By Prof. Amarasiri de Silva
When US President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet on the South Lawn of the White House for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday morning, their meeting held a significant purpose. At the forefront of their agenda was the aim to forge a formidable alliance between the two nations, centered around promoting the freedom of business and naval activities in the Asia Pacific oceans. Recognising the strategic importance of the region, both leaders were committed to harnessing an accord that would enhance economic opportunities and strengthen security cooperation, ushering in a new era of collaboration between the United States and India.
Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the joint session of the US Congress served as an enlightening moment for Sri Lanka and a valuable lesson for politicians in Sri Lanka and around the world. It was a powerful antidote to promoting aversion, hatred, and war-mongering. It showcased a visionary approach toward international relations and set the stage for a new era of cooperation and understanding. His speech this time is far superior to his speech at the US Congress on June 8, 2016, at which time India was the 10th leading economy in the world. But in 2023, in his speech, he disclosed that India is the 5th leading economy in the world, showing the progress achieved under his leadership. Among other Asian political leaders who spoke at the US Congress, Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (April 29, 2015), Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (September 19, 2012), and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (August 5, 2005) were prominent. They all discussed the strong alliance between their countries and the United States and highlighted the importance of bilateral cooperation and democracy. Mr. Modi’s speech is unique in that he was speaking for global development and global democracy at a time when India has reached its local development to a reasonable maximum level by addressing the local inequalities. Mr. Modi’s address emphasised the importance of fostering unity, peace, and harmony among nations. His words resonated beyond borders, challenging divisive ideologies, and highlighting the need for a more inclusive and compassionate world. By denouncing policies and actions that fuel conflict and animosity, he encouraged leaders everywhere to embrace a more constructive approach in dealing with complex global issues.
The speech by Prime Minister Modi not only captivated the attention of the US Congress but also had a profound impact on Sri Lanka. It served as a wake-up call, urging politicians in Sri Lanka to reevaluate their rhetoric and policies. It demonstrated that leadership could transcend narrow agendas and instead focus on promoting dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect among nations. Moreover, Prime Minister Modi’s statement about heralding a new beginning in the world order carries immense significance. It signifies a departure from traditional power dynamics and a shift towards a more collaborative and inclusive global framework. The speech serves as a clarion call for leaders worldwide to work together towards a future characterized by peace, progress, and shared prosperity.
The transformation of India’s economic landscape under Mr. Modi’s guidance is a testament to his strategic vision and commitment to development. During his speech, Mr. Modi eloquently highlighted the remarkable progress that India has achieved under his leadership. With a sense of grace and pride, he acknowledged the significant milestones India has crossed on its path to development. Thanks to his visionary leadership and concerted efforts, India has climbed the ranks and now proudly stands as the fifth largest economy in the world. His policies and initiatives have propelled India forward, unlocking its immense potential and igniting rapid growth across various sectors. The nation’s rise in economic stature reflects the hard work and perseverance of its people, as well as the enabling environment created through policy reforms and pro-business measures. These are lessons for Sri Lanka.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Modi’s aspirations extend even further. As he mentioned in his speech, India is determined to strive for the pinnacle of economic development, aiming to become the top-ranked developed country worldwide despite representing one-sixth of the global population. This ambitious goal demonstrates the unwavering determination of India and its people to achieve excellence on the world stage.
PM Modi’s vision of India’s future as a top developed nation is not only rooted in economic progress but also encompasses various other dimensions of development. It encompasses improvements in education, healthcare, infrastructure, innovation, and social welfare, all of which are vital components of a comprehensive and sustainable development agenda. The mention of India’s pursuit to become the world’s foremost developed country with its vast population is a testament to the potential of its human capital and the collective efforts of its citizens. It signifies the belief that every individual’s contribution matters, and that inclusive development is crucial for the nation’s overall progress.
In his impactful speech, Mr. Modi effectively conveyed that India has made significant strides in addressing local issues, economic challenges, and fostering overall development. He highlighted the remarkable progress achieved in improving the lives of millions of Indians. One crucial aspect he emphasised was the widespread accessibility of AI technology, smartphones, and the internet. He proudly stated that even individuals on the streets, while engaging in everyday activities like purchasing vegetables or availing services at barbershops, rely on their smartphones for convenient transactions.
Moreover, PM Modi underscored the substantial advancements made in ensuring the well-being of India’s vast population. He highlighted that millions of people now have access to free healthcare, housing, and various other essential facilities. This focus on inclusive development reflects India’s commitment to uplifting its citizens and providing them with a better quality of life.
The Prime Minister also touched upon the significant progress achieved in transportation infrastructure. He highlighted that India’s transportation development has reached an apex, indicating the nation’s commitment to improving connectivity and facilitating smooth movement of goods and people across the country. This development not only enhances economic opportunities but also enhances social cohesion by bringing people closer together.
Furthermore, Mr. Modi acknowledged the efforts made in minimising social inequalities. He emphasised that steps have been taken to address the issue of inequality, and as a symbol of progress, he mentioned that a tribal leader now represents the presidency. This representation signifies the nation’s commitment to inclusivity and demonstrates the strides taken to ensure equal opportunities for all.
PM Modi’s speech resonates with the remarkable achievements India has made on various fronts, addressing local issues, driving economic growth, and advancing overall development. The accessibility of technology, exemplified by widespread smartphone usage and access to the internet, signifies India’s progress in bridging the digital divide and ensuring connectivity for millions of people. The provision of essential facilities, such as free healthcare and housing, showcases the government’s commitment to improving the quality of life for its citizens.
Prime Minister Modi’s speech not only resonates within India but also offers valuable lessons to politicians worldwide. His emphasis on shunning divisive ideologies and promoting unity underscores the importance of collaboration and understanding in a rapidly changing global landscape. The call to embrace a new world order built on cooperation and harmony inspires leaders to work towards a brighter and more harmonious future for all.
PM Modi’s speech showcases his unwavering dedication to India’s progress and belief in its potential. It exemplifies the transformative impact that effective leadership, strategic policies, and collective effort can have on a nation. His address serves as an inspiration to not only Indians but also the global community, highlighting the possibilities of overcoming challenges and achieving extraordinary development outcomes through determination, vision and inclusive governance.
Speculations about origin of placename, ‘Negombo’ (Meegamuwa)
By Chandre Dharmawardana,
A writer using the pseudonym GADS, replying to a previous article regarding Negombo, states (The Island 17 Sept. 2023), “It is also historically recorded that the name Negombo is the Portuguese corruption of its Tamil name Neerakolombu and the Sinhala name Meegamuwa which means and comes from old Tamil Naval terminology Meegamam Pattnam. Meegamam denotes a naval captain”.
Unfortunately, the author does not give the reference to this “historical record” or elaborate on the details available from any early sources, Portuguese and Dutch maps etc. Furthermore, he asserts that “Meegamam” denotes a naval captain. Here again, this is certainly not so in any of the Dravidian languages, or Indic languages. No such usage exists even in Arabic and other languages of the Hebrew family, as far as we can ascertain.
A “naval captain” in Arabic would be Kabtin Bahriun, while the Tamil usage would be Katarpatai Kaptain in modern usage. In old Tamil words like Nakutawere used . However, “gama, gamuwa, gammam, kamam, etc., are all refer “village”.
I have collected what is known about the place name Negombo in the website listed at the end of this note . I quote from it below:
The name Meegamuva is believed to refer to a village (gamuwa) which was reputed for its honey (mee). Thus, the Mahavamsa-based tradition has it that honey was procured from this region for Queen Vihara Maha Devi, (2 century BCE), initially from a honeycomb found in a boat turned upside down. It could also refer to a forest of Mee trees, Madhuca Longifolia (Koenig). It is well known that placenames have been based on vegetation and prominent land marks; in our view, this is the most likely source of the name.
Another interesting legend is that the name is related to “Nihumbala, the nephew of the Yakka king Raavana. The Tamil form, Neerkozimpu may mean water, and ‘kozimpu’ is sometimes claimed to mean ‘village’, but such a meaning is not recognised in standard Tamil Lexicons. Also, the Tamil name originally applied only to the lagoon-like area and not to the whole of Meegamuwa. Given the ancient histoofthe village, kozimpu may have comefrom the sinhala kalapuva adorned with the Tamil “nir”.
Maya Oya flows north of Negombo and falls into the ocean near Kochchikade. This was an early center of the cinnamon trade, set up by the Moors in medieval times. The Portuguese ousted them in the 16th century and built a fort, and established a strong Catholic religious centre here. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese in the 1644 CE. The ruins of the fort, with its fine archway marked ‘1672’ can still be seen. In 1796 the British took over Negombo, by which time the cinnamon trade had declined. The town has remained strongly Roman catholic to this day.
Frivolous folk-lore etymology attriutes the name ‘Negambo’ to nikam biruva. That is, a dog ‘just barked’ is said to be the response given by a non-comprehending bystander to a colonial who asked ‘what is the name of this town? While GADS recognizes such frivolities for what they are, the claim that Meegamuwa or Neer-kozimpu comes from the Tamil words for “sea captain” can be very intriguing if anyone takes it seriously; one cannot find a source for substantiating such a claim in any reputed Tamil lexicon or Tamil literary source.
Madras Tamil Lexicon.
 Mahawamsa, XXII, verse 48.
How to conserve electricity at home and workplace
Going through my old paper clippings, I came across the following news item which is more applicable today when the country is facing a severe energy crisis on how to conserve or restrict the use of electricity at Offices and other working places.
There are several ways of conserving electricity at home, offices and other workplaces. It is absolutely necessary to do so because electricity is harmful for our environment and the planet we live in.
Here is how
(a) Unplug all electrical appliances in the kitchen when not in use, except the refrigerator. This includes coffee pots, sandwich toasters, blenders and ovens. These appliances use small amounts of electricity when they are left in standby mode.
(b) When it comes to washing, soap them first and then open the tap halfway to wash them.
(c) Use the washing machine once a week. Try washing some of your lighter clothes by hand and save jeans and other heavy clothing for the washing machine
(d) When drying your clothes, do not use the dryer unless very necessary. Hang wet clothes on a line in the backyard which is an easy way of drying them and clothes dry so easily during the day in this intensely hot weather.
(e) Change the traditional light bulbs for energy saving bulbs. The garden lights can be replaced with solar powered lights. In the kitchen, the refrigerator is out of direct sunlight and not next to the oven. Avoid putting hot dishes in the refrigerator as it will have to work harder to cool the dish, therefore wait for a while for the dish to cool and then put it in the refrigerator.
(f) Unplug any phone or laptop chargers when they are not in use.
(g) Unplug the computer when it is not in use. This is very important because it can get very badly damaged if it is plugged in during a thunderstorm. You may not even be at home during the storm, so it is advisable to unplug the computer when it is not being used. Do not leave the computer switched on for long hours.
(h) Unplug the television set and gaming consoles too, as they can get damaged if they are on standby mode during a thunderstorm.
(i) Keep DVD players, TVs and other audio and stereo equipment plugged into a multi-port which can be turned off with one switch. This saves electricity.
(j) Turn off the lights, fans and air-conditioner when you leave the room. Remember that you do not need the lights switched on during the day.
(k) Do not use electric appliances such as vacuum cleaners and use the broom instead.
Some lesser known historical facts
The Greek women in ancient Greece realised to their utter dismay that their husbands were always fighting wars overseas. One brave Greek woman, Lysistrata, organised a women’s front with the sole purpose of denying their husbands the marital pleasures unless they remained at home to fulfill their marital duties
Socrates, known for his wisdom, was invited by the King of Sparta, which had waged war against Greece, to be an honorary citizen of Sparta. He gracefully turned down the offer as he valued the democratic way of life in Athens. As he was always arguing with fellow Athenians neglecting household work his wife used abusive language on him in the presence of his companions. Socrates continued with his arguments when his wife in utter exasperation treated him with a plate full of dish water. Socrates merely said to his companions that after thunder comes the rain.
In the Olympic games held during the peaceful times the athletes ran the races naked. Women were not permitted to attend them. The penalty was death if a woman was discovered breaking the law. On one occasion a middle-aged woman was caught breaking the law. As she happened to be the mother of a celebrated athlete she was forgiven.
Julius Caesar was caught dressed as a woman in a women only club in Rome. He was not punished since he had gone there only to meet his lover who saved him. On another occasion he had to offer a bribe to the ship’s captain, a pirate, who threatened to throw him overboard into the Mediterranean Sea.
Isaac Newton was accused by Robert Hooke for plagiarizing when the former introduced the gravitational constant in his book Principia Mathematica. Hooke was the Secretary of the Royal Society of which Newton was the President. Hooke was the person who encouraged Robert Knox to write the book “Historical Relations…” Newton was accused by the German philosopher Leibniz of plagiarism as the latter had published the calculations of infinitesimal calculus before Newton. There was a rule in the Universities that dons should take holy orders. The king exempted Newton from this obligation. Newton’s denial of the divinity of Jesus and the trinity did not earn any punishment from the ecclesiastical authorities. The complementary part of calculus, integral calculus, had been discovered by Archimedes in the second century BC. After the conquest of Greece by Rome the intellectual supremacy and the culture of Greece saw a gradual decline. It was known that the burial place of Archimedes was a much-venerated place visited by Greeks. The Romans did not show such veneration and the burial place got neglected. However, when Cicero, a Roman intellectual, lawyer and writer became the governor of Athens in the second half of the first century BC, he visited the burial site and had the monument restored to its former state. He noticed the epitaph wherein the symbol of a sphere within a cylinder had been inscribed.
A century later Rome conquered England, killing the English queen Boudica. There stands the figure of this queen on a horse (close to the underground tube station Westminster) with words emblazoned on the flanks in poetic language indicating that while England was colonised by Rome, England had conquered half of the world.
Guy Fawkes was the man who made an attempt to set fire to the Parliament building. This incident is known as the “Gunpowder plot”. He failed in his attempt and was executed. This incident may be compared to the attempt by a JVP member who threw a hand grenade when a Cabinet meeting was taking place in the Parliament building with the President JRJ presiding. The culprit got away.
When a German prince from Hanover became George the First of England, he found life in England very dull as he could not speak English. So, he invited his old German friend Handel, the musician, to be his companion. It was during this time that Handel composed his famous “Water music” and many operas.
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