Sri Lankan Scenario: CONFLUENCE makes its Presence felt in UK and Beyond

CONFLUENCE ..…. South Asian Perspectives SINCE 2002 = /

confluence-frontONE = Editorial: “Indo-Lanka Relations at All-Time High”

The current bilateral relationship between India and Sri Lanka has never been so cordial over the past three decades of political history of Indian sub-continent. The relationships between the countries have reached an all-time high under the new regime in Sri Lanka and the Modi government in India. For many years, the leaders of both countries have been avoiding making any direct contact for one reason or other. However, the gradual but significant shift in the internal politics of both countries have brought a rare opportunity for them to work together and  these two countries are gradually shifting from just Tamil minority issues to other areas such as trade, culture, education and defence among others.

Over the past year, there have been numerous diplomatic, socio economic and cultural missions across the Palk Strait in both countries. There has even been a fresh proposal to build a permanent bridge between Thalai Mannar and Rameshwaram to further strengthen the bilateral ties.

During a recent visit to Sri Lanka, the Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj praised the initiatives of the current Sri Lankan government in addressing minority issues and said that the Indian government wished to thank the Sri Lankan government for its reconciliation and development policies. She went on to say that the Indian government would give its fullest support to help implement the policies mentioned in that statement.

Despite all the positive development between the countries which is worthy of praise,  a section of the Tamil community of Sri Lanka still feel that their grievances have not been fully addressed even though they are fully supportive of the Indian government’s initiatives in resolving the ethnic issue.

Recently, President  Maithripala Srisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe expressed their contradictory positions on the Government’s approach to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution to investigate allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law during the final stages of the military campaign against the LTTE in early May 2009. While the President seemingly rejects the idea of foreign judges taking part in the investigation, the Prime Minister still thinks that is possible.  Further the Prime minister has revealed that there are no secret detention centres anywhere in the country at present and those people so far unaccounted for must be dead.

According to the Hindu newspaper, the leader of the opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament, Mr. Sampanthan has said that while his party would continue to work with the Sri Lankan government towards finding an acceptable solution to the Tamil question, India should remain concerned in getting the issue resolved “in a reasonable and amicable manner”.

Unless both countries work together to provide a just solution to the Tamil people in the north and east of the country,  the efforts to rebuild the country could fail and  hatred and mistrust between the communities of Sri Lanka would rise again.

TWO = Malathy Sitaram: “Radio Ceylon in old Mumbai Time”

When my older sister and I were at a girls’ convent school in Bombay in the fifties of the 20th century, one of the most important parts of our lives was Radio Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called). Radio Ceylon came to us loud and clear from Colombo. It played Western pop, mostly American and it was what we listened to at breakfast and a couple of evenings. On Monday evening we listened without fail to the Hit Parade and my sister and I were allowed by our mother to have our supper in front of the radio in the sitting room so that we did not miss a beat. We swooned over the voices of Sinatra, Dean Martin and good old Bing and definitely Perry Como. Even my mother who sang classical Carnatic music was carried away by Dean Martin’s That’s Amore and Volare. Good old Satchmo made us laugh with his scratchy voice but we didn’t then appreciate his virtuosity with the trumpet. Nat King Cole’s rendition of Unforgettable was definitely unforgettable but somehow he didn’t make us weak at the knees as Sinatra did. That timbre in Frank’s voice had sex appeal in buckets.

We were blown away by the new singer Katerina Valente singing The Breeze and I and Malaguena in the mid-fifties. This was something different and we thought she was fantastic. Sarah Vaughan, Jo Stafford and Peggy Lee and of course Ella all of whom were American sang the most wonderful songs written by famous American songwriters which I continue to sing today. ‘Happy go Lucky’ Greg was the compere on the Breakfast programme and we loved his voice and jocular talk. He sounded pretty much like our very British Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2! I think Greg was British but the station played American music. There was also a Voice of America station that broadcast from somewhere in the East late in the evening. I still remember the wonderful deep voice of the compere, Willis Conover and that great signature tune of Ellington’s Take the A Train. That station must have sown the seeds of my love of jazz. Bombay(Mumbai) loved jazz in the fifties and early sixties. Our coffee bars and restaurants would feature a piano trio playing the latest hits and hold jam sessions on Sunday afternoons. In those days, ‘Prohibition’ reigned supreme and no alcohol was served at these venues.

Although India had been a British colony, we read American comics and watched

American films at the cinema. How I loved Captain Marvel, Denis the Menace and many other comics. The cinemas were wonderful places with lush carpets and magnificently framed photographs of the stars of the day. Clark Gable was there as were Robert Taylor, Errol Flynn, Stewart Granger, Rita Hayworth, Liz Taylor and so many others. In fact, although India had been a British colony and most of us read novels by British authors the influence of Hollywood films was strong. There was the wonderful Metro cinema famous for its luxurious carpets, seating and air conditioning, that screened the latest American films. Our feet sank into the deep-pile carpeted corridor whose walls were lined with huge photographs of all the Hollywood idols. Even my mother swooned over Clark Gable in ‘Gone with the Wind’. It was his laconic smile and raised eyebrow that did the trick. Cary Grant was a close runner-up. Going to the cinema was an occasion as they were so plush. We dressed up to go.

The Metro cinema had a talent contest once a month on Saturday mornings. A couple of our friends (two South Indian sisters) who had amazing voices and style won on one of these Saturdays. One of them had a voice so exactly like Jo Stafford, there seemed to be no difference and she won hands down. I sang a Les Paul and Mary Ford number with the Spanish title of ‘Voya Con Dios’, for the unmissable Sunday evening talent which was recorded in a Bombay studio and then broadcast later from Colombo. One of my friends must have sent in well over a hundred votes because I won by a huge margin. She did have a great many cousins! The result was announced the following Sunday and next day in school I was besieged by girls from different classes wanting to congratulate me. The teachers looked on benignly.

Happy, Innocent Days, never here again.

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Filed under heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, Indian traditions, life stories, politIcal discourse, religiosity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, tolerance, world events & processes

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