Look and Learn was a British weekly educational magazine for children published byFleetway Publications Ltd from 1962 until 1982. It contained educational text articles that covered a wide variety of topics from volcanoes to the Loch Ness Monster; a long running science fiction comic strip, The Trigan Empire; adaptations of famous works of literature into comic-strip form, such as Lorna Doone; and serialized works of fiction such as The First Men in the Moon.
The illustrators who worked on the magazine included Fortunino Matania, John Millar Watt, Peter Jackson, John Worsley, Ron Embleton, Gerry Embleton, C. L. Doughty, Wilf Hardy, Dan Escott, Angus McBride, Oliver Frey, James E. McConnell, Kenneth Lilly, R. B. Davis and Clive Uptton. (From Wikipedia.)
I thank Dilhan Payagala for sharing this valuable asset with me. I am publishing them here one by one and do not intend copyright infringement here.
Look and Learn was a British weekly educational magazine for children published by Fleetway Publications Ltd from 1962 until 1982. It contained educational text articles that covered a wide variety of topics from volcanoes to the Loch Ness Monster; a long running science fiction comic strip, The Trigan Empire; adaptations of famous works of literature into comic-strip form, such as Lorna Doone; and serialized works of fiction such as The First Men in the Moon.
The illustrators who worked on the magazine included Fortunino Matania, John Millar Watt, Peter Jackson, John Worsley, Ron Embleton, Gerry Embleton, C. L. Doughty, Wilf Hardy, Dan Escott, Angus McBride, Oliver Frey, James E. McConnell, Kenneth Lilly, R. B. Davis and Clive Uptton. (From Wikipedia.)
I thank Dilhan Payagala for sharing this valuable asset with me. I am publishing them here one by one and do not intend copyright infringement here.
Much water has gone under the bridge since the cowardly terrorist attacks on April 21, 2019 inside Sri Lankan Catholics’ and other Christian places of worship on one of Christendom’s holiest days, Easter Sunday, an unexpected massacre now being glibly referred to as the Easter Sunday Attacks.
ISIS, the ruthless Muslim terrorist organization that has become a menace to the entire world, claimed responsibility for the dreadful attack after a few days, but all the perpetrators were found to be local Muslims. I was intrigued to write on this and the aftermath, but not being a career journalist, I had my own limitations on the access to the right information, just like it would be for many of you, as to what REALLY happened on that fateful Sunday. We, laymen, never expected this to happen after enjoying more or less 10 years of relative peace since the “guns were silenced” with the conclusion of the Civil War, or whatever you may call it.
Let alone us, the general public, even the bigwigs of security establishments, seem not to have taken the impending radical Islam/Muslim terrorism’s early warnings in Sri Lanka. Whenever the subject in question came up in certain platforms we thought we were all seeing a storm in a teacup if not “crocodiles in a basin,” the local version of the idiom. Maybe those who alarmed us were not convincing enough due to the hatred, extremism, intolerance they themselves showed against Muslims in general in their awareness campaigns, so much so that we thought they are more extremist than the suspected group of people, the extremist radical Muslims.
I won’t budge on implicating those responsible for the constant failures by the government(s) in understanding early warnings sent by intelligence, scholars, futurists, about possible local Muslim terrorism growing under the radar as most of those sources are highly politicized, or biased, or made to look so by the politicians with hidden agendas and ulterior motives.
With all this endless bickering, what was inevitable, which we feared happening, has happened and hundreds of kids, women and men were perished and left strewn into pieces by leaving them dead or seriously injured. The damage done to the tourism industry and the rest of the economy at large was so colossal, it will take eons for the country to recover fully. Above all, the esteemed image the country had earned as the World’s Best Tourist Destination by prestigious organizations with the conclusion of the Civil War and the subsequent relative calm and orderliness vanished beyond repair within a span of a couple of hours. Like it happened previously too, the country was headlined on leading international media, once again, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.
Now we all know how the whole saga unfolded and the dirty politics behind it. Ignoring reliable intelligence reports and passing the buck after the catastrophe, showed how unprofessional the security establishment and how lethargic and shortsighted the so called leaders of the country are. They were infighting and in fact, it was that very reason that led to this avoidable carnage. Due to the same reason, our security forces that have eradicated, the then world’s most lethal terrorist organization, the LTTE, we lost a golden opportunity of arousing the country and eliminating Muslim fundamentalist terrorism for good. Politicians’ greed for votes resulted in the government failing to decimate these terrorists at the outset, as extremist Muslim politicians became stronger, while the government and the security forces became weaker. Can there be any more shame than that?
While His Eminence, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of the Archdiocese of Colombo did an exemplary job by pacifying the bereaved, grieving and enraged citizens preventing islandwide riots, many others tried to make things worse by spreading hatred, and disrupt the then ongoing security measures too by creating unnecessary pressure on the security forces by diverting their attention to communal or interfaith riots that spread in some parts of the island.
There is no use in criticizing the government, as we have been unlucky enough to see similar mishaps since Independence and they keep happening and no one in the higher echelons of power ever learn.
It is true that the terrorist activities were supported by some Muslims without doubt while a few of them informed of suspected activities to the responsible authorities. Therefore, it is not fair to single out a community and punish them for heinous acts that were perpetrated, mainly due to the ineffectiveness of the rulers. We saw very well that even after a slaughter of this magnitude, politicians were trying to enhance their vote bases rather than punishing the culprits, their accomplices and the politicians and businessmen who either financed or protected them right from the beginning. Such traitors should be brought to the book and the maximum penalty imposed without any hesitation. as a result, is it fair to marginalize the Muslim brethren of the country and look at them as terrorists for crimes someone else committed? ISISing an entire community is too much of a punishment, overlooking ground realities.
I am not too sure how far the businesses owned by the Muslims have been affected by non-Muslims boycotting them. Maybe it will change in time and their businesses might recover if it is bad at the moment. Whether one likes it or not, Muslims are citizens of this country and also they comprise a sizable portion of the population and economy. Leaving them out totally will only encourage them to join extremist forces than remain in the mainstream, just like the infamous Black July in 1983 forced even moderate Tamils to join terrorist outfits in the hundreds of thousands.
Even though it is extremely difficult to forget and forgive after such a devastating scale of a killing spree, we do not have a choice. If we don’t, there will be even worse repercussions. This does not in any way mean that we should give into violence or be complacent about any such possible attacks in future. This is only to display unity and let everyone feel that they are a part of one nation. Muslims themselves have an even bigger role here to win back the damaged trust of the other communities in the country by chipping in, and sacrificing some of the privileges they enjoyed in the name of religion such as compromising to give up customized laws and agreeing to one common law for the entire country. Cultural differences are welcomed as they beautify the social fabric with the diversity, but extreme legal measures on common issues of the nation should be addressed by one law.
If you can remember well, when the late Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa after decades of apartheid, the white businessmen had many doubts as to whether their businesses would be affected with hatred unleashed on them by the majority black community. But Mandela ensured none of the white people’s business would be disturbed by the new black majority government. If the white people left South Africa with all their money South Africa would have ended up as a beggar nation. But Mandela being such a far-sighted statesman, foresaw the danger and prevented an exodus of investments out of South Africa. So, in the same way, ISIS-ing Sri Lankan Muslims is not the solution to the problem, but extending compassion instead, while at the same time the intelligence services and security forces are strengthened to ensure everyone’s safety.
I came into contact with 38-year-old Mr. Rehmat Ullah from the village of Chaman, Balochistan Province, Pakistan through Facebook, through Mr. Rehan Allahwalah who promotes FB as a tool to connect people for peacebuilding, development and entrepreneurship skills enhancing.
Rehmat’s school, Iqra Asian International School was founded by him. In Pakistan, individuals can start a school as the government has no capacity to start schools in every village and small towns at the present time. Even though his school is titled as an “international school,” he runs it with very basic facilities as he cannot invest big amount of monies and cannot charge adequate fees from the low-income families in his area.
Rehmat happened to
communicate with me through FB during the last few years and I advised him with
my experiences in fundraising. He had no access to a PC but did all his
communication with an entry-level smartphone. It took a long time for him to
change the attitudes towards technology due to lack of access to it. He learnt
that there are easier ways to improve his school. Though both of us come from
different countries, cultures and backgrounds there was one thing that we both
believed in. Obviously, that was education. We both strongly believe that
educating the younger generation can solve most of the social and developmental
issues that countries in our region face. So, we had several chats over IM and
he started changing. And it was his students who reaped the benefits of his
change. The number of students in the school has increased to 212 (190 boys and
22 girls) from the mere 9 at the inception of the school.
He opened his FB account in 2014 and now has 4996 friends and only shy of 4 friends to come to the maximum number of friends the social networking giant allows. He is also followed by 7,111 people on FB. His FB moniker is https://www.facebook.com/rehmatullah.rehmat.566.
He spends around 10
hours per day with FB despite his other duties as the Headmaster of the school.
He spends around 30 USD per month for his internet bill. He started using
Facebook extensively and promoted his work in educating the children in his
school. He does not want to limit his services to his school. His broad vision
is to extend his support to the whole Balochistan Province which is one of the
least developed provinces in Pakistan. Balochistan is also facing constant
violence due to terrorism.
Rehmat is a graduate
in political science from the University of Balochistan in Pakistan. He
upgraded his degree to the postgraduate level at the same university. He speaks
and writes fluent English.
These are the three
biggest achievements for his community with FB.
Finding donors for his School in Chaman. (Iqra Asian International School)
Providing the course books, stationery and lunch for the students.
Getting 2 computers through donors. (But they are not working now)
Constructing 2 toilets
Building a computer lab (no computers yet though.)
Providing solar portable and street lights to the community in Balochistan through Mr. Vaqas Butt from ACE Welfare Foundation, Pakistan and the Executive Director of Liter of Light.
Rehmat does not want to have a total blackout of Facebook for teenagers. His message to the teenagers is to ensure the positive use of FB under the guidance of teachers and adults. Rehmat’s biggest challenge with Facebook is that he doesn’t have a good team who can use social media in a more productive way. He has to do everything on his own. Maybe others can help him as online volunteers to maintain his school Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/Iqra-Asian-International-Public-School-Chaman-977366225635204/
He also advocates other teachers in Pakistan to get connected via Facebook with the teachers and schools around the world in order to learn new techniques and methods of teaching.
Rehmat uses live streaming the school events extensively
through Facebook to get the donors’ attention. He has to pay the internet bill
out of his pocket for this.
He does not charge
money from the students and totally depends on donors. The children in the area
cannot afford to pay. He also wants your help to provide incentives to
encourage the parents to send the female students to join the school. At the
moment there are only 22.
Contact him via the
following contact details.
Iqra Asian International School, Murda Kareaz Road, Chaman, Balochistan, Pakistan
For most of you, this could be stale news. But I thought of writing this piece even at a later time after Vijayakala Maheswaran’s controversial speech. My first hand experiences in the North since June this year made me write this piece. Being 6 months in the North on and off (at least 3 weeks per each month) won’t be enough for me to come to a right conclusion about the subject but I would report what I saw. I don’t speak Tamil but can manage with the little English I know and sometimes in Sinhala as I found many people I meet in the North can speak some Sinhala. Besides, I think I am good at the universal language, the sign language
I have no connection or whatsoever with the then State Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran. I even didn’t know if such one ever existed before her speech came to the limelight. But with all those hullaballoos about her “controversial” speech at Veerasingham Hall Jaffna on July 02, 2018, I thought of reading the full English translation of her speech “for the heck of it.”
Apart from the controversial and illegal part of “reviving the LTTE,” I don’t find anything wrong in what she talked in the rest of her speech. Ms. Maheshwaran must be really lucky not to be in jail for talking about reviving a ruthless terrorist outfit that dragged the country back to the Stone Age, literally. If this speech was made in any other sovereign state, she would have been counting the bars in a cell by now. But Sri Lanka is a funny country with funnier constitution which is less funny than a Kushwant Singh’s sarcastic column! I would refrain from making any comment about judiciary here as, at this age, I don’t have much time left to be in a secluded cell for several years. I have better things to in my life.
About child abuse/rape/killing which Ms. Maheshwaran talks, she is right. It is true these were not committed by the Sri Lankan military but mostly, the people of the neighborhood were the perpetrators. (There are some allegations that Ms. Maheshwaran herself tried to save one such accused of the high school girl Vidya rape and subsequent killing being, I don’t know.) What I do know is that the post-LTTE era has compromised the rigid law and order which had been implemented in the North by the terrorists. So, naturally, maybe the people might think that the “known devil” was better.
It was the same with the extensive substance abuse by the youth and the men at large in the North. The LTTE was trafficking drugs to sustain their organization but they did not sell them in Sri Lanka, well, at least not in the North. Drug trafficking was one of their main ways of illegal fundraising to the so called “liberation struggle” but they ensured the drugs would not make their way to the North. But now, after the conclusion of the bloody war, one can read from the press that large hauls of drugs are being captured by the police and the Special Task Force (STF) in the North and East. I myself have seen numerous times the youth spend hours under street lights in Jaffna just loitering till late hours of the night. I cannot see what they do but I just have a friendly word or two and find most of them are intoxicated. I don’t think this happened during the LTTE era.
Terrorism should be condemned at any level, but didn’t the women in the South themselves kind of “approve” the rigid jungle laws implemented by “Deshapremi Janatha Wyaparaya” – the terrorist unit of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for that matter? People, especially women, love to see the men being controlled at least by a terrorist outfit if the authorities cannot do their job any better?
I am not a legal expert. But as everyone knows damn well, atrocities were committed from both sides during and the immediate aftermath of the war. There is no point in harping on these forever. A government military has to abide by the international ethics of war no matter how hard it is. They will be forced to retaliate when the opposite happens from a terrorist group. But this is why a state military is trained how to become a professional military. One cannot justify an illegal retaliatory action a state military commits by pointing at a ruthless terrorist or guerrilla group’s heinous acts. This is where the state military has to draw the margin. A terrorist organization has the luxury of ignoring international war ethics. This is why they are called “terrorists.” So, the better thing to do is to forgive and forget. There are allegations and reportedly, hard evidence too, of atrocities committed by both the military and the terrorists according to what I read, hear and see. So, why not we go to a South African model Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which all parties are pardoned and integrated to the society? It is never too late, even after 9 years of conclusion of war.
I am not the best person to comment on Ms. Maheshwaran’s complaint on Thenmaratchi not being named as a separate district. The same is requested for Kalmunai by the Muslim politicians. My personal view is that there are more sensitive things to pay attention on at this stage rather than creating more divisions on demands of this nature. First, let us work on what we can agree, and then the rest. Let’s not complicate things anymore. Enough damage has happened for three decades and let’s forget some of not-so-important issues.
Maybe I am wrong, but I cannot rule out the possibility of a long term plan by the authorities to weaken the youths and the men in the North by getting them addicted to drugs and then their “possible” revival with an armed struggle could be foiled in a cheaper way. This happened to the Chinese under the British rule during colonial times. It could happen here too. But, then again, I have never seen any Sri Lankan leader designing such long term plans for anything good or bad. They just want to see the results before the next election comes after 5 to 6 years and reap the cheap benefits by that time. So, long term planning is the last thing one could expect from such shortsighted leaders I guess.
“Good evening everybody. I am not certain as to why Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara invited me to do a presentation at an Engineers Symposium as I am not an engineer but only an artist.
I usually do not do my presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint because they say, “Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, let us watch this video made by volunteer Pakistani artists who visited the Horizon Lanka Foundation in 2015 as it is played in the background, with a reduced soundtrack while my speech goes on.
We started Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya 20 years ago and now, we have branched out to 5 villages in Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Jaffna districts providing English (and other languages), ICT (and other technologies) while entertaining extracurricular activities such as playschool, fine arts, and sports.
We utilize local and foreign volunteers’ contributions extensively in our teaching. Local university students, young professionals from the IT industry and other areas of interest teach the students free of charge during weekends and also, scores of foreign volunteers teach the students during weekdays. These are still largely untapped talent that has enormous potential to take education in Sri Lanka to the next level.
At Horizon Academies we offer “edutainment” rather than the boring teaching methods used in traditional classroom-based education offered at public schools and at private tuition institutes. There is no point in repeating the public-school syllabuses, textbooks and past examination papers targeting term tests and national level exams which are once again repeated at a faster pace at private tuition classes all over again. We do not even touch those at Horizon Academies. We don’t assign homework to the students. We teach in a natural environment outside classrooms. Kids play, walk around the village, go bathing/swimming in rivers and lakes, go shopping, watch movies, go on field trips & so forth with the teachers and they learn languages and technology while doing such entertaining and exciting activities. Horizon Academy’s tagline is “The Edutainment Academy of Sri Lanka.”
Thanks to these non-conventional methods, the sons and daughters of farmers, laborers, fishermen & traders ended up being software & network engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers and professionals in other fields. Now I am very happy to hear them speak better English than I do. They have built houses, purchased vehicles and have married early (unlike waiting till the mid-30s like me), they have become totally independent at a younger age.
We at Horizon Lanka, use a lot of modern technologies for teaching. We use the internet, emailing, Instant Messenger (IM) programs, smartphones for teaching in innovative ways. We covered Mahawilachchiya with a village-wide free unlimited Wi-Fi mesh network way back in 2006, 10 years before the present government introduced limited free Wi-Fi to some hotspots in cities in Sri Lanka.Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – English Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – Sinhala
We invited Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the then Secretary to the President, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) since he helped getting the permission to deploy the network in Mahawilachchiya during the war time and in addition, he was a well-wisher of Horizon Lanka for a long time.
When he visited Mahawilachchiya to officially commission the free Wi-Fi network, we trained 3 girls & 3 boys who were 11-year-olds to do the presentation in English by utilizing laptops and slides. Mr. Weeratunga was pleasantly surprised and reported this to the then President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksaabout how effective & progressive Horizon Lanka Foundation was in education and technology in Mahawilachchiya. President Rajapaksa, in his capacity of the Finance Minister, included a proposal into the national budget of 2007 to allocate 100 million LKR to replicate Horizon Lanka model academies in each 300 + Divisional Secretariat Divisions in Sri Lanka. The budget was passed with a heavy majority but alas! Not a single cent came our way to Mahawilachchiya or elsewhere as a very obnoxious Sri Lankan IT professor exercised his despicable powers over the President and sabotaged the whole plan. This odious man died a few months later but did enough damage before exiting the planet.
We did not ask for the government’s help. But I know Mr. Weeratunga, in all honesty, & sincerity, desired to help and this was the reason he influenced the President. But what happened was a total tragedy for Horizon Lanka, when the government and media published this “100-million-LKR allocation” story all our regular donors came under the impression that Horizon Lanka was now well funded & taken care of, hence they diverted their help to other organizations and we were the ultimate losers.
When I was absolutely convinced that the “100-million-LKR” promise was false (like many similar ones) and we had already lost our regular donors, I spoke to one of the officers at the Presidential Office and inquired whether I could publish a story on our website about the broken promise so that the rest of the world & our former donors would become aware of what exactly took place. But he stated something to the effect that if I did that, I would be considered as a “persona non grata” who discredits the government and will be dealt with. Well, we all know what this meant during those times.
The end result of all this being; Horizon Lanka Foundation’s funding dried up and all the good work was downgraded, eventually having to close for 3 years before we resumed it in 2014 with hardly any money in the bank account.
That, my dear friends, reminded me of one of the most famous quotes by the late American President Mr. Ronald Reagan. He said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”R
Therefore friends, if you want to do anything for this country, do it before the government messes it up. Thank you very much for your attention.”
The news about the North being badly affected by flash floods last weekend did not appear in the Sinhala and English press till 48 hours as far as I saw. Not even the websites that publish rubbish gossip immediately after some minute juicy news were worried about what is happening to the people in the North. Most parts of the North have 4G, 3G or at least 2G and anyone can get pictures and videos in a few seconds. But not even those Facebook heroes were interested in doing something to our brothers and sisters in the Up North. Do we want to have North – South division once again?
When a natural disaster happens in the South all TV Channels and Radio Stations collect relief aids and deliver them to the affected with much fanfare in a rat race to say “We did it first” and crave for increasing their ratings for their media houses. But I don’t see that urge this time. Now don’t say that the media houses in the North don’t cover this type of catastrophes in the South in their media. If we are the so called “majority” and the Big Brother, don’t we have to take the initiative to extend our support to the “minority” Little Sister? Isn’t this the right moment for us to show our love and compassion to them?
This is high time
we forgot the “US and THEM” attitude and become “WE” instead.
I can’t do much.
All I did was contacting the chief monks of Mahawilachchiya and Tantirimale so
that they could mobilize the villagers and muster some relief aid and deliver
it to our friends in the North. They did it during tsunami in a big way. I am
sure they will do it this time too even though they underwent a long drought
and have nothing much to offer. But they have compassion. I am sure you all
have it too.
I talked to a
friend of mine in Kilinochchi, Miss Dekala Murugesu, a young volunteer who does
a lot to uplift education in the district with some supporters in the Diaspora.
She directed me to Mr. Raj Sivaraj, the Divisional Secretary of Kandawalai who
does the coordinating part of relief aids. He says the government has taken
care of food needs and all they need is things like sanitary stuff, soap
mosquito coils, toothpaste and tooth brush, disinfections, cleaning liquid,
rubber slippers, exercise books and other school supplies, etc. Do not worry about food.
According to the
people I talked to from the North, all three armed forces are doing a
commendable job and the people highly appreciate them. The armed forces can
take care of rescue missions, urgent needs, etc. but now it is our duty to help
with the other needs of the people.
Please call Mr.
Raj Sivaraj, the Divisional Secretary of Kandawalai on 077 8446465 and on
Whatsapp number 0094778446465 for more details.
All the photos
here were sent by Mr. Raj Sivaraj.
A part of this story’s title “Us and Them” was stolen from Benjamin Zephaniah‘s poem “Us and Dem.” Zephaniah is my favorite contemporary poet.
I started writing a column with my firsthand experiences in Jaffna from November 01, 2018. You can read, comment, contradict or clobber my writing if you like and I will allow them as long as they do not defame someone (or something.) Also, if you try to promote hatred, racial abuse and antisocial sentiments, I will have to moderate them. But you are allowed to construct a sensible dialog on my posts.
I would be grateful if anyone who reads the column could translate this to Sinhala and Tamil as well. Please let me know if you are ready for this on a voluntary basis or for a payment.
This is the first post … … …
Nanda Wanninayaka – (Column 01 on November 1, 2018 – From Palmyra Peninsula)
I agree with the fact that being in Jaffna for the last three months doesn’t make me a suitable analyst to make generalized comments about the Jaffnites – the people in Jaffna, Sri Lanka – a word coined by some random journalists and writers in their articles in Daily News and reminded me by my good friend Sunil Rutnayake from Kandy.) But being here since last July to date – even though I made some sporadic visits to Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Colombo during the said three months period – gave me some insight into the lives and lifestyles of this strangely attractive piece of land in the Northern Sri Lanka, Jaffna, the capital of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
So, I became bold enough to write about the 7 myths the people from the rest of the island have about the Jaffnites – or the Tamil community at large spread in the North, East, Central Sri Lanka and the rest of the country. I sincerely welcome you all to comment on my observations and correct me in the places where I have gone wrong. If I have hurt your feelings by writing what I think is right, I apologize in advance. I try my best to remain unbiased in this (and in the rest of my columns.) But the chances are that I would be biased to Jaffna and Jaffnites than to anything or anyone else I guess. I already have fallen in love with Jaffna and, as for falling in love with a Jaffnitee, it is too early to say. Don’t rule out the possibility either.
Jaffnites are dark
Most people think Jaffnites are darker than the people in the rest of the island. This is a big mistake you all do. Spend some time in a small village, a semi urban tiny town or in Jaffna city and you would be surprised the rainbow of colors of cute young girls and women who are pink (රෝස පාට,) fair, orange (I would rather say තැඹිලි පාට – color of the king coconuts,) brown and occasionally dark too. But even the darker girls here have an inexplicable radiance only R. K. Narayan will find the right words to explain. I am no Narayan and not even Kushwant Singh for that matter.
A random photo of girls in Jaffna. This will be replaced with a photo I take soon. Photo Credits: http://jhlc.mysch.lk/
Well, as for the boys or men here, I don’t care if they are black, white, orange, pink, green or even indigo color because I am not simply interested in them. All what I can say about the boys and men here is that they look very strong.
2. Jaffnites are studious
Maybe there was such time in the past. But not anymore. Maybe the three-decade-long bitter war that reduced Jaffna to rubble, students in Jaffna don’t seem that interested in studies as they used to be 30 years ago. I have heard my parents say that the schoolboys and girls in Jaffna study so hard by even putting their feet in a basin full of cold water under their study tables not to fall asleep during nights and read books with kerosene oil lamps after their hard days’ work in their farms. I wish that was the case today too but, unfortunately, it is not so anymore here. Here boys are looking for quick jobs and leave schools early. Girls are happy to end up as a cashier-cum-salesgirl in a mobile phone accessory shop – or even more common – end up as a machine operator at a garment factory doing the same boring job of stitching the same part of the same dress for eternity. Where are those doctor, engineer, lawyer, accountant, teacher, etc. aspirants that we were told by our parents to take examples as when we were schoolboys who had no such great dreams? I feel sorry for this situation and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE immediately before it is too late.
3. Jaffnites are rude
I don’t know how such a myth even came into existence. Jaffnites have been traditionally very humble people. This humility could well be mistaken by some less educated or arrogant people from rest of the island that these people are timid or should be suppressed or humiliated. I once visited Vigneswara College, Jaffna in 2009 or 2010 while I was working as a Consultant to the Ministry of Education, Colombo. The principal of the school was an elderly gentleman who was about to retire. He was so humble when welcoming me and kept calling me “Sir.” I told him very gently that I don’t deserve or want to be called a “sir” because I might be your son’s age and you are the one who should be called sir, due to your education, age, behavior. He was a graduate and a senior person in the educational field and I was (and am) neither. But I failed in convincing him and instead we both called each other “sir” and it ended up with such a lot of humor, satire and fun we both enjoyed to the hilt. He is not the only one who maintains this great quality of humility and don’t humiliate them for this good quality which is a rare commodity among most people in the rest of the country these days.
4. Jaffnites are unclean
Like this apartheid thing, this is an area I don’t like to touch but I think it is my duty to do the justice to these people in Jaffna who are very clean and also keep their houses very clean, may their houses range from palaces to shanties, but they are equally well maintained and kept clean and tidy. The village I mostly live, Maniyanthoddam has a lot of tiny houses in small plots of lands but they are incredibly clean. That doesn’t mean that there could be an exception or two, but they say, “The exception (only) proves the rule,” don’t they? So, folks in the rest of the island, come and see yourself, don’t trust me because I am in love with Jaffna and love is blind. Isn’t it?
5. Jaffnites are hard workers
Sorry, Jaffnites, I wouldn’t give you this credit. What I had heard was you guys are hard workers but things have changed a lot, haven’t they? I see a lot of teenagers, youths and middle-aged people just waste time with doing nothing. Teenagers and the youths are the worst of them. They spend the time by the roadside just glued onto their smartphones and ride big Indian motorbikes to break the speed barriers. But I get the feeling that these iron horses are possibly bought on lease – god knows how they pay the monthly premiums – and I hardly see any of them is engaged in any praiseworthy or productive work. I tried to find some of them jobs in Colombo where they can get jobs as apprentices in different trades and they will be paid a decent remuneration even during their trainee period and sometimes they would even get food and lodging in some cases, but they are not simply interested in. One cannot blame the war for everything and make it the scapegoat. At least we are a lucky nation to end the war for good in 2009 and after May 19, the day which the war was ended from the government’s side and “the guns were silenced” from the rebels’ side, not a single bomb was exploded. Take Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, (hopefully and sadly Iran next,) for example. In the above-mentioned countries expect the one within parenthesis, suicide bombs, car bombs, American and NATO bombs, Russian bombs go on weekly to daily basis. But, in Sri Lanka, after the day the war ended officially on that fateful May 19, 2009, the only thing that explodes in Sri Lanka is popcorn!
6. Jaffnites are thrifty
This fact (of Jaffnites being traditionally thrifty) also is hanging in the balance now. It is true that late J. R. Jayewardene’s unregulated and unnecessarily hastened Open Economic Reforms didn’t find its way to Jaffna in such a disastrous way it did to the rest of the country. Its chances of messing up the hitherto frugal lifestyles of the Jaffnites was low as the breakout of the Civil War in 1983 limited the open economic reforms do (un)desired damages to the Jaffnites. A long-standing closure of A9 Highway that connected Jaffna with the rest of the country also reduced the influx of not-so-necessary consumables to Jaffna but the illegal and unstoppable smuggling of (mostly counterfeit) consumer goods reached Jaffna through sea channels from Tamil Nadu. Still the non-availability of reliable electricity that forced the Jaffnites to run their modest and age-old vehicles and other electronic appliances to run with foul-smelling kerosene fuel and kerosene-fueled generators denied a full-scale thrust of electronic appliances upon the Jaffnites. I think the electricity from the national grid was not available for a very long time since the inception of the Civil War till it was restored after the conclusion of the same in 2009.
But the end of the Civil War and the consequent opening of the A9 road opened the floodgates of both necessary and unnecessary home appliances, electronic gadgetry, unaffordable and unmaintainable luxury vehicles that ate into the monthly salaries and seasonal income of the Jaffnites and not the ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa who ended the war, but the late president J. R. Jayewardene who introduced the open economic reforms must have had the last laugh at the Jaffnites. As a result, you see the Jaffnites also falling prey to highly consumer-driven lifestyles that don’t help themselves or the constant handouts sent by their overseas relatives. But there might be some people who still save money or invest money in gold jewelry like they used to in the past but I am afraid the numbers could not be that big. People here also go extravagant in spending now with the mushrooming vehicle sales, electronic shops and supermarkets that offer tricky easy payment systems and dreadful credit card based payments. Sorry folks! That is peace for you.
7. Jaffnites are hostile to the Sinhalese
This is the worst myth among the rest. The 30-year-long bitter Civil War hasn’t dampened the spirits of these gentle Jaffnites a bit. I don’t speak or understand Tamil and wherever I go I speak first in Sinhala (failing which English) to get directions, any other help and there are zillions of Jaffnites come and help me with broad smiles. Me being (or happened to be) a Sinhalese doesn’t make any difference to these warm-hearted people. Maybe I get even more help once they know I am Sinhalese and they help me in a great deal to get what I want. They even give me free rides in their bicycles, motorbikes, etc. The only question I can ask myself is, “Why the hell did we fight for 30 years and for what?”
This is by no means a post written based on scientific research and not a scholarly work at all. These findings are totally my personal findings and observations and not supported by a proper and longer study. So, you have the right to differ and object. Kindly do so under “comments” area below this post.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was never my hero. He wasn’t anybody’s hero for that matter I guess, especially those of his own party, the United National Party(UNP.) Politics was never his field of expertise or his field of interest. I have read somewhere when his uncle, the late president Mr. J. R. Jayewardene (JRJ) asked him to join politics, the former had flatly refused and said, “Please, please uncle. Politics is not my field of interest. Just let me be like this.” or something to that effect.
Well, Mr. JRJ has done several mistakes in his political life.
JRJ politicized the then well-established civil service by giving the powers of the civil servants, especially the District Secretaries – who were then called “Government Agents” – and the Divisional Secretaries – who were then called “Assistant Government Agents” – to the conceited and corrupt bunch of politicians from the ruling UNP who were then called “දිසා ඇමති” (District Ministers.) The whole governing system was turned upside down as a result and the repercussions are seen and felt today than ever.
Introducing the Open Economic Reforms in an unprecedented and hasty manner creating lot of chaos in the country which totally disturbed the lifestyles of the people. Local industries collapsed like a card of dominoes and the hitherto surplus of the balance of payment became a huge deficit and the whole country was submerged in a quagmire that never was able to get out of to date
One of the gravest mistakes of JRJ was masterminding the notorious “Black July” in 1983 and letting his own UNP goons to kill, wound and loot the Tamils living in the South of the island. JRJ’s thugs did not stop at that but were given an “unofficial license” to rape Tamil girls and women. These heinous acts were understandably reciprocated by the Tamils who were the dominating ethnic group in the North and East of the Island. Being the all-powerful executive president of the country, JRJ never took the correct path of quelling this unwanted riots and what happened in the aftermath of this is the history.
I think the worst mistake JRJ did for the country was getting this very lethargic and non-practical young man, Mr. Wickremasighe to the political arena. You don’t need any example as to show how disastrous JRJ’s decision was as you can see Mr. Wickremasinghe as the living example himself. He was never a decent public speaker. His body language while he does public speaking especially in the local language, Sinhala is so terrible and he becomes a bigger comedian than Mr. Bean the world famous comedy character performed by the British actor Rowan Atkinson. Moreover, Mr. Wickremasinghe never understood the heart or the pulse of the people in the country. Maybe at least some of his moves were meant to be productive to the country but the way he communicated those to the masses wasn’t convincing at all. It was easy for the opposition to make mincemeat of him of anything he put forward for the country due to this weakness of him. He was easily made the traitor of the country even when he tried his best to be the patriot. I don’t want to go any further describing this poor man, the biggest failure in Sri Lankan politics anymore.
Instead, I will come to the root cause of the current issue of the sudden political destabilization. Let’s recap how the incumbent president, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena was brought to the wrong side of the presidential elections in 2015 as the common presidential candidate by the UNP-led coalition. They say politics make strange bedfellows but this queer union of Mr. Sirisena and the UNP-led coalition made the former in totally uncharted waters. It was apparent that the money, energy and the huge election campaign masterminded, funded and carried out by proxy actors locally was actually was done with the generous help of India, USA and some of the powerful countries in the unholy NATO camp that made the former Gramasewaka (village headman,) the president of Sri Lanka, something nobody expected to happen even in wildest dream before January, 2015. As expected, once elected, the president became a big joke, maybe a little less jocular than Mr. Wickremasinghe, his Prime Minister. Okay, let’s leave it at that.
The ex-president, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Machiavellian politician he was cracked up to be, cracked himself a few weeks ago by idiotically masterminding a constitutional coup that made himself the Prime Minister with the support of a minority group of unreliable MPs in the parliament by putting the country in the doldrums. He should have waited till the current parliament completed its mandate given by the voters. If it continued its full run, in one and half years’ time that was left to it, it would have crumbled from its inside. But Mr. Rajapaksa was so power-hungry that he joined Mr. Sirisena, the former’s arch enemy who betrayed Rajapaksa big time and robbed his apparently inevitable chance of being elected as the President of Sri Lanka for a record and a historical third time. The two unlikely pair joined hands after what looked like a constitutional gimmick that paved way for the President to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister of the nation while there was an incumbent PM who was already in office. This shouldn’t have happened under ANY circumstance. Mr. Rajapaksa should have weighed the pros and cons of the situation. But you cannot expect that type of logical reasoning from an experienced politician who trusted his “official soothsayer” than an opinion poll or two to test the waters and called a presidential election two years before the stipulated time and ended up losing his presidency two years shy of the allocated period.
By then, the incumbent Prime Minister Mr. Wickremasinghe was already immensely unpopular and the best thing to do should have been letting him stay in power for the rest of his office and wait till he faces the General Election which was already swaying to the Rajapaska’s newly created party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna(SLPP), which was already the main contender and the fresh thing in the menu. But what megalomaniac Rajapaska did was something totally unacceptable ethically, politically and strategically. Mr. Wickremasinghe was at the receiving end as he messed up big time right from the beginning of his office and the UNP would have faced a humiliating defeat at the general election with dodgy Treasury Bond scam, corruption, inefficiency, ever-increasing inflation, monthly increase of price of fuel and the heavy tax burden on the public to sway even his traditional vote base to Rajapaksa’s camp, even though it would have been only an agony of choice for the voters to elect someone from both the mainstream parties. But Rajapaksa would have had an upper hand in defeating UNP-led collation even without the support of the president Sirisena and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP.)
But everybody knows how power-hungry the Rajapaksa clan is. They are not the only megalomaniac clan in Sri Lankan politics. Think of Senanayake, Bandaranaike, Premadasa clans too. This is part and parcel of the politics in the subcontinent and you can’t help it. But this time Rajapaksa did the worst gamble in his entire political life and he got the already unpopular PM out of his office and made himself the Prime Minister. The process was seen as something done by the president but we know what happens behind the curtains in the corridors of power in Sri Lanka.
So what has Rajapaksa got at the end? The good-for-nothing Wickremasinghe has become the “Mandela of Sri Lanka” now. Mr. Wickamesinghe didn’t have to waste 27 years in a prison to become Mandela. Only thing he had to do was continuing his idiotic governing style but both Sirisena and Rajapaksa “Mandelaized” the born-loser Wickremasinghe. Now he has got the sympathy of his traditional vote base which was drifting towards the Rajapaskas. Furthermore, Wickeremasinghe has become the doll of the Western powers and the Western media now and is the zero-turned-hero without much ado.
So, what have Sirisena and Rajapaska got on their plates? Going down the drain to the political dungeons of Sri Lanka? The chances are that even if you win this political standoff and survive the constitutional crisis, you will still be the at the receiving end of the public at large. Local and international media and the rest of the world will ensure you have a hard time and you will have to fight a Do-or-Die battle to cling on to power.
One might justify the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) taking some of the Ministries from the then Prime Minister Wickramasinghe’s government in 2004 that ultimately led to an early dissolution of the parliament which brought CBK’s United People’s Freedom Alliance coalition get back the power in the House. At that time, the country was at a crucial crossroad with the unpopular peace deal brokered by the Norwegians and signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was condemned by the majority of the country. Everybody thought that the country would be split into two which would create an inevitable border war. There was no sympathy towards the then Wickremasinghe government as the sympathy of the public was with the CBK government. But at this time, there was no such immediate threats to the National Security of the nation. Even the so-called federal solution which was being demanded by the mainstream Tamil party, the Tamil national Alliance (TNA) was not to become a reality. The two main reasons the Wickremasinghe government had not to provide a federal solution was that it did not have enough time left to go for that even if they wanted and the second reason was that the country was not ready for it. Mr. Wickremasinghe being in power for 3 years of wasn’t able to convince the people, especially the majority Sinhalese, that federal solution was a viable solution to the long standing standoff between the majority and minority ethnic groups of the country. But as a result of this unethical and undemocratic overthrow of the Wickremasinghe government helped getting it the sympathy of the TNA and the rest of the minority parties as well making Mr. Wickremasinghe a lot more powerful than the Prime Ministerial powers he enjoyed and continue to enjoy to date being the de facto Prime Minister despite Rajapaksa is the official, yet, they say, the unconstitutional Prime Minister.
I am not a political analyst but I have lived 46 years in this Island and this is what I feel about this unnecessary quagmire the country is plunged into with this power struggle. Even if the Sirisena-Rajapaksa camp is to successfully survive the constitutional crisis, all what we can expect is the country would be thrown into a quicksand from the present quagmire and the public would be the ones who suffer. Everybody knows Lord Acton’s famous statement, Power corrupts and extreme power corrupts extremely. So, my compatriots, live with it.