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Precipitated scare; Prez scores in interview, FM better; selective sympathy



The muted, panicked voice came through the phone of a friend who croaked she was very confidentially warning Cassandra and advising her.

Yours truly was immediately panic infected. With deep emphasis and concern the friend took her time to advise that Cass withdraws all money from banks. Cass was for once glad she was poor but what would she do by withdrawing the small amounts in two banks?  Get FDs, the pal advised. And wait for an entire year to get measly amounts as interest, questioned Cass. Surmising it was local banks the pal meant, Cass said she banks with a reputed foreign bank. “No Chile, any and every bank is … (Cass did not catch what all banks were in danger of). The little economics she had once studied came to mind: ‘run on banks’.

Cass certainly panicked. Even to breath free air now, one has to have money (masks). Then she consoled herself: one of the invitees for lunch was a banker. She pounced on him as he entered. With what he assured her, her heart beat and pulse rate returned to normal. Her blood pressure would have descended to its usual too high rate.

Another lunch guest said he had heard a JVP politician – not one of those who speak often to the public – issue a warning that all banks would shut their doors and people would lose their monies in them. He had prefaced his address to the public by requesting those fainthearted and harbouring medical problems thereof should not listen to him! His pontification was of course unjustified, but the motive, we discerned. Similar to analysing a poem; one has to find out the underlying themes and poet’s idea/truth he wishes to convey. This politician’s idea/motive/plan/evil design was to cause chaos and destabilise the general public and thus the country. Mercifully, the Governor of the CB assured that banks were closing for debt restructuring purposes and people’s money in banks, pensions, etc., were safe and interest rates stable. However, what is said often transpires to not turning out to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Hence, we cannot relax our bated breath.

Two SL VVIPs elite overseas

Part of my title is: Prez scores in an interview. The interview was in Paris by the French state-owned international news television network – France 24. Started in 2006 and based in Paris, broadcasting in French, English, Arabic and Spanish, its target being overseas viewers.  Well anyone – admirers and detractors and critics, even loathers – would have to admit Ranil W carried himself admirably and answered penetrating questions on the economy and reconciliation moves in the country knowledgeably, confidently and very lucidly showing he had complete grasp of the two issues. In spite of too much around the waist, he was elderly debonair, Cass would say, that day his groomed white hair adding to his appearance. It was good to have our Prez present the stature of a well-read, well-bred, clever man.  Thank goodness (or the Aragalaya) we have a man as our Head who can hold his own with the best; though at home we disagree with many of his actions; and the political pals he keeps, and saves.

He was asked about the restructuring of our debts with the interviewer mentioning the huge amounts of debt the country had to repay. What Ranil W said was that we are achieving goals set by the government to comply with IMF strictures. He did not hesitate to say that China was slow in coming on board but was helpful now, with 2500 years of being a friend. He very emphatically said there were no defense pacts or whatever though the Hambantota Port was leased to them. He added they have control of one of the terminals of the Port of Colombo too.  No military agenda, he emphatically said. He mentioned members of the Opposition reiterating his government is selling the country, which is not the case.

About reconciliation, he said with South Africa’s assistance, the too be set up National Unity and Reconciliation Commission will be presented to the Cabinet and Parliament. He added foreign observers will be present monitoring the Commission in action. South African Head – Ramphosa – is invited to visit in the near future

The second government VVIP in the title is our Foreign Minister, Ali Sabry, who metaphorically shone in China and seemed to greatly impress his imperturbable Chinese counterpart and others. He cut an impressive figure, beating Ranil W in the personality stakes; and spoke excellently. Thank goodness our land of despair has personable high-ups who present our woeful state to the outside world with dignity and class. Remember how some of our kapati suited VVIPs disgraced the national costume they wore in several ways when they sojourned abroad with large entourages and were interviewed. It must be admitted however that Prez Sirisena maintained his dignity.

Cass spied with her keen eye a satakaya at the bargaining tables in China. Eldest Rajapaksa son, now coming forth in the public domain, seemed to be the R who accompanied Minister Sabry. How come? Why? Must be the clout his family wields with the Chinese: his father having loaded them with constructing white elephants – at OUR expense for which we are financially bleeding: us and the country. It was not only the Chinese construction companies that benefited. Our debts – both kinds – would be paid for handsomely if stashed out-of-country thieved money is brought back.

Screeching protests

Cass prophesies – that’s her job according to her claimed Trojan lineage – that the next protest will be of women shouting on the roads claiming their right to wear the pants in the house and subjugate their unjust hubbies to play second fiddle. Why this? Because the women are now followers of Wasantha Mudalige and his vaulting men, including them in yellow robes. Cass refers here to the Samurdhi/Aswasuma protestors. One noticeable fact is how able bodied most screechers are, dressed well and not appearing to be destitute. That is good, but what is bad is that so very many who do not deserve this handout of Rs 5000 a month get it. With a little bit of luck and a pull with a MP, Samurdhi official or Grama Niladhari, anyone could be entered as a Samurdhi beneficiary. Again, politicisation and bartering government money for votes, bribes or favours of a different kind. The really needy – old, frail, disabled, lonely with little or no family support, must be identified and helped. Freely distributed handouts have to be checked carefully and curtailed. We truly are a nation of beggars with hands outstretched to receive anything free.

Accusation of Biased sympathy

Global HR organisations and activists accuse people of being swayed and in sympathy with the five billionaires who were killed in the submersible Titan and were indifferent to the hundreds who died crossing the Mediterranean Sea from ‘difficult’ countries. Listening to a video of a spokeswoman of one such organisation, Cassandra too felt shamed. She had watched BBC news with bated breath of the four-day search operations for the submersible with oxygen stored in it for five days; which imploded.  She empathised with the hundreds who drowned near the coast of Greece, overloaded in an unseaworthy sailing vessel by unscrupulous money-making traffickers. Discussing her biased sympathy with a friend she was consoled somewhat by her friend condemning the refugees of trying to enter countries illegally which are already battling the refugee problem. Another pointed out that life in Afghanistan for instance, is intolerable and attempting migrating is inevitable. Agreed unanimously that Sri Lankans need not barter their all and even lives in trying to illegally enter countries because this country needs workers and life is not intolerable. The grass on the other side may seem greener, but not worth risking all one’s money, often borrowed, life and limb and trusting money sharks.

One of the five who died in the immersible Titan that descended to sight-see the wreck of the Titanic was an in-law of the couple who decided, shown in the film Titanic, to stay close together in bed and die in the sinking ship. They were Isidor and Ida Straus, owners of Macys’ chain of superstores. Their great, great granddaughter, Wendy Rush’s husband Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions that runs the business of sweeping the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, was one of the five on the tragic voyage.

Meet you next week via this column, either totally wiped out money-wise or relieved something is being done to meet our debt commitments. A wicked gremlin within me whispers that something must be done to those who impoverished us: political bosses, That Gov of CB and dishonest Bureaucrats.


Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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