The Sunday Leader

By George, We Too Have Georges!

Despite our stout resistance to British occupation with the Kandyan Rebellion led by Keppetipola and other revolts by Puran Appu and all that, including recent outbursts against those British MPs making sly allegations against Sri Lanka (pressurised, influenced or even bribed) by the ‘Tamil Diaspora’ in London, there is yet a lingering interest in British royalty.

Royal College… ‘Royalists’ stubbornly refuse to call it a Republican College even in this republican era.

Whilst trying to watch the rain affected Sri Lanka – South African ODI on cable TV, we were disturbed on many occasions by members of the household with the question: Has Kate’s baby arrived? Sri Lankans did not celebrate by firing a 21 gun salute, chiming bells such as from the Big Ben or play ‘Congratulations, Celebrations’ in the Buckingham Palace court yard with the arrival of Britain’s 8lb-6oz  bundle of joy as the British did but our interest in British royalty was apparent on the occasion.

Our Georges

We were wondering about the name given to the heir apparent to the British throne – third in line: George Alexander Louis which is not altogether foreign to us. George was quite a common name here a few decades ago – as common as Ranjith.  Old timers will recall ‘Ape George’ (our George), a lawyer and leading politician on whom all Sri Lankan howlers were fathered on. There was another gentleman from Kandy, also a George who was fiercely nationalistic and had two other typical Kandyan names but he was George to one and all his friends. It was said that he was named after a British monarch – not George VI, the present Queen’s father but after George V – ‘George the Pittha’ – as he was called by Sri Lankans of that time.

We had a classmate also called George, not because his parents gave him that name. The poor fellow called the Micro Meter Screw Gauge used for measure in physics – Micro Meter Screw George. Schoolboys can be cruel and he was called George or Screw George thereafter. We have not met our friend whom we have very high regard for quite some time and we do hope he will forgive us for telling tales out of school.

Alexander or derivations of it too was quite a common name a few decades ago.  Alex was the name in common use.  Alex was the name of a Sabaragamuwa aristocrat who played rugger for his school. There were many Alecs and even Alarics.

Louis or Lewis was a name spread across the wide spectrum of Sri Lankan society. There were high ranking Louis’s and Lewis ‘baases’ and drivers. The spelling, whether it be resembling the French monarchs or the English Lewis did not matter in phonetic Sinhala script. The newborn prince goes as Louis giving him the touches of French royalty.

Sri Lankan royalty

Sri Lankans, particualry the Sinhalese have a yearning for royalty. This may be due to the long list of monarchs stretching over 2500 years which ended when the British exiled the last King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe in South India. The Kandyans seem to have regretted the loss of their king even though they conspired to the downfall of the monarch of Dravidian descent.

There is the lament of a Buddhist monk watching the English conquerors strutting about Kandy which has come down history: Ane koombiyane thopitath rajek athi, Api Sinhalayangta rajek nathi (Oh ants even you have a king but we Sinhalayas do not have one). The desire to be royal descendants is still apparent in many regions of the country, particularly in the South. Covert attempts to trace historical roots have been made, say some academic researchers. Overt attempts are being made by the brash such as physical and intellectual midgets whose claims go beyond genealogical claims to one of even re-incarnation! The claim of the reincarnation of the legendary Dutu Gemunu is now a cause of much amusement even among this political fraternity.

Royal College

The stubborn refusal of ‘Royalists’ to give up the association with Royalty even in this republican age and call it a Republican College or some such contemporary name underscores the importance of being identified as a Royalist. Every school wants to be a Royal College. There are Royal Colleges at Polonnaruwa, Panadura and all odd places even though the facilities are far from being of royal or regal splendours. There are even Royal bakeries. Whether they have connections with the school or Buckingham Palace, we are not aware.

Commonwealth Summit

This desire of most Sri Lankans to be royals and be associated with particularly British royalty explains why this government is hell bent in holding a Commonwealth Conference here soon. Despite the daily communiqués of the learned professor G. L. Peiris on the significance of holding the meeting of the heads of Commonwealth countries there is no tangible benefit to Sri Lanka. The negative outflow of the tremendous but scarce resources will never be made known. That has been the feature of such magnificent extravaganzas.

If the Queen attended the Summit it would have been a grand opportunity to show the hoi polloi the regal standing of our leaders. It would have given them ‘stature’. “The Queen herself came all the way to attend our Summit”, we could have said. But now the Queen has declared she will not come. David Cameron the British Prime Minister will arrive but he has declared the purpose of his visit is to lecture Sri Lankans on the principles of good governance. There may be a Lord or two from the House of Lords but the rest will be all hoi polloi from various countries that were once British colonies like us. Nonetheless, it will be an ego boosting exercise in these depressing times.
‘By George’ is a British exclamation of surprise. Going into the past we Sri Lankans too can say: By George, we have Georges too!

1 Comment for “By George, We Too Have Georges!”

  1. Zulkifli Nazim

    Superb! Kudos to Gamini Weerakoon

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