POLICE PROMOTION MANIPULATION: VIOLATION OF THE LINE OF SENIORITY
Root cause of the decline of the force
(Excerpted from Merril Gunaratne’s ‘Perils of a Profession’ )
In a disciplined service, rank is sacrosanct. An officer has necessarily to aspire to higher rank through performance. If his work had been of exceptional merit and distinction, he may even be considered for a special promotion. A promotion can also be posthumous where the deceased officer had been exemplary in performance and achievement. An officer will therefore naturally like to safeguard his position in the line of seniority. He will be unhappy if a junior officer is placed over him merely because the latter wields influence. It is natural for an officer in a disciplined service to jealously protect his place in the line of seniority against encroachment.
Two matters of concern had emerged in the wake of the exacerbation of ‘interference’ that had plagued the police since 1977. Those who looked for undue favours from the police by baiting officers with assurances of recognition and promotion outside the line of seniority, had often found pliant policemen ready to do their bidding. Many have thus prospered without satisfying the required criteria for key posts and promotions. The pattern, so monotonous since 1977, had seriously demoralized the service. Some have been adept not only in the ” long jump,” but also in “hop, step, and jump”, by the acquisition of more than one rank promotion outside the ” eligibility criteria”.
The second matter for concern had been the ineptitude of IGPs to counter this pattern. The fundamental premise in leadership is the undiluted authority of the leader to reward the good and punish the errant. This foundation was uprooted in 1977 mostly because those at the helm of affairs in the police abdicated or surrendered to political demands without resistance to interference. If a united front was presented based on a cohesive policy, the political establishment may have found it formidable.
The inadequacies of those in the highest echelons to stand up and protest at the onset, enabled the entrenchment of a pernicious system. The good were often overlooked, whilst some of those with chequered careers but were favourites of patrons, found recognition. The IGP became a figurehead who watched passively. Attempts to resist such pressure and insist on the right course would have been costly. Cyril Herath alone stood up to such a demand and quit his position of IGP, rejecting a compensatory sop of a diplomatic assignment. Such honorable conduct was a noble alternative to taking the easy road, a lesson to the establishment, and an inspiration to the service.
A few instances of the violation of the line of security.
Following the sweeping victory of Chandrika Kumaratunga as the president in 1994, six police officers, after being away from the force for some time, were reinstated in the service in the rank of senior DIG. They were thereby restored to positions they enjoyed in the seniority line at the time they left the service. Of these six officers, Messrs Rajaguru, Wickramasuriya and Iddamalgoda were victims of persecution as extensions of service was denied them without valid reasons. The others did not fall into such a category, with two of them quitting on their own, while the third had been served notice of vacation of post. Those who were dislodged from their positions in the seniority line by such reinstatement had served without interruption in the most taxing and testing times. Somewhere in 2018 or 2019, three DIGs who had retired long time ago, decided to appeal for promotion to senior DIG rank. The ‘Yahapalanaya’ government promoted them through a political victimization committee. This was incredible.
Inflation of the DIG cadre when D B Wijetunga was president.
Shortly after DB Wijetunga became president, the government suddenly took a decision to introduce a radical increase in the DIG cadre. The directive came from the president, and his proposals should have been examined in depth, before being implemented. The DIG cadre increased from 19 to 30 overnight. An SSP was able to secure a DIG rank from the ninth or 10th place in the line of seniority when the number of DIGs was raised to 11. The coincidence of the enlargement of the DIG cadre and the simultaneous accommodation of this officer close to the president at the tail end of the expanded number of 11 DIGs gave rise to considerable speculation. I had dealt with this controversy in my book “Cop in the Crossfire”.
In fact if a cohesive policy with fixed quotas based on cogent reasoning was firmly in place, there may have been space and scope to explain why such a sudden increase in the DIG cadre would have been difficult to accommodate. Anyway, the president’s suggestion required a careful study to assess whether it was possible to accede to the request. I was then third or fourth in line of seniority from the IGP down but my views were not solicited. I think a study in regard to the request of the president should have included “inter alia”, the following: Did the service face additional responsibilities to warrant an expansion? Above all, did numbers in subordinate ranks – SSPs, SPs, ASPs, inspectorate, sergeants and constables, justify a sudden increase in the DIG cadre? Would the radical increase have disturbed ratios, proportions and balance? In actual fact, even if we assume that the request was to increase the cadre by one or two more, a rational decision had to depend on a proper study.
President Wijetunga was generous in interfering with, or fragmenting police ranges to placate officers. Two weeks before my promotion to the rank of senior DIG, T.V. Sumanasekara was appointed as DIG of Mt Lavinia and Kalutara divisions which actually were within my range. I promptly telephoned the president and requested him to carve out the new range after my promotion, so that I would not be embarrassed. The president agreed, and as a result, the dismemberment of my range was suspended till my promotion. Such was the level of interference at that time.
Even the cadre of senior DIGs which stood at three when president Wijetunga assumed duties, rose to five in the same manner as the increase in the cadre of DIGs. A DIG secured a promotion to the rank of SDIG shortly before retirement. The officer concerned was in a post which had, before such promotion and even after, been assigned only to a DIG. Therefore this promotion was secured despite there being no vacancies in the cadre. The cadre of senior DIGs then became five since the officer lying ahead of the officer who thus secured a promotion, rushed to the president and argued that he would lose his position in the line of seniority unless he was also promoted. The largesse of president Wijetunga bestowing promotions disregarding standards, rules and procedures of a service knew no limits.
POSTSCRIPT (this is not part of the book)
Responding to a perceptive review of the book, “Perils of a Profession” by Shamindra Ferdinando in the daily “Island” paper, veteran retired Senior DIG HMGB Kotakadeniya had pointed out in the issue of Jan. 20, 2021 that when DB Wijetunga was president, the DIG cadre was increased from 19 to over 40, and not 30, as stated in my book. He had also pointed out that such an increase in the cadre was possibly done to elevate Senior Superintendent of Police Mahinda Balasuriya who was lying 44th in the line of seniority, to the rank of DIG.
Never in the history of the police had the cadre of DIGs been increased in such a manner. This political decision was shocking. It also shed light on how a self seeking officer can abuse and bend standards at will and acquire benefits when two factors are in place: first, when enjoying a post close to the head of state/government; second, when the head of the service fails to preserve the required balance between the interests of the service and those of officers.
The usual tactic of those who aspire to steal others’ places in the line of seniority and become DIG is to overtake a few officers through the influence of patrons. Balasuriya could not adopt this ruse because he was very junior, being 44th in the line of seniority, with 25 SSPs/SPs ahead of him. Climbing over such large numbers would have earned the ire of a large number of officers facing displacement. He therefore appears to have used his position to persuade the president to enlarge the DIG cadre from 19 to 44 to reach him.
But before doing so in such a sweeping manner, President Wijetunga had first invited the views of Senior DIG Kotakadeniya whom he knew, and who was serving in a key position in police headquarters, whether DIGs could be posted to police ranges as “Welfare” DIGs. SDIG Kotakadeniya had said in all sincerity that such an arrangement would have been superfluous and therefore absurd. Had he agreed to the proposal, the president may have justified the inflation on the score that the service required a large number of DIGs to supervise welfare arrangements.
Having failed in this subtle bid, the order for the enlargement of the DIG cadre far out of proportion to necessity to accommodate Balasuriya appears to have been brazenly imposed on the police service by President Wijetunga. The most reasonable inference that could be drawn was that there was not only clear collusion between the President and Balasuriya, but that Snr DIG Kotakadeniya had apparently been victimized by being shifted out of his key post for his dissent. An honest, professional opinion had resulted in persecution. Frank de Silva was IGP when the massive inflation of the DIG cadre occurred, resulting in Balasuriya being the beneficiary. I am thankful to the retired Senior DIG for providing the backdrop to the subtle plan. They was truly “scenes behind the scenes”.
The organisation of any institution, particularly the police, has to resemble a pyramidal structure. It has to be narrow at the top, as the IGP and his deputies (DIGs) would be numerically few, being vested with the task of coordinating large bodies of men and large areas or territory than SPs and ASPs relatively junior in rank. The higher the rank, the role of coordination of work would entail far greater territory and oversight. The responsibility to determine numbers in senior ranks rests with the IGP and his deputies, and should be underscored by specific criteria and standards. As a result of what Balasuriya unjustly acquired, the cadre of DIGs enlarged to a point disproportionate to the strength of the numbers in ranks below them.
Consequently, many DIGs’ had to perform “coordination functions” of SSPs and SPs overlooking police divisions. To have called such a unit in the range of a DIG would have been a misnomer. The excess committed by Balasuriya was analogous to a bottle where the mouth was wider in diameter than the girth at it’s center. Such a distorted shape cannot be ideal to hold water or anything else. As a result of there being far too many DIGs than necessary, vacancies for promotion were also galore, and some SSPs reached DIG rank and DIGs, Senior DIG rank, without being adequately tried and tested in their previous ranks. Could this be one reason why the IGP, senior DIGS and DIGs had failed to react with responsibility and maturity in the face of intelligence received from India about plans by the NTJ to commit terror strikes on Easter Sunday in 2019? Many of those who acquired benefits also displayed greater loyalties to their patrons rather than to the service.
The sudden expansion in the DIG and Senior DIG cadre between 1989 and 1995 out of proportion to necessity may have been one of the major contributory factors toward the gradual decline of police standards. In fact the staggering increase of DIGs on a political diktat, saw implementation without even a discussion in police headquarters with officers in the highest echelons. The cornerstones or fundamental prerequisites which help any institution to prosper are first the organization’s vision, concepts and goals; second, the identification of the ideal administrative structure to run it and third, the posting of competent persons to the senior slots in the structure.
Once the structure loses shape, and corresponding postings lose meaning or purpose, the “out of shape” organization becomes far less effective. If the excess or surfeit of DIGs had an adverse impact on performance, the remedy would obviously have been a drastic reduction in the DIG cadre. But this was not possible because once promoted, an officer cannot be reduced or demoted, unless for disciplinary reasons. The harm caused to the service had therefore been irreversible. Knowing the capricious nature of humans, an institution such as the police should hold the balance between self seeking officers one the one hand, and the interests and well being of the service on the other. The interests of the service should always predominate or prevail over devious designs of self-seekers.
This balance has to be maintained by the IGP. His abdication of this responsibility would allow self-seekers to abuse standards at will. The submission and surrender by police heads to demands from the politicl establishment for arbitrary cadre increases and backdoor promotions contrasted sharply with what prevails int he the armed services. Their chiefs always held the policy in regard to senior cadre and promotions as their exclusive preserve.
The undesirable process had it’s roots in the days of IGP Ernest Perera in 1987 when the Ministry of Defence commenced holding interviews among senior superintendents to select DIGs. It was a move to wrest the authority previously enjoyed by the IGP to nominate SSPs to fill the vacancies in the DIG Cadre. Submission without a murmur to this arrangement paved the way for greater encroachment.
What JVP-NPP needs to do to win
By Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
A young academic at the Open University writing on a popular website has recently defined the NPP project as ‘Left populist’, a term which is very familiar to us at least from the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. He also mentions several parallels and precursors internationally.
As one who has been advocating a ‘left populist’ project for years, I am disinclined to nit-pick about whether or not the JVP-NPP fits the bill. At the moment and in its current incarnation, it is indeed the closest we have to a ‘left populist’ project. Its competitor the SJB, which its founder-leader identifies as social democratic, would be as approximate –and as loose– a fit for the labels ‘progressive populist’, ‘moderate populist’ or ‘populist centrist’, as the JVP-NPP is for ‘left populist’. But that’s the deck of cards we have.
The points I seek to make are different, and may be said to boil down to a single theme or problematique.
Distorted Left Populism
My argument is that the JVP-NPP is as distant from ‘left populism’ globally as it was from ‘left revolutionism’ globally in an earlier incarnation. In both avatars, it is unique in its leftism but not in a positive or helpful way for its cause at any given time.
Mine is not intended as a damning indictment of the JVP-NPP. It is intended as a constructive criticism of a rectifiable error, the rectification of which is utterly urgent given the deadly threat posed by the Wickremesinghe administration and its project of dependent dictatorship.
The JVP-NPP has a structural absence that no ‘left populist’ enterprise, especially in Latin America, has ever had. It is an absence that has marked the JVP from its inception and has been carried over into the present NPP project.
It is not an absence unique to the JVP but figures more in Sri Lanka than it has almost anywhere else. I say this because the same ‘absence’ characterised the LTTE as well. In short, that factor or its radical absence has marred the anti-systemic forces of South and North on the island.
The homeland of left populism has been Latin America while its second home has been Southern Europe. With the exception of Greece, it may be said that ‘left populism’ has an Ibero-American or culturally Hispanic character, which some might trace to the ‘romanticism’ of that culture. But such considerations need not detain us here.
‘Left populism’ has had several identifiable sources and points of departure: the former guerrilla movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the non-guerrilla movements of resistance to dictatorships; parties and split-offs from parties of the Marxist left; left-oriented split-offs or the leftwing of broad flexible even centrist populist formations; leftwing experiments from within the militaries etc.
Populism, Pluralism & Unity
Despite this diversity, all experiments of a Left populist character in Latin America and Europe, have had one thing in common: various forms of unity – e.g., united fronts, blocs etc.—of political parties. I would take up far too much space if I were to list them, starting with the Frente Amplio (which means precisely ‘Broad Front’) initiated by the Tupamaros-MLN of Uruguay and containing the Uruguayan Communist party and headed by a military man, General Liber Seregni, in 1970. The Frente Amplio lasted through the decades of the darkest civil-military dictatorship up to the presidential electoral victories of Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica respectively. Another example would be El Salvador’s FMLN, which brought together several Marxist guerrilla movements into a single front under the stern insistence of Fidel Castro.
Though the roots of unity were back in the 1970s, the formula has only been strengthened in the 1990s and 21st century projects of Left populism. There is a theoretical-strategic logic for this. The polarisation of ‘us vs them’, the 99% vs. the 1%, the many not the few—in socioeconomic terms—is of course a hallmark of populism. But pro-NPP academics and ideologues are unaware of or omit its corollary everywhere from Uruguay to Greece and Spain. Namely, that socioeconomic ‘majoritarianism’ is not possible with a single party as agency.
When the JVP and the NPP have the same leader, and the JVP leader was the founder of the NPP, I cannot regard it as a truly autonomous project, but a party project. Left populism globally, from its inception right up to Lula last year, is predicated on the admission of political, not just social plurality, and the fact that socioeconomic, i.e., popular majoritarianism is possible only as a pluri-party united front, platform or bloc.
This recognition of the imperative of unity as necessitating a convergence of political fractions and currents; that unity is impossible as a function of a single political party; that authentic majoritarianism i.e., “us” is possible only if “we” converge and combine as an ensemble of our organic political agencies, is a structural feature of Left Populism.
It is radically absent in the JVP-NPP and has been so from the JVP’s founding in 1965. It was also true of the LTTE.
It is this insistence on political unipolarity (to put it diplomatically) or political monopoly (to put it bluntly) is a genetic defect of the JVP which has been carried over into the NPP project.
I do not say this to contest the leading role and the main role that the JVP has earned in any left populist project. I say it to draw the Gramscian distinction between ‘leadership’ and ‘domination’. Only ‘leadership’ can create consensus and popular consent; domination through monopoly cannot.
The simple truth is that however ‘left populist’ you think you are; no single party can be said to represent the people or even a majority – as distinct from a mere plurality– of the people. Furthermore, the people are not a unitary subject, and therefore cannot have a unitary leadership. This is the importance of Fidel Castro’s insistence to the Latin American Left of a ‘united command’ which brings together the diverse segments of the left by reflecting plurality.
Anyone who knows the history of Syriza and Podemos knows that they are not outcrops of some single party of long-standing but the result of an organic process of convergences of factions.
Had the JVP had a policy of united fronts – within the Southern left and with the Northern left– it would not have been as decisively defeated as it was in its two insurrections, and might have even succeeded in its second attempt. Though it has formed the NPP which has brought some significant success, it is still POLITICALLY sectarian in that it has no political alliances, partnerships, i.e., NO POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS outside of itself.
I must emphasize that here I am not speaking of a bloc with the SJB, though it is most desirable, to be recommended, and if this were Latin America would definitely be on the agenda of discussion.
Let us speak frankly. The most important phenomenon of recent times (since the victorious end of the war) was the Aragalaya of last year. The JVP, especially its student front the SYU, participated in that massive uprising which dislodged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but it played a less decisive role in the Aragalaya than did the FSP and the IUSF which is close to it. This is by no means to say that the FSP led the Aragalaya, but to point out that it played a more decisive role – which included some mistakes– than did the JVP.
How then does one remain blind to the fact that the JVP-NPP’s ‘left populism’ does not include the FSP and by extension the IUSF? How can there be a ‘popular bloc’ – a key element of left populism—without the IUSF?
Given that Pubudu Jayagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa, Lahiru Weerasekara and Wasantha Mudalige are among the most successful public communicators today (especially on the left), what kind of ‘left’ is a ‘left populism’ devoid of their presence, participation and contribution?
What does it take to recognise that unity of some sort of these two streams of the Left could result in a most useful division of labour and a quantum leap in the hopes and morale of the increasingly left-oriented post-Aragalaya populace, especially the youth?
Surely the very sight of a platform with the leaders of the JVP-NPP and the FSP-IUSF (AKD and Kumar Gunaratnam, Eranga Gunasekara and Wasantha Mudalige, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Duminda Nagamuwa, Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jayagoda) will take the Left populist project to the next level?
As a party the JVP from its birth, and by extension, the NPP today, have set aside one of the main weapons of leftist theory, strategy and political practice: the United Front. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Dimitrov, Gramsci, Togliatti, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro have founded and enriched this strategic concept.
It is difficult to accept that Rohana Wijeweera and Anura Kumara Dissanayake knew/know better than these giants, and that the JVP-NPP can dispense with this political sword and shield and yet prevail–or even survive the coming storm.
The JVP must present a LEFT option in the leadership of which is the major shareholder; not merely a JVP option or para-JVP option, which is what the NPP is. A credible, viable Left alternative cannot be reduced to a single party and its front/auxiliary; it cannot but be a United Left – a Left Front– alternative.
[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is author of The Great Gramsci: Imagining an Alt-Left Project, in ‘On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative’ eds Richard Falk et al, Routledge, New York, 2019.]
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
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