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Cambridge, bar exams and return to Ceylon

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by Nimal Wikramanayake

I went up to Cambridge early in October 1955 full of confidence and hope, but unfortunately my hopes were dashed to the ground shortly thereafter. In my first tutorial I was required in my Legal History class to write a tutorial on clause 39 of the Magna Carta -the clause which required “that no man shall be tried except by his peers” This reference, of course, was to the Barons and to no one else. I wrote a forty-page tutorial of which I was enormously proud. The result: I received an “A” while two other students received “A+” In my next tutorial in Roman Law, the same thing happened. The same two students bested me. I was devastated.

I lost all interest in my studies. Why, you may ask. You might find my reaction strange. I desperately needed my father’s approval, which I had never received. According to my father, who had been a first-class student, one was required to come first in everything one did. Nothing else was sufficient. (Many, many years later I learned that Kerry Packer and Tony Greig, the famous English cricketer, desperately sought their fathers’ approval, which they never received. I suffered the same fate.)

The upshot of this was that I stopped going to lectures and spent the next two and a half years playing poker and partying. These poker games were a spectacle to behold; it was a game of no-limit draw poker. I will give you an example of this game. On one occasion we started playing poker on a Friday evening and continued right through the night until Saturday afternoon. At this stage I was down 200 pounds. How was I to pay this when my allowance was only 50 pounds with which, in addition, I had to pay my college bills? We decided to take a short break from the game and went to the cinema.

The film was Love in the Afternoon with Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn. After watching the film, we returned to the game and finished playing on Sunday morning. I was finally up two pounds.I returned to my rooms in college and fell asleep. When my girlfriend, whom I later married, woke me up in the evening, I told her that I had four aces.

Prejudice in action

It was now March 1958 and I suddenly realised that I was in serious trouble. I had intended to go down to London and sit for the English barristers’ exams (the Bar exams) when I finished up at Cambridge in order to practise later on in Ceylon as an advocate.

The Bar exams came in two parts. I had to get a Second-Class in my law degree to be exempted from part I of the Bar exams. I went and saw Michael “Mickey” Dias, the greatest Ceylonese academic who was then the editor of Clerk and Lindsell on Torts. Mickey had taken six starred first classes at Cambridge; two in classics, three in the Law Tripos and one in the LLB, and had come first in his six years of study at Cambridge. In order to get a starred first one had to obtain an aggregate mark of over 80 per cent in every subject.

Mickey had initially studied classics and after that changed to Law. He got his LLB and LLM, as he came from one of the great legal families in Ceylon. Michael’s father R F Dias was a Supreme Court judge in Ceylon. Unfortunately, racism reared its ugly head at Cambridge; Mickey could not get a post there and ended up as a lecturer at Nottingham University. However, he later obtained a lectureship at Magdalene College (pronounced “Maudlane”) Cambridge. He was a lecturer in torts for over 40 years, but he never got a professorship.

I went to see Mickey and he said, “It’s quite simple. Take your six textbooks and read each subject for half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening and half an hour at night” I followed his advice for two and a half months and got a Second-Class.When I returned to Ceylon in 1959, my master, Kingsley Herat, used to read textbooks like novels. He taught me how to read legal textbooks. All you had to do was pick the book up and read it.

The Bar examination

My next task was to pass the barristers’ final examination which was being held two months later in September 1958. This exam had eleven subjects, eight of which were new to me, but I decided to sit for it. I came a cropper in “Equity”, the subject in which I was to become an expert many years later. I received a Conditional Pass in Equity which meant I had to sit for this subject again at the end of November. I sat for this subject and, cocky little bastard that I was, I left for Ceylon with my Italian wife, Anna Maria, shortly afterwards. I passed and was called to the Bar in absentia in England on February 12, 1959 – 63 years ago. This meant that I was not present when the young men and women were admitted to the English Bar.

When we got to Ceylon, Anna Maria was “horrified” at the indolent life we lived. She would find toothpaste on her toothbrush in the bathroom when she awoke in the morning. Whenever I had a drink at my father’s home, the drinks trolley would be rolled out on the front verandah for me. I did not need to pour my drinks out for I would ring the bell and the servant would come and do this little job for me which I could quite easily have done for myself. Was there some racism in my own attitude towards our coloured servants, I wonder?

My wife, the white woman

Anna Maria, who is Italian, came from a little town called Asolo in the district of Veneto in the north of Italy. During our time in Ceylon, she occasionally had to endure slights and insults, which she did with considerable dignity. In Ceylon in the 1950s, racial prejudice worked against white women who had married Sinhalese and Tamil men. Before I went to England my father had told me that I should not marry a white woman as she would meet with hostility and prejudice in Ceylon. He told me that a friend of his called Rajasingham had married a French girl and brought her back to Ceylon As a young lawyer he had to live with his parents because he had no work and no money. His mother detested his wife and used to make blistering hot curries for her and treat her badly. The wife finally went back to Paris after few years. This was not an isolated case.

It also happened to a very dear friend of mine who grew up with me – the late Vernon de Silva. Vernon went off to England in the 1960s and qualified as a medical specialist – a physician. He married a delightful English girl but his mother refused to acknowledge her and Vernon could not take her back to Sri Lanka. He had to settle in Australia.Fortunately, the people in Sri Lanka are more civilised today and many Sri Lankan-born men and women have married Europeans and Australians.

I remember one occasion in 1959 when we were invited to the wedding of a friend of mine, Chandra Seneviratne. His parents were extremely wealthy, and the wedding was held in their luxurious home in Rosemead Place, Colombo 7. It was customary at Sinhalese weddings for the women to congregate together inside the houses whilst the men regaled themselves in the large expansive gardens outside. I took Anna Maria into the house so that she could mingle with the women.

The wives of several friends of mine were gathered in one of the ante rooms so I took her in and introduced her to the ladies who were present. I asked one of the ladies to look after Anna Maria. I then went out onto the spacious lawn and joined my friends. Fifteen minutes later, Anna Maria came hurrying out and joined me. She was quite distraught. I asked her what had happened; and she told me that the ladies had kept conversing in Sinhalese and had deliberately gone out of their way to snub her. That was the last time I associated with these friends.

The early days

I was called to the Bar in Ceylon on October 12, 1959. It was a glorious day – I received numerous briefs from Dad’s proctors because Dad was at the height of his powers. I thought, what a wonderful profession. But unfortunately this was not to last.

The prime minister SWRD Bandaranaike had been shot a few weeks before I was admitted to practice. Shortly afterwards, the Chief Priest of the Kelaniya Temple, Buddharakkita Thero, and several others were charged with his murder. Earlier in the year, Dad had appeared for Dr Lenora, a physician and politician, in a defamation case against Mrs Vimala Wijewardene, then Minister of Local Government and a friend of the Chief Priest. Dad was successful and Dr Lenora was awarded Rs 100,000 ($20,000), which was a princely sum in 1959. The Chief Priest was so impressed that he wanted Dad to appear for him. Dad refused, as he had not done a criminal case since the early days.

Truth and justice

When a law student goes to law school, young and enthusiastic and full of hope, all he or she is interested in is truth and justice. My readers will probably think me a nasty old cynic when I say that it is not an absolute rule that truth and justice exist in legal proceedings. Many strange and unusual events can occur in a case which have nothing to do with truth and justice. I will give you a classic example to back up my statement, although one could argue that this case is an aberration.

Shortly after I was admitted to the Ceylon Bar, I was retained as junior counsel in a seduction case. In Ceylon, in the late 1950s – if I might put it rather indelicately – the goods were returned if they were spoiled. In the villages, the sheets were required to be hung out after the wedding night, just as in villages in Italy. The action for seduction comes from Roman law and from there it was introduced into Roman-Dutch law. The action is brought for “defloration of a virgo intacta” or the deflowering of a virgin. It was introduced into Roman Law by Justinian over 1,500 years ago when virginity was seen as a precious commodity. The Dutch ruled a small portion of the country from Colombo to Galle, including the town of Colombo, and introduced Roman-Dutch law into the country. Seduction, however, has a completely different meaning today. Our client was being sued not only for seduction, but for paternity, for giving the poor woman a baby.

The client turned up at my leader’s chambers for a conference and brought the record keeper of the army with him. The record keeper brought along the attendance register of the army which disclosed that our client was 200 miles away in an army camp in Jaffna for well over a year when the alleged incident took place, and could not have been in Colombo as alleged by the woman.

Months later, the lady attended court with her little son on the day judgment was to be delivered. He was the spitting image of our client. The result, however, was a foregone conclusion as the record keeper’s evidence was accepted and the lady’s action was dismissed.When we came out of court after judgment had been delivered, my leader Neville Samarakoon turned to the client and said to him, “That’s your child.’

The client replied, “Yes, it is, you see the record keeper is my best friend. He signed me up as being present in the barracks in Jaffna when I was having intercourse with the woman in Colombo 200 miles away. And this happened on most weekends for quite some time”

I was devastated. This was dreadful! I felt shattered. There was no such thing as truth and justice. I returned home mortified. I decided to leave the legal profession. I told Anna Maria that I was leaving the Bar immediately. After a few days, however, I calmed down and decided to carry on regardless. I became a cynical old man eventually.

The lean years

When I went to the Bar, my father was chairman of one of the big industrial companies in the country, the Associated Motorways Group, and in addition, chairman of the Free Lanka Insurance Company, the second largest Ceylonese insurance company in Ceylon. He sent a directive to the various officers of these companies that under no circumstances was I to be briefed by them in court proceedings. Dad wanted me to make my name without any help from him. Further, when proctors briefed him in a case, they would ask him whether he wanted me to be briefed as his junior. He would tell them that it was up to them to decide whether I was good enough to be briefed in the matter. So I was never briefed as my father’s junior in my early years at the Ceylon Bar as I was completely inexperienced as a barrister/advocate.

At that point in time there were three Queen’s Counsel who were pushing their sons extremely hard.In addition, I had married outside not only my caste but outside my race, which was frowned on at the time. I was shattered by his attitude, which was inexplicable to me. I now realise that his behaviour conditioned me for the extremely hard times I was to endure later on in Australia.

Although my early years at the Bar in Ceylon were extremely difficult, it was having to endure the buffets of fate with equanimity later in an extremely prosperous environment that was soul-destroying.

Anna Maria, my heroine

My dear wife was extremely supportive in those early years between 1959 and 1965 as briefs were few and far between. Life was a tremendous struggle without any help from my parents. An advocate or barrister who goes to the Bar without private means or legal contacts faces a perilous existence in his early years.

In 1963, as I was struggling to exist, I applied for a job with the Legal Department of the Employers Federation. This was a large organization which acted in disputes between commercial companies and their employees. I heard nothing from the company about my job application. Several months later, I met the chief legal officer, Lyn Wirasekera, who was a friend of Dad’s and enquired from him why I had not been called for an interview. He looked at me strangely and remarked that he had sent me a telegram calling me for an interview but I had not turned up.

It transpired that Anna Maria had destroyed the telegram. When I asked her why she had done that, she said she knew I had set my heart on being an advocate of the Supreme Court, that that was my destiny and I did not need to work for the Employers Federation.

As things did not improve during the following year, I applied for employment at the Estate Employers Federation as a legal officer. This was an organization formed by the plantation companies to act for them in legal disputes they had with their employees. The same thing happened again. I received a telegram calling me for an interview for a job. My wife again destroyed the telegram without my knowledge, so thanks to my dear wife I was destined to reach the top of the Junior Bar in Ceylon by 1968.

Humour the bastards

While I was reading in 19601 would go into court with my master, Neville Samarakoon. Whenever a judge said something remotely funny and looked about for approval, my master would fall into paroxysms of laughter. I later asked him why he was laughing when there was nothing funny in what the judge had said. His reply was, “Nimal, you must always kowtow to those stupid bastards. Humour the bastards and they will think you are a great bloke.”

Many years later at the Ceylon Bar there was a judge, S S Kulatileke, who fancied himself to be a comedian. He would often declaim what he considered to be a humorous remark and then turn from side to side looking for approval. I remember on one occasion he was doing a criminal case, and when the case was for hearing he shouted, “Call the robbers!” and started laughing, looking around. I decided that here was my opportunity to test my master’s theory. I burst out into raucous laughter. I positioned myself at a point where he would turn his face and each time I would burst into paroxysms of laughter at his witticisms. As a result, Kulatileke thought I was what the Italians call simpatico. Judge Kulatileke was very fond of me and, surprisingly, I never lost a case before him. Although my advocacy may have contributed in some measure to my success, I would advise all junior barristers to “Humour the bastards!”

In 1968,1 won an interesting case before Judge Kulatileke which also reinforced my belief that it is doubtful whether truth and justice exist in law courts. This was a landlord and tenant case. It was a most unusual case, for most of the properties in Colombo came under the Rent Control Act. The tenant could only lose his or her tenancy if the premises were reasonably required for the landlord’s use and occupation, or if the tenant surrendered the premises to the landlord. The likelihood of the tenant surrendering possession of the property was not only extremely rare but well-nigh impossible. In this case, it appeared that the tenant had delivered a written notice of surrender to my client, the landlord.

I opened my case and called the client. He gave his evidence about the surrender then Mr AK Premadasa got up to cross-examine my client. Premadasa was the leader in the Landlord and Tenant Jurisdiction. He subpoenaed my client to produce all the rent receipts over a period of some 36 months. The client was only able to produce 35; one rent receipt was missing. A peculiar feature of the rent receipts was disclosed – some of them were signed by the tenant at the bottom of the page. They were on A4 foolscap paper, not in a normal receipt book. Premadasa suggested to my client that he had torn off the thirty-sixth receipt and typed in this surrender letter above the tenant’s signature.

I reminded Judge Kulatileke that Premadasa was the acknowledged leader of the Landlord and Tenant Jurisdiction and that he was noted for his guile. It was an interesting theory that he had formulated, and because he was the leader of the Tenancy Bar he expected the judge to accept this ridiculous theory of his. I asked why anyone would resort to such a subterfuge. I argued that the defendant had decided to surrender his premises and then had had a change of heart. The receipt was ample proof of his behaviour. The judge accepted my submissions and I was successful.

Some members of the general public are under the misapprehension that lawyers are liars. Most of us certainly are not. We have to put our client’s story across. Occasionally my client comes with a story which would put Baron Munchausen to shame, but I have to put it across. That is what I am paid to do, although occasionally I have some doubts about its authenticity.When we came out of court I told my client that maybe Premadasa was right. My client then admitted he had indeed torn off the receipt and typed in the surrender in place of the receipt.

So much for truth and justice.

(To be continued)
(Excerpted from A Life In The Law – A Memoir)



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R. Sampanthan: ‘We cannot go on like this’

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By R.K. RADHAKRISHNAN

Member of Parliament Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, who has kept together a diverse coalition of Tamil political parties under the umbrella of the Tamil National Alliance since 2001, has witnessed many phases of the struggle since Sri Lanka became an independent country in 1948. Now 89 and largely confined to his official residence in one of Colombo’s well-guarded areas, Sampanthan still pins his hope on India and the international community to encourage Sri Lanka to arrive at an amicable solution to the issue of the Tamils’ hopes and aspirations.

In a rare interview, Sampanthan, who had the distinction of being the Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament from 2015 to 2018, outlines what the priorities of the government should be. Excerpts:

Q: What is your assessment of the aragalaya (struggle in Sinhalese)? I see that all those who were in power are back in Sri Lanka and thriving.

A:The aragalaya was successful in the sense that they were able to make the main wrongdoer realise that he could not continue in office [President Gotabaya Rajapaksa]. Unfortunately, Ranil [Wickremesinghe], for his own personal reasons, supported the government. And by virtue of this support he was able to become Prime Minister. Now, he is the President. He became President with the support of those whom he opposed [earlier].

The aragalaya was partly successful, and the main offender, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was compelled to resign. Now the question is do we have a government? Which is the government? Who is supporting whom? What is their stand on the economy? No one knows. It is all very confusing. I don’t know what policies they are pursuing. [Wickremesinghe is the lone member of his United National Party in Parliament. He survives with the support of MPs of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Rajapaksa’s party].

As of now, what is inevitable and what should happen is there should be general elections. The people should be asked to decide who should be given the mandate to rule.

Q: I think President Ranil Wickremesinghe is following the same policies as the SLPP.

A:The credibility of Mahinda Rajapaksa [former Prime Minister], Gotabaya Rajapaksa [former President], and Basil Rajapaksa [former Finance Minister] were seriously questioned. They were the ones ruling the country. Mahinda Rajapaksa had to go into hiding in Trincomallee [at a naval base] at the peak of the aragalaya. The time has come for the people to be given the opportunity to decide who should govern this country because this [the current state of SLPP controlling despite people wanting the party out of power] should not continue. It will only get worse.

I don’t think the economic debacle is being tackled in any sensible way. They [the government] had gone to the IMF for a bailout. So far, the IMF has said nothing. This is of great concern.

Q: So you think that the only solution is going back to the people?

A: I really don’t know how they continued because the whole country was against them. It was the peak of opposition to any government. I don’t know why it [ aragalaya] did not continue [after Wickremesinghe took charge as President]…. The people wanted this government to go. Hence, they should go back to the people for a mandate.

Q: A negotiated settlement to Tamil political aspirations is the dream that is fast turning into a mirage. We do not see any gains for the Tamils. In fact, they are losing out because of demographic and cultural changes in the north and the east. Tamil political parties have not been able to make much headway.

A: The resolution of the Tamil national question has been a big issue since [Sri Lanka’s] independence. The Tamil people supported independence. They were compelled to change their stand after the citizenship law and the resettling of Sinhalese in large numbers in the east and the north. This changed the demographic composition in those areas.

The Tamil people demanded autonomy and devolution of power in those areas. This was the basis of the [1957] Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact and the [1987] Indo-Sri Lankan accord. Both contained provisions on identity of the Tamil people, the territory, and arrangements with regard to self-determination, or the right to determine their own destiny. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan government breached the agreements.

As far as Sinhala politicians are concerned, whichever political party they belong to, they are primarily concerned about gaining the support of the Sinhala people on the basis of an anti-Tamil stand. As long as this continues, nothing can be done. Sri Lanka is party to the international covenant on civil and political rights, and to the covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. Both covenants give the people the right to self-determination.

We don’t want the country to be broken in any way; we stand for an undivided Sri Lanka. At the same time, we cannot go on like this. We have no alternative but to approach the international community, which is well aware of the issue. There should be some arrangement regarding the north and the east. It is the duty of the international community, including India, the US, and the UK, to take the lead and push for an arrangement in the north and the east.

The Sri Lankan government is not delivering on the political question. On one side, the Sinhala population in the north and the east is being increased by resettlement, and on the other side, the Tamils are fleeing because of the violence and the unstable political situation. If this goes on, the people will be unable to maintain their identity, self-respect, and even their dignity. The international community should not permit that. It will set a bad example to the world. If they want peace in the region, and peace in this country, this problem must be resolved. (The Frontline)

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Path to disaster

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Either we as a world have failed our human expectations to lead a normal life of peace and progress, or our leaders are nowhere close to offering that satisfactorily. Interestingly, war and destruction are not new phenomena to our civilization or to the world. We have been fighting wars in one way or the other. It seems we have been unable to evolve the right way to live with lasting peace.

The longer the Russia-Ukraine war goes on, the further hope of peace and recovery is pushed away. After all, months have passed, and everyday destruction and destitution have increased, not only in the war zones but beyond.

BY PRAVESH JAIN

It is a new-age world, intensely interconnected and interdependent like never before. What happens locally may soon spread globally. The longer the Russia-Ukraine war goes on, the further hope of peace and recovery is pushed away. After all, months have passed, and everyday destruction and destitution have increased, not only in the war zones but beyond.

The possibility of ending the war is not high. Today, the situation is such that everyone in the world is anxious about the morrow. The war is not just making the two warring nations bleed every day in many ways, it has impacted many other nations.

Europe is anxious to save itself from a hard winter, many others are concerned about how to revive their economies that the war has ravaged without visiting their borders. Thousands are dying, millions have become homeless, many innocents have gone to the grave for no fault of theirs, and many more cannot come out of closed doors in the war-impacted zones.

Inflation is growing exponentially, businesses are shaky, and the high hopes of a post-Covid boom have given way to terrible gloom. With rising unemployment, the youth are feeling hopeless. The scale of poverty is set to rise phenomenally; nations and governments around the globe are clamoring for solutions that are simply not there.

But amidst all this, the rising voices of war and revenge are filling the air and more plans are being hatched to intensify the war. For whatever reasons, one thing is conclusive.

Either we as a world have failed our human expectations to lead a normal life of peace and progress, or our leaders are nowhere close to offering that satisfactorily. Interestingly, war and destruction are not new phenomena to our civilization or to the world. We have been fighting wars in one way or the other. It seems we have been unable to evolve the right way to live with lasting peace.

Wars haven’t left us, and we have not stopped warring. It has been and is still around as a monstrous reality, teaching us to justify it as a necessary evil. But the evil is growing bigger by the day, and we remain unmindful of its perils. Time and again, we promise ourselves that we will not embark on wars again, but soon we seem to forget and get embroiled in them. What could the reasons behind this madness, or if I can say self-deceit, be?

After every war, we think and talk of peace. Then the very essence of our pledges evaporates into thin air. Are we thick-skinned, hypocritical, liars, unmindful, or simply incapable of keeping the promises that we make to ourselves?

This demands deep introspection. With the advent of pacifism in the late 19th and early 20th century, it felt like the world would embrace peace and harmony over violence. Then the First World War happened. The optimism at the start of the century was gone. There was widespread destruction, millions lost their lives, and several empires were reduced to rubble.

When the war ended, political leaders of powerful nations agreed on several treaties to ensure lasting peace and the world breathed a sigh of relief. That relief, however, was short-lived. Twenty years later a bigger war broke out. The Second World War was uglier and more destructive in all respects. It was the deadliest conflict in the history of human civilization, leading to a loss of around 80 million lives with several more being brutally affected.

Nobody wanted a third world war. So, nations sat down and decided to form a global body that would work towards ensuring world peace, and the United Nations was formed. Cut to a little less than a century later, and you will agree that the UN has become nothing but a symbolic organization that serves no practical purpose.

Several nations are in armed conflict with each other, and tensions are building across an increasing number of borders. It is as if war has been our way of life. This is not to say that devastating tactics are only used by the United States. Russia too uses these often, although only half as often as the US.

That may be not because of a lack of a will for supremacy, but because of the inability to afford the risks and resources so effortlessly. China, seeking to become the dominant power in the East and later the world, has also employed this methodology occasionally. And the intent is unfolding more vigorously along with matching actions. The question arises: why does the global leadership in general and the US in particular use mean to escalate conflict rather than defuse it?

Hasn’t anyone learned a lesson from the major world wars and their aftermaths? Nuclear conflict is a looming possibility, and everyone knows there will most probably be no human civilization left to tell the tales of that war.

On global forums, all nations repeatedly warn others to avoid nuclear war, but ground reality proves otherwise, as these same nations openly or secretly acquire nuclear weapons. That is the game plan, isn’t it While big nations churn profits from war, war-ravaged nations suffer brutal damage.

Aside from the destruction of their economies, the humanitarian losses are huge. Millions lose livelihoods if not their lives, families are displaced and the after-effects last for several generations. And this is when two nations clash across borders.

With the number of provocative tactics being applied by the USA around the world and Russia, China, and North Korea, adopting an eye-for-an-eye attitude in response, a third world war seems an increasingly likely possibility. To a neutral observer, this might seem childish, or even laughable. But there is nothing laughable about war, especially in modern times when almost every powerful nation is equipped with nuclear armaments.

What is frustrating is that world leaders do not recognize this. Or if they do, they don’t do enough to emphasize the point. Do our leaders ever realize that they are chosen by the people to lead them to progress and peace, not death and destruction? Are our leaders not accountable for their karma?

The karmic theory has its own bona-fide, unfailing principles. As you sow, so shall you reap. Often, I wonder what will happen to our leaders who flaunt their strength and arrogance and unleash acts of hegemony, rather than ensuring harmony for humanity to live in peace. Do they have no fear? Do they think that their power is eternal? Or are they simply not concerned about all this, blindly driven by their own misplaced missions?

Many questions arise in both mind and soul when one thinks of these destructive leaders. In many countries, the financial systems are fast collapsing and soon many banks may shut down. The world with its aspirations for better standards of living has been pushed a decade back. Every thinking human must have apprehensions about a dark future. (The Statesman/ANN)

(The writer is Chairman and Managing Trustee, Paras Foundation and can be reached at praveshjain@parasdyes.com)

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Twin personas; reaction long after the action

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I am pleasantly surprised and marvel too most times I read the editorial in The Island. Why? Because they are so very apt on the most current issue in the land. The editor has the clever knack of hitting the nail right on the head and is fearless even when the nail represents a VVIP.

Friday 25 November had the sharp, truth writing editor commenting on President Ranil W and his stunning metamorphosis from a peace promoting, democracy advocating politician to a persona that he himself says is Hitler like. And as the editor has written, one wondered if he and his immediate predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had swapped bodies, for the former sounded just like the latter. Gota was expected to be a dictator; a monk called out to him to be Sri Lanka’s Hitler while his brother Basil bracketed him with the ‘Terminator’.

Ranil seems to hear cries for protection of human rights as a cover for violent protests. Gota, though an army man and later as a civilian, cosseted the army at great cost to the exchequer, did not threaten to bring the army out to quell protests. It was done once or twice: e. g at Rathupaswela and at an FTZ. These orders were not proven to be directly emanating from him nor directly connected to him. However, peace proclaiming Wickremesinghe with his new surname added on is outdoing the former army officer. He maintains the PTA and now says (probably in all truth and belief – scarce characteristics of politicians) that he will call out the army to quell protests, which have been and will be, mostly peaceful.

What this woman, a former teacher and counselor, opines with common sense and intuition is that he is going about it all wrong. He is inciting protest and lawlessness, even violence, since the youth of the country, with others, are utterly frustrated, angered, troubled and volcanic – waiting to erupt and so are the sideline catalysts: the terrorism promoting core politicized protesters of the IUSF, FSP and certain JVPers. Ranil should have been wiser and less outreaching, and negotiated with leaders of the groups mentioned, including trouble rousers like Stalin, and convinced them of the dire state the country is in. Negotiating with die-hard protesters may not be his cuppa; he shies away from direct contact with the hoi polloi. But talk to them he must. He should include persons like Guv CB to the negotiating table since Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe is one of the very few, if not the only high-up, that all respect. The rabble-rousers should be convinced, even threatened privately, that at this juncture what the country needs and the IMF promotes is encouraging money making projects, the surest and largest-inflow-of dollars earning tourism to resume and continue with peace prevailing in the country. With so many countries with so much to offer, why should tourists visit a near warring Sri Lanka? The reality of course is that this dot of an island has most to offer the tourist as pronounced by even Lonely Planet guides.

However, as is always the case, the country pleases but men in it are vile and utterly stupid. The protestors do not realize their protests will not change things immediately. But they most certainly cost the country much. These fire breathing, loud mouthed protestors and so-called protectors of peace and human rights are at present the principal harmers of the land.If after sincere one-to-one negotiation, some remain recalcitrant, then the police should be called in to deal with them.

Bang shut empty stable door

Mentioned many times before by Cass and other writers, Sri Lankans in general suffer short memories: will vilify a person today and praise him tomorrow not only because they are turncoats but because the people have forgotten and of course forgiven yesterday’s sins of leaders. Another characteristic is shutting the stable door once the horse has bolted. The preliminaries of the flight of the horse are seen but no alarm is raised. Once the horse has bolted; then come forth loud hues and cries of damage done.This last character trait of the Sinhala race mostly, was exhibited and exposed in the news telecast on MTV 1 Channel on Sunday November 27.

Villagers of a certain forest area, with voices raised women to the forefront, confronted a man who was in a new built, multi roomed hut-like construction. He seemed settled down. The crowd that walked across a vast area of bare land accused that the forest that covered this area had been illegally decimated. They demanded evidence of his right to settle down there. He said the police and other officials had cleared him. Trespassing was not even mentioned. Cass’ wonder at this loud fracas was why the fuss now with land bare and a house built when the villagers surely heard if not saw trees being felled en masse. Why had they not informed authorities then? Why wait for the deforestation and illegal building to be completed before protesting? Had they been waiting all these past months for the TV cameras to arrive to act angry and national minded?

It was suspected, if not known for sure, that vociferous Diana Gamage was a dual citizenship holder or maybe even a citizen of another country visiting her home turf. She was up front for long and since being made a State Minister by Prez Wickremasinghe, his hand guided by a crow pulling strings from even thousands of miles to the west, became prominently vociferous with forex earning projects foundationed on fun and good times. She proposed the growing of ganja plants; creating a Disney theme park; making Mannar an international gambling den and what else Cass fails to recall. Now firmly in Parliament as an elected member she faces the public rising up and declaring she is not eligible to hold a Parliamentary seat since the passage of A21 or 22. The mare had bolted to the green pastures by the Diyawanne and now people are a-rising to close the door she galloped through. Confine her at home with no powers and privileges or deport her to turf in her adopted country?

Bandula Gunawardena, holding the portfolio of Minister of Trade, held forth on the subject he thinks he is omniscient in. He claims economics as his forte of intellectual knowledge; certification of this fact being he was a tuition master in the subject. He refers to himself as Doctor Bandula G; the doctorate coming to him from where we know not. In a pontification in Parliament on the Sunday, he waxed eloquent on mismanagement of the Central Bank and trotted out figures in billions and decimals thereof of printed money. He blamed past CB persons. Why was this economist considering himself on par with Amartya Sen, Paul Krugman and Maynard Keynes, silent then when Nivaard Cabral kept the printing machines in the CB turning day and night churning out 5000 rupee notes? (PS. Cass wonders very much whether he has heard of Krugman and knows Keynes was one of the Bloomsbury Group. Cass can wager her life that he does not know who this group was).

Speaking of this Mr Cabral, he was recently seen on TV at a press interview passing the buck adroitly and proclaiming he was obeying orders to print money. Was he a robot and of whom?

Short take

A very good move was mooted recently in Parliament and will soon be law. Cass refers to the stricture that university students will be allowed one extra year after their graduating date whether they fail the final exam and wish to repeat or when they dodge sitting the final exam. Here again the closing of the loophole after damage is done. Firebrand Wasantha is said to have been in the University of Sri Jayawardenapura for eight solid years. Wasn’t this truancy of sitting the finals seen earlier? Authorities too scared to report the fact; saving their scalps by ignoring anomalies. just as they turn blind eyes to filthy and dangerous ragging in universities?

This land of ours which is truly incomparable, is derogatively a land like no other when speaking of it with tongue in cheek.

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