Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caligula and Rajapakse -- Horses and Camels

by 3D -- Stewart Rajapakse

(January 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In one of its latest white elephant schemes the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse is planning to import 5,000 buffaloes and ten camels from Pakistan within the next three years. The ostensible idea behind this scheme is that the livestock will be delivered to various state farms where they will be bred and the offspring given (given? Has the Rajapakse regime ever 'given' anything away?) to livestock farms around the country. What they plan to do with the camels defies even the author's imagination.

I am, however, reminded of the Emperor Caligula who ruled in Rome from 37 -- 41 AD largely because the two of them were, and are, hopelessly paranoid. Caligula did not trust the senate because he was convinced, rightly so, that they were out to assassinate him. He dismissed many of them, had some killed and had others serve him by running alongside his chariot. He was insanely cruel and on one occasion ordered his guards to throw a section of the crowd into the arena to be eaten by wild animals as they had run out of criminals. Then, of course, one of his most famous exploits came when he tried to make his horse, Incitatus, a member of the senate. In that, we see a distinct similarity to Mahinda who introduced his own son, Namal, into parliament as the Member for Hambantota. Now I am not suggesting for one moment that he resembles a horse, at least in physical appearance, a camel though is another matter. While Rajapakse has not actually killed any of his parliamentarians he has on the other hand filled the Sri Lankan parliament with his cronies in order to ensure that anyone intelligent enough to think for himself will be shouted down, or tied to a tree.

Going back to the buffaloes and camels -- the importation of the buffaloes can perhaps be justified, meat, milk and hide, but no explanation has been given as to why Rajapakse is prepared to spend Rs. 400,000/= of the tax payers money for a camel or Rs. 4,000,000/= for ten of them.

Perhaps he is going to hold them in reserve in case the parliamentarians turn against him. What Caligua tried to do with one horse, perhaps Rajapakse is going to attempt with his camels.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sri Lankan transparency -- akin to flying in zero visibility

People going through their daily lives in Sri Lanka have to be able to see where they are going. Airline pilots are trained to fly in zero visibility but only at great and terrible risk to themselves and their passengers. The citizens of Sri Lanka have a right to question the actions of their government, the government has a duty to address these concerns, and they have no right to put up a smokescreen that forces people to fly in zero visibility.

Stewart Sloan

(January 24, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) A recent report in the Sri Lankan press about the favouritism shown to Namal Rajapakse speaks volumes on the arrogance of the ruling regime and the fawning kowtowing of the Law College authorities. As a member of Sri Lanka's first family it was incumbent on Namal to show Sri Lanka and the world at large that he was prepared to 'play the game'; to get through his daily and personal life without any advantages being granted to him due to his being the son of the President. Instead, he accepted a private room in which so sit his exam, he was allowed to retain his mobile phone and he even had internet access. Will it come as a surprise to anyone if he passes with honours?

The excuse given by the authorities of the Law College was that the examination hall was full and this in turn raised several questions. Why did they allow the hall to be overbooked in the first place? They are ultimate authority when it comes to the examinations, how could they provide fewer seats than were needed? Do they not have a list of all the students taking the exam? I cannot believe this to be the case so, how could they justify putting Namal in a private room? Surely he was not the only student to be inconvenienced by the overcrowding? And to maintain at least an air of transparency, why was he not accompanied by an invigilator to ensure that he did not cheat?

Cheat? That is a terrible word and one that casts aspersions on the young man himself. However, Namal Rajapakse, the authorities of the Law College and President Rajapakse have all conspired to cast aspersions on the young man. With the current degree of transparency shown by the government in general and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in particular, whose commissioners have never explained the newspaper reports that ordinary people were chased away from testifying by police officers stationed outside the hall where the hearings were taking place, did the President honestly think that no questions would be raised concerning Namal's exam.

More recently questions have been raised about the President granting single tender contracts to the Chinese and as usual no explanations have been forthcoming.

It is indeed simply arrogance that allows the Rajapakse regime to ignore the doubts and concerns raised by the citizens of Sri Lanka and the international community. Might makes right, it ensures sycophantic followers who are only concerned with lining their own pockets and it also ensures that anyone that dares to raise his or her doubts in public are ostracized and intimidated to the point where they have to go into hiding, like the young student who raised the issue of the examination papers being revealed days before the exam was to be held. Instead of acting sensibly on the accusation all that happened was the student was threatened to withdraw his complaint and shut up.

People going through their daily lives in Sri Lanka have to be able to see where they are going. Airline pilots are trained to fly in zero visibility but only at great and terrible risk to themselves and their passengers. The citizens of Sri Lanka have a right to question the actions of their government, the government has a duty to address these concerns, and they have no right to put up a smokescreen that forces people to fly in zero visibility.

Stewart Sloan is the author of three novels and a collection of anecdotes about the Royal Hong Kong Police Force whom he served as a civilian from 1987 to 1997. He works as an editorial assistant for a regional human rights NGO in Hong Kong.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Love Poems for Airyn

tewart Sloan
Stewart Sloan

I wish I could tell You that we live
in a farie tale world.
I wish I could tell you that we will
be happy ever after.
I wish so many things for you, but
we must both realise that we live
in an imperfect world.

We live in a world where
women and children are raped
and sold into slavery.
We live in a world where men
are tortured and murdered but the very governments
they elected.
We live in a world where
unspeakable things happen to
the best of us. But,
seemingly, never to the worst.

But we, you and I, live and love.
Yes, we will have arguments over stupid things,
petty things. Arguments over important things.
In any human relationship this
cannot be avoided. It will happen!

But we must NEVER let the sun go down on our anger!

Stewart Sloan

When I was in pain
My love came to me.
Not from a great distance in miles
But on a great journey of commitment

Tired from a day's work
At a time when she should
Have been resting and eating her food
She came to me.

My Love came to me
To sooth my pain
With gentle, warm hands
Soft words and strong balms

She came to me
To sooth away my fever
To comfort me at a time
When I needed Her love.

My Love came to me.........
For only moments
With a care and love
That will echo for years.

Stewart Sloan
Read by our Hong Kong Correspondent

Hong Kong Sunday, 16 January 2011

Typhoons struck Hong Kong yesterday!
Two, in fact,
Fortunately the brunt of the
Storms were concentrated
On the area known as Sloansville.

The first arrived early in
The morning and struck the kitchen,
A disaster area at the best of times;
A potential health hazard.
The typhoon left nothing by
Gleaming dishes and shinning pots
In her wake.

Shortly following, the second typhoon hit the fridge
And larder.
Where there had been left over food
And emptiness
She left in her wake a surfeit
Of largess

Then the two storms merged and
Struck the remainder of the house.
They attacked without mercy!
And where there had been loneliness and desolation
They left only cleanliness, love and happiness, and
The knowledge of a wonderful future to come.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

EGYPT/PAKISTAN: A vote for sanity in Egypt -- a lesson for Pakistan

I wrote the following article for the Pakistan desk of the Asian Human Rights Commission -- it was subsequently published as a AHRC Statement

EGYPT/PAKISTAN: A vote for sanity in Egypt -- a lesson for Pakistan
January 12, 2011

The act of solidarity by Egyptian Muslims towards Egyptian Copts is a glowing example for countries and communities around the world. And it must be particularly noted that Pakistan could be one of the main beneficiaries of this attitude.

As Egyptian Copts prepared to attend mass at churches across the country, thousands of Muslims, including relatives of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, acted as human shields to protect the celebrating, and terrified Copts, from the terrorist attacks by extremists. The Muslims chanted the slogan: "We either live together, or we die together." The concept was inspired by the Egyptian artist and marathon runner, Mohamed El-Sawy.

The Copts are native Egyptian Christians, a major ethnic and religious group in Egypt. They constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East

In the midst of sectarian violence the world over and the assassination and threats of assassination to anyone in Pakistan that strays from the demands of the fundamentalists, sanity has prevailed in Egypt. Following a devastating terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt which killed 21 people and injured 79 others religious tensions rose in the country. The bombing was carried out with the intention of causing rifts and rioting between the Egyptian community and the various religious groups that inhabit that land. There were indeed, riots as the Copts stormed the streets and vandalized a Mosque. It was an act of violence and it was exactly what the fundamentalists wanted. Then, on the event of the Coptic Christmas Eve sanity prevailed.

Following the assassination of the Provincial governor, Salman Taseer, rallies have been held in Karachi in which the speakers, fundamentalists and extremists, called for the death of anyone acting in support of amendments to the country's blasphemy laws. Salman Taseer's assassin Mumtaz Quadri, is being feted as a national hero and speakers declared that if the government of Pakistan proceeded with his prosecution "Thousands of 'Quadris' would emerge from their houses and avenge him".

Pakistanis across the land must take note of the selfless actions of the Egyptian Muslims and emulate their bravery. It is time for the liberals and moderates to stand up to the extremist fundamentalists and say: "This is not what Islam is all about. Islam is a religion of peace!"

And furthermore, the government of Pakistan, the ministers and the law makers must also rise up in support of the people and prove that they are well and truly in charge of the country. Anyone fermenting religious hatred and openly advocating violence against those opposing the fundamentalists must be charged under the relevant sections in the Pakistan Penal Code. It is against the law to incite people to violence and to threaten them if they refuse to comply. This is not a new law that has just come into being; it is an established ruling which the officials of the police and government ministers are conveniently turning a blind eye to in the guise of political expediency.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sri Lanka's first Formula 1 event ends in failure

Sarith Mahinda Sloan (F1 Correspondent)

(The F-One News -- March 15, 2016)

(A Formula One track is planned for the New Port City to be constructed in the vicinity of the Colombo Port. According to the Chairman, Ports Authority, Dr. Priyath Wickrama an eight lane F1 track will "definitely" be a part of the New Port City, he said. - A Sri Lankan Sunday publication January 10, 2011)


(January 14, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka's much feted entry into the Formula 1 racing scene ended in failure today when officers from the New Port City Police set up check points at several places around the 3.3 kilometer track stopping the drivers and arresting several of them for failing to have valid Sri Lankan driving licenses. At several other points around the track drivers were flagged over and ticketed for driving in excess of 70 kilometers per hour.

Schumacher Rajapakse, the Minister for Formula 1 Racing was unavailable for comment. However, the Deputy Minister for Ministerial Affairs and Everything Else, Mervynder Silva announced that he had already planned an attack on the television channels that reported the news and aired it internationally.

Additionally, a spokesman for the President, Mahinda Rajapakse, released a press release in which the President blamed pro-LTTE activists and members of the opposition for blowing the situation out of proportion in an attempt to further discredit the Rajapakse government.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mahinda bans trousers at Parliament!

by Stewart Mahinda Sloan

(January 05, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A source within the Rajapakse government that wishes to remain anonymous has informed the author that President Mahinda Rajapakse has instructed the Minister of Fisheries & Aquatic Resource Development, R. Mahinda Seneratne, to make the announcement that with immediate effect, ministers, Members of Parliament and visitors to Parliamentary debates will no longer be allowed to wear trousers but must instead were sarongs. Ladies will be required to wear saris. When asked as to why the Minister of Fisheries & Aquatic Resource Development should be tasked with such an important announcement Mahinda Seneratne replied that the Hon. K. Mahinda Rambukwella, Minister for Mass Media & Information had no information on the matter.

The source could not give any details as to why this sudden decision had been made but believed that it was in keeping with the government's plan to ban miniskirts.

"This is obviously the next step in Mahinda's plan to 'Sri Lankanise' Sri Lanka," said the source. Although he had no idea of the time table when the next step would be implemented the source also informed the author that tourists and business visitors to the island nation would be required to purchase and wear satakaya (Red Shawls) upon arrival at Mahinda Bandaranaike Airport.

The author attempted to contact the Hon. Mahinda Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister for Disaster Management for his views on the possible impact of the scheme on the tourist industry. The minister was unavailable but a member of his staff who would only identify himself as, Mahinda, suggested that we contact the Minister for Economic Development who is responsible for tourism and a hundred other things, the Hon B. Mahinda Rajapakse. This gentleman was, sadly, also unavailable.

So, apart from conjecture and hints there is no real proof of Mahinda Rajapakse's plan to Sri Lankanise Sri Lanka. Having said that, I happen to have the contact details of a tailor in Hong Kong that will manufacture satakayas at fire sale prices if anyone is interested.

The great Anthem debate: Mahinda to the Tamils and Muslims -- this is our country

Uploaded by admin culture, feature, Interview, NationalAntheminSri Lanka, Stewart Sloan 2:12:00 PM
by Stewart Sloan

(January 04, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the United Kingdom, back in the 1960s, when it was still a 'United Kingdom,' a group of comedian/musicians produced a long playing record entitled "Fool Britannia". It was nothing less than political satire that poked fun at the government and the Royal family. In parts it was not really that well done but it still managed to incur that wrath of those in power. It was eventually banned from public broadcast but not before it became very popular and embarrassed a lot of people including government ministers. The name of the LP was of course based on the song Rule Britannia which was, and still is proudly sung. It originated from the poem, "Rule Britannia" by James Thomson which was musically arranged in 1740 by Thomas Arne. Traditionally it is associated with the Royal Navy but was also taken up by the army. It must be remembered that in the 1700s Britain ruled a great deal of the world and the navy, in those days, had every right to be proud.

"How then will the Tamil population of Sri Lanka proudly stand up and sing the national anthem of the country whose president has promised reconciliation and unity when there is only one version of the anthem, the one in Sinhala?"

Britain's decline is well documented and need not be expanded upon here. No doubt many ardent Sinhalese nationalists and other former colonies will applaud Her decline, perhaps justly so, but the point is that Rule Britannia is still sung with pride and gusto by all Britons.

How then will the Tamil population of Sri Lanka proudly stand up and sing the national anthem of the country whose president has promised reconciliation and unity when there is only one version of the anthem, the one in Sinhala?

Mahinda Rajapakse has made several public statements about reconciliation, the fact that police officers are expected to speak Tamil so as to be able to deal with Tamils; he has wooed Muslim and Tamil politicians into his government, all in the guise of creating reconciliation. But all these actions are betrayed by the decision of making it necessary to sign the national anthem of Sri Lanka in Sinhala only. Consider the message that this decision is sending to the Muslims and Tamils: This is our country; you can stay here, live and work here as long as you want, but remember, it is our country!