There is a lot to learn from Lanka’s first citizens, the Veddahs. Though the Sinhalese decry the discriminations practised and the deprivations inflicted upon the aborigines of Australia, Canada and the United States and hold it as prime examples of human rights violations in those countries, they conveniently look askance when it comes to the [...]


No honey blandishments for Veddah Chief


There is a lot to learn from Lanka’s first citizens, the Veddahs.

Though the Sinhalese decry the discriminations practised and the deprivations inflicted upon the aborigines of Australia, Canada and the United States and hold it as prime examples of human rights violations in those countries, they conveniently look askance when it comes to the aborigines of their own land, recognising their presence only to make them objects of ridicule. Some do not even bother to spare them a gift when asking for a favour believing perhaps it’s an honour they are casting upon them.

JVP veteran Somawansa Amerasinghe presenting the party’s policy document to Veddah Chief Uruwarige Wanniyala-Attho

But though the Veddah tribe may live in the Vanni isolated from the rest of society, it is clear they keep in touch with the times and are in tune with evolving trends.

Though not highly publicised as audiences granted by the senior monks to political leaders to present their proposals and receive their instant approval and blessings, apparently Uruwarige Wanniyala-Attho the chief of the Wanniyala-Attho Veddah Chapter, as distinct from the Coastal Veddah Sect and the Anuradhapura Veddah Sect, also grants personal audiences to political leaders who seek their approval and blessings too and demands a certain protocol to be followed when the privilege is bestowed.

So be warned. Transgress age old customs at your peril. You cannot simply go empty handed to meet the high priest of the Veddahs as ex- JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe found to his chagrin recently when he called on the Veddah Chief Wanniyala Attho of the Wanniyala-Aetto Veddah Chapter to present the new JVP manifesto titled ‘Our Vision’.

Mr. Amarasinghe’s gaffe was that he went, as they say in the vernacular, atha-wana-wana, without even a sheaf of betel, carrying with him instead a sheaf of papers containing mumbo-jumbo how the JVP planned to change the old order with their new vision. He was given short shrift by the Veddah chief. He was lucky to have escaped the chief’s wrath without being flayed alive like a wild hog for gross lack of respect and ignorance of the traditional order of things and was sent home packing with the clear message: “If you want to meet me, Mister, Come the proper way.”

As the Veddah Nayake’s Chief Spokesman Wimalaratna Attho, speaking on behalf of his chief Uruwarige Wanniyala-Aetto said on Tuesday, the senior JVP leader and former JVP chieftain Somawanssa Amarasinghe had recently sought and was granted an audience with the Wanniyala Attho to present the new JVP manifesto titled ‘Our Vision’ and receive his approval and blessings.

“He just presented a sheaf of papers to the Chief. Various people come to meet our Chief who grants an audience to them. The Chief does not differentiate these visitors on their political or ideological differences. Welcoming these visitors also does not mean we subscribe to their policies.”

But neither do the chief monks differentiate those who visit them for advice and blessing on the grounds of political or religious ideology or race but one cannot expect a lay member, though a king to his tribe, to exercise altruism when he has to feed his clan and count his honeycombs. And thus shouldn’t the ex-JVP boss have realised that he should have taken some meaningful tangible goodwill in the form of pure honey, for example, to offer to the Veddah chief in the self same manner he would have done had he be paying a call on a more exalted personage and seeking blessings? He should have known nothing is gratis, even in Veddahland; and that throughout the country even benedictions come with a price tag.

So instead of receiving the customary good wishes, in the manner bestowed by the Chief Priests the Chief Veddha, however, called a spade a spade. He had given short shrift to Mr. Somawansa and his manifesto and had told him bluntly: “your vision is not our vision”.
As Chief Veddah Spokesman Wimalaratna Attho said, “many people had visited the Veddha Chief and presented papers similar to the manifesto of the JVP. These pieces of paper have no value. There would be value only if they could put the content into practice. We cannot comment on the content of the manifesto.”

If the papers Mr. Somawansa submitted had only been laced with the customary honey, or better still, if it had contained colourful illustrations of the Veddahs favourite bird, the peacock, how much more value would have been placed on the JVP manifesto for then it would have been established beyond question that their vision embraces today’s reality and that they are indeed translating their vision into practice. Why then, even the customary photograph would have been issued to the media, and plastered on Facebook with blessings tweeted

But at least some good has emerged from Mr. Somawansa’s lack of blandishments to influence the Veddah Chief to do the needful. For once it has enabled a leader of a community to give his honest opinion. He has been able without obligation to his visitor to spell out his own home truths and call a spade a spade and describe the JVP manifesto as a load of garbage. Had it been otherwise, the Veddah Chief too would have, like others in the same blessing business, been bound to issue streams of saccharine laced statements, adopt stances and express opinions solely based on the number of flotillas carrying milk cups and honey pots to his cave dwelling.

Far away in the boonies Uruwarige Wanniyala Attho may be but this ‘with-it’ veddah has, even unknowingly, demonstrated how much respect one earns for one’s opinions, advice and blessings when it is not muddied in a puddle of ill-gotten honey drippings.

Life does dance on a razor blade


How fast death follows a gala celebration to remind us all that there but for the grace of God or our karmic forces go we.

Three Monday’s ago senior BJP member Gopinathrao Munde was at the summit of his career taking his oaths in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan as India’s Minister of Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation. For long had he climbed up the party ladder, rung by rung, to claim his due reward at the top. The following Tuesday, barely seven days of being sworn in, he lay dead, with his hopes and dreams of wielding power as Minister of the Union coffined with his mortal corpus.

When the world seemed his oyster, he was killed in an accident at a roundabout barely a mile away from Modi’s residence, during the early morning traffic when a car, ignoring the right of way, crashed into the vehicle Munde was travelling in. But death is no respecter of persons

Munde: Killed in car crash a week after he was sworn in as a minister

and Minister or no, the oil in Munde’s lamp had dried and the wick was blown. He was on his way to the airport to catch a plane to his home state Maharashtra for victory celebrations arranged by party members but fate decreed he board a different flight earlier than schedule.
So the first sad rain has fallen on India’s party and Modi’s term which got off with so much life and buoyancy has met the first pits of death. The party has stopped in midair even as Munde’s life was mowed in mid flight. This of course will not veer the Modi juggernaut off its tracks the slightest but it brings the whole Modi road show to ground zero, to reality where death is but part and parcel of life. And provides a striking message to all those who think, talk and act as if they were but born to live forever.

It should drive home the message that the tumbril parked outside their door is waiting the appointed hour; and that, with the Damocles sword overhead arrayed, all life dances on a razor blade.


Vegetarians don’t hurt humans


On May 20, Deputy Minister Hemal Gunasekera’s vehicle is stopped on the southern expressway by police constable Suminda Suman and charged for speeding. An attempt by Mr. Gunasekera’s driver to explain that the Honourable Deputy Minister is in the vehicle carries no weight with the policeman who discharges his duty and levies a fine.

Ten days later, PC Suman leaves his home for work in his private car when he is stopped by a gang. He is assaulted and the car burnt. Making a complaint at the police station PC Suman claims that he is the victim of a revenge attack and accuses the deputy minister of being responsible. He also notes, in his complaint that CCTV cameras had recorded the incident on the expressway.

Police at the scene of the crime investigating the attack on PC Suman

The deputy minister accordingly makes a statement to the police and denies all knowledge and responsibility for the attack. He merely states that a speeding incident occurred on the highway, that a fine was imposed for speeding by a cop; and he thought no more about it.
As an honourable Member of Parliament and a deputy minister of the government, no doubt, he is telling the truth. Furthermore he is entitled to his innocence, as every citizen is, unless proved otherwise in a court of law. But if these two factors were not enough to assume his truthfulness and defer a verdict of guilt, the deputy minister goes on to say: “I am a vegetarian; I do not eat meat or fish. So how can I harm anyone?” 

Though no co-relationship has yet been established between loving animals and fish so as not to eat them and practising universal love towards one’s fellowmen so as not to harm or kill them, let the deputy minister have the benefit of the doubt, as he is duly entitled by law? Let him suffer the belief that all vegetarians are like him: paragons of virtue who have attained sovan status and exist in the sublime state of constantly practising loving kindness to all beings.

So far, so good. But last Thursday, June 5, the deputy minister makes a statement that the PC in question was planning to migrate — and to promote his chances of gaining political asylum abroad, he had concocted the story of the attack and had set fire to his own car.
Strange isn’t it? What striking similarity to the incident involving another honourable member and minister Dr. Mervyn Silva and the Samurdhi official who, attacked by ceaseless pangs of guilt after the honourable minister merely advised him for being a trifle careless in the execution of his public duties, tied himself to a tree as a form of penance to atone for his unpardonable sin? 

As things stand police have revealed that police constable Suminda Suman is being questioned at length. Furthermore members of his family have been questioned too. Furthermore police are probing all telephone calls made by him on his mobile phone. The investigation into him, the man whose car was burnt, is being conducted thoroughly and is still proceeding. This is the price he perforce must pay for accusing a vegetarian minister of conduct unbecoming.

If the deputy minister’s allegation is true doesn’t this self assault and setting fire to one’s own car reveal the extent to which public officers are willing to inflict damage upon themselves and their property in order to get out from this country and seek asylum abroad, especially when some government minister is involved in a previous incident? Where will it end?

If this trend continues, next time there is a murder investigation into the death of a public servant allegedly killed by a gang of thugs, we will be hearing that the official in question had set himself on fire and committed self-immolation in a bid to persuade foreign nations to grant his corpus asylum to enable his charred corpse to be buried in some foreign field and forever rest in peace far from the madding crowd of political ghouls.

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