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A Political Solution – Who needs what Kind of Solution?

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Shivanthi Ranasinghe

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) got a nasty shock at the recently concluded general elections. Meera Sirinivasan for The Hindu warns in the article titled “The Centrality of Devolution in Development” that to interpret this result “as a shift away from long-pending political demands is at best reductive and at worst dangerous”.

As Sri Lanka is yet again at a juncture where a new constitution is being contemplated, a reality check on Sirinivasan’s warning is timely. It is important to understand the validity of the demand as well as its feasibility. After all, this demand for self determination has been dominating Sri Lankan politics and international relations for a very long time. 

Despite the passage of time, persistence and international pressure, this “historic” demand is still far from its goal. Sirinivasan argues that it is a legitimate and democratic right to be able to “actively shape their political and economic destinies” and a necessity as “a vital check against a ‘majoritarian’ state deriving power and legitimacy from its core ethno-nationalist base.” 

The first question that must be clarified is: who is it that is being referred to as “their”? 

 

Who are “They”?

Throughout her argument, Sirinivasan interchanges “their” to refer to both the Tamil community and the Tamils living in the North and East. However, Tamils in Sri Lanka are not confined to only these two areas of the Island. In fact, over 52 percent of Tamils live outside these two areas. Furthermore, the North and East there are not only Tamils in the North and East, but also Sinhalese and Muslims live there. 

In the East, the three communities live in roughly equal proportions. The rising Muslim population however may overtake the other two communities before long. It is true that at present the Sinhala and Muslim presence in the North is marginal. However, that absence was artificially created by the LTTE. 

The domestic mechanism to investigate the causes for the three decade war against terrorism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) finds that the ethnic cleansing of the Sinhala families living in Jaffna began as far back as 1977. By mid 1980s, the LTTE were evicting the Sinhalese in earnest. “By 1987, there were no Sinhala residents left in Jaffna.” According to the census department, in 1981, there were 5,684 Sinhala families living in the Jaffna district. These families have told the Commission that they wish to return to the North, where they were born and bred. 

On October 30, 1990 the entire Muslim population, numbering around 72,000 persons, were expelled from Jaffna within two hours. In 2002, LTTE strategist Anton Balasingham apologized for it, calling it a “political blunder” and invited the Muslims to return. However, the fact remains that the reason for the LTTE to expel the Muslims in the first place was the Muslims’ objection over the creation of a Tamil homeland. 

Therefore, as Attorney-at-Law and author Dharshan Weerasekera reasons, there cannot be any further devolution until the evicted Sinhalese are resettled in their former homes in the Northern Province as they too have a right to enjoy the benefits of such devolution. Without taking this foremost step, the very demand for self determination for Tamils is nullified because the fundamental principle of law states that “one cannot benefit from one’s own wrong.”

To ignore this fundamental principle “would in effect be validating ethnic cleansing as a tactic for gaining ‘self determination’, which would be an absolute travesty of justice, not to mention morality,” points out Weerasekera. 

Therefore, the reference to “their” cannot be exclusive to the Tamils, but must also include the Sinhalese and Muslims as well. This however still leaves the question as to the Tamils who can claim ownership to this political solution – will it entitle all Sri Lankan Tamils or only the Tamils in the North and East?

 

For whose Benefit is the Demand for a Political Solution?

The TNA represents only the Northern and Eastern provinces. Their sole focus is winning self determination for Tamils. Yet, they received a very poor mandate from their own voters. Their abysmal election results have been attributed to neglecting the economy. Yet, even in the political front, the TNA has failed by,

1. Miscarrying the proposed constitution

2. Allowing Provincial Councils to become defunct

 

1. Miscarrying the Proposed Constitution

 

Despite international support, TNA failed to implement the much touted political solution. This was due to the passive resistance by other minority parties, including the Tamil parties outside the North and East. 

It is noteworthy that the Good Governance Government (GGG) from January 2015-November 2019 was a coalition of minorities and some other parties. Furthermore, GGG had the most unusual setup where both main political parties cohabited in the Government. The legitimate Opposition, with 55 MPs representing eight provinces, was ostracized. Instead, the TNA with only 16 seats within the aforementioned two provinces was appointed as the official Opposition. Equally contentious was the obvious partnership the TNA had with the Government. 

With a two-third majority in Parliament on its side, the TNA had the best working environment to push their most desired solution. TNA indeed took up the opportunity. They designed a system that would pump Central Government’s powers into the Provincial Councils (PCs), making the Central Government a dependent of the PCs.

These plans were not scuttled by the Sinhala Buddhists. It was the Muslim politicians and their Tamil counterpart outside the North and East who quietly rejected this effort. Not only would they have not benefited from this arrangement, it would have adversely affected them.

Without an overriding central control, the province’s ethnic ratio would become the domineering factor. In very simple terms, the province will be ruled by the majority of that area and the minority communities within will have very little say. The Central Government will be without the powers to redress any wrongs or injustices or assure equity. The national politicians will not have a say in matters concerning their respective communities.

As political analyst CA Chandreprema observes, for minority parties outside North and East to agree to this solution would be political hara-kiri. Even Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe did not want to claim ownership of this proposal, notes Chandreprema. This will certainly not be the “vital check against a ‘majoritarian’ state,” that Sirinivasan seeks in a political solution.

Even for the Tamils in the North and East to benefit, the two provinces need to be merged, explains Chandreprema. Without such a merger, the Tamils in the East will come under the Muslims’ dominance. They will never agree to such a situation. However, a merger between provinces cannot and should not take place without a referendum from the two provinces. It is highly doubtful that the Muslims and Sinhalese will agree to a situation where they will come under the Tamil domination.

Therefore, this is a solution that looks great on paper to those who sees the Central Government as a Sinhala-Buddhist “majoritarianism” and hence a bully; and the Tamils in North and East as the underdog and ignores all other stakeholders. In reality, this will hurt the minorities more than the majority for it is only in the North and East that the Sinhalese are without a greater presence. Thus, this will effectively divide the country with the North and East under Tamil dominance (if the two provinces are merged) and the rest under the Sinhala dominance. Hence, this will not see the light of the day unless this is forced through against the peoples’ will. That of course would be most undemocratic.

 

2. Allowing Provincial Councils

to fall defunct

 

PCs were formed at the behest of the Rajiv Gandhi regime as a foundation for Tamils to exercise self governance. The rest of the country was forced to accept this system that they neither asked for nor needed. This was bitterly opposed by the nationalists for they feared this as a step towards separatism. However, India was firm and the then Sri Lankan Government under President JR Jayewardena conceded. Except for the land and police powers, the PCs are currently empowered with all the other legislative powers as per the Constitution.

It is most unfortunate that the Chief Minister of the temporarily merged North-East province Annamalai Varadaraja Perumal acted in a manner that heightened the nationalists’ fears. He moved a motion in the Council on March 01, 1990 to unilaterally declare the merged provinces as “Independent Eelam”. The then president R Premadasa was thus forced to quickly dissolve the PC and take it under Colombo’s administration.

However, after the East was freed from the terrorists, the Eastern PC was formed on May 10, 2008. Election for the Northern PC (NPC) was held on September 21, 2013. Yet, quite petulantly the TNA dominated PCs refused to use the opportunity and prove their case that they are capable of governing themselves. 

Instead, NPC Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran for five continuous years returned the funds and projects from the Central Government claiming that these are not “theirs”. Instead of making use of the powers already at hand, TNA continued to demand greater autonomy. Ironically, those provinces that once opposed the system are now working smoothly with the Central Government.

By 2018, the terms of all nine PCs had expired. The previous government in which the TNA played a prominent role hung on to a technicality to postpone elections. To date, the TNA had not protested over this outcome even though the PCs were formed specifically to give them autonomy.

 

It is not a surprise that the TNA’s vote base is steadily and rapidly declining. Living the life of elitists the TNA had quite sadistically allowed their own electorate to suffer by not utilizing the powers granted by the PCs. As a result, the people in these areas suffer enormously from unaddressed and accumulating economic and social woes.

 

Conclusion

The TNA is being disingenuous. Their proposed constitution is not democratically possible. Despite the drama, they presented a proposal that is unacceptable to all stakeholders – including the Tamils in the North and East (unless the two provinces can be merged).

They also failed to protect the PCs. This was handed over to North and East Tamil politicians on a platter at India’s insistence. This intervention cost India heavily. Yet, during its five year term, neither of these two TNA dominated PCs looked after the people, nor allowed the Central Government to do so. People are held hostage to prove a political point – not unlike the TNA’s erstwhile boss, the LTTE.

It is obvious that the TNA is not serious about a political solution. This call for autonomy for Tamils is just a political slogan that gives them a reason for their political existence.

The most important component in this debate however should not be about the politicians’ rhetoric. It is the people, their worries and hopes that matters the most.

During a recent visit to the Northern peninsula, this writer made a number of interesting observations. These observations and the exchange of ideas with the people include,

1. Many of the educated, elderly people live in empty and neglected homes. Their children are living overseas, where the economic prospects are better;

2. Despite the end of terrorism, considerable extent of land remains abandoned. The owners are overseas and do not wish to return home leaving their present comfortable lives;

3. Those in the most vulnerable segments continue to be marginalized by a rigid caste-based system. Without basics such as housing or essentials as drinking water, the poor are trapped in poverty;

4. As a political solution, people want an income that will give them the freedom to live with dignity and independence. Thus they wish for more investments in the North in the form of factories and industries. This will allow people to find jobs without leaving their hometown or their families behind;

5. The war is seen as a matter of the distant past and not something relevant to the present.

Sirinivasan argues that economic development sans a political solution “will prove futile unless citizens have the political agency to inform the process.” However, it is evident that without a robust economy where the benefits flow to all levels of society, a political solution – whatever it might be – will be without owners.

 

(ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com)

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Features

The right groove…for local DJs

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Some of the big names in the DJ industry at the ceremony

 

We do have a few associations, around, that work for the benefit of those involved in the entertainment field.

Yes, there’s an association for oriental artistes and also one, catering to the needs of the local Western musicians.

In fact, I believe the second AGM 2020 of the Western Musicians’ Association was held just recently, in Colombo.

Well not to be outdone, an association, for local deejays, has become a reality. And, that’s encouraging news, indeed!

The Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) was incorporated on July 5th, 2020, and the inaugural forum, involving the disc spinners, as well as the big names of the past, took place at the Movenpick Hotel, on Sunday, September 5th.

Several well-known personalities, in the entertainment field, were seen at the forum.

The CDIA will certainly be a boon to the local DJ industry.

 

The lighting of the traditional oil lamp at the inauguration ceremony

 

The Vice-President of the Association, Romesh Fernando, said that connecting both the present and past DJs, within an industry with a rich history of over 45 years, is the cornerstone of the CDJA.

The forming of an Association for DJs was an idea in the making for many years, but never became a reality. However, with the entertainment scene changing drastically, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected the whole world, and the hardships faced by many DJs, in recent times, the need for a Single, Unified Voice for all Disc Jockeys, in Sri Lanka, became an absolute necessity – thus, the Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association was born.

The Board of Management consists of some of the pioneering DJs, who have made a mark as business leaders and entrepreneurs in the country’s DJ and Entertainment Circuits.

The Office-Bearers are: Gerry Jayasinghe (Chairman and President), Romesh Fernando (Vice President), Kosala Sureshchandra (Secretary), and Kapila Peiris (Treasurer).

The Committee Members are: Bonnie Perera, Niranjan Wanigasuriya (Asst. Secretary), Chamila Perera (Asst. Treasurer), Thanujika Perera, Serul Wimalasena and Amal Fernando.

The Advisory Council consists of Harpo Goonaratne and Roshan Wijeyaratne, while the Legal and Compliance Officer is Tareeq Musafer.

“Our Mission is to be committed towards improving the career opportunities, skill levels and performance capabilities of our members, and gathering DJs from all around Sri Lanka, under a single Organization. Our Vision is to gain the professional recognition that talented and good DJs truly deserve,” said a spokesman for the Association.

The Constitution of the Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) is focused on three main principles. As an industry, to develop, improve and advance the Art and Science of the DJ, to advance Public Education and Understanding of the art and science of the DJ, and improving the Professional standing of the DJ.

The Association offers three types of Memberships – Full Time, Part Time and Student Memberships. It also has a category of Honorary Memberships presented to senior DJs who have significantly added value and changed the landscape of Sri Lanka’s DJ Industry.

Members will also receive many benefits from Insurance schemes, Healthcare privileges, Membership Recognition, Legal advice and Discounts from Equipment retailers. Above all, the CDJA offers a sense of Community and Oneness, as an Industry, and shall uphold its members at all times.

The Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association (CDJA) has a very strong mandate towards Education. To that end, it will offer Soft skills Development in Communication Skills, Email Etiquette and Writing Skills, as well, and Basic Compering, etc., which are added proficiencies, required by DJs to better their business scope.

The Association has also planned for Seminars and Workshops on Small Business Development, Legal Compliance, Taxation, SME Policy Frameworks and Start up Training, conducted by Sector Professionals. Apart from Academic programmes, the CDJA will implement initiatives to inculcate Creativity and Originality in DJs.

Through these initiatives, the CDJA hopes to create a new landscape in the Mobile, Producer and Event DJ Circuits of Sri Lanka.

“Especially in these difficult times, a New Outlook and a Commitment to Excel, is what our Association hopes to promote and develop,” the spokesman added.

 

Invitees and celebrities taking in the scene at the Movenpick Hotel

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Features

China Cultural Centre – Sixth Anniversary celebrations !

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By Chamara Ranmandala
Consultant – local Affairs
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
(Based on an interview with
Liwen Yue, Director
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka

The China Cultural Centre (CCC) in Sri Lanka is celebrating its 6th year anniversary of its establishment as the official organization for cultural exchange in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka CCC is the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre established globally under the patronage of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which was inaugurated on 16th September 2014 by his Excellency the Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The preparations and establishment of the CCC was carried out by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka, and it is run and operated by a working team from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

This article attempts to highlight the significance of this cultural relationship, and the establishment of a path for cultural exchange between the peoples of China and Sri Lanka.

A 1000-year-old friendship refreshed

and renewed

Although the formal bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and China was established only 63 years ago, the history of the friendship between the two countries dates back far beyond. The recorded history origins from the times of Jin Dynasty of China, where such information is found in the written stories of famous Chinese buddhist monk Faxian, who travelled to Sri Lanka between 410 – 415. Sri Lanka has been a very important partner during the ancient times where significant trade was carried out through the maritime silk route, used as a gateway to bridge East Asia and South Asia. The archaeological findings in Sri Lanka are evident to this trade and exchange of cultural values taking place between Sri Lanka and China.

The establishment of the China Cultural Centre in the year 2014 has significantly brought the bilateral cultural exchange to a totally different level. Across the world, the Chinese Cultural Centres have contributed immensely to establish the meaning and significance of authentic cultural values of China, which is often misinterpreted by many. It is evident that the world has not enough chances to experience the traditional culture and values of China. Hence the 60+ cultural centres established in various countries have attempted to bridge this gap of understanding the real cultural values of China without infiltrating to the local culture but supporting and thriving together with the customs of respective ways and norms.

As the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre amongst the 60+ other centres across the world, and as the first center inaugurated by the two presidents of the respective countries, the CCC in Sri Lanka highlights its importance and the value placed on the friendship of the two countries, which was created many centuries ago between China and Sri Lanka.

 

Cultural exchange – continued effort with variation

The China Cultural Centre has now become a fully functional apparatus that enables cultural exchange through many different facets and complementing programs. The CCC is in a constant drive to educate the society at large how cultural exchange helps to bridge the gaps and bring the peoples of the countries much closer to each other.

During the past six years, the Sri Lankan culture-loving society was exposed to some of the unique experiences of traditional Chinese art, music and dancing, calligraphy, cinema, drama, authentic Chinese cuisine, photography and intangible cultural heritage through the commitment of China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka.

The events carried out by the CCC are aligned to the diverse cultural heritage of many different parts of China, and many of them are held in the form of “Cultural Week”, planned by the CCC and organised together with some local partners, including scholars, artists, painters, photographers and journalists who have travelled across China. The “cultural weeks” reflect many aspects of Chinese cultural heritage from different areas. Based on the need, the CCC sponsors and brings down the respective professional artists who are highly regarded as unique contributors of nurturing and preserving the authentic cultural heritage of China. The CCC also accommodates Chinese scholars, journalists and media personnel to be a part of these “cultural weeks”, thus enabling the knowledge sharing amongst different audiences.

The cultural footprint of China is not only limited to events of cultural exchange, but also is extended to long standing relationships through memorandums of understanding (MOU) with many local institutions such as libraries, museums and various friendship associations. The contribution through the Confucius institutions established at various universities in Sri Lanka, such as the University of Kelaniya, is another approach adopted by the CCC to provide greater access to resources and scholarships for the students who pursue higher studies in Chinese language, literature and culture.

 

Appreciation of the communities

across Sri Lanka

The educational knowledge and unique experience achieved from those programs and events organized by the CCC can meet various appetites of a wider spectrum of the society and intellects. Moreover, the officials of the CCC have made every attempt to reach out to most remote communities in Sri Lanka creating value for all age groups who witness and engage with the programs. This is highly commendable since most international cultural programs are being focused only on a limited crowd in a major city in Sri Lanka. The CCC has done the opposite way and concentrated on both urban and rural areas, which benefited more people here.

At present, the CCC has carried out over 100 programmes, including more than 300 various types of activities and events (including performances, exhibitions, lectures, workshops, teaching programmes, and etc.). More than half of Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Hubei, Canton, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Yunnan…and etc.), provincial-level autonomous regions (such as Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Xinjiang, and Ningxia), provincial-level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) , and Chinese SAR Hong Kong have been invited by the CCC to conduct different cultural exchange programmes in Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, the events organized by the CCC have reached people in all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka as well, where specially skilled artists are not hesitant to delight an audience of students or parents at a Sunday school, a university, a school in a remote part of a district, government institutions, and even a military camp. All events of cultural heritage are held with complete sponsorship of the CCC, thus enabling all Sri Lankans to experience most of these high-level events free of charge.

These events are a first to many where most Sri Lankans are amused and appreciative of the skill and professionalism of the artists and performers, who participate in these events and create positive vibes about China and its friendly people.

The efforts of the CCC are also extended to enable and strengthen the ties between the media and journalist forums of Sri Lanka and China. The cordial sponsorship of professional programmes conducted for the benefit of the Sri Lanka journalists in China is such an instance that the CCC extends their hand to build friendship and confidence among all stakeholders.

 

The future of the friendship

It is obvious that the expectation of the CCC is to build a cultural relationship amongst the peoples of both countries. The CCC has successfully created an atmosphere of understanding the true nature of authentic Chinese culture whilst respecting and appreciating the Sri Lankan values and traditions.

With the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which attempts to bring economic and cultural prosperity to all the nations from far East to Africa and Europe, there is no doubt that the China Cultural Centres will go on playing a vital role in defusing the misconceptions level against the great efforts of the People’s Republic of China. Sri Lanka, being part of the BRI through the maritime silk route and having a better understanding of China and its people, will also play an important role in bridging the gaps between the countries of the BRI.

The future road will probably be a challenging one! However, as proven in the past, the sincere friendship between the two countries and the mutual respect to each other’s culture and value will be the north star for both of our nations to follow during challenging and dark times. With the efforts of past six years, the China Cultural Centre has contributed much more to Sri Lanka and its people, and surely enough, it will continue to do so, nurturing the friendship which China and Sri Lanka value so dearly.

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Rexy and Chappela:

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View of the Trincomalee harbour entrance from Chapel Hill Radar station

Canine war veterans

An extract from the book ‘Read Between the Lines’

by Admiral Ravindra
C Wijegunaratne
(Retired from Sri Lanka Navy)
Former Chief of Defence Staff

PART I

Are you a dog lover? If not, you do not know what love is. This story is about two dogs, Rexy, a beautiful female German shepherd and Chappela a ‘Pariah dog’, (Pye-dog), a male, whose parents were not known.

Twelve years ago, my son was very keen to have a puppy. I discouraged him as I knew that looking after the dog would be my responsibility sooner or later. My wife Yamuna remained noncommittal whenever the ‘dog talk’ came up during dinner.

Someone had advised Yamuna that as our son was the only child at home it was good to have a pet for him. So, she purchased this puppy. The owners had about five puppies for sale and asked Yamuna to select one. She had said she would choose the one who came towards her first. One puppy left her mother and came towards Yamuna wagging her tiny tail. So, she was selected and named Rexy.

I was serving in Trincomalee as the Commandant of Naval and Maritime Academy (NMA) and Flag Officer Commanding Naval Fleet (FOCNF) at that time. Our Naval Base Trincomalee was under constant threats from LTTE long range weapons and suicide boat attacks from terrorists at that time (2006). The attacks came from the Southern side of the Trincomalee harbour from Sampoor and Sudaikudah. We were always alert and a bright idea was floated by then Commander Fast Attack Craft Squadron, Captain (then) Nandana Jayaratne to fix a Radar and day-night thermal camera at the top of Chapel Hill, the highest positioned the Naval Base, so that we could watch Sampoor area and Trincomalee harbour-mouth well. I volunteered to implement the project, and we fixed the required equipment at Chapel Hill. Several tumbledown buildings which had housed the First World War time Naval Signal station were renovated in double-quick time to use as accommodation for naval personnel detailed for duty, both for Radar and security of the place.

Chapel Hill is far away from main base, and to reach there, you have to trail through a jungle patch. This trail was widened and tarred.

Chapel Hill Radar Station became “my kingdom”. I ensured that very high standards and professionalism were maintained with the help of NMA Navigation School. I used to sleep there at night so in a contingency, I had the complete picture of the Trincomalee harbour, the approaches and Sampoor on radar, thermal camera and visually. It was great a observation position for safety of ships/craft entering and leaving the Trincomalee harbour, which we called as ‘Choke Point’ in our strategic terms. I very well knew that young Commanding Officers of our ships/craft had a lot of confidence and motivation when they heard my voice on their communication sets, directing them and giving details of possible threats at the harbour approaches. So, Chapel Hill became my “Chalet” in Trincomalee.

I saw a black and white puppy by the side of the road leading to Chapel Hill. It was a male left behind by a pack of dogs in jungle area. He was weak and full of ticks and fleas. I took him in my vehicle and gave him a new home at Chapel Hill. After a shampoo bath and powdering he looked very nice and healthy. He was a lovely puppy with no fear of the jungle, barked very loud. It was an ideal outdoor dog. My sailors at Chapel Hill Detachment became very fond of this puppy and they named him “Chappela”.

All our Detachments were given extra food and tea rations. So, Chappela had enough and more food. Chappela was looked after very well by my sailors.

After one month of pampering by Yamuna and our son, Rexy became very naughty. She sometimes peed on my son’s bed. At other times she would tear my son’s socks. The final warning came when she chewed the best squash shoes of Ravi junior. When I went home on leave, Yamuna allowed me to take Rexy to Trincomalee. My son was upset but Yamuna thought Rexy required some training and discipline. So, Rexy’s first transfer came to the Naval and Maritime Academy under the Commandant to be trained and disciplined.

Rexy adapted to the new environment quickly. She would join me in my morning beach run at Coral Cove. She loved roaming around on the beach. She was fed well with fresh fish by my cook, Gunawardena. Her best friend was my steward Rathnayake. She had another friend, a huge Sambar which visited my garden. She was very fond of Cadets (44th Intake) whom I trained in swimming. She accompanied me to the swimming pool and kept on barking at the cadets. In the evening, she travelled with me in my double cab. (I was driving with her in the front seat) to my Chapel Hill Chalet to spend the night. So, two puppies, Rexy and Chappela became thick pals there.

On 1st August 2006, the LTTE fired its big guns at the Naval Base in Trincomalee. Some of those artillery rounds targeted the SLN passenger ship (Jetliner) carrying 1,700 troops from Jaffna to the Trincomalee harbour. Other rounds fired at Naval and Maritime Academy killed one instructor and four trainees. It was lunch time at NMA (1230hrs). Some sailors were mustered in front of Quartermaster Lobby, and a few shells fell there killing and injuring naval personnel. I rushed to Chapel Hill in my double cab with Rexy. The competent senior sailors there, Chief Petty Officer Jayaweera and Petty Officer Ruwansiri were already on day camera and trying to locate enemy artillery guns. FACs led by Lieutenant Commander (then) Samaranayake were on escort duties of Jetliner and they ensured that Jetliner entered the Trincomalee harbour safely with troops on board. We directed our Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) at enemy positions. Rexy and Chappela were at my feet, frightened by the deafening sound of artillery and MBRLs. Air support was called and Kafirs were scrambled from the Katunayaka airport. The LTTE pulled their guns back to safe locations. We lost a golden opportunity to destroy their heavy weapons.

That night we shifted our MBRLs from dockyard grounds to a better location at the Oxford Circus (where the present-day car park of our Naval Museum is located). Army Artillery Corps MBRL Gun crews led by Captain Madugalla were briefed by me and we planned our coordination where Chapel Hill Radar station would play the role of Forward Observer.

We were not fully ready to face the LTTE artillery barrage on 1st August. Our unpreparedness cost us dear. When the LTTE fired again their artillery guns on 12th August 2006 night, we were ready with MBRLs. The MBRL firing was directed on enemy gun positions clearly visible with our thermal camera with temperature difference at night. The red-hot artillery gun barrels were clearly visible 8 km away from Chapel Hill at Sudaikudah beach. We were able to destroy enemy guns, ammo and gun crews. Our thermal camera screen blackened out due to large thermal emissions of burning guns and ammunition. Very loud explosions were heard from the Sampoor area. That was the last time the LTTE fired their artillery guns in the Eastern Province. This was the first time in Sri Lanka the thermal cameras were used to direct our MBRLs on enemy gun positions. Later, Chapel Hill Radar station played a major role in saving Naval Detachment at Muthur from enemy attacks and became an invaluable addition to our Naval Base Trincomalee.

 

Fall of Shots of LTTE Arty Fire

 

Amidst threats of another LTTE artillery barrage, Rexy got another immediate transfer to my home in Colombo. From that day she became most loved one at home. After all, she went back to Colombo as a war veteran who had faced enemy artillery attacks!

Chappela remained in Chapel Hill, guarding the location and giving support to naval personnel protecting Trincomalee harbour. He missed his friend.

Shampoo, powder and vitamins Rexy was getting were delivered to Chappela as well. Chappela always enjoyed a sea bath on Sundays at Chapel beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. (Rexy got her Sunday bath in a shower cubical at our home!) I had two responsibilities on Sundays when I was at home. The first was to clean the toilets and shower cubicles. I am a very good toilet cleaner thanks to my basic training at the Naval and Maritime Academy Trincomalee and Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth UK. We clean our toilets on board ships. When we live on board ships in an air conditioned environment, keeping toilets very clean is important. I know that I am a very good toilet cleaner.

After I finished my work, I cleaned sinks and toilet bowls, polished toilet seats and bidets, mopped floor tiles, polished showers, taps and rails, and replaced, towels and air fresheners. My son gave me the “Best toilet cleaner” award a long time ago. Yamuna hates my toilet cleaning habit, but I enjoy it.

The other job I was assigned to do on Sunday was to give Rexy a shampoo bath. Rexy loved water. If I was late, she would go and sit in the bathroom until I came. When the bath was over, it was up to Yamuna to dry her and cut her nails, apply various types of powders, clean her ears/teeth and brush her beautiful coat. Rexy loved pampering and sometimes “demanded” our love.

When my job was over, I also had a bath, and obviously I was wet after bathing Rexy.

After my bath, I sat down in my easy chair with Sunday newspapers and my steward Dissanayake would bring my glass of Cognac with ginger ale and a plate of fish fingers. Rexy would sit near my feet knowing that she would get her share of fish fingers before her healthy Sunday lunch. I would have my afternoon nap after lunch; Rexy would jump into my bed and sleep.

Yamuna treated Rexy like a child. The Navy cooks prepared our meals, but Yamuna always prepared Rexy’s meals by herself and fed her with her hand, like feeding a baby. My late father-in-law used to say we had two children. Ravi Junior was our son and Rexy our daughter. She was a such a lovely daughter.

To be continued …

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