22 June 2018

Cesspool or Cesspit: the Yahapalanists' Choice of Residence

Take a deep breath. Let it go. Suppress all urges to laugh your guts out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Have a cup of camomile tea. Think of the best joke you’ve heard so far. Think of Charlie Chaplin and other great comedians. Now read. 

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that her country would withdraw from the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). Calling the UNHRC ‘a cesspool of political bias,’ Haley explained the decision thus:

“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.’

The tutor and the tutored 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who appeared alongside Haley at a media conference held at the State Department said that the noble vision of the body notwithstanding, the US ‘needed to be honest’.  The ‘honesty’ he encapsulated in the following observation: “The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”

It is reported that Haley had Pompeo had explained that the decision came after “a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform and to remove member states that themselves commit abuses.”

Take the key words/terms used or implied here: hypocritical, self-serving, poor defender of human rights, dishonesty, shamelessness.  Which country do these words/terms describe best if not the United States of America? Cesspool indeed! They were spot on with that descriptive, only they used it on the UNHRC which, the world knows, was the USA’s baby all along.  Just like the UN, one might add, which is for all intents and purposes a creature of the USA.  

The UNHRC, ever since it was formed in 2006, and the UN in general have always treated with leniency the USA and the various war-mongering, rights-abusing blocs of countries it has led. ‘Leniency’ by the way is a generous term. When the USA wanted to censure any particular country or regime, the UNHRC turned itself into a cheering squad. 

The USA might not think of itself as the cesspit that it is, and indeed it might be so used to the stench that it has become oblivious to the bad odor.  Well, it is more likely that they knew, but didn’t believe that the world knew the stinking truth as well.  

Nevertheless it can’t be that Washington suddenly discovered a foul-smelling cousin. It can’t be that the likes of Haley and Pompeo woke up one fine morning and discovered that the UNHRC was bad. They must have known, especially since the resemblance between the USA and UNHRC was too close for anyone to see the two as anything but blood brothers, so to speak.  What happened was that self-interest was not served one fine day. Stuff didn’t go down the tube as smoothly as it had before. 

Put simply, the USA was rudely awakened and decided that the best way to counter punch was to throw at ‘the newfound enemy’ the terminology that was core to Washington-speak.

In fairness, though, they’ve done their part in ‘removing member states that commit abuses,’ simply by adhering to the dictum ‘charity begins at home’.  It won’t make the UNHRC fragrant, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. 

We need not go into all that. We can laugh our guts out.

What’s more important about this veritable cesspit calling the UN agency concerned a cesspool is where it leaves those who were practically swearing by both on things such as human rights, truth, peace, justice and reconciliation. There’s little that a cesspool can deliver except, well, a lot of gooey stuff that stink.  

And yet, for purposes of political expediency there were many who ran to Washington as though the Messiah lived there. They ran to the UNHRC as though it was made of squeaky clean saints. Many worthies in this Yahapalana Government took policy and political cues from the US Embassy in Colombo, which actually facilitated the funding of the Yahapalana election campaign. 

So, will the Yahapalanists stand with the cesspit (USA) or the cesspool (UNHRC) now?  Will they take the cue from the US Embassy in Colombo and echo the words of Haley and Pompeo?  Will they take a deep breath, bite their lips, play ostrich, and wait for the UN system to recover its sense of purpose (read ‘Washington/Tel Aviv agenda’)? 

Let us not forget that the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera went as far as co-sponsoring on behalf of Sri Lanka a resolution on (read, ‘against’) Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.  What does he have to say about a resolution spawned in a cesspool now, one must ask.  The Yahapalanists can navel-gaze and lapse into “mumblement” as it often does. They can play ostrich. They can get the US Embassy to write a ‘position paper’. That’s if they have any shame. Shameless as they are, there’s one thing they really can’t wash their hands off from: the fact that they were dipped head-to-toe in the UNHRC by the USA.  That’s a cesspool, according to Haley and Pompeo. The US Ambassador Atul Keshap is mandated to go with that description. 

One thing is clear. Yahapalanaya is not the perfume it was thought to be. It stinks. All doubts about the source of the stench can now be laid to rest. Haley and Pompeo have give us the names and the addresses. More importantly, we need to recognize that the US leaving the UNHRC cesspool doesn’t exactly clear the air that’s polluted by those who were born and bred in cesspools (or cesspits if you prefer the word).  Perhaps they’ll pack their bags and take the next flight to the USA.  Perhaps not.  If not, then there’s a choice before us: do we hold our noses for ever or do we take these people to the cleaners?

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

21 June 2018

ප්‍රථම ප්‍රේමය මිහිරියි

'උඹේ ප්‍රථම ප්‍රේමය ගැන ලියපන්.' යාළුවෙක් එහෙම කිව්වේ හොඳකට නෙවෙයි. එයත් දන්න මමත් දන්න මගේ පළමු ප්‍රේමවන්තිය ගැන ලිවීමෙන් බොහෝ දෙනෙක් අපහසුතාවයට පත්වෙන බව දැනගෙනයි එහෙම ඉල්ලීමක් කළේ. විශේෂයෙන්ම අපහසුතාවයට පත්වෙන්නේ මම. කොහොම වුණත් 'ප්‍රථම' කියන වචනය එක්ක පැටලෙන්න වෙනවා. පළමුවෙන්ම සම්බන්ධයක් නැත්තම් සිතක් ඇතිවන කෙනා ට ඇත්තටම ආදරේ කළාද කියන ප්‍රශ්නයට උත්තරයක් හොයන්න වෙනවා. ඒක පහසු වැඩක් නෙවෙයි.
ඒත් කොහොමහරි ප්‍රථම ප්‍රේමය ගැන ලිපියක් ලිව්වා. ලිව්වේ මම වැඩියෙන්ම ආදරේ කරපු පෙරපාසල් ගුරුවරිය ගැන. එහෙමයි ඒ ප්‍රශ්නේ විසඳගත්තේ.
ආදරය වගේ වචන පාවිච්චි වෙන්නේ සුලබව. අම්මටත් ආදරෙයි. අප්පච්චිටත් ආදරෙයි. දරුවන්ට, යාළුවන්ට, ඉස්කෝලෙට, ගුරුවරුන්ට වගේම පොත්වලට, කවිවලට, මතවාදවලට, ආගිය තැන්වලට, මතක සටහන් වලටත් ආදරෙයි. විටෙක සීතලට, විටෙක උණුහුමට ආදරෙයි. හුදෙකලාවටත් ආදරෙයි. නින්දටත් ආදරෙයි. ඔය විදිහට ආදරේ කළහැකි දේවල් සිය දහස් ගණනක් තියෙන්න පුළුවන්.
මේ හැම පුද්ගලයා සමගම, හැම දේ සම්බන්ධව ද සුන්දර මතක සටහන් තියෙන්න පුළුවන්. ඒත් හැම කෙනාම, හැම දේම අපේ සිතුවිලි පෝෂණය කරන්නේ නෑ, අපට ජීවිතයේ සියුම් තැන් පෙන්නලා දෙන්නේ නෑ, හොඳ-නරක කියල දෙන්නේ නෑ, අපව යහපත් පුරවැසියන් බවට පත්කරන්නේ නෑ.
'මිහිර' පත්තරේ ඒ අතින් වෙනස්. මිහිර පත්තරේ මට වඩා වයසින් අවුරුදු හතරක් විතර වැඩිමල්. මේ 'අයියව' මුලින්ම හමුවෙනකොට මට අවුරුදු හයක් නැත්තම් හතක් විතර වෙන්න ඕන. මිහිර අයියා අයියෙක් ම නෙවෙයි. වැඩිහිටියෙක්. කිරිඅත්තෙක්, කිරිඅම්මෙක්. මාමෙක්, නැන්දෙක්. වෙලාවකට යාලුවෙක්. තවත් වෙලාවකට යාලුවෙක්. ඒ වගේම ගුරුවරයෙක් වුන අවස්ථා බොහෝ තිබුණා.
ඒ කාලේ මට මිහිර පත්තරේ ඔය විදිහට දැනුණද කියල හරියටම කියන්න බෑ. නිශ්චිතවම කියන්න පුළුවන් දේ තමයි මිහිර පත්තරේ සමග දැඩි ආදර බැඳීමක් ඇතිවුණ බවයි. කාලෙන් කාලෙට 'හොඳම යාළුවා' ගේ නම වෙනස් වුණා. මිහිර එහෙම නෑ. යාළුවෝ තරහ වෙනවා ආයෙත් යාලු වෙනවා. ආයෙත් අමනාප වෙනවා. ලංවෙනවා දුරස්වෙනවා. මිහිර එහෙම නෑ.
දුක හිතුණ වෙලාවට, කම්මැලිකමක් දැනුණ වෙලාවට, ලෝකය ගැන රට ගැන අවට පරිසරය ගැන පොතපත ගැන හොයන්න කුතුහලයක් ඇතිවුණ වෙලාවට මිහිර උපකාරක මිතුරෙක් වුනා. දෙලොව ගැන ඒ කාලෙත් වැඩිය දන්නේ නැතිවුනත් මිහිර මගේ දෙලොව යහපත සඳහාම කැපවුන අර්ථඛ්යායි මිතුරෙක් කියලයි දැන් නම් හිතෙන්නේ.
මගේ සුව දුක තමන්ගේ සුව දුක හැටියට මිහිර සැලකුවා කියලයි හිතෙන්නේ. මිහිර මට රහස් කිව්වා, මගේ රහස් ආරක්ෂා කළා. කවදාවත් මාව අතරමං කෙරුවේ නෑ. සමාන සුඛ දුක්ඛ මිතුරෙක් ම වුණා. මිහිර මගේ දියුණුව ගැනම හිතුවා. පිරිහීම මගහරවන හැටි හෙමීට කියල දුන්නා. වැරදුණ තැන් නිවැරදි කෙරුවා. ඒ වගේ අනුකම්පක මිතුරෙක් මට ඉඳලම නෑ.
'වීක් ඩේස්, වීකෙන්ඩ්' ඒ කාලේ වැදගත් වුණේ නෑ. නිවාඩු කාලේ දවස් වලට නම් තිබුනේ නෑ. ඉස්කෝලේ දවස්වල කාල සටහනක් තිබ්බ නිසා දවස් වලට නම් තිබුණා. කාලසටහනේ වැදගත් ම කාරණය වුණේ ඒක අවුරුද්ද මුලදී මිහිර පත්තරෙන් නොමිලේ දුන්න පාට පාට කාලසටහනක් වීමයි. කොහොම වුනත් මට මතක මෙච්චරයි: සතියට වැදගත් කියල තිබුණේ එක දවසක් විතරයි -- සඳුදා.
ළමාකාලය අවසන් විය යුතු දෙයක් කියල මුලින්ම කිව්වේ කව්ද කියන්න මතක නෑ. එහෙම වෙන්න ඕනම නෑ කියල තේරුම් ගත්තේ අවුරුදු ගාණක් ගතවුණාට පස්සේ. අහිමිවුණ ළමයා නැවත ලබාගන්න එක වෙහෙසකරයි කියල ඒ එක්කම තේරුණා. මිහිරට ඒ විදිහේ ප්‍රශ්න තිබුනෙම නෑ. පාඨක අපට ළමයින් වෙන්න ඉඩ දීලා මිහිර දිගටම ළමාකාලය තුල නේවාසිකව හිටියා. 'දැන්වත් මිනිහෙක් වෙයන්!' කියල කව්රුවත් මිහිරට කිව්වේ නෑ. කිව්වත් මිහිර ඔය වගේ මෝඩ කතා අහන්න සූදානම් නැති බව මට විශ්වාසයි.
මිහිර ගැන බොහෝ අය බොහෝ දේ කියල ඇති. මට එක කතාවක් හොඳට මතකයි: 'අපට කියවන පිස්සුව පුරුදු කරපු පත්තරේ'. හරියටම හරි. බූ, බබා සහ තුල්සි. බටකොළ ආච්චි. ප්‍රහේලිකාව. ඉස්කෝල ගැන විස්තර, ඉතිහාසය, විද්‍යාව, ශ්‍රේෂ්ට නායකයින්, කලාකරුවන්, නිර්මාණකරුවන් ගැන මොනතරම් ඉගෙනගත්තද කියල හිතනකොට මිහිර කියන්නේ විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයකට පිවිසෙන්න උපකාරක පන්තියක්මයි.
මුලින් ලොකු අයියෙක්, ලොකු අක්කෙක්. ගුරුවරයෙක්, වැඩිහිටියෙක්. පසුව මිතුරෙක්. අහිංසකකම, ළමාකම නැවත ලඟාකරගන්න අවශ්‍ය නම් මිහිර-මතකය අවදි කරන්න විතරයි තියෙන්නේ. ඒ තරම් ලෙන්ගතුයි. ඒ තරම් ප්‍රේමණීයයි.
පෙරපාසල් ගුරුවරිය ගැන ලිපියේ මෙහෙම ලියවුනා: 'පළමු ප්‍රේමයත් අවසන් ප්‍රේමයත් එකමයි.' මිහිරියි. මිහිර ම යි.

"මගේ ඇස අග" තීරුවේ තවත් ලිපි
විප්ලවයේ ආරම්භය සහ අවසානය 
ගම සුජීලගේ, ගම හදන්නෙත් සුජීලා හොඳේ?
ලාස්ට් මෑන් හැව් චාන්ස්
සඳට නොලියූ කවියක් 
අහඹු පොතක අහඹු පිටුවක හමුවිය කවියක් අහඹුම නොවන'
මේවා මොන ජීවිත ද බං?'  

18 June 2018

Sujeewa Senasinghe and the politics of spectacle

Years ago, a young graduate made a very perceptive observation: ‘there are no wrongdoers in this world; everyone justifies what he or she does to him/herself, so in his/her mind he/she is innocent.’  

There would be exceptions of course. There are people who swear by the law and have the humility to be remorseful over transgressions, intended or otherwise. By and large, though, the contention is true. Self-righteousness bests humility, admission of error is akin to confession of murder. Humility is seen as a weakness, people think, and therefore fight tooth and nail to establish innocence.  They absolve themselves of wrongdoing be it petty theft, grand larceny or murder, be it a white lie or a barefaced lie, be it a simple transgression of norm or an aberration that is censured by one and all.  

We saw all this in the Derana ‘360 degrees’ program recently where Sujeewa Senasinghe was questioned by Chapa Bandara and Dilka Samanmali.   All three and their respective supporters/loyalists may very well have imagined that they won the day.  

This is not the place to dissect that debate and give marks to each of them for their performance in terms of expectations and perceived responsibilities. This is however a note about what’s not being said. 

Let’s get the facts out first. 

Sujeewa Senasinghe said that he communicated with Arjun Aloysius of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd (PTL) to obtain information for a book he wrote and published on the Central Bank bond issue. Some of the calls were made AFTER the book came out. Go figure!

Sujeewa Senasinghe said he would resign his parliamentary seat if it was found that he had received money from PTL. He did received money from PTL. He has not resigned. Go figure!

Sujeewa Senasighe earlier said he had his own wealth, that his family owned elephants and he had horses to ride on; he therefore didn’t need any contributions from anyone.  Sujeewa Senasinghe did receive money from PTL and, according to him, from others too. Go figure!

Sujeewas Senasinghe said that he had no inkling about the donor at the time the money was received. Some of the money however had been received AFTER the elections were done. Go figure!

Now for what’s missing in this drama. 

First of all, Sujeewa Senasinghe is not the only person who has received money from various sources to support a political campaign. Secondly, this is not the first time that an individual received money for a campaign.  Thirdly it is not only PTL that has pumped bucks into political campaigns. Fourthly, it is unlikely that PTL and Arjun Aloysius were the first entities under a could that gave money to politicians. Fifthly it is not only at election-time that politicians receive monetary gifts. Sixthly, Sri Lanka does not have any robust laws about campaign finance; nothing about transparency and accountability, nothing on full disclosure, and therefore it is not possible to track beneficiaries of policies or decisions to see if they were indeed being ‘repaid’ for ‘services rendered’. 

Then there is this question which no one seems to be worrying about: did Arjun Aloysius, either directly or through any company he’s associated with, help the parliamentary election campaign of the United National Party (UNP)? An attendant question would be, ‘has the UNP made public all accounts related to the party’s election campaign in mid 2015 and if not, why not?’ 

Again, that only tells part of the story. We should ask if other parties have come clean about who funded political campaigns and how much they pocketed out. We should then check back and trace the ‘return on investment’ as far as they are concerned.  

Instead, we have Sujeewa Senasinghe’s ‘media show’ where he rants, raves and says precious nothing about any of the issues raised above. Earlier we had Ravi Karunanayake doing the same. That’s old news. It’s no longer a story that titillates. Soon, Senasinghe will be ‘old news’. A new name would be tossed out. There will be a hue and a cry. There will be a ‘show’ if not on Derana TV, then some other channel. The relevant individual will rant and rave, as probably would the presenter(s). They’ll all believe they won the day.  The relevant TV station would see their ratings go through the ceiling. 

None of this will see systems being changed to ensure that people like Arjun Aloysius cannot purchase representatives and through them security.  

Where is the call for legislation? Where is the call for checks and balances? Why are the Yahapalanists not crying out in horror about the Yahapalana Government’s high and mighty shooting down their precious ‘winning idea,’ their fervent prayer and all that kind of thing? 

If you really want to know what all this is about, it’s simple. Replace the names of the men in question with some names from the previous regime, cross off ‘Ranil Wickremesinghe’ and replace it with ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa,’ erase UNP and instead call it ‘UPFA’  You’ll would hear a mighty roar of umbrage from multiple sources: academics, ‘civil society’ (sic) activists, the US Ambassador, the British High Commissioner and even people from Washington, New York and Geneva.  

That’s it ladies and gentlemen. This is a circus. A spectacle. Sujeewas Senasinghe is just one of many and he’s having a ball.The messiahs are pickpockets and brigands. The promised land is a cess-pit. 

Sit back. Enjoy the antics of the clowns. We might as well get a few laughs. 

14 June 2018

විප්ලවයේ ආරම්භය සහ අවසානය

ඒ වන විට 'භීෂණය' ජනගත වෙලා තිබුණේ නෑ. ඒත් පෙරනිමිති පහළ වෙමින් තිබුණා. ඒ භීෂණයේ මුල් අවධිය කියල කියන්න පුළුවන්. මතක හැටියට 1988 වසරේ සැප්තැම්බර් මාසයේ. පාසැල් ශිෂ්‍ය ශිෂ්‍යාවන් සහභාගී වුණ උද්ඝෝෂණයකට පොලිසියෙන් වෙඩි තියල නුගවෙල මාධ්‍ය මහා විද්‍යාලයේ අවුරුදු 15ක සිසුවෙක් මැරුණා. ඒ පිළිබඳව විරෝධය ප්‍රකාශ කරන්න පේරාදෙණිය සරසවියේ ශිෂ්‍යයින් මහනුවර පිකට් කෙරුව.
සුපුරුදු විදිහට පොලීසිය බැටන් පොලු ප්‍රහාරයක් දියත් කෙරුවා. පාරේ එක පැත්තක කඩ පේලියක්, අනිත් පැත්තේ තාවකාලිකව අටවගත්ත රෙදි කඩ. උද්ඝෝෂකයින් කඩවල් ඇතුලට රිංගුවා බේරෙන්න. පාරේ අනිත් පැත්තේ පෝස්ටර් උස්සගෙන හිටපු අයට දුවන්න තැනක් තිබුණේ නෑ.
කඩවල්වලට රිංගපු ළමයි උඩ තට්ටුවට ගිහින් සිද්ධිය බලාගෙන හිටියා. පාරේ එහා පැත්තේ ළමයිට අනුකම්පා විරහිතව පොලීසිය බැටන් පොලුවලින් ගහනවා.
විශ්වවිද්‍යාල සටන්වලට සම්බන්ධ වෙන්නේ ලොකු දේශපාලන දැනීමක්වත් මතවාදී කාරණා විශ්ලේෂණය කරලා සමස්ත සමාජ ආර්ථික දේශපාල වටපිටාව ගැන පුළුල් අවබෝධයක් ලබාගත් අයම නෙවෙයි. සටන සාධාරණයි කියල දැනෙන නිසා, යාලුවෝ සහභාගී වන නිසා, කළ යුත්තේ මෙයයි කියල පොදු මතයක් ඇති වෙලා තියෙන බව තේරුම්ගත නිසා වගේ සරල කාරණා පදනම් කරගෙන සටන් කරන අය තමයි වැඩිපුරම ඉන්නේ.
එවැනි කෙනෙක් එක්තරා කඩයක බැල්කනියේ හිටගෙන මේ පොලිස් පහරදීම් දිහා බලාගෙන හිටියා. ඒ තරුණයා දේශපාලනය ගැන කිසි දෙයක් දැනගෙන හිටියේ නෑ. දේශපාලනය ගැන කිසිම උනන්දුවක් තිබුණෙත් නෑ. එයා ආදරය කෙරුවේ කලාවට, විශේෂයෙන්ම සංගීතයට. සංගීත විශාරදයෙක්, ඒ කාලේ වෙද්දීත් විශිෂ්ට දිල්රුබා වාදකයෙක්.
'මේක වැරදියි මචං,' ඒ නිහඬ චරිතය එච්චරයි කිව්වේ.
ශිෂ්‍ය ව්‍යාපාරයටවත් ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණටවත් දේශප්‍රේමී ජනතා ව්‍යාපාරයටවත් මේ තරුණයා ඍජුව සම්බන්ධ නොවුණත්, පොදුවේ ආණ්ඩු-විරෝධී කුලකයට එකතු වුණා. යුක්තිය සාධාරණත්වය වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටියා. අවශ්‍ය තැන් වලදී බය නැතිව කතා කෙරුවා. විප්ලවවාදියෙක් නොවුණත් නායකයෙක් වුණා.
විප්ලව පටන් ගන්නේ එහෙමයි. තමන්ගේ පුද්ගලික අරමුණුවලට එහා දෙයක් දකින මොහොතක. පොදු බව ගැන අදහසක් ඇති වෙන මොහොතක. පහසු දේ වෙනුවට කළ යුතු දේ ගැන හිතන්න පටන්ගන්නකොට. බෙදාහන්න උවමනාවක් උපදින තැනක. මතුපිට තියෙන බොරුව විනිවිදින කවියකින්.
දේශපාලනය දන්න අය, අරගල කරන අය එකඟ නොවෙන්න පුළුවන්. මම කියන්නේ විහිළු කතා කියල හිතන්නත් පුළුවන්. 'විප්ලවය කියන්නේ තේ පැන් සාදයක් නොවේ' කියල කියන්නත් පුළුවන් මාඕ උපුටා දක්වමින්. 'අහෝ! කවි බිඳුවකින් හෝ ආදර බිඳුවකින් මෙලොව ඇති ක්‍රෝධය සමනය කරන්නට හැකි නම්! එහෙත් ඒ සඳහා දෘඩ හදවතම අවශ්‍යයි" -- කවියම විප්ලවයේ අවියක් කරගත් පැබ්ලෝ නෙරුඩා මෙහෙම කිව්වා නේ කියලත් කියන්න පුළුවන්.
ඒත් මේ කතා කරන්නේ විප්ලව ගැන නෙවෙයි, අරගලවල ඇරඹුම ගැනයි. කවියෙන් තෙත් කරන හදවත්වල වරද දකින්නත් එය නිවැරදි කරන්නත් උවමනාවක් අධිෂ්ටානයක් උපදිනවා කියල හිතෙනවා මට.
බොරිස් පැස්ටනැක් ගේ 'ඩොක්ටර් ශිවාගෝ' නවකතාවේ එක මොහොතක් මතක් වෙනවා. ශිවාගෝ විප්ලවවාදියෙක් නොවේ, කවියෙක්. ඔහු ආදරය කළේ ලාරා ඇන්ටිපොවාට. ලාරාගේ නිත්‍යානුකූල ස්වාමියා ස්ට්‍රෙල්නිකොව්. විප්ලවවාදියෙක් නමුත් බෝල්ෂෙවික් පාර්ශවයට විරුද්ධ වුණ කෙනෙක්. මේ දෙන්නා අහම්බෙන් මුණගැහෙන්නේ ශිවාගෝ, ඔහුගේ පවුල සමඟ යූරියැටින් බලා ගමන් කරද්දී. ඒ බව දැනගත් ස්ට්‍රෙල්නිකෝ 'යූරියැටින්?' කියා මුමුනන්නේ ලාරා එහෙ වෙසෙන බව දැනගෙන.
ශිවාගෝ එවිට ලාරා සමග යුධබිමේ තුවාල වුවන්ට ප්‍රතිකාර කළ බවත්, ලාරා පළමුවෙන්ම දුටුවේ ඊට අවුරුදු ගණනකට පෙර බවත්, ඒ මොහොතේ ස්ට්‍රෙල්නිකොව් ද ඈ සමඟ සිටි බවත් පවසන්නේ ඔවුන් දෙදෙනා ඒ අවස්ථාවේ දී අන් සියලුදෙනා ලැජ්ජාවට පත් කළ බවත් මතක් කරමින්.
ස්ට්‍රෙල්නිකොව් මොහොතක් නිහඬව සිට මෙහෙම දෙයක් කියනවා. පුද්ගලික ජීවිතය අවසාන වෙලා ශිවාගෝ; ඉතිහාසය එය ඝාතනය කරලයි තියෙන්න.'
විප්ලවය අවසන් වුණේ කවද්ද කියල හරියටම කියන්න බෑ. සමහරු කියන්නේ 1990 කියලයි. විප්ලවය අවසන් වුණේ ලෙනින් මැරුණ දවසේ කියලත් කියන්න පුළුවන්. ස්ටාලින් බලය ලබාගත් මොහොතේ නැත්තම් ට්‍රොට්ස්කිට පලා යන්න සිද්ධ වුණ මොහොතේ කියලත් කියන්න පුළුවන්. මේවාගෙන් එකක් නැත්තම් ඒ වගේ 'සිදුවීමක්' විප්ලවයේ අවසානය සනිටුහන් කරපු බවට තර්ක ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න පුළුවන්. 'අවසානය' ගැන වෙන විදිහකටත් හිතන්න පුළුවන්.
ආදරය අතහරින්නේ යම් මොහොතකද ඒ මොහොතේම විප්ලවයත් අවසන් වෙනවා. මට හිතෙන්නේ එහෙමයි.

"මගේ ඇස අග" තීරුවේ තවත් ලිපි

ගම සුජීලගේ, ගම හදන්නෙත් සුජීලා හොඳේ?
ලාස්ට් මෑන් හැව් චාන්ස්
සඳට නොලියූ කවියක් 
අහඹු පොතක අහඹු පිටුවක හමුවිය කවියක් අහඹුම නොවන'
මේවා මොන ජීවිත ද බං?'  

Let us keep an eye on Uncle Sam

Anyone who has read Noam Chomsky’s ‘What Uncle Sam really wants’ would not get too excited what a US President, Secretary of State or Ambassador talks about democracy. Neither would they lose any sleep over such worthies speaking in somber tones about individuals, parties or governments they dislike. 

Chomsky’s book, published in 1993, traces four decades of US intervention in all parts of the world.  It is all about the use of subversion and force for economic and political hegemony. To achieve the various ends the USA often supported violent regimes and dictatorships, Chomsky shows. For all the bleeding-heart talk about democracy, good governance and peace, the USA has had no qualms over propping or placing in power tyrants, autocrats, military juntas and brutal monarchies.  

Right here in Sri Lanka, we’ve heard one US Ambassador after another reading that tired script, except they’ve being condescending, unapologetic and downright uncouth at times.  Essentially they played Viceroy rather than Ambassador. 

At times it is about the USA’s economic interests. Teresita Currie Schaffer said at a seminar held at the Agrarian Research and Training Institute in 1993 ‘your food security lies in the wheat fields of North America’. That was a time when USAID was pushing the then government to cripple rice cultivation.  In more recent years Robert O Blake (2006-2009) did his utmost to sabotage the military offensive agains the LTTE, clearly intent on finding ways to ensure that this terrorist organization lives to fight another day.

His successor Patricia Butenis had a sordid track record in Iraq, Colombia, El Salvador and Bangladesh.  At a farewell speech at the Gulshan Club, Dhaka, she had said that although some Bangladeshis believed she was sometimes too outspoken, this was because Ambassadors must be clear about their country’s interests and viewpoints to avoid misunderstanding. I was told that Dr. Abdullah Dewan, Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University and a Bangladeshi American had observed: There was no “misunderstanding” on our part; she was not just “outspoken”, but openly meddled, apparently beyond her mandated duty, in the internal affairs of a sovereign country and made it look like a client state of America.’

That says it all. And that’s why no one should be surprised at outgoing US Ambassador Atul Keshap’s tendentious comments on the Sri Lankan political situation and potential presidential candidate Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The comments were commented on at length by well-known political commentator D.B.S. Jeyaraj.

Apparently Keshap had told former president Mahinda Rajapaksa that ‘the US and Other western nations do not welcome the prospects of his brother Gotabhaya becoming president and are opposed to such a move.’

That’s speaking his mind, fair enough. He has also threatened, Jeyaraj says, that the US would not permit Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to renounce US citizenship at this juncture, which would make it illegal for him to contest as per the restrictions enshrined in the 19th Amendment. Apparently, Gotabhaya ‘needs to clear himself of allegations against him over war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations before the US would allow him to renounce US citizenship formally.’

That’s rich. Here we have a representative of a country which was build on and sustained by war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations wearing a halo and waving a saint’s wand.

Now it’s true that we have only the word of the person Jeyaraj has quoted, Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor of the Jaffna-based ‘Kaalaikkathir’ (Morning Sun). Keshap has not, as of yet, denied the story. 

Two things need to be said, however, given what the USA was and is. Firstly, if the USA supports any individual, party or government in any country, it should be treated as a red light. Secondly, if the USA vilifies anyone, any party or government, there’s a strong likelihood that such entities are likely to have some credence in the eyes of the particular polity, at least to the level that they deserve a consideration.  

Gotabhaya has not been charged by any US court as of now. Not that we trust the US justice system any more than we do ours of course. The issue of citizenship can come into the frame if and only if he is taken to court. If the intention is less about concern over rights violations (and we know the USA is big on talk and lethargic or at best selective on action) than about outcome preferences that are in the interest of the USA, then we need to be concerned.  

Whether Gotabhaya is in fact interested in becoming President, we don’t know. If he is, and if the USA intervenes along the lines that Vithyatharan reports Keshap has outlined, that’s Gotabhaya’s problem first and foremost. The citizens of this country need to have a different take on all this.

First, knowing the pernicious ways of the USA, we would need to revisit the relevant caveats in the 19th Amendment and amend them forthwith purely on the basis of retaining sovereignty and not allowing foreign governments to dictate this country’s political process.  

Secondly, we need to revisit the entire narrative about the money that the USA has spent on certain candidates and political coalitions. Thirdly we need to treat with utmost suspicion and contempt all those who benefitted from the largesse of the US State Department.  Today, it is clearer than it was three years ago, that this regime gives not a hoot about things such as democracy, good governance, transparency and accountability (never mind that it is made up of the most incompetent and confused bunch of leaders to rule this country since Independence). That money, even if it was ‘invested’ for democracy, has delivered crumbs in return. Even if had yielded much more, it’s still interference that is clearly an infringement of established diplomatic protocol.  

Finally, even if Keshap has not said anything of the sort, it is high time that the people of this country pay careful heed to everything that the US Embassy in Colombo says and does, for none of it is about ‘friendship’ but all of it is about serving US interests which, as history has demonstrated amply, do not coincide with the interests of the particular countries and citizens.  

Keshap has had an easy time than did his predecessors because this is a US-friendly regime.  The truth is it is a regime that happily genuflects before Uncle Sam. Even if Vithyatharan was mistaken we need not be mistaken about the thinking of the USA. Given the doldrums that this regime is languishing in right now, there is a palpable possibility of regime-change and in a direction that might not be to the liking of the USA.  Keshap’s successors may have to take on a tougher assignment.  

Perhaps Keshap will give an official farewell speech somewhere. Perhaps he will tell us the truth about this conversation he’s said to have had with Mahinda Rajapaksa. I hope he does. I will be listening and I hope all citizens of this country listens too.  Such statements tell us a lot.  

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

12 June 2018

W.A. Abeysinghe, the villager wielding an insomniac pen

When Sinhala lyricists are talked about there are certain names that tend to be left out of the conversation. Given that sometimes even the great Mahagama Sekera is absented one should not be surprised that names such as Sunil Sarath Perera, Mahinda Algama and W.A. Abeysinghe are dropped. 

Wijesinghe Arachchilage Abeysinghe doesn’t seem to mind. The twinkle in his eye is a permanent feature so he always seems amused, but when asked about what some might consider an insult, he just chuckles and says ‘that’s how it is, isn’t it?’ 

Accolades doesn’t seem to matter him. He is of course aware of things encountered over the years and has a decent enough idea of what’s to come, but for the most part W.A. Abeysinghe is a ‘present man’.   Unassuming and self-contained, he’s done what he believed should be done to the best of his ability. All his life.

Sarasavi Publishers are coming out with three books, two authored by Abeysinghe and one about him, on Tuesday the 12th of July at the Sri Lanka Foundation.  The first is a selection of what he calls ‘all kinds of writing’. Anandayen Pragnaavata (From bliss to wisdom) is edited by Sumudu Chathurani Jayawardena and Abeysinghe’s daughter Deppachandi Abeysinghe.

Mage Lokaya Saha Ovunge Lokaya (My world and theirs) is the second volume of introductions, forewords, endnotes and blurbs he’s written for various publications. 

The third is perhaps the most important. It is a felicitation volume edited by Chandrasiri Seneviratne and Udeni Sarachchandra. Abhaya Mudraava. The play on his name is obvious. The meaning however is not inappropriate.  Technically the term means ‘gesture of fearlessness’. It could also mean reassurance and safety, dispelling fear and providing protection.

Abeysinghe is all of this although none of it could come under a column called ‘objectives of life’ in his case. 

The eldest in a family six, Abeysinghe was born on the 13th of September 1938.  His father was a farmer from Kuliyapitiya. His mother was from a village called Etiyawala, also in the Puttalam District but bordering the Kurunegala District. His early education was at the Etiyawala Boys’ School. Later he moved to Kuliyapitiya Central. 

‘There was just one book in the village school, a translation of Robinson Crusoe by Edwin Ranawaka.  Kuliyapitiya Central was in comparison massive. There was a really good library which was complemented by a culture that placed a lot of value of literature. It was a school that was grazed by the breezes of literature. The principal and teachers were well read and encouraged students to follow suit.  The library carried the A.L. Bright Story Reader Series.  Almost all the classics of English literature were there in abridged form.  I read them all.  I also read the Sinhala literature available in the library. In fact we were exposed to other literatures too. I read Tagore, for instance. So the winds of world literature also touched me.’

‘We were also encouraged to write, not just to magazines published by the school but to newspapers. Those days we loved seeing out submissions published in newspapers.’ 

Literature clearly had been an important part of his education and that of his fellow-students according to Abeysinghe. The time he spent in Kuliyapitiya Central also helped form his philosophy of life for there had been progressive teachers and even Marxists.

After leaving school, he joined the Maharagama Training College and became an English teacher.  His first appointed had been at his alma mater where he taught for four years. Writing however was his passion and he joined Lake House towards the end of 1963 as a Sub-Editor for the Dinamina.  That lasted only six months. Abeysinghe jokingly says that it was due to an erashtakaya or a malefic which saw him spend 10 years ‘aimlessly’.

It was not that he was idling, though. He completed an external degree at Vidyalankara where he was in the first batch of students, reading Sinhala, History and Economics. He took on teaching jobs at the Vidyalankara Pirivena, Dematagoda, the Sunethradevi Pirivena and at Buddhist Ladies’ College.  While doing all this Abeysinghe also studied Law. It had taken him 7-8 years but he took his oaths in 1974.

During the erashtaka period, he worked for a while at a newspaper called Sirilaka which was started in 1968 by Hector Kobbekaduwa with Karunasena Jayalath as the Chief Editor. He also worked at the Aththa, the party organ of the Communist Party. He also worked with Irvin Weerackody, who would become an advertising guru of sorts, and this is where he got to collaborate with a lot of singers for various radio programs.

Some might say that he dabbled in politics. He says he was in and out of the Communist Party. He had even contested the Kuliyapitiya seat under the United Left Front in 1977, the year that the entire Left was wiped out electorally. In the late eighties he joined and was a member of the Politburo of the newly formed Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya, led by Vijaya Kumaratunga.  When Chandrika Kumaratunga became President he was invited to be the Director (Editorial) at Lake House and after a few years he was made a Consultant.  In 2004 he was made Chairman, Library Services, a post he would be re-appointed to by the present government more than a decade later. He retired recently. 

Through all this he practiced law off and on, and more importantly, he never stopped writing. Since he published his first collection of poems, neth dekak (two eyes) in 1965, Abeysinghe has published over 250 books which include collections of poetry and lyrics, novels, short stories (in English and Sinhala), translated many books into Sinhala and English, essays on literary criticism, educational publications and compilations, academic treatises, literature for young people and children and other miscellaneous works.   

He’s written a300-400 songs, one of the earliest being the perennial favorite by Amaradeva, adavan vu denethin, a classic composition inspired by the Samadhi Buddha Statue in Anuradhapura. 

Clearly, Marxism and Buddhism have been important streams of inspiration.  Abeysinghe doesn’t see any contradiction here.  

‘I don’t think it’s strange. I have embraced things to the extent of my ability to comprehend. I don’t live within boxes. I find the notion “dictatorship of the proletariat” absurd. It’s a crazy notion. However I have always found a lot of explanatory worth in Marx’s Theory of Surplus Value.’

Abeysinghe attributes most of his thinking and ways of being to the social, cultural and philosophical environment he grew up in.

‘Living is easy. It is easy for me to be a communist. It is easy to be a Buddhist. I can be a nationalist and an internationalist. The reason is that I grew up in a Buddhist culture. It taught me patience. It taught me to look for and obtain the core of things.  It’s in my genes, this collective consciousness that makes me be who I am. I am someone who belongs to a culture, unlike Marxists. It’s a life culture and therefore I don’t feel I’m a misfit anywhere. Labels never mattered to me. Self-reflection is what I always did.  I didn’t have to learn it and neither did I ever feel it necessary to talk of it like a political theory.’

Abeysinghe is self-effacing. Publicity was never important.  He says this may be because of the influence that communism had on him: ‘the collective and the objective mattered; self never did.’ And so, this man of many words lived, lives and will continue to live in the present, the moment.

‘I’ve lived with my convictions, which were honed by the simplicity of being that I learned from my surroundings, my village, my family. These things I recognize and acknowledge. It’s not like someone from Colombo waxing lyrical about the village. I am from the village. I am a villager. 

He married, had three children and now is the grandfather of five. His wife spends a lot of time with the daughters, he says, so he is mostly alone in Kuliyapitiya. 

We talked about a lot of other things. W.A. Abeysinghe wanted me to come for the launch of the three books next Tuesday. I asked him where he was going. 

‘I have to go to my daughter’s place in Narahenpita,’ he said and since I was going that way offered to give him a ride. 

We talked as we drove along.  He chuckled all the way to Narahenpita. I asked him what his plans were for the rest of the day.

‘I will spent some time with my daughter and then I’ll go to Kuliyapitiya.’

‘How do you travel?’

‘By bus,’ he said.

As always, a simple man with simple ways, but endowed with a profound intellect and a prolific pen. That’s W.A. Abeysinghe. May he be blessed with good heath, contentment and simple joys, always.