by Vijaya Chandrasoma
Ten people, including a police officer, were killed in yet another mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, last Monday, less than a week after the Atlanta massacre. Ten people, ordinary folks, young and old, getting their prescriptions filled or grocery shopping, just everyday tasks, ending in gruesome death.
The weapon used by the suspect in the shooting, 21-year old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, was a Ruger AR-556 assault rifle. He was arrested wearing no shirt and shoes, and was shot in his leg at the time of arrest. Police have not as yet offered a motive, but Alissa’s brother said that he was suffering from mental illness.
Alissa, a long-time resident of a Denver suburb, has been charged with 10 counts of murder. He was ordered by court to be held without bail pending a mental evaluation.
President Biden was devastated by the shooting, which he described was not a bipartisan problem, but an American problem. He expressed his deep sympathy for the families of the Boulder shootings, and assured them that sensible gun control laws will be enforced in the near future. A boilerplate statement made in the past by every president after a mass shooting. Followed, of course, by thoughts and prayers, but no other action.
The mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado was preceded by a mass murder in Atlanta, Georgia two weeks ago. Eight people were murdered in three separate attacks in Atlanta-area spas. The killer was a 21-year-old white man, Robert A. Long, his weapon of choice was an AR-15 assault rifle.
Among the dead in Atlanta were six Asian women, raising obvious suspicions of a hate crime. However, despite evidence staring them in the face, Cherokee County police officials stated that “it was too early to determine whether he’ll be charged with a hate crime”. They said that Long, who has confessed to the crimes, was a “sex addict who patronized these establishments”, and was “motivated by a sexual addiction at odds with his religious beliefs”. They also said, and I kid you not, that he was “having a bad day”.
Just a poor white, religiously confused kid who likes sex and was probably suffering from a hangover.
Both the Boulder and Atlanta shooters, Alissa and Long, are alleged to be mentally sick, and purchased assault rifles within a week before the shootings. Long purchased his weapon on the very same day of the shooting, Alissa six days before.
Three of the main demands of proponents of gun reform, reiterated by President Biden last Tuesday – a ban on assault rifles, universal background checks and a waiting period after purchase – would probably have prevented both shootings, had these reforms been in force. Reforms which have the support of over 80% of the American population.
President Biden and Vice President Harris visited Atlanta in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Their messages to the families of the victims and to everyone in the nation mourning yet another senseless mass shooting were full of compassion, empathy and hope. The same aforementioned thoughts and prayers.
The American Constitution, drafted in the late 18th century, was designed to protect the rights of white men who had lost the privilege of owning slaves to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The time to amend this famous though somewhat obsolete document, redefined to reflect and safeguard the rights of all Americans, is past due. In an earlier essay, I pinpointed some of the more obvious flaws in the US Constitution: the antiquated Electoral College, the dangerously long 11-week transition period of the Lame Duck presidency, and the imbalance of representation in Congress. But I left out its most dangerously and fraudulently misinterpreted section – the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.
The arms then under reference were muskets, not the military-style killing machines in vogue today. The Amendment was ratified in December 1791, to ensure that a well-regulated militia was necessary as “armed citizens will keep the government honest”, that a federal government will not attempt to take control over an individual state as long as its people were armed. An era when the 13 original states (colonies) sought to maintain their individual rights and freedoms.
Chief Justice Warren Burger said in a 1991 interview that the Second Amendment “has been has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public”. He said that the “right to bear arms belongs to the states”, and not to individual citizens. The Second Amendment guarantees a state’s right to be armed with a well-regulated militia like, for example, today’s National Guard.
Burger attacked the National Rifle Association (NRA) for fostering the opposite view, that the Amendment guaranteed an individual citizen’s right to bear arms, to enable its members – the defense contractors and the gun manufacturers – to carry on a massive fraud on the American public and government.
An armed citizenry will prove no match against well-regulated state and federal forces in the event of a rebellion, as was conclusively proved on January 6, when armed thugs of the radical right, hardly a well-regulated militia, attempted to overturn a democratic election by force.
Mass murder is fast becoming the solution to any racial, political or psychological problem, a national sport sponsored by the NRA, the Republican Party and “Originalists” – a breed of constitutionalists who believe in the words of the American Constitution in their original and literal form, with no consideration to the fact that the nation’s environmental, racial, political, economic and social circumstances have changed beyond recognition since the late 18th century.
President Bill Clinton did enforce a 10-year ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in 1994, after a spate of mass shootings in California and Texas, between 1991 and 1993 left 65 dead and 58 wounded. Mass shootings fell by 43% between 1994 and 2004, when the sunset provision of the ban expired in 2004.
Republican President George Bush refused to renew the ban in 2004, complying with the instructions of the controllers and paymasters of the Republican Party, the all-powerful NRA. Mass shootings surged by 239% after the ban was lifted, culminating in the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, when a 20-year old white man armed with a military-style assault rifle shot and killed 26, including six teachers and 20 children of six and seven years.
President Obama’s efforts to impose reasonable gun control measures after the Newtown shooting, reforms the Democratic Party had been calling for since the ban on assault rifles was lifted by Bush, were blocked by the majority Republican Senate, on instructions of the NRA.
The current pro-gun lobby arguments are that guns are required for one of America’s favorite “sports”, the hunting and killing of defenseless animals for fun, not for sustenance; and for self-defense, especially for those living in rural areas. Military-style weapons are not the answer to either of these endeavors.
These killing machines have become “the symbol, the embodiment of core American values – freedom, might, self-reliance”. A love affair that claims more than 35,000 lives every year. And highlights the insecurities and shortcomings (pun intended) of some Americans.
The NRA has purchased members of Congress, mostly Republican lawmakers, to vote against any action designed to limit the sale of all types of arms and ammunition. To anyone.
As the sadly accurate joke goes, the only thing easier to buy in America than a gun is a Republican Senator!
The constitutional misinterpretation by these “Originalists” of the terms of Second Amendment, the Separation of Church and State and other outdated clauses is responsible for the greatest threats facing America today – the trifecta of the plagues of organized religion, domestic terrorism (aka white racism) and gun violence. Continuing and escalating dangers that make the Covid 19 virus look like a mild attack of the common cold.
Like universal health care and free education, America, the self-confessed richest and most powerful country in the world, also lacks gun control regulations enforced in every other developed country. Laws which have succeeded in those countries keeping gun violence to a fraction of shootings per capita compared to the numbers in the USA.
Australian firearm policies had remained unchanged for decades, until a spate of mass murders in the 1990s culminated when a gunman opened fire at the Port Arthur National Site in Tasmania, killing 35 people in 1996. Australia’s conservative Prime Minster, John Howard, immediately delivered nationwide, bipartisan gun law reform. By January 1997, all eight state and territory governments had completed a mandatory buyback or confiscation of over 650,000 (in a population at the time of 18 million) specified firearms. In the 15 years prior to these reforms, Australia had endured 14 mass shootings in which a total of 126 people died. In the 20 years that have followed, there have been no mass shootings recorded.
New Zealand provided an even more compelling reason for gun reform. A white supremacist killed 51 and wounded 40 Muslims at prayer in two Christchurch mosques in 2019. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately announced a total ban of all semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. The new laws went into effect on April 11, 2019, a record 26 days after the shooting. Prime Minister Ardern said, “Our history changed forever, now our laws will too”. There have been no mass shootings in New Zealand since the new legislation has been in force.
Both Australia and New Zealand have strong gun lobbies, which were outflanked and outwitted by both popular demand and strong, compassionate leadership.
Such drastic regulations will be impossible to enforce in the United States. A nation that forms 4% (326,474,000) of the world’s population, but has 40% (393,347,000) of civilian firearms. An average of 1.2 guns in the hands of every man, woman and child.
President Biden held his first press conference since his inauguration on Thursday, March 25. With a calm demeanor, he said that he was working on the main crises he faced on taking office, the pandemic and the economy. He said he was ahead of his aim of achieving 200 million Americans to be vaccinated before his 100 days are up, which will revive the economy and get the kids back in school by the Fall. His next priority will be his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.
The other matters awaiting urgent action, including gun control after the two recent shootings in Colorado and Georgia; immigration reform and the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border; the elimination of the filibuster, which President Obama described as a relic of the Jim Crow apartheid era, the abuse of which serves only to block progressive legislation by the minority Republicans; will be dealt with by Congress while he was concentrating on his main priorities of the pandemic, the economy and infrastructure.
It was disappointing that Biden did not see the necessity for immediate action on gun reform, which he had earlier indicated would be one of his top priorities. After the Boulder shooting, he said that he would enforce basic reforms, notably universal background checks, a reasonable waiting period after purchase and a total ban of military-style assault rifles, if not by legislation, then by Executive Order. Legislation which has once again been pushed to the back burner.
Could a nation which saw the slaughter of 20 precious little children in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, and still failed to enforce gun control, be moved to remedial action by any mass shooting at all? Almost certainly, deplorably not. The NRA and the bought and paid for politicians of the Republican Party will not permit the enforcement of even basic reforms, not anytime soon. Gun reform will continue to stagnate as a fervent but forlorn hope.
There will be messages of heartfelt grief and eternal love, with beautiful wreaths of flowers placed at the killing scene in memory of those murdered. An outpouring of national thoughts and prayers, an avalanche of hearts going out to the families of the victims.
And little else, till the next shooting.
All communities should be treated equally without distinction
by Jehan Perera
The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.
Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.
It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”
Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.
On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.
In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”
The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.
Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.
During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.
TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic
No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.
Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.
However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.
In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.
Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,
Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.
On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.
It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.
Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’
Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.
“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”
So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.
Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!
Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.
Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.
In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!
He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.
Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme
Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.
“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”
Heard at the club
A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.
He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.
Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.
This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’
Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.
A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!
It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.
It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.
This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!
A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.
During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.
A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they
became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.
A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.
A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!
Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.
When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.
It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.
A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!
A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:
‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’
Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.
This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.
This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.
One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!
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