Connect with us

Features

Special Neighbours of Convenience: Narendra Modi and Ranil Wickremesinghe

Published

on

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra: Laying the groundwork for forthcoming New Delhi visit

by Rajan Philips

Ranil Wickremesinghe is not only Sri Lanka’s parliamentary president; he is also a roving president. The President’s next capital of call is New Delhi. The Indian Foreign Secretary, Vinay Kwatra, was in Colombo this week reportedly to lay the groundwork for Mr. Wickremesinghe’s visit to Delhi on July 20 and 21. He came over to make sure that President Wickremesinghe’s visit to India next week will be “a point of positive transformation in the relationship” between the two countries. New Delhi might fancy that in President Wickremesinghe India has finally found a leader whose assurances that the government of India can trust. That may quite well be, but the question is if India can count on Wickremesinghe as a leader whose politics the people of Sri Lanka, especially the Sinhalese, will trust.

The politics of the visit can be seen from several angles – historical, contextual, more regional than geopolitical, and domestic political fallouts. From a domestic (electoral) standpoint, the visit will mean a great deal to President Wickremesinghe and nothing at all to the Modi government.

The point to make is that there is no Sri Lankan government in a political sense that will be implicated by the visit. There is only President Wickremesinghe. He stands alone as government, with opportunistic SLPP support in parliament. Indian accolades will be another moment of external validation for the Sri Lankan President, who will try to cash them electorally in Sri Lanka, but only with mixed results.

There is nothing to compare between Prime Minister Modi’s US visit in June and President Wickremesinghe’s visit to India in July. The only thing common might be the symbolism and ceremonies that were rolled out for Modi in Washington and those that will greet President Wickremesinghe in Delhi. The US is going all out to cultivate Modi as a reliable ally in international relations.

Modi’s objective on the other hand is to similarly cultivate the US as an international partner, but without losing India’s independence to retain its historical alliance with Russia and without diminishing its reliance on Russia as a source for arms and oil at very favourable prices. On China, India will go as farther as it can with the US including its active participation Quad, but will determine the contours of its engagement with China on its own terms.

Special Neighbours

All of this may seem consistent with the current Indian foreign policy of ‘all-alignment’ championed by Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister Jaishankar, which is a repudiation of the old Nehruvian policy of non-alignment and the adoption of a transactional approach to dealing with other countries strategically to further India’s permanent interests. Where does Sri Lanka fit in the new transactional framework of India’s foreign policy, and what is the positive point of transformation that India is hoping to see when President Wickremesinghe visits Delhi?

India’s foremost objective towards Sri Lanka would be to not only confirm but also showcase that India has a ‘special relationship’ with Sri Lanka which is superior to any relationship that Sri Lanka may have with any other country, especially China. Whether President Wickremesinghe’s visit next week will produce a moment of transformation when such a relationship can be articulated by both Prime Minister Modi and President Wickremesinghe remains to be seen. At most, the Sri Lankan President could go along with India as far as Sri Lanka could go while maintaining its ties with China at the same time. That would be an unexceptionable application of India’s transactional approach towards the US and towards China.

At the same time, there is no denying that among all South Asian countries Sri Lanka has emerged as a special neighbour of India. It may not be quite the application of the first principle of the Gujral Doctrine that “with neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity but gives all that it can in good faith and trust.” Reciprocity may not be asked for but it does follow in one form or another. Yet there is no question that when Sri Lanka was struck by its debilitating government-made forex crisis, India stepped up to give all it could and more in good faith and trust. It then made special pleadings with the IMF on Sri Lanka’s behalf.

As neighbours go, Bangladesh is not in any need for any help from anyone. Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives have problems and crises that are mostly manageable. Pakistan is a different case, and its needs are far severer than Sri Lanka’s. But Pakistan will never ask and India will never offer any assistance to Pakistan. Last Tuesday (July 11), Saudi Arabia deposited USD 2 billion in Pakistan’s Central Bank, ahead of a critical meeting of the IMF to approve a USD 3 billion loan to the country. Pakistan has been back and forth with IMF much longer than Sri Lanka has been in the current global debt crisis. It has all of Sri Lanka’s problem with everyone of them on a proportionately larger scale, and the additional aftermath of last year’s floods that has left over 1,700 people dead and USD 30 billion in damages. Yet there has been no offer from India to give anything it could in good faith and trust.

India’s main security fears are about spectacular terrorist attacks launched by militant groups based in Pakistan. China, on the other hand, is not seen as a threat but a strategic challenge. China is also India’s second largest trading partner (after the US), while trade among South Asian countries is nowhere near where it should be given their proximity, their massive collective market, and culturally compatible consumption habits. When Modi first came to power in 2014, his foreign focus was all on neighbours and the emphasis was on improving relationships with all of them, including Pakistan. Over time, the Modi government’s attitude to Pakistan hardened, and after his second election victory in 2019, relationship with Pakistan became an immediate casualty of the government’s increasing hostility towards Muslims in India.

President Wickremesinghe was quick to condemn the burning of Quran in Stockholm, Sweden, earlier this month by an Iraqi Christian immigrant, and asked what the UN Human Rights Council was doing about it. On July 12, the UNHRC passed a resolution calling on countries to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” 28 countries, all Asian, African and Middle Eastern, voted for the resolution, 12 all Western countries plus Costa Rica voted against it on the grounds of concerns over violating free speech, and seven countries abstained. But no one questions the Modi government’s increasingly hostile treatment of Muslims and other religious minorities in India. Not to mention the harassment of opposition political leaders, including the politically motivated move to expel Rahul Gandhi from parliament based on his conviction in a rather bizarre defamation case involving Mr. Gandhi’s satirizing of the Modi name.

Hindutva Globalization

No one is expecting President Wickremesinghe to question the Indian government over human rights, minority rights violations, and the creeping authoritarianism at the federal level in India. No western country is questioning the Modi government on any of these matters, the way China is taken to task by them. Modi was once banned from visiting the US over the 2002 riots against Muslims in Gujarat when Modi was the State’s Chief Minister. Now he is among a handful of world leaders to have addressed a joint session of the US Congress more than once. All concerns over democracy and dissent were neatly tucked under the red carpet that was rolled out in Washington for the Indian Prime Minister.

While the Wickremesinghe visit to Delhi will have no domestic political benefits for the Modi government, the Modi visit to the US carried huge political benefits for the Modi government in India as Narendra Modi looks to extend his tenure as Prime Minister for a third term in the Lok Sabha elections next year. The Indian diaspora in the US is now one of the largest and increasingly influential immigrant groups in the country. The BJP and the Modi government have invested heavily in going global with their Hindutva politics targeting overseas Indians, primarily those in the US. The initial purpose behind this ‘globalization’ was to protect the BJP government and Prime Minister Modi from international sanctions.

The Hindutva globalization effort would seem to have served its initial purpose, and it is now spilling over into domestic politics not only in India but also in the US. Modi’s global appeal and adulations of him by Indians overseas will in turn be used to boost Modi’s national appeal in India to overarch the BJP’s many problems and setbacks at the state level in multiple states. On the other hand, in the US and other western countries Hindutva supporters are finding their natural harbours in conservative organizations. There have been indications that well to do Indian immigrants are gravitating to the Republican Party (similar to what happened with Catholic voters earlier), while Muslim Americans are moving in the opposite direction to the Democratic Party.

Ironically, South Asia is left out in the Hindutva globalization scheme of the BJP government. The omission is unfortunate even as it is inevitable given the Hindutva worldview and its outlook for the future of India. The special relationship with Sri Lanka is primarily intended as a counter to China in the South Asian region. Although a broader South Asian unity will benefit all South Asian countries including India, such a regional perspective cannot be fitted within the asecular Hindutva ideology.

There is another dynamic at play, a part of which is India’s interest in keeping alive the old Indo-Sri Lanka agreement and its main outcome, the 13th Amendment. Modi has been committed to it from his first day as Prime Minister, and in President Wickremesinghe he may have a reliable ally in Sri Lanka. The other part of the dynamic is BJP’s intent and effort to make an electoral breakthrough in Tamil Nadu in 2024, and the ongoing efforts to destabilize the current DMK hold over the State. The BJP-DMK bickering may not concern President Wickremesinghe but the fallout from it might spillover ever so lightly into Sri Lanka.



Features

Illegality of Urumaya programme

Published

on

President distributing land deeds in Galle recently

by Neville Ladduwahetty

The Urumaya Programme, aimed at resolving land ownership issues for over two million Sri Lankans, was officially launched on 5 February in Dambulla by Minister Harin Fernando. During the press briefing the Minister is reported to have stated: “The programme’s aim is to provide permanent land ownership solutions. Over 10,000 land licensees currently holding Ran Bhoomi, Jaya Bhoomi, and Swarna Bhoomi licences will be among the first beneficiaries of this programme. These licenses will be converted into freehold deeds, granting them full ownership of their land. This move is expected to significantly improve the lives and livelihoods of millions currently struggling with land ownership uncertainties” (news.lk).

Continuing he stated: “Our journey is far from over. Many of our citizens have lost homes, land, and their sense of security. To address this suffering, we have launched a special programme – “Urumaya” Through this initiative, we aim to bring about positive change for over two million people in Sri Lanka.    This involves granting freehold land deeds to those who currently hold licenses like Ran Bhoomi, Jaya Bhoomi, and Swarna Bhoomi.     By empowering our people with ownership, we hope to spark a new era of stability and prosperity” (Ibid).

BACKGROUND to the URUMAYA PROGRAMME

“Delivering the 2024 Budget proposals, President Wickremesinghe unveiled the ‘Urumaya’ programme, wherein he noted that the land slots distributed among farmers under the licences of the Land Development Ordinance in 1935 would be handed back to farmers” (The Morning, February 18, 2024).

“Although around 100 years have passed, the ownership of these farmlands has not been handed back to the farmers who own them. We are handing over the lands to farmers who lost the ownership of their traditional lands during the British colonial era. We expect to commence this task in 2024 and complete it within another few years. Two million families will get the ownership of land and farmland. I allocate Rs. 2 billion for this purpose,” (Ibid).

VIOLATION of the CONSTITUTION

The granting of freehold land deeds to over two million people in Sri Lanka raises several constitutional issues. The most fundamental issue is whether the government has the authority to grant freehold titles to lands and its resources to some, while such authority belongs to the Republic of Sri Lanka and ALL its Peoples as an integral component of their sovereignty.

For instance, the Preamble to the Constitution, which some consider to be of little significance, while others consider it to be the very embodiment of the core values of the Constitution states: “The PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA having, by their Mandate freely expressed and granted …. entrusted and empowered their Representatives …to draft, adopt and operate a new Republican Constitution…whilst ratifying the immutable republican principles of REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY, and assuring to all peoples FREEDOM, EQUALITY, JUSTICE, FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS…”.

Arising from these core principles, Article 3 states: “In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable ….”  The fact that Sri Lanka is a Republic is what makes its assets part of the sovereignty of all the People.    Furthermore, since it is the PEOPLE of Sri Lanka that have “entrusted and empowered their Representatives to carry out functions on their behalf, such Representatives do not have the right to grant part of the People’s sovereign rights and/or its resources that are inalienable, to a select few. However, it is imperative that a strategy is developed to address the issue at hand without violating provisions of the Constitution.

OPINION of the SUPREME COURT
SUPREME COURT JUDGMENTS RELATING to LAND
S.C. 884/99 BULANKULAMA AND OTHERS v. SECRETARY, MINISTRY OFINDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AND OTHERS (EPPAWALA CASE AMERASINGHE. J.

Jurisdiction

“The Constitution declares that sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable. (Article 3).   Being a representative democracy, the powers of the People are exercised through persons who are for the time being entrusted with certain functions. The Constitution states that the legislative power of the People shall be exercised by Parliament, the executive power of the People shall be exercised by the President of Sri Lanka, and the judicial power of the People shall be exercised, inter alia, through the Courts created and established by the Constitution (Article 4)”.

“The organs of State are guardians to whom the people have committed the care and preservation of the resources of the people. This accords not only with the scheme of government set out in the Constitution but also with the high and enlightened conceptions of the duties of our rulers, in the efficient management of resources in the process of development, which the Mahavamsa, 68.8-13, set forth”.

Other Lordships of the Supreme Court have also commented on the fact that certain Constitutional procedures need to be followed when granting or disposing of State Lands or other resources that belong to the People in the Republic.    It is the unilateral action taken under the Urumaya Programme without following due process as called for in the Constitution, that makes this Program illegal.

A “Brief Guide on Land Rights in Sri Lanka” states:

“State Land is alienated: • By Permit • By Grant • By the President

“State land is all land that the State is lawfully entitled to, or land which may be disposed of by the State together with any building standing thereon, and with all rights, interests and privileges attached thereto. This also includes lands of various Corporations and Boards. State land is administered at national, provincial, district and divisional levels by the relevant government officials” (Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2014).

By Permit:

“Permits are issued to particular categories specified in the relevant laws such as low-income earners and those who are landless.   Permit holders can use the land as specified in the permit including as a residence and/or for cultivation purposes.     Permit holders are required to pay a nominal monthly rental to the State. Permits can be issued as an annual permit or also known as ‘LDO permit’ when issued under the Land Development Ordinance” (Ibid).

By Grant

“(Swarnabhoomi, Jayabhoomi, R a n a b h o o m i, Ranbima – Permit-holders can convert their permit into a grant or a deed, if they meet specific conditions” (Ibid).

By the President

“The President can grant or lease State land at a nominal price or rent it for charitable, educational, religious, scientific or any other purpose” (Ibid).

Therefore, according to the “Brief Guide” State Land cannot be converted to freehold deeds that grant them full ownership of their land under the Urumaya Program without conforming to the above guidelines.

Since State-Owned Enterprises also form part of the sovereignty of the People, the intended proposal to privatise them, also faces the same restrictions. It is reported that the Mahanayake Theras of Malwatte, Asgiriya, Ramanna and Amarapura chapters have in a letter addressed to the President appealed to him to exercise caution about the sale of national assets such as state-owned enterprises” (The Sunday Times, 18 February, 2024).

PROPOSED STRATEGY

The reason for granting freehold deeds is to enable current Permit holders to use the asset as collateral to raise a loan since existing provisions cited above are considered too restrictive.     Therefore, it is pertinent to consider what the existing restrictions are and consider what refinements could be made to existing provisions in order to mitigate the administrative impediments as much as possible while conforming to Constitutional provisions.

The strategy adopted by current Permit holders of State-Owned Assets is to form themselves into a Cooperative. Each member of the Cooperative pays a monthly stipend.  These are forwarded monthly by each Corporative to the Development Co-Op Society for use by its members to secure loans relating to Paribooga Loan (livelihood) and/or Housing Loan.  The process involved to secure a loan is quite rigorous and involves an evaluation of the capability of the member to honour required loan commitments by the Grama Niladhari and members of the Development Co-Op Society. This procedure has enabled members of the Cooperatives to secure loans in the range of Rs. 800,000/= to one million.

The granting of freehold title to current Permit holders, amounts to converting State land on which the asset is cited into Private land. This is a violation of the collective sovereignty of the People. Therefore, existing provisions granted to Permit holders should be revised in a manner where the Permit has a legitimacy equivalent to a title deed for all administrative purposes, except for the land on which the asset is cited.

Furthermore, if Permit holders are entitled to nominate a beneficiary, the interests of the original Permit holder would continue as it would be if the asset has a freehold title. If on the other hand, the original Permit holder did not have a beneficiary of choice, the asset would revert back to the State.    Such possibilities should be explored with caution instead of rushing to grant title deeds to People that may have the potential to disappoint them if they find that the deeds they received are not legal.

 CONCLUSION

The intention of the President to correct an injustice by handing back traditional lands belonging to farmers that were taken over 100 years ago during British Colonial Rule, is indeed noteworthy.  However, there is a need to be conscious of the present context. That context is that Sri Lanka is a Republic and Article 3 of the Constitution states: “In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable”. That being the case, Sri Lanka’s lands, its assets and resources belong to the People. Furthermore, since nearly all Sri Lankans have endured injustices of one kind or another, it is Illegal to correct the injustices committed against some, at the expense of the rest. This is what the Urumaya Programme is all about.

Therefore, it is incumbent on the part of the President and others associated with the Urumaya Program to act cautiously and revisit the legality of the Urumaya Programme before it is too late. If they proceed regardless, there is a strong possibility that beneficiaries of the Urumaya Programme may have to face disappointment later if it is found to be illegal. A similar note of caution has been issued by the Mahanayake Theras of Malwatte, Asgiriya, Ramanna and Amarapura chapters regarding State-Owned Enterprises.

Continue Reading

Features

Among the Trobrianders: A Personal Journey

Published

on

Royal Thomian. March 2023

By Uditha Devapriya

You are putting me in a hole.
No, I am taking you out of it!

Somewhere in 2016, I lost my first job.I had been working at my old school for two months, and had been led to assume that I would be retained to help them draft a communications policy. I was into PR, had hopes of entering advertising, and was looking for a suitable opening.

All of a sudden, I was told they didn’t need such a person.

I was 23 at the time. I had just completed law school and was waiting for my results.

It was not the best time to be idle. I needed a job.

And now, I was out of one.

I tried contacting friends and acquaintances, clinging to any mutual contact I could find.

None of it worked.

Frantically, I fired off one email after another.

I may have sent tens if not hundreds of emails. Many replied, and some asked me to come over to be interviewed. The interviews, however, all left a bad taste in my mouth. The jobs they had either paid too low or were outside my comfort zone.

Then an ad agency, one of many agencies I had emailed, got in touch. They scheduled an interview in December. There they said they wanted someone with “zero experience in advertising.” They thought I fitted the bill. They took me in.

By now I was freelancing to several newspapers in the country. I was writing on the arts, reviewing films, plays, the occasional exhibition. The pay wasn’t good, but the exposure was: it got me in touch with artists, directors, writers, dancers.

I had always been mad about culture and the arts. At school I had inclined to subjects like history and literature. Though I did not study them for my Advanced Levels – I chose Commerce, a “safer” stream, instead – I did not abandon them. I pursued such fields as a writer and a journalist after leaving school.

There was a problem, however. For more than a decade I had studied mostly in English, and had become ignorant of my language and culture. I came from a Sinhala speaking background, but since I spent six hours at school, two getting back home, and around five or six active hours at home, this did not amount to much.

In my time, the rage everywhere in the country was for English, Western, private education. Our parents had studied in the vernacular: Sinhala or Tamil. Yet after leaving school they had felt it would be better to have their children taught in English.

Public schools used to have English medium classes, but by the time I was born these had been abandoned. As a result, a new type of school had cropped up, catering to an ever-growing demand for English education.

The problem was that while we readily immersed ourselves in English education, many of us allowed ourselves to neglect our languages. Though our parents were concerned about what was happening to us and nationalist groups bemoaned what this was doing to our country and culture, there was little anyone could do about it. It did not help that in the classroom, we were tacitly discouraged from talking in Sinhala and Tamil.

June 2022

The result was that most of us came out knowing next to nothing about our language, religion, culture, society, even our people. I was no exception. Westernised, though in a half-baked way, I could not relate to the world I had been born to.

Lester James Peries recalled undergoing a similar experience at his school.

Some of us became snobs. Even today, I can’t speak Sinhala properly.

So did Osmund Jayaratne.

If, instead of Latin, we had been given a good grounding of our native tongue, Sinhala, I would have been very happy, but unfortunately this was not to be.

And so did Gamani Corea.
[F]or my generation, the lapse [in Sinhala] was a serious one and a handicap for later life.

These were sentiments I could relate to.

A few months after I began my job, I realized that things would only get worse. I may have been writing to newspapers on local art and culture, but I was writing in English, thinking in English, operating in English, living and breathing English.

My new workplace made me more conscious of these deficiencies. A good copywriter tends to be rooted in his surroundings. He or she tends to be bicultural, if not bilingual, and finds it easy to operate in both English and the vernacular.

My problem was that I was far from being bicultural, in any sense.

It was a hole I needed to get out of, and fast.

My coworkers had, in their own way, stepped in and helped me improve somewhat. Yet they were too busy. I realized I could expect only so much from them.

Someone else had to step in. Someone from outside.

———————————–

Freelancing has its advantages and privileges. You aren’t constrained by deadlines, and you are free to write what you want to write. You get to associate with people who relate to you. You get to write on them. Often you get to learn from them.

One night in 2017, the Secretary of a school society called me. The society, the Library Readers’ Association, the oldest student-led association at the school, was organizing an exhibition-cum-quiz. They wanted a judge for the quiz, and an article written on the event. Since I had been a quizzer and was a writer, I seemed to fit the bill.

I duly served as judge, and the article, which the boys fortunately liked, duly got published. In Sri Lanka, however, events never really end: they lead to other events. Soon I was getting requests from them to write on other societies and clubs, including sports events. These were not typical press release articles, but full-length human-interest essays, different from the journalistic pieces that get written about such events.

It was then that I realised that most of these boys came from a world completely different to the world I had grown up in. Though they attended what was seen as the leading public school in the island, Royal College, they had entered it through the Grade Five Scholarship, and had been boarded at the school Hostel.

Hailing from villages that lay far away from Colombo – you had to fulfil a distance threshold to be boarded at the Hostel – they represented an antithesis of my personality. They had lived their entire childhood at home. As I talked with them, they regaled me with stories of the culture shock they underwent after they moved to Colombo.

At first our parents were worried. Would we grow up away from them?

The first English song I ever heard was our school anthem.

Some classmates mocked me, they made fun of the way I talked.

Becoming the butt-end of jokes, they adapted by either suppressing their identity or, in the more likely scenario, insulting the insulters.

In our first two years, we mocked those who spoke only in English in our classrooms.

They seemed too nerdy, too polite. They were like babies.

That, however, only heightened their fear of the language.

Of course, we were afraid of English. Some of us avoided it, others tried to master it. A few pretended it wasn’t important until it was too late.

Sri Lanka may be a small island, but it is home to an incredible range of cultures and subcultures. There is nothing monolithic about any of them.

A colourful bunch, these boys came from practically every corner of the country. In the way they talked, behaved, the way they interacted with outsiders and with me, they differed from one another. They were a microcosm of their country. Talking to them, I encountered the societies they hailed from, societies I had grown away from.

Slowly, but surely, our associations developed into friendships. As time went by, we realized that we looked at the world in different ways. Yet in one sense we were kindred spirits: we were all learning and absorbing a new culture.

For them, it was a process of discovery: living in a city, English, Western culture.

For me, it was a process of rediscovery: Sinhala language and literature, Buddhism.

In the end, we ended up teaching one another.

It was almost like Malinowski among the Trobriand Islanders. The difference, of course, is that they were as much an exotic Other to me as I was to them.

And like Malinowski and the Trobrianders, there were points of disagreement, difference, and incompatibility between us, often too big to bridge.

I found their views on culture and society intriguing. Yet beyond a point, perhaps because of my cultural conditioning, I found it hard to accept them. As an agnostic, for instance, I couldn’t relate to their religious beliefs, particularly their belief in the supernatural. Still, they expressed such sentiments with a lot of conviction.

Gods do exist.

When we feel them, we believe in them, we give them power.

Come over one day, I will show them to you.

If this is one of the more insightful comments on God-worship in Sri Lanka, or anywhere, I have come across – the notion that it is our belief in them that gives them power – it’s because it was said by someone who spoke his mind, someone who responded instinctively to such matters without intellectual obfuscations.

In other words, these boys weren’t just teaching and guiding me. They were immersing me in their moral code, their cultural universe. It was not exactly an encounter between two worlds. But it was an encounter between two ways of looking at the world.

To be sure, I still have not got out of my cocoon. I am still ignorant of cultural matters. I still make gaffes. There are times when I feel like a foreigner in my country.

Yet, largely through the intervention of these boys, I have acquired a decent understanding about things I was unaware of.

———————————–

Late last December, describing my attempts at introducing him to sociologists and historians and at getting him to talk to them, one of these boys expostulated:

You are putting me in a hole.

To which I replied:

No, I am taking you out of it!

Life ultimately amounts to the people we meet and the friendships we form.

It is about what we do for one another, the lengths we go for others.

It is about teaching new things and learning new things.

Or, as my friend put it, about falling into holes and getting out of them.

Like what these boys did for me – and like what I like to think I did for them.

Uditha Devapriya is a writer, researcher, and analyst based in Sri Lanka who contributes to a number of publications on topics such as history, art and culture, politics, and foreign policy. He can be reached at .

Continue Reading

Features

Tea Library Hikkaduwa comes alive

Published

on

The Tea Library was opened recently in the heart of Sri Lanka’s most popular beach and surfing town Hikkaduwa. This is another venture of tea industry veteran Malinga Herman Gunaratne best known for ‘white tea’ – probably the most exclusive tea ever produced in the world. The Tea Library adds a new dimension to Hikkaduwa with its three story terracotta exterior and welcoming interiors.

It offers accommodation, a restaurant and a tea shop. The third floor which provides spectacular views of the beach and the Hikkaduwa town, features a mural covering the highlights of Herman Gunaratne’s life in the tea industry by artist Chandana Samarakoon. Architect Shayam Kumaradas has transformed this once derelict building into one of multiple uses and chic interiors. It features hand painted Mandalas by artist Maneesha Sewwandi on the walls of the bedrooms.

Opening times of Tea Library are 9 am – 10 pm daily and you can have an exclusive group tea tasting experience, or use the stunning upstairs restaurant space for events such as book launches.

Continue Reading

Trending