Response to Prof. Lamabadusuriya
by Bodhi Dhanapala, Quebec
Professor S.P. Lambadusuriya is a former medical dean who held many high posts in academia, in public life and contributed to pediatric cardiology. He was a Scientific Adviser for Sri Lanka in the Norvatis Foundation. So I was astounded to read an article entitled “Palmistry, a personal experience”, in the Island newspaper dated Sept. 2, 2021 and again in the Sept. 12 Sunday Island.
Occult beliefs and Sri Lanka’s scientific establishment
The co-existence of irrationality and commonsense in Sri Lanka seems to have increased over time. If a child is born even to a “scientifically educated couple”, eg., doctors or engineers, getting a horoscope is a must and the name of the child is also determined by “auspicious” letters given to the parents.
The parents, if they are Sinhalese and subject to urban influences, would rush to a name list made by those who prepare their lists using a dead version of early Sinhalese popularized by an eccentric Pandit and his disciples . The auspicious name lists come from an “Arisen Ahubudu”, a name incomprehensible to ordinary people.
Professor Lambadusuriya would have known Professor Carlo Fonseka who we badly miss in this Abuddhassa Kaley when people are strongly attracted to occult beliefs due to pandemic inspired knee-jerk reactions. Professor Carlo fought against irrationality and absence of reason, mainly in his writings challenging Dr. Nalin de Silva who preached that “Western Science is a chronic lie (Patta Pal Boruwa) perpetrated by the West. Even though Sri Lanka has been nourished by the highly rational Theravada Buddhism which rejected occult belief systems like astrology and palmistry (see “Brahmajaala sutta) as mere Brahaminic myth, they continue to thrive.
Dr. Nalin de Silva is better known for his politics than his attacks on science. He supports revealed truth from the likes of “God Natha” or Vishnu communicated through clairvoyants. In reply to Prof Carlo Fonseka, Dr de Silva once said “let us hear clairvoyants, read horoscopes (පි…න්…..ු) and accept communications from beings not visible to us (……..ු).
Although people like the late Prof. Carlo Fonseka, and others like Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana, Dr Pethiyagoda and also Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana have in recent times taken a stand against irrational nonsense, when someone like Prof. Lambadusuriya writes an article that virtually endorses palmistry, we can hardly fault politicians who rush to Gnana Akka, Eliyantha White or the Tirupathi shrine in Tamil Nadu.
Prof. Lamabadusuriya’s encounter with Ratmalana palmist
Apparently the palmist began by taking an ink imprint of the client’s palm. Is this better than directly examining the palm even with a magnifying glass? Why did he not use a fluorescent ink, or an infra-red lamp, when a differently emphasized set of lines and marks would have shown up?
A medical man knows that there are different crease marks on the skin of different parts of the body – toes, feet, palms, fingers etc. He knows how mere mild fluctuations in the acidity (pH) of the amniotic fluid could change the protein folding and determine these creases or lines in the hand. So, how can chance folding of proteins in response to a mother’s fluid in the womb indicate a pediatrician’s future marriage?
It has been said that the controversial ex-MP Mervyn Silva started as a palmist and clairvoyant practicing under the speaker’s shade tree known as “Pacha gaha” in Galle, and some how manged to convince Mrs. Bandaranaike or one of her advisers that he can predict the future. A consummate con artist who manages to move from the Pachagaha to hold forth in Rosmead Place should not be underestimated. It is a possible that Mervyn Silva did much better that the Ratamalana practitioner.
While a detective is trained in interrogating people, a doctor may not learn how a seasoned con artist can read a client and make him talk, using information drawn from such conversation to spin a yarn that remains in the client’s mind forever. All coincidences drawn in the conversation get reconfirmed. All parts of the story that turn out to be incorrect are forgotten. Astrologers’ ‘accurate’ forecasts are publicized and those that are not, forgotten.
Palmists and astrologers get their clients to talk and gather information enabling a reading likely to be true on at least one or two features: eg. in his young age he had to face a significant illness, had to change his residence, had misunderstandings with parents etc. Then a prediction is made that he will succeed even after facing many odds, will go abroad, and land a senior job at a young age, etc.
Judging by the pre-reading conversation, it will be revealed that the client had “romantic relationships” that didn’t work, but somebody suitable will emerge in the future. The young client may actually now seek partners to make the prediction true! However, the clues from the preamble may have been such that the palmist or astrologer will predict a “traditional arranged marriage” without conflicts.
Dr. Lambadusuriya may have heard of ola-leaf readers in India who will be ready with a client’s palm-leaf horoscope anticipating his arrival. The Hindu Astrologer will even tell your name and other details and send you home astounded. Just as there are optical illusions where you think you saw what you imagined, there are also audio-illusions and ventriloquist tricks where you hear some mumble and think that the other person said it to you. You may be in partial hypnosis. Various researchers investigating these claims of “paranormal” acts have exposed such practices using modern audio and video detecting devices; but only in cases where they are allowed to investigate.
Occult and quacks
The pediatrician’s article comes at a time where Sri Lanka is in the throes of a pandemic. A frightened public is resorting to occult practices and home remedies sold by quacks who thrive selling alternative cures, the most famous being the Dhammika peniya touted as a Kaliamma revelation that won backing from ministers and political VIPs. The claims were publicized by news outlets and TV programs that never followed up with interviews with knowledgeable scientists with the abiity to debunk the quacks.
The State Minster of Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Jayasumana, backed the claim while Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar (Burma) is reported to have moaned about his inability to get as much Dhammkia peniya as possible. Purveyors of such spurious medicines have made a pretty penny and one worthy had wanted a month to rid the country of covid with a capsule untested by clinical trials.
Meanwhile, other “medical men” of questionable credentials had come forward to push other types of “capsules”, possibly containing Vitamin C and Vitamin D in dangerously high doses, or Ivamectin and other dangerous drugs rejected by the WHO, with no proven effect on Covid or even on common influenza infections.
In France, Dr. Raoult who continued to promote hydroxiquinone as a cure for Covid even after laboratory tests and clinical trials showed it to be ineffective was stripped of his hospital privileges recently. Such interventions don’t happen in Sri Lanka. In fact, such claims may enable appointment as a minster!
[The writer retired recently from his position as the head of the science department of a Quebec Ecole Polytechnique and writes on scientific and sociological topics.]
Encouraging signs, indeed!
Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving
Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.
They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.
The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.
On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.
Constructive dialogue beyond international community
by Jehan Perera
Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.
In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”
Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”
The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.
There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.
President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.
An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.
The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.
Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.
JAYASRI twins…in action in Europe
The world over, the music scene has been pretty quiet, and we all know why. This pandemic has created untold hardships for, practically, everyone, and, the disturbing news is that, this kind of scene has been predicted for a good part of 2022, as well,
The band JAYASRI, however, based in Europe, and fronted by the brothers Rohitha and Rohan, say they are fortunate to find work coming their way.
Over the past few months, they have been performing at some of the festivals, held in Europe, during the summer season.
Says Rohitha: “As usual, we did one of the biggest African festivals in Europe, AfrikaTage, and some other summer events, from July up to now. Some were not that big, as they used to be, due to the pandemic, health precautions, etc.”
For the month of October, JAYASRI did some concerts in Italy, with shows in the city of Verona, Napoli, Rome, Padova and Milano.
The twins with the
late Sunil Perera
On November, 12th, the JAYASRI twins, Rohitha and Rohan, will be at EXPO Dubai 2020 and will be performing live in Dubai.
Rohitha also indicated that they have released their new single ‘SARANGANA,’ describing it as a Roots Reggae song, in audio form, to all download platforms, and as a music video to their YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/user/jayasri
According to Rohitha, this song will be featured in an action drama.
The lyrics for ‘SARANGANA,’ were created by Thushani Bulumulle, music by JAYASRI, and video direction by Chamara Janaraj Pieris.
There will be two audio versions, says Rohitha – a Radio Mix and a DUB Mix by Parvez.
The JAYASRI twins Rohitha and Rohan
After their Italian tour, Rohitha and Rohan are planning to come to Sri Lanka, to oblige their many fans, and they are hoping that the showbiz scene would keep on improving so that music lovers could experience a whole lot of entertainment, during the forthcoming festive season.
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