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Japanese plays in Sinhala

by Prof. Sunanda Mahendra

Prof. Ariya Rajakaruna has carved a special niche in the realm of Sinhala literature by way of a literary critic and a versatile translator of Japanese works to Sinhala. My observation is that he had been a constant and a continuous translator of Japanese works from the original sources to Sinhala as well as to English.

At a particular stage in his life as a university Don he adorned the scholarship as a literary critic contributing learned articles of value to the Sinhala student of literature on such aspects as poetry, novel, short story, drama etc.

He found his interest slipping from that area to yet another where with his knowledge in Japanese language and literature, he pioneered in the project of translating some of the most required works, where such writers as Kawabatha, Mishima, Tanashaki and a host of others whose names were known through English and hitherto untranslated or translated in summarised form.

To his credit he translated Rashomon from Japanese to Sinhala, and a volume of Haiku poems.

Then from time to time he translated with introductions, several one act plays, out of which some were adapted to the stage, and a few to the sound medium.

There were several occasions where he translated some screen plays from Japanese into English and had the credit of receiving a good attention from literary critics.

In this manner I feel that Rajakaruna had done a yeoman service to the contemporary literary scene by way of a contributor to cross cultural learning as well as teaching.

The culmination of his effort could be visualized in his most recent addition in this direction, a collection of Japanese short plays, selected from absurd genres and realism, two areas that have given way to much discussion today, especially amongst the younger generation of dramatists.

I see that though an overdose of high flown knowledge is imparted from European sources, especially as shown by Martin Esslin, by way of introducing Ionesco, Albee, Pinter, Arabel and others, the Japanese equivalent of the absurd genre should also be regarded as a significant area of study.

As is shown by Rajakaruna, as the translator and compiler, Japanese traditions of both the natural and the absurd had been sensitively influenced by the folk tradition and its wisdom.

Perhaps this knowledge, which is transfixed in music and dance enhances the indigenous creativity visualized in the plays of Kikuchi kan (1888-1948) whose play titled Okujo no Kyo jin, which is included in the present collection.

The collection titled in Sinhala as Svabhavika ha vikara rupi japan natya ekatuva, is subdivided into two groups, Natural (svabhavika) and absurd (vikara rupi).

But I feel that such a classification is not needed for some of the plays, like the one mentioned above, could be regarded as a play in the absurd genre.

Even a play like Kikuchi Kan's Chi Chi kuera (title din Sinhala as Piyage apasu gamana) is expressive of a surrealistic layer where the dramatic situation transcends the barriers of naturalism and realism.

I have seen several Sinhala productions of this short play once directed by the late dramatist P. Welikala and later by several amateurs. Out of the nine short plays included in this anthology two are indebted as absurd plays. But in a close scrutiny, the last two plays, which are so indicated too resemble in several ways to the rest of the seven plays.

While commending the efforts in the presentation of these short Japanese plays, I feel that small theatre groups can yield a good harvest via an audience to build a better aesthetic climate for play performance.

I also felt that the short notes added at the end of the collection by way of further clarification on such aspects as the tradition, sources, mode of expression, themes help the future directors and players to gather more knowledge.

These plays could be utilized for group reading sessions and theatre workshops, as learning and teaching material.

Some of these short plays could be utilized for experimental exercises in theatre study which would surely prove to be a resourceful group therapy. In most translations that come in Sinhala I observe the problems of the use of language.

But in these translations, the Sinhala usages are quite fitted for both reading and playing, ascertaining the eradication of the sense of alienation.

A director who so makes his efforts in the production may perhaps have a readily tailored acting script before him, enhancing his players to give the appropriate expression.

All in all. Prof. Rajakaruna is a committed translator with a mission.

He would only translate from the sources nearest and dearest to his heart, whereas most others would violate this rule in order to select material for translation, haphazardly.

Thus this anthology of Japanese plays ought to prove a good lesson in translation methods as well.


Riders on death horses and diamond fire

One More Sunrise
Author: Maurice Perera
Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo, 2004
Revised edition, pp. 146

Is a novelist a scribe; and who is a scribe? Coming to basics, both are writers, of course, but it is said that the scribe records. Is a novelist simple a recorder of events and the circumstances that shape such? You see my problem. Before me is Maurice Perera's journalistic telling in novel form.

He cannot stray from the journalistic mode - but then, he does, fleshing it all out into a poignant story of love death, broken ideals and rising moments of human endeavour. At the end, one may also ask: what is it all for? Yet, it tells us that we each sing our life-song in the way that impels us and hang the consequences.

One More Sunrise was first published in the UK in 2002. Obviously, Maurice revised it for the Sri Lankan reader and Vijitha Yapa Publications did it justice. As Maurice says, he left Sri Lanka both in sorrow and anger.

"...I couldn't bear to be a witness to the slaughter of innocent people - be they Tamils, Sinhalese or Muslims... I cannot condone the ruthless terrorist campaign waged by the Tamil Tigers or the tactics of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

They are both guilty of some of the worst crimes against humanity. My heart cries out for... thousands of innocent victims of all races whose lives meant nothing to madmen of all political shades, eyeing the spoils of war."

We have Ananda, the village boy whose home is destroyed by rampaging Tigers. We have Andrea Scott, the Australian journalist who wished to adopt Ananda and did become his Australian 'mother'. We have Arul who took Amanda to meet the 'Eelam leader', blindfolded, chequebook in hand, asked to pay $ 1,000 as a donation towards the Eelam struggle.

We have Rudi Menon, an Indian journalist, suave, tall, dark, handsome - a man Andrea loves passionately, a man who goes to East Timor to write on the pro-Indonesia militia terrorism for Time magazine and is killed there.

We have Oshadi whose music stirs Ananda to love. We have Dr. Asoka Fernando who guides Ananda to being a doctor. We have Andrea's editor, John Wallace, who send Andrea back to Sri Lanka.

Journalistic approach

We have Neidra, the editor's daughter, who will accompany Andrea into Tiger territory, guided by Red Cross man Arasha. We have Nalini of the Tiger Women's Combat Force - Nalini who unburdens herself to Andrea and points the way to madness in the Tiger-infested jungles. Andrea is killed; Nalini swallows cyanide. Finally we have Ananda's resolve to taunt death himself in Africa, fighting a vain battle against the deadly Ebola virus.

The reader cannot escape the pure journalistic approach. The chapters are peppered with journalistic observations and reactions. Yet, they do not hurt the progress of the tale, remaining as necessary and valid supplements.

Given the scope of the book and characters who play out a monstrous tragedy, Maurice weaves a dynamic and engrossing story. What impinges is that whatever he claims to be fictional can be nothing but the truth in new robes.

He tells of the 'Tiger Lady' - an Australian ex-nurse - who trains the LTTE women cadres and suicide bombers. Is this Anton Balasingham's wife? God knows, she is at home in the Wanni just as she is in Australia and the UK.

Most emotionally told is the rise to brilliance of Ananda. It's such a striking "full many a flower" take of the hidden potential that lurks in all of us. It took Andrea's sympathy, love and money to make him emerge from a cocoon of squalor, from being a body who delivered firewood door to door, to one who could be entranced by the music of Chopin and take to the healing art with such ease. How many such as he still flounder in society's muck heaps, unredeemed, unwanted?

Maurice gives us, in the end, a historical perspective of the conflict we still wait, breathlessly to resolve itself. It still means, as he says, "a guessing game" and, all things considered, he is right.

Maurice Perera has 42 years experience as a journalist. In this book he is scribe and recorder, creator and impressionist. It is easy to pick the story out of it all just as one would pick Sindbad's diamonds in the Valley of Fear.

Yet, the creatures that crouch in the valley - the vile sprites of this bitter conflict spawned out of evil and intolerance - make more compelling reading at times.

Let me give you an excerpt of the first - a diamond:

(Andrea) heard footsteps and more people entered the room. She was desperate to wrench the blindfold and see what was going on. Then a voice spoke. It was deep and guttural but highly articulate.

"So you want to know about our struggle?"

Andrea nodded.

Highly disciplined

"We are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a highly disciplined fighting force. Our leader, whose name you know, will not tolerate anything other than total discipline. He despises men and women in his army with weaknesses, and there is a strict code that forbids drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual relationships.

"We have a mission - to establish a separate Tamil homeland in the north and north-east of the island for our people who have been persecuted by the Sinhalese for many years.

"Our people are denied basic rights and deprived of education, jobs, housing, hospitals." He gave her a detailed description of their fight for a separate state.

Andrea interrupted the speaker. "Yes, I have heard all that, but how can you claim a separate homeland when your people constitute less than twenty per cent of the population of Sri Lanka?" she ventured.

She obviously touched a nerve. There was an angry murmur in the room until the Eelam leader silenced them. Then, after a moment' silence, he resumed calmly.

"We don't expect you Westerners to understand our struggle, so I won't waste my time. But let me tell you this. We are in this for our children and their children.

"If we can't find peace in our lifetime, then we must secure it at least for our future generations, giving them the chance to live as free people in their own land.

"We have withstood the manpower and firepower of the Sri Lankan armed forced. We were outnumbered when India entered the fray. We beat them and we are still standing."

His voice rose in defiance. "If our leader is killed tomorrow, we have others to take his place - men and women with the same commitment, the same courage. And they, too, will be proud to die for our cause."

That was the end of the interview...

Let us now look at valley of fear itself.


A school dropout, Prabhakaran's anger over the treatment meted out to Sri Lankan Tamils became obvious when he was a teenager. At seventeen, he was in the forefront of the Tamils' separatist struggle and founded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Its goal; an independent Tamil state in the island's north and east.

It was pure kitchen-sink technology of homemade bombs and landmines that helped them in their struggle in the early years.

But Prabhakaran instilled a fighting spirit in his band of followers that humbled the might of the Indian army who arrived in Sri Lanka to help a besieged government, despite being outnumbered twenty to one.

It was the coming of age for a tiny guerrilla force.

Its ruthless dedication to the cause has seen the emergence of suicide bombers, women who stood shoulder to shoulder with the male Tigers cradling AK-47 rifles, the youngsters barely in their teens.

Prabhakaran himself accepted no challenges to his authority and was known to have systematically eliminated those who posed a threat. He was also pitiless to those who failed to follow his orders. His suicide bombers would willingly offer themselves out of fear and respect for their leader. And in a bizarre ritual, he would invite them to dinner with him before they set out on a bombing mission.

Many prominent Sri Lankan politicians and government officials, including the island's President, fell victim to the suicide bombers who were part of the LTTE's elite Black Tiger cadre.

In one telling incident, the Tigers hijacked a ship carrying 32,000 mortars and other armaments ordered by the Sri Lankan government. And in a fax to the US embassy in Colombo, the Tigers warned:

We, the Tamil Tigers, inform you by the present that on 11 July 1997 we have hijacked a vessel carrying arms destined for Colombo... We warn that we will take action against all persons participating in the supply of military equipment against the legitimate rights of the Tamil people and we will severely punish those concerned.


And punish they did. In the months following the incident, the LTTE, bolstered by the new firepower, attacked strategic military bases with huge success.

For Prabhakaran, the ultimate victory was a military one, and he and his band of fanatical Tigers would not settle for less.

Riders on death horses and a story-weave that glows with diamond fire. Maurice Perera's first book is good - very good.

Newsroom experiences paint deft pictures too: of cantankerous editors and fearless news gatherers. A glorious treat to all who can understand that a life without sacrifice is no life at all!

- Carl Muller


Penetrative analysis of television in Sri Lanka

Lanka Rupavahini 25 Vasara...
Catholic Media Institute
Consulting Editors: Fr. Ernest Poruthota and Vijith Rohan
Chief Editor: Sajeevani Helen Muthumuni
Organising Editor: Rasika Sampath
Co-Editors: Indrajith Sri Perera and Sujeeva Erawwala
Publisher: S. Godage and Brothers, Colombo 10
778 pp Rs. 950

Lanka Rupavahini 25 Vasara... is the first comprehensive and authentic book written in Sinhala covering 25 years of television in Sri Lanka from April 14, 1979 to April 14, 2004. It is not only a well-researched work but also a tribute to those who toiled to usher in a Sri Lankan television culture, industry and a popular electronic medium.

Pioneers of the television industry in Sri Lanka - Shan Wickremesinghe, Anil Wijewardane and Bob Christy-launched the first local TV channel ITN in Pannipitiya without any government or foreign aid. Meanwhile, B. A. C. Abeygunawardane of TV Lanka also came forward to make ITN a popular world channel on March 8, 2004.

The first part of the book has been devoted to narrate the history of television that goes a lot further back than many people support.

A German experimenter, Paul Nipkow, developed a rotating disk with small holes arranged is a spirals pattern in 1884.

Aiming a strong light at the disk the holes produced a very rapid "scanning" effect. The pinpoints of light came through the holes in the whirling disk. Very soon the experiments realized that the perforated whirling disk could produce electric impulses that could be sent along a wire so as to transmit pictures.

As we know, the Nipkow disk became the central technology for further experimentation on the transmission of images, both by wire and later by radio waves. This scanning concept is supposed to be at the heart of television even today.

This was followed by Philo T. Fransworth's invention of Electronic Scanning System in 1922 and Vladimir Kzworykin's invention of iconoscope in 1929. With all these developments, Radio Company of America beamed a test transmission in 1931. However, the credit for starting a television transmission goes to British Broadcasting Company.

Japan was the pioneer in introducing television to Asia in 1940.

It took another four decades for Sri Lanka to enjoy this privilege. The Independent Television Network was launched by Shan Wickremasinghe, Anil Wijewardane and Bob Christie on April 14, 1979. Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation followed suit on February 15, 1982.

The book says Sir Arthur C. Clarke was the first person to receive television transmissions in Sri Lanka. With the help of a satellite dish antenna gifted to him by the Indian Government, he was able to tune into Indian transmissions. People who flocked to his house at Barnes Place were simply thrilled to watch the transmissions.

After 25 years the novelty of television has worn off and we are moving into the television age.

As Clarke rightly puts it television has had a mixed blessing on the people. On the one hand, television has brought us into a global village enabling us to access news and entertainment from all corners of the world. Meanwhile, television has been at the receiving end of bitter criticism.

Some critics were vociferous to condemn television as it polluted our culture and value systems. Despite such criticism television has opened up many windows to the wide world. As Clarke puts it bad television is better than no television at all.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke's views published both in English and Sinhala is a grim reminder that we cannot do without television in a fast expanding Information Age.

Part II is about the television channels operating in Sri Lanka. Independent Television Network (ITN) launched at Mahalwarawa in Pannipitiya was later taken over by the government. Today it operates from Wickramasinghapura, Battaramulla.

It joined hands with TV Lanka recently to telecast its programmes into 180 countries. The book records its objectives, background of the logo, history, pioneers, take-over by government early programmes, tele columns, awards, technical aspects and establishment structure.

This is followed by a comprehensive account of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation launched on February 15, 1982. The credit of launching teledramas goes to Rupavahini. Being a gift from the government of Japan it boasts of the best TV library.

The book gives a complete list of teledramas telecast on Rupavahini beginning with Somage Sihinaya (1982) upto Ingammaruwa. In addition, a number of single episode teledramas were telecast.

Next come Maharaja Television (MTV), Sirasa TV, and Shakthi TV located at Pannipitiya. Established on May 8, 1992, MVT has telecast world classics and many other popular programmes on a regular basis.

It is a pity that MTV and Sirasa TV have not been cooperative in supplying the necessary information to the compilers of this book. As a result, readers will not be able to gather anything of their objectives, programme contents and history.

Next comes Teleshan Network Limited (TNL) launched on June 21, 1993. One of the main objectives of TNL is the telecasting of 60% - 65% local TV programmes.

The interviews with Shan Wickremasinghe, Dulani Jayasuriya and Ruwan Wickremasinghe speak volumes of TNL's contribution to TV culture in Sri Lanka.

This is followed by a write-up on Swarnavahini launched on March 15, 1997. It has 13 different types of TV programmes. The Great Sinhala Heritage is one of its popular programmes. An interview with H. D. Premaratne spells out the reasons for launching Swarnavahini as a private channel.

Extra Terrestrial Vision (ETV), launched on May 1, 1998 operates as a separate company from Swarnavahini building.

Its TV fare is mostly foreign. Dynavision/ArTV, another private channel, launched on February 3, 1996 telecasts mostly English programmes. Meanwhile, TV Lanka, established on December 5, 2001, uses satellite technology to telecast programmes to 180 countries.

The book is complete with information on YA TV, Cable Television channels, such as LBN, Star TV, and Multivision Ltd.

Part III gives an account of various award festivals held to evaluate the performance of television programmes. UNDA, OCIC and Sumathi Tele Awards have encouraged the artistes by recognizing their talents.

The value of Lanka Rupavahini 25 Vasara has been enhanced by the inclusion of a series of indepth articles penned by Pandula Endagama, Dr. Ajantha Hapuarachchi, Mohan Samaranayake, Sybil Wettasinghe, Prof Kusuma Karunaratne, Dr. W. D. Amaradeva, Dr. K. D. G. Wimalaratne and Robert Crusz.

Taken as a whole, Lanka Rupavahini 25, Vasara.. is the most comprehensive and the best reference book written on television in Sri Lanka. It is not a mere collection of facts and figures but a penetrative analysis of the most popular medium.

- R. S. Karunaratne


Indispensable and authoritative

The Transformation of Labour Law and Relations
Author: Sriyan de Silva
Stamford Lake Publication
Lake House Bookshop, Colombo
785 pp Rs. 1,500

The Transformation of Labour Law and Relations is the most significant contribution to the subject of industrial relations (IR) in many years. Sriyan de Silva, when he published 'The Legal Framework of Industrial Relations in Ceylon' in 1973, perhaps did not realize that his work was so thorough and authoritative as a text, that no one would really challenge his work with another on the same subject.

There have been books which, although useful, have not dealt with the subject of industrial law and relations as scientifically and exhaustively as does Sriyan's book which, because of its original thinking, still continues to be quoted by judges at the highest level and used by academics and students.

Over the years there have been many requests that 'The Legal Framework of Industrial Relations' be updated; Sriyan's response was to produce a series of monographs on some of the connected subjects such as the contract of employment, dismissal, superannuation benefits and collective bargaining, all of which provided updates on the relevant topics.

Due to pressure of day-to-day duties, he was unable to devote time to bringing out a book on the conceptual changes to industrial relations, although he was active in the area at the international level and was producing research papers on the subject, which have been highly acclaimed.

I am happy to be able to write this review as I had something to do with finally persuading Sriyan to use the enormous research he has done and the experience he has gathered in the last 35 years in the field of industrial relations, to not only review his original thinking which is contained in 'The Legal Framework of Industrial Relations', but to also add some new topics and new material, which make the present work one which will be invaluable to all those who are interested in the subject and the developments which have taken place.

His writings have been the inspiration for many who have been practitioners, teachers or writers on this subject, including myself, and form the foundation for the training of managers, trade union leaders, labour officials, bureaucrats and judges.

The present book is divided into nine parts and is current in terms of its coverage, as it takes account of changes in industrial relations brought about by globalization and other recent phenomena which have caused major changes even in the attitudes of governments towards industrial relations.

The first part covers industrial relations and its elements. Mr. de Silva deals with the nature of IR and the impact of the environment on IR. The second chapter covers the elements of an IR system. He discusses the importance of the role of the law, the freedom of association, collective bargaining, tripartism, labour policy formulation, dispute settlement and labour relations and these are referred to as the elements of the system.


Part 2 of the book is entitled "The Transformation of IR", and is perhaps a section which is indispensable for students who wish to chart the changes which have taken place over the years and to grasp the significance of labour market conditions on the shaping of IR and IR systems.

This part consists of 5 chapters which cover the influence of globalization and the movement of the action, as it were, from the national to the workplace level, to accommodate the new emphasis on productivity and quality.

This section also covers the responses of management to the challenge of competitiveness, referring to strategies such as worker involvement and human resources development. The adjustments which have taken place at the national level through modifications in the law and major policy changes are analytically dealt with.

The third part is an interesting coverage of the combination of HR policies and IR strategies in order to bring about a new culture which is more suited to the current needs of management. He deals thoroughly with the critical issue of configuring HR policies on rewards and compensation, to motivate employees to collaborate with management in achieving competitive advantage.

Reference made to practices in high performing organizations and strategies which make individuals raise their performance levels, provide the reader with an insight into behaviour-related approaches to optimizing performance. This part which consists of 7 chapters, concludes with a discussion on how to harmonize IR with HR and the future of HRM.

The fourth part entitled "The Role of the Law and the State" covers the historical aspects and the limits of legal intervention. Future directions of the involvement of the State and regulatory approaches to IR are also discussed.

This part which comprises two chapters, also discusses the question of employment and its legal basis, and whether it should be related to a status or to contractual ties. Part 5 covers current issues in IR. The first chapter is devoted to global governance and refers to international initiatives, whether they be in the form of International Labour Standards, or other elements such as NGOs, MNEs, State or Regional norms (such as the US and EU rules for exporters).

The pressures from international trade unions and government groupings are discussed. Some emphasis is placed on the ILO Declaration on the Principles and Rights at Work, an instrument adopted after discussion by the tripartite constituents of the ILO in 1998, which represents the principles in the core labour standards which would be pursued without exception by all nations.


Chapter 11 deals with Labour Market Flexibility and problems in relation to social justice. The various forms of flexibility are given careful attention.

The issues arising within the workforce in adopting flexible arrangements are dealt with in chapter 12. Pay flexibility is extensively covered in chapter 13.

The different types of pay schemes which are possible, and the problems and issues which arise in relation to them, are discussed in a manner which is valuable to practitioners who wish to make an assessment of what schemes would best suit particular work cultures.

In chapter 14 the ILO and the Freedom of Association are discussed with an insight which only the author could have in the light of his unique experience as a representative of an Employers' Organization, a member of the Employers' Bureau within the ILO and lastly, as a policy adviser in the International Organization of Employers.

The vast knowledge of the author in relation to the subject, makes this section invaluable to those who wish to understand how the ILO formulated its standards in relation to the Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (see chapter 15), and how it attempts to ensure compliance through its machinery. Chapter 16 focuses on tripartism, social dialogue and social development in a market economy.

Part 6 is devoted to an employment policy and how it could be linked to sustainable development. This part would be most valuable to planners and ministry officials for whom chapter 17 is a "must read" recommendation.


Part 7 deals with labour management relations policy formulation and economic and social data.

This section too is important to officials, but is equally useful for trade unions and employers/trade organizations who need to understand the issues which are vital to proper planning and policy formulation. The collection of data for this purpose is also covered.

Part 8 introduces regional perspectives and is entitled "The Development of Asian IR". The historical context and the changes which have been witnessed are discussed excellently by the author, who for many years covered the whole of Asia as the Employers' Specialist for the ILO.

He also poses the question whether there is a Western and Eastern approach to IR and deals with the arguments in this connection.

The final part is a prognosis of the future and what it could hold for us in relation to IR.

The book is as comprehensive as a practitioner or student would desire it to be, and therefore runs into a volume of 785 pages, each page of which is indispensable reading.

- Franklyn Amerasinghe

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