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Praise to the monks who rose to perform their rightful duty

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By that title I mean the Ramanya and Amarapura Nikaya monks who made a joint statement disapproving the 20Amendment and advised the government to amend it drastically or better, withdraw it and concentrate on more urgent national matters, with a new Constitution drawn up later. Some other bhikkhus went to the extent of threatening the present government with: “We brought you to power and we can take that power away.” (Not verbatim; gist is intact)

Hence the monks of the two Nikayas who jointly drew up their statement and presented it at a media briefing are to be highly commended, respected and thanked. Cass does not want to get into the politics of this event. She only wishes to state that they played the role the Sangha is expected to play and was directed to do by the Buddha himself; namely advice rulers; direct the right political path to follow. Cass has in the past been most castigating in her remarks on Buddhist monks who lifted stone and stick, hitched up robes, and actually went on the offensive. Or led protests which turned violent, caused chaos, ultimately leading to public property destruction. Also abhorred were those who exhibited verbal and/or physical antipathy to other religions and their religious places of worship. All these happened and subsided; subsided due to one particular monk getting away from the limelight and foregoing heroics (read random terror attacks) which he said he resorted to in the name of preserving Buddhism and the Sinhala race. Stuff and nonsense! Utter tosh is Cass’ invariable reaction to Buddhist monks who turn militant.

The chief prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters are still to voice their opinion. The silence of the Asgiriya chief monks is understandable but the other Chapter aught to lend a voice for democracy.

Storm over Tamil film

A clear case of how stupid politics warps even the good and blameless. Mercifully this is in Tamil Nadu, but it is centered on a Sri Lankan. Cass means here the most unnecessary ‘row’ over the film titled ‘800’ which is a biopic on Muttiah Muralitharan, made in South India by Tamil Nadu-based director Cheran, starring Vijay Sethupathi. And what is this stormy uproar in a mere teacup of a film? The question the rabble rousers ask is why Sethupathi consented to portray “Muralitharan who was close to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s war-time Defense Secretary and his support to Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the election campaigns”. We in Sri Lanka have taken such matters in the correct spirit – it’s a personal act of the famed cricketer and he is entitled to his choices and loyalties. But it has irked many in Tamil Nadu. The comment I read in The Island also states that the protesters took objection to the fact that Muralitharan was rumoured to be appointed Governor of the Northern Province. They say, Vijay playing MM is shocking. SO WHAT!? That’s the Sri Lankan response, even though such bigotry deserved no response. Cass echoes the child’s remark of long ago: “Don’t poke your inquisitive fingers into our business!” Objection to the film has been brought up even in the Rajya Sabha.

This sanctimonious, intrusive State – Tamil Nadu – is the one that a couple of years ago almost worshipped that woman politician who got richer and richer as she grew fatter over ill gotten gains, and all through being extra ‘friendly’ with the famous South Indian film star, M G Ramachandran. Tamil Nadu citizens elevated Jeyalalitha to ‘Adi parashakti’ state which means the ultimate powerful goddess in Tamil. Her shenanigans were OK and she was adored at the time. Now a popular actor is hauled over the public opinion coals for starring in a film, which is his profession from which he earns for his vadai and sambhar! Muralitharan has been again his magnanimous self and requested the actor, Vijay Sethupathi, to step down. Our great cricketer should go the whole hog and declare he will star as himself in the biopic. That would jolt the protestors to silence.

 

GROBR

Those initials above were Cass’ schoolgirl expression of thanks for the removal of a pest or pestiferousness. Cass spells them out with reference to the shooting of Makandure Madush by the hand of co-gangsters as the Police say, in a murky housing block in Maligawatte even before dawn broke on another day of Covid-19 spread in this island of ours. And what pray is the expression the more elite may ask who speak in words not initials and acronyms? GROBR is ‘Good riddance of bad rubbish’, which of course is too mild and polite to express our true feelings about a criminal/gangster/wealthy drug dealer and destroyer of humans, mostly youth/ being done to death. Live by the gun and you die by the gun. Also thrive on corruption and your end is corrupt with corruption following you to the next life or hell as your beliefs tell you is what follows your death. These may live happy and handsome now on corruptly earned wealth but when death comes, it is doubly horrible with rot setting in. That is not a curse of Cass a la Kuveni, but a universal truth.

Those who want their voices heard and protest for protest’s sake, voiced dissent in Parliament about the master gangster’s death by shooting.Violation of human rights they said. Methinks there is no one, not even one of Madush’s so called wives who would sincerely mourn his death, barring perhaps his mother.

A contact I have to the grapevine, or one of its branches, said that other drug dealers in prison now do not want to be released on bail. They know their justified demise at the hands of rivals will be immediate and bloody. It seems Podi or Punchi someone is having the runs violently and is permanently in the prison toilet!! They fear release much more than imprisonment from where they carry through all their nefarious, nay, deadly activities.

Kudos to the police who have hunted down so many drug dealers. A snippet from the shouting in Parliament on Tuesday 20 October. “No, these criminals will not be questioned fully since names of some sitting here will be divulged.” What a damning accusation.

The debate on 29A will soon be on with verbal pyrotechnics. The best was Shameer Rasooldeen on MTV Channel I Face the Nation panel talk on Monday 19th asking panelist U.R. de Silva, ex-BASL Prez whether the Government did a U-Turn regards which the newly appointed law advisor to the PM or Prez refused to agree to. Prevaricated!

Meet you next Friday with the Covid-19 fully under the Pres Taskforce’s control.

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Features

Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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