20th February, 2005  Volume 11, Issue 32

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Sri Lanka: Witness To History

The hardcover edition of Sri Lanka: Witness To history - A Journalist's Memoirs, 1930-2004 by Subramanium Sivanayagam was launched in London on February 12. This 700 page, hardcover edition traces Sivanayagam's and Sri Lanka's history through some of its most colourful and politically active phases. Given below are excerpts;

 From the foreword by Adrian Wijemanne:

". Ethnic nationalism is the single pervading feature of 20th Century history.  Tamil nationalism is but another instance of the most formidable.

The state adversary it faces is but a weak and fumbling foe dependent on outside help and so vulnerable to international pressures of many kinds. Sivanayagam's experiences and this book in which they are so eloquently recorded have the great advantage of personal acquaintance with events whereof he writes and also of alignment with one of the great transforming movements of the contemporary world.

It is a combination, which makes for a riveting read and one, which will reward an audience even wider than that, which adheres to the Tamil national cause.

Sivanayagam's splendid book is a melding of history and autobiography. One must hope that Sivanayagam will not lay down his pen and will continue to dazzle us with his brilliant exposition of the great cause to which he is committed..."

From the last chapter of Witness To History

"It was late autumn 2004 when my friend 'G' who went through the manuscript of my book pointed out something that I had failed to realise myself. 'Look,' he said, 'you have sub-titled your book - A Journalist's Memoirs. Won't your readers wonder as to what happened to you from 1993 till now?' An unexplained gap of 11 years! As it often happens in life, it was a case of missing the obvious. 2004 was to me a year that was full of anxieties. I was 74 and had fallen victim to Myeloma as well; cancer of the bone marrow, the doctors said.

Cancer is a word that has an unpleasant affliction anyway. Besides, I seemed to have developed, among other ailments, what is known as writer's cramp. Having to live with constant deadlines could be agonising, but living without them, rust could settle on the mind. Life was getting torn between conflicts. There was the need to see this book in print but there were also immigration laws and visa problems to worry about. Above all, there was a compelling yearning to escape from the synthetic life of the West and its unfriendly winters. Get back to the land of your birth, said my inner self, however sordid the state of the land is. A man's life, after all, should end where it began.

The theme of a book that I had read during my young years began to haunt me in my thoughts. It was American author Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea. The old man had at last landed a big fish. A really big one. A fishing triumph.

Exultation! The problem was, he did not have the strength to bring the fish ashore, so big was his catch. With the help of a small boy, he laboured to drag it ashore. But all his feeling of triumph became shortlived as sharks began attacking the fish all the way. When journey was reached, all what was left of the fish were mere bones. That story kept recurring in my waking hours. As to why, I could not fathom.

The last time I took a conscious decision and took control of my life was in end 1981. That meant saying goodbye to Colombo where I had worked for 30 years to move to Jaffna and launch the Saturday Review in January 1982. I cannot remember any single occasion during the following 23 years, unbelievable it would seem, when anything happened according to my wishes or plans. "

Subramaniam Sivanayagam, born in Jaffna, Ceylon in 1930 during British colonial rule in Jaffna had his secondary education at Kokuvil Hindu College and Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai. In Colombo, he had worked on the editorial staff of the Ceylon Daily News and the Ceylon Daily Mirror. He also worked as English language copy writer at J. Walter Thompson and later as Editor (publications) at the Ceylon Tourist Board. He was founder editor of the Jaffna based Saturday Review. While in India in 1986, he edited the fortnightly Tamil Nation. In Paris in 1994 he edited the newly launched monthly journal, Hot Spring which later shifted base to London.

Table of contents

Chapter 1:      1956: A Jaffna-Colombo train journey and a taste of "Sinhala Only"

Chapter 2:      1930: Jaffna, Bernard Shaw and the days of the Empire

Chapter 3:      Jaffan College: Getting educated outside the classroom!

Chapter 4:      Lake House, Sir John and his inauspicious Jaffna visit

Chapter 5:      1956: Bandaranaike sows the seeds of Tamil separatism

Chapter 6:      1957-1959: Broken Pledge, Riots and Assassination.

Chapter 7:      1960-1963: A woman Prime Minister and Tamil satyagraha

Chapter 8:      1962-1968: Ill-fated coup. India helps Mrs. B at Tamil expense

Chapter 9:      1964-1968: The Left capitulates: Sinhala racism triumphs again!

Chapter 10:      1968-1969: Tamil disillusionment. "Sinhala Only Act" challenged.

Chapter 11:      1970: Mrs. B again. Austerity and a gallop in the historical process

Chapter 12:      1971: Sinhala Insurgency, Terrorism and State Authoritarianism.

Chapter 13:      1972-1976: Stormy years of nascent Tamil Nationalism

Chapter 14:      1977-1979: Jayewardene at 71 grabs power and breeds more violence.

Chapter 15:      1981: Jayawardene inaugurates a dark phase in the island's history.

Chapter 16:      1982-83: Adventure in journalism. The Saturday Review, Jaffna

Chapter 17:      1983: The pogrom as the outside world saw it : "Quotes"

Chapter 18:      September 1983 : Escape from Jaffna and a midnight passage to India

Chapter 19:      1983-1984: Eelam activity in Madras, state of war in Sri Lanka

Chapter 20:      1985: Rajiv Gandhi, Indian embroilment and failure at Thimpu.

Chapter 21:      1986: Sri Lanka sinks deeper into the mire of war

Chapter 22:      1987: Indian Army walks into northeast Sri Lanka: Near-fatal attack on Rajiv Gandhi

Chapter 23:      1988: Peacemakers at war; Sinhala south rebels; Jayawardene's exit.

Chapter 24:      1989: LTTE- Premadasa talks and Assassinations

Chapter 25:      1990- Indian troops depart but the Sri Lankan war resumes, Fall of Mankulam

Chapter 26:      1991-1997: The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination & a "Judicial Assassination".

Chapter 27:      1990-1993: Adventure in journalism II : The Tamil nation and jail life!

Chapter 28:      1991-1993: More Assassinations and fall of army camps. Death of Kitu.

Chapter 29:      1994-1995 : Chandrika in power, peace talks end in war

Chapter 30:      1996: Central Bank bombed: In the north, Tigers overrun army camp.

Chapter 31:      1977: Operation land route to Jaffna fails as planes drop from the sky

Chapter 32:      1998: Kilinochchi falls to the Tigers. Operation Jayasikurui called off.

Chapter 33:      1999: Wanni heartland in LTTE hands: Chandrika voted back to power

Chapter 34:      2000: Elephant pass falls. Falls of Jaffna averted with foreign help

Chapter 35:      2001-2002: A Summary of major events

Chapter 36:      A Memoir 1993 - 2004: That unseen hand that dictates one's life!

Invitees only...

By Risidra Mendis

Popular songs such as Kandula, Sandalatha, Nil Upuli, Nil Ahase, Warusawe, Ranthar- upayana and Kavikariye among others are what kept his fans enthralled for many years. But today Keerthi Pasquel, the man behind these captivating songs is to hold a concert with a difference. Known as 'Keerthi Gee' Pasquel's concert is expected to reach out to all the tsunami hit children.

According to Pasquel, the idea of assisting the children in orphanages has been foremost in his mind for quite some time. "My aim was to launch an organisation to entertain children of various orphanages in the country, with the intention of recognising the capabilities of these destitute and orphaned children. I hope to name this organisation 'The Child.' The purpose of this organisation would be to guide and nurture such children, in order to make them an active part of our society and culture," says Pasquel.

Pasquel hopes to form 'The Child' with the support and assistance of various business organisations and citizens.

All monies collected from the sponsorships and advertisements of 'Keerthi Gee' will be utilised for 'The Child' and for the rehabilitation of the orphaned children from the tsunami devastation. "By supporting these children they will have a future to look forward to" said Pasquel.

Pasquel who is a household name in the music arena began his musical career as a bass guitarist for the group Galaxies in 1976. His original debut song was recorded in 1980 and his maiden audio cassette released in 1985. To date Pasquel has sung over 300 songs and has succeeded in winning the hearts and admiration of a multitude of music lovers the world over.

Pasquel who happens to be a play back singer for films and teledramas has strummed his base guitar for over 10,000 song recordings. He has also composed music for films, teledramas and for leading singers in the country. Pasquel has even taken on main roles in teledramas such as Charulatha, Gawwen Gawwa, Tharu and Sara.

'Kerthi Gee' - his own one-man show commenced in 1988. At present Pasquel has performed around 100 shows in Sri Lanka and abroad. However, important landmarks in his career are his visits overseas. He enraptured audiences in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Doha Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, UK, Canada and the USA at more than 110 shows.

In 1983 he reorganised Fortunes and was with the band for several years. In 1989 he formed his own group 'The Super Fortunes.' The band made a great impact in Sri Lanka and overseas. But on his return to Sri Lanka after a stint of four years in New Zealand, Pasquel formed a new band called 'Sonic' which is currently performing under his guidance and leadership.

Pasquel has also won many awards in Sri Lanka. In 1996 he was honoured with an international award from the World Science Council in Japan where he competed with musicians of repute from 13 countries. 

At Keerthi Gee, Pasquel will sing 26 of his popular songs that include Kandula, Sandalatha, Nil Upuli, Nil Ahase, Warusawe, Rantharupayana, Kavikariye, Tharudahasak, Dasamasa Oba Ma and Sinhala Rajakale. Pasquel's songs for the concert have been written by lyrists Dr. Ajantha Ranasinghe, Hemasiri Halpita, Sunil Sarath Perera, Saman Chandranath Weerasinghe, Chandradasa Fernando, Mahinda K. Premasiri, Stanley Peiris, Donald Ivan, Father Linus Mendis and Upali Dhanavalavithana. The music for Keerthi Gee will be provided by popular musician Sarath De Alwis and his orchestra.

Deviating from the normal practice of selling tickets Keerthi Gee concert will be held only for invitees. Nevertheless Pasquel has not forgotten his numerous fans. His fans can attend the show by making a request to Pasquel by email or by posting their request to 22/1 Old Kesbewa Road, Nugegoda to get a special invitation for the show. According to Paquel, invitations will be issued on a first come first serve basis from February 20.     

Keerthi Gee will be held on February 26 at the BMICH at 6.45 p.m.

A Streetcar Named Desire

The Russian Centre in Colombo will be screening the movie A  Streetcar Named Desire (1951) on February 26 at 5 p.m. at Russian Centre, Colombo.

A Streetcar Named Desire is directed by Elia Kazan, the main cast is by Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. It is an honoured film and winner of four Academy awards (1951).

Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the restless years following World War II,  A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic women on a desperate prowl for someplace in the world to call her own. After being exiled from her hometown of Laurel Mississippi for seducing a 17-year-old boy at the school where she taught English, Blanche explains her unexpected appearance on Stanley and Stella's (Blanche's sister) doorstep as nervous exhaustion.

This, she claims, is the result of a series of financial calamities that have recently claimed the family plantation. Belle Reve, suspicious, Stanley points out that "under Louisiana's Napoleonic Code what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband."

Pop princess in Sri Lanka

Famed as the 'Indian pop princess' Susheela Raman will be touring with her four piece band inclusive of a guitarist (Samuel Landell Mills), bass guitarist (Hilaire Hega Penda), percussionist (Carols Djanuno) and tabla player (Aref Durvesh). They will be performing in Colombo on February 21 at 7.30 p.m. at the British Council Garden while the Kandy performance will be on February 22 at the Mahaweli Reach Hotel at 7 p.m. Blending Western music with a mix of ancient and modern flavours their music can be described as fusion music spiced up with a taste of both jazz and Karnatic.

Born in London to South Indian parents Susheela moved with her family to Australia when she was very young and grew up singing South Indian classical music. She began giving recitals at an early age but as a teenager branched out into more blues-based music, which demanded quite different voice techniques.

The question then was how to bring these streams together. In 1995 Susheela came to India to study with Shruti Sadolikar, one of the greatest living Hindustani vocalists. This was a challenging experience as she had to let go of what she though she knew and find a new, more insightful approach to her craft. Susheela won the Best Newcomer Award in the BBC World Music Awards 2002 and was short-listed for the UK Mercury Prize in 2001.

Aref Durvesh, the young tabla player has played with Joanna McGregor who is one of UK's top contemporary pianists. He has also performed with Nitin Sawhney and has recorded with Sting, John McLaughlin and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.

Tickets are available at British Council offices in Colombo and Kandy and Mahaweli Reach Hotel. These concerts are held in support of tsunami-affected children.

Golden eyes

By Dhananjani Silva

It is apt if we say that the young lass Menaka in Raththaran Neth, is not just a single individual but also a representative of the women victims in society as a whole. Falling in love with the Bank Assistant, Nissanka, Menaka desires him to be her partner, but fate denies him as the marriage between Menaka and Piyal, a lawyer, is already being arranged by Menaka's parents.

Cruel enough, her parents were to give their daughter in marriage to 12-years elder Piyal against her wish, they had a very noteworthy position where Nissanka's transfer was concerned - they were the invisible hand behind this unexpected move. But how they did it is unkind, hence interesting and amusing to find out!

Menaka's problems don't stop there. Obediently but reluctantly, Menaka gives her consent to the marriage - but ironically it is a marriage that consumed her. The life after the marriage for Menaka becomes impossible as she is dragged into a pit of misery from there onwards.

Menaka's rendezvous with Nissanka after long years of marriage is unexpected but significant as the real story begins to unfold from here onwards. Menaka's husband Piyal appears to be pleasing to both Menaka as well as to the viewers when he wanted Nissanka to be quite friendly with them - Piyal really did not mind Nissanka frequenting their home, but why? Can we ever expect this kind of behaviour from an ordinary, loving husband? Then what was the purpose behind this generosity?

The answer, the truth lies underneath. Piyal's deceptiveness will then be revealed to both Menaka as well as to the viewer, and Menaka will begin to face the real problems in her life with her marital life confronted with a sudden blow - something that she never expected at the time she decided to let go her much-loved Nissanka.

But as the saying goes, 'every cloud has a silver lining,' would Menaka ever lead a cheery life, a life sans worries in time to come? The day that you would overcome this curiosity is a long way off!

Starring, Damitha Abeyrathne, Pradeep Senanayake, Sanath Wimalasiri, Grace Ariyawimal, Wijeyrathne Warakagoda, Nilanthi Dias, Dilani Nikahatiya and many other talented actors and actresses, Raththaran Neth will soon be screened.

The teledrama Raththaran Neth is directed by Titus Ranasinghe and produced by Aruna Fernando, Nelum Peris and Titus Ranasinghe.

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