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Oh, what a circus! Oh what a shame!

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No, this time it is not Argentina that has gone to town, but good old Sri Lanka, my beloved paradisiacal homeland. Only thing missing is a flamboyant Evita-type to come and sing the haunting ‘Don’t cry for me’ to complete the carnival. Maybe they should show “Cry the beloved country” on Sirasa, Derana and Rupavahini so that at least it may wake most of us who are dreaming in technicolor of the coming of ‘milk and honey’. We need to wake up to reality. Yes 74 years is a long time to enjoy freedom from the colonial shackles. That is more than adequate for us to charter our own path to prosperity. Sadly, that has not happened and is not happening and seems like nothing will happen as long as the onus is on us the so called ‘democratic Donkey Serenade’ to choose our own leaders.

In 2025, we will have the presidential elections and that will be followed by the general elections. These two all-important events will decide who will govern Mother Lanka for another five years. That is the laid-out roadmap, like what we saw from the day we became an independent nation. The leadership we sent to the parliament strutted on stage and left, some remained venerated, and some converted themselves to prize-winning villains. Let me get back to all that later. Now I got to set the tone for this story. I want to deal first with the “Donkey Serenade” that is us, the voters. We talk of democracy and our choice, and our vote and we go to the polls. But do we really know for whom to vote? Did we know that for the last 73 years? If we had the sense to know who should be sent to the parliament would we be living today in a paradise that is totally misplaced and slowly crawling to become a Paradise Lost?

I agree that it is we who vote and elect the saints to govern us, we the ‘IM’ types. I bet you do not know what an ‘IM’ is? It is a classic definition, ISTHARAM MEEHARAK (first class buffaloes) and I categorically state that I have been a leading ‘IM’ for all the years I have voted. It is not only me but the country’s entire constituency. Be it the man from the North or from the East, or from the South or the West, we who cast our votes are nothing but ‘Istharam Meeharak’, irrespective of which race we belong to or what god we worship. We read the same newspapers, follow the same electronic media, watch the same television shows on the political scene such as Face the Nation, Rathu Ira and Satana and absorb the same information. Then we have Chamuditha or Chethika and their fellow anchor buddies giving voice to angels and archangels from Diyawanna Oya who paint rainbows for themselves and colour their opponents blacker than the devil. We the ‘IM’ comrades hear all this and fall for it hook, line, and sinker. That is how we triumphantly go and waste our valuable votes on the same leaders who have led us ‘down the pallan’ as if it was their birth right to do so.

I wonder whether anyone has the faintest idea whom we should vote for in 2025. Or, is there any logical way we could deduce who the right candidates should be? Aren’t you and I both confirmed ‘IM’ types filled with blissful ignorance to the real facts as to why Mother Lanka has steadily disintegrated to a pauperised debt-ridden Paradise?

The elections will come and the contestants will paint themselves in Lily White and promise the moon and the Milky Way. As for us the ‘IM’s, we will wake with the sun and toddle to the booths and paint our thumbs purple and cast our vote to ruin ourselves and our country for another five years.

The only thing that will be left for us is the stupid celebration after the voting is over. Yes, we can light crackers and partake of kiribath while our much-loved motherland steps into another slippery slope.

That is the ‘Democratic Donkey Serenade’ we eagerly wait for in 2025.

Let’s now change course and see what the ruling class contesting the elections comprises. For all our years of independence has anyone who paraded in the parliament ever been sent behind bars? We must not forget that kissing goes by favour. You are embraced and kissed or thrust aside and kicked. That is how the first lady Prime Minister of the world lost her civic rights and the Field Marshal who led the Army to victory stood in line wearing prison garb and carrying a bucket. No politician was sent behind bars for corruption. The two who were in jail, the man from Hanguranketha and the celluloid hero, wore prison attire for contempt of court. That has been our democracy, Man! For 73 years all the politicians on a corruption parade have been as clean as whistles.

How then can we find even a semblance of a solution to the political quagmire we are stuck in? We need to admit the truth of dirty dealing and begin from there to seek a remedy. From all facts and figures that are available to the voting ‘Donkey Serenade’ it is clear that the ‘Par for the Diyawanna Oya course’ is nothing but CORRUPTION.

Of course, there are some among leaders who play below par and even some who have the distinct honour and integrity of a zero handicap. Like in golf that is the best. Such men and women may seem insignificant in numbers and voiceless in the melee, but they are our only hope. We cannot tar them with the same brush as ‘Forty Thieves’. There are genuine politicians who are honest as the day that dawns. But unfortunately, the majority are corrupt to the core, well-represented by all parties. They play way above par and are hell-bent on serving themselves the Lion’s share the moment the spoon is in their hands. So much so that it is almost the norm of the system to be in the above par category when one starts wielding political power. “He that is without sin among thee, let him cast the first stone”. So says the good book. The tragedy is the stones are all there. But unfortunately, there is hardly anyone innocent of corruption to cast even a single pebble.

We, the voters, may be the ‘Donkey Serenade’ packed with ‘Istharam Meeharak’ like me. But however helpless our lot may be, we are not that naïve. We do know how the cookie has been crumbling for the last 74 years. The problem is we have no answer. We are no different from the mythological Sisyphus, pushing the big boulder up the steep hill. We do it every five years with all our guile and strength and reach the top. Then the inevitable happens. The rock slips and rolls down shattering to smithereens all our fervently-expected political hopes.

Hasn’t that happened before? Then why not again?

2025 is not far away. It is time for us to get ready again to go around the political Mulberry Bush. We have already seen the big guns preparing to hit the trail with meticulous planning. They are sure to be ready to run to the winning post with all barrels firing. The cards are shuffled, and the hands dealt, and the bargaining and trading will go on till the last day. Prospective parliamentarians will get pigeon-holed under the symbols of their godfathers. All this is done to get our vote and collect the number of seats required to rule the parliament. The strategy is fool proof, proven beyond an iota of doubt during our entire independent democratic years.

I do not think that the coming election in three years’ time will be any different. One powerful reason for that is the ‘Donkey Serenade’ filled with people like you and me who will follow the script and cast our votes the way we did before. Remember what happened to the two Army Commanders? They thought they could shake the pillars like the biblical Samson. Sadly, it was they who fell, the pillars held. Apart from the military men there were others who believed they could change the tide. Maybe with the best of intentions. They are lucky if they get away by losing only their deposits, and avoid getting crucified in the shadows.

The elections, if the truth be voiced, are for the Grand Political Masters, and their not so grand platform promises. That is the covenant for the Istharam Meeharak that vote and elect them.

The day we vote for someone who can take the tiller and eradicate corruption from Diyawanna Oya is the day Sri Lanka will turn around and become the Paradise it ought to be.

Then the question is this: will it ever happen?



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Features

Is it impossible to have hope?

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So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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