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12th September 1999
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Write to be understood

The customer must understand what you are saying. Otherwise it will be Greek to him!

Who's giving this advice - many copywriters would ask. Who else but Professor J. B. Disanayaka, who knows exactly what he is talking about. 

A full house listened to him talk on how to write Sinhala copy for advertisements at a very lively and provocative discussion organised by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing.

He quoted many an instance when the Sinhala in advertisements is totally meaningless. He castigated those who use words merely because they sound nice but do not fit into the product or service. "How on earth can one think of using the name of a popular flower for a canned fish product? Whoever thought of a Sinhala word for 'cupid' for a children's insurance policy?"

Starting off his lecture (the title was 'Are we talking Greek?') by confessing that he knows very little of marketing, he observed that it looks as if the marketing people knew very little of the language. 

Otherwise they would not be writing 'mage udarayata hari 'saumyai'." 

"Have you ever heard any Sinhalese talk like that? Have you ever told your wife that your 'udaraya' feels 'saumyai', he asked. "Your aim is to make the customer buy your product. Then talk to him in a language he understands," he advised.

Just as much as being careful in the choice of words, Professor Disanayaka impressed on the need to pay attention to grammar. "This is an area totally neglected today. If we are so particular about the way we use grammatical English why can't we be conscious of Sinhala grammar too?" he questioned.

Care for our values

Professor Disanayaka dwelt at length on the need to care for our values in our marketing operations. "Always remember the family values which we cherish. Don't ever sacrifice ethical and moral values in society to earn quick money," he warned marketers. "Remember that money is not everything. Marketers should not be thinking of the profit motive all the time, ignoring accepted traditional values," he stressed. 

"Why should we degrade the lion symbol which, as a nation we are so proud of, by so loosely using it to advertise liquor? Do we have to exhibit the thighs of females to advertise tyres? Isn't this exploiting women?" he asked.

The millennium

Professor Disanayaka was sure that not many care to understand when the new millennium would begin. He went on to analyse that it will be from the year 2001 and not 2000. He was fully supportive of Sir Arthur Clarke's argument. 

"To add to the confusion, Sinhala writers are talking about 'Sahasra Varshaya' . They refer to challenges in the 'Sahasra Varshaya'. When the Sinhala term 'Sahasra' means 'one thousand ' how can there be a 'Thousandth Year'? Just as much as 'Shathaka' means 'one hundred', 'Sahasra' means 'one thousand'," he explained.

Over a 1000 books

Writing over a thousand books (1008 to be exact) is certainly not an easy task. But that's what fiction writer Deeman Ananda has achieved. The 1009th will be out next Tuesday. Titled 'Seda Sulanga' it relates a story set during the era of terror.

Deeman Ananda's name has been synonymous with the Sinhala mystery novel for over four decades. He introduced the Sinhala reader to thrillers which was a popular form of reading among the English speaking middle classes. He introduced a detective similar to one found in the English novels. Dilie Weerakoon was his name and he was there from Deeman Ananda's first effort 'Gangthera Holmana' onwards. ('Mineemaru Javarama' was his second book).

How did he get interested in this type of writing? In the fifties, he used to go to Hulftsdorp and while away the time listening to cases. "I was fascinated by the way big names in the legal field argued. I realised there was much more to a case than what could be seen on the surface. This prompted me to start exploring and writing what came to be popularly known as 'Maraka Katha'. He was also influenced by the western thrillers popular at the time.

Just after school, Deeman Ananda translated Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. 

"I was a novice. No one was interested in publishing it, so I threw it away and thought of becoming a journalist," he says. He served as a cinema reporter in the first newspaper in Sinhala on cinema - 'Cinema' edited by Robert Jayawardena.

Publisher Dayawansa Jayakody believes that there isn't another writer in Asia to equal Deeman Ananda's record of writing over a thousand books. 

He invites the public to participate in the launch of Ananda's latest work at his customary Tuesday book launch.

Book review - Reviewed by Prof. Bertram Bastiampillai

Irish lessons of peace

Re-Imagining Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland Insights, Edited by M. Somasundram, Colombo, International Centre, for Ethnic Studies. 

This impressive book comprises the contributions of five writers, headed by an introduction by the editor, while the second part consists of a large number of appendices. All contributors are learned and eminent as the articles in the collection demonstrate, but the assembly of the material in the second part - of numerous documents, statements, speeches etc., - shows that they are of uneven value, interest and relevance.

The introduction is vigorous, passionately crafted and makes the points which the author aims to drive deeply and extremely saliently. The writer, a percipient student of contemporary affairs, provides the reader with an absorbing account of events past, and makes one clearly understand the present unfortunate protracted, violence-ridden ethnic conflict. 

Minister of Justice G.L. Peiris in Chapter I identifies the 15 issues of the Northern Ireland Agreement relevant to Sri Lanka and, through the course of a lucid and analytical discussion, indicates how they could inform and influence an attempt to solve the unending ethnic strife that has ravaged Sri Lanka. 

The second chapter adapted from a talk on September 5, 1998 in Sri Lanka by Prof. Thomas G. Frazer on "the Northern Ireland Agreement as a Model for Divided Societies" is thoroughly knowledgeable and well-informed. Two sovereign governments of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, most political parties in Northern Ireland embracing different ideologies and above all representing two traditions that had been uncompromisingly hostile to one another for almost hundred years; and more significantly three political parties of armed groups that had been engaged in violent confrontation for three decades, surprisingly, reached an agreement. 

But it was after experiencing so much loss of lives and money that wisdom dawned and an agreement was arrived at. Short summaries of earlier attempts at peace making and the causes that provided the impetus to the more successful contemporary peace process are outlined. More valuable to a reader in Sri Lanka, is the identification of the vital ingredients which presently form the basis that impelled a political and constitutional compromise. The writer has coherently indicated how useful the Northern Ireland Agreement could be as a model to reach peace in other split societies.

Chapter 3 by Carmel Roulston analyses the role and significance of women in the peace process. 

The writer, after an interesting discussion concludes, the voices of women were brought to the negotiations and were allowed to be makers of history in Ireland.A remarkable and exceptionally interesting chapter to be read.

Somasunderam has authored Chapter 4, "The Northern Ireland Agreement: Thimpu Principles Applied to a Society with Two Mind Sets"? Again the writer presents his point of view forcefully and backs up his arguments with evidence and example.

In the first part of his essay he scrutinises governance, the two mind sets, the Northern Ireland Agreement and the vicissitudes to which negotiations were subjected over years; nevertheless they were persevered with. 

The second part beginning with section 5 on "Thimpu Principles", traces the story of the rejection of these principles by the Sri Lankan government's delegation as they would destroy "an united Sri Lanka" and were "inimical to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka". In his short conclusion Somasunderam emphasises the relevance to Sri Lanka of the Northern Ireland Agreement, refers to the insights it offers, and avers that Sri Lanka could benefit using them to create an opportunity to negotiate a peace if the opportunity were only grasped.

Chapter 5 by J. Charitha Ratwatte is again another study on "Issues from the Northern Ireland Experience: Relevance to Sri Lanka Considered". 

He traces how the conflict in Ireland reached a frustrating stalemate and how meaningless it had turned out to many, especially women and children. As a contrast, he points out that the conflict in Sri Lanka, still according to different points of view, is not so and it is believed that the Tigers could be coerced to talk. This section treats the differences in regard to devolution and in this respect the imperative to formulate a "pragmatic and practical India policy based on Sri Lanka's national self interest" is correctly pointed out.

The other sections deal with international support, the role of businessmen and pose the question "are there minorities in Northern Ireland?". The Protestants and Catholics are almost numerically equal. Ratwatte proceeds to discuss, in other sections that follow, equally valuable issues in a useful comparative manner.

The chapter ends with the question "Can our erstwhile politicians make the sacrifices that have been made in Belfast?" This is a valuable, well written and fascinating account. 

The appendices will be of use to those who look for easy and ready references to documents, statements and similar materials connected to the theme of this fine book. 

This book has compressed good and informative reading on a topical subject within its pages, is readable, well informed and has logically presented chapters. 

As the contributors to the study make out in a reasoned manner, to re-imagine Sri Lankan intelligent imagination, prudent vision and courageous decision making - from popular to political levels - remain the crying need.

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