Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Sri Lanka Muslims and a Military Career

by Raveen Satkurunathan

Just like other Eelam Tamils groups, which have multiple origins and are a mosaic of groups (and even ethnic groups) currently claiming Eelam Tamil ancestry, Muslims also are a multiple origin lot.

Some among them have military service as a traditional job, just like most educated Jaffna Tamils wanted their children to be doctors, engineers or accountants. It is the Javanese (or Malay) origin Muslims in Sri Lanka who are prone to join the military or police, just like the Euro Asian Burghers once upon a time monopolised the Train Engineer jobs.

It is an historic fact that some Malay/Javanese immigrated to Sri Lanka as foot soldiers of Malay Kings (King Chandrabhanu, for example, who was instrumental in the Jaffna kingdom becoming an independent entity) or the Dutch during the colonial time.

'Tuan' is a typical name restricted to the mostly Malay/Javanese stream of Sri Lankan Muslims, a fact not known to many. Both the killed Muslim intelligence operatives mentioned by Dr. Sachi Sri Kantha in his article had this name. We cannot generalise that Tamil-speaking Muslims, in general, are prone to join the military because this a subsection of them are.

Map of region.Tamils from the town of Chavakacheri and its environment were also known to join the Police/Military before the commencement of the civil war. This is a leftover from the fact that the town was a 'Javaka Kottai' - 'Chavaka Kottai' - 'Chavaka Cheri' (originally founded as fort of Malay/Javanese soldiers during King Chandrabhanu's days) during the pre colonial times.

Those Malay/Javanese who assimilated to become Tamils just maintained their age old traditions even during the colonial and post colonial time frame.

King Chandrabhanu was a straits Malay chief/pirate/king who stormed the Sri Lankan port of Trincomalee with Malay foot soldiers from both sides of the straits to get the 'tooth" of Buddha to legitimize his claim to a kingdom  back in his country. Chandrabhanu was defeated, but then sent for mercenaries from South India and wrestled the northern half of Sri Lanka away from the Sinhalese kings.

A shared ecosystem: The Bay of Bengal in the path of the tsunami After Chandrabhanu, the area was passed on to a Pandyan deputy who was issueless. It then went to a Brahmin minister in the service of the Pandya king named Arya Chakaravarthi (a name of a family). That family managed to create and hold on to Jaffna and its environs as a separate kingdom for almost 400 years.