Posted by: lrrp | January 20, 2006

Portuguese encounter – Reply to Satkurunathan by Janaka Perera

Raveen Satkurunathan writing in the Asian Tribune of January 8, 2006, seems to have got his wires crossed about the conference on the 500th Anniversary Portuguese Encounter held at the BMICH Colombo on Dec.10-11, 2005. His comments display either total ignorance or total disregard for what was actually discussed at the conference.

He goes at a tangent talking of Gujaratis, Veddas, Mahawansa, Sinha Bahu clan, Diaz Bandaranaike clan, the Celts, Normans Danes, the JVP, etc. etc. – issues that had nothing to do with the confab. Perhaps Satkurunathan is so obsessed with the `evils’ of so-called Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism that he is incapable of any rational thinking.

Anyone who attended the BMICH conference will know that the topic of discussion was Portuguese colonization in Asia with special emphasis on Sri Lanka and Goa. The Indian participants comprised V. Swami, Shrikant Ramani and Z. Khan.

No conference participant shifted the blame for all of Sri Lanka’s current social ills on to the Portuguese colonizers or alleged that they caused today’s Sinhala-Tamil problem – a subject which was not a topic of discussion. The issue was not who suffered more under the Portuguese administration – Sinhalese or Tamils – but the adverse impact it had on Sri Lanka’s pre-colonial society as a whole and some of its effects that are seen today in relation to the country’s ancestral religion and culture (both Hindu and Buddhist.)

Among the papers presented at the conference was one on oppressive proclamations, decrees and laws enacted by the Portuguese authorities in both Goa and Sri Lanka, and cited as examples various instances of acts of persecution, discrimination and destruction of places of worship of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. The underlying theme of the paper was the cognizance of the irony that some Western countries that champion human rights today and lecture on religious liberty to descendants of the persecuted victims of the Third World are the very same countries that had in the past systematically violated the human rights of the colonized non-Christian societies.

The conference was the result of a year’s exhaustive study by the Portuguese Encounter Group (that included Sinhalase, Tamils and Muslims) on the Portuguese colonization in Sri Lanka.

Every major historical event leads to a chain reaction that is felt for centuries. It is in this context any sensible person ought to study history. – Whether it is Portuguese colonization ore or any other subject.

Satukurunathan talks of positive aspects of Portuguese colonization. Every one with an iota of knowledge of Sri Lanka’s colonial period knows that Portuguese rule was the worst in comparison to the mixed blessings of the Dutch and British colonial regimes. The latter at least left us with some worthwhile legacy in the form of architecture, legal systems, canals, road and railway networks, a global language among others. During their rule violence and armed conflicts were far less when compared to the Portuguese period.

Satkurunathan is free to let his mind run riot. But If he truly wants to ascertain facts about the BMICH conference he may contact Hema Goonatilake so that he can at least have a look at the extracts of what was discussed at the conference.

– Asian Tribune –

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