Category Archives: social justice

Inspirations from Tamara Kunanayakam … and Incisive Criticisms of Yahapaalanaya

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya 

Tamara Kunanayakam was the recipient of ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’Award in this year’s ‘Top 50 Professional and Career Women Awards’ organized by Women in Management, in partnership with the In ternational Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group. The 50 winners from Sri Lanka and the Maldives received their awards at a glittering ceremony held at Hotel Taj Samudra on Friday. Ms. Kunanayakam, best known for her defence of Sri Lanka’s independence and sovereignty as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva 2011-2012 when a resolution was brought against the country at the Human Rights Council, said “the fact that I won this award, for me is a recognition of the values and principles I stood for.” The Daily Mirror  talked to her about the less-known aspects of her background and career. Excerpts from the interview:

Tamara Kunanayakam receives the award from Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, Chairman – Panel of Judges

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In Appreciation of Saman Kelegama

Shavindra Fernando. in Daily News, 29 June 2017. with the title reading as Last conversation with a beautiful mind”

My last conversation with Dr Saman Kelegama was about Oxford. It was a place that he was so fond of, and he always remembered his Oxford days with gratitude. He read Industrial Economics for his doctorate at St Catherine’s College. He was a St Cat’s man. Some of us Reuter Fellows, the first reporters to be sent to Oxford in the late 1980s got to know him at St Giles, where we were housed at Queen Elizabeth House.

The press was focused on Sri Lanka at that time, though the Sri Lanka fraternity was tiny as always. The Indian army had been asked to leave by the Sri Lanka government under siege by the JVP Marxist rebels. Kelegama’s views were of interest to us. He was a Sri Lankan who had studied Mathematics in India and was seen as someone who had insight into the psyche of both countries. Continue reading

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Alleged ‘Land Grabbing’ by the Security Forces in Sri Lanka

Gerald Peiris, … an essay that is part of  Chapter 11 in a forthcoming monograph titled Sri Lanka: Land Policy for Sustainable Development, by G. H. Peiris, currently in the press (as a Visidunu Publication, 471 Lake Road, Boralesgamuwa, Sri Lanka) [1]

In view of the significance accorded in recent public debate and discussion on the subject of ‘land grabbing’ in several conflict-ridden countries of the Third World it is necessary to devote attention to a series of facts that are of crucial relevance to a balanced understanding of the related  situation in Sri Lanka.

Gerald Peiris Bhavani Fonseka  Mirak Raheem

Land Grabbing: Concept and Empirical Application  

The phenomenon referred to as ‘land grabbing’ lacks definitional clarity. In many writings of recent times (Keely, 2009; Borras,, 2011; Deininger & Byerlee 2011; Rulli, et. al., 2013; Brimayer & Moon, 2014; to name only a few), especially those sponsored by civil society organisations, this phrase has been used exclusively in the specific connotation of large-scale acquisition of land in the poorer countries by foreign governments and private firms that are based in the politically and economically powerful countries. Estimates of the extent of grabbed land worldwide vary. The prestigious journal, The Economist (21 May 2009) placed it at 15-20 million ha. According to the World Bank, it is as high as 45 million ha, with an overwhelmingly large proportion of it in the less densely populated areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central America and Southeast Asia. In a major World Bank sponsored study (Deininger & Byerlee, op. cit.) ‘land grabbing’ has been portrayed as a phenomenon of both positive as well as negative impacts which nevertheless requires effective regulation. But more generally, this process is perceived as an exemplification of neo-colonial economic exploitation that has adverse consequences on the local people in the form of violation of fundamental rights, incitement of inter-group conflict, mass impoverishment and environmental degradation. What should be noted here is that in none of the research writings on the subject of ‘land grabbing’ as a global phenomenon do we come across a specific reference to Sri Lanka as a country that has been seriously affected by this phenomenon.[2] Continue reading

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From Mountain Village to Neurologist in Melbourne

Tissa Wijeratne, … … where the title is “The Journey of One Neurologist from Sri Lanka to Melbourne”

Born and raised in what I describe as “the jungle,” my life started in one of the remotest parts of Sri Lanka: a village called Kirioruwa-Bandarawela in the central mountainous area. Electricity, hot water, television, and telephone were all miles away from us at the time. I fondly recall days spent reading in the shade of a tree in the rice fields that surrounded my family home — the place where sky and earth met, almost kissing each other daily. The mountains were covered with a layer of lush tea bushes. Our home sat on the top of one of these mountains.

 Tissa Wijeratne, MD (right), with one of his mentors from his time as a student in Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Many Steps towards Reconciliation and Sensible Institutional Governance

Michael Roberts

In July 1983 Chokshanada and Kumari Sangakkara – in step with some Sinhalese, Malay and Burgher and other Sri Lankan families and in implicit opposition to the actions of Sinhalese people of violence –sheltered a number of Tamils who were in severe danger from the assaults on person and property that was a frightening element of the pogrom that occurred then. Many Sinhalese families in the central and southern districts protected their neighbours and/or friends in this manner. In conjectural manner, one can say that humane considerations and cultural traditions of alms-giving and amity informed such actions — a dimension of riots/pogroms in southern Asia that has been sidelined in historical studies of various “riots” in southern Asia. Perhaps inspired thus and perhaps encouraged also by the ecumenical spirit nurtured by his parents as well as Trinity College, Kumar and Yehali Sangakkara have continued this line of enterprise. In a significant step Yehali was beside Kumar when he visited St. Patrick’s College in Jaffna in April 2011 during the World Cup.


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Anti-Muslim Mayhem Escalates: Two Expressions of Concern

ONE: NPC reports alarming number of attacks on Muslims,” Island, 29 May 2017,

The National Peace Council (NPC) has called for urgent action to prevent Muslims being targeted by extremist elements. Dr. Jehan Perera has issued the following statement on behalf of the NPC: “An alarming number of attacks against Muslim religious places of worship and businesses are being reported countrywide causing economic ruin to many people, hurting their religious sentiment and bringing them dismay and leaving the entire community in fear of life and security.  The worsening trend has been going on for several years and has a pattern of repeating after a short lullIt has intensified since April this year with over 20 attacks or attempted attacks being reported from different parts of the country in the past two months So far no one has been arrested by the police for these crimes. Also, the government has so far failed to take steps to arrest this trend which has been acknowledged by the Minister of Law and Order in Parliament. This is an escalation of the longer-term trend that included the torching of a section of a town in the South of Sri Lanka (Alutgama) in 2014 in which Muslims live in large numbers.

 Getty Image from Mark Hay’s article in 2014 = Continue reading


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Jane Russell on Sri Lankan Political History in Debate with Kumarasingham’s Readings

From London the historian and scholar  Jane Russell has entered an extensive set of comments on Harshan Kumarasingham’s Heidelberg essay of 2013 –reprinted in Thuppahi in 2014. Given its length and Russell’s background (see below) it deserves wider exposure in the hope that debate will be promoted. I am therefore deleting its original location and posting it as a separate item.

 Russell  Kumarasingham

  1. HARSHAN KUMARASINGHAM”s “The Deceptive Tranquillity surrounding Sri Lankan Independence: ‘The Jewel of the East yet has its Flaws’,”  is an interesting paper with which I broadly agree, despite a tendency by the author to sacrifice judgement in favour of rhetoric. However, Dr. Harshan Kumarasingham has gone for the elegant historical narrative rather than seeking to explore and analyse some of the more nuanced, underlying factors that may help to understand the spiralling of Ceylon, cited by the British as ‘ the Premier Crown Colony” at independence in 1947, into Sri Lanka, characterised by the west at the turn of the 21st century as a terrorist-riven semi-failed state. I hope the following will help to redress this.

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