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MWL should separate the wheat from the chaff

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By Rohana R. Wasala

Government MP Dr. Wijedasa Rajapaksa, a former Justice Minister and an ex-president of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, stated over a month ago that the Muslim World League “(owes) families of those who had perished or suffered injuries in the Easter Sunday terror attacks USD 5 mn.” (‘Wijedasa takes it up with Saudi-based outfit’ by Shamindra Ferdinando, The Island, March 25, 2021). This is money that the MWL General Secretary Dr. Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Kareem Al-Issa was said to have promised on behalf of his organization towards the relief of the surviving victims of those attacks at a so-called National Peace Conference held at Nelum Pokuna under the patronage of the then President Maithripala Sirisena on June 30, 2019, a little over two months after the Easter Sunday attacks carried out by eight Islamist suicide bombers in the name of their religion. As claimed by MP Rajapaksa, the Sheikh made the promise in the presence of the then incumbent Sirisena, and former presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike and Mahinda Rajapaksa, among other dignitaries. The same three past presidents dutifully attended the second National Peace Conference on March 5, this year. MP Rajapaksa told The Island that he brought up the issue with the MWL head. This was through a letter of his dated March 22, 2021, where he urged the latter to fulfill what he had promised without further delay. MP Rajapaksa stressed: “Let us hope those who organised the Nelum Pokuna event, too, will take up this matter with the Muslim World League and finalise the transfer of funds before the second anniversary of 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.”

The failure of the MWL was mentioned even at the PCoI, according to the MP, who further said that he had raised the matter with the offices of the previous and present presidents. Dr P.B. Jayasundara (Secretary to the current incumbent) had confirmed that the funds in question had not been received. A letter that the then Western Province Governor A. J. M. Muzammil had received from Muhammad Al-Issa, to which MP Rajapaksa refers, seems to have a hint about the possible reason for the unexplained delay in the payment of the promised financial assistance: it is probably being withheld “pending Sri Lanka providing information relating to the spate of suicide attacks”. Whether the MP’s importunity in the given context is shared by the government is in doubt. What should be of greater concern for the government is the fact that, by contriving to get themselves identified as constituting the  whole Muslim community of the country, the handful of Islamist extremists who are widely believed to have provided tacit or explicit support for the suicide bombers are also foisting themselves on its (the MWL’s) powerful patronage. While being grateful to this organization for offering welcome help at a moment of national distress, Sri Lankan leaders must take care not to allow these Islamist extremists tainted with suspected association with the terrorists who caused that suffering to jeopardise its relations with the traditionally friendly Muslim nations through subterfuge. At the same time, it behoves our leaders to establish the genuineness of the MWL’s intentions and to have a correct understanding of the rationale of its involvement in the post-attack context, before accepting its charity.(Aside: Islamic Jihadists and fanatical Christian proselytizers are minorities that should not for a moment be identified with the traditional Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian communities who have always lived in harmony with the Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus for centuries. Sri Lanka must take special care to prevent the problematic Islamist and Christian extremist sects from pretending to the outside world that they respectively represent the country’s Muslim and Christian mainstreams in order to subvert its foreign relations as certain powerful Muslim politicos who have somehow contrived to ingratiate themselves with the powers that be seem to be doing at the moment.)

According to the Wikipedia, the Muslim World League is a (Saudi) government-funded NGO, which  was founded in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1962. The name suggests that it is about the pan-Islamic Muslim world, not the world in general, which Muslims share with people of other non-Muslim faiths. It came into existence for the purpose of serving Islam and Muslims. Its founding charter, according to the information currently given in the Wikipedia, is as follows:

“We the members of the Muslim World League, representing it religiously, hereby undertake before God, Almighty to: Discharge our obligation towards God, by conveying and proclaiming His Message all over the world. We also reaffirm our belief that there shall be no peace in the world without the application of the principles of Islam. Invite all communities to vie with one another for the common good and happiness of mankind, establish social justice and a better human society. Call upon God to bear witness that we do not intend to undermine, dominate or practice hegemony over anyone else. Hence, in order to further these goals, we intend to: Unite the ranks of the Muslims, and remove all divisive forces from the midst of the Muslim communities around the world. Remove obstacles in the way of establishing the Muslim world union. Support all advocates of charitable deeds. Utilize our spiritual as well as material and moral potentialities in furthering the aims of this charter. Unify efforts in order to achieve these purposes in a positive and practical way. Reject all the pretenses of ancient as well as contemporary Jahiliyah (attitudes of the pre-Islamic era). Always reaffirm the fact that Islam has no place for either regionalism or racism.”

The organization has thus an extensive global agenda with inevitable, wide ranging, religious, educational, cultural, legal, and political implications, particularly for non-Muslim countries Sri Lanka, given that the organization is committed to foster the fiercely conservative brand of Islam, Wahhabism (or Salafism), which is Saudi Arabia’s state religion. It will, among other things, include laying down plans designed to revive the role of the Mosque in the fields of guidance, education, preaching and provision of social services, conducting a comprehensive survey of the world’s Mosques and publishing the information gathered in book form and in the shape of periodical bulletins, selecting and posting groups of well qualified preachers on guidance missions throughout the Mosques of the world, formation of board of directors to supervise the affairs of each and every Mosque at the national as well as the regional levels, studying the ideas and patterns of behavior that contravene the teachings of Islam, and helping in rehabilitating and training Imams and khateebs for posting to the various Muslim areas to lead Muslims in prayers, deliver sermons and guidance lessons (a khateeb is a person who delivers a sermon during Friday prayers).

As the Wikipedia further informs us, all Saudi Arabian citizens are legally required to be Muslims. They don’t have the right to freedom of religion (as the term is understood in democratic countries); nor do the expatriate workers employed in the Saudi kingdom. The official and dominant form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabism (also called Salafism) which emerged in the 18th century. Its adherents believe that its teachings “purify the practice of Islam of innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh century teachings of Muhammad and his companions”. Saudi Arabia has long been accused of being the principal exporter of Islamist extremism (WikiLeaks cables).  “… Saudi Arabia arguably remains the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting groups as disparate as the Afghanistan Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front… Saudi Arabia is said to be the world’s largest source of funds and promoter of Salafist jihadism …. which forms the ideological basis of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and others” (‘State-sponsored terrorism’/Wikipedia/Page last edited 14 April 2021). Saudi Arabia denies these allegations, but the Wikipedia entry mentions the prevalent argument that by its very nature Wahhabism/Salafism “encourages intolerance and promotes terrorism”.  

The MWL, while propagating the religion of Islam, encourages Dawah (lit. issuing summons to/euphemistically, inviting or calling non-Muslims to join, i.e., preaching to them) and conversion of non-Muslims; funds construction of mosques and provides financial relief for Muslims affected by natural disasters; finances distribution of copies of the Quran and political tracts on Muslim minority groups. Though the organization claims that “they reject all acts of violence and promote dialogue with the people of other cultures, within their understanding of Sharia”, they are not free from controversy on that point, having been the subject of several ongoing counter terrorism investigations in the US related to Hamas, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups”

However, since 2016, the Muslim World League has been claiming to be dedicated to combating extremist ideology, and to confronting hatred, disunity and violence closely associated with extremism. The US State Department, in its 2019 Country Reports on Terrorism, stated that the Muslim World League’s Secretary General, Muhammad Abdul Kareem Al-Issa “pressed a message of interfaith dialogue, religious tolerance, and peaceful coexistence with global religious authorities, including Muslim imams outside the Arab world.” The same document said that he “conducted extensive outreach to prominent U.S. Jewish and Christian leaders”. No doubt, the MWL is on the same pious mission in Sri Lanka. We may be hopeful that the MWL leader will similarly reach out to the non-Muslim 90% of the Sri Lankan population comprising Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.

But whether the assurances given to the powerful US will hold for a small non-Muslim country like ours is still a moot point. The  MWL’s sponsor Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy without a legislature (Wikipedia), let alone an elected legislature; its state religion Sunni Islam or Wahhabism,  is growing to be the majority Buddhist Sri Lanka’s scourge, unless checked in time with the help of the predominantly Sufi mainstream Muslim minority, who have peacefully coexisted with the majority Buddhist and other non-Muslim minorities for centuries. The MWL’s post-April 21, 2019 interest or involvement in Sri Lanka should be judged according to its uncompromising commitment to “serving Islam and Muslims” everywhere as explained in the foregoing account. The rich and powerful Saudi-funded, Saudi-basedl Wahhabism-inspired NGO outfit’s patronage of Sri Lanka’s approximately 10% Muslim minority is bound to have understandably important repercussions. 

One could argue that the so-called National Conference on Peace, Harmony and Coexistence that introduced the MWL to the country just two months after the April 21 Islamist terror bombings, in effect, both ‘nationalised’ and ‘internationalised’ Sri lanka’s still nascent Islamic fundamentalist problem. Unless sorted out early, this is not going to do any good to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence which all Sri Lankans of different ethnicities and cultures have been enjoying to date mainly thanks to the influence of the country’s extremely accommodating, tolerant Buddhist cultural foundation, something that is today universally accepted and appreciated by all peaceful non-Buddhist minorities. Through its friendly outreach to the non-Muslim majority, the MWL can hope to further strengthen the already existing interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence in our island nation. It is heartening that the Saudis now reject extremist ideology and terrorism. However, unfortunately, this cannot be asserted without reservations.

According to  The Island news report mentioned above, Secretary to former president Sirisena, Samira de Silva, told the paper that the MWL was delaying the payment because the National Peace Conference event organizers had still not responded to the following questions: “(1) the number of dead and wounded (2) their faith (religion) (3) list of the dead and the wounded (4) collateral damage to public property (5) number of widows and orphans (6) other relevant information and (7) account number of the President’s or  Prime Minister’s charitable fund”. 

To my mind, these are not charitable questions that we would expect a genuinely humanitarian organization to ask. Why should they demand specific information about the victims’ religion and their particular identities? The term ‘collateral damage’ refers to unintended, but unavoidable, accidentally caused, damage to civilians’ lives and their property during a military conflict. The NGO also calls for the account number of the President’s or Prime Minister’s charitable fund.  

Why all this cheeseparing for the insultingly derisory sum of 5 mn US Dollars by a rich Saudi government funded NGO? For Saudi Arabia with its relatively small population of 34.2 million (2019 estimate) and its GDP at 1.9 trillion US Dollars and per capita income at 56,817 US Dollars (Wikipedia), it is peanuts. Of course, the 5 mn dollar sum (roughly the equivalent of 1 billion currently debased SL rupees) is not intended to sound like a big amount to Sri Lankans, for that would be an affront to their general knowledge.

The Island report said: “According to a missive received from Dr. Jayasundera, the Muslim World League was to directly get in touch with the Prime Minister’s Office to finalise the matter”. Dr Jayasundera is Secretary to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who seems to have transferred the ‘matter’ to the PM. 



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Opinion

Bakeer Markar left his mark in every Lankan’s heart

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By Dr Harsha De Silva

Passionate in his noble thoughts with an undying belief in unity for the sake of peace, coexistence and, above all, the development of the nation, Deshamanya Al Haj Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar was a prominent lawyer, a formidable politician and a loving family man who has left his mark in every Sri Lankan’s heart.

It is very hard to eulogise any man, to capture in words the very intimate details of his life, and it is even harder to do so for a prominent figure in history, who moved a nation towards unity and harmony. However, I consider it a privilege to write about the remarkable life lived by Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar and will attempt to capture in words the true essence of his life.

Bakeer Markar was born into a respectable family in Beruwala in 1917. After completing his primary school education at St. Sebastian’s School, Hulftsdorp, he had the privilege of joining Zahira College, Colombo for his secondary education. He passed out as a lawyer and commenced his legal practice at the Kalutara Bar in 1950.

Due to the perseverance and study he put into his practice of the law, he had clients, both Sinhalese and Muslim, flocking to him. Legends are many of the several instances where he appeared for Sinhalese clients in cases filed against persons of his own community, thereby following discerningly the commandment in the Holy Quran that one must ‘stand up for justice’ even against one’s own kith and kin. Like it is said, he never wavered from the courage of his own convictions.

His initial steps into politics, was in 1946 when he was sub-warden at Zahira College, Colombo. Then Dr. T.B. Jayah contested the Labour Leader A.E. Goonesinghe at the General Elections of 1946, to the State Council. Bakeer Markar was entrusted the task of carrying out Dr. Jayah’s election campaign, which he did successfully. Dr. Jayah was elected Member of the State Council.

The leadership of Dr. Jayah was laudable. With this kind of inspiration, experience, and the taste of political nectar, Bakeer Markar pursued in the footsteps of his political guru Dr. T.B. Jayah. Bakeer Markar began his political career as a young member of the Beruwala Urban Council in 1950. It would have been evident even at the time, where this young and amateur politician was heading when he was elected Chairman of the Council in his first year as a member.

Early in his political career at the Urban Council, he earned a name as a servant of the people; an honest, hardworking and approachable man with excellent knowledge of his constituency and its citizens. That reputation naturally paved the way for him to become the Member of Parliament for Beruwala and later the highest position in the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the Speaker of the House in 1978.

His time as the Speaker earned him respect and appreciation from parliamentarians of both sides of the House. He continued to serve as the Speaker until 1983 when he was appointed a Cabinet Minister without portfolio. After ending his parliamentary career, he was appointed as the first Governor of the Southern Province.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is appropriate to remember Bakeer Markar as an icon whose qualities set him apart from everybody else. His memory is still fresh in the minds of the Sri Lankan people as a man of robust principle and strong character, never seeking wealth or glory through his political ambitions and responsibilities.

His home electorate of Beruwala is and has always been, a complete image of the diverse ethnic and religious communities of Sri Lanka. Engaging these various groups towards a common cause and a shared political goal was never to be an easy task. Only a man of exceptional character and an unwavering will, like Bakeer Markar, had the ability to do so.

“Though I belonged to the minority community, I was able to enter the national and international arena only because I was able to go forward with the majority community,” were words spoken by Bakeer Makar himself as an advocate of national unity. In the name of harmony and unity, Bakeer Makar was a prominent figure at the Beruwala Urban Council who pushed the moving of the resolution to recognise the Sinhala language as the official language. In his efforts to unite the Muslim youth with the Sinhalese, Bakeer Makar earned the affectionate nickname “Sinhala Bakeer”.

Further, he wholeheartedly supported the policy adopted by then Leader of the Opposition J. R. Jayewardene to avoid stirring the simmering anger of a vast section of the public of Sri Lanka towards violence. Moreover, speaking on the special allowance to plantation workers on 6 October 1965, he spoke on behalf of the estate workers, referring to them as “Ceylonese” which emphasised his vision “one identity under one nation”. He believed and espoused the true spirit of equality for everyone.

Bakeer Marker secured a special place in the hearts of the people as he worked tirelessly to change the lives of poor and desperate. Economic policies of Sri Lanka from 1970-1977 which created hardships for most people, made Bakeer Makar see the harshness of poverty and the struggle of the poor in the country. He knew the only way to change the lives of the poor was to change the government.

Bakeer Marker’s remarkable contribution towards the United National Party is not to be forgotten. With a strong will and lasting belief in fellowship, he worked tirelessly to support the regrouping of a demotivated United National Party after the catastrophic defeat at the parliamentary election in 1970. His work in the party, especially in the Kalutara District was an illustration of the positive contribution he and few other politicians made towards reorganising the party network and regrouping its members.

His victory at the General Elections of 1977 was the dazzling landmark of his political career. At this General Election, he was returned with a remarkable majority of 27,000 votes, with a total poll of 49,000 votes. This electoral victory of 1977 was a historic gift to the respectful minority.

On 4 August 1977, he was elected Deputy Speaker. This was a short stint. He was thereafter elected to the high office of Speaker on 21 September 1978, being the unanimous choice of the Government and the Opposition. He was the last Speaker of the old Parliament at Galle Face and the first Speaker of the new Parliament in Sri Jayewardenepura.

On his elevation to the position of Speaker, he stood by the great traditions and decorum of the Speaker’s Office. He did not want to be a nominal Speaker, merely presiding at parliamentary sessions. The Office of Speaker was made most significant. The mace was not any more mere symbolic. The Speaker’s mace was made the due symbol of authority. The Speaker’s traditional robe was reintroduced, which to this day has its glamour. Dignity was restored and redefined to the Speaker’s office.

Above all, Speaker Bakeer Markar saw to it that the annual audit of the Parliamentary administration was brought under the direct supervision of the Auditor General, making Parliamentary affairs and administration transparent. As the Speaker, he also maintained an excellent rapport with the diplomatic community. Further, he made sure a roster was drawn to ensure that equal opportunities were given to all Members of Parliament to go abroad on official duties.

Bakeer Markar was internationally renowned and countries in the Middle East and the Far East held him in high esteem as he proved to be a great Ambassador of goodwill for Sri Lanka. He went on to excel in international relations and established close connections with the Iraqi Government. Through this connection, he built an entire village in Eravur, in the East. He was the founder President of the Iraq-Sri Lanka Friendship Association and remained in that position until his demise. He was fortunate that he did not witness the dismemberment of Iraq which would have grieved him immensely.

In addition to his extraordinary political career, Bakeer was an extraordinary humanitarian. Large gatherings from all walks of life were constantly seen at his Arab Road residence in Beruwala and each individual was attended to their satisfaction. He attended weddings and funerals and went wherever and whenever he was needed as President of the Muslim League Youth Front. He travelled to all corners of the country, continuously meeting people and addressing their needs. All petitions and requests were perused in his chambers and the relevant ministers were summoned to deal with and give redress to the humanitarian problems of all concerns.

He was also known for advising his security to ensure that the public was made comfortable when visiting him, for he believed that without the support of the common man he would not have reached the heights in life that he has. It was precisely this goodness in his heart that he carried and the deeply embedded love he had for his people that makes him unforgettable.

Bakeer Markar’s legacy lives on through his children and grandchildren. The public standing and love his eldest son Imthiaz Bakeer Markar is enjoying throughout the island is a testimony to this. Imthiaz Bakeer Markar similar to his father, is a well-respected, politician and a man of robust principle and strong character. His grandchildren Asaf, Azam, Fadhil, and Insaf continue to carry on their grandfather’s legacy by working tirelessly towards social justice and equality. I take this opportunity to remember not only the soul of Abdul Bakeer Markar but also the young and wise soul of his loving grandson Adhil Bakeer Markar.

This giant in history demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough and that no matter how right, they must be chiselled into law and institutions. Bakeer Marker was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal. He was not only a leader of a movement that pushed for equality and unity but also a skilful politician who understood the ties that bind the human spirit.

With a strong belief in reconciliation and coexistence and a will to contribute in his utmost capacity towards the harmonious development of the nation, there was a tone of sadness in his final address to the Parliament when he stated, “It is my regret that I shall no longer be with you when you add chapter to shining chapter in Sri Lanka’s history.”

He dreamt further when he said: “The time is not far off when Ceylon will sit in the Assembly of Nations, as a well-developed country and take its rightful place there and play its role.” This goes on to show Abdul Bakeer Markar’s deep-seated love for his nation, every community that makes Sri Lanka the beautiful diverse island it is, and his undying belief of the heights the nation can reach coupled with his vision “one identity under one nation”.

It is no doubt that his political legacy and the memory of his magnificent soul continue to secure a hopeful future for Sri Lanka and all its people.

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Opinion

Another ruse?

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Reading about the indictment for murder brought against Hemasiri Fernando, former Secretary of Defence, and the former IGP, I was tempted to look up a legal dictionary which said that murder is an intentionally committed criminal offence, whereas manslaughter or homicide are offences committed unintentionally causing loss of life.

As a former public officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, I remember a similar charge of intention to commit murder brought against a Minister or his deputy in the 1970s, when Felix Dias Bandaranaike was a senior minister of the Sirima Bandaranaike’s government, over the throwing of a chair by the Minister concerned on a trade unionist Teacher of the Department of Education. The case was thrown out if I remember right, on the ground that there was no such murderous intention on the part of the government politico.

It was pretty obvious then that the charge had been artfully magnified and manipulated to get the case thrown out of court.

Is this another such instance of pulling the wool over the eyes of the public, to forestall the case of charges being levelled against a former President?

KANTO FERNANDO

Pitipana

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Opinion

Importance of Humanities in Education

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These days if one writes outside the subject of Covid one runs the risk of being ignored by the editor, or by the readers if published. However, education is too vital a subject, and education reforms are being contemplated in Sri Lanka, and one cannot wait until Covid abates. In this regard the relevance and importance of humanities ie subjects like literature, history, philosophy, languages and art have been discussed in these columns. People who view higher education as a training for employment and think in terms of STEM (science, technology, engineering,mathematics) education, as the most important and essential type of education a country needs, speak almost in derision of subjects like history, art and pose the question what could anybody do with such knowledge except teach the same to another person.

However, the purpose of education has to be much broader than training for employment. It must also instill human qualities such as sensitivity, generosity, unselfishness, tolerance, ability to understand different points of view etc., and it is a broad education which includes subjects like literature, history etc that could do this. In short, humanities are supposed to make a human out of you. In this sense humanities may be important for employment, also and employers may look for these qualities.

We have used literature, religion, art, music, language and philosophy to understand the world and man. This knowledge is different from what science would give us about the nature of the world. This knowledge gives us the opportunity to connect with those who came before us, as well as, with our contemporaries and learn about their achievements and their mistakes. Such knowledge tells us where we have been and gives us a vision about where we should go. The history of Sri Lanka, for instance, tells us how we were threatened by foreign invasions in the past, and helps us to understand the present threat of foreign interference and ways and means of evading such threats. Literature apart from being capable of giving so much pleasure has the ability to mould the character of a person, by showing him different aspects of life. This knowledge is as important as the scientific understanding of the world; one complements the other and knowledge is incomplete if one is lacking.

In the secondary stage of education, i.e. year six to eight in Sri Lanka, the foundation for this broad knowledge has to be built with as many subjects as possible included in the curriculum, but without burdening the student, as done at present, with too much detail. In this regard one cannot choose arts, maths, commerce or science as the stream one would follow, but select the number of subjects to cover the required broad base, out of a basket that would include all the important subjects that interest the human inquiring mind. This arrangement would not only give a broad education, it will also give the students with different talents and interests the opportunity to choose the subjects they like, and to make a decision about what subjects they would like to pursue in their higher education.

Giving such an opportunity to students in their formative years could result in the birth of great scientists, artists, writers, musicians, mathematicians and philosophers and all with human qualities. Humanities would make an intellectual out of a scientist. Further, research studies have shown that students who have studied humanities in primary and secondary education as part of a well-rounded curriculum, are more engaged in academics as a whole, read better, write better, think more critically, and go on to do higher education more often.

We must not forget that most human situations defy a single correct answer, that life itself is rarely if ever as precise as a math problem, as clear as an elegant equation. Science and mathematics do not have all the answers to the human predicament, for instance. From poverty to climate change the challenges in our age are connected with human nature. Scientific solutions alone do not very often work. Humanities help students gain historical and cultural perspectives and critical thinking skills that help them collaborate with people. Such skills would enable them to communicate, listen, explain and inspire. They would be better equipped to find solutions to problems that always have a human element. Given the state of the country and the world, humanities are more important than ever.

Learning humanities in early stages of education would help to grapple with complex moral issues, help us understand what goes inside us, and show us what it means to be a human being. Such abilities in leaders and decision makers would give them a broader and more diverse range of ideas, and the knowledge to better run a business or governments. Most of our politicians may be lacking in such education, and this may be why they haven’t been able to solve the problems our country faces since independence.

Education system in Sri Lanka compartmentalizes the students into science, arts, commerce, etc,. at the GCE ‘A’ Level. This precludes a student from pursuing studies in subjects belonging to more than one stream, even if he has a talent and interest in them. Moreover, he may be forced to do subjects that he does not like. Such combinations may be difficult in the case of students who want to do professional courses like medicine and engineering, but for others cannot mathematics and literature for instance be included in one basket of subjects in the GCE ‘A’ Level exam, and cannot students who follow such programmes continue their interest in the university too.

In the Sri Lankan universities there is no opportunity for students to follow programmes that are a mixture of science and art. It may be difficult to make provision for the study of both science and arts subjects in our universities as the separation starts early. Yet, the importance of such education has to be mentioned here, because of the vital importance of education of humanities at the highest level. In developed countries there is a lot of flexibility in the choice of subjects, and there are opportunities for students to study subjects they like. They have double degree programmes that enable students to get two degrees in different subjects, history and mathematics for instance. Our universities could think of starting inter-faculty study programmes to begin with, in order to prevent the total disappearance of humanities. Research has shown that brutalization of attitudes of doctors could be prevented by having modules in literature, music etc in their undergraduate programmes. In developed countries some medical schools have incorporated such modules in their curricula.

It is said that the demand for humanities courses in the universities is dwindling due to the lack of job opportunities for arts graduates. Further, the students who enter arts courses do so as they have no other option. Facilities for science education are lacking in many rural schools. Government must adopt the policy that both science, as well as humanities, are vital for education, and make an effort to improve the facilities for their learning in schools. As for employment, there are so many jobs that arts graduates could do as they don’t lack creativity and problem-solving ability. Their communication skills, English knowledge and IT literacy may be weak at present, and this could be the reason for their low employability.

N. A. de S. AMARATUNGA

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