Cricket is language-blind!
Posted on February 4th, 2021

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

Note: Supreme Court judges are still not willing or not skilled to write their judgements in Sinhala. They have a mental blockade, a Eurocentric fever. So, they want their pupils to learn English. They ignored the 1956 Official Language Act for over 60 years. That is two generations of unfair privileged status! The gazette to go back to English by the council of legal education (CLE) had to wait until a non-Sinhala minister of justice lands as a national list MP. They better be ready with valid reasons to justify their stealth decision when the country gets this bad news.

Previous three essays, this essay and one more to come were written as responses to past attempts made by black-white souls to promote English as panacea for politician-generated problems in Ceylon (Sinhale)/Sri Lanka. The expectation is that CLE members and other Eurocentric NGO agents etc. would get an idea by reading these, what the other side think.

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The Island-Opinion, 2008/08/22

I thank Gamini Gunawardane for his article on the evolution of Sinhala Cricket (Island, 8/15/2008). If Ajantha had to pass an English language test before he could play cricket, he would have missed the bus, and with teams of English-speaking cricketers, Sri Lanka would not have won a place in world cricket. I see a personal connection here because I was able to become a college professor and a director of research in the USA because of the language-blind university entrance exam in 1960-61. In fact, I did not take even Sinhala as one of the four subjects!

Because of Gamini’s reply and because of Bandula Abeyewardene’s (BA) total misunderstanding of my response (Island, 8/2), my task is reduced to answering a few, below the belt personal and private issues raised by BA.

Because of his inability to understand the message in my letter, BA has now made another mistake by placing patriotism and fluency in English on a collision path (Island, 8/9). I see no direct connection between the two except that I know that some people stress the fact that when two Tamils meet or when Indians meet each other, they always speak in Tamil or Hindi respectively, but when two Sinhalyas meet, they tend to use English. I do not worry about such habits. SWRD who helped the Sinhala people had a grade three level student’s ability in reading and writing in Sinhala.

I was only challenging BA’s idea that “a Sinhala cricketer who might become a cricket hero at a future date could avoid the ‘embarrassment’ of not being able to speak in English if cricketer-training includes tutoring in English. I did not oppose English or people learning it as a second language. The gist of my letter was to tell people not to take the raft (English) on to your shoulders after using it to cross the river. Learning English or any language for that matter is like learning how to swim or how to ride a bicycle. We do not carry the bicycle on our backs when we walk.

The problem in the former colony called Ceylon is that those who had money could learn English and they used it as an extra weapon in their hands to oppress those who could not learn it. I wrote two essays previously on this subject: ‘Gurulugomi to the rescue: the re-enthronement of the English language’ (Island, 4/13/2001) and ‘Empowering law students with an English language education’ (Island, 3/19/2008)) and BA would be able to better understand my point, if he cares to read them.

I said he had a colonial mentality because of the statements I saw in his responses (I have not seen the response of Daya Ranasinghe as I do not know when it appeared in The Island) revealing a mind blocked with an English-based inferiority complex. He sank further and deeper with his new theory that the language of cricket is English. So, if Susanthika wins an Olympic gold medal, then what would be the language of running, according to BA? If an American wins 8 gold medals in swimming, then what will be the language of swimming?

I went to the Peradeniya University through the Sinhala medium and studied law later in English. Dr. Joe Silva, who was a past Law College principal, was my classmate. As a grade school student, I went to a night school in Panadura to learn English. My father used to tell me that he too learned his English by attending a night school.

This brings me to the question BA has about my name. Like Don Baron Jayatilleke, my father’s name was Gilton Don Manis. My mother’s name was Dona Baby Manamperi. My mother was a teacher and named me Chandrasiri (in the birth certificate it appears in English as Chandarasiri) not Conrad. What BA needs to understand is that the name given to one by his or her parents has nothing to do with what that person does later in his or her life. SWRD did so many things that his parents or relatives never expected him to do. Parents in the past gave their children one Sinhala and one English name—Chandra-Richard, Ananda-Edward, Cyril-Banda are examples. I knew personally how Cyril-Banda used his names, depending on with whom he was talking, he used what he thought was the appropriate name!

BA also needs to understand that because he was related to Sir DBJ, he cannot have an automatic share of DBJ’s past glory. BA has to earn his own place by his own work. No doubt the connection to DBJ helps, but it is not a free lunch. During the past 10 years, by way of marriage connections, I came to know about the second or third generation DBJ relatives, and I found that they had nothing of their own in serving the public that would have made DBJ feel proud of them. This is called “vanse kabal gaama.”

BA’s story reminded me of the stories I heard about Anil Moonesinghe when he was Chairman, CTB. He had a life-size picture of Anagaarika Dharmapala on the wall behind his desk. The uncle and nephew, however, were poles apart.

About eight years ago I helped to begin an evening English school (two days of the week) at the Siri Siddhartharamaya, Walana, Panadura for the poor children who did not have money for English tuition classes. It now has about 100 students. I did this because when I was growing up in Walana, my mother had a hard time in giving me the monthly tuition fee of Rs.5/- for my English tuition. Rather than feeling embarrassed, BA could have contacted Ajantha Mendis privately and offered him free tuition. I hope BA could find time to visit the temple at Walana (Ven. Walane Siddhartha was the person who began the Parama Dhamma Chethiya Pirivena at Ratmalana from which came the two monks who started Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Privenas) and started a similar free English school in his temple.

According to BA, patriots are those who stay in the country. If that is the case, then Sri Lanka already has over 18 million patriots! Black whites frequently use two interrelated phrases—greener pastures and second-class citizens—to sling mud at people who for various reasons left Sri Lanka on a temporary or permanent basis. Those who went to universities in the swabasha mediums left Sri Lanka in frustration after failing to serve the motherland, and USA took them in without a language test. This group is now Sri Lanka’s Seventh Great Force (sixth force is janitors and maids toiling in Arab lands pumping money for the Colombo people to import BMWs). They became successful in their lives after hard work and personal sacrifices and if the Sri Lanka Government is ready, there will be thousands of them who will come. Whether or not one is a second-class citizen in a new country is a state of mind. For example, in my country of birth in Sri Lanka, with caste and class discrimination and nepotism, so many times I felt that I was a second-class citizen. I was often asked whether I was from Galle because of my last name. I had to tell them that my parents (if BA wants to know govigama caste) were from Horana and that my last name was spelt as Wije-ya-wickrema not Wijewickrema. In the USA, I was in an ocean of white people, but did not feel that I was second class. I have white and black Americans working under me and I got my jobs after a country-wide competition. If I go to a KKK meeting, may be they will be treat me as a second class citizen, but I can live freely selecting what I want or do not want to do.

Ceylon (Sri Lanka) has had two circuits, the English-speaking Colombo circuit, and the Sinhala and Tamil Speaking non-Colombo circuit. In 1956, this began to change. After 1959, both the UNP and the SLFP mismanaged the country and after 1977, the country fell into a hell. Fortunately, a reverse gear has been on since November 2005. BA is a person caught in this transition but making money out of it. I know some outrageous stories of how English tuition masters fleece money out of poor mothers who are led to believe that if their children know English, nirvana is just around the corner for them. If this is the case, then the English-speaking countries in the world should not have all kinds of problems, including poverty and misery. The plight of poor Americans around me is even worse than that of the Sri Lankan poor.

I feel sad when I see Sri Lanka copying bad things from the West, that the West itself is trying to get rid of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coke and Hamburgers. The bath kade idea of BA is an example of copying the unhealthy American fast-food businesses. Save time to do what, watch TV? No wonder 30-40% of Sri Lankan people are now suffering from diabetes. Free trade, globalization, privatization took mung beans, kadala and kurakkan away from homes. We, the Seventh Great Force in Sri Lanka, not the English tuition masters, are in a better position to take an enlightened approach to help the Sri Lankan masses.

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