Many (unfairly) criticize the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) saying that they “exploit” students by providing services when the students use internet for online education. I have been teaching online for the last 8 months and I did a comparison of the two main ISPs (Dialog and Mobitel) that provide the widest mobile broadband services in Sri Lanka. This is what I found out. For 25 GB of Video Conferencing through Microsoft Teams and Zoom and unlimited YouTube, social media and instant messenger services monthly fee is 512 LKR for Dialog and 604 for Mobitel. (There are slight differences of the services they offer but these are more than enough for online education.) When considered the kind of money the students spend on traveling, snacks, make up, etc., for regular learning activities at private tuition classes, this cost is negligible. While a student or a few students in a family can get all these facilities for an insignificant amount of money, if they use small top ups or recharging cards, or go on data add-ons it is either their fault or ignorance. Telcos advertise these enough and at least the teachers should enlighten the students about these very cheap services. (There can be slight changes in the above prices and packages as I did the comparison some time ago.)
I have listed the two ISPs on alphabetical order. You can select the service based on your trust with them and their coverage capacities.
N. B. Please note that I am not addressing the coverage issues, etc. here as it is not my intention here. I only want to say that there are extremely cheap solutions that the students and their parents are not aware of. They just waste their money. TRC should make the masses aware of these options but I wont expect such a lethargic organization to do this as they have worse things to do.
1. Fun Blaster – Unlimited WhatsApp, YouTube & Facebook, only Rs. 347/=
2. Video Conferencing Plans – Office 365 (Microsoft Teams included) & Zoom (25 GB) Rs. 165 only
Total 347 + 165 = 512 Only Rs. 512/=per month WITH TAXES
I don’t know what REALLY happened with the Sri Lankan employee who worked at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo. Nobody will ever know, would they? The embassy says one of their local employees was kidnapped, detained and was questioned for good two hours and then let go. But the Government of Sri Lanka says that there is no clue about such an incident after their thorough investigations. We know that our Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is not the FBI nor the Scotland Yard, but the victim has to assist the CID to continue their investigations to bring the culprits to the book. But it looks extremely impossible with the way the things go and if the said employee and her family are taken out of the embassy to board a plane to Switzerland, this would become an extreme diplomatic incident that can damage the relationship between the two countries.
Without going any further with this, I would write down how my students and I were treated by foreign missions in Sri Lanka when we wanted to travel to certain countries.
My first travel abroad was to China (assisted by a US project) in the year 2000. Once I went to the Chinese embassy the Chinese employee at the embassy told me that my destination in China was not to a hotel but some government office. I had to reiterate that the destination was correct before he granted to process the visa application. (Apparently, the place I stayed in China was a government building related to some scientific affairs and there were enough star-class rooms and a restaurant to entertain 1000 odd visitors from different parts of the world. (I think all these embassy people follow the espionage missions’ “Suspect Everyone” method when granting visas.
My second trip was to Egypt in 2000 to attend a regional event organized by the same organization that organized the above-mentioned event in China. The Egyptian embassy man at the gate didn’t even open the door but talked to me in a very rude manner as if I was some criminal. But the visa was approved later. (In most cases, it is these minor staffers who tarnish the names of their countries but we cannot believe that the higher officials are unaware of these.)
My third overseas tour was to the USA and the visa was provided with the help of the US State Department and I had no problem at all in getting my visa as Ms. Chulie de Silva (a local official at the American Center) who knew about my work assisted me getting it. But I was detained for some time as the immigration officer in the New York Airport kept asking about a document I never knew I had in my possession. I was asked to find it in my luggage and I had to open up all the stuff in my luggage but it was not to be found. Later I found it among the documents I already handed over to the officer and he sincerely apologized for his mistake.
My next visit was to Italy with 3 young students of Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya and the Sri Lankan visa officer in the Italian Embassy did not even give us visa application forms to proceed with visas. His argument was that I would not return and will stay in Italy as many other Sri Lankans do. This was a ridiculous argument because I had already been to the USA by then and if I wanted, to be an illegal immigrant, the USA must have been the best option. I never want to become an illegal immigrant even during the most trying conditions I faced in Sri Lanka. The 3 kids had obtained passports and even had bought warm clothes to wear during that cold season in Italy. If the visa officer’s concern was the three kids’ security, I could easily arrange a chaperone for them to travel. But he was arrogant and did not even provide us the visa applications. So, the three kids lost their chance of traveling to Italy with all the expenses paid by the sponsors.
I visited Japan twice and at the interview for the visa, I never saw the Sri Lankan visa officer but could only hear her voice as she spoke to the interviewee from behind some screen where she could see me and I couldn’t see her. I don’t know why they do it. Do they treat all Sri Lankans like rogues?
Two students and a lady teacher from my organization (Horizon Lanka Foundation) were invited by a Delhi-based Indian organization to do a presentation and we submitted the visa applications at the last minute as one of the students could not find the money needed to buy the flight ticket. (The expenses were to be reimbursed upon arrival to India.) But the Indian visa center that has been outsourced the visa process was very helpful and did not let our team down. They ensured they get the visas without any trouble. So my team could visit India without me having to travel with them.
I planned to visit Ecuador two years ago to volunteer as a teacher of English and after I submitted all the documents properly to the visa center. The Ecuadorian visa was to be obtained on arrival in Ecuador. For some reason, the organization that sponsored my trip had selected a flight route to Ecuador via Amsterdam, Holland. After submitting my papers, the visa center that dealt with the so-called “Schengen” visas turned down my request and handed me over a letter saying that I would disappear in the Amsterdam airport and seek a job in the Netherlands!!! I needed a transit visa in Amsterdam only for 3-4 hours till I caught the next flight to Ecuador. The other friend of mine who went to Ecuador via the same route for the same purpose around a few weeks ago was a Tamil guy from Batticaloa and he said, “Most of the embassy officials are Tamils in Sri Lanka and they favor only Tamils. This might be the reason for the denial of your transit visa.” Till that, I thought this was only a rumor but I understood it was a lot more than just a rumor.
I was to send a female student with a female teacher from Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya to South Africa for a conference. Since the invitation letter from the event organizers came from a Gmail account, not an account with the organization’s domain, the South African High Commission in Colombo hesitated to grant them visas. Fair enough. Still, the local and the South African High Commission officers were very supportive and gave us the visas at the last moment but the lady teacher from our organization hesitated to go since it was her overseas tour and was not comfortable at the 11th hour. That was our fault, not theirs. I can say that the South African High Commission in Colombo was the best foreign mission I have dealt with so far and they are very efficient and people-friendly.
If you can remember, most of the embassies in Sri Lanka treated the local people like trash until recent times. We had to be in long ques in the hot sun or torrential rains outside the embassies without any shelter. The government of Sri Lanka did nothing until some people raised the issue in the local newspapers. Now the treatments are better and still, there is a lot to change in this regard.
So, I wrote this to tell you how foreign missions treat Sri Lankans and we should make use of the present issue with the Swiss embassy to make things right. The late president Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa had an issue with H. E. Mr. David Gladstone, the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka by interfering into internal issues and he was ordered to leave Sri Lanka. I don’t say the same should happen in the light of the present diplomatic incident but the West has to learn a lesson too when interfering with the internal issues. Instead, we should try solving this type of incident amicably without risking too much.
I have only three years’ experiences as a teacher of English at two state schools and only a few months’ experiences as a private tuition master. Had I continued as one, I might have become a millionaire by now if not a multimillionaire. But I chose not to. I was more comfortable in teaching free of charge to the students in my village.
I share my thoughts about the private tuition industry in Sri Lanka and you obviously have the liberty to differ. Though I encourage liberalization of the economy, I still believe that the education should be low-priced if not totally free. I am the 8th child in a family of 9 children and EVERY MEMBER in my family benefited from free education. If we did not have free education, I wouldn’t have been able even to write this post.
My point is that the better way to counter the private tuition mafia (sorry, I had to use this 5-letter-word because I have seen it that way in numerous occasions) would be to empower/train/improve the present schoolteachers at state schools and also recruit good teachers from the private tuition industry to the state schoolteachers’ cadre. This would create a competitive structure based on the quality of education they provide. State schoolteachers will have to perform better to retain the job. If they don’t, like it happens in the western hemisphere, they should be laid off.
The private tuition classes could be done inside state school properties and this would also reduce the costs in the private tuition industry so that the benefits could directly go to students in terms of lesser tuition fees. In addition, students will have better security inside state school premises. The state schools could recruit either parents or security guards/caretakers when the tuition classes are held.
(All photos used here are taken randomly from the Internet and used for public good.)
Jokers (and jerks – including Mr
Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up
to the presidential election scheduled to be held on November 16, 2019. Well,
whether you like it or not, it is Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr
Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others
are just vote spoilers. After the election day, they will end up as also-rans.
In these few articles, I concentrate on the strengths and the weeknesses of the two candidates by comparing and contrasting 10 areas of concern in alphabetical order. This post deals with the ELECTION CAMPAIGN of the duo. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part III –EDUCATION for the previous post. The next area, the EXPERIENCE of the two candidates, will be discussed in the Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IV – EXPERIENCE.)
I am sure the election campaigns must have played a key role ever since the democratic elections were introduced in modern representative democracy which came into play since the 17th century. In Sri Lankan context, elections had been rather peaceful till that scoundrel of a politician, the late Mr J. R. Jayawardene became the Prime Minister in 1977 and then declared himself as the executive President of Sri Lanka without having a separate presidential election. Though he gained an unassailable 5/6th power in the parliament through a democratically held election, he ensured peaceful elections will not happen again not only within his political lifespan, but also through the next President Mr Ranasinghe Premadasa era which abruptly ended in the hands of a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1993. Then parachuted Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga into Sri Lanka’s political void in 1994, first as the Prime Minister, then the President the very same year through rather violent elections as she had to fight against the then UNP government. The country had seen enough election violence between 1977 to 1994 and by then and was fed up with the rigged elections which came with a “bonus” of election violence with scores being killed and injured by the state-sponsored violence. So, now politicians have to execute their election campaigns with fair play with creative methods than unleashing violence.
Even though Gota comes from a family which produced many a national-level politician to the country, is not a typical politician as he was a serviceman in the army, then a computer professional in the USA and then the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense & Urban Development in Sri Lanka. So, he is a better administrator than a career politician. So, his campaign is obviously weaker than that of his rival Sajith. Having understood this, Gota has allowed his supporters, mainly comprise of many professionals from a myriad of areas to steer the campaign for him. His campaign uses a lot of technology and social media and the internet at its best. This is where Gota has the upper hand over Sajith. Rather than unrealistic election promises, Gota’s camp addresses the prevalent challenges the country faces and the voters might go for him if they are convinced of his prowess. As per the traditional style campaign is concerned, Gota’s elder brother Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa who is a career politician throughout his adult life, takes great care of that part of the battle I guess.
When you look at the number of new Facebook accounts, FB groups, newly started news websites, etc., that support Sajith, it is crystal clear that a Putin-style campaign is in action to promote Sajith, just like it happened with Mr Donald J. Trump‘s election campaign to support the latter’s White House bid. Gotabaya’s campaign is nowhere near, not even close to counter Sajith’s. To me, his traditional style campaign also is stronger than that of Gota’s. Sajith fought against all odds and “grabbed” the opportunity to get the candidacy to represent UNP-led camp, just like his late father did in 1988 and to everyone’s surprise, has been able to garner almost all the support from his party (maybe barring Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe.) If not for the unrealistic promises the former keeps giving the public and the stupid remarks he does at election rallies, I am sure he will be able to secure an unexpected win this November, just like Trump did in his trails to the White House in 2016.
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.
Nanda Wanninayaka – (Column 02 on November 10, 2018 – From Palmyra Peninsula) (This was originally written a couple of months ago but I was deliberately waiting till a General Election or a Presidential Election was called to publish this piece. Now that the first option has come into effect, here I publish it.)
I am not trying to explain how the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka happened and the different perspectives to its root causes. I am only going to talk only about how I perceive it. I was born in 1972 in the village of Mahawilachchiya (in Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka) bordering the Wilpattu National Park. Velupillai Prabhakaran, who went on to create and lead the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – L. T. T. E.) and waged a bloody war on all communities of Sri Lanka) got his first human target late Mr. Alfred Duraiappah, an SLFP MP in 1975. I was just 3 years old by then. When the real Civil War in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983 I was a 11-year-old schoolboy. Therefore, I can remember most of the sequences and developments of the ethnic war after the infamous “Black July” in 1983 into a fully-fledged civil war, that hampered the development of Sri Lanka into a possible regional economic power by dragging the country down literally to the Stone Age.
I never expected this futile war to end during my lifetime or during that of my son’s for that matter. But, thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the brave armed forces, the police force, the Civil Security Force and the citizens at large who sacrifices the unimaginable, the war ended for good on May 18, 2009, before my son celebrated his first birthday. What a relief? Endless attacks on civilians in so-called “border villages,” heinous acts of killing civilians in public transportation systems, constant bomb blasts inside almost all high security zones, suicide attacks on dignitaries, air raids on Colombo etc., kept the whole nation anxious and alert and the people were tormented for almost three decades. War was that horrendous and it was a welcome decision that the former President Rajapaksa took, to take the Tigers head on, not from the tail like the other ineffective and cowardly leaders did since 1975. Mr. Rajapaksa sent the Tigers to the right place, the dustbin of the “bloody” history. This is why former president commands a lot of respect – despite the fact that he was allegedly corrupt and violated human rights – from the people islandwide, especially the people who were directly affected by war. Me being a person who comes from a so called “border village” – Mahawilachchiya – a farming settlement inside the government controlled area but on the edge of LTTE’s haven, i.e., the sprawling Wilpattu National Park from three sides of the village, I have every reason to praise Mr. Rajapaksa for his daring act of taking a stern decision to finish the terrorists’ war with counter war, if not counter terrorism.
I know a lot of atrocities must have happened during the war, especially towards the last few days of the war. There could have been killing civilians, raping women, robbing valuables from fleeing civilians, etc. During the ancient wars, this was called “the spoils of war.” Killing men, raping women, enslaving children, looting treasure were part and parcel of war. It is true that the modern-day wars should be fought by keeping with the human rights accords, etc., with least damage to the civilians. But this is the last thing one could expect during a war. There are no such things called “war crimes” for what happens during a war. War itself is a crime and the smart thing to do was (and is) to take every effort to prevent a war, not to let a small misunderstanding to grow into a national issue and develop into a full-scale war like the late president Mr. J. R Jayewardene and his successors did. What I believe is there is nothing glorious about a winning a war, especially if it is fought with your own countrymen. The most glorious thing is to live in peace with every ethnic groups.
In fact, the 3-decade-long rancorous war was not Tamils’ war or Sri Lanka’s war. It was by no doubt India’s war. The hitherto peaceful, studious, hardworking Tamil boys and girls were dragged into a bloody civil war by India against their own fellow citizens in Sri Lanka. It was India’s disastrous foreign policy against her neighbors that was turned into an ethnic war during the late Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. With India’s secret spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW,) she misread the political situation in Sri Lanka and manipulated it into a full-scale civil war. As I see it, (I strongly believe I am right) Indira did not like the newly elected Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayewardene’s Open Economic Reforms that opened up the door for investors in the West that could create a rapid economic development in the island nation. The open economy could have easily made Sri Lanka the economic powerhouse in South Asia, just like Singapore did in the South East Asia. Mr. Jayewardene enjoyed a huge mandate of 5/6ths of enormous majority in the parliament and he only wanted a vicious Indira Gandhi to upset his apple cart and that of the country. And she was up to it and absolutely successful at that. (India would sarcastically brush off this claim stating that India was already a super power and Sri Lanka was not a significant player when it comes to the former’s economic realms to wash her hands-off Sri Lanka’s misfortunes.)
India, being a more leftist patriarchy with a soft corner to Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world, was a far slow economy with her ill-advised “License Raj” approach to domestic production of goods and services, was upset when she came to know that Sri Lanka had an open minded and a futuristic leader in the capacity of J. R. Jayewardene who had stronger links with the White House than with the Rastrapti Bhawan or Kremlin for that matter.
It is customary and “politically correct” to a Big Brother like India to harass a tiny island nation like Sri Lanka if the former takes the latter as a threat economically or otherwise. It happens elsewhere too. The USA – Cuba, Ukraine – Crimea, China – Hong Kong, etc. are the living examples to prove my point.) But being politically correct does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do. Besides, fostering terrorists has been compared with nursing the serpents for the time immemorial by the visionaries and Mrs. Gandhi was so irrational not to understand that universal truth and decided to turn the Tamil boys who were very peaceful and committed to whatever work they took on to a terrifying terrorist outfit in the name of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE.) Let us not discuss how the LTTE crushed its brotherly terrorist outfits to be the so-called sole representative of the Tamils here.
Mrs. Gandhi used its southern powerhouse (Tamil Nadu) lead by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) an actor-turned stupid politician who did not know much about politics than being the emblematic knife-wielding movie hero he was cracked up to be on the silver screen. He knew pretty well that it was easy to change the mindset of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu who were docile enough to treat their sly political leaders (especially actor turned politicians) as demigods.
The result, my friends, was MGR’s Tamil Nadu becoming the cradle of Tamil Tigers with the full blessings of Mrs. Gandhi. And the lambs to the slaughter were the poor Tamil boys in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Later the whole Northern and Eastern Provinces were infected by the deadly terrorism. Sri Lanka, being such a promising country with a lot of economic and other developmental opportunities, went to the labyrinths of endless terrorism as a result.
If Mrs. Gandhi believed in self-governance and promoted it, she should have offered Khalistan, the de facto nation that the Sikhs fought for, on a platter. But she didn’t. Instead she spearheaded a brutal war that killed both the terrorists – yes, I call anyone who breathes the air of a country and drinks its water and eats its fruits and fights for parts of the same land terrorists – be it Tamil Tigers, Sikhs, Tamils, Talibans, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc., whatever – and the civilians in Punjab saying that their claim for a Khalistan was illegitimate. How can she advocate self-determination for Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka and say no to the Sikh terrorists who claimed more or less the same for the same reasons? She went ahead with the controversial attack of reducing Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship of Sikhs, almost to rubble (and finally paid for it by being brutally gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards of her own security cordon.)
Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination should have reduced the calamities in Sri Lanka if a smart and visionary leader succeeded her. Unfortunately, it was her own son, Rajiv Gandhi who had nothing but the being son of the slain Mrs. Gandhi and the grandson of late. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru as the only qualifications to rise to the thrown – ascended to power in the aftermath of this avaricious woman’s death and later went on winning the General Election also by a big margin, mainly of sympathy votes, something the subcontinent is cursed with. Mr. Gandhi resumed from where his mother left and went onto reinforce the support RAW, India’s notorious secret service was providing for the Tamil boys in the North and East of Sri Lanka. (For documentary and pictorial evidence just read Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence and Shenali Waduge‘s articles on the subject. Just rummage through the web and you would find scores of them). If you think these two authors are biased for the fact that they are Sinhalese and Sri Lankans, read the books written by some of the Indian journalists, ex-diplomats assigned to Sri Lanka, ex-RAW personnel, ex-military high ranking officers, etc. and those of the independent sources to see how foxily Mr. Gandhi manipulated and escalated Sri Lanka’s cursed civil war.)
Proving the theory of proverbial nursing serpents, Rajiv Gandhi was paid with what he richly deserved, being blown into pieces by a Tamil woman who was allegedly gang-raped by India’s forcibly-sent Indian Peace Keeping Force – (IPKF,) on the former’s way to make it to the PM’s chair once again at a victorious election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. (Don’t think I am happy to hear that these unscrupulous politicians paid for what nasty things they supported. I feel for every human soul, but one should be human enough to deserve such a sympathy. Being part of or masterminding massacres of civilians or even soldiers or terrorists for that matter, is no trivial matter. There are better ways to solve regional politics without resorting to the devastating terrorism.)
See what happened to the then internally stable Pakistan after creating Talibans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan with the US money. See what happened to Afghanistan after the creation of Al Qaeda by the United States who also fought for American interests in Afghanistan. See what happened to Iraq, Libya and Syria after the advent of the ISIS terrorist outfit that was allegedly created by the United States. They all turned back and waged war on their very creators.
So, after a lengthy explanation, let me come back to the title of this essay. “Does Sri Lanka Really Need a Federal Solution?” A big NO, is my one and only answer and I won’t change this for any reason. Why? I am no political analyst or an expert on political science. The only academic qualification I have to talk about political science is the mere “C” pass I obtained for Political Science at high school level. All the rest comes from my own experiences and extensive reading about politics.
Sri Lanka does not meet any of the criteria that a federal state requires. We are a small island nation with enough access to any part of the island within a couple of hours. We don’t have the divisions some other countries have within ourselves, i.e., Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. We were living peacefully and our cultural heritage and religious beliefs are very close to each other and we share the same faith or reverence to places like the Adam’s Peak, Kataragama and Nallur rather than fighting each other to claim the ownership of those holy places to each ethnic groups like it happens with Jerusalem in the Middle East. Christians, Jews and followers of Islam are fighting for it while we harmoniously climb Adam’s Peak holding hands with each other respecting each other’s beliefs that it is their respective holy messengers’ footmark that lies up there.
I have seen how so-called intellectuals, both local and international, bring about various logic to prove that Sri Lanka needs a federal solution to solve its “nonexistent” ethnic issue. All three communities in Sri Lanka suffer because of the corrupt governments and corrupt politicians we keep electing. We are discriminated not because of our race. All three communities suffer because of the dirty politicians’ shortsighted decisions. Rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. Rather than treating each other enemies, we should understand that it is our poverty and ignorance that these politicians manipulate and we should unite and fight them, not ourselves. All three races are equally ill-treated by successive governments since the Independence in 1948. Those governments included politicians from all three communities and they held high offices in them. The only thing they did was looking after their own welfare rather than that of the citizens’ whom they were voted in by.
There are talks of how bags of dollars changing hands in the process of advocating a federal solution to Sri Lanka but I have no proof. At least nobody paid me to write this piece. I am not a big fan of Professor Nalin de Silva. But I do believe in at least two of the many theories he kept advocating. What he said long before the things got worse and complicated in Sri Lankan polity was
He said something to the effect of,
There is no solution other than a military solution to fight the terrorism and the military can definitely defeat the terrorists in Sri Lanka.
If the government kneels down before the terrorists and agrees to create a separate state for Tamils (Eelam,) from the next day onward, there would be an endless border war.
He was (and is) correct. Without an official state, the Tamil Tigers had an almost conventional army, a sizable navy and a tiny air force, something that no other terrorist organization in the rest of the world ever had. Imagine what could have happened if they had a federal state that would definitely upgrade itself to a legitimate sovereign nation, how strongly the Tamil Diaspora and the West pumped money and technology to initiate and sustain an unending border war. Sri Lanka would have been the “Israel of the Indian Ocean” and the chaos would have kept going in Sri Lanka till humans started civilizations in Mars!
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.
These are two angry men in the cricket field. First one is the legendary Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram who ripped through the opposition batting line with his destructive reverse swing bowling attack, displayed unbelievable fielding talents by holding onto spectacular catches and went on to power hitting down the order while batting on his day. (Not to mention that epic 257 test runs not out from 363 balls against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura in 1996.) Wasim was the most aggressive cricketer on the field I have seen in my entire life. Not even Saleem Malik, who was both fortunate and unfortunate enough to be Wasim´s captain during most of his career would be spared of the latter´s verbal assault if the former displayed any poor fielding off the latter´s bowling. The latter would ask something to the effect of “Do you need the ball to be size of a pumpkin for you to catch it?” which was even heard through the on-field microphones. That was Wasim. That was his commitment to the game. Wasim is my favorite cricketer of all-time.
An Angry Nanda Wanninayaka
The second one, me, nowhere close to Wasim, the legend but, is a hugely brushed-off cricketer in my own small village cricket club. I must probably have been the bowler who took the most number of wickets for my team but was never considered as a bowler because I didn’t bowl fast (enough.) I used my head than the body when bowling and captured an average of 5 wickets in two 10-over per side match an evening. Fast bowlers like my own younger brother Aruna, Samantha, Donald, Sanath were considered as the best bowlers but all of them except Donald conceded a lot of runs as they delivered more no-balls and wides than legitimate balls. My brother was the undisputed “No-ball King” those days. But all these bowlers were good bowlers given the reason that they had to bowl with a tennis ball on an uneven grassy pitch, not even on a mat. But I was sidelined during the inter-club matches as I did not bowl fast (enough.) Taking wickets constantly during practice matches was never considered as a qualification to bowl during inter-club matches. I was a bad fielder at the beginning and dropped many a catch but later improved myself a lot and hardly dropped a catch after I learnt the techniques of holding onto a catch while watching cricket commentaries on TV. When it comes to batting, I was a bad batsman and hardly scored 10+ in an innings. Then again, I learnt batting techniques on TV and then improved myself. Despite the strong protest of my own younger brother, I promoted myself to the prestigious position of the opening batsman and lasted almost all 10 overs while the batsmen from other end collapsed like cards of dominoes. I didn’t go to big hits unless it was very needed towards the latter part of the innings and all I did was trying to last the full quota of 10 overs allocated for a team. All I knew was that the team that batted all 10 overs always won, mainly thanks to no-balls and wides that came as bonuses. This was why I opened batting and went on to bat all 10 overs on more often than not. This doesn’t mean that I occasionally got out for a duck, perhaps on the first ball.
Keeping that all self-promoting nonsense aside, all I wanted to say is that even though I cannot compare myself with my favorite cricketing hero, legendary Wasim Akram, we both were equally aggressive players, if not more, on the field. We both fought till the last ball to win a match, not to save a match.
Now both Wasim and I are retired and I still enjoy him as a commentator, He might not be as lively as Ravi Sastri, as eloquent as Rameez Raja, as crazily fast as Harsha Boghle or as technical as Sunil Gavaskar as in the commentary box, but the soft-spoken Wasim has a great sense of humor and a stylish language in commentating. But all I want to see great Wasim is as a player for the eternity. Such pace, such strength, such talent, such commitment, such perfection, such anger, such aggression, such glamour, you will never see from anyone but Wasim.
Well, last but not least, Wasim Akram’s career was constantly tainted with controversies on and off the field and err … … … so was (and is) mine.
Wasim Akram Celebrating a Wicket
Wasim Akram Batting
Wasim Akram Celebrating After Taking a Wicket
Wasim in Action
Wasim Akram Bowling
Wasim Akram Bowling
Wasim Akram Bowling
Wasim Akram Roaring After Taking a Wicket
Wasim Akram Batting
Wasim Akram Batting
Wasim Akram Batting
Wasim Akram Encouraging Shoaib Akhtar
Wasim Akram Celebrating a Wicket
A Resting Wasim Akram
Nanda Wanninayaka Batting
Nanda Wanninayaka Going for a Big Shot
Nanda Wanninayaka Making Field Changes of the Opposition While Batting 🙂
Nanda Wanninayaka Hooking
Nanda Wanninayaka Taking the Guard
Nanda Wanninayaka Waiting to Hammer a Short Ball
Nanda Wanninayaka Teaching this American Guy Colin Himes to Bat
Nanda Wanninayaka Installing the Dismantled Wicket
Nanda Wanninayaka Teaching Miss Bára Molnárová from the Czech Republic to Bowl
Nanda Wanninayaka Coaching the Cricketers in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Nanda Wanninayaka Coaching the Cricketers in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Nanda Wanninayaka Coaching the Cricketers in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Nanda Wanninayaka Coaching the Cricketers in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Nanda Wanninayaka Coaching the Cricketers in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna, Sri Lanka