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Animal welfare activist felicitated




Sri Lanka’s Animal Welfare Activists commemorated World Animal Day by recognizing and felicitating Animal Welfare Activists who over the years have worked tirelessly for the betterment and upliftment of Community animals. The felicitation ceremony which was held at Park Street Mews Restaurant.

Sagarica Rajakarunanayake who was felicitated has walked the corridors of power for animal welfare, picketed on streets, and continues to feed and nurture her own and community animals. She remains vociferous about issues relating to the care for animals and their rights.

Her childhood was a combination of connecting with nature guided by two parents who were animal lovers and activists in their own way, in keeping with the tradition of love for animals.

Interesting is the story of a cow who was brought as a gift for her father who was quite reluctant to accept it, but her mother feeling sorry for the cow, and thinking it would be given for slaughter, accepted and reared it. Every time the cow heard the father’s car coming down the road to their home, the cow started mooing, welcoming him.

Her school days started at Lindsay School, Bambalapitiya. Later she entered Bishops’ College,where she was a student activist and was appointed Head Prefect. She moved on to Aquinas University College to do her ALs in English, History and Economics. Being impatient to go into the wider world, she joined Lever Brothers in the Market Research Division.

While carrying on with her work at Levers, she became the first female Union leader there, and fought for many issues related to employee rights. A key achievement was the amalgamation of the staff and workers’ union, a milestone in private sector trade unions.

With this activism and rebelling for workers’ rights, she moved to fighting for animal rights. Sagarica joined Gal Gava Mithuro for the rights of the cart bull. While there she organized the first World Animal Day clinic with Veterinarian Dr Nandana Atapattu. The clinic was targeted for dogs and cattle. This event received much media exposure. Word had been sent to many carters and they were given the princely sum then of Rs 100 each, to bring their animals for the clinic as a day’s work was lost. A special cream was prepared by Dr Nandana for the wounds created by placing the yoke on the neck of the bull. Much work was done with the Police too. One of the first newsletters on animals was also started while being part of Gal Gava Mithuro.

Sagarica started her own organization, Sathva Mithra in 1993. She intervened at a “Tirikkal” or hackery racing event and sought to stop the torture of the racing bulls, and obtained much cooperation from the Police too.

She had a great commitment to stop the killing of stray dogs captured by the CMC and other local authorities, which was away from the traditional love for animals in the culture and living of Sri Lankan people. After much campaigning, the No Kill Policy on dogs was clinched by Sagarica after talking to then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Though many lobbied and worked on this issue, she persuaded President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the need to stop the killing of dogs captured from the street by local authorities, in view of the pain and suffering of these animals, under a colonial era law. President Rajapaksa was unaware of the huge pain and suffering imposed on these dogs. She also informed President Rajapaksa of the WHO protocol on controlling Rabies through catch, neuter, vaccinate and release.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, himself a strong lover of animals, gave an immediate order to stop the killing of stray dogs, and also made arrangements to provide adequate funding for the vaccination and sterilization of dogs. This initiated the facilities for providing vaccination and sterilization of all dogs, which continues to this day, and has seen the huge decline in rabies in the country.

As a member of the Advisory Committee to the Zoological Gardens, she was an activist for better conditions for animals at the Dehiwala Zoo. A significant move by her was being a single, one woman protester, at the auction sale of the Zoo elephant – Raja, after issues of cruelty to it. The matter was taken to the courts, leading to the Zoological Gardens having to find out the facilities, especially sufficient land and water, that can be provided by those who bid for the ownership of elephants sold by auction from the Zoo. The case was won, and Sagarica became the first woman to carry out such a legal battle to prevent cruelty and ensure better living conditions to domesticated elephants.

She also initiated action at the Zoo against a mahout that had badly injured the eye of the elephant Ganga, by striking it with a stone to make it rise from the water. The related inquiry saw interdiction and punishment for the mahout, and the overall improvement

of care for elephants at the Zoo. This was also the first time that such an inquiry was conducted at the Zoo, about an injury to an animal. Such injuries were till then buried in the normal running of the Zoo.

She has been a regular contributor to the media on animal rights and the welfare of animals. The “Animal Rights Diary” was a regular column by her, which had very wide leadership and reader responses. Another first by her was arranging with the Postal authorities to issue a stamp and a first day cover to the community dog, drawing special attention to the situation of the street dog.

Her message to the younger generations of animal welfarists is “speak out and act without fear when you see cruelty to and neglect of animals. You do not have to know anyone influential to lobby these issues. Do it as you, and force yourself on decision makers to make a change”


Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation



By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.





The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.





In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Album to celebrate 30 years



Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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LET’S DO IT … in the new normal



The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.



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