Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hundreds of Indian languages struggle to survive ...!!!

Hundreds of Indian languages struggle to survive

Classrooms at the Adivasi Academy in western India echo to the speech patterns of languages that may soon become no more than a meaningless jumble of noises.

Kukna, Panchmahali and Rathvi are just three of dozens of tribal Indian tongues taught at the academy, which was set up in 1996 in an attempt to preserve the country's indigenous cultures.

India's 1.16-billion people speak more than 6,500 languages and dialects, according to the 2001 census.

But almost 200 of them are seriously endangered, says the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO, as Hindi and English strengthen their grip in an increasingly mobile and interconnected world.

"If younger generations don't learn these languages, they will be forgotten," said academy teacher Jeetendra Vasava, 29. "Without education in the next 30 years the current speakers will get old and these languages will die."

Vasava, who believes India's rich diversity will be wrecked if local languages disappear, is a fine example of the nation's polyglot nature.

He speaks more than ten languages including his mother tongue Vasavi, which is spoken by less than 80,000 people in Gujarat and the western state of Maharashtra.

India's most endangered languages survive only in remote locations the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Himalayas, and northeastern regions bordering Bhutan and China where indigenous and nomadic groups remain strong.

But there are signs of a fightback against the effects of population decline and the rise of more prominent languages.

The Adivasi Academy trains 40 students a year to become cultural activists in native tongues such as Rathvi, which has around 118,000 speakers from the Rathva Bhils tribe in Gujarat and the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

Like many Indian languages, Rathvi did not have a written form until the academy created a script and illustrated glossary so that it could be taught in schools.

"When teachers would come to villages from outside they did not speak Rathvi, so the children could not understand them," said Sanjay Rathava, who spent two years studying at the academy in the town of Tejgadh.

He graduated in 2005 with a diploma in tribal studies and now oversees production of a Rathvi-language children's magazine called "Bol," which academy founder Ganesh Devy describes as "a humble version of Reader's Digest."


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late..!!! The fanatics/small % who threaten our lives..!!!

Bas Baskaran to chelvdurai

The author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist.

A German's View on Islam;
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories..'
We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.
The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.
The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:
Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.
Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts -- the fanatics who threaten our way of life.
Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on - before it's too late.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D.. 2980 Provincial St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

About 100 families of Ratugala Veddah community are facing hardships for want of basic facilities....!!!

Veddahs ask authorities to help them live

By Prasanna Padmasiri and Wimal Dissanayake

About 100 families of Ratugala Veddah community are facing hardships for want of basic facilities. Ratugala which is surrounded by the Viyanpola, Danigala, Kulaleta and Ratugal hills is about 30 kilometres away from Ampara on the Bibile –Ampara road.

The tanks, canals and all water courses have run dry because of the drought, further aggravating the hardships of the people. The Veddah community in Danigala forest who depended on hunting and Chena cultivation were settled in Ratugala when their traditional habitats went under the Senanayake Reservoir Project in 1930. Ratugala Veddah Chief Suda Vanniya said “The authorities who settled us in the Ratugala colony were not concerned about the basic facilities of the colony. Our requests to the successive governments since independence have been ignored. We were born and bred in the jungle but now it is a forbidden territory for us. We are in a predicament for want of land for Chena cultivation. The people of my community are struggling for existence without any attention by the authorities”

Chief Incumbent of Ratugala Bodhirukkarama Temple Kudavila Hemaloka Thera said “Officials must understand that the Veddah community has lived in the jungles for decades and they make a living by using natural resources. Now they are not allowed to enter the jungle and collect honey, or medicinal herbs to make a living. These restrictions should be relaxed in case of the Veddah community”

Principal of Ratugala Junior School V.W. Susantha Gunarathe said “The children from Ratugala Veddah Village earlier attended Galgamuwa Vidyalaya. However other children ridiculed them and boycotted the school. This compelled the authorities to open a separate school for them in Ratugala. At present 54 children attend this school. After passing Grade five they are compelled to stay back home for want of a school with higher studies.”

A resident of the area Gunabanda said “If irrigation facilities and land are available ours will be a prosperous community. However, we have been ignored by the authorities for more than 75 years”

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Moneragala H.K.P.Jayalath said steps were taken to alienate land to 15 selected families and to provide them facilities for agriculture. He said the Agricultural Department had implemented a programme to supply plants and seeds for agriculture to the farmers. He said the Department has allocated Rs.1.1 million for this purpose. He was hopeful that the living standards of the Ratugala Veddah community could be uplifted through the on going programme.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In a village deep in west Sri Lanka, one of the island's few remaining communities of African descent...!!!

Sri Lankan of African descent Peter Luis plays the drum at a colony for people with African roots in … .by Mel Gunasekera Mel Gunasekera – Sun Nov 15, 1:59 am ET

SIRAMBIADIYA, Sri Lanka (AFP) – In a village deep in west Sri Lanka, one of the island's few remaining communities of African descent breaks into song -- a poignant elegy to a disappearing culture.

The music starts with a slow, gentle rhythm played on a tambourine, spoons and coconut shells, before it builds to a climax with dancers swinging their hips, hands and feet wildly.

The performance is a direct link back to the tiny minority's distant African past.

"We are forgotten people," Peter Luis, 52, said. "We are losing our language and, having inter-married many times, our children are losing their African features."

The population of African-Sri Lankans -- now numbering about 1,000 -- is mainly descended from slaves brought to the island after about 1500 by Portuguese colonialists.

They are known as "Kaffirs", but the term is not the savage racial insult here that it is in other parts of the world, notably South Africa.

"We are proud of our name. In Sri Lanka, it is not a racist word like the word negro or nigger," said Marcus Jerome Ameliana, who believes her ancestors came to Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, as Portuguese slaves.

The slaves were also used as soldiers to fight against Sri Lanka's native kings, in the first stage of a long history of oppression under a series of imperial masters.

When Dutch colonialists arrived in about 1600, the Kaffirs worked on cinnamon plantations along the southern coast.

After the British took over Sri Lanka in 1796, the Kaffirs were further marginalised by an influx of Indian labourers who took most work on tea and rubber estates.

Lazarus Martin Ignatius, 82, remembers her grandfather telling how their ancestors were chained up and forced by the Dutch to take on the Ceylonese army.

Her memories, like those of most other Kaffirs, are fragmented, and she speaks a lyrical creole language with a mix of native Sinhalese and Tamil.

"We never learnt how to read or write, only to speak. Now young people go to school. They marry outside the community, so I think education comes from that influence," the frail Ignatius told AFP.

Louisa Williams, 17, dressed in jeans and a pink T-shirt, said she may train to become a traditional Kaffir dancer but admitted she rarely uses the dialect.

"I like to dance and will perhaps join a local dance troupe," she said. "I have heard about my ancestors from aunts and uncles, but I only speak a few words of creole like 'water', 'eat' and 'sleep'."

The future looks bleak for the Kaffirs, according to Anuthradevi Widyalankara, senior history lecturer at the University of Colombo.

"They have been denied education so they have a lack of interest in sustaining their language or culture -- unlike some other minority groups," Widyalankara told AFP.

Widyalankara, who is writing a book on the ethnic group, said the Kaffirs had assimilated over generations, having married Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka.

But in the palm-fringed village of Sirambiadiya, about 100 Kaffirs remain, living in modest brick houses and earning a living as labourers and cleaners.

At lunchtime, the men chat and doze in hammocks as the women sing catchy creole tunes while preparing a meal on outdoor stoves.

Their songs, mostly repeating a few basic lyrics, speak of love, the sea and wildlife, explained George Sherin Alex, 43, one of the village dancers.

The performing arts remain one of the few expressions of the Kaffirs' roots, Shihan Jayasuriya, a senior fellow of the London-based Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told AFP.

"Music and dance seem to be the best indicators of African ancestry, other than their physiognomy. Their other cultural traits are not African because they have adopted local customs and habits," Jayasuriya said.

The Kaffirs were originally Muslims, but now they practice a range of faiths from Catholicism to Buddhism, and wear typically Sri Lankan clothes of long skirts for the women and sarongs for the men.

No one knows how many Africans were brought to Sri Lanka, but their descendants survive only in pockets along the island's coastal regions of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Negambo, according to Census Department officials.

Jayasuriya, who has done extensive research on the African diaspora in the Indian sub-continent, said the Kaffirs' predicament is centred on their struggle to find a place in post-colonial Sri Lanka.

"They have become disempowered because their patrons, the European colonisers have left the island. They have lost their role as a part of the colonial machinery," said Jayasuriya.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Questions of child trafficking from poverty-stricken estate Tamil families and child labour come to the focus after discovery of 2 bodies..!!!

Double deaths point to bigger tragedy

Questions of child trafficking, especially from poverty-stricken estate families and child labour come to the fore following the discovery of the bodies of two under-aged domestic aides Maduraveeran Jeevarani and Lethchuman Sumathi in Colombo 7 last week
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi
Was it suicide? Was it murder? While mystery still clouds the teenage double-deaths in Colombo 7 and an exhumation of the bodies and a fresh report from a Judicial Medical Officer were ordered, parallel probes are on by two government agencies to ascertain whether the serious offences of trafficking and child labour were part of the tragedy.

Both the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and the Department of Labour have launched investigations, following the discovery of the bodies of two girls aged 13 and 14 years in a shallow canal off Bauddhaloka Mawatha on August 15. Maduraveeran Jeevarani and Lethchuman Sumathi, had reportedly been brought to Colombo from the Laxapana estate in Maskeliya by a job broker for domestic work in the homes of L.M. Kowsiq and W.M. Fazaly in Colombo in April this year.

The shallow canal at Bauddhaloka Mawathe where the two bodies were found. The slippers of the two domestic aides are in the foreground
The biggest problem is posed by the job brokers, said a child rights activist, pointing out that clearly, at the time of employment, Sumathi was just 14 years old while even at the time of employment and also death, Jeevarani was a minor. “These are crimes against children,” the activist stressed.

The modus operandi of the job agents is to have a network of sub-agents who have their tentacles in the remotest villages and estates. The sub-agents go into the homes of the poverty-stricken and illiterate and develop close bonds with them. These villagers and estate workers trust these persons, the activist explained, adding that they also promise a better future for the children.

Society is indifferent to this problem and not at all vocal, the activist added. Under the Children, Young Persons’ and Women’s Employment Ordinance, no child under the age of 14 can be used in domestic labour or for any other work. Those between the ages of 14 and 16 years and those in the age group 16 to 18 years may be employed for domestic work that does not include improper activity and hazardous work. Another important law which reinforces such rules and regulations against the employment of children is the Education Ordinance under which it is mandatory for a child to go to school until he/she is 14 years old.

Another rights activist pointed out that although every sphere of employment was governed by the Wages Board which stipulated not only the age of employment but also the type of work, the number of hours a person should work and the wages that should be paid, there are no guidelines with regard to domestic work.

Domestic aides who are still derogatorily called servants have to work all the time and get paid a measly wage. Whether they are fed well or starved would depend on the master or the mistress, the activist said, adding, “They have no protection.” These are the wider issues the NCPA, which has the authority to call for reports and also present any additional information to court, is hoping to address through the tragic case of Jeevarani, assured NCPA Chairman Jagath Wellawatte.

The NCPA, which can initiate inquiries on its own if the matter is within its mandate, is not only probing whether a child has been in domestic work but also whether there was trafficking, he said, and several statements have already been recorded. These teenagers’ parents are impoverished and not educated. They do not understand the intricacies of trafficking or child labour. They would only be under the impression that a job in a town would give their children a better deal.

Mr. Wellawatte added that the questions that will be probed are: Has there been a sale of a child? Have the parents been cheated with promises of a better future or promises that the children will be sent to school? How many children have they sent for such employment?…all issues relating to trafficking.
This would also be the point from which preventive action will be launched, he said, lamenting that though child labour is common in Sri Lanka, society does not discuss it openly.

The NCPA will also base this investigation as a model so that whenever such an incident as the double-death is reported, the police will look at the wider issues as well without zeroing in only on whether it was suicide or murder. The police probe should be comprehensive, with all angles and all leads followed. Statements should be recorded from all, including the employers, he said.

The Labour Department is also in the process of collecting evidence to ascertain whether there was employment of a minor, said Commissioner-General of Labour, Upali Wijeweera. His officers were checking whether there was an unwritten, verbal agreement.With active lobbying from many groups that domestic labour should be regularized, discussions are underway on registering not only job agents but also all those locally-employed in this sector, he said, pointing out that there should be some regulation in respect of registration, service conditions and remuneration.

This would be timely in view of the next International Labour Conference being on Domestic Labour.

SRILANKA PLANTATION TAMILS: Estate sector poorest of the poor...!!! Sinhala regimes never help them too...!!! NESL ruined by Unwanted War too..!!!

Estate sector poorest of the poor

World Bank report on poverty assessment
Poverty reduction at the national level has been slow in Sri Lanka due to widening disparities across sectors and regions a new World Bank report, “Poverty Assessment for Sri Lanka: Engendering Growth with Equity: Opportunities and Challenges” points out.

“We hope the report will contribute to the debate and understanding of poverty in Sri Lanka,” said Naoko Ishii, World Bank Country Director in Sri Lanka. Poverty reduction has been hampered by slow economic growth outside the Western Province which remains predominantly rural.

Sri Lanka needs to integrate the rural economy into the growth path enjoyed by the Western Province,” Ishii added.

The report states that poverty reduction in Sri Lanka has been uneven across sectors—rapid in the urban sector, but slow or stagnant in rural and estate sectors. National poverty rate reduced from 26 percent in 1990-91 to 23 percent in 2002.

While urban poverty halved during this period, rural poverty declined by less than five percentage points and poverty in the estates (plantation sector) increased significantly— making this sector the poorest in the country. These estimates exclude the North and East, for which data suitable for measuring poverty was not available.

We grant you,The full and free facility to capture and subjugate Saracens and pagans, and other unbelievers and enemies of Christ whomsoever and.....!

In search of souls: the Catholic missionaries in 16th and 17th century Sri Lanka


Gaston Perera has had a long march towards historiography. A graduate in Western Classics, he had served in the Inland Revenue department during his entire career in the Public Service, and on retirement had taken to writing. He had started his literary career writing historical novels, then graduated into historiography when he first dealt with the wars between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese, and now looks at the missionary activities of the Portuguese.

The present work runs into 412 pages of text. It is divided into 6 parts and 22 chapters. The Parts are named ‘The Ideology of the Conquest’, ‘Organization of the Conquest’, `The Conquistador’, ‘The Strategy of Conquest’ ‘The Tactics of Conquest’, and the ‘Conclusion’. Within these Parts, the text is presented under various headings to focus on what is dealt within that chapter.

Like in his work on the military history, here too the text is interspersed with quotations from the sources he uses to substantiate his statements. Conceived holistically he discusses the legal and religious authority for the missionaries to conduct their business of conversion, looks at the type of persons sent here as missionaries, discusses their emoluments, the strategies adopted, their success and failure, and presents his conclusions.

In search ... page 16

For people who wouldn’t have had much information on the work of the missionaries, who they were, and how and where they worked during the Portuguese administration of the maritime areas (1505/1518-1656/1658), the book yields valuable information. The author has also shown the bias of contemporary or near contemporary writers on missionary activities as well as of some modern writers like Fr. S. G. Perera and Fr. V. Perniola, which is an eye-opener to read or re-read those authors. The candor of Gaston Perera in this aspect is commendable.

The author says he is looking at the work of the missionaries from a ‘nationalistic’ point of view. I wouldn’t really know what it means, but to me it is obvious that he looks at the information available to him without a bias towards the Catholics. I said Catholics because all the contemporary information on the subject is by Catholic priests writing home about their work. In that sense all credit is due to him for not concealing uncomfortable facts.

As in his earlier volume, here too, the sources available to the author, as said earlier, had been Portuguese, for there is hardly any contemporary local information on missionary activities. Hence, what the author has used and quotes in his work are all from relevant authorities and contemporary or modern writers on the subject.

At the very outset the author notes the religious and legal basis for the work of the Portuguese. In 1542, the Roman Pontiff Nicholas V addressed a Bull (a formal papal document) known as Dum Diversas to the king of Portugal, where he said,

"we grant you

The full and free facility to capture and subjugate Saracens and pagans, and other unbelievers and enemies of Christ whomsoever and wheresoever settled;

to invade and conquer their kingdom, their dukedom, countries, principalities;

to seize any goods whatsoever …. Held and possessed by these same Saracens, pagans, unbelievers and enemies of Christ:

to reduce to slavery their inhabitants

to appropriate perpetually for yourself and your successors the kingdoms " the possessions and goods of this sort converting them to your own use"

Thus the missionaries sent from Portugal, as far as they were concerned, had all the authority they needed to do whatever they wished to do during their mission of conversion.

Later, the First Provincial Council of Goa which met in 1568, had said that the infidel should be brought into the Church with ‘gentleness and benignity’, but also with ‘benefits and favours’.

The author discusses in detail how these instructions were put into practice, and especially where ‘gentleness and benignity’ had been put into the backyard or forgotten. What had been uppermost in the mind of the missionaries –Franciscans and Jesuits- had been how successful a picture they could send home.

The methods of conversion or tactics of conversion had been many. For instance, attention has been drawn to the disputations had with the Buddhist priests as soon as the Franciscans had come in 1542. The author queries, how they could have had such disputations without a knowledge of Sinhala and of Buddhism. Later on he says it must have been thro’ interpreters, but also asks, even if they were available, were they competent?

One aspect or the most important aspect of conversion was baptism. Missionaries are seen to have been suffering from a mania in this aspect. There are many accounts in the book on the fulfilling of or accomplishing this requirement. However, of those accounts one act in Jaffna where a half-born child is baptized, stands out for its crudity and repugnance. I will not give the details here, but those who would wish to read it could do so in the book.

In conversion they had looked at what is called vertical conversion and horizontal conversion. Vertical conversion was to start with the king, so that if it was successful, the process will peter down to the masses. Here, the attempt on Bhuvanekabahu VII (1521-1551] was utterly unsuccessful, and finally he had died from a gun-shot by a Portuguese soldier.

The antipathy the Portuguese missionary had towards Bhuvenekabahu is well documented. It was due to his strong opposition to conversion of himself and of his subjects. His nomination of Dharmapala, his grandson, is also discussed, and may interest students of history. On the matter of succession the author says ‘Rarely in the past [2000 years] had the throne passed from one ruler to the next peacefully’. This general statement is not accurate, but I will not discuss it here, as it seems extraneous to the subject matter under review.

The second attempt at vertical conversion was of Vikramabahu of Kandy, which was a sort of deal ‘your arms and I will convert’ and had also been a sham. However, later on there had been other nobility who had become Christians, perhaps for various reasons, other than the appreciation or understanding of the doctrine itself.

There is an interesting discussion on the establishments of Colleges, or educational institutions. Those known as Pai dos Christaos had been mainly for evangelization. In a description of such an establishment in Jaffna, the account says the orphans were collected by the Merinho every morning and was brought to the school in procession following a Cross carried in front. Further it is said that the aim was to instruct them on Christianity, so that they would become good interpreters to spread the gospel. The language deficiency of the missionaries had remained a significant drawback right thro’ their working period in the island.

The temporal conquest was a pre-requirement for spiritual conquest or conversion. With the soldier and the arms in front, the task of the missionary was made easier. When the country revolted or the soldier failed, the missionary also failed. As the Provincial Council of Goa of 1568 had advocated, many benefits and inducements were offered to the converts and prospective converts.

Employment to them and denial to others, the liberty to wear western dress, freedom from capital and other punishments on showing the sign of the Cross, and also freedom from being subject to the marala badda or death duty, service tenure and other taxes due to the king. It was creating a state within a state. But on this latter Bhuvanekabahu had struck back, and had confiscated the lands of the converted. That action is said to have had adverse effects on the conversion process.

The missionaries had been paid an allowance by the state, and according to the computations given by the author, they had been quite handsome. In addition they had also enjoyed the revenues of the villages donated by Dharmapala [1521-1597], and have had also the collection from various fines like what the converted had to pay to bury in the church burial grounds. It is said that sometimes when a man could not pay the fees he was fined, put in a stockade and whipped. The irony here is they were not action by the temporal authority but by the spiritual authority.

The book is replete with details on practically every aspect of conversion. But, now, I will confine myself to one more matter. That is the 1563 donation of temple lands by Dharmapala to the Franciscans. From the account given by the author, it had been a double edged weapon. It gave revenues to the missionaries to carry out their ‘educational’ activities, while depriving the temples of their incomes, and threatened their very existence. The man who engineered this donation is said to be Fr Joao Villa do Conde.

Thus the Portuguese, both soldier and missionary, apart from physically destroying the temples, kovils and mosques, had also seen to it that the Buddhist temples were effectively put out of action of their traditional activities of preaching and teaching. The ‘spiritual conquest’ had certainly gone hand in hand with the temporal conquest!

The last chapter briefly describes the socio-cultural influences of the Portuguese occupation from a religious point of view. For instance there is the present day marriage ceremony, the concept of monogamy, the contribution of Church art and architecture, dance and drama, music and musical accompaniments, dress and attire and forms of religious practices that had gradually passed into the Sinhala society. It is said that it was not a one-way affair, as local ideas and customs too had gone abroad thro’ the missionaries.

Another point which comes to my mind is that the Portuguese surnames which survive to date no doubt come from the period of Portuguese occupation of the maritime areas of the island. But what about the survival of Catholicism itself after the Portuguese? The missionaries, except for one, had abandoned their flock in 1656 and had left the island; later the Catholics were persecuted by the Dutch (1656-1796), and the British, unfavourable at first, relaxed the restrictions later. With all such impediments, still, 06.1% of the population today are Catholics, and they are the large majority among the Christians.

Thus, is the present Catholic population in Sri Lanka a group coming down from Portuguese times, or are they due to the later efforts of persons like Fr Joseph Vaz, an indigenous priest, who had smuggled himself into Jaffna as a beggar in 1687, and re-commenced the Apostolic mission there? From historical sources in Sri Lanka it seems that hardly any evidence can be garnered for the presence of a Catholic population in the island during the Dutch administration and in the early 19th century. Of course there had been some priests working in the Kandyan areas, but whether such activity was a continuation of the activities of the Portuguese missionaries seems to be something which might need further research.

Finally, we note that the book is printed on good paper with clear font, and is strongly bound with sewn sections. The printer’s devil has been completely banished. The cover is attractive with the picture of a casket identified as the Robinson Casket, after the name of its donor to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The picture of the casket in the front cover and its enlarged sectional detail in the back cover is excellent. It would be interesting to find out where and when it was made and who the craftsman was. Gaston Perera is of opinion it must be a native work with Christian influence.

To end, it is a pleasure to record that the book is a well compiled detailed account of the Catholic missionary activities in 16th and 17th century Sri Lanka, which no historian or any other person interested in the history of the island, and especially on the introduction of a foreign religion and a foreign culture can afford to miss.

Haris de Silva


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By staying silent, the European Commission (EC) is consenting to Italy’s harsh new immigration legislation..!!!

EU fails to take a stand
Claudia Isabel Rittel


By staying silent, the European Commission (EC) is consenting to Italy’s harsh new immigration legislation. Anyone caught without valid residency documents will have to pay fines of up to € 10,000. Landlords will face prison terms of up to three years if they rent to persons without residency permit. All government staff are ordered to report illegal immigrants to the police. What is happening in Italy highlights a pan-European failure. There is no coherent policy on migration, and the gap between rhetoric and action is enormous.


Many Italians who migrated to Argentina in the 19th century did not bring along money. Only very few were highly qualified. They relied on their ability to work, and they left a lasting mark on the South American country. What was taken for granted in the past - that those who see no future at home go in search of a new homeland - is considered criminal in Italy today.

The new rules introduced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are excessively severe. They are part of a new “security law”, which has met with harsh criticism from refugee organisations and the United Nations. Furthermore, Italy started picking up refugees at sea and sending them to Libya in March.

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, says such action is illegal. Italian officials, who were involved, spoke in shame of “inhumane measures”. Civil-society organisations, the Council of Europe and the Vatican have protested. Unimpressed, Berlusconi likened Italy’s government-run refugee camps to Nazi concentration camps, arguing that deportation to Libya was comparatively comfortable.

And what is the EU’s reaction? Silence. Yes, the European Parliament has just approved new asylum rules, but the EU member states where non-Europeans first arrive are in charge of all procedures. There has been talk about supporting those member states that face a particularly large influx of refugees, but no action. Immigrants, both invited and uninvited, keep arriving in Europe.

Action is needed. That view is held in particular by those countries that are most affected. In that sense, Italy’s rigorous new legislation results from the EU’s failure to act. The EU is shying from responsibility, leaving it to member countries to handle a difficult matter.

The European Commission’s silence on Italian policy amounts to tacit approval. Apparently, the EC is grateful that its Roman enfant terrible is addressing a challenge it does not wish to rise to itself.

As far as migration is at stake, the EU’s attitude is just as hypocritical as Italy’s. Ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, right-wing politicians are fond of tough anti-immigration rhetoric. Harsh words, however, go along with soft action. Slogans stigmatise people as illegal whose work is actually in demand.

In Italy, this contradiction has become evident in a series of “regularisations”. In the past 20 years, there were five such amnesty programs, granting residency permits to foreigners living in the country without documents.

This is how more than half of the immigrants living legally in Italy today obtained their status, according to researchers of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI). Berlusconi’s personal approach to the rule of law, by the way, is marked by similar “regularisation”. Various criminal proceedings that had been started against him were discontinued due to dubious law reforms enacted on his watch.

Immigration is a complex and emotive topic that deserves serious treatment in Europe. As all scholars agree, the continent’s societies are ageing and need immigrants. It is necessary to engage in a substantial, pan-European debate.

Just like the Italian immigrants to Argentina in the 19th century, the newcomers in Europe have the potential to benefit society. Their willingness to work and to take risks is extraordinary, and they can certainly contribute to generating wealth and creating new jobs. Everyone would benefit - the immigrants, their families in their old homeland and the societies in their new homeland. Instead of rising to their policy duties, politicians are only fanning fear of change.

- Third World Network Features

Monday, July 20, 2009

SRILANKA:One Nation: diversity and multiculturalism...!!!

One Nation:
diversity and multiculturalism-Part J.B. Müller St. Mary’s Church Negombo

No nation could be welded together with mere slogans however often repeated. The welding together of a Nation should be a consciously directed programme based on an understanding of the ground realities that obtain. This writing focuses on the diverse segments that go to make up Sri Lankan society. It was garnered from the most authoritative and credible sources in the public domain.

It is this diversity and its concomitant multicultural mosaic that makes it so inherently rich. It is a yet untapped resource of enormous potential if harnessed properly—with visionary leadership at the helm. For convenience and in order not to give any community either prominence or precedence, the segments have been listed alphabetically.

Bharathas: The Bharathas or Bharatakula identity is maintained by a relatively prosperous merchant group from India that settled amongst the Sinhalese in the Negombo area.

According to the census categories in July 2001, Bharatakula has been moved out of Sri Lankan Tamil category to simply stand as a separate ethnic group Bharatha, thus currently they are neither Sinhalese nor Tamil.

They are primarily found in the commercial capital, Colombo and in towns north of it, particularly Negombo in the Western Province.

Common last names adopted by Bharatakula include Fernando, Croos-Moraes, Peeris and Rubeiro. Fernando is the commonest last name.

In India they were traditional fishers’ merchants and traders. Most are Roman Catholics although a significant minority has remained Hindus.

They have always been a peaceful and law-abiding community that is socially and economically active.

Dawoodi Bohras: The Dawoodi Bohras are a very closely-knit community.

While the majority of Dawoodi Bohras have traditionally been traders, it is becoming increasingly common for them to become professionals. Within Sri Lanka many choose to become doctors. They are encouraged to educate themselves in both religious and secular knowledge, and as a result, the number of professionals in the community is rapidly increasing.

They believe that the education of women is equally important to that of men, and many Dawoodi Bohra women choose to enter the workforce. Today there are approximately one million Dawoodi Bohras worldwide. The majority of these reside in India and Pakistan, but there is also a significant Diaspora resident in the West Asia, East Africa, Europe, North America and the East Asia.

Besides speaking the local languages, the Dawoodi Bohras have their own language called Lis?nu l-D?‘wat ". This is written in Arabic script but is derived from Urdu, Gujarati and Arabic.

They have lived and worked in Sri Lanka for hundreds of years and pioneered in establishing many industries and businesses, mainly in the sphere of export-import.

Burghers: The Burghers are a Euro-Asian socio-cultural group, indigenous to Sri Lanka, consisting for the most part of male-line descendants of European colonists from the 16th to 20th centuries (mostly Portuguese, Dutch, German and British) and local women, with some of Swedish, Italian, Flemish, Spanish, French and Irish origin.

Today the mother tongue of the Burghers is English, but historically other languages were spoken by the Community, in particular the Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese, a Creole language based on Portuguese and both Sinhala and Tamil. While much vocabulary is from Portuguese, its grammar and syntax is based on that of Tamil and Sinhala.

In the Census of 1981, the Burgher population of Sri Lanka was enumerated at 39,374 persons, about one third of one percent. This has now grown to about 47,000 souls. The highest concentration of Burghers is in Colombo (0.72%) and Gampaha (0.5%). There are also similar, significant communities in Trincomalee and Batticaloa, with an estimated population of 2,700.

The Burghers were legally defined by law in 1883, by the Chief Justice of Ceylon, Sir Richard Ottley, given before the Commission which was appointed in connection with the establishment of a Legislative Council in Ceylon. They determined that Burghers were defined as those whose father was born in Sri Lanka, with at least one European ancestor on one’s direct paternal side, regardless of the ethnic origin of one’s mother, or what other ethnic groups may be found on the father’s side. Because of this definition, Burghers almost always have European surnames (mostly of Portuguese, Dutch and British origin, although it is not uncommon to also find German, French or Russian surnames).

Burgher culture, which defines them best, is a rich mixture of East and West, reflecting their ancestry. They are the most westernized of the diverse groups in Sri Lanka. Most of them wear western clothing, although it is not uncommon for a man to be seen wearing a sarong, or for a woman to wear a sari.

A number of elements in Burgher culture have become part of the cultures of other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. For example, baila music, which has its origin in the music of 16th century Portugal, has found its way into mainstream popular Sinhalese music. Beeralu lace making, which began as a domestic pastime of Burgher women, is now a part of Sinhalese culture too. Even certain foods, such as love cake, bol-fiado (layered cake), ijzer koekjes, frikkadels (savoury meatballs), and lampries have become an integral part of Sri Lankan national cuisine.

Burghers have a very strong interest in their family histories. Many old Burgher families kept stamboeken (from the Dutch for "Clan Books"). These recorded not only dates of births, marriages and deaths, but also significant events in the history of a family, such as details of moving house, illnesses, school records, and even major family disputes. An extensive, multi-volume stamboek of many family lineages is kept by the Dutch Burgher Union.

Colombo Chetty: The Colombo Chetties are a relatively small community domiciled in the Western, North Western and Southern Provinces; many of them have been assimilated into or identified with the Sinhala and Tamil Communities Today the number stands at around 175,000 with high concentrations in the Western and North Western Provinces.

In 1984 on a representation made by Shirley Pulle Tissera who was then the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Chetty Association, the Government of Sri Lanka decided to classify the Colombo Chetties / Sri Lanka Chetties as a separate and Distinct ethnic group in all official documents, ratified by the Registrar General’s Department which notice was published in the Observer Newspaper of 17 October 1984. The National Census on population conducted in 2001 enumerated the Colombo Chetties as a separate and distinct ethnic group.
One Nation: diversity and multiculturalism- J.B. Müller

Most Sri Lankans are themselves astonished at the number of ethno-socio-and religio-cultural segments that go to make up the Sri Lankan Nation, still in the process of being formed. Many have yet to understand that this heterogeneity is one of this country’s greatest strengths and the best advertisement for its renowned tolerance. That image was tarnished because of bigotry and chauvinism and now needs to be refurbished anew to restore the renown of our common Motherland. We continue this series with one of the smallest segments of our population, the Sri Lanka Chinese.

Sri Lanka Chinese: The Government decided to grant citizenship to the stateless people of Chinese origin who have been living in the island for a long time, perhaps over 150 years.

The Cabinet recently approved a memorandum submitted by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who is also the Minister of Internal Administration.

Approximately 200 persons of Chinese origin were permanently residing in Sri Lanka as stateless citizens due to their inability to obtain Sri Lanka citizenship under the existing legislation. These persons are early migrants from China mainly during World Wars I and II and even before as peddlers, traders, restaurateurs and dental technicians. They are famous for their ‘Chinese silk shops’ and their hotels serving Chinese cuisine modified for the local palate.

They intermarried with Sinhalese, Burghers, and Malays and have many descendants scattered all over the island from Ampara to Kandy, Galle to Trincomalee, and from Bandarawela to Chilaw.

Although most of the early migrants have passed away, their descendants, who have been born and raised here, are permanently residing in this country. Therefore, the Cabinet wisely has decided to grant citizenship to them through an Act of Parliament. Some of the families are Li, Shu, Chang, Liou, and several others which are thriving.

Sri Lanka Kaffirs: The Kaffirs (English, also cafrinhas in Portuguese or k?piriy? in Sinhala) are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them.

The Kaffirs spoke a distinctive Creole based on Portuguese, the Sri Lanka Kaffir language, now extinct. Their cultural heritage includes the dance style known as Manja. Curiously, Kaffringna is not their music and belongs to the Burghers of the East Coast.

The word Kaffir is an obsolete English term once used to designate African natives from the Eastern and Southern coasts. "Kaffir" derives in turn from the Arabic kafir, "unbeliever", which was used by the Arab traders to refer to those unconverted Africans.

The Kaffirs were brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, as a part of the military forces and for domestic work. Portuguese seafarers carried the first kaffirs to what was then Ceylon in the 1500s, most likely from Mozambique. Later, the British brought others to fight in "kaffir regiments."

The descendants of the freed African slaves are still a distinctive community near Puttalam in the North-Western province of Sri Lanka. There was some contact between the Kaffir and the Burghers, communities of partly European ancestry on the East Coast of the Island at Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

Khojas: Khojas enjoy a good business reputation and are said to have a keen sense of competition. They are described as neat, clean, sober, thrifty, and ambitious, and enterprising, cool, and resourceful in trade. They are great travelers by land and sea, visiting and settling in distant countries for purposes of trade. The Sri Lanka Khojas have business connections with the Punjab, Sind, Bengal, Myanmar, Singapore, China, and Japan; with ports of the Persian Gulf, Arabia, and East Africa; and with England, the United States, and Australia. They have also gained high places in the professions as doctors, engineers, and lawyers.

The Khojas are an ethnic group in India and Pakistan, formerly a Hindu trading caste, founded in the fourteenth century by a famous saint, and followers of the Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect. They live in the Punjab, in Sind, the Rann of Kachch, Kathiawar, and down the western coast of India; in Zanzibar and elsewhere on the east coast of Africa; and in scattered groups under the name of Mawalis. "Khoja" is the form used in India for the Persian term "Khwajah," meaning "a rich or respectable man; a gentleman; an opulent merchant."

Malays: The Malays of Sri Lanka (also known as Ja-Minissu) originated in Southeast Asia and today consist of about 50,000 persons. Their ancestors came to the country when both Sri Lanka and Malacca were colonies of the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and the British. Most of the early Malay immigrants were soldiers, posted by the Dutch and British colonial administrations to Sri Lanka, who decided to settle on the island. Other immigrants were members of noble houses from Indonesia who were exiled to Sri Lanka and who never left. The main source of a continuing Malay identity is their common Malay language. In the 1980s, the Malays made up about 5% of the island’s Muslim population, making them one of the smallest segments of the Sri Lankan population.

Memons: Memons are Indian Sunni Muslims and entrepreneurs who settled in Sri Lanka for business opportunities during the Colonial period. Some of these people came to the country as far back as the Portuguese period; others arrived during the British period from various parts of India. They are originally from Sind in modern Pakistan. Today in Sri Lanka they number over 10,000 and are mostly settled in Colombo.

They have contributed immensly to the economic life of the country, not only as importers and traders of various essential goods, but also as manufacturers and exporters of high quality garments that have today become a major source of foreign earnings. They also have their own member of Parliament, the Hon. Hussein Bhaila who presently serves as Deputy Minister of Plan Implementation under the UPFA Government.

"Sonakar" or "Sonar," Moors: This dynamic community represent 7.36 percent of the total population of Sri Lanka (1989). Sri Lanka Muslims represent a number of different ethnic groups, three of which are recognized in the 1984 government Census: Sri Lanka Moors, Malays and Indian Moors, the majority of whom are ethnic Tamils from Southern India. Tamil is the established tongue of the Sri Lanka Moors. In recent years, because of political considerations, many have learned the Sinhala language and some children study it in school but they prefer to educate their children in English. With the exception of the Bohras, who are Shiites, all of the other groups are Sunni Muslims.

Soon after settling in India, Muslim Arabs began arriving in the eighth century. According to legend, they established themselves in Bentota and married Sinhala women. By the tenth century, they were a powerful merchant class. According to the historian Ibn Battuta, in the thirteenth century, Colombo was a Muslim city.

One Nation: diversity and multiculturalism - III
by J.B. Müller

As we have seen, each segment of the Sri Lankan population has contributed to its development and prosperity in manifold ways. These groups also continue to mix and by so doing continue to enrich the already heterogeneous gene pool.

As a strategically-positioned Island in the southernmost extremity of South Asia, it has attracted people from all directions save Antarctica and this has contributed to its diversity. Indeed, history and circumstance has woven a beautiful tapestry out of these different strands. Unfortunately, a vociferous lunatic-fringe has attempted to burn holes in this tapestry whilst others desperately strive to patch the holes. Today, we continue the series with the North Indian Sindhis.

Sindhis: Sindhis are an Indo-Aryan language speaking socio-ethnic group of people originating in Sind which is part of present day Pakistan. Sindhis that live in Pakistan are predominantly Muslim, while many Sindhi Hindus emigrated to India when British India was divided in 1947. The Sri Lankan community had established itself here from early British times.

Sindhis usually flourish in business particularly that of cloth and textiles. Most Hindu Sindhis are identifiable by the "ani" at the end their last names like Ambani, Hirdaramani, Lalvani, Bharwani, Motwani, Vaswani, Chellani, Khubani .

Sinhalese: Sinhalese are a people who constitute the largest single ethno-socio-cultural group on the Island. In the early 21st century the Sinhalese were estimated to number about 14.8 million, or 70 percent of the population. Their ancestors are believed to have come from northern India, traditionally in the 5th century BCE. Their language belongs to the Indo-European family.

Most Sinhalese are agriculturalists. The low-country Sinhalese of the southern and western coastal regions have been heavily influenced by European culture, while the Kandyan Sinhalese of the highlands are more traditional. The Sinhalese are Theravada Buddhists except for a Christian minority.

Like some other peoples of Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese have a caste-based society borrowed from India and with a complex structure based largely on occupation. Marriage partners are usually taken from persons of the same caste, preferably from the children of the mother’s brother or father’s sister. Monogamy is the rule, although in the 19th century among the Kandyans a man may occasionally have had more than one wife or a woman more than one husband.

The Sinhalese divide themselves into two groups, the "Up Country people" or Kandyan and the "Low Country people." The Kandyans inhabit the highlands of the south-central region and constitute 38 percent of the Sinhalese and 25.8 percent of the national population (as of 1971). The Kandyan are the more conservative of the two groups. Culturally, religiously, and economically, they are closer to traditional Sinhalese ways.

The Low Country people, who primarily occupy the southern and western coastal regions, account for 62 percent of the Sinhalese and 42.8 percent of the national population. They served as middlemen for the trade with the interior, in which the Europeans were so interested, and they have adopted much of European culture. Until recently, the Kandyan’s attitude of aristocratic superiority toward the Low Country Sinhalese precluded marriage between them. But with the increase in wealth and sophistication of the latter, due to European and other outside influences, these barriers are gradually breaking down.

The Sinhalese are a peaceful, tolerant, friendly and hospitable people, quite insular in their outlook and easy to get on with.

Tamils, Indian: The Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka are Tamil people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka. They are also known as Hill country Tamils, Up-country Tamils or simply Indian Tamils. They are partly descended from workers sent from South India to Sri Lanka in the 19th and 20th centuries to work in coffee, tea and rubber plantations. Some also migrated on their own as merchants and as other service providers. These Tamil-speakers mostly live in the central highlands, also known as the Malayakam or the Hill Country yet others are also found major urban areas and in the Northern Province.

They are instrumental in the continuing viability and prosperity of the Plantation Sector economy. Generally, their socio-economic standard of living is below that of the National average. Politically they have supported most of the ruling coalitions since the 1980s.

Tamils, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan Tamil people or Ceylon Tamils are an ethnic group native to the Island who predominantly speaks Tamil. According to anthropological evidence, Sri Lankan Tamils have lived on the Island since the Second century BCE. Most modern Sri Lankan Tamils descend from the Jaffna Kingdom, a former kingdom in the north of the island and Vannimai chieftaincies from the east. They constitute a majority in the Northern Province, live in significant numbers in the Eastern Province, and are in the minority throughout the rest of the country.

Sri Lankan Tamils are culturally and linguistically distinct from the other two Tamil-speaking communities in Sri Lanka, the Indian Tamils and the Sonakar Moors. Genetic studies indicate that they are most closely related to the Sinhalese people than any other ethnic group, with both groups sharing a common gene pool of 55%. The Sri Lankan Tamils are mostly Hindus with a significant Christian population. Sri Lankan Tamil literature on topics including religion and the sciences flourished during the Medieval Period in the Court of the Jaffna Kingdom. Sri Lankan Tamil dialects are noted for their archaism and retention of words not in everyday use in the Tamil Nadu state in India.

Veddahs: The aboriginal Vanniyala-Aetto, or "forest people", more commonly known as Veddas or Veddahs, are an indigenous people of Sri Lanka. They were never numerous and are now few in number.

Sinhala-speaking Veddahs are found primarily in the southeastern part of the country, especially in the vicinity of Bintenne in Uva Province. There are also Sinhala-speaking Veddas who live in Anuradhapura District in the North Central Province.

Another, largely distinct group, often termed East Coast Veddas, is found in coastal areas of the Eastern Province, mostly between Batticaloa and Trincomalee. These Veddas speak Tamil as their primary language.

Their language, usually referred to as ‘Veddah,’ is closely related to Sinhala, although much of its vocabulary (especially terms associated with the forest and their lifestyle) can not be traced to Sinhala and may be from an archaic language spoken before the adoption of the Sinhala language.

Examples include the Wanniyala-Aetto word ruhang for friend, while the Sinhala word is yaluva There are also communities of Wanniyala-Aetto who speak Tamil in the East Coast.

Some observers have said Veddas are disappearing and have lamented the decline of their distinct culture. Developments, and government forest reserve restrictions, have disrupted traditional Veddah ways of life. However, cultural assimilation of Veddas with other local populations has been going on for a long time. Today many Sinhalese people and some East Coast Tamils claim that they have some trace of Veddah blood. Intermarriage between Veddas and Sinhalese is very frequent. The current leader of the Vanniyala-Aetto community is Uru Varige Vanniya.

The story of our Motherland is not a story of one race or community alone, but a story of all the people and all the circumstances which have shaped its course. We have all been in the crucible and all have made sacrifices of life and limb to learn the lesson that we are fallible human beings. Every one in Sri Lanka today should feel proud of the contribution which his or her community has made towards the shaping and moulding of the Sri Lankan Nation. If we stand together, united, under ONE flag, as Sri Lankans, we will surely stand up and stand out and flourish. It is desperately important that those who live here today should recognize their contribution and should be proud of it not as an exclusive, superior or separate entity, but as ONE thread in the pattern we are striving so hard to weave.

We should be able to live, unsuspicious of each other, truly enjoying the variety and diversity of this mosaic of cultures. Appreciating our differences as the ingredients that contribute the ‘spice’ to the indigenous ‘rice’ is the starting point. Let’s dance to the hot, pulsating rhythms of the Baila, the Kaffiringha and Manja and sing the lyrics in Sinhala, Tamil, Creole, or English and celebrate the life we have.

One Nation : diversity and Müller

portuguese Burghers: The Portuguese Burghers are generally found in the North and East of the Island, especially in the East Coast Batticaloa District.

Their origins could be traced back to the arrival of the Portuguese mariners in the Indian Ocean at the tail-end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese Navy or their armed merchantmen did not permit women on board. When they arrived in these parts it was inevitable that they took for themselves wives from the places where they settled—they became ‘Casados’ or married settlers. In Sri Lanka the Portuguese Burghers are the descendants of the intermarriages between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese and Tamils who inhabited the coastal areas. Later, when the Dutch arrived with their heterogeneous European crews, these men took the mixed progeny to wife, creating, in large measure the Dutch Burgher Community indigenous to Sri Lanka.

Batticaloa, once known as ‘Puliyan-duva’ and called Mada-kalapuva or Muddy Lagoon in Sinhala and Tamil, is a centre of the Portuguese Burghers, often referred to as ‘Batticaloa Burghers’ even though they are to be found in Mannar, Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Akkaraipattu, and Kalmunai. PORTUGUESE BURGHERS: The Portuguese Burghers are generally found in the North and East of the Island, especially in the East Coast Batticaloa District.

Their origins could be traced back to the arrival of the Portuguese mariners in the Indian Ocean at the tail-end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese Navy or their armed merchantmen did not permit women on board. When they arrived in these parts it was inevitable that they took for themselves wives from the places where they settled—they became ‘Casados’ or married settlers. In Sri Lanka the Portuguese Burghers are the descendants of the intermarriages between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese and Tamils who inhabited the coastal areas. Later, when the Dutch arrived with their heterogeneous European crews, these men took the mixed progeny to wife, creating, in large measure the Dutch Burgher Community indigenous to Sri Lanka.

Batticaloa, once known as ‘Puliyan-duva’ and called Mada-kalapuva or Muddy Lagoon in Sinhala and Tamil, is a centre of the Portuguese Burghers, often referred to as ‘Batticaloa Burghers’ even though they are to be found in Mannar, Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Akkaraipattu, and Kalmunai. Here, one would find a little bit of medieval Portugal and the manners and customs handed down from generation to generation. The language used by the older generation was a form of Creolized Portuguese [baixa Portuguesa] distinct to Sri Lanka. They have a great musical tradition with Caffiringha, Baila, and the slow and stately Chikote.

As a tightly-knit community they have fiercely preserved their heritage and culture and done so with apologies to none. Their lives revolve around the Roman Catholic Church to which they have given sons and daughters to be priests and nuns. Several members of the Community have been active in local politics notably M.C. Pieters, F.R. Ragel and F.J. Barthelot, whose names are well-remembered by the people of the District as men of integrity.

Many members have moved to the Western Province in order to afford their children an education in English. Many have gone on to enter the professions and serve their country with distinction.

Here, one would find a little bit of medieval Portugal and the manners and customs handed down from generation to generation. The language used by the older generation was a form of Creolized Portuguese [baixa Portuguesa] distinct to Sri Lanka. They have a great musical tradition with Caffiringha, Baila, and the slow and stately Chikote.

As a tightly-knit community they have fiercely preserved their heritage and culture and done so with apologies to none. Their lives revolve around the Roman Catholic Church to which they have given sons and daughters to be priests and nuns. Several members of the Community have been active in local politics notably M.C. Pieters, F.R. Ragel and F.J. Barthelot, whose names are well-remembered by the people of the District as men of integrity.

Many members have moved to the Western Province in order to afford their children an education in English. Many have gone on to enter the professions and serve their country with distinction.

Some of the families are: Andriezen, Balthazaar, Croner, d’Andrado, Godridge, Holdenbottel, Ockersz, Outschoorn, and Vanderslott.

Rodiyas: This Community has been extensively researched by such eminent scholars as M D Raghavan, Raven-Hart, Emerson Tennent, Hugh Neville and Bryce Ryan. They were first mentioned by Robert Knox but have existed for several centuries before that.

Their settlements are scattered in the North-western, Central and Uva Provinces at such places as Kanatholluva, and Vaduressa, near Bingiriya, Henevela, Kadugannawa and Athalapitiya, Bandarawela.

When the need arose, Burgher anthropologist and medical doctor, R. L. Spittel would always speak out boldly. During the early 1950s, he noted with growing concern how pneumonia and other illnesses were depopulating the Veddahs. He wrote a vehement article to the press declaring that the backward communities, such as the Veddahs, Rodiyas and Kinnarayas, should receive special protection. "These pockets of degraded humanity are shameful anachronisms that should have no place in the present day world. They are festering sores in an otherwise enlightened land. It is time for the conscience of the people to be awakened to its obligations."

Vanniyas: Simon Casie Chitty provides a detailed account in the ‘Ceylon Gazetteer’ of 1834: "Formerly this part of the country (Vanni, the region between Elephant Pass and Medawachchiya) was divided into several independent principalities, over each of which a Malabari prince or princess, under the title of Vanniya or Vaninchi presided….. Pandara Vanniya (one of the original Vanniyas) raised a formidable insurrection against the British government; and being assisted by the Kandyans, they at once overran all the Northern districts, and had the temerity to penetrate even into the district of Jaffna, as far as Elephant Pass. His object was to recover the independence of Vanni, and to render himself as head of all its principalities…." Here is an example of Vanniya resistance to the British and of Sinhala-Vanniya cooperation in resisting a foreign power.

Some people might turn up their noses if they had to acknowledge some of these segments as their equals and that is where the problem lies. Ethno-religious and caste exclusivity has critically hindered economic development and social interaction. The continuance of this exclusivity contradicts basic human rights as acknowledged throughout the world today and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. It is grossly discriminatory and marginalizes communities because of the social and economic disabilities imposed upon them by age-old prejudices. Caste ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ are social devices designed to subjugate and dominate some segments of the population. Justification through religion or the ‘social order’ isn’t tenable in this day and age and the quicker these artificial barriers are breached, the quicker we’ll become ONE Nation that is proud of its diversity and multiculturalism. Concluded.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Veddhas want equal status....!!!

Veddhas want equal status----------- by Dinasena Rathugamage

The Convenor of the Descendents of the Yaksha and Naga tribes in the country, A.N.P. Devanayagam, has sent a memorandum to the President with six demands.

The memorandum says that the Veddha clan is not confined to Mahiyangana only and they have a right to co exist with others in any part of the island.

Among the other demands were that the government should appoint a separate minister for the aborigine or the tribal people and monies should be allocated from the national budget for this segment of people in the country at district level.

They also have urged the government to establish a separate university for them to practice the traditional medicine of these tribes, with a cultural centre and transport facilities.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SRILANKA: Veddahs oppose road through nature reserve...!!!

Veddahs oppose road through nature reserve

The indigenous community of Sri Lanka known as the Veddahs, are objecting to a highway that is being built through a nature reserve.

Uruvarige Vanniyaleththo, the chief of this indigenous community, told the BBC Sinhala service that forest department officials had prevented Veddahs from entering their late leaders resting place in the ‘Maduru Oya’ National Park.

“These officers did nothing to prevent the building of a road through the nature reserve” he added.

The head of Sri Lanka’s autochthonous inhabitants claimed that road construction work in the reserve would destroy its vegetation.

“It is a threat to birds, animals and our own existence” he said.

According to the head of the Veddahs, the road which connects the Padiyathalawa – Mahiyanganaya road with Kandagammana is going to be 30 feet wide. Two miles of the road will pass through the forest reserve.

“I am not opposed to the development of Sri Lanka, but all indigenous people object to the destruction of our natural reserves in the guise of development,” he said.

Speaking to BBC Sandeshaya, Mr. W. B Ekanayake, the Deputy Minister of Highways said, “Although I am aware of the construction of this road I don’t know who is responsible for it”.

“I will have more details on Monday and I expect to speak to the media on Monday with more details”, He added.

Maduru Oya was declared a nature reserve by the government in 1983.

Situated in the dry zone, about 300 km. from Colombo and spread over 58,849 hectares of land, Maduru Oya is home to several endemic bird species as well as other wild animals.

(BBC Sinhala)

Sunday, June 7, 2009


7th June 5.30 pm

In Australia, many of Asian ehthnic origin ( Indians ) are subjected to insults and injuries in the recent past.
Professor Carl Belle Vadivella of Adelaide, (a Muruga devotee, President of the Adelaide Vinayagar temple),who did his annual Thaipoosam Kavadi at Battu Caves in Malaysia for the last 15 years without a break ( wrote a book of over 500 pages on Thaipoosam Kavadi Festival ) brings out an objective analysis of the real causes and the background to the catastrophe. It is worth the while pondering over.
Thank you.
----- Original Message -----
From: Carl and Wendy Belle
Sent: Friday, June 05, 2009 3:34 PM
Subject: Curry bashing: a Perspective

I am sorry to write a group email, but I am alarmed at how a particular issue has got completely out of hand, and has become the subject of some hysteria in the press, especially in India. And this is the issue of so-called "curry bashing", that is, attacks on ethnic Indians in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

Basically the issue is as follows. Over the past two years there have been a number of attacks on ethnic Indians, mainly in Melbourne, but also in Sydney, and to a lesser extent in Adelaide. Much has been made of this, and I have read comments about the "white trash" and "racist Australia". The truth is more complex than this.

When I was Hindu chaplain at Flinders University, I became aware that there were a number of attacks on Indian students in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. When I enquired with the police I found out that the attacks were mainly mounted by Aboriginal gangs, and Indians were targeted because they were easily identifiable and because it was believed that they were wealthy. Normally they also carried mobile phones and laptops, which were items which could easily be converted into cash. (However, these gangs were also targeting isolated rural homesteads and other individuals; it wasn't just Indians).

With the recent round of attacks in Melbourne, the Victorian police have refused to release details of the identity of the attackers. This has made many people think that it is white supremacist groups involved. However, I have made my own enquiries, and I have found that while some of the attackers are "white", the majority are ethnic gangs, mainly of second generation immigrants.The police apparently do not wish to identify the groups (the same groups have created similar trouble in Sydney, and are just as likely to target white Australians - who they call "skips" (after the TV series, "Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo").

Why are Indians targetted? It seems because many are believed to be rich, and many display items such as mobile phones ands laptops which can be quickly converted to cash on the open market. Moreover Indian students are hardworking and often work long hours in jobs which require them to travel late at night or work in isolated locations or high risk jobs (petrol stations, hospitals, all night supermarkets, etc)

Moreover, many students who come to this country have no idea how violent Australian society is. I have repeatedly told new students that they must exercize care at night, especially in the more lawless suburbs - the northern suburbs of Adelaide, the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. Many students imagine that because Australian is a "European" country, it is safe and that we are all law abiding. Our crime rates in some parts of Australia are a national disgrace. Most of the violent robberies and bashings in Australia (up to 80 per cent) are committed by drug addicts, and the most vulnerable and frequently assaulted targets are not ethnic Indians but elderly middle class Australians of all backgrounds. I have impressed this on all Indian students of my acquaintance - to be careful of their personal safety, especially at night.

There is racism in Australia, as there is in every country round the world. White supremacist groups do exist, as they do in North America and in Europe, but they have little impact upon public policy, and they tend not to be openly violent. (And interestingly their leadership tends to be British or Irish immigrants) But this is a country where people of any ethnicity can make a successful career, and where Indian immigrants often occupy upper level positions in the professions and business. (A huge percentage of postgraduate students are of Asian background and our IT sector would collapse without Indians.) In Adelaide our most recent mayors have included an ethnic Chinese, an Arab, a Jew and now an Anglo-Celt. The Lieutenant Governor of this state arrived as a refugee by boat from Vietnam. My son-in-law's parents fled China during the Cultural Revolution, and all have made successful careers in Australia. To label Australia as a "Country of Racists" is not only stupid and offensive - it is plain wrong.

Let me quote something that was stated during a recent election campaign. "I want you to go out and find places where Satan has his strongholds: mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, bottleshops, and Casinos, and destroy these places. We want a Christian Australia." Guess who said this? Pastor Danny Nelliah, a Tamil migrant from Sri Lanka, a leader of the Pentecostalist group Catch the Fire Ministry, and a Senate candidate for the Pentecostalist front Family First Party. And this is the most likely area where Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhist and Jews have to fear organized hatred. Pauline Hanson got much of her support from fundamentalist Christians, who are just as likely to be immigrants as native born Australians. (The leader of the violent National Front white supremacist group in Perth had an Indonesian mother, and many of the Family First membership are ethnic Chinese and Koreans.)

In 1983, after I had taken my third kavadi in Malaysia, I received a letter from a Christian group in Perth.This group accused me of betraying my Christian upbringing and told me that I would go to hell. I guess, I was stupid; I responded, I was already in hell; I was working in Canberra. The letters continued, until I finally got one which was openly threatening - it stated that the writers knew where I worked, they knew were my wife worked, they knew where my children went to school, and they had friends who would deal with me. When I took this letter to the Canberra police, they police traced the letter down to an Assemblies of God church in Fremantle (Perth). The pastor of this church was from the subcontinent.

The hysteria which has broken out in the Indian press is not helpful. Most Australians are horrified by the idea of racist attacks, (or attacks which might be interpreted as racist), and Kevin Rudd, our Prime Minister, is the first leader we have had who speaks Asian languages. Burning effigies of Rudd is just stupid. (We had the same hysterical reaction after Australia won a controversial cricket test in Sydney in January 2008; I wonder why these rent-a-crowd people are not protesting against real and systemic and often violent injustices against Indians in places such as Kenya, Fiji, Burma, etc. And Indians in Australia do not die in police custody) Of course, Australians are not immune from this hysteria. We had the same thing in this country when convicted drug pusher Schapelle Corby was jailed by a Bali court, and when drug dealers Chambers and Barlow were executed in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2007 my wife, Wendy, was mugged by a gang just off Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur. This was in broad daylight. Given that she had just recovered from an illness, it was a miracle she was not injured. Later a senior Malaysian policeman told us that "white" visitors were the special target of these gangs, particularly those who appeared middle aged or older. Was this racism? No: it was the fact that "white" tourists are seen as soft targets. Does this make me anti-Chinese, or will I be immature enough to go out and burn Malaysian flags or effigies of the Malaysian PM? of course not. Most Malaysians who heard of this incident were horrified, and I know most Malaysians - whether Malay, Chinese or Indian, to be kind, generous and welcoming. As are most Australians. And of course the main victims of Chinese gangs in Malaysia are...other Chinese.

Just one final issue. Most Indians who study in Australia come with the express purpose of getting Permanent Residence. I note that all of those interviewed on TV after last weeks demonstration stated that they still intended to do so. If this country was as vicious and unpleasant and as racist as the Indian press seems to imply, one would have imagined that Indian students would leave as soon as possible. Many Indians who have come to this country have come from regimes where they have experienced real injustice and often appalling violence - countries like Sri Lanka, Fiji and apartheid era South Africa. I have worked with these people, and I am proud to call such people my friends. Racism, bigotry and intolerance must be opposed wherever they appear. These qualities appear in every country around the world - Australia is no exception. But while the attacks on Indians in Australia may contain a racist element, from the information passed to me most of them are not racist attacks. I pass this on in a hope that the hysteria which has surrounded this issue can be put to one side or at least viewed in some sort of perspective. In general Indians in Australia are as safe as any other Australian.

Aum Shanti,

Carl Vadivella Belle

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


IMF bailout suspended?

Stocks down, Rupee loses ground

Sri Lankan shares came down Tuesday on fears that a 1.9 billion Dollar International Monetary Fund bailout may be delayed, while the Rupee weakened against the dollar, brokers and dealers said. The Rupee opened at 117.05/117.25 and fell to 117.25/0117.45 levels by late afternoon trade.

The All Share Price Index closed down 0.60 percent (11.47 points) on the stock market to end at 1,888.62 while the Milanka index of liquid stocks closed up 0.14 percent (2.80 points) to end at 2,051.53, according to provisional stock exchange figures. Turnover was almost 180 million Rupees. "The concerns over the IMF facility and profit taking dragged the market down," said Geeth Balasuriya of Acuity Stockbrokers. "However, during the latter part of the day, the indices recovered on bargain hunting by mainly retail investors".

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, indicated Britain does not support Sri Lanka's request for the IMF loan, when he spoke to the media about the situation in the island ahead of a meeting at the United Nations on Monday.

"I think you'll find that the issue is not coming up at the IMF today," Miliband said when asked whether the UK supports the IMF loan application by Sri Lanka.

"It's essential that any government is able to show that it will use any IMF money in a responsible and appropriate way and, as I explained in the House of Commons last week, I don't think that is yet the case (in Sri Lanka)."

Britain and other western powers and Sri Lanka's main aid donors have been pressing for a halt to the government offensive against the Tamil Tiger remnants, to try to avoid civilian casualties.

Trading in Janashakthi Insurance shares in the meantime was temporarily halted on the Colombo bourse after the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka suspended its licence for three weeks and stopped it from issuing new general and long term (life) insurance policies. Janashakthi closed flat at 8.00 Rupees.Conglomerate John Keells Holdings, which has interests in finance, transport, property development, food processing and retail sectors, lost 25 cents to close at 77.00.

Market index heavy fixed line giant Sri Lanka Telecom lost 25 cents to close at 39.00 while National Development Bank lost 2.25 rupees to close at 93.00, while Hatton National Bank lost one rupee to close at 94.00. Tokyo Cement lost 4.00 rupees to close at 135.00 on thin volume trade. Sri Lanka's largest privately held bank, Commercial Bank of Ceylon,

lost 2.00 rupees to close at 94.00. Ceylon Tobacco Company, a local unit of British American Tobacco lost 3.75 rupees to close at 115.25, while Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka gained 1.75 rupees to close at 82.25. - LBO


Saturday, May 9, 2009



By Kurulu Kariyakarawana

At least one person was killed and nine injured when an armed gang opened fire at crowds who were coming after Friday prayers from the Maligawatte Jumma Mosque, police said.

They said according to initial investigations it appeared to be linked to rivalry among underworld gangs in the area.

An armed gang of about six had stormed the Mosque on Jumma Masjid Road in Maligawatte around 1.30 pm and started searching for a person or group who were believed to have been engaged in routine Friday prayers.

The gang had reportedly come in a vehicle while three of them had been armed with rifles similar to T-56 weapons. They had entered the Mosque while the prayers were almost coming to an end.

They had started looking for somebody and had pacified the frightened people saying they would not be harmed, an eyewitness said.

Meanwhile the remaining members of the group who were outside the Mosque had entered into a small passage leading to a row of houses and started firing at a person.

All the armed men had then started firing at crowds gathered outside the Mosque after prayers and had fled the scene.

Police Spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara told the Daily Mirror that the injured were rushed to the National Hospital and one of them had reportedly died on admission.

The victim had been identified as 30-year-old M Sadal – a butcher believed to be living in the Jumma Masjid Road area.

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts revealed that one of the armed intruders was also injured in crossfire when another group had retaliated.

A large number of spent cartridges believed to be of T-56 rifles were found scattered along the road.

Muslim leaders condemn attack

By Kelum Bandara and Yohan Perera

Muslim political leaders roundly condemned yesterday’s Maligawatte shooting incident which killed one person and injured nine, and called for the government to arrest the dangerous trend.

SLMC General Secretary MP Hasan Ali said the sanctity of places of religious worship should be preserved, and the government should take steps in this regard. Otherwise, Mr. Ali said this would lead to an unpleasant and complicated situation in the future.

“In the run up to the Western Provincial Council election, there were many underworld attacks in the Maligawatte area. We cannot link this incident to the same underworld groups. At the same time, we cannot rule out such connections either,” he said.

UNP front liner Azath Sally said yesterday’s shooting incident had created a dangerous trend. “Allowing underworld gangs to carry automatic weapons makes the security in Colombo city bleak,” he said.

He said in the wake of these incidents it has become unsafe for Muslims even to go to the mosques in the Colombo City.

He said it was too early to establish any political link to the incident.

Eastern Provincial Council Health Minister M.L.A.M Hizbullah said no one could condone these attacks near a place of religious worship, and the responsibility lies squarely with the government to bring the perpetrators to book

Mr. Hizbullah said this incident bears the hallmark of an underworld conspiracy.

“We are on the verge of finishing off LTTE terrorism. At this hour, we should not allow the underworld to disrupt the country’s normalcy,” he said.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Tamil Eelam Compared with Kosovo
The right to self-determination of the Tamils of Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
by Tamil Centre for Human Rights, March 7, 2008

Kosovo..................Tamil Eelam
Sq. Kilometers10,887 km²....... 19,509 km²
Coastal area ----More than 400 kms
Annexed with Serbia in 1989 Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1948
Conflicting peoples Serbs vs Kosovars Singhalese vs Tamils
Population2,000,0003,598,000 (census in 1979) 93% Tamils
Domination bySerbsSinghalese
Military composition 100% Serbs 99% Singhalese in all forces
ColonisationKosovo region by Serbs North East by Singhalese
Settlers?over 300,000 Singhalese colonists
Negotiations started 19891927
Failed negotiations SeveralBetween Sinhala & Tamil leaders 1927, 1971,1977-82,1985, 1986, 1989, 1994, 2003-2006
Abrogation of pacts by state yes
Serbia-EU Unilaterally abrogated by Sri Lanka 1956, 1965, 1987, 2002, 2005
Democratic mandate Sept 1991 & May 1992 1977 general elections - Tamils voted overwhelmingly for independence
Armed conflict March 1998 July 1983 to date
Freedom fighters Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
Civilians killed over 5,000 over 100,000
Disappearancesover 4,000 over 28,000
Rapes20,000over 12,600
Mass graves 526Numerous
Internally displaced 250,000 single displacement over 800.000 multiple displacements
Refugees61,000over 600,000 in western countries & India
Press & Fredom of Movement DeniedDenied
Property damage figures not known over US$ eight billion
Houses destroyed 128,000over 300,000
Attacks on religious buildings 5002,375 (both Christian & Hindu-Saivite)
Villages demolished figures not known over 500
Political prisoners nearly 2,000 (Dec. 2001) over 3,000 at present
Ethnic cleansing/violence1990Since 1956, esp. 1956 , 1958, 1977, 1981 & 1983 onwards
Economic embargo not enforced since 1987 with a few interludes. now in force.
ForcesArmyArmy, navy, air force, police & auxiliary
CourtsJudicial Development Division (JDD) Tamil Eelam Courts, including an Appeal Court & Law College
Human Rights institutions Ombudsperson Institution of Kosovo North East Secretariat for Human Rights (NESoHR)
Financial institutionsBanking & Payment Authority of Kosovo (BPK) Bank of Tamil Eelam
Education Kosovar education system Education Council of Tamil Eelam
Welfare & sociation institutionsInsitution of social welfare Homes for the aged, widows, children & war-affected adults & children
Violation of signed UN instruments Serbia has not signed many UN treaties Sri Lanka has violated the UN Charter, UDHR, ICCPR*, ICESCR, ICERD, CEDAW*, CAT & CRC*
Visit by High Commis. for Human Rights yes Visited only the Sri Lankan government-administered areas
UN/EU intervention yes NONE
UN resolutions yesNONE
International monitoring yesNONE
Visits by VIPs yesVIPS who met with LTTE leadership:
Spe.Rep of UNSec Gen.Mr Olaru Ottunu-1997
EU Commissioner – Mr Chris Patten
Norway's Foreign Minister & Deputy
Norway's Minister for Intern. Development
Norwegian special envoy – Erik Solheim
Japanese special envoy Yasushi Akashi
US Congressman – Danny Davis
Australian MP – Ms Virginia Judge
Iceland's Foreign Ministry official – Bjarni V
Martin McGuinness – Sinn Fein, North reland
All EU and other Diplomats in Colombo
UNICEF Executive Director
UN Special Representative Allan Rock
UN Spec.Rapporteur–Extra-judicial killings
UN Spe.Rapporteur – Religious intolerance
Head of UN agencies in Colombo
VIP visits prevented----Sri Lanka prevented visits to LTTE-administered areas for:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
His Royal Highness Prince Charles – UK
Ex-Presidents of USA W Bush and B Clinton

Secretary of State, USA
Prime Minister of Canada
Prime Minister of South Korea
Ministers from Japan, Netherlands, Finland, Germany and many other countries
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Spec. Rep of UN Sec Gen. Sir Holmes
Spec. Rep of UN Sec Gen on IDPs
UN Sep. Rapporteur on Torture

(Updated from the TCHR reports submitted in March 2001 and March 2007)
ICCPR*- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICESCR - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
ICERD- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
CEDAW* - Convention on the elimination of Discrimination against Women
CAT - Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment....
CRC* - Convention on the Rights of the Child
* optional protocols

Sutharshan (Krishna)
P.O. Box 6322, NCD, Boroko, PNG

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Non -provision of restrooms for plantation women, a violation of their rights

Although it is an accepted concept that men and women are equal, in practice women had lived with less social recognition and with lots of discrimination. The attitudes and the structures that maintain the attitudes that lead to discrimination against women need to be changed. International Women’s Day on March 8, reminds men and women that they are equal and are entitled to equal treatment and respect.

Since discrimination against women has been an issue throughout history, on December 18, 1979 the United Nations General assembly adopted the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women" – which is best known as CEDAW and was ratified by the Sri Lankan government on October 5, 1981. The important concept of CEDAW is that "anything or any action that stops women from enjoying the human rights and freedoms (political, economic, social, cultural and civil and other fields of life) that men enjoy, should be considered as discrimination".

Part of article 11 of CEDAW stresses the point that women have the right to "health and public security" and Article 14 too speaks of women as having the right to "enjoy health care services". The purpose of this article is to examine whether the plantation women who remain the back bone of the economy of this country, enjoy at least basic minimum health care and health security.

We could take a basic need of the working women in the plantation as an example. These women work in large open tea and rubber fields. Their homes are normally very far from the place of work. Women have special physical needs and arrangements need to be made to protect their privacy while working, but in the field where hundreds and hundreds of women work, there are no rest rooms or toilet facilities for them. Men too work in the field and they too have some physical needs. The men answer their calls of nature without any problem and the way it is done is accepted by society as normal. But women cannot do this. We need to reflect and see how these women answer their calls of nature and attend to their private physical needs in the absence of rest rooms or toilets.

It is also not unusual to find plantation women sitting under tea bushes or on roadsides to have their tea or meals. These women tolerate such discrimination of a high degree without protest. What does this situation mean? The message is that these women are not treated as human beings. In our country, life patterns and the facilities people enjoy have changed and developed so much. The plantation sector itself too has undergone changes and development. But don’t we feel ashamed to realize that even the most basic needs of these plantation women are not being fulfiled, their right to privacy is not being respected? One cannot only blame the plantation companies and the managements for this state of affairs. The trade unions in the plantations who have more than 50% women among their membership have also not taken this matter seriously.

The demand to provide rest rooms with toilets facilities in the field had been a longstanding one by the people. There had been agreements between the plantation companies and trade unions that rest rooms with toilet facilities should be provided. But these agreements remain a dead letter. Having rest rooms with toilets in the field is not only a basic human right of women, it is also an occupational right. In these circumstances the question arises why this demand has not been met. As stated earlier, more than 50% of the membership of all the plantation trade unions is women. Trade unions consider their female members as mere workers but do not see them as women or as persons with human dignity and with special gender needs. Most trade unions do not have women at any level of decision- making. Gender sensitivity in the trade unions is very low. This makes the trade unions treat their female membership, who pay the same subscription fee as men, in a discriminatory manner.

This is the reason why trade unions did not agitate for the implementation of the provision for rest rooms in work locations. The trade unions need to genuinely accept this and change their attitudes and approaches. It is the responsibility of trade unions to collectively stand up for the basic rights of their female membership. They have a duty to enlighten the people about the agreements, mobilise them and pressurise the plantation companies to provide rest rooms in the field to ensure the basic rights of women.

It would be unfair if I do not mention that a few estates have provided rest rooms for female workers. According to reports, some of the INGOs working in the plantations have contributed towards such projects. Anyway, the number of rest rooms is so very few and therefore negligible. However, the question that needs to be asked here is that if a few of the plantations could provide this facility why not the others? All have the same responsibilities towards their female workers.

Finally, it should be stressed that the demand for rest rooms with toilets is not a mere demand, but is really a demand that the women in the plantations be treated and respected as human beings having dignity. On the other hand, it is a demand for a legitimate right ensured by CEDAW and through the agreements entered into between trade unions and the companies.

M. Pushpakumary
Gender Promoter
Plantation Rural Education and Development Organization

Prabath Sahabandu/editor

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Pertinent musings by Lotus Prince:

History of Black slavery in America

As per historical records, all slaves were not black and there were all kind of slaves. Slavery originated during the times of kings and mostly it was white kings, who treated their own people as slaves. It was this concept which was later applied to blacks in Africa who were powerless to defend themselves. This was why famous Irish poet wrote these verses, when they were faced with British oppression.


‘’It is better that

we are in our graves,

Than doing slavery,

for slaves

- J. Swift’’


Some early records of American slavery

Martin Luther King

Jamestown had exported 10 tons of tobacco to Europe and was a boomtown. The export business was going so well the colonists were able to afford two imports which would greatly contribute to their productivity and quality of life. 20 Blacks from Africa and 90 women from England.

The Africans were paid for in food; each woman’ cost 120 pounds of tobacco. The Blacks were bought as indentured servants from a passing Dutch ship low on food, and the women were supplied by a private English company. Those who married the women had to pay their passage - 120 pounds of tobacco.

(Gene Barios, Tobacco BBS: tobacco news)

So at the beginning, in early 16th century, Black men (by Dutch ships) and white women (from England) were traded for tobacco. Although they were both servants, blacks were indented servants.

As Native American societies in the Southeast were primarily matrilineal, African males who married Native American women often became members of the wife’s clan and citizens of the respective nation. As relationships grew, the lines of distinction began to blur.

The evolution of red-black people began to pursue its own course; many of the people who came to be known as slaves, free people of colour, Africans, or Indians were most often the product of integrating cultures. In areas such as Southeastern Virginia, the Low Country of the Carolinas, and Silver Bluff, S.C., communities of Afro-Indians began to spring up.

The depth and complexity of this intermixture is revealed in a 1740 slave code in South Carolina: all Negroes and Indians, (free Indians in amity with this government, and Negroes, mulattos, and mustezoes, who are now free, excepted) mulattos or mustezoes who are now, or shall hereafter be in this province, and all their issue and offspring...shall be and they are hereby declared to be, and remain hereafter absolute slaves.

(Patrick Minges, Beneath the Underdog: Race, Religion and the “Trail of Tears)

This was how white race treated fellow humans not more than 300 years ago; even so called brutal Red Indians did not treat their animals this way. But then again they had no guilt over it, as they thought Back men were inferior and they were there to serve the white race.

They failed to comprehend the meaning of Chief Seattle’s statement, “tribe after tribe, nation after nation,” To be fair to white race, it was not only the colour difference that made them think black man as a slave, but behavioral differences as well (due to poverty existed among black nations). And religion too openly stated that Back man was created to serve the white race, by the white god.

One has to understand at that point of time, church had more power than kings certain issues and kings used this power to control their own kingdom in every possible way. So the concept of slavery was nothing new, but a projection of the slavery existed among white race towards blacks, with the blessing of so called servants of god.

Slavery in the United States was governed by an extensive body of law developed from the 1660s to the 1860s. Every slave state had its own slave code and body of court decisions.

All slave codes made slavery a permanent condition, inherited through the mother, and defined slaves as property, usually in the same terms as those applied to real estate. Slaves, being property, could not own property or be a party to a contract. Since marriage is a form of a contract, no slave marriage had any legal standing. All codes also had sections regulating free blacks, who were still subject to controls on their movements and employment and were often required to leave the state after emancipation.

(American Treasures of the Library of Congress: MEMORY, Slavery in the Capitol,

But then as it was predicted, “Everything was a wave in an ocean”, Indians were enjoying the land for thousands of years, and white race have done it for mere 300 years and now their era is slowly coming to an end. And now it is nothing to do with black and white anymore, but economic prosperity at large. The great American dream of a super nation is withering away and new era is downing.

Had anyone predicted 20 years ago, that America would be ruled by a black president in 20 years time, he would have been considered as a lunatic. It was never a possibility as America was the most powerful country in the world and black man was considered as a second class citizen. Perhaps this was why Shakespeare said “There is tide in men’s affairs, if taken at high, lead to fortunes. Omitted all our voyages in life bound to end in shallow waters”.

Although it was taken at high,
at last, after 300 years tide seems
to be changing

Although things changed over the time, the quality of life of Black did not change, significantly. Blacks were oppressed in many ways for many years and this is vividly illustrated in a statement of Late Martin Luther King, which I have quoted above.