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Province-based Devolution in Sri Lanka: a Critique

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by G H Peiris

Continued from Wednesday 16

Those provincial boundaries have remained almost unchanged during the

past 131 years, in disregard of ecological, demographic, economic and political transformations. What prevails now is an archaic and outmoded design that catered to different needs and bureaucratic circumstances.

The provincial administrative system had

only nominal contact and control over many functions of government. Those that were under the direct control of the government such as administration of justice, security, health services, road construction, land development, major hydraulic systems, postal and telecommunication services, railways, etc., were centrally controlled and invariably had sub-national spatial networks of their own.

In addition, and more significantly than all else, throughout British rule there was no irredentist threat from the Indian Sub-Continent which was largely under British rule. Nor did ‘Ceylon’ face serious external threats of destabilisation or conquest except, briefly (in 1942), during the Second World War.

Accordingly, an attempt to conduct Provincial Council elections without changing the existing configuration of provinces is tantamount to disregarding the fact that the continued existence of the present network of provinces, while not achieving effective empowerment of the under-represented and impoverished segments of our population, perpetuates the irredentist threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. It also ignores the ‘never again’ mandate offered by the people to the present government at the Parliamentary elections conducted last August for a major constitutional overhaul involving, inter alia, province-based devolution.

When the Dutch possessions in Sri Lanka, transferred to the British in 1796, were granted the status of a Crown Colony in 1801, the existing system of regional administration that had consisted of three ‘Collectorates’ was replaced with a network of thirteen ‘Provinces’, each centred on the coastal town after which it was named.

That arrangement, along with a separate administration over the ‘Kandyan Provinces’ annexed by the British in 1815, lasted with some modification until the Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms of 1833 when a unified system of administration embracing the entire country was established. These reforms entailed, inter alia, the setting up of a hierarchically arranged system of regional administration in which five ‘Provinces’, each under the authority of a Government Agent, constituted the basic spatial frame. The Provinces were subdivided into Districts, each comprising several Headman’s Divisions. In many instances, the Headman’s Divisions had some correspondence to the pre-British administrative units of the Portuguese and the Dutch in the lowlands and of the Kandyan kingdom in the highlands.

Yet, in demarcating the Provinces and the Districts, hardly any attempt was made either to draw from history or to accommodate the geographical realities pertaining to criteria such as access to physical resources, resource management, composition of the population, and the interdependence of the different parts of the country from the viewpoint of their development prospects. In practical terms, the main rationalisation of the provincial demarcation appears to have been that of using the best fortified coastal urban centres left behind by the Dutch (Colombo, Galle, Jaffna and Batticaloa), and the capital of the former Kandyan kingdom as bases for developing a system of control over territory, most of which was yet to be explored.

Indeed, it almost seems as if, in establishing a uniform administrative system over the entire country, and in dividing the country into Provinces and Districts, the British made a conscious attempt to move away from tradition as a means of consolidating their hold over the country.

The most pronounced feature of the provincial framework instituted through the reforms of 1833 was the annexation of the outlying territories of the former Kandyan kingdom to the coastal provinces. For instance, while Nuwarakalāviya was included in the Northern Province, Tamankaduwa and a large portion of Uva were placed within the Eastern Province. Likewise, while the Western Province was made to extend well into the Kandyan territories of the western flanks of the Central Highlands, parts of Sabaragamuwa and Uva were incorporated into the Southern Province. It has been asserted (Mills, 1964:68; de Silva, 1981:261-2; Kodikara, 1991:4-5) that the new arrangement amounted to a dismemberment of the former Kandyan kingdom, and was intended, in the words of Mills, “… to weaken the national feelings of the Kandyans”.

 

British administrative Demarcations of 1833

Superimposed on John Davy’s 1821 demarcation of the Kandyan Kingdom

 

NOTE: This illustration confirms the submissions by Mr. Samanthe Ratwatte at the SEC meeting on 3 December 2020 on the dismembering of the Kandyan Kingdom by the British in 1833.

 

Over the next few decades, as population and economic activities expanded, new provinces were carved out of existing ones, bringing their total number to 9 by 1889.

The provincial administration, as indicated by the content of their ‘Annual Reports’, though nominally entrusted with a wide range of functions, was largely concerned during these times with the tasks of revenue collection, infrastructure development in the form of minor construction works, and the monitoring of living conditions among the people. The government activities directly relating to the emerging modern sector of the economy, the administration of justice, and the maintenance of law and order were, for the most part, orchestrated from Colombo. Thus, the creation of new provinces – North-Western Province in 1845, North-Central Province in 1873, Uva Province in 1886, and Sabaragamuwa Province in 1889 – was, in effect, not much more than a process of increasing the number of urban centres used as the principal bases of regional administration. The provinces were not intended to serve as spatial units for the devolution of government authority except in matters of routine administration; nor were they expected to acquire an ‘identity’ in a political sense. In fact, as Governor Ridgeway observed (Administration of Ceylon, 1897:52-53) almost at the end of the 19th century:

“The existing map of the island, compiled chiefly from General Fraser’s map made early in the century, contains errors so numerous and so gross as to make it useless for administrative purposes. For example, 400 miles of provincial boundaries are still un-surveyed. Only three of the larger rivers have been completely surveyed, while in the case of the largest in the island, the Mahaveli Ganga, there is a gap of over 20 miles.”

The provincial demarcation as it stood in 1889 has remained unchanged for well over 130 years. Intra-provincial administrative adjustments were made at various times bringing the total number of Districts in the country from nineteen in 1889 to twenty-five at present. Government Agents of the provinces, holding executive power over their areas of authority, coordinated a range of government activities in their respective provinces. It is important to note, however, that in certain components of governance, while the related regional demarcations did not always coincide with provincial and district boundaries, the Government Agent had either only marginal involvement or no authority at all. This was particularly evident in fields such as the administration of justice, maintenance of law and order, and the provision of services in education and health care, in which there is large-scale daily interaction between the government and the people.

 

Post-Colonial Territorial Divisions

In the early years of independence, with the passing of the Administrative Districts Act No. 22 of 1955, the province lost whatever importance it had up to that time as a unit of regional administration. Since then, until 1987, the district served as the main unit of regional administration, acquiring, with the increasing politicisation of bureaucratic activities in the country, some recognition as a spatial entity to which the powers and functions of the central government could be decentralised (de Silva, 1993:109-116). A series of reforms implemented since 1973 –the setting up of District Political Authorities, post of District Ministers, District Development Councils, and District Planning Units– not only had the effect of institutionalising the process of increasing political control over the administrative machinery, but also enlarged the range of decision-making functions performed at the level of the district.

From perspective of the SEC, changes that were introduced under the so-called ‘Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution’ and the Provincial Councils Act of 1987 could be seen, not merely as a revitalisation of the concept of the province as a unit of administration to which certain routine functions of the central government are decentralised, but as an attempt to grant political recognition and distinctiveness to the province as a unit of territorial control, and thus make the spatial framework of provinces the unit of devolution of government power from the Centre to the Regions. This latter, as the observations made above indicate, is a feature which the provincial network left behind by the British never possessed and was, in fact, never intended to possess.

 

The legislation to establish a system of Provincial Councils, drafted in the course of negotiations that led to the ‘Indo-Lanka Accord’ (a.k.a. Rajiv-JR Pact’) of 1987, was passed by parliament in November that year amidst fierce opposition from both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the main party in the parliamentary opposition, as well as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP/People’s Liberation Front) which was engaged in an anti-government insurrection at that time. It provided for the transfer (subject to overall control of the central government) of a fairly wide range of powers and functions to councils elected at the level of the provinces. The powers vested by the Act on the president of the country vis-à-vis the Provincial Councils included that of appointing the ‘Provincial Governors’ and, more importantly from the viewpoint of the present discussion, the discretion of permitting the merger of provinces on a permanent or temporary basis to constitute an area of authority of a single council. The power to dissolve a provincial council was also vested in the president.

The clauses of the Provincial Councils Act pertaining to the merger of provinces were exercised by the president in September 1988 to bring about a merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces. This was a response to what had become an unequivocal demand of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The merger decision was intended to be temporary, pending the verdict of the inhabitants of the areas concerned at a referendum on whether it should be made permanent. Though the ‘North-East Provincial Council’, elected to office two months later, survived only until the final stages of withdrawal of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force from Sri Lanka. On the basis of a Supreme Court decision in 2006 which held that the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces was no longer valid in law, the two provinces were demerged for the continuing operation of the Provincial Councils Act of 1987.

 

* * *

The antecedents of the PC system sketched above constitute only two sets of reasons that justify the appeal for its abolition. There are others, the most important among which are the blatant malpractice, extravagance and waste which it has involved all along. As one of our most venerated monks (a staunch source of support and constructive criticism of the ‘regime’) asked last night (13 December) in the course of his comments on the contemplated staging of PC elections, why is it, with all the power you already have, necessary to create more positions of privilege to your henchmen? As reported by the ex-Commissioner of Elections, the last parliamentary elections cost the government a staggering 15 billion rupees.

 

Burdened, as we are, with the necessity for pandemic precautions, island-wide PC elections will probably cost even more. With that level of expenditure, surely we can achieve a great deal of empowerment of those in dire poverty.

 



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Standoff between Church and State

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The 1962 coup – Part II

A group of senior Police and Military officers attempted to overthrow the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government. They were driven by three critical events in the years leading up to January 1962. The coup participants belonged to the Westernised urban middle class who were alarmed at the undermining of the secular plural state and government.

By Jayantha Somasundaram

(Part I of this article appeared yesterday)

The first trigger was the anti-Tamil violence of 1958. The second trigger was the growing confrontation between the regime and the Christian community, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.

As soon as he took office S. W. R. D Bandaranaike had 21 CID and Special Branch gazetted officers resign or retire. Half of them were non-Sinhalese and the majority were reported to be Christian. Despite that, in 1957, 29 percent of the gazetted police officers were Burghers and about 65 percent were Christian. The situation in the military was no different during British times while the officers in the Army were mainly British, Burghers accounted for half the troops.

This anomaly goes back to 1902, when a Cadet Battalion was set up as part of the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers with companies initially in Royal College and then in the Christian public schools S. Thomas’ and Wesley in Colombo, Trinity and Kingswood in Kandy and Richmond in Galle. Buddhist and Hindu schools were late in introducing cadetting because of their adherence to ahimsa. When the Ceylon Army was established in 1949 the initial Officer Cadets sent to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for training were also largely from the ethnic and religious minorities. “Buddhist parents did not like their sons in the army … Perhaps there is something of the Buddhist aversion to killing in this prejudice …. There is an ancient tradition among the Sinhalese of employing mercenaries: Malays, Moors, Malabars, Tamils,” speculates Horowitz.

Despite their huge influence, the Protestant Christians in Sri Lanka were numerically small, a metropolitan minority making up one percent of the national population. By contrast, the Portuguese religious impact had resulted in a Roman Catholic community in the country that comprised seven percent. And unlike the Protestants who were split among numerous denominations, the Roman Catholics were united in a single church and fiercely loyal to their faith.

Neil Quintus Dias

The majority community as well as the regime feared what was termed ‘Catholic Action’, the attempt by lay Catholics to spread Catholic influence in a host society. “‘Bauddha Balavegaya (Buddhist Force) formed by L. H. Mettananda former principal of Ananda College, Neil Quintus (NQ) Dias, PM Sirimavo’s Defence Secretary and several other prominent Sinhala Buddhist nationalist leaders’ stand against ‘Catholic Action’ was well known. However, the existence of such a secretive campaign remained a mystery,” writes K. K. S. Perera (The Nation 4/11/12)

“N.Q. Dias was well known for his strong stand against ‘Catholic Action’ as it was then called,” wrote Bradman Weerakoon in Rendering Unto Caesar. “His actions in regard to the defence establishment and police were also being watched by the upper echelons of the three forces which were then largely manned by non-Buddhist officers.”

First the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Regime removed both local and foreign Catholic nursing nuns from state hospitals. This was followed by a decision to nationalise the assisted schools.

The school system was three-tiered. First, a small number of fee-levying public schools run mainly by the Anglican Church; they received no state financial support. Second, fee-levying denominational schools, mainly Roman Catholic, called assisted schools; they received government funding. Third, state owned schools which levied no fees.

The Catholic population is concentrated along the coastal belt stretching from Chilaw to Kalutara. In November 1960, the Army was brought in for internal security duties relating to the schools takeover; the 1st Battalion the Ceylon Light Infantry (1 CLI) covered Aluthgama, Ja-ela, Katunayake, Panadura and Kalutara. “There were demands in the Cabinet to … move forcefully against Christians protesting the takeover of the denominational schools,” explains Horowitz.

On the motive for the Coup, Sidney de Zoysa former Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) said, “The great issue then was the schools take-over. N. Q. Dias was a Buddhist chauvinist, and determined to take everything over into a Buddhist state. And Felix Dias was talking about a dictatorship and arguing that it would be a good thing,” wrote K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins in J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II.

A Christian education for their children is vital and critical to Roman Catholics and the takeover of denominational schools was bitterly opposed by the Church. Parents occupied the schools and a siege mentality developed. Finally, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had to request Cardinal Garcia of Bombay to go to Sri Lanka and mediate between the Church and the government to defuse the standoff. The final outcome however was that many denominational schools were taken into the state system with a minority in the cities being allowed to remain the property of the churches, but the latter could neither levy fees nor receive government assistance.

Tamil Satyagraha

When she became Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike proceeded to implement the Official Language Act. And in January 1961 Sinhala became the country’s operative official language. “Army officers who were Sinhala Christians retired under the language Act because they thought their careers had no future,” writes Patrick Peebles in The History of Sri Lanka. “The police had been about three-fourths Christian. In 1962 police and military officers staged a coup attempt led not by Tamils but by Sinhala Christians.”

K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins in J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II conclude, “N. Q. Dias was suspect to them as the leader of a powerful religio-political force in the government – the Bauddha Jatika Balavegaya – intent on establishing control over the machinery of government for themselves by championing the cause of the Sinhala Buddhist majority. He was seen as the evil genius behind the government’s policies since Mrs. Bandaranaike came to power, directed against the minorities – Christians and Tamils.

“A former Cabinet Minister in Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Government reported tremendous pressure from Sinhalese Civil Servants to enforce strict language requirements on their Tamil colleagues in the hope of forcing them out,” says Horowitz, “N.Q. Dias is said to have made life difficult for Tamil Civil Servants, helping to push some out because of disqualification in Sinhalese.”

These events led to the Federal Party launching a Satyagraha, a civil disobedience campaign across the northern and eastern provinces, bringing government administration to a standstill. The third trigger for the coup participants was the use of the Army against the Tamil Satyagraha.

One of the coup participants who had been assigned to Jaffna found the
Satyagraha peaceful and advised against the use of force. But when he sat in on a Cabinet discussion he found that the Government wanted to use the Army in the North to “teach the Tamils a lesson.”

The government therefore ordered the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment to Jaffna.
But when it was time to entrain, the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Willie Abrahams MBE, and his second in command Major Ignatius Loyola, who were Tamil Catholics, were barred from accompanying the regiment. Instead, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Udugama MBE, an infantry officer who was a kinsman of Mrs. Bandaranaike was placed in command. The troops protested at the station, refusing to entrain without their commanders until Colonel Abrahams prevailed upon them to proceed without him.

Army occupation of

North and East

Leaders of the Federal Party were arrested and detained at the Army Cantonment, Panagoda. Lt Col Richard Udugama was appointed Coordinating Officer Jaffna District, with Lt Col Lyn Wickremasuriya (Trincomalee), Lt Col P. D. Ramanayake (Batticaloa), Major S.T.B. Sally (Mannar) and Major C.F. Fernando (Vavuniya). And a state of emergency was declared.

“The Army brutalized the peaceful protesters … (and) began a two year long occupation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces,” writes Brian Blodgett in Sri Lanka’s Military: The Search for a Mission 1949-2004. The government also began to establish “several permanent camps in the northern and eastern sectors of the country.” N. Q. Dias wanted to increase the armed forces deployed to the north and east and the creation of new military bases in Arippu, Maricchikatti, Pallai, Thalvapadu, Pooneryn, Karainagar, Palaly, Point Pedro, Elephant Pass, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee.

The deployment of the Army to deal with what was essentially a civil political issue was viewed by many Ceylonese with a liberal secular outlook, as deliberately provocative. And this sentiment, though more latent, was also shared by both the cosmopolitan Tamils living in Colombo who considered themselves essentially Ceylonese as well as the more conservative Tamil-speaking people of the North and East. In Sri Lanka: Political-Military Relations Prof K. M de Silva wrote, “The attitude of the Tamils to the police and the security forces stationed there began to change in the 1960s and with it their view of the role the forces played. In the Jaffna peninsula, the principal centre of Tamil residence in the island, the police began to be seen as part of the state security network devised to keep the Tamils down.”

These developments were compounded by what Blodgett believed was Mrs. Bandaranaike’s desire for more Sinhalese Buddhist officers in order to “give them greater influence in running of the armed services”, when Mrs. Bandaranaike took over as Prime Minister in July 1960. He quotes K.M. de Silva who says that with the new government there was a major shift in “the ethnic and religious composition of the officer corp.

“Interpreters frequently note that ‘all but a few of the accused were Christians, mostly Roman Catholics.’ And they generally view the coup as a Christian reaction to the Buddhist resurgence and ascendency of the several years preceding 1962,” writes Donald Horowitz. “The heavily Westernised English-speaking, urban elite felt itself under stress. So did the ethnic and religious minorities: Tamils, Burghers, and Sinhalese Christians. The urban elite and the minorities were well represented in the officer corps of all the armed services and among the conspirators as well.”

Horowitz goes on: “‘The politicians were treating the country as if it belonged only to the Sinhalese who were Buddhists and no one else,’ argued a Sinhalese Christian Police Officer. Other Sinhalese officers, Christian and Buddhist, agreed.”

Felix Dias

“Although dispirited, those adversely affected by the post-1956 changes had not given up. Among Tamils there was some tendency to espouse the federalist solution…excluded from all the opportunities Colombo afforded at least they could return to administer their own areas in Jaffna … For non-Tamils, this course was not open. They dreamed not of an Asian Switzerland, where ethnic groups might coexist in an amicable territorial separatism; their model was rather of a tolerant, cheek-by-jowl cosmopolitanism in which a person’s origins might affect what he ate or where he worshipped but would have no public importance. The potency of these ideals … were held … because it was known that they were the ideals of the wider world beyond Sri Lanka’s shores,” concludes Donald Horowitz.

The Coup participants realised that Udugama was being groomed to take over command of the Army by promoting him over his seniors. He had organised a Buddhist Association within the Army, and officers including Buddhists who refused to be drawn into his Association regarded him with disdain.

For those who launched the coup the personification of the growing authoritarian-theocratic trend was Felix Dias, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and nephew of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. At their trial they asserted that the coup was a pre-emptive move to thwart a dictatorship by Felix Dias. According to one of the Coup participants “If Felix Dias had established himself in power … his regime would have rested on Sinhala Buddhist sentiment.”

By now military commanders were convinced that their authority was eroding and being replaced by an insidious dictatorship. “Felix Dias had at a meeting … in reference to conditions in Russia, stated that a little bit of totalitarianism might be of benefit to Ceylon.” (Trial-at-Bar)

“Felix Dias had antagonised many of the senior police and military officers by his interference in details of administration and by a hauteur which they found insufferable in one so young and inexperienced.” (K. M. de Silva and Howard Wriggins J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka Vol II)

“The majority of the conspirators reserved their most extreme animosity for Felix Dias … Because of his political position and personal style, the conspirators distrusted and disliked him …” explains Donald Horowitz. “Their characterisations of him were unflattering in the extreme: ‘the most arrogant bastard you ever met … pompous … revengeful … untruthful … a bit mad.”

To be continued

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Region-wide war seen as looming over Europe

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The fear among sections of Western opinion is that a region-wide war is looming over Europe, basically on the lines of the two world wars of the 20th century. Two of the most immediate triggers to this belief are the seemingly non-interventionist military exercises being carried out by some 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukraine-Russia border and the reaction by the US to place 8,500 of its troops on high alert in the face of the development, besides getting together its Western allies in case Ukraine is invaded by Russia.

US President Joe Biden has been quoted as saying that ‘Russia would pay a heavy price’ in the event it invades Ukraine, in addition to warning of a ‘severe coordinated economic response’ on the part of the West in case of such a development. The results would be ‘disastrous’ for Russia and the Ukraine, the US President reportedly stated.

In a development of considerable significance, meanwhile, the US and Britain have bolstered Ukraine’s defense capabilities through the provision of some crucial military hardware. Britain, it is said, has already gone to the aid of Ukraine by sending to the country some of its military advisors and other key personnel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has dismissed the above Western reactions as ‘hysterical’. But he is on record as saying that Russians and Ukrainians comprise ‘one people, a single whole’. Thus, is he trying to acquire some legitimacy for the Russian military exercises on the Ukrainian border. That is, Ukraine is being seeing as part of Russia and taking back Ukraine should be perceived by the world as perfectly in order.

However, the stark reality is that Cold War type divisions are re-emerging in Europe. Russia made its intention clear to carve out Eastern Europe once again as its exclusive sphere of influence through its joint operations with Belarus a couple of months back against the backdrop of thousands of migrants from around the world flooding Belarus. It was believed at the time that Russia’s gameplan was to flood Western Europe in general and Germany in particular with migrants with a view to creating a refugee crisis in the traditionally Western sphere of influence.

As to whether there would be war or peace in Europe over Ukraine is seen to depend by some, entirely on Russian President Putin’s strategic thinking. What is he planning to do? This has emerged as the question of first importance in this connection. Whatever course of action the Russian leader may opt for, it is abundantly clear that he cannot afford to be seen as withdrawing tamely and faint-heartedly from the Ukraine border, now that he has sanctioned a heavy Russian military involvement in the region.

For Putin, ‘chickening out’ of Ukraine at this juncture is unthinkable. He will need to look over his shoulder constantly at those sections of the Russian public who see Ukraine as an inseparable part of Russia and are solidly behind the re-taking of Ukraine project. However, Putin is also obliged to consider the daunting consequences for particularly Russia from a military incursion into Ukraine.

At present except for Eastern Ukraine, which is within the Russian sphere of influence, the rest of Ukraine seems to be quite determined to fight a Russian invasion to the finish. This much is made clear by international media coverages of the Ukrainian crisis. In this effort, Ukrainians in general are bound to have considerable Western backing, militarily and otherwise, although it is difficult to say currently whether this would mean that Western military ‘boots’ would be on Ukrainian soil in the event of a Russian military incursion.

Considering that there will be no extensive Ukrainian backing for Russia in the event of an invasion, the latter would need to take their minds back to the 1979 USSR invasion of Afghanistan, which cost Russia very dearly. Is Russia opting for a military quagmire of like proportions? This question would need to figure prominently in Russian strategic calculations at this juncture.

However, the West has its share of problems as well. At present, it is not at all clear whether the US and Britain will be having West-wide, unanimous and ready backing for any military involvement in the Ukraine. Over the past few days, the US has been in consultation with the principal political and military formations of the West, such as NATO and the EU, but the US cannot rest assured that it would have their solid backing for a military riposte to a Russian invasion.

Germany, for one, has made no such unambiguous commitment and German backing is crucial to the success of a Western military response to Russia. Western countries would need to carefully factor in their economic links with Russia in particular prior to making any substantive military responses. For example, there is Germany’s high stakes gas pipeline project with Russia, ‘Nord Stream 2’, which needs to be taken into consideration. Would it compromise its energy needs for the sake of Ukraine’s sovereignty? This too is a poser to ponder on.

Moreover, President Biden has not been absolutely unambiguous on what he has meant by Russia being called on to pay ‘a heavy price’. Does he have in mind military repercussions by the West or collective economic sanctions? Besides, some of the President’s recent statements have led observers to believe that the US would not mind some minor military incursions into Ukraine by Russia. This has the West guessing but it could lead Russia into believing that it could get away with some violations of International Law in the Ukraine.

Accordingly, although war clouds may seem to be gathering over the Ukraine, there is no certainty as to whether we would be having a full-blown war on the lines of the First World War, for example. However, the existence of two antagonistic alliances, though loosely formed, tempts the observer into inferring that a region-wide war in Europe is within the realms of the possible. Nevertheless, the sides are in the process of talking somewhat and the hope of the sane is that Jaw-jaw-jaw will prove more potent than war-war-war.

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Remembering Pathi

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The Department of Fine Arts of the University of Peradeniya honours the memory of Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja with a Memorial Lecture by Dr. Laleen Jayamanne on The Relevance of an Alternative Film Culture Today at 5.30 pm on the 28th of January, 2022 at the Arts Faculty Seminar Room and via Zoom

Dr. Pathiraja graduated with an honours degree from the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya in Sinhala, with Western Classical Culture in 1967. He obtained his MA in Sinhala, working in the field of drama at the University of Peradeniya in 1992 and obtained a Phd. in Cinema Studies, from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, in 1999, with a dissertation on early post-independence Bengali cinema of Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.

In honouring him with a doctorate posthumously in 2018, the University in its citation hailed him as a “renaissance man.” The citation continues with “in the fifties and sixties when Sri Lankan cinema was coming into its own with Lester James Pieris making a signal contribution to its stylistics, Pathiraja enters the scene with a distinctive style of his own that shares little with Pieris either in style and subject matter. More concerned with the lower middle class than with the decadent aristocracy, whom Pieris focused on, Pathiraja’s early films also capture an emerging ethos in cultural production: a language of the ‘masses’. This language‑ idiom‑ is expressly at the cross roads of a consciousness about the texture and complexities of the postcolonial state of Sri Lanka and of reaching out to an international audience. This consciousness has been his strength, what the audience has instinctively realiSed as new, as part of a new wave. Critics and the public have hailed him as the enfant terrible of the ‘70s, comparing him to the European Avant Garde of the 70s, especially trends emerging in Poland, Czechosolvakia and others.”

The memorial lecture at the event will be delivered by another illustrious alumna of the University, Dr. Laleen Jayamanne, who read classics at the University Peradeniya, and went onto become a major theorist in cinema studies. She taught at the Department of Cinema Studies at the Univ. of Sydney for several years and her publications include The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani and the more recent, Poetic Cinema and the Spirit of the Gift in the Films of Pabst, Parajanov, Kubrick and Ruiz. Her film, A Song of Ceylon (1985) is a dramatic and daring reworking of Basil Wright’s The Song of Ceylon. Jayamanne has written of Pathiraja’s films as visionary and ahead of their time.

The event will be in the hybrid mode and will be available to those interested via zoom on the link:

https://learn.zoom.us/j/7253908656?pwd=bUtvQk92N0NIQlpvTkQ1VlVXbjNnUT09

Meeting ID: 725 390 8656

Passcode: Pathi@123

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