Same Same But Different

Passing my fingers through an open display of cheap and cheerful watches on the sidewalks of Pataya, teleported me to Wijesiri Stores, the only fancy electronic shop along the Main Street in Panadura.

Forty years ago, at Wijesiri Stores, I was doing the same thing… looking at the display of watches. The difference was those watches were inside a glass cabinet and padlocked, out of bounds and out of reach for a ten year old girl. I couldn’t touch them nor could i buy. I could only admire them with my face squashed against the glass.

‘Same Same’ but different circumstances!

Standing in front of the display in Pataya, I didn’t have to think twice about buying, not just one watch but a couple if I felt like it. But not at Wijesiri Stores when I was a little girl who didn’t understand family priorities.

Times were very different then. Watches were more or less a once in a life time buy. Kids were not bought multi coloured, ‘break if you like’ watches like today. It was a luxury item then! It definitely was for me, with a price tag of hundred rupees.

I wanted to own this watch so badly and I also knew it was very very expensive. After many days of agonizing, I remember whispering to my grand mother about my dream of owning a watch. She was our every day family Santa Claus in disguise.

At meal time, when the family gathered, she broached the subject of my fancy desire. I noticed the nervous glances exchanged between my parents. My father was smart. He promptly threw in a challenge instead of making an excuse. ‘You come first in class and I shall buy you that watch’. Little did I realize that this was his way of convincing himself that he didn’t have to agonize over finding the money to spend on a hundred rupee watch, when his monthly salary was less than seven hundred rupees as an engineer. This I learned much later in life which craeted an unexplainable guilt that I carry with me to date. However at that time my father’s proposition was as good as getting the watch.

Days passed and the subject of the watch was never discussed at home again as it was not worth talking about. I was never going to come first in class. At least this was my father’s conviction. But not mine!

My time in the fifth grade came to a happy ending with my bringing home the great news of coming first in class. I was elated. But was my father? Where was he going to find hundred rupees to buy the watch that was promised? To date I wouldn’t know how my parents managed, but they showed absolute joy in my achievement and took me straight to Wijesiri Stores to my greatest delight.

This time, I could actually touch and feel the watch. My first expensive possession…it was a silver square with a black fake leather strap. I can almost feel it on my wrist even now.

Each frame of this experience unfolded infront of me in vivid detail as I stood looking at the watches on display in front of me.

I choked when I thought of the financial burden I would have placed on my parents without any feeling of guilt.I almost wanted to buy a watch for my father from Pataya to clear my conscience.
But realized that a fake watch wouldn’t do for all the sacrifices he would have made to meet our multitude of childhood demands.

I wondered off thinking of me and my kids, telling myself that kids will continue to demand and us Parents will somehow find ways to oblige.

Same Same – but NOT different!

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Dr Neville Fernando – Maverick with the Midas Touch

Neville Uncle and Swarna Aunty for me were an exemplary couple, who apparently had a roaring love affair before they tied the knot, juicy details of which we used to hear as kids from my mother and grandmother, who had supposedly supported their romance discreetly! While there are many kudos and achievements credited to him, for me, he embodied the true essence of being a wonderful family man. His life’s partner of 65 years, Swarna Aunty, will vouch for this while constantly complaining that he was a ‘stubborn man’! I would call this trait ‘fearless and gutsy’ and loved this fighting spirit he embodied in the face of injustice and adversity. Needless to say, he was a force to reckon with even as a husband, a father and a grandfather, because his zest for life I believe was incomprehensible to many.

As a doctor who served the rich and poor alike in Panadura for many years, was sought after by his patients clearly for his well known athgune (healing hands). I believe this is where he earned his loyal fan base to venture into politics.

Panadura was richer for the innumerable services he rendered as a Member of Parliament; a position he secured by obtaining a landslide victory against the formidable leftist politician, Mr  Leslie Gunawardene, who represented Panadura in Parliament for decades. This was a landmark victory for the UNP in 1977. As the MP, Dr Fernando lost no time in using his political clout to provide to the people of Panadura what we treasure to date.

Amongst many feats he achieved for us in Panadura, establishing the much sought after Kethumathi Maternity hospital; the only one of its kind outside of Colombo, helping Sri Sumangala Girls’ school’s expansion program  by adding the Swarnagiriya mansion to its school complex, starting an Industrial Zone in Modarawila in Panadura, where thousands of youth have found employment to date, starting Agamathi Girls’ School and Janaadhipathi Boy’s School, as alternates to the Sri Sumangala Girls’ and Boys’ schools, self funding  the Sri Saugatha Vidyala Pirivena building at Rankoth Viharaya Temple are a few of the noteworthy contributions he provided his hometown, Panadura, as a representative of the people of this coastal town.

As a proud Old Boy of Sri Sumangala College, he had the foresight to donate the first computer lab twenty five years ago, and provide two acres of additional land to expand the school, which is spoken with gratitude by the students of his alma mater even to date. He gave magnanimously and honorably, with no expectation in return.

Dr Neville Fernando was one fearless and principled man who stood up to the inimitable President Jayawardana, by opposing JR’s proposed motion to take away Mrs Bandaranayake’s civic rights as he never wanted to compromise on his basic human values for politics. Sadly though, this is a man our society later crucified as a traitor and a businessman who was a political schemer. None of which is true. I was amused to see his Facebook account which I visited today, where he had shared all the brickbats thrown at him by media and social media. He was blasé to all this as he knew that he did what he did with a clear conscience and a vision for the country, even though the misinterpretation of it all was politically and professionally motivated.

He was a maverick par excellence, an entrepreneur extraordinaire and an astute businessman to boot, with a foresight that is not too common today.

As one of the pioneers in the hospitality industry, he built Hotel Swanee (aptly combining the two names Swarnamalee and Neville!). Decades ago, he started JF&I, one of the most modern printing presses the country has. With Fernwood, he pioneered a porcelain export company and in later years purchased Asha Hospital, which he sold to build Asha Central; a better hospital with a convalescent care facility. He subsequently exchanged this dream for a bigger vision for the country by starting the SAITM Private University. When the government went back on their word to provide a hospital for clinicals for SAITM Medical College, he built the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital. Ironically, this ‘one thousand bed’ hospital in Malabe which was taken over by the government and now houses Corona patients, was his largest investment and was planned to be a gift to the country once he was no more. These were all passion projects visioned by him, which culminated with SAITM. This gave him both immense pride and a lot of pain. However, after he was socially and politically crushed due to SAITM, he started a small ‘bakery’ to keep himself occupied! I was amused when he shared this idea one day with me and chuckled like a child saying “I will make it better than the Salgado Bakery!” That’s Neville Uncle for me.

At 89, he was an avid Facebook warrior and used to keep abreast of what was going on in the Social Media space and would never miss an opportunity to share a post if he thought it would interest me. He was always interested in being in the know of others’ wellbeing. 

Writing about this unique human being cannot be limited to a few words. His life is an epic story with mega dreams, that unfolded over eight decades. I hope someday, somebody will do justice to Dr Neville Fernando, by writing his True Story, as he was mostly misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who had small minds and a tunnel vision for this country.

May your journey in Samsara be a short one, Neville Uncle. Until then, make heaven a better place for the others there with you, just like you did on this earth for a lot of us!

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Bringing back the good old ‘door-step delivery’ concept using digital technology

March was clearly a ‘month of mayhem’.

Priyath and I arrived after a lovely relaxed holiday and stepped into a country engulfed in fear, uncertainty, confusion, anger and many more bursting emotions and rabid anger all around us as never experienced before. The unexpected lock down created a pandemonium and people started running helter-skelter trying to stock food for the families. The fear of not eating seemed greater than fear of contracting Covid 19.

Rampant panic buying resulted in empty shelves in every store. Hoarding became a pastime for both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The country was obsessed with finding food!

Living in Panadura, with a highly connected and networked community, we were hardly in want. My immediate family had found all kinds of means to get food through back doors of small shops. Needless to say, most of it was by circumventing the prevailing lockdown laws!

The fact that we live in a large family compound helped this endless ‘food finding fiesta’ even more fascinating! It was a continuous “do you want this or do you want that” hysteria that engulfed me. Actually, I never wanted to stock too much, but Priyath was being a little paranoid. So we bought some additional stuff too, but hardly in excess.

While we were pretty self-sufficient with food, I realized that most of my own family and friends were searching for food sources with not much success. The big supermarkets were failing everybody.

My heart ached mostly for the daily wage earner, who could neither hoard nor buy even the daily essentials. Then there were the sick, who couldn’t access medicines. The situation was going from bad to worse and I couldn’t simply watch from the side lines and do nothing. That is just not me!

I reached out to some of the Local Government Members and even to a powerful ex-minister urging them to mobilise our ‘town’s troops’ to manage the situation in Panadura. Unfortunately, I was also feeling trapped as I was on self-isolation due to travel. As usual, the politicians had more excuses and apathy towards the situation than I could stomach.

That’s when I thought we should rise to the occasion the best way we could. My nephew and his wife who live in the same compound readily collaborated. Thus began our locked down adventure!

The first thing we did was to mobilise the immediate services that were within our reach. With the help of a friend, I created a few posts and shared on FaceBook and WhatsApp amongst groups connected to Panadura. Technology and social media were the only available tools to work with.

My attempt with these posts was merely to direct the households to the local vendors who were scrambling to serve the needy. Soon it transpired that these suppliers had switched off their mobile phones as the requests for goods were beyond their handling capacity. I was getting complaints. A ‘hot line’ for non-delivery of orders was not what I fancied being. I was feeling helpless too.

That’s when I decided to make this process more professional and streamlined by taking on the responsibility of providing the service of distributing household essentials to the door step of the Panadurians! The only way I thought this could work smoothly was by resorting to the use of technology as an enabler. A hurriedly put together website was created with the help of the ‘We Are Designers’ team who worked tirelessly for a few days. My ‘nephew & niece’ team, Varnika & Anusha, got busy with sourcing reliable small-time suppliers of fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and eggs from Panadura.

A few of our partners who supply us with good quality, reasonably priced goods fit for household consumption

Our biggest hurdle was sourcing grocery items, which none of the wholesale or retail shops would commit to supplying. One telephone call to Nushad Perera, my buddy, who now heads Satosa readily agreed to support this cause and requested his ‘Panadura – 4’ team to help us with providing essential food items. The Panadura dealer for Litro Gas was more than happy to collaborate too. Likewise, each person we approached, readily consented to be a partner to this ambitious plan during a gross scarcity. Anurath Abeyaratne, the biggest corrugated carton manufacturer in the country, a proud Panadura product gave me boxes for packing the goods with just one phone call. Help and support came readily. I had to just ask.

My ex-Ogilvy colleague Janakantha, who now runs a successful activation company from Panadura, promptly agreed to help me with the transport requirements. We had to obtain permission from the government machinery and the Police to utilize trishaws for delivery of goods to households in Panadura. That was no easy task. But we prevailed! was thus born!

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                    The ‘Family & Friends’ Team manning ‘Dorakodata’ deliveries

Our communications were largely through social media, more specifically via Facebook and WhatsApp. It didn’t take too long for the customer base to increase from zero to a few hundreds within weeks. Challenges were many; mostly sourcing a continuous supply of goods and also responding to increasing requests of more and more choices of what we thought were ‘essential’ items. Encouragement, appreciation and kudos galore. This kept us going amidst the mounting daily challenges.


Most of our customers are those who are not computer savvy or who have no prior experience in ordering via web sites. This was a challenge too, and an ongoing one at that. I have seen my nephew literally hand holding some customers into the web order. Those who   find it impossible to order via the site, upload hand written WhatsApp messages which we accept reluctantly even though our work load gets more complex with this. But we oblige as this is truly a service we initiated during a crisis.

Our mission is to serve the people of Panadura by providing as many essentials as we could source at the most reasonable price. This was not about making a profit but fulfilling a purpose we set out to achieve. We soon found that ‘household cravings’ were increasing and with it more and more non-essential items being sought.

To respond to some of these growing ‘wants’, we soon introduced Dorakodata Express, delivering treats such as ice-cream and desserts. This also picked up fast as expected.

Our deliveries are made keeping the safety of the customers and our delivery team’s safety at heart.

What we have begun to unearth through this service is the amazing products that people of Panadura have been producing unknown to most of us. Some of these products are being exported and some of them are being marketed throughout the country in supermarkets and retail outlets. Our endevour is to give pride of place to most of these products through our website and home delivery service. Already they are being picked up from our site slowly but surely.

We love to improvise as we go along.  For this Vesak celebrations, where families are locked-down, we offered a DIY lantern set which has made an impact amongst our customer base in Panadura and beyond.


It’s just over a month since we started this ambitious project and we have served over 500 homes to date. It’s a tough road we embarked on, believing that Covid Lockdown may last for a week or two. So many delivery services have started in Panadura using varying communications models, but none have managed to achieve what we have, within this short time span. It’s nothing but the power of technology and our passion with a purpose.

It is interesting to see how brands from outside of Panadura are reaching out to us to enlist their products on our site. This means we have begun to create some traction and impact, both in our home town and beyond.

Now we seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place not knowing whether ‘to be or not to be’, post Covid 19. This decision will also depend on my nephew and his wife, if they want to make this a long-term business venture in the future when everything will have to be re-strategized as per the new normal.

Whatever happens with our own delivery system, my fervent hope is that the small time vendor who rose to the crisis will live in our small towns forever! I have begun to enjoy the sound of  “maalu maalu and elawalu ealwalu” on our streets like never before…

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Jane’s Story

We got an SOS call from the home for the elders that our family and friends manage.

The caller informed us that a resident; Jane, 89 years old, tried to commit suicide by setting herself a blaze. She had carefully managed to smuggle a bottle of kerosene and a box of matches before attempting this ‘fete’! Thankfully her hands were shaking too rapidly, making the ignition difficult. She was literally saved by a match!

We rushed to see her and I inquired why she attempted to take her life at this late stage. Her story broke my heart. She said “no one cares, my son hasn’t visited me for months. I can’t attend to my basic needs. I want to end my life.”

This feeling of being ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’, especially when one grows older is undoubtedly an emotion one needs to grapple with before one reaches that stage of life. The long days, aimless and endless gazing into nothingness, is something I see when I meet older people who have led busy and enjoyable lives with family and friends. Unfortunately, it seems like we never plan for the loneliness that would invariably hit us sooner rather than later. Children, they say is like the glue that keep the parents busy and wanted for as long as the children are dependent on them. But once they fly away, there is almost always loneliness in the empty nest.

The number of older people who are choosing to enroll into institutions purpose built for senior citizens is alarming. Is it because they feel ‘useless and worthless’, I ask my self.

‘Are their children too busy managing their lives, that they hardly have time for those who cared for them?’ or ‘are the parents now a burden they want to disown?’ Will the kids care for you only while they can benefit from the parents? Will the parents be a burden for them once the children have benefited from the parents? Questions and reasons may be many.

My belief is that as parents we should plan for our ‘independence’ way before we become dependent on someone else? are we parents proactively working towards managing this inevitable reality of ‘loneliness’ that’s going to hit us all sooner than later?

I left the ‘home for the elders’ with a heavy heart and teary eyed after pacifying Jane that we will always be there for her no matter what, and also after chatting and hugging some of the lonely ladies and gentlemen, who at one time in their lives would have been wanted and loved!

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They don’t come like him any more… Rajah Salgado bids adieu

One of the most illustrious sons of Panadura, akin to the ‘last of the Mohicans’ of his era, passed away last week having lived a fulfilling ninety four years. Rajendra Tissa Salgado, better and aptly known as ‘Rajah’, was born literally a ‘prince’ to one of the well-known families in Panadura, as the only son of Richard and Bella Salgado. Contrary to his birth right, he led the most down to earth, simple and humble life that makes him a unique human being. He left a larger than life legacy of humanity for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be proud of and emulate.

Though commendable in their own right, his claim to fame was not being one of the pioneering batches of graduates in agriculture from the University of Ceylon, or his skilled tenure in management in plantation companies, both in the private and public sector, or being the Chairman of the Salgado Bakeries. It was as the selfless social and religious worker who devoted his entire life to help the less privileged and religious institutions in Panadura. His lifelong commitment as the Trustee of the Walapola temple and as a devoted daayaka of Rankothvihara who spent every Poya day supervising the Seelaviyaaparaya for over sixty years at the temple was legendary. As the Trustee and President of the Home for the Aged in Panadura, he was the guardian angel to the hundreds of aged residents who loved him dearly and eagerly awaited his weekly visits. The yeoman service he rendered for years as the Treasurer of Panadura Bauddha Maha Sangamaya and as Patron, and former President, of the Scouts Association of Panadura, Horana and Bandaragama bore testimony to the endless mourners of all ages, classes and creed who flowed in to pay their respects to his remains last week. These are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of his social commitments to Panadura.

He lived his exemplary life to the fullest by showing what humility really meant. A man who was born into a family of luxury and fame but never ever wore it on his sleeve. He instead underplayed his riches and family status throughout his life and in action. It is this simplicity that made me call him ‘thaththa’ when I became his daughter-in-law thirty six years ago, by marrying his elder son.

Since I joined the family, I watched in awe of how he took care of his wife, Swarnamali like a precious cargo throughout the sixty seven years of their journey as husband and wife. He would often relate to us the story of how he set eyes on her when she was just a pre-teen on a merry-go-round in Nuwara Eliya while she had been completely oblivious to his admiring eyes. They married young and needless to say were one of the most handsome couples I have ever seen, and they were an adornment to Panadura whenever they graced any occasion. This was what was seen in the public eye. What went on behind the doors of their home Salgado Villa was even more admirable.

Though belonging to a bygone era where husbands expect wives and domestics to do all the housework and be pampered, I watched in disbelief how thaththa woke up early in the morning, opened all the doors and windows, partook in his daily religious observances, made the bed tea and greeted amma every single day, with devotion, before stepping out to his office. When I joined the family, I was aghast to see thaththa packing my lunch and his sons’ lunches, while amma was fast asleep. This was a non-verbal mutual arrangement between them as he encouraged his wife to continue with her passion of smocking until wee hours in the morning. For him this was normal. But for me this was unreal, as that’s not what I expected to see from a man of his class and background. For him, this was all a part of husbandly duties he fulfilled with affection. They were an inseparable couple, who stuck by each other through thick and thin, come what may. Their universe was impenetrable and unshakable, until his demise.

The fact that he was able to socialize with his group of close friends, who loved high spirits, while he was a total teetotaler, not in the least feeling out of place was remarkable. He would join the cheering with a glass of water in his hand while joining the clicking of whiskys and arrack by the rest! As someone who detests drinking, this was a formidable trait I appreciated in him. His mastery and skill of eating hoppers with fork and knife learnt at the University, fascinated me no end as he was the first and only person I watched artfully performing this task. Our hopper mornings at my in-laws house every Sunday was a much awaited ritual, especially for my sons.

My older son Artha would always say that his grandfather was the ‘tallest man’ in the room, both metaphorically and figuratively. This was even when Artha overtook him in height. I feel his six grandsons and one and only granddaughter adore him unconditionally for what he stood for and the values he lived by. He simply lived by example and never by empty rhetoric.

The only reason he seemed to be reluctant to leave this world was because he was paranoid that the social work he carried out would not be continued with the same devotion and dedication by the next in line. But once he delegated his responsibilities to those who he felt he could rely on and they proved worthy of the trust placed in them, he was ready to go.

It is the well lived life of this devoted family man, righteous social worker and simple human being that I celebrate in this tribute.Thaththa for write up

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දේශපාලනීකරණය නොවූ සැබවින්ම උණූවන අපේ මිනිස් සිත් …

පාස්කු ඉරිදා බෝම්බ පිපිරීමින් පසු දින පානදුරේ සුපිරි වෙළඳ සැලක දුක්මුසු පෙනුමකින් යුත් තරුණ සේවකයෙක් සමග වූ දෙබසක්

bombThe scene near St. Anthony’s Shrine after the attack.  Credit Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

මම : අද සුපමාකට් එක පාලුයි නේ?

තරුණයා: අද කවුරුවත් බඩු ගන්න එන්නේ නෑ මිස්

මම : ඇයි මිනිස්සු කන්නේ බොන්නේ නැද්ද?

තරුණයා: මොන කෑමක්ද මිස්. රටම මළගෙයක් නේ? ඊයේ අපේ අම්ම උදේ ඉදන් අණ්ඩනවා. අපි ඇහුව කෑම උයන්නේ නැද්ද අම්මේ බඩගිනී කියල. අම්ම කිව්වා රටේ පවුල් සිය ගානක් බත් හැලියක් ලිපේ නොතිය හැපෙන කොට, උඹලට බත් ගිලෙනවද බොල කියල. අපි ඔක්කොම හුඋල්ලලා ගිහින් නිදිය ගත්ත මිස්.

අපි කොහොමද මිස් මේ වෙච්ච දේට වන්දි ගෙවන්නේ ඒ පවුල් වලට?

මට උත්තර නැතුව, ඇස් වල පිරුණු කඳුළු හොරෙන් පිහිදාගෙන, ඒ ළමයගේ අත මිරිකලා ඉක්මනට එතනින් ගියේ, ‘දෙවියනේ මම කොච්චර හිත් උණුවෙන රටකද ඉන්නේ. ඒක මොන වාසනාවක්ද. අපේ අමනුෂ්‍ය දේශපාලකයන් නැත්නම් අපි කොච්චර සුන්දර මිනිස්සුන්ද?’ කියල හුල්ල හුල්ල.

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Thais show the world the power of Maithree Karuna Muditha Upeksha in the face of national trauma

The agony of eighteen days of waiting ended in euphoria, when all twelve ‘Thai Football Heroes’ and their young coach were rescued unscathed, from one of the most grueling real life dramas that the world watched in disbelief. Their safe return was never a confirmed outcome due to the unthinkable challenges that lay ahead of the rescue mission. But the world prayed in unison and the prayers were in fact answered!

While watching this nail biting, heart stopping encounter, I was most amazed at the Thais’ calm and composed power of ‘waiting in anguish and hope’, displaying no hatred or anger. This was seen at all levels; be it the government, the community leaders, the rescuers, the parents and in fact the whole nation!

Being a Buddhist country, it seemed like the Thais showed the world by deed, the power of the immeasurable Buddhist principles of Maithree,Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha in its truest spirit.

They had only one goal; to rescue the trapped kids and their coach, unhurt. That’s all. With this common goal, they practiced what they knew best; ‘loving kindnesses’ to all beings. The Thai government led by example. They readily accepted all the help offered by cave rescuers from many parts of the world. There was no ‘ego’ nor ‘political agendas’ that came in between the decision they made. They welcomed the out pour of support with Karuna. The experts and the professionals were given the space and the freedom to carry out their tasks as needed. This was Muditha at its best.

Never did anybody even once, point a finger at another or lay any blame for this catastrophe. All those affected and involved seemed to have practiced Upeksha at all times.

Media was exceptional. They only shared positive stories and never sensationalized this ‘almost fatalistic’ situation. They displayed compassion and empathy throughout the ordeal. No wailing mothers, outraged countrymen or opportunistic politicians were given a platform to exploit the situation. They did their job in the most sensitive and responsible manner. In fact even the death of the brave navy diver was never hyped up in to a frenzy, instead, it was projected as a part of life’s many debacles, which we Buddhists call Karma. The composed statements captured of the brave navy diver’s wife and father were calming and consoling too. Never a moment of anger or hatred was shown towards anybody.  This was amazing and almost surreal from the usual media reportage we are used to.

The young coach of just twenty five years was an epitome of patience and resilience for the helpless little boys under his care. It was learnt that he taught them to meditate during this grueling, hopeless eighteen or so days. This obviously calmed them and gave them the inner strength to carry on. He seemed to have practiced all four principles of Maithree, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha inside the cave and was reported to be the weakest of the lot due to not consuming the leftover food which he made sure the boys had instead. What compassion! Not one person made any accusations on the coach who led these children into a seemingly fatal expedition. Like a captain of a ship, he held the team together until the last kid was rescued. What agony and anxiety he would have gone through. The power of the mind seemed to have given him inner strength and courage to face this unenviable burden.

Needless to say the situation was extremely delicate; the whole world was waiting and watching, Thailand was experiencing its own share of political challenges, anxiety of families of thirteen innocent lives were hanging from a tattered thread… but there was a calmness all around. It was almost meditative.

It seemed as if the Thais taught the world a lesson by taking a leaf from the true Buddhist philosophy that they live and abide by. It’s as if they silently chanted the stanza …”this moment too shall pass!”

Thai Cave Rescue

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Why should a Woman prove to be better than a Man to be a mere number on a Corporate Board?

board room

I don’t get it. Seriously.

For years this conversation has taken place in our boardrooms, cocktail parties, corporate circles, media platforms, professional fora… you name it.

The last one I listened to, last week, was the same as the previous two plus decades; same arguments, same views, same issues, with the addition being, ‘do women need a quota system to be on boards?!’ Sigh.

For crying out loud, the only reason women don’t get on boards is MEN!

If a man on a Board wants a woman who thinks and acts like a man, then why look for a woman at all?

Having said that, I must say I have had the good fortune of knowing a handful of men who have absolutely no squirms nor complexes about working shoulder to shoulder with women, and in fact they welcome and appreciate the very different and diverse mindset women bring to the party.

So take a bow, I tell these awesome Men.

A woman is wired differently and that’s precisely the point. Why don’t they get it, pray tell me!

For a (regular) man on a Board, it’s nothing but a numbers game and achieving the bottom line month after month.  But for a woman on a Board, the deliverable is not that simple and straight forward. For her it is not just about the share capital. She cares about the human capital, social capital, emotional capital, sustainability of the process, the business environment as well as the natural environment that affects the business, corporate harassment that goes on in the company and many other ‘how’ and ‘what’ factors that makes her company’s bottom line ring.

For a man, this is a typical woman’s rant which delays the decision making process, not getting to the point and finishing the discussion soon enough for him to get to the next boys’ club dinner.

No wonder they can’t be bothered with this trivia!

Over fifty percent of our population is women. Our economy is run because of women; it’s their sweat and tears that bring in our meager Forex to the country. This contribution itself is worth a greater consideration for more women to be considered on our Boards.

The woman knows the pulse of the people, the consumer insights, and the customer needs of her business much more sensitively than her male counterpart, with or without formal research. She doesn’t always need to be a number crunching financial wizard who spews out profit and loss figures of the company for the decision making men to lap it up and concede that the company is healthy and strong. Most often men over look that which lies beneath the tip of the ice burg of the much awaited quarterly financials, while for a woman, the softer management issues become serious pain points that need long term solutions.

So the mantra continues; women are not ready to commit to long hours, women don’t compromise when it comes to the family, women are not numbers driven, women are quiet in the board room, women can’t quite compete with the men and their intellect, women put other women down ra ra ra…

I ask the MEN, “Have you given her enough space and support within your company to be this Super Woman you want her to be at work, while being a trophy wife, a hands-on mother, a devoted daughter– in-law, who also runs a smooth home front?”

The answer is NO.

Sadly, until the chauvinistic male in our corporate world accepts that ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ and the gender diversity is what brings the value to the decision making process, this saga will continue, with or without quotas!















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Feeling trapped in a failing state


That illusive dream

It is three years since that euphoric day of change the country woke up to: the illusive ‘Yahapaalana Dream’. A dream never to dream again, and a day never to experience again either. At least not in my lifetime, for sure.

The defeated sulked, the sceptics smirked and the victors rejoiced, while the majority of the country embarked on a journey of hope.  The silent voter hoped against hope that the country would see a new era in the political landscape devoid of fear, mass scale corruption, rampant nepotism and cronyism, blind wastage of public funds and a clean-up of the rotten system that prevailed for a decade or more. Three years to date, the day Yahapaalanaya was ushered in, the country breathed a whiff of freedom and sensed an ambience of good governance.

Those who dreamt of a better country placed their faith on an insignificant politician who came forward as the ‘common candidate’; only with convincing oratorical skills, he swore to usher in a clean state, while the many times defeated ‘wannabe’ Prime Minister put all his efforts behind a ‘now or never’ political ambition. The desperation to see a change from a rogue government was at the core of this drama, in which we all played our part in blind faith. It was undoubtedly an ‘anti-MR’ force more than a ‘pro-MS’ vote of confidence. Talk about being in the middle of a rock and a hard place!

Wake up call

Unfortunately, the rot started to set in very early in the day. Before we even realized the downfall, the old boys’ networks had kicked in, scams were hatched, deals were struck, offspring had sprung into motion and the old familiar political circus was back in town.

Three years into this nightmare, hardly any promises have been fulfilled. It is a ‘free – for – all and ‘nothing- happens- at- all’ kind of feeling all round. Lack of strategic communication from the government hasn’t helped the situation either.

Yes, now I accept we were a group of political suckers. Suckers who clung on to a quivering hope of a better run country with a better tomorrow for our children.  Suckers who foolishly believed that politicians can in fact be a decent breed under different circumstances. Suckers who believed that good governance is finally possible. Sadly, a naïve and gullible majority has been truly duped!

The rudderless ship

We are told the economy is turning for the better. It’s unfortunate that the masses aren’t feeling it! The bureaucracy is at a standstill and no one knows what’s going on with the government institutions. There’s a gross lack of urgency and accountability at all levels. The country hasn’t seen any newsworthy FDI’s coming in for the lack of consistent policies and a pathetic ‘doing business’ climate that prevails. The kickbacks are climbing through the roofs while corruption is rampant in all quarters. No wonder development is stalling! The cities are dirty and the bill boards and cutouts have reappeared. Sadly no one seems to care. Politicians and the government officials are busy feathering their nests.  The so called ‘engine of growth’ is frantically looking for greasing spots. The looters and the murderers of the last regime are being protected for political allegiance it seems. The Vision of the unity government seems to have turned into a Mission of clinging onto power at any cost.

Weather gods haven’t been too kind either to an already battered nation, punishing us with rains, floods, landslides and droughts as if to teach a lesson for misleading a trusting countrymen and women. Managing disasters doesn’t seem a priority for this government. It has always been the citizenry that has risen to the occasion each time.   A coalition that came into power promising a rainbow nation seems often deaf and blind to ethnic unrest. Reconciliation seems to have gone into the backburner, with the North starting to simmer with its own post conflict challenges.

Ah, that unity!

A unity government is supposed to be ‘united’, not pull in different directions to suite their individual political agendas. Sadly this seems to be the modus operandi of the government which gets worse by the day. The President is ruling the country constantly looking over his shoulder to see who is going to stab him from the back, while the PM is busy strategizing his next political move. And we, the tricked citizens are wondering what our fate would truly be in this catastrophic state of affairs.

I shall do it again!

While regrets are many with the current status quo, there are none with the efforts put in to changing a regime that would have left the country worse off than today, for sure. In hindsight, that is my only solace.

Let’s not overlook the few positives

I try to focus on the few positives that I keep telling myself we must not forget. After all, we have freedom of expression without fear of the ‘white van’. Yes we can say we have democracy, although it’s taking the government hostage due to its lack of direction and leadership. The international image has been turned around by hundred and eighty degrees. The nineteenth amendment which paved the way for the many commissions, which may or may not function independently, and the RTI bill that was passed even though its true implementation is a question in my mind are the few achievements that I count as blessings. Noteworthy is the setting up of the FCID which has made a positive impact on the government servants fearing wrong actions, which sadly has also contributed to them not making any decisions at all due to their FCID phobia, which in turn has slowed down the government machinery in the most disastrous manner.

I for one have been trying to cling on to any kind of glimmer of hope, but find none; not in the economic upturn, cost of living, governance, policies, political commitment, a tangible vision for the country (yes, there is a 2025V somewhere!) or at least some faith and trust on those we voted into power. Sadly, we are being pulled into an abyss on a daily basis. I ask myself if we even have a choice now.

Choiceless choices

Maybe we do have a few choices in the offing, come next elections; a dead swan, a senile elephant, a shriveled up beetle leaf, a broken chair, a lifeless hand, a withering bud and a corroded bell. Alas, a ghost of a Gota beckons too. It’s truly a Hobson’s choice!

A trapped voter in this failing state has very little to hope for.

Despite all this, I believe there still remains a small window. A window of opportunity to make good the hopes and promises of a nation in waiting. A nation that put their lives on the line for a better tomorrow that promised a ‘Yahapaalanaya’; a better governed country for all its people. That window is slowly closing however, and our hopes slowly fading with it.





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‘කොළඹට  අසාධ්‍යයයි!’


නවසිය අනූ ගණන් වල බෙරේ කුණුවෙලා, කානු හිරවෙලා, කුණු කඳු ඉහලට එසවෙන කාලේ ඔන්න ලෝක බැංකු ආධාරයෙන් කුණු මැනේජ් කරන හැටි සමාජ ගත කරන කැම්පේන් එකක් මෙහෙය වන්න මටත් චාන්ස් එකක් ලැබුණා. මාර සතුටින් රිසර්ච් එහෙමෙ ලොකුවට කරලා ‘කොළඹට  අසාධ්‍යයයි’ කියල එල කැම්පේන් එකක් කරා.

නමුත් එදත් ඇත්ත කියන්න බයවෙච්ච සෙට් එකක් තමයි අපිට වැඩේ බාර දුන්නේ. අපේ කැම්පෙන් එක බලල කට්ටිය දාඩිය පිහිදාන්න ගත්ත. මේක දැම්මොත් ඒ සෙට් එකට යන එන මං නැතිවෙන බව තේරිලා බොරු බයිලා කියල රිජෙකට් කරා. මම ඉතින් හැමදාම දෙන ෆයිට් එක දුන්න. එත් මගේ ඒකාලේ හිටපු බොස්ලත් ඒක කරුමෙට ජබොස් කරා. ඊට පස්සේ ලකයක් නැති, ඇල් මැරුණු ජරාවක්, සල්ලිත් නාස්ති කරලා, අපේ කාලෙත් කාලා ‘සෝෂල් මාකටින් කැම්පේන්  ෆෝ ගාබේජ් මැනේජ්මන්ට්’  කියල සත පහකට වැඩක්  නැති ජරාවක්  සොබනේට මාධයගත කරා.

ඒ පරණ කතාව මට මතක් වුනේ අද කොළඹට විතරක් නෙවෙයි මුළු රටටම වෙලා තියන නස්පැත්තිය දැක දැක හුල්ලන ගමන්.

මොකක්ද අපේ රටට ගහල තියෙන මේ හේනේ?

යහපාලනයක් කරන්න කියල අපි ෆුල් ෆයිට් එකක් දීල ගෙනාපු දේසපාලුවෝ ටික පිස්සුම පිස්සු කෙලිනවා. රටේ බොස් කවුද කියලත් මට ශුවර් නෑ. මොකද අගමැති තුමයි ජනාධිපති තුමයි මට දැනෙන්නේ රටවල් ගානේ රස්තියාදු වෙවී හැංගිමුත්තන් කරනවා කියල. රට අයාලේ යනවා. ඇමතිලා ‘ගස් මාරු-පෙති චෝරු’ කරනවා. මැර සාධු සෙට් එක කඩ පුච්චනවා. හොර දේසපාලුවෝ උන්ව හංගනවා. පොලිස් ලොක්ක මේවා ඔක්කොම දැක දැක භාවනා කරනවා. දොස්තරල කොන්දොස්තර ලෙවල් එකට බැහැල වීදි සංචාරය කරනවා. ඒ අතරතුර ඩෙංගු හැදිලා ලෙඩ්ඩු මැරෙනවා. කුණු කඳු පුපුරනවා. ගං වතුරෙන් රට නස්පුට් වෙනවා. ඒවා කලමනා කරන ඇමතියා මෙක්සිකෝවේ පච බානවා.

අවුරුදු දෙකක් ඉවරවෙලත් රටට පෙනෙන දේශපාලන හෝ ආර්ථික දැක්මක් තියෙනවද? තිබුනත් අපිට ඒක පෙනෙන්නේ නම් නෑ. ආයෝජන මුකුත් එන්නේ නෑ. මොකද ප්‍රතිපත්ති කියල පිළිවෙලට දෙයක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න තරම් රාජ්‍ය යාන්ත්‍රණය ක්‍රියාශීලී නැති බවයි පිටතින් බලන කෙනෙකුට පෙනෙන්නේ. ජරාව ගැනිල්ලෙත් අඩුවක් නැති බවයි කවුරුත් කියන්නේ. මේවා සහ ගහන අපරාද.

මිලියන විසි එකකගේ සිහින, බලාපොරොත්තු මෙහෙම තුට්ටුවකට ගණන් ගන්නේ නැතිව, රජයක් කරගෙනයන එක සහ ගහන අපරාදයක් නෙවෙයිද?

අවුරුදු විස්සකටත් වැඩි කාලයක් ගිහින් අද මට හිතෙන්නේ ‘කොළඹට අසාධ්‍යයි’ කියල කැම්පේන් කරන්න නෙවෙයි, ‘මුළු රටටම අසාධ්‍යයි ‘ කියල අර බාගෙට හදපු නෙලුම් කුලුන  උඩට නැගල විලාප තියන්න!

එත් බීරි අලින්ට වීණා ගැසීමෙන් පලක් නැති බව මම තේරුම් අරන් දැන් අවුරුදු දෙකක් කිට්ටු වෙනවා… වෙන කරන්න දෙයක් නැති කමට මමත් සියලු සත්යත්වයන්ට මෛත්‍රී භාවනාව වඩන්න ෆුල් ට්‍රයි කරනවා!

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අපි කවුරුද?


අපේ කුඩා රටේ කුඩා ශරීරයක් තුල විසු විශාල යුග පුරුෂයා, පතාක යෝධයා, මිනිසුන් අතර විසූ ඒ අසම සම මිනිසා, පන්ඩිත්  අමරදේවයන්ගේ වියෝවත් සමගින් දැනුණු නොපිරවිය හැකි හිස් බවක් හේතු කොටගෙන මම ස්වයං ආවර්ජනයක නිරායාසයෙන්ම නිමග්න වූයේ ඇයි දැයි මමම නොදනිමි. කොම්පියුටරය ඉදිරියේ මම අහේතුකව හිඳ ගත්තේ අප රටක් ලෙස සදහටම දුප්පත් වුනාදැයි හිතට වදදුන් නිසාවෙනි. අවුරුදු අසු නමයක් රටේ කලාවට ඉහටත් ඉහලින් දායකවූ අමරදේවයන්ට අපි සමු දියයුත්තේ බැති බරින් හා ස්තුති පුඋර්වකව වුවත්, පෘතඥන මිනිසුන් වන අපි මෙවන්නකුගෙන් තවත් චිරාත් කාලයක් අපව අමන්දානන්දයට පත් කළ යුතු බවට බලාපොරොත්තු වන්නේ අපට තවත් ‘අමරදේවයකු’ පෙනෙන ඉසව්වක වත් නැති හෙයිනි.

අප හැර ගිය යුග පුරුෂයන්, කලා කරුවන්  කිහිප දෙනෙක් පිලිබඳ ආවර්ජනයක් කරන්නේ ඔවුන් සතු විරල ගුණාංග සහ මනුස්සකම් මොනවාදැයි යලි මතකය අවධි කිරීමටයි. මොවුන් සියල්ලෝම නම් කිරීමට අසීරුමුත්, සරත්චන්ද්‍රයන්, මාර්ටින් වික්‍රමසිංහ ශූරීන්, චිත්‍රසේන ශූරීන්, ජෙෆ්රි බාවා, ඛේමදාස මාස්ටර්, ආචාර්ය  තිස්ස අබේසේකර, කරුනාරත්න අබේසේකර මහතා, ක්ලැරන්ස් විජේවර්දන මහතා, ජෝතිපාලයන්, ආචාර්ය ගාමිණි ෆොන්සේකා, ගාමිණී හත්තොටුවේගම, සෝමලතා සුභසිංහ … ආදී මෙකී නොකී අපගේ ජීවිතය යම් හෙයකින් වත් ගුණාත්මකව සහ කලාත්මකව ස්පර්ශ කල පතාක යෝදයන් තව බොහොයි.

මොවුන් අපි අමරනීයත්වයෙන් සලකන්නේ අයි දැයි මම මගෙන්ම ඇසීමි. මෙම යුග පුරුෂයන් අප රටේ රසඥතාවයේ  යම්කිසි හැරවුම් ලක්ෂයකට හිමිකම් කියූ බව සක්සුදක්සේ පැහැදිලි නොවේද? තමාගේ විෂය පථය තුල  නව නිර්මාණ කරණයේ පුරෝගාමීත්වයක් සෑම විටම හඳුන්වා දුන්නා නේද?  ඔවුන් සෑමවිටම තම අදාළ විෂය ක්ෂේත්‍රයට පරිබාහිරව ජීවිතය නමැති නෞකාවේ නියමුවන් හා පෙර ගමන් කරුවන් සේ ක්‍රියා කළ සැටි දුටිමු.  .

ජාති ජම්ම ආගම් බේදයකින් තොරව රසිකයන්, ප්‍රේක්ෂකයන්, පාරිභෝගිකයන්ගේ නිලය අල්ලුවානේද? ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකත්වය අභිමානයෙන් ජාත්‍යන්තරයට රැගෙන ගියානේද? කල්ලි වාදයෙන් තොර, ‘මම පොර’ මානසිකත්වයෙන් ඔබ්බට ගොස්  ‘අපි පොර’ බව ලොවට හඬ නගා කීවා නේද? තනි පුද්ගල රාජධානි නොසාදා ස්වකීය නිර්මාණයන්ට දායක විය හැකි සුසංයෝග නිතරම උපයෝගී කරගත්තානේද? චිත්‍රසේන, අමරදේව, සේකර, ලෙස්ටර් වැනි සදාතනික මිතුදම් වලින් බිහිවූ නිර්මාණ අමරණීය නොවේද?

‘අපේ කම’ පරතෙරටම හදාරා එය දූපත් මානසිකත්වයෙන් ඔබ්බට ගෙන ගියේ වසර දෙදහස් පන්සීයක අපිට උරුම ඝාම්භීර සංස්කෘතිය අනෙකුත් ලෝක පූජිත සංස්කෘතීන් හා නොදෙවෙනි කොට නේද? එම කෘතීන් සහ නිර්මාණ විශ්ව  සමාජයට මෙන්ම අපේ සාමාන්‍ය රසිකයන්ට සහ ප්‍රේක්ෂකයන්ට එකසේ රස විඳිය හැකි නිර්මාණ නොවුනේද? මොවුන් තමන් තෝරා ගත් විෂය පරතෙරටම හදාරා තිබුනානේද?

ජාතිවාදී, ආගම්වාදී මානසිකත්වය අහලක වත් තිබුනේද? ගාමිණී ෆොන්සේකා හැරුණු කොට මොවුන් කිසිවෙක් දේශපාලන අතකොලු හෝ වන්දිබට්ටයන් වුවෝ ද? තම නිර්මාණ සියල්ලක්ම අනුකරණයෙන් මිදී සෑම විටම නව්‍යකරණයෙන් පොහොසත් නොවුනේද? නිර්මාණකරණයේදී මුදල වෙනුවට තම ආත්මයට මුල්තැන දුන්නා නේද? මොවුන් මාධ්‍යයේ අතකොලු හෝ ගැත්තන් නොවූ අතර, මාධ්‍යය මගින් මෙම යුග පුරුෂයින් ඉතා වගකීමෙන් සමාජගත කළා නොවේද?.

අද අපි කොහිද?

අද අපේ පෙර ගමන් කරුවන් කවුරුන්ද? ඔවුන්ගේ කාර්ය භාරය මගින් පොදු රසික රසිකාවන්ගේ දැනුම, රසඥතාවය, දැක්ම යනාදිය  කෙතරම් දුරට ඔපමට්ටම් වන්නේද? අනුකරණයට  මිස නවීකරණයට කෙතරම් අවදානය යොමු කරන්නේද? තම විෂය ක්ෂේත්‍රය කෙතරම් ගැඹුරට විශ්ලේෂණය කරන්නේද? එම විශ්ලේෂිත දැනුම කොතරම් දුරට යාවත්කාලීන කොට පවතින සමාජ ආකල්ප ඔස්සේ රටට උචිත පරිදි සහ ගෝලීයකරණයට සරිලන පරිදි ඔප මට්ටම් කර ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නේද? උදාර කර්තව්‍යක් වෙනුවෙන් කණ්ඩායම් හැගීමෙන් කෙතරම් සහයෝගයෙන් එක්වන්නේද? මාධ්‍යයට මුදලින් එහා ගිය චින්තනයක් නැතිද? දේශපාලනීකරණය නොවූ නිදහස් කලාවක්, සංස්‌කෘතියක් අපට අද තිබේද?

කළු වළාවක මා දකිනා රිදී රේඛා

‘ට්‍රේල්’ පාගමන මම තනිවම  විදිනා ‘අපි හරි දුප්පත්’ මානසිකත්වයට නව පණක් දුන්සේනාසේය! හිතුවොත් අපට කලනොහැක්කක් නැත. ජාති ආගම් සහ පටු දේශපාලන න්‍යාය පත්‍ර ඇත්තේ අතලොස්සකට පමණි. රටක සෞභාග්‍යය උදා කිරීමට ඉදිරිපත්විය හැකි සැබෑ නායකත්වයකට නොකළ හැක්කක් නැත. පිරිසිඳු චේතනාවක් වටා මුළු රටක් එක්වූ සැටි මම ‘ට්‍රේල්’ මග ඔස්සේ, මසක් තිස්සේ සතුටු කඳුළු මද්‍යයේ බලා සිටියෙමි. ‘යහපාලන සිහිනයක්’  වටා ජීවිත පරදුවට තබා රටින් අඩකට වඩා බාල මහලු සැවොම එකාසේ එක්වූ සැටි දුටිමි. එසේම යහපාලන සිහිනය බොඳ වෙන සැටි බලමින් සුසුම් හෙලන අනාගත පරපුරක් මම දකිමි. ඔවුන්ට පරාර්ථකාමී යොවුන් නායකත්වයක දැක්මක් සහ බලාපොරෝත්තුවක්  නුදුරු දිනෙක ලැබෙතැයි මම නිරතුරුවම විශ්වාස කරමි.

අමරදේවයන්ගේ වියෝවත් සමග මාධයය නව කඩඉමක් පසු කළා වැනිය. දෙදිනක් තුල බොහොමයක්  මාධ්‍ය නව අත්හදා බැලීමක් නිරායාසයෙන් කළා වැනිය. ඔවුන්ට දායක වන්නට අනුග්රාහකයින්ද ඉදිරිපත් විනි. මෙයම හැරවුම් ලක්ෂයක පෙරහුරුවක් කරගත නොහැකිද? ජාතියේ රසඥතාවය තවමත් පණ අදිමින්වත් ජීවත් වෙන බව ගිය සතියේ මම දුටිමි. මෙය තේරුම්  ගෙන, මාධ්‍යය අදට වඩා සමාජ හිතකර, නව චින්තනයක් මාධ්‍යය සංස්කෘතියට එක කරනු ඇතැයි දෑස් දල්වා බලා හිඳිමි.

‘අපි මචං’   වැනි නව පරපුරේ කලා කරුවන් අමරදේවයන්ගේ ගීත යාවත්කාලීන කර ඔවුන්ගේ සහෘදයන්  සමග බෙදාහදා ගන්න සැටි මම අත්වින්දේ ඉහ වහා යන සතුටිනි. අතලොස්සක් වත් තරුණ නිර්මාණ කරුවන්ට තමන්ගේ තෝරාගත් ක්ෂේත්‍රය ගැඹුරට හැදෑරීමේ අවශ්‍යතාවක් ඇති බවක් පෙනේ. මෙය සුභවාදී නව මුහුණුවරක්  සේ දකිමි.

මහේල, සංගක්කාර, සරින්ද, නාදන්, වැනි තරුණ නායකයින්හට රටේ උන්නතිය උදෙසා කළ හැකි කාර්ය භාර්යය ඉමහත්ය. ප්‍රසන්නලා, තජීලා, රාජිත ලා, කසුන් කල්හාර ලා, අමරකීර්ති ලා වැන්නවුන්ට යෑමට තව බොහෝ දුරක් ඇත්තාසේය.

සමස්තයක් වශයෙන් ගත්කල මට හැගෙන්නේ, අපෙන් සමුගත් යුග පුරුෂයින්ගේ අඩුව පිරවීමට් අද අප රටට අවශ්‍යයව ඇත්තේ පටු දේශපාලන අරමුණු ඇති පොදු අපේක්ෂකයන් නොව, නව පරපුරට ආදර්ශයමත් පොදු යුගපුරුෂයන් (කාන්තාවන් ඇතුළුව) බව මම තරයේ විශ්වාස කරමි.

එය කළුනික  සොයන්නාක් වැනි කර්තව්‍යක් වුවත්, ඒ සඳහා මට කළ හැකි උපරිමයට සැමදා කැප වෙමි.

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