There is a great rebuttal to Brohier,s remarks entitled Dutch Burgherism or
Elitism? located at
I had no idea this was such a lively issue today in Sri Lanka.
From: "Dr. Elisabeth Leembruggen-Kallberg"
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 17:17:56 +0200
Subject: [SRILANKA] Re Who is a Burgher?
Resent-Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 09:28:30 -0600
I stand corrected. I will ask my mother to explain her recollections, which
differ from Brohier,s below. It may be that my parents, aware of the
distinctions noted below, sought to off-set this attitude of ,,we,re the
better Burgher,, (perhaps McDonald,s should consider the slogan ;-). But
this legacy may explain why, even abroad, heated discussions take place at
For those who may be interested, there is a relatively new Burgher
) in Sri Lanka that I found
on the web. Interestingly, if one is a Burgher via maternal descent, one can
only be an associate member (will distinctions never cease?).
Last year, the Netherlands and Sri Lanka celebrated their 400 year
relationship. At least two Dutch books were published (with English chapter
summaries): De kleurrijke wereld van de VOC 1602-2002 (the colourful world
of the VOC); De geschiedenis van de VOC (the history of the VOC). Both
include sections on Sri Lanka. Many Dutch are surprised to hear there was
any lasting Dutch legacy on the island. I have some other thoughts on the
topics, but this is probably enough for one day ;-). Cheers to all, Beth
....Who is a Burgher? According to Brohier, daughter of Dr. R. L. Brohier,
one of the country's best-known Burghers, the term 'Burgher' is not an
ethnographic name and has nothing to do with race.
Quoting from one of her father's books, she said the term was of historic
origin and refers to a political community which has a distinctive
character. The arrival of the Dutch East India Company saw the emergence of
two classes of people - the company servants who received the company pay,
status and privileges and the other class who came out on their own for
adventure and to better their prospects and thus settled in the colonies as
In 1908, when the 'Hollandische Burgher Vereeniging van Ceylon' or the DBU
was formed those accepted for membership were identified from families
originating in Europe as well as those with lineage traceable to European
genealogies. The Portuguese Burghers and others claiming to be Burghers were
not accepted by the DBU, said Brohier.
Sri Lankan Burghers of Portuguese descent, shut out by the DBU, recently
formed a separate organization under the leadership of popular western
singer Maxi Rozairo, who was not among the participants at the conference.
Brohier referred to the many Burghers who served as lawyers, judges, civil
servants and other respected professionals saying they were men of letters,
culture and wide knowledge.
Dealing with the difference between the Dutch and Portuguese Burghers,
Brohier said the latter category were of a lower social and economic status
taking to menial occupations, sometimes referred colloquially as a
'shoe-maker' class. They were associated with lively dance forms like the
Kaffringa or Baila.
"The profile of the Burgher is of men and women who were cultured,
dignified, attractive and always well-mannered and courteous. It is for
these personal attributes as well as for their contributions to culture that
they have earned an honoured place in this country. They have merged
themselves so wonderfully by their courteous and dignified appearance and
their flair for making friends with everyone, that they are some of the most
loved members of the country," she said.
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