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Another national trait; UN journo; other snippets

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Cassandra often disparages Sri Lankans’ apparently inherent traits which are not so good, sometimes even derogatory. One such is closing the door once the horse has fled and then flapping around merely screeching. Another is belated reaction and too late action which Cass’ belly aches about today.

 

That endangered tree

After that intrepid fauna and flora saver Devanee Jayathilake brought to the notice of highway constructors the fact they were about to destroy a fast disappearing species of endemic tree – Curdia zelanica – environmentalists rallied forth to swell her cry of Stop Cutting Down! These true national-minded folk interested in saving our fauna and flora in the face of ever increasing grabbing of forests and wetlands and rape of trees, have proved themselves to be genuine and ready to face powerful politicians or their favoured sidekicks and patrons. (I do not include among these dedicated environmentalists ex-Prez Sirisena, who is now very interested in saving that tree which I shall call Devinee’s Discovery and marched forth, with cameras of course, to save it. Is the gesture an attempt to boost his almost rock bottom deprivation of clout and brake his fast descent to a has-been?)

We wonder how the tree will be saved? The planned highway to slightly detour to accommodate the living tree or as suggested by some ‘transplanting’ it? I asked an expert botanist and his opinion was the tree is far too grown to undergo that operation. We heard recently that the Botanical Gardens Peradeniya had grown many seedlings and planted some in the Hingurakgoda Gardens, so though first reported as being the only standing tree of this genus/family, that is not the case. It is endangered but the genus will not be extinct if this particular tree – Devinee’s Discovery – has to be reduced to logs and timber.

I said this demonstrated another national trait: rise up almost after the event or awaken to a danger when it is imminent. This tree has been standing there for a century perhaps; the highway was planned with all studies done. It’s only when the new road comes right up against the tree that the hullabaloo starts. In this case it points to authorities being negligent until Devini and others converged to save the tree.

Consider also the East Terminal fiasco (term used deliberately). The plan to give over 49 % to India and Japan was initiated long ago and the port workers must have known about it then. Why the uprising only when work by Indians, Japanese and Sri Lankan engineers were just about to commence? Monks also seem to display this trait: wake up to national or provincial/district dangers when the danger is right at the door.

The national trait has developed to slumber as regards Covid-19. No stats given except total numbers, not daily; no info at all on how vaccination of the common or garden citizen is to be after health workers, the armed forces; those in high level working spots; all MPs and Parliamentary staff are done. We older languish with diminishing hope, hearing from friends and relatives in the UK and the USA they were vaccinated as second priority. The lives of the retired are valued and considered high risk and already vaccinated. We here don’t even know when and where and which vaccine will be given us. Talk was the govt was getting 20 million of the Oxford vaccine. Superb! One person told me 100% immunization is aimed at. Stuff and nonsense! A Prez Task Force for Vaccination was constituted. Cass sneakily thinks the older may even be considered expendable, not contributing but now a drain on the economy.

 

Kudos

Good to write about another Sri Lankan who has made a name in the Big Apple of all places and continues to identify himself with his birth country. Interest was evoked by the article in the Sunday Island of February 14 written by Roderic Grigson and titled A Book Focusing on the Hilarious Side of the UN. The said book is by long working journalist – former UN Bureau Chief and Regional Director of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency – Thalif Deen. The book is on Amazon.com and carries the long and explicit title No Comment and Don’t Quote Me on that with the longer subtitle: From the sublime to the ridiculous: over 40 years of reporting from the United Nations. The book is still to be procured and read but the author is known to many I spoke to. A long ago staff member of Lake House remembers Thalif Deen well, although memories are of the 1960s when Thalif was a cub reporter just out of school, probably. A friend in New York emailed he was very much with the Sri Lankans over there and was a film buff who loved to talk films; about the home country too. He contributes weekly to The Sunday Times.

The review of the book by Grigson, reinforced Cass’ lament that talent of the gentleman politician or diplomat has fast faded away. Grigson retells two anecdotes of Thalif with Dr Gamini Corea and Ambassador H M G S Palihakkara. Apart from an excellent journalist like Thalif, Sri Lanka/Ceylon boasted diplomats on the world stage highly recognised and valued by the UN. We know of Lakshman Kadirgamar, Jayantha Dhanapala, Radhika Coomaraswamy and others. Locally, we had MPs who could argue as arguing had to be done – N M Perera, Keuneman, Anura B. We now have only one among a rabble of government MPs – Dinesh G.

Deen was educated at Zahira College Colombo, University of Peradeniya and then his MSc at Columbia University. He was a Fulbright scholar too and worked in countries other than SL and USA. To quote Grigson: “No Comment … is part memoir, part discourse on international reporting reality from a third world perspective.” Go back to last Sunday’s Island and read the article if you missed it. We can swell out with legitimate pride in these dark times of sham and shame. The fact that enamoured Cass most after learning about Thalif Deen was that we had persons who comfortably straddled the world stage. In sharp stark contrast what we suffer in SL are the likes of pontificating monks who love a mike in hand, Gaman and Weera.

 

Colonised by India, this time

What a hue and cry and warnings reported in the news broadcast by MTV Channel I on Monday 15 night. There were two monks and others who made it out as if the BJP had invaded Free Sri Lanka and we were already an official colony of India. All over “Biplab Deb jokes about BJP expanding base to Nepal, Sri Lanka; Tripura unit comes out in support” (The Island of Tuesday 16). It was a political rally and a jocular statement that was picked up and ballyhooed by our true blue national blood veined yellow robed and those who see aggression from all countries.

 

Paddy/Rice Mafia

Cass asked a person who lives quiet but keeps his eyes and ears intelligently open and gets plenty input off the intellectual grapevine, about the shortage of rice in the market and high cost of what is available. “It’s the rapacious middleman and the millers’ associations who are to blame. They are wealthy and have clout with the government. Paddy Marketing Board gets lax. The poor farmer suffers.” And then he literally spat out in sheer disgust. “Everyone, top to bottom, is rotten with corruption. Mafias even in the medical profession.”

Cass asks dismally: Any hope of cleansing Sri Lanka of dishonesty, self-seeking greed and corruption?



Features

Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric

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Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers

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Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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Features

A mask of DATES…

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Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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