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NIGHT MARKET, Street Food and Musical Fiesta with a Cause

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The second edition of the Nightmarket, an outdoor fair organized by Dilmah’s MJF Foundation will be held at its Centre in Moratuwa on Saturday, October 30th from 5:30pm onwards, the organizers said in a news release.

“The theme this month revolves around Halloween and provides an opportunity to support small local businesses and first time entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic. A family oriented fair with something for everyone, this month’s Nightmarket promises to provide fun, family entertainment in a socially distant manner,” it said.

“Held at the MJF Centre in Katubedde, next to the K-Zone, the event promises live musical entertainment, food stalls, educational stalls and a “not so-Spooky” night tour of Sri Lanka’s first urban arboretum. A seasonal movie for children is also part of the line-up. The event will also feature Dilmah Conservation showcasing their publications and their educational series around beekeeping and home gardening.

“In addition to supporting business, the fair also hopes to support veteran and aspiring musicians who have been affected by the lockdown. The stalls feature a range of products from clothing, foodstuff, services, natural products, and jewelry featuring both first time and experienced vendors.”

“Nightmarket is an opportunity for those entrepreneurs that grew out of hardship – it gives them a chance to engage with consumers, listen to them and learn how to sell products that are aligned with the market.” said Dilhan C. Fernando CEO of Dilmah and Trustee of the MJF Foundation. “It supports entrepreneurship a subject that is close to my father’s heart and his philosophy of making business a matter of human service” he said.

All stalls are provided at no cost; the only guidelines for participants is that the product must be an original item produced by them or others with a sustainable background. As a zero waste event, all stalls are required to adhere to the stringent guidelines around sustainable packaging and waste.

Visitors will also receive a glimpse of the services provided at the MJF Centre which offers free IT courses, a culinary school, other vocational training, after school programmes for children, English classes for youth, sewing and cookery classes for adults, programmes for senior citizens and education and therapy for children and youth with disabilities.

For further information or to book a stall please call 070 1888 323 or email info@mjffoundation.org



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Will these bills amplify women’s voices?

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Ambika Satkunanathan

Women empowerment, gender and equality

By Zanita Careem

Ambika Satkunanathan is a human rights advocate based in Sri Lanka. For more than twenty years she has worked with persons and communities impacted by human rights violations, and assisted them with accessing remedies. From Oct 2015 to March 2020, she was a Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, where she led the first ever national study of prisons. Prior to that foreight years she was a Legal Advisor to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 
 She is a board member of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Torture, a member of the Expert Panel of the Trial Watch Project of the Clooney Foundation and a member of the Network of Experts of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. 
 Her research, advocacy and activism have focused on counter-terrorism law and policy, drug control and rehabilitation, transitional justice, custodial violence, penal policy, militarization and gender. Her research on drug control, detention and rehabilitation in Sri Lanka, the first such study, was published in August 2021 by Harm Reduction International. She is currently working on recording the experiences of women who come into conflict with the law due to drug offences. 
 Her publications include contributions to the International Journal of Transitional Justice, the Oxford Handbook of Gender & Conflict, the Routledge Handbook on Human Rights in South Asia, Feminist Studies and Contemporary South Asia. 
 She is Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, a local grantmaking organisation in Sri Lanka and was a founder member and Vice Chairperson of Urgent Action Fund- Asia and Pacific, a feminist regional grantmaking organisation.
 She was an Open Society Fellow from 2020-2022. She has a B.A. and LL.B from Monash University Australia and a LL.M from University of Nottingham, where she was a Chevening Scholar.

Could you tell us about you and some of the early influence in your life?

My experiences as a Tamil in Sri Lanka influenced the way I engaged with the world and drove me to work in human rights protection because I became aware of discrimination, violence and prejudice even as a child. As I grew older, as a woman, I experienced different forms of discrimination and prejudice that women generally face, which were worsened by my ethnic identity. This point at which both my identities intersected, and where I was exposed to the violent and ugly side of humanity is where what I believe something positive- my work, values and activism- were born.

Tell us about your most inspiring moments in your work so far?

In the kind of work I do, what I find most inspiring are the people that despite being subject to discrimination, loss, violence and pain, continue to struggle for their rights and that of others; those who continue to be humane despite the inhumane way in which the world has treated them.

What do your experience as the main challenge as someone working on human rights. And how do you deal with obstacles in your work?

The main challenge persons working on human rights protection face is the state/government viewing persons who work on human rights as enemies and threats to their power, and constantly trying to intimidate and/or discredit them and curtial and/or undermine their work.

The lack of viable, substantive and holistic remedies for persons who experience human rights violations is also a considerable challenge. Even the remedies that do exist, such as filing a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court or complaning to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka can take months or even years, and even when a remedy is granted, it does not address all aspects of the violations experienced.

Not surprisingly, the various difficulties faced in supporting victims of human rights violations and assisting them to obtain remedies as well as challenging abusive state power can lead to feelings frustration or dejection. Personally, as a Tamil woman working on human rights I have often been labelled a terrorist, LTTE, anti-national, traitor and subject to gender-based online abuse, vilification and harassment.

One of the ways to deal with these obstacles is through collaborative work, partnerships and networks, and sharing resources. The other is long-overdue state reform, including reform of institutions such as the police. Human rights activists can advocate for such reform but it requires political will and progressive vision, which to date is sorely lacking in Sri Lanka. Another means is to step up and support those that are being attacked for the work they do or because of an aspect of their identity, such as LGBTIQ persons.

Your news on women empowerment bill, gender and equality Bill. Will these bills implement concrete actions to amplify women’s voices. There had been a national policy on women’s empowerment since 1911 your comments?

Many provisions of the Gender Equality Bill and the Women’s Empowerment Act give the appearance of sections of national action plans that have been turned into law. For instance, what is the purpose of making the appointment of focal points, which is an administrative function, a provision in a law? Furthermore, women’s groups and activists have stated they were not consulted on the gazetted version of the laws. Hence, the lawmaking process seems haphazard, was lacking in transparency and was not inclusive. The President’s remarks in parliament about the Supreme Court determination on the Gender Equality Bill where he stated that a parliamentary committee should be appointed to review the determination seems like an attempt to control judges and threatens the independence of the judiciary. Although the Suprene Court determination is problematic and not progressive, the executive undermining the independence of public institutions, particularly the judiciary, will only further erode the rule of law and democracy in Sri Lanka.

Enacting laws or establishing commissions or institutions will not magically lead to gender equality or women’s empowerment. To achieve gender equality, we need to acknowlege the patriarchal nature of Sri Lankan society and address misogyny, sexism and discrimination structurally and socially. This means we must address it in the family, school, universities, workplaces and particularly public institutions and systems.

Most importantly, do not forget that every right the government undermines, also undermines the rights of women and their safety and security. Every government attempt to undermine the rule of law, also adversely impacts women. Therefore, enacting these laws, while undermining the rule of law and public institutions and enabling violence by state entities, such as the police, is farcical and will only further undermine the rights, security and well-being of women.

Human rights remains a issue not only in Sri Lankan but all over the world. What is your assessment of the situation?

As you rightly say, human rights are under threat globally and the international legal order is being attacked and undermined. Sri Lanka is complicit in this as much as global powers, such as the US. What the detractors of the international legal order do not seem to understand or perhaps do not care about is that respecting the international legal order, international human rights standards and international processes, such as the UN processes, creates safety for all of us. Yet, the reality is that generally states do not like to be held accountable and go on the offensive when challenged, particularly in international fora as they feel being held accountable is a loss of face. States also weaponize human rights against certain countries and contexts and countries often point to other states that flout international law to justify their own violations. None of these positions are valid or viable. As I say, this is not a race to the bottom and you cannot claim the protections that international law affords only when it is expedient because then others will do the same and the result will be anarchy.

Specifically what are the main problem areas of human rights in Sri Lanka?

We have a government that does not respect the rule of law – for instance, police officers engaging in torture and the government and other state entities ignoring Supreme Court judgments and determinations is quite common. This further entrenches impunity and enables the government and state entities to abuse their power and continue to committ human rights violations. There is lack of trust in public institutions due to successive governments undermining their independence and policitising them.

Corruption is another critical issue that needs to be addressed. Repressive laws that do not adhere to international human rights standards, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Vagrants Ordinance, the Online Safety Act and provisions that criminalise same sex relations remain on the statute books.

Fifteen years after the end of the war a political solution to the ethnic conflict is elusive, and those responsible for war time violations have not been held accountable. Instead, war affected populations in the North and East, such as the families of the disappeared that demand truth and justice are surveilled, intimidated and harassed. This year families of those killed during the last stages of the war were not even allowed to hold ceremonies to remember the dead.

Socio-economic rights are also human rights- hence there are many violations that are taking place, including due to the economic crisis, such as the loss of livelihood, increasing poverty, malnutrition and reduced access to health care and education. The position of social groups that have been marginalised and discriminated against, such as persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ persons and Muslims and Malaiyaha communities remain largely unaddressed.

What are the main changes you like to see in the world particularly in relation to women and their rights?

I would like to see a world that is not patriarchal, sexist or misogynist- in which women do not have to constantly struggle to be seen, respected or heard. A world in which they are equal and have the choice to make decisions about their bodies and their lives, without being criminalised, abused, vilified, ridiculed or controlled.

ambikasat@gmail.com

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Third Anniversary with launch of new fragrances

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The launch of three exquisite new fragrances in signature ACE perfume range were launched by La. Perfumurie.lk recently.This event marked a significant journey of innovation, dedication, and a commitment to making luxury scents accessible to all.

Founded in October 2019, La.Perfumerie.lk started as a humble endeavour in the residences of its founders. By 2021, the brand had established its first flagship store in Dehiwala, driven by a vision to transform the local perfume market. Over three years, La.Perfumerie.lk has expanded its footprint with four physical stores located in Dehiwala, Chatham Street, Kandy, and Awissawella.

La.Perfumerie.lk is the brainchild of a few friends, each bringing unique expertise to the table. Founder and Director of Sales and Marketing, Shifan Najumudeen; Director of Finance and Human Resources, Rakeeb Rafee and Director of Production, Arshadh Anver. They have collectively driven the brand’s success by overlooking different areas of the business. Together, they embarked on a journey of education and exploration, immersing themselves in the art of perfumery. Their dedication to creating Sri Lankan, handcrafted luxury fragrances has borne fruit, with products that resonate deeply with consumers.

La.Perfumerie.lk is dedicated to celebrating individuality through scent, empowering customers to express their authentic selves. The brand’s perfumes are meticulously crafted to suit the tropical climate of Sri Lanka, ensuring longevity with scents lasting over 10 hours. Each product is manufactured and made entirely in Sri Lanka, a testament to the brand’s commitment to local production and quality.

“Our vision from day one has been to offer exquisite fragrances that last long and are budget-friendly,” stated Shifan. “Our fragrances are organic, free of chemicals and alcohol, ensuring no irritation to the skin. These natural oil-based products are ideal for the local humid weather.”

This store offers an extensive array of perfumes, with a 75-scent collection featuring 50 fragrances for men and over 25 for women. The brand’s acclaimed ACE range includes 16 unique fragrances known for their exceptional quality and variety. The ACE collection boasts a rich blend of spicy, ambery, floral, and woody notes. Popular fragrances include Vanilla, Pink Pepper, Lavender, Agarwood, Musk, Cinnamon, Frangipani, and Amber, delivering a sophisticated blend of warm and spicy aromas suitable for both men and women. This range exemplifies the brand’s dedication to providing high-end, affordable luxury.

Head of Growth and Marketing, Yaasir Faizee emphasised the importance of purchasing and producing locally stating, “Billions of rupees are spent on importing various international perfume products. We want to bridge a gap in the local perfume market and encourage people to shop locally. Our high-end position reflects our quality and product development. Our customers can have not only one fragrance but several interchangeable ones for a fraction of the price and almost the same fragrance as a popular brand label.”

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The marathon Indian wedding turning heads around the world

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After months of festivities, the Ambani wedding is finally coming to an end [BBC]

How much is too much?

That’s the question many in India are asking as the months-long wedding festivities for the youngest son of Asia’s richest man enter their final phase.

The celebrations are expected to culminate this weekend when Anant Ambani, the youngest son of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, ties the knot with Radhika Merchant, daughter of pharma tycoons Viren and Shaila Merchant.

There have been four months of lavish events leading up to the wedding itself. All the glamourous outfits, stunning jewellery, fairytale-like decor and rare performances by Indian and global stars have been the focus of much public attention.

“It is nothing short of a royal wedding,” says writer and columnist Shobhaa De. “Our billionaires are the new Indian maharajahs. Their shareholders expect nothing less than a mega extravaganza.”

Indians “have always loved pomp and pageantry – just like the British”, she says, adding that “the scale [of the wedding] is in keeping with the Ambani wealth”.

But the hullabaloo around the wedding has drawn as much ire as public fascination. Many have criticised the opulence and the sheer magnitude of wealth on display in a country where tens of millions live below the poverty line and where income equality is extreme.

The wedding can easily be seen as a kind of a mockery, a sort of blindness to the reality of the country at one level. At another level, however ridiculous this might be, it is still in keeping with the grossly distorted, almost grotesque bloating of Indian weddings in the last decade or so,” writer and commentator Santosh Desai tells the BBC.

“It is part of a larger shift that is taking place. A generation or two ago, wealth was spoken of in whispers. Today, wealth must speak as loudly as possible. Even then, the scale of this wedding makes it an outlier.”

Getty Images The Ambani house in Mumbai
The main wedding is set to take place at the family residence in Mumbai [BBC]
EPA Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani (R) and his wife Neeta Ambani gesture during a mass wedding ceremony for underprivileged couples at Reliance Corporate Park, in Navi Mumbai, India, 02 July 2024
Parents Neeta and Mukesh Ambani are leaving no stone unturned to make the celebrations memorable [BBC]

With a sprawling business empire – ranging from oil, telecoms, chemicals, technology and fashion to food – the Ambanis are a ubiquitous presence in India and their lives are the subject of intense public fascination.

Mr Ambani’s personal fortune is estimated at a staggering $115bn (£90bn). Anant, 29, holds a position on the Reliance Industries board of directors.

Ambani senior, along with fellow Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani, is reported to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, with opposition parties accusing the authorities of unduly favouring the two business houses – accusations both the government and the businessmen deny.

While the Ambani family’s enormous wealth and clout are well known in India, many outside the country may not have realised the extent of their riches until now.

That changed in March, when Mr Ambani hosted a three-day pre-wedding party for his son.

Reuters Indian actress Janhvi Kapoor poses on the red carpet during the sangeet ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant at Jio World Centre, Mumbai, India, July 5, 2024.
Some of Bollywood’s biggest stars, like Janhvi Kapoor, have attended the pre-wedding events [BBC]
Reuters A band plays drums during the pre-wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant outside the residence of Mukesh Ambani, in Mumbai, India, July 3, 2024.
The festivities have included musicians, parties, luxury cruises and several traditional ceremonies [BBC]

The festivities were held in the family’s hometown Jamnagar in the western state of Gujarat, which is also the location of Mr Ambani’s oil refinery – the largest in the world. Some 1,200 guests attended, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The party began with a dinner held inside a glasshouse especially built for the occasion. The stunning structure reportedly resembles Palm House, a crystalline Victorian-style building located in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which was a favourite of Ms Merchant when she was a college student in New York City.

The feast was followed by a performance by Rihanna and viral videos showed the Ambani family grooving with the popstar on stage. If people hadn’t been paying attention, they definitely were now.

Reuters Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses with Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, during their pre-wedding celebrations in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was among the guests at the pre-wedding celebrations in March [BBC]
Reuters Rihanna performs in Jamnagar for the Ambani pre-wedding party
Popstar Rihanna performed for the family in March [BBC]

Through it all, dozens of speciality chefs served some 2,000 dishes, carefully curated from around the world, to guests lodged in luxury tents, with personal makeup artists and stylists at their service.

There was also a 10-page manual on the dress code for the events, which included a “jungle fever” theme for a visit to a family-owned animal sanctuary, followed by a Moulin Rouge-themed “house party” held at the sprawling grounds of their palatial residence.

The bride-to-be wore a number of specially crafted outfits, including two lehngas (long bridal silk skirts) – one studded with 20,000 Swarovski crystals and another that reportedly took 5,700 hours to make – and a pink version of a Versace dress that actor Blake Lively wore to the 2022 Met Gala.

The groom mostly wore Dolce & Gabbana outfits and flaunted a Richard Mille wristwatch, worth an estimated $1.5m. A viral video of Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan gawking at the watch went viral in India.

Newspapers and websites perfectly captured the opulence of these dazzling events, attended by the glitterati from around the world. “It was almost like the time of maharajahs 100 years down the line,” the New York Times reported.

Reuters Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani, sons of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, pose with Shloka Mehta Ambani, wife of Akash, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, during pre-wedding celebrations of Anant and Radhika in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024. Reliance
Akash Ambani and Anant Ambani with Shloka Mehta Ambani, wife of Akash, and bride-to-be Radhika Merchant [BBC]

There was also backlash after India’s government overnight designated the city’s small airport into an international airport, expanded its staff and deployed military and air force personnel in service of the family.

The final night of the three-day jamboree, which ended with a shower of confetti, fireworks and a lightshow, set the tone for what was to come next.

In June, the couple and their guests took their pre-wedding celebrations overseas, literally. The party, which included top Bollywood stars, embarked on a luxury cruise along the stunning azure coastline of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy, to the French Mediterranean.

They stopped in Rome, Portofino, Genoa and Cannes for late-night revelry that reportedly brought complaints from local people.

This time, the celebrations had performances by 90s teen heartthrobs The Backstreet Boys, singer Katy Perry and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

This week, yet another set of wedding celebrations kicked off on the family’s home turf, Mumbai, with a performance by Justin Bieber.

A video of him singing at the edge of the stage as the bride and her friends sing along has been viewed 38 million times. It shows ecstatic women in sequined gowns and saris as they punch their fists skyward in glee. The crowd doesn’t miss a beat to Bieber’s verse: You should go and love yourself.

Instagram Justin Bieber performing at party for the Ambanis
Justin Bieber’s performance captured attention around the world [BBC]

Reuters Anant Ambani, son of businessman Mukesh Ambani, arrives with his fiance Radhika Merchant on the red carpet during the sangeet ceremony at Jio World Centre, Mumbai, India, July 5, 2024.
Groom and bride have made public appearances throughout the celebrations [BBC]

The scale of the celebrations show that nothing is out of reach for the family. And there is speculation that Adele could be performing at the actual wedding this weekend – the family, however, are tight-lipped.

Of course, India isn’t a stranger to the concept of big fat weddings – the country is the largest spender on marriage ceremonies after the US.

Tina Tharwani, co-founder of the Shaadi Squad, says in recent years, there’s been a noticeable trend where weddings have become larger-than-life events that veer towards excessiveness, driven by societal expectations, competitive displays of status, and a desire to create memorable moments.

So, we’ve seen expensive weddings routinely make headlines in recent years, such as this $74mwedding in 2016.

Other Ambani children have also had lavish pre-wedding festivities. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among attendees at Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding bash in 2018, which featured a performance by Beyoncé. A year later, Akash Ambani’s pre-wedding bash featured a performance by Coldplay.

Reuters Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, shares a moment with Ivanka Trump during pre-wedding celebrations of Ambani's son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 1, 2024
Ivanka Trump (left) met Nita Ambani at the pre-wedding celebrations in March [BBC]
Reuters Actor Shah Rukh Khan, his wife Gauri and their son AbRam pose during the pre-wedding celebrations of Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India
Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan has attended the pre-wedding events [BBC]

When it comes to scale, though, this is the mother of all weddings, says Ashwini Arya, owner of an event management company that has managed weddings in 14 countries.

“It’s like the bible for the industry with the best of logistics, tech, design and grandeur.

“You’re talking about preparations of a minimum of two years, multiple recce trips, approvals and permissions from several countries, along with the logistics of arranging security and transport for some of the biggest personalities of the world,” he says.

EPA Ambani family hosts mass wedding for underprivileged couples in Mumbai, India - 02 Jul 2024
As part of celebrations, the family hosted a mass wedding for underprivileged couples [BBC]

The Ambanis have not revealed how much this wedding is costing them but Mr Arya estimates that they have already spent nywhere between 11bn and 13bn rupees [$132m-$156m]. It was rumoured Rihanna had been paid $7m (£5.5m) for her performance, while the figure suggested for Bieber is $10m.

Money was also lavished on constructing 14 temples inside a sprawling complex in Jamnagar to showcase India’s cultural heritage and provide a backdrop for the wedding. As part of the celebrations, the Ambanis hosted a mass wedding for 50 underprivileged couples too.

It’s being said the family pulled out all the stops because with all the Ambani children married, this would be their last wedding for the foreseeable future.

But with each event, public criticism of the celebration in India has grown – from people aghast at the massive jewels worn by Nita Ambani to exasperation and anger among Mumbai residents over traffic restrictions in a city already struggling with traffic jams and monsoon flooding.

Reuters Decorations seen outside the Ambani residence, Antilia during the pre-wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Mumbai, India, July 3, 2024.
The celebrations have caused anger and exasperation among Mumbai residents [BBC]
Reuters Actors Salman Khan, Ram Charan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan perform during the pre-wedding celebrations of Anant Ambani, son of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, and Radhika Merchant, daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant, in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, March 2, 2024
But for Bollywood’s biggest names, this is the place to be [BBC]

For India’s wedding industry though, it’s still an exciting marketing opportunity.

This is an excellent chance for designers to showcase the more refined side of India’s couture, artistry and craftsmanship, says Anand Bhushan, a fashion designer. That said, the frequency, with celebrities changing five-six outfits per event can sometimes feel a “little saturating”, he admits.

Ms Tharwani says the wedding serves as “an exemplary case” of orchestrating a multi-event, multi-location celebration “that combines tradition, modernity, and unmatched hospitality standards”.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, Varindar Chawla, one of Bollywood’s best-known paparazzi, is sifting through the photographs of the celebrations.

There are a few of celebrities posing at the entrance as they arrive to attend the various events.

Each one of these pictures – even the unflattering ones, such as of a star looking stunned as the glare of a camera-flash hits them in the face – has been fetching millions of views and shares.

“Usually it’s hard to penetrate events of this scale. But this family has gone out of the way to ensure we are there to cover every little detail,” he says.

“It’s a royal wedding and we are getting a royal treatment.”

[BBC]

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