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A tribute to one of the greatest singers ever on her birth anniversary

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By Sunil Dharmabandhu
Retired visiting Mental Health Act Commissioner
UK
sunilrajdharm@yahoo.co.uk

Karen Anne Carpenter was an American singer and drummer who, along with her elder brother Richard, was part of the duo the Carpenters. Supremely talented and blessed with a distinctive three-octave contralto range, she was praised by her peers as one of the greatest singers ever. Her struggle with and eventual death from anorexia later raised awareness of eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

I am a regular ardent listener to Sri Lanka’s Gold FM in the U.K. and often get emotional when it plays Karen’s beautiful “Sing, sing a song”! This has its roots through a stage in my career working under the then medical director, Dr Mark Tattersall, a specialist in Eating Disorders at a private hospital in the U.K. where I learned first-hand how difficult and challenging it is to treat and look after adolescents, predominantly females suffering from typical and atypical eating disorders, some even having to be detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act which legally allowed force feeding through nasogastric tubes as such interventions are deemed to be lifesaving!

Background information

Karen was born on 02 March 1950 in New Haven, Connecticut and moved to Downey, in California, in 1963, with her family and died on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day in 1983. She began to study the drums in high school and joined the Long Beach State choir after graduating. After several years of touring and recording, Carpenters were signed to A & M Records in 1969, achieving enormous commercial and critical success throughout the 1970s. Initially, Karen Carpenter was the band’s full-time drummer, but gradually took the role of frontwoman as drumming was reduced to a handful of live showcases or tracks on albums. While the Carpenters were on hiatus in the late 1970s, she recorded a solo album, which was released years after her death.

At the age of 32, Carpenter died of heart failure due to complications from anorexia nervosa which was sadly little-known at the time even in the States and her death led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders. Interest in her life and death has spawned numerous documentaries and movies. Her work continues to attract praise, including appearing on Rolling Stones 2010 list of the 100 greatest singers of all time!

Karen was the daughter of Agnes Reuwer (née Tatum, March 5, 1915 – November 10, 1996) and Harold Bertram Carpenter (November 8, 1908 – October 15, 1988). Harold was born in Wuzhou in China, where his parents were missionaries. He was educated at boarding schools in England before finding work in the printing business.

Karen’s only sibling, Richard, the elder by three years, developed an interest in music at an early age, becoming a piano prodigy. Karen’s first words were “bye-bye” and “stop it”, the latter spoken in response to Richard. She enjoyed dancing and by age four was enrolled in tap dancing and ballet classes.

Family moves

The family moved in June 1963 to the Los Angeles suburb of Downey after Harold was offered a job there by a former business associate. Karen entered Downey High School in 1964 at age 14 and was a year younger than her classmates. She joined the school band, initially to avoid gym classes. Earliest symptom of an eating disorder? She graduated from Downey High School in the spring of 1967, receiving the John Philip Sousa Band Award, and enrolled as a music major at Long Beach State where she performed in the college choir with Richard. The choir’s director, Frank Pooler said that Karen had a good voice that was particularly suited to pop and gave her lessons in order for her to develop a three-octave range.

Karen Carpenter had a complicated relationship with her parents. They had hoped that Richard’s musical talents would be recognied and that he would enter the music business, but were not prepared for Karen’s success. She continued to live with them until 1974. In 1976, Carpenter bought two Century City apartments that she combined into one; the doorbell chimed the opening notes of “We’ve Only Just Begun”. She collected Disney Memorabilia and liked to play softball and baseball! Growing up, she played baseball with other children on the street and was picked before her brother for games. She studied baseball statistics carefully and became a fan of the New York Yankees. In the early 1970s she became the pitcher on a celebrity all-star softball team.

Petula Clark, Olivia Newton-John and Dionne Warwick were her close friends. While she was enjoying success as a female drummer in what was primarily an all-male occupation, Carpenter was not supportive of the women’s liberation movement, saying she believed a wife should cook for her husband and that when married, this was what she planned to do.

No interest in marriage

In early interviews, Carpenter showed no interest in marriage or dating, believing that a relationship would not survive constant touring, adding “as long as we’re on the road most of the time, I will never marry”. In 1976, she said the music business made it hard to meet people and that she refused to just marry someone for the sake of it. Carpenter admitted to Olivia Newton-John that she longed for a happy marriage and family. She later dated several notable men of the day.

After a whirlwind romance, she married real-estate developer Thomas James Burris on August 31, 1980, in the Crystal Room of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Burris, divorced with an 18-year-old son, was nine years her senior. A few days prior to the ceremony, Karen was taped singing a new song, “Because We Are in Love”, and the tape was played for guests during the wedding ceremony. The song, written by her brother and John Bettis, was released in 1981. The couple settled in Newport Beach. Carpenter desperately wanted children, but Burris had undergone a vasectomy and refused to undergo an operation to reverse it. Their marriage did not survive this disagreement and ended after 14 months. Burris was living beyond his means, borrowing up to $50,000 (the equivalent of $142,000 in 2020) at a time from his wife, to the point where reportedly she had only stocks and bonds left. Karen’s friends also indicated he was impatient.

A close friend, recounted an incident in which she and Karen went to their normal hangout, Hamburger Hamlet and Carpenter appeared to be distant emotionally, sitting not at their regular table but in the dark, wearing large dark sunglasses, unable to eat and crying. According to Kamon, the marriage was “the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.”

In September 1981, Karen revised her will and left her marital home and its contents to Burris, but left everything else to her brother and parents, including her fortune estimated at $ 5 to 10 million (between $14,000,000 and $28,000,000 in 2020). Two months later, following an argument after a family dinner in a restaurant, Karen and Burris broke up. Carpenter filed for divorce on October 28, 1982, while she was in Lenox Hill Hospital.

Carpenter begins dieting

Karen began dieting while in high school. Under a doctor’s guidance, she began the Stillman diet eating lean foods, drinking eight glasses of water a day, (tantamount to water loading, a common tactic in eating disorders) and avoiding fatty foods. She reduced her weight to 120 pounds (54 kg) and stayed approximately at that weight until around 1973, when the Karens’ career reached its peak.That year, she saw a concert photo of herself in which her outfit made her appear heavy. She hired a personal trainer, who advised her to change her diet. The new diet caused her to build muscle, which made her feel heavier instead of slimmer. Carpenter fired the trainer and began her own weight-loss programme using exercise equipment and counting calories. She lost about 20 pounds (9 kg) and intended to lose another five pounds. Her eating habits also changed around this time; she would try to remove food from her plate by offering tastes to others with whom she was dining, typical tactics anorexics adopt in a sly manner!

By September 1975, Karen weighed 91 pounds (41 kg). At live performances, fans reacted with gasps to her gaunt appearance, and many wrote to the pair to ask what was wrong. She refused to declare publicly that she was in ill health; on her 1981 Nationwide appearance, she simply said she was “pooped”. Richard later stated that he and his parents did not know how to help Karen.

In 1981, she told Richard that there was a problem and that she needed help with it. Karen spoke with Cherry Boone who had recovered from anorexia, and contacted Boone’s doctor for help. She was hoping to find a quick solution to her problem, as she had performing and recording obligations, but the doctor told her treatment could take from one to three years.

Visit to psychotherapist

She then chose to be treated in New York City by a psychotherapist. By late 1981, Karen was using thyroid replacement medication, which she obtained using the name of Karen Burris, to increase her metabolism. She used the medication in conjunction with increased consumption of the laxatives (up to 80–90 tablets per night) upon which she had long relied, which caused food to pass quickly through her digestive tract. Despite Psychotherapist Levenkron’s treatment, including confiscation of medications that Karen had misused, her condition continued to deteriorate, and she lost more weight. Karen told Levenkron that she felt dizzy and that her heart was beating irregularly. Finally, in September 1982, she was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, where she was placed on intravenous parenteral nutrition. The procedure was successful, and she gained some weight in a relatively short time, but this put a strain on her heart, which was already weak from years of improper diet. How different treatment approaches are today when patients are prescribed strictly controlled diets, starting with the lowest at A gradually increasing to B, C etc., with weekly weight charts and physical exercise programmes too gradually increased after multidisciplinary team meetings involving nursing staff, dietitian, art therapist, psychologist, key worker and chaired by the Consultant. I recall the fiasco when the private hospital I was working at recruited an Australian chef who had worked at the Sydney Opera House: he prepared tasty dishes rich in calories which created an immediate uproar amongst the patients! Dietitian got involved quickly to diffuse the situation teaching him how to prepare prescribed calorie-controlled diets! The clinical practice was all the multidisciplinary team sit with patients at lunch time playing a supportive role and giving them set times to finish their meals under close supervision to stop “smearing, hiding, dropping bits of food etc.!

Determination to reinvigorate career

In Karen’s case, she was not able to receive such individual care plans though she maintained a relatively stable weight for the rest of her life and returned to California in November 1982, determined to reinvigorate her career, finalise her divorce and begin a new album with Richard. On December 17, 1982, she gave her last singing performance in the multi-purpose room of the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks in California, singing Christmas carols for her godchildren, their classmates and other friends. On January 11, 1983, she made her last public appearance at a gathering of past Grammy Award winners, who were commemorating the awards show’s 25th anniversary. She seemed somewhat frail and worn out, but according to Dionne Warwick was vibrant and outgoing, exclaiming, “Look at me! I’ve got an ass!” She had also begun to write songs after returning to California and told Warwick that she had “a lot of living left to do”.

Plans for resuming tour

On February 1, 1983, Karen saw her brother for the last time and discussed new plans for the Carpenters and resuming touring. Three days later, on February 4, Karen was scheduled to sign final papers making her divorce official. Shortly after waking up on that day, she collapsed in her bedroom at her parents’ home in Downey. Paramedics found her heart beating once every 10 seconds (6 bpm). She was pronounced dead at Downey Community Hospital at 9.41 am.

Carpenter’s funeral was held on February 8, 1983, at Downey United Methodist Church. Approximately one thousand mourners attended, including her friends. Her estranged husband, Thomas Burris, also attended and placed his wedding ring into her casket. Carpenter was buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California. In 2003 her body was moved along with her parents to a private mausoleum at the Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village in California.

An autopsy released on March 11, 1983, ruled out drug overdose, attributing death to “emetine cardio toxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa. Karen was discovered to have abnormal blood sugar levels. Two years later, the coroner told colleagues that Carpenter’s heart failure was caused by repeated use of ipecac syrup, an over the counter emetic often used to induce vomiting in cases of overdosing or poisoning. This was disputed by Levenkron, who said that he had never known her to use ipecac and that he had not seen evidence that she had been vomiting. Karen’s friends were convinced that she had abused laxatives and thyroid medication to maintain her low body weight and thought this had started after her marriage began to crumble.

Eating disorders common

Eating disorders are one of the most common issues experienced by people all over the world, but often the least talked about. An estimated 30 million people are currently in the throes of an eating disorder, in the United States alone. Anorexia is one of many eating disorders, affecting people of all ages, backgrounds, and genders. But with the proper knowledge of the statistics behind anorexia, early intervention, and treatment, people with anorexia can get back to leading healthy and happy lives.

However, for teenagers and young adults, anorexia and other eating disorders can increase the odds of suicide by up to 32 times. Many anorexics feel hopeless and as the number one fatal mental illness in young people, eating disorders maintain a mortality rate that is 12 times higher than the mortality rate of all other causes of death within that age group. Regardless of age, every 1 in 5 anorexia deaths is a result of suicide. Without treatment, up to 20 percent of all eating disorder cases result in death. Ironically, it’s similar in prognosis to alcoholism- once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, though one is an addiction and the other far more complicated. In addition to having an eating disorder, some patients have:

Underlying anxiety

Depression

Mood disorders

Personality disorders

Even self-harm issues

The prevalence of eating disorders in non-Western countries is lower than that of the Western countries but appears to be increasing, according to Maria Makino, MD, PhD and Lorriaine Dennerstein, MBBS, PhD in her thesis “Prevalence of Eating Disorders: A comparison of Western and Non-Western Countries



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Opinion

Recent political violence and its consequences

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A house of an SLPP politician on fire after a mob attack

By Dr Laksiri Fernando

The government was directly involved in instigating political violence against peaceful protestors on 9 May, consequences of which had to be reaped within hours even those who are not directly involved in such action from the government side. Given the economic crisis and foreign exchange difficulties the country is facing at present, the consequences of these violent events that would badly affect the image of the country and the people. Sri Lanka has emerged as a violent country among foreign observers and critiques.

There were instances in the past that some ministers were involved particularly in attacks on ethnic minorities (1983). There was election violence where almost all parties were involved. The country is also notorious for a longstanding separatist movement with political violence as the main mode of operation. In 1971, there was a youth insurrection which reemerged in the late 1980s in a more sectarian manner. In April 2019, Sri Lanka became a target of Islamic State, with both local and international roots.

Reasons for Increasing Violence

During the initial years of independence, Sri Lanka was a peaceful country. Even the independence movement was characteristically peaceful without going into extremes. Except some incidents, related to worker’s strikes, the country was by and large peaceful and appreciated by many observers and commentators overseas. The situation dramatically changed in late 1960s giving rise to a strong leftwing organisation, the JVP. Even if the old-left parties were advocating ‘class struggle,’ no organisation had any military wing or anything like that.

Then, what went wrong since the 1970s? ‘Frustration-aggression’ theory could be one explanation. This is also the case in recent events beginning with farmers’ protests opposing the fertiliser ban. There were more broader reasons than ‘frustration’ or ‘relative deprivation.’ When it came to long queues and shortages in cooking gas, petrol, kerosene, diesel, medicine, and other basic amenties, the ‘relative deprivation’ turned into a ‘absolute deprivation.’ Most devastating was power cuts. All these happened within a context of high inflation where the value of people’s salaries and income became absolutely depreciated.

There were broader social reasons. Population explosion with young people becoming large both in numbers and as a proportion, widespread graduate and educated unemployment, dysfunctional education, the gap between rural and urban areas widening both in economic and social terms are some of them. Constitutional instability with amendments like 18A, 19A, 20A, back and forth, also contributed immensely for the youth to join militant political organisations and trade/student unions.

Can any of the reasons, however, justify political violence that became unleashed in the country in the recent past or before? Perhaps it is a common dilemma in many countries that human beings have a propensity to violence, ranging from mild verbal aggression to physical violence and vicious murder and everything in between. Aggression patterns, however, vary from country to country, age to age, and male to female. It is a fact that women are less violent than their male counterparts.

From PM’s Office

It was a Monday. Background was for the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign, given the increasing protests and because of obvious failures. With the organization of MP Johnston Fernando and others, hundreds of people were rallied around the PMs official residence, the Temple Trees. Soon the PM asked the people to come in and addressed them in an aggressive manner.

The PM asked whether he should resign, and the crowed shouted ‘No.’ They were shouting, ‘Whose power, Mahinda’s power.’ ‘That means I don’t need to resign,’ he replied. He has further said “You know in politics I have always been on the side of the country. On the side of the people … I am willing to make any sacrifice for the people’s benefit.”

Johnston Fernando, the government’s whip, was more aggressive and violent. “Let’s start the fight. If the President can’t handle the situation, he should hand over power to us. We will clear Galle Face.” The crowd cheered. Another person who was closely involved was Namal Rajapaksa, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s eldest son.

Some of the people who were prominently involved in organising the meeting were Johnston Fernando, Sanath Nishantha, Milan Jayathilake, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Sanjeeva Edirimanna, Saman Lal Fernando, Mahinda Kahandagama, Dan Priyasad, and their supporters. Western Province DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon was clearly involved as an accomplice.

The objectives of the gathering were extremely clear. It is difficult to believe that Mahinda Rajapaksa was unaware. During the apparent lack of interference of the police at Galle Face, his intervention was very clear on the side of the attackers.

SLPP goons wreaking havoc on the Galle Face protest site

Attacks and Counter Attacks

There were two sites that were particularly attacked. While there are different names, the most popular being ‘Gota-Go-Gama’ and ‘Mina-Go-Gama.’ Apart from around 200 people who were brutally attacked, their platforms, tents, placards, and flags were destroyed. Some people were thrown into the Beira-lake. Whatever the extremes of their slogans and demands, the above protest sites were prominent as peaceful protests.

It is strange to see, however, within hours of the above incidents, over 40 houses of the government supporters, including MPs, were attacked, and burnt down destroying some of the personal valuables. Ten people were killed in the incidents. Below is one incident that Al Jazeera reported.

“Earlier in the day, legislator Amarakeerthi Athukorala from the ruling party shot two people – killing a 27-year-old man – after being surrounded by a mob in Nittambuwa, about 40 km (25 miles) from Colombo, police said. CCTV footage showed the MP and his security officer fleeing into a nearby building. They were later found dead.”i

Of course, there are contradictory and different interpretations of the incidents. However, it is difficult to deny the involvement of some form of political activists. Who are they? Geetha Kumarasinghe narrated her ordeal in the following manner in Parliament.

“When they were attacking my home, I was trembling in fear and was hiding in a corner of a room. What wrong have I done? I have never hurt anyone. I have sacrificed everything to engage in politics and serve my people. I slogged and slaved in cinema and won many awards through sheer dedication and hard work. They destroyed all my trophies and awards. Why? Why did these young people do this to me? I can never get my awards and trophies back. You all have mothers, I am also a mother, why did you do this to me?” she sobbed.

Who Indulged in Violence?

One side is very clear. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Johnstone Fernando, and Namal Rajapaksa were clearly on one side. But who were on the other side?

The JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, recently admitted or claimed that “Our party has been there right from the beginning. We have our youth, cultural, student and women wings, at the Galle Face.” Of course, there were other groups and more independent ones. Silva’s attitude towards politics and other parties also became clear when he referred to heckling of the Leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa, when he visited the Galle Face protest site. Silva said the following.

“Everybody should be careful. People hate to see politicians travelling in luxury cars with security contingents. People detested the politicians’ attitude of trying to stay above them. The Opposition Leader went there in his luxury vehicles with his security guards and henchmen. So, he had to face the wrath of the people.”

Anura Kumara Dissanayake, in Parliament, denied any involvement of the JVP in house attacks and counter violence. He may be true to his conscience. There is a possibility that within the JVP itself that there are two wings operating. Tilvin Silva’s words remind us of the JVPs aggressive and violent past.

Dilemma of Violence

Violence appears to continue. There was a recent incident of people or groups attacking and burning a house of an owner of a fuel station. Undoubtedly there are extreme grievances on the part of the people due to fuel shortages and high prices of consumer items, including essential medicine. However, none of these reasons could justify political violence unleashed by the government or the opposition politicians.

There may be deep seated reasons why people in the country are extremely violent. Some of the reasons may go to the educational system and the way students are taught in schools and universities. Some reasons may be rooted in the family institution or even religion. Political culture in the country does appear to be extremely distorted or lopsided and change of which should come from all sectors of the political society. What might be important in the meanwhile are:

Deplore strongly political violence of all forms.

Request the new national government to ameliorate people’s economic grievances.

Punish those who have involved or instigated violence without discrimination.

Establish rule of law and impartiality of the public and security services.

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Opinion

21A and Ranil

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It is no secret that Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe is adept at “buying time” when confronted with any important issue. He appoints committees for that purpose. Unlike most politicians, he treads very cautiously until the time is conducive for an apparent solution.

Hence one should not be surprised if the draft 21A Amendment receives the same response at the first meeting of the new Cabinet scheduled for T24 May. Already the foremost item vis-a-vis stripping the President of executive authority has been put on the shelf. And taking into consideration that among those to be discussed is the provision for dual citizenship, one could see that the need for a committee to study deeper into it is a foregone conclusion.

Sri Lanka has a reputation of putting off for tomorrow what should be done today.

WILLIAM OPP

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Opinion

No business as usual for interim government

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By Jehan Perera

The government’s intention to appoint a full complement of Ministers and State Ministers, and the jostling for positions amongst them, seems to suggest an attitude of business as usual.  This is quite astonishing as it was just two weeks ago that no government member felt safe from the wrath of mobs that formed themselves very swiftly and, apparently, spontaneously, to attack their homes and properties.  Last week they overrode the Opposition’s demand for time to debate the motion of censure against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for having led the country to disaster.  They also scuttled efforts to nominate a female legislator to the post of Deputy Speaker, disregarding the request of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which could have sown the seeds for consensual governance. They gave priority to their own personal concerns of getting compensation from the State for their losses.

It is unsurprising, in this context, that anger against the government continues to boil within the country.  There are roadblocks and demonstrations by the members of the public in places where petrol is either not being provided or has been pumped to private vehicles by officials and politicians.  The lines for petrol and diesel, and for cooking gas, are longer than ever before, despite announcements that ships have begun unloading these fuels.  The lines stretch for over a kilometer in the case of petrol and diesel meant for vehicles. Videos circulate on social media providing vivid images of the frustration of those who have waited in line for hours and hours only to find out that stocks have run out before they could get access to the fuel.

The three-wheel taxi, that took me to the Aragalaya protest site, opposite the Presidential Secretariat, charged me nearly three times the regular fare that prevailed before the economy collapsed.  He justified his high rate on the basis that he had spent the whole of the previous day trying to fill his vehicle tank with petrol.  The Aragalaya site, on Saturday evening, was not as busy as it had been the previous week and nowhere near as crowded as it was two weeks ago.  But the spirit of the Aragalaya lives in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. The physical presence of protestors may be only a fraction of the turnouts that made the government want to put an end to it, through thuggery, a fortnight ago. Even those who are protestors have to live their daily lives and earn their daily bread.  But special occasions will bring them back in large numbers.

ABOLISH KINGSHIP

Galle Face is the site of the passion and commitment of a younger generation of Sri Lankans to the eradication of corruption and mis-governance foisted on them by the old. The young people know they are being monitored by state CCTV systems and are vulnerable to being picked up on a later date to be done away with, as happened in the past.  Hundreds are currently being arrested for the attacks that took place against the homes and properties of government members on May 9.  But only a few of those government members, who streamed out of the Prime Minister’s residence, with iron rods and other improvised weapons, after being instigated by the Prime Minister’s men, are being arrested.

Those who are powerful because they are in the government are glibly denying what is plain to be seen on social media.  This is a continuation of past practices which gives impunity to the powerful, whatever they do, which needs to end.  At the Aragalaya site, on Saturday, l listened to speakers who described the hardships of the economic crisis, of the mother whose gas cylinder exploded, due to inappropriate mixing of gases by the government, and of the parents who saw their infant die because they could not get petrol for their vehicle to take their child to the hospital in time.  These were educated young people who spoke and there were many who listened to them to become message-bearers to the larger population that was not present at the site.  They were all brave or had lost their sense of fear. I was also given a private lecture by a regular visitor to the Aragalaya site.  He explained to me why the diminished numbers that day did not mean that support for the cause was diminishing.  He had a vision for what the Aragalaya should achieve, which he summarized in four short points.

 First, he said, an all-party interim government needed to be appointed for a temporary period to provide the cohesion needed for political stability that would give the government the credibility to raise the necessary economic resources from abroad. Second was the need to repeal the 20th Amendment and to replace it with the 21st Amendment that would reduce the power of the presidency.  Third was to conduct general elections in a new system that would depart from the present 100 percent proportional representation to one in which first-past-the-post constituency system would account for at least 70 percent of the seats to make the parliamentarians accountable to their electorates. Fourth was to abolish the presidency that catered to the traditional ethos of relying on the saviour king rather than on the empowerment of people exemplified by the Aragalaya youth.

ARAGALAYA

PROMISE

Prior to the appointment of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, when the power of the Aragalaya protest caused the entire Cabinet to step down, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged to set up an all-party interim government for a temporary period.  This has now taken on a distorted form in the wooing and horse-trading of members of other political parties, without the consent of their party leaderships.  Both the SJP, which is the largest opposition party, and the SLFP, which is the government’s largest coalition partner, have suffered defections to the new government.  This display of power play is not a positive sign of stability which is necessary if the government is to deal with the difficult economic issues the country confronts. It is not possible to justify how those who resigned from office due to a failure of government can be part of a new Cabinet, as if the failure had nothing to do with them.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has made a comparison of the predicament he is currently facing in the government by comparing his situation to the famous play by Bertolt Brecht, the Caucasian Chalk Circle.  The Prime Minister has brought credibility to the government through his ability to deal with the international community and his understanding of the macro economic situation of the country in relation to the world.  The 21st Amendment to the Constitution that will be brought to Parliament this week, if passed, will strengthen the Prime Minister’s powers still more. Unless circumstances, and the balance of political forces, within Parliament, permit him to chart a new course of governance that is consensual and transparent, the present government will also fail.

Much is at stake. Unless the economy improves fast the possibility of violence that can suddenly erupt, as it did on May 9, cannot be ruled out.  As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour, India has been extremely generous now with its latest gift of Rs 2 billion worth of essential commodities, gifted by the Tamil Nadu state.  The challenge will be to persuade the more distant, but wealthier Western countries, Japan and China, to be equally generous.  The stability of the government that is brought about by the willing participation of the opposition political parties will be extremely important in demonstrating to the world, and to the Sri Lankan people, that the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, really intend to chart a new path.  The holding of elections, within six months, and a new leadership, can be an example to other countries with similar broken down systems and government leaders who step aside as statesmen for the new generations to take over.

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