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Domestic laws to address accountability

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“the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations” (emphasis added). Based on this logic what is proposed herein is that the entire exercise of addressing accountability should be based on the provisions as laid out in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions applicable to Non-International Armed Conflict as had occurred in Sri Lanka.

by Neville Ladduwahetty

 

With the UN Human Rights sessions in Geneva starting on 22 February, several commentators have expressed opinions as to how Sri Lanka should address the issues raised in the Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Others, some with extremely impressive credentials, have been more specific and confined themselves to issues relating to accountability.

The prevailing perception is that domestic legal provisions are inadequate to address issues relating to accountability applicable to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka that ended in May 2009. Furthermore, this perception is reinforced by the belief that Sri Lanka is not in a position to avail itself of international provisions relating to armed conflict, not only because Sri Lanka has not been a signatory to such instruments, but also because even those that Sri Lanka was a signatory to have not been incorporated into domestic law; a requirement imposed by the dualist system that Sri Lanka is committed to.

For instance, according to the latter perception the provisions in Additional Protocol II of 1977 that are applicable to Non-International Armed Conflict cannot be applied to the Non-International Armed Conflict in Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is not a signatory to this Protocol. This perception is seriously flawed because it fails to accept the provision in the second paragraph of Article 13 (6) in Sri Lanka’s constitution that recognizes the principle that laws recognized by the “community of nations” have a relevance that cannot be ignored in domestic jurisprudence.

 

LAW RECOGNIZED by the COMMUNITY of NATIONS

Article 13 (6) states:

“(6) No person shall be held guilty of an offence on account of any act or omission which did not, at the time of such act or omission, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any offence more severe than the penalty in force at the time such offence was committed.

Nothing in this article shall prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations”.

Therefore, an act that did NOT constitute an offence under domestic law could be a “criminal” act according to the “general principles of law recognized by the community of nations”, where an accused could be tried and punished.

The principle of giving recognition to “general principles of law recognized by the community of nations” is also incorporated in Article 38 of the Statutes of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Article 38 states:

“The Court, whose function is to decide in accordance with international law such disputes as are submitted to it, shall apply:

c. the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations”.

As far as issues of accountability during an armed conflict are concerned, general principles of both International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL), subject to derogation, are recognized by the community of nations as part of the body of international law. International Humanitarian Law embodies laws that govern both International and Non-International Armed Conflicts. The source of these laws are the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. They are universally accepted by the community of nations as the laws that govern Armed Conflict. Article 3 that relates to Non-International armed conflict are common to all four Geneva Conventions, hence it is often referred to as “common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions”.

Since the four Geneva Conventions are universally accepted by the community of nations as laws that govern armed conflict, and Article 3 is common to all four, it must necessarily follow that Article 3 is also universally acceptable to the community of nations. Furthermore, because one Article was found to be inadequate to address the complexities of numerous non-international armed conflict that sprang up following decolonization after World War II, a body of experts developed Additional Protocol II in 1977. Therefore, since the Additional Protocol is an extension of common Article 3, Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions should ipso facto be part of the body of laws acceptable to the community of nations. This makes common Article 3 and by extension Additional Protocol II of 1977 acceptable to the community of nations. And because of it, Additional Protocol II of 1977 should be the basis to address accountability issues relating to Sri Lanka’s Armed Conflict.

 

Its full title is:

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims
of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II)

Adopted on 8 June 1977 by the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International
Humanitarian Law applicable in Armed Conflicts
Entry into force: 7 December 1978, in accordance with Article 23

 

ADITIONAL PROTOCOL II to ADDRESS ACCOUNTABILITY

Since the text of the Protocol in respect of acts that are prohibited during a non-international armed conflict are similar to common Article 3, addressing issues of accountability based on the provisions of the Additional Protocol II is justified and therefore should be acceptable to the community of nations. The relevant sections of each are presented below.

 

Common Article 3

“To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; b) taking of hostages; c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples”.

 

Part II of the Additional Protocol states:

1. “All persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, are entitled to respect for their person, honour and convictions and religious practices. They shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction. It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors”.

2. “Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the following acts against the persons referred to in paragraph I are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever:

(a) Violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment; (b) Collective punishments; (c) Taking of hostages; (d) Acts of terrorism; (e) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault; (f) Slavery and the slave trade in all their forms; (g) Pillage; (h) Threats to commit any of the foregoing acts”.

In view of the prohibited acts listed above it is pertinent to ascertain whether a person found guilty of having committed any of the acts listed above could be punished under existing provisions of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code. If current provisions of the Penal Code are in fact sufficient to address violations alleged to have been committed during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s Armed Conflict, there is nothing to prevent Sri Lanka from undertaking such an exercise provided the procedure laid out in Article 6 “Penal prosecution” of the Additional Protocol II of 1977 is followed. This Article is presented below:

 

SCOPE of SRI LANKA’s PENAL CODE

Judging from the nature of the alleged violations committed by the Security Forces, particularly during the final stages of the armed conflict, the appropriate section of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code would be in Chapter XVI titled “OF OFFENCES AFFECTING THE HUMAN BODY and OF OFFENCES AFFECTING LIFE”. A few of the offences listed in this Chapter are: (a) Culpable homicide and murder; (b) Grievous hurt and voluntarily causing hurt; (c) Wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement; (d) Criminal force and assault; (e) Kidnapping, abducting and serfdom and slavery and recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (f) Rape and grave sexual abuse. In addition to the broad scope of offences presented above, the Penal Code lists a range of offences that expand the scope beyond the narrow limits of the list presented.

It is therefore self-evident that the Penal Code in its current form would be sufficient to address issues of accountability based on the nature of violations alleged to have been committed by the Security Forces, provided the procedure outlined in Article 6 of the Additional Protocol of 1977 is followed, which in essence is: “The procedure shall provide for an accused to be informed without delay of the particulars of the offence alleged against him and shall afford the accused before and during his trial all necessary rights and means of defence”.

 

Additional Protocol II of 1977

Article 6 – Penal prosecutions

1. This Article applies to the prosecution and punishment of criminal offences related to the armed conflict.

2. No sentence shall be passed and no penalty shall be executed on a person found guilty of an offence except pursuant to a conviction pronounced by a court offering the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality. In particular:

(a) The procedure shall provide for an accused to be informed without delay of the particulars of the offence alleged against him and shall afford the accused before and during his trial all necessary rights and means of defence;

(b) No one shall be convicted of an offence except on the basis of individual penal responsibility;

(c) No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under the law, at the time when it was committed; nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than that which was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed; if, after the commission of the offence, provision is made by law for the imposition of a lighter penalty, the offender shall benefit thereby;

(d) Anyone charged with an offence is presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law;

(e) Anyone charged with an offence shall have the right to be tried in his presence;

(f) No one shall be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.

3. A convicted person shall be advised on conviction of his judicial and other remedies and of the time-limits within which they may be exercised.

4. The death penalty shall not be pronounced on persons who were under the age of eighteen years at the time of the offence and shall not be carried out on pregnant women or mothers of young children.

5. At the end of hostilities, the authorities in power shall endeavour to grant the broadest possible amnesty to persons who have participated in the armed conflict, or those deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict, whether they are interned or detained.

 

CONCLUSION

UNHRC Resolution 30/1 that was co-sponsored by the former government was of the view that accountability could be addressed only by establishing “a judicial mechanism with a special counsel that included the special counsel’s office of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, etc…” (Paragraph 6). This view is endorsed by those who have doubts about the competence of the existing law and order system to address issues of accountability in a credible manner.

Instead, of adopting the arrangement proposed in Resolution 30/1, what is proposed herein is that accountability is addressed using laws recognized by the community of nations, starting with the Geneva Conventions that are universally acceptable. Furthermore, Article 13 (6) of Sri Lanka’s constitution also gives special recognition to principles of law recognized by the community of nations.

More specifically, what is relevant to Sri Lanka is common Article 3 applicable to Non-International Armed Conflict. This single Article was found to be inadequate to address the complexities of internal conflicts that sprang up with decolonization following the conclusion of World War II. As a result, common Article 3 was expanded in scope and adopted as “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims
of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II)

The logic that follows is that if Geneva Conventions are accepted by the community of nations, then it must follow that common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and its extension in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions should also be acceptable to the community of nations, regardless of whether it was ratified by a State or not. Furthermore, Article 38 of the Statutes of the International Court of Justice base their judgments on “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations” (emphasis added).

Based on this logic what is proposed herein is that the entire exercise of addressing accountability should be based on the provisions as laid out in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions applicable to Non-International Armed Conflict as had occurred in Sri Lanka. Since the Protocol specifies acts that are prohibited during a Non-International Armed Conflict and Sri Lanka’s Penal Code also identifies similar acts as criminal, no barrier should exist to address issues of accountability under existing judicial arrangements and provisions of law, provided the procedures adopted are those outlined in Additional Protocol II 0f 1977. It is time governments give serious consideration to this proposal, for the sake of those that gave their full measure of devotion to make the country whole and its people safe.

 

 

 

 

 



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Features

What JVP-NPP needs to do to win

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A JVP protest

By Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA

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

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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.

TEMPORARY RESPITE

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.

PRESIDENT’S OPTIONS

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

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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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