Bandaranaike, nationalism and repetition of history

By Gihan Indraguptha
“Where did we go wrong?” is a question asked by many trying to fathom why a country such as ours that gained independence with much promise ended up in a caldron of violence. Some blame the official languages policy while others believe the moment it all went wrong was Black July. The “defining moment” of our country’s current catastrophe may differ depending on the political tinted glass one wishes to wear. Though the various arguments as to who should be blamed would rage on as long as the conflict in our country continues it may be argued that it all began in not-so-dramatic fashion many years ago when the then leaders of our young democracy could not resist the temptation to use racial differences as a means to fulfil their political desires.
It would be wrong to say that Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike created the ethnic conflict. It would most definitely be unfair to accuse the man who advocated federalism way back in 1926 and almost delivered on his promise after becoming Prime Minister to be accused of such a grave crime. If at all, his crime was like many of his generation the inability to resist the temptation to use communal politics to further his ambitions. In what may be a historical parallel to the current politics, SWRD “did what he had to do” to come in to power, knowing very well that some of the promises given during the election had to remain promises. Thus the man who rode a nationalistic wave of popularity was hammering out a devolution model with the Federal Party before long.
Something even his political rivals would find difficult to disagree with is that Bandaranaike was a man who sensed the pulse of the people of his country. Even though he was far removed from the average citizen of his native land, he had a remarkable ability to grasp the sensitivities of the people. Though belonging to the ruling elite, Bandaranaike felt the anxieties of the common people and their impatience at the failure to be delivered the prosperity they were promised at independence. Accordingly the shrewd Bandaranaike championed the cause of the people who were looking for a leader to rally their needs. The man who was brought up more like an English gentleman, ended up taking the national dress for his attire though many believed that he wore a trouser underneath. The same man who could not speak a word of Sinhala when he returned from England after attending Oxford, later championed the cause of making Sinhala the official language. Bandaranaike was not all about the image. He may have been stuck between his Western upbringing and Eastern values, but the man did make monumental changes in the country, from which we still reap the benefits.
Many would have varying opinions on the policies of Bandaranaike and their impact on the country. One thing though is certain. The senior Bandaranaike made a lasting impact on the nation during his three years as leader than his younger daughter did with her 11 years at the helm. This was indeed a time of revolution. The Oxford educated Prime Minister redirected the country’s economy on a whole new path, trusting a socialist model of development rather than the then existent capitalist policies. Several key sectors in the economy were nationalised with the hope of equitable distribution of wealth while safeguarding the rights of the employees with the introduction of the Employees Provident Fund. The mobilisation of the Pancha Maha Balawegaya - the five fold force once again gave a sense of pride and belonging to the common man about his country and its affairs. The education policy of Bandaranaike opened up various avenues of higher learning to rural youth who till then were deprived of the luxury of tertiary education. He leaned his foreign policy towards the socialist bloc, breaking several ties which previous administrations had developed with the West. The close relationships which were nurtured with countries like India, China and the Soviet Union resulted in many economic advantages which helped the country’s industrial and agricultural sectors.
The Bandaranaike legacy though would be tainted with his policy to make Sinhala the official language of the land. Many conveniently forget that the policy was first advocated by J.R. Jayewardene in 1943. It is also often forgotten the context within which it was introduced. It was at a time when the affairs of the state were conducted in English when that language was alien to over 90% of the population. However the policy resulted in the first ethnic violence of post independent Ceylon, and laid the seeds of discontent among the Tamil community which later bore the fruits of wrath.
Interestingly, nearly 50 years since the death of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, history seems to be providing many parallels with the current incumbent who also rode a popular wave of nationalism to ensure election victory. Just like Bandaranaike, the current leader too had to rely on nationalist parties to gain power. However, after taking over as Head of State, just like Bandaranaike, the current President has realised that realities of governing are quite different from the rhetoric of elections. Just as Bandaranaike- the “nationalist” was offering devolution to Tamil political parties, the “hardline” Rajapaksa is now offering meaningful devolution to the minorities. While many believed that the Bandaranaike era ended with the recently concluded Presidential election, it is indeed ironical that in fact the recent election may have ushered in another Bandaranaike era though by a different name. There maybe many comparisons between the S.W.R.D. administration and the current one. However one parallel most definitely is hopefully not repeated. S.W.R.D. was eventually killed by the same forces which propelled him to power. These same forces which were promised a utopian state by Bandaranaike, felt betrayed after few years. His seemingly zealous overtures towards the minorities were considered a betrayal of the promises he made before coming to power. Bandaranaike paid with his life for his deviation from the professed path. We sincerely hope his current torch bearer will not meet a similar fate for his pragmatism.


World Animals Day falls on October 4
Taxis for our furry friends

Text and pix by Randima Attygalle
“Animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions, pass no criticism.” Words of George Eliot are justified in reality at PetsVcare Animal Hospital chain and its Mobile Veterinary and Pet Taxi Service- Sri Lanka’s first, dedicated to enhance the quality of your best friend’s life. With its main hospital located at a quiet corner in Colombo, PetsVcare’s branches are housed in Dematagoda and Moratuwa. Indoor-treatment, pharmaceutical and laboratory facilities, nutritional counselling, special care including dental scaling, skin grooming, ECG and ultra-sound scanning, pest controlling and providing pet food and accessories are some of the innovative tailor-made services which come under the purview of PetsVcare.
“We are committed to uplift the quality of life of any animal that comes to us, providing them with best of modern veterinary care,” explained Dr. Rohana Hettiarachchi, Veterinary Surgeon of PetsVcare, about the main objective of their organisation. According to Dr. Hettiarachchi, mobile veterinary services which include pet taxi services as well, is relatively a novel concept to many Asian countries including Sri Lanka. “Unlike in many European countries, mobile veterinary care and pet taxi service is a new experience to us, although it’s becoming increasingly popular,” elaborated Dr. Hettiarachchi adding that any pet owner has access to their mobile service and pet taxi irrespective of the location. “Our staff which comprises a team of vets and specially trained animal handlers is available around the clock to be of any assistance which includes ambulatory services in emergency cases and veterinary house-call services which include sickness examinations and vaccinations,” elaborated Dr. Hettiarachchi.
With its five well-equipped ambulances operating 24 hours-a-day, PetsVcare’s mobile veterinary and the pet-taxi service assures your pet of a comfortable ride in a ‘homely’ setting complemented with cozy cages, bedding, pet-treats bar, food and water! Apart from transporting your pet to any PetsVcare Animal Hospital or a veterinary clinic of your choice, Pet Taxi Service also moves it to a relative whilst you are out of town, arrange pick-ups and delivery to your holiday resort and even pick it up from the airport. “In order to make it a comfortable experience for the pet, both out mobile veterinary service and Pet-taxis ensure to set up its familiar atmosphere allowing them to be accompanied by the owners,” explained Dr. Hettiarachchi adding that even in case of ‘warded pets’ receiving indoor medical treatment at their hospitals, it is so, permitting them to visit their pets and feed them with meals of their choice.
“What is special about our services is that we are accessible to both domestic and large animals alike,” stressed Dr. Hettiarachchi adding that even ornamental fish and birds receive their expertise service. Monitored by a team of experienced vets in the field, PetsVcare also offers personalized services such as dental scaling, Electro Surgery, Ultrasound scanning, ECG and skin care which are designed by means of progressive medical technology. “Heart failure is common among many animals after ten years, thus our ECG facility helps detect heart-ailments and skin care is available in case of rashes and other related disorders,” explained Dr. Hettiarachchi.
Pest Control and garden spraying is also an area of focus by PetsVcare as a preventive measure to ensure a pest-free environment for both pets and pet-lovers alike. Stressing on the importance of preventive care, Dr. Hettiarachchi said, “in addition to nourishment, worm treatment and vaccinations are vital as certain diseases like Rabies, Parvo and distemper can be fatal.” Introduction of Pet Identification Microchips is another timely measure initiated by PetsVcare. Imported from Germany, this involves inserting a bio-compatible microchip under the animal’s skin which grants the animal with an alphanumerical number (universal) unique to it, so that in case of accident or loss of a pet, identification is expedited. “The insertion of this chip is totally painless and scanning of it determines the personal record of the animal,” explained Dr. Hettiarachchi who added that PetsVcare has donated such a scanner to the Dog Pound of the Colombo Municipality for identification purposes.
Talking about the challenges encountered in pet-welfare, Dr. Hettiarachchi said, “unlike in human-diagnosis, where physicians can extract information from the patient, in the case of veterinary care, we have to depend on symptoms and the case history of animal.” According to Dr. Hettiarachchi, maintaining a record of the history of the pet is vital for accurate treatment. “Unfortunately this is something grossly neglected by most local pet owners, thus we have introduced a data base for all our ‘patients’ so that in case of an illness, extracting its history is possible,” explained he adding that it is the responsibility of all pet owners to ensure the well-being of their pets as they too are ‘part of family.’