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CHRISTMAS… in the ‘ new normal’

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Yes, we are ready to celebrate the birth of Christ…in the ‘new normal!’

Obviously, celebrations, this year, 2020, will be totally different to what Christmas was in the past…before the Coronavirus pandemic came into the scene.

Let’s check out how some of our entertainers plan to celebrate Christmas…in the ‘new normal.”

ALSTON KOCH:

Not since I could remember Christmas, as a little child, to a teenager, in my land of birth (Sri Lanka), and then to Australia, and later to America, have I ever had to prepare to be disappointed, knowing fully well that it will be a ‘different’ Christmas this time around. Of course, there will be a ‘Christ’ in Christmas 2020 because you can’t take the Christ out of Christmas. But, this year, it will be a different one. Locked down for more than nine months, in Melbourne, and not knowing what the ‘new normal’ has in store for my first Christmas, in Oz, for nearly seven years, is almost absurd, and a sure disappointing celebration beckons me. However, one has got to think about those who are worst off – losing family and loved ones to this pandemic…and this puts me in a very embarrassing celebratory mood. 26 million with Covid in the USA. Almost three million dead, and I have to ignore the fact that millions of people will be displaced, across the world. Millions will still die in the days before Christmas and we are all helplessly left to witness one of the greatest catastrophes that has enveloped mankind, in modern times. I will be spending a Christmas, in austerity, in Australia.

I wish all my fans and The Island readers the very best and pray that we will all wake up as ‘better Christians,’ or a better people, caring for our environment, and our neighbour, as we venture out into what God has left for us to enjoy…perhaps, this one last time.

SOHAN WEERASINGHE:

Christmas is a wonderful time for all of us, irrespective of religions. Normally, musicians are very busy, during the month of December, but this year is unique as we are all unemployed! But, there is a bright side to Covid as we have all the time in the world to mix with our families, and friends. Isn’t that great! Every Christmas my waistline expands, alarmingly, as I have a weakness for Breudher and Christmas cake, and I have to be careful not to over indulge and, eventually, resemble a balloon! While enjoying the spirit of Christmas, we must also pledge to help the less privileged, even in a small way, as Christmas is for everyone ..

I would also love to convey my best wishes to all my friends (and enemies!) and hope they have a great time, this Christmas, with their loved ones.

DALREEN:

Hi! 2020, the worst year of my career…so far, no feeling of Christmas, or to put up the Christmas tree. I will be spending Christmas, at home. Already bought a Breudher, and hoping to get that Christmas feeling…not expecting any visitors.

My Christmas wish to all my fans…friends…relations – try to make the best of it. Thanks for being in touch. Love and hugs to all. Ivan, you brought the life of music, to our homes, with your articles about the music scene. God be with you, and keep up your good work…love and hugs.

ANDREA MARR:

Hello, from Melbourne, Australia! After around seven months of lockdown, we are finally seeing life get back to some normalcy. The sun is shining! This Christmas we plan to have a family and friends gathering with music and a good sing-along, on Christmas Eve, and then off to country Victoria to see my husband’s family, who we have not been able to visit all year, for a traditional Aussie Christmas lunch. Before Christmas Day, I will be taking some of my students, caroling, at the local disabled community home and, before that, I will be singing with my church for a carols by candlelight, local event. Food for needy families has been delivered to our church to make up hampers; a little gift is placed for a needy child, under the Kmart wishing tree. This year, more than ever, we need to spread light and love. The world needs it.

To all my friends in Sri Lanka, I pray for health, peace and joy in 2021. Stay safe. Much love.

GARY ELLIS:

It has come to this beautiful time of the year – the time we celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, I love this celebration. I once had the joy of spending Christmas in Sri Lanka, and it was a truly uplifting experience. In my case, we have a huge sit down Christmas Dinner, with friends and relations gathered at our home, which is decorated with a huge life-like Santa, in the living room. When you pass Santa, he starts to ‘sing’ lovely carols. We usually have a bit of a good old sing-along, before a sumptuous Christmas Dinner. Later, I put on my Santa’s hat and give out the gifts.

May I now extend my grateful regards and Christmas Greetings to your lovely readers and to all my very dear friends in Sri Lanka. I appreciate the wonderful help you give me. I wish you all a Happy and Holy Christmas and A Great and Prosperous New Year. God Bless. Love and Seasons Greetings.

MARLON AMARASEKERA:

Nothing fancy…planning to celebrate with close family, over Christmas Lunch, this year. Usually, I am pretty busy, this time of the year, with gigs, or on tour. Sometimes we are too busy with the hype, like decorating, wrapping gifts, Christmas tree, Santa, visiting family and friends, that we often forget the real reason for the season…the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ – God’s greatest gift to us. So, for a change, it’s good to reflect and be truly grateful for what you have already been blessed with and quit worrying on things you don’t have.

I like to wish all my fans, friends and readers a Happy and a Joyous season. May the true spirit of Christmas fill your homes with Love, Joy, Peace, Compassion, and selfless giving. Merry Christmas everyone.

NOELINE HONTER:

Christmas is an extra special time for me. It’s the season of Good Cheer and Glad Tidings. It’s a time for giving, receiving, and sharing. And, most of all, it’s a time for celebrating the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s also a time to cherish family moments. We are a very close knit family, and family togetherness is extra evident, especially during the Christmas season. However, with this year’s ‘new normal’ situation, our plans are still up in the air due to the likelihood of additional restrictions being imposed. We fervently hope and pray that Covid-19 will be speedily, and totally, eradicated, from our shores, and globally.

May the Christmas season fill your home with joy, your heart with love, and your life with hope and peace. Blessings

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Features

Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Features

Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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Features

LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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