I refer to the letter on the above subject by Dr. Leo Fernando (July
21). It is very interesting to note that an analysis of samples of
Mitochondrial DNA of low-country Sinhalese, showed greater affinity to
that of the Tamils in the North, than to that of the Kandyan Sinhalese.
I wish to discuss only about the interpretation made and not the
technique used. Recently I too explored and investigated, for my book on
the Anthropology of Fishing in Sri Lanka and it became evident that
there were considerable intermingling among the communities, with
numerous waves of arrivals, settlement and resettlement of immigrants,
during the Proto-Historic, Historic and colonial periods. There was
intermingling through resettlement, even during the post-colonial era.
I am pleased that Dr. Leo Fernando’s hypothesis strengthens my view.
However, the dynamics of the process described by Dr. Fernando could
also have happened differently, considering evidences, listed below.
(a) British census of 1871 showed that there were more than 18,000
Tamil speaking Buddhists in the North but their fate remains unknown. It
is possible that they moved to South and became Singhalese speaking
Buddhists, with the expansion and popularization of Sinhalese, among
(b) One among the 5 Iswaram temples built by Indian
Merchants/Traders, in the Medieval times, was ‘Tondeswaram’ in the
South. History states Hindu families were also settled around all these
temples. However the fate of Tondeswaram temple and Tamil Hindu families
settled around it, in the South, remains unknown. It is very likely that
they would have become Sinhalese speaking Buddhists and the Hindu temple
disappeared due to neglect.
(c) Archaeological, geological, geographical and historical evidences
examined collectively, tend to indicate that the arrivals and the
Southwards migrations, during the Proto-Historic period (before the
sea-level rise about 8 to 11 thousand years ago) to have been
significantly greater, across the Land-Bridge (present Adam’s Bridge) as
well as across the original Jaffna island, which was relatively much
larger in area than the present day Jaffna peninsula and in very close
proximity to the Indian coast, than the numerous arrivals by boats to
various other locations around the country, during the historical
This is supported by the evidences of very high level of trade, well
designed Port and the trade-emporium close to Mannar, well planned and
structured ancient city in Anuradhapura; efficient navigation of boats
through relatively larger and deeper river systems of Sri Lanka and the
advanced irrigation technology applied all over the country.
An advanced civilization with advanced technological knowledge must
have been responsible not only for these events but also facilitated
planned settlements, re-settlements and intermingling, along the length
and breadth of the island.
While thanking correspondent Ernest Rupasinghe of Gampaha (DN August
17) for his observations let me hasten to say that the material given in
my column Gleanings (August 5) was basically from the book that was the
subject of the column.
In fact, as suggested by Rupasinghe, knowledgeable archaeologists and
historians among the communities should come forward to enlighten us on
the origin of Maddakalappu.
Unfortunately historians and archaeologists among the Thamil
community who are proficient in English at present is almost none,
except for Professor Emeritus Pathmanathan and Dr. Raghupathy and
perhaps Prof. Pushparatnam. Even Prof. Sudharshan Seneviratne, Dr.
Deraniyagala can also give their studied views as the others mentioned
in ER’s letter.
Part of our miscommunication problem is that we don’t communicate in
the language of the others and remain exclusive to our own respective
languages. Even English as a link language is not practicable now. So
let’s try our best to communicate via English for a start. Yes Sir, the
truth should prevail from wherever it emerges.
This is in reply to the letter ‘Additional coaching in Sinhala’. I am
not surprised that the children are getting low marks. I was School
Medical Officer (Colombo) in the 1970s. I was doing the Med. Inspections
in Grade 7 class. I was as usual talking to the boys, and accidently
said something in English. I realized that no one seemed to understand.
When I confirmed that, I asked the boys who came first and second in the
class to bring their English textbooks to me. I just turned over to a
page in the book. The first - Sinhala boy read the sentence I showed
him, “Wash your hands in the basin”. He read it correctly but did not
know what it meant. The second Muslim boy also read it and he said
‘Basin’ means Basama.
That is all he knew. They were Grade 7 children in a Colombo 5
school. I asked them whether the teacher in the English class speaks to
them in English, they said ‘No’.
After the Medical Examinations were over, I went to the principal and
told him what happened. He promptly told me off “That is Government
rules that the teachers follow.” I was quite annoyed. I said “If you
think that is correct, then I have nothing more to say,” and I walked
So this is the fault with our education system. I am sure that
English teacher could only read but could not speak. How do you expect
their children to learn to speak English? The education Department must
see that the teacher teaching English is capable of speaking good
English. Otherwise it is a waste of time and money and the poor students
only will suffer.
It is relevant to talk about the historical background of Orabi Pasha
Cultural Centre in Kandy as an ideal place of tourist attraction when it
is heard from its Director at 126th commemoration ceremony held on
August 15, 2009.
May I draw the attention of the Tourism Minister Faizer Mustapha to
make use of the Orabi Pasha Cultural Centre in order to attract more and
more tourists from Middle East - especially Egypt since this centre has
a very attractive and historically significant museum, which includes
some of the belongings of the National Leader Ahamed Orabi and his
This museum is situated in a picturesque site in 26, George E. de
Silva Mawatha (formerly Halloluwa Road), some half a kilometre from the
Kandy town. It was built on a green mount by Don Henry Wijenaike, a
wealthy Kandyan who let in 1892 to Orabi Pasha as soon as he moved to
Kandy from Colombo and since then the house has been known as ‘Arabi
After the departure of Orabi Pasha to Egypt in 1901, Don H. Wijenaike
gifted the house to his son Dr. Walter Wijenaike who on his turn took
much care of the house and lived there with his wife Dulcee Wijenaike.
Before the death of Dr. Walter, he asked his wife to keep the house
for the family and not to dispose of it for any outsider, but due to
certain legislation, Mrs. Wijenaike was compelled to sell the house.
Several landlords took possession of it and finally the Egyptian Embassy
purchased the house with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Government in
1983 and transformed it into a national museum which contains a large
number of portraits revealing the story of the Orabi revolution in Egypt
and the life of Exiles in Ceylon together with a brief history of the
house. Some exhibits also were prepared to depict the Egyptian
civilization through the ages.
Today the name Orabi Pasha has become a household word in the Kandyan
area mainly due to the social activities carried on at the Orabi Pasha
museum and cultural centre.
Therefore, may I appeal to the Tourism Minister and President
Rajapaksa to pay attention to develop this tourist site with modern
facilities in such a way as to attract all tourists who visit Kandy