13 April, 2024


Letter To My Beloved Mother Lanka

By Haaniya Jiffrey Shiyam

“Congratulations” is what I am obliged to say to you today upon reaching another milestone in your life history, but it sounds hollow as I must admit that you are no longer your old, vibrant self. I cannot help but lament that once you were called a pearl and now the sheen and lustre are all but lost. Paradise was your other name which you partly retain as you are now a paradise to a chosen few. In spite of your unenviable condition, we remember your illustrious sons of the past with due respect and reverence, for having dedicated themselves to win you emancipation from the occupiers.

Yes, you stood proud and tall, stable and confident although encompassed by a sea of challenges. Now you are a mere abandoned ship without direction, tossed by mighty forces in mid-ocean, struggling to stay afloat. At the helm, some other not-so-illustrious sons of yours, some in saffron, some in white, steer dangerously, courting disaster. They have no compass and no map, nor even a destination! They have tarnished your image, perhaps irreparably, and seem incapable of ensuring your safety and survival.

The pomp and parade held in your honour, under these circumstances, are sadly reduced to a mere tamasha. It is not opportune to celebrate so soon when the shadow of Black January still lingers on. The loss of other eminent sons of yours by means of murder, abduction, forced disappearance or even self-exile, required for avoiding persecution and harassment, is not so easily wiped away from the collective consciousness. To name but a few, the assassinations of Lasantha Wickrematunge and Wasim Thajudeen, who shone in their respective fields of journalism and sports, remain unresolved to date. In addition, the investigation into the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda is progressing, if at all, at a snail’s pace.

It is inappropriate to celebrate. Lives lost in the Easter Sunday Attack still remain unavenged while the survivors plod on with their physical and emotional distress. To allow the guilty to go unpunished is a gross injustice to the innocent. It is not fair; it is not sane to practise such extravagance for a vain show when the average family, invaded by ever-worsening poverty, is driven to insanity in its frantic search for the bare necessities of mere survival.

The wound is raw, the cut is deep, the memory is fresh – one can never forget the refusal of burial for all our Covid-dead. In implementing forced cremation, they buried their own humanity instead. Along with it they planted a seed of enmity. Even if time heals the pain, the scars will inerasably stain the records of the perpetrators.

In this context, it is too ugly to boast of an independent judiciary system or the non-violation of Human Rights. It is no secret that an extra-judiciary mechanism is in place precisely to rescue cronies and supporters from impending trials. Is it that those who make such outrageous claims have the intelligence of the proverbial cat? It shuts its eyes, while it laps milk by stealth, believing that the resulting darkness makes the rest of the world oblivious to its guilt/blame.

Mother, your lustrous green garment is now turning a scorched brown. Gone are your forests and fields. The elephants, with depleted habitats, run amok. Your son, the farmer, is crushed equally by elephants on the rampage, on the one hand, and by the “organic fertilizer only” policy, on the other. The imposition of this capricious and imprudent decision has shaken the foundations of self-sufficiency and food security, both being rudiments of your true freedom.

Your beaches once laced with coral, are of late strewn with carcasses of sea-turtles, dolphins and even whales. The horror of human bodies washed ashore is becoming more frequent, and insinuates mysterious killings and shootings. The Indo-Lanka conflict over fishing territory has aggravated this gruesome phenomenon. Polluted waters and poisoned fish impoverish the fishing villages. The grip of greed erodes your soil, sand and stone. Even the delicate ecology of your sanctuaries is disrupted for so-called development.

Mother, you forbade us any evil or wickedness. Yet, lies and deceit abound, intoxicants proliferate and all manner of iniquities thrive amidst us. These go unchecked. Some shameful and pitiable random events in the recent past come to mind: a politician threatens a prison inmate at gunpoint, apparently for a badly-needed ego boost for the former from such bravado; Sunil Jayawardana, the Chairman of the National Three-Wheeler Federation is brutally clubbed to death near a leasing company; a mother of four dies in an explosion while using her gas cooker – this is only one of many such incidents; proven murderers and criminals are released through Presidential pardons while the innocent languish in prison waiting for amnesty; a hydrologist’s faulty assertions on contamination are misused to substantiate the denial of burial rites/rights; racist propaganda and myths are circulated to misguide the public for personal gains; and the list is inexhaustible.

Jokers, clowns, ruffians, and rogues pose as “leaders” and together with their motley supporters, continue to entertain or bore the people with their poor attempts at drama and farce. They even tell you that someone was arrested (under PTA?) for possessing a box of matches that was not full. Some of the drama, however, is serious, and suspicion of a conspiracy has been expressed. Further, the Minister of Justice, who once promoted, among several others, the myth of a “strong leader”, now reiterates his longing for a pro-authoritarian rule by publicly asserting that for some services/departments the right to resort to Trade Union (TU) action should be curtailed or removed! This, to put it mildly, is a disturbing statement and it makes the future of democracy sickeningly doubtful.

I know, Mother, what you, from your sickbed, mean by that imploring look although you are tired and tearful. You want me to call all my disillusioned brothers and sisters to come forward to make you well again. Indeed, though the prospects are bleak we shall not abandon you or our hope. This is no time to stand aloof, nor to despair. So, I will say to them here and now: Let us all fervently engage in curing our Mother Lanka. Discard your disdain and cynicism and, instead, positively seek to establish truth and justice, for it is these that will serve as a panacea for her maladies. The decadent trend can only be overcome by the active participation of each of us. Let us contribute to build our nation anew to the best of our capacity. As one family, whether we are clad in saffron or white, or in red, blue, or green or in any other neutral colour, regardless of where we hail from, our sincerity and devotion are what will enable us to liberate Mother Lanka.

Mother, this illness is not terminal. You will rise again revitalized and reenergized to make us happy and fulfilled. You still have the potential to yield surprises surpassing the invaluable Queen of Asia. Yes, that glimmer of happiness in your now smiling eyes make my heart leap, too.

From one of your concerned daughters.

*Haaniya Jiffrey Shiyam specialized in English at the University of Peradeniya and thus holds a B.A. (Hons) Degree. She taught English and English Literature at tertiary and secondary levels.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Come on Haaniya Jiffrey Shiyam – how about the express ways consumed by the beautiful scenery of mountain and greenery but no traffic, the rare white elephant Maatra International Airport that gets publicity when a chartered flight of tourists come from Russia or ukraine , the Hambantota Harbour leased to china due to debt default , the empty state of the art conference halls the cricket grounds and the Port City limping with no promised inward investment except for the promenade and the arc bridge and Cabraal proudly says a hospital and school.
    How about all the humongous Buddhist temples being built on “archaeological” sites
    That beautiful Golden Kalyani Bridge now gone dark

    there are so many positives – think positive

    • 2

      Solution is to start another terrorist war with the help of your ethnic brethren in Tamilnadu to get parity for the culture and language of Tamilnadu for the 10% immigrant Tamils and blow up all our assets and make us spend a few more tens of billions of dollar on a war.

    • 3

      Haaniya, Don’t be so despondent. I don’t know how our beloved President missed it, but we passed a historic milestone this year.
      By the President’s sole efforts, he has restored our agricultural production to what it was when we were the granary of the East 2000 years ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of?

  • 4

    I met this sinhala woman outside in an asian country and she asked me how come you hate your mother country (really my maternal grand parents mother country). My response is that the “mother country” has a history of killing tamils like me periodically that is why I hate it!!!!!!

  • 4

    Yes, yes…. all these problems, murders, torture etc could have been avoided if we had given 40% of our island with 80% of the coastal line to the Tamils, and cleared all the jungles and taken all the agricultural land too and put up more tea plantations in them and brought millions of more Tamils to pluck tea and sell the tea below cost at dollar a kilo, to the kindhearted good British and imported all our rice and food, since tea sold below cost is giving us a huge income, and we should have also brought in more Muslim loan-sharks to borrow money from and pay high interest to, to cover up for the losses and deficit in the state budget. Oh I forgot, we should have scrapped Sinhalese from all official usage and implemented a strictly Tamil only policy, with Chelvanayagam, Sudaralingam, Ponnambalam, Vigneshwaran and Prabakaran ruling…. then it would have been paradise.

  • 3

    “more Tamils to pluck tea and sell the tea below cost at dollar a kilo, to the kindhearted good British and imported all our rice and food, since tea sold below cost is giving us a huge income,”
    How is it that countries who pay higher wages to their workers can sell tea cheaper than us? Why don’t you go read something about the tea industry before you embarrass yourself and your clueless frog in the well relatives?

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