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Inaugural speech of I.S. de Silva, Attorney-at-law, as 10th President of 122-year old SSC

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I first stepped foot to this most prestigious sports club 55 years ago. At that time, the entire structure, façade and landscape of this club was completely different to what we see today. If my memory serves me right the then President of the club was Sir John Kotelawala.

I never thought then that one day I would be standing before you, as the President of this prestigious club. Therefore at the outset, I extend my humble appreciation and gratitude to the Ex Co for nominating me and the membership for accepting me in that post.

Over the 55 year period I have been a member, I have seen without a doubt, this most prestigious sports club evolve into the foremost and unparalleled sports club in Sri Lanka. It had the good fortunes of being enriched by rich traditions, from the time Sir Edward Dias became the first President. To my knowledge there is no other Sports Club in Sri Lanka to have the privilege and honour of having three prime ministers, the late Hon. D.S. Senanayake, Late Hon. Sir John Kotelawala and late Hon. J.R Jayewardene (who later became president) and one President of our country (JRJ) as previous Presidents of this club. I assume office as its 10th President.

My predecessor and more significantly my good friend Mr. Tommy Ellawala whom I had the good fortune of knowing for over 60 years has been at the helm of this club since 2008, I have seen since then, the commitment he has rendered to bring this club to this prominent position. His contributions are not by any means limited to the developments that have taken place at that we see and also enjoy today. Tommy through his extensive experience in the corporate sector for over half a decade serving in the highest positions, introduced to this club a corporate discipline, relating to the management and the operations. He brought in a much needed corporate culture into the thinking of the management and also the exco members on how to develop this expanding club into a growing and profitable business, without undermining its enviable charm. He brought in fiscal processes which ensured that there is accountability and transparency in all dealings. He always impressed that the ExCo of this club should be mindful that it is dealing with members’ funds, other peoples’ monies. Therefore, honesty, transparency and integrity is of unquestionable importance, if this club is to preserve and pass on the requisite discipline and traditions to future office bearers.

All of you who know and have interacted with Tommy are well aware that he is not only a very cultured man but a true gentleman. He even now functions as the Chairman and Managing Director of C. W. Mackie and Co. Ltd. During his illustrious corporate life he also held the position of Director Shipping of Brook Bonds until it merged with Liptons. In addition to these corporate appointments he also served as a member of the Shippers’ Council. He is hailed as one of the first to recommend a port in Hambantota. It is probably this vision that also contributed to most of the development work that was undertaken at the club during his stewardship. We are deeply obliged for the selfless service he has rendered to this club, initially as a treasurer for 16 years and as President for 13 years. Therefore, I have no doubt that the entire membership of this club joins me wholeheartedly in thanking Tommy for his yeomen service and we all wish him good health and long life and continued service to this Club.

Certainly stepping into the mighty shoes that Tommy will be bequeathing to me, is no easy task. Let me be candid about that. My vision as president is to take this club to even greater heights with the support of the Ex CO and the House Committees and you as members. I too endorse the ethos that any successful business, profession or even the management of a club of this nature requires discipline. It is discipline in conduct, management and accountability that is the bedrock of all success whether it is of a personal or of any other nature. Therefore one of my initial endeavors would be to strengthen this discipline in a manner that all members are treated equally, and that all stakeholders that are involved in this journey, whether it be the service staff, management staff, committee members and also members appreciate and realize this fact.

If this club is to grow further, it is important that we conduct and uphold the principles and traditions and more importantly the rules that have been formulated, to ensure that every member that patronizes the club is made safe, welcome and more importantly made to feel an integral and important part of this club. It is through the patronage of the membership that we can grow this club to further heights. It is the self-discipline that we can collectively instill as members, that can ensure that we could proudly call ourselves as members of the SSC, as I stand here and say now.

I will ensure that any audit issues raised with regards to the finances of the club will be promptly addressed and if there is any wrongdoing, such wrongdoing will be dealt with as severely as permitted. You have my assurance that I will make myself available to hear members on their suggestions to further develop the club and more importantly that rules of the club are implemented across the board without fear of favour. I am emboldened and heartened by the fact that I have an exemplary Ex Co that understands what this club stands for and signifies. I am sure we as a team can take this club to greater heights.

Before I conclude may I also take this opportunity to highlight the fact that it is important that we consider implementing certain measures to increase patronage of members and also have a sustainable source of revenue for the Club. It is through the patronage of members that the club generates most of its revenue. The recent pandemic and closure of the club for indefinite periods of time caused severe hardships to our staff due to lack of patronage by members.

Despite the closure, the club had certain fixed costs it had to bear such as maintenance and salaries, though the club was not generating revenue. Therefore, it is timely that we look at certain measures that we could introduce to deal with such situations, to ensure that the welfare of the staff, and also how costs of the club could be met in such challenging times, without the club having to draw on its reserves.

Having said that, let me conclude by extending my renewed appreciation to Tommy for his sterling service to this club and I call upon all members of this club to unite with the committee to preserve and further carry the SSC from the unparalleled heights it has enjoyed over 121 years.

Finally I call upon all of you present to stand up and join me in giving Tommy a much deserved round of hearty applause as appreciation for the service he has rendered to the membership of this Club. [Applause]

Thank you once again for the trust placed in me.



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Features

Policy quandaries set to rise for South in the wake of AUKUS

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From the viewpoint of the global South, the recent coming into being of the tripartite security pact among the US, the UK and Australia or AUKUS, renders important the concept of VUCA; volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. VUCA has its origins in the disciplines of Marketing and Business Studies, but it could best describe the current state of international politics from particularly the perspective of the middle income, lower middle income and poor countries of the world or the South.

With the implementation of the pact, Australia will be qualifying to join the select band of nuclear submarine-powered states, comprising the US, China, Russia, the UK, France and India. Essentially, the pact envisages the lending of their expertise and material assistance by the US and the UK to Australia for the development by the latter of nuclear-powered submarines.

While, officially, the pact has as one of its main aims the promotion of a ‘rules- based Indo-Pacific region’, it is no secret that the main thrust of the accord is to blunt and defuse the military presence and strength of China in the region concerned. In other words, the pact would be paving the way for an intensification of military tensions in the Asia-Pacific between the West and China.

The world ought to have prepared for a stepping-up of US efforts to bolster its presence in the Asia-Pacific when a couple of weeks ago US Vice President Kamala Harris made a wide-ranging tour of US allies in the ASEAN region. Coming in the wake of the complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the tour was essentially aimed at assuring US allies in the region of the US’s continued support for them, militarily and otherwise. Such assurances were necessitated by the general perception that following the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, China would be stepping in to fill the power vacuum in the country with the support of Pakistan.

From the West’s viewpoint, making Australia nuclear-capable is the thing to do against the backdrop of China being seen by a considerable number of Asia-Pacific states as being increasingly militarily assertive in the South China Sea and adjacent regions in particular. As is known, China is contending with a number of ASEAN region states over some resource rich islands in the sea area in question. These disputed territories could prove to be military flash points in the future. It only stands to reason for the West that its military strength and influence in the Asia-Pacific should be bolstered by developing a strong nuclear capability in English-speaking Australia.

As is known, Australia’s decision to enter into a pact with the US and the UK in its nuclear submarine building project has offended France in view of the fact that it amounts to a violation of an agreement entered into by Australia with France in 2016 that provides for the latter selling diesel-powered submarines manufactured by it to Australia. This decision by Australia which is seen as a ‘stab in the back’ by France has not only brought the latter’s relations with Australia to breaking point but also triggered some tensions in the EU’s ties with the US and the UK.

It should not come as a surprise if the EU opts from now on to increasingly beef-up its military presence in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ with the accent on it following a completely independent security policy trajectory, with little or no reference to Western concerns in this connection.

However, it is the economically vulnerable countries of the South that could face the biggest foreign policy quandaries against the backdrop of these developments. These dilemmas are bound to be accentuated by the fact that very many countries of the South are dependent on China’s financial and material assistance. A Non-aligned policy is likely to be strongly favoured by the majority of Southern countries in this situation but to what extent this policy could be sustained in view of their considerable dependence on China emerges as a prime foreign policy issue.

On the other hand, the majority of Southern countries cannot afford to be seen by the West as being out of step with what is seen as their vital interests. This applies in particular to matters of a security nature. Sri Lanka is in the grips of a policy crunch of this kind at present. Sri Lanka’s dependence on China is high in a number of areas but it cannot afford to be seen by the West as gravitating excessively towards China.

Besides, Sri Lanka and other small states of the northern Indian Ocean need to align themselves cordially with India, considering the latter’s dominance in the South and South West Asian regions from the economic and military points of view in particular. Given this background, tilting disproportionately towards China could be most unwise. In the mentioned regions in particular small Southern states will be compelled to maintain, if they could, an equidistance between India and China.

The AUKUS pact could be expected to aggravate these foreign policy questions for the smaller states of the South. The cleavages in international politics brought about by the pact would compel smaller states to fall in line with the West or risk being seen by the latter as pro-China and this could by no means be a happy state to be in.

The economic crisis brought about by the current pandemic could only make matters worse for the South. For example, as pointed out by the UN, there could be an increase in the number of extremely poor people by around 120 million globally amid the pandemic. Besides, as pointed out by the World Bank, “South Asia in particular is more exposed to the risk of ‘hidden debt ‘from state-owned Commercial Banks (SOCBs), state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and public-private partnerships (PPPs) because of its greater reliance on them compared to other regions.” Needless to say, such economic ills could compel small, struggling states to veer away from foreign policy stances that are in line with Non-alignment.

Accordingly, it is a world characterized by VUCA that would be confronting most Southern states. It is a world beyond their control but a coming together of Southern states on the lines of increasing South-South cooperation could be of some help.

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Features

Hair care mask

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LOOK GOOD – with Disna

* Aloe Vera and Olive Oil:

Aloe vera can beautify your hair when used regularly. Aloe vera is a three-in-one plant and is the best medicine for health, skincare, and hair care, too. Using products, containing aloe vera as the hair strengthening agent, is quite expensive. So,treat your hair, naturally, by trying out these natural hair care masks.

Ingredients…

Aloe Vera Gel: 4-5 tablespoons

Olive Oil: 3-4 tablespoons

Egg Yolk: 2-3 tablespoons

Method…

In a bowl, mix well the olive oil (after heating the oil for eight to 10 seconds), the aloe vera gel and the egg yolk.

Apply the mixture on your brittle and dry hair with a hair brush and leave it for four to five hours. Apply it overnight for better results.

Wash off wish a mild shampoo later on.

When applied continuously, for eight to 10 days, your hair will definitely turn healthy and shiny, within no time

* Almond Milk and Coconut Oil:

Almonds are one of the amazing products when it comes to hair care. Try this mask to experience that salon affect you probably missed out.

Ingredients…

Almond Milk: 4-5 tablespoons

Egg White: 3-4 tablespoons

Coconut Oil:1-2 tablespoons

Method…

Mix all the ingredients well, in a bowl, and gently apply it on your hair with a brush.

If applied overnight, it is the best remedy for those with dry hair.

Wash off with cold water and a mild shampoo.

Use it thrice a week and if your hair is badly damaged a daily use for eight to 10 days improves your hair condition.

You can continue using it twice or thrice a week until you get the required results.

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Features

Amazing Thailand… opening up, but slowly

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I know of several holidaymakers who are desperately seeking a vacation in Amazing Thailand, and quite a few of them keep calling me up to find out when they could zoom their way to the ‘Land of Smiles!’

Last year, they were contemplating doing their festive shopping in that part of the world and were constantly checking with me about a possible shopping vacation, in early December, 2020.

Unfortunately, the pandemic proved a disaster to most tourist destinations, and Thailand, too, felt the heat.

However, the scene is opening up, gradually, and fully vaccinated travellers are now being given the green light to visit quite a few countries.

The Maldives is one such destination…and now Thailand is gradually coming into that scene, as well.

Several provinces, in Thailand, have reopened, through the Phuket Sandbox programme, and there are plans to reopen five more areas, including Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, and Pattaya.

Now, hold on! Before you rush and make plans to head for Thailand, here’s what you need to know:

The plan is to reopen to fully vaccinated tourists, and, in all probability, they would be able to visit without having to quarantine. But, that has to be officially confirmed.

Currently, travellers to the provinces that have already reopened, such as Phuket, must quarantine before travelling elsewhere in Thailand. The new reopening plans are the most significant travel policy changes the country has enacted since the start of the pandemic.

Additionally, the Thai government relaxed some restrictions on gatherings in certain areas, including Bangkok, and that’s certainly good news for Sri Lankans who love to be a part of the Bangkok scene.

Bangkok is still in the ‘dark red zone,’ however — the strictest designation — that has restricted movement in the city for months.

The government has said that activities, such as shopping malls and dine-in services, in the dark-red zone, will be allowed to reopen – but no official dates have been mentioned, as yet.

Gatherings are now capped at no more than 25 people, an increase from just five people. A curfew still remains in place, however.

This October reopening (hopefully) will be launched alongside with the country’s newly adjusted ‘universal prevention’ guidelines against COVID-19 … including accelerating vaccination for the local population and formalising tourism campaigns.

Thailand will reopen in phases, I’m told: Phuket reopened in Phase One in July, while Bangkok is scheduled to reopen in Phase Two. Phase Three will reopen 21 destinations – hopefully at some point in time, in October – while Phase Four will begin in January 2022.

The measure comes not a minute too soon for local tourism operators as tourism is one of the nation’s largest gross domestic product drivers (GDP), and preventative measures against COVID-19 resulted in a massive blow to the industry.

Yes, we are all eager for the world to open up so that we can check out some of our favourite holiday destinations.

And, after staying indoors for such a long period, the urge to break free is in all of us.

I’ve been to Thailand 24 times (on most occasions, courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand) and I’m now eagerly looking forward to my 25th trip.

But…I wonder if Amazing Thailand will ever be the same – the awesome scene we all experienced, and enjoyed, before the pandemic!

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