Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hidden Treasures of Galle

Hidden Treasures of Galle

Beyond the colonial Dutch heritage which Galle is renowned for, this somewhat laidback city in the south of Sri Lanka has its own hidden treasures, in the form of vast stretches of lowland rain-forest in Sinharaja and Kanneliya. But the most awesome of them all, is the rain-forest bordering the Hiyare Reservoir.

According to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne the internationally renowned wildlife celebrity, “Galle is the rain-forest capital of Sri Lanka, and is the richest of Sri Lanka's districts, in bio-diversity”.

When I visited Galle with my TV crew, to seek out the hidden treasures of Galle for my TV series ‘Discover Sri Lanka’, I invited Gehan to accompany us, because of his valuable insight into all things wildlife. His input was to add educational value to the series of programmes on Galle.

My crew and I were invited to stay at the famous Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel during or stay in Galle. 

Perched upon a rugged outcrop, along the famed south western coast of Sri Lanka, the Lighthouse Hotel, is the last unique architectural triumph, of Sri Lanka’s iconic genius, Geoffrey Bawa.

Gehan and the hotel’s Naturalist Anoma Alagiyawadu, had methodically mapped out our Galle tou,r based on the Lighthouse Hotel’s excursion programme. We started off with a boat safari down the Mahamodara River, and a visit to Jetwing Kurulubedda followed by the Rainforests of Galle -  Kanneliya and Kottawa Forest Reserves and the Hiyare Rainforest Park.

The next day we travelled to Mirissa in the deep south of Sri Lanka, to “Frolic with Dolphins & Whales”. Mirissa is regarded as one of the world's best locations, amongst the top two or three, for watching Blue Whales & Sperm Whales. Our Galle tour concluded with the Seashore Trail along the coastline.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Child Ordination-through a Mother’s Eyes!

As a mother, the following is one of the most emotionally challenging articles I tasked myself with, as I see a son of mine, in each child-Samanera (novice Buddhist monk)!

At a recent alms-giving ceremony I attended, there were many such, of varying ages. Some as young as 7 - 8 years of age, while some of pubertal age.

These ‘little ones’, with shaven heads, and their thin bodies swathed in saffron robes, sat on the floor with their elders. It was hard to miss, their expressions of sheer wonder, coupled with mischief on their faces, as they watched the children of the laity, of similar age, running wild with chocolate smeared faces, brandishing their favourite toys.

One of these ‘miniature monks’ in particular, had his gaze fixed longingly on a teddy bear, and another on a train set. While those, in their mid to late teens, gazed appreciatively, at the pretty young girls prancing around, before quickly hiding their faces, behind their over-sized palm-leaf fans, when frowned upon, by a disapproving adult monk.

Sharmini on Buddhism and Ritual

By- H.L. Seneviratne

H.L. Seneviratne

I started this as a comment on Sharmini Serasinghe’s “Open Letter”, but it turned it to be too long for a comment. So I am asking CT to publish this as a separate piece.

My view of Buddhism is broadly similar to that of Sharmini, and there obviously are many other non-ritualist Buddhists like Sharmini and me. But there is another side. While the monks can fairly be accused of making a ritualism of Buddhism, it is ritualism, and not the “philosophy” of the Buddha, that has enabled it to gain popularity and become a world religion. Even in the modern west, Buddhism is often culticized by individuals and groups, though free of the gross ritualism of the traditionally Buddhist societies.

An Open Letter to Prof. Kapila Abhayawansa

Dear Prof. Abhayawansa,

You may regard the following disrespectful, and highly impertinent, but I was educated within a system, where I was encouraged, to challenge my teachers. And the most adamant of them all, was my reverend Guru, the late Piyadassi Maha Thera.

Therefore, though you are not one of my esteemed teachers, I shall nevertheless, regard you as a teacher.

To start with, your post titled “God in the Buddha on Colombo Telegraph dated 10thJanuary, 2014, in response to Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe and Dr. Jagath Asoka, I found quite intriguing, to say the least.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mahavamsa- An Insult to the Buddha!

Wonder if ours might have been a wiser, and a more ‘humane’ society, had our ‘ancient’ history, been based on Aesop’s Fables, instead of the Mahavamsa. For if not for the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese may not have been endowed, with the reputation, of “Sinhalaya Modaya (The Sinhalese are Fools)”!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kamalini Selvarajan - A Child of a Lesser God!

Kamalini Selvarajan, my friend and colleague at Rupavahini- Sri Lanka’s national Television, has been diagnosed with Dementia!

Kamalini my dearest friend
your smile and the magic of the aura,
that radiates around your vibrant self
always lit up the darkest of times

Though in your new world of the unknown
you no longer know me
yet you greet me with that charming smile
you gave so freely to friends and foe
in better times

And so, it breaks my heart to know
you don’t know me, once your friend, anymore
in this strange new world
your God has made for you!”

Forgive me my friend
but understand your God
I do not

He took away your soul
and left me a living shell
still with that charming smile

Did he not find another
more worthy of his wrath?


Kamalini is an iconic TV personality and film star. She was, and is still loved by all, irrespective of caste, creed or race.

She is best known for her role as an Indian teacher in the film ‘Ordinary Magic’ and ‘Komaligal’- the Sri Lankan Tamil film, where Kamalini acted with her late husband SillaiyurSelvarajan, as lovers.

The following testimony was sent to me by her family:

“It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. My sister Kamalini is sitting on a sofa staring at the TV watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ without any emotions or reactions to what she sees.

While I tidy up her room, she asks when she will have lunch. Is this the seventh time she has asked this question today? Eighth? I’ve lost count. Yet I take a deep breath, repeat silently to myself to be patient, and try to smile as I remind her that she had her lunch just over an hour ago.

She smiles back, and her eyes gaze vacantly, once again, at her surroundings. I don’t know what she is thinking, it is hard to tell. Kamalini is now sixty years of age. She is quiet, subdued and thinks I’m her ‘Aunty’. She no longer knows who she is or where she is!

Kamalini is a graduate in Mass Communication from the University of Kelaniya, and hails from an affluent family of highly qualified professionals.

Alas, disaster struck when a cub-reporter from a local newspaper, with no knowledge of Dementia, visited Kamalini at the apartment where she lives with her son. Posing off as a computer professional and part time translator, he had inquired after Kamalini’s health and financial situation.

This journalist then went on to air his ‘views’ in a newspaper article violating journalistic ethics, falsely claiming that Kamalini’s condition had been caused by her sudden dismissal from her employment at a TV station.

His false story goes on to claim that if sufficient money was spent, Kamalini’s condition could be treated. He then goes a step further, claiming that Kamalini’s son was not in a position to work full time as he has to look after his mother.

Similar comments were made by journalists of other media, without verifying facts, perhaps with the hope of creating sensationalism.

Some opportunists who were quick to grab this chance to make a fast buck, started collecting ‘donations’ in Kamalini’s name, not only in Sri Lanka but also overseas, such as UK, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the Middle East.

But as far as the real story goes……..

Kamalini’s housing loan is paid through a standing order at her bank by her family members, and is not in arrears. All meals for both mother and son are provided, and costs incurred thereof, are met by Kamalini’s family members.
In addition cash is also provided to the son, to meet expenses such as utility payments and other incidental expenses. Clothing is also provided on a regular basis. The total monthly expenses in this regard are borne by her brothers and sister.

Kamalini’s family members wish to inform all those concerned about her welfare, that she is presently under expert professional care, with those possessing decades of experience in treating patients with Dementia.

The monthly cost of care alone is approximately Rs 164,814/-, excluding the cost of medication.

For obvious reasons, her family members do not wish Kamalini to have any visitors, until satisfactory recovery is observed.

Whilst appreciating the concern to assist Kamalini, we her family members are of the view, that she requires complete rest, which will ultimately pave the way for her stability.

Any fund-raising activities with dishonest motives, both locally and overseas must be discouraged in toto.

We her family, hereby request friends, well-wishers and relatives, not to be misled by rumours, and therefore be cautious in falling prey, to nefarious fund raising attempts.

Sincere well-wishers are requested instead, to make their contributions, only to Mrs Kamalini Selvarajan’s current account number (039010001955) with Hatton National Bank, Bambalapitiya Branch, and to no one else.”


Thursday, November 28, 2013

If what has become of Sri Lanka today is the legacy of a “2600-year old culture”, might we have been better off without any culture at all?

Ever so often we hear the famous cliché ‘dropped’ by our politicians- “………Sri Lanka’s 2600-year old culture……….” It is a sine qua non statement repeated ad nauseam at many a public and political forum (the most recent being CHOGM) to add ‘weight’ or to perhaps impress otherwise empty utterances. This is obviously done solely to awe the audience, especially a foreign one.

I recall, as an impressionable young girl, when Sri Lanka’s first Executive President J.R. Jayawardene made his State Visit to the USA during Ronald Reagan’s tenure as US President. In his televised address on the South Lawn of the White House, JRJ casting aside his noblesse oblige referred to the United States as “a country with only a 200-year old history, while Sri Lanka’s was over 2500 years old”!

This ‘casual’ or ‘calculated’ remark (with JRJ one never knew) has remained with me to date. To me even then, this ipse dixit remark reeked of an acute inferiority complex and I felt utterly embarrassed on his behalf.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What did Sri Lanka get out of CHOGM?

It appears that our Emperor’s attempts to show-off his new clothes viz spanking new infrastructure, spotless city etc., to the world through CHOGM went seriously wrong!

At the expense of the Lankan tax-payer we managed however to provide a free and very expensive platform for the LTTE diaspora to be heard through the Eton- educated gab of none other than the British Prime Minister David Cameron himself. He made no bones about why he was coming to Sri Lanka and what he was going to do here and he did it!

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being flogged mercilessly by the Indian Media – a symbol of how tall democracy stands in that country – over what is being dubbed as India’s ‘CHOGM Blunder’.

The Indian PM’s decision not to attend the summit in Colombo is being viewed as giving into the bullying tactics of Jayalalithaa’s Petticoat government. Just days before, Singh while addressing The Annual Conclave of Indian Ambassadors/High Commissioners abroad in New Delhi outlined what he believed to be the ‘Five Core Principals’ of India’s development-centric Foreign Policy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Singh will not sing at CHOGM!

So the Injun PM is not coming after all! No surprises in that, given the racket Tamil Nadu has been making in the recent past over him attending/not attending CHOGM in Colombo.

Just imagine our poor Emperor hopping mad; pulling his jet-black tinted hair and moustache, seething with fury over the snub. After all what can he do, short of dragging the Injun PM by his turban or beard to Colombo?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

CHOGM- A Carnival is coming to Town!

There is a tangible feeling of an impending carnival-coming-to-town in the air these days in Colombo. The city is being virtually turned up-side-down and inside-out, dusted and vacuumed by the Surgeon General of Lanka’s cosmetic surgery-Urban Development cum Defence - in order to make it look pretty to impress the visiting revelers.

Vibrant coloured banners and gadgets decorate the streets and roundabouts, competing with larger-than-life cut-outs of our very own Emperor-in-new-clothes. Trees pruned and some uprooted, innocent homeless dogs banished, roads re-carpeted and of course the pavements/side-walks dug up and some still awaiting to be tiled. In the interim, pedestrians at great risk to life and limb must share the roads with speeding vehicles.

In short, anything that doesn’t look pretty and prosperous is being removed and pretty-looking-things put in its place.

But this is not just any ol’ carnival coming to town, it’s CHOGM!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sinhala-Buddhists vs Buddhist Moderates

In Sri Lanka today there are two types of Buddhists- the Buddhist Moderates who identify themselves as Sri Lankans and those who identify themselves as Sinhala-Buddhists which they regard as their nationality!


As a Sri Lankan (a Sinhalese and a Buddhist by faith) I have lived and worked amidst the strange practices of Sinhala-Buddhists in Sri Lanka. As such I have observed closely what a Sinhala-Buddhist is as opposed to a Buddhist Moderate. 

The following are my observations.

Courting Satan in Saffron Robes

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it” – Aung San Suu Kyi

The Rajapaksas’ moment of glory has passed. The sheen on the “We won the war” badge has now faded. The golden moment that presented itself post-2009 to ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’ of the past is now lost. The lack of a political vision, direction and leadership of a country emerging from the quagmire of a protracted bloody civil war is tragic, to say the least.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sri Lanka’s National Anthem Betrayed

 Sri Lanka’s National Anthem Betrayed

 “….In wisdom and strength renewed,Ill-will, hatred, strife all ended,
In love enfolded, a mighty nation
Marching onward, all as one,Lead us, Mother, to fullest freedom.”


These are the mighty words Lanka’s National Anthem ends with, which has no relevance today!

Perhaps it should now read as-

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

BBS’s Latest Target- Muslim Dress Code

With the ‘Halal’ issue exhausting all the hot-air being blown around it, now here comes the Muslim dress code to the fore. Muslim women are now being pinched, pushed and spat on because of their choice of dress in the form of a long loose over-garment called the ‘abaya’.

It was not until the effervescent Saffron Brigade (Bodhu Bala Sena) drew attention to it did anyone pay much heed to the ‘abaya’ which is a common sight especially in urban areas of the country. Upon further investigation into the relatively recent popularity of this outer-garment favoured by some Muslim ladies in Lanka one finds significantly varying reasons for it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sri Lanka- Forever a Nation in Tears

‘Buddhist Sri Lanka’ perceived as the ‘sole protector’ of the Dhamma is where all beings irrespective of caste, creed, religion or race are supposed to live in peace, compassion and harmony. Then why is this tiny tear-drop shaped nation in the vast Indian Ocean destined forever to be in tears? Where did Buddhism go wrong for Lanka? Or should it be where was Buddhism made to go wrong for Lanka?

Never before in recent history has the populace of this comparatively ‘small’ country - Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim - been as ‘largely’ polarized as we see now. Physically we are so very near to one another but yet so far apart. For today we are a nation where not only are the Sinhalese and Tamils surveying each other with fear and suspicion, but the Sinhalese and Muslims as well. Whodunit!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jaffna- From Shell Shock to Culture Shock

My last visit to Jaffna was almost nine years ago (2004) in an official capacity as a Director of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), an office that came directly under the President of Sri Lanka.


In a context of time nine years seems like a long period but in fact it is not. The Jaffna I saw then and the Jaffna I saw a fortnight ago seem like two different places. Of course nine years ago we had a Norwegian brokered cease-fire between the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka in place. Our movements, despite a cease-fire, were under a heavy blanket of security as the LTTE violated the very spirit of the truce with impunity.

However my recent visit to the North was as a private citizen and therefore afforded me greater freedom of movement and the chance to mingle and interact with the common man of Jaffna. Of course within a short space of three days one cannot grasp much, but what I did see and hear was a revelation in more ways than one.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bigotry of Sinhala-Buddhism

It appears that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and its acolytes have taken a page from the book of the Anagarika Dharmapala (Homeless Protector of the Dhamma) in espousing the same flavour of bigotry as he did in pre independent Ceylon. Intolerance of the religion of the other was the ‘Dhamma’ protected, practiced and propagated by this ‘National Hero’ the Anagarika Dharmapala!

 Given the sociological climate of pre independent Ceylon one could appreciate the fact that the Anagarika was rebelling against the British colonial invader who were subjugating the masses in the most deplorable way. But when one takes a closer look at the obvious, he was not fighting the colonial invaders on behalf of all Lankans as a whole but only on behalf of the Sinhalese Buddhists in the country. In such a context can he be regarded as a National Hero?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sinhalabuddhism in Sri Lanka

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side” Aristotle

If Lord Buddha were here now there is one thing he would do- ban Sinhalabuddhism in Sri Lanka! - With apologies to Mark Twain.

As a Sri Lankan and a Buddhist by faith I take it upon myself, as others have not the right, to define the significant differences between the philosophy of Buddhism as per the teachings of Lord Buddha and what is practiced by the majority in this country under the umbrella of Buddhism. This I do, not to wear my religion on my sleeve but to explain to my fellow multi religious Sri Lankans and others who may be in a confused state regarding the current goings-on in this country by the name of Buddhism.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 21st Century Fox

These is always a reason why people do the things they do or don’t do!

It is indeed a strange and ironic phenomenon in the system of governance of Sri Lanka that when it comes to sound policies to solve issues of a national nature, those in power appear to be at a loss, while those in the opposition seem to have all the best policies to solve the country’s ills.

In Sri Lanka today, there is much written and talked about the perceived inaction of a certain Opposing individual who is looked upon by many especially his loyal following, as one who is able to salvage our country from the social and political quagmire it is sinking into.  Because traditionally as mentioned above, those not in power are expected to have all the right solutions.

The perceived ‘silence’ of this Opposing individual has bewildered many, mostly amongst his loyal supporters giving rise to much personal attacks, ridicule and criticism.

However I see it differently. Some may regard it as a figment of my over-dramatic imagination while some may not. But in a democracy and as a citizen of this country I believe I’m permitted the freedom of looking at things my way, therefore “outside the Box”. 

The following is an Allegorical Narration of the Status Quo

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sri Lanka's Political Lab Rats

Each time I hear the term “Sinhala Buddhist” uttered in today’s context I can’t help but feel an uneasy sense of foreboding tingle up my back. To me it sounds like a time-bomb waiting to explode. As a Sinhalese and a Buddhist by faith I have every right to ask “What on earth is a Sinhala Buddhist anyway? Is it a branch of the Sinhala race? Is it another nationality in Sri Lanka under the Buddhist flag?” For I’m confused!

We are today nothing but a nation of dysfunctional lab-rats used by myopic and selfish politicians over the years. In their laboratory of politics they carried out their deadly political experiments by injecting us with various sociologically toxic viruses that generations of us have been carrying around and spreading, oblivious of its long term repercussions. These deadly political experiments commenced soon after we gained independence from the British and go on unabated even today!

Intentionally or otherwise these virulent viruses have today contaminated our society almost in its entirety. This is a legacy passed down to us by our political forefathers which we are now blindly passing down to future generations, very much to their detriment.

As a result of these virulent experiments many amongst us lab-rats are now confusing their nationality, ethnicity and religion. Our national identity has become further obscured with the virus of religious extremism infecting the gullible.