A Sri Lankan lesson in Free Speech: Kenan Malik’s op-ed in the NYT today

Screen shot 2016-02-22 at 5.33.20 PMGaya’s intro: When I read this op-ed, A Sri Lankan lesson in Free Speech by Kenan Malik today in the New York Times, I remember the struggle, for human liberty and freedom of speech. it was not battled not on the lines of digital and global hashtag campaigns of today thriving on global ‘likes’, but the one in which Richard de Zoysa, Cheran Rudhramoorthy, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Rohan Edirisinha, P.K. Saravanamuttu, and many others both in Sri Lanka and in exile, battled on relentlessly for years and decades, during the war.  It was a struggle, among others, to keep sane, to keep enlightened thought alive, to uphold a high standard of human rights and human dignity, despite the security threat to those who did. I remember the CPA being under security surveillance.

Whatever your position may be on the individual arguments or those who espoused em, largely, Sri Lankans fought hard to voice their opinion containing thoughts that were crafted from liberal thinking, at times not reconciled to a nation at war.

Screen shot 2016-02-22 at 5.36.20 PMIt was a time when Shyam Selvadurai launched Funny Boy in Sri Lanka by speaking from the same venue as Kenan Malik did, when he spoke to Smriti Daniel—The British Council Colombo.

We had our day. We had our leaders and mentors.

We are ready now to defend free speech and call for good governance only because there are many who know what it is about and have paid a high price for hanging on to its shadow in those dark days.


Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.15.12 PMHere is Kenan Malik’s op-ed read in the spirit of quiet pride and optimism in a nation 25 years on from the abduction and brutal murder of Richard de Zoysa—A Sri Lankan Lesson in Free Speech 
Op-ed by Kenan Malik in the New York Times 
February 22, 2016

Don’t miss out on Kenan Malik in Galle, Colombo or Jaffna!

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.15.12 PMA must-see, must-hear, writer-lecturer-broadcaster is in town—Kenan Malik— the author of the book I am reading right now and one of the cleverest dudes of our times.

Which town? If you glance to the right you will see the ‘what’s on’ listings of  the three listed events in Galle, Colombo and Jaffna as part of the Galle Literary Festival 2016. For the lazies, the Galle literary dinner is on the 16th January at the Galle Fort Hotel, the talk at the British Council Library with Smriti Daniel is on 20th and the Jaffna Public Library event on the 23rd January. How lucky they are; how jealous I am.

I discovered Kenan Malik right after the Paris attacks. His After Paris post on his blog Pandaemonium was refreshingly lucid and plotted the factors that many jihadi-junkies failed to draw together to create the admittedly-grey none-too-clear map of the nature and unknown multi-cause of radical extremism in Europe, today.

Then there was the analysis of multiculturalism. Clever writers you thank from the depths of your non-racist, shocked-by-Trump, non-convert-to-media-bullshit-awe, Self. Thanks for being clever and actually putting it out there from an angle that comes with a background in neurobiology and philosophy and an interest in ideas, race, immigration, religion, the works.

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.13.46 PMI am jealous. Reading The Quest for a Moral Compass, I wished that I had bought a ticket to be there at the GLF to hear Malik on home soil. How amazing Galle is as a backdrop to the arts: the beauty of the snow-white mosque overlooking the coast where the Portuguese named Galle after the proverbial rooster ‘galo’, the Dutch fort reclining on its haunches (claimed by many since), and the crows, rocks, restaurants, peddlar street cafes and sunset waders, all bringing Galle, the southern heel of Sri Lanka, to life.

I wish I were there to hear him. Instead, I am in London. So please do go in my place and read the book if you can lay your hands on it. If not, let me know and I’ll try to bring a copy in April for selected souls who will repay the favour with a nice hopper dinner or crab curry;)  I am sure you will find it stimulating your grey cells, your belief and your desires for your society in this odd phase of human evolution. He wrote others, but right now I am deep in this one, and so you understand.

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 12.11.15 PMThe GLF as it is known may not have an easy ride—as nothing ever has in Sri Lanka—as the tuk-tuk ride through the years of organised events and exercising discretion, reveals. It takes courage, as ‘Shyam-courage in the time of boycotting’ showed, takes belief and effort and thankless tireless passion and drive. So a vote of thanks to all those who stick their neck out rooster-fashion to crow in another GLF: For a tsunami-flooded, war-battered and post-colonial country, we have another event that brings in the world to a corner of paradise we know so well: Good on you!