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Pandora’s box of incendiary papers; no national acclaim for our singer of international fame

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Oh-me-gosh! Financial secrets may be out! Even if censorship is imposed, some damage is done to corrupt rogues who often enrich themselves at the expense of their motherland. The damage? Burning anxiety, sleepless nights, stress and fear of being stripped metaphorically naked to public view. That itself is half punishment.

Pandora Papers

Very interesting to write about these papers that have very recently jack-in-the-box-jumped out in bang bang fashion, probably unexpectedly but with sure fire defamation of some very high world VVIPs, a couple still heading their countries like Putin. Discussion about these papers in reference to our beautiful island gone rotten with corruption is flying around among our expat Sri Lankans in the US and Australia, and surely in other countries too. Most probably ours too, but Cass is no Facebook aficionado.

The papers were compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – an ensemble of 600 journos from 150 media outlets in 117 countries. The papers shed light on previously hidden dealings of the elite and corrupt and how they have used offshore accounts to shield asset collections worth trillions of dollars. (Wish we could get some to pay off parts at least of our national debt! The couple mentioned should be fined, Cass shouts). Millions of documents – “largest trove of leaked data exposing tax haven secrecy in history” – reveal off shore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, 30 world leaders and 300 public officials.

Sri Lanka has had one, actually a husband and wife, exposed as listed in the Pandora Papers. That’s the one leak over here. Since she is a relative of the ruling Rajapaksas, she may escape actual punishment by law, but her reputation as a smart woman and previous MP are shattered. May be a reputation and earned esteem from people is much more valuable than rupees or dollars or pounds sterling, however large that haul may be.

One matter that Cass – old, experienced and of worldly wisdom – cannot understand is the urge, nay madness to go on amassing stolen wealth. Hasn’t the hidden message that Covid-19 brought in – the ephemerality of life; how a life having youth, good health and all the wealth in the world can be snuffed out gasping for oxygen? We Ordinaries have believed the truth of the sheer impermanence of life, taught by the Buddha –- but consequent to the suffering during the pandemic, we have realised the truth. Do not those who previously had no money to go on an educational tour, or travelled by push bike, or even were well-to -do, know that money amassing should have a limit? Doesn’t look like it. Some said, wait and see – retribution will come for corruption, while others said – no, they get on fine. Now a sword of Damocles has appeared. Maybe ineffective in good ole Sri Lanka but … Sharp minds with good advice to successfully stash away ill-gotten wealth may escape but one never knows…

A world acclaimed singer – unsung officially in Sri Lanka

Cass wrote about Yohani de Silva in her last Friday’s column but she avers it is very much in order to give her a further paragraph or two this Friday too. She was labeled by ole Cass as ‘sweet singer’. Kudos have been showered on her (internationally it must be mentioned) and my goodness, President Biden no less, is reported to have said he would like to hear her sing after hearing the young violinist play the tune of Yohani and Satheesha’s Menike mage hithe on a Californian street, just as his ambassador to Sri Lanka – Alaina B Teplitz –praised Yohani. She was near mobbed by adoring fans when she went to India to give a performance but rushed back to keep a singing date. And she remains her unsophisticated, sincere self. Thank goodness! It’s her home and school upbringing (she acknowledges her Major General father’s admonitions) and her higher education and wide exposure to the world that keeps her unswollen head firmly on her shoulders. What a sharp and appreciated contrast to many of our starlets, models and one beauty queen. (I wonder who the young woman was who was questioned by a reporter whether she was with Lohan Rat when he visited the Welikada Prison. She replied sharply as if the journo was grossly unfair to her that she had never seen or spoken to the said Lohan)

Well, the above bit about lovable Yohani is due to watching a YouTube titled ‘Talk with Sudaththa’ in which he spoke glowingly (completely justified) in praise of Yohani and commented that the government has failed to acknowledge the fame and recognition she has brought to the country. He said SJB MP Nalin Bandara had proposed this recognition in Parliament but not taken up at all with only a nod from the Speaker. He used some choice epithets for the MPS – nari rela et al.

Recognition by the powers that be seems to be choosy and favoured. I remember how Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala was hardly recognised for her stupendous feat of summiting Mt Everest on May 21, 2016, and was hardly mentioned by any VVIP. No national honour given her and her climbing companion Johan Peries who succeeded to summit Everest two years later.

Another missed honour-giving was when Kumar Sangakkara led the cricket team for a World Cup in 2007. Our team was tops but there definitely was a jinx; apparent in Kumar’s facial expression and body language as he walked to the centre of the grounds to toss the coin. Sri Lanka were runners-up to India, but no kudos at all, while on a later date, Cass believes, winning a series against Australia got the cricketers brand new cars. Correct Cass if she is wrong

as she writes from memory. We all remember full well Sangakkara’s brilliant MCC ‘Spirit of Cricket’ address at Lords in 2011. He received the rare honour of a standing ovation over in the UK and here at home, a threat from the then Minister of Sports. Aluthgamage, to have his speech “investigated”. Both these so absurdly laughable; proving again you have to be a stooge to be honoured in this Land like no Other or better, belong to a certain family! Favour goes to those who run behind politicians. Cass adds this does not seem to be the case with the colour green and now the telephone symbol.

Dazzling but lacking in haute couture elegance

Talking also of grace and dignity, plenty of which Yohani presents in her clothes, grooming and demeanour, one wonders who designs the clothes for the female compere and the woman judge – small screen star and dancer – in the Hiru channel’s Dream Star Contests. The finals were this last weekend and the previous weekend. The woman judge was all a glitter with epaulets of hanging gold tassels, which quite debased her natural good looks. The female compere sported a shimmery broad-shouldered dress with outsize sleeves and the skirt so short it was right up where the thigh meets hip. The leggy creature left little to the imagination, but a blush of shame on Cass’ mug. Cass merely glances at this show to gape and gasp at the fashions or lack of same. Such show off borders on the vul – sorry – lack of real taste. Imitation of Emmy and Grammy dressed stars does not suit our locals and anyway those foreign singers/dancers dress stunningly but with saving grace. In contrast to most locals, Upuli Panibaratha, who was a judge at another dance contest, was in an Indian traditional silk draped beautifully, complementing her and enhancing her dignified personality.

Final guffaw

A quote from abroad brought to Cass’ notice the anguish suffered and reward offered for finding Chi Chi, the fabulously expensive angora cat belonging to the family of the youngest son of the PM of Free Sri Lanka. It was answered by another anguished man who said his son was lost but had no wealth to reward the finder or info giver. Was the famous feline found? Had it temporarily escaped luxury and comfort desiring a mundane existence or was it stolen?

Talking, and seriously this time, Mohamed Zahran writes a letter to Editor of The Island on Wednesday 6 October on the Smell of Garlic, commending the all-too-rare whistle blower, Exec Director of Consumer Affairs Authority – Thusan Goonawardena – for boldly exposing the garlic scam. “The government should not allow him to resign but grant him a promotion. We need more people of his calibre …” Yes, most definitely yes adds Cassandra as she takes your leave for a week.



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Features

Encouraging signs, indeed!

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Derek and Manilal

Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving

Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.

They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.

The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.

On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.

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Constructive dialogue beyond international community

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by Jehan Perera

Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.

In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”

Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”

INTERNAL FRAGMENTATION

The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.

There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.

President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.

EARLY WARNING

An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.

The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.

Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.

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JAYASRI twins…in action in Europe

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The world over, the music scene has been pretty quiet, and we all know why. This pandemic has created untold hardships for, practically, everyone, and, the disturbing news is that, this kind of scene has been predicted for a good part of 2022, as well,

 

The band JAYASRI, however, based in Europe, and fronted by the brothers Rohitha and Rohan, say they are fortunate to find work coming their way.

Over the past few months, they have been performing at some of the festivals, held in Europe, during the summer season.

Says Rohitha: “As usual, we did one of the biggest African festivals in Europe, AfrikaTage, and some other summer events, from July up to now. Some were not that big, as they used to be, due to the pandemic, health precautions, etc.”

For the month of October, JAYASRI did some concerts in Italy, with shows in the city of Verona, Napoli, Rome, Padova and Milano.

The twins with the
late Sunil Perera

On November, 12th, the JAYASRI twins, Rohitha and Rohan, will be at EXPO Dubai 2020 and will be performing live in Dubai.

Rohitha also indicated that they have released their new single ‘SARANGANA,’ describing it as a Roots Reggae song, in audio form, to all download platforms, and as a music video to their YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/user/jayasri

According to Rohitha, this song will be featured in an action drama.

The lyrics for ‘SARANGANA,’ were created by Thushani Bulumulle, music by JAYASRI, and video direction by Chamara Janaraj Pieris.

There will be two audio versions, says Rohitha – a Radio Mix and a DUB Mix by Parvez.

The JAYASRI twins Rohitha and Rohan

After their Italian tour, Rohitha and Rohan are planning to come to Sri Lanka, to oblige their many fans, and they are hoping that the showbiz scene would keep on improving so that music lovers could experience a whole lot of entertainment, during the forthcoming festive season.

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