Manique Gunasekera: In Defence of her Quest for Standard Sri Lankan English

Sri Lankan English: New Words & New Usage

My previous article dealt with a libel authored by an ex-Marxist who complained that late Prof Manique Gunasekera hampered the realisation of his academic endeavours. In the immediate aftermath of my retaliating article, this particular ex-Marxist has just started to sing a different song! Hah! Hah! Hah! He has realised his “mistake” (I am using this word “mistake” for the sake of kindness towards the oppressed soul of this particular ex-Marxist). The same man who proclaimed that Manique was in defence of preserving the undue elite status of the English Language, is now scratching his head in the confession that he has not been aware of her academic contributions. Thus, he has proven himself that he writes on the subjects, of which he has no competence to make heads or tails. 

This particular ex-Marxist received a harsh treatment, which he deserved, from us, because he ridiculed Manique for what she had never intended to do. This particular ex-Marxist’s conduct may be partly due to his ignorance and partly due to his cynicism. It would be due to ignorance, if he was not aware of Manique’s supportive opinion and contribution for deriving a standard variety of Sri Lankan English. If ignorance was the cause for his libel, then a question would arise as to why he wrote so arrogantly on the matters that he was not competent to comment. Just because the blogosphere is freely accessible, one should not use it mala fide. This particular ex-Marxist  defecated in the blogosphere as he wrote the following libel:

ඒ කාලයේ කැලනි විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයේ ඉංග්‍රීසි අංශය භාරව සිටි මැනික් ගුණසේකර, මෛත්‍රී වික්‍රමසිංහ වැනි අර කියන ජාතියේ දකුණු එංගලන්ත ප්‍රමිතියේ රදළ ආචාර්ය මහාචාර්යවරු එහි අප වැනි පීඩිතයන්ට ඉංග්‍රීසි විෂය බාහිරව සමත් විය හැකි තත්වයක් ඉතිරි කළේ නැත. මා උපාධියක් නැති නූගතකු වූයේ ඒ නිසා ය.

Professor Manique Gunasekera

I have discussed briefly the enormous contribution Manique had rendered the virtuous mission of developing a standard variety of Sri Lankan English. Right from the early days in her march towards the excellence in the academia, which dates back to the mid-70s, Manique had been a stern voice in support of identifying and refining and redefining the local identities of the English language used in Sri Lanka. Throughout her celebrated voyage from the elitist mansions in Colombo 7 via Holy Family Convent in Bambalapitiya, the initially modest Department of English at Kelaniya and the Rackham Graduate School at Michigan, she had never lost her sense of Sri Lankan English. She walked with the high and the mighty here and abroad, but never lost sight of the needs of the ordinary people in Sri Lanka. 

But, the genius in our ex-Marxist curses the eminent academic with baseless allegations. It is up to this particular Marxist to live in his ignominy and to make an exhibition of himself as he wishes. But he should not attempt to dishonour the eminent scholars and elite personalities. 

The ex-Marxist has exhibited not only his ignorance but also his cynicism throughout his writing. He suffers from an irrepressible animosity against the privileged people of this country. He fails to understand that some people were born to the purple when some others were not, just as an accident. We should not be critical of the identities of people for which they were not given a choice. This particular ex-Marxist’s allergy to the privileged people is probably due to his adherence to the old JVP doctrines, which were bitterly renounced even by the modern JVP itself under the patronage of Anura Kumar Dissanaike

The ex-Marxist has a serious mental resistance driven by his subconscious, preventing him to appreciate the mighty contributions made by the privileged people for the advancement of this country in a myriad of disciplines. This is a sort of persecutory delusion in his paranoia, which has limited his intellectual perception of the external world. Thus, he observes a prejudice that Manique’s contribution to derive a standard variety of Sri Lankan English could not be genuine, just because she happened to hail from the elite social class. Probably, the ex-Marxist has been mislead by Manique’s charming, suave and urbane manner or by her name that happened to be Manique rather than Manik or Menik! But, quite sadly, he fails to appreciate the research she had done on Sri Lankan English, Lankan English, Ceylon English etc. Neither does he even appreciate the simple fact that Manique used to place her signature in Sinhala on all due documents! 

The ex-Marxist’s irrational antagonism towards the privileged people has been evident in his ill-treatment of many other individuals as well. For an instance, read what he had written about Arjuna Parakrama who has authored and lectured in abundance in support of deriving a standard variety of Sri Lankan English. The ex-Marxist had just written off Arjuna merely on the simple fact that he happened to be an instance of the elite. So does this particular ex-Marxist in his revengeful writings regarding the great journalist in Lucky

The ex-Marxist should understand that there is a way to standardise a Sri Lankan variety of English. We cannot legitimise all the nonsensical applications of the English language in Sri Lanka as Standarda Sri Lankan English (SSLE). Therefore, we need to have a sound understanding of the English Language for our endeavour of deriving a standard variety of Sri Lankan English. I have been emphasising this point for a long time here in the blogosphere as well as formally elsewhere. In our past polemics, once I wrote the following in defence of another comrade who was bombarded by this particular ex-Marxist for writing a comment in English:

වරද සිදු වීම නවකයන්ගෙන් පමණක් නො ව ප්‍රවීණයන්ගෙන් ද සිදු වන අවස්ථා බොහෝ පවතී. එහෙත් වරද කිරුළක් කරගෙන නිවැරදි දෙයට ගරහන පෙර කී තැනැත්තා වැනි අඥාන‍යෝ නම් බොහෝ නැත. එම තැනැත්තාට වඩා ඉංගිරිසිය බොහෝ උගත් අර්ජුන පරාක්‍රමයෝ  මීට දශක දෙකකට පමණ පෙර De-Hegemonizing the Language Standards: Learning from (Post) Colonial Englishes about English යනුවෙන් ලියූ අනර්ඝ නිබන්ධනයෙහි ලා ලාංකීය සමාජයේ සුවියත් ප්‍රභූන්ගේ ද ඉංගිරිසියේ ඇති සදොස් තැන් පෙන්වා දුන්හ; පෙර කී තැනැත්තා මෙන් අවලාද නො නැඟූහ. අපගේ සම්මතයක් සාදා ගන්නට වුව ක්‍රමවේදයක් පවතී. බාන කඩා ගත් ගවයෙකු සේ හතර අත දිවීමෙන් එය කළ නොහැකි ය. පරාක්‍රමයන්ගේ එම නිබන්ධනය දශක දෙකක අවෑමෙන් යළි පළ කළ යුතු තරම් වටිනා එකකි.

It is indisputable that we need to derive a practical variety of Sri Lankan English and I have always written in support of that. Similarly, we should not neglect the other varieties of English as well. I have previously discussed the reasons why we should not. For an instance, let me quote a segment from a previous writing by myself. 

සම්මත ලාංකීය ඉංගිරිසියක් සාදා ගන්නට මගේ පැරණි වාමාංශික මිතුරාට අවශ්‍යය නම් එපිළිබඳ අපට ගැටලුවක් නැති බව අපි පැවසුවෙමු. එහෙත් එවැන්නක් කළ හැකි වන්නේ ඉංගිරිසි බස මැනැවින් හදාරා එය සමතික්‍රමණය කිරීමෙනි. මගේ පැරණි වාමාංශික මිතුරා භාෂාසාහිත්‍යකාමීනට අක්‍රෝශ පරිභව  කරමින් මනෝ විකාර දෙඩවීමෙන් සම්මත ලාංකීය ඉංගිරිසියක් නො සැදේ. 

මගේ පැරණි වාමාංශික මිතුරා‍ගේ හඩු බසින් ගැඹුරු ශාස්ත්‍රීය සම්ප්‍රදානයක් නම් කළ නොහැකි ය. ඔහුට ඔය කියනා මතුගම ඉංගිරිසියෙන් ශේක්ස්පියර් හෝ මිල්ටන් හෝ වර්ඩ්ස්වර්ත් හෝ චෝශර් හෝ කියවා තේරුම් ගත හැකි ද? අවම වශයෙන් ඩිකන්ස් හෝ ස්කොට් හෝ ස්ටීවන්සන් හෝ කිප්ලින් හෝ කියවා තේරුම් ගත හැකි ද? සම්භාව්‍ය බටහිර සාහිත්‍යය හෝ ජේම්ස් රාජ බයිබලය හෝ කියවා තේරුම් ගත හැකි ද? බටහිර දර්ශනයේ ලේශ මාත්‍රයක් හෝ කියවා තේරුම් ගත හැකි ද? සම්භාව්‍ය මාර්ක්ස්වාදය හෝ කියවා තේරුම් ගත හැකි ද? කිසි සේත් ම බැරි ය.

Dear fellow ex-Marxist, do not write off and libel people just because they hail from Colombo 7, Colombo 3, Colombo 4 etc; or just because they attended Royal, St. Thomas’, Trinity, Kingswood, St.Bridget’s, Holy Family etc; or just because they received their higher education in England or France. Take their contributions into your consideration and thereupon assess them before writing your slanderous articles. Be not deceived; others are not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. That is what has happened to you by the end of long five decades in your life. 

Do not make pony excuses for your failure to pursue your higher education. It was not the fault of Manique Gunasekera or Maithree Wickremasinghe that deprived you of a university degree. Neither it was the mere fault of the system. There were more committed rebels than you, who were involved in JVP insurrections, who later resumed and realised their academic endeavours. Look at Uyan who resumed his higher education and read for his doctorate once the flames of the 1971 insurrection were extinguished. Look at Dayan who gave up his doctoral research in the US and committed himself for a liberation struggle in the early 80s. He resumed his academic career and earned his doctorate from the Griffith later on. When you point your index finger at others, there are three pointed at your. It was your fault that you have idled and loitered along the streets in Colombo (Slave Island, Kew Road etc!) until your 51st birthday. 

I can only suggest my old friend in the nostalgia of our sweet past memories that he should start reading for his endeavour to experience a formal higher education. My sincere wishes are always with you, although our friendship has already expired. 

Bandula Kudalagama,

Toronto.

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