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Back to vicious cycle or new cycle?



by Jehan Perera

The presidential proclamation declaring a state of emergency did not immediately provoke a negative reaction.  In his proclamation, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that he was of the opinion this was necessary to ensure public security and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community in view of the prevailing emergency situation in Sri Lanka in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public reaction may well have been positive to this announcement because the declaration of a state of emergency would be seen as for the purpose of taking care of the people’s needs. The media has been showing images of hoarded sugar stocks being unearthed and taken away by the security forces to be distributed to the public.  The immediate coverage of the declaration of emergency by the international media also gave a benign explanation of dealing with food and cooking fuel shortages.

However, there are wider implications to the declaration of emergency that have been identified by the opposition political parties.  They have pointed out the importance of ensuring that the extraordinary powers given to the executive through these emergency regulations need to be used for the specific purposes recognised by the regulations which pertain to health and food security.  Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa said that the real objective of the government imposing an emergency was to form a dictatorial administration leading to the burial of democracy.  He called on the government to reverse the gazette notification under which emergency was imposed and to activate a Consumer Security Bill. He was quoted as saying, “Emergency will not bring in COVID vaccines, and it will not contain the pandemic. It will not bring down the prices of essential goods either.”

As a country that has spent a substantial portion of its post-independence history under emergency law, there is much negative experience to draw from in anticipating the future course of events.  The legal significance of a state of emergency is spelled out in Article 155 (2) of the Constitution.  It states that “The power to make emergency regulations under the Public Security Ordinance or the law for the time being in force relating to public security shall include the power to make regulations having the legal effect of over-riding, amending or suspending the operation of the provisions of any law, except the provisions of the Constitution.”  Laws that give more powers to the rulers are seldom withdrawn in a gracious manner.  An example would be the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was brought in as a temporary law in 1979, draconian even then, but which has grown so much in scope that no government that followed has wished to withdraw it, preferring to make use of it instead to control those in opposition to them.


The repeal of the PTA has been set by the EU Parliament as a lead condition for the continuation of the European Union’s GSP Plus tariff privileges in view of its historical role in facilitating human rights violations. This law permits the security forces to arrest people on suspicion and then keep them incarcerated while they may take their own time to find the evidence that would enable the case to be taken to the judicial process.  But so far the best that the government has been able to do with regard to either amending or replacing the law is to set up yet another committee to study it and make recommendations. It has also released 16 of the LTTE suspects incarcerated for a long period of time but In the meantime, other people continue to be arrested under it and detained without trial.

The willingness of the government to release the LTTE suspects and the appointment of committees to look into the reform of the PTA and to see if more LTTE prisoners can be released are indications that the government is taking the forthcoming UNHRC meeting seriously.  However, the implications of emergency law as spelled out by the Opposition and by civil society organisations are likely to lead to greater skepticism in the human rights community, both local and international, about the government’s good intentions. The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has stated that emergency regulations “should not be considered as a substitute for the normal legal regime. As such the State of Emergency should be in force only for a limited period of time.”

In recent weeks, the newly appointed Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris has been meeting with foreign embassies in the country to explain the government’s position on issues of interest and to indicate the government’s plan for the way forward. As an expert in international and constitutional law he will be able to present the best possible case from the government’s point of view.  However, he needs to be supported by positive changes on the ground. If this base support is not forthcoming, it will seem to be as if the Sri Lankan batsman will be batting on a bad wicket and bowled out in quick order.  The declaration of emergency law, the appointment of military officers to oversee food and fuel distribution, and the continuing detentions without trial under the PTA will queer the pitch for champions of Sri Lanka’s democracy and human rights.


The UN Human Rights Council session will commence in Geneva next week.  Sri Lanka will be in the embarrassing position of being one of a handful of countries that will be considered in depth at that session.  The government is reported to have handed over a report of its significant achievements in the areas of concerns to the UNHRC. This includes the meetings that members of the government, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, have had with a section of civil society.  This civil society group, most  of them drawn from peacebuilding backgrounds, presented many issues for addressing by the government. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  The ideas shared and good intentions need to be actualised on the ground or else they remain mirages of things hoped for.

There seems to be a perception gap in which the government leadership does not seem to be aware of how others perceive them and their actions. A recent example would be the event that the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) organised and in which government leaders set out their thinking on the issue.  This was a positive initiative on the part of the government.  However, there is a need to do more and go beyond the discussion that took place that day. The issue of missing persons is an extremely sensitive and emotive one, for it concerns the loved ones of families that they will never abandon. They wish to know if their loved ones are still alive, other words the truth.  It will not suffice to pay compensation and to promise non-recurrence which is what the government is placing on offer at the present time. Paying compensation is not a substitute for those who seek closure on how the family members can deal with their grief, which has lasted for over three decades in some instances.

The issue of emergency law is another example.  It was proclaimed just two weeks before the government will face its keenest detractors in the UN Human Rights Council.  It is important to have good intentions.  But it is also important to see the optics of the situation, and how others might perceive it.  The promulgation of emergency law needs to be withdrawn as soon as possible and other laws to deal with food and other crises in this time of Covid health crisis need to be passed instead. The greater sharing of power with the parliamentary opposition and holding elections to the provincial councils to share power is the way to solve problems together and break out of the vicious cycle in a way which one single institution cannot.  Democratic governance is a system of government and not rule by one person or one institution. The government’s commitment to democracy and human rights will be judged in UN and EU accordingly.

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Enduring nexus between poverty and violent identity politics



Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

The enduring nexus between poverty or economic deprivation and violent identity politics could not be stressed enough. The lingering identity-based violence in some parts of India’s North-East, to consider one example, graphically bears out this causative link.

At first blush the continuing violence in India’s Manipur state is traceable to inter-tribal hostilities but when the observer penetrates below surface appearances she would find that the root causes of the violence are economic in nature. On the face of it, plans by the state authorities to go ahead with extended economic quotas for the majority Meitei tribal group, for instance, who are considered the economic underdogs in Manipur, have intensified hostilities between the rest of the tribal groups and the Meitei.

It is plain that perceptions among the rest of the tribal communities that they are being unfairly treated by the state are accounting in considerable measure for the continuing ethnic tensions in Manipur. That is, the fear of being deprived of their life-chances on the part of the rest of the communities as a consequence of the new economic empowerment measures being initiated for the Meitei is to a considerable degree driving the ethnic violence in Manipur. It would be reasonable to take the position that economics, in the main, are driving politics in the state.

Sri Lanka, of course, is no exception to the rule. There is no doubt that identity issues propelled to some extent the LTTE’s war against the Sri Lankan state and its armed forces over three long decades.

However, it was perceived economic deprivation on the part of sections of the Tamil community, particularly among its youthful sections, that prompted the relevant disaffected sections to interpret the conflict in ethnic identity terms. In the final analysis, economic issues drove the conflict. If Lankan governments had, from the inception, ensured economic equity and justice in all parts of the country the possibility of ethnic tensions taking root in Sri Lanka could have been guarded against.

Even in contemporary Sudan, the seeming power struggle between two army generals, which has sowed destruction in the country, is showing signs of taking on an ethnic complexion. Reports indicate that the years-long confrontation between the Arab and black African communities over land and water rights is resurfacing amid the main power contest. Economic issues, that is, are coming to the fore. Equitable resource-sharing among the main communities could have perhaps minimized the destructive nature of the current crisis in the Sudan.

Sections of the international community have, over years, seen the majority of conflicts and wars in the post-Cold War decades as being triggered in the main by identity questions. Identity politics are also seen as bound up with an upswing in terrorism. In order to understand the totality of the reasons behind this substantive change one may need to factor in the destabilizing consequences of economic globalization.

The gradual dissolving of barriers to international economic interactions that came in the wake of globalization in the eighties and nineties brought numerous material benefits to countries but in the case of the more traditional societies of the South, there were deeply destabilizing and disorienting results. This was particularly so in those societies where the clergy of particularly theistic religions, such as Islam, held sway over communities.

In these comparatively insulated societies of the South, unprecedented exposure to Western culture, which came in the wake of globalization, was seen as mainly inimical. Besides, perceived alien Western cultural and religious influences were seen by the more conservative Southern clergy as undermining their influence among their communities.

A Southern country that reacted quite early against the above forces of perceived decadence was Iran. Iran’s problems were compounded by the fact that the Shah of the times was following a staunchly pro-US foreign policy. It was only a matter of time before there was an eruption of militant religious fervour in the country, which ultimately helped in ushering an Islamic theocracy in the country. Needless to say, this revolutionary change in Iran impacted drastically the politics of the Middle East and beyond.

Militant Islam was showing signs of spreading in Central Asia when the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan occurred in 1979. This military incursion could have been seen as an attempt by the Soviet authorities to prevent the spread of militant Islam to Afghanistan, a state which was seen as playing a principal role in the USSR’s security.

However, radical Islamic opposition to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan came in the form of the Mujahedin, who eventually morphed into the present day Taliban. However, as could be seen, the Taliban presence has led to the spread militant religious sentiment in South and South-West Asia.

Fortunately, there is substantive political science scholarship in South Asia currently which helps the observer to understand better the role poverty and material backwardness play in sowing the seeds of religious fundamentalism, or identity politics, among the youth of the region in particular. A collection of papers which would prove helpful in this regard is titled, ‘Civil Wars in South Asia – State, Sovereignty, Development’, edited by Aparna Sundar and Nandini Sundar, (SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd.) In some of its papers are outlined, among other things, the role religious institutions of the region play in enticing impoverished youth to radical identity-based violent politics.

While there is no questioning the lead role domestic poverty plays in the heightening and spread of identity politics and the violence that goes hand-in-hand with it, one’s analysis of these questions would not be complete without factoring into the situation external military interventions, such as those of the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have aggravated the economic miseries of the ordinary people of those countries. There is an urgent need for in-depth impartial studies of this kind, going forward.

Russian ambassador’s comments

The Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka in a response to my column of May 18th , 2023 titled, ‘Containment Theory returns to West’s ties with East’, takes up the position that the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, beginning 1979, was not an invasion but an operation that was undertaken by the Soviets on the invitation of the then government of Afghanistan. This amounts to contradicting the well-founded position of the majority of international authorities on the subject that the Soviet push into Afghanistan was indeed a military invasion of the country. This is the position that I have taken over the years and I do not have any reason to back down from it.

The subsequent comments made by the ambassador on my column are quite irrelevant to its thematic substance and do not warrant any replies by me.

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Man of the Globe International …branching out




Kalum Samarathunga came into the spotlight when he won the title Man of the Globe International (Charity Ambassador) 2022, held in Malaysia, last year, and also Mr. Sri Lanka 2022.

A former sales and marketing co-coordinator, in Kuwait, Kalum is now into modelling (stepping into the local modelling world in 2021, when he returned to Sri Lanka), and is also focusing on becoming a professional presenter, and an actor, as well.

Kalum made his debut, as a presenter, at the ‘Ramp Comes’ Alive’ fashion show, held in April.

He also mentioned that he has been involved in music, since he was a kid…and this is how our chit-chat went:

1. How would you describe yourself?

I’m just an ordinary guy on the road to achieve my humongous dreams.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

There was a time where I was very insecure about myself, but everything is fine with me now, so I wouldn’t consider making any changes.

3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Nothing at all, because I’m blessed with an amazing family.

4. School?

Indian Public School, in Kuwait, where I was the leader of the school band, playing the keyboards, and a member of the school dance team, as well. In sports – under 19 long distance runner (800m, 1500m and 5000m), and came second in the inter-school Kuwait clusters, in 2012,

5. Happiest moment?

My happiest moment is that moment when my parents teared up with joy after I called them, from Malaysia, after winning Man Of The Globe International Charity 2022. Seeing my parents crying out of joy was the happiest moment, more than winning the title.

6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as it makes you happy. For example, I was born in Kuwait, living a lavish life, a great job and an awesome salary, but I was still unhappy and that’s because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to.

7. Are you religious?

Let’s just say that I’m a God loving person and I live my life according to that. I believe that I’m nothing without God and I have experienced God’s blessings in my life

8. Are you superstitious?

No, because I have never experienced luck in my life. All that I have achieved, in my life, is purely out of hard work.

9. Your ideal girl?

There no points looking beautiful if you can’t keep up a conversation, so “communication” comes first for me; a woman who respects and loves my parents; loyalty and understanding; her voice should be attractive, and she doesn’t have to be someone in the same field I’m in, as long as she trusts me and respects the work I do.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

My mom and dad are my role models, because the man I’m today is because of them. They went through a lot in life to raise me and my siblings.

11. Which is your most treasured possession?

My piano, my first and only friend that was there for me, to make my day. I was a bullied kid in school, until Grade 10, so playing the piano was the only thing that kept me going, and made me happy.

12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

Sri Lankan actress Rashiprabha Sandeepani. I admire her qualities and principles. And, most of all, she was unknowingly there for me during a bad storm in my life.

13. Your most embarrassing moment?

My ex-girlfriend’s mother catching us kissing, and I also got slapped.

14. Done anything daring?

Taking a major risk, during Covid (2021), by leaving everything behind, in Kuwait, and travelling to Sri Lanka, for good, to finally follow my dreams .

15. Your ideal vacation?

I’ve actually forgotten what a vacation feels like because I’ve been so focused on my goals, back-to-back, since 2020.

16. What kind of music are you into?

I don’t stick to a single genre…it depends on my mood.

17. Favourite radio station?

No special liking for any station in particular.

18. Favourite TV station?

I do not watch TV but I do watch TV series, and movies, on my laptop, whenever I can. And, thanks to Sinhala teledramas, on YouTube, I’m able to brush up my Sinhala.

19 What would you like to be born as in your next life?

If this ‘next life’ is actually true, I wouldn’t mind being born as anything, but, most importantly, with “Luck” on my side.

20. Any major plans for the future?

I am planning to invade and destroy Earth…just kidding! I don’t want a top seat in my industry – just the seat I deserve, would be fine.

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Anti-ageing foods for younger-looking skin




It is a rich source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, which helps in the removal of harmful free radicals from your system. Broccoli is also a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and hence, it prevents your skin from looking tired and dull. So, do not forget to pick some broccolis the next time you go grocery shopping.

* Spinach:

Rich in vitamins A and C, spinach keeps your skin healthy and also helps to repair damaged skin cells. It is also rich in lutein, a biomolecule that improves the hydration, as well as elasticity of the skin. So, add this super-food in your diet for a healthy and soft skin.

*  Fish:

It is rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that help in improving the elasticity of the skin and in providing wrinkle-free skin. It also add natural glow to your skin and make you look vibrant.

*  Tomatoes:

This super-food is loaded with an age-defying ingredient called lycopene. Lycopene shields your skin from environmental damage, prevents wrinkle formation by neutralising free radicals, and also improves its texture. So, consume tomatoes in the form of salad, juice, soup, or anything else. Just do not forget to make them an essential part of your diet.

*  Mushrooms:

These tiny powerhouses are rich source of selenium, which protects newly-formed skin cells from damage, caused by pollutants, as well as harsh UV radiation. Selenium is also believed to be helpful in preventing skin cancer. Furthermore, mushrooms are also packed with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. All these vitamins facilitate the growth of new skin cells. Also, our body requires copper to produce collagen and elastin, which are important for maintaining the strength of skin. And, mushrooms are one of the best sources of it. So, to have a youthful skin, make sure you add this plain-looking food in your colourful diet.

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