26 September, 2020

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Gamage Somapala, Sri Lankan Ingenuity And The 2013 US Resolution

By Nethra Goonewardena –

One of my friends, resident overseas sent me this story- which I found useful reading especially in the context of the 2013 US Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday.

The story goes that Bill Gates wanted to recruit a new CEO for his Microsoft subsidiary in Europe. He called for applications and invited all aspiring candidates to present themselves at his headquarters in the US. On the appointed day, no less than 5,000 hopefuls assembled in a large room.

One candidate was Gamage Somapala, a Sri Lankan domiciled in the USA. Bill Gates courteously thanked all the candidates for coming and, wanting to narrow down the numbers, asked all those who did not know JAVA programming to leave the room. Somapala thought to himself, “I do not know JAVA programming, but I can always pick it up. I have nothing to lose it I say, so I’ll remain and give it a try”.

Next, Bill Gates asked all those candidates who had never had the experience of managing a team of more than one hundred people to leave the room. With a groan of disappointment, another two thousand people got up and left the room. Somapala quietly said to himself, “I have never managed anybody by myself, but I have nothing to lose if I stay and I can always give it a try, so I’ll stay”.

Minister G.L Peiris and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in the statements attributed to them in today’s English dailies, sound exactly like the above-referenced Gamage Somapala. | File Photo

Then Bill Gates asked all the candidates who did not have tertiary qualifications in Management to leave – and five hundred of those who were left got up and walked out. Somapala reassured himself, “I left school at 15 and never stepped into a university. But what have I got to lose?” So he stayed in the room.

Finally, with only 500 of the original five thousand left, Bill Gates decided to shorten the list of candidates even further. He addressed the five hundred and said “ I would like all those who do not speak Albanian fluently to leave the room”. At this point 498 people sadly got up and left the room. Somapala said to himself, “ I do not speak one word of this Albanian language, but what do I have to lose?” So he stayed put and found himself with just one other candidate. Everyone else had gone.

Bill Gates came down from the podium and joined the two of them. “Good,” he said, smiling “you two appear to be the only two candidates who have all the required qualifications and experience that I am looking for, and you speak Albanian as well. I’d now like to hear you have a conversation with each other in that language”.

Calmly, without batting an eyelid, Somapala turned to the other candidate and confidently said “Kohomada Machang?”
The other candidate’s eyes opened as wide as saucers and he answered, “Ammatasiri . . . umbath Lankavenda?”
It just goes to show the ingenuity and resourcefulness of us Sri Lankans!

This is the kind of ingenuity we seem to be renowned for these days in every sphere of our national activity. Judging by the reactions to the 2013 US Resolution in Geneva which was adopted on the 21st of March by the United Nations Human Rights council (UNHRC), no Sri Lankan yet seems able to rise above the ingenuity of the kind elaborated upon in this anecdote. Minister G.L Peiris and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in the statements attributed to them in today’s (22 March, 2013) English dailies, sound exactly like the above-referenced Gamage Somapala.

Rajapaksa has expressed his “deep disappointment with the Indian government’s position articulated by its envoy to the UNHRC during the Council’s sessions in Geneva yesterday. He goes on to say that “those asking Sri Lanka to satisfy the global community should realize that they were adopting double- standards”. This idea of “double standards” is the mantra that the Rajapaksas and their acolytes appear to use to defend their own indefensible double and treble standards back at home. Rajapaksa should look at the “standards” used by the government of which he is a crucial part, to remove a Chief Justice from her post, to bring suspected rapists, murderers and thugs like Duminda Silva and Mervin Silva (members of the current government) to justice, to place in jail a war hero turned political opponent, General Sarath Fonseka, to appoint a political stooge like Mohan Pieris as Chief Justice, to appoint family members, immediate and extended, to high posts in the land with no qualifications to hold them, and so on and so forth. The list is endless. Is Rajapaksa aware that he must look at the beam in his eye before he seeks to identify the mote in that of others? What standards have he and his brothers employed in their governance of Sri Lanka? Can he afford to cast the first stone? Could we Sri Lankans hold up our heads high and say that we have conducted ourselves with dignity observing the standards we have adhered to in the past, the standards that we ought to reflect to the world given our rich heritage? The answer certainly has to be a resounding no.

In the ultimate reckoning, it truly matters little what India or the United States does or does not do with regard to standards. In a world not governed by moral and spiritual standards preached by our religious leaders and philosophers, all too often, might becomes right. There appears very little or nothing that Sri Lanka could do to reverse this trend no matter how hard it may strive to do so. That we should place this unfairness on record is but fair. But what will definitely be fairer and far more worthwhile and rewarding is for us to adhere, unilaterally if need be, to those standards we accuse others of failing to abide by. Example, it is wisely said, is far better than precept. So go for it Sri Lanka. Let’s do it. Not because some others are coercing us to do it, not because our immediate neighbours are putting pressure on us as they have been doing for eons, not because a majority of the members of the UNHRC want us to, BUT because it is the right and proper thing to do.

Let us seek a Sri Lanka where the Constitution of our country does not shackle and strangulate the citizenry, where the Rule of Law prevails, where we ensure that no citizen of ours suffers because of his or her ethnicity or religion, where we give responsibility and authority to those who are qualified and competent to bear these burdens, where fair play is the norm and not the plaything of those holding political office, where systems are in place and national institutions are protected, and where the majority of Sri Lankans can confidently say they are content with their lot. When we get at least half way to such a destination, we could then justly and proudly cock a snook at our detractors and say, “do as we do, if you can”.

The less said about External Affairs Minister Peiris, the kinder and less time wasted it would be. He is characteristically able to see and speak of the “evil side of the US resolution” but unable to see the evil side of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy based on deceit and falsehood, in the manner of Gamage Somapala, our hero in the anecdote quoted above. Peiris too, like his colleague Rajapaksa, searches for the mote in the eye of others while ignoring the beam in his own!
On Tuesday 19 March, the UPA chair, Sonia Gandhi took a remarkably unusual step at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting when she expressed her party’s concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils:

The plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is close to our hearts. Our support for equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji.

We are most pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied them. We are anguished by reports of unspeakable atrocities on innocent civilians and children, especially during the last days of the conflict in 2009.

Of course Sonia Gandhi must know well India’s duplicitous policy towards Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 80s when Indiraji trained and armed Tamil separatist groups of our island home. Perhaps it is Sonia Gandhi’s mindfulness of this grievous error which also led to her late husband Rajivji’s death at the hands of an LTTE assassin that has mellowed and tempered India’s and her attitude to Sri Lanka. Wisdom often comes with suffering and we feel that this is the case with Sonia Gandhi.

The above statement of Sonia Gandhi is the strongest that has emerged from an Indian political leader in a long time. One hopes she means these sentiments sincerely and is not playing to that crazy Tamilnadu gallery to save her party from losing support in that state run by individuals who seem prone to greater lunacy than the quantum of it we usually associate with politicians in general from anywhere in the world.

It is about time that countries like India and others concerned about Sri Lanka shed their flip flop approach and focused on a principled, confident and non-reactive policy towards Sri Lanka. Whether or not China is fishing in troubled waters and poaching its way into Sri Lanka should not come in the way of India engaging Sri Lanka steadfastly. This engagement must be a partnership worthy of two neighbours with a common civilizational bond. Perhaps India should also seek to get the support of China and Japan (two countries with whom Sri Lanka has decent relations) for its good neighbourly role in Sri Lanka so that narrow political impediments may not mar an otherwise worthy enterprise.

All of us know that India wishes to be a global as well as regional power. Well, then, India has to measure up, take a few kicks in its teeth if it has to, and initiate a serious dialogue with Sri Lanka on the lines suggested above. Not as a hegemonic power or big brother, but as a long-standing friend and neighbour.

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Latest comments

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    “Let’s do it. Not because some others are coercing us to do it, not because our immediate neighbours are putting pressure on us as they have been doing for eons, not because a majority of the members of the UNHRC want us to, BUT because it is the right and proper thing to do.”

    Assuming we’re talking to people who are able to think objectively- something Sri Lankans CANT do, as evidenced countless times in these very comments sections…

    • 0
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      Thinking objectively is not taught in Sri Lankan schools. A few lucky young ones can thank their parents for teaching them to think objectively and creatively. What happens when that parent generation passes away, and the youth of today become the parents of tomorrow?

  • 0
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    Minister Samarasinghe at UNHRC said that Sri Lanka wants another FIVE years – till 2017 – to implement Human Rights.
    The situation it appears, is so bad, that this cannot be done in a hurry.
    Rule of Law is something else,though related.
    Sonia Ghandi’s concern will I hope be a catalyst to enable tamils to be given their rights as equals.

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      When the constitution can be changed within a very short period, the Cheif Justice of the country can be impeached in a few months, why cannot the President propose a peaceful mutually acceptable solution to the minority communities. Please note today’s issue in Sri Lanka is not an issue between the Tamils and the Sinhalease, its an issue between the Majority (that too a minority of the majority who hold on to power)and the minority communities. You need a person with backbone to lead the country and to provide a political solution to all the problems. This is not such a difficult task.

  • 0
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    The main impediment to the Regime is its vision of a united Sri Lanka. Like a cataract blurs the sight of a person the regimes vision of Sri Lanka is clouded with the issue of race and religon. What is taking time and the undue delay is because the regime doesnot want to give any space to minorities other than as second class citizens.

    Billions wasted on Hambatota port and Mattala whereas tamil people are living in tin shacks in the jungles. Billions spent on setting up army camps, hotels and holiday homes for the military whereas tamil people are not allowed to return to their ancestral properties. Asking more and more time to change the demography of the North? The regime needs to correct its cockeyed vision before it attempts to walk straight.

  • 0
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    Nethra Gunawardena,

    I enjoyed reading your comment and the introductory anecdote. A terminally ill cancer patient should not advice his doctor who is having a headache, to heal himself first, before administrating life saving cancer medicine! We are a nation very clever at creating illusions and becoming deluded into thinking the illusions are real. We become victims of what we create! Rational thinking is not our forte.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Foreigners lost the plot when it come to SL and its HR policies. If these colonials stick with rule of war and application of the law in SL, almost every citizen in SL will be happy to accept since its is just.

    Problem started with colonials trying to mix HR with war crimes which gives local ruling class more ammunitions to abuse.

    No body in right mind in SL will accept war crime charges since SL is right to go after every terrorist until they are no more.

  • 0
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    To test our Sri Lankan’s ingenuity,
    we should have sent our brainy and talkative politicians like Hiwal Weerawangsa, Kudu Merwin, B Duminda, And
    Kehel Walla .
    WHY RAAAJAPAKSE AND FAMILY FORGOT THAT?????

  • 0
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    ”no Sri Lankan yet seems able to rise above the ingenuity of the kind elaborated upon in this anecdote”

    What else have the Sinhalese rulers and voters thinking and doing in their governance of this country in the last 65yrs? What else have they been doing in the damage control exercise to cover up and continue their path:

    A List of Commissions of Inquiry and Committees Appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka (2006 – 2012), 12 March 2012, http://www.scribd.com/doc/85007346/A-List-of-Commissions-of-Inquiry-and-Committees-Appointed-by-the-Government-of-Sri-Lanka-2006-%E2%80%93-2012

    Successive Sri Lankan governments have been doing the same for decades:
    Sri Lanka: Twenty years of make-believe. Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry, 11 June 2009, https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/005/2009/en

    LLRC was appointed under great pressure. LLRC website was created under great pressure. Even after nothing was done about the LLRC ”Action Plan” and the LLRC website was hacked, UNHRC has passed a resolution asking the Sri Lankan govt to implement LLRC recommendations !
    ”A small island” can pull the rug beneath the feet of seven billion co-dwellers of the planet !!

  • 0
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    1.India failed to act in the initial stages of oppression: 50s/60s.
    2.1983 shook up the world to a small extent and India to a larger extent when things have gone too far. Instead of calling the international community to act on Sri Lanka ( which wouldn’t have been easy with the ingenuity of Sri Lanka aided by its geopolitically strategic location) Indira Gandhi made a blunder
    3. JRJ was foxy enough to trip up naive Rajiv by inviting him to deal with the Tigers so that enmity will be sealed between the Tamils and India …
    4. The intricate way of making parliamentary Acts of 1948 and 1949 to disenfranchise Tamils has given way to open militarisation and sinhalisation pushing the Tamils inland from coastal areas of the North and the East in addition to the Rajapaksisation of the govt institutions in the South.

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    We are capable of answering all the question through out by big countries at UN 2013. We only need true leaders, who wants to develop the SRI LANKA.
    We need justice, our law system is not impartial, one spoon for general public, another spoon for politicians and their children., This needs to be established, government should be able to restore faithful among the people, then nobody wants to migrate to another country.

    We should stop play with numbers, those numbers do not mean that we are getting develop, this is not true, for a example use of people tax for BOGUS program, should stop, deyata kirula does it show any development in the country, of course NO, just exhibit old thing, world cup 1996. armed and ammunition captured from LTTE.
    We can answer all the question by creating people like, George washintong, Thomas Jefferson, John F Kennedy, Not putting president’s name for all programs, this is bullshit

  • 0
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    Rajapaksa has expressed his “deep disappointment with the Indian government’s position articulated by its envoy to the UNHRC during the Council’s sessions in Geneva yesterday. He goes on to say that “those asking Sri Lanka to satisfy the global community should realize that they were adopting double- standards”. This idea of “double standards” is the mantra that the Rajapaksas and their acolytes (1. One who assists the celebrant in the performance of liturgical rites.
    2. A devoted follower or attendant) appear to use to defend their own indefensible double and treble standards back at home. Rajapaksa should look at the “standards” used by the government of which he is a crucial part, to remove a Chief Justice from her post, to bring suspected rapists, murderers and thugs like Duminda Silva and Mervin Silva (members of the current government) to justice, to place in jail a war hero turned political opponent, General Sarath Fonseka, to appoint a political stooge like Mohan Pieris as Chief Justice, to appoint family members, immediate and extended, to high posts in the land with no qualifications to hold them, and so on and so forth. The list is endless. MORE THAN 90% SRI LANKANS LIVING IN SRI LANKA ARE
    INCLUDING MY FAMILY ARE INGENUINE

  • 0
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    The introductory anecdote is amazingly true for Sri Lanka when you replace
    a. the employer Bill Gates with the Sri Lankan General Public
    b. all those who left the hall with the prudent politicians we had and,
    c. Somapala & Co. with the politicians we have today

  • 0
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    Donald….. When you could have you did not.
    At the time RW accompanied Lalin met you in S’pore, You could have BUT you did not…….
    You behaved like the hired sheppard boy with the Sri Lanka flock.
    You did not and You failed.

    Now shut up.Go join the Somapala & Co.

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