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13th July,  2003  Volume 9, Issue 52

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The 'warm and cool' of straight politics

By Amantha Perera

Milinda Moragoda was once taken to task by two journalists. This was during a symposium at which he was a speaker. Moragoda was questioned on the biased reporting that was taking place on the peace process and one journalist charged that the government had its spies in news organisations.

 To the charges was included Moragoda being a US stooge. The sweat beads on Moragoda's forehead gave away the fact that he was not enjoying the encounter. But, the answers he gave were nonchalant. Moragoda stuck to his point despite the prodding by the journalists.

In effect, Moragoda was performing his part, that of the new breed of politician. The one who is willing to tell the truth and tell it at whatever cost.

His book A Warm Heart, A Cool Head And A Deep Breath is a reflection of this. It is not really Moragoda's philosophy that is in the book . The collection of speeches is a collective voice of what he has been in public.

"And as for us today, there is a choice. The choice of becoming in the 21st century the Hong Kong of South Asia, or of becoming the Balkans, the Yugoslavia of South Asia. As of now , I believe that we are headed towards the latter," he said in his maiden speech in parliament on December 8, 2000.

Even then Moragoda was quite frank about him being  among Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's chosen few. He was an advocate as well as a believer in the Ranil philosophy.

Two years down the line Moragoda is a point man in the peace process. Whenever the opportunity presented, Moragoda tried to be frank.

"Ahead of us lies a long, arduous journey. Even after an agreed devolution of powers and the resumption of normal social and economic exchange among all the parts of our country, there will remain the immense task of preparing the the minds of future generations to absorb the lessons of a tragic past." He did not say this yesterday. This was the day after the MoU went through, addressing the media.

The speeches give insight into what Moragoda has uttered in public, but whether voters believe him is not dealt with. Moragoda's chosen path, that of a UNP politician is not the most trusted in the public's eye. His predecessors and some colleagues in the present parliament have done their level best to make sure that public trust is zero if not below.

And at times Moragoda sounds little too good to be true. In the vicous political culture to which he was born to like the rest of us, has taught hard lessons not to believe the saints. The US connection has been used by many a distractor to taunt Moragoda as another Yankee Dikey in the making.

"If the United States were truly to accept and undertake the role of leader, for which its achievements unquestionably qualify it; if it were to apply its substantial resources to the promotion of democracy and free trade worldwide and do so with respect for its partners and with paitence and restraint that the strong should show those less strong, then not only would the security of the world be enhanced and the causes which erode security and breed terrorism be removed, but the world would look with fresh eyes upon its hegemony. You may then still hear the cry 'Americains, go home!' but it may well be accompanied by the refrain '...but please, take me with you!" Cool stuff, but say that to Iraqis.

The idea that he is carrying a brief for the Amercians is heightened by such statements. Moragoda is in no position to change that with a collection of speeches. The US role in world affairs can undermine Moragoda. But he has never changed his line when coming under political fire.

The advantage that Moragoda has is that his most immediate appeal would be to the Colombo constituency which is more atuned to world affiars than the rest of country. The villages may buy the anti-US speak, but he still would be able to make his point to the voters who matter for the timebeing.

To add to the woes he has been targeted by the likes of Wimal Weerawansa of the JVP: when anti-Americanism is a convenient flag, Moragoda runs the risk of being the pole.

Trying to change the public mindset  would be his biggest challenge. Whether he could do that is a toss up question. Others have failed and power corrupts in this country. Moragoda has made his vow that he is out to change this.

Only time will tell whether he would succeed.

He would have to prove that it most certainly is a warm heart and a cool head, not a calculating brain and a cool head.


The best of them - onstage

The 2002-2003 National Drama Festival second round will be held at Tower Hall  from July 14 to August 5 from 6.30 pm onwards. One unique feature of the festival is that length dramas and short dramas will be held together with alternative theatre. A new form of theatre will also be introduced at this year's festival

Second Round Selections - Length Dramas

Anotatta Wila - Yasaratne Ratnayeke

Oba Amathai (Waiting for Godot part II) -

Don Anthony Royston Jude

Katuyahana - Visakesa Chandrasekaram

Dadameema - M. Ranjith Harischandra

Nambukara Vilasini - Ruwini Manamperi

Nisaha Caarika - W. P. W. P. Wickramasuriya

Police - Lal Premaratne

Master Harold - Buddhika Damayantha

Rashomon - K. A. Hemantha Prasad

One For The Road - Malaka Dewapriya

Sellam Gedara - Chaturani Tilakaratne

Suukarayek Samaga - Sarath Kotalawala

Hayna - Chamika Hatlalwala

Second Round Selections - Short Dramas

Aminisiya - Sameera Hewage

Ekekwath Enna Epa - Liyanage Chandrani

Kadadasi Bottu - W. D. Lakruwan

Kasadaya - H. P. Pushpa Tushari

Kochciya Enakan - Lasantha Francis Silva

Nadunanno - Anil K. Wijesingha

Niwan Yanakan - Gamini Jayakodi

Mantri Sawdama - Sumeda Jayasekara

Romantic Minihek - Berti Lokuliyana

Rosa Mala - Sanjeewa Upendra

Sabahawen Awasarai - Saman Chandana

Sinhayek Nati Kalayak - W. R. Prasad Wickramaratna

Sobavikathwaya Mara - Tilak Nandana Hettiarachchi

Hatara Riyana - Lal Wasantha Karunaratne


Popular radio serial turns into literature

Family Panorama, a col-lection of plays by Milinda Rajasekera portrays very realistically the ups and downs of family life in Sri Lanka. The collection features 15 scenes of a popular radio serial play broadcast over Radio Sri Lanka from April to March 1998 as a weekly programmme.

The scenes portray the goings on in a Sri Lankan middle class home comprising father, mother, son, daughter, grandfather and uncle.

The actions and reactions of this household facing day-to-day problems and issues that affect and interest them, is dramatically portrayed in these scenes.

While no doubt intriguing as a radio serial however, their quality as literature is somewhat questionable. Conversations do sometimes sound unnatural and forced. Nevertheless, events and characters so epitomise Sri Lankan life, and situations are so close to the individual experience that it is easy to overlook this.

Overall it is an interesting, if not deep work by a writer of some repute in the country.

- K.K.A


Reflections in colour on things of beauty

An art exhibition of oil paintings titled Reflections In Colour by Jayani Pinnawala, will be held from July 25-27 at the Lionel Wendt Gallery Colombo.

This exhibition is an attempt to portray nature in all its variety along with various aspects of life. Her subjects of interest are animals, flowers and birds. She selects subjects and goes for various hues to bring out something very refreshing to the eye.

Jayani who has developed her talent as a painter is a senior public servant and has gained much experience in many ministries and departments. At present she functions in the office of commissioner general in the Prime Minister's office. Though a busy career woman involved in official duties and responsibilities, her main form of relaxation is painting. She firmly believes that one could forget the whole world while the mind is directed towards the subject of painting. Further, painting is a therapy and a way to balance your mind.

Nurturing her inherent talent she engaged herself in painting while serving as deputy ambassador in Italy. The rich cultural surroundings in Italy and the love of art of the Italian people motivated her to take her painting to a higher pedestal This prompted her to conduct her first solo exhibition in Italy, in the famous Isle of Capri. The encouragement she received from the Italians and other foreigners motivated her to have another, a joint exhibition also in Italy.

Coupled with her regular trips overseas and the experiences gained she has blended the creations of both Western and Eastern influences in to her oil paintings.

Jayani believes that people are born with one or more inherent talents that could be developed and made use of during one's lifetime.

Notwithstanding the pressures of work as a career woman she believes that one could develop talent with meaningful time management. She has been a keen lover of drama and music  and acted in the play Sinhabahu produced by the late Professor Ediriweera Sarathchandra. She has also taken part in drama and music while at Visaka Vidyalaya.

In Sri Lanka we have a rich culture and heritage but yet to motivate and inspire artistes to develop their talents.


Charitha Hathak in aid of playground

The  stage play Charitha Hathak will go on the baoards at the Tower Hall, Maradana, on Friday  July 18 from 3:30pm - 6:30pm. The play is in aid of the development of the primary playground at Sri Dharmaloka MMV, Kelaniya.

Wilson Gunawardena who is an old boy of this school directs the play. He will also play the lead role.


A refreshing change

Most often one writes reviews to lament the mess made by a director or cast of a perfectly good play. This has often been the case for me, when I return from most visits to the Lionel Wendt wringing my hands in despair at some multilation of an excellent script or novel. Not so after last Saturday's performance of ***K'by Mind Adventures, when I walked out marveling  at the talent and creativity that had gone into redeeming what at best appeared to be a mediocre piece of work.

First, the play. Senaka Abeyratne's script had substance of plot and character. Unfortunately, most of the scenes seemed a little too 'staged' for my liking. Take for example the interactions between Mevan (male lead) and his mother, where we learn within a span of one conversation that he murdered his wife, that he once slept with his mother and that his father committed suicide or more sinisterly, was murdered by his mother. Or again the scene between Mevan and his best friend Ruwan, who converse long and hard about Ruwan's business of selling arms to both sides of the Sri Lankan conflict. Were these added measures of shock-value aimed at pushing the boundaries of the prudish Colombo theatergoer? In my assessment, the added elements of darkness somewhat detracted from the already dark and complex relationship between the two central characters, Mevan and Shani. Also there was a lot to be said for locating this play in Colombo. The play could have been located anywhere in the world and still have carried through in relevance. Why go to the trouble of locating it in Colombo, if its only pushed home through the passing references to places of familiarity (Akasa Kade,' Asha Central)?

Second the acting. Kudos to Ryan Holsinger and Piyumi Samaraweera as Mevan and Shani respectively, for maneouvering themselves through two very difficult roles. The scenes of abuse were painfully authentic to the merit of these young actors. I was especially impressed with Piyumi Samaraweera, who although a relative newcomer to the theatre-scene, captured the complexities and darkness of her role. Deshan Devasagayam gave another convincing performance as Ruwan. The actress playing Mevan's mother was somewhat weak, and appeared a little ill-equipped to handle to gamut of emotions required of her character.

Finally, the directing. I have been a great admirer of Tracey Holsinger and a follower of Mind Adventures since its inception. In Tracey, I think we have the makings of a director who is original, creative and daring. In the likes of individuals like her I think we have a thriving English theatre scene that is not confined to carbon-copy reproductions of Broadway musicals or slapstick situational village-idiot comedies. Congratulations to Tracey and to her cast for a job well done!

- Citizen Critic 


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