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Jaishankar means Victory of Lord Shiva! – Part II



By Austin Fernando
(Former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in India)
(Continuied from yesterday)
Development and relationships

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar considered developing mutual relationships concerning existing projects, e. g. the East Container Terminal (ECT) and the Trincomalee Petroleum Tanks.

The Indians have observed increasing involvement of the Chinese in the Colombo and Hambantota ports; in Colombo through the Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd – (CICT), a joint venture between China Merchants Port Holdings Company Ltd., and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). The main stakeholders of South Asia Gateway Terminal – (SAGT) are A.P. Moller Group and John Keells Holdings PLC. The CICT Transshipment business has been there since 2013 with the Chinese owning 85% of its shares; the SAGT has been operational with 10 partners since 1999, with 85% ownership. Therefore, it is only natural that the Indians seek the same terms as China and the private sector.


Transshipment and ‘Sale’ of ECT

India accounts for 66% of Colombo’s transshipment; it is projected to become the world’s fifth-biggest economy. Hence, Sri Lanka’s transshipment business may heavily depend on India. The argument being peddled in some quarters that a possible Indian policy decision to avoid Colombo could deal a crippling blow to Sri Lanka’s transshipment business has been rejected by the protesting trade unions, which insist that vital decisions in this regard are taken by shipping companies, and not governments. I believe the unions are right to a considerable extent on this score.

The transshipment business involves a complex integrated network of industrialists, shippers, ports, and a market that demands fast, timely, secured goods transfer at competitive prices, and, most of all, sustainability. For these reasons, reputed foreign shipping companies engaging with the SLPA, is welcome. As it happens elsewhere, it could be a joint venture (JV). The ‘sale’ of any physical assets is out of the question because the term ‘sale’ triggers protests.

Perhaps, the fact that Adani is an Indian venture might have ignited protests. The Indians may be questioning why such protests were absent when the CICT (with 85% shares against the proposed 51% for Adani) and the SAGT similarly partnered with the SLPA. Of course, the term ‘sale’ was not used then. Secondly, the Indians may be wondering why there was no hostile reaction to questionable actions benefitting the Chinese, e.g., the alienation of extremely valuable land for the Chinese, and permission for Chinese submarines to be berthed at the CICT, allegedly at a risk to the country’s sovereignty. Thirdly, due to other geopolitical contradictions, India may be suspecting that anti-Indian competitive business interests find expression through protesters, despite claims to the contrary. Fourthly, the Indians are concerned about not an only port-related business but also politics, defence, security, and self-respect.

Sri Lanka must strive to strengthen economic ties with India, whose economy is expanding fast. Therefore, transshipment networking should be re-evaluated in that context. Transshipment competitors such as Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Oman, Abu Dhabi, etc. have gone into overdrive in developing their ports. If Sri Lanka does not do likewise to remain competitive by developing its ports, it will lose.

As for the importance of upgrading ports, one can look at Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port. It handled around 2.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo in 2018 and expects to increase the volume to 8 million-plus TEUs by 2023, by the addition of more ship-to-shore cranes and deeper berths. The investment of $ 1.1 billion comes from the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). Another example is the Port of Salalah benefitting from over USD 800 million in investment expecting to handle over 5 million TEUs. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government must look for lessons on suitable partner/s.

Terminal operations are complex even in India. Although most Indian ports are state-owned, individual terminals are operated by large private companies such as DP World, AP Moller Terminals, and PSA International. Sri Lankans are demanding that ports be managed by the state when competitors are opening doors to foreign and local private partners. Given the generally poor performance of our state-owned ventures, the demand for state involvement in operating in a highly competitive environment must be gladdening the hearts of private competitors elsewhere and even here.

To understand the advantages of integrated terminal management I quote Rohan Masakorala. Having explained how shipping partners negotiate and undertake sharing assets, he has said:

“Therefore, it is proven beyond doubt that irrespective of the country’s wealth and the size of the shipping line, they do partner with competing lines for logical reasons as networks, provide better business models and solutions than working in isolation.” 

We are not a large goods producer or shipowner. We must depend on ‘partnering with competing lines for logical reasons,’ utilizing favorable logistics networks, providing “better business models and solutions than working in isolation.” Thus, the challenge before Dr. Jaishankar may be to find a mutually agreeable business model. Probably, the managerial structures may be of some help, but They should have been transparently negotiated with all stakeholders.


Protesting India or JV concept?

Are the ongoing protests against India, or the proposed ECT deal? Or are they due to domestic political frustration or an attempt by the mainstream/social media to embarrass the government? Or are they to finally withdraw and show the hierarchy was reasonable? Is it to force withdrawal and antagonize India to make China to be the saviour from other economic problems? So many complications! Whatever, the protests are huge even to change stances.

Some of those who protested then are now ministers who have realized the need to address realities of development, geopolitics, diplomacy, neighbourly relations, other anticipated economic and political favours, etc; they support President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the ECT issue. Similarly, some of those who were in the Yahapalana administration supporting the ECT deal is now in the Opposition, protesting the Indian involvement. They have forgotten that their government initiated this project with the Indians. The protesters need to take cognizance of the un-explained truth of mutuality as mentioned by Dr. Jaishankar.


Facing issues for solving

For decisions, clarity is needed on issues. There are six major issues”.

The first is the conceptual agreement of developing the terminals with foreign involvement. The Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa governments by establishing the SAGT and the CICT respectively accepted it. The incumbent President has realized this, but the circumstances have changed.

Chronologically, the Yahapalana government had only a terminal in mind when the MOU-2017 was signed. In 2018, President Sirisena insisted that the ECT be developed by the SLPA as currently demanded by Unions. He was for foreign participation in developing the West Container Terminal (WCT). In 2019, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) was signed after President Sirisena’s discussions with PMs Modi and Abe for ECT development by an Indian and Japanese operational JV. About a fortnight back President Gotabaya Rajapaksa preferred developing WCT by the SLPA and ECT by Indians. The latest is the Unions accepting external investment in WCT, and the government developing the ECT. (The Island February 1st, 2021). Note the sea changes the wavering state policy on this issue has undergone during the last years and even within a fortnight.

The WCT was on offer in 2018 and the Indians refused. Will they change their stance now? It is too early for the Indians to respond to the latter. If they have stronger bargaining chips, they will remain tight-lipped with a view to winning finally. Anyhow, in inter-state business, if such a change happens, parties discuss and agree before making public statements. In a way, Sri Lanka, which withdrawn from the UNHRC resolution as publicised, withdrawal from a MOC will be no issue. It will depend on the chip in Indian hands.

Still do do not be surprised if the Indians strictly demand implementing the MoC.

The second is the operational mechanism. The CICT is operated by a Chinese company. At the SAGT, the mechanism involves international and local private operators. Therefore, according to the precedent, the agreed mechanism is foreign private operators with the SLPA. But now, is it Adani Group or a different company or other like above Abu Dhabi ports? Or is it an SLPA-Private Sector Project? Could it be Adani’s allied domestic private sector? Many equations are possible.

The third is the selection process. Adani Group is the nominee of India. How Gautham Adani’s company was selected is unknown. If the CITC or the SAGT partners were selected by established procurement procedures, the precedent must be followed. One may recall that Minister Arjuna Ranatunga informed the Cabinet before 2017- MSC that the ‘new operator should be selected following the established Procurement Guidelines.’ Recently, Minister Namal Rajapaksa has also spoken of procedures. These must be discussed across the table because there could be exceptions to procedures.

The fourth is the ownership of the ECT project. The Presidential Media Unit (PMU) Statement and PM Rajapaksa’s statement in Parliament said: “No selling, no leasing of ECT’. But the PMU statement signified an “investment project that has 51% ownership by the government” and the remainder by Adani and other stakeholders. The term ‘51% ownership’ unfortunately but logically makes Adani and others the ‘owner of 49%.”

However, in the aforesaid MOC these percentages are for a “Terminal Operations Company,” meant for the “explicit purpose of providing the equipment and systems necessary for the development of the ECT and managing the ECT.” This difference between ‘ownership’ and the operational company’s objectives clear doubts, but this fact has not been highlighted, fertilizing suspicions.

Ownership is the legal relationship between a person and an object. Therefore, the protestors harp against giving ‘part-ownership’ to Adani, because SLPA owns the whole ECT now. The protestors understand “ownership” as an outcome of a ‘selling’ process. As damage controlling, the President repeated about a JV, with SLPA participation with Adani’s, and others as stakeholders. It is the reality matching the MOC. But the explanation came one week after the PMU statement. By then protestors have socially marketed ‘selling ECT.’

The fifth issue is the influencers/motivators. How views against the President’s wishes are being expressed smack of a move to keep the Indians away. Clearing such doubts is difficult when efforts are organized concertedly.

Sixthly, the happenings unrelated to the ECT could muddy the waters. The destruction of the Jaffna University memorial, Indian fishermen’s deaths, and the Cabinet decision to establish Hybrid Renewable Energy Systems in Nainathivu, Delft, and Analathivu islands through a Chinese contractor (upon international competitive bidding) are three such issues. The last is an extremely security-sensitive issue for India although it was presumably not a favor done to the Chinese by Sri Lanka. The Indians have previously vehemently protested the berthing of Chinese submarines in Colombo and the Chinese housing projects in the North. The Indian protests will be diplomatic and subtle. Nevertheless, their repercussions could override the ECT issues and may influence other bilateral and multilateral matters.

Way forward amidst contradictions

The need is to develop the ECT. Sri Lankan governments are known for policy changes and contradictions; Indians are different. Just see the aforesaid policy contradictions. Even the ECT protesters have double standards. When the CICT with ‘85% foreign ownership’ was established, there were no grudges. When the government announced its decision to form a JV with Adani and others, having 49% shares, therein to run the ECT all hell broke loose!

It is necessary to stop bickering if it is development that we seek. The country must prioritize the economy, neighborhood relations, private sector involvement, foreign investment promotion, diplomacy, security, financing, other personal and political issues.

Although decisions on the Sri Lankan ports must be economic, in this complex world, they are invariably influenced by other factors. I hope the government will strike a balance and select the best option. Sri Lankan must not enslave itself to other countries. It must negotiate for the best profitable and sustainable solutions, be it with China, India, or the US or with large shipping companies undertaking port development. The government must maintain transparency in negotiating the terms of port development. A move to sell a state asset or any move that can be construed as such is sure to lead to negative responses. Concurrently, let the protesters engage with the government and work toward developing the Colombo Port.

As it is, DR Jaishankar’s victory has not yet come about completely. There are roadblocks on his path. The Indian silence is deceptive. However, the Indian responses may not be restricted to shipping. When responses deceptively happen, the consequences could be hurting. Dr. Jaishankar knows Kautilyan deception and would have learned from Sun Tzu when he was the Indian Ambassador in China. Hence the need for Sri Lanka to tread cautiously.


Reciprocation of relationships

Nevertheless, the professional diplomat that he is, Minister Jaishankar highlighted the grand mutual relationship with Sri Lanka, the “trust, interest, respect, and sensitivity.” Perhaps, Indian critics could question this mutuality having seen the protests.

During the Yahapalana regime, mutuality on the part of India was diminishing, although India does not publicly admit it. This for example was reflected in the budgetary allocations for the neighborhood in Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget, where only INR 250 crore was provided for Sri Lanka out of INR 8,415 crore total, while countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Mauritius, the Maldives received much more. The reason may be the security considerations of India. India further expanded a package for the Maldives (August 13th, 2020), that included a $100 million grant and a $400 million new line of credit, for the Greater Malé Connectivity Project, expressing extra neighborly attachment.

Concurrently, requests for a $ 1 billion financial lifeline swap and nearly $ 1 billion debt moratorium made by President and PM Rajapaksas from PM Modi are delayed for months, irrespectively of the much-flaunted mutuality. Sri Lanka should read these signs carefully and understand the message.

Minister Gunawardena (understandably) did not mention competition that may arise from the seaport Projects at Vizhinjam in Kerala, and Nicobar, owned by Indians. Both did not bother about PM Modi’s declaration: “There is a proposal to build a transshipment port at Great Nicobar at a cost of about Rs. 10,000 crores. Large ships can dock once this port is ready” (The Times of India -Business- of August 10th, 2020). Mark the words, “transshipment port!” These ports will invariably compete with Colombo’s ETC in the future, and India may through Nicobar aim to become the transshipment hub, being in proximity to the busy east-west shipping routes. This points to the need for developing the ECT fast and making it competitive.

For sustainability and safety in this competitive business, it will be necessary to be cautious if joint ventures are to be formed, especially by reaching an agreement on time frames, exit clauses, investment programming, senior managerial positioning, arbitration in Sri Lanka, etc. For these the active participation of the SLPA, which has expertise is mandatory. Unfortunately, nothing is heard about such moves. One hears only the voice of the protesting Unions.


Security aspects of relationships

Dr. Jaishankar mentioned maritime security and safety but did not make specific mention of Quad or Indo-Pacific interventions or China. What we must understand about the Indian attitude towards security is that India expects us to be India-centric as could be seen from the following statement by Shri Avatar Singh Bhasin on Indian security relationships:

“There could be no running away from the fact that small states in the region fell in India’s security perimeter and therefore must not follow policies that would impinge on her security concerns in the area. They should not seek to invite outside power(s). If any one of them needed any assistance it should look to India. India’s attitude and relationship with her immediate neighbors depended on their appreciation of India’s regional security concerns; they would serve as buffer states in the event of an extra-regional threat and not proxies of the outside powers…”

The proxy need not be only China; even if it is the US, India will be perturbed, if lines are crossed. Therefore, Minister Jaishankar’s security concerns must be viewed concerning the aforesaid criteria. Dr. Jaishankar subscribes to these. About his visit, the Indian Television had this to say: “An important focus of his visit will be the Chinese presence in the Hambantota harbor on a 99-year lease. It is an understanding between China and Sri Lanka that they will not undertake any military venture there. So, India will take the help of Sri Lanka to ensure that Chinese military or Chinese hegemony don’t come to this region.” This is the Indian attitude.

India’s position always remains the same: “Do not be a proxy of the Chinese, be a buffer state! Do not allow the Indian Ocean to be the Chinese Ocean!” However, considering the proximity, long relations, the possibility for political displacements, regional economics, etc. Sri Lanka will think of the advantage of being with the Indians, of course, without being a buffer. To what extent other motivations—financial, economic development, diplomatic, security, etc.—would work is also important especially when Sri Lanka is haunted by international interventions like the one at the UNHRC. It is not easy to gain the required balance.



Indo-Lanka relations were highlighted by both Ministers. The impending global situations after COVID 19 and the complexities arising due to geopolitics and developments will compel Sri Lanka to work with the world powers. In that respect, even if the past is forgotten the present and future will make it imperative that we maintain friendly relations with everyone, especially with India and China, latter expected to be the future number one economy. This is the reason why Sri Lanka should pay attention to the purpose of Dr. Jaishankar’s recent visit and maintain balance.

Overall, the Indian Foreign Minister visited Sri Lankan not to lose, but to prove that he was ‘Jai Shankar.’ Whether he departed on January 7th, 2021 with expected goodies, officially satisfied to celebrate his 66th birthday the following day, are secrets and will be known in days to come.

Finally, it will be mutually beneficial for both Sri Lanka and India to make compromises and strengthen their relations instead of being obdurate.

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Strong on vocals



The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.



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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year



Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.



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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations



Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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