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Improving mental health and well-being through healthy development policies



32nd Professor J. E. Jayasuriya Memorial Lecture February 10, 2023

By Professor Emeritus Nalaka Mendis
Formerly Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colombo

It is a great privilege to deliver this oration in memory of Prof J E Jayasuriya. He was a highly accomplished person, but I shall not dwell on his list of achievements because past orators have referred to these at great length. Instead let me say that he was a highly respected academic, intellectual, psychologist, population educationalist, administrator, and a pioneer in educational development in Sri Lanka. He was a person of international repute. I had the great fortune and privilege of meeting Prof Jayasuriya in Colombo in 1981 and later in Bangkok when he invited me to dine with him. Let me thank the organizers of this event for providing me a platform to speak on mental health, a subject which is central to being human and to the core of life itself.

The topic of mental health was close to the heart of Prof Jayasuriya, who, during his life repeatedly referred to the importance of issues related to mental health either directly or indirectly in his writings and work. He has stated that “third world countries would be well advised to focus their attention on the achievement of a high-quality life through enjoyment of simple and modest standards of material satisfaction and ennobling of the mind by humanistic reflective and spiritual pursuits”. He has been greatly influenced by the philosophy of humanism. He has referred to the importance of the mind, rational thinking, creativity, innovation, and the need for equality in relation to human activity in many of his works.

“Mental health” and “well-being”

Especially in the past, and many, even today consider “mental health” as being synonymous with “mental illness”. The field of mental health, however, embodies far more than illness, and relates to more positive attributes of the state of being human. Mental health is a foundation for “wellbeing” – a concept that is increasingly receiving attention as an indicator of personal, social and economic development.”

Globally, and at national levels there has been increasing reference to “mental health”, “well-being”, “well-being economy”, and “happiness”. Discussions on these topics are currently taking place at political, academic, United Nations and community levels. Increasingly, the term “mental health” is being used to address issues of not only mental illness but of related and wider health issues such as physical, social and psychological wellbeing. This is a continuing discussion on “what is a good life” and “what kind of society do we like to develop” which has been going on for centuries past. I wish to discuss mental health in its broadest context and talk about its implications to individuals, communities and society as a whole.

The present understanding and models of mental health have been developed on the basis of evidence from academic fields including psychology, positive psychology, sociology, economics, neurochemistry, epidemiology and clinical psychiatry. Apart from these, humanistic approaches derived from the philosophy of “humanism” have had a significant influence on thinking about mental health and wellbeing as well as on development .

In this presentation I use the term “mental health” in its broadest meaning to describe two dimensions of health: “wellbeing” and “mental illness”.

The model I use to explain mental health has it’s basis in three factors: One, the innate potential of the individual – meaning desires, aspirations, needs and wants of the individual. Second, the mental attributes of an individual such as cognition, motivations and emotions. And third, “well-being” as a subjective measure of an individual’s experience and assessment of his/her state of being. Mental health and wellbeing are very closely related concepts, and in this presentation, I will use these terms interchangeably.

“Mental health” of an individual is increasingly seen as an asset or a resource also referred to as the “mental capital” which enables one to use his/her abilities to realize the full potential of one’s life. Components or domains of mental health include cognitive, emotional and motivational aspects of a person which enables that person to make decisions, solve problems, develop social interactions and sustain relationships. Attributes such as flexibility, tolerance, empathy, self-control, the ability to compromise, endure stress, being creative and being productive adds to the mental capital of an individual.

The term “well-being” is a very old one, but it is now being taken to mean a person’s subjective assessment of his/her feelings, and functioning in relation to what he/she values. The experience of wellbeing is subjective and is based on the value the person attaches to a particular aspect of life eg. positive emotions, relationships, engagement in certain activities, creativity, generosity, knowledge, health security, spirituality and meaning and purpose of life. It is influenced by culture, and is a dynamic life-long experience.

“Mental illness” on the other hand, is a term used to describe a state of mental dysfunction based on international diagnostic criteria resulting in impaired behavior, and/or disability.

Positive mental health is a critical requirement for “well-being”. It is also the foundation for wellbeing. Conversely poor mental health impairs well-being. Positive emotion is much more than mere ‘’. Positive emotion includes hope, interest, joy, love, compassion, pride, amusement, and gratitude. Enhanced wellbeing is referred to as “thriving” or “flourishing”.

Health-related quality of life is another closely related concept which came up as many realized that advanced medical technology did not necessarily improve the life of people. WHO defines the quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns”

The link between mental health and development

“Development” is the gradual functional change in skill-sets, behavior, and habits of an individual or society. Development changes the character of a person. And it takes place throughout life. At a personal level development is acquiring new skills, abilities and capabilities to lead a life and to realise one’s potential – for example in learning, being creative, developing and fostering social relationships etc.

At a social level development entails enhancing the social capital and the resourcefulness of the society. Social capital refers to the cohesiveness of society, trust amongst the members, and a sense of belongingness or inclusiveness to the society. Social capital is built on relationships, values, attitudes, and practices of its members and is determined by culture, history and sociopolitical factors. Some elements of social capital promote mental health and wellbeing.

Increasingly the aim of socioeconomic development is seen as to create an environment to promote mental health and wellbeing. Enabling freedom, capabilities and choices in a society promotes realisation of the human potential to lead a life that they value. The term economic development is therefore now being superseded by the term “human development” and “well-being’.

Determinants of mental health

Biological, social and environmental factors are determinants of mental health. Genetically inherited factors determine about 50% mental health attributes. Early childhood and adolescent experiences, including those during pre-natal life also have a significant influence on health and mental health in later life. The rest of mental health components are acquired and develop during one’s lifetime. During this period mental health is influenced by the environment in one’s home by protective factors such as affection, security and love or lack thereof. Adverse childhood experiences such as trauma and abuse may result in long-term mental and physical health problems. Learning and acquiring of skills continues and there is progressive development of mental health influenced by family, school, work place, community and the environment.

Certain elements of social capital are known to facilitate the development of positive mental health. These include caring, fairness, equality, belongingness, peace, security and trust. Conversely neighborhoods of violence, unemployment, drug use and social inequality give rise to poor mental health.

The environment created by government policies such as those which provide access to basic services, health education, housing and promote values such as respect, dignity, human rights, opportunities to make choices are all important in promoting mental health and enhancing the mental capital. Economic policies play a significant part in mental health and wellbeing because material resources are needed for the development of communities and individuals.

Emerging mental health and socioeconomic issues

During the last few decades there have been significant changes in mental health problems as seen in clinical practice, including in my own practice. Addictive behavior, substance-abuse, relationship problems, inflicting self-harm, anti-social behavior, and violence are increasingly seen in clinical practice today. There is also a significant increase in requests by people for psychological services.

Social problems including ethnic divides and conflicts, and insurgencies have greatly contributed to this change, as one often sees in clinical practice. They have given rise to increasing fear, isolation and discrimination amongst people leading to poor mental health. The stigma and low value attached to mental health, and low mental health literacy continues to be a major hindrance to wellbeing.

Lately, unfavorable economic situations giving rise to poverty, inequities, under-employment or dissatisfying employment have aggravated mental health problems.Furthermore, changing demographic and morbidity patterns, increasing urbanization, migration, changing attitudes and values of people are likely to impact mental health in a negative manner.

Studies have shown that the burden of mental health is a major contributor to the global burden of disease as measured by “Disability Adjusted Life Years” or DALYs. As a result of social, environmental and economic problems the burden of mental health ranks third today in the list of health conditions contributing to the Global Burden of Disease, being second only to heart disease and cancer in its contribution to the Global Burden of Disease. Another startling fact is that mental health impairments contribute to as much as a third of all disabilities in the world. The economic loss due to poor mental health is great, with the World Economic Forum estimating that by 2030 the cost of mental health globally would be around sixteen trillion US dollars. Furthermore, poor mental health as reflected in ‘languishing’, undesirable personality attributes and character disorders are increasingly seen as contributing towards the health and socioeconomic burden.

How effective is our response to emerging mental health issues?

It is well known that in most countries mental health systems are unable to respond to these emerging mental health needs resulting in a “mental health gap”. This is because they have evolved to respond mostly to the clinical needs of people with mental illness disregarding other mental health needs. In Sri Lanka the mental health services are very much based on a “disease model” with a focus on the clinical state of the individual patient. Similarly, present socioeconomic policy makers and practitioners fail to consider the enhancement of mental health as being important. It is increasingly being realized that present services cannot meet the emerging challenges. A more appropriate model would be one based on a public mental health approach on the basis that mental health is a ” public good”. This would consist of approaches to promote mental health and prevent mental illness. Emphasis on mental health promotion and illness prevention is unfortunately limited in the present service organization in many countries. Interventions that promote mental health empower the person to take control of his/her health and its determinants so that it leads to healthy behavior. Primary illness prevention interventions are effective in preventing mental illness. My own experience is that initiatives to respond to emerging new developments are much welcomed by communities but unfortunately the prevailing public services are unable to sustain and integrate such initiatives into the present system. This is mainly due to the fact that the present system is based on the disease model and evolved to respond to mental disorders of individuals – mainly those with mental illness. Besides, all human service sectors tend to work in compartments. The system also lacks the capacity to take a broader view of promoting good mental health.

A more effective system to respond to the emerging mental health needs

Increasingly there is agreement globally that the aim of development is to enhance wellbeing of people, thereby giving them the opportunity to realize their innate potential. Mental health and wellbeing are considered as having an intrinsic value. Improvement of mental health includes enhancement of wellbeing and reduction of the health burden. In most countries especially in the West the broader model of mental health is being used to improve the mental health of people. This is being done through wider health, social and economic policies which are described as “healthy development policies”. Health, social and economic policies are aimed at creating an environment to promote mental health, prevent mental illness, manage people with mental illness, organize mental health activities based on population approaches and improve the quality of life of people with mental health problems. Promotion of mental health and primary prevention of illness approaches are targeted at the community, while other approaches are focused on the individual. Mental health improvement is also the responsibility of the individual by training and learning mental skills and behavior including practicing meditation, yoga and relaxation exercises. Health services have the responsibility of comprehensively managing the mentally ill while the rest of the services are expected to be provided by range of other services including education, social care, housing and judicial services. Efforts are also being made to improve the quality of life of people with mental impairment and disabilities, using several interventions including those based on the “recovery model”. The “recovery model” is one that has been developed by service users, and is based on learning to live with disabilities and to improve the quality of their lives given the disabilities they have. Increasingly “wellbeing” is being considered as the ultimate goal of social and economic development. For example, “wellbeing economics” has emerged as a new area of thinking with the goal of achieving “wellbeing”.

The aim of policies and focus of service organization in mental health have become population-based rather than focusing only on individual care. This public mental health approach is aimed at minimizing inequalities in health outcomes and increasing equity. This is a deviation from the traditional individual approach to mental health.

This approach has already been undertaken in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, many other western countries, and even in some low- and middle-income countries. Bhutan initiated a new approach by introducing a “Happiness Index” as an indicator of development, and it continues to explore even better, more holistic options to measure “development”. In fact, “wellbeing” is referred to explicitly or implicitly in several of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Improving mental health of the people and communities in Sri Lanka

The challenge in Sri Lanka is to improve mental health in the context of a resource-poor country with declining public services and deteriorating economic conditions amidst increasing needs, aspirations and expectations of its people. The situation is made worse by the fact a large number of people with a range of skills are migrating overseas leaving behind a population of dependent people.

In Sri Lanka there is a growing awareness and demand for including mental health components in all other human and social services. Sri Lanka however, tends to work in centralized and compartmentalized sectors with little coordination and integration between them.

My experience is that although there is a growing demand for mental health services, mental health is marginalized, and discussions on it are stifled. The public mental health approach needs now to be embraced by Sri Lanka, placing individual patient care as one component of the broader goal of improving mental health and well-being of its people. We need fundamentally to value mental health as an asset, and consider it an important component of development. Individuals, communities and the government need to take responsibility for improvement of mental health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Prof Jayasuriya believed in these concepts and introduced many initiatives during his life time to facilitate individual and social development. Let me thank the family of Prof Jayasuriya, the organizing committee and all of you for giving me an opportunity to present these issues for your consideration, and possibly even encourage further discussion.

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Full implementation of 13A – Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part VI



President Jayewardene in New Delhi in November 1987 for talks with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi

by Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part V of this article appeared in The Island of 02 Oct. 2023)

Six months later, in July 1986, further talks were held between the Sri Lankan government and an Indian delegation led by P Chidambaram, Minister of State, a person from Tamil Nadu. Based on those talks, a detailed Note prepared containing observations of the Indian government on the proposals of the Sri Lanka government as the Framework was sent to the Indian Government.

The following three paragraphs from this Note were cited in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case as relevant for its determination:

1. A Provincial Council shall be established in each Province. Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers shall be devolved upon the Provincial Councils by suitable constitutional amendments, without resort to a referendum. After further discussions subjects broadly corresponding to the proposals contained in Annexe 1 to the Draft Framework of Accord and Undertaking and the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils.

It is strange that this paragraph suggests to bring constitutional amendments to devolve Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers on the Provincial Councils, without resort to a referendum. It is not clear on whose suggestion this phrase – without resort to a referendum – was included, Sri Lanka or India? But it is most likely that it was India, feeling the sentiments of the vast majority of the people in the South and knowing the most probable outcome of a referendum.

Inclusion of this phrase – without resort to a referendum – may have had some impact on the minds of the Judges in arriving at a determination on the Bills.

There can be no doubt that the phrase – the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils – included on the suggestion of Indian side.

2. In the Northern Province and in the Eastern Province the Provincial Councils shall be deemed to be constituted immediately after the constitutional amendments come into force……..

What does this mean? Can they come into being even before the Provincial Councils Bill and the Provincial Councils Elections Bill are passed and the Elections held? Where is People’s sovereignty? This also appears to be an Indian demand.

3. ‘‘In a preamble to this Note, it was agreed that suitable constitutional and legal arrangements would be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination. In consequence of these talks a constitutional amendment took shape and form and three lists – (1) The Reserved List (List II), (2) The Provincial List (List I); and (3) The Concurrent List (List Ill) too were formulated.’’

‘Suitable constitutional and legal arrangements to be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination’. This is another subtle and mild formulation used to convey the idea that the Northern and Eastern Provinces would be merged into one unit.

Mr. Chidambaram may have seen to it that the aspirations of the TULF are incorporated into the agreement to a certain extent.

‘‘The Bangalore discussions held between President J. R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in November 1986 were the next stage of the discussions. At the Bangalore discussions Sri Lanka had to agree to all the Cardinal Principles of the TULF and other Tamil militant groups, which Sri Lanka had totally refused even to discuss at Thimphu talks and not included in the Draft Terms of Accord and Understanding reached in New Delhi in September 1985.

The Sri Lanka government’s observations on the Working Paper on Bangalore Discussion dated 26th November 1986 show that the following suggestions made by the Indian Government were substantially adopted:

Recognition that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples who have at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups;

Northern and Eastern Provinces should form one administrative unit for an interim period and that its continuance should depend on a Referendum;

The Governor shall have the same powers as the Governor of a State in India.

India had also proposed to the Sri Lankan government that

the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers;

provision be made on the lines of Article 249 of the Indian Constitution on the question of Parliament’s power to legislate on matters in the Provincial list;

Article 254 of the Indian Constitution be adopted in regard to the Provincial Council’s power to make a law before or after a parliamentary law in respect of a matter in the Concurrent List.

To ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka would comply with these suggestions in enacting laws for the implementation of these suggestions, the two most crucial suggestions were included in the Indo Lanka Accord signed by President J. R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the 29th July 1987 in Colombo.

The First part of the Indo-Lanka Accord reaffirmed what was agreed at Bangalore that (a) the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lanka Tamil Speaking people who at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups. It also provided for (b) these two Provinces to form one administrative unit for an interim period and (c) for elections to the Provincial Council to be held before 31st December 1987.

From the above material, it clearly appears beyond any doubt that the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils are not a solution reached through consensus between two independent states following free negotiations, but something forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India, with a view to placating the demands of the TULF and the other Tamil groups, contrary to the wishes of the Govt of Sri Lanka.

This explains why Indian political leaders and high officials of the Indian Govt frequently visit Sri Lanka and meet our political leaders demanding the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. That is why leaders of our Tamil Political Parties frequently rush to the Indian High Commission complaining of their grievances and requesting the Indian High Commissioner to bring pressure on our Govt to grant their demands.

As shown above, due to India’s pressure, Sri Lanka had to adopt the three main proposals made by India at the Bangalore discussions. If Sri Lanka had adopted all the proposals as suggested by India and implemented them it would have been the end of the Unitary State of Sri Lanka and created a fully Federal State. However, President Jayewardene, as a shrewd and far-sighting politician, has taken care not to give effect to some of the proposals at the implementation stage.

President Jayewardene has not adopted the Indian proposal that ‘the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers’. Under the 13th Amendment the Governor, as the representative of the President, is vested with undiminished power of exercising his discretion, not on the advice of the Board of Ministers of the Provincial Council, but as directed by the President. It is this Governor’s unfettered discretion that has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a full Federal State, with Provincial Councils as federal units.

The majority Judgement in the 13th Amendment case explains how this Governor’s discretion has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a fully federal state, thus:

‘‘With respect to executive powers an examination of the relevant provisions of the Bill underscores the fact that in exercising their executive power, the Provincial Councils are subject to the control of the Centre and are not sovereign bodies.

‘‘Article 154C provides that the executive power extending to the matters with respect to which a Provincial Council has power to make statutes shall be exercised by the Governor of the Province either directly or through Ministers of the Board of Ministers or through officers subordinate to him, in accordance with Article 154F.

‘‘Article 154F states that the Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice, except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.

‘‘The Governor is appointed by the President and holds office in accordance with Article 4(b) which provides that the executive power of the People shall be exercised by the President of the Republic, during the pleasure of the President (Article 154B (2)). The Governor derived his authority from the President and exercises the executive power vested in him as a delegate of the President. It is open to the President therefore by virtue of Article 4(b) of the Constitution to give directions and monitor the Governor’s exercise of this executive power vested in him.

‘‘ Although he is required by Article 154F(1) to exercise his functions in accordance with the advice of the Board of Ministers, this is subject to the qualification “except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.” Under the Constitution the Governor as a representative of the President is required to act in his discretion in accordance with the instructions and directions of the President.

‘‘ Article 154F(2) mandates that the Governor’s discretion shall be on the President’s directions and that the decision of the Governor as to what is in his discretion shall be final and not be called in question in any court on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted on his discretion.

‘‘ So long as the President retains, the power to give directions to the Governor regarding the exercise of his executive functions, and the Governor is bound by such directions superseding the advice of the Board of Ministers and where the failure of the Governor or Provincial Council to comply with or give effect to any directions given to the Governor or such Council by the President under Chapter XVII of the Constitution will entitle the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the administration of the Province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and take over the functions and powers of the Provincial Council (Article 154K and 154L), there can be no gainsaying the fact that the President remains supreme or sovereign in the executive field and the Provincial Council is only a body subordinate to him.’’ (Pp. 322 – 323)

That is why the Tamil political parties stand for the abolition of Executive Presidency.

(To be continued)

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Judiciary necessary to protect democracy



By Jehan Perera

The government has allocated Rs 11 billion in the provisional budget for next year for the presidential elections due in September. This is a positive indication that the government intends to hold those elections.  Free and fair elections being held when due is a core concept of a functioning democracy. This was called into question earlier in the year when local government elections were postponed.  They were due in March but were postponed on multiple occasions and now have been cancelled. There is no indication when they might be held. The government justified its refusal to hold those elections on the grounds that the country was facing an economic crisis and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

The government’s refusal to hold the local government elections was challenged in the courts.  The Supreme Court decided that the money allocated in the budget for elections should not be blocked by the government and needed to be released for the purpose of conducting those elections.  Without respecting this judicial ruling, government members threatened to summon the judges who made the ruling to Parliament on the grounds that the judiciary could not decide on money matters that were the preserve of Parliament. They argued that the powers and privileges of Parliament had been violated by the order issued by the Supreme Court instructing the government to refrain from withholding funds for the polls. There was an outcry nationally and internationally and the government members did not proceed with their dubious plan to summon the judges before Parliament.

Due to the government’s prioritization of the economy over elections, the prospects for elections continue to be challenging.  The economic crisis is in full swing with further price increases in fuel costs taking place and electricity costs about to be hiked.  The economy continues to shrink though at a slower rate than before. The government’s failure to obtain the second tranche of IMF support is a warning regarding the precarious condition of the economy.  The IMF has said that Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is still not assured.  It has also said that the government has not met the economic targets set for it, particularly with regard to reducing the budget deficit due to a potential shortfall in government revenue generation. The IMF has said the second tranche under its lending programme would only be released after it reaches a staff-level agreement, and there was no fixed timeline on when that would take place


Unfortunately, the willingness of government members to challenge judicial decisions with regard to the electoral process is having its repercussions elsewhere.  Parliamentarians have made use of parliamentary privilege to criticize the judiciary, including by naming them individually.   The purpose of parliamentary privilege is to enable the elected representatives of the people to disclose the truth in the national interest.  But this is a power that needs to be used with care and caution, especially if it is used to malign or insult individuals.  Those who have the protection of parliamentary privilege need to understand it is a very powerful privilege, and they should exercise the privilege with restraint. It is the abuse of privilege that brings it into disrepute and undermines the wider perception of the central role that privilege plays.

The conduct of some parliamentarians has now reached a point where a judge who was deciding on controversial cases involving ethnic and religious conflict has chosen to resign and even leave the country.  Successive rulings made by the judiciary in those cases appear to have been ignored by government authorities. The judicial decisions and rulings made have been subjected to disparaging and insulting remarks in Parliament and outside. Mullaitivu District Judge Saravanarajah, who ruled on the controversial Kurunthurmalai (Kurundi Viharaya) case, resigned and fled Sri Lanka due to alleged threats and pressure. In a letter shared on social media, the judge told the Judicial Services Commission that he was facing threats to his life. Such pressures placed on the judiciary are clearly unacceptable in a democratic country, especially in situations where the judiciary is being called on to defend the rights of the people who are being threatened by government overreach.

At the present time, democratic freedoms and space for protest that exist in the country are being endangered by the government’s efforts to silence public protest and criticism by means of the proposed Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) and the Online Safety Act which are to be placed before Parliament this week. The draft ATA gives the government the power to arrest persons who are engaging in public protest or trade union action who can be charged for “intimidating the public or a section of the public”. The Online Safety Act seeks, among others, to “protect persons against damage caused by false statements or threatening, alarming, or distressing statements.”  It will establish a five-member commission appointed by the President which will be able to proscribe or suspend any social media account or online publication, and also recommend jail time for alleged offenses which can be highly subjective.


The judiciary is being called upon to defend fundamental rights and freedoms in the face of the government’s bid to take restrictive actions. The draft ATA has been opposed by opposition political parties and by human rights organisations since it appeared about six months ago.  The ATA was drafted as an improvement to the Prevention of Terrorism Act which had been highlighted by the EU as objectionable on human rights grounds for the purposes of obtaining the GSP Plus tax benefit for Sri Lankan exports.   Additionally, it has brought in the Online Safety Act as a surprise instrument to stymie the dissemination of information that people need regarding the non-transparent conduct of the government. With the political and economic crisis in the country getting worse, it appears that the government is determined to go ahead with these laws.

The failure of the government to fulfil many of the IMF’s transparency requirements, such as posting its contracts and procurements on the website, and explain its rationale for tax holidays and those who benefit, have contributed to the loss of confidence in the government’s commitment to the economic reform process.  There is a widespread belief that corruption is rampant and that the inability to get new foreign investment is partly due to this difficulty of doing business in Sri Lanka, quite apart from the leakage of government revenues. The government needs to address these issues if it is to win the trust and confidence of the people and cushion the difficulties faced by people in coping with their dire economic circumstances. In particular, it needs to hold elections that can bring in new leaders that the country needs and cleanse the Augean Stables.

Despite the allocation of Rs 11 billion for presidential elections in the provisional budget for 2024, there remain questions regarding the government’s plans for the future.  The Chairman of the UNP, Wajira Abeywardena, is reported to have said that the presidential election may have to be postponed as it could undermine ongoing economic recovery measures.  The provisional budget for 2024 is Rs 3860 billion, of which Rs 11 billion would seem to be a small fraction. However, the budget for 2023 was Rs 3657 billion, and the Rs 10 billion that was needed for the local government elections was likewise only a small fraction of that budget. But those elections were not held and the government argued that this money was better spent on development than on elections. The issue of postponement of elections due to the ongoing economic crisis may have to be faced once again when the presidential elections are due. The courts would be the better option for undemocratic actions to be contested than the streets. The courts and the judiciary need to be kept strong and respected. The judiciary contributes to the trust of civilians in good governance and sustains social peace which should not be compromised.

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‘Lunu Dehi’…in a different form



The group LunuDehi

The Gypsies, with the late Sunil Perera at the helm, came up with several appealing and memorable songs, including ‘Lunu Dehi.’ And this title is again in the spotlight…but in a different form.

Dushan Jayathilake, who was with the Gypsies for 19 years, playing keyboards, is now operating his own band…under the banner of LunuDehi.

Says Dushan: “I was really devastated when Sunil Perera left this world. However, I was fortunate enough to meet Nalin Samath, who stepped in to play guitar for the band. During Nalin’s one year stint with the Gypsies, we discussed my dream of starting my own band. Sunil had always urged us to work on our original compositions and follow our own unique path.”

With Sunil’s words in mind, Dushan and Nalin decided to leave the Gypsies and strike out on their own and that’s how LunuDehi became a reality…a year ago.

“We were pondering over several names as we wanted to have a name that would reflect the distinctive sound and style of our music. Ultimately, it was my wife who came up with the name LunuDehi.”

Both Dushan and Nalin agreed that this name is perfect, adding that “Since lunu dehi is a side dish used in Sri Lankan cuisine to make food have a bit of a kick to it, our music, too, gives listeners that much-needed kick.”

Elaborating further, Dushan said: “As a musician with 26 years of experience in the industry, 19 of which were spent playing keyboards with the Gypsies, I can say starting my own band was a dream come true. And when I met Nalin Samath, who has 35 years of experience in the music industry and was the original guitarist for Bathiya and Santhush, I knew that we had the talent and skill to co-lead a band.”

Dushan Jayathilake: His wife came up with the name LunuDehi

As the lead composer and arranger for LunuDehi, Dushan says he is constantly in awe of the incredible individual talents that each of the members brings to the table, and this is what he has to say about the lineup:

Nalin Samath

, in addition to being an accomplished guitarist and vocalist, is a true entertainer, always keeping the crowd engaged, and on their feet.

Ken Lappen,

son of bassist Joe Lappen, has a gift for composing and arranging pop hits. His work includes ‘Mal Madahasa’ by Randhir and ‘Dias’ by Freeze.

Thisal Randunu,

former guitarist of NaadhaGama, who has played for prestigious concerts, is our current rhythm guitarist and vocalist. He is also an amazing composer.

Nadeeshan Karunarathna

, our drummer, has played for a number of bands and is always eager to learn more about music.

TJ,our vocalist, has an incredible voice that leans toward the deeper side and she can sing in over 10 languages. She participated in the first season of The Voice Sri Lanka in 2021 and is also a talented songwriter and composer.

Dushan himself has composed and arranged music for some of the big names in the local music scene, including The Gypsies, BnS, Lakshman Hilmi, and Chamara Weerasinghe.

Dushan went on to say that as a policy, they have always been selective about the venues they perform at.

“While we enjoy playing music for all types of audiences, we have always prioritized concerts, weddings, dinner dances, and corporate events over hotel lobbies, nightclubs, and pubs.

LunuDehi’s musical journey began at a BnS show held in Polonnaruwa. Since then, they have collaborated with BnS at concerts and have become known for their unique sound and energetic performances.

They will be backing BnS on their North America and UK tour in 2024.

Nalin Samath: Co-founder of LunuDehi

“This is a huge milestone for our band, and we cannot wait to share our music with new audiences around the world,” says Dushan.

Whatsmore, next month, they are off to Indonesia to perform at ‘Sri Lanka Night 2023’ to be held at Hotel Le Meridien, Jakarta, on 25th November.

Dushan says he is grateful to those who have supported them and given them the encouragement to break into the scene.

“I would also like to extend my appreciation to Sunil Perera, who, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He was like a second father to me, and never failed to push me to be my best self, also Piyal Perera, who has been supporting us from the start, as well as Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman, who have given us numerous opportunities to shine as a group.

“Our ultimate goal is to establish ourselves as a household name, with a repertoire of memorable songs that will secure numerous concert bookings and tours, hopefully worldwide.”

Their debut original is called ‘Rice and Curry.’

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