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People and Events
A closing and an opening

by Nan
Last Sunday was not Sunday with no Leader to cheer us along. No shocking revelations, no laughing our guts out at Thelma’s bally words of wisdom and wormy remarks, no reading a well written editorial or being informed by excellent investigative reporting, no snippets of gossip in a nutshell.

I dare say the ban on the newspaper and its sister edition in Sinhala is counterproductive. I noticed how those who hardly read the rag, ran to past issues and devoured them. Hence articles and news about cabbages and queens that many had been totally unaware of, were now known widespread and because of the ban, believed.

In Sympathy

It looked good and pleased the heart ticking with passionate sorrow at the plight we Sri Lankans are in, to find two Sunday newspapers commiserating with the now silenced Leader and expressing sympathy for the workers who have no jobs for the next six months. Six months of starvation and warfare in their homes face them, until the sealed press is unsealed again. We who earn salaries are near starvation and have been tightening our belts in the face of ever increasing telephone, electricity and water bills; increase in the defence levy and escalating prices of bare essentials. How will people suddenly thrown out of their jobs for no fault of theirs, manage to contain their tempers and resentment, and their family’s hunger?

Of course The Leader did wrong; thus was it pronounced, publishing news that could be interpreted as treasonous, even if true. So it had to be punished, its editor’s head not quite offed with, but knocked askew for a full half year.

Better News

I am so glad I have something else to write about this second Leaderless Sunday. It is encouraging, its good news, it lifts the heart. It also makes us realize with a loud groan that while we are ever sinking to deeper depths of degradation, and our soldiers and LTTE youth killed by the hundreds, other countries are forging ahead with new projects, under just governments.

An Ondaatje Makes Waves

The National Portrait Gallery in London has a new wing named after Christopher Ondaatje, yes, originally a Sri Lankan and now a Canadian businessman, brother of Booker Prize winner and awarder of the Gratien prize - Michael Ondaatje. Christopher Ondaatje made the largest private donation to the total cost of around US$ 30 million that was needed to extend and reorganize the Gallery. Much of the rest of the money was from the National Lottery Fund. The money earned from the British lottery has done so much to conserve historical buildings and build new ones. Even the New Tate across the Thames, almost opposite the old Tate Gallery, was made possible by the lottery. A pertinent question asked before in this very same column, and asked again, is where goes all the money collected by our several lotteries?

The National Portrait Gallery was tucked away beside the stately National Gallery, shadowed by the mighty Nelson Column in St. Martins’ Place off Trafalgar Square. Thus even some Londoners were not aware of its existence and most bothered not to go see the portraits of monarchs, statesmen, mighty generals and famous writers. I remember how I spent a lonely month in London with nobody advising me to visit the National Portrait Gallery and so my days were spent along Oxford Street, in the Tate and National Museum and sitting by the Thames or marvelling in Trafalgar Square. It was my second son who conducted me there on a later date. It was absorbing.

The National Portrait Galley

The Gallery was set up in 1856 by the Victorian Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston. He believed the general public would be inspired to "noble actions and good conduct" by the display of portraits of the mighty, brave and famous of Britain down the ages, since the late 15th century. The Gallery was shifted around for full forty years until in 1896 it found its permanent niche in Trafalgar Square.

The trustees expanded the collection to include portraits of the well known, even if they were not of the highest virtue or valour "The gallery veered toward the voyeurist appeal of a Madame Tussaud’s". They also decided to look to the "celebrity of the person represented rather than the to the merit of the artist." The rule had been that a monarch had to be dead ten years before his/her portrait appeared on the walls of the Gallery. Thus, with the change in policy, paintings or photographs of the like of Margaret Thatcher, Mick Jagger, Joan Collins, Richard Branson and the soccer captain, David Beckham, vie with those of the royal family.

The Director of the Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, says: "We walk a tightrope between maintaining the dignity of the institution and at the same time democratizing it and making it of general public interest". They tap into the celebrity cult since that really brings in the visitors.

The Queen declared open the new wing on 4 May. The articles I read about it did not mention whether chief benefactor, Christopher Ondaatje, was present. He surely would have been.

The designers of the Ondaatje Wing and renovations were Sir Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, whose company also designed the new Royal Opera House, again with lottery money and a government grant.

A Showpiece of our own

This talk of museums and galleries induces me to ask you, Reader, a question. "Have you visited the Polonnaruwa Museum?" I had heard it was good, but actually seeing it recently delighted me. The museum far exceeded my expectations, built on reports heard.

Here is a museum that compares favourably with those in very rich countries. The layout is excellent, the building fine, the display very scientifically achieved, and the total effect something to be proud of. A spelling mistake or two had crept into the descriptions that followed the legends to each artifact displayed, but what of it, when we have a full description given of each display.

The museum is proof that with money available, we could keep up with the rich-country Joneses.

I add here in this context another need to the thousands already in place to pray for, plead and demand: PEACE in the COUNTRY. We could then rebuild and build renew. We could read any newspaper we like, take what they say or reject it; laugh at ourselves if criticised, change our ways not seal others’ mouths, target honesty and sincerity and for goodness sakes, have the chance to plan our lives, our activities. Now everything hinges on the likelihood of a curfew, a bomb explosion, elections, more stringent emergency laws. Our lives are becoming no longer ours. We are unable to plan a weekend out, or invite a family living abroad to come visit us since we do not know when we will conflagrate ourselves or be blown up to bits.

We are Sri Lankans and therefore we take restrictions and curbs lying down, with not much protest. We patiently await better times. But patience is wearing thin.

We as a nation have so much potential, so much ability, and we have let ourselves get into this tight, hand and mouth bound fix. How do we pull ourselves out? By the ballot, if the bullet does not get us first.


Tragedy strikes Lankan family in Canada

by Kirthie Abeyesekera
They brought flowers. They carried food. But mostly, they showered their spontaneous sympathy on a bereaved Sri Lankan family in their midst.

The wholly ‘White-Canadian’ community in the small village of 500 people, lined alongside the casket in large numbers to say a silent prayer and share the tragedy of an untimely death.

Nalaka de Silva was only 31 when he succumbed to what is widely speculated to be ‘medical misadventure.’ Infected wounds on his legs led to his hospitalisation in Kingston, Ontario in April. To arrest the infection from spreading, he had been given antibiotics so strong that it caused inflammation of the brain. To counter that, he was given steroids. He lay conscious on his hospital bed for two weeks. Then, in the afternoon of May 5, he fell into a coma.

Holding his mother, Karuna’s left hand on one side of the bed, and his father, Ananda’s right hand on the other, Nalaka closed his eyes, never to open them again.

The saga of the de Silva family from Kurunegala who first sought their fortunes in America in 1989 and crossed over to Canada in 1994, was featured in ‘The Sunday Island’ of Sept. 12, 1999. ‘The Land O’Lakes Inn’ they ventured upon in Cloyne, a tiny township, 250 miles north-east of Toronto, created a ‘Sri Lankan landmark in Canada,’ as the Sunday Island headlined the story.

Within a few months of their adventure in an off-the-beat Canadian outpost, the de Silva family, the only ‘non-whites’ within a 75-mile radius, endeared themselves to the local village folk.

Ananda de Silva, innovatingly, added a restaurant to the traditional ‘motel’ he purchased, so passers-by could drop by for a snack and a beer. The family gave it an oriental touch, greeting customers in the customary, ‘Ayubowan’ way. His wife, Karuna took over the kitchen. The elder son, Menaka, and his wife, Dilrukshi looked after the restaurant and bar. Nalaka could put his hand to anything - from doing-up the rooms to trading in antiques - another de Silva enterprise.

And now, the only daughter, Dunisha had flown in from the United States to weep for her ‘Podi Aiya’ who had left her all too soon. The 25-year-old Dunisha is researching forensic pathology at Minnesota’s renowned Mayo Clinic.

At the funeral parlour where her brother’s body lay for cremation, Ven. Saranapala who accompanied three other monks from Toronto for the ‘Pansakula’ ceremonies, spoke of the impermanence of all living things. This Buddhist concept struck the hearts of the predominantly non-Buddhist gathering so forcefully, that the Christian community, paying their last respects to Nalaka, told the de Silva family they would like to know more about Buddhism.

Nalaka’s ashes have been flown to Sri Lanka for interment. Ananda de Silva paid a tribute to the Cloyne community, led by John Buchanan and his wife, Marion, not only for the outpouring of their sorrow, but for their wonderful show of solidarity with a lonely, alien family, in their hour of grief.

The future of ‘Land O’Lakes Inn’ is now in the balance. The local community has given the de Silva family its unstinted support to develop it and have pledged their continued backing. A house beside the Inn, as a family residence, is also nearing completion.

"I bought this for Nalaka," says Ananda, the grieving father. And now this tragedy, so soon after they made Canada their home with visions for the future.

"I cannot surrender to this misfortune. I have my other son and daughter to look after. So I must be strong," he says, fighting his tears.


For an improved Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela

by Jayantha Jayewardene
Managing Trustee Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust
Having visited the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela many times over the years, I would like to make some suggestions for its improvement, based on my observations. Pinnawela now comes under the purview of the National Zoological Gardens, having been started by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The official responsibility for the welfare of the tame elephants in this country, has fallen between the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC) and the Department of Animal Production & Health (DAP&H). Whereas the DWLC is responsible for the registration of all tame elephants in the Island, the veterinary services required for these elephants is the responsibility of the DAP&H. As mentioned earlier, the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela falls under the purview of the Director, National Zoological Gardens. These anomalies have to be discussed at the highest level and all activities connected with the tame elephants in Sri Lanka brought under one government organisation.

(a) The orphanage at Pinnawela, at present has 62 elephants of which 26 are males and 36 females, of varying age groups. Some of the females who came to the Orphanage as babies have matured and are now capable of breeding. So far 16 calves have been born at the Orphanage with one third generation birth. There are only 28 mahouts to look after the 62 elephants. Of these 20 have only temporary employment. This is inadequate if the elephants are to be looked after properly, adequately trained and kept under control. For this there must be at least one mahout per elephant.

(b) The elephants are all herded twice a day, to the river, which is about a quarter mile away. They are taken along a rather narrow and crowded road, which is lined with shops on either side. This road is also used by the visitors to Pinnawela, who want to get to the river to watch the elephants bathe. It is very likely that soon a passing elephant will injure someone, who is on the road at the time the elephants pass either accidentally or deliberately. I think the road should be temporarily closed to human traffic each time the elephants use the road. This will avoid a serious problem that is very likely to develop in the future.

(c) Whilst in the water the elephants are not regularly scrubbed or groomed properly. A proper bath is essential to the well being of the elephants. At Pinnawela the elephant’s freedom to move about is restricted to a certain extent and, unlike in the jungle, they are not able to get rid of the ticks and parasites. The shortage of mahouts also contributes to the neglect of a proper bath. It is necessary for the security of the visitors that when the elephants go out of the Pinnawela premises for a bath, or for anything else, their mahouts be close to them.

(d) There does not seem to be a concrete plan for the future of he elephants. With the elephants growing up as time goes on and more orphaned calves added to the herd, there will be soon a time when Pinnawela gets congested. Orphaned babies will continue to come in as long as conflicts between humans and wild elephants last. The authorities will soon have to make a decision, not a political one as to what is to be done with the growing number of elephants at Pinnawela.

The population of tame elephants in the country is fast reducing. Very soon the temples that have annual peraheras with elephants will find it difficult to find elephants for their pageants. Since it is now not possible to re-introduce these elephants to jungle habitats, it is necessary to plan their future as domestic elephants. As mentioned earlier, they cannot be kept on at Pinnawela. These elephants however can be sold to carefully selected individuals or temples. Selections must be based on pre-set criteria and not to satisfy political requests. Most importantly it must be ascertained beyond doubt that the recipients have both the financial capability and the experience to look after the elephants properly.

(e) If the intention is to give/sell the elephants to individuals or temples they have to be trained to adjust to their new lives. Even if it is decided to loan some of the Pinnawela elephants for participantion in temple peraheras etc. their present lack of training may prove to be a risk as far as their behaviour and reaction to such large and noisy crowds which they will encounter at night.

It is imperative, whatever the future of these elephants be that they are trained according to a proper training plan and an objective. Their training has to be done by experienced mahouts who have trained elephants earlier. The training must be sustained till the animal is properly trained. The training must be for a fixed period daily. If these elephants are also trained to work they could earn at least a part of their keep. If the Pinnawela elephants are not trained they will constitute a large group of elephants that could barely be controlled.

(f) The stalls in which the elephants are kept must be cleaned regularly and the debris taken away and used for making compost or burnt. Though elephant dung takes a long time to breakdown the debris and dung can be sold as much needed fertiliser. Now we see large mounds of debris and dung and the bigger elephants ungainly perched on each of these mounds. The removal of this garbage and dung will help to prevent the recycling of gastrointestinal parasites as well as foot problems. For this purpose the Orphanage would have to purchase the necessary vehicles and equipment.

(g) There are too many males at Pinnawela at present. It would be prudent to move some of the males out — either by sale or presentation, in order to avoid a problem of unruly or restless males, especially when they are in musth. All over Europe zoos, safari parks etc. are getting rid of their males and have only females for exhibit. Most of these institutions have strong protection with no contact with the elephant by the handlers.

(h) It is essential that complete and accurate records of each individual animal be kept. All relevant particulars such as date of acquisition, how acquired, height, girth and weight measurements, particulars of breeding, calving details, cost of maintenance, treatment for illness and ailments, etc. The records of weight, height, etc. should be updated regularly.

(i) Sri Lanka has no organised captive elephantbreeding programme as a conservation effort. Private individuals own most of the 200 odd captive elephants now in the country. This is not counting the Pinnawela elephants. Most of the owners have one or two elephants. Few can afford to keep and maintain more elephants. The captive elephant owners do not breed their elephants, mainly due to a lack of interest in captive breeding amongst them. There are also practical difficulties that they encounter when trying to engage in such a programme. Some of the reasons are inability to coordinate breeding activity, loss of revenue when an elephant is pregnant, elephant given in charge of mahout, elephant taken to distance places for work etc.

Pinnawela could assist elephant owners to breed their female elephants by providing stud services and accommodation for the elephants till successful mating. They could also dispense the benefit of the experience their staff has gained in captive breeding so far.

(j) The present management methods adopted by private elephant owners are largely traditional. Efforts have been made to bring these owners under an association with one of the objectives being to inculcate better management techniques and conservation measures amongst the owners.

(k) Pinnawela sees a large number of visitors both local and foreign. It obtains substantial revenue from gate collections. However there is very little that a visitor can benefit from a visit to Pinnawela other than a viewing of the elephants. A Visitor Centre at Pinnawela is absolutely essential. This centre should cater to the visitors that come there in respect of their desire to know more about the elephants at Pinnawela as well as in the rest of the island.

Pinnawela can be a centre where orphaned elephants are cared for scientifically, research into various aspects of captive elephants conducted, captive breeding carried out scientifically and where the visitors can spend a pleasant time whilst learning much about elephants.


Sex for sale

By Sumadhu Weerawarne
In the Western Province alone 8 - 12,000 women walk the streets in search of men, and men manifold that number haunt known spots seeking to sate themselves. The women are purveyors of sex for a fee, those that fulfil a certain demand. It is one of libidinous gratification, one that supersedes all barriers of class, and unites those that seek at the very primeval level.

It is very much capitalism out there, with a demand oriented supply. But in the minds of those engaged there is no dignity in their trade, not because of non-recognition as a formalised sector, but because of the social stigma that the occupation carries with it.

According to Constance Hybsier, an Assistant Programme officer with Community Development Service, one of the many NGOs working in the women’s sector, those engaged in the trade seek to be anonymous. "They work in areas some distance away from where they live. This is to make sure that no one recognises them."

Their families are unaware of their occupation and all of the 13 women involved in the CDS study carry on a pretence of "regular employment", returning home every evening. For this reason the areas in which the women work must not be at too great a distance from their homes. "One person, often times the worker’s mother is aware of the real nature of the work," she says. This is for pragmatic reasons, to have someone bail them out when arrested by the Police.

Those women who were interviewed by the CDS were from the Borella, Maradana and Pettah areas. They were candidates for the simple reason that they were the only ones willing to talk. The seeming reluctance to divulge antecedents evidence the extent of the anonymity that they seek. That is not to say that they have no right to privacy, but simply that the effects of social stigma run deep. The survey found that the "sex workers think of themselves as being "stuck" in the sex business not only due to their lack of education, but because they had been labelled sex-workers.

Hybsier says "One woman L told us that no matter where she would go, she would always be recognised as a sex worker. It is doubtful whether she would be recognised everywhere, her view nevertheless reflects how strongly she has adopted the negative stigma of sex worker for herself. She has adopted society’s negative image of sex workers."

In simple terms they see themselves as doing something bad and are so keenly aware of it, that they too view themselves with a degree of contempt. One had said, "I cannot tell my children about my work, they will think badly of me and might not accept me. As mothers we cannot talk about these things to our children."

Another had said, "I can only confront my children when I am clean and out of this job."

Asked if they would welcome a formalised sex trade Hybsier said that this issue had not been broached. But it is clear that more than legal barriers what they fear is the social backlash. It is also doubtful whether these women would like to get out of the trade. "They set utopian conditions as those that will make them stop. One said if someone looks after my family, I will stop. Another who is a drug addict said that she would stop once she kicked her habit. The conditions are so unrealistic."

The high rate of earnings is possibly another factor that keeps them in the trade, despite their seeming low esteem on account of it. The survey found that depending on the area and the season it was possible for some of them to earn as much as Rs. 1000 - 2000 a day, the charge per client being Rs 250 - 300. "They even have fixed peak earning periods. This is after the tenth of each month, after pay day or the post New Year period."

It seems that they also migrate seasonally to client rich areas. "For example during the Dalada Perahera season, they go to Kandy where people gather."

Another factor unique to one of the women is the flexibility that the trade affords. N is from Anuradhapura. She works for two weeks and returns home to her children and spends the remaining fortnight with them. She makes enough money to last the fortnight.

Hybsier points out that their earnings are of sufficient volume to allow them to open savings accounts as a part of a savings scheme. But just three out of the 13 women interviewed had such accounts. "The others had reasons, R working in Borella is a drug addict spending Rs 1000 a day on drugs, so there was nothing left to save. M said that she could not save because she has to support her children."

The most common reason is the urgent need for liquid cash, to bail them out when arrested. "So they keep their cash in a box at home."

While the women in the survey were from different backgrounds and areas, one from as far as Anuradhapura, the platform for entry was the same. They needed money, and there was none to provide it. All of them had two or more children, and their spouses were dead, had deserted them or were addicted to drugs.

"It seemed that where the father actor was missing in his role as provider, the structure broke-down."

The CDS project is one of limited scope, aimed at ensuring occupation safety. The Executive Director of the organisation Kamanee Hapugalle said that what they were seeking to set up was a peer education project. "We will build the skills and capacity of 40 selected leaders of the commercial sex worker community to become peer educators, counsellors and marketers of condoms," she said.

The survey had revealed a high level of awareness among the particular group involved. "They seem to have a sound knowledge of STD and AIDS, on the importance of condom use and the importance of staying healthy in general. These were women with a professional attitude. They had been to workshops and were those who visited clinics regularly," Hybsier said.

Their one constraint it seemed was that they found it difficult to procure condoms and also that condom use was bound to client consent. "What we want to do is to get the women together and make them strong as a group so that they can better assert their rights. So that they can say no to clients who refuse condom use," Hapugalle said.

In Borella they had found that the "Madams" or the pimps were those who insisted on condom use, and the women were able to refuse clients who protested. In contrast in Pettah the women had found it impossible to argue with clients and insist on condom use.

Hybsier said that among those interviewed there was one who seemed already to act as a peer leader. "She operates in Borella, and ensures that no one under 16 years works in the area. She would be an effective peer-leader."

One of the primary constraints it seemed was competition among groups in an area for clientele. These were groups of two to three women, who were together for mutual support. They buy lunch for each other and bail each other out when arrested. But the competition for clientele barred further bonding, as among groups.

The success of the CDS project involves creating cohesion among the scattered force of sex workers, and providing them whatever, strengths that come from numbers. As one of the sex workers had summed up "..it will be good to get together on issues of HIV/AIDS, that way we can fight for rights and teach each other."

The immediate impact of such a project will be the assurance of greater protection from AIDS and other diseases that are transmitted sexually. This precaution is beneficial to both clients and workers alike. But for this there must be attitudinal change.

There have been many instances where the possession of condoms has led to arrest by the Police. In the reality that the sex trade is very much part of everyday commerce, the best that one can do is to ensure that there is protection and safety, at least until Utopia takes root.


An Indian role here, now

by Jayanath Rajepakse
The publicly reported statements of the President and her Foreign Minister, that India had declined their request for emergency military assistance in the context of the LTTE’s offensive in the Jaffna Peninsula, provoked much press criticism by leader writers, former diplomats, Sinhalese intellectuals and sundry others. Yet, so much of it reflected sentimentality, and a failure to address basic issues objectively, that there seems to be room and even need for another view.

For instance, some suggested that India was not only unique, but also to be reprehended for letting self-interest dictate her foreign policy. I know of no country which fashions its foreign policy other than with deliberate intent to protect and advance its own (national) interest.

Others suggested that, just because India had quickly assisted the UF Government of 1971 to confront the JVP insurrection of that time, so India was now obliged to assist the PA Government of 2000 to confront the LTTE’s military challenge to its writ. Again, I know of no country whose response in such situations is hidebound by precedent. Foreign policy is intended to take cognizance of an evolving national interest, which is itself set in an evolving geo-strategic scene.

Yet others suggested that, just because India had, in the early 1980s, nurtured an armed, militant, Tamil youth movement here, so India was now obliged to help put away the local successor to that movement, the LTTE. Yet again, I know of no Government anywhere which has recognized and accepted a moral obligation to rectify an action of a predecessor Government, perceived by outsiders to have been ‘sinful’.

In the light of this, I seek to advance a set of basic propositions, which themselves hold certain consequences by implication, so as to provide a coherent framework within which to set an Indian role, here. My starting point of reference is a personal conviction, that India has the capacity to help us forge and sustain an equitable settlement of our internal crisis, or scuttle one that she does not feel she can live with, to a greater extent than any other external power. So it behoves us to talk fully and frankly with India in the matter, first and last.

As indisputably the pre-eminent regional power, India has, believes herself to have, and is recognized by the international community to have a primary and special responsibility for regional stability. Regional stability is deemed to be impaired, when internal crisis within a member state has a potential or propensity to spill-over beyond its borders, or when it attracts intrusive interest and involvement from outside the region. Applied in our case, this means that when our crisis requires an external input for its resolution, that has to come, predominantly and distinctively even if not exclusively, from India.

India has a special locus standi here, stemming from the Tamil connection. On one hand, Tamils here have traditionally looked to India for protection and succour when feeling threatened or distressed. On the other, the condition of Tamils here can or be made to impact upon the Indian political agenda, at State level and at the Centre.

Similarly, India has a particularly vested interest in the permanent settlement of our crisis, because of security implications relevant for her alone. Sitting bang on her back door-step as we do, it matters to her in a way that it does not for any other, what happens and who comes and goes, here. Moreover, internal crisis here even unconnected to the Tamil question can spill-over into India only, our proximate neighbour. Finally, the track-record of successive Sri Lankan governments who have, wittingly or unwittingly, opened the way for intrusive foreign presence viewed askance by India in a long one.

For others such as Norway, Canada or Britain, our internal crisis is a matter of the political, economic and social waves being made in their respective countries by wall-heeled Tamil expatriates, LTTE-connected criminal elements and Tamil asylum-seekers. For those countries, the historicity of a unitary Sri Lanka is esoteric or passe. The very concept of Sinhalese concerns is synonymous with chauvinism. For them, the need of the hour is a quick-fix settlement here in the name of fulfilling Tamil aspirations, which will facilitate getting those Tamils in their own countries off their backs.

For them the watchword is devolution short of separation. If devolution opens the way to separation — tough luck, guys. For them, the name of the game is cut and run. Only India has to stick around, and try to clear up any mess. That is why it took a BJP foreign affairs Adviser, former Indian High Commissioner here N. N. Jha, to be the first, and so far as I know only foreigner yet, publicly to articulate the proposition that the settlement of our crisis has to address not only Tamil aspirations, but also Sinhalese concerns. That is also why only Indian official statements make consistent mention of the need to achieve a settlement here that meets the interests of all communities. There are commonalities between Hela Urumaya and Hindutva, moreover, which merit a separate article.

Internal crisis here is killing us. India is getting along with her own affairs regardless, as they say. As a very senior Indian official said to our Foreign Secretary W. T. Jayasinghe in late 1985, travelling from KIA into town on yet another visit intended to persuade the Government here to address reality instead of making wish father to thought, "look WT: If you chaps want to burn yourselves, go right ahead: a few sparks may alight on us, but we can douse them."

So, it is for a Sri Lankan Government to approach India, and to talk turkey. India cannot force her attentions on us — not publicly! Languid posturing, and semantic hair-splitting about the meaning of offers of assistance may be fine in an undergraduate debating society. It will not do, when the need of the hour is for Sri Lanka to emerge intact from an exceptionally acute national crisis. In that situation, which we face today, nothing was more dismaying than the President’s statement to Nirupama Subramaniam of The Hindu, as reported here, that she had not yet spoken to Prime Minister Vajpayee on this matter.

Given the prevailing deep distrust between Sinhalese and Tamils, any settlement will have to be under-written sine die by a third party. Only India has the power and levers of influence, and vested interest in permanence of settlement to do that. She will not do so unless she has had a significant role in fashioning it. For that, we have to talk fully and honestly with India, to forge a synthesis between her bottom line and what will sell here — that is the lesson of 1987.

The writer is a retired foreign service officer who later served as Foreign Affairs Advisor to the President. He handled Indian affairs at the Colombo Foreign Office from 1981-1987.


The return of ‘The Stooges’

by K. Godage
The article titled "Too many stooges" has struck an unexpectedly responsive chord. It seemed to have touched a raw nerve with a few, but the majority who have contacted me (some from as far away as Batticaloa and Matara) have thanked me for having raised the issue.

Some have related unbelievable incidents of how public servants sneak to opposition politicians to curry favour, of how public servants and senior police officers at that, approached opposition leaders before the last election and pledged ‘loyalty’! (and this from a so called disciplined service). Even’sir-ring’ prospective (or should it be aspiring?) ministers. What a pathetic state of affairs!

One of the stories related is of how a senior officer of a disciplined service, carried the sandals of a political leader when he visited a temple saying that they may be stolen! The politician being no fool had said "don’t worry, those sandals are years old", but the officer had nevertheless taken it upon himself to carry them. Believe it or not, an educated woman to whom I related the story asked me:"So what’s wrong with the officer carrying the sandals?"

This is what’s wrong with our society. It was not the carrying of the sandals, by itself that was wrong, but why, repeat WHY, he carried the sandals - that’s what’s what was wrong, dear lady. One is reminded of the statement of a deputy minister, who publicly proclaimed that he would even drink soup made from the slippers of President Premadasa. He gave the Sinhala vocab the expression "Sereppu suppa" - a sub species of a degraded and servile being in human form.

Then there were those who prostrated themselves at the feet of the president. Some reports would make one puke. On the subject of Sinhala expressions, I am informed that the Sinhala equivalent of stooge is not "pandankaraya" but ‘vanndhi buttaya’, perhaps too respectable a term for our stooges. Apparently the more appropriate term, and the one that is commonly used for a ‘bootlicker’ in Sinhala is too impolite to be stated here.

The question for which many have volunteered answers is, "what is the reason for such menial behaviour?’’ Some seem to think, that it is a carry over from feudal times. Some say its fear. Still others say that it is because the policies followed by successive post independence governments bred a dependent generation - where people were ‘nurse-maided’ and looked after from womb to tomb as it were, and that this has created a ‘dependent mentality and consequently a society’ - where people depend on others to progress through life.

They have no confidence in their own abilities or efforts to get ahead and hence need to curry favour with authority to move forward. It is said that stooging your superiors is the easiest way forward. As for the ‘superior’ he is himself so lacking in self-confidence, that he therefore surrounds himself with ‘yes men’!

When the question is posed about self-respect, the answer given is that it is wholly lacking and that we are an amoral society. But is this correct? Does each of us not have some measure of pride and what about our dignity? Or is that it does not matter and is anyway something we come to terms with.

Another important aspect of the issue is this: Does society condemn the stooge for acting in a menial manner? Or is the stooge more than accepted because he would wield power and influence?

There was also another important matter which I had not referred to in my last article. An unpardonable lapse considering the fact that I have had friends and colleagues become victims of a situation over which they, or rather we, have no control. Every senior public servant who works with either the head of government or a minister is quite naturally expected to be 100% loyal to his or her boss and also give the best professional advice within the framework of the government’s policies.

Now let me refer, without mentioning names, to certain officers who have been victimized for discharging their duties to the best of their abilities and to the satisfaction of their then superiors. The last government was in office for almost 16 years and over this period some officers have had to work with just one minister. In the case of the foreign ministry for instance, Mr. Hameed was minister for almost thirteen years and over the years, as would happen to ministers of this government too, came to depend on a few able officers to perform the bulk of the work, including the writing of speeches of the minister.

The minister had confidence in their abilities (this situation obtains even today). It must be remembered that that no minister could be expected to be an expert in the area of work which has been entrusted to him or her. Now what happens after a change of government? Those officers who worked closely with the previous government/ or say a minister, are most unfairly labelled stooges. And by whom may I ask? By those whom the previous minister found hard to work with.

The officers were no stooges. They were true professionals who had years of experience behind them and needed to stooge no one for promotions or postings. The most unfortunate part of the equation has been that the new administration believed cheap sneaks, without coming to a judgement of their own on the basis of performance, which is what ultimately matters.

There is also another and more effective card that is played by saboteurs against their enemies. Beside making out that they are stooges, they label them as being supporters of the opposition and even

make out that they have tattooed the party label on a part of their anatomy. What has been the result? In one such instance, one of the best officers of the Foreign Service, who should have been Foreign Secretary, is at present, languishing in a remote outpost - with no work of value - but only a designation which he would be happy to be rid of if only he could.

Who has lost out because of the gullible politicians believing what they like to believe? Who but the country!

The politician has been primarily responsible for breeding stooges. It is about time they realized the law of impermanence and that they have been appointed and not anointed. Instead of transforming those who work for them into servile nincompoops, they must give back those who work for them or under them their dignity, encourage dissenting views and above all not encourage sneaking.

One may not believe this but there are some who hold very high office who have become such lackeys that they defend everything, I repeat everything, the government does. Even when ministers have reservations, they don’t. Shame on them!

The official must value self respect. The public service must become truly professional, by acquiring more and more knowledge through open university programmes etc. and through other training programmes which the government should organize to get the best out of the ‘public service’. Fear must be removed for it robs the mind of the power of thinking, weakens judgement and the ability to act and creates a worthless public official. Boot lickers must never be rewarded.


A tribute to a noble lady Deshabandu Dr. Mrs. Wimala de Silva

It is always with a sense of pleasant nostalgia that I recall an extremely enjoyable and rewarding period of my life as a young inexperienced teacher at Devi Balika Maha Vidyalaya. My first informal encounter with the principal, Mrs. Silva, was to say the least awe inspiring. I was nervous and tongue tied, but with a gentle gesture and reassuring smile she made me feel completely at ease, and began by inquiring how I was going to cope with leaving my 1 1/2 year old son, rather than my proficiency as a geography teacher. That was just the ice-breaker to sort of "loosen me up" as it were, and in the course of my interview! soon realised that here was a principal who expected total commitment and selfless service, for the benefit of the pupils who were indeed her first love. The interview ended on a challenging note "are you quite sure you could control a class of 40 children?" she asked, and I sheepishly answered "try me".

Even though I taught for a comparatively short period of time, a mere 4 years or so in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it has left an indelible impression. I consider myself singularly lucky to have had the good fortune to be nurtured under the tutelage of a principal of the calibre of Mrs. Silva, who has defined to a large extent my perception of mutually rewarding student teacher relationships and moulded my value systems, beliefs and behaviour patterns. All this not with a stern look or iron hand but by gracious example, diplomatic guidance and infinite tolerance and patience. These qualities and guidelines cannot be culled from high academic qualifications, but rather in the everyday school of life.

Devi Balika was and I believe still is an all island school and the pupils came from diverse walks of life. With what ease was Mrs. Silva able to handle the varied problems that arose. It was an eye opener for so many o us who had hitherto not had the privilege of meeting a cross section of our society. I remember once pulling up a pupil for not completing some- assigned home work and indignantly asking her what she did when she got home. Her reply humbled me: "Miss I have to help my mother look after my young siblings and cook dinner". Since then I was much more careful when reprimanding my pupils.

Over the years whenever a problem seemed insurmountable, my mind always flew to Mrs. Silva and I was sure she would give me a rational perspective and also a patient ear to reach a solution. Judging from the numerous pupils, staff, friends, colleagues and minor staff and people from all walks of life who found in her a fount of wisdom and solace, I know I am not alone in my belief.

Deshabandu Dr Mrs. Wimala de Silva has been one of the pioneers in the empowerment of women in the field of education, and has aspired to diversify the role of women from housewives and mothers to being career women and decision makers in modern Sri Lanka. Dr de Silva has reached the highest pinnacle in her career and achieved universal recognition, and fame both in Sri Lanka and abroad. She has been a highly respected and admired figure for well over fifty years. Inspite of all the accolades she has remained untouched by them and is simple, approachable and humble. She will always have time for anyone who needs her no matter what age group, academic background or social status. No one is ever too insignificant or lowly to merit her attention. Such sterling qualities can only bespeak a truly noble human-being. I for one consider it a great privilege to have associated with such a liberal minded and gentle personage. I wish her many more healthy and fruitful years ahead and the blessings of the noble triple gem. (AW)


Tales of a lifetime
Locked out

by Gerald Cooray
It was August 1945, I had just arrived in England and was staying a few days at the Y.M.C.A. in Great Russell Street. Early one morning I closed my room door and went to the bathroom for a shower. When I came back, I realised that I had left the door key in the room.

There was I, clad in my dressing gown, standing in the corridor looking quite foolish and helpless and not knowing what to do. When suddenly the door opposite my room opened and out stepped a young Englishman who, with a broad and friendly smile, came up to me and said "What’s happened?"

I said "I am locked out". He said he knew the Warden and his wife well. He soon produced a master key and we both entered the room. When he heard that I was on my way to Selwyn College, Cambridge, he announced that he had just completed his degree at Cambridge and was in London, pursuing a career in Medicine.

After a long chat, it was obvious to both of us that we had a lot in common. It was the beginning of a friendship which has stood firm over fifty years. It is significant that I met two very good friends under such unusual circumstances. We were obviously destined to meet. I have already mentioned in a previous tale that Gerald Howard Smith came to me through a chance acquaintance in a remote location.

During my three year stay in England, we were constantly in touch. Peter would come up to Cambridge and visit me in my rooms and I would visit him in London where he was staying permanently at the Y.M.C.A. while pursuing his medical studies.

I have very pleasant recollections of the then Governor of the Y.M.C.A., Frank Carter and his wife, who was affectionately called "Ma Carter". She had the touch of graciousness and compassion about her. Quite a rare person and surely touched by the "hem of Jesus".

We did many trips together. One that I remember particularly well was a walking tour of the Lake District where we stayed at various youth hostels. Peter was a good hiker and I found it difficult to keep pace with him. I remember my valiant, though vain attempt to climb Helwellyn. Ultimately, after having gone up about a quarter of the distance, I gave up, lay down and awaited Peter’s return.

Our lake side journey was memorable in more ways than one. Peter says that my face would light up after a day’s trek, at the sight of a pretty woman! He conveniently omits any reference to his many, though not always successful attempts to chat up some of them.

Very friendly manner

What attracted me most were the delightful Northern accents and the very friendly manner of those we met, both males and females in the lake district.

Their accents and the meanings attached to their speech, differed according to the localities in which they lived. For instance, when we entered one house at the invitation of the owner, she stated that her children were "laking". I thought she meant that they had gone down to the lakes. But actually, the meaning of "laking" in that locality, was ‘playing".

Shortly before I returned to Ceylon, I wined and dined my tutor and teaching practice supervisor, Miss Shirley Gordon. As throughout the year, both Peter and Gerald had teased me so much about Miss Gordon and my so-called infatuation with her, I invited them both to meet her at dinner.

The dinner was a great success and the next day Miss Gordon told me that my two friends were most charming and it had been a delightful experience to meet them.

Some time after, Peter qualified as a doctor. He took a job as a ship’s doctor on the Orient Line doing the England to Australia run. In this way, for several years after I returned to Ceylon in 1948, we saw each other regularly, whenever his ship docked in Colombo for the day. Peter’s surname, which is "Fitt" is just right for him, as his profession requires him to keep his patients fit at all times.

Usually, when Peter visited me in my home in Colombo, I would drop him at the Jetty just before his ship was due to sail. I would then proceed to the breakwater and wait for his ship to pass by. And he would be at the far end of the ship and we would salute each other.

Peter and I share vivid memories of the times he spent with us at our home at 17 Glen Aber Place, whenever his ship docked in Colombo.

As we lived within yards of the beach, we would go down and swim. He has memories of maidens in beautiful sarees, at sunset, walking along the beach. I took him often to visit my parents and he says that my mother always impressed him as a gracious matriarch, while my father, as the strong, silent one, would always stay in the background.

In 1959, I went to England on study leave for a year with Roshani and our three children, Hemanth, Mishani and Laxmi, who was only 10 months old. Harith, our youngest, did not arrive until 1963.

Luckily, when we arrived in England, Peter had just returned from one of his trips to Australia and was therefore able to meet us and drive us to our flat in Ossulton Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb.

When I left London in 1960, I left some money behind at Barclays Bank in Hampstead. As the Bank Manager had been stationed in Ceylon during the war years and liked Ceylon and its people, we became firm friends. He told me there would be no problem if I wished to withdraw the money at any time. I thought it a good investment.

Eventually, we both found ourselves permanently settled in Australia. He in Canberra and I in Melbourne. We visit each other and keep in touch.


The man who returned to his homeland and bought Forbes and Walker gifts 2.75 mn. to extend National Portrait Gallery in London
Christopher Ondaatje - tycoon turned philanthropist

Spending time with Christopher Ondaatje is like being caught in a localised weather system which picks you up like a piece of paper, buffets you with warm gusts, whirls you round and deposits you breathless on the pavement. He is the tycoon turned philanthropist who has been instrumental in getting the National Portrait Gallery’s new extension built, and when I met him there two days before its official opening by the Queen, he was electrified with delight.

"Isn’t this fantastic? Isn’t this something? Look at these doors, wonderful wooden doors. And this escalator, you know, this escalator is probably the longest in England, apart from the Tube of course."

The doors lead into the high, dazzling white extension which visitors to the gallery will enter first, before being taken up the escalator to start their tour with the room of Tudor portraits at the top. Down below, the place crackles with the bustle and suppressed excitement which precedes a royal opening. A TV crew were clambering around sables and setting up positions workmen were hammering beside the dais on which the Queen would stand, immediately in front of the big engraved stone plaque announcing it as the Ondaatje Wing. And, tall and elegant in beige corduroys and sports jacket, Ondaatje stalks around like a child in his new toy-room, while your reporter, a photographer, the director’s secretary and the head of the gallery’s public relations follow in his wake.

Christopher Ondaatje contributed the 2.75 million to this gallery extension which secured the endowment from the National Lottery. He has returned for the first time after a month away filming leopards in Sri Lanka, his birthplace, and is observing the reality of his bequest for the first time. "My biggest fear was, don’t screw it up, and now you see how the thing has developed, to give light and warmth to one of the great galleries of the world. It is a fantastic architectural statement, I am absolutely thrilled and proud to be even a tiny part of this great achievement."

He is 67, and the Ondaatje Wing marks his final emergence, at least in Britain, from the shadow of his famous brother, the novelist Michael Ondaatje. In fact without wishing to belittle the author of The English Patient, his elder brother’s achievements are already on a more heroic scale. Since selling his businesses in Canada, he has written five or six books, discovered two new sources of the Nile, tracked down in northern Kenya one of the very few black leopards ever photographed, and built up the finest individual collection of Sri Lankan antiquities in existence.

In significant ways the Ondaatjes have been outsiders all their lives. Christopher Ondaatje is descended from Dutch burghers who came to Ceylon in 1659, but by the 20th century the burghers were a small minority whose sophistication and intelligence made them mildly distrusted both by the Sinhalese and by the English, who ruled the island until 1947. The Ondaatjes, brilliant and bohemian, produced distinguished public servants — Christopher’s Uncle Noel became Attorney-General of Ceylon. Yet there was also a malaise in the family — described in Michael Ondaatje’s first (and some say best) book, Running in the Family — which drove their father to drink himself to death.

Christopher by that time had been sent to a public school in Devon, Blundell’s. Lonely and isolated, he taught himself to become an Englishman, and was eventually accepted when he won his colours at cricket. "I was on my own when I was 12. I was shuttled back and forth to the country, Blundell’s really became my second home." By now we are sitting together in the office of the National Portrait Gallery’s director, Charles Saumarez Smith. Ondaatje sits on the edge of his chair and leans towards me, his narrow blue eyes penetrating, his voice and gestures those of a younger man.

He speaks fast and fluently, emphasising every word. "You grow up very quickly and you learn to make your decisions early on — so, if you like, I had my university education before I left school."

Aged 16, he was forced to leave school when his father in Colombo collapsed under the weight of his debts. Divorcing him, Christopher’s mother came to London where she kept a boarding house in Chelsea and scrubbed floors. Christopher had a tiny room in the attic. "If you really look back and analyse it, it was my mother who gave us so much confidence. We didn’t have a penny; we had every strike against us, yet somehow we got so much incredible, dramatic confidence from this woman that allowed me arrogantly to cut my swathe through Bay Street in Toronto, and Michael within really a few years to become the best writer in Canada."

On his 17th birthday he began working in the City. Six years later he headed for Canada with $13 in his pocket. He was no more Canadian than he was English or Sinhalese, but he represented Canada in the bobsleigh team hat won Canada’s only gold in the 1964 Winter Olympics, founded Canada’s first institutional brokerage company, and by 1988 had turned that 13 dollars into a media company, the Pagurian Corporation, with assets of more than $500 million.

"My heart has always been in the literary world, but my head has been in finance; I have a natural bent for it. Before I went to North America I studied all the books about all the great people who made the great fortunes of America, the Carnegies and Rockefellers, and they really all had much the same formula. They were all long-term investors, not short-term traders, and that’s the creed I have always had."

As he writes in his 1992 book The Man-Eater of Punanai, the devil that drove his father to bankruptcy and death had driven him, Christopher, too, because of his frustration and sense of loss. Now he is haunted no longer and can give things back — his art collections to museums, money to the National Portrait Gallery, an Ondaatje Hall at Blundell’s (close by Glenthorne, his Devon manor house) and a box for the Old Blundellian Cricket Club at Somerset’s Taunton ground. He is restless you know he will go on fizzing with energy like a roman candle long after other rockets have burned out, but he has a happy family life with his wife Valda, three grown-up children and 11 ("nearly 12") grandchildren — "and if you ask me if I still have any ambition, I think that, most of all, it is that I can do something really worthwhile, so I do not die and just have the word financier on my gravestone". Not much chance of that.

• The Queen opened the Ondaatje Wing of the National Portrait Gallery on May 4. — Evening Standard.


Appreciation:
Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson (1928-2000) "The Brahmin of Brunswick"

Appreciation:A. J. Wilson, eminent scholar, political commentator and analyst, beloved guru of generations of students in Sri Lanka and abroad, was affectionately known by various names: Alfy, ‘A.J.’, Willie, Jeyaratnam and Jeyam. My wife Yasmine and I, who had the privilege of his friendship for over 40 years, always called him ‘Jeyam’.

Our acquaintance began when, on visits to my Royal College classmate Vaseeharan Chelvanayakam at his parents’ home in Alfred House Gardens, Colombo, I encountered Vaseeharan’s brothers (Ravindran, Chandrahasan and Manoharan the eldest, his sights set even then on the USA, where he settled soon after), their only sister Susili and another frequent visitor, Susili’s soon-to-be-fiance, A. J. Wilson.

Vaseeharan, Lalith Athulathmudali and I were close friends, travelling together daily in the same car to the Royal Preparatory School and remained friends after we left Royal Prep for Royal College. It was during these visits, exchanging books, discussing our school studies and the cricket matches played as regular fixtures in the backyards and grounds of our parents’ homes, that I came to know Mr. and Mrs. S. J. V. Chalvanayakam well and although we were only schoolboys at the time, we were aware of the political discussions in progress on the verandah of the Chelvanayakam home where the Federal Party had its origins.

A further link between Jeyam and myself was the fact that Susili had been, like Yasmine, a student at Bishop’s College. When, as an undergraduate at the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya, Yasmine found herself in A. J. Wilson’s Political Science tutorial class, that link was reinforced.

Following our own marriage in 1962, we were all together for ten years at Peradeniya, where I was teaching in the Medical Faculty while Jayam, Susili and Yasmine were active in different areas of the Faculty of Arts. Our friendship with the Wilson family, fuelled by constant meetings, letters and telephone conversations over many years and across many oceans, has been a source of the greatest joy to Yasmine and myself.

Recalling A. J. Wilson is to recall the memory of a friend and kindred spirit who was also an outstanding mind of our times. He was a dedicated teacher, the brilliance of whose wit (going unexpectedly hand in hand with an outwardly quiet personality) has never been forgotten by those who had the good fortune to be taught by him.

To cite just one example of this, quoted to us at the beginning of this year by a former student: Wilson’s tutorial class at Peradeniya had many crack badminton players in it and on one occasion, with campus tournaments in progress, they were anxious to get away early from class and change into their sports gear. The bell rang, signalling the end of the class, but Wilson ignored it and talked on. The students coughed gently, shuffled their feet and shut their books in a meaningful manner, but Wilson talked on. At length he paused and without once looking up, remarked quietly: "You need not be in such a hurry to leave. I have a few more pearls to cast."

Wilson’s research output was extensive, as a glance at any uptodate library of books on political affairs would indicate. He was particularly focussed on Sri Lankan politics: Susili Chelvanayakam, devoted to her father and very alert and sympathetic to his political views, had chosen in Wilson, one of the most brilliant graduates of his time, ‘an ideal husband’ for herself and an ideal son-in-law for the Father of the Federal Party.

It was inevitable that his marriage to the only daughter of the Federal Party’s founder and his own ethnicity should have drawn Wilson, a political scientist by profession, into the vortex of Sri Lanka’s murky politics. But he maintained his relationships across the emotionally charged ethnic divide and counted individuals from all of Sri Lanka’s communities among his numerous close friends.

He held the degrees of BA (Honours), PhD. (London) and D.Sc. (London), the last an earned higher doctoral degree based on his research and publications and not an ‘honorary’ one. He was the Foundation Professor of Political Science at Peradeniya, Simon Research Fellow and finally Professor of Political Science and Head of Department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada, from 1972 to 1995. He was subsequently honoured with appointment as Emeritus Professor at New Brunswick and after retirement lived in Toronto with his wife and in close proximity to their children.

The fact that all three of those children are highly qualified professionals has given both Jeyam and Susili great personal satisfaction: Mallihai, their eldest daughter, is a Toronto lawyer; Maithili, their younger daughter, entered the medical profession to practise first as a radiologist and currently as a dermatologist; and the youngest, their son Kumanan, is a physician.

It is one of the paradoxes of our national life that the children and grandchildren of S. J. V. Chalvanayakam have left Sri Lanka to make their homes elsewhere and seem to be permanently resident in North America and South India. I see this as a national loss to our country, but Jeyam Wilson himself has steadfastly continued his involvement with Sri Lankan affairs.

As the ethnic divisions in Sri Lankan politics grew wider, I took a personal decision not to involve myself in discussions with Jeyam, stating my own views which were in many ways different from his. Instead, I exerted myself to discover (to quote a favourite phrase of his, drawn from contemporary political thinking) ‘areas of agreement’. I did this quite deliberately, because I valued our lifelong friendship and did not wish it to be affected by national politics.

It was a wise decision, for it did not detract in any way from the enjoyment we derived from each other’s company and it enabled us to remain the closest of friends until Jayam’s death a few days ago.

One of the most endearing of this exceptional man was his generosity of mind and spirit. He took great pleasure in his teaching, always responding with alacrity to the calls made upon him by former students for his advice on their research and would refer to their achievements with enormous pride.

The 1950s in Colombo and Peradeniya was Sri Lanka’s academic Camelot, producing a veritable Round Table of intellect and talent. At the Peradeniya campus alone, as Wilson’s contemporaries in the Arts Faculty, were M. B. Ariyapala, Sinnappah Arasaratnam, K. M. de Silva, H. A. I. Goonetileke, H. A. de S. Gunasekera, Siri Gunasinghe, Karl Gunawardene, Laksiri Jayasuriya, Gananath Obeyesekere, Ralph Pieris, S. J. Tambiah, George Tambyapillai, Ian Vanden Driesen, P. W. Vitanage and many others.

Somewhat senior to this group was another galaxy: Cuthbert Amerasinghe, O. H. de A. Wijesekera, Doric de Souza, D. E. Hettiarachchi, W. J. F. La Brooy, E. F. C. Ludowyk, G. P. Malalasekera, T. Nadarajah, Senerat Paranavitana and Ediriwira Sarachchandra.

A Golden Age, indeed! It was a period that will be remembered as a time that has passed and will probably never be repeated. The younger generation which followed this glorious company is now scattered far and wide, teaching in universities all over the world, but never failing to acknowledge with pride the University and the teachers, such as A. J. Wilson, who taught them their skills, shaped their thinking and opened to them the world of learning.

During the last years of his life, Jeyam encountered serious illness. Throughout that difficult time he was looked after by his devoted wife Susili who kept constant vigil, supported in all respects by their children. Jeyam expressed his appreciation of their care in many letters to us.

Despite the effects of time and distance, Jeyam and I met whenever we could, trying to arrange our visits to Sri Lanka and elsewhere to coincide, besides visiting each other’s homes in Canada and Australia. The 1980s provided one such occasion, when we ended a memorable day together with dinner at an Indian restaurant in London.

I asked him then whether he was familiar with a poem that meant a great deal to me, William Cory’s verse translation of Callimachus’s ‘Epigram 2’. When he heard it, Jeyam was so taken up with it that he produced a pen and a sheet of paper, on which he wrote the lines down. Ten years later, in Fredericton, he showed it to me.

I end this memorial tribute with the four lines of the poem he liked so much, since it epitomises our own relationship and recalls to my mind a person I have regarded for forty years as my brother in all but blood:

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,

They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.

I wept as I remembered how often you and I

Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

Brendon GooneratneA. J. Wilson, eminent scholar, political commentator and analyst, beloved guru of generations of students in Sri Lanka and abroad, was affectionately known by various names: Alfy, ‘A.J.’, Willie, Jeyaratnam and Jeyam. My wife Yasmine and I, who had the privilege of his friendship for over 40 years, always called him ‘Jeyam’.

Our acquaintance began when, on visits to my Royal College classmate Vaseeharan Chelvanayakam at his parents’ home in Alfred House Gardens, Colombo, I encountered Vaseeharan’s brothers (Ravindran, Chandrahasan and Manoharan the eldest, his sights set even then on the USA, where he settled soon after), their only sister Susili and another frequent visitor, Susili’s soon-to-be-fiance, A. J. Wilson.

Vaseeharan, Lalith Athulathmudali and I were close friends, travelling together daily in the same car to the Royal Preparatory School and remained friends after we left Royal Prep for Royal College. It was during these visits, exchanging books, discussing our school studies and the cricket matches played as regular fixtures in the backyards and grounds of our parents’ homes, that I came to know Mr. and Mrs. S. J. V. Chalvanayakam well and although we were only schoolboys at the time, we were aware of the political discussions in progress on the verandah of the Chelvanayakam home where the Federal Party had its origins.

A further link between Jeyam and myself was the fact that Susili had been, like Yasmine, a student at Bishop’s College. When, as an undergraduate at the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya, Yasmine found herself in A. J. Wilson’s Political Science tutorial class, that link was reinforced.

Following our own marriage in 1962, we were all together for ten years at Peradeniya, where I was teaching in the Medical Faculty while Jayam, Susili and Yasmine were active in different areas of the Faculty of Arts. Our friendship with the Wilson family, fuelled by constant meetings, letters and telephone versations over many years and across many oceans, has been a source of the greatest joy to Yasmine and myself.

Recalling A. J. Wilson is to recall the memory of a friend and kindred spirit who was also an outstanding mind of our times. He was a dedicated teacher, the brilliance of whose wit (going unexpectedly hand in hand with an outwardly quiet personality) has never been forgotten by those who had the good fortune to be taught by him.

To cite just one example of this, quoted to us at the beginning of this year by a former student: Wilson’s tutorial class at Peradeniya had many crack badminton players in it and on one occasion, with campus tournaments in progress, they were anxious to get away early from class and change into their sports gear. The bell rang, signalling the end of the class, but Wilson ignored it and talked on. The students coughed gently, shuffled their feet and shut their books in a meaningful manner, but Wilson talked on. At length he paused and without once looking up, remarked quietly: "You need not be in such a hurry to leave. I have a few more pearls to cast."

Wilson’s research output was extensive, as a glance at any uptodate library of books on political affairs would indicate. He was particularly focussed on Sri Lankan politics: Susili Chelvanayakam, devoted to her father and very alert and sympathetic to his political views, had chosen in Wilson, one of the most brilliant graduates of his time, ‘an ideal husband’ for herself and an ideal son-in-law for the Father of the Federal Party.

It was inevitable that his marriage to the only daughter of the Federal Party’s founder and his own ethnicity should have drawn Wilson, a political scientist by profession, into the vortex of Sri Lanka’s murky politics. But he maintained his relationships across the emotionally charged ethnic divide and counted individuals from all of Sri Lanka’s communities among his numerous close friends.

He held the degrees of BA (Honours), PhD. (London) and D.Sc. (London), the last an earned higher doctoral degree based on his research and publications and not an ‘honorary’ one. He was the Foundation Professor of Political Science at Peradeniya, Simon Research Fellow and finally Professor of Political Science and Head of Department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada, from 1972 to 1995. He was subsequently honoured with appointment as Emeritus Professor at New Brunswick and after retirement lived in Toronto with his wife and in close proximity to their children.

The fact that all three of those children are highly qualified professionals has given both Jeyam and Susili great personal satisfaction: Mallihai, their eldest daughter, is a Toronto lawyer; Maithili, their younger daughter, entered the medical profession to practise first as a radiologist and currently as a dermatologist; and the youngest, their son Kumanan, is a physician.

It is one of the paradoxes of our national life that the children and grandchildren of S. J. V. Chalvanayakam have left Sri Lanka to make their homes elsewhere and seem to be permanently resident in North America and South India. I see this as a national loss to our country, but Jeyam Wilson himself has steadfastly continued his involvement with Sri Lankan affairs.

As the ethnic divisions in Sri Lankan politics grew wider, I took a personal decision not to involve myself in discussions with Jeyam, stating my own views which were in many ways different from his. Instead, I exerted myself to discover (to quote a favourite phrase of his, drawn from contemporary political thinking) ‘areas of agreement’. I did this quite deliberately, because I valued our lifelong friendship and did not wish it to be affected by national politics.

It was a wise decision, for it did not detract in any way from the enjoyment we derived from each other’s company and it enabled us to remain the closest of friends until Jayam’s death a few days ago.

One of the most endearing of this exceptional man was his generosity of mind and spirit. He took great pleasure in his teaching, always responding with alacrity to the calls made upon him by former students for his advice on their research and would refer to their achievements with enormous pride.

The 1950s in Colombo and Peradeniya was Sri Lanka’s academic Camelot, producing a veritable Round Table of intellect and talent. At the Peradeniya campus alone, as Wilson’s contemporaries in the Arts Faculty, were M. B. Ariyapala, Sinnappah Arasaratnam, K. M. de Silva, H. A. I. Goonetileke, H. A. de S. Gunasekera, Siri Gunasinghe, Karl Gunawardene, Laksiri Jayasuriya, Gananath Obeyesekere, Ralph Pieris, S. J. Tambiah, George Tambyapillai, Ian Vanden Driesen, P. W. Vitanage and many others.

Somewhat senior to this group was another galaxy: Cuthbert Amerasinghe, O. H. de A. Wijesekera, Doric de Souza, D. E. Hettiarachchi, W. J. F. La Brooy, E. F. C. Ludowyk, G. P. Malalasekera, T. Nadarajah, Senerat Paranavitana and Ediriwira Sarachchandra.

A Golden Age, indeed! It was a period that will be remembered as a time that has passed and will probably never be repeated. The younger generation which followed this glorious company is now scattered far and wide, teaching in universities all over the world, but never failing to acknowledge with pride the University and the teachers, such as A. J. Wilson, who taught them their skills, shaped their thinking and opened to them the world of learning.

During the last years of his life, Jeyam encountered serious illness. Throughout that difficult time he was looked after by his devoted wife Susili who kept constant vigil, supported in all respects by their children. Jeyam expressed his appreciation of their care in many letters to us.

Despite the effects of time and distance, Jeyam and I met whenever we could, trying to arrange our visits to Sri Lanka and elsewhere to coincide, besides visiting each other’s homes in Canada and Australia. The 1980s provided one such occasion, when we ended a memorable day together with dinner at an Indian restaurant in London.

I asked him then whether he was familiar with a poem that meant a great deal to me, William Cory’s verse translation of Callimachus’s ‘Epigram 2’. When he heard it, Jeyam was so taken up with it that he produced a pen and a sheet of paper, on which he wrote the lines down. Ten years later, in Fredericton, he showed it to me.

I end this memorial tribute with the four lines of the poem he liked so much, since it epitomises our own relationship and recalls to my mind a person I have regarded for forty years as my brother in all but blood:

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,

They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.

I wept as I remembered how often you and I

Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
Brendon Gooneratne


Book Review
The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: Unanswered questions and unasked queries

By Dr. Subramanian Swamy,
Ph.D (Harvard) .
Published May 2000 by Konark Publishers/Vijitha Yapa Publications: Pages 317;
Special Sri Lanka Price Rs 550.

Dr Subramanian Swamy, now the President of the Janata Party of India, has written a controversial book on the assasination of Rajiv Gandhi which will not only make heads turn but will result in many looking over their shoulders. Dr Swamy who advocated economic reforms and nuclear weapons in India long before others says that he wrote the book because even after the Supreme Court verdict on the sentences of those accused of killing Rajiv, there are areas which the judiciary has left untouched. The book, co-published by Vijitha Yapa Publications and Konark of India, is sold at a special price of Rs 550.

Claiming that Indians and Indian political groups, including members of the Congress party, are involved in the assassination, he says that "till the Supreme Court delivered its landmark judgement in 1999 there was an eight hour disinformation campaign launched and conducted in the media and through the Jain Commission to enable the murderers, the LTTE, to escape responsibility for the assassination by trying to pin it on either foreign intelligence agencies or Indian political personalities, or both, in alleged collusion".. He says this disinformation campaign was launched on the instructions of LTTE’s second in command, Pottu Amman, and through Indians who were amenable to LTTE persuasion. He adds that it is in the national interest of India to find out who are these persons, since they are enemies of the nation within and are working incognito’.

Dr Swamy points the finger at a number of people in high places including a former election commissioner, Congress leaders and even the editor of a newspaper of trying to whitewash the LTTE.

George Fernandes, India’s Defence minister, who he describes as a dubious character, comes in for much flak as he was the patron of an organisation that collected money to defend those accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Law Minister Jethmalani also gets a tongue lashing for defending a religious person who ran a LTTE safe house, who was convicted of rape and murder.

Swami says its not fair for these two prejudiced ministers to be present when the Sri Lanka issue is discussed by the Indian cabinet. He wants the killing of Rajiv to be regarded as a crime against India, a challenge to India’s sovereignty and an insult to India’s self respect. He wishes that India should make it so hot for the LTTE that never again will a foreign organisation dare take assassination of an Indian leader so lightly in future. He says there is much to learn from the USA which pursued the saboteurs of the PanAm passenger jet which crashed in Lockerbie

He says that "India should not rest till the LTTE supremo Prabhakaran and his second in command, Pottu Amman, are brought to book for having ordered the assassination and plotting its implementation. Rajiv’s assassination was to warn Indian Prime Ministers and politicians not to come in the way of the LTTE’s path to Eelam, he adds .

LTTE plans to blow up Indian nuclear installations, because of their links with Pakistan, the LTTE’s bases in Phuket and Karachi and of Norwegian mercenaries assisting in the training of LTTE frogmen in underwater demolition techniques are other controversial issues mentioned..

He sees three potential scenarios for the future. The first is a federal constitution, the second the creation of an Eelam which India does not want after their experiences as a midwife in the birth of Bangladesh. The third alternative is integration of Sri Lanka with India.

Sinhala chauvinism, according to Dr Swamy, is what dragged India into Jaffna and says. "It is the dual cancer of Sinhala chauvinism and LTTE terrorism that may invite Indian surgery and transplant". He believes that at the core of the Sri Lanka strife is the peculiar mindset of the Sinhala intellectual who traces his origin to the Aryans, who never existed except in the fertile and mischievous imagination of the British.

There are some minor inaccuracies in Dr Swamy’s book, including saying that The Sunday Island is a Sinhala newspaper! But the book is upto date including the arrival of Israeli arms on May 5, 2000.


Shell Shock Again!

Shell Gas company had done it again! With one fell blow, they had laid us low, this time by walloping 30% over the existing price. A Rs. 105/- increase. Coming at a time with impending hikes in Electricity and Telephone Bills too, not to mention increased levies for the sake of the War Effort, how are we middle class people going to live?

Is it to be back to the Deli Kussiya, with consequent peril to one’s lungs and clothes, not to mention our already dwindling forest cover? Or are we to starve for three days of the week?

Shell Gas is claiming that losses and world market prices had driven them to this act. To the best of my knowledge, the international crude oil prices had come down recently. As for losses, as every corner kiosk trader can tell you, one can have one set of books to show, and another set to know. And computers only make the job much easier, when there are no properly trained and acting computer auditing personnel. Or are there hidden expenses, the nature of which the Company can’t tell? Or is it sheer greed driven by demand for gas cylinders in converted cars? The company’s concern for the consumer was shown, when they made about a 15% decrease in the gas provided in a cylinder, for safety’s sake(!), without a single accident preceding that decision - and no corresponding decrease in price.

Anyway, we seem to remember, that when the Company bought the then Government Business Undertaking they gave an assurance that they wouldn’t increase the price by more than 10% an year. And even for five years, at compound interest, with a base price of less than 200/- Rs. (if I remember right) that works out to an increase of a little more than (0.1 x 5 + 0.01 x 10 =) 0.6 times the then price, or Rs. 120 in absolute value. Allowing for the terms I dropped in the Binomial Expansion of (1 + 0.1)5, it still shouldn’t be more than Rs. 150, I am certain. You can take a decent pocket calculator and check. Or write a small computer program! But the point I am making is that Shell Gas had reneged on its contract, and what are our officials who are supposed to look into it are doing?

God forbid the day when our Eppawela Phosphate deposits are sold to another greedy multinational!
Prianthi Wickramasuriya


Press Censorship and the war effort

by Vijaya Perera
Nobody can seriously maintain that there should not be censorship during wartime. But the censorship should not be counterproductive. It is only news that could be of use to the enemy that should be censored. News that the enemy is already aware of should not be kept from the people. To do so could have the worst possible consequences. The policy followed by the present censorship is deplorable. It is demonstrably counterproductive. The message it is sending out is that the war is strictly a matter for the government and not for the people. The people should only pay their taxes, supply cannon fodder when needed and remain in utter ignorance of facts about their country’s war, which however are known to the rest of the world.

The direct result is that decent, patriotic people of this country have no sense of being involved in the war effort. The government keeps asking people not to spread rumours. But, just as flies breed in rubbish dumps, rumours proliferate in censorship. It is the ideal ambience for mischievous saboteurs to spread falsehoods. There is a general belief (not unfounded) that the BBC deliberately broadcasts false and damaging news reports about Sri Lanka’s civil war. The world, having no reason to doubt such reports, accepts them as true. The only people in the world who could get incensed by them and perhaps try to do something about them, if only to protest, are the people of Sri Lanka who, incredibly, are shielded from the reports by our gormless censors. It is only the enemy that benefits from this policy.

During world war two, Britain had strict censorship. But only news that could benefit the enemy was censored. Military defeats were not hidden from the people. On the contrary, the whole nation was kept fully apprised and so the people, aware that their country was in danger rallied round the government. Very early in the war, the British Expeditionary Force was decimated by nazi troops in France. Thousands of soldiers were stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk. Churchill did not hide the bad news from the British people. Instead, he took them into his confidence and called for their support. Hundreds of private citizens who owned boats sailed to the coast of Dunkirk, at grave personal risk, and brought the soldiers back home. This was a military defeat, but a great psychological victory. In Britain they still speak with pride of "the Dunkirk spirit".

Obviously, Sri Lankans who are kept in the dark about what’s going on cannot be expected to generate anything akin to the Dunkirk spirit.

It is not too late for corrective measures. A responsible, intelligent censorship should take over from the present censors. Our country is threatened by evil and ruthless forces. It is vital that the people - should be involved in our nation’s war.


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