Archive for February, 2009

Chennai Central Prison

high-prison-walls-with-electric-fencesPhoto courtesy: Maya Menon

I have visited the Chennai Central Prison twice (not as an inmate 😉 ).

These historic buildings are intrinsic to Chennai and I feel quite sad that they are going to be demolished.

My grandmother was also posted there as the medical superitendent; being a government DMO doctor. Since my mother learnt bharatanatyam, she once performed at the Diwali prison celebrations.

My friend Maya Menon has written a great post about this historical building that is soon to be demolished.


Opened in 1837, this prison has housed various freedom fighters and many political leaders including the ex-Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha, her close aide Sasikala, current Chief  Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi and his son Mr. M.K. Stalin. It has also housed various state and central ministers like Murasoli Maran, Arcot Veersamay and so on.

It had housed 2000 plus prisoners when it was closed back in 2007 and the prisoners were moved to Puzhal. We were told that the government plans to pull down the structure and the place would be utilised by the General Hospital (which is next door) for its expansion and another part of the land would be taken by Railways.

I wonder why the government doesn’t want to  convert this place to a tourist destination. They can restore the blocks, display photographs, have sound and light shows and even have special theme rides like the ones in disney land. I am sure a lot of private players would come forward if government is willing.

Has anyone filed a PIL against bringing down such a historic place?

Do also check out the cute story of Kuruva, Kuruvi at Maya Menon’s.

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My grandfather E J Chandran Job died. There is a saying, one shouldn’t talk ill of the dead. So bowing to polite conventions, I spoke at the funeral service of various incidents in his life that showed him in a good light – his bravery in the three wars – Indo-Pak & Indo-China, his education in Madras Christian College (also my alma mater) and his care of my dad.

My grandfather was born in 1921. He was the son of a Christian school headmaster in Chengalpet. He also had as many as 8 siblings – sounds like a large family but that was pretty normal in those days.

At his 80th birthday, there was a big celebration and he spoke about his life and his ambitions. I was of course quite uncomfortable about the whole thing – I would have never invited a host of people just so that I could hear good things being said about me. Of course, I maybe wronging the poor man; he might have just meant it as a celebration of life. But the ceremonies on that day and the overt praise of my grandfather as a sterling example of a Christian was too nauseating for me.
Anyway my grandfather told the audience that day that he wanted a good life and so he wanted to study for medicine (I would have thought nobler ambitions like serving the poor might have been mentioned. But I guess my grandfather had decided to be candidly honest). In his large family, financing the education of all the kids was a problem. So my grandfather had to forget his ambitions and join a course in agriculture and plow the family fields while his elder siblings started their medical studies.
But soon, fortune smiled on him. He finished his degree and he became an anaesthetist…this was another cause for derision by other less-charitable relatives. For some, you didn’t qualify as a doctor until and unless you passed out of CMC Vellore or got a string of M.D.s attached to your name.
Since he wanted a “good life,” he next applied for the Indian Army.
Now here comes the not so-good part. He tried to join the Indian Army when it was still being commanded by the Britishers. It has always been a source of irritation and shame to me that my grandparents had no part in the Indian freedom struggle and were more concerned about securing their own lives. During the freedom fight, colleges were continuously on strike, students were protesting, getting beaten up for it and jailed. Of course the number of students who gave up their education for the country were a minority. But I wished my grandparents were part of the freedom struggle. Having been involved to a certain extent in the student movement in my college and unions, I can’t imagine how people chose to be selfish and career-oriented when the whole nation was in an uproar.
white-roses2When my grandfather finally joined the Indian Army, it was thankfully in Indian hands. But he didn’t like the life of a Brigadier and didn’t stay in the Army for more than a couple of years. He soon got married to my grandmother Vedavathy and joined the Indian Navy as a surgeon commander – officer cadre. They of course had a splendid life there – the parties, the large mansions, the servants, the cars, the salary, the perks and everything that went with the fantastic title – surgeon commander.
Being a Naval doctor, he has seen three wars, visited many countries on board the INS Vikrant and been ribboned, decked and felicitated on many occasions. According to my grandfather, the most memorable trip he had was when he visited Persia – the land of the Bible. Since my grandfather was not the type who would fawn and flatter his superiors, he found that he was always the one who missed out on foreign assignments. He very rarely was photographed or honoured as the others in his rank were. The few newspaper articles in which he was featured/photographed, have been carefully preserved my grandmother (to be shown to envious and less-fortunate relatives.)
When he was captain of the mess, he once had the honour of sitting down for dinner next to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Protocol dictates that the captain should have been in close attendance on Ms Indira Gandhi, but the Navy’s norms were that the captain of the mess should sit at the head of the table, preceded by the Captain of the ship. So my grandfather had his “big moment,” when he was able to converse with the Prime Minister. He told her about much needed improvements for the ships that were long-pending. Since there were many other things that he discussed with Ms Gandhi, he didn’t think she’d remember. But surprises of surprises that very week, all the improvements needed for the ship were carried out on ostensibly the Captain’s orders; but my grandfather and others saw the hand of Ms Gandhi in all of this.
My grandfather’s other “big moment” was when he saved a man’s life during wartime. My grandfather’s father i.e my great grandfather had died during the Indo-Pak war. A telegram announcing his death reached the ship, while it was carrying out wartime naval exercises.
white-roses11My grandfather due to a concatenation of circumstances was the only doctor aboard the ship. In a mishap, one of the air fighters was seriously hurt with brain injuries. My grandfather got the telegram, but continued to calmly administer first aid and then carry out an operation. After the surgery, the Captain said he could arrange for him to leave the ship and attend his father’s funeral. But since my grandfather felt that the man’s condition was still critical, he chose to stay with him and didn’t leave the ship till he felt he could safely leave the sailor in the care of the ship’s nurse. By the time he reached Chengalpet, his father had been buried and the funeral service over.

My grandfather was also the odd man out in the Navy, since he didn’t drink or dance. His religion forbade him from engaging in such frivolous past times. He was of course, praised abundantly by the local pastors for being such an “upstanding example” to the community. But sometimes I feel that a little bit of drink and dancing would have made my grandfather less religious and more human.

Actually there are many, many incidents I can remember about my grandfather…my memories of him are bitter – sweet.

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I thought I’d make an announcement. I’m guest blogging at Dollhouse Minis. I was invited by Smehreen or Sumaiya Mehreen, a talented artist, to guest blog along with some of her friends like Linda Cummings. I claim no expertise on the subject other than having created one dollhouse, but Sumaiya assures me the blog is meant for dollhouse lovers…so I’ve started posting 🙂

Sumaiya lives in Texas US. I’ll let her website do the telling for me:

“Sumaiya Mehreen made her debut as an international artist at age eleven, when she represented Bangladesh at the Mitsubishi Impression-Gallery Festival of Asian Children’s Art. Sumaiya is mostly known for her mixed media illustrations. She is also a prominent artist of Henna: a form of traditional body art. The artist currently resides in USA, working on her Graduate Studies in Art & Technology at The University of Texas at Dallas. She teaches Exploration of the Arts at her university, and has conducted several workshops and art exhibitions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, USA. The art of Sumaiya Mehreen reflects the influence of her Asian heritage and the high spirits of her tropical homeland: Bangladesh.”

She draws illustrations, paintings, applies henna, traditional body-art and translates fairy tales; some of those can be viewed at sliced.


To view more of her work, visit her flickr account

She started making dollhouses in 2006 and some of her earliest works can be viewed at smehreen-dollhouse.

She says, “I was on eBay looking for a dollhouse when I was blown away by the variety and intricacies of dollhouse miniatures. I couldn’t believe eBay had a section dedicated to dollhouse miniatures! The assembled dollhouses were too expensive for me, so I made my first dollhouse from a kit. I made my first doll in 2007 :)”

On her dolls, she says, “I actually started making dolls by following the patricia rose tutorials. I have been thinking of starting a blog about
my dolls for a while, but somehow I never got around to it. I use the same method as the tutorials: create wire armature, sculpt using
polymer clay, bake in the oven, paint faces, dress them and finally add the hair.”

She also has another blog, in which she tells us the nuts and bolts of building a Garfield dollhouse; more specifically her dollhouses with lots and lots of pictures to add to the fun. Do visit The Garfield blog.




On her Mini Food blog, she showcases the works of other artists like Stephanie Kilgast and Donna.

Sumaiya can be contacted at Phone: (214) 597 – 1173 E-mail: smehreen@gmail.com


Sumaiya makes wonderful dolls – that look so ethnic and chic!

Her doll Parvati was inspired by Aishwarya Rai’s potryal of Parvati in Devdas.



I love reading the accounts of how she makes her dolls. Her chandra is also another beautiful doll inspired by Chandramuki in Devdas.


Do visit Flickr to check out more of her dolls.

Her dollhouses are also marvellous! At smehreen-dollhouse, you can check out more such lovely dollhouses!



And since we are talking so much about Sumaiya. I can’t resist posting this pictute of hers, in which she has tweaked it to look like as if she is standing inside her dollhouse 🙂


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women_parkMy friend has tagged me!

And I am supposed to tell the www, the 10 most irritating things about me. I don’t pretend to be scrupulously fair or objective in recounting them 😉

Ok, here goes:

  1. In college, my friends wanted to beat me up when I prolonged class by asking inane questions.
  2. I chat online (instant messaging) while I’m on the phone with other friends.
  3. My friends say I keep sucking the straw even after the cup becomes  empty, sounding like a vaccum cleaner.
  4. I hate other people starting every conversation with “basically,” “initially,” “Honestly” and other such words. But my friends say I do the same.
  5. I rarely chew gum, but when I do, I can’t resist popping and smacking them.
  6. When I don’t want to answer a simple question, I go on a long-winded 10-minute ramble and do everything except answer the question.
  7. My mom used to often correct me. My mom: “You shouldn’t yell “on the light” you should request “please, switch on the light.” And don’t be such a lazy boots. You are younger than all of us here and you can very well do it yourself.”
  8. My English Lecturer used to correct us when we asked for permission to skip class. “You can of course leave the class, but I am not going to give permission for you to do so. The question is “May I leave the classroom?.” And this must be the 100th time I am telling you that Ms D Rachel Chitra!
  9. He also told me that my spellings were atrocious. I was always spelling “you’re” as “your.” and “they are” as “their.”
  10. My mom says,  she gets most irritated, when I take a packet of biscuits out of the fridge, finish it and put the empty packet carefully back inside.

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Indians abroad face very silly and annoying questions about India! Next time you get asked an annoying question on India, answer it like this…read on, it’s funny!

Q. What does that red dot on women’s forehead mean?
A. Well, in ancient times, Indian men used to practice archery skills by target practicing by aiming at their wife’s red dot. In fact, that is one of the reasons why they had many wives. You see, once they mastered the art of archery and hit the target….

A2: In the olden days there were no traffic signals in India. So vehicles were supposed to stop the minute they saw a married women cross the road.

(And again the bindi is considered the prerogative of Hindu women. When I sport a Bindi, people keep on asking me if I have converted to Hinduism. “If Hinduism is ok with atheism, I wouldn’t mind,” I reply. Actually I think Hinduism is not too concerned about atheism…can’t catch hold of the exact quote…but its supposed to be only a “way of life” not organized religion)

Q. You’re from India, aren’t you? I have read so much about the country. All the wonderful places, the forests, the snake charmers, the elephants. Do you still use elephants for transportation?
A. Absolutely. In fact we used to have our own elephant in our house. But later, we started elephant-pooling with our neighbors, to save the air. You see elephants have an “emissions” problem…..

Q. Does India have cars?
A. No. We ride elephants to work. The government is trying to encourage ride-sharing schemes.

(This question is now replaced by “Do you always travel by hand-drawn rickshaws?” My answer: “Definitely not! Hand-drawn rickshaws were banned in Tamil Nadu as early as the 1970s. Its only in states like West Bengal, which constantly keeps harping on human rights and Left politics, can you find hand-drawn rickshaws or govt-approved prostitution in Sonagatchi.”  Ok, Before everyone hailing from WB is up in arms, I am not anti-WB or anything. Just teasing!)

Q. Does India have TV?
A. No. We only have cable.

Q. Are all Indians vegetarian?
A. Yes. Even tigers are vegetarian in India.

(They might really believe this one as the only Indian authors they can recognise are R K Narayanan and Salman Rushdie. It might prove dangerous if they really believed everything that A Tiger in Malgudi has to say about a tiger’s food habits)

Q. How come you speak English so well?
A. You see when the British were ruling India, they employed Indians as servants. It took too long for the Indians to learn English. So the British isolated an “English-language” gene and infused their servants’ babies with it and since then all babies born are born speaking English.

A variation to the above is a compliment —
“You speak very good English.”   Response: Thanks. So do you.

Q. Are you a Hindi?
A. Yes. I am spoken everyday in Northern India.

My variation on this question is: “Are you a Madrasi?” Answer: “Are you a Golti/Mallu/Firangi or whichever place the questioner is from?” I’d be the last person to fan sectarinism, but the Madrasi question has been asked too many times for it to fail to irritate. And another thing I don’t get is why people from Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh also have to be clubbed as Madrasis. Must be a hangover from the pre-Madras Presidency and pre-Chennai name change era.

taj21Q. Do you speak Hindu?
A. Yes, I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity.

Q. Is it true that everyone there is very corrupt?
A. Yes, in fact, I had to bribe my parents so that they would let me go to school.

Q. India is very hot, isn’t it?
A. It is so hot there that all the water boils spontaneously. That is why tea is such a popular drink in India.

Q. Are there any business companies in India?
A. No. All Indians live on the Gandhian prinicples of self-sufficiency. We all make our own clothes and grow our own food. That is why you see all these thin skinny Indians – it is a lot of hard work.

Q. Indians cannot eat beef, huh?
A. Cows provide milk which is a very essential part of Indian diet. So eating cows is forbidden. However in order to decrease the population of the country, the government is trying to encourage everyone to eat human meat.

Q. India is such a religious place. Do you meditate regularly?
A. Yes, sometimes I meditate for weeks without food and drink. But it is difficult to keep my job, because I have to miss work when I meditate like that. But the bosses there do the same thing. That is why things are so inefficient there.

Q. I saw on TV that people there walk on burning coals. Why do they do that?
A. We don’t have shoes. So we burn the bottom of our feet to make it hard so that we can walk.

Q. Why do you sometimes wear Indian clothes to work?
A. I prefer it to coming naked.

Someone once asked my friend, “Are women in India allowed to go to school?”

She replied: “No! They had to get a special dispensation for Indira Gandhi, so she could take over after Nehru died.”

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lasanthaLasantha Manilal Wickramatunge was a prominent Sri Lankan journalist and former editor-in-chief of the The Sunday Leader. Wickramatunge was assassinated on 8 January, 2009, while driving to work in Dehiwela, just outside Colombo. His killing has been widely condemned by the media and viewed as an assault against press freedom. The government is being held responsible for the killing as it has failed to stop attacks against media personnel. His murder is the latest in a series of murders of journalists in Sri Lanka.

(Disclaimer* The views expressed in this article are solely that of the late Mr Wickramatunge and not mine or the organisation I work for. I empathise with what he says and this post is in memory of him)

One of his last essays read:

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honor to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognizing the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.

The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognize that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic… well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you’d best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labeled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

Many people suspect that The Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition it is only because we believe that – pray excuse cricketing argot – there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the UNP was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred. Indeed, the steady stream of embarrassing exposes we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.

Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organizations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen – and all of the government – cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining who routinely addresses him by his first name and uses the familiar Sinhala address oya when talking to him. Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President’s House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.

Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the SLFP presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air. Then, through an act of folly, you got yourself involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, at the same time urging you to return the money. By the time you did so several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.

You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.

In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.

Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I – and my family – have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am – and have always been – ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be – and will be – killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niemoller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niemoller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem0ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.

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