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Opinion

‘Natural cycles’: Perhaps a reason for some optimism!

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by Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician, Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Medical Journal Editor.

There are very many natural phenomena that act cyclically on this planet which are vital to the well-being of mankind. Some of these consist of various components of nature itself; such as carbon, oxygen, water, climate, and environmental temperature, in addition to a whole host of many other things as well. The oceans, the trees, the milieu in which we live, even natural disasters and all other endowments of nature, are all intimately related to these cyclical developments. All these sequences and rotations go in cycles where the alternate cyclical progression is repeated in a recurring fashion within certain confines and limitations imposed by Mother Nature herself.

However, this article attempts to elucidate a somewhat different type of cycles in nature where what goes around, invariably comes around as well. There are many instances of appallingly harmful occurrences that have come about, either through vagaries of nature or as man-made disastrous events, only to be followed by events that benefit mankind. For example, many countries, including Sri Lanka, from time to time, have been devastated by unbearable droughts which have gone on to cause mayhem, only to be followed quite often by periods of torrential rain and even floods. Natural disasters like tsunamis that cause untold misery and destruction are often followed by tremendously committed development of the affected areas. Floods are followed by relative dry weather and serenity that allow measures to undertake repairs to the damage caused. Wars are followed by periods of peace that allow definitive actions to be taken to mitigate the ravages of such combative conflicts. Accidental or inadvertent nuclear disasters are followed by decisive steps being taken to prevent a repetition of such catastrophes. Epidemics and pandemics are followed by medical advances that bring about weapons such as vaccines to fight against them. The list is very long and there is always some light at the end of the tunnels of desolation.

In such a context, it is of crucial importance to contemplate and reflect on the currently prevalent dire status of this pearl of the Indian Ocean. This country has been ravaged by an unprecedented pandemic, an extraordinarily virulent economic disaster, unimaginable public unrest, hitherto unknown electricity crises, crippling fuel shortages, unbearable food scarcities, terrible shortages of medicines and medical equipment, the ominously rising cost of living, as well as a whole host of other problems that appear to threaten the very existence of our nation. Almost all of these have been very definitely and undeniably caused by poor governance, rampant corruption and terribly unwise decisions taken by the powers that be, as well as a sense of indifference and acerbic obstinacy on the part of the legislators. Their stupidity most definitely knows no boundaries. The devaluing of our national currency has led to unbelievable sky-rocketing of prices with inflation going through the roof, threatening the very existence and even the right to life of the poverty-stricken and the marginalised. On the incompetent and shameful advice of certain hangers-on, the decision-makers have jumped in at the deep end without knowing how to swim even in calm shallow waters; disgraceful and dishonourable behaviour, to say the least.

The utterly disgruntled populace has come out onto the streets with protests and demonstrations that demand a political regime change. They are attempting to show very clearly that, people’s power is much more powerful than the people in power. It just might be shown up to be true, clearly and unmistakably, sooner rather than later. Many of our youth, the proverbial gems of our nation, the people on whom our future rests, wish to abandon ship and seek greener pastures in other countries, while others have elected to stay put and protest vehemently. At the present time, there is universal bleakness in the entirety of our beautiful land and the future seems so very uncertain and quite harsh. In effect, there does not seem to be even a remotely hopeful flicker of light at the end of this darkened tunnel of intense despair. We are languishing in a never-ending winter of discontent. For a large proportion of the people in our country, it may appear to be a virtually meaningless struggle for mere survival. Many believe that this is our death knell and that we will never be able to come out of this detestable quagmire.

Yet for all that, is this the end of the story for our lovely Sri Lanka? Surely and perhaps assuredly, this just cannot go on. Even the worm has turned at the moment. According to my theory of cycles, things decidedly have to change and come right back; perhaps quite emphatically for that matter. For that to occur, the necessary processes have to be catalysed and enhanced. Somebody or some people have to take this country and its people under his, her, or their, spread-out wings and turn things around. We need leaders with proven track records, not only in the political arena but much more so in all fields of life in this enchanting isle. They have to be proper leaders in the true meaning of the word itself. We need legislators who would have the wisdom, strength, honesty, courage and capabilities, to make a telling difference. They simply have to be worthy of the honours that would be showered on them, as much as deserving the power that they may wield, just to use those powers judiciously.

Politicians may and do come and they may also go, but we have to remain in our wonderful motherland. We need to get a motley crowd of people who are dedicated and honest to the core, to purposefully drag us away from this abyss of misery. Do we have people like that around? I do not know about statesmen and stateswomen but I know for sure that there are people in our land who are inherently capable, brilliant, honest and patriotic. Here, I am not talking about Sri Lankans who have made it big in other countries. I am referring to the home-grown variety; those who have stayed on in their land of birth, silently worked ever so hard while being in this country, and being neglected as well as being side-lined for all their trouble. This truly refers to the iconic words of Lakshman Kadirgamar, our Foreign Minister of yore, when he graphically implied that the cake was baked at home and only the icing was from elsewhere, far away from the shores of Sri Lanka.

On second thoughts, there perhaps are just a few politicians who might… just MIGHT… fit the bill. These are very definitely not the ones who spit out rhetoric, not those who shout from the rooftops till they are hoarse, not the suave rubbish-talking nincompoops with hidden agendas, not the ones who bask in the glory of family dynasties, not the ones who are criminals of the highest order, not the ones who would shamelessly rob our motherland, and most certainly not the types who are so stubborn and so arrogant that they think they are ‘it’. We do not need a set of worthies with delusions of grandeur nor those with personal crusades and scores to settle. What we desperately need are patriotic Sri Lankans with a futuristic vision and a committed mission, to guide our nation out of this miserable hell on earth, which is what Sri Lanka is today.

It has been said that nothing is ever over till the fat lady sings, and also that hope springs eternal in the human breast. So… be optimistic, people of Sri Lanka, and hold your heads high. We need to remind ourselves of the immortal words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy of the United States of America in his Inaugural Address to the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country“. He, President Kennedy, challenged every American to contribute in some way towards the public good. It is time that we too expectantly dared every Sri Lankan to put their collective shoulder to the wheel of progress in our country, the Motherland that desperately needs us to do such, and even more.

Towards that end, what we desperately need in this resplendent isle is the unstinted support of dedicated unselfish and honest politicians, with zero tolerance for all forms of corruption, harnessing of the positively charged bravado and the innovative spirit of the youth of our land, securing of the devoted commitment of the farmers, promoting the copious duty-consciousness of all the workers of our beloved country, and more than anything, catalysing a complete paradigm shift into a general sense of intense and compelling patriotism right throughout our birthplace.

We do hope and pray that this bountiful country will be able to rise from the ashes, just like the proverbial phoenix. We also hope and pray that in the not-too-distant future, we will be able to put our trials and tribulations far behind us, treat them like a set of ‘really bad dreams’, and sprint forwards to reach a summer of contentment, opulence and magnificence. Once that promised land is reached, we do need to take steadfast steps to look after our own people, especially the farmers who produce food for our populace. We need to put the welfare of the people of our country at the very pinnacle of prioritisation. We need to make absolutely sure that unforgivable and grave mistakes of the past are not repeated.

In such a context, we just cannot afford to leave such crucial endeavours totally to a group of our people known to all and sundry as the politicians. It is entirely up to each and every one of us to strive ever so hard to make all of it, the ever so sacred happenings of our time.

Viva Sri Lanka!



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Opinion

An open letter to 6.9 million

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Basil Rajapaksa has recently said that the Rajapaksas are not responsible for the dire situation in the country. He told the journalists not to pass the ball to him and he passed the ball to the people, especially to the 69 lakhs who voted the “Pohottuwa” into power.

So, my dear 6.9 million citizens,

You are my brothers and sisters. The Rajapaksas may blame you for the dire situation in the country but I do not blame you. I do not condemn you. For everybody makes mistakes. We are frail human beings. Now I am a senior citizen and in my life time I have been pickpocketed three times. It cost me three purses, a few thousand rupees and two ID cards to learn the lesson. But dear 6.9 million brothers and sisters your present political lesson cost all of us national bankruptcy, millions unemployed, unending queues for petrol, diesel, kerosene, cooking gas and passports, exorbitant price hikes of essentials, lack of essential medicines, looming starvation, anarchy, destruction and terrifying death. I hope you have learnt the lesson, at least by now.

Do you realise what kind of image you have shown to the world of our people, of us? Out of courtesy they will not voice it but they consider us damn fools.

Didn’t you know about the Rajapaksas and the tsunami funds? Didn’t you ever wonder how his three brats were spending like nothing and living it up like playboys? Have you never heard of Siriliya? Have you never heard of the deals between the Krish and the Rajapaksas? Didn’t you ever realise what an enormous amount of money has been wasted on useless white elephants, like the Lotus Tower, the Sooriyawewa Stadium, the Mattala Airport and the Hambantota Conference Hall? Why is it that the murderers of Thajudeen and Lasantha Wickrematunga can never be discovered? The latest revelation, from circumstantial evidence, is that Adani Group probably has dealings with the Rajapaksas. The Pandora Papers expose has raised the Rajapaksas to the notorious status of International Crooks. This is only the tip of the iceberg; if you scratch the garbage heap you’ll find more.

I cannot understand how the 69 lakhs got so thoroughly fooled by the Rajapaksas. You believed scandalous tales about infertility Kottu, infertility garments and Muslim doctors making Sinhala mothers sterile, etc. Everybody knows but nobody says who the brains behind the Easter Sunday massacre are. I guessed who it was quite soon. In any crime, the prime suspect is the one who profited most from it. Ask any police detective. The monks, intellectuals, professionals, and artistes were taken for a ride. Therefore, I do not blame you, the 69 lakhs. But the world was surprised that the citizens of Sri Lanka have such low IQ and can be so easily fooled.

Never mind all that; now let us talk about how to remedy the damage done to yourselves, us and the country. Here are a few methods to keep the right attitude to the current reality.

No.1: Never tolerate or get used to the hardships we are going through. If you are in a queue, curse the government loud enough so that at least the men in front and behind can hear you. The problem is not organising the queue more efficiently; the problem is there should not be any queues. The scarcity of petrol and diesel is a deliberate ploy by the heartless government to suppress the protest by the people. The only solution is a new stable and respected government and sending Rajapaksas to jail. Curse the government when the power cut begins. When you go shopping, curse the government loudly for the high prices of things or their lack. Keep the public aware of the hardships they unjustly endure. Never allow them to get used to it. Rage, rage against Gota and the 225 thieves.

No. 2: Either organise yourself or get somebody to organise small neighbourhood groups everywhere in your village, town and work place. Get in touch with someone in the Aragalaya and tell them you are ready for a final showdown.

No. 3: Write a letter of appreciation and encouragement to each one of the people who are at the Gotagogama. Or send a Thank You card for the sacrifices they are making for us and for our children. Here is their address: (Name) The Library, Gotagogama, Galle Face, Colombo 2.

No. 4: If you believe in a Universal Force or God, as I do, pray insistently with grief and groans and ask him to save our country from the rapacious scoundrels and killers who are holding our people by the scruff of the neck and robbing them clean.

No. 5: The evil government is driving us to a famine and starvation. Let us not be selfish. Let us share what we have or what little we have with those who do not have anything. Let us be always kind and considerate to our fellow citizens whoever they maybe.

Forget race, religion, language or whatever divides us. All of us are brothers and sisters in this national calamity, all children of Mother Lanka. Let us save her and ourselves together.

Down with the Ali Baba and the 225 thieves!

Aragalayata Jayawewa!
Fraternally your co-citizen,
Fr Chryso Pieris SJ

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Opinion

We will remember, and we will be grateful

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by Krishantha Prasad Cooray

For as long as the human race has organised itself into sovereign nations, no country has had a story of limitless success. Nations and empires alike have risen and fallen, over thousands of years. Every language has phrases like “it takes a village” to remind us of the limitations of individual people and the need to work together. Similarly, no nation will ever thrive in isolation. The fate of every country is dependent on its relationships with other countries, with allies who share their values and who support each other in times of need.

History is littered with examples of countries that have been beset by natural disasters, militarily crippled, ridden with diseases, targeted by terrorism or economically ruined. What separates those who overcome these challenges from those that don’t is the willingness of other countries to come to their aid.

After World War II, for example, when the Axis powers were roundly defeated, it was the countries that vanquished them who stepped in to rebuild them. Indeed, without the aid of the Allies, neither Germany nor Japan would have grown into the economic powerhouses they are today.

The Marshal Plan, an American initiative, enabled West Germany and other West European nations to rise from the ashes of war and gain rapid economic development.

Japan, on the other hand, had far fewer friends. As European victims of German aggression feared the prospect of a united Germany, Asian victims of Japanese aggression feared a remilitarised Japan. Cold War politics too played a role, with the Soviet Union accusing the United States of planning to turn Japan into a military camp against itself and China. It was only at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 that a peace treaty was finally signed, ending the occupation of Japan, restoring Japanese independence, and putting the country on a path to prosperity.

At that conference, it was then Sri Lankan Finance Minister Junius Richard Jayawardena, who spoke most persuasively about the case for making peace with Japan as an independent non-occupied nation. Jayewardene reminded the audience that prior to the barbarity of World War II, Japan had long been a staunch ally of other Asian nations. “It is because of our age-long connections with her, and because of the high regard the subject peoples of Asia have for Japan when she alone, among the Asian nations, was strong and free and we looked up to her as a guardian and friend,” he reminded the assembled world leaders.

Japan has never forgotten, and even today, memorial statues and plaques across Japan mark the country’s gratitude to J.R. Jayewardene. Sri Lanka, at the time, had nothing to gain from the vanquished Japanese. But we came to the aid of a nation in need and did the correct thing. A quarter century later, when J.R. Jayewardene became President of Sri Lanka, our relationship with Japan became one of the cornerstones of Sri Lanka’s subsequent prosperity.

Today, Sri Lanka finds itself crippled by an unprecedented crisis. Our people are in abject financial peril. Over a quarter of the country is starving and malnourished. The economy is paralyzed and many children are unable to reach schools due to fuel shortages. Electricity has become a luxury, and essential medicines have become scarce.

This is not the doing of the people but the result of mismanagement by corrupt, incompetent and short-sighted politicians holding the reins of power for their own gain. These politicians benefited. The people suffered. They suffer as I write and will suffer for a long time more to come.

It is tragic to see a country as resilient as Sri Lanka, with a proud history, being reduced to such a state. One day, I have no doubt that my country will rise again. But we will only do so with the support of friends, who will speak in solidarity and act in support.

Sri Lanka is but the first country to see its economy collapse at the mercy of corruption and rising global food and oil prices. It won’t be the last. Before long, other poorly managed countries will also begin to waver. Each stumbling nation can be rescued one at a time, but if several countries all collapse together, the chain reaction could paralyze the economies of not just the region, but the entire world. Sri Lanka, in particular, is ripe for rescue.

The people are clamouring for serious institutional and constitutional reform. If these reforms are coupled to both humanitarian aid and commercial investments, the payoff will be not just a monetary one, but one of deep gratitude.At this time, if people, institutions and nations alike come to the aid of the Sri Lankan people, that aid is needed like never before. Doing so will help avert or minimize a humanitarian crisis like Sri Lanka has never known. Any country can make a contribution to help feed the starving, heal the sick, employ the unemployed, light up a classroom, and take other steps to help Sri Lanka to jumpstart its economy.

It was such words of support, and deeds of solidarity that helped Japan in 1951, and for which Japan has remained grateful so many decades later. Likewise, such a word, such a deed, will be remembered by Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, those who are suffering right now, those who survive, and their children. It is a brand of gratitude that is special because it is altruistic. People will remember, ‘they didn’t have to, they had nothing to gain, but they did anyway.’ We will remember, and we will be grateful.

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Opinion

Ohe Innava ; ban on Russian tennis players; greed leads via deceptive satisfaction to disaster

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Sins of the leaders suffered by innocents

This beautiful island seems to be at a standstill and its people rather dazed, confined to homes or queues for days on end (no longer hours). Maybe, Jaffna and its southern neighbouring Vanni are better equipped mentally and stoically to withstand these vagaries of fortune and carry on their lives as they know well, through experience (1983 to 2009 and even thereafter), with inbuilt mental and physical resistance. The government that should be so very occupied looking after its people, and MPs and their bosses mandated to do so, only continue emanating hot air and cruise around in their gas guzzlers, of course, in protected areas. They feel the anger of the people: righteous, justified and ready to burst forth in flames of anarchy at the first ignition. One VIP speaks to the public of imminent arrival of ships laden full with fuel and cooking gas; and another VVIP on further necessity to tighten belts and suffer. All of us are near suffocation because of the mistakes, corruption, extravagance and bl… idiocy of those who ruled us.

The biggest man, almost daily, gathers sundry officers to his vast meeting hall and while they gaze at him, some mindlessly but none interrupting, pontificates mostly on how they should be alleviating the hardships of the population. He singlehandedly caused farmers and now us immense deprivation. He thought his mea culpa would exonerate him. The ex-PM and doing-just-as-they bid ex-Gov of CB sit out in comfort on the look out to escape. The dethroned VIP heir is creeping back to meetings where he is not justified being in. Dreams of a glorious return? Shatter them to bits, you people are NOT coming back ever to power. 20 million people, including kids, know you all too well now and the bung screwed on tight on criticism popped off, released mostly by the peaceful protesters of Mynagama and GotaGoGama. Thank goodness for them!

Cass listened to the articulation of peaceful protesters in Havelock Town carrying succinct boards and good sense and intelligence in their heads as relayed by 8.30 pm Newsline of MTV TV One on Tuesday 28 late evening. What emerged was most forceful censure of the powers that were and are. ‘Go home Gota’ they said in unison and decently. What sort of a skin does one need to enable one to stay on when disliked so intensely and shown the exit explicitly by millions here and overseas. The protective skin of the armed forces is not available, one presumes. As is said, the soldiers’ old mothers can barely make ends meet with soaring prices and fathers are in queues, so how expect them to turn against their own suffering people even though commanded to do so?

Wimbledon

The cricket matches between the Aussie team and a revived, zestful Sri Lankan team have been giving solace to a major section of our people. That is fine, since one needs to divert one’s mind and also grab whatever respite one can from the ongoing disaster that is our beloved country.

Cassandra is a tennis buff deriving not only sporty enthusiasm but also aesthetic satisfaction by watching good players on court. How so the latter, one may query. Just watch a good player and witness his/her playing is ballet like in postures and grace; a fine synchronization of muscle and limb. And for Cassandra the best is to watch the Wimbledon matches, the players and linesman and ball pickers all in white. Maybe Cass is conservative, a throw back on her upbringing, but discipline even in what the players wear is pleasing to her. Wimbledon times are not so inconvenient to us as matches start there at 3.30 (it was said) and so by 8.00 pm one can watch them over sports channels. It’s when the US Open is on that one has to watch into all hours of our night.

Wimbledon has banned Russian players and so men’s world number 1 Daniil Medvedev is out – banned; so also number 8 Andrey Rublev and women’s numbers 6 and 13 – never mind names, difficult to even spell. Great pity, especially regards Medvedev – almost humble on court – but again proof that sins of the leaders fall on ordinary heads. The organisers of Wimbledon decided in April to ban players from Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So, ex KGB Putin’s fear of European Union’s expansion of influence and protection, or greed for expansion of Russian controlled territory or even a desire to re-establish a sort of USSR have impacted on innocent sportsmen and women.

Greed may be satisfied temporarily but degraded shame is permanent result

‘Bollywood actress of Sri Lankan origin’ as Jacqueline Fernandez is named by S Venkat Narayan and other media persons, has again been questioned by the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the gifts of dollars and expensive items given her and her family members by billionaire conmen Sukesh Chandrashekhar. Cass is not flogging a dead horse (or much alive, lovely mare here) but quoting this tidbit from Tuesday June 28 press, wishing to impress on herself and her readers that avarice and boundless greed lead to retribution and perhaps heart searing regret. It is obvious Jackie entertained the conman, and very intimately we suppose, to be worth all those millions gifted to her. It surely cannot be love. That explanation for the close liaison is good for the fairies to narrate. She was motivated by desire for quick immense wealth. And she has landed flat on her face: passport impounded, reputation gone, and with it admirers and Salman Khan too perhaps, and sure shot no offers of further stardom. She was catapulted to be top of the beauts on par with now exclusive Aishwaria Rai Bachchan. And what has avarice brought her to?

Cass in her age earned wisdom warns young beauties not to gamble on good looks. Many are the girls who did so and surely are cast aside and also fearful now since tables have been turned on their benefactors mostly by the sensible young ones of GotaGoGama. Where’s that beauty queen whose crown was snatched as placed on her by political influence, who accompanied Lohan R to Welikada prison in short shorts to view the gallows? We heard many a chick was given jobs, sometimes double at Sri Lankan, with no English ability, etc. No wonder our airline nose-dived and is still on that perilous down swing but sustained by government monetary life lines. Many were the discards given employment in Sri Lankan.

Another point: definitely a too flogged horse: are those who plundered government money and assets by the millions, nay billions happy and leading fine lives. Nay, No and Nein! They may be safe and their stolen wealth intact and in no danger of being confiscated, but their minds? Wellbeing? They cannot have such thick hides that satisfying the five senses brings them peace of mind? Again, a thundering NO. Reputations ground to dust; friends disappeared; and the door to a return to political power shut bang. Jolly good for those damned thieves who sent our country down to the depths. We will rise, that’s for sure. We have good people in the majority.

On that rousing note of determination to rise from the depths, Cassandra wishes you bye, for now. May its enforced curtailment of normal routines; immense difficulties and future bleakness not depress you too much. We as a country can only now go upwards, hit rock bottom as we are.

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