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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 confrontation.

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.

Ranjan Amarasinghe


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 monitoring mission.
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!
C. Silva


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 corners.

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 40 years.

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 lacking.

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.

D.M. Balasuriya


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 and dining.

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 afford to.
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 special.

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 accomplished. 

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 its people.”

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 years.

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






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