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High cost of scuttling English language skills we once had



by Goolbai Gunasekara

Recently, the full tragedy of over 400 Sri Lanka-trained nurses being declared unsuitable to work in the USA because of their lack of English proficiency has shocked all of us. Despite opposition by some chauvinists many of us have persevered in our attacks on the former stupidity of the education policy of this country. Only FOUR out of 400 applicants passed the English proficiency test conducted by the USA for applicants of nursing jobs abroad. This is a good measure of the sad, bad standard of English in our island.

Almost simultaneously, we have a Booker Prize Award deservedly won by a Lankan – but let this not make is feel any better. Shehan Karunatilalake won the Booker award DESPITE, not BECAUSE, of the educational policy of our island. Then, recently, Kanya D’Almeida won the Commonwealth Essay Award and is now an established writer in English. But she won it BACAUSE a good English education at an International School in Sri Lanka helped her (as she regularly acknowledges.)

This dichotomy reflects our tragedy. The ‘average’ Lankan hasn’t a hope of ever getting anywhere in the international arena because the schooling given here is so substandard and out of date…..and it is given in Sinhala or Tamil. (Tamil is at least spoken elsewhere in the world but not Sinhala).Let us face this fact. Only a few million people speak Sinhala and it has no use on the world stage.

In my unpopular opinion, it is the International Schools, Colombo’s Private Schools and Foreign Universities (one in the USA which produced Kanya) which have kept a tiny percentage of our students capable of keeping up with the world. At the other end of the spectrum, I have a 19-year old maid, who cannot even tell the time, albeit being bright and smart. She is from the Deniyaya area and barely attended school. She tells me there are many like her.

Let us face reality…… an appallingly desperate reality….. Sri Lanka is not only bankrupt financially but is educationally bankrupt as well. The small percentage of well educated, English speaking Sri Lankans is no thanks to the system of Education given to us by foolish policy makers under formerly stupid Ministers. Mr Premjayanth is certainly not stupid but what can he do alone? He announced a return to English but there was a dead silence about it in the months that followed. He was presumably shot down by our Sinhala educated pundits.

For once let us forget the word ‘elite’ and try to bring ALL island schools up to the levels of the good private institutions in the country without bringing good schools down to government school levels (as was done in the past). Schools left to their own devices somehow pull themselves up. I have seen small International Schools competing comfortably, with the better established International Schools of the TISSL group after a few initial years of difficulty thus proving my point that it is possible to change the entire system if we set our minds to it.

Obviously I believe in private education for those who can afford it. In fact I think those who can afford it SHOULD be made to pay something to help a bankrupt nation. Free education has to be given of course, but it is being ridiculously and ineptly applied when we see that many children cannot even take advantage of it. Do the children of the starving farmer community even think of going to school? How can they afford the many little expenses that free education does not cover?

Recently my part-time masseuse told me she had to pay Rs. 8,000/ for her child’s prefect-ship. His blazer etc cost that much. She earns just Rs.50,000/- per month as a seamstress and a little extra as a masseuse. But she could not deny her clever son the honour of being a prefect . She borrowed the money from her sister.

Those are the problems of a city dweller who has no way to earn more. The foolishness of insisting on blazers seems unbelievable. We are a hot country and the blazer business was copied from the old British days by Colombo schools. My opinion (unpopular of course) is to ban them in ALL schools and introduce a cheaper but distinguishing garment to be used at Inter School competitions.

Let the Government take the advice of those who have nothing to do with the Government and then implement those policies even against the views of those vociferous Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists who have so far decimated the educational policies of this once educated Island.

Let us not fool ourselves. Being able to read and write does not make us 90% literate as we proudly announce every so often. Our youngsters are not really EDUCATED. Those 400 nurses are ‘educated’ Sri Lankan style but cannot compete in an international arena.

The usual noises are being made about great changes being made in the field of education but so far neither have experts like Dr. Tara de Mel been even consulted, nor have there been any practical ideas about how Sri Lanka plans on upgrading the whole sorry system.

We are broke. A certain politician has not paid electricity bills of over two and a half million we hear. Others are spending money as if we are still a prosperous nation. Why is our Ministry of Health headed by a man with such a tarnished reputation? Why are so many of our Ministries in charge of men whose reputations are quite appalling. In fact too many of our Parliamentarians are thoroughly disliked although one must admit that the President is doing what he can with a few good men and within the restricting framework of a crippled system.

A much admired gentleman I know made the comment recently that it is a great pity that the corrupt parliamentarians who went into hiding are “coming out of the woodwork” without shame. We hope that such people are NOT nominated again to run for election (whenever elections are called.) For instance we have vivid recollections of Akila Viraj who wanted his photo printed in text books. How did such an idea even lodge in his brain? His hold on reality seems badly askew. Let us hope that the men fielded by parties to run for office are men of character, education and intelligence.

Let INTEGRITY be the keynote.

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Breathtaking new paintings found at ancient city of Pompeii




The frescoes depict Greek mythology: Paris kidnaps Helen which triggers the Trojan War (BBC)

Stunning artworks have been uncovered in a new excavation at Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried in an eruption from Mount Vesuvius in AD79.

Archaeologists say the frescoes are among the finest to be found in the ruins of the ancient site.

Mythical Greek figures such as Helen of Troy are depicted on the high black walls of a large banqueting hall.

The room’s near-complete mosaic floor incorporates more than a million individual white tiles.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe The Black Room

The black room has only emerged in the last few weeks. Its white mosaic floor is almost complete (BBC)

A third of the lost city has still to be cleared of volcanic debris. The current dig, the biggest in a generation, is underlining Pompeii’s position as the world’s premier window on the people and culture of the Roman empire.

Park director Dr Gabriel Zuchtriegel presented the “black room” exclusively to the BBC on Thursday.

It was likely the walls’ stark colour was chosen to hide the smoke deposits from lamps used during entertaining after sunset. “In the shimmering light, the paintings would have almost come to life,” he said.

Two set-piece frescoes dominate. In one, the god Apollo is seen trying to seduce the priestess Cassandra. Her rejection of him, according to legend, resulted in her prophecies being ignored.The tragic consequence is told in the second painting, in which Prince Paris meets the beautiful Helen – a union Cassandra knows will doom them all in the resulting Trojan War.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe One of the "black room" frescos discovered in Pompeii, showing Apollo trying to seduce the priestess Cassandra

The god Apollo is depicted on one of the frescos trying to seduce the Trojan priestess Cassandra (BBC)

The black room is the latest treasure to emerge from the excavation, which started 12 months ago – an investigation that will feature in a documentary series from the BBC and Lion TV to be broadcast later in April.

A wide residential and commercial block, known as “Region 9”, is being cleared of several metres of overlying pumice and ash thrown out by Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago.

Staff are having to move quickly to protect new finds, removing what they can to a storeroom.

For the frescoes that must stay in position, a plaster glue is injected to their rear to prevent them coming away from the walls. Masonry is being shored up with scaffolding and temporary roofing is going over the top.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Fresco protection

A plaster glue must be injected behind a fresco or it is likely to come away from the wall (BBC)

Chief restorer Dr Roberta Prisco spent Tuesday this week trying to stop an arch from collapsing. “The responsibility is enormous; look at me,” she said, as if to suggest the stress was taking a visible toll on her. “We have a passion and a deep love for what we’re doing, because what we’re uncovering and protecting is for the joy also of the generations that come after us.”

BBC Map showing excavations in Pompeii

Region 9 has thrown up a detective story for archaeologists.

Excavations in the late 19th Century uncovered a laundry in one corner. The latest work has now revealed a wholesale bakery next door, as well as the grand residence with its black room.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Reception Hall

In the reception hall, rubble in the far right corner is from renovation at the time of the eruption (BBC)

The team is confident the three areas can be connected, physically via the plumbing and by particular passageways, but also in terms of their ownership.

The identity of this individual is hinted at in numerous inscriptions with the initials “ARV”. The letters appear on walls and even on the bakery’s millstones.

Dr Sophie Hay explained how a rich politician left his mark on the buildings

“We know who ARV is: he’s Aulus Rustius Verus,” explained park archaeologist Dr Sophie Hay. “We know him from other political propaganda in Pompeii. He’s a politician. He’s super-rich. We think he may be the one who owns the posh house behind the bakery and the laundry.” What’s clear, however, is that all the properties were undergoing renovation at the time of the eruption. Escaping workers left roof tiles neatly stacked; their pots of lime mortar are still filled, waiting to be used; their trowels and pickaxes remain, although the wooden handles have long since rotted away.

Dr Lia Trapani catalogues everything from the dig. She reaches for one of the thousand or more boxes of artefacts in her storeroom and pulls out a squat, turquoise cone. “It’s the lead weight from a plumb line.” Just like today’s builders, the Roman workers would have used it to align vertical surfaces.

She holds the cone between her fingers: “If you look closely you can see a little piece of Roman string is still attached.”

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Plumb line

It’s possible to see a remnant piece of string around the neck of the plumb line (BBC)

Dr Alessandro Russo has been the other co-lead archaeologist on the dig. He wants to show us a ceiling fresco recovered from one room. Smashed during the eruption, its recovered pieces have been laid out, jigsaw-style, on a large table.

He’s sprayed the chunks of plaster with a mist of water, which makes the detail and vivid colours jump out.

You can see landscapes with Egyptian characters; foods and flowers; and some imposing theatrical masks.

“This is my favourite discovery in this excavation because it is complex and rare. It is high-quality for a high-status individual,” he explained.

BBC/Jonathan Amos Ceiling fresco

The archaeologists have had to piece together a ceiling fresco that was shattered during the volcanic eruption (BBC)

But if the grand property’s ceiling fresco can be described as exquisite, some of what’s being learned about the bakery speaks to an altogether more brutal aspect of Roman life – slavery.

It’s obvious the people who worked in the business were kept locked away in appalling conditions, living side by side with the donkeys that turned the millstones. It seems there was one window and it had iron bars to prevent escape.

It’s in the bakery also that the only skeletons from the dig have been discovered. Two adults and a child were crushed by falling stones. The suggestion is they may have been slaves who were trapped and could not flee the eruption. But it’s guesswork.

“When we excavate, we wonder what we’re looking at,” explained co-lead archaeologist Dr Gennaro Iovino.

“Much like a theatre stage, you have the scenery, the backdrop, and the culprit, which is Mount Vesuvius. The archaeologist has to be good at filling in the gaps – telling the story of the missing cast, the families and children, the people who are not there anymore.”

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Mosaic floor
There are certainly more than a million tiles in the mosaic floor, possibly up to three million (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe Roman lamp
Boxes full of artefacts: One of the many oil lamps recovered during the excavation (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe Fresco showing Leda and the Swan
Another fresco depicts Leda and Zeus in the form of a swan, whose union would lead to Helen’s birth (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe A piece of moulded cornicing painted in bright colours
Brilliant colours: Ornate cornicing was also preserved under the volcanic debris (BBC)
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Democracy continuing to be derailed in South Asia



A scene from Sri Lanka’s ‘Aragalaya’ of 2022.

Sections of progressive opinion in Sri Lanka are currently commemorating the second anniversary of the country’s epochal ‘Aragalaya’, which brought down the dictatorial and racist Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regime. April 9th 2022 needs to be remembered especially as the date on which Sri Lankans in their tens of thousands, irrespective of ethnic, religious and language differences rose as one to impress on the country’s political class and rulers that their fundamental rights cannot be compromised or tampered with for whatever reason and that these rights should be realized henceforth.

During the ‘Aragalaya’, Sri Lanka attained nationhood, since the totality of the country’s social groups, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, spoke out for equity and equality among them, from the same platform. Thus was Sri Lankan nationhood born, which is quite different from statehood. It is left to progressives to ensure that Sri Lankan nationhood, thus born out of the ‘Aragalaya’, does not prove to be stillborn.

To express it briefly, political ‘Independence’ or statehood is believed by most Sri Lankans to have been attained in 1948 but this is not tantamount to achieving nationhood. The latter is realized when equity and equality are established among a country’s communities.

Of course, we are a long way from achieving these aims but the historic significance of the ‘Aragalaya’ consists in the fact that the ideals central to nationhood were articulated assertively and collectively in Sri Lanka as never before. The opinion climate conducive to nation-building, it could be said, was created by the ‘Aragalaya’.

It is left to the progressives of Sri Lanka to forge ahead with the process of realizing the ideals and central aims of the ‘Aragalaya’, without resorting to violence and allied undemocratic approaches, which are really not necessary to bring about genuine democratic development.

The ‘Aragalaya’ was a historic ‘wake-up’ call to the country’s political elite in particular, which, over the years could be said to have been engaged more in power aggrandizement, rather than nation-building, which is integral to democratic development. Given this bleak backdrop, it amounts to a huge joke for any prominent member of the country’s ruling class to make out that he has been ‘presiding over the only country in Asia where democracy is completely safeguarded.’

To begin with, a huge question mark looms over Sri Lanka’s true constitutional identity. It is not a fully-fledged parliamentary democracy in view of the substantive and sweeping powers wielded by the Executive Presidency and this issue has been discussed exhaustively in this country.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka is not free of strong theocratic tendencies either because there is no clear ‘separation wall’, so to speak, between religion and politics. The fact is that Sri Lanka’s rulers are constitutionally obliged to defer to the opinion of religious leaders. Therefore, Sri Lanka lacks a secular foundation to its political system. This columnist is inclined to the view that in terms of constitutional identity, Sri Lanka is ‘neither fish, flesh nor fowl.’

Moreover, the postponement of local and Provincial Council polls in Sri Lanka by governments alone proves that what one has in Sri Lanka is at best a ‘façade democracy’.

derailing democracy in Sri Lanka goes Religious and ethnic identities in particular continue to be exploited and manipulated by power aspirants and political entrepreneurs to the huge detriment of the countries concerned.

Needless to say, such factors are coming into play in the lead-up to India’s Lok Sabha polls. They are prominent in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well. Statesmanship is a crying need in these societies but nurturing such leaders into existence will prove a prolonged, long term project, which also requires the interplay of a number of vital factors, many of which are not present to the desired degree in the countries concerned.

However, of the ‘South Asian Eight’, India is by far the most advanced democracy. It has a Constitution that explicitly enshrines the cardinal rights of the people, for example, including the very vital Right to Life. Such a right is non-existent in the Sri Lankan Constitution, for instance, and this is a huge drawback from the viewpoint of democratic development. Among other things, what this means is that the Sri Lankan state exercises substantive coercive power over its citizens.

On the other hand, the Indian Supreme Court has time and again creatively interpreted the Right to Life, so much so life-threatening conditions faced by Indian citizens, for instance, have been eliminated through the caring and timely intervention of the country’s judiciary. Sri Lanka needs to think on these things if it intends to entrench democratic development in the country. Thus far, the country’s track record on this score leaves much to be desired.

A predominant challenge facing progressives of South Asia, such as the ‘Aragalaists’ of Sri Lanka, is how to forge ahead with the task of keeping democratization of the state on track. A negative lesson in this connection could be taken from Bangladesh where the ideals of the 1971 liberation war under Shiekh Mujibhur Rahman were eroded by subsequent regimes which exploited divisive religious sentiments to come to power. In the process, religious minorities came to be harassed, persecuted and savaged by extremists in the centre.

Whereas, the founding fathers of Bangladesh had aimed to create a secular socialist state, this was not allowed to come to pass by some governments which came to power after the Sheikh, which sought to convert Bangladesh into a theocracy. A harrowing account of how the ideals of 1971 came to be betrayed is graphically provided in the international best seller, ‘Lajja’ by Taslima Nasrin, the exiled human and women’s right activist of Bangladesh.

At page 60 of the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Lajja’, published by Penguin Books, Nasrin quotes some persons in authority in Bangladesh as telling the country’s Hindus during the religious riots of 1979; ‘The government has declared that Islam is the state religion. If you want to stay in an Islamic country all of you must become Muslims. If you don’t become Muslims you will have to run away from this country.’

Not all the post-liberation governments of Bangladesh have turned against the ideals of 1971 and the present government is certainly not to be counted as one such administration. But the lesson to be derived from Bangladesh is that unless progressive opinion in a secular democracy is eternally vigilant and proactively involved in advancing democratic development, a country aiming to tread the path of secularism and democracy could easily be preyed upon by the forces of religious extremism.

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Deeply Passionate about modelling and the fashion industry



01. Tell me something about yourself:

Hey there! I’m a 30-year-old guy, deeply passionate about modelling and the fashion industry. Every day is an exciting adventure as I get to work with incredible designers, photographers, and stylists to bring their visions to life. My job takes me to various locations, from bustling cities to serene landscapes, for photo shoots and runway shows. I love the creativity and versatility this career offers, allowing me to express myself through different styles and concepts. It’s a fast-paced world, but I thrive on the energy and challenges it brings.

02. What made you decide to be a model?

I decided to become a model because I have a deep passion for fashion, creativity, and self-expression. The opportunity to collaborate with talented individuals in the industry, such as designers, photographers, and stylists, was a major driving force. Overall, modelling allows me to showcase my unique personality and style while pursuing a career that fuels my passion for creativity and expression.

03. What do you think sets you apart from other models?

A combination of factors; Passion and Dedication: I have a deep passion for modelling and the fashion industry, which is evident in my commitment to my craft and continuous pursuit of excellence. Versatility: I thrive on the diversity of styles and concepts in modelling, showcasing my ability to adapt and excel in various fashion trends and themes. Adventurous Nature: The willingness to travel to different locations for assignments and embrace new challenges shows my adventurous spirit and openness to new experiences. Creative Expression: My work reflects a unique blend of creativity, personality, and style, setting me apart and making my presence memorable in the competitive world of modelling. And, working seamlessly with designers, photographers, and stylists demonstrates my strong collaborative skills and professionalism, making me a valuable asset on any project.

04. What clothing do you prefer to model?

The cloths I prefer to model are outfits that have style, class and sophistication.

05. What do you think is the most important aspect of modeling?

The most important aspects of modelling are professionalism, versatility, confidence, health, and networking. These elements collectively contribute to a successful and fulfilling career in the industry.

06. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The ability to not take things too serious.

07. School?

I schooled at St Peter’s College Colombo, and during my schooling years I took part in many sports, including swimming, rugby, and table tennis. Also, I was a scout and part of the stamp club at the time.

08. Happiest moment?

My happiest moment is when I get to travel to new place and experience new cultures, flavours, and making unforgettable memories.

09. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Unique blend of creativity, personality and style

Believing in perfect happiness is why I value love, meaningful connections, and personal fulfillment. I find joy in relationships, pursuing meaningful goals, and appreciate the little moments in life. Balancing work and personal well-being is important to me, leading to a sense of contentment and inner peace.

10. Your ideal girl?

My ideal girl would likely be someone who shares similar values and priorities as me. I would be attracted to a woman who values love, meaningful connections, and personal fulfillment. She would appreciate the importance of nurturing loving relationships and finding joy in shared experiences with me. She would also be driven by meaningful goals and passions, complementing my own aspirations and supporting me in achieving them. Balancing life with personal well-being should be important to her, and she should value a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Overall, my ideal girl would be someone who brings joy, love, and mutual growth to my life.

11. Which living person do you most admire?

I currently have no one that I admire.

12. Which is your most treasured possession?

My silver Cross.

13. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

Maybe my future wife…that’s if I ever find her!

14. Your most embarrassing moment?

Not one but many and I don’t think you would have the space to mention all.

15. Done anything daring?

I love doing daring things like…yes, swimming with sharks, diving, cliff jumping and so much more; anything that would get my heart racing.

16. Your ideal vacation?

My ideal vacation would be travelling through the Swiss Mountain, in the train, and taking in the scenic beauty, that the country has to offer, while sipping on some hot Swiss chocolate.

17. What kind of music are you into?

I enjoy instrumental and country music…where the music speaks to me.

18. Favourite radio station:

I enjoy listening to Sun FM, especially on Sundays, where they play slow-flow music all day long.

19. Favourite TV station:

No time for TV.

20. Any major plans for the future?

In the future, I envision a life filled with personal growth, meaningful experiences, and cherished relationships. I aspire to excel in my career or passion, finding fulfillment in my work, while also enjoying moments of adventure and exploration. Building strong connections with loved ones and creating lasting memories together are priorities for myself. I look forward to discovering new passions, travelling to new places, and embracing opportunities for learning and self-discovery. Overall, my future plans are centred around leading a balanced, fulfilling life, enriched by meaningful experiences and meaningful relationships.

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