of the UNP crucial
We see the media interpret facts regarding the major political
parties from their own perspective.
The UNP is depicted as a divided and a fractured party indulging in back
stabbing and promoting self interest or dictatorial and autocratic.
The UNP is one of the two major political parties in Sri Lanka with the
largest voter base as a single party. In this context, it is all the
more important that this party should continue to function intact,
without splits or divisions, but stabilising and strengthen itself
solely to serve the national interest.
With the UNP. it is not a question of the Leader, the Deputy Leader and
the Working Committee of the party, pulling in different directions. It
then becomes difficult for the party to survive democratically, and the
end result may be divisions in the party resulting in crossovers.
Therefore, this major political party needs credible restructuring for
the greater good of the nation. Should we see this party in shambles? No
responsible citizen would like to see a splintered party, especially in
the present national political scenario.
In this regard as a Sri Lankan and as a responsible voter, I wish to
refer to proposals for reforms forwarded by a credible professional
group. These reforms may be relevant and worthwhile, not only for the
UNP but even for the SLFP, which governs the country at present.
In the reforms proposed by one of the Professional Groups, the highly
centralized hierarchy would be changed, broad based and democratized
enabling representation down the line to grass root level. If reforms
could be brought about on these lines, it will definitely avoid fingers
being pointed at the leader calling him dictatorial or accusing the
Party Leader of running the party affairs with a selected group of his
blue eyed boys. In this regard the Professional Group had recommended
that the Leader of the Party and the Key Officials be elected for a six
- year period by an Electoral College.
Another matter for concern is that the Party Constitution has failed to
define clearly, adequately and fully the duties and responsibilities of
the Party Leader and the Key Officials of the party. Amendments should
be made to the constitution to prevent decisions being made by one
individual and by doing so adhoc decisions of any Key Officials of the
party could also be prevented. The position of the General Secretary
being a key position. which is of utmost importance for the healthy
running of the party should be held, as suggested, by an individual with
several years of Parliamentary experience and he should be a senior
member of the party.
With reforms of this nature the party’s decision making process will
become fully representative, democratic and effective. This will also
bring about desirable party discipline, which is imperative to win the
confidence of the voters.
It is essential for all responsible citizens to remember that a
political party is not the property of the politicians or a small group
with vested interests, but is the property of the citizen of the
country, handed down to them from generation to generation through the
Satya Sai Baba: A symbol of peace
The eightieth birth anniversary of Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba falls
on November 23, this year. This great healer is the symbol of universal
faith, who prays for peace among all human beings, irrespective of race,
religion, class or caste.
We have only heard of miracles performed by the founders of various
religions, but in the case of Satya Sai Baba, he is a living, performer
of miracles. It is not surprising that there are many Buddhists who are
devotees of Satya Sai Baba. Many of us are ignorant and unaware of the
healing powers of this great human being.
Satya Sri Sai Baba is the source of spiritual revolution. He describes
this spiritual revolution as a revolution more powerful and pervasive
than any that man has experienced so far. Satya Sai Baba lives at a
period in human history when ‘dharma’ is crumbling because of evil
Once when Sai Baba was asked why he did not appear as a God, he said,
“If you want to save a person who is sinking in water, you should get
into that water. Man can understand God when you appear as man. So to
save humanity you should appear as a human being.”
The true aspect of Swamiji and his teachings is, satya, dharma, shanthi,
prema and ahimsa i.e. Truth, right-conduct, peace, love and
non-violence. If all beings and all nations were to follow these
teachings, then there would be no war, no blood-shed, no strife.
Mangalam guru devaaya, mangalam jnana dhayine,
Mangalam parthi vasaaya, mangalam satya saayine,
May the divine one be auspicious to us,
May the bestower of wisdom be auspicious to us,
May the Lord who manifested in parthi be auspicious to us,
May Bhagavan Satya Sai Baba be auspicious to us.
Lalitha Kala Shiromani
Provincial Councils: A sheer waste of money
Let us first try to understand the reasons for starting provincial
councils in Sri Lanka. The government had already established District
Development Councils (DDCs) based on the twenty five districts
administered by the government agent (GA) who was the most senior civil
servant in the district. He had a number of assistant government agents
administering a part of the district. With the introduction of DDCs a
political head known as District Minister was introduced - some of them
were from far away constituencies and had to operate from the GA’s
office of the district of which he was chief minister. The interest
taken by them was insufficient to have impact on the development process
of the district. This resulted in people who expected to benefit losing
faith and inevitable failure.
District Development Councils were a well thought out political exercise
which was poorly implemented by the politicians appointed to each
district. This failure had an adverse effect in the entire political
system of the Northern Province. Youth were encouraged to agitate by
various political parties and political leaders. Youth formed a number
of militant groups whose members were trained abroad in well-established
training camps, equipped and paid. Some had been trained by the PLO. On
their return to the country they engaged in bank robberies and many acts
of lawlessness including destruction of public property.
The assassination of police officers, local politicians and
administrators forced the government to employ security forces to assist
the police in maintaining law and order. These insurgent groups were
able to operate and move freely as they were operating in home soil and
were very familiar with the layout of the land. Military operations were
conducted throughout terrorist held areas in the North and the East of
the country. They moved to their strongholds and home bases in
Vadamaarachchi. Security Forces carried out a successful operation and
cleared the area from Thondamanar through Velvettithurai to Point Pedro.
Security Forces commenced on the final phase of the campaign ‘OP
Thennamaratchi’ when the food drop arrived escorted by fighter
aircrafts. Orders then went out to Security Forces to stop all military
This was the culmination of a campaign to wipe out terrorism from the
country. The Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka J. N. Dixit in
defense of the air drop said,”….but for whose intervention Prabhakaran
and the LTTE would not have survived the campaign launched against them
by the Sinhalese Government from January to May 1987.”
The Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi arrived with his delegation to
sign the Peace Accord. The Opposition held demonstrations against the
Peace Accord but the government went through with it, which saw the
birth of Provincial Councils.. Our politicians soon got used to the idea
of Provincial Councils. As always they found the system very useful to
them. For a country of our size with a population of 20 million we have:
- 225 members of parliament.
- 80 Cabinet Ministers, Deputy
Ministers, Project Ministers.
- 200 members of Provincial
- 35 Provincial Ministers.
- Provincial Governors and their entourage.
The cost per month at an average of Rs. 500,000 (barest minimum for
private secretary, vehicles for back up, and others etc. adds up to a
staggering Rs. 277.5 million per month) This excludes cost of buildings,
maintenance and additional staff required for provincial councils. This
is a system enforced on us by the peace accord signed to appease the
same terrorists who were trained in India.
Unfortunately for all the trouble taken by Rajiv Gandhi to settle the
problem, it was not only rejected by the terrorists but he had to pay
with his life.
The heavy expenditure in running the Provincial Councils could be better
utilised to improve the living conditions of the people by
rehabilitating the roads, schools, hospitals and other institutions that
The PC administration is unsatisfactory due to the large area which
comes under it. A local government institution should cover a smaller
area such as a district. The earlier DDC would be more suitable with
The head of the DDC can do the work of the District Minister. The GA can
be the administrative head. Each electorate in the district can send an
elected member to the DDC who will also work closely with the AGA.
It is recommended to scrap provincial councils and allocate all the
savings to District Secretaries to develop the districts on a given
programme, such as infra-structure development, mainly roads, including
Main roads and Secondary roads, which are in a dilapidated state and
which cost millions to repair.
General S. C. Ranatunga, (Retd.)
On respecting the vinaya
With reference to the debate on vegetarianism now being discussed in
the newspapers, one reason the Buddha recommended the ‘vas’ retreat for
the monks was to prevent them trampling the fresh blades of grass
shooting up and the tender saplings emerging from the rain-drenched
soil. He supports the ‘vinaya’ rule prohibiting monks from causing harm
or damage to trees and foliage.
A western magazine reported how a lover of plants tested their
perceptive power. Keeping a friend beside his favourite tree, he went
out of sight and began to direct thoughts of hatred towards it – how in
his return he was going to hack it, scrape off the bark, pluck the
leaves and set fire on it.
His friend, standing very close to the tree, felt a pronounced sensation
of fear and horror emanating from it, while its leaves seemed to wilt
imperceptibly. We have heard of seeds watered by ‘well-adjusted’ men
springing into life, while those tended by psychotics remained stunted,
unable to sprout, and do not gardeners swear that after talking softly
to their plants, they were rewarded with magnificent blooms, simply
bursting out in response?
An interesting TV drama showed a professor who was able to attune his
hearing to capture sounds normally out of range of the human ear. Each
time his housekeeper plucked a flower from his garden, he heard its
ear-splitting scream. Unable to bear the universal cries of distress, he
Has nobody wondered why the Buddha did not ask his disciples to go
vegetarian, except for the rule that if it is seen, heard or suspected
that the animal was killed purposely for one, the dish should be
rejected? - Buddhism teaches that a living-being is composed of bodily
form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. Can
anybody deny that a plant has bodily form, feeling and perception at
least? The Buddha could not have condoned feeling and perception? The
Buddha could not have condoned feeding on a lesser life form, while
forbidding consumption of another.
So a disciple who takes the first precept of abstaining from destroying
life, will ensure that his own life will never cause harm to another’s
in honour of the beautiful Buddhist concept of ‘Abhaya Dana’ – the gift
of fearlessness. As plants presumably have only the three
characteristics of bodily form, feeling and perception, as against the
five comprising mental formations (wherein karmic volition is formed
with the capacity to produce its due effect) and consciousness,
pertaining to the two-legged, four-legged, those with wings or fins, it
will always be the plant that is harvested for food by non-carnivores.
If however, they become suddenly endowed, like the professor, with a
sense of hearing so acute, that the shattering shriek of the beetroot,
banana or gotukola plucked from its stalk resounds in their ears,
they’ve had it!
A great loss to the Sasana
Rev. Pandita Mirisse Dhammasiri Thero, the chief incumbent of Yatala
Manik Viharaya, Tissa, Siri Sunanda Tripitaka Piriven Viharaya Mirissa
and Lankaramaya, Ratmalana, passed away on the 8th of this month at the
ripe age of 82 years. He was the chief pupil of the internationally
known and erudite Maha Thera Rev Mirisse Gunasiri Thero who passed away
about forty years ago. Since then the mantle of the teacher fell on Rev
Dhammasiri and he continued the socio religious work initiated by his
Rev. Dhammasiri had his early education at the Mirissa Bilingual School
and then after entering the Order received his pirivena education at the
Vidyaloka Pirivena Galle. He passed his Prachina Pandita Examination
specializing in Tamil and joined the tutorial staff of the Siri Sunanda
Pirivena and subsequently became the Principal of the Institute. Over a
period of nearly a half a century the number of bhikkhus and laymen who
sat at the feet of this erudite monk and drew from his reservoir of
knowledge and experience were many.
Rev Dhammasiri authored a number of scholarly publications.
Sangadhikarana Jotika a commentary on the Vinaya rules in Sinhala is a
much researched work delving into the Vinaya rules and the Commentaries
and deal with a subject about which very little is known among the laity
.It had come to be a very useful document particularly for the monks as
well as the legal community. His most recent work Sirilaka Yatala Manik
Pudabima deals on the Yatala Manik Vehera from its early beginnings up
to the time of its restoration. It is the earliest stupa in Ruhuna and
was built by Prince Mahanaga about the 3rd century B.C. Rev Dhammasiri
in this work has unearthed much information about the stupa which if not
for him would have been still not available to the literary world. For
about 30 years he also contributed to the Budusarana paper under the pen
Rev Dhammasiri was highly respected within the Sangha community. Due to
his exhaustive knowledge in Vinaya rules he was appointed as an
Arbitrator and a Mahopadya of the Ramanna Nikaya.
He led a simple life and was an example to both the laity and the
clergy. He had an abiding interest in the welfare of the people
particularly those of the down trodden. Rev. Dhammasiri devoted much
time in trying to improve their lot socially and economically. To this
end he initiated a number of self employment projects such as textile
weaving, lace making etc in the area .and had a close rapport with the
He leaves behind a number of bhikkhu pupils who will no doubt continue
the good work initiated by him.
As for Rev Dhammasiri it could be said that here was a bhikkhu who
devoted his life for the welfare of the many and the good of the many (Bahu
jana hitaya, bahu jana sukhaya.)
Dr. P.G. Punchihewa
A.J. Canagaratna: A writer, teacher and thinker
A.J. Canagaratna, an intellectual of our time passed away, in Colombo
on the October 11, 2006. AJ was conscious about his deteriorating health
during his last 10 months and the completion of the concluding volume of
the selected writings of Regi Siriwardena had been his raison d’etre.
The first volume, which he edited from war torn Jaffna, was released
during the early part of 2005.
To discharge an undertaking he gave to the management of the
International Centre for Ethnic Studies, to finalise the editing of the
second volume within the time frame, he came to Colombo late last year.
In Colombo he worked extremely hard and saw to it that the book was
released prior to the middle of this year. To AJ the articles contained
in these volumes were a treasure trove for the students of literature
and politics. These selected writings are undoubtedly, a monument to
Regi Siriwardena, a great scholar, with whom AJ associated for over a
quarter of a century.
Alosious Jeyaraj (AJ) Canagaratna was born on of August 26, 1934. It’s
ironic that AJ, a committed socialist, should be a descendent of
Canagaratnam Mudaliyar – known locally as Cangaratna Muthaliyar – a
gentleman who owned large tracts of farmland in Jaffna.
Son of a well-respected Jaffna lawyer, Walter Bernard Cangaratna, AJ
lost his mother at the age of four. Walter Bernard Cangaratna, had a
penchant for western classics and taught English and Latin at St Peter’s
College, Colombo, prior to turning to law.
As a student at St Patrick’s College, Jaffna and St Joseph’s College,
Colombo, AJ excelled in English literature and Latin. When he entered
the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, in 1954 he had only a smattering
of Tamil. It was a friendship he cultivated with a fellow undergraduate,
Kailasapathy (later Professor), who resided in the same hall of
residence, which helped him to get acquainted with modern Tamil
literature. In an article written two decades after Kailasapthy’s death,
he referred to this great friendship that existed between them. In the
same article he also stated it was Prof. Kailasapthy who suggested that
he should develop a rapport with the members of the Progressive Writers
On completion of his English (Hons) course, in 1958 he assumed duties as
a member of the staff at St Patrick’s College, Jaffna. In 1961 AJ joined
the Lake House, which then remained a Wijewardene family concern. Here
he worked as a feature writer on the Daily News, a newspaper widely read
by the upper and the middle-class English speaking public of Sri Lanka –
then Ceylon. However, he didn’t find the new environment congenial, as
he felt the management was telling him not only what to write but also
how to write! To AJ the Lake House was just a ship that passed in the
night. After leaving the Lake House he started teaching in the Eastern
Province. However, in a matter of months, he reluctantly resigned from
the teaching position after accepting an offer as editor of the
Co-operator – a journal run by the northern cooperative movement. He
also had an association with the Saturday Review, a newspaper published
AJ realised the significance of acquainting Tamil youth, not proficient
in English, with developments taking place in various fields. With this
in mind he wrote a series of articles for a Tamil periodical on books
covering a range of disciplines including Economics, Linguistics,
Medicine, Political Science, Cinema, and Sociology which made a
considerable impact in the West. In 1970 a book titled Maththu,
containing a collection of these and several unpublished articles by AJ
was released. Though AJ subscribed to Socialist ideology, the books he
opted to introduce to the Tamil reader represented writers on all sides
of the political spectrum.
In 1976 AJ joined the University of Jaffna as an English Instructor
where he met Regi Siriwardena, a Visiting Lecturer. Regi, an
intellectual par excellence, functioned as an activist for the LSSP
during the period prior to independence. By the time AJ came to know
Regi, he was a person without any party affiliations and worked as an
academic. The newly forged friendship had a huge impact on AJ’s thinking
and his writings. Therefore his writings, during the last three decades,
should be looked at against this backdrop.
AJ took a keen interest in informing the Tamil reading public about
various developments in the Marxist theory of literature. What made him
engage in such an endeavour had been the dearth of material in Tamil on
this discipline. To remedy this inadequacy, at least in a small way, he
translated several articles and sections from books published in English
A collection of articles translated and compiled by AJ titled Marxiamum
Ilakkiyamum: Sila Nokkugal ( Marxism and Literature : Some Perspectives
) was released by a reputed publisher in 1981. Among this collection is
a chapter from Alan Swingewood’s book, The Novel and Revolution. The
chapter written under the heading “Bureaucracy, Socialism and
Literature” by Swingewood, touched on a range of developments that took
place in the Soviet Russia following the 1917 revolution. Here
Swingewood highlights debate within the Communist party as to whether
art should pave the way for a ‘pure culture’ – a culture distanced from
the bourgeois culture which dominated the pre-revolution era. In this
chapter Swingewood refers to various arguments which helped to buttress
theories like modernism, socialist realism and futurism. As a
translator, AJ gave this multi-faceted work to the Tamil reader in a
simple language, while remaining faithful to the original.
Mild mannered by nature he avoided confrontation. He never entertained
the idea of being a card carrying member of any political party. As an
independent person he felt his views had greater leverage. However, when
the situation demanded he never failed to nail his colours to the mast.
In this regard it is worth referring to the performance of ‘Sankaram’ -
a Tamil play - and the ensuing debate where Dr. Shanmugaratnam was
pitted against AJ. The Lanka Guardian provided a forum for this debate
on upholding ‘the primacy of content over form’ – a debate keenly
followed by a wider section of the theatre goers.
My association with AJ goes back to 1958, the period I attended St
Patrick’s College, Jaffna. This was the year after completion of his
special degree in English at Peradeniya, that he came to St Patrick’s
Collge - his old school - as my class teacher. In an article, written to
a journal released by the OBA, Sydney branch, six years ago, I described
AJ, a teacher in the late fifties: “I remember him as a young teacher,
with a stubble on his chin, bursting with energy, introducing us to some
great literary works in an otherwise enervating climate. His outlandish
clothes and outspoken views made him popular among his students. After a
couple of years he took to Journalism, and following the establishment
of the Jaffna University he joined the academic staff. Canagaratna, a
versatile literary critic, continues to live in the war torn area and
guides young writers, to whom he is a tower of strength.”
Though I have been away from Sri Lanka for a long period I maintained
contact with him till his last days. I always found his letters very
informative. Most of his inquires were about literary developments in
Australia. In a letter I received a year back, he indicated his interest
in obtaining a poetry book by the ‘unofficial’ Australian poet laureate,
Les Murray. Needless to mention, a request I readily obliged. To me AJ
was like the proverbial coconut palm which did quench the thirst of the
person who nursed it, as well as the wider community.