N.U. Jayawardena - The first five decades:
Inspiration to the youth
Reviewed by K. GODAGE
“NU Jayawardena —— the first five decades,” is perhaps one of the
most fascinating books I have had the privilege to read. The story of NU
J’s life has been written by his daughter-in law, Dr. Kumari Jayawardena
and the wife of his grandson Milinda Moragoda, Jennifer.
Despite the fact that the authors are close relatives of the subject
they have been unbelievably objective. They have certainly put distance
between themselves and the subject they were writing about.
quality of the printing also deserves mention, it is of the highest
quality. An enormous amount of research appears to have been done and
the book contains information which would be of interest to every Lankan
who cherishes our history. I should also make mention of the photographs
reproduced in the book not only those of the family, for they tell their
The story of NU is of a life well lived. It is an inspiration to the
youth of this country. I would urge those who brought out this book to
have it translated into Sinhalese and Tamil.
The book should be in ‘Paperback’ form, to make it affordable to
students and the larger reading public of this country. This is the
story of a man who was blessed with a brilliant mind.
He was a visionary, pragmatic and a man of action He was also a man
with indomitable courage and a burning ambition to succeed in life
against unbelievable odds.
From relatively humble beginnings through his love for learning and
sheer hard work he was able to reach the pinnacle of success. His life
is an inspiration to us all. The book is packed with extremely useful
information particularly on the South and the Hambantota District and
the conditions under which the people of the district lived in colonial
Considering the state of the infrastructure in the district credit
must surely be given to those English Government Agents such as Leonard
Wolf and others such as Forbes who endured great hardship and hostile
conditions to serve the people of such an undeveloped district.
The book also mentions those horrible men who called themselves
‘sportsmen’ and came to kill big game such as Elephants, Leopards and
Bears. There is a picture of one such barbarian, Franz Joseph of Austria
sitting on an Elephant he had killed.
NU’s father had been the Rest House keeper at Hambantota and the book
contains an interesting note on the ‘Rest House culture’ of this
country. In 1911 there had been 193 Rest Houses in the country.
In colonial times they were essentially for government officials on
circuit. They were always well maintained, affordable and the food,
almost without exception, good. Even in the 1950s and 60s the Rest House
served an important purpose not only for government officials but also
for the local tourist and casual traveller and the RH keeper or the
Aarachchi as we referred to them was a respected person in the district.
Even Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip once stayed at the
Polonnaruwa RH but today Rest Houses have become taverns mainly
frequented by our politicians.
Of particular interest to the reader would be NU’s education and the
contribution made by Christian mMissionaries, particularly the Jesuits,
which NU has acknowledged with deep gratitude.
The chapter on NU’s education has been appropriately titled
“Emancipation through Education’. Considering the fact that we had not,
even in the 20th century, shed our feudal past, NU’s rise to one of the
highest offices in the land speaks not only for the tenacity of purpose
and determination of the man but also for his courage to face up to the
social barriers he would no doubt have faced throughout his life.
NU had commenced his education in a small missionary school in remote
Hambantota, from there he had been moved to a another missionary school
St. Servatius in the larger own of Matara and later to the prestigious
St. Aloysius College in Galle. He was twelve years old at the time.
The book records “the reverence for education in Sri Lankan culture
which is reflected in the traditional ceremony of writing the first
letters, it is an initiation ceremony into the process of learning”.
NU’s education had begun at the age of three with this ceremony.
During the four years that NU studied at St. Servatius in Matara he
walked three miles to school everyday. He had carried his shoes in his
hand as he was more comfortable walking bare feet.
He had of course to wear his shoes when in school. At the age of
twelve he had been moved to St. Aloysius in Galle. This was where life
began for NU. To quote NU himself from the College magazine “So my life
from rags to riches, from elementary education to self acquired
knowledge from shattering adversity to rewarding accomplishment, is an
epitome of the determination, the tenacity, the purposefulness and above
all the cultural values inculcated in me as a Buddhist, by the teachings
and the example of the Christian Fathers and Teachers who moulded my
upbringing in the impressionable age of my youth. I then learned never
to take no for an answer”.
When at St. Aloysius NU travelled by train from Talpe to school in
Galle town. Train schedules regulated NU’s life. He had to leave for
school hours before classes commenced and returned home only after 9.00
p.m. because the train was invariably late. Though he had experienced
much hardship travelling between home and school he had spent his time
studying in the ‘waiting rooms’ at the Stations and on the train.
St Aloysius had left an indelible impression on his life. He states
that it was St. Aloysius that moulded his character, this was where he
claims he learned the art of writing, the elements of sound reasoning
and logical sequence and above all ‘precision’ and the importance of
In notes reproduced from NU’s diary, it is said that NU claimed that
it was the rigorous training and wide experience he received at
St.Aloysius and the dedication of his teachers that gave him the ability
and determination to face the future.
The authors discuss “the lure of government service” in a most
interesting chapter which serves as a prelude to NU entering government
service. His first salary as a government clerk had been Rs. 27.50 a
After that he had passed the General Clerical Examination in 1926 and
had been posted to the Department of Public Works on a salary of Rs. 75.
Though NU joined the clerical service he had not abandoned his ambition
to study for a degree.
How he pursued this ambition is quite inspiring. He had followed a
correspondence course from Woolsey Hall in London and completed the BSc
(Econ) degree as an external student of London University. He was at
that time the highest qualified clerk in government service. His pursuit
of knowledge and education did not end there.
He continued to take correspondence courses and registered for a
post-graduate (MSc Econ) degree, but for reasons beyond his control he
was unable to achieve that goal. Coincidentally his reading for the MSc
was on Central Banking!
NU’s rise from here on is a fascinating story. He held a number of
interesting appointments, but perhaps his biggest break came when
Mr.Peri Sunderam, Member of the State Council, recognizing NU’s talents,
appointed him a Assistant Secretary of the Banking Commission in 1934.
The Secretary was Professor Das Gupta who was unable to travel with
the Commission when it sat in every provincial capital of this country.
This enabled the Assistant Secretary, NU, to obtain a comprehensive
overview of the problems of banking and credit in this country. NU never
looked back from then on, and he ended up as the first Sri Lankan
Governor of the Central Bank of Ceylon.
The story of his working life after his stint as Assistant Secretary
of the Banking Commission must be read to be believed. I commend it to
everyone interested in the history of this country, particularly our
youth, for it is as inspiring a story as that of Obama for he too had to
surmount many obstacles to reach his pinnacle of success.
Six stories from an immortal Sinhala heartland
Reviewed by Carl
In his foreword to this collection, Jayantha Dhanapala, Chairman, UN
University Council, tells of the author who, judging from his literary
output, “clearly has direct experience of life in the village in the
Sinhala heartland. Hence, he sees the poverty, the unemployment, the
superstitions, the youthful romances and the tragedy when the violence
of the insurgency mounted by the JVP... and its brutal suppression
convulsed the country.”
Amarakeerti was a lecturer at Cornell University, New York. He
obtained his BA, Sinhala, from the University of Colombo, his PhD and
MA, Literature, from the University of Wisconsin and has now accepted a
Senior Lecturer position with the University of Peradeniya.
when the Moon Weeps”
Author : Liyanage Amarakeerthi - Translated by Kumari
Goonesekera - Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo 2007 - pp. 124
The six stories in this collection, originally in Sinhala, are
presented in English with great sensitivity by Kumari Goonesekera who
took her BSc Chemistry Honours (First Class) from the University of
Colombo and the MA from Princeton University as well as having read
English at the University of Texas.
An ideal combination, I would say, and when Amarakeerthi gives us his
“Notes from Andagala Mountain” at the beginning of this work, it brought
back memories of my days as a crime reporter for the “Sun” when I
scouted the village huts and the banks of the Deduru Oya to unearth the
truth behind one of the grimmest murders - of the headless corpse of a
young woman and a man called “Jester” who, in an orgiastic fury,
decapitated the woman he was making love to on the sands beneath the
bridge. As Amarakeerthi says: “...the stories heard from village adults
prompted me to write my own stories associated with the Deduru Oya...”
and you see how well the power of association works.
Each of these stories are told with an elegance that gift-wraps the
We have in “The Nest in the Colony” (pp. 1-12), a silence that seems
to blanket emotion, longing and that lack of philosophical concept. What
would a rough and ready man like Jayasena, and the girl he gathered to
him, know of philosophy? They met, they knew each other, she ran away
from her home where no one would tolerate her “goings-on” that, as was
said, had “no limit” and she trusted herself, her feelings, for the man
she loved. Yes, they had secrets to share; a nest to build for
He could give her little but there was the tilapiya from the village
tank. Her dreams were sponged away by his fears - fears he would drown
with the music from his cassette player.
The writing is exquisite and we can see Mala, eyes full of sadness
that would one day impel her to leave her nest of hopeful dreams.
Even as John Aiya served his jail term, he would spend his nights
with the moon - one marshmallow-white, silvery, ghostly face peering
through the bars of his cell to illumine another ghastly face - and he
was a murderer and had left his weeping wife and little sons that he pay
for his crime.
This story, “The Hour when the Moon Weeps” (pp. 13-30) is of terror
and counter-terror, of boys absconded, the ingredients of tyre pyres, of
village thugs who swear to seduce the wives of others, of bloody revenge
and cruel loss. The end is as seductive as the beginning. Read it and
feel the coils of old age tighten remorselessly.
There is Black Pokuta who can swing up the tallest jak tree, look
down on the Badagamuwa forest, Athaagala and Dolukande; but of Red
Pokuta there rise stories to chill the blood. In “Black Pokuta and Red
Pokuta” (pp. 31-50), it is the sheer wonder and the rustic mindset of
village life that is varnished over with superstitions, age-old rituals,
the do’s and do not’s that are so vital for survival, both physical and
“...everyone in the village knew that... he killed and devoured the
red lula... the red lula is a spiritual manifestation of Red Pokuta.”
(Says the arecanut tree): “If there is any extra expense to be
incurred at a wedding or funeral, I’ll be glad to bear it.” And that is
why the arecanut flower is used at weddings and other celebrations.
Blessed water is sprinkled with an arecanut sprig too. Funeral pyres use
arecanut logs, do they not?
Read of Jayasundera’s love letter to Erandathie, secreted in a bunch
of low-hanging ehala flowers (pp. 51-77); and also of the victimization
that saps sense and reason when a new government drives the unwanted out
of their workplaces, transfers to places of rank misfortune and of
children who are “bunker kids.” (pp. 78-98).
“I was dumped here as an act of revenge - just because my husband
worked for the last government. If someone is sent somewhere as
punishment, then the place can’t be good, no?”
And there is the new boy’s love of drawing sharks - and the story
ends with an explanation more terrible than ever, but something we have
all come to expect, even as karma; the night callers, the beach, the
gunshots, the roar of a vehicle or a motor boat. Didn’t Richard de Zoysa
die that way?
I leave the last story to my readers, for it swirls back to the
beginning, to the author’s “Notes from Andagala Mountain.”
And it is all so marvellously written and remarkably translated that
one can see a melding of great literary minds, a deep respect and a kind
of sheer infatuation of theme that has given us that hour when the moon
It is indeed fitting that this collection was awarded the H. A. I.
Goonetilleke Prize out of the Gratiaen Award instituted by Michael
Ondaatje, and even more fitting that its publication was undertaken by
Vijitha Yapa. Have you got your copy. No? How can you miss a collection
such as this?
|Title: Loka Bankuwa
goleeyakaranaya and nawa yatathvijithavadaya
Author: M. Sirisena
Book on globalization and
Title: Loka Bankuwa goleeyakaranaya and nawa yatathvijithavadaya
Author: M. Sirisena
The book in a way is a fine economic and political analysis. The
author is critical of the International Monetary Fund of the World Bank,
which according to him operates solely to extract the resources of the
Third World countries in order to use them for the welfare of the
capitalist countries. “The world Bank is an illusion in the fullest
sense of word”. Neo colonialism operates under the pretext of
The author has first written the book in English “World Bank and
The launch of Buddhi’s and Malini’s Sahurda Satahan-2 (Notes of a
Connoisseur-2) and The Valley Below (collection of poetry translated
from Sinhala) will be held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute
Auditorium, Colombo 7 on Tuesday, November 25 at 3.30 pm.
Satahan-2 is the second volume of a collection of literary and cultural
notes penned by Buddhadasa Galappatty to ‘Veemansa’ the literary
supplement. The first volume of these notes came out as Sahurda Satahan
in August last year.
Sahurda Satahan-2 consists of 36 notes written based on persons and
events connected with literature, music, cinema, stage drama, television
and other media.
The Valley Below is a collection of 45 poems selected from Buddhadasa
Galappatty’s eight books of poems published since 1971 ,the last of
which came out in 2007, and translated into English.
The poems have been translated by Malini Govinnage, who has given the
Sinhala reader some memorable Sinhala translations such as Fontamara,The
biography of Che, The Bolivian Diary and Cry, the Beloved Country. With
The Valley Below, she ventures into English translations introducing
Sinhala literary works to the English reader,
The illustrations of both books have been done by Shantha K. Herath.
Dr.Tissa Abeysekera will chair the meeting of the launch. Victor Ivan
will talk on ‘Media practice in Modem Sri Lanka’. Lakshman Femando whose
theme of the address will be ‘Literary translations from Sinhala to
English’. Buddhi and Malini have invited some of their teachers, Amara
Heva Madduma. Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, Prof. Vimal G. Balagalle, Prof.
Tissa Kariyavasam, Prof. Vinie Vitharana, Prof. A.V. Suraweera, Prof.
Rathna Wijetunga, Lakshman Fernando and Miss. Sumana Saparamadu to the
event to present the first copies of the books. (RC)
Maharajathumage Dasamaha Yodhayan Saha Thawath Dedenek
Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera’s “Duttagamini Abhaya Maharajathumage
Dasamaha Yodayan Saha Thawath Dedenek” will be launched at Dayawansa
Jayakody Book Exhibition Hall, Ven. S. Mahinda Mawatha, Colombo 10 on
Media Guide 2008/9 Edition
A professional media guide for Sri Lanka 8th updated edition,
containing names and addresses of about 810 profiles with 7972 media
contacts , was published on third week of November, 2008 by the Sri
Lanka Environmental Journalists Forum (SLEJF). This media guide was
compiled by Dharman Wickremaratne.