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20A controversies: mega cabinet and dual citizenship



By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

Anomalies created by the ill-thought-out and badly drafted 19A, the most important being the inability of the President to hold the defence portfolio even though he is the head of the armed services must be rectified urgently. Although many objections have been raised to the proposed 20A, most of them are unjustified. One of the objections is that because we have amended our Constitution far too many times, instead of yet another amendment, we should go for a new constitution. Easier said than done! Formulating a new Constitution is a time-consuming process if it is to stand the test of time without further amendments. Having engineered a coup to oust Mahinda, Ranil and his cabal introduced 19A to create an executive premiership in all but name, but unfortunately that resulted in an executive presidency competing with an ‘executive premiership’ and led to disastrous consequences.

Another objection raised is that 20A runs counter to the promise of abolishing the executive presidency. Such a promise may have been made and broken by many past presidents but times have changed. In fact, no such pledge was made by either Gota during the last presidential election or the SLPP in the run-up to the last general election. The superb performance of President ‘Gota’, in spite of the restrictions imposed by 19A, greatly contributed to the SLPP’s spectacular win. By giving a massive mandate, on both occasions, the voters have in effect rejected the pledge made by others to abolish the executive presidency.

Much has been written about independent commissions but the performance of them during Yahapalanaya has shown that many are independent only in name. Any change to the status of these, if shown to be counter-productive, could easily be corrected when the new Constitution is framed.

When I wrote, “We don’t need a deputy PM or dual citizens as MPs” (The Island, 31 August) I was not aware of the proposal in 20A to abolish the limit on the size of the Cabinet. In fact, one of the few good features in 19A was the limit imposed on the number of Cabinet ministers, but the yahapalana leaders found a way around it, showing that they simply were a bunch of hypocrites. The UNP found an excuse to form a national government although it did not make that offer while Mahinda’s government was waging a successful campaign against terrorism. Instead, it ridiculed the war effort.

To their credit, after the general election, the President and PM restricted the size of the Cabinet in keeping with 19A. The President thus reiterated that Cabinet appointments were not perks for long-service or for placating various factions but they were to help develop the country. In this milieu, it indeed is very perplexing why limit on the cabinet size is to be removed with 20A. Portfolios are the biggest political bribes and we should not and must not return to that culture which did immense harm to the country in the past. One can only hope that saner counsel will prevail and this proposal be dropped from 20A.

There does not seem to be even the mention of a deputy PM and it looks as if it was an excuse invented by the supporters of Maithri, who has shown repeatedly that he has no sense of shame.

Disagreeing with me on the rights of dual citizenship holders, an illustrious product of my old school Rahula College, Matara, Prof. R. P. Gunawardane, former Secretary, Ministry of Education and Higher Education and former Chairman of National Education Commission has raised the question, “Why no dual citizenship?” (The Island, 4 September). He states, “Dual citizens are normal citizens of the country and they have all the rights and privileges of all other citizens”. True, but they are a privileged few who enjoy these benefits in two countries. Therefore, their loyalties are divided which can lead to conflict of interest that may affect decision making. Anyone reading the oath of allegiance taken by naturalised US citizens, as stated by R P in his piece, would not have much doubt about this. Imagine our minister in charge of trade, holding dual US citizenship, dealing with China when US has policies that will counter our interests.

Making comparisons with the West perhaps is not the most pragmatic. Let us look at Singapore, a country which was behind us in the fifties but is far ahead of us now due to the sheer dedication of its leadership and people. Although R P has included Singapore among the countries that allow dual citizens to hold any high post, it is not so. Rather, Singapore does not recognise dual nationality beyond the age of 21. This issue came to focus during the appointment of Arjun Mahendran as the Governor of Central Bank when the Yahapalana lie that he was a dual citizen was exposed. I am not suggesting that we go to that extent and abolish dual citizenships. I do agree with R P that many Sri Lankans living abroad, holding citizenship of other countries can make very valuable contributions to the development of the country and our government should facilitate that. However, there should be restriction of the privileges to the extent that they do not hold positions where allegiance to one country is essential. Further, there is the possibility of a future government giving important positions to their henchmen living abroad over those who stayed to serve.

R P Concludes his piece thus, “In the USA, of course, there are many dual citizens holding high positions in the government and also serving as elected representatives in the US congress”. What R P does not mention is that most elected representatives holding dual citizenship do so with Israel. As no declaration is mandatory, exact numbers are not known. Perhaps, if not for this dual allegiance, the Palestinian problem may have been solved long ago and the Middle East would not have been so volatile. Also, the freedom to criticise Israel for some of the atrocities it commits may be less restricted. Any criticism of Israel is labelled anti-Semitic, as happened to the UK Labour Party in recent times.

In fact, the US is the most likely country to exert influence through its citizens who hold high positions in other countries of their origin. It is the only country in the world that goes around engineering regime change. It is widely thought that the US did it to Sri Lanka in 2015, but, fortunately, our voters acted wisely at the last two elections. In fact, some may allege, perhaps with some justification that the deafening silence about the MCC is due to some members of the Rajapaksa clan holding dual citizenship!


Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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