By Dr B. J. C. Perera
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician
A full year has gone by since my wonderful charismatic wife, Dr Sarojini Perera, left all of us, and this earth, forever on the 6th of December 2019. Yet for all that, it seems only the other day that I was able to hold her gently and ever so softly in my arms. The absolute and complete sense of unbearable loss and the agonising grief that was left behind by her untimely demise has not abated by even a fraction of a miniscule element; not even after a very desolate and bleak one year. Just as Richard L. Ratliff, that passionate orator and poet from Indiana, USA, so graphically described, “Time is a passing: not leaden stepping, but sprinting on winged feet. Quicksilver slipping by“. Yet for all that, the legendary healing touch of Father Time has very definitely passed me by. In point of fact, eons may pass, things may change, but memories will always stay where they are; in the heart…, for hearts never forget.
Sarojini was all of what a man could ever ask for, and even hope and pray for. From the time of developing a starry-eyed romantic liaison with her, as young doctors in the latter part of 1972, and from the day we tied the knot on the 26th of April 1975, it has been a life of perpetual love, in the form of a fulfilling commitment to each other. I have often asked her what she saw in me and her answer has always been “I saw the potential“. What she called ‘potential’ would never have borne fruit without her. Indeed, she was the proverbial wind beneath my wings, the breeze in my sails and the gust that lifted me up to the lofty echelons that I would never have been able to reach without her. She raised me up to being much more than I could ever hope to be. I was forever so strong when I was on her shoulders, literally and metaphorically. Life blessed me with her wonderful companionship for such a memorable length of time, but I do wonder in my heart of hearts, why? Oh, why…? did she have to go away, even after being with me for 44 years 7 months and 10 days. I really have no answer to that and I can only lament quietly. It only brings out the truth of the saying that the most painful tears are not the ones that fall from your eyes and cover your face, but are the ones that fall from your heart and cover your soul.
She was also a doting mother who, like all mothers, was absolutely delighted at even the smallest achievement of our daughter Manisha. But then, Sarojini was also an outright magician as a mother. Nothing ever ruffled her. Our daughter would be witness to the fact that her mother would be quite adept at turning pain into hope, hardships into lessons, calamities to optimism, and even tears into laughter. Manisha would confide in her mother, rather than in her father, ninety-nine per cent of the time. The very special rapport and the bond the two of them had was quite remarkable.
Sarojini’s staunch loyalty to her family and her total dedication to all of us was absolutely fabulous. Oh yes…, it would really surprise many that there was a kind of hidden rugged strength beneath that soft and tender placid exterior. That fantastic asset was carefully veiled in reams of the softest silk of gentleness; a very rare and exceptional blend. In fact, she was much stronger mentally than me. Whenever gloomy thoughts and setbacks tried to get her down, she just blew them away with a dazzling smile; just one of those smiles that she was forever renowned for. However, she would not hesitate to express her opinion on compelling issues and very often her enlightened views were bang on target.
The lady was eternally comfortable with life because she firmly believed that to be happy it was essential to find strength in forgiveness, hope in disagreements, security in fear, and even love in discordance. People used to say, and still continue to say, that no one could fight with her because you need two to fight, and she never ever would fight back. She was just not made that way. Despite her fame and popularity, for her ways were so very alluring and attractive to all around, the lady never felt the need for the parading of flashy and pretentious charades. Humility was her much revered forte. She preferred to be the type of person who would fit in with any type of crowd and she always managed to do it with finesse, elegance and style. It is said that a living is made in this world by what one gets. My wife was very happy with what she got in life, even me for that matter. In addition, she also made her life sublime and inspirational by what she gave to others. She generally worked for a cause and not for the applause. Her life was lived to express but not to impress. She never strove to make her presence felt but now that she is gone, her absence is felt ever so strongly and perpetually. We, her immediate family, together with her numerous friends and admirers, have felt that just to even talk or write about her in the past tense is in itself deeply distressing to all of us.
Sarojini was beautiful for the way she thought. She was beautiful for the sparkle in her eyes. She was beautiful for the way she smiled, and she was beautiful for her inherent ability to make other people smile too. Oh no…., she wasn’t beautiful for something as transitory and brittle as her really good looks, which of course she had in plenty. She was so very beautiful for the fact that she really was a serenely gorgeous person deep down…., right down to her beautiful soul; the poignant charm of her innermost loveliness. The sublime qualities that were an integral part of her nature, nurtured in her formative years by her fantastic family at Bandarawela, and the magnificent traits like compassion that she acquired as a result of her medical training, depicted her as an outstanding example of an exquisite and caring human being. She was a sunflower to all and sundry. She managed to remain as a blossoming lotus even in a sea of raging flames. Indeed, my soul-mate was somebody very special and unique. They have thrown away the mould in which she was made. However, the fragrance of her memory would live on forever.
As a doctor, she was totally loved by her patients and her colleagues. In fact, the words of two of my younger lady colleagues immediately after the demise of my wife epitomise their appreciation of her qualities. One referred to her as “one of the loveliest people that I knew” and the other referred to her as “the lovable English rose“; metaphors that described my Sarojini perfectly. During this year after her demise, the Sri Lanka College of Sexual Health and HIV Medicine, in which Sarojini was a Founder Member, Assistant Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and then the Honorary Treasurer in 2000/2001, has inaugurated an annual award in her memory for the Best Scientific Poster Presentation at their Annual Congress. The inaugural award was to be presented during their Silver Jubilee Celebration Banquet on 24th October 2020, but was postponed due to the calamity of COVID-19. In addition, the AIDS Foundation of Lanka, in which she worked as the Director – Research and Programmes after her retirement from the National Health Service, has initiated a monthly scholarship in her name for a needy child afflicted or affected by HIV/AIDS. We, the members of her family, are truly grateful to these two august institutions for those most magnanimous of gestures which would perpetuate her memory forever, without any boundaries of time.
It was Christian Dior, the celebrated French fashion designer, who once said that “After women, flowers are the most divine of creations“. My lady loved flowers and that perhaps made her to be a creation doubly divine. She may have been taken away from us physically but her sweet-scented presence lives on and tenderly lingers on around us, every single day.
In our own way, we, of her family, have tried ever so hard to portray our eternal love for her, in a gesture of zealous admiration and affection, in the epitaph that we engraved on her tombstone. It goes as:-
“Forever in our hearts”
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
Love leaves memories that no one can steal.
You held our hands for quite a while,
With much devotion, in your unique beautiful style.
A super lady gentle to all on her call,
Your radiant smile will be treasured by one and all.
In the words of the religion that we believe in, all human beings are made in the image of God the Almighty. This precious and exquisite person Sarojini, whose body went into extinction when she left this earth, most definitely had her soul taken into the Good Lord’s own kingdom in heaven.
In the arms of her creator, may the eternal heavenly glow shine upon her and may she rest in everlasting peace.
Geneva Debacle: Forging a Way Forward
By DHARSHAN WEERASEKERA
Alisdair Pal of Reuters says of the recent UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, “the resolution allows the U.N. to “collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve information and evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability….[it] is a “huge blow” to the Sri Lankan Government including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.” (“What does the U.N. resolution mean for Sri Lanka, 24th March 2021, www.reuters.com)
To my knowledge, much of the commentary on the resolution follows a similar pattern, i.e. the focus is on what the resolution entails for Sri Lanka, but not the Council. It is vital to focus on this latter aspect in order to facilitate a future defence of Sri Lanka at the Council, and related international forums. In my opinion, the “Core Group” and the other nations that joined them in voting for the resolution, have destroyed the credibility of the UNHRC and thus the institution.
In this article, I focus on the “Core Group’ consisting of the U.K., Canada, Germany, North Macedonia and Montenegro that brought the resolution. I argue that the existence of such a group within the UNHRC makes a mockery of the principles and purposes behind the Council’s founding statutes, U.N. General Assembly resolution 60/251 and UNHRC resolution 5/1 (“Institution-building in the Human Rights Council”).
The UNHRC and the “Core Group”
The U.N. General Assembly created the Human Rights Council in March 2006 as a replacement for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that had been functioning since 1993. Many people accused the Commission of having become too politicised and biased. Therefore, the “Charter” of the Council was formulated to ensure that the new institution would not follow its predecessor. Paragraph 4 of UNGA res. 60/251 states inter alia:
“The work of the Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation.”
Meanwhile, para 5 (e) states:
“[The Council shall] undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism.”
To my knowledge, there is no other mention of a specific mechanism through which the Council should carry out its work. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the framers envisioned that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was the best means through which the institution could carry out its work while conforming to the principles enunciated in para 4.
To turn to the Council’s other founding statute—UNHRC resolution 5/1 of June 2007—Annex 1 of the resolution sets out detailed instructions in regard to the Universal Periodic Review. Para 1 of the annex states that the basis of the review shall be: a) the U.N. Charter, b) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, c) Human Rights instruments to which a State is a party and d) voluntary pledges and commitments by States.
Meanwhile, Para 2 states: “In addition to the above and given the complementary and mutually interrelated nature of human rights law and international humanitarian law, the review shall take into account applicable international humanitarian law.”
The fact that the instructions for the UPR include a mandate to look into humanitarian law issues, means that the framers envisioned that if a particular country is accused of violating humanitarian law, such matters could also be reviewed through the UPR mechanism. Therefore, the following question arises: If, as alleged by Sri Lanka’s critics there are rampant human rights abuses going on in this country or humanitarian law issues that remain unaddressed, then why could not these issues be taken up through the UPR process rather than through country-specific resolutions?
Neither UNGA res. 60/251 nor UNHRC res. 1/5 prohibit the Council from resorting to country-specific resolutions. However, reason and common sense suggest that where recourse to a country-specific resolution is made, it should be for an occasion or crisis of a magnitude or urgency that cannot normally be dealt with under the UPR. Otherwise, it makes no sense to have the UPR.
It necessarily follows that, if the Council determines that a crisis of a magnitude or urgency that cannot be addressed through the UPR exists in a particular country, such determination must also be made through an open, objective and impartial process of assessing and evaluating the relevant evidence, including by giving the accused country adequate time and opportunity to speak in its defence.
Now, let us turn to the “Core Group.” In this regard, one must consider three points. First, the “Core Group” is a self-appointed group and does not have a mandate either from the Government of Sri Lanka or any U.N. organ, including the UNHRC, to monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
Second, some members of the group, notably the U.K. and Canada, have domestic political reasons to involve themselves in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. In regard to this, the following matters are relevant. First, there is a 2009 Wikileaks cable by an American diplomat to his bosses in Washington, detailing his conversations with the head of the Sri Lanka Desk at the British Foreign Office. He says inter alia:
“Waite said that much of HMG and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the “very vocal” Tamil Diaspora in the U.K., numbering over 300,000 … .He said that with elections in the horizon the Government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka with [David] Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60 percent of his time on at the moment on Sri Lanka.” (“Wikileaks: David Miliband championed aid to Sri Lanka to win votes of Tamils in U.K.” The Telegraph, 22nd January 2012)
Some people might object that the above happened when the Labour Party was in power, and now that the Conservatives have taken over things are different. However, the Conservatives are under just as much pressure to win Tamil votes, and this is proved among other things by the conduct of former PM David Cameron on his visit to Sri Lanka in November 2013 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. No sooner had he landed, he gave a speech scolding then President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his treatment of the Tamils and was whisked off to Jaffna to commiserate with the folks there. This behaviour shocked even some English people. The well-known columnist Rod Liddel wrote derisively:
“Normally, when one is a guest in someone else’s country, it is incumbent to be polite, even deferential. But the prime minister is aware that this does not apply to Sri Lanka …. So, it is to David Cameron’s immense credit that he struck the right tone when addressing his Ceylonese jonny. It is the tone of a member of the Eton upper sixth addressing some errant fag who has failed to buff his shoes to the correct level of shine, through either incompetence or negligence.” Rod Liddel, “That is the President of Sri Lanka, PM, not one of your fags,” Times of London, 17-11-2013, www.thetimes.co.uk)
Meanwhile, in the recent past, the Conservative Party in its manifesto for the 2019 Parliamentary elections, had a clause calling for a “two-State solution” in Sri Lanka, and that clause was corrected only after stringent protest from the Sri Lankan Government. To repeat, the Conservative Party has just as much reason as Labour to court the Tamil vote, and it is reasonable to suppose that with the present action at the UNHRC, PM Boris Johnson and his cohorts have achieved a veritable “coup” in that regard.
To turn to Canada, Martin Collacott, a former Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, writing in The National Post in 2005, says, “LTTE-friendly community leaders are willing to ensure that liberal candidates win votes in Tamil-heavy urban constituencies provided the Federal Government turns a blind eye to fundraising” (Martin Collacott, “Canada’s role in Tamil terror,” The National Post, 26-1-2005). In sum, the U.K and Canada have ulterior motives to be interested in Sri Lanka, and this makes the motives of the Core Group as such suspect.
Finally, to my knowledge, the “Core Group” has not submitted to the Council any report explaining that the purported human rights problems they see in Sri Lanka cannot be pursued through the Universal Periodic Review, and must instead be addressed through country-specific resolutions.
To accept what the Core Group has done is to accept that rich and powerful nations joined by poorer nations that they can coerce, cajole or influence, can decide by themselves that a particular country has a human rights “problem”, and proceed to take action against such nation at the UNHRC, without ever establishing before the Council that the “problem” of which they complain actually exists, and all the while violating the purposes and principles of the Council as well as the right to a fair hearing of the targeted nation. Sri Lankans must do everything in their power to hold the Core Group accountable for their actions.
Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches
The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.
But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints
Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.
The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.
‘Post turtle’ revisited
I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago.
And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:
“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.
The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.
The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.
The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”
Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.
What a fitting and symbolic representation,
I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.
Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised!
And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.
Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.
Now I have only one question for you before I end this:
When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?
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