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Looking forward to better times

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By Rajitha Ratwatte

Here in Aotearoa, we are looking forward to better times. The summer is almost here, and sports wise we are looking at a smooth transition from a packed rugby season to some international cricket. The All Blacks our rugby union team (for the benefit of the uninitiated) made short work of the Argentinian Pumas, after actually losing to them (sacrilege!) and seem to have secured all the silverware available. The Bledisloe cup after whipping the Aussies (a common occurrence these days) and they seem to have done enough to secure the Tri Nations trophy. There is still one match to go, when Argentina will do their best to beat Australia and seem to have a good chance of doing so.

We have one more domestic game on the cards. The Maori All Blacks, a team that wears the black jersey but can only have players with Maori blood in them (rather racist in these politically correct times what!) will play a Moana Pacifika team. The Moana Pacifika team will consist of players mainly from the pacific Islands on Tonga and Samoa, I believe. It is hoped that such a team will have a regular slot in the super rugby tournament from 2022 onwards. A brief look at the future perhaps? Or maybe just a final attempt by Sky TV who have chosen not to show cricket in Aotearoa, to deflect some sports fans from the cricket?

The Cricket season has started. The West Indies are here and first T20 was played in Auckland and started with a bang! Firstly, the notoriously fickle Auckland weather managed to produce a cloudless blue sky right up to the start of the match and contrived a series of rain showers that interrupted play thrice during the match. Another significance was that all players on and off the field and the umpires, “took a knee” in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement. This was done after the umpires called play and before the first ball was bowled. Some players also held a clenched fist in the air, the black power salute, others didn’t! Rather dramatic and a rather unnecessary involvement for the noble game of cricket…. I wonder? During the match too, the Windies had 50 runs for no loss in 2 overs and then lost 5 wickets for one run! Nothing to do with the weather and more to do with the searing scorching pace of one Lockie Ferguson, ironic isn’t it? The Windies being undone by pace.

The second T20 was a bit of a thrashing for the Windies. We saw a 40-ball century from a debutant for NZ. Phillips who would not have even got a game if the full X1 was available. In theory this could mean that NZ has a huge depth of cricketing talent, but I beg to differ. As a level 3 qualified umpire who does the club games and the premier women’s game, the talent in Aotearoa is nowhere near what is available in the Pearl. But these guys and gals’ deliver when it counts. It is always sad to see the Windies humiliated. My memories are of a Clive Lloyd led bunch of world beaters, with Greenidge, Haynes, Richards and those awesome pace bowlers, Roberts, Marshall, Garner Et Al. Of course, the 3 W’s, Sobers, Hall, Griffith, Valentine and Ramadin who preceded them.

We have much more cricket in store. The Pakistanis are already here, all 51 of them! Talk about large teams, how you can send 51 players and officials to play a game that has only 11 players on the field at any one time? Take note cricket board officials of the Pearl, you haven’t thought that one up yet have you? The minister, deputy and their entire families can come next time! Not only is such a large contingent here, under quarantine and six of them already with covid, they are also flouting the quarantine regulations of the country. The Pakistanis are apparently under their last warning, I wonder what will be done to them if they continue this (typically?) irresponsible behaviour? Will they be deported en mass?!! The former tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has warned New Zealand in return, to watch what they say to quarantine rule breakers. The Rawalpindi Express may have lost his pace but none of his irresponsible behaviour or reckless, foolish talk. This is the man who told an ICC disciplinary hearing into his misconduct during a match with the possible penalty being suspension, “they come to watch me play, not you guys officiate”!

We also have the Bangladeshis coming and of course a few games against the Aussies to end the cricket season. A long and interesting summer of cricket ahead. You dear readers, will have an accredited representative present in the press box of all the grounds, I will be looking for personal stories and local insights as the statistics-based cricket match reports published by the accepted agencies, are much better than my amateurish efforts! I for one will find it blissful to watch the first session of a test match with the Kiwi or Pakistani pace bowlers making the ball sing (and I mean sing not swing) on a fresh green wicket, in pure relaxed concentration, rather than having to make notes for the benefit of my readers.

I hear you have a premier league of sorts going on in the pearl. Hope you get to enjoy the cricket without any inherent scandals. I wonder if you can go to the grounds or if it will all be on TV? The big advantage that Aotearoans’ have at present is that they can actually go to the grounds.

The Covid vaccine that is apparently on its way soon should alleviate matters. Maybe the tourist season can be reactivated by August next year (in time for the Kandy Perehera), not too far away in the greater scheme of things. Shops and businesses may be able to achieve “normalcy” sooner. The economy can start humming again and maybe the Middle east will start recruiting their cheap labour?

People are gearing up for Christmas in Aotearoa. The “Black Friday” sales are in progress and by all accounts, record numbers have been achieved. All the money saved by Kiwis by being unable to travel abroad is now been spent locally. The economy is buzzing over here, although the long-term effects have yet to be seen, and the real estate market is going crazy. All the returning Kiwis’ are creating havoc in an already overheated housing market by buying houses on line, without even seeing them. The profile and demographic of these returning Kiwis’ is young professional couples with young children who have sold a house abroad. So, plenty of cash and big demand in the high decile school zones, where the houses are already in high demand. A big increase in supply of houses is needed and needed soon. One fears that a moribund government sector with largely ineffectual and inefficient management and decision-making skills, will not be up to the mark. There are SOME similarities between the Pearl and Aotearoa, a moribund public service being one!

A reasonable assumption is that “things can only get better” and of course that “nothing lasts forever”. So, chin up everyone and keep smiling, may the season of good cheer bring you many blessing and more than a little good cheer!

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Features

Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Features

Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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Features

LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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