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Play both sides against the middle



No fertiliser from China, India airfreights it in! Supposed to be too late for the ‘maha’ harvest but “better late than never” is a valued adage. Lanka scrapes through yet again and a possible disaster averted … or has it? I think we can acknowledge the fact that we will never face the type of hunger and famine experienced in countries in Africa or even in parts of the Indian subcontinent. Our thrice blessed land has lots of fertile area and edible fruit trees and the ever present ‘Kos’ and ‘Del’ trees abound and supplement the versatile coccus nicifera – coconut palm. Almost everybody has a vegetable patch and access to edible herbs and nutritious local vegetables.

Besides, we are a generous ‘giving society’ and we share what we don’t consume. What if we run out of rice? What if the ‘maha’ season does not deliver the abundant volumes that we have had in the past. We could, of course, play both sides (China and India) against each other again as we certainly do not seem to have enough hard currency to buy any shortfall in stocks for ourselves. We may even find a player in the middle in the form of the USA who would appreciate a chance to get a foothold and some influence in the Pearl. It looks like we could get out of this scrape too if the worst-case scenario does materialise.

We ‘know’ this is not the long-term solution. We have however never prepared ourselves or even based our decisions on the possibility of the worst-case materialising. An amazingly accurate description of the Sinhala race and their inability to prepare for inevitable events, once told to me by one of my dear Burgher friends had something to do with the urge to evacuate one’s bowels and the lethargic search for a toilet until far too late, the rest of which I leave to the imagination of my more crude minded readers to work out! This is so accurate. We never plan for disaster, and we have somehow survived to date. Maybe the ‘thrice blessed land’ (three visits from the Buddha) or the hundreds of deities charged with protecting most facets of life in the land, play a part. Do not however, forget the curse of Kuveni which so far has borne only small fruit.

Will a black marketeer who pays commissions to the correct parties be charged with the distribution of the Indian airfreighted fertiliser (will it be given only to ‘Apey Man’s’, political catchers and hangers on), all this is up in the air. Will the ‘rice mafia’ get hold of it and hide it to boost the prices of their stashed stocks. Or will the rice mafia bite the dust and have all their hoarded stocks seized by the government (fat hopes!) and distributed among the starving populace. On the other hand, why do we need so much starch in our diets in the form of rice; a simple fare of vegetables (preferably organic) will suffice to keep people alive until better times arrive. After all, ‘Diyasen Kumaraya’ is on the way and some ‘wise men’ have gone to the extent of predicting a date for the end of this regime. Search YouTube diligently and you will find the predictions.

Over here in Auckland, Aotearoa – New Zealand we are anxiously poised for an increase in freedoms. The possibility of being able to get out of the confines of this concrete jungle in time for the Christmas break or just after, is eagerly anticipated. However, the number of cases in the community is over 100 per day and the virus is spreading to other parts of the country. The Opposition is setting about causing confusion among the populace and preaching with the 20/20 vision of retrospect. The Prime Minister, who in the eyes of some has kept the Country safe and minimised deaths and hospital admissions, is being accused of lying and imposing her will on the people by others. Democracy prevails, and one wonders if the function of an Opposition is simply to spew rhetoric and create confusion!

The labour government that is in power has identified their vote base and is rather unashamedly pandering to them. Those who have backed the wrong horse in this democracy (mixed metaphors I’m afraid) are gnashing their teeth and small business mainly are suffering from a lack of favourable terms of business and handouts at the cost of their workers, which they took for granted and treated as their just dues under the previous regime.

All we can discern from the reams of largely empty rhetoric seems to be that a large percentage of the population being vaccinated, or ‘vaxxed’ as the latest version of the Oxford English Dictionary has it, is the key. The anti-vaxxers are also having their say but the country is surely and steadily working its way up to 90 percent of eligible people being vaccinated. I am even led to believe that certain members of the younger generation who expressed vehement objections to being vaxed when appointments had been made for them by their parents, have got the jab in secret!

The last word on the pandemic seems to be that it will be part of our lives and whether we get it or not will depend on our personal choices (vaccinations, reverting to our old lifestyles when freedom comes) and whether we survive or not will depend one our health and the strength of our bodies and immune systems. Words of wisdom on these lines were told to me by a much-respected doctor friend of mine around two years ago. If more heed had been paid to thinking of this nature much heartache and strife may have been avoided, but then again, this judgement or assessment on my friend’s words has the benefit of hindsight too, doesn’t it? Would or could anyone governing a democracy and responsible for millions of lives have had the cohunes, (in the case of men) and whatever gives them strength, in the case of women, to make this call? That my friends is the multi-million (in human lives) and multi billion (in monetary terms) question!


Enduring nexus between poverty and violent identity politics



Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

The enduring nexus between poverty or economic deprivation and violent identity politics could not be stressed enough. The lingering identity-based violence in some parts of India’s North-East, to consider one example, graphically bears out this causative link.

At first blush the continuing violence in India’s Manipur state is traceable to inter-tribal hostilities but when the observer penetrates below surface appearances she would find that the root causes of the violence are economic in nature. On the face of it, plans by the state authorities to go ahead with extended economic quotas for the majority Meitei tribal group, for instance, who are considered the economic underdogs in Manipur, have intensified hostilities between the rest of the tribal groups and the Meitei.

It is plain that perceptions among the rest of the tribal communities that they are being unfairly treated by the state are accounting in considerable measure for the continuing ethnic tensions in Manipur. That is, the fear of being deprived of their life-chances on the part of the rest of the communities as a consequence of the new economic empowerment measures being initiated for the Meitei is to a considerable degree driving the ethnic violence in Manipur. It would be reasonable to take the position that economics, in the main, are driving politics in the state.

Sri Lanka, of course, is no exception to the rule. There is no doubt that identity issues propelled to some extent the LTTE’s war against the Sri Lankan state and its armed forces over three long decades.

However, it was perceived economic deprivation on the part of sections of the Tamil community, particularly among its youthful sections, that prompted the relevant disaffected sections to interpret the conflict in ethnic identity terms. In the final analysis, economic issues drove the conflict. If Lankan governments had, from the inception, ensured economic equity and justice in all parts of the country the possibility of ethnic tensions taking root in Sri Lanka could have been guarded against.

Even in contemporary Sudan, the seeming power struggle between two army generals, which has sowed destruction in the country, is showing signs of taking on an ethnic complexion. Reports indicate that the years-long confrontation between the Arab and black African communities over land and water rights is resurfacing amid the main power contest. Economic issues, that is, are coming to the fore. Equitable resource-sharing among the main communities could have perhaps minimized the destructive nature of the current crisis in the Sudan.

Sections of the international community have, over years, seen the majority of conflicts and wars in the post-Cold War decades as being triggered in the main by identity questions. Identity politics are also seen as bound up with an upswing in terrorism. In order to understand the totality of the reasons behind this substantive change one may need to factor in the destabilizing consequences of economic globalization.

The gradual dissolving of barriers to international economic interactions that came in the wake of globalization in the eighties and nineties brought numerous material benefits to countries but in the case of the more traditional societies of the South, there were deeply destabilizing and disorienting results. This was particularly so in those societies where the clergy of particularly theistic religions, such as Islam, held sway over communities.

In these comparatively insulated societies of the South, unprecedented exposure to Western culture, which came in the wake of globalization, was seen as mainly inimical. Besides, perceived alien Western cultural and religious influences were seen by the more conservative Southern clergy as undermining their influence among their communities.

A Southern country that reacted quite early against the above forces of perceived decadence was Iran. Iran’s problems were compounded by the fact that the Shah of the times was following a staunchly pro-US foreign policy. It was only a matter of time before there was an eruption of militant religious fervour in the country, which ultimately helped in ushering an Islamic theocracy in the country. Needless to say, this revolutionary change in Iran impacted drastically the politics of the Middle East and beyond.

Militant Islam was showing signs of spreading in Central Asia when the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan occurred in 1979. This military incursion could have been seen as an attempt by the Soviet authorities to prevent the spread of militant Islam to Afghanistan, a state which was seen as playing a principal role in the USSR’s security.

However, radical Islamic opposition to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan came in the form of the Mujahedin, who eventually morphed into the present day Taliban. However, as could be seen, the Taliban presence has led to the spread militant religious sentiment in South and South-West Asia.

Fortunately, there is substantive political science scholarship in South Asia currently which helps the observer to understand better the role poverty and material backwardness play in sowing the seeds of religious fundamentalism, or identity politics, among the youth of the region in particular. A collection of papers which would prove helpful in this regard is titled, ‘Civil Wars in South Asia – State, Sovereignty, Development’, edited by Aparna Sundar and Nandini Sundar, (SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd.) In some of its papers are outlined, among other things, the role religious institutions of the region play in enticing impoverished youth to radical identity-based violent politics.

While there is no questioning the lead role domestic poverty plays in the heightening and spread of identity politics and the violence that goes hand-in-hand with it, one’s analysis of these questions would not be complete without factoring into the situation external military interventions, such as those of the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have aggravated the economic miseries of the ordinary people of those countries. There is an urgent need for in-depth impartial studies of this kind, going forward.

Russian ambassador’s comments

The Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka in a response to my column of May 18th , 2023 titled, ‘Containment Theory returns to West’s ties with East’, takes up the position that the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, beginning 1979, was not an invasion but an operation that was undertaken by the Soviets on the invitation of the then government of Afghanistan. This amounts to contradicting the well-founded position of the majority of international authorities on the subject that the Soviet push into Afghanistan was indeed a military invasion of the country. This is the position that I have taken over the years and I do not have any reason to back down from it.

The subsequent comments made by the ambassador on my column are quite irrelevant to its thematic substance and do not warrant any replies by me.

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Man of the Globe International …branching out




Kalum Samarathunga came into the spotlight when he won the title Man of the Globe International (Charity Ambassador) 2022, held in Malaysia, last year, and also Mr. Sri Lanka 2022.

A former sales and marketing co-coordinator, in Kuwait, Kalum is now into modelling (stepping into the local modelling world in 2021, when he returned to Sri Lanka), and is also focusing on becoming a professional presenter, and an actor, as well.

Kalum made his debut, as a presenter, at the ‘Ramp Comes’ Alive’ fashion show, held in April.

He also mentioned that he has been involved in music, since he was a kid…and this is how our chit-chat went:

1. How would you describe yourself?

I’m just an ordinary guy on the road to achieve my humongous dreams.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

There was a time where I was very insecure about myself, but everything is fine with me now, so I wouldn’t consider making any changes.

3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Nothing at all, because I’m blessed with an amazing family.

4. School?

Indian Public School, in Kuwait, where I was the leader of the school band, playing the keyboards, and a member of the school dance team, as well. In sports – under 19 long distance runner (800m, 1500m and 5000m), and came second in the inter-school Kuwait clusters, in 2012,

5. Happiest moment?

My happiest moment is that moment when my parents teared up with joy after I called them, from Malaysia, after winning Man Of The Globe International Charity 2022. Seeing my parents crying out of joy was the happiest moment, more than winning the title.

6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as it makes you happy. For example, I was born in Kuwait, living a lavish life, a great job and an awesome salary, but I was still unhappy and that’s because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to.

7. Are you religious?

Let’s just say that I’m a God loving person and I live my life according to that. I believe that I’m nothing without God and I have experienced God’s blessings in my life

8. Are you superstitious?

No, because I have never experienced luck in my life. All that I have achieved, in my life, is purely out of hard work.

9. Your ideal girl?

There no points looking beautiful if you can’t keep up a conversation, so “communication” comes first for me; a woman who respects and loves my parents; loyalty and understanding; her voice should be attractive, and she doesn’t have to be someone in the same field I’m in, as long as she trusts me and respects the work I do.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

My mom and dad are my role models, because the man I’m today is because of them. They went through a lot in life to raise me and my siblings.

11. Which is your most treasured possession?

My piano, my first and only friend that was there for me, to make my day. I was a bullied kid in school, until Grade 10, so playing the piano was the only thing that kept me going, and made me happy.

12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

Sri Lankan actress Rashiprabha Sandeepani. I admire her qualities and principles. And, most of all, she was unknowingly there for me during a bad storm in my life.

13. Your most embarrassing moment?

My ex-girlfriend’s mother catching us kissing, and I also got slapped.

14. Done anything daring?

Taking a major risk, during Covid (2021), by leaving everything behind, in Kuwait, and travelling to Sri Lanka, for good, to finally follow my dreams .

15. Your ideal vacation?

I’ve actually forgotten what a vacation feels like because I’ve been so focused on my goals, back-to-back, since 2020.

16. What kind of music are you into?

I don’t stick to a single genre…it depends on my mood.

17. Favourite radio station?

No special liking for any station in particular.

18. Favourite TV station?

I do not watch TV but I do watch TV series, and movies, on my laptop, whenever I can. And, thanks to Sinhala teledramas, on YouTube, I’m able to brush up my Sinhala.

19 What would you like to be born as in your next life?

If this ‘next life’ is actually true, I wouldn’t mind being born as anything, but, most importantly, with “Luck” on my side.

20. Any major plans for the future?

I am planning to invade and destroy Earth…just kidding! I don’t want a top seat in my industry – just the seat I deserve, would be fine.

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Anti-ageing foods for younger-looking skin




It is a rich source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant, which helps in the removal of harmful free radicals from your system. Broccoli is also a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and hence, it prevents your skin from looking tired and dull. So, do not forget to pick some broccolis the next time you go grocery shopping.

* Spinach:

Rich in vitamins A and C, spinach keeps your skin healthy and also helps to repair damaged skin cells. It is also rich in lutein, a biomolecule that improves the hydration, as well as elasticity of the skin. So, add this super-food in your diet for a healthy and soft skin.

*  Fish:

It is rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that help in improving the elasticity of the skin and in providing wrinkle-free skin. It also add natural glow to your skin and make you look vibrant.

*  Tomatoes:

This super-food is loaded with an age-defying ingredient called lycopene. Lycopene shields your skin from environmental damage, prevents wrinkle formation by neutralising free radicals, and also improves its texture. So, consume tomatoes in the form of salad, juice, soup, or anything else. Just do not forget to make them an essential part of your diet.

*  Mushrooms:

These tiny powerhouses are rich source of selenium, which protects newly-formed skin cells from damage, caused by pollutants, as well as harsh UV radiation. Selenium is also believed to be helpful in preventing skin cancer. Furthermore, mushrooms are also packed with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. All these vitamins facilitate the growth of new skin cells. Also, our body requires copper to produce collagen and elastin, which are important for maintaining the strength of skin. And, mushrooms are one of the best sources of it. So, to have a youthful skin, make sure you add this plain-looking food in your colourful diet.

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