Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tribute to Sucharitha Gamlath: Enlightened Prof.!!!

Sucharitha Gamlath: Enlightened Prof. brings out giant English-Sinhala dictionary
27 September 2009
 The Sinhala-English dictionary was launched at the BMICH last Sunday. It was the brainchild of Professor Sucharitha Gamlath. At the inaugural ceremony, I too had the opportunity to join in the procession as a special guest, along with the Minister of Education and other political leaders to light the oil lamp. This finally ended up in the presidium. There was a huge crowd, mainly from Sinhala literature and art circles. Of course there were the Leftists who respected the committed “Trotskyite” professor, sprinkled among the crowd. It was a just tribute to a man who consistently and continuously expressed his displeasure about the reactionary capitalist system and took the side of the down trodden. The members of the bourgeoisie, both in the government and in the opposition were apologetic and compromising in the presence of this giant of a man, whose contribution to Sinhala literature is unique. After the goodwill speeches of academics, political leaders had to make their contribution. I was thinking as to what I should say of this great personality Sucharitha. Strangely, speeches stopped after Bimal Rathnayake of the JVP, made his speech. The so- called post modernist organizers of the event had concluded that my speech would be intolerable. Though I cannot complain, I must come out with what I was planning to say.
Comrade Sucharitha, the most respected professor of Sinhala, though two years senior to me, is a contemporary of mine at Peradeniya campus. Both of us were research students in England about the same time. However, except at political events we never met as we belonged to two different fields of study. His subjects were philosophy, literature and ethics while I indulged in electro magnetic theory. I have attempted in recent times to dabble in art criticism which attracted harsh words from Sucharitha the master! Today he has become a giant of the Sinhala society by devoting his energy to regeneration and development of the Sinhala language. This is a time where all goblins are talking about the development of the Sinhala nation. In nation building, one of the most important aspects is the language. In fact one could say that, without the Sinhala language there won’t be a Sinhala nationality. In the struggle for national democracy it was important to develop and regenerate the Sinhala language so that it could compete with the dominant language, English. Democratic liberation does not mean throwing English into the dust bin; but it means that local languages should emerge form repression to enlighten the common masses. Sinhala should develop with its sister Tamil, the language of the Tamil neighbour. Professor Gamlath is unique in this respect as he always saw both the importance of English as an international language and the close association of Sinhala with Tamil. So he gave the best part of his life to prepare a comprehensive Sinhala-English dictionary with over half a million words and thereafter, a Sinhala-Tamil dictionary of similar strength. He gave every encouragement for the development of Lankan Tamil identity. He could do this because of his understanding of the permanent revolution and Trotskyism.

Different social entities
In the 3rd century BC, Gemunu, Nandimithra and others became giants of the day, not by defeating Tamils. Then Sinhala and Tamil meant different social entities, where there were no nations or nationalities. It may have been a struggle between leaders of the Asiatic regime and Arya Brahmins who believed in Varna divisions. Those who defeated Varna divisions and established an egalitarian Asiatic regime were made heroes in the related story. But it is difficult to select the real hero between the two Arya shasthriya: Gemunu and Elara! Today it is very different; the growth of capital has given impetus to the nascent development of nationalities. Both Sinhala and Tamil are local nationalities struggling to get a foothold in this miserable world dominated by global powers. The democratic ideal is for oppressed nations of the region’s Sinhalese and Tamils to get together with other communities such as Muslims, Christians etc and to fight against the hegemony of “Anglo-Saxon” ruling elites, the agents of global capital. The repression of the minority nation by the majority is the sure path to further enslavement by global capital. In fact, Lanka today is a classic example. Professor Gamlath is a giant today, because he understood this phenomenon in all its aspects. We are waiting to see the Tamil - Sinhala giant dictionary of Gamlath and Sivathambi. Sure I may not have said all this, but certainly my speech would have added colour to the occasion.

Renowned scholar, writer and literary critic Professor Sucharitha Gamlath (80) has passed away

Professor Sucharita Gamlath is a highly experienced academic. He read classical Indian languages and Sinhala language at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya. He graduated with First Class Honours becoming the first in the Island and carried away:

1. The Rowland's Gold Medal
2. The Jayanayake Prize and
3. The Oriental Research Scholarship

In the same year, he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Sinhala of the same University. In 1966 he entered the University of London and studied Western and Indian Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology and Aesthetics.

On the strength of his research, the Higher Degree Committee of the University of London then headed by Professor Karl Popper treated him as a special case and relaxed the University rules to register him for the Ph. D. degree in Philosophy, even though he did not posses a bachelor's degree in that subject. In 1969 he submitted a thesis comparing Indian and Western aesthetic theories and was awarded the Ph. D degree in Philosophy by the University of London.

In 1970 he was appointed Lecturer of the University of Colombo and in 1971, on the strength of his publications, the same University awarded him a merit promotion to Senior Lecturership.

In 1975 he was appointed Professor of the Sinhala language and literature of the University of Sri Lanka and posted to the Jaffna Campus. In 1975/76 he served this campus simultaneously in the following capacities: Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Head of the Departments of Philosophy, English and Sinhala, the Chief Student Counselor.

In 1977 the Colombo Unit of the Jaffna Campus consisting of Faculties of Arts and Science was established and he was appointed Head of this Unit with powers of a Vice Chancellor. In 1979 the University Grants Commission transferred him to the newly established University of Ruhuna in order to organize its Arts Faculty. He was unanimously elected Dean of the same Faculty.

During the past three and a half decades, he has been a regular contributor to the local press and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on matters of literary and artistic nature and has served on numerous Boards and Committees relating to these matters appointed by the University and Government.