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Significance of EU court ruling on banning LTTE

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By Neville Ladduwahetty

The European Union’s General Court is reported to have rejected an appeal to lift the ban on the LTTE as an international Terrorist Organization within Europe (Sunday Times, November 28, 2021). Continuing, the report states: “The Court rejected multiple pleas…The argument that the LTTE had transformed into a transnational network composed of various divisions which respects Tamil rights and the peaceful enjoyment of the right of self-determination, was also rejected”. The Court had stated: “In fact, a distinction must be drawn between, on the one hand, the objectives which a people or the inhabitants of a territory seek to attain and, on the other hand, the conduct in which they engage in order to attain them”.

SIGNIFICANT CLAIMS by LTTE

During the course of the Court hearing the LTTE stated the following:

42     “The LTTE submits that Regulation No 2580/2001 is not applicable to situations of armed conflict, since those conflicts — and therefore the acts committed in that context — can, in its opinion, only be governed by international humanitarian law”.

43 “However, the historical facts show that the LTTE was involved in armed conflict against the armed forces of the Government of Sri-Lanka, seeking self-determination for the Tamil people and their ‘liberation from the oppression’ of that government. Given the way in which the LTTE’s armed forces were organised and their manner of conducting operations, the members of those forces meet all the requirements laid down by international law for recognition as ‘combatants’. That status gave them immunity in respect of acts of war that were lawful under the terms of the law on armed conflict and meant that, in the case of unlawful acts, the LTTE would be subject only to that law, and not to any anti-terrorism legislation. Since legitimate acts of war cannot be categorised as unlawful under national law, they fall outside the scope of Common Position 2001/931, which, as provided under Article 1(3) thereof, does not apply to acts which are not offences under national law”.

RESPONSE DURING the COURT PROCEEDINGS

The relevant paragraphs from the Court proceedings are presented below.

49      “The Commission argues that the LTTE is mistaken in asserting an incompatibility between armed conflicts and terrorist acts. There are no principles of immunity for combatants in respect of terrorist acts perpetrated during armed conflict. The LTTE does not substantiate its claim that the acts of which it is accused in the grounds for the contested regulations are lawful acts of war. The LTTE is wrong to claim that terrorist acts committed in the context of an armed conflict are subject only to humanitarian law. The institutions of the European Union enjoy a broad discretion as regards the European Union’s external relations and the factors to be taken into consideration for the purposes of adopting measures to freeze funds. The European Union compiles a list of terrorist organisations in order to deprive them of their sources of income, and it does this whether or not they are participants in an armed conflict. That approach is consistent with the European Union’s view — broadly shared, moreover, by the rest of the world — that all terrorist acts are reprehensible and must be eradicated, whether committed in times of peace or of armed conflict”.

61      “The Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War expressly provides, in Article 33, that all measures of terrorism are prohibited. Similarly, Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International and Non-International Armed Conflicts, of 8 June 1977, which seek to ensure better protection of those victims, provide that acts of terrorism are prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever (Article 4(2) of Additional Protocol II) and that acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited (Article 51(2) of Additional Protocol I and Article 13(2) of Additional Protocol II)”.

62      “It follows from the foregoing considerations that the perpetration of terrorist acts by participants in an armed conflict is expressly covered and condemned as such by international humanitarian law”.

115    “In the present case, it should be noted that, although the decisions adopted by the UK authorities (namely the Home Secretary and the UK Treasury) and Indian authorities do not in fact constitute, strictly speaking, decisions for the ‘instigation of investigations or prosecutions for an act of terrorism’ or ‘condemnation for such deeds’, within the strict criminal sense of the term, the fact remains that those decisions lead to the ban on the LTTE in the United Kingdom and the freezing of its funds, and also the proscription of the LTTE in India, and that they therefore clearly form part of national proceedings seeking, primarily, the imposition on the LTTE of measures of a preventive or punitive nature, in connection with the fight against terrorism”.

117    “Therefore, the LTTE is incorrect to claim that the only case of a non-criminal decision accepted as a basis for listing are decisions of the Security Council, as mentioned in Article 1(4) of Common Position 2001/931. The purpose of the last sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 1(4) of that common position is only to afford the Council an additional listing possibility alongside the listings which it can make on the basis of decisions of competent national authorities”.

COMMENT

It is evident from the admissions made by the LTTE that they were engaged in an armed conflict and that their acts should be judged under provisions of International Humanitarian Law. Furthermore, starting with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that all “measures of terrorism are prohibited” and “relating to the Protection of Victims of International and Non-International Armed Conflicts, of 8 June 1977, which seek to ensure better protection of those victims, provide that acts of terrorism are prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever (Article 4(2) of Additional Protocol II) and that acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited (Article 51(2) of Additional Protocol I and Article 13(2) of Additional Protocol II)”.

The significance of the EU Court Ruling is the acknowledgement that because Additional Protocol II that is applicable to non-international armed conflict, as it was in Sri Lanka, it should be read along with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 because it offers greater protection for civilians. This means that provisions of Common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and its expanded provisions in Additional Protocol II of 1977 should be factored in all evaluations when addressing accountability. Furthermore, it means that Article 6 of the Additional Protocol II of 1977 should be followed in the case of “Penal prosecutions”. Since this calls for “anyone charged with an offence shall have the right to be tried in his presence” and on the “basis of individual penal responsibility” (Article 6, (b) and (e), the question of charging anyone associated with the armed conflict presents serious challenges because it rules out command responsibility, and because the inability to locate and identify former combatants becomes a barrier to prosecution.

Therefore, the efforts the UNHRC is currently engaged in to collect evidence to exercise Universal Jurisdiction, becomes a futile exercise.

SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION S/RES/1373 (2001)

The governing reason for the Court to retain the ban on the LTTE was because the LTTE resorted to terrorist acts during the armed conflict. This fact alone warrants the application of Security Council Resolution 1373 in all its dimensions. This is the significance of the ruling by the Court. This means that all States and especially Sri Lanka, are bound to comply by the provisions in Resolution 1373 if global terrorism is to be addressed.

SC Resolution 1373 states as follows:

1. Decides that all States shall:(a) Prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts;(b) Criminalize the wilful provision or collection, by any means, directly orindirectly, of funds by their nationals or in their territories with the intention that the funds should be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in order to carry out terrorist acts;(c) Freeze without delay funds and other financial assets or economicresources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts or participatein or facilitate the commission of terrorist acts; of entities owned or controlleddirectly or indirectly by such persons; and of persons and entities acting on behalfof, or at the direction of such persons and entities, including funds derived orgenerated from property owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such personsand associated persons and entities;

(d) Prohibit their nationals or any persons and entities within their territoriesfrom making any funds, financial assets or economic resources or financial or otherrelated services available, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of persons whocommit or attempt to commit or facilitate or participate in the commission ofterrorist acts, of entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by such personsand of persons and entities acting on behalf of or at the direction of such persons;

2. Decides also that all States shall:(a) Refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entitiesor persons involved in terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment ofmembers of terrorist groups and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists;(b) Take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts,including by provision of early warning to other States by exchange of information;(c) Deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terroristacts, or provide safe havens;(d) Prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts fromusing their respective territories for those purposes against other States or theircitizens;(e) Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning,preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is broughtto justice and ensure that, in addition to any other measures against them, suchterrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws andregulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terroristacts;(f) Afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection withcriminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or supportof terrorist acts, including assistance in obtaining evidence in their possessionnecessary for the proceedings;(g) Prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective bordercontrols and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents, andthrough measures for preventing counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents;

The sentiments and near identical opinions were expressed by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, when the “…court voted 6 to 3 to uphold a federal law banning ‘material support’ to foreign terrorist organizations. The ban holds, the court explained, even when offerings are not money or weapons but things such as ‘expert advice or assistance’ or ‘training’ intended to instruct in international law or appeals to the United Nations” (Washington Post, June 22, 2010). Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in writing the majority opinion said that those challenging the ban “simply disagree with the considered judgment of Congress and the Executive that providing material support to a designated terrorist organization – even seemingly benign support bolsters terrorist activities of the organization… (the law) is on its face, a preventive measure – it criminalizes not terrorist attacks themselves, but aid that makes the attack more likely to occur…” (Ibid).

CONCLUSION

The significance of the European Union’s Court ruling is that the process gave the LTTE the opportunity to state its case which was that the LTTE was engaged in an armed conflict with the Government of Sri Lanka and consequently, their actions should be judged under provisions of International Humanitarian law. This admission is no different to the opinion expressed in 2008 that the conflict in Sri Lanka was an armed conflict and therefore, the applicable law is International Humanitarian Law related to Non-International Armed Conflict. Furthermore, the UN appointed Panel of Experts (Darusman Report), and the Report of the Office of the Human Rights Commission (OISL), also advocated a similar approach to address accountability. Despite all attempts, successive Sri Lankan Governments have failed to adopt this approach and instead, continue to present the conflict as one between the State and a Non-State actor, perhaps influenced by the humanitarian approach adopted by Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

The significance of the European Union’s Court proceedings was that it gave the Court the opportunity to inform the LTTE that the justification to retain the ban on the LTTE was because the LTTE resorted to acts of terrorism during the armed conflict, based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 that prohibit terrorist acts regardless of the motivations for the armed conflict. Therefore, by implication, as long as the LTTE remains designated a terrorist entity all Member States are required to comply with all the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1373.

This means that Member States need to ensure that provisions are incorporated in domestic law to prevent acts such as financing of terrorists; criminalize collection of funds by their nationals; freeze funds and other assets; prohibiting their nationals from making funds or other resources available to persons who commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts; refrain from providing any support active or passive; deny safe haven; prevent those who plan terrorist acts from using their territories etc. as cited in Resolution 1373.

Since the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (No. 48 of 1979) became law several decades prior to Resolution 1373, it is incumbent on the Sri Lankan Government to upgrade the PTA of 1979, if Sri Lanka is to fulfill its obligations to the UN. Furthermore, the fact that countries such as U.K. and some EU Member States knowingly permit the LTTE to conduct activities that contravene the provisions of Resolution 1373 means they are not only guilty of violating the US Supreme Court’s interpretation of Resolution 1373 cited above, but are also complicit in turning a blind eye to the activities of the LTTE in their respective territories.

A matter of extreme irony is that while the European Parliament’s Resolution on Sri Lanka calls for “the repeal of the PTA (as) a key condition of Sri Lanka’s status as a GSP+ beneficiary country”, it ignores the fact that because the intent of the PTA as well as Resolution 1373 were to prevent terrorist acts, and a significant proportion of the provisions of Resolution 1373 resonate with those in Sri Lanka’s PTA. Therefore, since the EU and Sri Lanka together with the rest of the global community have to fulfill the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1373, it makes no sense to repeal the PTA and comply with Resolution 1373. This anomaly needs to be clarified before rushing to repeal the PTA and implement legislation that embodies provisions of Resolution 1373.

The significance of the ruling by the European Court is that because the LTTE resorted to terrorist acts, it follows that it is in violation of Security Council Resolution 1373. This ruling therefore, gives the Sri Lankan Government the opportunity to set up a special unit within the security establishment that should collaborate with Interpol to implement the full scope of Resolution 1373 if the influence and activities of the Tamil diaspora are to be neutralized.



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Features

Is it impossible to have hope?

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So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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