Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to
the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to
appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.
Let’s find a peaceful solution to the ethnic problem
In Sri Lanka, the whole country is virtually on a war footing, with the
intensification of the confrontation between Sri Lankan troops and the much
maligned LTTE cadres, so that frequent checks at army-checkpoints by
gun-carrying soldiers have become a visible reality, which the citizenry is
asked to come to terms with, submissively, without raising any protest. In this
tense environment is the peace lobby, whose strident cry seeking somewhat
vociferously, a just solution, to the cankerous ethnic problem, has been
effectively stifled with deadly threats of bodily harm and annihilation.
Furthermore, they are condemned by powerful political leaders as traitors with
vested interests, which should not be accepted, without proper investigation
carried out by a duly formed Court of Law.
Notwithstanding frequently made accusations, very specially by some politicians
of the ruling party, that a number of INGO’s and NGO’s are covertly and overtly
partial to the LTTE, it has to be admitted that they can play a crucial role in
reaching a consensus between the two arch rivals, once their credentials are
established. In the reconciliation process of building bridges of trust between
these two warring parties, a neutral party can undoubtedly play a positive role.
The military gains, achieved very specially by the gallant soldiers of the Sri
Lankan forces in the Eastern Province, at a heavy cost, should not be stranded
in a quagmire, blinded by a false euphoria or illusions of vanquishing the
deadly LTTE outfit in a short-term, without incurring heavy causalities, not
only to soldiers who are actively engaged in the battlefield but also to the
civilians, who are destined to perish, caught up unarmed, in the fierce
It is in this set-up that the need arises, which is of paramount importance, in
considering an alternative which can effectively halt the war situation, which
is bound to fail without total commitment and sacrifice on the part of the whole
populace in the country.
Ironically, the ramifications of the ethnic problem, is already manifest in our
body politic, in which dastardly acts of violence are given a mandate as a
praise-worthy way of avenging one’s real or imaginary foes.
It is in this context, one can point out the phenomenon of underground
characters who have gained a lot of clout in our recent history, as they are
shamelessly patronized by members of powerful political parties, with a view to
intimidate and destroy their political rivals. In this juggernaut, not only some
of the ambitious politicians, but also their mighty siblings, frequently go on
rampaging, very specifically at popular night-clubs, causing heavy damage to
property and injury to their perceived enemies.
In any country, in which violence and destruction is given legitimacy, the
faculties of rationality are thrown overboard, in preference to perpetuation of
violence in nefarious forms, and in gaudy display, threatening menacingly to
stifle the tenets of democratic norms of life with impudence. In this climax of
mayhem and destruction, the cardinal responsibility of intellectuals, inclusive
of academics, writers and journalists, should not be underestimated, for they
must play a historical role, taking a vanguard position, striving hard to raise
their voice in unison, against powerful forces of nepotism, corruption and
against irrational forces hell-bent on perpetuating violence, with a view to
achieving their set targets. In such an environment, it is imperative that we do
our best, collectively, ensuring the tenets of democracy are safe guarded,
which, after all, are enshrined in our very constitution. Consequently, it would
harbinger fruitful results, as we, being tolerant and accommodative, would be in
a position to welcome dissent and diverse views, without any rancour or ill
will. It would undoubtedly pave the way in establishing harmonious relationships
among all ethnic groups thus enabling us to reach a peaceful settlement to the
prolonged ethnic problem.
Send the Nordic monitors home
The resent visit to LTTE-held areas by diplomat Bjarni Vestmann, who it seems,
took a ride with the truce monitors of Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission has exposed
the failure of this Mission to keep to their remit of the Cease Fire Agreement.
I have, on several occasions, questioned as to why we have allowed facilitators
and monitors to come from the same country or region and I have never been happy
with the Norwegians and their involvement in this ongoing episode. It seems to
me that these Nordic countries have sympathy towards the LTTE, and the Tamil
people as a whole and we Sinhalese are viewed with suspicion. This is due to the
effective and concerted propaganda carried out by the LTTE representatives in
these Nordic countries from the very outset.
Let’s not forget that Norway has yet to proscribe the LTTE and its current
Foreign Minister fought hard against the LTTE proscription by the EU. Many of us
in the diaspora, including Tamils, have maintained that the Sri Lanka Government
should never have agreed to Norway’s involvement nor should it have agreed to
Nordic countries’ involvement as monitors.
Personally, I would welcome severing of all ties with Norway and asking the
current monitors to leave. We should consider getting another country from the
Asia-Pacific region as new facilitators and look to a third country to staff the
Should we continue to keep our ties with these Nordic countries, let us not have
them involved in this ongoing conflict. This episode highlights one salient fact
– these Nordic countries cannot be trusted!
Can law be broken in the name of religion?
‘Imposition of, and by, sound:’ This is how I term the incessant, loud,
indecipherable and meaningless incantations that emanate from the Buddhist
temple loudspeakers and the loudspeakers near the Buddha statues at street
If these loud and intrusive sounds are meant to drown out every other sound and
promote Buddhist principles as the loudest, and therefore the best, then they
have succeeded partly. Yet, this is certainly at the expense of a large
minority, if not the majority, who are irritated, disturbed and annoyed at the
nuisance these loudspeakers cause.
The original offenders, since it is an offence, were the mosques, with their
early morning call to prayer. Since such devices did not exist in the times of
the prophet, its usage, though initially an advantage has now lost its
relevance. It is the same with other purportedly religious cacophony.
The modern-day provides for personal options when practicing religion without
intruding into others’ lives. The radio, TV, CD, DVD and other forms of
electronic media provide access to any religion at any time. Why then, anyone
need loudspeakers? Early morning bana has been available on radio for well nigh
It is a statement that reverberates very loud and clear that the law can be
broken in the name of religion. I cannot single out Buddhists or Muslims.
Christians, of various denominations, too during times of feasts and other
merrymaking and observances use loudspeakers, without concern to the public at
large, as do the Hindus, but to a lesser degree.
Using loudspeakers in the name of religion, therefore, becomes a common factor,
most significant being that the majority appears to impose their will on the
minorities, as was done similarly with language some time back. The result of
which is now evident. Can we not learn from our mistakes?
If the government departments propagate the use of loudspeakers for their
routine functions, it then becomes de facto. Offending sounds come in various
forms, in addition to religious use; lottery vendors, loud radio use by
neighbours, dogs, vehicle air horns and exhausts, musical shows and of course
industrial noises from various factories.
It is basically their levels that are offensive and a nuisance. Laws to
prosecute such nuisances are available, though their enforcement is visibly
It must also be noted that all of these sounds, especially loudspeakers, are
offensive not only to humans but to the avifauna as well. I would invite
scientific conformation of this.
Indiscriminate use of loudspeakers and proliferation of sound without concern to
others is uncivilised, besides being illegal. I would welcome any enactments
that ban the use of loudspeakers, and I exhort the government to first show
intent by enforcing the already existing nuisance laws.
Sacrifices --- are they only for the public?
H.E. the President very correctly announced, during his 2007 Budget speech that
all Sri Lankans have to make a certain amount of sacrifices during this
difficult period, especially with the ongoing war against the LTTE and the ever
rising world prices of crude oil and food stuff.
But, the irony is, that all politicians are having a fantastic time at the
expense of the tax payers, when really a good majority of the population is
finding it really difficult to make ends meet.
Take for instance, the luxury vehicles the politicians move around in. Not with
just one for each, but a fleet of them. The moment they get elected their first
priority is to fight for their limousine. These luxury cars and jeeps, with
powerful engines do not travel more than 4 or 5 km per liter of fuel. What a
crime! Is it a must that these servants of ours have to run in these luxury
vehicles? Why can’t they travel in brand new ordinary vehicles? Any engine up to
1500 cc. fuel is so expensive and these vehicles for the whole lot costs
billions of tax payers hard earned money. The country is facing so many problems
and these politicians, voted into Parliament by us are having a rollicking time.
Why can’t they take an example from India where even the highest in the country
travels in the Indian made Ambassador car and nothing more?
Then, take the amount of globe trotting all of them do. They travel in the best
class in the flight, and stay at the most expensive hotel with the best of wine
Once again, we poor tax payers have to pay for all this. Aren’t these types
guilty of what they are doing? They are so thick skinned, they take all these
luxuries as their legitimate right. Some of them are even accompanied by their
spouses, on shopping sprees and for that too, we pay.
Are these the sacrifices they are making for the country? Aren’t these
politicians guilty of a grave crime? Here the country is going through a really
difficult time with the cost of living sky rocketing like nobody’s business and
these politicians are doing the grand. The poor citizens of the country are
burdened with all sorts of taxes, (only the air we breathe just now is not
taxed). Food shortages, no milk food, essential drugs are so expensive, public
transport in a very sorry state, poor wages, horrible road conditions, just to
mention a few hardships the citizens are undergoing. And, the ministers and
parliamentarians are having the very best of every thing. Is it fair? We poor
citizens suffer for them to have all these luxuries.
This is typical of one time ‘Big Dada’ Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda. Those in
power had the best of everything, when the poor citizens could hardly afford a
square meal a day.
Power has really corrupted these servants of ours.
Is this why we voted these people in to Parliament? Are these politicians
serving themselves or the people of this country? Can they afford all this, when
the whole country is struggling for mere survival?
It is best if this lot sets the example and leads the way. He, the President,
should set the example so that others will follow.
Think of thy country before thinking of thyself. We are ready to sacrifice, in
fact, a good majority of us are really sacrificing much more than we could
Brig. (Retd) Neville Fernando
Sam de Silva: the quintessential gentleman
Defining the quintessential noble is never easy, but Sam de Silva makes it so.
He was, to me, the embodiment of all that is noble and good in a human being. I
first got to know Uncle Sam through his son, Aravinda, and I mean Aravinda my
friend and not the cricketer. Uncle Sam and I quickly established a close
rapport and he remained one of my closest friends until his demise last week.
My friendship with Uncle Sam was so strong that I used to spend most of my
Friday and Saturday evenings with him back in the old days. This often prompted
Aravinda to make fun of me, wanting to know how I could spend my Fridays and
Saturdays with someone much older than me: even his son found it difficult to
comprehend the bond we shared. Sam had the unique ability to relate to people
of all ages, from all walks of life and, more importantly, he always stood by
his friends, particularly in times of crisis.
It is said that the best time to figure out who your friends are is when the
chips are down. Well, that’s exactly when Sam was always around. You could count
on it – he was always there when you needed someone! I once went through a very
bad time and, without my even asking him, Sam gave me his vehicle to use until I
got my own. From time to time, Sam would come around to borrow the vehicle and
it was only much later I learnt that his reason for doing this was to fill it up
with petrol. That was just one of the unique qualities that made him so
Sam was extremely proud of his two children. When I visited him the Sunday
before he died, from the way he spoke with me, I knew he had already made his
peace with destiny; he was ready to accept the inevitable. He told me how happy
he was about what he had achieved in his life and proudly said he had produced a
son who was the best batsman in the world and a daughter who was competent
enough to hold her own anywhere. I recall how before each match that Aravinda
played, recognising human frailty, Sam would go to Bellanwila, asking for divine
assistance in the task his son was set to accomplish. I would often accompany
Sam on these occasions. It was Sam who, as a father, helped Aravinda to
understand and utilise his true potential to the fullest.
Sam believed that in life, all one had to do was to be brave and the rest would
follow. He was a dedicated Buddhist and remained true to the intrinsic tenets of
Buddhism all his life. I went to see him again on Tuesday, little knowing I
would never see him alive again. He held my hand for a long while. In my heart I
knew he was saying his goodbye, but even then, I still hoped against hope that
it was not true. My mind said I had to accept it but my heart did not want
to. How does one accept that one of your closest friends must leave you for
pastures unknown, that the unassuming must pass into the unknown?
Sam was a self-made man – he set many goals for himself and unerringly achieved
every single one of them. Sam de Silva was a popular personality not because he
was Aravinda’s father but because he was a rare human being. He always went that
extra mile for people, was always able to walk in their shoes. His time
management was unique. He exuded tremendous energy, had amazing endurance;
better still, helping people was his raison d’etre.
His two grandchildren, Sathya and Sampras comprised the proverbial light of his
life; he adored them and remained very proud of every little thing they
Sam celebrated life; he loved the joy of life and living but remained in essence
a simple man. When I was Aravinda’s flat-mate, I once heard them having a huge
argument, with Sam screaming his head off and it was all because he was trying
to convince Aravinda that he wanted a small car and not the Volvo that Aravinda
had got him. If Sam lacked anything it was patience, but his sterling qualities
more than made up for it.
Sam was every man’s friend and the crowds who flocked to pay their last respects
to him testified to this– from the trishaw drivers, supermarket cashiers, to the
corporate giants, world renowned cricketers and the man on the street, he was
known and loved by all.
When the epitaphs have all been written about this man among men, one will
surely remain, and I’d like to quote E.B. White on John F. Kennedy: “It can
truly be said of him as of few men in like position, that he did not fear the
wind nor trim the sails, but instead challenged the wind itself to improve its
direction and cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the nation and
You will be greatly missed, Uncle Sam. May your gentle soul rest in peace.
- Krishantha Prasad Cooray
Elina Jayewardene: Born to guide,
comfort and command
Elina Bandara Jayewardene is no more. Born Elina Rupasinghe, she married Junius
Richard Jayewardene and despite being the First Lady from 1978 until President
Jayewardene retired in 1989, she led her life in a truly characteristic, simple
unassuming fashion. The writer has known the Jayewardene family from childhood
and it can be confidently said that Aunty Elin, as she was affectionately
called, has, in the history of our nation, inspired much genuine affection and
respect in the hearts of the people.
To have known her is undoubtedly to have loved her. But even to those who have
not had the privilege of associating with her closely, as I have, she has
through the years become a symbol of serenity, simplicity and sincerity, which
together form the very essence of humanity.
The inner glow and radiance which always lit up her face was proof that she was
a person who felt intensely for people. This is evident in only a truly good
person who spends much of her time in helping people in need, and always found
time for others.
Elina Jayewardene was a person who also showed that it was possible for wives of
politicians to be impeccably elegant in their dress whilst retaining their
simplicity. In her service to the people, she had an almost solemn sense of
profound dedication to any cause that she believed in. This was one of the
qualities responsible for bringing her to the pinnacle of power and influence.
She was living proof that a genuine person who sticks to her beliefs and
principles can be a major influence in the making of a nation’s history.
Through the inevitable tides of President Jayewardene’s political life she stuck
firmly by his side, giving him the strength and inspiration he required to reach
the height of success.
As in the old saying, “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” I am
certain, President Jayewardene in retrospect would have been the first to say
that almost every great triumph and every great success he achieved was, in
great measure, thanks to his choice of partner until the end.
She spent a lot of her time in the service of the less fortunate. She had done
so long before she became wife of the first elected president of Sri Lanka,
unheralded and without pomp and glory.
She was unflinchingly loyal to old friends, finding time to visit them all. She
would always be available to see anyone who wanted to see her in her home,
Braemar, which has always been a hallmark of delight to any visitor through the
Although it has been said many times in the past, I say it again – a perfect
woman, nobly planned to guide, comfort and command.
Aunty Elin, you are no longer in our midst but you will always be remembered
with love and affection and your memory will remain in our hearts till we meet
again someday in that land beyond – Goodbye!
– Bryan Nicholas