30 September 2016

සර්පයා සමග සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයමක

මීට වසර කිහිපයකට පෙර මා මිත්‍ර කේ.කේ.සමන් කුමාර (සර්පයා) මා සමග කළ සාකච්ඡාවක් (රාවය පුවත් පත සඳහා)

මේ වන විට ‘ද නේෂන් ’ පුවත්පතේ සංස්කාරකවරයා වන, ඉංග්‍රීසි මෙන්ම සිංහල යන ද්විභාෂාවෙන්ම කටයුතු කරන පුවත්පත් කලාවේදියකු , කවියකු හා විචාරකයකුද වන මාලින්ද සෙනෙවිරත්න සයිමන් නවගත්තේගමගේ අග්‍ර කෘතිය වූ සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා ඉංග්‍රීසියට නගමින් සිටින බවට රාවයක් පැතිර ගියේ බොහෝ කලක සිටයි.

සාහිත්‍යකාමී බොහෝ දෙනෙක් ඒ ගැන කතා කළේ ඉමහත් සොම්නසින්. එම පරිවර්තනයට හොඳම පරිවර්තනය සඳහා හිමි 2011 වසරේ ග්‍රේෂන් සාහිත්‍ය සම්මානය හිමිවුණා. මේ වන විට ඔහු මහගම සේකරයන්ගේ අග්‍ර කෘතිය වන ප්‍රබුද්ධ ආඛ්‍යාන කාව්‍යය ඉංග්‍රීසි බසට නගමින් සිටිනවා. සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා විශ්ව සාහිත්‍යයේ නිම්වළල්ල ඉහළින් නැකත් තාරුකාවක් සේ දිදුලන්නට පෙරුම් පුරනා මේ සුභ මොහොතේ අප මාලින්ද හමුවුණේ සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා පරිවර්තනය පිළිබඳ ඔහුගේ අත්දැකීම් බෙදා හදා ගන්නයි.

සර්පයා- මාලින්ද කොහොමද සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා පරිවර්තනය කරන්න පෙළඹුණේ, ඒක හදිස්සියෙ වෙච්ච දෙයක්ද, කාලාන්තරයක් තිස්සෙ වෙච්ච දෙයක්ද?...... ඇයි එහෙම පෙළඹීමක් ආවෙ?


මාලින්ද- ඕක අපේ ගෙදර තිබ්බ පොතක්. මොකද සයිමන් නවගත්තේගම මහත්තයා අප්පච්චිගෙ යාලූවෙක්. ඔය පොත තිබ්බා ගෙදර. පොත තිබ්බට මම කියෙව්වෙ නෑ. මට ඔය පොත ගැන තිබ්බ එකම මතකය තමයි අප්පච්චි දවසක් කිව්වා මට ‘මම මේ පොත කියෙව්වා ...මම පිටු විසිපහක් විතර කියෙව්වා ... මේකෙ නාගකන්‍යාවත් එක්ක තියන ගනුදෙනුව ...සංසර්ගය කියන කාරණය මේ තරම් ලස්සනට ලියලා තියනවා මම කොතනකවත් දැකලා නෑ’ කියලා.....‘කියවලා නැහැ’යි කියලා ‘...ඒක ඒ තරම් ලස්සනයි. එතනින් එහාට ඒක කියවන්න මට ඕනෙ කමක් තිබුනෙ නෑ’යි කියලා.

සර්පයා- මාලින්දගෙ තාත්තා කවුද?

මාලින්ද- අප්පච්චි ගාමිනී සෙනෙවිරත්න...එයා පරිපාලන සේවයෙ හිටපු කෙනෙක්. සිලෝන් සිවිල් සර්විස් එකේ රිටායර් වෙච්ච අවසන් එක්කෙනා. එයා ඉංග්‍රීසි සාහිත්‍යය තමයි විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙ ඉගෙන ගත්තෙ. ඉංග්‍රීසියෙන් කවි ලියලා තියනවා . පොත් කීපයක්ම පළ කරලා තියනවා. එක කාලෙක ඬේලිනිව්ස් එකට, ඔබ්සර්වර් එකට විචාර ලිපි ලියලා තියනවා නාට්‍ය ගැන එහෙම... නාට්‍යයක් බලලා ලූම්බිණි එකේ, නිහාල් රත්නායක මහත්තයගෙ ගෙදර ගිහින් විචාරයක් ලියලා තමා එන්නෙ. ....එහෙම කාලයක් තිබුණා එයාගෙ. එයා හැටේ හැත්තෑවෙ දශකවල සාහිත්‍ය සමාජෙ හිටපු කෙනෙක් ..........කොහොමහරි එච්චරයි මට ඔය පොත ගැන මතක . මම පොත කියවලත් නෑ. පස්සෙ මම ඇමරිකාවෙ පශ්චාත් උපාධි පාඨමාලාව කරද්දි.....

සර්පයා- මාලින්ද මොනවද පශ්චාත් උපාධියට කළේ ?

මාලින්ද- මම සමාජ විද්‍යාවනෙ කළේ ... සාහිත්‍යය නෙමෙයි. මං සාහිත්‍යය ඉගෙන ගත්තෙ ඒ ලෙවල්වලට. ඉංග්ලිෂ්  ලිට්‍රෙචර් කළේ ඒ ලෙවල් සෙකන්ඞ් ෂයි..

සර්පයා- මාලින්දත් ද්විභාෂික අධ්‍යාපනය ලැබුව කෙනෙක් නෙමේනෙ අපි වගේම . මාලින්දගෙ ඉංග්‍රීසි පවුල් පසුබිමින්ද හැදුනෙ?

මාලින්ද- ඔව් ගෙදර පසුබිමෙන්.....මම සිංහල මාධ්‍යයෙන් ඉගෙන ගත්තෙ. ඒ කියන්නෙ ඒ ලෙවල් කළේ සිංහල. කැම්පස් ගියාට පස්සෙ තමයි ඉංග්‍රීසි මාධ්‍යයෙන් ඉගෙන ගත්තෙ. හැබැයි ද්විභාෂිකව තමයි මං හැදුනෙ . ඒකෙත් පුදුම වැඬේ කියන්නෙ සිංහල සාහිත්‍යය හොඳට දන්න කෙනෙක් වුනත් අප්පච්චි පොඩිකාලෙ ඉඳන්ම වැඩිපුර මං එක්ක කතා කළේ ඉංග්‍රීසියෙන්. අම්මා ඉංග්‍රීසි සාහිත්‍යය ඒ ලෙවල් උගන්නපු කෙනෙක් වුනත් අම්මා නැතිවෙන කල්ම වැඩිපුරම මං අම්මත් එක්ක කතා කරන්නෙ සිංහලෙන්..... මව් භාෂාව කියන්නෙ.... ඒක නිසා වෙන්න ඇති.

සර්පයා- මාලින්දගෙ යුනිවර්සිටි එක මොකක්ද?

මාලින්ද- මං පේරාදෙණියෙනෙ හිටියෙ. පේරාදෙණිය වැහුනනෙ... වැහිච්ච කාලෙ මට ශිෂ්‍යත්වයක් හම්බ වෙලා මම හාවඞ් විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙට ගියා. ඊට පස්සෙ ආයි ලංකාවට ඇවිල්ලා ගොවි කටයුතු පර්යේෂණ ආයතනයෙ කාලයක් වැඩ කළා ...එතනින් ඉන්ටඩික් වුණා. ඊට පස්සෙ මම ආයි ඇප්ලයි කරලා ඇමරිකාවට ගිහිල්ලා පීඑච්ඞී එකට හැදෑරුවා ... කොහොමහරි මම අන්තිමට හිටපු විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙ කෝනෙල් විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙ......එහෙ ඉගෙන ගත්තෙත් සමාජ විද්‍යාව.....ඒ කාලෙ... කෝනෙල් විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙ සිංහල උගන්නනවා . මමත් සිංහල ඉගැන්නුවා කාලයක් . ඒකෙ දකුණු ආසියාවෙ හොද පොත් එකතුවක් තියනවා පුස්තකාලෙ . කවදාවත් කියවන්න බැරිවෙච්ච සිංහල සාහිත්‍යයක් මට එතෙන්දි හම්බ වෙනවා . ඇමරිකාවෙ. ඒක හරි පුදුම දෙයක්. සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා මම දැකලා මං ඉතින් අරන් කියෙව්වා. ඔය කියවන අතරෙ ඒ කාලෙ ජර්මානු අධ්‍යයන අංශයෙ ජෙෆ් වේට් කියලා මහාචාර්යවරයෙක් ඉගැන්නුවා. ඒ පංතියෙ තේමාව තමා මාක්ස් , නිට්ෂේ, ප්‍රොයිඞ්. පීඑච්ඞී ශිෂ්‍යයන් හැටියට අපිට තිබ්බෙ පොඩි අභ්‍යාසයක්. කියවන්න නියමිත පොත්, එදා දේශනේදි කියවෙච්ච දේවල්වලට, සාකච්ඡා වෙච්ච දේවල්වලට අදාලව සටහනක් කරගන්න. ජර්නල් එකක් වගේ තමයි පවත්වාගෙන යන්න තිබ්බෙ . ඔය පංතිවලට යන අතරෙ තමයි මම මේ සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ පොත කියෙව්වෙ.

සර්පයා- ඇයි ඒක කියවන්න පෙළඹුණේ?

මාලින්ද- නෑ ඉතින් මම නිකං කියෙව්වා. කියවද්දි...

සර්පයා- ඔය මොන අවුරුද්දෙද?
මාලින්ද- 1998දි විතර. කියවගෙන යද්දි එක දවසක්.... ඉතින් මේ අභ්‍යාසය කරන්න එපෑ . ජර්නල් එක ලියන්න එපෑ. මට මතක නෑ එදා සාකච්ඡාවෙදි කතා වුණේ මොකක්ද කියලා . නමුත් අර පොතේ තිබ්බා එක විස්තරයක් . ඒකෙ එක තැනක් තිබ්බා අර වැද්දෙක් ගැන කතාවක්.... වැද්දෙක්ට කවුද ඊතලේකින් විදලා ....කොහෙන්ද මේ ඊතලය ආවෙ....ඇයි මේ විද්දෙ, ඒ විෂට වැද්දා මැරෙනවා . මට ඒක එකතු කරන්න ඕනෙ වුණා මගෙ සටහනට. මොකද ඒක අදාලයි. ඒත් සිංහලතෙරෙන්නෙ නෑ අපේ මහාචාර්යවරයට. ඉතින් මම ඒක පරිවර්තනය කළා ඉංග්‍රීසියට. ඒක එච්චර අමාරුවක් වුණේ නෑ. ටක් ගාලා පරිවර්තනේ වුණා. එහෙම වුණ හින්දා මම හිතුවා මේක පරිවර්තනය කරන්න පුලූවන්ද දන්නෑ කියලා. මං මුල ඉඳලා පරිවර්තනේ කරන්න ගත්තා. මම එක දිගට කොහොමහරි පරිච්ෙඡ්ද දෙකක් විතර පරිවර්තනේ කළා ඒ දවස්වලම. මම ඒක ඊමේල් කළා ලියනගේ අමරකීර්තිට. එයා ඒ දවස්වල විස්කොන්තින්වල පීඑච්ඞී එක කරනවා. එයා මාව උනන්දු කළා මේක දිගටම කරගෙන යන්න කියලා. ඒ කාලෙ දිවයිනටත් ලිපියක් ලියලා තිබුණා ලංකාවෙ විශ්ව විද්‍යාලවල ඉංග්‍රීසි අංශවලින් උපාධිධාරියො කොච්චර එළියට දානවද, එක පරිවර්තනයක්වත් කරන්නෙ නෑනෙ කියලා. එයා ස`දහන් කරලා තිබුණා එයා මාව මේකට උනන්දු කළා කියලත්. මාලින්ද සමාජ විද්‍යාව හදාරන්නෙ. අනිත් එක එයා ඉගෙන ගත්තෙ ලංකාවෙ විශ්වවිද්‍යාලෙකත් නෙමේ ...ඔන්න ඕවගෙ කතාවක්... ඉතින් මාත් මේක දිගටම කරගෙන ගියා. මාත් ඉතින් හරි කම්මැලි චරිතයක් . ඉගෙන ගන්න පොත් කියවන්න කම්මැලියි...කෙටිකතා එහෙම තමයි කියවන්නෙ. මං කැමතිත් කවි එහෙම ලියන්න. කම්මැලි හින්දද දන්නෙ නෑ. ලොකු පොත්වලට මං කැමතිම නෑ. මේක පුංචි පොතක්නෙ. කොහොමහරි කොයිම වෙලාවකවත් ඒක අමාරුවක් වුණේ නෑ. මං හිතන්නෙ ඒකට හේතුව .... හේතුවක් කියලා කියන්නත් බෑ. කොහොම හරි මං සිංහල සාහිත්‍යය එච්චර කියවපු කෙනෙක් නෙමේ. ලොකු පොත් නං මං කියවන්නෙම නෑ...... තේරෙන්නැති වචන මම වයිෆ්ගෙන් ඇහුවා. මොකද එයා පොඩි කාලෙ ඉඳලා සිංහල සාහිත්‍යය හොදට කියවපු, හොදට ලියන්න පුලූවන් කෙනෙක්. පළ වුණේ නැති වුණාට එයා පොඩි කාලෙ ඉදලම නවකතා එහෙම ලියලා තියනවා. ....කොහොමහරි ඕක ඉවර කර ගත්තා . ඉවර කරලා ඕක අමතක වුණා. ඊට පස්සෙ මම ලංකාවට ආවහම සයිමන් හම්බවෙලා පොත දුන්නා. 2000දි. ඒ කාලෙ තිබුණෙ ප්ලොපි ඩිස්ක්නෙ. පෙන් ඩ්‍රයිව් මොකුත් නෑනෙ. මම සොප්ට් කොපි එකයි ප්‍රින්ට් අවුට් එකයි දුන්නා. කොහොම හරි සයිමන් ඒක නැති කරගෙන . සොෆ්ට් කොපි එකයි ප්‍රින්ට් අවුට් එකෙන් තුනෙන් දෙකක් විතර නැති කරගෙන. කොපි එකක් මගෙ අතෙත් නෑ. සයිමන් ඒ කාලෙ කිව්වා ...හො`දයි, කරමු කියලා. ඊට පස්සෙ මම රස්සාවට ගියා. ඊට පස්සෙ අස්වුණා. ආයි ගොඩක් තැන්වලට ගියා. ඒ හැම තැනකින්ම එකේක ප්‍රශ්න උඩ මම අයින් වුණා. අන්තිමේ මම තීරණය කළා රස්සා කරන්න බැරුව ඇති කියලා මට. ඒ දවස්වල මම නිදහස් ලේඛකයෙක් හැටියට සතියකට ලිපි 11ක් ලියනවා.


සර්පයා- ඉතින් කම්මැලියි කියන්නෙ බොරුනෙ?
මාලින්ද- කම්මැලියි කියන්නෙ කියවන්නනෙ. ලියන්න කම්මැලි නෑ. දොස්තරලා ඉන්නෙ දවසට ලෙඞ්ඩු සිය ගානක් බලන. ගණිකාවො ඉන්නෙ දවසට මිනිස්සු දහයක් එක්ක විතර බුදිය ගන්න. ඉතින් මං සතියකට ලිපි එකොලහක් ලිව්වහම ඕක මහ දෙයක් නෙමේ. ලියන එක අමාරු වැඩක් නෙමේ මං කියන්නෙ. ඊටත් මට පුලූවන් දේනෙ. ඉතින් ඔහොම ඉන්නකොට ඔබ්සර්වර් එකේ රංග චන්ද්‍රරත්නයි ඉන්දීවරයි මට කිව්වා ලියන්න කියලා. මං ඇහුවා මේක පරිවර්තනේ කරන්නද කියලා. ඊට පස්සෙ පල්ලියගුරු මහත්තයාගෙන් පොතක් ඉල්ලලා මට දුන්නා . ඉතින් ඒ පොත හැම සතියෙම මම... බ්‍රහස්පතින්දට ඒක යවන්න ඕනෙ. බදාදට විතර උන් කෝල් එකක් දීලා මතක් කරනවා. ඉතින් කොහොමහරි ඕක ලියවුණා. මාස හයක් හතක් යනකොට වැඬේ ඉවර වුනා. මං දන්නෑ වඩාත් හො`දට ලියවුනාද කියලා ඔර්ජිනල් එක මගෙ අතේ නෑනෙ සයිමන් නැති කර ගෙනනෙ.

සර්පයා- ඒ පරිවර්තනයට හොදම පරිවර්තනය සදහා 2011 ග්‍රේෂන් සම්මානය හිමිවුණා?
මාලින්ද- ග්‍රේෂන් භාරකාරයෙන් දෙන සම්මානයක් ඒක.  එච්.ඒ.අයි. ගුණතිලක සම්මානය.  මං ගාව පෙළක් තිබ්බ නිසා මම පරිවර්තන අංශයට ඒකෙ ප්‍රින්ට් අවුට් එකක් අරන් යැවුවා.  ඒකට හොදම පරිවර්තනයට හිමි සම්මානය ලැබුනා.

සර්පයා- අපේ රටේ එකිනෙකට නොපෑහෙන විවිධ මතවාද, කල්ලි කණ්ඩායම්, ගුරුකුල ඒ කියන්නෙ ජාතිකවාදී, මාක්ස්වාදි, නූතනවාදි, පශ්චාත් නූතනවාදි, ප්‍රොයිඞ්වාදි, සාංදෘෂ්ටිකවාදි, බෞද්ධ වගේ විවිධාකාර න්‍යායවලින් දේවල් දකින හැමෝම සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ වි`දිනවා , විවේචනය කරනවා, කතිකා කරනවා. කොහොමහරි මේ හැමෝටම මහා පොදු සාධකයක් මේ පොතේ තියනවා. හැමෝටම කෑල්ලක් තියනවා. කෙලෙස් දඩයම් කිරීම, ආශයන් මර්ධනය, පුරුෂාධිපත්‍යය , ස්ත‍්‍රී පීඩනය, පවුලේ විකාශනය, පංති අරගලය ආදී වශයෙන් විවිධ කෑලි හැමෝටම තියනවා.

මාලින්ද- මට මතකයි 1996 -97 විතර මහගමසේකර ගැන වැඩ සටහනක් තිබුණා පේරාදෙණිය විශ්ව විද්‍යාලෙ. එතෙන්දි සමන් පුෂ්ප කුමාර හොඳ කතාවක් කළා. එයා කතා කළේ මහගමසේකර කාටද අයිති කියලා. එයා කිව්වෙ සමහර කට්ටියට මහගමසේකර මාක්ස්වාදියෙක්. තවත් අයට බෞද්ධයෙක්. ජාතික චින්තනකාරයන්ට එක තමයි ජාතික චින්තනේ. ඉතින් සේකරගෙ හැමෝටම කොටසක් තියනවා. මට අනුවත් ප්‍රබුද්ධ තමයි ජාතික චින්තනය. මම ප්‍රබුද්ධ පරිවර්තනය කරගෙන යනවා. මුලින් අවුරුදු ගානකට කලින් සේකරගෙ පුතා මට කිව්වා ඒක පරිවර්තනය කරන්න කියලා. මට ඒ වෙලාවෙ හිතුනා ඒක පරිවර්තනය කරන්න බෑ කියලා. ඒත් මං දැන් හිතනවා පුලූවන්. කියලා.....ෂේක්ෂ්පියර්ගෙ සමස්තය ගත්තහම හැමෝටම කොටසක් තියනවා.

ඉතින් ෂේක්ෂ්පියර්ත් එහෙමයි. ෂේක්ෂ්පියර්ව කියවන්න පුලූවන් රොමෑන්ටික් කියලා කෙනෙක්ට. ඒක පුරුෂ සමසරාගිකයි කියලා තවත් කෙනෙක් කියන්න පුලූවන්. මාක්ස්වාදී කියලා කෙනෙක් කියන්න පුලූවන්. තවත් කෙනෙක්ට ඒකෙ පංති අරගලය දකින්න පුලූවන්. මානවීය දේවලූත් තියනවා. ....මම ඔය තියරි වැඩිය කියවලා නැති නිසා භාෂාව බර වෙන කොට මට අප්පිරියයි කියවන්න. මම කියවන් නෑ. සමාජ විද්‍යාව පීඑච්ඞී එකට ඉගෙන ගන්න කාලෙත් මම කිව්වෙ මාක්ස් එංගල්ස් කළේ ලියුම් හුවමාරුවක්නෙ. ඒක කියෝලා මිනිස්සු ලොකු තියරියක් හදා ගත්තා මාක්ස්වාදය කියලා. අපිත් එහෙම කතා කර කර හිටියොත් හොඳයි නේද කියලා.

සර්පයා- හැබැයි සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයත් ඒ වගේ බර කෘතියක්නෙ...

මාලින්ද- මම කියන්නං ඒකෙ වෙනස. මම කියෙව්වෙ ඔය මොන කෝණයකින්වත් නෙමෙයි. මට ඒක කතාන්දරයක්. කතන්දර තියෙන්නෙ... දුවන රැවුල වගේ. දුවන රැවුලටත් මාක්ස්වාදී අර්ථකථනයක් දෙන්න පුලූවන්නෙ ඕන්නං. මම කියපු අර මහාචාර්යවරයා කිව්වා ඔබ ඕනැ ප්‍රශ්නයක් ඇහුවොත් මට පුළුවන් ප්‍රොයීඩියන් අර්ථකථනයක් දෙන්න, ඕනෙනං මාක්ස්වාදී අර්ථකථනයක් දෙන්න, නියෙට්ෂියානු අර්ථකථනයක් දෙන්න .... ඉතින් අපිට ඕනෙම විග්‍රහයක් කරන්න පුලූවන්. බෞද්ධ විග්‍රහයක් කරන්නත් පුලූවන්. වැලි කැටයක විශ්වය දකින්න පුලූවන් නම් ඕනෙම දේක ඕනෙම දෙයක් දකින්න පුලූවන්. මේ ලෝකෙ රූපකවලින් පිරිලා, හරි පෝසත් . වචන ටිකක් දන්නවා නම්, භාෂාව හසුරුවන හැටි දන්නවා නම් මේක අසීමිතයි. ලියන එක අමාරු නෑ. මේක මගෙ කම්මැලිකමත් නොතේරුම් කමත් වෙන්න ඇති. නමුත් මේක තමා මට සැප. අපි සැපනෙ ගන්නෙ හැම දේකින්ම. බුද්ධාගම ගත්තත් ජාතක කථා මට ලස්සනයි අභිධර්මෙට වැඩිය. ඉතින් මම සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයත් කියෙව්වෙ කතන්දරයක් හැටියට. කතාන්දර අහන්න ආසයි මම. කියවන්න ආසයි. අපි ගන්න ප්‍රමාණය අඩු වැඩි වෙනවා ඇති ඒ හින්දා අපි අධ්‍යයනයක යෙදිලා නැති නිසා. මම සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා කියෙව්වෙ ඔය එක කෝණයකින්වත් නෙමෙයි. මේක ලස්සන කතන්දරයක්. මගෙ අවධානය රඳවා ගන්න සමත් වෙච්ච ආඛ්‍යානයක්. මුල ඉඳලා අගට. මේක හරි රහයිනෙ කියවන්න. ඉතින් මං කියෙව්වා . මම මං දන්න භාෂාවෙන් ඒක පරිවර්තනේ කළා. මම බැරි වෙලා හරි මාක්ස්වාදී දෙයක්ද මේ කියලා හිතුවානං .........මට ඔය එක දර්ශණයක්වත් ලොකුවට ඔලූවෙ තිබුන් නෑ. බුද්ධාගම තිබ්බා බුද්ධාගම තිබ්බ නිසා එකක්කත් බරට ගත්තෙ නෑ. බුද්ධාගම මට අලූත් ඔය අලූත් කියන සේරටම වැඩිය. බුද්ධාගමට ඇලෙන්නෙ නෑනෙ. තියනවා තමයි. ඉතින් තිබ්ච්චාවෙ. මහ දෙයක්ද? අපි ඉමු. ඉතින් මට ඒ කෘතිය තුළ අඩංගු දාර්ශණික දහරාවන් මට පෙනුන් නැති වෙන්න පුලූවන්. පෙනුනත් ඒවට ඇලූන් නැති වෙන්නත් පුලූවන්. ඔය දෙකින් මොකක්හරි දෙයක් නිසා මම මේක කතන්දරයක් හැටියට ගත්තෙ. කතන්දරයක් හැටියට මම ලිව්වා. ඉතින් මේකෙන් ලොකු දෙයක් ඔයාට ගන්න බෑ ඒ අර්ථෙන් ... ගන්න මනුස්සයා තමන් ඉන්න තැන ඉ`දලා ඒ ඕනෙ දෙයක් ගනී. ඕනෙම දෙයක් අපිට කියන්න පුලූවන්නෙ. මේ ගිනිපෙට්ටිය අපිට මාක්ස්වාදයෙන් විස්තර කරන්න බැරි නෑනෙ. මේකෙ ගිනිකූර තියනවා, ගිනිපුපුර තියනවා, ඉස්ක්‍රා තියනවා.... මොනවද කියන්න බැරි දුම්කොල සමාගම තියනවා, ධනවාදය තියනවා. ඒ එක්කම අනිත්‍යය තියනවා. ඇතිවීම නැතිවීම . සංගීතඥයෙක්ට මේක සංගීත භාණ්ඩයක්. ඒ වගේම තමයි පොත.


සර්පයා- බුදුදහමේ සැරියුත් මුගලන් හරහා නියෝජනය වූ ශ්‍රද්ධා මාර්ගය හා ප්‍රඥා මාර්ගය හීනයානය හා මහායානය වශයෙන් ධ්‍රැවීකරණය වුණා. කලාව තුළත් මෙම මාර්ග දෙකම දක්නට තිබෙනවා. හදවත ඔස්සේ බුද්ධියට වගේම බුද්ධිය ඔස්සේ හදවතට යනුවෙන් මාර්ග දෙකක් හැමදාමත් කලාව තුළ ශ්‍රද්ධා මාර්ගය හා ප්‍රඥා මාර්ගය අනුව පැවතුණා. ගෑනු ගත්තත් එහෙමයිනෙ. අපිත් එහෙමයි. සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා අයත් වන්නේ මහායානික ප්‍රඥා මාර්ගයට වගේම කලාත්මක තාක්ෂණය අතිනුත් ප්‍රඥා මාර්ගයට. හුදී ජන පහන් සංවේගය උදෙසා කිව්වට එහෙම වුණේ නෑ. ජයසේන ජයකොඩි නියෝජනය කළේ ශ්‍රද්ධා මාර්ගය. හෙළ උරුමය පූජනීය දේශපාලනයක් උදෙසා කියන සටන් පාඨය යටතේ තම දේශපාලන ව්‍යාපෘතිය තුළ ජයසේන ජයකොඩිව ඔසවා තැබුවා. ඔබ ප්‍රඥා මාර්ගික සාහිත්‍ය කෘතියක් ඉංග්‍රීසියට හඳුන්වා දුන්නත් ඔබ හිතවත්ව කටයුතු කළේ ශ්‍රද්ධා මාර්ගය ජනප්‍රිය භක්ති මාර්ගයක් බවට පත් කළ ජාතිකවාදී දේශපාලන ව්‍යාපෘතියක් සමගයි.

මාලින්ද- මම ජයසේන ජයකොඩිටත් කැමතියි. ඒ කැමති ඔය දෙකම හින්දා නෙමෙයි. මට ඔය දෙක පේන්නෙත් නෑ. ඒ මම සාහිත්‍යය අධ්‍යයනය කරලා නැති හින්දා වෙන්න ඇති. මම ඔය කියන න්‍යායික දේවල් පරිශීලනය කරලා නැති කෙනෙක් හැටියට වෙන්න ඇති. මට කතන්දර හැටියටයි පේන්නෙ.

සර්පයා- ඒ දෙකෙන්ම දැනෙන දේ එකයිද? වීදාගම හාමුදුරුවන්ගෙන් රාහුල හාමුදුරුවන්ගෙන් දැනෙන දේ වගේ.

මාලින්ද- සයිමනුයි ජයසේන ජයකොඩියි දෙන්නෙක් වගේම සයිමන්ගේ අර පොතයි මේ පොතයි දෙකක්. සමපාත වෙන තැන් ඇති. ඉතින් හැම තිස්සෙම විවිධයි. හැබැයි මේ හැම දේකින්ම මට දැනෙන්නෙ මේ ජීවිතේ මොනතරම් සුන්දර දෙයක්ද කියලයි. මේ හැමදේකින්ම මට හැමවෙලාවෙම ලැබෙන දේ තමයි පුද්ගල සම්බන්ධකම් කියන්නෙ මොනවද, මනුස්ස ස්වභාවය කියන්නෙ මොකක්ද? පොඩි පොඩි දේවල් ටිකක්නෙ මම එකතු කරන්නෙ. සයිමන් සීයක් දේවල් කියලා ඇති. මට ලැබිලා තියෙන්නෙ හතරක් වෙන්න ඇති. හැබැයි මේ හතර මට ආලෝකයක් වෙනවනෙ . මං සතුටු වෙන හතරක් තියනවනෙ. ඒ මට ඇති. සියල්ලම කෙනෙක්ට ගන්න බෑ. බුදු දහමත් එහෙමයි. බුදුන් කීවෙත් තම තම නැණ පමණින් වටහා ගන්න, බැරි ටික අත අරින්න කියලයි.


සර්පයා- සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා වගේ බරපතල කෘතියක් පරිවර්තනය කරන එක ඔබ ඔය කියන තරං හෑල්ලූ වැඩක්ද? ඉංග්‍රීසි දන්න පලියට නිකම්ම කතන්දරයක් හැටියට වචනවලට ගැනීමක් විතරක්ද එතකොට ඔබේ මේ වැඬේ?

මාලින්ද- කොහෙත්ම නෑ. ඔය කියන සකලවිධ න්‍යායයන් පැන නගින්නෙ කතාන්දරයෙන්නෙ. ඕවා අර්ථ කථන. ඒ කතාන්දරය පැන නගින්න බලපෑ අර්ථ කථන ඇති. ඒවා කතාව ඇතුළෙ ඇති. මම ඒ යම් අර්ථකථනයකින් මේ පොත පරිවර්තනය කළා නම් වෙන්නෙ ඒක තනිකරම මගේ කතාවක් වෙලා අනිත් අයගෙ කතාවලට ඉඩක් නැති වීම. ඒකයි මම අදහස් කළේ.

මට අනුව සතිපට්ඨාන සූත‍්‍රයෙන් මට සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ දඩයක්කාරයා අර්ථකථනය කරන්න පුලූවන්. තැනක් තියනවා කිරිල්ලි පැටවුන්ට කෑම කවනවා. එක පැටියෙක් දුර්වලයි. කෑම කන්න තර`ග කරන්න බෑ අනිත් පැටව් එක්ක. කිරිල්ලිගෙන් අසාධාරණයක් වෙනවා කියලා දකින දඩයක්කාරයා කිරිල්ලිව මරලා දානවා. ඊට පස්සෙ පැටව් ටිකට තමන්ගෙ අතින් කෑම කවන්න හදනවා. ඒක අසාර්ථක වෙනවා. ඊට පස්සෙ දඩයක්කාරයා කුරුළු පැටව් ටිකත් මරලා කන්දෙන් පහළට වීසි කරලා දානවා. කූඩුවත් කඩලා කන්දෙන් පහළට වීසි කරනවා.

කළ යුතු දේ කරන්න දඩයක්කාරයා හදනවා. බැරි වෙනවා. අත ඇරලා දානවා. ඒකට ඇලීමක් නෑ. තව තැනක් තියනවා හාමුදුරුවන්ගෙ මූනෙ ඇඹලයෙක් යනවා. දඩයක්කාරයා ඌව අල්ලට අරන් මරලා දානවා. හාමුදුරුවො කියනවා ඒ සංසාරේ පුරා තමා පසුපස එන, පෙර ආත්මවල තමාගෙ ඇඹෙනියක්ව උන් ගැහැණියක් කියලා. ඌ මූන පුරා යද්දි හාමුදුරුවො වෙහෙසකට පත්වෙනවා. ඌව මරලා දාද්දි හාමුදුරුවන්ගෙ මූනෙ ගොඩාක් වයසට ගිය බවක් ඇති වෙනවා. ඒකෙන් පස්සෙ හාමුදුරුවො අවබෝධය ලබා ගන්නවා. නිර්වාණය ලබා ගන්නවා. පරිනිර්වාණයට පත් වෙනවා. කෙලෙස්වල ශූන්‍ය බව, සියල්ලේ ශූන්‍ය බව පසක් කර ගන්නවා. ඇඹලයාව මරන එක දඩයක්කාරයා කළ යුතු වූ දෙයක්. ඒක කරනවා. ඒත් ඇලීමක්, තැවීමක් නෑ. අල්ලා ගන්නේ නෑ. ස්පර්ශය තමා මැදුම් පිළිවෙත.

සතිපට්ඨානයෙ කායානුපස්සනා, වේදනානුපස්සනා, චිත්තානුපස්සනා, ධම්මානුපස්සනා කියලා අර්ථ දැක්වෙන්නෙත් මේක. පිළිකුල් භාවනාව කියන්නෙ ඒ ඇලීමක් නැති එක. නිවන් දකින්න අපිට මේ ජීවිතේ ඇතුළෙම පුළුවන්. එක තැනක මහා කාශ්‍යප හාමුදුරුවො අහනවා ඇවැත්නි තොප සුවසේ නිදා ගත්තහුද? කියලා . රහතන් වහන්සෙ කෙනෙක්ට ඒක අහන්න දෙයක් නෑ. එයා හැමදේම දන්නවා. මාර්ගපල අවබෝධ කරගත් කෙනෙක්. ඒත් අහනවා. ඒක සම්මුතියක්. චාරිත‍්‍රයක්. අමුතුවෙන් දැනගන්න නෙමෙය ඒ අහන්නෙ. අපි නාන්න යනවද කියලා අහන්නෙ. අවබෝධ කරගත්තත් මේ ජීවිතය තුළ අපට චාරිත‍්‍ර සම්මුති පිළිපදින්න වෙනවා. ඇලීමක් නෑ. දැඩිව ගන්නෙ නෑ.

සර්පයා- සංසාරාරණ්‍යයේ සඳදහන් වෙනවා මහා කාශ්‍යප හාමුදුරුවන් ගැන මුල්ලේගම පන්සලේ හාමුදුරුවන්ගෙ පරම්පරාවෙ හැටියට. ථෙරවාදයෙ අගසව් සැරියුත් - මුගලන් වුනාට මහායානයෙ ආනන්ද තෙරුන් සහ කාශ්‍යප තෙරුන්. මෙය මේ කෘතියට සම්බන්ධ වෙන්නෙ කොහොමද?

මාලින්ද- සයිමන්ට මහායානයෙ බලපෑම ඒකෙ ඇති. ඒත් මම ඒක ගැන ඒ තරම් හිතුවෙ නෑ. මේක ථෙරවාදයෙනුත් මහායානයෙනුත් එක වගේම කියවන්න පුළුවන්. මේක විවෘත පෙළක්. ඒත් සංසාරාරණ්‍යය අසබඩ එහෙම නෑ. ඒක ධර්ම කථාවක්. දේශපාලන ව්‍යාපෘතියක්. කෙලෙස් නසනවා කියන්නෙ හිස් බව අවබෝධ කර ගැනීමනෙ. ඇලීම නැති කර ගැනීම. ඒකෙ අමාරුම දේ තමා ‘මම’ කියන එකට තියන ඇලීම නැති කර ගැනීම. මට මේ පොත් එක්ක තියන ඇලීම නැති කර ගන්න පුලූවන් පොත් ටික විනාස කරලා දාලා. අයින් කරලා දාලා. ඒත් ‘මම’ කියන එක එක්ක තියන ඇලීම එහෙම නැති කර ගන්න බෑ. මෙතෙන්දි මහායානයෙන් වගේම ථෙරවාදයෙනුත් එක වගේම මේක කියව ගන්න පුළුවන්. අර්ථකථන කර තියා ගන්නවා කියන්නෙ පහුර කර තියා ගෙන යාමක්. මම මේ පරිවර්තනය කළේ එහෙම නැතිව. ඇලීමක් නැතුව. මට නැත්තං බෞද්ධ කියවීමක් තිබුණා. මම මේක හෑල්ලූවට , ලේසියට ගත්තෙ නෑ. කෘතිය එක්ක මගෙ පොර බැදීම අමුතුවෙන් පරිවර්තනයටම වෙච්ච එකක් නෙමෙයි. එච්චරයි.




ජායාරූප- නිලන්ත ගමගේ



29 September 2016

The quiet and shout of the racist label

Wigneswaran is ok, really!
The Chief Minister of the Central Province has stated that Hindu and Muslim encroachment as well as Christianization has to end.  Right now.  The Chief Minister of the Western Province, not to be outdone, has echoed the same sentiments.  Rev Galagodaththe Gnanasara Thero, pointing out that a) the archaeological record clearly indicates that the Northern and Eastern Provinces (along with the North Central and Uva) was the heartland of the island’s Buddhist heritage, and b) claims about such remains indicating a thriving ‘Tamil Buddhism’ are not substantiated even in the highly contentious and mythical narratives in recent Tamil literature, not to mention the strange lack of any significant Tamil treatise on Buddhist philosophy, has called for the immediate end to ‘Hindu Occupation’ of ‘Sinhala lands’.   

Well, the aforementioned Chief Ministers haven’t said anything of the kind.   Rev Gnanasara Thero, perhaps due to reduced circumstances, has been quiet for almost two years now and has not issued utter ultimatums.

But what if they did?  Let me repeat, what if they did?  What would be the response?  Well, we can make an educated guess from the kind of responses we’ve witnessed to any identity assertion by anyone calling himself/herself a Sinhala nationalist or a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist.  

Racist.  Communalist. Chauvinist. Religious Fundamentalist. War monger.  Anti-Peace trouble-maker.  Anti-reconciliation what-not.  Extremist. 

And who would respond this way?  Let’s not name names, but let us make a quick list of the main categories whose members can’t stop themselves from crying out ‘FOUL!’ if Sinhalese or Buddhists even suggest a historical audit regarding ethnic or religious communities, object to the bandying of myth as fact, or whispered, ‘we are fine with the use of terms such as multi-ethnic or multi-religious but would you mind trotting out numbers and percentages?’  

We have the liberals who chant “multi-ethnic, multi-religious” at the drop of a hat, call for the removal of clauses in the Constitution that they believe privilege Buddhism in word AND deed (tosh!).  We have self-labeled Marxists and Leftists who have long since abandoned class struggle and cling to those label perhaps to feel good about themselves even as they live political and personal lives that would make Marx turn in his grave. We have religious groups that call for a secular constitution, but who would never dare call the leaders of countries that are in name and practice theocracies based on their faith to do likewise. How could we forget those who draw salaries (big and small) from rights-advocating NGOs?  They, like the liberals and Marxists, would not be quiet.  

Certain diplomatic missions would not hesitate to issue statements expressing concern.  The US Embassy in particular will brief the Secretary of State in Washington.  The Under Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs would have something to say, if not then and there, sometime later, perhaps during an official visit or on the sidelines of some multilateral conference.  The UNHRC will make note and include it in the carefully written (so as not to displease the Big Boys and Girls in the rights-abuse business) essays read out twice a year, once in Geneva and once in New York.  The Secretary General of the UN might also jot it down.  Channel 4 might even do a documentary!  


Racist.  Communalist. Chauvinist. Religious Fundamentalist. War monger.  Anti-Peace trouble-maker.  Anti-reconciliation what-not.  Extremist.  That’s how it is.    A lovely vocabulary for worthies from the above mentioned categories to draw from.  As and when, let us add.
        
Now let’s take C.V. Wigneswaran.  But wait, let me insert a necessary parenthesis here.  

[Wigneswaran is a politician.  He has to worry about elections.  Politicians like to promise what is impossible to deliver.  They will pray on anxieties.  They know what herd instinct is.  They will conjure specters made for foreboding.   They will say ‘We will demand on your behalf’ and that’s a fail-safe strategy: if demands are granted they can say ‘we did it’ and if not they will up the ante (remember the ‘little now, more later’ strategy of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam’s Batakotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution, and how it snowballed into a 30 year long war that delivered nothing except electoral victories for various ‘moderate’ Tamil parties?).  Wigneswaran needs to get elected.  He will say and has said ‘any old thing’.]

The issue here is not Wigneswaran doing the political thing.  It is about describing what he says and does, or rather a manifest reluctance do so by the part of the liberals, ‘leftists’, rights-fascinated NGO wallahs, diplomats with tender dispositions that threaten to fall apart at the slightest hint of the slightest hint of prejudice, important ladies and gentlemen in diplomatic and UN circles and the ‘liberal’ media of the West.  

Nothing.  Well, next to nothing.  At best they will express ‘concern’ and at worst they will use the term ‘extremism’ which was what was reserved for the Grandmaster of Terrorism, Velupillai Prabhakaran.  Shall we call them hypocrites?  Noooo!  That would be rude, noh?  Shall we whisper ‘complicity!’  Noooh!  They are gentlemen and ladies, noh?  Shall we say, ‘humbuggery’?  No.  Let’s just say, ‘we know’.  That’s enough. For now. 

But there’s another (new) ploy.  It goes like this: ‘there’s no point calling people names, it doesn’t help.  It’s the communalists who use those terms and they are a small number of people anyway.  The majority (of Sinhalese and Tamils, for example) are not intolerant. When some extremist does/says extreme things, we only make it worse if we call them racists, communalists or chauvinists.’

Wonderful.  But when last did these noble-of-heart step out of their comfort zones to call out those who call out those ‘rabid, extremist, chauvinistic, communal-minded racists among the Sinhalese or Buddhists’? When did they say, ‘please, let’s not use such ugly terms; it won’t help but will only make things worse’?  

Wigneswaran will do his thing.  He plays the script to perfection.  No issue.  Expected.  He made a lot of noise.  “Well, Prabhakaran made a bigger noise”, did someone say? He was outshouted, however, by the liberals, leftists, well-meaning (yeah, right!) diplomats, some loud people in Geneva, New York and Washington DC, and some high-minded ‘journalists’ operating from the UK.  I guess that's why it's called 'deafening silence'.  I feel sorry for him.  Sorry for Wigneswaran, that is.  


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

22 September 2016

The democracy deficits within

They have more to contemplate than the Joint Opposition!
Politics is about power. Rhetoric is frill. Objection on grounds of morality, unconstitutionality, illegality etc., with chest-beating to accompany the uttering of terms such as good governance, democracy, accountability and transparency, amounts to ‘necessary drivel’. 

Indeed over-uttering has a way of not just devaluing the relevant notion but even prompt cynicism.  In the worst case scenario it can even come to mean the exact opposite.  ‘Good Governance’ is a case in point; the term has already become a joke and is in danger of being a synonym, paradoxically, for incompetence, same-old-same-old and the celebration of terrorists and terrorism.  

That said, even the most ardent critics of the yahapalana regime and even the greatest cynics of yahapalana-intent, must acknowledge that some things in this country have changed for the better.  Bad on development, atrocious on reconciliation, poor in making action match rhetoric over corruption and abuse of power, the yahapalana regime nevertheless has walked a few steps along the road to democratization.  Slow, yes; unsteady, yes;  unconvinced/unconvincing, yes;  selective, yes; falling short of expectations by a mile, yes; and yet the steps are real.   

There’s no 20th Amendment (electoral reform) and local government elections have been postponed for purposes of political expedience, but we did get the (imperfect) 19th Amendment.  The FCID is, according to legal experts, illegal and yet there’s space for those hauled up for interrogation to come out and lambast the process and the institution.  Suspected wrongdoers of the previous regime have been lined up for questioning, but they have also had the option of appealing and obtaining relief on occasion.  Yahapalanists suspected of worse misdeeds are kept safe but then again slowly but surely a culture of apprehension is spreading among politicians.  A good sign, certainly.   

One might dismiss these signs as being typical of the early-days honeymoon following electoral victory, but with the 19thand the Right to Information Act in place the Government has certainly done away with safeguards previously available for errant politicians.  

All this and more was to happen in 100 days from January 8, 2015.  Almost 600 days have passed.  Democratization is slow and the speed or rather its lack cannot be blamed on politicians alone.  Intent and drive notwithstanding, a country with an anti-democratic political culture and one where the mandated righters of wrongs are themselves ignorant, incapable and corrupt, a few good people or rather a bunch of bad people who are occasionally good can only do so much.

In other words, we should look at the bright side and breathe deep (while we can).  

The Democracy Project, if you will, has at its helm politicians and political parties that are high on rhetoric and low on implementation; they are incompetent for the most part, good intention notwithstanding.  Therein is the danger for the yahapalana project; the danger from within that is.  Without, of course, there’s the Joint Opposition standing in the wings and ready to gather discontent.   That’s a political issue about power and has little to do with good or bad governance, especially since the yahapalana discourse is a) largely foreign to the voters and b) the voters are pretty well educated about politics and politicians – they know what they can get and what they will not.  

Dealing with the ‘outside threat’ (less to yahapalanaya than to yahapalanists) will have to be about bread and butter issues, development, keeping inflation under control etc., etc.  The length traveled on the road to democracy is not exactly a winning slogan.  Unfortunately, one might add.   Ironically, though, if the bade-prashnaya or the issue of the stomach (as metaphor for the tangible material minimum) is not resolved the political rug could very well be pulled from under the Democracy Project.  The same people that voted for a more democratic regime will quickly ask for a strong (read, tyrannical) leader.  That tyrant-in-waiting, could be resident in the Joint Opposition or in the UNP or the SLFP, let us not forget.  

This is why the architects and drivers of the Democracy Project would do well to do a reality check on things closer to home; in short, their own parties.  When dissent (for whatever reason) rises and yahapalana rhetoric becomes hollow it would be silly to say ‘Mahinda put is in this mess!’ and even more silly to get the rank and file to talk yahapalana-lingo.  The reason is simple: the major political parties are democratic only in name.  In constitution, operation and culture they are anything but!  

It is time that the SLFP and UNP seriously subject themselves to the reforms they advocate for the country, not just to salute the adage ‘charity begins at home’ but for purposes of political expedience.

They can go slower on the party road than they have on the nation-road in the quest for democracy but things can change and when they do they can change pretty fast.  When ‘the enemy’ is not only outside the doors of the party headquarters but are sitting pretty inside, edifices so necessary to sustain a reform project that is inherently weak can crumble. 

Neither the SLFP nor the UNP can effectively argue that the parties are places where democracy reigns.  A secret vote on the matter will result in the edification and thereafter the disillusionment of optimists.  No one is saying ‘physician heal thyself!’ or ‘practice what you preach’.  Not yet.  It could come to that but it need not.  Indeed, if it does come to that, it may be already too late. 

21 September 2016

The Malwatte Mahanayake Thero and yahapalana devolution machinations

The Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter of the Siyam Nikaya, the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero was spot on about proposals to change the constitution.  The Venerable Thero is reported to have observed the following: ‘Causing unnecessary fear among the people on the Constitutional proposals and then saying tall tales is unacceptable and unhealthy.”

Correct.

The observation had been made to a delegation of the National Freedom Front (NFF) which included Wimal Weerawansa.  The Venerable Thero had further informed the NFF that “President Mairthripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had assured him that any proposal that encourages separatism won’t be included in the Constitution.”

If the word of politicians is what has prompted the Venerable Thero to chide the NFF it is  indicative of an innocence about the ways of the prthagjana at odds with the erudition expected of a Mahanayake.   

The Constitution, after the illegal and preposterous (given history as well as demographic, geographic and economic reality) imposition of the 13th Amendment is in fact a document that is unitary in claim but federalist in effect.  

To this day neither the President nor the Prime Minister has mentioned the rectification of this error when speaking of constitutional reform.  Assurances on the non-inclusion of anything that encourages separatism, therefore, can only be purchased by the politically naive.  Add to all this the various ‘reports’ crafted by federalist cheerleaders of this Government and there is ample reason for concern, even if one were to dismiss the NFF’s ‘fears’ as being wrought of political rather than ideological preferences.  The better audience for the Mahanayake Thero’s remarks is therefore not the NFF but the assurance-givers.  

Let’s make it clear — this constitution certainly does need reform and not only because of atrocious pieces of legislation such as the 13th Amendment and the carelessly written 19th Amendment.  With the proposed 20th Amendment (on Electoral Reform) turning out to be yet another empty election pledge, a complete overhaul is better than any tweaking by politicians who have amended for self interest on 15 occasions (the 6th was an exception but one that was subverted by the Delhi-imposed 13th; the 17th was an incomplete corrective effort as was the 19th).  

The entire exercise has been framed by the need for reconciliation among various communities, a laudable project but one which has unfortunately been hijacked by individuals and groups so fixated by a particular narrative (Eelamist) due to manifest antipathy to all things associated with Sinhala and Buddhist, and (therefore) a clear privileging of myth over history, fiction over reality.  

What we’ve seen so far is an effort by the Yahapaalanistas to market their preferences after what was essentially an eye-washing, legitimating exercise of gathering a range of opinions on these matters.  It offers a veneer of democratic discussion but the intent and machinations are quite visible.  Interestingly it is the absences in the entire exercise that reveals most.

If constitutional reform is about addressing anomalies and relevant grievances then it has to be preambled by an enumeration of these.  Such an enumeration must be weighted with evidence.  Drop substantiation and you get political rhetoric.  Only aberrations that can have serious repercussions including the subverting of the stated intent of reconciliation can result from this kind of planned carelessness in constitutional drafting.  Throw it into a vote and a defeat is most likely; a defeat will open another can of worms which these very architects will describe as ‘Sinhana-Buddhist Majoritarianism’ (or worse!).  

There are basics that have to be adhered to and the yahapalanistas are deliberately dodging.  Reform should ensure a better and more efficient system for both the democratic airing of grievances and the effective addressing of the same.  Basic.  Whatever grievances there may be, their resolution should be appropriate.  For example, it is clear that legislation exists for resolving language-related issues but there are more than hiccups in implementation caused in part by the lack of political will and the absence of resources including human resources, which in turn indicate insufficient training.  There are many such grievances that have been articulated which can effectively be resolved by the effective decentralization of administration.  

The more complex grievances.  These have often been coupled with aspirations for reasons of ‘political expedience’ that ironically result in both the grievance baby being tossed out with the aspiration bathwater.  A sense of belonging and ownership in the nation, for example, that goes beyond the petty arguments over national anthem and national flag, need to be addressed.  It’s here that the contentions are mostly resident and it is the machinations related to this particular issue that gives rise to concerns or even fears, to use the word of the Venerable Mahanayaka Thero.  This is where we see a continuing of the season of pernicious myth-modeling and ‘solutions’ proposed based on these.  ‘Devolution’ is the answer, we are told by the Yahapalanists.  

Any devolution that seeks to address a belonging-deficit based on ethnic identity must assume several things.  The vast majority of the particular community that is aggrieved should live in an identifiable, distinct geography.  Not so in the case of any community living in Sri Lanka.  Devolution OUT on this criteria.  Secondly, the claim of historical habitation and therefore traditional/historical homeland, should be substantiated.  The evidence shows that at best it is a highly decorated narrative and one that comes with aspirations that are best described as a land-grabbing exercise.  Devolution OUT on this criteria as well.  

Devolution cannot be at odds with national development objectives.  The key elements of the devolution discourse certainly run counter to economic logic.   It can be argued that what the state does is in effect getting the Western Province to subsidize the other provinces, considering wealth-creation.  You can devolve power but if you do that you cannot at the same time have the state play Robin Hood or Saradiel. Only a re-demarcation of provincial boundaries would satisfy this particular criteria.  Yahapalanist devolution OUT on this.  

There’s history.  There’s national security.  There is the context of virulent chauvinism by parties that were aligned with a bunch of terrorists and still celebrate the fact.  That ‘context’ does not exactly make anyone salute Yahapanalist devolution proposals.  Devolution OUT on account of context, therefore.    

It is the absence of this ‘basics’ in the Yahapalana ‘reconciliation’ narrative that generates concern about constitutional reform.  This is exactly why this exercise can further distance and not reconcile  communities that mistrust and fear one another.  It will not deliver ‘belonging’ or ‘ownership’ but could very well create further tensions, not to mention a sense of deliberate and constitutional un-belonging of a kind that groups such as the NFF have picked up on.   

The Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter of the Siyam Nikaya, the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero is correct, let us repeat.  It is unacceptable and unhealthy to cause unnecessary fear among the people with respect to constitutional reform and also to churn out tall tales.  The Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero should convey this to the Yahapalanistas, I offer, most respectfully.

10 September 2016

The planetary preferences of yahapalana apologists

A self-proclaimed Marxist recently listed 12 things that the Yahapalana Government cannot achieve.  He should have put it this way: ‘should but cannot achieve’.  As someone who once said ‘we must hope that the Government will not defeat the LTTE’ when the latter’s invincibility braggadocio was being put to the sword, so to speak, his support for the yahapalanists is understandable.  In fact he throws in a tired caveat by way of protecting the everything-but-yahapalana regime: 

“All this is not the responsibility of government alone. Religious bodies, public opinion and parents of young people can help, but some like the BBS are a part of the problem not the solution. Recently the Cardinal (an outright Mahinda man) strayed, with political objectives, into matters he does not know the foggiest about.”


The man implies he knows the foggiest about religion, constitutions and reform of the same, policy prerogatives in times of economic stress, crime prevention, counter-corruption measures, responsible media practices, power and energy, judicial procedure, and even stuff like road behavior, ragging in universities, the importance of English and even how to develop public consciousness.  He bemoans that political commentators harass readers with should-do lists which he dismisses as ‘splendid stuff IF only we lived on another planet’.  His list, which is of a should-do-but-cannot kind, is essentially yet another should-do list; only, he discusses the ‘why’ of the ‘can’t-do’, which is at best a convoluted apology for the can’t-do-anything yahapalanists.  

He is not alone (and neither is he part of a massive crowd) in all this.  There are many such geniuses who screamed in horror at the slightest anti-democratic act of the previous regime who are blushing beetroot red over the daily dose of embarrassment slapped on their faces by the yahapalanists. Poor them.  The man in question with his sad apology for yahapalana inadequacy and impotence is but an example.  A lengthy comment on the Central Bank bond issue fiasco perhaps helps him deal with the discomfort of an apologist but for our purposes the should-do list should do.  

Here’s what appears to be the main elements of angst, aptly placed at the top of the list: 1) Redefine the state in Lanka as a secular state, and 2) Provide substantial devolution to the minorities to run their own affairs.   The list comes with a preamble which not surprisingly focuses only on these: “It is dim-witted to award Buddhism (or any religion) constitutional primacy; or to call Lanka unitary when the need is devolution.”

Since the notion on planetary realities and other-worldiness has been tossed into the discussion, one can legitimately ask ‘In which planet is there a perfect secular state?’  That is, a state which in constitutional text and in all the practices associated with the state does not privilege any religion over another?  And how on earth did ‘secular’ obtain some kind of god-given superiority over any other form?  On what basis are wits categorized as ‘dim’ and ‘bright’?  Does the pinning of a ‘dim-wit’ label on someone simultaneously confer ‘brightness’ on the dude that’s dishing out labels?  Could we say, for example, ‘only the dim-witted will talk about multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies without mentioning numbers and proportions’?  Or is that for ‘another planet’ because it upsets some so-and-so’s fragile sensibilities of propriety?  

The devolution call is even more hilarious. First we are told that it is dim-witted to call the country unitary when the need is devolution.  Then we are told, by way of the wistful wish-list apology, that substantial devolution should be provided to the minorities to run their own affairs.  

Now where do minorities in Sri Lanka live?  In clearly defined geographical areas?  Almost half the  Tamils, for example, live outside the traditional-homeland-map of Eelamist myth mongering that have been swallowed wholesale for reasons that are hardly innocent by devolution advocates.  The Muslims are not confined to such an area either.  So what is being advocated here — the corralling (in the  manner of the LTTE’s hostage-taking to forge a human-shield) of Tamils, Muslims and other groups into particular geographical areas so that they can ‘manage their own affairs’?  How about asking Tamils living outside the ‘traditional homeland’ (of Eelamist myth-mongering — yes, it needs to be repeated) for a show of hands with perhaps the additional ‘nationalistic’ impetus of ‘first go live there’?   


Can we now talk about other planets, i.e. not planets in which the wish-lists of the wishful-thinkers who are hard pressed to apologize for the yahapalanists can make some ground but rather planets they are probably inhabiting right now?

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

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.