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Events


Betrayal of Alfred Nobel’s lofty ideals

On a day like November 27, 115 years ago a scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author and pacifist placed his signature on his last will in 1895, leaving a fortune “to recognise and honour those who, during the preceding years shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.
The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, left a large portion of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel prize.

Since 1901, the prize has been honouring men and women from all parts of the globe for outstanding achievements in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and work on Peace. A prize for economics was introduced too in 1960s
The recipients of the prize receives a gold medal, a diploma and a cash prize, -depending on the income in the previous year, in 2009, winners receiving US$1.4 million each.
Alfred Nobel the inventor of dynamite, died in 1896 entrusting, a Swedish committee to selects all winners except the Peace prize, which is by the Norwegian committee.
However, betraying the trust placed on them by the great man, the members of the committees have acted in contrary to Nobel’s expectations.

The peace prize has frequently caused controversy. One reason is that many laureates have been contemporary and highly controversial politicians.
This year, the Norwegian committee selected the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, as the winner of Nobel Peace prize, and boasted, it could go down in history as ‘one of the most important’ ever awarded.
Liu was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for subversion by the Chinese authorities after co-authoring a manifesto calling for reforms in the administration. (readers should not try to draw a parallel with our main opposition party).

Enraged Chinese regime cancelled official meetings with Norway, and urged other nations to boycott the awards ceremony which was scheduled to be held in Oslo.
This award seems a betrayal of lofty ideals of the prize and can only tarnish its image.
The Norwegian committee has been accused of having political agendas, and of being Eurocentric. 2009 Peace Prize awarded to Barack Obama, omitting more deserving candidates, the decision surprised Obama himself.

Another worst selection was in 1973 when Henry Kissinger was awarded it while the fighting continued, for “negotiating a peace deal” at the Vietnam war. Two members of the committee resigned in protest saying Kissinger was responsible for widening the war. Yasser Arafat, the inventor of ‘suicide bomber’, received the peace prize in 1994 for his role in talks with Israel making one member to resign saying Arafat was a ‘terrorist’.
The 2004 Literature prize went to Eldred Jenlinek, drawing protests from a member of Swedish academy.
Herta Mulla, the literature laureate in 2009, was criticised by many accusing that her name was not even known in literary circles.

There had been unfair selections in the medical field too, In 1949, Neurologist Antonia Monist was awarded the Medicine prize for developing ‘Prefrontal Leucotomy’ overlooking Dr Walter Freeman who developed a faster and easier version of same in 1948.
The Physics Prize in 2010 awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantine Novoselov of Manchestor University UK, for their work on ‘Graphene’, a two dimensional carbon structure that has huge potential in the field of electronics too has been challenged by high profile Graphene researcher, Walt de Heer of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Heer was objecting to errors in its explanation of this year’s prize which compelled the chairman of the committee to admit, “Some of the things we also think are mistakes”.
But de Heer sees a series of errors that he believes overplay the significance of Geim and Novoselov’s work at the expense of other researches. What a disgrace?
As far back as 1937, the name of Mahatma Gandhi was nominated for the Peace prize, which the committee deferred. Making the most hilarious statement in 1989, they awarded it to Dalai Lama of Tibet saying, “this prize we attribute to Late Gandhi ”.

Scientist Marie Curie and her family members receiving six prizes in the years 1903, 1911, 1935 and 1965, too has met with criticism from many a quarter. The award committee should be careful not low itself to be the instrument of any group or ideology.
In 1973, Le doc Tho refused to accept the Peace Prize for his role in peace talks at the Paris summit on Vietnam, he declined saying there was no real peace in Vietnam. Philosopher, existentialist, novelist and playwright Jean -Paul Sartre rejecting the Literature Prize in 1964 stated, “A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it is done in the most honourable form ”.

K K S Perera

 
Kettarama resembles debris of a devastated factory

The first Test match between the visiting West Indies cricket team and Sri Lanka ended in a draw with the visitors taking all honours over the always complacent Sri Lankan side who are never consistent.
The Test was played in the reconstructed new picturesque Galle International Cricket Stadium which was completely devastated by the 2004, December tsunami.
The second Test in a series of three Test matches commenced as scheduled at the Kettarama International Cricket Stadium (RPS) in Colombo on Tuesday, November 23, which unfortunately is undergoing extensive renovation of a very large magnitude.
It is reliably learnt that the ground area had been lifted by about three feet and the playing square also had been re-laid.

No matches had been played on the newly laid turfs and even the expert curators were not aware how the wicket would behave. In fact, Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara was initially repenting for having won the toss as he was not sure whether to bat or elect to field first.
Prior to the commencement of the Test, the SLC secretary had apologised to the cricket loving public for the inconvenience they would have to face as facilities that exist at the venue are by no means adequate.Why the hell they did not take a decision, to shift it to some other Test venue in Colombo. It is learnt that the massive renovations are done to accommodate a capacity crowd of 30,000 as this is the venue where a semi-final match for the Word Cup is to be staged approximately in three months from now.

It is only now that the authorities reveal reliably that earlier only a capacity crowd that this stadium could accommodate was only 17,000. However, when International ODI matches were held, the commentators often said that there was a capacity crowd of over 30,000 spectators. The organisers (SLC) unlike in other countries issue passes at random to their henchmen and as a result the stadium gets jam packed while in addition service personnel flash their Service ID’s and enter free with their kith and kin. Nobody really knows the exact number of spectators that were present at the venue. Fans are packed as in a tin of sardine fish which made watching an ODI match very miserable.

While this article is being written, the much awaited first Ashes Test between hosts Australia and England commenced at the Gabba Stadium in Brisbane on November 25. The stadium is very much larger than the Kettarama International Cricket Stadium and even in it the capacity crowd that could be accommodated is only 42,000 spectators.
All tickets had been sold out long before the commencement of the Test match.
The ground authorities are able to confirm exactly the number of spectators present on any given date at the venue by using not so sophisticated counting devices.
It was confirmed on the giant screen and by the commentators that first day’s attendance was 35,389 spectators.

It is time our cricketing administrators (SLC) adopt similar devices to precisely inform the number in attendance at the up-coming World Cup fixtures at least to be in par with practices adopted by other test playing nations at their venues.
We are still in a very primitive stage although we were allowed Test status in 1981, almost 30 years ago.
Although the Test match was staged despite severe odds, was telecast the world over via Ten Sports based in Dubai. Although development at any cost is our nations theme, we are yet to build up our own sports TV channel. At least no plans have yet been drawn to commence it either.
The press box for the second Test was still a makeshift one with international commentators, media personnel cramped up in it.

They worked amidst several constraints and technical complications.
This fact is easily proved when one compares this coverage with that of the coverage between India and New Zealand Tests just concluded. They are poles apart, which prove without any doubt, the primitiveness in our infrastructure. Unless proper professional personnel are deployed, our cricketing infrastructure will never improve. The giant screens have been installed, time has now come for the installation of electronic score boards.

The few spectators who have braved these constraints have been cramped into a corner of the stadium with temporary seating arrangement. Most of these spectators are not true cricket lovers, but were some schoolchildren and those from the locality, and the rest mostly shanty dwellers, who have been probably tactfully taken in perhaps to show the world this Test was played with an audience. Of course, a band in disarray (in a small scattered space) was in attendance.
There are huge monstrous concrete constructions that enclose the playing area and above them are long iron rods.
These unpleasant sights do not have a roof above and the work is yet to commence.
The spectators and millions of television viewers are pondering how an unfinished stadium could be completed barely in three months from the scheduled World Cup matches. The deadline to have the venues ready it is learnt is December 31.

The entire incomplete structure around the stadium resembles the remains of devastated, debris of a large iron factory from a fire.
It is a horrifying, frightening and appalling site for any viewer. Rarely an International Test match had been played in such a hostile setting.
We Sri Lankans must thank the West Indian Cricket Board and its management for agreeing to play at such a venue which cannot be labelled as one in the category of a normal Test venue.
The governing body of World Cricket, the International Cricket Council should take notice of this matter and this Test match should go into the Guinness Book of World Records. The funniest thing is that the secretary SLC had confessed without any shame that this venue was pursued with in order to give exposure to our cricketers. Was he not aware that this was a Test match and not a one-day International? The composition of the One Day team is quite different.

Sunil Thenabadu

 

Whispering Thoughts

Words aren’t easy on a day 80 memorable
This fourth birthday unfurls warm memories adorable
Every now’n then entrustingly glancing at me
Revealing a secret within a secret exclusive to me.

Seldom I do end my crowded each day
Without a solemn wish for your future bright’n gay
Your angelic innocent ways makes specially dear
May each sunny day dawn blessing you sans a tear.

The little laughs tinkling sweeter than melodies reigning
In you, I see invisible strands of power, a child promising
My heart swells in unusual humble pride
In true grandmother style pleasurely, thee I fondly guide.

May you be healthy, wise, courageous a pleasant personality
Be a multi-faceted, versatile lady with gifted brilliance
May your path be paved with many a golden opportunity
May you be exemplary, accomplished par excellence.

Smiling blue eyes screened in long dark lashes
Recalling yonder memories, happy times shared amidst warm wishes
May the triple gem shower choicest blessings every moment
For a legion of years on my granddaughter Pamathi truly aren’t.

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

 

We should be free to settle anywhere in Sri Lanka

Some days ago Professor Keethaponkalan of Colombo University gave evidence before the LLRC spouting (just like our Cardinal) the doctrine of a “traditional homeland” for Tamils only in the North and East.
I am saddened that this intellectual rejects the unitary nature of our multi-ethnic country by protesting about Sinhala settlers in “their” areas.
Every citizen of Sri Lanka should be free to settle anywhere.
There is just no question that Sinhalese, Moors, Malays, Burghers, etc. should be banned from settling in the North and East and thus disturbing their (god-given?) ethnic composition.
He seems to be touting the idea of our nation being transformed into a bunch of ethnic enclaves.
Prabhakaran, the prophet of this doctrine, put it into practice by brutally evicting the long-standing Muslim community of Jaffna.
Does the Professor realise that the logical application of this doctrine would be to evict all Tamil residents (including himself) from the “traditional homelands” of the hospitable Sinhalese where 55% of Sri Lanka’s Tamils live in harmony.
Wake up to reality, dear Professor.
Tissa Devendra

Koffi with sympathy

Once…..
Humbled in thought, words and deed
On the death of a LTTE terrorist
A United Nation’s mischief?
Worthy of a toy T-56.

Irene De Silva

 

Modesty needed in dancing

Recently there had been some efforts to bring about a little decency into our decadent society by our President.
I would like to draw his attention to a serious breach of decency in our society.
Wherever there is a function, often there will be some scantily clad lady dancers inaugurating it. Unlike those days, where there was elegance and beauty combined with decency in the dances, most of these functions nowadays consist of young girls dressed in what can be termed as an excuse for a dress, consisting often merely part of a bra and a low-hipped thigh hugging transparent dress and the dance consisting of just some vulgar suggestive gyrations. Some troupe just keep changing their dresses, each more revealing than the earlier ones and doing the same gyrations in the name of dances.
Even little children in some nursery schools are copying these dresses – or are made to copy by their unthinking teachers and making a mockery of their innocence.
It is also horrifying to see these events taking place even at some youngsters’ functions like the cricket or school celebrations and even elderly guests sitting and watching these so called dances. What levels are we stooping to?
Would they like their own daughters to perform like this and would they feel comfortable for their youngster sons to watch them, I wonder. Don’t the decent elders see what we are promoting amongst our youngsters? This sort of exhibition brings out the worst carnal feelings and combined with alcohol as happens often, we are pushing our nation to moral disaster.
Islam totally forbids women and girls exposing their bodies leave alone gyrating in front of aping and gaping men and dancing in front of men.
Lets’ hope the president will consider bringing in some decency into our so called artistes so that modesty and decorum prevails.

Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai

 

Don’t let children be mystic

Halloween Night, a commercialised festival, designed to be a money spinner by certain members of the business community, using ghosts (disembodied spirits or shadows of semblance), vampires (reanimated corpses which are supposed to strike at night and suck blood of persons - a superstitious legend that sprang up from the novel ‘Dracula’ written by Bram Stoker in 1897), witches (ugly old women said to be dealing with devils or evil spirits), mystical monsters, birds, animals and skeletons, is observed in the Western world on the day before All Saints’ Day or October 31, every year. The colours used in the festival are black and orange, depicting darkness at night and autumn leaves, respectively.

This mythical event has spread to our country as well and especially teenagers, dressed in scary costumes resembling witches, skeletons, monsters and birds, do merrymaking and dance into the night.
Halloween began as a summer’s end festival called ‘Samhain’ among ancient Celts during the Iron Age. Christianity, thereafter, absorbed such pagan festivals. The Celts (an Indo-European language group that lived in Brittany and Europe) believed that ghosts or spirits attempt to return to their former homes during Samhain. To appease such ghosts or spirits Celts used to heap food, fruits, etc. at their doorsteps in the night and wore costumes to scare away the ghosts and spirits.
It is that ritual that is performed in the Halloween Night.
That type of mythology should not be allowed to take root in the minds of the children and such events should not be sponsored.

The parents and teachers have the responsibility to stop the spread of the mystic Halloween Night which is against our cultural values.

Upali S Jayasekera

 

Optimism over President’s second term

In the context of the president taking his oath of office on Friday November 19 at 10.07am and the events of the run-up to the ceremony have made some of us Sri Lankans wonder whether we are in the days of the monarchy.
To begin with, the president re-elected in January 2010 took his oaths only in November this year.
Perhaps, the rationale is that since he took his oaths for the first time in November 2005 he wanted to make use of the month of November.
Unlike the other presidents under the 1978 constitution, there were days of celebrations before and after last month’s ceremony.
In the midst of the supposedly shortage of electricity in the country, Colombo was lit heavily during those days.
Certain parts of Colombo did not function on that day certainly the government and banking sectors.
Some mercantile offices were also closed.
However, certain international schools functioned on that day.
These schools created for the rich class in this country and for foreign examinations.
But the bulk of our children, who do the local examinations and those sitting the ‘O’ Levels in December this year, had to miss work on that day.
However, some sections of the media named the president as the peoples’ president!
To my mind, what is happening today in Sri Lanka is certainly the outcome of what began in 1978 with J R Jayewardene’s constitution. So, all those architects of the 1978 constitution must be held responsible for the present monarchical trends in the country.
Now that the president has taken his oath of office and the military part of the war was over in May 2009, Sri Lanka’s president has to walk the talk in the context of his oath-taking address to the nation.
Plenty of work has to be done and I hope and pray that the thinking of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission will be implemented.
Soon after the oath-taking ceremony the president appointed the new cabinet and also presented the new budget.
It is now left to the system. The Sri Lankan government, headed by the president, is expected to deliver the goods so that all the people from Hambantota to Jaffna, Batticaloa to Colombo will be part of what the government of Sri Lanka will do for the country.
Over to all interested in the future of Sri Lanka.
Sydney Knight

 

Appreciation

Rt Rev C. Lakshman Wickremesinghe

Lest we forget

On March 25, we shall once again remember Bishop Lakshman’s birthday. If he had been with us he would have kept his 83rd birthday. .
In this context of the realities of Sri Lanka today with no master plan for National Reconciliation we miss Bishop Lakshman very much. Why do I say this?
Bishop Lakshman has left behind for all time his own story.
In July 1983, he was in Birmingham. Against doctor’s advice he came back to this country. He visited all the Tamil clergy and workers in the diocese of Kurunegala. Thereafter he visited Jaffna. Based on his findings, he wrote the now famous Lakshman Wickremesinghe Statement. That was his charge; Indeed his final charge as the Bishop of Kurunegala. This was in September 1983. Within a month he was dead.
In that statement he said the following:
1. I am one of those “who has tried and failed to solve the Sri Lankan national problem”.
2. On behalf of those responsible for July 1983 he apologised to all the victims.
In the run up to July 1983, Bishop Lakshman was one of those who dared to go to Jaffna when the Jaffna Library was set on fire. Because of the work that he did as the Chairperson of the Civil Rights Movement, the then President J R Jayewardene speaking from Dompe asked the question why is Bishop Lakshman criticising my government? That question was answered by The Civil Rights Movement.
In fact, some Sinhalese cynically stated that Bishop Lakshman would be the Presidential candidate not the Tamils.
Bishop Lakshman was also involved in other crises. One issue that cannot be forgotten is his intervention when the J R Jayewardene government chose to sack the workers on strike.
In this regard the Christian Workers Fellowship organised an “open air” public service in Ratmalana. At this service Bishop Lakshman preached. His sermon made such an impact that Dr Colvin R de Silva speaking at a public rally in Bogambara Kandy quoted the sermon.
When we think of Bishop Lakshman’s life we must certainly remember that he was what he said and did. If we Sri Lankans have a sense of history we must all work for National Reconciliation.
Certainly, those of us who were touched by this Sri Lankan must in his memory continue to work so that what he could not achieve we can. The impossible dream must be made a reality.
May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory! Amen.
Sydney Knight