By Dr Indrajith P. Hathuruisngha
At present, people are keener on their appearance than ever before. Irrespective of gender, age, occupation, social status, everyone wants to look attractive, younger or handsome, and this has become more manifest with the advent of social media. The real challenge, however, is for you to look younger as you grow old. Ageing is something that we cannot prevent because it is a natural phenomenon. Weight gain becomes a concern as you reach middle age and this is more prominent, especially around your belly area. This is also known as the middle-age spread. This will make you look somewhat older, or unappealing, and even may extend to obesity, leading to certain health problems. It is a much-discussed issue, but the real question is whether it is being addressed scientifically. If you know how it happens or what causes it then it would be easier to control or tackle it. Some areas to focus on in terms of maintaining your figure that will eventually lead to a healthier and happier life in the long term, will be discussed here.
Our body needs energy to sustain life, and its operating mechanism is almost like that of a moving vehicle. The vehicle meets its energy requirements by burning fuel, and our body does the same thing with food on a daily basis. Our food contains a lot of nutrients such as protein, fat (lipid), carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. They provide us with energy in terms of calories. If our daily calorie intake exceeds the demand, the additional amount will be stored in our body leading to weight gain. Fat is known to be the component mostly responsible for unwanted weight gain. If you can remove already existing fat in the body and also regulate further addition, you may be able to control it to a certain extent.
Fat is metabolically broken down to generate energy in our body. This is biologically called ‘lipid turnover’ and this process has been proven with C14 (a radioactive carbon) by scientists. The lipid turnover is about the capacity for storing or removing fat from our body and it happens in fat cells in the adipose tissue. Whether you are gaining weight or not, your lipid turnover rate in fat tissue will lower with age. You are therefore more likely to gain weight as you get older. In other words, weight gain is not prominent in younger people due to their higher rate of lipid turnover. It is also seemingly independent of other biological processes in our body. However, the particular concern is whether we can do something about it. We certainly can. But it is not easy, it would mean going against nature.
We cannot consider increasing the lipid turnover alone, as it is linked to other aspects such as food intake and physical exercises. Therefore, a well thought-through plan and a strong dedication is a must for achieving the desired outcomes. Here are a few ways to lose weight sensibly.
Types of exercises
Scientists have found that physical exercise is one of the ways of increasing lipid turnover. But the problem here is, what sort of exercise should one do? People often complain about not gleaning expected results even after intense exercise over a prolonged time. And most cannot find time to work out due to their busy schedule. If you are unable to exercise regularly you can engage in incidental activities such as walking or using the stairs instead of the lift. Exercising does not mean weight loss alone, as it has many other benefits.
You can start your workout in a more structured way, with aerobic exercises, such as cycling, running, swimming and hiking. Recent studies have shown that walking for extended periods is a good way to burn fat and you need to do it continuously for better results. It helps stimulate both heart function and breathing and improves the pumping of oxygenated blood to muscles. Muscles require enough oxygen to burn calories and to generate the required energy for smooth functioning of body. This type of exercise entails many benefits, such as better cardiovascular function, muscle fitness, bone and joint fitness, heart and lungs health. Eventually, it will improve the overall level of fitness and reduce chances of cancer, diabeties, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
On the other hand, resistance exercises play a major role, than aerobic exercises, in weight loss. Lifting weights is more efficient as it helps to burn fat fast. Therefore, doing both these types of exercises in conjunction will be more beneficial. Apart from improving physical fitness, exercise also improves your mental health.
Sometimes, it is difficult to control weight gain by exercise alone. The control of food intake is another way of losing weight. But you need to do it wisely. Eating delicious food is an enjoyable experience. Consequently, changing eating patterns is not that easy and needs to be done systematically. You will lose weight if you reduce food intake drastically. But it is not a good move in the long run and will also not be sustainable. The food is the source of energy for your daily routine. If you do not get the adequate calories, you will be easily fatigued, tired and perhaps end up with some nasty side effects. Therefore, having a balanced diet is of paramount importance to a healthy life. Besides, you must be physically fit to be able to exercise regularly.
You may find it difficult to change your food intake at the beginning but it needs to be continued for better results. You need to set goals in your weight loss endeavour. Maintaining a food diary is a good way to start, but you need to be honest about it. You are required to write down everything you eat irrespective of the situation, what, where, when and with whom you ate. The food diary helps you cut down the discretionary calories (optional foods and drinks). However, it is all about your commitment and dedication. If you are too concerned about your weight, it is advisable to consult a doctor or dietician before changing your eating habits. It is worth noting that processed food, surgery drinks, and alcohol must be avoided.
It must be emphasised that if food intake is to be reduced, it should be done sensibly, since you might lose certain important nutrients that are required to maintain a healthy life.
Re-gaining weight once exercise stops
When you lose weight by controlling food intake, your metabolism slows down automatically. Then the brain stimulates hunger, making you want to eat more to gain the required energy. Scientists have found that our body has remarkable resistance against weight loss but not for weight gain. This has become an intriguing point of interest among the people who want to shed a few extra kilos. According to another scientific revelation, weight is regained particularly as fat mass and not in lean mass. This finding has discouraged many who work towards sustainable weight loss. However, there is no clear cut explanation and more research is being done to understand the science behind it.
In general, you could either eat less and exercise less or eat more and exercise more. Whichever the method you apply, the one you should remember is that food intake is more important of your weight loss regime and it is about incorporating physical activity with food intake.
Types of food to eat
People often worry about what to eat and avoid. Your food should have three main characteristics; low in calories, promotes fat burning and slow in digestion. When you feel hungry, you tend to eat more. But if you can suppress your hunger, you can reduce your food intake. Therefore, you must select the food that keeps you full longer. In other words, the foods which slow down the metabolism and control your appetite. What are these food; those food with a high level of fibre, contain water or are rich in protein. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, eggs, nut and oatmeal are highly recommended. It is always good to add some grains to your breakfast as they are rich in fibre. Our nation is blessed with a variety of green vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and grains.
You must also stick to healthy food and stay away from fast or junk food. Always choose food rich in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. There are plenty of options for affordable meals. Expensive food should not be resorted to in the weight loss plan. Our staple food is rice, same as most other Asian countries. But you must choose brown rice instead of white rice. This is because brown rice is low in calories and contains important elements such as phytonutrients, fibre and starch.
Adding green vegetables to the diet as much as possible is a good move. For instance, cabbages, low in calorie, contain antioxidants and vitamin C. Similarly, cauliflower is a very low-calorie option and has vitamins such as C, K, and B6. Moreover, cauliflower and carrot have calorie burning properties.
Bananas help keep full longer and put you on fat-burning mode. You must not forget to add fruits and nuts to your main meal. Apple, orange, avocado and almonds are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre. This will help shrink your waistline and keep your hunger at bay longer. It is best to add yoghurt or curd as a dessert to your main meal, because yoghurt and curd are packed with protein and will help you feel full for longer. These are just a few examples out of many affordable options available and you have to be wise enough to choose healthy food for your daily intake.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good indicator to assess your condition for the weight loss plan. It indicates the ideal weight of an average person based on height. A general physician or a family doctor can easily tell you your BMI value or you can do it by yourself if you are familiar with the index.
According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classification, people with an IBM value between 25.5 and 29.9 fall into the overweight category. If this value is above 30, it is considered obese and immediate doctor or dietician consultation is recommended. They will advise you how to control your food intake systematically. The BMI of a healthy person is usually 18.5 to 24.9 and should not drop below the minimum threshold. It must be emphasised that the purpose of eating is to sustain life and should not be driven by gluttony. Therefore, you must avoid taking additional calories. It is all about self-control.
If the situation is irreversible, one can still opt for bariatric surgeries. These types of surgeries are varied and the doctor decides what sort of surgery is suitable for each individual. Bariatric surgeries involve removal or shortening of a part of the stomach, with gastric bands, by altering the path of the intestine. However, there are pros and cons of such surgeries, and therefore, must be considered the last resort. You must be in charge of your own health before things get out of hand.
Advertisements and weight loss
Weight loss seems to be a good marketing tool, with various advertisements attempting to coax consumers to buy certain products. For instance, some advertisements showcase a pretty athletic woman drinking tea, claiming that she got her athletic figure by drinking a special kind of tea. Do you think that they have a secret recipe for weight loss? They don’t, but they know what you want and the demand in the market. The science behind this is simple. Because tea, particularly green tea has fat-burning properties. Apart from that scientists have found that green tea is full of antioxidants, has the potential to fight against inflammation, improve metabolism, boost energy, and refresh your body. Therefore, drinking green tea, instead of opting for advertised products, is a healthy and smart choice.
Non-fat milk or milk powder advertisements are another fad. We all know that milk is a good source of nutrients but fat is the killer. In general, mammalians, including humans need milk during infancy but not in adulthood. You may drink fresh milk if required but not milk powder. This is because vital nutrients are removed during the processing of milk powder and you are forced to drink a product which is low in nutrients. However, manufactures have different formulas to please consumers. Eventually, you get very little in return, but hoodwinked by misleading advertisements, spend hard-earned money.
The most important aspect of weight loss is the lipid turnover rate in the body. People often overlook it or do not have a grasp on the scientific facts. Weight loss maybe short term and you need to know how to make it sustainable. A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises offers a lot of health benefits and can help achieve sustainable weight loss, if undertaken in conjunction with food intake control.
(The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Applied and Environmental Chemistry, CRTAFE, Geraldton Campus, Western Australia.)
Beyond constitutional politics and polemics
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster greet one another upon Pompeo’s arrival at the airport in New Delhi on Monday. PTI
by Austin Fernando
All quandaries on constitutional amendments are now over with an impressive victory for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the country looks forward to the implementation of the 20th Amendment (20A), to serve the people more efficiently, effectively, and economically.
Although Minister of Justice Ali Sabry declared that all 20A provisions had been in the JR Jayewardene Constitution previously, there were a few differences. Considering the volume of amendments, this stance is passable, though not exact. My observation is that Presidents Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapaksa performed effectively in comparison to attain their development objectives through the 1978 Constitution.
Economic performance is an essential ingredient in political performance and management. It is because the economics of development under all regimes has been an evaluation yardstick and also publicly questioned.
Performance by Presidents, Prime Ministers and governments are not guided and determined only by Constitutions. If Constitutions could facilitate smooth performance, why didn’t it happen during tenures of all Presidents exercising power according to the 1978 Constitution? Until 2009, they had failed to defeat terrorism. Corruption increased. The economic morass continued.
The development of a country hinges on the quality of political and business leadership, national security/stability, research/ technological /educational standards, labour legislations, foreign direct investments, foreign assistance/aid, environmental soundness, diplomacy, international political behavior, and positive responses. The Constitution could boost development, but it alone is not sufficient.
Successes do not preclude criticisms that were aplenty against the aforesaid three Presidents. Some criticisms were even acceptable as regards the moral decadence due to the open economy, proliferation of dangerous drugs, or the construction of an unoptimizable port, airport and other such infrastructural projects and debt traps.
One criterion for foreign assistance is a country’s respect for human rights. I may quote Rights watchdog Meenakshi Ganguly, of Human Rights Watch- South Asia, to prove this point. After the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, she said: “The Sri Lankan government needs to hear that other countries are watching and will respond to renewed abuses.” This threat has not gone away.
Such issues will be taken up when the UNHRC meets in early 2021. Britain has already decided to withdraw the LTTE ban. Additionally, anti-China attitudes could lead to the harassment of Sri Lanka even indirectly. Contrarily, the Chinese have given assurances of bailing us out.
Even after the passage of 20A, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa cannot expect to be exempted from such attitudes, rules, and standards. I will highlight some immediate reactions experienced with selected internationals. The way foreign powers have responded to the incumbents after the presidential and parliamentary elections will be a guide to observe the trends.
Immediately after the presidential election, India showed up in Colombo. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also positively responded and the traditional first destination visit was to Delhi. Former President Maithripala Sirisena also did so, followed by another for the second inauguration of PM Modi.
Such visits provide opportunities to evaluate silently how foreign powers respond. I had the privilege of participating in all three visits by Presidents Sirisena and Rajapaksa. President Sirisena’s first visit was considered by Indians as a grand opportunity for novel openings and approaches, having experienced a deterioration of diplomatic relations under President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.
However, the agreement signed by Ministers Malik Samarawickrama and Sushma Swaraj in 2017, concerning several large-scale projects, apparently to spite Chinese political/economic interference in Sri Lanka, did not reach fruition. Indians did not forgive the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government although formal relations were maintained respectfully.
The difference in diplomatic relations is reflected in many ways. This was seen from how PM Modi responded when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited India in November 2019. Their one-on-one meeting lasted 55 minutes, and India offered US dollar 450 million to Sri Lanka in assistance. Perhaps, body chemistry of the two leaders clicked. PM Mahinda Rajapaksa once criticised Indians for having contributed to his defeat in 2015. India has proved that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in foreign relations, and it is only the mutual interests that matter.
Indians expected the fast-tracking of projects related to the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT), the Mattala Airport, and Trinco Petroleum Tanks. But there has been no positive follow-up even eleven months after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s discussions with PM Modi. The COVID-19 pandemic could be one reason for this delay. But a fresh dialogue is necessary if India is to be kept in the development loops.
Recently, PM Modi offered a $15-million grant for the promotion of Buddhist cultural exchanges, but his officers are slow in finalizing requests for a debt moratorium and an additional $1.1-billion assistance discussed during the visits of Rajapaksa brothers in November 2019 and February 2020. Positively, the Reserve Bank of India signed a swap of $400 million. If such needs are not met, the vacuum will be filled by another.
For comparison, Indian External Affairs Minister committed a 100-million-dollar grant and a project loan of 400 million dollars to the Maldives in mid-August this year, showing assistance did not depend on demography, revenue generation, or socio-economy, but on other priorities. The swift assistance to the Maldives and the delay in responding to our request may be conveying a message that should be heard and understood by Sri Lanka.
I quote another Indian investment in Bangladesh for comparison. The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority was ready (mid-2020) to start site development for an Indian Special Economic Zone, where billions of dollars in investment were expected from India. Sri Lanka was not so fortunate even though such potential was in the 2017 agreement. The government must learn from Bangladesh experience.
Quite the opposite response was shown by the Chinese who have already handed over 500 million dollars (March 2020). When the Chinese Minister Wang Yi met Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, the latter thanked China for its consistent contribution to Sri Lanka’s development process as well as their support at numerous regional and international fora, like the UNHRC. China and Russia have been helpful throughout.
Chinese involvement in infrastructure development has drawn severe criticism. This is something common throughout the world as regards the Chinese investment through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Another Chinese intervention took place recently when Senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who reportedly said: “Sri Lanka will firmly commit itself to deepening friendship with China, and is willing to make every effort to press forward the key BRI cooperation projects such as the Colombo Port City and the comprehensive development of the Hambantota Harbour.” This would not have pleased the Indians and Americans, and even the Japanese, who recently lost a light rail investment project here.
When Yang met PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, just after the latter’s discussion with PM Modi, the PM thanked China’s support for combating COVID-19, adding that China’s strong support in various fields had helped Sri Lanka strengthen its capacity to resume work and production amid the pandemic.
Finally, it was revealed that China would also help mitigate the financial crisis faced by Sri Lanka.
The Framework of the Strategic Cooperative Partnership between China and Sri Lanka embarked on, in 2013, gave hope of advantages through development but achievements have been slow in coming. The recent high-level Chinese visit here points to a desire to accelerate it. It must be noted that such interventions with other countries (e. g. India) were slow. The delay between bureaucratic decision-making and politicized decision-making could be the reason.
USA, Quad, and influences
The incredibly positive relations build-up by Yang Jiechi is followed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Colombo. While arrangements were being made for Pompeo’s visit, the US announced that it would urge Sri Lanka “to make ‘difficult but necessary choices’ on its economic relations”. The reference to difficult economic relations invariably meant the partnering with China. The MCC is another project the US is interested in.
The US spokesperson made it abundantly clear, saying “We encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices.” Media reports show that this message was partially conveyed to several Ministers by the American Ambassador Toeplitz when she met them.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments as a manifestation of the “Cold War mentality.” Its spokesman Zhao Lijian responded, “Attempts to use coercion to obstruct normal cooperation between countries will not succeed.”
Concurrently, Mike Pompeo has recently suggested (after the Tokyo Quad meeting) that the Quad should be institutionalized: “We [Quad members] can begin to build out a true security framework” for the Indo-Pacific. He also described the Quad as the “fabric” that could “counter the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) presents to all of us.” It is clear Pompeo is gathering support against China.
In this context, meeting Pompeo after Yang Jiechi will be an embarrassment for Rajapaksas. In fact, a few months ago CCP was considered as a guide for their political party. Yet, the US will see whether Sri Lanka is prepared to counter the CCP challenges and to what extent. This is not surprising especially after India agreeing to sign a military agreement with the USfor sharing of sensitive satellite data and conducting a dialogue to counter China’s growing power in the region. It may be appropriate for Sri Lanka to remain cautious.
As commentators say, Chinese behaviour and attempts to re-order the region have caused concern among the Quad members. They believe that Quad may have to discuss a rule-based big picture of the Indo-Pacific Region, especially how to reshape China’s behaviour, and under what conditions they would reassess China as a responsible stakeholder. Pompeo is here after the Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting in Tokyo. Given this situation, how Sri Lanka should deal with him is a challenge.
Diplomatic conflicts and us
Countries like Sri Lanka sometimes become playing fields for powerful countries. US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz recently said that the US goal “in responding to this request (MCC) is to alleviate poverty and to boost inclusive economic growth” and identifying Sri Lanka as “a sovereign leader in maritime security”, which are indisputably favourable recognition of Sri Lanka.
But her statement “Sri Lanka should engage with China in ways that protect its sovereignty” angered China, which responded directly. The Chinese Embassy in Colombo stated that “with great shock and strong discontent, the embassy learned about the US Ambassador’s interview with a local newspaper, in which a foreign envoy from a third country openly played off China-Sri Lanka relations and severely violated the diplomatic protocol.” The Chinese are extraordinarily concerned with the US violating Sri Lanka’s diplomatic protocols. Having been a High Commissioner myself, I await such bold statements from our Ambassadors in the US or China, even violating diplomatic protocols, when a situation arises with these two governments! Am I waiting for Godot!
Further, the Chinese statement said: “Both China and Sri Lanka as independent countries have full right to develop relations with foreign countries according to our own need and will.” This reminds me of a past Chinese intervention in Bhutan. It is an example where the Chinese while seeking to mend relations with Bhutan, to make India lose ground, dropped Chinese tourist arrivals after the Doklam standoff, because Bhutan did not stand with China. It was a warning to Bhutan about the country’s vulnerability. At that point, the “full right to develop relations” with India was tabooed by China for Bhutan!
Bhutan’s obligations to act according to the Treaty of Friendship between India and Bhutan (8-8-1949) calling for peace between them and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and the additional agreement by Bhutan to let India “guide” its foreign policy and consultative action on foreign and defense affairs were not considered by the Chinese, as the legal “need and will” of Bhutan.
Similarly, India’s wrath was unleashed (2012) when the then Bhutanese PM Jigme Thinley met the Chinese PM, Wen Jiabao, on the sidelines of the Rio+20 Summit. India retaliated by withdrawing fuel subsidies to Bhutan. New Delhi’s heavy-handed response was deeply resented by Bhutan.
We complain of powerful countries using the proverbial stick, but these examples show that anyone could be the perpetrator to satisfy his needs. Let us be realistic without resorting to rhetoric, which emanate from boisterous politicians mostly- even ministers.
The Chinese strongly suggested “the US quit the addiction of preaching others and applying double standards” and named four areas of misdeeds, i. e. slandering, pretending as the guardian of free trade while violating the WTO rulings, holding high the banner of transparency, and smearing others’ normal cooperation against sovereignty, while militarily misbehaving and imposing unilateral sanctions. Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines or Taiwanese in China Sea or Indians in Ladakh may blame the Chinese for not adhering to some of these principled behaviours and preaching to the US. Can Sri Lanka challenge President Xi on the same lines?
I quoted the aforesaid references to point out the difficulties faced by Sri Lanka in the big diplomatic picture. They are thrust on us. Sri Lanka must take informed positions due to practicalities.
With the Indians, the proximity, centuries old relationships, strategic location in the Indian Ocean region, which became a focused area due to Indo-Pacific Regional bias, India and Japan, etc., must be valued. The busines alliances between India and Japan on ECT and Liquified Natural Gas projects send another message. The potential/ possible Indian influence on other countries, some parliamentarians, demographic and political groups must be considered for internal political stability purposes.
The Chinese factor must be considered in the light of past transactions and potential investments that could be received faster than from borrowing agencies or formal lenders. Sri Lanka’s economic problems need immediate solutions. How far could the government wait for external interventions satisfying all criteria?
The above quoted financial requirements and responses received from India may help understand the reality of financing, for which China responds faster than any other country. Any political intervention should address this problem and adapt to systemic assistance. Of course, the disadvantages of Chinese interventions, even highlighted by the World Bank study, about procurement procedures could push countries like Sri Lanka into difficulties. What alternatives could evolve is an issue.
Immediate response to the statement by Dean Thompson was experienced with Sri Lanka’s government bonds falling heavily last week. This is the danger that could be created by big brothers. The African proverb, ‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’, is always valid.
It is time for those who yelled last week that restrictions on stability/development could be remedied by constitutional amendments to keep quiet because it is not the absolute truth. The 20A had other objectives as is obvious. They should look afresh realistically and consider whether ignoring the international developments is possible. Let saner counsel prevail.
Simply stated, it is time to ditch camouflaged rhetoric heard in the House last week and look incisively, realistically, logically, and face the international challenges caused by the financial crisis, COVID 19, political conflicts, etc. Being a small nation, we need everyone’s support.
Soon…a celebrity Doctor!
Dr. Nilanka is a name to be reckoned with in the local showbiz scene – not as a doctor, but as a vocalist/entertainer.
Although she has not been in the vocal spotlight, on stage, in a big way, this awesome singer has been churning out some beautiful music, in the studio, and uploading them on social media – her Facebook page – and, especially, on YouTube.
When ‘Arise Sri Lanka’ was taking shape, in August, I came across a video clip of Dr. Nilanka singing the Roberta Flack hit ‘Killing Me Softly.’
Obviously, there are several versions of ‘Killing Me Softly’ (Frank Sinatra, Fugees, Lauryn Hill), but Dr. Nilanka’s version just blew me away.
Since I was in the ‘Arise Sri Lanka’ committee, I thought we should have this singer on our show and immediately sent her video clip to those concerned. And, they were all unanimous in their decision.
And…Dr. Nilanka was there, on stage, on the night of Saturday, August, 29th, 2020, impressing everyone with her version of ‘Killing Me Softly.’
Those who heard her sing, that particular night, had only superlatives to describe her performance.
Yes, and a star was born – Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe.
Her latest contribution, via a video clip, is The Bangles hit song, ‘Eternal Flame.’
Sohan Weerasinghe describes her as a singer with a marvelous voice and he did mention that he would feature her as a guest star, with The X-Periments, as often as possible.
He went on to say that she is in a class of her own. “A very talented singer with an absolutely seductive voice. Awesome talent, indeed.”
And, that means, we are going to see, and hear, a lot of Dr. Nilanka in the near future….
Women in Power
The Revolutionary Lives and Careers of Siva,Doreen,Vivi and Srima
By Kusum Wijetilleke (email@example.com) and
Rienzie Wijetilleke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Continued from yesterday)
US President John F. Kennedy modified a policy on the release of US rubber stockpiles after Ms. Bandaranaike wrote to him explaining the consequences of the policy on Sri Lanka’s rubber export earnings. She exchanged further letters with JFK on the most critical issue of the period, nuclear proliferation, expressing her dismay at nuclear tests undertaken by the US. Citing her speech at the 1961 Non-Aligned conference, JFK wrote back stating “…although there may be some differences between us as to what constitutes ‘effective’ inspection and control, I am heartened that we seem not to differ over the need for it.”
The 1962 Sino-Indian War led to some 6,000 deaths and Ms. Bandaranaike, realizing how devastating war between the super powers would be for Ceylon’s economic aspirations, travelled between China and India seeking compromises. Her efforts were some time before the term “shuttle diplomacy” entered the lexicon of international relations. A team of six non-aligned nations led by Ms. Bandaranaike and Sri Lanka led to a dramatic de-escalation in hostilities and earned her further recognition on the international stage. Her close relationship with Indira Gandhi led to a negotiation between PM J.R. Jayawardena and Indian Diplomat J.N. Dixit, on the restoration of her civil rights and parliamentary membership, after she had been convicted of abuses of power in 1977.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s political career was full of peaks and valleys, but her ascension to power was not merely a twist of fate caused by the assassination of her husband. At the age of 19, she took up social work in rural areas of the country, distributing food and medicine to villages and joined the Lankan Women’s Association, the largest voluntary women’s organization and served as its Treasurer, Vice-President and President. It might be unfortunate that her performance as a leader is defined by the decline of the Sri Lankan economy during her stewardship. It diluted a ground breaking career as a woman of formidable intellect with unrivalled power in a new political frontier.
A similar fate would befall another pioneering woman of Sri Lankan politics, its first female cabinet minister; Ms Wimala Wijewardene, whose political career was inextricably linked to the SWRD Bandaranaike assassination.
Ms. Wimala Wijewardene contested the seat for Kelaniya in 1952, at the 2nd Parliamentary election, but was defeated by her nephew J.R. Jayewardene. She would enter parliament and become a Cabinet Minister in 1956, but her career would be overshadowed by her close association with the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara and its Chief Priest, “Ven.” Mapitigama Buddharakkita Thera. The Chief Priest had long been suspected of racketeering and other not so venerable business dealings. He was also the founder of the Eksath Bhikku Peramuna (United Bhikku Front) which represented the politicized section of the clergy. Pamphlets, anonymously distributed, implied an affair between Buddharakkita and Sri Lanka’s first female Cabinet Minister. When Ms. Wimala urged SWRD to take action, he disregarded the request and allegedly retorted “Wimala, after all, aren’t some of these things true”. Investigations following the assassination of the Prime Minister revealed that Buddharakkita had convinced a fanatic nationalist monk to murder the PM and reportedly even provided the weapon. Further investigations revealed SWRD Bandaranaike’s wavering patronage to Buddharakkita and his business interests; the refusal of a shipping contract and a sugar manufacturing license, as prime motives for his assassination.
Ms Wijewardene was arrested along with Buddharakkita as a suspect in the murder assassination, but was later released. She did not return to politics but the dramatic events should not dilute a crucial political career which peaked with her appointment as the Minister of Health in 1956. Twenty years later, another equally skilled administrator would be appointed as the Minister of Health.
Sivagami Verina “Siva” Dassanaike and her husband James Obeysekere lll, were early supporters of the breakaway faction led by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the 1950s. Thus, “Siva” became politically active in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) at the age of 22 and contested the Mirigama seat in 1965 at the age of 36. Her victory as a first time candidate was even more impressive considering that she was an Anglican contesting a majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist district.
As Health Minister, Siva formulated a National Health Programme that would be adopted by the United Nations as an international model, earning her a special award of appreciation from the United States Senator for Massachusetts: Edward Kennedy. However Ms Obeysekere’s career was characterized by more than an award from a Kennedy. Despite, or may be because of a privileged upbringing, she was ahead of her time in realizing that the poorest in Ceylon had no meaningful income through employment and what work they did do was often exploitative, both in deed and remuneration. During her visits to far flung villages around the island she noticed that local artists in rural towns and villages, many of them women, would lovingly create handicrafts and handlooms but received very low prices for their labour. That was until Ms Obeysekere created ‘Laksala’ to earn better prices for handicrafts, an income generator to this day. Ms Obeysekere’s work towards uplifting the poor earned her the title of “Deshamanya” (Pride of the Island); the first female recipient of the award.
Sri Lanka’s independence heroes are rightly revered, with monuments, institutes and street signs bearing their names. D.S. Senenayake, Henry Pedris, C.W.W. Kannangara, Leslie Gunawardena, Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Colvin R. De Silva and the like are cemented in history, but there are others who deserve recognition. Sri Lanka’s independence movement was partly the result of the agitation of a broad coalition of leftist political parties, thus Sri Lanka’s original socialists deserve more than an honourable mention.
The country’s first political party was the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), formed in 1935 by Colvin R De Silva and Philip Gunawardena on an anti-imperialist platform. The party aimed to dismantle the colonial government from within by fielding popular candidates to positions in the State Council. Yet the first leftist to be elected to the State Council was Dr. S.A. Wickramasinghe (1931), who later founded the Communist Party of Ceylon, and had met the aforementioned Colvin R.de Silva and Philip Gunawardena many years earlier in the UK. Whilst socializing amongst the radicals in London, Dr. Wickramasinghe would also meet his future wife, Doreen Young, whose parents were ardent British socialists and ingrained in her a revolutionary streak that would serve Ceylon well in later years.
Ms. Young would relocate to Ceylon as Principal of Sujatha Vidyalaya in Matara and made her mark almost immediately by launching a campaign of formal training for Ceylon’s predominantly female teachers, so they may obtain qualifications and improve their bargaining positions in the labour market. Her career as a revolutionary and radical in Ceylon had begun. She learnt Sinhala and proceeded to update the local curriculum to replace British history with Sri Lankan and world history. Her marriage to the leader of the Communist Party and their anti-imperialist campaigns led to the revocation of an employment offer from Vishaka Vidyalaya. She was later also removed as the Principal of Ananda Balika Vidyalaya in 1936, accused of spreading anti-British propaganda.
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