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  Nation 2  


 

First Citizens Peace Award to Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
The Citizens Peace Award for 2010 of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka has been awarded to Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Dr Saravanamuttu was selected from 52 nominations received after the award was announced in November 2010. The National Peace Council is happy that its inaugural selection should be of a person who holds a leading position in a well-known civil society organisation and has distinguished himself and his work by courage, risk-taking and consistency over many years.
Dr Saravanamuttu has been a strong advocate of a political solution to the ethnic conflict in the country, which is at the basis of NPC’s own mandate. During the years of war, as head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and in his own personal capacity as a political commentator, Dr Saravanamuttu spoke steadfastly on behalf of a negotiated and just political settlement. Over these years he emerged as a leading champion of the ideals of human rights, good governance and power sharing between the different ethnic communities as an integral part of a solution to the ethnic conflict.
Among Dr Saravanamuttu’s many outstanding contributions too have attracted our sincere admiration. One is the courage he has shown in word and deed to mitigate the culture of fear stemming from impunity, extra-judicial killings, terrorism and intolerance of free expression of political opinion. He has thereby given leadership to many others in civil society and media to express their own views and engage in debate in accordance with the freedoms and ideals of political life in a democracy. The other was his taking up the cause of temporary Tamil residents of Colombo city who were threatened with mass expulsion by government decree during the height of the war in 2007. As head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, he filed legal action in the Supreme Court and prevailed, thereby inspiring confidence that the processes of justice continued to be available to vindicate the rights of citizens.
The Citizens Peace Award was established in 2010 by the National Peace Council to honour and encourage those individuals in civil society who have demonstrated courage and consistency in the protection of and respect for human rights; peaceful settlement of disputes and promoting increased understanding between and among communities. Other criteria considered included work in hostile conditions, sacrifices made and being a Sri Lankan citizen working within Sri Lanka. The selection of the winner was by the nine-member Board of Directors of NPC and ratified by its 20 member Governing Council from recommendations made by a five member nominations committee after calling for nominations in the print media in the national languages and its website. The prize is made possible by funds received from the Sakai City Government’s Peace Contribution Award, Soroptimist International of Osaka Izumi and the National Peace Council.
 
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Celebrating birth and life of last messenger of Islam

By Shabna Cader
Wednesday 16 celebrated the birth of the last prophet of Islam – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH – Peace Be Upon Him).
Although he was the last messenger, he was known as the Master of Prophets and was born in the Bani Hashim section of Makkah on Monday morning – the ninth of Rabi Ul-Awwal in the year 571 CE (April 20 or 22).
According to scholars and other works regarding his birth, a great light illuminated the palaces of Syria at the time. There were plenty of other significant signs accompanied by his birth that denoted a man of great honour, charisma and importance – a man of change had been born. It was his grandfather – Abdul Muttalib – who named the baby Muhammad (PBUH), a name not common at the time among the Arabs.
Throughout his early years and onto his childhood, Muhammad’s (PHUB) presence alone brought good fortune and much success into the lives and families of the people he was amongst. His mother passed away, when he was still at the tender age of six, and he was then entrusted to his grandfather, but in two years time, when he too passed away, Muhammad (PBUH) came under the care and guidance of his uncle, Abu Talib.
In his early youth, Muhammad (PBUH) occupied his time with no particular job but worked as a shepherd in Makkah for a simple wage. At the age of 25, he travelled to Syria as a merchant. By that time, he had already met Kadijah. He returned with more profits and blessings much to her surprise. She has heard and learnt much about Muhammad’s (PBUH) character and that he was indeed an honest, good mannered and sincere man. Subsequently, they were married – she was 40 years at the time. With the exception of one son (Ibrahim), it was Kadijah who gave birth to Muhammad’s (PBUH) six other offspring. All his sons didn’t live a long and healthy life and died with natural causes in their childhood, and all his daughters except the youngest, Fatimah, died during his lifetime.
As a summary of his life before he attained prophethood, Muhammad (PBUH) was a combination of the best social attributes. He was intelligent, original in thought and had an accurate choice of means. He shunned superstitious practices, but had a vivid mind and a pure nature that was instrumental in understanding the ways of life and the people. There was no doubt that Allah’s good guidance and care kept him away from all the repulsive and evil practices in the world. It was reported Muhammad (PBUH) as saying, “I have never tried to do anything of ignorance... everyone Allah intervened and checked me from doing so and I never did that again.”
He was not like the other Arabs and known greatly for his modesty, virtuous behaviour and simple grace. He was most honest in his talk and mildest in his temper; gentle, kind, chaste and hospitable. He frequently impressed the people by his piety inspiring expressions and was most truthful. He was therefore given the title Al Ameen, which translates to The Trustworthy.
Muhammad (PBUH) was accustomed to spending a large part of his day and long hours in retirement; his favourite resort was the cave names Hira in Mount An-Noor. There, he would meditate and worship the universe around him. He could not stand worshipping idols. It was a rich period of privacy that lasted for three entire years prior to the beginning of his mission as a prophet. It was at the age of 40, during the sacred month of Ramadan that Allah’s Will honoured Muhammad (PBUH) with prophet hood and the noble first verses of the Holy Qur’an was revealed to him.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) initiated his mission or spreading of Islam from his very home and gradually to the people he closely associated with. Those who embraced Islam at the time are known in Islamic Literature as the early converts – they included his wife Kadijah who was the first to convert to Islam. Eventually as more people started embracing Islam, the new faith could not be kept a secret any further. Yet, for three years of secrecy, a strong group of believers emerged with one definite objective in their minds – establishing the all unto Islam.
“O thou wrapped up in a mantle, arise and deliver thy warning! And thy Lord do thou glorify” – Al Muddaththir – Surah 74, verses 1-3
To the men of Makkah, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) message of a new way of life was as much a political threat as an economic threat. Those who did not embrace his message, began to ridicule and criticise his way of life and also made life certainly more difficult to bear for his other followers. Nevertheless, he continued to spread the word of Islam and began worshipping Allah right before their eyes, praying aloud in the courtyard during daytime while the rest watched in silence and awe.
He was headstrong in his mission and didn’t allow the Arabs to allow him to falter. He was determined to change their lifestyle and their beliefs. He began to disapprove the superstitious practices of worshipping Idols which was the main religion or faith at the time. All of this, as well as the fact that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a man of trustworthiness resulted in an increase in the acceptance of the call and people were entering Islam one after the other.
But the band of Arabs, who controlled most of the land, could not bear to convert and follow another. This was the most difficult of times in Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) lifetime. They distorted his teachings by creating doubts and circulating false propaganda. They continued to taunt, ridicule and hurt him as well as the new converts. When nothing could stop the believers, they began persecuting anyone in their tribe who was found to be following Islam. Even the women were not spared. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached to the early converts and others who embraced Islam to keep their faith strong and that Allah will not allow any harm come unto them. He ensured that they remained focussed and dutiful.
After some years of enduring this kind of torture, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) situation became perilous and he has no alternative but to leave Makkah. This is where the term Hijrah comes in – the Arabic words means flight or emigration, from Makkah to Medina. There he continued his mission and was an example of unshakable belief in Allah.
The rest of his life, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent preaching further. There was also another incident known as the miraculous night journey, the ascent through the spheres of heavens. This journey raised a good deal of ignorance and falsehood amongst the people but for the true Muslims however there was nothing unusual about it at all. Wicked schemes however continued to plague the Muslims no matter where they were and at this critical situation a message was sent from Allah, giving the Muslims permission to take arms against the disbelievers.
Regardless of how the battles that followed suit ended, Islam flourished in the lands of Makkah and beyond. The original constitution was replaced by the revelations of the Holy Qur’an and the word of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Together they established the Shariah or Islamic Law.
In his lifetime, the one man was able to change the lives of millions. He undertook the responsibility of changing the beliefs of a nation and gave each and every person, man and woman, a new faith, one that ensures a better life in the hereafter. He overwhelmed the lives and hearts of the people and filled them with much dignity. People in return respected him as the Last Messenger and their devotion towards him was unmatched and unique. Those who were closely associated with him were fascinated and enchanted at the same time.
Indeed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived a charmed but simple and hard life. He was the perfect example of remarkable position and rank, of strength and courage, of perseverance and endurance, of understanding and honesty. Even wise men have shortcomings but Allah’s messenger was an example for all other Muslims then and even now. He is still held in high esteem and regarded as the most important messenger of Islam – his attributes and qualities are what all Muslims intend on following today.

 

 

Galle Mayor wins first place
Galle Mayor Methsiri de Silva came first in a one-year diploma course conducted for local government members of the Southern Province. His research paper was on ‘Preventing Dengue in Galle.’ The picture shows Mayor Silva presenting his dissertation to President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees last week
Sajith distributes children’s savings books
Sajith Premadasa, MP for Hambantota District and Chairman of the Janasuwaya Development Foundation, has initiated many projects to upgrade and enhance infrastructure and livelihoods of all communities in the Hambantota District.
The picture illustrates Sajith Premadasa distributing children’s savings books and school equipment to 200 school children under the Janasuwaya Programme at a cost of Rs.400,000 in Beralihela in the Lunugamwehera Division of the Hambantota District

Harisspathuwa gets Samadhi Buddha statue
The foundation stone laying ceremony for construction of Samadhi Buddha statue to mark the 2,600 Sri Sambuddhajayayanthi, under the patronage of Chairperson, Sharama Shakthi Organisation and Central Provincial Councillor Mrs Shanthini Kongahage, was held at Poojapitiya, Bodhimalu Viharaya in Harisspathuwa electorate recently.
In the picture are Provincial Councillor, Mrs Shanthini Kongabage, Ven Udamudune Sri Ratnasara Thera and the Secretary of AGAs’ Office Poojapitiya, Manager, Bank of Ceylon Poojapitiya

Religious programme on
Valentine’s Day
Under the auspices of MP Namal Rajapaksa and guidance of Ven Heenatigala Indrasara Thera, a religious programme was conducted on February 14 at the Dharmapala Park in Galle to coincide with Valentine’s Day. At this event, Ven Heenatigala Indrasara Thera presented a painting of a Buddha Statue drawn by him to MP Rajapaksa (Pic by Nishanka de Silva)

British High Commissioner presents
credentials to President
Newly-arrived British High Commissioner John Rankin presenting his letter of credence from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the presence of Acting Minister of External Affairs, Neomal Perera at a formal ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat

Japan extended Rs.27.2 million for three livelihood projects
The government of Japan has provided a sum of US$ 241,768 (approximately Rs.27.2 million) grant aid for three projects to improve livelihoods of the communities in the Moneragala, Ampara, and Matara Districts under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP).
The first project, “the Project for Uplifting Living Standards of Communities in the Monaragala District,” will be implemented by Lower Uva Development Centre. Approximately Rs.12 million is allocated to improve four access roads, three culverts and one anicut, and to construct four wells, one causeway, and one water supply system in Bible, Medagama, and Siyabalanduwa Divisional Secretary divisions in the Moneragala District. This project will uplift the living standards of 620 families directly and benefit 2,830 families in the surrounding areas indirectly.
The second project, “the Project for Livelihood Development Assistance in the Conflict Affected Area in the Ampara District,” will be implemented by Eastern Rehabilitation and Relief Organisation on a budget of around Rs.9.6 million. This project will support to improve agricultural infrastructure of three agricultural roads, three culverts, two anicuts, one bund, and one channel in Sammanturai Divisional Secretary division in the Ampara District. It is expected that the project will increase agricultural production and uplift livelihoods of 800 farmers directly.
The third project is, “the Project for Economic Empowerment of Women through increased production of dry fish in Weligama Divisional Secretary Division in the Matara District,” being implemented by Soba Kantha Environment Management and Community Development Foundation. Approximately Rs.5.6 million is allocated to provide 20 ovens, necessary equipments and trainings to the women’s communities in Walliwala East Grama Niladari Division in Weligama Divisional Secretary Division in order to assist in improving livelihoods of 150 families through increasing the production of dry fish. This is the second dry fish project implemented by Soba Kantha, following the successful implementation of a similar project in 2010.
Japan focuses its assistance to Sri Lanka on (1) the consolidation of peace and reconstruction and (2) the medium and long-term development, and has assisted the programs such as reconstruction in the North and East, agriculture and fisheries development, and rural development. In this context, the government of Japan has decided to assist these three projects, which are expected to promote Sri Lanka’s social and economic development as well as to enhance peace and reconciliation at the grassroots level. The Grant Contracts between Kunio Takahashi, Ambassador of Japan and the representatives of these organisations were signed on February 18, 2011 at the Embassy of Japan in Colombo.