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BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

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THE KILLING OF A PRIME MINISTER

by Sanjiva Senanayake

PART IV

(continued from last week)

SOMARAMA’S ‘CONFESSION’

In addition to the evidence of the three eye-witnesses, a statement made by Somarama to the Chief Magistrate of Colombo on November 14, 1959 was used by the prosecution to convince the jury that he was the assassin. Somarama retracted the statement long before the SC trial started, and its admissibility as evidence was contested in the SC.

Somarama had been moved to the prison hospital within a few days of the shooting and was then questioned in prison many times by police teams. The most senior police officer in the team was Superintendent of Police B.W. Perera.

Finally, on November 7, Somarama gave a statement to the police but it was short, vague and only mentioned Jayawardena. Then, a week later, he made the following statement to the Chief Magistrate of Colombo –

“One day in August 1959, when I was in the dispensary of the Ayurvedic Hospital in Borella, Reverend Buddharakkitha, the high priest of the Kelaniya temple, and H. P. Jayawardena came by car to see me. Inviting me into the car, Buddharakkitha began to complain bitterly about the general situation in the country. He said that vast sums of money were being lost at the port through strikes and mismanagement. He expressed grave fears that, if the current trends were not arrested, there would be no place for us in the land, nor would there be a future for the Sinhalese people, their religion or their language.

“He suggested that we take steps to do away with the Prime Minister, as we would then be free to fashion things as we wished. I asked him what would befall us if we were to do such a thing. “Nothing will happen to us”, he replied. ‘I have made all the arrangements with those whose assistance we need’. Jayawardena said, “If you should only do this job, we shall ensure that you are out of remand in two or three weeks’ time”.

“Buddharakkitha in turn reassured me that everything would be alright – that I had nothing to fear. I acceded to their request, explaining that I was consenting to do such a thing to one who had done me no wrong only for the sake of my country, my religion and my race. I told them that I had two pupils and also my temple to look after, but they promised to see to all that. They then said that in a day or two they would bring me a revolver, after which all details could be discussed.

“Two or three days later, Buddharakkitha brought me a revolver about a foot in length. It was a six-chambered one and was loaded. We then went to Ragama, met Dickie de Zoysa and proceeded along with him to Muthurajawela. There I fired several times at the fruits of a ‘kaduru’ tree. When I struck a fruit and felled it, someone in the party exclaimed, ‘Bravo, well done!’ After the firing we returned to my temple, having dropped Dickie de Zoysa at Ragama.

Thereafter Rev. Buddharakkitha and Jayawardena visited me often. One day, Amarasinghe, the Chairman of the Kolonnawa Urban Council, also came along with Buddharakkitha.

“Buddharakkitha, Jayawardena and I had agreed that the job be done on September 25. That morning, in order to pluck up courage, I drank a mixture which I had prepared myself and went to the Prime Minister’s residence at Rosmead Place. When the Prime Minister was talking to another monk on the verandah, I started trembling through fear. But the mixture I had taken sustained my courage. On the verandah I shot at the Prime Minister once. That shot struck him. While he was running into the house, I ran behind him and fired three more shots. Then I was overpowered. Someone shot me too and I was rendered unconscious. I do not know what happened next.”

There are several interesting features. There was no mention of visiting Amarasinghe’s house, just a discussion in a car in August, and no mention of Newton Perera either. Dickie de Zoysa had tagged along for the ride to Muthurajawela but, one month later, when hearings commenced at the magistrate’s court, the police withdrew the case against him for lack of evidence. There’s no mention of training but Somarama says he aimed at some fruits at Muthurajawela and succeeded in hitting them, establishing that he was somehow handy with a revolver. He states that he ran behind the PM and shot him but all the entry wounds on the PM were in the front or side of his body.

Somarama retracted this ‘confession’ at the end of the magisterial inquiry (on July 15, 1960), seven months before the SC trial began. In the retraction he stated –

“When I expressed reluctance to make a false statement as required by the police, I was shown a newspaper which said that the death penalty had been re-introduced and was told that, in view of this development, there could be no doubt that I would be sentenced to death and hanged. If, however, I were to make a statement to a magistrate professing that I was doing so voluntarily, the police promised to have me released and made a crown witness. To me, who now lived in the shadow of death, the offer of freedom was irresistible. Therefore, I made a statement to the Magistrate as required by the police, asserting that I was making it of my own free will. In it I implicated the persons whom the police wanted me to implicate. I now state that statement was absolutely untrue.”

The first visit to Somarama in prison by the police team was on October 2, the date on which the government had issued an extraordinary Gazette repealing the suspension of capital punishment. Somarama in a statement from the Dock, made on April 6, 1961, went further and said that B.W. Perera showed him the front page of the newspaper, explained that the death penalty had been reintroduced and he would certainly be hanged. Perera had then asked him to give a statement that he had shot the PM on the instructions of Buddharakkitha and Jayawardena and in exchange he would be made a Crown Witness and escape death. Somarama also said that Perera had mentioned the pardon given to Rupananda, one of the accused in the Turf Club robbery and murder case, as an example. Perera had been on the police team that handled that famous case ten years earlier. It should be noted that Amarasinghe had already been made a Crown Witness six months before Somarama’s retraction. Somarama also said that he had developed an addiction to opium after being medically treated earlier for haemorrhoids, and that he was offered some opium by Perera.

Incidentally, B.W. Perera subsequently committed suicide, in early 1960, when it came to light that he had provided some ammunition to an intermediary, ostensibly acting on behalf of Buddharakkitha. There was no evidence of those bullets being used to assassinate the PM.

Visiting prisoners in remand to question them regarding cases in which they themselves were involved was considered irregular. During the SC trial, the Chief Magistrate of Colombo and some senior Prisons officers stated that it had never happened before in their experience. However, despite objections by Somarama’s counsel, the Judge ruled that it was acceptable since Somarama had been jailed before the police had an opportunity to question him adequately.

Somarama’s counsel also argued that, according to the law, the retracted ‘confession’ should not be admissible as evidence since there were circumstances that showed that it had been made as a result of inducement, threat or promise. He emphasized that in accordance with the prevailing Evidence Ordinance, even the ‘appearance’ of such influence would render it inadmissible, but Justice T.S. Fernando ruled that there should be clear evidence of influence.

The judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal (https://www.lawnet.gov.lk/the-queen-v-mapitigama-buddharakkita-thera-and-2-others/) contains a rather ambiguous comment on this matter. It states –

Held, (i) that the admission in evidence of a confession made by the 4th accused to the Magistrate, even assuming that the confession was not voluntary and was obnoxious to section 24 of the Evidence Ordinance or was otherwise inadmissible, could not vitiate the conviction of the 4th accused, because the fact that the 4th accused killed the deceased was established beyond any manner of doubt by the direct evidence of some of those present at the deceased’s house at the time when he was shot there.”

Interestingly, that court had a different view on the value of the ‘confession’ as well. Another passage in the judgement reads –

“Even if any or all of these submissions are entitled to succeed, that would make no difference in the instant case, because the fact that the 4th accused killed the deceased was established beyond any manner of doubt by the direct evidence. Indeed, it is surprising that with that evidence available the prosecution thought it necessary to lengthen the proceedings so much by seeking to prove the confession.”

The prosecution appears to have had a different assessment of the adequacy of the ‘direct evidence’ at their disposal.

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

The PM knew Somarama well and had interacted with him on matters relating to the College of Indigenous Medicine even a few weeks before the shooting. Somarama had been involved in campaigning for the MEP and had chaired meetings where Bandaranaike had spoken. Yet, in his ‘Address to the Nation’ written for broadcast by radio, he did not say the assailant was Somarama. He didn’t even say it was a genuine monk – just “a foolish man” wearing robes. The PM was known to be very precise in his use of words, especially in English. He had been joking with doctors and nurses at the hospital despite his injuries, fully expecting to survive, so he was in control of his mental faculties. It’s hard to believe that the PM could not recognize Somarama at such close quarters.

Somarama’s behaviour that fateful morning also raises doubts about his guilt. When he set out that morning in a taxi, which is easily traceable, he offered a lift to two people for part of the way – hardly the behaviour of an assassin primed for action within a couple of hours. Then, while sitting on the verandah of the PM’s house, he had quite normal conversations with others minutes before he allegedly became homicidal. Ananda even asked Somarama for an appointment for a friend with an eye ailment, and was requested to send him the following Thursday.

Somarama’s movements on the eve of the shooting (September 24, 1959) were quite normal too. In fact, when Buddharakkitha and Jayawardena visited Somarama’s temple that evening (for last minute consultations and instructions, according to the prosecution), they found him missing. Somarama was relaxing at a temple in Kotahena, having a chat with his friend, Colamba Saranankara. Is it likely that the master-mind and his chosen instrument of death didn’t know each other’s whereabouts, or even that they were due to meet, on the day before the long-planned assassination of the Prime Minister?

The police recovered three outer robes and an inner jacket worn by Buddhist monks lying discarded in the premises after the shooting. Somarama’s outer robe and inner jacket were pulled off in the struggle and that accounted for one robe. Even if Somarama wore two robes that day, as the prosecution argued, one more robe remained a mystery. The prosecution suggested, rather facetiously, that they had probably been kept in the house to be gifted to monks.

A woman who was cooking in a house across the road had come out on hearing the shots and saw a man vault over the perimeter wall of the PM’s house. He shouted “Hari machang” to someone in one of two cars parked on the road outside, jumped into the other one and both cars sped off towards Borella. The prosecution did not call her to give evidence, but Weeramantry did. When the prosecution could not shake her evidence, they suggested that the escapee was probably a ‘look-out’ working in league with the conspirators, and even argued that it bolstered the ‘fact’ that there was a conspiracy. It seems far-fetched that a ‘look-out’ would have had two private cars at his disposal whereas the alleged assassin, Somarama, arrived alone in a taxi that could be easily traced.

Several other common-sense questions come to mind re Buddharakkitha’s motivations and actions.

= why would a young, powerful and street-smart monk like Buddharakkitha, with his life before him, risk losing everything by killing the PM, without even having a replacement ‘sponsor’ in place?

= was he the type to wait for over one year, as the indictment indicated, before taking his revenge?

= why did he not use his close links with underworld characters to kill the PM in some remote location, perhaps as he campaigned?

= why would he draw attention to himself by sending another Buddhist monk to murder the PM in public and in broad daylight?

= why would the ‘plan’ be for Somarama to go into the house after the shooting, where he was sure to be captured, rather than escape in the ensuing chaos?

In addition to the bullet-points above, is it conceivable that Somarama could have expected to be believed when he pleaded innocence, after shooting the PM in front of so many people? On the day, he did not proudly exult that he did it for country, religion and race, as he did in his ‘confession’.

CONCLUSION

As stated earlier, the jury operated in a politically charged, pressure-cooker atmosphere, with limited technical facilities and under tremendous time pressure. On top of that, there was quite a lot of evidence presented that appeared to have little relevance to the assassination per se, which they still had to take note of and assess. The judge’s summing up alone was spread over six days. They didn’t have the luxury, that we now do, of being able to refer to documents and contemplate at leisure.

In the end, the members of the Special Jury were convinced that the prosecution’s case was proved beyond reasonable doubt, and that is what finally mattered. As Justice Fernando mentioned in his charge to the Jury, they were the sole judges of fact and therefore the real judges in the case. Besides, their opinion was in consonance with that of the experienced judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal.

In that Court, the focus was mainly on legalistic aspects, such as whether the Judge misinterpreted or misguided the jury in matters of law. It was not a full re-assessment of the evidence, but specific submissions made by the defence counsel were considered and addressed. Deliberations were concluded on January 15, 1962.

The main focus of this series of articles is on the testimony in the SC of the witnesses, especially the ‘eye-witnesses’, and the forensic evidence as they relate very specifically to the case against Somarama. His culpability is at the core of the case.

Obviously, there are many other aspects of the alleged conspiracy – in and out of court, legal and political – that could not be covered in an article of this length. There were also many colourful characters who played their parts in this long drama that held the entire nation spellbound all those years ago. Adding even some of them on, would have diverted attention from the main actor – Talduwe Somarama.

It all boils down to a key question.

Can we be reasonably sure of anything beyond the fact that the assassin was a man – foolish or fiendish – “dressed in the robes of a monk”? That is all we know for certain from the only 100% reliable eye-witness …. the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike himself.

And, if the murderer was not Somarama, who was it, and why did he come dressed as a Buddhist monk?

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The writer can be contacted on this subject at skgsenanayake@gmail.com



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Religious nationalism suffers notable setback in India

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People casting their votes in the recent Lok Sabha poll in India

Democratic opinion the world over could take heart from the fact that secularism is alive and well in India; the South Asian region’s most successful democracy. While it is indeed remarkable for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win a third consecutive term as head of government in India’s recent Lok Sabha election, what is of greater significance is the fact that the polls featured a resounding defeat for religious nationalism.

Consequently, India’s secular credentials remain intact. Secularism, which eschews identity politics of all kinds, including religious nationalism is, after all, a cornerstone of democracy and secularism has been a chief strength of India. The defeat of religious nationalism, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, is a triumph for not only the democratic forces of India but for their counterparts the world over.

It was plain to see that the Bharathiya Janata Party under P.M. Modi was going the extra mile to placate Hindu nationalist opinion in Uttar Pradesh and outside through the construction of an eye-catching Ram temple in the state, for example, but the vote-catching strategy has visible failed as the polls results in the state indicate. For, the number of seats won by the BJP in the state has shrunk dramatically. In fact, the BJP was resoundingly defeated in the very constituency where the temple was constructed.

Constructive criticism of religious nationalism should not be considered an indictment of the religions concerned. Hinduism is one of the world’s most profound religions and it would sustain itself and thrive regardless of whether vote-hungry political parties champion its cause or otherwise. However, the deployment of any religion in the acquiring and aggrandizement of power by political forces calls for criticism since it amounts to a gross abuse of religion. Religious nationalism is an example of such abuse and warrants decrying in democratic states.

Unfortunately, religious nationalism is rampant in South Asia and it is most alive and well in Sri Lanka. And to the degree to which religious nationalism thrives in Sri Lanka, to the same extent could Sri Lanka be considered as deviating from the cardinal principles and values of democratic governance. It is obligatory on the part of those posing as Sri Lanka’s national leaders to reject religious nationalism and take the country along the path of secularism, which essentially denotes the separation of politics and religion. Thus far, Sri Lanka’s political class has fought shy of taking up this challenge and by doing so they have exposed the country as a ‘facade democracy’.

Religion per se, though, is not to be rejected, for, all great religions preach personal and societal goodness and progress. However, when religious identities are abused by political actors and forces for the acquiring and consolidation of power, religious nationalism comes to the fore and the latter is more destructive than constructive in its impact on societies. It is for these reasons that it is best to constitutionally separate religion from politics. Accordingly, secularism emerges as essential for the practise of democracy, correctly conceived.

The recent Indian Lok Sabha poll was also notable for the role economic factors played in the determining of its final results. Once again, Uttar Pradesh was instructive. It is reported that the high cost of living and unemployment, for instance, were working to the detriment of the ruling BJP. That is, ‘Bread’ or economic forces were proving decisive in voter preferences. In other words, economics was driving politics. Appeals to religion were proving futile.

Besides, it was reported that the opposition alliance hit on the shrewd strategy of projecting a bleaker future for depressed communities if the BJP ‘juggernaut’ was allowed to bulldoze its way onward without being checked. For, in the event of it being allowed to do so, the concessions and benefits of positive discrimination, for instance, being enjoyed by the weak would be rolled back in favour of the majority community. Thus, was the popular vote swung in the direction of the opposition alliance.

Accordingly, the position could be taken that economic forces are the principal shaping influences of polities. Likewise, if social stability is to be arrived at redistributive justice needs to be ushered in by governments to the extent possible. Religious nationalism and other species of identity politics could help populist political parties in particular to come to power but what would ensure any government’s staying power is re-distributive justice; that is, the even distribution of ‘Bread’ and land. In the absence of the latter factors, even populism’s influence would be short lived.

The recent Indian Lok Sabha elections could be said to have underscored India’s standing as a principal democracy. Democracy in India should be seen as having emerged stronger than ever as a result of the poll because if there were apprehensions in any quarter that BJP rule would go unchallenged indefinitely those fears have been proved to be baseless.

‘One party rule’ of any kind is most injurious to democracy and democratic forces in India and outside now have the assurance that India would continue to be a commodious and accommodative democracy that could keep democratic institutions and values ticking soundly.

Besides the above considerations, by assuring the region that it would continue with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, India has underscored her ‘Swing State’ status. That is, she would take on a leadership role in South Asia and endeavor to be an inspirational guide in the region, particularly in respect of democratic development.

As for Sri Lanka, she has no choice but to be on the best of terms with India. Going forward, Sri Lanka would need to take deeply into consideration India’s foreign policy sensitivities. If there is to be an ‘all weather friend’ for Sri Lanka it has to be India because besides being Sri Lanka’s closest neighour it is India that has come to Sri Lanka’s assistance most swiftly in the region in the latter’s hour of need. History also establishes that there are least conflicts and points of friction among democracies.

However, identity politics are bound to continually cast their long shadow over South Asia. For smaller states this would prove a vexatious problem. It is to the extent to which democratic development is seen by countries of the South as the best means of defusing intra-state conflicts born of identity politics that the threat of identity politics could be defused and managed best.

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AKD’s Speech on Rule of Law: Merits and Demerits?

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Anura Kumara

by Dr Laksiri Fernando

Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s (AKD) speech as the Leader of the National People’s Power (NPP) at the National Convention organised by the Retired Police Officers Collective on 9 June 2024 is quite promising in terms of establishing or reestablishing rule of law in the country. They have been talking about a ‘system change’ now for some time, and various independent critics and observers were asking the details of this promise, without merely depending on the slogan.

I was fortunate to listen to this speech online and live, through Horawa News, and one weakness or wrong that I immediately observed was its leading phrase ‘Malimawa shows its police power.’ I have no idea about who runs the Horawa but that was not what AKD was quite obviously advocating. “Power’ is not a good word to use in democracy, worst still is the ‘police power.’

State of the State

After an introduction, AKD ventured to explain the ‘state of the State,’ particularly during the last two three years, characterising it as a failed state with inability to pay back loans, to supply necessary medicine to hospitals, and failing to give children a proper education, and when they grow up, proper employment. He strongly characterised the State as in the grips of crooks and criminals (dushithayan saha aparadakaruwan), and the whole society being affected by this situation. He said, “this must be changed, and this to be changed like in all other changes. Sri Lanka should be a State based on rule of law.” Thereafter his speech focused, in detail, on the questions of rule of law. There were several principles that he enunciated.

First, equality before the law. All citizens in the country should be equal before the law. All citizens in the country should be able to go before the law against any discrimination by the implementation of law. He asked, “are we all equal before the law? No. Rich people have one law, and people who have political power have another law. At present, the Department of Police, the Attorney General’s Department and even the Judiciary have become a laughing stock. Let me ask you a question that I have asked once before. “

“Who knew best that Diana Gamage didn’t have citizenship? First, Diana. She knew that she came to the country on a tourist visa and even that visa had expired. Knowing all that, she came to Parliament. Knowing that, she also acted as a state minister. How did she do that? She knew that because of her political power that the law would not apply to her. An ordinary person even will not ride a bicycle without a license. Where is our law?”

“The second person who knew well was Ranil. But he protected her. This type of country cannot go forward. We need a state system which is entirely based on rule of law. I will give you an assurance. I personally or our movement do not have any financial fraudsters or criminals to protect. No underworld, no drug dealers, no rapists, no financial fraudsters, and no criminals to protect. If the existing powers given to the police to curtail these crimes are not enough, under our government, we will create circumstances to strengthen the police.”

Political Interference

AKD outlined some of the crimes and murders which were investigated, and the perpetrators were properly punished within the system. Those included the murder of the Manager of Noori Estate, Hokandara family killing, Killing of Sarath Ambepitiya, etc.

On the other hand, he emphasised the cases like Lasantha Wickrematunge, Eknaligoda murder, assault of journalists like Keith Noyar, Poddalla Jayantha and others that dragged on without a conclusion. Why? His correct answer was political interference. He praised the police but emphasised political interferences that hamper their tasks.

One of the aspects that he neglected was the ethnic bias in criminal investigations and other police matters. Will this be addressed by the NPP? That is my question. For example, I have known J. S. Tissanayagam as a student at Peradeniya who later became a prominent Tamil Journalist. He was abducted, beaten up and charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There are so many similar cases that were neglected by AKD, and I hope he will rectify his neglect in the coming future. I also failed to identify any Tamil participation in the crowd.

AKD was correct in emphasising that the police have a major role in maintaining stability in society. “If there were no police, no one would be able to pass the Borella junction peacefully” he said. He emphasised correctly, that these premises were established after a long struggle in building up rule of law in society internationally. “These were not there in tribal societies,’ he pointed out. “The leader of the tribe (Rehe nayakeya) did all together,” he said. ‘It was through struggles that separation of powers was established between Parliament to legislate, elected Presidents to execute, and the Judiciary to rule on justice,’ he continued.

“What we can see today is a tendency to go back to tribal society. We need a civilised society. Especially the department of police, criminal investigation and the attorney genera’s department should work independently, efficiently and correctly. It is our task under an NPP government to create these civilised conditions. Today the police department is in a mess due to political interferences.” He gave examples.

“Do we have a proper procedure in recruiting and promoting police officers? No. I know that there are some officers who are constables at recruitment, and also when they retire. We will establish a proper procedure in recruitment and promotions. At present, when change of governments occur, the police officers are punished or promoted. The main task of the police officers is people’s security. However, what they are supposed to do today is patrician (prabhu) security.” He mentioned that he has been an MP since the year 2000 and never sought any police security. He emotionally mentioned the difficulties that police security undergoes with so many difficulties.

Vision for Future?

“Under our government, people’s security is the primary task of the police, and not politician or patrician security. During the last 24 years as an MP, I have never called the police for any assistance. But this is not the case with other MPs. However, I have to say that to eliminate criminals and fraudsters, we will give the police the necessary leadership and encouragement. Today, the MPs consider the police as their servants. I have heard some saying ‘my OIC’ (mage OIC). This is not our attitude. We will preserve the dignity of police officers. They are well trained and educated. They should not be the tools of politicians. Their task is to punish criminality, present and past. There are people who believe their past offenses will be forgotten. But we will not forget.” AKD related a story.

“During the election campaign in 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga accused the UNP stealing people’s money and property under their government. Vijayapala Mendis has obtained 75 acres of coconut land for two rupees per acre, altogether for Rs. 150. She promised that these crooks would be brought to the Galle Face Green and would be ‘skinned’. People rejoiced and clapped. However, within 7 years, the same Vijayapala Mendis became a Minister in Chandrika’s Cabinet. There are so many examples like that. Perhaps she had forgotten and even the people had forgotten. Ranil Wickremasinghe who accused [Gotabaya Rajapaksa] as the ‘Mastermind of the Easter Sunday attack’ also became the President based on the same Gotabaya mandate.”

There were several other points connected with the above that AKD ventured into taking about 20 more minutes. All are worth reflecting on and even in my case I have not heard them before from politicians. One of his newest arguments was to consider the rule of law, law and order, and equality before the law as the necessary basis of economic development. However, given the necessary word limitations for this article those may be discussed in a future occasion.

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Raffealla Fernando Face of Sri Lanka for Prerna Gupta

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It’s not only her name that is famous but her face, too, and I’m referring, of course, to Raffealla Fernando – Founder and CEO at Raffealla Fernando Photography, and Fashion Designer and Stylist at Raffealla – who excels in what she does and shines bright wherever she goes.

Raffealla was in India recently and, I’m told, her face did bright up the fashion scene over there. And, guess what! Raffealla is now the face of Sri Lanka for Prerna Gupta as she expands her unique fashion label to take in Sri Lanka, as well.

Prerna Gupta couture is an award-winning Indian fashion house, from Nagpur, and she creates beautiful sustainable outfits and textiles made out of milk, aloe vera and orange peel, and what Raffealla is wearing in the photographs, on this page, are clothes made out of orange peel, aloe vera and milk.

Prerna Gupta has launched and showcased at reputed fashion shows where celebrities like Vicky Kaushal, Rani Mukherjee, Raj Kumar Arao, Evelyn Sharma, Sana Khan, Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan and Bhapi Leheri have visited and adorned her label.

Says Raffealla: “I feel truly honoured and privileged to be working with a brand like this.”

Sri Lanka’s celebrity was also featured in the leading Bangladesh fashion magazine ‘Fashion People’.

“I’m super hyped because it’s the first time FELLA got featured in an international magazine.”

And FELLA is the brand name for Raffealla’s fashion designs.

Talking about her recent trip to India, she said one of the interesting and colourful fashion projects she did in Mumbai (photography and conceptualization) was connected with Kutch – a district of Gujarat state.

Raffealla went on to say that costumes of Kutch are exquisitely stylized and intricately embroidered.

Dazzling with vibrant colours, flooded with striking mirror work and stunning jewellery, it’s one of the most alluring custumes in India, she said.

“The mirror work and embroidery work forms an integral part of Kutch. Although handicrafts, irrespective of the community or ethnic group to which they belong, remain the same, the workmanship differs.

“In fact, the various communities can be identified by the pattern of handicrafts and dress, or costumes, they are in. For instance, the Garacia Jat women wear only red or black chunis, while Rabari women wear black open blouses, or cholis, with odhnis to cover their heads.

“In the rural areas, the women wear Chaniya choli the whole year, Chaniya choli’s are of many designs and fashion. A typical Kutch costume is incomplete without ‘Abha’ or ‘Kanjari’. ‘Abha’ is the name of the typical choli worn by women folk and ‘Kanjari’ is a long blouse, beautifully embroidered and with mirror work.

“Most men in Kutch wear loose trousers, a long-sleeved under-jacket, and a short coat, a plain or silk-bordered cloth. Normally men prefer white clothes except the Muslims who prefer coloured clothes.”

Raffealla is now ready, and excited, to do it for Prerna Gupta.

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