Legal implications on claiming damages by SL under international law
Fire on New Diamond crude oil tanker:
BY Dulip Jayawardena
A Very Large Crude Career (VLCC) double hull tanker under the flagship of Panama was built by Mitsui Ichihara Engineering and Shipbuilding, Ichihara, Japan, in 2000 and has a gross tonnage of 160 079, with a dead weight of 299986 tons (DWT). The former names were Diamond Warrior (2013 Panama) and Ikomasan (2013 United Kingdom). It was reported that this tanker carried over 270 000 metric tons of crude oil above the gross tonnage.
The length of the tanker is 333 meres and breadth 60 metres. The present owner and manager are from New Shipping Company Athens, Greece. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Registration No. 9191424 Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is 351247000 for this tanker.
According to Ekathirinorini.com an Athens-based business site, the VLCC Panamanian tanker has been owned by Porto Emporios Shipping Inc., since 2013. The vessel’s commercial and safety manager is Greece-based New Shipping Ltd., which has a fleet of 32 oil tankers and bulk carriers under its care.
THE SEA ROUTE OF VLCC
This VLCC set off from Mina Al Ahmadi Port, in Kuwait, to the Paradeip Port, in the east coast of India, with 270 000 tons of crude oil. There were 23 crew members, comprising of five Greek and 18 from the Philippines. The position of the VLCC by the Automatic Identification System (AIS) was at the Persian Gulf (co-ordinates 26.32473 N/53.7858 E) on 23 August 2020 and was scheduled to reach the Port of Paradip Garh, on the east coast of India, on 5 September 2020, at 10.00 am. However, a fire erupted due to an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room on 3 September 2020 at 8.00 am, Sri Lanka time, when sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Navy.
The VLCC, that left the Persian Gulf on 23 August 2020, reached the location of the explosion on 3 September 2020 after 11 days, travelling a distance of 2153 nautical miles at 195 nautical miles per day. It was scheduled to reach the port of Pradeep Garh on 5 September 2020 at 10 am travelling a distance of about 750 nautical miles at over 10 knots or 240 nautical miles per day. It is evident that the VLCC was to increase its speed while travelling from the south of Sri Lanka to the Port of Destination and it should be ascertained whether this caused a boiler in the engine room to explode.
PRESENT STATUS OF THE FIRE ON VLCC NEW DIAMOND AND SALVAGE OPERATIONS
According to News First, a Sri Lankan media, the VLCC, as of 6 September 2020 at 7.58 am, is 40 nautical miles away from land and there is a continuous effort to spray cooling agents to cool the oil storage section of the tanker.
As mentioned earlier, the vessel’s commercial outfit, New Shipping Ltd., of Athens, Greece, has appointed SMIT Singapore Pvt Ltd., as a salvage group for future operations and has one tug boat at site with the salvage chief who deals with such disasters. Two more large tug boats that can handle oil tankers of this size are expected. Further, 10 British and Dutch professionals with expertise in rescue operations, disaster evaluation and legal consultations have arrived in Sri Lanka and are expected to make recommendations on the future course of action.
It was reported that the fire erupted again on 8 September 2020 and was brought under control by the Disaster Management Team on the morning of 9 September 2020. A Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard air dropped diesel dispersant as there was a leak of diesel from the engine room. Further a research vessel from NARA has been dispatched to collect sea waters around the distressed tanker.
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS UNDEER
The legal issues under international law are complicated as there are responsibilities under the three major entities involved, namely the Panamanian flag state, the owners Porto Emporios Shipping Inc and New Shipping Ltd of Athens, Greece.
The fire on board VLCC New Diamond as reported by the Sri Lanka Navy has occurred 38 nautical miles on 3 September 2020. Since this point is not within the territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and also is away from the contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles, it is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is over 200 nautical miles.
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON
THE LAW OF THE SEA (UNCLOS)
It is now evident that since the fire occurred within our EEZ, the vessel had the freedom of navigation under UNCLOS.
Sri Lanka ratified UNCLOS on 16 November 1994 the day that the Convention entered into force and therefore has the rights and obligations under international law.
NATIONALITY OF SHIPS AND FLAG STATE DUTIES UNDER ARTICLES 91 AND 94 OF UNCLOS 1982
Article 91 states that every State identify conditions for the grant of its nationality for registration of ships in its territory and the right to fly the flag and has a genuine link between the State and the ship. According to the Lloyds Register, there are 10 Flag State countries with the ships flying their flags. These are Panama (9367 ) Singapore (4962) China (4881) Marshall Islands (4163) Liberia ( 4027) Japan (3846) Hong Kong (3707) Malta (2637) Greece (1545) and Bahamas (1512).
Freedom of navigation and the right of flag State to sail ships on the high seas are included under customary law and codified under 1958 High Seas Convention and subsequently under Article 87 and 91 of UNCLOS 1982.
Freedom of Navigation as referred to in Article 87 of UNCLOS (Freedom of High Seas) also applies to EEZs.
Under Article 94 (1) (2) (3) and (4) of UNCLOS the flag State is responsible for duties related to effective jurisdiction and effective control over administrative technical matters on their ships on the High Seas or EEZs
Article 94 section 6 of UNCLOS refers to “A State which has clear grounds to believe that proper jurisdiction and control with respect to a ship have not being exercised may report the facts to the flag State. Upon receiving such a report, the flag State shall investigate into the matter and, if appropriate take any action to remedy the situation.”
In the case of VLCC New Diamond the flag State is Panama and the appropriate authorities should initiate action, if not done so, inform Panama about this fire.
Attention is also drawn to Article 217 of UNCLOS highlighting the responsibility of the flag State to strictly take appropriate measures and adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control of pollution and ensure the compliance of those vessels flying its flag with international marine pollution laws. It must also be stressed that the flag State is bound to investigate any case where any ship registered under its flag violates any international anti–pollution laws.
However, the implementation of duties of flag States termed open registers or flags of convenience do not follow the obligations under UNCLOS and other relevant maritime Conventions under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The IMO Conventions are divided into (1) Maritime Safety – 11 Conventions (2) Marine Pollution – 7 Conventions (3) Liability and Compensation – 7 Conventions and (4) Other Subjects – 4 Conventions.
Some of the important Conventions relevant to the fire on board of New Diamond are International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) -1974 and International Convention on Maritime Search Rescue (SAR), 1979 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 as modified by the protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL73/78),Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC) 1972, and International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness , Response and Cooperation (OPRC) 1990 .
As related to claiming of compensation and liability the applicable convention is the international Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) 1969 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (FUND) 1971, and International Convention of Salvage (SALVAGE) 1989.
It is customary to delegate responsibilities of Flagship States to Ship Classification Organizations (SCO) which are private institutions who are delegated to establish and maintain standards for the construction, maintenance and classification of ships including tankers.
The major problem is that majority of flag States are delegating most of their duties to SCOs and it has been noted that the SCOs lower their standards due to competition and attract more clients.
Sri Lanka is a member of International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 1972.
IMO has formulated the International Safety Management Code (ISM) which applies to the safe operation and management of the vessels and also for prevention of environment pollution. As a member of the IMO Sri Lanka should take action to report if the VLCC New Diamond has violated the applicable conventions indicated earlier.
PROCTED WATERS OF SRI LANKA
An excellent article by Howard Martenstyn (https://www.slam.lk/protected-waters..) Have listed Marine National Parks and Marine and Associated Sanctuaries.
The fire on VLCC New Diamond if resulted to oil spills would have severely polluted the Yala and Kumana National Parks, Pigeon Island near Trincomalee The other Marine Sanctuaries such as Godayaya , Kalametiya Lagoon (Hambantota), Little Sober Island, Great Sober Island (Trincomalee), Kokilai lagoon would have also been subjected to severe oil pollution. The rare fauna and flora in these areas would have been subject to extinction, including the rare species of Omura Whales.
SUGGESTED FUTURE PLANS FOR PROTECTION OF THE SEA AREA OF THE EEZ ON THE EAST COAST
The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is the main body established by the Government of Sri Lanka under the marine Pollution Prevention Act No 36 of 2008 with the full responsibilities for preventing control and manage the pollution of Sri Lanka’s marine environment. The fire on VLCC New Diamond was within the EEZ of Sri Lanka and it is queried whether customary laws have been formulated and enacted in conformity with the international laws conventions and treaties covering our EEZ.
It is also reported that there is no effective modalities to ascertain that flag States set their own individual standards for registration of ships including tankers and to identify and implement protocols to effect conditions covering all flag States have failed. (Refer 1986 UN Convention on Conditions for Ship Registration).
Accordingly, the legal framework in place for monitoring and implementing effective flag State is not complete. It is also noted that most flagship States do not give much importance to identification of ownership of ships and accountability of ship owners and most of these States register ships without the requirement of the identification of owners. Accordingly, such incorporation is secretive and will normally cover all the related jurisdictions.
It has been reported that the Attorney General has ordered that VLCC New Diamond to be towed out of our EEZ which is identified as 200 nautical miles from the high water mark on the coastline.
Sri Lanka is now in the process of claiming an extended see area of 1, 400,000 sq. kilometers on the eastern Indian Ocean which is over 24 times the land area of 650 612 Km 2 under Article 76 of UNCLOS Annex 11 UN Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf. With this development Sri Lanka will have a major task to control maritime pollution in such a vast sea area apart from the security and exploitation of off shore non living and living resources.
As a researcher at United Nations ESCAP I was involved in covering marine affairs under UNCLOS for over 13 years.
I would recommend the following for future course of action related to the VLCC New Diamond.
(1) The Treaties Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should get actively involved in filing claims related to marine pollution of the eastern seas of Sri Lanka together with the MEPA, NARA, Environment Ministry, Environment Protection Authority, Department of Maritime Shipping and other prevalent agencies.
(2) The Government must work out a new sea route for all VLCC tankers to avoid Sri Lankan waters and navigate south of Sri Lanka to the new sea port now operating at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. From Port Blair the path of the VLCC tankers should go north to the Indian coast avoiding Sri Lanka’s EEZ at present and also the extended sea area after the finalization of the of the extended sea area by the UN Commission on the Continental Shelf. Bi lateral talks should be initiated with India and Bangladesh regarding this matter. India imported 2.724 million metric tons for its refineries on the eastern seaboard of India. Accordingly, Bangladesh imported 1.4 million tons of crude oil from the Middle East in 2020. Most of these tankers were of the VLCC class. It is also reported that Sri Lanka also imports crude oil from India and to maintain our clean seas programme should also recommend avoiding our sea area defined as our EEZ.
(3) All VLCC tankers bound to the Chinese coast and Japan avoids Sri Lanka’s waters and navigates on a sea route to the Malacca Straits. The Chinese government as an integral part of the Belt and Road Project has initiated talks with Thailand to construct the Kara Channel, a 1220 kilometer Thai Channel . However the project is still on hold by Thailand and when this project is completed our southern sea waters will be safe from any oil spills from VLCC tankers and any ships carrying dangerous chemicals.
(1) A Critical Analysis of Flag State Duties as Laid Down Under Article 94 of UNCLOS – Nivedita M. Hosanee – The United Nations – Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme 2009 -2010.
(2) The International Law of the Sea by Yoshifumi Tanaka University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law Cambridge university Press 2012
(3) Maritime Security and the Law of the Sea by Natalie Klein Oxford Monograph in International Law 2011.
(4) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation – The Application and future development of IMOs Particularly Sea Area Concept by Julian Roberts 2010 Springer Publication.
(5) The Law of the Sea United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea with Index and Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea United Nations New York, 1983
(The author is a Retired United Nations ESCAP Economic Affairs Officer and also worked as a Senior Research Officer at NARA from 1986 -1989 and a World Bank Consultant to the Ministry of Industries in early 1990 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Have Humanities and Social Sciences muddied water enough?
By Maduranga Kalugampitiya
The domain of the humanities and social sciences is under attack more than ever before. The relevance, as well as usefulness of the degrees earned in those fields, is being questioned left, right, and centre. The question of whether it is meaningful at all to be spending, if not wasting, the limited financial resources available in the coffers to produce graduates in those fields is raised constantly, at multiple levels. Attempts are being made to introduce a little bit of soft skills into the curricula in order to add ‘value’ to the degree programmes in the field. The assumption here is that either such degree programmes do not impart any skills or the skills that they impart are of no value. We often see this widely-shared profoundly negative attitude towards the humanities and the social sciences (more towards the former than towards the latter) being projected on the practitioners (students, teachers, and researchers) in those areas. At a top-level meeting, which was held one to two years ago, with the participation of policy-makers in higher education and academics and educationists representing the humanities and social sciences departments, at state universities, a key figure in the higher education establishment claimed that the students who come to the humanities and social sciences faculties were ‘late-developers’. What better (or should I say worse?) indication of the official attitude towards those of us in the humanities and the social sciences!
While acknowledging that many of the key factors that have resulted in downgrading the humanities and social sciences disciplines are global by nature and are very much part of the neoliberal world order, which dominates the day, I wish to ask if we, the practitioners in the said fields, have done our part to counter the attack.
What the humanities and the social sciences engage with is essentially and self-consciously social. What these disciplines have to say has a direct bearing on the social dimension of human existence. It is near impossible to discuss phenomena in economics, political science, or sociology without having to reflect upon and use examples from what happens in our lives and around us. One cannot even begin to talk about teaching English as a second language without taking a look at her/his own experience learning English and the struggles that many people go through at different levels doing the same. One cannot talk about successful ways of teaching foreign languages without recognizing the need to incorporate an engagement with the cultural life of those languages at some level. No reading of an artwork—be it a novel, a movie, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, whatever—is possible without the reader at least subconsciously reflecting upon the broader context in which those artworks are set and also relating her own context or experience to what is being read. A legal scholar cannot read a legislation without paying attention to the social implications of the legislation and the dynamics of the community at whom that legislation is directed. The point is our own existence as social beings is right in the middle of what we engage with in such disciplines. To steal (and do so self-consciously) a term from the hard/natural sciences, society is essentially the ‘laboratory’ in which those in the humanities and social sciences conduct their work. There may be some areas of study within the humanities and social sciences which do not require an explicit engagement with our social existence, but I would say that such areas, if any, are limited in number.
Needless to say that every social intervention is political in nature. It involves unsettling what appears to be normal about our social existence in some way. One cannot make interventions that have a lasting impact without muddying the water which we have been made to believe is clear. How much of muddying do we as practitioners in the field of humanities and social sciences do is a question that needs to be asked.
Unfortunately, we do not see much work in the humanities and social sciences which unsettles the dominant order. What we often see is work that reinforces and reaffirms the dominant structures, systems, and lines of thought. Lack of rigorous academic training and exposure to critical theory is clearly one of the factors which prevents some scholars in the field from being able to make interventions that are capable of muddying the water, but the fact that we sometimes do not see much muddying even on the part of the more adept scholars shows that lack of rigorous training is not the sole reason.
Muddying the water is no simple matter. To use a problematic, yet in my view useful, analogy, a scholar in the said field trying to make an intervention that results in unsettling the order is like a hydrogen atom in H2O, ‘water’ in layperson’s language, trying to make an intervention which results in a re-evaluation of the oxygen atom. Such an intervention invariably entails a re-evaluation of the hydrogen atom as well, for the reason that the two atoms are part of an organic whole. One cannot be purely objective in its reading of the other. Such an intervention is bound to be as unsettling for the hydrogen atom as it is for the oxygen atom. Similarly, in a majority of contexts, a scholar in the area of the humanities and social sciences cannot make an intervention, the kind that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, without unsettling the dominant structures and value systems, which they themselves are part of, live by, and also benefit from. For instance, the norms, values, and practices which define the idea of marriage in contexts like ours are things that a male scholar would have to deal with as a member of our society, and any intervention on his part which raises questions about gender-based inequalities embodied in such norms, values, and practices would be to question his own privilege. Needless to say that such an intervention could result in an existential crisis for the scholar, at least temporarily. Such interventions also entail the possibility of backlash from society. One needs thorough training to withstand that pressure.
In place of interventions that unsettle the existing order, what we often see is work, which re-presents commonsensical knowledge garbed in jargon. To give an example from an area that I am a bit familiar with, much of the work that takes place in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) identifies lack of motivation on the part of the students and also teachers and also lack of proper training for teachers as the primary reasons for the plight of English education in the country. This reading is not very different from a layperson’s understanding of the problem, and what we often see as research findings in the field of ESL is the same understanding, albeit dressed up in technical-sounding language. Such readings do not unsettle the existing order. They put the blame on the powerless. Very limited is the work that sees the present plight of English education as a systemic or structural problem. Reading that plight as a systemic problem requires us to re-evaluate the fundamental structures which govern our society, and such re-evaluation is unsettling is many ways. I argue that that is what is expected of scholarship in the ESL field, but unfortunately that is not what we see as coming out of the field.
If what gets produced as knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is jargonized commonsense, then the claim that such fields have nothing important to say is valid. If what a scholar in those fields has to say is not different to a layperson’s understanding of a given reality, the question whether there is any point in producing such scholars becomes valid.
In my view, the humanities and social sciences are in need of fundamental restructuring. This restructuring is not the kind which calls for the incorporation of a bit of soft skills here and a bit of soft skills there so that those who come out of those fields easily fit into predefined slots in society but the kind that results in the enhancement of the critical thinking capacity of the scholars. It is the kind of restructuring that would produce scholars who are capable of engaging in a political reading of the realities that define our existence in society and raise difficult questions about such existence, in other words, scholars who are capable of muddying the water.
(Maduranga Kalugampitiya is attached to Department of English, University of Peradeniya)
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall thatparodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.
Selective targeting not law’s purpose
By Jehan Perera
The re-emergence of Donald Trump in the United States is a reminder that change is not permanent. Former President Trump is currently utilising the grievances of the white population in the United States with regard to the economic difficulties that many of them face to make the case that they need to be united to maintain their position in society. He is coming forward as their champion. The saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to the founders of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, among many others, though Lord Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) stated that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790. The phrase is often used to emphasise the importance of being vigilant in protecting one’s rights and freedoms.
Ethnic and religious identity are two powerful concepts by which people may be mobilised the world over. This is a phenomenon that seemed to have subsided in Western Europe due to centuries of secular practices in which the state was made secular and neutral between ethnicities and religions. For a short while last year during the Aragalaya, it seemed that Sri Lanka was transcending its ethnic and religious cleavages in the face of the unexpected economic calamity that plunged large sections of the population back into poverty. There was unprecedented unity especially at the street level to demonstrate publicly that the government that had brought the country to this sorry pass had to go. The mighty force of people’s power succeeded in driving the leaders of that government out of power. Hopefully, there will be a government in the future that will bring the unity and mutual respect within the people, especially the younger generations, to the fore and the sooner the better as the price is growing higher by the day.
But like the irrepressible Donald Trump the old order is fighting to stage its comeback. The rhetoric of ethnicity and religion being in danger is surfacing once more. President Ranil Wickremesinghe who proclaimed late last year that the 13th Amendment to the constitution would be implemented in full, as it was meant to be, and enable the devolution of power to be enjoyed by the people of the provinces, including those dominated by Tamils and Muslims, has gone silent on this promise. The old order to which he is providing a new economic vision is clearly recalcitrant on ethno-religious matters. As a result, the government’s bold plan to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as promised to the international community in 2015 to address the unresolved human rights issues of the war, is reportedly on the rocks. The main Tamil political parties have made statements that they will not legitimise or accept such a mechanism in the absence of a genuine devolution of power. Politics must not override policies.
The sense of threat to ethnicity and religion looms too large once again for forward movement in conflict resolution between the different communities that constitute the Sri Lankan nation which is diverse and plural. Two unlikely persons now find themselves at the centre of an emotion-heavy ethno-religious storm. One is a comedian, the other is a religious preacher. Both of them have offended the religious sensibilities of many in the ethno-religious Sinhala Buddhist majority community. Both of their statements were originally made to small audiences of their own persuasion, but were then projected through social media to reach much larger audiences. The question is whether they made these statements to rouse religious hatred and violence. There have been numerous statements from all sides of the divide, whether ethnic, religious or political, denouncing them for their utterances.
Both comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and pastor Jerome Fernando have apologised for offending and hurting the religious sentiments of the Buddhist population. They made an attempt to remedy the situation when they realised the hurt, the anger and the opposition they had generated. This is not the first time that such hurtful and offensive comments have been made by members of one ethno-religious community against members of another ethnic-religious community. Taking advantage of this fact the government is arguing the case for the control of social media and also the mainstream media. It is preparing to bring forward legislation for a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission that would also pave the way to imprison journalists for their reporting, impose fines, and also revoke the licences issued to electronic media institutions if they impact negatively on national security, national economy, and public order or create any conflict among races and religions.
In a free society, opportunities are provided for people to be able to air their thoughts and dissents openly, be it at Hyde Park or through their representatives in Parliament. The threat to freedom of speech and to the media that can arise from this new law can be seen in the way that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is the world’s standard bearer on civil and political rights has been used and is being abused in Sri Lanka. It was incorporated into Sri Lankan law in a manner that has permitted successive governments to misuse it. It is very likely that the Broadcast Regulatory Commission bill will yield a similar result if passed into law. The arrest and detention of comedian Natasha Edirisooriya under the ICCPR Act has become yet another unfortunate example of the misuse of a law meant to protect human rights by the government. Pastor Jerome Fernando is out of prison as he is currently abroad having left the country a short while before a travel ban was delivered to him.
The state media reported that a “Police officer said that since there is information that she was a person who was in the Aragalaya protest, they are looking into the matter with special attention.” This gives rise to the inference that the reason for her arrest was politically motivated. Comedian Edirisooriya was accused of having violated the provisions in the ICCPR in Section 3(1) that forbids hate speech. Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has pointed out that in the case of Edirisooriya that for speech to be illegal on the grounds of being hate speech it requires “a clear showing of intent to incite others to discriminate, be hostile towards or commit violence against the group in question.” Amnesty International also notes that “When the expression fails to meet the test, even if it is shocking, offensive or disturbing, it should be protected by the state.”
Ironically, in the past there have been many instances of ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in a hateful manner that even led to riots against them, but successive governments have been inactive in protecting them or arresting their persecutors. Such targeting has taken place, often for political purposes in the context of elections, in blatant bids to mobilise sections of the population through appeals to narrow nationalism and fear of the other. The country’s political and governmental leaders need to desist from utilising the ICCPR Act against those who make social and political critiques that are outside the domain of hate speech. The arrest of Bruno Divakara, the owner of SL-Vlogs, under the ICCPR Act is an indication of this larger and more concerning phenomenon which is being brought to the fore by the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill.
The crackdown on the space for free expression and critical comment is unacceptable in a democratic polity, especially one as troubled as Sri Lanka, in which the economy has collapsed and caused much suffering to the people and the call to hold elections has been growing. The intervention of the Human Rights Commission which has called on the Inspector General of Police to submit a report on the arrest and its rationale is a hopeful sign that the independence of institutions intended to provide a check and balance will finally prevail. The Sri Lankan state will hopefully evolve to be a neutral arbiter in the disputes between competing ethnic, religious and partisan political visions of what the state should be and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within it. Taking on undemocratic powers in a variety of ways and within a short space of time is unlikely to deliver economic resurgence and a stable and democratic governance the country longs for. Without freedom, justice and fair play within, there can be no hope of economic development that President Wickremesinghe would be wanting to see.
Girl power… to light up our scene
We have never had any outstanding all-girl bands, in the local scene, except, perhaps…yes The Planets, and that was decades ago!
The Planets did make a name for themselves, and they did create quite a lot of excitement, when they went into action.
Of course, abroad, we had several top all-girl bands – outfits like the Spice Girls, Bangles, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes.
It’s happening even now, in the K-pop scene.
Let’s hope we would have something to shout about…with the band Manthra – an all-girl outfit that came together last year (2022).
Manthra is made up of Hiruni Fernando (leader/bass guitar), Gayathma Liyanage (lead guitar), Amaya Jayarathne (drums), Imeshini Piyumika (keyboards), and Arundathi Hewawitharana (vocals).
Amaya Arundathi and Imeshini are studying at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, while Gayathma is studying Architecture at NIMB, and Hiruni is the Western Music teacher at St. Lawrence’s Convent, and the pianist at Galadari Hotel, having studied piano and classical guitar at West London University.
They have already displayed their talents at various venues, events, weddings, and on TV, as well (Vanithabimana Sirasa TV and Charna TV Art Beat).
Additionally, the band showcased their talent at the talent show held at the Esoft Metro Campus.
The plus factor, where this all-girl outfit is concerned, is that their repertoire is made up rock, pop, and Sinhala songs.
Explaining as to how they came up with the name Manthra, founder member Hiruni said that Manthra means a word, or sound, repeated to aid concentration in meditation, and that the name was suggested by one of the band members.
She also went on to say that putting together a female band is not an easy task, in the scene here.
“We faced many difficulties in finding members. Some joined and then left, after a short while. Unlike a male band, where there are many male musicians in Sri Lanka, there are only a few female musicians. And then, there are some parents who don’t like their daughters getting involved in music.”
With talented musicians in their line-up, the future certainly looks bright for Manthra who are now keen to project themselves, in an awesome way, in the scene here, and abroad, as well.
“We are keen to do stage shows and we are also planning to create our own songs,” said Hiruni.
Yes, we need an all-girl group to add variety to our scene that is now turning out to be a kind of ‘repeating groove,’ where we see, and hear, almost the same thing…over and over again!
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