by Jehan Perera
In 1961, shortly after his election victory, President-elect John F Kennedy quoted one of the first colonists of the US, John Winthrop who, in the year 1630, said, “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us”. This was one of the first examples of the belief that America would be exceptional, and that it would become a country that would set standards for the world to follow. The significance of the United States throughout the world and the protracted vote count and the roller coaster nature of the recently concluded presidential election ensured that it was keenly watched throughout the world.
When President Donald Trump contracted coronavirus, it seemed he had been dealt a knockout blow by the forces of nature that he showed little regard for. But demonstrating an astonishing resolve and will-power, and utilizing the power of chauvinism, bigotry and fear he stormed back into the presidential election contest, defied predictions to rally those millions that backed him, and almost made it in the end. In one state the difference in votes is wafer thin, which has generated an automatic recount. However, the president’s inability to come up with solid evidence of irregularities that would make a difference to the result has led the courts to decline to act on his protests. He has not displayed the graciousness displayed by former losers in previous presidential polls in accepting the verdict of the majority of voters.
In President-elect Joe Biden’s victory at the 2020 presidential elections, overcoming the politics of racism and chauvinism which many other democratic countries worldwide are succumbing to, the US has reaffirmed the value of democratic values through education and the strength of its democratic institutions. The election was closely contested to the end. At the beginning when the regular votes cast at the polling stations were being counted, President Donald Trump ran up a lead which contradicted the pollsters as his election victory in 2016 had done. When this lead dissipated with the counting of mail-in ballots, the president found fault with the electoral process. But the courts of law in various states rejected his call to stop the vote count.
Although holding the most powerful position in the most powerful country in the world there were two key factors that finally ensured that the majority of voters with more enlightened views prevailed rather than the US president and his supporters despite early declaration that he was the winner and insistence by him and his advisors that there was voter fraud. The first was the strength and independence of its institutions. The second was the layered nature of US democracy with power being shared at different levels of government. This meant that issues were resolved speedily at the level at which they arose without needing to go to higher levels where power is more concentrated and presidential power might have prevailed. This is also the contrast between the US system and its system of independent institutions and multi-layered democracy and the direction in which Sri Lanka is heading following the passage of the 20th Amendment.
In Sri Lanka, unlike in the US, the centralized nature of the polity, which the 20th Amendment has exacerbated, will ensure that the president’s decisions can go right down the line to the lowest level. The failure to institute the Province Councils as envisaged, and to strengthen them adequately, also prevents a multilayered approach in our country. Sri Lanka has opted for a system where the president will select the heads of all national level institutions. The president has strengthened this top-down system of decision making by bringing in the military to implement coronavirus containment strategies and also by deploying retired military personnel within the government administration. This centralization of power is being justified on account of the need to resolve the many crises that beset the country. Sri Lanka’s historical experience is that imposing a top-down strategy of governance without adequately assessing the needs of communities at local levels would lead to frustrations and negative consequences.
Among the crises that Sri Lanka has to cope with are getting the economy restarted after the Easter bombing and Covid catastrophes, providing productive employment to all those who have lost their jobs, and generating sufficient revenues to repay the foreign debts that have fallen due. It is unfortunate that the government has not included the opposition parties in its deliberations on these matters. Both the SJB and JVP have offered to support the government in addressing these problems. Speaking in parliament about dealing with the community spread of the coronavirus, a respected university academic, Dr Harini Amarasuriya of the JVP said, “This is not a task that could be achieved by a single party…The leadership should be mature enough to make preparations and plans and to manage them. This is not an issue that should be used to score political points.”
One of the reasons why President Trump could not win the election was his unwillingness to hear the voices emanating from the opposition political entities and the scientific communities including WHO, which could have reduced the high levels of fatalities in one of the richest and most developed countries in the world.
Likewise, the cost will be very high if Sri Lanka does not take the best path right from the outset. The most pressing would be to contain the spread of the coronavirus into the community. The role of community-based organisations and groups becomes important when it concerns preventing or limiting community spread. Decisions taken at the top need to be conveyed to the community level to elicit cooperation of the community.
In divided societies it is important to have consensual decision making to the extent that is possible. This can be through the setting up of forums for dialogue and discussion that bring inclusivity into government as often stated by Justice Minister Ali Sabry but is not yet manifested in the country’s political and administrative life. The greater the participation that people have in the decisions that are made, the more likely they are to understand and cooperate with them which differs from a military compliance or demand to obey instructions.
The manner in which the incoming Biden administration deals with the deep divisions in US society in the immediate post-Trump period may offer lessons to Sri Lanka as it grapples with its own internal divisions. Especially during the period of President Trump, US society began to polarize not only on the long standing basis of race and colour, but also on the basis of political ideology. These fissures will continue into the future and President-elect Biden and his team will need to address them. The situation is not unlike that which took place in Sri Lanka in 2015. A rainbow coalition which included breakaway factions of the Republican Party combined forces to defeat President Trump. In Sri Lanka, a similar coalition was unable to cohabit successfully other than for a relatively short time after it came to power, and thus lost an opportunity to provide an example to the world.
It is likely that the new Biden administration would adopt a middle of the road and pragmatic approach to policies within the country. They would be mindful that some of the liberal policies of the Obama era, in regard to issues such as climate change, gender justice and immigration, are red flags to those millions who voted for President Trump and passionately support his conservative view of the world. The need to address the divisions within the United States, and deal with the needs of those who feel marginalized and disrespected on all sides, would need to be prioritized. One of the clarion calls of ‘”Black Lives Matter” of the opposition to Trump campaign should ideally be converted by the Biden administration to “All Lives Matter’ not only within the US but at international levels as well.
The issue of the UN Human Rights Council and the US role in it vis-a-vis Sri Lanka would be a sensitive one to the government. There is a likelihood that the US will rejoin the UNHRC which it left with President Trump denouncing it as a “cesspool of political bias”, and other international institutions such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, in the aftermath of the change of administration. In March of this year, the government announced that it was withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution No 30/1 of 2015 that was backed by the US and which its predecessor signed. The former government committed itself to a process of transitional justice and reconciliation which included setting up institutions that dealt with past violations of human rights and remedies for them. At the time of withdrawal from those commitments the present government also committed itself to developing a nationally driven reconciliation process. By starting to implement it, the government can speed up the healing process all round.
During the recent visit to Sri Lanka of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the government’s official position spelt out by Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was to be “As a sovereign, free, independent nation, Sri Lanka’s foreign policy will remain neutral, non-aligned, and friendly. Conscious of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with our strategic location, we see the importance of maintaining the freedom of navigation in our seas and airspace, also protecting sea lines of communication and the undersea cables. We believe all countries should adhere to and respect international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.” Healing the relationship with the US and the international community with regard to UNHRC resolution 30/1, and healing the wounds that are internal, would be more constructive than to rely on other international powers and get deeper into geopolitical quagmires that are beyond our depth.
Hair Growth and Thickness
LOOK GOOD – with Disna
Oiling is an old home remedy for hair growth and thickness. Oiling is also used for the strength, shine, and length of hair, from ancient times. The use of coconut oil, especially, is very effective when it comes to the amplification of hair health. Additionally, there are many essential oils for faster hair growth which you can use, too.
* How to Use: Generally, hair oiling works best when applied overnight. You could use this therapy every night, or after each night, then wash your hair, in the morning, before heading for studies, or work.
* Aloe Vera:
Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy for hair growth, thickness, and treating hair loss problems It contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins are known to contribute to cell turnover, supporting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Plus, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are also included in aloe vera gel. Both of these elements can keep your hair from falling out. Aloe vera plants can be easily grown indoors. A leaf can be plucked, occasionally, and cut open to reveal its gel. This gel needs to be applied on the scalp, basically, to provide nourishment to the roots.
* How to Use:
Rub this gel on your head properly, leaving no area dry; wash after half an hour or so. Keeping this massage as a part of your weekly routine will eventually make your hair thick and long.
* Green Tea:
Green tea is often consumed as a home remedy for weight loss. Surprisingly, it has many other benefits, including hair-related benefits.
* How to Use:
Consuming green tea once every day can add to the strength and length of your hair. If your body is extremely comfortable with green tea, then you may even consume it twice every day.
* Onion Juice:
A bi-weekly application of onion juice can relieve you of your tension, regarding hair health. The smell can really torture you, but divert your attention in doing something else for a while, like making a puzzle or washing the dishes. From an early age, onion juice has been used as a home remedy to control hair fall. Research has shown that onion juice has been successful in treating patchy alopecia areata (non-scarring hair loss condition) by promoting hair growth .
* How to Use:
Take half onion and blend it. Apply the mixture on every nook and corner of your scalp and let it sit for some 60 minutes, or so. Shampoo it off when it’s time for the hair-wash.
Fun-loving, but… sensitive
This week, my chat is with Nilu Vithanage. She is quite active, as a teledrama actress – having done four, already; her first was ‘Pavela Will Come In The Cloud, Mom’ (playing the role of a nurse). Then Came ‘Heavenly Palaces’ (student), ‘Black Town’ (a village character Kenkaiya), and ‘Wings Of Fire,’ currently being shown, with Nilu as a policewoman. You could checkout ‘Wings Of Fire,’ weekdays, on Swarnavahini, at 7.30 pm. Nilu is also active as a stage drama artiste, dancer…and has also been featured in musical videos.
And, this is how our chit-chat went…
1. How would you describe yourself?
Let’s say, I’m a bit on the playful side, and I like to have a lot of fun. But, I do find the time to relax, and, at home, it’s dancing to music! Yeah, I love dancing. Oh, I need to add that I’m a bit sensitive.
2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I get angry quickly. Fortunately, that anger doesn’t last long – just five to 10 minutes. But I wish I could get rid of anger, totally from my system!
3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
Nope, can’t think of anything, in particular. Everything is fine with us, and I’m proud of my only brother, and I feel safe when he is around. Or, come to think of it, if I did have another brother, I would feel doubly safe…when going out, in particular!
I did my studies at two schools – C.W.W. Kannangara Central College, and Panadura Sumangala Girls’ School for my higher studies. Representing my school, I won first place in a speech competition and dance competition, as well.
5. Happiest moment?
When my husband comes home, or talks to me on the phone. He is stationed in Hatton and those calls and home visits are my happiest moments
6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I really find a lot of happiness feeding the fish, in ponds. I love to see them rush to pick up the tidbits I throw into the pond. That’s my kind of happiness – being close to nature.
7. Are you religious?
I would say ‘yes’ to that question. I like to go to the temple, listen to sermons, participate in meditation programmes, and I do not miss out on observing sil, whenever possible. I also find solace in visiting churches.
8. Are you superstitious?
A big ‘no.’ Not bothered about all those superstitious things that generally affect a lot of people.
9. Your ideal guy?
My husband, of course, and that’s the reason I’m married to him! He has been a great support to me, in my acting career, as well in all other activities. He understands me and he loves me. And, I love him, too.
10. Which living person do you most admire?
I would say my Dad. I truly appreciate the mentorship he gave me, from a young age, and the things we received from him
11. Which is your most treasured possession?
12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?
A camel would be ideal as that would make it easier for me to find a way out from a desert island!
13. Your most embarrassing moment?
One day, recently, with the greatest of difficulty, I managed to join a one meter distance queue, to withdraw money from an ATM. And, then I realised I didn’t bring the card along!
14. Done anything daring?
I would say…yes, when I ventured out to get involved in teledramas. It was a kind of a daring decision and I’m glad it’s now working out for me – beautifully.
15. Your ideal vacation?
I would say Thailand, after reading your articles, and talking to you about Amazing Thailand – the shopping, things to see and do, etc. When the scene improves, it will be…Thailand here I come!
16. What kind of music are you into?
The fast, rhythmic stuff because I have a kind of rhythm in my body, and I love to dance…to music.
17. Favourite radio station:
I don’t fancy any particular station. It all depends on the music they play. If it’s my kind of music, then I’m locked-on to that particular station.
18. Favourtie TV station:
Whenever I have some free time, I search the TV channels for a good programme. So it’s the programme that attracts me.
19. What would you like to be born as in your next life?
Maybe a bird so that I would be free to fly anywhere I want to.
20. Any major plans for the future?
I’m currently giving lessons to schoolchildren, in dancing, and I plan to have my own dancing institute in the future.
Snail-napping sets the stage for CGI road trip
The SpongeBob Movie:Sponge on the Run
By Tharishi hewaviThanagamage
Based on the famous and one of the longest-running American animated series that made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ is the latest addition to the SpongeBob movie franchise, coming in as the third installment after ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004) and ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ (2015).
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