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The Welgama Matriarch



( 05/01/1928 ~06/02/2021)

A son-in-law remembers Our beloved Amma, Beatrice, is no more.

The rock around which the family’s hopes and fearsflapped, sometimes swirled and raged is no more. In Khalil Gibran’s deathless verse,

“The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind,

Is the word ‘‘Mother’……..

The mother is everything,

She is our consolation in sorrow,

Our Hope in misery,

And our strength in weakness,

She is the source of love,

Mercy, sympathy and forgiveness.”


I remember the first day we met. She and her husband had come to see my parents and me as a prospective son-in law-for their second daughter, Kanthi. Beatrice was one of the most beautiful Sinhala women I had seen. Secretly I was delighted. Surely her daughter must be equally or more beautiful. In fact Mrs. Welgama was more captivating than all her daughters.

Kanthi’s father was moved by my ‘simplicity.’ A self-made man from the hinterland of the Kalutara district, he was warmed by my unpretentious attire – a sarong and shirt.

The bonds forged on that propitious day would last a lifetime.They both treated me like one of their own, more so after my own parents passed away.

Amma was born in a sylvan hamlet in the Kandyan hills and the grandeur of the mountains and the beauty of the valleys seemed etched in her. She was betrothed as a beautiful teenager to a mature but equally good looking and imposing husband. At first she may have been overawed by him, an entrepreneur who went onto build one of the largest trucking companies of the land,; but soon became an equal partner.

Her first and highest priority after her spouse was the family; the children, children’s children and us children by marriage. When I was dealt an injustice by the department of health, she who was welcome in the highest circles of the land endured agonizing waits and arrogance of the then health minister. She was as disappointed as I that I was not able to accept a training position in a major American centre due to the intransigence of bureaucrats. Being a woman, the minister should have been more sympathetic to a mother’s anguish. In some ways I was glad that her efforts didn’t bear fruit;I ended up in Australia rather than USA.

Again when part of Kanthi’s property, in a fashionable suburb of Colombo was annexed, it was she who toiled and laboured to get us some compensation. Similarly when a large extent of land that belonged to her husband was seized by the State it was she who obtained some recompense which, though meagre in comparison to its value, enabled her to build a hospital in memory of her much loved husband. This had been his cherished ambition.

His own mother had died at childbirth and his aspiration for the impoverished women of his village was an easily accessible, well equipped and staffed maternity health centre.She worked like a Trojan coaxing and cajoling suppliers, contractors and craftsmen and even attending to even the most minor details.The day that the hospital was declared open by the then President would have been one of the happiest days of her life. She may well have echoed the poet’s words “My task on earth is done, by thy grace,the victory’s won”.

She would be the first to rush to the sides of her daughters having their babies and to other afflicted relatives. When I had major surgery, she travelled alone across two continents to be with me and Kanthi the next day. Arriving direct from the airport to the intensive care unit, her mere presence hastened my recovery.Staying on for a month, leaving her husband and rest of the family at home, the counselling and support she gave Kanthi and me was immeasurable.

When my father was hospitalised for the first and last time in his long life it was Amma who visited him everyday. He was widowed and both sons were unable to come quickly. On his last day he told her, “Sister, for what you are doing to me you will be born an Imperial Princess in your next birth.”

Her hospitality was legendary. We would look forward eagerly to the weekly lunch on a Sunday.The repasts were magnificent, fit for royalty; an excellent cook herself every delicious dish was checked and augmented by her. Our favourites were the pork curry and biscuit pudding.The family gathering was convivial and full of fun and we retired for the conventional siesta only hours later.

Whenever Kanthi and I arrived from Australia she was at the airport even if the hour was ungodly.The journey to her house in Wellawatte was long in the pre-highway days. Mother and daughter in the back seat would catch up on news and gossip while I snatched forty winks.The house was sparkling clean and brightly lit and the dining table loaded with ripe bananas and sweetmeats. We would quickly adjourn to the bedroom, airconditioned to dispel the heat and humidity.The bed and linen were luxurious and we would sleep soundly until the houseboy Gamini’s deferential knock next morning woke us for bed tea.

Afterwards I would go for a walk on the beach, only a quarter mile away, with Gamini and the faithful hound, Jimmy.To quote my own words “the bracing cool of the morning, the fresh air, the soft breezes and the music of the waves ,crashing on the shore was the perfect start for a new day. Gamini and Jimmy squatted on a rock ,watching me walk barefoot on the sand, with the warm salt water wetting my feet only now and then. They did not need the workout.”

Every meal was a delight. She got the choicest fruit, vegetables and fish in season from the Kollupitiya market.Her favourite vendor Sanath whom she had helped gave her only the best.

The car and chauffeur were at our disposal for shopping -books and music for me, clothes,gifts and souvenirs for Kanthi.There were of course innumerable parties and the occasional visit to a coastal resort down south and sometimes a hill country resort.

These holidays with Amma are an indelible memory; although we have had vacations in many exotic parts of the world, we will always treasure these grand times with her.

With five daughters of marriageable age, wedding planning and dressing brides became her metier long before it became a lucrative business.She dressed six brides at home, the sixth being our Australian sister-in-law; she dressed countless other brides too as her fame had spread far and wide.

Months before the event, she would go on shopping sprees to Chennai and Mumbai for sarees, jewellery and other paraphernalia deemed essential for brides from affluent families. Her husband gave her free rein, but being prudent she would get the best only at the right price.There were a thousand and one other matters and people to be dealt with. She did them all, maybe with some fuss, but well nevertheless.

The weddings themselves were spectacular events graced by the esteemed, the chic and friends and relatives.One of our attesting witnesses, J.R.Jayewardene and a guest, R.Premadasa, went on to become Presidents.The other attesting witness Maithripala Senanayake,the then deputy prime minister, was a rarity even then – an honest gentlemanly politician.

Our nuptials were at the Mount Lavinia Hotel overlooking the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and my alma mater, S. Thomas, the famed school by the sea.The pomp and splendour of the ceremony overawed me. I remember an aunt whispering to me ‘ smile putha ,smile’. Very few of the guests may have known the immense efforts that Amma put in to stage this breathtaking event.

She was fearless in the mould of our national hero, Madduma Bandara or even Lord Horatio Nelson of whom she would have learnt at school. It could have been inborn or acquired from her husband whose forefathers were soldiers in the service of the Sinhala kings. Perhaps, many pregnancies and childbirths would have made her immune to pain and fear.

On the first day of the disturbances of July 1983, returning from Ratnapura, we were stopped many times by goons wielding clubs, knives and swords,enquiring about our ethnicity.Our driver was timid and so was I. But Amma who was in the backseat with Kanthi ordered them loudly to let us proceed. And they did.

When we reached Wellawatte the street was ablaze with household goods set on fire.The house itself was packed with Tamil neighbors,numbering more than 50. Without batting an eyelid and unmindful of her own safety and that of the family she set about looking after them till they moved to a refugee camp the next day. Nearly 40 years later, I can scarcely believe how she managed such a feat.

Travel was a passion and It gave us much satisfaction to indulge her.Their first vacation in the West was in Britain in 1975.They were blessed with a golden summer.We were then living in Shotley Bridge, a picturesque town halfway between Newcastle upon Tyne and Durham. From there they visited the Lake District ,Edinburgh and other famed tourist spots.

In London their gracious and caring hosts were our good friends, Lalitha and Gemunu; they were taken around to many vibrant tourist attractions and Amma was able to shop for her daughters in Oxford street and the bustling markets. She had been given long lists of items to buy.

Kanthi and I then accompanied them to Freiburg in the Black Forest district where a son, Mahinda, was a University student. He spoke German like a local, knew all the important sights and had many good friends, young and old. One of them, Frau Laufer welcomed us to her opulent mansion where we stayed. I remember specifically the cellar as large as the house where she stored homemade wines, jams and pickled fruit.

Two unforgettable visits were to the Mercedes Benz factory in Stuttgart and the other, a day trip to Switzerland. Father,a Mercedes enthusiast was enthralled with the automated production of cars. They were enchanted with all the places they visited and language barriers didn’t hold them back from socialising with the locals. As Germany and Switzerland were very different to Britain, their holiday was as varied and fascinating as they could have wished.

Their last vacation together was to Hawaii and Disneyland and as I was working in Los Angeles able to guide them around Anaheim.

After the passing away of Father we were able to take her with us on two European tours, a couple of USA vacations and a Scandinavian tour which she much enjoyed. Born to a Catholic family, the tour of the Holy Land enchanted her the most. We also visited Egypt afterwards. A good traveller, she revelled in fresh experiences and cuisines and enjoyed meeting people of all ages.

The childlike astonishment at her first sight of snow in Vancouver alone made that journey worthwhile.The following day was sunny with blue skies and the Grouse mountain covered in a white blanket was a sight to behold.Walking and riding in a snow cart on the mountaintop thrilled her.

Now,there is only a void that can never be filled. Yet we rejoice in a life lived to the full, mostly in the service of others.


“A mother is she,

Who can take the place of all others,

But whose place, no one can take”


Cardinal Mermillod


May her journey in Samsara be short and may she attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.


Kumar Gunawardane

Emeritus Consultant Cardiologist

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Ranjan loses the People’s Crown



Last week it was Avurudu Thel Keliya. Now we have come to Ranjan Keliya. 

SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake has been removed from Parliament, in what is said to be in keeping with the decision of the Court of Appeal, to reject his application against the Supreme Court order sentencing him to four years of imprisonment for Contempt of court.

A parliament, of which Ranjan was a most active and spoken member, has shown its overall failure to deal with an issue that affects the rights of all citizens. The mockery of it all is to have a parliament where a person found guilty of murder and imprisoned by a court order is allowed to be a member of the House, but a person guilty of contempt of Court, who has not injured or killed anyone, is removed from it.

With all due respect and honour to the judiciary, one must begin to look at the entire thinking and process of charging people for and punishing them for contempt of Court. 

In the present parliamentary situation, with all the power that the President and the government have with a two-thirds plus majority, the future Independence of the Judiciary is certainly in question.

If Ramanayake has committed contempt of Court, he is now the player in calling for a change of our legislation on Contempt of Court. Is it truly wrong to criticise a member/or members of the judiciary; are they above the law; what is the practice and trend on this in other democracies?

It is time our Members of Parliament, the Bar Association and organizations of Civil Society made deep study of this entire issue, and moved to prevent the right of free speech being incorrectly restricted. We must look at how Contempt of Court is considered legally in the UK, from where we got this.

How is Contempt of court handled by the Courts of India, our closest neighbour and next to us in years of democracy? How is this issue handled in other democracies too such as France and Germany, and even the US? 

The Ranjan  Keliya  has certainly brought us to realising the Contempt for Democracy that prevails, and is being expanded in Sri Lanka. This contempt is the reality of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and the prevailing show of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Saubhagye Dekma”.    Changing our laws on Contempt of Court to make them modern and democratic will be the real crowning of Ramanayake.


Beauty Queen crowns

We have now come to the Ru Rajina Otunu Keliya too. The story of the crown being grabbed from the new Mrs Sri Lanka has spread in the international media. 

There was a lovely piece of social media, where Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is showing her joy at getting rid of Sri Lanka from the royalty domain as far back as 1948, as otherwise there would have been moves to grab her crown, too.

Mrs Sri Lanka or Mr. World is certainly not of much interest to us who are facing much bigger problems than the ownership of beauty crowns. Yet, the issue of a Mrs Sri Lanka or Mrs World having to be married does raise many issues today. Are the organizers of the global event thinking of temporary or shaky marriages, or those that last through decades and more, with a commitment to each other?

Can a person, who is undergoing the process of a divorce in a court of law, one who wants to leave a marriage through the law, be one who is really married? The very concept of marriage has undergone many changes in recent decades. Should these realities not be accepted by the organisers of these events? 

Why not have a rule that a contestant for Mrs (Country) or Mrs World, should be married several times – as is fast becoming a reality in the west, and countries that are following such traditions.

We will certainly have candidates seeking the crown if a few or many marriages are a condition. It will also show a genuine interest in the promotion of marriages, without confining it to just a single marriage, even with a pending divorce.   

We can then have a Mrs World, with a show of strength to those with achievements of more than one, or several marriages. 

The “Vivahaka Ru Rajina” will then be a “Boho Vivahaka Ru Rajina”.

The current Mrs World, Caroline Jurie, who was the key crown remover in this show of crooked farce, and a model who helped her, are now facing action in the courts.

Marriage or not is certainly an issue for Miss or Mrs Sri Lanka. A winner of the very early Mrs Sri Lanka events had earlier contested a Miss Sri Lanka, while being married. If she had not lost the contest, we would have seen loud calls for her crown to be removed. The senior ladies who played a big role in this Mrs. Sri Lanka event, certainly reminded us of such past records.

Let the crown be with the people, whether married or not. The rising call is for the Janatha Kirula, against a Pol Thel or Seeni Vancha Kirula of the Abhagye  Dekma.

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A Pervasive Threat to Biodiversity and Human Security

By Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
Continued from yesterday

According to Prof. Wijesundara, in 1994, a multinational company, W.R. Grace and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were granted a patent by the European Patent Office (EPO) “Covering a (special) method for controlling fungi on plants by the aid of a hydrophobic extracted neem oil” that is diluted with a certain percentage of water was withdrawn in 2000. Lot of concern after 10-year battle, some patents on neem were squashed some still prevail. There are 65 patents so far only for neem. According to Prof. Kotagama, a US company wanted to produce insecticide from neem. They came with Azadariktin as a product. They obtain the patenting required to use and own neem. There is a law that if you are contesting patenting right it has to be in the country it is registered at. So the neem battle has to be fought in the US. With lot of money and help from the NGOs and help along with the Indian government they fought against this patenting. The company contested that they did not bring neem from Asia or India, they brought it from Africa because it grows in Africa. But it was identified that the seeds that had gone to Kenya had been coming from Sri Lanka according to the Registers of the forest department records from Sri Lank. Based on that evidence the patent was revoked. The neem campaign was consisting of a group of NGOs and individuals was initiated in 1993 in India. This was done to mobilize worldwide support to protect indigenous knowledge systems and resources of the Third World from piracy by the west particularly in light of emerging threats from intellectual property rights regimes under WTO and TRIPS. Neem patent became the first case to challenge European and US patents on the grounds of biopiracy.

Basmati Rice patent case is another instance bio-piracy was reversed. Prof. Kotagama remarked that it is known as the India – US Basmati Rice Dispute (Case number 493, Case Menemonic – Basmati; Patent number – US 5663484A, publication). A US company registered a new hybrid variety of Basmati. India and Pakistan got together and they fought using media, using negative advertisement and they squashed American variety of Basmati) proving ‘Texmati’ was not Basmati.

According to Prof. Sarath Kotagama, an Indian Ecologist, Vandana Shiva has said ‘bio-piracy deprives us in three ways: It creates a false claim to novelty and invention, even though the knowledge has evolved since ancient times as part of the collective and intellectual heritage of India”. Secondly “it divests scarce biological resources to monopoly control of corporations thus depriving local communities the benefits of its use” and thirdly “it creates market monopolies and excludes the original innovators (farmers) from their rightful share to local, national and global markets”. She fought a lot for the biodiversity conservation in India and a well-respected ecologist in India who also had to do much with the fight against Neem, Basmati and Turmeric.

There are similar cases where patents were revoked: Kava Kava from Fiji and Vanuatu; Quinoa from Andes; Banaba and other medical plantys from Philippines; Bitter gourd from Sri Lanka and Thailan; Ilang-Ilang from Philippines and Periwinkle from Madagascar, highlighted Prof. Wijesundara.

In 1989 bioprospecting started with the Institute of Biology established in Costa Rica purely for this purpose. It was the idea to do research on rainforests, animals and plants in Costa Rica and give the ownership to the country if something was discovered. However, this institute was dissolved in 2015 in Costa Rica. According to Prof. Kotagama, the institute still exists with the idea surveys on the resources of rainforests and commercialization of the products will be done for the benefit of Costs Rica. Prof. Kotagama highlighted why bio-piracy needs to be also understood in legal jargon. In the research paper “Bio piracy and its impact on Biodiversity: A Special review on Sri Lankan context” (Kusal Kavinda Amarasinghe), it has mentioned that 34 plants and animals have been taken out of Sri Lanka and Indian subcontinent and patent obtained for biological constituents already. According to Prof. Kotagama, Naja naja naja (Cobra) is an endemic spices in Sri Lanka and still it has lost the control from the country and others are using the species to derive benefits. Prof. Kotagama also highlighted that while there is so much indifference, there is so much consorted efforts to prevent bio-piracy and bio-theft in the countries like the Philippine, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Nepal who have strengthen the situation and have increased regulations and continue strict border control measures.

Illegal Trafficking and Bio-Piracy

According to Prof. Siril Wijesundara, illegal trafficking is also directly linked to bio-piracy and theft. One of the ways that can prevent bio-piracy is through detecting illegal trafficking of various types of endemic and endangered plants and animals. Most common plant species affected by illegal trafficking in Sri Lanka at present are Gyrinops Walla Walla patta, Salacia reticulate Kothala Himbutiand Santalum album naturalized sandhun. Sri Lanka Customs have detected many instances of illegal trafficking. Target destination varies from India, Dubai, Pakistan, Australia, and China. The most popular destination for Kothala Himbotu today is China.

Another classic example of trafficking of plants is by misleading the authorities. Prof. Wijesundara highlighted that a plant called Kekatiya (Aponogeton crispus) were exported in large quantities under the name Aponogeton ulvaceus, a plant native to Madagascar. However, Prof. Siril Wijesuriya mentioned that during his tenure at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, he managed to test this plant and discovered it is a different plant from the one in Madagascar. After this discovery, this Sri Lankan variety of the plant (Kekatiya) was prohibited from being exported and necessary action were taken to a point where the company went out of business.


Importance of Utilizing the Chemical Compounds in the Medicinal Plants

Prof. Veranja Karunarathne highlighted the popularity among the people now for medicinal plants. That is because the Medicinal properties and compounds that are useful found in the medicinal plants. Natural products are made out of these compounds. According to him, the use of medicinal plants go over for 5000 years ago. Probably we have used medicinal plants since existence.

According to Prof. Veranja Karunarathne, the medicinal plants are being used in traditional medicinal systems popular in Sri Lanka such as Ayurveda, Deishiya Chikithsa, Siddha and Unani. Siddha and Unani don’t use much of the plants necessarily and have much to do with involving plants. In different medicinal systems, over 2500 plants are being used in Sri Lanka. These are being used for disease curing and ailments in traditional medicine practices. In the Western medicine sense, it is one compound for one disease. In Ayurveda and indigenous system, it is many compounds for one disease many compounds curing one disease. Pollypahrmachology is accepted in the indigenous system. These aspects of pollypahrmachology in traditional medicine are becoming valuable. If we take asprin that cures heart disease, it is isolated from Villon plant. Quinine that is used in Malaria prevention is isolated from cinchona plant. That is the practice of the Western medicine. Prof. Veranja Karunarathne says that if we look at plant evolution, it is evident that the plants didn’t intend to cure diseases. This evolution of the plants happened by co-evolving with the insects. It never intended to cure diseases for humans. In 1915, the Western medicine avoided using plants due to various issues including intellectual property matters and since plants are very difficult thing to manage. However, they have come back discovering medicine from plants. That is why co-evolution is important. Diversity of functional group of plants is important. Diversity of use of plants cannot be matched with the evolution of the plants.

From Kothala Himbotu, an endemic plant in Sri Lanka, water soluble anti diabetic compounds were found by Japanese scientist. There are over 50 patents for Kothala Himbotu plant. Sri Lanka has only one patent which was a discovery of a Sri Lankan team. As a Chemist who worked on the kothala himbotu plant and tried to find the chemical compounds, Prof. Karunarathne felt humiliated when Japanese scientists found that water based compound in the kothala himbotu plant. He used a Sri Lankan source and worked on a zeroing from Sri Lankan lichen, patented at the US patent office the, lichen called ziorine that can be used on cancer patients. Sri Lankan government dealing legally with bio-piracy is when they intervened to stop exporting Kothala Himbotu plant in bulk that is being used for anti-diabetic drug. For anti-diabetic drug creation some sections of the plant are still being exported, but in small quantities.

In the meantime, there is also bogus bio-piracy. An undergraduate student of University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka found out that Clarins skin care product in France is using Hortinia floribanda that is endemic to Sri Lanka.

In their website it was mentioned that this plant is being used to improve the skin tone. When studied their website, closely, they found that they are using plants found in amazon and plant found in Europe during winter. After finding the endemic Sri Lankan plant do not contribute to any skin tone improvement and when the research was published in National Science Foundation journal, the skin care production company removed the name of the plant from their website. This is an instance where bogus bio-piracy is being taken place and that it too needs to fight and that even an average Chemist can make a difference, said Prof. Varanja Karunarathne.

According to Prof. Varanja Karunarathne, there are about 3000 odd plants endemic to Sri Lanka, out of the total flowering plants, 2000 are endemic. Because of this density and diversity, UNESCO named Sri Lanka as a biodiversity hotspot. 1300 of these plants are in the Red book of endangered plants of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the value of the plant is only the timber value. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka value plants in Sri Lanka only for its timber value which is a drawback. The government needs to fund for projects that study the chemistry of these plants, government never have done such in that greater scale. The chemists would want be able to study the chemistry inside the plant, the knowledge inside the plant. It is important to lobby to find the chemicals of these plants that are endangered to Sri Lanka. This means conserving the knowledge inside the plant is much more than just evaluating its value for timber. There is a far greater use of the plant than just the timber value.

During the discussion, Mr. Lakshman Gunasekara highlighted the importance of getting media involved along with the Scientists to intervene in promoting knowledge, education and awareness about bio-piracy and possible ways of counter-fighting it. He said that unlike in the past, mass communication can bring this issue to a different level. In this regard the scientific community needs to intervene in order for the media community to get activated. However, Prof. Siril Wijesundara made a remark that media is always working with political agendas, but Scientists are not and they cannot do so. Therefore, it is important, media step aside from political agendas and look at this issue apolitically.

Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri highlighted the colonial dimension of bio-piracy. With the involvement of government in bio-piracy and the inclusion of concept of government and empire –building bio-politics came into being. In empire building, establishing the political centre outside the location of the centre was important. Same is true to colonialism which was more than traditional Empire building exercise. It was new kind of administration, where there was capturing a grip on the land and space, fauna and flora. It was rather “governmentalization” which has multiple dimension. According to him, in that sense, colonialism is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is not more colonialism now; it is a new process. This is very much part of the enlightenment project at the time. It was governed by knowledge. Accumulation of information of social and natural environment became a new kind of project. The new political challenge is also this.

Prof. Nalani Hennayake highlighted the fact that how in terms of conservation and information sharing India came out with digital library registered with patent offices in the inventories library in the United States, while Sri Lanka has our own Red Book of inventory. She further highlighted the fact that countries like Sri Lanka having enough laws that needs immediate activation. Monopolizing the ownership needs to end and commercializing our plants needs to happen according to the Fauna and Flora Act in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka said no to digital register of plants in 1994 and we need to rethink such decisions mentioned the discussants.

In his concluding remarks, Prof. Veranja Karunarathne said that at present, other people are working on synthetic biology, combination of chemistry, biology and genomics, creating biosynthetic pathway of genes. Genes are mass produced in genomic mass factories which is controlled exploitation of bio wealth. That is where the world is heading and he says Sri Lanka needs to value the conserved knowledge inside the plant and explore the immense possibilities that the plants are presenting. Concluded

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Acknowledged (only?) Statesman speaks out; so do a few others



The editor of The Sunday Island (April 4), mentions in his succinctly titled editorial – Down the pallang with no end in sight – this statesman. He speaks of Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha’s successful manouevre to curtail the power of the Rajapaksas and President Mahinda R’s attempt to go in for a third term of his presidency in 2014. Thus, the editor writes: “It is in this context that the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) that Ven Sobitha founded now led by respected elder statesman Karu Jayasuariya ….” The organisation is seeking to push the rulers on to a correction course. It seeks to project an apolitical stance and denies subversive interest. “The 20th Amendment that abolished the 19th has thrown the baby with the bathwater….” Cassandra adds – and we are drowning in the waters; floundering in fear and surrounded by sharks of the sugar and oil scams; also those who are still destroying our natural resources.


Karu wise plus experienced and apolitical

The same paper published on page 3 excerpts of what the Chairman NMSJ – Karu Jayasurirya – said at a press conference at Janaki Hotel Colombo, on April 2. His considered warning was ‘Don’t fiddle like Nero as the country plunges into a precipice.’ A due warning of rather mixed metaphors. Cass would have preferred … ‘as the country burns’, but plunging into a precipice is really more catastrophic and that, says many, is what is happening to this wonderful land of ours. We should all read and reread what Karu J had to say; we should analyse and see whether he was correct and then in our own small way try to obtain a change of course. The principle consideration is that Karu Jayasuriya speaks apolitically here as an elder statesman who has been both in politics and the private sector and knows full well what he is speaking about. If you want definite credentials on his ability and sincerity, recollect how he acted as Speaker of Parliament when the then Prez, Maitripala Sirisena stole the government from its elected members of Parliament and handed it over to his dire enemy of yesteryear, now befriended buddy – Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coyotes to govern the land. PM Ranil W with loyalists holed themselves at Temple Trees and bided their time. Karu J faced a battery of assaults: vulgarly vocal, totally injurious thrown bound volumes and deadly chilli powder mixed with water. He braved it all; took his rightful seat and gave judgment that restored order from utter chaos.

He is one politician whom Cass and so many others rooted for. Now he is out of party politics but fighting for the very survival of the nation of free Sri Lanka.


Voices should be listened to

At the recent meeting of people to solve their problems and bring succour to them, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa somewhat belittled protestors attempting to save our forest cover. Cass heard him on TV news on Saturday April 3 speaking about people accusing a previous government of running white vans, threatening journalists etc and now it is environmental groups that are out against the new government and him. No, they and we are against those who cut trees, deforest the land, sand mine ruthlessly and of course make money on horrible scams and seem to get away scot free, not even paying to government coffers billions garnered illegally.

He, government Ministers and MPs, and relevant administrators should all listen to the call of even a single concerned person, and know they are calling out completely altruistically with no political biases. One such is Padmini Nanayakkara of Colombo 3 who cries out (we imagine in horror) Reservoirs in Sinharaja? in the Sunday Island of April 4. She starts her letter to the editor with this: “Have we an enemy within or has a foreign force taken over Sri Lanka? I can’t imagine any Lankan contributing to an idea as bizarre as building reservoirs in Sinharaja.”

The editor referring to the pronouncement made loud and clear by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa about building two reservoirs in Sinharaja as if it were a foregone construction plan; writes thus: “A minister from the ruling family outrageously declares that two reservoirs will be built in the Sinharaja reserve to provide water for their pocket borough, He promises to plant 150 acres elsewhere to compensate saying that rubber will be planted to give people an income”. The editor dubs it a “madcap project” (cheers!!). Plenty water could be tapped downstream of rivers flowing near Hambantota; and this for people and not to keep watered vanity projects like cricket stadiums.


Semicentennial of a terrible uprising

I speak here of the JVP uprising of 1971 which has been written about with Jayantha Somasunderam from Canberra detailing it meticulously with copious references. Cass has been typically Sri Lankan in that she had forgotten about those days of fifty years ago which she refuses to term either jubilee or never golden anniversary. The Editor/The Island introduced a new word – quinquagenary – a tongue twister but pins down the number five. Whatever its now earned name, it was a brutal and absolutely purposeless shedding of young blood: blood of youth by the government and killing of police and causing utter chaos by the newly marshaled JVP under Rohana Wijeweera. They were disciplined and dedicated to a cause then. Incidentally, his grown son was shown on TV news a few days ago. A misunderstood message to attack police stations, conveyed via radio annonced obituary notices, saved the country because the attack was so deadly, power over the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike could have been gained. The second JVP uprising was deadlier as it was minus principles and all restraint. Again the rivers flowed with young Sinhala blood. The 1971 insurrection was short lived and we who cowered, emerged to usual routines fairly soon. Not the 1ate 1980s uprising. It created widespread fear psychoses; complete mayhem from hospitals, schools and offices to thé kadés. Universities were closed for two years and thus a considerable exodus of young students to universities overseas. We lost many of our teenaged children and the country – brains and ability.

May such never happen again is our earnest prayer. The young seem to have imbibed or decided to work through principles. Consider the recent protests against environmental degradation, particularly denudation of forests. They were all peaceful and intelligently carried out, and acknowledged as such, and the message they carried should certainly have been given an ear to by the President, PM and Ministers in charge of relevant subject areas. Perhaps it was peaceful marches and speeches and placards because the aim was altruistic – benefit for the entire country and not for self.


Beauty gone batty?

The public fracas of excessively groomed and dressed up beauties at the recent Mrs Sri Lanka finals was shockingly disgraceful. It confirmed to Cass that even the slightest mix-up or argument in this land of ours very soon escalates to a debacle, often accompanied by violence. But in this incident, there wasn’t even a whimper of argument. We witnessed how last year’s Mrs S L – Her Mightiness Caroline Jurie – crowned, de-crowned and re-crowned Pushpika de Silva. The latter’s hair was pulled, since the crown was rudely pulled off her by Her Mightiness and another, but unless it had long sharp spikes it could not have injured the stunned winner’s head. And all because of a heard rumour at the moment of crowning. Cass spits out: How dare Caroline Jurie take judgment to her tearing hands when a panel had discussed, gone into details and decided on the winner; the panel including herself! Cass comments the glass slipper gifted to Cinderella Caroline a year ago seems to be a misfit now; her feet swollen to match her head.

Back to the ordinary: Cassandra wishes all her readers a family oriented Aluth Avuruddha, with safety precautions vigilantly observed against infection given first priority. Much should be sacrificed to prevent the deadly third wave of Covid 19.

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