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Letters


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.

 

Will the Malays be discarded again?
Election fever is running wild, with the presidential election scheduled for January 26. After that, the parliamentary election will be held. These elections will run further wild with the present presidential election underscoring that democracy is very much alive in our island. One community which has unstintingly contributed to the development and welfare of this country which had stalwarts like T.B. Jayah, Justice Akbar, PC Saban who captured Sardiel, and saints who reached the ultimate in spiritual heights like Tuan Bagoos Krawan Balankaya, Tuan Panghera and Tuan Tengu Hussein has been marginalised in the political process. No Malay has made the national list of any political party and Malays themselves do not appear as candidates in any elections on account of the paucity of their numbers.

So as in the recent past, there will be no Malay representative in Parliament and they will once again descend to their torpor of resignation. The Malays themselves are unaware of their proud past heritage. In the latter part of the 13th century, a Javanese Kingdom was established in the north of Sri Lanka for 50 years - remembered by place names as Jaffna or Java Patanam, Chavakachcheri and Chavankottai. Javanese trading vessels called on Sampan Tota (Hambantota) on their way to Madagascar and the African coast. In addition, names such as Jawatte, Ja-ela, Java Lane, Malay Street and Cassimgama underscore the presence of Malays in the island. The Malays have contributed extensively to encourage local arts and crafts, as in batik making, rattan work and in the preparation of delicacies such as nasi goreng, wattalapam, kalu dodol and Malay pickle. Also words like rambuttan, durian, annasi, papol are terms which originated from Indonesia.

In the 18th century, the Malay soldiers served under the Dutch and later under the British when the Malay regiment had the proved distinction of being the first Asiatic Regiment to be awarded the King’s colours. When in 1873, the regiment was disbanded, the men found employment in other military units, police and prison services, the Colombo Fire Brigade, the estates and the salterns.
In the next three decades, the Malays reached their peak forming 75% of the Police Force, 90% of the Prisons services, 100% of the Colombo Fire Brigade and good many of them worked at the Hambantota Salterns and the estates.

The early Malays showed remarkable religious zeal as evinced by the landmarks of shrines they left behind. It is believed that if the Malays follow the pious standards set by their forefathers they may once again achieve their past glory. Sadly, the Malays have inclined to Western culture and lost their culture, religion and heritage in addition to being marginalised politically. The Moors have bunched them together with the Muslim community forcing them to lose their Malay identity. More and more Malay girls in the recent past have married outside their community. The mother tongue of the Malays, Bahsa Melayu, spoken for over 250 years, since the original exiles came here with their wives from Malaysia and Indonesia in the 18th century is in danger of disuse, although a few Malays are conducting language classes in collaboration with the Malaysian Embassy in Colombo. Very few attend these classes due to there being no incentives.

In recent years, Sri Lankan Malays have been confronted with a new problem which will have the effect of breaking up Malay society into three different distinct sections and this is a problem brought about by the implementation of the government policy with regard to the medium of instruction in schools. This will eventually result in the growth of different sections of Malays, English speaking Malays, Sinhalese speaking Malays and Tamil speaking Malays, with little or no social life with one another aggravating the existing problems within this community.

Efforts to emigrate to Malaysia and Indonesia have failed. The embassies of both countries give bland and ridiculous explanations on why they cannot permit Sri Lankan Malays to go to their land of origin. Embassy officials are not helpful at all and they are totally indifferent to the plight of the Malays of the island.
In the recently concluded ethnic war, 22 Malays gave their lives and six were missing in action. If a comparison is made with the number of Sinhalese dead according to the population ratio of Sinhalese and Malays more Malays have given their lives than Sinhalese.

There is no doubt that the Malays have contributed so much for this country without causing any problem to any government that was in power. They have been patriotic, hard-working, loyal, law-abiding and honest citizens throughout the history of their residence in this island. It is only fair that the government recognises their contribution, and extends Malay representation in Parliament from where the representative can focus on their grievances and seek relief and alleviation from discriminations and other innumerable problems that they have long suffered. This will be a gesture of gratitude by the government for the contribution that the Malays have made to the Sri Lankan ethos.

The Malays have had nominated representatives in Parliament during the regime of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike when Dr M.P Drahman and Zahir Lye represented the Malays.
It is an opportune time now in the season of elections, for the Malays to band together and demand from the President that he nominate a suitable Malay in the national list to Parliament. The demand could also be made to the opposition presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka too. Malays must arise from their lethargy and torpor and become active like the Malays of the past and regain their glory. The first step is to take their religion Islam seriously and sincerely practise it. Success will surely follow if their efforts are sincere. Their forefathers achieved their bravery, courage, honour, dignity and success by the practise of Islam. The shrines of Malay saints which abound in this island are evidence of Malay piety and success. Awake oh! Malay brothers and sisters!

Saybhan Samat
Rajagiriya

 

Disciplined road users in the ME
I had the opportunity recently of visiting a couple of Middle Eastern countries (one very advanced, the other not so) where I was struck by the orderliness and discipline of pedestrians and vehicle users on the roads.
I could count on the fingers of both hands the number of traffic policemen I saw on the roads. Yet I saw that motorists obeyed the traffic signals and stopped short of the pedestrian crossings, in complete contrast to Sri Lanka where even the supposedly educated or well-to-do motorists stop on the pedestrian crossing without any regard, forcing pedestrians to cross the road through the small space left between the vehicles.
Another thing I noticed was the availability of public toilets, entrance to some of which a small fee was required. This is in contrast to Sri Lanka where public toilets are woefully lacking, being available mostly in hotels and shopping complexes for their customers.
I only hope that our politicians and public officials who go on jaunts abroad see the difference between our country and those countries they visit and try to bring about some improvements to facilities in our country which is hopefully enjoying peace at last.
May I add that my visit was arranged by a travel agency which has a good reputation and may I be excused for complimenting it on its excellent or super arrangements!

A traveller

 

Finish what you have started please!
The Dehiwela flyover is certainly one of the wonderful projects this government has done in double quick time. While the flyover itself is well done, the roads on either side have been left worse than what they were before the commencement of the project.

There are potholes right throughout the roads and under the flyover too. Finishing a project does not mean breaking down what was already there. Who is the engineer who is in charge of this project? The situation now tells a lot of what sort of person he is. The flyover was done in such short time that it was almost a miracle. It would have taken just one more day’s work of those labourers to tidy up the sides, fill the potholes, and to give a beautiful finishing touch.

There are already rumbles about the extravagant amount of money spent on this project. Compared to the total cost, the expenditure needed to tidy up must be a pittance. Why this lackadaisical attitude?
It is mainly because there is no supervision, no accountability and there is no sense of responsibility in doing anything in our country. Its not ‘let’s do the best rather let’s do the least and get a way with the maximum profit’ attitude.

What our people lack is a sense of responsibly towards our country. We must remember, every second lost on trying to drive in those roads is a second loss for the country. Every cent lost on repair of tyres, whether on a personal vehicle of a citizen or a government vehicle, still it is a loss to the country.

I still cannot see the wisdom in closing the gaps in the bollards on the road leading to the flyover from both sides. This has caused undue delay in the traffic as traffic of both sides are being held up till a vehicle takes ‘U’ turn to comeback to a lane further away. To make it worse, people keep parking exactly opposite the few places where a turn is possible. This happens even when the traffic cops are on duty. Some such places have huge holes not repaired for months. We see a few labourers busy around these areas for a day and then they disappear. Probably an entry is made in the books that the mission is accomplished. Then a fresh estimate submitted for another day’s work.

This is election time. Don’t the politicians want to keep the voters happy? Often the elections are lost not because of IMF loans or foreign policies, but due to minor irritations caused to the citizen. Will the politicians take note please?

Dr Mrs. Mareena Thaha Reffai
Dehiwela

 

President’s cutout at Vihara Maha Devi Park
The quite impressive cutout of gargantuan proportions about 60 to 80 feet high of the President, digitally printed and pasted on to aluminium plates, and the entire structure reinforced with GI metal pipes hoisted at the back, put up very recently at the corner of the above park, that is, at the intersection of C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha and Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, would have cost at least a few lakhs of rupees. The cost, of course, would have been either met by his ardent supporters or by some government institution/s.

Now according to the news item released by the Government Information Department, the President has ordered the IGP Mahinda Balasuriya to immediately dismantle all these cutouts, banners, hoardings, etc. even before the nominations have been handed in. I do not disagree that some sort of mega promotions for an election of this nature is required but it should have been done in such a way that apart from the benefits like image building accruing to the candidate, there has to be some other uses without allowing the money to go waste completely as it is going to happen now.

What I would suggest is that in the future something like putting up bus shelters, renovating dilapidated ones, etc which could be subtly branded would be undertaken and the branding removed when it is required as per election laws. I see how much people are inconvenienced on rainy days for want of bus shelters when waiting for buses. Hope, that in the future, money will not be spent extravagantly but prudently for promotional exercises of this nature.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3

 

Pray for...
Unity among all Sri Lankans
That we will be Sri Lankans first and last
We will have unity in diversity
We must not criticise our country’s affairs abroad
We must repent for wanting different agendas and work to one plan
Salvation for all
That the Anti-conversion Bill will not be passed in Parliament
That Christian Healing Meetings will not be banned
Our country will be developed with all our citizens having the best quality of life
Legislature for Fundamental Rights in Constitution
Human Rights will be ensured
Equal Opportunities Act for Race, Caste, Creed and Gender
That our country is free from poverty
Legislature for the right to freedom from poverty
Sharing of all our resources voluntarily like the early Church
Loving and caring for our neighbour
Unity of political parties
President and all people in governance
Unitary state with wisdom to listen to the grassroots and minorities
Sharing of technology and know-how
Freedom of speech
Justice for all

Ranil Wijeyesekera

 

Appreciations

Cyril De Decker

Strengthened Sri Lanka-Belgium relations

(Tribute by Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union at the funeral ceremony of Cyril De Decker on November 28, 2009)
On behalf of the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Government and the People of Sri Lanka, and the staff of the Sri Lanka Embassy and the Sri Lanka community in Brussels, I extend our deepest condolences on the passing away of Cyril – a towering figure in strengthening of relations between Sri Lanka and Belgium.

Cyril’s passion for Sri Lanka was implanted from travelling with his charming wife to my country, which he altogether visited more than 70 times in a period of 30 years. It was nurtured through the special role bestowed on Monique by the Government of Sri Lanka which since July 1997 appointed her as the Hon Consul for Sri Lanka in Belgium. This relationship blossomed through his leadership in initiatives including the formation of the Belgolux - Sri Lanka Business Council, which will remain a lasting tribute to his memory.

Monique and Cyril not only loved Sri Lanka as a second home, but were passionate in their advocacy of it. They did not merely regularly visit Sri Lanka, but also introduced Sri Lanka to many of their friends, some of who have remained friends of Sri Lanka, and whom I recognise in this gathering.
Beyond Cyril’s unwavering loyalty to Sri Lanka, he was a dear personal friend to many of my predecessors in office, as he was to me. We all sought his wise counsel.

Most of my predecessors got to know Cyril in healthier times. They have often recounted with me the fun times they shared with this gregarious couple and have kept in touch with them ever since.
My experience over the past 20 months with both of them has been more sombre. Nirmala and I have shared with Monique both the joy and the sorrow of the fluctuating health of Cyril. Any reception which Cyril graced, whether at the embassy or at the residence, was a special celebration, while on days he couldn’t make it, we indeed felt there was something missing. He always found time, when present, to make an impression in his own simple manner - from Ministers and MEPs, to my little 5-year-old daughter, who in recent weeks, each time she visited church, insisted on lighting an extra candle “for Cyril”.

In Cyril’s passing away Sri Lanka has lost an adopted son, Sri Lankans in Belgium one of their staunchest supporters, and my wife and I, a very dear friend.
In this hour of grief, I want to assure Monique that as much as they both have been there for us and for Sri Lanka that we would be there for her – today, tomorrow and the days after.
Farewell dear Cyril, may the host of Devas sing thee to thy sleep!

Hafiz Marikar

 

Henry Jayasena
Veteran dramatist, actor and author
The sudden demise of legendary dramatist, renowned actor and author Henry Jayasena who stood tall on the modest unsophisticated Lumbini Theatre from the early 1960’s was devastating news not only to those in his field but to all lovers of our dramas and films. He had confessed many times as a much adored artiste that “my heart lies in theatre”. Henry Jayasena was definitely amongst the list of elite eminent literary figures in the calbre of Professor Sarathchandra, Sugathapala de Siva, Dayananda Gunawardena, Premasiri Khemadasa in the annals of our history.

His enormous contribution to the theatre and films spanned almost 4 decades. He hung up his celebrated acting career in 1999 after he recovered from the dreaded colon cancer. The entire treatment process took over around one and a half years. On his personal experience and suffering he had written a book titled “Balha Gilano – A story of a cancer patient” purely to educate the masses. He contributed to the ‘Artscope’ page of the Ceylon Daily News newspaper for a number of years under the Henry Jayasena column.

However, he lived for a further 10 years leading a normal life during which time he revived his famous drama Hunuwataye Kathawa, an adaptation of Bertol Bretch’s Caucasian Circle by deploying experienced and talented new actors along with a few who were involved earlier. He, in addition, had been since then occupied as a journalist and an author prior to his sudden demise on November 11, 2009. The news of his sudden demise was devastating and unbearable as he was hail and hearty until he entered hospital for some tests to ascertain the current condition of his health.

He was born on July 6, 1931 in a village called Bandiyamulla in Gampaha. He was initially educated at the Gampaha branch of Lorensz College and subsequently at Nalanda College, Colombo. It was late Dr Gunapala Malalasekera, an eminent Civil Servant who first predicted a great future for him in the field of acting after the famous educationalist saw little Henry Jayasena acting in a school concert at Nalanda College.

Since leaving school he opted for a career as an Assistant Teacher of English at the Dehipe Government Primary School in Padiyapellela in the Nuwara Eliya District in 1950 at the tender age of just 19 years. He initially ventured into stage acting by producing the drama, ‘Janaki’ in the same year while he was a teacher. As he was adamant to pursue a career in the Government Service, he without wasting any time passed the General Clerical Service Examination and secured a job at the Public Works Department (PWD).While working in the PWD with his immense innate creative ability he was able to make a number of new plays, the first of which was Manamalayo in 1953, then Vedagathkama in1954 and Paukarayo in1959. Then the vastly improved dramatist created Janelaya and the famous Kuweni in 1962. Subsequently he produced Thavath Udesanak, Manaranjana Wedawarjana, Ahas Maliga, Hunuwataye Kathawa, Apata Puthe Magak Nethe, Diriya Mava Saha Ege Daruwo, Makara, Savana Siyath Se Puthuni Habha Yana in the years 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973 and1975 respectively. With these creations Henry Jayasena became a household name in Sri Lanka owing to the enormous revolution he made in the field of creative arts, with his absorbing and pioneering efforts in the local drama. As a gesture of gratitude for his involvement in the tedious task of Performing Arts besides his contribution towards literature, theatre productions and lyrics for songs Henry Jayasena was honoured by the OBA of his ‘Alma Mater’, the Nalanda College by conferring on him with “Nalanda Keerthi Shri’ title on September 27, 2003.

The veteran dramatist was married to talented actress Manel Ilangakoon in 1962. She acted as the lead actress in her first drama Kuweni for which she won the best actress’ award for her acting as well as for her singing. She started to act just one year after their marriage. She made a very valuable contribution and a tremendous impact on Hunuwataye Kathawa (Chalk Circle) portraying the main female role as ‘Grushe’ for 32 years, opposite the main male role of Judge Azdak portrayed by her husband. She too possessed immense talent and excelled in her absorbing performances. Their only son Sudaraka during his early days acted for the little Prince Micheal. Actress Manel predeceased him after 42 years of married life on the July 24, 2004 after ailing from complications which arose from chronic renal failure. The general public, relations, friends, well wishers, family members, all rallied around her to save her life. Instead, fate was so cruel to snatch her very precious life.

While his creations were admired and as he made lasting impressions in his dramas he was meanwhile called upon to act in films. His first role in films was in Sri 296 in 1959. During the 1960’s he portrayed several roles. The role of Piyal opposite Punya Heendeniya became an award winning film in 1964.Then he portrayed the role of Lalith in Dahasak Sithuwili in 1968. He played vivid roles in Hansavilak, Gehenu Geta, Kaliyugaya, Raththaran Neth, Wena Swargayak Kumatada, Suhadea Sohoyurayo, Heta Pramada Vedei, Beddegana, Soldadu Unnehe, Kaliugaya, Ammai Duwai and Sandakada Pahana. Some of the roles portrayed by him in the above films were leading characters, while in some others they were supporting roles. In each role he very clearly demonstrated and proved his prowess as an actor possessing talent in abundance.

Late Henry Jayasena retired from the Government Service in 1975. Before retiring he held the position of Deputy Director of the National Youth Services Centre (Arts and Sports Division) and at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (Programmes Division). In the early 1990’s, he portrayed the role of ‘Sudu Seeya’ in the famous teledrama ‘Doo Daruwo’. Most of the characters, whether in drama, film or teledrama, are imprinted indelibly in the minds of people.

After his death as he never wanted publicity and state patronage. His funeral too, like his wife’s, was conducted in a very simple manner. His close friends, relations and the ‘Kalapura Nivesi Padanama’ made all funeral arrangements to precision at his ‘Kalapura’ residence and it was very well patronised. Thousands of people from all walks of life paid their last respects. His loss is most irreparable to his only son Sudaraka, daughter-in-law Anoma (both employed at the Hatton National Bank), the two grandsons and those in the drama field especially those who were close to him from his early humble beginnings.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana!

Sunil Thenabadu
Mount Lavinia

 
Deshamanya Dr. P.R. Anthonis
The death occurred of Deshamanya Dr. P.R. Anthonis on December 17 at the age of 99.
Born on January 21, 1911 as the second child of a family of 16 children, Polwattagearachchige Romiel Anthonis learned the Sinhala alphabet at the age of six under the tutelage of Ven. Vajiragnana Thera at the Dharmasalawa, Bambalapitiya.

A year later, he entered the now defunct Milagiriya Sinhalese School. He had his secondary education at St. Joseph’s College South, Bambalapitiya, which is now known as St. Peter’s College.
Romiel Anthonis entered the University College to do the pre-medicals, coming first in the batch; a feat that was amazing considering the fact that he had not studied Physics and Zoology before!

He entered the Medical Faculty in Colombo in 1930 the only medical school in the country where too he topped the batch and carried away the Loos Gold Medal for Pathology, The Mathew Gold Medal for Forensic Medicine, the Rockwood Gold Medal for Surgery and the Government Diploma Medal. He passed out as a Doctor in 1936 and took up appointment as a Medical Officer in Government Service.
Dr. Anthonis was awarded a scholarship to study surgery in the UK in 1937, but the Second World War prevented him from proceeding to the UK. However, eight years later in 1945 he went to the UK. Dr. Anthonis was the first to be successful in the FRCS Primary and Final Examinations in the first sitting, thereby, not only creating a record at the Royal College of Surgeons of the UK, but also becoming the youngest Fellow of the College.

Since then, until his retirement from the public service in 1971, Dr. Anthonis saved the lives of thousands of people. Patients had immense faith in his healing prowess. He has never refused to see a patient in distress.
Dr. Anthonis had been the Chairman of the Medical Council, the Founder President of the College of Surgeons, President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association and has also been the Editor of the Ceylon Medical Journal from 1981 to 2003.

Dr. P.R. Anthonis became a household name when he led the team of surgeons who operated on late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike when he was shot and seriously injured by a bhikkhu named Somarama.
An ardent Buddhist, Dr. Anthonis was an active member of the Dayaka Sabha of Bambalapitiya Vajiraramaya. Incidentally, his father had been one of the five dayakas who took the initiative to form the Dayaka Sabha of the temple in 1940.

Until his retirement from public service, Dr. Anthonis served a patron of the Colombo General Hospital Buddhist Association and took a keen interest in launching numerous projects for the welfare of the patients. He also generously contributed towards the Buddhist activities conducted by the Buddhist Association.
Dr. Anthonis was the founder of the Council of the College of Surgeons in the country and its first President.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!

 

 

 

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