You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2022.

This relates the end of the process of using a car and a driver from home, following an accident and then a ridiculous allegation by my brother against my father.

Finding my own transport.

The next week was the same routine again, USJP and the UGC, with dinners out on both Monday and Tueday, the latter with Robert and Chanaka. Then on Wednesday after a class at USJP I went to the Belihulya AUC to check on new applications and advise on the time-table and then went on to Rahangala to meet its new students and talk to Nirmali about her time-table. That night was at the Wellawaya Resthouse, a little place I came to love, pictured here, and then next morning I visited a school and went to the inauguration of an English Centre at Buttala and took a class before heading up to Habarana via several schools.

Next morning I went to the Trinco AUC to take classes and then addressed a seminar for teachers at the Hindu College, before going to the Resthouse to make papers. Next day too, Saturday, I was back at the AUC and then at the School Teacher Seminar, with another AUC seminar after lunch. But I then went to Alu for the night, getting back to Colombo next afternoon.

That week I was at USJP for classes only on Monday and Tuesday, for having worked at the UGC in the afternoons on Wednesday we had a seminar at the UGC for the GELT Coordinators, to introduce the new curriculum and the stress we laid on speech and group work. On the Tuesday there had been an EASL meeting and on the Wednesday we had a Liberal meeting. Then on Thursday I went to Belihuloya with Nirmali and Chitra and Paru, and en route had a frightening accident when Jayantha tried to overtake without checking and a lorry knocked into us, fortunately only the edge so no one was injured.

This happened near Opanayaka, which meant we had to head for the Kahawatte Police Station, but despite the delays we got to the AUC for lunch. It was clearly Jayantha’s fault and he was indeed charged later but the police had not been competent and the case was dismissed after my father got a decent lawyer. But the incident worried me, for I realized how reckless he was, and that indeed I did not relax when he was driving. Fortunately soon afterwards my brother made a fuss about something, claiming that he let me use his car and then expressing surprise, when I said it was paid for, in that ‘My father is making money from my car?’

That I felt released me from trying to help my mother cope with this responsibility so the Renault lay unused at home, deteriorating, until finally it was sold. And I reverted to hiring cars from Jerome Codipilly, which was much less of a strain, and indeed led to one of the happiest meetings of my life.

This deals with an interesting difference in perspectives between Oranee and me though very soon she came round to my view, and pushed it even more strongly with great insistence on error correction.

But then I go on to describe how my honeymoon at USJP ended, which meant that I could not get through the many changes that had been envisaged in early days, including the establishment of an English Department and the development of a Special Degree in English. But happily all those went forward after I had left and was therefore no longer seen as a threat.

The pictures are of Dorakumbura and Prof Wilson’s successor as Dean, neither of whom helped with the reforms we had embarked on. Sadly I could not find a picture of Prof Wilson.

Restrictions develop at USJP

Interestingly, when we first started at the GELT, Oranee was adamantly opposed to my insistence on accuracy, citing an expert called Krashen who claimed that inhibited fluency. But soon enough, having seen how bad thngs were, she became more insistent than I was on good grammar. One problem we found was that teachers had elevated the idea that students should not be demotivated into the dogma that they should not be corrected. But we managed, in most cases, to show them how to correct errors while continuing to provide support and encouragement.

On the Wednesday I had only three classes for the Faculty met that day. It approved our new English syllabuses, but there were then delays about going ahead with these as Gunasinghe’s hostility kicked in. Unfortunately he had the ear of the Vice-Chancellor, and succeeded too in evoking hostility to Wilson. Once I recall Wilson said in my hearing that the Doramumbura was being infantile, and soon afterwards he resigned, to be replaced by a dull man who was not at all interested in taking English forward. Wilson and the rest of the senior academics at USJP paid I fear for the move to stop Dorakumbura being appointed Vice-Chancellor, which led to him relying on less competent members of staff.

It was easy for Gunasinghe to turn Dorakumbura against me, for he could claim that I was neglecting USJP. It mattered little to either of them that I taught more than my colleagues and did much more for the programme and the students, while also immeasurably enhancing the stature of the university through all the other responsibilities the UGC entrusted me with. Those with little understanding of outcomes as opposed to formula could not cope with the way I worked, and in the end I think I achieved much more because of the range of work I undertook, than if I had spent more time within the USJP confines.

On the Thursday I went to the UGC in the morning to sort out teachers for several districts, completing the process the next day. I dropped in at the Council and marked more papers and worked on the external degree syllabus, while next day I prepared a new project for the Asia Foundation, while the weekend was occupied by work at Nirmali’s plus more marking and syllabus development. And on the Sunday evening I had dinner at the Galadari with Robert Scoble who was visiting.

This records a request for even more work, supervision of the General English courses at all but one of the AUCs. This was in fact essential for it was much neglected by the universities that were supposed to supervise these AUCs, and the incisive Deputy Chairman of the UHC, Prof Balasuriya, who worked well with Arjuna Aluvihare and had been entrusted with the AUCs, asked me to take over, which I think proved very salutary, though it was only for a year given the changes in the UGC and the AUCs that happened the following year.

The picture is of the Moneragala Education Office, with which I did a lot of work in those days, when the area was much neglected. And I apologize for this being posted late, the lovely little hotel I am now in in Delhi lost power just before breakfast this morning, and then I was out on field visits all day.

More responsibilities with the AUCs

Next morning I went to the Sammanthurai AUC and spoke to the Director and staff and students, and then went on to the Kalmunai Education office and the Carmel Fatima school before getting back to the AUC for lunch with the Director, a very decent junior academic called Siddeq. Then I went back to Buttala via more schools and the Moneragala Education Office, and spent the night at the AUC guesthouse.

I took Mrs Siriwardena back to Colombo next day, Saturday May 31st, dropping in at just one school on the say. On the Sunday there was lots of EASL work at Nirmali’s plus lots of personal letters. Monday to Wedneday then was the same routine as the previous week, USJP in the morning for classes and administration and the UGC in the afternoon. On the Tuesday there was EAL work at Nirmali’s and on the Friday while I was at the UGC the Secretary told me the UGC had wanted me to take charge of the General English courses at all AUCs, not only those doing English. Those in the North Western Province had not wanted me but there were four others which did not do English, two in the South, one in the West and one in the Central Province. Three of these turned out to be quite hopeless, with very few students, but the Kamburupitiya one was able to develop into a Faculty of Ruhuna University and the two North Western ones later became the Wayamba University.

That evening, John having returned, he and Chanaka and I had dinner at Il Ponte and on the next day he left. That day after work at Nirmali’s I went to the UGC to sort out applications for GELT teachers for we needed to revitalize the course, continuing with that the next day. And in the afternoon I produced a report about what we planned to do.

On the Saturday I drafted a report for the Asia Foundation and did more EASL work at Nirmali’s and the next day continued with marking and a draft of my book on Teaching English Literature. Then it was the same USJP / UGC routine over the next three days, albeit with six classes at USJP on one day and eight on the next, for I was doing some intensive Grammar teaching, with the Workbook I had prepared for the AUCs proving invaluable with regard to something grossly neglected in the system until I insisted on a change.

This records work and pleasure for I had for a few days my old Oxford friend John Harrison as a travelling companion. The picture is from last year when he came up to see me while I was at Oxford and we walked down to Iffley.

Travelling with John Harrison

The day after that night at Maradankadawala Resthouse, where I still recall sitting out with John over drinks as the sun set, we went to Trincomalee where I dropped John at the seminary by the sea where Siron had arranged for us to stay, and I went to the AUC, had a class and then lunch at Elephant House which Siron arranged, and then went back to the AUC for a stff meeting and a class for Accounts students. We had interviews than and I spoke to the students and then returned to the seminary where Siron joined us for a paddle, elegant in her saree. We had ice-creams there and then John and I went to the Resthouse for drinks and dinner.

There were more meetings at the AUC next day, and then we went to Aluwihare where I marked papers, knowing that John and Ena got on very well. The next day was Sunday, so we left only after lunch and a nap, and I dropped John in Negombo before getting back to Colombo.

I had four classes at USJP next morning and several meetings, and then went to the UGC after lunch, where I worked on a new curriculum, and also questionnaires since we wanted to find out what was needed and what was possible, rather than working on abstract concepts. And that evening I saw Chanaka, to find him deeply disillusioned about D B Wijetunge unlike the elite of Colombo who, relieved that Premadasa who challenged them had gone, claimed that he was Doing Bloody Well. On the contrary, said Chanaka, he was a racist, and was trying to change the constitution so that he could stay in power, hoping that the President could be chosen by Parliament, not by the nation at large for that would be a context he could never hope to win.

I worked at Nirmali’s that evening and the pattern was repeated on the next two days, USJP in the morning and the UGC in the afternoon, with on the Wednesday an EASL meeting too. After that I set off for Ratnapura, to spend the night there so I could get to Buttala early the following morning. There, after breakfast at the Saranga, I met the newly recruited instructor Mrs Siriwardena for I think the first time. We got on wonderfully well, and I was deeply appreciative of her commitment to students, the AUC ones and the school students I entrust her with for weekend English camps. I spoke to Bamunuaarachchi about that this morning and found him very supportive.

I went after lunch to Dutugemunu for their English day and went on then via some schools to Amparai, to the Education Office before getting to the Resthouse. I found that it was managed by the father of a boy who had been a student at S. Thomas’, and they were both immensely helpful whenever I needed to stay.

This is one of the saddest posts for it records the collapse and death of David Woolger who had been a great friend and excellent companion over the previous few years. We worked together happily and I believe very successful in our professional lives, and had a great personal rapport so that we had much enjoyed evenings in Colombo and drives and stays in interesting places. I missed him enormously in the years that followed.

David Woolger’s death

The next day was immensely sad. After seeing Bamunuaarachchi at USJP and finishing some marking, I went after lunch to the NIE to see David Woolger. He too had just come back after a break and we had spoken on the phone, when he told me that Michael Francis had insisted he take charge of the new Primary English Project that ODA planned. He was quite excited about it and we had agreed to meet at the NIE to discuss how we could work together.

He was busy with someone else when I got there, but he joined me soon enough and then, just as we began talking, he put his hands to his head to say he had a terrible headache. His last words were, ‘This is serious,’ and then he collapsed unconscious.

We got an ambulance and he was taken to the Nawaloka where he was operated on for an aneurism. After attending the funeral of the father of the ELTU peon Indunil I went to the hospital where the Assistant Director of the Council was already, with David’s boyfriend Mevan. I was there twice more that day and the following morning and then twice the next day, but when I got there on the 19th it was to find that he was dying, after another haemorrhage despite the operation.

He died on the 20th, and I saw Mevan at the hospital, and the British Council Representative who had neglected David. A few months earlier I had told him he should get a driver for he could not continue to drive and work at the pace he had set himself, all over the country, but he had scorned the candidate I offered him. By this stage the senior management of the Council had no concern for its staff, unlike in the old days when John Keleher and Rex Baker would have soon understood if anyone was under strain.

On the 21st, having waited with Mevan till the body was delivered to their house, I set off on a trip to several places together with John Harrison who had come in that morning. In the days before that I had continued with GELT and EASL work and a meeting of the Gratiaen Trust as well as the English Association, and also added to the proposals for the new degree syllabus at USJP.

We stayed at the Anuradhapura Tourist Resthouse on the night of the 21st, and I left John there and went on then to Vavuniya, to the Department and the AUC, and then returned to Anuradhapura for the AUC Board of Study before going on with John to the Maradankadawala Resthouse.

This deals with what I felt was initially displeasure on the part of Oranee Jansz at being told she would have to collaborate with me on the GELT, but since I respected her enormously I was unusually tactful and we got on very well. The work was divided up in a way that pleased both of us, and she had a free rein for all the imaginative plans she had for making English Teaching exciting and immensely attractive to students. She was delighted I think when I got her to write and gave her full credit and more for what she produced, while I was pleased that she left all the travel round the country, which I loved, to me while dutifully going into the office to fulfil all the tedious administrative work the programme required.

Arrangements for the GELT

She was not too pleased for she had looked forward to putting into practice all the good ideas she had, but she realized that I would support her, and I think too that she welcomed my input for taking on an islandwide programme might have been too much for her, given her obligations at home too as well as her innovative work with the USJP Medical Faculty.

So the next day we went to the UGC and met Mr Saparamadu who ran the GELT office, and his assistant Lilani Samaranayake and the typist Padma and the peon Joseph. That was all in the office, a small room at the side of the old mansion which housed the Ministry of Education. The UGC itself was a new building at the rear of the premises, with an extension along the drive that led to it, opposite our little room. Over the next five years Oranee and I worked there in between our other work, jointly producing curricula and materials. She handled the administration, signing vouchers to authorize payments for staff at the nearly 100 centres we had islandwide, while I did the monitoring, making it a point to visit each centre at least once a year, generally twice. The only ones I failed to get to were those north of Vavuniya for the road beyond that was controlled by the LTTE. These included the centre on the mainland in Mannar, though I did visit the one on Mannar island.

I had dinner with Anila the day after I got back and with Jeevan Thiagarajah and his wife the next day, to catch up on what was going on. That day and the next I worked at USJP and also went in again to the UGC to check on things with Mr Saparamadu.

On the Thursday I saw Bamunuaarachchi at USJP and the Science Dean, and then after dropping in at the Council I went with Oranee to see the Vice-Chairman of the UGC, Prof Balasuriya, who worked superbly well with Arjuna Aluwihare, his organizational skills complementing the latter’s imaginative reach. I spoke to him about my plans with regard to Cambodia, and he was most positive though that came to nothing.

After ten posts about travel at the turn of the century with Kithsiri, I go back to my work while at the Universitiy of Sri Jayewardenepura. This post relates how I took on one of the most interesting tasks I have engaged in, coordination of an islandwide programme conducted by the University Grants Commission for pre-university students. It arose by chance, simply because my old friend A J Gunawardena was on the same flight back to Sri Lanka as I was. But fortunately too I knew all about the programme and had produced books for it at its inception.

I note too the irony of my having been aware earlier of the vacancy, and the personal problems that had caused one of my former students, now a power at the National Institute of Education, to think of moving to another organization.

The pictures are of two wonderful people who are peripheral to this article, Tarzie Vittachi and A J Gunawardena, both of whom feature in Luminous Lives, which Godage brought out in the first year of Coronavirus.

The origins of my work on the GELT

Next morning I set off on a long journey, getting back just over two months later, on Sunday July 11th. In England I had seen Tarzie Vittachi, for my father had told me he was dying, and I was glad I made the effort for he was his charming self though he knew he had not long to go. And then on the flight back I met up with A J Gunawardena who told me that he had recommended to Arjuna Aluwihare, Chairman of the UGC, that he ask me to coordinate the pre-University General English Language Teaching Course.

I knew about the GELT for, when it had been set up five years earlier, the Council had been contracted by the Canadians to produce readers, and it was that project that led to greater assistance from the Canadians, first to the Council and then to the English Association, to produce lots of low cost books, readers and textbooks.

A former student of mine at Peradeniya, Vijita Yatawatte, had applied for the position together with her husband, to resolve a problem that had arisen for they felt awkward about the impending vacancy for the post of Director of the Department of English at the NIE where they both worked. To obviate the unpleasantness of one of them being appointed – and she was the better qualified, they had wanted to move together to the GELT. But they had not been selected and AJ told me there had been no suitable candidates which is why he had recommended me, believing that what I had initiated for the AUCs could be adapted also for all pre-University students who had received very little English in their schools.

I was enthusiastic about the idea for it would fit in well with the work I was doing, and it was clear that the approach I had introduced would be the most useful for students. So next day, back at USJP, I told the Vice-Chancellor and, though he did not seem too pleased, I called up Arjuna who was delighted, but said he had asked Oranee if she could take on the position. I told her I could work happily with her, so he told me to come to the UGC with her the next day.

I record here my first overnight visitor at the cottage, apart from Kithsiri, and indeed the only one except for the boy who worked with me at the Peace Secretariat many years later. As always, Ena and I could spend hours together in perfect harmony and happiness.

But I go on to describe the rather sad fears of my Oxford friend Gillian Peele about travel in Sri Lanka.

The pictures are of Ranga, now a most distinguished journalist, flanked by two senior officers at the Academy, Milinda Peiris and Parakrama Dissanayake.

Ena at the cottage, and unwarranted worries

After Ena arrived on January 1st at the cottage, we had ham sandwiches she had brought for lunch, after drinks on my little verandah, and after a nap had tea there and drinks again and the lamprais she had brought, And next morning after breakfast she took me back to Colombo and then on to Alu.

Gillian and Frances dropped in for lunch the next day, having gone on a tour to the ancient sites, and then we went to Kandy where they dropped me at Derrick’s but I went that night to their hotel for a birthday dinner for Gillian. But their driver had panicked them about the situation, resenting I think the fact that both at Palankadewatte and Aluvihare he had been treated as a driver whereas otherwise Gillian and Frances had had them at their table. So Gillian called next morning to say she was nervous about coming in to town for the dinner Derrick was to host for them that night, and also to cancel the lecture I had arranged for her at the Academy the following night.

They did take me to Nuwara Eliya with them next day, but that was as far as their driver would go, so I arranged for Colonel de Alwis to pick me up from the Grand Hotel and take me to the SLMA where Milinda gave me dinner in lieu of the lecture. And after a workshop next morning for English staff he took me to Colombo after giving me lunch.

I had a restful Sunday at home and the following day, January 8th, had the new Deputy Commandant at the Academy, Parakrama Dissanayake, a contemporary of Rohan, for lunch. On the Tuesday, a poya day, I saw Manorani in hospital after going in to the Council for a meeting about the conference, I presume to discuss publication of the proceedings, and then saw Nirekha and her family before dinner at Anila’s.

Next morning I went to the university via the cottage, where I collected from Ranga the translations he was doing for me, for which indeed the CLD had hired him, and then went with Chandra to the SLMA to arrange a now even more intense programme for Intake 53 had also been admitted. I took a class for 51 that evening after which there was a party for the departing Commanding Officer, and for Major Dahanayake, and I taught 52 morning and afternoon the next day, and then next morning took Major Dahanayake to Tangalle for him to head off home. I had tea with Nimalka and taught at the Radiant and then went to Madola where I had lunch with the students, I think by now the inter-racial intakes we were getting for a fortnight’s stay.

I was pleased to be given the Mt Lavinia house, but that was nothing like the pleasure I got when I finally stayed over at the little cottage I had built by the river. I saw the New Year in there, which was bliss.

Moving into my cottage

The local Commonwealth Literature and Language Association had its sessions at Sabaragamuwa, since Aparna, daughter of Ashley Halpe who was again its President, was teaching for us, and we had an interesting two days, with presentations by Meenakshi who visited us again, and also her great chum Harish Trivedi who had succeeded her at JNU.

That was at the beginning of December, and a week later I spent a night at my cottage, having over the preceding weeks been supplying it with furniture, from Nirmali and from my sister. On Saturday December 9th I got there with Kithsiri, and put up pictures, and had dinner, and next morning I record the sunrise over the river with my coffee. That day the computer we had got for the CLD project was installed, and Jeevan and Malathi, who was now working for him, dropped in for lunch. And after that my journalist student Ranga, whom I had asked to look after the place, turned up and gook up residence.

I went abroad that night, and got back only on the night of the 24th, in time for Christmas lunch at home, when we also had my cousin Kshanika’s boyfriend Ruwan Ratnatunge, which was something my mother would not have done. The next day we had two other friends from Canada, Mary Buell and her Indian husband JC for lunch, and the next evening I entertained my Oxford friends Gillian Peele and Frances Lannon. The next day I had arranged a more formal dinner, but it turned out my father had done the same, so he had his crew downstairs and I had mine upstairs, which worked quite smoothly.

The next day I went in the car Gillian and Frances had for their trip to the cottage, whereupon Ranga left, and we played bridge and had lunch, I think lamprais, though things did not go smoothly for the water supply did not work. They took Suki Devarajan, who was our fourth, back to Colombo and I stayed on by myself and next day welcomed Anila and lots of friends, including our neighbour Maasiri Dias whose birthday it was.

That was a lovely day, which included a dip in the river, and after they left I dined on leftovers, having the previous night contented myself with cake. On the 31st Kithsiri turned up with the fridge I had bought, and we put books into shelves and then, when the lights failed, had drinks and leftovers for dinner.

And so I saw 1991 in at my cottage, which has probably given me more pleasure than any other home I have had. Next morning we had baked beans for breakfast and Ena turned up with her staff, for whom I had in fact designed a little room at the back, though they found it stuffy and slept in the car. Ena herself used the other bed in my room, so Kithsiri went home that night.

This records my finally getting a house, when my father gifted the house he had said for years was to be mine, but which he had held on to, to provide homes for several of his relations. The picture is of Eddie and Girlie and my team at the old house in Getamanna.


On Ena’s birthday, October 23rd, I went to Aluwihare to help her deal with a journalist who was to write what proved a very helpful piece in ‘Country Life’. At Getamanna Upali and Jothini had set up a school in town to teach for the USJP external degree, and I helped them by lecturing there whenever I visited the project. The CLD workshops continued, including one on electoral systems, the destructive impact of the one we laboured under having become more obvious with our own experience of standing. I was also doing many interviews at this time and contributing regular columns to the newspapers.

At the SLMA I met an American team and realized that they continued to help us with training and with counter-terrorist measures though this was all very low key. At Madola Adhikari finally went, though I continued to have faith in Shantha, and indeed had him to stay over at Lakmahal often and once his wife and child too. Meanwhile the building reached completion and we boiled milk there in celebration on December 7th, when Mohan brought his parents to visit, his old father gamely beginning to walk up the hill before Kithsiri could get his van down to bring them.

After they had seen the place we had lunch at my uncle’s. He was back now though he had fallen ill at the end of October after which he had to spend much time in Colombo to recuperate, Both he and Girlie hated this, though they were grateful for the care the children, and especially Roshini and her husband Nivard Cabraal, lavished on them. One of the bright girls in my former Dean’s office had a baby and Jothini became pregnant, but continued to work, on the project and at their Radiant School, and I think I used her as I did Upali for GELT classes.

My father was now entertaining more, including having a dinner on my mother’s birthday, and also helping Stanley Jayawardene, whose wife Sujatha, from whom we had gone for Kandyan dancing classes in pre-Canada infancy, had died. Like my father he was mortified, but unlike my father he did not make any effort to get over his loss, and not long afterwards he passed away too.

Finally my father gifted to me the Mt Lavinia house which he had always claimed was meant for me, but he had clung to it and even said I could have it only when I got married. But by now he had mellowed, though he did say that I should allow the cousins whom he accommodated to stay until their children had finished their schooling, which I was quite happy to do. But it was a relief, since till then I had got nothing from him though he had given my brother and sister large houses in the heart of Colombo and lots of shares. The latter I did not want or need, but the lack of property was worrying. My mother indeed when she found I had received nothing had given me a million rupees, and in the end finally gave the main part of Lakmahal jointly to my sister and me, though of course with a life interest to my father.

Rajiva Wijesinha


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