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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.

 

Our politicians on stage

Another election has come around, and the election fever is spreading everywhere. The media is full of election news. Nominations have ended and the politicians will gird their loins to tell you what they will do to you and the country if they are elected.
The upcoming General Election has attracted politicos of all shades and hues, ever ready to reach norms to meet their personal agendas. They would come on the stage to sing their swan songs to titillate the general public. They also would utter truths, lies, damn lies and indulge in pompous talk, taking the listeners to be downright suckers.

Among them, there is a coterie who has resorted to corruption and nepotism (the famous COPE report). Then there are fraudsters, pranksters, bootleggers, murderers, shielders of criminal elements, the underworld and drug lords, what’s more - rapists and arsonists to boot!
They all would speak as if they are paragons of virtue. They will relate amusing anecdotes. They will dangle carrots to the people who listen to them with open mouths. They would crow about their so called achievements and boast of their ‘doughty deeds’ in the parliament and outside it.

They will address you with such concern that it will appear that they are genuinely concerned with the burning problems of the masses. They will speak with their tongues in their cheeks, giving you rosy promises for you to live in fool’s paradise, for instance, a Rs.10,000 salary increment for government servants, monthly allowance for the unemployed, a loaf of bread for Rs.3.50 etc, gold bracelets for the village youth. When in power, all these would evaporate like the morning dew.

Today politics is big business. This is one of the best ways to get rich quick. Their common credo is that they have come forward to serve the people, and so they need your precious vote. Once ensconced in the seats of power, they become aloof from the very people who sent them to the legislature.
Only their henchmen and others who lick their boots or slippers will enjoy the plums and rewards until the next hosting. The rest are left in the lurch and grope in the dark. Nobody is there to see to their woes and worries. This has been the sad state of affairs ever since we started to elect representative governments.

Most of us are disgusted; we are faced with a Hobson’s choice. However, we go to the polling booth with some optimism, and cast our votes hoping for better times. Subsequently, years would reveal where we stand and our status quo. On the contrary, at the end of the tenure of their office, we have noticed how fat they would become, both physically and financially. We only stand and stare, not knowing what the morrow holds.

Millions of public money is spent to hold an election. Millions of rupees are spent one the election campaign of each party. Millions (got through ill-gotten gains, black money, foreign funded) are wasted on poster war, cutouts and hoardings. According to the Election Department, Rs.22 million is needed to remove this muck. Besides, it is a brazen violation of the Election Law; these are the very legislators who propose laws for us – the people. The irony of ironies! They have the ‘licence’ to break it; common man has to obey it.

The vast majority of the silent masses are groaning under the unbearable living costs whilst the politicians including their sidekicks have amassed enough to cushion off the effect. This we have seen with our naked eyes for a longtime. Of course, there have been some exemplary legislators who served the people sincerely. It is pertinent to not the President and his term has done an excellent job in eradicating terrorism amidst international pressure. But some of those surrounding him have records of criminal and fraudulent activities.

Over the years, party polities have brought bloodshed and violence, harassments and witch-hunts of glaring proportions. This time, too, I am certain, there won’t be an exception; victors run amok to attack the vanquished – a very sad state of affairs in this Buddhist country.

M. Azhar Dawood
Dehiwala

 

The Significance of Bak Full Moon Poya Day

In the month of April, the Bak full moon Poya day
Has special significance to Buddhist’s in Sri Lanka, in a unique way.
Gautama Buddha visited for the second time to
Lankadeepa.
On a Peace mission through Compassion, to Nagadeepa.

While seeing the world each day, realised on Bak full moon day
Fifth year after Enlightenment residing in Sawaththi in Jetawanarama
Two Kings fighting for the throne ‘ll cause blood shed in a tragic way
Determined to settle dispute in Nagadeepa visited Sri Lanka

To prevent gruesome bloodshed among Naga tribes, an eminent battle
A dispute between Mahodara’n Chullodara Kings of Naga clan to settle
The blessed one confident, parties’ll to listen to Him of war, its futility
Maternal uncle’n newphew in war over gem studded throne of regality.

Sammasam Buddha’s visit to Nagadeepa elaborated in Mahawansa
As the Saviour, Dispeller, Vanquisher of Sin, compassionate Thathagatha
Caused terrifying darkness, then called forth for the light of the day
Seeing a felicitous advent, honoured the Divine Sage, a benign way.

Bewildered Nagas dropped their weapons, Sakyamuni spread Buddha rays
In His sermon Buddha preached need for unity’n reconciliation, Mahawansa says. The gem studded throne is enshrined since then in Nagadeepa Stupa
To this day at the age old Purana Vihara.

On a pleasure visit to Royal gardens with charioteer faithful Channa
Of the four significant visions, the first an aged man held Prince Siddharta
On a Bak full moon Poya day to His amazement never seen before such an image A human being weakened’n feeble with old age.
The long journey He commenced on Medin full moon Poya day ended in Kapilawathupura on Bak full moon Poya day.
Gautama Buddha’s Peace Mission to Nagadeepa noble religious holy day
A visit confirmed by historical archeological evidence without a say.

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

 

Prescriptions and Fatwas by SMS

I know some of my friends who have a good rapport with those in the medical profession getting prescriptions for medicine over the phone by getting the doctor to send the names of the medicine by “SMS” (texting). The doctor does oblige without examining the patient but based on the description of the ailments mentioned over the phone. I wonder how ethical this is, to prescribe medicine as described above. In case, if it is not Over The Counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals, I wonder whether any new legislation has to be enacted to prevent the above method of dispensing drugs.
Incidentally, a reputed Islamic Scholar as Sheik Noor Arkam Amith mentioned in his Friday sermon last week at the mosque down Bagatalle Road, Colombo 3 that people nowadays request for Fatwas (religious verdict) from him over the mobile phone, not knowing that it is not feasible to do so. Hope this letter will be an eye opener for those resorting to SMS to get medicines / expecting religious verdict via mobiles.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3

 

Blocking Jaffna town expansion

There is a massive and unprecedented influx of foreign and local tourists, NGOs and aid workers, donor agencies, foreign investors and diplomatic personnel into the Jaffna Peninsula during the last few months. According to newspaper reports, more then five lakhs of people have visited the Jaffna Peninsula during the last few days. But quality of accommodation available to these visitors is virtually nil. In the bye-gone days, there were two luxury star class hotels which provided comfortable and quality accommodation to the visitors of Jaffna. They are the Subash Guest House and Hotel Gnanams, both of which are presently occupied by the Army. In addition, the Army is blocking a large prime commercial area in the heart of the Jaffna town centre. When so many banks, firms and companies want to open branches in Jaffna and do business there, there is an acute shortage of commercial space in the town. The British Council, USIS and the Indian High Commission want to open their centres in Jaffna.
Even after repeated requests from the residents and even the Mayor of Jaffna to hand over these premises to its rightful owners, the Army is refusing to do so. Civil Administration is now fully restored in Jaffna and the Police have taken over the security duties of the town. There is no need for the Army to stay in the centre of the town, blocking valuable commercial space. Jaffna is bursting at the seams. The main problem in the city is lack of proper accommodation.
Therefore, we appeal to the President who is also the Minister of Defence to intervene in this matter and see that justice is done.

T. Rajan

 

Tribute

Bye-bye, Colombo; Hello, Yalpanam

With reference to the letter in The Nation “Adieu to Colombo” by “Arul”, allow me to pay a warm tribute to my great pal Arul. I have known him from 1955 to-date. I cherish the memories when we worked all our life in the Colombo Municipality.
He danced the Fox Trot, Waltz and the Cha-Cha to the music of Mantovani - an old disc spinning on the antique radiogram in the Municipal Sports Club. With rare gusto, he participated in tennis, cricket, table tennis, badminton and billiards for the club.
In all tasks, he was as straight as a ‘plump line’ and was indeed a gentleman to his finger tips. Annually he and I edited and produced a witty magazine for our Department (Assessor’s) get-together. He wrote philosophical poems and inspirational ‘Letters to the Editor’. “Arul of Kotahena” was a familiar name to readers of all English newspapers.
He was a vegetarian and led a clean and straight life. Now in Jaffna, after 60 years in Colombo, and living among his own people, I wish more strength to his elbow and ‘Ad Multos Annos’.

Kalyanade Silva
Dehiwala

 

Appreciations

Bryan Claessen

Former All Ceylon Cricketer remembered

“Bonds of friendship forged in childhood days,
Ties that bind us to our happiest time;
Which in strange and miraculous ways
Keeps alive days that were once yours and mine.”

- A poem by Bryan Claessen

I first came across Bryan Claessen as I joined Wesley in January 1950. It was the beginning of the school cricket season. He played as a 16-year-old with D.B.C. Mack as captain. He went on to represent school under his brother, Radley, before becoming the captain of the 1st XI team in 1953. That was a most remarkable year when we were unbeaten and Bryan scored four centuries and took many five wicket hauls as a fine all rounder. He thought about cricket with a deep intensity. He seemed to be a batsman without flaw, impeccable in defence and classically elegant in attack. His stroke play was a sheer delight. At his best Bryan could make any attack seem ordinary. Bryan was a cricket legend, a leg-spin bowler with a wily action who, at his peak, mesmerised and terrorised all who faced him. It is said he made the ball bounce, especially his googly which was well disguised. Despite his achievements as a teenager, he was well liked at school as a modest cricketer and a good friend. As an 8-year-old I was thrilled by his fine performances for the school.

After leaving Wesley, he continued to play cricket for Colts Cricket Club and represented his country. Some of his team-mates of the All Ceylon side, captained by V. G. Prins, were C. I. Gunasekera, Dr H. I. K. Fernando, A.C.M. Lafir, Stanley Jayasinghe, C. T. Schaffter, Dooland Buultjens, P. N. Schokman, G. P. Schoorman, P. A. T. Kelly, M. Ponniah and M. Makkin Salih, who won the Gopalan Trophy.

Bryan emigrated to Perth, Western Australia and then to Adelaide where he continued to play Club Cricket with great success. He coached and helped young cricketers to achieve their goals. His innate ability to spot rising talent remained with him throughout his coaching career. Bryan was one of the few great cricketers of whom it could be said, without flattery, that he was as fine a man as he was a player.

After working for several years in Adelaide, Bryan and his wife Carol retired to a farm in Tailem Bend, South Australia. It is a small picturesque town on the Murray River 100km east of Adelaide on the South Eastern Highway to Melbourne. Here they enjoyed the life in the country. They took easily to their new life of open spaces, clean air and farm animals and became an integral part of the farming community. He was a newcomer to farming and its demanding physical routines took its toll. Nevertheless, Bryan remained a resourceful and colourful character and an asset to the community. His ability to charm never deserted him.

I had by then moved to live and work in the UK. When I wrote an article to the Wesley College 125th Anniversary Souvenir, Bryan contacted me. In the subsequent months and years we maintained close touch with phone calls and letters. Bryan’s letters were always beautifully written in calligraphic handwriting. He wrote the news and views with poems to illustrate a point. He had an amazing talent and zeal for poetry. It was a great pleasure to receive his letters written with great sincerity and style.

Bryan was fiercely loyal to his old school, Wesley College. With his characteristic enthusiasm he contributed generously when funds were needed and maintained contact with many of his schoolmates. His 1953 cricket team remained always close to his heart and he kept in touch with many of them. He never spoke ill of anyone and was always polite. He combined his skills of natural diplomacy and generous spirit with his strong beliefs in justice and equality. If there were simmering conflicts at Wesley College Bryan was pragmatic and gave his advice to help change the school for the better. He was the voice of reason and common sense. When change came at Wesley he was delighted and showed his approval by his well written emails. Throughout the years after leaving school he kept in contact with his old teachers – Rev Wilfred Pile, C.J.T. Thamotheram, Edmund Dissanayake and Lionel Jayasuriya with phone calls, letters and Christmas cards, until the very end.

In the last few years Bryan’s health was failing and had to give up his active life. He and Carol continued to enjoy the social events at Tailen Bend including Ballroom dancing and the more energetic Barn Dancing. They loved the company of their grandchildren and the extended family. Bryan and Carol had a rich family life and she was the love of his life. They have five children. Their highlights were large family gatherings where Bryan took his place at the table with his usual humour and character.

They remained a popular couple in Tailem Bend where they entertained often and generously. They were particularly close to Radley, his brother, who lives in Adelaide. Although he bravely fought his health problems, towards the end he displayed great fortitude, resigning himself philosophically to the inevitable. His strong Christian faith remained a great source of comfort.

I was deeply saddened to hear that Bryan Claessen passed away. I am grateful I was able to know him and be his friend. We will always remember him in the years to come. His sense of humanity and energy for what he believed in will be sorely missed. We send our deepest condolences to Carol and the family in this time of grief.
Grant him O Lord eternal peace!

Dr Nihal D. Amerasekera

 

Kithsiri Senevirathne

An institution within an institution

“Who can prevent Death’s industry, which when he sleeps-Throws up its Towers, slackness the dreams of Revolution and conceals everything with ¬the birth of Death?” - (Stephen Spender)
Kithsiri Senevirathne J.P.U.M. Attorney-at-Law and Notary Public, Acting Magistrate of Kandy and President of the Bar Association of Kandy passed away peacefully after a brief illness at a private nursing home in Kandy.
I had the privilege of associating with him for the last two decades and I found him to be a genuine and sincere colleague. He was a paragon of virtue. He hailed from a distinguished and aristocratic Kandyan family. His late mother who was closely related to late Sir Francis Molamure of Balangoda - former Speaker of the House of Representatives settled down in Kandy after her marriage with late D. D. Y. Senevirathne of Kandy. His house and garden surrounded by the forest reserve of Udawattekelle stretched as far as Trinity College, his alma mater. His late parents kept an open house without grudging the produce from their vast garden. Every visitor was welcomed with a warm “Cup That Cheers”. Late Kithsiri adopted this charitable and gracious attitude from his late parents. His generosity knew no bounds. Lawyers who happened to travel in his vehicle from the New Courts Complex were treated with short-eats at the Royal Mall and thereafter dropped in their respective offices in Kandy.

During his school career he played cricket for Trinity’s first eleven team. Thereafter, he joined the Sri Lanka Law College - Colombo and passed out as a Lawyer in 1967. ‘An institution within an institution’ is how best, I would describe soft spoken Kithsiri - a colossus who strode the Kandy Courts for almost 43 years with zeal and enthusiasm. His attire, outlook and mastery of the English language were in keeping with the Eton and Harrow traditions, Trinity is proud of to this day. He stood tall amongst his peers, both literally and metaphysically. His soft heart, serene countenance and kind words appealed to one and all. He appeared for needy clients without a fee. Being a keen sportsman, he played cricket for the Kandy Lawyers’ Cricket Club.
He played a pivotal role in organising parties and farewell dinners for lawyers who were promoted to the Judicial Service. He had the knack of picking the right type of lawyers to help him with his wonderful job. He was instrumental in getting the New Law Courts Complex and the Lawyers Chambers at Gopallawa Road constructed on time. He was the S.L.F.P. organiser for the Hewaheta Electorate after the demise of his brother-in-law Advocate P. Tennekoon. Kithsiri was also a member of the Kandy Municipal Council for the Wewelpitiya Ward.

Although he possessed a few cars, yet he preferred to ride on his Shanks Mare for his morning constitutional round in the city. He thumped on the piano for relaxation at eventide.
Kithsiri’s contemporaries at Trinity College were retired Justice Sarath N. de Silva, the late Gamini Dissanayake, the late Lukshman Kadiragamar, Jayantha Dhanapala of the U.N.O., W. Muhsin of the World Bank and other well-known Trinitians.

On great occasions at Trinity College, Kithsiri sported about in his blazer embellished with the Trinity emblem and motto ‘Respice Finem’ i.e ‘Look to the end’. Whenever he sang his College Anthem after his day’s work, it created a sensation among lawyers who hailed from less prestigious schools.
He leaves behind his wife Ramani nee Rathnayake and a son Maneesha who is practising as a lawyer in Kandy.
An old Trinitian the late Carl Van Langerberg’s free verse haunted his memory. He’d often say “Wrap me up in my Trinity Blazer, Blazer - Summon six stalwart Trinitians to carry me - with steps solemn, mournful and slow - To my eternal abode below - where I’ll rest with glow for ever end ever”.
Such was Kithsiri’s admiration for his Alma Mater - Trinity College, Kandy.

A guiding light his memory will be
To loved ones and friends, wherever they be
Free from pain, toil and care
A gentleman of great calibre, generous and rare.

May be attain Nibbana is my prayer!

A.M.I Saheed J.P.U.M.
Attorney-at-Law and N.P
Kandy

 

 

 

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