Category Archives: teaching profession

Vale Jim Gair, Sinhala Enthusiast, Linguist Extraordinary

A Valedictory in American Academia


James Wells Gair, Ph.D. ’63, professor emeritus of linguistics who throughout a long and distinguished career produced groundbreaking work on South Asian languages and their relation to other languages, died Dec. 10 in Ithaca. He was 88.“Jim Gair was in many ways the paradigmatic Cornell linguist,” said John Whitman, chair and professor of linguistics. “He had a language passion for Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka, and he threw himself entirely into it, teaching the language, writing textbooks for its learners, and analyzing both the colloquial language and its classical texts.

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The Rajasingams and Their Profound Legacies

Rajan Hoole, being the text of speech delivered at Trimmer Hall, Jaffna, 22 September 2016… and reproduced in the Daily News with the title “The Rajasingam Legacy: A Quest for Quality”

  rajasinghamsin1990parentsofdrrajani aaa-rajasingambavinck-rajasingham

After nightfall on 21st September 1989, Rajasingam Master called on his bicycle at my mother’s home quite unexpectedly and delivered his pithy message, “Rajini has been shot.” His voice showed no evident emotion. After a brief exchange of words, he turned back. He was stoic, incorruptible, who lived by his strong sense of duty. Master, his wife MahilaAcca, and their daughters, Nirmala, Rajini, Sumathy and Vasuki were familiar to us from childhood days in the St. James’ Church choir. Had Master been more ambitious during his university days, he would have left his mark as an outstanding mathematician in our university. What he did as a school master at Hartley and Jaffna College was no less important. His zeal for catching hold of students who seemed to be in need of inspiration and getting them to work Mathematics problems remained a passion with him to the end of his life.  rajani-t Rajani Thiranagama nee Rajasingam

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Ethnic Tensions and Cruelties …. and the Month of July

Rajan Philips, in The Sunday Island, 24 July 2016, with the title “July and its Cruelties”

It was not Sri Lanka that I was thinking of last week when I alluded to the months of April and July vying for mention in a universal cruelty context. But news after that from the Jaffna University that a gang of Tamil university students and outside thugs beat up on the Sinhalese students on campus, came as a rude reminder of the cruelties that July has come to be associated with in Sri Lanka. July 1983 has become a huge blot of blood in our history. Eerily, it was to this day 33 years ago that a pre-meditated ambush of Sinhalese soldiers in Jaffna by the LTTE provided the pre-text for the unleashing of no-less pre-meditated retaliatory violence in Colombo that quickly went out of control to become a massive pogrom against all Tamils. It was a UNP government that orchestrated the retaliation then until it blew in its face at home and abroad. The same government sent the Opposition TULF packing to India, and handed over the destinies of Tamil politics to the dictates of the LTTE.

injured uni studentNorthern Province Governor Reginald Cooray visited H. A. T. Maduranga, an undergraduate wounded in last week’s attack now warded at the National Hospital (pic courtesy by Governor’s Office) Continue reading


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A Tribute to GC Mendis: Pioneering Tertiary Education in History for Lanka

Michael Roberts

 The teaching of history at a tertiary level began with University College in Colombo in the 1920s, where students were prepared for an external degree at the University of London. Professor SA Pakeham taught medieval and modern European history to those who enrolled for such courses. Pakeham’s place in the history of history-teaching yet awaits its researcher.[1] One contribution stands out: Pakeman seems to have discerned the talents of Garrett Champness Mendis, then a Lecturer at the Government Teacher Training College. An opening was secured for his postgraduate training under Professor Rhys-Davids at London University and GC Mendis proceeded to UK to work under that renowned Pali scholar.

GC MENDISThis period of study encompassed extended sojourns in Munchen (?) in Germany[2] under the tutelage of Wilhelm Geiger (1856-1943). This spell in England and Germany resulted in his command of Pali and his dissertation A Historical Criticism of the Mahavamsa (1930, unpubd). Amazing as it may seem, he could not be slotted into history teaching at University College when he returned and he was appointed initially as a Visiting Lecturer in Pali.[3] Continue reading

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Pursuing Lakshman Kadirgamar’s Path: Balancing Indo-Lanka Relations

Sudharshan Seneviratne, courtesy of The Island, 22 & 23 June 2016where the tittle is “Imaging India and strategising Indo-Lanka Symbiosis”**

Having returned from India after a premature recall as High Commissioner, I am pleased to make my first public talk at the BCIS. Yet, it is also associated with a sad memory. We had a final meeting at this very hall at a ceremony to launch the journal on International Affairs edited by Tissa Jayatilleke for BCIS published by Sage India. After most guests departed, Lakshman Kadirgamar along with Tissa, myself and Her Excellency Nirupama Rao had a pleasant chat. At that time he revealed plans for the Rajiv Gandhi Centre at the BCIS with JNU links. That night Kadirgamar was assassinated. I avoided any official functions here and this is my first visit to theCIS since then.


Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne

Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne

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Some Political Explorations of the Lankan Scene in the 1970s: Jupp and Perinbanayagam & Chadda

JAMES JUPP JuppSID PERINPerinbanayagam CHADDA Chadda

ONE: James Jupp’s Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy (1978, London, Frank Cass) reviewed by Michael Roberts at

This book eschews grand political theory and concentrates upon solid descriptive analysis. In presenting an ordered summary of the recent political history of Sri Lanka from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, the author is not forgetful of the social and economic background and is not afraid to lace the description with his own interpretations. He highlights several trends: an erosion of the influence of the Anglicised elite which did not, however, extend to their displacement; the movement “from the British notion of ‘good government’ … to a notion of popular government” catering more to mass prejudices (p.349); a rhetorical and ideological emphasis on indigenisation and cultural and economic decolonisation which obscures the fact that the opposed political persuasions have been of Western, if not British inspiration; and the gradual concentration of political opinion in the Sinhalese dominated districts around Bandaranaike’s Middle Way, which was democratic, socialist, and Sinhala Buddhist. Continue reading

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Sarvananthan sparks Financial Investigation of ICES

Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph,, where readers will find a burgeoning  series of comments

In response to the exposes in the Colombo Telegraph during the latter half of January 2016(see below for titles and the web links) and a formal complaint lodged with the Counter Fraud and Whistleblowing Unit (CFWU) of the Department for International Development (DfID, United Kingdom) by this author, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada) has launched a forensic audit of the financial accounts of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES, Colombo, Sri Lanka) pertaining to the Safe and Inclusive Cities (SaIC) and Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) programmes co-funded by the Department for International Development (DfID, UK) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada) and managed by the latter. In fact, 70% of the total funding for the GrOW programme is by the DfID.

   a-SARVI Sarvananthan   MARIO GOMEZMario Gomez

An international audit firm has been hired by the IDRC to undertake a forensic audit of the accounts pertaining to the aforementioned two projects at the ICES in Colombo. Accordingly, personnel from this multinational audit firm were in Colombo during the week March 14 – 20, 2016 and met this author on March 18, 2016.Their report to the IDRC is due before the end of April 2016. The ICES is probably the only NGO in Sri Lanka that has been subjected to forensic auditing by a grantor to date.  Continue reading

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