Brazilians speak Sinhala?
SAO PAULO - A huge sign in Portuguese outside a high school in this
sprawling Brazilian industrial city of 17 million people, simply
reads: Escola. Sounds familiar?
windows at a suburban train station are numbered with signs reading:
Janela 1, Janela 2 and Janela 3. At a restaurant in the heart of
the city, a Brazilian journalist relishes a special dish on the
dining table. Asked what it was, he says it is called "mangnoca"--
the Portuguese word for manioc.
the cavernous Sao Paulo conference centre, site of the UN Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 11) last week, even the names of
the Brazilian delegates ring a resounding bell from back home.
official list of Brazilian delegates to UNCTAD 11 may well have
been torn off the pages of a telephone directory in Colombo or the
suburbs. The last names of the delegates read: Fernando, Silva,
Pereira, Corea, Costa, Gomes, Pinto, Salgado, Santiago, de Souza,
Almeida, Dias and Rodrigo. And these were Brazilian, not Sri Lanka
delegates. The present president of Brazil is a da Silva, the former
president was a Fernando.
the Sri Lanka delegation to UNCTAD 11 was led by the Minister of
Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, at
least we still got one-half of a Fernando right.
home after a visit to Brazil in the late 1950s, a parliamentary
delegation was apparently met by the Lake House correspondent at
the then minuscule Katunayake airport.
about the trip, one of our local politicians bragged: "I say,
you think that Sinhalese is spoken only in our country. What you
don't know is that it is also spoken in Brazil." Did we enrich
the Portuguese language or did the Portuguese corrupt our language?
to miss a beat, the legendary Observer editor at the time, Tarzie
Vittachi, made sure the politician's comment was recorded for posterity.
In the 1980s, the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations was, not
surprisingly, mistaken for the Brazilian Mission.
Permanent Representative at that time was a Fonseka (Ben) and our
diplomatic staff included Rodrigo (Nihal) and two de Silvas (Piyaratne
and Arthur). Rounding up was our driver L.G. Perera.
the UN, Nihal was constantly mistaken for a Brazilian diplomat,
and knowing his remarkable ability to mimic people, he passed off
as one, to suit the occasion.
Lanka and Brazil had one thing in common: a Portuguese colonial
ruler. But unlike Sri Lanka, Brazil was colonised for nearly three
centuries. When Brazil became independent in 1822, it was a devastating
blow to Portugal, which lost much of its economic resources drawn
mostly from its prized colony.
country with a population of over 187 million people, Brazil shares
boundaries with every single South American country except Chile
and Ecuador. It is a regional economic power overshadowing Portugal,
which has a population of only 10 million people.
week, Brazil upstaged the longstanding claims by its regional rivals
Argentina and Mexico to publicly re-assert its "legitimate
right to demand" a permanent seat in the 15-member UN Security
largest country in South America has a rightful claim to be a permanent
member," Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva told
reporters at a UN news conference.
nearly 60 years, the president said, the United Nations has remained
static. "It has to change. It has to become more democratic
and it has to adapt itself to the political realities of today,"
dominance of the world's five declared nuclear powers as veto-wielding
permanent members -- the US, Britain, France, China and Russia --
has been criticised over the years, primarily because the overwhelming
majority of member-states from developing nations have been shut
out of the Security Council's inner sanctum.
has to be equal participation," the Brazilian president said,
"and countries from South America, Asia and Africa have the
right to be permanent members of the Council." And he was right.
the five permanent members, the Council also has 10 rotating non-permanent
members elected on a geographical basis by the 191-member General
Assembly every two years. But they don't hold any veto powers.
United Nations has been debating the reform and restructuring of
the Security Council for over 10 years now. But a proposal for expanding
the Council beyond the current five permanent members has remained
stalemated for several reasons.
African seat has been claimed at least by three countries in the
region: South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. The strongest contender
for the Asian seat has been India, with a possible challenge by
Indonesia. Brazil has remained the front-runner for the South American
seat, which has also been claimed, at various times, by Argentina
regional representation from the developing world, two other member
states have claimed their right to permanent seats in the Council:
Japan and Germany, both of which are world economic powers.
week, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim confirmed speculation
that Brazil, India and China are likely to be invited to join the
world's most powerful grouping of countries -- the G8- comprising
the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia.