MYTHS AND SCHOLARS - PART V
(1999 May 26)
In Part IV of the present series of articles it was shown that Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy pretends to be rejecting "myths" in both Sinhala and Tamil nationalism but she is only rejecting what she calls the myths in Sinhala nationalist writing especially the history as revealed in the Mahavansaya. She upholds the myths in Tamil racist writings when they are presented by "scholars" such as S. Ponnambalam quoting dubious authors. She is only against the Tamil racists using the Mahavansaya to create myths by giving their own interpretations. She does not want the Tamil racists to use the Mahavansaya at all, which according to Ponnambalam is "nothing but a tangled web of cleverly contrived fiction." I wonder whether the "scholars" such as Profs. Ranaweera A. L. H. Gunawardane and W.I. Siriweera who are Vice Chancellors in addition to being "scholars" and professors of history subscribe to the view expressed by Ponnambalam on the Mahavansaya. Ms. Coomaraswamy appears to be appreciating the ability of this Ponnambalam to create myths so much so that she quotes him approvingly on the origins of the Tamils. According to Ponnambalam as quoted by Ms. Coomaraswamy " the conclusions that could VALIDLY (my emphasis) be drawn from the new historical data CLEARLY (my emphasis) establish that the ancestors of the present day Tamils were the original occupiers of the island long before 543 B.C. which the pall (presumably Pali with a simple p- NdeS) chronicles date as the earliest human habitation of Sri Lanka. Are the "scholars" Gunawardane and Siriweera listening?
However Ms. Coomaraswamy does not want the expatriate Tamils to write extensively on Tamil history and ideology and shift from a "rights" based position to an "ideology" based stand as she thinks that it will undermine the campaign for "political autonomy and even to a separate state" that "may be justified in political terms of the right to self determination or the right to be free from oppression or exploitation". Having stated her apprehension on the "ideology" based politics of the expatriate Tamils she is prepared to make an exemption in the case of her "scholars", such as S. Ponnambalam so that they could engage themselves with "valid conclusions" and "clearly established data" on the original occupiers of the island. It is not clear whether this Ponnambalam was an expatriate or not when he wrote those lines on the "history" of the country. It has to be emphasised again that the Tamil racist politics from the time of Mr. Ponnambalam Ramanathan has been "ideology" based and never "rights" based. Those so-called grievances were creations of the Tamil racists who are hell bent on preventing the Sinhala language, Sinhala culture and Sinhala history given the rightful place in this country.
Ms. Coomaraswamy tells us that the "Sinhala race" is mixed. Being a true "scholar" who loves to inundate her esteemed research papers with quotations and footnotes, she in order to "establish" this profound truth quotes another "scholar" in the person of Dr. Senaka Bandaranayake. I am sure that the foreign office boys and girls are concerned with the appointments of some of these "scholars" as our diplomats especially in the western countries. Now how has this "scholar" enlightened us on the mixing of the Sinhala people? According to Ms. Coomaraswamy Dr. Bandaranayake has asserted: "Again it is important to keep in mind that the ethnic composition of the Sinhalese both in cultural and also bioethnic and demographic sense was not the product of a single historical period or a unilinear process, but, one that took place throughout a long history.... the same methodology can be applied to other nationalities". Not being a "scholar" or an "intellectual" who immerses his research papers in quotations, except when I have to present "facts", and footnotes I did not consult the original article of the "scholar" Dr. Bandaranayake. Therefore I am not in a position to mention the papers and the authorities he had quoted to establish this profound truth. Neither do I know what this methodology is. Dr. Bandaranayake apparently has a methodology by which he has come to the conclusion that the "ethnic composition of the Sinhalese in bioethnic sense" among other senses was not the product of a single historical period and that the same methodology can be applied to the other nationalities. Incidentally Dr. Bandaranayake was also a vice chancellor until recently and one wonders how all these "scholars" became vice chancellors during "a single historical period". That itself could be the topic of a research project for the "scholars".
If these "scholars" resorted to common sense instead of all these bioethnic and other senses we could have saved so much paper and through that at least a fraction of the dwindling forest reserves in the world. Any body with common sense on procreation would know that all races and nations are mixed. The Sinhala by the way is a nation and not a nationality even in the Maoist (Stalinist) sense of Dr. Bandaranayake and by designating the Sinhala people a nationality he is attempting to do what the Tamil racists have been doing for the last hundred years or so. He is only trying to prevent the Sinhala people, Sinhala language, Sinhala history and Sinhala culture being given the rightful place in this country.
The Sinhala Buddhists know that nothing is permanent and that there are no static entities. Even the Sinhala nation (also culture and language) has changed and it will continue to change. The present Sinhala nation is a product of, yes not of one historical period but of several periods, whatever Dr. Bandaranayake means by a historical period, having absorbed various races, communities in the process. Even the Bandaranayakes and the Bandaranaikes were absorbed into the Sinhala nation not many centuries ago and I am sure that as a result the Sinhala nation has gained in one sense or the other. In this connection let me quote at some length on the pedigree of the Bandaranayakes and the Bandaranaikes and incidentally of the Coomaraswamys from an article by Dr. J. T. Rutnum, first published in the "Tribune" in 1957 and reproduced in "The Sunday Leader" of 18th October 1998.
"Our prime minister's (S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike's) direct male ancestor, of whose connection some members of his family used to take pride (see Twentieth Century Impressions of Ceylon edited by Arnold Wright, (1907) p.525) was Nilaperumal, a Tamil from south India who arrived in Ceylon in the late fifteenth or the early sixteenth century. He was the first kapurale in his family of the Nawagomuwe dewale, with the fortunes of which the Bandaranayakes were long associated. Kalukapuge was a name which the family used to affect in the past. It is the Sinhalese version of Nilaperumalge, the ge name of the Bandaranayakes.
Don Francisco (Franciscus?) Dias Wijetunga Bandaranayake, mudaliyar of the Hewagam korale, who was born about 1720, was a direct descendent in the male line of Nilaperumal. He was one of those who supplanted the 'original mudaliyars' when the latter 'fled to Kandy' in 1760 to join the Sinhalese in the struggle between the Dutch and the Kandyan king. The reward for this defection was the office of mudaliyar of the four pattus.
Francisco first married Dona Maria Perera. They had six sons and four daughters. Their fourth son was Coenrad Pieter Dias Bandaranaike Snr., a maha mudaliyar, who was the grandfather of another maha mudaliyar of the same name (except for Pieter being spelled Peter), who served under the British. Francisco's fifth son was Daniel Bandaranayake, mohandiram of Siyane korale. He was baptised on February 16, 1748 and married on January 13, 1773. He was the father of Don Solomon Dias Bandaranayake, mudaliyar of Siyane korale.
Don Solomon married a grand daughter of Susana Scharff, who died on June 15, 1871 and was buried in the Dutch (formerly Portuguese) church in the Fort at the site of the present Gordon Gardens, but whose tombstone now lies in the Wolfendhal Dutch Reformed Church, Colombo. The coat of arms of the Scharff family is engraved on this tombstone, the distinguishing mark of which is a 'right arm holding a sabre.' This is part of the heraldic arms of the Bandaranayakes. Susana Scharff was a daughter of a lieutenant, Jan Christoffel Scharff, who served under the Dutch East India Company.
The names of the Scharff family are given in the journal of the Dutch Burgher Union, Volume 8 (p.6.). J.C. Scharff hailed from Sangerhausen, Upper Saxony, Thuringia in Germany. He married at Colombo on March 21, 1734, a lady by the name of Elizabeth de Saram. Susana was baptised at Colombo on December 1743 8, (probably on December 8, 1743 - NdeS) and married, in Colombo on November 4, 1759, the Reverend Henricus Philipsz. (1733-1790), a Sinhalese Christian minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Ceylon. An account of this minister appears in De Bruyn's History Of The Reformed Church In The Dutch East Indies, written in Dutch. He died on May 19, 1790.......
Rev. H. Philipsz, who had his education in Holland, was a learned and outstanding Christian scholar. He was a son of a maha mudaliyar under the Dutch, and grandson of a schoolmaster of Cotta by the name of D. Philippe. Rev. Philipsz's brother Abraham Philipsz too was a maha mudaliyar under the Dutch. It was Abraham's son Johannes Gottfried Philipsz, one of Chief Justice Sir Alexander Johnston's proteges and interpreters, who was appointed the first Sinhalese member of the first legislative council of Ceylon in 1743. He died on July 1800. ......
It is interesting to note that Philipsz's colleague, A. Coomaraswamy, a Tamil interpreter under the British who became the first Tamil member of the same legislative council, was a son of Arumugapillai, an emigrant from south India who came to Gurudavil in the Jaffna peninsula. A. Coomaraswamy was the father of Sir Muttu Coomaraswamy and of Sellatchi, the mother of the Ponnambalam brothers, Coomaraswamy, Ramanathan and Arunachalam."
I have quoted the above in order to show, even without the 'methodology' of Dr. Senaka Bandaranayake, how much the Sinhala people, especially those in the upper crust, are mixed,. The process will never end and during the recent past we have been witnessing the Sinhalisation of the remaining Burghers in this country. The above facts, however, do not imply that the Bandaranayakes and the Bandaranaikes are not Sinhala or that they are half Sinhala or that they belong to some other category. They are Sinhala for all purposes and one can see from their names that the Bandaranayakes and the Bandaranaikes have not only been Sinhalised but they have been Dharmapalaised. They no longer have names like Francisco, Pieter, Daniel and Solomon but use names such as Senaka, Anura and Chandrika, though there may be some connection between Francisco and Anura. Even those who are against Dharmapalaisation have no option in this matter, as can be seen from the fact that the Jameses have ended up as Jayadevas. The Sinhalaness of a person is not determined by the genes or the blood, but mainly by the culture of that person. By the process of mixing one would say that the "gene pool" of the Sinhala people has become richer. The upper crust of the Sinhala people may be somewhat more westernised than the rest but they are no less Sinhala than the rest.
The above quotation also enlightens us on the Coomaraswamys. As I have said on numerous occasions the Ponnambalam brothers, especially Mr. Ponnambalam Ramanathan, were among the pioneers who created the present problem. A problem that arose as a result of the descendants of Tamil immigrants trying to preserve their privileges that they enjoyed under the British, by attempting to deny the rightful place to the Sinhala people, has evolved into a separatist problem, under the patronage of the British. However, this does not mean that these descendants should have no place in this country. They are equal to the others in every respect as citizens of the country, but they should stop their onslaught against the Sinhala people their culture and especially the history.
Ms. Coomaraswamy quotes her "scholars" to question the so-called Aryan myth and get them to pronounce that the Sinhala people are a mixed race. Perhaps she may not know that long before the "scholars" Mr. Munidasa Cumaratunga had criticised this "Aryan theory" and today the Sinhala people know much more about not only of their origin but also of the origin of the Tamils in this country. We shall discuss these topics in Part VI of this series of articles