Thursday, 27 December 2012

Life of Pi and I


Life of Pi and I

I went to see “Life of Pi” yesterday with my children. They were happy to see the animals and strange and beautiful scenes of sea life. However they were quite surprised by the reference to God in the movie. When the film’s main character claimed he wants to be baptised, my children laughed loudly. Some people sitting in front of us did not like it.  My children are not baptised even though their mother is from Lutheran church. (Christian). I told them they can follow Buddhism and learn Buddhist ways which they do. I also told them when they are grown up they can select any religion and follow that up or stay as Buddhists and I am not going to enforce them to follow strictly one religion. They also study Christianity at their church school and go to church and the temple. I took them several times to a Hindu kovils too.  So they have a good understanding of Piscine Molitor’s behaviour in the film. However I still don’t know why they laughed yesterday. It’s perhaps the way the boy Pi said it.  They were not baptised and my wife refused to baptise them because most of the parents do that to get a better secondary School in England. So she refused to follow the trend. I am glad she did that.
Anyway thinking about “Life of Pi” I was somewhat behaved the same way even though I was not floating/fighting for life in big Pacific Ocean.  When I left for higher studies I was a devout Buddhist and also an avid reader of Marxist literature. First few years in Soviet Union I ditched Buddhism completely and became atheist/Marxist. However after these first few years I was introduced to Russian Orthodox Church by a beautiful fellow Russian student. She went there and I followed. Religion was somewhat taboo in that era and she was quite brave to do that. Then I start studying Christianity and read the bible as well.  I was still an atheist but like the somewhat mysterious nature of Russian Orthodox Church. After my studies in Soviet Union I ended up in England. I met few Muslim friends and start reading Quran. They told me I have to read it in  Arabic but I was not interested to learn another language as I already could speak in Russian and learning English more thoroughly as my higher education mainly were in Russian. As I understood Quran was somewhat similar to Bible’s Old Testament for a while I read some Kabbalah teaching as well.
Last few years I went to spiritualist church and talked to mediums. Mediums are the people who talked to the otherside or ones passed relatives. I read lot of books on medium-ships and similar paranormal literature. I stop believing reincarnation and karmic theory soon afterwards and stopped believing that one can talk to dead relatives of others or your own.  By this time I was engaging heavily in Amateur astronomy and registered myself to study MSc in Astrophysics. Meantime I had (Sometimes heated) discussions with lot of Christian friends who follow different sects like Jehovah’s witness and some other denominations while also reading Buddhist literature.
After all those years later I realised I still like Buddhism because of just one sentence.  Buddha said in Kalama sutra “Do not believe religious teachings,  just because they are claimed to be true, or even through the application of various methods or techniques” – (ref: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutta) . However, I don’t like to be called a Buddhist as that will label you to something. Attached you to something that is against the very much what Buddha said about attachment.

Going  back to “Life of Pi” we were all in a big Life Ocean seeking truth. And we always find what’s close to our own hearts and minds as ultimate truth, a prejudiced decision where our parents, teachers and respective societies we used to live in taught us or forced us to follow on.

CJ’s Impeachment Issue and Jeganathan’s “Ethos of Ethics”


CJ’s Impeachment Issue and Jeganathan’s “Ethos of Ethics”
It looks like the CJ vs Government Issue i.e the impeachment issue is going to be the main drama   that will dominate the political theatre in the New Year. I was reading most of the news relating to the impeachment issue of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and one of the recent articles was written by Dr Pradeep Jeganathan to Colombo Telegraph. It seems Colombo Telegraph has most number of articles printed on this issue. Dr jeganathan talks about the “Ethos of ethics” of this issue and gives some historical perspective citing certain appointment of the prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1952 aided by the then colonial era chief justice.
A subtle as he is Dr Jeganathan touched the impeachment issue as an ethics problem so as it seems.  Rest assured loyal commenters from both sides of pre-Prabhakaran old diaspora politics can be seen from the comments line. Dr Rajasingham Narendran, I S Senguttuvan that we saw in DBS Jeyaraj’s columns are commenting as usual and also I can see one “king barnnet” supporting kings that no one wanted to support right now. And yes of course “Sinhala-only” problem also brought out by some commentators as usual. The “Sinhala only legislation” was perhaps a blunder to Colombo 7 Tamils and Colombo 7 Sinhalese, but not for us the poor Sinhala lot. I am not talking about racial politics here. This was about the jack boot of colonialism that suppressed Sinhalese and Tamil masses. Sinhala only policy tried to remove that suppression of Sinhalese from the  jack boot of colonialism by allowing Sinhalese to go into government education and government jobs thereby removing the greater inequality and injustice caused by the colonial British rulers. People like us would never have had a chance to study in Royal (Where I had the privilege of meeting Student Jeganathan) and go to higher studies, or our fathers never would have had government jobs that enable them to support us to be where we are. Yes there were some disadvantages occurred to Colombo 7 and Tamils and highly privileged burger classes which later emigrated to Australia and other countries. We can see the same thing happen in Mandela’s South Africa.  Although Tamils eye favourably towards South Africa and the Mandela policies they never accepted the Bandaranayaka policy as removing Sinhalese from colonial shackles. They took that as a threat to their privileged status and started the separatist campaign. That campaign was later hijacked by the socialist leftist Tamils and we were supportive of it as well. However later on Sinhala chauvinists used the Sinhala only policy and other added measures (like education policy) to suppress the minorities exactly as the British suppressed them.  The pooere sections of the minorities suffered the most.  Then the new national socialist type movement of Prabhakaran took over the Tamil struggle we all know where it has ended.
So who are supporting the CJ?  When the Tamil intellectuals and leftists intellectuals connected the impeachment issues with national problem then there is a problem for us. As far as people of Sri Lanka concerns they do not bother about this impeachment issue as the opposition or the lawyers want them to be. As anyone would have easily predicated Pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora also supports CJ and the current opposition as they are forever against the Government anyway.  As far as I know Dr Narendran always voiced against LTTE politics together with Jeyaraj and while Ilya Seran Senguttvan was on the fence regarding the LTTE issue. Former General Fonseka was supportive of CJ and asking her to join the politics. Perhaps he was such a lonely figure now he wants at least CJ in his boat as former CJ Sarah N Silva is increasingly taking pro-government stand. The issue of the impeachment motion is a political one which was taken by the highest level of the SL government. The issue of safeguarding  the independence of the judiciary as CJ underlined in her recent speech was not a political issue but increasingly dragged to that end by the forces and individuals mentioned above who are allegedly aligning to support the independence of judiciary not to  mention the Asian human right commission et al..
It started with JVP signing the petition with Dr Chandraguptha Theunevara and other intellectuals. Soft spoken Dr Thenuvara was studying in Russia and I knew him then as a leftist representing the old left. Independent of judiciary was simply non-existent in old Soviet union where he and I studied. Anura Kumara Dissanayake representing JVP was signing the petition too. JVP affliates it’s foreign policy with China and JVP attends Chinese Communist party functions too. In short they support Chinese model. Arguably China is not a country we can take as an example of safeguarding the independence of judiciary. UNP led by Ranil Wickrmasinghe is somewhat muted in response to Impeachment motion although they seem to support CJ. They are reeling from not so friendly judgments against them by the courts of the country and judging by the opposition leader’s attitude he is on the fence. Then comes the Tamil diaspora (pro LTTE or not) mentioned earlier, exiled journalists, exiled websites and editors etc. The same lot supported former General Fonseka’s campaign for presidency too. And lost.
Most sensible approach we can see from Deepthi Kumara Gunarthane’s (DKG) vanguard (Peratugami) party and Kumar Gunerathnam’s Frontline Socialist party. DKG of Vanguard party also connect the CJ issue with the national problem and according to him if Sri Lanka can  find a solution to the  national problem these other problems may solve itself. (Please refer to: www.3mana.com)
 I doubt that but that’s what those commentators to Dr Jeganathan’s article and Dr Jeganathan himself seems to believe as well. Subtleness of Jeganthan obscured it cleverly from the article of ethos and ethics. (Ref: http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/impeachment-cj-sir-alan-rose-and-dudley-senanayake-an-ethos-of-ethics/)
Frontline socialist party’s Pubudu Jayagoda supported CJ while commenting on the impeachment issue, but he and his party seems to shy away from any street action regarding the issue.
For ordinary people in Sri Lanka this impeachment issue is not an issue as much as issue of another high rise building going up in Colombo with another higher rate Chinese loan. They have lost their daily bread to Lamborghini imports and whether the fact that current CJ would survive in her post or not, is not going to change their attitude.

I would have preferred if Dr Jeganathan looked at more recent history of Sri Lanka for ethics and Ethos than colonial era. It is not for me to suggest but I can’t help pointing out that Felix Dias Bandaranayake set the trend in motion in late 70s during the dying days of Sirima Government. Independence of Judiciary eroded slowly in Island of Sri Lanka taking heavy beatings from JRJ government , RP government and CBK governments. Specially,  during the tenure of former CJ Sarath N Silva, we heard many stories of Judges and lawyers engaged in many sort of activities behind the court rooms. So for ordinary people in Sri Lanka there is nothing lost. To safeguard an independence of Judiciary there should be one to safeguard.  This is not mean to say that behaviour of the government of SL is right or I am justifying it Far from it. But I am merely pointing out the fact the lawyers can agitate against the impeachment motion and may even succeed stopping it. But very same lawyers were the ones taking money from poor clients, dragging court cases and harassing people of Sri lanka with their exorbitant charges while getting rich. Not all the lawyers but majority are. CJ’s husband was appointed to run the bank by this government and CJ herself was appointed by this government.  We all know these facts and as we can see CJ (and her family) was part of the well –oiled government machinery not so long ago. It is more like government vs government issue rather than people vs the government.  It seems to be unfair on CJ because those representing the government in parliament select committee consist of corrupted ministers according to media reports. So how can they judge the CJ did anyting wrong when they have done even worse.
Sri Lanka does not have a liberal capitalism characterised by people and businesses generally paying due taxes, bureaucrats are less corrupted, people are generally law abiding, police and judiciary are independent and governments do not interfere with judicial process.  So the solution to this problem lies with changing the entire political system rather than changing the regime. Providing a solution to national question or removing Sinhala as stage language or lamenting Sinhala only policy and giving equal right to Tamil (It is already a national language) would not solve the current problem with Judiciary and Executive. Actually I can’t really see a problem. CJ is yet to show whether she is really independent or nor. Even if she works hard to save the judiciary under the current corrupt political system she would not survive anyway.

Ajith D

Sunday, 23 December 2012

In guns we trust


Dear Wayne LaPierre,
I heard you say that "Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns". You also called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a "way of life" according to the BBC. Normally I don’t trust these new agencies that much but in this case this was reported elsewhere so it must be true. It could be true mentally ill and violent video games and films may have instigated some to kill with guns. But then some of these films use other methods too. But we don’t see people running with swords or chainsaws killing others.

Mr LaPierre –
Let’s remind ourselves of little bit of American history. I will be selective here though. You (I mean Americans) have chased out natives from their home (own areas of habitat) and hunting grounds most of the time killing their women and children. So you needed the guns. And they may have returned and fight with their bows, arrows and Tomahawks so you have to defend yourself. Fair enough, as you need guns then to defend your newly acquired lands. You sent them to reservoirs and they don’t complain that much now. Most of them are mixed with everyone else and you made a peace.
Then you had slaves.  So stop them running away you had to shackle them and guard them with guns. So you need the guns then too. We are against slavery here but this happened many moons ago so let’s allow it too as a reason to have guns.

And then you need the guns during the American civil war. One part of the union wanted to keep the slavery other part didn’t. I am quoting here from: http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war

In the spring of 1861, decades of simmering tensions between the northern and southern United States over issues including states' rights versus federal authority, westward expansion and slavery exploded into the American Civil War (1861-65). The election of the anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 caused seven southern states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America; four more joined them after the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Four years of brutal conflict were marked by historic battles at Bull Run (Manassas), Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Vicksburg, among others. The War Between the States, as the Civil War was also known, pitted neighbour against neighbour and in some cases, brother against brother. By the time it ended in Confederate surrender in 1865, the Civil War proved to be the costliest war ever fought on American soil, with some 620,000 of 2.4 million soldiers killed, millions more injured and the population and territory of the South devastated.”

You uses your guns against your own neighbour according to this. Well you need the guns then. You have made peace again an the great nation of yours selected it’s first coloured president twice as well.

Now you are still keeping the guns. I mean the civilians. There is no problem to Police and armed forces to have guns to keep law and order. Same goes to farmers and forest rangers. Although I prefer the British police who are walking without guns and at times heroically give their lives which happened very recently. You see even though I can justify and even agree that sometimes British Police should carry guns they don’t. They are that good. They call armed response units. Ever heard of that? I am sure anyone can buy guns in London black markets. But people here have faith in their law enforcement agencies.

You seem to have forgotten that you don’t need to defend your land from rightful owners. They are in reservoirs. You don’t have slaves to guard.  You don’t have a civil war. So anyone having guns think that children and people who queue up to watch a film as legitimate targets.
 If you are against the federal government you can always do demonstrations. You don’t need guns for that. All of your media praise your 5 star democracy most of the time. So why not allow those against the federal government to protest in the streets peacefully. You don’t need guns for that. Imagine if there will be some Marxist revolutionaries happened to be in US and organising a riot. They don’t need to instigate army to get the weapons. They will have all the guns they need at home, legally owned. What a security lapse? Or your political leaders think that people will not take arms against the government?  

Any way end of the day it’s not our problem. I think If you want to have guns in homes that’s fine as far as other civilians in other countries would not follow the American example. I just think in your dollar bills you have “in God we trust” printed, Was it not better to print “In guns we trust”?