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|Fiasco of a political solution
Does a political solution to the ethnic problem mean the
devolution of power within the Unitary State of Sri Lanka? The
Chairman of an impotent organisation carrying the appellation APRC
wherein he remains the sole representative, as others have left,
erroneously states that with Sinhala being made the Official
Language, the Tamils felt slighted.
S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, the author of the Sinhala Only Act, was too
clever to get embroiled in a Tamil-Sinhala clash and in time enacted
Tamil too as a State Language. But that act set the Tamil
chauvinists thinking. SWRDB promulgated the Sinhala Only Act to gain
true political independence for the country and not to harass the
Tamils who were citizens. The British pukka sahibs found the alien
language irksome to conduct business in the institutions owned or
controlled by them, sold out and left the country.
India had just gained independence when Bandaranaike assumed
power as the Prime Minister. The overwhelming vote had brought in
the ‘Apey Aanduwa’ and with the power of the people backing him he
requested Britain to withdraw its troops from the country and hand
back Trincomalee and the oil installations, thereby completing
political independence for Ceylon.
The British were smart rulers for they pitted the majority
community against the Tamil minority. They opened up a school of
learning in Jaffna where Tamil students were taught English with the
aim of churning out clerical hands to assist them in governance.
State Offices were manned by English trained Tamils, and before long
the plaintive cry for 50-50 representations in Parliament grew loud.
S.J.V.Chelvanayagam to do better went further with his Tamil
IIlankai Arasu Katchchi (Tamil State Party) and announced it at the
GCSU headquarters where it was received with a thunderous ovation
for the Government Service had over many years been strategically
manned with Tamils in the key institution of the Sinhala State.
The Revolutionary Left parties that pinned hopes on the working
class to revolt and set up a Worker’s State, found Sirimavo
Bandaranaike’s SLFP being elected to power. The Left lest they be
forgotten, coalesced with the Sirimavo Government and persuaded her
to nationalise business and institute workers’ control. The
plantations that were taken over soon proved corrupt and the economy
commenced a downward slide.
Dr N.M.Perera as the Minister of Finance did not fare well for
there was paucity in the country’s needs.
The perturbed population brought in J.R.Jayewardena as the Prime
Minister with a two thirds majority in the House. He opened up the
economy having given back business to its rightful owners. The
economy commenced an upward movement though much of the country’s
money moved out. lnitia1ly, the upper classes were overjoyed for
foreign ware flooded the market place.
The pogrom of 1983 was the Sinhala reaction to Tamil arrogance.
Chelvanayagam, the leader of the Tamil State Party bequeathed his
desire for a Tamil State to Prabhakaran and the LTTE.
It was history repeating itself. Dutugemunu silenced Elara the last
of the marauders. After long hibernation they are raising their
heads with the assistance of the APRC. The LTTE took up arms for a
Tamil homeland Balkanizing Sri Lanka. The LTIE has been defeated in
battle and the APRC comes forward to devolve power. A magnanimous
gesture to the minorities. A homeland without a scuffle! The worried
government is hoping to ban religious and ethnic political parties.
Democracy will not permit such hasty action. In a democracy all
views should be freely aired. It is only then that hidden
conspiracies to topple the government will expose themselves.
The Constitution in Amendment 6 of 1983 prohibits and precludes
separation. Devolved provinces are the furtive path to Eelam-like
provinces. Eelam died, devolution is the secret road to Eelam. Sri
Lanka is a little country. The certain way to economic excellence
and political peace is through governance by the Centre. Do not ban
religious or racial political parties, for they will fester within.
They are the eyes and ears of the populace. If the country is to
grow untrammeled, the first act should be to change the seating
arrangements in Parliament.
The British model will not work here in Lanka. Do away with the
present rather moronic system of ‘Government’ and ‘Opposition’. Let
Parliament be furnished with a Round Table, with a symbolic throne
like chair for the Executive Head of State. A Speaker will not be
required with no ‘Government’ and ‘Opposition’. Permit two nominated
representatives for each approved political party who may present
Bills. The Head of State will decide on his Cabinet of nominated
citizens, who will involve themselves in governance of the homeland.
Each discipline will be directed by a minister nominated by the
President, chosen for his knowledge and acquaintance with the
subject. There will not be ministers without portfolios. Parliament
should not be a circus to clowns, but an instrument of governance.
Each electorate should have a paid member who will not sit in
Parliament but acquaint himself with the problems of the electorate
he represents, and liaise with the minister for the subject he is
currently interested in. If it involves agriculture he will maintain
contact with the Ministry of Agriculture through the Minister for
Agriculture. If he represents an area where plantations predominate
he will liaise with the Minister for Plantations, and so on.
Devolution will make administration cumbersome and top heavy. The
smaller the number of administrators the lesser is the cost for the
One Chamber is sufficient for we do not have idle lords and
ladies as in Britain. It will not contribute to governance but
fatten politicians. A vice President from the minorities will only
emphasise the split, whereas the country should aim at making all
citizens think as Sri Lankans and blot out the category called
minorities. In the sixties Colombo had a Tamil Mayor. Similarly a
Tamil or Muslim could work his way up for Sinhalese are devoid of
that chauvinistic streak. History bears it out. A vice presidency is
redundant. The present practice of the Prime Minister standing in is
adequate. Providing space for women in the vice presidency or
anywhere is a mockery in governance. Ambitious women will know to
fight their way to the top. The minister’s concern for the weaker
sex is truly touching!
|Re-imposition of death penalty
late, there has been heated debate with regard to the
re-implementation of death penalty following a statement made in
public by the Minister of Justice Milinda Moragoda with a view to
curbing the rising wave of crimes in the aftermath of the military
victory. But, now with the Channel 4 controversy taking the
centre-stage, the issue of capital punishment seems to have been
pushed aside at least for the time being.
Certainly, there is as many a pros as cons when it comes to the
reinstitution of the gallows. Fundamentally, it is argued that, it
violates the right to life. In a civilised, cultured society, where
the enshrinement of the right to life is constitutionally guaranteed
and does take precedence over all the other concerns, it is
reasonable to stand against the re-introduction of death sentence on
this ground alone.
The other most important argument against it is that of
irrevocability. For instance, once a person has been sentenced to
death and the sentence has been carried out, if new evidence
surfaces pointing to his/her innocence of the crime he or she has
already been punished for, he/she cannot be restored to life. This
argument holds water because notwithstanding the impartiality and
the prudence of the Judiciary, there have been cases where innocents
have been executed. A few would doubt that there will be such cases
should the death penalty be re-introduced.
Also, tit for tat is hardly approved by our religion be it
Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. In fact, while Lord
Buddha has preached that hatred is never appeased by hatred, Jesus
Christ asks his followers to forgive their enemies seventy times
On the other hand, those who want it re-imposed on such crimes as
premeditated murder, drug-trafficking and rape, etc. are under the
impression that to increase the severity of punishment will
necessarily lead to a decline in crimes. In that, people naturally
fear to die, they opine that reinstitution of the gallows will
frighten them out of their criminal instincts and keep them away
from the gun, drug and the like.
Also, there is a mind-boggling paradox here. If we talk about the
right to life of a murderer, what about his or her victims?
Admittedly, I have always failed to answer this question. However,
nowhere in the world has research evidence ever indicated that death
penalty is a more effective deterrent of crimes than the other forms
of punishment such as life imprisonment.
So, in Sri Lanka if we call for it to be re-implemented, it is
only that we are going to revive an abhorrent, primitive practice
that the civilized world wants to recoil from.
In sum, it is evident that the re-imposition of capital
punishment will only earn us opprobrium from the cultured peoples
(sadly, the USA, purported to be the world most famous human rights
advocate is still engaged in this primordial practice!) while, in
all likelihood, there will hardly be a dramatic decrease in crimes
as some arm-chair critics so confidently prophesy.
Therefore, what we should do instead is to educate our children
well, inculcate good human values in them from childhood, create
decent employment opportunities for the unemployed, facilitate
dahampasal education, instill human values such as love, kindness,
compassion, forgiveness, generosity and empathy into people through
media such as literature, cinema and minimise inequality of income
distribution. That way we can create a country where few crimes are
committed and people can live in peace and harmony.
|Need to know so much about crimes?
When one opens the newspapers today all we see is about how a man
killed his wife, how a chain is snatched by a thief, how the robbers
took the money from the bank etc. etc. In other words crimes seem to
make the majority of news.
It is true that good news is no news. But then do we need to hear
all these bad news day in day out? What is happening probably is
that people who read them become quite insensitive to crimes and
when they are tempted it makes them think, after all these happen
everyday, so what difference will it make if I commit it too?
We have to stop and think - are we breeding evil by talking so
much about evil? Are we making politicians bolder by exposing their
misdeeds and more importantly doing pretty little about them? So
that they become bolder day by day committing more and more crimes
for they know they only get their names popularised (at least
familiarised) but will never get punished.
We are sick of hearing the affairs and silly habits of film
stars. Why such an obsession with the western and Bollywood stars?
Not that they have much to emulate. All what we are doing is sending
a signal to the youth that it is cool to have an affair when you’re
married, it is okay to try drugs and alcohol if you are a star, it
is okay to have a wedding carrying the child of another man out of
wedlock! What is the value we are giving to them? And when they go
wrong, we find fault with them. Or lament about the youth.
For every thief out there, there are thousands of honest men. For
every drunkard out there, there are thousands of teetotallers. For
every wrong out there, there are so much of good happenings. Why not
highlight them and make people think of doing something similar?
The newspapers have great responsibility in shaping the nation
especially what they do about the values and morals of the people.
Are the newspapers today doing what their children will be proud of?
Food for thought.
Dr Mrs. Mareena Thaha Reffai
|Addendum to the Hippocratic Oath
With reference to the article on “Violation of patient rights’’ by
Consultant Eye-Surgeon Dr Mareena Thaha Reffai appearing in last
week’s issue of a weekend newspaper, if the allegation that doctors,
nurses and attendants in the government sector do not bother to
attend to patients who have been previously attended to by some
others, may be in a free medical camp or in a private hospital, is
correct, I earnestly request the Minister of Health to take drastic
steps to stop this mistreatment with immediate effect.
I would suggest that they be expelled from the medical profession
for conduct unbecoming of this noble profession if the allegations
are found to be true. Hope the GMOA or the Medical Council also will
take note and advise their members accordingly.
I would like the doctors to know that treating patients
courteously, making them feel at home, will cure many a disease and
therefore, it is equally important or rather more important than
prescribing medicine for same.
It is also in the Hippocratic Oath, inter alia, to treat without
exception all who seek his / her ministrations, so long as the
treatment of others are not compromised thereby, and he or she will
seek counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for
the benefit of one’s patient.
May I add that the following statement -“We of the medical
profession, when serving in the government sector, will not mistreat
or will not refuse to treat any patient who may have consulted or
have been treated by another doctor in the private hospitals, etc.”
be added to the existing Hippocrates Oath!
|Matters for President to ponder
reproduce below two paragraphs one each from two of Sri Lankan
English newspapers ‘Daily Mirror’ of September 4, 2009 and ‘The
Sunday Leader’ of September 6, 2009, which to me, at least appeared
as most relevant for the President Rajapaksa to give serious thought
for immediate implementation in the overall interest and welfare of
our motherland Sri Lanka.
“In this critical crossroad of Sri Lankan history it is for
President to decide his place in history. Does he want to be known
as the Sri Lankan version of Abraham Lincoln (and Lee Kwan Yew of
Singapore – my addition to this paragraph) who rendered justice to
all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and help build a
unified multi-ethnic Sri Lanka? Or would he be satisfied with being
the President who perpetuated the ethnic division and fractured the
country for a long time to come?” – ‘Daily Mirror’ of September 4,
“Since the Rajapaksa regime now has the opportunity of healing
wounds between the two communities and creating a unified nation -
which it claims to be its objective - it should have the confidence
to proclaim an amnesty to all those who cou1d be accused of
violation of terrorist laws that did not seriously endanger the
security of the state and stop the Tiger hum-save for the most
dangerous of the species.” The Sunday Leader of September 6, 2009
May I also suggest to the President that he ‘directs’ the
authorities concerned to remove all ‘road blocks’ and ‘traffic
deviations’ in the city with immediate effect but yet continuing to
maintain ‘sentry points’ while allowing ‘traffic’ and pedestrians to
use these earlier ‘blocked’ roads thus eliminating the ‘great
inconvenience’ caused to the public and ‘tourists’ who visit the
President Rajapaksa being a pragmatic politician with an ear to
the ground and a practising Buddhist will, I am confident, implement
the above proposals/ suggestions, which in my view, would go a long
in bringing Sri Lanka once again a resplendent isle in the Indian
Professor M. Sivasuriya
|Natives amidst alternatives...
The legacy of natives
Watch the grass grow
Seeds to sow?
Plough with the cow
High-brows must serve
Put country first.
Irene de Silva
Dr Hubert Aloysius
Man for all seasons
It’s hard to imagine that it is 21 years since Hubert Aloysius
passed away. I can still hear him on a coach heading somewhere,
perhaps Radella, singing heartily and cracking one of his never
ending store of rugby jokes. He was such an ebullient, entertaining
and amusing character that even after all this time he is still
remembered vividly by his close friends.
Hubert was born on January 8, 1933 and was educated at St
Joseph’s College where he came under the influence of the great
educationist Rev Father Peter Pillai. Apart from his studies he was
a very good athlete and basketball player both at school and later
in the University and indeed, I first came into contact with Hubert
when we played rugby and basketball together on the playing fields
of Reid Avenue and later at Havelock Park. Although taking up the
sport after school, his athletic prowess led him to become an
excellent rugby player. Representing Havelock Sports Club as a line
out forward he took on the big Europeans who played in those days
and fought it out with them. In 1961 he was chosen to captain the
team. Most of his players were very young and indeed some just out
of school but Hubert was charismatic and he knew just how to
motivate them. Ultimately he produced a match-winning outfit that
brought the Clifford Cup to the Park after 10 long years. A
photograph showing Hubert being chaired off the field by his
ecstatic team-mates used to hang in the clubhouse but now it is only
a photograph of Hubert that looks down fondly on those of his
friends left behind.
After passing out as a Doctor, Hubert worked in the Kurunegala
and Karawanella hospitals. One of his favourite anecdotes from his
Kurunegala days concerned his friend, the undertaker, whose funeral
parlour was located next to the doctors’ quarters and who always
used to salute Hubert as he passed on his way to and from the
hospital – “I was a famous man,” he used to laughingly say. Well,
one night this man was taken ill and admitted to the hospital but
when in the morning he saw Hubert striding down the ward, he forgot
all about his illness, jumped over the hospital wall and went home,
fearing, one must assume that he might end up as one of his own
customers if left to the tender mercies of the famous Dr Aloysius!
Later on he joined the private sector and worked with his brother
Dr Dennis Aloysius in Dehiwela. In practice with Dennis, Hubert
worked only three days a week and had enough time for other
activities including cookery – turning out many a tasty bite for our
get-togethers; journalism – contributing a series of weekly articles
on medical matters to one of the national newspapers and, of course,
playing rugby and singing. Hubert really had an excellent voice and
it was a pity that he did not have any training, as I am sure, he
could have become an operatic singer.
After our serious playing days were over, we had a team called
the Pink Elephants made up of ex-Club players like Peter
Amerasinghe, Graham Hamer, Y C Chang, Eric Alwis, Jayantha
Jayawardena, Didacus de Almeida, Tony Amit, the Patternott brothers
etc. We really had fun with Hubert leading the way. On a trip to Uva
the coach skidded and ended up with the front in mid-air suspended
over the precipice. Except Hubert we all managed to get out but he
was right at the back and every time he began to move forward the
bus tilted alarmingly! Eventually we all had to hold onto the rear
buffer while Hubert slithered slowly to the entrance and escaped. On
another occasion he gave us such a riotous time on the journey that
we arrived too late for the match and so decided to enjoy the
post-match social arranged by our hosts instead and finally played
the match the following morning.
After hanging up his boots Hubert used to officiate as Medical
Officer for Inter Club rugby matches. Invariably when an injured
player saw Hubert running on to examine him with his high knee
action, he would immediately forget his injury and get up before
Hubert reached him preferring to trust the injury to God rather than
On or off the rugby field Hubert was a jovial person and was the
life and soul of any party he went to carousing and cracking jokes
far into the night. We all used to go on trips together – Babu
Jacob, Eustace Fonseka, Y C Chang, Quintin Israel and others – most
of them gone now with Hubert.
When a marriage proposal came for Hubert from Willie Aiyadurai, I
was nominated to take Hubert to meet Carol. When I went to pick him
up he was missing and I had to hunt him down at the Havelock’s, take
him home. After much persuasion, I managed to get him to agree to go
and see her and then accompanied him to the Aiyadurai’s. Hubert was
so shy that he said he won’t even sit down and would just stand and
talk and that it would be a two minute affair. However, once he was
introduced to Carol they didn’t stop talking for at least an hour
and the rest, as they say, is history. I, of course, didn’t twiddle
my thumbs and did full justice to the bouchées, cutlets and
sandwiches that were laid out!
Hubert and Carol had two sons. Hiranjan, their first born, is
settled with his family in Australia where he practises as an
accountant on the Gold Coast. Jehan, the younger son, decided to
pursue a career in drama after obtaining an English hons degree. He
has successfully produced and directed a number of plays. He has
clearly inherited Hubert’s talents, mannerisms and voice as well as
his penchant for jokes and whenever I watch Jehan on stage I am
reminded so much of Hubert.
Unfortunately for Hubert and all of us, in his latter years
Hubert neglected his health and did not heed the advice of his
friends. His standard excuse was that now it is too late to do
anything about it and in the famous words of his favourite song
which he sang lustily “I did it my way.”
Dr Harry Rasiah