The need for a national campaign to reduce the size of the Cabinet

Perhaps the most exciting positive political development in the last few months was the Constitutional Amendment proposed by the Hon Vasantha Senanayake MP, to limit the Cabinet to 30 members. This was an important part of the suggestions he made to the Parliamentary Select Committee, after discussion with a group of young people. Given that it is not likely the PSC will come to anything positive soon, he thought he needed to act to promote at least one of the reforms this country so sorely needs.

It is to be hoped that all political interests in the country will rally round this initiative. In the past the minority parties have tended to stick to what they see as their own concerns only. But this neglect of measures that will affect the nation as a whole is counter-productive. In the first place it allows the extremists who will not recognize existing minority concerns to claim that the minorities are not interested in the country as a whole, which means they are still obsessed with the idea of a separate state. This of course is an absurd idea, given how many members of minority groups live in the rest of the country. But sometimes the behavior of in particular the TNA creates the impression that they are simply not interested in reforms that will benefit the country as a whole.

In the case of the Senanayake initiative, they should also realize that a much smaller cabinet would immensely benefit minorities too. As it is, the thinking elements in the Cabinet are dwarfed by those with majoritarian instincts who can shout louder than the rest. But in a Cabinet of at most 30, minorities would constitute at least 20% of the whole. They would also have as colleagues a number of efficient and capable individuals, whereas now Cabinet decisions are made by a massive host, which obviously cannot go into details in discussion.

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Thaipongal National Celebration held in Jaffna – 19 January 2014

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“Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்) or Pongal (பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamil people at the end of the harvest season.  Pongal is a four day festival which usually takes place from January 13 to 16 in the Gregorian calendar i.e., the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Tamil month Thai.

 The second of the four days i.e., first day of the Tamil month Thai is the second and main day of the festival and this day is known as Thai Pongal. This day coincides with Makara Sankranthi which is a winter harvest festival celebrated throughout India. The day marks the start of sun’s six-month long journey northwards or the Uttarayanam. This also represents the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn.”

Thaipongal National Celebration was held at Nallur, Jaffna on 19th January 2014. Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudewa Nanayakkara graced the event as the chief guest.

Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration organized this event at Nallur in the association of Jaffna District Secretariat. The ceremony commenced at Nallur front. The guests were invited to the jubilee hall with the traditional dance and music. Several traditional cultural items were performed to mark Thaipongal.

Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development KN Douglas Devananda, Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri, Indian Consul – Jaffna V.Mahalingam, Mayoress Mrs.Y.Patkunarajah , Government Agent of Jaffna district Sundaram Arumainyagam and several others took part in the event.

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http://www.np.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2702:thaipongal-national-celebration-held-in-jaffna-19-january-2014&catid=85&Itemid=20

“Mirrored Images” – a move towards unity (and sanity)

I had the good fortune to participate at the launch of Mirrored Images, an anthology of Sri Lankan Poetry edited by Rajiva Wijesinha.  The book was published by the prestigious National Book Trust of India.

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha had already collected An Anthology of Sri Lankan Short Stories for NBT, beside, of course, his modest collection of Modern Sri Lankan Poetry in English.  But this is a more ambitious work which has drawn from Sinhala. Tamil and English representative works.   The volume which runs to 400 pages contains 138 poems written in Sinhala and Tamil translated into English and 72 poems originally written in English.

These poems were written over the last five decades during which the island nation – after independence – went through radical political, Social and economic changes.  It also witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils which culminated in a bloody civil war.  War means death, destruction and displacement. It also leaves, in its wake, thousands of widows and the disabled who become the responsibility of the country.  That was – and is – the context in which these Sri Lankan poets worked.  So, understandably, a substantial number of the poems in this collection are disturbing and sad.

Appropriately, Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National languages and Reconciliation graced the function.  Present in the audience were senior writers, critics and media persons.

“Genuine poetry”,   said T.S.Eliot “can communicate even before it is understood” This was affirmed as I first read out the Tamil originals of my poems.  At the launch, the audience, mainly non – Tamil, sat in husband silence because, I believe, the reading was infused with so much passion.  Their understanding was complete with the English version that followed.

Anne Ranasinghe, the veteran, (she is 80!) had to be helped to her seat but her reading was clear and well – articulated.  A.Santhan read his Bigger Match with a brief introduction about a correspondence that occasioned the poem. Continue reading