The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka » Plus Official website of the Sunday Times Newspaper in Sri Lanka Sat, 30 Jun 2012 19:33:49 +0000 en hourly 1 Unravelling an ancient secret Sat, 23 Jun 2012 14:01:32 +0000 Pubudu The tea-break was over and the team had just reassembled at about 11 in the morning in the pit at the smaller cave of Pahiyangala, Bulathsinhala, for a research excavation. What they did not realize was that they were about to stumble onto an ancient secret.

The excavation site

As they gently, very gently and meticulously, with tiny brushes swept away the earth (no big trowels or mammoties for them), while physically blowing away the dust, excitement mounted.

The excitement tinged with tension was tangible for, slowly the earth unearthed the bones of toes. Were they just random bones, like the skulls and bones found at Pahiyangala, a paradise for archaeologists on the trail of Mesolithic Man?

“No, it was not just a few bones, but a full skeleton,” recalls young W.M.C. Oshan Wedage, his voice bubbling with enthusiasm even two weeks later, but fairly and squarely giving credit to his “super crew” as well as his “extraordinary” seniors.As they tenderly unearthed the skeleton, “podi venasak thibba”, says this 30-year-old Prehistoric Excavation Research Officer of the Department of Archaeology under whom is Pahiyangala.

Located in the Kalutara District, Pahiyangala is also known as Fa Hsiengala after the Chinese monk who is said to have rested here on his way to Adam’s Peak. “We first spotted the toes, then the foot and another foot and the skeleton up to the ribs, in the east corner of the excavation pit at the smaller cave,” says Oshan.

They handled the spot carefully, for they believe that the key to the true origins of the Sri Lankan people may lie buried in the sands of time here. They did not want, to destroy “any other evidence”, such as traces of organic remains or tools the area may yield. Haste would prevent 21st century humans, that’s us, getting a glimpse of Mesolithic lives and times and clues to the identity of the human lying buried.

Oshan then gave a round of frantic calls to Archaeological Department Director-General (DG), Dr. Senarath Dissanayake; Director-Excavations, Dr. Nimal Perera and Prehistoric Specialist, Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, a former DG of Archaeology now retired but very much “after” Sri Lanka’s Ancient Man.

Oshan and crew were advised by all of them “not to hasten” as it may very well be a find of global significance.
His diligent team comprising Palitha Weerasinghe, Kamal Nanda, Karunasena, Eregama, A.V.A. de Mel, Susantha Nihal, H. Jude Perera, P.G. Gunadasa, K.P. Ruwan Pramod and K.P. Sumanadasa uncovered a part of the skeleton slightly, says Oshan.
Next came the ribs, head and teeth, the Sunday Times learns.

Oshan: Overwhelmed by discovery

The Prehistoric Period or Stone Age is categorized into Palaeolithic (in Greek palaeos meant “old” and lithos “stone” and this refers to the use of rough stone tools) and Mesolithic.In Sri Lanka, the Palaeolithic period is believed by Dr. Siran Deraniyagala to be from over 700,000 to 40,000 years before present (BP), the Mesolithic from 40,000 to 4,000 years BP and the Iron Age from 3,700 to historical times. The presence of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Sri Lanka has not been established yet, says Dr. Deraniyagala who has conducted the most number of pioneering studies on the Prehistoric Period, from 1968 onwards.

It was way back in 1968 that Dr. Deraniyagala found evidence of the presence of Prehistoric remains at Pahiyangala. Having also found that both the larger and smaller caves of Pahiyangala were replete with pointers that they would have harboured settlements of the Balangoda Man, the popular name for Mesolithic humans, the area was declared an Archaeological Reservation.
Excavations began in earnest in 1986 by the then Director (Excavations) and subsequently DG, Dr. W.H. Wijayapala in the larger cave (Site A), but there was no conclusive evidence, it is learnt.

Most probably, Oshan says, the layers of rich soil found there along with crucial clues may have been used in agriculture during the more recent Kandyan period. For in this period too Pahiyangala was a hub for monks and people as evidenced by the Kandyan-style staircase.
Disappointed about the fruitless search, Dr. Wijayapala changed the focus of the digs. Excavations at the smaller cave (Site B), uncovered evidence of Balangoda Man (prehistoric Homo sapiens sapiens) who had lived in the period 38,000 to 5,000 years BP, says Oshan. No full skeletons only bones of more than nine humans were found.

The Pahiyangala site was re-visited in 2005-06, under instructions from current DG Dr. Senarath Dissanayake, with updated excavation techniques, as Dr. Nimal Perera having completed his Ph.D in Australia had returned well-armed, to ward off any unsubstantiated charges of inadequate sampling, it is understood.

Small-scale intensive excavations were then initiated at Pahiyangala’s larger cave (Site A) in 2007-08 and smaller cave (Site B) in 2009, with experts from around the world visiting it, he adds.

The habitation sediments have been scientifically dated to 40,000 years BP. According to Prof. Michael Petraglia of Oxford University, the site has well-preserved deposits and a bone tool density not seen anywhere else in the world. Now right before their eyes was a full skeleton which may be South Asia’s oldest source of bio-anthropological information, it is understood.
Encouraged by National Heritage Minister Jagath Balasuriya and ministry Secretary Kanthi Wijetunge, the work continues. It is important that the skeleton is not curled up, like all the others found so far at different sites in Sri Lanka,” says Oshan, explaining that it makes it an exception to the rule.

Another special aspect is that it is not a secondary burial site but a primary one, he says, quoting the belief of Dr. Nimal Perera.
Describing the spot where it was found, Oshan explains that two large rocks seemed to have secured the body. The rocks have certainly not fallen from above, he points out, speculating whether they were meant to keep the body intact after burial, preventing animals from scavenging there.
Atop the rocks, the team has found a layer of ash, indicating that it may have been the settlement’s hearth, the ash of which also made the bones of the skeleton take on a red hue.

The human of Pahiyangala has left a trail leading back to a time, shrouded in layers of soil. “We will have to check whether any tools or implements have been buried with it,” says Oshan, explaining that they will also have to check whether flowers were laid by its side in a burial rite and if so the pollen put under the microscope. How did the human die so young, will be another puzzle they will try to solve.
Sri Lanka will have to hold its breath, for only time and tests will reveal the secrets of the Pahiyangala human.

What next?

The Pahiyangala human is below 30 years of age and has the anatomy of Modern Man, said a top archaeology official, explaining that while the charcoal (carbon) samples are to be sent to a laboratory in America, for radio-carbon dating within the next two weeks, major discussions are underway between the Department of Archaeology and both Oxford University and the Australian National University to launch in-depth studies by a team of local and foreign experts.

The carbon samples will be sent to Beta Analytic in Miami, said Director (Excavations), Dr. Nimal Perera, explaining that the skeleton, meanwhile, needs to undergo bio-anthropological studies.These decisions were taken after a site-visit last Tuesday by a high level team comprising DG Dr. Senarath Dissanayake, Dr. Perera and Dr. Siran Deraniyagala, the Sunday Times learns.

Earlier believed to be 12,000 years old, Dr. Deraniyagala thinks that the skeleton may be more than 36,000 years old.
The removal of the skeleton from the site has to be done with utmost care, Dr. Perera stressed, adding that follow-up studies would be under the Collaborative Research Programme.

The skeleton is on weathered rock and removal would not be easy, as it should be taken along with the deposit around it, he said.
The studies that will be undertaken will include the measurements of the skeleton as well as comparisons with not only the Veddahs of Sri Lanka but also aborigines of South Asia and Australia. The experts will also attempt to ascertain the environment in which the individual lived, the subsistence pattern and delve into palae-pathology to find out how the human died.

DNA tests will also be carried out may be with the teeth, he said pointing out that the skeleton is a good find because most of the bones uncovered earlier have been fragmentary and highly weathered.

Whether man or woman has not been determined yet and the human has also not been named yet, adds Dr. Perera.

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She rules where men mostly tread Sat, 30 Jun 2012 11:42:20 +0000 Pubudu Another male bastion falls. For the first time ever, in 112 years, the Department of Irrigation will be headed by a woman.
Engineer Badra Kamaladasa, 57, signed the book at 7.40 in the morning on Friday and reported to the Secretary of the Irrigation and Water Resources Management Ministry, Ivan de Silva, that she is taking up duties as Director-General (DG).

Badra Kamaladasa at her office after assuming duties at a simple ceremony. Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Portraying her well-grounded values which have helped thousands of farmers across the country in this vital sector, there was no tamasha, pomp or pageantry, as she in all simplicity sat in the chair that 32 men have occupied before.

The transition was marked only by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp and distribution of kiribath, that too brought by Badra, among her dedicated staff.

For Badra, who has made numerous arduous trips out of Colombo, to clamber over rocks to peer at a dam, for dams have been her forte or walk through muddy fields to see irrigation channels, it is a natural progression of her 33-year career at the Irrigation Department.

Setting her sights on the topmost post never occurred to her, as she went about her daily work, meeting not only most of the 5,000 men and women who formed the cadre of the department but also thousands and thousands of farmers. Of the 240 engineers in the department there are only 60 women.

It is a reticent Badra that Sunday Times  met last week. Gentle prodding reveals her childhood. The eighth in a family of 13 (there are only two girls amidst all the boys), Badra as a little girl studied in schools in Ratnapura including Alupola Vidyalaya, being taken along by her parents whenever they went on transfer.

Her father was a Headmaster and her mother a teacher. From Grade 5 to the Ordinary Level, Badra whose “hobby” was mathematics, studied at Ferguson High School at Ratnapura, later moving to Dharmapala College at Pannipitiya and finally sitting the Advanced Level (AL) examination from Seevali Central College, Ratnapura.

“My pet subject was math,” says Badra, recalling how when she got the textbooks for the new year, she would grab the mathematics book and do all the sums, long before she was taught by her teacher. The environment at home was also math, with “Loku Aiya teaching all the younger ones math”.

There was never any doubt about what she would take up at the ALs. Two of her brothers were already engineers and biology was never an option, she smiles.

So it was to do engineering that she entered the University of Moratuwa way back in 1974, where in her batch of about 150, there was only a handful of women, 12 to be exact. University was also the place where she met her soul-mate, another engineering student, Nishantha Kamaladasa, whom she married once they both passed out from campus.

Nishantha is the Chief Executive Officer of the Distance Learning Centre, having secured a management degree over his engineering qualification.

Now the parents of three grown-up sons, the eldest following them and taking to materials engineering, the second studying medicine in Russia and the third psychology at an institution in Colombo, Badra’s life is fulfilled.

Memories flow of how she worked six months at the Urban Development Authority soon after passing out as an engineer.  Then it was a choice between coast conservation and irrigation, both of which she loved. She was 25 years old and the balance tilted in the direction of the latter.

Badra on a field trip in a tractor

It was meant to be, says Badra with all humility. Working for a few years in Galle on the Gin Ganga scheme and Moneragala, although she came to the Head Office, the outstation trips took her to the far corners of the country.  She was not only game but also agile at climbing trees and walking the difficult route, growing up among so many brothers.

“I was, however, able to do my duty because Nishantha’s family came to the fore to take care of my children while I was out,” she says with deep gratitude to her in-laws. Her role models have been her mother, mother-in-law and a Ferguson Principal, Pearl Perera.

Those were also the days when on long trips, going into interior villages, toilets, especially for the womenfolk were a scarce commodity. “But now that has changed,” she is quick to point out, adding that the farmers are also very knowledgeable and they will not accept whatever is said, without questioning it closely.

Badra’s passion comes out strongly when she explains that most people in Colombo do not know the value of water – how important it is to those living outside.

“Those out of Colombo, view water in a different manner. For two-thirds of the people, their livelihood depends on water. If there is no water, their lives are over,” says Badra. “For us it would be like losing our jobs.”

That’s why Badra sees the irrigation systems not just as something made of earth and concrete – but “living beings”. Most people will see tank bunds as “pas gadak” (a mound of soil) but not Badra. Whenever she sees water flowing through a new irrigation system, the tender shoots of paddy or golden-eared paddy bent heavily in the wind, her cup overflows and she exults in a deep sense of satisfaction.

“These feelings,” according to this veteran woman engineer, “are not exclusive to me. Everyone in this department feels the same.”
Paying tribute to all those who have toiled silently to make the Irrigation Department what it is today, she says they look after irrigation schemes like their own babies.

Many people think that irrigation is just supplying water for agriculture, she points out, attempting to clear the picture. “We, however, cater to all water requirements in the villages, tackling the water supply, flood control issues, environmental concerns and ground water enhancement.”

Badra talks of a serious lifestyle change in the villages that she has seen over her long career. “Whereas earlier there were not many women farmers, now there seems to be quite a number,” she says adding that most Farmer Organizations, however, have only a few women members.

More women are taking to farming because they may be widowed or their husbands have migrated to towns to work, she says, explaining that though there has been no census, she and her colleagues “see a lot of women farmers”.
With her mind set on empowering these women farmers at the grassroots level, Badra as Director-General of Irrigation will also guide the strategic planning of the department and help in decision-making at policy level.

Coincidentally, re-structuring of government institutions including her department is also due and she will act as facilitator.
What of the future? “Big changes may be afoot,” murmurs Badra, without delving into detail.

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Letters to the Editor Sat, 30 Jun 2012 11:48:48 +0000 Pubudu Mudalalis make a killing with lab and X-ray business

A lucrative medical business is being practised all over the island. This is the Medical-Lab and X-ray lab business.
Unlike in the past, medical lab tests are now done by automatic machines. These machines are imported from Singapore by a few Colombo businessmen. The businessmen invest between two and three million rupees in these machines and employ young women to feed the machines with blood and urine samples.

No one knows anything about the quality of the tests. The automatic machines must be in perfect order to give accurate blood test readings.The businessmen import the machines, regardless of quality. They are not concerned about what they get from the foreign supplier. For all we know, they may be receiving discarded machines.

The medical lab owners are not doctors or professionally qualified people. They are mudalalis. They buy the services of qualified lab technologists. The lab technologists do not handle the machinery. They are employed to provide legal cover.
There are other dangers when laymen run medical labs.

There is cutthroat competition to attract patients for blood tests. If doctors in the area do not send in requests for blood tests, they become the enemies of the lab owners. Dr. Jayasinghe of Karandeniya was murdered for openly obstructing unauthorised medical lab businesses.

The health authorities seem not to be aware of the dangers. I hope the President will take heed of this letter and save us from dubious medicos.

Dr. L.S. De Silva, Retired M.O.H., Mt. Lavinia

One cause for US hostility

I wish to correct a factual error in an article by Latheef Farook (Sunday Times, June 10, 2012). He says “Muslim countries on the other hand are the only friends of Sri Lanka as proved time and again and even during the final stage of the war against the LTTE.”  But what about China and Cuba? They are friends and these are not Muslim countries.

On the contrary, Sri Lanka’s courageous and fair transparent policy of friendship with all countries, the pancha sila, including Muslim entities such as Palestine and Iran, is one cause for US hostility. Sri Lanka is one of a handful of countries that have eschewed real politics for justice in international affairs, at great cost.

I agree with Mr. Farook about Israeli activities in Sri Lanka. Israel has a powerful Mossad undercover operation that Sri Lanka does not have the resources or technology to monitor.

Patrick Jayasuriya, Maharagama

Sri Lankan or not? We are Sri Lankans as much as Americans are Americans

Professor Jinadasa, writing in your Letters column on June 17 from Massachusetts, USA, claims that “the greatest democracy on Earth” confers citizenship to any illegal migrant’s child when they are born on US soil. He was attempting to contrast the privileges there with those of Indian Tamils in the Estate sector in Sri Lanka who were denied their rights to citizenship.

I would like to remind the good Professor that in 1942, more than a hundred thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry were simply rounded up and nearly two thirds of them were interned in “War Relocation Camps”. Many of these US citizens lived in the states of Hawaii, California, Arizona and Oregon. After the war, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the forced incarceration on the grounds of “a state of war”. US citizens of German descent only fared slightly better.

A decade after the September 11th attacks, US citizens who happen to be Muslim are increasingly discriminated against, at work places, schools, hospitals and public utilities. They are heavily scrutinised, interrogated, body-searched and often humiliated by airport security, and often denied transport, simply due to their names being “Islamic”. This is despite their black president’s middle name being Hussein.

I do not wish to deny that Sri Lanka has a staggering amount to learn (if ever it happens) from progressive nations elsewhere, on how to treat its citizens better. While US citizens may all call themselves “Americans” by name, it is altogether a separate issue if the term can be meaningful and genuinely describes acceptance, inclusivity and belonging by the more ‘entitled’ Americans.
Sri Lankans cannot yet honestly accept a Christian or Catholic president, let alone a Tamil or Malay one. However, the “jaathiya” is not what matters, but a common identity that Prof. Jinasena cannot successfully define in drawing analogies with his adopted country’s citizenship policy.

Dr. Lasantha Pethiyagoda, Melbourne

Merit should be the only measure for choosing our politicians

Cecil Dharmasena’s letter, “Yes, we can call ourselves Sri Lankans” (Sunday Times, June 10, 2012), is well written, but the letter’s contents are remote from ground realities.

The writer believes that any Sri Lanka citizen, including a Tamil, who is not a Sinhala Buddhist, can become a Prime Minister or President of this country. This is an “Alice in Wonderland” perception. And he has very generously exonerated the Sinhala Buddhists and the Administration from responsibility for the ills that have befallen modern Sri Lanka. Mr. Dharmasena is, we understand, a happily retired government servant who is convinced of the soundness of his evaluations.
I disagree with his assumptions.

The same clans, perpetrators of today’s calamities, have wielded power since Independence in 1948. They represent the Sinhala Buddhists who have administered this country for 64 years. These same Sinhala Buddhists, representing 71 per cent of the population, have abdicated their responsibilities by handing over the reins of power to members of their own caste and creed.
Mr. Dharmasena talks of Tamara Kunanayagam, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. He says this excellent (Tamil) officer “was asked to go to Cuba, not due to Sinhala chauvinism but the ‘political chauvinism’ of some politicians.”
Who are these politicians? Who elected them?

They are the very Sinhala Buddhist politicians we referred to above. Sri Lanka needs to come up with a new political culture, free of religious and language issues. Religion is essentially a personal matter, a matter of conscience. The State should have no role to play in the religious beliefs or practices of its citizens.

If Sri Lanka acknowledges the need for all three languages, then the State must formulate a tri-lingual policy once and for all and carry it out.

The day Sri Lanka decides that merit should be the only criterion in political decision-making will mark the beginning of total emancipation from the country’s problems.

Walter Fernando 

Karate for the kids, please

The authorities should make Karate a compulsory subject at government schools. Every day we hear about young girls becoming rape victims and being murdered. If our young people are trained in karate, they will be able to defend themselves from thieves, rapists and murderers.

Dr. D. Malwatte Mohotti, Bandaragama

Sounds of a city waking up

I read with interest Mahendra Samarasinghe’s letter on birdsongs in the city (Sunday Times, June 24, 2012).
The various birdcalls we hear early in the morning are soothing to the mind. But how many of us stop to enjoy those wonderful sounds?

Early in the mornings the city air is full of sounds, besides bird song. There are the manmade sounds of vendors shouting “Malu, Malu, Elavalu, Thambili, Pol”, and so on. Then there is the chanting of pirith from the local temple, bells being rung in Hindu temples, and the sound of horns blaring from vehicles.

Instead of complaining about noise, let us appreciate the variety of sounds we hear every day.

Kanagar Raveendiran, Wellawatte

Food for thought about our economy

The front page photo of the Sunday Times (June 24, 2012) under the caption ‘She sticks to one carrot’ brings into sharp focus the poverty and affluence prevailing side by side in our society today.

The wizened old lady in the foreground while stepping out from a grocery is seen counting the balance in hand after purchasing a bundle of green leaves and a carrot, perhaps to see if there is enough money left to buy a few toffees for her grandchildren at home. Contrast this with the brand new luxury car behind her. The photo speaks volumes about the plight of the downtrodden of this country.

Whatever statistics trotted out by the authorities may claim, the fact is that the people find it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. On the other hand  a privileged few live in the lap of luxury. Our national debt has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years but the Government goes on borrowing regardless of consequences  to finance its pet projects.

Do we really need towers with restaurants and swimming pools high up in the sky when millions of people are groaning under the burden of the cost of living?

We have a jumbo cabinet and pool of senior ministers but no fulltime Finance Minister answerable to Parliament. It is high time the government took stock of the prevailing situation with a view to minimize wasteful expenditure and give the people some relief by reducing taxes imposed on essential goods.

G. Liyanagama, Matara

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Appreciations Sat, 30 Jun 2012 11:58:26 +0000 Pubudu He worked towards forging Buddhist links between Cambodia and Sri Lanka

Venerable Kudalunuke Mudita Thera

Venerable Kudalunuke Mudita Thera’s tragic demise in a motor vehicle accident recently leaves a void in the fast growing Sri Lanka-Cambodia Buddhist relations which was renewed after the Pol Pot disaster.

Ven. Mudita was 37 years old when I invited him to Cambodia as the first resident Theravada monk from Sri Lanka after the Pol Pot destruction of Buddhism. His name had been recommended by the then Vice Chancellor of Buddhist and Pali University, the Venerable Akuretiye Nanda Thera who had come on a visit to Cambodia.

Ven. Mudita could not have imagined that he was laying a foundation for an unprecedented renewal of Buddhist relations between the two countries and for the revival of Buddhist learning in Cambodia. While working for the UN, I and the other Sri Lankan Buddhists working in Cambodia had observed how the spirit of Cambodians  was still strongly Buddhist in spite of the actions of Pol Pot, the Cambodian Hitler, in getting monks disrobed and temples destroyed.

In addition were the Christian missionaries who were hunting for unethical conversions by giving money – to become what the Cambodians derisively called “rice Christians”, those who were bribed to become Christian by a bag of rice.

But the recent Sinhalese connection went a few years further back before Venerable Mudita. Soon after I was posted to the United Nations in Cambodia from New York at the end of 1993, I had the privilege of inviting to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, the Venerable Vipulasara Thera. He came with monks from Singapore and Indonesia – the first dhammaduta mission after the Pol Pot genocide.

I arranged for them to meet leading figures in Cambodia including the King, the Prime Minister and senior government officials. This dhammaduta initiative brought in financial assistance from Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka to develop the tertiary education institute, the Buddhist High School, the main centre of instruction for Cambodian Buddhist monks and to re-establish the Sihanuouk Raj Buddhist University.

After the arrival of Venerable Mudita, I invited a few other Sinhalese monks to man Cambodian education establishments.  In addition, a programme to train Cambodian monks in Sri Lanka was now initiated through private contributions. I brought in over 10 Cambodian monks to Sri Lanka at the beginning and later another over 20 monks. And later, the Venerable Dr Omalpe Sobhitha whom I had invited to be a UN volunteer  for environmental education through Buddhist temples brought in some further monks to Sri Lanka.

Ven. Mudita started teaching Pali at the High School on May 25, 1995. He soon learnt the Khmer (Cambodian) language and taught Pali, both in Khmer and English. He was also invited by the Buddhist Institute, the major centre of research and documentation in Cambodia to teach English courses for Cambodians. Later, he also taught Pali at the Sihanuouk Raj Buddhist University.

Today Buddhist learning has been firmly re-established in Cambodia because of the help of Ven. Mudita and other Sinhalese monks. In addition, the Cambodian monks who were brought to Sri Lanka have gone back and some of them today occupy leading positions in Cambodian education establishments, serving as the Vice Rector, the Dean  and the Administrator of the Sihanouk Raj University. In Sri Lanka, Cambodian monks have even established a major Centre of Buddhism for Cambodians under the guidance of Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobhita.

Venerable Mudita was an embodiment of serenity, humility and gentleness. Younger Cambodian monks were not quite sure as to how younger monastics should behave, what their religious and academic aspirations should be after the Pol Pot era. Ven. Mudita provided a role model for these younger Cambodian monks.

His amiable demeanour won the hearts of every Cambodian. His compassion seemed to see no bounds – he helped every one he came in touch with. His residential quarters at the temple of the Sangharaja of Cambodia was often full of visitors, younger monks and young and old lay men who sought advice, and asked for help.

He even helped the needy Cambodians financially. There was a major smuggling racket through Cambodia of LTTE associates at the time, but Ven. Mudita provided unstinted emotional support to them to such an extent that they would regularly provide him with dana. On several occasions, he conducted funeral ceremonies for Sri Lankan Tamils who had died in Cambodia.

Ven. Mudita was ordained at Ganegama Ratanagiri Purana Viharaya under the illustrious Ganegama Saranankara Thera. After Pirivena studies, he completed his B.A. and M.A degrees at University of Kelaniya.  After his return from Cambodia, he served as the Principal of Keembiela Saranankara Pirivena. He repaired and developed the Sri Dharmapala Viharaya and established the Sri Samadhi Asramaya in Lavalhena, Baddegama. The meditation centre he established has been increasingly popular. Venerable Mudita met with a tragic accident while returning after an ordination ceremony.

The people of both Sri Lanka and Cambodia have benefited through his work in renewing the past relations between the two countries. May he attain nibbana.

Hema Gunatileke

He led an uncomplicated life, with the simplest of needs

Tudor Jayasuriya 

To have known a gentleman like Tudor Jayasuriya was both a pleasure and a privilege. Not having been fortunate enough to be a school-mate or, even a contemporary of his at the then Ceylon Law College, that opportunity came my way only because of that wonderful place called Voet Inn, the Law College Hostel. We were both inmates there, albeit a couple of years apart.
Born on March 31, 1942 in Matara to a family of four brothers and three sisters, he had his entire school education at Richmond College Galle, where he was the popular captain of cricket, in addition to being an outstanding schoolboy batsman of that era.
At Law College too, he captained  cricket and took part in soccer and athletics.

He was the Secretary of the Law Students’ Buddhist Brotherhood, when the late Douglas Premaratne PC, Solicitor-General, was its President. Like most others then, they both belonged to Voet Inn. If not for his exceptional all-round abilities as a student, he could not have secured First Class Honours at his Law Examinations at the Law College, in the midst of such a variety of extra-curricular activities.

After having taken his oaths, it was to Tangalle his hometown that he first went, to continue with his brother Lionel’s law practice. Later he returned to Colombo to join the prestigious law firm of Julius and Creasy, until he was invited to join the Insurance Corporation of Sri Lanka by his friend Mr. S.S. Wijeratne, then a Director, where he rose to be the Chief Legal Officer.
He was later invited to join the other distinguished old law firm, M/s F.J. & G. de Saram, where he ended up as one of its Senior Partners, specialising in Securities, Banking and Conveyancing. He was an accepted authority in that last field, where many senior lawyers came to him for his advice and guidance. Tudor always willingly obliged them.

Tudor’s position and his personal qualities, attracted him to a large cross-section of people, from the highest in the land to the humblest on the street, as was seen at Kanatte at his cremation.

Among those who came to pay their last respects to him at his home and even spend a long time consoling the grieving members of his family, were the Bandaranaike sisters Sunethra and former President Chandrika.  As Rudyard Kipling said, he was able to move with Kings and not lose the common touch. He was one of the simplest of men, unassuming and, shunned the limelight. When his colleagues at “FJ &G” wanted to felicitate him when he completed 46 years at the Bar, they used the ploy of requiring him at the office for the signing of an important document. Such was his simplicity.

It may be a surprise for anyone to learn that Tudor, at seventy plus years of age and in the 47th year at the Bar, had never stepped outside our shores (even for medical attention), nor used a mobile phone or a credit or an ATM card. He had an uncomplicated life, with the simplest of needs.

He harmed none, by word, deed or even thought. That may be why the deities spared him of any pain, despite the terrible illness that afflicted him.

There was that novel surgical procedure that his family was able to secure for him under foreign medical experts here, at a considerable cost, for he was more valuable than all their wealth.Tudor was a devoted family man to Dayaneetha and to their sons Dilshan and Hiran, both dear  students of mine at the  Law College and their beloved wives.

At almost all social events where he could take her, one could see Dayaneetha always beside him, like his eternal shadow, simple and charming, always with that shy smile of hers.  She is sure to miss her closest friend and companion, much more than anyone else.

I have been at the receiving end of his kindness, like many others. Not once, but often. He encouraged juniors and wished them well. I will always remember him with eternal gratitude and wish that his journey through sansara be short and, that he achieves the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

May Tudor be born in our midst again!

Upali A. Gooneratne PC.

Thaaththa taught us to be self-confident, honest and brave

A. Wilton de Zoysa

Thaaththa, it is 11 years since you left us, but your departure is like an awful dream. I miss you more than ever. Not a day passes that I do not think about you. You were my best friend, guru and precious Father.

This is my humble attempt to capture the essence of a man whose presence I fear I cannot do justice to with words. As his daughter, I am true to all he taught me about life. It is with gratitude and grief that I pen these lines on my father’s 11th death anniversary.
During those last few days I wanted to tell you how grateful I was for what you have done for me. Unfortunately, I did not have that opportunity. You were losing strength with each passing day.

The last time I visited you, you did not open your eyes. But you were very conscious. You told me where to purchase a mask I wanted to give a friend. You had so much will-power not to open your eyes, probably because you knew it would be difficult for us to let go of each other.

I tried so hard to make you open your eyes, but you would not. You had accepted the reality of life and death.
You appreciated us for what we were, and trusted us to the extent that you built a moral binding in us to be always truthful to ourselves and never break the trust of others.

Your love, appreciation and trust are among the many things that moulded us into the people we are. You were always there for us. You taught us that self-confidence, honesty and courage would help us lead a good life.

I wish you had hung on a little longer, to guide me. You never asked for anything. Thaaththa, I miss your voice, your being there. Your spirit and what you gave us will make us better people for having had you as a great father.

You said learning was a foundation no one can take away. We grew up with your values. You were the biggest champion in all our endeavours.

Thaaththa, I am so glad I am your daughter and what I am today. It is all because of you. I want us to meet in Sansara one day again.

I salute you for holding yourself together as you put us on our feet. May your Sansaric journey be short and may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Damitha de Zoysa

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Stand up, speak out, shut up, sit down… Sat, 30 Jun 2012 13:18:24 +0000 Pubudu As a child, I was bullied in school by a select gang of gentlemen drawn from the crème de la crème of my peers and betters. There was, I am now willing to wager, something about my pure idealism and noble countenance that attracted them like insects to an incandescent flame. Either that or they couldn’t resist pushing, pulling, and punching a puny mortal like me. Yes, dears, I was less than Charles Atlas’s “97-pound weakling”. So schoolyard terror often descended on me like an Assyrian coming down like a wolf on the fold.

But all of that ended when one day, having sobbed and sniffed and consoled myself that truth and justice would prevail in the end, I struck back like the proverbial cornered rat (or is it the Jedi that I’m thinking of?). When a bully shoved me to the hard ground of the quadrangle, I stood up rather than scurry off or slink away – shirt out, knees bleeding, brow sweating profusely – and let fly with my satchel-bag. No one was more surprised than my tormentor, save perhaps me. To cut a long story short, he retreated in the face of scrawny flailing arms and spastic Bata shoes kicking out in aggrieved rage.

And he didn’t come back.That minor victory remains with me to this day. And the boot being on the other foot brought out the best in the erstwhile coward you now, er, see before you. After one realizes that bullies are craven at heart, you have an advantage that you must strike home with skill, timing, courage. If only to prevent those dirty rats from having their way again or yet another field day (the return or revenge of the Empire – or whatever). Thankfully, the school by the sea presented this stripling lad with many more opportunities to stand up for himself – and others. Advocacy for justice is like a potent pill that stimulates you in places alcohol or other addictive substances can’t reach.

There is a point in these reminiscences. And if you will cease and desist from your threatening gestures and curious looks, I’ll tell you. This is it. A time has come when everyone in our society must stand up for what is good and true and fair and pure and – but you get the point! Because the schoolyard of our society, our culture, our civilization, is suddenly full of bullies. We see them everywhere.

From the thrones, virtues, dominions, and principalities who pass for our powers that be; to the trishaw driver coming in the wrong direction up a one-way street, who thinks that just because he flashes his headlight at you and honks like a hyena out of Hades, he has the right of way.

Today, there is a dearth of champions of growth with equity, development with integrity, peace with justice. Yesterday, when all our troubles seemed so far away, there seemed to be a panoply of knights (of both sexes) in shining armour to sally forth against repression, oppression, suppression.

Tomorrow holds nothing but depression at the plethora of ills that mortal flesh is heir to and which are imposed on us by a brazen new order of aggressors in authority, bureaucrats with boons to crave or axes to grind, and two-bit politicos who think that might is right and will fight anyone who opposes it or them to prove their point.

There was once, not too long ago that it is now time out of mind, a pantheon of heroes contending for the common good. But many if not most of them have by now hung up their spurs in disgust and dismay, turned traitor to the cause under duress or delight in bribes offered to soften their resolve, or simply lie silent in the grave. (Let us honour if we can the horizontal man, though we honour none but the vertical one.)

Don’t get me wrong, dears. This is not a clarion call to mount a white charger and go off tilting at windmills like some misled media moguls are sometime wont to do. You don’t have to be a fearless iconoclastic editor of a yellow journal to dig at the rotten roots, uproot corrupt plants, and fell trees fit only for burning.

Your duty, right, and privilege as citizens of a country that is still a democracy the last time we checked begins where you are. At a store or supermarket checkout counter where first come is not always first served. In your neighbourhood, where the high and mighty push everyone around, in the same way the rich and powerful in the larger community do with the nation at large.

On buses, where women are pressed. In places both domestic and scholastic where children hard-pressed by exploitative adults. Against lawmakers and law-enforcement who’re lawbreakers.

The cost? There may be one! That it is worth paying is proven by the present outspokenness of many angry young men today who were once bullied as children. There is something wrong with our society that will take more than skinned knees and bruised elbows to fix. Thank you to those – like a brave young woman writer who stood up recently or a forum of concerned citizens which keeps speaking out – who have said their piece, done their bit, and can now shut up and sit down… Well, once all the bullies have finally fled!

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A doctor whose career became a mission Sat, 30 Jun 2012 12:05:04 +0000 Pubudu When he woke up that day, Dr. Buvanendranathan Aathavan had no premonition that before the next dawn he would come within an inch of losing his life.Now, five years later, Dr. Aathavan speaks of the traumatic event soberly and without embellishments; none are needed because the facts speak so eloquently for themselves.

That day, April 28, 2007 started ordinarily enough. The 37- year-old Senior Registrar in Surgery went to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), performed some routine operations and did the ward rounds.The evening, however, promised to be different, for Sri Lanka was playing Australia in the Cricket World Cup finals, and Dr. Aathavan looked forward to an exciting match.

That evening refreshed after a bath and dinner in his house in Frankfurt Place, Bambalapitiya, Dr. Aathavan was in his living room watching the match, when the lights went out. Picking up a transistor radio, he went upstairs and lay down on his bed next to his wife Shivashakthy.

All of a sudden there was the sound of an explosion inside the room and Dr. Aathavan felt his left leg slip at an odd angle while something trickled down his leg. He knew instantly that a stray bullet had hit him. His cry alerted his wife and his father who immediately rushed to get help.

As he placed his hands on his side, Dr. Aathavan realized that his abdomen had split open and the contents were spilling out. He knew he was grievously hurt, and unless something was done quickly he would bleed to death.Holding his bowels in place with his sarong, he placed his left hand firmly on the wound. With his right hand he used his mobile telephone to call his Consultant Surgeon Dr. K.Alagaratnam and Medical Officer Dr. S. Somasekeran.

Neighbours and Dr. Aathavan’s father drove him to Delmon the closest hospital, where Dr. Alagaratnam joined them. The Delmon Hospital ambulance then sped them to the NHSL.With no time for x – rays, Dr. Alagaratnam and Dr. Ranjith. Ellawela performed damage control surgery, removing a portion of the large bowel in a colostomy. Later, x- rays were to reveal the bullet embedded in the pelvic bone.

Subsequently the 200 gram anti- aircraft bullet was removed by neurosurgeon Dr. Himashi Kularatne.At every stage of his trauma, Dr. Aathavan’s main thought was how to overcome his disabilities and get on with his life and career; and so after about two months in hospital, and with the colostomy bag still attached to his body, he started to work again.

During this time he also attended the convocation held at the BMICH to receive the degree of Master of Surgery.Dr. Aathavan underwent two more operations, one to close the colostomy and the other to repair the damage to his pelvis. The latter was performed by Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Dhammika Dissanayake.

Glad they were spared: Dr. Aathavan with his children

Despite the permanent nerve damage to his left leg, Dr Aathavan continued to progress in his career. He spent 2009 -2011 in India doing his overseas training, with a break in July 2010 to attend the convocation in Britain to receive the degree of M.R.C.S. England.

In the midst of it all,Dr. Aathavan found things to be thankful for. If this ‘bolt from the blue’ had to hit someone, he was thankful that it had hit him and not his wife or his children who were in the bedroom at the time. He was also thankful that the bullet entered his abdomen and not his head or heart.

He is also immensely thankful to his surgeons and anaesthetists, the doctors, nurses and other medical staff for their kindness and care. He speaks with gratitude of his father Mr. K. Buvanendranathan  for his support during and after the event and his neighbours K.Kannan and Roy Nicholas for risking their lives in the on-going firing to drive him to Delmon Hospital.

Has this tragic event affected his beliefs? It has confirmed his belief in God, says Dr. Aathavan, an intensely religious Hindu, who points out that something beyond human understanding was at work that day: the bullet passed through his abdomen without injuring a single vital organ, he was able to remain conscious until he was anaesthetized and later, he was miraculously healed of a harrowing side effect which could have affected his day -to – day life. All this cannot be dismissed as blind chance, holds Dr Aathavan who feels that God spared him for some reason.

Has this experience changed his attitude to his patients? Before answering this question, Dr. Aathavan recalls being wheeled into the operating theatre — this place that was second home to him. How often had Aathavan the surgeon stood where his own surgeons now stood, garbed in the green surgical kit, ready to wield the scalpel?

Now the roles were reversed and as Aathavan lay a helpless patient on the operating table under the blazing overhead lights, he felt, he says, only stark fear.As a result he has greater empathy with his patients, feeling their pain, their fear and their anxiety at a deeply personal level.

The experience has also taught him the importance of reassurance from his doctors, the kindness and care of nurses and attendants, and the love and concern of relatives and friends. Without such psychological and emotional support, states Dr. Aathavan categorically, healing cannot take place.

Today, as Consultant Surgeon of the Vavuniya District Hospital, Dr. Aathavan leads a full and rewarding life. He offers his services voluntarily to the Mother Teresa Home for Elders, screening the 105 residents and performing surgery when necessary.
He also does voluntary work at the two children’s homes in Vavuniya run by Roman Catholic missionaries.

On his visits to Colombo Dr. Aathavan appears live on medical awareness programmes on ITN’s Vasantham TV and on Shakthi TV.
And so, this quiet, unassuming man, his body ravaged by the bullet wound and by surgical scars, but his mind untouched by bitterness or a futile ranting against fate, carries on his humanitarian tasks in a career that has been transformed into a mission.

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A fresh paradigm – a deliverance for nature – A gift for Ray Sat, 30 Jun 2012 13:07:28 +0000 Pubudu The discussion on ‘ Economic Development’ as a national goal, must demonstrate a perspective strongly rooted in modern science.  However, the goals of today suggest that our appreciation of the scientific method of evaluation is a little short. Nevertheless, it is hoped that Sri Lanka’s contribution at the Rio + 20 and at other international conventions that discuss the common future of mankind can propose something innovative rather than the mediocre dribble of the past. Having been party to these processes, the probability of a repetition of past mediocrity is great. Thus in the interest of the profile of this nation and in the interest of a benign future for our children, the following reasoning is advanced. One hopes that the Sri Lankan delegates to the various international conventions this year will raise the need to ‘value photosynthetic biomass’ at all plenary sessions as a national contribution.

Life on Earth learnt how to maintain gas and material flows, optimum for the evolution and sustainability of biodiversity. Carbon Dioxide, although essential to the process of life, was often introduced into the atmosphere by volcanic processes at disruptive levels, throughout geologic history. But the gas has not concentrated in the atmosphere, because it was sequestered by living things and put away out of circulation from the biosphere of living carbon, so that the environment was stable for life. This store of carbon was fossilized and has been slowly accumulating over the last few hundred million years and has acted as the storage of excess carbon.
In our rush to create the new petroleum and coal-driven economy, this very simple and fundamental fact has been ignored.

Carbon that cycles through living systems represents a fixed proportion of the planetary carbon, one part solid, like the carbohydrates in trees and one part gas, as in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide gas. If excess Carbon Dioxide enters the atmosphere through tectonic processes such as volcanism, photosynthetic activity removes this excess carbon dioxide from the biosphere and that excess   is deposited as fossils to enter the lithosphere (rocks),  never to interact with the biosphere again.  This deposition is translated into vast quantities of fossilized carbon that has been removed from the biotic/atmospheric cycles. Unlike the biotic cycles of Carbon that stay deposited for tens of thousands of years, the fossil pools have deposition lifetimes of tens or hundreds of millions of years.

There have been fluctuations of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere in the past but equilibrium was gained and balance was restored.  All this was long before humans.

A painting from artist Anoma Wijewardene’s (daughter of Ray Wijewardene) latest exhibition on climate change ‘Deliverance Dialogues’ now on at the Dutch Hospital, courtyard, Fort. The interactive exhibition runs till July 22.

The first human-driven change that affected the local and regional climates was the massive loss of the global forest stock with the advent of colonization. This loss represents a debt to every nation that lost its forests as well as a debt to planetary atmospheric equilibrium.

This debt can be settled by re-establishing the sequestered stocks of carbon that were lost by reforestation. But once this debt is settled there will be no more room on this planet to plant more trees to sequester the fossil carbon that is currently being released so irresponsibly.

Fossil carbon is the principal driver of climate change. As a substance that is over at least twenty million or more years older than the timber of the forests that were lost, it represents a material with a far higher carbon cost than a forest.

It is also a fact that the levels of Carbon Dioxide, a major atmospheric gas are increasing in the atmosphere. This increase is linked to the destabilization of the climate, the burning of the fossil stock of Carbon being the principal driver of change.

It is now very clear that the stability of planetary climate cycles are in jeopardy and a very large contributory factor to this crisis is the profligate activities of modern human society.  It is the same activity that fuels the current vision of ‘Economic Development’ in Sri Lanka.

The entire infrastructural investment, be it stadia, complexes or towers, require enormous amounts of energy for their operation.  As our sustainable energy production is abysmally low, we will have to provide fossil energy to maintain this infrastructure, an activity patently destructive of the global climate equilibrium.

Another area of concern is the system of agriculture that our farmers have been lured into. Through this type of agriculture they have been  made addicts to fossil fuel energy for motive power and fertilizers. Not only do we lose vast sums of money and add to a decline in health, both human and environmental; we also have this nation adding yet another burden to the planet’s climate stability. In short we are ‘bankrupt’ as an independent, agricultural nation, also very cynical if we ever claim to be ‘green’ on any international stage.

On the wider picture, it is common knowledge, that there is a value difference between fossil derived Carbon Dioxide and biologically cycling Carbon Dioxide,  but this fact has been ignored by the so-called ‘scientists’ who run the IPCC.  Any high school child will know this fact, but it is ignored by the ‘climate scientists’ who claim to know best.  Whatever their motives, the value differential of these cycles, biotic and  fossil, must be recognized.

Biotic carbon operates on time frames of tens or hundreds of thousands of years and fossil carbon in tens or hundreds of millions years.  Further, fossil carbon never interacts with the living or biotic cycle.  Fossil carbon entering the biotic cycle is the fundamental reason as to why there is an accelerating climate change effect. However, the growing of trees to compensate for fossil carbon and paying the same price as for biotic carbon is unfair and tantamount to ‘carbon laundering’.  There is no way to equate the carbon from oil and coal with the carbon from a forest.  One has a space in the biotic cycle, the other does not.  Carbon that cycles through living systems represents a fixed proportion of the planetary carbon thus there is no space in the atmosphere for fossil derived Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide is extracted from the atmosphere by plants and converted into a solid form. This process has been hailed as a tool by which the problem of increasing gaseous Carbon can be addressed.  ‘Plant trees which soak up the carbon dioxide’ the reasoning goes ‘and you can contribute to reducing the atmospheric burden of that gas’.   Living woody biomass has been the first and logical candidate to be used as a potential tool in sequestering atmospheric carbon and has been featured largely in ‘Carbon capture’ projects.  Although the volume of living biomass has now been measured on most global models of carbon cycling and this measure is being used in the evaluation of carbon stocks, there is an urgent need to address the fundamental differences between the components of living biomass, photosynthetic biomass and respiring biomass.

Photosynthetic biomass performs the act of primary production, the initial step in the manifestation of life. The biomass so termed has the ability to increase in mass through the absorption of solar or other electromagnetic radiation while releasing oxygen and water vapour into the atmosphere. Respiring biomass is that component of living biomass that uses the output of photosynthesis to make the complicated biological patterns of life; it consumes oxygen to power its functions, and does not have photosynthetic functions itself. This distinction would seem to be fundamentally important when assessing the value of biomass that is being addressed. It is only this photosynthetic biomass which powers carbon sequestration, carbohydrate production, oxygen generation and water transformation, i.e. all actions essential for the sustainability of the life support system of the planet.

Yet currently, it is only one product of this photosynthetic biomass, as sequestered carbon, usually represented by wood/timber, that is recognized as having commercial value in the carbon market for mitigating climate change.  The ephemeral part, the leaves, are generally ignored, yet the photosynthetic biomass in terrestrial ecosystems are largely composed of leaves; this component needs a value placed on it for its ‘environmental services’.

It is not difficult to place value on photosynthetic biomass today.   Initial computations based on the current values of the carbon market are currently in excess of 125 billion dollars, assuming that the global market would pay at least a similar  amount to maintain our life support system, the 93.1 billion tons of photosynthetic Carbon currently in stock would be roughly worth about 1.35 dollars per kilogram.

It is this biomass that has to grow to sequester the lost biotic Carbon. With such growth we will see more Oxygen, Carbon sequestering and water cleansing, throughout the planet.  Much of the biomass to be gained is in degraded ecosystems around the planet, these areas are also home to the world’s rural poor,  but what these degraded ecosystems do have, is great growth potential for generating photosynthetic biomass. If the restoration of these degraded ecosystems to achieve optimal photosynthetic biomass loads becomes a global goal, the amazing magic of photosynthesis could indeed help change our current dire course, create a new paradigm of growth and make the planet more benign for our children.

Instead of flogging the dead horse of fossil energy based growth as ‘Economic Development’, will we have the commonsense to appreciate the value of photosynthetic biomass and become the first country in the world to propose setting such a value? The realization of which will enrich not only our rural population but rural people the world over!

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Ruwanwella: Colourful history of battles and diplomacy Sat, 30 Jun 2012 13:12:05 +0000 Pubudu The crumbling remains of two forts (one Dutch, one British), an old barn once used to store arecanuts and some rare silver tokens bearing the legend Fanam are all that remain to tell the tale. They are all connected to Ruwanwella – one of the key points along the ancient road that once stretched all the way from Kotte to Kanda Uda Rata.

Frederick Medis

The road, trodden on by native kings and colonial generals alike, brought the two forces together in furious battle more than once, but it was also the path of diplomacy and trade.

A team led by Elmo Alles from the National Trust of Sri Lanka have long since adopted the road – championing the preservation of the many sites of archaeological and cultural interest along the route as well as well as gathering and disseminating new research relating to it. The Sunday Times carried their story ( when they first began.

This time around speakers at the National Trust seminar held at Palangomuwa Gabadawa, Ruwanwella. included Srilal Perera talking on Oxen  pack Thawalam transport, K. D. Paranavithana on the treaties between the Dutch and the Kandyan Kings, Prof. John Balachandran on the ancient engineering feats of Sri Lankans, Mike Anthonisz on the Dutch Governors of Galle and Colombo, Waruna Ranasingha on the Devale ritual of the deified Rajasinha 1st, Prof. Gamini Adikari on the their proto-historic excavation site close to Palangomuwa, Ashley De Vos on the ancient  route from North East to the North West of Pihiti Rata and Gunadasa Kumarasiri on the Ambalama at Ruwanwella.

Together, they have taken the project into its second phase at Ruwanwella. A penultimate phase is scheduled to be held in the ancient city of Menickadawara where a series of discussions are planned. The final phase, which will unfold in Balana, still lies ahead.

Frederick Medis, the President of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Sri Lanka and one time president of both the Sri Lankan Numismatic and Philatelic societies, was one of the first to address the gathering. His story, beginning in early March of 1800, placed the British General Hay McDowall in Ruwanwella on his way to an embassy with the King of Kandy. McDowall’s men had already encountered what the Dutch had dubbed the ‘worst enemies’ they had on the island – its leeches. “The men were infested in this march by leeches to a most alarming degree, and most of them had their legs and different parts of their bodies streaming with blood,” Mr. Medis says. Bloodthirsty parasites were, however, just one of the many obstacles McDowall and the 19th Regiment had to face as they braved the old Colombo-Kandy road.

Fanam coin

Four battalion companies, supplemented with native troops set out from Colombo with the intention of making their way to Kandy via Sithawaka and Ruwanwella. So far, they had found the going very hard indeed. “Finally the path taken by McDowall’s troops became so bad that the artillery had to be left five miles in the rear with an escort of sepoys whilst the 19th Regiment and the rest of the native troops marched to the King’s Royal Gardens near ‘Ruanelle’ where they encamped,” says Mr. Medis. In total, the trip would take them many days and toward the end General McDowall would be forced to leave his heavy guns behind and press on to Kandy with a smaller complement of officers. He and his party would return to Colombo only on the 14th of May, having expended a month of their lives on an agonising journey that today would have taken him a matter of hours.

The embassy to Kandy has since been immortalised in history but at that time, the group’s determined members shed sweat, blood and tears to make what was essentially a courtesy call. “The object of the mission was to keep up friendly intercourse with the kings as well as with a view to political objects of importance,” says Mr. Medis. With so many ambitious men about, the peace was a fragile thing. Just two years later, the British would march down the same route, this time intent on claiming recompense from the Kandyan King for goods (primarily a large stock of arecanut and 602 cattle) that had been confiscated  from their Moorish trading partners. They were accused of being spies for the British, who at that point governed the low country maritime provinces. The Adigar Pilimatalauwe, himself suspected of having designs on the throne, was believed to be behind the move. Repeated demands for compensation from the local British government were ignored by the Kandyan court.

At the head of a small army, the first British governor of Ceylon, Frederick North would take the road through Ruwanwella to Kandy, determined to claim his recompense by force. Though he would be handily rebuffed, Mr. Medis believes the campaign marked the beginning of the war that would dethrone the King in the hills. “The thrust of my argument is that Ruwanwella was at the central whorl of the calamity which triggered the war with Kandy,” says Mr. Medis, offering his version of the build up to the decisive battle that would take place over a decade later.

Though Thomas Maitland would take over from Governor North, the glory of conquering the Kandyan kingdom that had survived over 2,000 years would go to another man – Robert Brownrigg. The Kandyan court had already begun to fracture from within, when in 1814, 10 villagers who were found trading in the British controlled area near Colombo became the catalysts for war. They were sent back to the Colombo city by the King of Kandy with their right hands, right ears and noses cut and tied around their necks. Having left a trail of blood behind them, seven died en route. It was all the excuse Governor Brownrigg needed to declare war. Amongst chieftains from Sabaragamuwa, a proclamation was made at Ruwanwella on February 10, 1815 in which they committed to ousting the King of Kandy but promised that the Buddhist religion would be held sacred.

Though determined to bolster the defences by repairing and even constructing fresh fortifications at Ruwanwella and elsewhere, Governor Brownrigg found himself short of ready money. “To obtain permission from Britain, for the minting of coins for this purpose – especially for the payment of labour and the defence of the establishment would take weeks, sometimes months,” explains Mr. Medis, adding that this led Governor Brownrigg to take the audacious step of minting his own money, unsanctioned by the powers that be. His token silver piece or Fanam was worth 1/12th of a Ceylon Rix-Dollar and amounted to the daily wage of a labourer.

“Ruwanwella fort and many other defences were probably funded and paid for by the Fanam tokens which are now rare numismatic items,” says Mr. Medis. Having successfully brazened it out, Governor Brownrigg would have an eventful stay in Ceylon – riding out the unrest of 1818 as well before returning home in 1820 with his wife. Today, his initials can still be seen over the entrance arch of the fort at Ruwanwella. Having played such a pivotal role in history, the fort at Ruwanwella has now become the home for the local police station. However, for history buffs a visit to the site has its rewards – especially if they take along someone who knows its colourful history, says Mr. Medis.

The fall of a flag and a Kingdom lost

Is this the flag King Sri Wickrema Rajasingha the last king of Kandy carried into battle? “The original of this flag was located at the Chelsea Military Hospital, London by the late E.W. Perera,” says historian and archaeologist Srilal Perera, explaining that records reveal that king Sri Wickrema Rajasingha carried this battle flag as he led the Sinhala army to fight against the British at Hanwella Fort in the September of 1803.

The story goes that when the flag bearer was struck down, he dropped the flag, causing panic in the King who fled the battle field. The Kandyan forces were subsequently routed and forced to retreat to Ruwanwella.

The flag is dense with symbols representing the arsenal of the gods: in the centre is the Davunde drum, traditionally seen in the right hand of Lord Nataraj. The simple circlet is the chakra audhaya, the lethal disc normally seen spinning on the finger of Lord Vishnu. The kaduwa or sword, belongs in the hand of Skanda, the god of war.

The yudha porawa or battle axe belongs to Lord Ganesh. The keti dunna, a short bow, is associated with the twelve handed god Katharagama and finally the illuk-kolayudhaya whose double sphere at one end allows it to bend and twist when thrown at an enemy.

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Their green vision Sat, 30 Jun 2012 12:08:29 +0000 Pubudu Youth activism in Sri Lanka is at an all-time high. Challenging society’s version of the norm, young people are vocal about issues that affect them and their future. When the Ministry of Environment requested youth-oriented environmental group Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka to submit a Youth Position Paper for the Country Report to be presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Rio+20, the dynamic six-member team that drafted the position paper after consultations among diverse youth groups came up with some ambitious suggestions.

Some members of the team that drafted the Youth Position Paper

The committee was chaired by Neshan Gunasekara and comprised Maleen Jayasuriya (representing Sri Lanka Model United Nations), Kanchana Weerakoon (ECO-Volunteers), Sudarsha De Silva (Earth Lanka Network), Gayani Hewawasam (Training for Trusteeship), and Varuna Poonamperuma (Connect Lanka). They were assisted by Laksheta Moorjani, Taamara De Silva, Sikander Sabeer, Sahan Hattotuwa, Rehan Fernando, Senel Wanniarachchi, and Kaveesh Gunasekara.

The suggestions for a greener Sri Lanka included in the document are far-reaching for a country still on the perimeters of a green economy, but it is exactly what the authors believe Sri Lanka needs.  “This paper is a testament to how strongly youth feel about conserving the environment and how important it is for us to take leadership and galvanize that very process,” says Maleen Jayasuriya.

Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) brings together over 30 youth-led environmental organizations, businesses and other stakeholders to one platform where they could collectively meet to discuss initiatives, share ideas and partner on projects. Under the patronage of the United Nations Development Programme and UN Volunteers, they’ve been instrumental in facilitating dialogue and partnerships between youth-led green organizations that would’ve otherwise worked in isolation.

Neshan Gunasekara believes that this interlinking facility is the most important feature of an organization like YGSL. “Sri Lanka has a very high number of youth activists, but the problem is that they work in isolation.” This is the reason behind the lack of long-term sustainability of such organizations and ineffectiveness of initiatives taken by such groups, he feels.

The youth position paper was presented to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and other officials on June 8. The special subcommittee with Neshan as Chairperson had worked on the document from early April of this year. The initiative had the support of the UNDP, National Youth Services Council, International Labour Organization and UN Fund for Population,
(The complete document can be found on

The document was included in Sri Lanka’s Country Report submitted to the UN at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development held last week in Rio de Janeiro. Speaking on the importance of such a conference to a country like Sri Lanka, Country Director of the UNDP Douglas Keh emphasized the opportunity to make maximum use of recent developments to emerge as a role model for sustainability. “As a country on the verge of massive scale development, Sri Lanka has a rare and very precious opportunity to ensure their future policies are aligned with sustainability. Sri Lanka can leapfrog all the environmentally unfriendly practices prevalent in other countries and become a role model and trendsetter for sustainable development.”

He was very optimistic and ‘very much impressed’ on the position paper drafted by the young activists. The recommendations are reasonable, if ambitious, and I can tell that the hearts and minds behind this were in the right place. The position paper is not only timely and relevant, but it is well-played in convincing policy makers to take on their suggestions.

The National Youth Services Council, the national youth representative body, a major stakeholder of YGSL was instrumental in facilitating YGSL’s involvement with Rio+20. “The existence of such capacity among the youth of Sri Lanka strengthens the case for Sri Lanka to host the Global Youth Conference in 2014,” said NYSC Chairman Lalith Piyum Perera.  Sri Lanka is bidding to host the conference, which will bring together a large number of young activists from around the world.

Recommendations included in the official Sri Lanka Youth Position Paper

  • Participation for youth at all levels of the decision making process
  • Employment opportunities for youth that include green jobs: bridging the skills gap of youth through education and training and promotion of social entrepreneurship.
  • An office for an Ombudsperson/High Commission for future generations in the Parliament of Sri Lanka in order to provide necessary input into national level policies

It also calls upon the political leadership of Sri Lanka to commit to:

  • Promote and support reforestation projects
  •  Sustainable water resource management
  • 20% of youth to be employed in the marine sector by 2022 (taking into consideration the country’s great marine resource base and diverse employment opportunities available in that sector)
  • Effective implementation of major laws that address marine issues in Sri Lanka
  • Maintain and improve air quality (suggestions include certified emission credit certification systems)
  • Harness renewable resources as an alternative for fossil fuel power generation
  • Invest further in upgrading the public transportation systems to combat traffic congestion and carbon emission
  • All development plans to take into consideration procedures such as green accounting
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Poson pinkama in Kandy Sat, 30 Jun 2012 13:03:12 +0000 Pubudu Packets  of food were distributed at the Mahamaluwa Sri Dalada Maligawa Kandy on Poson full moon Poya Day. This dana pinkama was carried out for the 5th consecutive year under the auspices of  Sanjeev Gardiner, Chairman, Galle Face Group and organized by Queens Hotel and Hotel Suisse.

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