Elections and emotional gratitude
I write this letter because elections seem to be at
hand for Sri Lanka. On May 7, 1945, Nazi Germany
surrendered, and the next day was celebrated as Victory
in Europe Day (VE Day). Three months later (August 15 ),
Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender and the
Second World War officially came to a close on September
2. But between that May and September, a general
election was held in Britain, the first after 10 years,
elections having been suspended during the period of
Winston Churchill is generally regarded as the
greatest war leader Britain has had to date. Unlike the
LTTE leader whose goal was to form an independent state,
the German leader’s aim was nothing less than to conquer
the whole of the British Isles.
During the dark and bleak days, with the rest of
Western Europe conquered (and prior to America’s entry
into the war), England faced Hitler and his army,
reputed to be one of the best the world has seen. During
those testing times, Churchill, by his presence and
rhetoric, was an inspiring, rallying figure: "We
shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the
landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the
streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never
It is not difficult to understand the sense of
gratitude, admiration (sometimes bordering on adulation)
and affection the British people of that time had for
Churchill, their saviour.
Elections were held in July 1945, just two months
after the war ended, and Churchill was confident he
would be chosen by a grateful public. But the people’s
preference was otherwise, and the great victor of the
The Labour Party under Clement Attlee came in with a
landslide majority, getting 393 seats while Churchill
and the Conservatives won only 197. Most Sri Lankans —
most being Sinhalese — see Mahinda Rajapakse as their
President-hero, the one who led the country to military
victory over the Tamil Tigers.
This being the case, an equivalent scenario would be
if in Sri Lanka an election were held tomorrow, and
President Rajapakse lost to a socialist party. If the
response to this hypothetical parallel is an exclaimed
(if not outraged) "Impossible!" would that be a
positive reflection on the nature and wisdom of Sri
It is not that the British were ingrates, but the
country faced many and major problems of reconstruction
and, while recognising and applauding Churchill’s gifts
and contribution as a war-time leader, the people felt
that Labour would be better able to deal with the tasks
facing the country.
In other words, they rationally kept their electoral
choice for the future of the country separate from the
emotions of admiration, gratitude and affection for
services rendered to it in the immediate past.
That the British have not forgotten, and never are
likely to forget, Churchill’s war-time contribution is
seen, not least, in his statue outside the House of
Parliament: symbol of that system of government
and way of life which he had helped to protect.
Gratitude for military victory can, and should, be
expressed in ways other than through election to the
highest political office — that is, provided there are
others better suited for the work at hand. The Labour
Party assumed power and began the much-needed social
reconstruction and restructuring, for example, building
the national transport and health systems.
Churchill believed in democracy — but only where his
own people were concerned. On others, he would maintain
the forcible occupation of their territory: "I
have not become the King’s First Minister in order to
preside over the liquidation of the British Empire."
He would not have agreed to withdraw from India,
Ceylon and other British territory, unless compelled to
do so. He was also a racist: foreign occupation
and racism invariably go together. Churchill said it was
"nauseating" for him to see Mahatma Gandhi, a man
"posing as a fakir of a type well known in the
east, striding half-naked" up the steps of no less than
the august palace of the representative of the
"King-Emperor," and to talk with him on terms of
Military leaders are not uncommonly chauvinist. That
is a great part of their appeal to the populace — and
their danger, and ultimate destructiveness.
It is hoped that Sri Lankans will, politically, be as
rational, wise and mature as the British were then. This
is neither to suggest that the present government is
incapable of undertaking the task of reconciliation and
construction ("construction" in more than material
terms) nor is it to affirm the contrary.
The intention is only to urge that, in making their
choice for the future, the electorate will be guided by
reason rather than be swept along by euphoria and an
emotionalism in the flood of which a wrongly expressed
sense of gratitude plays the major, if not the only,
Charles Sarvan (Berlin), with thanks to Liebetraut
Let sanity prevail
Scenes of mass celebration, of raban playing,
flag waving, lighting of firecrackers and baila
dancing on the streets of Colombo celebrating ‘victory’
over the Tamil Tigers were seen on TV recently.
Some of them were not even born in July ’83 when
communal rioting killed over 2000 minority Tamils and
made over 500,000 of them refugees in a matter of two
The Sinhalese have therefore no real cause for mass
celebration of the demise of the Tigers — created by the
"Sinhala Only" policy and several other anti-Tamil
policies. We are all happy that the war has ended after
a long and arduous 26 years.
But it has also to be remembered that there are also
many Tamils who were at the receiving end of the Tiger
violence. It was not a war caused by a foreign enemy,
but a civil war which was caused by racism and bad
governance, with historical animosities going back to
What is needed now is a good Buddhist leadership to
replace the anti-Tamil Buddhist leadership that forced
the Tamils to take up arms and demand a separate state,
as being the only alternative to be free from Sinhala
There has now to be a complete change of perspective.
Can the Buddhist leadership with the deeply ingrained
chauvinistic thinking, change its perspective? As they
say "One can’t make old dogs learn new tricks." So we
can only hope for a younger generation to step in.
The war together with ancient history has proved that
the Sinhala Buddhist nation is not compatible with the
Hindu Tamil minority. Obviously, promising to grant
immediate secession is not practicable at this stage.
But by generous devolution to the Tamils, it is possible
that in the course of time, they would inexorably move
away from the need to secede.
The Sinhalese must now realise after the war, that
the Tamils are here to stay and that they have as much a
historical claim as the Sinhalese, who proudly claim
they are Aryans who have originated from far away Bengal
— which would logically make Bengal their mother country
— as the Tamils would say. Unless the Sinhala Buddhist
majority — with those with Portuguese names like Fonseka
and Fernando — are ready to accept this, it would be
May the Triple Gem and Lord Shiva bless the troubled,
though independent island of Sri Lanka.
Anton J.N. Selvadurai
Politicians killed by the LTTE...
I regret to note in The Sunday Leader of May
31, the under noted list — in which you have omitted, or
forgotten to include the name of late Ossie
Abeyagoonasekera — Member of Parliament and National
Leader of Mahajana Pakshaya, who died due to an LTTE
attack (we believe). Since many newspapers continue to
make the same mistake, I am copying same to
others. Trust this will receive the attention of the
media, and will be corrected.
Brother of Late Ossie Abeyagoonasekera
The article did mention that 59 others were killed
along with Gamini Dissanayake and this included all
those who died at the site and Abeyagoonasekara who
later succumbed to his injuries sustained from the
Thotalanga bomb blast. The names were too numerous to
mention. Due to an oversight, we have failed to include
late Ranjan Wijeratne who was killed on March 2, 1991.
We regret the error.
MR for Nobel Prize 2010
My candid opinion is that the Nobel Prize for Peace
in 2010 should be awarded to President Mahinda Rajapakse
for the leading part he played in destroying the world’s
most ruthless terrorist organisation, the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
These terrorists led by Velupillai Pirapaharan during
the last 30 years (a) ruthlessly killed countless
thousands of innocent Sri Lankans of all communities
apart from members of the armed forces, ( b) virtually
imprisoned hundreds of thousands of civilians of his own
community in the northern and eastern parts of Sri
Lanka, (c) destabilised the entire Sri Lankan economy
and (d) caused billions of rupees worth of damage to the
property of this country. In addition to killing several
leaders of the Sinhala community, Pirapaharan, to
further his unbridled ambition of becoming the sole
leader of the Tamils, also assassinated many moderate
My considered opinion is that President Rajapakse’s
name should be the first to be considered for the Nobel
Prize for Peace for the next year.
Prof. C. C. Balasubramaniam
Professor C. C. Balasubramaniam, Founder Professor of
Pathology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of
Jaffna and later, Professor of Pathology, North Colombo
Medical College, passed away peacefully on November 3,
2008, after serving his country with quiet dedication,
and guiding generations of medical students in Jaffna,
Peradeniya and North Colombo.
He leaves behind his devoted and gentle wife Kausa,
his only daughter Darshi and beloved grand daughters
Meera and Neeraja (Gigi).
Prof. Bala, born on November 9, 1918, was the son of
Mudaliyar Chelliah and Ponnammah Chelliah of Chundikuli,
Being the youngest in a family of four male siblings
he was the centre of attraction and the principal
beneficiary of family love and affection. After his
primary and secondary education at St. Patrick’s
College, Jaffna, he gained admission to St. Joseph’s
College, Colombo, to study for university entrance.
In pursuit of Mudaliyar Chelliah’s dream of making
his youngest son shine as a brilliant lawyer, young Bala
was reluctantly persuaded to gain admission to the
Ceylon Law College to become a proctor. Bala however had
other ideas kindled by his love for medicine and a
desire to emulate his grandfather’s vocation in life.
His conflict became compulsive enough to make him
stand up to his father and say good bye to a carrier in
law and embark on his cherished career in medicine.
After graduating as a doctor in 1948 with honours,
Bala’s early career was nourished and nurtured by the
guidance of such eminent members of the profession at
the time as Dr. Wijerama and Professor Milroy Paul.
Later he was posted to the provinces where his services
were rendered to rural Ceylon.
In 1955 he proceeded to the United Kingdom to pursue
post-graduate studies in pathology and clinical medicine
and, in due course, succeeded in getting memberships of
both the Royal Colleges of Pathologists as well as the
Royal College of Medicine.
Few years later, he was elected a Fellow of both
these Colleges. In recognition of the services he had
rendered in these fields, the Ceylon College of
Physicians also conferred the honour of electing him a
Fellow of that College.
His qualifications and training in medicine and
pathology made him a highly respected clinical
pathologist; during his long tenure as consultant
pathologist at the Kandy General Hospital he was
affectionately referred to by his colleagues as the
‘walking encyclopaedia of medicine.’
After a short stint as consultant pathologist at
Prince Charles Hospital in Wales, UK, he was appointed
as the Founder Professor of Pathology in the Faculty of
Medicine, Jaffna. Being a devoted son of the soil, he
put his heart and soul to found and develop the
Department of Pathology. The pathology museum he
established, which is still being used for teaching and
examinations, is testimony to his relentless dedication
to the cause of pathology education.
In 1990 when he left his Nallur Road residence for
his daughter’s confinement in Colombo, little did he
realise that he had said goodbye to Jaffna. The
escalation of the ethnic conflict was to isolate him
from his own native surroundings.
Years later he was to tell me that shortly after he
had left his Jaffna home the ‘boys’ had robbed him of
all his belongings leaving behind only the shell of his
house –– the dispossession of his library which he had
lovingly collected over the years added to the intensity
of his poignancy.
When I first met Prof. Bala in 1991 he had reached
the sunset of his professional and academic life. By
then he was physically wracked by years of diabetes and
emotionally devastated by the personal tragedy that had
befallen his only daughter; for him, the devouring
flames of ethnic violence that had engulfed the country
were beyond comprehension.
It was at such a juncture that I was selected by
Prof. Bala as a temporary lecturer in his department.
The physical and emotional traumas did not dampen his
attitude to help me professionally.
I was then a fresh graduate considering pathology and
paediatrics as possible future career paths. He allowed
me to conduct most of the teaching, reporting of
specimens, performing post mortems, and conducting
clinico-pathological meetings –– he virtually pushed me
into the deep waters of pathology!
His intention was to make it easy for me to make up
my mind one way or the other –– which is exactly what I
did at the end of my attachment with the department. At
the end of nine months when I was leaving for my
internship, Prof. suggested that I return to the
department and start training in earnest under his
After completing my internship and a further 10
months in Anuradhapura I decided to return to Prof.
Bala’s department. The sound foundation I received there
helped me so immensely in my postgraduate training that
I am ever indebted to this wonderful man.
Although Prof. was a quiet and contemplative person
brilliant in his academic and professional stature, the
conversations we had while travelling between Colombo
and Ragama gave me insights into his broader character
His eyes sparkled when he walked down memory lane and
recalled his childhood in Chundikuli when he had to
stand up to his father on career changes. He told me how
as a young medical student he used to cycle with his
friend Mackie Ratwatte to a stately home down Rosmead
Place where a youthful and radiant Sirimavo treated them
to tiffin while a thoughtful SWRD would pace the
colonnaded verandah puffing at his pipe.
He had an impish sense of humour and a twinkle in his
otherwise mournful eyes when he related the pranks they
played on the handful of female medical students who had
dared to invade a male-dominated profession at the time.
Prof. was an avid reader with wide interests in the arts
and literature; he would quote the Bhagavad Gita
or Shakespeare with equal ease.
He had bitter memories of the terrible carnage
inflicted by the "IPKF Saviours" recalling how they ran
amok in the Jaffna hospital killing doctors, nurses,
patients and bystanders. He was a helpless witness to
this orgy of killing during the last months of 1987
following the Indo-Lanka Accord.
During my contacts with him I found that his two
granddaughters Meera and Gigi were very much a part of
his mental preoccupation and concern. He wanted to
secure their future through a good education. Prof. was
fortunate to see this dream come true when Meera
graduated as a doctor and little Gigi entered medical
school. With his last wish thus fulfilled, I am certain
Prof. Balasubramaniam was ready to meet his Maker in
peace and contentment. I pray for his soul to be with
Dr. Thushara Rodrigo
Consultant Pathologist, UK