22 September, 2019

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Journey To Peradeniya & Life On Campus: Personal Reflections

By Siri Gamage

Dr. Siri Gamage

Introduction

1968 seems as yesterday.  It was a watershed year in our lives. The year is steeped in memory like an inscription. In that year, we came from far flung areas of the island to the premiere higher learning centre in the country for a higher purpose. Once it was reserved for the children of elite families seeking knowledge and initiation to higher office. Thus, even before setting foot on the campus in some say we felt somewhat privileged. Our parents and close relatives made heavy sacrifices to lead us toward this journey with great expectations. Some of us made the journey according to the rule book.  Others stumbled and fell on the wayside. To this day we carry the kindred spirit and batch bonds born out of Peradeniya days that were characterised by promise, turmoil, change, love, comradery, beauty, aesthetics, seclusion and fun. In the following pages, I recall my memories to give you a glimpse into our lives at Peradeniya as well as ups and downs during those crucial years.

Undergraduate Years (1968-1972)

I travelled a long distance from Ethpitiya, Walasmulla in the Hambantota district to Peradeniya in the Kandy district by a combination of methods.  Peradeniya was generally cool and foggy with a drizzle. Roads, footpaths, grass and trees were wet. Difference in climate from the Hambantota district was quite noticeable. An umbrella was a necessity (umbrella had a symbolic significance also in the life of couples). The day long journey from Ethpitiya to Peradeniya generated mixed emotions as I had to leave my loving parents, grandparents and familiar surroundings behind and adapt to the cosmopolitan environment in the university. The contrast between the village Ethpitiya and Peradeniya campus was stark.

Once in the university, the reality sank in. I had the excitement of my success in getting admission on the one hand but also carried the anxieties about what is in store for us in the new place? There were freshers from all over the country in white trousers and shirts wearing slippers. Girls wore skirts and blouse. Likewise, there were the seniors –some of who followed specialised courses and serious looking in behaviour-carrying signature files with them. Some smoked. Then there were the tutors, lecturers and professors –some just back from England and America wearing fashionable codroy trousers, foreign made shirts and shoes. They possessed status symbols such as modern cars, watches, carry bags, and umbrellas. The place was busy with life, men and women, boys and girls going in to lectures and tutorial classes and coming out in groups. Support staff (called minor staff) kept the offices and the library in order. The WUS canteen on the way to Marcus Fernando Hall -where I resided part of my first year-was a busy place with both freshers and seniors. 

Compared to the school, campus contrasted with the environment outside the university also e.g. one could not see huts like houses of the poor or the diversity in housing. Those who established it obviously had done their homework. Architecturally designed buildings such as the library, lecture theatres, classrooms, administration building, residence halls, grounds and landscaping revealed to us that we were inhabiting an unusual place. This inculcated an attitude in our minds that we are a special group of people –though we didn’t realise the full importance of it at the time. The natural beauty of the campus grounds gave us a feeling of serenity similar to what you find in a temple. It contributed to our academic and intellectual endeavours among the best brains trained in England, Europe or USA and the books written in an alien language by those enthused about social, political, economic and cultural issues in the imperial centres of the world.

We were asked to attend lectures in the main lecture theatre (or in small classrooms if the number of students were not large) and tutorials held in smaller classrooms in the arts building. Lecturers and professors had a PhD and better reputation compared to the teachers in schools.  Professors like D.E. Hettiarachchi came to lectures in the academic gown-a practice adopted in Western universities in earlier days. They used microphones to address a few hundred undergraduates seated in wooden chairs with pen and note pads. In the arts theatre, there were ceiling fans working overtime time during hot months to keep us cool. Male and female undergraduates sat next to each other to take notes while keeping their handbags and umbrellas on the floor. Couples of course did not separate if they followed the same course. Only when they had to attend different lectures they temporarily departed from each other.  During the lectures, no one would ask questions from the lecturers. Our task was only listening and writing notes while observing the movements of the lecturer. It was not that difficult.

The phenomenon of ragging increased our anxieties but the relationships with selected seniors provided some reassurance. Once our subjects for the first year were sorted and we started attending lectures and tutorials, a semblance of order and regularity entered our lives. Courses ran for a year and at the end there were examinations.

Foremost among our minds at this time was to do well in study if we were to get entry to do a special degree. One had to pass the SAQ examination along with an English language test to be able to get entry to the special degree in Sociology. Other departments had their own entry requirements. Many of my colleagues did not choose this path or in the case of some did not qualify after trying. They were in majority and simply followed a three-year general degree course.

University life gravitated around the discovery of new knowledge and acquiring skills in reflection, analysis, synthesis, comparison, composition, interpretation of facts, articulation and presentation. Some became fascinated by dealing with ideas and facts, theories and concepts, methods of research and analysis relating to history, language, social sciences, humanities, science, medicine, dental science, agriculture, veterinary science and engineering subjects under the guidance of inspiring professors and tutors. As the professors and lecturers showed considerable commitment and dedication to their vocation, they became our role models. As we progressed, the possibility of joining the academic staff as tutors, temporary lecturers or as probationary assistant lecturers became a goal for some of us.

I had to master a new discipline i.e. sociology and anthropology, as well as a new language when I decided to do a special degree.  It was like trying to learn Buddhism without knowing Pali. For me, learning English had to be mainly through learning Sociology and anthropology books. To be a Sinhala medium student was a novel and challenging experience. Our knowledge was tested through exams at the end of the year. Though in the sociology classes we were asked to write essays on topics covered in lectures, they did not count for the final exam.  We were exposed to different subjects during our learning.   As part of the sociology course, we were introduced to a range of subjects.

In my sociology batch, there were 4 males and 3 females in the Sinhala medium. There were a couple of English medium students also. Invariably the latter were those who attended urban schools in Colombo or Kandy and perhaps English was their home language. My batch mates in the Sociology program (Sinhala medium) included Tudor Silva, Jayantha Perera, Amarasiri de Silva, Piyaseeli, Crisida Fernando and Chamila. Aruni Dayarathne (daughter of Mr. D.G. Dayarathne) and Sunimal Talwatte were in the English stream. Sometimes both groups attended same lecture, e.g. Obeyesekera’s. Mr. Coomaraswamy managed the offie whereas Sataiah was the office peon.  When academic staff members were not around, one of them was the de facto boss.

Academic staff included Gananath Obeyesekere, Ralph Pieris, K. Malalgoda, H.L. Seneviratne, Sunimal Fernando (after the foregoing three left the department in early 70s), Joe Weeramunda (visiting), and J.P. Delgoda (Visiting –Commissioner of prisons).  Last two came from Colombo for lectures. Mr. Delgoda came by an old-style Volkswagen car and stayed in the rest house. Though all of them were using English as preferred language, they attempted to use Sinhala words to explain the subject matter.  Some were good at this than others. There was a department library with a lot of sociology and anthropology books donated by the American Centre. However, most of our recommended literature originated from Britain and other European countries like Germany and France.

University education provided us with a liberal education, foreign theories and perspectives. It trained us to look at society, culture, economy, polity, religion, family, community, social problems etc. from an objective- analytical, fact based point of view while eliminating human biases in our thought. Some lecturers emphasised the need for a human perspective to our research and analysis.

The language of teaching and learning was a barrier to many because of the limited Sinhala language knowledge of professors and limitations in our knowledge of English. In the late 60s, there were English and Sinhala medium streams. However, in disciplines such as sociology (included anthropology) and economics, even the Sinhala medium students were required to use reference books and journals available in English only. In the lectures, discipline specific terminology was used. Corresponding words in Sinhala for English technical terms were alien as they were artificially constructed. Students who had acquired better English language knowledge were at an advantage.

English language

Many of us did not have even the basic skills in English language by the time we entered university. This was because the schools we attended did not teach the subject or even if they did the teaching was ineffective. Along with the lack of knowledge in English, our lifestyle with rural backgrounds stood in contrast to those colleagues who entered university from city schools and middle-class backgrounds whose parents held government or private sector jobs. This distinction was referred to as Kultur vs. Godeya. 

The university offered us English language classes through the sub department of English to provide basic skills in reading and writing. While we considered attending such classes in a small building behind the main library as an unnecessary burden, only later we realised their importance when we started the special degree course. Nonetheless, the learning in such classes was not adequate to be fully fluent in the language.  These classes offered us very little by way of spoken English.  They were not designed to do so.  It was left to the student to find other ways to acquire knowledge in spoken English. Thus, we had to attend extra classes in Kandy or elsewhere to brush up our knowledge of English. One method the teachers used was to teach us the meanings of English phrases. Attending private classes in literature outside the university was also an option.

There were some academic staff who seemed eccentric either due to their appearance, speech or behaviour. Students viewed some staff members as Kultur(posh). Those who had returned from UK or USA after doctoral study and Westernised belonged in this category. They had status symbols such as modern cars, umbrellas or handbags, shirts and trousers, attractive hair styles.  They conversed in English with their colleagues in the Senior Common room, in the library, the department or when walking along the corridors of the arts building. This created a significant gap between them and us. It also made us reluctant to interact with them. For students like us, interactions with academic staff were limited to lectures and tutorials. There were not many informal opportunities for interactions. One occasion when the senior academic staff in the faculty including the Dean came close to interacting with us was on occasions of taking batch photographs near the Senate building.  Another was when they came to see a drama with family in the Open-Air theatre.  

Social Life, Entertainment and Religious Activity 

There were formal and informal occasions for such activities. Formal events included those organised in the Halls of Residences, e.g. formal dinner nights, high table dinner.  For the former, a student in a male residence hall could invite girls. Students dressed up in formal attire –Western style -to enjoy company, eat and dance in the background of music.

There were societies such as the Sinhala Society, Buddhist Society, Film Society and Sports Society. We never forget the roles played by Somadasa Kumarage in the Sinhala society and Hubert Kalugampitiya in the Buddhist society. They were enthusiastic office bearers. Hubert organised Mal Pahan Pooja and meditation at Sarasavi Saya on full moon days. It was located on the way to Marcus Fernando hall passing the telephone exchange (then the University had five telephone lines only).

Around 8.00pm on selected days there were film shows for students and invited staff organised by the arts faculty film society.  Documentaries screened depicted life in various countries such as Soviet Russia, USA, and in Europe-Western and Eastern.  These shows were god send for couples who could enjoy each other’s company while the show was on.

Politically active students organised talks by visiting politicians, in particular left party leaders and other members e.g. Anil Moonasinghe, Colvin R De Silva. Compared to such smaller groups, the JVP supporters and sympathisers grew exponentially during our time.  Their message was taking roots among the youths, particularly school and university students, landless peasants in the dry zone districts, clerical and minor workers in the state machinery. The JVP ideology was critical of Western style formal social events.  It was even against students forming into couples with the opposite sex. Love between a male and female student was considered a barrier to the planned revolution to capture state power.

Informal occasions were more impromptu, cordial and entertaining. For example, a group of us got together and went to Kandy town for lunch or dinner. Popular places included Lyons cafe where we could eat fried rice, buriyani, rice and curries, string hoppers etc.  Chinese restaurant on the main street was another popular place to eat chop suey and Chinese fried rice. Couples also went to such places for a decent meal.   At other times, girls cooked nice food for the male partner to share.  Often, some walked down to Sandasiri hotel at Hindagala (off Ramanadan Hall on Mahakanda road) where they ate bread from the bakery with coconut sambal mix (very hot) and dhal curry. Students went to see movies in Kandy as a pastime.

Visiting the botanical garden was another pastime for students who yarned for a break from study. Climbing Hantana in groups on weekends and other holidays was popular. Students carried food and drinks on such trips. Visiting Adam’s Peak, worshiping and watching the sun rise was another socio-religious activity.

Some chose to visit Ramanadan, WIijewardena or Sangamitta hall instead of the library during afternoons/evenings. These are life choices that our batch mates made, i.e. instead of learning from books, perhaps they preferred to learn from life itself. There were famous couples in our batch and among our seniors. 

On full moon days, Buddhist students walked up to Gatambe temple and offered flowers etc. to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. They participated in Bodhi Pooja also. At the time, Bodhi Pooja was a novel activity spreading around the country’s Buddhist community. Rev. Panadure Ariyadhamma was the leading monk who initiated and propagated this practice. Men and Women in white clothes went to the temple premises adjoining the Mahaweli river. After finishing formal part of worship, they would hang around and enjoy the river and surrounding scenery.

Hilda Obeyesekera Hall

I was a resident in the Hilda Obeyesekera hall during most of my 3rd and 4th years (previously I resided in Marcus Fernando hall and in a private boarding house in Hindagala. Closer to final exams I moved to Hindagala boarding house). It had seven wings, each with two upper floors all coloured in pink. Between the first and second wings was a large pool. Next to it was the dining hall in the ground floor.  One end of the hall was facing Sangamitta hall (female residents) and the other end faced the Open-air theatre (Vala).  Facing the Peradeniya-Galaha road on hill side was James Peiris Hall (male residents). On the far-right side beyond Sangamitta was Ramanathan hall (female residents). I shared my room in the 3rd wing upper floor with a batch mate doing political science. 

The dining hall had long tables and benches set up for the students.  Staff including the sub wardens and at times the warden dined at the high table. The warden was Dr. Bandaranaike who later migrated to Australia with his wife Suniti.  She worked as an academic at James Cook University). They resided in the hall itself where they had comfortable quarters for accommodation. They used a Peugeot 404 imported car which was fashionable at the time. Some degree of civility was observed by students in the dining hall under their gaze. The standards of food served for meals deteriorated by the early 70s corresponding to the dire situation in the country due to restrictions imposed on food by the Sirimao Bandaranaike government.  Instead of eggs, milk, cheese, jam, butter, and sausages (served until 1970 in halls), we were served with bread, potato curry (Ala hodi) and bananas for the breakfast. Curry was watery with no taste except salt flavour. Many students consumed only the middle part of bread slices. They left the bread crust on the table like small mountains.  A lecturer in the dental faculty named Ariyadasa consumed such left-over bread for his breakfast to show the value of not wasting. No one else followed him and we thought he was crazy. Children of poor families from surrounding areas like Panideniya-Meewatura along the railway track gathered around the dining hall to eat left overs at each meal. The kitchen staff chased them away from time to time though some of us did not approve the practice. 

Life in the all-male residence hall was memorable for many reasons.  Firstly, it provided a home away from home. We had good company. The atmosphere was somewhat alien with a routine that included breakfast, lunch and dinner served in the posh dining hall. Catering staff kept the dining hall clean and tidy while the ground staff kept the gardens, ponds etc. clean and attractive. Once a week, we had a special dinner on Thursdays. Many of us yarned for the dessert which was Watalappam pudding.

A few days before April 4th JVP uprising when the government declared a state of emergency, police and army officers came to the hall to check rooms for weapons.  They searched wing by wing, floor by floor for such objects. As they combed through the first wing, JVP sympathisers in other wings threw old army boots, helmets etc. to the Mahaweli river. One police officer looking for illegal items in the ceiling in fact fell on to a bed.  This became the subject of humorous talk and laughter among students. No one was arrested for keeping illegal weapons on that day. However, the social turmoil and uncertainties about when and where the attacks against state security installations would take place created a lot of anxiety among students. Events after the 4th April 1971 created disruptions to our lives. However, they were minor compared to the disruptions felt by those outside the university including death, displacement and even imprisonment.

The Final Year and the Exam

Final year is the most important year in a university student’s life. Final exam is the culmination of four years of study for a special degree.  In the case of those doing a special degree, third year is also an important year. Second year is considered a qualifying year for the special degree and the exam is called special arts qualifying (SAQ). Those who are aiming at an upper second class or a first class spend enormous time and energy to achieve this goal throughout the last two years.  For the final year exam, I moved to Hindagala boarding house as it was congenial for study and the food provided by aunty who ran it was better than those served in the hall of residence.

There were seven exam papers. These included principles of social structure, social administration, comparative social institutions, theories and methods of sociology, criminology and penology, the culture and social organisation, statistical methods, a general paper and social anthropology.  Preparing for nine exam papers was not an easy task. One strategy I used was to guess the kind of questions that may be asked in the exam in advance and prepare answers by way of short notes or dot points. These included important concepts and theoretical arguments or theories relevant to the topic.  At the end, the day before the exam, it is these short notes that were useful to go through quickly and still keep the mind clear and focused. When we saw questions that we had guessed in the exam papers, we were overjoyed. When there were difficult and new questions, we obviously got frustrated. At the end, it was worth the try.

Exam was held in the gymnasium. There were long lines of desks arranged from one side to the next. Invigilators walked up and down keeping a close eye. Once the papers were distributed we swung into action. My strategy was to study the questions carefully, write down several key points and start answering. This proved a successful strategy.

Conclusion

We entered the university in 1968 and engaged in studies during a most turbulent time for the university and a tenuous point in the country’s political, social and economic history. We lived through ups and downs of life among the books, trees, footpaths, flowers, buildings, grass, and smells of modernity and rebellion. We learned under the care of a special breed of scholars renowned for their research, knowledge and wisdom. We accomplished our learning and life goals in varying degrees. We joked, grieved, sang, ate and danced together in this beautiful place on earth. The bonds we made are still continuing-though waning due to natural causes.

After leaving the University of Peradeniya, we stood on our own foot and travelled through the journey of life thus far in our motherland and abroad with determination and courage. We have observed how we changed along with the country and the world during the decades since our departure from the campus. It seems that change is the only constant in life. Many of us have children and grandchildren while being subjected to the ageing process. As we managed our lives in the last 50 years with varying success, I hope all of us in the 68 batch  will manage rest of our lives and fulfil remaining dreams, including spiritual advancement, with success!

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Latest comments

  • 11
    1

    I appreciate your nostalgia..
    Yet; it is different today .
    It is crippled with corruption of financial and admin fraud..
    It’s reputation is gone ..
    Some VCs are nominated by political influences ..
    Some students are given classes by political influences; some lecturers are appointed by political influence ..
    Before in your days; academics were highly respected for their reputation and academic credentials ..
    Today; peradeniya has become milky cows for some academics to milk it as they wish..
    History department had some of brilliant historians in Sri Lanka ..
    After their deaths…who are left now ..
    Like wise all other departments .
    Thanks for their hard works in medical and engineering faculties;
    They keep their reputation.
    But rest of them are mostly milking the system .

    Some lecturers come once a week ..
    Some are copying from old notes ..
    Yet; higher education Minster or UGC don’t have any mechanism to monitor higher education sector ..
    In western countries lecturers are scared of students ..
    Because; universities demand an evaluation reports from students about the quality of teaching ….yet; what we do in Sri Lanka is opposite ..
    Students are scared of lecturers in many ways .
    Some have been failed for not respecting …or not making them happy
    God save Sri Lanka and it’s higher education

    • 6
      0

      Dr. Siri Gamage,

      RE: Journey To Peradeniya & Life On Campus: Personal Reflections

      Thanks for the narrative of your journey as a teenager in 1968, 20 years after independence, from the Hambantota district in the Sinhala medium, to Peradeniya and your transition from the Sinhala medium to English, that opened you to a wider world. This was probably true to the Tamil students as well. This distinction was referred to as Kultur vs. Godeya. Perhaps this was less so in Science, Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry and Agriculture., where the medium of instruction was in English.

      One wonders how Sri Lanka went for Sinhala/Tamil only, and produced generations of students who are handicapped, whereas India managed to keep English in the Govt. Central schools, and in addition opened many IITs? We all know, the rest of the story, and now we have, 70 years after independence, a pathetic situation overall. Certainly, the masses, the politicians and the monks played their destructive role, they were all hungry for their national view, had their fill, and now the country is left with a Traitor, Sevalaya, Mala-Petethaya and Patholaya as the President, who conned the 6.2 million who voted for him to clean up the corruption and mess.

      I have heard that during the period you were there at Peradeniya, IQ tests were done for the various faculties and departments. Do you know anything about this and the results? Just curious!

      • 5
        0

        Dear Amarasri,
        Not all students are able to achieve what I achieved in terms of English language learning. Because it requires high personal commitment and sacrifice. Instead, students in arts faculty come to classes to get a certificate -not learn. I hear that they don’t even go to the library now?

    • 0
      6

      These Moosala people cant enjoy a piece written on Peradeniya of the yesteryear without remembering the andawadiyawa of today.

      • 6
        0

        sach ,

        Certainly enjoyed the Sarasavi-wadiyawa of 50 years ago, before the Para-wadiyawa roots went deep and took hold of the soil, , and lament the andawadiyawa of today, the seeds of which were planted in 1956, by the Para-Sinhala “Buddhist”, whose ancestors were Anglican Christians, Protestant Dutch Church, the Catholic Portigese, and the Pandara Hindus of Bharat, so that he could get power and become Prime Minister.

        Prime Minister, he did, but was shot by a Para-Sinhala “Buddhist” Monk, one of the many monks who went berserk, and finally hanged.

        Today, we all lament that with andawadiyawa ,many monks who go berserk, roam free along with the politicians in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, transformed into “A Land Like No Other”

        • 3
          0

          There are enough SACHs, that would not care about anything but just go on supporting any virulent forces in the country.
          He does not care about things sensitively.

    • 4
      0

      Dr Siri Gamange,
      thanks very much for your lenthy article based on your own experiences at Pereadeniya Uni in late 60ties to early 70ties. You have nicely put all of them. There were times that Dr Laksiri Fernando brought the kind of articles before. You are the next to have done it now. I hope to read lot more coming from others too. That can help many for sure by providing own exps. I too went to my days at hostels but many of us were compelled to suffer that much during those days, since student unrest in 89 caused universities to keep close back and forth sometimes without further notice for reopening. Today, JVPrs sound to be LIKE SERMENTs, but to that time, we suffered a lot being unable to protect ourselves from not being abducted by their underground men. Simply saying, that era was even brutal than any skin head incidents I got to read in Europe against the migrants.
      JVPrs were not in democratic process to that time. Most of their active men were targetting anyone just entered to Universities. Most of my mates were not active memebers in any politcal movements. Just for others gossips and hearsays, they were burnt down on tyre pyres. We did not know who was behind that whether the govt undeground squads or JVPrs themselves. But for my sureity, those we were compelled to see in village corners were surely from JVP brutal men. They killed young chaps and their flesh were distributed to the parents of the victims calling them urumas (pork) or something… after those parents consumed them only, they were clear, that the meat they happened to eat were from their lovely ones. How brutal they the kind of lankens have been ?
      Today JVPrs when they shouting at corruption and high profile abuses of others, I remind how they would have been, if they were given full power to govern this nation.

      • 4
        0

        sirimal,

        Thanks for your comment. JVP was always like that. The only difference in the 60’s and 70’s was that except for a brief period during 1971, April they did not have power.

        JVP can only be compared to ISIS, and not LTTE. LTTE had discipline.

        In the 60’s there wre JVPers at Peradeniya.. The well know one was Gut-Sira, and he worshiped Mao Tes-tung as a God, and treated the Red Book, as the scripture. Fortunately for potential victims, he was arrested before the April 97 uprising. Dr. Laksiri Fernando wrote a pie on him.

        See, how brainwashing in an ideology, without good reason and ethics, can do to young minds and even older minds.

        • 1
          0

          My dear Amarasiri, now we have taken this to a real good discussion.
          This article written by Dr Gamage brought me back to those brutal days in 89 insurgency. I have nt lived in the country for such a long time, and cant know the real attitudes of the people today, but one thing is becoming clear to me, is today people seems to have lost the respect and dignity even more. My life has changed a lot having lived in Europe that long. But I do mingle with all walks of people whenever I travel back home. But to me, whatever I get to see in SL causes me allergic today. Most of the them affect me as allergens. I ask why .. again why many seem to have changed their attitudes yet though th eproblems the nation faces has been the same as few decades ago. Govts are there to guide them well, but it shoudl come heartedly by the people living in the coutnry. They waste their plenty of times hang on with gossips, be it through TV or on their real day life.
          What is going on there down today is MEDIA mafia WHICH is provably handled by Rajapkshe me:
          Like for example, UNPs are on a their focus as the issues could be painted in favours of Rajapakshe supporters.
          JVPrs are no matured enough to see it beyond, they just hang on accusing the people. People are no differnt to Politcians. They are just the mirror images of the people. People just stay criticising one another – time is moving fast. Both giant parties have their own high criminals sitting in their boats. So, the quesiton would be who is less corrupted. JVPrs, if they really do so as they appeared to be, why not reveal their KNOW HOWs for the sake of the people.

  • 4
    0

    thanks for sharing

  • 6
    0

    I have been to Wala. It is not the same Wala as before

    • 5
      0

      Usha,

      “I have been to Wala. It is not the same Wala as before.’

      The politicians, the monks and the racists ruined and it permeated the society and the university. So, the Wala-Sellamaor Wale-Sellama, became a National Sellama, from 1968, rather from 1956, and the Wale-Sellama continues.

      The current Wale-Sellama is between the Godaya, Traiitor, Sevalaya, Mala-Petetyaya Sirosena, the Crook and killer Rajapaksa, and the “Kultar” Ranil.. The Wale-Sellama has expanded to encompass the whole country, the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, illegally occupied by the Paras.

      Enjoy the Drama. Ediriweera Sarathchandra is not needed, even though he contributed to the Wale-Sellama with his Sinhabahu, where the Lion copulated with a Princes, but no lion genes have been detected, so far using modern genetics.

      Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people: their relations within the island and with the Indian subcontinental populations

      https://www.nature.com/articles/jhg2013112

      Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.

  • 7
    0

    The best years of Peradeniya is 50s and 60s. After 1970 it deteriorated and today it is ugly, and standards are very low

    • 4
      0

      Costa, You were once at Peradeniya. Why is it ugly today? Why are its standards low today?
      .
      You who was there when times were good, when it was comparable to the world’s best, have a duty. You have a duty to tell why it crumbled!
      .
      Poor Siri Gamage is nostalgic about a crumbling Peradeniya! His understanding of Kultur tells all about it. Kultur is Culture, – That is how a Godeya would have read it!

      • 6
        0

        Thappu,

        “Poor Siri Gamage is nostalgic about a crumbling Peradeniya! His understanding of Kultur tells all about it. Kultur is Culture, – That is how a Godeya would have read it!”

        Apparently nobody taught the Godayas, that Kaltur, is Culture, German civilization and culture, just like the Sinhala Sanscrootiya, civilization and culture. The Godayas would have felt somewhat at ease, knowing that their Kultur, Sanscrootiya, came from India.

        English was referred to as Kaduwa, Sword, used to cut down the Godayas..

        • 2
          4

          Yes English was refered as Kaduwa. There had also been a saying ” kadda sira badda jara” at the time I had been at Pera in late 80ties. Today, as I got to know about ragging realted issues, they would rag you more if you would possess sound langague skills. How come that ? Today, the need of English langague for higher studies has been even clearer to the folks than in 80ties. May well be, not the langague, it is the rotten culture of the people reflect also in campus sutdents. Jealousy, Malice and all other evils are filledin lanken average mind set. This you will see almost everywhere. Ragging is being continued to not being able to imporve the skills in the line of tolerance and acceptance.

      • 3
        5

        Thappu@

        Yes, Kultur is CULTURE. That is clear to anyone who knows german well.

        But just to attack Dr Gamage is not commendable. Every is blessed with nostalgic feelings going to back to the places where you had then been. That is human. Each time traveling back to lanka, I visit Kandy. THere I drive to Peradeniya Uni just to see the places where we had then been.

        Just try to read Dr Gamage s article completely. I was also at Hilda Obeysekara for a year or in late 80ties. But I di dnot like Pera Uni at all.Anyways i love the nature at the place. May well my dislikes are connected with ragging related problems to that time. Most of them that ragged me were coming from rural areas. They abused my all personal belongings. That they called -GAJE GAHANAWA. That is the ground reality in lanken culture, the gap between people are very high. Those who come from rural backgrounds bring all jealousy, rasicsm and envious nature not being able to get on with ones coming from urban schools/culture.Urban students are open than the ones coming from rural backgrounds. They exchange a lot iwth their own mates. That is not used to the ones coming from Galle, Matara and other rural areas. Latter is the main problems with the worsening of ragging in local unis.

        • 7
          0

          Sama, this appears to be the earlier of your two comments, judging by the indents. I’m a bit concerned about this urban-rural dichotomy on which you place so much emphasis. Ragging is something that I’ve always purposefully opposed, but the way you say things may themselves precipitate the sufferings that they heaped upon you.
          .
          Yes, I know that things got much worse in the Universities not long after I left Peradeniya. Please study the dates that I have given. Also, while it is true that I’m “from” an area more rural than Galle or Matara, and I had taught many years in such areas, I did have many advantages which I may not yet have made clear.
          .
          Reading what you have written makes me wonder on what sort of equipment you composed your comments. Without knowing that I wouldn’t want to comment on the many “mistakes” in your writing, given your observation that “they would rag you more if you would possess sound langague skills.” Did you have no spell check? I have copied what you wrote – and there’s a word immediately underlined in red – the word that should have been “language”.
          .
          I’d like to know, because Android devices may be handling contributions differently, but I wouldn’t have bothered had I not sensed contempt for those who are not “Colombians” – I feel that to be the meaning that you attach to “urban”.
          .
          I await your response.

          • 2
            0

            Sinhala Man,

            sorry not to have rechecked them before being posted to I am well aware of my spelling mistakes. Once again appologies for spelling and grammar mistakes. That should be connected with the problems I had with my key board. And apart from that, I sometimes add my posts while me being in the train heading back home. I had been a regular commenter to CT and other forums until end of 2017. But for some time now, I have been bit busy with my own work.
            Will add mine again whenever I have enough time to continue. Thanks.

            • 1
              0

              Thanks, Sama, for many things; I may not be able to organise myself sufficiently to enumerate them all.
              .
              It has restored my faith in the decency of educated folk.
              .
              I’m even more relieved that you have responded to me without rancour; it is unclear whether this response of yours came before or after I had taken you to the cleaners at the bottom of the page.
              .
              Yes, I know; sometimes one hurriedly makes a comment on some inadequate phone /tablet, with poor signals to boot. to digress a little: it looks as though plans to distribute free tablets to school kids and undergrads have been put on hold. A desk-top computer is so much friendlier – and much cheaper if you collect some used (stick to branded!) components. Guys at the top want “commissions”.
              .
              I realise that we are going the other way now with the U.S. dollar at Rs 172.60; but empower people by opening ways of earning honestly. With fast changing technology especially, let individuals make choices. The choosing process is itself learning.

  • 11
    0

    Siri Gamage,
    I was a year senior to you, but can testify to sharing many of the same scenes and experiences, and a nostalgia for what has, of necessity, gone forever. I must congratulate you on your determination to master English and become conversant in it. That drive to work hard is the corner stone of success – I don’t mean making money. Except for the elite, many don’t seem to realise that not being conversant in English is to be illiterate in the modern world. Those who mastered the language have lorded it over the others.
    One of the great benefits you had at Peradeniya in your time was the exposure to scholars. Exposure to scholars is also the big difference between good schools and poorer schools. Just feeling their presence makes a major difference. We seem to have hardly any scholars as teachers today.
    One of the chief problems I see to the development of the North is the near absence of scholars (I don’t mean university professors), the deterioration of English standards, and the desire of the local elite to keep things that way.

    • 8
      0

      Dear Rajan,

      Good to know you were there too..,
      I think the problem with scholarship is that our university professors etc at least in social sciences do not link with the indigenous intellectual, philosophical and literary traditions leaving these to smaller departments. In recent years I have been an advocate for postcolonial knowledge construction and discovery in social sciences using Southern Theory(read Connell Southern Theory 2007). In fact I am conducting a workshop on academic dependency and indigenous knowledge this Friday at Peradeniya University. Northern intellectuals/scholars(if any left) also need to look South(global south) and to their own indigenous scholarly traditions more to discover concepts, frameworks,categories of thought and action appropriate to the particular context while being not ignorant about those coming from the West via English and other languages.

    • 9
      0

      Dear Dr Siri Gamage,
      .
      It’s good to hear about your workshop on Friday – more people like you, who’ve been in countries that haven’t made the same mistakes as we have, in Sri Lanka, ought to give us your experiences. I hope something useful emerges on Friday. I fear that such abstruse tasks as synthesising East and West are beyond me. Started too late. Seeing these dates and years, I felt that if I now set myself the task, some ideas may come forth in the next few days.
      .
      I began to be aware of Rajan’s stupendous achievements about five or six years ago; and we finally met, in his home, about mid-2016. Since then, we’ve been interacting quite a bit, and I appreciate just what a great man he is – although he’s a month my junior (and about eight inches taller).
      .
      He and I first met in January 1963, when he joined my Maths-centred Grade 9 Class in a small boarding school in the South. A month later my father died; I’m entirely to blame for giving way to self-pity, and that was the end of serious studies for fifteen years, shall I say?
      .
      How I entered Peradeniya in November 1982 is not very important, but I’ve given it here in all detail, in some comments which nobody has probably read:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ashley-and-me/
      .
      That may show you that there are some back doors to enter the University system, but what may interest you is the fact that a person of your generation came in fifteen years later. In response to Rajan’s own carefully reconstructed account of one aspect of life in Peradeniya in 1983, I’ve recounted some experiences here:
      .https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/university-of-peradeniya-may-1983-when-majesty-stoops-to-folly/
      .

      • 4
        0

        Some people worry about CT editorial policy. It’s not that bad. They’ve cut my comment, because I had obviously exceeded 300 words. At least they’ve put the first bit on.
        .
        I had said that when I finally entered to read English I was accompanied by 48 school pupils of mine, from Bandarawela M.M.V.
        .
        Siri speaks of the problems posed by his not bringing sufficient English with him, when he entered. I’ll try to work out some observations on this during the next few days. Now we have the “English Medium” everywhere, both in the Universities, and in other places. By now, I’m a retired teacher, but I still live in the countryside. These are areas of concern where we’ve got to put our heads together.

        • 4
          0

          I also learn to know retired teachers whenever travel back to the country. I respect them a lot. In our days, teachers contributed a lot in rebuilding the society. You are right saying that English medium has been introduced to schools across the day country today, but many teachers are not good at teaching English to their pupils. THAT SHOULD BE THE MAIN BARRIER THOSE PUPILS NOT TO HAVE LEARNT IT WELL

          As a Retired teacher you, depending on you r time, you could also teach English to those in your Area right ? If retired teachers would sacrifice their times for their areas, things could change a lot in the line of speedy improvement in many areas. I had the chance to talk to many coming from varied walks of life whenver I travelled to SL. There, I got to learn, student exchange programs are still not the case in lanken school education.

          I also think those living in urban areas could do lot more in order to improve the knowledge of teachers working for rural schools. These can be held as “Exchanges between schools”. Workshops organised on the kind of programs should be introduced to lanken schools. Of course, there will be lot more problems arising with accomadation and meals, but schools have to take care of them accordingly. I think if there is a will there is also a way. Just being pompous that we the south asians are the best among the others, and block the chances our young ones to achieve their goals – should not what the teachers in currenty should do.

          That can help the poor that much. Today, the reports make it very clear graduates refrain not being appointed to jobs because they have no English language skills to the levels the employers expect them to be.

          • 6
            0

            Dear MsMaralathoni,
            .
            Thank you for your kind words. However, for as long as I can remember, those wanting to improve standards of English, have been talking about bringing back retired people. Your words are well meant; I’ve been mulling for a couple of days whether I have anything worthwhile to contribute by way of ideas here. I’m beginning to feel that it’s all a bit too complicated.
            .
            I do most certainly help where I can, but I can’t help feeling that we guys are worn out – and more than a bit frustrated that more use was not made of us when we were able to do something constructive. Nowadays, I don’t try to compete with younger people; they’ve got to do the bulk of the work, and I do sometimes wonder why so few display your good intentions. I think that I’ll stop with that, since I don’t think that what I say in disconnected comments of this sort will really be understood – and I myself am getting a bit confused by what some others (Sama is one – and I must address him) are saying. Plus there are other chores to attend to.
            .
            One must be sure of oneself before stirring hornets!

  • 5
    0

    . I was at Marcus Fernando during 1965/66 and a student in the science faculty. and was a witness to student– police clashes in Dec 1965 , army student confrontation of 1969 and the minor employees strike in 1969 and the consequent introduction of canteen.. system which had entirely changed the entire atmosphere at the campus.

    .We were the last boys at Wijjewardene Hall during 1968/69

    A lot of things followed rapidly including JVP 1971 insurrection followed by opening of a number of universities,

    The monopoly of a single university was gradually diluted.and mass education followed leading to lowering of standards.

    Democracy at work

    Was it not inevitable?

    Is it possible to have privileges for a few?

    • 0
      1

      Sri Kish, you got the dates wrong.. I too was there and there was no clash with the police.That took place later.

      • 5
        0

        This is marvellous writing from Siri.
        Upali, Sri-Krish is correct on dates. ‘Student – police clash’ was in December 1965. Your names sake, one Wickremasinghe from Matale unfortunately got disabled due to police brutality. He was not at all charging the police, but was unable to leave the place on time when the police started advancing.

        • 5
          0

          Laksiri Fernando ,

          “This is marvellous writing from Siri.”

          Yes., going down memory lane. He remembers well.

          ” ‘Student – police clash’ was in December 1965.” Yes, in front of the Science Faculty, the striking students mostly from the Arts faculty, prevented, the science students in attending lectures, the police were called in . They used tear gas, but there were too many students, and the police had to flee until reinforcements came. A policemen or two was severely injured.

          Gut-Sira, of JVP Fame, who thought Mao Tse-tung was God, and the Little Red Book was the Scripture, was there too. We all know the rest of the story.

          When can we expect the Common Sense Pamphlet? It has been 50 years since Dr. Siri Gamage entered Peradeniya.

  • 3
    0

    Rajan Hoole (not Rathnajeewan) surely must have ragged siri gamage if he was one year senior

    • 4
      0

      Michael Hoole (that’s how I first called the guy) never ragged anybody in his life. Of that I am sure.
      .
      I have just posted a comment indicating the extent to which I know him. Dear “dath dosthara”, why not give me the credit for not ragging the guy when he first entered our class? That must be what produced this result. . . . Don’t, it would be misplaced.
      .
      It cannot be easy for anybody to be what he now is. Just yesterday, he recounted something from fifty-five years ago which indicated to me how much goodness and forbearance there is in his make up.
      .
      But a comment such as yours is welcome: nobody has a right to be as good and serious as Rajan is.

      • 8
        0

        Hi Sinhala_Man,

        I am afraid, I dont have good memories at Pera. I was then a 2nd year student at Pera. Times were 89 era that took the lives of over 50 k youth across the island.
        At the time, we were asked to leave the campus premises, we just left the place not even carrying our belongings. My hostel was Hilda Obeysekara building.
        For my luck I left for Europe for continuation of my studies, but each time, travel back home, what I got to know was, my mates were burned down or abducted by unknown men and those victimzed families stay even today not knowing where their sons had been taken away.
        Life at the hostel was also nothe best, we were pressed with the brutal performances of Nawaka Wadaya. I only remember few brutal acts where I myself was a victim – it was what they cold ponding… I was in fallen sleep by the time, they the senor batchas or our mates had thrown me to a pond, in dark with me wrapped around with a blanket (bed cover). That could have taken my life, but though so called budhists, lankens as I got to know in local Unis were uncivilized by every means. These horrible experiences traumatised me since I left the country until I made up my mind later.
        All in all, not everyone may have good memories at Pera – that I just want to share by this comment.

      • 7
        0

        Dear Desperate Sinhalaya,
        .
        The important task for me – if I’m up to it – is to discuss what’s now happening to English. Difficult to analyse. In my first comment I have linked you to two earlier articles (one by Helasinghe Bandara and one from Rajan Hoole) where I have put in all too many comments.
        .
        I personally enjoyed Pera – despite some public horrors. You want chronology. I didn’t have to go to the Dumbara campus in Polgolla as a student, since my GAQ was done externally, and I did the “respectable” Special degree. Dumbara had been dreamed up by those who thought that Arts students spelt trouble. I had a small teacher salary, so I was denied hall accommodation. Fortunate! No ragging or panic evacuations for me. I lived for free throughout in a bungalow acquired by the University at Getambe – now the Peradeniya Police Station.
        .
        I acted huge parts in English plays, produced one, got tennis colours (that’s how low standards of tennis were!). 36 months work completed in 37, I graduated end November 1985. As temporary Assistant lecturer (vacancy created by Dr Nihal Fernando over-staying Down Under), I did move in to a box room in Hilda. Left Peradeniya for good (sob!) in December 1986. Then the Maldives. Regret I’ve never been out of Asia.
        .
        You’ve seen the world; I haven’t. So count your blessings!

  • 0
    3

    Nothing like the Jayathilllake hall, simply the best as I was there

    • 4
      0

      Oh No! It was the dark, dingy, wet, gloomiest hall. Arunachalam was heaven compared to that pit.

  • 5
    0

    My dear Usha

    Sarathchandra used to bring his dramas to Wala, I can still remember going there to see them in the 50s. Recently I went there, the electric shock is now gone

  • 2
    0

    My second eldest brother who was a civil engineer for PWD was supervising the building work contracted to Chetinard corporation.He was so dedicated to his work, supervising the building work where he stands for hours in the middle of the open ground watching the goings in the building work people nick named him the Kokka(crane).I think Sir Ivor Jennings had to do with the begging of this university.

  • 4
    0

    siri gamage can become the ivor jennings of 2018. over to you higher education minister.

  • 4
    0

    Amaeasiri…
    The point you try to make is that…
    Had we had English language a common official language we would have been better off in Sri Lanka .that is true ..it would have opened the world for us ..such as nursing; teaching and other jobs in Europe ..
    All needs some good English ..
    India’s policy on this was good but Indian case different ..
    They had so many languages…..so; making English as a common language make sense ..
    But in Sri Lanka .
    It became ..
    Tamil vs Sinhalese…
    Even in jaffna people had to fill in forms in Sinhalese.

    No need such domination .
    Let Sri Lanka give freedom for all ..

    • 5
      0

      Lanka,

      “Had we had English language a common official language we would have been better off in Sri Lanka .that is true ..it would have opened the world for us ..such as nursing; teaching and other jobs in Europe ..”

      1956 Sinhala Only could have been we are going to make Sinhala and Tamil, a would language by making students proficient in English, Sinhala and Tamil, so that we will have the best of all what Lanka has to offer by respecting the cultures and religions on Lanka.

      This would have united the country, made students learn English along with Sinhala and Tamil, and think like Lankans, instead of Sinhala, Tamil, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim etc., within a secular state., and VP would have been a great fishing businessman exporting fish all over.

      Well, well, this is closing/shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, and will take so much effort.

      • 1
        0

        I believe good and bad could have been if English stayed as it had been before.

        See, today, if you look at any professionals be them medicine, science, Engineering are all coming from rural backgrounds.
        That Padeeniya the most abusive man in lanken MEDICAL world today is also a villager who cant know the differenc between basics of the basics that people face today.
        He happened to share to the press last week that the lankens should thank to those who return home after PGs in UK or US. How dare these guys raise the kind of questions, knowing it better, had there been no free education, they would not have been blessed with the MEDICAL degree (MBBS). Lanken s in general hav eno idea about what they freely get from the state. Free education is not the case in Middle east and negibouring Pakistan for example. Free education opened up lot more things to the locals over the decades.
        Had the gap between SINHALA speaking majority and English speaking ones been that widening as was the case in 50ties, nothing would have worked less forutnate ones to come foward through Uni educatoin.

  • 4
    0

    Upali,

    The date is correct. It happened in front of the Zoology Lecture Hall of the Science Faculty.

    The students barricaded the entrance and prevented the academic staff from entering.
    . This continued for several days.

    The Zoology Professor was Professor Croos

    Police retaliated with tear gas and baton Charge followed.

    The University was declared out of Bounds for all students.

    It was December in 1965

  • 2
    0

    Best is Akbar

  • 5
    0

    Laksiri Fernando ,

    “This is marvellous writing from Siri.”

    Yes., going down memory lane. He remembers well.

    ” ‘Student – police clash’ was in December 1965.” Yes, in front of the Science Faculty, the striking students mostly from the Arts faculty, prevented, the science students in attending lectures, the police were called in . They used tear gas, but there were too many students, and the police had to flee until reinforcements came. A policemen or two was severely injured.

    Gut-Sira, of JVP Fame, who thought Mao Tse-tung was God, and the Little Red Book was the Scripture, was there too. We all know the rest of the story.

    When can we expect the Common Sense Pamphlet? It has been 50 years since Dr. Siri Gamage entered Peradeniya.

  • 1
    0

    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/

  • 1
    0

    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/

  • 1
    0

    I am not from Peradeniya but was in Hilda Obeyesekera Hall for few days while doing a research in 1973. This article takes us to that era and shed some lights about our ‘previous life’ at that time. Congratulations to Siri.

  • 0
    0

    Mrs Maralathoni,
    .
    When this rain is over I may take the risk of saying a few “delicate” things using the computer. This is Android.

  • 0
    0

    Sama,
    .
    You seem to think that some nasty seniors who ragged you were “rurals” who lacked good English. I gave you ample time to respond. Your English?
    .
    ” reflect also in campus sutdents” – shouldn’t it be “reflected also in campus students”?
    .
    ” the gap between people are very high.” – wouldn’t a reasonable user of English, have written, “the gap between people is very wide.” Forget the mixed metaphor, and the uninspiring approach; surely you should have a singular verb for a singular subject.
    .
    “They abused my all personal belongings.” No person knowing English would have made that error in word order: “all my belongings”.
    .
    More quotes would be tedious. Examine for yourself the spelling mistakes, capitalization, no space between sentences – we used to insist on two spaces. That’s now been relaxed; you have no spaces. Sama is probably oblivious of his spelling mistakes; most fluent readers would have read straight through, subconsciously correcting errors; but once I’ve pointed these out, readers will be able to spot at least nine.
    .
    What was the highest English test you passed? I wouldn’t post such an insulting question but for your insolent attitude.
    .
    Having said all that, I do agree that envy has long been the most potent inspiration for the “JVP types”. But one has to understand the frustration engendered by having morons like you rubbing in not just the English “kaduwa”, but the German as well.

  • 0
    0

    Dear MsMaralathoni,
    .
    I’ve been harsh on Sama mainly because of his attitude; you are obviously a kindlier person. I’ve been commenting on Sama’s spelling. English is a difficult language, at least so says my Belgian neighbour (in Bandarawela!) who has mastered about six languages, and has a working knowledge of about five more, and insights in to about a score of languages. As a kid my bugbear was spelling. The word “accommodation” I was obviously miss-spelling until a colleague pointed it out after I had been teaching for a decade. You also have miss-spelt the word!
    .
    Most people grant that I know English pretty well. But there is the feeling among some that a guy who has been teaching in a Maha Vidyalaya cannot know much English. My GAQ papers had been marked while Prof. Halpe was in Australia. My results were exceptionally good, and my pronunciation is held to be good – I lectured in phonology in 1986 – having topped the English Special batch in 1985 with a Second Upper.
    .
    Prof. Halpe had “threatened” me with another test of English at the time I was interviewed at the UGC, in 1981, but he was a lovely man. He just didn’t want to produce Honours graduates who were unemployable – and he was probably right. Our batch of Specials started off with seven, only four completed the course, which was still mainly Literature based. The others were all much younger. I guess that I’m somewhat naive. I didn’t really contradict my batch-mates when they said that it was probably easier for me to study because I was older. No, it isn’t.
    .

  • 0
    0

    Continuing ;

    I’m not deliberately tricking anybody, but this persona of the “village school-master” I know to be misleading. However, I did tell Sama four days ago that “I did have many advantages which I may not yet have made clear.” There usually is a rational explanation for most things. After my father died I read voraciously, but did little of the work prescribed by the school. And my schools were no Maha Vidyalayas. Relatively small they were, with the first and second having British Headmasters. This may explain some of my misadventures:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-thomian-pharisees-are-unrepentant-why-this-matters-to-all-sri-lankans/
    .
    There’s an ancient photograph – taken on the day of my baptism. The Headmaster was my God-father. Those are advantages which Dr Siri Gamage obviously did not have – but he has achieved so much more.
    .
    Let me pivot to later life. My father’s death in early 1963 (my mother lived till December 2007) drove my sisters to work towards definite goals. One a lawyer who turned banker; another a “double-accountant” etc. It was they who insisted that I qualified – in those fields. I refused; chose English. They helped, but knowledge of the language was taken for granted in my family. Please see the answers that I have provided Champa here:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mr-abruptly-ends-press-conference-when-questioned-about-shirani-bandaranayakes-hastened-impeachment/comment-page-1/#comment-2217405
    .
    I do help, but there are some who wouldn’t want me doing anything. There are wheels within wheels. Until we get our politics right, I fear that nothing constructive can be done.

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