In a week’s time I came back to Aquarius Hotel to assist the team which wanted to survey the tsunami-hit areas.
I was waiting in the lobby, expecting Pascal Sadune, the leader of the survey team and others.
In a few minutes’ time, Pascal came to meet me.
He was wearing a sarong, a usual casual and traditional dress of Sri Lanka and South Indian to some extent.
There were two others, Mike and a female German student.
I shook hands and went with them to the restaurant.
The wind was blowing a little heavily from the Indian Ocean.
Pascal holds a Master of Arts in Political Science and had worked for some time in the German Ministry of Defense.
Pascal is a simple guy.
He said his maternal grandfather was from France and in the Second World War while serving in Germany, had fallen in love with his to-be grandmother.
There were many inter-marriages in Germany and Europe in the Second World War and before.
Pascal is now attached to the International Institute of Ratings and Consultancy.
The tsunami disaster had activated the Institute to survey the needs of the people in the tsunami-hit areas.
The tsunami survey was coordinated with the leading University in Germany with its three professors.
While we were on an interesting topic, a new female student whom I had not met before came to us.
She said she is Stefani and part of the surveying team.
I greeted and conveyed my good wishes.
Pascal held forth about the rest of Europe and Germany.
He confessed this was his first visit to Sri Lanka and before he came some of his professors who had already visited Sri Lanka had told him that Sri Lanka looks more like some of the Latin American countries.
On the subject of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure he praised it and said he visited Morocco sometime back and it is only in city only you feel at ease, but when you go interior you feel you have lost contact with rest of the country.
I told him the ethnic crisis severely hampered Sri Lanka’s progress and now it’s far behind compared to its once neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia.
Once, Singapore’s then Prime Minister Li Kuan Yew was impressed by Sri Lanka’s economic progress and wanted to model Singapore along the lines of Sri Lanka.
But now if Sri Lanka wanted to progress like Singapore it was a Herculean task and would take a very long time.
Singapore has gone far in rescheduling their resources and given maximum effect to their strengths and reduced their weaknesses and created the opportunities or tapped it in the right way.
Even neighboruing Malaysia which was struggling with tin and rubber, identified the new world trends and collaborated with various combines in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world and established manufacturing Industries that started to export high-value hi-tech goods.
Later it joined the information super high-way club, by introducing the multi-media super corridor.
Though the dot.com burst troubled its new IT ventures, it is still coming up with its own unique strategies to play a major role in Industry.
Pascal was listening carefully to my points on the Southeast Asian super-hubs developments in the economic sphere and asked me about the currencies which are pegged and the Asia financial crisis.
Now, our discussion were on how we were going to undertake the survey in the Island and assessing the difficulties we would face when in the LTTE-controlled territories as they are very strict on surveys, without their permission.
We decided to identify some local NGOs from the war-torn areas and coordinate with them our survey.
The hours-long venture had come finally to an end.
I left the Aquarius with a new understanding of many European and worldly issues.
We selected a few people from a church in the eastern province of the Island to participate in our survey of the tsunami disaster.
We all came to the Aquarius for a meeting.
In a while, Pascal also joined us.
We then joined the other surveying team at a meeting.
Stefani, Romy and Mike also were also there with Dietmar Doering who presided and lots of controversial issues came in for discussion.
The recent breakaway within the LTTE also came up for discussion and caused a lot of confusion among the German participants.
Though internal rivalries are not common to the world within liberation and other organizations, it always appears hard and complicated a topic to discuss and is a matter of debate as to how it could have been averted.
Rajkumar Kanagasingam is author of a fascinating book on German memories in Asia and you can explore more about the book and the author at AGSEP