27 September, 2020

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A Glimmer Of Hope?

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

A plethora of reports on politically prominent individuals who are in the process of being investigated or even (God forbid!) prosecuted for robbing from the public purse could not but gladden the hearts of those hoping that Sri Lanka might yet be returned to the model democracy it gave promise of becoming in this old codger’s dim, distant youth! To say that some other pieces of positive news had this writer’s heart overflowing with gratitude would be overstating the case, given the fact that all the events we were witnessing or being promised were long overdue, to put it mildly.

What seems like the first positive step in the application of the internationally-acclaimed “Senaka Bibile Plan” in the pricing and distribution of pharmaceuticals was the most recent step in that direction that I see in the media as I write this. The only thing that gives me pause in that regard is the source of the announcement – Rajitha Senaratne – who has a justified reputation for shooting his mouth off and then having to eat humble pie (even if he chooses not to notice the fact!) Even there, perhaps, the pressure of public opinion, assuming that such is forthcoming from a justifiably jaded populace, might help keep the scales tipped appropriately!

In the year “dot” I wrote a piece titled “The Talibanization of Trinity” about the dress-code that the Principal at the time, with the support of his Board of Governors and several old boys, it seemed, sought to impose on visiting parents and even those invited to the school for reasons other than being parents or guardians. That appeared to raise quite a few conservative hackles not only among the general readership of the publication but in the ranks of some old boys of that school. I certainly find the pronouncement by Akila Viraj Kariyawasam with regard to the matter of “dress codes” for parents visiting their children’s schools for whatever reason welcome news. I hope that an old friend who took issue with my sentiments and his blue-stockinged friends have the good grace to re-think their ultra-conservative opinions (accompanied, perhaps, by an appropriate serving of the afore-mentioned pie). Often and with good reason, these dress-code fanatics have been referred to the Sigiriya frescoes and the fact that the torsos of the females depicted in them are totally devoid of clothing or cover of any description. The fact that the “conservatism” practiced, not only in the matter of dress but in other areas of our day-to-day lives comes from Victorian (Colonial) England is something that our zealots for “purity of race and culture” very conveniently ignore. These are, more often than not, colonial constructs that have nothing to do with “2500 Years of Sinhala Buddhist Civilization.” And the sooner that that fact is rammed down the throats of intemperate bigots, the better, because such action would truly be in the national interest in circumstances where the constant repetition of this nonsense has led to some members of the public, at least, being brain-washed into according it some credibility.

The fact that several of what seemed like the political “untouchable class” during the last regime – and I use the term in an old FBI vs Mafia context and not in its detestable caste one – are being subjected to SERIOUS investigation, or at least what seems to resemble such, is positive. Here, again, I am not about to hold my breath in anticipation of the several additional steps required to bring them to justice taking place in the immediate future. The term “soon” has already acquired negative overtones given the endless comings and goings to this “commission” and that, some of these august bodies being graced by visits from these execrable individuals more often than others!

Concerted efforts, with the use of Closed-Circuit Television, to stop the blatant thuggery and violence that is visited upon those in police custody is also to be lauded. However, I would suggest that a word of caution would not be out of place here, either. These devices are only as effective as they are permitted to be and, I understand that the ability of such a camera to record events can be totally overcome by the simple expedient of draping an appropriate piece of fabric over the lens.

Pronouncement of principle is hardly good enough if it is not followed by practical application within what are often called “ground realities.”

To end on a sour note, a local MP and Minister who had widened a significant swathe of a footpath to give promise of a motorable road, has now informed us that this was done with a special “donation” from the “discretionary budget allocation” to his Ministry which is primarily responsible for the postal department and religious affairs of a particular affiliation. What this could well result in is an enhancement in the growth of a particularly pernicious invasive grass – Guinea “A” or “mana” as it is better known locally – rather than the beginnings of a project to provide residents of the area access to the only possible means of public transit. Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions! Seems like people of our neighbourhoods have to stop their gentle appeals to those in the seats of power and resort, instead, to more militant (violent?) modes of protest! In case, someone from that particular Minister’s/MP’s office chooses to read this piece, let me tell him/her that he is compelling us to take whatever, perhaps militant, steps we feel are appropriate to make sure that the promise made at a pre-election “pocket meeting” are kept! “Promises being as durable as pie-crusts” belongs in another part of the world, not in Sri Lanka and certainly not around our neighbourhood which has seen neglect in the provision of essential services that can accurately be described as monumental. All that said, if the initiative had continued to sit on the back-burner as it has for, literally, dozens of years we would not even have had the opportunity of attempting to talk about this project!

There does appear to be hope for a better tomorrow but, as the final anecdote would suggest, there is a great deal to be done to ensure that such a day actually dawns!

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Latest comments

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    [Edited out]

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    Old codger is keen to expose the young teens at Trinity to the wiles of our wild ladies, Ha?

    There is nothing wrong from the point of view of Muslims, or the Sinhala Buddhists for that matter, in the school authorities imposing some dress code to mothers who visit the school.

    As a retired teacher at a secular boys school in Colombo, I must say I have wondered at times to see how some mothers come to the school for business.

    We live in a Sinhala Buddhist culture and we should borrow some of the civilised values from these ancient civilisations. Europe can keep their miniskirts and bikinis Thank YOu.

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      Authorities issuing dress codes to all and sundry is somewhat patronising, cack-handed and out of time. Like signs saying ‘Do Not Spit’. Have we not progressed to a stage where a quiet word will spread the message, rather than annoying every one, most of whom behave with good sense and decorum.

      Anyway, it is rather rich of us to suddenly discover up-tightness; whatever would the beautifully liberated women of Sigiriya and elsewhere say.

      WE are all SRI LANKANS living in a culture that has been long influenced by Buddhist traditions. Like Tolerance and Kindness. NOT Intolerance. NOT Hate.

      REPEAT, how much better it would be to take the few along with a quiet word, than bludgeon and annoy the whole herd.

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        [Edited out]

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    As Husni Majid says, we Tamils also have conservative views on this issue.
    Why can’t mothers wear decent clothes when they visit a boys school like Trinity?

    The saree is a perfectly decent and a good dress, even alluring to those who want it that way, most Sri Lankan women can wear. It is cheap too. So why criticise this reasonable request of schools just because you want to write something on Sunday?

    We shouldn’t give in to the demands of noisy minorities (like this writer)on every thing. They seem to have strong views on everything Sri Lankan and blame all ills on our traditional culture.

    these frogs need to come out from under the rocks they are living.

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      Have you seen the way women dress in Tamil films? Much of the time it is not in accordance with Tamil culture but then so what?

      I like to find out how many days a film will run if all the women in the film wore the burqa and the niqab?

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      Saravana,

      “these frogs need to come out from under the rocks they are living”.

      Good idea, let us start with you Saravana.

      When I was a kid in Pussellawa, village women came to hull rice in our house (before rice mills proliferated) by pounding with a mallet. Usually two women standing opposite each other carried on with the pounding, then winnowing and finally separating the rice from the bran. These women often did not wear anything to cover their bosoms. This was in the early 50s. There was nothing more natural than working without a top to help nature cool the body during this highly demanding physical activity.

      The problem with culture appropriate dress codes are many. What culture, who’s culture and when did what start etc. The idea of culture appropriate dress codes are vague and hence problematic. For example whose culture does the saree belong to. How did Saravana decide that the saree is cheap. A saree needs almost 6 meters of fabric. A skirt less than two. So what is cheaper. Until relatively recent times wearing a ‘Amude’ was culture appropriate just as men wearing the ‘konde’. Who invented the Ariya Sinhala suit in a climate where the ‘Amude’ is supremely more culture and climate appropriate. Whose dress code is the utterly climate inappropriate suit and tie anyway that we Sri Lankans have chosen as the most appropriate of dress codes for weddings. The Muslim women of Sri Lanka survived quite cutely for ages without the heat defying hijab. Were those women bad Muslims for all those years? This is the problem with culture vultures. They are all over the place and have no idea on what they talk and write about. The principle of Trinity will be one of them.

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        BBS Rep:
        Thanks for that! Succinct and very accurate. However, the bigoted idiots who talk about things being “culturally appropriate” are, unfortunately, beyond redemption (or cold hard FACTS!)

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    Brown Blistering Buffaloes!!!! The moment I read GUINEA GRASS, the palpitations started. Woe to the bastard who plans to visit that curse on the poor local population (in pursuit, no doubt, of some moolah for himself?).
    Years of misery shall surely follow.

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    Saravana Pavan and Husni Majid:
    And what would you do with the ladies of Sigiriya in their present garb?
    And would either of you care to tell us the cultures/religions from which “The Perfumed Garden” and the “Kama Sutra” emerged?

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      The repressed Saravana and Husni should be glad they can at any time find much needed release by gazing at the erotic Sigiriya Virgins.

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    Good to hear Mr Pootin at least occasionally indulges in good things in life,,like the breasts baring chicks in King Kassiappah’s Photo Gallery..

    I like them because it is the best guide to find out how our Sinhala lassies looked like in 4 Century AD , although Vellala CM in the North says there were no Sinhalese in Mahavamsa Land, until 6 century AD.

    Our Chicks were doing Women Liberation things even then when the British women were covered in top to bottom in Victorian attire.

    And didn’t take them off even to have a shower.

    What a difference.

    BTW, Kasiappah also must have had an ETCA…

    Because few chcks there, look like are from North India.

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      Ado Sumaney:
      Every time we think you’ve reached the nadir of stupidity, you surprise us with something even worse!
      Entertainment value? Perhaps, but watching stupid comedians on a regular basis DOES get boring.

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    Emil.
    You have quite unintentionally touched old Platos senses.
    The Perfumed Garden has been described as a panegyric of love,a song of sensual delights,a collection of joyous imaginings a work of rare and curious erotic knowledge,a contribution to anthropological and ethnological research useful alike to the student of languages,orientalism,and of psychology.It is all of these.

    PL.replace old by Young!
    Cheers.

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