Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egypt, Chain Reaction from Tunisia

Now, the time has come for another despot in Arabia to face the popular protests. Egypt, ruled for the last 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, is seeing unprecedented street protests in many places around the country. As in Tunisia, the internet is playing an important role in mobilizing the protesters. These protests are obviously inspired by the Tunisian protests which unexpectedly toppled the Ben Ali presidency just weeks ago.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

South Koreans Respond to Piracy

The recent military rescue operation by the South Korean Navy off the coast of Somalia sends a clear message to pirates. All 21 hostages were liberated and more than a dozen pirates were killed in the successful operation.

Only resolute action on the seas and on land would curb the pirates. Military actions would make the pirates more reluctant to launch their operations. All nations of the world must unite in militarily defeating the threat of piracy. However, a lasting solution to the political anarchy in Somalia has to be given. Without such an assurance, piracy can always resurface.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Commemorating Patrice Lumumba

Exactly 50 years ago, on January 17, 1961, Patrice Lumumba was shot dead after being under arrest for a few months He was the first Prime Minister of Congo (Kinshasa) from June 1960 and was overthrown in September 1960.

Congo was a former colony of Belgium. It was William II of Belgium, the king at the time, who established the Congo Free State effectively as his private property in 1885. The reports of atrocities committed there prompted the Belgians to abolish the Free State and administer as a Belgian colony from 1908. The plight of the Congolese people was no better under this new administration.

People of the Congo resisted the colonial regime. In 1950s, the young leader Lumumba came to the forefront in this struggle.

When the Congo was granted independence by the Belgians, it was a very bitter affair. The independence celebrations of June 30, 1960, became a acrimonious battle of words between the young Belgian king Baudouin I and the Prime Minister of the newly born Republic of Congo, Lumumba. It was the king who made the first wrong move by declaring about the 'genius' of his great grand-uncle, king William II, whom the anti-colonial Congolese utterly despised. He evaded the topic of Belgian atrocities carried out in the Congo at the times of his ancestor. Furthermore, he warned against 'hasty reforms', suggesting that in the perspective of the Belgians, the colonialism was not over.

Lumumba hit back strongly in a speech where he said,

"Our wounds are too fresh and too smarting for us to be able to have known ironies, insults, and blows which we had to undergo morning, noon and night because we were Negroes. We have seen our lands spoiled in the name of laws which only recognized the right of the strongest. We have known laws which differed according to whether it dealt with a black man or a white.

"We have known the atrocious sufferings of those who were imprisoned for their political opinions or religious beliefs and of those exiled in their own country. Their fate was worse than death itself. Who will forget the rifle-fire from which so many of our brothers perished, or the gaols in to which were brutally thrown those who did not want to submit to a regime of justice, oppression and exploitation which were the means the colonialists employed to dominate us?"

This was an unscheduled speech. But he must have spoken as a reply to the speech by the king. The speech by the President of the Republic was canceled. The ceremony ended in a very bad note.

There was no love lost between the Belgians and Lumumba. In three months, a coup backed almost certainly by both the Belgians and the CIA and led by Joseph Mobutu, toppled Lumumba. In early December he was captured by Mobutu-loyalist troops. Kept in various places in the Congo, he was sent to the separatist Katanga on January 17, 1961. That night, he was shot.

Several days later, his body was reportedly exhumed, cut to pieces and doused in concentrated sulphiuric acid.

Lumumba's name is always remembered as a hero of the anti-colonial struggles. It was his death that made him a hero. His political legacy continues in the present day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Freedom of Thought Cannot be Suppressed!

Tunisia seemed to be a politically stable, economically prosperous country. The President for 23 years, Ben Ali, ruled the country with no real worries. But deep down, dissent was present due to the suppression of civil liberties and also the gap between the rich and the poor.

When a 26 year old graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, set fire to himself, things heated up. He had become a fruit and vegetable vendor because he could not find other employment. The police confiscated his goods as he supposedly did not have a permit to sell them. Bouazizi later succumbed to his injuries.

The government tried to suppress the protests which escalated. Internet social networking sites such as facebook and twitter played a prominent role in organizing and publicizing protest marches. Youtube also played a prominent role. the government could not erase the black mark which fell on it.

To many who were not aware of the internal problems in Tunisia, this protest came as a surprise. When President Ben Ali fled the country on January 14, 2011, it was a bigger surprise.

This Tunisian revolution is a good indication of the power the internet and especially the social networking websites have on the society. It is one of the main reasons for some regimes banning or trying to ban these kinds of networks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cold Weather Forcasted!

The Meteorological Department forecasts say that the cold weather in Sri Lanka would continue in to February. That is so good. Because, almost all the time, our Met. Dep. forecasts do not come true. (Except for the very obvious forecasts which really need no forecasting). So we would not suffer too much due to the cold.

Unusual Cold Weather and Global Warming?

Today, Sri Lanka experienced a historic cold weather. The vast majority of people in Colombo and many other places (perhaps except the very old) have not experienced such cold weather in their living memory.

Weather patterns around the world are undergoing drastic changes. At the age when the global warming is becoming a problem, its strange that the lack of global warming is blamed for the cold. The cloud cover stops the radiation from the sun reaching the surface of the Earth and therefore, the Earth has got cold. It is given as one reason for the cold.

Global warming is not bad. Life on Earth would not have been possible if there was no global warming. What makes it dangerous is the excessive global warming.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alexandra Bus Boycott

Recent threat of a bus strike by private bus owners in Sri Lanka demanding the increase of bus fare reminded of what a penny did in 1957 in another country. The increase of the bus fare from 4p to 5p by a bus company brought about a bus boycott which lasted for three months. About 15,000 people walked to and from work on all working days (nearly 30km daily). Supporting boycotts in other areas also drew huge crowds. Total number of participants reached the 60,000 mark.

The country was the Apartheid ruled South Africa. The native black population had virtually no civil and political rights at the time. They were not allowed to live in cities and white areas. They were crowded in townships far away from the cities where they worked. Each day, they had to go to work from the townships where they lived.

Alexandra was such a township, more than 10km from Johannesburg. People rode on buses of the Public Utility Transport Cooperation to and from the city for a fare of 4p. When this fare was increased to 5p, the people protested. They were payed so poorly that they could not afford the increase. So, they boycotted the buses.

People would wake up as early as 3 a.m. and walk to work. After the end of work, they would walk back home, arriving as late as 11 p.m. It became a political protest as well as an awakening to the ignorant white South Africans. The determination to continue with the boycott never faded in the black people. Their slogans were 'asinimali' (we have no money) and the more famous 'azikwelwa' (we will not ride).

The government and the bus company could not find a solution to the boycott. The Apartheid regime had to admit defeat in the end.

The reason this boycott became so successful was the fact that it had an economic as well as political meaning. Even though it was about the penny, it was not about the penny at the same time. The black people suddenly found an effective way of political struggle. Although it did little to change the immediate political picture of the country, it once more showed what a united mass action could do to a autocratic regime. Understanding this, the regime tried to prevent a massive protest of the black people by various means. But, none of it worked in the end and after trying in vain to prevent the inevitable, Apartheid crumbled a little over three decades later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EDEX 2011

The largest education and careers exhibition in Sri Lanka, EDEX, will be held for the 8th consecutive year at Colombo and Kandy. On January 22, 23 and 24, it will be at BMICH, Colombo. The exhibition at Kandy would be at the Kandy City Hall on January 26-27.

The exhibition is organized by the Royal College Union.

The King and Rihanna, the Princess?

Rihanna, the young Barbados born singer has matched one of Elvis Presley's records when she hit the #1 position on the UK charts for five consecutive years. Elvis made to the top position from 1959-63. However, while Rihanna had five tracks in the same number of years at #1 position, Elvis had 12 in the above mentioned years. Also, had Elvis made to the top in 1958 and 1964, he should have been at the top for 9 consecutive years, because he managed the same achievement in 1957 and 1965. Furthermore, Elvis made to the top of UK charts with several other tracks during his career.

Therefore, Rihanna may become the princess of pop music, but has a very long way to go to depose the King from the top.

Monday, January 10, 2011

ANC is 99 Years Old

The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa celebrated its 99th birthday on January 8, 2011. Founded in 1912 as the South African Native National Congress, it changed its name to ANC in 1923. ANC became a platform for the struggle of the South African people against racial segregation and later apartheid. Its political significance may not have been realized by even its founding fathers.

The ANC was reformist and law-abiding in its earlier decades. Therefore, the majority of African people regarded as an organization for the educated class. This changed in early 1950s with the defiance campaign. Later, the ANC formed a military wing, Umkhontho we Sizwe, which waged a military struggle against the Apartheid regime.

Many ANC members lost their lives in the struggle and many others spent long terms in prison, including Nelson Mandela, perhaps the most famous political prisoner ever.

The ANC has been dominating South African politics since the first free election in 1994. It can be said that the ANC dominated South Africa in an indirect manner even a few years before that, when the Apartheid regime was crumbling.

Mother Nature Hits Back

Once more, Sri Lanka has been hit by torrential rains and floods. This has affected thousands of peoples' lives and several lives have been lost. Schools in some parts of the Eastern province have been closed.

In the recent few months, torrential rains have been a frequent visitor of Sri Lanka. Many other countries were hit by unprecedented floods during the past few months. Even at present, the Filipinos are suffering from floods. The drastic weather pattern changes are indications of nature responding to human activities.

For years, people thought that they could defy nature. They found ways to overcome many challenges. They utilized fire, wind, water, earth and the sky for their needs. In the process, they altered the face of the Earth and hurt nature.

Now it seems that mother nature is taking her revenge.

An Independent Lankan Identity

Sri Lanka is situated just South of the Indian subcontinent. As the ancient chronicles say, Sri Lankan history started when a prince called Vijaya landed in the island. They say that after subjugating the local tribes, Vijaya established a dynasty in Lanka. The proud civilization of the Sinhalese is said to be based on technology imported from India.

But, archeological evidence speak of a different story. For an example, it has been found that there was a city at the site of present day Anuradhapura (which was for 1500 years the capital of Lanka) several centuries before the supposed arrival of Vijaya. There is no mention of such a city in ancient chronicles.

Ancient Lankan engineers developed an irrigation system which is not to be seen anywhere in the world, let alone the Indian subcontinent. So, it can not be Indian technology alone which shaped up the civilization of Lanka.

More on this in the future.......

Accuracy in Writing

Any article have two important features, namely, the style and the content. Writing style is important to keep the reader interested. The content can be either views or facts. The writer has the liberty to write down his opinions in his own manner. However, the facts included in any form of written material should be reliable.

There are instances where very important Sri Lankan newspapers having articles with grossly inaccurate facts. Also, there are instances where articles from English language sources have been translated so that its original meaning has been totally altered. Its sad that writers who contribute to widely circulating newspapers can sometimes be so irresponsible.

A writer must make sure that his/her writings have accurate facts, whatever his/her opinion or analysis may be.

Sinhala Wikipedia

Today I visited the Wikipedia Sinhala Language site for the first time. It was a nice experience. I hope all Sri Lankans would help develop the site by writing relevant and reliable articles. I hope to contribute to my best ability too. For me, writing is an entertaining hobby.