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                                            Priyanka’s visiting Nalini in Vellore gaol                                                    

               THE FAME GAME             

By A. Kandappah
There is much speculation, both in India and Sri Lanka, about the recent visit of Sonia-Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka to Vellore jail to speak to one of the many alleged co-conspirators in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case – Nalini.
Priyanka explained her visit as purely to learn at first hand the thoughts of Nalini, since alleged killer Dhanu, who could have provided the needed information, perished with Rajiv Gandhi. Notoriously theatrical and eccentric Subramaniam Swamy has shrieked he will go to Courts “on this improper and illegal visit” to one of the alleged killers of the much-loved ex-Indian Prime Minister.

From all accounts, it appears nothing new has come out of the visit and the most Nalini has conceded was that she knew of no conspiracy before-hand to kill Rajiv Gandhi. She probably was telling the truth. After all, she was a mere pawn in an elaborate conspiracy that probably had multiple roots. She confessed she suspected something “funny” was to take place only seconds before the blast.

The same visit could have been done sans publicity and discreetly. Yet, it was done in the full glare of publicity. Why? One can only speculate, in view of the in-fighting that has characterised the immediate Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi families over the years. It is well known that Indira was at logger-heads with her aunt – Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister Vjayalakshmi Pandit. Indira Gandhi also could not see eye to eye with Sanjay’s widow Menaka – who eventually defected to the BJP camp.

Until Raul came into the scene, it was widely believed that Priyanka will be groomed for the top job. She looked so much like her strong-willed and mysterious grandmother. Yet, Mama Sonia seems to have anointed Raul Gandhi to the throne with the first-step being a seat in the Lok Sabha.

Somewhat prematurely, though not unpredictably, sycophant Congressmen have started openly speculating that Raul will also be the candidate-elect for Prime Minister of the Congress Party – a prospect seniors in the party, some having served as ministers and state chief ministers for nearly as many years as Raul’s age – will be enamoured with.

Now that the entire publicity media blitzkrieg is on Raul, it is possible that Priyanka – nursing ambitions of her own – may have decided she should gain equal share in the public eye. What better way than in meeting one of the alleged conspirators of her father’s brutal slaying with the unsaid element of a generous forgiveness hitting the Indian and world headlines.

This can be excellent PR material to satisfy many needs – no less a fast-track on the road to political office – PM’s Office in Delhi not excluded. Raul Gandhi looked sombre and serious, speaking to the press after Priyanka’s sensational visit. His crisp admission, “I knew of the visit. She did it in her own style. She does things her own way and I – mine,” clearly indicates that coming months can well cough out a power-struggle between the Rajiv-Sonia children for high stakes.

If the whole exercise was to meet and powwow with the killer of their father, both brother and sister could have made it a joint visit. After all, the man killed was father to both – not only to Priyanka. It is not strange while all this hair-splitting goes on, Nalini, the prima donna of the visit, will be forgotten all too soon. She clearly was used. But that is the way of the world – more so of the political world. In nearby Pakistan, late Benazir Bhutto was accused of being part of the conspiracy that saw her two brothers die in unfortunate circumstances – one poisoned and the other shot at.

The two sons of DMK Supremo Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu – Stalin and Alagiri – are battling it out with the old man’s daughter Kanimoli, who is nursing ambitions of her own. The young Karunanidhi trio only recently vanquished the two billionaire nephews of Karunanidhi – Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi – the sons of late Union Minister Murasoli Maran, in a family showdown.

The former, a very powerful Union Cabinet Minister while the other a media moghul. The younger Karunanidhi trio moved in and banished the two Maran boys into political oblivion. Both are now hardly in the news in Tamil Nadu – although they were daily frontline news-makers for some years. Latest reports in Delhi suggest Dayanithi Maran is seeking Delhi’s security protection and may well defect to the Congress Party. Such are the uncertainties of the world of high political stakes. As the saying goes “The closer you are to power lines, the greater the chances of your being incinerated!”

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Lalith - man of many parts

It cannot be that you are sleeping now
In the distant solitude of a resting place
You, whose life was never still
Who moved ever forward at an eager pace
You loved the pulse of life
The heartbeat of the awakened world
Challenged the winds of change
Meeting each new dawn with bolder step
How could you be sleeping now in the embrace of death?
The grave could never contain
Your restless spirit and questing mind
You had new paths to seek
Urgent solutions to find
You were husband, father, brother,
Mentor, friend and guide
A fearless leader – a man among men
Bravely you lived and bravely you died
For freedom you paid too high a price!
As you rose to speak that day
Did you know – I wonder!
Did you feel in brain and bone?
That the dark wing of destiny
Would carry you to the great unknown?
Did you have a strange foreboding of farewell
To the land you loved so well?
Alas, I cannot tell, but this I know
The coward vermin hand that slain
Must also rest someday – perhaps in greater pain!
Many a conscience riddled with guilt
Quails at the truth still unrevealed
Lying shrouded in coward minds
Brilliance unequalled consigned to embers
Leaving us the rest of a lifetime to remember
You have passed outside the realm of reward and earthly fame
Bequeathing only the riches of an honoured name
As you journey beyond the mortal reckonings of time
Some greater purpose to fulfil
Our hearts bow in loyal salutation
For what epitaph could suffice to ever repay, Lalith
The noble price you paid that day?

KAY

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Ken talks to ‘front’ for banned Tamil Tigers

Ken Livingstone has addressed a meeting co-organised by a “front” for a banned terror organisation – even though he had been warned at the highest diplomatic levels about the group’s alleged terrorist links

The Mayor sought backing from the British Tamil Forum at the meeting in Harrow on Saturday, according to its spokesman.

The forum is accused by the Sri Lankan Government of being a front for the Tamil Tigers, which wages an armed struggle for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka and is banned in Britain under anti-terrorism laws.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London told the Standard that the High Commissioner, Kshenuka Senewiratne, wrote to Livingstone “early last week” to express her “concerns” about his intention to speak to the forum.
“The British Tamil Forum is one of the main front organisations for the Tamil Tigers in the UK,” the spokesman said. “We did not know whether the Mayor knew what the background to the meeting was so the High Commissioner wrote to inform him.” Livingstone never replied, the spokesman said.

At a previous meeting organised by the British Tamil Forum, at the Excel Centre, Docklands, on November 27, a video message from the Tamil Tigers’ leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, praising suicide bombing was played and a collection was taken for Tamil Tiger “martyrs.” The meeting is the subject of a police anti-terror investigation.

The Tamil Tigers, officially known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, pioneered suicide bombing.
They have been responsible for numerous attacks in Sri Lanka, including a military assault on the country’s main airport in 2001 which caught almost 50 British tourists in the crossfire.

Although indiscriminate violence has also been carried out by the Sri Lankan Government, Tamil Tiger suicide attacks alone have killed around 1,600 people, including a Sri Lankan President and Indian Prime Minister.
Suren Surendiran, a spokesman for the British Tamil Forum, said that last weekend’s meeting was co-organised by the forum and a local Tamil Labour Councillor, Thaya Iddaikadar.

“The forum was involved (in the organisation of the meeting),” he said. “About 20% of the people at the meeting were from the British Tamil Forum and the rest were local Tamils.”

Surendiran said the Mayor was asked a question about the Sri Lankan High Commission’s claims that the forum was a Tamil Tiger front. “He said the Metropolitan Police came under him and where there was a legitimate request for a legitimate event his office would always be supportive,” Surendiran said.

The Mayor also gave the forum his “personal commitment” that he would support its candlelit vigil in Trafalgar Square this summer to mark the 25th anniversary of “Black July,” a massacre of Tamil civilians triggered by a Tamil Tiger attack on a military convoy.

About 1,000 Tamils were killed in this bloodshed, which is generally seen as the trigger for Sri Lanka’s civil war. Surendiran said the forum “shares the same aspirations as the Tamil Tigers, but we do not subscribe to their methodology”. Livingstone’s campaign has been dogged by allegations that he is too closely linked to organisations which sympathise with terrorists.

Yesterday, the Standard told how he had appointed a former member of a banned Sikh terrorist organisation, Dabinderjit Singh, to the board of TfL.

Last week it emerged that one of Livingstone’s leading Muslim supporters is closely connected to the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Livingstone’s campaign was not available for comment.
(Source: Evening Standard)

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Burgher Association ‘Member’s Nite’

The Burgher Association, now led by Trevor Ludowyke as acting President, following the resignation of Dunstan Kelaart from the post of President will hold their first Member’s Nite of the year, on Saturday May 3, 2008 at the Lion’s Activity Centre Sri Jayewardenepura Road, Etul-Kotte commencing 8:00 p.m.

The event is open to all members and their guests and will be an opportunity for members to renew their membership for the current year with a view to participating in many more exciting events lined up for the rest of the year.

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Caritas marks 40th year in Sri Lanka                                                                                                                             Towards a just society

By Marianne David
Caritas Sri Lanka Social and Economic Development Centre (SEDEC), the social arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, marks 40 years of committed service in Sri Lanka in November, this year. The theme to herald the anniversary is ‘Journeying Together for a Just Society.’

Speaking to The Nation, National Director Fr. Damian Fernando pointed out that the organisation’s future plans would revolve mainly around working towards bringing about a peaceful situation in the island.

“That is one of our priorities. In the process, we also want to empower the people, so that they themselves will want the peace process and a peaceful situation. Thirdly, we want to work towards a society where people will be able to live with dignity, respecting the rights of other people, so that a harmonious society can be created,” he asserted.

Affiliated to Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in 200 countries and territories, Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC has, over the years, contributed immensely to the betterment of the people of Sri Lanka, especially in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Speaking about the purpose the organisation has served in Sri Lanka since its inception, Fr. Fernando said, “This is a church organisation so the purpose is to spread God’s love among the people. The Gospel values are love, forgiveness, peace, unity and equality. When we speak about allowing people to experience God’s love, we don’t think about the sectors of people. We don’t say it is only for the Catholics, because our idea of love is different. It encompasses all mankind.”

From the moment the December 2004 tsunami struck, leaving death and devastation in its wake, Caritas Sri Lanka did its utmost to provide relief – and continues to do so even today. Empowering communities through rebuilding lives, Caritas Sri Lanka has been at the forefront of several initiatives to rebuild the lives of those affected by the tsunami.

“With regard to tsunami work, we were involved from the very beginning. Afterwards, we helped with temporary shelter during the intermediate time. Then we had the post-tsunami recovery programme. Under that, in the beginning, we provided many relief items to the people – food and non-food items,” explained Fr. Fernando.

He revealed that in the second stage, Caritas Sri Lanka provided temporary shelter – an initiative recognised by the government, with the organisation even receiving awards from the President for its commendable work. During that period, Caritas Sri Lanka also provided relief and psychosocial support to the people.

Now in its third phase, the Caritas Sri Lanka tsunami programme is focussing on constructing houses and restoring livelihoods.
“During the second stage we commenced the restoration of livelihoods and assets programmes, which we are still continuing. Now we are in the third phase, reconstruction of houses and other infrastructure. We also conduct psychosocial programmes,” said Fr. Fernando.

He is of the firm belief that in order to resolve the ongoing ethnic problem, “we have to look at where it started.”
“Our failure to acknowledge or recognise the existence of other people was the main cause of the problem. So we need to rectify that issue. That is yet to be done. Then there is the language issue. Though both languages have been made official, the problem has not been solved. For example, in places like Jaffna, they still get letters in Sinhala though Tamil is also an official language,” he pointed out.

Speaking further about the ethnic crisis, Fr. Fernando said, “They also feel that they are being discriminated against. We have to eradicate that feeling. Those are the causes of this war, mainly the feeling of discrimination. That has to be dealt with. People should work towards that.”

As for a final solution to the ongoing war, Fr. Fernando emphasised that the problem could never be solved with violence or weapons. “We are a multiethnic, multicultural country. Unless and until we learn to respect that and recognise all the people of Sri Lanka as one, we will never be able to solve the problem,” he asserted.

“Our stand is that it has to be one country, but with maximum devolution of power, and also through a negotiated settlement, not through war. War will only bring more suffering on the people. Both the parties – the government and the LTTE – should understand this and come to a settlement with reasonable demands. The demands should be reasonable so that they can be achieved, in order to bring about peace,” he added.

The vision at Caritas Sri Lanka is the realisation of a just Sri Lankan society based on Gospel values of love, forgiveness, peace, unity and equality – lived, promoted and protected irrespective of race, caste and religion.

Its mission is to empower people through animation and being in solidarity in their efforts for integral human development.
The national centre of Caritas Sri Lanka is located at the Archdiocese of Colombo and its vision is radiated to all corners of the island through 12 diocesan centres. Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC is also the national secretariat of the National Catholic Commission for Justice Peace and Human Development.

Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC was founded in 1968 by a pioneering and visionary priest, Father Joe Fernando. The acronym SEDEC is a variant of the Hebrew word SEDEQ, meaning justice and righteousness.

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