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The abolition of the Senate

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Dr Nihal Jayawickrama

It was fifty years ago, on October 2, 1971, that the Governor-General, William Gopallawa, assented to the Bill that sought to abolish the Senate, the upper chamber of the Parliament of Ceylon. It was an event that was precipitated by the Senators themselves.

The Senate was one of the five constitutional safeguards that were included in the 1946 Constitution in order to remove the fear of “domination and oppression” by a “permanent and unassailable majority” which existed especially in the minds of Ceylon’s ethnic and religious minorities. The other entrenched safeguards were multi-member constituencies in those electorates in which a substantial minority, whether racial, religious or otherwise, lived; six nominated members of the House of Representatives to represent interests which were either not represented or were inadequately represented; an independent Public Service Commission which would guarantee strict impartiality in all matters affecting appointments; and a prohibition on Parliament enacting legislation either to confer a privilege or to impose a disability on persons of any particular community or religion.

Forum for impeding precipitate legislation

The Senate, with 15 members elected by the House of Representatives (according to the principle of proportional representation) and 15 members nominated by the Governor-General, was intended to serve as an instrument for impeding precipitate legislation as well as a forum for handling inflammatory issues in a cooler atmosphere. It was hoped that the Senators, being eminent individuals of high intellectual attainment and wide experience of national and global affairs, would make a valuable contribution to the law-making process. The Constitution required that not less than two Ministers (one of whom was the Minister of Justice), and not more than two Parliamentary Secretaries should be members of the Senate. The first Minister of Justice was Sir Lalita Rajapakse, QC., LLD. His successors were equally eminent men of the law. They included E.B.Wikramanayake QC; M.W.H. de Silva QC, former Attorney-General and Judge of the Supreme Court; Valentine S. Jayawickrama, former District Judge and Commissioner of Assize; and G.C.T.A. de Silva former District Judge and Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice.

In the 24 years of its existence, the Senate enabled proposed legislation as well as governance issues to be debated by a small group of men and women who had reached the pinnacle of their respective professions and other fields of endeavour. This group of distinguished Ceylonese included experienced civil servants (C.Cooomaraswamy, H.E.Jansz, R.S.V. Poulier, Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke); entrepreneurs (Sir Chittampalam Gardiner, Sir Cyril de Zoysa, Justin Kotelawela, Sir Donatus Victoria, K.Adamally, Sir Mohamed Macan Markar), proprietary planters (Thomas Amarasuriya, C.Wijesinghe, Layard Jayasundera) eminent lawyers (S.Nadesan QC, M.Tiruchelam QC); men of medicine (Sir Nicolas Attygalle, Dr. M.V.P.Peries, Sir Frank Gunasekera); scholars and educationists (S.Natesan, A.M.A.Azeez, Doric d’Souza, A.B.Rajendra); social activists (Cissy Cooray, Evelyn de Soysa, Evadne de Silva); and economists (N.U.Jayawardena) They were complemented by political representatives who included Dr.E.M.V.Naganathan (TC), Reggie Perera, Chandra Gunasekera (LSSP), Peri Sunderam (CIC), L.B.Jayasena (CP). I recall the numerous occasions in the early 1960s, during the period when my father-in-law-to-be was President of the Senate that I used to proceed from Hulftsdorp to Fort, to sit in the Senate gallery and absorb the sharp analytical wisdom of these eminent men and women. I also recall that an emerging relatively young politician who was frequently also in the visitors’ gallery was R.Premadasa together with his fiancee. It must be recalled that it was the Senate that enabled the world’s first woman Prime Minister to assume that office after not having contested any seat in the July 1960 general election.

Saving Nanda Ellawela

In July 1970, following the general election held in May of that year, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Dr Colvin R.de Silva, introduced a Bill to amend section 13 of the Ceylon (Constitution) Order-in-Council. That section provided that a person who had served three months’ imprisonment for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year was disqualified from sitting in either House of Parliament. The amendment sought to define a disqualifying offence as one involving “moral turpitude”. Dr.de Silva stated that the Bill had been drafted in the Ministry of Justice, and not by his Ministry. It had probably been drafted before I assumed office as Permanent Secretary in mid-June, since I became aware of it only when it was presented in the House of Representatives. It may even have been drafted by private lawyers before the general election. The Bill sought to make the amendment retroactive from 25th March 1970. It was an open secret that the purpose of this rushed legislation was to enable Nanda Ellawela, the newly elected MP for Ratnapura, to retain his seat. He had been convicted of unlawful assembly and had served a sentence of imprisonment above the disqualifying period. Predictably, an election petition had been filed and it was due to be taken up for hearing very shortly.

In the House of Representatives, the UNP and the Federal Party opposed making the amendment retroactive, but the former kept away, and the latter abstained when the vote was taken, thereby enabling the Bill to be passed with the required two-third majority. W.Dahanayake of the UNP resigned from the party, explaining that he disagreed with his party’s opposition to the amendment since the UNP had in previous years introduced similar legislation to enable E.L.Senanayake and A.L.Thambiyah to retain their seats in Parliament..

What is “moral turpitude”?

When the Minister of Justice, J.M.Jayamanne, presented the Bill in the Senate on August 6, having suspended standing orders in order to have it passed through all three stages before the end of day, it immediately ran into serious problems. Senators K.M.P. Rajaratne, S.Nadesan QC, and M.Tiruchelvam QC, in a brilliant analysis of the Bill pointed out that while “moral turpitude” had been defined to include offences such as theft and robbery, other serious offences including rape and kidnapping were not. “Would not bigamy constitute “moral turpitude” they asked ? Several members in that UNP controlled Senate appealed to the visibly rattled Minister to amend the Bill either by defining “moral turpitude” more broadly, or to remove altogether the disqualification of a person who had completed serving a sentence of imprisonment. With the Minister refusing to adopt either option, the Leader of the Senate, A.P. Jayasuriya, proposed that the debate be adjourned for the next day.

Two “obstinate Senators”

On the following morning, I was in my office in the Ministry of Justice (I was at that time also acting as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health) when I received a telephone call from Mr. J.R.Jayewardene. He said that he had done all he could to persuade UNP Senators to either abstain or keep away at voting time as had been done in the House of Representatives, but that Senator Fairlie Wijemanne, Leader of the Opposition, was determined to defeat the Bill. He said that with an obstinate Justice Minister and an equally obstinate Opposition Leader, he did not need to remind me what the consequences of that would be. He obviously anticipated that the Government’s next move would be to abolish the Senate.

He asked me to go to the Senate and do whatever I could to avoid that calamity. I did so and found that Ministers Felix Dias Bandaranaike and Colvin R.de Silva were both in the Senate Restaurant too. The government was not willing to accept either of the amendments suggested by Senators Nadesan and Tiruchelvam. The resumed debate therefore ended with the Bill being rejected by 13 to 7. Nine UNP Senators were not in the chamber when the vote was taken. The rejection of the Bill meant that the Government would not be able to secure the necessary constitutional amendment before the Ratnapura election petition was taken up for trial.

Lobby correspondent Manik de Silva described the debate as “one of the most exciting discussions in the teak-and-satin panelled chamber of the Upper House within recent memory”.

On the following morning, the Daily Mirror editorial had this to say:

By virtue of its vigil over this Bill, the Senate has rocketed in public esteem. It has manifested its utility as the Soulbury Commission envisaged “to prevent hasty and ill-considered legislation reaching the Statute Book”, and as the Commission also hoped it has used the delay “for the purpose of giving time for reflection and consideration” of the flaws in the Bill.

Responding to the vote in the Senate, Minister Felix R.Dias Bandaranaike explained that the Government had three options. The first was to prorogue Parliament for a day and present the Bill again in the House of Representatives in the new session. That, he thought, might create an unhealthy precedent. The second was to delay the hearing of the Ratnapura election petition. The third was to pardon Mr.Ellawela to enable him to contest his seat again.

On August 13, when the Ratnapura election petition against Nanda Ellawela was taken up for hearing before Justice O.L.de Kretser, the proctor for the petitioner informed Court that he had no instructions to proceed with the trial. Counsel for the respondent moved that the petition be dismissed, but the Judge, probably suspecting collusion, stated that he wished to hear the petitioner in person before doing so. Accordingly, he re-fixed the hearing for August 30. On the same day, the Cabinet decided to introduce legislation to abolish the Senate.

Bill to abolish the Senate

On October 28, 1970, the House of Representatives passed, with 117 for and 16 against, the Bill to abolish the Senate. On the previous day, the election of Nanda Ellawela to the Ratnapura seat was declared null and void by the Election Judge, Justice O.L.de Kretser on the ground that he was disqualified for election in view of his conviction and sentence of imprisonment. On November 9. 1970, the Minister of Justice, Senator Jayamanne, moved the second reading of the Bill to abolish the Senate, but was thwarted when he moved that government business have precedence on the day’s proceedings. Four months later, on March 24. 1971, Parliament was prorogued, and the next session was opened by the Governor-General on March 28, 1971. Immediately thereafter, the House of Representatives again passed the Bill for the abolition of the Senate.

The Constitution provided that if a Bill is passed by the House of Representatives in two successive sessions, and having been sent to the Senate in the second of those sessions, is not passed by the Senate within six months after the commencement of that session, the Bill may, notwithstanding that it has not been passed by the Senate, be presented to the Governor-General for his assent. On 23rd September 1971, the Senate convened for its final meeting. On October 2, 1971, the Governor-General assented to the Bill and the Ceylon (Constitution and Independence) Amendment Act No.36 of 1971 came into force, converting Ceylon’s bicameral legislature into a unicameral one.

The Constitution provided that a Minister who for any period of four consecutive months is not a member of either Chamber shall, at the expiration of that period, cease to be a Minister. However, on January 20, 1972, at the request of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, former Senator J.M.Jayamanne, tendered his resignation and was succeeded by Felix R.Dias Bandaranaike, Member of Parliament for Dompe, who was already Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs and Local Government. On February 3, 1972, on the eve of the expiry of the four month period, John Rodrigo, an appointed member of the House of Representatives tendered his resignation and was appointed Ambassador to Italy. On the following day, former Senator C. Kumarasuriar, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication, was nominated to fill the vacancy thereby created.



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Beyond the fiction of Alborada

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By Sarath Chandrajeewa

“No matter how much a work of art is sweet, if it hides the truth and disregards humanity it can only be equalled to a beautiful but empty shell that attracts us.” (L.E. Kerbel – Russian Sculptor)

‘Alborada’ is the Spanish word for ‘the dawn’. In 1984, a music group was born in Peru, South America by the same name and they gained immense popularity. Their music mainly spread among people in North and South America. Their music’s foundation was the traditional music of Native Americans who lived in the Andes mountain range (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTD2VDcxvNc). Likewise, in 2005 a soap opera by the same name was broadcast in Mexico, North America, which became very popular. This story was based on a series of events that took place during the historical period when Panama and Mexico were on the verge of gaining freedom from Spain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iM5s_d1vls).

In 2021 Asoka Handagama made a film in Sri Lanka by the same name, Alborada. The protagonist of this film is Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973), the Chilean Consul in Ceylon for two years, from 1929 to 1931. He was very young, only 25, when he was appointed to this post. Ceylon was a colony at the time and he was lodged at No. 56, 42nd street, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, a place close to the sea. He had written down his reminiscences, in his own language, in book form. Later it was translated into English and published under the title ‘Memoirs’. According to this book, he had referred to his house as ‘My solitary bungalow’. It is said that the name Alborada was proposed by Pablo Neruda for the house of his friend, Lionel Wendt (1900 – 1944), who had lived at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7.

Wendt too was fluent in several languages including English, Spanish and some other European languages. It is apparent, from documents and events that took place at that time, that his house, Alborada, had not been a lonely or tranquil place. It is clear that house Alborada was always full of people, such as painters, dancers, actors, photographers as well as pianists and those who enjoyed music. It was more like a cultural centre where discussions, art critiques and debates took place. (L.C. Van Geyzel, et al. [2000]. ‘Lionel Wendt: A Centennial tribute’. Lionel Wendt memorial fund; Sampath Bandara. [2017]. Lionel Wendt Kalava Saha Jeevithaya, Sarasavi Publication. [Sinhala]).

Though Handagama’s film was titled Alborada, the actual location, where incidents mentioned took place, was the Solitary Bungalow, the Chilean Consul’s official residence (Jamie James. [2019]. ‘Pablo Neruda’s life as a struggling Poet in Sri Lanka: A young poet’s Adventures in the Foreign Service’. Retrieved from https://lithub.com/pablo-nerudas-life-as-a-struggling-poet-in-sri-lanka/). In the 20th Century Sri Lankan context, Alborada was a distinguished active cultural centre. As a Sri Lankan cultural symbol, it directly connects with the character of Lionel Wendt. The creator of a work of art has the total freedom to create his work as he pleases and also to choose whatever name for the particular work. Handagama’s Alborada is similar to a poem, set to inspiring music. It includes a series of artistic figure compositions and features a number of skilled performing artistes. The trailer of Handagama’s film gave me some ideas.

When creating a work of art based on historical events, rather than myth and imaginary incidents, its trustworthiness depends on the people who faced the incident, the actual incidents, exact places, time period and the political and cultural background. Consequently, thorough research is necessary to identify accurate works based on historical incidents. It is difficult to rectify myths or false assumptions ingrained in society by unreliable books, documents, magazines or films. People will always embrace falsity, deception and myth, over the truth. Our culture as well as other cultures are replete with many such examples.

Alborada

‘Alborada’ is the name of Lionel Wendt’s house. It is important as it is the house of a great Sri Lankan cultural icon of the last century. It is also important as Alborada was the name given to the renowned cultural centre of modern history, in Sri Lanka. It is from this place that art activities in our country were taken to the international arena. Alborada was situated at No. 18 old Guildford Crescent. Today this street is called Premasiri Kemadasa Mawatha. Six years after his demise, in 1950 his friend Harold Peiris (1905-1981) demolished his old house, Alborada, and built a gallery and a performing arts centre (Lionel Wendt Art Gallery and Theatre) to commemorate him. It was designed by painter Geoffrey Beling (1907 – 1992), Principal Art Inspector, Department of Education, and Bernard G. Thornley (Manel Fonseka. [1994]. ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt, Lionel Wendt Photographs’. Deutsche Bank Colombo and Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund).

When Lionel Wendt was alive, renowned upcountry master dancers, Amunugama Suramba and Nittawela Ukkuwa used to lodge at Alborada with their troupes, when they visited Colombo (Dancer Dr. Vaidyavathi Rajapakse, daughter of Master Dancer Suramba, Personal communication, 2017).

A documentary movie ‘Song of Ceylon’, directed by Basil Wright in 1934, was placed first at the Brussels International film festival in 1935. The creative segments of the movie were organized at Alborada. Manel Fonseka reported in an article, ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt’ in 1994, that in an interview with Julia Margaret Cameron, Basil Wright had said this about Lionel Wendt; “I think he was one of the greatest still photographers that ever lived. I should place him among the six best I’ve come across”.

As a result of discussions held at Alborada, master dancers Nittawela Ukkuwa and Amunugama Suramba were taken to England for a recording of drum beats, for the movie ‘Song of Ceylon’. This trip was sponsored by painter Harry Peiris (1904-1988). A dance school was established to develop up-country dance, in Gunnepana, Sirimalwatte, Kandy in the 1920s for Master Suramba, as a result of discussions held among a group led by Wendt and George Keyt (1901-1993). This troupe, which included the group of up-country dancers, Ukkuwa, Nittawela Gunaya, Punchi Gura and Sri Jayana Rajapakse, was later upgraded as the ‘Dance Ensemble of Central Lanka’. Jayana’s coming of age ceremony, inclusive of his ‘Ves ceremony’, held at the Degaldoruwa Rajamaha Viharaya, Kandy, in 1939, and Jayana’s dance training in India later, were all sponsored by Wendt (Dr. Vaidyavathi Rajapakse, Personal communication, 2017).

The first art inspector appointed to Sri Lanka, during the colonial era, was Charles Freegrove Winzer (1886-1940), an Englishman. He became close friends with Wendt, during his tenure in Sri Lanka. In the early years, Winzer and Wendt both wrote reviews on exhibitions of George Keyt, Justin Peiris Deraniyagala (1903-1967) and Geoffrey Beling. Wendt also translated Neruda’s art reviews from Spanish to English and published them (Manel Fonseka.

[1994]. ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt, Lionel Wendt Photographs’. Deutsche Bank Colombo and Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund).

The first avant-garde art movement in Sri Lanka, the ’43 Group’, was born under the leadership of Winzer and Wendt. The 43 Group consisted of Wendt (Chief Organizer), painters Harry Peiris (Chief Secretary), George Keyt, J.W.G Beling, Richard Gabriel (1924-2016), Ivan Peiris (1921-1988), Justin Pieris Deraniyagala, George Claessen (1909-1999), Aubrey Collette (1920-1992) and L.T.P Manjusri (1902-1982). The meetings of the 43 group were held at Alborada until Wendt’s death.

Afterwards the meetings were held at the house of Harry Peiris, Sapumal Foundation, Barnes Place (Sarath Chandrajeewa. [2010]. ‘Modern Art in Sri Lanka and its socio-political environment’, Artful resistance: contemporary Art from Sri Lanka, ZKF publishers. Germany).

As mentioned above, Pablo Neruda was only 25 when he was in Sri Lanka as the Chilean Ambassador (1929-1931). At 29, Wendt was four years older. In his book ‘Memoirs’, translated from Spanish into English by Hardie St. Martin, published by Penguin, Neruda had written thus about Wendt, on page 93.

“Little by little the impenetrable crust began to crack open and I struck up a few good friendships. At the same time, I discovered the younger generation, steeped in colonialist culture, who talked only about books just out in England. I found out that the pianist, photographer, critic and cinematographer Lionel Wendt was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon.

Lionel Wendt, who owned an extensive library and received all the latest books from England, got into the extravagant and generous habit of every week sending to my house, which was a good distance from the city, a cyclist loaded down with a sack of books. Thus, for some time, I read kilometers of English novels, among them the first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published privately in Florence” (Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, translated from Spanish by Hardie St. Martin [1997]. Penguin Books).

To be continued

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Politics at its most primitive

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By Uditha Devapriya

Review of Shaveen Bandaranayake’s Groundswell

Sarasavi Publications, 2021, 118 pages, Rs. 300

Half-way into Shaveen Bandaranayake’s novel, the Minister at the heart of the story tells us that the wealth he earned was people, not money. This is what politicians usually say. In the very least, it is what people who dislike politicians imagine they say.

Come to think of it, both amount to the same thing: we’ve turned politicians into objects of hate so much that we’ve come to love them for being who we think they are. Since we can’t control them in real life, we want to dominate them in popular fiction. The number of plays and films that poke fun at Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Ministers testify to how badly we want to be, not like them, but above them.

I am deeply suspicious of satire of that sort. In his excellent review of Pusswedilla, Hafeel Farisz tells us why political parody ends up serving the people and objects being parodied. This is not rocket science. At its best, political satire can move us to anger, disenchantment, and rebellion. At its worst, it can lull us into a sense of complacency with things as they are and as they seem. Farisz seemed to think that Pusswedilla epitomised the latter, reinforcing cultural stereotypes while offering no proper critique of the political establishment and the ruling class. I suppose you can say the same thing of Vijaya Nandasiri’s comedies: at his best, he makes us aware of the corruption of the political class; at his worst, he turns the corrupt into objects of love-hate, full of tropes and clichés but nothing substantive.

Shaveen Bandaranayake’s Groundswell reads as a political satire, though I have my doubts. Interweaving different stories and unfolding like a film, it goes back and forth. I won’t call its ending funny, but then how can any novel involving politics end on a funny note?

What Bandaranayake does in his story, short as it is, is to tell us that nothing good can come out of a system mired as much in corruption as in patronage. Since these people are tied to each other through politics, politics can prove to be their undoing. The way he forays into this theme and explores it, without regurgitating the usual political clichés, puts the novel at a notch or two above what you come across at, say, the Lionel Wendt. Without conforming to crude stereotypes, he attempts to humanise his characters, showing us why connections matter in politics, and why they don’t always work out.

The plot is simple enough. A woman comes across a corpse of a man at the foot of a hill one fine morning. She informs the police. By the looks of it, he seems to have lost his grip and fallen to his death. The story then rewinds to a political rally at that most obtrusive site of political rallies, a temple, where we are introduced to Sarath Aluwihare, a Minister trying to win his next election. We are also introduced to Sunil, a young man endeavouring to land a job. Events will unfold in a way that will bring the two of them together.

We are told that Sarath hails from a family of politicians, and that this family has been in politics for over two generations. The surname tells us as much. Sunil, on the other hand, is so unobtrusive that Shaveen doesn’t grant him the privilege of a surname, which, after all, is the preserve of those who matter. Like other village youths lacking employment and in dire search of a patron from the ruling class, Sunil clearly is not important; even when he finds a job as Aluwihare’s driver, his status rises, but not so much as to protect him from the novel’s ending. He is as destined to his place in life as Aluwihare is to his.

There are other characters though, and they have surnames. There is the head priest of the temple, for instance, an unabashed admirer of Aluwihare who uses him to achieve his not so religious purposes. Then there is Dileepa Jayanetti, who rises “from rags to riches” and ends up becoming the owner of the country’s biggest media house. Dileepa finds his way up by befriending the daughter of another prominent politician, who introduces him to Aluwihare, who in turn becomes his biggest benefactor. You sense the pattern here.

Halfway through the story, Dileepa hires Lasantha Muthukumarana, a journalist who tries to stick to the tenets of his trade. Dileepa does this because he thinks that by hiring the honest, he can keep them from being honest. For someone who is so bright and manipulative, this is far from the most brilliant decision he could have taken: a few pages later, Muthukumarana is investigating a hit-and-run incident which may be connected to Aluwihare.

In Bandaranayake’s world, everyone seems to know everyone else. That is why it comes to no surprise that the man run down by a vehicle in the middle of the night should have been married to a woman Aluwihare just happened to hire at his Ministry, and that she should be rumoured to have formed the object of Aluwihare’s affections. That Lasantha thought for a moment that a news report linking all this to a prominent Minister would make it in a paper linked to and blessed by that Minister is, of course, intriguing. But he tries to get it published it anyway. When the predictable opprobrium follows and he finds he can’t get it in, the story moves to its inevitable and in many ways unsurprising conclusion.

In saying all this, I am by no means revealing the plot. In fact, surprising as it may seem, the plot is what least interests me about Bandaranayake’s novel. This is a narrative I have come across many times, in many forms. Bandaranayake takes great pains to make it all relevant to the immediate political situation, i.e. the one we are in, now. Those who manage to draw links between his characters and their “real-life counterparts” should, therefore, be forgiven for thinking that he has attempted political critique masquerading as satire. My interest in it, then, has less to do with the novel than the genre it belongs to.

If Groundswell can be called a satire, it is satirical only to the extent that his characters are caricatures. Yet, as I implied earlier, it is not a satire in the way that a work like Pusswedilla is. The characters fit into preconceived and familiar patterns, but that doesn’t make them the clichéd tropes they turn into elsewhere. These characters are more rounded, certainly more complex. Sarath Aluwihare, for instance, does not possess the overstuffed tummy his counterparts from countless parodies do, while Sunil doesn’t become a Renfield type figure hell bent on catering to his “Master.” Even though Bandaranayake can be facetious, and is pugnacious, he refuses to dabble in the kind of satirical humour which could have turned his story into a Vijaya Nandasiri style parody of politics in Sri Lanka.

Depending on how you view it, this may be the strongest point or the biggest weakness in Bandaranayake’s novel. Groundswell makes several important points, and they should be considered pertinent whether they be couched the language of satire or of serious political critique. The medium is hardly the message, contrary to what people might say, and the way you communicate your ideas should not really impact the importance of those ideas.

And yet, there are one or two episodes which reveal Bandaranayake’s funny side. It is here that the disjuncture between the satirical undertones and the ponderous overtones of the narrative, and the author’s voice, proves fatal to the development of the story.

Bandaranayake is at his best when he is setting up situations, and these situations are, all things considered, effective in setting up the plot. He tries to create atmosphere, and does a good job of laying the context. But when each and every point is prefaced by laboriously long explanations of social phenomena, such as the separation between temple and State in Sri Lanka, or the wretched fate encountered by a million or so menial workers in West Asia, you struggle to distinguish between the narrative and the commentary.

For local readers, these explanations will at best be passé. I suspect they will be for foreign readers as well. Groundswell is a novel, or more correctly a novella, which could have been shorter, tighter, and more effective without them. Not surprisingly, the story gains strength when Bandaranayake cuts to the chase, and loses track when he does not.

I have read this kind of story many times before. What makes this one interesting is that it is Bandaranayake’s first attempt at fiction, and that, for a first attempt, it’s damn good. Even within its limits, he has come up with something enjoyable. That I enjoyed the book, and of course the brilliant illustrations that more than just decorate it*, is why I wish it were leaner, shorter, and tighter. Less can be more. More often than not, it is.

* With one exception: the eighth drawing depicts a scene that, if you think about it carefully, is at odds with the text on the opposite page.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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Thirty two little ballerinas win awards at TBSC’s 2021 prize giving

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Text and pictures by
PRIYAN DE SILVA

Thirty two little ballerinas were presented with certificates of achievements and awards at the 2021 prize giving of The Ballet school of Colombo (TBSC) held recently.

Directors of TBSC Tara Cooke and Romina Gyi said that they were extremely proud of the achievements of their charges and thanked the students and parents for their dedication in attending classes diligently despite the trying conditions.

Certificates of achievement were awarded in the baby ballet, junior ballet and intermediate ballet categories to students who excelled in pre-classical and pre-jazz ballet.

Debbie McRitchie, International Director of the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing (to which TBSC is affiliated), in her congratulatory message thanked the parents for investing in their childrens dance education and the teachers of TBSC for preparing the candidates. She said that dance is like life and is a journey but not a destination and encouraged all stakeholders to work harder.

The prize giving was a proud moment for both students and parents as it was a parent who presented the certificates of achievement to their child. Five-year-old Shenaya de Alwis Samarasinghe was the youngest candidate at the prize giving, passing with honours in pre-classical ballet.

The Ballet School of Colombo was the former ‘Oosha Garten Sschool of Ballet’ pioneered by the late Kalasuri Oosha Saravanamuttu-Wijesinghe and was instituted as the ‘The Ballet School of Colombo’ in 2016.

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