20 April, 2024


Roma Tearne, Puddings And Attributions Of Greed

By Rajiva Wijesinha, MP –

Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha

Amongst the most interesting offshoots of the discussion on Channel 4 and Sri Lanka held at the Frontline Club in London was a wonderfully creative piece by the novelist Roma Tearne. Her photograph is that of a very smart young lady, long face set off by bullet shaped ear-rings and long dark hair, with a tasteful fringe on the forehead.

I dwelt the more on this fine picture because aesthetics is clearly important to her, and I suppose if you look like that, it should be. She had described me as having a ‘fine pudding basin style hair cut’ which was flattering since I simply have cheap hair cuts whenever my hair becomes too unruly. The last one cost just over one pound, which must be much less than Roma pays for her superb styling.

The result of my carelessness however gave Roma great pleasure, for she brought it into her article six times. After her first description of my hair, she referred to me twice simply as Pudding Basin, which is the sort of humour which has schoolgirls rocking in the aisles. I could just imagine the joy with which she anticipated guffaws as she then referred to me as PB. Finally, doubtless worrying that the joke was wearing thin, she rallied her troops by twice calling me Pudding Head.

I presume this type of prose is what goes down well now in England, since the lady’s first novel, the incisively titled ‘Mosquito’, was shortlisted for the 2007 Costa Book Awards First Novel Prize. She is now a fellow at Oxford Brookes University, which suggests intellectual distinction of an admirable sort.

There was little intellectual discrimination however in her impressionistic account of the Frontline Event. She suggested that I had only a ‘slender grasp of anything much’ and that I closed my eyes when a particular lady was speaking, which is poetic license since I did nothing of the sort. Roma it seems was  evidently deeply moved by the lady, so much so that her narrative got confused and she started by claiming that the lady finally began to shout, before describing how the lady got up to speak. Not surprisingly, while Roma was impressed by the lady having claimed ‘earlier that she would not cry tonight as she had spent the whole day crying’, I had in fact heard the lady making the same statement with the same emotional input at a previous event at the Royal Commonwealth Society. The only difference was that this time round she claimed that her father was a Tamil politician who had been killed by the Tigers.

That was unusual, but it clearly sprang from the fact that those who had gathered there to assert categorically that the Sri Lankan State was genocidal were thrown by the statement of Arun Tambimuttu, whose parents had been killed by the Tigers. No wonder then that the ‘beautiful, elderly, small’ woman whom I had heard before had a different introduction to her speech. But what was worse was Roma’s determination to trivialize what Arun said by claiming that he ‘was  being shamelessly mis-used by Our Man From Sri Lanka for its own ends’.

Rajiva Wijesinha, in fine pudding-basin style haircut

This was her first dehumanizing description of me before she hit on the brilliant idea of calling me Pudding Basin. And I suppose the use of ‘its’ was designed to detract from my identity, rather than a suggestion that Sri Lanka had ‘its own’ ends. But as though realizing that such a claim was not convincing, Roma adopted the classic device of the propagandist and, instead of trying to argue that Arun was being exploited, she simply made the point again – ‘I marvelled at the way in which the other panelist, victim of the Tamil terrorist group, was being so shamelessly used for government propaganda. Why was it that this man’s terrible loss could not be treated with objective understanding?’

I would have supposed a Fellow of Oxford Brookes University would have realized how subjective that assertion was, ignoring as it did everything that Arun himself said, and simply treating him as a tool of ‘government propaganda’. But I suppose this type of simplification is necessary if you are determined to make a point, and not take into account what has actually been said.

So I suppose I should not be surprised at the way in which she denigrated what she sweepingly described as ‘the Singhala side of the audience, present undoubtedly to defend their assets in their homeland.’ They were supposed to have given ‘murderous looks’ in response to her opening her sketchbook and beginning to draw. Why they should have responded thus to some amateurish sketches is not explained. I don’t suppose they could have noticed that she was trying to equate me with Hitler. I must admit I myself did not quite understand the fuzz she had placed on my upper lip in the sketch she had drawn, until a friend said that it was an attempt to equate me with Hiter.

But what might be missed in this confusion is the wholly irrelevant claim that the Sinhalese in the audience were ‘undoubtedly’ there to defend their assets in their homeland. She clearly cannot conceive that those who do not share her views might not be selfish.  She, Roma Tearne, erudite and witty novelist, has the only point of view that is remotely acceptable, and those with other perspectives must be perverse, tools of people like me, greedy, or just callous – as she suggests the young Sinhalese and Tamils who share positive perspectives must be.

What is wrong with the lady? I thought initially that perhaps she was very young, and emotionally charged, but then the article revealed that she is as old as I am, having been four years old in 1958 when she had seen a Tamil man burned to death. I could sympathize with her anguish and her bitterness at that, which is why I feel we must not be resentful at those who suffered, or who have been told about suffering, through violence in 1958 or in 1981 or 1983. But similarly we hope that they too realize that nothing of the sort has happened since, and that the murderous terrorism of the Tigers, encompassing also the murder of moderate Tamil politicians, was revenge enough, if that is what people like Roma want. To go on demanding further suffering is destructive, and that is why she should listen to people like Arun and the youngsters she scorns, who want to move forward, to create a climate in which people of all communities can more forward to prosperity with equity.

But Roma is a strange lady, as I remembered when I thought back to the last time our paths had crossed. I had been invited to a South Asia Literature Festival in London, and was then told that she had decided to boycott the event because I was going to be there. Given that my novels were the harshest critique of government involvement in the violence against Tamils of 1983, I was surprised, but I have been assured that it was nothing to do with me, it was simply that Roma was resolute in her long held stand of having nothing to do with the political forces of Sri Lanka. And in the end the discussions became fuelled with her emotional response to the situation in Sri Lanka rather than the literary dimensions of the event, and any possibility of her participation evaporated.

I suppose one can only feel sorry for such people, their determination not to engage with people with other points of view, and to try to understand how we might move forward together. But I should note that there may also be other reasons for Roma’s intransigence, as well as the strange form her humour takes. I was told by a younger lady that ‘Roma Tearne has a bald patch at the front which she tries to cover up with rearranging her hair style. Probably has a hang up about hair – lack of in her case’.

Whether that is the reason or not, I do hope that, at the ripe old age of 58, she gets over reliance on schoolgirl humour, and actually looks at issues with the analytical commitment one expects of a Fellow of Oxford Brookes.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    It is interesting to listen to Arun Thambimuttu, he is being frugal with the truth. He knows full well why his parents were killed by the LTTE he will be more honorable if he tells the real reason for it.

    LTTE may not be holy holy and I am not holding out that view and may well have committed many atrocities. However Arun should be honest to give the background as to why his parents were killed. His father helped as a “facilitator” for a company Serendib SeaFoods that started a shrimp farm in the Eastern province. He was paid for his services. However when the factory went into operation, his assignment ended, but he continued to interfere with the management of the company and was trying to get the post of Manager. When the Board denied and he was told that his assignment is over and he has been paid for his services and that he should not come into the factory premises and bully staff he was angry. He took revenge by informing the police officer that Serendib SeaFoods was harboring tigers and was being used as a training ground. He came with the police and shot dead all the workers.

    Understandably LTTE was very upset with Thambimuttu senior and when the couple tried to migrate to Canada they were shot and killed outside the Canadian embassy.

    Since the shareholders of the company were foreigners and an entity registered in Hong Kong, the matter was referred to the international tribunal in the States and the government accepted blame and compensated the families of the victims. The founder / entrepreneur a well respected sri Lankan from Batticoloa was so disgusted in what happened, he left the country for good and returned overseas when he had spent most of his working life.

    So my dear Arun don’t say half the truth and try to get sympathy. Your father has innocent blood in his hands and paid the price. Those who live by the gun die by the gun

    • 0


  • 0

    Whoever Velu Balendran is, thanks for the information. The truth is the LTTE just like the JVP, was made use of by many for their presonal agendas, both local and foreign forces. The LTTE like the JVP decimated Intellectuals fighting for the cause of their own ethnicity according to the dictates of these unseen powers. That is why scores of people like Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, Appahpillai Amirthalingam and others were killed by the very LTTE. For the time being I will leave Lakshman Kadiragamar and GG Ponnambalam out, as there is evidence to prove otherwise. In short, these unseen forces prefer to deal with the Corrupt mediocre charcters, whether LTTE or JVP, in preference to educated, honest, decent elite with vission. It is my personal belief, it would be benificial to the country to establish a ‘Think Tank’of individuals not necessarily of the erudite, with scholastic achievement alone but individuals with intuitive minds to identify these forces to advice the Leadership of the country of the pitfalls and dangers the country is exposed to.

  • 0

    @ Velu Balendran

    It is a real hogwash defending LTTe over a brutal murder. There was a childish reasoning behind every such murder committed by them.

  • 0

    Hello Blue Eye Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

    Until you produced the photograph of Blue Eye Tamil children, you will be considered as an UTTER LIER targetting a salary increse and ministreial post.

    Is it taking 3 years to produced this photograph.

    Shame on your father.

    Please dont produce any Black Eye children in any of the countries that you are visiting in West.

    BLUE EYE PROF. Rajiva Wijesinha is a LIER.

  • 0

    Roma Tearne’s article was very good.

    Unlike Rajiva’s childish and petty response. Who cares about Rajiva’s cheap 1 pound hair cut. Rajiva seems to be hurt by Roma referring to Rajiva’s pudding basin hair style which makes him look funny alright.

    Velu has commented on Serendib and Co.’s tragic past contributed by Sam Thambimuttu and his wife. That was written about for many years. On a personal note we sympathize with Arun, but he is using his parent’s death to benefit his personal politics working with and for the Rajapakses. That is why he is known as a Tamil quisling as the other notorious quislings from Batti, Karuna, Pillaiyan and Ail Zahir Mowlana.

  • 0

    We sympathise with orphan Arun Thambimuttu.

    It is obvious that LTTE killed his parents.

    It is a pitty to notice that Arun Thambimuttu who knows how his parents were killed by LTTE, is not boathered about thousands of parents who were/are killed/kill by his Pay Master Rajapaksas’.

    This called double standarded.

    We feel sorry for the ignorance of Arun Thambimuttu.

    HE NEEDS TO BE TRAINED SOME MORE by Blue Eye Prof. Rajiiva Wijesinghe.

    • 0

      Arun Thambimutthu

      I can give you better training than Blue Eye Prof. Rajiiva Wijesinghe.

      1 – You must start your speech, how your parents were looking after you,etc.

      2 -Then you should shed (atleast crocktail tears) tears, weap for few seconds and say after your parents were killed by the LTTE, Buddhist monks were looking after you, etc

      3 – You must how your parents were attached Democratic leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, etc.

      4 – You must say parents predicted that cook or crooke, one day Mahinda Rajapaksa will become the President and take you from Buddhist Monks and look after you.

      5 – Here you should not talk roll of Karuna and Pillayan what were there when your parents were killed.

      Also you should not say how many Millions Rajapaksa is paying for your lobby and lies.

      This hos you win you game.

      Good luck

  • 0

    What a shame you guys are exploiting the distress of one panelist Arun, to derive a general consensus that he is pro-government and/or anti-Tamil. Try to understand what he has gone thru at such a young and vulnerable stage of his life, losing both his parents to a violent killing. The anger and remorse of this mindless killing will stay etched in his mind until he can either extract revenge, or get treatment to erase forever the psychological scars left behind. How would we react given similar situation. I am sure there may be thousands more like him, who would claim outright abuse on the part of the terrorist outfit, if only given the opportunity to come out into the open. The Sri Lanka government (Rajiva Wirasinghe, MP) on the other hand was pussy footing, whilst also thriving on the misery of others. His presentation as a government representative was only looking for technical loopholes in all the accusations leveled, rather than presenting clear cut answers to burning questions. He is a real politician using polite tricks to hoodwink the masses, by side stepping the main issues on hand. Waxing eloquence and his demeanor are his only fitting attributes. Lacking substance and punch, with a lackadaisical approach does not prove his genuiness. nor of his government’s role, to resolve outstanding issues. Most times being reined in by the moderator Chairman, clamoring for canter stage, (all others given equal opportunities excelled in putting across their messages), spouting long drawn out arguments which had no significant relevance, throwing his arms up in exasperation, and showing unwarranted aggression, were some of the antics of a novice, rather than a distinguished Sri Lankan Member of parliament. There are worse I can tell you. But for an International Forum, this just may be, the best of the worst. Why doesn’t he want to call a spade a spade, rather than try to describe it. He may reply, ‘It doesn’t work that way’, or, ‘the complexity of the issue cannot be explained in such a short terms’. My foot, it hurts.

  • 0

    Rajiva may be have a pudding basin style haircut but that woman Roma Tearne has a pudding filled head.

  • 0

    I do not care if they are Basin Heads, Hopper Heads, Fringe Heads or Bald Heads.
    I was one of the attendees that evening willing and able to support the Action Plan Prof Wijesinha is trying to implement.
    However, having heard your response to Dr Manoharan,I like many in the audience were gobsmacked.

    Outrageous comment.
    words failed me to describe the disgust.

    Now how do you think you can ever bring an Action Plan that we can trust you on?

    As a Fellow Thomian,i’m disgusted

  • 0

    CORRECTION: The comment appearing under my name, in its entirety, is
    not mine. It was “cut & pasted” into my comment, giving in my opening
    paragraph details of the original author and the website link where it
    appeared first, which the editors here have stripped out, thereby
    conveying the false impression that what is published here is my
    comment. The intention of my comment was to bring to the readership
    other relevant matters that have been published in the web. I am
    totally unaware of the circumstances described in this comment and as
    such I cannot vouch for the correctness or otherwise of any of the
    statements and claims made in it.

    As this may be a serious case of unintended misleading of readers I
    request this correction be published.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.