18 September, 2020

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The Story Of A Challenging Examination Question

By Mahesan Niranjan –

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Last Thursday, I went to a seminar at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences on the subject of “Sri Lanka and the culture of impunity: human rights challenges in a post-war and post-conflict environment,” at which the speakers were Paikiasothy Saravanamuthu, Asanga Welikala and Uvindu Kurukulasuriya. The topic is of great interest to me — so it should be to any Sri Lankan who wishes a better life for our fellow countrymen. Since I have not met the three speakers before, but have read some of their writings, I felt it was an opportunity to say “Hello” to them. My mate and drinking partner, the Sri Lankan Tamil fellow Sivapuranam Thevaram, came along with me to the seminar.

When we arrived at the event, as it usually happens in gatherings of Sri Lankans, I bumped into a friend who I did not know was coming there, and she introduced me to her friend and friend’s friend and so on. One of them wasn’t going to stay for the seminar, “I have to catch a train, it might get a bit late, no?” she worried. The other one tried to persuade her to stay: “Aney, stay Aney, it will be fun, no?” I was a bit annoyed. The seminar is on post-war Sri Lanka, and this woman is claiming it will be fun!

“What do you mean fun?” “Well the embassy people will come, the GeeTee Ef fellows will also be there, no?”

“How do you know they are coming?” I asked. “I am sure,” she said with great confidence, “they will all be there, even if the High Commissioner doesn’t come, they will send someone to monitor and plant questions at such meetings. And the flag fellows will also come.”

The killjoy in me couldn’t resist. “Not really,” I said, “those guys are all  in Cardiff,” referring to the kicking, shouting, stone throwing, pitch invading, flag waving and flag burning match outside the Cardiff stadium – the shameful acts of the “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners and their rowdy opponents. That both these parties think they are doing some good for their fellow countrymen they have left behind in our island is, to me, a source of utmost amusement.

The seminar was excellent, with three 20 minute talks, a short time for questions because the speakers over-ran a bit and a reception afterwards during which you had the opportunity to say your “Hello” to the speakers – thus achieving the purpose of my trip.

Saravanamuthu spoke eloquently about current trends, discussing the monotonic increase in militarization of all aspects of our countrymen’s lives, the callousness with which people are being thrown out of their bombed out homes in the northern land grab project (wasanthaya for some, agony for others) and the venomous attack on the judiciary with particular reference to the impeachment of the Chief Justice. Welikala discussed formal frameworks of constitutional arrangements, where they failed and where they did not succeed. Both were well-structured talks delivered without visual aids — hence I found it hard to parse and digest their talks. (A particular occupational hazard I suffer from is that I need graphs and equations on power-point slides to keep me awake at seminars.  But on this occasion, the seriousness of developments in our country did the trick, and I stayed mesmerized for the full 90 minutes.)

Kurukulasuriya discussed Sri Lankan media (this one with power-point slides, hoorah!). The least experienced among the trio in speaking in a university classroom maybe, yet he stole the show, with striking survey results delivered with classic Sri Lankan style intonation in speech, punctuated by shrugging of the shoulders and pauses that spoke more than words. The occasional bursts of laughter he elicited from the audience came from their short-term working memories. But when they consolidated the digested pieces of information in their hippocampi as long term memory, it would certainly have been in the form of a deep sense of sadness about the state of our country.

The speakers did not have answers to the questions that haunt me every day: “What will be the trigger of the much needed course correction in our country?” and “What precisely is my role in this?”, but they gave the audience much food for thought.

Throughout all this, and in the train back home, my mate Thevaram was rather silent and uninterested, though at some points during the seminar I noticed him making notes. “You seem quite detached from all this,” I queried, “What’s in your mind?”

“Well, what was it they said I did not know already,” he snapped back. “But you were making notes, you must have found something useful there,” I challenged. “Oh that,” he said, “I was writing my exam paper!”

“I have drafted a really tough exam question, you know,” he said, almost sounding like he was feeling very frustrated and was going to take it out on his class – poor students. “What course do you teach this semester?” I asked. “Contemporary Sri Lankan Politics and Journalism,” he replied, pushing the sheet of paper in which he had written the question towards me.

Now, he is not supposed to show the draft exam question to me, but hey, what the heck, we live in interesting times, no? And I am not supposed to share it with you either, but hey, what the heck, we live in interesting times, no?

++++++++++++++++

Mid-Term Examination: Contemporary Sri Lankan History and Journalism

Q1. Discuss the following claim:

“When Velupillai Prabhakaran was alive, he destroyed the Tamils. When dead, he is destroying the Sinhalese. And these fellows are clueless about what is happening to them, how sad?”

++++++++++++++++

[Author’s note: The said claim was made some months ago, during an intensely nostalgic conversation after the second glass of wine, by a former lecturer of HillTop University in Sri Lanka – an exceptionally clever man, forced into exile some thirty years ago, and now living in retirement in an isolated, far away island that I shall refrain from naming.]

*Mahesan Niranjan is Professor of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, UK

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    “When Velupillai Prabhakaran was alive, he destroyed the Tamils. When dead, he is destroying the Sinhalese. And these fellows are clueless about what is happening to them, how sad?”

    A briiliant summary of the situation in Sri Lanka.VP’s accolytes of course are continuing to harm the Tamils.

    Re the disturbances in Cardiff at the Cricket match: IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME HOW STEADFASTLY THE OVERSEAS MORONS AMONG THE TAMILS COME UP WITH STRATEGIES AND TACTICS TO FURTHER UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE CAUSE OF THE TAMIl PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY LIVE IN THE ISLAND

    • 0
      0

      cincinnatus

      “LEGITIMATE CAUSE OF THE TAMIl PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY LIVE IN THE ISLAND”

      Could you tell us what the Legitimate Causes of the Tamil people is?

      • 0
        0

        Native:
        Those who wilfully blind themselves cannot be made to see.

        • 0
          0

          cincinnatus

          “Those who wilfully blind themselves cannot be made to see.”

          Good please try.

      • 0
        0

        Machan Native Vedda,

        Look like you did not attend all of prof’s classes, do you cut class to go hunting?

        Please make a list of all possible causes/grievances.
        Delete from it anything that is not just Tamil
        Delete from it anything that is not legitimate
        What you got left are the legitimate Tamil causes/grievances.

        If your list has nothing in it, you probably will get zero grade.

        • 0
          0

          jeevan

          “Please make a list of all possible causes/grievances.”

          Being bit thick I might not be make a comprehensive list all possible causes/grievances.

          However I have huge grievance and a cause.

          My ancestral land is being occupied by Tamil and Sinhala Kallathonies.

          I have one cause and one cause only, which is to evict the stupid Tamils and their stupid Sinhala/Buddhist brethren from my ancestral island.

          Apart from this I don’t believe I have any other legitimate cause.

          When I sleep I cannot stretched my legs while the North and East is occupied by Tamils and the whole of South is occupied by your brethren. Under such circumstances I don’t have enough room to sleep properly.

          Remind me please, whether I should concern myself in other’s stupid causes.

          • 0
            0

            Machan Vedda,

            You asked what legitimate Tamil causes were;
            I told you how to figure it out.
            You started it, OK?
            Now you give cock and bull story about sleeping stretched.
            You depend on Sinhalese/Tamils even for stupid stories;
            Shame, where is your native pride?

            • 0
              0

              jeevan

              “You asked what legitimate Tamil causes were”

              Yes I did.

              Now you have an opportunity to spit it out.

              Go ahead make your day.

          • 0
            0

            Figure it out yourself, Machan Vedda — that is the best way to learn!

            • 0
              0

              jeevan

              “Figure it out yourself, Machan Vedda — that is the best way to learn!”

              It is difficult to figure out anything in this world anymore where lies is truth, truth is lie and the work of spin doctors have taken this art form to a dizzying height according to my elders.

              They warn me that proliferation of media has made it much harder – one can’t see the wood for the trees. The only purpose is to “manufacture consent” among the stupid people.

              Now that you are here let me learn from you. Please do help me.

  • 0
    0

    It bites; how true, except in so far as compelled by a third f…….

  • 0
    0

    Knowledge of Computers is in great demand and a must to get jobs in the rapidly increasing Private sector.

    The great majority of the inhabitant population across the land can’t afford the exhorbitant prices the Private companies charge for their Computer courses,

    Learned people with access to resources can do a great service to mankind by giving the poor under privileged kids a chance rather than listening to Pasiakothy and his entourage.

    Professor’s drinking mate’s observation seems right on the money.

    • 0
      0

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Learned people with access to resources can do a great service to mankind by giving the poor under privileged kids a chance rather than listening to Pasiakothy and his entourage.”

      I agree.

      Please speak to Basil, the treasurer of the clan’s general fund.

  • 1
    0

    Absolute waste of time reading this article.

  • 0
    1

    Singhalese are slowly falling into the trap set by Tamils reluctant Muslims still thinking witch side they should take.

  • 0
    0

    Super writing! Well played, well played!

  • 0
    0

    ‘Absolute waste of time reading this article.’

    Thiru, it is really waste for those who does not have sufficient grey matter to understand the ogic in it.

  • 0
    0

    I could only repeat what Dr Dayan said.
    “Superb Writing, well played “
    Keep going, your words and time are not wasted at all. These kind of writings should go to younger Sinhala/Tamil/Muslim generation in Sri Lanka and abroad.
    Thanks Niranjan
    Anura

  • 0
    0

    Sellathurai,

    It appears that you are a person with high IQ, like Einstein, qualified to pass judgement on other people’s grey matter. I don’t understand why a man with a super IQ talks about “ogic”. Of course, I don’t understand what ogic you are talking about!

    You appear so arrogant not to consider other people’s view point, instead you resort to insults. Please use rational arguments, if you are capable of, to rebut my remark instead of resorting to insults.

  • 1
    0

    Prof Mahesan Niranjan,

    You refer to: “the shameful acts of the “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners”. Why not include the shameful acts of kicking a girl, threatening and verbal abuse of the few peaceful “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners by the violent Sinhala cricket fans in London a few days before, if you want to be balanced in your view point.

      • 0
        0

        The LTTE supporters among the Eelam Tamil Diaspora are famous for gathering together several “activists”, making sure there are enough young children and elderly people for the front lines. They distribute and use material bearing the LTTE logo (banned and dead terrorist organization) such as flags and T-shirts which really have no place if you want a “peaceful protest” as they would obviously trigger controversial sentiments. They pick a spot where they are clearly visible to hundreds of Sri Lankans who have come down to watch their team play, chanting slogans, shouting the odd racial abuse and sometimes throwing a water bottle.

        Most Sri Lankans usually ignore them and enjoy the game but they wait and wait till a handful of Sri Lankan morons get tired of this routine and start attacking their “Peaceful Protest”. They wait until some kids, women and old people get a few knocks, kicks, etc for them to take as many pictures and videos as possible and slap on a title which says “angry mob of hundreds attack peaceful protesters” and publicize the hell out of it.

        They show these videos/photos to their kids and youngsters influencing them to continue the same “Struggle” forever. On the other hand, without understanding the hidden agenda of these LTTE supporters, some Sri Lankan “Veerayas” put up titles which says “Tiger supporters run after getting attacked by the Sri Lankans”.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Thiru

      1) I think you are unfair. I re-read the article, and found “kicking” is also on the list of shameful things. The other side (Sinhala protesters) is referred to as “rowdy”. Perhaps you missed that in a hurry.

      2) Do you think Tamil people support the boycott SL campaign seriously? I am not convinced. One third of the passengers in Sri Lankan airline flights between London and Colombo are Tamils (they could easily go by other routes)! There are dozens of Tamil shops in London that import things directly from Sri Lanka and these things are very popular among Tamils living in London. So, don’t you think the boycott campaign is run by a minority of extremists and has no popular support among Tamils?

      • 0
        0

        Dear Sunil,

        The term “– the shameful acts of the “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners and their rowdy opponents.” — might give the impression to readers that the “the shameful acts of the “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners” lead to the rowdy opposition. Here the author takes the moral high ground, but still biased against the “Boycott Sri Lanka” campaigners.

        I agree with you that the boycott is still not widespread. However, things can change and Tamils as a whole, when they fully realize the atrocities committed against their kith and kin in Sri Lanka, might support the campaign fully. Campaigns, if conducted effectively can build up and produce the intended results, as it did in the case of South African cricket in the past.

        • 0
          0

          Dear Thiru,
          Let readers who see my question and your answers judge for themselves. I believe they are far more discerning than you seem to acknowledge. I rest my case (as we say in my profession), thanking you for the reply.

          • 0
            0

            Dear Sunil,
            Thank you for your reply:
            We disagree in our opinions in an amicable manner.
            Best regards to you.

  • 0
    0

    A.Sellathurai,

    Before you talk about people’s grey matter, please have a look at your own sentence:

    “Thiru, it is really waste for those who does not have sufficient grey matter to understand the ogic in it.”

    Please learn, with your plentiful grey matter, proper grammar and read your posts before publishing them, your sentence ought to read thus:

    “Thiru, it is really wasteful for those who do not have sufficient grey matter to understand the logic in it.”

    Furthermore, logic is only as good as the premise you start with, do you know? Those who cannot argue logically starting with a valid premise resort to insults, or get angry!

    Please learn some humility today.

  • 0
    0

    Thiru
    Anyone who speaks about another person’s grey matter is no different from the intellectuals who alone were able to see the ‘Emperor’s clothes’. This mighty intellectual A.S. has a perfect knowledge of grammar – “those who does not” – and a thorough knowledge of “ogic”, whatever that may mean.

  • 0
    0

    Its easy for the likes of Nirnjan (probably a UK citizen/resident) living in the coastal town of Southampton to talk about Tamils like us in SL !
    He in my opinion is another side of the hooligans we saw at the cricket matches.

    • 0
      0

      Professors in politics are a dangerous lot and can behave like village jackals at worst.

      Pity they have not been assimilated into the material private sector?

  • 0
    0

    waste of time in reading the article. he has been hired by the govt.
    mahinda saranang kachami !!!

  • 0
    0

    Thiru, I am sorry my incompetence in language skill appears to have offended you deeply.

    • 0
      0

      Sellathurai, It’s not your language, but your attitude towards other people’s comments.

  • 0
    0

    Utter bullshit stuff. Not what you expect from a purported Professor. Lacks substance and seriousness of topic. Sideshots at Sri lankan mannerisms and individual speakers’ traits. He would have spent his time better in the company of his friend at his favourite watering-hole. He certainly has taken the advice of his friends friends friend and had fun writing this bland piece on a very serious topic to all sri lankans. It seems CT is giving him the opportunity to test his writing (s)kills by publishing sarcastic articles such as this which are neither here nor there.

  • 0
    0

    Well said, Ahmed. I agree. It hurts, doesn’t it?
    Insha Allah, CT will not publish anymore bullshit from this author.

    • 0
      0

      amalka

      “CT will not publish anymore bullshit from this author.”

      Is it a fatwa?

      • 0
        0

        No Vedda, I don’t have power to issue fatwa. Allah does. You ask Ahmed who might have a view.

  • 0
    0

    Ahmed, you are absolutely perfect in your description. When some are euphoric and DJ is ecstatic about the resplendent clothes of the emperor, you have correctly said that he is having none.

  • 0
    0

    Not impressed. The potty works of a Nutty Professor. Trivialising an issue which should be of major concern to any Sri Lankan. Too much wine and too much song. Wonder how he gets along.

  • 0
    0

    Nizam

    “The potty works of a Nutty Professor”

    Eddie Murphy kind or Jerry Lewis type?

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