21 July, 2019

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Jaffna’s Curse Of Political Correctness – Addressed By The Rajakulendran Academy

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

The Destruction of Jaffna

Even after the war years which destroyed much of what is good in Jaffna, little of value has been rebuilt except the service industry which brings severe environmental problems with it. The most destructive has been the loss of English competency with the outflow of good teachers. As far as I can tell, only the Principals of Uduvil Girls’ College and Chundikuli Girls’ College can write good English among the school Principals of Jaffna – and to say something sexist, that is because women feel greater shame in speaking bad English. Like fear and anger, shame too serves to guard and advance our interests and protect us.

Unfortunately in Jaffna, to our great detriment, there is a tendency to self-affirm what and who we are by scoffing at what we lack – English competency in particular. Those who have been to university will know that the buffoons who rag and torture new students target those who speak English well. The importance of English, although privately recognized, is diminished by advancing the politically correct, self-destructive view that “It is not our language. Why is it so important?” 

A Cosmopolitan Culture

I do not need to overstate the case for English – a source of knowledge as the most international language  since it contains much of the important educational literature including that on the internet. Indeed as the expert-reviewed archival literature on our own national languages and cultures is written more in English than our languages, English is also a more reliable window to our own cultures. 

Cultural pride is fine but the expected culture in the modern world of business is a culture-neutral dress-code paradoxically built on a western model – trousers, shirt and tie, or a full dress or blouse and skirt/trousers. At a time Europe has filed cases against employees wearing religious symbols to work as seen at the European Court of Human Rights, Jaffna has an excessive display of symbols with university lecturers including those who teach English wearing liberal daubs of holy ash and huge pottus. While it is their right to do so, the fact is that there is a strong link between the wearing of these symbols on the one hand, and lack of English proficiency and cultural hegemony on the other.  And we are judged accordingly. Knowing that link, these who assert these symbols in Jaffna, leave them behind (or use ash daubings sparingly) on their occasional visits to Sinhalese areas. Praising our lack of competence as a badge of self-respect and patriotism, and daring to criticize those advocating the discarding of the public display of symbols, they have taken Jaffna down the path of self-destruction to hide their shortcomings.

When we think as I have written, many monolinguals in Jaffna will call us good colonials. The way to respond is not to stop trying to learn English-speaking and cosmopolitan as they would want us to. The right way to address them is to say “Boo” to them and carry on building up our careers and cosmopolitan dimensions of our educated culture.

Jaffna’s Elite as Seen at India’s Republic Day

A vivid example of Jaffna’s cultural backwardness was on display at India’s Republic Day celebrations in Jaffna. The invitation to Jaffna’s elite — some of whom asked to be invited — implored and entreated us to be timely and to wear formal or business/casual clothing. Come 7:00 pm, the appointed time, half the hall was empty and the Chief Guest, His Excellency Suren Raghavan the Governor, who came promptly on time, had to be hidden away in a room on a different floor. Some who did not know this would have thought, when the Governor was finally brought in, that he was late. Poor Dr. Raghavan! A few, including representatives, drifted in after his entry in ordinary clothes without neither tie nor shoes, and some of these laggards left early thereby wasting their lavishly set places that had been paid for at the Jetwing Northgate Hotel after they had sent in a positive RSVP response. If this is the example our elite set, we in Jaffna certainly have a long way to go to reach the rest of civilization.

This situation also brings fear into those professionals who wish to stay in Jaffna and serve. For it is a death sentence on their children who will turn out to be proud mono-culturists. It adds to the problem as those with credentials flee.

The only way to progress and worldly success in bringing up our children is to make them be multi-cultural and cosmopolitan.

Enter the Rajekulendran Women

Many readers might not have heard of Mr. J. G. Rajakulendran, member of the Second State Council who was the Principal of Kathiresan Central College in Nawalapitiya (a city made famous by the birth there of M.G. Ramachandran) some 40km from Kandy. A Christian being principal of that Hindu school testified to his cosmopolitanism. He must have been intelligent for the unique career path that a Jaffna man had carved for himself. Imbued with his intelligence are his two daughters Vimala Jebanesan and Swendrini Kadirgamar. They perceived what Jaffna lacked and started the Rajakulendran Academy of Western Music, Speech and Drama. Even the music through singing ties up improving English to acquiring a wide vocabulary and learning a natural pronunciation.

Joy of Christmas

On 29 December last, my wife and I were privileged to be the chief guests for the Rajakulendran School’s “Joy of Christmas – An Evening of Variety Entertainment.” We started promptly at 3:30 pm as scheduled.  “Joy of Christmas was a treat better than anything I had ever seen in Colombo or in my many years in the US. (Here I must congratulate University of Jaffna for starting their international conference on time on 6 Feb.).

The professionals who stayed on in Jaffna had a big void filled by making their children competent in English, and making it easier for them to decide to stay on in Jaffna and contribute. Every student participated. All of them, I venture, will do well in foreign exams where they usually fair extremely well in the quantitative portion but are undone in the verbal portion as well as the analytical portion which requires understanding the subtleties of English.

The programme highlights that evening are Western Orchestra with Singing in Parts, Piano Solos, Piano Duet, Choral Recitations, Group Dance, Group Descant Recorder Item, and the main event of the evening: Christmas Carol – A Drama Adaptation of Charles Dickens’ famous work. 

I must mention some whom I particularly noticed. Swasthi Gobishankar participated in many items but I noticed her because of her ever-pleasant smile as she performed, and her cosmopolitan hairdo and neat slacks stopping a little above her ankles. She ably rendered the Vote of Thanks, and looked quite modern while being very much a Jaffna girl.

 

Ms Swasthi Gobisankar – A Cosmopolitan Jaffna Girl (3rd from right)

The rendering of Christmas Carol was heartwarming, given the season. Actors went through many changes of clothing to suit the different scenes and that period. The Academy had spent lavishly on this. The Ghosts that haunted Scrooge were dressed to look truly like Ghosts as we imagine them to be, and dressed to suit. Given Jaffna’s demographics, 80% of the artistes were Hindu. 

Whom I would call the star of the evening, Srisankarshan Srisatkunarajah who played Scrooge, was amazing for the variety of emotions he brought to stage – from my front row I could see real tears welling in his eyes and running down his cheeks as Scrooge regretted his past life and cried.

 

I must not fail to mention Visahan Nanthakumar, a young man who had taught himself Michael Jackson dances that his elderly teachers could not teach him, and a departure from the classical rest. His mother had contracted a viral infection at hospital which was not responding to treatment. His father and grandmother were there to cheer him on. The good news is that the mother is now responding a little to treatment. 

“Michael Jackson” Visahan (5th from Left) with father Nanthakumar and Grandmother (2nd, 3rd from left)

The Final Bow at Trimmer Hall Jaffna

The final bow wishing us all a Merry Christmas was an opportunity for all to show their happy faces again. Jaffna may take long to be resurrected but I am sure that these children with their skills in English, confidence and poise have a bright future ahead of them. If I have a regret, it is that in Jaffna’s culture of “Become a Doctor or Engineer or Lawyer or Accountant, or you are a Failure,” young Srisatkunarajah will never be allowed to make a career of acting which he demonstrated to be his forte.

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  • 7
    1

    Hoole says
    And we are judged accordingly. Knowing that link, these who assert these symbols in Jaffna, leave them behind (or use ash daubings sparingly) on their occasional visits to Sinhalese areas.

    It is almost as if he is talking of “uncivilized areas” and “civilized areas”, rather than Jaffna and “sinhalese areas”.

    There is no such thing as Sinhalese areas. As GG Ponnanmbala had said in the 1960s, all of Ceylon are Tamil areas as well as Sinhalese areas” , and he rightly rejected the ethnic enclaves proposed by SJV chelvanayagam with his theory of “exclusive Tamil Homelands”. Today, the narrow Jaffna mindset is a result of SJV’s politics followed by that of the TULF, LTTE and TNA

    • 2
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      Palasanthiran1
      GG is the first person who asked for 50/50. 50 for the Sinhalese and 50 for all minorities put together. SJV never said as exclusive Tamil areas. But he said was not to colonize the traditional homelands of the Tamil areas with the Sinhalese so as to change the texture of the population with ulterior motive to reduce the Tamil Representations in the Parliament and else where, where it matters
      Don’t forget the fact that GG learned his mistake and joined SJV to ask for a separate state for the Tamils. Shortly after wards both passed away. I WON’T BE SURPRISED IF YOU WILL SAY THAT FEDERALISM IS A DIVISION OF THE COUNTRY.

  • 13
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    I am afraid that the author of this article is either still living in the colonial past or more likely has still not got over the colonial hangover! He simply scoffs at any symbolism ranging from the holy ash to the ‘pottu’. He seems to imagine that a whole society can totally disregard its culturally rich past and its cherished values and go for what he calls as ‘cosmopolitanism’! He either forgets or does not know that cosmopolitanism becomes practicable only in an urbane society of mixedo ethnic and religious groups, a place like Colombo and not in a society of almost mono ethnicity like Jaffna. Cosmopolitanism is a culture that was promoted by the compradore bourgeoisie to promote its sustenance!
    This Hoole must be happy that the Jaffna society steeped in a rich culture and traditions is very tolerant of a maverick like him!
    Returning to the topic of symbolism, I can vividly recall a great Christian like the late Mr. Nesiah who was influenced by the Swadeshi movement in India, switched to the national dress ( a symbol) and stuck to it until his death. So did the great Handy Perinbanayagam one of the founders of the Jaffna Youth Congress. Incidentally the latter was not tolerated by any of the Christian managed schools in Jaffna because of his progressive views and he ended up as the principal of Kokkuvil Hindu College. He was not the only Christian teacher who was not tolerated by the Christian managed schools. I can name the late A. S. Kanagaratnam and late S. Ponnuthurai ( Es Po), just to mention two more.
    I can recall the late Mrs. Jayaweerasingam, principal of Chundikuli Girls College and a good Christian always wearing a huge ‘pottu’ in her forehead. She was possibly influenced by the great Indian culture when she had her higher studies in India. Wasn’t that symbolism?

    • 1
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      Let us not be hypocritical about the colonial hangover. It is something of the colonial hangover that induced many Tamils to migrate to the West and Australasia, and to turn their backs on where they came from. Further, let us not look down on those who remain in Jaffna, speak English and try to keep open a window to the world for the local children. It is a service that is very much appreciated locally and in demand.

      • 0
        1

        I fully agree with your views, Jaffna Citizen.

      • 2
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        I have not said anywhere that English is not necessary. Let us have English and the more English that we have, the better. But that should not lead us to ‘enthrone’ English to its imperial glory. If one tells our rural children that they should feel ashamed if they cannot speak ‘flawless’ English with flawless Oxford accent, one would only scare them and keep them away from English. English is useful to gain more knowledge and to have better access to communication and that’s all that is needed. It is wrong to continue to think that speaking flawless English with a flawless accent is a ‘status’ symbol.

        • 3
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          True, Palendira.
          .
          You’re dead right, although I don’t think that “Oxford accent” is the terminology we ought to use.
          .
          I have been a teacher of English all my life; I hope to give my views when all concerns have been expressed. Unfortunately, I will have only “views”, not solutions.

        • 1
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          Palendira,
          .
          Swiss and scandinavians learn English from the beginning on while all other grand nations would not provide their schools with the same facilities their pupils to learn English. Consequently, they can get on with other europeans easily, while the Germans, French, Italians and Spanish cant manage to get on with foregineers not being able to speak a foreign language (English). I think we in SL, should learn all three languages from nursery onwards. Then only, they would be able to share lot more. Language is key component for the integration of the ethinic groups. If majority of people would be able to exchange what they think is with their own people, I dont think many of the issues, we consider today as problems, would not even form in the course of their bring up.

          • 1
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            Dear Samson Gunawardhana,
            .
            If you have young children (below age five preferably, but even up to about ten) please expose them to many hours our three Sri Lankan languages, properly used. Language teaching takes time and individual attention. Most of out CT readers will be able to manage at least two languages – but beware of passing on attitudes that suggest that one language is prestigious, and the other a language fit only for servants. If you have servants, it’ll depend on your attitudes to those servants.
            .
            But how is this to be done for all students in the country? Throughout the country there are complaints about the English used by English teachers. I have an idealistic retired Maths teacher friend (who rose quite high in the Education Department owing to merit). His English reading vocabulary is immense, but you may find his speaking accent a bit disconcerting. He’s a powerful creative writer in Sinhalese – name Justin Piyaratne Perera. His grand-children are being educated in the local “International School” not for prestige but because he doesn’t want the stuff dished out by the Ministry of Education. He’s a seinior member of this Sri Lankan party:
            .
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Equality_Party_(Sri_Lanka)
            .
            He tells me that almost no teacher speaks of “Non-fat Milk”: it’s “None-fat Milk” – pronounced so, and he’s shown me, written so!
            .
            Theirs is a World Party; you will find that some of the articles on “WSWS” to be extremey intelligent, sophisticated and well-written. Please google “WSWS”.

            • 1
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              Thanks. Sinhala man. following is what went through my head this evening. Even if it is out of the topic of the article, I should share it with you, since you are one of my beloved commenters.
              .
              Honestly saying, I m very worried of current day lanken politics. There are times, I cant control over my anger, when thinking about SILLYSENA s mindset and the manner he betrayed US all by last october.
              .
              We waited and waited until mutliple criminals being convicted by the law, but nothing seems to work. Yet today, lanken authorities have failed to prove that the seats they claim to own in parliament are theirs. As entire world could watch it on the TV screens, Rajakashe together with his 50 plus left SLFP and became the members of SLPP. As they the idiots never thought, their govt collapsed as a glass wall would snap into tiny pieces, they also have to secure their seats in the parliament right? That abusive man in UPFA- the alliance secretary, wrongly enodorsed that letter confirming that MR and his bunch of thugs never did not leave SLFP. If anyone among you as locals, would file a case, against the issue, nodoubt, they will all be out by a court verdict. There are enough proof materials to prove that MR became the leader of SLPP. Then both his membership in SLFP and his seat in the parliment should go null and void. The very same should be the case with all other criminals but loyalists of his joint opposition.

          • 1
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            PART TWO
            .
            Samson, continuing, and thanks for your comment that has just come on,
            .
            You are right when you speak of the present position being that there are three languages of Sri Lanka. Education for the vast majority is in Sinhalese and Tamil, but English is compulsorily taught from Grades 3 to 13. There are (quite elementary) English Language and General English papers at GCE O.Level and A. Level. There is an English Literature paper of middling level at O. Levels. Sinhalese and Tamil Literature counterparts are found, but rarely discussed by anybody. All students throughout the country want to have it certified that they have passed in English Literature at O. Levels, but facilities are available only in a handful of schools.
            .
            Some young people will proudly say that they have passed “English Literature” at A. Levels and are non-plussed when told that there is no such subject in the Sri Lankan curriculum. About twenty languages are available at A. Levels, but their standards appear to be around Grade Two in school; except, Sinhalese, Tamil and English. There are two papers in each: a Language Paper (Essay, Summary, Comprehension etc) and a paper based on Literary Texts. In all three First Language Proficiency is demanded. Only a handful of schools (fewer than fifty out of about two thousand offering A. Level classes – guesstimates) provide guidance for “English” (called “English Literature”). About 500 possibly sit the subject. The skills needed for the Language Paper are not taught. The texts change every five years or so, and are thought of as the “syllabus”.
            .
            There may be higher standards of English among non-Arts students. And there are the International Schools, with very high standards in some. Uditha Devapriya has so far had two articles:
            .
            https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/when-education-for-everyone-excluded-everyone-else/

    • 3
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      S.Palendira
      Also add Mr. A.E. Thamber of Jaffna Central to the list you have given.
      He always wore the national dress and sometimes seen wearing sandalwood pottu.

      • 2
        2

        How many of the descendants of the big names from the past you and Palendira mention have presently addresses in Jaffna? If the number is not significant, there is something wrong in their greatness. If they did not pass on any concern for the land and its people to their descendants, there is no point mentioning their names.

        • 2
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          Curious Jaffna Citizen
          You should know better about what caused the Tamil exodus of the 1980s and after.
          You should also know what life was like in the North and East then.
          *
          Do not use words like hypocrisy without knowing what they imply.
          I know many a bird of migration that proclaimed love for the land.
          *
          Greatness is not in what others heap on one, but in one’s being true to one’s self. What matter eventually are contributions to fellow creatures not pompous claims of greatness.

      • 2
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        Uthungan,

        Thank you for reminding about A. E. Thamber.. Another name that I should have included is that of another good talented teacher, the late Banudevan who too became a victim of the progressive views he held and got unfairly dismissed from St John’s College ( of course he was later compensated for the unfair dismissal, but that is another matter)

        • 2
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          S.Palendira
          If you are talking about good teachers in Jaffna with progressive views like Banudevan, there were people like A. Vythiyalingam, Karthigesan, J.Ariaretnam etc. I am glad to have known all of them very closely.

          • 0
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            I too had known all of them except the last mentioned one.

            • 0
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              Palendira
              Sorry, the initials of the last named is Mr. I.R. Ariyaretnam former Principal of Stanley College, Jaffna.

    • 4
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      KUNG KUMA pottu is worn by all Tamils irrespective of their religion. Christianity was embraced later. It is like a focus light on the face of the women. Add glamour to beauty. Even some Sinhalese ladies wore pottu prior to 1958 riots but after the women who wore pottu was attacked by the Sinhala thugs mistaking them to be Tamils, they gave up.
      There is a nice song by Kannadasan ” kumkuma potin Mangalam nencham irandin Sangamam”. initiallly kumkma pottu was scarlet red in colour- now there are various colours to match the colour of the saree/dress. A forehead with pottu is better than a blank one.

      • 2
        0

        “Even some Sinhalese ladies wore pottu prior to 1958 riots but after the women who wore pottu was attacked by the Sinhala thugs mistaking them to be Tamils, they gave up.”
        Really?
        Some discovery!
        Tarzie Vittachi seems to have missed it somehow.

        • 2
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          Tarzie ViIttachi is not the be all and end all of the 1958 riots and there after. You don’t need a Tarzi to know how the Sinhalese WORE SAREES. They wore Kandiyan style and thereafter Tamil/Indian style. Of course the Sinhalese (specially the working girls) drape their saris on them better than the Tamils. But Sinhalese and Tamils are now united in wearing jeans/ trousers to work showing their shapely and not so shapely bottoms. Let it be so please..

          • 4
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            I know at least one Buddhist Sinhalese woman who was wearing a pottu even ten years ago. I haven’t met her recently.
            .
            Are these really such serious matters? Many Sinhalese men wear Gandhi shirts – so what? However, I feel that the over-assertiveness of Sri Lankan Muslims is rather more of a problem; when they fully cover their faces etc, and want us to know the differences between “hijabs” and “niqabs”, and “ifthabs” just as much as I don’t like Eagle Eye speaking of “Demalas” when using English.
            .
            I like the philosophy behind “insha Allah”; and “Hamdulla” said with different intonations when expressing either thanks or resignation to a power greater than man.
            .
            I can understand a little irritation, but must such things drive people into frenzies?

            • 2
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              Sinhalese who follow the Tamil way of life style do not want to accept as borrowed plumes. They call it their own.Good. Exchange of dress between Sinhales/Tamils/Burghers etc comes from the time immemorial. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Similarly the food habits String hoppers/Pittu /Hoppers etc. However Thosai, Iddali,Uppuma may be a little different.Even those are now relished by the Sinhalese as much as Kondai Kawun, Kalu thothal ets are enjoyed by Tamils.
              Let us at least get together in dress/food and of course the smile which goes miles to build up cordiality.

          • 1
            0

            What you seem to have missed is the point about the false claim about the pottu.
            Someone makes a fake claim and many like to believe it and endorse it silently.
            This tale of Sinnhalese women wearing the pottu and stopping after 1958 is bunkum.
            The South Indian saree became common attire of Sinhalese women much after 1958 and the pottu followed it.
            *
            You offer further proof to my fear that, on average, the middle class Tamil lacks sufficient sense of humor, especially to spot a sarcastic remark.

    • 2
      0

      Palendra,

      You should visit places like Manipay, Tellipalai, Vaddukoddai and Uduvil where you will meet people in their seventies or eighties who can speak both Tamil and English very fluently and confidently. The number of such people conversant in both languages would have been even higher in the middle decades of the 20th century. The schools founded by American Missionaries in the North always promoted cosmopolitan values. English, Tamil, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Latin and Translation were taught at Jaffna College in the 19th century. Imagine the kind of cosmpolitanism that would have flourished in such a milieu.

      At Jaffna College and Uduvil, even today Hindu children are encouraged to sing at the Christmas carol service (not by force). Sometimes we, as school students, even sang at the Cathedral church when new priests of the JDCSI were ordained. We sang in both Tamil and English. Those of us who came from Hindu families learnt multiculturalism and religious pluralism in these schools and the values that were nurtured at these institutions made many of their students open-minded and progressive. Prof Indrapala, alumnus of JC, mentions how these values shaped his scholarship in one of his books.

      Sadly, the current leadership of the JDCSI lacks the vision to develop these institutions ; instead Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah and his cronies are using these schools to achieve their selfish goals.

      It is very unfortunate Bishop Kulandran did not allow Handy Perinbanayagam to serve on the Board of Directors of Jaffna College when the latter became an atheist or stopped going to church (not sure which of the two versions is correct). But as the governing body of a Christian institution, the Board of Directors of Jaffna College had to abide by their constitution. I hear that Handy later became the alumni representative to the Board (an alumnus of any religion could become the alumni representative to the Board).

      • 0
        8

        Empty,
        “You should visit places like Manipay, Tellipalai, Vaddukoddai and Uduvil where you will meet people in their seventies or eighties who can speak both Tamil and English very fluently and confidently.”
        —————–
        These Demala people learned ‘Para Suddas’ language but did not bother to learn Sinhala, the language that has been spoken by majority of the people for thousands of years. They would have dreamt that ‘Para Suddas’ will rule Sinhale forever.
        ——————
        The problem faced by Demala people is their failure to learn Sinhala. This situation arose due to racist Demala politicians who wanted to keep ordinary Demal people like ‘Frogs in the Well’. If Demala people learnt Sinhala, they could have migrated to other parts of the country and find jobs. In Colombo municipality, 40% are Demala people.
        —————–
        Even now, I know a school in Yapanaya that has requested to recruit a teacher to teach Sinhala but NPC has not fulfilled that request.

        • 4
          0

          If not for the Para suddas, Sri lanaka would not have had roads and Raiway lines to Hill country in particular and other parts of Ceylon as well. If Srilankans were entrusted with building Roads and railways it would have stopped half way as most of the allocated funds would have been pocketed by MP’s,Ministers, Contractors and the like. Even tea and rubber would not have been there. Only Sinhala and Buddhism would have been given the “foremost’ place with no developments. After the so called freedom what has happened to TEA,RUBBER, and Coconut.. We are living on loans and aids which cannot be repaid. The
          Britishers who came in as business people to India and Ceylon took over both countries . Similarly, I won’t be surprised If Srilanka is taken over fully by the Chinese. You can’t blame them when you fail to settle their loan back. The people who obtained the loan will not be in the world of living to feel the agony. Only our great grand children will be there to feel the pinch, if Srilanka survives the tremors all over the world. It may be better to allow MADUSHAS to sell the drugs in their possession overseas and redeem SRILANKA as it appears that some rulers too are involved.. As long as the Sinhalese are preoccupied with Buddhism and Sinhala only and Drugs, no other avenues appear even in the HORIZON

        • 0
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          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

          • 2
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            Oh, dear. I have no record of what I posted. I think I acknowledged that some good came from Colonialism.
            .
            Contrast with my acknowledging to Anpu my horror at the contents that his links revealed.
            .
            Thanks, CT. I’ve actually achieved a removal!

        • 2
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          My apologies to Colombo Telegraph. I now realise that the explanation I gave for one of my comments being excised is not correct. What I had done was lambasted Eagle Eye; it could be valid for CT to prevent the excoriation of another commentor.
          .
          However, I wish to point out that it has been stated that the language of all comments in this section has to be English, although comments entirely in English are allowed in the Sinhalese Section. That being the case, how is it that Eagle Eye, who clearly has a good command of English is allowed to use the word “Demala” instead of “Tamil”. This is how the seeds of hatred are sown.

      • 0
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        Empty
        You are correct.
        My late good friend Mr.K.Gunaretnam of Vaddukoddai, Attorney-at-Law,was an old boy of Jaffna College and was alumini representative to the college board.
        He was a Hindu.

      • 1
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        Dear ‘Empty’,

        I quote you: ” even today Hindu children are encouraged to sing at the Christmas carol service”

        Can you imagine a scenario where Christian children ( or even Muslim or Jewish children) are ‘encouraged’ to sing Hindu or Buddhist hymns anywhere in the world?
        Certainly, Never, ever!

        I agree that the British encouraged subtler measures than the previous colonialists!

  • 8
    0

    Australia is a ‘Western’ country located in the East. It not only tolerates but even promotes multiculturalism. English is spoken in this country with about 140 or so different accents and nobody bothers about it. Grammar is hardly taught in schools and as a result even educated Aussies make grammatical mistakes in their written sentences. Unlike our ‘Kalu Suddhas’ back home, nobody here, not even scholars bother about these things. Even officially, plain English is promoted. What matters is the essence of what is conveyed and we have to look at a language as an instrument of communication and nothing more. Of course, those who wish to enjoy the English classics should have the freedom to do so. But that should never be treated as ‘one upness’!

    • 4
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      S.Palendira,

      “Grammar is hardly taught in schools and as a result even educated Aussies make grammatical mistakes in their written sentences.”

      I doubt that is the case. What do they teach as K-12 English without teaching grammar? When people make grammatical mistakes, it could be because in real life people tend to forget things they are taught, especially when they get older, and occasional mistakes are no big deal. There is no real ‘grammar police’ or ‘grammar Nazi.’ So Bill Gates sometimes writes ‘affect’ when he means ‘effect.’ A Princeton professor I know is a MacArthur Genius award winner but she keeps writing ‘principle’ for ‘principal.’ Many native speakers of English use the subjunctive incorrectly, saying ‘If I was….’

      In the modern era, there is the 24/7 news cycle; there is a lot of writing on the internet and emails when people are often rushed without enough time to focus on it, so more mistakes happen and are expected. All of this is understood socially and people are not bothered about it.

      But any language should have a grammar and it is taught in schools.

      • 0
        1

        Agnos,

        I do not know the current position. But I am caertain that grammar as such was not taught in Australian schools for a number of years. You could even check this from Sri Lankans who have served as teachers in Australian schools.

      • 3
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        Agnos
        I agree that grammar should be taught, and early in life. But learning should be enjoyable.
        Grammar then, taught as part of language, was pain, especially Tamil grammar where we were required to memorize dozens of rules in each section.
        English grammar was better taught, but irregularities (number, gender, tense etc. plus total inconsistency in spelling and pronunciation) made life difficult.
        Tamil is a simple and economical language. But educated Tamils do not put it to good use.
        Regrettably, what we have is a tendency to take a shortcut to knowledge via English rather than modernize Tamil and enrich its store of knowledge.

        • 5
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          Dear Formidable SJ,
          .
          Grammar is just absorbed in a first language situation. The younger a second language child is, the closer that child is to a first language situation. Even more so, if there are many hours of “total immersion” every day, which is what happens in a country where English is the language most used.
          .
          If possible, do that with children in Sri Lanka as well. Inevitably, it will be only for a minority, and even more, unfortunately, it will be for those who form an elite of some sort. I have seen places, where you have yourself, stated that “the elite” always managed to give their children English. I often describe myself as a villager from the backwoods of Uva – and this is at least half true. Yet I know that willy nilly, I am elite in some senses.
          .
          You are a committed Marxist in many matters, but Kumar David and you are even more elite (in the good sense) than any of us!
          .
          Back to grammar: learners from scratch who are post-puberty have to grapple painfully with grammar. Your generation was given too much of it. I was slightly younger only – the approach was changing. English is now one of the messiest languages; fortunately for us, we use it so much that the oddities seem not to matter.

        • 1
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          SJ!
          In UK I noted that the Tamils converse in English among themselves. But the Koreans and Chinese talk in their own language among them. Another important fact I noted was that the Koreans call their parents Appa/ Amma unlike Tamils who mostly call their Parents Daddy/Mummy. I could not get an explanation from the Koreans as to how they the refer to their Parents as APPA?AMMA?
          They don’t seem to know. Any way let APPA and AMMA live in KOREA without any problem.
          t

          • 2
            0

            KA
            It is a matter of class, family’s education, and general attitude to colonialism.
            The English-educated or aspiring to be ‘modernized’ Tamil middle class is pleased to have English as the medium.
            When settled abroad, Tamil is taught to children, more as a token of ‘Tamilness’.
            The elders in Bangladeshi, Punjabi and Perhaps Korean families speak only their native languages and they live as large families. So the children use their language at home.
            Also Koreans, thanks to Japanese and now US domination, tend to be very nationalistic. (They are proud of their language. Their standard script is very scientifically designed, based on the Indian syllabic structure, but a little more rational.)

      • 2
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        Dear S.Palendira,
        .
        Aussies (or anybody else) will not begin to teach English in the Kindergarten. It begins very close to birth (although I haven’t researched the subject).
        .
        Grammar is not something that is consciously learnt with the First Language. I use Sinhalese without really thinking of the grammar; so do you with Tamil. If you are an octogenarian you may have been taught a lot of grammar. If so focus on your grandchildren. Some of us bilinguals have had two First Languages – we will “know” the grammar of neither! Had I not become a teacher, I wouldn’t know much English grammar. We merely recognise one expression as correct and meaningful, another as ungrammatical and perhaps of problematic meaning.
        .
        I ran – correct; I runned – incorrect. That may not be the best example.
        .
        In Australia, after about Grade 6, Language Teaching will fcus on skills of composition, building up arguments etc.
        .
        In Sri Lanka, with Second Language English teaching, there are far too many “Spoken English with Grammar” classes. They can go on for years, with students getting increasingly impressed with all that the teacher knows. Students will also get increasingly critical of their own lack of intelligence, unless they give up early out of frustration.
        .
        I will soon have to indicate what modern methodology is. Please be patient!

    • 1
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      I think that one fact has to be faced. After centuries of Colonialism what has happened is that there has emerged a “World Culture” that is heavily influenced by European culture without the people exposed to it being even aware that such is the case. And then there are the advertisements.
      .
      Our T.V. is horrible. I’m not much aware of the ads accompanying Tamil programmes. In the case of Sinhalese programmes, about half the time is taken up with ads. These also focus on “Westernised Sinhalese Culture” because that is what young people yearn for; lots of English words tied up with Sinhalese Grammar, which makes it comprehensible. The average audience cannot cope with actual English grammar. “Proper Sinhala and Tamil” are going to disappear under the welter of such stuff.
      .
      Palendira deals with the situation in Australia where immigrants from our country are exposed to English uninfluenced by non-European languages. In those circumstances “Plain English” gets learnt.
      .
      It is nonsense to speak of one “Correct Grammar” that came out of a textbook and was dished out in schools. Grammar is what operates within the head for us to either make sense of what we hear and read, or helps us to arrange our thoughts before they are put out for others to understand. It is intuitive and sub-conscious.
      .
      Today, there are many approaches to the study of grammar.

  • 5
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    Any effort to improve English standards in Jaffna is welcome. But when it comes to accent, etc., it may help people to know that even Trump mispronounces many words ( e.g., he says “nipple” for Nepal, “button” for Bhutan). People in SL should be encouraged to speak and write well, but they don’t need to be ‘ashamed’ at any nonconformity to someone’s definition of “standard” pronunciation. The same applies for attire, except when some event organizers explicitly require that a dress code be followed.
    .

    • 5
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      I think srilankens living in colombo or in the outskirts of colombo speak good English. They have good schools to teach English from the grade 01 or even earlier onwards. This is not the case in rural areas or even in other cities like Galle, Matara, Kandy and Jaffna.
      In Europe, there are exchange programmes being offered to the students. Such programmes are organized by the school and other bodies that work with school education. The french and german students take part in such course in summer times in Uk. Germans take part them also in France and vis versa. With facilities getting better at even rural schools, why not the authorities organize such exchange programmes based on Impovement of English Skills ?.

      • 4
        1

        Dear “desperateasnoother”,
        .
        How I wish we could have a person like you installed as the Minister of Education; your heart is in the right place. Starting with the generous thoughts that you express we could get somewhere with preparing succeeding generations to live in harmony in this country. I wouldn’t ask for more from a layman.
        .
        There was this article by a young man, Uditha Devapriya, promising us a series of articles, but he seems to easily get distracted. I’m stll hoping that he will give us all the facts, since it is necessarry to get those stated before we try to fine tune. Actually, it’ll need more than fine tuning since the system has got so rotten.
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/when-education-for-everyone-excluded-everyone-else/
        .
        As for your own observations, I think that your perception that everything is getting concentrated on Colombo is correct; that the Provinces are neglected is also correct, but I think that the analysis has to be more complex. Sticking to English: yes, I think that you are right. The brand of English being used in the better Colombo schools is good enough as a model. I’m also glad that you are not obsessed with blaming all our ills on social-class.
        .
        However, the fact is that even in the Colombo area only some get English, the majority don’t. And I feel that the worst schools in Colombo are the ones we all neglect the most. Even I, a teacher, wouldn’t want to get too involved there. But the State must.
        .
        But your general impulses and your positive attitude is admirable. Thanks. The sort of exchange programmes that you speak of could dramatically change attitudes in this fragmented country of ours. I’ve just got back to my Uva home and must start working out what to say next. The fact that there are decent people lie you reading is an encouragement.

        • 4
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          My dear Sinhalaman,
          may you live long! Reading yours always brings me a smile/a hope for the next step- Thanks very much also for your lengthy comment. You sound to be so nice and exemplary by your self-engagement doing good. Not many in ou home country would even think about what they could do for the improvement of lanken education system. But you the kind of senior, do, hat off to you sir.
          .
          Many instead just hang on to their day today life and enjoy their retirement. But you, the like ( i guess not ven 0.1% among the retired personalities) obviously engage yourself with adding valuable comments on topics of vital importance. Yes the article brought by a young writer was a good one, but I really dont think he would continue write on the topic again. Btw, this young writer is one of the close students (may well be a relative) of Dayan Silva Jayathilaka. As you may know, I really dont like if anything comes from DJ, for one reasons, his consistency is beyond questionable.

          Each and every comment come from you brings us lot of courage and energy. I wish I could read lot more from the ones in your age group (sepatagenarians), unfortuatnely, we are , for our bad luck, compelled to read from Eagle Eye (aka Mahinda pala, an ultra sinhala racist living in Downunder) racial contents on and on.
          .
          To tell you Mr Sinhala man, Germany where I live, I am known to a group of retired teachers, that have voluntarily been engaged with language courses being offered to migrants arrived to Germany during last 3 years. As you may know, there are few hundred thousand of syrians and other nationties became asylum seekers in Germany alone during the last 3 years.

      • 1
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        Dear desperateasnoother,

        As I go through with your thoughts I can see some interesting facts.
        Your observations are correct that the children living in Colombo did get a good English education. But according to my opinion the system of education, good schools, good teachers are not a problem at all. But the background of the family status of rural children plays a part here. Because they don’t use English in their home. They don’t have much environment to use English as it is limited only to a lesson in school. These are some major issues.

        And I’m not in total agreement with your solution for exchange programmes. It is a good thought but may interfere with some practical issues. Especially the incompatibility between the ideas of rural children and Colombo children. Even if rural children like it, I doubt that Colombo children would accept this with pleasure. I don’t think so. Sure that you would understand what I have suggested.

        It would be rather effective to look at some other ways such as improving the time & range of exchange English for those children.
        Perhaps encourage them to use much English in general life. For example: Exposing them to speak in English in school & at home usually. There may be many mistakes at the beginning. At least they will try. By practising daily will lead them to success. It will be difficult to deal with English at their home, never mind keep practising. I think this is an active process.

  • 3
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    Destruction of Jaffna started with Conversion of Hindus into Christianity. People who did the conversion committed GENOCIDE all over the world. They are responsible for slavery and mass movement of people from their native place.

    • 3
      2

      Genocide by emigration? To dishwashing and slavery in the West? How much of emigration is due to conversion? If you take statistics on the religious breakdown of emigrants, you would be in for some surprises.

      • 1
        0

        Curious,
        Not curious enough. Go and learn https://listverse.com/2014/02/04/10-evil-crimes-of-the-british-empire/

      • 2
        0

        Curious,
        Do you know how to google? Do some google and educate yourself.
        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/british-empire-crimes-ignore-atrocities

        • 2
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          Dear Anpu,
          .
          Pretty strong stuff there. It needs time to recover from all that and face up to the fact that we still have to get this language taught.
          .
          I must take a day or two to work out what we ought to be doing.

          • 4
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            Dear Sinhala_Man,
            “this language taught.” I agree. The problem is the way Prof write things.

            • 4
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              Dear Anpu,
              .
              I’m glad that Prof. Hoole wrote this article. He was a fitting Chief Guest for this occasion. However, he is an Engineer with a DSc in Computing.
              .
              It is good to have his observations, but he doesn’t really understand all the headaches we humble teachers of English are afflicted with. I will deal with some of them at the bottom – it may have to run into about five parts; I hope nobody breaks the sequence. Perhaps I ought to let it grow into a full article.
              .
              The problem is that I have no panacea to offer; nor does Prof. Hoole. He’s merely applauded a good effort. I, too, would like to congratulate The Rajakulendran Academy on their success.

    • 7
      0

      There is much difference between modernization and accepting colonial values.
      Christianity arrived in India ages before colonialists arrived and coexisted on equal terms with other faiths.
      *
      To the colonialists, religion was a convenient pretext for conquest and plunder; and there was pretence that the agents of colonial rule were on mission to civilize.
      But the natives of the Americas and Australia suffered genocide and marginalization; natives of Africa were severely brutalized or deported as slaves. So much for the civilizing mission.
      Asia was to an extent fortunate to have had better organized states (although in decline) that stood up to the European conquerors. Islamic states offered stronger resistance. Although China could not be conquered, it was ruined by unequal treaties and imposing opium. Most others succumbed to colonial conspiracy.
      *
      Japan modernized on a equal footing and emerged strong. Thus, there is much difference between modernization and acceptance of colonial values.
      What are upheld by quite a few of the Christian elite are not Christian values but colonial values, and race and religion come below class interests.

  • 2
    0

    Dear Prof Jeevan Hoole,

    Are you sure that the Principal of Uduvil Girls’ College can write good English? Most texts that carry the signature of the Principal of Uduvil Girls’ College are written by people appointed Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah. Two such appointees are the Rev John Bottomley and his partner Margaret Neith, two Australian missionaries hired by Bishop Daniel Thiagarajah. The previous Principal of Uduvil could write very good English. She is one of the charismatic, talented and visionary educationists Jaffna has had in recent times.

    I attended an event nearly 8 years ago where the Principal of Chundukuli was asked to give her opinion about the teaching of English in Jaffna. The event and the discussion was conducted in English. The Principal of CGC remained silent.

  • 0
    0

    Mrs Vimala Jebanesan trained the English Choir, College Band and the Violin Orchestra at Jaffna College in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She was a wonderful teacher. Even at the height of the war, we sang four-part harmony at the Christmas carol services. It happened because of her abiding interest in western classical music. Those who came from Colombo to see the Combined Carol Festivals praised our choir very highly. It was a proud moment for all of us who sang in the choir. As I am typing these lines, my eyes are welling up with emotions. The current administration of Jaffna College took no effort to recruit qualified persons to teach western music to children from Vaddukoddai and neighboring villages who go to Jaffna College. These are children from lower-middle class, non-English-speaking and oppressed caste families and backgrounds. When a qualified, talented lady who is also an excellent pianist and musician joined Jaffna College as a Vice Principal, all kinds of hurdles were thrown at her by those who hold powerful positions at Jaffna College today (some even sent anonymous letters to her residence). Realizing nothing could be under the existing atmosphere of hostility, she eventually left Jaffna College.

  • 1
    0

    Part A
    .
    Dear desperateasnoother,
    .
    Many thanks for your response dated February 14, 2019 – last night that is. I thought I’d better place this here, at the very end of these comments which must cease on the 20th of February. Before that, I hope it’ll possible for me to state a few things in an uninterrupted sequence. Till I start on that there’s no problem where others place comments! Later there may be an attempt to disrupt me. There are wheels within wheels in this.
    .
    It sounds as though you have seen other comments by me, and that you know my identity which I reveal off and on, even indicating ways in which my e-mail address can be known. There are some people who keep me informed using e-mails which don’t allow me to know who they are. They would have their reasons (mainly security) which must be respected. I’d like so much to have a Skype chat with you!
    .
    Since this article happens to be on education, I’ll try to discuss that subject here, and its broader implications. As I’ve said, I’m essentially a State Sector provincial (Uva) teacher of English, whom the Ministry of Education has never thought of sending me to any developed white country. I’ve been employed in the Maldives and to Oman as a teacher, things that I had to work out on my own. Now I try to interest myself in what goes on in Education (mainly English) throughout Sri Lanka. I know only two languages, Sinhalese and English. German – I love the music, without knowing much of the technicalities. There are comments on how Christianity is just a front for Colonialism. The Western contribution to civilization cannot be held to be Colonialism alone.

    • 2
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      Part C
      .
      Some of that music is being kept alive in the two Uva S. Thomas’ Schools by Miriam, wife of Rev. Charles David. They have recently been transferred from the Bandarawela school to that at Gurutalawa. Why? “The Deputy to the Headmaster”, Old Boy Samantha Perera, who was a God-send to that school has left. Why? Why also is it that Colombo Telegraph is not reporting to us the latest developments in the three Jaffna Anglican schools, Jaffna College, UGC, and now St John’s? I have named five schools in this paragraph – in all of them the average standard of English seems appalling. I’m wondering whether to visit the Gurutalawa school on Saturday for the AGM of the OBA. The Mt Lavinia school is in good enough shape, (and the girls’ schools) but not these other branch schools. When will CT again highlight the plight of the Anglican schools? Had I depended entirely on CT I would have been ignorant of the recent inquiries into the conduct of the Priest-Principal of St Johns’. He is being charged with “butterfly habits” as President Sirisena would have them.
      .
      Incidentally, I have met Uditha Devapriya, whose main inspirer seems to be Malinda Seneviratne (son of Gamini) rather than Dayan Jayatilleke, who was no longer around when I entered Peradeniya University, ever so late. I over-lapped Malinda there, and knew him fairly well, but haven’t met him since. Uditha owes his English to Lyceum International School, which stresses Academic work over all else. All the children there are Sri Lankans, and it is highly successful, with many branches. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear that Brahms is Uditha’s favourite composer and the violin concerto is something he plays repeatedly.

  • 1
    0

    Part B
    .
    In my response to SJ, on 13 Feb 2019, I provided a link to an article dealing with the Uva-Wellassa rebellion of 1818. In my comments there I have spoken of the sincerity of many of the Christian Missionaries who worked overseas.
    .
    Western nations have “modernised” the world, partly though secular Science, one might say, but why not be charitable enough to acknowledge that the background to most of this was Christian, with Greek thought playing a seminal role after the Renaissance? Let’s allow Latin also in – and the Arts.
    .
    The variety entertainment had music as well; let us not object to that either – as Malvolio, the Puritan in Twelfth Night did. My background is Anglican, but it doesn’t mean much to me. Quakerism seems the best of Christianity to me – you may have to google that. I enjoy Bach and Handel; I think it possible to do so without bringing in much Christian baggage, although the former was certainly a highly religious man. Beethoven inspires me most; would S.J. agree with me that even in his late choral settings in the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven transcended the limitations of Christianity? Where possible let us pass such music on to our children. After all, the Schiller Ode has become the European Anthem, and would be a noble anthem for the World if so adopted.
    .
    Such music has also largely disappeared from Sri Lanka, but would you agree, dear “desperateasanother”, that it is very much alive in the World? Prof. Hoole is right that it indirectly helps get English taught.

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