1 October, 2020

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Reminiscences Of My Visit To London

By Upali Gunawardena

Upali Gunawardena

‘I am sorry’, ‘We are sorry’. These are the words I heard very frequently, while traveling in public transport during my short stay in London with my daughter’s family. These words came out from youngsters who were occupying seats reserved for disabled people or the people with special needs, traveling in buses. Those are called “priority seats”. These youngsters exclaimed these words through some sort of guilty conscience when I entered the bus with my walking stick in hand.

While uttering these words they promptly moved to other seats allowing me to sit on any seat, according to my wish. They were very happy when I replied them ‘Thank You’ with a smile. With these words I remember the smiling faces of British people moving freely in the society with a high sense of discipline and no haste or stress. They worry for the least inconvenience done by them and they say thank you for the minor help given by the other party. These are the signs of a cultured society, though they do not possess a History of 2500 years, inspired by Buddhism.

Courtesy 

In London, the bus service is very efficient. Drivers are very courteous. They come in time and leave in time. If there is a delay, that is only for a few minutes. Usually buses are not crowded in London. Drivers do not want to overtake another vehicle unless the vehicle in front is stopped. There is no horn tooting except in an emergency. In Sri Lanka, some drivers can’t drive without tooting the horn every five seconds and it is used to show their authority to other road users. There are no competitions among bus drivers to overtake another unlike in Sri Lanka. I really wondered to see buses plying with fewer passengers and buses on the road in every five minutes without sufficient income. But when I inquired from my daughter about this, she replied that the bus service is  maintained not to make profits but to provide a good service to the people in the city. 

Bus has only the driver and no conductor and there is no cash transaction too. The commuter has to touch his pre-paid ticket (oyster card) or bank card on the card reader near the driver while boarding the bus. The same card is valid for London trains too. The driver could monitor the two decks through C.C.T.V cameras and mirrors from the driver’s seat. 

Public transport and road facilities have been improved and maintained by devoted employees. When speaking of road facilities, I have to mention that all roads in London are designed for the convenience of the disabled people who are using wheelchairs or with any other walking aid. Special designs are built for them in Pedestrian crossings. They are called Guide Strips. Guide Strips should be constructed to indicate the position of pedestrian crossings for the benefit of sightless pedestrians. A Guide Strip should lead to pedestrian light poles with push buttons for the benefit of the visually disabled. Buses specially designed to accommodate wheelchair users and wheelchairs can be pushed into the bus directly from the bus halt.

When the bus driver sees that a wheelchair user is there to board the bus, he stops the bus and opens the rear end big door just in front of the wheelchair and extends its iron plate to touch the floor which allows the wheelchair to enter into the bus with ease. In the meantime, ladies, children and elders are given the first chance to enter the bus. 

But here in Sri Lanka, it is quite the opposite in every mode of public transport. I have seen several times that people in good health occupying seats while pregnant ladies and old people are standing near them. Some of them were pretending to be in deep slumber. That is the courtesy of our people who boast of a rich culture and values. Boarding a bus in Sri Lanka is also a struggle and there we can see not the human law but the law of the jungle -‘Survival of the fittest’

Being a septuagenerian using a walking stick, I too have daunting experiences with  public transport in Sri Lanka. I was intimidated several times by young bus conductors asking me either to get in or to get out from the bus quicker, which was impossible at my age. Because of that, I am unable to travel without someone to accompany me and as a result I am very much confined to home. I know this is the story of many senior citizens in Sri Lanka. On the contrary in the UK, bus and train fare is free for over 60 year old people and their disabilities are accepted with respect. As far as I know in every town, there are places for elders to entertain themselves and spend their leisure meaningfully at no cost. Elders visit these places to read, chat and play indoor and outdoor games.

City dwellers belong to various ethnic groups in the world and they live in harmony minding their own business. I have met people from Brazil, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka and almost from every part of the world. 

Cultural Activities and Education

During my stay I was fortunate to visit world famous theatres like Royal Albert Hall and Royal Opera House. We first visited Royal Festival Hall in South Bank and saw how the free classes were being conducted on Music, Dance and Ballet. We got the chance of viewing one ballet lesson for all ages and observed youngsters participating enthusiastically. My wife who is a dance teacher got the chance of participating in one of the dance classes with other students from various countries and from all ages. There were a few young mothers participating in the class along with their children.

In the Music section I saw how teenagers were participating enthusiastically in an Orchestral Music item which included all major instruments like Violins, Cellos, Guitars, Double Bass and Drums to the signals of the conductor. The composer was present during the rehearsal. The participants of this item were boys and girls in their late teens. When I questioned one of the girls, she replied that they were in A/L classes some are following Math stream along with Music as a subject in their formal Education. Even my grandson studying in a university in London offers Arts with Mathematics. The system of Education that deprives Science and Maths students from Arts subjects is not there. Students can select subjects according to their discretion. No parent or teacher insists them to select subjects other than the student himself.

Here in Sri Lanka we find it quite contrary to the British system of Education. Our parents always insist their children to follow the Science Stream to become doctors or engineers.

With the higher wages and other perks given to doctors they have become the most privileged lot in our country. And now they have become so powerful to challenge against the existing government too. Even the common public is of the view that their children must follow Science stream for their children to get lucrative jobs in future. In Britain competency surpasses educational qualifications. There are nurses drawing bigger salaries than doctors.

When in England I saw no advertisements, billboards by the road sides of private tuition classes or tuition masters. There I saw that children have no competition in anything other than sports. Every school has a playground. Even though there are private tuition classes, children in U.K. engage themselves in sport and games and go for films and theatre freely and actively while studying for major exams like A/L or O/L. But in Sri Lanka, children attend private tuition classes from dawn to dusk. Because of this reason there is no advancement in various other fields including Performing Arts which need life time devotion. Even the T.V. channels in Sri Lanka promote only singers in various programmes but not the composers and lyric writers in the country. On the other hand U.K. is interested to bring out the best personalities such as Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Robert Frost.

There is a place called the ‘Shakespeare Globe’ and near that there is Shakespeare’s Old Theatre where he presented Othello, Macbeth and Merchant of Venice, has been preserved up to date.

Even today the performances of Shakespeare Dramas go on boards at the same venue. We were able to see a rehearsal of one of the dramas in the morning, when we visited the ‘Globe. At the Shakespeare Museum we could see the same old Music instruments and costumes and to my amazement the sound of the Musical instruments one by one. All these were on display and millions of Pounds spent annually, only to boost one man who brought the entire nation up to the pinnacle of world history, the doyen of English Drama – Shakespeare.

This pathetic situation in the field of Education in Sri Lanka has resulted in the deterioration of the entire field of Arts and in human values. Concluding this article, I would firmly say that the three words I have mentioned above “Thank you”, “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” have contributed much in moulding the lives of a disciplined nation with empathy.

*Kalabooshna Upali Rupasinghe Gunawardena – Founder and Director, Nandapalee Institute of Fine Arts

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Latest comments

  • 15
    9

    Dear sir,
    Thanks for this rare write up and I too was fortunate to personally experience the same few years back.
    This is a real eye opener as a nation which was under British colony, yes we were granted the independence to have more liberty and to develop as a independent country. We have come a long way as a country but it is sad that we as nation specially consist with majority of Buddhist have not absorbed some of the basic gentle qualities of British’s’ which will absolutely support us to move forward as a proud nation actually developed more ethically and courteously.
    May you live long life

    • 2
      0

      Sri Lankan:-
      Politics has made Sri Lanka into a Country of People Who only think of Profit or Advantage to Themselves. An Attitude It seems, That has worked its Way Down, from the Top!
      Buddhist ‘Meththa, Karuna’ has fallen by the Wayside! So how can we continue to be Proud of our Two Thousand Years of Buddhist Heritage? Does Buddhism mean Only the Ability to repeat Pirith and Gathas by Memory, and offer Meals to Monks, Who can then tie Pirith Nool on our Wrists?

  • 16
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    Hats off to Mr. Gunawardena! A Sinhala-Buddhist country where even a pregnant lady is forced to give the seat reserved for clergy.

    • 5
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      Mr Ghanapala@

      Today almost anything and everything in the line of respect and dignity have reached to all deteriorating levels in SL.

      Please just focus on the abusive langague they use in sinhala comments to each videos being spread through FB or any other ways.

      Most of them are used to use a langauge, that start with AMMATA…. that is how they have been brought up in this predominantly buddhist nation.

      Ridiculously enough they are usued to wear thicker threads of pirith nul and leave the other with ” Budusarnayi” even if the next contract killing order it the assignment.

      I have not lived inthe country for the last 3 decades, whenever, I travel to lanka, whereever I see, have got lot to criticise easily.

      I believe, long driven war has ruined the country, NOT forgetting the last 10 years, the man who is called Rajaakshe s letting any idiots to promote anything they thought was right. Sorcery and Astro predictions have guided him to behave so.

      • 1
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        Leela, —
        Marxists donkeys ruined Sri Lanka.

        • 3
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          Urban London is a multicultural city where 90% on the streets are tourist to the city and 90% of the bus passengers are immigrants tourist etc. Urban language prevails where very rarely anyone says ` excuse me please` but say `sorry` in the form of requesting – the horse before the cart in full swing. Was he another Colaba Malasaniya come to London town we never know??

          • 1
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            cart before the horse!

    • 2
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      Gona pala, —
      Idiot, nobody forces pregnant lady to give up her seat for clergy . For monks, the seats are reserved at the front- on the right of the bus. For pregnant ladies , the seats are reserved at the front- on the left- just behind the first seat of the bus. Anyway, it’s Sinhala-Buddhist passenger’s nature to give up the seat for elderly, pregnant women, people with children, handicap, etc. Unfortunately, people from your community look the other way or pretend to be sleeping when they see a person who deserves the seat.

  • 11
    7

    “Bohoma stutiy, Nandri, Thank you”, we can hardly hear in Sri Lanka, I don’t know why. Something is wrong here, as a Tamil I can say, in our part of Sri Lanka is also same. Very sad. We even don’t know how to respect elders.

  • 15
    7

    GG! This splendid article gives a very sophisticated information about the major differences about Sri-Lanka and the UK! Moreover, it shows how much more Sri-Lanka has to improve in there cultural activities, education, society and their kindness to their own citizens. Although, Sri-Lanka also has a very good culture and are decent. On the other hand, UK always has a very diligent system towards everything and also takes immediate actions when there country is vulnerable.

    I hope you had an exuberant trip in London! : )

  • 15
    6

    Dear Sir,

    I strongly believe that, this article should go in to hands of subjective non English literate Sri Lankan community. Therefore, it’s better to translate this article in to Sinhala and publish in common Sinhala news paper like ” Lankadeepa “.

  • 10
    5

    Sadly this country has been ruined by uneducated , uncouth , unscrupulous politicians . It’s never too late to start teaching proper values to our youth . However we must not forget that the UK is one of the strongest economies of the world , and that they have a very solid social welfare system .

    • 7
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      “”uneducated , uncouth , unscrupulous politicians . “” hello acrobat that is an ignorant statement from a profligate hussy. “”UK is one of the strongest economies of the world “”UK is one of the fastest growing economies in the G7, and 3rd largest in the EU.GDP to real growth it stands below at 146 with growth at 1.8% in the world while Sri lanka is 45th with growth at 4.5%. While UK is in debt of 98% ($$3 trillion) of GDP and SL is in debt of 77% (64 billion) “”have a very solid social welfare system “” English Poor Law of 1601 comes from faith catholic means Caritas (latin) Charity (english) While lanka is higannage thuvale buddhist like japan-As of July 18, 2014 the Japanese Supreme Court has ruled that foreigners are not entitled to receive welfare payments.Buddha God compassion!! In the UK tourist get free medicine operations etc.(which is grossly misused).

  • 4
    1

    This is a very good comparision of ethics, culture and education between two countries according to Mr Gunawardena’s recent experience. It is not a new things to the society of Sri Lanka to know how to respect elders. The problem is how to put it into practice. When and how do we start training our youngsters upto that standard which is maintained in UK, Australia or New Zealand?
    I also like the account on education. Modern education is not about learning Science or Mathematics; Engineeering or Medicine. It is the choice of the child to select according what he/she likes (enjoys) and is capable of. I expect Mr Gunawardene would write more about education in the future.

  • 7
    8

    This is a one-sided article by a tourist with little experience of living in London. Instead of wasting CT’s space with long explanations, here are some indisputable facts about London. Extrapolate to England and compare with Sri Lanka. Remember this is just one of many types of offences, physical, sexual, racial, religious etc.

    More than 1,000 rapes and sexual assaults reported at London schools in four years (Independent newspaper)

    Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts. 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police

    • 10
      8

      Paul ———-“Extrapolate to England and compare with Sri Lanka.”—————————————————————— Could we have some comparable figures for both countries for the following: Incest, rapes within family, domestic violence, racist attacks, ministers making money out of misery, how many got caught, charged and served sentences, how many languages are spoken in London and elsewhere in the UK, how many excellent universities each country possess, progress in research and development, achievements in education, science, social sciences, arts, drama, cinema, …………..number of Nobel Laureates, number of protest marches, number of political and religious thugs …………..political patronage for drug smugglers, common criminals, murder, ….etc. —————What are you trying to tell us? You seem a proud Sri Lankan for wrong reason. ————————————————————————-Tell us what is there to be proud of being a Sri Lankan. I am still searching for at least one reason.

    • 7
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      Hey Paul, from where the hell did you get these dud facts and figures ?

    • 2
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      Paul:
      I presume you’d already been to Damascus before you wrote your comments. Speaking as someone who has spent time in London on more than one occasion during a period of better than half a century, perhaps Mr. Gunawardena’s picture is a bit on the rosy side.
      However, in the same period of time I refer to, we have chosen not just to ignore all that is to be admired in Sri Lankan culture in favour of the most boorish behaviour one can imagine. Mr. G is of a vintage that permits him to remember a more civilized time than the present which DID exist, hence what seem like his invidious comparisons.
      As for the “statistics” you trot out, Paul, I remember being told that there were “Lies, damned lies and statistics.” Any further comment?

      • 5
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        Native, Emil, Sri Wickrama, why do you assume they are ‘statistics’. Here are the sources. I didn’t claim that everything is better in Sri Lanka. Most things are far, far worse, but let us have some perspective.
        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/london-schools-nurseries-rape-sexual-assaults-foi-statistics-figures-a7213751.html

        https://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php

        I hope CT will allow me to insert these sources as I am being accused of lying. I am aware that they normally do not allow links.

        • 3
          4

          Paul————-“I didn’t claim that everything is better in Sri Lanka. Most things are far, far worse, but let us have some perspective.”————— I asked you to supply comparable figures and never accused you of lying. If I were you I wouldn’t venture out to compare Sri Lankan social indicators with another country.

          • 6
            0

            ‘ If I were you I wouldn’t venture out to compare Sri Lankan social indicators with another country’…………Why not? Sri Lanka will be worse in almost every aspect, but not in Child abuse, teenage pregnancies, unmarried mothers. If you can supply the Sri Lankan figures I can supply the British equivalent.

            • 8
              3

              Paul, Don’t waste your time with Native Naxalite Vedda the pinnatu troupe from Vanni or Agony EvdP. It’s all about a grateful colony boy chaperoned by his grandchildren during mind the gap timings in the tight upper lip society and comparing Eiffel Tower of Paris with T.N. Tower Toronto on a bright summers days (only a poet feels the truth) but try comparing caring Scandinavian nations with old blighty ah you see the colony there.
              Snippet from the boroughs newsprint where the royal institute for the blind is located: A blind man has to purchase the white stick costing £150 every 2 weeks because it’s knocked down by cyclist unless he is chaperoned. Only folk with eyes run the blind institute so these things do not surface while the irony is David Blanket the blind could become home office minister and more.

              • 4
                0

                Thank you, I won’t.

                • 2
                  4

                  Paul ——I believe you only understood the part where it reads “Don’t waste your time with Native Naxalite Vedda”……….. Did you manage to grasp what the Schutzstaffel SS Sarma typed above? By the way the UK Sun the tabloid speculated “How veterans of Hitler’s murderous Waffen-SS are alive and well – and living in Britain”———-

                  • 7
                    0

                    Pinnatu troupe from Vanni , Even a favourite of yours George Bernard Shaw hugged Stalin and Mussolini so what are you on about Native Naxalite Vedda?? Attu patti Tiger Rev E at London is your secret lover via Sampanthan isn’t it?

                    • 3
                      6

                      ———–“Even a favourite of yours George Bernard Shaw hugged Stalin and Mussolini so what are you on about Native Naxalite Vedda?? “——–Are you Schutzstaffel SS Sarma justifying your willingness to kiss Gota’s bum? Black and Decker has already been booked for considerable time to service Gota.

                    • 5
                      0

                      “” justifying your willingness to kiss Gota’s bum? “”You were born in the village as villainwith an imagination only how to kiss bums hen pecked Native Naxalite Vedda!! Gota is your blood brother 1/2 and 1/2 Dushman.(Tanuja Chandra)

    • 6
      6

      If the police do their duties and the victims report the crimes to the police the crimes per population is much higher in Sri Lanka than in any carefully monitored western countries including UK.
      Fir example a hate crime based on sex or race is criminal UK but in Sri Lanka police turn their faces to the other side or just be spectators.

      In third world countries human values are degraded which is apparent in the number of deaths due to accidents, family disputes and police brutalities. In UK animals have more rights than humans in Sri Lanka.

      • 3
        0

        Saro, Native and Emil will require evidence before they accept your contention, or will they?

        • 2
          2

          Paul———-“Saro, Native and Emil will require evidence before they accept your contention, or will they?”——————Can you remind me an occasion when I failed to supply evidence when evidence was requested?

          • 6
            1

            “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” – Thomas Jefferson.
            EU funded charity at Nadu- No one denies it but only Truth is Right and no one knows the truth because it keeps on moving and comes back to the same old thing. Eg Modi was accused of killing a 1000 muslims while he had only got elected (same as Libtards blaming T. May for the fire while it was built and housed by Libtards.) DIG Gunawardena was accused of setting fire to the Jaffna Library while SJVC son Chandrahasan never claimed that at a direct meeting with him beginning of 1983.
            Mr NNV the Empath/Sociopath: The law of action and reaction brings about violence rebounding to violence. -Utopia

          • 2
            0

            Yes, see my post above.

        • 2
          2

          Paul,

          Everywhere women used to be scared to complain against harassment or sexual assault for fear of being a taboo or facing the insulting and hateful questions in open courts. In western world women are venturing risks of these fears and complain which is clear from the rising figures of sexual assaults. In third world countries women and their families fear coming forward to face the public which is the main reason for low recorded statistics.

          It is well publicised that in buses and offices women are harassed in Sri Lanka more than in another other country. As for the proof of hate crimes of racism against ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka thugs like Gnanasara and other racists or sexual assaults sex perverts as in the case of Vidya and the like are well highlighted in various media.

          • 3
            0

            ‘In third world countries women and their families fear coming forward to face the public which is the main reason for low recorded statistics.’

            Saro, this is the case in most countries, certainly in the UK. Read the links I sent.

  • 7
    7

    very good article of your experience/visit of London. >>>>Like a clean crispy white shirt.>>>> Unfortunately a small spot of dirt spoiled the white shirt. The spot of dirt this sentence >>>>”…..though they do not possess a History of 2500 years, inspired by Buddhism.”>>>>is Sri Lanka inspired by Buddhism?>>>>>on the contrary >>>>Sri Lanka is cursed by Buddhism>>>>

    • 4
      5

      Rajash ———“Sri Lanka is cursed by Buddhism>>>>” ——————-Actually it is Sinhala/Buddhism not Buddhism. Buddhism has nothing to do with this island.

      • 1
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        Native >>agreed

    • 0
      0

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  • 2
    3

    Thank you for elaborating how civilized society respect the fellow humans. We had that opportunity but missed out in 1948 after gaining independence. It has been ruined……this country is not for humans….

  • 1
    0

    I was born in London but have lived in Australia for forty years. I travel with a wheelchair with my husband and we went round London by bus two years ago. Wonderful experience. Went everywhere. However I do love Sri Lanka too, people lovely. A little more difficult to negotiate however. Found most people friendly and helpful.

    • 3
      0

      So you were chaperoned that is how easy it gets. 90% of the time the wheelchair reserved space is occupied by buggies of all sizes while before they had to fold it and stack it. It’s taken forward thinking young wheel chair users of London to fight to the end to have their rights respected- but its hard on them. Pushing a wheelchair is used as a political weapon by many at London. In anycase folk foolishly people take wheelchair as the only handicapped person. The present routemaster is a poor design like UK’s underground train it’s neither the wide bodied nor EU fit but a bloody cyclist dream and narrow as can be. you can never compare a third world agriculture island with european first world- the bench mark is english waffel waffel burp.

  • 3
    0

    What a load of nonsense that CT decided to publish, reminds me of old Aunty van Hazel’s stories about “good old Ceylon” (well, she did not mind that the majority of the population in her “good old Ceylon” lacked access to enough food, education, health care or sanitation, not to mention one was not allowed to ride the front part of the bus if one was in a Sarong).
    I suppose this author had no opportunity to experience East London, the council estates, the rush hour traffic or traveling sardine packed in the tube, and did he at all notice Grenfell Tower fire that burnt to death 79 poor Londoners?

    • 4
      0

      He and his family are from the arts stream so they visited the `arts and entertainment ` city of the world where everything is old english heritage that praises itself. He dare not know why Dr Chesmal Siriwardhana died after being hit by an N98 bus at 2:00 am in April at Oxford Street . He is a lover of minimum wage nurses now service managers (service in denial) who wear the consultants pants and drive the NHS into privatisation via the back door.

  • 1
    0

    2500 years of civilisation, yet not civilised

  • 0
    0

    UK is a civilized country and SL lost all that after the British left.We want their type back to pull us out of the gutter. This goes to all other ex colonies..

    • 0
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      “”UK is a civilized country and SL lost all that after the British left””
      it’s your inferiority complex that you cannot accept that Ceylon was ruled from Madras Presidency where the think tanks were Brahmin scholars (you heard about the man who understood infinity etc most are still alive at American auto industry for over 100 years )
      Porriki Vaiko and fishermen are your associates. The original ruler there at Thanjavur that only the British captured in 1855 was Raja Shivaji (Marathi: तंजावरचे शिवाजी) (fl. 17 March 1832 – 29 October 1855) of the Bhonsle dynasty of Thanjavur in India, family the Original Maratha Sivaji the Great. (the tamils erased it after he died with the help of British)

    • 0
      0

      “”This goes to all other ex colonies..”” You are really having wet dreams machan.
      Diehard Libtards like you in the UK are beyond redemption having elected Blair, Prescott and Brown to rob the nation into a 98% GDP debt so when austerity is called they return fire while the decent folk say `We are Fuc**` Brexit means Britain goes Broke so May wants to turn the tide and develop industry like Trump than conquer nations and develop- too many enemies. But Libtards want to borrow more and take the nation into oblivion like the colonies would like to see. Unless you are prepared to go to Africa and Middle East to fight the Jihadi as peace keeping forces cannon fodder You are not wanted and neither can you be Mao because the stench is too much for the west.

  • 1
    0

    SL lost it’s Budhist values of tolarance and respect.We had roughs in ambude ruling our country since so called independance,pretending to be good budhists or whatever.
    This is true in all countries once governed by the British.But these hypocratical politicans
    will prefer to live in the countries of the former colonials after raping the poor countries of it’s assats.
    Gutter levals are down to the steet leval as we have no role modals of our leaders.

  • 0
    1

    Sri lanka is a society in which Christian – Islamic value system reigns. It is stupid to talk about buddhist values in Sri lanka. If Sinhala – buddhists try to stay in buddhist values, they will be extinct. The best option is follow the same social values of the christian – Islmic political religions and win the subjugation, oppression and outright extermination endured by sinhala buddhists.

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