Category Archives: Left politics

Vale: Carlo Fonseka’s Manifold Gifts Inscribed in Memory

ONE: Ishara Jayawardena: Carlo Fonseka: Unparalleled,” Daily News, 4 September 2019

 Professor Carlo Fonseka ushered in an episode rare in its own right. He always stood for what he thought was just. Not merely a physician cum academic, Fonseka established his turf far beyond the general boundaries as a political activist, rationalist, creative artiste and many more roles. His academic prowess was a remarkable factor, yet his wit fused with wisdom generously applied in writing as well as orations was significant.

The Daily News got in touch with three renowned academics to ascertain the intellectual estate he has bequeathed.

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The Political Paths We Sri Lankans Face

“Friday Forum” in Resurrected Form  Savitri Goonesekere, Chandra Jayaratne et al in Island, 3 September 2019, Presidential Elections And The Peoples’ Options”

In a few months’ time this country will once again make decisions on the political leadership that will guide the destinies of the nation. This is a pivotal point in regard to the direction and manner in which our country will develop in the near future.

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“Bonfire of the Vanities” in Screeching Crescendo in Sri Lanka Today

Elmo Jayawardena, in Island, 15 August 2019, …

The phrase BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES took life more than 500 years ago, 1497 to be precise, in the Italian city of Florence. The unusual practice was started by the followers of Franciscan priest Girolamo Savonarola. He denounced corruption, despotic rule and the exploitation of the poor. These were un-abated traits of Florentine rule, which were evenly spread among the rich and the powerful. Friar Savonarola waged war on vanity and preached to his followers to discard anything that was vain for a simple life of a man or woman who sought lasting contentment and happiness. To this end, he encouraged people to bring all their items of vanity and burn them. The bonfires of the vanities became a rallying call of the followers of Padre Savanarola so much so the Pope excommunicated the rebel priest and imprisoned him. He was later hanged along with two of his assistants and their bodies were burned. So ended the Bonfires of the Vanities, and Florence went back to abusing power.

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French Revolutionary Songs …. Marchons! Marchons!

 Satyajith Andradi, in Island, 12 July 2019, with this titleLa Marseillaise And L’internationale – Revolutionary Songs From France”

 “How many on our flesh eat their fill?
But if the ravens, the vultures, One morning disappeared,
The Sun would shine still.” …..
L’Internationale; trans; Michell Abidor

the Storming of the Bastille

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Buddhism over Time in Colonial and Independent Sri Lanka

Abstract of Article by Ananda Abeysekara entitledBuddhism and ‘Influence’: The Temporality of a Concept” Qui Parle, 2019, Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 1-75.

For almost three decades the concept of “Protestant Buddhism” has been the object of critique by numerous scholars such as John Holt, Charles Hallisey, Anne Blackburn, Erik Braun, Alicia Turner, Steven Kemper, and others. They claim to tell a different story about the relation between religion and modernity (“Protestantism”) in South Asia. By extension, these scholars seek to reconstruct the temporal relation between the past and the present, questioning postcolonial conceptions of history, time, and religious practice. But this story of temporality is staked on the question of “influence,” which has a genealogy that includes not just colonial, missionary, liberal politics but also contemporary legal-political questions about foreign influence on democracy and sovereignty. This article contests the ways in which the critiques of Protestant Buddhism conceptualize colonial and postcolonial forms of time, translated into universal forms of self, agency, responsibility, etc. The article argues that the question of influence, which animates parts of the story of secular ways of inhabiting time, obscures not just how the encounter with the temporality of a tradition is an encounter with power. It obscures how even modern sensibilities of inhabiting time, ironically, require coherence even as they are repeatedly said to be constituted by “heterogeneous” forms of everyday life.

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Remembering SBD de Silva: A Scholar in Every Fibre

Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, in Sunday Island, 16 June 2019, where the title reads “One Thing Leads to Another – Memories of a Great Guru”

SBD de Silva, at 92, acted like he would live forever. To the very end, he kept drafting in almost imperceptible scribble – with pen or pencil, whatever being handy, glasses falling off his nose, peering over some text or daily/weekly newspaper – filling an A4 until no blank space was left, and then, so as not to break his concentration or the sentence, without looking, reach for another blank…

Like Scheherazade of the 1001 Nights who had to keep narrating to save her life until each dawn, so did SB, by day and by night, keep writing as if fresh insights, expressed in perfect words, would make him immortal. Yet, ambushed he was by impermanence. But such dedication to his craft and to the country was sheer dream to witness, let alone to hope to emulate, yet must be upheld as a beacon of scholarship for future generations.

 SBD de Silva (1926-2018) at a diplomatic reception in the 1950s. His classic, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, tracks our own economic history midst that of the world.

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Tisaranee’s Secularist Thesis is Simplistic

Thank you for forwarding me Tisaranee Gunasekara’s article.

Tisaranee in her analysis cites secularism as a panacea for all the ills that are prevalent in Sri Lanka.….. I am afraid she is not only misguided, but her anti-Sri Lankan sentiment ignores the fact that many societies in the world that have adopted a secular constitution are in practice the very antithesis of the concept of secularism. You do not need to immerse yourself into Hegelian dialectics to eschew her simplistic approach in the analysis of Sri Lankan society.

I didn’t know secular humanists HAD missionaries!

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