7 July, 2022


Unuth Ekai, Munuth Ekai Or Six Of One & Half A Dozen Of The Other

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

I have chosen to use the vernacular, followed by the English equivalent because, to anyone with a familiarity with both languages, the former is, by far, the pithier and conveys what the thinking Sri Lankan is faced with in the matter of making choices between the main political conglomerations in Sri Lanka today. One is almost tempted to exhort readers, “Don’t vote, it only encourages the b……ds,” except that such action will only lead to the (endless) perpetration of what Sri Lankans have had to put up with for far too long already: lies, duplicity, game-playing and more of the “same old, same old” performed in the sole interests of the performers (I was going to say “clowns” but changed my mind because this is allegedly the season of goodwill to all human kind and I wouldn’t want to deride that decent, honourable, honest occupation in any way).

What provoked this particular bit of bile was the fact that I was told that Sir Desmond de Silva, P.C. was being kept on in one of the caricatures of investigative/reconciliation/peace-making committees appointed by Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR1) prior to his being consigned to the dustbin of Sri Lankan history (we hope!). Information in the public domain specifies that the retainer that Mr. De Silva was being paid was of some consequence, even by the standards of the upper echelons of the British bar, £60,000 per month.

I am also aware that several responsible journalists such as D. B. S. Jeyaraj (I know, I know, he’s a Tamil!) raised very serious concerns about this appointment at the time it was made. Sir Desmond, it was alleged, had made statements at a major forum in Britain preceding his appointment by MR1 that indicated that he already had strong (if not biased) views about the matters into which he was now going, by the grace of God and MR1 (there IS a difference, you know!), to inquire and on which he was, presumably going to deliver judgement, particularly in the matter of “collateral damage.”

There have also been other rather serious allegations made against Sir Desmond to which quite wide publicity has been given in the foreign media that would suggest that his appointment to deliver judgement on the recent conflict in Sri Lanka could be considered less than an ideal one.

Before I wrote this piece I checked from a responsible Cabinet Minister known to be close to the Prime Minister whether the information I had was accurate, quoting my source. He had the courtesy to respond quite quickly in the affirmative.

There is a time-honoured phrase that says that “Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.” I would submit here and now that any appointment made by the previous regime connected to matters such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, the destruction of human rights etc. is, plain as the light of day, tainted and unacceptable.

You tell me how any government sworn to bring in good governance and bring out all that is noble in the human condition can countenance such an appointment by MR1, leave alone confirm it!

In this context, I would take readers back to the one committee that the late-unlamented regime appointed which had more than an air of respectability about it. It was called the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons and was comprised of people of true eminence in the legal field, drawn from all over the world.

What happened to it?

Let me quote Wikipedia on the subject: “The members of IIGEP at their November 2007 plenary concluded that they would terminate the IIGEP observation role with effect from April 1, 2008 and informed President Mahinda Rajapakse of their decision. In their concluding public statement,[1] they outlined that they did not see that continued observation would change the situation, and that despite IIGEP drawing attention to defects in the workings of the Commission, their recommendations have been largely disregarded.”

In case, I forget, let me remind readers that the man leading the charge of disruption of those hearings and making it intolerable for the eminent jurists who were there on MR1’s invitation, was the late C. R. “Bulla” de Silva who was suitably rewarded by the MR1 and lionized by sections of the so-called “independent media” of this country at his demise subsequently!

Rather than fill this column with quotes from a variety of other sources, I would strongly urge readers interested in this particular matter to surf the web and arrive at their own conclusions.

However, I do not wish to equivocate, the MR2 government re-appointing a person picked by the MR1gang to sit in judgement on matters of human rights and the like is simply an obscenity.

I have been reminded that Sir Desmond de Silva Q.C.’s eminence has been recognized by the honours heaped on him by British governments and their leaders. In this connection, let me say that such accolades, by themselves, mean little when viewed against a British government’s elevation of Conrad Black to a peerage, as Lord Black of Crossharbour. Details of “Tubby” Black’s history are readily available on the internet for any interested reader.

There have been far too many of these strange “exceptions” to the very “rules” that the Maithripala/Ranil (MR2) regime proclaimed at the time of their accession to power on January 8th and after the General Election which it subsequently won.

I would suggest that what was supposed to be the exception, in the MR2 book, has now become the rule.

Previously, I wrote of how a septuagenarian, who, thanks to an impending Royal Betrothal, was soon to achieve a relationship with the Rajapaksas, was re-appointed by that paragon of UNP virtue, Lakshman Kiriella, after he had submitted his resignation as had been requested when the government changed. That particular episode resulted in my being phoned by a kinsman of the man who was the subject of my column with the intention of giving me a “dressing down” because he thought I was referring to yet another of the clan. That particular little conversation has yet to be concluded because I have had neither the time nor the inclination to have a little “wrap-up” chat with someone who, obviously, thinks what I write should reflect his opinion!

There has already been the case of another septuagenarian, a close associate of a Minister’s father, who has been appointed by that Minister to head up an agricultural research board dealing with a crop of which his own expertise probably doesn’t extend beyond the consumption of the sambol made with the grated kernel of the nut! Of course, that individual’s demonstrated allegiance to MR1 could not but have helped in his quest for yet another (unearned) position of influence!

Leave alone terra firma, not even the skies have been spared appointments based, primarily, on kinship and friendship of one description or another. Check out who heads Sri Lankan Airlines since the new dispensation and check immediate familial relationships if you doubt what I have to say.

Of course, the current coalition could well claim that it is not breaking new ground in that regard because its primary constituent, the United National Party, used to be known as the “Uncle Nephew Party” and, in the vernacular as the “Unge Nayange Pakshaya.” My personal preference is, in fact, for the Sinhala version because it has an appropriately pejorative ring to it!

And we honestly believed we had opted for change on January 8th 2015!


I had been in error in referring to Gordon Burrows as the Choir Master of St. Paul’s in my last column. While he had been of help to that choir from time to time, it was the late Harry Goonetilleke who had a 40-plus year tenure in that position during which that choir reached unprecedented heights. My apologies for the any unhappiness this unwitting error might have caused the friends and family of that most genial of gentlemen, Harry Goonetilleke.

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  • 9

    Mr Emil van der Poorten,

    Well, what else did you expect?

    What I find incredulous is, people who are highly erudite, intelligent and sophisticated in many other “human undertakings,” when it comes to the “Sri Lankan condition,” expecting something else other than what we have in the country, today.

    I suppose “Sri Lankan condition” is a unique subset of the greater “human condition.” I used to read late Charley Reese’s columns and wonder if he was writing about Sri Lanka or The USA. Most of the things he was writing could be equally well applicable to both countries.

    In science we always check if the assumptions we make at the lowest level, at the core, are valid. But in evaluating the “Sri Lankan human condition” we come in at the topmost layer and take off from there. To me, at the core, Lankan politicians are doing nothing but avoiding a honest day’s work. They make use of Buddhism, Sinhalese-ness, “patriotism” …….. to that end. They are shrewd (it comes naturally and subconsciously) enough to keep people focused on the topmost layer with their activity. If Wimal Weerawansa et al weren’t politicians, what would they be doing – like millions of other honest SL workers – to make a living? Can he be a fisherman, a mason, a coconut-plucker? Not only they are avoiding work, but also get respect for that as well! Who said Lankans aren’t imaginative? Don’t get me wrong, I too live on my wits, like all of us do, in the “human condition” we are all stuck in. But only that, I am good and successful at it, to afford the luxury of honesty to admit it – a luxury Dayan, Rajiva, Milinda ….. cannot afford ……. and have to pretend they do what they do is out of patriotism, altruism …. or some other higher motive. Life has not been devised by morality: it wants deception, it lives on deception.

    I, who can barely spell, let alone write – thank God for spell-checkers – come here and read writings of immensely erudite writers/commentators – whose skills I can only dream of – appealing to the higher nature of man, while I am always thinking of nothing but the basest nature of man. I am left thinking, am I mad or are they mad? And my mind hark back to that well-known Kandyan gentleman of yore, Mr Udurawana and the answer he is supposed to have given in an army interview. After some ludicrous answers, when asked by the interviewer “Are you mad, or am I mad?” He is supposed to have said “Both, respectively.” I don’t know where the “respectively” part came from, but that’s how the yarn goes. I suppose, that’s the question and also the answer, in a nutshell, to the zany “Lankan condition” we are all privileged to be stuck in.

    • 6

      “that paragon of UNP virtue, Lakshman Kiriella,”
      Indeed he is.

      He also appointed my friend the agriculturist Sarath Illangantilake to the Tea Research Board, in addition to the coconut appointment you are throwing ‘polkudu’ at.

      Also, we must appreciate the work Kiriell a has been doing to protect bogus claims for state grants and subsidies by old frarts who occupy Sinhala land, climing to be planters of rubber and other trees.

      He is the sort of politician we need to bring back a bit of law and honesty to our land, as my butterflies would be saying.

      Viva Kiriella!

      • 1

        Cousin George:
        Given the level of your morality and an inability to recognize the truth even if it bit in the part of your anatomy where your brain resides, the suggestion that you perform a particular act on yourself AND the horse you rode in on might be appropriate!

  • 24

    What has old Dessie done to Poorten.

    Poorten and the Elite clans lead by Batalanda Ranil should know that their Queen won’t give a QC title to a nincompoop..

    Even 60k in Queen’s money is nothing when even non QC barristers charge anything from 3000 Dollars upwards just for half a day in court.

    I don’t think Poorten’s real gripe is about the Dosh.

    Poorten is worried about any leniency on part of the White Judges who are being brought down by Batalanda Ranil to punish our War Heroes.

    Any proper judge, even the ones recommended by the Diaspora Surendran through the UNP London can’t ignore the opinions of eminent QCs like our Dessie.

    This is a pre emptive motor attack by Poorten to destroy Dessie before the Bedoiun Prince send the White Judges.

    Getting his blood pressure up and increasing the heart rate is not good for Poorten at his age..

    I mean there are 4 more years of Yahapalanaya to run bringing home the Bacon to Colombo Elite as well as Eco dweller Elite like Poorten in Thumpanae.

    First Yahapalana budget has given so much for the UNP supporters,

    To mention a few, Banks can’t compete with private Finance Companies, Pawn shops and Insurance providers . No subsidy for Cow Shit to Farmers..

    Private Medical degree to Elite Kids who cant make the cut to a real one.

    No car permits to Dalit kids who become proper Doctors because they do not need them.

    Central Highway contract to UNP firms in Colombo.And all, the borrowings from overseas Banks and Govt to pay the instalments from Tax payers dosh.

    And the Yahapalana supporting Artistes are even trading our Dalit lassies as herbal treatment employees, to service high net worth clients in Colombo. according to Batalanda’s own Yahapalana Police.

    Nearly 400 Ethanol permits in Yahapalana first year although Johnston is in lock up.

    But the patriotic Finance Minster Galleon Ravi assures the Elite, that only 2o permits for Moon Shine although the number of permits are higher this year.

    Shouldn’t people of Poorten’s vintage should lead a totally relaxed and stress free life to enjoy these Yahapala goodies,

    Shouldn’t they avoid damaging the Ticker by this anger and rising blood pressure.

    Shouldn’t their MPs like Kiriella try and help them with Insurance Cover from Jaya for Anger Management and Herbal Treatment for full Relaxation?.

    BTW what is 60k even in English pounds, when Sir Nihal got a cool A$ 1 Million just advising Batalanada & Co on Yahapalana strategy.

    Wonder whether Poorten Family has a fully Organic Free Range Turkey Dinner for X Mas?…

    I might go to Galle to get some Wild Boar for Dinner on the 25th from one of those places which Buddhika Pathrana has listed as selling game meat openly now .

    Wonder whether they have Yahapalana permits,becacuse Gota used to confiscate the vehicles if they had Wild Boar in them..

    • 1

      I don’t read what you (try to) write any longer. Just measure it on my computer screen and marvel at how high b.s. can be piled, even in print!

      • 19

        Mr Poorten,

        No sweat mate…This is only a practice pitch..

        Happy X Mas and a fab Yahapalanaya New Year to you and your mates..

        • 1

          I think CT should censor you in the matter of your addressing me as “mate” because making such an association is abuse beyond the call of anything resembling decency.

          • 21

            Mr Poorten,

            I know how you feel.

            I must be the only Dalit who called you mate, without addressing you as Sir and bending in to two , like your Durian pickers do.

            If Rajapaksas were around for another term, more Dalits would have been able to call you lot, mate.

            But Bodhi Sira took the 25 pieces of Silver from your mates, to screw the Dalits..

            Merry Christmas …

  • 1

    Emil, your title says it all!

    The difference (at present) is a matter of degrees, but who knows what the long-term will bring us???!!!

  • 2

    Emil van der Poorten, Are you losing perspective? This piece does not bring in any fresh insights to us, your readers.

    This write up, sad to say, is one of your lacklustre complaints!

    But, that’s not what prompts me to make this comment.

    I am referring to your rather unpalatable remark, ‘I am also aware that several responsible journalists such as D. B. S. Jeyaraj’. Do you Emil van der Poorten really need D. B. S. Jeyaraj on your side to add credence to your words?

    How responsible is D. B. S. Jeyaraj for you to want him on your side? If you are not aware, let me tell you. Relatively speaking, you are far more responsible than he is.

  • 1

    Thank you for the (backhanded?) compliment with regard to the matter of my sense of “responsibility” vs that of Mr. Jeyaraj. I quoted Mr. Jeyaraj because I have seen him, over the last few years, as increasingly LESS critical of the MR1 regime and because an opinion expressed by him would not be read as simple anti-MR1 propaganda.
    In the matter of “complaints,” suffice it to say that they will continue for as long as I think they are merited. I have previously promised to “hold this government’s feet to the fire,” and that I propose to do!

  • 1

    It is well and good to question how, why and for what HM the Queen confers honoraria on various people, even if she does so on the advice of her government. Conrad Black was one such person who subsequently, was convicted of a crime and ended up in jail, just as Geoffrey Archer, the novelist and Tory MP at the heart of the then government, was. How such criminals could be compared to a legal luminary like Sir Desmond de Silva is beyond me.

  • 1

    The statement made was a very simple one and read as follows: “let me say that such accolades, BY THEMSELVES, mean little when viewed against a British government’s elevation of Conrad Black to a peerage…”
    Isn’t that statement simple enough? Unless, of course, one CHOOSES to deliberately quote out of context!

    Also, thank you for reminding readers about Geoffrey Archer who was similarly elevated by another Tory P.M., Thatcher, a fact that, you might notice, serves to confirm my point.

  • 6


    Many would share your anguish.

    As I alluded to on the 26thNov2014, MS is just the Trojan horse, he is not the knight in shining armour that we need to clean the stables and usher in the long-awaited era of true good governance. The dawn is still some way off; alas, the fight must go on.

    • 1

      Spring Koha:
      Apart from your contribution exhibiting a nice turn of phrase, you and I are among many who believe this country began turning over a new leaf last January and completed that turning a few months later.
      However, I think I need hardly regurgitate what we’ve all seen since which must increase our determination to ensure that those who are trying to turn back the clock (to their benefit) must NOT succeed. The people of this country can and must ensure the complete return of decency and the rule of the law.

      • 0

        (The people of this country can and must ensure the complete return of decency and the rule of the law. )

        Bedtime stories- Dream!!!

        Every one of you made the mistake at the polls because the foolish people do not feel the truth and eat it but think the truth and cry over the result.

        WW2- Ceylon, India and Pakistan got its independence because EEIC was blitzed and Churchill had no money to run the cooperation.

        Only WW3 will change and Hillary is in a mood to nuke Asia but not Trump the negotiator.
        Modi hasn’t got what he wanted by criticising China so he has finally gone back to Russia last week to buy junk and made surprise visit to Pakistan to mend fences.

        [President Harry S. Truman, who dismissed India at its birth as an independent state as “pretty jammed with poor people and cows wandering around streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges.” His Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, had an even more incisive perspective: “by and large [Indians] and their country give me the creeps.”
        When Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the U.S. ambassador to India from 1973-75, he regularly lamented that Washington was utterly indifferent to the country’s fate; writing in his diary, he confided that it “is American practice to pay but little attention to India.” In a cable to the State Department, he complained of dismissive attitudes, “a kind of John Birch Society contempt for the views of raggedly ass people in pajamas on the other side of the world.”

        Public opinion kept close track with official attitudes in Washington. Harold Issacs’s classic 1958 survey of U.S. elite opinion on China and India, Scratches on Our Minds, revealed that influential Americans held very negative perceptions of the latter, associating it with “filth, dirt and disease,” along with debased religious beliefs. Influential books in the 1960s, most notably Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, rendered dim portraits of India’s political coherence and economic prospects. The country did not even rate mention in either Paul Kennedy’s much-discussed 1987 book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, or John Mearsheimer’s 2001 book,The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. And in the summer of 1991, editorial writers at the New York Times advised readers to “pity India” because the country was in danger of fragmenting along sectarian lines.

  • 0

    “”heaped on him by British governments and their leaders. In this connection,””
    Very interesting – Desmond at Gibraltar and Harry business there too.

    This is very true as British Politicians have run out of ammunition and are now employing former colony subjects to conceal their wrong doings.

    the new person is Patricia Scotland, Baroness the former Solicitor General who said she did not know she was employing an illegal house maid- paid a small fine and next we hear is that she has taken the place of :

    Shrill Sharma as Secretary General Commonwealth.

    now its not possible to scream racist like the Blacks and Bengali’s

    • 1

      You sound like someone supportive of Asterix De Gaulle, displaying the literary skills of Asterix the Gaul.

      No matter.

      If you are in pursuit of Sumaney’s title for incomprehensibility, you are doing an admirable job. However, if you are seeking to justify the recently-deposed bunch ……!

      Remember, gobbledegook can’t pass for erudition.

      • 7

        [Edited out]

        • 1

          Asterix (and your buddies):
          If you resist the temptation to simply use abusive language we might be able to TRY to find out what you mean to say.
          Come on, give it a try, it won’t hurt except perhaps in that area where your brain is supposed to be.

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