What is the language of cricket?
Posted on February 3rd, 2021

C. Wijeyawickrema, LL.B., Ph.D.

Note: The unreasonable, unfair, arbitrary, and undemocratic (anti-poor people) decision taken stealthily by the Council of Legal Education to take back law college to pre-1956 era, is nothing but one more step to try to give oxygen to the NGO supported black-white plan to harm the 2,600-year-old Sinhala Buddhist heritage of Sinhale (Ceylon).

Therefore, there is no wonder, a collection of lawyers known as the Council of legal education (CLE), a kind of lawyers’ trade union, wants to restrict lawyers from poor families populating rural areas and make legal services cheaper like in India. There one can find lawyers with a table under a huge tree practicing law. This reduces the gap between a lawyer and his client.

Gandhi once said lawyers are like barbers. They do an important social service. But how many lawyers in Ceylon today know why there is small pocket (pouch) back of their black coat? Clients in Roman times drop coins into this pocket and the lawyer does not know who put how much. A lawyer once asked my relative to pay Rs. 70K to draft a simple, half-page affidavit. Who is more human, a man who catches fish one by one using a fishing rod or this kind of lawyer?

The black-white mind is a shameless mind. Just imagine the situation covered in the essay below. When Ajantha Mendis, an army soldier, played international cricket and brought fame to Sri Lanka, a black white had the nerve to write that Ajantha was an ‘embarrassment’ to Sri Lankan cricket, because he could not answer in English questions asked by reporters.  I consider this assessment of Ajantha by a man of a delusional mind is in the same category of the action by the CLE to create lawyers made in English.

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Source: Island newspaper, August 2, 2008

Bandula Abeyewardene’s (BA) much hesitant response (Island, 7/23/2008) to Daya Ranasinghe’s (DR) reaction to BA’s view on the need to teach English to cricketers, provided more evidence of the colonial mentality of BA. English like any other language is a tool like a computer or a typewriter and nothing more.

Who is a black-white?

The black-white phenomenon is found in former colonies, which is a state of mind. This was why Carlo Fonseka had to engage in a series of debates in the recent past in trying to define who is a black-white. Whether one knows English (in the former French or Spanish colonies those two languages) or whether one lives abroad has no direct connection with it. Recently, I saw a poem written by DR about a female soldier on guard duty, and reading it gives one goose bumps of pride and patriotism. A black-white cannot pen such poems. We know the poems by the Tibetan monk S. Mahinda who was more Sinhala than the native Sinhalayas.

In Mexico, a black-white is called a coconut—brown outside, white inside. One of the tests one can use in this regard, if he or she is visiting Anuradhapura from Colombo, is whether he or she gets goose bumps or a chill running through the spinal code (the awesome feeling) at the first sight of the Ruwanvali Maha Seya or standing on the bund of the Tissa Vawa. Just think of the mental state of some Marxists who called the King Dutugamunu, a fool of bricks (gadol modaya) for erecting the Ruwanvali, but they take trips to see the pyramids in Egypt!

As a tuition master in English, BA has every right to promote English classes. But his mental status is summarized by his word “embarrassment.” Princess Diana had to take tuition to learn how to speak English. The current U.S. President has trouble in speaking English despite a Yale education. SWRD had a silver tongue but could not read or write in Sinhala. In USA, 40% of college students need remedial education in reading and writing. Humans must communicate and unlike animals they have developed languages. Why is it that in Sri Lanka not knowing English is an embarrassment?

In British colonies, English was the language of the ruler and those who acted as translators became powerful and privileged. The colonial master needed more people able to work in English and a class of people evolved who learned English and embraced Christianity, the religion of the master.

Lord McCaulay, in the 1840s in India, formulated an education policy to create a class of Indians who were brown in colour, but English in thinking and behaviour. More than Lord Nelson or Cecil Rhodes, it was McCaulay who helped the continuation of colonialism after giving the former colonies “independence”. We have a ruling class in Colombo, who are remote-controlled from London or Paris.

When language is power, it is more than a communication tool. At the time of independence, only 5% of people in Ceylon knew English. This group mostly living in Colombo or in big cities continued the white rule with minimum of changes, spatially or structurally, under the colonial open economy, exporting rubber and graphite and importing pencils and erasers. The attempt to change this policy began only after 1956, which BA brands as a mess and a sin. Poor people had no means to learn English.

Why people learn other languages?

Only rarely, people learn languages for the fun of it. They learn it if it benefits them. Taxi drivers and Colombo Ayahs or lads at tourist sites use it. Thus, in those days people learned how to sign a document in English because otherwise there had to be a witness to his or her non-English signature. Today people learn Japanese or Hindi for the market value of it. In USA, parents force their children to learn Chinese, Russian, Hindi, or Japanese and not German or French as was done in the past. Nurses going to USA needs English as patients they meet cannot speak Sinhala. That is why Tamil doctors in Colombo should know Sinhala not because of discrimination, but to earn money. If Ajantha Mendis wants to learn English or Hindi, it will be his decision and not others. Herein lies the mental status problem of BA. He should not be the person to decide or suggest it. I have no doubt that Mendis tried to learn English at school, but could not be, due to lack of competent teachers or not being able to afford private tuition.

In the 1936 Olympics when several black Americans won gold medals, Hitler said they ran fast because unlike the white athletes, blacks were closer to monkeys. The ability to become a good cricket player or a good dancer-drummer or a musician has nothing to do with one’s language skills. Some people learn so many languages effortlessly.

If the fans of Mendis want to communicate with him and Mendis also wants to communicate with them in return, they will find a solution of their own. I knew a Commissioner of Marketing who did not know English but used his deputy as the English link. To expect to start English classes as part of training in cricket is to devalue the skill of them as cricketers and to try to inject one’s inferiority or superiority complexes on to otherwise innocent army-serving, village-born poor youth by a Colombo black-white. Even in the legal field we find attempts to convert into English medium as if that will help the legal empowerment of the poor.

Just like learning a language is a matter of economics, leaving Sri Lanka for alternative life in another country is a matter of economics. Most people who live abroad did so due to economic reasons or due to the corrupt political system in Sri Lanka. They did not have pastures in Sri Lanka in the first place to look for ‘greener pastures.’ They were like Jinadasa in Gamperaliya who went to Sinhale looking for work. Those who live outside Sri Lanka are in a better position to help Sri Lanka to help change it from a corruption and criminal paradise to a land where peace and prosperity is possible so that those who went abroad can return with a pension because they will not be under the control of corrupt politicians or officers.

Opportunity versus access to opportunity

Providing equal opportunity without the necessary support is meaningless as we see in Sri Lanka today. People like BA can talk, but even within a radius of 20 miles from Colombo there are few schools that have teachers qualified to teach English as a second language. With a colonial drawback of laughing at a person who makes a mistake while speaking in English (this does not happen in making mistakes in learning Hindi or French), it is much better that Mendis speaks about his cricket skill in his mother tongue than in broken English without making his cricket skill secondary to his newly acquired “talent” in English.

Intentionally or unknowingly BA has done a disservice to village boys who have talent not blunted by an English barrier. Village boys play cricket with kaduru balls found at the edge of paddy fields with polpithi bats. They will never go to Royal, St. Thomas’ or to an international school to learn cricket, because Lord McCaulay did not play cricket. They say the language of science is mathematics, but the language of cricket is not English. Fluency in English does not make one a world class cricketer, but talent and skills one is born with and sharpened.

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