This Christmas: Less on celebration, more on contemplation It is the first week of December, and my thoughts wing back to Christmases past. This year is different, very, very, different. Because I feel guilty. Guilty, about thinking of all the things we usually do during this Season of Blessings and good cheer. It is not [...]


Letters to the Editor


This Christmas: Less on celebration, more on contemplation

It is the first week of December, and my thoughts wing back to Christmases past. This year is different, very, very, different. Because I feel guilty. Guilty, about thinking of all the things we usually do during this Season of Blessings and good cheer.

It is not that we have been selfish, never. All of us think about the less fortunate at Christmas, and help and reach out far more than we do at other times, each in our own way. It is just that with things being so hard for so many, that guilt sets in.

I think of the humble Birth. God’s own son could have been born in the mightiest palace. In the most luxurious setting. Instead, it was on a bed of hay surrounded by lowing cattle. For sure those animals knew, and the scent of those beasts, their comforting swishing of tails, nudges and grunts, were the first, sights, sounds and smells experienced by the Babe. Isn’t our Saviour teaching us something with His very birth?

I will make the usual Christmas cake, albeit a very small one. I cannot go on the usual traipse to Pettah, and join the queue outside my favourite small store to buy the ingredients. (An experience in itself!) Yes, I will buy my P  ’n’ S Bruedher, for our Kiribath and Breudher breakfast, a tradition since childhood. For many years now, we haven’t bothered with gifts for each other, but the giving to all the others who help ease our lives has happened, and will continue.

Dinner with the family, has taken place, sometimes on a big scale with much joy and merriment, and some years it has not. This year too, I hope, a few of us can gather round the table to give thanks.

Those boxes of decorations stored with care will come out. I cannot imagine otherwise. I am a Christmas decoration junkie. They are not colour coded or co-ordinated.  I do admire those that are, but ours are a mish-mash of Christmas Past, because I’m sentimental about a lot of it, and can’t bear to throw away, unless it’s at disintegration level. The Nativity Scene, is given pride of place, and is set up before the tree, as always.

Where we live, in the vicinity of the former Wellawatte Spinning and Weaving Mills, there are many folk who are employed by the day. Some of the really desperate came to the gate and were helped, in cash or kind, in whatever way we could.

My kitchen although shielded by a high wall faces the lane. There were times that over these Lockdown days I felt guilty, about cooking even a frugal meal. There were many out there, I could hear, walking about, talking, in search of food.

With this second wave, it’s been worse. I heard a man distinctly tell his companion in Sinhala – “they don’t understand, when I say there’s no money, they don’t understand,” obviously referring to his family members, a wife and children. The first instinct was to rush out, see who he was, and offer help. But then – which of the two said it? Will I be taken for a fool, a good old ride, cause embarrassment, what I can offer will be totally inadequate, all those qualms, and nothing got done!

We’ve all tightened our belts more than a notch. If anything this spectre of COVID-19 has taught us what’s important and what’s not. To sieve out the unnecessary. To be  prayerful,  grateful, and give thanks for what we have.

This is not an  intent to preach. Far from it. I am a person who loves to travel within this country. I have a bucket list of places I’ve yet to see and experience. Like everyone else I enjoy enjoyment. Food has always been a fad and fascination. All curbed.

This is a season for contemplating the inward—looking at ourselves, asking for Grace and Mercy for all those flaws, and praying to overcome them. This is the time to reach out and give, of ourselves and what we are able to, in good and greater measure.

As we celebrate His Birth within our churches and out of them, let’s remember that Cross, and what Jesus came for.  As Tiny Tim said in that famous Christmas tale by Dickens, “God bless us everyone”.

Sharmini Rodrigo

Via email

Change established procedure to treat sovereign voters as ‘Principals’ in Constitution-making

Former Secretary General of Parliament Nihal Seneviratne has outlined the procedure for the passage of the proposed New Constitution as follows:

“These eminent lawyers would sift through the representations and memorandums received and prepare a draft report which is expected to be submitted to the President. The President is expected to submit the report and draft to the Speaker and the Speaker would submit this report and thereafter appoint a Select Committee comprising members from both the Government and the Opposition.

“The Select Committee following the usual established procedure would invite representations from the public and would study all these memorandums and submit the report back to Parliament with their recommendation. It would deliberate at length, studying all the representation made and submit its final report to Parliament.”

The preparation of a Draft report by an ‘Experts Committee’ consisting of eminent lawyers is acceptable as the Ministry of Justice has called for proposals from the public for their consideration. Barring that aspect, the procedure clearly shows that the politicians acting in collusion as ‘Agents/Representatives’ of the people have got a ‘blank cheque’ to usurp the powers of their ‘Principals’ – the sovereign voters, and have their own way through a ‘Parliamentary Select Committee’ under the pretext of following the ‘usual established procedure’of inviting representations from the public which is a mere eyewash.

As we know, such a Select Committee of Parliamentarians will even collude to overturn the very objective of the ‘Draft Report’ in order to protect their privileges and narrow vested interests. The process continues with 2/3rd Parliamentary majority culminating with the final eyewash of a ‘Referendum’ where the people are asked to say ‘Yes’ or  ‘No’ to a document framed according to the whims and fancies of politicians  under a procedure marred with ‘conflict of interest’.

Against this backdrop and in keeping with natural justice and the prevailing ‘Law of Agency’, I as a concerned citizen, would strongly suggest that our ‘sovereign voter dedicated’ organisations like ‘Paffrel’, Caffe, CMEV and other civil rights organisations and the academia,  prevail upon the National Elections Commission(NEC) to appoint a ‘Civilian Task Force for Constitutional Reforms’ comprising eminent retired ju dges and representatives of these civil society organisations to study and make their own recommendations to the ‘Draft Report’, sans politicians. The final document by the ‘Civilian Task Force’ after being whetted by the NEC and the Supreme Court respectively, should go before the Parliament only for formal approval.

The time is ripe for us to press for a change from the present irregular system of governance dominated by unprincipled and dishonest politicians to a system of ‘People-based Governance’ through a robust Constitution.

 Bernard Fernando


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