By Jehan Perera
Just over a year after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took over the reins of governance, which the 20th Amendment to the constitution has strengthened, the red lights are beginning to flash even as the New Year gets under way. There has been a continuing expectation that the President will be true to his early pledge, made at the sacred site of the Ruvanvelisaya built by the great king Dutugemunu, that he would be the President of all Sri Lankans and to rule justly. The President’s popularity remains high amongst the general population. However, contradicting expectation of enlightened governance there has been a surge in acts and words of hate that are not conducive to a healthy polity that heals itself of the conflicts that have for long held it back from reaching its fullest potential.
As the old year came to a close it seemed as if the country was coming to an adjustment with regard to the divisive issue of the government’s cremation-only policy with regard to Covid deaths which has totally alienated the Muslim community. Increasing numbers of medical professionals and political groups had given their assent to burial as an option. Senior clergy of all religions issued statements that the right of burial on religious grounds should be accepted in view of international practices and the opinions of scientific opinion within the country. In this context it is unfortunate and rationally inexplicable that the government has continued to hold to its rigid position that insists on Covid cremation only.
The government’s decision to postpone provincial elections has offered the country time and space to focus on development issues that can unify the country, rather than on highlighting differences between communities in order to get their votes. Elections have invariably been a source of division in Sri Lanka as politicians seek to generate vote for themselves. The postponement of provincial elections puts a greater responsibility on the government as it has vested the responsibility for controlling the affairs of the provinces to itself. Therefore there is need for a mechanism to be developed to reduce tensions and improve harmony. However, contrary to this expectation, there are efforts being made to take the country deeper on the path of internal conflict.
The spike in internal polarization has been most pronounced in the area of inter-community relations.
An example would be the issue of grazing land in Batticaloa. Thousands of acres of fallow land have been traditionally used by Tamil and Muslim farmers as pasture land for their cattle. However, during the past year or so this land is being parceled out to farmers from the Sinhala community. This is leading to conflict between the communities. The grazing issues have been highlighted for almost a year but do not appear to have received adequate attention of the government authorities, which is unfortunate. The failure of the government to resolve issues as they arises and mitigate the negative impacts will lead to an increase in animosities and misunderstanding between the communities, and an erosion of confidence in the fairness of the government on the part of the affected ethnic minorities.
The increase in internal conflict does not bode well for Sri Lanka with the March session of the UNHRC just six weeks away. The issue of the government’s unilateral withdrawal from the resolution that the previous government co-sponsored in 2015 will figure in the deliberations of that body. It is likely to be a difficult discussion for Sri Lanka because most of the commitments made by the previous government were not fulfilled by it and continue to remain unmet. As the UNHRC resolution focused on issues of the three-decade long war, and particularly on its last phase, the sudden government action of bulldozing the only public monument in the country to the civilians who lost their lives in the last battles, which is within the University of Jaffna will serve to refocus local and international attention onto those traumatic events of the past.
The issue of remembering the past has been a source of division within the country. The government has built many memorials to the military personnel who lost their lives and has set aside days for their commemoration. However, it has been rigid in its stance that the LTTE should not be memorialized in any way, and even bulldozed their cemeteries. The government’s concern about possible bids to revive the LTTE are justifiable. The issue at stake with the Jaffna University monument is that it was for those civilians who lost their lives in the last battle as they were trapped on the battlefield. Those who lost their lives and were buried are the kith and kin of the Tamil community regardless of whether they were members of the LTTE, forced recruits, or just civilians. They needed a memorial and believed that one set up within the university would be safer than one put up anywhere else.
Memorialisation is a part and parcel of any human society. It is the care and concern that family members have for one another that lays the foundation for a healthy and united society. The never dying love of family members for their departed ones is a reason why there are so many monuments for fallen soldiers to be found throughout the country, some of which are put by the government but many more put up by the war affected families. There are also monuments within the universities put up by students for those who lost their lives during the JVP insurrections of the past. Those memorials have been permitted to continue to remain though put up without official permission. The memorial within the Jaffna University that was suddenly destroyed over the weekend can be considered as part of this tradition.
The demolition of the memorial within the university immediately led to a polarizing situation and to a call for a shutdown of the Northern and Eastern provinces. Fortunately, better counsel, even from within the ranks of the government, has prevailed and the Vice Chancellor who issued the order for the removal of the monument has assured that a new one will replace the one that was destroyed. But the hartal that was planned would have already mobilised the sentiments of the Tamil community in opposition to the government and also refocused local and international attention on the issue of what happened at the war’s end. The issue of memorialization is not limited to the university students but affects all in the Tamil community regardless of whether they directly lost anyone in the war. There is a bonding that comes from primordial identities of race and religion that overrides individual differences. The government needs to act urgently to defuse the growing crisis.
The ancient chronicle, the Mahavamsa, records that when King Dutugemunu won the final battle against his foe King Elara, whom he wished to defeat from childhood, he ordered a memorial to be built for him. The great king, and the ancient chroniclers, recognized two millennia ago that those defeated in battle and who lost their lives in large numbers needed to be comforted and given an opportunity to mourn. The tradition was so strong that centuries later another king fleeing from his foes got off his horse and walked past the monument to King Elara as decreed by King Dutugemunu. Sri Lankans are proud of our culture and traditions and rightfully so. The need today, and urgently so, is to draw on the best elements of the past to live better lives in the present and pave the way for a shared future in a country in which every prospect pleases. A new monument that remembers the loss and pain of the past, and which inspires a feeling of never again will hopefully come from the ruins of the old one.
Trump Walks Out of the White House Into A Minefield of Legal Perils!
WHAT DONALD IS NOW UP AGAINST . . .
by Selvam Canagaratna
“Nobody has a more sacred
obligation to obey the law than those who make the law.”
– Jean Anouilh, Antigone, 1942.
“At some point in the next few weeks, Donald Trump will face his second Senate trial following an impeachment by the House of Representatives. Unlike the proceedings in late 2019 and early 2020, this time around — in the wake of the attempted coup on January 6th carried out by a violent mob inspired by Trump’s words to attack the US Congress — the process has been swift,” wrote Sasha Abramsky, a freelance journalist and a part-time lecturer at the University of California at Davis, in Truthout magazine.
The House impeached Donald Trump after a debate that lasted a mere few hours.
Given Trump’s inflammatory words on January 6th, and the unwillingness of senior lawyers to rally to his defense, and given the fact that has now publicly laid blame for the violent events squarely on Trump’s shoulders, the disgraced ex-President’s trial in the Senate could be almost as rapid.
If there is any honour whatsoever among GOP senators — or for that matter, any ability to think long-term about their own political self-interest — he will become the first President in US history to be convicted by that body. Of course, since he will have already left office, he won’t, alas, become the first President to be removed from power via an impeachment and trial process.
That’s a shame, but it doesn’t make the process any less vital. If American democracy is to survive, if political decisions aren’t to be held hostage by gun-wielding fanatics, Trump’s effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power following an election must face real consequences.
Conventional wisdom has it, however, that most GOP senators, no matter how personally distasteful they find Trump and how terrified they were by his unleashing of a mob against them on January 6th, won’t want to antagonize their base by voting to convict. Conventional wisdom has it that, when push comes to shove, appeasement will win the day.
But in this instance, might conventional wisdom be wrong? As Mitch McConnell seems now to have concluded, and as and many of his caucus likely soon will, having shamefully enabled Trump these past four years, they now have precious little incentive to waste political capital on a wounded and discredited ex-President, a man who has lost his hold on many independents as well as on a significant minority of GOP voters.
To the contrary, they have every incentive, as more and more evidence of his malfeasance surfaces, to utterly disempower this demagogue in order to ensure that he can’t rise from the political ashes to wreak vengeance on those in the GOP who didn’t help him in his coup attempts. Convict him, and they can then, in quick order, pass legislation barring him from ever running for public office again — a fate that, surely, no public figure in American history has so richly deserved, and one that must have McConnell and other GOP leadership figures in the Senate privately salivating in delight. True, this would alienate a not insignificant proportion of the GOP base; but in the long run that might well be less damaging than alienating the independents who are so central to creating a viable electoral coalition for both political parties.
Were the Senate to turn on Trump in this way, McConnell would risk fracturing his base; after all, , and only coup. But if McConnell and the GOP establishment don’t seize this particular bull by its horns they risk being reduced to an extremist party incapable of attracting anyone outside of their shrinking base. In the long run, backing the conviction of Trump might offer them a one-off chance to cauterize their party’s bleeding wound, and to sever its joined-at-the-hip connection to an authoritarian leader who stoked a mob bent on assassinating elected officials. This is a phrase I never thought I’d write, but… “If I were Mitch McConnell, I’d seize the moment and throw Trump as far under the bus as I could possibly manage.”
For here’s the thing: If McConnell doesn’t lend his support — and, by extension, many of the other GOP senators’ support — to conviction, it will only further erode GOP credibility among the broader electorate if, over the coming months, as seems increasingly likely, Trump is indicted in a number of state courts for his myriad crimes. The lower Trump’s legal fortunes sink, the worse the senate will look if it twice exonerated him for his actions despite a preponderance of evidence indicating his guilt.
How would voters react if McConnell, after acknowledging Trump’s culpability for triggering the attempted coup, then pushed to give the man a free pass for it, only to have Georgia show more spine by indicting him for threatening a public official and demanding votes “be found” to guarantee Trump a victory he hadn’t legitimately won?
How would they react if New York State indicted Trump and miscellaneous family members for tax fraud, or campaign finance law violations, or possibly even money laundering, if some of the allegations surrounding his relationship to Russian mobsters turn out to have substance? How would they react if the for his role in the events of January 6? How would they react if — essentially for pimping out his services to foreign governments and entities?
when he leaves office on Wednesday. But, in addition, he is facing a number of as well, including from women who allege he assaulted them in the years before he became President. Given the events of the past two weeks, he may well also face numerous other civil lawsuits, including damages claims from family members of the victims of the January 6 Capitol breach. In each of these trials, evidence will be presented — and the public will see and read that evidence — that will make Trump look more awful by the minute. The further out we get from the Trump era, chances are, the more clear the harm he inflicted will become.
Trump’s corporate backers realize this. Belatedly, he is being cut off from his go-to financing sources, including Deutsche Bank, which has said it will no longer do business with him. As a result, as his legal woes mount, he will likely have to resort to crowd-sourced, dodgy money-making schemes simply to get his gullible supporters to pony up cash to fund his defense attorneys.
Although the fates may have finally caught up with this grifter, the political firestorm he helped create remains. For as Trump leaves the White House, his far-right supporters won’t magically disappear. Trumpism and its toxic spin-offs — from QAnon to the Proud Boys — will remain a threat on the American political landscape for years to come. That, alas, is the sobering reality as a new presidency gets underway and as Donald Trump, from domestic exile in Mar-a-Lago, prepares for his second Senate trial.
Jagan in R. K. Narayan’s “Vendor of Sweets”
The world- renowned author R.K Narayan’s novel “Vendor of Sweets” is undoubtedly a worthy contribution to the world of English literature. Born in Madras in 1906, Narayan hailed from an entirely orthodox family. This traditional up-bringing may have influenced him in presenting Jagan’s character in the story.
The story set in the post-independent era in India revolves round, as the title suggests, a vendor of sweets. Narrated in the medium of a third person Narayan uses the English language very effectively to portray characters which are essentially Indian. Yet the reader’s response is rather intimate as the characters transcend time, culture, geographical boundaries, religion etc. thereby achieving universality. In the ensuing analysis let us see how Narayan sketches Jagan’s character to achieve this universality.
As the story begins, we meet Jagan, the vendor of sweets in conversation with his cousin whom the narrator says that no explanation could be given as to how he came to be called so.
The first glance at Jagan gives an insight into his character when he says “conquer taste and you will have conquered the self” This extract from the Holy Scriptures quoted by Jagan was questioned by the cousin, “Why conquer self?” Jagan’s reply was “I do not know, but all our sages advise us so.” This is Jagan who Narayan portrays. The lack of analytical sense is him made him what he was.
This trait in him develops further as the story wends its way towards that tragic end. His limited capacity into in-depth thinking prompted him to accept whatever the sages say. He is unable to give an explanation as to why the taste should be conquered. He accepts it merely because the sages say so. This feature in him prevented his independent thinking. The cousin’s character in contrast with his inquiring mind sheds light on the portrayal of Jagan’s.
We see this trait extending further in his life in most of his dealings. For example, we know that he was in the forefront of the Indian Independence struggle ardently following Gandhi in his nonviolence campaign. What is striking is the fact that he followed Gandhi’s nonviolence policies to the letter and went to the extent of making his shoes out of the skin of an animal which had died due to old age. His words quite rightly justify the point. “I do not like to think that a living creature should have its throat cut for the comfort of my feet”
It is this behavior that makes us think of him as an extremist. He ventures into extremes without being realistic. His attitudes towards his wife’s sickness is one such instance where he became tenacious in the belief that only indigenous medicine can cure her headache. The narration stands to show that their first clash cropped up over such an argument.
The absence of an analytical mind drove him towards diffidence. He lagged behind taking decisions of his own. Even in the transactions with his son he needed cousin’s help to communicate. When his son told him that he wanted to give up his studies in College, he was aghast. His expectations of his son were entirely different. He wanted his son to pursue his studies and collect a BA degree. But he lacked confidence to discuss the matter with the son. He sought cousin’s help to mediate with the son. The cousin’s advice was that it would be best to know from the boy himself. He even suggested “why don’t you have a talk with him?” Jagan responded “Why don’t you?” This is a clear indication of Jagan’s character as a man who is not strong enough to take up challenges.
The home environment was such that the communication between father and son had come almost to a stand-still in the aftermath of the mother’s death. Jagan played the maternal role of feeding the boy properly but he paid little or no attention to the boy’s mental well-being. He was proud that Mali had grown physically. The narration stands to show that he was very proud of his son’s height, weight and growth. But he neglected the fact that as he grows his needs, requirements and aspirations need to be soothed for the wellbeing of his mental growth. He forgot the fact that his son is growing up without the warmth of the mother.
Jagan was in the habit of reading the “Bhagavad Gita” even in the midst of his business activities. However, his concentration on the religious scriptures was invariably hindered with the slightest quietening of the sizzling in the kitchen or if he noticed any slackness at the front stall. If a beggar is spotted by him near the entrance, he would shout “Captain, that beggar should not be seen here except on Fridays. This is not a charity house.” Such acts of Jagan revealed in no uncertain terms his hypocrisy and we know that his hypocritical demeanour was seen in many of his dealings.
Besides, Jagan was somewhat displeased when the trays in the sweet shop returned with the left-overs. It bothered him as if he had a splinter in his skull. When the head cook suggested that they can be turned into a new sweet for the next day, forgetting all his holy scriptures he readily agreed to it, saying “After all everything consists of rice, flour, sugar and flavours…..” His lofty ideals were mere lip-service and clear manifestation of hypocrisy in Jagan.
His hypocrisy does not end at this point. It further extends. We know that he maintained two books to record his business accounts. Narayan, very sarcastically records this act of Jagan when he puts it, “…… arising out of itself and entitled to survive without reference to any tax.” Such acts of dishonesty clashed with his so-called religious principles and the reader responds with discreet sarcasm.
A character sketch of Jagan is incomplete if no mention is made about his inter-personal skills. As mentioned above, his relationship with his wife and son ended in failure and so was his relationship with the members of the extended family. The narration reveals Jagan reflecting “They never liked me” and further the narrator’s words “Thus he had escaped the marriages of his nieces, the birthdays of his brother’s successive children and several funerals” What we gather from the narration is that Jagan felt grateful for being an outcast as it relieved him from his family obligations. This feature in Jagan drives home the point that Jagan was a failure in maintaining inter-personal skills which ultimately made his life pathetic.
This is Jagan we meet in Narayan’s “Vendor of Sweets” In Jagan we see a man not put into a frame. A blend of good and bad. A person made of flesh and blood and we begin to wonder whether we have not met him somewhere, in our daily transactions. Jagan is a victim not of evil but a victim of his own silly, weak or strange but harmless aspects of character. Jagan is essentially Indian but his hopes, aspirations and dreams are universal.
Written by Vivette Ginige Silva
R.K. Lionel Karunasena, fine athlete and exemplary police officer
Twenty years ago Lionel Karunasena had a heart attack while taking his constitutional walk at the Bambalapitiya Police park and collapsed.
He was born on January 2, 1945, in Ratnapura. He studied at the Seevali Maha Vidyalaya, Ratnapura, excelling not only in his studies but also in athletics. His forte was long jump and the triple jump. He was spotted by the talent scouts of the Ceylon Track and Field Club (CT &FC) and enrolled him to the club and found employment at Air Ceylon.
On November 11, 1964 at the CT& FC- University Athletics dual meet, he equaled the national long jump record of 24 feet two and a half inches established by N.A Weeratunga of the Mercantile AAA on the December 28, 1956.
The writer was a witness of this event. In his allotted six attempts, he jumped over 22 ft. One jump was nearly 25 feet but he over stepped the board. In his fourth jump he leapt into fame equaling the Ceylon record. This record was broken only in 1985!
At the Ceylon 1964 AAA nationals, he was placed third in the long jumps event. He won the event in 1965 and 66. His ambition in life was to serve as a protector of law and order. In order to achieve this, he joined the police as a sub inspector on June 26, 1967.
Despite his busy schedule as a police officer he continued to be involved in athletics representing the police. In 1977, he came third at the AAA Nationals when two Indian athletes, P. Bannerjee and Mohinder Singh took first and second places.
He represented Sri Lanka at the Asian Games in 1966 at Bangkok and again at Bangkok in 1970.
In the all-time list computed by the Sri Lanka AAA recorder, Lionel Karunasena ranks second.
He always believed in equality and denounced social injustices. Due to his dedication towards duty he won quick promotions and rose to the rank of DIG. His first appointment as DIG was to the Wanni. Here he was required to be in the war front. There he was a shining example to his colleagues.
He often visited the many camps in the war zone.
He served as the Commanding officer of the Police STF for over 13 years and was the fourth commanding officer of the STF. He had a miraculous escape when President Premadasa was killed by a suicide bomber on May 1, 1993. Seventeen others were killed along with the President.
He was a highly respected office in the police. His wife Chitra, daughter Sarika and son Shalike were well aware that he was a committed officer and at the same time a loving wife and devoted father. His long and dedicated service will be written in gold. May his journey through samsara be short and peaceful.
100,Barnes Place – 7 Colombo
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