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Working with Lalith A; and an Indian rope trick



(Excerpted from the memoirs of Chandra Wicremesinghe, Rtd. Addl. Secy to the President)

I assumed duties as Additional Secretary in the newly created Ministry of National Security sometime in 1984 and was shortly afterwards appointed Additional Secretary Ministry of Defence as well. The Minister of National Security was the late Lalith Athulathmudali and the Minister of Defence was President, J.R.Jayewardene. The Secretary to the Ministry of National Security was the late Mr.DBIPS Siriwardhana while Secy/Defence. was Gen. Sepala Attygalla.

Mr. Athulathmudali having been at Oxford University, where he had been the President of the Oxford Union, was a brilliant speaker with a sharp intellect to match. Endowed abundantly with these twin attributes, he was able to represent SL at international fora with aplomb and finesse. Many will recall his scintillating performance at a BBC interview where the BBC interviewer tried his utmost to embarrass him and SL over human rights issues et al. Minister Athulathmudali stood up to the barrage of questions with admirable sangfroid, giving cogent answers which left the interogator nonplussed and at a loss for words.

Despite his intellectual brilliance Minister Athulathmudali had his weak moments when he used to quite inexplicably go off at a tangent. This was, I must say, a little known side of his colourful personality. He used to be suddenly obsessed with some pet scheme of his or by some sudden hunch which used to be pursued by him with extraordinary tenacity. One such ignominious episode was the sudden infatuation he took to a confidence trickster called Kelly Senanayake.This man had inveigled himself into the Minister’s confidence promising to get the JVP to give up their armed struggle and come into the political mainstream. It took a while for the minister to discover that KS was a fraud and a cheap crook who had succeeded in leading him up the garden path!

Again, I remember the Minister summoning me to his office one morning and saying that he had a two pronged strategy to bring about reconciliation and amity between the Sinhala and the Tamil people. He outlined his strategy as follows:

1) The settling of Tamils in the South and Sinhalese in the North. He elaborated further that he had already worked out a plan to settle Tamil people in Agalawatte and in Kalutara to start with. He seemed convinced that his plan would bring about amity between the two communities.

2) The Minister also proposed closing down all Universities for a period of two years and converting them into Rehabilitation Centres for the JVP and LTTE cadres who were in detention camps.

I made known to the Minister my own misgivings particularly regarding his second proposal on the grounds that there would be a violent uproar over the proposal by the local undergraduates and the academic staff; while in the International arena, we would be accused of running concentration camps. He however dismissed my apprehensions as being groundless and wanted me to immediately meet Dr. Stanley Kalpage, who was the UGC Chairman at the time and sound him on the proposal.

Accordingly, I went over to the UGC office and met Dr. Kalpage and conveyed to him the plan the Minister had in mind. Kalpage was simply aghast at the idea of closing down the Universities for two years and said that it was a ‘crazy plan’! He also rang up the President and made an early appointment to see him telling me that he was keen on meeting the President before the Minister met him. In the absence of further developments on the matter thereafter, I felt that the Minister’s plan had been shot down by the President.

A few days later Mr. Athulathmudali called me and said that there was a Seminar on the ‘Rehabilitation of Terrorists’ scheduled to be held in Bangkok and added that he was not sending me for it as I did not seem to believe in such rehabilitative approaches. It amazes me even now how a person with such a brilliant mind could get carried away to the point of pursuing schemes which many would consider ill-conceived and highly impractical. It could perhaps be attributed to the streak of intellectual arrogance he had, despite being an eminently likable and personable individual.

Secy/National Security ,Mr. DBIPS Siriwardhana was a person with a keen intellect and a razor sharp mind. As he had many years of experience in high positions in the Public Service, working immediately under him was indeed a rewarding experience immensely beneficial to me. He was quick in attending to files and was famed for having a clean table devoid of files. A literally clean table was an obsession with him and one got the impression that he was waiting for papers to be placed in the in tray to pounce on them and dispose of them almost with undisguised glee! He was indeed phenomenally quick while at the same time being intensely focused on studying the papers submitted to him for orders (which he did in double quick time), attending to them with remarkable facility and promptitude.

His orders were brief and clear and written in a beautiful, flowing hand. Brevity and crystal clear clarity of expression, were his singular forte. I have no doubt that many who had the fortune to work with him benefited immensely by their interaction with him. He was however, at times cynical, often making snide remarks (in rather loud whispers) during meetings even with Minister Athulathmudali, which were strangely enough ignored by the latter. I was serving two Secretaries at the time, the other being General Sepala Attygalla who was Secretary/Defence. I had no problems with either of them and despite the trying times the country went through at that time with the LTTE and the JVP. I attended to the duties entrusted to me diligently and to their satisfaction.

I was appointed a Council Member of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board by H.E. the President in 1986 and continued to function as Council Member of NDDCB, till 1977. As a member of the NDDCB, I participated in several seminars overseas.

Bringing home Lankan refugees settled in India

It was in 1985, if I recall correctly, that President JR appointed me to Chair a Committee to arrange for the transportation and the resettlement of SL Tamils who had fled the island following the communal disturbances of 1983. The other members of the Committee were Mr. Nirupam Sen who was Deputy Indian High Commissioner in SL at the time, the Controller of Immigration and one or two other Senior Govt. officials.

The Committee had three sittings in all, which were held in the conference section of the room of Secy./Defence, Gen Attygalla. The meeting opened in a spirit of cordiality and candor, with the Deputy HC/India promising to extend all logistical support necessary to SL in having the Tamil refugees transported back to the island. Preliminarily, the Committee looked at the magnitude of the problem taking into account the numbers involved, the location of the refugee camps in South India, the transportation problems and finally, arrangements to be made at this end for their re-settlement. In the course of our discussions Mr. Sen ventured to say that as the Palk Straits were somewhat choppy at that time of the year and with the numbers to be transported being substantial, the crossing via the Straits may be quite risky.

Further, he suggested that rather than engaging many small boats for the purpose, it may be more convenient and advantageous to charter two big vessels to transport the refugees bypassing the Palk Straits. He suggested almost as a matter of course, going round the Southern coast and berthing the big vessels in Trincomalee and making Trinco the disembarkation point. This was the time High Commissioner Dixit was acting like a Satrap trying to treat SL like a colony of India. I for one, disliked Dixit’s overbearing demeanour and downright arrogance and whenever he walked into General Attygalla’s office, I made it a point to get up and leave the room abruptly, conveying in no uncertain terms my dislike of the man.

Having my own suspicions about Sen’s move to off load the refugees in Trinco, I immediately pointed out that we should use the traditional passage through the Palk Straits to bring the Tamil refugees back. If the weather was rough and the sea unruly I added, it would still be preferable to postpone their transportation till the weather improved and bring the refugees back via the Palk Straits. I also hastened to point out that the Tamil refugees were for the most part from villages in the Mannar and Vavuniya Districts and it would facilitate the logistics of their inland transportation and resettlement if they came through the Palk Straits and got off at Mannar.

The Indian Deputy HC thereupon requested me to fix the next Committee meeting giving about 10 days time for him to re-canvass the issues of the mode of transportation, the route to be taken and the point of disembarkation of refugees with his Govt. Accordingly, I requested him to inform me when he was ready to have the second round of talks so that I could convene another meeting of the Committee thereafter. He contacted me about a week later and said he was ready to have the next round of talks. Thereupon a date mutually agreed on was fixed.

To my surprise Sen arrived at the meeting accompanied by a couple of others, one of whom was introduced to me as the Dy/Secy. of the Ministry of Rehabilitation in Delhi and the other as a Senior official in that Ministry. This Dy./Secy who was a big made individual, sat in the chair next to mine and without any further ado tried to commandeer the meeting by saying authoritatively: “Gentlemen, Mr. Sen has been briefing us on certain issues that have arisen concerning the transportation of the SL Tamil refugees in India back to SL. The Indian Govt. has chartered two ships to transport the entire lot of refugees in the different refugee camps in India to SL in one operation. The ships will leave the Indian ports the day after tomorrow with the refugees and will go round the Southern coast of the island and anchor in Trincomalee harbour where they will disembark”.

Realizing that this unprepossessing gentleman was trying to bulldoze his way through with bludgeoning tactics, I maintained a straight face throughout this unexpected outburst. The moment he stopped his harangue, I looked him straight in the eye and said quietly that the SL Govt. was not agreeable to the arrangement which had not been even discussed nor mutually agreed upon by the two sides. This gentleman thereupon said that there was no going back on the arrangement as the two ships which were already chartered, would be leaving India in two days time. At this stage I told him that the only thing for the Indian Govt. to do was to cancel the charter as SL will not permit the disembarkation of the refugees in Trincomalee.

Realizing that we were not going to give in on the issue, he asked me whether any other alternative could be suggested. I conveyed to him that if the refugees could not be brought via the traditional route of the Palk Straits the only other alternative was for the two ships to circumnavigate the island and proceed to Kayts. He immediately said that the Kayts pier could not berth the two large vessels to which I replied that arrangements could be made for the ships to be anchored in mid–ocean so that the refugees could be ferried ashore in barges. Knowing that he would not be able to have his way, this gentleman whose name I have forgotten, got up abruptly saying tersely ” This will not do!” and stormed out of the room with the other Indians including Dy/HC Sen following close on his heels.

I brought what transpired at the meeting to Gen. Attygalle who said that it was good that a firm stand was taken by us not to permit the vessels to proceed to Trinco and disembark the refugees there. I fixed the final meeting of the Committee to take place five days later, inviting Sen for same. As expected, he failed to attend the meeting. In consultation with the other members of the Committee, I wrote the report and sent it to Mr. Sen for his signature. Expectedly, Sen refused to subscribe to the document (quoting a line from Rousseau) and returned it saying that he would not be signing it as he did not agree with the recommendations made in the report.

I submitted the Report to Gen. Attygalla who read it and said he agreed fully with the recommendations made as the Indian Intelligence arm RAW was up to tricks in SL and the insistence on Trincomalee as the port of disembarkation was one of their machinations to bring in Indians in droves to Trincomalee along with the SL refugees and set up a little Indian colony there. This was the time Dixit, who was acting like a Satrap, had prevailed on the SL Govt. on various dubious grounds, even citing SL’s own security interests, to permit Indian officials and even Indian Service personnel to enter SL sans visas.

Secretary Defence had, I was told, handed over the Report to the President at the weekly Security Council meeting. On being told by Gen Attygalla that Deputy HC Nirupen Sen had refused to sign it, the President had startd reading the document smiling to himself occasionally. This was told to me by Gen Nalin Seneviratne the Army Commander, who also told me that the President had spent a good 20 minutes reading the Report and had not proceeded with the meeting till he had finished it. (Nalin also told me jokingly, not to write such lengthy reports as the Service Commanders had been kept twiddling their thumbs till the President finished reading the report). He also said that President JR had given the Report back to Secy /Defence saying that it was a good report.

While in the Ministry of Defence, I was able to associate closely with Gen.Nalin Seneviratne and IGP Cyril Herat, two rare gentlemen who headed the Army and the Police Force respectively. They were officers who possessed outstanding leadership qualities and were widely respected for their unimpeachable integrity and the high principles they followed in the discharge of their official duties. IGP Herat in fact, took a scrupulously principled stand by opting to retire prematurely, rather than yield to the importunate insistence of President JR, to promote a certain Police Officer, whose promotion, the IGP felt strongly, would have been grossly unfair by certain other officers who were far ahead in seniority and who in many other respects, merited promotion much more.

(To be continued)

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Have Humanities and Social Sciences muddied water enough?



By Maduranga Kalugampitiya

The domain of the humanities and social sciences is under attack more than ever before. The relevance, as well as usefulness of the degrees earned in those fields, is being questioned left, right, and centre. The question of whether it is meaningful at all to be spending, if not wasting, the limited financial resources available in the coffers to produce graduates in those fields is raised constantly, at multiple levels. Attempts are being made to introduce a little bit of soft skills into the curricula in order to add ‘value’ to the degree programmes in the field. The assumption here is that either such degree programmes do not impart any skills or the skills that they impart are of no value. We often see this widely-shared profoundly negative attitude towards the humanities and the social sciences (more towards the former than towards the latter) being projected on the practitioners (students, teachers, and researchers) in those areas. At a top-level meeting, which was held one to two years ago, with the participation of policy-makers in higher education and academics and educationists representing the humanities and social sciences departments, at state universities, a key figure in the higher education establishment claimed that the students who come to the humanities and social sciences faculties were ‘late-developers’. What better (or should I say worse?) indication of the official attitude towards those of us in the humanities and the social sciences!

While acknowledging that many of the key factors that have resulted in downgrading the humanities and social sciences disciplines are global by nature and are very much part of the neoliberal world order, which dominates the day, I wish to ask if we, the practitioners in the said fields, have done our part to counter the attack.

What the humanities and the social sciences engage with is essentially and self-consciously social. What these disciplines have to say has a direct bearing on the social dimension of human existence. It is near impossible to discuss phenomena in economics, political science, or sociology without having to reflect upon and use examples from what happens in our lives and around us. One cannot even begin to talk about teaching English as a second language without taking a look at her/his own experience learning English and the struggles that many people go through at different levels doing the same. One cannot talk about successful ways of teaching foreign languages without recognizing the need to incorporate an engagement with the cultural life of those languages at some level. No reading of an artwork—be it a novel, a movie, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, whatever—is possible without the reader at least subconsciously reflecting upon the broader context in which those artworks are set and also relating her own context or experience to what is being read. A legal scholar cannot read a legislation without paying attention to the social implications of the legislation and the dynamics of the community at whom that legislation is directed. The point is our own existence as social beings is right in the middle of what we engage with in such disciplines. To steal (and do so self-consciously) a term from the hard/natural sciences, society is essentially the ‘laboratory’ in which those in the humanities and social sciences conduct their work. There may be some areas of study within the humanities and social sciences which do not require an explicit engagement with our social existence, but I would say that such areas, if any, are limited in number.

Needless to say that every social intervention is political in nature. It involves unsettling what appears to be normal about our social existence in some way. One cannot make interventions that have a lasting impact without muddying the water which we have been made to believe is clear. How much of muddying do we as practitioners in the field of humanities and social sciences do is a question that needs to be asked.

Unfortunately, we do not see much work in the humanities and social sciences which unsettles the dominant order. What we often see is work that reinforces and reaffirms the dominant structures, systems, and lines of thought. Lack of rigorous academic training and exposure to critical theory is clearly one of the factors which prevents some scholars in the field from being able to make interventions that are capable of muddying the water, but the fact that we sometimes do not see much muddying even on the part of the more adept scholars shows that lack of rigorous training is not the sole reason.

Muddying the water is no simple matter. To use a problematic, yet in my view useful, analogy, a scholar in the said field trying to make an intervention that results in unsettling the order is like a hydrogen atom in H2O, ‘water’ in layperson’s language, trying to make an intervention which results in a re-evaluation of the oxygen atom. Such an intervention invariably entails a re-evaluation of the hydrogen atom as well, for the reason that the two atoms are part of an organic whole. One cannot be purely objective in its reading of the other. Such an intervention is bound to be as unsettling for the hydrogen atom as it is for the oxygen atom. Similarly, in a majority of contexts, a scholar in the area of the humanities and social sciences cannot make an intervention, the kind that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, without unsettling the dominant structures and value systems, which they themselves are part of, live by, and also benefit from. For instance, the norms, values, and practices which define the idea of marriage in contexts like ours are things that a male scholar would have to deal with as a member of our society, and any intervention on his part which raises questions about gender-based inequalities embodied in such norms, values, and practices would be to question his own privilege. Needless to say that such an intervention could result in an existential crisis for the scholar, at least temporarily. Such interventions also entail the possibility of backlash from society. One needs thorough training to withstand that pressure.

In place of interventions that unsettle the existing order, what we often see is work, which re-presents commonsensical knowledge garbed in jargon. To give an example from an area that I am a bit familiar with, much of the work that takes place in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) identifies lack of motivation on the part of the students and also teachers and also lack of proper training for teachers as the primary reasons for the plight of English education in the country. This reading is not very different from a layperson’s understanding of the problem, and what we often see as research findings in the field of ESL is the same understanding, albeit dressed up in technical-sounding language. Such readings do not unsettle the existing order. They put the blame on the powerless. Very limited is the work that sees the present plight of English education as a systemic or structural problem. Reading that plight as a systemic problem requires us to re-evaluate the fundamental structures which govern our society, and such re-evaluation is unsettling is many ways. I argue that that is what is expected of scholarship in the ESL field, but unfortunately that is not what we see as coming out of the field.

If what gets produced as knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is jargonized commonsense, then the claim that such fields have nothing important to say is valid. If what a scholar in those fields has to say is not different to a layperson’s understanding of a given reality, the question whether there is any point in producing such scholars becomes valid.

In my view, the humanities and social sciences are in need of fundamental restructuring. This restructuring is not the kind which calls for the incorporation of a bit of soft skills here and a bit of soft skills there so that those who come out of those fields easily fit into predefined slots in society but the kind that results in the enhancement of the critical thinking capacity of the scholars. It is the kind of restructuring that would produce scholars who are capable of engaging in a political reading of the realities that define our existence in society and raise difficult questions about such existence, in other words, scholars who are capable of muddying the water.

(Maduranga Kalugampitiya is attached to Department of English, University of Peradeniya)

Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall thatparodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.

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Selective targeting not law’s purpose



By Jehan Perera

The re-emergence of Donald Trump in the United States is a reminder that change is not permanent. Former President Trump is currently utilising the grievances of the white population in the United States with regard to the economic difficulties that many of them face to make the case that they need to be united to maintain their position in society. He is coming forward as their champion. The saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to the founders of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, among many others, though Lord Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) stated that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790. The phrase is often used to emphasise the importance of being vigilant in protecting one’s rights and freedoms.

Ethnic and religious identity are two powerful concepts by which people may be mobilised the world over. This is a phenomenon that seemed to have subsided in Western Europe due to centuries of secular practices in which the state was made secular and neutral between ethnicities and religions. For a short while last year during the Aragalaya, it seemed that Sri Lanka was transcending its ethnic and religious cleavages in the face of the unexpected economic calamity that plunged large sections of the population back into poverty. There was unprecedented unity especially at the street level to demonstrate publicly that the government that had brought the country to this sorry pass had to go. The mighty force of people’s power succeeded in driving the leaders of that government out of power. Hopefully, there will be a government in the future that will bring the unity and mutual respect within the people, especially the younger generations, to the fore and the sooner the better as the price is growing higher by the day.

But like the irrepressible Donald Trump the old order is fighting to stage its comeback. The rhetoric of ethnicity and religion being in danger is surfacing once more. President Ranil Wickremesinghe who proclaimed late last year that the 13th Amendment to the constitution would be implemented in full, as it was meant to be, and enable the devolution of power to be enjoyed by the people of the provinces, including those dominated by Tamils and Muslims, has gone silent on this promise. The old order to which he is providing a new economic vision is clearly recalcitrant on ethno-religious matters. As a result, the government’s bold plan to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as promised to the international community in 2015 to address the unresolved human rights issues of the war, is reportedly on the rocks. The main Tamil political parties have made statements that they will not legitimise or accept such a mechanism in the absence of a genuine devolution of power. Politics must not override policies.


The sense of threat to ethnicity and religion looms too large once again for forward movement in conflict resolution between the different communities that constitute the Sri Lankan nation which is diverse and plural. Two unlikely persons now find themselves at the centre of an emotion-heavy ethno-religious storm. One is a comedian, the other is a religious preacher. Both of them have offended the religious sensibilities of many in the ethno-religious Sinhala Buddhist majority community. Both of their statements were originally made to small audiences of their own persuasion, but were then projected through social media to reach much larger audiences. The question is whether they made these statements to rouse religious hatred and violence. There have been numerous statements from all sides of the divide, whether ethnic, religious or political, denouncing them for their utterances.

Both comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and pastor Jerome Fernando have apologised for offending and hurting the religious sentiments of the Buddhist population. They made an attempt to remedy the situation when they realised the hurt, the anger and the opposition they had generated. This is not the first time that such hurtful and offensive comments have been made by members of one ethno-religious community against members of another ethnic-religious community. Taking advantage of this fact the government is arguing the case for the control of social media and also the mainstream media. It is preparing to bring forward legislation for a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission that would also pave the way to imprison journalists for their reporting, impose fines, and also revoke the licences issued to electronic media institutions if they impact negatively on national security, national economy, and public order or create any conflict among races and religions.

In a free society, opportunities are provided for people to be able to air their thoughts and dissents openly, be it at Hyde Park or through their representatives in Parliament. The threat to freedom of speech and to the media that can arise from this new law can be seen in the way that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is the world’s standard bearer on civil and political rights has been used and is being abused in Sri Lanka. It was incorporated into Sri Lankan law in a manner that has permitted successive governments to misuse it. It is very likely that the Broadcast Regulatory Commission bill will yield a similar result if passed into law. The arrest and detention of comedian Natasha Edirisooriya under the ICCPR Act has become yet another unfortunate example of the misuse of a law meant to protect human rights by the government. Pastor Jerome Fernando is out of prison as he is currently abroad having left the country a short while before a travel ban was delivered to him.


The state media reported that a “Police officer said that since there is information that she was a person who was in the Aragalaya protest, they are looking into the matter with special attention.” This gives rise to the inference that the reason for her arrest was politically motivated. Comedian Edirisooriya was accused of having violated the provisions in the ICCPR in Section 3(1) that forbids hate speech. Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has pointed out that in the case of Edirisooriya that for speech to be illegal on the grounds of being hate speech it requires “a clear showing of intent to incite others to discriminate, be hostile towards or commit violence against the group in question.” Amnesty International also notes that “When the expression fails to meet the test, even if it is shocking, offensive or disturbing, it should be protected by the state.”

Ironically, in the past there have been many instances of ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in a hateful manner that even led to riots against them, but successive governments have been inactive in protecting them or arresting their persecutors. Such targeting has taken place, often for political purposes in the context of elections, in blatant bids to mobilise sections of the population through appeals to narrow nationalism and fear of the other. The country’s political and governmental leaders need to desist from utilising the ICCPR Act against those who make social and political critiques that are outside the domain of hate speech. The arrest of Bruno Divakara, the owner of SL-Vlogs, under the ICCPR Act is an indication of this larger and more concerning phenomenon which is being brought to the fore by the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill.

The crackdown on the space for free expression and critical comment is unacceptable in a democratic polity, especially one as troubled as Sri Lanka, in which the economy has collapsed and caused much suffering to the people and the call to hold elections has been growing. The intervention of the Human Rights Commission which has called on the Inspector General of Police to submit a report on the arrest and its rationale is a hopeful sign that the independence of institutions intended to provide a check and balance will finally prevail. The Sri Lankan state will hopefully evolve to be a neutral arbiter in the disputes between competing ethnic, religious and partisan political visions of what the state should be and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within it. Taking on undemocratic powers in a variety of ways and within a short space of time is unlikely to deliver economic resurgence and a stable and democratic governance the country longs for. Without freedom, justice and fair play within, there can be no hope of economic development that President Wickremesinghe would be wanting to see.

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Girl power… to light up our scene



Manthra: Pop, rock and Sinhala songs

We have never had any outstanding all-girl bands, in the local scene, except, perhaps…yes The Planets, and that was decades ago!

The Planets did make a name for themselves, and they did create quite a lot of excitement, when they went into action.

Of course, abroad, we had several top all-girl bands – outfits like the Spice Girls, Bangles, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes.

It’s happening even now, in the K-pop scene.

Let’s hope we would have something to shout about…with the band Manthra – an all-girl outfit that came together last year (2022).

Manthra is made up of Hiruni Fernando (leader/bass guitar), Gayathma Liyanage (lead guitar), Amaya Jayarathne (drums), Imeshini Piyumika (keyboards), and Arundathi Hewawitharana (vocals).

Amaya Arundathi and Imeshini are studying at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, while Gayathma is studying Architecture at NIMB, and Hiruni is the Western Music teacher at St. Lawrence’s Convent, and the pianist at Galadari Hotel, having studied piano and classical guitar at West London University.

They have already displayed their talents at various venues, events, weddings, and on TV, as well (Vanithabimana Sirasa TV and Charna TV Art Beat).

Additionally, the band showcased their talent at the talent show held at the Esoft Metro Campus.

The plus factor, where this all-girl outfit is concerned, is that their repertoire is made up rock, pop, and Sinhala songs.

Explaining as to how they came up with the name Manthra, founder member Hiruni said that Manthra means a word, or sound, repeated to aid concentration in meditation, and that the name was suggested by one of the band members.

Hiruni Fernando: Founder and leader of Manthra

She also went on to say that putting together a female band is not an easy task, in the scene here.

“We faced many difficulties in finding members. Some joined and then left, after a short while. Unlike a male band, where there are many male musicians in Sri Lanka, there are only a few female musicians. And then, there are some parents who don’t like their daughters getting involved in music.”

With talented musicians in their line-up, the future certainly looks bright for Manthra who are now keen to project themselves, in an awesome way, in the scene here, and abroad, as well.

“We are keen to do stage shows and we are also planning to create our own songs,” said Hiruni.

Yes, we need an all-girl group to add variety to our scene that is now turning out to be a kind of ‘repeating groove,’ where we see, and hear, almost the same thing…over and over again!

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