by Rex. I. De Silva
(Continued from last week)
In the nineteenth century the Government employed a “shark charmer” to protect divers during the pearl fisheries. He did this by means of incantations and other “magical” rituals. There apparently were no fatalities from shark attacks while he was on duty. This is hardly surprising as during the old pearl fisheries, divers and boats arrived from as far away as Arabia, (what is now) Pakistan, and India. Hundreds of divers and boats, and the resulting noise and turmoil, would have kept even the boldest sharks away. The chank divers and we did very well without the assistance of such a virtuoso.
Nevertheless, sharks (mora) were not rare – far from it. One or two harmless white-tip reef sharks often stayed around while we were spearfishing, possibly in the expectation of stealing our catch. In fact, we speared fish every day in order to feed the chank divers, boat crew and ourselves. Nurse sharks, which are primarily nocturnal, stayed in their caves during the day where we sometimes encountered them apparently in deep sleep. A variety of requiem sharks, including the blacktail, reef blacktip, graceful shark, pig-eye shark, a dangerous looking brute, and blacktip were seen from time to time.
One morning while I was spearfishing a largish shark swam towards me. The vertical dark stripes helped to identify it as a tiger shark (koti mora), a reputedly dangerous species. It was probably attracted to the fish I had speared which were on a stringer loosely fastened to my waist. I quickly undid the stringer, deciding to let the shark have the fish if it became aggressive. I also released the safety catch of my speargun and kept a finger on the trigger, although the weapon would probably have been poor protection at best.
The shark approached slowly to within about five metres, made a wide half-circle around me and then, seemingly alarmed, swam away. I had mixed feelings at the time; anxiety, combined with admiration at the beauty and grace of the creature. In retrospect, however, this encounter was to me the highlight of our expedition. This was the only live tiger shark I saw in Sri Lanka. Later I came across others in the Maldives, but that is another story. The chank divers told us that they often saw hammerhead sharks, but disappointingly we did not see any.
I speared a jack (parawa) on one of the deeper reefs, and as I was surfacing for air a largish grey shark seized the fish, tore off the posterior half and swam away, leaving only the head and part of the thorax on my spear. I am often asked if sharks are a danger and I invariably reply that they are usually a potential rather than actual danger, in Sri Lankan waters at least.
Most of the sharks we saw were accompanied by suckerfish. These are slim fish with a sucker apparatus on their heads by which they attach themselves to sharks, and other creatures, such as turtles and rays. The suckerfish feeds off scraps from its host’s meals and also gets transportation and possibly a degree of protection from its larger companion.
Large schools of yellowfin barracuda (jeela, silava) were common. These fish have a Jekyll and Hyde reputation. They school during the day when they are usually quite harmless but disperse at dusk to hunt individually. They can then become dangerous and several divers have been attacked at night.
We encountered many large eagle rays (vavul maduwa). They are gentle giants, which appear to fly underwater like enormous birds. Eagle rays relish chanks and other shellfish and we often came upon remains of their feasts on the seabed.
I saw my first guitar fish, a strange creature which looks like a cross between a shark and ray. It is however a true ray as the gill-slits are on the ventral surface. We also encountered a few electric rays. These are sluggish bottom-dwellers which have the ability to produce a powerful electric shock that is used to stun prey and also for self-defence. I might mention that as a schoolboy I hand-speared one of these rays and received a shock which made me lose hold of my spear and also deprived me of speech for a minute or two.
The herbivorous green turtle (gal kasbava, mas kasbava) was common on the seagrass and seaweed beds. We also occasionally met with its relatives the hawksbill (pothu kasbava, pang kasbava) and olive ridley (mada kasbava, eramudu kasbava). One morning we saw a very large loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), so-named because of its large head. This is the second largest turtle species in our waters. We were probably the first humans it had seen as it swam around us in apparent curiosity.
Most interesting though was the giant leatherback turtle (dhara kasbava, vavul kasbava ) in which a thick leathery covering replaces the bony carapace of the other turtles. Leatherbacks grow to almost three metres in length and although not rare on the deeper banks, are wary and difficult to approach underwater. From the boat I watched one dive. It flipped backwards, almost somersaulting to submerge.
Some giant fish
Giant groupers (kossa, gal bola, gal kossa) were rather scarce, possibly due to a relative sparseness of large caves. Nevertheless we saw a few estuary groupers, at least one of which we estimated at around 100 kg in weight.
A single, large, one and a half metre long potato cod – actually a grouper despite its name – turned up when I shot a large golden snapper, which a white-tip reef shark tried to steal off my spear. The grouper also wanted the snapper and rammed the shark, making it retreat a short distance. The grouper then made for my fish and I had to kick at it and swim for the boat. The shark lost interest, but the grouper trailed me until I threw the snapper into the vessel.
While diving in deep water Rodney pointed out two large fish which resembled the common reef sweetlips (boraluwa), except that each probably weighed around 50 kg. These were the first giant sweetlips I had seen. The species was always rare and sightings few.
Two great jacks emerged from a crevice in a sandstone reef where I was diving. One bore the normal silvery-grey coloration of the species whereas, to my great astonishment, the other was black. As I had never before observed a black jack (no pun intended) I asked Rodney if he could account for this aberration. He replied that he too had on a few occasions come across this phenomenon, but had no ready explanation. It was many years later that a research paper on Caribbean marine fishes clarified the mystery. The black coloration is apparently the courtship (or mating) livery of male jacks of several species. The fish presumably revert to their normal coloration after sometime.
Leisure in camp
On some days we would finish diving early. Rodney and I would then explore the jungles around our camp, while Trevor who did not like jungles stayed back. We would encounter grey langurs, black-naped hare, and other denizens of the forest. After a shower of rain we often saw star tortoises grazing out in the open. One purpose of these jungle outings was to shoot a few grey partridge for the pot in order to vary our otherwise monotonous fish diet. Nights in the camp were peaceful and quiet. The silence was occasionally broken by the strains of “Oh Danny Boy”, Rodney’s favourite song played on his piano accordion, or sometimes by the rather mournful chants of the divers.
The dark unpolluted skies were an astronomer’s delight, with stars shining as they never do in the city. It was here that I saw my first fireball or bolide, a very bright, slow-moving meteor or shooting-star. This one left a glowing train, which remained visible for several minutes.
Reef off Silavatturai
One morning Rodney persuaded the captain to take us to Silavatturai reef, which he (Rodney) had visited earlier. The reef is shallow and is made up of magnificent corals interspersed with sandy patches. In most of these sandy areas we would find one or two large coralheads, around and under which were a variety of fish, including schools of silver sweetlips (boraluwa) and numbers of lobsters, including the large ornate spiny lobster (pokurissa).. That day we speared our quota of fish in less than fifteen minutes, and at night dined on lobster.
Several species of gastropod molluscs, including the large tiger cowrie (kavadiya) were common on the reef. The sandy areas harboured a variety of cone shells, including the colourful but highly venomous textile cone. This mollusc has a poisonous sting capable of killing a human. Colourful angelfish (manamalaya), butterflyfish, and moorish idols were almost everywhere, giving the reef a festive atmosphere. There were no large fish, the exception being a single great barracuda ( jeela, silava, ulava). This species, unlike its congener the yellowfin, can be dangerous by day as well as at night, although attacks are rare. If harpooned it will sometimes turn on its attacker and, being large and having a fearsome set of dagger-like teeth, is well able to cause severe injury or perhaps even death.
It was on Silavaturai reef that we encountered parrotfish in some numbers. These are often brightly coloured fish in which the teeth are fused into a parrot-like “beak”, giving the group its name. Parrotfish feed primarily on algae and corals; hence their relative abundance on this reef. The males of most species occur in two phases, viz. the initial phase (sexually mature) young males which resemble the females, and the older terminal phase males (“supermales”) which are usually larger and differ considerably from the younger males.
In the past this sometimes led to confusion, with females and young males being classified as one species and “supermales” as another. Despite the fair size of many individuals, they were spared from our spears as the flesh of most parrotfish, while edible, lacks flavour. Another interesting fact about this family is that many species of parrotfish secrete a mucous cocoon around themselves before settling down to sleep at night, which they do in a crevice or cave in the reef. The exact function of the cocoon is not known, but is suspected to be protective.
It was on Silavatturai reef that I first encountered the courtship of a pair of octopuses (buvalla) in four metres of water. They stayed at arms length and the (presumed) male gently stroked the female with one of its arms. I found this behaviour touching and almost human in its gentleness. Frank Lane in his classic work “The kingdom of the octopus” states that courtship can go on for hours or even days. The female octopus however makes the ultimate sacrifice. After laying her eggs in an underwater cave she stops feeding to guard and care for them. She uses the suckers on her arms to clean them and jets water from her siphon to keep them aerated. One of her duties is to protect the eggs from predators, including other octopuses. The mother often dies soon after her babies hatch out.
It was in deeper water on the seaward side of the reef that we were spectators to a mysterious act. Two large cuttlefish (poku dhalla) had joined together head-to-head with arms entwined. In this species a blue line runs around the body at the junction of mantle and fin. In the two individuals we watched, these lines glowed and pulsated like neon lights. They remained motionless, except for the rippling movements of their fins. Whether this was courtship, mating, or aggressive behaviour between two males I did not know. Rodney and Trevor were equally mystified. None of us had seen anything like it before. I learned subsequently that this was mating behaviour.
All too soon our ten-day expedition came to an end and we regrettably had to return to “civilization”. As we packed the vehicle and said good-bye to our new friends, I promised myself that I would return to the Pearl Banks someday. I never did.
Rodney passed away in November 1989. He is sorely missed by his many friends. Trevor now lives in retirement in Melbourne. We meet occasionally but strangely never talk about the underwater adventures we once shared.
(Excerpted from ‘Jungle Journeys in Sri Lanka: experiences and encounters’ compiled by CG Uragoda)
Navigating challenges of dental education in Sri Lanka
By Udari Abeyasinghe
One of the principles of free education is to provide opportunities in higher education. In 2020, then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued directives to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to increase university admissions by an additional 12,000 students, in line with his election manifesto. Subsequently, student enrollments were increased with inadequate resources allocated for the enhancement of university facilities to accommodate the surge in student enrollments.
Currently, state universities are grappling with managing the increasing number of students in the face of budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, neither physical nor human resources have been expanded in proportion to the increased student enrollment, leading to severe strain on the higher education system. Being an academic in the one and only dental faculty producing dental graduates at present for the entire country, I take this opportunity to shed light on the hardships experienced in dental education owing to financial constraints amplified by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
A glimpse into history
The history of dentistry in Sri Lanka is a fascinating journey. On 15 May, 1915, dentistry was recognized as an independent profession in the country. The first qualified dentists were officially registered by the Ceylon Medical Council under the Dentists Registration Ordinance, all of whom were British-trained professionals. These early dentists primarily served the British troops, professionals, and those among the Ceylonese population who could afford their professional services, predominantly in the private sector. It was only in 1925 that the Colonial government recognized the dental health needs of the general public. By the 1930s, several medical graduates from the Ceylon Medical College had embarked on a new educational journey by enrolling in a Licentiate in Dental Surgery programme, a two-year post-graduate course.
By 1943, another pivotal moment in the history of dental education occurred with the launch of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course at the Ceylon Medical College, University of Ceylon, located in Colombo. The inaugural batch consisted of only four students, followed by six students in the subsequent batch. This marked the official commencement of comprehensive dental education within Ceylon. Recognising the necessity of practical knowledge and skills to complement theoretical dental education, a small Dental Unit (now the site of the nine-storey Dental Hospital in Colombo) was established at the Colombo General Hospital, now known as the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
In 1953, the Dental School was relocated from Colombo to Peradeniya. Subsequently, with the establishment of the second Medical College at Peradeniya, in 1961, the Dental School became affiliated with it, functioning as a department. Over the years, the dental school gradually expanded, becoming a Faculty of Dental Sciences in 1986. In 1998, under the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) project, the Peradeniya Faculty of Dental Sciences and Hospital complex was established. Notably, in 2017, the BDS programme transitioned from a four-year to a five-year curriculum on par with international standards. Eighty years after the commencement of dental education in the country, at present about 80 dentists graduate annually, all trained under the Free Education policy. In December 2021, a second Faculty of Dental Sciences was established at the University of Jayewardenepura set to produce its first graduates in three years.
Dental education in crisis
Sri Lanka’s financial crisis has taken a toll on the education sector, resulting in significant cuts in financial allocations. UNICEF reports that Sri Lanka allocates less than 2% of its GDP to education, falling well below the international benchmark of 4%-6% of GDP and ranking among the lowest in South Asia. In 2020, recurrent costs per student per year for the dental degree stood at Rs 1.72 million. The total recurrent cost for the five-year degree was 8.62 million while the total recurrent cost for the medical degree was 4.18 million. The cost of the dental degree programme would have surely increased since then due to the increased prices of imported dental materials. Given that dental education is the most expensive degree programme in Sri Lanka, the impact of these budget cuts has been particularly harsh. Moreover, the government’s decision to increase student intake in recent years, from 80 to 123 students at Peradeniya, has exacerbated the situation, representing nearly a 50% increase.
Dental education requires close one-on-one supervision during clinical sessions, and maintaining high standards necessitates adequate human resources. According to Sri Lankan standards, the student-to-academic staff ratio should be maintained at 7:1. Due to the increased number of students in the absence of a proportionate increase in the number of academics, this ratio no longer exists. This has placed a heavy burden on academic staff, who struggle to balance their responsibilities, including teaching, supervising postgraduate students, conducting research, and contributing to faculty and university administration. The shortage of human resources is taking a toll on the well-being of these academics and affecting the quality of education they can provide.
As outlined in my last Kuppi article (09/05/2023), attracting and retaining young staff in the field of dentistry has emerged as a significant challenge. For any institution’s effective operation, the collective contributions of academics across all levels, from temporary lecturers to junior lecturers, senior lecturers, and professors, are crucial. Presently, the dental faculty faces a unique situation, functioning without a single dental graduate as a temporary lecturer. This situation has arisen primarily because dental graduates are reluctant to take up temporary academic positions due to the relatively low salaries offered in comparison to the potential earnings from private dental practice, not to mention a series of challenges faced in the university setting.
The government’s recent decision to suspend stipends for probationary lecturers in clinical departments to complete MD foreign training is one such challenge. As paid foreign training positions for dental graduates are hard to come by, completing foreign training without a stipend is unfeasible. Even though lecturers can be confirmed in their position before completion of foreign training and board certification, they are not eligible to become senior lecturers. The inability for junior lecturers to advance their careers has directly affected not only retaining but also attracting young dental graduates into the clinical departments. The situation has been further worsened by the government’s discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health to pursue foreign training, which has compelled dental graduates to opt for employment with the Ministry of Health instead of universities.
The faculty has not been able to increase physical resources in parallel with the surge in student intake. Inflation has tripled the cost of dental materials needed for patient treatment, making it nearly impossible to procure the necessary supplies for both patient care and educational purposes. At present, the faculty relies upon donations from patients and alumni to bridge the gap. Other resources for clinical training, such as manikins in the skills laboratory, dental chairs, clinic equipment, and other basic facilities, including computers in IT labs, Wi-Fi, space in the cafeteria and student accommodation are inadequate to cater to the increased student intake. The responsibility to secure additional resources has fallen on the shoulders of academics with little support from the UGC.
The bigger picture
Dentistry is undoubtedly a costly degree, and access to free education in Sri Lanka has been a crucial lifeline, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As committed academics, our dedication lies in safeguarding free education and ensuring that students, regardless of their social backgrounds, have access to dental education while maintaining the high standards of teaching and learning. It is essential to keep in mind the BDS programme has gradually expanded from 4 to 80 students over a period of 80 years. The programme’s sustainability has been maintained by gradual and timely planned expansion with adequate public funding.
Indiscriminate increases in student intake during times of financial crisis will surely compromise the quality of dental education. Discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health but not the postgraduate MD trainees in dental faculties will further compromise dental education. It is essential for decision-makers and policymakers to consider the long-term sustainability and quality of dental education, while strengthening Free Education in the country, even as they explore options for expansion.
(Udari Abeyasinghe is attached to the Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya)
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.
Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state?
By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development
It appears that President Ranil Wickremasinghe, all along his political career, has acted in the belief that he can bring about national unity, true national reconciliation among different communities and find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem only by granting more and more concessions to the racist political parties with separatist agendas in the North and the East and complying with their demands.
In 2002, as the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe signed, without the approval of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, an Oslo-brokered ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, allowing the LTTE to have internal self-administration in the areas under their control in the North-East. In 2005, he supported the move of the Kumaratunga government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the LTTE for the establishment of a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS Agreement) under LTTE leadership for carrying out reconstruction work in the six Tsunami affected Districts in the North-East. In 2006, he assured the TNA of support for the re-merger of Northern and Eastern Provinces if a motion was brought for that purpose in Parliament. During the war for the liberation of the North-East from terrorism, instead of supporting the war effort, his party tried to derail the war effort by abstaining from voting for the extension of the Emergency and making derogatory remarks about the victories of the armed forces.
Common Dream of Wickremasinghe and Sampanthan
In his Address to Parliament on February 8, 2023 delivering the Policy Statement of the Government, President Wickremasinghe disclosed a common dream Mr. Sampanthan and he had been trying to realise over the years thus:
‘‘Both Hon. R. Sampanthan and I were elected to Parliament in 1977. We both have a common dream, which is to provide a sustainable solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka while we are both in Parliament. Ever since, we have been discussing that dream and have been making efforts towards its achievement. All previous attempts have failed, but we wish to succeed this time. We expect your support to this end.’’
Before proceeding to examine the dream of the President, let us examine the dream of Sampanthan and the political organisations led by him: the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This dream remained continuously unchanged since the founding of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (Federal Party) in 1949. The name of the Party – Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) or (Tamil State Party of Ceylon) itself reflects this dream. This dream was reiterated in various resolutions passed at their conferences and public declarations at different times.
Dream of Sampanthan and other Tamil leaders
Trincomalee Resolution of ITAK – April 1957
The Resolution passed at the first National Convention of the ITAK held in Trincomalee in April 1957 elaborates on this dream citing the components this dream consists of:
“Inasmuch as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate and inasmuch as the Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese, secondly by the fact of their being a linguistic entity different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil fully adequate for all present day needs and finally by reason of their traditional habitation of definite areas which constitute one-third of this island, the first National Convention of the I.T.A.K. demands for the Tamil Speaking Nation their inalienable right to political autonomy and calls for a plebiscite to determine the boundaries of the linguistic states in consonance with the fundamental and unchallengeable principle of self-determination.”
The components of this dream are as follows:
. Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood: i. playing a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese; ii. with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language making Tamil fully adequate for all present-day needs; iii. their traditional habitation of definite areas constituting one-third of this island; b. Inalienable right of the Tamil Speaking Nation to political autonomy.
Vaddukoddai Resolution of TULF
The Vaddukoddai Resolution unanimously adopted on 16 May 1976 by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) consisting of all the Tamil political parties and groups in the North – East narrated in its preamble all the rights denied to or deprived of Tamil people by the successive Sinhala governments and their demands for restoration thereof:
a. The Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries and, above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese;
b. Throughout centuries from the dawn of history, the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between themselves the possession of Ceylon, the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts;
c. Successive Sinhalese governments since independence have encouraged and fostered the aggressive nationalism of the Sinhalese people and have used their political power to the detriment of the Tamils by making serious inroads into the territories of the former Tamil Kingdom by a system of planned and state-aided Sinhalese colonization and large scale regularization of recently encouraged Sinhalese encroachments, calculated to make the Tamils a minority in their own homeland.
d. The proposals submitted to the Constituent Assembly by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi for maintaining the unity of the country while preserving the integrity of the Tamil people by the establishment of an autonomous Tamil State within the framework of a Federal Republic of Ceylon.
‘‘This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM, based on the right of self-determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country.
This Convention directs the Action Committee of the Tamil United Liberation Front to formulate a plan of action and launch without undue delay the struggle for winning the sovereignty and freedom of the Tamil Nation; and
This Convention calls upon the Tamil Nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state of TAMIL EELAM is reached.’’
· From this it clearly appears that not only the LTTE and the other armed militant groups, but the entire leadership of the TULF was also responsible for aiding and abetting and leading the Tamil youth for the 30-year war against Sri Lanka.
Although the LTTE was defeated and the 30-year war came to an end on May 18, 2009, the ITAK, the TULF or the TNA and the other political parties in the North-East have not abandoned their goal or dream of creating a separate Tamil State in the amalgamated Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. They have only changed their strategy and tactics in the march for reaching their goal.
Speech made by R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TULF, at the 14th ITAK Convention held in Batticaloa in May 2012
In this speech, Sampanthan clearly explains to their members their new strategy to achieve their goal of a separate state thus:
“We gather here following our victory in the passage of the recent Resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, a condemnation against the SL government by the international community.
“Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi was created by S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, the father of Tamil Nation, for the purpose of establishing self-determination of the Tamil people on this island. This objective is evident in both the name of the party and in the manner in which it operates.
“Tamil United Liberation Front, of which our party was a member, took the historical decision to establish the separate government of Tamil Eelam in 1976. Based on this decision of our party, and the need to place ourselves in a position of strength, Tamil youth decided to oppose violence with violence and began to rise up as armed rebel groups.
“Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, became a great force within the Tamil community.
“We remember the Tamil youth who sacrificed their lives in armed struggle. …. SL government has committed the crime of extermination against our people,
“The intervention of India has clearly taught us the lesson that whatever our aspirations may be, India will never welcome a political solution in Sri Lanka that does not accord with the interests of India.
“Achieving Tamil Eelam was becoming an increasingly unrealistic goal. Thus, instead of sacrificing more lives to this cause, our party with the help of India, began supporting a solution that allowed Tamil people to live within a united Sri Lanka.
“A most important lesson we have learnt from the past 60 years… is that we should act strategically, with the awareness that global powers will act based on their domestic interests.
“Further, a struggle that runs counter to the international community, built only on military might, will not prevail. It is for this reason, that in the new environment created by various global influences, we have, together with the support and assistance of the international community, found new ways of continuing with our struggle.
“Our expectation of a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on a political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all the powers of government needed to live with self-respect and self-sufficiency.
“The position that the North and East of Sri Lanka are the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people cannot be compromised in this structure of government…. We must have unrestricted authority to govern our land, protect our own people, and develop our own economy, culture and tradition… Meaningful devolution should go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1987.
“The above solution is one that is likely to be acceptable to members of the international community including India and the United States.
“Any solution to the ethnic problem concerning the sovereignty of the Tamil people must be acceptable to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
“The international practice prevalent during the mid-eighties, when the intervention of India occurred, has now changed. Although the issue at hand is the same, the prevailing conditions are different. The struggle is the same, but the approaches we employ are different. Our aim is the same, but our strategies are different. The players are the same, but the alliances are different. That is the nature of the Tamil people. Although we still have the same aim, the methods we use now are different.
“The current practices of the international community may give us an opportunity to achieve, without the loss of life, the soaring aspirations we were unable to achieve by armed force.’’.’’ www.sangam.org/2012/06/Sampanthan_Speech.php
(To be continued)
Important assignments…Down Under
Ex-Mirage Melantha Perera, who now performs with the band Black Jackets, left last Tuesday (19), on an important assignment, to Australia.
He will be away for about a month, he said, spending about two weeks each, in Sydney and Melbourne.
His first stop is Sydney for the Australian South Asian Forum (ASAF) that commenced on 23rd September.
This South Asian Film Arts and Literature festival is showcasing the rich art, culture and literary heritage of eight nations – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives.
The Performing Arts programme, held on 23rd September, brought into the limelight solo singing, solo dance and musical instrument performance, and Melantha was one of the judges, I’m told.
The big event, to wind up this festival, is the Gala Awards Night, scheduled to be held on 30th September, and will include guest performances, and cultural song and dance performances, presented by eight subcontinent countries.
Once his commitments in Sydney are over, Melantha will head for Melbourne where he plans to promote his Mela Nota project further.
It’s gaining recognition in many countries and Melantha is fully satisfied with the response.
In Melbourne, he will also be seen in action, as a solo singer, at the popular Sundown Regency, on 6th October, along with Noeline Honter, and the band ‘Friends’, and supported by Thirani, Enrico and Lozaine.
In fact, Melantha, made his solo debut, in Melbourne, at the Walawwa, when he was in Australia, early this year, and it turned out to be a memorable occasion for this versatile artiste.
He was, in fact, the centre of attraction at another event, back home, in Moratuwa, before he left for Australia.
Melantha was the President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, for the previous year, and at the recently held general meeting, to select a new president and committee, Melantha and the previous committee were re-elected, uncontested.
Those present insisted that Melantha and the previous committee continue with the excellent work they have been doing to harness the talent of those in Moratuwa and bring them into the spotlight.
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