Saturday, November 18, 2006

Good bye Friedman

Its not often you hear a loss of a person whom you’ve never met, and feel such a sense of deep grief, as I do now. Not many people have that ability, that effect on people. The 20th century’s leading economist, free-market theorist and Nobel laureate- Milton Friedman is no more. Loss of Friedman, to me, is a loss of an idol, one who confirmed and solidified my capitalist leanings. His writings such as the Capitalism and Freedom provided me with the intellectual foundation for much of what I hold true in economics.

Milton Friedman will leave behind decades worth of intellectual firepower that could bring down yet another soviet empire. He could very well claim a stake in the first one as he is seen as someone who heavily influenced both the Reagan administration as well as Lady Thatcher’s government. I do not know how many Sri Lankans have read Friedman, or know of him but I could distinctively remember sometime back, Sirasa Tv screened a series documentaries titled, Commanding Heights which prominently featured Friedman.

Achievements of Milton Friedman are plenty but there would be little point in repeating them here, since that has been readily done by many others. One thing I wish for on behalf of this country is that someone would take the initiative and translate some of his works into Sinhala and Tamil so as to liberate Sri Lankans from its current leftist retardness.

Let me end with the words of Edward H. Crane, President of the Cato Institute, (whose emailed informed me of Friedman’s demise)

“Here's a guy who won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in monetary theory and he was a great Chicagoan, a great empiricist and theoretician of economics. But ultimately, what Milton believed in was human liberty and he took great joy in trying to promote that concept....Milton would say, 'Maybe I did well and maybe I led the battle but nobody ever said we were going to win this thing at any point in time. Eternal vigilance is required and there have to be people who step up to the plate, who believe in liberty, and who are willing to fight for it.' ...In my view he was the greatest champion of human liberty in my lifetime, certainly in the 20th century. And he didn't slack off in the 21st century.”

May he rest in peace.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dead Man Walking

Much has been written about the death sentence of former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. Some say it’s a good thing, others say its not, and some others like me, are stuck somewhere in between. For now though, Saddam may still be walking, But the Saddam to a lot of people is dead; he has been for a quite some time.

The Saddam Hussein the world knew in pre-occupation Iraq was a different man from the court-house maniac that he has become, from the days of his military salutes to his one-handed shooting antics; the public persona of Saddam Hussein was one of strength, control and obedience from his people. Weather anyone would acknowledge it or not a tyrants induce a sort of admiration by at least some people of this globe if not most people. Their very existence is based on their image of respect and absolute unquestioned power. Stalin, Mao, and even Hitler are still adored by their supporters (and sometimes by non-supporters) for their god-like personas. When Saddam Hussein appeared from a rat hole in December 2003, looking like a pre-Christmas Santa clause, appearing on TV in hand cuffs and being examined by an American medic, he gave up membership of that elite club of dictators. He was no more the great Saddam, he was dead then and now we are just having the ceremony.

That said, ceremonies conducted by the US-backed Iraqi court seemed to be somewhat flawed, and genuine concerns whether or not the justice in its purest sense was served is an open question. I do think some justice was served, but I have reservations as to the way it was served - Including the invocation of the death penalty, something which I’m fundamentally opposed to. Much of the reaction from the world over seems to follow those lines, opposing the death penalty imposed on Saddam whilst upholding the fact that he was a brute.

In this vein, I read with amusement, a small box story in the front page of the Daily Mirror on Monday (Nov 6, 2006) with the title ‘Muslim leaders condemn verdict’ in which the body of the story goes on to say Alawi Moulana (Governor, W.P) has told the Mirror that the ‘entire Muslim world would rise up’ against the sentence. Obviously Mr. Maulana was unaware of the fact Iran has already come forward in support of the verdict, and called for Saddam’s execution. Its interesting that Maulana would use the term ‘Muslim world’, because the Baath Party, or should is say The Baath Arab Socialist Party which provided the political foundation for the Saddam-dictatorship was not terribly Islamic, in fact it was more fascist, in both philosophy and operation also inspired by the JVP-like Arab nationalism and European socialism. Iraq then, (contrary perhaps to the reality on the ground which we now see) was seen somewhat more secular societies in the Arab world during the Saddam regime; probably due to the fact that Saddam favored guns over religious clerics for obedience. So it’s a bit surprising to me, why the so called Muslim World would ‘rise-up’ against this decision. It must also be said, however, that conduct of Muslim leaders of this country deserves a lot of praise, and I would not exclude Mr.Maulana from this list. They seemed to have managed to attain the correct balance and not let things slip into religious fanaticism like some parts of the world. If statements like this one, and some limited action (like burning up bush-dolls and American flags) is part of what keeps things in check, then so be it.

Coming back to Saddam’s case, there has always been conspiracy theories thrown about with regard to the case it self, and the capture of Saddam. Some claim the Santa-like figure who appeared from the rat hole is an impostor and the real Saddam is either in exile or dead ( as in physically). Some others believe the court’s decision to announce the verdict was to cushion a Republican defeat in the mid-term elections that are currently under way in the US. I’m usually not so big on conspiracy theory, for I would reject both these claims.

But whatever said and done at the end of the day, a Saddam execution may have little impact on the situation in Iraq, but a GOP defeat, which is now certain in the US House of Representatives and possibly even in the Senate might have a bigger impact on the Bush policy, and therefore the lives of people in Iraq.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Conflict Resolution through Forum Theatre

Core group members of the Beyond Borders, a project attached to the British Council is organizing a one day workshop on “Exploring ways to tackle assumptions about (the ethnic) Conflict through Forum Theatre” at the British Council on Saturday 4 November 2006.

The project members believe that the process to dismantle the protracted nature of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka should involve concentrated advocacy for greater inclusion, recognition of diversity and promoting the need for greater critical analysis of our assumptions and prejudices relating to the conflict.

As a tool to explore and understand these prejudices more clearly and as means to explore conflict in general we propose the use of forum theatre- A form of theatre where scenarios are designed to stimulate and encourage audience participation through discussion, interactive role-playing and shared experiences.

The event is divided into two main sessions; the first session would be on acquiring key skills relating to Conflict Resolution. Mr. Sanjana Hattotuwa (Coordinator/Media Unit, Centre for Policy Alternatives and Head of the ICT and peacebuilding at Infoshare) would be conducting this workshop.

The second session would involve a discussion on forum theatre led by Mr. John Martin (Artistic Director, Pan Centre for Intercultural Arts, UK.) and a Model Forum theatre presented by the Beyond Borders Core Group.

Date : Saturday 4 November 2006
Time : 09.30 a.m. – 04.00 p.m.
Venue : British Council Hall, 49 Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 03

For registrations, please visit the following link and fill in the necessary details.

You may also email your registrations to with your name, age and contact details.

Please note:

- All participants are expected to be in the ages from 16 to 25.
- The deadline for registration is Friday 3 November 2006.
- Admission is free but registration is mandatory since only limited places are available.

Related Links :

Event Flyer
Further information about the event and its objectives.
More on Beyond Borders