Continued from last Saturday
by Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa Efflorescence
Going back to the “cultural desert” remark, Goonetilleke records that Jennings thought of “Thurstan Road as an oasis” He was eagerly awaiting the transfer to Peradeniya where ” the desert would blossom like the rose” ( KR, Intro. Xxiii) .As we all know it did indeed. (Let us leave aside the “cultural desert” part.) . Being empowered to “develop” in a separate Faculty, Sinhalese, Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit studies expanded their academic vistas. I think the most momentous development was in the Department of Sinhalese. In Peradeniya, it had come under a new Professor and Head of Department, D.E.Hettiarachchi (B.A.;Ph.D. Lond; M.A.; Ph.D. Calcutta) The study of modern Sinhala literature was added to the curriculum of the Department enlisting the services of Ediriweera Sarachcnadra, a scholar who had been making pioneering studies on modern Sinhala literature, getting him transferred from the Department of Pali. This proved to be the most appropriate choice. For, Sarachchandra by his critical writings, not only guided the course of new developments in the art of the novel, short story and poetry, but also became “the father of modern Sinhala drama” in the years to come, producing the monumental ‘Maname’ in 1956. His research interests were wide and varied. In 1952 he brought out the book The Sinhalese Folk Play , described by the Times of London, Literary Supplement as ” the most interesting, indeed unique, account of the many phases of drama in Ceylon… is so wide in scope that it must surely interest all who wish to trace the development of dramatic forms” (Q. in J.B.Disanayaka, “Sarachchandra the trail-blazer”, The Birth Centenary of Sarachcandra, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 2014)Apart from literature the Department expanded its academic concerns to various branches of Socio-cultural Studies as for example in the research done by M.B.Ariyapala and P.E.Fernando. In the ‘fifties young scholars were trained in various foreign universities in new areas of research : M.W. Sugathapala De Silva (structural linguistics) Hemapala Wijayawardhana (Sanskrit aesthetics) Ariya Rajakaruna (Theatre and Cinema).
Similar expansion of vistas was noted in the Department of Tamil as well. The first Professor of Tamil Swami Vipulananda had a very progressive outlook which set the tone for Tamil scholarship in Sri Lanka taking an independent course of development which was in marked contrast to the traditionalism which characterized Tamil studies in Tamilnadu. Vipulananda is on record as being the “first Tamil Professor to recognize the spoken Tamil dialects”( M.A.Nuhuman, “The University of Peradeniya and the Development of Tamil Literary Criticism” in R.A.L.H.Gunawardene ed,pp.185-98)Among the other academics, it is noted that venturing into newer fields of research had been inaugurated by K.Kanapathipillai who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Tamil Inscriptions of Sri Lanka. In the late ‘forties and the fifties’ several others took his lead in pursuing linguistic studies. For example, A Velupillai who worked on Tamil Inscriptions, S.Thanajayarajasinham who studied the Tamil documents during the Dutch period and A.Shanmugadas who made a linguistic study of the Jaffna Tamil dialect. The more striking departure from the South Indian tradition was noted in the field of literary criticism. In South India, traditionalism was so strong in the academia that in the early days “modern literature and literary criticism were excluded from the curriculum in …the universities and Colleges.” (Nuhuman) In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, the study of modern literature was undertaken because of the progressive attitudes of the first Professor and his juniors, notably Dr. K.Kanapathipilla, who took the revolutionary step of writing plays in the colloquial dialect. The progressive Tamil academics in Sri Lanka forged ahead and it was later recognized that as far as in the field of literary criticism, Sri Lanka was ahead of Tamilnadu (Nuhuman, op. cit.).The outstanding scholar in the field of literary history and literary criticism in Tamil was V. Chelvanayagam who approached literature in a social, political and historical perspective. His pioneering studies had not been superseded. (Nuhuman, op.cit.)
In illustrating the great impetus received by the academic departments in the Oriental Studies during the early years of the Peradeniya period I have described only the case of the two modern languages, Sinhala and Tamil. Similar expansion in academic vistas could be seen in the case of the two classical language departments Pali and Sanskrit.
The point that has to be made is that these two national languages were able to expand their academic vistas because of the recognition they received in the University of Ceylon. The pre-eminent position enjoyed by the Humanities studies in the University of the 1950’ and “60’s is best summed up by the Geographer Prof. G.H.Pieris, “in the Faculties of Arts and Oriental Studies…academic disciplines concerned with historical,linguistic and aesthetic occupied centre stage while the so-called social sciences Economics, Sociology geography etc……maintaining a relatively low profile”( Pieris, op.cit.)
Talking of the country’s cultural heritage, Jennings in 1950, pays a tribute to the work done by Bell, Codrington John Still and Paranavitana ( RP , p168). He mentions that the University had taken the necessary steps to make that knowledge available to the undergraduates and graduates. But he saw that a lot more had to be done. With his vision for a University Museum where our history could be studied more intimately, he was hoping that the facility would eventually be provided in Peradeniya. He was engaged in a “battle” to get that established and the Archives (then in Nuwara Eliya) shifted there so that the whole complex would be a “convenient centre for research scholars” Ibid).We know that these things did not happen. But his vision for the study of our national heritage should be appreciated. Much more significant, as far as vision becoming reality is concerned, was Jenning’s proposal in the Senate that the University should undertake the job of writing “a comprehensive History of Ceylon”. (The Preface to pt. 1, vol.I by Sir Nicholas Attygalle, Chairman Editorial Board). People who have watched the progress of this massive project are aware of the trials and tribulations through which it went until it was completed in 1995. But what needs mention is that it was again Sir Ivor Jennings who took the initiative in launching the project.
We mentioned earlier about the Museum. It was in fact a museum cum art gallery he had in mind. Sir Ivor established The Arts Council of the university to sponsor artistic activities which he thought was an essential part of education, “the training of the emotions” as he saw it. One of the first acts of the Arts Council was an Exhibition of paintings by George Keyt, a denizen of Kandy who had achieved international fame. From the proceeds of the exhibition Sir Ivor bought the painting titled “The Offering” by Keyt which was to be the first item in a collection which would form the exhibits of the envisaged Art Gallery. Jennings is said to have established the “Peradeniya Fund” vested in the Vice Chancellor “intended to enhance the beauty of the University Park and its environs”.( H.A.I.G. , Intro. KR p.xiv) and he had hoped that contributions “would flow in like the Great Sandy River”. In 1953 its balance was Rs. 50 .”perhaps the author’s own initial contribution”. And in 1956 it stood at Rs. 146.49 and the university authorities decided to close down the Fund and remit the balance to the General Fund (Ibid.)In the last pages of his autobiography Jennings wrote about the various Endowments the University had received during the first eight years . He added in the end “the endowment nearest my heart , however, is the Peradeniya Fund which caused this book to be written”. The proceeds from the sale of the book, The Road to Peradeniya was to go to that fund. It was his hope that the proceeds of the Fund would enable the University not only to enhance the physical beauty of the University Park but also to purchase works of art to be exhibited in the Museum cum art gallery that was to come up. The following are the last words in the autobiography: “By writing this book I have made a small contribution. History will say that it was small indeed. But at least my name will appear among the thousands of benefactors listed in the Calendar of the year 2950” (RP, pp201 -2). There is no need to comment on the above facts.
The education of the two daughters of the Jennings family, Claire and Shirley was disrupted due to the war and their father’s departure to Ceylon in 1941. When the family got together finally in Ceylon, Shirley was educated in South India and later in Melbourne in Australia where she married a lecturer in the university. Claire’s education was haphazard . She worked as a journalist in Colombo and in 1952, asked her father whether she could join the university of Ceylon. His immediate retort was” you are not intelligent enough.” When they went back to England, years later, Claire passed the necessary exams and entered the university of Cambridge, graduating six before her father passed away. This story communicated to Ian Goonatilleke by Claire appears in his introduction to RP (p.xiii).
In coming to the end of this tribute, I would like to quote Ian Goonatilleke again.
” The very title of his autobiography, the cast of its content and the fact that he made no attempt to extend its coverage into his later illustrious years may well be regarded as further pointers to his single-minded resolve to place Peradeniya on the academic map of the world- the shining peak he had set himself to scale” ( intro too KR, p.xxii)
To conclude,I would like to place on record the salutary steps taken by the present Vice Chancellor, Prof. Upul B. Dissanayake to erect a bronze statue of Sir Ivor Jennings in a prominent place on the campus. Future generations of university students who have never heard of this great academic will at least get a fleeting impression of him and hopefully be inspired to discover more about the founder Vice Chancellor of the university.
Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Uttareethara Maha Nayaka Thera turns 88
It was in the year 1803 that there was a renaissance within the Maha Sangha (the Great Community of Buddhist Monks) in Sri Lanka thereby adding a fresh chapter to the history of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. This was when the Most Venerable Welitara Sri Gnanawimala Thera, the Great Prelate received the Upasampada or the Higher Ordination in Burma, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya. (The name of this monk is embellished with traditional appellations such as Bodhisattva Gunopetha or being imbued with the qualities of a Bodhisattva or Buddha-Aspirant, and Preacher to King and Emperor.)
Thus the Amarapura Nikaya, which began with this Most Venerable Thera, later spread itself very rapidly down five generations of the Sangha spanning the entire Island. These generations of the Sangha organized themselves into 22 Nikayas. This was with the blessings of each of the Mahanayakas. They also preserved the identity of each such Nikaya.
In Sri Lanka, Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha was formed in 1952 with the concurrence of 15 of these subsidiary Nikayas. Presidents of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha have been;
1. the Most Venerable Prelate Beruwela Siri Nivasa Thera
2. the Most Venerable Mapalane Pannalankara Maha Nayaka,
3. the Most Venerable Uddammita Dhammarakhita Maha Nayaka,
4. the Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Maha Nayaka
5. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka.
In the year 1962 all 22 Sub-Nikayas came together to form a more organized and properly constituted Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha. It was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thera who was installed as President and has been succeeded by;
1. the Most Venerable Dhammavansha Thera,
2. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha,
3. the Most Venerable Ahungalla Wimalanandi,
4. the Most Venerable Kandegedara Sumanavansha,
5. the Most Venerable Boyagama Wimalasiri,
6. the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa and
7. the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri.
The Most Venerable Chief Prelate Ganthune Assaji Thera is the current chair.
In terms of the Constitution approved in 1992, an Office of Supreme Prelate (Uttareethara Mahanayaka) was created, and the first to hold this office was the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera who was succeeded by Most Venerable Davuldena Gnaneesara Thera. After his demise the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera, who turns eighty-eight today assumed and continues to be the Uttareethara Mahanayaka.
He was born on 26th January 1933 and ordained as a monk with the permission of his parents, on 17th August 1948. He received his Higher Ordination on 10th July 1954 at the Udakkukhepa Seemamalakaya set up on the River named the Kalu Ganga in Kalutara.
He had his training and primary instruction in the Buddha Dhamma from his Venerable Preceptors, later entered the Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena for his education. It was at the Maha Pirivena in Maligakanda where he received his Higher Education in three languages, under the shadow and tutelage of the Most Venerable Pandita Baddegama Piyaratana Thera.
With the demise of his preceptor, Dhammavasa Thera became the Prelate of the Dharmapala-arama Viharaya in Mount Lavinia. By this time he had already become very popular by broadcasting and delivering sermons in temples and in private homes, contributing to articles disseminating the Dhamma, and articles on topical subjects through the full-moon day publication entitled “Budusarana”, then to daily newspapers, and to the Vesak Annuals published by M D Gunasena & Co., Dinamina etc.
The Thera was also engaged in social welfare activities of the area by setting up Children’s and Young Persons’ Societies within the Vihara.
With the passage of time and the demise of remarkably eloquent monks such as the Most Venerable Narada Thera, Prelate of the Vajira-aramaya, Heenatiyana Dhammaloka, Kotikawatte Saddhatissa, Pitakotte Somananda, Kalukondayawe Pannasekera and other such classic preachers, Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera stands out as a prime orator among those who came to the limelight after the days of the erudite monks of yesteryear.
Owing to the ceaseless invitations to deliver sermons extended to our Venerable Thera he travelled to various regions of the Island, yet fulfilling all his duties pertaining to his own Nikaya and to the work of the Sangha Sabha neglecting nothing whatever. With all this he continued to participate in the discharge of the infinite services expected of all erstwhile office bearers of the Sangha Sabha.
Our respected Thera was gradually chosen to hold various posts within the Amarapura Nikaya. Some such are his appointment in 1970 as an ordained member of the Working Committee and to the Post of Honorary Prelate (Maha Nayaka); in 1981 as the Chief Ecclesiastical Sangha Nayaka; and in 1990 as the Deputy Chief (Anunayaka) of the Amarapura Nikaya. At the same time it is because of his quality of being industrious that he was elected the Secretary (Lekhakadhikari).
The Venerable Anunayaka Thera who served the Maha Sangha Sabha of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya with great dedication, in order to ensure its unity and advancement, was in 1980 appointed its Co-Secretary (Sama Lekhakadhikari) and in 1992 as its Chief Secretary (Maha Lekhakadhikari) It is only appropriate to place on record that during this period of about fifteen years he performed a very special quality of service to the Sasana by updating the Amarapura Sangha Sabha; by setting up a Kathikavata (Ecclesiastical Edict) for the Amarapura Nikaya (whereby ‘rules governing the discipline and conduct of Buddhist monks including matters related to the settlement of disputes’ together with a Sanghadhikarana Panatha (i.e. an Ecclesiastical Act) were drafted and approved; and finally by drafting a strong, formal Constitution and obtaining approval for same.
It was on 17th December 2016 that the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayaka Thera became the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, and that on a proposal made by none other than the Most Venerable Agga-maha-panditha Ambalangoda Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera who, at the time, was himself the incumbent.
On 3rd October 2008 the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera was appointed to the post of Chairman, and it was on 26th May 2017 that he was elected Uttareethara Maha Nayaka or Supreme Maha Nayaka, which is the highest position within the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya.
He has visited many countries in Asia and Europe disseminating the Dhamma and participating in Conferences thereby earning great international fame. Meanwhile he also serves as the incumbent monk of the Sri Lanka-aramaya in Myanmar and of the Charumathie Viharaya in Nepal.
In the matters of national and religious issues in the country he expresses his views in such a calm and collected manner that he has earned the respect of the Supreme Maha Nayaka Theras of other Nikayas and politicians both in power and in the Opposition and of intellectuals.
He has been honored with the title of “Agga Maha Panditha” by the Government of Myanmar. Although other honorary awards were conferred upon him by foreign countries and foreign institutions he does not use them, entirely because of his humble disposition.
At the end of and exposition of the Dhamma (a Dharma Desana) at Temple Trees His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa (who was then the incumbent President of the country) made an offering to him of about 14 perches of land in Wellawatte. Upon this land stands today, the “Office of the Sangha Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya”, a three-storied building replete with all conceivable facilities. It is a matter of great joy to us that in honour of the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera it was possible for us to make an offering of this building to the Buddha Sasana, on the 15th of August 2020.
We offer merit to His Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister who are today attending to each and every need of our Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera in a spirit of extending infinite regard and respect to him, in appreciation of the national and religious service the Maha Thera has rendered.
Let us also gratefully place on record that the Honourable Sajit Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, has provided an elevator as an offering to facilitate the caring for our Mahanayaka Thera.
I also wish to thank the Doctors, the Staff of the Nawaloka Hospital, Members of the Nikaya-abhivrudhi Dayaka Sabha (Organization for the Advancement of the Nikaya) and the Dayaka Sabha of the Mahanayaka’s Vihara and who are all providing medical care.
Arrangements were made by the Dayaka Sabha and the student monks to offer alms to the Sangha to mark the birthday of our Thera when he reached the age of 88, on 26th January 2021.
On 21st January 2021 at 7.00 p.m. a Bodhi Pooja was organized by the Amarapura Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha at the historic Kalutara Bodhi to invoke blessings upon our Supreme Maha Thera.
May the Supreme Maha Nayaka Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nahimi live a life free from sickness and sorrow.
Deshamanya Ajita de Zoysa
Sri Lanka Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha
Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation
By Jehan Perera
Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.
Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”
Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.
The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”
It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.
International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.
In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”
As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.
The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.
Album to celebrate 30 years
Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.
However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.
All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.
Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.
Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.
Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.
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