By Rajitha Ratwatte
We have just finished “celebrating” what in politically correct terms is called the Birth of our nation – Aotearoa New Zealand! It resulted from a long and bloody war with the then occupiers of the Country the Maori and the British. As we have seen so many times in history, the British gathered members of powerful tribes from among their enemies, sat them around a table, and got their signatures on a document. In this case, a document which seems to have been translated rather loosely into the Maori language by a missionary. There are a few key phrases that are still disputed by the Maori. It really is just a technicality as the British Raj violated the treaty at will and brought a whole new dimension of fast thinking read as foresight, trickery, and in some cases outright thievery into the lives of a hunter-gatherer race that had just got into agriculture. All the “volunteers” (read as press-ganged troops) who fought the war were given farms in Maori land and some of their descendants continue to work that land to date. It took four months to collect over 500 signatures. Hobson (a British appointee) declared British sovereignty over Aotearoa-New Zealand on 21 May 1840. The ceremony is held on the 6th of February annually. A dawn flag hoisting ceremony at the picturesque site of the place where most of the Maori chiefs signed. All are welcome and there is a free breakfast given to members of the public and the Prime Minister and other dignitaries actually serve the guests at a buffet table.
180 years of largely British Colonial rule and New Zealand is firmly ensconced in the First World (a relative opinion), very strong economically with a strong agricultural and animal husbandry base. Recently Aotearoa has displayed great political leadership and has handled the global pandemic with great aplomb much to the chagrin of the big bully neighbour Australia.
A far cry from the National Day celebrations of our beloved – pearl of the Indian Ocean. A dais full of very important people (mainly very important in their own estimation!) and a display of military might with some long-suffering school children roped in to spend many hours sweltering in the sun during rehearsals and of course the actual parade and few even more long-suffering animals who fulfil their duties as regimental mascots! This also stemmed from a treaty signed by a few chiefs, in 1815 instigated by the British, with more than a little dissension involved. Some chiefs even signed their names in languages other than their native language, probably hoping to dispute their compliance with the terms of the treaty they signed.
However, we had a great ancient documented history and we produced scholars who went to the great universities of the world and came back with confidence and enough self-belief to think that they could do a better job than the Colonial masters. They demanded and got “Independence” without much of a fight from the British and proceeded to take the country, in 73 years, back beyond most of the documented history, into economic hardship that had never been experienced even 2000 years ago!
We transformed ourselves from the Granary of the East into a country where people had to stand in queues to buy bread and get their weekly rations that were doled out by the Government. We destroyed a bludgeoning tea, rubber, and coconut industry by arbitrarily nationalizing most of the privately-run commercial plantations. We destroyed a mostly self-sufficient production in our staple rice by only allowing individuals to own 50 acres of land. We managed to reduce our currency which once was worth 15 to one US Dollar to what it is now 200:1. We allowed our politicians to rob the country blind and become billionaires and build dynasties to cover generations of their descendants. We thought we had made a mistake and tried to re-privatize the commercial plantations in an extremely clumsy and badly thought out scheme, perpetrated by Ivy league scholars who had absolutely no local knowledge of how things had been done when things worked profitably and well.
We fought a 30+ year civil war, largely due to our own arrogance and the need for the majority vote to continue what we thought was a democracy. The tourist industry was decimated and Sri Lankan paradise became the equivalent of Lebanon or Palestine.
Hong Kong however is a British treaty that seems to have left the Colonial Master at a loss. Another ancient culture the Chinese seem to have out-thought the colonials when they signed for 99 years. They held their own against every attempt made to extend the treaty and now from a position of economic strength and power things are getting hot and nasty in this financial capital. We should stop and think about how the Chinese are in a position of strength and what has happened to us Lankans. Despite the best efforts of the Colonial powers to undermine Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia gave Hong Kong citizens special dispensation to come over, buy land and property and invest, when the treaty expired. Obviously, a blatant attempt to reduce the wealth of that country. What happened they came and so did the mainland Chinese and now most of the real estate in the main cities are owned by our dear Chinese immigrants. We have a housing shortage…nay a crisis with people sleeping in cars and the Government having to hire motel rooms to accommodate Aotearoa’s homeless. They bought at give-away prices and now see their properties worth many times more than what they paid for them. Houses bought for $250,000/- 20 years ago are now worth over 2 million NZ dollars! The latest attempt to de-stabilize Hong Kong seems to give preferred residence to Hong Kong citizens in the UK. Watch out Pommies, here they come!
I hear the Indians are now into treaties with the Pearl and reneging seems to be the name of the game. Let’s see how that goes and what the consequences are. The treaties signed with the Chinese will not be renegable (another new word), despite the total lack of moral turpitude of those who signed from our end. The consequences of any attempts to do so, cannot even bear thinking about.
Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric
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.
Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers
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:
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.
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.”
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.
A mask of DATES…
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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