by Neville Ladduwahetty
Sri Lankans would be going to the polls on August fifth to elect a new parliament. However, what is to follow depends on which party secures the majority to form a stable government. The prevailing prediction is that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is most likely to secure at least a sufficient majority to form a government.
Such an outcome would mean that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Executive and a legislature headed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would be jointly responsible for the governance of Sri Lanka. If the SLPP secures only a simple majority the processes of governance would be constrained by the limitations and contradictions inherent in the 1978 Constitution and in the Nineteenth Amendment (19A). This would hamper post COVID-19 recovery. Therefore, it is imperative that without a two-thirds (2/3) majority to amend 1978 Constitution and 19A to bring clarity to its provisions or even introduce a new Constitution, it would not be possible for Sri Lanka to emerge from the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 disaster.
If, on the other hand, the SLPP secures only a simple majority, a national government with a 2/3 majority could be formed by means of provisions of Article 46 (4) similar to the dubious precedent crafted by the Yahapalana government. Such an approach would compel a SLPP government to accommodate the interests of coalition partners at considerable cost both financially as well as having to compromise its agenda. Therefore, if Sri Lanka is to recover from the COVID-19 crisis it is best that the government has a 2/3 majority sufficient to give it the freedom to act free of constraints of coalition demands and fetters of the 1978 Constitution and19 A.
THE NEED to REVISITING 19A
The need to revisit the 1978 Constitution and 19A is because the ambiguities and contradictions in their provisions have caused constitutional experts and academics to arrive at vastly divergent interpretations and conclusions. For instance, some interpret that 19A has transformed what was essentially a Presidential system based on separation of power into a Parliamentary system where separation of power is blurred to such an extent that they describe the present system as a Parliamentary Democracy. Others on the other hand, maintain that what 19A achieved was to prevent arbitrariness of Executive action that had existed under the 1978 Constitution, and not to transfer power from the Executive to Parliament. This is confirmed by the Supreme Court ruling on 19A that stated: “that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of a power attributed to one organ of government to another organ or body would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4 of the Constitution”. Therefore, it could be concluded that the intended transformation from a Presidential system to a Parliamentary system did not materialize notwithstanding such claims.
The 1972 Constitution is unambiguously based on a Parliamentary system while the 1978 Constitution is based on a Presidential system. However, the incorporation of certain provisions from the 1972 Constitution into to the 1978 Constitution, followed by 19A, has caused divergent interpretations. Hence, a few key issues are presented below to illustrate the need to revisit the 1978 Constitution and 19A in order to bring clarity to the current Constitutional provisions to ensure that the system of governance is either clearly Parliamentary or Presidential and not a mix of both.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of the 1972 CONSTITUTION
The relevant Articles in the 1972 Constitution are:
Article 91: “The President shall be responsible to the National State Assembly (Parliament) for the execution and performances of the powers and functions of his office under the Constitution…”.
Article 92 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the government of the Republic which shall be collectively responsible to the National State Assembly and answerable to the National State Assembly on all matters for which they are responsible”.
Article 92 (2) states: “Of the Ministers, one who shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers shall be the Prime Minister”.
Article 94 (1) states: “The Prime Minister shall determine the number of Ministers and Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to Ministers”.
Article 94 (2) states: “The President shall appoint from among the members of the National State Assembly Ministers to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 94 (3): “The Prime Minister may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and recommend to the President changes to the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of the 1978 CONSTITUTION
Article 42 states: “The President shall be responsible to Parliament for the due exercise, performance and discharge of the powers, duties and functions under the Constitution…’.
Article 43 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic which shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament”.
Article 43 (2) states: “The President shall be a member of the Cabinet of ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers”.
Article 44 (1) states: “The President from time to time, in consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation to be necessary –
(a) “determine the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such Ministers” and
(b) “appoint from among the members of Parliament Ministers to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 44 (3) states: “The President may at any time, change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS of 19A
Article 42 (1) states: “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers charged with the direction and control of the Government of the Republic”.
Article 42 (2) states: “The Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament”.
Article 43 (1) states: “The President shall in consultation with the Prime Minister, where he considers such consultation to be necessary, determine the number of Ministers of the Cabinet of ministers and the Ministries and the assignment of subjects and functions to such Ministers”.
Article 43 (2) states: “The President shall on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint from among Members of Parliament, Ministers, to be in charge of the Ministries so determined”.
Article 43 (3) states: “The President may at any time change the assignment of subjects and functions and the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers…”.
IMPACT of CONTRADICTORY PROVISIONS
The constitutional provisions of the 1972 Constitution presented above are consistent with a Parliamentary system. Notwithstanding this fact, such provisions that are appropriate for a Parliamentary system have been incorporated into the 1978 Constitution and 19A that are essentially Presidential. This has caused both the 1978 Constitution and 19A to be seriously compromised. It is therefore imperative that amendments are introduced to ensure that the system of governance is either Parliamentary or Presidential in all respects.
For instance, commenting on Article 43 of the 1978 Constitution (presented above), the Supreme Court in S.D. No. 04/2015 stated: “This important Article underscores that the Cabinet collectively is charged with the exercise of Executive power, which is expressed as the direction and control of the Government of the Republic and the collective responsibility of Cabinet of which the President is the Head. It establishes conclusively that the President is not the sole repository of Executive power under the Constitution. It is the Cabinet of Ministers collectively, and not the President alone, which is charged with the direction and control of the Government. This Cabinet is answerable to Parliament. Therefore, the Constitution itself recognizes that Executive power is exercised by the President and by the Cabinet of Ministers, and that the President shall be responsible to Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers, collectively responsible and answerable to Parliament with regard to the exercise of such powers…”.
On the other hand, the Courts have accepted that Article 3 that deals with the sovereignty of the People should be read with Article 4. Therefore, the guiding principle in the exercise of Executive power in the 1978 Constitution should be Article 4 (b). Article 4 (b) states: “the executive power of the People, including the defence of Sri Lanka, shall be exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People”. This Article specifically reposes Executive power of the People ONLY in the President. Therefore, Executive power must necessarily be exercised solely by the President and not jointly shared with the Cabinet of Ministers. This means that anyone else exercising executive power must derive its authority from the President.
The comments of the Supreme Court in S.D. No. 04/2015 also stated: “It is in this background that the Court in the Nineteenth Amendment Determination came to a conclusion that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of the power attributed to one organ of government to another organ or body would be inconsistent with Article 3 read with Article 4 of the Constitution. Though Article 4 provides the form and manner of the sovereignty of the people, the ultimate act or decision of the executive functions must be retained by the President. So long as the President remains the Head of the Executive, the exercise of his powers remain supreme or sovereign in the executive field and to others to whom such power is given must derive the authority from the President or exercise the Executive power vested in the President as a delegate of the President”.
If, as stated above by the Court, the President as the Head of the Executive is “sovereign in the executive field”, the President who represents one of the three branches of the Government – the Executive, is co-equal with the Legislature and the Judiciary under provisions of separation of power. Therefore, the President cannot be responsible to another organ of government – the Parliament. Furthermore, since the Cabinet of Ministers derive their authority from the President, the Cabinet cannot be responsible and answerable to Parliament either. Under the circumstances, Article 33A that calls for the President to be responsible to Parliament “for the due exercise performance and discharge of his powers, duties and functions” is a violation of the principle of separation of power.
Another important issue that arises from the fact that the President is sovereign in the executive field is the constitutional provision that his executive powers include the defence of Sri Lanka. Therefore, the President has a right granted by the Constitution to be the Minister of Defence regardless of whether the President is a Member of Parliament or not. The prerogative of such a decision should be left to the President, instead of having to delegate it to someone else, invariably less competent in issues relating to security. Since the provision to select Cabinet Members from among members of Parliament is a carry-over from the defunct 1972 Constitution this constraint should be repealed since it has no relevance in a Presidential system.
ARTICLE 46 – UNIQUE ONLY TO 19A.
Article 46 (1) (a) and (b) limits the number of Cabinet of Ministers to thirty and sets an aggregate limit of forty on the number of Ministers who are not members of the Cabinet of Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
Having sets limits, the framers of 19A provided a device by means of Article 46 (4) and (5) to enable Parliament by Resolution to exceed the very limits they themselves stipulated above. In fact, this device is so crafty that it enables even a minority government with the largest majority to form a National Government with even a 2/3 majority by forming a coalition with other recognized political parties. Had the Article stated “the political party with the largest majority together with ALL other political parties” the task of forming a National Government would in all likelihood been unrealistic. This device was exploited to the fullest advantage by the former Yahapalana government. The net effect of the current provisions in 19A is to ridicule their own attempts to appear well intentioned by proposing a leaner Cabinet and make a mockery of the “will of the people” by introducing a corrupted way out of the limits set by themselves.
19A – THE CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL
Article 41 B (1) states: “No person shall be appointed by the President as the Chairman or the member of any of the Commissions specified in the Schedule to this Article, except on a recommendation of the Council”.
Article 41 C (1) states: “No person shall be appointed by the President to any of the Officers specified in the Schedule to this Article…unless such appointment has been approved by the Council”.
The Court ruled that the transfer, relinquishment or removal of power attributed to one organ to another violates Article 3 when read with Article 4 of the Constitution. If this is so, would not the transfer of power that the President had, to appoint Commissions and Officers prior to 19A, to another body that is not even another organ of Government as recognized by Article 3 read with Article 4, amount to a violation of the sovereignty of the People? Furthermore, the operation of the Council has become so dysfunctional that the country today does not have a functioning Inspector General of Police. The reason for this is a system failure because the President who makes the appointment could keep on rejecting nominations by the Council causing posts being vacant as in the case of the IGP. Therefore, this provision too needs to be seriously amended. An alternative would be to restore the powers the President had under Articles 54, 55 and 107 of the 1978 Constitution and for him to make appointments subject to the approval of the appropriate Oversight Committees of Parliament and repeal Chapter VIIA of 19A.
19A – DISSOLUTION of PARLIAMENT
According to 19A Article 70 (1) states: “The President may by Proclamation, summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. Provided that the President shall not dissolve until the expiration of a period of not less than four years and six months…unless Parliament requests the President to do so by a resolution passed by not less than two-third of the whole number of Members voting in favour”.
This Article presents two serious issues. One, it places the President at a disadvantage in relation to Parliament since Parliament is not constrained by a time bar whereas the President is. Therefore, Parliament could request the President to dissolve Parliament at any time with a 2/3 majority whereas the President is compelled to wait four and half years to dissolve Parliament. Such drastic disadvantages are not in keeping with principles of separation of power among co-equals. Such inequality is unacceptable for two separate organs of government elected separately by the People. The second serious issue is that securing a 2/3 majority for a political party under provisions of proportional representation is bound to be a rarity. This compels Parliament to continue however dysfunctional it is.
Therefore, the net effect of Article 70 (1) as currently presented is for the country to be governed by a government even if the situation is so dire that it warrants dissolution of Parliament because of the constitutional straightjacket of this Article. Consequently, as always, it is the People who have to endure.
The outcome of the forthcoming General Election to elect a new Parliament would have a serious impact on how effectively Sri Lanka recovers from the challenges imposed by the unprecedented COVID -19 crisis. The most significant single factor that would influence the recovery process is the current Constitution. The 1978 Constitution and 19A contain constitutional provisions that are a mix appropriate to both Parliamentary and Presidential systems. This has made governing processes convoluted. Therefore, it is imperative that the current provisions are amended, so that the Constitution is Presidential in all respects and not a mix of both Parliamentary and Presidential as currently exists, with the appropriate checks and balances by the Parliament and the Judiciary, in a way that would not hamper effective Executive action.
The reason for the existence of Parliamentary and Presidential systems in the present Constitution is because the operation of a Presidential system based on separation of power, is not commonly understood despite it being in existence for over four decades. A glaring example of the lack of appreciation of what separation of power means is selection of the Cabinet of Ministers from among Members of Parliament. This results in the same individual serving two separate organs of government resulting in conflict of interest. This practice should cease. If Members of Parliament are to be Members of the Cabinet, they should relinquish their association with Parliament as practiced by other countries with Presidential systems.
Under the circumstances, a government with a simple majority would not be in a position to introduce the needed amendments without which the recovery process would be hampered by the existing constitutional ambiguities and contradictions. Therefore, it is only a 2/3 Parliamentary majority that would facilitate the introduction of the needed amendments without which it would not be possible for Sri Lanka to emerge from the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 pandemic.
President picks up the gauntlet
by Jehan Perera
By proroguing parliament President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given the parliamentarians, and the country at large, a reminder of the power of the presidency. There was no evident reason for the president to suddenly decide to prorogue parliament. More than 40 parliamentary committees, including important ones concerning public finances, enterprises and accounts have ceased to function. The president’s office has said that when parliament reconvenes on February 8, after the celebration of the country’s 75th Independence Day on February 4, the president will announce new policies and laws, which will be implemented until the centenary celebrations of Sri Lanka’s independence in 2048. Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew transformed Singapore from a relatively underdeveloped and impoverished agrarian society into one of the world’s most developed countries in the same 25 years that the president has set for Sri Lanka.
President Wickremesinghe has been getting increasingly assertive regarding his position on issues. Recently he attended a large gathering of Muslim clerics, where he was firm in saying that society needs to modernise, and so do religious practices. He has also held fast to his positions on reviving the economy and resolving the economy. There have been widespread protests against the tax hikes being implemented which have eroded the purchasing power of taxpayers. First they had to absorb the impact of inflation that rose to a rate of 80 percent at the time the country reneged on its foreign debt repayments and declared bankruptcy. Now they find their much diminished real incomes being further reduced by a tax rate that reaches 36 percent.
But the government is not relenting. President Wickremesinghe, who holds the finance minister’s portfolio, is going against popular sentiment in being unyielding on the matter of taxes. He appears determined to force the country away from decades of government policies that took the easy route of offering subsidies rather than imposing taxes to use for government expenses and development purposes. In Sri Lanka, the government’s tax revenue is less than 8 percent, whereas in comparable countries the tax revenue is around 20 to 25 percent. The long term cost of living off foreign borrowings rather than generating resources domestically through taxation has been evident for a long while in the slow growth of the economy even prior to the economic collapse.
Another area in which the president appears to have taken the decision to stand firm is the issue of finding a solution to the ethnic conflict. This problem has proven to be unresolvable by governments and political leaders who give deference to ethnic nationalism. Being an ethnic nationalist in the context of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious divisions has been a sure way of gaining votes and securing election victories. No leader in Sri Lanka has to date been able to implement the compromise solutions that they periodically arrived at, the last being the 13th Amendment. Earlier ones included the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957 and the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1965 which could not even be started to be implemented.
At the All Party meeting that he summoned to discuss the ethnic conflict and national reconciliation, President Wickremesinghe took the bull by the horns. He exchanged words with ethnic nationalist parliamentarians who sought to challenge his legitimacy to be making changes. He said, “It is my responsibility as the Executive to carry out the current law. For approximately 37 years, the 13th Amendment has been a part of the constitution. I must implement or someone has to abolish it by way of a 22nd amendment to the constitution by moving a private member’s bill. If the bill was voted against by the majority in the House, then the 13th amendment would have to be implemented. We can’t remain in a middle position saying that either we don’t implement the 13th amendment or abolish it.”
The 13th Amendment has not been fully implemented since it was passed by parliament with a 2/3 majority in 1987. Successive governments, including ones the president has been a member of variously as a minister or prime minister, have failed to implement it in a significant manner, especially as regards the devolution of police and land powers. When parliament reconvenes on February 8 after prorogation, President Wickremesinghe will be provided the opportunity to address both the parliament and the country on the way forward. Having demonstrated the power of the presidency to prorogue parliament at his discretion, he will be able to set forth his vision of the solution to the ethnic conflict and the roadmap that needs to be followed to get to national reconciliation.
It is significant that on February 20, the president will also acquire the power to dissolve parliament at his discretion. By proroguing parliament, the president has sent a message to both parliamentarians and the larger society that he will soon have the power to dissolve parliament with the same suddenness that he prorogued parliament. On February 20, the parliament would have been in existence for two and a half years. The 21st Amendment empowers the president to dissolve parliament after two and a half years. Most of the parliamentarians belonging to the ruling party are no longer in a position to go to their electorates let alone canvass for votes among the people. Under these fraught circumstances, they would not wish to challenge the president or his commitment to implementing the 13th Amendment in full.
On the other hand, the taming of parliament by the president does not guarantee the success of an accommodation on the ethnic conflict and a sustainable political solution. The ethnic conflict evokes the primordial sentiments of the different ethnic and religious communities. Political parties and politicians are often portrayed as the villains who led the country to decades of ethnic conflict and to war. However, the conflict in the country predates the political parties. In 1928, in response to demands from community leaders in Ceylon as it was then known, the British colonial rulers sent a commission to the country to ascertain whether it was ready for self-rule. The assessment was negative—the Donoughmore commission wrote that the representatives of the biggest community held to the position that their interest was the national interest. All the representatives of the smaller communities who were divided one against the other were united against the biggest.
An important role therefore devolves upon civil society not to fall prey to the divisions that come down the years. There is a need for enlightened leaders of civil society to work with commitment to explain to the people the need for a political solution and inter-ethnic power sharing that the 13th Amendment makes possible. There were signs of this during the height of the Aragalaya when the youth leading the protests called publicly for equal citizenship and non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and caste. They pledged not to be divided by ethnic nationalist politicians for their narrow electoral purposes. It is ironic that the government led by President Wickremesinghe has made these enlightened youth leaders the target of a campaign of persecution instead of making them a part of the solution by constructively engaging with them and issuing a general amnesty.
Privatisation of education and demonising of students of Lanka
by Anushka Kahandagamage
Sri Lanka is trapped in debt due to decades of corruption and short-sighted economic policies. To come out of the trap or, I would say, escape the moment, the government is seeking loans from the IMF, or anybody else who is willing to lend, no matter the conditions. To this end, under the IMF’s tutelage, the government is seeking to privatise education, aware that it will face the wrath of the people. In this setting, to suppress the protests, the government has adopted a strategy of demonising students, in the public education system.
School children as “drug addicts”
A media empire, which has strong ties with the current Lankan regime, recently sent shockwaves through schools, and their communities, by reporting cases of school children hooked on harmful narcotics. Following these reports, there were many write ups, social media content and stories published on the menace of drug addiction, among Sri Lankan students. That media network even released a video, interviewing two schoolgirls who claimed to be addicted to harmful substances. In the midst of the media frenzy, the police carried out surprise checks in schools, searching students’ bags. The state humiliated and terrified school children by using the police to conduct surprise checks in the schools and peek into the students’ backpacks, instead of investigating the avenues through which dangerous drugs enter the country. After a week, the Minister of Education claimed he was unaware that the police were conducting surprise checks in schools, with sniffer dogs, adding that there was no need to deploy the police force for this purpose. If the Minister was not aware that the police raided schools, it is not surprising that the state would also turn a blind eye to how narcotics enter the country. While there is a risk of students addicting to dangerous drugs, the state cannot place all the blame on students. Instead of taking responsibility for the state of affairs, and acting to keep harmful substances off the island, the state places the burden on schoolchildren and simply refers to them as “drug addicts.”
Bhikku students as “alcoholics”
The next example is from the Buddhist and Pali University, in Homagama. Similar to the first story, the same media network reported some irregularities occurring in the University. Those irregularities included the student monks forcing incoming students, also monks, to consume weed, liquor and party. Following this news report, some investigations were conducted in the University and empty liquor bottles were found in an abandoned well. Then we witnessed several press conferences where University authorities questioned the student monk leaders. While one cannot and should not disregard students’ violence upon another student, it is interesting to note the way the government is taking up the particular incident, at this particular point of time. There was a massive social media campaign to show that the student-monks are immoral and unworthy of education. It cannot be a coincidence that the student monks, at this University, were actively involved in the Aragalaya. In other words, the government was trying to defame the University, and the students, by labelling them as oppressors and alcoholics.
The Rajapaksa regime continuously used Buddhist monks, in their political operations, especially to incite conflict and win elections. The state has frequently deployed Buddhist monks to further its nationalist agendas. When the state used monks for their agendas, including to instigate violence, the monks were not framed as ‘immoral.’ The higher Buddhist authorities did not take action against groups, like Bodu Bala Sena, or Ravana Balaya, or their violent activities. It is ironic that the Government seems to be concerned about the ‘morality’ or ‘discipline’ of Bhikkus at this moment when many student Bhikkus have joined hands with the people to protest against the state.
University students as “terrorists”
The last example is the most pressing at this moment. On 18th of August, 2022, the police arrested Wasantha Mudalige, the Convenor of the Inter-University Students Federation, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Along with him, the authorities detained Hashan Jeewantha and the convener of the Inter University Bhikku Federation (IUBF), Galwewa Siridhamma Thera. The state labelled the politically active university students as “terrorists”. Again, this cannot have happened by chance; we all know the Aragalaya against the Rajapaksa dictatorship was heavily influenced by the Inter-University Students Federation and the Inter University Bhikku Federation. The student unions were the muscle of the people’s protests against the oppressive and corrupt regime. The Ranil-Rajapaksa regime labelled the student leaders’ terrorists and started arresting them.
The state’s stamping of University students as terrorists is a folly. If the state labels its own youth as “terrorists,” it means that the state has failed miserably because it is its own actions that have pushed them toward what is labelled as “terrorism.” The state should take a step back and reconsider its decisions.
Privatization of Education
The government and the government-validating media demonize students, labelling them as drug addicts, alcoholics and terrorists. The government undermines and defames the country’s student body. By doing so, the government is strategically isolating the students from the larger society and eroding public faith in them. Ironically, drug addicts, alcoholics, and terrorists are all confined to the public school and state university system, not private educational institutions. The media propagates the idea that students enrolled in the state education system are ‘immoral’ and ‘disobedient’. Meanwhile, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the puppet President of the Rajapaksa allies, proposes a new economic system which he thinks will counter the current balance of payment crisis. The proposal includes establishing an educational hub in Sri Lanka, which promises to privatise higher education in the long-term.
The state agenda of privatizing education is not a recent one, but it has been reenergized by the Ranil-Rajapaksa government in the context of crisis. Well before demonising the students, in the public education system, in June 2022 the government, national education commission, came up with an education policy framework.
Biased towards Rajapaksa ideologies, the national education commission that developed the policy, proposed to expand the privatization of higher education. In their report, the committee presents a table demonstrating how Sri Lanka allocates less money on higher education compared with the other middle-income countries. The next section outlines the way Sri Lanka relies more on government grants for higher education than other middle-income countries, which is confusing and contradictory, perhaps reflecting the grossly inadequate overall investment in higher education in the country. Then the report goes on to analyse how the poor school education system creates an unskillful student who is unable to think critically. It finally recommends promoting private participation in higher education, not only through funding but also by matching the curricula to fit the market and increase the “employability” of students. While on the one hand government pushes for privatising higher education, on the other, it demonizes the students in the public educational system. The State has seized the problem by its tail. The government is unable to perceive its own flaws in short-sighted policymaking, law enforcement, and corruption, and instead accuses and defames students, to distract them from its concerted effort to privatise education.
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.
(Anushka Kahandagamage is reading for her PhD in the School of Social Sciences, University of Otago)
Janaka…Keeping the Elvis scene alive
For the past three years, local performers have certainly felt the heat, where work is concerned, beginning with the Easter Sunday tragedy, followed by Covid-19 restrictions, and then the political situation
Right now, there seems to be a glimmer of light, at the end of the tunnel, and musicians are hoping that, finally, the scene would brighten up for the entertainment industry.
Janaka Palapathwala, whose singing style, and repertoire, is reminiscent of the late Elvis Presley, says he was so sad and disappointed that he could not reach out to his fans, around the world, because of the situation that cropped up in the country.
However, he did the next best thing possible – a Virtual Concert, early last year, and had this to say about it:
“The concert was witnessed by so many people around the world, in 12 different countries, and I take this opportunity to thank all those who showed a great interest, around the world, to make the show a mighty success. Lasantha Fernando of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the USA, went out of the way to pull a huge crowd, in the States, to make the concert a massive success. Lasantha, by the way, has done many shows, in Minnesota, including a concert of mine, four years ago.”
Toward the end of 2022, the showbiz scene started to look good, with musicians having work coming their way – shows, sing-alongs, events, overseas tours, recordings, etc.
Janaka added that the Gold FM ’70s show was back after six years, and that the music industry is grateful to Gold FM for supporting musicians with such an awesome event.
“Also, the unity and the togetherness of the Sri Lankan western musicians, scattered around the globe, were brought together, once again, by the guidance of Melantha Perera.
“The song ‘Baby Jesus Is Fast Asleep’, written, composed and directed by Melantha, was a true Christmas gift to people around the world.”
Referring to his career, Janaka said that these days he is involved in a mega video production project.
“I intend to do a road show for a total Dinner Dance Promotion package, titled ‘Janaka with Melantha and the Sign’.
“Phase One of the project is already completed, and we are now heading for the second phase, where we plan to get Sohan Weerasinghe, Clifford Richards and Stephanie Siriwardane involved in the cast”.
Janaka also spoke excitedly about his forthcoming trip to the USA.
“I’m so excited to tour the USA, after three years. The ‘Spring Tour USA 2023′ is going to be different.
“I’ve done formal concerts, in the States, but this Spring Tour will be a series of Dinner Dances where I would be seen in action, along with the top ranked DJ of Washington D.C., Shawn Groove, and some of the best domestic bands in the States, and I can assure all my friends, and fans, in the US, that this new venture is going to be doubly exciting.”
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