Yearly Archives: 2011

Multi-cultural Reflections for the Nation at Yuletide — Present Past and Future

Renton de Alwis, from the Daily News where it deployed a different title

This Christmas season was indeed somewhat different. With the global financial crisis still looming and several more countries becoming unstable with battles for supremacy of ownership of resources, it certainly had a more distinct ‘back to basics’ flavour about it. We heard Pope Benedict XVI in his message on Christmas’ eve, call on humankind not to be lost in ‘superficial glitter’. “Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart,” said the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics of the world. Continue reading

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TRAILS Walk from Dondra to Jaffna in Aid of Pediatrics Cancer Ward in Jaffna Hospital

Rajah Kuruppu,  in the Daily News, 26 December 2011

A recent event that underlines the innate good nature of man was the great walk from Dondra in the South to Jaffna in the North covering a distance of 670kms to generate funds to build the Paediatrics Cancer Ward in the Jaffna General Hospital. The walk named Trail, a journey of 27 days was undertaken from July 1 to 27. The Trail was initiated by the Colours of Courage Trust, a nonprofit organization which from its inception in 2008 has dedicated itself to provide the infrastructure for the treatment of cancer in Sri Lanka, a noble task where early detection and care could save numerous lives.

A noteworthy feature of this walk was that numerous people, rich and poor, young and old, spontaneously supported the walk which symbolized a noble gesture providing relief to children in the North who are afflicted with cancer. Some walked a part of the distance to record their support for a noble venture. There were others contributing in cash or kind to raise the necessary funds for the Pediatric Ward. Continue reading


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Religious Dignitaries affirm that the language divide is a barrier to reconciliation

UCAN, 7 December 2011

Failure to speak the same language compounds the major challenges preventing reconciliation in the country following 30-years of civil war, according to a forum of inter-religious leaders. “Mistrust and doubt prevails among Sinhalese and Tamils when they associate,” according to Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue. He was addressing a recent conference in Colombo organized by Caritas Sri Lanka, in association with the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies. These obstacles are compounded by language barriers, but can be overcome if more efforts are made to bridge this gap and show respect and tolerance to others with help from various religious bodies, he said. Continue reading

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Hambantota after the Tsunami: Then and Now

Padraig Colman, in the Sunday Island, 17 December 2013

On 26 December 2011 it will be seven years since 36,000 to 50,000 people (the numbers of dead vary depending on the source) died inSri Lankain the 2004 tsunami. On Christmas Day 2004, we had heard news that our local government veterinarian, whom we knew well, was looking forward to going on a trip toGallewith a party of about 20 people. He and 16 others died. His wife and one child survived because they went back to the hotel for a newspaper. A strange phenomenon was noted in Yala National Park. Few of the animals seemed to have perished because they moved to higher ground before the wave hit. Was this because they sensed the tremors?

A local relief effort that got underway almost immediately is generally agreed to have been a success. Even in the poorest, most remote areas, people flocked to the roadside to hand over money, clothes, bottles of water and bags of rice and lentils.

There are complaints today about militarisation. Seven years ago, 20,000 soldiers were deployed to assist in relief operations and maintain law and order. An effective, spontaneous immediate response was organised locally, followed by the government and international agencies. Temporary shelter for the displaced was provided in schools, other public and religious buildings. Communities and groups cooperated across ethnic and religious differences.

Eye Witness: One month after the tsunami, my wife and I visited Hambantota. We visited again, to take some supplies for the three months dane. Back in 2005, just outside the town of Hambantota, plastic chairs were stranded on the banks above the stained salt in the lagoons of the Lanka Salt Company. Fishing suffered because of fear that fish were contaminated by corpses. Apparently, there was a greater danger of corpses contaminating the salt. Continue reading

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Sinhala Citizen G’s Affirmation: “Winning the hearts and minds of our Tamil brethren”

From Sunday Island, 17 December 2011

As DEW Gunasekera once stated “They are also our people” we need to reach out to them. The ordinary Tamil citizen has gone through real hell since the LTTE and other militant groups started their campaign in the 70s. The Tamil people were not an aggressive people they were a God fearing passive people but Tamil youth who were deprived of opportunity by the Sinhala Only Act and later by Standardization which limited their opportunity to enter University which was a dream of every Tamil youth. We threw Dr. Naganathan and other Tamil leaders in to the Beira Lake when they protested against the Sinhala Only Bill, we attacked them in 1958, 1960, 1977 and then came the burning of the Jaffna Library in 1982 ( by persons who were expected, because of their religion, to place the highest value on learning and the development of the mind) that was followed by the horrific attack of 1983 July by UNP thugs led by Minister Matthew. Continue reading

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Searching for the Boy with the Violin: Sri Lanka after the War

BBC with Priyath Liyanage 24 December 2011

As Sri Lanka’s civil war came to a bloody end in May 2009, the BBC’s Priyath Liyanage was struck by video footage of a boy walking through the war zone holding a violin. Two years on, can this boy be traced and why did he make such a perilous journey with only a musical instrument?

In the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians – driven out of their homes with the retreating Tamil rebels – were trapped in a small strip of coastal land in the north of the country. While some people were released, others escaped. There was no choice but to walk through the raging battle towards the advancing government forces. It is still unclear how many people were killed in the shelling and crossfire. This stage of the country’s prolonged war was fought without independent witnesses. The story of these civilians who reportedly became a human shield for the Tamil Tigers is largely untold. The only news of their plight was through the reports filed by embedded reporters of state media. Independent and foreign media, along with most international aid agencies, were removed from the battle zone. Continue reading

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Tamil Tigress presented in two puzzling forms in 2009 and 2011

Michael Roberts, courtesy of, under a different title, where you will see a throbbing set of comments of varying degrees of silliness and pertinence, one I have refrained from participating in [I dislike pseudonyms and nom de plume as a matter of principle]. The repetition here enables the insertion of illuminating photographs.

Niromi de Soyza’s so-called autobiography, Tamil Tigress, has received extensive coverage in Australia and has traversed the world now because of critical reviews by several personnel and devoted defence from others. It has been described as “part memoir, part compelling reportage, part mea culpa” by Nikki Barrowclough in the Sydney Morning Herald’s weekend magazine.[1] Gordon Weiss, the moral crusader, proclaimed it to be “incredibly moving” and considers it “a story of redemption” (as quoted by Nikki Barrowclough). This may well be one of the motifs that Robert Perinpanayagam, a perceptive commentator, sees as the potential crux of the book in his unelaborated blog comments.

Without denying that dimension of the book if one stretches a point and treats it as a “faction,” that is, a “fictional narrative based on real events,” rather than a historical account, its self-presentation as a memoir[2] and “true story” renders Tamil Tigress liable at the same time to the charge of deception (a combination stressed in my little-noticed third article on the topic[3]). Indeed, it is arguable that it could be subject to a legal charge for a misleading advertisement that deceives consumers.[4] Continue reading

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Keller’s Love Affair with Lanka

Walter Keller-Kirchhoff, born in the Dortmund Ruhr region of Germany in 1951, has committed himself to working and assisting the people and society within Sri Lanka for over thirty years through several German aid agencies linked to the government of Deutschland. In certain ways he is a reminder of that wonderful man, Ben Bavinck. Keller’s deep engagement with the country has also found expression through his professional photographic capacities. It is my privilege to provide the world with a glimpse of his capacities – and thus of landscape and people – through his camerawork. SEE for several more of his photographs of the landscapes and peoples of Sri Lanka.                                                             

A devotional act and fulfilment of a vow at a Hindu festival in the Jaffna Peninsula, late 2011

Army soldiers prepare fora devotional rite a during Poson at Tiriyaya Temple

 a friendly “asala malaikum” from a Muslim gent

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Skilling and Rehabilitating 150 Tiger Personnel: A Helping Hand from David Pieris Motor Company, 2010-11

Michael Roberts, with Lester Carron

Following my preliminary and non-comprehensive essay of the government’s rehabilitation programme for former Tigers held in detention centres under military supervision I sought more information from one of the companies involved, namely, the David Pieris Motor Company, through a friend. Though there was a delay, Lester Carron, The Director, Service Dept, DPMC, responded. I sent him a series of questions which he has now answered. The Q and A are presented as they are because the import is clear. Let me add that this cooperation is in contrast to that of the Bureau of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation  who did not send me any information in response to my request [though I extracted data from their site]. Let me also add that a chance meeting with Richard Danziger, Head of the International Organization for Migration, at an official function in Colombo enabled me to send him my essay on “Turning Tiger Personnel into Lankan Citizens?” [note question mark at end]  for his comments. His answer, dated  Fri, Nov 25, 2011 at 3:21 PM, was as brief as immediate: “Dear Michael, I think its a fair article. Best regards, RICHARD.” These types of response are good for the heart and contrast with the type of pedantic negativity and mis-reading generated by blokes like “Valkyrie.”

1.     Is it at all possible for you to make the documentaries you made of the training of these batches available to me?  Yes we can, but at the moment the commentary is in Sinhala, also where there is a Tamil dialogue it is dubbed in Sinhala.

2.     How were the ex-combatants selected for the training? We requested the Sri Lanka Air Force (who were in charge of the centre) to interview and short list candidates, thereafter on two occasions our Assistant Manager Technical Training, our Tamil training Instructor and myself personally visited the centre and selected the candidates after interview. (Mr David Pieris also was present on the first occasion). The minimum criteria required was the ability to identify basic hand tools, some special tools and identification of certain motor cycle and 3Wheeler engine components  that we carried with us from Colombo. Who did the selection? Were you at all influenced by the recommendations of the military? No. Continue reading


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Dayan Jayatilleka fronts up before Radio France International

The country’s war ended in May 2009 with both Governments’ troops and Tamil Tiger rebels accused of using brutal and inhumane tactics. Efforts of reconciling the country’s culturally diverse population have been made but Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Paris, Dayan Jayatilleka, tells Radio France International’s Rosslyn Hyams they have not been entirely successful.

RH: Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka from Sri Lanka, we are still talking about reconciliation in post-warSri Lanka today. It is still a hot international subject because it seems that there is a struggle in a sense. What do you think is holding back the process of reconciliation inSri Lanka today?

DJ: Well, there is a struggle, you are right. It is been slowed, you may say held back, but slowed, by a number of factors. Firstly, the hangover of mentalities of thirty years of war. So there is a kind of a siege mentality that has yet to be deconstructed and replaced by something else. The second thing is that the Tamil parliamentary party, the Tamil National Alliance, which is in fact the pre-eminent representative of the Tamil people of the North and East, has not yet seen fit to make any kind of criticism of the Tigers and of Mr. Prabhakaran. So there is a perception among the Sinhalese majority that the TNA has not established a clear enough firewall between itself and the secessionist lobbies located mainly in the Tamil Diaspora. Now on the Sinhalese side of course there is hard-line opinion; as you find in any society there are ultranationalists within institutions and within civil society. So I would say the extremes in both ethnic communities, the majority and the minority, are an important factor of obstruction. Nonetheless there is a process of dialogue between the Tamil National Alliance and the Government of Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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