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Building a family, land reforms and developing a new mango variety

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Foundation for a successful gem and jewellery business also laid

He struck up a relationship with a Philipino agricultural scientist attached to the ADB in Anuradhapura and they worked together to identify a mango which Sri Lanka could be proud of. We had about 12 varieties but the mixture did not yield profitable results. With a lot of experimentation they finally came up with the variety now known islandwide as the TJC mango, registered with the Department of Agriculture as the TOMEJC (named after Tom Ellawala and Juan Carlos).

by Nalini Ellawela

(Excerpted from her recently published autobiography)

Our three children were born in the short space of three and a half years. Although we had maids to attend to the mundane needs, those early years took a terrible toll on my physical well-being. But as I look back, it was like running a nursery class with all three children wanting the same thing at the same time. Fortunately, Nilanthi, the eldest and being a girl, was given to minding her own business and preferred to entertain herself from a very early age by looking at pictures and books. No dolls for her. She just did not bother to handle them.

In the meanwhile, the boys kept fighting with each other and were given to understand from a very early age that they should not brawl with their sister. Toys were very difficult to come by in that era of socialism. Fortunately, we lived on the estate and they had the open spaces as well as the river and the irrigation canal, to give them the kind of fun that today’s children lack.

By the end of December 1964, we decided to move into Battaramulla where we had a small house and a five-acre block of land. This was ideal for a small farm and, with the agricultural background that he had, Tom immediately wanted to go in for livestock. Before long, we had collected a herd of heavy milk yielding buffaloes and set up a thriving Buffalo Curd business. Polduwa Farm Curd was the dessert of choice for all the fashionable ladies of Colombo 7. Fancy myself, after a degree in law at the University of Peradeniya, being referred to as the Kiri Nona whenever I entered the Kollupitiya market! I can assure you that they did not teach me how to make good quality curd during those years at Peradeniya.

One of the first things I had to do to make myself independent was to get my driving license. Tom had, in the meantime, mentioned that I should do everything to make myself self-reliant. This required me to have an understanding of what funds we had and how to handle them. We had a rather powerful car – a Ford Zephyr with a six-cylinder engine and, when I went for my driving test, I was driving at the high speed of 40 m.p.h when the examiner asked me whether I always drove in this reckless manner.

After the license was given, I began to get about on my own, though rather nervously. I soon realized that I had a serious handicap and could not under any circumstances multi-task. I had to concentrate on what I was doing, and if I let my mind stray even for a moment, I would miss my track.

Both Tom and Nilanthi were subject to asthmatic attacks and the doctor suggested seaside living to get over this difficulty. So, we moved into a house in Carlwil Place, Kollupitiya, away from the flowering grass fields of Battaramulla. Nilanthi may have been 10 when she finally got over her breathing difficulties and perhaps the seaside did help. Upto that point of time she was ailing and spent half the year at home. She must have been about six years of age when she went into a severe asthmatic attack which refused to subside even after about 30 injections. She had turned blue and the doctors were thinking of putting her into the iron lung when she finally rallied. I must have aged about 10 years over that incident.

Born into an Anglican Christian family and having married an Anglican Christian, we did not have any problems in finding places for our children in our old schools. Nilanthi was admitted to Ladies’ College and the boys to St Thomas’ Preparatory School. In spite of a very unhealthy and troublesome start to her schooling career, Nilanthi was able to distinguish herself academically in due course. She went on to a career in the medical world as a University teacher.

Chanaka and Suresh, having enjoyed one year of nursery at Ladies’ College, were admitted to St. Thomas’ Prep school which was only five minutes away from home. They were constantly battling with each other till they entered their teens. Chanaka was the accident prone one giving us nail biting experiences. Stitches were common for Chanaka. The chin, wrist and the thigh show the scars of his daring moves.

The boys did not have the same academic backing in Sri Lanka as Nilanthi when they finished with Prep School. This led to their transfer to the International School at Kodaikannal for the A/L years. While Chanaka, the elder, moved on to a course in Gemmology in America, Suresh, the youngest, returned home, wanting to join the business straightaway. By this time, the business was picking up and Tom had set up an office in Carlwil Place with three or four assistants. But I was not willing to let Suresh handle money at 17, without being mature enough to understand that money was only a tool. So with great difficulty and a lot of persuasion he was sent off to England where he was to follow a degree in Business Management.

As I look back on those turbulent years, I admit that I too was not mature enough to handle the complicated ramifications of interpersonal relationships and financial imbalances that we were confronted with. Life was extremely difficult and challenging, but I do not recall despondency or depression. Money was never in plenty but we always had what we really wanted or maybe needed.

My husband

My life story would not be complete if I did not draw a comprehensive picture of the man I had chosen to live with. As I look back, I am full of appreciation of the wonderful qualities he had (not forgetting his weaknesses!) to enrich my life and the quality of the family we developed together.

His mother had passed away at the early age of 39, when he was only 17. As to what scars this incident left on the adolescent mind is something I have always tried to understand. His caring and compassionate ways must have been surely inherited from his mother, because his father was a strict disciplinarian and stern in his relationships. For the 10 years I knew him, the ritual of ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you’ were the only verbal exchanges that were made freely.

Our partnership, which originated through parental goodwill, lasted for more than 59 years. In keeping with the traditions of those times, our marriage was, to a large degree, an ‘arranged’ one. For a marriage which rose from a background such as this, one would imagine that our life together was humdrum and boring. Left to my own devices it may have truly turned out to be so. But my husband was of a more romantic disposition and lifted our relationship to an exciting and warm level.

Very early in our life together it became quite clear that “attachment with detachment”was to be our life’s guiding force. He was willing to give me total freedom and trusted me implicitly in whatever I did and wherever I went. As the father and husband he gave leadership to the family and provided us with our needs, fun and enjoyment. But he left decision making within the family unit to me. While he was busy building houses and earning the money for me to burn, I had to spend my time and energy to guide our children through to rewarding pursuits as well as keep myself gainfully occupied.

Tom had a very expensive hobby. While others went in for wine,women and song, he went in for building structures with brick and cement. Since he had missed his vocation, his creative capacity to design and build was tested over the years. Architects or engineers were never consulted. Plans were never drawn. A simple baas from the village was all he needed. Building walls and breaking them down was child’s play. If ever I was away from the country, at a workshop or seminar, I was always confronted with additions to the house on my return. His capacity for innovation and creativity were his outstanding qualities. Additionally, there was an intense desire to use waste material as well as ‘rejects’ which most people would not touch. The Metige at Mahausakande is an outstanding example of this skill.

He also loved to take a challenge. When all others were giving up, this was the right time for Tom to enter and prove his mettle. There was a Frenchman who had come to Sri Lanka and was working with one of the leading companies in Colombo crafting high-end jewellery, who was introduced to Tom. At this time, we did not have a workshop and knew little of the craft. One day, I came home to Carlwil Place when I found our drawing room converted into a workshop. The need for consultation or discussion had not occurred to him.

This was my first insight into the man and his mysterious way of letting go of material assets. Here was someone who was desperately in need of finding a new way of income generation and he took the opportunity with both hands. With that brave inroad, he was able to set up a company which, today, ranks as one of the best jewellery manufacturers and exporters in the country.

The first lesson I learned through this experience, which was, to say the least, shattering for any housewife, was that happiness cannot be achieved through material assets. Personal power is not through the exterior but from the interior. We both picked up a simple lifestyle, comfortable, yet ostentatious, while being more conscious of the ethical demands of healthy living.

Tom was quick at picking up the technical stuff as we entered the digital era in our middle years. As for me, even a single button sent my head into a spin. When computers came along, he insisted that I become familiar with the machine if I wanted to be a useful person in the community. I shrank from the challenge for as long as I could, but one year when I was away at yet another conference, he purchased a laptop, had it placed on my desk, and told me on my return that I should not behave like a village idiot. This pushed me into learning the basics of word-processing with the help of my young secretary at the Sumithrayo office. In my fifties, I was young enough to learn something new. How grateful I am today for this great push he gave me.

In a long journey of over 80 years, Tom has gone through many vocations and income generating activities. Starting with rubber plantations, he moved onto Gem and Jewellery manufacturing and from there to producing the TJC, a mango which has its own flavour and attributes. I noticed that he was given to pioneering ventures, which began to bore him once the challenge was over, and then wanting to move onto something new. This would happen at regular intervals of four to six years.

The only interest he did not leave behind for something new was his wife. From the rubber plantations, he started the farming activity at Battaramulla, where he built up a fine herd of heavy milking buffaloes. But with the introduction of the Parliament complex to Sri Jayawardenapura the farm had to be closed down. Before Land Reform, he also had this consuming passion about photography and was acclaimed as a prize winning photographer.

With the change in livelihood following Land Reform, attention was turned to gems and, thereafter, jewellery. It is important to note that whatever he put his hands on, he reached out for the best. He bought his own ‘hang poruwa’, the local cutting machine, and learned how to cut a gem. He was of the view that to tell others how to do it, one had to know the technique oneself. Ultimately, he could fashion a stone as well as anybody who called himself a professional lapidarist. It was much later that the electric machine came to Sri Lanka and he was able employ his own cutters.

This was followed by a community development scheme at Ellawala. Keen to offer employment to the villagers, he recruited and trained about 60 young men and women, having set up a lapidary in the village. He also took a toy making industry to Ellawala, but that was short lived. The village school that his father built got a face lift and village life took on a new vibrancy.

With the change in government and the installation of President Chandrika, he was offered the Chairmanship of the Gem Authority. During this spell at the Gem Authority, he took the opportunity to modernize Ratnapura as the City of Gems. Many changes were effected in the gem trade, both at the public and private sector levels, during his time as Chairman. In recognition of the work he did, the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge, honored him with the Desamanya title.

When that was done, he went back to the land, but now at Dambulla, where the Directors of Ellawala Exports – the mother Company – wanted to invest in agriculture. They had leased out the land from the Mahaveli Development Authority and planted it with a variety of mangoes. Tom now left the active management of the company he founded in Colombo in the hands of the younger generation and turned his attention to making the mango plantation a profitable one.

He struck up a relationship with a Philipino agricultural scientist attached to the ADB in Anuradhapura and they worked together to identify a mango which Sri Lanka could be proud of. We had about 12 varieties but the mixture did not yield profitable results. With a lot of experimentation they finally came up with the variety now known islandwide as the TJC mango, registered with the Department of Agriculture as the TOMEJC (named after Tom Ellawala and Juan Carlos).

At 82, he spends much of his time in and among the mango trees, talking to the trees as well as the staff. He makes a special effort to keep himself active but the lack of a consuming and challenging prospect does seem to lower his spirits every now and then. At the point of writing and on the eve of his 83rd birthday, he is visibly feeble both in spirit and body. Not yet accustomed to spending a day quietly without action, he is not the man that he used to be.

Land Reform and change in lifestyle

Mercifully, Tom’s father passed away just before the Land Reform Bill was brought into operation. He would not have survived it as land and ownership of land was his great pride and joy in life.

In 1970, with the implementation of the Land Reform Bill, our lifestyle was beset with serious issues. Left with only 50 acres (mostly fruit trees) and three children all under the age of 10, our financial needs were rather heavy, even in those days when money was not so important. Tom was always ready for a challenge. He was not willing to give up and spend a lifetime of complaining about the injustices of the State.

Tom decided to take up, at a professional level, the only other income generating activity he was familiar with. Coming from Ratnapura, the city of gems, he felt he could cope with the business of buying and selling gems. The village of Ellawala had yielded some of the finest gems in the past. But upto now, the family engaged in the business of gemming and selling the rough to the traders, mostly Muslim. This was not serious business but gave a little extra pocket money every now and then. To have a comprehensive idea of the business, he arranged for a period of understudy with a friend who had established himself as a dealer of repute in Singapore. He left for Singapore in 1974, leaving me to handle the family affairs for one year.

There he learned to cut and polish a gem, to recognize, value and buy them aswell as how to set up a retail business. This was made possible because his brother-in-law, Lyn De Alwis, was stationed in Singapore, helping with the establishment of a Zoo. 1974 was also an important milestone in my life. This was the year that the Founder of Sri Lanka Sumithrayo, Joan De Mel, invited me to help her set up the organization.

After Tom’s return from Singapore, he set himself up on a small scale and began buying and selling gems. A business that he was able to walk into because of his connections with Ratnapura and Eheliyagoda. The gem traders were willing to trust him as his father was well known in the district and used to give them all the gems that came out of his gem pits. Up to this time, the gems were sold to the traders and the family had not actually entered the trade.

These years were very unsettling but we were both emotionally ready and mature enough to face the challenge and overcome the difficulties we had to face. The children did well in school and I had all the time to be with them at home. When the youngest, Suresh, turned 10 and he was busy on the cricket field, I began to look for a pursuit that could bring me a sense of fulfillment. By 1977, the business was picking up and the new Jayawardene government opened the doors for free trade. Reluctantly, I worked in the office but the activity really did not stimulate me. However, in these difficult times one could not be too choosy.

During these years, we also tried to emigrate to Australia, but without success. A close friend suggested we consult our stars and took us with our horoscopes to a renowned astrologer based in distant Badulla. I recall how he mentioned that we were not destined to suffer the indignities of forsaking one’s mother land! Furthermore, he told me that I would never be able to earn by doing a job although qualified to do so. He cautioned Tom to provide for me well and virtually keep me in clover.

This caused a lot of amusement at that time and I have always reminded him about the astrologer’s words of advice. I immediately set up an informal contractual agreement for the two of us. “You earn, I burn.” This has been the active logo for our enduring partnership of more than 50 long years.

For all the work I have been involved with after my 35th year, I was able to offer my services as a volunteer because Tom earned while I burned! However, he never once questioned me on how I was using his hard earned earnings.

My entire perception about material wealth and the desire for multiplying as well as stashing away our income took a remarkable turn after 1970, when we were left with only 50 acres to call our own. It was a frightening prospect with growing children to be fed, clothed and educated. As we look back on those challenging years, we realize that fate has been very kind to us although the State was not. We were never in want, but we were also not given to luxurious or wasteful living.

It was during these times that we began to understand that money could not buy happiness. However, we had to move on to a city-oriented, money-based business lifestyle. Far different from the village based, estate life which was leisurely and certainly more healthy in its holistic sense. Society was fast moving into a consumer oriented, materialistic lifestyle where money was flowing in fast and goods were becoming freely available. Suddenly, you needed money to buy all the tantalizing goods which were being offered. How does one learn the difference between needing and wanting?

Looking back on the actual impact of the Land Reform Bill of 1970, I realize that my entire value system took a turn with this event. There was no room for bitterness. The State took away what was rightfully ours and left us to identify new income generating sources. While others perished with the accompanying stress, Tom was able to pick up the threads and start a new way of life. The coffers were virtually empty but we were never in want. We entered a period of enjoying the simple joys of family life and faced the challenges of this new lifestyle with equanimity.

(From changing attitudes and values by Nalini Ellawela)



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BRICS emerging as strong rival to G7

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It was in the fitness of things for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold a special telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently for the purpose of enlightening the latter on the need for a peaceful, diplomatic end to the Russian-initiated blood-letting in Ukraine. Hopefully, wise counsel and humanity would prevail and the world would soon witness the initial steps at least to a complete withdrawal of invading Russian troops from Ukraine.

The urgency for an early end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which revoltingly testifies afresh to the barbaric cruelty man could inflict on his fellows, is underscored, among other things, by the declaration which came at the end of the 14th BRICS Summit, which was held virtually in Beijing recently. Among other things, the declaration said: ‘BRICS reaffirms commitment to ensuring the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all with the aim to build a brighter shared future for the international community based on mutually beneficial cooperation.’

It is anybody’s guess as to what meanings President Putin read into pledges of the above kind, but it does not require exceptional brilliance to perceive that the barbaric actions being carried out by his regime against Ukrainian civilians make a shocking mockery of these enlightened pronouncements. It is plain to see that the Russian President is being brazenly cynical by affixing his signature to the declaration. The credibility of BRICS is at risk on account of such perplexing contradictory conduct on the part of its members. BRICS is obliged to rectify these glaring irregularities sooner rather than later.

At this juncture the important clarification must be made that it is the conduct of the Putin regime, and the Putin regime only, that is being subjected to censure here. Such strictures are in no way intended to project in a negative light, the Russian people, who are heirs to a rich, humanistic civilization that produced the likes of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, among a host of other eminent spirits, who have done humanity proud and over the decades guided humans in the direction of purposeful living. May their priceless heritage live long, is this columnist’s wish.

However, the invaluable civilization which the Russian people have inherited makes it obligatory on their part to bring constant pressure on the Putin regime to end its barbarism against the Ukrainian civilians who are not at all party to the big power politics of Eastern Europe. They need to point out to their rulers that in this day and age there are civilized, diplomatic and cost-effective means of resolving a state’s perceived differences with its neighbours. The spilling of civilian blood, on the scale witnessed in Ukraine, is a phenomenon of the hoary past.

The BRICS grouping, which encompasses some of the world’s predominant economic and political powers, if not for the irregular conduct of the Putin regime, could be said to have struck on a policy framework that is farsighted and proactive on the issue of global equity.

There is the following extract from a report on its recent summit declaration that needs to be focused on. It reads: BRICS notes the need to ensure “Meaningful participation of developing and least developed countries, especially in Africa, in global decision-making processes and structures and make it better attuned to contemporary realities.”

The above are worthy goals that need to be pursued vigorously by global actors that have taken upon themselves the challenge of easing the lot of the world’s powerless countries. The urgency of resuming the North-South Dialogue, among other questions of importance to the South, has time and again been mentioned in this column. This is on account of the fact that the most underdeveloped regions of the South have been today orphaned in the world system.

Given that the Non-aligned Movement and like organizations, that have espoused the resolution of Southern problems over the decades, are today seemingly ineffective and lacking in political and economic clout, indications that the BRICS grouping is in an effort to fill this breach is heartening news for the powerless of the world. Indeed, the crying need is for the poor and powerless to be brought into international decision-making processes that affect their wellbeing and it is hoped that BRICS’s efforts in this regard would bear fruit.

What could help in increasing the confidence of the underdeveloped countries in BRICS, is the latter’s rising economic and political power. While in terms of economic strength, the US remains foremost in the world with a GDP of $ 20.89 trillion, China is not very far behind with a GDP of $ 14.72 trillion. The relevant readings for some other key BRICS countries are as follows: India – $ 2.66 trillion, Russia – $ 1.48 trillion and Brazil $ 1.44 trillion. Of note is also the fact that except for South Africa, the rest of the BRICS are among the first 15 predominant economies, assessed in GDP terms. In a global situation where economics drives politics, these figures speak volumes for the growing power of the BRICS countries.

In other words, the BRICS are very much abreast of the G7 countries in terms of a number of power indices. The fact that many of the BRICS possess a nuclear capability indicates that in military terms too they are almost on par with the G7.

However, what is crucial is that the BRICS, besides helping in modifying the world economic order to serve the best interests of the powerless as well, contribute towards changing the power balances within the vital organs of the UN system, such as the UN Security Council, to render them more widely representative of changing global power realities.

Thus, India and Brazil, for example, need to be in the UNSC because they are major economic powers in their own right. Since they are of a democratic orientation, besides pushing for a further democratization of the UN’s vital organs, they would be in a position to consistently work towards the wellbeing of the underprivileged in their respective regions, which have tremendous development potential.

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Queen of Hearts

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She has certainly won the hearts of many with the charity work she is engaged in, on a regular basis, helping the poor, and the needy.

Pushpika de Silva was crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka for Mrs. World 2021 and she immediately went into action, with her very own charity project – ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’

When launching this project, she said: “Lend a Helping Hand is dear to me. With the very meaning of the title, I am extending my helping hand to my fellow brothers and sisters in need; in a time where our very existence has become a huge question and people battling for daily survival.”

Since ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ became a reality, last year, Pushpika has embarked on many major charity projects, including building a home for a family, and renovating homes of the poor, as well.

The month of June (2022) saw Pushpika very much in action with ‘Lend a Helping Hand.’

She made International Father’s Day a very special occasion by distributing food items to 100 poor families.

“Many are going without a proper meal, so I was very keen, in my own way, to see that these people had something to keep the hunger pangs away.”

A few days later, the Queen of Hearts made sure that 50 more people enjoyed a delicious and nutritious meal.

“In these trying times, we need to help those who are in dire straits and, I believe, if each one of us could satisfy the hunger, and thirst, of at least one person, per day, that would be a blessing from above.”

Pushpika is also concerned about the mothers, with kids, she sees on the roads, begging.

“How helpless is a mother, carrying a small child, to come to the street and ask for something.

“I see this often and I made a special effort to help some of them out, with food and other necessities.”

What makes Pushpika extra special is her love for animals, as well, and she never forgets the street dogs that are having a tough time, these days, scavenging for food.

“These animals, too, need food, and are voiceless, so we need to think of them, as well. Let’s have mercy on them, too. Let’s love them, as well.”

The former beauty queen served a delicious meal for the poor animals, just recently, and will continue with all her charity projects, on a regular basis, she said.

Through her charity project, ‘Lend a Helping Hand,” she believes she can make a change, though small.

And, she says, she plans to be even more active, with her charity work, during these troubled times.

We wish Pushpika de Silva all the very best, and look forward to seeing more of her great deeds, through her ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ campaign.

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Hope and political change:No more Appachis to the rescue

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KUPPI on the current economic and political crisis: intervention 1

by Harshana Rambukwella

In Buddhist literature, there is the Parable of the Burning House where the children of a wealthy man, trapped inside a burning house, refuse to leave it, fearful of leaving its comfort – because the flames are yet to reach them. Ultimately, they do leave because the father promises them wonderful gifts and are saved from the fire. Sri Lankans have long awaited such father figures – in fact, our political culture is built on the belief that such ‘fathers’ will rescue us. But this time around no fathers are coming. As Sri Lankans stare into an uncertain future, and a multitude of daily sufferings, and indignities continue to pile upon us, there is possibly one political and emotional currency that we all need – hope. Hope is a slippery term. One can hope ‘in-vain’ or place one’s faith in some unachievable goal and be lulled into a sense of complacency. But, at the same time, hope can be critically empowering – when insurmountable obstacles threaten to engulf you, it is the one thing that can carry you forward. We have innumerable examples of such ‘hope’ from history – both religious and secular. When Moses led the Israelites to the promised land, ‘hope’ of a new beginning sustained them, as did faith in God. When Queen Viharamahadevi set off on a perilous voyage, she carried hope, within her, along with the hope of an entire people. When Martin Luther King Jr made his iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech, hope of an America where Black people could live in dignity, struck a resonant chord and this historical sense of hope also provided inspiration for the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa.

This particular moment, in Sri Lanka, feels a moment of ‘hopelessness’. In March and April, this year, before the cowardly attack on the Gota Go Gama site, in Galle Face, there was a palpable sense of hope in the aragalaya movement as it spread across the country. While people were struggling with many privations, the aragalaya channeled this collective frustration into a form of political and social action, we have rarely seen in this country. There were moments when the aragalaya managed to transcend many divisions – ethnic, religious and class – that had long defined Sri Lanka. It was also largely a youth led movement which probably added to the ‘hope’ that characterized the aragalaya. However, following the May 09th attack something of this ‘hope’ was lost. People began to resign themselves to the fact that the literally and metaphorically ‘old’ politics, and the corrupt culture it represents had returned. A Prime Minister with no electoral base, and a President in hiding, cobbled together a shaky and illegitimate alliance to stay in power. The fuel lines became longer, the gas queues grew, food prices soared and Sri Lanka began to run out of medicines. But, despite sporadic protests and the untiring commitment of a few committed activists, it appeared that the aragalaya was fizzling out and hope was stagnant and dying, like vehicles virtually abandoned on kilometers-long fuel queues.

However, we now have a moment where ‘hope’ is being rekindled. A national movement is gathering pace. As the prospect of the next shipment of fuel appears to recede into the ever-distant future, people’s anger and frustration are once again being channeled towards political change. This is a do-or-die moment for all Sri Lankans. Regardless of our political beliefs, our ideological orientation, our religion or class, the need for political change has never been clearer. Whether you believe that an IMF bailout will save us, or whether you believe that we need a fundamental change in our economic system, and a socially and economically more just society, neither of these scenarios will come to pass without an immediate political change. The political class that now clings to power, in this country, is like a cancer – poisoning and corrupting the entire body politic, even as it destroys itself. The Prime Minister who was supposed to be the messiah channeling international goodwill and finances to the country has failed miserably and we have a President who seems to be in love with the idea of ‘playing president’. The Sri Lankan people have a single existential choice to make in this moment – to rise as one to expel this rotten political order. In Sri Lanka, we are now in that burning house that the Buddha spoke of and we all seem to be waiting for that father to appear and save us. But now we need to change the plot of this parable. No father will come for us. Our fathers (or appachis) have led us to this sorry state. They have lied, deceived and abandoned us. It is now up to us to rediscover the ‘hope’ that will deliver us from the misery of this economic and political crisis. If we do not act now the house will burn down and we will be consumed in its flames.

Initiated by the Kuppi Collective, a group of academics and activists attached to the university system and other educational institutes and actions.

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