14 December, 2017

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The Culture Gap; A Gaping Black-Hole On Earth

By Vishwamithra

“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.” ~Jawaharlal Nehru

A black-hole is defined as follows: ‘a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape’. In today’s context, Sri Lanka is increasingly drawn towards that cultural black-hole which soaks and sucks every ounce of social decency, financial discipline and passionate idealism that once resided in the sublime hearts and minds of countless inhabitants of this once blessed land. Traveling down the lane of bygone times and history, one may argue, is an exercise in futility. The past is dead. Rabindranath Tagore said dwelling in dead yesterdays is death-dealing. But this is not an expedition into our past, nor is it a ‘futile’ journey to an era gone by. However much that past has been good and satisfying, however much it has been more analogous to a reasonable period of time in which one citizen was not treated above or below the other in socio-political sense, one has to come to terms with the brutal fact that it is dead, never to be reborn.

Against a backdrop of such material, socio-econo-political dynamic, how can we try to rationalize the contemporaneous times and its bizarre realities that are manifestly eating into the very tapestry of our society? Along with the palpable collapse of the inherent nature of the cyclical turn of any human society, what has been painfully visible during the last couple of decades, or maybe since the so-called ‘opening’ of the economy, is socio-cultural decadence and a manifestly real degeneration of the core character of a transparent and accountable Sri Lankan. Political influence on the average citizen has expanded slowly after Independence but more rapidly so since the 1956-transformation- the dawn of the common man’s era- that influence gained a rapid acceleration. With the socialization of the economy, as has been evidenced in countries behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ during the Soviet Union days, shaping and defining of  daily life of all men, women and children has come under the severe influence of government regulations, either in the sphere of the economy or in the social and cultural development of society. A rapid process of politicization of lives of the ordinary people assumed an accelerated pace.

A culture of aggressive and vigorous activation of their political supporters aimed at their opponents, especially against the allies of the United National Party (UNP), set in and no continence on the part of the party in power, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was forthcoming. Although inter-party rivalries most often climaxing in some instances with violent confrontations, sometimes leading to even murder on rare occasions, set the pattern that has continued to date. Apart from these skirmishes between political party supporters, the general rationalization of such violent confrontations as a natural evolution of a ‘proficiency’ that was deliberately fashioned and crafted to justify and legitimize the angst amongst their supporters who take it upon themselves as a natural ‘right’ to suppress the legitimate rights of their opponents.

This is the culture that reached its zenith in the middle of the second decade of the twenty first century. A debased and desecrated pattern of human development whose most conspicuous elements were impure practice of corruption and nepotism began to be accepted as the norm in our society. The most dangerous aspect of this process of debasement is, when such corruption was tolerated and condoned at the highest level, it empowered the lower layers of government service to embrace such a corruption-culture as an embroidered garb. From the highest echelons of the bureaucracy to the minor staff level of peons and drivers in the local civil service and from President downwards to Ministers, MPs to Pradesheeya Sabha members, this novel art of socio-political lifestyle took total control of their daily behavior. The additional money so earned through these nefarious means became a constituent portion of their monthly incomes.  This was so not only in the public sector, in some cases, it was more so in the so-called ‘sophisticated’ private sector Boardrooms. Unnecessary obsequiousness to higher-ups on the ladder of seniority, unquestioning obedience to carry out unethical, immoral and sometimes illegal directives and orders seem to have come to stay. In the private sector they do it with a cosmetic finesse while in the public sector it is done with obscene brazenness.

We certainly have arrived at a defining moment in history, a history that has been tarnished with many a scandalous misdemeanors and nepotism; that history of nepotism did not begin with the Rajapaksas and it won’t end with them either. The civil service of the olden days, which was earmarked for the best of the best in the country’s intelligentsia, is now being manned and ‘womanned’ by mediocre personnel of the greediest order. The culture off corruption and nepotism has not spared them. 

A history of forthrightness is being challenged by the dark forces of nihilism and servility. A service which once stood up to the politicos; a service which once was adamant that nothing contrary to the moral compass of one’s beliefs and faiths was materiel in the process of decision-making has given way to the temporary satisfaction of dark and inglorious desires of man. Its hold on the very determination of the masses’ needs and essential demands is absolute. It is not a very palatable consequence of this ignominious conduct of the holders of official reins.

Whether it’s the Senanayakes or Jayewardenes, whether it’s the Bandaranaikes or Rajapaksas, the wheel of corruption has been turning in its brutally excruciating spin. The masses sincerely hope that it won’t be the same with the Wickremesinghes and Sirisenas. The unfortunate victims have been the unsuspecting masses who fell in line at the poling both of each successive election. They, in their naïve belief and faith, expected the would-be rulers would be more honest and plainspoken than the ones they had chosen to reject. It is true of the old men and women who religiously stick to their daily routines of worshipping the gods and other of their choice; it’s true of the middle-aged breadwinners who day in and day out commute to and from their workplaces; it’s true of the youth whose rebellious nature caters for a more rapid and radical transformation of life and objective conditions prevalent in the country.

In this convoluted context of human aspirations and wishes, politicians who are far behind the sophistication of a developed liberal mindset, invariably look forward to making their own fantasies and avaricious demands prioritized over and above the demands of those who elected them. It is not a confrontation that is conducive to an amicable end. Yet each time the country’s masses chose to rebel against such unbearable odds, the State has overrun the forces of rebellion. In a democratic country it should be so. The lack of sophistication of the democratic maneuvers, the lack of maturity of the societal structures and punishing gap between haves and have-nots have contributed to a massive sense of insensitivity and complacency on the part of the masses. They have not only come to accept the exception as a norm, they have chosen to embrace this culture as part of their own incomplete lives.

The religious visit Kataragama as part of a pilgrimage; the riotous merchants of corruption and politicos’ henchmen visit the so-called abode of gods as a ritual to purify themselves of all their ungodly sins; children visit it  because they are forced to worship a god considered to be all-powerful and more omniscient than any other religious leader. A culture of substitute values has overpowered and buried a culture whose foundations were built, brick by painstakingly laid brick, over centuries of serene and sublime belief in the noble teachings of the Thathagatha.

Gods and other deities of another religion have invaded the Teachings, corrupted and debased it with short-term solutions to age-old problems of mankind. More easily saleable items such as concepts of deities and instantaneous pardoning of sins have made their way into the Four Noble Truths and its versatile validity. Rational thinking and compassionate responses to human needs have been replaced by ‘credit and debit’ as social barter. When rulers reside in their lonely ‘bunkers’, they don’t realize that mayhem is breaking out outside their protected habitat. The warrens of august corridors are no more august, nor are they hallowed by humility and patience. The culture of all politicians, barring none, who are cocooned in their presidential palaces and other ignoble hideouts, has become insensitive and self-righteous and is a direct reflection of society’s ills. The self-righteous character of politicians has entitled them, according to their own assessment, to offer solutions to all problems facing their constituents.

It certainly is not a promising landscape. The choice is between acceptance of this dangerous and destructive culture as our norm and its total rejection. How determined and gritty we could be is the ultimate test of our times.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com 

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Latest comments

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    Vishwamithra –”The religious visit Kataragama as part of a pilgrimage;”>>>> I am surprised you refer to “Kataragama” as “Kataragama” and failed to state the fact that “Kataragama” was known as “Kathirgaamam” a Hindu temple devoted to Lord Muruga>>>>>. The Sinhala racist took over the temple and are administering it as Buddhist temple. Sinhala Buddhist worship Lord Muruga and other Hindu disciples. Get in to a bus in Colombo or for that matter anywhere in Sri Lanka south, and you will see framed photos of Hindu gods next to Buddha>>>what this says is that the roots of the Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhist is Tamil.>>>>>as is the roots of the Human civilisation as evidenced by scholars all over the world.

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      Rajash Could you please let me know where I could check this information out for myself at your convenience, no hurry. Harishchandra.

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        just google Kathirgaamam. The Ramakrishna foundation in India used to provide free accommodation and meals to all disciples free of charge , but voluntary donation was accepted. There is another temple in the forest , walking distance from Kathirgaaman known as Selva Kathirgaaman.

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          Thanks a lot and sorry if I troubled you. Shall check it out.

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          Nothing concrete there about it being Hindu or Buddhist, just legends and myths. The only plausible conclusion that could be arrived at is by Heinz Bechert and Paul Younger who have observed that the mode of veneration and rituals connected with Kataragama or Kathirgaamam preceded the Hindu or Buddhist modes and is more connected to the indigenous Veddah mode of veneration.
          Let us Sinhalese and Tamils, who have all come from India, leave aside these petty differences and get together to make OUR homeland a better place to live is all I wish for.

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      Rajash

      Murugan? I can give you many similar names to your Lord Murugan: In Chinese, he is Wei Tuo. In Sanskrit, he is Skanda. In Japanese, he is Kanji. In Theology he is Sanat Kumar.

      For Sinhalese Lord Kataragama is a living legend. King Mahasen (also known as Mahaghosha) was appointed by Lord Buddha as the guadian of Kataragama during his visit to Kataragama in 500 B.C.

      The area was first called “Kajaragama” when provincial King Mahasen ruled Ruhuna. During Lord Buddha’s visit, he listened to the sermon and Kiri Vehera was built exactly in the same place where Lord Buddha was seated. The Stupa has enshrined the golden chair in which Lord Buddha was seated, Prince Siddharta’s royal sword and a lock of hair of Lord Buddha.

      King Mahasen, who had done greater good to people became a deity after his death.

      Who built Kataragama Devale? Surely not Lord Murugan.

      Lord Kataragama first resided in Wedahiti Kanda. When King Dutugemunu (161 – 137 BC) declared war with Elara, he went to worship Lord Kataragama and made a vow. After his victory, King Dutugemunu went to Wedahiti Kanda to pay his homage to Lord Kataragama and decided to build a shrine for him. The legend says that King Dutugemunu shot an arrow from Wedahiti Kanda and the place where it fell was the place where he built a Devalaya for Lord Kataragama.

      In around 1062 A.D. Chola who ruled Polonnaruwa invaded Ruhuna (main city was Kajaragama) and ruled a brief period of time. During that period Chola ruler named Kajaragama as “Kathirkamam” and started worshiping Lord Kataragama as Lord Murugan naming it as Kathirkamam Murukan Temple. Later Kajaragama became Kattaragama and then Kataragama. The legend Valli and Murugan added only in 14th Century when Skandha Kumara Puranam was written.

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        Champa: you are a very good fictional writer. Lord Buddha’s teeth is in Kandy , his flock of hair – not sure if its from the head or from the balls is in Ktaragamma, his foot print at Adams Peak, did you guys preserve his shit does it smell of roses?

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          Rajash

          Your comment shows the difference between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamils. Sinhalese Buddhists never insult other religions like Tamils and Muslims. You are angry because you don’t have any evidence or even a legend to prove your case.

          Tamils used false propaganda and lies to take their unreasonable case forward for over 6 decades as their lies were not exposed by Sinhalese. The world saw only one side of the coin all this time. It is time the world see and hear the side of Sinhalese and see the truth.

          About the rest of in your comment I shall reply later as I need to add a few lines to my original comment which I had to end at 300 words.

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            Sinhalese Buddhists DON’T INSULT BECAUSE THEY ARE MORONS
            Still displaying animal instincts.

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            Champa the practitioner of the oldest profession

            “Your comment shows the difference between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamils. “

            Tamils and Sinhalese are very, very, ……. stupid. On the other hand Sinhala/Buddhists are bigoted fascists, including you and your pimp.

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        Champa:”In Chinese, he is Wei Tuo. In Sanskrit, he is Skanda. In Japanese, he is Kanji. In Theology he is Sanat Kumar in Tamil he is Murugan.>>>>>>in Sinhalease?>>>there is no name for Murugan in Sinhalese>>>>you are shooting yourself in the foot.>>>>>all what this says is Sinhala people originated from Tamils. you are confusing Buddhism and Sinhala people.

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          RAJASH: Who is Kanda Surindu in sinhala ?, there are other names too ?

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            Jimsofty you just waked in to my trap and upstaged Champa. you guys are confirming that Hindu religion and Tamil culture precedes Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhist culture.

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            The Blue Jimsofty

            “Who is Kanda Surindu in sinhala ?”

            Kataragama god is known as Kanda Surindu in formal Sinhala.

            Other Sinhala name Kanda Kumaru.

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          Rajash

          Oh, I have more to say. First, yes, Murugan is Tamil while Skandha is Sanskrit. Sinhalese call him “Kataragama Deviyo”. Names such as, “Kanda Swamy, Kanda Kumara, Skandha Kumara, Kanda Surindu” all were derived from Sanskrit name “Skandha”.

          There is more.

          About King Mahasen who became Lord Kataragama;

          King Mahasen was also known as Mahaghosha as he ruled over Mahagama in Ruhuna which is known as Tissa(maharamaya) now. King Mahasen, after listening to Lord Buddha’s sermon attained “Sotapanna” (Sovan). Then he built “Kiri Vehera” to show gratitude to Lord Buddha and after his death people worshipped him as Lord Kataragama.

          Sinhalese don’t believe that Lord Kataragama has anything to do with Valli Amma or Thevani. The legend says Lord Kataragama mostly spend his time in Kebiliththa jungle meditating and only during festive season in July/August visits his Maha Devala in Kataragama.

          If a General of Chola King who ruled Polonnaruwa did not invade and ruin Kajaragama, there would never have been a legend about Lord Murugan. It was Cholas who built Hindu Kovils.

          Hindus believe that Lord Kataragama is one of the 3 deities of Trimurthi which is Shiva. (Trimurthi is One form – Three faces which is the three aspects of the creation of world – Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, Shiva is the destroyer).

          I have no issue about Tamils worshipping Lord Kataragama as Lord Murugan. What I don’t like is contorting, denying and twisting our Sinhalese history.

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        Champa you are an outright racist. The word Kahir is found in several Tamil names such as Kathiramalai,, Kathirgamanathan, Kathiresan, Kathirgamathamby, Kathiravelu, Kathiravelpillai, and also other names denoting Muugan like Skandan, Kandasamy, Velauthan, Velauthapillai, Karthigeyan, Kanthavel, Murugananthan, Murugesan, Sevalkodiyon, Mailvaganan, Senthooran, Elumalayan etc. Can you show me any Sinhala person having any name denoting Murugan or Kataragama Deiyo. There is Kanda Puranam by Sekilar who visited the temple, and there are several ancient devotional songs praising Murugan. There are no such literary works in Sinhala. I have witnessed the way Kataragama temple which was Hindu has been gradually turned into a Buddhist one. The word “OM” at the entrance to the temple has been removed. Two Buddhist temple have been constructed. Ramakrishna Madam was taken over and converted into an office. The Perahara never went towards Kiri Vihare in the past. Both Sella Kataragama and the temple on the hill have also been encroached by Buddhists. Kataragama temple was constructed by Veddhas and was in existence when Dutugamunu became King. He only renovated the temple by laying copper plated roof as a mark of gratitude for the victory against Ellala. As for the Chinese, you would be surprised that they have corresponding gods to Hindu gods like Saraswathi, Lakshmi and others also.

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          Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam

          Oh yeah, I am an outright racist because I said Lord Kataragama was our King Mahasen of Ruhuna. When you said he is Lord Murugan, you are not a racist because it is your right, right?

          You should have read my two replies above to Rajash.

          In 1062 AD a General of Chola King who ruled Polonnaruwa invaded Kajaragama and destroyed the city. It was him who named Kataragama Devalaya as Kathirkamam Murukan Temple.

          What you said was not true.

          King Dutugemunu ruled the country from 161-137 BC (as you know BC goes backwards). When he went war with Elara he made a vow to Lord Kataragama who was residing at a Devala at Vedahiti Kanda at the time. He was the one who built a Devala in Kataragama. At the time there was no mention in the history about Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan legend came with Skandha Kumara Puranam in 14th Century.

          What you said about Vedda building a Devala is hilarious because they were tribal people lived in the jungle who didn’t have any land rights in Kajaragama to build a Devalaya. The land was belonging to the King.

          Sinhalese history has an unbroken beautiful flow from stage to stage, period to period. I don’t see any such history about Tamils in Sri Lanka. You have certain parts picked from here and there but there is no consistency. If there is anything to do with Tamils, it was always where there were Chola rulers. There is nothing in other areas. Cholas who were famous for their cruelty even in India, destroyed our cities and many of our cultural evidence and converted our temples as Hindu kovils or built new.

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        Vishwamithra:

         

        Christians believe in Guardian Angels, although Jesus never said anything about them. Yet nobody questions Christians for believing in them.

        Nobody questions Greek mythology and their Gods/Goddess.

        In African countries, there are many beliefs too.

        There is something you do not seem to know about Sinhalese.

        Sinhalese follow two religions. 1. Folk Religion 2. Buddhism

        Most of non-Buddhists mix this up and question why do Buddhists worship Gods.

        Folk Religion has many beliefs in superhuman and Gods since ancient times while Buddhism is the Teachings of Lord Buddha. The Gods Buddhists believe in actually had connections with Lord Buddha.

        The Four Guardian Deities who were believed to have appointed by Lord Buddha himself to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka are actually “Upulvan, Kataragama, Saman, Pattini” (two from Sri Lanka and two from India) not according to the popular belief as “Vishnu, Kataragama, Saman, Vibhishana (Ravana’s brother.)”

        Lord Buddha said to have sent one God and one Goddess from India; God Upulvan (he is also blue that is why the mix up with Vishnu) to look after Prince Vijaya as Lord Buddha wanted to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Goddess Pattini (who had 7 incarnations) who is believed to be the Goddess of health, fertility and good harvest.

        There is one more God called “Dadimunda” who was the only God who was with Prince Siddhartha (Lord Buddha) without running away, when he was assaulted by ‘Mara’ (Demons). Lord Buddha said to have sent him to Sri Lanka to establish Buddhism and he is believed to be looking after the entire country roaming around villages.

        Our Sinhalese culture is unique and picturesque with many beliefs and legends supported by folklore, cultural evidence, inscriptions and symbols that go back well before Lord Buddha’s visit to Sri Lanka.

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    Vishavamithra: for me, for sure, you are an Indian journalist who is naturalized in Sinhale. Youur user-ID name, your poitical views, Your views such as quoting Upanishad instead of buddhism, Quoting Rabindranath Tagore instead of any sinhala writers or mnay 100s of literature related to buddhism shows that you are Indian. Sri lankan culture is beyond repair. buddhist monks who are searching for power and publicity are to blame too. They do not Follow follow vinaya pitaka. Instead they look everything through money and power. Anyway Sri lankan parliament is full of corrupt thieves. Don’t think Maithripala Sirisena is a saint. Just the way Rabindranath Tagore did suggest a strategy to get rid of these thieves. I say, only escape some forces within the country take over the power. chase out these thieves and prosecute them. Establish an interim govt until some good people take over the control.

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      Jim Softly,

      It matters not, if Vishvamithra was Indian or Sri Lankan. What matters is what he has to say, which is plenty.

      Does VM’s quoting Upanishad instead of Buddhism qualify him to be an Indian? It appears to me that you have taken Buddha to be a Sri Lankan?

      Therein lies the problem. We may be better served if we think Buddhism and the Buddha are both universal and available to anyone from any faith willing to embrace both.

      Just one thing on which we may both agree: Our parliamentarians are far removed from being Buddhists.

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      Jim softy the dimwit

      “Don’t think Maithripala Sirisena is a saint.”

      Else Mara or Gota would have killed him long ago.

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    Quote: “The choice is between acceptance of this dangerous and destructive culture as our norm and its total rejection.” Unquote:

    Definitely total rejection!

    What is plaguing in our country is social inequility. Wealth and burdens are not equally distributed. Wealth is for the wealthy and burdens are for the poor was what we saw for over 6 decades.

    We should not believe fairy tale like development anymore. Our country was governed by a political stratum for 6 decades who never heard ordinary citizens’ voices.

    We need a very different socio-politcal-economic perspective. I mean, a social revolution where humanity takes centre stage instead of money. In the case of Sinhalese, as humans who are close to Buddhism, nature should be our top priority.

    The open economy which is contradictory to Buddhism was what brought insecurity to general public and inhibit to welfare of the society. At present, 50% of the people in our country live in poverty and social oppression.

    People should be unified by interdependence for the beneift of the entire community. It doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is what you do. The present political system is dirven by individual preferene instead of social preference.

    We need to liquidate the present outdated political system. Capitalism encourages greed. Fascism encourages hatred. But Buddhist Socialism encourages compassion, benevolence and sharing.

    We need a revolutionary new thinking in order to promote Buddhist Socialism which is in favour of society, not individuals as per the present system.

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    My heart bleeds looking at the poor Dalits in that photo……What hope they , their children and their grand children have in their own country, where their ancestors survived for over proven 3000 years……..That stupid Poster Boy fucked it up big time…….. , And it will take a bigger effort to give those people a fair go than eliminating Pirahaparan……. Who ever topples the Poster Boy and his Bank Robbers, Drug Dealers, Commission Agents, Asshole Lovers, and Big Ass Liars will have their work cut out…….It will be harder , because Pirhaparan followers are now embedded with the rulers, ….And have amassed so much wealth, including Banks, Breweries, Holiday Resorts , Valuable Tracks of Land ,Trade Centres , Insurance, Television, Streaming and Other media assets…. They do not have to hide in Mulivaikal to send the great majority in to the Black Hole……….

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    A tantalising eassy. What an amazing skill. ——‘
    Yet on reflection one is left with a feeling of despondence.
    The same sharp ‘kaduwa’ is more often brandised by the author in propagation of unconciable hatred towards his political enemies far beyond the limits of rationality, commonsense, reality and fact.. Himalian levels of exageration was used by the author in demonising those who saved this country from the deadly scourge of terrorism which if managed to survive would not have spared this writer who displays this astonoshing tallent in verbal marshal art nor me the humble reader. Yet the words , propaganda were skillfully used by the writers of this ilk such as Tisaranee Gunasekara in creating a brand new battalion of meticulously pure gods out of the crooks, murderers and traitors who were running amok for 60 years. True, those whom he pierced his spear through are a bunch of ruffians. Yet they saved my children. If they are to be crucified and thrown to the wolves those chosen to be saved and worshipped as gods must have had a modicum of better track record. Far from the case.——–
    Such is the power of words—–

    Soma
    (Goes to my collection of beautiful essays)

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    First time I am hearing that the Senanayakes’ and Bandaranaikes’ were corrupt. Chandrika was not a B”‘ when she came into power.

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    By Harischandars’s Comment ….
    CBK is most corrupted politician of SLFP ,that has created by House of Banadarake,
    The SLFP’s path and model of party policies has shifted to Neo-Federalism by CBK .
    She want to narrow gap between UNP and SLFP by advocating Political Federalism by dismantle central power of State on devolution packages.
    She did noting for the nation by 11 years of rule, only ruin the country?

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      Loku Banda, CBK was not a B”when she came into power, I am referring to SWRD and Srimavo, DS and Dudley only. Thanks.

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