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Sinhala-Buddhist Pseudo-Historians

by Thevanambiya Theesan, July 15, 2009

What credibility do pseudo-historians like Dr. Nalin De Silva, who still rely on articles written by historians early in their careers which are now obsolete, have in commenting on the history of Sri Lanka? These pseudo-historians can only come up with hypotheses, assumptions and analogies and not the facts/truth. Twisting, turning, manipulating, and coming up with big fat conspiracy theories have become their hallmark.

As usual in Sri Lanka, when the government decides to go for a political solution to the National problem, the extremist forces among the Sinhala-Buddhists become extraordinarily active. One such extremist who is actively propagating a FALSE history of the Tamils is Dr. Nalin De Silva. In a series of articles named “Solution” in The Sri Lankan Guardian in June, 2009, Dr. Silva says there were neither Tamils nor a Tamil race in Sri Lanka or anywhere else before the 12th Century AD and the so-called solution to a non existing ethnic problem is nothing but an intermediate of a separate state.

Prof. Nalin De Silva says if a separate state was demanded in 1949 and if devolution is proposed in lieu of a separate state, then surely it cannot be a solution to the so-called discriminations against the Tamils that are supposed to have taken place after 1956.

Where was Prof. Nalin De Silva in 1948 when the British gave the entire country including the Tamil North-East to the Sinhala Kalu Suddhas? Immediately after taking over the country, the first thing that an independent government under D. S. Senanayake, the so called “father of the nation”, did was to disenfranchise the “plantation Tamils.” This was followed by colonization schemes that settled Sinhalese peasants in the predominantly Tamil-speaking North-East, thereby changing the ethnic demography of the area which prompted the Tamils to demand a separate state in 1949. The discriminations against the Tamils started right from the day of independence in 1948 and NOT from 1956 as he claims.

Let me first say a few words about Dr. Nalin De Silva. He is a Math/Physics Professor at Kelaniya University who has succeeded only in CHEAP polemics. After obtaining one's PhD what matters is not only brains, but also peer recognition. In university circles, he is known as `Prof. Nalin the Pissa`.

As one of the members of Vasudeva`s and Wickramabahu's Trotskyite NSSP, Nalin De Silva was one of the Sinhala-Buddhists who endorsed the right of Tamils for self-determination in the early 1980s. Later, he has taken a hundred and eighty degree turn by joining hands with Gunadasa Amerasekara of the JVP and started writing utter rubbish about something he calls the `Jathika Chintahnaya` (Mahavamsa Mindset). This has made him very FAMOUS among Sinhala-Buddhist RACISTS, the recognition he always wanted but never got from university circles.

In a recent article in the Island review, Dr. Silva claims that western truth in particular is not relevant to us (and fogs it up with irrelevant allusions to quantum science and relativity), and claims that the only point of view applicable in Sri Lanka is the Sinhala-Buddhsit point of view.

Since he is good at speculating and creating his-stories (pseudo-history) from thin air and is able to write glamorized articles, he has managed to convince a few confused and misguided individuals (mostly Sinhala-Buddhist youth) and made them his faithful followers who believe that he is a GREAT Scientist, Philosopher, Historian and an expert analyst/scholar.

Dr. Nalin De Silva’s arguments are mostly based on the findings/writings of old (obsolete) historians. Most of those theories are not valid any more due to the latest scientific discoveries in the fields of archaeological, epigraphical and anthropological research. He never comes up with any solid evidence to prove what he says, but simply quotes another author whose credibility is in question (either a racist like himself without any *verifiable data,* or some biased researchers with hypothetical assumptions/interpretations or un-authoritative/officially un-published, half baked historical work completely neglecting the controversial nature of their research). The ancient stone inscriptions and even the Mahavamsa do not support his views.

For example, Dr. Nalin De Silva still comments on the thesis that the PhD student Mr. K. Indrapala wrote in 1965. After 30 years of research as a senior Archeologist/Historian, Prof. K. Indrapala says he does not even have a copy of his dissertation (1965) which is completely out of date.

If people want to know the history of Sri Lanka after all the scientific discoveries in the fields of archaeological, epigraphical and anthropological research made till now, they have to read what is written by those who are qualified in the field of history/archeology and not Math/physics.

For example, people such as Prof. Leslie Gunawardane, (professor in history and a former Vice Chancellor of University of Peradeniya), Dr. K. Indrapala (former professor in history, University of Jaffna) and many other qualified historians have written articles and books on the history of Sri Lanka based on the latest findings.

What credibility do pseudo-historians like Dr. Nalin De Silva, who still rely on articles written by historians early in their careers which are now obsolete, have in commenting on the history of Sri Lanka? These pseudo-historians can only come up with hypotheses, assumptions and analogies and not the facts/truth. Twisting, turning, manipulating, and coming up with big fat conspiracy theories have become their hallmark.

The Tamils of North-East have lived in the Island of Sri Lanka from the beginning of its history. The Pali chronicles and the ancient Brahmi stone inscriptions give enough evidence to prove that Tamils lived in the Island and the Tamil Kings have ruled the Northern (Anuradhapura/Polonnaruwa) Kingdom of Sri Lanka right from the ancient period. The Tamils are also one of the main contributors for the formation of the Sinhala race.

The Mahavamsa very clearly says that there were Tamils (Damilas) in Sri Lanka during the early historic period, not as traders but as rulers. Even Dutugemunu had to conquer not just one Tamil king but 32 Tamil Chieftains around the Anuradhapura principality alone. How could there be 32 Tamil chieftains in the area of Anuradhapura alone, if there were no Tamils or Tamil settlements? Even the very early Brahmi stone inscriptions found in Sri Lanka mention the term Damilas (Tamils) during the ancient period.

On the other hand, what evidence does he have to prove that Devanampiya Tissa or even DutuGemunu was a Sinhala? None of the stone inscriptions or Pali chronicles says they were Sinhalese. DevanampiyaTissa and DutuGemunu were from the Tissa dynasty. From the Mahavamsa it is very clear that the members of the Tissa dynasty were Nagas who freely assimilated with the Pandu (Pandyans) through marriage. King Pandu-Kabhaya is one of the best Pandya-Naga examples. Both Pandus (Pandyans) and Nagas were immigrants from India. The Nagas have a separate history in India. They were Saivates (followers of Lord Siva) before converting to Buddhism.  

Dr Nalin De Silva says, the “Sinhala Nation” was built during the time of King Pandu-Kabhaya. Can he tell us in which ancient Object/Monument/Building or stone inscriptions/cave writings found until today in Sri Lankan archaeological surveys it says that a “Sinhala Nation” was built by king Pandu-Kabhaya, OR can he tell us in which ancient historical document/Pali chronicle is it said that king Pandu-Kabhaya built a “Sinhala Nation”? According to the research done by the historian Prof. Leslie Gunawardane, the Sinhala-speaking people were considered as a nation only after the westerners came to this part of the world.

When the Buddhist missionary monks led by Mahinda came to Sri Lanka via Tamil Nadu (latest research by Dr. Shu Hikosake), they spoke to the prince Tissa and his people in Deepa Basa (language of the Island) as per the Mahavamsa. If the language of the island was Sihala/Hela, then why didn’t the author of Mahavamsa say so? The term Sihala/Hela appeared for the first time only in the 5th Century AD Pali chronicles. During that period there was a serious threat to Buddhism in India (under attack) due to significant increase in Brahmanical influence (Vaishnavism and Saivism posed a serious challenge to Buddhism). In order to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the Mahavihara monks assimilated all the Buddhists from different tribes/races into one group and called them Sihala and created a Lion history for them. The Prakrit language in which the Brahmi inscriptions were written (what Wilhelm Geiger labeled as Sinhala-prakrit) is Pali, plus the combination of all the languages (Prakrit, Tamil, etc) spoken by the tribes. Very much later that language came to be known as Elu/Hela/Sihala.

The beginning chapters of the Mahavamsa/Deepavamsa (believed to be adopted from some mystery story Sihalattha katha), the Sihala race (sustainers of Buddhism for 5000 years), Dhamma deepa (Island blessed by the Buddha), etc were all created by the Mahavihara monks to protect Buddhism from the threat posed by those Brahmanical/Hindus.

At least from the time of Rajaraja Cholan (985 - 1014 CE), for a thousand years, the Tamils lived as a MAJORITY within a SEPARATE land area (North-East) with a separate religion, culture and language. They also had their own independent Kingdom, such as the Jaffna Kingdom, within their separate land until the Europeans arrived. When the Europeans arrived in Sri Lanka, what they clearly observed was that there were two different ethnic groups having two different languages, religions, cultures, and living in two well-defined and clearly and naturally (thick jungles, lakes, river, etc) demarcated land areas with their own kingdoms within their traditional lands. The British, on seeing the naturally existing borders of the two ethnic groups used their technology to demarcate them as two separate regions (occupied by two separate races) and created maps of the island for the first time somewhere in the 1800s. Unfortunately, the same British later united the two regions into a unitary state and gave it to one ethnic group (Sinhalese) by creating a single majority and making a total mess in the region.

Dr. Nalin De Silva speaks as if he had witnessed the Dutch bringing the Vellalar to Jaffna. Vellalar is a caste of agricultural land owners. If the Dutch brought the Vellalar and created a new caste, then I am sure the Dutch must have kept a record. What historical evidence does he have to prove his claim?

It is true that the Dutch brought slaves from South India and sold them to the Vellalar as laborers to grow Tobacco in their fields, but those people lived in Jaffna until recently as low castes.

At the same time, the Dutch also brought tens of thousands of slaves from South India to the South of Ceylon (Colombo, Galle and the entire South West). One of the main sources of income the Dutch had at that time was Cinnamon.

Let me quote straight from the report of the Dutch writer Markus Vink:

In 1694, the city of Colombo alone had a slave population of 1,761. See Knaap, `Europeans, Mestizos and Slaves,` p.. 88. In 1661, 10,000 slaves had been put to work by the company and by private individuals on the lands in southwestern Ceylon, including 2,000 company slaves.

The Sinhala population from Colombo to Galle along the entire South West increased when these people assimilated with the Sinhalese. Ten thousand in 1694 must have multiplied into many hundred thousand by now. Today they are Sinhala Buddhists/Catholics who are claiming the ancient Sri Lankan civilization as their own heritage! These Sinhalised Tamils pretend as if they are more Sinhala than the Sinhalese. Not only people such as Dr. Nalin De Silva and Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, but even people like Don David Hewavitarana AKA Anagarika Dharmapala belong to this group of Sinhalese who adopted Portuguese surnames to hide their original identity. One could often see the Silvas, Pereras, Fernandos, and Fonsekas as the'‘Freemasons' of Sinhala Chauvinism, as their plight is such that the moment they deviate from this mission they will be branded non-Sinhalese. Even if one is the Chief Justice or Chief of Defense but with a Portuguese surname, there is no escape but to be loyal and serve Sinhala chauvinism in spite of its fascist foundation.

Prof. Nalin De Silva wants the Sri Lankan Tamils to recognize that only the Sinhalese constitute a NATION and that the Sinhala Buddhist culture is the significant culture of the country.

This is something like saying recognize your neighbor's father as yours. The Sinhalised Tamils of the South like Prof. Nalin De Silva, whose ancestors were brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese/Dutch from South India (Coramandel coast) as menial labourers (for growing/peeling cinnamon, fishing/pearl diving, coconut planting/plucking and toddy tapping) who later adopted Portuguese surnames to hide their original identity, may be able to do so but he cannot expect the Tamils of North-East who have roots in Sri Lanka from the Anuradhapura period to be like him.

Let me also mention that, based on the writings of Markus Vink, Prof. Sinnappah Arasaratnam [1] has written an article about the slaves settled in Jaffna to work in the Tobacco fields owned by the Vellalars.

Dr. Nalin De Silva also says that even AriyaChakravartis have used Sinhala as their official language because they have used Sinhala to sign an agreement with Portuguese.

First of all, who can prove that the AriyaChakravartis used Sinhala to sign an agreement with Portuguese? Is this document preserved anywhere or has any 17th centaury Portuguese writer mentioned it anywhere?

Suppose we say, yes, the AriyaChakravartis used Sinhala to sign an agreement. Is that an evidence to say that the AriyaChakravartis used Sinhala as their official language?

In the 1815 Kandyan Convention, the leading Kandyan Lords or Dissawas who are believed to be the top Sinhala aristocrats (Pilimatalawe Senior, Pilimatalawe Junior, Ehelepola, Ratwatte, and a few others) signed their names in the Tamil Language.

There is no reason why these Kandyan Lords should learn to speak and write Tamil or rather sign an important treaty concerning the country and religion in the Tamil Language?

If we argue in a similar manner like Dr. Nalin De Silva, we can also say that the mother tongue of these Kandyan Lords was Tamil, or we can say that the Tamil Language was also an official Language of the Kandyan Kingdom.

Dr. Nalin De Silva says the Languages in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna are very similar and, therefore, the Tamils have come to the island very recently.

The Tamil literature (Music/dance/drama) is very closely linked to the rich Tamil culture and, due to the close proximity between Jaffna and Tamil Nadu, there is no reason why the Tamils of Jaffna have to create another language or culture when everything is freely available. The neighboring states of Tamil Nadu adopted a slightly different language/culture because they also had influence from other neighbor states. Similarly, the Sri Lankan Tamil has a few words that the Tamils across the Palk Strait cannot understand.

Dr. Nalin De Silva is not an etymologist or a linguist and neither is he a Tamil scholar who has done research to find the similarities and differences between the Tamil language in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna. What credibility does he have to comment about the Tamil language?

There are enough well qualified and renowned Historians/Archeologists/Anthropologists/ Etymologists out there, but have any of them come up with any issues/comments or written any controversial articles on history like Dr. Nalin De Silva?

We know why nobody likes to interfere or comment about politicians like Dr. Mervyn De Silva. Similarly, the controversial articles on history written by Pseudo-historians such as Math/Physics Prof. Nalin De Silva can be easily dissected and nullified by many Tamil/Sinhala scholars, but mostly such articles go unchallenged because most academics do not want to lose their dignity by engaging in CHEAP polemics, especially with people like Dr. Nalin De Silva.

The problem with people like Prof. Nalin de Silva is what they speak/write is very dangerous to the society. He is brainwashing the younger generation and creating racists very similar to what the educated Tamils did in the fifties (created the LTTE). The young Sinhala-Buddhist Ultra-Nationalists/Racists like Champika Ranawaka of the Jathika Hela Urumaya and Wimal Weerawansa of the National Patriotic Front are the by-products of Prof. Nalin de Silva’s CHEAP polemics. He is the mentor for many more upcoming Ultra-Nationalists/Racists and extremists. He has already created a young Sinhala-Buddhist Racist society. His course of action is detrimental to the future of the country and should be STOPPED at any cost.

1.) 'Mare Clausum,' the Dutch and Regional Trade in the Indian Ocean, 1650-1740, paper at the International Conference on Indian Ocean Studies, Perth, Australia, 1979. See also http://www.yale.edu/glc/indian-ocean/allen.pdf