Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Greetings to all my friends & followers of my blog

It is the time of year especially in the Western Nations where my friends, I have been out of touch with for a while, are celebrating Christmas in a manner that is far more apparent than in Sri Lanka. I therefore wish that they have a special time with their family members, some who fly thousands of miles to be with them, and their families gather and renew their family ties.

Here in Sri Lanka we have the usual extended family meals and this time we have some fewer members as they have left this earth for pastures anew. My brother came from the US today to be with us. So it is a happy time for my father, who has all of us offspring together. We think of the many parents at this time who are separated from their children all over the world, a special and unique characteristic of Sri Lankan families due to increasing number of members in far off foreign lands who have exiled themselves for economic reasons.

I consulted the surgeon who operated on me, as he sees patients privately at Asiri Surgical on Thursday, after taking the latest x-ray of my leg. He told me that I can now use just one elbow crutch and can begin to put weight on the recovering right leg. I now have to get used to that method of support and walking, to rebuild the muscle on the leg before I am free of them in the not too distant future. He having reached 60 retired from Government Service a few weeks ago, and is now seeing patients and operating at the private hospitals.

Of course I have a full schedule on Christmas, a day I sometimes dread as there is so much food just on that day, I wish we could spread it over a few days, as I really cannot enjoy more than one square meal for one day. Worse I have clashing events with a birthday that I have confirmed, so fitting all this is no easy task when I am also getting used to walk in a different configuration of walking aid.

The difficulty of choosing between conflicting invitations is now a daily occurrence and I have decided this year instead of going to the traditional Christmas eve carol service where there are many cousins who sing in the choir and expect my presence, I have decided to go to a ‘Kavi Maduwa’ in Mirigama an altogether different experience, but nevertheless one to greatly look forward to.

It is ironic how I was forced out of my crutches. My landlord hurt his while out walking yesterday, and was asked by his orthopedic surgeon not to put any weight on his left leg for at least 6 weeks. He therefore is now using my crutches, and my wheel chair and I am hobbling around trying to learn to walk with a stick!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh what we can do over a cup of tea! We can make a difference. Join the race!

I was asked to comment on what I thought of the leadership election by one of my blog readers, as I am working for a prominent UNP Member of Parliament and quite involved in the nuances and the intrigues that go on behind closed doors. However understandably I do not wish to be drawn into making comments which are often misconstrued in interpretation especially in Sri Lanka. I therefore do not wish to divulge information that I am privy to because of the confidential nature of some of it and I may then be accused of misusing the trust placed in me.

On Monday soon after the fracas at Siri Kotha, I had dinner with 6 UNP Members of Parliament, so I am privy to many a conversation, which I wish to keep private. This is a country that thrives on rumor and innuendo, and worse the public is always vastly misinformed about many aspects of real news, due to the bias of the Media, both written and TV, which does not give any objective reporting.

If one only read the Sunday papers this week, all of which I was able to look at, one would know that the information that the so called pundits forecast are all figments of their imagination, based on months of misinformation in the Media. The reality is completely different and then people are expected to be in shock at the outcome. That is what happens in any situation when reporting is either one sided or is not objective, both of which are firmly rooted in the local media.

All I wish to comment on is that the result was even more decisive than I had predicted which should have given rise to a renewed confidence that all the problems in the past were behind the party, so that we can concentrate our efforts on our plan to rebuild the grass roots organization and empower a confidence in the vision we have for the future of this country, that we are developing.

My objective view is that the members wanting the elections got what they asked for and were happy with all the terms of the secret ballot, as well as the filling up of the vacancies in the Working Committee. It is therefore inappropriate that once they lost they should find fault with the whole process, and act like sore losers instead of being gracious in defeat. It is time to work together and unify the party. All the factions must work together to achieve the common goals.

We have an enormous task at hand which we are carrying out irrespective of the party leadership matters that we do not allow to distract us from our objectives. We do not have time on our sides to perform all we have to do, nor the funds to fight the establishment. We therefore have to be efficient and productive.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is this called a routine? The never ending December events “circle of life”

with my two sisters

December is the classic month where everything and anything is possible. I will concentrate on events that took place and are expected in this month as well as the unexpected. At the beginning of the month, I attended a Catholic funeral in Negombo of a brother of one of our colleagues, dashing in time before the rituals that commenced prior to the closing of the coffin. The usual sprinkling of local politicians were there to share their views on the coming battle for leadership!

Then there was the annual Christmas dinner, of a well respected businessman and philanthropist, at a posh hotel, for which I have been privileged to be invited each year since my return to SL. It was a veritable who’s who of Sri Lankan business elite. Of course there were a sprinkling of MP’s and a ladyMP sat next to me at dinner, a relative no less of the President and asked me does the President know what happened to you? I told her I did not think he does, and asked her to convey it to him. I however gather she has not been particularly enamored of the President, considering him to have usurped a family position in order to seek publicity. On the other side was the Indian High Commissioner, with whom I had some interesting historical tid bits to talk about. He had received a book about my Grandfather’s writings so there was common ground. Needless to say it was a case of meeting talking with many people from all walks of life. I would safely say excluding the host and his sons, I probably knew on first name terms more people at the event than any other. I knew every past and present member of the Group of companies and spouses, as I used to work for them in London, and the guests too.

Rauf Hakeem if he was there would have faced a hostile crowd and have to be plucked out of a tricky situation! For those unfamiliar with the comment, it was his backup security that crashed into me in January from which I am still to recover, and so had to explain to those who were unaware, what had happened.

I attended a wedding in Pugoda, in a church, which was able to use a back-up generator to play the canned music due to a power cut, and which displayed the artificial flowers that looked almost real, so was quite acceptable. The one thing that really struck me was that the bride wore a dress and not a sari! That blew me away and when I asked the boss, (he signs as witness at numerous weddings) said it is common amongst Catholic weddings for the bride to wear dresses. It was in fact the first wedding I had attended in Sri Lanka where the bride and bridesmaids were in European style dresses. It was really quite a simple Sinhala wedding and the father of the bride was in a simple open cream shirt and sarong, and the mother was in a traditional osari style sari, which made it more surprising. Now I know.

My aunt, the eldest in my father’s family passed away at the ripe age of 85 having celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago. She being a family matriarch of significant influence resulted in my meeting many relatives and friends of days gone by, who one generally meets only at weddings and funerals. In addition there were the sprinkling of business leaders who I have not met in a while due to my isolation these days and the family ex-retainers and their various progeny who have now grown into unrecognizable renditions. The usual updates of family members scattered throughout the world by an uncle who flew in were part of it.

my late aunt with my father on the left and uncle to the right

In this occasion she having known me since my birth and for a while looked after us when our parents were away, added a sense of nostalgia and sadness, and a sense of passing of an era, with just memories. She had just bequeathed a book on her father along with attachments of genealogy to remember her by.

I went to the coming of age of a girl, the daughter of one of the security contingent of my boss, and recalled how significant an event it is in our cultural tradition, to say nothing of the cost. Family members come from all over the country as in Sinhala it is referred to as a ‘Magula’ or wedding, though there is no groom! We just stayed for lunch, but traditionally the father’s colleagues stay well into the night consuming more than a fair share of alcohol. I bet that is the biggest cost.

I do not know how this tradition started. It is not religious. I blame the British, who hatched the plan for the numerous events such as this and the veritable ‘hath davas dana’ for deaths, all meant to keep their subjects in permanent debt. They then have no energy to rise up against the rulers. Our rulers are therefore continuing this same charade. The subject of the event, the girl is kind of confused. Today due to the diet and hormones in our food, girls attend age earlier before they can really comprehend what it means. I personally do not believe this should be celebrated in the way it is publicly, to announce that one’s daughter is now a ‘lamissi’.

Then it is on to the rituals of a family wedding and all that results. At least half the attendees are relatives or friends, the church is a familiar place where many a branch of the family still attend. The choir consists of family as well and so the show goes on. I hope this will the last event I have to be on two crutches as I have the usual Christmas family functions, along with a friend’s grand birthday party as he is also born on the 25th. The Year concludes mercifully not with a grand 31st night party, but a wedding of a friend in a posh hotel on the 31st which will no doubt transcend to the New Year! Such is the litany of events in Sri Lanka in December. Having lived so many years overseas, I still shudder when I think of how many people I speak to and count as those I know or those who know me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Spate of Sunday Papers for us to read – a veritable delight of writing especially if you a Bi or Tri Lingual

Has anyone stopped to think how lucky we are to have so many Daily or Sunday Newspapers to choose from? I who have spent a good deal of my life in the UK and the US feel we have a decent variety and with my being bi-lingual gives me 15 Sunday Newspapers to choose from. Further, working with a person who is in the Newspaper business, I have the chance of selecting all or any of them on a daily basis to read from as they are all available for my pleasure!

In the UK one is able to purchase a range of about 8 Sunday papers to choose from in English. In the US most people only have access to one and at most two daily or Sunday papers. It is usually the local paper and occasionally a paper nearest the large metropolis to one’s place of abode. Therefore when I lived in Santa Barbara I had access to the Santa Barbara Newspress which is the local paper along with the Los Angeles Times as LA is the nearest metropolis to Santa Barbara.

Taking note of the above points and the benefit of a surfeit of papers of newspapers in two languages should be treated as a stroke of good fortune. One of the issues is the poor quality of controversial investigative journalism, partially due to self-censorship adopted by the Papers when dealing with delicate matters pertaining to excesses of the state, that we only read from the Internet from Websites hosted out of Sri Lanka, generally by Sri Lankans who have had to leave due to pressure.

On November 18th a new paper, the Maubima in Sinhala, both daily and Sunday and its English sister paper, Ceylon Today was inaugurated to add to this veritable feast. This I understand is owned or run by Mr Tiran Alles who is the proprietor of the Gateway International Schools and is a DNA MP in Parliament who has not spoken in the House on behalf of his supposed political master the currently incarcerated General Sarath Fonseka. I assume it was put out to represent the General, but launching it on the President’s birthday along with a huge supplement hailing both his completion of a year of his second term which coincided with his birthday gives rise to a question of who or what it is supporting!

The largest circulation is from the Wijeya Group with Sinhala Lankadeepa and the English FT, Mirror and Sunday Times. The Lakehouse state mouthpiece is the Sinhala Dinamina & Silumina, along with the Daily News & Sunday Observer. The Sinhala Divaina and English Island is another pro state paper that is Nationalistic, headed by a brother of a Cabinet minister. There is the controversial Sunday Leader, the Lakbima in both English and Sinhala, the Nation in English and Rivira, Ravaya and Janarala in Sinhala round out the rest. Forgive any others!

Despite all the above points, the MOST IMPORTANT POINT to appreciate is that all these papers show a bias towards the government. They are both in order to survive and get some of the large amounts of Revenue that Govt. advertising gives. Therefore the reader MUST show a sense of proportion and a level of cynicism when reading as otherwise one can get absorbed by the lies or near lies which in the readers view becomes fact. There are NO papers of any significance that is anti-government which I believe is essential for checks and balances in a functioning democracy.

I therefore respectfully request the reader to suggest to friends and family that they read my blogs as both informative, but also one trying to balance the biased reporting of all other mainstream media in Sri Lanka. I have no issue if my blogs are termed anti-government or anti establishment!!! THANKS