Passage to India
President Mahinda Rajapaksa embarks on his
second visit to India on Monday (27). Before his first visit to India
last year December, Ajith Samaranayake wrote this editorial on December
27, 2005. We reproduce his editorial in tribute.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa begins a three-day State visit to India
today and without being accused of hyperbole, we can say that this visit
will be of historic significance. This is not merely because this is the
President's first overseas visit since assuming office and not even
because India is our closest neighbour bound by a thousand spiritual,
religious and cultural ties.
We would rather suggest that the real significance of President
Rajapaksa's passage to India lies in the fact that he more than any
other Head of State in recent times has emphasised the pivotal role of
India in Sri Lanka's affairs.
Consistently since assuming office, he has urged India to play a
greater role in Sri Lanka's Peace Process even suggesting that it should
become one of the co-Chairs.
This attitude towards India on the part of the new President is not a
ritual propitiatory gesture to a large neighbour.
It is a recognition of India's standing in the region, its moral
integrity as a nation and India's stake in peace and stability in the
Indian Ocean region. In this sense to President Rajapaksa has revealed
himself to be a supreme pragmatist, a quality he is fast gaining a
It is fashionable on ritual occasions to salute India as our friendly
neighbour, the home of Buddhism from where that great healing doctrine
was brought to Sri Lanka and the fount of our common civilisation.
But is no secret that since independence influential sections of the
ruling elite have been plagued by what can only be called an Indophobia.
Particulary the immediate post-Independence leadership tended to look at
India as a 'Big Brother' who had designs on the defenceless fledgling
In a reflex action they began gravitating into the western orbit and
it was only the victory of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's MEP
Government in 1956 which restored the balance and created the conditions
for a healthy relationship between the two countries.
Recent Indo-Sri Lankan developments which have had their spectacular
ups and downs, themselves stemming from the unconcealed hostility with
which UNP Governments since 1977 have treated India, are too close to
the bone to need recollection here but it is a matter for satisfaction
that once again Indo-Sri Lanka relations are back on the high road with
the advent of the Rajapaksa regime.
In his policy statement following the swearing-in President Rajapaksa
used the phrase "We are Asian people" ("Api Asiyawe Minissu") and this
is symptomatic of the new Government's closeness to the region in
contrast to the contrived and unreal globalisation fashionable among
some quarters or the homage to the West equally widespread among some
circles of the elite.
The cornerstone of this Asianism is obviously India which is not only
an ancient civilisation, the womb so to speak of our own culture and
civilisation, but also a fast developing industrial and commercial power
from whom Sri Lanka can learn much.
While we do not wish to anticipate the President's discussions in New
Delhi with Indian leaders it is safe to assume that he will fully brief
them about the present state of the Peace Process and will seek India's
participation in moving the process forward.
India has been naturally wary about overt participation in the
process since its unfortunate experience with the Indian Peace Keeping
Force but it will be desirable all round if India agrees to exert its
considerable moral authority in Sri Lanka's quest for peace.
For above all else it is this moral dimension which gives India its
unique status among nations of the world where too often politics has
been reduced to a grubby game in the dust for political power at any
The President's visit to India will also be important in defining the
new foreign policy stances of the new Government.
As we have already observed the President has opened the country's
windows to the fresh winds blowing in from Asia and while naturally Sri
Lanka will continue to have friendly relations with all countries of the
world it is welcome and proper that the new administration should elect
to have warmer ties with particular countries of its choice.
In that sense too the President's sojourn in New Delhi can be the
happy percurser of closer ties with countries of the region.
Former Minister Lalith Athulathmudali's 70th
birth anniversary falls tomorrow:
A British MP, Cyril Smith, MBE - famous for his
sense of humour - related the following story in an after dinner
speech. "Mrs. Thatcher passed on and knocked on the Gates of Heaven
but St. Peter, after asking for her name, sends her down below. Some
four days later, there is a knock on the Gates of Heaven. St. Peter
goes and finds the devil standing there.
Koch and 'Bull' memorial orations of the physiological society
of Sri Lanka
For the 19th unbroken year, the Physiological
Society of Sri Lanka formally commemorates the memory of the two
founding Sri Lankan giants of the discipline of Physiology in this
Ajith was a true journalist
MEMORIES of the wonderful days Ajit Samaranayake
spent at The Island and Sunday Island in the early eighties flood my
memory while my eyes are still wet remembering one of the most
versatile writers of our times.
A skilled journalist and a great humanist
When great Russian writer Gogol died at the age
of 43 a contemporary writer Ivan Turgeniv wrote thus: 'Gogol is
dead, we have got the bitter and sorrowful right to describe him as
a great man. As ancient pioneers died without completing their
mission he too died at a time his strengths and abilities were being