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Dilemmas of The New Norm



Dr Sarala Fernando

The choon (tune) van with bakery products arrived at the door after many weeks marking a sign of life in Colombo returning to normal, that is if you get used to the price-shock, everything doubled or tripled since the freeing of the exchange rate. It seems that Sri Lanka was more integrated into the global economy than had been thought; disdaining domestic import substitution, every manufacturer is raising prices claiming imported components. Or are merchants just cashing in with the lack of effective consumer protection?

Those who have savings in banks will get compensated with enhanced interest payouts but for those with limited or daily wages, coping with the new norm is crippling and despairing. With typical Sri Lanka philanthropy and self reliance mechanisms, hand outs of essential goods, community kitchens and community gardens have been started by private and voluntary organizations, but no one knows how much of the affected population will be reached. It is good to know that at last schools are open and finally, Triposha is up and running with the new booster supplement developed locally. Government health system networks including NGOs are working together with international organizations to address malnutrition in children which has been a lingering problem in Sri Lanka, a trend which began after the rice ration was stopped in the 1970’s.

The wife of the President of Ukraine, Mme Zelenska during a recent interview, had mentioned the surreal circumstances of life in Kyiv, where people are trying to live a normal life, going for walks, drinking a coffee in a cafe during the day despite the horror of the night bomb attacks from the Russian invasion and fear for their loved ones on the front lines. It is something like that in Colombo right now where people are going out to eat in restaurants, holding weddings in hotels, even international sporting events are ongoing despite the country having declared bankruptcy, a looming food crisis and the lack of dollars for basic necessities like fuel, gas, food and medicines. The truth is that people are desperate to lead their normal life today because of the uncertain tomorrow. They are cheered by even a little hope given by the new youthful Sri Lanka cricket team successfully meeting foreign challenges.

Unlike in Ukraine where President Zelensky has proved a master at communication both with the international community and the local population, one problem in Sri Lanka is a total failure of public diplomacy which is putting the government at odds with the people. In Ukraine, the President is seen in combat fatigues equally comfortable receiving foreign leaders while also inspecting the front lines and making a daily broadcast of the military situation to the people, underlining his proximity and sensitivity to their plight.

In this country, well dressed rulers message the public with one way communication, as if lecturing a captive audience; there is no visual of inspecting government activities or hearing the people’s grievances. Perhaps only in this country people are told by the rulers to manage with one meal a day and yet soon after the President is elected in Parliament, live tv broadcasts the traditional tea party enjoyed by mostly well fed parliamentarians. Nor does it help to build confidence when the messages are confused; for example the President’s mention that local debt sustainability is also to be looked at, had sent shock waves in the banking community until the Central Bank chief subsequently discounted this option. The President has recently even suggested nuclear power be included in the national energy plan, oblivious to the fact this proposal (put forward by former Minister Champika Ranawaka) had caused 60 local scientists to write in protest, even before the Fukushima tragedy.

In Japan, well before taxes are increased, there is a publicity programme put in place, to sensitize the public . Yet in Sri Lanka, apart from announcing that there are difficult times ahead and increasing public anxiety, what has the Government done to reassure the people of their plan to protect the most vulnerable? Instead, daily newspapers and social media are rife with tales of cash and other incentives offered to parliamentarians to join an all- party government in a merry- go- round of appointments to high government office. The growing chasm between the people and their elected representatives was voiced by former President Sirisena that he avoided showing his face near the fuel queues for fear of getting assaulted as one of the despised “225”.

The celebration of French National Day in July coinciding with the “aragalaya” reminded of the terrible conditions that triggered the revolution of 1789,- bankruptcy, famine and repression, which led to the overthrow of the ruling monarchy, sending its supporters in the aristocracy and the church to the guillotine. Sri Lanka’s “aragalaya” is different to the “terror” of the French revolution although both aspired to a “system change”. Initially, the “aragalaya” was peaceful and drew support across the island from all communities irrespective of social standing. In the French experience, internecine conflict broke out among the revolution leaders and its leaders like Robespierre also suffered the same fate at the guillotine. In the chaos thereafter, attempts to bring back the monarchy failed to take root and finally a little known soldier, short of stature, named Napoleon emerged, who ended up calling himself Emperor……..

Apart from the lessons of foreign revolutions , we can learn from the experience of the region. India, facing the need for economic reforms in the 1990’s, relied on respected local economists and took the Opposition into their confidence, paving the way for acceptance through parliament. However, when a problem emerges in this country, the traditional approach has been to set up an “independent” commission or new institution which inevitably runs into problems of financing and implementation. For example, faced with Sri Lanka’s infamous laws delays, they have created new courts, appointed new judges and resorted to digitalization. Why did they not accept the sensible simple suggestion by the President of the Law Commission for the existing judges and courts to work a double shift and thereby get rid of the backlog of cases? Or establish time limits for completion of court cases as in Singapore? In this time of crisis, instead of new mechanisms, why not just make use of the existing committees in Parliament, like the party leaders consultations , transformed into a National Council?

Closer to home, can we in the South take lessons from how Jaffna is coping with the present difficulties? For example, the University of Jaffna has not closed on account of the fuel crisis but is continuing to hold sessions with students and teachers coming on bicycles. As an incentive to students they have organized lunch for 1,500 students every day from local donations of rice, coconut and vegetables having to only hire a cook. They are not waiting for foreign assistance but have put the goal of education upfront and the student attendance is high being ensured of at least one good meal every day. The sponsors of the Nallur festival this year fed some 10,000 people lunch every day setting an example for the south to put aside draping stupas with cloth and building ran veta. Jaffna people who have gone through the trauma of the 30-year armed conflict have retained their simplicity and work ethic, many households still cooking with firewood and eating simple vegetarian meals. It would not be surprising if Jaffna also leads the way in renewable energy and water harvesting, setting an example for the South of a way of life that can be best described as smaller, smarter and more sustainable.

We in the South, over-roaded, traffic jams, over-built with untenable concrete hirises which have no adaptation to climate change and all draining the national grid, isn’t it time to call for a change of lifestyle? It is not our strategic location but our natural heritage, the trees, plants, the wild life, the mountains and water sources that since ancient times draws investment, trade and visitors . The question is why our rulers never seem to focus on protecting this natural treasure.

In Nepal and India where the government has supported protection initiatives, numbers of tigers in the wild are doubling because of dedicated teams of rangers. Contrast with Sri Lanka which has the worst rate of elephant- human conflict in the world and even the leopards are dying. Numerous videos of cruelty to domestic elephants and the film of gifted Sri Lanka elephants like Kavan rescued by international petition from a dismal foreign zoo and sent to a sanctuary in Cambodia, are reinforcing negative images of this country.

The dice are rolling unpredictably in Sri Lanka. Who would have thought the oldest democracy in South Asia would see an elected President deposed by an angry population and a new President, without even winning his seat, elected from Parliament? Is President Wickremesinghe an unlikely hero, savior of the nation or is he a scapegoat like in ancient Greek rituals at a time of calamity, cast out of his home and left exposed to the wolves and the elements? With storm clouds gathering amidst growing public unrest, political parties are already strategizing for an election early next year. What hope of system change with spoiled wine in new bottles?

(Sarala Fernando, retired from the Foreign Ministry as Additional Secretary and her last Ambassadorial appointment was as Permanent Representative to the UN and International Organizations in Geneva . Her Ph.D was on India-Sri Lanka relations and she writes now on foreign policy, public diplomacy and protection of heritage).

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To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur



by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!



In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL



The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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