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We will remember, and we will be grateful

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by Krishantha Prasad Cooray

For as long as the human race has organised itself into sovereign nations, no country has had a story of limitless success. Nations and empires alike have risen and fallen, over thousands of years. Every language has phrases like “it takes a village” to remind us of the limitations of individual people and the need to work together. Similarly, no nation will ever thrive in isolation. The fate of every country is dependent on its relationships with other countries, with allies who share their values and who support each other in times of need.

History is littered with examples of countries that have been beset by natural disasters, militarily crippled, ridden with diseases, targeted by terrorism or economically ruined. What separates those who overcome these challenges from those that don’t is the willingness of other countries to come to their aid.

After World War II, for example, when the Axis powers were roundly defeated, it was the countries that vanquished them who stepped in to rebuild them. Indeed, without the aid of the Allies, neither Germany nor Japan would have grown into the economic powerhouses they are today.

The Marshal Plan, an American initiative, enabled West Germany and other West European nations to rise from the ashes of war and gain rapid economic development.

Japan, on the other hand, had far fewer friends. As European victims of German aggression feared the prospect of a united Germany, Asian victims of Japanese aggression feared a remilitarised Japan. Cold War politics too played a role, with the Soviet Union accusing the United States of planning to turn Japan into a military camp against itself and China. It was only at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 that a peace treaty was finally signed, ending the occupation of Japan, restoring Japanese independence, and putting the country on a path to prosperity.

At that conference, it was then Sri Lankan Finance Minister Junius Richard Jayawardena, who spoke most persuasively about the case for making peace with Japan as an independent non-occupied nation. Jayewardene reminded the audience that prior to the barbarity of World War II, Japan had long been a staunch ally of other Asian nations. “It is because of our age-long connections with her, and because of the high regard the subject peoples of Asia have for Japan when she alone, among the Asian nations, was strong and free and we looked up to her as a guardian and friend,” he reminded the assembled world leaders.

Japan has never forgotten, and even today, memorial statues and plaques across Japan mark the country’s gratitude to J.R. Jayewardene. Sri Lanka, at the time, had nothing to gain from the vanquished Japanese. But we came to the aid of a nation in need and did the correct thing. A quarter century later, when J.R. Jayewardene became President of Sri Lanka, our relationship with Japan became one of the cornerstones of Sri Lanka’s subsequent prosperity.

Today, Sri Lanka finds itself crippled by an unprecedented crisis. Our people are in abject financial peril. Over a quarter of the country is starving and malnourished. The economy is paralyzed and many children are unable to reach schools due to fuel shortages. Electricity has become a luxury, and essential medicines have become scarce.

This is not the doing of the people but the result of mismanagement by corrupt, incompetent and short-sighted politicians holding the reins of power for their own gain. These politicians benefited. The people suffered. They suffer as I write and will suffer for a long time more to come.

It is tragic to see a country as resilient as Sri Lanka, with a proud history, being reduced to such a state. One day, I have no doubt that my country will rise again. But we will only do so with the support of friends, who will speak in solidarity and act in support.

Sri Lanka is but the first country to see its economy collapse at the mercy of corruption and rising global food and oil prices. It won’t be the last. Before long, other poorly managed countries will also begin to waver. Each stumbling nation can be rescued one at a time, but if several countries all collapse together, the chain reaction could paralyze the economies of not just the region, but the entire world. Sri Lanka, in particular, is ripe for rescue.

The people are clamouring for serious institutional and constitutional reform. If these reforms are coupled to both humanitarian aid and commercial investments, the payoff will be not just a monetary one, but one of deep gratitude.At this time, if people, institutions and nations alike come to the aid of the Sri Lankan people, that aid is needed like never before. Doing so will help avert or minimize a humanitarian crisis like Sri Lanka has never known. Any country can make a contribution to help feed the starving, heal the sick, employ the unemployed, light up a classroom, and take other steps to help Sri Lanka to jumpstart its economy.

It was such words of support, and deeds of solidarity that helped Japan in 1951, and for which Japan has remained grateful so many decades later. Likewise, such a word, such a deed, will be remembered by Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, those who are suffering right now, those who survive, and their children. It is a brand of gratitude that is special because it is altruistic. People will remember, ‘they didn’t have to, they had nothing to gain, but they did anyway.’ We will remember, and we will be grateful.



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Opinion

Sunil, your slip is showing!

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It is rarely that veteran JVPer Sunil Handunetti leaves room for criticism. Perhaps, the JVP’S refusal to join the proposed all-party government had to be explained by a senior respected member – Handunetti being the obvious choice.

To an independent observer, he did not fare in a recent interview. Quite innocently, he trotted out a very puerile explanation, which could, perhaps, be applauded by school-going children in the lower grades. The tendency to be jealous, inability to appreciate the good, even in a bad situation, and the unwillingness to give credit where credit is due, coupled with age-old theoretical bug-bears and prejudices , perhaps, provoked him to quote trivialities; such as President Ranil W is on a journey to consolidate his Party and to gain kudos as the saviour of the Nation.

This exposes himself and his JVP as anti-national and narrow-minded in a situation where the country is now at its lowest depths, where everyone is expected to put his or her shoulder to the wheel. It comes ill from a JVPer who has proved himself as a useful and capable politician, and a member of a party that actively and gleefully participated in the notorious FCID outfit, organized by the then PM, Ranil W.

What a world!

I.P.C. MENDIS

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Opinion

LYDIA THAMPOE

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Appreciation

Lydia Rasamani , one among four girls, was the daughter of Sabapathipillai and Rathinamma, of Alaveddy. She was educated in Jaffna, entered into the teaching profession, and qualified as a trained teacher at the Teachers’ Training College, at Palaly. She taught in schools wherever she was appointed, later followed suit at stations where her husband was ministering with the churches.

Samuel Thampoe,

one among seven siblings, was the son of Maruthappu Thampoe and Rose Nagamma of Sanguvely, in Uduvil, born on 30th August, 1925. Sam was educated at St John’s College, Jaffna, took to teaching as a career at his alma mater. In response to God’s call to ministry, he pursued his theological studies at Serampore College, in Calcutta, and joined the ministry of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, in the year 1955, and was ordained Deacon in 1957.

Lydia Rasamani Sabapathipillai

and Rev Sam Thampoe were joined in Holy Matrimony at Alaveddy Church, in the year, 1957, solemnised by the late Rt Rev Dr Sabapathy Kulandran, bishop in Jaffna. They were blessed with three children- Joyce Suganthy, Daniel Rohan and Noel Suresh, all of whom were born at the Green Memorial Hospital, Manipay, while the parents were serving in Alaveddy, Pungudutivu and Earlalai respectively.

· Alaveddy (1955-1959)

· Pungudutivu (1959-1963)

· Earlalai North and South (1963-1967)

· Delft (1967-1971)

· Navaly (1971-1975)

· Atchuvely (1975-1979)

· Manipay (1979-1983)

· Pandateruppu (and Vaddukoddai) / (1983-1987)

· Chavakachcheri (1987- 1988)

Rev Sam and Mrs Lydia Thampoe

faithfully served in the above-mentioned parishes of the JDCSI. Lydia played a great role in the ministry of Rev Thampoe in the areas of Pastoral Care, Singing and playing eastern instruments during worship services, Pastoral Visitation to homes of members of the church and communities, leading Church women’s groups in evangelism, ministry and mission, and been a tower of strength as a Pastor’s wife. Lydia, even after the passing of her beloved husband on the 12th September, 1988, while serving the parish of Chavakachcheri, continued to discharge her duties as a mother (and father) towards her children’s progress in life. She migrated to Canada to be with her daughter and family. A few years later, she moved to an Aged Care facility for a long term high care due to her health condition, where she received her ‘Home Call.’

Joyce,

eldest child of Lydia studied at Uduvil Girls College and later joined the academic staff of Uduvil Girls College, proceeded to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at Bharathiyar University in Trichirapalli, India, continued in teaching at UGC while completed her Diploma in Education. She was the Vice-Principal at Uduvil Girls College and upheld the high standard of the school in various aspects. Joyce attended a Summer School at the Institute of Bossey in Switzerland in 1988. She migrated to Canada and married Pastor Ravi Kandiah, and were blessed with four children Priscilla, Jessica, Johnathan and David. Both Ravi and Joyce are actively engaged in Church ministry with a congregation and the four children active in the Church with their parents.

Rohan

, son of Lydia, studied at Jaffna College, and later worked for a while in the Maldives and later emigrated to Germany. After a few years of waiting, he married Bhamini, the love of his life, in Melbourne, Australia. They are blessed with two sons in Jayden and Shayan. They, in addition to their regular work, are actively supporting the local and Tamil churches in ministry.

Suresh,

the youngest son of Lydia, studied at Jaffna College, and graduated with a first degree at Madras Christian College, obtained his Master’s degree in public administration in the same University. He joined the Jaffna Diocese of the CSI as the Director of Projects, in which he cheerfully served the Church’s Social ministry, managing number of Day Care Centres, Children Homes and Vocational Training Programmes with the paid Staff of these projects, coordinating with Pastors-in Residence. He married Padmini, the love of his life, and is blessed with a daughter Shobi and a son Joshua. In the meantime, he was sent on a scholarship to the University of Birmingham to pursue on Mission and Development studies over a year. His contribution to JDCSI was very much appreciated by everyone in Sri Lanka.

The Pastoral Ministry of the Rev Sam and Mrs Lydia Thampoe has been well received by the communities wherever they served in their own vocations, well supported by each other. Her children and their spouses have also devoted their lives in God’s vineyard. In the new settings, they continue to witness to Christ in variety of ways.

As the Psalmist prayed:

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!”

Another version says:

You have been our refuge in every generation.”

Yes! It is true in every sense of the word for the “Thampoe Family”. We thank God for them, in particular, for Lydia Rasamani Thampoe, whom God in His time received at the eternal Home.

Contact:

Joyce: 00111 647 213 1257 (Canada)

Rohan: 61-400 547 120 (Australia)

Suresh: 61-400 131 982 (Australia)

Rev T S Premarajah

Former colleague in ministry in the JDCSI, now in Melbourne, Australia

Trinity Close

Unit- 1

22 Camira Street

Malvern East

VIC 3145

AUSTRALIA

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Opinion

The National Airline: A financial catastrophe in the making!

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Delusion appears to be a national affliction in Sri Lanka.  When confronted with stark realities, the state consistently refuses to take proactive measures to avert dire consequences.  It refers to national liabilities, like the national airline, as national assets.  Despite regular doses of life-saving intravenous injections in the form of hard cash by the Treasury, bleeding of the state-owned enterprises continues.  The senior management of the national Airline, which has been in deep red for nearly a decade and a half, its employees and trade unions collectively fail to appreciate that the general public cannot continue to pay for its existence.

Recently, a local daily revealed that the national Airline made Rs. 71.8 billion profit for the first four months of 2022 and suffered a loss of Rs. 320.3 billion, including a one-time exchange loss of Rs. 145 billion, during the same period.  It added, “as at the end of April 2022, UL had Rs.618.7 bn worth liabilities, including a sovereign guaranteed US$ 175mn international bond.” The irony is that according to the former Minister of Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva, SriLankan Airlines had posted Rs. 171 billion (USD 476 million loss in the financial year ending March 2021, while the accumulated losses had reached Rs. 542 billion (USD 1.5 billion).  The total liabilities of the Airline were estimated at Rs. 618 billion (USD1.7 billion).

Amid the country’s economic woes, Sri Lanka defaulted on its loan obligations to international lenders in May.  With that, SriLankan Airlines too followed suit, which might result in legal action against SriLankan Airlines by aircraft leasing companies, as was Sri Lanka’s recent experience with Aeroflot, the Russian Airline.  However, on July 26, the airline reported that it had serviced the interest relating to USD175 million Treasury guaranteed bond due in 2024.

The predicament of SriLankan Airlines is not entirely new.  The national Airline has been gasping for breath since its takeover from the Emirates in 2008 and all attempts made to divest the Airline five years ago ended without a positive result.  Considering the loss-making behemoth was an asset, the government attempted to identify an investor who would take over the Airline while reserving its right to retain 51 per cent shares of the venture.  Several international firms sniffed around but understandably failed to take a bite.

SriLankan Airlines can continue its wayward behaviour as long as the Treasury coughs up millions in foreign currency as it used to do over the years.  However, this time around, Treasury itself is in deep trouble and will not be able to come to the rescue of the national airline yet again.  That means operations of SriLankan Airlines will grind to a halt soon, which might happen within a few months, not in years.

The national airline will soon be gone as the dodo unless the Finance Ministry, the senior management and the trade unions recognise the dire situation and decide to take proactive action to avoid a financial catastrophe, which Sri Lanka cannot afford.

The danger is that not only SriLankan Airlines would fail but also all operations at the BIA, as ground handling facilities provided to all other airlines are part and parcel of SriLankan Airlines’ operations.  With ground handling services coming to a standstill and the computer systems leased by the national Airline ceasing to operate, the airport will not be able to service even other airlines that still fly to Sri Lanka.

Since SriLankan Catering is an independent entity, it may survive the crash.  Still, it will not be able to function due to foreign airlines deciding against flying into the country due to a lack of airport facilities and aviation fuel.  That will put the last nail on the coffin of the already ailing tourism industry, which brought as much as 4.3 billion US dollars as recent as 2018.

SriLankan Airlines is not the only Airline that has faced similar financial predicaments.   Air India, which operated a fleet of over 153 owned and leased aircraft, was also in the red for many years.  The Indian government tried various stratagems to sell off the Airline.  All those attempts failed, and eventually, it settled all debts amounting to INR 61,000 crore and sold the Airline to the Tata Group for nearly US$ 2.4 billion.  It was sweet revenge for Tatas, as it was their Airline, which the government took over in 1953 and eventually returned to them in early 2022, unable to shoulder the mounting burden of losses.  In that sense, SriLankan Airlines is an orphan with no home to return to!

Clearly, the Sri Lankan government cannot follow the Indian example, as it does not have the resources to settle Srilankan Airline’s debts before trying to divest the Airline.  All it could try to do in the current circumstances is to avoid an uncontrolled nosedive, which would isolate Sri Lanka with a non-functioning international airport, even for a short period.

However, all is not lost, and the government could still take decisive steps to address the situation.  However, it has limited time to succeed.

First, it should arrange an urgent study to assess how many weeks or months the national Airline could operate with current finances.  By doing so, the government will not repeat its mistake of delaying an intervention by the IMF to save the national economy.

The second measure is, while that study is being carried out, it should put a team consisting of representatives of the national Airline, the Finance Ministry and the AG’s Department to unbundle ground-handling operations from SriLankan Airlines and make it an independent entity like SriLankan Catering Services.

The third measure is to decide how to dissect the national airline so that interested parties could take over operations of its revenue-generating routes.

It is abundantly clear that Sri Lanka will not be able to repeat the performance of India by settling its national airlines’ debt, which is said to be in the region of USD1.7 billion.  The newly elected President is fully aware of the ground situation.  The question is, will he be allowed to take crucial but unpopular hard decisions in the interest of the national economy?

An economic tsunami affecting the island’s tourism potential is at close range.  Already foreign airlines are curtailing their flights to Sri Lanka due to the non-availability of fuel, and SriLankan Airlines is forced to seek the precious commodity outside the country.  Should the government wait until the inevitable calamity occurs or prepare in advance to manage the looming disaster?  It is time to take hard decisions.

This is a PATHFINDER ALERT of the Pathfinder Foundation. Readers’ comments are welcome at www.pathfinderfoundation.org

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