Courtesy of the Sunday Island, 28 March 2010
“For forms of government let fools contest; Whate’er is best administer’d is best,” Alexander Pope
I stand between Jolly Somasundaram, my colleague in Trincomalee and Devanessan Nesiah, my colleague in the RRAN, as they cross swords in the Island on the issue of “Turnaround Challenge to NE Tamils”. The bone of contention appears to be the choice of the TNA for support at the last Presidential Election (PE). Jolly thinks that they ought to have sided Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) while Deva stands by their choice of Sarath Fonseka (SF). Obviously the choice could not have been motivated by emotional attachment. It was a preference for the better of the two options. Jolly sent me a draft of his article before publication. I asked him, “Why MR?” and he replied, “The known devil is safer than the unknown. At least we know his weaknesses. Who knows whether the unknown devil would throw us into the fire from the frying pan?”
Michael Roberts, 6 March 2010
One’s academic trajectories and journeys are invariably subject to vagaries and contingencies. The events and researches leading to my interest in “communal violence” and “zealotry” in the 1990s, and thereafter to what I have called ‘sacrificial devotion” (embracing the topics of “terrorism,” suicide bombers and Tamil Tigers), were shaped by such contingencies. Since my web site will present some short essays on both these topics in the course of this month, let me detail some moments during my research work that resulted in the journeys that produced such outcomes.
Courtesy of HIMAL, February 2010 issue, http://www.himalmag. which features everal articles on Sri Lanka
Even as the people of Jaffna – and those who were displaced – make use of their new freedoms of movement, they are confronted with the effect of decades of political stagnation.
Illangai enpatthu nam thai thiru naadu
elil mihuntha iyerkai valam niraitha nal naadu
maanikka muthuhalum maanburu katchihalum manathai kavarthuvudum naadu
yaalpaanam entru sonnal then suvai oorum
panai palamum puhai ilaiyum ondraha valarum
Ceylon/Lanka is our respected motherland
A good land endowed with environmental benefits
A Land where precious gemstones and beautiful sceneries cover our minds
When we pronounce the word Jaffna the taste of honey oozes
Jaffna, where the palmyra fruit and the tobacco leaves grow together
– Translation (by writer) of the opening lines of Tamil song, “Ilangai enpathu” by A E Manoharan
Allaippidy, Jaffna in the afternoon. Cricket outside a community centre.
When I visited Jaffna recently, like all those returning home after years away I too sensed feelings of nostalgia welling up inside. This was my first visit in six years, and almost 25 since I had last lived in Jaffna, as an 11-year-old. The opening lines are by A E Manoharan, the Tamil pop star and baila singer who took Jaffna by storm in the 1970s – a time when, in my mind, Manoharan was more popular than the youthful leaders of the militant movements who would emerge soon enough. I have vague memories of going to an open-air Manoharan concert, sitting on the bicycle bar as one of my relatives rode us to where we could hear the loudspeakers. Incidentally, Manoharan composed “Ilangai enpathu”, with its reference to the palmyra fruit, two decades before rights activist Rajani Thiranagama and her colleagues would write The Broken Palmyra, for which she would be murdered.
Courtesy of the Island, 8 February 2010
PREAMBLE from Michael Roberts: Aruna Gunasekera’s essay is truly important and is inserted here because some threads mesh with contentions I have presented earlier. When in Sri Lanka in May 2009 I penned an article “Some pillars for Lanka’s future” in response to a request from an Indian periodical which addressed the import of President Rajapakse’s version of patriotism. I repeat it here as Preamble to Gunasekera’s intervention largely because it also represents a questioning of the position adopted by the head of state albeit in a less direct manner than Gunasekera. This questioning, and for that matter Gunasekera’s telling commentary, is in line with my opening essay SINHALA MIND SET which stands as frontispiece to my web-site.”
The Memo below was presented on the website for Australia-Sri Lanka Association in Adelaide. It is repeated here with an update because a small body of Sri LankanAdelaidians is about to finalise the legal foundations for a body called WE ARE ONE LANKA which will be pursuing the calls for reconciliation mooted independently in mid-2009 by Mohan Samarasinhe in London and Mohan Sekaram in Sydney through charity work that deliberately reaches across ethnic boundaries and links personnel of one ethnic community with another in fruitful ways.
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