Chapter Three

The Portuguese and the Tamil Homeland

The past history of Sri Lanka is the total history of its principalities and kingdoms and peoples and is not the history of the Sinhalese or Buddhists alone. The return of sovereignty to the natives has invariably brought about the squabbles meant to establish the rights and demarcations which, Sri Lanka has witnessed in recent times. This has been further aggravated by the opportunity provided by the Parliamentary Democracy to consolidate the Sinhalese dream of domination over the whole island.

The achievement of peace or effective government will remain a distant dream without the determination of the nature and demarcations of the political entities and structures which were smarting underneath during the days of colonial oppression. A historical tradition that came to be evolved during the period of colonial domination with the patronage of the colonial masters who wished to consolidate their vision of a unitary state, cannot be expected to have acknowledged the true nature of political divisions whose recognition has become important today.

The objective of undermining the patriotic and truly nationalist platform that could bring everyone together has continued even after independence. The history of Sri Lanka is that, independence and freedom was not won over by the patriotic forces through a struggle. It still remains basically an outwardly event where the natives were asked to manage a political system introduced by the colonial rulers, and which is seen as an exercise of freedom and independence. This unfortunate arrangement has created a situation where a secure life could be assured only to an urban middle class leaving a vast sea of people in the periphery high and dry without a secure life.

In this background, the disappointment caused by the permanency and legitimacy of partial and ineffective governance strengthened the need among the Tamil people to seek arrangements to separately assert their will for their own self preservation. Whenever a civilised appeal was made for a more viable andjust political arrangement, the Sinhalese opted to decry these measures with their claim to dominate the whole island through the instrument of a unitary state fully subordinated to their aspirations. This has led to the more assertive Tamil claim for a homeland and self rule.

The varied perceptions of history has come to condition the attitudes and policies of Sinhalese and Tamils and breed perpetual discord where mutual accommodation has become impossible The disputes that have risen as a result of claims and counter claims cannot be resolved when there exists different perception of history. After the emergence of the colonial rule where native rule was suppressed and destroyed without continuity, the historical evidences have been distorted and misrepresented by speculative traditions to be subsequently used by the hegemonist aspirations of the Volk. The dismantling of the resultant mental build up has become extremely difficult, as it is faith rather than truth that determines orientation and behaviour.

The arrival of the Portuguese

The period before and after the arrival of the Portuguese, is important in determining the historical rights and perceptions of people, as there has been a systematic undermining of native authority structures by oppressive foreign rule ever since. If this period cannot be accepted as the basis, going further into the history will only lead us into the mythical and puranic realms, where establishment of truth would be difficult.

Further, evidence of historical rights for this period are supported by foreign writing, where after making necessary provisions for the motivations and commission of foreign rulers, the true nature of historic rights can be separated out.

By nature, the Portuguese rule was the most destructive and oppressive to the Tamil people and today's predicament of the Tamil people starts with the arrival of the Portuguese. This experience of the Tamils contrasts remarkably with that of the low country Sinhalese who have had direct interaction with the Portuguese during the same period.

When the Portuguese arrived in Galle, according to Portuguese writerJoao de Barros, there were nine kinglets and there were two Kingdoms competing for the claim and ominatioll of the whole island. The Kingdom of Kotte seem to has e been on the look out for foreign allies to rid the overlordship of Jaffna and the Arabs who were gaining an upper hand in the Kingdom.

Portuguese historian Joao de Barros describes political divisions of Sri Lanka as it existed during the arrival of the Portuguese in the follolving words,

At present what is to the purpose of our history is to know that it is devoted into nine states, and each ofthese is called a Kingdom. The first and most each ofthese is called a Kingdom. The first and most notable is ruler about that tract of land in which we have said that all the cinnamon grows, which lies in the western part of the island, and have most of the sea ports and the best, that there are in it, the chiefcity of which is called Colombo. Near to which is a fortified place, called Cota (as, we here say, "fortress") in which the king dwells retined, end ear to keep himself apart from the concourse of merchants who assemble at the port of Colombo, and this was the one that Lopo Soarez had gone to visit.

Another Kingdom lies to the south ofthis at the point ofthis island, which they call Galle, and on the eastern side it confines with the Kingdom of Jaula, and in the north with another called Tanavaca; and that which is in the midst ofthe interiorofthis land entirely surrounded by mountain ranges, which it has in place of a wall, is the kingdom of Cande.

And along the sea coast ofthis island are these kingdoms Batecalou, which is the eastern most in it; and between it and that of Cande, which lies to the west of it, is another called Vilacem and going along the coast ofthe island toward the north above Batecalou is the kingdom of Triquinamale, which by the coast upward comes to join another called Jafanapatam, which is at the point ofthe island towards the north, the which kingdoms adjoin one another in the interior.

And so great are they amongst themselves, by so much the greater power that the heathen and infidels have who passes them; for they have no other demarcations than the power of each, wherefore, we cannot define them with accuracy, since the covetousness of men has no certain limits, even though they may have laws divine and human as to how farwhat they may have extends.

The History of Ceylon from the Earliest Times to 1600 AD., Joao de Barros, page 37.

The Portuguese who first arrived in 1505 returned to Colombo in 1517, this time to build a Fort and stay. The purpose of the mission and actions of the Portuguese is best summed up by the title given to the historical work by Fernao de Queyroz "The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon".

What was the nature of relationship that existed between the Kingdom of Jaffna and Kingdom of Kotte during this period? While the Sinhalese and Portuguese claims do not refer to the relationship of the Kingdom of Kotte to the Kingdom of Jaffna, a pertinent judgment of the political relationships during this period and circumstantial evidence point to such relationship, where the Kingdom of Kotte was under duress by the shadows cast by the Kingdom of Jaffna

The existence of sacred tooth inJaffna and its removal by the Portuguese after 1560 war, the Sinhalese rulers going to Jaffna to take oaths that they will join hands to drive the Portuguese out, the presence of Sinhalese soldiers fighting for the Kingdom ofJaffna in the wars against the Portuguese, the domination of Hinduism throughout the island during this period, the involvement of Jaffna in the Southern Campaign against the Portuguese rule, forced conversions throughout the North East, the expectations of the rulers from Kotte to get control over the North East with the help of the Portuguese in return for their conversion into Catholism, and above all the power of Jaffna both military and economic which could sustain a hundred year war against the Portuguese who were a world power then, cannotlead anyone to believe that Jaffna was a vassal of any Southern Kingdom or it did not have a stake in thc happenings in the South or it failed in its responsibilities al ising out of its title of Lordship over the whole island.

The Portuguese Kotte relationship

The conspiratorial nature and context of the relationship the Portuguese sought with the Kingdom of Kotte is best explained by the Letter of Vassalage agreed by the King of Kotte:

"Rightful Lord of the world, fortunate descendent ofthe Kings of Anu Raja Pura, the greatest of all on earth, scion of the Gods in the island of Ceylon, Rightful Lord of the Empire of Cota and the realms of Jafanapatao and Candea, God of war in conquering Rebels who are more like women than men, Rightful heir of the Kings of Dambaden and ofthe great peak of Adam; preserver ofthe law of Buddus, vanquisher of the Kings styled Ariavanca10, for they are traitors;descendent ofthesonof the Sun with the star on the head; true Master of all sciences. Legitimate descendent of Vigia Bahu 1, the EmperorofParacrame Bahu, in the heart of my Empire 40 years called Segara, am content and it pleases me mightily to give to the Kings of Portugal each year as tribute 400 bahars of Cinnamon and 20 rings set with rubies that are found in my city of Celoa, and 10 tusked elephants on condition that the present Governor who shall succeed Lopo Soarez de Albergaria in the state of India, shall be obliged to favour me and assist me against my enemies as the Vassal that I am to the Crown of Portugal"

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, Father Femao De Queyroz, page 195.

The relationship was to bring about the realisation of aspirations of the Kings of Kotte to become overloads of all Sri Lanka This alliance of Kingdom of Kotte with Portugal was sought when the writ of the Kingdom could not be extended bevond the boundaries of the principality of Kotte. The Portuguese had their own agenda of conquest of the whole of Cevlon and looked to legitimise their desire for conquest through this vassalage.

They want to preserve themselves endear to not to be lost and that we should ruin ourselves, so that they might be the gainers. The island is delightful and he alone is sad who has little in it. How much better if the Portuguese had this place for themselves, now that they make so much capital of it.

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, FatherFernao de Queyroz, page 232.

These are the cravings of Portuguese Captain Miguel Ferreyra which are to be found in a letter to the Viceroy in Goa written after fighting a war for the Kingdom of Kotte in 1547.

The island was soon to pay the price for she this clever idea of the Kotte Kings who agreed to allow the activities of the Portuguese and Missionaries in return for making them the lords of the whole Lanka.

One thing is very clear. >'hen the Portuguese arrived, the King of Kotte was under considerable strain and were not in Control of any territory other than their own principality which after the arrival of the Portuguese was to be divided into three as Kotte, Sitavaka and Rigama. This offer of relationship of Kotte Kings legitimised the destruction, loot, plunder and virtual over running of all achievements of civilisation that stood through ages on this island. In their attempt to subjugate and conquer the whole island, the Portuguese brought so much pain to the hearts and minds of the people and their spiritual heritage. The Portuguese razed to ground and looted every single one of the Easwarams that stood for millenniums adorning the four corners of the island venerated by both Sinhalese and Tamils.

The folly of Kotte Kings and intrigues of the Portuguese soon brought an end to the native rule in Kotte. The rulers of Kotte soon realised the pitiful nature of their scheme whereby they hoped to become masters of the whole island by becoming vassals to Portuguese.

This fact is further strengthened by the message sent to the King of Kotte through a priest by the King of Portugal:

"When you see the King of Ceylon, remember to tell him that, if he wishes to be a Lord, he must not return to Pagodas, but follow Christ; and preadventure this message of mine delivered by you will have greater weightthananyletters ofmine.When arrived here, Sire, I at once repeated those words to you. Now I do it again, not in order to glorify myself thereby, as well I might, for he is a King as mighty as he is a Christian. The reason why I repeat them again, is to remind your highness that what brought me from so distant country is to see you and to make you partake of the great treasure of the faith, to which you showed yourself inclined by entrusting to me your natural children who after their baptism went to Goa, and, what I esteem still more the Prince Dharma Pala Astana, heir to this Empire,

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, Father Fen1ao Fen1ao De Queyroz, page 259.

During the time of King Buvanaka Bahu (1521 1551), the sovereignty of the rulers of the Kingdom of Kotte was reduced to mere servility, leading to great destabilization and turmoil not only within Kotte but over the entire island. In 1551, King Bhuvanaka Bahu was shot and killed by the Portuguese. He was preceded by his grandson Dharmapala (1551 1577), who was a puppet King of Portugal having been converted to Catholism by the Franciscans and on his death on the 27th May, 1597, the Portuguese King became the King of Kotte as well as Emperor of whole of Ceylon.

The nature of vassalage, which the Portuguese encouraged and Kings of Kotte willingly embraced entrusted the Portuguese the need to subdue the Kingdom of Jaffna which was the most powerful Kingdom during the time of the arrival of the Portuguese.

The conspiratorial relationship the Portuguese advanced faith the Kingdom of Kotte compelled them to appropriate more credence and magnitude to the power and rights of Kingdom of Kotte which was needed to legitimise their own design. This pervades thejudgmentof the Portuguese historiansin their comments and pronouncements regarding the sovereign powers of the Kingdom of Jaffna, which has raised their sword against them. The noble King of Jaffna was a tyrant to them.

Jaffna Kotte Relationship

The earlier references by Ibn Babuta and Raja Valiya and Marco Polo proclaims the King of Jaffna was a King of the whole of Ceylon.

Afcerthis therewas no king in Ceylon. But the minister called Alageswara remained in Raigam Nuwara, and the son in law of ParakramaBahu remainedin SempalaNuwara and the king called Arya Chakrawarthi Raja (King of Ceylonese Malabars ) remained at Jaffna Patnam. Of these three the power of Malabar Arya Chakrawarthi Raja was the greatest both in point of men and money and therefore he collected tribute from both the high and the low countries and like wise from the nine ports.

Raja Valiya. Trans. Tumor Ed. Edward Upham. p.264.

The southward thrust of the Kingdom of Jaffna started in 1284 with the sack of the Yapahu. Ibn Batuta visited the Kingdom of Jaffna in 1344 when he was received by the King of Jaffna Arena Chakarawarti Marthanda Pararajasekaran (13251348) and toured Southern Sri Lanka with the help of guides provided by the Arya Chakravarti. Ibn Batuta described in detail his appreciation of the treatment he received from the King of Jaffna.

The king of Ceylon Ayari Shakarti, by name, has considerable forces by sea . When I was first admitted to his presence, he rose and received me honourably and said: you are my guest for three days, security shall be forwarded to the people of the ship, because of your relation, the King of Marbar, is my friend. After thankinghim I remained with him and was treated with increasing respect.

One day when I was admitted to his presence he had with him a great number of pearls which had been brought from the pearl fishery, and these his companions were sorting. He asked me whether I had ever seen pearl diving, in any country I had visited. I said yes, I had, in the island of Finas. He said: Do not be shy; ask for what you wish. I answered: My only desire in coming to this island was to visit the blessed foot of our forefather Adam; whom these people call Baba while they style Eve Mama. This replied he, is easy enough. We will send someone with you who shall conduct you thither.

The ship (said I) which brought me here, shall return to the Malabar and when I return, you shall send me there in one of your ships. He answered, "It shall be so". When I told this to the commander of the ship, he refused to accede to it; and said, 'I will wait for you, should you be absent a whole year'. This I told to the Kingwho said, TIe may stay at my charge until you return'. He then gave me a palanquin, which his servants carried upon their shoulders. He also sent with me four Jogees, who were in the habit of visiting the foot mark evety year; with these went four Brahmirls, and ten ofthe King's companions, with fifteen men carrying provisions. As to water, there is plenty of it to be found on the road. We then proceeded on our journey; and on the first day crossed a river in a boat made of reeds, and entered the city of Manar Mandali, which is handsome, and situated at the extremity ofthe territory ofthe infidel king, who had entertained and sent us out.

The travels of Ibn Batuta. Trans. Rev Sawn Mel Lee. p. 184 .

The subservient behaviour of the Kingdom of Kotte, reveals as to who has been the real Ermperor of Ceylon. This title which by tradition cast a responsibility of defense over the whole island from foreign aggression, should be considered in the background of defiant stand of the King of Jaffna and the expeditions against the Portuguese led by himself in person to the Kingdom of Kotte to drive the Portuguese out of the island.

This event of great significance which the Sinhalese historians have chosen to be unaware of, is described by Queyroz,

Meanwhile, Madune and Xaga Raja, setting out from Seytavaca, caused great damage in the lands of Cota, and in the counties of Ligal, Apidgao, andEyna Corla, those lieges Submitting to force rather than of their own free will, while Buneca Bahu was unable to heed their cries, as TIibule did not dare to take the field.

Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, Fen~ao De Queyroz, page 267.

These events show that the King of Jaffna as the Lord of Lanka when the Portuguese arrived.

The still unexplained passage, in the Yalpana Vaipava SIalai, the earliest history of the Kingdom of Jaffna, regarding permission given to build a Fort and the subsequent decision to dismantle when the Portuguese attempted to over reach, sould only refer to events in Kotte and this fact of history cannot become part of history of Jaffna if not for the extension of sovereign powers of Kingdom of Jaffna over Kotte.

The nature of conflict between Jaffna and Portugal

It was with an obscure vengeance Francis Xavier event about pressing the needfor subjugation of Kingdom of Jaffna pith a reluctant Portuguese rulers in Goa. The Portuguese rulers had no option but to relent to this unprecedented obsession as a price for their dependence on the mediaeval ( atllolism to provide legitimacy for their actions in Sri Lanka and in the eastern countries. This is revealed in the following statement of Francis Xanier ashen he went to persuade the Portuguese Governor in Goa to be the Captain of war against the Kingdom of Jaffna after the death of 600 Catholic converts in the lands of King of Jaffna.

' What is our duty in India, Sir, but to preach the Faith? And wherefore did we seek it save for that? Where, or for what better purpose, canafleet venture than for the defence of Christianity, for the spread of which are got up all the fleets of His Highness? The more so that in the present case, the risk does not consist in breaking with the tyrant of Jafanapatao, because his force is very poor and he is already a declared enemy; and an open enemy is ever a lesser danger. A greater danger it is that others will take occasion by our forbearance to go to excesses in a matter which has in its favour the zeal for the faith, the service of the King, the obligation of honour and the reputation ofthe State. What can we expect from God in other enterprises if we abandon him in his? No one knows better than your Lordship what the King our Lord would do, if he had been here; and on this score also I demand it from you for I know thatyou, Sir, have the Christians of Ceylon and Mannar under your protection.

Who in the Orient will put his trust in the friendship and name and good faith of the Portuguese, if he sees that we fail in our duty even to those who have not only not failed us in human (faith) but have also received the Divine (faith) through our instrumentality. Henceforth it will be necessary to preach Martyrdom along with Baptism if we do not defend those who are baptised, and we shall have to look for those who have such courage as to offer themselves to the Sacrarnent as well as the sacrifice. Who does not know how useful that natives of India will be to the Portuguese State in peace and war, if they contact true friendship with them; and such will never be the case so long as the Law and Religion are not the same. We all know that one of the reasons which the tyrant of Jaffnapatao alleged for killing the Christians so cruelly was that once they became such, he did no consider them as his lieges, but (as lieges) of the King of Portugal. If they were so, the others are so also to provoke him to do the same. Is it right that they should be so and not to be protected?"

At this point tears interrupted his words, for he knew that there were not wanting those who said guided by other maxims: "Let the Martyrs be satisfied with the glory Martyrdom which they obtained."

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, Father Femand De Queyroz, page 247.

The true nature of the conflict is however revealed in the explanation of the King of Jaffna to Portuguese GorTerllor of Goa, Martim Afanco de Sousa While gising reasons for his stance ashen he first attempted an expedition against the King of Jaffna in 1546 which the King successfully thwarted by taking a Portuguese ship off Neduntheevu which subsequently was released by him in exchange for peace with Portugal,

The King determined to make use of the same arms wherewith his first ancestor had vanquished the king of Cota, and with some small vessels he went to meet the Governor, who, seeing his sincerity and genuine fear, received him; and coming into his presence he said

'You know already, Sir, that the principal reason which brings me here is the desire to see you because of the fame current among us of your benignity, wherein I trust to obtain pardonforthe crime I committed, forwhich you as a Prince who command Kingdoms and rule vassals can judge whether I have some excuse, seeing that those people had rebelled and forsaken, the law which I professed. What I follow may be good or may be bad, but it is the one which my fathers taught me; and to esteem another as good would be to contradict their doctrine and to hold it as false. The more so when without my permission they attempted to dispossess me of the Kingdom which I inherited; which Buddum would deprive me of, if I consented to their crimes, so much as regards religion, the sole of Kingdoms and their preservation.

"In what concerns the friendship towards the Portuguese there will be no fault to find with me, unless they wish to up hold as their cause the defence of Buneca Bahu, with whom I am at war. And though it beginning be unjust, it must be settled by arms; and it is not a strange thing forone who is dissatisfied with the terms of relationship to attempt to escape, for one highhandedness is excused by another, though what is alleged against me is not such, and it is natural for everyone to attempt to throw offthe yoke which oppresses him. And as for what directly concerns you, Sir, you aware that it is the custom throughout India that the goods of those who are ship wrecked belong to the Lord ofthe country. All these things I place you, not through a third person, but in my own, offering myself to the chastisementwhichyou may ordain, which will ever be mild, considering that he who confides in the truth and piety of the Portuguese, does so because he knows theirworth."

The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, FatherFemando De Queyroz, page 251.

The moralising shroud that Catholism provided to the Portuguese designs of conquest and the vanguard activities of the Franciscans and Jesuits oiled the wheels of conflict that arose between the Kingdom ofJaffna and Portuguese.

For centuries the Catholic Church has gone about proclaiming the killing of Catholic converts and subsequent persecution of the Catholics by the King of Jaffna Sangili Segarajasekaran ( 1519 1561 ) n as the only reason for conflict between the two Kingdoms.

Though this undoubtedly lvas the reason for the Catholic Church to throw its weight behind the idea of subjugation of the Kingdom of Jaffna, the basis of conflict was not religious, but political.

The real conflict was the Portuguese attempts to take over the island based on the dubious offer of the whole island by the King of Kotte and the King of Jaffna saw the religious conversions of the Franciscans and Jesuits was only a prologue to the temporal conquest of the Portuguese. The persecution of the Catholics and war with Kotte were necessary to prevent a colonial takeover of the island which the demented actions of the Sinhalese rulers of Kotte sought to invite.

However cruel the actions of the King of Jaffna may look, as subsequent events and the confessions of the Portuguese reveal his stance was perfectly justified and worthy of a responsible mler and a noble king who clearly foresaw what was going to unfold on this island. There ssras no opposition from the King to Catholism as a religion or friendship With the Portuguese.

The earliest conversions among the Tamils to Catholism took place among the Paravas of Tutukorin in the Pandyan country who faced considerable harassment from the Moors and have lost their control over pearl fisheries. Soon after the conversion, the pearl fishery became a Parava venture having to pay tax only to the Portuguese bringing pressure on the Paravas on this side of the coast who shared the pearl fisheries and maintained kinship, to veer towards conversion into Catholics. This on the other hand was seen as expansion of Portuguese rule into south forcing persecution of Paravas by the Nayaka Rulers of Madurai. The Kingdom of Jaffna maintained close relationship with the Nayakers of Madurai. Added to this were the alarming scenario that was unfolding in Kotte set ablaze by the actions of the Franciscans and the Portuguese.

The actions of the King of Jaffna was not based on religious considerations is further strengthened by the fact, that some of the first casualties were members of the Royal household who have embraced Catholism. The eventual success of the Portuguese and the forced conversions effectively ended the Royal Lineage of the Kingdom of Jaffna as well as those kinglets of Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

The Portuguese and the difficulties of the Sinhalese in understanding the Tamil Aspirations

The dominant position the Portuguese attained by offering to make the King of Kotte the Overlord of Lanka, along with the offer of military help and the resultant subordination of the Sinhalese way of life to the Portuguese rule has been greatly helpful in reviving the hold of Portuguese layers of Sinhala society after the departure of the British.

Despite the defeat of the Kingdom of Jaffna, the Sinhalese are yet to show any gratitude to the Tamils for preventing their country being reduced to an East Timor, as a result of Portuguese take over or see themselves as Muslims as a result of Arab take over, which the Kingdom of Jaffna successfully thwarted during the period of its overlordship in the l 3th, 14th and 15th centuries.

The reference to these events of historyare importantin understanding the determined attempts by the Portuguese sections of the Sinhala race11 to deny the historical claims of the Tamil people as well as the immense difficulty they have in comprehending the demarcations of the Tamil aspirations. This particular relationship based on the terms between Kotte and Portugal has facilitated the integration between the Portuguese and the Sinhalese with an inborn enmity towards the Tamils. As the Sinhalese rulers have used this lack of comprehension of the Portuguese regarding the rights held within the divisions of principalities aIld Kingdoms to realise illegal claims for territory, its impact can still be seen in the writings of those sections of Sinhala society even today.

The difficulties the Sinhalese face today should be linked to the 4S^,0 vears of colonialism, which the Sinhalese invited to this country as a result of their ill considered acts. The salvation of the Sinhalese do not lie in the swallowing up of the traditional homeland of the Tamils in the North East, Ivhich has become depopulated and overgrown with jungle for reasons of rvar, disease and break down of social order and neglect.

However, the inability of the Sinhalese rulers to Comprehend and accommodate the historical and democratic rights of the Tamil people and their inability to rule the Tamils other than by military means cannot be blamed entirely on the Portuguese sections of the Sinhala society.

The worries of terrorism in the North today is not different from the tyranny of the King of Jaffna that originated in the minds of the Portuguese in earlier times. It is by creating these unnecessary fears, the Portuguese sections of the Sinhala race seek domination amongst the Sinhalese even today. The destruction, plunder and depopulation that have been witnessed by the Tamils in their homeland invariably reminds them of the Portuguese days. Jumping from one pretext to another to legitimise and persist with its dubious disposition, the Yolk has created the need for the Tamil people to fall back on ullcorllpromising positions in their pursuit of secure life.