Young Rosy with Sanath and Athulathmudali

Millions, Billions and How Sri Lanka Converted into Metric System

Mathematical debate has come up in view of the manner the Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake verbally delivered the figures of Colombo Municipal budget. It is important to learn the logic of how she read budget figures, although she has committed errors. We are pretty sure that many of the persons who are laughing at Rosy cannot articulate numbers properly. Converting millions and billions into the local usage of Crore and Laksha is rather difficult.

Sinhala Tamil English Translations and Content Writing

This is how the approximate population of Sri Lanka in figures without segregation of digits. 21440000

As per the old methods, there were thousands, lakhs and crores.Then the above number should be written as 2,14,40,000. Accordingly, the population of Sri Lanka is two crores, fourteen Lakhs, forty thousand.

According to the modern method, media write this number as 21,440,000 (twenty one million four hundred and forty thousand in words).

When the mathematics is taught in schools there are no commas in between digits. The pupils write as 21 440 000.

According to 2017 senses in India, the total number of population is written without separation as 1324171354. Media states 1,324,171,354.

It is articulated as one billion three hundred and twenty four million one hundred and seventy one thousand three hundred and fifty four.

According to the old method, it is written 132,41,71,354 (Hundred and thirty two crores forty one lakhs seventy one thousand three hundred and fifty four in words)

It is difficult to read through different manner, when the figures are on a different order. Therefore necessity arises for us to do away with the old method and to go ahead with the standardized digit system. There is no use to take time to convert Millions & Billion to crores and ten lakhs.

In 1970’s, Sri Lanka converted from old system of measurements of weight, length and volume into metric systems appropriately.

When we were kids, length was measured by inches, feet, yards and miles. Those were converted into centimeter, meter, and kilometer.

Weight was measured by ounces and pounds. There was a local unit called “Seruwa” In Sinhala language. Election propaganda was designed by then so as Sri Lanka Freedom Party campaigners saying, Amma is coming soon and will deliver two“Seruwas” of rice (Ape Amma langa enawa – Hal seru deka denawa). That was to bring Sirimavo Bandaranakake to power. Seruwa which is a local unit to measure grain, was subsequently structured as two pounds. Election manifesto by the United National Party under the leadership of J,R. Jayawardena in 1977 promised to offer eight pounds of grains free of charge. These old system of weighing was smoothly converted into the metric system of grams and kilograms.

Volume was measured by bottles and gallons. One gallon contains six bottles. This was subsequently converted to milliliters and liters and few people still remember gallons.

However, still the old units are used to a certain extent. To measure height, we still use feet and inches mostly instead of centimeters.

It is the duty of the educational and statistic authorities to introduce a standardized system to solve this issue.

Posters were put on inside buses during mid seventies when the metric system was introduced. One such poster said in Sinhala “Lankawa Metric Kramayata Hereyi”. Fun loving school kids then erased the Letter “He” and made it reyi which meant pooping.

Rosy Ramanayake
Rosy Ramanayake

When Sri Lanka converted to metric systems Rosy Senanayake was younger than she appears on this photograph. Then she was Ramanayake not Senanayake. She became Senanayake after the marriage.

In the cover photo onto her left was Sanath Gunathilaka. Lalith Athulathmudali was at the right end. The person behind them is unknown.

Original Sinhala article here. Translated by Rajendra Wijesinghe