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State Literary Awards Ceremony 2009:

Lauding the scribes

End of a devastation strengthens the creativity of any writer in any region. Sri Lanka should be no exception, now that it basks in the regained freedom from the decade-long war. States always sponsored and motivated the country's arts scene, despite loopholes and shortcomings .

The first State Literary Award Ceremony in the liberated Lanka came to pass at the regal environs of Presidential Secretariat with the inspirational participation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday. Cultural Affairs Minister Piyasiri Wijenaike, Culture and National Heritage Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana and Justice and Legal Reforms Deputy Minister V Putrasigamaniam, Cultural Department Director E. M. Abhayaratne, National Literary Panel Chairman Buddhadasa Galappatty, Sri Lanka Arts Council Chairman Pandula Andagama and the reputed literati graced the event too.

Welcoming the distinguished gathering, Buddhadasa Galappatty noted that the scribes represent the culture that transcends the gun.

"You are the poetic whistle of this civil society. You represent the pulse of this country."

He thanked President Mahinda Rajapaksa for giving audience to constructive criticism rather than empty eulogy.

In his keynote address, Prof. Tissa Kariyawasam stressed the importance of literature in a post-war country.

"Our chronicles underwent a gross change since Mayor Alfred Duraiappa was assassinated in 1975. Our country was more known as a country open for foreign invasions."

He observed only one state leader could change this attitude determinedly. The President has done his job, Professor Kariyawasam said, now it's our part to motivate the public through literature. Everyone of us has a role to perform, in that sense. Prof. Kariyawasam drew examples from the nature of the post-war literature in the world arena.

There had been several setbacks in the literature in the immediate aftermath of World War I and II. Japan, which faced the worst consequences of the war, had a specific literature - it came to be called post war literature later on. Writers now have to move along with communities instead of entertaining armchair travels in their comfy homes.

This requirement is both cultural and national, he added. The literature should easily reach both adults and young equally. Festivals alone could not accomplish this task. Professor Kariyawasam quoted T. S. Eliot who attempted to portray the post-war culture in his 'Wasteland'. Short-listing the books has been no easy task - especially when the initial count was about 950.

All these have been streamlined into categories such as novel, short story collection, poetry collection, lyrics collection and translations.

Cultural Affairs Minister Piyasiri Wijenaike emphasized the need to reawaken the heart of the nation.

"Our soldiers sacrificed their lives to leave us a better day. We no longer need the gun, so we can now take up the pen to reach the masses. It should decide the fate of our tomorrow."

Minister Wijenayaka observed writers pay a lesser focus on post-war aspects of the country.

"I should not say you haven't touched this area. But you should focus a greater deal on this now. It has a lot to offer."

Now it's time you sing your song with your pen, mused Minister Wijenaike, and may this award inspire you to go ahead.

Culture and National Heritage Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana commented on the complaints about the state-sponsored literary event.

"Complaints are seemingly reduced now. I am happy about that and at the same time I should especially thank National Literary Panel Chairman Buddhadasa Galappatty for doing his job quite impartially." The State Literary Award Ceremony, held uninterrupted since 1957, has the tradition of conferring the lifetime achievement title Sahityaratna on distinguished virtuosos in English, Tamil and Sinhala literatures.

2009's Sahityaratna title was conferred upon Professor Ashley Halpe (English), Dr. K Kunarasa (Tamil) and Prof. Tissa Kariyawasam (Sinhala) by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

And the award goes to...

English category

Children's literature

'Hoity the Fox' - Sybil Wettasinghe


'Three Star K and Other Plays'

- Senake Abeyratne

Non fiction

'Periodization in Sri Lankan History'

- R. A. L. H. Gunawardana


'Travelling Woman'

- Jean Arasanayagam

Translation (shared awards)

'The Mountain...'

- Vijitha Fernando

'The Scattered Earth

- P. G. Punchihewa

Tamil category


Veethi Vareinda Padeil

- R. Udayanan

Short story collection

Aathmavisara - A. S. Paiva


Ennei Deeyil Erindaval

- Ashroff Sihabdeen

Miscellaneous literature

Karmayogi Paul

- Rev. Dr. S A I Mathew.

Children's literature

Poonaikku Mani Kattiyadi

- C. M. A. Ameer


Oru Kalaijanin Kadai

- Kaleijar Kaleichchelvan


Nedum Payanam

- Madulugiriye Wijeratne

Translated children's literature

Sayntadu Amma Sayntadu

- Sarojini Arunachalam

Sinhala category


Podu Purushaya

- Sunethra Rajakarunananyaka

Short story collection

Acharisiya Dutu Didulana Andakaraya

- Piyal Kariyawasam

Poetry collection (shared awards)

Mariyava - Ajith Tilakasena

Mage Kolambata Handa Payai

- Eric Illayapparachchi

Lyrics collection

Visithuruya Re Ahasa

- Professor Sunil Ariyaratne

Teenage novel

Nidhana Kele Abhirahasa

- Dr. Dinesh Samarawickrama

Juvenile literature

Raja Gona - Ariesen Ahubudu

Science fiction

Vismitha Sihina Dakinna

- H M Damitha Nipunajith

Miscellaneous (shared awards)

Laggala Janavahara

- K B Manewa

Budu Samaya ha Papa Sankalpaya

- Ven. Gemunupura Somawansa Thera

Translated novel

Oblomov - Ananda Amarasiri

Translated play

Charandas saha Charandas Hora

- Parakrama Niriella.

Translated short story collection

Sonduru Situvam Chandana Mendis

Translated academic work (shared awards)

Christine Spittel

- Mataka Satahan

- Premachandra Alwis

Lankave Negenahira Palatha

- Y W Gunawardena

Cover design

Vanduru Netuma

- Kumudu Tharaka

Book with a good finish

'The Mountain'

- Chatura printing press

Publisher of the largest number of books

S Godage and Bros.

The legend of awards

Rs. 75,000 for the lifetime award and title Sahityaratna

Rs. 50,000 and the certificate for the original novel, short story collection, drama, poetry collection, teenage literature, science fiction and academic works.

Rs. 40,000 and the certificate for the translations.

Rs. 35,000 and the certificate for children's literature and lyrics collection.

Rs. 20,000 and the certificate for the cover design.

The certificate for the book with the best finish.

The certificate for the publisher of the largest amount of books.


For their lifetime achievements...

Professor Ashley Halpe is the emeritus professor of English at the University of Peradeniya. A versatile academic and multifaceted artist has contributed immensely in the spheres of education, literature and fine arts for more than half a century. He has enriched Sri Lankan academia and cultural environment by his research, translation, poetry and paintings and plays with his labours as a chorister, actor director of plays and an administrator. In addition, he has been a guide, philosopher and friend to his students and colleagues.





Dr. K Gunarasa was graduated at universities of Peradeniya and Jaffna. He has authored 45 novels, five short story collections and 50 dramas. His versatility reaches the climax, when he has translated both Mahavansa and Chulavansa, celebrated chronicles of Sri Lankan history into Tamil.





Professor Tissa Kariywasam served as both a university don and administrator for 40 years. Apart from Sinhala, his subject field, Professor Kariywasam has been researching on many fields such as literature, journalism, mass communication, politics, films, drama, dancing, editing, translations and creative works. He has authored 14 novels, 14 mass communication books, 12 books on dancing and 7 books on drama criticism. He has held positions such as Director of Institute of Aesthetic Studies, Chairman of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and National Library Services and Documentation Board, and translated a number of plays.



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