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Saturday, October 31, 2009

A TRIBUTE TO “HATA” I KNEW

By Hasaka Ratnamalala

In December, 2004 I was preparing for my first visit in 8 years, to my motherland. Among the gifts, I was planning to carry with me was a complete CD set of Bob Dylan’s songs, with a one song I knew very much, in previous chapter of my life. “How many Roads must a man walk by…. before we can call him a man …” this Bob Dylan’s song which, “Sir” or we called him “Hata” (when he was not around), used as the theme song of our “Way side street theatre group”, with Sinhala and Tamil translations. I bought that CD to give it to “Sir” as a gift. I knew he would be very happy if he could own Bob Dylan’s complete works CD. But unfortunately “Tsunami” not only destroyed my gift to “sir” but also blocked finding and meeting him during my trip.

The form of art Gamini Hattotuwegama introduced to Sri Lankans was mostly used as a propaganda tool in other parts of the world. But he hates the idea of using “art to carry a message”. He would say “If you want to give a message don’t use drama! why don’t you write a letter instead?” He always used to state that we need to take the art of drama to the people in the rural villages, to those people who never had the chance to see a drama in their life time. He stood by his principles and his “golayas” (students) followed him. Thus we had many memories of having street theater shows not only by the side of the streets, but also by the paddy fields, tea estates, temples, factories, schools, universities etc.

Then my memories goes to the peak time of JVP-UNP terrorism period (1987- 1988). We were holding street dramas in every corner of the country allowing Sri Lankans to think on the situation we are in (despite the threats from JVP and UNP). During that time he was so worried about getting used to such a large amount of dead bodies, in day-today basis. He thought we will soon become a group of people who would not recognize the value of the human life if this trend continues.

During that period in one hand JVP and its organs wanted our group to be a part of their propaganda unit and on the other hand they wanted to hunt our senior members of the group in order to make easy access to Hata. But at the end JVP lost their bid to take control of our group. (But I don’t know about the situation today as I left the group in 1991) In that battle, Hata was more tolerable to JVP side, while almost all senior members of the group were against it. As Hata was a very sensitive person any one could easily persuade him. Sensitivity was not only his only weakness, but also was his gift; to feel the heart beat of Sri Lankans.

Hata always listens to his “golayas” and shape up his creation with their criticism. At the end spontaneous talent of the “golayas” interpreted “Hata’s” idea in to a creation. This “spontaneous” talent developed within the structure of democracy in the group; which allows “golayas” to express their views openly even against Hata him self. Hata also used this freedom to criticize his “golayas”. I remember once, he was yelling at one of the new members of the group “Amarunam... Gihilla reela enna” (if it is so hard, why don’t you go to toilet), because of the new guy kept using an imitated deep voice rather than his own during the practice.

He always told his “golayas” to use their own voice when acting; and ask them to develop it to a level which every one in the audience could hear it (not shouting). In this manner, Hata’s street theater workshops have gifted several talented actors, actresses and even directors to the Sri Lankan theatre scene. Deepani akka (Deepani Silva) is one such example. According to my understanding, one of his best creations was “Hamlet” (1989); which he did with a group of students at the English department of University of Peradeniya. Even though I was not a part of that production, I managed to organize a show at Sri Jayewardenepura University.

I sensed that we would never be able to experience such a fantastic production of Hamlet in our life time. Therefore I used the slogan “only once in our life time….” in our poster campaign for Hamlet. I also managed to build a “Wala” (circle) stage using desks and chairs in the middle of Bandaranayaka hall and had a very successful Hamlet show, at Jayewardenepura University. I hope those who were in that audience would agree with me that we had an unforgettable experience in that night.

Among the other things his openness affected us like an infectious disease. It shaped our personal lives; which made us openly criticize, anything which is not right; rather than keeping it to ourselves. Of cause some times, it lands us into troubles. But sometimes I feel that we have become that small child, who Hata used in his creation “Perahera” (the Parade) who shouted the truth “Ikeeiyyya… Rajjuruwo heluwen” (king is naked) while elders were glorifying the unseen garment that the king pretend to be wearing. I think most group members are still suffering from that disease.

Dear “sir” you have led us so far in this road to become a better man (woman), but still we have a long way to go. This is just an intersection where we take a little break. Before we continue the rest of our journey may I say, “Good night sweet prince!” it’s been a pleasure to follow you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A WOLF IN A SHEEP SKIN A.K.A. LTTE "TRANSNATIONAL" TERRORISM

By Hasaka Ratnamalala
Even though, Sri Lanka just got rid of LTTE terrorism, within her boarders; LTTE overseas operations are still at large. The network that gave LTTE a life line is still functioning and it is still in business of supplying life line to other terrorist organizations in the world. According Jane's defence magazine, LTTE still continue commercial shipping under the two companies registered in Panama and Bahamas. These commercial shipping lines are becoming a threat to the national security of the democratic nations through out the world.
As an example, in a incident took place in May 1997, a LTTE owned Greek registered ship Stillus Limassul picked up an arms shipment belongs to Sri Lankan Government by bribing an Israeli arms dealer. (CSIS commentary No: 77). This shipment would have sold to other terrorist organizations or may have used them to attack Sri Lankan Security forces.
Also, there are several instances, where, other international terrorist originations are following foot steps of LTTE. According to Glen Jenvey, a specialist on international Islamic terrorism; there are several occasions that Al-Qaida has picked up LTTE methods. As an example, the LTTE invention of the modern suicide jacket is widely used by Al-Qaida and other organizations today. Blowing ships and piracy is another method of LTTE which picked up by other terrorist organizations. Attack on USS Cole off Yemen and the sea piracy off the coast of Somalia are such examples. Attack on the World Trade Centre in Sri Lanka by LTTE also picked up by Al-Qaeda and duplicated it on the World Trade Centre in New York. The LTTE women section duplicated by Al-Qaeda and Chechen terrorists, who took over the Russian theatre are now deploying women suicide bombers of their own. Attack's on civilians in bus and trains in Sri Lanka killing innocent passengers were also “copy cat” by Al-Qaeda in London on 7/7 attack.
After the defeat in Sri Lanka, LTTE spent some time in a transitional period. Not to withhold terrorism; but to look for new and innovative ways to operate without going under the radar of international security agencies.
If “Terrorism” is some one’s business, having a brand name like “LTTE” is not going to help them. At Prabakaran’s death, that was the question LTTE Diaspora Commissars had in their mind. “How to legalize business of terrorism?”
Through out the past 30 years of their lives, these LTTE international commissars had nothing but terrorism in their blood. Terrorism was the only language they knew; and they haven’t had practiced any other profession; therefore end of terrorism meant, the end of their livelihood. Their rich lifestyles in the Diaspora were in the verge of destruction. But At the end, they came up with an interesting idea of so called “Trans-National Government” (TNG).
Even though, there is no such thing called “Transnational Government” in the political vocabulary; they are in a hard struggle to give a professional look into the idea. This attempt was visible, in a recent statement by the new US based LTTE leader Rudrakumaran.
In an introduction to TNG, he stressed that; ‘What they have achieved is military supremacy in the balance of power. This is beneficial only within the island of Sri Lanka. Further, this military supremacy is useful only to counter armed struggles and cannot counter the diplomatic approach. In this context, the Tamil people’s struggle for the realization of their right to self-determination by unarmed methods carried out in the international arena is viewed with alarm by Sri Lanka’s rulers as one they cannot confront.” While this statement expresses his agenda; it is also trying to justify their appearance as for a reasonable cause. By wrapping up in a diplomatic jargon, it also made itself an untouchable subject to Sri Lankan security forces.
As the LTTE failure in Sri Lanka is still echoing in the western world, certain international NGOs, press people and politicians who were depend on LTTE funds, are taking a second look at this new idea; meanwhile some of them have already jumped in to it. A multinational group namely “Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice” consist with internationally acclaimed academics; with links to some Sri Lankan NGOs, have already started PR work for the idea with the support of LTTE funds. But in practical sense any child would understand what expected from TNG is nothing but legalization of LTTE terrorism in the international arena.
As per the introduction given at the first meeting held at a LTTE owned Hindu temple in Scarborough, Canada; the first proposed step of the TNG is to appoint money collectors in village level; then the regional and national level. Each of these money collectors collects the money and hand over it to next level after keeping a commission. Even regional money collection offices are also to be open, picturing a mafia type ransom collection. Finally the money goes to Rudrakumaran who is running the international terrorism network with a fleet of ships under his command.
In most of western countries fundraising is not illegal unless it is for terrorism purpose. Therefore “transnational government” idea open doors and gives legality for fundraising until, it is proven that, these funds are for illegal activities. LTTE use this space of normalcy to cultivate maximum international support and collecting money for its existence.
This scenario also highlighted by Dr. Palitha Kohana at a UN session recently. “Terrorist groups with their transnational linkages and multifaceted criminal networks generated a vast and complex mix of criminal activities, ranging from fund-raising using overseas bases, terrorist financing, money laundering, arms procurement and other organized criminal activities, all of which were interrelated. The transportation of large consignments of sophisticated equipment and lethal cargo to provide logistical support to terrorist groups continued to pose a threat to maritime security. Weapons transported by sea were reaching more than one group,” Certainly a call for action.
It is time that the international community should step in, close doors for LTTE activities and find smarter ways to take control of the situation. Otherwise it won’t be much long that LTTE would start doing home delivery of weapons and drugs to the back yards of any nation, for the use of individual terrorist groups.