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Down with the 225 who have failed to agree on united response to Sialkot barbarism!

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By Rohana R. Wasala

The lesson taught by the failure of our pParliament to register a prompt united response of unqualified condemnation against the occurrence of the Sialkot savagery committed in the name of religion should never be forgotten by all patriotic Sri Lankans. My hunch is that ordinary Sri Lankans, whose hearts bled for Priyantha Kumara, the victim of that sadistic barbarity, would have reasonably expected all the MPs to unite against murderous Islamism that led to his ordeal, following the example of all Muslim MPs having stood by their fellow Muslim MP Rishad Badiuddeen who was suspected, by some, to have  had links with the suicide bombers who carried out the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The lesson that can be derived from the collective dereliction of a vital national responsibility by the MPs is that the present ruling elite (fully represented in Parliament in the form of the government and the Opposition) has neither the will nor the ability to resolve the problems of political and ideological extremism that have been unnecessarily assailing the nation for a long time, in the characteristically peaceful nonviolent and enlightened way so well illustrated in our dominant, almost identical, Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Relentless pursuers of conflicting geopolitical agendas in our neighbourhood exploit these issues of externally imposed political and religious extremism in their own interest, but to the great detriment of our people (as His Eminence the Cardinal has so often emphasised in the recent past).

It’s almost two weeks since an innocent  Sri Lankan expatriate employee, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, was set upon, beaten to death, and burned on a main road in a most despicable, inhumanly cruel manner by an Islamist lynch mob, arbitrarily and maliciously accusing him of blasphemy, at Sialkot, in the north-east of the Punjab province of Pakistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The sickening details of the appalling incident are now well known, and so we can avoid the pain of repeating them. If the horrendous outrage fails to galvanise the civilised world to resolve to root out forthwith the diabolical crime (against humanity) of killing in the name of religion, nothing will. Not that this kind of extremist brutality is an uncommon happening in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; probably, though, no religious atrocity committed there previously could rival what our unfortunate compatriot was subjected to.

 Pakistan premier Imran Khan tweeted his utmost concern late Saturday(04) about the brutal lynching episode of the previous day, which he had earlier condemned as ‘horrific’; it was a day of shame for Pakistan, he said. Imran Khan’s twitter message ran: “Spoke to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today in UAE to convey our nation’s anger & shame to people of Sri Lanka at vigilante killing of Priyantha Diyawadana in Sialkot. I informed him 100+ ppl arrested & assured him they would be prosecuted with full severity of the law”. (Both Presidents were then in Abu Dhabi for the recent Indian Ocean Conference held there.) The online wionews.com later reported (December 5) that after the Pakistani premier’s order to initiate a concerted probe, more than 800 suspects had already been booked, including the principal assailant Farhan Idrees.

To my mind, the Sri Lankan government’s response has not at all been commensurate with the enormity of the outrage. Hardly a handful of the 225 in Parliament (most of whom are eating and drinking zombies, i.e., will-less and speechless human corpses claimed to have been magically raised from the dead and used in African witchcraft) were courageous enough to utter anything that contradicted or questioned the Pakistani government’s judicious, but duplicitous stand on the lynching of a lone, completely helpless, Sri Lankan citizen. Priyantha was no ordinary Sri Lankan citizen. He had served the Pakistan nation with exceptional professionalism in a senior position in its industry field for 11 long years away from his home country and from his beloved young family. Actually, it was his commitment to his work that brought him this fate. Some workers under him were unhappy about the expat senior manager’s no-nonsense approach to work. They were looking for an opportunity to have him punished. The poster removing incident gave them the chance to invoke the blasphemy allegation, and physically eliminate him. However, we cannot blame the Pakistani Premier or his government too much in connection with the lynching. It must be as abhorrent to them as it is to all civilised people of the world. Yet it is up to the Pakistani rulers to put an end to blasphemy laws in order to prevent future crimes like this. The civilised Pakistani citizens do not approve of what happened, but they know the PM’s constraining dilemma, and would excuse him for his dubious stand on the matter; but they will not think very highly about Sri Lankan MPs’ chickening out of a robust rejection of violent Islamism on this occasion.

Be that as it may, with justice and humanity on our side, we have all the reason to have expected of our politicoes a non-militant, but nationally more dignified and more engaged response to the tragedy. It looks like they are too dumb to realise that, probably, their own accustomed parochial politicking even while the whole country is being devoured by the monster of  geopolitics in the region also served to precipitate this obviously premeditated attack on a poor unsuspecting citizen of a country that the Jihadists have been brainwashed  to identify as an infidel nation that persecutes Muslims. This unsavoury image of Sri Lanka has been created through relentless anti-Buddhist propaganda.

It looked as if both the government and the Opposition were more concerned with dealing with the political fallout of the Sialkot incident than with assuaging the suffering of the bereaved family. When Minister Bandula Gunawardane announced in Parliament the planned award of the  derisory sum of 2.5 million in the debased SL currency to Priyantha’s family as interim relief until proper compensation is arranged, Opposition and SJB leader Sajith, gave the family 2.0 million rupees for the educational welfare of Priyantha’s children. Probably, they were both more concerned about the political capital they were individually making out of the family’s inexpressible adversity than about helping them to cope up with the tragedy.

Sri Lanka must demand that Premier Imran Khan keep his word in this case, and as Professor Pratibha Mahanamahewa urges, Pakistan ought to tender an international apology for failing to protect a defenceless individual’s basic human right to live; it is ironical that this happened so close to December 10, the International Human Rights Day. The Pakistan PM’s apparent attempt to mitigate the atrociousness of the lynching episode as a case of vigilantism (i.e., law enforcement by a self-appointed group of people without legal authority, especially in a situation where relevant authorities are not available or cannot function) is not an encouraging gesture (Please see his twitter message quoted above).

According to the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times  of December 8, 2021, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Parvez Khattak has made a more explicit attempt than Prime Minister Imran Khan to rationalise the lynching. Khattak was reported as having made a shockingly unapologetic statement: “Murders take place when young people get emotional over Islam…..They are emotional kids with Islamic understanding; they act under Islamic understanding, they act under Islamic sentiments…. At Sialkot, these boys converged, shouted slogans and termed manager’s action against Islam…..They became emotional and the murder took place suddenly, but that doesn’t mean everything has got ruined…..Please make people understand that they are youngsters who become emotional for Islam ….I too can become emotional for Islam and do something wrong but that doesn’t mean Pakistan is heading towards destruction.” These murdering ‘kids’ that Pak Defence Minister Khattak idolizes are no doubt products of the Islamic madrasas in that country, 30,000 of which PM Khan himself planned, as reported in early 2019, to bring under state control  in response to allegations that they turned out youngsters indoctrinated with violent Jihadism, that led them to carry out attacks in neighbouring India and Afghanistan. The Islamist suicide bombers who carried out the 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks were educated at local non-traditional madrasas that teach Wahhabism. Prof. G.L. Peiris, as Education Minister of the new government vowed to streamline those madrasas, obviously completely ignorant of the problems involved.

When Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera in Parliament questioned the Pakistani Defence Minister’s utterances, government MP Shantha Bandara of the SLFP rose to the latter’s defence. A TNA MP tried to suggest that the majority community, to which Priyantha Diyawadana belonged, deserved even worse treatment on account of similar acts of vicious violence they have allegedly inflicted on the Tamil minority since 1956. The show of grief to the bereaved family by the highest of the land was also subdued, probably in deference to the local sympathizers of the jihadist lynch mob with whom they struck deals to maintain the required two thirds majority in Parliament for passing 20A.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan people and the leaders (of both the government and the Opposition), no doubt, appreciate the Pakistan PM’s resolve to mete out justice to the perpetrators. They may be thought to be similarly determined to prevent any spillover effect of the tragic affair flowing into Sri Lanka. Pakistan is and has always been one of Sri Lanka’s staunchest friends. That friendship at the government to government and the people to people levels should not be damaged, though we have to recognize the fact that the Pakistani society today seems to be far more radicalised than in the past.

Nevertheless, social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., are flooded with expressions of shock, sorrow, and shame by thousands of outraged ordinary Pakistani citizens who share our grief with the utmost sincerity. All our political, civil and religious leaders are sure to unite in fulfilling their obligatory national responsibility to convince the leaders of friendly Islamic nations not to be misled by certain opportunistic Sri Lankan Muslim politicians who maintain treacherous links with suicide-bombing extremists for personal political advantage, while creating an illusion of a non-existent Buddhist-Muslim conflct or disharmony in Sri Lanka through false propaganda.

Pakistan is one of the 12 Muslim majority countries where blasphemy against Islam, or its founder, is punished with death. Journalist Khundar Khuldune Shahid working and living in his native Pakistan, a Muslim himself, who is a correspondent to the Washington D.C. based online current affairs magazine The Diplomat, believes that Islamist fundamentalists in his country commit murder with impunity because of the blasphemy law that operates in the country. It was because of the fact that the concept of ‘death for blasphemy’ is included in Pakistan’s penal code that the crowd, including the few policemen who were there or arrived too late to stop the lynching, looked on passively, while the lawful proceedings were going on. But Priyantha’s Pakistani colleague Malik Adnan made a heroic effort to save him from the mob, risking his own life in the process. PM Imran Khan expressed his and the nation’s appreciation of Malik Adnan’s attempt to rescue the victim by honouring him with a special award. Malik has now dedicated it to Priyantha and Sri Lankans.  Hundreds and thousands of ordinary Pakistanis have already expressed their outrage from both within and from outside Pakistan at the hideous murder of Priyantha Kumara. This unfortunate incident should not be allowed to have the least negative impact on Pakistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations. At the same time, Sri Lankans should not dishonour the memory of their murdered compatriot by opting not to demand an adequate apology from Pakistan for failing to ensure the physical safety of the Sri Lankan citizen. This is not too much to demand from a friendly Muslim nation. The last thing our leaders could do to continue our prevailing excellent relations with Pakistan without undermining them is to unnecessarily act as if these relations depend on their tolerance of the barbaric Islamist excesses inflicted on our citizens on its soil, condemned as creatures unworthy of human dignity.



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Opinion

Why cry for Djokovic?

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

Cassandra, who uses her column liberally to criticise our politicians for giving special treatment to their kith and kin, is shedding tears for Novak Djokovic, who was denied special treatment in Australia! She opines that he should have been segregated and allowed to play in the Australian Open and states in her column, in The Island of 21 January:

“Now, the Aussie Open has lost its glamour and even interest to this ole soul – Cassandra. She hoped Nadal and others would withdraw from the OA. But since it was not their deportation, they go along. Hopefully they will publicly comment in support of their co-sportsman. Nadal already spoke out.”

She may have lost interest in the Australian Open as her favourite was deported but it has not lost its glamour as plenty more talented players are left to display their prowess in Tennis. If at all, the Australian Open has lost its glamour, it is due to the misdeeds of Australia Tennis. More than anything else, what I find ludicrous is her suggestion that Nadal and others should have withdrawn from the tournament in support of Djokovic! Nadal has already spoken out and, as mentioned in my piece which she refers to (Australian antics and Djokovic’s disgrace; The Island, 18 January), was very clear that if Djokovic makes a stand, he should be prepared to face the consequences. Djokovic has not had Covid vaccination and was well aware that it was a requirement for entering Australia.

Going even further, Cassandra faults our editor by stating; “The Editor of this paper commented on it and seemed to stand for ‘the Law holds for all’. He made no mention of the health waiver the world’s Number One tennis wizard received which he traded on to go to Melbourne in the first place.” It is a pity she has completely disregarded the fact that this waiver was on false premises as Djokovic could not substantiate that he had any medical contraindications to vaccination. In fact, another player stated that it is hardly conceivable for players who play competitive tennis to have contraindications for Covid vaccination!

Interestingly, Tennis Australia is evasive about the circumstances leading to the waiver; it has now been revealed that the Federal Government had informed them well in advance that dual vaccination was the criterion for entry. The State Government of Victoria has claimed that Tennis Australia kept them in the dark about this.

The position of the Federal Government has been vindicated by the unanimous verdict of the three-judge Bench of the Federal Court of Australia, which confirmed not only the legality but also the reason for cancelling the visa. In giving reasons for their judgement the judges state:

“The minister’s justifications for revoking the visa were not “irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,”

Commenting on the minister’s argument that Mr. Djokovic’s position as a role model who chose to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 could “foster anti-vaccination sentiment”, they found that he has exercised his disctionary powers lawfully and go on to state:

“An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him. This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.”

Cassandra’s cry too illustrates how influential sport stars can be! Perhaps, she should reserve her tears for what may happen in the future. Unless rules are changed, Djokovic would not be able to play in the French Open. Protests, even in Serbia, have died down but it is reported that his sponsors are in talks with Djokovic.

There is yet another interesting twist to the story. According to a post “Mail Online” website , titled “Novak Djokovic’s astonishing Covid-19 decision before coming to Australia is finally revealed”(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10420013/Novak-Djokovics-astonishing-Covid-19-decision-coming-Australia-finally-revealed.html):

“Novak Djokovic’s hesitancy to get vaccinated is well known – but it can also now be revealed the tennis superstar reportedly purchased a majority stake in a Danish biotech company looking to develop a treatment against Covid-19 in June last year.”

Reuters

has reported that the world number one holds an 80 per cent stake in QuantBioRes, who are currently developing a peptide which prevents the virus from infecting human cells. Djokovic, 34, is said to own 40.8 per cent of the company – while his wife Jelena owns 39.2 per cent.”

Djokovic’s vaccine hesitancy may be for totally different reasons!

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Opinion

Dollar Crisis: What aggravated it

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by Eng. D. Godage

Total foreign currency reserves of the country were around seven billion dollars at the beginning of 2021 but it decreased to around 1.2 billion dollars towards the year end, even though the Central Bank announced that there was a reserve of three billion dollars. The net foreign assets of the total banking system are said to be a US$ 4.1 billion deficit by 2021 end. Everybody knows the suffering and difficulties the countrymen undergo as a result of the depletion of foreign currency or dollar reserves. Without elaborating on those effects, it is the intention of the writer to examine how foreign reserves depleted so fast.

Politicians, officials, public speakers very often tend to blame every government since independence over the past 70 years for ruining this country, but with regard to foreign debt, it is not applicable. Moreover, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt globally but other countries in this region did not suffer as much and face such crises like the ones faced by Sri Lanka, so it is no excuse. It is not essential to elaborate on this fact as it is common knowledge. Consequently, the writer makes an attempt to understand how and when it happened. The focus of this discussion is on infrastructure development, and not other debt instruments.

Debt burden since independence

The Oya project implemented around 1948 using local funds comes to mind. Moreover, from 1950 the major port development scheme of Colombo Harbour created the Colombo Port, one of the most modern ports at the time, by 1956 under the leadership of the Minister of Transport and Works, Sir John Kotelawala in the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet, utilising local funds amounting to 110 million rupees. While work was in progress, the ship ‘Gothic’, carrying Queen Elizabeth II, berthed alongside the newly constructed Customs Quay to christen it the Queen Elizabeth Quay (QEQ). Incidentally, the QEQ was buried in the privately developed SAGT or South Asia Gateway Terminals around year 2000.

The Mahaweli Development Project, a massive irrigation cum hydroelectric scheme originally planned for 30 years but telescoped into about six years, was undertaken by the J.R. Jayewardene government using concessionary loans as well as grants. Funds were provided based on a thorough feasibility study, with eminent engineer late Dr. A.N.S Kulasinghe and his team of engineers working as consultants. Resultant benefits are well known and they did not lead to any debt crisis in the country.

Road and railway infrastructure development has been carried out with locally raised funds. After the 2004 tsunami disaster, the Railway Department staff rehabilitated the destroyed line to recommence operations with the least possible delay. It is said that northern rail line improvements carried out later on loans under Uthuru Wasanthaya had spent two to three times the cost.

Since 1980 the country has seen another major development programme in the port sector. Studies had been conducted at a time of increasing demand for container traffic, confirming the urgent need to expand port facilities. The first phase of expansion, requiring US$ 32 million, was funded in the form of a Yen currency loan. The project progressed systematically aided by further loans, through a transparent bidding process. As a result, the Colombo Port was elevated from the global rank of 127 in 1981 to 21st in 1997. These loans were granted only after proper feasibility studies were carried out and confirmation of loan repayment capability, as affirmed by the lending Japanese Agency. Extensive borrowing for project infrastructure became the norm only after about 2000 and not since independence.

Newer debt accumulation

A Sunday English newspaper on March 9, 2014 and May 1, 2016 reported, with details from the External Resources Department, on 28 projects funded predominantly by China Exim Bank loans amounting to US$ 7,671 million, with five-year grace and 10-year repayment periods; their interest rates are not indicated but is supposed to be over six percent. All these projects are said to have been initiated through unsolicited tenders. The same newspaper published a report under the caption, “Normal tender procedure not possible for mega projects: PBJ”. This is a questionable statement. Further examination of the above list shows seven projects, all in Hambantota, totalling US$ 5,054 million, for airport, port, highway extension, railway extension and local road network. None of them seem capable of generating revenue to repay the massive loans even though they have been in operation for around 10 years by now. These loans alone require about US$1 billion per year as repayment, burdening the country, and using up its dollar reserves. During the previous regime the Hambantota Port was given out on a 99-year lease.

Did the Treasury officials who handled these borrowings not see the danger of the debt burden or debt trap and the country’s inability to repay them without adequate future revenue? One can cite the shifting global financial structure and unforeseen circumstances as the reason. But they should have been taken into consideration in any plan. High costs due to unsolicited proposals without a competitive bidding process are also an issue. As for costs, the Treasury Secretary has said that it is the engineers who determine costs. This is not an acceptable excuse.

The Colombo Port South Harbour was found to be an urgent project, and proved viable after an extensive feasibility study by 2001. After producing detailed designs, cost estimates and all implementation requisites, it was not possible to proceed due to lack of funds. The Hambantota Port project was also given high priority by the same government though two feasibility studies failed to show the viability of the project. For the Colombo Port project, the Treasury Secretary advocated commercial borrowing claiming that the lending agency conditions were unacceptable.

In fact, only one lending agency came forward to offer approximately one third of the fund requirement. The Ports Authority managed to obtain very concessionary loan of US$ 300 million in 2006, to proceed with the project, albeit after a two-year delay. The new harbour was completed successfully within the stipulated time and cost while adhering to a transparent tender process. It is worthwhile to note that the lowest cost, approximately US$ 320 million, was quoted by the Korean contractor who successfully completed it, while the next bid was around US$ 570 million by a Chinese contractor. This project seems to be generating more revenue than budgeted.

In fact, the biggest container ship in the world ‘Ever Ace’, with a carrying capacity of 24,000 TEU, berthed in the Colombo South Harbour in October 2021 as it is the only port in the region that could accommodate a ship of that scale, bringing great honour and promoting the Colombo Port.

Most Chinese funded projects that commenced during the past two decades seem now complete and in operation, spread among power and energy, transportation, airport and aviation, ports, irrigation and water sectors. Debt distribution is US$ 1,553 million in power and energy, US$ 3.99 billion in transportation, US$ 232 million in airport and aviation, US$ 1,336 million in ports and US$ 101 million in irrigation. This includes projects indicated by the aforementioned 2016 news item, and subsequent major projects like the Central Highway are not included.

Expensive ventures like the Norochcholai coal power plant costing US$ 1,346 million have helped to meet the country’s energy demands and there has to be a post project evaluation to ascertain its financial gains and loan repayment capacity. Highway projects undertaken on expensive loans do not seem to generate enough revenue to meet dollar loan repayments. Although some benefits accrue, the post project economic and financial evaluations are not satisfactory. The highest revenue on a peak day on the Southern Highway has been 38 million rupees a day. Considering the average annual turnover minus the operation and maintenance costs it could take 100 years to repay loans. Authorities should perform a post project evaluation for the benefit of future planners.

Lessons to learn

This is history but should not be discarded, for the valuable information and data therein demonstrate the actual scenario and resultant repercussions. Decision makers and economic advisors to the government, especially of the Treasury and any other relevant officials could review them.

The debt burden has aggravated the dollar crisis during the past two decades. The COVID-19 pandemic during the past two years is not an excuse as other countries in the region too have faced the same but are performing better. The negative economic growth in 2020 and the considerable dollar debt burden, with the country’s reserves collapsing have not occurred suddenly. Severe import restrictions have made day to day life of the people inconvenient and led to the collapse of some domestic industries.

The worst is yet to come, as warned by the Secretary to the President, delivering a speech in Colombo, as reported by a Sunday English newspaper on 28 Nov. 2021. He was the Treasury Secretary during the past two decades, when China Exim Bank loans were signed to the tune of billions of dollars mostly for white elephant projects, The massive dollar debt seems the root cause of most problems faced today.

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Opinion

Territorial mindset, a recipe for disaster!

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By Chani Imbulgoda

I recall a documentary on animal life on a TV channel. Describing the behaviour of lions, a caretaker said, “These lions are from the Dehiwala zoo. They are vigilant of other lions entering their territory, if one crosses the boundary they fight to death. They won’t like other lions entering their territory.” The announcer remarked, “Just like humans!”

Exactly, just like us. In the animal kingdom the survival of the fittest is the norm and not crossing others’ territory is a rule of thumb. Since the beginning of human civilisation there have been tales of battles. The Trojan war, Alexander’s, Caesar’s, Napoleon’s wars degraded human values. Saddled with cynicism, hostility and jealousy, we humans, like beasts, are at war with ‘others’ who do not fit into our ideologies or our comfort zones. History is a storehouse of tales of human battles over territories in the guise of civilisation. So-called civilisation itself was won over battles. In the local context, the native ‘Yakkhas’ were massacred by Prince Vijaya to develop ‘Sinhale’. America, Canada, Australia inherit a dark history of looting territories of indigenous people in the name of civilisation. Portugal, Spain, Britain tasted the blood of their ‘colonial slaves’. Centuries later, we have not yet shed our primary animal instincts. We battle tooth and nail to protect our territories, our autonomy, values and interests all in the guise of civilised behaviour.

We rarely welcome outsiders into our territories. In the 40s and 50s, women were kept out of men’s territory. Late British Prime Minister aka Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, had to struggle many years to break through another of man’s territories, the Parliament. In the movie ‘Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley’, she sobs to her husband that contrary to what she previously believed, despite hard work she cannot win on merit and that dedication and passion are irrelevant. One-time Prime Minister, Edward Heath condemns Thatcher’s outspoken nature to force her out of politics. Heath says that the Parliament is akin to an orchestra made up of many musicians and Thatcher is a French horn more loud than appropriate, that threatens the orchestra’s harmony.

This is how men and also women of the same flock air their resentment towards outsiders, in their own words ‘intruders’ who are colourful and loud in action. Insult, indifference, suspicion, suppression, oppression are not uncommon experiences of pioneers in anything in history or at present. I once heard a senior Professor advising a young colleague attempting to change the system for the better, “Lady, look, do not swim upstream, people would not like it.” Yes, despite good intentions any novel act breaks the harmony…That is why the Buddha had many foes. That is why the notorious thief Barabbas was chosen by the crowd over Jesus.

I tried to uproot a tiny cinnamon sapling that grew through my interlock pavement blocks, failing which I crushed it. It made me realise that this is what happens, no matter how valuable you are. If you crop up in a place where you would not be accepted, every effort is made to root out, failing which, crush you, to ensure that you would not resurface. I suppose many of us had faced similar circumstances at work places, in politics or within social circles. Why does this happen, because of ego, envy, distrust or insecurity? Or because someone deemed a threat by another individual, a leader or a group enters their territory?

A pack of wolves has a leader; the protection of lions’ territory is the responsibility of the leader; the leader is the first to announce danger. No outsider can cross the boundary. We see certain lions, wolves and foxes as alphas. The mentality ‘I am the boss, I know everything’ blinds them. They live on ego, with a superiority complex, under the assumption that no one can challenge their power. If the newcomer is meek and sucks up to the leader, he or she survives and can slowly squirm their way into the pack.

I have heard parents complain about how difficult it is to enrol their kids into various sports clubs in schools. I have worked in private as well as public sector organisations, local and overseas. I have experienced antagonistic behaviour in these organisations. Driven by their insecurity, superior or inferior complexes, they would go to any lengths to harass the outsider and go to any extreme to protect his or her territory. They are myopic to the point of rejecting ideas foreign to them no matter how good they are, as they see ‘danger’ in ideas alien to them. Some group ideologies are thicker than blood. Certain professional groups rarely welcome females. They believe that women cannot meet challenges as men do and can be fiercely territorial. Many qualified and capable individuals are ostracised from organisations or industries or expelled from positions because of this territorial mindset.

A person with a territorial mindset is often overcome by thoughts of safeguarding or enhancing his or her power, control, influence and self-proclaimed status. These are primitive emotions. Taking ownership and defending what people believe belongs to them is a positive trait. But it is this mentality that subjects newcomers to agony when they grow too smart for their own good. They are stifled when the power of those with a territorial mindset is threatened. Many novel ideas and skills go to waste while some newcomers or ‘misfits’ are forced to leave their workplaces, others would continue the fight or be forced to conform.

We talk of harmony, reconciliation, tolerance and unity in diversity. Why cannot we synergize each other’s differences? A French horn would add glamour and at least amuse the audience. A garden consisting of a variety of flowers is more awe-inspiring than a garden of roses alone. Poet Khalil Gibran said that when a river enters the sea, the river is no more, it is diluted in salt water and one cannot trace the river in the sea, but the river grows larger and so does the sea. When we come out of our confining shells we are exposed to greater opportunities as well as benefits for both the newcomer and those already in that society.

(The writer holds a senior position in a state university and has an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management [PIM], Sri Lanka and is currently reading for her PhD in Quality Assurance in the Higher Education Sector at PIM. She can be reached at cv5imbulgoda@gmail.com)

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