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Civil Society Perspectives



Implication of COVID-19 Pandemic for South Asia:

By Nimmi Jayathilake

Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia has adversely affected all domains of social, economic and political life in the region. This global pandemic which engulfed every nook and corner of the world in the wink of an eye, entered South Asia in March 2020. By the beginning of the second quarter it had spread to all South Asian countries to a varying degree. The shock injected to South Asia by COVID-19 resulted in closed education institutes, stalled factories, idle ports, empty roads, and life standstill, at least initially. It filled hospitals and deserted public spaces, reversing the process of globalization to “slowbalization”.

Decisive and far-reaching developments are set in motion at present in South Asia and yet the true proportions of the blow and its real impact on the region are yet to be encountered in the coming future. However, it seems that South Asia would surely witness a decisive alteration post-COVID-19. In this context, the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) organized a successful two-days virtual workshop titled “The Implication of COVID-19 Pandemic for South Asia: Civil Society Perspectives” as an initiative to create a common platform for experts and young scholars from South Asia to present and discuss research that they had carried out for the past six months exploring and analyzing the various aspects that have emerged as a result of the pandemic and the future prospects for a way forward from a civil society perspective.

South Asia has always been recognized as one of the most volatile and conflict-ridden regions in the world. The South Asian nations have been experiencing both inter-state and intra-state conflicts. The inter-state conflicts mostly occur as a consequence of the tensions created by identity-politics and intra-state conflicts spark particularly in between the smaller nations and India due to unsolved border disputes. These countries have still not overcome the political and emotional baggage that they have carried since historical times and hence the suspicions and tensions have not eased off especially between India and Pakistan and thereby continue to remain in the same environment which has been marred by mutual antagonism and an uncompromising attitude. Moreover, over the last 15 years, the region has experienced an increased scale of terrorist activity in comparison to the other regions across the globe. Under this situation, where Afghanistan is seeking for peace negotiations with the Taliban, Sri Lanka was barely recovering from the unfortunate Easter Attacks and India was facing protests from all over the country due to its Citizenship Amendment Act, ‘Hindu Rashtra’ movements, people’s disenchantment with the government, youth bulge and so on what would be the implications of COVID-19 for the existing multi-layered conflict-dynamics and peace-building processes in this unstable region?

South Asia also comprises 40% of the world’s poor. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and thereby affected the vulnerable, marginalized, discriminated and subaltern groups disproportionately in a region where one third of the people struggle with poverty for their everyday existence. It tends to even further widen inequalities and deepen insecurities in the society, specifically among the disadvantaged and alienated sections. Thus, COVID-19 did not simply slow down the economic progress of the region, it has exacerbated and brought forth the already existing issues to the forefront too. The South Asian countries might well experience its worst economic performance in 40 years, with at least half the countries falling into a deep recession. It has already triggered sharp jobs and earnings losses. Tens and thousands of migrant laborers have returned home and thereby the flow of foreign remittances to the South Asian nations have decreased considerably. Overall, as a consequence, the crisis arising from the economic front would lead to an accentuation of preexisted issues with multiplied effects such as the citizens’ dissatisfaction with the functioning of the government and the expanding youth bulge. Thus, social discontent, tremendous reproduction of social class inequalities, extension of poverty and the incapacity to generate any new economic opportunities or employment would ultimately result in an equally grave social and political crisis with furious and restless citizens and a militarized government trying to contain civil protests.

Therefore, to what extent would public policies instituted by the South Asian countries prove its strength in mitigating the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, by paying adequate attention and honest concern to the marginalized and economically disadvantaged communities victimized by the already existing abstract ideological constructions of social class, caste, gender and even language? Further, the breakdown of world supply chains, shrinking of the global market, decline of air travel and constraints on international trade have severely affected the South Asian economies from broken pieces to shackles. In such a condition, what would be the long-term economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for South Asia?

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred at a crucial time when the western hegemons feared over the gradual global power-shift towards Asia. The Asian superpowers displayed tremendous improvement in the power-play to a point where it was estimated that they would surpass North America and Europe combined in global power based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment by 2030. In effect, South Asia was declared the fastest growing region in the world in 2016 and proved its economically stable position during the last five years. In relation to shifting the centre of gravity in global politics from the West to the East, South Asia’s recognition in the global order was also going through a phase of positive alteration. Nevertheless, how would the impact of the global pandemic on the evolving global balance of power alter South Asia’s position in the post-COVID world order?

The multi-dimensional threats posed by COVID-19 and the manner in which they are addressed at present will bring forth profound implications for the role and stature of the state and state-society relations in South Asia. With regards to this factor, it brings into attention the impact of emergency measures adopted to cope up with exigencies of COVID-19 on democratic political structures and processes in South Asia. The theory of surveillance has been familiar in the critical discourse of the West since the times of Bentham and Foucault. Surveillance developed with time from its physical mode of a ‘Panopticon’ to power-play with the datafication of society and transition to network surveillance. Today, some states in the South Asian region too employ ‘intrusive surveillance methods’ to keep tabs on vulnerable sectors in identified pandemic hotspots. Though it effectively saved lives by curtailing the spread of the virus, possible covert implications of such methods for civic activities in democratic governance are a matter of serious concern.

Moreover, COVID-19 has also facilitated the tendency for Democratic South Asian nations to move towards an executive friendly mode. The emergency situation created by the pandemic seems to be utilized almost as a tool of distraction to instrumentalize and solidify executive authoritarianism by citing the discourse of public health as a principal reason for greater executive control and consolidation. Hence, COVID-19 has definitely magnified certain impulses and dynamics of conflict and governance within the region rather than ameliorating the existing trends towards anti-democratization, populism, militarization and currently altered our everyday government and its governance. In this regard, what would be the directions of democratic governance in post-COVID South Asia?

South Asia still remains as one of the least integrated regions in the world and its intra-regional trade accounts for a mere 5% of its total trade, manifesting a low degree of economic bonding in the region. Despite several attempts to foster cooperation among its member states, SAARC appears to be in limbo since 2016 after India’s boycott of the Islamabad Summit. Yet it brought some hope into the faltering SAARC process when all the eight South Asian nations’ leaders gathered together on a virtual platform to address the emergency situation created by the pandemic and to contribute funds to combat the pandemic as one region. Will the COVID-19 pandemic prepare for the re-awakening of a new era of regional cooperation and compel the SAARC member-states to cooperate with each other to encounter the virus that does not take man-made divisions and boundaries into account in its itinerary. Would practical requirements in dealing with the COVID-19 threat act as a lever to minimize the trust deficit among the South Asian countries and hence create a novel chapter for regional cooperation?

Thus, it is clear that the arrival of COVID-19 halted the progress of South Asia at a historic crossroad and created a barrier over the many potential directions and options which stood before it along with various opportunities for global recognition and integration. And at the moment, we are left in an unpredictable situation with many questions unanswered, issues unsolved and a bleak tomorrow. Thus, RCSS in a joint-venture with GPPAC South Asia gathered a panel of distinguished South Asian academicians from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan namely Prof. Gamini Keerawella, Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Dr. Mallika Joseph, Prof. Suba Chandran, Dr. Nishchal Pandey, Ms. Saloni Singh, Prof. Moonis Ahmar, Dr. Salma Malik and Miss Lailuma Nasiri respectively to bring to the table their thoughts and views on this historic juncture with regards to the significance of civil society intervention in a responsible manner and contribute to generate policies that are more effective, equitable and gender-sensitive and those that could be capable and influential enough to mobilize societal capacities in order to mitigate adverse social, economic and political effects of the pandemic and to shape the direction of post-Covid South Asia on a better and effective track. It was also noteworthy that young researchers from the above mentioned South Asian nations too participated and presented informative and well-analyzed Country Reports in an attempt to map the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia and to share each country’s experience on a common platform in order to examine the policy responses to counter adverse effects and to promote recovery from a civil society perspective and of course to generate a discourse in civil society as to its role in post-COVID South Asia.

The Keynote address of the inaugural session was delivered by Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colomabage, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His participation to this regional workshop was indeed an honour for RCSS. Admiral Prof. Colombage made a significant and informative speech on the current proceedings of Sri Lanka in countering the various challenges posed by the second wave of COVID-19 and the measures taken by the government in order to adapt to the “new normal” without disrupting the progression of the country. He also referred to the current repatriation process which keeps ongoing despite the outbreak of the rapidly spreading second wave and where over 40,000 stranded Sri Lankans were brought back to the motherland.

The first technical session brought forth into discussion the trends towards the retreat of democracy and the kind of impact it would have especially on two of the oldest Democratic nations in South Asia- India and Sri Lanka. And if this would ultimately result in a democratic backlash from the civilian side? Several aspects with regards to regional governance and multilateralism in the COVID-19 world were also brought into attention. And there was further discussion on the implications of COVID-19 for the existing conflict patterns and the process of regional cooperation in South Asia.

The second technical session included the presentation and discussion of the country reports of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The third technical session focused on the country reports of India, Pakistan and Nepal. The six research reports from six different South Asian countries brought into discussion several common issues that have been concerning the region as a result of the pandemic situation such as rising inequalities, increase in smuggling, health-care challenges and responses, increased domestic violence, the digital gap that has affected students from rural areas at large in continuing their education online and the extent to which the vulnerable communities suffer from food and health insecurity as these groups won’t be able to hold any longer till the economy recovers at a slow pace. And country wise, the country report on Pakistan pointed out how the citizens acted irresponsible pertaining to different myths on COVID-19 and the dilemma of the government in choosing to protect life and livelihoods. In the case of India, COVID-19 has vastly impacted the manufacturing sector, disrupted the supply chain and led to job losses. The inability to make proper and timely announcements especially with regards to the lockdown of the country pushed the migrant laborers into a very uncomfortable situation. Nevertheless, several small states such as Kerala have continued to perform well despite the damage caused by the pandemic. Moving onto Afghanistan, its citizens who reside in the provinces which are being controlled by the Taliban remain unable in reaching out to the services provided by the government. And on top of that, the suicide bombings too have not decreased and the people keep losing their lives both from the pandemic and from terrorist attacks.

History depicts the end of a catastrophe as the beginning of social, economic and political change and revival from one age to another. When one way does not work, mankind has always proved to be creative and thrived their businesses and institutions in a novel way. They have been remarkably quick to discover innovations to recover and reemerge once again. Catastrophes created a pause in the usual universal procedures and provided space for mankind to rethink and make necessary changes to the manner in which they live, to the modes through which goods and services are produced and distributed and to the institutions through which collective decisions are made and implemented. Thus, in this phase of the modern era, will COVID-19 pandemic serve as a propellant for social, economic and political change?

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What JVP-NPP needs to do to win



A JVP protest


A young academic at the Open University writing on a popular website has recently defined the NPP project as ‘Left populist’, a term which is very familiar to us at least from the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. He also mentions several parallels and precursors internationally.

As one who has been advocating a ‘left populist’ project for years, I am disinclined to nit-pick about whether or not the JVP-NPP fits the bill. At the moment and in its current incarnation, it is indeed the closest we have to a ‘left populist’ project. Its competitor the SJB, which its founder-leader identifies as social democratic, would be as approximate –and as loose– a fit for the labels ‘progressive populist’, ‘moderate populist’ or ‘populist centrist’, as the JVP-NPP is for ‘left populist’. But that’s the deck of cards we have.

The points I seek to make are different, and may be said to boil down to a single theme or problematique.

Distorted Left Populism

My argument is that the JVP-NPP is as distant from ‘left populism’ globally as it was from ‘left revolutionism’ globally in an earlier incarnation. In both avatars, it is unique in its leftism but not in a positive or helpful way for its cause at any given time.

Mine is not intended as a damning indictment of the JVP-NPP. It is intended as a constructive criticism of a rectifiable error, the rectification of which is utterly urgent given the deadly threat posed by the Wickremesinghe administration and its project of dependent dictatorship.

The JVP-NPP has a structural absence that no ‘left populist’ enterprise, especially in Latin America, has ever had. It is an absence that has marked the JVP from its inception and has been carried over into the present NPP project.

It is not an absence unique to the JVP but figures more in Sri Lanka than it has almost anywhere else. I say this because the same ‘absence’ characterised the LTTE as well. In short, that factor or its radical absence has marred the anti-systemic forces of South and North on the island.

The homeland of left populism has been Latin America while its second home has been Southern Europe. With the exception of Greece, it may be said that ‘left populism’ has an Ibero-American or culturally Hispanic character, which some might trace to the ‘romanticism’ of that culture. But such considerations need not detain us here.

‘Left populism’ has had several identifiable sources and points of departure: the former guerrilla movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the non-guerrilla movements of resistance to dictatorships; parties and split-offs from parties of the Marxist left; left-oriented split-offs or the leftwing of broad flexible even centrist populist formations; leftwing experiments from within the militaries etc.

Populism, Pluralism & Unity

Despite this diversity, all experiments of a Left populist character in Latin America and Europe, have had one thing in common: various forms of unity – e.g., united fronts, blocs etc.—of political parties. I would take up far too much space if I were to list them, starting with the Frente Amplio (which means precisely ‘Broad Front’) initiated by the Tupamaros-MLN of Uruguay and containing the Uruguayan Communist party and headed by a military man, General Liber Seregni, in 1970. The Frente Amplio lasted through the decades of the darkest civil-military dictatorship up to the presidential electoral victories of Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica respectively. Another example would be El Salvador’s FMLN, which brought together several Marxist guerrilla movements into a single front under the stern insistence of Fidel Castro.

Though the roots of unity were back in the 1970s, the formula has only been strengthened in the 1990s and 21st century projects of Left populism. There is a theoretical-strategic logic for this. The polarisation of ‘us vs them’, the 99% vs. the 1%, the many not the few—in socioeconomic terms—is of course a hallmark of populism. But pro-NPP academics and ideologues are unaware of or omit its corollary everywhere from Uruguay to Greece and Spain. Namely, that socioeconomic ‘majoritarianism’ is not possible with a single party as agency.

When the JVP and the NPP have the same leader, and the JVP leader was the founder of the NPP, I cannot regard it as a truly autonomous project, but a party project. Left populism globally, from its inception right up to Lula last year, is predicated on the admission of political, not just social plurality, and the fact that socioeconomic, i.e., popular majoritarianism is possible only as a pluri-party united front, platform or bloc.

This recognition of the imperative of unity as necessitating a convergence of political fractions and currents; that unity is impossible as a function of a single political party; that authentic majoritarianism i.e., “us” is possible only if “we” converge and combine as an ensemble of our organic political agencies, is a structural feature of Left Populism.

It is radically absent in the JVP-NPP and has been so from the JVP’s founding in 1965. It was also true of the LTTE.

It is this insistence on political unipolarity (to put it diplomatically) or political monopoly (to put it bluntly) is a genetic defect of the JVP which has been carried over into the NPP project.

I do not say this to contest the leading role and the main role that the JVP has earned in any left populist project. I say it to draw the Gramscian distinction between ‘leadership’ and ‘domination’. Only ‘leadership’ can create consensus and popular consent; domination through monopoly cannot.

The simple truth is that however ‘left populist’ you think you are; no single party can be said to represent the people or even a majority – as distinct from a mere plurality– of the people. Furthermore, the people are not a unitary subject, and therefore cannot have a unitary leadership. This is the importance of Fidel Castro’s insistence to the Latin American Left of a ‘united command’ which brings together the diverse segments of the left by reflecting plurality.

Anyone who knows the history of Syriza and Podemos knows that they are not outcrops of some single party of long-standing but the result of an organic process of convergences of factions.

Had the JVP had a policy of united fronts – within the Southern left and with the Northern left– it would not have been as decisively defeated as it was in its two insurrections, and might have even succeeded in its second attempt. Though it has formed the NPP which has brought some significant success, it is still POLITICALLY sectarian in that it has no political alliances, partnerships, i.e., NO POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS outside of itself.

I must emphasize that here I am not speaking of a bloc with the SJB, though it is most desirable, to be recommended, and if this were Latin America would definitely be on the agenda of discussion.

Post-Aragalaya Left

Let us speak frankly. The most important phenomenon of recent times (since the victorious end of the war) was the Aragalaya of last year. The JVP, especially its student front the SYU, participated in that massive uprising which dislodged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but it played a less decisive role in the Aragalaya than did the FSP and the IUSF which is close to it. This is by no means to say that the FSP led the Aragalaya, but to point out that it played a more decisive role – which included some mistakes– than did the JVP.

How then does one remain blind to the fact that the JVP-NPP’s ‘left populism’ does not include the FSP and by extension the IUSF? How can there be a ‘popular bloc’ – a key element of left populism—without the IUSF?

Given that Pubudu Jayagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa, Lahiru Weerasekara and Wasantha Mudalige are among the most successful public communicators today (especially on the left), what kind of ‘left’ is a ‘left populism’ devoid of their presence, participation and contribution?

What does it take to recognise that unity of some sort of these two streams of the Left could result in a most useful division of labour and a quantum leap in the hopes and morale of the increasingly left-oriented post-Aragalaya populace, especially the youth?

Surely the very sight of a platform with the leaders of the JVP-NPP and the FSP-IUSF (AKD and Kumar Gunaratnam, Eranga Gunasekara and Wasantha Mudalige, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Duminda Nagamuwa, Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jayagoda) will take the Left populist project to the next level?

As a party the JVP from its birth, and by extension, the NPP today, have set aside one of the main weapons of leftist theory, strategy and political practice: the United Front. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Dimitrov, Gramsci, Togliatti, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro have founded and enriched this strategic concept.

It is difficult to accept that Rohana Wijeweera and Anura Kumara Dissanayake knew/know better than these giants, and that the JVP-NPP can dispense with this political sword and shield and yet prevail–or even survive the coming storm.

The JVP must present a LEFT option in the leadership of which is the major shareholder; not merely a JVP option or para-JVP option, which is what the NPP is. A credible, viable Left alternative cannot be reduced to a single party and its front/auxiliary; it cannot but be a United Left – a Left Front– alternative.


[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is author of The Great Gramsci: Imagining an Alt-Left Project, in ‘On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative’ eds Richard Falk et al, Routledge, New York, 2019.]

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Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement



Protesters demanding local goverment elections

by Jehan Perera

The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.

The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.

The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.


The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.

So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.

On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.


The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.

There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.

It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.

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Sing-along… Down Memory Lane



Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!

I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.

It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.

Melantha Perera: President of Moratuwa Arts Forum

I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),

The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.

Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.

During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.

Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.

Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.

The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.

Down Memory Lane


Fun time for the audience Down Memory Lane

Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.

The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,

Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.

President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”

Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).

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