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Sigiriya was a monastic complex



Reply to Gananath Obeyesekere

by Raja de Silva


Obeyesekere, Gananath 2019.
The Buddha in Sri Lanka Histories and Stories.
London: Routledge. 336 pp.

The author [GO], an eminent anthropologist, has rejected the evidence (archaeological and literary) that I depended on in my interpretation (de Silva, Raja 2002, 155 pp) of the meaning of Sigiriya and its paintings: that the site was a monastic complex and the paintings were representations of the goddess Tara. He has criticized my thesis (1) by resorting to assertions, several untrue and the rest of no merit and (2) by asking rhetorical questions. He has mentioned without criticism the interpretation of Sigiriya by Siri Gunasinghe (SG) (2008), his friendly colleague of the Peradeniya University. SG’s thesis is that (1) Kassapa built a palace at Sigiriya, and was the patron of the paintings, (2) that the paintings do not represent the goddess Tara, but depict nondescript beautiful women. It should be noted that (1) above is the unquestioning acceptance of that story in the 13th century literary work, the Mahavamsa (Mhv.) regarding the alleged building activity of Kassapa I, datable to the 6th/7th century. All the archaeological evidence at the monumental complex, which is to the contrary, has been ignored by SG and GO.

My later study of the many aspects of the Sigiriya paintings (de Silva, Raja 2009. 220 pp) does not seem to have come to GO’s notice; there, I gave a detailed response to the stand taken by Siri Gunasinghe, and described it as a flimsy tissue of untenable conjectures (pp. 175-183).

This is an appropriate place to record the most notable of GO’s assertions and give my comments on them.

Assertion 1. GO states (2019, p.146), regarding my attitude to the reliability of the Mhv.

‘Raja de Silva rejects the Mahavamsa totally’.

Comment 1. What I did state about the Mhv. is (to quote from de Silva, 2002, p. 7)

‘Considering the pattern of omission of historical facts demonstrated above, it is evident that the Mhv. Cannot be relied upon to be an authentic record of secular history in the absence of other corroborative material’. (emphasis added)

GO’ s assertion, therefore, is not true.

Assertion 2. Furthermore, GO states (p. 148)

‘Gunasinghe does not deny all of the Mahavamsa story as de Silva does. For example, he agrees that Kashyapa established two monasteries in honour of his two daughters and himself’.

Comment 2. This is a distortion of what I have written (See Comment, above; Sig. & Signif. 2002, p. 9 1.4). 1 have not denied the Mhv. story of the religious works of Kassapa I, and I did mention (before Gunasinghe, 2008) his building of two viharas named after his daughters.

‘Kassapa built a vihara in the garden known as the Niyyanti Garden and named this vihara too after his daughters (Mhv.’39, v. 14)’.

Assertion 3. GO has commented on my attitude to the Mhv.vis-a-vis my interpretation that Sigiriya was no pleasure dome, capital, fortress of Kassapa I, but a monastic complex (p.149). His assertions as numbered by me are

i. ‘Paranavitana’s main hypothsis is that Sigiriya was a cosmic-city modelled on the basis of Kuvera’s palace’.

ii. ‘De Silva’s basic thesis wipes out the Mahavamsa account from the slate’

iii. ‘Kashyapa in this [de Silva’s] account becomes a kind of nonentity’.

iv. ‘The actual monastic complexes were pre and post Kashyapa’

Comments. 3. i. GO is referring here, with approval, to Paranavitana’s long paper entitled Sigiriya, the abode of a god-king (JRAS(CB) 1 n.s., 129 – 183. But here is the rub: GO does not refer to my paper (de Silva, Raja 2005, 223 – 240) where I criticized in detail Paranavitana’s god-king theory. This assertion, therefore is of no value.

3, ii, iii, iv. My monastic interpretation of Sigiriya does not entail denying the Mhv. in toto, but only where the compiler writes of a grand palace for Kassapa I on the summit. To explain, let me quote from my thesis (Sigiriya and its Significant, p. 11)

‘The Mhv. has recorded that Kassapa I built a vihara in Sigiriya and named it after himself and his two daughters. All these literary records (detailed above) indicate that Buddhist shrines existed on and around the Sigiriya rock before, during and after the rule of Kassapa 1’.

Furthermore, I have conceded there that, as recorded in the Mhv., Kassapa I had built a surrounding wall, a lion-staircase house, and a vihara. I discussed the question of the palace Kassapa I was stated to have built, and concluded (ibid. pp. 12, 13, 14)

‘It is reasonable to conclude, from the foregoing critical look at the references in the Mhv, that the story of a palace on the summit of the Rock cannot be true’

The assertions made by GO have no merit.

Assertion 4. Regarding my interpretation of Sigiriya as being a monastic complex, GO has asserted

‘On the face of it Raja de Silva’s argument that Sigiriya was a monastic complex is a persuasive one.’

Let’s face it, GO has softened the blow, but the fact remains that he has shown his hand: intrinsically, he has summarily rejected my thesis. I have spent much thoughtful time (Sigiriya and its Signifiance: 5 – 14; 63 – 65) on the evidence of the literary record, and (ibid: 15 – 62) on the archaeological evidence at the site, to show that Sigiriya is a monastic complex.

GO has not given reasons for his rejection; instead of meeting my arguments, he has posed two questions (the second in exasperation), given below, that I am prepared to answer:

i. ‘If indeed Sigiriya was entirely a monastic complex and in general the Mahavamsa extols such achievements, why did it ignore this case, especially because Sigiriya was a combination of both Mahayana and Theravada according to de Silva?

ii. ‘And why on earth did they focus instead on Kashyapa?

Comment 4. i. The Mhv. did not ignore the case of Sigiriya from the religious point of view. My Sigiriya and its Significance 2002: 10 shows that 2/3ds of the page is devoted to Mhv. records of Mahayana-Theravada viharas built by several kings at Sigiriya.

ii. Gott im Himmel! Careful reading of the Mhv. would show that far from focussing on Kassapa I, instead of on Sigiriya (as GO wails) the Mhv. compiler has recorded works of this king at Sigiriya (See Comment 2 and 3.ii,iii, and iv, above).

The assertions made above, disguised as rhetorical questions, are shown to have no basis.

Assertion 5. GO has published further critical assertions about my monastic complex – interpretation of Sigiriya. He has stated (Buddha in SL: 150)

`If indeed Sigiriya was a monastic complex, how does one reconcile the wonderful gardens with its many ponds and fountains with the ascetic tradition that our author thinks was characteristic of his version of Buddhism T (question mark included by me).

Comment 5. This is another distortion of what I have stated (Sigiriya and its Significance: 52). 1 have not stated that the ascetic tradition was characteristicof my version of Buddhism (at Sigiriya). To the contrary, I stated

‘The terraces of the cave shrines which have been in occupation for more than a millennium, show development (emphasis added) from the initial residential quarters for ascetic monks to serve larger purposes connected with the introduction of Mahayanist forms worship of dagobas, the Buddha and female bodhisattva statues and statuettes, and the rituals connected thereto’.

Elsewhere (ibid:106, 123), 1 have described the abode of Tara, Mount Potala, with its forested trees bearing fruit, creepers, fragrant flowers, frequented by birds and cooled by water-falls. I have also shown that Sigiriya (taken symbolically as an island) with its gardens, parklands, thickly wooded areas difficult of access, intricate water-ways and fountains, fits the description of Mount Potala; I have concluded that the significance of Sigiriya is that it was another Mount Potala, the abode of Tara.

I have also shown (ibid.: 63 — 65), that literary light shed on ancient viharas shows that they had beautifully laid-out gardens.

Assertion 6(1) GO has criticized (Buddha in SL, p. 150) my detailed identification of the Sigiriya paintings with the goddess Tara; I had done this by utilizing the known iconography of Tara (as given in several Mahayana sacred texts) with such information elicited from a study of the Sigiriya paintings. GO’s view of iconography for this purpose is that ‘We must, I think, be cautious in our interpretation of iconography’.

He goes on to recommend that one should be able to show the resemblance of the Sigiriya Taras to other Taras; that one ought to be able to demonstrate that this iconographic representation of Tara can be verified on the basis of similar archaeological features in the record of of South Asia.

Comment 6(1). Since I have not done as he would have wished, he says that the female figures have to be taker} faith as those of Tara. This is an example of the difference between the two cultures – the scientific attitude on the one hand ,,and the arts and humanities on the other, as descried by CP Snow, the scientific writer. 1, having been educated in the scientific attitude, believe that the simplest theory is the best: it is a fact that n established iconographic features peculiar to Tara (as stated in sacred books of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon are identical with n of the same features seen in the Sigiriya paintings. I shall be specific for the information of a reader who has not seen my book titled Sigiriya paintings ntings (2009: 96 – 122). 1 have identified there ten special iconographic features showing such identity, i.e., n 10. 1 have also shown, earlier, that

‘The similarity between Mount Potala and Sigiriya is derived from design. The significance of Sigiriya, then, is that it was another Mourit Potala, the abode of Tara’.


– Sigiriya and its Significance 2002: 123

It is safe to take it that these items of identity with characteristics of Tara are not accidental but have been introduced into the Sigiriya paintings by design, and the paintings represent Tara.

Besides, the greater the number of paintings there are in which these traits of the Tara iconography are to be seen, the greater is the confidence in my mind, that the paintings do represent Tara; and in Sigiriya, there are to, be seen many such paintings in the fresco pockets and and elsewhere (24 figures).

There is no need for me, then, to go to other countries for comparison in order to further support my case. See NA Jayawickrama (2002) and Richard Gombrich (2002) for their approving comments on my thesis. So, GO is loath to accept my interpretation, which he criticizes.

He takes the step of using euphemistic language to induce readers not to readily accept my reasoning: he warns them to be wary about the usefulness of iconography, i.e., to be cautious about accepting my conclusion (Buddha in SL, p. 150). Thus, he sidelines my interpretation, which is based on iconography, the only way an art critic can identify the (human) subject of an ancient paint ng that is not named by the artist concerned.

GO’s attempt to devalue the usefulness of iconography in art criticism is baseless.

Assertion 6(2). GO asserts (Buddha in SL, 150) that there is, for me, an insurmountable hurdle concerning my Tara-interpretation:

‘He refers to Mount Potala as the abode of Tara which is true: but we know that Tara’s consort is Avalokitesvara and he is indeed the main deity in Potala and in most of Mahayana. There is no mention of Avalokitesvara in the famed monastic complex of Sigiriya, supposedly strongly influenced by Mahayana, according to de Silva.’

Comment 6(2). 1 cannot accept GO”s argumentum ex silentio (that there being no mention of Avalokitesvara, the paintings cannot be of Tara) for the following reasons.

Though Tara and Avalokitesvara both have their abode in Mount Potala, Tara who was early recognized an assocate of Avalokitesvara and a bodhisattva gradually became known as a goddess (“in the seventh century Tara is established as a deity in her own right, and is said in particular to save devotees from eight great fears “(Paul Williams 2009: 225, which GO has noted in his biblgraphy); Miranda Shaw 2006: 314 states “Literary sources, too, trace a rapid expansion of interest in Tara, first as an associate of Avalokitesara and then as an object of reverence in her own right’. Oral traditions in religious practice existed for several centuries before they were put down in writings, as shown by AK Coomaraswamy (1932) 1994: 97. Thus, hymns to Tara written down in the 7’1′ century would have been in oral usage several centuries earlier, just as much as the the hymn about Tara composed by Matrceta in the time of King Kanishka co. AC 218 – 151 would have been known and chanted for several centuries before being put down in writing (See Sigiriya and its Significance 2002: 90. Therefore, we can take it that when the paintings were done in Sigiriya (co mid-6th century AC Tara was being worshipped in her own right (See ibid. 2002: 107 – 115 on dating of the paintings),

GO’s complaint that there is no mention of Avalokitesvara in my interpretation is of no value.

Concluding Comments

The accumulated archaeological evidence unearthed from more than a century of fieldwork at Sigiriya, and reported in ASCAR, was used by me (together with evidence from ancient Buddhst literature) in interpreting the meaning of the vast complex: it is a series of Buddhist monasteries. GO has presumed to dismiss this thesis without devoting even one sentence to considering/ appreciating this major archaeological and literary evidence.

I say to GO in the slightly altered words of Alexander Pope (18th century)

Know then thyself, presume not Goddess to scan, The proper study of mankind is Man.

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Sat Mag

Living building challenge



By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The primitive man lived in caves to get shelter from the weather. With the progression of human civilization, people wanted more sophisticated buildings to fulfill many other needs and were able to accomplish them with the help of advanced technologies. Security, privacy, storage, and living with comfort are the common requirements people expect today from residential buildings. In addition, different types of buildings are designed and constructed as public, commercial, industrial, and even cultural or religious with many advanced features and facilities to suit different requirements.

We are facing many environmental challenges today. The most severe of those is global warming which results in many negative impacts, like floods, droughts, strong winds, heatwaves, and sea level rise due to the melting of glaciers. We are experiencing many of those in addition to some local issues like environmental pollution. According to estimates buildings account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In light of these issues, we have two options; we change or wait till the change comes to us. Waiting till the change come to us means that we do not care about our environment and as a result we would have to face disastrous consequences. Then how can we change in terms of building construction?

Before the green concept and green building practices come into play majority of buildings in Sri Lanka were designed and constructed just focusing on their intended functional requirements. Hence, it was much likely that the whole process of design, construction, and operation could have gone against nature unless done following specific regulations that would minimize negative environmental effects.

We can no longer proceed with the way we design our buildings which consumes a huge amount of material and non-renewable energy. We are very concerned about the food we eat and the things we consume. But we are not worrying about what is a building made of. If buildings are to become a part of our environment we have to design, build and operate them based on the same principles that govern the natural world. Eventually, it is not about the existence of the buildings, it is about us. In other words, our buildings should be a part of our natural environment.

The living building challenge is a remarkable design philosophy developed by American architect Jason F. McLennan the founder of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. Accordingly, a living building must meet seven strict requirements, rather certifications, which are called the seven “petals” of the living building. They are Place, Water, Energy, Equity, Materials, Beauty, and Health & Happiness. Presently there are about 390 projects around the world that are being implemented according to Living Building certification guidelines. Let us see what these seven petals are.


This is mainly about using the location wisely. Ample space is allocated to grow food. The location is easily accessible for pedestrians and those who use bicycles. The building maintains a healthy relationship with nature. The objective is to move away from commercial developments to eco-friendly developments where people can interact with nature.


It is recommended to use potable water wisely, and manage stormwater and drainage. Hence, all the water needs are captured from precipitation or within the same system, where grey and black waters are purified on-site and reused.


Living buildings are energy efficient and produce renewable energy. They operate in a pollution-free manner without carbon emissions. They rely only on solar energy or any other renewable energy and hence there will be no energy bills.


What if a building can adhere to social values like equity and inclusiveness benefiting a wider community? Yes indeed, living buildings serve that end as well. The property blocks neither fresh air nor sunlight to other adjacent properties. In addition, the building does not block any natural water path and emits nothing harmful to its neighbors. On the human scale, the equity petal recognizes that developments should foster an equitable community regardless of an individual’s background, age, class, race, gender, or sexual orientation.


Materials are used without harming their sustainability. They are non-toxic and waste is minimized during the construction process. The hazardous materials traditionally used in building components like asbestos, PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury, and many others are avoided. In general, the living buildings will not consist of materials that could negatively impact human or ecological health.


Our physical environments are not that friendly to us and sometimes seem to be inhumane. In contrast, a living building is biophilic (inspired by nature) with aesthetical designs that beautify the surrounding neighborhood. The beauty of nature is used to motivate people to protect and care for our environment by connecting people and nature.

Health & Happiness

The building has a good indoor and outdoor connection. It promotes the occupants’ physical and psychological health while causing no harm to the health issues of its neighbors. It consists of inviting stairways and is equipped with operable windows that provide ample natural daylight and ventilation. Indoor air quality is maintained at a satisfactory level and kitchen, bathrooms, and janitorial areas are provided with exhaust systems. Further, mechanisms placed in entrances prevent any materials carried inside from shoes.

The Bullitt Center building

Bullitt Center located in the middle of Seattle in the USA, is renowned as the world’s greenest commercial building and the first office building to earn Living Building certification. It is a six-story building with an area of 50,000 square feet. The area existed as a forest before the city was built. Hence, the Bullitt Center building has been designed to mimic the functions of a forest.

The energy needs of the building are purely powered by the solar system on the rooftop. Even though Seattle is relatively a cloudy city the Bullitt Center has been able to produce more energy than it needed becoming one of the “net positive” solar energy buildings in the world. The important point is that if a building is energy efficient only the area of the roof is sufficient to generate solar power to meet its energy requirement.

It is equipped with an automated window system that is able to control the inside temperature according to external weather conditions. In addition, a geothermal heat exchange system is available as the source of heating and cooling for the building. Heat pumps convey heat stored in the ground to warm the building in the winter. Similarly, heat from the building is conveyed into the ground during the summer.

The potable water needs of the building are achieved by treating rainwater. The grey water produced from the building is treated and re-used to feed rooftop gardens on the third floor. The black water doesn’t need a sewer connection as it is treated to a desirable level and sent to a nearby wetland while human biosolid is diverted to a composting system. Further, nearly two third of the rainwater collected from the roof is fed into the groundwater and the process resembles the hydrologic function of a forest.

It is encouraging to see that most of our large-scale buildings are designed and constructed incorporating green building concepts, which are mainly based on environmental sustainability. The living building challenge can be considered an extension of the green building concept. Amanda Sturgeon, the former CEO of the ILFI, has this to say in this regard. “Before we start a project trying to cram in every sustainable solution, why not take a step outside and just ask the question; what would nature do”?

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Sat Mag

Something of a revolution: The LSSP’s “Great Betrayal” in retrospect



By Uditha Devapriya

On June 7, 1964, the Central Committee of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party convened a special conference at which three resolutions were presented. The first, moved by N. M. Perera, called for a coalition with the SLFP, inclusive of any ministerial portfolios. The second, led by the likes of Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Goonewardena, and Bernard Soysa, advocated a line of critical support for the SLFP, but without entering into a coalition. The third, supported by the likes of Edmund Samarakkody and Bala Tampoe, rejected any form of compromise with the SLFP and argued that the LSSP should remain an independent party.

The conference was held a year after three parties – the LSSP, the Communist Party, and Philip Gunawardena’s Mahajana Eksath Peramuna – had founded a United Left Front. The ULF’s formation came in the wake of a spate of strikes against the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government. The previous year, the Ceylon Transport Board had waged a 17-day strike, and the harbour unions a 60-day strike. In 1963 a group of working-class organisations, calling itself the Joint Committee of Trade Unions, began mobilising itself. It soon came up with a common programme, and presented a list of 21 radical demands.

In response to these demands, Bandaranaike eventually supported a coalition arrangement with the left. In this she was opposed, not merely by the right-wing of her party, led by C. P. de Silva, but also those in left parties opposed to such an agreement, including Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody. Until then these parties had never seen the SLFP as a force to reckon with: Leslie Goonewardena, for instance, had characterised it as “a Centre Party with a programme of moderate reforms”, while Colvin R. de Silva had described it as “capitalist”, no different to the UNP and by default as bourgeois as the latter.

The LSSP’s decision to partner with the government had a great deal to do with its changing opinions about the SLFP. This, in turn, was influenced by developments abroad. In 1944, the Fourth International, which the LSSP had affiliated itself with in 1940 following its split with the Stalinist faction, appointed Michel Pablo as its International Secretary. After the end of the war, Pablo oversaw a shift in the Fourth International’s attitude to the Soviet states in Eastern Europe. More controversially, he began advocating a strategy of cooperation with mass organisations, regardless of their working-class or radical credentials.

Pablo argued that from an objective perspective, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union would lead to a “global civil war”, in which the Soviet Union would serve as a midwife for world socialist revolution. In such a situation the Fourth International would have to take sides. Here he advocated a strategy of entryism vis-à-vis Stalinist parties: since the conflict was between Stalinist and capitalist regimes, he reasoned, it made sense to see the former as allies. Such a strategy would, in his opinion, lead to “integration” into a mass movement, enabling the latter to rise to the level of a revolutionary movement.

Though controversial, Pablo’s line is best seen in the context of his times. The resurgence of capitalism after the war, and the boom in commodity prices, had a profound impact on the course of socialist politics in the Third World. The stunted nature of the bourgeoisie in these societies had forced left parties to look for alternatives. For a while, Trotsky had been their guide: in colonial and semi-colonial societies, he had noted, only the working class could be expected to see through a revolution. This entailed the establishment of workers’ states, but only those arising from a proletarian revolution: a proposition which, logically, excluded any compromise with non-radical “alternatives” to the bourgeoisie.

To be sure, the Pabloites did not waver in their support for workers’ states. However, they questioned whether such states could arise only from a proletarian revolution. For obvious reasons, their reasoning had great relevance for Trotskyite parties in the Third World. The LSSP’s response to them showed this well: while rejecting any alliance with Stalinist parties, the LSSP sympathised with the Pabloites’ advocacy of entryism, which involved a strategic orientation towards “reformist politics.” For the world’s oldest Trotskyite party, then going through a series of convulsions, ruptures, and splits, the prospect of entering the reformist path without abandoning its radical roots proved to be welcoming.

Writing in the left-wing journal Community in 1962, Hector Abhayavardhana noted some of the key concerns that the party had tried to resolve upon its formation. Abhayavardhana traced the LSSP’s origins to three developments: international communism, the freedom struggle in India, and local imperatives. The latter had dictated the LSSP’s manifesto in 1936, which included such demands as free school books and the use of Sinhala and Tamil in the law courts. Abhayavardhana suggested, correctly, that once these imperatives changed, so would the party’s focus, though within a revolutionary framework. These changes would be contingent on two important factors: the establishment of universal franchise in 1931, and the transfer of power to the local bourgeoisie in 1948.

Paradoxical as it may seem, the LSSP had entered the arena of radical politics through the ballot box. While leading the struggle outside parliament, it waged a struggle inside it also. This dual strategy collapsed when the colonial government proscribed the party and the D. S. Senanayake government disenfranchised plantation Tamils. Suffering two defeats in a row, the LSSP was forced to think of alternatives. That meant rethinking categories such as class, and grounding them in the concrete realities of the country.

This was more or less informed by the irrelevance of classical and orthodox Marxian analysis to the situation in Sri Lanka, specifically to its rural society: with a “vast amorphous mass of village inhabitants”, Abhayavardhana observed, there was no real basis in the country for a struggle “between rich owners and the rural poor.” To complicate matters further, reforms like the franchise and free education, which had aimed at the emancipation of the poor, had in fact driven them away from “revolutionary inclinations.” The result was the flowering of a powerful rural middle-class, which the LSSP, to its discomfort, found it could not mobilise as much as it had the urban workers and plantation Tamils.

Where else could the left turn to? The obvious answer was the rural peasantry. But the rural peasantry was in itself incapable of revolution, as Hector Abhayavardhana has noted only too clearly. While opposing the UNP’s Westernised veneer, it did not necessarily oppose the UNP’s overtures to Sinhalese nationalism. As historians like K. M. de Silva have observed, the leaders of the UNP did not see their Westernised ethos as an impediment to obtaining support from the rural masses. That, in part at least, was what motivated the Senanayake government to deprive Indian estate workers of their most fundamental rights, despite the existence of pro-minority legal safeguards in the Soulbury Constitution.

To say this is not to overlook the unique character of the Sri Lankan rural peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. Orthodox Marxists, not unjustifiably, characterise the latter as socially and politically conservative, tilting more often than not to the right. In Sri Lanka, this has frequently been the case: they voted for the UNP in 1948 and 1952, and voted en masse against the SLFP in 1977. Yet during these years they also tilted to the left, if not the centre-left: it was the petty bourgeoisie, after all, which rallied around the SLFP, and supported its more important reforms, such as the nationalisation of transport services.

One must, of course, be wary of pasting the radical tag on these measures and the classes that ostensibly stood for them. But if the Trotskyite critique of the bourgeoisie – that they were incapable of reform, even less revolution – holds valid, which it does, then the left in the former colonies of the Third World had no alternative but to look elsewhere and to be, as Abhayavardhana noted, “practical men” with regard to electoral politics. The limits within which they had to work in Sri Lanka meant that, in the face of changing dynamics, especially among the country’s middle-classes, they had to change their tactics too.

Meanwhile, in 1953, the Trotskyite critique of Pabloism culminated with the publication of an Open Letter by James Cannon, of the US Socialist Workers’ Party. Cannon criticised the Pabloite line, arguing that it advocated a policy of “complete submission.” The publication of the letter led to the withdrawal of the International Committee of the Fourth International from the International Secretariat. The latter, led by Pablo, continued to influence socialist parties in the Third World, advocating temporary alliances with petty bourgeois and centrist formations in the guise of opposing capitalist governments.

For the LSSP, this was a much-needed opening. Even as late as 1954, three years after S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike formed the SLFP, the LSSP continued to characterise the latter as the alternative bourgeois party in Ceylon. Yet this did not deter it from striking up no contest pacts with Bandaranaike at the 1956 election, a strategy that went back to November 1951, when the party requested the SLFP to hold a discussion about the possibility of eliminating contests in the following year’s elections. Though it extended critical support to the MEP government in 1956, the LSSP opposed the latter once it enacted emergency measures in 1957, mobilising trade union action for a period of three years.

At the 1960 election the LSSP contested separately, with the slogan “N. M. for P.M.” Though Sinhala nationalism no longer held sway as it had in 1956, the LSSP found itself reduced to a paltry 10 seats. It was against this backdrop that it began rethinking its strategy vis-à-vis the ruling party. At the throne speech in April 1960, Perera openly declared that his party would not stabilise the SLFP. But a month later, in May, he called a special conference, where he moved a resolution for a coalition with the party. As T. Perera has noted in his biography of Edmund Samarakkody, the response to the resolution unearthed two tendencies within the oppositionist camp: the “hardliners” who opposed any compromise with the SLFP, including Samarakkody, and the “waverers”, including Leslie Goonewardena.

These tendencies expressed themselves more clearly at the 1964 conference. While the first resolution by Perera called for a complete coalition, inclusive of Ministries, and the second rejected a coalition while extending critical support, the third rejected both tactics. The outcome of the conference showed which way these tendencies had blown since they first manifested four years earlier: Perera’s resolution obtained more than 500 votes, the second 75 votes, the third 25. What the anti-coalitionists saw as the “Great Betrayal” of the LSSP began here: in a volte-face from its earlier position, the LSSP now held the SLFP as a party of a radical petty bourgeoisie, capable of reform.

History has not been kind to the LSSP’s decision. From 1970 to 1977, a period of less than a decade, these strategies enabled it, as well as the Communist Party, to obtain a number of Ministries, as partners of a petty bourgeois establishment. This arrangement collapsed the moment the SLFP turned to the right and expelled the left from its ranks in 1975, in a move which culminated with the SLFP’s own dissolution two years later.

As the likes of Samarakkody and Meryl Fernando have noted, the SLFP needed the LSSP and Communist Party, rather than the other way around. In the face of mass protests and strikes in 1962, the SLFP had been on the verge of complete collapse. The anti-coalitionists in the LSSP, having established themselves as the LSSP-R, contended later on that the LSSP could have made use of this opportunity to topple the government.

Whether or not the LSSP could have done this, one can’t really tell. However, regardless of what the LSSP chose to do, it must be pointed out that these decades saw the formation of several regimes in the Third World which posed as alternatives to Stalinism and capitalism. Moreover, the LSSP’s decision enabled it to see through certain important reforms. These included Workers’ Councils. Critics of these measures can point out, as they have, that they could have been implemented by any other regime. But they weren’t. And therein lies the rub: for all its failings, and for a brief period at least, the LSSP-CP-SLFP coalition which won elections in 1970 saw through something of a revolution in the country.

The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist based in Sri Lanka who can be reached at

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50 years of legacy of Police Cadeting at Ananda



By Nilakshan Perera

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayake wanted to forge a cordial relationship with school children and the Police Department, after carefully studying a similar programme in Singapore and Malaysia. With the support of the then Ministry of Education and the Sri Lanka Police, the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps began as an attachment to the Sri Lankan Police Reserve. On 03 July 1972, six schools were selected for the pilot programme; namely Kingswood College Kandy, Mahinda College Galle, Hindu College Jaffna, Ananda College Colombo, Zahira College Gampola and Sangabodhi Vidyalaya Nittambuwa. By 1978, this number rose to 32 Boys’ schools and 19 Girls’ schools.

Each of these individual platoons consisted of 33 cadets. The masters who were in charge of these platoons were considered part of the Police Reserve. They were assigned with the rank of an Inspector (IP) or a Sub Inspector (SI).

Cadet Corps held a selection for the camps. They would participate in annual competitions for squad drills, physical training, first-aid, drama, billet inspection, general knowledge and public relations, best commander, sports and IGP’s Challenge Shield. From these selection camps, the first three winners would be called for the final camp, from which the Island winner was then selected.

When Ananda College was selected for Police Cadetting on 03 July 1972, two of the school’s teachers were appointed as the Officers In-charge of the College Cadet Platoon. They were Mr Lionel Gunasekera and Mr Ariyapala. Later on, Mr W Weerasekera took over from Mr Ariyapala. Both Mr Gunasekera and Mr Weerasekera extended their invaluable and unwavering services for the Cadet Platoon’s success story. Both these gentlemen were there to supervise and train cadets. One could not forget Mr Weerasekera’s 9 Sri 7321 orange coloured Bajaj scooter parked next to the College main canteen. Another teacher, who trained cadets for drama competitions, voluntarily, was the late Mr Lionel Ranwala. He was the talented master who helped cadets to secure wins in the drama competition, year after year, at the annual camps.

The evening before attending the camp, a special “Mal Pooja” was organised to bless the platoon. After this, they would meet the principal, at his office, for another special blessing and a tea party, hosted by the principal himself. The then Principal of Ananda College, Colonel GW Rajapakse, gave his fullest blessings to the Police Cadets. These recognised cadets earned more responsibilities and assumed various leadership roles at the College. Prefects, Deputy Head Prefect, Head Prefect, Big Match Tent Secretaries, and Presidents of various societies were given to Cadets uncontestedly.

The Cadets stayed at the hostel, the night before leaving for camp. Our trunks were loaded into the college van and unloaded at Maradana Railway station. The most valuable trunk in the Cadet’s eyes was the PLATOON BOX. This was so since the box often contained items such as butter cakes, bottles ofcordial, sweets, such as marshmallows, chocolate rolls, and biscuits. This precious box was kept under lock and key and the watchful eyes of two Cadet Corporals.

SSP Prof Nandadasa Kodagoda, SSP P V W de Silva and a few other senior officers from Police HQ often attended as judges for different categories in the annual camp competitions, such as first aid, general knowledge, squad drill and physical training. Both these senior officers would discharge their duties to the rule and spirit.

All first-aid requirements were provided by the college St John’s Ambulance Brigade for all college special events, such as big matches and sports meets. This unit was led by 1979 Corporal Devapriya Perera (IT Professional – London) and most of the first-aiders were Police Cadets. They volunteered their services to the General Hospital Accident Ward and the Sri Pada pilgrims. It was pleasing to see Cadets controlling traffic duties in front of the college, at the Maradana – Borella main road, every morning, from 7.00 am to 7.25 am and helping with traffic duties and car park duties during the college sports meet and other functions.

Police Cadets CR Senanayake (Automobile Engineer-Brisbane), Ravi Mahendra (IT professional), and the late Dharmapriya Silva, established a swimming club that held its training at Otters Swimming Club. The School Bus Travelers Society, organized by the Police Cadets, issued bus seasons tickets for students with the help of CTB officials.

Back then when a teacher had not reported to a class, senior Police Cadets would step in and take turns to teach these classes. Deepal Sooriyaarchchi (Former MD of Aviva, Management Consultant) and Sarath Katangoda (Management Consultant – UK) were the most popular student masters in that era with their popular stories and innovative methods of teaching. This increased the popularity of police cadets among the other students. The way cadets conducted themselves had a very high impact on fellow Anandians, and the number of students attending practices rose rapidly.

On several occasions, Anula Vidyalaya Police Cadets called our Cadets to assist with their training in preparation for their Annual Camps. Having borrowed bus season tickets from students coming to College, via Nugegoda, our senior cadets were looking forward to visiting Anula to train them during school hours. This friendly culture blossoms during camps as well as outside the two schools. We still continue our friendships with Kamal Hathamuney (who joined the Army and retired with the rank of Major, residing in Sweden), Nirmala Perera, Malraji Meepegama (married to Maj Gen Sunil Wanniarachchi), Rosy Ranasekera (married to former Ananda Cadet Band leader Maj Gen Dhananjith Karunaratne) Dilani Balasuriya, (former IGP late Mahinda Balasuriya’s sister – married to Dr Priyanga de Zoysa). Interestingly our Cadet Lanka Herath continued this relationship and found his lifetime partner Ganga Thilakaratne from the Anula Vidyalaya Platoon. A famous school from Kelaniya, St Paul’s Balika Vidyalaya, too, started Police Cadeting in 1980. The writer being 1981 Ananda Sgt found his partner from St Paul’s Balika Cadet Sgt of the same year, Rasadari Jayamaha. Former Dean of the faculty of Law, University of Colombo Prof Indira Nanayakkara and Shiromi Perera (Melbourne) were the Corporals of the same platoon.

In 1972, the College platoon, led by Sgt Ranjith Wijesundara, became the Island’s best platoon. On the 23rd of July, 1983, the Sri Lankan Army’s routine patrol was assigned from Madagal to Gurunagar with the call sign of Four Four Bravo, commanded by 2/Lt A.P.N.C de Waas Gunwardane with 15 soldiers attached to Charlie company of SLLI were ambushed at Thirunelveli in Jaffna. 2/Lt Waas Gunawrdane and 12 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice. Adjutant and Intelligence Officer of SLLI Capt Ranjith Wijesundara was assigned the task of identifying the fallen heroes. Lt Wass Gunawardane was a Cadet of the 1977 platoon. Ranjith Wijesundra is now retired with the rank of Colonel.

In 1975 the College platoon, led by Sgt M A K E Manthriratne, also became the country’s best platoon and he was selected by the National Youth Council to represent the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps to travel to Canada under the Youth Exchange Programme between Sri Lanka and Canada. Manthriratne later joined the SL Navy and retired with the rank of Commander. Presently, as the President of Past Cadets, together with the ever-reliable 1982 Sgt V S Makolage carrying out various welfare projects under the banner of the Past Police Cadet Wing of Ananda.

Ananda held an unbroken record of winning nine out of 10 Trophies in 1978, under the great leadership of Sergeant Kithsiri Aponso who undoubtedly took Ananda Police Cadets to greater heights, was a leader with great charisma, integrity and leadership qualities. He became the Deputy Head Prefect and joined the STF. He later moved to the Police dept and is presently appointed as the DIG In Charge of the Badulla region.

The highest rank Cadet could achieve is Sgt Major. There were three Sgt Majors who brought honour and recognition to Ananda, namely Piyal Jayatilake in 1977, Jagathpriya Karunaratne in 1978 and ‘79, and Kithsiri Aponso in 1980. Chinthaka Gunaratne, a Cadet of 1981, also became the athletic Captain in 1983 (presently SSP In Charge of Highways) brought great honour and recognition as he became the Director in Charge of the Sri Lanka Police Cadet Corps.

College Athletic Captain of 1977, Ranasinghe Dharmadasa (Snr Manager BOI), 1978 JPPP Silva (Consultant-USA), 1980 Damitha Vitharana, (joined Sri Lanka Navy and retired as Lt. Commander and was the Director at Lankem Ceylon PLC before migrating to the UK), 1981 Jagath Palihakkara, (joined Sri Lanka Police as a SI in 1982 and at presently acting Senior DIG Western Region). DIG S M Y Senviratne another past Cadet joined the Police and is presently DIG in Charge of the Ampara Region. They also brought pride and joy to their alma mater during their time in their respective platoons and in their subsequent endeavours.

Two Sgts who led the Island’s best Platoons in 1983 Priyantha Ratnayake (Planter) and Pasindu Hearath of 2016 (Undergraduate of Kyoto University, Japan) became Head Prefects and Pasindu was awarded the Fritz Kunz Memorial Trophy for the Most Outstanding Student of 2017. The 4th of July 2017 was a great day for Ananda, as well as for the Police Cadets. 1980 Cadet Sgt who led the Island’s Best Platoon became Commander of the Army. It was a great honour for Cadets. Past Cadets organized a felicitation for Gen Mahesh Senanayake to recognise his prestigious appointment.

With profound gratitude, we remember past Cadets Rear Admiral Noel Kalubowila (a highly rated naval officer decorated with the highest gallantry medals especially having led the “Suicide Express” in 1990 evacuating troops from Jaffna Fort, Major General Lakshan Fernando, Major General Ajith Pallewela, Brig Mahinda Jayasinghe, Maj Aruna Vithanage, Maj Sampath Karuanthilake, Major SP Rodrigo, Lt Bandual Withanachchi, Director Prisons TI Uduwera, SSP Deepthi Hettiarchchi of STF (Zonal Commander Jaffna Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaithivu), SSP Amal Edirimanne (In Charge of Colombo North) were Cadets who joined the forces, Police and Prison departments, respectively.

Chairman of University Grant Commission Senior Prof Sampath Amaratunge, one of the brilliant academics and a past Cadet, always believed and mentioned that “I am where I am because of my alma mater, and shall forever grateful to my journey”. Other note-worthy past Cadets are Harbor Master Capt Nirmal Silva, Prof Rohan Gunaratna (a political analyst specializing in international terrorism) present President of Ananda OBA, Bimal Wijesinghe who excelled in athletics during annual camps.

When this writer contacted one of our Masters-In-Charge, Mr W Weerasekera, he recalled those golden days. “As a pilot school where Police Cadet platoons were formed, Ananda College played its role in achieving the aims of cadetting as envisaged in the curriculum. It gives me great satisfaction to note the leadership and achievements of the Cadets, their success in later life with the highest contribution to the society at large”

Thanks for the untiring efforts of Hiranya Hewanayake (Senior Manager – Singer Sri Lanka) and Wing Commander Pradeep Kannangara Retd (Former Officer Commanding of the Special Air Borne Unit of Sri Lanka Air Force – Director – General Manager Abans Securitas), all past Cadets who reside all over the world are now well connected, via social media.We cherish the remarkable legacy of Ananda Police Cadetting.

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