Ruminative reminiscences of a maverick politician
Through Winds of Fire
Author: Tyronne Fernando PC Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo. 360
Review: Professor Bertram Bastiampillai
Emeritus Professor of History and Political Science, University of
Colombo, One time Visiting Professor - International Affairs University
of Madras Sri Lankan Ombudsman 1995-2006
POLITICS: With an arresting title that invokes a reader's
irresistible curiosity, this book recounts the story of the life and
times of the author so popularly known in Sri Lanka and outside. Ample
illustrations - again the product of the autobiographer adorn the
The writer has subscribed a number of books published in the island
and abroad. All of them inform and instruct making readers more
knowledgeable on a variety of topics, every one of them invariably of
This story of his life and times is invaluably of public interest and
informatively of national importance. The book is introduced with a
Preface which provides an acute insight into the choice of the title
which the author justifies is most appropriate.
The Foreword by Michael J. Beloff QC, an illustrious British product
with so much enviable qualifications, a contemporary of Tyronne
Fernando, and another eminent personality.
However, the famed writer of the Foreword unhesitatingly pronounces,
"I do not flatter or exaggerate when I say that of us all it is Tyronne
who has ascended the highest branches of the tree of life...."
This is among a British Cabinet Minister, an Headmaster of a famous
public school, two eminent Professors of Law and writer of the Foreword,
President of a historic Oxford College.
The writer adds in termination that Tyronne survived unscathed the
"Winds of Fire" and Tyronne's tale has several chapters yet to come,
which beckon the reader's interest.
The book of Tyronne comprises several brief but captivating accounts
of events, enchanting episodes and admirable achievements of his life.
They hold the reader's absorbing enchantment and fulsome interest
throughout. Cautiously and clearly, these concise accounts have been
meaningfully chapterised into twelve sections composed of kindred
material, a challenging well accomplished task.
Aptly the autobiography ends with a very useful bibliography and
index of names which provide a ready reference reckoner to the reader
who has so much to read and digest. The publication has been designed
To make the accounts in chapters clearer to the reader, the author
has attributed fitting titles such as Through the Early Years which
contain Tyronne Fernando's inter alia Student Movements at Oxford,
Anti-Apartheid Movement, Politics of service, and finally an eminently
readable Personal Life.
Then follows Chapter Two, Winds of Fire in Sri Lankan Politics which
comprise gripping encounters and incisive knowledge of D. S. Senanayake,
Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, Sir John Kotelawela Dudley Senanayake, S. W. R.
D. and Mrs. Bandaranaike and Anura, Felix Bandaranaike, J. R.
Jayewardene, A. C. S. Hameed, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Ranil
Wickremesinghe, N. M. Perera and Mahinda Rajapaksa among others in Sri
An analytic approach is evident on Fairplay in Sri Lankan Politics
and there is again yet another serious survey in the article, Bid for UN
Secretary General which appositely ends Chapter Two.
Chapter Three that follows makes the author run along easy in a
versatile style. Of special value and concern one can discern are two
Afro-Asian personalities, Americans, the British and above all an almost
objective self analysis of the writer as Foreign Minister.
The author cleverly encapsulates in simple accounts, the Chinese,
Russians and the French and a myriad of World Personalities. Evidently
much deep acumen and insight has enriched this author's effort along
with his enviable wide knowledge.
This chapter Three and Two which precedes will be discovered to be of
immense importance by those interested in post-independence and
contemporary political, national and public life, more particularly.
The accounts are penned by one who enjoyed a vantage position and was
a participant analyst of significant personalities and the time, but
with commendable detachment.
Chapter four throws much needed light from one who knows of the facts
as a master could. The section treats Colonialism and Encounters with
Racialism, Scourge of Racialism, White Racialism and the author moves to
delve deeply into Puran Appu - a lesson from History is there at length
on Puran Appu and Armed Rebellion, its sequel, and judges vividly but
objectively in the final account a superb meteor in rather contemplative
way. Students of History and Politics have much to learn from this
Chapter Four in a prudent erudite manner.
There is none in the island who could match Tyronne Fernando on Puran
Appu and on knowledge about him.
In Chapter Five the focus is once again on a subject of imperative
relevance to Sri Lanka. It is titled Experiencing Youth Unrest of which
this island has had and has more than its fill.
Suitably, the study begins with creativity of youth and once more
appropriately dwells upon An Awakened Generation, alienated. Thereafter,
Tyronne Fernando runs deeper into the alienation of youth in discussing
their estrangement from Technocracy, the Bureaucracy and finally
A fitting conclusion follows with a relevant thesis towards the Human
Society, an unavoidable need indeed, but postulates more a sure remedy
than mere suppression of the estranged discontent.
The author proceeds to revert attention and industry to the lure of
the Law. Although the son of an outstanding personality who occupied a
coveted place in the superior and exclusive Ceylon Civil Service, gained
through impressionable success at an highly competitive selective
examination, Tyronne Fernando fell a victim to a fascinating but
demanding discipline which promised diligence, hard endeavour and
unending sedulous study, namely Law.
He read rigorously to be finally a Master of the Bench of Gray's Inn
and additionally admirably achieved a MA (Oxon) and rose to be a
President's Counsel, the acme of a legal career indeed!
No wonder then, that Tyronne Fernando turns to Law for separate and
laudable treatment in Chapter Six of his publication that traverses many
varied subjects, all worth one's careful scrutiny, named lured by the
He read avidly of outstanding cases after his legal studies and in
Sri Lanka appeared in famous cases such as in 1968 the Pauline de Croos
trial which was sensational in the Island then. In his account he refers
to many worthy matters of importance and edification to legal or
The article The Law and Day-to-Day Living is brief but good reading:
again on matters pertaining to law. A true saying contained, taken from
Law Court in Europe, is that "democratic societies nowadays find
themselves threatened by highly sophisticated forms of espionage and
terrorism, ..... that the State must be able, in order effectively to
counter such threats ....... undertake the secret surveillance of
subversive elements operating within its jurisdiction".
The contributions in Chapter Seven are well worth and rewarding
studying by those interested in contemporary occurrences in Sri Lanka.
The 1983 riots, the 1987 Accord and the consequences thereafter are
scrupulously surveyed. So are the sections on the Nineties, Talking to
the Tigers, March of Folly and finally Towards a Solution. All these
learned commentaries should be examined closely in view of their
importance and relevance to our years.
Chapter Eight is solely confined to discuss Moratuwa matters and
commences with The Wand of Moratuwa Magic. A number of significant
matters such as 1977 Elections, Protection from the Sea, Carpenters and
Fishermen, Access to Justice and Religious Harmony and other concerns
No one knows Moratuwa as well as Tyronne Fernando does, but his
articles are not merely parochial but are embellished with prudent
thoughts, general importance and reflections on varities.
Chapter Nine that follows is devoted to sport beginning with Cricket,
Cricketing Tours, the 1996 World Cup, Changes at the ICC and Fairplay in
Cricket and like sports matters like Test Matches.
It demonstrates that so much is grist to the mental mill of Tyronne
Fernando whose numerous interests are varied and wide, some quality
which is so rare and appeals to many.
His involvement in Cricket in the volume will surely reach out to and
Inspired by the World of Art and Enlightenment commences with an
article on The Food of God, and continues to concentrate on
enlightenment of people and moves into film on Puran Appu and the
More than the mundane even the metaphysical and non-worldly captured
the keen and uninhibited attention and concerned thinking of the
reflective writer. One wonders how much he knew or could grasp so
Discerning the challenges of Our Times is the theme of Chapter
Eleven. Again one is taken aback for the writer commences his
intellectual exploration with furthering the secrets of the Heavens and
shifts to Accountability to which the author was sincerely and Towards a
Spiritual Revolution follow exhibiting the inseparable deep spiritual
bent of the author that underlay and inspired his life and thought. His
analysis looks inquiringly into other Faiths and not Christianity
His spiritual readings and thoughtful quest for the spiritually
correct is obvious in his deep concern in writings.
Finally the book ends the assemblage and compendium of thought on men
and matters with the ominous title and topic Collectively to the Edge of
Doom. Herein the learned author probes wars among nations, Civil Wars
and Terrorism, Glome Winds of Fire and strikingly and aptly Tsunamis in
the Indian Ocean.
The fickleness of human life, acquisition and advancement must in the
final reckoning prove the frail existence of men and matters which one
has no alternative but to deduce and accept.
The book is elaborately, appropriately, and picturesquely illustrated
to provide a rich exquisitely esoteric variety to look at, that
immensely and appreciably enhances the reader's delight.
The pictures along with the lucid prose that succinctly presents the
versatile selection of themes and subjects in the numerous articles,
some quite brief, furnish on the whole a comprehensive and often
critical review of the contemporary times, mostly. The author is frank
and outspoken of men and events in Sri Lanka and outside.
It is an exceptionally unusual book that could be relished and even
pondered over owing to the views and opinions embodied of one who has
lived, experienced and studied in the contemporary eventful times.
When one summers recollections of present Sri Lanka, the ruminative
reminiscences of Tyronne Fernando will inform one's contemplations,
surely and richly.
Well researched publication on library tradition
Parani Lankawe Potgul Sampradaya
(The Library Tradition of Sri Lanka)
Author: Dr. R.H.I.S. Ranasinghe
(Author Publication) Kelaniya, 2006
Printers: Tranji Printers, Navinna, Maharagama
Review: Prof. J. Tilakasiri
TRADITION: Rarely does one come across a publication on the library
tradition of the old period, a subject which seems to have escaped the
attention of specialists, and yet, deserving of a serious, academic
study when Sinhala and Pali classical literature appeared as a
professional contribution of the elite, cultured scholars of that time.
It is, indeed a welcome addition to our knowledge of the early
efforts made especially by the scholarly monks who dedicated themselves
to the noble task of preserving the oral content of the Buddha Dhamma
gifted to Ceylon for custodianship by the king whom Venerable Mahidna
met on his mission to the island.
At a time when printing and books were unknown it was the essential
duty of the Buddhist clergy to preserve the teachings orally and make it
known later by transferring it to ola manuscripts.
The author of the present study has chosen as her subject of research
the ancient potgul ('book repository') practice covering the periods of
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which have offered reliable and rich
material for a study of the linguistic, literary, religious and also
educational sources relevant for the purpose.
As a senior Librarian of the Kelaniya University, she demonstrates
her competence to carry out the task successfully in the presentation
within eleven (11) chapters, supplemented by relevant appendices of
connected literary works, commentaries (of Pali and Sinhala) lists of
kings, maps, charts, photographs, bibliography and index, as required.
Chapter I deals comprehensively with valuable religious texts, of
equal literary value and provides the foundation for the basis for the
study. The author considers them to be even more important than the
archaeological evidence on account of their present-day survival and
credibility to establish other relevant data.
The two main historical texts, the Mahavamsa and the Dipavamsa,
accepted as faithful records of the events and personalities of the
periods, are reckoned to be of paramount importance for unravelling the
earliest phases of the tradition owing to their connexion with the main
aim of preserving the sacred teachings from the time of their
introduction to the island.
It must also be remembered that the only medium of study and
retention of the contents was the reliance on memory and the easy method
of versification as a suitable aid of conveying it to posterity.
This chapter contains a succinct account of 12 Sinhala texts which
encapsulates the doctrine in summary form and throws light on the
development of Buddhist thought and religion as explained and
interpreted by the authors in texts and commentaries-the wealth of
knowledge thus expressed requiring the construction of a potgul or rural
library for its maintenance and protection.
The manner of presentation of the literary material with appropriate
comment is systematic and owes much to the ability of the author to
commence the analysis of data in the subsequent chapters on that firm
To add to the literary heritage the author refers to the Accounts of
Foreign Travellers from China, a country with which our island had
cordial relations and close connexions on account of common religious
Fa-Hien, the famous itinerant devotee, arrived here and lived for two
years in the Abhayagiriya monastery. Although he was of the Mahayanist
faith he was tolerant and has left a record of the virtuous conduct of
the Theravada monks.
He has also shown his erudition in the study of the Tripataka and had
decided to take along with him their Sanskrit versions.
His statements are taken as reliable evidence (by the author) as the
state of the country and its intellectual attainment in education and
the excellence of the priesthood supposes the maintenance of the potgul
tradition for the promotion of Buddhist values.
Hueng-Sang, the other Chinese traveller's views on the state of the
country are not so important for the study of the tradition, but he was
aware of the progress made from the information given by Buddhist monks
in South India though second-hand, still confirmed the high status of
Buddhist studies in the chief temples.
The third source, archaeological evidence furnished by ruins and
monuments, is adduced in support of the literary evidence and the
statements made by foreign travellers to establish the maintenance of
the traditional preservation of the Buddhist doctrine received from
Systems of study
Chapter II deals with the materials and requisites which were used by
groups in rural parts of the land to acquire the minimum of learning and
organising their ways of living. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism
there had been set up systems of instruction probably under the guidance
of monks and ascetics.
These efforts led to the rise of systems of study and the influence
of Buddhist teachings which facilitated the grasp of the ideas preached
and explained. It was, however, the most important event in their lives
when the message of Buddhism gave them the opportunity to develop a seat
of learning for the monks and the improvement of their living standard
as the pirivena system of education and the potgul tradition went hand
The Buddhist doctrine was later committed to oral learning and
instruction. Finally, opportunities arose to enable the rural
communities to benefit both from Buddhist religious instruction and
expansion of learning and writing of the religious and literary texts.
Chapter III gives an account of the Buddhist sectarian divisions and
the developments and debates leading to the rivalry of the Mahavihara as
the centre of excellence for Theravada Buddhist education as opposed to
the Jetavana and Abhayagiriya monasteries excelling as institutes for
both Mahayana and Theravada systems of education.
Several Pirivenas grew in association of these chief temples and in
the Anuradhapura period, their contribution to the production of
writings, manuals, books and commentaries ushered a period of
accomplishment and intellectual development elevating the standard of
education and training of the clergy. The laity, too, was also inspired
to follow their example.
Many outstanding interpretations and expositions of the Buddhist
concepts and the growth of philosophical writings were helpful in
introducing reforms among the priesthood and offered clarification of
knotty problems of study in the Vinaya and their service to (discipline)
The relations with foreign countries and their scholars in India and
China also contributed to the advancement of higher studies and offered
benefits to both clergy and laity.
Chapter IV relates the details regarding the textualisation of the
Tripitaka and the Sinhala Commentaries, Editions of Texts,
Popularisation of text-writing, the Influence of Buddhist texts and
canonical works and their role in social and economic welfare of the
Chap. V dwells in great detail with the library (potgul) traditions
of the three Great Temples, the Royal Libraries, special, small and
large libraries on specific subjects and Sacred Texts in libraries.
These Libraries were located in Anuradhapura.
Chap. VI throws light on the tendencies and causes that led to the
decline of the potgul tradition such as sect divisions.
Mention is also made of Tamil forces and the oppression by them.
Foreign attacks and the decline of the potgul system, weak kings leading
the country. Signs of decay setting in and the deterioration of moral
standards aggravating the disaster.
Chap. VII brings into focus the events in the Polonnaruwa period and
the rehabilitation of the potgul tradition under the enlightened
patronage of royalty. It was a period of real enlightenment in many
Buddhist institutions were reformed. Monks dedicated themselves to
purify the sasana, writers came to the fore, the Tripitaka was made the
focus of study and relations with Burma established. Potugl, too, earned
a new lease of life.
Chapters VIII - XI covers the Development of Education in the
Polonnaruwa period. Pirivenas flourished and showed progress in various
fields of work. The progress achieved by the elite Laity in Book
production, Text production, both by local writers and foreign
dignitaries was marked. (Chap X) deals with the vast number of potgul in
Temples and Pirivenas, Texts compiled by learned monks and laymen, Royal
Libraries were set up. Foreigners visiting the island to study in potgul
Chap. XI Again the rot set in with the weak monarchs in power,
Foreign troupes of the Kalinga, Pandya and Chola kingdoms (India)
competed to gain power here.
The Magha attacks destroyed the Potgul system completely and the
Monks became the victims and lost their position.
In the final chapter, the author expresses the opinion that although
the fine tradition, maintained despite setbacks during certain periods,
the literary works, both local and foreign, had shown to its credit the
preservation of the Tripitaka texts and the texts compiled during the
A'pura and Polonnaruwa periods, as a distinct achievement of the learned
Sinhala scholars, disturbing signs were evident.
King Parakramabahu I played a leading role in the effort and
attracted foreign scholars, savants in advertising the Potgul medium.
But, it is no doubt lamentable that a combination of causes (referred
to above) leading to the weakness of royalty, the disunity among
chieftains, the growth of Tamil influence and threats of foreign attacks
coupled with the Kalinga invasions brought ruin and degradation.
The Rajarata kingdom which flourished for several centuries owing to
the progress made in the spheres of religions and education eventually
lost its precious position along with the decline of the temples and
pirivenas and their valued library collections as a result of foreign
invasions and occupations of territory.
The author has to be commended for a well-researched publication
taking into account the relevant material from a study of several
sources. The style of the presentation is lucid and the contents is
complete with a select bibliography and other valid references, required