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Significance of Ceylon-China Trade Agreement of 1952

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by Dr. J. B. Kelegama

Excerpts from the keynote address at the 50 th anniversary celebrations of the historic “Rubber-Rice Pact” between Sri Lanka and China at the BMICH on December 20, 2002

I am honoured by the invitation of the Sri Lanka-China Business Cooperation Council and the Sri Lanka-China Society to deliver today the keynote address on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the historic Rubber-Rice Pact between Sri Lanka and China signed in December 1952.

I accepted this invitation with alacrity and pleasure, firstly because I have conducted negotiations with China and actually implemented the Agreement over a period of about 12 years in my capacity as a senior government official, secondly, because I have visited China seven or eight times both as a government official and a UN consultant and thirdly, because I have been a student of China’s economic development for many years and written and published several articles on China’s economic and trade issues, under my own name as well as under pen-names.

Further, I had the privilege of speaking on this subject at the death anniversary of Mr. R. G. Senanayake some years back, on the invitation of no less a person than Mrs. R. G. Senanayake herself.

The Ceylon-China Trade Agreement of 1952 was undoubtedly the most useful trade agreement negotiated by Sri Lanka and one of the most successful and durable trade agreements in the world, having been in operation for 30 years. It is therefore useful to assess the significance of the agreement and to refresh our memory regarding the circumstances that led to it and the person who played the key role in bringing it about – R. G. Senanayake.

 

Rice shortage

1952 was a very bad year for Sri Lanka. Premier D. S. Senanayake had died and Dudley Senanayake had just formed a new government when the country had to face a world shortage of rice.

The Government was committed at that time to provide every adult person with two measures of rice per week at a subsidised price, but rice was not available from the traditional suppliers – Burma, Thailand and Indo-China – and the world market price of rice had risen by 38 per cent between 1951 and 1952.

Sri Lanka was therefore compelled to buy 60,000 tons of rice from the USA and 10,000 tons from Ecuador at high prices, although this variety of rice was not suitable to the Sri Lankan palate. She was however not in a position to buy all the rice she needed at this high price as her foreign exchange resources were limited; besides, distribution of this rice would have pushed the food subsidy bill to intolerable levels.

The country was also facing a foreign exchange crisis in 1952 caused by a dramatic fall in her export prices brought about by the quick end of the Korean War boom. The end of the Korean War and the drastic reduction of commodity purchases by the West – in particular, of natural rubber by the United States – led to a collapse of Sri Lanka’s export prices by 23 per cent between 1951 and 1952.

The price of natural rubber declined by 36 per cent, of tea by 10 per cent, and of coconut oil by 40 per cent. Import prices increased by 8 per cent and terms-of-trade fell by 28 per cent. The trade surplus of Rs. 345 million in 1951 turned into a trade deficit of Rs. 200 million in 1952 and external assets fell by 30 per cent. In this critical situation Sri Lanka attempted to negotiate with the USA for a loan of US$50 million and for favourable prices for rubber exports and rice imports, but failed. The country was facing an unprecedented crisis: she could not find enough rice to feed her people and she had no prospect of a favourable market for her rubber exports.

It was in this grim setting that R. G. Senanayake, the then Minister of Commerce, played his master stroke. He found out that China was prepared to sell rice to Sri Lanka in exchange for rubber. At that time China was unable to obtain rubber as a result of prohibition of rubber exports from Malaya following a UN resolution preventing the sale of rubber to China. Thus China wanted rubber as badly as Sri Lanka wanted rice. R. G. Senanayake was quick to realise the mutual benefits of trade with China, and negotiated the Ceylon-China Trade Agreement or the Rubber-Rice Pact in Beijing towards the end of 1952. He stated in Parliament.

“We waited for foreign aid, foreign assistance. As you know Sir, over and over again, we made appeals for Point Four aid, we waited four long years. We have got in the form of assistance only a cook for the Kundasale Girls’ School. Therefore in these circumstances, it was necessary that we should go where it was possible to get our requirements.”

 

Opposition

The Agreement was negotiated in the teeth of opposition from some of his own colleagues in the Cabinet. Indeed, the opposition of J. R. Jayewardene, the Minister of Finance, was well known. The Cabinet was advised by the newly created Central Bank under an American Governor. Opposition also came from R. G. Senanayake’s predecessor in the ministerial post, from the American Government, and from some of the local newspapers which carried on a virulent press campaign against any dealings with Communist China. S. P. Amarasingham’s informative book “Rice and Rubber: The Story of China-Ceylon Trade” provides a detailed account of the strong opposition R. G. Senanayake had to face in negotiating the Agreement.

The American Government invoked the Battle Act which prevented it from giving aid to countries selling strategic materials to Communist countries and cut off aid to Sri Lanka. In addition, she stopped selling sulphur needed by Sri Lanka’s rubber plantations. This was the price that had to be paid for trading with China.

Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake, however, fully backed his Minister of Commerce and was prepared to pay this price; he realised that the benefits to Sri Lanka from the agreement far outweighed losses consequent to the cutting-off of American aid. He argued:

“Ceylon’s old trade pattern has been knocked out by changes in the world market and we have to seek new markets for our needs of essential foodstuffs and for our exports.”

Rebutting the charges that the Trade Agreement was opening the door to communist influences in Sri Lanka, he pointed out:

“Communism thrives in many places not through an understanding of that particular ideology but through poverty and want. I am confident that our Trade Agreement with China will instead of opening doors to communism help us to stand firmer against it.”

It is a tribute to the two Senanayakes that they displayed remarkable pragmatism and courage in negotiating the Trade Agreement. They did not allow their prejudices or ideological considerations to stand in the way of deciding what was in the best interests of the Country; nor were they intimidated by threats of big powers.

 

R. G. Senanayake stated:

“I have always held the view that political ideologies should not stand in the ways of countries trading with each other if that trade is to their mutual advantage.”

He foresaw as far back as 1952, the emergence of China as a world power. He stated in a speech: “Talking of China in particular, it would be unrealistic to ignore a nation of 500 million in our continent with a united and cohesive government for the first time in many centuries. She is bound to be a major factor in world trade.”

As he foresaw, China has now become the seventh largest exporter in the world and the largest trader among developing countries whose purchases and sales influence the world markets. In 2000 for instance, her exports were US$249 billion and imports US$225 billion. If we include Hong Kong’s trade with China (as the greater part of Hong Kong’s trade is entrepot trade with China) then China becomes the fourth largest exporter in the world after the USA, Germany and Japan, its exports amounting to $452 billion.

 

The Agreement

The Trade Agreement signed in 1952 was for five years and renewable; there was, however, an annual Trade Protocol specifying the quantities of commodities to be exchanged in the ensuing year, which had to be negotiated every year. The trade was based on barter – exports and imports to balance every year; only the outstanding balance at the end-of-the-year was to be settled in foreign exchange.

Trade however was rarely balanced in the following years but the outstanding balance was generally carried forward to the next year without settlement in foreign exchange.

In the first part of the agreement there were specific commitments by Sri Lanka to purchase rice, and for China to buy rubber; the values were to balance. Thus in 1953, Sri Lanka agreed to buy 270,000 tons of rice from China which in turn agreed to purchase 50,000 tons of rubber; these quantities were exchanged on the basis of world market prices and were equal in value. In addition, China agreed to pay a premium price for rubber over the world market (Singapore) price and further, handling charges for rubber exports in Colombo.

Thus in 1953, China paid for Sri Lanka rubber Rs. 1.74 per lb. whereas the average world market price was Rs. 1.05 per lb. This premium varied with every five-year agreement. The handling charge which was fixed at five cents per lb. too varied in subsequent years. China also agreed to supply rice to Sri Lanka below market prices – at 54 pounds or Rs. 720 per ton in 1953.

Thus Sri Lanka benefited both ways from the agreement. The second part of the agreement covered trade in other commodities – those Sri Lanka and China wanted to buy and sell – but without specific commitments; the total value of exports and imports however were expected to balance every year. In view of the substantial mutual benefits, the Trade Agreement was renewed every five years by R. G. Senanayake’s successors in his ministerial post – in 1958, 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1977 – and was wound up, in the sense that the barter element was given up, in 1982 when it was found that the barter of rice and rubber was no longer in mutual interest. Sri Lanka had almost reached self-sufficiency in rice and needed only very small quantities from abroad while China was able to purchase rubber from several rubber producing countries without restriction and without paying a premium.

R. G. Senanayake paid an important tribute to China after negotiating the Trade Agreement, when he concluded his Cabinet paper on the subject in the following words:

“We noted on the Chinese side the absence of the spirit of bargaining and haggling on comparatively small points. On the other hand, they gave us the impression of being large-minded and forthright in their dealings.”

I can confirm this as I conducted trade negotiations with China over a dozen times. Benefits

The significance of the Ceylon-China Trade Agreement lies in the positive benefits Ceylon received during the thirty years of its duration. Those benefits exceeded expectation as China expressed her gratitude to Sri Lanka for supplying her rubber when other rubber producers were not prepared to do so and in spite of the opposition and denial of aid by the US Government. These benefits are discussed in detail below.

(1) The premium over world market price for rubber was estimated between Rs. 68 and Rs. 95 million in 1953 alone. It was about 56 per cent more than the world market price in that year. No estimates are available for successive years, but the premium was substantial, for even a ten cents premium meant Rs. 200 per metric ton and Rs. 10 million for 50,000 tons.

(2) The handling charge of 5 cents per lb., in 1953 was equal to Rs. 100 per metric ton or Rs. 5 million for 50,000 metric tons of rubber. As the charge and quantity varied from year-to-year the total sum too changed, but it was significant.

(3) The sale of rice by China to Sri Lanka at prices below the world market resulted in a net benefit of about Rs. 92 million in 1953 alone. Although there was a net benefit in the following years, no estimates have been made. China agreed to sell rice at the same price Burma sold rice to Sri Lanka with certain adjustments for differences in quality and transport costs. China never tried to exploit the rice market to her advantage.

Even when she did not have an exportable surplus, she supplied Sri Lanka with rice direct from Burma under a triangular trade arrangement, but charged us only the price she paid Burma – not a cent more – even when she had reason to charge something more.

(4) As a result of the agreement a grant of about Rs. 125 million was extended by China during the ten-year period 1958-68 to meet part of the costs of rubber replanting. Thousands of acres of uneconomic rubber land were replanted thereby revitalizing our rubber industry.

(5) China continued to purchase Sri Lanka’s rubber at a premium even when other markets were prepared to sell her rubber at lower prices.

(6) Sri Lanka found an assured market for her rubber and an assured source of supply for her rice and insured herself to a great extent against vagaries in the world market. She also diversified her export and import markets.

(7) The Trade Agreement benefitted the Ceylonese traders as against non-national traders by creating a new market for them. In spite of the opposition from non-national trading establishments – particularly British managing agency houses – R.G. Senanayake reserved the export of rubber to China for the Ceylonese traders. He also reserved China for the Ceylonese importer under his policy of Ceylonizing the external trade of the country.

(8) The Trade Agreement laid the foundation for expanding trade between Sri Lanka and China even after the barter agreement ceased to operate. In 2001 for instance China and Hong Kong (which mainly re-exports China’s products) constituted the largest supplier of imports valued at Rs. 64 billion to Sri Lanka.

(9) Economic co-operation between Sri Lanka and China began with the Trade Agreement. It was expanded by leaps and bounds with establishment of diplomatic relations with China by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and closer relations under Sirimavo Bandaranaike as symbolised by the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), textile mills at Veyangoda and Pugoda, other grants and interest-free loans. Economic co-operation thereafter is demonstrated by the superior courts complex, Gin ganga scheme and assistance to restore Abayagiri dagaba.

(10) The Ceylon-China Trade Agreement with its price concessions for both Sri Lanka’s exports and imports and assistance to rubber replanting by China was perhaps the first instance of a developing country giving economic assistance to another developing country. In other words, it was the first time where economic co-operation among developing countries or South-South co-operation took place.

(11) Finally, Ceylon-China Trade Agreement and closer commercial and economic relations laid the foundations for a firm friendship between Sri Lanka and China, which was strengthened, expanded, and cemented by the Bandaranaike governments. China’s friendship for Sri Lanka has been demonstrated not only in trade and economic co-operation but also in times of national crisis. There was only China to warn other countries to ‘keep their hands off Sri Lanka’ at the height of the Indo-Lanka crisis in June-July 1987. This friendship was demonstrated again thereafter by the visit of Prime Minister of China and his offer of Rs. 375 million in economic assistance.



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Foreign policy dilemmas increase for the big and small

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‘No responsible American President can remain silent when basic human rights are violated.’ This pronouncement by US President Joe Biden should be interpreted as meaning that the supporting of human rights everywhere will be a fundamental focus of US foreign policy. Accordingly, not only the cause of the Armenians of old but the situation of the Muslim Uyghurs of China will be principal concerns for the Biden administration.

However, the challenge before the US would be take this policy stance to its logical conclusion. For example, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the most heinous crimes to be committed by a state in recent times but what does the Biden administration intend to do by way of ensuring that the criminals and collaborators of the crime are brought to justice? In other words, how tough will the US get with the Saudi rulers?

Likewise, what course of action would the US take to alleviate the alleged repression being meted out to the Uyghurs of China? How does it intend to take the Chinese state to task? Equally importantly, what will the US do to make light the lot of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny? These are among the most urgent posers facing the US in the global human rights context.

Worse dilemmas await the US in Africa. Reports indicate that that the IS and the Taliban have begun to infiltrate West Africa in a major way, since they have been compelled to vacate the Middle East, specially Syria and Iraq. West African countries, such as, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mauritania are already facing the IS/Taliban blight. The latter or their proxies are in the process heaping horrendous suffering on the civilian populations concerned. How is the US intending to alleviate the cruelties being visited on these population groups. Their rights are of the first importance. If the US intends to project itself as a defender of rights everywhere, what policy program does it have in store for Africa in this connection?

It does not follow from the foregoing that issues of a kindred kind would not be confronting the US in other continents. For example, not all is well in Asia in the rights context. With the possible exception of India, very serious problems relating to democratic development bedevil most Asian states, including, of course, Sri Lanka. The task before any country laying claims to democratic credentials is to further the rights of its citizens while ensuring that they are recipients of equitable growth. As a foremost champion of fundamental rights globally, it would be up to the US to help foster democratic development in the countries concerned. And it would need to do so with an even hand. It cannot be selective in this undertaking of the first importance.

The US would also from now on need to think long and deep before involving itself militarily in a conflict-ridden Southern country. Right now it is up against a policy dilemma in Afghanistan. It is in the process of pulling out of the country after 20 years but it is leaving behind a country with veritably no future. It is leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban once again and the commentator is right in saying that the US did not achieve much by way of bringing relief to the Afghan people.

However, the Biden administration has done somewhat well in other areas of state concern by launching a $1.9 trillion national economic and social resuscitation program, which, if effectively implemented could help the US people in a major way. The administration is also living up to the people’s hopes by getting under way an anti-Covid-19 vaccination program for senior US citizens. These ventures smack of social democracy to a degree.

The smaller countries of South Asia in particular ought to be facing their fair share of foreign policy quandaries in the wake of some of these developments. India, the number one power of the region, is in the throes of a major health crisis deriving from the pandemic but it is expected to rebound economically in an exceptional way and dominate the regional economic landscape sooner rather than later.

For example, the ADB predicts India will recover from an 8% contraction in fiscal 2020 and grow by 11% and 7% this year and next year. South Asia is expected to experience a 9.5% overall economic expansion this year but it is India that will be the chief contributor to this growth. A major factor in India’s economic fortunes will be the US’ stimulus package that will make available to India a major export market.

For the smaller states of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, the above situation poses major foreign policy implications. While conducting cordial and fruitful relations with China is of major importance for them, they would need to ensure that their relations with India remain unruffled. This is on account of their dependence on India in a number of areas of national importance. Since India is the predominant economic power in the region, these smaller states would do well to ensure that their economic links with India continue without interruption. In fact, they may need to upgrade their economic ties with India, considering the huge economic presence of the latter. A pragmatic foreign policy is called for since our biggest neighbour’s presence just cannot be ignored.

The Sri Lankan state has reiterated its commitment to an ‘independent foreign policy’ and this is the way to go but Sri Lanka would be committing a major policy mistake by tying itself to China too closely in the military field. This would send ‘the wrong signal’ to India which is likely to be highly sensitive to the goings-on in its neighbourhood which, for it, have major security implications. A pragmatic course is best.

In terms of pragmatism, the Maldives are forging ahead, may be, in a more exceptional manner than her neighbours. Recently, she forged closer security cooperation with the US and for the Maldives this was the right way to go because the move served her national interest. And for any state, the national interest ought to be of supreme importance.

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A Sri Lankan centre for infective disease control and prevention

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The need of the hour:

BY Dr B. J. C. Perera

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

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

On 01st July 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) of the United States of America opened its doors and occupied one floor of a small building in Atlanta, Georgia. Its primary mission was simple, yet highly challenging. It was to prevent malaria from spreading across the nation. Armed with a budget of only 10 million US dollars, and fewer than 400 employees, the agency’s early tasks included obtaining enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels necessary to wage war on mosquitoes.

It later advanced, slightly changed its name, and transformed itself into the much-acclaimed and reputed Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It became a unique agency with an exceptional mission. They work 24/7 to protect the safety, health and security of America from threats there and around the world. Highest standards of science are maintained in this institution. CDC is the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health. For more than 70 years, they have put science into action to help children stay healthy so they can grow and learn, to help families, businesses, and communities fight disease and stay strong and to protect the health of the general public. Their are a bold promise to the nation, and even the world. With this strategic framework, CDC commits to save American lives by securing global health and America’s preparedness, eliminating disease, and ending epidemics. In a landmark move, the CDC even established a Central Asia regional office at the U.S. Consulate in Kazakhstan in 1995 and have been involved in public health initiatives in that region.

More recently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), was established. It is an agency of the European Union, aimed at strengthening Europe’s defences against infectious diseases. The core functions cover a wide spectrum of activities such as surveillance, epidemic intelligence, response, scientific advice, microbiology, preparedness, public health training, international relations, health communication, and the scientific journal Eurosurveillance.

Still later on, the African CDC (ACDC) was born. It strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions, as well as partnerships, to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

All these organisations are autonomous, independent, and are confidently dedicated to hold science to be sacred. They play a major role in advocacy and work in a committed advisory capacity. With the cataclysmic effects of the current coronavirus pandemic COVID-19, the contributions made by these institutions are priceless. What is quite important is that they are able to provide specific recommendations based on the latest scientific information available for countries and nations in their regions, even taking into account the many considerations that are explicit and even unique to their regions. All these organisations have been provided with optimal facilities and human resources. The real value of their contribution is related to just one phenomenon: AUTONOMY.

Well…, isn’t it the time for us to start a Sri Lankan Centre for Infective Disease Control and Prevention (SLCIDC)? It should be formulated as an agency constantly striving, day in and day out, to safeguard the health of the public. Science and unbending commitment to evaluation of research on a given topic should be their operating mantra. It would work as a completely apolitical organisation and what we can recommend is that it would be directly under the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, unswervingly reporting to and accountable to the President. It would consist of medical doctors, scientists and researchers but no politicians of any sort, no non-medical or non-scientist persons, no hangers on and no business persons. All appointments to the SLCIDC will be made by the President of the country, perhaps in consultation with medical professional organisations.

The prime duty of the SLCIDC would be to assess the on-going situation of any infective issue that has any effect on the health of the public. The organisation will undertake in-depth examination and assessment of a given situation caused by an infective organism. They need to have all relevant data from within the country as well as from outside the country. There will not be any vacillation of the opinions expressed by them and their considered views should not be coloured by any consideration apart from science and research done locally and worldwide. Their considered opinion would be conveyed directly to the President of the country. They are free to issue statements to keep the public informed about the results of their deliberations.

We believe that it would be a step in the right direction; perhaps even a giant step for our nation, not only during the current coronavirus pandemic but also on any major problems of an infective nature that might occur in the future.

 

This writer wishes to acknowledge a colleague, a Consultant Physician, who first mooted this idea during a friendly conversation.

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Kudurai Madiri Pona

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The big jumbo has come from the French land and as the French themselves say it is ‘annus mirabillis’ the miracle year, finally, and finally the wait is over. The world will now see the Big- Bus that we all waited for so long to see. As the years roll by, none would talk of delays regarding the delays on delivery dates and how late the bird flew in. These would be like words written on a blackboard, erased forever. But the aeroplane will grace the sky and, perhaps rewrite all the records of commercial aviation when the mega-miracle A380 dominates the international air-routes.

Singapore Airlines went into the record books as the launch customer. Some of my old friends from SIA would fly the A380. Perhaps, Luke would, too, and this story is about him. Luke of yesteryear and how he first flew as a cadet and how young Luke and I went romping the skies in our own special way, writing a few new lines in the flight training manual.

Luke was from Johor Baru, in Malaysia. His roots were in South India where years ago his grandfather had done a Robinson Crusoe and ended up in the Malayan Peninsula. Luke was named after one of the four Gospel scribes. Luke really isn’t his name. It is a pseudonym, I use just to give him some anonymity. Not much protection, but one is to three are playable odds. Like in Rumple stiltskin the manikin, you are welcome to guess the name.

We first flew to Seoul. He, straight out of flying College, and yours truly, as old as the hills, driving the ‘Jumbo’ classic, the lovable 747. The first thing I noticed about him was his socks, black and white diamond shapes, a mini version of the flags they swing at Grand Prix finals – if Luke swung his feet, a Ferrari would pass underneath. That we sorted out the first day itself. In Seoul,he went shopping and the next day he was Zorro, waist to toe, black as a crow.

His flying credentials were all there, somewhat mixed up between what they teach in modern flying schools and how to apply the ‘ivory tower’ jargon to cope with the big 747. As for raw handling of the aeroplane, all his skills were intact, only they were in bits and pieces and spread in places like an Irida Pola (Sunday Fair). They had to be streamlined, the wet market needed to be modified to a ‘Seven-Eleven’ – that was my job.

The next round we went flying to Europe, his first run to the unknown, like Gagarin in his Sputnik, young Luke flew to Rome. The flying was same as before, a bit mixed up amidst the hundreds of aero dynamical paraphernalia that spelled out from the encyclopaedic collection of books that he had to study.

That’s when I decided to change the tide.

‘Luke my friend,” I said to him in a fatherly fashion.

‘You and I are from similar fields, you from Kerala and me from Sri Lanka. These Min Drag Curves and VFEs and WAT limits and VLEs are too much for us. Just remember when you pull the stick back, the houses will become smaller and when you push the stick down, the houses will become bigger, that’s climbing and descending this monster,” I explained the simple theory of flight.

“As for landing my friend, Kudurai Madiri Pona, just ride it like a horse.”

That was it. We flew, over Europe and he flew like a Trojan, bravely battling the weather and the overcrowded skies. Every time he came in to land it was pure and simple Kudurai Madiri Pona and the big jumbo responded and touched down on the concrete as smooth as a honeymoon lover.

On the way back, we flew via Colombo, that’s my home ground. I requested the radar controller to give Luke a very short ‘four-mile’ final. They know me well here and the controller said “No problem, Captain.”

I was depicting what we did in the Old Hong Kong Airport or what we do in the Canarsi Approach in New York; both, most demanding. A ‘four-mile’ final is a challenge for anyone. I was throwing him in at the deep end and I had no doubt Luke could manage. He came in tight and right, like Hopalong Cassidy and rode the horse straight and beautiful to do a perfect landing. Gone was the Kampong kid and his ‘Irida Pola’ flying, this was Takashimaya and Robinsons rolled into one, everything was in place, nice and shining and professional to the tee.

That was our little story, Luke the ‘jockey’ and me. Sometimes in the field of training, the script needs a little changing. New acts to be introduced to suit the stage. That is the essence of teaching, different hurdles for different horses. It wasn’t for Luke to learn what I knew, more so, it was for me to know who he was and what he could cope with. That part was difficult to find in the flying training manual, and so was Kudurai Madiri Pona.

The world has gotten older and young Luke now wears four stripes and flies in command of Boeing Triple Sevens, fly-by-wire and multiple computers. I met him a few times, flew as his passenger, too, with great pride. “Captain Luke is in command,” the stewardess announced, and silently and gratefully I said, ‘Amen’.

I saw him walking down the aisle, looking for me. Same old Luke in his flat and uncombed Julius Ceaser hairstyle. He came to my seat and grinned and shook my hand and lightly lifted his trouser leg and said,

“Captain, the socks are black and it is still Kudurai Madiri Pona.

I am sure Luke will fly in command of the gigantic A380 one day. That’s a certainty. It would be the zenith for any pilot. Luke is ready, that I know. He is competent, polished and professional and will wear socks as black as midnight. It’s nice that he remembers his beginnings. That’s what flying is all about, that’s what life is all about.

Kudurai Madiri Pona

– ride it like a horse. Some flying lesson.

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