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History being created; the Sangha steps in firmly

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On Monday, those in Gogotagama peacefully succeeded in repulsing two onslaughts by the police: one to dismantle a stage they erected bang in front of the president’s office and the other sending combat STF officers in a large police vehicle to GFG. Wise that the police withdrew.

However, those in Mynagama have had to face adversity. Their tents were torn down and their voices of protest nearly drowned by loud speakered pirith chanting emanating from within the grounds of Temple Trees. What a cheap manoeuvre to resort to! Whose warped mind devised this scheme, degrading pirith chanting and consequently the noble religion of Buddhism? Little wonder this: for constantly Mahinda Rajapaksa and his sons and sycophants have degraded Buddhism. A temple was made his political office; bana preachings organised in his abode – an obvious ploy for popularity; his wife, a staunch Catholic, tightly clad in white, offering the betel tray to the monk to start his bana preaching. His son, Namal, defied the decree of the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter – the highest prelate – and conducted car racing around the Kandy lake some years ago. . Buddhism was always a convenient vehicle for them to hoodwink a trusting public and now they use most sacred pirith chanting to be deaf and dumb.

STALEMATE – is the status quo as of today. That is: “further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible”. The totally persona non grata, nay, hated, loathed, despised Prez and PM cling to power. Suddenly Brother Basil appears on Monday TV news. 99% Sri Lankans here and overseas fault them for the abyss Sri Lanka is sunk in. And to retain and keep hidden their ill-gotten wealth, they cling to power, letting the country go to pot as we used to say, or burn to cinders. Their skins are more important than the entire country. This fact was proved innumerable times before and tolerated by the people, swallowed with a resigned mourn: Aney, how to do anything? We pitied the farmers deprived of their livelihood; we mourned the deaths of Christians and others on April 21, 2019. But now, mercifully, the youth of the country have risen to show a way. The older generation and the expatriate Sri Lankans join them. But the fat ones stay on.

However, HISTORY IS BEING CREATED; the youth protests and consolidation of Gogotagama and Mynagama and satellite Gamas all over the country have caught on like wildfire, fired the imagination and hope of millions of Lankans, lauded and cooperated with by Sri Lankans living all over the globe. Our children’s children will speak of this peaceful protest as we older ones fed on Western history cited the 1789-99 French Revolution fighting for Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité! Our youth ask for true democracy and non corruption and latterly, return of stolen wealth. Thus, future generations will remember the protestors with pride and praise.

Clever, clear thinking politicians like Eran Wickeremaratne have publicly admitted that his generation has failed Sri Lanka. However, the younger generation has come forward, leaderless but determined to right wrongs; to bring in a new culture to the politics of the land; to usher in systematic change; and all this – peacefully. It is fervently hoped that rabble rousers and looters and thugs always looking for a fight will not infiltrate the peaceful protests and introduce violent disobedience and lawlessness. That is the sea that butts the peaceful protestors on one side and police batons and armed forces might with bullets and the Prez giving the nod – on the other. The Go Gota crowd seem equal to it all, strengthened by the unity of races and religions.

True Statesmen

Cassandra has long admired Karu Jayasuriya and deemed him our one and only truly committed statesman, endowed with wisdom, acting wisely, personality enriched with experience. Such a one is most important at this juncture in our political history.

Some say Karu J is too old to hold office. Not at all, avers Cass. Remember Plato’s ideal leader of his Republic was a person of experience and integrity, age above 80 years. Karu J will be ideal Head/President of an all party interim government. Below him will be a honest, younger man as PM, who will achieve a hauling over of the country under his guidance. Not an impossible dream, if sense prevails and politicians, particularly Party leaders work for the good of the people, not merely give lip service but really and truly put country first on their agendas.

Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera has ascended on the horizon particularly being with the peacefully protesting youth. He was and is seen constantly in Gogotagama. What a superb gesture to conduct a sangeeka dane for those who lost their lives in the Easter Sunday suicidal bombings, ably assisted by R C priests, with Hindu and Muslim religious leaders present. It was he who engineered the written message of the Maha Sangha to the Prez, PM and leader of the Opposition. This monk seems to be fitting well the advisor’s slippers left bare by the late Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera. Like him, Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera appears not to seek political office but wants to be advisor whose advice is taken. He has reinforced his clout by uniting the entire Sangha to speak with one voice and very correctly, advice the leaders of the land, even issuing an ultimatum.

Cass has always been against Buddhist monks in politics, either in Parliament, contesting elections or in the forefront of street protests. But the recent step taken by the Sangha to write to present leaders with suggestions is lauded and applauded. They are doing just what they are meant to do: advise leaders. They have gone a step further: pronounced an ultimatum, given a last date for compliance.

However, here it must be stated that TV news on Tuesday May 3 showed some yellow robed bods storming police barriers. They were no monks, being bearded and heads unshaved. The protesters in the Gamas must be on the lookout for such as these yellow robed imposters and hooligan thugs.

A third great statesman identified by Cass is His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo. He has been steadfast in his demand for justice for those who lost their lives or were grievously injured on Easter Sunday 2019. It was he, almost singlehandedly, who prevented a blood bath with Sinhalese rising against the Muslims of the country. Here again Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera was beside him soon enough. But it was Cardinal Ranjith who quietened and restrained the enraged Sinhalese, mostly the Catholics of Katuwapitiya and Negombo, so the unbridled violence hoped for by Muslim radicals was thwarted.

Great decision

The Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter of the Siam Maha Nikaya, Most Ven Tibbatuwe Siddhartha Sumangala Thera has decided not to meet any politicians hereafter. A decision he should have announced earlier. He had to smile through many a meeting with a politico after receiving a basket of fruit; and then the politico would speak to the general public. We were tired of this pantomime and felt it was a comedown to the Highest Prelate in the Sri Lankan Sangha. He should go a step further and ban such meetings in the premises where he resides. The Asgiriya Chapter should follow suit.

What sort of comedy?

A few weeks ago, the loud mouthed duo – Gammanpila and Weerawansa – were vociferous and clear in berating the Rajapaksas, aiming their venom at Brother Basil. On Monday TV news we see the two in happy bonhomie with the same Basil. We don’t even bother to ask how come. Turncoats and schemers are too mild labels for them.



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Is it impossible to have hope?

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So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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