by Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa
Today, 19th of December 2020, marks the 55th anniversary of the passing away of Sir Ivor Jennings, the founder Vice Chancellor of the University of Ceylon and thereby the University system in Sri Lanka and this article is written to commemorate his memory.
“The man who put Peradeniya on the map of the academic world” is how the distinguished Sri Lankan Bibliographer, H.A.I. (Ian) Goonetilleke described Sir Ivor Jennings in the concluding lines of the Introduction he wrote to Sir Ivor’s autobiography The Road to Peradeniya, when it was published posthumously in 2005.Formerly Peradeniya was known to students of history as the home of one Konappu Bandara who, as the 18th cen. Chronicle Rajavaliya records, by his superb military skills and adroit political maneouvers, overcame the formidable hostilities of both Sitawaka Rajasinghe and the Portuguese and ascended the throne of Senkadagaka Pura as Wimala Dhararmasuriya, to found the dynasty which was to rule till 1815. Our story which gives Peradeniya its present recognition as the site of the largest and most prestigious university in the island, may not be as dramatic as that of the founding of the last Sinhala dynasty. But the energy, steadfastness of resolve and the vision of one single individual stands out in this narration of the founding of the first national university in the island.
Patriots in colonial Sri Lanka had been agitating for some time for the establishment of a university. Starting with Calcutta and Madras (as they were known then) in 1857, India obtained, by the year 1900, several universities in various parts of the British Raj. In Sri Lanka the agitation was finally mobilized in 1906 into The Ceylon University Association which held public meetings and published a journal. Their representations were met in positive terms by some British authorities such as the Governor Sir Robert Chalmers (1913-16).There was a general consensus that the island should first get a “university college” affiliated to a British university. After the delays caused by the First World War, the Ceylon University College was opened on 1st January 1921 as an affiliate of the University of London. There were “Arts” and “Science” subjects taught there in this College with their curricula being obtained from London. Most of the teachers were expatriates (except those in the “Oriental” subjects). The subjects taught were English, Latin and Greek, European History with Economics, Western Philosophy, Mathematics, Sanskrit, Pali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Chemistry, Botany and Physics. The students sat for the London examinations which culminated in obtaining a London B.A. or B.Sc.. As could be expected the medium of teaching was English, even Sanskrit, Pali, Sinhala and Tamil being taught in that medium. Furthermore, Sanskrit, Pali and Sinhala were grouped in one department of study, which was eventually called Indo-Aryan. That department and Tamil did not get Professorships and were placed under ‘lecturers in charge’. It is noteworthy that the aspirations of those who agitated for a Ceylon University were far from being fulfilled by this arrangement. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam had expressed the hope that in the university they expected to establish “our youth will learn to use their mother tongue with accuracy and ease ( and also learn ) to appreciate the beauties of their classical languages and literatures and to realize that they are inheritors of a great past stretching back to 24 centuries (“A Plea for a Ceylon University”, Journal of the Ceylon University Association, vol. I No.1, 1906).As placed on record by one of the students of the College in the 1930’s,it had “a colonialist culture and imperialistic atmosphere” (Ediriweera Sarchcnandra , Pin Ethi Sarasavi Waramak Denne, 1985,p. 52).Perhaps one reason for that kind of atmosphere to prevail was the attitude of the Principal, Robert Marrs, “rabid imperialist” (ugra adhirajyavadiyek) according to Sarachcnadra ( op. cit. p. 73), who held that post for twenty years of its twenty one year existence. William Ivor Jennings, was appointed the second Principal of the University College in 1941 and his assignment was to establish “The University of Ceylon”. Originally when his appointment came, Jennings was not aware that in fact he had two jobs to do. One was the creation of a university in Colombo and the second was moving it to a new campus which was still to be built in Peradeniya ( Peradeniya : The Founding of a University ed. (A.T.Alwis vol.I, p.237).
William Ivor Jennings (1903-65), former lecturer in the prestigious London School of Economics, Reader in the University of London, who had taught at the University of Leeds and University of Cambridge, in the University of British Columbia (Canada) and in several universities in the US,who had earned the B.A.; Ll.B. ; M.A. and the Ll.D. He held the high academic reputation of being the author of The Law and the Constitution(1933), Cabinet Government (1936) and The Parliament (1939) which according to Goonetilleke had become “classics in the field.”When he arrived in Colombo in March 1941 he was just 38, an age in which it was possible to engage in hard work. He says about his job:
” It had not been a ‘nine to four job’. Quite often it had been not only nine to four p.m. but also four to nine p.m. and even four to nine a.m.” ( The Road to Peradeniya p. 191)
Such was the work load of the founder Vice Chancellor.
The “founding of a University” proved to be a massive job. As Ian Goonetilleke observes in his Introduction to Sir Ivor’s other posthumous publication The Kandy Road , it was a matter of “building from scratch by the banks of… the river (Mahaveli) an academic grove in the true sense of the term” This unenviable task began in Thurstan Road, where he assumed duties on March 24th, 1941.When he stepped into the “CUC, he found that it did not have “a university atmosphere.” The College was a “government department controlled by a Principal, who was responsible to the Executive Committee of Education…a body of seven politicians”(The Road to Peradeniya, p.111).. In creating the university, Jennings had two tasks to accomplish. One, which he believed in fervently was university autonomy and academic freedom. The other, which also he believed in with equal intensity was establishing good university standards, specifically in the award of Degrees.
The University Commission of 1927, chaired by Sir Walter Buchanan-Riddell (the Chairman of the UGC of Great Britain) had proposed that the university to be established should be “unitary, autonomous and residential”. This as the normal British practice. But before coming to Sri Lanka, Jennings had been warned that no politician would like being deprived of the powers of control they had been enjoying. “The Ceylonese politicians were unusually difficult,” he was told (op. cit. p112) There is one such incident on record. A member of the Executive Committee had proposed that there should be “more control over the university by the government,” to which Jennings responded with “The proposal to place the university under political control is abhorrent to anyone who has taught in a university” (Quoted in Amal Jayawardene.”Jennings on University Education,” in R. A. L. H.Gunawardena, ed. More Open than Usual). Jennings seems to have been fully aware of the possibilities when the Ceylon University Ordinance no. 20 of 1942 was placed before the State Council In March 1942.The danger of tampering with it was in the Committee stage after the Second Reading. Jennings records in his autobiography how he sat in the seat assigned to officers watching the proceedings. “I had fought serious limitations,” he wrote “with the knowledge – which I did not share …- that if any serious limitations on autonomy were inserted, I should send in my resignation” ( RP, p118).
What Jennings meant by “University autonomy” needs explanation. It was not a simple arrangement where the powers so far wielded by “seven politicians” being vested in one University officer, i.e. the Vice Chancellor. Specifically those powers were divided into two areas, administrative and academic. Academic activities would be under the control of the Senate which would basically consist of senior academics and administrative activities will be under the purview of the Council, which will consist of the Deans of Faculties and members drawn from the public. The Vice Chancellor will preside at meetings of the Senate and Council and therefore will have considerable power and influence on all activities of the University but he is constrained from using absolute powers. Thus the principles governing University activities are liberal and democratic. During his office as Vice Chancellor Jennings had to face occasions when autonomy and academic freedom were put on test. For example, in the aftermath of the Hartal of 1953 Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala writing to Jennings, expressed his concern about the growth of “Communism” and asked for advice on how to control its spread in the University. Kotelawala was suggesting a kind of political control over student and staff activities in the university. Jennings wrote back: “political control of a university is most undesirable…There are inherent dangers in a political control….The first step of any dictatorship is to ‘purge the universities’ because they are the bastions of freedom. Ought not a Democratic Government uphold and strengthen those bastions?”( Q. in Amal Jayawardene, op. cit.).Furthermore, with his wide experience in the study of politics he warned the Prime Minister that “If political control was introduced by this Government it would in due course be exercised by this Government’s successors.”(op cit.)
A lot of people refer to Sir Ivor as “the man who called this country a cultural desert.”There is controversy as to whether he said so at all. He has denied it.( RP, p. 190) Jennings as we all know was no coward and he had no need to please anybody.
He has stated that “The story that I described Ceylon as a ‘cultural desert’ is historically as accurate as the story of Alfred and the burnt cakes or a good many of the stories in the Mahavamsa.” (Q. by Ian Goonetilleke in the Introduction to The Kandy Road).In my view what should concerns us at present is not what Jennings is supposed to have said but what he has done in the University concerning the national cultural heritage. Firstly, I refer to a letter Jennings wrote on 12 August 1941 addressed to the Minister of Education and the Executive Committee on Education who at the time could decide on the structure of the new university that was to be established.. The topic was “Chair of Sanskrit”. Proposing that ” a Professor of Sanskrit at this stage would necessarily be a non-Ceylonese…a scholar of great repute and ripe experience who could not only develop Sanskrit studies in the island but also train a Ceylonese to succeed him” ( Peradeniya: The Founding of a University,vol.5,pp. 303 -4)These sentiments indicate his genuine concern for the development of Sanskrit studies in the new university. In the same letter he speaks of how such a scholar would “add a great impetus to the study of Oriental subjects … and bring kudos …not only in Ceylon but outside”. This letter indicates Jennings’ policy in recruitments to Professorships in the university he was building. We should have the best possible because , as we know from experience, the academic reputation of a Professor would affect the Department’s standing and , future recruitments will depend on his/her good judgment. As an aside, I am tempted to mention an anecdote concerning Lord Milner, the Viceroy of India who is alleged to have made a statement about some “shoddy universities ” in that country, becoming so, due in a large measure, to “wrong recruitments.” This was a finding of The Curzon Committee which examined the low standards of those universities and Jennings would not have been unaware of it.
A more important and far reaching proposal of Jennings in the letter of 12 August was about “the need for a Faculty of Oriental Studies.”This was a magnificent move as far as the “Oriental subjects” Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and Tamil, were concerned. Thereby these subjects got a developmental boost that we should not fail to appreciate. This is particularly true with regard to the two national languages Sinhala and Tamil as will be described below. They had been rather neglected or relegated to “second class status” in the University College. With his wide experience in university affairs Jennings pointed to “the lack of sufficient powers for the effective teaching of Oriental subjects” and hence proposed the creation of a separate Faculty where they would have independence to develop on their own. No doubt he saw that with the privileged position enjoyed by English and Social Science subjects such as History and Economics the “Oriental” subjects would again receive “step-motherly” treatment in a common Faculty of Arts. When the faculty of Oriental Studies was established in 1942, it was accorded primacy of status in the faculty hierarchy.
A little known fact about the creation of separate Departments of Sinhala, Pali Sanskrit and Tamil needs mention here. The seniormost academic in the field of Oriental Studies, Dr. G.P.Malalasekera while expressing his happiness that “Orientalia” would be receiving its due place in the proposed university added that “if someone with courage and vision had done this when the University College was inaugurated, the position of ‘Oriental’ Studies in the country would be very much different from what it now is”. As for the composition of the new Faculty Dr. Malalasekera proposed that it should “start with two Departments , viz. the Department of Indo-Aryan Studies and the Department of Dravidian Studies.” Next , in this letter dated 24 September 1941, he deals at length with three main topics: suggesting Dr. Kanapathipillai’s name as the most suitable to head the Department of Dravidian Studies, the possibility of getting a Sanskritist of high reputation from one of the good Indian universities and, suggesting that he (Malalasekera) be sent to India on a study tour to get a close look at how the Indian universities are coping with problems of development so that such examples could be adopted in our university ( PFU, vol 5, pp309 -311) It needs mention that none of these proposals were adopted.
Sinhalese, Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit were instituted as separate Departments of Study within the Faculty of Oriental Studies in the new University. To this was added a Department of Arabic. For the Chair of Sanskrit Dr. Betty Heimann (Ph.D. Halle) who had been teaching at the School of Oriental and African Studies was selected. She had a great international reputation not only as a Sanskritist but also as an authority on Indian Philosophy. Being advanced in age she worked as Professor of Sanskrit only for five years, but when she retired in 1949, by her energy, skill and diligence she had increased the number of students in the Sanskrit Special Degree class from 5 to 27 (Ratna Handurukande, “Orientalia in the University,” Sri Lanka Journal of Humanities,, 1994).For the Chair of Tamil, Swami Vipulananda (B.Sc. Lond; Pundit of Madurai Tamil Sangam) who had been the Professor of Tamil at Annamalai University in South India and as a scholar highly recognized for his creative and critical writings and for his translations, was selected. For the Chair of Sinhala, again a scholar, teaching at SOAS, London at the time, M.D.Ratnasuriya (B.A.; Ph.D. Lond) was invited. The Chair of Pali of course was assigned to G.P.Malalasekera (B.A.; M.A.; Ph.D.; D.Litt. Lond). Furthermore, according to a decision taken by Jennings the Sinhalese Etymological Dictionary Project was also placed under the Dept. of Sinhalese, the Dictionary staff becoming part of the Faculty.
We referred to the steps taken by Sir Ivor to appoint the best possible academics to head the Departments of Study in the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Similar care was taken with regard to professorial appointments in other Faculties as well. Thus we find the American Bryce Ryan in Sociology, the Indian D.B.Das Gupta in Economics and so on. All these steps were part and parcel of the grand design to establish a good university which could stand on par with the best universities in the world. “You may rest assured,” Jennings said in his farewell address to the country broadcast over Radio Ceylon on 20 Jan . 1955, “that as far as examination standards are concerned a graduate of the University of Ceylon is as good as a graduate of any western university” (PFU,pvol. I,p.236)How was this achieved? Writes Emeritus Professor G.H. Pieris, ” In the Arts disciplines…while not adopting a rigorous schedule of formal classroom work, laid stress on student initiative , especially in he use of the library. It was stringent in the award of ‘class’ degrees. It also followed several other quality safeguards such as the continuing employment of expatriate teaching staff, caution in the recruitment of new staff and obtaining the services of reputed foreign academicians – generally British – for moderation of examination question papers and the second marking of answer scripts. English remained the only medium of instruction” (G.H. Pieris, “The Faculties of Arts and Oriental Studies at Peradeniya,” in K.M de Silva and G.H.Pieris ed. The University System of Sri Lanka, pp.110-29)
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, Sarachcandra 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.
Covid – 19 or Avian Flu
Culling chickens Picture Courtesy: Village Square
By the time you read this, lakhs of chickens will have died of Avian Flu. Some will have died naturally. Others will have been beaten to death or strangled.
How many do you think will be buried or burnt? Very few. Most of them will land on your plate, sold at reduced prices by the poultries.
So, what, you say. The newspapers have repeatedly told you that bird flu makes no difference to the quality of chicken you eat and, as long as you cook it, you will come to no harm.
This is utter rubbish and it is being doled out by two interested parties: the poultry industry themselves, so that they do not go completely bankrupt and you continue to buy the diseased dead birds. The second is the government itself: the Animal Husbandry Ministries, who are solely invented to see that India has more poultries, more slaughterhouses. The more animals are eaten, the more successful the Ministry is. Their mandate is NOT sick people. Their mandate is to see that people keep buying chickens, diseased or not. The mandate for looking after sick people belongs to the Ministry of Health. And never the twain shall meet.
Every article will tell you that no humans have ever had Avian Flu. And that it can’t spread from bird to human. This is not true.
If Avian Flu was not zoonotic why are the birds being killed under the Infectious and Contagious Diseases Prevention Act 2009. The word zoonotic means a disease that can be transmitted to a human by an animal. Do you think any government cares when a bird suffers? The only time they wake up is when they know that the disease of the bird can be transmitted to a human. It was first detected in 18 humans in 1997 working in a live bird market in Hong Kong (again Chinese). The strain was identified as H5N1- the same strain that is in India now – with a high mortality rate. Six of the 18 humans died.
Bird Flu has spread across the country. Every single state has it and lakhs are being killed from Himachal Pradesh to Kerala.
You, who cower in fear of COVID – this is also a viral flu disease: Avian Influenza. The Influenza Type A virus has several strains. When it first came to India it was H1N1. Fourteen years later this massive outbreak is from the mutated virus now called H5N1 and H8N1.
Just as syphilis, in every language, means the disease of foreigners, every government believes that Avian Flu comes from migratory birds from a different country, who spread it as their faeces drop from the air and straight into the poultries. That country may never have had bird flu, but their birds have developed it as they fly towards India?
I find it far more likely that the poultries give it to the migratory birds, who have no resistance and so they die. According to the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six countries are considered the permanent centres for H5N1 virus in poultry. We top the list followed by China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and Egypt. In each of these countries you have to see the horrific conditions that chickens are normally kept in to understand why they fall prey so quickly to Avian Flu.
In India the poultries are like hells on earth. The chickens are kept in filthy small cages unable to move, with sliced off beaks and toes to prevent them from picking each other’s feathers. They are full of sores. Most of them have had rounds of other common diseases: Encephalomyelitis, Chicken Anaemia Virus Infection, Chlamydiosis, Infectious Bronchitis, Infectious Bursal Disease, Infectious Coryza, Infectious Laryngotracheitis, tick fever or Spirochaetosis, Avian Leucosis.
They have permanent diarrhoea, some have bloody diarrhoea from a parasite called coccidia. Most of them cannot walk without extreme difficulty and many have rickets. They have warts and a thick discharge from their eyes, they have pus filled abscesses on their necks and feet. Many of them have diabetes, and a large number have tuberculosis and they can hardly breathe in the damp poisonous air that pervades the poultry. They inhale their own dried faeces. They have a deficiency of Vitamin A and manganese, which makes them lame with swollen eyes. They cough and sneeze. They have round worms and tape worms, lice and fleas, ticks and mites. They live on a diet of antibiotics and dried food with sawdust in it.
They die often of heart attacks.
Every now and then they are wiped out by the contagious fowl pox, fowl cholera or Ranikhet disease.
How could you think that these diseased unhappy creatures would not get Avian flu?
How does it spread to humans? From those people who work in poultries – which is how COVID started. And those who eat poultry products.
The WHO started by saying that there is no evidence that the virus can spread through food – provided it is cooked at more than 60 degree Celsius. What they have neglected to say is that the chicken is handled by you long before it is cooked. You buy the raw chicken from an open street vendor, touch it with your hands, put it into your fridge, put it in various utensils, which are not washed at boiling temperatures but with ordinary tap water. You cut it and splice it and then cook it. By then the virus is in a hundred places and you could have become a carrier.
Even WHO has now diluted its own message and warns that these new mutant viruses could turn into another pandemic. H5N1 has already proven to be very dangerous to humans.
When the disease spreads to humans, it affects the respiratory tract illness, and its symptom include Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, similar to one caused by Covid-19. You will start with fever, cough and a sore throat. You can have abdominal pain and diarrhoea. All these symptoms are similar to Covid.
There have been no tests for it in India. The government labs are now rolling out a test to see whether you have COVID or Avian Flu. There is no vaccine or treatment.
Protect yourself. Don’t eat chicken or eggs. Close down the illegal street vendors. I have done that in my constituency.
(To join the animal welfare movement contact email@example.com, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)
By Uditha Devapriya
The first generation of actors who made their way to the Sri Lankan film industry, hailed, for the most, from suburban, lower middle-class, and Anglicised backgrounds. They entered the industry, despite opposition from their parents, who saw acting as an unworthy, unbecoming profession. Not surprisingly their prospects were limited, and most of them had to learn on their own, often through a patron or a mentor; this was, after all, a medium quite unlike any other, groundbreaking, innovative, and accused then as now of being too Western. Perhaps the latter association unnerved a conservative middle-class who linked it to a Westernised middle-class residing in either Colombo or the immediate periphery.
These first generation actors did not make the transition from stage hall to movie hall their successors did in later years. Many had dabbled in the theatre at school, yet few returned to it. Indeed, despite the symbiotic link between the theatre and film in the early days of our cinema, actors, in general, and actresses in particular, gained no more than a rudimentary smattering of experience in either medium. The Prema Ganegodas and the Malini Fonsekas came later, much later; until then actors continued to defy parental strictures, taking part in beauty contests, being selected by the few (mostly Colombo-based) producers and directors in vogue at the time, and finding a home of sorts in one of the studios.
Indeed, though it lacked a proper financial base, Sri Lanka boasted of its own studio system, with rivalries between producers compelling aspiring actresses to stick to one company or another. Shanthi Lekha’s career is a case in point here: K. Gunaratnam’s most coveted if not most popular actress, she was offered her first role in Sujatha on condition that she not take part in films produced by other companies. Such contractual obligations survived the change of government in 1956 and even the 1965 National Film Commission: as late as 1966, Lester James Peries had to obtain permission from Robin Tampoe to take Swineetha Weerasinghe onboard Delovak Athara. This trend would continue until the 1970s.
If 1956 didn’t entirely change this landscape, it certainly changed the perspective. The rural middle-class, forced into the background until then, made their way to the performing arts industries. Whereas earlier they would have had to defy their elders to act directly in film, now they had a safer intermediary: the theatre. Not every actress took that path; from this period one hears of Malini Fonseka among the big names that did. Yet many kept coming to the cinema through the stage hall: Leonie Kotelawala, Anula Karunathilaka, even the great Denawaka Hamine. Bilingual at most, they were a far cry from the heavily Anglicised urban-suburban middle-class who were dominating the industry then.
Naturally this second generation looked up to the first, just as the third generation following them looked up to the second. That third generation emerged somewhere in the mid-1970s – a period different to the 1960s – and their entry to the cinema differed considerably, if not significantly, from the second and first. By then, largely thanks to the expansion of the film industry and the curtailment of film imports, a rural lower middle-class were growing up on the likes of Malini Fonseka and Swarna Mallawarachchi. If they did not want to be like them, they wanted to be with them. Yet bereft of opportunity and away and apart from the milieu that Fonseka and Mallawarachchi had grown up in, few of them could hope to, and few ever did, make it to the city. Among that few was Anoja Weerasinghe.
I have seen Anoja in a great many films – the good, the bad, the passable – and from them four stick indelibly in my memory: Keli Madala, Siri Medura, Janelaya, and Seilama. It’s not a coincidence that Keli Madala and Maldeniye Simion (which I have not seen) were directed by D. B. Nihalsinghe. Nihalsinghe had been at the forefront of the industry in the 1970s, less as a director than as an administrator, overseeing the biggest overhaul of the sector since its genesis in the 1940s. The National Film Corporation, of which he became the founding CEO, had identified the Indian blockbuster as a negative influence, curtailed imports from Madras and Delhi, brought in films from continental Europe, and attempted unsuccessfully to strike a deal with a major Hollywood studio. Thanks to his efforts, larger numbers of Sinhala films began invading theatres far, far away from Colombo and the Kelani Valley.
Growing up in Badulla and attending school there and later in Moneragala – the two poorest districts in Sri Lanka – Anoja remembers seeing one film in particular: Welikathara, no less than Nihalsinghe’s directorial debut. The first Sinhala film shot in Cinemascope, it required a wide screen the likes of which were not available in theatres outside Colombo at the time. Forced to adapt, theatre owners screened it through conventional projectors, distorting the image. Despite this, Welikathara’s interest transcended its technical limitations. For Anoja it seemed like a baptism of fire: “from then on,” she recalls, “I resolved to see as many Sinhala films as possible, and to enter the industry.”
If in the city she discovered the cinema, in the village back home she was discovering the theatre. She didn’t receive any formal training until much later, but as a child, she tells me, she kept an “intimate bond with the stage hall.” Artistically inclined, her parents encouraged her penchant for the theatre. In Badulla and in Moneragala, not surprisingly, “I took part in several concerts and plays.” The first of those plays, “staged when I had turned five or six”, had her play out the role of a Japanese princess. Her first real theatrical performance came much later, when she had turned 13. The latter had impressed a visiting MP so much that he had praised her. The MP, she recalls, “came from the city”, and his comments had struck her visibly. In response, “I could only stare and gape at him.”
Going to the movies had not been easy. In the Sinhala village of the 1970s, it was considered almost a ritual. “My friends and I would invariably pick on the 6.30 show and we’d invariably go for as many screenings as we could.” The challenge was to sample the latest movies, all of them if possible, and this Anoja attempted to balance with her studies. But for a Sinhala lower middle-class village girl with very few prospects outside her home, there was really no world beyond the actors, the actresses, and the directors she consumed. From seeing them to being with them would take some years, but in the end she managed to make it with a bit role in Yasapalitha Nanayakkara’s Tak Tik Tuk.
Yasapalitha Nanayakkara released Tak Tik Tuk a year after he wrapped up work on another film that featured Anoja in a more prominent role, Monarathanne, where she found herself acting opposite not just Vijaya Kumaratunga and Malini Fonseka, but also the grande dame of the Sinhala cinema herself, Rukmani Devi. Anoja had lasted for just 30 seconds in Tak Tik Tuk; here her performance spanned the entirety of the production. Filled as it was with the great Khemadasa’s music and an uncharacteristically restrained performance by Rukmani, Monarathanne proved to be Anoja’s second baptism of fire after her encounter years ago with Welikathara. Nanayakkara, however, came and went; following him, soon to become Anoja’s mentor, was Welikathara’s director, D. B. Nihalsinghe.
To list down all of Anoja’s credits here would be pointless, both for reasons of space and for the simple fact that not all of them reveal her potential well. I can think of four films – all of which I’ve listed above – and I can think of one other which really brought out her thespian prowess: Jackson Anthony’s Julietge Bhoomikawa. Anthony released his film somewhere in 1998, eight years after Lever Brothers sponsored a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Drama (LAMDA). That milestone had come two years after she had won the Silver Peacock for Best Actress at the 11th International Film Festival in New Delhi. The winning performance had been in another film by Nihalsinghe, Maldeniye Simion.
At this point in the interview Anoja opts to reflect on Nihalsinghe. She is noticeably eager. “I was like a ball of clay under him, to be honest,” she recalls. “He moulded me. To this day, I can’t explain how he did it, and how I played for him, whether in Maldeniye Simion or in Keli Madala. Contrary to most accounts of him, he was quite gentle if not soft-spoken, careful with his players. When he instructed me, he lowered his voice so much that the actor beside me couldn’t hear what he was saying. In a very subtle manner he managed to draw out the character he wanted me to play. Working for him, acting for him, was always a pleasure. He got out what he wanted, and I gave out what I could.”
Nihalsinghe, in fact, retained his trust in her so much that he went against both producer and storywriter when he suggested her for Maldeniye Simion. “Arawwala Nandimitra, who wrote the original novel, and the producers, among whom was Vijaya Ramanayake, opposed his choice. They tried to back out. But Nihalsinghe held firm. He told them that if he couldn’t have me for the film, he would not make it. However begrudgingly, they relented, and in the end admitted they had been quite wrong about me.”
Just what makes Anoja’s acting tick? Part of her charm, I think, lies in how well she has been able, not to emulate, but to invert, Malini Fonseka. The contrast between the two comes off vividly in Parakrama Niriella’s Siri Medura. Critics have invariably compared Anoja to Swarna Mallawarachchi, but to me the analogy remains superficial at best and misleading at worst. Swarna’s forte in the 1980s (her best period) lay in how well she inverted the stereotype of the good village girl corrupted by the immoral city man. It is in how she fights back, and (as with Dadayama) dies or (as with Kadapathaka Chaya) becomes a female counterpart of the chauvinists she’s battling, that her élan comes out.
Anoja’s élan is of a different order, and I wrap up this tribute to her by recalling the endings of Seilama and Nihalsinghe’s Keli Madala, which have her as defeated protagonists; whereas Swarna emerges triumphant, even in death, Anoja can only despair and give up, though this does not make her defeat any less poignant. To me the finest performance she’s given will always be the final sequence in Siri Medura; there, with just one take, she gives completely into hysterics and runs off, shocked that she’s just killed not just the man she loved, but the woman who intervened to break up their relationship. It is a master-class in acting, and in its own way, a testament to how well that third generation I wrote of at the beginning sprang up, and carved a place for themselves, in the annals of our cinema.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hela Havula marks 80th Anniversary
By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Vice President, Hela Havula
Senior Manager, Publications
The Postgraduate Institute of
University of Sri Jayewardenepura
The need to regulate and
Language is the key instrument that binds a society, and provides the linkages to maintain the societal structure in its different fronts. Therefore, it is an utmost social responsibility of a community to regulate its language so that it would be able to meet these laudable objectives. The view that change being the order of the day everything is changing, and, therefore, it is futile to regulate a language is shallow and shortsighted. Change is inevitable, and it is a phenomenon of nature. However, a language should not be changed just for the sake of changing, unless the necessity arises for a change. Most of the changes that have taken place recently are not born out of necessity, but due to other factors including blind and naked ignorance and slothfulness to find the correct usage. Laws, rules, regulations, and procedures bring order and system to a society and its elements. In the same manner, grammar, idiom and syntax bring precision and clarity to any language whose objective is to convey a sender’s message to the recipients exactly in the same manner he/she wishes to transmit it. Politics is an honorable ‘game’. But it is now played mostly by ‘dirty fellows’. Likewise over-democratization of language has made this all-important human invention ‘a dumping ground for all sorts of garbage in the guise of language and literature’.
Establishment of Language Organizations
Among a host of cultural elements, it is the language that stands as a monolith ensuring the identity of a particular community. Each language has its own set of grammar, usage, idioms and its fundamentals on word formations. Further, it is this identity that needs to be preserved. This identity becomes more important in languages like Sinhala, Tamil and Hindi as their nouns are declinable and their verbs are conjugatable. They, in fact, preserve and sustain the identity and uniqueness of these languages. Realizing the predicament as to how these languages would behave, sans their identities, many communities have formed organizations to preserve the respective identities while doing their utmost to enlarge their vocabulary as well as diversify and develop their literature. Three such organizations formed in our sub-continental region are:
The Hela Havula
– Formed by the literary giant Cumaratunga Munidasa in 1941, and presently governed by an act of Parliament, referred to as the Hela Havula (Incorporation) Act No. 38 of 1992. An important legal provision in the Hela Havula Act being the prevalence of Sinhala in the case of any inconsistency in any legal interpretation of the law. The bedrock of the Hela Havula Act is, invariably,
The Central Hindi Directorate –
set up with the objective of fulfilling the constitutional obligations of Article 351 (of the Constitution of India) to develop and propagate the cause of Hindi language, all over the country and abroad.
Central Institute of Classical Tamil – an organization that is functioning in Chennai for the development of the Tamil language. This is an independent organization functioning under the Ministry of Human Resource Development Department.
Similar developments were taking place almost during the same period in the West as well, and some of the more conspicuous associations being:
The Académiefrançaise – the French Academy
, – considered as the pre-eminent French Council for matters pertaining to the French language. Its primary role is to regulate the French language by determining standards of acceptable grammar and vocabulary, as well as adapting to linguistic change by adding new words and updating the meanings of existing ones. As the spread of English has had much influence on other national languages, one of the main tasks of the French Academy is focused on lessening the influx of English terms into French by choosing or inventing French equivalents.
The Academy of the Hebrew Language
is the organization established for the furtherance and advancement of the Hebrew language. The Academy of the Hebrew Language was formed by Hemda Ben-Yehuda. His main industry revolved around the colossal enterprise of reviving the Hebrew language by gathering into one volume all Hebrew words.
Formation of the Hela Havula
The formation of the Hela Havula, on January 11, 1941, is a day to remember as this significant event impacted heavily on the preservation of the Sinhala language and its idiom in the last 80 years. Its founder the late Cumaratunga Munidasa was ably supported by many an erudite scholar including Jayantha Weerasekara -critique and journalist, Raphael Tennekoon – editor, grammarian, poet and elucidator, Amarasiri Gunawardana (Amarasiri Gunawadu) – grammarian, poet and elucidator. There were a host of others who joined the movement later and contributed substantially towards the furtherance of the Hela Havula objectives. They represented people from all walks of life.
The listing of all of them is an exhaustive exercise. However, to name a few in order to show the variety and richness of the association, it included the active participation of such personalities as Rev. Kodagoda Gnanaloka Thero – linguist, grammarian, editor and expositionist, Father Marcelline Jayakody – musician poet and lyricist, Father Moses Perera – hymn writer,
Ven. Thirikunamale Ananda Anunayaka Thera, editor and poet, (teacher, , poet and editor and lexicographer, Manahanama Dissanayake – editor, journalist and poet, W. M (Wema) Perera – teacher and editor, Sunil Santha – lyricist and musician, Sir Raazeek Zaruk – lawyer, Jayamaha Wellala – poet, Hubert Dissanayake – writer, poet and lyricist, Alau Isi Sebi Hela – teacher, writer, poet and expositionist, Prof. (doctor, lyricist), Mohotti Don David -journalist and editor, Prof. Vinnie Vitharana -university don, author and expositionist, Aelian de Silav – engineer, linguist, editor and critique, – writer and critique, – teacher, author and poet, D.V. Richard De Silva – teacher, and author, K B (Ku.Be) Jayasuriya – teacher and author, P. C. Rathnayake -teacher and writer, Gamini Thilakawardana – author, poet and journalis, Hubert Dissanayake – writer and lyricist, Anandapiya Kudathihi – editor, journalist and poet, Gunapala Senadeera – educationist, expositionist and poet, Jayasekara Abeyruwan – author, P.B. Balasuriya – teacher and writer, A. D. (A. Do) Chandrasekara – teacher and author, Hemasiri Kumaratunga – writer and critique, D. D, N (Da Du Na) Weerakoon – writer and editor, K. A. S. Kalyanaratne (Sumanadas Kalanaruwan) – critique and poet and Bandusena Gunasekara – university don, writer and editor, Hemasiri Cumaratunga – editor, writer and critique, Amarasiri Ponnamperuma – ayurvedic physician, poet and editor.
Hela Havula and its main objectives
It is in the light of the above one needs to look at the main objectives of the Hela Havula, which marks its 80th anniversary on January 11, 2021. It is expected to fulfil the following?
(a) to promote and develop the Sinhala language, literature and culture;
(b) to protect the rights and interests of the Sinhala people;
(c) to organize and hold seminars and conferences at the national and international
(d) to promote research in languages and to give publicity to literary works;
(e) to foster unity and to promote the dissemination of the traditional spiritual values among the Sinhala people; and
(f) to do such other acts and things as are conducive or incidental to the attainment of all or any of the above objects.
Relevance of reviewing the 80-year march of the Hela Havula
Viewing in retrospect the 80-year march of an organization that was committed to doing its utmost for the sustainability and progress of a language and its literature is, indeed, a healthy way of ascertaining how far it had tread, and whether its objectives have been met as expected. It is, in fact, an exercise in self-criticism, which helps pointing out the weaknesses one needs to overcome, and the strengths one needs to sharpen. Such a review would also provide an opportunity for those who intend joining the movement to assess if it has served and whether it would serve a useful purpose in the years to come.
Planning and reforming the Sinhala language
The Hela Havula, therefore, as the organization responsible for the sustenance and propagation of the Sinhala language (as no other institute or organization has assumed this role) has taken over the responsibility for the planning as well as establishing the norms of the language.
Planning calls for the initial task of researching and discovering the norms and rules that were used and adopted by the writers of the past. This, in fact, is researching or probing into the rules and norms that referred to by Einar Ingval Haugen, (American linguist, author and professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Harvard University), as language planning and corpus planning. Haugen, later labeled the former category Codification or Standardization procedure, and the latter Elaboration or the functional development of the language.
Preparing the platform to launch the Hela Havula
The normal approach followed in forming an association is to consider its ingredients/components only after it is launched. But the more prudent method would be to prepare the platform before launching of the movement, as a movement cannot exist, sustain and survive unless the necessary conditions prevail for its establishment and continuance. Kumaratunga didn’t want to take chances in the launching of the Hela Havula. He being a visionary par excellence, foresaw the components and the background for such a movement to thrive sans any hiccups. It is due to this visionary thinking that the Hela Havula, has survived for a period of eighty (80) long years, amidst grave challenges. Among the many ingredients that were needed for the Hela Havula to thrive, the following were considered as more important and essential.:
Unearthing the correct Sinhala idiom and usage: As the Hela Havula was established mainly for the continuity and furtherance of the correct Sinhala idiom and usage, Kumaratunga studied in entirety the classics (both prose and verse) of yesteryear, and fished out the correct usage the current Sinhala language should follow. Herein Gurulugomi’s Amavatura and Dharmapradeepikawa were held in high esteem as they projected the personality the Sinhala language should possess.
Establishing the methodology to be followed in the exposition of classical Sinhala literary works. It was only after Kumaratunga’s exposition of Sinhala classics such as Sasadava (Sasada Vivaranaya) and Mayura Sandesaya (Mayura Sandesa Vivaranaya) that the later scholars adopted the methodology for undertaking similar expositions in the future.
Bringing order to the Sinhala grammar through the two seminal works Vyakarana Vivaranaya and Kriya Vivaranaya. In the introduction to the Vyakarana Vivaranaya Kumaratunga says “Grammar is the laws that regulate a language. … Therefore, what the grammarian should do is to study the laws of grammar by studying the usage of the language, winnow the (chaff), ascertain the conspicuous peculiarities and reproduce them concisely. ” Introduction to Vyakarana Vivaranaya, 1937). Kriya Vivaranaya, an exposition of the Sinhala verb, is an unparalleled study, and a unique scholarly work which has not been matched or superseded by any other subsequent expositions on the Sinhala verb. Verbs represent the most knotty and complex grammatical category in any language. Precision in any language, for that matter, is determined by the preciseness of its verbal expressions. It is the verb that gives meaning to a sentence.
Introduction of creative works – both prose and verse – Kumaratunga showed how creative works could be produced in both prose and poetic (verse) forms. His Piya Samara (Remembering Father) is considered by the current day literati as a unique piece of writing composed in gee style. His poetic compositions done in different meters, exemplify clearly his in-depth knowledge of our poetic compositions. His ‘Kavi Shikshava’ and ‘Virith Vekiya’ are two seminal works that provide the Sinhala poets with a comprehensive knowledge on both poetic compositions as well as the closeness that needs to exist between the poetic subject and the meter selected to convey the meaning. He explicitly states that the meter or viritha is not secondary but a complimentary component of a poem.
Exposing the methodology for rendering foreign words into Sinhala. Other than the ‘indeclinable words’ (Nipatha pada) the rest of the words, nouns and verbs are declinable and conjugatable respectively. Kumaratunga exposed the three-way approach applicable for rendering of foreign words into Sinhala:
Sinhalising the foreign word by converting it to a declinable form, examples being basaya for bus, kulagiya for college
(ii) Rendering into Sinhala the foreign word by adopting Sinhala words that almost sound similar, examples being, talabamanaya for turbine, taliksuva for telescope, miyasiya for music, and Kamituwa for committee.
Rendering of foreign words into Sinhala, based on Sinhala noun/verbal roots, examples being, sarasaviya for university, purapati for mayor, hediya for nurse, sirasthalaya for headline, lipigonuwa for file.
Responsibilities cast on the Hela Havula
As the main cultural component of a community is its language, over the years the Hela Hawula has strived hard to continue to maintain the correct Sinhala idiom by publishing a considerable number of works on grammar, based on the presumption that
“Grammar is the basis of a language, the framework on which ideas are hung, and the loftiest imagery of thought can fall flat if ungrammatically expressed. (The Right Way to Improve Your English by J.E. Metcalfe, Eliot Books UK, 1958). It is on record that celebrated writer G. K. Chesterton once said that ‘easy reading meant hard writing’. One could imagine then the task the late scholar Cumaratunga Munidasa and those of the Hela Havula undertook to discover/ unearth the Sinhala literary tradition, and create the desired standards in the language for present and future writers to produce their literary work including technological literature without causing confusion among the readership
This is what Cumaratunga Munidasa did through his Vyakarana Vivaranaya and the Kriya Vivaranaya. Elaborating and further explaining his expositions a gamut of linguistic works were produced by scholars of the Hela Havula. Among, these the following stand out as more prominent:
Honda Sinhala by Raphael Tennekoon
Sinhalaye Pada Bedeema by Arisen Ahubudu and Liyanage Jinadas
Jyeshta Sinhalaya by JayasekaraAbeyruwan
Vyakarana Visithura by Vini Vitharana
Akshara Shikshava by Srinath Ganewatte, and
Na-na-la-la Vahara by Anandapiya Kudathihi
by A. P. Gunaratne
It thus seems that on grammar and overall issues on the Sinhala language and literature it is the Hela Havula that is calling the shots.
However, a word of caution as the Hela Havula being the only organized body having the backing of a legally accepted framework, it needs to be more vigorous in its strategy and approach. It is admitted that in the prevailing circumstances it is extremely difficult to marshal the resources to sustain the movement in the desired vigour and rigour. However, the Hela Havula needs to be ever vigilant of its responsibilities and commitments. Realising the context in which it has to deliver the goods, those of the Hela Havula should be thorough and competent as it is destined to face daunting challenges. The following are a few vulgarisations that have recently crept into the language:
Divi magaDivi mangaDivi negumaDivi nengumaJaya gamuJaya ganimuViyath MagaViyath MangaSamagi Jana BalavegayaSamangi Jana BalavegayaNeganiya Nenganiya
Uniqueness of the Sinhala language and its alphabet
Professor Emeritus J. B. Dissanayaka has correctly realized the uniqueness and creativity of the Sinhala language and its alphabet. In his Encyclopaedia of the Sinhala Language he says “The numerous linguistic features that made Sinhala a unique Indo-Aryan language are remarkable. Suffice to say that they even modified the Brahmi script that they inherited from India by the addition of two sets of letters: the two vowels to denote the sounds [a] in English ‘and’ and ‘ant’, and a set of four nasalized consonants, which are unique in Sinhala. Hence, to eliminate the nasalized consonant ‘nga’ and use vulgarized words as ‘VIYATH MAGA’, ‘SAMAGI JANA BALA VEGAYA’,’DIVI NEGUMA’, ‘DIVI MAGA’ and ‘NEGANIYA’ are, in short, heinous crimes.
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