25 August 2016

Indo-Lanka Relations: reality and hallucination

A lot is often made of alleged historical ties between India and Sri Lanka.  Too much and too often, perhaps.  ‘Historical Ties’ is an oft used sweetener to help one party force unpalatables down the throats of another party, typically by the stronger on the weaker.  It is not for nothing that democracy has been described as the opportunity for the downtrodden to choose the sauce with which they are to be eaten by the oppressor in a capitalist society.  ‘Historical Ties’ are like that too. 

India: was not always this big and was not always called 'India'
But let’s not get ahead of things here.  First and foremost there is the issue of ‘India’.  What’s India?  Where is it? When was this ‘India’ formed into some kind of coherent political entity that covers more or less the geographical space it is associated with today?  These are questions that need to be asked and answered before we talk about ties between ‘India’ and ‘Sri Lanka’.  Indeed, such questions could (and should) be asked about ‘Sri Lanka’ as well.

Sri Lanka, being a small island, has the proverbial inside track (compared to ‘India’) in terms of ‘long history’ associated with the territory associated with the present-day name.  While there can be disputes about what ‘state’ is and whether entities from a long time ago were ‘states’ like the ones we have today, it is clear that political authorities had jurisdiction over the entire island for considerable periods of time.  

Writers, cartographers and travelers had single names for the island.   Descriptions speak of a single political entity.  A less-known or perhaps known-but-ignored example is the reference etched in inscriptions at Hindu temples built by Raja Raja Chola I with wealth plundered from conquered territories.  The name is ‘Ila-Mandalam’, ‘Ila’ being a corruption of ‘Hela’ or its four-part elaboration ‘Sihala’ (from ‘Siv-Hela’, made up of Yaksha, Naga, Deva and Raksha, each associated with a vocational sphere), later to be further corrupted by European invaders into ‘Ceylon’ (not ‘Sri Lanka’ which one could argue is an aberration that should be done away with and replaced with the more logical ‘Sinhale’).  Importantly, by the way, the inscription offers the following elaboration: ‘the land of the warlike Singalas’.   This, in the 10th Century AD.  Of course, there’s ample evidence of the island being a single political entity long before this. 

What was India ‘back then’?  The largest empire established on the land that covers today’s India was that of the Mauryas.  It lasted less than 150 years (332-185 BCE) and did not cover all of ‘India’.  The ‘All of India’ did not get ‘covered’ until the British arrived. 

So what do we make of the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka ties of the historical kind?  We could talk about the wars, in particular the many invasions of the island by South Indian armies, none of which identified with the ‘India’ of today in terms of areas controlled in the sub-continent.  Movement of people and trade, obviously, didn’t begin just the other day, but it’s stretching things too far to use such ‘ties’ as examples of ‘friendship between states’ and downright silly to use the name ‘India’ in describing such transactions. 

In recent times, we had the infamous Indo-Lanka Accord which was an act of aggression which followed the funding, training and arming of terrorists by India to wage war on the Sri Lankan state.   Such actions indicate ‘relations’ but certainly not friendly, although one could interject the term ‘historical’ in terms of the rank interference it amounted to and the violence it engendered.  One could add India’s role in ‘cornering’ Sri Lanka in Geneva, which again came with the tag ‘in the best interest of Sri Lanka’, as understood and defined not by Sri Lankans but forces most certainly arrayed against Sri Lankans. 

Between these there was of course the Emperor Asoka and the much-talked-of ‘bringing of Buddhism to “Sri Lanka” from “India”.’   No aggression there.  No forcing stuff down people’s throats.  It was a gesture, yes, but not one done in the name of friendship between two countries.  Arahat Mahinda has often been mis-labeled as an emissary of Emperor Asoka.  He was nothing more, nothing less, than a shraavaka (student) of the Dhamma taught by the Thiloguru, the Buddha Siddhartha Gauthama.   The “Jambudveepa” he came from is conceptually, culturally and cartographically different from ‘India’.    The history of “Jambudveepa” is not written anywhere in India and indeed the British officials had to draw heavily from the Sinhala chronicles to make sense of the ruins they came across in the territory they named ‘India’.  In fact the world would not have known of Emperor Asoka if not for the Mahavansa and the Chinese records.

But let’s get back to “India”.  Where did the word come from and what territory did it refer to?  The general consensus is that the name is drawn from the Indus River whose original (Sanskrit) name was Sindhu which had become “Hindus” to Persians who conquered that relatively small piece of land in the 5th Century BCE.  It was thus the Persians who dropped the ‘s’ and the Greeks who dropped the ‘h’ to yield an ‘India’.  That name has been drawn over the entire landmass of the subcontinent subsequently to give us the ‘India’ of these so-called ‘friendly Indo-Lanka relations’ whose ‘historical’ nature as the above indicates remains un-established.  If one were to condense the past 25 centuries into a one minute roll-out of changing land-area(s) associated with the name ‘India’ we won’t see a still picture that corresponds to the current map of the country by that name.  We would see lines that contain relatively tiny territories which on rare occasions burgeoned out and yet never give the present-day boundaries.

India exists.  As of now.  Sri Lanka does too.  There are bi-lateral agreements and other agreements forged in multi-lateral forums.  There are ‘ties’ whose friendliness is up for debate.  Not all of it is bad of course, but there’s enough bad-blood in recent times to raise eyebrows at friendship-claims.     There is trade.  There is friendship.  Thousands of Sri Lankans obtain visas from the Indian High Commission every year, a significant portion of who are pilgrims.  Such pilgrims obtain their visas from the INDIAN High Commission, but they visit not India but ‘Dambadiva’ (Jambudveepa).   It would be good to do a survey at this point of general perceptions of India in terms of a) existing and possible trade, and b) India’s political, military and diplomatic actions with respect to Sri Lanka, especially the perceptions of such visitors (pilgrims).  It might very well turn out that for the majority of them the India that gives them visas is very different from the Dambadiva they visit. 

 Yes, a lot is often made of alleged historical ties between India and Sri Lanka.  Too much and too often.  So much that it is beginning to sound ridiculous. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Blog: malindawords.blogspot.com.  Twitter: malindasene.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.   This article was first published on August 25, 2016 in the Daily Mirror.

18 August 2016

Foreign Policy and self-imposed non-negotiability

Small nations typically do not have much by way of bargaining power vis-à-vis powerful nations; ‘small’ meaning economically and militarily weak rather than land size.  Weak, however, does not mean helpless.  Indeed there are very few if any relationships between the powerful and the weak that are not characterized by contestation and continuous negotiation of the terms of control.  The same goes for relations between countries, despite power differentials.  Sri Lanka, right now, appears to be an exception.

Needless to say, diplomacy is a sphere of activity where words are almost always used to varnish unpalatable truths.  In fact there’s nothing bad about anything bilateral or multilateral if we went strictly by the statements uttered by the stewards of foreign relations.  And yet if one were to factor in track records of the particular protagonists, statements uttered in different contexts and examine the small print of agreements, diplospeak immediately looks an infantile language which has barely evolved out the grunts. 

Let’s consider Sri Lanka’s case. First and foremost, the country’s economic situation has been the main determinant of foreign policy formulation.  The economic logic of the particular regime has informed the picking of friends by and large.  The striking exemption was the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime at the height of the offensive against the LTTE when defeating the LTTE counted more than ‘economic sense’ in the weight given to friendships with foreign nations.  As a result, after the end of the war, that regime had to rush to China for help, support that did not come free. 

There were other prices to pay of course and pounds of flesh were duly extracted in Geneva first and eventually in Sri Lanka when those nations which felt peeved by Rajapaksa put their weight behind his detractors.  This is not to say, of course, that he would have prevailed if there was no such support, but that’s another story. 

Post-Mahinda, as expected, the new Government placed their bets on the anti-Rajapaksa bloc, especially India, the USA and the EU.  And lost.  The Government was forced to pick the Rajapaksa Option. China. 

And yet, it appears that the Government is not yet done with pandering to the demands of the USA and India.  Of course, governments inherit debts owed by previous regimes and one can argue that a responsible regime cannot pout and refuse to pay.  However, we also know that this Government is politically on the same page with the USA as far as what is good for Sri Lanka is concerned.  It has essentially decided to inhabit the US version of Sri Lanka’s reality and design a future Sri Lanka that delivers the interests of that country. 

It’s legitimate.  If you are in agreement then you go along.  Going along is one thing, but allowing someone like the US Ambassador to be presumptuous enough to state that he will help Sri Lanka write a new constitution is something else.  Even diplospeak cannot varnish incompetence or worse, impotence.

Then we have the Indian High Commissioner virtually saying ETCA is a done deal.  If indeed the deal is done despite objections from quarters other than the oppose-anything Joint Opposition then once again it means that this Government is either on the same page as India about the benefits for Sri Lanka (again, all-is-good diplospeak) or worse is incompetent or clueless.  Reminiscent one might say of J.R. Jayewardene’s capitulation to Rajiv Gandhi in July 1987.  Shows a worrisome (that’s a generous term) lack of confidence.  To make it even worse, it appears that the Government wants India to develop the Oil Tank Farm in Trincomalee.  Why India, is the question that needs to be asked in a context where India is not going to (and cannot) bail out Sri Lanka economically.  That’s China’s job and that’s official whether we like it or not. 

Put all of this on the same page (of a newspaper, say) and the picture is pretty clear: this Government has a foreign policy that can be written in a sentence – ‘say “aye” to whatever India or the USA proposes to further their strategic, economic and other interests and submit to China’s economic diktat’. 

There’s a small chance that the statements issued by the US Ambassador and the Indian High Commissioner are nothing more than a couple of diplomats putting a brave front in the face of an impending China take-over.  It’s hard to say, however, given the Government’s apparent policy of treating such moves as being in the ‘goes without saying’ category, the subtext of which (need we say?) is essentially ‘comes without saying’.  

Small nations typically do not have much by way of bargaining power vis-à-vis powerful nations.  But few nations are absolutely powerless.  Given certain comparative advantages (strategic location, for one), Sri Lanka can bargain.  And must.  At least, it can play one power against the other and try to optimize.  The kind of capitulation we are seeing, however, indicates that this Government believes that its political future is in the hands of India and the USA.  There have been others who came before who believed the same and looked in disbelief when outcomes that were preferred and considered assured did not materialize. 

All that for the future.  Sooner or later, this Government will realize the worth of that pithy Sinhala saying ‘katin bathala sitaveema’ (planting sweet potato with the mouth).  The US Ambassador will understand the US version of this: ‘put your money where your mouth is’.  Right now, both India and the USA are backing on throwing a few paisas and pennies (respectively) and raking in big bucks in economic and strategic terms.  There’ll probably be a limit to what the big buck provider, China, will tolerate on the strategic front. 

It is better to wake up, even slowly, rather than be woken up rudely.  Chances are that this Government, if woken up rudely, will break into giggles and say ‘that’s so sweet of you’.  Indeed it’s a throwback to J.R. Jayewardene’s famous line when ushering in the open economy: ‘Let the robber barons come!’  Only, on a larger scale and by a Government that appears incapable of taking stock of changed global realities.  This is not 1977 or 1987.  This is 2016.  Back then, China was not even mentioned. Today, China dominates the script.  Only, this Government doesn’t seem to have read it. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who contributes a weekly column to the Daily Mirror titled 'Subterranean Transcripts'.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene.

16 August 2016

The story of Sri Lanka’s Mister Cheese

If I was asked to suggest a name that would go with the word ‘cheese’ I would naturally go for the known brands, which by the way do not always mean quality.  Quality does go with ‘known’ but ‘known’ can come from good advertising helped along by low brand/product-awareness.  We know after all that anything can be sold to the gullible.  How many of us know, for example, that among cheesy products wedges, slices and spreads are at the low end of the preference spectrum of the connoisseur?  People who know of cheeses shun these kinds of products because they know what’s what. 

So, what’s a cheese-name outside of brands?  Here’s one that’s quite incongruous: .  Wait, let’s make it even more doubtful: Ranasinghe Arachchige Kumara Rathna. 

He was born in 1945 in Kandy and attended St Sylvester’s College.  Kumara Rathna wanted to see the world as a young man.  So after dabbling in this trade and that, he went to the Netherlands along with some friends.  This was in 1975.  This was where he came face to face with life and living things in ways that were as hands-on as in an undertaker’s premises. 

In the Netherlands he managed to secure a two year farm scholarship.  This is where he learned the basics of dairy management, poultry farming, how to run a piggery and of course cheese processing.  After completing this program of studies Kumara went to England where he made ends meet by taking on odd jobs.  He returned to Sri Lanka in 1978 and got an opportunity to put into practice all the knowledge he had acquired; he got a job as a supervisor in the National Livestock Development Board farm in Haragama.  Three months later he was hired as a Livestock Officer by the ‘New Zealand Farm’ in the Ambewela complex.  The rest is history.  The rest is cheese. 

In 1980, a team of experts from the Netherlands had arrived to advise the NLDB.  They soon discovered that Kumara Rathna had not only been to the Netherlands but had learned about chess processing there. 

“Mr Nabuurs, a  consultant to the NLDB, said ‘Let’s make cheese!’ I was more than ready to do this.  The first batch was made using 10 liters of fresh milk.  We made 1 kg.  Later we moved to 40 liters and then 100 liters.  It was hand-made cheese.”

Beginnings are always tough and it always takes a lot of courage, patience and sacrifice.  Kumara Rathna was equal to the task. 

“I had the fullest backing from the then Farm Manager, Mr. Tennekoon.  I took the cheese to Nuwara Eliya and sold it to the hotels at 120 rupees per kilo.  Once every two weeks I went to Kandy with samples.  The orders came via telegrams.  After a while I was given two laborers to help me.  They would take the cheese to Kandy.  I realized that discerning foreigners working on the Mahaweli project liked our products, so I went to their homes.  We began with Gouda and added a spicy product in 1982.  Later, in order to deal with the stocks, we produced parmesan cheese.  They were all sold under the brand name ‘NLDB New Zealand Farm’.”

As the production levels increased, the Manager had given Kumara Rathna a vehicle to take the cheese to Colombo.  He supplied to Cargills and also the Mt Lavinia Hotel.  Thereafter, gradually, he succeeded in convincing hotels along the Southern Coast to buy his cheese. 

“The demand became too much for us to handle at a certain point.  But the Chairman at the time, Leslie Fonseka gave us a Delica van and later a lorry.  We also got machines in 1983.  We got new moulds.  Before that we had to make do with S-lon pipes.  As a result we were able to supply cheese to the top hotels in all parts of the island.”

When Ambewela was privatized in 2001, Kumara Rathna had wondered whether it was to be the end of his cheese adventure.  However, the product had by then become larger than its captain.  The hotels demanded and the Chairman asked him to continue.  By that time Mr Cheese (shall we call him?) was producing approximately 3500 kg of cheese per month. 

Now a Senior Assistant Manager, Kumara Rathna is proud of what he’s accomplished, naturally.   Although distribution is now handled by Stassens, he still delivers to Nuwara Eliya.  Today he is assisted by 4 laborers who, along with him, handle the production, packaging and labeling.  The ‘farm shop’ at the New Zealand Farm sells approximately 400 kg of cheese products every month.  The straight Gouda is complemented by flavored cheeses, namely chillie, garlic, pepper, cumin and mustard. 

He is 71 years old.  He is the most senior employee in the overall Ambewela complex.  Mr Cheese continues to make cheese.  He is also a gardener and a vegetable farmer.  He began with just 10 liters of milk.  Now he uses 1200 liters of fresh milk every day.  His enthusiasm is as fresh as it was way back in 1979.  As for quality, it is stamped by the approval of those who are best able to judge.

“There have been people from the Netherlands who have told me that my cheeses are as good as anything they’ve had back home,” Kumara Rathna says with a smile.  That should be a quality assurance certificate as good as any. 

One day when the history of cheese-making in Sri Lanka is written, some unknown chronicler may record his story or perhaps he will not be mentioned.  That’s how it is in the business of chronicling.  

This much can be said though.  He has undertaken a lot, Kumara Rathna has.  He has delivered beyond expectations.  Not a name one might associate with cheese, but still it is a name that is owned by a man who is all about cheese.  Kumara Rathna. 


Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com. Twitter: malindasene.

15 August 2016

Reflections on things lost in the matter of winning and losing

History is written by the winners, this is well known.  In other words, chronicling is an exercise that is framed by power realities.  Those who win and those who wield power frequently bend the story in ways that glorify them.  It is the exceptional historian that would paint things in colours closest to the truth and resist embellishment as well as footnoting or even blanking out.  The author of the Mahawansa, or the Great Chronicle, is an exception. 
 
There are wheels that turned but which wheels and in what direction?Pic: www.clovekvtisni.cs
Today, the business of reporting is exactly that; a business. Those who have power are able to frill as well as well as ignore and thereby offer versions that appear to be true but in fact are a fair distance from accurate reportage.  

On the other hand, even the most meticulous chronicler tends to conflate nation or collective with personality and regime, with scarce mention of the complexities contained within broad categories.  Wars are won and lost by leaders and nations, not soldiers and populations. 

In Sri Lanka, naturally, it is the political and military leadership that won the major share of accolades for ending a 30 year struggle.  The troops and many who contributed in non-military ways were duly recognized. Some were honoured with word. Some were rewarded materially, with medal, promotion, house and diplomatic position.  In time, these names will fade and only the names of the political and military leadership will be remembered.  Unavoidable.  Few apart from immediate family and other loved one will remember the dead of the defeated, the names of the leaders being the exception. 

There was heroism.  It is however not the preserve of the victor.  There are those who fight valiantly and die or are maimed on all sides of every conflict.  There are courageous people in lost causes too.  History generally tends to un-note them or else frame courage or heroism in political terms, i.e. mentioning the ‘treacherous’ nature of the cause and leadership on behalf of whom that heroism found expression.

It is easy to pin ‘lunatic’ on a suicide bomber, for example.  An individual ready to die for a cause is certainly not ‘normal’ in that your average citizen would just not put his or her hand up to die, even if there was identification with the cause or the objective.  ‘Brainwashed’ is an easy tag too and perhaps not undeserving either.  Still.

When I think that 100,000 people died over the last 30 years, that 60,000 did between 1988 and 1999 and that another 20,000 perished in 1971, I feel we have not won anything but in fact lost too much.  Even if we assume that just one percent of this number (1,800) were endowed with courage, discipline and other skills, that’s a massive blow to the overall human resources of a nation of our size. 

But apart from all this, I am wondering who would ever chronicle the little acts of courage, heroism and humanity that went beyond political and ideological commitment from among those who lost, the vanquished.  I remember that even today, among the most memorable moments of the Olympic Games is the determined run by the Sri Lankan running the marathon, even though he was placed last by several laps.  That was in 1960, the Tokyo Games.  He lost.  Vanquished.  And yet, Ranatunga Karunaranda’s example continues to inspire.  So too the image of Derek Redmond, limping to complete the race after pulling his hamstring in the 400m race in Barcelona. 

We learn not just from the heroics of the winners, but the courage of those who lost.  They all add colour and beauty to the rocky, flawed, tragic and nevertheless remarkable human story, that tapestry we all weave thread into, whether we like it or not. 

I don’t know their identities.  I might never know their stories.  Perhaps all I will have is the fact that they did exist and must have done something that made someone remember with thanksgiving, even if that someone also perished in the losing cause. 

Seven years ago, I asked a question: ‘If the shattered pieces of a human bomb were put together, would we recover a trophy called Triumph or a nondescript shell called Pathos?’

Seven years later, I don’t have a satisfactory answer.  Perhaps I am a fool to ponder over questions such as this.  All I know is that I feel there’s something missing in the story and that knowing might not hurt, but in fact empower and heal.  I am willing to compile, if you are willing to tell.  That’s all I need to say about things lost in the matter of winning and losing, as of now.


This article was first published in the Daily News in August 2011.  Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene.

Let's listen to Wigneswaran!

There’s talk of constitutional reform.  A lot of talk.  There’s talk of what should go in and what should be taken out.  People were appointed to gather ‘public opinion’ and the gatherers, as always, represent a particular segment of the entire ideological spectrum.  A tiny segment, let’s remember.  But since it is ‘public opinion’ that is filtered by panels that are essentially made of people who share such slant, it makes it easier to say ‘this is what the people say (not us)’. 

A lot of talk, a lot of experts, a lot of statements about who is going to help draft the constitution but still no draft.  Maybe this is why C.V.  Wigneswaran has got hot under the collar.  See, that’s what happens when you do the sleight of hand number – even those you think are on your side (read ‘federalists’ or ‘separatists’) get edgy.  Wigneswaran blurts out his angst thus:

“Accountability for the war crimes allegedly committed in the last phase of Eelam War IV must be established before the Sri Lankan government formulates a new constitution,” he insists.  There’s more: “The constitution planned by the government will not be drafted to the Tamils’ satisfaction unless accountability issues were satisfactorily addressed prior to that”.   An interesting theory that.  As a former judge of the Supreme Court, no less, would know that one does not necessarily follow the other or rather the absence of one does not necessarily imply that the other is doomed (in terms of the outcome that he, Wigneswaran, prefers). 

On the other hand, to the extent that Tamil nationalists in general have viewed (erroneously) the state to have some kind of Sinhala-slant and have seen any ‘solution’ that doesn’t deliver all demands as the end result of deceitful intention, Wigneswaran is merely robbing lines from his chauvinistic forefathers.   To be expected, one might say.  After all, could there ever be any ‘solution’ this side of ‘Eelam’ that would satisfy such people, even if they call themselves ‘moderates’ when they consider Prabhakaran a hero and are loathe to acknowledge the fact that the LTTE is a terrorist organization which killed their ‘moderate’ forefathers?    

Strip his ‘concerns’ of Eelamist baggage and Wigneswaran actually has a point, i.e. on the issue of ‘satisfaction’ and not ‘accountability’ and certainly not about the whether or not part of it which is all about conjecture. 

First, let’s talk accountability (‘again’ I should add, for it is a word that is tossed around a lot and in extremely careless ways).  There’s a key term that the likes of Wigneswaran interject into the ‘accountability discourse’: last phase (of the Eelam War IV).   If human rights godfathers and godmothers were to time-travel back to the eighties and nineties (but especially the eighties), enter ‘defencee briefings’ during the tenures of J.R. Jayewardena, Ranasinghe Premadasa, D.B. Wijetunga and Chandrika Kumaratunga, they would be horrified.  Well, the truth is that they already know about all that.  But if we are talking about accountability, then all crimes against humanity, all extra-judicial killings, each and every case of abduction and torture should be investigated.  For example, the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam (how about say a fraction of the zeal demonstrated to find Lasantha Wickramatunga’s or Thajudeen’s killers being shown in finding the Tamil Congress leader’s murderers?). 

Even if we were to leave aside such ‘random’ cases (and we should not, by the way) there were ‘general instructions’ that were given to commanding officers at every level of the military apparatus.  There are probably many senior military officers still in service (and other retired but still alive) who could speak of that time and how things were done.  A lot of people died.  Are their lives less important than those who died in the ‘last stages’?  Should not those responsible for designing the counter-terrorism measures adopted by the respective governments  be held accountable?  Or else, is it a case of crimes committed more than, say, 10 years ago worthy only of footnoting or les?  Well, if that’s the case then all that anyone scared of ‘investigation’ should do is to ensure that things get dragged for another three years.  That’s how justice works? 

No.  That’s wrong.  We are talking about a 34 year long war (from the killing of Mayor Duraiappah to the elimination of the LTTE’s leadership in May 2009).  Even if Wigneswaran is only bothered about those who were killed in the hostage rescue operation carried out in 2009, the larger interests of justice are not served by limiting investigation into a particular time-slice.  Neither would it be served by an accountability discourse that appears to be fixated on fixing a single party in a war where multiple forces were engaged in. 

So it cannot be only Wigneswaran that wants ‘accountability’.  I, for one, wants accountability issues addressed with respect to all war crimes committed by all war criminals, including assassinations and including the 1988-89 ‘bheeshanaya’ (Period of Terror) and including the operations of the Indian Peace Keeping Force.  I could say ‘do that before you talk about constitutional reform’.  Maybe I should, considering the machinations of a motley crowd of federalists who suffer from Sinhala-phobia and are anti-Buddhist that are in the thick of stirring this reform soup!

Now for ‘satisfaction.’  What on earth made Wigneswaran think that constitutional reform is nothing more or nothing less than an exercise to satisfy ‘Tamils’ as per his own longings?  Constitutional reform cannot be reduced to satisfying the aspirations of anyone at the cost of robbing anyone else.  It cannot be an exercise where land theft is legalized in the name of ‘reconciliation’.  It cannot be an effort to paint myth as fact or history.  Outside of all this, which is the language of separation, constitutional reform has to be about democracy and therefore addressing issues of representation and accountability.  Giving Wigneswaran several pounds of flesh just to satisfy his chauvinistic greed will not yield political stability.  It will not yield reconciliation.  It will not only neglect serious flaws that have little to do with communal angst, it will certainly fail to satisfy other communities.  Trying reconciliation after that! 

There have been two occasions when Governments thrust amendments down the people’s throats, once at the behest of the island’s historical enemy, India (The Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987) and once by a leader who sought to rule until death (the 18th Amendment).  The first saw anarchy unleashed. The second was overturned through an election.  If there’s a rush this time by a minority of leaders suffering from ignorance about history and other hang-ups (evidenced by anti-Buddhist, anti-Sinhala sentiment) to satisfy communalists such as Wigneswaran, it is 88-89 that could get repeated, not January 8, 2015. 

Satisfaction.  Yes, that’s important.  It has an antonym.  Several in fact. Disappointment. Dismay.  Disillusion.  All of these can slip into something more than a knitting of eyebrows or a sign of resignation.  Wigneswaran and the Tamils in this country have a say and they need to be listened to.  Their proposals must be taken up and assessed on several counts including the true dimensions of grievances and the relevance of ‘solution’ to stated ‘problem’.  They don’t, however, make up the entirety of the population.  That cannot be ignored either.  Just like accountability, satisfaction annot be cut into convenient slices and dished out selectively.    Does not yield peace or reconciliation.  Anarchy, though, could be expected.    


Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene.

10 August 2016

A short story of a stink-hole that the law is not interesting in plugging

I hardly ever listen to the radio, but if ever I get the chance I try to catch a night programme on Siyatha FM called ‘Mama kemathi geetha dayaha’ (Ten songs I like).  The programme features 10 songs selected by some celebrity of one kind or another with short introductions explaining why each song was selected.  On one occasion the person selecting was well-known poet and lyricist, Yamuna Malini Perera.  I remember that I was not particularly impressed by her selection.  I can’t remember the particular song except that it referred to a father, but I cannot forget the reasons offered for her choice.

She described something she had seen as a child.  A man being dragged along the bund of a village tank late in the evening, silhouetted against the night sky, beaten with a huluaththa or torch made of dried coconut leaves bound together.  It was a son, beating his father, for who knows what crime.  The image had stuck.  It stuck with me as well. 

I knew we live in crazy times and that crazy times were always with us, not just here in Sri Lanka but all over the world.  Infanticide is not bound by time and space and neither is patricide.  All kinds of violence takes place in this tragedy-filled world of ours.  Still, that story jolted me.
Fast forward a few months and I hear another story.  I am giving a nutshell version here.

A boy, son of an alcoholic father, is raised by his aunt (father’s sister) and treated like a son and as a brother by his cousins.  Time passes, the boy grows up, is helped secure a decent job by his older cousins and ends up as a successful businessman.  He is rich enough to take care of his father, now very sick and incontinent.  The boy, now man, had a tough time growing up and this may or may not have scarred him in ways that prompted behaviour that is unacceptable and even criminal.  One day the father felt a need to relieve himself, but didn’t make it to the toilet in time.  He splashed all over the floor.  The son, livid, beat up the old man, forced his mouth open and urinated into it.  Worse, he called his cousin and complained about the old man, even as the old man pleaded, ‘Putha, I am sorry putha, don’t hit me putha, I couldn’t control myself putha, please putha, don’t hit me, I won’t do it again!’

Shocked, the cousin said he will come by and thrash the daylights out of this cruel man.  Both father and son were gone by the time he got there.  The son, when called on his mobile said that he had left the old man on the road and had given the location.  Beaten, terrified and utterly humiliated, the old man had only one request: ‘keep me with you until I die’. 

Ever since then the arrogant businessman has been calling his aunt and uncle who opened heart and home to a distraught and displaced little boy and abusing them in raw filth.  He has also been sending text messages to the cousins as well as all his friends and relatives, spreading stories that I do not have the heart to repeat here.  Requests to desist fell on deaf ears.  Finally, the cousin took the matter to the police and the man, in the presence of senior police officers spouted the same kind of invective at the complainants forcing the police to lock him up.

The question I have is not about the immemorial generational conflict, its dimensions, its inevitabilities and the pathways of resolution.  It is about the efficacy of the law to prevent such abuse. 

Mobile phones, the internet and other such technological devices that are part and parcel of the modern world were not invented to facilitate abuse and to enhance the entertainment of abusers at the cost of the victims.  They were meant to improve quality of life in a wide range of ways, enhance communication and facilitate efficiency in business, governance, the access to and delivery of services etc. 

Right now, there are people who derive some kind of warped pleasure by causing distress to others using these methods.   There is hate-mail and vicious stories being circulated on the internet with impunity from the laws pertaining to civility.  It is almost as though the internet was made for character assassination, and I am not talking of Wikileaks-type disclosures.  There is no substantiation-requirement to these communiqués and whether or not the claims are true is irrelevant.  Those mentioned remain scarred and violated which those who vilify them or paint them in colours they are undeserving of remain free and in most cases even anonymous. 

Phone abuse goes unchecked.  Some use caller identification facilities, but the abuser can always use a coin-operated public facility or one of the thousands of ‘communications outlets’ in the city to do his or her dirty work.  The victims have to deal with the trauma as best they can. 

In this instance, the perpetrator is known and identified by number and implicated by confession (unfortunately for him, since he could not control his arrogance and hatred), even though he has sought and failed to obtain the protection of powerful political associates and friends.  In this case the officer in charge of the relevant police station had stuck to his guns.   In this case, the victims placed faith in the law and the law responded or appears to be responding.  For now, at least.

I am sure that had the victim been poor, ‘unconnected’ to big-name politicians and public servants and lacking the resources to match fist with fist, cuss word with cuss word, rupee for rupee, he or she would have left the police station disillusioned, terrified and even traumatised.  These are elderly people we are talking about.  In their seventies.  Had they done any wrong, then the person who feels wronged has to let the courts pass judgment.  In this case, the abuser has all the connections and is rolling in money.  Only one things stands out: helplessness.  We are poor indeed as a society and a civilization if elderly people have to ‘grin and bear’ this kind of abuse.   One more thing: these are cowardly acts and reflect the character of the abuser more than the abused. 

We live in times where powerful politicians tie up public servants to trees, invite the media to capture it all on video and gets away scot free.  In such times, are we to assume that the law is dead and to live with the knowledge that we are legally crippled?  If the laws are not adequate, they should be amended.  If they do exist, they should find reference and relevance in action. 

As things stand, I am not sure who is incontinent, that old man, those responsible to ensure that technologies such as those concerning telecommunications, those paid to protect the citizenry from all abuse, including physical and mental torture, or the law itself.  Right now, it seems to me, that there’s a lot of piddling happening in places and ways not sanctioned by decency, law and civilization. 

There’s a stink.  I am not sure where it is coming from.  All I know is that it is too strong and too widespread for us to turn our noses in another direction. 

This article was first published in the 'Daily Mirror' in August 2011

08 August 2016

Death by sugar: nothing sweet about it

Invisible.  It's a word I first encountered in an Enid Blyton book.  One of the 'Five Find-outers' if I remember right.  At the time I didn't know what 'visible' meant.  In fact I think I encountered 'visible' much later.  Back then, aged 10 or maybe less, I saw what could be seen.  I might have read a little into what was said and 'heard' something of what was left unsaid; I might have also read a few signs, associating, for example, nightfall with dinner and sleep.  Rudimentary stuff.  But 'invisible' amazed me, that I do remember.  

It was about invisible ink.  Lemon juice inserted into a fountain pen instead of ink.  Write something that cannot be seen, run an iron over it after it's dry and the words appear.  Magical.  

As time went on I not only heard the word 'visible' but realized that is was a metaphor for a lot of things.  I learned that there are things that are not visible and more importantly that things could be made invisible.  It took a while to understand that one of the easiest methods of rendering things invisible was to paint them over.  Sugar-coat if you will.  

But I never thought that sugar could be used to make visible that had been made invisible.  This I found out last Saturday at the 'Good Market'.  

There's nothing positive about a crime scene.  It's bad.  Bad news.  And it's totally at odds at a place that has a name such as 'Good Market'.  This crime scene, however, was sugar-coated but in a way that stripped a lot of illusions.  Made things visible, so to speak.  Yes, it was 'sugar-coated'.  Literally.  




Who died here?  Who was the killer?  Did the killer get away? Who is conducting the investigation?  These are common questions that come to mind when we see pictures like this.  


Here's the dope, as they say:

One word.  Sugar.  That's a killer.  It debilitates, maims and kills.  Sweetly.  

What's interesting in this 'crime scene' is that there's no body.  The truth is that most bodies (probably yours and certainly mine) are, as I write and as you will read, being carved up by this killed. We are framed (just like in the picture) because we are complicit in this murder.  

This 'outline' tellingly was not chalk-on-pavement.  It was sugar.  White stuff.  'Pure,' did someone say?  'Sweet!'  Of course.  A killer?  Well, it's like a detective novel where the murderer turns out to be the least likely of all the suspects, a person beyond suspicion, a saint more often than not.  But that, interestingly, is what makes murder possible and what gives murderer the opportunity.  In other words the disarming nature of the killer, the beyond-suspicion persona.  

That's sugar, folks.

It's a killer, folks.  

We've invited the killer into our hearts and homes.  In fact we've paid someone to bring a killer home.  And it's such a fantastic disguise that we just cannot see murderer, murder intent and murder weapon.  We've issued, in our ignorance, a notice.  It reads, 'Come, kill me, kill my loved ones'.  

There was a 'crime scene' at the 'Good Market'.  It reminded us that our homes are actually scenes of crimes that we, more than anyone else, have sanctioned.  Except that here, we are both facilitating the killer and we are offering ourselves as victims.  It's so simple, this execution, that it is invisible.  We keep washing off the evidence.  Indeed, we lick it off and even say 'delicious'.  

Diabetes.  That's what this is all about.  The Diabetes Association of Sri Lanka, which conducted this awareness campaign, both at the 'Good Market' and at the 'Arcade' (I learned later) offers some disturbing facts. 

Close to 400 million people are affected by diabetes and it is predicted that if current trends are not arrested 10% of the world's population will be diabetic by the year 2035.  Almost half the people with diabetes live and die undiagnosed, it is estimated.  See how effectively the killer is disguised?  

Deaths: Over 5 million people died due to diabetes in 2013.  In other words, every six seconds a person dies from diabetes.  Diabetes causes over 1 million amputations each year.  That's about 1 amputation every 30 seconds.  

What this means is that there's a good chance that either you or someone close to you would be hit by the disease.  Soon.  Death by sugar.  Amusing word play but it's no laughing matter if you have to get your leg amputated. 

 


Sugar.  A killer.  And it's legal.  Those who sell it and those who buy it have the license to kill.  And to commit suicide.  And it's invisible.  So invisible that we see it all the time.  Stir it into our drinks and feel good about it. 

There was a crime scene at the 'Good Market'.  There was one at 'The Arcade' too. They reminded us that we are all criminals or accessories after the fact of murder.  Willing victims.  Willing approvers of maiming and murder.  Nothing illegal about it.  Amputation can result though. Death can result though.  Death by sugar.  Nothing sweet about it.  

It's still raining in Afghanistan (six years later)

This article was first published in August 2010 in the 'Daily News'.  It was titled "Have you seen the rain in Afghanistan?"  It's still raining in Afghanistan.  It's raining in other places too.  Maybe it's raining so much and it has rained so much that some people just don't want to acknowledge it is raining.  But some cannot escape the rain.  Like the people of Afghanistan. 
 
Not this kind of rain, no.
Early this morning, i.e. around 4 am, there was a loud noise outside my.  ‘Rain,’ I told myself with a smile, even though I was a fair distance from Bubbly Land.  It did rain. For half a second. It was almost like some friendly cloud had decided to relieve itself just there. A loud noise.  Half a second’s worth of rain.  That was it.  That’s all the rain in Kottawa that I can talk of this morning (August 6, 2010).

I know there are floods in Pakistan and you might wonder if I got the country name in the title wrong. No, I did not.  It is raining in Afghanistan, I was told by a man who died of a heart attack in 1956, at the age of 59.  Bertold Brecht was his name.   

It was a poem, ‘When evil-doing comes like falling rain’.  It’s about what happens when people get killed.  At first there is a cry of horror, Brecht observed.  When a hundred gets butchered, there is still outrage.  And then a thousand get slaughtered and there no end to the butchery.  What happens?

‘…a blanket of silence spreads.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain,
nobody calls out
‘stop!’
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable
the cries are no longer heard.
The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.’

A few days ago a NATO air strike killed at least 12 Afghan civilians, hours after the US commander urged his forces to avoid hurting non-combatants.  General David Petraeus is reported to have said ‘Every afghan civilian death diminishes (their) cause’.  I don’t know where they think they began, but we are talking about 3.5 million unnecessary deaths related to the invasion of Afghanistan.  That’s a lot of diminishing.  A lot of silence. A lot of rain. 

There is so much rain and not just in Afghanistan.  There is silence about all this in the holiest temples such as the one where a High Priest called Ban Ki-moon exorcises evil spirits by appointing advisory committees.  There is silence in a place called London.  Silence in a place called the International Crisis Group. 

There are some cries of horror I hear at the other end of the world. Someone is calling for butchery.  The knife is to be thrust, if ‘all goes well’, into the breast of a man called Bradley Manning. Representative Mike Rogers of the USA wants Manning electrocuted for allegedly (!) leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.  To stay with Brecht-speak, that would be Manning being accused of not being silent about that which has caused silence to descend on Afghanistan like the summer rain.  This same Rogers had voted the previous week for funds which according to a congressional report ends up funding weapons and explosives used by the ‘enemy’ that US forces are supposed to be fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban.

Speaking about WikiLeaks, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a news conference last week that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks ‘might already have on his hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family’.

So much irony!

So much blood. So much of butchery.  The dead in Afghanistan looked at me in silence. There was a message there: be silent for that is the loudest shout against butchery. 

It is raining in Afghanistan.  It is not a half-second cloud-burst. It is pure Brechtian rain. 

Let me be silent now.   



Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malinsene@gmail.com

04 August 2016

The unbecoming undressing of 'Good Governance'

What did the Joint Opposition achieve by marching from Kandy to Colombo?  What does it say about the strength of the Joint Opposition? Does it say anything about the strength or otherwise of what is being called, tongue-in-cheek, the ‘Official SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party)’?  Has to solidified the alliance between the OSLFP and the United National Party (UNP)?  Was it an exercise poorly timed because the OSLF and the UNP government has been in power only for a year and a half and as such there’s little chance of this kind of agitation transforming into a mass upheaval resulting in regime-overthrow?  


Jehan Perera in an article titled ‘Opposition protest march consolidates Government Alliance’ published in the Colombo Telegraph offers some observations on power.  He was referring to the recently concluded march from Kandy to Colombo organized by the Joint Opposition. 

Usually such a bid to generate spontaneous public protest would come towards the end of a government’s term of office when it has over-extended its stay in power and the people are dying for a change. But a mere year and a half of a government which has four more years to go is too soon to evoke a people’s movement to overthrow, or even to destabilize, the government.”

The first sentence is correct.  The second is lends itself to a symptomatic reading.  Whether a march, even one that drew the kinds of crowds it did, can overthrow or destabilize a government is a valid question.  To say that it has ‘consolidated the government alliance’ is misleading, however.

Let’s consider the facts.  Yes, it was organized a mere year and a half after Maithripala Sirisena became President and less than a year after the UNP won the General Election.  There are two ways of looking at it.  Jehan says ‘too early’.  True.  There’s another way.  If such numbers could be drawn to Colombo a mere year and a half after Maithripala Sirisena became President and less than a year after the UNP won the General Election it does indicate discontent of a significant nature.  Putting it down to the ex President’s charisma or the stupidity of his followers will not rob it of this significance.   Loyalties of protestors, ‘true objectives’ of the organizers, the reasons that drew the crowds are relevant of course, but in a political sense it is the show of strength that counts.  We are not talking any more, after all, about the merits and demerits of one regime over another here. 

The march attracted massive numbers.   Contrast it, for example, with the ‘marches’ that other Oppositions under different regimes organized at the tail-ends of terms.  This was put all those to shame.  Contrast it, also, with the rally that the United National Party (UNP) organized at Hyde Park a few months ago.  On that occasion the organizers had to shift the venue to Lipton Circus fearing that Hyde Park might not be filled.  This time Hyde Park was literally dug up by the Government, forcing the demonstrators to Lipton Circus.  The five roads leading to Lipton Circus were ‘peopled’ to a considerable distance.  If numbers matter, these do.

That numbers matter is in fact confirmed by the response of the Government to the march.  The United National Party started off with a bold statement, vowing to affirm the democratic right to protest.  Good.  It went downhill thereafter.   The Government sought support of the courts on the flimsiest of pretexts, threw obstacles in the way of the march, issued dire threats of ‘disciplinary action’, threatened to expedite investigations (obviously against the big names of the Joint Opposition), found a sudden ‘need’ to dig up Hyde Park, indulged in endless rubbishing of the protest, abused state media especially Rupavahini; in short embarrassed itself at every turn.  Hardly the behavior one might expect of a confident and secure regime!

The UNP, at least in secret, might say ‘not us, but them,’ with ‘them’ meaning sections of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) loyal to the President, but that excuse is no longer valid; after all the two parties, their leaders and the key supporters of the leaders, have reiterated marital vows and claimed conjugal bliss ad nauseum.  In fact, the response, in its entirety was reminiscent of the ‘dirty tactics’ used by the previous regime and indeed all regimes that came before.  ‘Change’ (‘venasa’) was not evident.

Interestingly, the bleeding-heart advocates of yahapaalanaya who shed buckets of tears over the abuse of state media by the Rajapaksas, the ‘dirty tricks’ in dealing with dissent/protests etc., are silent.  Instead we have Jehan (who belongs to the aforementioned group) claiming that the Government is ‘stronger’. 

Fine.  Now why should a ‘strong alliance’ fall over itself to rubbish a ‘weak’ protest which, according to Jehan, posed absolutely no threat?  Was it a case of old habits dying hard?  Had they not been tutored enough in yahapalana-practice?  Had they junked whatever notes were thrust into their hands when they got into the yahapalana bandwagon?   Did someone whisper, ‘scared out of their wits’ (for no reason at all a la Jehan’s claim)? 

It seems that things are not as rosy as Jehan would want people to believe.  And it’s not the Mahinda loyalists who are saying it.  When someone like Dr Razeen Sally, a respected economist and academic who now heads the Institute of Policy Studies calls it ‘an unwieldy unity government’ and mentions bad appointments, messy decision-making, lack of coordination and above all faults the government for not having a credible economic plan, talking about political consolidation is downright silly. 

Let’s forget all that.  If anyone thinks the march somehow consolidated the ‘alliance’, then one must talk of the constituents of that alliance and their relative strengths, never mind that the ‘point of consolidation’ is at best wishy-washy given the character certificate issued by Dr Sally.  The UNP is intact but has embarrassed itself by the attacks on the media, foot-dragging on key election pledges and the about-turn and worse on Port City.  Intact, nevertheless. 

And the OSLFP?  Well, they have a party office that is shunned by the membership.  There’s an ex-leader who invites incessant booing by the mere mention of her name.  There are ministers who’ve been rejected at the polls issuing statements about political power, democracy and what not.  And there’s a leader who broke party lines, divided the party, was elected by default with the full support of his party’s arch rival, the UNP, and who whines about Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘diving the party’.   Is the section of the SLFP that he has some control over, the OSLFP, a solid political force?  If this is the case, then the march forcing it to strengthen ties with the UNP would amount to ‘consolidation’.  But the march clearly showed where the rank and file of the SLFP stands.  The louder they OSLFP diehards (and the likes of Jehan) shout about conjugal bliss and solidity of marriage, the less convincing it all sounds. 

All this is good news, probably, for the Mahinda camp.  It has to be bad news for those who truly believed the January 8 result would usher in a different way of doing things.  The generous thing is to put down the silence of such people to a sense of shame or helplessness.  The unpalatable truth, however, could be that they were never serious about ‘change’; they just wanted friends in power, never mind what they do and how they do it.  The verbal contortions that people like Jehan have been forced to indulge in demonstrate this. 

There’s one positive though.  The marchers did not get to undress the yahapaalanists.  The yahapaalanists stripped of their own accord. 


A version of this article was published on August 4, 2016 in the Daily Mirror under the title 'The March as a test of Yahapaalanaya'.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene.  Blog: malindawords.blogspot.com.

03 August 2016

“You didn’t err, we did!”

A senior editor of a well-known Sunday newspaper once told an interesting story about one of his former bosses.  At the time, our editor had been a cub reporter.  New to the job.  Handicapped by lack of experience.  He had made a mistake.  The Editor-in-Chief had called him to his office. 

The young man, naturally, had been very nervous.  He expected a admonishment or worse.  What really happened marked him forever. 

“We missed that story,” he began.  

The cub reporter was smart enough to note the ‘we’ of that statement.  It could have meant either ‘I missed the story’ or else ‘we, as a team, screwed up’.  Either way, the editor was essentially giving the young man a break.  He didn’t say ‘you missed the story’.   He could have, but did not. 

The cub reporter who rose to become the Editor-in-Chief of that very same newspaper related the story to his understudy.  The ‘understudy’ never forgot the story either. 

In this case clearly the cub reporter had erred.  It was his mistake.  The boss could have told him so.  The boss did not.  This is what he did instead.

“Let’s find a different angle.”

He wasn’t giving up.  The competing newspapers would have got the story that his reporter missed, but he was already thinking of doing something they wouldn’t have thought of. 

So they worked out a strategy.  They looked for some element that could be explored.  They generated a spin-off report the following day. 

That was a lesson in reporting.  It was also a lesson in taking responsibility.  For debacles.  Invaluable for rebels and especially rebel leaders. 

It is all about taking responsibility.   For debacles.  It is easy to pass the buck.  But there is more than one way of pointing out a mistake.  The editor who used ‘we’ instead of ‘you’ used such a method.  The cub reporter knew he had done something wrong but at the end of the day he not only knew what he should have done but what he should do to make the best out of a bad situation.  His boss didn’t harp on his chinks, but gently and firmly patched it up or polished the rough edges off, and in the matter of a few minutes made his a better reporter.  And the cub reporter passed the story on.  He must have learned something about leadership that day.  


*When I was working at 'The Nation' I wrote a column for the FREE section of the paper which was dedicated to youth.  The title of the column was 'Notes for a Rebel'.  I wrote a total of 52 articles in this series.  I have resumed by 'Notes for a Rebel', this time writing for the website www.nightowls.lk.  Scroll down for the other articles in this series on rebels and rebellion.




Other articles in this series



Whatever happens, keep your heart

Make sure you don't miss the bus! Revolution is a game, really Little things to matter

Think of roots and wings
T is for Trivial
Don't hold back when you groom The sun will never set

When the enemy expands consider inflation
When you are the last one standing
Targets visible and targets unidentified
When you have to vote
So when are you planning to graduate?
The belly of the beast is addictive
When you meet pomposity, flip the script
When did you last speak with an old man?
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion' 
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing 
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials
When the enemy is your best friend
The MSM Principle of Engagement
Dear Rebel, get some creature-tips!
Dear Rebel, get through your universities first
Read the enemies' Bibles
Poetry, love and revolution
Are you ready to shut down your petrol shed
The details, the details!
Know your comrades
Good to meditate on impermanence.
Time is long, really long
Learn from the termites 
Be warned: the first victory is also the first defeat
Prediction is asking for trouble
Visualize, strategize and innovate
How important is authority?
Don't forget to say 'Hello!'
It's not over until you clean up!
Have you met 'PB' of Alutwela?
Are you sure about those selfies?
Power and principles
'Few does not mean 'weak'