SLFP – What fate awaits it
By Gunadasa Amarasekera
The reason for the SLFP leaders to celebrate its 70th birth Anniversary, I believe was promoted by a desire to make a comeback out of the depths to which it has sunk in recent times. Despite the desire to come back, has it the vitality, the elan left to do so? This is a question to be asked not only by the SLFPers themselves, but by the vast majority that happens to be the children of ’56 and also by all those who are interested in the well- being of the country-the nation. To answer this question, one needs at least a brief analysis of its genesis, its history and its past performance.
The biggest misfortune the SLFP has faced and is facing even today is its inability to identify itself, understand why it came into being. Except for a discerning few, most of the present generation including our so- called intellectuals and even those who have undertaken to lead the Party, lack this understanding.
For many, even today, it is a quirk of fate; for some elitist groups it’s the result of a demagogy spawned by a disgruntled few. Very few have addressed their minds to find an answer. GC Mendis was one among the few who sought to delve deep to seek an answer. He saw it as a lapse on the part of the main civilised political stream which allowed the barbaric tide languishing at the periphery to overtake it!
However, the die- hard SLFPers see it as nothing but the creation of its great leader-SWRD Bandaranaike – Bandaranaike with his slogan of ‘Sinhala in 24 hours’ was able to sway the masses, achieve victory and create history. Little do they realise that it is not the leaders that create history; instead it is history that creates leaders. Bandaranaike did not create a new party as such; he only delivered what was created by history, and played the role of the midwife or the obstetrician. This historical perspective has eluded those devotees of Bandaranaike.
The SLFP is a party that is different from all other parties that have emerged after Independence. The UNP was founded on the liberal ideology of the West, the Socialist parties were founded on Marxism, which once again was a product of the West. The SLFP, on the contrary, has its origins in the soil; it is rooted in the Sinhala Buddhist civilisation, which has nourished this nation over the centuries. This can be ascertained from the historical background that gave birth to this party.
After the Uva-Wellassa rebellion, the national liberation movement gave up the armed struggle and opted for a non-violent path. By then the renaissance movement initiated by Asarana Sarana Saranankara, during the Dutch period, had permeated to the rest of the country, especially to Ruhuna. It produced the intelligentsia, the educated Sangha community who were to spearhead the movement. Two great seats of learning – Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara were established by the pupils of Sarankara.it was this background that made Anagarika Dharmapala emerge by the end of the 19th century. It was he who took the message to the masses with a number of cultural movements. In his travels across the country, he realised that those villagers, the peasants, though living in poverty, had retained a civilisational consciousness inherited from a past; he also realised that this civilisational consciousness which lay dormant could be awakened in his fight against imperialist forces. By the beginning of the twentieth century the British ruler realised the threat imposed by Anagarika. The IGP said there was a likelihood of Anagarika surrounding Colombo one morning with ‘his barbaric hordes’. The rulers with the help of the comprador class and the deracinated members of the National Congress groomed by them were determined to take Anagarika off the stage, silence him and destroy his movement. They succeeded in doing so, but failed to destroy the seeds sown by him in the minds of the vast masses. Those seeds took root and flourished unnoticed with the passage of time, the nourishment needed was produced by the indigenous intelligentsia, the writers, novelists and poets of the time – sanga-veda-guru – the forces of ’56, came out of that milieu.
Except the young Bandaranaike, who had returned from UK, no other leader was aware of the silent revolution initiated by Anagarika. It was that awareness that made Bandaranaike establish the Sinhala Maha Sabha in 1934.The Sinhala Maha Sabha produced the blue print needed for the formation of the SLFP in 1951. The Sinhala Maha Sabha has suffered great injustice being labelled a chauvinistic Sinhala caucus. The truth is far from it. The SMS envisaged a political organisation that would not only look after the economic needs but also the cultural aspirations of the people who had suffered at the hands of the colonials. It addressed its mind to the unity of different communities and as a prerequisite to that unity it emphasised the need to unite the Sinhalese who were divided by political affiliations, by religion, caste and creed. It maintained that; it is only then, that other groups could be brought in as stake holders, participating in a common civilisation. This is possible when there is a non- antagonistic symbiotic relationship between these cultures and civilisations. (I think this a point that Huntington missed when he considered /assumed culture and civilization as one and the same.) This, I believe was the state of affairs in this country prior to the advent of the foreigner. This is so, even today at the village peasantry level, and this is what prompted President DB Wijetunge, a great villager himself, to make that most misunderstood statement -comparing the Sinhala nation to a tree around which the other ethnic groups should wind themselves for their survival. I believe this vision of the Sinhala Maha Sabha is more relevant today when the so -called reconciliation at the expense of the major community has failed miserably. It was a mistake on the part of Bandaranaike to have dissolved the Sinhala Maha Sabha when he joined the UNP; ironically what made Bandaranaike form the SLFP was the rejection of the proposals of the Sinhala Maha Sabha at the Madampe sessions by the UNP.
The great victory achieved by the SLFP in ’56 was not one that was anticipated by many. I don’t think that even Bandaranaike anticipated it; his close friend and founder member of the Party, Bernard Aluwihare left the party on the eve of the elections saying that he was not prepared to carry the coffin. There is a story I have heard from a reliable source that is symbolic of the situation and the quandary faced by the great leader and the nation. Bandaranaike, after a hectic election campaign had retired early to bed, the night, the election results were to be announced. He had told the family members, not to put him up; the family members though overjoyed by the results, had remained silent till the following morning. When they heard his footsteps coming down the stairs they rushed to announce the victory- Bandaranaike had stopped coming down and sat on the steps, silent, wrapped in deep thought for a long period.
I think this premature victory had its ill-effects on the party; it had the vision, but lacked the political structures, institutions, and the economic policies that were needed to translate the vision into praxis. Though it spoke of a nebulous middle path, a socialism of its own, there were no concrete plans to achieve those ends. I believe Bandaranaike had the vision, the intellect, to translate that vision. His death––a result of a conspiracy still unraveled––denied him that opportunity.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was able to implement some of the policies that were envisaged by her husband. But she had no holistic agenda. The Marxists who were with her, were partly responsible for it; they were interested not in a nationalist plan but a Marxist agenda. Some of the results were horrendous, such as taking away the lands of the locals; indiscriminate nationalisation followed by corruption, discouraging local entrepreneurship, austere measures –hal polu. miris polu and bread queues that made life impossible for the middle class, and the poor.
The situation was seized by the old fox JR to present the coalition as an adharmista evil force. What was ironical is that he was able to use the same lingo, the same terms dharmista which formed the core moral and ethical values of the SLFP. But this debacle suffered by the SLFP was temporary, it was no threat to its survival.
However, it was Chandrika Kumaratunga who assumed the leadership of the Party who was capable of thwarting) its survival.
It was Chandrika Kumaratunga who was able to destroy for the first time, the Sinhala Buddhist cultural foundation on which the SLFP was built. It was no longer the Party of the Sinhala majority-the backbone of the SLFP. It was turned into a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multireligious, multi-cultural party. Having transformed it, she was prepared to hand over North and East to Mr Prabhakaran for 10 years; invited the Norwegians to divide the country in the name of reconciliation, and was ready to execute the P-Toms together with Prabhakaran. She confessed later that the decision she made to dissolve Parliament was a mistake, which action was what allowed the war to be continued.
In all these, Chandrika Kumaratunga was ably supported by Mangala Samaraweera, with his thavalam and sudu nelum campaigns. I do not wish to believe that she extended her blessings to Samaraweera to co-sponsor the traitorous resolution by the US against our country.
The greatest harm inflicted on the SLFP was the derailing and destroying the economic policies followed by it from its inception. Though they may have not been clearly defined, they were always anti-imperialist, pro nationalist and pro socialist. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was always guided by her civilisational consciousness, she never allowed imperialist powers to exploit this country, she was fearless and bold enough to nationalise the American oil companies in spite of the threats of that super power. Her government cleared all the debts we had accumulated, JR Jayewardene reversed all this with his open economy -a euphuism for neo colonialism.
Chandrika never tried to get back to the economic policies of the SLFP, she was happy with the neo liberal policies of JRJ. Under the pretext of giving a human face, she embraced them gladly. However, what is most disappointing and damaging was that Mahinda Rajapakse who followed her als o continued with the same policies when he had the opportunity to change them.
The result of these contradictory, harmful trends, was the loss of vision, direction and loss of ideology, resulting ultimately in the loss of confidence of the people. The SLFP became a headless body-a kawandaya. No attempt was made to recover the lost head; what was attempted was to graft the heads of liberal donkeys and heads of Marxist horses, adding insult to injury. ( In my address at the Bandaranaike Commemoration I pointed this out.)
It was left to President Sirisena to complete the task and finish off the Party. He did so by doing the very opposite of what the founder of the Party did 70 years ago, by making the SLFP an appendage of the UNP, and taking it back to the folds of the UNP. The last supper (of hoppers) at the Temple Trees was followed by the crucification of the kawandaya.
This was the fate of the SLFP; the fate that awaits it today, cannot be much different.
What is really worrying is not so much the demise of the kawandaya, but its repercussions. Ranil Wickremasinghe may have thought that it was a superb strategy on his part to embrace Sirisena. He would have thought embracing Sirisena means destroying his opponent the SLFP for good. Little did he realize that it was the embrace of death, that it would kill his party as well as himself. He had ultimately secured a dishonorable grave for his grand old party after 75 years. In spite of all these repercussions, one would say that not everything is lost. The two main parties in their death throes have thrown up two saplings; the Pohottuwa and the Telephone which would carry on their mission. It would be extremely naive to believe in such a fantasy. The Pohottuwa will wither away before it blossoms, and the telephone will be dead before it answers the call.
Ultimately, we are left with a political dessert, a wasteland with no hope and nothing in sight as visualised by the poet – “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this this stony rubbish,”. All signs are there, that we are fast approaching that stage. (On the other hand the poet may be wrong where this resplendent isle of ours is concerned… that stony rubbish can produce heroes out of clowns and comedians as well as politicians to lead us.)
However, let me not end what I have to say only with this dismal picture to the children of ‘56, who had pinned their faith on this party and now feel betrayed and let down. There is no need to lose faith. The SLFP as a party may be dead, but not the ideology that gave it birth, it’s alive. It’s that ideology that made 6,900,000 of you to vote Gotabaya to power. That ideology founded on our centuries old civilisation as old as the Chinese civilisation will die only with the death of our civilisation. That it has not suffered such an untimely death is proved beyond all doubt by the victory of Gotabaya.
In 1959, three years after ’56, I wrote an article to that prestigious- now obsolete -journal Sanskrithi; I made the observation — that you the children of ’56 are the ones who would come to power and redeem this country. As you know that has not come to pass, it has remained a dream. The blame lies with you. You, living through dark times, especially after ’77, did not realise that what is needed is an enlightened dialogue, an intellectual engagement to prepare you for such a task. As a matter of fact, there had not been such a dialogue since Independence for you to get ‘connected to it’. What was there, was the despicable politics of power-hungry politicians to which you too became a prey. You thought the answer was in the barrel of the gun which wiped out a whole generation of you -that should have been a lesson to you.
I hope this present discussion on ‘the role of the children of ‘56’ would open your eyes to the need for such an intellectual engagement and an enlightened dialogue based on the civilisational ideology and the civilisational consciousness that it has generated, which you have not lost. It is only then, and then only that you can claim to seek power.
(Based on the contribution made on zoom seminar ‘On the role of the Children of 56.)
What JVP-NPP needs to do to win
By Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
A young academic at the Open University writing on a popular website has recently defined the NPP project as ‘Left populist’, a term which is very familiar to us at least from the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. He also mentions several parallels and precursors internationally.
As one who has been advocating a ‘left populist’ project for years, I am disinclined to nit-pick about whether or not the JVP-NPP fits the bill. At the moment and in its current incarnation, it is indeed the closest we have to a ‘left populist’ project. Its competitor the SJB, which its founder-leader identifies as social democratic, would be as approximate –and as loose– a fit for the labels ‘progressive populist’, ‘moderate populist’ or ‘populist centrist’, as the JVP-NPP is for ‘left populist’. But that’s the deck of cards we have.
The points I seek to make are different, and may be said to boil down to a single theme or problematique.
Distorted Left Populism
My argument is that the JVP-NPP is as distant from ‘left populism’ globally as it was from ‘left revolutionism’ globally in an earlier incarnation. In both avatars, it is unique in its leftism but not in a positive or helpful way for its cause at any given time.
Mine is not intended as a damning indictment of the JVP-NPP. It is intended as a constructive criticism of a rectifiable error, the rectification of which is utterly urgent given the deadly threat posed by the Wickremesinghe administration and its project of dependent dictatorship.
The JVP-NPP has a structural absence that no ‘left populist’ enterprise, especially in Latin America, has ever had. It is an absence that has marked the JVP from its inception and has been carried over into the present NPP project.
It is not an absence unique to the JVP but figures more in Sri Lanka than it has almost anywhere else. I say this because the same ‘absence’ characterised the LTTE as well. In short, that factor or its radical absence has marred the anti-systemic forces of South and North on the island.
The homeland of left populism has been Latin America while its second home has been Southern Europe. With the exception of Greece, it may be said that ‘left populism’ has an Ibero-American or culturally Hispanic character, which some might trace to the ‘romanticism’ of that culture. But such considerations need not detain us here.
‘Left populism’ has had several identifiable sources and points of departure: the former guerrilla movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the non-guerrilla movements of resistance to dictatorships; parties and split-offs from parties of the Marxist left; left-oriented split-offs or the leftwing of broad flexible even centrist populist formations; leftwing experiments from within the militaries etc.
Populism, Pluralism & Unity
Despite this diversity, all experiments of a Left populist character in Latin America and Europe, have had one thing in common: various forms of unity – e.g., united fronts, blocs etc.—of political parties. I would take up far too much space if I were to list them, starting with the Frente Amplio (which means precisely ‘Broad Front’) initiated by the Tupamaros-MLN of Uruguay and containing the Uruguayan Communist party and headed by a military man, General Liber Seregni, in 1970. The Frente Amplio lasted through the decades of the darkest civil-military dictatorship up to the presidential electoral victories of Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica respectively. Another example would be El Salvador’s FMLN, which brought together several Marxist guerrilla movements into a single front under the stern insistence of Fidel Castro.
Though the roots of unity were back in the 1970s, the formula has only been strengthened in the 1990s and 21st century projects of Left populism. There is a theoretical-strategic logic for this. The polarisation of ‘us vs them’, the 99% vs. the 1%, the many not the few—in socioeconomic terms—is of course a hallmark of populism. But pro-NPP academics and ideologues are unaware of or omit its corollary everywhere from Uruguay to Greece and Spain. Namely, that socioeconomic ‘majoritarianism’ is not possible with a single party as agency.
When the JVP and the NPP have the same leader, and the JVP leader was the founder of the NPP, I cannot regard it as a truly autonomous project, but a party project. Left populism globally, from its inception right up to Lula last year, is predicated on the admission of political, not just social plurality, and the fact that socioeconomic, i.e., popular majoritarianism is possible only as a pluri-party united front, platform or bloc.
This recognition of the imperative of unity as necessitating a convergence of political fractions and currents; that unity is impossible as a function of a single political party; that authentic majoritarianism i.e., “us” is possible only if “we” converge and combine as an ensemble of our organic political agencies, is a structural feature of Left Populism.
It is radically absent in the JVP-NPP and has been so from the JVP’s founding in 1965. It was also true of the LTTE.
It is this insistence on political unipolarity (to put it diplomatically) or political monopoly (to put it bluntly) is a genetic defect of the JVP which has been carried over into the NPP project.
I do not say this to contest the leading role and the main role that the JVP has earned in any left populist project. I say it to draw the Gramscian distinction between ‘leadership’ and ‘domination’. Only ‘leadership’ can create consensus and popular consent; domination through monopoly cannot.
The simple truth is that however ‘left populist’ you think you are; no single party can be said to represent the people or even a majority – as distinct from a mere plurality– of the people. Furthermore, the people are not a unitary subject, and therefore cannot have a unitary leadership. This is the importance of Fidel Castro’s insistence to the Latin American Left of a ‘united command’ which brings together the diverse segments of the left by reflecting plurality.
Anyone who knows the history of Syriza and Podemos knows that they are not outcrops of some single party of long-standing but the result of an organic process of convergences of factions.
Had the JVP had a policy of united fronts – within the Southern left and with the Northern left– it would not have been as decisively defeated as it was in its two insurrections, and might have even succeeded in its second attempt. Though it has formed the NPP which has brought some significant success, it is still POLITICALLY sectarian in that it has no political alliances, partnerships, i.e., NO POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS outside of itself.
I must emphasize that here I am not speaking of a bloc with the SJB, though it is most desirable, to be recommended, and if this were Latin America would definitely be on the agenda of discussion.
Let us speak frankly. The most important phenomenon of recent times (since the victorious end of the war) was the Aragalaya of last year. The JVP, especially its student front the SYU, participated in that massive uprising which dislodged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but it played a less decisive role in the Aragalaya than did the FSP and the IUSF which is close to it. This is by no means to say that the FSP led the Aragalaya, but to point out that it played a more decisive role – which included some mistakes– than did the JVP.
How then does one remain blind to the fact that the JVP-NPP’s ‘left populism’ does not include the FSP and by extension the IUSF? How can there be a ‘popular bloc’ – a key element of left populism—without the IUSF?
Given that Pubudu Jayagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa, Lahiru Weerasekara and Wasantha Mudalige are among the most successful public communicators today (especially on the left), what kind of ‘left’ is a ‘left populism’ devoid of their presence, participation and contribution?
What does it take to recognise that unity of some sort of these two streams of the Left could result in a most useful division of labour and a quantum leap in the hopes and morale of the increasingly left-oriented post-Aragalaya populace, especially the youth?
Surely the very sight of a platform with the leaders of the JVP-NPP and the FSP-IUSF (AKD and Kumar Gunaratnam, Eranga Gunasekara and Wasantha Mudalige, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Duminda Nagamuwa, Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jayagoda) will take the Left populist project to the next level?
As a party the JVP from its birth, and by extension, the NPP today, have set aside one of the main weapons of leftist theory, strategy and political practice: the United Front. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Dimitrov, Gramsci, Togliatti, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro have founded and enriched this strategic concept.
It is difficult to accept that Rohana Wijeweera and Anura Kumara Dissanayake knew/know better than these giants, and that the JVP-NPP can dispense with this political sword and shield and yet prevail–or even survive the coming storm.
The JVP must present a LEFT option in the leadership of which is the major shareholder; not merely a JVP option or para-JVP option, which is what the NPP is. A credible, viable Left alternative cannot be reduced to a single party and its front/auxiliary; it cannot but be a United Left – a Left Front– alternative.
[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is author of The Great Gramsci: Imagining an Alt-Left Project, in ‘On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative’ eds Richard Falk et al, Routledge, New York, 2019.]
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
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