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Birth centenary of National YWCA legend

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Fidelia de Silva born April 10, 1921

Fidelia de Silva nee De Alwis was the eldest in our family of 11 born to Felix. David. Lionel De Alwis and Hilda De Alwis on April 10, 1921.

She was the formidable spirit in our family. She schooled at Methodist College Colombo and passed the senior matriculation with hopes of qualifying as an academic. However, in the social climate of that time our father had other plans for her and she went along wit them without question, knowing he wanted what was best for her.

I recall with nostalgia the period she was engaged to the late Captain Joseph Jayawardana. His visits were frequent with her playing the piano and singing along with him. The sound of music and laughter would fill every corner of our house at Walukarama Road, Kollupitiya. My memories of them both with smiles on their faces singing with gusto the popular songs of the time remain. Their emotional renditions of “Please don’t take my sunshine away” and “Brown eyes” was true love in flight to me.

When she married Joseph I was the page boy, Marie Wickramanayake and Doreen Edrisinghe were the flower girls whilst Manel jayasundara and Marie de Alwis were her bride’s maids. Their life together had just begun. However what should have been a full and happy life was not to be with her husband falling ill within with a lung infection within three months of their marriage. He unfortunately died of a medical misadventure while undergoing surgery.

She was then with child and a beautiful daughter was born on December 20, 1944 coinciding with my younger sisters Sriani’s first birthday. Her daughter, Hemakanthi, was highly intelligent. Fidelia went to live with our brother, Denzil, who was a planter at Pelmadulla but he too passed away after a brief illness having contacted typhoid.

She then moved back to our ancestral home in our village, Kalahe at Rockhill Estate with Hemakanthi who started schooling at Southlands College where Miss. Ridge, an Englishwoman was principal and excelled in her studies. She was briefly boarded as her mother felt she could concentrate on her studies better in that environment rather than traveling to school from our village in a buggy cart. Hemakanthi was always first in her class and was an avid reader who read whatever she could lay her hands on includng Shakespeare. But at 12-years she was flown to India diagnosed with cancer in the spinal cord affecting her eyesight and speech. She lingered for over an year at our home in Kalahe and passed away.

Fidelia, devastated by these blows and buried herself in voluntary work with the YWCA in Colombo to overcome her grief, surviving on her widow’s pension. It was then that she met her future mother-in law who approached her with a proposal to meet her son, Douglas, living a carefree life with no encumbrances. Given her past she was first reluctant but the stars were aligned, and they eventually married with Fidelia becoming Mrs Douglas de Silva. They were a happy couple, subsequently blessed with two sons , Dilhan and Harin.

 

DEDICATION AND COMMITMENT TO THE NATIONAL YWCA

With lessons of the past including the many blessings God had bestowed on her, she dedicated her life to serve the Lord and served the National YWCA at Rotunda Gardens with great enthusiasm and courage. That was the beginning of a lifelong journey of helping the poor and needy. Her efforts to develop the YWCA, working with donor nations like the Netherlands during her tenure, created opportunities for hostelers and guests and the opening of a restaurant open to the public. She also worked hard to build additional revenue streams for the YWCA enabling expansion of its buildings to accommodate and facilitate the needs of functions and seminars.

Her work at the National YWCA honed her leadership abilities and more avenues opened with her organizational, business and executive skills coming to the fore. She retained the virtues of a lady and was a guardian of the organization she worked for.

 

BUILDING A FUTURE FOR

DESTITUTE YOUTH

Soon after the Tsunami in 2004 she realized that there, were several orphans needing accommodation, schooling and caring. Along with Ms Roheen Jayawardane who had worked with her in the National YWCA, she created an organization to raise funds to serve destitute youth needing immediate relief. Initially they had rented some premises and decided to venture on an organized project with big plans not realizing the challenges with not much finances in hand. But she had great support from her family.

It was their plan that two orphanages, one for girls and the other for boys, be built on land available in Piliyandala. Accordingly two orphanages were bult. She had faith in God and prospective donors here and abroad. All she reached out to helped and the task was accomplished. She was woman of strong will and none among her family and friends here and abroad, including her husband, Douglas, wanted to disappoint her.

The children from the orphanages were present at her funeral, singing her praises in voice and song. She was a legend in a world in turmoil and helplessness and did all she could to alleviate suffering by bringing Christ’s love to others as she did for many destitute children.

 

FINAL DAYS BEFORE HER

DEPARTURE

During my frequent visits to her she expressed her sadness at the death of those in the family younger to her – Chandra, Viola, and Elmo. Her passion to help the poor and the needy continued despite her inability to walk on her own.

After the death of her husband, she continued to live at Bagatalle Road in a home provided by her late husband, Douggie, with the best of facilities, under the supervision of her sons Dilhan and Harindra. Fidelia had her sad moments too. While she lived comfortably at Bagatalle Road, she lost her wedding ring and another ring which she wore. When the loss was discovered by my cousin’s wife Gracie ( her carer ) one morning, she remembered she had struggled in bed the previous night when she was with the domestics and the nurse. She was sad but told me that she had nothing more to lose and to forget about it.

Such were her forgiving ways and believing discretion was the better part of valour, Dilhan and I decided not to pursue the matter with the police. This incident together with the deterioration of her medical condition resulted in her sons deciding that she would be best off in an apartment at Nawaloka Hospital equipped to accommodate elderly people like her. Though reluctant at first she appeared to like the place as there were several of her acquaintances with whom she could interact there. She was quite content inviting her friends and relations to this apartment ensuring she had company . She was constantly visited by her cousins, friends from the National YWCA and others who cared for her.

Our nephew Rathika De Silva and I made sure we visited her regularly to ensure she did not feel neglected. So did her son Dilhan. She was fortunate in having regular communion given to her by Methodist priests and prayers offered to her by Rev. Dilip Fernando and Rev Jabenazer coordinated by her carer Gracie.

Whenever my wife Damayanthi and I visited her, she offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the whole family. During my constant visits she discussed the family tree and recalled our days at “Rockhill,” Kalahe, our ancestral home. She always said whatever happens we must learn to give thanks for what we are today moving from the hard times sans, electricity, water service, telephone and radio. Hence let us cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving in our lives and thank God for every blessing he has given even when things go wrong.

I was fortunate to have her visit my home for a family lunch on Dec. 26, 2018. She enjoyed the lunch and offered a very fervent prayer. A few days later on Dec. 31 I visited her around 10.00 am, and offered a prayer but found her response poor. I left reluctantly having informed her carer, Gracie, that her condition appeared low. It was on Jan. 3 when I was away in Australia visiting my granddaughter that I learnt of her demise. She learned to live each day as if it was her last, expecting that day to come soon.

It was Sir Walter Scott who asked “Is death the last sleep?” and answered, “no it is the final awakening.” That is true for every believer of Christ. Even when grief overwhelms us or when confusion assails us, we can still trust God’s all knowing love! .

Nihal De Alwis

(140/5 GEMUNU MAWATHA, NAWALA ROAD, NUGEGODA



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TNGlive relieving boredom

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Yes, indeed, the going is tough for everyone, due to the pandemic, and performers seem to be very badly hit, due to the lockdowns.

Our local artistes are feeling the heat and so are their counterparts in most Indian cities.

However, to relieve themselves of the boredom, while staying at home, quite a few entertaining Indian artistes, especially from the Anglo-Indian scene, have showcased their talents on the very popular social media platform TNGlive.

And, there’s plenty of variety – not just confined to the oldies, or the current pop stuff; there’s something for everyone. And, some of the performers are exceptionally good.

Lynette John is one such artiste. She hails from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, and she was quite impressive, with her tribute to American singer Patsy Cline.

She was featured last Thursday, as well (June 10), on TNGlive, in a programme, titled ‘Love Songs Special,’ and didn’t she keep viewers spellbound – with her power-packed vocals, and injecting the real ‘feel’ into the songs she sang.

What an awesome performance.

Well, if you want to be a part of the TNGlive scene, showcasing your talents, contact Melantha Perera, on 0773958888.

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Supreme Court on Port City Bill: Implications for Fundamental Rights and Devolution

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The determination of the Supreme Court on the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill was that as many as 26 provisions of the Bill were inconsistent with the Constitution and required to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The Court further determined that nine provisions of the Bill also required the approval of the people at a referendum.

Among the grounds of challenge was that the Bill effectively undermined the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and infringed on the sovereignty of the people. It was argued that several provisions undermined the legislative power of the People reposed on Parliament. Several provisions were challenged as violating fundamental rights of the People and consequently violating Article 3, read with Article 4(d) of the Constitution. Another ground of challenge was that the Bill contained provisions that dealt with subjects that fall within the ambit of the Provincial Council List and thus had to be referred to every Provincial Council for the expression of its views thereon as required by Article 154G(3).

 

Applicable constitutional provisions

Article 3 of our Constitution recognises that “[i]n the Republic of Sri Lanka, sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable”. Article 3 further provides that “Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise”. Article 3 is entrenched in the sense that a Bill inconsistent with it must by virtue of Article 83 be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approved by the people at a referendum.

Article 4 lays down the manner in which sovereignty shall be exercised and enjoyed. For example, Article 4(d) requires that “fundamental rights which are by the Constitution declared and recognised shall be respected, secured and advanced by all the organs of government and shall not be abridged, restricted or denied, save in the manner and to the extent hereinafter provided”. Article 4 is not mentioned in Article 83. In its determinations on the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2002 and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, 2002, a seven-member Bench of the Supreme Court noted with approval that the Court had ruled in a series of cases that Article 3 is linked up with Article 4 and that the said Articles should be read together. This line of reasoning was followed by the Court in its determination on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill.

Under Article 154G(3), Parliament may legislate on matters in the Provincial Council List but under certain conditions. A Bill on a matter in the Provincial Council List must be referred by the President, after its publication in the Gazette and before it is placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, to every Provincial Council for the expression of its views thereon. If every Council agrees to the passing of the Bill, it may be passed by a simple majority. But if one or more Councils do not agree, a two-thirds majority is required if the law is to be applicable in all Provinces, including those that did not agree. If passed by a simple majority, the law will be applicable only in the Provinces that agreed.

 

Violation of fundamental rights and need for a referendum

Several petitioners alleged that certain provisions of the Port City Bill violated fundamental rights. The rights referred to were mainly Article 12(1)—equality before the law and equal protection of the law, Article 14(1)(g)—freedom to engage in a lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise— and Article 14(1)(h)—freedom of movement. Some petitioners specifically averred that provisions that violated fundamental rights consequently violated Articles 3 and 4 and thus needed people’s approval at a referendum.

The Supreme Court determined that several provisions of the Bill violated various fundamental rights and thus were required to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The question of whether the said provisions consequently violated Article 4(d) and thus Article 3 and therefore required the approval of the People at a referendum was not ruled on.

The Essential Public Services Bill, 1979 was challenged as being violative of both Article 11 (cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment) and Article 14. Mr. H.L. de Silva argued that a Bill that violates any fundamental right is also inconsistent with Article 4(d) and, therefore, with Article 3. The Supreme Court held that the Bill violated Article 11 but not Article 14. Since a Bill that violates Article 11 has, in any case, to be approved at a referendum as Article 11 is listed in Article 83, the Court declined to decide on whether the Bill offended Article 3 as well, as it “is a well-known principle of constitutional law that a court should not decide a constitutional issue unless it is directly relevant to the case before it.”

A clear decision on the issue came about in the case of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution Bill; a seven-member Bench of the Supreme Court held that the exclusion of the decisions of the Constitutional Council from the fundamental rights jurisdiction of the Court was inconsistent with Articles 12 (1) and 17 (remedy for the infringement of fundamental rights by executive action) and consequently inconsistent with Article 3, necessitating the approval of the Bill at a referendum.

When the 20th Amendment to the Constitution Bill sought to restore the immunity of the President in respect fundamental rights applications, the Supreme Court determined that the “People’s entitlement to remedy under Article 17 is absolute and is a direct expression of People’s fundamental rights under Article 3 of the Constitution.”

In the case of the Port City Bill, however, the Supreme Court only determined that certain provisions of the Bill violated fundamental rights and thus required a two-thirds majority, but did not go further to say that the offending provisions also required approval of the people at a referendum.

Perhaps, the Court took into consideration the Attorney-General’s assurance during the hearing that the impugned clauses would be amended at the committee stage in Parliament.

However, Parliament is not bound by the Attorney-General’s assurances. In the absence of a clear determination that the clauses concerned required a referendum as well, Parliament could have passed the clauses by a two-thirds majority. The danger inherent in the Supreme Court holding that a provision of a Bill violates fundamental rights and requires a two-thirds majority but makes no reference to the requirement of a referendum is that a government with a two-thirds majority is free to violate fundamental rights, and hence the sovereignty of the People by using such majority. It is respectfully submitted that the Court should, whenever it finds that a provision violates fundamental rights, declare that Article 3 is also violated and a referendum is necessary, as it did in the cases mentioned.

 

The need to refer the Bill to Provincial Councils

The Port City Bill had not been referred to the Provincial Councils, all the Provincial Councils having been dissolved. The Court, following earlier decisions, held that in the absence of constituted Provincial Councils, referring the Bill to all Provincial Councils is an act which could not possibly be performed.

In the case of the Divineguma II Bill, the question arose as to the applicability of the Bill to the Northern Provincial Council, which was not constituted at that time. The Court held while the Bill cannot possibly be referred to a Council that had not been constituted, the views of the Governor (who had purported to express consent) could not be considered as the views of the Council. In the circumstances, the only workable interpretation is that since the views of one Provincial Council cannot be obtained due to it being not constituted, the Bill would require to be passed by a two-thirds majority. Although not explicitly stated by the Court, this would mean that if the Bill is passed by a simple majority only, it will not apply in the Northern Province. The Bill was passed in Parliament by a two-thirds majority. The Divineguma II Bench comprised Shirani Bandaranayake CJ and Justices Amaratunga and Sripavan, and it is well-known that the decision and the decision on the Divineguma I Bill cost Chief Justice Bandaranayake her position.

It is submitted that Article 154G (3) has two requirements—one procedural and one substantive. The former is that a Bill on any matter in the Provincial Council List must be referred to all Provincial Councils. The latter is that in the absence of the consent of all Provincial Councils, the Bill must be passed by a two-thirds majority if it is to apply to the whole country. If such a Bill is passed only by a simple majority, it would apply only in the Provinces which have consented.

The Divineguma II determination accords with the ultimate object of Article 154G(3), namely, that a Bill can be imposed on a Province whose Provincial Council has not consented to it only by a two-thirds majority. It also accords with the spirit of devolution.

A necessary consequence of the Court’s determination on the Port City Bill is that it permits a government to impose a Bill on a Provincial Council matter on a “disobedient” Province by a simple majority once the Provincial Council is dissolved and before an election is held. What is worse is that at a time when all Provincial Councils are dissolved, such as now, a Bill that is detrimental to devolution can be so imposed on the entire country. It is submitted that this issue should be re-visited when the next Bill on a Provincial Council matter is presented and the Supreme Court invited to make a determination that accords with the spirit of devolution, which is an essential part of the spirit of our Constitution.

 

 

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‘Down On My Knees’ inspires Suzi

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There are certain songs that inspire us a great deal – perhaps the music, the lyrics, etc.

Singer Suzi Fluckiger (better known as Suzi Croner, to Sri Lankans) went ga-ga when she heard the song ‘Down On My Knees’ – first the version by Eric Guest, from India, then the original version by Freddie Spires, and then another version by an Indian band, called Circle of Love.

Suzi was so inspired by the lyrics of this particular song that she immediately went into action, and within a few days, she came up with her version of ‘Down On My knees.’

In an exclusive chit-chat, with The Island Star Track, she said she is now working on a video, for this particular song.

“The moment I heard ‘Down On My Knees,’ I fell in love with the inspiring lyrics, and the music, and I thought to myself I, too, need to express my feelings, through this beautiful song.

“I’ve already completed the audio and I’m now working on the video, and no sooner it’s ready, I will do the needful, on social media.”

Suzi also mentioned to us that this month (June), four years ago, she lost her husband Roli Fluckiger.

“It’s sad when you lose the person you love but, then, we all have to depart, one day. And, with that in mind, I believe it’s imperative that we fill our hearts with love and do good…always.”

A few decades ago, Suzi and the group Friends were not only immensely popular, in Sri Lanka, but abroad, as well – especially in Europe.

In Colombo, the Friends fan club had a membership of over 1500 members. For a local band, that’s a big scene, indeed!

In Switzerland, where she now resides, Suzi is doing the solo scene and was happy that the lockdown, in her part of the world, has finally been lifted.

Her first gig, since the lockdown (which came into force on December 18th, 2020), was at a restaurant, called Flavours of India, with her singing partner from the Philippines, Sean, who now resides in Switzerland. (Sean was seen performing with Suzi on the TNGlive platform, on social media, a few weeks ago).

“It was an enjoyable event, with those present having a great time. I, too, loved doing my thing, after almost six months.’

Of course, there are still certain restrictions, said Suzi – only four to a table and a maximum crowd of 50.

“Weekends are going to be busy for me, as I already have work coming my way, and I’m now eagerly looking forward to going out…on stage, performing.”

In the meanwhile, Suzi will continue to entertain her fans, and music lovers, on TNGlive – whenever time permits, she said,

She has already done three shows, on TNGlive – the last was with her Filipino friend, Sean.

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