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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I am in the business of news. More often than not, it's bad news. A blast here, another there.

Senseless acts of killing from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to East Timor. Having spent close to 15 years in various newsrooms, looking at horrible pictures of bodies, often charred beyond recognition, I am still stunned by how much pain we as human beings can inflict on another one of our own kind.

As I take the early morning steps to the newsroom, it's a silent prayer for peace. That, of course, is before I start looking at the wires and the pictures. Every morning, as it unfolds, is marred by violence is some part of our unsettled world. Just as this morning was.

I logged in to see award-winning Sri Lankan author Nihal de Silva's (of 'The Road From Elephant Pass' & 'Ginirella Conspiracy' fame) name in one of the wires.

At first glance, it seemed innocuous enough. The story ran:

"Award-winning Sri Lankan author Nihal is among those feared dead in a wildlife park blast."

The name rang a bell. Nihal happens to be a good friend of Captain Elmo Jayawardena - the awe-inspiring Singapore Airlines pilot, who doubles up as an author and humanitarian.

I did another search and this showed up:
"How much more pain can we take? How many more years are we going to go on?" asked leading local artist Anoma Wijewardene, whose latest exhibition was inspired by hopes for peace but now coincides with a new rash of death - that of award-winning local author Nihal de Silva.

"I really wonder how many images how many words, how many tears, how many lives, how many deaths it will take before we understand that we are our killing ourselves, we are self destructing," she said. "This is the fourth friend I have lost."

Nihal and seven others were killed by suspected Tamil Tiger landmines while tracking wild elephants in a park in the island's northwest. The Tigers denied any hand in the incident."

Hoping against hope, I immediately emailed Captain Elmo and Janet de Neefe - Nihal was supposed to be at this year's Ubud Writers Festival.

There was a sense of dread, the news was true, somehow I waited for Captain to tell me it wasn't.
But that was not to be... He responded with this moving tribute:

"Dear Deepika and Janet
He will be buried today. I wrote this for him - the least I could do.


Nihal de Silva is no more. He had his last round of life in the fairways of the Wilpattu National Game Park, a place he loved so much.

Was there a meaning to his tragic death? Why did he have to die so cruelly and brutally? A man who had nothing to do with the ethnic conflict that has plagued us all for so long?

He was only an ordinary human being, like the rest of us; played his lousy golf and sold water and wrote brave and beautiful prose. Nihal won the Gratiaen Award and the State Literary Award, writing courageously about political parasites and their terminal torture of a nation and its helpless masses.

His death has no direct connection to anything ethnic or anything political. That is the absurdity of it all. Why a man gets wiped away from the face of the earth for going to look at elephants and stepping on a land mine that has been placed to demark the boundary between sanity and insanity.

Nihal was my friend, Shirley is my friend and Shanik and Shamal are my friends. What do I tell them? I tell them the same as I would tell anyone, that Nihal de Silva was a wonderful human being who walked this planet in steps that bothered none; an adoring husband and a loving father and a wonderful friend to all.

One thing he knew well was to laugh, and he laughed and we laughed. The last time we met we went to eat 'oppers and 'ot curry in Nawala and talked about going to Bali to a writer's festival in September for which we were both invited.

Now there is no more Bali, no more Nihal and no more laughter for me to share with him.

Good-bye Nihal, my dear friend of the risibility we wrote and idiocy we planned to write. Sometimes I wonder whether you ever knew how much I appreciated you as an author or for that matter how much I will miss you as a friend.

Good bye ABVB - this is from BVB- the line is only for us, where ever you maybe.

The sadness swallows me and the absurdity is almost insane.

I cannot write anymore, the key board is wet." - ELMO JAYAWARDENA

It may be business as usual for you, but before you set out for the day... take a moment to pause, reflect and remember Nihal and all those people who die for the very things that they have lived for.

For the record, the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 1972.

More than 200 people died last month alone despite a four-year truce between government forces and the rebels, brokered by Norway.

Isn't it time for someone, somewhere to do something beyond just talking about an uneasy peace?