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Lets consider lesser known candidates



by Malinda Seneviratne

Towards the end of the year 2018 in the heady days of the parliamentary crisis there was a slogan bandied about in social media and elsewhere by well-meaning liberals (read, yahapalanists) ostensibly sick of the prevailing political culture. They screamed 225+1 OUT

The sickly recovered less than a few months later to support the candidate of the United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa. No apologies were offered. Today the 225+1 OUT slogan is out. Thats not a bad thing. There are probably a few (less than a handful perhaps) who deserve to be re-elected. However, most of our parliamentarians have been marked by corruption, incompetence, greed, self-interest, treachery and outright imbecility, typically endowed with more than one of these characteristics. Saying ta-ta to them would not necessarily coincide with saying hi to their polar opposites of course for the system is skewed against the election of the good and incorruptible. Nevertheless the knowledge that it is possible to goodbye such people itself is empowering.

Now there were over 70 persons in the last parliament who could be called Dynastic Politicians. Their political success is at least in part attributable to the fact of being sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, spouses and other close relatives of known-name politicians. We could do without that kind of feudalism, I believe.

As mentioned, there could be some decent folk seeking re-election. However, it might be worth giving the lesser known a chance, especially since they dont exactly have the inside track in the races theyve chosen to run.

So yes, there are the easily recognized names on the ballot. In every district. There are dozens of registered political parties and hundreds of independent groups in the fray. There are thousands of candidates vying for 225 seats. The law of averages say that theres more than a handful among the lesser known candidates who would probably perform better than most who have already been in parliament. Well, some would argue that they couldnt do worse a bit like the Anyone but Ranil argument within the UNP that made Sajith the ideal candidate in some peoples view.

This is then an invitation to consider others. The lesser known or even known to just a few. They may not be on the same page ideologically especially since they contest from different parties or independent groups, but perhaps those who pick the party would do well to consider names such as these when they mark preferences.

Wimal Ketapearachchi is a journalist by profession. He worked in various newspapers and television stations. He was appointed as a Working Director of ITN by the Yahapalana regime but resigned during the parliamentary crisis in 2018. Unlike others who resigned and gladly accepted the same positions after the old order was restored, Ketape chose to remain resigned. He authored three novels, Doovili Sela (Fabrics made of dust), Navaye Kathava (The story of the number nine) and Nelavena Gee Meda Ovilla (The swing amid lullabies). Hamuvenna thavama heki comrade (We can still meet, comrade) was his debut poetry collection. Ketape is much loved by the Sinhala literary community, especially those of his generation and including those who would not agree with him ideologically or oppose his political choices. He has always considered himself a leftist and a champion of the poor, dispossessed, insulted and humiliated. A decent man. Hes contesting on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya ticket from the Colombo District.

Priyantha Pathirana hails from Kamburupitiya but has spent many years in the Trincomalee District. His passion is agriculture and he has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate village tanks and develop agricultural cooperatives for women. He was in the Eastern Provincial Council but was denied nomination for the General Election by the UPFA in 2010 and 2015. He was literally assaulted within an inch of his life by rival politicians in the party. He is absolutely generous with his time and energy when it comes to friends and political associates but more important in the case of anyone in any kind of distress, regardless of political affiliation. He has always considered himself a nationalist and a champion of sustainable development. He contests on the Pohottuwa ticket from Trincomalee.

One day in the early 1990s, members of the Independent Students Union, Colombo University stormed into the library. They were in a foul mood. They found a student in the library, sitting with his girlfriend. They assaulted him mercilessly. Had not some of his friends broken a window and come to his aid, Anupa Pasqual would have died that day. Being at the receiving end of brutality is not reason enough to get a free ride to parliament. Sure. Paska was a lone, strident and effective voice against those who were at the time apologists of the then regime. He was and still is an unrepentant environmentalist and nationalist. He is on the Pohottuwa ticket in the Kalutara District.

There are no doubt such individuals in the UNP and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), but I do not know any. I would urge those who vote for the elephant or the telephone to give a thought to such people when they have to mark their preferential votes.

Lets not forget the independent groups. They have very little chance in the current electoral system. While some of them are essentially nominated by established political parties as insurance (in the event nomination lists get rejected) and/or to boost presence at polling and counting stations, some do stand for something, regional or national.

Ruchira Gunathilaka is contesting from Kalutara on the Independent Group 1 ticket (under the ‘kite’ symbol). This is a group led by philanthropist Mahinda Udawatte who has for 20 years gifted books to literally hundreds of thousands of school children. In December 2019 alone Rs 25 million worth of books were given to school children. No branding. Ruchira is an agriculture graduate who has always championed sustainable livelihoods. He once single-handedly grew 73 varieties of traditional rice to symbolize the theseththee (73) gnaana (wisdoms) of the Buddha. If memory serves me well, he harvested 70 of these varieties and invited 73 families/groups to prepare kiri-aahara for a special pooja at the ancient chaityaya in Mahiyangana. Indefatigable. A nationalist in word and deed.

I am sure there are dozens of Ketapes, Priyanthas, Ruchiras and Paksas contesting this election. I doubt that we will get rid of the 225, but if we want to have a better chance of not regretting our votes, then it wont hurt to consider such people.


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Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric



Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers



Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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A mask of DATES…



Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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