former surveyor P.F. Ondaatje, now a lawyer, to apply for a CQP. In the words of the Colonial Secretary writing to the Government Agent of the province of Sabaragamuwa, « G** estate is entirely made up of lands purchased from natives. To effect the formation into a Company, a clear title is required (…) As the Surveyor General cannot undertake a survey of the area without very serious detriment to his other work, and as it is not desirable that an application of this nature should be met by Government with a mere expression of its inability to give the required information, the Controller of Revenue suggests that the Assistant Government Agent should make as careful and minute an enquiry as possible without a survey into the respective rights of the Crown and the villagers with a view to arrive at an approximate valuation of the claims of the Crown. When this had been done, it may be possible to arrange with the promoters of the Company for its purchase by them of the Crown rights and thereafter to issue to them a CQP.» The Agent instructed his assistant at Kägalla in February 1913 : « I gather that the Company are anxious to get a Crown title quickly. I should not waste much time over tax receipts »
It was an uphill task described two years later in the diary of the Assistant Government Agent (27-28 October 1914) : « The estates were in a frantic to get a CQP, as a company was in process of formation, and through their representations, my predecessor had to cover the whole ground and make a report as to the probable settlement, in the absence of the Surveyor General’s plan. This he did relying on the estate plan. I have now to go over the whole ground again with a plan issued by the Surveyor General. All this land is now planted up with rubber, and there is nothing to distinguish the land purchased from villagers from the land purchased from the Crown. However with the assistance of the individual who acted as intermediary between the estate and the villagers when the lands were purchased, considerable progress was made. »
During the war years the file was shelved, and then retrieved in 1922. In a letter sent to the Assistant Government Agent, P.F. Ondaatje, who has become a sort of specialist in these muddled land issues, explained that « it is not possible to reconcile or identify the names and extents of the lands appearing on the CQP plan with the names and extents of the chenas purchased by the estate on their several title deeds ». Finally a list of 50 lands were advertised in the Ceylon Government Gazette (20.10.1922), and in March 1923, the CQP was issued, at 20 Rs an acre for the 270 acres for which the purchasers could not prove private title, and free for the 68 acres coverered by tax receipts. E.B. Alexander and his colleagues in Colombo minuted : « this is a piecemeal settlement but better than none at all (…) ; in view of the long possession by the claimants, I consider the price per acre fair ». But this settlement covered only a small part of the estate, which according to the Ferguson planting directory of 1939 finally consisted of 689 acres in tea and 484 acres in rubber, and distributed handsome dividends in the 1920s (10% to 40% yearly)
The various enquiries revealed that S*M*M* Ukkubanda attempted to uphold his feudal rights in D***, while the villagers wanted to sell direct to the estate. A petition received from D*** villagers complained that he « uses to come forward and claim as proprietor or landlord a share of the petitioners’ and other lands. Some months ago, one of the petitioners, R. Setuwa, sold some of his lands : at this instance the said Banda came and took a share of the proceeds of the sale at 10 Rs an acre… ». But Ukkubanda’s business was of a wider magnitude. He was actually employed as a broker by the planters (together with another middleman, a Muslim trader). The collection of G*** estate deeds still kept in the estate office in 1979 show that Ukkubanda was paid a commission on most sales, plus batta (a sort of fixed salary) of 1 to 1.50 Rs a day, or sometimes a measure of rice. The same collection of 37 deeds shows that P.F. Ondaatje supervised all the sales, which span a long period, from 18.09.1894 to 8.10.1919 for the main portion of the estate, but extend until the end of the 1920s for A*** village. The amount paid to villagers was 10 Rs an acre in the beginning but rose to 45 Rs for the last sales. According to the testimony given me in 1979 by Kiri Ukkuwa, an old villager of A*** born around 1900, the first A*** villager to sell was Kattandiye Bandiya in 1915, he himself sold in 1928, Ondaatje acting as legal adviser and one ‘Wanumara Nilame’ (perhaps a nickname for Ukkubanda, meaning something like the forest destroying squire) as middleman, getting 12 Rs and a bushel of rice per month.
But all the villagers did not sell all their lands. In his testimony, the rich son of a Batgama villager from A***, H.S. Jotipala, said that only the poorer and more submissive villagers sold all their highlands : a few families on the contrary resisted the temptation of easy money, transformed their chenas into vegetable and fruit gardens and invested in the purchase of new lands the profits obtained from the sale of these products on the Kägalla market. As a result, the village was not enclaved by the estate. In H*** the situation was quite different : all the chenas of the S*M*M* family were sold, together with those of their dependents, the N*P* family, of another family of low status, the H*K*, and of one of the Goigama families, the K*A*. Two other high caste families, the W*A* and the H*R*, do not seem to have sold their chena lands (maybe they had none), but on the whole the village was practically restricted to its paddy fields and resident gardens, surrounded by tea and rubber lands of the estate, like so many villages in the area (see the annexed map).
For the S*M*M* it was the end of the road. The descendants left the decrepit walauwa and obtained as landless paupers an allotment of land in a dry zone colony in the 1950s. A son, S*M*M* Sadi Banda came back with his sisters two decades later and attempted with little success to revive the family’s pride and to revamp the walauwa. Some of their remaining paddy fields had been acquired by the R*A*, now the biggest landowners in the area, who built a modern house on the outskirts of the village, puchased lands to plant coconut and rubber, started a manufacture to smoke rubber sheets, and opened a boutique cum bakery in the village. But a large part was purchased by the H*S*, a Batgama family from A*** village, who settled in H*** and built for themselves the second largest house in the village. The other families in the village either carried on paddy and garden cultivation on a small scale and attempted to supplement the poor income they had by seeking casual employment outside the village (for example in Kägalla town, or in seasonal employment in the dry zone colonies) ; or they obtained regular employment in government service after independence ; or they took contract work on the estate, and by the mid 20th century many were employed as rubber tappers and timber sawers.
This case may be compared with that described by Tamara Gunasekara of the decline of D* Nilame, who was also the scion of a military Radala family in the nanayakkara service (according to the Lekammitiya) controlling the access to Dolosbage above Aranayake. But there are differences between S*M*M* and D* Nilame which can be inferred from reference to mid-19th century Kägalla diaries unknown to Tamara Gunasekara : D* Nilame’s father was suspected to have harboured Keppitipola, the head of the rebels, in 1818 ; after his release he lost all his authority, was never given a headmanship, nor recognized as ninda lord; with the early opening of coffee plantations in Dolosbage, his chena lands on the top of the hills were engulfed in the estates with the connivence of the local chief headman, a pseudo-Kandyan of low-country origin who had usurpated the name of Molligoda ; at that time (the mid 1850s) the Nilame was described as an upright old gentleman, who attempted to resist the encroachment by the estate on his lands but was helpless for want of support from the colonial authorities. When in the 1870s the British undertook to uphold the rights of the Kandyan aristocrats, it was too late, the ninda status of the Nilame lands were not recognized, and his son had become an alcoholic. The end of the story as told by to Tamara Gunasekara by local villagers is that the ruined walauwa was acquired by a former Batgama servant of the lord, who had obtained employment as an overseer (kangani) in the coffee estates, and that the whole village had become by the mid 20th century controlled by members of that formerly ‘low’ caste.
In the H*** area, the large tea and rubber plantations were opened half a century later than the up-country coffee plantations. But the enterprise of the Batgama villagers was similar to that of their Aranayake brethren : by the end of 1861, S*P* Tikkira of D*** repeatedly petitioned the British administration (he went to Colombo for that), to have his newly asweddumized paddy lands and newly planted coconut and arecanut gardens in A*** recognized as private. The rise of the Batgama entrepreneurs (Gunasinghe 1990 : 63), which is often connected with business opportunities during the Second world war period, has at least in the Kägalla district much older roots, especially among the hewayo families. These local cases confirm the better known example of the family of Nuwarapassa Hewayalage Keerthiratne in the Rambukkana – Kadugannawa area, where they became affluent by developing their own plantations at the beginning of the 20th century. In the words of N.H. Keerthiratne who gave me an interview in March 1978 : « These people were not given any responsible position in the country. Their job was planting. For that there is no objection. So we started planting, coconuts, any other things, vegetables, we began planting and making money (…) Even those caste minded people wanted money, so they had to come to these people who were making money ».

Villagers and the estate:
The relations of the villagers with estate superintendents and workers were definitely bad from the beginnings : in his diaries the Assistant Government Agent wrote that « here also the villagers complained about the shooting of their cattle. It seems that the cattle do not always stray on the estate. They are sometimes driven onto the estates and then they are shot by the watchers and consumed by the Tamil coolies. In connection with this particular estate some time ago there was a suspicion that all the stray cattle of the neighbourhood gravitated there. » (28 october 1914). Ten years later, reporting on a complaint of the G*** superintendent against the T*** village headman, he commented « This superintendent owing to his keeping a fierce and quarrelsome dog and for other reasons appear to have made himself unpopular with the villagers » (8 june 1925). Then a villager complained that the superintendent had put barbed wire on the way of his house and the planter complained « that the villager corrupted his coolies by illicit sale of toddy, gambling dens, receipt of stolen estate produce, and admitted having put up the fence by way of retaliation » (20 june 1929). During these first two decades, very few villagers worked on the estate, many who had sold large extents, according to R*A* testimony, lived on the product of their sales. The feeling of being surrounded by hostile people was as common among planters surrounded by villages as among villagers surrounded by estates ; but actually estate workers became regular customers of villagers who sold them fruits, vegetables, drinks, and sometimes employed them on Sundays ; the relations between them were not so bad, and it is precisely the connexion that made the planters nervous (Meyer 1992b)

The rubber slump of the 1930s and the malaria epidemic of 1934-1935 changed the situation. Many Tamil coolies were dismissed, and the area was badly hit by malaria. A new superintendent (Harvey) opened his dispensary for village patients (while the local headmen had done nothing to relieve them), and employed villagers for relief work to build roads across his estate. But still the relations were tense between villagers and estate, especially regarding cattle trespass and the use of paths across the rubber sections replanted with young trees (Kägalla diary 27 october 1936). With the stoppage of Tamil cooly immigration after 1939, casual employment of villagers for rubber tapping expanded and became regular during and after the war. Together with connected activities, such as timber sawing, the manufacture and smoking of rubber sheets, estate employment was after independence a major resource for them, and the relations with Tamil labourers reduced in numbers but long established were improved, some of them working in the village.

But G*** estate and its Tamil labourers came under threat after 1970. During the April 1971 insurgency, the area was controlled by young revolutionaries who regrouped there before attempting to launch a Long March to the north of the island; in 1977 rowdies from the Kegalla town came down to attack the Tamil workers and murders were reported ; again in 1983 and 1989 violence erupted and led to cases of arson. The estate was taken over by government in 1975, and employment reserved for villagers selected on the basis of recommendations by the local member of Parliament, and after the violence of the 1980s its activity was much reduced. Finally its management was given on lease to an Indian Goverment-controlled investment company.

Unpublished sources :

Satara Korale Lekam Pota, Maha Lekam Mitiya, sk 1669 [= 1747 C.E.].
copies : Colombo Museum Library (ms. J13, 76 folios and AN5, 34 folios) ; Peradeniya, University Library, (ms. 277674 and 277649 [Satara Korale Lekam Mitiya donated by L.B. Kobbäkaduwa Ratemahatmaya to F.H. Price, Assistant Government Agent Kägalla, 18 August 1887]) ; London, Royal Asiatic Society Library. On the lekammiti, see H.A.P. Abhayawardene’s Lekammiti Vimarshanaya, especially chapter 7.
[According to the colophon of ms 277674, the Disawe maha lekam mitiya was written on Unduvap saka 1669 (i.e. at the very beginning of king Kirti Sri’s reign), at the request of Leuke Dissave, upon enquiry by Haloluwe Mohottala (his secretary in charge of military services), to replace a damaged manuscript. It listed the military services rendered to the king’s governor, the Dissawe of Hatara Korale, by the military families of Hatara korale, according to their localities of residence (korale/pattu). I suppose that the document has been kept by Molligoda Adigar, successor to Levuke, after the Bristish take over of the kingdom, and has been perused by John D’Oyly to write his Sketch of the Constitution of the Kandyan Kingdom ; it was later handed over to Loku Banda Kobbekaduwa, chief headman of Galboda/Kinigoda where the manorial houses of Leuke and Molligoda were located. L.B. Kobbekaduwa made copies for the then Assistant Government Agent Price, well known in his time for his close connection with Kandyan aristocrats (he built for himself a walauwa in the town of Kägalla…), and Bell’s report mentions it without giving any details. Olas 11, 26, 27, 29 and 31 cover the area. We acknowledge the help of Ven. H. Dheerananda (presently professor of history, Peradeniya University) for decipherment of the manuscript.]

Service Tenures Register, Kegalle district
Kägalla kacceri record room.

Grain Tax Commutation Registers, Paranakuru Korale, 1881-1892
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (33/7291)

Wattoru [hill paddy tax receipts] (1860 to 1886)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/ 540)

Ceylon Government Gazette 1.02.1873, p. 147 and 20.10.1922 (7291), p. 1366
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo

Chena plan N° 300 (1880)
Kägalla kacceri record room

Chena Cases (1898)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/615)

G*** Estate Settlement (1912-1923)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/540)

Preliminary Plan n° 727
Sri Lanka Survey Department, Colombo

Diaries of the Assistant Government Agent Kägalla (1854 to 1939), especially :
1854-1864 : lists of wibadde lekam candidates
1863 : reports on the election of vel-vidanes
22.10.1861 / 4.10.1862 : petitions of D*** villagers
19.11.1888 : project of a survey of D*** village
27/29.10.1914 : inspection for the G***’s Certificate of Quiet Possession
20.06.1929 : enclosure by G*** estate of village lands
27.10.1936 : estate roads
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/2 sqq)

Private records of the G*** Estate (1903-1930)
– estate plan showing extension by purchase of minute lots (circa 1915) [reproduced here]
– accounts showing sums paid to intermediaries for land purchase
– check rolls showing employment of villagers

List of H*** village lands kept by the Cultivation Officer of T*** (1979)

Fieldwork from 4 July to 10 September 1979 in the villages of H***, T*** and A***, with the assistance of Mr. Mallawa ; the late Travis Siriwardena (Malpendeniya) generously extended his help during that period. House to house survey of H*** families with short interviews and drawing of genealogical charts and village plan (paddy fields, houses and gardens), detailed interviews of village elders, of the chief monk of T***, of the headmaster of the school of A***, of senior members of the R*A* and H*S* families, and of the superintendent of G*** estate.
Interview of N.H. Keerthiratne (march 1978, Rambukkana). Excerpts from this document will be quoted in further papers on entrepreneurship and caste; it may be published in full if permission is obtained from the family.

Published studies

Abhayawardhena (H.A.P.), Lekammiti Vimarshanaya. Colombo, Department of National Archives, 2009 [sinhala]
Bell (H.C.P.), Report on the Kegalle district of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Colombo, Government Printer, 1892.
D’Oyly (Sir John), A Sketch of the Constitution of the Kandyan Kingdom. Colombo, 1929 ; reprint Tisara press, 1975.
Gunasekara (Tamara), Hierarchy and Egalitarianism. Caste, Class and Power in Sinhalese Peasant Society. London, Athlone Press, 1994.
Gunasinghe (Newton), Changing Socio-economic Relations in the Kandyan Countryside. Colombo, Social Scientists Association, 1990
Meyer (Eric), (1990),« Aspects of the Sinhalese-Tamil Relations in the plantation areas of Sri Lanka under the British Raj ». Indian Economic and Social History Review , 27, 2, p. 165-188. Meyer (Eric) 1992a, « From Landgrabbing to Landhunger : Highland Appropriation in the Plantation Areas of Sri Lanka during the British Period », Modern Asian Studies 26 (2), 1992, p. 321-361. Meyer (Eric) 1992b, « ‘Enclave’ plantations, ‘hemmed-in’ villages and dualistic representations in colonial Ceylon”. Journal of Peasant Studies 19 (3 & 4), pp. 199-228. Meyer (Eric) 1996, « Paddy, garden, chena, plantation. Was there a peasant strategy in the Kandyan Regions of Sri Lanka before 1940 ? » in Robb (Peter) Meanings of Agriculture. Essays in South Asian History and Economics. Delhi, O.U.P.,p. 182-227. Pieris (Ralph), Sinhalese Social Organization, the Kandyan Period. Colombo, Ceylon University Press Board, 1956.

Two remarkable literary works:

Martin Wickramasinghe, Gamperaliya (1944) is a fascinating novel in Sinhala (recently translated in English under the misleading title Uprooted, Colombo, Sarasa, 2009) which depicts the decline of a walauwa family in the South, whose fate is very similar to that of the S*M*M family.
(see also the excellent filmic adaptation of the novel by Lester James Pieris 1964)
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (1982) is a fictionalized novel in English drawing from the memories of a family of surveyors and lawyers active in Kägalla at the time of the opening of G*** estate.

We reproduce in the uploadable document the northern half of the G*** estate plan, drawn about 1915, when the estate was already open but still in the process of absorbing additional village land. Estate tea is shown in yellow and estate rubber in light brown.
We have added (for the H*** village only, on the basis of their present situation) the paddy lands in blue, the village gardens with houses in dotted brown. H*** is in the centre of the plan with its walauwa, the houses of the other villagers are scattered in the gardens, to the north for the W*A* family, to the west for the K*A* and H*S* families, to the south-west for the H*R*and N*P* families, to the south-east for the R*A* and H*K* families.
A*** and T*** villages are on each side, M*** and D*** villages further south, themselves surrounding or surrounded by the southern half of the estate.
Notice the extremely irregular and discontinuous limits of the estate made up of small bits of chena lands, the village paths that intersect the estate blocks, the rubber and tea very close to paddy and gardens. 20 years later, the estate had extended and straightened its limits on the east, but the A*** village continued to resist its extension on the west.

Pour télécharger le document / to upload the document :

Gamperaliya in the Kägalla district 3