Manique Gunasekera: A Beloved Mentor of Many Luminaries

Professor Manique Gunasekera

I have come across an article written by an ex-Marxist complaining that late Prof Manique Gunasekera hampered the realisation of his academic endeavours. It is utter nonsense by this particular ex-Marxist to ridicule Manique for his own failure in his disgusting article, a self-composed eulogy for himself. His foul-smelling assortment of words vividly depicts his hopeless ignorance. No wonder why he is above the moon after writing that article as ignorance is bliss. If he could write about Manique in that loathsome manner, I wonder how barbarically he would write about the greats like Doric, AJ, Ashley et al

I do not wish to waste my valuable time (of course I have a very little time left at my disposal at this age) to flash beams of light into this particular ex-Marxist’s world of sheer darkness. But I consider it as one my historical obligations to write down a few sentences on the noble service rendered by late Manique Gunasekera in her endeavour to derive a standard variety of Sri Lankan English. No other academic of genuine brilliance has ever gone through the mill to develop a practical standard variety of Sri Lankan English as much as Manique had. 

Memories of Manique in the early 80s when she inaugurated a modern art of teaching the English Language, is as sweet as ever. Albeit, such nostalgia brings about reactionary tremors of anger about this slanderous writing by this particular ex-Marxist who proves himself to be a shambolic goof. By the early 80s, the Department of English at Kelaniya was not what it is today. Manique had done a tremendous contribution to transform it to a highly respectable department during her long career. She left the department at a world-renowned place for the study and research of English Language, by the end of her life’s journey. As a bright academic, Manique championed the study and research into the varieties of English and the post-colonial literature. She had been a strong advocate of accepting alternatives to the most revered British English. Perhaps, it could be the experience during her doctoral research at Michigan that had guided her to develop reasonable attitudes towards American English

The ex-Marxist has exhibited his ignorance of academia when he voiced his bray that Manique was in an emotional defence of the British standards of the English Language. Her approach to derive a practical standard variety of Sri Lankan English was based on a solid academic foundation. Nobody apart from Arjuna, Siromi Fernando and a few others has made a contribution equivalent to that of Manique in researching the local identities of the English Language used in Sri Lanka. 

Here, I refer only to the scholarly contributions in that serious mission. I do not wish to devalue the solemn objective of deriving a standard variety of Sri Lankan English, just by bringing a Matugama-standard libel by an ex-Marxist into the realm of Manique’s command. The concept of  standardising Sri Lankan English does not mean to legitimise the foul use of the English Language. This is the most important thing that our ex-Marxist has failed to understand. The ex-Marxist has been misusing the academically sound concept of “Standardisation of the English Language” for his evil endeavour of  legitimising his so-called Matugama English, a language in disarray. As a researcher on the varieties of English, Manique would have been very much interested in this particular ex-Marxist’s formulation of Matugama English. But as an academic, she would not have been lenient to accept it as Standard Sri Lankan English (SSLE)

Manique had very high standards in her work. She knew her responsibilities very well. Thus, she did not allow anybody who failed to establish his/her potential to read for the prestigious special degree in English during her tenure. I remember once a young undergraduate who happened to be a daughter of one of my friends missed the opportunity to follow the special degree in English by mere decimals. Similarly, the university standards cannot be and should not be depreciated for the sake of meritorious compassion for the people like this particular ex-Marxist. Therefore, IF Manique had created an academic milieu which did not GIFT a degree to this particular ex-Marxist, it would have been to her credit. Dear fellow ex-Marxist, for you information I would like to mention that the university degrees are awarded once you have earned them. 

The ex-Marxist has done what he is most comfortable at i.e. to ridicule the elite people. But he has forgotten that his calliper is too small to measure a colossal academic of Manique Gunasekera’s calibre. The ex-Marxist has just defecated in the blogosphere as usual in his routine. He is entitled to his opinion. But he has no moral right to tarnish the name of Manique Gunasekera who dedicated her life for the advancement of the study, research and teaching of the English Language in Sri Lanka. In fact, a scoundrel like this particular ex-Marxist cannot defect the glory of a bright student of the Holy Family Convent. Samuel Johnson once said:

A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but, one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.” 

I wonder whether Johnson was referring as the fly to a world class intellect in the interior of Matugama!

Bandula Kudalagama,



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