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Midweek Review

Our Common Heritage – one country – one land – one people

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by Ashley de Vos

Reconciliation is a strange word with multiple meanings when applied in different situations and understandings, but mostly gravitating towards a willingness, a compromise to get together again. As such, it is a process that cannot be forced; it will always and should be a natural process. Four hundred years of colonialism introduced a need to move vertically and not on a horizontal plane only to satisfy false definitions of democracy, based on the divide-and-rule policy of the coloniser.

“Prior to colonialism, the Jathi-varna system in India had little, if anything, to do with race, ethnicity, or genetics. It is better understood as a set of distinctions based on traditional or inherited social status derived from work roles. Jathi is a highly localised and intricately organised social structure. One of the important aspects of Jathi, which was conspicuously overlooked by western Indologists, is its dynamic nature – allowing social mobility as well as occupational diversification” (Malhotra & Neelakandan, 2011, Schwab, 1984). Sri Lanka would have shared a similar vision.

This draconian political need based on ex-colonial recommendations to follow the African, the South African model as a methodology for reconciliation in Sri Lanka, is strange, as in the case of South Africa, reconciliation is between two distinctly different people. The Afrikaners who are predominantly White and of Dutch extraction, have been totally racist in their approach to living in South Africa. They saw the Black African as an inferior being to be used as a slave and treated them as such. The Dutch have a long history of slavery throughout their colonial occupation. Hence the Africans for decades were treated as the lowest of the low, and were beginning to believe what was been instigated. That was to be their lot.

Today, the traditional African tribes, living in South Africa, are forced to sacrifice their human dignity, to dress in colourful beads and dance semi-nude before the camera, for the titillated gratification of some frustrated foreign tourist. This is also a form of cultural slavery that has its roots in the very concept of Cultural Tourism promoted by the Bretton Wood twins, as a new economic break through theory, believed and unfortunately adopted copycat as a way forward, by “Experts” in many countries, including in Sri Lanka.

The Indian community in South Africa, arrogant and believing in their false superiority over the Africans, even though they themselves may have been taken across during the colonial occupation of the African lands, some even as slaves to work the sugar cane fields and as labour in the construction of infrastructure, looked down on the Africans as belonging to the lowest of the untouchable classes. An applied ruling based on a derogative concept judged firstly by the skin colour of the Africans. These Indians aided and abetted the British and white Afrikaner against the Black Africans.

Depicting Indians as “infinitely superior” to black Africans and using the racist pejorative “kaffirs” to describe them, is common throughout Gandhi’s early writings. He routinely expressed “disdain for Africans,” Gandhi described black Africans as “savage,” “raw” and living a life of “indolence and nakedness,” and he campaigned relentlessly to prove to the British rulers that the Indian community in South Africa was “superior” to native black Africans. This is spelt out clearly in “The South African Gandhi: Stretcher- Bearer of Empire” by S. Anand.

In an open letter to the Natal Parliament, in 1893, Gandhi wrote: “I venture to point out that both the English and the Indians spring from a common stock, called the Indo-Aryan. A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are a little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.”(Gandhi – S. Anand). Over time some of Ghandi’s views may have changed, but he remained caste conscious to the end.

Offended and very rightly so, the students at the University of Ghana, Accra, actioned the removal of the Gandhi statue, installed on the campus by the government of India. Law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei told the BBC: “Having Gandhi’s statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things (his alleged racism), I don’t think we should have his statue on campus.”

Can there ever be reconciliation? Whatever anyone says, we personally don’t think it ever possible. The final black uprising is looming on the horizon; it will arrive within a decade, nay earlier. This will see all white South Africans wiped out. Whether it constitutes a step back is for the Africans to decide. The Indian community will suffer the same fate. The South African experiment with reconciliation is not something that should be copied by anyone, it cannot last. It is but a short-term kite in the sky. It will fly only as long as the wind remains favourable and white, so to speak.

Many White South Africans have realised that the writing is on the wall and are migrating to create a new life for themselves in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK and even to Georgia in the previous Soviet Union. However, the open invitation from New Zealand, Australia and the UK seems to be running into problems, due to the migrant’s dissimilar and non-adoptable behavioural patterns, inconvenience to integrate and the willing creation of close knit ghetto communities built around their inter dependency. It will not be easy for the Afrikaner in any of the new countries as they will miss the African slave to help in whatever they hope to do. As for the experiment in Georgia, it is hoped that it would be successful.

The American exercise of integration, based on reconciliation, even after two centuries has still not worked, as there is no truth or sincerity in the process. They had a President who claimed to be black in colour. So what? That has not improved the general level of the African American people compared to the rest. A few have benefitted while being the routinely discriminated against, poverty stricken; the black community, driven into ghettos, still waits. It is a very long wait for the Martin Luther King’s dream, immobile, a stillbirth; will it ever come to fruition? Chris Hedges in his recent book, “America, The final tour”, referred to “the country being of a mindset that stems from a violent disposition, a war mentality based on promoting a brand of unsustainable ultra-consumerism”. Will the poor continue to be exploited and remain poor? Of course, they certainly will, and according to the grand (sic) scheme they have to.

The mass migration out of the disgusting slums in the eastern cities in the US around 1870s prompted and encouraged the new American migrants to go west to today’s mid-west and further to California. In the process, they decimated the first nation tribes and robbed them of their lands with the help of treaties that were not worth the paper they were written on. These tribes were eventually forced into enclosures called reservations and to ominous drunkenness. The “change-the-(native)Indian- and-save-the-man” policy has robbed them of not only their rich culture based on a deep respect for nature but also their traditional lands, their burial grounds and their rightful place in history. Today, they have been relegated to a subordinate tier in the American society lower than that of the African American.

Unfortunately, the African American who is of greater use to American society will continue to be used with a carrot of false promises dangling in front? While the globalisation experiment referred to by Henry Kissinger, “globalisation is the Americanisation of the world” will continue to spiral. This mass global consumerisation is being further encouraged by the corporate banks with their issue of credit cards, luring those unfamiliar with handling bank credit into a spiral of debt. These innocents carry on merrily paying the minimum, often forgetting that there is a heavy penalty accumulation taking place.

This spiralling debt will eventually engulf the poor in the world, leading to their suffocation and death and an eventual crippling of the traditional banking system. In the past decade, instead of making savings, big business greedily allocated all profits earned, amongst themselves and their shareholders, or in the purchasing of new projects, with little concern for a rainy day. The rainy day has arrived. This will eventually lead to their self-destruction, even begging their governments to prop them up.

The countries whose economies depend on the continuous development of endlessly superior and more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, will continue to do so. Driven by an insatiabile hunger, a prerequisite would be to frighten the more peaceful countries on the looming of an eminent imaginary enemy or to promote and generate a tyranny, all to ferment and create markets for this merchandise. Even if it entails the starting of wars in specially selected oil rich or strategically located parts of the world, usually far from their own, destroying all normalcy, on a false concept of democracy.

The Western hegemony has a different definition for democracy. A definition that is blinkered on what they as countries do, but at the drop of a hat would be willing to point their fingers in a predetermined direction. Always finding fault with and bullying the smaller more vulnerable and weaker nations, in the process promoting their own idealistic belief of a totally insincere concept, of what democracy is.

After the forced disruption, once they install their puppets and move in, the motive is to install their contractors, to gain free access to exploiting valuable resources that rightfully belong to the people and the nation in the countries under siege, and not to the leadership in these countries.

They will even encourage the leadership to partake in this robbery. This will be the biggest war that will eventually be deposited on the doorstep of the manufacturers of these weapons. A trajectory works in mysterious ways; it has a homing instinct and eventually returns.

While we cannot accept the South African or the US model, both favourites of the Internationally funded NGO community, which sit at the base of the table eagerly waiting for the scraps that may fall their way. Both foreign-based models will surely not work for Sri Lanka. In both examples, one side with presumed superiority is vehemently disinterested in compromise, especially, in their despised disinterest in the other. They expect the other side to accept all their demands and meet requirements.

The world encompassing predominant media hype on the corona virus has thrown a blanket over the more serious issues. The ex-colonial British, especially as they still live in an illusionary superiority even after the loss of empire and believe they are still a lead colonial in charge, will go a step further. They will use promises and rhetoric as a tool to trap a disoriented and obligated refugee society to vote for them at the next elections. They are playing a dangerous short-term game in displaying an acute desperation, in choosing whom to support, when and where.

Singapore is also facing a fraying or the downside effects of the original experiment into secular living. Will it lead to success or to the destruction of the original vision, is to be seen. Canada instead of protecting and supporting the preservation of the first nations in their own countries, spend time in an inferiority based, superior pontificating in the affairs of other nations, in an attempt to entice those living in cultural ghettoes in Canada to win votes in their own district elections.

Considering the above, is there a Sri Lankan model? Yes! There is, but the success in implementation of such a model is hampered by a myriad of self-centred individuals who call themselves, “politicians”, who aspire to use the people they allegedly represent and are expected to serve, for their personal ends. Many see the neo-colonial use of this human asset and its virtue as a lucrative building block for their own survival in this quagmire of sick politics. These politicians need to keep a constant flow of rhetoric, for without the statements they make and the tension they create they will have no role to play to sustain their ego. Without this rhetoric, the ‘generous’ funding by International NGO’s will also come to an end.

As an alternative, we should be looking at a Sri Lankan model that keeps out false prophets and gives people the freedom to interact across the board and learn to live together again. As categorically stated by Dr Abdul Kalm, an eminent past President of India, “A nation is greater than its politics “. In Sri Lanka misplaced arrogance blocks a clear vision.

All who have been displaced due to forced ethnic cleansing should be returned to their original homes; this should not be limited to one group only. The Sinhalese and Muslims displaced in the north should be resettled in their original environments. As in the past, we still hope to see Matara Bakers in the forefront of breadmaking in the North. Those displaced in other parts of the island should also be encouraged to return. Those who have gone abroad will never return, as they and their families now enjoy the economic benefits of their new life. However, they will be routinely enticed to continue to fund and drum beat in their chosen foreign lands, to maintain their status, and to keep the original investment that never produced the promised and envisaged dividend, continuously afloat.

The work of Prof. Kamani Thennakoon, University of Colombo is significant. Her DNA studies, “Comparing both the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils, show no large genetic difference, suggesting that both populations have a common ancestry native to the island”. These data have led the team to conclude that contemporary Sri Lankans share very close maternal ancestors.

Race is usually seen as biological, referring to the physical characteristics of a person, while ethnicity is viewed as a social science construct that describes a person’s cultural identity. Ethnicity is created by linguistic, religious and cultural differences rather than by genetic differences. The study indicates no genetic difference between the Sinhala and Tamil speaking community living on this island.

However, there is a difference in the DNA of South India. Even the Tamil spoken in Tamil Nadu is different, it has evolved over time. The Tamil presently spoken in Jaffna has remained static and has its roots in an early form that stems from the 7th – 9th Century. Does this have another interpretation? A well-known scholar’s original thesis, may hold a clue.

In Sri Lanka, the DNA studies show that, we are all one people divided by two languages, forcibly kept apart by location and ego-seeking neo-colonial politicians. A recent statement by Daya Gamage showed that 58% of Tamil speaking people drawn from the north and east are living amongst the Sinhala speaking community in the rest of the island, amongst a very tolerant community. A narrow fragmented false domestic wall, that divided a single people like the bifurcation of Germany after World War ll has been created, nurtured and kept alive by the egotistical neo-colonial politician.

The new condescension of the Islamic population has a short memory; it is a recent foreign influenced input that has blinkered thought. They have forgotten that it was a benevolent Sinhala king that in the 16th C, who invited the Moors to live amongst the Sinhala in the hill country to save them from the persecution by the Portuguese, and even permitted them to marry Sinhala women, giving them access to a broader understanding of a cultural matrix, when they partook in the temple rituals and even offered dana to the Sangha. Robert Knox, during his exile in the Sinhala village, spent his time and earned an income from crocheting skull caps for sale to the Islamic population living in the vicinity of his village. (To be concluded)

 

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Midweek Review

Pursuing political agendas at the expense of national security

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Yahapalana President Maithripala Sirisena recently contradicted former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando as regards the latter’s statements before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks.

It was, in fact, Sirisena who appointed the P CoI several weeks before the end of his term.

Without realising the possibility of being pulled up for contempt of the PCoI, in a statement issued on Sept 19, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Polonnaruwa District lawmaker, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rejected Fernando’s damning accusations, pertaining to the former President’s culpability as regards his government’s failure to thwart the deadly attacks.

There had never been an instance of a former President having to contradict a Defence Secretary, he himself appointed.

Fernando, who had been President Sirisena’s Chief of Staff squarely, faulted the President for lapses, as well as a brazen bid to cover up the humiliating failure to prevent nearly simultaneous suicide attacks.

Referring to a meeting, he had with President Sirisena on April 24, 2019, Fernando alleged that the President attempted to bribe disgraced IGP Pujitha Jayasundara.

During Sirisena’s tenure, as the President, he appointed no less than five Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence. That too must be a record for any Sri Lankan President. Hemasiri Fernando had been the fourth to serve as Secretary Defence during the disastrous yahapalana rule, followed by retired Army Commander Shantha Kottegoda, who received the appointment in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. It would be pertinent to mention that President Sirisena held the defence portfolio by special arrangement, though his successor was to be deprived of the privilege in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Having won the 2015 January 8 presidential election, Sirisena named one-time environment and renewable energy Secretary B.M.U.D. Basnayake as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (11.01.2015-08.09.2015). Subsequently, Karunasena Hettiarachchi (09.09.2015-05.07.2015), Kapila Waidyaratne (06.07.2017-30.10.2018), Hemasiri Fernando (30.10.2018-25.04.2019) and Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (24.04.2019-19-11.2019) received appointment as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, amidst the massive turmoil caused by the Easter carnage.

 

Ex-top cop replaces ‘intel’ veteran

The yahapalana leaders also appointed a retired DIG as the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) – a special post created by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in late 2006, on the advice of the then Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to oversee all intelligence services, including the SIS (State Intelligence Service).

The Rajapaksas created the post of CNI, by way of a cabinet paper, especially for Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana, in the wake of his retirement. Hendavitharana, who had been deeply involved in clandestine operations against terrorists, knew what was going on in the war zone, elimination of high profile LTTE targets, or overall attempts to intercept LTTE arms shipments on the high seas et al. Even after the successful conclusion of the war, in May 2009, the CNI continued to play a significant role in the previous Rajapaksa government’s security strategy.

An operation, involving the Office of the CNI, and the Navy, to seize an LTTE ship, anchored in a foreign harbour, as well as apprehending Prabhakaran’s successor Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias ‘KP’, in Malaysia, and whisking him back to Colombo, under a web of secrecy, were some of the notable operations undertaken by them.

The yahapalana lot came to power determined to dismantle the security apparatus. The Office of CNI was handed over to the retired DIG Sisira Mendis, an experienced investigator, though he lacked experience in running such a high profile operation. On top of that, the yahapalana administration, on its own, worked overtime to undermine the intelligence services. Even the new CNI lacked swift access to political leadership.

The yahapalana administration was bent on destroying the intelligence outfits. Selected officers were used in the yahapalana administration, much to the dismay of the armed forces. Senior security forces officers were harassed. Among those who had been targeted was the then Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake, who was recalled from overseas where he was taking part in a US-sponsored programme.

The SIS was brought under SSP Nilantha Jayawardena, in the first week of March 2015. The appointment was made by the then IGP N.K. Illangakoon, obviously on the instructions of the yahapalana grandees. Two years later, the National Police Commission cleared Jayawardena to hold the rank of DIG. The SIS Chief received the promotion, just a couple of weeks before the Easter Sunday carnage. In spite of him being implicated in the overall intelligence failure, rightly or wrongly, it did not prevent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government in having Jayawardena as Senior DIG, in charge of the Eastern Range – a hot bed of Muslim extremism.

 

Geneva betrayal

The Defence Ministry, during Sirisena’s tenure as the President, simply turned a blind eye to what was going on with the political leadership, working overtime to haul up the war-winning Sri Lankan military before the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Geneva betrayal was far worse than the intelligence failure that allowed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) to mount a coordinated terror campaign, in April 2019. The Defence Ministry conveniently refrained from representing the interests of the armed forces and the police. Instead, the Defence Ministry provided the backing required for the political leadership to proceed, with a despicable operation that finally led to President Sirisena’s government co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against one’s own country. In spite of President Sirisena, publicly blaming it on the UNP, on numerous occasions, he did nothing to reverse the Geneva process. The government failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks shouldn’t be examined in isolation. Instead, the Easter Sunday catastrophe should be studied as part of a comprehensive study on the Yahapalana government’s defence policy/strategy.

Perhaps, the P CoI should scrutinize the overall security failure to recognize what really went wrong on April 21, 2019. Having won the presidential election in January 2015, the UNP, in spite of not having 50 members in parliament, received the premiership. The badly shaken UPFA handed over parliamentary control to the UNP, while President Sirisena took over the SLFP.

The stage was set for the first mega Treasury bond scam, in late Feb 2015, after the dissolution of parliament, in late June 2015, and the general election, two months later. The June 2015 dissolution was meant to save the UNP from a massive embarrassment, in case the parliamentary watchdog committee, COPE, handed over its report on the first Treasury bond scam to parliament. President Sirisena delivered a stunning blow to his own party by declaring that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed the Premier, even if they won the 2015 August general election.

The President’s contemptible announcement, almost on the eve of the election, obviously even discouraged some UPFA supporters from casting their vote. The President’s bid was meant to give the UNP an advantage over his own party. The treacherous move could be only compared with Sirisena switching allegiance to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Dec 2014, to bring an end to the Rajapaksa era.

Having won the general election, with rival leader Sirisena’s support, the UNP formed a coalition that betrayed the armed forces, in Geneva, a few weeks later, with the President conveniently looking the other way. The UNP-SLFP coalition should take the responsibility for the Geneva betrayal, though the SLFP always denied having a hand in it. Those who masterminded the Easter Sunday massacre must have taken the political situation into consideration in planning the terror project.

 

A role for the late Mano

The UNP-SLFP coalition created a special post for overseeing the Geneva operation. The late Mano Tittawella, in his capacity as the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM), instructed Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, A. L. A. Azeez, in March 2019, to accept resolution 40/1 on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka.

Tittawella received his appointment, on March 29, 2016, around the time the UNP perpetrated the second and much bigger Treasury bond scam.

The UNP-UPFA coalition established the SCRM, under the Prime Minister’s Office in terms of a Cabinet decision, dated Dec 18, 2015.

The Secretary General reported directly to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Knowing Tittawella was carrying out Wickremesinghe’s directives, the President lambasted him publicly, but never challenged Wickremesinghe’s authority, granted by way of a cabinet decision. Addressing a public gathering at Meegahatenna, in late March 2019, President Sirisena accused Azeez of having betrayed the country and its armed forces.

The Oct 01, 2015 resolution had been endorsed by Ambassador Azeez’s predecessor, Ravinatha Aryasinha (our next Ambassador to Washington). Azeez took over the Geneva mission, in April 2018. Aryasinha signed the March 2017 resolution, which gave Sri Lanka two more years to fulfill its Geneva commitments.

Mangala Samaraweera functioned as the Foreign Minister (January 2015 to May 2017), followed by Ravi Karunanayake (May 2017 to August 2017), Tilak Marapana PC (Aug 2017 to Oct 2018), Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Oct 2018 to Dec 2018) and Minister Marapana took over again before the change of government, in Nov 2019.

Both Defence and Foreign Ministries actively contributed to the campaign against the war-winning armed forces. By the time NTJ mounted its deadly operations, the State security apparatus was in chaos. In late January 2019, Defence Secretary Fernando caused quite a controversy when he called for Tamil Diaspora to cooperate with government investigations into alleged war crimes, as well as other high profile cases, such as the disappearance of 11 Tamils, blamed on the Navy. Fernando, an old boy of Nalanda College, called for Tamil Diaspora support at an event organized by the Nalanda College Ranaviru Society to felicitate him. Thereby, the former Volunteer Navy officer reiterated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government policy as regards the post-war accountability issues though, by then, the yahapalana arrangement was in tatters.

 

A Defence Secy. before LLRC

Hemasiri Fernando’s accusations, directed at former President Sirisena, reminded the writer of one of Fernando’s predecessors, Austin Fernando, appearing before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), in August 2010. One time top civil servant, Austin Fernando, acknowledged that there hadn’t been proper consultations between the government and the military before the finalization of Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). Testifying before LLRC, headed by one-time Attorney General C.R. de Silva, Austin Fernando claimed in spite of him being the Secretary Ministry of Defence he didn’t enjoy the authority to intervene, though the CFA dealt with national security matters. Fernando also denied having a hand in preparing the CFA. Fernando took up the position that, in spite of serious concerns expressed by the top brass, the UNF government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the Norwegian hatched project regardless of the consequences.

The writer covered the LLRC throughout its sittings at the Kadirgamar Institute. At one point when Fernando claimed that he hadn’t been involved in drafting the CFA, LLRC Chairman shot back “no Sri Lankan was involved in the process.” Austin Fernando also blamed the Norwegians and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for failing to implement the CFA properly (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission: Now ex-Defence Secy slams CFA – The Island, August 19, 2010).

The UNP proceeded with the CFA agreement, at the expense of national security, and jeopardising the country’s fate. The government bent backwards to appease the LTTE, following the signing of the CFA. The government, on March 31, 2002, closed down ‘Wanni Sevaya’ which was in operation for the benefit of the armed forces and the police, while allowing the LTTE to import state-of-the-art equipment to expand its radio.

When Security Forces Commander, Jaffna Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka strongly opposed the reduction of high security zones in the north, without the required security guarantees, from the LTTE, the government engaged a retired Indian General to review the ground situation in the Jaffna peninsula. The government move drew widespread condemnation though Wickremesinghe blindly pushed ahead with it, believing the self-appointed international community.

 

Merril G on security fiasco

The UNP took national security lightly. The party played politics with vital security issues. The handling of matters, related to the CFA et al, was quite knowledgeably discussed by retired Senior DIG Merril Gunaratne, who had also functioned as the Director General of Intelligence during his long police career. Gunaratne’s ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ first launched in 2011, expertly dealt with the perilous way the UNP handled national security matters. The Chapter titled ‘On the Ministry of Defence with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ described the Premier’s response to security matters. Gunaratne should send a copy of ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ to the P CoI. Perusing Gunaratne’s work would certainly help those interested in knowing the truth or understanding the ground situation at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, as well as the UNP thinking. The writer focused on the Premier and the Secretary Defence.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to take action against extremist Muslim groups for political reasons, between the 2015 and 2019 period, leading to the massive Easter Sunday attacks.

Similarly, Wickremesinghe, at the onset of the CFA, declined to act on information provided by his own intelligence services. Gunaratne explained how the Premier dismissed their assessment as regards the rapid LTTE build-up on the basis of what the Indian Intelligence told him. Gunaratne quoted Wickremesinghe as having told a special security meeting; “even the Indians think the numbers were highly exaggerated.”

Gunaratne criticized Wickremesinghe over leaking of intelligence reports by way of a weekly column in the ‘Sunday Observer’ as well as opening up regular sensitive intelligence meetings, to a foreigner, at the expense of national security. The situation during the periods 2002 to 2003 (UNF) and 2015 to 2019 (yahapalana) administrations, can be easily compared. During the Oslo-run CFA, the UNP was seriously scared of the LTTE quitting the negotiating table. Wickremesinghe believed the success of his political future depended on having the LTTE at the negotiating table, at any cost. The UNP felt comfortable even after the LTTE forced the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi-led Tamil National Alliance to recognize them as the sole representative of Tamils. Although the TULF later pulled out of the coalition, it remained loyal to the LTTE until the group’s annihilation militarily on the Vanni east front.

 

Athaulla’s warning

During the yahapalana fiasco, the UNP, and even President Sirisena, didn’t want to do anything to ruffle the feathers of Muslim political parties, as well as those outside parliament, but wielded immense power. National Congress leader A.L.M. Athaulla’s somewhat controversial assertion that those who had a hand in engineering Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat, at the 2015 presidential, were also responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, should be carefully examined. Western powers are alleged to have pushed for Rajapaksa’s ouster, in 2015, as part of their efforts to counter the growing Chinese influence in Colombo. Addressing the media last Sunday, lawmaker Athaulla explained how violence, directed at the Muslim community, in June 2014, transformed the Muslim community into an anti-Rajapaksa movement. Perhaps, the post-Easter Sunday situation should be examined, taking into consideration the ‘Mission Impossible’ type internal and external engineering, by hidden forces, that may have contributed to an explosive situation – causing unprecedented chaos, a decade after the conclusion of the war.

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Midweek Review

Which MBA?

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Some pointers to consider in selecting an MBA

It is but natural that when there is a glut in the market, that is, when supply of a commodity is much in excess of the demand, the customer will, obviously, have a wider choice to select. At the same time, he will be bemused in the choice of a quality product from the rest. This phenomenon has become true in the case of selecting an MBA course, by young graduates, as…

i. they will not be that clear as to why they do an MBA, as they continue to possess the basic-degree mentality, and / or

ii. they will not know the objectives of doing an MBA, and what qualities a good MBA should have, and, therefore,

iii. they will face a daunting challenge in selecting an MBA that will…

(a) suit their aspirations, and

(b) bring about the desired skills, competencies, attitudinal and behavioural changes in them.

 

By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Consultant-Publications
The Postgraduate Institute of Management

 

An MBA is an extremely popular Master’s degree programme locally as well, which has a high demand in the country. The attraction to do an MBA comes from two factors, namely:

(a) job limitations for those possessing only a basic degree, and

(b) many a job holder being driven by the aspiration to possess an MBA, inter alia, to go up in his/her career.

 

How an MBA differs from a basic degree?

They are at two different levels of education. The broad objectives of an undergraduate programme are to provide students an excellent academic experience, and to equip them with the ability to solve a broad range of problems in our rapidly changing technological, economic and social environment. As there’s a wide range of basic degrees, the student can select a particular degree programme if he/she wishes to tread on a specialized field. Moreover, in an undergraduate programme, the candidate has the option of selecting either a general degree, wherein he/she needs to study several subjects, during a specific period of time, or specialize in a single subject. Both these options provide a candidate with relevant knowledge that will make him/her possess a relatively broad perspective of the subjects/subject offered. Further, the basic degree lays the initial foundation for a candidate to proceed further in the selected professional field, in which he/she becomes a master of it. This is precisely the objective of an MBA. A basic degree being an entry point for furtherance of a specialized subject/an area of study, anyone wishing to enter a job at this point would need to undergo job-centred specific training depending on the specialty of the job. It is due to this reason that the government finds it difficult to absorb those with a basic degree into the cadres, sans an attuning-process/ training.

Based on this backdrop, an MBA is more business-centred and career-oriented. One of the most common reasons for doing an MBA is that, for many people, it can lead to the next step in their careers. Sometimes, after working for some period of time, people find that they’ve reached a certain level in their careers, and they need something else to get to management-level positions. An MBA adds the specific business skills higher management positions demand to one’s toolkit, such as leadership or strategic thinking, that will help getting them into the management-level positions.

 

Basics for an MBA programme

An MBA being a graduate course of study, MBA aspirants must initially have completed his/her studies with an acceptable/recognized bachelor’s degree before being able to enter an MBA programme. Although the bachelor’s degree may not be directly related to the business world, an ideal candidate is one who would possess sufficient executive exposure. As regards executive exposure, institutes of higher learning/universities have their own stipulations regarding the period and the nature of executive exposure. Insistence on this requirement is considered a necessity as executives, having a view of the overall organizational profile and its objectives, are better equipped to arrive at rational decisions. Decisions, in short, are planning and implementation-centred. Realizing the ultimate ‘why’ aspect of an organization is, therefore, a must in any decision-making process. In short, MBA aspirants need to be in that level of maturity to grasp the interconnectivity of the subjects they master in the programme.

 

MBA – Parameters and Purpose

Further, many an MBA aspirant does not know clearly what an MBA consists of, content-wise, and what purpose it serves. Unlike other postgraduate courses, which provide specialization in a specific field, the Master of Business Administration is interdisciplinary, and it prepares an aspirant for senior management roles by exposing and preparing him to be confident in the midst of all areas of business, including accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, business communication, business ethics and business law. A well structured MBA programme also provides candidates access to an extensive network of contacts that can help them boost their career. The future depends much on organization-wise and people-wise linkages as the future of any enterprise is almost entirely interdependent. The overall purpose of an MBA degree is thus to prepare candidates for managing an organization/enterprise in every way, or in other words, to train qualified executives who have gained an all-pervading vision for business.

 

MBA and the Level of Learning

When it comes to learning-levels, one would invariably take into consideration the Bloom’s Taxonomy, (origin in 1956 and revised in 2001) which provides a classification for learning outcomes. Herein the basic levels include (i) remembering (ii) understanding and (iii) applying. In these levels the elements of (iv) analysing (v) evaluating and (vi) creating are almost absent. To make it more elaborate, in the three higher levels, the following are emphasized and given more weightage:

Analysing:

Correlating, deconstructing, linking, organizing, appraising, probing, questioning, structuring, integrating, attributing, estimating and explaining.

Evaluating:

Arguing, validating testing, criticizing, commenting, debating, detecting, experimenting, measuring, hypothesizing, moderating, predicting, reflecting and reviewing.

Creating:

constructing, adapting, collaborating, directing, devising, programming, simulating, solving, facilitating, synthesizing, investigating, negotiating and leading.

It could thus be seen that all these three tiers demand a critical, probing as well as a researching approach; an approach that is constantly critical of the ‘status quo’. The automatic conclusion would thus be that an MBA demands a mature and a critical approach. These ingredients are lacking at the lower levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy.

 

Measurement of Impact: The Level of Transformation

Hence, any well structured MBA programme, designed and conducted/executed, so as to achieve these higher objectives demanded of by the current business world, should be able to transform an aspirant to a fully fledge MBA, at the conclusion of the programme. An MBA programme is, therefore, virtually a process of total transformation of a basic degree holder to an accomplished master of business administration, as per the true meaning of the title. To effectively carryout a process of authentic/true/genuine transformation, the following are musts among a host of other components that compose an MBA programme:

Effective Communication: Communication encapsulates all modes of conveyance of ideas and information. In fact, communication is the glue that binds all sectors of a business. It thus includes both oral and written communication. Additionally, mastering presentation skills is a must for a manager, as more often his functions revolve around coordination and conveyance of facts and information. Human resource management, team and relationship building, transparency, developing trust, linking with stakeholders, presentation of business-related information are a few major tasks that demand effective communication.

Business Communication: A specialized component of communication is an important integral part within overall communication skills in an MBA programme. Being able to communicate up, down and across is essential in any management position. Communications skills are an area employers have often found candidates lacking. Therefore, in an effective MBA programme, business communication is considered as an indispensable skillset. Business communication, in short, is fine-tuning of communication skills to achieve business objectives.

Analytical and Critical Thinking:

All the three stages of higher learning, namely, creating, evaluating and analyzing in the already discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy demand analytical and critical thinking. The basic element that promotes all these skills is the questioning-inquiring-probing mindset. Developing this mindset, which is a critical component, is one of the overall objectives of a well designed and structured MBA programme. In competitive and uncertain business environments, analytical and critical thinking help improve the quality of managerial decisions.

Strategic Thinking and Integration of Functional Areas of Business:

Issues, problems and challenges being the common-denominator in a business, a trained business-mind that thinks of issues strategically, taking into account all related factors, is a must, if one is to add value to the organization. Therefore, mastering strategic thinking skills is essential as they provide the bases for the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities that create competitive advantage.

Ethical Leadership:

Organization being closely integrated to the social fabric they cannot function in isolation. This phenomenon demands that an MBA graduate needs to demonstrate knowledge of ethical frameworks for management decision-making and leadership. That’s why business law and business ethics form a part of an MBA course structure. Honesty, integrity, humaneness, value-driven decision-making, intolerance for ethical violations, being just and impartiality and exemplariness are further parameters to gauge a well-rounded MBA graduate.

Global Awareness:

‘Think globally and act locally’ is an axiom that established seats of higher learning would encourage and promote. It is essential for an MBA student to be aware of the global environment, and factors affecting the global economy and international business and to gain a comprehensive understanding of these in order to arrive at informed decision-making. The current developments that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic amply prove the need to be aware of the global environment.

 

Some Important Hallmarks of a Reputed Seat of Learning

A good library is considered as the heart of any seat of learning. A reputed seat of learning is supported by a library that is rich enough to support the research of the university faculty and student. The maturity of a seat of learning is also measured by the richness of its publications; richness by way of the volume, variety and depth of its publications as well as their linkages to socio-economic development. Richness of research is also a strong indicator that an institute is in constant pursuit of new knowledge, and not a mere passive reproducer of knowledge. The main teaching arm of an academic institute – the key to its education – is its Faculty. Especially in an MBA degree–business school, the Faculty should invariably be those who are industry-experienced. It is they who introduce the much valued practices and norms of business to the classroom as well as to the respective course-contents. Encouraging innovativeness and promoting entrepreneurship through business-incubators are other important hallmarks of a higher learning institute that is truly concerned with the ultimate product of transforming an MBA aspirant to a truly business-minded person.

 

The elements of Rigour and Disciplined Culture in Executing an Effective MBA Programme

Transformation being the central theme of an MBA programme, reputed seats of learning are in an on-going process of re-structuring their game-plans, by re-visiting every aspect that has a bearing on the final product, i.e., meeting the needs of the business community through their MBAs. In this endeavour, the element of rigour or rigorous learning experiences help the MBA aspirants to realize expectations that are academically, intellectually and personally challenging. Coupled with rigour is the culture of the organization. In its broadest sense, culture is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning. All reputed seats of learning maintain a disciplined atmosphere, conforming to procedural and quality systems. Opposite to bureaucracy, cultivated behaviour and set rules and procedures unleash the creativity and nimbleness that is required for growth of both personnel and organizations.

 

MBA – A Life-changing Programme that Transforms One’s Future

The above revelations would sufficiently convince that a well structured and strategically executed MBA is a life-changing programme that transforms a person through experiential learning. Such a programme will strengthen both, one’s business and leadership skills and his critical and strategic thinking. Moreover, the creative problem-solving abilities, new knowledge, and tools gained through the programme will, for sure, be a key to success in one’s personal and professional transformation. In other words, MBA is a process that re-invents a person to be a full-fledged professional. In reaching these goals, there are no shortcuts or compromises.

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Midweek Review

The Book’s Hold

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By Lynn Ockersz

It’s not at all a bad thing – This mesmeric hold of the book,And the Isle’s doing the right thing,

By allowing itself to be carried away,On the wave of boundless delight,Book Month without fail brings,

Though the durance of such joy is all too brief,But the wish of she who thinks,Is that this magical pull of the book,

Will be a life-long thing,And that those who noisily warm their seats,In the House by the ‘Oya’ of esteem,Would make of reading a sacred undertaking,For, a measure of grey matter is very much in need.

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