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Happy scene for Suzi

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SUZI LIVE on social media

Suzi, the bubbly female vocalist of Friends’ fame, seems to be enjoying her new found freedom, after the long lockdown in her part of the world – Switzerland.

However, there is talk that some kind of restrictions may be introduced, again, as there is a rise in Covid cases, mainly due to people returning from overseas trips.

Maybe a third jab, to minimise the infection, said Suzi.

Right now, entertainment is allowed and the energetic singer finds herself inundated with work, especially during the weekends.

She operates as a solo artiste – singing live to pre-recorded backing tracks.

According to Suzi, guests, and performers, have got to be vaccinated.

“The vaccination certificate has to be shown before any function. And, once inside, wearing of masks is not necessary,” added Suzi

Readers can check out some of Suzi’s live performances on SUZI LIVE on social media.



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Mangala Samaraweera: Utopian expedient

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By Daniel Alphonsus

“This is not a Sinhala-Buddhist country”. This war cry, triumphantly proclaimed in the deepest South after the Easter Bombings, was probably Mangala’s most famous words. And rightly so, for they captured the essence of the man. The attacks unleashed a volcano of fear and hate, which no one could stop. Most were silent, some tried to soothe. It was only Mangala who dared confront. That confrontation arose from compassion. Compassion which also led him to comfort. From his Matara home, which served as the office of the Mothers’ Front in the 1980s, to the Eid dinner at his Muslim bodyguard’s home after the attacks, Mangala always cared for those who lived in the dark shadow of oppression. He was often the only leader to speak or march in solidarity. As a friend put it, with Mangala “power spoke truth”. This is why his loss continues to be felt in every corner of the island and will be for many more years to come.

Mangala’s piercing vision for his beloved Sri Lanka arose from his love of people. His dreams were not sterile blueprints but rich and colourful tapestries woven from the joys, hopes, laughs and tears of the people he encountered. The discrimination he personally felt did not make him bitter. Instead, it endowed him with great sensitivity. He wanted nothing more than for Sri Lankans, individually and collectively, to be free and to reach their fullest potential. To think their own thoughts, do what made them happy and to celebrate life in all its glory. Amidst the deep disappointment and betrayal he felt after the last Presidential election, many will remember his tweet from that day, he considered retiring from Sri Lanka to travel the world. That thought vanished, when a few weeks later he went to Matara and met his constituents. They had been by his side for decades and had always accepted him for who he was. Talk of retiring ended. Resolve returned and he began preparing for wrenching Sri Lanka from its post-Independence quagmire.

Courage may be the virtue most lacking in politicians, but wisdom is a close second. As we all know, Mangala was more than a courageous dreamer. He held many of the great offices of state and was, for many years, Colombo’s most influential power broker. His achievements and regrets have been recounted by others. But Mangala was greater than his office, influence or achievements. He was a leader. His ideas and example were, and remain, a guiding rainbow to us all.

Mangala’s wisdom was practical. In politics and statecraft, noble ends are often necessarily achieved using ignoble means. Knowing this, but also knowing when to stop, when not to cross a line, is the central ethical challenge for any statesman. Mangala was incorruptible. But he also understood that if he did not grant thousands of jobs to his constituents, dreams would remain dreams. He understood power as only a politician can; he studied its many forms and practised its many arts. He was a master of the secret alliance, subtle leak, cutting rumour, cunning seating arrangement, selective dinner invite, carefully chosen gift and sincere flattery. Yet it was his conscience’s mastery over the siren song of power and office that made him a statesman, whose stature will wax rather than wane as the years and decades pass. He took laws and institutions seriously. But he knew their limits. Ultimately, power was in politics: in ballots, ideas and emotions. That was his main arena, where he bent perception to shape reality.

I only knew Mangala at a time when this intuition had matured. Yet it is a testament to his spirit that after decades spent at the frontlines of our muddy polity, rather than a conscience mutilated and crushed, Mangala Experience had a more refined ethical sensibility than Mangala Innocence. As a tribute from across the aisle put it, he joined politics as a member of the party of conscience and ended life in that party.

Courage and wisdom count for little without capability and ambition. In a country where people move in their tribes – whether family, school, community or class – Mangala saw individuals for who they were. He saw their dreams, recognised their abilities and trusted them when no one else did. He empowered people to do what they always wanted to. He didn’t give a damn about sex, ethnicity, age or anything else. As long as you had passion and wanted to do something, he would quietly be there to help.

He had the genius to unite revolutionary and capitalist, dreamer and fixer, artist and boffin, civil servant and activist, bringing them together to serve progress and serve Sri Lanka. As one person put it, “he made our profession our responsibility”. Just as his friendships reached across the kaduwa, his home and office bridged the English and vernacular universes. One feature of Mangala’s legacy less remarked on is his quiet record of appointing women to positions of responsibility. Ever the true liberal, he made sure all knew that this was because he thought that those women would do a better job than anyone else, not because they were women. All these people – chosen for their merit and passion, trusted and listened to – repaid Mangala’s trust many-fold. They worked and fought to realise his vision and earn his favour. He was also able to earn the trust and respect of the civil service.

Though politics and art were Mangala’s premier passions, ironically his successes were greater in the economic realm. We all know the SLT revolution paved the way for the privatisation of SriLankan Airlines and South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), which has made Colombo one of the world’s great ports. ‘Mangala’s Economics’ by Deshal de Mel authoritatively demonstrates that his tenure as Finance Minister was no less accomplished than his triumphs as telecoms and Foreign Minister. Even as a diplomat, Mangala’s economic record is formidable as he played a pivotal role in regaining GSP+ and securing the $500 million MCC grant.

With rebellious blue-hair, tattoos, Bowie and TikTok, Mangala was a child of Punk London. But he was also an heir of the Victorian tradition in Sri Lankan politics. He was sensible, decent and humble. Underneath that colourful, irreverent personality he carried with him a political tradition of restraint that is nearing extinction. The distinctions between state, government and party were instinctual. He always knew what should (and should not) be said and done in ministry, Parliament and political rally respectively. He abhorred the trappings of power and trinkets of wealth that increasingly found favour among his parliamentary colleagues. In this age of performativity, Mangala loathed pretence and hated servility even more. He had few friends remaining among his fellow politicians. In Parliament, where dining is largely social, he often ate lonely meals alone in his office. A loneliness presumably made deeper by the many betrayals he experienced over the years, which left him deeply guarded.

I first met Mangala in his Sirikotha lair in the dark days of August 2014 when I was an amateur cameraman for Amita Arudpragasam’s constitutional reform film. We talked of Sudu Nelum, we dreamt a bit and we laughed about the dark arts of political gossip sites. Sri Lanka was on his mind. The last time I met Mangala was a few days before he died. As we overlooked the sunny Bolgoda, we dreamt a bit, we laughed at our bawdy jokes and we talked about his plans to contest in 2024 and the laws we needed to draft in anticipation. Sri Lanka was on his mind.

I do not weep for Mangala. His life was a life of ‘no regrets’. He lived more in 65 years than many will live in as many lifetimes. I weep for myself and for Sri Lanka. I shall always remember the rally held at the Tagore auditorium in Matara, where Sampanthan and Mangala, representing Point Pedro and Dondra, stood as Palmyrah and Coconut as the young singers called out in Sinhala and Tamil, to the audience and each other, Peratama Yamu Lanka. As the days and years go by, our sense of loss, of lost opportunities, only grows. This is my way of not giving up: “May the double gem bless us all”.

Mangala Samaraweera died on 24 August 2021. He carried the hopes, often the last hopes, of many. His Lanka may take a few decades more to come to pass. But he believed history was on his side. Mangala is dead, long live Mangala!

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Dangerous rail travel by tourists: Why not create an opportunity?

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Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, Zhangjiajie, China

Before the Covid Pandemic hit Sri Lanka, there was some debate and concern voiced about tourists standing at the door ways of trains and even hanging out, while the train is moving. Some pictures of a young couple hanging out of an upcountry train, while clutching on to the side rails, went viral, on social media, with debates of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ reaching fever pitch. While certainly this is a dangerous practice, not to be condoned, If we ‘think out of the box’ could there be a way to make this seemingly popular, though dangerous pastime among some tourists, into an opportunity to be exploited. This paper aims to explore these options pragmatically.

By Srilal Miththapala

Social media, and even some of the more conventional media, were all a-buzz before the CoVid crisis, when some pictures of a young tourist couple appeared, hanging out of a Sri Lankan upcountry train in gay abandon, savouring the exciting moment. There were hot debates about this form of ‘promotion of Sri Lanka’, with many people talking about the dangers of such a practice, and that it would bring negative publicity for Sri Lanka if something dangerous were to happen. This part of the train ride, along the upcountry route, is arguably one of the most scenic train routes in the world.

And quite rightly so, I guess. I myself was one who joined the chorus who vehemently spoke against this.

However thinking out of the box, I got thinking – Can we create an opportunity here ?

The ‘new’, experience and thrill seeking tourist of today

There is no doubt that there is a new segment of discerning, younger, experience and adventure seeking tourists, emerging and travelling all over the world. They are very internet and social media savvy, seeking more adventurous and exciting experiences, and are usually very environmentally conscious. They are most often seen exploring ‘off-the-beaten-track’ holidays, planned out individually according to their needs and wants.

Through the ages, mankind has been pushing the limits of exploration: We have conquered land, sea and space. We have discovered many hitherto unknown wonders of our planet with our unabated thirst for knowledge.

Tourists are no different. To get away from their daily stressful life, they seek something different, even venturing into hostile or dangerous places to experience the excitement of discovery and the feeling of adventure. No longer is a clean hotel room with a range of facilities, good food and some sunshine good enough to a tourist.

According to booking.com, the yearning for experiences, over material possessions, continues to drive travellers’ desire for more incredible and memorable trips: 45% of travellers have a bucket list in mind. Most likely to appear on a bucket list are thrill seekers wanting to visit a world famous theme park, travellers looking to go on an epic rail journey or visiting a remote or challenging location. ()

Drive-reduction theory in psychology postulates that one is never in a state of complete fulfilment, and thus, there are always drives that need to be satisfied. Humans and other animals voluntarily increase tension by exploring their unknown environments, self-inducing stress and moving out of their comfort zones. This gives them a sense of achievement and self-satisfaction. ()

Therefore, unknown thrills, adventures and the ‘adrenaline rush’ does attract travellers.

What have other countries done ?

As mentioned many countries are developing unique , memorable and thrilling experiences into their product offering.

A few are described below

Walk along Sydney Harbour Bridge

Walk along Sydney Harbour Bridge

Small groups are taken on a walk along the massive, arched steel structured Sydney Harbour Bridge . The dramatic 360 deg. view from the bridge, 135 meters above ground, of the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera house, while being completely exposed to the elements, is, indeed, a rare and thrilling experience.

Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, Zhangjiajie, China

In the northwest of China’s Hunan province, visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the walkway attached to Tianmen Mountain — 4,700 feet above the ground.

The glass-bottomed walkway is more than 300 feet long and only about five feet wide, providing an experience that is said to be exhilarating and frightening .

The CN tower Edge walk, Canada

The tallest attraction in Toronto lets people stand right at the edge of the CN tower and lean over. It is the world’s highest full circle, hands-free walk on a 1.5 m wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod, 356m , 116 storeys above the ground. EdgeWalk is a Canadian Signature Experience and an Ontario Signature Experience.

A variety of unique trekking opportunities, in Rwanda and Uganda, allow you trek into the jungle to gaze into the eyes of the Gorillas in their natural habitat. It’s a completely unique African safari experience. This moment leaves a lasting and unforgettable impression, coming so close to this majestic wild animal.

These are just a few. So there are already a range of unique, visitor attractions that thrill tourists the world over.

The CN tower Edge walk, Canada

Safety – the one overriding condition

All these thrill seeking, and seemingly dangerous tourist attractions have one common denominator that is never ever compromised – Safety.

Safety is of paramount importance in all these activities and are subject to stringent checks and review, periodically. All personnel who guide and instruct these thrill seeking tourists are well trained and disciplined.

Any equipment that is used for safety, such as harnesses and safety belts, are designed to the highest standards and are periodically tested. Nothing is left to chance and if there is the slightest semblance of danger, due to any unforeseen environmental conditions, the attraction is closed down temporarily. ( e.g when there are strong winds the Sydney Harbour bridge walk is suspended).

Such safety measures are an imperative necessity, because any unforeseen accident can lead to serious and grave consequences of litigation and even closing down of the attraction.

Suggested railings

So what about our train ride ?

The attraction of the Sri Lankan upcountry train ride (most often between Nanu Oya and Ella – the most scenic section) is the fact that a tourist can stand ‘on the footboard’ of the open train carriageway door, and feel the cool breeze against their faces while absorbing the beautiful hill country and tea plantations. This is something most western tourists cannot do back home, where all train carriageway doors are automatically shut when the train starts moving.

In fact I am told that some Tour Agents in Australia are specifically asked by tourists to arrange this ‘experience’ for them, when booking their tour.

So why not be creative and make a proper attraction out of this ?

Cannot we modify one carriage to have an open ‘balcony’ along the side where a person can stand ‘outside’ and ‘feel the open environment’? It could be fitted with proper safety rails and each person can be anchored to the carriage with a harness (like what is used in other attractions where the interaction is open to the elements). A special charge can be levied for this experience.

One factor that favours the safety aspect is that during traversing this stretch, due to the steep gradient, the train travels at a ‘snail’s pace’, unlike in foreign countries where speeds could reach 80-100 kms per hour.

This attraction could be used as an income generator for the Railway Department as tourists wanting to experience this ‘thrill’ can be charged a fee, for a specific time period that they could use the facility.

Conclusion

Although this may seem simplistic, in reality there may be several logistical issues that need to be addressed.

But, if there is a will, and the different departments involved can all see the opportunity, and get on to the same ‘wavelength’, cutting through the inordinate bureaucracy that usually prevails, then surely it would not be at all difficult.

But the overall point in this entire treatise, is that we have to ‘think out of the box’ and grasp at all possible opportunities that are available, especially as we gradually open up for tourists after the pandemic. We are quite used to ranting and raving about all the shortfalls that prevail.. But there’s so much that still can be done if there are a few motivated and dedicated people who can get together.

Tourism after all is really ‘show businesses’ and without creativity, panache, actors and showmanship, what is show business?

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Remebering Prophet Muhammad’s legacy – ECOLOGICAL WELFARE

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By Dr M Haris Deen

COVID-19 came and as yet remains, at the same time the world is plagued with another serious issue, that of global warming and other ecological disturbances. While remembering the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) let us recall the contributions he made towards the applying Islamic principles of Islamic welfare towards protection of the environment.

The Prophet of Islam (May peace be upon him) advocated during his lifetime the stringent application of Islamic principles in respect of ecological welfare. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) taught his followers to live on less, neither to be extravagant nor to be miserly and to protect animal and plant life and to worship the Creator by being merciful to His creations. He forbade the killing of any animal unless out of necessity to feed the people. Al Albani reports that the Prophet (on whom be peace) said “If the Hou r (meaning the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it”. Imam Bukhari reported the Prophet (Peace be on him) as having said that “if a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him”. It is also reported in Ibn Majah that once the Prophet (peace be upon him) happened to pass by his companion Sa’ad (May God be pleased with him) and found him performing ablution (wudu) next to a river and questioned him “Sa;ad what is this squandering? And when Sa’ad asked in return “can there be an idea if squandering (israf) in ablution?’ the Prophet replied “yes, even if you are by the side of a flowing river”.

In another Hadith narrated by Ibn Majah, the Prophet (on whom be peace) said “Beware of the three acts that cause you to be cursed: (1) relieving yourself in shaded places (that people utilise), in a walkway or in a watering place”.

The Qur’an in chapter 56 verses 68 to 70 states “consider the water which you drink. Was it you that brought it down from the rain cloud or We? If We had pleased, We could make it bitter”.

Prophet’s companion Abu Dhar Al Ghaffari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (on whom be peace) said “Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity” and in another Hadith authenticated by Albani, the Prophet (on whom be peace) said “the believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbour is hungry”. The Prophet further cautioned as reported by Tirmadhi and Ibn Majah that “Nothing is worst than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be : one third for his food, one third for his liquids and one third for his breath”.

Imam Bukhari reported an amazing story narrated by the Prophet (on whom be peace) that “A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile, he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself. “This dog is suffering from thirst as I did, “So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it in his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him”. The companions inquired, “O Allah’s Messenger, is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for saving any living being”.

Animals have a huge role in the ecological welfare system. The tenets of the Shariah Law towards animal rights make it obligatory for any individual to take care of crippled animals, to rescue strays and to guard birds’ nests of eggs’.

Sal Allahu Ala Muhammad Sal Allahu Alaihi wa Sallam. May Allah Shower His Choicest Blessings on the Soul of Prophet Muhammad.

Email: deenmohamed835@gmail.com

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