Carlo Fonseka and I have had occasion to exchange views through these columns on a number of matters, particularly those related to ‘socialism’ as practiced by some of its advocates in this country. In the course of such exchanges I have demonstrated, hopefully to him as well, that he has a penchant for wandering onto slippery ground. Maybe he has a masochistic bent or has simply lost his marbles.
The present occasion has to do with his 10/10 assessment of Dayan Jayatilake coupled with a 0/10 for Malinda Seneviratne, in both of whom he professes an avuncular interest. If one were to judge by the stream of letters and other opinion columns, including editorials (and, in this case, a piece by Kath Noble that’s been given ‘editorial’ rating), published here, one must conclude that Dayan would consider himself under-rated by Carlo.
Dayan’s record as a spokesperson for RAW, the lunatic end of Indian foreign policy-makers who have managed to alienate all her neighbours, is well known. Another special-interest group whose agenda he’s sought to advance was visible in his own account of those to whom he turned and who offered to help him when he was in some ‘troubles’, largely brought on by himself some years ago. That was after he chose to seek to represent the Tamil people, via the EPRLF of UDI notoriety, by having himself air-lifted, lucky guy, courtesy of JRJ to an army camp in Ampara to submit his nomination papers for election to the NE provincial council.
On these matters Dayan belongs among such self-seeking charlatans as Kumar Rupesinghe, Jehan Perera and others of their ilk. They are not ‘self-servers’ in an absolute sense: they are servitors of such special interests as are embodied in the ambitions of obscurantist outfits such as the Roman Catholic Church and of RAW.
Over the past few months it has become obvious that such elements yet have hopes in that direction and are making fresh exertions in a post-conflict situation. ‘Now the LTTE’s day is done, be generous’, they say, ‘or else!’
The thrust, now, of the pro-Provincial Council lobby is that ‘history’ does not matter. Of course it does, and I give below some pertinent pointers to what these people have done , have said, are saying either outright or by insinuation, vilification or, as in Noble’s intervention, through what is commonly referred to as ‘Jesuitical casuistry’.
Time was when their argument ran, ‘whatever may be the history of this country being Sinhale, we have to recognize the ground situation today’, that is that whether through the settlement of Tamil-speakers by the Dutch, the English or NGOs of one stripe or another, or via ‘pacts’ made by politicians (which prohibited the resettlement of Sinhalese in their own ‘ancestral homelands’), Tamil language speakers had come to constitute a majority in the northern and eastern provinces. Now, since hundreds of thousands of Tamil-speakers have migrated to Europe, North America, Australasia or Colombo, Carlo says we should go on the census of 1981 – i.e., to a notional ‘occupation’. It is time that the government addressed its responsibilities towards the people who were forced to the south-west which is the most densely populated part of the country and has the highest rates of unemployment. ‘National-list’ MPs like Dallas Alahapperuma have no mandate to make pronouncements on the re-settlement of the northern dry zone.
How and why were these provinces created, their boundaries drawn, by the colonial administration? Its object was to break up the Sinhala kingdom; there is no dispute on that. Initially Sabaragamuva and a part of Uva were ‘moved’ into a southern province, Vellassa, Bintenna and part of Tamankaduva to an eastern province, the Hath Korale (Vayamba) and the Thun Korale (part of Sabaragamuva) were made part of a western province, and much of the ancient Raja Rata was absorbed into a northern province. Four decades later the provinces were re-demarcated into the nine that exist today. The administrative structures being in place, it would make no sense to engage in drawing up fresh boundaries at this point in time.
These provinces were further sub-divided into districts with a Government Agent stationed in the principal city overseeing the Assistants in charge of the other districts. When that arrangement became infeasible, each district was placed in charge of a GA. In time, new districts were created to facilitate administration; thus, Ampara and Monaragala were assigned a large portion of the eastern and the Uva provinces respectively, and later, on account of the density of population in Colombo, Gampaha was designated a separate district. Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu were carved out of the Jaffna and Vavuniya districts.
The districts managed their own affairs much more effectively than they are permitted to do under the new provincial councils – which are essentially an extension of the centre controlled through politicians. Even at divisional level, officials tend to by-pass their superiors in the hierarchy, reporting direct to politicians in the provincial councils – or even to a member of parliament or a minister in Colombo.
It follows that the over-blown apparatus of provincial councils should be scaled down preparatory to abolishing those councils. Contrary to Kath Noble’s surmise, these provincial councils have done their bit, quite a bit, to erode individual and communal rights and make the country ungovernable.
As for Malinda, Carlo has got it right; just how right he is I will confess below in my fashion. He is my son, a fact of life that, as I suppose is the case with most fathers & sons, neither of us is comfortable with. Yes, he transferred to Harvard from Peradeniya. Actually that lot started off in Dumbara lodging in village homes some distance away from any source of water. A few of them found more comfortable lodgings – a matter on which I could expatiate. What is of some relevance is that, overall, you couldn’t have got more rural than that till universities were ‘established’ in Mihintale, Belihuloya, Eravur or Wayamba.
The cost of a College education in the USA at the time was about half of what it is now; at Harvard it was around $ 25,000 a year. Over much of the time required for submitting the documentation required, I was not here and I have no recollection of the quantum of support that parents were required to provide. The relevant documents surfaced a couple of years ago and I discovered that I had offered to make an anthima-last-final contribution of $150. Evidently, for the authorities at Harvard, it was ‘an offer they could not refuse’.
Malinda used his savings to come back - ‘home’ was not quite it – he dropped by on his way from the airport to Peradeniya - through every summer vacation carrying books and notes for his batchas at Peradeniya, no doubt ‘idiotically’. He left them behind for the library. More support for Carlo’s assessment: Malinda later opted for Rural Sociology at Cornell. He went further downhill when he chose to carry out his field studies in kelegama and lodged for a year or so in a half-built store-room between two elephant corridors off buduruvakande. His dissertation had to do with a notion of ‘honour’ that determined the life and the day-to-day choices made by the (altogether unmentionable) Sinhala villager in the north-central dry zone.
It had been downhill all the way, but worse was to come: kelegama became the favourite hunting ground of data-hunters from state institutions, NGOs, INGOs and other non-tribal foreigners.
And, yes, as far as I could possibly know, Sinhala is Malinda’s language of habitual use. Over the past ten years or so, when we have occasionally had the privilege, I have heard him sing only songs in Sinhala, most of them by young artistes besides whom Edward Jayakody would be ancient. I do not know whether Carlo’s kaalocita gi were among them. Of songs sung in English it is possible that he knows, and can sort-of-sing ‘Doe for deer…’
I should mention en passant that some thirty years ago, I, yes that’s me, was selected for a scholarship to Harvard by an academic who came down from there and interviewed the applicants. My passage there was sabotaged by a couple of ‘tribals’, who had been born here but lived in some mythical world.
Consequently, my first visit to Harvard, some ten years later, was on a head-hunting mission: to hire a macro-economist whose work had actually been used by a government. It was on that occasion that I met Carlo’s son, Suranga, a very calm and modest boy who had a distinctive gift in music.
Carlo was in Oslo at the time, at WIDER, headed by Lal Jayawardena. Lal, who had the gift of a highly sophisticated mind in its applications in macro-economics and had done the homework required for mastery of that pseudo-science, employed Carlo to write a textbook for use in our secondary schools on economics. Thank God and his reps on this earth, no longer flat, on which we live, that it was not in your chosen field of physiology in which your learned paper omitted mention of an important organ in the male which has to do with passing on genes. It wouldn’t have happened had you referred your paper to, say, Dr. Laduwahetty.
Lal’s father, NUJ, set up a ‘banking’ institution to provide finance, on a priority basis, for business-people of his caste. Is ‘caste’ a higher or a lower form of ‘tribalism’? Carlo, we await your thoughts on that. Make of it an ex-cathedra statement as you have become habituated to do.