Godage traces some of Sri Lanka's post independence developments
through the prism of 55 years of post-freedom relations with India
"We kissed the hand we
Whereas the freedom struggle in India was confrontational,
Lanka adopted quite a different approach. The Sinhala and Tamil
middle classes, having studied in England and some being Anglican
Christians, were more than comfortable with the British. They extracted
concessions, including the right of 'home rule', on an incremental
basis from the 19th century onwards till final independence in 1948.
The only rebellion
against British rule took place in 1818 soon after the Kandyan kingdom
was ceded to the British. This rebellion was put down with unparalleled
ferocity using mercenaries from Malaya.
In keeping with the old saying 'we must kiss the hand we cannot
cut', our leaders collaborated with the British. Some even took
pride in wearing 'top hat and tails' to take the salute of the armed
services on independence day. They even held a 'ball' with ladies
in evening gowns and men in 'black tie' on the eve of independence
day, far removed, no doubt, from the manner in which nationalistic
Indians celebrated their independence from the British.
It came as
no surprise then that though we had received our independence from
Britain, we became dependent on the former colonial power for our
defence. The government of the first Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake
signed a defence agreement with the United Kingdom permitting Britain
to use the Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank facility which the
British had constructed during the Second World War. It was, at
the time, thought that the defence arrangement with Britain would
secure the country from perceived Indian hegemonism.
doctrine (named after K.M. Pannikar) emphasized the importance of
the Indian Ocean for the defence of India. According to Pannikar,
this 'vulnerability' made it necessary for Lanka or Ceylon to become
an integral part of India's defence structure. The British had kept
out other imperialist powers from the Indian Ocean in order to protect
their interests. The perception was that India considered itself
the successor to the British Raj and therefore sought to use the
same principle to incorporate other states and keep out external
forces from the subcontinent. This, at the time, was seen as part
of India's strategy to establish its hegemony and dominance over
the region, prompting the leaders of Ceylon seek protection under
a defence agreement with Britain.
defence agreement, the leaders of the two countries enjoyed the
most cordial of relations, both personal and official. The only
irritant to both countries concerned the status of the indentured
labour that had been brought to Ceylon by the British to work on
the tea plantations. We shall return to it, but for the present
let us record the fact that relations between the two countries
were as close as they could have been at the time. Particular mention
needs to be made of the close personal relationship that existed
between Indian High Commissioner Desai and his Cambridge friend,
the Prime Minister of Ceylon, the colourful and irrepressible Sir
to play a role in the politics of the region and also champion the
rights of the new world emerging from colonial bondage. Despite
the defence agreement with Britain, it was Prime Minister Kotelawala
who firmly stated that the country would not align itself to any
bloc, nor go with a begging bowl to any country. He stood for Asian
solidarity and was responsible for calling the meeting of the 'Colombo
Powers'; India, Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia and Ceylon. This meeting,
which eventually led to the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia,
would not have come about had it not been for the joint efforts
of Nehru and the anti-communist Sir John Kotelawala. It was their
close cooperation despite their political differences that resulted
in the Bandung Conference becoming a reality. Theirs was a combined
voice for peace and coexistence in the world during the second decade
of the Cold War.
1956 elections, Kotelawala was defeated and Solomon Bandaranaike
assumed office, forming a coalition with a motley 'crowd' of socialists
and Sinhala nationalists. The Marxists also supported the coalition.
Bandaranaike was a liberal in the mould of Nehru. In the circumstances,
1956 saw the beginning of a new chapter in Indo-Lanka relations.
The government of Bandaranaike abrogated the defence pact with Britain
and sought to cultivate relations with countries of the communist
bloc, stating that the country was now 'non-aligned' and 'committed
to the hilt' and not neutral.
the 'wordsmith', was of the view that non-alignment and the 'panchasila'
principles would provide the necessary security for the country.
Panditji himself lived to see the humiliation of his country by
the Chinese who were of a different persuasion and disposition.
Herein was a lesson for Lanka, which it never learnt. Sri Lanka
continued with its commitment to non-alignment, depending for its
security on the goodwill of its neighbour. In the years that immediately
followed, the two countries cultivated the closest of relations.
This, despite the fact that Sri Lanka maintained a friendship with
China, which had gone to war with India in 1962.
The death of Panditji was as great a loss to Lanka as it was
to India. He was respected and loved as one of the great leaders
produced by the subcontinent. He was certainly not just an Indian
statesman; he belonged to the world and Lanka indeed was proud of
him. He was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shashtri as prime minister
(1964-66), during whose tenure the principal irritant in Indo-Ceylon/Lanka
relations - that of Indian immigrants - was resolved.
labour from South India was brought to work on our tea and rubber
plantations. The issue of Indian immigrants became an intractable
problem between the two countries in 1953 when India resiled from
its position that these immigrants were Indian nationals. It was
only in 1964 that an agreement was reached between prime ministers
Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Shastri. This agreement was supplemented
by another between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bandaranaike
in 1974 with India agreeing to take back 600,000 and Lanka agreeing
to grant citizenship to 373,000. The agreement could not, however,
be fully implemented leaving behind a festering problem.
The early 70s
witnessed certain developments which changed the power balance and
the structure of the subcontinent following the creation of Bangladesh.
India had emerged as the predominant power in the subcontinent after
the dismemberment of Pakistan. Small nations such as Lanka found
India becoming more assertive. Since India made it obvious to the
smaller neighbours that its security took precedence over theirs,
the strengthening of its security forces and growing self-confidence
began to be perceived as a threat by smaller nations on the subcontinent.
The 70s also witnessed the 'intrusion' of superpower rivalry into
the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, despite the perceived threat, the
governments of Lanka were wholly in step with India. It was Sri
Lanka that took the initiative, no doubt inspired by India, to have
the Indian Ocean declared a zone of peace.
In 1974, Indira
Gandhi visited Lanka. The warm personal ties between Sirimavo Bandaranaike
and Indira Gandhi were evidence that Indo-Lanka relations could
not have been better. This factor solely contributed to the settling
of the thorny problem of Kachchativu, a little islet off the Jaffna
peninsula which had a Catholic shrine, and was claimed by both countries.
India conceded that it was Sri Lankan territory and withdrew her
The year 1977
marked another watershed in relations between our two countries.
Mrs. Bandaranaike was defeated at the polls and a new right wing
government was elected to office. At the time the 70-year-old Jayewardene
came into office as prime minister, the Indian prime minister was
the 80-year-old Morarji Desai. They soon became firm friends. Their
respective political opponents were Mrs. Bandaranaike and Mrs. Gandhi.
Whether it was this factor alone that contributed to the special
relationship one does not know, but the two leaders had as warm
a friendship as that between the two women prime ministers.
The new government
of J.R. Jayewardene broke with the past and embarked on a domestic
and foreign policy that was about ten years ahead of its time and
gave India cause for concern.
The Indian establishment, which was obsessively security conscious
during this period, considered the pro-West policies of the J.R.
government, such as opening up the economy to the west, granting
a long lease to the U.S. to establish a Voice of America relay station,
offering the 100 oil tanks in Trincomalee to a U.S. based company,
among others, as serious threats to its security.-Courtesy Historical
is cheaper this day to be lunching out!
Vidushi Seneviratne and Ruwanthi Herat Gunaratne
You've heard the continuos grumbling. Flour prices are
up, bread prices are up. Don't even think of buying vegetables during
the rainy season. The cost of living is killing us - that's the
people's consensus. But has it indeed reached a point where a home
cooked meal can be considered an extravagance? We tried to find
With more and
more working mothers it really is not surprising that most families
find it easier to purchase their dinners from nearby food outlets.
For there is nothing that they don't seem to stock. It is possible
to even purchase a single hopper and 'Lunu Miris' adequate for one.
We even saw one boiled egg being purchased over the counter.
Hoppers and Gothamba Rotis have been firm favourites. But today
hardly anyone seems to be preparing these 'once everyday' meals
at home. Mr. J. M. Nazeer has seen a considerable increase in the
numbers who frequent his family owned food outlet 'Hotel de Pilawoos'
down Galle Road during the past few years. "I believe that
it's due more to the fact that people find it easier to purchase
food from out than make it at home."
further says that weekday evenings are particularly busy as most
simply order their food to their vehicles. "We have schoolboys
coming in throughout the day, the office folk come in for lunch,
and purchase their dinners too. I believe that the growth is mainly
due to the fact that the Galle Road was reopened."
the General Manager of Shanthi Vihar, a vegetarian restaurant down
Havelock Road thought differently. "The fact remains that we
indulge in mass production. Therefore we purchase all the ingredients
at a wholesale rate. As a result of this our production cost is
much less than that of an average family." According to him
their patrons visit in the morning in time for breakfast. They then
purchase their lunch and don't fail to stop by to pick up something
for dinner as they leave work.
The fact that
Shanthi Vihar provides a delivery service also helps. "We find
that instead of bringing their lunch from home most of those working
in nearby offices feel it easier and at times cheaper to ask us
to deliver hot lunches to their door."
was much the same almost everywhere we visited. But is it true that
eating out on a regular basis is actually easier on one's wallet?
Mrs. S. de Silva, a working mother of two children felt that she
did so because it was convenient and not because it was cheaper.
Mrs. I. Fernando agrees; "I strongly believe that preparing
all three meals at home is much cheaper than purchasing it from
out. It's the convenience factor that really matters."
disagree. A mechanic, Richard, says "my wife says it is cheaper
eating out sometimes - considering the price of gas etc.,"
Our facts bear it out. See box story for comparison. It is easier
to have lunch outside (at reasonable rates) than prepare at home,
comparison; eating out and eating at home
Our approximate calculation for
a day's meal for a family of four.
(Taking into account the price of fuel for home-cooked meals)
(Pittu, Katta Sambol, Coconut Milk and Fish)
At home: Rs.160
From a food outlet: Rs.200
(Rice, Dhal, Chicken, Greens and Beans)
At home: Rs. 230
From a food outlet: Rs.200
(String hoppers, Fish, Potato Curry and Sambol)
At home: Rs.180
From a food outlet: Rs.250
How about the cost of dying?
The rise in the cost of living
has got everyone talking but what of the cost of dying? The prices
the funeral directors charge for a complete package, including picking
the body of the deceased from the home or the hospital, embalming
and renting out the parlour can cost anything between Rs.7,500 to
Rs.450,000. A wreath costs a minimum of Rs.500.