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Was SWRD the architect of the Sinhala only legislation of 1956?

Outlining the history of events that largely contributed to the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka, reader Saybhan Samat very rightly attributes it to, inter alia, the divide and rule policy of the British Colonial administration. It is true that the minority Tamil people enjoyed a privileged position in every sphere - education, employment, trade and business etc. Key positions in the administrative setup were almost their monopoly.

In the words of reader Samat “Mr. Bandaranaike was very keen to restore the rights of the majority Sinhalese people which were denied to them by the British Colonial power since 1796.”
To put the record straight, in fairness to the architects of 1956 victory of the MEP Coalition, it has to be accepted that SWRD’s role was one of political expediency rather than a genuine attempt to restore the lost rights of the majority Sinhalese community.

‘Sinhala only within 24 hours,’ the eye-catching slogan which contributed in large measure to the landslide victory of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) in 1956, was of course, the coinage of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. But it was the other exuberant campaigners such as K. M. P. Rajaratne of the Jatika Vimukthi Peramuna, a constituent party in the MEP coalition, who clamoured for Sinhala only. Rev. Henpitagedara Gnanasiha Thera, Rev. Baddegama Wimalawansa Thera, L. H. Mettananda and F. R. Jayasuriya were some of the leading personalities who were in the forefront of the Sinhala only campaign. ‘Eksath Bhikkhu. Peramuna’ also played an important role. SWRD was no chauvinist. He only gave leadership to this movement which had gathered momentum even before the formation of the MEP coalition. The language issue came as a handy weapon to crush the opposition led by SWRD’s erstwhile rival Sir John Kotelawala.

Incidentally, Sir John’s untimely utterances in the Delft Island on the eve of 1956 elections, spelt his ruin. He declared that he would confer parity of status to both Sinhala and Tamil Languages if he came to power.

In fact, SWRD himself was for both Sinhala and Tamil Languages, as far back as 1926. Subsequently, in 1943 - 44, when J. R. Jayewardene moved in the then State Council that Sinhala be made the official language it was SWRD who moved an amendment to include Tamil also. The following excerpt of a speech of SWRD Bandaranaike from the Hansard (State Council) 1944, Vol. I, Page 810, 25 May, 1944, is self explanatory:

“What is the object of having Sinhalese alone as the official language?............ I do not see that there would be any harm at all in recognising the Tamil Language also as an official language. It is necessary to bring about that amity, that confidence among the various communities which we are all striving to achieve within reasonable limits….. I have no personal objection to both these languages being considered official languages, nor do I see any particular harm or danger or real difficulty arising from it.”

Philip Gunawardena, Leader of the VLSSP, a constituent party in the MEP coalition, advocated Tamil as a ‘Regional Language’ (Prantha Bhasa), while supporting Sinhala only bill of 1956.

SWRD having succumbed to the pressure of extremist elements, in the first instance, later saw through the passage of ‘Reasonable use of Tamil Act (Tamil Language special provisions) Act No. 28 of 1958)’ to rectify matters.

The manner in which the Sinhala only Act (Official Language Act No. 33 of 1956) was implemented overnight gave rise to a just grievance among the Tamils. Having enjoyed the Lion share under the colonial masters, they now began to feel they were second class citizens.

Every successive government failed to implement even the administrative regulations under the Reasonable use of Tamil Act, in the teeth of opposition. Even the LSSP, which once fought for parity of status to Tamil Language shouted slogans such as ‘Dudleyge Bade Masalawade’ in their May Day processions.

J. R. Jayewardene’s protest march to Kandy (against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact of 1957), which was disrupted at Imbulgoda, is often referred to by critics of J. R. Jayewardene. All that is history now! It is not too late for the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to offer a viable solution to the ethnic conflict, acceptable to all political parties, including the minority communist parties, ensuring a fair share in the administration to the minorities under a unitary state.
J. Abeygunawardhana



In defence of Halal method of slaughter

Peter Singer (b. 1946) in his classic work Animal Liberation commented: “Slaughter according to a religious ritual need not comply with the provision that the animal be stunned before being killed. Orthodox Jewish and Moslem dietary laws forbid the consumption of meat from an animal ‘who is not healthy and moving’ when killed. Stunning, which is thought to cause injury prior to cutting the throat, is therefore unacceptable. At the time this method of slaughter was laid in Jewish law it was probably more humane than any alternative; now, however, it is less humane, under the best circumstances, than, for example, the use of the captive bolt pistol to render an animal instantly insensible

To answer the question as to which method is more humane, one has to look for a comparable human model. Experience suggests that the sharper the blade used in shaving, the less the pain. When an animal is slaughtered according to the halal method, the big blood vessels in the throat—the carotid arteries and the jugular veins—are cut, terminating the blood supply to the brain and causing an immediate loss of consciousness. The cut produces instant shock, rendering the animal unconscious, and since the heart is still beating, heavy blood loss occurs under high pressure. The animal remains motionless for about 90 seconds and is then subject to involuntary spasm caused by lack of oxygen in the brain. It is believed that sensation ceases upon the initial cut. Some people think that it is cruel only because of their ignorance of the actual processes involved.

Professor Schultz and Dr. Hazim of Hanover University, Germany, proved through an experiment using an EEG and ECG that the halal method is a more humane method of slaughter than the captive bolt stunning practiced in the West. In the first three seconds from the time of halal slaughter, the EEG recording did not show any change from before slaughter, indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision. For the following three seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep unconsciousness. This is due to a large quantity of blood gushing out from the body. After these six seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all. As the EEG dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord), driving maximum blood from the body and resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer. In the captive bolt stunning, the EEG showed severe pain. Immediately after stunning, the animal’s heart stopped beating. This is clearly unhygienic for the consumer. Thus the animal rights campaigner’s concept of mercy in the slaughterhouse does not correlate to the animal’s physiological responses, as it increases the animal’s suffering rather than reducing it.

People in the West are often horrified at the thought of animal sacrifice and regard it as cruelty and a barbaric practice. They are confusing Islamic slaughter with the ancient practice of offering blood to deities. They forget that it was Prophet Muhammad who stopped the practice of spattering the blood of the sacrificial animals on the walls of the Ka`bah and throwing their flesh at its door. The Qur’an declares: [It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches God; it is piety that reaches Him] (22:37).

The Qur’an specifically mentions the attitude of humanity while slaughtering (22:36). Sacrificing an animal represents sacrificing all worldly desires and ambitions to show one’s total devotion and submission to God. The fact that animals react to pain such as we do is, of course, no proof that they are conscious. We regularly witness that weak animals are thrown into trucks and taken to slaughterhouses hundreds of miles away. These poor creatures, goats, sheep and buffaloes, are piled up into the trucks just like lifeless goods, one on top of the other. These are all against Islamic teachings.

The Prophet taught the slaughter method in detail: “God has prescribed benevolence towards everything. When you must kill a living thing, do it in the best manner and so also when you slaughter an animal. Sharpen your knife and reduce its suffering.”
M.C.M.Sawmeer Khan
Colombo 10


 “Pelapaliya” petition to President not practical

 The  article “Much ado about nothing”  by Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai, conveys to us, the readers, that she is in favour of “pelapaliya” to hand over a petition to the President. I think under the prevailing security situation, it is not advisable to encourage processions to protest. Then every Dick, Tom and Harry will organise processions to highlight their grievances and march to the Temple Trees, and it will not be pragmatic for the Head of the country to entertain such processions. We know that these processions are also one of the causes of traffic jams on our already conjested roads. Moreover, being graduates and not illiterates it is an inappropriate medium to highlight their grievances, if any. There issues could be put in black and white and sent to the newspapers for publication like what the learned doctor does very often.   

The newspapers could have, and which they used to have long time ago, a column called “Ombudsman” to which people could write their problems to. Our journalists could operate as the intermediary and they in turn can contact the President’s Office. Thereafter, they could write the feedback they receive from the President or his Co-ordinating Secretary. So, what I am trying to convey is that it is not the modus operandi for our learned graduates to resort to - the outdated, very disturbing, and traffic and chaos-causing “pelapaliya”, which the eye doctor prefers call the procession.
Mohamed Zahran

Colombo 14


Food and clothes to Sri Lanka

It is sad to read in the newspapers the suffering our Sri Lankans are undergoing due to the meaningless ethnic conflict in the country, and the escalating cost of living, where the wage earners and the poorest of the poor are suffering, with several children to feed.

I have met many Sri Lankans in Australia, who are rallying to send unperishable food, milk food items and cloths to their relations, friends and elders homes, who are battling to exist, as we hear the price of bread is now Rs. 50/, rice Rs. 100/- coconut at Rs. 40/- and the cost of dhal beef and fish are beyond the reach of the ordinary man. Many of the people to whom food and clothes are sent to Sri Lanka are facing a problem at the clearing warehouse in the city and suburbs. They have to spend several hours at these warehouses to clear these items, from the entrance to the exit, and have to give bribes to get the goods cleared.

Some elders homes representatives who go to take delivery of these items have requested not to consign these items to warehouses, as it is a waste of time and unnecessary expenses, due to the red tape prevailing in these warehouses.

Perhaps those in charge of these warehouses should try to remedy this situation by trying to introduce some quick method of clearance. I would like to suggest to the shipping agents in Australia to quote a certain amount to the shippers of these food & clothes items, with an extra charge for door to door delivery service, so that they need not have to go to these clearing warehouses and waste their time and money, and these items can be delivered at their doorstep..
F. A. Rodrigo Sathianathen

Melbourne, Australia


Beasts to control beasts

A letter in the Sunday ‘The Nation’ questioned why humans behave like beasts. Policemen have a onerous job to do. They are paid by the people of Sri Lanka to maintain law and order, so that sanity will prevail in our peaceful country. If the disgruntled, bedraggled political party led by the Leader of the Opposition led a demented demonstration, protesting the increase in the prices of motor fuel, it should have known better than to interfere with traffic on the busy Colombo roads. The Opposition should have directed the protest to the American Embassy for it was the American President who asked for it and got it in full measure, from the oil producers of the Middle East. Those countries are recouping the costs of war that America involved them in, and threatens to take them further into the mire, by safeguarding their economic interests with an increase in the price of fuel; a product on which their economies rest. The Government of Sri Lanka cannot subsidise the motorist by keeping down the price of petrol .The Government has other work to do, like financing the ‘Mahinda Chintanaya’, a plan for the economic development of the country.
Beauty queens should engage in mannequin roles that they excel in and not be on the roads tooting horns in violation of traffic rules. The Police did not mishandle bhikkus. They were lay students, impersonating bhikkus, attempting to march on Temple Trees. They were rightly stopped by the law enforcing Police. The Police were not acting like beasts. They were only doing their job. The misguided protestors were the beasts who attempted to pile the sins of their America friend, President Bush on the Lankan government. It was a politically inspired protest by the Parliamentary Opposition. The ‘herd’ instinct was displayed by the protesters who failed to reminesce and understand the reason for the protest, but herd like blindly followed the directions of the Leader of the Opposition .They showed up as mutts who ran berserk. Mervin Silva’s thugs assaulted journalists and men at the Rupavahini. Expecting the President of Sri Lanka to take Mervyn to task is a gross indiscretion and veritable puerility. Why do not those who complain of assaults take legal action, without attempting to politise and gain mileage. It is the animal in the human that resorts to protests.
Ivor Samarasinghe



Easing the killer electricity rates

The government has now decided to charge a flat Rs.12.50 for every unit electricity consumed by places of religious workshop, charitable institutions, etc. -a step in the right direction. The previous charge for fuel adjustment charges have also dropped and instead one overhaul charge of Rs. 12.50 per unit put into effect This is something that should have been done earlier, and only one charge made for electricity making it less complicated. This no doubt has provided some relief to places of religious worship, etc.

It is also now time for a complete flat rate for electricity for the domestic consumers of electricity as well. At present, the real killer rates are now being charged from domestic users. As I look at the charges I am now called upon to pay, I see that for 785 units of electricity I have consumed for my household I have been compelled to pay a sum of Rs.28,512.50 for June 2008.By itself it would mean that that it works out to a rate of Rs.36.32 per unit. This is cruel and unforgivable. Probably the highest rate in the world. Earlier I paid less than half this amount. That this is the charge now being forced on a people already suffering with soaring food prices and what not, this is a very cruel and unreasonable charge levied from a people who are going through enough and more hardship with not only soaring food prices but also the degree of corruption and extravagance now regularly practiced by the government.

The feasts in 5 star hotels at home and aboard, the luxury air trips for example for the Beijing Olympics taking even those heavily condemned by the Supreme Court for fraudulent activities detrimental to the state whilst affair number of our people are even starving today.

A fair charge should therefore be levied from domestic users of electricity and a reasonable rate should be levied taking into consideration the hard times all our people are going through today. A fair flat rate should be something that will give some reasonable increase in the rates taking into consideration the need for the govt. to get affair increase in the rates of electricity and the plight of the domestic consumer. I would like to suggest that a flat rate be levied and no further charge be made for any fuel adjustments. I feel affair flat rate would be:-

For some even these increases may be too much, but overall it is better than the heavy rates now charged. It would be totally unfair for the government to seek to recover the entire increased costs of electricity from consumers. The government is in a way to be held responsible for the increased costs as they did not take timely action to consider the need for suitable sources of supply like Norochcholai, etc. A share of these increased costs must now be borne by the government, and the burden of the increased cost of supply be made les burdensome to consumers. In addition there is the colossal wastage of funds, as well as the lack of adequate steps being taken to recover the big losses from the vat fraud, cope, etc. by the government. If these funds are recovered there would be more money for welfare of the people.

The government should therefore take immediate steps to revise their new charges for electricity for consumers as it did for places of worship, etc. The already burdened consumers need greater relief from the high rates of electricity now charged, and it is now for the government to realize the burdens they are now casting upon the people, who are being c rushed under the present cost of living, and to give them the relief of fair and reasonable rates for consumers of electricity.
Maurice Lord
Colombo 13

For the first 50 units Rs. 7.50 per unit
51 to 100 units Rs. 8.00 per unit
101 to 150 units Rs. 8.50 per unit
151 to 200 units Rs. 9.00 per unit
201 to 300 units Rs. 10.00 per unit
301 to 400 units Rs. 11.00 per unit
401 to 500 units Rs. 12.00 per unit
501 to 800 units Rs. 15.00 per unit
801 to 1000 unit Rs. 20.00 per unit
1001 to 2000 unit Rs. 25.00 per unit
2001and above Rs. 30.00 per unit


Hats off to the goodwill ambassador!

I am an Indian and a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka. I am absolutely in love with this country and its wonderful people. An experience on August 27 further endeared the country to me.
Returning from Kandy with a fellow Indian, I landed up at the Premadasa Stadium on impulse. Sri Lanka and India were playing the fourth ODI. We had no tickets for the match but were happy to take a chance. To our disappointment the match was sold out.
Like all cricket lovers, we refused to give up easily. We hung around waiting for a miracle to happen, when a Police officer came up and asked if we were Indian. And he took it upon himself to have us see the match; tickets or no tickets.
He took us inside the stadium and found us some prize seats, bang in the middle of Sri Lanka’s most ardent and happy supporters. We had a complete blast, enjoying the heroics of Raina and the magic of Mendis.
The catchy beat of drums and rhythmic chants with fluttering Sri Lankan flags added to the atmosphere.
Sri Lanka may have lost the series but it won our hearts big time. An ordinary Policeman did something extraordinary. In a spontaneous act of courtesy and friendship, he became his country’s goodwill ambassador.
Atul Sinha
Bangalore, India



First death anniversary

Deshabandu Harold Herat - A Gentleman par excellence

Born into an affluent planting family in the North-western sea board of the country, Harold Herat chose law for his career, though his father was a foreign qualified physician. While practicing law in his home town of Marawila and nearby courts, Herat was attracted to politics. He told us how he was picked for the Nattandiya electorate in the 1977 General Election by J.R.Jayewardene, against many other formidable aspirants. It is, perhaps, this soft corner that JR had for Heart, that made him to appoint him a Minister, within one year of election as a Member of Parliament. He was the first non-Cabinet rank Minister to be appointed under the Second Republican Constitution of 1978. He was assigned the subject in which he had the greatest potential to perform - the coconut industry. Having inherited vast and excellent acres of coconut lands in the Marawila / Mudukatuwa area, though later diminished with the land reforms of the previous regime, he was expected to revitalise this important segment of our economy, which was essentially indigenous in nature. In the event, he proved to be a worthy successor to that great politician, though of a different genre, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva. who as Minister of Plantations in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government, had laid the institutional foundation to uplift the coconut industry.

Harold Herat not only improved and rationalised this network, but also introduced new impetus through additional local investment and much needed foreign investment and innovation. The coconut statistics for the era (1978-89), not only in plantation, but also processing and marketing would amply demonstrate the contribution that Harold Herat made as Minister of Coconut Industries.

I came to know him during part of this period (1983-89), as Secretary to his Ministry and Chairman of the Coconut Development Authority, the apex body for the industry. Being a general administrator, with no expertise in any particular sector, I benefitted immensely from Minister Herat’s knowledge and wisdom. It was both educative and fascinating to listen to him. Fluent in both Sinhala and English, he could speak to a local crowd using their own idiom and to a forum abroad in polished dictum. I have watched him in both. With local audiences he may use pithy language if the occasion demands, but always with utmost decency. At international and regional forums, which I attended with him, his discourses made us proud. At personal discussions, he was very persuasive even with greats like President Marcos of the Philippines.

Harold Herat had subsequently been elevated to Cabinet rank and had held two portfolios, Minister of Foreign Affairs (April 1990-August 1993) and Minister of Justice (August 1993 - August 1994). Unfortunately, I took up duties in the Cabinet• Office only in mid-1996 and I missed the chance of witnessing my former Minister performing as a Member of the Cabinet. However, I can visualise how it would have been, with his well thought out presentations and un-hurried, timely interventions. Going by his earlier performance before international and regional forums such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (F AO) in Rome and Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) in Jakatra, I assume that his participation in much more prestigious global bodies like the UNO and the Commonwealth would have been both useful to such organizations and beneficial to our country.

It is really as a gentleman that Harold Herat impressed anyone who came in contact with him. Neat in appearance, well but appropriately dressed always, he was an embodiment of decency. As a rule, he was courteous to his staff, deferential to those with expertise in relevant fields, and considerate to all. Scrupulously honest he had a high sense of decorum and correctitude. This was most evident in travel abroad. While his wife, Mrs. Gwen Herat accompanied him on such trips, as his Private Secretary, there were occasions when one of their three children would also join, to broaden their horizons. When this happened, the Minister always made sure that all the expenses of the children are met with his personal funds. In fact, I remember instances, when he brought in wads of currency notes (obviously received after a successful coconut harvest!) to pay for their air-fare!

It is one year since the demise of Harold Herat. Planter, lawyer, politician, Minister of the State, though he may have been, I will always remember him as a gentleman of the first order.


Farewell to a cherished friend

Harold was my closest friend and he was also the best friend I ever had in my life. Last year around this time I spent each day by his side at the hospital as he lay in hope that he would recover. However, God needed Harold near Him and he was taken away from his dear wife and three lovely children.

With his passing, I lost a dear friend who helped me in numerous ways, especially when times were tough and things were hard for me and my family. We loved each other from the beginning and no one can ever take his place as my dearest friend.
Those who shared his life will always remember the many precious moments and special memories that revolved around him. He will not be forgotten and we were truly blessed to have him in our lives. May the Lord grant him eternal rest.
(Deanna Jayasuriya)





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