The talk of the country is the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, now gazetted and soon to be debated in Parliament. The Opposition may blow its argumentative and prophetic steam until it lifts the roof off the unique Bawa designed building but nothing will change in the 20A as stipulated by the SLPP constitutional pundits and more so the politicians who want the future assured …. less for the country, Cass adds vitriolically and biliously. Some say this and some say that in media blitzes and press meetings, and, Cass says nothing.
Another bone of contention with the Speaker of Parliament and the winner of a parliamentary seat in Ratnapura on one side against the AG’s ruling, is being hotly debated. Premalal Jayasekera was nominated to contest the August 2020 general election while having a charge of murder against him. He contested and won the seat. But his eligibility to sit in parliament was in balance as he was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hung. The Speaker of Parliament ordered prison officials to conduct the convicted murderer to Parliament, and there he was on Tuesday with a picture of him in the Wednesday The Island newspaper, being sworn in.
The justification to allow him in Parliament from Death Row is that he has appealed his death sentence. Sure bets; he will win the appeal case. Then no trouble as he will emerge an acquitted man. If the higher court convicts him all over again, there still seems to be a loophole available to creep back to the August House to increase the number of SLPP members and their Ayes. And what pray is that opening? A presidential pardon! A precedent exists and freshly minted too. A prez pardon was conveniently given by President Maithripala Sirisena to a convicted murderer in death row a day or two before he left the presidency. So why not again? Let us wait and see. Mums the word from Cass. She knows next to nothing about court and parliamentary rules and articles in the Constitution that govern such a case. The only strong statement she makes is how on earth candidates accused of murder – the most heinous crime that a human can commit – are elected by voters. The Ratnapura voters are blame-worthy plus crazy.
That stately institution, the Parliament, is that which gets the black paint and stink. It suffered when MPs went berserk with bound volumes and chilli powder. Now blackened by a death row inmate sitting within. Were the black saatakayas prominently worn by SJB members symbolic mourning for Parliament’s reputation and honour? Cass has followed suit. She’s wound a black scarf around her neck. If news gets too odious and interferes with life, she’ll tighten it!
Silver linings over our horizon
We are, as a country, still maintaining the status quo of no social infection and spreading of the terrible Covid 19 thanks to the Presidential Task Force bravely and effectively overseeing arising issues: quarantining stringently; contact tracing vigilantly; strict enforcing face mask wearing, though social distancing is often thrown to the winds. Constant alertness is maintained by the Health Services. We sorely miss Dr Jasinghe’s daily updates but we suppose the higher authority saw how work and lack of sleep etched their lines on the good doctor’s face so he was transferred to overlook the environment and perchance doze off a bit when elephants and men behave. The doctor who has taken over, though minus the former’s chutzpah, gives us due warning not to be complacent; the dread virus is far from confined even in our island.
The second bit of good fortune: the oil tanker sending out SOS messages with a fire in its engine room has been safely towed, the newspapers announced, ‘to international waters’. We don’t know exactly where such waters of the ocean start, but at least the damaged ship is not too close to our island to gruesomely pollute our seas if it haemorrhages its gasoline oil. Cannot its holds be emptied of the oil it carries by pumping out the same to tanks in other ships? Far beyond Cass’ limited understanding.
No mercy for even World’s Number One
Poor, poor Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one tennis player; a treat to watch as his slim body moves superbly on grass or clay court. He agreed to play in the US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York, while top seeds Federer and Nadal declined due to Covid fear. Novak Djokovic has been ruled out of the US Open now playing to empty visitor stands. He was defaulted from his match on Sunday 6 September after a tennis ball he hit in anger struck a woman line judge in her neck. We saw on the TV Sports Channel how he hit the ball, then realized he had struck a person at the back and went up to her, touched her on her shoulders and apologized. But that was not enough for the match umpire. Novak was sent out. So sad because it was an accident. Novak is usually very polite, very controlled and when in the mood, full of fun.
One remembers the 2018 US Open Women’s Finals when Serena Williams was pitted against novitiate but great tennis player Naomi Osaka. Serena argued loud and long with the umpire, called him thief and liar, and smashed her racquet in anger. She was fined $17000 but allowed to continue playing and lost the match but snatched glory from the shy, half Japanese player, who cried bitterly while donning the crown.
Novak left the grounds without speaking to the media, In an Instagram post, he apologized again to the line judge, saying he didn’t intend to hit her and that he is “going to turn all this into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and a human being.” That’s the spirit one would say. and pity he was blocked from winning the US open a fourth time. This Serbian who wins hearts on court and off; reputed to meditate before a match; seen on TV as a doting father; is truly great having won 17 grand slam single titles, the third most in history; and many more; winning five Wimbledon singles titles, eight Australian and one French open. He counts more kudos. And he was sent out conceding the match and his sure title for an accidentally hit ball!
How about sports and sportsmanship in our country? We have our own greats and some we are ashamed of. Time was when a First Lady played netball and tennis. In the team game she was said to be undefended; no player dared touch her, though she was very sporty. In tennis she was photographed with her skirt a mite raised and… Rugby was the latter young politicos’ game. We know how a Navy vs Kandy team match invariably ended with the field invaded with outsiders and fisticuffs galore. One who ratted about match fixing is now planted securely in Parliament. So much for some of our sportspersons! But let us consider the truly great and be comforted.
Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces
By Jehan Perera
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.
Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.
It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.
In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.
The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.
As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.
President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”
It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.
Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.
WEDNESDAY – Movie Review
The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.
Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.
This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.
Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.
Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.
Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.
At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.
Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY
The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.
They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.
Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!
Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.
Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”
It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday
While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.
Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).
He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.
However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).
Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.
You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!
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