PODCAST : Determination – What I hear from Sri Lanka !

iSrilankan Podcast: Conversations with Sri Lanka this week calls for a podcast shout-out to the determined people in Sri Lanka who are launching diverse initiatives that get them in the guts. Lovely, effective and fun people who know the meaning of “determination” as I call this podcast.
Good for you !!

LISTEN:

Disclaimer: None of the people and initiatives I mention in this podcast have had the slightest idea that I would mention em in a podcast. However, their permission to use this podcast have been sought after production. My random podcasts arise from the support I would like to extend as the motivation behind iSrilankan is to support those who are genuinely working for positive goals.

What I said in words:

Hi there this is Gaya Fernando of iSrilankan.com and hope you all are having a good time rolling down to the last month and somehow the best of the year for many: Christmas. I’ve had much going on with Sri Lanka in terms of conversations both objective and abject, focused and rambling, with Sri Lanka. There is much going on in Sri Lanka so I thought I would make a little podcast and throw a few thoughts out there. I call this podcast

Determination:

First I had a few great conversations with friends who had given up the mainstream jobs midstream so to speak and have gone into training at their own expense to work at what brings them real satisfaction. Despite the rising cost of living they’ve got the determination to go ahead. Someone I spoke to was an English Teacher and trainer and she is hoping to start her own institute dedicated to teaching little kids English but not just for exams but to be creative and teach kids to enjoy playing with the language.

Another lady who is from foreign parts and has settled in Sri Lanka actually got her Sri Lankan postgrad qualification at the Open Uni Sri Lanka in Teaching Children with Special Needs and is now developing her own model in teaching children literacy skills in their early years. She is going back to the Sri Lankan Open Uni to get her Masters and has decided to work on her own or in partnership.

Then yesterday I spoke to a young Harvard grad about her plans with her husband to launch digital learning tools and info sharing platforms to the Sri Lankan University students called Knowrom and despite the challenges in dealing with the current mindset and cultural challenges to encourage ‘sharing’ is determined to stay the course and develop products for the University students as the target audience. They will not give up. Just today I heard from a volunteer initiative called WorkinSrilanka of an IT firm in Sri Lanka who are planning a conference in December to engage with Sri Lankan holidaymakers, returnees and others to discuss the work and living issues of getting skilled Sri Lankan s living abroad to return to a life in Sri Lanka.

They have a great website with much information and wonderful articulate and clever people to guide the intiative and take your questions. This morning I woke up to a wonderful photo on FB taken by Natale Danko (featured below)who is in Sri Lanka and working with the Asia Foundation engaging with the country yet maintaining her Sinhalese family-in-Toronto identity as well.

And a friend posted that a new book called Out of the Blue a detailed book on marine mammals in Sri Lanka, Southern India and the Maldives has just come out as a result of Sri Lankan Howard Martenstyn’s work and determined effort. In all these diverse nitiatives and people there was this to be said:

You cannot beat the country for determination to put the best show on the road.

Even Prince Charles did his bit with his hokey-cokey and was determined to relax and shake a leg.

natale

While we are determined not to forget the immense sorrow and loss to our nation and the history of a people who suffered from multiple arrows, this week just listening to the young people speaking about their initiatives and seeing the countrymen put on a great artistic and organised welcome to the visiting diplomats with the hospitality that our country is still famous for, the word at the end of the year for me is DETERMINATION. The country, the people both in it and outside have very determined people among them. I am walking along a road beside my country and hearing their voices and wishing them well in the year ahead.

Good for you !

Thank you for listening iSrilankans everywhere and catch you sometime soon. Bye for now !

The Lady Who Cried at the Galle Literary Festival

MARYANNE KOODA Maryanne profile pic

“If you are Muslim you are free to leave” they shouted.

Gun toting and masked, they separated their targets for easy pickings. One of the hostages, an Indian man, tried to leave when they asked him; “what is the name of Prophet Muhammad’s mother?” He didn’t know, so they shot him down. Dead! This is an eye witness account of one of the murders that took place in a shopping mall in Kenya recently.

As the world mourned the loss of 72 lives in that shopping mall on that day, the evil of terrorist attacks become real to more civilians: over 100 people were left injured. Once again though, far away from home, I’m reminded of Nigeria’s own tragedies and an embarrassing moment in the 2011 Galle Literary Festival, where I had burst into tears in front of a live audience.

They were all gathered to listen to Chimamanda Adichie’s reading of her book; Half of a Yellow Sun. After which an interactive session, for questions and comments was permitted. In my bid to participate in the spirited conversation, I committed a faux pas, and showed raw emotions in public much to my consternation.

Chimamanda Adichie is the most renowned Nigerian Novelist since Chinua Achebe. She speaks for the new generation of Nigerians in ways Achebe never could. I loved her work even before she gained critical acclaim. I was delighted to meet her in person, and perhaps get an autographed copy of her latest book. Only to find myself making a scene and would be remembered for a short while by some as “the lady who cried at the Galle lit fest”.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at The Forum recording at the Galle Literary Festival

I often questioned my state of mind that day, in retrospect. To try and understand why I cried like that, making a public spectacle of myself. Not until I had let the sting of embarrassment fade, was I able to speculate that perhaps, it was a mixture of nostalgia, helplessness and frustration. By then, I had been away from Nigeria for about three years, and still kept close watch on news from home. As is typical of the media, only tragedies gain wide publicity. All I could read of was the rising tension between Christians and Muslims, as they took turns to massacre each other in varying degrees of goriness.

Sitting there that day, as I heard Chimamanda talk about the Nigerian civil war that predates my birth, I couldn’t help but be confounded by the sentiment that she held about the Igbos as marginalized people in present day Nigeria. Some Sri Lankans in the audience nodded and commented on the similarities between the LTTE war with the Sri Lankan government and the Biafran fight for their own state. This similarity struck a chord in many hearts, and perhaps was a good reason for the relative commercial success of the book in Sri Lanka.

Prompted by a member of the audience, she explained a scene in her book where a mother carried the decapitated body of her child in a calabash by train on her way back to her village. The intricate braids still on the corpse as the macabre story unfold. The sympathies of the subjugated Igbos were at an all-time high in the audience that day, which stirred in me a feeling that something was not right there. There is more to the story than hers and her people’s version of it. I am no history buff, but it didn’t feel right to me!

At that point it hadn’t occurred to me that, even though Adichie and I were about the same age, we grew up in different versions of Nigeria. Before moving to the US, she spent part of her childhood in the east of Nigeria where the majority tribe where Igbos and the losses and scars of the civil war had remained long after the rest of the Country had moved on. The Igbos lost the war at a great price, and the pain remained to hunt them for generations.

I, on the other hand had grown up in Northern Nigeria, where the majority tribe were Hausas and an even number of Christians and Muslims coexisted with frequent outbursts of violence. I grew up knowing that the benign ‘mallam’ selling provisions in the kiosk nearby, will not hesitate to butcher me if it was rumoured that I accidentally stepped on a page of the Quran.

Where I grew up it wasn’t, Igbos versus the rest of Nigeria as Adichie tried to express in her book set in 1960s Nigeria, and to the audience that day. It was the poor against the rich, and the Christians against the Muslims. Back then, the stories of the coups and counter coups that eventually lead to the civil war had strong economic and ethnic undertones. There was no denying that the Igbos felt justified in demanding a seperate state. A state they would call Biafra which seceded from Nigeria. The war lasted two and a half years. By then, the Igbos where ‘conqured’, and forced to rejoin the Nigerian Federation.

Yet, i was bothered that she did not point out that, in present day Nigeria, you are more likely to be blown up to bits in a church than for being Igbo. I found it tragic that instead of all Nigerians uniting to fight the common evil of religious fanaticism and poverty, we were still caught up in a dated war that should have been put to rest by now. I felt pretty certain that human suffering transcends ethnicity in Nigeria, and with the news from home still fresh in my mind, I phrased the question carefully and collected the microphone to chime in my 2 cents. An act I would soon regret.

I asked, “Are today’s problems in Nigeria not more religious than ethnic?” to illustrate my point I continued, “Recently I saw pictures of corpses of children in the streets of Jos…”The tears overwhelmed me, stealing my breath as I struggled to regain my composure. It was only a few seconds but the silence in the hall was palpable, till Adichie asked me, “Are you alright?” I nodded and asked my question in a shaky voice “is the stive in Nigeria not more religious than ethnic”? Tactfully, Adichie conceded that the issues in Nigeria where multifaceted and yes, religion was one of them

The rest of the talk went on with my mind occupied with the latest stories of villages in Jos, a town in North-central Nigeria, attacked in the dead of night, houses set on fire as families slept. Those who tried to escape were shot or caught in animal traps that were set for them. I cried then too, alone in my grief, when I first read about it. I couldn’t believe the depth to which people could sink. To use animal traps on humans. These horrors seemed more real to me than a civil war that has since come and gone.

It would not occur to me then that the most recent activities of Boko Haram to topple the Nigerian government by creating lawlessness, was mostly in the North of Nigeria. The Easterners were dealing with their own economic and security issues while nursing the grudges from the war that has since stopped being relevant to most of the North. With a population of 140 million, and over 250 ethnic groups, Nigeria is torn apart by ethnic rivalry that has been long ingrained since precolonial days. There is no sense of Nationalism and no reason to feel pride for a country that seems bent on self destruction by appalling levels corruption.

“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” So says an African maxim. So as the colossal issues of religion and ethnicity ravage the country, hapless victims will continue to die, many of them women and children, who have no voice in the international community. Who really cares when “black” people massacre each other? Surely, my tears are useless in the face of such predictable calamity.

As I write this, the latest horror story from Nigeria is the news of students in a University hostel murdered in their sleep. Boko Haram attacked the hostel in the dead of night and shot the students as they slept. Throwing grenades and shooting randomly. The US intelligence has linked Boko Haram to Al Shaaba, the Somali terrorist that attacked the Shopping Mall in Kenya.

This time, I do not shed tears at the sight of corpses that litter the social media sites; this time with my fingers shaking I write their story, hoping that someone, somewhere will care enough to do something soon. I hope that they will not wait for another Hotel Rwanda or another Half of a Yellow Sun to be written but intervene now, while hundreds of helpless victims are displaced and living in fear.

This time I am praying that those who have recognition enough to hold the world attention like Chimamanda Adichie, will tell the tales not only of old wounds created by Biafra, but of the new scars created every day. New nightmares replayed day in and day out by the people who have no voice in the international community.

Gaya’s postscript to this writing is here.

Maryanne Kooda was born and raised in Nigeria and did her graduate studies at the University of Abuja. She holds a post-grad qualification in special needs education from the Open University Sri Lanka, is a CELTA qualified English teacher to adults and children  and launched the Reading Room for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities in the Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia area. Her blog is here.  She writes when her passionate desire for peace among diverse peoples in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and elsewhere on this planet forces words out of her pen despite her busy life.  She is a mother of two lively sons and lives in Sri Lanka.

 

A mother’s tribute to her community !

 

Natalie Soysa: A Mother’s tribute to her CMB Community from iSrilankan on Vimeo

 

NATALIE SOYSA

 

I’ve often complained about everybody knowing everybody’s business in too-small Colombo.
Today, I’m ready to eat my words.
I am bringing up my son in what you would call a single-parent household.
But there’s never really been just a single parent in my home.
I thought the benefit of being a photographer meant that my son’s every moment would be frozen in time.
Juggling a camera and baby was not as as easy as it looked, but I still have so many pictures of him!
And its only because he’s always in someone’s arms!
So many different arms have come to spend time with him, play with him, dance with him, change him, bathe him and feed him.
My son doesn’t have a single parent, he has a village.
Its been a wonderful reminder that humans are essentially pack animals and not isolated family units.
My son is being community raised and he’s going to be all the better for it.
This is a tribute to all the arms that have held my son close, reminding him that he is loved.
This is a tribute to my community.

 

Words & Photographs – Natalie Soysa

 

Bio

385895_10152790145010323_24945472_n

Natalie Soysa in her own words : I am a freelance photographer and journalist based in Sri Lanka who quit a 13 year career in advertising in 2010 to pick up a camera and head off on what most would call a fool’s journey.

After a few photography & photojournalism projects that feature the post-war explosion of arts & culture in the country, this June, I will be taking over as new Manager-Arts at the British Council.

Most importantly – I’m an incurable Star Wars geek.

Visit Natalie’s about me page for more info.

 

 

 

Photo by Indu Bandara

 

 

 

The rights of movie-goers

BIRD OF PASSAGE

Of the staggering protests, fasts, self-immolations, assaults, arrests, claims, counter-claims, travel claims, per diem claims, grandstanding, dillydallying, diplomatic duplicity, horse trading and other activities that accompanied the watered-down US resolution on/against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC in distant Geneva, the event that disturbed me most was this one.  DNA India of 20th March 2013 reported under the headline “Tamil film industry fumes against Sri Lanka”, the following:

“The Indian Tamil film industry will put a stop to exports of Tamil movies to Sri Lanka if the UN doesn’t charge Colombo with “genocide” of Tamils,” a known filmmaker said on Wednesday.

“If the union government does not take a favourable decision on this issue, then we don’t mind breaking all ties with Sri Lanka,” the president of the Film Employees Federation of South India said. “We will ensure no Tamil films are screened there,” he added.

This was followed by a report on Zee News on 2nd April 2013 that the Tamil film industry in Chennai participated in a day-long fast to demand rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils and an international probe on war crimes. Not to be outdone, the secretary of the Sinhala Buddhist extremist organization Ravana Balaya, Iththepane Saddhatissa called for a ban on Indian Tamil movies in Sri Lanka on 8th April 2013. I was under the impression that Buddhist monks were not permitted to watch movies according to the Vinaya rules but perhaps that’s outdated.

At any rate, the two sub-continental neighbours are now poised for the War of the Movies, not to be confused with the War of the Roses that took place many centuries ago on another island far away.

The South Indian Tamil film industry seems to be well tuned to the immense losses that will be suffered by Sri Lankan audiences if they are deprived of watching brave lovers (Sundar and Sneha) fight against the machinations of the evil land and gold grabbing zameendar (Suman) in “Murattu kaalai” or of applauding the super hero (Aadhi) singlehandedly challenge hurdle after hurdle put in his path by the duplicitous politician (Suresh) to prevent him from marrying beautiful daughter (Poorna) in “Aadu puli”. It would indeed be a major disaster not to follow the progress of amnesiac hulk (Ganesh Venkatraman) through San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles trying to prove his love for the heroine (Shobana) while succumbing to the charms of an ABCD (Kalpana Pandit) in “Panithuli” or not to cling to the edge of the seat for the action packed thriller depicting fearless cop Prabhakaran (Vishal) disguising himself as a gym teacher to save estranged sister (Poonam Kaur) from revengeful gangster enemies, while winning the heart of his sister’s beautiful friend (Sameera Reddy) in “Vedi”.

The proposed embargo/ban will seriously affect Sri Lankan movie theatres, whose revenue has already gone down considerably with the advent of TV, pirate DVDs and streaming. This move in all likelihood would result in them going entirely out of business. The advertising revenue of several TV channels in Sri Lanka will also be substantially reduced, if Tamil movies were not to be screened.

To make the Tamil Nadu embargo more effective Bollywood and Hollywood might take a cue from Kollywood and stop exports of their movies to Sri Lanka as a retaliatory measure too. Imagine, a Sri Lankan audience not being able to watch secret agents (Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor) romp through half a dozen countries to save India from nuclear disaster in “Agent Vinod”, or be entranced by hero (Shahid Kapoor) falling in love three times over with heroine (Priyanka Chopra) in three different time periods in “Teri meri kahaani”, or root for suitors (Akshay Kumar and John Abrahams) competing for the post of richest son-in-law in the masala caper “Housefull 2”. Of course, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis making out in “Friends with benefits” or Cameron Diaz’ award winning performance as the amoral, gold-digging “Bad teacher”, are hardly of the same league, but will also be sorely missed.

For any good tit-for-tat to work, a retaliatory measure needs to be accompanied by another retaliatory measure. In this case, the Sri Lankan film federation would have no option but to deprive Indian film goers of enjoying Sinhala films by also instituting an export embargo. Unfortunately, the same strategy is unlikely to work for the US, since audiences there hardly know that a country called Sri Lanka exists, leave alone are familiar with its iconic film industry.

Kollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood need however to be aware that Sri Lanka is very protective towards its own blockbusters. Many local film producers will breathe a sigh of relief when they hear that there is no overseas competition that would threaten them from making more of their own. I have compiled a personal list of the decade’s top five Sinhala box office hits that Indian audiences will especially feel deprived of not seeing, if these mutual embargoes take effect:

Rae Daniyel Daval Migel 3

The sequel to two other movies of the same title, this is a story of a Jekyll-and-Hyde character who operates as a criminal by night and plays hero by day, thought by most critics to give near faithful portrayals of several uber powerful political figures in the current regime.

One Shot

A heroic “might makes right” Robin Hood who fights for the oppressed against unbeatable odds, winning the heart of a corrupt politician’s daughter after killing her evil father right before her eyes. According to a critic, “he saved the day by performing a stunt even Tarzan would be envious of”.

Anjalika

Rich England-returned boy falls in love with poor village girl, much to the despair of the rich father and rich childhood sweetheart. Poor village girl is kidnapped and presumed dead but comes back to life during the rich boy’s visit to Malaysia, where his father has managed to ferret her out of his way. Happy ending as the lovers unite but critics wonder which rich Sri Lankan father would spend money on an air ticket to Kuala Lumpur to get rid of an unsuitable daughter-in-law-to-be, rather than buying her out with a measly sum of money or hiring a contract killer.

Leader

An underworld bad guy kills a not-so-corrupt politician whose daughter is the only witness to the dastardly act. The macho bodyguard, Leader, hired to protect her turns out to be her muscleman fairy godfather and romantic interest rolled into one and, of course, saves her from the evil underworld killer. Critics consider this an intriguing example of the magical realist genre in the Sri Lankan context.

Aba

The story of an infant prince whose ten uncles want him dead because he’s prophesied to kill them all when he grows up. Therefore the queen, his mother, manages to smuggle him secretly away to be raised by rural foster parents, after faking his death. The uncles eventually discover the ruse, march into the idyllic village, which has sheltered the prince, and massacre every child in the village. However, the hero fortunately manages to find a safe hiding place and eventually becomes king of Lanka, after killing his uncles. A historical narrative of murder and treachery that should make a Buddhist society proud, this movie has been considered monumental, stirring the patriotic sentiments of powerful political figures.

As it becomes clear, it would be a great loss to Indian film goers to miss out on these much acclaimed Sinhala blockbusters, just as it would be for Sri Lankan film goers to be deprived of the aforementioned Kollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood masterpieces. Unless the Oriya or Bengali film industries are prepared to step in and fill the void by sending Oriya or Bengali movies to their Sinhalese brethren. The Tamil-speaking peoples of Sri Lanka are going to be badly affected either way.

The US should be forewarned to work on a Resolution urging, nay calling upon the Sri Lankan and Indian governments to conduct an independent and credible investigation on the violation of fundamental cultural rights of movie goers in these two UN member countries and to provide unfettered access to, nay encourage them to extend invitations to the UNESCO High Commissioner of Cultural Rights in Paris to support this process.

Buy Muslim ‘without fail’ this Avurudu !

No one is asking you to die for the Muslims, wear a head-dress or behave like a clown.  The serious thrust of the BBS is to destroy the livelihoods of Muslims by targeting their goods and services.  Do something, buy SOMETHING, (not everything, no?), from a Muslim shop this Avurudu !  Don’t deprive the Sinhalese vendor or the Thamil shopkeeper mind, just include the Muslim-owned shop that you usually would buy gifts or clothes from.

Avurudu Lamp

To buy Muslim (as well) this Avurudu is is not my original idea. It was shared by a friend among friends and now I am sharing it with you.

If you have been busy with better things these past few days or on a little Easter break, just check out these video s that are online and mean serious business. As I am a bear of little brain, they are confusing me. In one, the Buddhist monk clearly says the BBS is against violence and is not racist despite calling on the Sinhalese to build the race and rise. Further, it’s interestingly  a male call for males to show their nice chauvinistic side and save their employee sisters who are being allegedly exploited and treated badly by Muslim shop owners. He reiterates that there will be no violence but calls out in tones that would make a mob of jellyfish rise up, find a spine and throw a stone. Then comes violence.

Stay Calm and Buy Muslim as Usual ! Happy Avurudu !

SIGN the petition against racism !

You wanna do something on the social media network? Do it. Sign it. And do more… !

Here’s the Petition.

ONCE you’ve signed the petition, read on…not before 😉

AM sick to the teeth with the BBS. And then I saw this on FB : Status of Lasith Fernando ( reproduced with permission )

My brother is a Christian, my best friend since kindergarten is a Muslim and one of my band mates is a Tamil. The first girl I fell in love with was a Baha’i, the last was a Burgher and there even was an Indian somewhere in between. I’ve shared some of the best meals of my life around Sawans and Christmas Dinner tables with my Muslim and Christian cousins. I’ve known tranquility walking around a temple at dusk and I’ve felt at peace watching a friend pray at church. I’ve felt my heart race countless times watching Angelo Mathews take Sri Lanka over the finish line and I’ve even literally fallen off my seat cheering Murali during the ’96 world cup.

 To me the people I live, laugh and talk music with each day are Sri Lankans. And the Sri Lanka I know is so diverse and beautiful that it sometimes makes my heart ache.

And all I ask of this so called Bodu Bala Sena and whoever else that supports its views, or any form of racism for that matter, is that they not ruin the Sri Lanka I know and love. The battle to protect your religion and your philosophies is not fought on the streets or over your brothers’ beliefs, it’s fought on the plains of your own heart and over your own principles.

And always remember, in the words of the mighty Iron Maiden…’We’re Blood Brothers’.”

 

cycling nov 21

 

To your “Almamater” Sing !!

GAYA FERNANDO

Thomians young and Thomians old
Thomians staunch and true
Rally round the College Flag
The Blue, the Black and Blue…

134th-royal-thomian-battle-of-the-blue-tI think I may have been around 4 years old when I first heard those strange words Alma Mater… I thought it was Almamater … “To your Almamatersing… ” that was the phrase… and some of you will know right away where that comes from! Sort of like Radiant Way’s Sing Mother Sing but not quite. A beloved phrase to many…

Later I realised what it all meant but discovered it bit by bit: old dusty souvenirs stacked on the bottom shelf of the book shelf, flags taken out and aired and hat collections made for the Big Match from elder brothers, fathers…

I was lucky to have four elder brothers; one Royalist and three Thomians. The Royalist got into Royal by accident, the eldest son of a Thomian 😉 but my father had no qualms. He got in and thanks his lucky stars that he is a Royalist he says. Do I wanna be a Thomian ? Are …you… crazy? He replies. “To miss out on the BRADBY?” Never. So there it was.

Mustangs: nothing to do with horses. A tent. And its not a circus either.
Colts: ditto. A place where two-legged gentleman gather to cheer the schools they grew up into men in. Or stayed forever boys at whichever is true. Or both.

Papare: Indispensable… lyrics that are not polite to reproduce about allapu gedera are etched in the memory of those dusty, amazing carnival days.

Percy: An institution.

Kosso: Side show entertainment.

Strange language and somehow an exclusive tradition but one that stands apart. To those who went to the two schools who will meet tomorrow for the 134th yearly encounter the following 3 days are circled in BLUE BLACK GOLD AND BLUE !! A tradition second to only one other annual school encounter in the world in Southern Australia or somewhere.

So here’s to all you Old Thomians and Royalists all over the world who didn’t take that flight back to SL this year, to that drink and memory that flies back on the EVE of the big match to a certain Quadrangle where it all began, a Chapel, a cycle parade, a BIG Match Fever for which there is no pill!

There is no point in mentioning those who flew back for the Match cos they WONT be checking FB tonight!!

Raising a glass and a first cheer to a time-honoured tradition. Keep things safe guys, keep politics and thuggery and everything despicable at bay and to that multi-ethnic, happy forever young family of Royalists and Thomians young and old, play up, play up and play the Game !

Esto Perpetua !

Postscript :

Disce aut Discede… Royal Win ! My brother in Bangladesh must be drowning his sorrows. My brother in Colombo drinking with classmates to victory. Nothing is straightforward in Sri Lanka: One man’s win, another’s defeat 😉 BUT all are partying on from what we hear and celebrating lifelong friendship imbibing and behaving like fools 😉 To a tradition in a land like no other !!

It’s tedious being Srilankan these days…

If you say what you feel about politics you could be labelled a traitor so I don’t write about politics. Leave that to M A Sumanthiran whom I still have a great deal of respect for, DBS Jeyaraj, Colombo Telegraph (when they don’t post tabloid-style stuff), Malinda Seneviratne (When he is not being facetious)  and  professional news agencies whose business it is to publish political stuff.

If you say what great beaches Sri Lanka has and how an ice cold beer at the Colombo Cafes  is just the thing, you are callous and ignoring the War-crimes. So say no more about the great beaches and new Colombo Cafe attractions ? Leave it to YAMU whose articles are drop-dead delicious and informative to the average Colombo-goer on a number of entertaining themes.

dog on beach rapti1

If you actually go into war-crimes you are raking up a lot of stuff that is best forgotten and you are a shit-stirrer and your friends hate you for spoiling their day on FB. So you avoid the bloodshed and torture that are floating around as digital images? Leave it to your friends who have a legitimate grievance and Frances Harrison whose written a book Counting the Dead and Charlie Havilland and the professional types. They can handle it better than my stomach lining even though I can engage with the issue underlying it.

If you actually engage with the Diaspora of all ethnicities and ask rational questions people who should know where you come from and read you carefully ask you to come out and explain yourself from the point of their victimhood or as a supporter of the victims. So you do not engage with them anymore and unfriend em on FB? Leave those public debates and groups to people who are able to drag others back to square one, to argue about what the insinuations and innuendoes are and even wax abrasive  as is the style on the social media network.

If you post a lovely stupa or temple picture of an ancient philosophy called Buddhism which has enlightened many peeps in many countries you are dangerously siding with the Islamophobic extremists namely the BBS in Sri Lanka. So you forget how amazing the normal temple chants and the smell of incense and the majestic stupas are ? No you don’t.

If you write about the Halal issue you are just giving publication to another conspiracy theory against Sri Lanka and playing into the hands of the Diaspora ? So you just avoid writing about it ? No you don’t.

If you write about the little girl who died in a landmine explosion you are just adding to the misery. So you don’t write about a little girl’s death? Yes you do.

What about the rising cost of living and the Z-score fiasco? Are those no-fire zones? I don’t know.

So, following the golden rule on the internet – do what you do best and leave the rest. So yes, while writing and doing what I can as an ordinary Srilankan to improve the life of those worst-affected in the beloved country, I leave the rest to the Professionals.

We know what kind of society we would like to live in in Sri Lanka; we don’t need to write about it on the internet. Let’s not lose our friends either on FB or off. That is not exactly helping cos we the ordinary people are not out to prove anything to anybody. We should not have to present our credentials.  We need not parade our intentions on the social media in order to be recognised for our humanity by the social media readers.

We need to be accepted as rational-minded people and treated with respect. We owe nothing to anyone. All we owe to ourselves and to those who are outraged which includes a lot of diverse people outraged by a lot of diverse issues, is to be aware of what is going on, not lose our sense of rational judgement and not lose our friends. And that is not hard to do. Not if you have come this far on the long road through the war where people respected each other’s space to some extent -before Facebook and Youtube.  When friendship and solidarity and civil conversations counted for something.

dog on beach rapti 2

Image credits : © Rapti Siriwardane

Listen: ‘A People Left Stranded’ by Tulie Muttulingam

The January Long-Read Podcast: iSrilankan picks up a Long-Read on an issue which may just go unnoticed by many cos it’s not about the CJ or the current political caper.

A well-researched and well-written piece with a social justice intent, A People Left Stranded by Tulie Muttulingam brings alive Muslims who are trying to return to Jaffna and build up homes from shacks on traditional homelands. A predicament that leaves people of our nation still shrouded by the clouds of war, and brings on new clouds of mistrust and suspicion both inter and intra-community.

Please leave your comments on this website or on Tulie’s blog 

Sri Lanka: A nation of haters or just hate-speech tolerators ?

hate speech pie

We are on our way to becoming something as a nation. Apart from things that we cannot do anything about are those things that we condone by averting our eyes or just let be cos it’s not worth spoiling our day by reading it.

Apart from the Anti-Sthreewaadaya or Anti-Feminism blog  which was alarming, the Waduge article on Muslims has been a scary example of how people write bullshit which could lead to paranoia and communal and other tensions.

Here is a great blog by Gehan Samuel whose tracks on Soundcloud are creating a nice backdrop right now.

Read Gehan on Hate Speech in Sri Lanka. Why are we still listening ? 

His final para says it well.

“Look; the entire article is completely bonkers. It sounds like someone on a bad acid trip, or some kind of low budget sci-fi movie, and what’s even worse is that the writer identifies with the crazy people she is defending. I’m sad to say that this isn’t the first time I’m hearing people speak like this, and a 5 minute search on Facebook will uncover a massive number of pages dedicated to similar extremist, racist, militant thinking. Yet, to find sensationalist, fear-mongering dribble published in a national newspaper is inexcusable!
When our media is controlled to such a point that people have now forgotten there is anything north of Anuradhapura except free food and joyous Tamil families playing hopscotch with the Army, any platform given to mad men/women like this writer is negligent and just intolerable. The entire article compares Sri Lanka to radical Muslim states and rules such as those held in Saudi Arabia. Why can she not understand that we are not to hold ourselves to such low standards, but instead aspire to be a free nation that doesn’t have to militantly put down the minority when they try to seek representation? Yes, there are Muslim states with grave injustices being carried out, but is that an excuse to conduct our own form of terrorism on their communities in our country? What kind of playground mentality is this?
Bottom line: there are crazy people out there, but it’s our job as a sensible, peace-loving community of intelligent adults to refuse them a platform to spread their hate-filled message. In that respect, and in the light of this (and other) article(s) written by writers such as Shenali Waduge, we have failed miserably.”

 

Here is a response to Waduge by Fazli Sameer :

 
The writer is spewing out venom, filled with a total bias against all things Non Buddhist/Sinhala, using very fickle arguments to substantiate his case.
 

First and foremost he/she must realize that comparing Sri Lankan Muslims with Muslims in Africa, Arabia and the Far East is a gross case of apples and oranges. The SL Muslims have nothing to do or no say whatsoever in whatever rules, laws, and restrictions other so called Muslim/Arab states choose to impose on their people and those who visit and live in them.
The prevalance of separate laws to sustain the needs of minority communities in their social sphere of marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc has been ongoing since Colonial times and is certainly not a new phenomenon introduced in recent years as he/she claims. The Tamils have the Thesavalamai and even the Sinhalese have two sets of laws, one for the Kandyans and the other for the Low Country Sinhalese. These laws are not criminal laws but social laws based on their ethnicity, race, caste etc and do not have or cause any major implication, abuse, oppression, or hardship to others.

 

The writer is only trying to pour oil into the fire.

 

Does he/she realize that it was the Muslims who supported and fought with the Kandyan Kings against the Colonial rulers and it was for this reason that they were given Nindagam lands in the Eastern Province. Their own Sinhala rascals committed treason by selling them out to the Colonials in return for wealth, fame, and status. Only one name is being mentioned while there were so many fellows who sold their nations to the foreigners, even in recent times. has anyone read “From Nobodies to Somebodies” by Kumari Jayawardena? She lays it on the line how the Sinhala fellows sold their religion, race and dignity in return for big bucks.

 

The fact that there are more  Mosques than Buddhist Temples in SL only proves that tyhe Muslims were more pious than their Sinhala compatriots and chose to build these places of worship to facilitate their needs. It doesnt create any pressure on the Sinhala people whatsoever. Loudspeakers have been used by all religious bodies throughout history and one cannot simply single out the call of Azan from Masjids as the oppressor. Poya Day Bana sermons are blasted 24 hours round the clock to the whole neighborhood disturbing the peace throughout the whole day.

 

It is sad to see so called “educated” and “intelligent” journalists stoop to these levels in this day and age without considering the reality on the ground.

 

Not a single Muslim in SL would even dream of wanting to make it a Muslim nation under Shariah Law. Qazi courts have been in existence since the time of the Colonials providing a simple facility for Muslims to fulfill their social needs.

 

If the writer thinks that the Muslims are also preparing another Eelam type war against the Sinhala public then hhe/she is sadly wrong. In fact what he/she is attempting to do by this article is to rouse up a war cry that is non existent.

 

Foolish is not the word for the Modaya.