Sean Connery was an Arsehole. So What?

Yesterday, one of my friends told me that she wasn’t mourning Sean Connery’s passing because he has been accused of being a wife beater (and the late Sir Sean has indeed gone on record saying he felt it was acceptable for a man to occasionally slap his spouse about). Now, needless to say (or is it?), I don’t agree with Connery on this, but does his view on women suddenly cancel out his achievements as an actor? Should QE2 cancel his knighthood, and the Academy take back that Oscar it gave him for Best Supporting Actor? Maybe they should, if … Continue reading Sean Connery was an Arsehole. So What?

Our Selective Moral Outrage

There’s a Facebook post doing the usual rounds calling for the United Kingdom to try/extradite/spank Adele Balasingham, the widow of former Tiger theoretician Anton Balasingham. At various times, Mrs Balasingham was recorded handing out cyanide necklaces to Tiger child fighters, and otherwise encouraging them to be little terrorists. The individual preambles and comments that this post is accompanied by claim that the London and Manchester attacks are karma, that the UK is reaping what it sowed, and other assorted quasi-religious proclamations that are gleefully typed out as fast as a keyboard can endure. The post has a tone of righteous … Continue reading Our Selective Moral Outrage

The Promise

If you wait for me then I’ll come for you
Although I’ve traveled far
I always hold a place for you in my heart
If you think of me
If you miss me once in awhile
Then I’ll return to you
I’ll return and fill that space in your heart
Remembering
Your touch
Your kiss
Your warm embrace
I’ll find my way back to you
If you’ll be waiting
If you dream of me like I dream of you
In a place that’s warm and dark
In a place where I can feel the beating of your heart

Remembering
Your touch
Your kiss
Your warm embrace
I’ll find my way back to you
If you’ll be waiting
I’ve longed for you and I have desired
To see your face your smile
To be with you wherever you are

Continue reading “The Promise”

Does Islam Provide a Stronger Identity than Sri Lanka does?

Recently I’ve begun to notice once more a particular sort of post cropping up on my Facebook timeline, most often posted, “liked”, or shared by one of my FB friends. Almost all of these posts are by Sri Lankan Muslims (most of my Muslim friends are Sri Lankan); almost, I say, because the rest are by non-Muslim social workers or activists who are generally anyway more interested in this particular topic than most. The event that seems to have sparked this flurry of posts is the ongoing escalation of the conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians. The … Continue reading Does Islam Provide a Stronger Identity than Sri Lanka does?

Death by Any Other Name

The Sunday Times quotes the Prisons Department spokesman as saying that a new title is being sought to replace that of “hangman” as the negative connotations of the current title of the post is putting off applicants for the vacant spot. I have helpfully made up a list of possible designations for this job; feel free to add to it: Life Terminations Officer Permanent Citizenship Revocation Manager Life Executive Officer, Prisons Department Director of Lifestyle Suppression Chief Operations Officer, Executions & Terminations Terminal Penalties Officer And my personal favourite: Director of the Division of Ultimate Solutions Continue reading Death by Any Other Name

Build a Bridge, One Kevum at a Time — the One Plate Project

The One Plate Project is an initiative by Yamu and ad agency JWT to create a uniquely Sri Lankan practice online. During most religious and cultural celebrations such as the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, Ramazan, Thai Pongal, and Christmas, people of all ethnicities look forward to the celebrations, regardless of whether that particular festival is one relevant to one’s community or not. And there’s one simple irreligious reason for that — Sri Lankans love food. As a Christian Burgher, I look forward to Avurudhu and Ramazan almost as much as I do to Christmas because I know there’s going … Continue reading Build a Bridge, One Kevum at a Time — the One Plate Project

Our Moment of Destiny

I think every generation faces its own particular challenges; but the greatest and most defining ones are those of morality and courage. That moment, if missed, condemns that generation — and often many that follow — to a world far more unpleasant and evil than we would wish it to be. For many in the free world of the late 1930s, that moment came with the invasion of Poland and the bombing of Pearl Harbour. It was a moment when my grandfather’s generation had to decide if they would simply stand on the sidelines or go out and fight someone … Continue reading Our Moment of Destiny

Little Talks by Of Monsters & Men

Hey! Hey! Hey! I don’t like walking around this old and empty house. So hold my hand, I’ll walk with you my dear The stairs creak as I sleep, it’s keeping me awake It’s the house telling you to close your eyes Some days I can’t even dress myself. It’s killing me to see you this way. ‘Cause though the truth may vary this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore. Hey! Hey! Hey! There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back Well tell her that I miss our little talks. Soon it will all be … Continue reading Little Talks by Of Monsters & Men

Chandraprema’s War – a Review of Gota’s War

Unfortunately, much of history is written by journalists. And Gota’s War is no different. If you’re looking for a military history of Sri Lanka’s war, this is not the book for you. In fact, that book has yet to be written. CA Chandraprema looks at the conflict through the lens of the media — the incidents and events that drew the newspaperman’s eye; albeit a rather right-of-centre Sinhalese nationalist newspaperman. Make no mistake, this is an important book; if for no other reason than that it is the first since the end of the war to cover the conflict in its entirety.

Chandraprema’s use of Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s truncated name in the title, and the description, The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka, is slightly misleading, giving the impression that the book is simply about the Defense Secretary’s role in the final few years of the war. In fact, what Chandraprema does is to use Gotabhaya as both a counterpoint and a parallel to the narrative, particularly in the early stages of the war, when Gotabhaya was a young SL Army officer. Gota’s War is both history and biography, but it is not a natural coupling, and Chandraprema’s attempt to do both in one piece, cripples the scope of the book as a historical work.

In order to keep Gotabhaya central to the narrative, Chandraprema is forced to keep the trench-level view of the war narrow, while looking at some events – the JVP uprisings, the political infighting between the Rajapakses and their opponents – with a detail that is superfluous to the war against the Tamil separatists. Naturally, because of this, the early military confrontations between the Armed Forces and the separatists is confined to descriptions of operations carried out by the Gajaba Regiment, the unit Gotabhaya served most of his military career with. Similarly, this focus on Gotabhaya naturally prevents him examining some of the other influential characters that a true history should have. This is particularly clear in the almost non-existence of Gen Sarath Fonseka in Gota’s War. When he does make a rare appearance, he is depicted, at best, to be a rather passive figure and, often, as a hindrance to the dynamic and practical defense secretary. Fonseka, in Chandraprema’s view, is a Montgomery to Gotabhaya’s Patton, plodding and rigid, petty and selfish. In this, the author has done both Fonseka and his book a great disservice, and is akin to writing the history of the Second World War and leaving out Eisenhower or MacArthur. Similarly, many of the other military officers examined – senior to Gotabhaya the soldier and subordinate to Gotabhaya the defense secretary – are largely those who had the most influence on him. While this is acceptable in a biography, it is certainly not in a history.

The converse of this is that Gotabhaya often disappears from the narrative for long periods, particularly in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when his character isn’t central to events. We have very little indication of Gotabhaya’s personality, or the motivations that drove him; almost nothing of Gotabhaya Rajapakse the man; beyond the most superficial of sketches. This too is a deep flaw in Chandraprema’s book. At the end of Gota’s War, we know hardly more of the defense secretary than we knew at the beginning.

Chandraprema has also come under criticism, both from within the SL Army and without, for playing favourites in his book; for focusing on the feats of certain military officers, unfairly criticizing others, and completely ignoring still others. I will not dwell on this because every author has his own slant and viewpoint, and is entitled to it. To examine motive would be to review CA Chandraprema rather than his writing, and that is not the point of this article. I have mentioned the treatment of Fonseka simply because it is so glaring and obvious a failing.

One thing Chandraprema can be certainly complimented on is his writing style. Gota’s War is 504 pages long, and looks rather daunting when first picked up. However, it is very readable even if you’re not a history buff. The prose is smooth and conversational, the chapters no more than half a dozen pages in length, as fast paced as a novel, and devoid of the stuffiness, cliché, and archaic language many Sri Lankan authors of histories and memoirs feel obliged to write in. Chandraprema even manages to infuse a certain amount of sardonic humour to his writing. The book is solidly bound, and the cover is attractive, if rather unimaginative. The book could do with some better maps, however, in place of the hand-drawn ones at the back, which give no indication of the frontlines, the Tiger- and government-held areas, or the direction of offensives described by Chandraprema.

Continue reading “Chandraprema’s War – a Review of Gota’s War