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Fixing cockpit off nation right is need of the hour

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By Lacille de Silva

Our constitution is a written instrument of the state. It embodies the fundamental principles and laws that determine the powers and duties of the government. It guarantees specific rights, privileges of the citizens. It lays down the role of the Executive President, the executive government and the composition of the legislature. It also defines how the Provincial Councils share power and the functions of the judiciary, including the nine independent commissions.

The fundamental characteristic of a constitutional government is the rule of law. The Constitution is considered to be the supreme law of the land. It outlines the make-up of government and spells out the powers, authority and the duties of government. It also spells out the distribution of power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

J.R. Jayewardene, the architect of the present Constitution, said, “I can do anything except make man a woman or a woman a man”. After four decades, having promulgated the 2nd Republican Constitution, the Constitution is simply a bundle of papers of little value for the politicians in our country. As electors, we only have to elect Presidents, Parliament, Provincial Councils and local government bodies at an exorbitant cost.

Ours is the oldest democracy in Asia, having achieved universal franchise in 1931. We became one of the first countries to hold elections, in Asia, to run a constitutional government. A Cabinet of Ministers, made up of members of the Parliament, which is answerable to the Parliament, had also been established under the Donoughmore Constitution.

The Cabinet is an important element of the government. It is usually made up of the senior members of the ruling party. It is the highest decision-making body that approves policies with collective responsibility.  After decisions are accordingly approved, by the Cabinet, every single member is required to stand by the decisions, without any reservation.

Ministers are required to achieve coherent long term policies, plans and procedures.  The Cabinet is chaired by the President. Constitutionally, the Cabinet cannot exceed 30 Ministers at present. Their powers derive from Parliament through the Constitution and other laws. All such powers are subject to limits and constraints. Abuse of such powers could be challenged in courts. Ministers are allowed to spend public money, only for the purpose authorised by Parliament.

The Westminster system requires that the ministers are chosen only if they have the capacity, ability, expertise, knowledge, including the skills, to give directions to run the government machinery.

Ministers are also expected to carry out their duties in such a way that they uphold the highest standards of propriety, while ensuring that no conflict of interest would arise between their official functions and their private interests. They are also required to abide by all laws and have a duty to be accountable and answerable to Parliament for the policies, decisions and actions taken in their Ministries and all departments and other institutions coming under them.

 It is also necessary to ensure ‘individual responsibility’, which implies that each minister is individually responsible and answerable for lapses, departures from policies and procedures in all the institutions under the purview of the relevant minister.  In New Zealand, Health Minister David Clark, under similar circumstances, during the coronavirus pandemic, resigned from his portfolio.

The ministers are expected to accept responsibility for any failure in administration. Ministerial responsibility specifies, under the constitutional doctrine of responsible government, that they are totally answerable to the Parliament. It must be emphasized that there are both legal and conventional obligations attached to the performance of ministers. It is also the practice to give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament. Making a deliberate untruth is considered a contempt of Parliament. Ministers who deliberately mislead Parliament are expected to resign from their Cabinet portfolio.

If in case, a minister does not agree to abide by collective decisions, it is a tradition that the relevant minister tenders resignation from the Cabinet. All ministers are, therefore, required to carry out their duties, based on the guiding principles of integrity, honesty, objectivity, and impartiality with a long term vision for the betterment of the citizens.

In Sri Lanka, when the ministers who had acted contrary to the public trust had subsequently  been given appointments again without being dealt with by the law. Ministers in the UK are not allowed to accept any gifts or  hospitality which could compromise their judgement or which could place them under an improper obligation. There are also specific guidelines issued that they should not use government resources, too, for political purposes in their political campaigns.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK, in a letter addressed to his Cabinet colleagues, having enclosed a MINISTERIAL CODE, has stated, “We will make our country the greatest place to invest or set up business, the greatest place to send your kids to school, and greatest place in the world to live and bring up a family.  To fulfil this mission… we must uphold the highest standards of propriety…. Time has come to act, to take decisions, and to give strong leadership to change this country for the better”.

In Sri Lanka, politicians think lying and dishonesty work. It is a tragedy that they have lied for decades to gain power. It is integrity which is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership.  We need honest hardworking leaders in our Cabinet. Because it is a global phenomena that a Cabinet of Ministers is essentially a small one in size. We need Cabinet Ministers who can produce more leaders. Such leaders should help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help  those who are doing well to do even better. Such a Cabinet could enable better policy outcomes and efficient and effective decision making.  It is the ‘cockpit of the nation’.  We need that fixed very well.

In Sri Lankan context,  these considerations have been disregarded. All we need is a change of direction. We need a serious change in our thought process. That is the required paradigm  shift at this juncture. Ministers are expected to uphold political impartiality and neutrality and allow public servants to act in the best interest of the citizens in accordance with the Constitution and other laws.

Nevertheless, our political leaders have always catered to the demands of self-centred politicians. They hold onto power  and leadership greedily while enjoying the privileges and rewards of a leadership role without meaningful involvement with their juniors. They are only keen to make the best use of the organization without putting value in. As such, they practice a leadership style where the leader allows the group members to take decisions. Researchers have proved that this leadership style leads to  the lowest productivity among such group members.

We have similar political leaders in our country in abundance. They do not follow the norms practiced globally in the best interest of the citizens. After being elected, they totally forget that they had been elected based on party manifestos they had presented. They do not take the trouble to run a legitimate government. The role of junior party members is also such that they do not support their elected leader to implement the manifesto presented to people.

Such political party leaders do not insist that the government Ministers must attend Parliament, particularly at the question time, to answer questions without fail. It is also vital to keep the Parliament always informed of any important decisions they have taken in the Government. Constitutionally, Government is required to seek Parliamentary approval for all executive actions.

The government is answerable to the Parliament and through it to the electors.  In this lies the distinctiveness of the Westminster model – the interrelation of the executive government and the Parliament. It is the essence of what in Westminster terms is called ‘parliamentary government’.

It is noteworthy, that the Civil Service, established by the colonial rulers, were able to perform their duties satisfactorily. The best proof for the purpose is Bradman Weerakoon, M. D. D. Peries had served as Secretaries to different Prime Ministers. They were competent to meet the heavy demands of their political leaders.

There had been several others who had served as Permanent Secretaries under different governments. They too had won the confidence of the Ministers in the past though the duties of the then Civil servants have been immensely numerous. They, too, had to assist various Ministers in different governments to perform their parliamentary duties.

They assist in preparation of necessary legislation. They also assist the relevant ministers during its passage through Parliament.  They produce briefs, drafts rules, regulations to strengthen accountability and constitutionality to run legitimate governance. All these need a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and practical judgement.

Top public Servants, in the past, were afforded with the opportunity to rise up and develop the necessary skills as they go up the ladder. They were therefore equipped to handle political, economic, social, scientific and technical problems with competence at the time. They were fully well aware of the needs, aspirations and even in regard to the developments overseas. They were able to  keep up with the rapid growth of new knowledge and had acquired the necessary skills etc to apply them in their day to day work.

The public service was not a place for the amateur. It was staffed by men and women who were truly professional. What went wrong? Since the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution,  appointments of Secretaries to Ministries have been assigned to the President under Article 52.  The appointments, transfers, disciplinary control of other top public officers have been entrusted to the Cabinet of Ministers under Article 55. The whole public service has therefore become totally politicised.

Being professional means two fundamental attributes, which in my view are extremely important in varying combinations to be a good public servant. One is being suitably skilled to perform his/her job, which usually is acquired with sustained experience and good training. The other is the possession of the necessary knowledge and the familiarity and the scrupulousness with the particular subject.

The work of government demands these qualities from the elected representatives and also from all types of appointed employees at all levels and in every public institution in the entire Island.  Sadly, this kind of professionalism is presently not found in the public service in most places at different levels.

However, it must be placed on record that in certain sectors such as medical, academic and other fields we have plenty of them, who have acquired specific qualifications and skills in the relevant fields. It is unfortunate that such valuable professionals too due to political instability, poor quality of life, lack of economic and other benefits leave Sri Lanka in search of greener pastures, where they have greater opportunities.

Owing to political appointments, there are obstacles in all areas where they cannot reach the top without political support which should be removed. Steps should be taken to empower men and women with wide experience, ability and necessary qualifications in running the government machinery to become the fully professional advisers of Ministers and other elected officials.

Recruitment to the public service should be totally independent. Reports published the world over had condemned nepotism, the incompetence and other similar defects in  the Public Service. We have experienced excessive politicization of the public service.

We now understand that the role of public service and the goals of a government have changed. The government is now compelled to take on vast new responsibilities. It is expected to achieve such general economic aims such as creation of  employment opportunities, a satisfactory rate of growth, stable food prices including a healthy balance of payments. If it is a government genuinely concerned about fullest possible development of human potential, all that involves a massive increase in public expenditure.

We do not handle public expenditure as desired. Extravagant and unnecessary expenditure have not been avoided. Public money has been wastefully invested for corrupt purposes other than public good. All successive governments have failed to keep its budget well-balanced. There had been ever-recurring deficits in the budgets for decades and decades.  Shouldn’t we put a stop to all that?

 



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Features

All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

****

It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

****

Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

****

It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

****

A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

****

A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

****

This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

****

This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

****

One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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