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It’s now the people’s choice, to change or not to change



In August what we need is a new Parliament. Recently when there was a demand mainly from politicians to reconvene the old Parliament, the people themselves remained indifferent. They felt it would only be a waste of time and money and they expressed their utmost contempt for the Parliament, although there was a time in the past when we were very proud of our Legislature.

That was when members like Dr N.M. Perera, Colvin R. de Silva, Dudley Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and many others held forth eloquently on matters concerning the country and its future. Those were men of impeccable integrity immune to any form of corruption, and they were well known professionals and did not make politics their only means of livelihood for life.

In contrast, today’s Parliament is almost full of ‘professional’ politicians who lack any other means of livelihood. That’s one reason why they cling on to their seats in the House, some long past retirement age. Quite a few of them from both sides have many criminal allegations made against them, but since they are never charged and convicted in a court of law, they remain ‘innocent’ and eligible to be reelected. All enquiries regarding them end with a commission report which is then duly laid to rest in the archives not to be resurrected for the next 35 years!

Many of the MPs are not only corrupt but also unintelligent and uneducated, totally unfit to be our legislators. There were a few honest, intelligent, educated members in the previous Parliament but even they chose to remain silent or vote with the government due to personal reasons at critical moments as when the notorious 18th amendment was passed or the ‘bond scam’ was being discussed. What we need is a new set of ‘Peoples’ Representatives’ who will truly act in the interest of the people of this country of a pluralistic society where every citizen would have equal rights irrespective of race, religion or caste.

These representatives, whether in the government or the opposition should be honest men and women of integrity and also sufficiently educated to serve as our legislators. Even a

Professor of law is useless in Parliament if he lacks moral integrity. They should have the courage of their convictions to be strong and brave enough to stand up and be counted in a crisis, not remain meek and mild serving their masters faithfully even against their own conscience. It is only such a vibrant Parliament where ministers don’t fall asleep during crucial debates which can truly serve the people and safeguard Democracy.

In spite of all these criticisms levelled against the previous Parliament, the leaders of the two major political Parties and their factions have nominated the same set of ‘rogues and criminals’, who they feel would bring in the largest number of votes for the Party by bribing the voters or giving them false hopes. Out of the 225 of the previous lot, 220 have been nominated!

The people were very critical of those parliamentarians till very recently and often referred to the Parliament as a ‘Den of thieves!’ But now that the same thieves have been nominated, there is no public outcry. People should be outraged at the choice but we see no protest. What does this mean? Are they so irrational or so easily bribed that they are willing to elect the same people whom they themselves accused of bribery, corruption, rape, bank robbery and many other criminal activities? It is left to be seen.

We have a ‘strong’ President who vows to clean up the whole system within the next five years. He will need a set of men and women in the new Parliament who will not only assist but also guide him if the need arises. He does not need a set of stooges who will blindly follow his orders. It is also important to have a strong opposition whose members will fearlessly oppose and prevent any piece of legislation which they consider discriminatory or antidemocratic being passed in Parliament. They should not meekly cow down before a powerful executive President as it happened during the elder Rajapaksa regime. The people should think rationally and wisely before they cast their votes.

Some may argue that the people are really helpless because they have no choice as their leaders have made the choice for them in nominating the same old set of ‘corrupt’ individuals within the party. In such a situation, the people should give up their party loyalty and look outside the party among the minor parties and the independent groups. There are some dedicated, committed men and women of honesty and integrity coming forward to serve the country.

There is of course the JVP which has often acted as the de facto opposition in Parliament speaking on behalf of the people, although some people seem to doubt its sincerity, perhaps due to their violent past history. There are other independent groups like the ‘National Development Front’ led by Dr Rohan Pallewatta and Professor Krishan Deheragoda. There are also other professionals who do not suffer from the disease of unlimited wants which reduces many politicians to parasites that feed on the people. One can also be sure that these men, if elected, will not sit quietly without uttering a single word for five years as some members have done.

Even with such a wide choice this time, if people still elect the same old corrupt set of politicians, it could only mean that the average Sri Lankan voter feels more comfortable with an ignorant, corrupt set of leader and he feels uncomfortable with educated men and women of moral integrity leading the country.

Leela Isacc

Institute of Human Rights,

Retired University Teacher


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Development after the elections



By Jehan Perera

Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place.  He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control.  The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country.  I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.

The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly.  The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote.  The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.

The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination.  But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.


The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.

One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA.  This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.

It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.


Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.

A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.

While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.


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A blazing story!



The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.

After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.

These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.

The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.

The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.

So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!


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Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA



Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.

This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.

Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.

Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.

Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.

The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’

The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.

Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.

The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’

The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.

Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.

“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.

The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’


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