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A Brief Response to the Current National Crisis – A Way Forward



Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike and Prof. Sharya Scharenguivel

Sri Lanka is at a crossroad, facing current multiple crises, as well as the present impasse of an unwanted Executive with all powers and an inadequate Legislature with little powers. The call of citizens, united in their diversity, is for real change. This requires clear priorities and a framework for a sustainable development plan for Sri Lanka which assigns responsibility to its Executive, Legislature and Public Service to implement that plan. This analysis tries to provide a structured way for the country to do so, based on 3 national priorities.

A. National Priorities – 1. Improving the Well-Being of All Citizens, 2. Safeguarding the Environment and 3. Rebuilding Key Institutions

This prioritisation assumes the basic premise that nations strive to improve the well-being of all citizens and safeguard their environment, which requires sustainable development with social justice, that minimises inequalities and poverty.


• Well-being” – material, intellectual and emotional quality of life

• “Sustainable Development” –progress in well-being lasting for future generations

• “Social Justice” – impartiality in access and opportunities for all, regardless of race, religion, income, social status, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any other differentiating factor

The importance of citizens’ rights in relation to the first 2 priorities, human well-being and safeguarding Sri Lanka’s environment, must be recognised in our Constitution. Equally important, is rebuilding Sri Lanka’s key institutions for implementation of policies and laws for sustainable development with social justice to realise the first 2 priorities.

1. Improving the Well-Being of All Citizens – Material, Intellectual and Emotional

What’s Wrong? – Successive governments lost sight of this underlying goal. Instead, national development plans have targeted the means to the goal (economic growth, investment, exports), sometimes at a cost to the goal itself.

Immediate Priorities

1.1 Foreign exchange, foreign debt, inflation, fiscal and economic crisis –Monetary and Fiscal mismanagement created these crises. Prepare a sustainable plan to raise confidence, restructure debt, obtain immediate bridge financing for a social safety net and essential imports of food, medicines, fuel, gas, intermediate goods to regenerate the economy and foreign earnings.

1.2 Constitutional crisis – Successive governments have stalled the process of constitutional reform and abolition of an over-powerful executive presidency. The GoGotaGo Movement is not merely a cry for a President to resign, but also for constitutional reform with effective checks and balances. Establish a secular new constitution with these national priorities at its core that overcomes existing weaknesses.

1.3 Corruption and law and order crisis–In recent years the country has experienced crony capitalism, blatant corruption at the highest levels and plunder of Sri Lanka’s assets, while the application of the law was seen as discriminatory, partisan and unequal. The recent independent stand of the Bar Association questioning state action reflects this. Restore confidence of citizenry in the integrity of the executive, legislature, police and justice systems, by strengthening relevant laws and strict implementation of the same, while ensuring independent, equal application of the law to all citizens.

1.4 COVID-related health, welfare and economic crisis – Sri Lanka needed, but did not have, an emergency plan, for vaccination, food distribution, phased people movement, transport and economic activities, in place during the pandemic. Review handling of Covid related issues, positives and negatives, and prepare an effective plan for any similar crisis.

1.5 Raise public awareness on the constitution, the economy, the law, citizens’ rights, particularly minority rights, and the need for reform.

Long Term Priorities (Universal Rights to improve human well-being)

1.6 Right to Representation – Electoral Reforms for meaningful representation that reflects Sri Lanka’s diversity at national, provincial and local government levels.

1.7 Right to Justice – Judicial Reforms through a systematic review process of existing laws and procedures which currently hamper delivery of justice.

1.8 Right to social and cultural freedom of expression and personal safety – Police and Legal Reforms to ensure freedom of expression and zero tolerance of discrimination on any differentiating factor. Build official tri-lingual capacity to ensure access to language rights and official communication in all 3 languages.

1.9 Right to Health – Policy and regulatory reforms to ensure cost-effective state and private, preventive and curative health service delivery to citizens.

1.10 Right to Nutrition – Policy consistency across agriculture and trade, to ensure food security and to increase value addition in agro-processing and agricultural exports.

1.11 Right to Social Safety Net – Welfare and social security reforms and policy consistency, with relevant and timely information for decision-making, to ensure adequate safety nets for all vulnerable citizens.

1.12 Right to Housing – Policy reforms to ensure access to housing markets across all socio-economic strata.

1.13 Right to Education –Education Reforms in curricula, teacher training, technology and infrastructure to suit today’s world. Regulate state and private institutions to ensure quality service delivery to citizens.

1.14 Right to Gainful Employment – Labour Market and related Legal Reforms to recognise and regulate new forms of atypical employment; establish liveable minimum wages policy; establish decent working conditions and allow employers more hiring flexibility, while protecting worker rights, thereby reversing people drain.

1.15 Right to a sustainable natural environment – Legal and related Reforms and action plans to reverse environmental destruction through a review process of existing laws, penalties and procedures.

1.16 Right to information – Address inadequate budgets, supply-side constraints and need for capacity building in key data agencies to ensure transparent methodology and access to public data.

1.17 Right of access to essential utilities and government services – National Administrative System Reform to eliminate multiple levels of authorisation for simple requirements, with a clear demarcation of what services are to be delivered at national, provincial and local government level, to ensure effective and efficient administration.

1.18 Right to stability of financial system and responsible fiscal management – Reform Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to ensure independence. Improve fiscal management and accountability at General Treasury.

1.19 Right to conduct business in an ethical, transparent, level playing field – Institutional and Legal Reforms to rationalise and simplify business regulation and approvals, with zero tolerance of bribery and corruption.

1.20 Right to National Security – Clarify role of Armed Forces. Foreign Policy Reform to include rationale for geopolitical relationships that ensures safety against physical, social or economic international threats.

2. Safeguarding the Environment for Sustainable Development

What’s Wrong? Without consistent plans, guidelines and adequate checks and balances to safeguard our biodiversity, ad-hoc “development” has taken a severe toll on our environment, thereby jeopardising the future.

Immediate Priorities

2.1 Maritime environmental crisis – Review and gather information on the progress or lack of progress on the recent case and establish processes to prevent other such occurrences in the future.

2.2 Plastic and toxic chemical pollution of land and waterbodies – Immediate ban on plastic with strict penalties for violations.

2.3 Ad hoc construction detrimental to biodiversity – Establish guidelines to monitor and regulate new construction in all environmentally sensitive (see 2.6 below) areas.

2.4 Ad hoc decisions detrimental to biodiversity – Establish guidelines with respect to landfills, garbage disposal, inland fisheries and tourism projects in environmentally sensitive areas.

2.5 Proper management and safeguarding of state lands in terms of the existing legal framework.

Long Term Priorities

2.6 Strengthen Regulations with severe penalties to protect Sri Lanka’s natural habitats –

o inland and coastal resort areas

o wild life sanctuaries

o mangroves, coasts and reefs

o rainforests, montane and dry-zone forests, wetlands and water sources

2.7 Establish and implement regulations to reverse –

o encroachment, invasive plant sand water plants, loss of animal and bird life in the above natural habitats

o detrimental landfills, plastic, fuel and other pollution within the above habitats

3. Rebuilding Key Institutions to Ensure Independence, Professionalism and Accountability.

What’s Wrong? – A Complete breakdown of independence, professionalism, accountability, channel-of-command and decision-making processes in key institutions critically hinders national systems from delivering services to achieve priorities 1 and 2. Currently, overlapping functions in over 30,000 entities functioning under 1,300 government institutions with 1.5 million employees, is both inefficient and costly.

3.1 Decision-making – Select Professionals with acumen to key positions, with guidelines for recruitment based on meritocracy

3.2 Public Sector Contraction and Reforms – Re-introduce responsibility, delegation of authority, co-ordination, channel-of-command and accountability. Cull ineffective institutions and posts.

3.3 Corruption – Enforce strict penalties against any form of bribery or corruption in public service.

3.4 Constitution – Accommodate Universal Rights outlined in Section A above. Revisit the role of the Constitutional Council (CC) and Independent Commissions. Assign all electoral delimitation to one independent authority.

3.5 Cabinet – Establish a Cabinet based on the Universal Rights in Section A, consisting, for example, of the subjects of – 1. Finance & Plan Implementation, 2. International Relations, 3. Defence, 4. Environment, 5. Justice, 6. Public Administration & Security, 7. Health, 8. Education, 9. Housing, Utilities & Welfare, 10. Food Security, Agriculture. Irrigation & Trade, 11. Transportation & Communication, 12. Infrastructure, 13. Information & Media, 14. Labour Relations, 15. Business Facilitation, 16. Cultural & Religious Affairs

B. Way Forward

Immediate Priorities

1. Reduce the powers of the Executive and bring in checks and balances, by introducing a 21st amendment to the Constitution that repeals the 20th amendment and re-introduces the 19th amendment with relevant changes.

2. Select professionals with knowledge, experience and acumen to key Public Service positions.

3. Define broad areas of responsibility and policy based on the Universal Rights identified from 1.1-1.20 above and taken from items 3.4-3.25 above.

4. Limit Government Cabinet to, at most, 20 Ministries, by grouping Items 3.4 to 3.25 appropriately for maximum efficiency. No State or Deputy Ministers. Opposition parties to establish a shadow cabinet for oversight purposes.

5. Assign each Government institution to the relevant Ministry identified at 4 above.

6. Review all Government institutions with a view to eradicating duplication of responsibility by retaining/combining/ closing institutions, as necessary.

7. Reassign staff to those that remain, accordingly.

8. Appoint experienced and capable professionals, giving due recognition to the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), as Secretaries to all Ministries. Establish chains of command, responsibility and accountability within, and co-ordination between, ministries. Hold Secretaries responsible for smooth functioning of their ministries and all government institutions under their respective ministries. Monitor performance and implement stiff penalties and fines under the law for any government official found guilty of bribery or corruption.

9. Close all loopholes that allow for political patronage. Ministers will be responsible only for policy-making and legislating in their areas of responsibility, not day-to-day running of institutions.

10. Reduce wasteful government expenditure, including excess security and unnecessary “perks” currently provided to Cabinet Ministers and other MPs.

11. Establish codes of conduct to ensure all non- Cabinet MPs attend to their responsibilities in their electorates and on parliamentary oversight committees to which they have been appointed to serve. Hold Party Leaders responsible for monitoring adherence to such regulations.

Long Term Priorities

12. Prepare a Framework for a Sustainable Development Plan for Sri Lanka based on the 3 National Priorities discussed in Section A.

13. Identify specific Universal Rights of citizens to be enshrined in a new Constitution using 1.1 to 1.20 above.

14. Prepare a separate code of ethics and guidelines or incorporate checks and balances into the new Constitution, to address the issues raised in 3.1-3.3 above.

15. Prepare a new Constitution and limit the size of the Cabinet of Ministers, based on 3.4-3.5 above.

Sharya Scharenguivel, MLitt., is Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Colombo, and Anila Dias Bandaranaike, Ph.D., is a former Assistant Governor and Director of Statistics, Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

NOTE: The numbering in this article has been used for ease of reference and does not signify any order of importance.

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From a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ to a ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’



A meeting of BRICS leaders

As the world continues to reel from the ‘aftershocks’ as it were of the October 7th Gaza Strip-centred savagery, what it should guard against most is a mood of pessimism and hopelessness. Hopefully, the international community would pull itself together before long and give of its best to further the cause of a political solution in the Middle East.

It is plain to see that what needs to be done most urgently at present is the prolongation of the current ceasefire, besides facilitating a steady exchange of hostages but given the present state of hostilities between the warring sides this would not prove an easy challenge.

Considering that there are no iron-clad guarantees by either side that there would be a longstanding ceasefire followed by a cessation of hostilities, what we have at present in the Middle East is a highly fraught ‘breather’ from the fighting. There are no easy answers to the currently compounded Middle East conflict but the external backers of the warring sides could alleviate the present suffering of the peoples concerned to a degree by bringing steady pressure on the principal antagonists to drastically scale down their hostilities.

If they mean well by the communities concerned, these external backers, such as the US, as regards Israel, and those major Middle Eastern states backing Hamas and other militant groups, would set about creating a conducive climate for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

De-escalating the supply of lethal military hardware to the warring sides is a vital first step towards this end. External military backing is a key element in the prolongation of the war and a decrease in such support would go some distance in curtailing the agony of the peoples concerned. The onus is on these external parties to prove their good intentions, if they have any.

Meanwhile, major states of the South in increasing numbers are making their voices heard on the principal issues to the conflict. One such grouping is BRICS, which is now featuring among its prospective membership, countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran. That is, in the foreseeable future BRICS would emerge as a greatly expanded global grouping, which would come to be seen as principally representative of the South.

Since the majority of countries within the BRICS fold are emerging economies, the bloc could be expected to wield tremendous economic and military clout in the present world order. With China and Russia counting among the foremost powers in the grouping, BRICS would be in a position to project itself as an effective counterweight to the West and the G7 bloc.

However, the major challenge before the likes of BRICS is to prove that they will be a boon and not a bane to the poorer countries of the South. They would be challenged to earnestly champion the cause of a just and equitable world political and economic order. Would BRICS, for instance, be equal to such challenges? Hopefully, the commentator would be able to answer this question in the affirmative, going ahead.

The current issues in the Middle East pose a major challenge to BRICS. One of the foremost tasks for BRICS in relation to the Middle East is the formulation of a policy position that is equitable and fair to all the parties to the conflict. The wellbeing of both the Palestinians and the Israelis needs to be staunchly championed.

Thus, BRICS is challenged to be even-handed in its managing of Middle Eastern questions. If the grouping does not do this, it risks turning the Gaza bloodletting, for example, into yet another proxy war front between the East and West.

Nothing constructive would be achieved by BRICS, in that the wellbeing of the peoples concerned would not be served and proxy wars have unerringly been destructive rather constructive in any way. The South could do without any more of these proxy wars and BRICS would need to prove its skeptics wrong on this score.

Accordingly, formations, such as BRICS, that are genuine counterweights to the West are most welcome but their presence in the world system should prove to be of a positive rather than of a negative nature. They need to keep the West in check in the UN system, for example, but they should steer clear of committing the West’s excesses and irregularities.

More specifically, the expanding BRICS should be in a position to curtail the proliferation of identity politics in the present world order. The West has, thus far, failed to achieve this. The seismic convulsions in the Gaza re-establish the pervasive and pernicious presence of identity politics in the world’s war zones, so much so, one could say that US political scientist Samuel Huntingdon is being proved absolutely right in his theorization that world politics over the past 30 years has been essentially a ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

After all, current developments in the Middle East could be construed by the more simple-minded observer as a pitting of Islam against Judaism, although there are many more convoluted strands to the Middle East conflict than a violent clash of these religious identities. More so why the influence of identity politics needs to blunted and eliminated by the right-thinking.

One way in which this could be achieved is the through the steady espousal and practise of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ theory. While the existence of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ cannot be denied on account of the pervasive presence of identity politics the world over, the negative effects of this brand of politics could be neutralized through the initiation and speeding-up of a robust dialogue among civilizations or identity groups.

Such an exchange of views or dialogue could prove instrumental in facilitating mutual understanding among cultural and civilizational groups. The consequence could be a reduction in tensions among mutually hostile social groups. Needless to say, the Middle East is rife with destructive politics of this kind.

Accordingly, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way cultural groups interact with each other. The commonalities among these groups could be enhanced through a constant dialogue process and the Middle East of today opens out these possibilities.

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Their love story in song…



The duo in the company of Dinesh Hemantha and Jananga

It’s certainly encouraging to see Sri Lankan artistes now trying to be creative…where songs are concerned.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen some interesting originals surfacing, with legendary singer/entertainer Sohan Weerasinghe’s ‘Sansare,’ taking the spotlight.

Rubeena Shabnam, Sri Lankan based in Qatar, and Yohan Dole, living in Australia, have teamed up to produce a song about their love life.

‘Adare Sulagin’ is the title of the song and it’s the couple’s very first duet.

Says Rubeena: “This song is all about our love story and is a symbol of our love. It feels like a dream singing with my fiancé.”

Elaborating further, especially as to how they fell in love, Rubeena went on to say that they met via social media, through a common friend of theirs.

The song and video was done in Sri Lanka.

Rubeena and Yohan with lyricist Jananga Vishawajith

“We both travelled to Sri Lanka, in August this year, where we recorded the song and did the video, as well.

‘Adare Sulagin’ was composed by Dinesh Hemantha (DH Wave Studio, in Galle), while the lyrics were penned by Jananga Vishwajith, and the video was handled by Pathmila Ravishan.

It is Dinesh Hemantha’s second composition for Rubeena – the first being ‘Surali.’

“It was an amazing project and it was done beautifully. Talking about the music video, we decided to keep it more simple, and natural, so we decided to capture it at the studio. It was a lot of fun working with them.”

‘Adare Sulagin,’ says Rubeena, is for social media only. “We have not given it for release to any radio or TV station in Sri Lanka.”

However, you could check it out on YouTube: Adare Sulagin – Rubeena Shabnam, ft. Yohan Dole.

Rubeena lives and works in Qatar and she has been in the music industry for almost five years. She has done a few originals but this one, with Yohan, is very special to her, she says.

Yohan Dole resides in Australia and is a guitarist and vocalist.

He has a band called Rhythmix, in Australia, where they play at various events.

He has been doing music for quite a while now but doing an original song was one of his dreams, he says

Rubeena and Yohan plan to get married, in December, and do more music together, in different genres.

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Mathematics examinations or mathematics curriculum?



Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams. 

by Anton Peiris

R. N.A. De Silva has, in a recent article, provided some useful tips to students as regards preparation for mathematics examinations. Trained teachers and graduates with professional qualifications are familiar with this topic.  All mathematics teachers have a duty to help the students with revision.

The more important task is to salvage the Sri Lankan O/Level mathematics students from the abyss that they have fallen into, viz. the implications and the retarding effect of the use of obsolete Log Tables. The Minister of Education, Senior Ministry Officials and the NIA are oblivious to the important and interesting things that have happened in Grades 10 and 11 mathematics in the UK, other parts of Europe, Japan, Canada, China and elsewhere. They have been like frogs in a well for almost half a century. Here are two important facts:

1. O/Level mathematics students in Sri Lanka are 46 years behind their counterparts in the UK and in other developed countries. Ordinary Scientific calculators were introduced to the O/Level mathematics classrooms in the UK way back in 1977. Prior to that those students used Slide Rules to facilitate their mathematical calculations. Ordinary scientific calculators give the values of Sine, Cos, Tan and their Inverses, Log, LN, exponential powers, square roots, squares, reciprocals, factorials, etc., at the press of a button, in addition to performing arithmetic functions. There is no memory to store mathematical formulae, etc. It is an invaluable tool for solving sophisticated and interesting mathematical problems and also problems in ordinary statistics. It has paved the way for achieving high standards in O/Level Mathematics in those countries.

Just compare the maths questions in the Cambridge IGCSE or the London O/Level Maths Exam with the questions in the Sri Lankan O/Level maths exam and you will see how far our students have fallen behind.

The Cambridge O/Level examination was replaced by the GCSE and the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) a few decades ago.

I am not referring to Programmable Calculators and Graphic Display Calculators (GDC), meaning devices with a small screen that can display graphs, perform statistical calculations like the Z- Score for large samples, show Matrix calculations, provide solutions to algebraic equations, etc., at the press of a few buttons. GDC is a compulsory item for A/Level mathematics students in the UK and in all developed countries.

Some teachers say that by using ordinary scientific calculators in Grades 10 and 11, students will not acquire the ability to carry out mental arithmetic calculations. This is not true because

(i). Calculators are introduced in Grade 10. Maths teachers have five years of Primary School and three years of Middle school (Grades 7, 8 and 9) i.e. a total of eight years to inculcate sufficient mental arithmetic skills in their students before the calculators are introduced in Grade 10!

(ii). In the IGCSE and in the London O/Level Mathematics Exams calculators are not allowed for Paper 1. Preparation for Paper 1 requires the acquisition of mental arithmetic skills, e.g., one lesson per week in class in Grades 10 and 11 in which calculators are not allowed. Sri Lanka could follow suit.

Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams.

An ordinary scientific calculator costs less than 10 % of the price of a smartphone.

Sri Lankan students in International Schools sit the IGCSE or the London O/Level mathematics exams where ordinary scientific calculators are allowed. These students have made big strides in learning mathematics by using the calculators. Only the rich can send their children to International Schools in Sri Lanka. Millions of poor Sri Lankan students do not have calculators.

Our Minister of Education has announced that the government was planning to transform the country’s education system by introducing ‘’STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Maintaining high standards in O/Level Mathematics is the key to a successful implementation of STEAM programme. Unfortunately, the Education Minister and top education official are not aware of the fact that the only way to improve the standard of O/Level Mathematics is to do what the developed countries have done, i. e., revamping the O/Level mathematics syllabus and to introducing the ordinary scientific calculator in Grades 10 & 11. If they do it, it will be an important piece of curriculum development.

Bear in mind that the UK and other developed countries have taken another important step during the last 20 years; they have introduced the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) to the O/Level Mathematics class and by providing a Core Exam and an Extended Exam. In the Cambridge IGCSE Mathematics Exams, Papers 1, 3, and 5 constitute the Core Exam. Papers 2 ,4 and 6 constitute the Extended Exam. Calculators are not allowed in Papers 1 and 2.

The Core Exam is a boon to students who have very little or no mathematical ability. More on this in my next article.

By using Log Tables, our Sri Lankan O/Level students have to spend a lot of time to solve an IGCSE (Extended Syllabus) exam problem or a London O/Level mathematics exam problem because the use of Log Tables takes a long time  to work out the Squares, Square Roots, exponential powers, reciprocals , LN , factorials, etc., and that is tedious work while their counterparts in developed countries do that in a few seconds by pressing a couple of buttons in an ordinary scientific calculator.

The Calculator has given them more motivation to learn mathematics.

O/Level students in the UK have graduated from the ordinary scientific calculator to the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) thereby improving their ability to solve more sophisticated, more important and more interesting problems in mathematics, statistics and physics. Sri Lankan O/Level students are compelled to use obsolete Log Tables.

Hats off to that Minister of Education who introduced the ordinary scientific calculator to the Sri Lankan A/ Level Mathematics classroom and to the A/Level Mathematics Exam a few years ago. That was a small step in the right direction. Minister Susil Premjayantha, please revamp the O/Level mathematics syllabus and introduce the ordinary scientific calculator to Grades 10 and 11 now. That will ensure a big boost for your STEAM programme and yield benefits for the Sri Lankan economy.

(To be continued. Topic 2:  The necessity for introducing an O/Level Mathematics Core Exam and an Extended Exam. The writer has taught O/Level and A/Level Mathematics and Physics for 45 years in Asia, Africa and Europe and is an Emeritus Coordinator for International Baccalaureate, Geneva.)

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