Mahinda is the people’s President
Mahinda Rajapaksa must be the happiest leader in Sri Lanka ‘s recent
history. Despite serious and debilitating flaws in governance, he is
riding a wave of popularity even three years after taking office.
Undoubtedly, at the root of it all is the public perception that the
military campaign against the LTTE is going great guns.
A recent survey conducted by LMD-TNS Lanka in areas other than the
war-affected Tamil-speaking parts of the country, showed that 67 per
cent were satisfied with Rajapaksa’s overall performance, and 79 per
cent said that he was right in trying to settle the ethnic conflict by
The (impending) fall of the LTTE stronghold Kilinochchi to the Sri
Lankan forces, has made D G A Perera recall how in the 13th century, a
similar event with far reaching consequences occurred. The Sinhalese
king Parakramabahu II had then driven the Indian invader, Magha, out of
Kilinochchi and other parts of the Northeast, and regained the territory
for the Sinhalese, Perera wrote recently.
Magha from Kalinga had invaded Sri Lanka with a “savage force” of
Keralite mercenaries in 1215. He built 15 fortresses from Trincomalee in
the east to Mannar in the west through Jaffna.
One of his strongest fortresses was in Pulachchery, which Perera says
is the modern Kilinochchi, as both Pulachchery and Kilinochchi mean
According to him, the “original” Sinhalese name for Kilinochchi was
“Giraa Nochchiya” which means a sanctuary for parrots.
Ironically, Parakramabahu II had to take the help of the Cholas and
Pandyas of Tamil Nadu to get rid of Magha and his Keralite hoardes.
Chandrabhanu II, an invader of Malay origin, who had taken Jaffna by
then, also helped. History seems to be repeating itself with Colombo
seeking the help of New Delhi , other governments, and Karuna, to crush
Few know that in the fascinating ethnomosaic that is Sri Lanka ,
there is a community of Afro-Sri Lankans. They are the Kaffir of
Puttalam and Batticaloa districts who stand out with their kinky hair.
Historians say that they were brought by the Portuguese to Sri Lanka via
Goa in the 16th century, converted to Catholicism, and made to work
under very exploitative conditions.
The Dutch, who followed the Portuguese, used 4,000 of them to build
the Colombo Fort. Sadly, even after five centuries today, the Kaffir are
mainly manual labourers. Over the years, most have merged with the
Sinhalese, and only about 215 families still retain their identity.
Even these have no knowledge of their original tongue, Afro-
Portuguese Creole. But amazingly, the Kaffir’s vigorous Afro-Portuguese
musical and dance tradition has survived the ravages of time and
Buddhism is the religion of over 70 per cent of the Sri Lankan
population, and since the advent of democracy in the island, aspiring
political leaders have had to become Buddhist or pay obeisance to
The latest in the long list is Karuna Amman who is now a nominated
ruling party MP. He told ‘Express’ he was enamoured of the “pro-people”
ideology of Buddhism and was “inspired” by emperor Ashoka’s just and
I am keen on visiting Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained
Enlightenment,” Karuna said. He trashed the Tamil nationalist propaganda
that the largely Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka were antagonistic to
Buddhism. “We were brought up on Buddhist lore,” he claimed.
(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)