Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sangakkara’s many steps towards reconciliation and sensible institutional governance

By Michael Roberts-June 14, 2017, 8:16 am

In July 1983, Chokshanada and Kumar Sangakkara – in step with some Sinhalese, Malay and Burgher and other Sri Lankan families and in implicit opposition to the actions of Sinhalese people of violence –sheltered a number of Tamils who were in severe danger from the assaults on person and property that was a frightening element of the pogrom that occurred then. Many Sinhalese families in the central and southern districts protected their neighbours and/or friends in this manner. In conjectural manner, one can say that humane considerations and cultural traditions of alms-giving and amity informed such actions --- a dimension of riots/pogroms in southern Asia that has been sidelined in historical studies of various "riots" in southern Asia. Perhaps inspired thus and perhaps encouraged also by the ecumenical spirit nurtured by his parents as well as Trinity College, Kumar and Yehali  have continued this line of enterprise. In a significant step Yehali was beside Kumar when he visited St. Patrick’s College in Jaffna in April 2011 during the World Cup.

This was a reconciliatory outreach at a significant moment, one complementing the several measures taken by Sri Lanka Cricket to foster cricket in the north and east –efforts further consolidated by Kushil Gunasekera and the Foundation of Goodness with the active participation of cricketers spearheaded by Murali, Sanga, Mahela and others.

This signal was capped in outstanding manner by the content of Kumar Sangakkara’s Speech at the Cowdrey Lecture for the MCC in July 2011 – a presentation which an English acquaintance from Surrey considered the best MCC speech he had heard thus far. It was a talk threaded by political messages for all Sri Lankans – and for all those espousing hate.

I had the good fortune to meet Sanga’s parents in pursuing a historical venture arising from my researches into the Hannadige Pieris family. I can readily endorse what Kumar emphasises about his parents in his recent session with Rex Clementine. Like his parents, Kumar Sangakkara is a lover of aesthetic good things. Among these pleasures are books. A little bird told me that he purchased that cricket tragic Mahinda Wijesinghe’s stock of cricket books. From just one encounter with him I am also alive to Kumar’s taste for books on Sri Lankan history.

More to the point, Sangakkara’s eminent good sense is only too evident in the comments essayed in response to Rex Clementine who is to be commended for his enterprise in this regard. The kind of dirty politics encountered within the history of the SLC board is, alas, found in virtually all institutions in Sri Lanka and has bedevilled our politics for decades.

I thank Rex and Kumar sincerely for the insights they have provided through this exchange. I only wish that my pal "Hema" was still in this world so that he could have could have derived the same sort of pleasure I did from this exchange. DH de Silva was my cricketing ‘enemy’ in Galle in 1955 and my cricketing mate at Ramanathan Hall and Peradeniya in the late 1950s. He had re-invented himself as a tennis coach while working as Municipal Commissioner in Kandy. It so happened that he tutored Kumar’s elder sister at tennis in Kandy in the 1980s and I believe Kumar also received tennis tips and cricketing tips from him. Knowing him as I do Hema would not have let young Kumar escape ‘cricketing advice’. In fact, the families became firm friends and the Senior Sangakkaras stayed with de Silva relatives during Kumar’s first tour of England. So, Hema would have simply lapped up this Q and A exchange in the Sunday Island.

Thank you, Kumar. Keep batting as commentator within both the cricketing and political fields.