history/The Dutch Burghers
The Burgher Community after Independence
Over time, the Dutch Burgher community increased in numbers. According to a census in 1901 the community numbered 23.500. This number further increased till in 1942 to some 42.000. After independence they dwindled to around 34.000 of a total population of around 19 million..
Independence for Ceylon came in 1948. In that time, the Burgher community joined hand with compatriots of various communities. In the upper social strata of the community there was little ethnic consciousness. All studied in the English medium (mainly in missionary schools). This changed after educational reforms when emphasis on English as a medium diminished or completely disappeared. The language issue has disrupted the post-independence Sri Lankan society for a long time. Many in the Burgher community became apprehensive for the up-and-coming generation and the job opportunities of their children. They began to disappear, most markedly, in the 1950s and in the decade that followed. Many of them emigrated to countries remaining within the British Commonwealth. It is said in the City of Melbourne, Australia, alone there are 30.000 Burghers.
Viewing the history of the Burghers, in retrospect, one can conclude that it is truly remarkable and epic, which is rare in history. Burghers are increasingly integrating into the racial melting pot of Sri Lankan society. The Burghers in the past, as they do today, blended easily. A Supreme Court Judge of an earlier generation, Justice Keuneman spoke on the eve of Independence in 1947 of a tradition of friendliness with every other community of this island, that has been the hallmark of the Burghers and that must continue to be the hallmark of the community in the future.