WHO WILL PREVAIL?THE PM OR THE PRESIDENT?
Posted on February 2nd, 2016

By Dayan Jayatilleka

‘President Sirisena says his government will not act in haste.” This is unacceptable.’
– New York Times Editorial, Jan 28, 2016.

…there is no ethnic group called the Sinhalese.”
– Chief Minister Wigneswaran, Jan 19, 2016.

President Sirisena has followed up his important BBC interview on accountability with a lengthier one on Al Jazeera. The BBC interview evoked a swift, sharp reaction from Human Rights Watch, the Global Tamil Forum,the New York Times,and the US Ambassador to the UNHRC—as well as the Sri Lankan PM himself. Samantha Power took a swipe on missing persons and impunity. Ban-Ki-Moon weighed in, supporting international participation in the judicial mechanism. Zeid al Hussein, Human Rights High Commissioner, is due. Meanwhile the President reiterated his basic position at some length while facing gruelling questioning by Al Jazeera.
In the BBC interview the President restated and elaborated his stand on the accountability process. I say restated” because he said as much, albeit far more briefly, to the BBC’s Sandeshaya on his trip to the UK last year, and to the New York Times in early Oct 2015.
The President told the BBC he was for a purely domestic inquiry mechanism without foreign judges or personnel, because he had faith in the Sri Lankan legal system and processes. This was a rebuttal of the position of the Zeid Report and the Geneva resolution that Sri Lanka did not have the capacity to inquire on its own, into its own recent history,and that any domestic mechanism required a significant international element”, as UK Foreign Secretary Hugo Swire put it. President Sirisena ruled out foreign participation—not merely foreign judges—saying that Sri Lanka can summon up the necessary expertise. When Mr. Swire’s mention of a June-deadline was tossed at him by the able young BBC interviewer Azam, President Sirisena was studiedly dismissive, saying that anyone was free to express an opinion. On Al Jazeera he conceded the possibility that foreign technical knowledge” may be sought, but no foreign personnel, no outsiders” would be involved.
The President made five important and accurate points to the BBC. Firstly, he used the phrase I shall not permit”, which implies he is ready to use his executive powers to draw red lines around the composition and scope of any inquiry. Secondly, he widened the frame of the discussion, commending a comparative global approach, saying we must look at how other countries handled the aftermaths of similar conflicts and how long they took to get to accountability hearings. Thirdly, he said Sri Lanka would have to select those recommendations of the Geneva resolution that can be implemented within the parameters of the Constitution and the law. Fourthly,he limited the role of the international community to helping develop the Sri Lankan economy, ruling out involvement in the affairs of the Sri Lankan State.
Fifthly, he told Al Jazeera that two sides fought the war, and the Sri Lankan military observed international and national law while the LTTE terrorists consistently violated international law. He added that neither the military nor the Government of the day gave orders for destruction” in violation of international law. If there were violations by the Sri Lankan military these were individual violations and would be dealt with under the law. He drew a distinction between violations of human rights and war crimes, implying that the former may have occurred and would be focused on. Asked whether top military brass and the leaders of the former government would be prosecuted and punished if found guilty, he brushed the issue aside as irrelevant until such a thing was proven in a court of law.
In contradistinction, the PM told Channel 4 that foreign involvement in the accountability process has not been ruled out” by the Government, going on to say that the numbers of war dead will be ascertained together with the international community”. Much more pointedly, PM Wickremesinghe emphasized to the Sunday Times last weekend:We will have participation of foreign Judges.”
Post-BBC interview, the US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Keith Harper imperiously tweeted that for Sri Lanka, credibility of any accountability mechanism requires involvement of foreign Judges etc.—that has and will not change”.
The final call on ‘credibility’ is a national one, just as accountability is ultimately a sovereign decision —to be made by the President, Parliament and perhaps the whole citizenry at a referendum.A democratic Asian government is unlikely to sacrifice its domestic credibility and electoral standing in order to measure up to a Diaspora-driven Western opinion of its credibility. An external accountability drive could stimulate a backlash that destabilizes all other gains and Indo-US objectives in Sri Lanka, namely devolution and a stable,liberal, civilian democracy.
Grounded and pragmatic, President Sirisena knows that domestic credibility and legitimacy are necessary for domestic survival and that these can only be secured by ruling out external involvement and establishing a purely national mechanism within the existing structures,for no drama” low intensity accountability.
Balancing accountability, devolution, democracy and stability is increasingly fraught. In his January 19, 2016 address to a forum on a federal constitution (with Swiss participation), Chief Minister Wigneswaran engaged in a bit of conceptual ethnic cleansing, if not ideological genocide, declaring that: …Also there is no ethnic group called the Sinhalese. The Sinhala language itself came into being only around 6th century AD. There was no Sinhala language before that…There is on the other hand, contrary evidence of the existence of pre-Buddhistic Hindu culture in the North and East available.”
This is fighting talk. R. Sampanthan — good cop to Wigneswaran’s bad cop — said that maximum devolution is not possible within a unitary system” and is unacceptable”. De facto federalization means greater executive power for this Chief Minister who publicly articulates racist views on Sinhala ethnicity and the Sinhala language, and more legislative power for the Council which passed a resolution framing the State for ‘genocide’—the worst crime under international law—and presented it to a high-ranking UN official. What will such a Chief Minister and Council not do with quasi-federal powers (and a ‘Hanuman bridge’ to Tamil Nadu)?
Without the trip-switch of an executive presidency, the Sinhala majority will be less inclined to improve upon or even retain existing devolution arrangements.
The scene outside the Homagama Courts and the Sinha-Ley rally in Kandy are, but the faintest flicker of the rage that would spew out onto the streets and eventually besiege the System, if the Geneva resolution were implemented. If the cosmopolitan quartet of Ranil-Mangala-TNA-CBK, the pro-Western, neoliberal Old Right, insists on implementing the Geneva resolution, it will (a) fuel extremism(b) disrupt the progressive parliamentary Joint Opposition led by moderate nationalist Dinesh Gunawardene (c) shrivel the centrist SLFP and (d) accelerate the vertical take-off of a radical Sinhala New Right with a Netanyahu-Advani type hardcore orientation.
PM Wickremesinghe reminded Jon Snow of Channel 4 that it was he who had put his neck out” in support of the Geneva resolution. President Sirisena is, himself not invulnerable because any President and Commander-in-Chief perceived to have failed to protect national sovereignty and the armed forces,would step on an impeachment landmine.
As Iran proved in 1979, Emergency rule, aircraft carriers, Police and the paramilitary STF cannot hold the line on the ground, up close and personal, against monks, a majoritarian mass movement and a resentful military. Implementing Geneva will shrink the middle-ground, generate polarization, social rancor and radicalization, trigger civic conflict and a Hartal ’53-type uprising and culminate in a bloodbath.
As Lenin put it, who will prevail over whom?” The PM or the President? The answer will reveal who wields the VETO; who leads this country, and where to.

– See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/104908/WHO-WILL-PREVAIL-THE-PM-OR-THE-PRESIDENT-#sthash.cb3qDe3I.dpuf

16 Responses to “WHO WILL PREVAIL?THE PM OR THE PRESIDENT?”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “As Iran proved in 1979, Emergency rule, aircraft carriers, Police and the paramilitary STF cannot hold the line on the ground, up close and personal, against monks, a majoritarian mass movement and a resentful military.”

    EXCELLENT! Just what I wish for.

    But why DJ is NOT talking the same about the 1987 ENDIAN INVASION?

    In 1987, Emergency rule, Endian gun boats, Police and the paramilitary STF DID hold the line on the ground, up close and personal, against monks, a majoritarian mass movement and a resentful military.

    “Who will prevail over whom?” CHINA or ENDIA, in SL? That is the question. Run-nil and Sira are one and the same. Both Endians. NONE is better than the other.

    Don’t fall into the Tamil trap laid by BOTH VIGGIE AND SAMPANTHAN together. They pretend to be against each other but they are NOT. BOTH are racists and extremists. This is an old Tamil trick.

    Racist Tamil politicians discuss secretly and agree to a plan. ONE will assume a MORE MODERATE position while the other will assume a MORE RACIST position. But underneath BOTH as racists.

    Singhala modayas fall into he trap and embrace the MORE MODERATE Tamil. And give his demands!! IF they stop and think, they are actually giving into Tamil racist demands which they DENIED a few years ago!!

    Then Tamils restart the game.

    Chelva-Ponna
    VP-Amirtha
    Raviraj-Anandasangaree
    Sampanthan-Viggie
    Karunanidhi-Jayalalitha

    DO NOT pick the moderate Tamil and support him. He is part of a WIDER racist plan. Instead support only the Tamil who DOES NOT MAKE ANY DEMAND to love SL, like me.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    PLEASE PARDON ME, CM WIGNESWARANS SONS ARE MARRIED TO WHICH ETHNIC COMMUNITY ? CERTAINLY NOT THUPPIAHS EH ????

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    O Lord, on bended knees we pray
    Show us just ONE TRULY grateful Tamil leader this day
    For Mother Lanka’s bountiful life we share
    Please relieve us of this ghastly Tamil Separatist snare.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    Unless the Indo Lanka Peace Accord and 13A are removed, Sri Lanka will not prevail. It is not a matter of Sirisena or Ranil, it is a matter of national survival. According to The Island yesterday, Ranil has agreed with Sirisena on a domestic investigation.

    It is foolhardy to assume a local panel of investigators would be more impartial than foreigners. A local panel will be yet another FCID. Sri Lanka’s police and the judiciary are mere political weapons of the ruling party. In fact, the international community will be highly impressed with the biased conduct of the local investigation and its revengeful judgements on Mahinda and others the west considers adversaries.

    Chief Minister Wigneswaran is yet another monster created by 13A. Chief Minister Perumal was another one. The only other Tamil chief minister is in prison charged with grave offences. If not for 13A, we don’t have to put up with these antics. All those who supported and support 13A must take responsibility for this national calamity. If Mahinda cannot distance himself from proponents of 13A who have unfortunately taken refuge in his camp, they will once again drag him down. The only biggest supporter of 13A who is not in this camp is Chandrika. If they all join the same political camp (they formally are), the nation is in real danger.

    Now the northern provincial council is taking over land and police powers. Most policemen in the north are Tamils. They also take orders, indirectly, from northern MPs and councillors. Northern police action is also very strongly influenced by Tamil media in the north which are highly communal. Essentially what we have is a council that is exercising police powers. It is perfectly legal as 13A grants police powers to the council. It is a power in the provincial list. As such, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Dayan has missed the woods (13A) for the trees (just another Tamil chief minister created by 13A).

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    HERE WE GO !! FRAN, THATS NICE. GIVE US ANOTHER ONE, JUST LIKE THE OTHER ONE.

    EVERY TAMIL WITH INNATE TRAIT, IS RACISM
    AN INCURABLE CANCER IN MALIGNANT STATE
    IN THEIR BRAIN, DIAGNOSED AS SEPERATISM
    BACK TO NANDIKADAL, WILL SEAL THEIR FATE.

  6. Jag Says:

    ”Unless the Indo Lanka Peace Accord and 13A are removed, Sri Lanka will not prevail”

    As Dilrook says, this is the reality that no one can deny. This is what gives Wigneswaran to utter what he utters.

    However, it’s too late now. Contrary to Dr.D.J’s predictions, the ”middle ground” is already lost. That happened straight away upon Siraa’s utterances from the time he assumed power, favouring the west’s demands of a war crimes tribunal.

    What Gon Siraa doesn’t understand is that he is too late to retrieve what he already promised in New York and Buckingham Palace. Siraa’s backflip gives a glimpse in to the functioning of this yaha paalana government.

    How can this bunch of useless hopeless self serving politicos run the country for another four years without polarising the society and creating another bloodbath ?

    Has Siraa spoken ”at least” one word to counter what Wigneswaran is uttering to the whole world ? So isn’t it fair to assume that there is no rule in the country ? Why do we need an all powerful president when he is so inept, that he is scared to confront Wigneswaran ?

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    “As Iran proved in 1979, Emergency rule, aircraft carriers, Police and the paramilitary STF cannot hold the line on the ground, up close and personal, against monks, a majoritarian mass movement and a resentful military.”

    This is very exciting.

    A MILITARY TAKEOVER WITH A SANGHA FACE!

    That is what SL needs. Some people will be UNCOMFORTABLE with military men running the country. IF SANGHA runs the country through the military, then that problem is over.

    IRAN after 1979 became a religious theocracy. SL too will be one – a Buddhist theocracy. There will be a TOP MONK like the Ayatollah. He will be elected by the SANGHA by a vote. That will eliminate the CASTE RIDDEN and politicized sects and replace them with ONE. He will have a say in every important political decision.

  8. Charles Says:

    I liked the Presidents interview given to BBC and Al Jazeerza. But Ranil nullified its effect. I think there should be a leaflet campaign to inform the people about basic Sri Lankan values and the necessity not to give into Tamil separatism. I hope Sirisena realises the necessity to keep the executive Presidency in the face of Ranils Madness about reconciliation with Tamils at any cost.

  9. SA Kumar Says:

    Fran Diaz
    O Lord, on bended knees we pray, Show us just ONE TRULY grateful Tamil leader this day- like it
    Agreed Colombo 7 Chief Judge CM talking Tamil racisum waster than our Self declared Thesiya Thalaivar VP.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    First, get rid of the FALSE War Crimes charge on the MR govt & the Armed Forces of Lanka. We are sick and tired of RW’s F(False)CID. RW can get rid of the False CID and take himself along with it.

    Next, as Right Thinking Concerned Citizens say: OFF WITH THE 13-A – a useless piece of legislation which is illegal. Back to rule through the Districts & SLAS. How wonderful !

    Wouldn’t we just celebrate that day ! It would surpass the 4th of Feb, as it would mean once again ditching the Brits along with the Tamil Separatists.

  11. Charles Says:

    Fran I think we should change the date of Independence. Though we became independent of the British on the 4th February, we still remained a Dominion and the te mentality remained British. It was only after SWRD won the General elections in 1956 under SLFP that we became really Independent. It was at least then that we began to change mentally Independent and recognised different values from that of the British. We give place to our language, dress, religion,and our ancient customs etc. Therefore an appropriate date other than the 4th February should be selected as our National Day. Why call it Independence Day, to remind us of our colonial subjugation?

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    May 19th is more suitable for INDEPENDENCE DAY.

    Tamils will NOT like it.

    January 1st may be a choice. It is a WORKING DAY in SL. So people will get a HOLIDAY on that day and they will like it.

    Also good it reminds people of the NATION on the first day of the year. People can do religious things on the day. Celebraitions are already there on new years eve with crackers, etc. Let that be part of it.

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran,

    WHO will do it?

    We should SUPPORT whoever who does that and DEMAND others to do it. IF MR is NOT going to do it, we should NOT support him. Same goes for Run-nil, etc.

  14. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    CHARLES !! First things first. let us not get bogged down in changing date of Independence day. This is not the priority just now. We have to question the Validity of the FCID. It is an entity, that came into existence, purely by the vindictive nature, arrogance, and dis-respect to Presidency and the Voters of Sri Lanka, by Prime Minister. There is no provision in our Constitution for this FCID. This should be challenged.

    The very position of the Prime Minister is Ultra Vires, as the President made him take the Oath of Allegiance as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, when there was already a Prime Minister, Dimu Jayaratne in existence in Parliament, and on the State Payroll. This too has to be challenged.

    Both President and Prime Minister have acted, and are acting according to their personal vanity, and ignorance.

    This cannot go on for long.

    Please look for ways and means to Negate the above issues. Greatly appreciate your input.

  15. Lorenzo Says:

    Fran, SW and Charles,

    Don’t worry too much about F-CID. It is ILLEGAL. So NOTHING will happen to opposition politicians apart from some INCONVENIENT QUESTIONING.

    ALL politicians know it. PEOPLE don’t know it.

    UNP fools will love it and say goo governance.
    UPFA fools will support MR MORE saying POLTIICAL VICTIMIZATION.

    BOTH gains.

    YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I SCRATCH YOURS!!!

    Remember the COPE report did under MR’s rule in 2006? It identified 40 UNP MPs as crooks. What happened to them? NOTHING!

    But they had to join MR’s fragile govt. and accept a ministry out of 115 ministries. That was the secret condition. The COPE corruption inquiry was used to BUY them with threats. At the end of the day NOTHING happened to them.

    Ravi K got illegal black money from Raj Rajratnam and FBI was after him. MR saved him. Although Ravi K has NO CLASS, he will still be grateful to MR and look after him.

    Now it is the same thing. MR will NOT create a NEW PARTY and his family will be PARDONED. Ultimately only the country will be STUFFED.

  16. Sooriarachi Says:

    It is heartening to hear that President Sirisena has the guts to be fair by all Sri Lankans, including the most neglected Sinhala Buddhists, and is now talking sense in relation to having Sri Lanka’s own Domestic Inquiry without the need to have foreign judges, as pushed by the LTTE sympathisers. We know the calibre of possible Foreign Judges like Dharusman, Yasmin Sooka, Navi Pillai etc In fact David Cameron too has refused to allow British Soldiers being charged for war crimes in Iraq etc”

    At the same time it is most disheartening to hear a former Supreme Court judge like Vigneswaran, now the leader of the Northern Provincial Council, peddling around false propaganda and fabrications against the Sinhalese and their language. With frustrated people like him, who are either hallucinating or suffering from an acute inferiority complex, not being able to show any notable achievements by his Indian Tamil brothers across the sea, is trying hard to rob the well documented ancient Sinhala civilisation and their ancient language, by independent scholars.

    Mainly for the benefit of Vigneswaran and distortionists like him, who are filling websites with false histories, I have copied below extracts from two recent articles. One by Kamalika Peiris on “Sinhala script in Ancient Sri Lanka” and the other by Neville de Silva on “Sinhala one of the worlds most creative scripts”

    (1) Thursday, 16 July 2009 – Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

    The Sinhala script in ancient Sri Lanka – Kamalika Pieris

    Archaeological excavations in Anuradhapura have shed new light on writing in ancient Sri Lanka. Valuable findings have emerged from the excavations in the Anuradhapura citadel site. Thirty two pieces of broken pottery, with writing on it, were found in 1984, during excavations at the Anuradhapura citadel excavation site. The writing signified ownership.

    Techniques
    Researchers from Cambridge University dated these to 500-600 BC. Techniques used for the dating included radiocarbon and thermo luminescent techniques. The dates have been accepted by foreign experts. The letters in the writings were almost identical to the Asokan script used 200 years later in India.

    This means that Sri Lanka had writing well before Maurya period in India. Siran Deraniyagala says this has pushed the lower boundary of writing in Sri Lanka by at least two centuries, to the time of the Buddha.

    Excavation work on the section (strata) dated to 8th century BC, brought up five pieces of pottery (potsherds) belonging to five different vessels. These pieces had writings which were clearly parts of inscriptions. They were in early Brahmi. These findings came from the elite area of the Anuradhapura citadel site.

    Later several more pieces of pottery with similar brahmi letters were found. Since there was more that one, intrusion could be ruled out. A tile with ‘Anuradha’ scratched on it, in what seems to be prakrit letters, was found by students at the excavation level dated to 900 BC. These further indicated that we have had a script before India. Deraniyagala commented that while India accepted these findings, some in Sri Lanka did not. He noted that researchers in Madras said that they have found a pot which has older writing, but the writing is inside the pot and cannot be seen.

    Siri Gunasinghe says that Sinhala derives from a Prakrit spoken by Sinhala colonisers.

    Inscriptions
    The original prakritic Sinhala can be seen in the vocabulary and grammar of the early Brahmi inscriptions This Sinhala evolved independent of Sanskrit and Maghadi.(Pali) .The words ‘aya’ and ‘maha aya’ found in the inscriptions have no parallel in India. He points out that Sanskrit was also initially a prakrit. The brahmi script of Sri Lanka evolved into the present day Sinhala script.

    Nilakanta Sastri said that in south India, the Telegu, Sanskrit and Tamil languages used the Pallava-Grantha script P.E.E. Fernando (1949) stated that in the 8th century AD the Sinhala script was also influenced by the Grantha script of the Pallavas.

    He used as evidence six inscriptions found in Sri Lanka and the potsherds found at Arikemedu in Tamilnadu. He pointed out that these potsherds showed two letters in Sinhala brahmi, which are found only in south India, not north India.

    Statement repeated
    He assumed that the influence was from Tamil kingdom to Sri Lanka, and not the other way round. However he noted that by 9th century, the Pallava influence was waning and Sinhala was developing its own script. Even today, academics glibly repeat Fernando’s statement that the Sinhala script was influenced by the Pallava script.

    These ideas have now been revised. There is new thinking. David Trotter said that the similarity of Malayalam and other Dravidian scripts to Sinhala show that Sinhala must have had a strong influence on the Dravidian areas of India. K.V.Raman says that around 250 BC a distinctive southern tradition of writing arose, centred primarily on Sri Lanka and the Pandya region of the Tamil kingdom.

    The earliest Brahmi inscriptions in Tamilnadu are concentrated in Pandya country, especially around Madura. There are no early epigraphs in northern Tamilnadu or to the west and south of Tiruchirappalli. Raman says that there is a credible possibility that “influences from Sri Lanka had played a vital role in the spread of these inscriptions to the Pandyan territory”.

    Evidence
    He thinks that Sri Lanka probably received the Brahmi script through the sea route from Gujerat or Kalinga. K. Indrapala says that scholars studying the pottery graffiti from various sites in Tamilnadu found unmistakable evidence of the Sinhala language in Brahmi inscriptions. Potsherds found at Arikamedu, Alangulam, Kodumanal and Kaveripattnam in Tamilnadu, were in Sinhala Prakrit written in the Sinhala Brahmi script of 2nd century BC. S. Iracavely and P. Jeyakumar have independently stated that these show the influence of Sri Lankan Brahmi and Sinhalese Prakrit in the Tamil kingdom.

    Irthavan Mahadevan in his monumental work on Tamil epigraphy had also drawn attention to several instances of Sinhala influence in the brahmi inscriptions of Tamilnadu. It is the Sinhala script that has influenced Tamil writing and not the other ways round.

    (The writings of S Deraniyagala, M. Dias, P.E.E.Fernando, D. Miriyagalle, K.A. Nilkanta Sastri and D. Trotter were used for this essay).

    (2) Sinhala one of the world’s most creative scripts -RANDOM THOUGHTS By Neville de Silva

    Unknown to the media and most in Sri Lanka the Sinhala language has won international recognition.
    More precisely, it is the Sinhala script rather than the language itself that has been named as one of the world’s 16 most creative alphabets among today’s functioning languages, some of them among the oldest in the world. Though the elevation of the Sinhala script to this position of significance happened early last month it has gone unsung and unhonoured even by scholars and academics, leave alone the average Sri Lankan who seems to have more mundane matters to think about than the esoteric intricacies of script and sound.

    The individual responsible for gaining the Sinhala alphabet this eminence among the written scripts of the world is J.B. Disanayaka, a former Professor of Sinhala at the University of Colombo who made an irrefutable case for placing the Sinhala alphabet among the world’s most creative ones. The nine international scholars who acted as judges at the first World Character Conference in Seoul, South Korea last month could not but agree with Disanayaka, currently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Thailand, and recognize some unique features in the Sinhala alphabet and so place it on the world list.

    It is significant that of the 16 alphabets listed as the most creative in the world, 13 are what could be called Asian languages in that they originated in what is geographically the Asian continent. The three European languages are Greek, Italian (Roman) and Armenian. The Asian languages are Arabic, Burmese (Myanmar), Cambodian, Chinese, Hebrew, Indian Devanagari, Indian Tamil, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mongolian and Thai. The fact that in such a galaxy of Asian languages, some of the oldest languages still in use, the Sinhala script should find recognition speaks for its uniqueness. So Sinhala and Tamil, the two main languages in use in Sri Lanka, find themselves in the distilled list of scripts considered the most creative in the world.

    The founder of this World Character Conference is a Korean academic Soon Jick Bae who spent nearly 25 years travelling the world trying to identify countries that have created their own alphabets. He narrowed it down to 16 that included Sri Lanka. It was during his travels that he went to the Sri Lanka diplomatic mission in Chennai (Madras) last year to get a visa to go to Colombo and met Deputy high commissioner P.M. Amza.

    Amza suggested that instead of going to Colombo in search of an expert in the subject he should go to Bangkok and talk to Sri Lanka’s ambassador there J.B. Disanayaka which he did. That is how Ambassador Disanayaka, still pursuing his love for linguistics and scholarship, found himself centre stage defending before the nine-judge international panel of scholars, Korean Soon Jick Bae’s instinctive appreciation that Sinhala deserved a place among the select group of scripts.

    Once Soon Jick Bae identified what he thought were distinctive scripts, he had his impressions confirmed by scholars. He then invited the chosen scholars to attend the conference and convince the judges of the uniqueness of the respective scripts. Disanayaka in his presentation said that Sinhala has been in continuous use for 2500 years at least. Genetically Sinhala is related to classical Indian languages such as Sanskrit and Pali. Sinhala occupies a unique position within the Indo-Aryan family of languages.

    The official introduction of the script by the Buddhist monk Mahinda who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, goes back to the mid- 3rd century BC. That script was known as the Brahmi script and was one of the two ancient scripts used in India at the time. Historical and archaeological evidence points to the fact that writing existed in Sri Lanka before the introduction of the Brahmi script. Evidence of this is the discovery of several symbols in the earliest Brahmi inscriptions found here that do not rightly belong to the Brahmi script. For well over two millennia this Brahmi script passed through the evolutionary process leading to the eventual birth of the modern Sinhala script.

    The latest Sinhala alphabet is that which has been approved by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and consists of 61 letters (though only 58 are in use), a process in which Disanayaka played a leading role at a conference in Greece.

    So what is it that makes the Sinhala script unique and deserving of a place among the most creative alphabets in the world?

    Disanayaka in presenting the case in Seoul identified two unique features.

    existence of 2 unique vowel characters
    existence of 5 unique consonant characters
    Unfortunately limited space and my computer keyboard inhibit me from reproducing these particular Sinhala characters which would have shown more clearly the uniqueness. Suffice it to say that while the English letter “a” stands for both the short “a” (as in at) and the long “a” (as in ass), the Sinhala alphabet has two sets of special characters to represent these two vowel sounds.

    As for the five consonant letters, they are not found in any other Indo-European or Dravidian language. But they are found in the Maldivian language Divehi which is an off-shoot of the Old Sinhala.

    The significance of the evolution of the Sinhala script is that it has a complete set of visual symbols to represent sounds. Apart from the fact that Sinhala has created its own alphabet, it has helped the evolution of other languages such as Thai. It happened in the 11th century during the Sukhothai period when Sri Lankan Buddhist monks resident in the then Thai capital city inspired the creation of the Thai script by King Ramkhamhaeng.

    It seems a curious coincidence that the Sri Lanka ambassador to Thailand is also accredited to Cambodia and Laos for the languages of all four countries are now recognized as among the most creative in the world.

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