First general election under Gotabaya presidency:
Before the split: Sampanthan and Wigneswaran at an event in the Jaffna peninsula
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Rajavarothiam Sampanthan (87) is the oldest contestant at the August 5, 2020, parliamentary poll – the third since the conclusion of the nearly 30-year separatist war, in May 2009. The leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is in the fray, from the Trincomalee district. Having first entered parliament, at the 1977 general election, on the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) ticket, the Attorney-at-Law was among those lawmakers who boycotted parliament, beginning mid-1983, after the then President JR Jayewardene extended the life of parliament by six more years, through fraudulent means. The so called 1982 Dec referendum, which was more or less rigged by his regime, deprived the voters an opportunity to exercise their franchise, till 1989. The UNP move facilitated the India-sponsored terrorist project here.
The TULF boycotted parliament for several reasons. This Indian-sponsored terrorist groups ordered them not to continue in parliament beyond the normal six-year term et al. The TULF members lost their seats, following three month absence from parliament. It would be pertinent to mention that the TULF, with 23 seats – the second highest number of seats in parliament – served as the main Opposition.
Having participated in turbulent politics, Sampanthan received the post of Opposition Leader, following the last parliamentary poll, held in August, 2015, though his TNA received only 16 seats. In spite of the Joint Opposition (breakaway UPFA faction) having a much bigger representation in Parliament, (almost 50 MPs), and despite repeatedly challenging Sampanthan’s appointment, he served as the Opposition Leader, until Dec 2019. The JO was denied the Opposition Leader’s Office, through machinations of then President Maithripala Sirisena, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and the majority hold the ruling UNF-led alliance had in the House.
Sampanthan, who also served as the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) leader, handed over the post to Mavai Senathirajah (77) in early Sept 2014. The ITAK is the main constituent of the TNA, notorious for recognizing the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil community, by fiat. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran held the de facto title until the Sri Lankan military shot him, on the morning of May 19, 2009, in the final skirmishes.
TNA faces unprecedented
The TNA, with its strong man Senathirajah contesting from the Jaffna electoral district, faces a huge challenge in retaining the 16 seats it won at the last general election. For the Tamil electorate, the main battle is between the TNA and the newly formed Thamizh Makkal Thesiya Kootani (TMTK), led by former Chief Minister and retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran (80).
The TMTK-led grouping includes Eelath Thamilar Suyaatchchi Kalagam (Leader 48-year-old Ananthy Sasitharan), Thamizh Thesiya Katchchi (Leader M.K. Sivajilingam) and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (Leader Suresh Premachandran 62). Among others in the fray are Minister Douglas Devananda 62, (EPDP) and the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (46).
Sasitharan is the wife of LTTE Trincomalee ‘political’ head Velayutham Sasitharan, alias Elilan.
She has repeatedly alleged, both here and abroad, that her husband disappeared after surrendering in 2009 to the Army, on the Vanni east front.
Former Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s move undermined the TNA’s supremacy, particularly in the Northern region. Having obtained five seats at its first election, in 2000, during Kumaratunga’s presidency, the TNA secured 15 seats at the 2001 general election (the UNP engineered a dozen defections that compelled Kumaratunga to call fresh parliamentary poll), 22 seats in 2005, 14 seats in 2010, and 16 in 2015. The TNA secured its best results, in 2004, thanks to the LTTE stuffing ballot boxes to help its then totally pliant proxy. The European Union condemned the TNA for its murderous alliance with the LTTE, though parliament conveniently turned a blind eye to the blatant way it won such a large number of seats. Local election monitors, too, didn’t utter a word, exposing those self-appointed guardians’ much flaunted impartiality.
The TNA will definitely find it extremely difficult to retain 16 seats, even though the top leadership publicly remains confident that the Northern electorate won’t disappoint the party. However, it certainly wouldn’t be an easy task, especially against the backdrop of TNA heavyweight M.A. Sumanthiran (56), publicly denouncing the LTTE’s failed terrorism project, recently. The TNA opponents are already capitalising on it by whipping up hysteria, among northern emotional voters.
The provocative declaration was made by ex-lawmaker Sumanthiran, in an interview with Chamuditha Samarawickrema’s recent widely-watched and shared interview on social media. No less a person than Sampanthan defended Sumanthiran, amidst heavy attacks on the ex-lawmaker.
UK-based Suren Surendiran, of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), too, defended Sumanthiran.
Surendiran efficiently discussed the Sumanthiran issue, in an article headlined ‘Is unqualified and uncritical support for the armed struggle of the past, a must, to play a leading role in Tamil politics today?’ published in The Island, on May 28, 2020. Surendiran questioned the interviewer’s motives, as well as those of a Tamil media organization, belonging to a close relative of a former UPFA National List member, representing the Jaffna District. The reference was to Angajan Ramanathan, who is on the SLFP ticket, in the fray from the Jaffna District.
The TNA heavyweight’s condemnation of the LTTE is all the more surprising as he justified the Thowheed Jamaat 2019 terror attacks on Churches and hotels soon after those despicable assaults on total innocents. Sumanthiran maintained that such attacks should be expected, if the government did not address the grievances of the minorities.
The shocking and utterly callous pronouncement was given at an event, at the BMICH, to mark the first anniversary of the political weekly ‘Anidda,’ held a few days after the Easter Sunday carnage.
The TNA’s fate depends particularly on the performance of Wigneswaran’s grouping. The possibility of the TNA retaining 16 seats, however, seems very unlikely. The TNA is certainly troubled by the UNP split. ITAK Colombo leader K.T. Thawarasa, PC, recently declared that TNA’s Jaffna District candidate Sivagnanam Shritharan’s call for Colombo District Tamils to vote for Mano Ganesan (60) of the Tamil Progressive Front, contesting under the breakaway UNP faction, now registered as the Samagi Jana Balvegaya (SJB), was not the party’s position. Shritharan, in a statement published in a Tamil website emphasized that it was the duty of Colombo Tamils to re-elect Ganesan.
The UNP faces a heavy defeat in the Colombo district, with eight out of 11, elected on its slate at the last parliamentary poll, contesting on the SJB ticket/National List at the August 5 poll. Only Ravi Karunanayake, still under investigation over 2015 and 2016 Treasury bond scams, remained along with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on their Colombo list, whereas the other former Colombo district lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, is on the SLPP ticket.
Having fully cooperated with the UNP, since the LTTE’s defeat, the TNA appears to be uncertain of its strategy. Recent meetings with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa indicated readiness on its part to explore the possibility of ‘working’ with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).
Moreover, the TNA is struggling to come to terms with new political realities. The UNP set up is in tatters, with beleaguered Wickremesinghe facing his worst defeat at the forthcoming poll.
The TNA backed the UNP nominated presidential candidates at 2010 (General Sarath Fonseka), 2015 (Maithripala Sirisena) and Sajith Premadasa (2019). The two parties worked extremely close during 2015-2020 and, during that marriage, the UNPled administration betrayed the war-winning armed forces at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, and proposed the drawing up of a new Constitution, at the expense of the country’s unitary status. The TNA stood solidly with the UNP, in the wake of the Oct 2018 constitutional coup perpetrated by the then President Maithripala Sirisena. The JVP, too, was part of the UNP-led defence, fully backed by a section of the Western powers, and the civil society grouping, backed and financed by those powerful outside interests. Having backed General Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena, fielded by the UNP-led coalition, the JVP contested the 2019 presidential poll. JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake (51) ended up a distant third, at the poll, handsomely won by wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa with a majority of nearly 1.4 mn votes. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who contested on Jathika Jana Balavegaya ticket, polled 418,553 votes (just 3.16 per cent). The JVPer did much better than retired Army Chief General Mahesh Senanayake who obtained a paltry 49,655 votes (0.37 votes). Having vowed to contest the parliamentary poll, a humiliated Senanayake vanished from the political scene.
The JVP is struggling to retain the number of seats, it won at the 2015 parliamentary election. It managed to secure six seats, including two National List slots. The JVP filled its National slots with defeated candidates (Sunil Handunetti 48) and Bimal Ratnayake (47).
Slain MP’s wife enters fray
The TNA fields slain TNA MP Nadarajah Raviraj’s wife, Sasikala, on its Jaffna District nomination list. Raviraj, who served as the Mayor of Jaffna after the military brought the peninsula under its control, in 1996, was shot dead, in Colombo, on Nov 10, 2006. Having first entered parliament, in 2001, Raviraj retained his Jaffna seat, at the 2004 general election and was one of the most outspoken lawmakers at the time he was silenced. Raviraj was 44 years old at the time he was assassinated, along with his Sinhala police bodyguard. A court, in Dec 2016, acquitted five men accused of Raviraj’s murder.
Former LTTE Trincomalee District political leader Elilan’s wife, Ananthy Sasitharan, is contesting Jaffna on TMTK’s ticket. She served the TNA-run Northern Provincial Council, both as a member and later as a minister. Having entered political life, thanks to the TNA, and engaged in a high profile campaign, overseas, against the government of Sri Lanka, Sasitharan switched allegiance to Wigneswaran.
Interestingly, former member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Ambika Satkunanathan is not on the TNA Jaffna List. Satkunanathan’s resignation from the HRCSL in March this year, fuelled intense speculation the lawyer and human rights advocate would enter politics.
Satkunanathan served in many roles at the United Nations offices, in Sri Lanka, including as the national legal advisor to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Office of the Senior Human Rights Advisor and national consultant on gender integration/evaluation at the Office of the Resident Coordinator.
She is the chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust in Colombo. The LTTE assassinated TULF lawmaker, Tiruchelvam, on July 29, 1999, in Colombo. The emergence of the TNA should be examined, taking into consideration the decimation of the TULF leadership, by the LTTE.
Tiruchelvam was on his way to his office at Kynsey Terrace, Colombo, when a man threw himself onto Tiruchelvam’s car, near the Kynsey Road-Rosemead Place Junction. The academic was 55 at the time of his assassination.
In addition to Sasikala Nadarajah and Ananthy Sasitharan, Vijayakala Maheswaran, wife of slain UNP lawmaker, T. Maheswaran, is contesting Jaffna on the UNP ticket. An LTTE assassin killed Maheswaran inside a Hindu temple, in Colombo, on January 1, 2008. The police apprehended the assassin alive. While Sasikala is a newcomer to national politics and Ananthy seeks a parliamentary career, having represented the Northern Provincial Council, Vijayakala eyes a third term as Jaffna MP. Vijayakala served two terms (2010-2015 and 2015-2020) during which she publicly appreciated the LTTE. In spite of the government initiating legal action, Vijayakala continues to praise the LTTE, regardless of the organization ordering her husband’s assassination.
Post-LTTE Tamil politics
All Tamil parties are in the process of gradually re-asserting their roles over a decade after the LTTE’s demise. The LTTE controlled and influenced the political setup in the Northern and Eastern Provinces before setting up its own – a grouping loyal to Prabhakaran. It chose Sampanthan to lead the TNA. The Attorney-at-Law obviously had no choice, but to accept the LTTE dictate or face the consequences. Having helped the TNA to register its best performance, at the 2004 general election, with heavy handed support from the Tigers, the LTTE used the grouping to engineer Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the 2005 Nov presidential poll. The LTTE wanted an environment conducive for declaration of a full scale war, hence the decision to order Tamils to boycott the presidential election. The denial of the Northern electorate cost Wickremesinghe the November 2005 election and Prabhakaran, his life, in May 2009. The TNA enjoyed special status, thanks to the LTTE. The status quo remained until the very end. It would be pertinent to mention that the TULF, in spite of being in the original TNA formation, quit the organization, before the 2005 presidential poll.
Over a decade after the successful conclusion of the war, Tamil polity is sharply divided over the course it should take. The unexpected emergence of war veteran Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as the President, clearly delivered a debilitating blow to the TNA project. No nonsense President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ruled out following the strategies of his predecessors, in dealing with Tamil political parties. The President refrained from inviting the TNA leadership for formal talks or making overtures though some felt a consensus could be reached. However, the TNA will have to await the Aug 5 poll result to formulate its strategy. The most important question is whether it can retain a parliamentary group similar to the size of the one in the last parliament. One thing is clear, in the absence of the LTTE, and the top leadership pursuing an exit strategy, meant to distance the coalition from the LTTE, the TNA may end up much weaker in parliament. But, in politics nothing is certain and unexpected factors can influence the electorate.
Recently, former TNA lawmaker Sivagnanam Shritharan (who urged Tamils to vote for Mano Ganesan) declared, in Kilinochchi, that they needed at least 20 seats, in the next parliament, to represent the Tamil community in a meaningful way.
The TNA really toiled hard for a new Constitution, during the yahapalana administration. Sumanthiran played a significant role in the process, led by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, who, on behalf of the 21-member Steering Committee, tasked with formulating proposals in September 2019, just weeks before the constitutional coup presented an interim report. The Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, established by parliamentary resolution, on March 9, 2019, consisted of Ranil Wickremesinghe (Chairman), Nimal Siripala de Silva, Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, Rauff Hakeem, Dinesh Gunawardena, Lakshman Kiriella, Douglas Devananda, Susil Premajayantha, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Rishad Bathiudeen, (Dr.)Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Bimal Rathnayake, D.M. Swaminathan, M.A. Sumanthiran, Mano Ganesan, Prasanna Ranatunga, Malik Samarawickrama, (Dr.) Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Dilan Perera and Dr. Mrs. Thusitha Wijemanna.
SLPP National List nominee Gevindu Cumaratunga recently challenged the UNP and its breakaway faction the SJB, the TNA and the JVP to seek public endorsement of yahapalana constitutional proposals, at the forthcoming election. Strangely, none of those who pushed hard for a brand new Constitution had the stomach to go before the public with their proposals in the on-going campaign. The UNP factions are silent on the once high profile constitutional making process. Instead, both major camps (SLPP and SJB) engaged in uninspiring campaigns primarily based on accusations of waste, corruption and irregularities. Basically, the SLPP is campaigning for a steamroller two-thirds majority to do away with the 19th Amendment whereas the SJB, UNP, TNA and JVP sought to thwart President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s project.
Indications are a two-thirds majority is simply not possible, under any circumstances, regardless of, continuing SLPP rhetoric, a week short of Election Day.
Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, contesting the Digamadulla electorate, on the Ahila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha (All Ceylon Greater Tamil Council), caused a stir when he recently claimed killing 2,000-3,000 soldiers in a day during the battle for the Elephant Pass base.
The reference was to the 2000 battle, leading to the Army quitting the strategic base, in April 2000. As far as the writer understood, Karuna meant the LTTE killing 2000-3000 soldiers in one night.
Former UPFA Minister (National List) is struggling on the political front and his unsubstantiated claim regarding the Elephant Pass battle proved the one-time LTTE commander faced an uphill task. Ahila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha is unlikely to make an impression at the general election.
The UPFA accommodated Karuna on its National List twice – first in 2008 and then in 2010.
Instead of contesting the 2015 general election, he fielded his sister, from the UPFA Batticaloa list. Kruna’s sister failed in her bid. With Maithripala Sirisena’s emergence as the President and the SLFP leader, Karuna, who held the post of Vice President of that party quit. However, he backed Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential campaign and seemed certain of returning to parliament. However, his bid went awry due to former TNA lawmaker S. Viyalendran receiving the top position in the SLPP Batticaloa list. An irate Karuna is fielding his wife Vithiyavathi through an independent group in Batticaloa, while himself moving to neighbouring Digamadulla in spite of the district not being dominated by Tamils. Karuna is on record as having said that he declined an offer to accommodate him on the SLPP National List. However, Karuna didn’t claim a personal role in Elephant Pass battle though he was involved in their counter offensive against Jayasukurui and some phases of operations, leading to the humiliating the Elephant Pass fall to the Tigers. However, Karuna hadn’t been involved in the Elephant Pass battle at all nor did the Army lose 2,000 to 3,000 officers and men in one night. Karuna was playing politics with the war that is now fast fading from our collective memory.
Karuna’s boast in response to TNA Chairman of the Karaitheevu Pradeshiya Sabha said in Tamil ‘Karuna was more ‘kodiya’ (deadly, dangerous, cruel, and nefarious) than corona.’ Let us not hound Karuna over political rhetoric.
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‘Professor of English Language Teaching’
It is a pleasure to be here today, when the University resumes postgraduate work in English and Education which we first embarked on over 20 years ago. The presence of a Professor on English Language Teaching from Kelaniya makes clear that the concept has now been mainstreamed, which is a cause for great satisfaction.
Twenty years ago, this was not the case. Our initiative was looked at askance, as indeed was the initiative which Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare engaged in as UGC Chairman to make degrees in English more widely available. Those were the days in which the three established Departments of English in the University system, at Peradeniya and Kelaniya and Colombo, were unbelievably conservative. Their contempt for his efforts made him turn to Sri Jayewardenepura, which did not even have a Department of English then and only offered it as one amongst three subjects for a General Degree.
Ironically, the most dogmatic defence of this exclusivity came from Colombo, where the pioneer in English teaching had been Prof. Chitra Wickramasuriya, whose expertise was, in fact, in English teaching. But her successor, when I tried to suggest reforms, told me proudly that their graduates could go on to do postgraduate degrees at Cambridge. I suppose that, for generations brought up on idolization of E. F. C. Ludowyke, that was the acme of intellectual achievement.
I should note that the sort of idealization of Ludowyke, the then academic establishment engaged in was unfair to a very broadminded man. It was the Kelaniya establishment that claimed that he ‘maintained high standards, but was rarefied and Eurocentric and had an inhibiting effect on creative writing’. This was quite preposterous coming from someone who removed all Sri Lankan and other post-colonial writing from an Advanced Level English syllabus. That syllabus, I should mention, began with Jacobean poetry about the cherry-cheeked charms of Englishwomen. And such a characterization of Ludowyke totally ignored his roots in Sri Lanka, his work in drama which helped Sarachchandra so much, and his writing including ‘Those Long Afternoons’, which I am delighted that a former Sabaragamuwa student, C K Jayanetti, hopes to resurrect.
I have gone at some length into the situation in the nineties because I notice that your syllabus includes in the very first semester study of ‘Paradigms in Sri Lankan English Education’. This is an excellent idea, something which we did not have in our long-ago syllabus. But that was perhaps understandable since there was little to study then except a history of increasing exclusivity, and a betrayal of the excuse for getting the additional funding those English Departments received. They claimed to be developing teachers of English for the nation; complete nonsense, since those who were knowledgeable about cherries ripening in a face were not likely to move to rural areas in Sri Lanka to teach English. It was left to the products of Aluwihare’s initiative to undertake that task.
Another absurdity of that period, which seems so far away now, was resistance to training for teaching within the university system. When I restarted English medium education in the state system in Sri Lanka, in 2001, and realized what an uphill struggle it was to find competent teachers, I wrote to all the universities asking that they introduce modules in teacher training. I met condign refusal from all except, I should note with continuing gratitude, from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Paru Nagasunderam introduced it for the external degree. When I started that degree, I had taken a leaf out of Kelaniya’s book and, in addition to English Literature and English Language, taught as two separate subjects given the language development needs of students, made the third subject Classics. But in time I realized that was not at all useful. Thankfully, that left a hole which ELT filled admirably at the turn of the century.
The title of your keynote speaker today, Professor of English Language Teaching, is clear evidence of how far we have come from those distant days, and how thankful we should be that a new generation of practical academics such as her and Dinali Fernando at Kelaniya, Chitra Jayatilleke and Madhubhashini Ratnayake at USJP and the lively lot at the Postgraduate Institute of English at the Open University are now making the running. I hope Sabaragamuwa under its current team will once again take its former place at the forefront of innovation.
To get back to your curriculum, I have been asked to teach for the paper on Advanced Reading and Writing in English. I worried about this at first since it is a very long time since I have taught, and I feel the old energy and enthusiasm are rapidly fading. But having seen the care with which the syllabus has been designed, I thought I should try to revive my flagging capabilities.
However, I have suggested that the university prescribe a textbook for this course since I think it is essential, if the rounded reading prescribed is to be done, that students should have ready access to a range of material. One of the reasons I began while at the British Council an intensive programme of publications was that students did not read round their texts. If a novel was prescribed, they read that novel and nothing more. If particular poems were prescribed, they read those poems and nothing more. This was especially damaging in the latter case since the more one read of any poet the more one understood what he was expressing.
Though given the short notice I could not prepare anything, I remembered a series of school textbooks I had been asked to prepare about 15 years ago by International Book House for what were termed international schools offering the local syllabus in the English medium. Obviously, the appalling textbooks produced by the Ministry of Education in those days for the rather primitive English syllabus were unsuitable for students with more advanced English. So, I put together more sophisticated readers which proved popular. I was heartened too by a very positive review of these by Dinali Fernando, now at Kelaniya, whose approach to students has always been both sympathetic and practical.
I hope then that, in addition to the texts from the book that I will discuss, students will read other texts in the book. In addition to poetry and fiction the book has texts on politics and history and law and international relations, about which one would hope postgraduate students would want some basic understanding.
Similarly, I do hope whoever teaches about Paradigms in English Education will prescribe a textbook so that students will understand more about what has been going on. Unfortunately, there has been little published about this but at least some students will I think benefit from my book on English and Education: In Search of Equity and Excellence? which Godage & Bros brought out in 2016. And then there was Lakmahal Justified: Taking English to the People, which came out in 2018, though that covers other topics too and only particular chapters will be relevant.
The former book is bulky but I believe it is entertaining as well. So, to conclude I will quote from it, to show what should not be done in Education and English. For instance, it is heartening that you are concerned with ‘social integration, co-existence and intercultural harmony’ and that you want to encourage ‘sensitivity towards different cultural and linguistic identities’. But for heaven’s sake do not do it as the NIE did several years ago in exaggerating differences. In those dark days, they produced textbooks which declared that ‘Muslims are better known as heavy eaters and have introduced many tasty dishes to the country. Watalappam and Buriani are some of these dishes. A distinguished feature of the Muslims is that they sit on the floor and eat food from a single plate to show their brotherhood. They eat string hoppers and hoppers for breakfast. They have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.’ The Sinhalese have ‘three hearty meals a day’ and ‘The ladies wear the saree with a difference and it is called the Kandyan saree’. Conversely, the Tamils ‘who live mainly in the northern and eastern provinces … speak the Tamil language with a heavy accent’ and ‘are a close-knit group with a heavy cultural background’’.
And for heaven’s sake do not train teachers by telling them that ‘Still the traditional ‘Transmission’ and the ‘Transaction’ roles are prevalent in the classroom. Due to the adverse standard of the school leavers, it has become necessary to develop the learning-teaching process. In the ‘Transmission’ role, the student is considered as someone who does not know anything and the teacher transmits knowledge to him or her. This inhibits the development of the student.
In the ‘Transaction’ role, the dialogue that the teacher starts with the students is the initial stage of this (whatever this might be). Thereafter, from the teacher to the class and from the class to the teacher, ideas flow and interaction between student-student too starts afterwards and turns into a dialogue. From known to unknown, simple to complex are initiated and for this to happen, the teacher starts questioning.’
And while avoiding such tedious jargon, please make sure their command of the language is better than to produce sentences such as these, or what was seen in an English text, again thankfully several years ago:
Read the story …
Hello! We are going to the zoo. “Do you like to join us” asked Sylvia. “Sorry, I can’t I’m going to the library now. Anyway, have a nice time” bye.
So Syliva went to the zoo with her parents. At the entrance her father bought tickets. First, they went to see the monkeys
She looked at a monkey. It made a funny face and started swinging Sylvia shouted: “He is swinging look now it is hanging from its tail its marvellous”
“Monkey usually do that’
I do hope your students will not hang from their tails as these monkeys do.
Little known composers of classical super-hits
By Satyajith Andradi
Quite understandably, the world of classical music is dominated by the brand images of great composers. It is their compositions that we very often hear. Further, it is their life histories that we get to know. In fact, loads of information associated with great names starting with Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has become second nature to classical music aficionados. The classical music industry, comprising impresarios, music publishers, record companies, broadcasters, critics, and scholars, not to mention composers and performers, is largely responsible for this. However, it so happens that classical music lovers are from time to time pleasantly struck by the irresistible charm and beauty of classical pieces, the origins of which are little known, if not through and through obscure. Intriguingly, most of these musical gems happen to be classical super – hits. This article attempts to present some of these famous pieces and their little-known composers.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D
The highly popular piece known as Pachelbel’s Canon in D constitutes the first part of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon and Gigue in D major for three violins and basso continuo’. The second part of the work, namely the gigue, is rarely performed. Pachelbel was a German organist and composer. He was born in Nuremburg in 1653, and was held in high esteem during his life time. He held many important musical posts including that of organist of the famed St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He was the teacher of Bach’s elder brother Johann Christoph. Bach held Pachelbel in high regard, and used his compositions as models during his formative years as a composer. Pachelbel died in Nuremburg in 1706.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D is an intricate piece of contrapuntal music. The melodic phrases played by one voice are strictly imitated by the other voices. Whilst the basso continuo constitutes a basso ostinato, the other three voices subject the original tune to tasteful variation. Although the canon was written for three violins and continuo, its immense popularity has resulted in the adoption of the piece to numerous other combinations of instruments. The music is intensely soothing and uplifting. Understandingly, it is widely played at joyous functions such as weddings.
Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary
The hugely popular piece known as ‘Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary’ appeared originally as ‘ The Prince of Denmark’s March’ in Jeremiah Clarke’s book ‘ Choice lessons for the Harpsichord and Spinet’, which was published in 1700 ( Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music ). Sometimes, it has also been erroneously attributed to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695 ) and called ‘Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary (Percy A. Scholes ; Oxford Companion to Music). This brilliant composition is often played at joyous occasions such as weddings and graduation ceremonies. Needless to say, it is a piece of processional music, par excellence. As its name suggests, it is probably best suited for solo trumpet and organ. However, it is often played for different combinations of instruments, with or without solo trumpet. It was composed by the English composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke.
Jeremiah Clarke was born in London in 1670. He was, like his elder contemporary Pachelbel, a musician of great repute during his time, and held important musical posts. He was the organist of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the composer of the Theatre Royal. He died in London in 1707 due to self – inflicted gun – shot injuries, supposedly resulting from a failed love affair.
The full title of the hugely famous piece known as ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’ is ‘Adagio for organ and strings in G minor’. However, due to its enormous popularity, the piece has been arranged for numerous combinations of instruments. It is also rendered as an organ solo. The composition, which epitomizes pathos, is structured as a chaconne with a brooding bass, which reminds of the inevitability and ever presence of death. Nonetheless, there is no trace of despondency in this ethereal music. On the contrary, its intense euphony transcends the feeling of death and calms the soul. The composition has been attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750), who was a contemporary of Bach and Handel. However, the authorship of the work is shrouded in mystery. Michael Kennedy notes: “The popular Adagio for organ and strings in G minor owes very little to Albinoni, having been constructed from a MS fragment by the twentieth century Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, whose copyright it is” (Michael Kennedy; Oxford Dictionary of Music).
The classical super-hit known as ‘Boccherini’s Minuet’ is quite different from ‘Albinoni’s Adagio’. It is a short piece of absolutely delightful music. It was composed by the Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini. It belongs to his string quintet in E major, Op. 13, No. 5. However, due to its immense popularity, the minuet is performed on different combinations of instruments.
Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, and an elder contemporary of Beethoven. He was a prolific composer. His music shows considerable affinity to that of Haydn. He lived in Madrid for a considerable part of his life, and was attached to the royal court of Spain as a chamber composer. Boccherini died in poverty in Madrid in 1805.
Like numerous other souls, I have found immense joy by listening to popular classical pieces like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio and Boccherini’s Minuet. They have often helped me to unwind and get over the stresses of daily life. Intriguingly, such music has also made me wonder how our world would have been if the likes of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert had never lived. Surely, the world would have been immeasurably poorer without them. However, in all probability, we would have still had Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary, Albinoni’s Adagio, and Boccherini’s Minuet, to cheer us up and uplift our spirits.
The Tax Payer and the Tough
By Lynn Ockersz
The tax owed by him to Caesar,
Leaves our retiree aghast…
How is he to foot this bill,
With the few rupees,
He has scraped together over the months,
In a shrinking savings account,
While the fires in his crumbling hearth,
Come to a sputtering halt?
But in the suave villa next door,
Stands a hulk in shiny black and white,
Over a Member of the August House,
Keeping an eagle eye,
Lest the Rep of great renown,
Be besieged by petitioners,
Crying out for respite,
From worries in a hand-to-mouth life,
But this thought our retiree horrifies:
Aren’t his hard-earned rupees,
Merely fattening Caesar and his cohorts?