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28th February 1999

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A view from the hills

Telephone blues

The Deputy General Manager, Mahaweli Complex, is wondering whether he should rewrite the popular view on modern communications. When he was residing at Trincomalee Street, Kandy, he had his authorised, official telephone. While he is also served with official telephones at his office in Ampitiya, the home 'phone is very essential. The DGM looks after the power stations at Victoria, Bowatenna, Rantambe, Kotmale and Randenigala. He needs to stay on top of things at all hours and calls home are vital in case of breakdown or other emergencies.

Our DGM moved residence to a house close to the Odeon Cinema. Not far away from his old home. That was almost a year ago, and despite letters sent by him for the past nine months, his official home 'phone stays at Trincomalee Street. Mind, the CEB pays the bill for this official 'phone. Now, our power boss says, he is kept in the dark. He cannot be contacted by any of the power stations after hours. Does it really take up to a year to transfer a 'phone in this country?

Peace, and meditation

The Kandy Buddhist Organization is trying to complete the building of an Aramaya and wishes to enclose ten acres of land at Ambekotte on the Digana Road, which is a peaceful and serene meditation centre. As KBO President Dr. Nihal Karunaratne said, this place of meditation is unique since it now serves 110 Buddhist families in the immediate vicinity. The Dhamma School that functions there is for both Buddhist and Tamil children. No distinctions exist whatsoever. Sinhalese and Tamil children learn together and, so far, nine Tamil boys have earned Merit Certificates in the practice of meditation.

KBO Treasurer, V. Rajapakse, said that what pervades is the atmosphere of harmony and loving kindness to all, while Secretary P.G. Amarasena, on a more practical note said that the ten acres need to be fenced if only to preserve the peaceful atmosphere of the place. The Ambekotte Meditation Centre has, as its patron, Ven. Rahula of the Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya, and it is a branch of the University Forest Hermitage and Meditation Centre at Bowalawatte at the crest of the Heerassagalla Road, Kandy.

Dr. Nihal appeals to all generous people to help in the completion of the Ambekotte Aramaya and in the wire fencing of the area. We need up to eight lakhs to complete the Aramaya and up to Rs. 110,000 for the wire fencing. This is a very important work that the KBO is doing and we rely on the help we receive."

May I exhort readers to contribute. Cheques can be made out to either the President, Secretary or Treasurer, the Kandy Buddhist Organization, and addressed to the Kandy Buddhist International Meditation Centre, Heerassagalla Road, Bowalawatte, Kandy.

Enforced Closure

Traders and shopkeepers in Kandy are alarmed at the way things are shaping up, when they can be ordered to close their premises at short interval and for reasons they find wholly unrealistic and unreasonable.

On Monday, January 25, vehicles carrying loudspeakers simply cruised the streets. Orders were given that all shops must close at 1 p.m. Reason? It was the one-year anniversary of the Maligawa bombing. I was a witness to the enforcement of this order:

"Meka vahanta oney!" This was said as if as a threat, and especially outside Muslim and Hindu establishments. At the Municipal Junction, one shopkeeper said he had to wait till his daughter returned from school. The reaction was an angry, "Vahanavada? Nethnam api vahantada?"

The thing is, who gave licence to enforce such orders? Was it the Police... or the Municipality.... or the Mayor.... or the Chief Minister?

what was intended was a 'sathyakriya', an assembly of monks and citizens who would mark the anniversary with religious observances. It plunged Kandy into chaos. Every shop was asked to fly a Buddhist flag or a yellow flag, while very evident were the posters purportedly issued by an organisation styling itself the Sinhala Veera Vidhana. The posters read: "Deya Vadamu, Sinhalayini Ekamuthu Venu."

One would think that the day would have been marked by (a) religious observances and (b) ceremonies of thanksgiving that, despite the LTTE, the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha remains miraculously unharmed.

Why was this reduced to a carnival of sorts? And what did it profit the very image of Buddhism to bombard the town with loudspeakers playing ghastly music, pollute the streets with jingoistic posters and make the occasion some sort of lever for bigoted groups to flex their muscles? And what was the reason for the demand to close shops.

On "Rupavahini" in coverage of the event, it was said that all shops closed as a mark of respect. But was this voluntary? Ay, there's the rub!

Also, from what we have so far seen, this "Ekamuthu" business is far from ever happening.

Nothing is more painful than to realise that all over, the "Sinhalayini" are locking horns, fighting each other while Prabhakaran is doubtless laughing his silly head off!

January 25, 1998 was a black day for Kandy. A day of shame. Is this a day to be celebrated or a day to be marked by prayer.

All these public pyrotechnics makes one wonder what possesses our people at times!

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