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Revisiting Wellassa

March 15, 2011

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THE Sri Lankan government has decided to nullify retrospectively the British … proclamation condemning all those involved in the Wellassa Rebellion against the British in 1818 as traitors. We think the government is going to do what the British imperialists should have done themselves before leaving the then Ceylon. Cynics, critics of the government and ardent anglophiles may pooh-pooh the proposed revocation of the draconian gubernatorial order nearly two centuries later…. But there may be ‘patriotic’ others asserting that such symbolic gestures are not uncommon. In crushing the Wellassa Rebellion the British committed … genocide … practising as they did the scorched-earth policy. Tens of thousands of people were massacred and all fruit-bearing trees felled. Farm animals were wiped out and over one hundred thousand paddy fields … reduced to rubble…. Wellassa … has not yet recovered from that brutal suppression.

It is a supreme irony that Britain … [has] not yet tendered an apology for [its] past crimes…. They built their economic empire with the blood, sweat and wealth of weaker nations which they conquered and plundered…. The Rajapaksa government is wrapping itself in the flag once again in a bid to gain another patriotic boost for its political project, which is apparently running out of steam, with the LG polls around the corner. The proposed symbolic cancellation of [the] … gazette notification smacks of a political gimmick aimed at mustering popular support.

The UNP will have no alternative but to support the government move. For it was only the other day that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe vehemently protested against what he called an attempt by the judiciary to replace Sri Lankans’ sovereignty with that of the British monarch…. We are no believers in symbolic gestures, though we are not opposed to them….

However, it needs to be stressed that the best way to prove that our brave ancestors did not battle marauding colonisers in vain is to stop grovelling before the neo-colonial powers. The government must shun partisan politics, curtail waste, stop corruption and rally everybody to develop the country. So long as Sri Lanka remains dependent on foreign aid even to fix crumbling sewage systems, condemning crimes committed by former colonial powers centuries ago amounts to empty rhetoric.— (March 13)