Saturday Magazine

As I Like It
Language, National Ethnicity, Peace and the like...
byK.S.Sivakumaran

There are some books I don't have time to read, but friends and others bombard me with their books for me to review in the newspapers. I am particularly interested in reading fiction and literary criticism, philosophy and sociology, history, languages and the like. I do not much care for political commentaries. And yet I receive books in Thamil and English on such subjects too. May I claim that I am a discriminating reader? I have to choose therefore books to read before I decide to write about them or review them. Ironically some of these books are translations in Thamil of books either originally written in Sinhala or English.

Take for instance, the two books in Thamil I received from the Centre for Alternative Policies -"Sri Lanka's National Ethnic Problems and Solutions" ( Ilankayin Deshiya Inaththuva Prachanaikalum Athatkana Theervukalum) compiled by Lionel Guruge and`A0 "Towards Peace" (Samaathana Valiyil). Attractively produced these books could be illuminating to readers who are not affected very badly by the political situation in this country for nearly half a century. But aren't we all suffering by the onslaughts of the perpetrators of the 'Unenlightened' lot amidst us despite the fact we live in a land blessed by the Enlightened One. Thinking of the Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One, whose preaching of the eightfold noble path and the 'Panchaseela' which the majority of the people in our country profess, I was gratified reading the same piece of writing by the erudite and former diplomat, K.Godage in the Midweek Magazine of The Island (May 25,2005).

Fine. Let's get back to the two books mentioned above. First, let's take the one on National Ethnic Problems.

Two Books on Ethnic Problems

and Peace

The book has 10 chapters with two notes by well known media persons, Sunanda Deshapriya and Lionel Gorge.

Sunanda Deshapriya says that this book is written in a language that could be clearly understood by everybody of the complex problems confronting particularly the Thamilians and how the Sinhalas belonging to the majority community failed to meet and solve the problems of the minorities. The need for sharing power is basic to solve political problems and they are explained in this booklet. He expects that this book would be useful to those who want to take the peace moves forward.

Lionel Guruge in his introduction says that the rulers have avoided for some tine granting the rights of the Thamilians and their anti-democratic administrative machinery had led the Thamilians lose confidence in democracy.

Intellectuals

Incidentally the journalists and others who write in Thamil in this country ape the Thamilnadu journalists translating the word 'intellectuals' as 'Buddhi Jeevihal". This is erroneous. I hate this usage. 'Buddhi Jeevihal' means 'those living by their brains'. How absurd! So, what should be the correct term for 'intellectuals' in Thamil?`A0 I prefer the term "Aaivarivalarhal" as originally used by the Lankan Thamilian intellectual, the late K.Kailasapathy.

Why bring in this nomenclature or language usage problem here? It is because the compiler says that the book was submitted to "Buddhi Jeevikal" And their advice was sought in the compilation. And who were these 'intellectuals'? Prof.Jayantha Seneviratne, Dr Jayadeva Uyangoda, Attorney Siral Lakthilaka, Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, Sarojini Sivachandran, N.M.Ameen,Ravindra Chandralal, Sunila Abeysekera, S.Sivagurunathan,M.K.Raghulan, Fathima Shiroz, Sasikumar, Sumika Perera.Content

There are 10 chapters in this book: The Background to the Ethnic Problem, The Sinhala Only Act for the Whole Nation, Special Provisions Act to use Thamil, 1985 Thimbu Talks, The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, The Constitutional Ordinance from 1997 to 2000, The Muslim factors, The MOU between the Government and the Liberation Tigers, The current clashes and the provisions for sharing of power.

Admittedly the book gives the pattern of Lankan politics during the past 75 years in a chronological order in simple language that is free from academic jargon.

Towards Peace

The next book is by Dr.Paakiasothy (forgive me if I haven't got the spelling of his name correct) Saravanamuttu. The head of the centre has a Thamil name, but understandably he doesn't know Thamil - so it was gratifying to see his views translated into Thamil. Dr P S writes in English. He used to be a political commentator for the "Sunday Leader" and he also has deep interest in the arts and literature. There are 13 articles by him written after February 2, 2002, the date of signing of an agreement between the SLG and the Liberation Tigers. S.Sivagurunathan, a tri-lingual translator working for the CPA rightly says that this book would help to carry forward the peace moves between the warring factions taking into consideration various factors.

To obtain these books please contact by telephone: 2565304 -6

Common Mother Tongue

The next book has a longish title: " The Discovery of the Common Mother Tongue of Briton, Lanka & Babylon (What they didn't teach at any University). And the author is A.M.A. Wahid.

Who is the writer of this fascinating book/ the blurb says:

Abubucker Gammahelagedera Mohamedali Abdul Wahid when had worked as Consultant to the Ministry of Transport writes articles to local and foreign journals, and way back in 1987 "The Island" has serialized his treatise submitted for membership to the Chartered Institute for Transport, London. He was awarded a Colombo plan scholarship to the Philippines and a World Bank Scholarship to England and extended to Germany, France and Switzerland and many more feathers to his credit.

Written History is against all of us

What he says about History should be borne in mind especially when we are all now suffering for ages now on account of myths, exaggeration and half truths in the name of 'recorded history of Sri Lanka'. Facts are interpreted and distorted and there are missing pages in Lankan history and a whole lot of generations during the past half century got into their psyche that all other communities in this country other than the major community are 'aliens', not knowing or willing to admit that a greater percentage of our major communities come from the southern part of India and from Orissa bordering the Andhra Pradesh in India. We are an admixture nation of the same ethnic community although our languages might be different.

My assumption, although I cannot substantiate them, is that there were a lot of Thamilians who were originally Sinhala or Sanskrit or Pali speaking and a lot of Sinhalas were originally Thamil speaking. Many Thamilians used Pali and became Buddhist monks in South, they wrote Grammar works in Sinhala. The composition of our major communities includes descendants from Thamilians, Andhras, Kannadigas and Malayalees. If you look at the Sinhala script, it looks like the alphabets in Kannada. If we trace our food habits, customs, art forms we could trace the Kerala influence. The eastern Thamilians have a lot of affinity with the Malayalees. And the speech patterns of the northern Thamilians are akin to the Malayalam nuances.

Writer Wahid says"

* History should be on facts, truths and scientific concXlusions.

* History should not be based on fictitious fables, half truths, hearsay, stories, imagination or wishful thinking of interested parties.

* History should conform to: the laws of nature, the laws of gravity and the laws of science.

The book has 6 chapters: Common Words of Britain, Lanka and Babylon; Babylon in Lanka; Places in Lanka bear Babylonian Names; Riddle of the Lost Language of Lanka; Language Studies; and Myths & Legends: and who were the Celts.`A0 The book also gives other names for Briton and Sri Lanka. There are two appendixes: The First Human Rights Law and the Official titles for Sri Lanka.

The author names "SABRIL" as the common mother tongue of Briton, Lanka and Babylon. 3000 common words are recorded.

Oldest language of the world

A.M. A. Wahid writes: "The Sumer-Akkadians of Babylonia were the first in the world to keep records of their languages and also their other achievements in Cuneiform script on clay books. The Cuneiform script itself was invented in Sumer in C 3000 B C ( or 5000 years ago) and was the first script ever invented on earth."

Honestly, I cannot give you a critical assessment of the book as I am neither a historian nor knowledgeable in linguistics. It is our learned academics and scholars in languages and literature who could pass judgment on the book. As for me I enjoyed reading it to gather some information which I did not know previously.

This book was published in 2003 and neither the name of the publisher nor is the address of the writer given in the book. Perhaps telephone contact number could be of help: 2448318

This columnist contact number 2587617or kssivan19@sltnet.lk

 

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