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Serious effort at finding a solution



A file picture of President Rajapaksa speaking at the All-Party Conference

By Jehan Perera

The government is under siege as it is not delivering results to the people.  This is especially true of the economy where the situation is deteriorating by the day.  There is a seemingly endless drop in the value of the Sri Lankan currency, sharply rising costs that are beyond belief, and the worst may be to come.  The increases in prices of basic commodities, accompanied by shortages, have severely impacted upon the standard of living of the general population and even prompted the government to call out the army to maintain social peace where queues have formed, as at petrol stations.  The fear and deference that people once gave to the government leadership, both on account of war-time victories and ruthless governance, has given way to jests and insults. This is the way in advanced democracies, and it is time that Sri Lanka should be this way, to give no room to political leaders to act inappropriately.

 It is in this time of adversity that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is giving leadership to, what appears to be, a serious effort at finding a solution. This would be the meaning of the All-Party Conference he has summoned.  The boycott of the APC by the main opposition parties and even by a section within the government highlights the sharp political divisions and lack of trust within the polity.  The President recognized this reality when he stated that the conference was not called to gain a political advantage. He added that he would once again invite the parties that did not attend the conference.

The President also said that he would prepare a plan to carry out the recommendations made by the political party leaders.  This approach of finding solutions through discussions and consultations needs to be supported.

 President Rajapaksa’s apology to former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after a government member tried to score political points against the former government, was in keeping with his stated commitment to making this an occasion for non-partisan problem solving. The former Prime Minister’s grasp of both the national and international crises, and their meeting points, is an indication of the value of a national government to face the crisis of the present time.  The President’s meeting with the TNA that represents the majority of Tamil voters in the North and East of the country soon after the APC, has the potential to break new ground in the area of national reconciliation that will help to strengthen the unity and promote economic investment and aid flows to the country.


Shortly after the President’s meeting with the TNA, Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris took it upon himself to brief a civil society group (Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus) on the outcome of the meeting.  Since his appointment as Foreign Minister, Prof Peiris has made a special effort to make the government accessible to civil society.  His contribution in that respect has been considerable.  One of his first acts as Foreign Minister was to heed the voice of civil society organisations that were under the purview of the Ministry of Defence.  The CSOs objected to being considered to be primarily threats to national security rather than being a part and parcel of the democratic system and its checks and balances.  After the CSOs were brought under the purview of the Foreign Ministry they have been able engage more positively and constructively with government mechanisms. The Minister has stated that he would ensure the smooth functioning of the NGO sector and remove the obstacles to their functioning as necessary.

 According to Prof Peiris, as reported variously in the media, the President and TNA reached broad agreement in seven areas that had significance to the Tamil people.  The first was to release those held in state custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for more than ten years without charges, unless there were compelling reasons to continue to keep them in detention.  With regard to the PTA itself, which has been under international scrutiny since the end of the war, he said that its present amendments were only a start.  The government, he said, was considering the Law Commission’s report and the draft Counter Terrorism Act of the previous government to take forward the process of amendment.

 Second, Prof Peiris said that there would be no changes made to territorial boundaries of districts and sub-district units to change their demographic composition or for any other purpose by the government acting alone.  Third, issues relating to forest land, coast conservation and archaeological sites would not be arbitrarily decided on by the government without due regard being paid to the interests of the people of those areas and where found to be unjustified would be reconsidered appropriately for reversion. Fourth, the interests of the people in the north and east would be further secured by the devolution of power, which would be discussed further once the Committee of Experts appointed to propose a new constitution finalized their report which would be done within the next two months.


 Fifth, Prof Peiris said that the Office of Missing Persons would investigate into the circumstances of disappearances and families of the missing would be provided with RS 100,000 as an initial measure.  The formulation of a truth commission also would be considered and a government delegation would visit South Africa to study the iconic Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has proved to be inspirational in facing other situations of war and human rights violations. Sixth, the foreign minister pledged to meet on a regular basis with the representatives of the core group of countries that sustain the truth, accountability and reconciliation process through the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  Seventh, the possibility of setting up a funding mechanism for economic development in the north and east would be explored together with the Tamil Diaspora whom the government would seek to engage with in a constructive manner.

 Addressing these serious matters constructively would constitute a breakthrough to a new phase in the relationship between the government and Tamil people.  No previous government was able to resolve these issues through dialogue, political negotiations and mutual accommodation. Engaging in such a process in the midst of an economic crisis will be doubly challenging.  When there is an economic crisis, it becomes easier for those who are ethnic nationalists to blame those of other communities and see conspiracies at play.  President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are leaders in whom the Sinhalese ethnic majority have placed their trust in the past.

 It is incumbent on the other political parties to join the next round of discussions in a spirit of constructive engagement. So far the opposition political parties have not sought to act as rabble rousers but have voiced their protests against the government’s mishandling of the situation in a democratic and peaceful manner.  Unlike the parliamentary forum in which the government and opposition sit on opposite sides, the All Party Conference offers the forum to agree on a policy for the country that will resolve the problems that the people face and which all political parties can endorse for the longer term irrespective of who leads the government.   It is also important that civil society in all its diversity should discuss and debate the way forward and share their thinking with the political leaders for them to draw inspiration from the people.


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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