A show of Sand Dune Success!
It’s time to cheer. We have a Sand Dune – not in a desert – but on the beach of the Port City. A great Veli Keliya Vella.
Isn’t it truly great to see Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa – with Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunge lodged behind him – riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) in the only artificial beach in Sri Lanka?
This Sand Dune display, in the Port City, is a big move for the development of tourism, as the green of agriculture is being forced out of the country, with tea estates and paddy cultivation facing great danger from the fertiliser attack. Sand Dune Tracking and Tracing can be the big new tourism exercise, not of a green country.
This is certainly keeping in line with the plans to have Formula One – F1- racing in Hambantota. Let’s prepare for the day when Lewis Hamilton – UK, Sebastian Vettel – Germany, Sergio Pérez – México, and many other F1 racers show their skills here, with their very special and expensive racing cars.
Minister Namal Rajapaksa, who led more than one hundred Buddhist monks to India recently to attend the opening of the Kushinagar International Airport in India, is now the opener of Sand Dune Riding in the Port City – the Cheena Varaaya Nagaraya. Let’s await more Sand Dune riding locations in the country, with a grand rise in tourism.
This is the new Rajapaksa Style in national development – with Namal making his mark, to beat the Gotabaya image that is making a speedy flow to the bottom.
The Sand Dune display by Namal Kumaraya was very well timed, to grab the headlines away from the ‘One Country, One Law’ obsession of Gotabaya Governance. It certainly took people’s minds away from the appointment of Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thera to head the new Task force on One Country, One Law. It is certainly wonderful to see such a supporter of a Sinhala and Budu Bala Senava, studying the legal issues on One County, One Law, with four members of the minority Muslim Community – with the total absence of a Tamil from Sri Lanka, and any woman from this country, too.
It is certainly time for the people to know that there is no need or place for a woman or Tamil in any serious discussion on changing the laws and constitutional structure of Sri Lanka.
No one should remember President Gotabaya telling the world, when speaking at the UN General Assembly, of having discussions with the Tamil Diaspora. We should be glad that he has not appointed any Tamil Diaspora member to the ‘One Country, One Law’ Task Force. How could one even think of One Country – with any Tamil on the Task Force?
This is the situation with regard to the place of women in this country, too. Gotabaya Rajapaksa would have thought he must do even better than the voters of Sri Lanka, who elected only nine women members to this Parliament, and just three more were nominated – to a House of 225 members.
The population of Sri Lanka may have more than 50 percent women, but our Parliament should have nothing near such a percentage.
President Gotabaya has done even better. What thinking or any contribution could any woman make to the laws to be drafted on ‘One Country, One Law’? Just remember that when the woman State Minister of Health was moved to Transport, the woman state minister below her, was not elevated to Health Minister; but the very male Keheliya Rambaukwelle, was brought, to pray to the gods on fighting the Covid pandemic.
Just try to think how many queens we had in our Sinhala history, compared to so many kings.
One Country, One Law is certainly an issue that can raise the mood of the people against the government, when there are daily protests about the lack of fertiliser, teachers and principles are working while on silent strike, foreign currency is tumbling down despite what the Cabinet-ranked Governor of the Central Bank repeatedly says, and CEB trade unions are reportedly planning action about the power given to the New Fortress Energy of the US, especially on the control of LNG.
This new Task Force on One Country, One Law, headed by none other than Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, with his own special preaching of Buddhism, is the stuff of meeting the mood of the people; and minority Muslims, who were big supporters of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, is the stuff of Sinhala Politics today. All the powers that Gotabaya Rajapaksa enjoys and uses today, thanks to 20A, is certainly the best way to bring Political Buddhism, against Saddharma Buddhism, to the people of Sri Lanka.
This is the way to make Political Sinhala Buddhism, and not Saddharma Buddhism, the operative factor in the Rajapaksa Rajavasala Governance. Sand Dunes and Formula One racing is certainly the highlight of the emerging Sri Lanka. It’s time to forget the history and culture of Temples and Tanks, and take Sigiriya off your minds, too.
Sand Dunes will bring the much needed Political Veli Keli, for continued Rajapaksa dominance. Cheers to Namal for his show of Sand Dune success!
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
CATCH 22 for
‘Ranpota’ hitmaker Nimal Jayamanne has got a new outfit going, made up of veteran musicians.
The band is called CATCH 22 and they, officially, started performing at The Warehouse (TWH), on 2nd March 2023.
The members are Nimal Jayamanne, R. Sumith Jayaratne, Duminda Sellappruma, Keerthi Samarasekara and Sajith Mutucumarana.
Says Nimal: “I took this name (CATCH 22) as a mark of respect to the late and great Hassan Musafer, who was the drummer of the original Catch 22.
You could catch Nimal in action, on Thursday evenings, at TWH, from 7 pm onwards.
Till recently, Nimal, who underwent a cataract operation, on his left eye, last week, was with Warehouse Legends, and has this to say about them:
“Thank you Warehouse Legends for letting me be an active member of your team, during the past year and 14 days. I wish you all the best.”
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