Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist
I find like a dud coin the claim “Sinhalese have been fighting to safeguard their heritage for 2,500 years” is being repeated ad nauseam. The fact is there was no Sinhalese identity till the 9th century AD. There was NO Sinhala race/tribe in Sri Lanka until the Maha Vihara monks created it in the 5th century AD. The Maha Vihara monks of Anuradhapura including Ven. Mahanama, the author of the Pali chronicle Mahavamsa was a close relative of the Buddhist Naga king Dhatusena. The kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were NEVER known as Sinhala kingdoms and the Naga and Tamil kings who ruled these kingdoms never called themselves ‘Hela’, ‘Sihala’, or ‘Sinhala’. There is no evidence to prove that the Nagas were Sinhalese or they became Sinhalese.
The term ‘Sinhale’, appeared only in the 13th Century AD in Chulavamsa and NOT in Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa. The Sinhalese became a majority through a process of assimilation. In the 16th century, the Portuguese and in the 18th century, the Dutch who occupied the island brought in tens of thousands of people from South India (presently Kerala, Kannada, Tamil Nadu, Andara) and settled them in the Southern parts of the island as menial labourers (for growing/peeling cinnamon, fishing/pearl diving, coconut planting/plucking, toddy tapping, and for many other jobs).
These migrants constitute the present day Karava, Salagama and Durawa castes. The Sinhala Karava western maritime belts of Puttalam, Chilaw, Wennapuwa, Negombo, Ja-Ela, Wattala, North Colombo, Moratuwa and to a lesser extent Panadura were one time Tamils. When Chilaw Bishop Edmund Peiris changed the medium of education in schools under his diocese Tamil Catholics in Chilaw, Negombo became Sinhalese. The older generation still speak colloquial Tamil.
Originally they were from Tamil Nadu and belonged to the Paravar caste. They were converts and Portuguese brought them to Ceylon for their security. The south was ruled by the colonial powers after the first arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 AD.
The Kingdom of Kotte was ceded to the Portuguese in 1597 AD after the death of its last ruler Don Juan Dharmapala. The Jaffna Kingdom was captured by the Portuguese when they defeated in battle the Jaffna last king Sankili in 1619. The Kandyan Kingdom was ceded by the Kandyan Chiefs in 1815. So the claim “Sinhalese have been fighting to safeguard their heritage for 2,500 years” is a myth perpetuated by Sinhala – Buddhist zealots.
Like the devil quoting the scripture, Dayan is quoting comrade Shunmugathasan. He is a non-entity as far as Tamils were considered. He or his party didn’t contest and won even a village council seat. If Dayan wants to quote he should quote the statement by SJV in 1972 in parliament after resigning his seat in protest against the 1972 constitution.
“We started the federal movement at one time to obtain the lost rights of the Tamil speaking people and now we have found that through federalism we cannot achieve our objective. In view of this experience we have come to the conclusion that we must separate and if we do not do that, the Tamil speaking people will never be able to get back their lost rights.
Our ancient people were wise. They had their own kingdom. In the history of Ceylon we had a place. We are not asking for a division of the country by our movement, but we are only trying to regain what we lost.
Our party is today moving with the idea of establishing a separate state. It is not an easy matter to get a separate state. It is a difficult matter. We know that it is difficult. But either we get out of the power of the Sinhala masses or we perish. That is certain. Therefore we will try and get this separation. We have abandoned the demand for a federal constitution. Our movement will be all non-violent.”
Mark the words “We are not asking for a division of the country by our movement, but we are only trying to REGAIN WHAT WE LOST.” (Emphasis mine)