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In Sri Lanka’s own interests

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by Neville Ladduwahetty

India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar during his recently concluded visit to Sri Lanka is reported to have stated at a Joint Press Conference that ‘It was in Sri Lanka’s own interest that expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka should be fulfilled and Delhi insists on the importance of the 13th Amendment in fulfilling those expectations’ (The Island, January 7, 2021).

Assuming the accuracy of the reported statement, its content has significant implications on the State and Nation of Sri Lanka.   For instance, why are expectations for “equality, justice, peace and dignity” limited only to the Tamil people?   If that is the case, by implication it must mean that all other citizens of Sri Lanka other than the Tamil community do not have similar expectations because they already enjoy equality, justice, peace and dignity in Sri Lanka.   This is a factually skewed assessment on the part of Dr. Jaishankar, because he must surely know that citizens in all countries throughout the world, including Sri Lanka, regardless of which community they belong to, and/or whether they are majorities or minorities, experience inequality, injustice and lack of peace and dignity in one form or another and that India is no exception.   Therefore, what is so exceptional about the Tamil community?   

By insisting on the importance of the 13th Amendment in fulfilling expectations of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, Dr. Jaishankar has underscored the link between the 13th Amendment and the expectations.   However, since the 13th Amendments impacts only on the smaller portion of the Tamil community living in the Northern and Eastern provinces, the fulfilment of expectations would be limited only to them.   What about the expectations of the larger portion of the Tamil community living outside the Northern and Eastern provinces along with the rest of the communities in Sri Lanka?   For India to be concerned only with this smaller proportion of the Tamil community and not with the decidedly larger portion of the Sri Lankan citizenry has the potential to endanger India’s interests in Sri Lanka from a geostrategic perspective.           

Furthermore, when Dr. Jaishankar states that it is in Sri Lanka’s own interest to ensure that the expectations for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a “UNITED Sri Lanka”, he as India’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has added a new amendment to the 13th Amendment that impacts on the hallowed unitary structure of the Sri Lankan State.   When the 13th Amendment was introduced in 1987, Sri Lanka was unitary and remains so today.   To state that the precondition for the fulfilment of expectations of the Tamil people requires the structure of the Sri Lankan State to be changed from being unitary to one that is “united” amounts to naked interference in the internal affairs of the Sri Lankan State in violation of the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement in which India was a founding member.   If this is how India’s policy of “neighborhood first” manifests, the neighborhood, and in particular Sri Lanka, should be more circumspect in its dealings with India than it had been in the past. 
 

THE “NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST” POLICY
 

When Dr. Jaishankar says that it is Sri Lanka’s own interest to fulfill the expectations of the Tamil community, he, as the foremost spokesperson for India, is washing India’s hands off of any responsibility for orchestrating a forced intervention and imposing a system of governance under the 13th Amendment, that is totally unsuitable for Sri Lanka.   The net effect of the legacy left behind is a frustrated Sri Lankan nation, struggling to make the best of an inappropriate system of governance. 

Is Sri Lanka in a position to introduce a system of governance that serves all communities better?  According to comments made by former president Sirisena, the answer is NO.   During the course of a recent interview, he stated: “The 13th Amendment is a product of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987.   The Provincial Council Act is a product of the 13th Amendment.   So I know that it is not so easy to abolish provincial councils…. Abolishing provincial councils is like playing with fire” (The Island, January 2, 2021).

This is the trap Sri Lanka finds itself in.   This trap and the manner in which it was set by India, did not deter India from engaging in acts that violated the very principles it subscribed to and expected others to live by, despite being an influential founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement with the principles:
 

  • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
  • Mutual non-aggression
  • Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
  • Equality and mutual benefit
  • Peaceful co-existence. 

Today India is not encumbered by inconvenient principles.   India is now a key member of the QUAD with the U.S., Japan and Australia.    Until the recent visit all leaders of India including Prime Minister Modi who visited Sri Lanka advised Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment.   For the first time, what is being “insisted” upon is not only the implementation of the 13th Amendment, but also that it should be within a “UNITED” Sri Lanka.  
 

These expressions reflect the new India backed up by the new relationships of the QUAD.   Blinded by the backing of the new relationship, India would not want to be seen by its partners in the QUAD as being weak by admitting that its experiment in Sri Lanka has failed.   Therefore, they are bound to keep on pressuring Sri Lanka with proposals how to make devolution more meaningful.  In such a background attempting to transform current arrangements would be met with such resistance that it may amount to “playing with fire”. 
 

Continued attempts to make provincial councils under the 13th Amendment work is not in keeping with India’s policy of “Neighbourhood First” because the 13th Amendment is strictly meant to fulfill the expectations of only the Tamil community in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.  It does not constitute the neighbourhood of India.   Since it is in India’s own geostrategic interests to cultivate the neighbourhood, India has to cater to the interests of the larger segment of the Sri Lankan nation which for all intents and purposes constitutes the real neighbourhood as recognized by other sovereign States.  
 

What India is yet to realize and admit is that the 13th Amendment has not served the people of any community whether they be Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim or any other, because of the fundamental unsuitability of the structural arrangement imposed on Sri Lanka by India.   This fact was confirmed by former President Sirisena in the interview referred to above.   He stated: “the 30-year experience of running provincial councils has not yielded desired results in terms of developing all parts of the country”.   According to him: “From a development perspective, I think a set up at the district level like a District Development board would work better than provincial councils given the fact that we are a small country”.
 

Realistic pragmatism requires that India rethinks its priorities because its current emphasis does not amount to its stated policy of “neighbourhood first”.   Instead, the current policy as far as the 13th Amendment in Sri Lanka is concerned amounts to “India First”, in the neighbourhood. 

DENIAL of RIGHTS to DEVELOPMENT
 

There is a consensus in Sri Lanka that the provincial council system is an unsuitable mechanism to address the needs of the people.   Despite this realization successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to present a formal statement to the leadership of India that because of the unsuitability of the existing provincial council system, Sri Lanka needs to develop an alternative.   If India is opposed to an alternative that suits Sri Lanka, India should be informed that Sri Lanka would be engaging in an exercise to find an alternative, because what is at stake is the denial of a right to human development of millions in Sri Lanka brought about by India’s intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign State that introduced a system of governance that does not serve the interests of people in Sri Lanka.  
 

Having so stated, Sri Lanka should set up a mechanism to develop an alternative to provincial councils with a mandate to develop a proposal to ensure the delivery of goods and services to all communities in the periphery independent of all parochial political and other considerations.   Such an alternative should be based on inputs from the people in the periphery, and definitely not on inputs from the political leaders of all hues as has been in the past.   Furthermore, such a proposal should have the flexibility to function whether the arrangement at the center is Parliamentary, or Presidential.   
         

Hoping that the framers of the new constitution would give the needed attention to develop an alternative to the existing provincial council system together with other weighty and controversial issues, is not only to complicate the daunting task of constitution making but also to rob the attention the alternative should deserve.   Therefore, since the exercise of developing a system to ensure that those at the periphery are served requires the engagement of persons with skills and experience of a sort that is different to those conversant with constitutions and how governments function, the task of developing an alternative to provincial councils should be carried out independently.
 

India must surely be aware that the provincial council system introduced under the 13th Amendment has failed to fulfill intended expectations.   Despite this for India to continue to insist that the 13th Amendment is implemented by every visiting dignitary is being disingenuous to a neighbor, under a policy of “neighbourhood first”.  Since the insistence on the 13th Amendment denies the fundamental right to human development of millions in Sri Lanka, India must he held accountable and responsible for their fate.       
    

IN INDIA’S OWN INTEREST       
     

India’s stated policy is “Neighbourhood First”.   Explaining the concept, Amb. (Retd) V.P. Haran at the Central University of Tamil Nadu stated: “Policy of Govt. of India towards neighbors is encapsulated in the phrase, ‘Neighbors First’. This policy priority holds true for almost every country in the world. For, anything that happens in one country will affect the other countries in the neighborhood.   Former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh once said, ‘the real test of foreign policy is in the handling of neighbors’. We often hear political leaders say that India wants a peaceful, prosperous and stable neighborhood.  Reason is simple.  This means less trouble for us and will enable us to focus on development, without distraction. Neighborhood diplomacy is challenging and difficult but one that is satisfying at the end” (July 14, 2017).
 

If as stated above, India’s peace prosperity and stability depends on the stability of its neighbors, it is in India’s own interest that there is peace, prosperity and stability in Sri Lanka.   The question then becomes, could there be prosperity in Sri Lanka under a system spawned by the 13th Amendment that denies the right to human development to the entire population of Sri Lanka because of the systemic unsuitability of the system imposed by India?   Furthermore, how could there be stability in Sri Lanka when the overwhelming majority is disadvantaged by the system of provincial governance introduced by India?   
 

India’s interest in the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is driven by India’s own internal imperatives because of the perception that a Tamil community in Sri Lanka with fulfilled expectations would not give cause for instability in Tamil Nadu on account of Tamils in Sri Lanka.   However, the context in which such notions thrived has changed.  Therefore, India has to think beyond internal parochial interests.   Having joined the QUAD India has to act as a global player.   To do so India has to reset its sights and see nation-states as whole entities and not as made up of ethnic communities which means India has to address the concerns of the rump of sovereign States   As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, this is to accept that the model imposed by India has failed, and that India should not to stand in the way of Sri Lanka developing an alternative to the provincial council system, because it is in India’s own interest to do so.   
 

CONCLUSION
 

The comment by India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar Joint Press Conference was that ‘It was in Sri Lanka’s own interest that expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity within a united Sri Lanka should be fulfilled and Delhi insists on the importance of the 13th Amendment in fulfilling those expectations’.  
 

For a seasoned diplomat to use words such as fulfilling expectations within a UNITED Sri Lanka and to INSIST on the importance of the 13th Amendment means that the gloves have come off.   As it is with the U.S. using human rights issues in Sri Lanka to contain China’s influence in Sri Lanka, India is using the 13th Amendment coupled with Japanese funds to get involved in Sri Lanka to dilute Chinese influence in Sri Lanka.  
 

This is the background in which Sri Lanka has to act.  After thirty plus years of denial of the right to human development of the citizens of Sri Lanka as a result of the provincial councils set up under the 13th Amendment that was imposed in violation of principles of the Non-Aligned Movement of which India was a founding member, the people of Sri Lanka cannot afford to wait any longer.    Therefore, the people who elected this President and this Parliament should prevail on the government to submit a formal statement to India that Sri Lanka would engage in an exercise to develop an alternative to the existing system.      
   

The repeated references to the 13th Amendment demonstrate that India’s take on Sri Lanka has not changed.  Even after a lapse of nearly thirty plus years and the passing away of most of the major actors associated with Tamil politics in India and Sri Lanka, India continues to see Sri Lanka from the perspective of Tamil politics.   In the meantime, the global landscape has changed dramatically with the ascendance of formidable global players that view Sri Lanka’s strategic location as being vital to their geostrategic interests.   They view Sri Lanka as a nation-state and not as one made up of communities as demonstrated by India.   This difference in perspective is not in India’s own interest.   Therefore, in keeping with India’s own policy of “Neighbourhood First”, it is in India’s own interest to change its take on Sri Lanka, and to recognize it as being a sovereign nation-state and not one made up of disparate communities, if India is not to be seen as “India First in the Neighbourhood”.



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Playing politics with science!

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It is obvious that the only way out of this disastrous pandemic is through science––the use of vaccines that have been introduced in double quick time due to scientific ingenuity. It is the duty of politicians to refrain from playing politics with science.

 

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

If you thought it was only our politicians who played politics with science, you thought wrong. Admittedly, ours are pretty bad as evident from the Dhammika peniya episode. We had our Health Minister freely advertising the concoction by ingesting it in her office and wasting the valuable time of academics by instructing them to test it for efficacy. Getting a pretty bad attack of Covid-19 demonstrated the idiocy of her action but she continues unashamedly to be our Minister of Health!

A Professor of Pharmacology turned politician did likewise. Forgetting what he taught his students, he supported the untested therapies, the explanation given by one of his colleagues being that he behaved as a politician, not a scientist! By implication, even scientists can forget science when they become politicians! Funnily, he was rewarded by being appointed the Acting Minister of Health the day the Health Minister was discharged from hospital, which was rather bizarre considering that during the Minister’s prolonged period of hospital-stay there was no acting appointment! Perhaps, fearing that he might take the bread out of her mouth, the Minister returned to office within a few days of discharge.

Although the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic was very effectively controlled, the loss of efficiency as regards the second wave was due no doubt to allowing non-scientific ideas to creep in. The refusal of permission for the burial of Covid-19 victims in spite of a group of top scientists recommending it, made us look foolish and turned international opinion against the country.

The clamour for vaccination is a welcome sign, more so because the UK is continually producing evidence for the extreme efficacy of vaccination.

The UK was the first country in the world to start vaccination and has already vaccinated more than 21 million of its 66 million population. It started with the Pfizer vaccine, closely followed by the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. EU, which was a late starter, was critical of the Oxford AZ vaccine. The French President Emmanuel Macron is obviously guilty of playing politics with science as he was one of the vaccine’s most vociferous critics, calling it “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly. As a result of political comments of this nature, more than half of EU countries limited the Oxford AZ vaccine to those under 65 years, in spite of the European Medicines Agency approving it for all age groups.

Another political appointee, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, had a public spat with AstraZeneca over gaining more of its vaccine doses and introduced a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; she was forced to reverse her decision, quickly. She then suggested the UK had compromised on “safety and efficacy” by approving the jab so early, despite the EMA reaching the same conclusions as the UK’s internationally-respected MHRA, which approved the Oxford AZ vaccine for all ages. Millions of doses of Oxford AZ vaccine, which they obtained in spite of criticism, remain unused in France and Germany. Why did they not have the generosity to give these to struggling countries like Sri Lanka?

Data released by Public Health England (PHE) shows that both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 infections among those 70 years and over. Since January, protection against symptomatic Covid-19, four weeks after the first dose, ranged between 57 and 61% for Pfizer and between 60 and 73% for the Oxford AZ vaccine.

In the over 80s, data suggest that a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80% effective in preventing hospitalisation, around 3 to 4 weeks after the jab. There is also evidence for 83% reduction in deaths from Covid-19 with the Pfizer vaccine and data for Oxford AZ vaccine is awaited.

European aversion to Oxford AZ vaccine is, no doubt, due to Brexit than to science. Very soon, all EU countries would be forced by science to allow all age groups to have the Oxford AZ vaccine which, by the way, is the cheapest vaccine that is easier to transport and store. Politicians who criticised Oxford AZ vaccine have had to eat humble pie but they will no doubt come out with some claim to justify their idiocy!

A Belgian minister, Budget State Secretary Eva De Bleeker, has angered vaccine manufacturers by revealing sensitive and confidential commercial information – the price that the EU has agreed to pay for the leading Covid-19 vaccines. Though her twitter message was deleted quickly, screenshots taken show that the EU agreed prices for the three vaccines used at present are as follows: Oxford/AstraZeneca: €$ 1.78, Pfizer/BioNTech : €$ 12 and Moderna: $18.

Moderna, a Bio-tech company, which has not been profitable so-far, is heading for wind-fall profits and the drug-giant Pfizer will get richer. No one seems to have followed the noble gesture of AstraZeneca, which agreed with the Oxford group to provide the vaccine on no-profit basis.

It is obvious that the only way out of this disastrous pandemic is through science––the use of vaccines that have been introduced in double quick time due to scientific ingenuity. It is the duty of politicians to refrain from playing politics with science.

As Dolly Parton sang with a rewrite of her famous song ‘Jolene’ whilst having her jab:

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”

 

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Who wants to live forever?

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The haunting lyrics of The Queen song and the almost plaintive tone in Freddie Mercury’s oh so unique voice, when he sang this song (particularly in his live performance at Wembley), echo through my mind these days. There are two main reasons why longevity is foremost these days.

The first, of course, being the pandemic that is among us. It may be the first time that the civilian population of the entire world is facing the possibility of sudden death, not from incoming fire or even suicide bombers but from an insidious, unseen, minute germ!

The second reason why the length of our lives and prolonging it for as long as we possibly can have been entering my thoughts, is when I see the scramble to get the anti-virus vaccine that I observe in the Pearl. Now, most of us are Buddhists and somewhere in those teachings is a belief that we come into this world with a certain amount of AYUSHA or length of life, and that when that is over the end happens and there is no choice. At least, that is the basic interpretation of undoubtedly very complex teaching.

If that is the case, why this scramble for the vaccine? Why are we using privileged positions (connections to rulers and politicians), connections to doctors, and even the Mayors of certain cities to short-circuit the waiting lists? Older people are complaining that they are being denied the vaccine, why? Those people have probably achieved all their objectives in life, completed successful lives, seen grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, why do they want to deny some young man or woman starting out on life with all those milestones to reach, the vaccine, particularly if they are devoted to the teachings of the Buddha.

Is it selfishness, greed, and avarice, things we should avoid according to these self-same teachings, or is it simply one-up-man-ship and the need to be able to boast that they got the vaccine when the “ordinary” man is still standing in queues and probably infecting each other due to the total chaos and non-observance of Covid protocols in these places of administering the vaccine? Think about it dear readers, especially those of you who have completed productive and useful lives, brought up “successful” children, and as is the way in our society provided them with houses, lands, dowries, and other ways of sustenance. Do we really need to join this scramble for the vaccine? Or, use our position of privilege to probably deny some younger person, with a life to live, the chance of getting it. Is it even our ego (something else we should control and make less significant in our lives and decisions) that allows us to justify our long existence in this world? They need my superior intellect, does this world and this society, therefore I must live as long as possible! Or, is it simply the basic animal instinct to live as long as possible, something that we as humans with our superior brains should be able to think around?

Here in Aotearoa, we have re-entered a level 3 lockdown in our most heavily populated city and a level 2 lockdown for the rest of our country. This has been due to certain non-observance of Covid protocols by people of a clearly identified community, living in a certain part of the city of sails, as Auckland is also known. This is the second time that the community, living in that part of the city has brought about an escalation of the pandemic and stricter lockdowns. It has brought more economic misery and spelled the end of the road to more businesses and enterprises. Now, in the Pearl, we may have resorted to attacking those communities and even rioting. All that seems to have happened here are of course the usual vitriolic racist attacks on the internet and a government decision to vaccinate those areas of the city first, in an attempt to control the pandemic. Wow! in the pearl either all these people would have been rounded up and locked up in a camp in the Vanni or locked down under strict curfew with the threat of being shot if violated. The jury with regard to if the Pearl alternative or the Aotearoa alternative of these should have been used is still out …

Maybe some readers are interested in the outcome of the threat that is looming over us from the upcoming United Nations action in Geneva? I have been trying to get some feedback from “intellectuals” currently living in the Pearl, but they seem distracted, and a feeling of helplessness seems to prevail. The incumbent Foreign Minister seems to think that a humble Indian Ocean Island with what strictly speaking, can be considered a failed or at least failing economy, can dictate terms to the UN, behaving like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Maybe our “new best friend” China, probably aided and abetted by Russia has lent strength to his arm.

Even a “victory’ for Lanka at the UNHCR to this resolution should not be cheered too vociferously, as the countries ranged against us will have long term plans. Every step of this government will be monitored closely. The loss of our garment exporting privileges to the first world could result along with other economic sanctions that would make the cost of living in the Pearl even higher.

One rather interesting possibility seems to be travel bans on certain individuals and freezing of their assets held abroad. Now that could be stimulating, especially if the numbers involved are made public! However, if that was the case, I believe the attempt to rectify the situation would have been given to a more competent person than “the bull in the china shop”!

I cannot resist putting this out dear readers and I apologise profusely in advance. What if someone like Ranil W, was in charge of foreign affairs? Do you think we would have had a more professional approach and had a better chance in dealing with the complicated nuances of handling UN diplomacy, in the long term? At least we may have not insulted and possibly humiliated the visiting PM of one of our allies, Imran Khan of Pakistan! On the other hand, Mr. Khan, you may rest assured that even if you had addressed our parliament, no member would have understood anything you said or even been able to decipher your immaculate Oxbridge accent. It is only those of us who have shut ourselves out mentally from the shenanigans or gone into voluntary exile who watch with dismay, who would have savoured your words and briefly wondered …what if … ?

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Thanks for quick vaccination; harmful dabblers in the occult should be severely dealt with

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There has been much in the daily press on vaccination against Covid-19 in this fair isle of ours, or rather in Colombo and its suburbs

Let’s put aside complaints and say praise be!

Most of what was media-written was on the ensuing chaos of not knowing where to go for the jab; how to get a token; which age group will be given it (apart of course from VIPs and politicians who were close behind frontline health workers). Mercifully, the authorities righted the initial wrong of deciding on prioritizing the 30-65 age group and neglecting the over 65s, who were placed second in the priority list in more enlightened countries following WHO strictures. And so lots have got the jab and we anticipate a drastic drop in infection and Covid death rates. Cass contributed her fair share of criticism in this column but not stridently nor unreasonably. She had not seen the privileged list that passed off as Municipal workers on Tuesday 24 February at the Public Library, Colombo 7, arriving in Mercedes Benzes and SUVs. If she had, her ire would have emerged in pure vitriol! One friend said she enquired from several sophisticates in the queue how they got there, but received mumbled replies. So, a Rose by any other name, even Do-Gooder, smells as bad when it goes unjust! Things got much better and the service worked smoothly once the MOHs came into their own.

What Cass notes in summarizing the issue today is thanks and gratitude to the government and the Health Services particularly, for vaccinating so very many so quickly. People who wrote about this issue, Cass included, were all praise for the actual data takers and vaccine givers. In certain centres, the old and disabled were queued in a different line and vaccinated within an hour.

The gratitude Cass renders is because only part of the total amount of vaccine was gifted by India and the WHO. Our government booked early and paid for the rest, and of the Oxford kind. This vaccine is admittedly relatively cheaper, but it had to be paid for, which cost the government bore. We have to appreciate the massive organization entailed and excuse inevitable hiccups. This fact struck Cass as a feeling of much needed security and elimination of fear was felt, and all for free. Also when a friend in Melbourne wrote they were as yet awaiting vaccination.

 

Black Magic and witchcraft in Sri Lanka

If you thought as Cass did that we would never ever resemble a dark Congo tribe resorting to occult cures or a re-enactment of shades of supernatural superstitious beliefs in witchcraft as in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, in 1692 (where some young girls caught prancing naked cooked up lies about good women in the village being witches), you and Cass were both mistaken. We’ve had these in different styles right here in supposedly majority Buddhist Free Sri Lanka with other religions holding people together, in the 21st century with some of our own doing brilliantly well in advanced scientific disciplines all over the developed world. Cass, as you now know, was born and bred in the hills of Kandy with its most sacred Dalada Maligawa and picturesquely situated quaint temples in peaceful green valleys with the sound of evening pooja bells, joined by Kovil tinkles and Sunday sonorous Church gantara and the cry of the Muzeen. We never had a bali or thovil ceremony. If an inauspicious time descended on the village or a household, it was pirith chanted by Bhikkhus. So to Cass what has been happening very recently is even stranger than to those who have village cousins who dabble in mantra and kodivina with kattadiyas in action.

I refer here to the stupidly preposterous belief in Dhammika’s peniya as both a prophylactic and cure for pernicious Covid-19. Where is that charlatan veda – oops sorry- Kaliamma devala kapurala now? Safe with his ill-gotten gains, we suppose.

The latest voodoo story, but with such a tragic ending, is that of the 9-year-old Delgoda girl who suffered an emotional (rather than mental) aberration and was subject to exorcism by caning her mercilessly. The exorcist could not be a woman; she must certainly be a sadistic aberration herself. Can you believe that she applied oil on the girl and used the cane on her till the kid went unconscious? Was the cane an ordinary one? At first I could not believe the story read in the papers – how cane a person to death, but it was a child receiving the torture and who knows what sort of ‘weapon’ was used. The mother definitely must be punished more severely. Maternal love, even in the animal kingdom, will never allow harming an offspring, so how on earth did the mother watch all that caning. One shot would have torn Cass to the defence of her child, or for that matter any child, with talons extended and blood now not turned to milk as the Sinhala saying goes, but to vitriolic fury. The woman exorcist with supernatural powers and the mother are in police custody. Why doesn’t she do a Houdini and astound handsome Police high-up Ajit Rohana?

People claiming superhuman clairvoyance and divine power crop up everywhere. Cass accompanied a friend to consult a girl in the suburbs of Kandy to find out where her hub had ‘donated’ a fairly large sum of money. This girl had given clear directions to find a lost Persian cat to a third friend; hence the visit. She was a pretty, soft girl of around 18. Once Cass and the other entered the room, the girl changed, was in a near trance and speaking in an entirely different voice, pronounced the reason for seeking her help and said “Look for a man always dressed in long sleeves and thinning hair parted in the middle.” The friend was baffled and defeated by this long shot, but finally she met a man of this description – the father of a girl in her husband’s office. She did not ask for the money!

Such ‘powers’ are temporary; maybe like poltergeist manifestations in a teenager’s home. But going for cures to them is unthinkable. Buddhist bhikkhus and maybe bhikkhuunis, so also certain Christian priests (the bulk of lecherous Father Mathew intrudes here) do have powers of exorcism. A medical doctor is the best bet, in any case, including even mental upsets.

 

Short Takes

Imran Khan’s all too brief visit was a successful veni, vidi, vici in spite of being snubbed ungraciously over the address to Parliamentarians (what a weak, threadbare excuse was offered – C-19 precaution!) and missing out two of our cricket greats: Michael Tissera and Anura Tennakoon from the list of cricket folk to say Hi to the great Cricketer at lunch at Shangri La. What was the success apart from charming everyone and showing off what a Statesman can look like and carry himself off? Why – the Muslims of Sri Lanka conquered. Burial was theirs or so it seemed. But hold it, is it gazetted or is this ‘yes’ like the Prime Minister’s definite ‘can bury’ pronounced in Parliament and then brushed aside and explained by the Gaman as “he was merely expressing his thoughts.”

Main headline in The Island of Wednesday 3 March:” PCol report on Easter Sunday carnage: AG won’t be given ‘sensitive’ volumes.” Why on earth? Is it X-rated and the AG underage?

Picture on page I of same issue of Dr Rajitha Senaratne arriving at the Colombo High Court to appear in a case involving two persons who accused then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of various crimes. We have long forgotten even a single word of what they said. They will not get off free is Cass’ bet unlike Aluthgamage, who emerged very recently from a court house free as a bird, accused of corruption, Cass recalls.

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