Monthly Archives: May 2012

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… (Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy)

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It has always been a dream of mine to go to the courtroom with my aunt and see the inner workings of the legal system. It’s hard though because once everyone knows that I am the judges nephew they start to treat me differently. The police have two rules one for me and the other for everyone else, they yell at the locals asking them to move or stop talking, yet for me they all want me to take their seat next to my aunt and ask me if they can get me something to drink, I find it intolerable that such double standards exist.

Photos aren’t allowed so the courtroom can be described as such, at the back is a cage in which about eight prisoners are in holding, in full view of the general public in the center of the room is a large rectangular desk inhabited by lawyers both prosecution and defense, while my aunt is on the other side of the room in a an elaborately high and mighty desk. Two lawyers from either side read an oath from the constitution and my aunt wishes them good luck then the games begin.

One by one individuals are brought forward, their crimes noted some are bailed and their trial date set others are handed short sentences, of all the crimes the most significant seemed to be a man accused of stabbing another. One incident occurs when a lawyer claims the police have breached his clients rights, my aunt calls her aid to bring her a book outlining the law and finds it is true, she begins to confront the police asking them why we have a book of rules if they don’t use it, she then looks at me as if to say, look what I have to put up with.

Then something happens that shocks me they call a young girl who has escaped from a child correctional facility, she is dressed in a denim skirt and red top with bare feet, she is so shy she won’t look up at all. She says she just wants to see her parents that’s all, it’s clear something is wrong with her so she calls the girl into chambers. Her story is tragic, she is sixteen years old and was raped by her grandfather about two years ago, somehow one of the other judges had sentenced her to the correctional facility with no cause and she had spent two years in correction, she spoke of rampant abuse in the facility including beatings. I asked for confirmation of this from an officer and he claimed that such treatment was common.

My aunt eventually released her and ordered she be returned to her home. Later we spoke and she told me how many of these things just keep happening. It’s the poor in this country that are taken advantage of, the police harass them and they pay lawyers to protect them who also end up harassing them and misrepresenting them eventually landing them in jail.

The girl has large psychological trauma as well as not being allowed access to education, she has done nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve any of the things that have happened to her, she is the victim of indifference, inaction and no one cares for her, so I will. I don’t know how much I can help her but what I can do I will. I need to find out what she needs most urgently and how I can get it to her also I need a long term plan for her well being and to make sure she isn’t taken advantage of and whatever I provide her isn’t stolen by others. This is a difficult task I need to speak to those who know more about this than I do, and I need to enlist the help of my most powerful weapon, my friends. I know I can do this my father has done it before and saved a thirteen year old girl in much the same circumstances.

It’s only a tiny ripple when one thinks of the bigger scenario at play which is a social problem caused by failing institutions and a lack of moral courage on the part of all of us. But it is the kind of ripple that RFK would have liked to see us all make.

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If the fairest features of the landscape are to be named after men, let them be the noblest and worthiest men alone. (Henry David Thoreau)

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Depending on how well you know me you may or may not know that I have an extremely long name, it goes something like this, Kuruppuge Keith Uthpala Jayakith Swarnadhipathi.  It would be good to have such a long name if I had any idea why I was given them or what on earth each of them means. So today I was very jealous to meet a man whose name was just as long as mine but had all the details to understand his name.

His name Mr. Hirohito Lenin Edward Lindbergh Jayasinghe. Ignoring the last and seemingly out of place surname which is purely Sri Lankan each of these names is in reference to a major figure during early part of the 20th century.  I spoke to him at length about each of them.

Apparently his father was very intrigued by current events and so named his son after the Japanese emperor Hirohito who was at his pomp during the time and busy invading Manchuria. Next comes Vladimir Lenin the brains behind Russian communism, this would be a very dangerous name to have during the cold war era and boy did he probably try hard to hide his father’s Marxist leanings. Next comes his highness King Edward the 8th of Britain whose reign lasted less than a year as a result of his compulsive womanising and he was succeeded by his brother George the 5th, who some of you may have seen being played by Collin Firth in the Kings Speech. The last you may think has to do with the great Aviator Charles Lindbergh, but it is in fact Charles Lindbergh junior who died tragically while being kidnapped as an infant, the name acts as a sign of respect for what to this day is seen as a great catastrophe.

The love of current affairs has lasted through the generations of his family. His son is a journalis with he French press (AFP) and has been bestowed with the honour of Chevalier in the Legion of Honour, which is the equivalent of knighthood.

During my time with Mr. Jayasinghe and his wife I found their company very stimulating they were indeed very knowledgable people, yet they didn’t let it go to their head. A testament to their charm and witty nature is the sign above their front door which read, “Come in, sit down, relax, our house doesn’t always look like this sometimes it’s even worse.”

Each murder is one too many (Jurgen Habermas)

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I’ve fallen into and interesting predicament regarding my volunteer application, I was hoping to spend time my here volunteering at a particular NGO however they didn’t know that I was a Sri Lankan citizen. So when I told them I was they had a few concerns as to my safety given a previous kidnapping that had taken place. To that end they informed a district magistrate of my situation and he sent me an official letter, it read that the Sri Lankan government is not responsible for my safety in the event of any unforeseen circumstances given that I was not a foreign citizen. This did not go down well with me so I decided to pay the magistrate a visit.

I arrived while he was in the middle of a trial so I patiently took a seat and waited. My Sinhala is not very good but I did get the jist of what had happened. It seems a boy and a girl in their early twenties were in love and the boy had been climbing over the girls fence to see  her on some nights. This was unacceptable to the father and so he electrified the fence, so one night the boy trying to climb over it was killed by the electric shock. The father along with the daughter disposed of the body and both are in remand for murder although the girl will face a lesser sentence because she was just an accomplice.

looked over at the girl, she was more than beautiful she was gorgeous I would find it unnatural if a boy didn’t climb her wall, honestly I know if I had the chance I would too. Yet how the father reacted completely confuses me how could he think he could get away with something like this, there was no warning on the fence for electricity, he knew the boy would show up, the whole things totally premeditated. Why couldn’t he warn the fellow or maybe just call the police. A young man who had his whole life ahead of hims is dead and not only that his own daughter is facing a prison sentence as well, how could he live with himself I wonder. I managed to find a picture of the incident, there was nothing more graphic to be found.

My discussion with the judge  bordered on political and in the interest of all those concerned I have decided not to mention any of the details.

Are they both mad or am I going Mad? Or is it the sun? (Maj. Clipton, Bridge on the river Kwai 1957)

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For those of you who don’t know the quote above is from one of my all time favorite movies  which just so happened to be filmed in Sri Lanka, I’m really looking forward to seeing where they filmed it, the trailer is below for your viewing enjoyment and as you will soon see the quote is how I constantly feel when I get mixed up with my extended family.

I paid a visit to my ancestral village today, this is a place filled with such extended family that if I asked someone to define the distance between some of the relationships it might go something like this, “This your father’s, uncles, nieces, brothers neighbors best friends mother.” As i mentioned before our yearly family gathering reaches up to 500 individuals and there are much more that don’t attend, in fact sometimes you’ll find a former prisoner jailed for making illegal alcohol the policeman who arrested him and the judge who sentenced him all in the same room so you can imagine the amount of controversy that goes on.

Take today for instance we were just going to meet someone about renewing my brothers passport the fellows name was Anura and is my dad’s second cousin. well we discovered we needed photo’s so he gave my dad the phone number of Neil my dad’s first cousin who is a photographer by trade, he didn’t know it was my dad calling so my dad pretended to be some random guy claiming to have got his number from Anura and that he was told Neil could fix him up with a prostitute! Insert title quote here.

Eventually Neil hung up probably because my dad had turned the conversation towards homosexuality by asking him if he’d sleep with him. So he wouldn’t pick up the phone anymore so we had to go to Neil’s house to get the photo’s on the way we decided to drop by Another cousin’s place his name is Roy, Roy was with us in Botswana and I’m really fond of him he’s always good for  laugh, he’s been married three times has had uncountable affairs had a stroke that has left him half paralyzed yet he still manages to get some action on the regular, in short he’s a real trooper!

As soon as we show up it seems he and Neil have been in a conflict recently, apparently Roy had stolen Neil’s mistress which has led to them feuding, the woman however took all Roy’s money and left. Neil immediately wrote a letter to the village priest asking  him to do something, claiming Roy was a bad influence and a lazy drunk citing various instances of his evil. The priest came to Roy’s brother Namal’s house and apparently told him to throw the bugger into the ocean, Well he got angry at hearing that and kicked the priest out and now everyone has chosen sides on the issue.

This is just once instance of the madness that spreads like a virus in my extended family. Their all a bunch of womanizing and fun loving bums but in few weeks they all settle their difference saying we’re family, god made us family lets not fight anymore. That’s why its always so hard to now who’s fighting with who about what at any given time.

Eventually we arrived at Neil’s and he didn’t saying anything about the phone call but when we told him we were going to see Anura, he said, “don’t be so close to that guy he’s a shady bugger.” We both got into the car and burst out laughing, we probably set something sinister in motion but what the hell we won’t be around when it blows up.