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Lessons from Shukra Munawwar

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The whole nation is enchanted by the mesmerizing performance of a young girl from Galle hitting the jackpot at the Sirasa Lakshapathi quiz programme. No doubt Shukra is a very gifted and intelligent girl with a superb photographic memory, who has made the best use of the very limited resources available to her. Her all-encompassing knowledge of Sri Lankan history, literature and Buddhism, as well as in international affairs, world history and matters of science, was really amazing. She has been reading books of every kind and could remember many facts in those books. What impressed me most was her determination, keeping her cool at times of much stress while answering difficult questions, characteristics rarely seen in a 17-years-old schoolgirl.

Although Shukra admitted that she faced the competition only to enable her to buy a laptop computer, with the prize money, for her online lessons, she was not lured by money alone. She could have lost much if she got the answers wrong in the later stages, but undeterred tried her best to give the correct answers. She had much confidence in her own memory and was reluctant to use the lifelines until quite late. To reach the last two questions, with two lifelines still available, exemplifies that. The way she erupted with exhilaration after every correct answer showed the unspoiled innocent behaviour of a typical schoolgirl. On the other hand, the intense deliberation of the answer to the final question with pursed lips and wide open eyes showed maturity far beyond her age. Especially so after she was disappointed by the final lifeline, she requested, and the quiz master constantly reminding her of the option to leave without answering, taking away one million rupees.

The school Shukra attends is a government mixed school in Galle. However, the facilities for sports, cadetting, etc., provided by this school, are exemplary. She is naturally very proud about the school. The teachers and children should be commended for the happy environment provided for Shukra and helping her to overcome financial difficulties. The way they did it, keeping her identity under covers, to enable her to attend the cadet camp, is admirable. The girl herself did not trouble her parents, asking for material things, which she knew they were not able to afford, and was lavish in her praise for the school.

Though her father is disabled, the parents of Shukra are very open-minded, doing their best for the daughter, despite much economic difficulty. Which parent, especially in the tradition bound Muslim community, would allow a teenage daughter to play football, cricket and attend a cadet camp? The serene composure, shown by the mother, while the daughter was anxiously contemplating answers, indicates that this family is one out of the ordinary. They deserve full credit for being so broad-minded, and should be held up as an example to all parents, especially those handicapped by various religious taboos.

The fact that she attended a government mixed school, rather than a school confined to a religious group, appears to have made a big difference. Shukra never gave the impression that she felt any difference in the way she was being treated, and has expressed herself fully in all aspects. That in itself is a lesson for all who hope to restore racial harmony in this troubled land. In her various discourses, during the competition, she came out with many relevant facts that should be heard by all decision-makers. Referring to many other poverty stricken children, like herself, she stressed the need for provision of basic facilities to continue with their education, which she quite rightly alluded to as the main avenue to escape poverty and ensure a secure future. She emphasized the need for an organization to provide facilities, like computers, for online studies. It is recognized throughout the world that the proper education of women is a vital factor in the progress of any society.

Her ideas about her future role in emancipation of women should not be dismissed as childhood fantasy. The need for involvement of men in any movement for empowerment of women shows her deep understanding of how society works. She has been careful enough not to get involved with the controversial issues troubling her community at present. Instead she stresses the need for unity, as one nation, if we are to develop and prosper. It is noteworthy that these ideas came out spontaneously and not as a prepared speech written by someone else, showing a degree of maturity rarely seen in a 17-year-old schoolgirl. This also shows the value of her knowledge of history in understanding the problems of today. Shukra is a shining example to the younger generation of today, not used to reading in general, hence ignorant of history and current affairs outside the subject matter taught in school.

This young lady should be provided with all assistance to realize the ambitions she is determined to achieve. I sincerely hope she receives a good education, in English, as well. Unscrupulous elements in our society may try to exploit her for their own needs. Thoughts of how the 15-year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, was seriously harmed, in Pakistan, by religious extremists as punishment for advocating education of Muslim girls, worries me very much. Shukra needs the protection and guidance of well-meaning people if she were to blossom fully and achieve her full potential to become an exemplary citizen we all can be proud of. The whole nation appears to be united in wishing her well.

Mr. Chandana Sooriyabandara, the quiz master, should be congratulated for the way he conducts this programme. While being very knowledgeable himself, he allows the competitors enough space to show their knowledge and express themselves fully. Thus he has enabled us to see the vast array of virtues Shukra possesses. Well done.

 

Dr. Sarath Gamini De Silva



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Opinion

An island of Pain and Destruction?

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When there are several ‘tivus’ in the North, why was Iranativu selected for Muslim Covid burials? Why select an island with people living there, with Catholic priests, too? Why not an island with no humans at all: Is that so difficult for the Burial Experts in the Covid management?

Looks like the disposal of dead bodies, if they happen to be of Covid-infected Muslims, is the biggest problem Sri Lanka is facing  today. This is bigger than any economic issue, or any other aspects of development the country and people may be facing. It looks like there is no possibility for a “Saubhagye Dekma” or Vision of Prosperity & Splendour if any Covid Muslims are buried in this Sinhala Bauddha Dupatha.

We tried to send these bodies all the way to the Maldives, on an official request. But failed. This time it is Iranativu – and once again a failure.  So why not keep trying at Neduntivu, Sampaltivu, Vidataltivu or any other ‘tivu’ in the North or East; and till a suitable place is found, keep the dead bodies frozen at taxpayer expenditure? 

Now that the US has decided to take some un-Trump moves about Saudi Arabia, why does not the former and present US citizens  that rule Sri Lanka, think of sending all Covid Muslim corpses to Saudi Arabia, for sacred burials? With the Saudi leaders thinking of new plans for investment, Sri Lanka could become a new target of Saudi funds pouring in. But will this lead to the Sri Lankan Muslims getting any stronger than they are now?

Or, will we wait till we discover or develop a new “Gotativu or Nandasenativu” off Sri Lanka, an Isle of Saubhagya?

Are the Indian Aircraft flying in the special  70-year celebrations of the Sri Lanka Air Force an assurance of new Indian warmth  in Sri Lanka-India relations?  Did the power of the Indian Air Force, displayed over Galle Face Green, make the government take a quick pro-Indian decision on the West Container Terminal (WCT) in the Port of Colombo? 

Can President Gotabaya or PM Mahinda give any explanation why handing over the development of the WCT to the same Indian company, involved in the ECT, could be any better for Sri Lanka? Apart from the Port Trade Unions  that are likely to launch a new protest, will the Weerawansa-Gammanpila-Vasudeva team also carry out protests about the WCT? Or, will they be silenced by the realities of pro-Gotabaya Politics? 

Has Gotabaya Team’s new position that the Provincial Council elections will be held under the new Constitution, an assurance given to India  that the 13h Amendment will remain part of the structure of governance in Sri Lanka? What happened to all those voices of the Pohottuva political players who had virtually written off the 13A? Have they been silenced by the flight of Indian aircraft in the Air Force celebrations?

The Nandasena Gotabaya Team of the Rajavasala had better think of how the yellow robes of sections of the Maha Sangha would react to the WCT deal with India? 

The problems of Iranativu and the WCT or Muslim burials  and the Port of Colombo are certainly pushed back by the realities of Geneva. The Sri Lankan TV stations that have been very strong in their criticism of Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, about her handling of Human Rights, have given big coverage to her statements critical of the Myanmar coup and its military leaders. Will Michelle Bachelet have a big score against Sri Lanka? Keep guessing.

The issues facing Sri Lanka in Geneva are more about the policies of the present Gotabaya-Mahinda Rajavasala, than issues involving the defeat of the LTTE and matters of responsibility and accountability in the post-war period. 

The Easter Carnage that took place, long after the end of the war against LTTE terror, and under the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Yahapalana regime, is certainly at the height of the Rajavasala problems today. Having promised the people that the truth about this carnage will be found and revealed, and the planners and manipulators identified and punished, the Rajavasala is trying to escape its promises and responsibilities. 

This is certainly no easy task as it involves the hopes and expectations of many thousands who voted for the Gotabaya and the Pohottuva at the last Presidential and General Elections. Just look at the thousands in the Wattala-Negombo area who turned away from the UNP, did not support the Sajith Premadasa – Telephone, – and voted for the Pohottuva. It was the biggest Catholic turn away from the UNP, as took place in votes for the left in 1956.

We are now moving to a Black Sunday, when Catholics have been asked to wear black in protest at church services, seeking divine intervention to reveal and punish the Easter Sunday killers nearly two years ago. The response that divinity will provide remains to be seen, but with the voice of the Catholic Cardinal echoing the pain of hundreds who have suffered in this carnage, we are certainly moving to a period of much sorrow and even disaster.

Black Sunday may come and go, but by April this year, when black flags are to fly over houses, mainly Catholic, throughout the country, we certainly face a new rise of a major Majority/Minority conflict. Do we have to think of the possible revival of all the pains of the war against the LTTE terror, or think more in terms of peace and cooperation among people, with or without divine intervention.

This will certainly not be easy in the coming months, as we see so much of nature destroyed, forests cut down, sand mined and transported without permits, the greenery of the country rapidly vanishing and only hearing the call of a painful Saubhagya! 

Will the call for Divine Help bring us to be an Isle of Peace and Understanding, and not a large Isle of Pain and Destruction?

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Opinion

Go forth boldly against global enemies

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At the UNHRC meeting the true friends of Sri Lanka emerged to speak and defend the country battered mercilessly for defeating the world most brutal terrorist organization, i.e., Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, who held 20 million Sri Lankans to ransom for well over 25 years.

Leading the Sri Lanka bashing were the UK. Germany. Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands. Belgium and the USA, all of them having a chequered history in violating human rights at different times. India, our friendly neighbour, while thankfully taking a fair distance from the punitive stance of others, opted to emphasize on “the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and their ‘aspirations’ insisting on the FULL implementation of the 13 A”. India should be requested to point out whether any Tamil person in Sri Lanka is deprived from enjoying a basic right because he or she is being purely a Tamil. On the 13th A, which was thrust on Sri Lanka along with the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, most Sri Lankans are of the view that it was a faulty restructuring effort of Sri Lanka’s government by India, and the Police and Land powers under the 13 A are a direct threat to the sovereign Sri Lanka. Further, the Provincial government system has not benefited Sri Lanka in any measurable manner, and has been an exercise in colossal wastage of hard-earned funds of the central government.

As regards aspirations, we are amazed how we can consider ONLY the aspirations of Tamils, as all other ethnic groups and the individuals too have aspirations, and it will be impossible to walk that talk. We need further training in the recognition of aspirations of different groups from India, and we pray for further comments from the HR specialists in India how they have reconciled the aspirations of other than Hindu religious groups — Sheiks, Kashmiris and other minority groups in Northernmost India.

But, many nations at UNHCR rejected the proposition of the Sri Lanka bashers who directly and indirectly were supportive of the LTTE armed insurrection and the separatism, threatening the unitary Sri Lanka. They also rejected the ‘the preventive prescription’ of the Secretary General Bachelet. The nations who supported Sri Lanka stood for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a democratic country. Any weaknesses in Sri Lankan affairs should be allowed to be rectified domestically, in keeping with the constitutional provisions of the country, rather than to be dictated and decided upon by the holier than thou sloganeers. Most of the nations who attempt to foist their plan on Sri Lanka are from the Western bloc who killed and maimed millions of persons living in the colonized countries and subsequently destroyed other nations as pawns of the world power games. Their “adherence”to human rights are completely at variance with their practices on the ground.

Now, Sri Lanka should re-examine their directions and resolve to work with the friendly nations who supported her to extricate from the trap laid out by the countries who desire an unstable Sri Lanka. The Government and the people should resolve to reduce our dependence on Sri Lanka bashers, and re-design our imports to suit the geo-political reality and to avoid any plot to impose sanctions by the wounded nations. Time has arrived to consider the nation’s priorities by curtailing the luxuries even for a given period. We should try to get our requirements from the friendly nations, and try to improve our trading relationship with our friends.

This the ONLY way to extend our hand to REBUILD a new world order, to be less dependent on the predatory countries who always insist on their pound of flesh from the developing nations. While we thank the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Government for having rejected co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 at UNHRC, we urge the Government to plan to reshape our trade and foreign relations, to play our role as an independent member of the international community.

 

RANJITH SOYSA

 

 

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Opinion

Gama Samaga Pilisandara  Round 2

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Gotabaya Rajapakse’s election manifesto “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” says on its page 4, “This policy document tilted ‘A Vision for a Resurgent, Prosperous Country’ is the result of a series of discourses, ‘interaction with the village’, conducted in 25,000 villages throughout our country during the past one year. We have identified the requirements of housing, electricity, drinking water, access roads, and irrigation facilities in every village”. That is about 65 villages per day and as we have only about 14,000 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions, coverage would have been about 100 GN divisions in a day. Whatever it is, why did the President decide to repeat this discourse? Is it because he does not accept what was given in his Manifesto as true or is he trying to restore the trust people had in him which is fast dwindling? President may also be thinking that as most of the masses in urban areas who voted for him have become disillusioned with his government’s performance, it would be more prudent to resolve some minor issues in the villages and keep them still faithful to him.

 Rohana Wijayawardhana

 

 

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