Ethnic ideology of hill capital
Sinhala consciousness in The Kandyan Period -1590s to 1815 by Michael Roberts- (Vijitha Yapa Publications).Reviewed by Professor Bertram Bastiampillai
An intensely researched comprehensive study, this work leaves the reader inundated on Sinhala Consciousness during the Kandyan period. Roberts challenges and disproves the conclusion now in mode about the origins of ethnic identities in Sri Lanka, and their indebtedness to the effects of Colonial government and resultant "modernization".

Roberts does not wholly rely on written data to construct the thesis he argues out, drawing his insight from oral records, visual, iconic and dramatic transmissions to proclaim the survival of a Sinhala consciousness. This Sinhala realization harks back to a time before British rule was ingrained not only within the political elite.

Roberts is questioning critically past accounts of the concept of nation and nationalism, hitherto propounded, and looks critically at the conventional idea of the origins of national identity.

He sets out his arguments constructively and leaves the reader with ideas to ponder upon. Referring to War poems and other evidence from the Kandyan times, Roberts unfolds the political culture prevalent then and concludes that Sinhala ideology and not merely a Kandyan one prevailed.

The introductory chapter is focused on discussion of the Sinhala identity in time and place. Intellectual developments in the West and the debate on communalism in India affected Sri Lanka from the early 1980s.The author is concerned of a Sinhala consciousness riveted on the culture, country and religion.

He asserts that some of the low country population of Sinhala speakers were associated with the Kandyan Kingdom known as Sinhale. Moreover, the political economy of the 17th and 18th centuries and a detailed elaboration of the nature of the Kandyan state formation helps the reader's understanding of the discussed text.

The writer then turns his interest towards the political ideologies that underlay activities in the Kandyan Kingdom which he rather prefers to call the Kingdom of Sinhale. Kandy, around 1591-1604 under King Vimaladharmasuriya emerged as the only Sinhala state, heir to the idea of Sinhale. Sinhale, Sihale or Sinhala in the Kandyan times earlier connoted the whole island, the author contends. But Trisinhala nevertheless has apparently been territorially used primarily to denote the Kandyan Kingdom.

It also had been applied in a restricted manner to indicate areas directly managed by the Kandyan King as distinct from those held by the Dutch and the British in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Subsequent concepts and ideas had supplied to the original meaning of a term different understanding and interpretation. To Roberts the capital Senkadagala was a convergent centre that could signify a whole Kingdom and seemingly does so.

Later on, the author emphasizes Sinhale and Sinhala consciousness vis-a-vis the British during 1875-1915. Earlier, the King had been god-like to the ruling elements within Sinhale but subsequently changes of attitude occurred.

Dr. Roberts says something new, formidably difficult to digest. There is bound to be sharp differences of opinions and no easy acceptance of the researcher's contentions and conclusion. But those who value history surely should read this book. It whets one's curiosity. Roberts has strained the sources to reach his conclusions and it is likely many another scholar will have questions to which acceptable answers will be sought.

Tribute to a renowned Catholic priest who is a Buddhist scholar
Reflections on theology, justice, and co-existence
Encounters with the Word, published by the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue. Reviewed by Eymard de Silva Wijeyeratne
This volume has been compiled to honour the life and work of Aloysius Pieris S.J-. an internationally respected theologian, Buddhist scholar, a musician and a master of many languages on his 70th birthday.Aloysius Pieris is the Founder/Director of the Tulana Research Centre for Research and Dialogue located in the suburban Kelaniya.

The 39 articles in this nearly 720 page volume, have been classified into nine sections of Theology, Christology, Buddhist Studies, Dialogue & Comparative Studies, Church, Philosophy and Indic Studies, Spirituality, Justice & Peace, and Biblical Theology.

The Word
The title of this major work, "Encounters with the Word" may evoke the response "UbiDei Verbum adest quid opus est verbis" (When the Word of God is at hand of what use are words?). What this response implies is that there is an inherent tendency among humans to read into religious texts, be it the Holy Bible or the Pali Canon. As an explanatory compromise we may use the title of St. Anselm's book, "Fides quaerensintellectum" "Faith Seeking Reason". "Encounters with the Word" is therefore an advocacy of the use of reason in explicating the message of revelation. In a monotheistic religion the Word of God, which is a totality or a Gestalt, has to be expressed in words, as far as man is concerned. Since the volume includes several articles on Buddhism, an encounter with the Word is to be interpreted in a non-theistic context. The Word in this context stands for the Dhamma, which specifies a way of life that is subject to moral, intellectual and aesthetic discipline, that should be based on a firm understanding of the underlying basis of all phenomena. "Encounters with the Word" thus breaks ground in providing an opportunity for inter-religious dialogue and understanding.

The essays also include reflections, which have a bearing on the moral turpitude inherent in forced conversions, attacks on places of religious worship, the exponential growth of poverty in the world and the callous destruction of the environment, all of which are symptoms of a deeper malaise.

Liberation Theology
Jon Sobrino and Gustavo Gutierrez, are theologians who are engaged in the liberation struggle in Latin America, where poverty and dictatorship are the twin dehumanising agents. Gutierrez, in his book 'A Theology of Liberation', makes two observations that are ominous as they relate to Sri Lanka: that this theology does not stop at reflecting on the human predicament of which poverty is a major feature but goes further in functioning as "the process through which the world is to be transformed".

The other important observation is that "Liberation from sin is at the very root of political liberation". In his essay in this volume under the title "Speaking of God from the Socially Insignificant", Gutierrez says that Aloysius Pieris has every reason to affirm as he does in his book 'An Asian Theology of Liberation" "that the poor constitute a fundamental theme of all authentic theology".

Jon Sobrino's essay is titled "The Option for the Poor: Giving and Receiving". In this essay he continues in the strain of the ideas he expressed in his famous work, "Christology at the Crossroads", wherein he made it clear that the truth of Christ can transform a sinful world into the Kingdom of God. In this essay Sobrino develops the theme that the Church must not only give to the poor but receive from the poor, because in his view the mystery of God is to be seen in the ambience of the poor.

Jurgen Moltmann's theology, which is clearly outlined in his work "Theology of Hope", is based on the foundation that Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His view is that revelation is not to be treated as something given and static but as a promise held out for fulfillment.

A Buddhist Perspective
Asanga Tilakaratne's essay, "Aloysius Pieris on Inter-religious Dialogue and the Problem of Truth in Religion: A Buddhist Perspective", is a tract that reveals the dire need for inter-religious dialogue. It is particularly relevant at a time when what passes off as inter-religious dialogue is confined to superficial gestures. His approach is fruitful because he sympathetically, yet critically, pitches his thoughts as a response to those of Aloysius Pieris as found in the latter's book, "Love meets Wisdom: a Christian experience of Buddhism".

Asanga explains that those views, which reflect what might be called an Asian theology, constitute a critical appraisal of Western theology, which apart from replicating European-style church structures also insisted that salvation could not be found outside the Christian Church.

He then refers to the change of attitude to non-Christian religions introduced by the Second Vatican Council, which states that "the Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions". Asanga proceeds to explain that this new attitude of the Church is equivocal to the extent that the liberation of non-Christians would depend on the fund of grace accumulated by the Church in its role as the "universal sacrament of salvation".

Aloysius Pieris' explanation is that genuine inter-faith understanding must be based on the absolute commitment to one's own religion as it applies to each of the participants in the dialogue. In the absence of such commitment dialogue will be based on the quest for eclecticism and the exchange of niceties that will do more harm than good to both religions. The answer, he says is for the parties to the dialogue to look at each other's religion as different systems.

Asanga's penetrating analysis takes him to the conclusion that these observations necessarily imply a convergence of the religious experience of different religions to the metaphysical cul-de-sac of 'Reality', which Buddhism eschews.

Oliver Abeynayake's essay, "Vinaya versus Sutta": Two traditions with distinctive identities" is a scholarly exposition of the subtle differences between these two traditions.

His interpretation is that the manner in which events are reported in the Sutta tradition is more logical and historical, because it is devoid of superimposed additions and deductions.

He further explains that the use of "observable causes rather than metaphysical presuppositions" employed in early Buddhism is left.The essay, "The Buddha in our Lives" by Mahinda Palihawadana, which in my view is excellent reading for non-Buddhists and others who are keen to absorb the essence of the Dhamma without engaging in scholarly discipline that demands familiarity with difficult concepts.

He explains that the Buddha's impact on humanity is not "simply intellectual". The core of the Dhamma is that the solution to the human predicament lies within the mind "via the meditative process of mindfulness".

Places of Worship
Shirley Wijesinghe in his essay "Recent Attacks on Places of Worship in Sri Lanka" seeks to interpret those events in the context of Biblical exegesis and theology. He argues that the book of Exodus leads to the view that a place of worship is a locus of liberation.The Israelites, he says, ventured out to the wilderness to make it a place ofworship and liberation: away from the tyranny of the Pharoah. He goes on to say that places of worship are ambivalent in their impact on people in that they could through their activities lead people on to liberation or to subversion and moral degradation.

War, Peace, Racism and Violence: Virgilio Elizondo in his essay on the 'Violence of Racism' analyses the genesis of racism and the various bases of its manifestation: intellectual or physical superiority, the notion of being an 'elect' in the eyes of God.

Since this volume is declared to be in the nature of a gesture of felicitation, it includes a complete bibliography of books and articles written in English by Aloysius Pieris, compiled by Sr. Frances de Silva RGS and listed in Appendix 2 of the book. It also includes a portrait of Aloysius Pieris by Georg Evers.

The articles also reflect Aloysius Pieris' concerns to address the important issue of gender in Christian and Buddhist reflection. Contributions by the famous feminist theologian Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and others like Gabrielle Dietrich, and specialists in Buddhist studies like Rita Gross, Ursula King and Elizabeth Harris give added worth to this book.

Easy access to Wakf law
The Wakfs Law Procedure and Practice by A.H.G Ameen. Reviewed by Fathima Asma Cassim
At a time when there is no literature on Wakfs Law and the Procedure to be followed in case of an application to be made before the Wakfs Board or the Wakfs Tribunal,the book on "The Wakfs Law Procedure and Practice" by Mr. A.H. Ghouzul Ameen fills a void and a long-felt need in Sri Lanka.

Muslims in Sri Lanka are governed by three Statutes, namely:
1. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act No: 13 of 1951
2. The Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act No: 51 of 1956
3. The Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance No: 10 of 1931.

Matrimonial matters of Muslims under the first Act are heard before the Quazi Courts over 54 courts spread over the country. Decisions made by the Quazi appointed by the Judicial Service Commission may be challenged before the appellate body - the Board of Quazis, members of which are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission.

This Board has both Appellate and Revisionary jurisdiction and an aggrieved person can go before the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court.
Mr. Ameen has authored a book on "The Quazi Court Procedure and Practice" which is translated to Sinhala and Tamil.

All matters pertaining to the mosques are heard before the Wakfs Board under the second Statute and its members are appointed by the Minister. The decision of the Wakfs Board may be appealed before the Wakfs Tribunal, members of which are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission.

Mr. Ameen's book serves as a guide not only to the practising lawyer but also to laymen. The book opens with a foreword from the retired senior Supreme Court Judge, Justice M. Jameel, presently a member of the Constitutional Council of Sri Lanka and former Attorney General Shibly Aziz, P.C.
The book priced at Rs. 500/- is available at No: 34 1/5, St. Sebastian Hill, Colombo 12 and at leading bookshops.

Enriching Islamic jurisprudence
Vol: II of the Al-Ameen Law Reports. Reviewed by A.L.M.Hedayathulla
A.H.G. Ame-en's endeavour to collect and collate the several Orders and Judgments under the Muslim Mosque and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act is extremely praiseworthy. Volume I of the Al-Ameen Law Report was launched in 2003 and the Editor has been successful in publishing Volume II in 2004.

One of the paramount features of any Law Report is its authenticity. Mr. Ameen has ensured very skilfully that every case reported is authentic to the very letter.

Thus Al-Ameen Law Reports have become authoritative enabling Judges, lawyers, law students and the general pubic to refer and cite. It is to Mr. Ameen’s credit that he has made available judicial and quasi judicial material emanating from the Wakfs Act, which otherwise would have been inaccessible.

In Vol: II, the Editor has reported several substantial questions of law that has arisen under the Wakfs Act.Indeed the Al-Ameen Law Reports have enriched Islamic Jurisprudence of Sri Lanka.

War and warriors marking boundaries
Assignment Peace in the Name of the Motherland (Volume 111) Sub-titled 'Eelam war I, IPKF Operations and Eelam war II' by L.M.H.Mendis
L.M.H.Mendis' new book 'Assignment Peace in the Name of the Motherland (Volume III)' is dedicated to the late Lieutenant General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, former Commander of the 2nd Division troops in the north. Detailed descriptions of Lieutenant General Kobbekaduwa's operations are presented in this book.

It was in the early 1970s that there first appeared some banditry on the part of the northern subversives who assassinated several Tamil policemen. Police constable Karunanidhi was the first policeman to be killed by the northern terrorist groups who by that time began a fight for a separate state of 'Tamil Eelam'.

With the rebels killing several policemen and politicians in the North it was difficult for President J.R. Jayawardene to be silent any more and in July 1979 he dispatched Brigadier Tissa Weeratunga, his nephew and Chief of Staff of Army to Jaffna to eradicate the menace of terrorism. In six months, Brigadier Tissa Weeratunga brought near normalcy to the North.

However towards the end of 1981 the terrorists re-surfaced and in October that year killed the first soldier to die in the Eelam War.Thus, the die was cast for a long conflict.

By 1990 President Ranasinghe Premadasa was holding peace talks with the LTTE in Colombo.But on June 11th 1990, the talks broke down and thus began Eelam War II. At the beginning the LTTE laid siege to most military camps in the north and east and this resulted in the Sri Lanka Army sending Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa , to clear the East to restore normalcy. He cleared the East in Operation 'Sledge Hammer'

As July 1990 passed, Major General Kobbekaduwa was transferred as Northern Commander and he launched his offensives with regular attacks against the enemy.

In the meantime, Wing Commander Sunil Cabraal, then Northern Zonal Commander of the Air Force executed Operation 'Eagle' to rescue 16 soldiers trapped inside the Jaffna Fort camp in July and August 1990.

From 1990 right till 1994 Eelam War II continued.In August 1994, a new government under Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga began a fresh round of peace talks with the LTTE. Thus ended Eelam War II. All the operations from early 1970s right upto the end of 1994 can be read in this book.

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