SUNDAY OBSERVER Sunday Observer - Magazine
Sunday, 23 November 2003  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

Silumina  on-line Edition

Government - Gazette

Daily News

Budusarana On-line Edition


Full fifty five years of Nadesan

Of Nadesan and judges
by Suriya Wickremasinghe
Published by the Nadesan Centre,
Price Rs.50

This interesting little booklet authored by prominent human rights campaigner Suriya Wickremasinghe is all about Somasundaram Nadesan QC, one of the most brilliant lawyers this country has produced. Nadesan (1904-1986) served a major part of his life, a full fifty five years at the bar and was deeply involved with human rights and social justice issues which is largely reflected in his contributions in the Senate of which he was an independent member from its inception in 1947 until its abolition in 1972.

This booklet which is divided into topics like 'The judges and the 1972 constitution', 'The Criminal Justice Commission and the Great Walkout', 'The Constitutional Court and the Press Council Bill', 'The Ceylon Observer Case', 'The Daily News Contempt Case', 'The Great Lockout' and 'The attempt to sack the Chief Justice' is largely based on Nadesan's speeches and writings, some of which are reproduced verbatim for the benefit of readers. The topics dealt with have much relevance today as of yesteryear for as noted by the author "Nadesan's speeches and writings tend to be timeless because, although he was dealing with contemporaneous problems, he always looked beyond them to basic principle".

In 'The Judges and the 1972 Constitution', we are told of Nadesan's extensive contribution to the debate on the Constituent Assembly and the Draft Basic Resolution where he warns of the politicalisation of the judiciary.

In 'The Constitutional Court and the Press Council Bill' we are told of Nadesan's stand against the proposed Press Council Bill of 1972 where he argued for the supremacy of the 1972 Constitution, especially with regard to the Constitutional Court it had created to decide on whether a proposed bill infringed the constitution. Here he argued that it was not the function of the National State Assembly to interpret even the laws enacted by it and that this was the sole prerogative of the Court.

In 'The Ceylon Observer Case' we are told of a hasty amendment rushed through in the teeth of opposition unrest in 1978 which resulted in the infamous Ceylon Observer Case where two journalists were hauled up before the whole House, "tried" and "sentenced" over a comic photo/caption mix-up.

Nadesan stressed the dangers of giving punitive powers to the NSA of sentencing persons to fine or imprisonment and once again stressed that the courts of law were the best institutions equipped to interpret a statute. "It is their proper function just as legislation is the proper and rightful function not of the courts but of the legislature", he concluded.

The legislature however struck back accusing him of a breach of privilege and claiming that he had defamed parliament by the article.

The trial by the Supreme Court evoked international interest and even attracted an observer from the International Commission of Jurists in the form of Lord Hooson QC. Nadesan was ably defended by H.L.De Silva and acquitted but his position that it was only the Supreme Court that could impose fines or imprisonment for breach of parliamentary privilege was recognised only 19 years later with the passage of the amending act of 1997 at the debate of which copious reference was made to the Ceylon Observer Case and due tribute paid to him for the courageous stand he took.

These and other contributions made by Nadesan such as in the 'Daily News Contempt Case' where the newspaper was charged with contempt for publishing a news item considered defamatory of judges in 1983, 'The Great Lockout' where the superior court judges were locked out of their chambers following the passage of the sixth amendment in 1983 and the attempt to sack the then Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon in 1984 also make interesting reading, particularly for those interested in the independence of the judiciary and the role of the state.

On the whole a noteworthy contribution to our legal literature which should evoke considerable interest in legal circles.


Wit in art

The world of cartoons with a focus on "JR in Cartoons" (Sinhala version) published by J. R. Jayewardene Centre

By Padma Edirsinghe

In the valuable preface of "JR in cartoons" the Sinhala copy of which was released recently is this definition given about Cartoons, "that of pictorial parody, almost invariably a multiple - reproduced drawing, which by the devices of caricature, analogy and ludicrous juxtaposition sharpens the public view of a contemporary event, folkway or political or social trend" (Encyclopedia Britannica definition).

The preface traces the saga of cartoons that has found its niche in almost every newspaper and magazine today almost to its very inception, "to the tradition of humour and satire that prompted ancient Egyptians to represent men as animals, the Greeks to paint amusing figures on vases, Romanesque and Gothic sculptors to make fund of human failings".

Caricature has been however the main artistic influence on the cartoon born in Netherlands with the Renaissance.

Origins of the word "Caricature" are traced to the Italian word "Caricare" (exaggerated detail) and Spanish word (face, appearance) that could insinuate facial characteristics. Again here the Encyclopedia of the Arts is quoted, "Caricature is defined as a drawing or description of a person in which the artist selects and emphasizes unusual characteristics to the point of grotesquences with the intent of ridicule or burlesque. A process of characterization that over emphasizes the individuality of a person".

England next took up this art from and began to use it in a significant way in political and social comment. At first in England the word "cartoon" had been used for a full sized pattern for execution in painting tapestry, or mosaic. In 1843 an event took place that imposed a new meaning on Cartoons. In 1843 according to its original meaning a whole gamut of cartoons was on display for proposed designs for the new House of Parliament. At this time a very popular magazine in England was Punch, the illustrated comic weekly that published its own set of cartoons satirizing the designs.

Now due to this feat, cartoons actually acquired today's new meaning. No politician or person of note in any country is today free from these cartoons, whether they like it or not. There is a saying "If you cannot cut the hand just kiss it" which is tantamount to the approach of most of these figures to the cartoons.

If the subjects (of the cartoons) were to make an undue fuss a more stinging cartoon could appear the following day. Further most statesmen are of a rather broad outlook (that explains their survival on this very precarious stage) and hence the cartoons though they could be very satirical and fun - poking are said to have entertained them. Our own Sir John Kotelawala and president J. R. Jayewardene had thrown several tea parties for the famous cartoonists of the time where no admonitions had been made.

JR had been rather sensitive to the "Pot belly" addition to his physique (which he had disowned) but not to any other mis-representation. These "mis-representations" include him being drawn as a coy maid sowing paddy replete with redde, hatte (cloth and jacket) a cabaret dancer in scanty war trying to entice the madam, as an elephant boy in a circus team, as a baila dancer, as king Vessantara, as a courting lover and even as a bigamist sharing his bed with two wives (the Sinhala and Tamil languages), being the amorous bed partners.

From the facts given it looks almost obvious that cartoons and caricatures and all wit in art with the hilarious undertones sizzling behind them point to the fact that wit in art migrated to our island from the West. But just read Bell, a former archaeology commissioner on our dwarf figures that grin at us from many a decorative motif in our ancient religious shrines and lay buildings.

"So crowded together are these merry little persons, in their pradakshina circumbulation of the building from left to right, that as many as 250 and upwards once joined the gay, throng that goes laughing along the foot of the temple walls.

For a more jovial band, male and female it would be hard to find anywhere, jostling one another jesting and sporting with exuberant good natured conviviality". And Nagahawatte quoting Manju Sri reflects that the figure of Jujaka Bamuna in our very popular Vessantara Jataka, found in a temple mural at Thotagamu Vihara of Telwatte is a very good example of caricature in our temple art. Hence though these art forms never tapered towards cartoons, wit in art cannot be reckoned as a complete import.

The cartoonists who went on to blaze trails of glory in our island whose memorable creations are captured in these books too were not imports.

The ancestors of two or three of them may have crossed oceans in far off times the cartoonists themselves had got indigenized enough to keep their noses right on the raw political and social earth of Lanka to produce the right kind of cartoon that struck the nail where it should strike very accurately. Cartoons of following fill these pages, Aubrey Collette, W. R. Wijesoma, Jiffry Yoonoos, Winni Hettigoda, Mark Gerreyn, G. S. Fernando, Amitha Abeysekera, S. C. Opatha and Reggie Candappa. Graphic accounts of these artists supplement the valuable information provided in the two cartoon books.

Perhaps to relate the books to the present the cartoons go back from 1996 to the 1940 decade, the procession of cartoons heralded with the ghost of JRJ rising from the dead with a hearty guffaw on a statement made on free trade policies. However this time regression has a disturbing effect on the sequence unless one decide to read it from back to front.

Cartoons have been procured from Lake House Newspapers, The Times of Ceylon, The Island, the Sun, the Lankadeepa, the Lakbima, the Divaina and Aththa.

Writing a foreword to the books Prematileka Mapitigama, Secretary General of the JRJ center states that it was President JRJ's preserving mania that made this collection possible. It is apt to close this with this sentence.

The creative and the mind boggling cartoons with a hilarious undertone cover a panoramic view of the by-gone era, that has already chiselled an imprint across the political arena of Sri Lanka encompassing a very significant period that includes the grant of Independence and all post-Independence blues and reds and greens and other myriad colours, idyosincracies of persons and titillating events.

JRJ just happens to be the central figure, clad in bikinis, swim suits, cabaret dancing frills, "ambudes" now courting madam, next day making love (with crafty intentions) to his two wives when not riding the elephant. Wit in art! There is an overdose here.


Banned books online

The books featured here, ranging from Ulysses to Little Red Riding Hood, have been selected from the indexes of The Online Books Page.

Books Suppressed or Censored by Legal Authorities

Ulysses by James Joyce was selected by the Modern Library as the best novel of the 20th century, and has received wide praise from other literature scholars, including those who have defended online censorship. (Carnegie Mellon English professor and vice-provost Erwin Steinberg, who praised the book in 1994, also defended CMU's declaration that year to delete and some 80 other newsgroups, claiming they were legally obligated to do so.) Ulysses was barred from the United States as obscene for 15 years, and was seized by U.S Postal Authorities in 1918 and 1930. The lifting of the ban in 1933 came only after advocates fought for the right to publish the book. In 1930, U.S.

Customs seized Harvard-bound copies of Candide, Voltaire's critically hailed satire, claiming obscenity. Two Harvard professors defended the work, and it was later admitted in a different edition. In 1944, the US Post Office demanded the omission of Candide from a mailed Concord Books catalog.

John Cleland's Fanny Hill (also known as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) has been frequently suppressed since its initial publication in 1749.

This story of a prostitute is known both for its frank sexual descriptions and its parodies of contemporary literature, such as Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders.

The U.S Supreme Court finally cleared it from obscenity charges in 1966. (Copies exist on the English Server and on Wiretap; if one server is inaccessible, try the other, or wait until later.) Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron, Defoe's Moll Flanders, and various editions of The Arabian Nights were all banned for decades from the U.S. mails under the Comstock Law of 1873. Officially known as the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, this law banned the mailing of "lewd", "indecent", "filthy", or "obscene" materials. The Comstock laws, while now unenforced, remain for the most part on the books today.

The Telecommunications Reform Bill of 1996 even specifically applied some of them to computer networks. The anti-war Lysistrata was banned again in 1967 in Greece, which was then controlled by a military junta.

The Comstock law also forbade distribution of birth control information. In 1915, Margaret Sanger's husband was jailed for distributing her Family Limitation, which described and advocated various methods of contraception. Sanger herself had fled the country to avoid prosecution, but would return in 1916 to start the American Birth Control League, which eventually merged with other groups to form Planned Parenthood.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman's famous collection of poetry, was withdrawn in Boston in 1881, after the District Attorney threatened criminal prosecution for the use of explicit language in some poems. The work was later published in Philadelphia.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau's autobiography Confessions was banned by U.S. Customs in 1929 as injurious to public morality. His philosophical works were also banned in the USSR in 1935, and some were placed on the Catholic Church's Index of Prohibited Books in the 18th century. (The Index was a primarily a matter of church law, but in some areas before the mid-19th century, it also had the force of secular law.

Thomas Paine, best known for his writings supporting American independence, was indicted for treason in England in 1792 for his work The Rights of Man, defending the French Revolution. More than one English publisher was also prosecuted for printing The Age of Reason, where Paine argues for Deism and against Christianity and Atheism.

Blaise Pascal's The Provincial Letters, a defense of the Jansenist Antoine Arnauld, was ordered shredded and burned by King Louis XIV of France in 1660. France also banned Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered in the 16th century for containing ideas subversive to the authority of kings.

Jack London's writing was censored in several European dictatorships in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1929, Italy banned all cheap editions of his Call of the Wild, and Yugoslavia banned all his works as being "too radical". Some of London's works were also burned by the Nazis.

South Africa's apartheid regime banned a number of classic books; in 1955, for instance, the New York Times reported that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was banned there as "indecent, objectionable, or obscene". The regime also banned Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, a story about a horse.

In nervous times, politically motivated censorship has occurred in the United States as well. In 1954, the Providence, RI, post office attempted to block delivery of Lenin's State and Revolution to Brown University, citing it as "subversive". In 1918, the US War Department told the American Library Association to remove a number of pacifist and "disturbing" books, including Ambrose Bierce's Can Such Things Be? from camp libraries, a directive which was taken to also apply to the homefront. (Censorship in libraries run by the federal government continued afterwards as well.

In the 1950s, according to Walter Harding, Senator Joseph McCarthy had overseas libraries run by the United States Information Service pull an anthology of American literature from the shelves because it included Thoreau's Civil Disobedience.)

During World War I, the US government jailed those who were distributing anti-draft pamphlets like this one.

Schenck, the publisher of the pamphlet, was convicted, and his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1919. (This decision was the source of the well-known "fire in a theatre" quote.) The Bible and The Quran were both removed from numerous libraries and banned from import in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1956. Many editions of the Bible have also been banned and burned by civil and religious authorities throughout history.

Some recent examples: On July 1, 1996, Singapore convicted a woman for possessing the Jehovah's Witness translation of the Bible.

A 2000 US government report reported that Burma (also known as Myanmar) bans all Bible translations into local indigenous languages. (The military dictatorship of that country also required modems to be licensed, so residents of Burma, like NetNanny users, are not likely to see this page.) Distributing Bibles, along with other forms of proselytizing by non-Muslims, is also banned in Saudi Arabia, according to this State Department report.

Some governments still tightly control religious organizations and their publications. In 1999, the government of China banned the Falun Gong sect and confiscated and destroyed books by their founder and other Falun Gong books.

As you can see, the books live on over the Internet- at least in places that don't censor incoming Net data.

D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was the object of numerous obscenity trials in both the UK and the United States up into the 1960s.

E for Ecstasy, a book on the drug MDMA, was seized by Australian customs in 1994, and at last check (May 2000), the official ban on the book was still in force in that country. (An Australian government site has a PDF document on what kinds of books are banned or restricted in Australia.

You can also search the database of banned or restricted materials yourself.) In the 1999-2000 session, the US Congress quietly slipped similar bans for "dangerous" information on drugs and explosives into various bills.

The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 (S. 1428) had a section 9 outlawing certain dissemination of information on drug use, patterned after a law outlawing certain dissemination on information on explosives that was signed in 1999. Given that conspiracy or solicitation to commit federal crimes was already illegal, it's hard to see what practical effect is intended by these bills other than to censor the open dissemination of information deemed too dangerous for the public to learn.

The anti-drug-information bill has not yet made it to a full vote in Congress, as far as I'm aware, so E For Ecstasy is still legal in the US, for now.

A number of democratic countries, including Austria, France, Germany, and Canada, have criminalized various forms of "hate speech", including books judged to disparage minority groups. In the 1980s, Ernst Z?ndel was convicted twice under Canada's "false news" laws for publishing Did Six Million Really Die?, a 1974 book denying the Holocaust. On appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court found the "false news" law unconstitutional in 1992, but Z?ndel is now being prosecuted under Canada's "Human Rights Act" for publishing this book and other material on his Zundelsite.

Even so, Deborah Lipstadt and some other prominent critics of Holocaust deniers have gone on record as opposing laws that would censor such speech. (On the other hand, Z?ndel is quite happy to call for bans for works he doesn't like, though, as seen in this leaflet calling for a ban of Schindler's List.

And denier David Irving's attempt to stop publication of Lipstadt's book on Holocaust denial, as seen in the complaint reproduced on Irving's web site, failed when a UK court ruled that Lipstadt's statements about Irving were, in fact, justified.) (Internet)


Colombo Heritage

Colombo Heritage

by Jan Baldwin Illustrated by Nicki McHarg, Sarah Baldwin and the author

Published by Stanford Lake, 2003
Printed by Lake House Printers and Publishers Ltd, Colombo
Price Rs. 450
The Royal Colombo Golf Club

"As the crow flies", is the motto of the Royal Colombo Golf Club, a course packed with interest and variety from the moment the ball is hit off the first tee.

Set in parklike surroundings, themselves worth visiting for the profusion of trees, wild plants and birds, one is embarking on a unique adventure not unlike a safari.

Where else can one test one's golfing skill amongst water buffaloes, monitor lizards, dogs, cows and small boys playing cricket? Where else is a free drop granted because the ball went down a snake hole? Or the score counted by the number of balls that land in one of the many water-holes and are returned for 5 rupees by men who lie in wait for this to happen? Further more, the course certainly does live up to its motto.

The crows have been known to fly off with the ball and even to fight with each other over the possession of one suddenly arriving on the green!

The wonderfully breezy colonial pavilion was built early this century after the course had been transferred to the present site at Ridgeways. Its intriguing roof design seems to encourage plenty of fresh air as one rests on the balcony after a golf round, drinking the incredibly good fresh lime (or something stronger) and surveying the scenery.

The atmosphere is cheerful and friendly, with waiters hovering about and plenty of activity on the eighth green nearby.

One can study the honour boards showing the winners of all the competitions throughout the years; or simply revel in the appearance of the distant steam train as it puffs and hoots its way through the course, daring to cross in front of the sixth green before finally disappearing - until the next day.

For over a hundred years the Colombo Golf Club has been in existence, having originally started in 1879 on the Galle Face Creen.

Fifty years later George 'V conferred the privilege of using the title "Royal" as a prefix, thus making it one of the oldest Royal Clubs outside Britain.

Excerpt from the book

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