THIRTEEN SAARC CONFERENCE SRI LANKA, AUGUST 2005

The Thirteenth SAARC Writers Conference was held in Sri Lanka in collaboration with Peredeniya University in Kandy on August 13, 14, 15, 2005.

The theme of the Conference was :Understanding Commonality, Respecting Differences : Addressing Crisis in South Asian Literature.

A large number of writer-delegates from all the SAARC countries participated in the Conference. The eminent participants from Sri Lanka included : Prof. Kapila Goonasekara, Vice-Chancellor, Peredeniya University, Prof. Ashley Halpe, Prof. Anuradha Seneviratna, Mr. Siri Gunasinghe, Mr. Prakrama Kodituwakku, and Mrs. Jean Arasanayagam.

The eminent participants from the SAARC countries other than Sri Lanka included : Ms. Kishwar Naheed, Dr. Asif Farrukhi, Mr. Hamid Mir (from Pakistan); Prof. Shridhar Lohani (from Nepal); Mr. Syed Ibrahim and Mr. Ali Shareef (from Maldives); Prof. Shafi Ahmad (from Bangladesh); and Dr. Abid Hussain, Mr. Lalit Mansingh, Prof. Alok Rai, Mrs. Karki Hussain, Prof. I.N. Mukherjee and Ms. Ajeet Cour (from India).

Inaugurating the three-day Conference, Prof. Kapila Goonasekara,

Vice-Chancellor, Peredeniya University, lauded the initiative of FOSWAL in bringing eminent writers and intellectuals of South Asian countries to the University. Articulating the significance of such interactions engaging students, scholars, litterateurs, diplomats and policymakers, he said that the discussions would help pave the way for greater cooperation and collaboration with regard to identifying and editing important literary works from South Asia, publishing anthologies of poetry and fiction, and running the SAARC literary website.

Ms. Ajeet Cour, President, FOSWAL, highlighted the agreements that had been signed between the leaders of India and Sri Lanka as well as the agreement under the SAARC Cultural Cooperation Programme. In this context, she highlighted the role of civil society initiatives in forging linkages among the countries of South Asia in contrast to the State-led and government-driven political initiatives which, she asserted, could not accurately reflect the interests and aspirations of the people at large, particularly of the creative fraternity.

 

Ajeet Cour with other delegates in SAARC Writers Conference in Sri Lanka.

Get-Together at the Conference in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Nihal Rodrigo a painter himself, looking at Arpana Caur’s catalogue of paintings.

Dr. Abid Hussain, a senior diplomat from India, brought out the cultural linkages between India and Sri Lanka. He said that Sri Lankans have been the real custodians of Buddhism while most South Asian countries have several believers in the philosophy of Buddhism. He also added that the use of narrative to illustrate, enlighten, and entertain has been a cultural tool used by the great religious savants as well as the wandering minstrels not only in India and Sri Lanka but in most of the SAARC countries.

Mr. Lalit Mansingh,, while addressing the students, faculty members and writers at Peredeniya University, brought out the interlinkages between India and Sri Lanka. He stated that according to the Buddhist chronicles, the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa, it was Vijaya, a rebellious prince of Kalinga who, with seven hundred followers, landed in Sri Lanka in 544 BC – on the very day the Buddha achieved ‘Parinirvana’. Vijaya carried with him from Kalinga the royal title of ‘Singhala’ – by which name the people and the Kingdom have come to be known since then. Kalinga and Sri Lanka, he added, thus enjoyed a glorious association which lasted nearly two thousand years. The striking similarities between the Singhala and Oriya languages, and common surnames like Nayakas and Singhas provide glimpses of a shared past.

 The Conference sessions focused on the following issues : Cultural Diversity and Civilisational Linkages South Asia – its History, Culture and Religion Identity in Crisis, Crisis as Identity Does regionalisation homogenize differences through hegemony ? Understanding Common Socio- Economic Interests and Mr. Lalit Mansingh addressing the faculty, the students their Cultural and the writers at Peredeniya University, Sri Lanka Derivatives.

 Mr. Lalit Mansingh addresssing the faculty, the Students and the Writers at Peredeniya University, Sri Lanka

 

Understanding Commonality, Recognising Differences. In addition to the sessions there were Panel Discussions of writers as well as country presentations which highlighted the threats to cultural and linguistic diversity.