by Neville Ladduwahetty
Sri Lankans would be going to the polls on August fifth to elect a new parliament. However, what is to follow depends on which party secures the majority to form a stable government. The prevailing prediction is that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is most likely to secure at least a sufficient majority to form a government.
Such an outcome would mean that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Executive and a legislature headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would be jointly responsible for the governance of Sri Lanka. If the SLPP secures only a simple majority the processes of governance would be constrained by the limitations and contradictions inherent in the 1978 Constitution and in the Nineteenth Amendment (19A). This would hamper post COVID-19 recovery. Therefore, it is imperative that without a two-thirds (2/3) majority to amend 1978 Constitution and 19A to bring clarity to its provisions or even introduce a new Constitution, it would not be possible for Sri Lanka to emerge from the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 disaster.
If, on the other hand, the SLPP secures only a simple majority, a national government with a 2/3 majority could be formed by means of provisions of Article 46 (4) similar to the dubious precedent crafted by the Yahapalana government. Such an approach would compel a SLPP government to accommodate the interests of coalition partners at considerable cost both financially as well as having to compromise its agenda. Therefore, if Sri Lanka is to recover from the COVID-19 crisis it is best that the government has a 2/3 majority sufficient to give it the freedom to act free of constraints of coalition demands and fetters of the 1978 Constitution and19 A.
THE NEED to REVISITING 19A
The need to revisit the 1978 Constitution and 19A is because the ambiguities and contradictions in their provisions have caused constitutional experts and academics to arrive at vastly divergent interpretations and conclusions. For instance, some interpret that 19A has transformed what was essentially a Presidential system based on separation of power into a Parliamentary system where separation of power is blurred to such an extent that they describe the present system as a Parliamentary Democracy. Others on the other hand, maintain that what 19A achieved was to prevent arbitrariness of Executive action that had existed under the 1978 Constitution, and not to transfer power from the Executive to Parliament. This is confirmed by the Supreme Court ruling on 19A that stated: “that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of a power attributed to one organ of government to another organ or body would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4 of the Constitution”. Therefore, it could be concluded that the intended transformation from a Presidential system to a Parliamentary system did not materialize notwithstanding such claims.
The 1972 Constitution is unambiguously based on a Parliamentary system while the 1978 Constitution is based on a Presidential system. However, the incorporation of certain provisions from the 1972 Constitution into to the 1978 Constitution, followed by 19A, has caused divergent interpretations. Hence, a few key issues are presented below to illustrate the need to revisit the 1978 Constitution and 19A in order to bring clarity to the current Constitutional provisions to ensure that the system of governance is either clearly Parliamentary or Presidential and not a mix of both.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of the 1972 CONSTITUTION
The relevant Articles in the 1972 Constitution are:
Article 91: “The President shall be responsible to the National State Assembly (Parliament) for the execution and performances of the powers and functions of his office under the Constitution…”.
Article 92 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the government of the Republic which shall be collectively responsible to the National State Assembly and answerable to the National State Assembly on all matters for which they are responsible”.
Article 92 (2) states: “Of the Ministers, one who shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers shall be the Prime Minister”.
Article 94 (1) states: “The Prime Minister shall determine the number of Ministers and Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to Ministers”.
Article 94 (2) states: “The President shall appoint from among the members of the National State Assembly Ministers to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 94 (3): “The Prime Minister may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and recommend to the President changes to the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of the 1978 CONSTITUTION
Article 42 states: “The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of the powers, duties and functions under the Constitution…’.
Article 43 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic which shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament”.
Article 43 (2) states: “The President shall be a member of the Cabinet of ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers”.
Article 44 (1) states: “The President from time to time, in consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation to be necessary –
(a) “determine the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such Ministers” and
(b) “appoint from among the members of Parliament Ministers to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 44 (3) states: “The President may at any time, change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of 19A
Article 42 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic”.
Article 42 (2) states: “The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament”.
Article 43 (1) states: “The President shall in consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation to be necessary, determine the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of ministers and the Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such Ministers”.
Article 43 (2) states: “The President shall on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint from among Members of Parliament, Ministers, to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 43 (3) states: “The President may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
IMPACT of CONTRADICTORY PROVISIONS
The constitutional provisions of the 1972 Constitution presented above are consistent with a Parliamentary system. Notwithstanding this fact, such provisions that are appropriate for a Parliamentary system have been incorporated into the 1978 Constitution and 19A that are essentially Presidential. This has caused both the 1978 Constitution and 19A to be seriously compromised. It is therefore imperative that amendments are introduced to ensure that the system of governance is either Parliamentary or Presidential in all respects.
For instance, commenting on Article 43 of the 1978 Constitution (presented above), the Supreme Court in S.D. No. 04/2015 stated: “This important Article underscores that the Cabinet collectively is charged with the exercise of Executive power, which is expressed as the direction and control of the Government of the Republic and the collective responsibility of Cabinet of which the President is the Head. It establishes conclusively that the President is not the sole repository of Executive power under the Constitution. It is the Cabinet of Ministers collectively, and not the President alone, which is charged with the direction and control of the Government. This Cabinet is answerable to Parliament. Therefore, the Constitution itself recognizes that Executive power is exercised by the President and by the Cabinet of Ministers, and that the President shall be responsible to Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers, collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament with regard to the exercise of such powers…”.
On the other hand, the Courts have accepted that Article 3 that deals with the sovereignty of the People should be read with Article 4. Therefore, the guiding principle in the exercise of Executive power in the 1978 Constitution should be Article 4 (b). Article 4 (b) states: “the executive power of the People, including the defence of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People”. This Article specifically reposes Executive power of the People ONLY in the President. Therefore, Executive power must necessarily be exercised solely by the President and not jointly shared with the Cabinet of Ministers. This means that anyone else exercising executive power must derive its authority from the President.
The comments of the Supreme Court in S.D. No. 04/2015 also stated: “It is in this background that the Court in the Nineteenth Amendment Determination came to a conclusion that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of the power attributed to one organ of government to another organ or body would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4 of the Constitution. Though Article 4 provides the form and manner of the sovereignty of the people, the ultimate act or decision of the executive functions must be retained by the President. So long as the President remains the Head of the Executive, the exercise of his powers remain supreme or sovereign in the executive field and to others to whom such power is given must derive the authority from the President or exercise the Executive power vested in the President as a delegate of the President”.
If, as stated above by the Court, the President as the Head of the Executive is “sovereign in the executive field”, the President who represents one of the three branches of the Government – the Executive, is co-equal with the Legislature and the Judiciary under provisions of separation of power. Therefore, the President cannot be responsible to another organ of government – the Parliament. Furthermore, since the Cabinet of Ministers derive their authority from the President, the Cabinet cannot be responsible and answerable to Parliament either. Under the circumstances, Article 33A that calls for the President to be responsible to Parliament “for the due exercise performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions” is a violation of the principle of separation of power.
Another important issue that arises from the fact that the President is sovereign in the executive field is the constitutional provision that his executive powers include the defence of Sri Lanka. Therefore, the President has a right granted by the Constitution to be the Minister of Defence regardless of whether the President is a Member of Parliament or not. The prerogative of such a decision should be left to the President, instead of having to delegate it to someone else, invariably less competent in issues relating to security. Since the provision to select Cabinet Members from among members of Parliament is a carry-over from the defunct 1972 Constitution this constraint should be repealed since it has no relevance in a Presidential system.
ARTICLE 46 – UNIQUE ONLY TO 19A.
Article 46 (1) (a) and (b) limits the number of Cabinet of Ministers to thirty and sets an aggregate limit of forty on the number of Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
Having sets limits, the framers of 19A provided a device by means of Article 46 (4) and (5) to enable Parliament by Resolution to exceed the very limits they themselves stipulated above. In fact, this device is so crafty that it enables even a minority government with the largest majority to form a National Government with even a 2/3 majority by forming a coalition with other recognized political parties. Had the Article stated “the political party with the largest majority together with ALL other political parties” the task of forming a National Government would in all likelihood been unrealistic. This device was exploited to the fullest advantage by the former Yahapalana government. The net effect of the current provisions in 19A is to ridicule their own attempts to appear well intentioned by proposing a leaner Cabinet and make a mockery of the “will of the people” by introducing a corrupted way out of the limits set by themselves.
19A – THE CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL
Article 41 B (1) states: “No person shall be appointed by the President as the Chairman or the member of any of the Commissions specified in the Schedule to this Article, except on a recommendation of the Council”.
Article 41 C (1) states: “No person shall be appointed by the President to any of the Officers specified in the Schedule to this Article…unless such appointment has been approved by the Council”.
The Court ruled that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of power attributed to one organ to another violates Article 3 when read with Article 4 of the Constitution. If this is so, would not the transfer of power that the President had, to appoint Commissions and Officers prior to 19A, to another body that is not even another organ of Government as recognized by Article 3 read with Article 4, amount to a violation of the sovereignty of the People? Furthermore, the operation of the Council has become so dysfunctional that the country today does not have a functioning Inspector General of Police. The reason for this is a system failure because the President who makes the appointment could keep on rejecting nominations by the Council causing posts being vacant as in the case of the IGP. Therefore, this provision too needs to be seriously amended. An alternative would be to restore the powers the President had under Articles 54, 55 and 107 of the 1978 Constitution and for him to make appointments subject to the approval of the appropriate Oversight Committees of Parliament and repeal Chapter VIIA of 19A.
19A – DISSOLUTION of PARLIAMENT
According to 19A Article 70 (1) states: “The President may by Proclamation, summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. Provided that the President shall not dissolve until the expiration of a period of not less than four years and six months…unless Parliament requests the President to do so by a resolution passed by not less than two-third of the whole number of Members voting in favour”.
This Article presents two serious issues. One, it places the President at a disadvantage in relation to Parliament since Parliament is not constrained by a time bar whereas the President is. Therefore, Parliament could request the President to dissolve Parliament at any time with a 2/3 majority whereas the President is compelled to wait four and half years to dissolve Parliament. Such drastic disadvantages are not in keeping with principles of separation of power among co-equals. Such inequality is unacceptable for two separate organs of government elected separately by the People. The second serious issue is that securing a 2/3 majority for a political party under provisions of proportional representation is bound to be a rarity. This compels Parliament to continue however dysfunctional it is.
Therefore, the net effect of Article 70 (1) as currently presented is for the country to be governed by a government even if the situation is so dire that it warrants dissolution of Parliament because of the constitutional straightjacket of this Article. Consequently, as always, it is the People who have to endure.
The outcome of the forthcoming General Election to elect a new Parliament would have a serious impact on how effectively Sri Lanka recovers from the challenges imposed by the unprecedented COVID -19 crisis. The most significant single factor that would influence the recovery process is the current Constitution. The 1978 Constitution and 19A contain constitutional provisions that are a mix appropriate to both Parliamentary and Presidential systems. This has made governing processes convoluted. Therefore, it is imperative that the current provisions are amended, so that the Constitution is Presidential in all respects and not a mix of both Parliamentary and Presidential as currently exists, with the appropriate checks and balances by the Parliament and the Judiciary, in a way that would not hamper effective Executive action.
The reason for the existence of Parliamentary and Presidential systems in the present Constitution is because the operation of a Presidential system based on separation of power, is not commonly understood despite it being in existence for over four decades. A glaring example of the lack of appreciation of what separation of power means is selection of the Cabinet of Ministers from among Members of Parliament. This results in the same individual serving two separate organs of government resulting in conflict of interest. This practice should cease. If Members of Parliament are to be Members of the Cabinet, they should relinquish their association with Parliament as practiced by other countries with Presidential systems.
Under the circumstances, a government with a simple majority would not be in a position to introduce the needed amendments without which the recovery process would be hampered by the existing constitutional ambiguities and contradictions. Therefore, it is only a 2/3 Parliamentary majority that would facilitate the introduction of the needed amendments without which it would not be possible for Sri Lanka to emerge from the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 pandemic.
The right groove…for local DJs
Some of the big names in the DJ industry at the ceremony
We do have a few associations, around, that work for the benefit of those involved in the entertainment field.
Yes, there’s an association for oriental artistes and also one, catering to the needs of the local Western musicians.
In fact, I believe the second AGM 2020 of the Western Musicians’ Association was held just recently, in Colombo.
Well not to be outdone, an association, for local deejays, has become a reality. And, that’s encouraging news, indeed!
The Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) was incorporated on July 5th, 2020, and the inaugural forum, involving the disc spinners, as well as the big names of the past, took place at the Movenpick Hotel, on Sunday, September 5th.
Several well-known personalities, in the entertainment field, were seen at the forum.
The CDIA will certainly be a boon to the local DJ industry.
The lighting of the traditional oil lamp at the inauguration ceremony
The Vice-President of the Association, Romesh Fernando, said that connecting both the present and past DJs, within an industry with a rich history of over 45 years, is the cornerstone of the CDJA.
The forming of an Association for DJs was an idea in the making for many years, but never became a reality. However, with the entertainment scene changing drastically, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected the whole world, and the hardships faced by many DJs, in recent times, the need for a Single, Unified Voice for all Disc Jockeys, in Sri Lanka, became an absolute necessity – thus, the Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association was born.
The Board of Management consists of some of the pioneering DJs, who have made a mark as business leaders and entrepreneurs in the country’s DJ and Entertainment Circuits.
The Office-Bearers are: Gerry Jayasinghe (Chairman and President), Romesh Fernando (Vice President), Kosala Sureshchandra (Secretary), and Kapila Peiris (Treasurer).
The Committee Members are: Bonnie Perera, Niranjan Wanigasuriya (Asst. Secretary), Chamila Perera (Asst. Treasurer), Thanujika Perera, Serul Wimalasena and Amal Fernando.
The Advisory Council consists of Harpo Goonaratne and Roshan Wijeyaratne, while the Legal and Compliance Officer is Tareeq Musafer.
“Our Mission is to be committed towards improving the career opportunities, skill levels and performance capabilities of our members, and gathering DJs from all around Sri Lanka, under a single Organization. Our Vision is to gain the professional recognition that talented and good DJs truly deserve,” said a spokesman for the Association.
The Constitution of the Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) is focused on three main principles. As an industry, to develop, improve and advance the Art and Science of the DJ, to advance Public Education and Understanding of the art and science of the DJ, and improving the Professional standing of the DJ.
The Association offers three types of Memberships – Full Time, Part Time and Student Memberships. It also has a category of Honorary Memberships presented to senior DJs who have significantly added value and changed the landscape of Sri Lanka’s DJ Industry.
Members will also receive many benefits from Insurance schemes, Healthcare privileges, Membership Recognition, Legal advice and Discounts from Equipment retailers. Above all, the CDJA offers a sense of Community and Oneness, as an Industry, and shall uphold its members at all times.
The Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association (CDJA) has a very strong mandate towards Education. To that end, it will offer Soft skills Development in Communication Skills, Email Etiquette and Writing Skills, as well, and Basic Compering, etc., which are added proficiencies, required by DJs to better their business scope.
The Association has also planned for Seminars and Workshops on Small Business Development, Legal Compliance, Taxation, SME Policy Frameworks and Start up Training, conducted by Sector Professionals. Apart from Academic programmes, the CDJA will implement initiatives to inculcate Creativity and Originality in DJs.
Through these initiatives, the CDJA hopes to create a new landscape in the Mobile, Producer and Event DJ Circuits of Sri Lanka.
“Especially in these difficult times, a New Outlook and a Commitment to Excel, is what our Association hopes to promote and develop,” the spokesman added.
Invitees and celebrities taking in the scene at the Movenpick Hotel
China Cultural Centre – Sixth Anniversary celebrations !
By Chamara Ranmandala
Consultant – local Affairs
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
(Based on an interview with
Liwen Yue, Director
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
The China Cultural Centre (CCC) in Sri Lanka is celebrating its 6th year anniversary of its establishment as the official organization for cultural exchange in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka CCC is the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre established globally under the patronage of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which was inaugurated on 16th September 2014 by his Excellency the Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The preparations and establishment of the CCC was carried out by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka, and it is run and operated by a working team from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
This article attempts to highlight the significance of this cultural relationship, and the establishment of a path for cultural exchange between the peoples of China and Sri Lanka.
A 1000-year-old friendship refreshed
Although the formal bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and China was established only 63 years ago, the history of the friendship between the two countries dates back far beyond. The recorded history origins from the times of Jin Dynasty of China, where such information is found in the written stories of famous Chinese buddhist monk Faxian, who travelled to Sri Lanka between 410 – 415. Sri Lanka has been a very important partner during the ancient times where significant trade was carried out through the maritime silk route, used as a gateway to bridge East Asia and South Asia. The archaeological findings in Sri Lanka are evident to this trade and exchange of cultural values taking place between Sri Lanka and China.
The establishment of the China Cultural Centre in the year 2014 has significantly brought the bilateral cultural exchange to a totally different level. Across the world, the Chinese Cultural Centres have contributed immensely to establish the meaning and significance of authentic cultural values of China, which is often misinterpreted by many. It is evident that the world has not enough chances to experience the traditional culture and values of China. Hence the 60+ cultural centres established in various countries have attempted to bridge this gap of understanding the real cultural values of China without infiltrating to the local culture but supporting and thriving together with the customs of respective ways and norms.
As the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre amongst the 60+ other centres across the world, and as the first center inaugurated by the two presidents of the respective countries, the CCC in Sri Lanka highlights its importance and the value placed on the friendship of the two countries, which was created many centuries ago between China and Sri Lanka.
Cultural exchange – continued effort with variation
The China Cultural Centre has now become a fully functional apparatus that enables cultural exchange through many different facets and complementing programs. The CCC is in a constant drive to educate the society at large how cultural exchange helps to bridge the gaps and bring the peoples of the countries much closer to each other.
During the past six years, the Sri Lankan culture-loving society was exposed to some of the unique experiences of traditional Chinese art, music and dancing, calligraphy, cinema, drama, authentic Chinese cuisine, photography and intangible cultural heritage through the commitment of China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka.
The events carried out by the CCC are aligned to the diverse cultural heritage of many different parts of China, and many of them are held in the form of “Cultural Week”, planned by the CCC and organised together with some local partners, including scholars, artists, painters, photographers and journalists who have travelled across China. The “cultural weeks” reflect many aspects of Chinese cultural heritage from different areas. Based on the need, the CCC sponsors and brings down the respective professional artists who are highly regarded as unique contributors of nurturing and preserving the authentic cultural heritage of China. The CCC also accommodates Chinese scholars, journalists and media personnel to be a part of these “cultural weeks”, thus enabling the knowledge sharing amongst different audiences.
The cultural footprint of China is not only limited to events of cultural exchange, but also is extended to long standing relationships through memorandums of understanding (MOU) with many local institutions such as libraries, museums and various friendship associations. The contribution through the Confucius institutions established at various universities in Sri Lanka, such as the University of Kelaniya, is another approach adopted by the CCC to provide greater access to resources and scholarships for the students who pursue higher studies in Chinese language, literature and culture.
Appreciation of the communities
across Sri Lanka
The educational knowledge and unique experience achieved from those programs and events organized by the CCC can meet various appetites of a wider spectrum of the society and intellects. Moreover, the officials of the CCC have made every attempt to reach out to most remote communities in Sri Lanka creating value for all age groups who witness and engage with the programs. This is highly commendable since most international cultural programs are being focused only on a limited crowd in a major city in Sri Lanka. The CCC has done the opposite way and concentrated on both urban and rural areas, which benefited more people here.
At present, the CCC has carried out over 100 programmes, including more than 300 various types of activities and events (including performances, exhibitions, lectures, workshops, teaching programmes, and etc.). More than half of Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Hubei, Canton, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Yunnan…and etc.), provincial-level autonomous regions (such as Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Xinjiang, and Ningxia), provincial-level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) , and Chinese SAR Hong Kong have been invited by the CCC to conduct different cultural exchange programmes in Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, the events organized by the CCC have reached people in all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka as well, where specially skilled artists are not hesitant to delight an audience of students or parents at a Sunday school, a university, a school in a remote part of a district, government institutions, and even a military camp. All events of cultural heritage are held with complete sponsorship of the CCC, thus enabling all Sri Lankans to experience most of these high-level events free of charge.
These events are a first to many where most Sri Lankans are amused and appreciative of the skill and professionalism of the artists and performers, who participate in these events and create positive vibes about China and its friendly people.
The efforts of the CCC are also extended to enable and strengthen the ties between the media and journalist forums of Sri Lanka and China. The cordial sponsorship of professional programmes conducted for the benefit of the Sri Lanka journalists in China is such an instance that the CCC extends their hand to build friendship and confidence among all stakeholders.
The future of the friendship
It is obvious that the expectation of the CCC is to build a cultural relationship amongst the peoples of both countries. The CCC has successfully created an atmosphere of understanding the true nature of authentic Chinese culture whilst respecting and appreciating the Sri Lankan values and traditions.
With the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which attempts to bring economic and cultural prosperity to all the nations from far East to Africa and Europe, there is no doubt that the China Cultural Centres will go on playing a vital role in defusing the misconceptions level against the great efforts of the People’s Republic of China. Sri Lanka, being part of the BRI through the maritime silk route and having a better understanding of China and its people, will also play an important role in bridging the gaps between the countries of the BRI.
The future road will probably be a challenging one! However, as proven in the past, the sincere friendship between the two countries and the mutual respect to each other’s culture and value will be the north star for both of our nations to follow during challenging and dark times. With the efforts of past six years, the China Cultural Centre has contributed much more to Sri Lanka and its people, and surely enough, it will continue to do so, nurturing the friendship which China and Sri Lanka value so dearly.
Rexy and Chappela:
View of the Trincomalee harbour entrance from Chapel Hill Radar station
Canine war veterans
An extract from the book ‘Read Between the Lines’
by Admiral Ravindra
(Retired from Sri Lanka Navy)
Former Chief of Defence Staff
Are you a dog lover? If not, you do not know what love is. This story is about two dogs, Rexy, a beautiful female German shepherd and Chappela a ‘Pariah dog’, (Pye-dog), a male, whose parents were not known.
Twelve years ago, my son was very keen to have a puppy. I discouraged him as I knew that looking after the dog would be my responsibility sooner or later. My wife Yamuna remained noncommittal whenever the ‘dog talk’ came up during dinner.
Someone had advised Yamuna that as our son was the only child at home it was good to have a pet for him. So, she purchased this puppy. The owners had about five puppies for sale and asked Yamuna to select one. She had said she would choose the one who came towards her first. One puppy left her mother and came towards Yamuna wagging her tiny tail. So, she was selected and named Rexy.
I was serving in Trincomalee as the Commandant of Naval and Maritime Academy (NMA) and Flag Officer Commanding Naval Fleet (FOCNF) at that time. Our Naval Base Trincomalee was under constant threats from LTTE long range weapons and suicide boat attacks from terrorists at that time (2006). The attacks came from the Southern side of the Trincomalee harbour from Sampoor and Sudaikudah. We were always alert and a bright idea was floated by then Commander Fast Attack Craft Squadron, Captain (then) Nandana Jayaratne to fix a Radar and day-night thermal camera at the top of Chapel Hill, the highest positioned the Naval Base, so that we could watch Sampoor area and Trincomalee harbour-mouth well. I volunteered to implement the project, and we fixed the required equipment at Chapel Hill. Several tumbledown buildings which had housed the First World War time Naval Signal station were renovated in double-quick time to use as accommodation for naval personnel detailed for duty, both for Radar and security of the place.
Chapel Hill is far away from main base, and to reach there, you have to trail through a jungle patch. This trail was widened and tarred.
Chapel Hill Radar Station became “my kingdom”. I ensured that very high standards and professionalism were maintained with the help of NMA Navigation School. I used to sleep there at night so in a contingency, I had the complete picture of the Trincomalee harbour, the approaches and Sampoor on radar, thermal camera and visually. It was great a observation position for safety of ships/craft entering and leaving the Trincomalee harbour, which we called as ‘Choke Point’ in our strategic terms. I very well knew that young Commanding Officers of our ships/craft had a lot of confidence and motivation when they heard my voice on their communication sets, directing them and giving details of possible threats at the harbour approaches. So, Chapel Hill became my “Chalet” in Trincomalee.
I saw a black and white puppy by the side of the road leading to Chapel Hill. It was a male left behind by a pack of dogs in jungle area. He was weak and full of ticks and fleas. I took him in my vehicle and gave him a new home at Chapel Hill. After a shampoo bath and powdering he looked very nice and healthy. He was a lovely puppy with no fear of the jungle, barked very loud. It was an ideal outdoor dog. My sailors at Chapel Hill Detachment became very fond of this puppy and they named him “Chappela”.
All our Detachments were given extra food and tea rations. So, Chappela had enough and more food. Chappela was looked after very well by my sailors.
After one month of pampering by Yamuna and our son, Rexy became very naughty. She sometimes peed on my son’s bed. At other times she would tear my son’s socks. The final warning came when she chewed the best squash shoes of Ravi junior. When I went home on leave, Yamuna allowed me to take Rexy to Trincomalee. My son was upset but Yamuna thought Rexy required some training and discipline. So, Rexy’s first transfer came to the Naval and Maritime Academy under the Commandant to be trained and disciplined.
Rexy adapted to the new environment quickly. She would join me in my morning beach run at Coral Cove. She loved roaming around on the beach. She was fed well with fresh fish by my cook, Gunawardena. Her best friend was my steward Rathnayake. She had another friend, a huge Sambar which visited my garden. She was very fond of Cadets (44th Intake) whom I trained in swimming. She accompanied me to the swimming pool and kept on barking at the cadets. In the evening, she travelled with me in my double cab. (I was driving with her in the front seat) to my Chapel Hill Chalet to spend the night. So, two puppies, Rexy and Chappela became thick pals there.
On 1st August 2006, the LTTE fired its big guns at the Naval Base in Trincomalee. Some of those artillery rounds targeted the SLN passenger ship (Jetliner) carrying 1,700 troops from Jaffna to the Trincomalee harbour. Other rounds fired at Naval and Maritime Academy killed one instructor and four trainees. It was lunch time at NMA (1230hrs). Some sailors were mustered in front of Quartermaster Lobby, and a few shells fell there killing and injuring naval personnel. I rushed to Chapel Hill in my double cab with Rexy. The competent senior sailors there, Chief Petty Officer Jayaweera and Petty Officer Ruwansiri were already on day camera and trying to locate enemy artillery guns. FACs led by Lieutenant Commander (then) Samaranayake were on escort duties of Jetliner and they ensured that Jetliner entered the Trincomalee harbour safely with troops on board. We directed our Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) at enemy positions. Rexy and Chappela were at my feet, frightened by the deafening sound of artillery and MBRLs. Air support was called and Kafirs were scrambled from the Katunayaka airport. The LTTE pulled their guns back to safe locations. We lost a golden opportunity to destroy their heavy weapons.
That night we shifted our MBRLs from dockyard grounds to a better location at the Oxford Circus (where the present-day car park of our Naval Museum is located). Army Artillery Corps MBRL Gun crews led by Captain Madugalla were briefed by me and we planned our coordination where Chapel Hill Radar station would play the role of Forward Observer.
We were not fully ready to face the LTTE artillery barrage on 1st August. Our unpreparedness cost us dear. When the LTTE fired again their artillery guns on 12th August 2006 night, we were ready with MBRLs. The MBRL firing was directed on enemy gun positions clearly visible with our thermal camera with temperature difference at night. The red-hot artillery gun barrels were clearly visible 8 km away from Chapel Hill at Sudaikudah beach. We were able to destroy enemy guns, ammo and gun crews. Our thermal camera screen blackened out due to large thermal emissions of burning guns and ammunition. Very loud explosions were heard from the Sampoor area. That was the last time the LTTE fired their artillery guns in the Eastern Province. This was the first time in Sri Lanka the thermal cameras were used to direct our MBRLs on enemy gun positions. Later, Chapel Hill Radar station played a major role in saving Naval Detachment at Muthur from enemy attacks and became an invaluable addition to our Naval Base Trincomalee.
Fall of Shots of LTTE Arty Fire
Amidst threats of another LTTE artillery barrage, Rexy got another immediate transfer to my home in Colombo. From that day she became most loved one at home. After all, she went back to Colombo as a war veteran who had faced enemy artillery attacks!
Chappela remained in Chapel Hill, guarding the location and giving support to naval personnel protecting Trincomalee harbour. He missed his friend.
Shampoo, powder and vitamins Rexy was getting were delivered to Chappela as well. Chappela always enjoyed a sea bath on Sundays at Chapel beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. (Rexy got her Sunday bath in a shower cubical at our home!) I had two responsibilities on Sundays when I was at home. The first was to clean the toilets and shower cubicles. I am a very good toilet cleaner thanks to my basic training at the Naval and Maritime Academy Trincomalee and Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth UK. We clean our toilets on board ships. When we live on board ships in an air conditioned environment, keeping toilets very clean is important. I know that I am a very good toilet cleaner.
After I finished my work, I cleaned sinks and toilet bowls, polished toilet seats and bidets, mopped floor tiles, polished showers, taps and rails, and replaced, towels and air fresheners. My son gave me the “Best toilet cleaner” award a long time ago. Yamuna hates my toilet cleaning habit, but I enjoy it.
The other job I was assigned to do on Sunday was to give Rexy a shampoo bath. Rexy loved water. If I was late, she would go and sit in the bathroom until I came. When the bath was over, it was up to Yamuna to dry her and cut her nails, apply various types of powders, clean her ears/teeth and brush her beautiful coat. Rexy loved pampering and sometimes “demanded” our love.
When my job was over, I also had a bath, and obviously I was wet after bathing Rexy.
After my bath, I sat down in my easy chair with Sunday newspapers and my steward Dissanayake would bring my glass of Cognac with ginger ale and a plate of fish fingers. Rexy would sit near my feet knowing that she would get her share of fish fingers before her healthy Sunday lunch. I would have my afternoon nap after lunch; Rexy would jump into my bed and sleep.
Yamuna treated Rexy like a child. The Navy cooks prepared our meals, but Yamuna always prepared Rexy’s meals by herself and fed her with her hand, like feeding a baby. My late father-in-law used to say we had two children. Ravi Junior was our son and Rexy our daughter. She was a such a lovely daughter.
To be continued …
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