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A People in-between East and West



The Dutch Burghers in Sri Lanka:

by Prabhath de Silva

“We are a vanishing tribe in Sri Lanka. The first paternal ancestor of my father’s family who arrived in Sri Lanka in 1774 was Pieter Scharenguivel. He was a Quarter Master in the service of the United Dutch East India Company which ruled the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka from the middle of the 17th century to 1796. The Dutch Burgher identity and consciousness within the family I grew up was extremely significant. It played a role in the conversations, traditions, customs, food, perceptions and social interactions. During the British colonial rule, our community produced eminent surgeons, doctors, legal luminaries, judges, engineers, sportsmen, musicians , historians and artists etc.” , said Anne-Marie Scharenguivel, 65, a management accountant and a member of Sri Lanka’s tiny Dutch Burgher community of less than 30,000 people. The people known as ‘Dutch Burghers are descendants of the Europeans who arrived in Sri Lanka as servants of the United East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie- VOC) which ruled Sri Lanka’s maritime provinces from 1656 to 1796 or merchants and married native women or women who were children of mixed marriages between European men and native women.

Sri Lanka’s largest ethnic group is the Sinhalese, constituting 74.9% of the population of 21 million. The Sri Lankan Tamils, who live predominantly in the north and east of the island, are the largest ethnic minority group at 11.1% of Sri Lanka’s population. The Muslims are the third largest ethnic group at 9.3% of the population. Indian Tamils comprise 4.1% of Sri Lanka’s population. Smaller minority groups include the Malays, Burghers, Chetties (an originally trading community whose ancestors arrived from the southern parts of India) and the Veddahs -Sri Lanka’s indigenous people. Malays are descendants of Malay settlers brought by the Dutch colonial rulers.


The Dutch Connection with Sri Lanka

The Portuguese were the first European colonial power to arrive in Sri Lanka in 1505 when Sri Lanka had been divided into three kingdoms, namely the Kingdom of Kotte, Kingdom of Jaffna and the interior Kingdom of Kandy. Their presence in Sri Lanka’s maritime provinces between 1505 and 1656 CE, which began as an interaction of trade and commerce, later developed into a colonial rule in the maritime provinces (sans eastern coast from Trincomalee) downwards from 1597. Admiral Joris van Spilbergen (1568-1629), the Dutch circumnavigator, who commanded the fleet of ships’ Ram’, ‘Schaap’, and ‘Lam’ belonging to the Dutch company named Balthazar de Moucheron (a trading company that had been in existence before the establishment of the United East India Company -VOC in March 1602 ), landed in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka’s eastern coast on May 31, 1602, after a 12 month voyage at sea. Van Spilbergen met King Vimaladharmasuriya I, the King of Kandy (interior native kingdom of Sri Lanka), and negotiated the possibilities of trade in cinnamon and pepper and of providing military assistance to the King of Kandy to expel the Portuguese from the coastal regions of the Island. Van Spilbergen’s visit was the first Dutch visit to the Island. Spilbergen was followed by the visits of the fleets of Dutch ships commanded by the Dutch navigator, Sebald de Weert in November 1602, Jacob Cornelisz in 1603 and Marcellus de Boschouwer in 1612.

On May 23, 1638, the Treaty of 1638 between the Kingdom of Kandy and the United East India Company was signed by King Rajasinghe II for the Kingdom of Kandy and Adam Westerwold and William Jacobsz Coster, a commander and vice commander of the Dutch Naval Forces representing the United East India Company (VOC) in Batticaloa. The treaty secured the terms under which the two nations would cooperate in defending the Kandyan Kingdom from the Portuguese. The writer vividly remembers visiting the Dutch State Archives in The Hague in 1985 accompanied by a Dutch Burgher lady friend (64 at that time) settled down in that city, to see one of the original copies of this treaty handwritten in medieval Dutch. This friend whose father was a Ceylonese Dutch Burgher named Kriekenbeek and whose mother was a native Dutch lady, having left Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1948 at the age of 24 and having lived in The Netherlands for almost 37 years, was able to translate the contents of the Treaty for me from Dutch to English. I can also remember the courtesy and kindness extended to me (then a 25 year old lawyer) by the Staff of the Dutch State Archives.

The key points of the 1638 Treaty were (a) the Dutch should provide the King of Kandy with military and naval assistance to drive the Portuguese from the Island; (b) the Kandyan King should fully settle the military and naval expenditure incurred by the Dutch for onslaughts against the Portuguese by way of providing the Dutch with commodities such as cinnamon and pepper etc (c) the King of Kandy should grant the Dutch the monopoly of collecting spices and other commodities except elephants from the territories that constituted the Kingdom of Kandy; and (d) the Dutch should vacate the fortresses that would be captured from the Portuguese if the King would desire to take them over. Between 1640 and 1658 the Dutch completely expelled the Portuguese from the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka and ruled until 1796 when the British in turn replaced the Dutch and eventually took the whole island, including its holdout interior Kingdom of Kandy.

The maritime provinces of Sri Lanka came under the rule of Dutch East India Company after its armies defeated the Portuguese in a series of battles between 1640 and 1658. When the Kandyan King, Rajasinghe II demanded the Dutch to vacate and hand over the captured Portuguese Fortresses and territories, the Dutch presented a bill of military and naval expenditure involved in the battles to oust the Portuguese and asked the King to settle the bill first. But Rajasinghe II who was unable to settle the bill, would say that the Dutch had exaggerated the expenditure. The Dutch would maintain that they could hold the territories and fortresses captured from the Portuguese until the King Rajasinghe II and his successors would fully settle their bill of military and naval expenditure of onslaughts against the Portuguese. This was the legal foundation upon which the Dutch justified their occupation of the maritime provinces in the southern, western and northern coastal areas. Later they formulated another legal argument in their search for a legal basis for their rule in those regions.

They argued that Rajasinghe’s Treaty of 1638 with them was a nullity with regard to the Kingdom of Kotte as King Don Jao Dharmapala had gifted it to the King of Portugal in 1591 and the Portuguese had acquired the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Jaffna by conquest by war 1621, and as such Rajasinghe II, the King of Kandy had legal status (locus standi) to sign a treaty claiming the sovereignty over former territories of the Kingdom of Kotte (south western coastal areas of Sri Lanka) and the Kingdom of Jaffna (northern coastal areas). After a war between the Kingdom of Kandy and the forces of the United East India Company, the dispute over the sovereignty of the maritime provinces was permanently settled by the Treaty of 1766, by which the King of Kandy conceded the territorial control of the western, southern, northern and eastern coastal areas to the Dutch. The maritime provinces were ruled by the Dutch East India Company from 1656 to 1796. During their period, a canal system was developed, a judicial system was introduced with the Roman-Dutch Law. The Roman-Dutch Law still remains to be the residuary common law in civil matters, though much of it has been replaced with English Law by statutes during the British rule.

A number of Dutch words have become naturalized in the Sinhalese language . Among many such words are: Kamaraya in Sinhalese is derived from the Dutch word ‘Kamer’ for the room, Kanthoruwa in Sinhalese for office is derived from the Dutch word ‘Kantoor” for office, ‘ boodalaya’ in Sinhalese is derived from the Dutch word ‘Boedel’ for the estate of a deceased person, ‘Kakkussiya” in Sinhalese for lavatory is derived from the Dutch word’ Kakhuis’. The British captured the maritime provinces of the Island in 1796. Among other legacies of the Dutch rule are Dutch forts and a few buildings preserved for posterity. The Dutch Burgher community in Sri Lanka is a living legacy of the Dutch period. When native feudal Chiefs ceded the sovereignty of the interior native Kandyan Kingdom to the British Empire by the Kandyan Convention of 1815, the whole Island came under the British rule. Sri Lanka gained independence from the British in1948.


Who are the Burghers and the Dutch Burghers?

The word ‘Burgher’ is derived from the Dutch word ‘Vrije Burgher ‘, meaning “free citizen” or “town dweller”. The Burghers in Sri Lanka are an Eurasian community of mixed origin, whose first paternal ancestors were European colonists (mainly from Portugal, The Netherlands and the UK) who had married native Sinhalese or Tamil women. The Portuguese men who opted to remain in Sri Lanka had married native Sinhalese or Tamil women because there were no Portuguese women in the Island. The children who were born in a marriage between the Portuguese colonists and native women in Portuguese colonies overseas were called Mesticos. The second and subsequent generations of Portuguese colonists who opted to remain in Sri Lanka preferred to marry the Mestico women and their second preference was the native women. The servants and soldiers of the Dutch East India who arrived in Sri Lanka were not only Dutch but belonged to other European nationalities too including German and French Protestants known as Huguenots, Scandinavian and Italian. Marriages between them and native women were less frequent with the passage of time.

The descendants of the European servants of the Dutch East India Company and Mestico women and native women ( Sinhalese and Tamil) became known as ‘Dutch Burghers’. In order to be considered as a Dutch Burgher, one’s father ought to have inherited an European family name from an European paternal ancestor who had come to Sri Lanka during the period Dutch East India Company ruled the maritime provinces of the Island. During the Dutch colonial period, the mother tongue or the lingua franca of the Dutch Burgher community in Sri Lanka was an Indo-Portuguese creole, though the Dutch Burghers later adopted English as their first language during the British colonial period.


Dutch Burghers during the British colonial rule in Sri Lanka

Although many portray British rule here as ‘exploitative’, of our country, they ignore the vast economic, social and educational developments that facilitated the transition from feudalism to capitalism and a parliamentary democracy. The contemporary progressive political trends in Britain with her social movements like utilitarianism, social, democratic and labour movements, too influenced colonial rule here. The British empire was an extension of British capitalism to the colonies including Ceylon. Lenin in his book “Colonialism: The Advanced Stage of Capitalism” presented a similar argument. Today, we beg for foreign investment. This is not a new phenomenon. During British colonial rule, British companies invested in the plantations and other sectors in Sri Lanka. These capitalists paid taxes to the British colonial government here on the profits they earned. Later parallel to the British and European capitalist class, an indigenous native entrepreneur class emerged. The colonial government managed the economy with its own tax revenue without borrowing from outside. The Dutch Burghers who were a sort of ‘people in between’ the west and the east were able to achieve eminent positions in the public service, medical profession, legal profession and judiciary during the British colonial period in Sri Lanka. They held a proportionately higher percentage of positions as clerks, engineers, surveyors, journalists, locomotive engine drivers and railway guards in the public service. Their presence was significant in the employment of mercantile sector. It was the eminent Dutch Burghers like Charles Ambrose Lorensz were the pioneer constitutionalists who agitated for more liberal and democratic constitutional reforms during the 19th century British colonial Sri Lanka.


The Dutch Burghers in Post -Independence Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka gained independence from the British in 1948 and inherited from the British a democratic form of government based on the Westminster parliamentary model. At the time of Independence, Sinhalese majority constituted 66% of Sri Lanka’s population and the Buddhists who were almost exclusively Sinhalese constituted 60% of the Sri Lanka’s population whilst the remaining 6% of the Sinhalese population were Christians. Sri Lanka’s ethno-religious and ethnic minorities ,at the time of independence constituted 34% of Sri Lanka’s population. Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake, a Sinhalese Buddhist, was a pragmatic leader who did not want to upset the ethnic harmony prevalent at the time of Independence. He and his political party the United National Party formed coalition governments with the major Tamil and Muslim parties and formed the cabinet of ministers representing Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and other ethno-linguistic and religious minorities.

He and his two immediate successors, Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kotalawala after Senanayake’s resignation refused to accede to the demands of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists for making Sinhalese the only official language replacing English, making Buddhism the State religion and for immediate take over of Christian denominational schools by the State. The Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists approached Solomon West Ridgway Dias Bandaranaike, who had broke away from D. S. Senanayake’s United National Party and had formed a new political party named Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Bandaranaike promised to implement all these demands of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists in the event his party would come to power at the next General Election. Bandaranaike was a Sinhalese born to a highly anglicized Christian aristocratic family. Educated at Oxford (1919-1925), Bandaranaike was a Barrister-at-Law and an eloquent speaker at the Oxford Union. A few years after his return to the Island from Oxford, Bandaranaike adopted the national dress, learned the Sinhalese language and began to tread on a path of communal politics based on Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

In 1956, a coalition led by Bandaranaike’s on communal sentiments and slogans of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and socialism, was elected to power and Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister. One of the first things his government hurriedly did was to enact an Official Language Act making Sinhalese the only official language disregarding the Tamil and English , and the demand for making both Sinhalese and Tamil as official languages put forward by the Tamil political parties and Marxist political parties were rejected. The enactment of this piece of legislation deprived the English educated intelligentsia of Tamils, Dutch Burghers and Sinhalese of public sector jobs unless they passed an examination to prove their proficiency in Sinhala language.


Bandaranaike who began to experience the initial destructive consequences of his short sighted policies ,could not live long to witness the long term consequence of the whirlwind of communal tensions he set in motion through his unwise initiatives.

In September 1959, Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk named Talduwe Somarama, a misguided instrument or a cat’s paw of a conspiracy by a group of Sinhalese Buddhists (led by a prominent Sinhalese Buddhist monk) who helped him come to power , but developed an enmity with him, when in power, Bandaranaike refused to help them form a shipping company. The enactment of Bandaranaike’s ‘Sinhala Only’ and the events that followed drastically changed the political landscape of Sri Lanka, with his SLFP’s rival, the UNP’s governments too pursuing the same policies when in power, resulting in communal riots of 1958, 1977 and 1983 disturbances and tensions culminating in a 30-year civil war. Mrs. Bandaranaike who became prime minister in 1960, pursued policies of her husband rigorously, and took over the denominational schools of which an overwhelming majority were Christian in 1961. This entailed further appeasing the demands of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists by withholding State grants and subsidies for such schools if they opted to remain private. As result only 51 Christian school out of hundreds could remain independent.

Christians, particularly Catholics considered the take over of their schools by the State a discriminatory blow. Mrs. Bandaranaike, elected to power again in 1970 with a two third majority in parliament, severed the constitutional links with the British monarch as the ceremonial head of the state and abolished right to appeal the decisions of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Her government enacted a Republican constitution granting Buddhism the foremost place in the Sri Lankan State, casting a constitutional duty upon the State to protect and foster Buddhism. Her government went further to perpetuate the Sinhala Only policy of her late husband by making Sinhala the only official language in the Sri Lankan State by incorporating provisions for such status in the new constitution of 1972. History has shown that issues of race, caste, religion, language and blind political affiliations have always been exploited by the leaders, and that these machinations have not originated from the ordinary people or peasants. Innocent peasants may be misled, misguided and mobilized by the leaders to achieve their narrow self–serving interests and ambitions by exploiting ethnicity, religion, caste and language in the South Asian political context. The Dutch Burghers, having experienced anxieties and insecurities of their future prospects, opted to emigrate mainly to Australia.

(To be continued next week)

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An air of discontent prevails



We have had a series of “Avurudhu parties” here in Aotearoa. No shortage of Kavum, Kokis, Athiraha, and even Wali Thalapa. Buffalo curd available locally and of course imported treacle in abundance. Yours truly has assumed the role of a fly on the wall during these festivities and gleaned much information, worth talking about.

First to get on to the Pearl, the talk of the botched-up vaccination plan and running out of the second dose of vaccine. Bizarre permutations as to what would happen if the second dose was not available on time and to who would be press-ganged into getting the “dodgier” types of vaccine from China and Russia, etc. The possible repercussions of getting a second dose of another type of vaccine to the original, the speculations of which left me rather glad that the general populace of Aotearoa has not been vaccinated to date. The talk moved on to the Easter bombings and the recent comments by leaders of the Roman Catholic church as to the possible perpetrators of the attack. Some increasingly obvious conclusions as to those responsible for the planning and funding of same are being reached by those other than some of us who dared to voice our opinions over a year ago! This combined with the increasing and very rapid unpopularity of the person they elected to high office hoping he was genie of the magic lamp type, and the possible reverse of Hong Kong that could take shape on the reclaimed land near the Colombo port, does not bode well for an already dubious future. By reverse of Hong Kong, I mean Hong Kong is trying to hold out as a bastion for democracy, whilst the proposed port city seems to be modeled on the opposite!

Moving on to Aotearoa, the rest of the world seems to be praying for a leader such as our own Jacinda Ardern, but the fat cats of Aotearoa are getting rather sick of her. Those who own multiple houses and have been setting off their interest payments against their taxes due to a loophole in the law that has now been plugged are grumbling. The fact that most young people can’t afford to buy their first houses due to rich people and property developers snapping up all available property, happily funded by banks who are only interested in the bottom line, is of no consequence to them. The fact that this could lead to so much discontent that it could even lead to armed insurrection doesn’t bother them. They seem to have forgotten that we have had almost no deaths and hardly any Covid 19 cases in our community when they say that the lockdowns, we underwent were too excessive and how the economy and business sector has suffered. These very people throng the stadia during the rugby and cricket games and enjoy music concerts with gay abandon. Megacorporations are not happy about the restrictions that are coming on with regard to the use of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) due to environmental concerns. To top it all off I had a lecture from my 13-year-old daughter about how I am being “led by the nose” by Jacinda Ardern and her propaganda! Where she got that from could only be from her elder brothers whose get rich quick schemes have seen a setback due to certain leftist policies coming in from the Labour government that is in power with an absolute majority.

I laugh to myself and think about other examples I have seen of self-proclaimed pundits never being content with their lot. My education was in a very large Government school. As a perfect and a member of some sports teams we handled the administration and some of the governance of this school. Later in life when my children were attending a private school I got involved in the Executive committee of the PTA of that school. The “problems” faced by the private school and the vast dramas that were involved in trying to solve those problems were laughable when compared to those faced by even us, senior students (a much lower level in the administration) of the Government school.

It led me to believe that people always grumble. They are never content with their lot and there is always someone plugging their case and trying to sow the seeds of discontent among the populace. If those living in Aotearoa, in the present situation and well aware of the chaos and mayhem that is prevailing in the rest of the world are dissatisfied, when will anyone be satisfied? Everything is relative and one should try to step outside the confines of one’s own situation and look at the broad picture. In the words of learned barristers, I rest my case!

This week’s missive will not be complete without a tribute to the memory of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. He lived through some of the best and worst times of human existence on this planet and conducted himself impeccably. He showed his humanity and his failings, with a few bloopers down the line but most of those had an undercurrent of humor and couldn’t really be construed as offensive, despite the best efforts of the media and others to make them so. He served as consort to her Majesty the Queen with loyalty and aplomb and he leaves behind an enviable legacy in the world of conservation and youth affairs. It is hoped that his heirs will be up to the task for they face a task which in cricketing terms could be classed as coming into bat after the great Sir Vivian Richards had just scored a century, in his prime. Something very difficult to surpass in skill and entertainment value. Unfortunately, the Duke made just 99. May he rest in peace!


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We have much to learn; and emulation is no disgrace



“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” said Oscar Wilde who, through sharply ironic wit, often proclaimed the absolute truth.

Cassandra quotes him today as she wants to point out how much we in Sri Lanka can benefit by reaping some ideas from the recent royal funeral in Windsor. And she does not excuse herself for placing stress on our mediocrity as juxtaposed with greatness. Nationalists may shout themselves hoarse and bring down a few more majestic trees by decrying the comparison. They can justifiably claim we have a cultural heritage of two and a half millennia but have we remained cultured, following faithfully and correctly the four great religions of the world? A loud NO from Cass, echoed by millions of others. Though Britain’s development of the English language, culture, arts and science was later than our civilization, they outstripped all countries at one time and are again elevated, while we are poised on bankruptcy, with the begging bowl in hand and thugs and thieves as legislators. We in Sri Lanka are mediocre if not degraded against the greatness shown by the Brits in many spheres. This is no Anglophile speaking but a dame who was born when the Brits were leaving us to govern ourselves and grew up with our statesmen doing a jolly good job of it; Sinhalese, Tamil, Burgher, and a few Muslims taking the lead graciously and effectively with complete honesty, to serve the people. They maintained and improved our country so it was admired by others and even some desiring to imitate Ceylon as Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew admitted. And where are we now? Except the Rajapaksa family from Medamulana, wearing rose tinted glasses or with eyes shut by arrogance, and their followers and throngs of sycophants, others see our country and our people for what it, and the people, really are. No need to elaborate.


The funeral of Prince Philip juxtaposed against customs here

The low-key funeral observing all Covid-19 restrictions was noteworthy for being utterly devoid of bombast and vainglory. It was dignified and moving. Cass wonders how many of her readers watched the funeral on Saturday 17, late evening here. Prince Philip had detailed all arrangements from the Navy being prominent and other Forces joining in plus the substitution of the gun carriage with a jeep he had helped design. The horse carriage he was adept at racing was stationed close by the entrance to the chapel. He has bequeathed it to the daughter of his youngest son and Sophie; the Wessexes having been very close to him and the Queen.

The entire proceedings proved first and foremost that the royal family observed strict pandemic restrictions like mask wearing and physical distancing. There was no one rule for them and another rule for us, thus proving beyond doubt that England (usually), and more so the Royal Family (definitely) are a country and an institution despising double standards. The monarch decreed and abided by the same regulations that have restricted everyone else in the UK, sharing their fate. An anecdote is relevant here. The Queen learned that lesson long ago. She was 14 when her mother said, after Buckingham Palace was bombed in September 1940, that she “could look the East End in the face now.”

Do all our people follow rules common to everyone? Oh! My heavens NO! There are differentiations according to layers in society. Shangri La would host a party for a hundred when only 30 are allowed to gather. During the height of the first wave when restrictions were strict, SLPP electioneering saw hordes thrust together and baby carrying, patting heads and hand clasping mostly by Mahinda Rajapaksha sans a mask. He has a charismatic bond with the masses but that needed to be curbed. Sajith Premadasa’s meetings were strict on physical distancing and mask wearing.

Only 30 were invited to the extremely solemn and yes, beautiful funeral service at Windsor Chapel. This meant eliminating even close relatives of the Family; but it was done. The Queen sat distanced from her daughter and sons and their spouses. Her now diminutive figure seated alone emphasized the loneliness she must be feeling after a close and successful marriage of 73 years.

This brings to mind our First Ladies. Cass steps out bravely to say that Elina Jayewardene was a gracious lady of restraint and dignity, the only perfect consort so far. Cass remembers Hema Premadasa beating her breast (true) and crying over the coffin of her late husband’s remains – in the true sense of the word – at the Prez’s funeral at Independence Square. There is dignity in restraint of even tears over a death in public. Among the women Heads of the country, the mother completely beat the daughter in dignity and ability.

We Sri Lankan women are now much more restrained in our mourning at funerals. Time was when widows even hoarsely wailed their sorrow, coiled and roiled with grief, and begged the dear departed “To look once more; say one word.” Cass in all the expressed grief of such funerals suppressed her laughter with difficulty. How would it be if the corpse obliged?

The choir at the funeral of Prince Philip was just four – one woman and three men. But their singing resounded in the high vaulted, completely majestic, centuries old church. The lone kilted piper within the Chapel evoked much. The service itself was short, just a Reading, prayers and listing of the multitude of honours bestowed on the Duke of Edinburgh, whose medals and decorations were on display beside the alter. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Dean of Windsor, David Conner conducted the service.

To conclude, the Duke of Edinburgh had advised and laid stipulations on a simple funeral with the necessary pomp and pageantry but low key and very unostentatious. The actual funeral was even more low-key with mourners requested not to be on the streets or place flowers. The latter they did in all the residencies of the Royal Family in appreciation of a man who faithfully stood by the Queen and in his own way gave service to the nation.

Coming back to Free Sri Lanka, we seem to stress on that first word Cass inserted to the country name, even in these dire times of no crowds. And the worst is milling crowds are apparently encouraged to boost popularity of certain VVIPs by sycophants and by the preference/orders of the VVIP himself.

Consider the funeral of Minister Thondaman: crowds in Colombo and all VIPs wishing to register their presence before the body, and then the commotion at the actual cremation Up Country. Consider this year’s Sinhala New Year celebrations which were very dignified at the President’s residence but were inclusive of all traditions and a large gathering in the PM’s home, even raban playing by the Second Lady, and milling crowds outside.


Roller coaster ride of the country continues

Cass is relieved she had a topic to write on; namely that we should emulate the manner in which the much admired Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral was conducted, abiding by his stricture of it being low key and the country’s Covid restrictions. Our leaders especially must accept the saying I quoted at the beginning.

The country continues its roller coaster bumpy ride with some crying out the country is being sold to the Chinese, we will be a colony of theirs after they occupy the Port City; and others in remote areas sitting down for days on end, some near 100 days, drawing attention to the human elephant conflict. Much is touted about the Bill relating to the rules to govern the Port City.

Cassandra listens to all, and is somewhat warned and frightened, but cannot comment. However, one matter she speaks about loud and clear. The people must be told the status quo of the pandemic – daily numbers catching the infection and numbers dying. This is not for interest sake or ghoulish appetites; but to know how things are so we relax a wee bit or shut in more stringently. The Covid-19 Task Force, or the Health High Ups (not Pavithra please) should tell the country of the true situ of the pandemic as it holds the country in its grip. We want to know whether the grip is tightening or weakening. Please give us daily statistics. This newspaper announces total numbers. No help. Are we expected to jot down figures, subtract, and give ourselves daily infection and death statistics? No! It goes to prove that other matters – political slanted, ego boosting and economics – are more important than warning, containing the pandemic, and saving lives.

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Do you pump Octane 95 Petrol to your car to get better performance?



If your answer is YES, this article is for you

Dr. Saliya Jayasekara.

Senior Lecturer Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Moratuwa

Many passenger vehicles, including three-wheelers and motorcycles are fueled by octane 95 gasoline when octane 92 gasoline (petrol) is available at a lower price. 

Otto engine (petrol engine) is an internal combustion spark ignition engine invented by a German engineer Nicolaus Otto in 1876 and used in most of the light weight vehicles including cars, three wheelers and motor bicycles. Otto engines can burn most of the hydrocarbon fuels (including hydrogen and ethanol) that can mix with air by evaporation (low boiling point). But the combustion characteristics of different hydrocarbons are not the same when burned inside an engine. If an Otto engine is designed for a particular fuel, it would not perform similarly with a fuel that has a different chemical composition.

In a well-tuned Otto engine run on gasoline for which the engine is designed, the combustion of the gasoline (petrol) / air mixture will continue smoothly from the spark plug to the piston head by igniting successive layers of the mixture as shown in Figure 1 (a).

If low grade gasolines are used, the combustion of some of the air/ fuel mixture in the cylinder does not result from propagation of the flame front initiated by the spark plug, but one or more pockets of air/fuel mixture explode (Detonate) outside the envelope of the normal combustion front as shown in Figure 1 (b). This detonation can cause severe damage to the piston and the head of the engine while deteriorating thermal performance of the engine (low efficiency)

Gasoline is a petroleum-derived product comprising a mixture of different hydrocarbons ranging from 4 to 12 carbon atoms in a carbon chain with the boiling point ranging of 30–225°C. It is predominantly a mixture of paraffins, naphthenes, aromatics and olefins. Additives and blending agents are added to improve the performance and stability of gasoline. The engine designers learned that straight-chain paraffin have a much higher tendency to detonate than do branched-chain paraffin.

The tendency of a particular gasoline to detonate is expressed by its octane number (ON). Arbitrarily, tri-methyl-pentane, C8H18 (iso-octane) is assigned an ON of 100, while the straight-chain paraffin n-heptane, C7H16 is given an ON of zero. Hence, a fuel sample with the same anti-detonation quality as that of a mixture containing 90% iso-octane and 10% n-heptane is said to have an ON of 90. Gasoline is made up of a mixture of mostly branched-chain paraffin with suitable additives to give an ON in the range 90 –100. It was also learned through experiments that the ON of a gasoline blends (e.g. gasoline and ethanol) can be calculated by using weighted average ON of each compound. Most importantly, the octane number has nothing to do with the heating value (Calorific value) or the purity of the fuel.

Engine thermodynamics show that engines with a high compression ratio offer higher thermal performance than engines with a low compression ratio. These engines having high compression ratio require high octane gasoline (for example octane 95) to avoid detonation. However, using gasoline having higher octane ratings for the engines designed for a low octane rating (for example, 92 octane) would not provide an additional benefit or loss, other than increased fuel cost.

Therefore, it is important to know the designed octane number of the engine before fueling (refer owner’s manual of the vehicle). For example: the minimum ON requirement for two and three wheelers in south Asia is 87 (The World Bank). Most of the Toyota, Honda and Nissan models including hybrid engines recommend 92 octane gasoline.

Dr. Saliya Jayasekara received the B. Sc. degree in mechanical engineering from university of Moratuwa in 2001, and the M.Sc. and PhD degrees in decentralized power generation systems from Royal institute of technology Sweden and the Melbourne University Australia in 2004 and 2013 respectively. He has well over 13 years of national and international experience in design and installation of centralised/decentralised power plants, boilers (utility/package) and heat exchangers. Currently he is serving as a senior lecture at University of Moratuwa, a visiting lecturer and fellow at Deakin University Australia.

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