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No tolerance with crits; gas cylinder bombs



Bold black headline in Monday’s The Island: ‘Sirisena, other SLFP MPs asked to leave govt.’ Cass pounced on the paper and read avidly to find the order was from a mere Cabinet Minister, large though he be in size. She had thought the order was a government decree from the combined forces of Prez and PM through the Presidential Secretariat via SLPP Secy. But then, Cass surmised, swallowing her disappointment, (yea – disappointed it was not a lawfully given order to quit) that Prasanna R was surely the mouthpiece of higher-ups.

So trouble is brewing in this coalition too. Is Sirisena a Jonah by any chance? We know he is an opportunist, a la hopper sharing and then vaulting across, but at that time we approved of him and what he did. He did not vault on his own steam; he was invited to by no less than Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, helped by Madam Chandrika and welcomed by Ranil and other Elephants. However, after his immense good deed of pruning presidential powers and his own at the time, he turned turncoat. He was brought in to banish the presidency, but clung on to it and of course later strengthened it with added autocracy by voting for 20A. Said he’d always ‘Sir’ Ranil as a senior politician, but four years later, unconstitutionally sacked him from the premiership and invited the person he said who would have sent him six feet under if he had lost the election of 2015, to be PM.

Cass’s jaundiced eye, which however indicates 20-20 good vision or normal vision acuity, sees two characteristics buried in the Sri Lankan political psyche, manifest here in this instance. One is leaders’ abhorrence of criticism, however justified. This is especially true of the Rajapaksa leadership. If one criticises them or their government, that one is labeled a traitor and may run the risk of being hounded.

The second characteristic is that always, most politicians’ first concern is self; concern for country coming last. Manifest in Sirisena’s latest move. True, he was coerced into turning rebel by the treatment given him and his SLFPers by the Pohottuwas. But he sees the ship sinking, Cass presumes, and turning rat-like, prepares to abandon it, hoping he will land in a bit of clover. This last is a wishful thought. But one never knows with local politics.

Kitchen explosions

Those housewives actually working in their kitchens were exploded upon by skyrocketing prices of every essential that goes to make a simple meal and a fruit as dessert. They had no milk available at one time, then no gas to cook with. All shocks to the system. But mild compared to the situ now, purchasing bombs instead of gas cylinders and not knowing when they would explode. Totally unfair, nay criminal, to make us Sri Lankan Ordinaries suffer thus when saubhagya living was promised by incoming Prez Gotabaya R and then incoming PM, his brother, and all his Cabinet ministers.

“Causes of gas explosions not determined yet,” says Minister Alagiyawannna. He will add later that compensation will be paid by the government for damage to houses and injury to persons. That is an insult, the greater being that compensation is now a never never payment. Jeff and Mutt, in The Island of November 30, states the most practical solution to the problem: Alagiyawanna should be made to sit on a gas cylinder selected as being onne menna exploding. Not only will he learn a lesson and be reprimanded with punishment but we Ordinaries will chant GROBR – good riddance of bad rubbish.

Page 1 of Wednesday’s The Island carries report ‘More gas explosions’. Page 3 is entirely hogged by Litro Gas with its Important Notice saying the mixture of gases is as it should be and thus laying the blame for the explosions squarely on us, the consumers thus: “The recent incidents and confusion that have occurred have been caused by the use of inferior quality regulators, hoses, cookers, and user negligence.” How dare they? Consumers have safely used gas cylinders these many decades with a very few accidents caused by negligence. But how the sudden spate of explosions, pray?

The last line in the notice says: “For any emergency or issue contact the hotline 1311…” That is if the user is not blown to kingdom come in the interim.

Again offered compensation

‘State Minister Ranasinghe assures farmers using organic fertiliser compensation in event of losses.’ Cass inhales deeply to critique that statement. First: why compensation to farmers using organic fertiliser? If it is, as touted, the panacea of all ills like kidney failure, no compensation is needed. Farmers should be gloriously happy seeing their crops thrive. But they are wisely refusing untested Nano something from India and they will kill themselves if forced-to-accept shitty rotted seaweed from a Chinese manufacturing firm.

Second: Compensation will be terribly severe, needing millions, nay billions of rupees since all farmers of all crops have suffered due to the fertiliser imbroglio, advised by non agriculturists the likes of Dr. Padeniya, and accepted by the Prez even though experts had been against the move of going completely organic too rapidly. Experts’ 20 years to the Prez’s overnight. Why? To get a plus point internationally and his name inscribed thereof: First to go organic.

But no worry: Promises are airy fairy, never kept or dragged along to eternity. Anyway, how to pay compensation when the country’s money barrels, SL rupees and dollars, are being scraped and nothing gathered. So dire our finances.

The third comment is a repetition of Cass’ recommendation of last Friday. If mighty Modi could eat humble pie because of India’s farmers who were not close to death or suicide, why not our Prez admit a mistake was made, but righteously, and allow imports of chemical fertilisers the land and farmers are used to. Much cheaper than paying compensation and having farmers throw in their towels and us Ordinaries having food shortages to contend with in the near future.

However, is it too late to turn back the clock of agricultural disaster; of staring-us-in-the-face near starvation with failed crops, both commercial and consumer? The Prez, along with all Sri Lankans, is sitting on a time bomb. Cass here refers not to the gas cylinder bombs but to the political bomb of a fall-out of a grossly gigantic mistaken decision.

Cass can hardly whisper goodbye for this week. She is weak in body and despairing in spirit. Why the former condition? Her gas cylinder ran out but she was too scared to risk buying a replacement. So no home cooked food and no money to buy restaurant food!

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Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement



Protesters demanding local goverment elections

by Jehan Perera

The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.

The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.

The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.


The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.

So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.

On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.


The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.

There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.

It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.

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Sing-along… Down Memory Lane



Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!

I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.

It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.

Melantha Perera: President of Moratuwa Arts Forum

I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),

The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.

Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.

During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.

Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.

Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.

The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.

Down Memory Lane


Fun time for the audience Down Memory Lane

Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.

The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,

Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.

President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”

Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).

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‘Ranpota’ hitmaker



Nimal Jayamanne

CATCH 22 for

‘Ranpota’ hitmaker Nimal Jayamanne has got a new outfit going, made up of veteran musicians.

The band is called CATCH 22 and they, officially, started performing at The Warehouse (TWH), on 2nd March 2023.

The members are Nimal Jayamanne, R. Sumith Jayaratne, Duminda Sellappruma, Keerthi Samarasekara and Sajith Mutucumarana.

Says Nimal: “I took this name (CATCH 22) as a mark of respect to the late and great Hassan Musafer, who was the drummer of the original Catch 22.

You could catch Nimal in action, on Thursday evenings, at TWH, from 7 pm onwards.

Till recently, Nimal, who underwent a cataract operation, on his left eye, last week, was with Warehouse Legends, and has this to say about them:

“Thank you Warehouse Legends for letting me be an active member of your team, during the past year and 14 days. I wish you all the best.”

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