Two nations, one language
It was the last sentence: ‘What is really happening today is that two languages in one country are gradually paving the way for resulting in two countries at the end.’ in S. Akurugoda’s (SA) excellent article ‘16A removed Sinhala as the country’s official language’ published in The Island 17.08.2020, which prompted me to write this piece; which has been in my mind for a number of years. If I had the discipline of my father, I would have written this as an essay if not a short story. If I had his genius, I would have written it in Sinhala with the appropriate socio-cultural relevance. Since I have neither, I will restrict myself to an anecdote.
The year was 1983 and I was travelling through parts of Europe on a fairly long leash with daily telephone call updates to my father, who was on a sabbatical in Belfast and to my mother who was reading for a MPhil in Reading. Ekrem, a Turkish girl (not part of the daily updates!) was a fellow traveller from Ankara, whom I met in a stay over in Antwerp. In conversation she happened to mention that her family came from Gordion. I admitted that the only thing I knew about Gordion was the narrative of Alexander and the cutting of the Gordian Knot. She smiled at me and asked if I was interested in the true story behind the historical legend.
Ekrem’ s family were direct descendants of Phrygia – the place where the famous Ox cart was tied. Her great great…. grandfather Cetin, had had the honor of actually seeing Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot.
Cetin was the newly appointed assistant to help the aging Chancellor who was responsible for looking after the Ox cart among his other onerous duties. Having worked with the Chancellor for a few months and gaining his trust, Cetin requested permission to have a go at unraveling the knot – permission was not granted to all and sundry – willy nilly. The Chancellor was happy enough to allow Cetin to have a go at it, saying he will be back soon enough, as they had to make preparations for Alexander the Great himself who was arriving the next day. What confronted the Chancellor on his return was a determined Cetin hacking away at the knot with his knife!
When the Chancellor opened his eyes he was lying on the ground with his head on a visibly anxious Cetin’ s lap, who was trying to administer to his master a few sips of water. Once recovered he (the Chancellor) looked around to confirm that they were alone in the chamber and instructed Cetin to close and bar the doors to the chamber. Examining the knot it was revealed that Cetin had only been able to cut one strand of the many interlaced strands that made the knot. Finally, when the Chancellor spoke to Cetin it was through a hiss of fury. ‘You imbecile! What gave you the idea to cut this knot? Did you not think that every other person could have done that as well? What do you think the boys who get their kites entangled in a knot do? What do you think the fishermen whose lines get caught in a knot do? You idiot, if this thing could be cut by anybody, where do you think the challenge was going to be? Having vented his anger long enough for it to subside, he reverted to the practicality of their predicament. What are we to do? What are we to tell Alexander the Great when he comes tomorrow? That the challenge has been taken care of by the village idiot who decided to cut the knot?
Cetin replied ‘my lord, I took the knife out as a final resort. This knot is not just one simple knot. There are many knots. It will take, above all patience and much time, to unravel this knot. I have seen many, seated for long hours in front of this knot and not making any progress. And as you can see the knot is still undone. There are many great qualities attributed to Alexander the Great, but patience is not one of them. I will conceal the strand that I have cut and none will be the wiser’.
Whether it was the stress of the coming day, old age, or ailing health, or a combination of all of these, one does not know, but the Chancellor slept his last night that night. It was therefore by default that Ekrem’ s great ancestor Cetin, had the honor of presenting the Gordian Knot to Alexander the Great. The legend is that Alexander the Great, the prince of Macedonia, who was tutored by no less a person than Aristotle till the age of 16, the man who had conquered half the known world by the time he was 30, grappled with the knot. In frustration he looked at Cetin. Cetin looked at Alexander and then looked at his sword. This he did, three times. The rest is history.
We as common folk have a tendency to be mesmerized and swayed by leaders, famous personalities etc… This should not be the case. In fact Buddha in his ‘Kalama Sutra’- which was one of the famous teaching points of the Late Prof. Carlo Fonseka – advocated for us to examine, dissect and analyze to discover the truth for ourselves. He said do not believe this because, I say this, because so and so says it etc…
This is exactly what has not happened, with this famous statement of Colvin R. De Silva. It has been taken as gospel. In fact he used the word nation. One language, two nations. One nation, two languages. Certainly a most beautiful piece of oratory; which has been used by both Sinhala and Tamil politicians to further their cause. But, think about it. What does it mean? What is the concept of a language? It is much more than a mere spoken word and a written script. It is the ‘soul’ of a nation. Two languages is in fact like splitting the soul of a nation. Language is the civilizational force that keeps the soul of the nation intact over centuries. The supplement of The Island on the same day that carried SA’s article was on Indonesia’s Independence Day. According to the supplement Indonesia has 330 ethnic groups, 580 local languages and dialects, but only one official language. Take India, a collection of states, but kept together by a common civilization-Hindutva, made possible by Hindi as the foundation.
The conclusion of SA is spot on. This is what would result from having two languages (official). It should be one language, one nation. X languages, X nations. It is time we see the reality for what it is, like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot.
Dr. SUMEDHA S. AMARASEKERA
The care of good dentists
I experienced an agonizing toothache for the first time in my right-hand upper jaw. On bringing it under control with native medicines, a couple of colleagues at my work place stressed me to see a dentist who could prevent any recurrence, and recommended a highly proficient doctor by the name Rini Mathew attached to a popular medical centre in Riyadh. After nearly five-days-wait I was successful in getting an appointment to consult her.
This highly pleasant lady doctor from Kerala, India, after seeing the set of teeth in my right-hand upper jaw recommended for a root canaling and requested to return in two-weeks-time. Having not undergone any sort of surgery in my whole life, I was a little confused as to what to expect. As I arrived prepared for the repair work on my teeth, the good lady told me to my pleasant surprise that I don’t need any further treatment for the moment and if I get the toothache back again to come and see her. I thanked God and praised her for her being frank and honest.
The history of dentistry records Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, who lived around 2600 BC is recognized as the first dental practitioner. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, specifically about treating decaying teeth, but it wasn’t until 1530 that the first book entirely devoted to dentistry – The Little Medicinal Book for all kinds of diseases and infirmities of the Teeth – was published.
You don’t want to feel like just another item on your dentist’s to-do list. The best dentists, like whom I consulted, have a way of letting their patients know they care about them personally. They are interested in their patient’s lives and are eager to become a part of their general care team. The best dentist always gives you the care that you deserve.
S. H. MOULANA
The Age of Animal Ministries
The call by the government’s backbench MP Mr. Dilan Perera to be made the Rilav/Vanduru Amathi, or the Minister for Monkeys, in the Pohottuva Realm, certainly leads to plenty of interest.
This must do with the various divisions and breakup tasks that have been given to both Cabinet and State Ministers, in the current play of governance, by the Gotabaya strategies.
The call for a Rilav Ministry may have come after the Minister for Coconuts, Arundika Fernando, tried to climb a coconut palm, in his estate, at Dankotuwa, and hold a press conference to tell the people about the shortage of coconuts and the cause of the high price of this essential food item. One was surprised that he did not blame the coconut price hike on the 19A to the Constitution, and give any assurance that the coming 20A will bring the nut prices to within the people’s reach. Such nutty thinking is possible from politicos today.
What was also interesting is how he did this climb, halfway to coconut heights, with some modern climbing gear, having nothing to do with the traditional coconut tree climbers, who used their feet and hands to move much higher, and also walk on ropes from tree to tree for coconut plucking and toddy tapping. He must be following the new thinking of the Rajavasala on Digital Development to raise this country to new heights of Rajapaksa Success.
Let’s get back to the hopeful Rilav Amathi – the Monkey Minister Dilan Perera. The dictionary meaning of ‘Rilava”, that comes from the Vaanarayas, is those who take the forest products. This certainly has much relevance to the huge forest destruction taking place today, with the clear political blessings of the Rajapaksa realm. It is the crooked, or rilav, thinking of the Pohottu politicians that is causing this huge destruction of nature, bringing disaster to the environment. Is it the hope of Mr. Dilan Perera that he would be put in charge of this chronicle of destruction, becoming the political gatherer of profitable forests products, and giving free forest land to the political catchers of 20A fondness?
Or, is he thinking of the romantic legends of the monkey Hanuman, that had so much to do with Rama and Sita, and brought so much of forest land from India and dumped in several parts of this country, giving much of the ayurvedic medicine to this day. Is the Pohottuva Dilan thinking of becoming the Phohottu Hanuman, to bring in new legends of politically powerful romances that will soon be part of the Hanuman Keli or Monkey Games of the Power Players? His recent defence of the 20A, against the 19A that he voted for, gives a good indication of the Rilav and Vanduru thinking that is the stuff of Pohottu politics.
There is also a good opportunity for the call for a Nari/Hival Amathi, or Fox Minister, in this government. Why not have one of these foxy politicians, with their delight in political long-jumping, who have plenty of nari-thinking in their systems, as the new Nari-Hival Amathi. He or she will make some quick decisions on how the ‘Nari Tharjanaya’, the Fox Threat in the Kalutara, and now Horana areas, can be tackled; giving the Cabinet Minister of Health time to keep thinking of matters other than public health, and more on the political health of those who are in the bandwagon of power politics.
A Nari-Hival Amathi will be one whose hoots will be heard loud and clear in support of 20A, and one who would have gladly hooted in support of both the 18A and 19A, and is ready to raise both hands, and even one’s legs, for the 20A.
There are other animals who can have Cabinet or State portfolios in this politics of backward evolution. Why not have a Buffalo, or Meeharak Amathi? This could be a Pohottuva activist who will promise to give a good price to the curd made from buffalo milk, and also tell the public how much they can benefit by lying for hours in the mud found near their homes, without looking for government jobs or contracts for services that can only be given to the Pohottu catchers.
The Tamil Tigers were defeated more than a decade ago. But the politics of today is still seething with tiger threats to national unity. With what is happening to the leopards in this country, there is certainly a cause for a pohottu backbencher to ask for a Kotiya or Diviya portfolio. This can be a pohottu player who have the stripes of corruption on one’s body, with plenty of experience of grabbing the land of others, whether paddy fields or plantations, with the twisted politics of power, whether from the UNP, SLFP, UPFA or the Yahapalana travesty. A Koti Amathi will be roaring away, and leaping with great success on grabbing the property of other people, for the rising cause of Pohottu Balaya, the future power Dual Citizens, especially of the Washington-Medamulana alliance.
It is not likely that there will be any calls for a Bull or Cow – Harak Amathi – especially after the reigning silence over the plan to stop the slaughter of cattle. There are plenty of bulls in the huge pack on the government side, at Diyawanna Oya, we hear and also see their ‘gon talk’ and ‘harak keliya’ in the parliament so often today. They will be happy that cattle slaughter will remain a reality here, with no moves for the rise of a vegan society, which is certainly not the substance of the real Rajavasala thinking, with complete absence of kindness to animals.
There are many more animal or species ministries that can be offered to build up this Rajavasala Sathva Kattiya, once the 20A is passed, and the ministries can flow from the Rajapaksa pen. There is much space for more than one serpent or Sarpa Amathi – who will spread themselves all over the country, and crawl around and strike down with venom those who dare talk of the disasters that lie ahead post 20A. There can be many cockroach and mosquito ministers, too, who will help spread the Covid 20 — that can be far more dangerous than today’s Covid-19.
Let’s give a bow to the Age of Animal Ministries or Sathva Amathya Yugaya.
Where is Sajith’s leadership?
By Dr UPUL WIJAYAWARDHANA
The Leader of the opposition is a vital link in democracy and, as the name implies, is expected to give leadership. Unfortunately, the behaviour of Sajith Premadasa is casting doubts as to whether he is giving that leadership.
Even when he challenged Ranil for the leadership of the UNP, he was happy to put up a fight for some time and then give up. His disappearance into the wilderness after losing the presidential election and issuing a statement that he would devote the rest of his life to looking after leopards, perplexed many. Egged on by a coterie of Ranil-haters, he split the UNP but still wanted to grab the HQ of the party, an aspiration he quickly gave up after the last general election, probably because the UNP did unexpectedly bad.
There is no doubt that the biggest challenge he faces is opposing the introduction of the 20th amendment. If the ugly scenes in the parliament, when 20A was tabled, on 22nd September is anything to go by, many would be in for disappointment. “The ongoing campaign against 20A is characterised by a severe trust deficit, which the Opposition has failed to overcome.”: This forewarning in the editorial “Diyawanna Post Office” (The Island, 22 September) seems to ring true. I greatly doubt the opposition enhanced its image with this behaviour and the contempt of the voters towards Members of Parliament surely would increase.
What was displayed was not leadership but gang-leadership. Instead of obeying the rulings of the Speaker and forging a strong opposition in a democratic manner, what we saw was rowdy behaviour. To add insult to injury, they were demanding the cameras be aimed at them, so that the whole country could witness their rowdiness!
I too am against some aspects of 20A, like removing the limitation of Cabinet size and letting dual citizenship holders enter parliament, but have done so by just means; having voiced them through this newspaper.
In addition, Sajith failed miserably as a leader when he did not take any action against the national list MP Harin Fernando, who made a totally unsubstantiated allegation against Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. He told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating the Easter Sunday attacks that the Cardinal shifted the Sunday Mass to Saturday as he was aware of the terrorist attack. As a catholic himself, Harin should have verified facts before he made such a serious accusation. In spite of having had to admit his folly to the commission, on his way out, Harin made sarcastic remarks to journalists. It is impossible even to speculate what earthly purpose these insults are meant to serve. If it is to regain the support of the Buddhist voters, it certainly is an exercise in futility as most Sri Lankans hold Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith in high esteem for his exemplary leadership following the Easter Sunday attacks.
Sajith should have taken immediate action, as this is a repeat offence; having taken Harin to the Cardinal for an apology on the previous occasion. Instead, he said in high-brow Sinhala “abhyantara kathikawathaka yedenewa”, meaning an internal conversation is taking place. Sajith seems to be under the impression that using serious sounding words would satisfy the masses and solves problems.
Unfortunately, Sajith’s lack of leadership qualities are becoming more obvious by the day. Perhaps, there is a chance for Ruwan Wijewardena, if he plays his cards right!
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