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Did the Air Vice Marshall miss his flight?

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This article responds to Air Vice Marshall (retired) Sosa’s article titled, ‘How did the pearl of the Orient miss the bus?’ which appeared in the Sunday Island of Feb. 28, 2021. This response is made not as a means to ridicule or denigrate his efforts, which appear to have been penned from a patriotic sentiment in asking aloud introspectively, where as a nation, did we go wrong? In arriving at conclusions however, he appears to have been so thoroughly misled into believing certain twisted and deliberately distorted versions of history.

With such flawed understanding he goes on to make historically inaccurate claims. Every second line almost amounts to gross fabrications that I have decided to correct, thus rectifying these utterances, not by unsubstantiated and sweeping statements through authoritative documented evidence.

The Vice Marshall does injustice primarily to himself in accepting certain propositions without bothering about their veracity. In damning national personalities of our country who have in the past, in stark variance to the politicos of today, rendered yeoman service he belittles the value of the precious. This perspective emanating from an ignoramus may be tolerated, but not from one such as the writer.

The Temperance Movement in Ceylon is a suitable point from which to begin, for it was from that body that rose the public personalities of D.B. Jayatilaka and D.S. Senanayake. This movement was founded in defiance to the Toddy Act of 1912, which aimed at mushrooming bars and liquor vending outlets throughout Ceylon. The Buddhist and Hindu communities were largely outraged, and saw in it the dangers that could befall the populace. The colonial government however, viewed this opportunity as one which would assist in filling their coffers.

The opposition to the Act, mainly came through Temperance leaders such as the Senanayake brothers ( D.S, F.R, and D.C) and D. B Jayatilaka and others inclusive of W.A .De Silva and the Hewavitharana brothers. This resulted in the boycotting of the taverns by the native populace. Hulugalle wrote in his D.S. Senanayake biography, “The Temperance movement gathered strength and the zest and the driving force which the younger Senanayake brought to it in his home surroundings at Botale. The Whole of Hapitigama Korale with its centre at Mirigama, had not a single tavern…

Thus, when some time later in 1915, a riot broke out between Muslims and Sinhalese, and martial law was used to quell the situation, it seemed incredible that almost all of the leaders of the temperance movement were arrested and incarcerated on little or no evidence as being connected or proximate to the riot. These respected leaders were unduly humiliated and subjected to degrading cruelties. The statements given by each of them is worth reading, and in particular the meticulous record kept by Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan in his book Riots and Martial Law in Ceylon 1915. In the interests of brevity I shall confine myself to parts of statements given by D.S. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake and D.B. Jayatilaka

D.S. Senanayake, introducing himself as a proprietary planter and plumbago mine owner, living in Cinnamon Gardens, went on to say, “The Town Guard and the Inspector of Police, then made careful search of the premises, but found no incriminating documents or firearms… A fortnight after this search, in the early morning of the 21st, I was awakened by a Town Guard who informed me I was under arrest, and would not permit me to answer a call of nature.”

“After they had searched me, I was taken inside the jail and locked in a bare cell. For want of a chair or bench I had to stand inside this for some hours… Mr. Allnutt who, after informing me that I was at liberty to make a statement proceeded to question me, obviously for the purpose of getting some statement likely to incriminate myself and others. Since I was aware of nothing to incriminate any respectable person, I was not in a position to help him.”

“Our midday meals were pushed inside the room. The very sight of the dirty food and the vessels in which it was served disgusted me, and naturally I was unable to take that food.…… on the 5th August, after 46 days of incarceration under as unpleasant circumstances as one could imagine, I was let out.”

The following accounts of his brother F.R. and of friend and colleague D.B. Jayatilaka are also noteworthy. F.R. introducing self as a graduate of Cambridge University, a Barrister at law, and an elected member of the Colombo Municipal Council said thus. “In the ward in which we were placed there are 150 cells, usually occupied by 150 convicts, but owing to the extraordinary circumstances the jail authorities, seeing the accommodation insufficient, found themselves compelled to shelter during the night over a thousand persons in this building. The temporary sanitary arrangements made for such a multitude, and the overcrowding, naturally made life almost unbearable.”

D.B. Jayathilaka also highlighted that “the fresh air was befouled by the unbearable smells emanating from the lavatories. They were filthy and foul.” He also referred to the manner in which he and his friend D.S. Senanayake whiled away the hours. “I whiled away the time by reciting from memory endless verses which I had learnt from the Pirivena. So did D.S. Senanayake, who sang carters’ songs, miners’ songs and folk songs.”

There was a silver lining in their cloud, for the Senanayake’s, and Jayatilake were subsequently released as heroes of the masses. Unfortunately however, a bright star among them was court martialled and shot dead by firing squad. This was of course the youthful Henry Pedris. Although no appeal existed at the time, a subsequent investigation revealed his innocence. So at this point, I must once again take exception to the Vice Marshall and his sweeping statement that Ceylon’s independence was gained on a platter and with no angry bullet. I doubt the brave young Pedris would have viewed the bullet that shed his innocent youthful blood as a friendly one!

Furthermore he goes on to conjecture rather unfairly and uncharitably that D.S. Senanayake was instrumental in elbowing his lifelong friend Jayatilake out of his seat as vice chairman of the Board of Ministers, only so that he could occupy it. If he had only read (which I know from his conjecture he has not) of the extents the Senanayake brothers went to, for Jayatilaka, including mortgaging the matrimonial home to build ‘Mahanil’ the building on the Y.M.B.A land in furtherance of Jayatilaka’s vision to which they too subscribed, he would understand D.B. and the Senanayake’s were bonded deeply in spirit.

One person who clearly knew and was a close friend of Jayatilaka, as much as of D.S and also of personalities like D.R. Wijewardena, Sir John Kotelawala and even S.W.R.D was the diplomat and the journalist par excellence Herbert Hulugalle. In his writings of them and the times, one actually gets a true glimpse of firsthand accounts and not conjecture inflamed by fantastic conspiracy theories. In Hulugalle’s ‘Selective Journalism’ he explains who Jayatilaka was, and also what he later became, due to age and human frailty and for no other earthly fault.

No one can be fairer to Jayatilaka, as Hulugalle is for this is what he says, “He seemed to reflect in his life all that is best in our culture, in the Buddhist tradition and in oriental philosophy, and possessed in full measure those gifts and graces which characterize a civilized person such as tolerance, fair play and compassion.” But he notes “Although Jayatilaka never lost the mastery of the State Council, when he reached his seventies, he had lost a great deal of his fire. He was easy-going and lenient. He had lost the sureness of his touch, and signed papers which he had not read”

In 1939, Jayatilaka was the vice chairman of the board of Ministers in the Council. He had also become the president of Ceylon’s largest political forum; the Ceylon National Congress. He was at this time 72 years in age. The Ceylon National Congress itself had attracted to its fold many young legal luminaries that in later years were to become prominent in Ceylon’s destiny. J.R. Jayewardene, Edwin Wijeyeratne and R.G. Senanayake were amongst them. S.W.R. D. though not directly a member had affiliated his organization the Sinhala Maha Sabha, to it.

That same year Jayatilaka’s unblemished reputation suffered a serious setback in what became known as the Bracegirdle affair, this situation was ongoing from as far back as 1937. M.A.L. Bracegirdle was an Australian Marxist who found his way to Ceylon and engaged in what the colonial government saw as hostile activity. While the Governor had liaised with the chief of police, a Mr. Banks to deport him from Ceylon, the LSSP had sought a writ of habeas corpus from the Supreme Court, to avoid the very same. The legal position was that the Governor had no right to act in such a manner, unless authorized by the relevant minister who happened to be D.B. Jayatilaka. The police chief in evidence stated that everything was done under the minister’s concurrence, but the minister denied any knowledge.

In the fracas that ensued, the Governor had appointed a commission under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate and produce to him a report. The findings of the report entirely exonerated the police chief which had the indirect effect of casting Jayatilaka in unfavourable light. Since the testimonies of the police chief and his immediate boss Minister Jayatilaka were at variance, Jayatilaka went on record, stating many times, including to the Congress that he would rather resign from State Council, than have to work with Banks again. Since the Commission’s report was entirely weighted in favour of Banks, it was then impossible for the Governor to remove him from that position even if he wanted to.

A few skeptics had voiced that perhaps Jayatilaka ought to step down but the board of Ministers led by Senanayake strongly backed Jayatilaka even to the extent of passing a motion of confidence in Jayatilaka and then making scathing attacks on the Commission’s report mainly alleging bias and finally passing a motion of censure upon its findings in the State Council. This is hardly the manner in which a person waiting to elbow out another would act! The Vice Marshall may if he chooses, go through the State Council deliberations and decide for himself.

Jayatilaka’s statements however, to the Congress had not been forgotten, nor allowed to die a natural death. It seemed to the young men of Congress that consequent to the Commission’s report and contrary to what he had said before, Jayatilaka would compromise his dignity and continue to work with Banks. At this Juncture, the youngsters had begun taking control of congress and youthful J.R. Jayewardene was elevated to the position of secretary. Jayewardene demanded his resignation.

 

I quote from K.M.De Silva’s J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka 1906- 1956 (the first fifty years ) . “When the Congress Committee met on 23rd January they did so in the verandah of Jayatilaka’s house – The Congress had no home of its own, and its committee meetings were held in the residence of the incumbent president, and the principle business of the day was to discuss a resolution moved by E. A. P Wijeyeratne that D.B.Jayatilaka should vindicate his honour by resigning.” (Not from the Congress but the State Council). J.R. fully in support of this view explained, “It was to help Sir Baron to resign, to take a step which he had determined upon doing, which he had promised to do, that a few of us suggested to him. (pages 47-48 of J.R.Jayewardena, the unpublished memoirs contain the full speech)

Further illumination of the events that finally did lead to his resignation a few years later may be found in D.S. A political biography by K.M. De Silva, at chapter 15. “D.S was 17 years younger than D.B. Jayatilaka…….. A second point which is ignored by political observers is that both D.B. Jayatilaka and D.S entered the national legislature for the first time in the same year, 1924.”

” Among D.B. Jayathilaka’s contributions to public life in the country was his role in the establishment of the Sinhala Etymological Dictionary… The work he did in establishing the dictionary naturally attracted attention and in the case of some observers, much praise. He had his critics as well and one of them D C W Abeysekera took legal action against him on the charge that he had accepted payment as editor while being a member of the Legislative Council. Abeysekera claimed Rs23,000 as damages and urged that this should include vacation of his (Jayatilaka’s) seat in the Legislative Council.

In a prolonged legal dispute Abeysekera won the day. It required an Act of Indemnity by the Privy Council in London to save Jayatilaka. When he finally did retire in 1941 he was 73 whereupon he was entrusted with the first Ceylonese diplomatic mission overseas. It was a highly presumptuous and a thoroughly puerile view to take that in 1941, Senanayake saw independence being round the corner and feared that if 73-year old Jayatilaka was around he may have to become Ceylon’s first prime minister instead of him. As it turned out, and if the Vice Marshall could add and subtract as well as he conjectures and imagines, Independence came seven years hence and had Jayathilake lived for that long he would have been an octogenarian. The 40’s decade was neither as medically or scientifically advanced as today, and when Jayatilaka passed away in 1944 at the age of 76 he had more than passed the natural life expectancy of the average Ceylonese. It is not directly relevant but interesting to note that when Senanayake died in March 1952 he was only 68.

Senanayake, was the young pup of the independence movement. He was taken very seriously by the masses upon his wrongful incarceration and relied upon more, after the death of his much respected older brother F.R. He was in the thick of the independence struggle along with all the national leaders, but due to age being on his side, he was the only one still there to see its final result ; an independent Ceylon. He is referred to as the Father of the Nation, because at the time of Independence he was the main negotiator and undisputed leader among them. The unique position he was in was not of his design but a design of nature.

When considering some of the other national heroes of the independence movement chronologically we notice the following. Henry Pedris was murdered by the British in 1915. F.R.Senanayake on his way back from Buddha Gaya passed away in India of appendicitis in 1926. Ponambalam Ramanathan died on pilgrimage in 1930. Sir James Pieris too in 1930, W.A. De Silva passed away in 1942, and Sir D.B. Jayatilaka in 1944.

All these personalities mentioned in the previous paragraph contributed much to the well-being of their nation through selfless sacrifice. Some of them particularly D.B. Jayatilaka, D.S.Senanayake and Sir John Kotalawala bequeathed personal wealth and property to the State. The edifices of Thurban House, D.S.Senanayake school in Colombo 7 and the Kotalawala Defence University, all attest to the memory of men that put the nation before themselves.



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Foreign policy dilemmas increase for the big and small

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‘No responsible American President can remain silent when basic human rights are violated.’ This pronouncement by US President Joe Biden should be interpreted as meaning that the supporting of human rights everywhere will be a fundamental focus of US foreign policy. Accordingly, not only the cause of the Armenians of old but the situation of the Muslim Uyghurs of China will be principal concerns for the Biden administration.

However, the challenge before the US would be take this policy stance to its logical conclusion. For example, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the most heinous crimes to be committed by a state in recent times but what does the Biden administration intend to do by way of ensuring that the criminals and collaborators of the crime are brought to justice? In other words, how tough will the US get with the Saudi rulers?

Likewise, what course of action would the US take to alleviate the alleged repression being meted out to the Uyghurs of China? How does it intend to take the Chinese state to task? Equally importantly, what will the US do to make light the lot of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny? These are among the most urgent posers facing the US in the global human rights context.

Worse dilemmas await the US in Africa. Reports indicate that that the IS and the Taliban have begun to infiltrate West Africa in a major way, since they have been compelled to vacate the Middle East, specially Syria and Iraq. West African countries, such as, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mauritania are already facing the IS/Taliban blight. The latter or their proxies are in the process heaping horrendous suffering on the civilian populations concerned. How is the US intending to alleviate the cruelties being visited on these population groups. Their rights are of the first importance. If the US intends to project itself as a defender of rights everywhere, what policy program does it have in store for Africa in this connection?

It does not follow from the foregoing that issues of a kindred kind would not be confronting the US in other continents. For example, not all is well in Asia in the rights context. With the possible exception of India, very serious problems relating to democratic development bedevil most Asian states, including, of course, Sri Lanka. The task before any country laying claims to democratic credentials is to further the rights of its citizens while ensuring that they are recipients of equitable growth. As a foremost champion of fundamental rights globally, it would be up to the US to help foster democratic development in the countries concerned. And it would need to do so with an even hand. It cannot be selective in this undertaking of the first importance.

The US would also from now on need to think long and deep before involving itself militarily in a conflict-ridden Southern country. Right now it is up against a policy dilemma in Afghanistan. It is in the process of pulling out of the country after 20 years but it is leaving behind a country with veritably no future. It is leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban once again and the commentator is right in saying that the US did not achieve much by way of bringing relief to the Afghan people.

However, the Biden administration has done somewhat well in other areas of state concern by launching a $1.9 trillion national economic and social resuscitation program, which, if effectively implemented could help the US people in a major way. The administration is also living up to the people’s hopes by getting under way an anti-Covid-19 vaccination program for senior US citizens. These ventures smack of social democracy to a degree.

The smaller countries of South Asia in particular ought to be facing their fair share of foreign policy quandaries in the wake of some of these developments. India, the number one power of the region, is in the throes of a major health crisis deriving from the pandemic but it is expected to rebound economically in an exceptional way and dominate the regional economic landscape sooner rather than later.

For example, the ADB predicts India will recover from an 8% contraction in fiscal 2020 and grow by 11% and 7% this year and next year. South Asia is expected to experience a 9.5% overall economic expansion this year but it is India that will be the chief contributor to this growth. A major factor in India’s economic fortunes will be the US’ stimulus package that will make available to India a major export market.

For the smaller states of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, the above situation poses major foreign policy implications. While conducting cordial and fruitful relations with China is of major importance for them, they would need to ensure that their relations with India remain unruffled. This is on account of their dependence on India in a number of areas of national importance. Since India is the predominant economic power in the region, these smaller states would do well to ensure that their economic links with India continue without interruption. In fact, they may need to upgrade their economic ties with India, considering the huge economic presence of the latter. A pragmatic foreign policy is called for since our biggest neighbour’s presence just cannot be ignored.

The Sri Lankan state has reiterated its commitment to an ‘independent foreign policy’ and this is the way to go but Sri Lanka would be committing a major policy mistake by tying itself to China too closely in the military field. This would send ‘the wrong signal’ to India which is likely to be highly sensitive to the goings-on in its neighbourhood which, for it, have major security implications. A pragmatic course is best.

In terms of pragmatism, the Maldives are forging ahead, may be, in a more exceptional manner than her neighbours. Recently, she forged closer security cooperation with the US and for the Maldives this was the right way to go because the move served her national interest. And for any state, the national interest ought to be of supreme importance.

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A Sri Lankan centre for infective disease control and prevention

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The need of the hour:

BY Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

On 01st July 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) of the United States of America opened its doors and occupied one floor of a small building in Atlanta, Georgia. Its primary mission was simple, yet highly challenging. It was to prevent malaria from spreading across the nation. Armed with a budget of only 10 million US dollars, and fewer than 400 employees, the agency’s early tasks included obtaining enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels necessary to wage war on mosquitoes.

It later advanced, slightly changed its name, and transformed itself into the much-acclaimed and reputed Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It became a unique agency with an exceptional mission. They work 24/7 to protect the safety, health and security of America from threats there and around the world. Highest standards of science are maintained in this institution. CDC is the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health. For more than 70 years, they have put science into action to help children stay healthy so they can grow and learn, to help families, businesses, and communities fight disease and stay strong and to protect the health of the general public. Their are a bold promise to the nation, and even the world. With this strategic framework, CDC commits to save American lives by securing global health and America’s preparedness, eliminating disease, and ending epidemics. In a landmark move, the CDC even established a Central Asia regional office at the U.S. Consulate in Kazakhstan in 1995 and have been involved in public health initiatives in that region.

More recently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), was established. It is an agency of the European Union, aimed at strengthening Europe’s defences against infectious diseases. The core functions cover a wide spectrum of activities such as surveillance, epidemic intelligence, response, scientific advice, microbiology, preparedness, public health training, international relations, health communication, and the scientific journal Eurosurveillance.

Still later on, the African CDC (ACDC) was born. It strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions, as well as partnerships, to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

All these organisations are autonomous, independent, and are confidently dedicated to hold science to be sacred. They play a major role in advocacy and work in a committed advisory capacity. With the cataclysmic effects of the current coronavirus pandemic COVID-19, the contributions made by these institutions are priceless. What is quite important is that they are able to provide specific recommendations based on the latest scientific information available for countries and nations in their regions, even taking into account the many considerations that are explicit and even unique to their regions. All these organisations have been provided with optimal facilities and human resources. The real value of their contribution is related to just one phenomenon: AUTONOMY.

Well…, isn’t it the time for us to start a Sri Lankan Centre for Infective Disease Control and Prevention (SLCIDC)? It should be formulated as an agency constantly striving, day in and day out, to safeguard the health of the public. Science and unbending commitment to evaluation of research on a given topic should be their operating mantra. It would work as a completely apolitical organisation and what we can recommend is that it would be directly under the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, unswervingly reporting to and accountable to the President. It would consist of medical doctors, scientists and researchers but no politicians of any sort, no non-medical or non-scientist persons, no hangers on and no business persons. All appointments to the SLCIDC will be made by the President of the country, perhaps in consultation with medical professional organisations.

The prime duty of the SLCIDC would be to assess the on-going situation of any infective issue that has any effect on the health of the public. The organisation will undertake in-depth examination and assessment of a given situation caused by an infective organism. They need to have all relevant data from within the country as well as from outside the country. There will not be any vacillation of the opinions expressed by them and their considered views should not be coloured by any consideration apart from science and research done locally and worldwide. Their considered opinion would be conveyed directly to the President of the country. They are free to issue statements to keep the public informed about the results of their deliberations.

We believe that it would be a step in the right direction; perhaps even a giant step for our nation, not only during the current coronavirus pandemic but also on any major problems of an infective nature that might occur in the future.

 

This writer wishes to acknowledge a colleague, a Consultant Physician, who first mooted this idea during a friendly conversation.

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Kudurai Madiri Pona

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The big jumbo has come from the French land and as the French themselves say it is ‘annus mirabillis’ the miracle year, finally, and finally the wait is over. The world will now see the Big- Bus that we all waited for so long to see. As the years roll by, none would talk of delays regarding the delays on delivery dates and how late the bird flew in. These would be like words written on a blackboard, erased forever. But the aeroplane will grace the sky and, perhaps rewrite all the records of commercial aviation when the mega-miracle A380 dominates the international air-routes.

Singapore Airlines went into the record books as the launch customer. Some of my old friends from SIA would fly the A380. Perhaps, Luke would, too, and this story is about him. Luke of yesteryear and how he first flew as a cadet and how young Luke and I went romping the skies in our own special way, writing a few new lines in the flight training manual.

Luke was from Johor Baru, in Malaysia. His roots were in South India where years ago his grandfather had done a Robinson Crusoe and ended up in the Malayan Peninsula. Luke was named after one of the four Gospel scribes. Luke really isn’t his name. It is a pseudonym, I use just to give him some anonymity. Not much protection, but one is to three are playable odds. Like in Rumple stiltskin the manikin, you are welcome to guess the name.

We first flew to Seoul. He, straight out of flying College, and yours truly, as old as the hills, driving the ‘Jumbo’ classic, the lovable 747. The first thing I noticed about him was his socks, black and white diamond shapes, a mini version of the flags they swing at Grand Prix finals – if Luke swung his feet, a Ferrari would pass underneath. That we sorted out the first day itself. In Seoul,he went shopping and the next day he was Zorro, waist to toe, black as a crow.

His flying credentials were all there, somewhat mixed up between what they teach in modern flying schools and how to apply the ‘ivory tower’ jargon to cope with the big 747. As for raw handling of the aeroplane, all his skills were intact, only they were in bits and pieces and spread in places like an Irida Pola (Sunday Fair). They had to be streamlined, the wet market needed to be modified to a ‘Seven-Eleven’ – that was my job.

The next round we went flying to Europe, his first run to the unknown, like Gagarin in his Sputnik, young Luke flew to Rome. The flying was same as before, a bit mixed up amidst the hundreds of aero dynamical paraphernalia that spelled out from the encyclopaedic collection of books that he had to study.

That’s when I decided to change the tide.

‘Luke my friend,” I said to him in a fatherly fashion.

‘You and I are from similar fields, you from Kerala and me from Sri Lanka. These Min Drag Curves and VFEs and WAT limits and VLEs are too much for us. Just remember when you pull the stick back, the houses will become smaller and when you push the stick down, the houses will become bigger, that’s climbing and descending this monster,” I explained the simple theory of flight.

“As for landing my friend, Kudurai Madiri Pona, just ride it like a horse.”

That was it. We flew, over Europe and he flew like a Trojan, bravely battling the weather and the overcrowded skies. Every time he came in to land it was pure and simple Kudurai Madiri Pona and the big jumbo responded and touched down on the concrete as smooth as a honeymoon lover.

On the way back, we flew via Colombo, that’s my home ground. I requested the radar controller to give Luke a very short ‘four-mile’ final. They know me well here and the controller said “No problem, Captain.”

I was depicting what we did in the Old Hong Kong Airport or what we do in the Canarsi Approach in New York; both, most demanding. A ‘four-mile’ final is a challenge for anyone. I was throwing him in at the deep end and I had no doubt Luke could manage. He came in tight and right, like Hopalong Cassidy and rode the horse straight and beautiful to do a perfect landing. Gone was the Kampong kid and his ‘Irida Pola’ flying, this was Takashimaya and Robinsons rolled into one, everything was in place, nice and shining and professional to the tee.

That was our little story, Luke the ‘jockey’ and me. Sometimes in the field of training, the script needs a little changing. New acts to be introduced to suit the stage. That is the essence of teaching, different hurdles for different horses. It wasn’t for Luke to learn what I knew, more so, it was for me to know who he was and what he could cope with. That part was difficult to find in the flying training manual, and so was Kudurai Madiri Pona.

The world has gotten older and young Luke now wears four stripes and flies in command of Boeing Triple Sevens, fly-by-wire and multiple computers. I met him a few times, flew as his passenger, too, with great pride. “Captain Luke is in command,” the stewardess announced, and silently and gratefully I said, ‘Amen’.

I saw him walking down the aisle, looking for me. Same old Luke in his flat and uncombed Julius Ceaser hairstyle. He came to my seat and grinned and shook my hand and lightly lifted his trouser leg and said,

“Captain, the socks are black and it is still Kudurai Madiri Pona.

I am sure Luke will fly in command of the gigantic A380 one day. That’s a certainty. It would be the zenith for any pilot. Luke is ready, that I know. He is competent, polished and professional and will wear socks as black as midnight. It’s nice that he remembers his beginnings. That’s what flying is all about, that’s what life is all about.

Kudurai Madiri Pona

– ride it like a horse. Some flying lesson.

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