27 October, 2020

Blog

How To Make Miracles

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

I didn’t need a map to get there. Elmo had helpfully sent a Google Earth graphic together with the invitation. The location was St Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, just off the road down which my maternal grandparents had lived. Captain Elmo Jayawardena, aviator, master mentor of pilots, award winning writer, is Moratuwa’s Hemingway or more accurately, the Hemingway that Moratuwa produced for Sri Lanka.  This time it wasn’t about his books, though. The man does more than fly planes and write fiction. Thanks also perhaps to his amazing wife Dil, he also helps people, as the head of a charity known as CandleAid.

I had seen some of it on April 28th, when I was invited to speak at Peter’s College, Colombo, at the graduation of a group of students who had completed a course in the English language. I should say a large group of students, because my wife Sanja and I had expected a few dozen when we got there on a busy morning on our way for the anti-hate speech Rally for Unityopposite the Nelum Pokuna. Instead, one of the auditoriums at St Peter’s was full. The teachers that CandleAid had tapped for the course weren’t those who gave tuition in spoken English. One was a respected young academic and writer, Dr Vivimarie VanderPoortenIn my remarks I said that having lived as long as I have and having visited around thirty countries, I have concluded that the most significant difference in terms of life chances, is not that of poverty or the place you come from, but the dividing line between those who were proficient in an international language (or whose mother tongue was one such) and those who were not. CandleAid had opened up the doors of another destiny for a batch of youngsters and would continue to do so.

One might have thought that this was achievement enough for CandleAid, but to assume that is not to know Elmo and Dil Jayawardena (though one is never sure that their names should be listed in that sequence). Yesterday, Tuesday May 14th 2014, they, their organisers, partners, well-wishers and friends pulled off a miracle.

I do not use the term miracle loosely. When the event they had organised was over, the thought that rose into my head was of a paradigmatic miracle said to have been performed by Jesus, when he told Lazarus to take up his bed and walk. Of course Lazarus had died, which put the Nazarene carpenter some considerable altitude above the Moratuwite aviator. It had been proclaimed that Jesus would make the lame walk, the deaf hear and give eyesight to the blind and it was attested that Jesus had indeed done so during his ministry.

Cuba’s volunteer pedagogues not only teach literacy in many countries but their doctors perform restorative eye surgery for the poor. In a deed that will surely be blessed as a shining example of the humanistic and humanitarian ethics of the Cuban revolution – which should have been the ethics of socialism—Mario Teran, the Sergeant of the Bolivian Army who drunkenly, and on orders from those higher up, fired the bullets that murdered the captive Che Guevara, had his failing eyesight restored by Cuban doctors. Such ethics are sadly an exception as social systems go.

Here in Sri Lanka with its increasingly parasitic and predatory ethos, it is itself a miracle that anything remotely resembling that exercise would be organized by private citizens; by civil society volunteers.

What CandleAid did on May 14th at St Sebastian’s College was to teach disabled children, most significantly, visually impaired children, to swim. We saw it happen. At the heart of the thing, it was all about the children; dozens of them in clean uniforms escorted by their more fortunate peers; a young boy spoke at the podium of his gratitude for the chance of learning to swim and a young girl spoke in sign, excited at the prospect of competing and even winning at an event someday in the future.

And then the moment of the miracle, when they arrived in their swimming gear, and coached by a wonderful woman, slipped into the swimming pool and made their way across to the other side. It was as close as human beings can come to making a miracle happen.

The pool at St. Sebastian’s college was donated by CandleAid in the aftermath of the Tsunami, when it was discovered that most people drowned due to their inability to swim. In a programme named “Swim for Safety”, the brain child of yet another member of the Jayawardena family, Mevan, CandleAid has trained over 5000 young people to swim since they commenced the programme in 2007.

This year, the programme was extended to include visually, hearing and speech impaired children to swim, in a programme called DAS (Differently Abled Swimmers). This is what commenced on the 14th of May at the pool at St. Sebastian’s. Sameera de Silva, the 26 year old volunteer who runs the programme for CandleAid, had organised the event flawlessly. There were no politicians and no religious rituals. The short speech by the priest who is the school’s head, wasn’t the opening address of the evening.

The Chief Guest at the CandleAid event was the most distinguished of Sri Lankans alive today, Judge CG Weeramantry, whose immediately post-war advice that Sri Lanka’s victorious leadership be inspired by the sagacious generosity of spirit of the post-WWII Marshall Plan rather than that of the spitefulness of post-WW I Treaty of Versailles, was ignored (if it had ever been read), to our collective cost. His gracious and elegant wife Rosemary was, as Elmo reminded his listeners, from the neighbourhood, Uyana, Moratuwa. Dignified and yet deeply engaged, Judge Weeramantry said that what was fundamentally wrong with the world was that those who were more fortunate, better endowed, did not care, or care enough, or even if they did, did not do anything about, the less fortunate. He said that by its deeds, CandleAid had by contrast, lit a little candle that should shine throughout the world.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Dayan Jayatilleka, Well said

    “The Chief Guest at the CandleAid event was the most distinguished of Sri Lankans alive today, Judge CG Weeramantry, whose immediately post-war advice that Sri Lanka’s victorious leadership be inspired by the sagacious generosity of spirit of the post-WWII Marshall Plan rather than that of the spitefulness of post-WW I Treaty of Versailles, was ignored (if it had ever been read), to our collective cost.”

    World War II, Started, with the Treaty of Versailles,at the end of WW I.

    The Greta Eelam War I, ended and the Great Eelam War II has started, courtesy of the Sinhala Buddhist Nazis, and their state sponsored and other sponsored goons. According to Minister Wimalawansa, the Budu Bala Sena is getting funds from Norway and Western funds through Norway, and has been to Norway. Did the BBS go to Norway to fish for sardines? King Olav Sardines? Swim in the cold fjords? Ski in the mountains?

    The Answer is blowing in the wind,the answer ……..

    • 0
      0

      I was enjoying Dr. Dayan’s article. Let me tell you I did enjoy your comment even more.

  • 0
    0

    Great article. Wonderful information.

  • 0
    0

    Dr. Dayan I think now it’s time for you to take a step forward, think of a more active role where you would be able to put your theories to work. Do not confine your years of good experience, academic and professional (evidently reflected by where you are standing right now) go down the drain. Simply you are too good to be wasting time writing articles and giving interviews. Its kind of like Sarath Fonseka choosing to work in a local security firm over being the commander of the army during the time of war. Right now what you say on Sri Lankan Politics is as accurate as Vatsyayana’s guide to virtuous and gracious living which discusses the nature of love . I’m pretty sure that you are well aware that greatest political tragedy in our country today (like Martin Luther King, Jr. said) is appalling silence or ‘play it safe’ attitude of people like you !

  • 0
    0

    Playing it safe, huh? In comparison to whom? Someone who calls himself/herself ‘Vitamin C’ rather than by his/her own name?

    Meanwhile, check this out, from the pages of the Daily FT

    / Chamitha Kuruppu, COLUMNS / “We are on the road to losing the peace”
    “We are on the road to losing the peace”
    Published : May 10, 2013

    “The ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ is in danger; it is increasingly overshadowed by the ‘Gota Chinthana,’” stresses Sri Lankan Diplomat and Political Scientist Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka.

    He warns that President Rajapaksa has devolved far too much of his power to those close to him. “I am not sure really whose hand is
    consistently on the tiller. I am not sure who is really driving policy.”
    Dr. Jayatilleka points out that the country is experiencing an intra-regime change.

    “The centre of gravity is shifting from the pragmatic populism of Mahinda Rajapaksa to a harder, harsher neo-conservatism, which is more visibly represented by Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”

    Following are excerpts from the interview:

    • 0
      0

      Ah the joys of self promotion !

      • 0
        0

        Isn’t self-promotion what Politicians do before an Election and after?

    • 0
      0

      I’m thrilled to be noticed by you Dr. J

    • 0
      0

      Dr. Dayan Jayatillake,

      Is there any method or hope of getting the Sinhala Buddhists to be weaned of the Monk Mahanam myths?

      This seems to be the core problem.

      The other problem seems to be too many monks running wild, like BBS, and there is no way to discipline these wayward monks.

      Scientific facts does not matter for these myth holders.

      If it was the the Myth that got them there, reason does not matter even if the myth is false.

  • 0
    0

    Now charity is all that’s left after the new book failed to sell. Otherwise, a good article.

  • 0
    0

    Good article Dayan!

  • 0
    0

    Dayan,

    You have inherited the the skills of your father and uncle Neville.

    I was happy to hear about the silent service rendered by Elmo and the connection of Justice Weeramantry with Moratuwa. I hope the government will make use of the recognition given to Justice Weeramantry in heading an impartial panel of judges to investigate the allegations made by some nations with vested interests.

    Keep writing.

  • 0
    0

    Dayan,

    Now you quote “The Chief Guest at the CandleAid event was the most distinguished of Sri Lankans alive today, Judge CG Weeramantry, whose immediately post-war advice that Sri Lanka’s victorious leadership be inspired by the sagacious generosity of spirit of the post-WWII Marshall Plan rather than that of the spitefulness of post-WW I Treaty of Versailles, was ignored (if it had ever been read), to our collective cost.”

    At the first anniversary after the war, when many civil-types (as you like to call) argued that reconciliation will be better served with restrained celebs and not by hyping it up for the regime’s benefits, didin’t you write a whole article in support of the regime’s most-spiteful plans to hold the victory celebs that was anything but “sagacious generosity of spirit”?

    Are you trying to cover-up your missteps now? What duplicity?!

    • 0
      0

      Kumar:
      Thanks for reminding readers of this piece about what DJ is all about. Three of the people mentioned in this piece have one thing in common – mealy-mouthed “liberalism.” When the voices of DJ, C.G. Weeramantry, and Elmo Jayawardena SHOULD have been raised in the promotion of decency and AGAINST what has developed into a cruel caricature of democracy, THEY WERE SILENT, apart from mouthing platitudes. They received recognition and, in the case of CGW some state honour, from our “monarch” in fact.

      These are the people that so many like Martin Luther King described as being silent in the face of injustice. That is the simple reality.

      • 0
        0

        Aney:

        The sins of DJ in particular goes way, way beyond “being silent in the face of injustice.”

        He was wholly and unabashedly complicit, if not instrumental, in driving Sri Lanka’s democracy and its once proud global image into smithereens – and within so short a period.

        He promoted willful undemocratic practices, offering pseudo-academic excuses and pseudo-diplomatic cover-ups necessary for the Government that was on its way to self-destruct, all the while chest-thumping and self-glorification of that pseudo-victory that has now come to bite in the country’s you-know-what!

        The comments in this blog just proves the truism that “you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time!”

  • 0
    0

    I cannot believe this man still believes that miracles happen. He is so out of touch. Never wanted to mingle with the Sri Lankans of Paris and we are glad he is here no more. No matter what his politics are we are glad that we have seen the back of him here in France.

    • 0
      0

      Peter Casie Chetty

      Dayan defended Sri Lanka at the UNHRC “””successfully”””. You must give credit where credit is due; the Indians and the Americans.

  • 0
    0

    Dayan, Your comment on proficiency in English is one of your very best statements. This why 1956 and the Sinhala Only it bred is the great betrayal of the people. Sinhala and Tamil together would have been fine as state languages, but the real crime is the abandonment of English as the medium of instruction in schools. The use of English as the medium of instruction meant exposure of children to spoken and written English for at least six hours five days a week. This was an extremely efficient method of making English available to all. We know that children are very good at learning languages. With that kind of exposure, they did exceedingly well acquiring the language.

    Thousands of children from poor rural backgrounds learnt English effortlessly in Central Schools located at even the remotest parts of the island. That was almost as good as the linguistic atmosphere in upper class homes where English was the home language. These students became to backbone of the island’s professional and intellectual life in the succeeding decades, until the disastrous results of Sinhala Only took effect.

    Had we retained English we would today be exporting not domestic servants and other unskilled workers but doctors, engineers, teachers and other professionals. It would undoubtedly have had a notable effect on the economy, but most importantly, it would have had the effect of broadening the horizons of our people that would have contributed to making our country a progressive and prosperous modern democracy.

    We must not fail to recall the hypocrisy of the Sinhala lunatic fringe that asked students, and still do, to shun English because it is part of our colonial heritage. These same people owe the high positions they hold precisely to their access to English and the training they got because of their proficiency in English. And their children are in studying in English either overseas or in the expensive schools within the country.

  • 0
    0

    DJ, congrats on your very inspirational article.

    It is a blessing that Sri Lanka still has wonderful caring, intelligent and educated citizens (including DJ, of course).

    Unfortunately this fantastic breed appears to be going over the hill, and we should make every effort to replenish the stock with equally educated, intelligent younger blood who share the same values. Otherwise our country will be doomed.

    DJ, despite disagreements some of us may have with you, it would be a great project for you to consider. That is why I implore you to dilute your status of back-seat commentator, and take on a more visible and active leadership role.

    Lest anyone criticises you about self-promotion, there are several others out there who will be glad to join hands with you on this project to save the youth and future of this beautiful country.

  • 0
    0

    So when you fall from the pedestal of high office you turn to philanthropy and you start to think of those who haven’t got….!

    I would like to believe in miracles too, and give you the benefit of the doubt but then again,I wonder if a leopard ever changes it’s spots ?

  • 0
    0

    Dear Dr. Jayathilleka,

    Thank you very much for having the time to write so nicely about the other side of the life deviating from the usual practice of focusing only on matters of governance and politics. It is also heartening to note that there are efforts by people who care for less fortunate people and who do things to enable and empower such people to come into front. English and Swimming, the two key areas which you emphasized,are in fact among the most important life skills which the large majority of Sri Lankans lack today.

    I wish that more “CandleAid” type charities and more civic minded people like Elmore Jayawardena, follow this example and lead from the front.

    Regards,

    The Professional

  • 0
    0

    Well done CandleAid. You are one of the few lights in a sea of hate. Just look at the spiteful comments here and you know that our problem is in the spirit of man. Still your’s is the spirit of goodness. Please go ahead with your charity and let the hate-mongers find their own way to solace.

  • 0
    0

    Dayan Jayatilake OOZES EGOISTIC tendencies… it is these that the destabalizing operators have tapped.

    Thats why he is no different to traitors for secretly putting 13th amendment to Sri Lanka;s proposal in Geneva ,,,

    we should not entertain such characters… leave alone call them SIR

  • 0
    0

    Dr.Dayan,you look better in this photograph than the ones in the earlier articles.Did someone ask you(maybe your better half) to get rid of the frown?

    As for vitamin c’s comment,he does not know the power of the internet where literally millions can read what you write with a click of a button.Even sai baba was lamenting about the internet because many allegations were put out in it detrimental to him.However i feel you should go one step further and use the internet to form a political party comprising only of professionals who can do their normal work and also do something for the country too by giving their ideas and thoughts through the internet which can finally be condensed in a manifesto.I told about this to Dr.Narendran too.

    You had given feedback to vitamin c on the interview you had given.I did read that interview,though i don’t know why CT did not publish it.It was a very hardhitting one where you minced no words and told it as it is.A very commendable feat and I only wish your advice is taken on board by Mahinda,unless it is a deliberate act of the two siblings agreeing to play good cop and bad cop.You got to have the bad cop to scare some people and then the good cop steps in and saves the damsel in distress and gets all the accolades for his great heartedness etc.

  • 0
    0

    I HAVE READ THE ABOVE COMMENTS WITH A SAD HEART. CRITICISMS ARE WELCOME AND MUST BE EXPECTED IN ANY TRUE DEMOCRATIC ENVIRONMENT. BUT CRITICISING FOR THE SAKE OF CRITICISISM AND NOT FOR THE SAKE OF UPLIFTING IS DAMAGING AND DESTRUCTIVE. IN THIS ARTICLE I THINK A LOT OF THE COMMENTS ARE FOCUSSED ON DJ. THEY HAVE OVERLOOKED THE CONTENTS OF WHAT IT SAYS,NAMELY THE EXCELLENT WORK CARRIED OUT BY CANDLE AID, ELMORE,HIS WIFE DIL, AND THE REST OF THE VOLLUNTEERS ASSOCIATED WITH THE CANDLE AID MOVEMENT, WHO HAVE UPLIFTED THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN ALL OVER SRI LANKA. I KNOW THAT THIS HAS NOT BEEN CONFINED TO THE AREAS OF TEACHING ENGLISH AND SWIMMING ONLY AS THIS ARTICLE TOUCHES ON, BUT ON THE ENTIRE LIVES OF DESTITUTE, MARGINALISED, AND ABANDONED KIDS OF SRI LANKA. THEY WHO HAD NOTHING BECAUSE OF US ADULTS WHO “CHOSE” TO TAKE AWAY THEIR CHILDHOOD AND LEAVE THEM ABANDONED, HAVE BEEN LIFTED UP BY CANDLE AID AND LIKE ORGANISATIONS, AND GIVEN A CHANCE, ANOTHER CHANCE TO LIVE, TO HOPE, AND TO SUCCEED IN LIFE. THANK YOU ELMO, DIL, AND ALL THOSE UNNAMED PEOPLE WHO HAVE MADE CANDLE AID AN ORGANISATION OF LOVE AND OUTREACH FOR THESE THOUSAND OF UNCARED FOR, HANDICAPPED, DISABLED, AND ORPHANED KIDS.PLEASE CONTINUE WITH YOUR ABUNDANCE OF GOOD WORK. THERE ARE PEOPLE IN SRI LANKA WHO ARE AWARE OF YOUR UNTIRING AND SELFLESS EFFORTS AND ARE CONTRIBUTING THEIR MITE IN WAYS POSSIBLE TO ASSIST YOU AND YOUR PROGRAMMES ANONYMOUSLY.

    • 0
      0

      The comments are not criticizing Candle Aid. The comments are simply ridiculing DJ for trying to change his tune from unmitigated worship of the Rajapaksas’ to charity and good works.

      No one is deceived for even a millisecond that this is simply another attempt to jump on a band wagon that is expected to further the career and the ego of Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka !

  • 0
    0

    Men like Dr Dayan J and Judge Weeramantry should speak out. When we go back to history, we see that many nations were destroyed when there were men of calibre and virtues; when asked why did God destroy a nation when there are good people among them. The answer was, the “good people did nothing, when the bad men created chaos in the country. history is replete with examples. Please do not be the reason/s for the destruction of our nation state.

  • 0
    0

    Ajith Niward Kabral did the same before he comes to moratuwa as a candidate , Now Dayan links him self with Moratuwa very unusual for his style , Moratuwa UNP organizer was moved to Rathmalana

    Dayan come back to UNP and contest you have a chance

  • 0
    0

    Ajith Niward Kabral did the same before he comes to moratuwa as a candidate , Now Dayan links him self with Moratuwa very unusual for his style , Moratuwa UNP organizer was moved to Rathmalana he might be the next UNP organizer to Moratuwa

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.