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Is Heartfelt Reconciliation a Better Start?


‘We hear those distant drums-far away’ are the lyrics from a song by Jim Reeves, well known to the older generations in Sri Lanka. Likewise, twice a year the drum roll of the UNHRC is heard through the theatrics in Sri Lanka. There are arguments and counter arguments aired in the media, signalling the readiness to refresh allegations against Sri Lanka for the lapses in reconciliation and reparation.

Nothing is any different from the refrain we have heard many times before. Ordinary citizens are hardly bothered, because people are accustomed to UNHRC talk fests and seasoned to the fact that nothing of substance will happen. The cynicism is understandable, because human rights abuses in the world are many, and Sri Lanka, after terrorism is a tolerable place, and even noted as a cynosure for tourists. Compared to gross abuses in places such as Myanmar, Afghanistan, Libya, and glaring issues of forced labour, child exploitation and abuse in many countries, hunger and deprivation, inequity in vaccination places where the UNHRC is badly needed to give a voice to the victims. But UNHRC seems to be playing geo-politics at our expense.

But this essay is different. While the ideologues will dismiss it as nonsensical platitudes, yet I will argue that it has proved useful in history, and I am only suggesting to the protagonists on both sides to take stock of reality as ordinary folk see it, and plead with them to consider a different path in the reconciliation game.

The absolute necessity to change course

It was just two weeks ago that we celebrated 74th Independence Day, from colonial rule, but sadly not all communities did join. It is, therefore, understandable for civic minded Sri Lankans to be apprehensive about the future of a country, where even a national day does not bring people together. This is not unusual even in former colonies, and in a country such as Australia there still is a debate on these matters, with the First nation people and community leaders. The ULURU statement was drafted outside the political directorate seeking ways to reconcile with history with a heart-to-heart conversation; a heart-to-heart discourse based on morality and intelligent reasoning without politics and ideology. It is the starter for more complex policy issues to come in the fullness of time.

Sri Lanka is going through a rough time. Sadly, this is an understatement, and one of the reasons for our current state is the fact that post-independence history was riddled with conflict and tension, and one cannot predict how likely we will solve the myriad issues with any confidence. While the world is grappling with impending nuclear explosions, global climate change, infectious diseases and biological warfare, ours is more basic, in that we are a fractured nation, and all signs are that we are drifting further apart.

A divided country has no future other than as a parking lot for other nations. We all must recognize what a quagmire that we are in. Division, disunity after a multitude of commissions, consultations and five Presidents the chasm is ever widening. A multiethnic nation which is suspicious of other communities is living at the edge.

A fractured nation with warring communities is a potent danger, not so much in the physical sense. The enmity sown in the minds of the youth is so noxious that the nation has a split personality. A young person will not be able to see through this noxious poisonous mask ever, and I am not exaggerating. I’m sure even Sigmund Freud will concur with me. The distrust it creates can cause mayhem anytime. Just like religion the children will subliminally uptake the ‘other’ as the devil. What future are we thinking of? The older generation who did not differentiate one another on the factor of ethnicity, are either dead or in their sunset years. In a few years no one will be alive to teach them of the absolute beauty of unity in diversity.

In my Buddhist school Ananda, my adored teacher was the Tamil English Senior master and at Peradeniya it was Dr Wilson (Politics), Dr Stanley Thambiah (Sociology), and Dr Thambiah Pillai, our climatology guru. I still believe very strongly that Dr Wilson’s well researched text gave me a distinction in civics at the AL exam. We remember them with gratitude for what we have achieved in our lives. What a wonderful time it was to mix with friends from all ethnicities and particularly trips to Jaffna to spend the weekends with friends. How ashamed we were to harbour our own friends in our chummeries in Colombo come July 83.

The uselessness of praying for foreign God’s starting with UNHRC

The cacophony of noises made in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC is a wasteful exercise. I know that the pundits will dismiss me, but they do not see the reality. Except for the civil society leaders and the politicians, no one gives a damn. The pin striped men and women will come and go, and at least the current regime will show some evidence to demonstrate what they do and disprove others. UNHRC which is wanted elsewhere, will meddle in our internal affairs outside their mandate. The ordinary people will harbour more grudges against one another, and innocent people in the NE will receive nothing because of an unruly political game. Given the geopolitical struggles we will be drawn in by default, because nonalignment these days is defined by George Bush’s dictum that’ ‘if you are not with us you are with the enemy’. The very young and those yet to be born will be brainwashed in their formative years.

There are numerous examples from other parts of the world, where a people’s convention and expert panels outside the political spectrum, will bring the communities together and give direction to the political directorate in different hues. It will be difficult for political leaders to ignore proposals coming from a people’s Convention. It can be the harbinger of Constitutional changes, Bills of Rights, legal frameworks for guaranteeing unity while allowing for diversity and devolution. Such a charter will provide a sense of safety and security for all. Most of all we can begin to trust our communities and their politics.

Otherwise, we are praying to world powers to kick this ethnic can down the road and they will, gladly. Their actions in the Middle East and some parts of Africa should forewarn us.

Questions about the place of ethnicity, language and religion must be resolved by compromise and goodwill, not through acrimonious adversarial posturing before legislation.


The time has come for all ethnicities to recognize the fact that beginnings of a reconciliation must come from a heart-to-heart conversation, and that there is no other solution. While acknowledging that there must be structural safeguards for all ethnicities, there must also be an overall peoples’ support to draft a lasting solution, without which the nation will not make much headway. Sri Lanka is stuck in this quagmire of commissions, international inquiries, accusations and counterclaims, appeals to foreign countries and old colonial masters, strategic interests etc. But in the eyes of the common folk these have not so far been successful and unlikely that they ever will. It does not mean that there is no community appetite for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence as to the way we were.

We belong to the most ancient orders of religion, which sheltered persecuted peoples in the past and still are fostering the grand remnants of those religions. Sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism, and its modern-day variants, have filled the earth with violence and our soil is splattered with blood and the whole nation is in despair. I can only visualise where we would be among the nations in the world today if we had the good fortune, vision and courage to banish the uncharitable feelings against one another.

Wasn’t even Singapore envious of our potential at one time. We wasted that potential. We are awaiting the arrival of noble souls, large hearts and warm humility to change course; change course it must, lest we will be the poorest of nations, in spirit and matter, culturally and economically for ever more. Let us have a National Conversation.

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Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May



Ven. Brahmavamso

by Nanda Pethiyagoda

The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.

The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.

This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.

His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.

A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.

The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.

More information could be obtained by emailing For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.

Brief Bio

It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.

He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.

We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.

The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.

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One of best development administrators SL ever had



Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.

During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.

Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.

The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.

KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.

In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.

After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.

Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.


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It was not Central Bank bond scam



I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?

There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’?  It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.)  The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.

As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.


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