Sunday, July 10, 2011

Peradeniya 1961

The Island 10/07/2011

As a reader of your popular papers and as a contributor to your pages, please permit me to comment on Lanka Nesiah’s (LN) article on the above subject which appeared in your daily and Sunday papers.

LN in his piece in your papers has made the following points to which I would like to respond.

1. Fifty years ago, Peradeniya saw the entry of a non-residential student batch which was absolutely a new concept. LN has not in his article divulged the reason why this batch was admitted. Since I was a senior at that time having entered in 1960, we at Peradeniya then realized that this batch was taken in to admit primarily the son of a VVIP at that time. In that I see perhaps the beginning of political interference in the life of a campus totally against the principle of freedom, based on which Sir Ivor Jennings began Peradeniya.

2. LN also talks about the Sinhala and Tamil media students. Here again, it was our batch in 1960 that saw the entry of the first batch of Sinhala and Tamil media students. This obviously is the result of the C.W.W Kannangara input into education in our land and thus the products of central schools and those educated in the mother tongue entered Peradeniya.

3. LN refers to the production of drama in the local idiom. Sarachchandra’s "Sinhabahu" and "Maname" and Vidiyanandan’s Tamil drama. LN however, does not mention that Peradeniya’s tradition of English dramas was also alive. Here again, persons from our own batch, the late Terrence Ranasinghe helped Sarachchandra and the late Rohini Ranasinghe produced the inter hall play for Sangamitta, which Sangamitta won that year thereby breaking the tradition of Hilda Obeysekera or James Peiris halls winning the competition always.

Reading LN’s contribution I walked down memory lane to Peradeniya. The 1961 batch was our immediate juniors and both our batches spent the early 1960’s at Peradeniya - perhaps one of the golden eras in the life of the campus.

Having stated the above and wishing the 1961 batch a happy reunion in July, I would like to pose the following questions for the members of that batch to consider:

1. In the context of all of us having a free education at Peradeniya where are we now? Are we all in Mother Lanka or part of the famous diaspora?

2. Those of us here, are we participating in the nation building which is vital for post war Sri Lanka, fighting bribery and corruption, human rights violations and poverty. It is good to meet and reminisce, but that is not enough. What we got from our country through free education in Peradeniya, we must now give back in some way. I hope the reunion in July in the midst of fellowship etc. will also look in at these matters.

Sydney Knight