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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 country.

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!

Ivor Samarasinghe


Re-imposition of death penalty

Of 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 seven.

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.

Jayashantha Jayawardhana
Wayamba University


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!

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3


Matters for President to ponder

I 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, 2009

“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 island.

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 Ocean.

Professor M. Sivasuriya
Colombo 8


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
Colombo 5


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 Hubert.
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





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