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Tale of Two Worlds


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We had smoothly running systems of agriculture and administration called Rajakariya System which absorbed the main labour force

 

By Oscar E.V. Fernando

Sri Lanka is a country caught up between its own two worlds – in constant turmoil but so beautiful to the beholder!

This writer attempts to opine some views on the events that caused a wall separating the two worlds: an opinion is a view held as probable and probabilities do not warrant fisticuffs, battles nor bloodshed. 

This tale is intended especially to politicians of all hues, past present and future, at a time where it appears, our right thinking professional youth are throbbing to play a vital-governing role, to bring back the country to where it was: the tale is of the past and post invasion periods, specially the post-independence period.

We were a noteworthy country long before the invasions – self-sufficient and apparently peaceful, as was the rest of the world until the boom of the industrial revolution in the west, resulting in its good and the bad.

With this boom and discovery of gun powder, the west indulged in exploring further, both machinery and territories, with a thirst to invade other countries.

With the first invasion of our country, begins the tale of two worlds!

The following among many other factors highlights the weaving of the tale; 

Foreigners, excavating the land presently for various projects, discover tremendous feats of irrigation and construction works of our ancestors about which they are in awe for its scientific and precise accuracies! Records show our astounding pre-invasion administrative, foreign relations and trading skills. Spiritual advancement is seen in the closeness of Buddhist temples, flowing paddy fields, flowing rivers and contemplation prone mountain terrain. With all these and with our astounding irrigation works, we exported paddy and were called the Granary of the East by foreigners.

People are intrigued by a picture on historical record showing a drawing of an airplane which our writers had named Dandu Monara. It appears no bold studies have been made of this, accept to name the recently built indigenous satellite that was released to space – Ravana. We had smoothly running systems of agriculture and administration called Rajakariya System which absorbed the main labour force.

The above are just a smattering of examples to titillate the mind and show the pre-invasion glory of our country and how it sailed along in the Indian Ocean earning the epithet of ‘Pearl’ for its tiny size and perhaps its evident dynamism, on being strategically placed in the ocean! 

The wall was concretised by elements such as class, caste, language, and ethnicity. Material that went into building the wall were animosity, retaliation, revenge, lethargy, jealousy and the likes. This wall is however not of brick and mortar, but an emotional wall that can only be demolished by the heart and not by only the head; then and then only will we go back to the era of the Granary of the East nay even be the hub in the Indian Ocean for the whole world

It may be said the country was believably peaceful with intermittent battles between royalty and neighbouring India; it can also be concluded that we were achieving gradual advancement with the rest of the world with which we had relations and through which we could have absorbed further studies and researches for improvement, unlike some other tribal colonies dotted in the world map, of which perhaps the original invaders mistakenly believed Ceylon was – at first sight!

This was the pattern in most parts of the world with similar agricultural systems and if we had our own pace of development, to pun a phrase, we would have had our own sized tumbler full of water compared to other bigger tumblers also full; from this position we too would have advanced through mutual research and learnings from these other countries, which were strikingly and incidentally way back, in civilisation then, than was Ceylon during the pre-invasion era!

The systems of economy, education and style of life of the invaders were not palatable to the indigenous peoples who jealously guarded their lifestyles, with Rajakariya system as opposed to the mercantile system which was the mainstay of running the economy by the invaders!

The invaders opened up schools to cater to their societal and economic lifestyle, which apparently were loathed by some of the indigenous people. The administrative centre and only some other parts of the country accepted these schools with open arms, and those who entered these schools and studied, had plum jobs awaiting them in the mercantile sector, though there is the much accepted view that it was the policy of invaders to – divide and rule. 

Be that as it may; the invaders having state control in our country, prompted missionaries to come in and then open up more schools to teach the language and other necessary subjects to suit the state Governors in carrying out businesses and trade in the country: in parallel to this, the missionaries propagated their faith which some would have accepted through conviction and some others for favours received and of course, as some believe, due to coercion! 

The mercantile sector had its sway over plantations, trade, insurance, shipping and many more. The Rajakariya system gradually got dismantled to the deep dismay of the southern rural folk and the prelates who wielded power over the village up to now. This became a big patch of the wall that separated peoples over the years. 

The attitude towards invaders by the southerners with their land, high in proportion to the population and therefore were prosperous, was different from that of northerners with a different land/population ratio, that made them more prone to an industrious lifestyle.

Thus it was so patterned, innocently or otherwise, that the Northern Tamils, the Muslims, the Christians, Burghers and Malays that consisted minor blocks in the country, held forth in the mercantile sector, having the knowledge and lifestyle of the invaders: there would certainly have been resentment that these minor blocks did not go along with the major but thus sailed along enjoying plums on offer.

Another patch on the wall was the up country Tamils of India who were brought into the country as the indigenous peoples were not very subservient to the invaders, and thus there was a language barrier. The festering wound burst forth and opened floodgates with granting of independence, for which all communities, both majority and minorities clamoured and struggled for! There were the good, the bad and the ugly during this invasion era. 

With independence the scene took on a new change. The Sinhalese majority took over the country’s rule after years of subjugation. From this point there was turmoil in the country for over three score and ten years due mainly to resentment, revenge, retorts that we of the older generation have seen and the aspiring youth should ponder about.

With an eagerness to get back to the pre-invasion glory, the mercantile system was dismantled overnight and replaced by statutory boards and corporations to do business displacing those in employment and some of these employees left our shores disgruntled: justification of this can only be conjectured.

However, the economy of the country a cynosure of the world at independence is now in deep debt to the world, mainly because these new entities were neither profit motivated nor militaristic for generation of production, accept for monopolies that were taken over and which had to be compulsorily profitable.

There was also the switch over of the official language from English to Sinhala only in 24 hours. This project though justified by some, should have been done over a period of time. Here again instead of learning more languages it was confined to Sinhala only that left non-Sinhalese disgruntled, thus contributing to building more of the wall. It may be observed that India in similar circumstances sent away the Englishmen but retained English which now is beneficial for the IT world and we in turn are clamouring to learn it for the same reason!

The wall was concretised by elements such as class, caste, language, and ethnicity. Material that went into building the wall were animosity, retaliation, revenge, lethargy, jealousy and the likes. This wall is however not of brick and mortar, but an emotional wall that can only be demolished by the heart and not by only the head; then and then only will we go back to the era of the Granary of the East nay even be the hub in the Indian Ocean for the whole world.

It is a matter to be pondered by those youth aspiring to rule, whether with all grievances, Gandhi or Mandela retaliated and avenged themselves with bloodbaths to get back what was lost: where is India and South Africa, by way of development, compared to us today?

 


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