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‘Integrity, professionalism and empathy, the ethos of officering’



(The seventh death anniversary of Deshamanya Gen. Dennis Perera fell on 11 August. This is the Dennis Perera memorial oration 2016 delivered by Air Chief Marshal Gagan Bulathsinghala RWP, RSP, VSV, USP, Mphil, Msc, FIM(SL)ndc, psc, Former Commander of the Air Force and Ambassador to Afghanistan)

The former US President and Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces in WW 2, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower states:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable INTEGRITY.

Without it, no real success is possible;

No matter whether it is on a section, gang, a football field,

In an army or in an office!”

Reflecting on the illustrious career of the late Deshamanya Gen. Dennis Perera, one sees an outstanding leader whose lifetime principle was integrity of the highest order personifying exemplary moral courage to do what is needed and what is right, while being an officer and gentleman, par-excellence.

The young Master Dennis Perera was educated at St. Peter’s College, Colombo, and excelled as a multifaceted student both in academics and sport. In 1949, at the age of 19, he answered the call to the profession of arms to join the then young Ceylon Army.

Young Master Dennis Perera’s mother’s dream was for her son to a join the order and become a Priest, due to her strong faith in religion. However, an uncle of Master Perera, who was in the Ceylon Police, saw him more as soldier material and convinced his parents to let him join the Ceylon Army.

General Perera received his initial military training at Mons Officer Cadet School, UK, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was also a graduate of the British Army’s Staff College, Camberley. In 1977, at the age of 46, he was bestowed the twin honours of being the first Engineer officer and also the youngest officer ever to be made the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army. Further the late Gen Perera was an alumni of the prestigious National Defence Collage of India.

On retirement, Gen. Perera continued to serve the nation and the corporate sector, first as the High Commissioner to Australia, and later as Chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission, and as Chairman of Ceylon Tobacco Company, and two other high performing Companies. In the year 2000, acknowledging his meritorious service to the nation he was bestowed the title, ‘Deshamanya’. He was next elevated to a Four Star General, in the year 2000.

Gen. Perera possessed a unique character and was known for his compassion and inspiration towards the people around him. He was well known to be a shrewd strategist and a sound leader who always lived up to the motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, ‘Serve to Lead’. Gen Perera maintained the highest level of integrity as an Officer and remains a role model for officering in the armed forces of Sri Lanka. As an officer, and a statesman, he made an everlasting impression for the military fraternity and the nation.

In 2010, I had an interesting experience when I flew with Gen. Perera and his gracious Lady to attend the golden Jubilee celebrations of the National Defence College, New Delhi. Though he had hung up his uniform, some time back, I felt the he remained a hard core General, the way he expressed his thoughts on military traditions. Every conversation, I had with Gen. Perera, made me feel proud as a military officer. It was very apparent that he was most upright and proud of the profession of arms. He professed that a military officer should never lean against any one or be a shadow to any one, and must stand up firm for what is right.

I am very confident that this august audience needs no elaboration on Gen. Perera‘s role in establishing the KDU. Gen. Perera pioneered and triggered the conversion of the ‘Kandawala Estate’ into the esteemed Military University it is today.

It was indeed fitting that Gen. Perera himself was appointed the first Chancellor after it became a University. Gen. Dennis Perera’s visionary leadership and foresight provided our Army with the Commandos and the Women’s Corps as integral units, in corporate parlance two timely investments that have brought rich dividends.

The Association of Retired Flag Rank Officers (ARFRO), which has brought us together this evening, was another successful effort of Gen Dennis Perera. This is the professional institution of the profession of arms in Sri Lanka. It is a member of the esteemed Organization of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka and is affiliation to the World Consultative Association of Retired Generals, Admirals & Air Marshals. A truly worthy outfit to be in, for military veteran of Flag rank after a retirement.

Ladies and gentlemen, Gen. Dennis Perera, was a passionate leader, a visionary and a professional, whose life is worthy of celebration at the highest level of esteem and appreciation.

Considering the epitome of military officering in Sri Lanka whom this oration is dedicated to, I chose as my discourse the obvious attributes practiced by him.

General Collin Powell, the former US Secretary of State said:

“The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.”

Ladies and gentlemen, from the very beginning of civilization, when mankind engaged in war fighting, the officer was the nucleus and the pivot around which the rank and file rallied for guidance, direction and leadership. Thus, an officer with firm, coherent decisional ability and robust leadership becomes important for the structural integrity of any military unit.

The contemporary armed forces are ramping up their efforts to groom a capable breed of officers to lead and confront the asymmetric threats encountered by nations in battle spaces which are not clearly defined. It is the need of the day that this effort should persist from the moment an officer joins, as it is only knowledge and its continuous application that will make one perfect.

In this context I would like to quote from Aristotle

“We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit“.

For any military officer, Integrity is the primary attribute which strengthens his moral fiber to control emotions, both in times of adversity and success. Integrity is a leadership attribute discussed at length in our profession.

Integrity is defined as, ‘The quality of truthfulness, honesty and maintaining of moral standard’.

Integrity then should not be considered a mere attribute, but a virtue to live by for any officer.

The world today discusses and studiously studies “Ethics” in all spheres public, corporate, national and international. Similarly the military today has been rediscovered around an ethical compass, thus military leaders need to be aware of the dramatic lift in the bar of standards in accountability, honesty, and trust.

An officer is entrusted with; state secrets relating integrity of a nation and the lives of the public and the men he leads. If an officer is found to be dishonest or disloyal, it means that his character has two sides and one will manifest to suit the circumstance, to meet his personal liking and not the common goal.

The officers as leaders must demonstrate the moral fiber to be selfless to address the needs of their subordinates before their own, and possess the integrity to seek wholesome solutions.

Our great nation expects complete honesty and integrity from us; upon which it has entrusted its security and integrity and given us all which have said we needed to do the job. Anything less, if delivered will ultimately put our nation at risk by sabotaging its future, and its strategy to compete in the world. Therefore General Eisenhower’s’ edict that “Integrity is the supreme quality of leadership” is underscored with no doubt.

Even though midway, I need to make a disclaimer that I will generalize in relation to gender and refer to military personnel as HE or HIM, only to make life easier for me in this discourse and in no way lessen the immense contribution of the ladies in our profession. Professionalism is the next attribute of officering that I endeavor to relate to.

General Charles De Gaulle (Galle), the decorated French Soldier and President describes the men of our profession as:

“Men who adopt the profession of arms submit to their own free will to a law of perpetual constraint of their own accord.

If they drop in their tracks, if their ashes are scattered in the four winds that is all part and parcel of their job.”

The contemporary military culture is far distanced from the traditional forms of war fighting, as cyber space, smart equipment and proactive tactics have encroached at a rapid pace.

However, technology cannot and will not replace the concept of professional officering. Thus the military needs a corps of highly skilled technology savvy officers to command them in tomorrow’s uncertain environment.

On the other hand, the knowledge of common affairs and skill that is expected from an officer cannot be obtained only by referring to a stack of books and manuals only. It is cumulative, and gained through hard experiences learnt through failures and the continuous attempts to succeed.

The men, the officer of today is called upon to command, are technology savvy, well educated, well socialized and have grown up in a free thinking environment. To be able command their respect and followership one needs to prove professional ability beyond doubt.

The opponents of peace the officer of today will be called upon to confront, are shrewd exponents of asymmetric warfare and are capable of exceptional cruelty and violence as well as, well strategized operations. They have learned and trained to exploit technology and the human mind, with much precision and process to achieve their sick ideological objectives.

Their standard modus operandi is to attack the social fabric at the same time from many directions.

In this context it is imperative for the officer who leads from the front to develop knowledge and all round capacity that includes ‘outside ones lane’ knowledge.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, the most important and cardinal characteristic a professional needs to have is the knowledge and competence in one’s own field.

The legendary Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, of the Indian army has once said:

“….. you cannot be born with professional knowledge and professional competence even if you are a child of Prime Minister, or the son of an industrialist or the progeny of a Field Marshal. Professional knowledge and professional competence have to be acquired by hard work and constant study.”

In addition to the explicit and tacit knowledge an officer is armed with, he also needs to have an inner thirst and passion for knowledge for things unknown and things outside the zone of comfort. For this the officer needs to be enthusiastic in the never ending process of developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge.

Due to the uncertainty, the high stress levels, and the continuously evolving threats to the society he serves, an officer’s professional competence must be at the highest level at all times.

For this it is necessary, that the appropriate candidates only be selected to hold the commission, and the aspects of their selection, training, assigning and evaluation, given the highest precedence of priority by the authorities concerned. Incompetent and unprofessional officers, who are unsuitable to lead men and incapable of rational decision-making, should not be tolerated in any military institution.

The popular edict goes on to say that “there are no bad soldiers but only bad officers”

Professionalism for an officer is not only knowing the job, but it also relates to the discipline and decorum that he and his men maintain while engaged on the task, whatever the circumstances may be. This goes beyond an officer inspecting haircuts, and turn out and bearing but reaches out to greater depth of intervening into unprofessional conduct, such as human rights abuses, or even fraternization. Both these occur due to the lack of self-control and the moral fiber to control ones emotions and is a failure that should be purged from the professional officer corps at the first hint of existence.

In this context, it is the conduct of the officer that the men will follow, and this will then decide, the esteem of the unit in the social domain it operates.

As per the Sri Lanka Air Force Ethos, Core Values and Standards adopted from the Royal Air Force, it applies the following test to determine the code of social conduct.

‘Have the actions or behaviour of an individual adversely impacted, or are they likely to impact, on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Sri Lanka Air Force?’

This test applies to all individuals of the SLAF, on or off duty, in order to undermine unprofessional behaviour without hesitation. As far as the social fabric surrounding the Sri Lankan military is concerned.

I strongly believe that this ‘self-query’ can be applied to any service institution. In the Sri Lankan post conflict environment, where we experience numerous cynical and false expressions, relating to our past and present conduct, it is the leadership that must emerge with professionalism. For this the cornerstone of professionalism must be invented upon good order, discipline, decorum, and exemplary conduct. If our profession loses the trust and confidence of the societal domain, due to unprofessional conduct, it becomes increasingly difficult to acquire the much needed popular support for the conduct of our core competency. Therefore, we must bear in mind that we as officers are responsible for the public’s perception of our institutions.

From professionalism I now delve into Empathy, the softer and lesser discussed attribute in an officer’s repertoire.

General Omar Bradley better known as the soldiers general during WW2 in one of his papers on Leadership states;

“A leader should possess human understanding and consideration for others. Men are not robots and should not be treated as though they were machines. I do not by any means suggest coddling. But men are highly intelligent, complicated beings who will respond favourably to human understanding and consideration. By this means, their leader will get maximum effort from each of them.”

Knowing your men and to possess the ability to understand and share their feelings are essential empathetic traits of a leader. It is important to develop a memory for names and faces of the people under ones command. The saying goes, ‘a man’s name is to him the most important word in his language’. Our subordinates endure great pains emotionally, psychologically, physically and socially during war and during peace.

For an officer to mitigate the emotional pain, the officer needs to be able to empathize and make the man feel that his pain is felt even though not necessarily shared or the issue resolved. The approach to resolving subordinates emotional issues is often confounding as only the manifestation is seen.

Human and social issues faced by our subordinates cannot be resolved by the mere application of military law or generous distribution of welfare items to families of subordinates. The genuine caring nature and the ability to feel subordinates pain and see their point of view even though not necessarily accepted are the qualities of an empathetic leader.

Thus, empathy, is an integral part of officering as our subordinates, are constantly exposed to multifarious and intense stressors.

If we carefully review history we see the empathetic side of leaders who were ruthless in the execution of war.

Field Marshall Erwin Rommell the legendry ‘Dessert Fox’ of the Africa Korps, is known to have been greatly loved by his men and respected by the enemy; he is said to have looked after his men well and grieved at their loss, It is also said that he ignored orders from Nazi leadership to summarily execute prisoners of war.

When an officer is aware of the emotional state of his men, it creates an unspoken bond of trust between them and the officer. Without empathy and compassion ones subordinates will always keep their ‘guards up’ and be cautious and will have less camaraderie towards their leader.

General George S. Patton, better known by men as “ole blood an guts” is quoted in the book “War as I knew it”

“Officers are responsible, not only for the conduct of their men in battle, but also for their health and contentment when not fighting. An officer must be the last man to take shelter from fire, and the first to move forward.

Throughout my discourse I have elaborated on three core attributes that are the Ethos of Officering, Integrity, Professionalism, and Empathy. The thresholds of these three attributes converge in most instances supporting one and other.

These three attributes taken in broader sense encompass all values that we would like a leader of our choice to possess. It is not rationally possible for a single human being to possess all three values in their entirety, but we as seniors need to emphasize the importance of these attributes to our younger generations.

As I said, our younger generations have grown up in a “free thinking environment” and tend to refer to the words realism and pragmatism instead of values. It is in this sense that we need to create awareness of the importance of “means as well as the successful achievement of the end” It is here that the Ethos of officering comes into bearing.

In the SLAF we have recently introduced the booklet “ETHOS & CORE VALUES” in this we have translated our values into a broad statement.Through this statement our intention is to give the officer an identity based on value and say ‘this is who I am’. At this point I must acknowledge that this book is based on an inheritance from The Royal Air Force but has been remodeled to suit our needs, our culture, and our own values.

The art of officering has evolved in many ways to suit the trends of change, but there are many unwritten laws, traditions, customs, and a value based system of officering handed down by our forefathers of this profession that our generation will now hand over to the next. Men and technology will come and retire but these value based traditions cannot be changed nor should review be attempted, as they stem from valuable lessons learnt from engagement in painful conflict.

Integrity, professionalism and empathy are the attributes that serve as the pillars of genuine officering, they need to be taught, nurtured, developed and appreciated when practiced. This will ensure that the respect and esteem of our sacred profession will remain intact.

May the Late Deshamanya Gen. Dennis Perera be remembered by the future generation for his excellence in soldiering!


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Sat Mag

George Floyd, African-Americans, and Sri Lanka’s Estate Tamils (Part I)



By Uditha Devapriya

Over two weeks, the George Floyd protests spread practically everywhere. From Kansas to Kenya, from Baltimore to Berlin, they turned into symbols of dissent against not just the racism, but also the xenophobia, of White America.

One of the most haunting images to emerge from the demonstrations was that of a young Sri Lankan girl, draped in the flag of her country, posing defiantly on the streets of an American city. The image and the girl in it attracted both support and opposition, the latter coming from militant Sinhala nationalists who felt she dishonoured a national symbol by using it as a sign of civil disobedience involving a domestic issue of another country.

The response of the nationalists to the George Floyd uprisings was, if at all, amusing. One section of this crowd took to social media to condemn White America for exhibiting its racist, chauvinist face yet again. Another section – no less big or significant – took the opposite stance, censuring those protesting against the murder of a black civilian because, to them at least, Floyd’s murder did not warrant the rampaging and the pillaging of public property. To the latter group, these protests seemed disproportionate to what they regarded as an instance of police authority enforcing the law over a minority community.

The few within the nationalist crowd who did support the raging protests were, even more amusingly, taken to task on social media by another group, this one ideologically opposed to nationalism. The latter crowd seemed to think, not without justification, that the nationalists sharing posts and posting comments against White America were myopic: they seemed to sympathise with George Floyd, but not with the Tamils and Muslims of Sri Lanka, whom the anti-nationalists alleged are as discriminated against over here as George Floyd’s community is over there. Thus both nationalists opposed to the protests AND anti-nationalists critiquing the selectivity of those supporting the protests persisted in comparing African-Americans to the Tamils and Muslims of Sri Lanka.

In that sense the protests taught us two important lessons. Though they don’t form the subject of this essay, they are relevant to it, and hence need to be examined.

Firstly, the inability of many Sinhala nationalists to take their struggle against neo-colonialism and Western hegemony forward. Resistance to colonialism has historically formed the bedrock of the Sinhala nationalist lobby, yet their denunciations of this uprising betrayed a failure to think beyond geographic borders. This came out quite despairingly in their reaction to the only local political party that saw it fit to organise a protest in front of the US Embassy. The government’s crackdown on the demonstration didn’t seem to ruffle their feathers, nor did the point that the demonstrators were making.

Secondly, and just as importantly, the inability of local left-liberal outfits to come up with a proper front, in Sri Lanka, against the George Floyd murder. The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) organised the protest against the US Embassy, while the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) organised a discussion on it online. But neither of these belongs to what is traditionally labelled as “civil society.” The point can be made that the issue at the centre of these protests was not Sri Lankan and that is why civil society ignored it, but that excuse pales away when one considers that the moment sections of the nationalist crowd let out their anger at the US’s handling of the protests, certain social media civil society activists focused their energies more on pointing out the hypocrisy of the nationalists.

Despite the hostile exchanges between the two factions, one particular point brought them together: their comparison of African-Americans to Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims. They underscored this comparison from two different vantage points.

Thus the nationalists who critiqued the protests seemed to believe that, like extremist Tamils and Muslims, African-Americans and other minorities in the US were unfairly questioning the legitimacy of rule by an ethnic majority. Those opposed to the nationalists, on the other hand, inadvertently, by their critique of the nationalists’ sidelining of Tamils and Muslims, equated the latter two with the community which Floyd hailed from. The question to be asked here is whether such an analogy is, if not plausible, then at least tenable.

In 2011, a year before Barack Obama won election for a second term, Vinod Moonesinghe wrote a cogent reply to someone who in an article had wished for a Tamil or Muslim to be elected as this country’s leader. Vinod made two points there: considering Obama’s win as a win for all African-Americans failed to distinguish between his class origins and those of most African-Americans; and equating African-Americans with Tamils and Muslims was anachronistic, given the economically privileged status of the latter two groups.

Taking class and caste into consideration, then, Ranasinghe Premadasa’s election win seemed closer to such a comparison than the potential coming to power of a member of a “minority.” Taking class, caste, AND ethnicity into consideration, the analogy would have to extend, not to Jaffna and Colombo Tamils, Moors, and Malays, or Borahs and Sindhis, but instead to a community that, like the blacks of the US, was imported as dirt cheap labour, cut off from the rest of the population, and supervised under a setup no different to the plantations of the southern US. In other words, the migrant Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka.

Before making an analogy between these two groups, though, it would do well to reflect, very briefly, on the historical trajectory of slavery in the West.

Following the Arab invasions of the seventh and eighth centuries, Europe turned inward. The eminent historian Fernand Braudel has written of a “second serfdom” that sprang up in parts of the continent where feudalism failed to give way to capitalism. The result was the growth of a kind of slavery, white slavery, across the East, in what is now Russia; it’s a testament to the legacy of the trade which emerged there that the word “slave” derived from the ethnicity of those marshalled into it from that region, Slav.

With the influence of the Arabs and the Ottoman Turks after them waning after the fall of Granada in 1492 (the same year Columbus “discovered” the New World), a liberated Europe, discovering hitherto unchartered colonies in the Americas on one side and Australia on the other, gradually instituted a system of indentured white bondage.

It has been estimated that around 67% of all white immigrants to the new colonies arrived there as servants. These immigrants were bound to a contract that compelled them to work for an overseer, without pay, over a specified period of time. Most often such contracts were drawn for those who had a prior obligation to these overseers which they couldn’t meet, such as a debt. Since the government usually didn’t interfere with these contracts, extortion and kidnappings became common, as they would among Africans later on. The situation was such that even in as late as 1910 the US government was trying to put an end to white slavery: the White Slave Traffic Act (or the Mann Act) that year made it a felony to transport women across state borders for the purposes of “prostitution or debauchery.”

Debt bondage, however, applied in the early period only to white immigrants to the white colonies, and the Irish; the difference between their situation and that of African slaves was that the latter were never recruited to pay off an obligation; most of them ended up as lifelong labourers, unpaid and treated as chattel or property. As Liam Stack once observed, “[u]nlike slaves, servants were considered legally human.”

To put this in its proper perspective, the position of those shipped to the sugar plantations of the West Indies and the cotton mills of the southern United States fitted that of neither indentured servants nor wage labourers. The process of recruiting and transporting these Africans, in the long term, thus became, as Gordon K. Lewis put it, “quasi-militarised”, while once quartered in the plantations their owners did everything to isolate the unfortunate immigrants, prisoners really, from the world outside.

Revisionist historians, white and black, have tried to understate the full weight of black slavery, either by pointing at the involvement of African intermediaries in it or by showing that European Christians became as entangled in it as Africans.

Thus Robert Davis (Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters) argues that while the Atlantic slave trade was 12 times as large, more Christians than Africans were captured between 1500 and 1650, while Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (“How Many Slaves Landed in the US?”) contends that of the 10.7 million Africans who survived the passage to the West, “only about 388,000” were shipped to the United States. What these “findings” fail to show is that black slavery was not geographically limited to the US, or for that matter to Western Europe, and that from 1530 to 1780, when more than five million Africans found themselves dispatched to Portugal and Brazil, only about a million Christians were forced into servitude in North Africa, along the Barbary Coast and into the Ottoman Empire.

The Abolitionist movement, no doubt representative of a progressive, enlightened wing in the Evangelical Revival, agitated for African slavery’s end. It did this as much for moral reasons as for pragmatic ones; the rise in Britain of an industrial Whig bourgeoisie over a landed Tory gentry and the expansion of British interests in Asia and Africa had by then necessitated the rise of plantation colonialism. It is hence not a coincidence that African slaves in the British West Indies were emancipated by official proclamation in the same year (1833) that the most ambitious set of administrative proposals were tabled in Sri Lanka (Colebrooke-Cameron) to lay the foundation for the new colonial plantation economy.

Against this backdrop, black slavery soon receded to countries where a white settler class predominated, including Rhodesia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. S. B. D. de Silva in The Political Economy of Underdevelopment refers to these as “settler states”, a distinction I will return to later. In any case, what we have here is the first of many differences between the plight of African-Americans and that of Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims.

Plantation colonialism demolished and also made use of existing traditional political, cultural, social, and economic patterns in much of Asia and Africa. The most immediate result of that, of course, was the impoverishment of the peasantry; in Sri Lanka, as we know, the peasantry most directly affected by these policies remained the Kandyan Sinhalese.

Marx was largely correct in his comparison of British domination of India to that of Ireland. He was more prescient in the implication that the British brought with them to the colonies their experience in subjugating the Irish peasantry. Two policies make it clear to what extent they were following the Irish example in India and Sri Lanka: the expropriation of peasant land, and the pursuit of divide and rule. I shall turn to these next week, and with them, the growth and evolution of Indian migrant labour.

To be continued next week…

The writer can be reached at

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Sat Mag

Imagine yourself being fried and eaten bit by bit



I cannot make up my mind: Is the meat eater, who eats dead animals killed in slaughterhouses, worse than the meat eater who kills the animal himself while eating it?

There is a certain type of person who goes to a restaurant, chooses a live fish, octopus shrimp or snake in a transparent aquarium tank, has it taken out of the glass and killed and cooked in front of him. His only reason for this to himself is that the meat should be “fresh”. In actual fact some people truly enjoy suffering. That, for them, is as important as the taste.

What can I say about people who enjoy eating these foods?

The Chinese Ying Yang fish is fried but kept alive. You can see videos of diners prodding at the face and eyes with their chopsticks while the fish struggles to breathe with its mouth and gills. It is prepared extremely quickly, with care not to damage the internal organs, so that the fish can remain alive for 30 minutes. Fish are the most sensitive of all to pain. Imagine yourself being fried and then eaten bit by bit.

In Japan, Sashimi, which means pierced body, is a common Japanese dish consisting of fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces and eaten with soy sauce. One kind of Sashimi is Ikizukuri (“prepared alive”) made with live sea beings. Fish and octopus are common ingredients that move on the plate as you eat them. Sashimi could also include live frogs. The frog is stripped of its skin while alive and stabbed delicately with a fork and eaten. One restaurant in Shinjuku serves the frog’s fresh, still beating heart, as starters. Lobsters are not always boiled alive and dead by the time they reach your plate. Restaurants in New York serve lobsters while they’re still alive. They are upturned and diners pick out “belly sashimi” from the lobster which flails in pain for all the time you take to slash and take out his stomach meat. Another common dish in Japan is swallowing live baby eels dipped in vinegar and saké.

In South Korea, Sannakji is a dish that involves hacking the tentacles off a baby octopus and serving them still wriggling. Sannakji connoisseurs enjoy the sensation of the still-active suction cups on the octopus’ arms as they stick to the mouth.

The Chinese cannot be bested for their addiction to cruelty. Live shrimp are put into a liquor called Baijiu and diners bite their heads off while drinking it. This can give you lung fluke disease, but what is more important than proving your manhood by killing a shrimp. In China there is a dish called “Three squeaks” in which live baby mice are dunked in sauce and eaten alive. The reason why it is called “Three Squeaks” is due to the sounds the mice make when grabbed with chopsticks, dunked in the sauce and bitten through.

Raw live baby monkey brain is a very expensive dish eaten by rich people in China and Hong Kong. The chef puts a live monkey beneath a table with its head poking up through a hole. The chef slices the top of the head off and the customers eat its brains while it screams. Fresh baby donkey, or Huo Jiao Lu. The animal has its legs tied and its body held down, while the chef cuts its body and serves the meat immediately to customers.

Live baby duck embryos, just a day from being hatched, are a famous Chinese specialty which is now common in the Philippines as well. In the latter country it is called Balut. The Filipinos eat the egg boiled. The Chinese eat it raw to get the full taste of the egg white, the little yolk left, and the live squirming chick. No wonder the Chinese make such dangerous enemies. They love violence and gore.

Odori ebi or “dancing shrimp” is a Japanese sashimi in which the baby pink shrimp is still moving its legs and antennae while being eaten. The shrimp only dies when chewed. Odori Don is a live cuttlefish whose tentacles twitch as you pour the soy and chew it.

Consuming the beating heart and blood of live snakes is common in Vietnam. You choose the live snake at roadside stalls and they cut it and serve it within a minute. I have seen this in Hong Kong. In China people eat live baby snakes.

Sea urchins are the porcupines of the sea; globular animals with long spines to defend themselves. They live on the seabed. But their spines cannot protect them from human greed. They are caught and served live. Their testicles are a delicacy across the world, specially Europe. The live animal is cut on the plate with scissors and its salty gonads are taken out and eaten raw.

The most common animal to be eaten alive is the oyster which is served alive. Its spine is broken, and its insides are slurped up raw. This was originally a French dish but is now eaten all over.

A famous chain of restaurants in Copenhagen serves salads crawling with live ants supposedly to add a zesty taste. These move slowly because they have been kept in the fridge previously. Wichetty grubs are chewed live in parts of Australia. They are said to taste like nutty fried eggs.

Casu Marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese eaten in Italy.  Its specialty is that it contains the live maggots of the cheese fly, which jump about in panic as you scrunch them. Casu Marzu has so much ammonia in it from its faeces that it scorches the tongue. Milk cheeses containing living insect larvae are produced in several Italian regions.

Television game shows that I have repeatedly complained about to the Ministry over the years is Fear Factor and Survivor where contestants eat live insects, spiders, cockroaches and worms. But by the time they take action, the series is already over. Then we start the cycle again with the next series. Man vs Wild is another show in which Bear Gryllis shows his manhood by eating live insects.

What is the word for people who demand food that is so full of pain? Monsters? Ugly terrifying evil beings that are probably a menace to human society as well. 

(To join the animal

welfare movement contact, www.

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Sat Mag

The elephant and alli mankada



By Ashley de Vos

In 1999, a proposal was made by the undersigned as President of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, to document from the existing information in the Department of Wildlife Conservation, held in the archives of Mr. Wilson, an erudite Officer, and draw a map showing the original Alli Mankada, as they existed prior to 1977. Many ‘Experts’ objected, that they had all changed. They had all changed, yes, but we were after the Ayurveda solution to the problem, instead of the ampicillin solution of the western educated experts.

As a quick fix an ampicillin solution in the form of an electric fence was promoted and installed at enormous cost. This we all know has failed. These elephants for centuries have travelled from A to B along the Alli Mankada. Today this highway or the Mankada they travelled along has been blocked, and a detour has been introduced. Let’s apply the very same scenario to us humans. We are merrily travelling along the highway with our family trying to get to B. Half way we are confronted with a road block, we are not told why, but forced to take a detour. We have now to travel along narrow roads, not properly sign posted, across unfamiliar territory, meet new people, some friendly, some not, they are agitated, because of the sudden increase in traffic encroaching into their privacy and disrupting their life styles as well. Some put up boards requesting that the traffic should move slowly and hope the detour would be closed down and the highway opened up as soon as possible.

The poor elephant faces the very same scenario. They have travelled the highway, the Alli Mankada for centuries. Suddenly without any warning, due to a politically influenced decision and without a bird brain of thought the elephant highway, the Alli Mankada is closed. The disruption could be a badly located chicken farm belonging to a friend of the politician, an ill designed housing scheme, or the indiscriminate distribution of land usually for political expediency. Remember the people have a vote, the elephants don’t. The elephant journey from A to B, now for no real researched reason has been diverted through new areas. Through villagers have never seen the movement of the elephant herds in their village before. Some of the coconut trees destroyed are close to 10 years of more. They had been safe till the indiscriminate blocking of the Alli Mankada that diverted the herds, via electric fences in a new direction.

It is certainly not the fault of the elephant, but they are forced to suffer, they are shot, they are electrocuted, fed the insane Hakka Pattas. Those who indulge in this method, should lose any good karma that they may have accrued in the past, and be relegated to spend the rest of their million lives in the darkest hell hole. One cannot induce arbitory changes to the Alli Mankada, the fact is that these highways are engraved in the genes, is why we still see elephants climbing Koslanda on their way up to the highest landscapes like Poonagala.

Any good research has to commence from the base not from a contorted half way, leaving elephants on both sides of the electric fence. The cause has to be understood first, to arrive at the real solution. If people have been wrongly settled, if industries have been wrongly placed, if national parks have been compromised, now is the time to change, to get back. To look for permanent solutions, even if it means alternate lands. This would then constitute a permanent solution. To open up the Alli Mankada. We will not need the electric fences or the Hakka Pattas anymore, much to the disappointment of the suppliers. The politicians responsible for creating the illegal encroachments should be taken to task. If the map of the original Alli Mankada could be produced and forwarded to all authorities at least the Officers will understand the possible repercussions of their folly. No one can fane ignorance and say, THEY DID NOT KNOW.

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