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Returning to Ceylon as Governor

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by Sir. Henry Monck-Mason Moore

Last British Governor of then Ceylon
The writer outlines his career prior to his return to Ceylon

Sir. Henry began his career in the Ceylon Civil Service and attained high office in the Colonial Civil Service serving in several territories in the Caribbean and Africa before returning to Ceylon as the last British Governor of this country. He, for health reasons, declined Prime Minister DS Senanayake’s offer to stay on as Independent Ceylon’s first Governor General and Lord Soulbury was instead appointed.

(Continued from last week)

Of the latest developments in Ceylon I knew nothing but I remembered that the last time I saw D.S. Senanayake was when he was arrested during the riots. Though he was soon released and I had nothing whatever to do with his case, I was doubtful as to the wisdom of my appointment. So I pointed this out in a telegram to the Secretary of State, but added that I would naturally accept if that was still his wish.It was, and I went. My wife and 1 were flown hurriedly to London and it was only on arrival there that I learnt that the urgency was due to the decision to send a constitutional commission to Ceylon, of which Lord Soulbury was eventually appointed Chairman.

I only had a short talk with Sir Andrew Caldecott, primarily on the question of a successor to Admiral Layton as Chairman of the War Council. I finally secured the appointment of General Wetherall, whom I had known in Kenya, and for a year till the post was abolished we worked together without any friction. In fact as he was the official channel through which I communicated with Admiral Mountbatten and his headquarters, he proved of the greatest service to me and studiously abstained from interfering in civilian questions.

Another surprise for me in London was to attend a lunch at Claridges given by the Secretary of State, Oliver Stanley, in honour of Oliver Goonetilleke. I ascertained that during the war he was given the temporary post of Civil Defence Commissioner, in which though still a member of the Ceylon public service, he had acquired for himself a quasi-ministerial status on his visits abroad. I was destined to have to work closely with him in Ceylon. He was in many ways indispensable in keeping me informed of the gyrations of the political wheel, as he had a foot in most camps. He was, I believe, a sincere supporter of D. S. and served his interests well.

My original suspicion that my appointment would be received at best with mixed feelings was confirmed when I was sworn in as Governor in the Council Chamber. In accordance with the courtesy which has always been a delightful characteristic of the Ceylonese, it had always been customary in the past to present an address to a new Governor, to which he made a suitably prepared reply.

I was informed by Mr. Drayton, the acting Governor, that as it was war time there would be no address or speeches at all. I was a little surprised, but was again assured by Mr. Drayton on arrival that there would be nothing for me to do, but take the oath and then leave the Chamber. I was about to do so, when to my astonishment Mr. Senanayake got up and read me a brief address of welcome. On the spur of the moment I made the best reply I could in which I said that I relied on Mr. Senanayake and his Ministers to assist me in the difficult task that lay ahead.

Next morning I was pilloried in the Times of Ceylon for using the phrase his instead of my Ministers with the implication that I was ignorant of the Governor’s constitutional position vis-a-vis the Board of Ministers. To this day I don’t know what induced Mr. Senanayake to make this unexpected move, but I presume he was told by his advisers that his failure to speak might be considered too discourteous. I mention this incident because it reflects the confused political atmosphere I found awaiting me. In due course my wife and I got to know Mr. and Mrs. Senanayake well and occasional crises did not affect the friendliness of our social relations.

We had hardly settled into Queen’s House when we had to entertain the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and their suite en route to Australia, as Admiral Mountbatten was unable to accommodate them in Kandy as originally arranged. Soon after Lord Soulbury and his two colleagues arrived, but it was considered politically undesirable that they should make their headquarters at Queen’s House though we played our part in their entertainment. By the time their Report was reaching finality I had time to form my own appreciation of the constitutional position.

The Donoughmore Constitution had been a departure from the established form of constitutional advance from Crown Colony Government to representative Government. It had been devised to meet the special problems of Ceylon created by the conflicting interests of a population of different races, castes, and creeds. It was not intended, I believe, as a permanent solution but to pave the way to further advance. How far it was successful at first I have no means of judging as I had had no practical experience of its operation. But by 1944 it had clearly ceased to be an effective instrument of orderly government.

The different Executive Committees elected their own Chairman, and as he became automatically a member of the Board of Ministers there was constant jockeying for the coveted post. In the Board of Ministers, each Minister for reasons of personal prestige or for other more legitimate reasons competed for approval of his own policies, and as the official members of the Board had no vote, the Governor’s position became almost impossible.

In theory he had the powers of approval or disallowance and quite trivial matters required his rubber stamp. In practice it had become increasingly difficult for him to intervene without raising an outcry out of all proportion to the importance of the points at issue. The Governor had certain powers for use only in an emergency, but apart from these he had to rely on his powers of persuasion to secure the approval of policies sponsored by His Majesty’s Government.

In peace time, it had not had the same significance, as Ceylon had long secured a large measure of independence in the conduct of its domestic affairs. But in war time the position was radically different, as local considerations had to be coordinated, and if necessary subordinated, to South East Asia strategy as a whole.

Apart from the equivocal position of the Governor the major weakness of the Donoughmore Constitution to my mind was its failure to foster a sense of “Cabinet responsibility” as an integral part of parliamentary government on the accepted Whitehall pattern. ‘The Board of Ministers of course was not a Cabinet, and so perhaps cannot be blamed for often refusing to accept corporate responsibility for Government policy as a whole. It was almost entirely due to the personality of Mr. D. S. Senanayake that he was able to obtain the measure of unanimity that he did, but personal jealousies were rife behind the scenes.

The Soulbury Constitution provided a two-chamber Parliamentary Government on the Whitehall model. It provided for full internal self-government but on certain reserved subjects such as defence, trade and safeguards for the minority communities the Governor could exercise his discretion after consultation with the Ministers concerned. On all other matters he could only act on the advice of his Ministers.

A Public Service Commission was to be set up to protect the Civil Service from political pressures, and an independent Auditor-General was to be appointed. I regarded the latter two provisions of particular importance if existing bribery and corruption was to be suppressed. Provision was also made to secure the independence of the Judiciary.

I supported the recommendations though I expressed some doubts as to whether the minority safeguards would be effective in practice. Also the Commission made no attempt to tackle the problem of the status of Indian Tamil labourers on the estates. In the end the Soulbury Commission was overtaken by events.

Mr. Senanayake had shown great courage and determination in accepting the Soulbury Constitution and resisting the demands of his opponents for full Dominion status, and on at least one occasion he had very nearly succumbed to their onslaught. In the. meantime Canada had objected to the term Dominion status as derogatory, and independence within the Commonwealth became the accepted term.

In 1946 an attempt was made by the Clerical Service to engineer a general strike in preparation for the general election to be held under the Soulbury Constitution after the re-demarcation of the constituencies which was being done by a commission under the chairmanship of Mr L. M. D. de Silva, Q.C. It illustrated the unwillingness of the Board of Ministers to face up to their responsibilities.

Despite the threatening situation, they were conspicuous by their absence. I was in Kandy at the time and Mr. George de Silva urged me to take immediate action. I went to Colombo and met the Ministers, who all urged me to, declare a state of emergency and exercise dictatorial powers. Somehow or other they had come to know of the existence of such an instrument, though it was highly secret.

I then pointed out to them that they had full powers to pass legislation of the same character in the State Council and that if they considered the time had come to take such action it was their plain duty and responsibility to take the necessary legislative action themselves. If they did so I would of course support them in every possible way and they could base their legislation on the draft in my possession.

Eventually they did so, and indeed provided more severe penalties than in the original draft. It was quite obviously an attempt to leave me holding the baby if such strong action was criticized. Actually the strikers went back to work unconditionally and the only fatal casualty was a clerical supporter struck by a ricochet bullet in a side street.

After this I went on leave for a few months, and it was in December 1946 that I heard Mr. Attlee on the BBC offering Burma full independence whether within or outside the Commonwealth. Frankly I was aghast. I knew that Ceylon was much better equipped to make a success of Independence than was Burma at that time, and that it was grossly unfair on Mr. Senanayake who had accepted the Soulbury Constitution in the teeth of much local opposition. I told my wife that I was sure Mr. Senanayake would approach me immediately on my return to ask for my support for Ceylon’s claim to full independence, and that if he did so I should strongly support him.

This happened exactly as I had foretold, and Mr. Senanayake and I worked together most harmoniously. We were working against time and the quick and most obvious procedure was simply to amend those provisions of the Soulbury Constitution which gave the Governor the right to act on his discretion in the case of reserved subjects.

This meant, of course, that the Prime Minister now had the sole right of nomination to the five “appointed” seats in the House of Representatives, to half the seats in the Senate, and to the membership of the Public Service Commission. It, of course, added greatly to the Prime Minister’s powers, and was indeed of assistance to Mr. Senanayake whose position was by no means secure at the time.

On the longer view it obviously provided cold comfort for the minorities if a Prime Minister were swept into power on a wave of religious and racial emotionalism. That is what appears to have happened after the untimely death of Mr. D. S. Senanayake.I was asked by Mr. Senanayake to stay on as Ceylon’s first Governor-General. I had originally been appointed For five years, and I said I would be happy to see my original term out, but for reasons of health – the arthritis which has since crippled me was already giving me much discomfort- I should like to retire then.

So Lord Soulbury accepted the invitation to succeed me, and arrangements were made for my departure on leave. Ceylon was justifiably proud to have been the first Crown Colony to attain independence within the Commonwealth and an atmosphere of general euphoria prevailed.

These biographical notes were originally prepared somewhat hurriedly to provide some background material for the book which Mr. Hulugalle is writing on Ceylon’s Colonial Governors. Since I have now agreed to their reproduction substantially in their original form they would be manifestly incomplete without a reference to the part played by my wife throughout my period of service.

She sacrificed her career as a painter for the more humdrum life of the wife of a Civil Servant which to a woman of her intelligent penetrating wit and personal charm, won her a host of friends everywhere. Later from 1940 onwards when Government House, Nairobi, became a port of call, for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and other VIPs, she contrived to be the ideal hostess despite the fact that she was in her Nairobi office presiding over organizations for the comforts and medical wants of the troops.  It was the same in Ceylon, and she is largely responsible for any measure of success that I have had in my career.



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S L – a cauldron of casualties and trouble

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Cassandra has stopped watching news at night for the sake of her wellbeing and peace of mind. Watching English news at 9.00 p m on a local channel caused her to toss and turn or wake up at the ungodly hour of 2.00 am to again toss and turn, but this time mentally with suppressed anger, frustration, and fear for the future surfacing and consequently inundating the mind with unease. Why all this? Because Sri Lankan news is always of protests, ministerial pontificating with next to nothing done to lift the country from rock bottom it has been thrust to; and violence, murders and drug hauls. All worrying issues. The present worry is spending 200 m on a celebration that most Ordinaries, the public Cass means, DO NOT Want.

What are the issues of the week just past? Hamlet’s disturbed and disturbing ‘To be or not to be’ twisted to ‘Will happen or will not.’ That specifically relates to the LG elections scheduled for March 9. The government has tried every trick of delay just because they face sure defeat – the combined Elephant and Bud that rules us as of now. Everyone else shouts for elections and follows up with the threat to come out on the streets. That seems to be Sri Lankans most resorted to pastime. And we dread the melees; the water cannon, police brutality and the disgrace of saffron robed, bearded and hair grown men in the vanguard of slogan lofting shouters. All a useless and worthless expense of energy achieving nothing but tear gas and water shooting, and remand jail for some. Some of these protests call for the release of one such IUSF protester deemed to be a terrorist by a draconian law and confined in solitary imprisonment for far too long.

A shot or more of arrack or kasippu was resorted to by men and excused by other men as necessary mental trouble relievers. A woman would imbibe a bit of brandy if not a sleeping pill to ease her troubled mind and thus queasy gut. Not any longer if one takes advice that comes pouring in via social media.

Canada’s new move on Alcohol Guidance

As questioned by Holly Honderich in Washington BBC January 18: “What’s behind Canada’s drastic new Alcohol Guidance?” She says a report funded by Health Canada warns that “any amount of alcohol is not good for your health and if you drink, less is better.” This is contained in a 90 page report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Health issues result from the intake of more than standard drinks and these include breast and colon cancer. Honderich says it may be a rude awakening for the roughly 80% of Canadian adults who drink. The ratio is higher, Cass presumes, in this resplendent isle with its arrack, illicit brews and toddy both kitul and palmyrah. So the comforting statement that was earlier in vogue, that a daily tot of alcoholic drink is good for health, is sent overboard by the Canadian advice. Of course now with money so short except in the hands of the corrupt, the latter advice will have to be taken, voluntarily or otherwise, by most Lankans.

Prez Gotabaya and his advisors’ ruling

We have all seen at least on TV, farmers mourning their yellowing crops of paddy and heard their heart-rending cries of hopelessness at the loss of a third harvest due to the utter crime of overnight stoppage of chemical fertilisers and pest control. Cass wonders how the ex-Prez who decreed this and his advisors sleep at night having blighted long term the entire agriculture of this predominantly agricultural country. Farmers cry out they are in debt, have no money to feed nor school their children; added to which hospitals are bare of medicines.

A highly-educated and experienced agriculturist sent Cass an email the gist of which is that rice farmers all over the island report a ‘yellowing’ of paddy, stunted growth and dead plants in patches. They had all used ‘compost’ issued by the govt. There is a hint this could be due to a nematode infestation. If correct, this has grave implications. It has occurred in tea with no easy cure. Only costly fumigation was effective, eventually. Once rice paddies are infected it would be very difficult to control – almost impossible; already impoverished farmers can bear no further expense.

A three wheeler driver told Cass that river bed soil had been mixed with thrown away household garbage (both obtained free, obviously) and sold as organic fertiliser. I hasten to add this is hearsay, but the obvious truth staring all Sri Lankans in the face and sending shivers of apprehension down all spines is that this Maha season crop is kaput; gone down the drain with farmers cheated and someone or some persons having made money from the deal.

Pointless it is to curse those who were in the racket; useless to commiserate farmers and their families; impossible to compensate them. Will those responsible for giving out dangerous fertiliser for distribution be traced and brought to justice? Never! However, that word ‘never’ is now pronounced with a mite of doubt after M Sirisena and others were dealt justly by judges of the Supreme Court. There are glimmers of hope that wrong doers, actually criminals who bankrupted the country and damaged its agriculture, will be dealt with suitably.

There will be no Aluth Avuruddha for the backbone of the country in April since celebrations centre around a good harvest and R&R after a Maha season of toil and filling bins and storehouses with bountiful paddy. This was pre-Gota days. Now it is all round misery since urban dwellers sorrow, and also suffer, with the farmers who supplied them with food.

Clear stats given to prove inefficiency of the state sector

A video clip came to Cassandra with Advocata CEO Dananath Fernando speaking on the inefficiency of the public service due to being too many in number. Dananath is much admired and spoke clearly and convincingly. He said more conversing with Faraz Shauketaly on Newsline presented by TVI channel on Tuesday 24 January at 8.30 p m.

Dananath said our bureaucracy is inefficient and ineffectual. Main reason being there are too many to do the work. His fact check went like this. In India for every 177 members of the general public there is one (01) government officer or as named earlier ‘government servant’. In Pakistan the figures are 117 to one. Bangladesh is almost the same. In Sri Lanka (hold your breath!) to every sixteen (16) citizens there sits one government officer, mainly twiddling his/her thumbs. It would be interesting to know the ratios in developed countries. But the very relevant to us countries have been named by the Advocata finding. Cass does not need to spell what the result is; she has already indicated it with the image of the thumb twiddler.

We knew the bureaucracy was over staffed, bloated and bulging big like the leaders we have: 225 in parliament, then local councils and pradeshiya sabhas. And in each of them, law makers, decision takers and those who carry them out are far too excessive in number and cost the government excessively in salaries, infrastructure, travel modes; etc. etc. So Advocata asks how development, or even mere running of the country can be achieved efficiently and effectively. A further shock, at least to Cass, was dealt by Dananath in proving the point by revealing statistics for the police service. 50% of the entire police force is deployed on security duty to 225 MPs, Ministers and state VIPs while the balance half is expected to provide safety and security to 22 million people! Lop sided and thus the country slants to sink or disintegrate. It has already slanted to bankruptcy and begging as never before and selling the meager money making ventures we possess.

How did the public service get so bloated? Again the guilty are, or were, those in power. They kept sending persons with chits and they had to be employed. Reason? Sympathy for the jobless? Not at all. Pure unadulterated self-interest so votes are assured them.

Rise up and show thy face, thou olde pensioner

That’s a government order to be observed by the old; most finding walking difficult and many finding the necessity to gather some money for three wheeler hire denting their January budget. But present yourself to the Grama Sevaka of your area is a must if you want to continue receiving your pension, now totally inadequate; but still very grateful for. Hence the procession of the old and weak leaning on walking sticks, even crutches or on willing supporting arms offered them.

Some years ago, questioned by Cassandra, an obliging woman Grama Sevaka said that those unable to present themselves are visited in their homes by officers. We do hope this is done since there must be plenty thumb twiddlers in this government department too.

Bravo Hirunika!

Cass most definitely is an admirer of beautiful Hirunika. She’s garnered another kudos by her latest action, OK, gimmick if you like that word to express the way she has shown displeasure, censure, disagreement of the general public on holding an elaborate National Day event to celebrate 75 years of’ democratic self-rule’ at the exorbitant cost of Rs 200m.. That expression itself calls for comment. Termed National Day it is far from being thus with so many protesting various issues. Celebration is a blatant falsehood. Feb 4 should really be a day of mourning, since the Nation is in the dregs of corruption, misrule and bankruptcy. Self-rule here equates to selfish rule by the leaders for themselves and misrule for us the public. Democracy is dead, actually it was totally dead during previous regimes but has revived somewhat lately,

And how did Hirunika express censure? By having black bows knotted on the posts erected to prop covered spaces for the march past, etc. Black connotes death, mourning, displeasure, bad times. Of course at expense, the bows will be removed before the posse of horses and motor riders and security cars conducts the Prez to the s venue. Cass entertains a jaundiced wish that the entire DPL Corps will, non-diplomatically, ignore invitation and not be present at the celebratory event. Rows and rows of empty chairs might convey the message of non grata, rather disdain for the powers that be. Ranil may be respected still, but those backing him and even guiding his hands are NOT.

Cheers till we meet next Friday!

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Gandhianv Ethics

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By JAYDEV JANA

The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’, which means ‘way of living’. The judgement of right and wrong, what to do and what not to do, and how one ought to act, form ethics. It is a branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour.

Morality is the body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture. It can also derive from a standard that a person believes in. The word morals is derived from the Latin word ‘mos’, which means custom.

Many people use the words Ethics and Morality interchangeably. However, there is a difference between Ethics and Morals. To put it in simple terms, Ethics = Moral + reasoning.For example, one might feel that it is morally wrong to steal, but if he/ she has an ethical viewpoint on it, it should be based on some sets of arguments and analysis about why it would be wrong to steal. Mahatma Gandhi is considered as one of the greatest moral philosophers of India. The highest form of morality in Gandhi’s ethical system is the practice of altruism/self-sacrifice.

For Gandhi, it was never enough that an individual merely avoided causing evil; they had to actively promote good and actively prevent evils. The ideas and ideals of Gandhi emanated mainly from: (1) his inner religious convictions including ethical principles embedded in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity; (2) the exigencies of his struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the mass political movements during India’s freedom struggle; and (3) the influence of Tolstoy, Carlyle and Thoreau etc. He was a moralist through and through and yet it is difficult to write philosophically about his ethics.

This is because Gandhi is fundamentally concerned with practice rather than with theory or abstract thought, and such philosophy as he used was meant to reveal its ‘truth’ in the crucible of experience. Hence, the subtitle of his Autobiography ~ ‘the story of my experiments in truth.’ The experiments refer to the fact that the truth of concept, values, and ideals is fulfilled only in practice.

Gandhi’s ethics are inextricably tied up with religion, which itself is unconventional. Though an avowed Hindu, he was a Hindu in philosophical rather than a sectarian sense; there was much Hindu ritual and practice that he subjected to critique.

In his Ethical Religion, published in 1912 based on lectures delivered by him, Gandhi had stated simply that he alone cannot be called truly religious or moral whose mind is not tainted with hatred and selfishness, and who leads a life of absolute purity and of disinterested services. Without mental purity or purification of motive, external action cannot be performed in selfless spirit. Goodness does not consist in abstention from wrong but from the wish to do wrong; evil is to be avoided not from fear but from the sense of obligation. Consistency was less important to Gandhi than moral earnestness, and rules were less useful than specific norms of human excellence and the appreciation of values. Politics is a comprehensive term which is associated with composition and operation of state structure as well as its interrelationship with other states. It is activity centred around power and very often deprived of morals. With its power-mongering, amoral Machiavellianism, and its valorisation of expediency over principle, and of successful outcomes over scrupulous means, politics is an uncompromising avenue for saintliness. Inclusion of ethics in politics seemed to be a contradiction to many contemporary political philosophers.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak among others warned Gandhi before he embarked on a political career in India, “Politics is a game of worldly people and not of sadhus.” Introducing spirituality into the political arena would seem to betoken ineffectiveness in an area driven by worldly passions and cunning. It is perhaps for these reasons that Christ himself appeared to be in favour of a dualism: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” In this interpretation, the standards and norms that apply to religion are different from those relevant to politics.

Gandhi by contrast, without denying the distinction between the domain of Caesar and that of God, repudiates any rigid separation between the two. As early as 1915, Gandhi declared his aim “to spiritualise” political life and political institutions.

Politics is as essential as religion, but if it is divorced from religion, it is like a corpse, fit only for burning. In the preface to his autobiography, Gandhi declared that his devotion of truth had drawn him into politics, that his power in the political field was derived from his spiritual experiments with himself, and those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Human life being an undivided whole, no line could be drawn between ethics and politics. It was impossible to separate the everyday life of man, he emphasised, from his spiritual being. He said, “I feel that political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress.” Gandhi is often called a saint among politicians. In an epoch of ‘globalisation of selfcentredness’ there is a pressing necessity to comprehend and emulate the moralistic dimension of Gandhian thought and re-evaluate the concept of politics. The correlation between ends and means is the essence of Gandhi’s interpretation of society in terms of ethical value rather than empirical relations. For Gandhi, means and ends are intricately connected.

His contention was, “For me it is enough to know the means. Means and ends are convertible terms in my philosophy.” Gandhi countered the assertion that ends vindicate means. If the means engaged are unjust there is no possibility of achieving satisfactory outcomes. He compared the means to a seed and the end to a tree. Gandhi stuck to this golden ideal through thick and thin, without worrying about the immediate results. He was convinced that our ultimate progress towards the goal would be in exact proportion to the purity of our means.

Gandhi believed that “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” His seven social sins refer to behaviours that go against ethical code and thereby weaken society. When values are not strongly held, people respond weakly to crisis and difficulty. The seven sins are: (1) Wealth without work; (2) Pleasure without conscience; (3) Knowledge without character; (4) Commerce without morality; (5) Science without humanity; (6) Religion without sacrifice; and (7) politics without principle. Gandhi’s Seven Sins are an integral part of Gandhian ethics.

The Satyagraha (Sanskrit and Hindi: ‘Holding into truth’) as enunciated by Gandhi seeks to integrate spiritual values, community organisation and selfreliance with a view to empower individuals, families, groups, villages, towns and cities. It became a major tool in the Indian struggle against British Imperialism and has since been adopted by protest groups in other countries.

According to the philosophy of Satyagraha, Satyagrahis (Practitioners of Satyagraha) achieve correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a non-violence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love, and by undergoing a rigorous process of self-scrutiny. In so doing, the satyagrahi encounters truth in the absolute. By refusing to submit to the wrong or to cooperate with it, the satyagrahi must adhere to non-violence. They always warn their opponents of their intentions and forbid any tactic suggesting the use of secrecy to one’s advantage. Satyagraha seeks to conquer through conversion: in the end, there is neither defeat nor victory but rather a new harmony. Gandhi’s Satyagraha always highlighted moral principles. By giving the concept of Satyagraha, Gandhi showed mankind how to win over greed and fear by love.

There was no pretension or hypocrisy about Gandhi. His ethics do not stem from the intellectual deductive formula. ‘Do unto others as you would have them unto you.’ He never asked others to do anything which he did not do. It is history how he conducted his affairs. He never treated even his own children in any special manner from other children, sharing the same kind of food and other facilities and attending the same school. When a scholarship was offered for one of his sons to be sent to England for higher education, Gandhi gave it to some other boy. Of course, he invited strong resentment from two of his sons and there are many critics who believe that Gandhi neglected his own children, and he was not the ideal father. His profound conviction of equality of all men and women shows the essential Gandhi who grew into a Mahatma.

The question of why one should act in a moral way has occupied much time in the history of philosophical inquiry. Gandhi’s answer to this is that happiness, religion and wealth depend upon sincerity to the self, an absence of malice towards others, exploitation of others, and always acting ‘with a pure mind.’ The ethical and moral standard Gandhi set for himself reveals his commitment and devotion to eternal principles and only someone like him who regulated his life and action in conformity with the universal vision of human brotherhood could say “My Life is My Message.” (The Statesman/ANN)

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Vibrant ties with M-E, a foreign policy priority for SL

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Head table dignitaries with copies of ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’.

Economics primarily drive politics and this principle applies to Sri Lanka’s relations with almost the entirety of the world’s regions. The fact that economic interdependence is compelling this country to break new ground in its ties with the Middle East bears this out fully.

Over the decades, Sri Lanka has prioritized the need to sustain vibrant ties with the Arab countries of the Middle East and this is quite in order when Sri Lanka’s overwhelming dependence on the region for its oil supplies and for increasing employment opportunities for its labour force are taken into consideration. However, the need is great, owing primarily to growing local economic compulsions, for Sri Lanka to adopt a more studied approach to strengthening its relations with the Middle East.

The latter exercise needs to be research-based if it is to bear ample fruit and it is for this reason that the re-launch of a study titled, ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’ by a Sri Lankan diplomat with considerable work experience in the Middle East in general and Oman in particular, O.L. Ameer Ajwad, should be welcomed. The book was re-launched on January 12 under the aegis of the The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International and Strategic Studies (LKI), Colombo, at the latter’s auditorium in the presence of an audience that consisted of, among others, ambassadors from a number of West Asian countries, including those of Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The book was initially published on February 17, 2021, to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Sri Lanka-Oman diplomatic relations and its re-launch served to emphasize the importance that Sri Lanka should attach to its wide-ranging ties with Oman. The author, a one-time ambassador of Sri Lanka to Oman, is currently the Director General of the Performance Review and Implementation Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The re-launch of the book was a collaboration among the LKI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Sri Lanka.

The book was formally launched by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya, Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardena, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Sri Lanka Ahmed Ali Saeed Al Rashdi and the author.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry who addressed the audience as Chief Guest at the re-launch, following a welcome address by the LKI’s Actg. Executive Director Ms. E.A.S.W. Edirisinghe, said, among other things, that the book needed to be welcomed as a literary endeavor on the part of the author ‘to preserve the institutional memory of the Sri Lankan mission in Oman.’ It also needed to be valued in view of the fact that it ‘proposed a road map through an envoy’s personal experience, for future cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Sultanate of Oman.’ Minister Ali Sabry mentioned the elevating of relations with the countries of the Middle East as a policy priority for Sri Lanka.

State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, while focusing on Sri Lanka’s centuries-long ties with the Arab world, highlighted the importance of connecting the ports of Colombo and Sohar of Oman by a direct feeder service. The aim should be to create a trans-shipment hub for the respective regions, as proposed by the author.

It was left to Ambassador Ameer Ajwad to present to the audience a comprehensive overview of the contents of the publication. He said chapter five was especially important because it outlined in considerable detail the future course economic relations in particular between the countries could take.

The author does right by focusing on economic diplomacy in his publication. This holds the key to cementing cordial bonds among countries in contemporary times, given that antagonistic relations among states have the effect of perpetuating economic stagnation within countries. The latter condition is a sure recipe for intra-country social discontent and violence, besides acting as a stimulant for continued inter-state friction.

One of the chief strengths of ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’, is the stress it lays on the need for the countries concerned to exploit economic complementarities that exist between them in a number of areas, for the furtherance of shared development. There is tremendous potential here that is going untapped, the author points out. If utilized judiciously these complementarities could prove a vital factor in the economic betterment of the countries.

Some of these areas offering ‘synergies of growth’ or the potential for mutual cooperation are: trade and investment, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, education and maritime cooperation, to name a few. In this connection the author stresses that: ‘It is the lack of awareness of each other’s potentials and opportunities available in many areas of mutual interest’, that is getting in the way of the countries dynamically cooperating further for shared material improvement.

It is hoped that in the days ahead the Sri Lankan authorities would not only act on the insights thrown-up by Ambassador Ameer Ajwad but take into consideration the need to cooperate with the countries of the Middle East over existing divides, one of which is described as the ‘Arab-Israeli’ conflict.

Fortunately, economic compulsions have been compelling Lankan governments to recognize Israel as an important state actor in the Middle East. Likewise, some Arab states have today ‘broken the ice’, so to speak, with Israel, and are interacting with it in the economic field. In the case of Sri Lanka, it is quite some time since Israel has been opening up employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in multiple areas, such as agriculture and care-giving.

Accordingly, economics dictate politics. Old, adversarial mindsets needs to change for the ushering of the common good. There is a need for the international community to enlist the support of the Arab world and all other sections that have been having strained ties with Israel, to work towards the realization of the ‘two state solution’ in the Middle East. This presents itself as an equitable mechanism.

Looking for economic complementarities among countries presents itself as a wise course to take in inter-state relations, considering these complementarities’ peace-building potential, and it is hoped that the international community would put this item high on its list of priorities in the days to come. From this viewpoint, ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’ needs to be seen as a model study in the field of international relations.

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