Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Embarrassing bits in Professor Nalin De Silva’s public proclamations

Was I responsible for the crashing of the http://www.kalaya.org/forum? I will never know. All I did was to post the above topic on it somewhere around 22nd September 2010. If I was responsible, it is not a sense of accomplishment I feel but sadness that a forum dedicated to knowledge generation has proved to be so fragile, so lacking in resilience and tactical resources as to be felled by such a post as the following;

I just noticed that Prof. Nalin De Silva has said the following in the August 17, 2010 Island article,KP and the new Tamil politics’;

Tamil had never been an official language in any part of the country and, as late Mr. Gamini Iriyagolle has shown,the pact between the Portuguese and the Arya Chakravarthi King in Jaffna had been drafted in Sinhala and Portuguese and not in Tamil!”
(Note the exclamation mark)

Actually this is not the first time. This is a favourite trump card of Prof NdeS which he produces everywhere. He went on Derana 360 and said the same thing.

However this is not the trump he imagines it to be. For one it’s not something Mr. Gamini Iriyagolla has ‘shown’. It’s what Fernão de Queiros’ has written in his Temporal and Spiritual conquest of Ceylon. It’s in page 371

“These terms [written] in the Portuguese and the Chingala languages, were signed and authenticated and the Prince was handed over and sent in a ship with the Modeliar in good custody…..”

Mr. Gamini Iriyagolla has just quoted Queiros. He has not shown that the pact was in Sinhalese and Portuguese through original research. In fact Queiros’ is the only source which refers to this pact. According to Temporal and Spiritual conquest of Ceylon, the King of Jaffna promises under this pact to pay the Portuguese a tribute.

“That the King of Jafanapatao shall remain in his Kingdom as before, swearing according to his rites, vassalage to the King of Portugal with a tribute of 12’ tuskers and 1,200 patacas:…”
- page 371

According to the dateline of Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, this pact was signed a goodish while before 1571, because 1571 was the year in which, according to the same, the King’s son who was handed over to the Portuguese as hostage for fulfilling Jaffna’s part of the pact, died in Goa.

Professor Tikiri Abeyasinghe in his ‘Jaffna under the Portuguese’ has clearly shown that Jaffna only began to pay a regular tribute to Portugal at some point between 1574 and 1582. Let me quote the relevant part.

“Jaffna becomes tributary.

With increasing awareness of the importance of Jaffna, the Portuguese sought to bring that kingdom under their authority. This they succeeded in doing, in stages. First they made that kingdom a tributary. Exactly when this happened is not clear, but it is certain that by 1582, the year in which the first standing orders (regimentos) for the Portuguese fort of Mannar were issued, the ruler of Jaffna had begun to pay a regular, annual tribute of ten elephants or their money-value to the Portuguese at Mannar.”

In the footnote below that paragraph Prof. Abeyasinghe says;

“Note that when Antonio de Abreu prepared his Orcamento (Financial Statement) of the Portuguese possession in the East in 1574, he did not record any tribute against Jaffna, Studia (Lisboa 1959) vol. 4 ff. 169-281.

Clearly no regular tribute was due from Jaffna in the year 1574.”

Even if you disregard the above data, after all a pact may have existed and not honoured, Prof Abeyasinghe simply categorises the

“These terms [written] in the Portuguese and the Chingala languages, …..”
on page 371 of Temporal and Spiritual conquest of Ceylon as an error on Queiros’ part.

It is in pages 24, 25, 26, 27 that Prof Abeyasinghe categorises the frequent references in Queiros’ work to Chingalas in Jaffna as errors (Which they must be because the way Queiros tells it, there are Chingalas under every bush and in every culvert in 16th Century Jaffna, which simply could not have been. Queiros does indeed seem to be calling the native Jaffnese, Sinhalese. )

The build up to the relevant portions of Jaffna under the Portuguese which I am going to now quote is this; Lancarote de Seixas suggests in 1630 that Portuguese casados should be settled in Jaffna on a large scale and the lands there be distributed among them. Goa refers this proposal to Lisbon. Lisbon consults two old Asia hands on them, one of them with a decade of experience as a captain in many parts of the island.

Then Lisbon makes its decision and that decision …is

"found on natural justice and ....also on misintelligence"

“A principal factor they took into consideration in arriving at their decision was the possibility that the implementation of the two proposals would lead to rebellion. This is clear from a statement in their letter of 15th march 1634 “…se nāo deve fazer novidade….porque de outro modo escandalizar junta tanta gente e de animos tāo inquietos e pouco fieis…” (no innovation ought to be tried…because otherwise people of such restless spirit and little faith will be scandalized…) But in referring to people of restless spirit and little faith, the Lisbon authorities were thinking of the Sinhalese of the Kotte Lands and not of the Tamils of Jaffna, as the phrase “como sāo os chingalas” (as are the Sinhalese) which follows the extract quoted above makes clear. Three decades of rebellion in the Kotte lands had implanted among the Lisbon authorities a wholesome fear of attempting anything likely to cause unrest among the Sinhalese. To that fear and to the misintelligence among the Lisbon authorities that Jaffna was inhabited by the Sinhalese, the Jaffna mudaliyars owed their survival.”

And in a footnote Prof. Tikiri Abeyasinghe says

“Such misintelligence was not confined to Lisbon. The Count of Vidigueira, after serving as viceroy at Goa for 7 years (in two terms) and after a term as President of the India Council in Lisbon, still believed in 1626 that the inhabitants of Jaffna were Sinhalese. ANTT Doc. Rem. Livro 24 doc 18 (no folio numbers) Even Fernão de Queiros’ work was not free from this error. See pp. 357, 361, 366, 371 etc.”

So you see Prof NdeS is just making an embarrassing exhibition of his lack of awareness about our historiography when he plays this card.

The cached screen shot of the post as it appeared on 22nd September 2010 can be found at



  1. Interesting. Are you a student of history?

  2. Interested enough to find out. That's all.

  3. Good work. the site noted below may give you more of relavent information.


  4. Separatists say; Tamils had their kingdoms in the north of Sri Lanka for more than five thousand years. On the 7th May 2009, in an interview with ‘Rivira’, a weekend Sinhala paper, then MP for Madakalapuwa (Batticalo), MR. Ariyanandran said; north had been amalgamated to East of Sri Lanka for more than one thousand eight hundred years. If true, Wikipedia would have had this historical detail in their site. What do you say Ratnawalli?

    I say; if only Tamils have been living in Sri Lanka for just one thousand years, they should have evolved to be a new nation with a new identity, just like all other island nations. Small group of people that landed in Maldives islands developed a unique language and culture to become Moldavians in less than thousand years. Wijaya and company that settled in Sri Lanka two thousand five hundred years ago had mixed with the local tribes to evolve as Sinhalese. What do you say Ratnawalli?

    After five thousand years language and culture of Tamils of Sri Lanka are akin to that of the Tamils of India? Question is; why haven’t their language and culture evolved like that of the Sinhalese or Moldavians? The answer is clear from many written chronicles such as Mahawamsa: Only for specific periods, Tamil invaders had Kingdoms in Sri Lanka. When they were beaten, either they went back or were assimilated to Sinhala society. What do you say Ratnawalli?

  5. Thanks. The Royal Asiatic Society Journals are such goldmines of information. I am glad that they have now moved into cyberspace. Also their journals are available to the public from their Mahaweli Centre office for a nominal fee.

    Mankind, how they set about discovering knowledge...how they build order out of chaos using their powers of detection, intellect, powers of reasoning....it's quite fascinating isn't it? And often it's not only the past which gets illuminated and revealed in these exercises but also the IQ,deductive powers and the basic nature of the detectives.

    If you are interested in seeing a first hand demonstration of the difference between light and dark honesty and dishonesty, a baseline IQ and a higher, shoddy propaganda and a sterling academic exercise go to http://www.ijmhs.com/content/4/1/22 and read its Folk lore, myth and history section and then go to the Royal Asiatic Society office in the Mahaweli Centre and buy for like Rs. 200/- the following journal-:(Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Sri Lanka,New Series, Volume XLI, Special Number Sesquicentennial Memorial Lectures 1995-1996) then turn to page 153 and read (D.G.B. De Silva, ‘New Light on Vanni Chiefs, based on Historical Tradition, Palm-leaf
    Manuscripts and Official Records’)

    Compare them and you will see that for every dark patch, for every deliberate distortion of reality and for every display of debased knowledge, you witness in Sri Lanka (and elsewhere in the world), there also exists an area of light, evidence of a vibrant and true knowledge seeking tradition and an inspiring display of intelligence, which gives you hope for the future.

  6. The above reply is for Sam. I will reply to you in a bit Leela.

  7. Dear ratnawalli,
    First let me congratulate you for the brilliant theory of elegant posts by yourself causing the shut down of kalaya forum. I was foolish to think this was due to a technical problem in the forum software. While you enjoy a drink celebrating this achievement I would like to draw your attention to something else.

    Every week Prof. NdeS writes 3 articles to Irida Divaina,Vidusara and for Midweek Review section in Wednesday The Island (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=13981) news papers. Lot of scholars/laymen write to these news papers and some of them have challenged NdeS. That is the platform for a person of your caliber. Therefore without delay please challenge him there since your blog will not get proper attention of the misinformed public.

    kind regards,

  8. I have never felt less like enjoying a drink and celebrating than when I tentatively assumed (wrongly as you now inform me. I am glad) that I was responsible for the crashing of the Kalaya forum. I simply felt sad.

    About sending this post to Island or some such forum…I don’t know. When I have felt that a certain bit of writing by me had sensation value, cried out for a larger audience or had the power to alter however slightly the world views of people, I have tried to take it out of the narrow spotlight of this blog and accord it the bigger spotlight it deserves. For example, “Why did Dr. Jehan Perera lie to Dr. Michael Roberts? A Sri Lankan horror story” I got published in both the SL Guardian and Sri Lanka Web. But don’t you think that this subject matter would be considered esoteric and pedantic by most people?

    Also I don’t see how Prof NdeS can ever redeem himself after being challenged in a public forum in this particular way; for even though as you have said, he has been challenged many times in public forums, those challenges have ranged from the ridiculous to ad hominem to vague and abstract; challenges in the realm of concepts as opposed to my challenge, which is a simple pointer towards a more empirical body of evidence built up by more specialist scholars.
    So do I want to enjoy a bigger spotlight at the expense of Prof NdeS? I thought not. But now you have given me an idea. You sound as if you are in no doubt about the outcome of such a challenge; as if your money was totally on Prof NdeS emerging the victor. How touching it is that Prof NdeS is able to inspire such faith in his disciples even when it does seem as if his reading list in this particular subject has not being extensive.

    So will think about it. I might or not send this to the Island. Island might or not accept it. But Prof NdeS might NOT emerge victorious. You think about it.

  9. Now i feel that even you don't believe in your claims. This should be the reason for the all sorts of excuses. "subject matter is pedantic for most people". You seem to accept that "most people" will be the ordinance and the defeat before starting the match but The Island is read by the english educated scholar type unlike the sinhala newspapers read by godayas. If you cannot communicate this to them what is the purpose of fussing over this story? You should try to follow great scholars like Dr.s Jehan and Michael who write to The Island time to time. I have seen non-phds also getting published there. So thats another baseless excuse.

    I'm not a disciple of NdeS but a disciple of his teacher but you try to become his grandmother and protect him in public forums. come on! I didn't expect this from you but was expecting few articles on this important matter with some catchy heading like "Jaffna Tamil kingdom and portuguese". Please write a good article with a clear case for your claims (which should clearly contradicting with NdeS's claims) and send it to Island.

  10. You are not making a lot of sense. The heading of this article is "Embarrassing bits in Prof NdeS's public proclamations" And I have already written it and clearly shown why the bits I have selected are embarrassing. And I haven't used any of 'my claims' in it. It is a simple pointer towards a more empirical body of evidence built up by more specialist scholars. I don't know if you are the same Dasun who commented earlier because your IPs are slightly different.

    However thanks for trying to encourage me to find a more public forum for this article. As I said I will give it some serious thought.

  11. This is amazing. I was expecting that you would write something to clearly show! but i cannot figure out what you have actually shown up to now.

    You have quoted person C and claim person A is wrong and the persons B and D who quote from A are wrong. On what evidence that C claims A is wrong?

    "Prof Abeyasinghe simply categorises (should i start drinking to see how he just categorises this from thin air?) the
    “These terms [written] in the Portuguese and the Chingala languages, …..” on page 371 of Temporal and Spiritual conquest of Ceylon as an error on Queiros’ part."

    Are we to assume Abayasinghe's theory is correct because he is Abayasinghe and Queiros's theory must be wrong because he is not Abayasinghe.. is that the logic behind this finding?

    No. i'm neither historian nor academic to understand these. It seems pointless to persuade you on writing to The Island.

  12. My dear Dasun

    Starting to drink whenever you can't figure something out is not a good solution. It would be smarter to read Professor T.B.H Abeyasinghe's ‘Jaffna under the Portuguese’ first.

    Then many things would become clear to you. Blogger does not facilitate long replies and my reply to you run into a few pages. So I will post the full reply tomorrow morning as a new post.

    You know I am almost 90% persuaded now.

  13. I don't know I'm making much sense.
    The language of the pact is relevant not just to relevant parties but also to effected parties as well. So the claim since 1566 pact was written in Sinhla does not imply that a praticipating party speaks Sinhala.
    However, if you assume one party speaks Tamil, and furthermore ONLY TAMIL, then you expect the pact to be written in Tamil as well. I there a Tamil script of this pact?

  14. Professor nalindeS can not be challenged, because of his line of attack. He always takes the confrontational path. He is not open to rational discussion. If he can not tackle you on a level playing field ( He is a very intelligent guy. So he evaluates his adversary very quickly) He would dig a hole or two for you. He would ask you questions like "who are you?" Then He will quickly counter by accusing you as a christian missionary agent . Almost all his arguments are not verifiable. He will cling on to a straw if it suits him, but at the same time he would not hesitate to bring down an oak tree if it doesn't suit him ( e.g. mere mention of a "foreign" tree "oak" is enough for him to accuse me as a man with a western mindset ) . Some of his scientific experiments are enriched with divine intervention, That is how ( according to his own admission) they could find the element "arsenic" in places where others have not ( others = analytical chemists). Confronting him is a futile exercise. I think the most rational thing one could do is not even to touch him with a barge pole. However it is sad that lot of people tolerate this person because of the statements he would make in election times. He had the promise to be a genius in his chosen field "theoretical physics", but something has happened on the way. May be it was his ego. in recent times all he has produced in terms of research are only limited to some quantum mechanics mainly dealing with the philosophical arguments and a couple of papers submitted in Mphil theses ( on which as the advisor his name is mentioned anyway). He writes to 'vidusara'. something called "ape prawada". He uses multiple adjectives in humilitaing people in those articles. He hints at theories all the time. Up to date nothing concrete has come up. He was in favor of "CHATHUSKOTIKAYA" ( fourfold logic") sometime ago. Now he rejects that too , probably after realizing that ZADEH and others have been using it for sometime as a tool in "fuzzy logic" . I think he wants to be the "one" and "onlyone" . As a fan of "transformers" ( cartoon) he reminds me of MegaTron !

  15. Prof NDeS was responsible for awakening an interest in the history of this country in so many people including in me. Sometimes there are glitches in his history writing probably because he is really cannot devote much time to it. My intention was to point out such a glitch. Even though he himself did not reply, I think Dasun is someone from the Chinthana Parshadaya and his responses were so constructive to me and edged me to uncover further knowledge. May I direct you to an expanded and value added version of this article

    This article was simply to challenge one proclamation on a specific point. It was not a blanket condemnation of NDeS. He does not deserve blanket condemnations. There are people in our SL history writing arena who do however deserve blanket condemnations. People like Jehan Perera and Dayan Jayatilleka whose ventures into history writing reveal that they are either not playing with a full deck intellectually or deliberately lying to serve an agenda. I have tried to deal with these phenomena in http://ratnawalli.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-did-dr-jehan-perera-lie-to.html and http://ratnawalli.blogspot.com/2011/05/day-i-felt-acute-distaste-for-drdayan_01.html.

    And I have paid my kind of tribute to NdeS in http://ratnawalli.blogspot.com/2009/10/dear-anonymous.html.

    You may find all these articles in a more navigation friendly format in http://www.ratnawalli.com/ .