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“The Flyer With a Big Heart”

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Continued from Last Sunday

by Nilakshan Perera

Thibba met Asintha Jayawardane, former Vishaka Vidyalaya Western Band Leader, through his batch-mate and pilot buddy TTK Seneviratne ( who died in an SIAI-Marchetti crash at Beruwala on 26th March 1986 with pilot, Officer Cadet Ruwan Punchihette). Asintha is TTK’s cousin. After a few years of association, they got married on 8th March 1990. Asintha and Thibba had decided to stay at Ratmalana Married Officer’s quarters. They were blessed with two sons, Menuka and Diluka.

Thibba was a very trusted and very sincere friend to many. He was chubby, round-faced and always with a smile, blessed with a great sense of humor and was extremely kindhearted and sympathetic towards everyone. These qualities were displayed many times to security force personnel who were at Palali Airport waiting desperately to go back home. Especially if your name was not in the flight manifest, you earnestly prayed to be sent by Thibba in his AVRO, Y-8, or Y -12. If he comes, he will ensure that you will be onboard. There was a period where Thibba was flying AVRO aircrafts continuously without any rest. Nobody knows how many casualties he flew. He had spoken to most of them personally, and reassured them, wishing them a speedy recovery. How many lives Thibba has saved is anyone’s guess. On many occasions, he has gone to the extent of arranging his vehicle to transport colleagues to let them attend family events, like birthdays or weddings. He has also spoken to his Zonal Commander during the flight and has arranged transport for others on many occasions regardless of rank or file.

‘No’ and ‘can’t’ were nonexistent in his vocabulary. If anyone ever wanted anything of him, he would do his utmost to oblige. He would even go to the extent of bending the rules as his desire to be of help to others took precedence over everything else. In short, “he had a heart of gold”. To add to his heart of gold he was blessed with exceptional skills and nerves of steel. He was a pilot par excellence. Adverse and risky encounters he took on his stride. It was almost second nature to him. On two occasions he had landed SLAFs “trusted Old War Horse” Avro’s with jammed nose wheels, for example. His dedication and commitment to duty were way beyond what was expected and he had been commended personally by the Commander of the Air Force on several occasions.

Operation Rivirasa was a combined military operation launched by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in Jaffna in October 1995. The primary objective of the operation was the capture of the city of Jaffna and the rest of the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE It is believed that Operation Riviresa was the largest and most successful military operation at that point in time. SLAF flights were fully engaged with heavy flying commitments and SLAF had lost three Transport and Ground Attack Aircraft during 1995 due to terrorist missile fire and none of them survived. The ever-present possibility of a surface-to-air missile was a relatively new phenomenon in the war and even though the pilots were well aware of the imminent danger there were many brave pilots like Thibba who volunteered to fly to Palali to facilitate troop movements and keep the vital air supply line open.

On 18th Nov 1995, there was a very important flight to be made, with a consignment of urgently needed military cargo for advancing troops of Operation Rivirasa as they were just two kilometers from the City of Jaffna. Around 6.00 am on that fateful day Thibba on his Maruti Jeep went to pick Sqd Ldr Lalith Nanayakkara,and then to pick up Sqd Ldr Bandu Kumbalathara. The flight was a Y-8 that could carry 120 onboard or 20,000kgs of cargo. Onboard with Thibba as Captain, Copilot Sqd Ldr Bandu Kumalatara, Squadron Leader Lalith Nanayakkara as Engineering Officer with Flight Lieutenant Prasanna Balasuriya as communicator, Flying Officer Sanjeewa Gunawardena the navigator, and Corporal Jayasinghe as loadmaster. They took off from Ratmalana by 6.50 am. When they hit 13,000 feet and approached Mannar Island they were all alert and serious about the territory and maintained a safe distance from the coastline to avoid possible ground attacks by the terrorists. Using a pre-arranged coded message Thibba informed the Palali control tower of their estimated time of arrival and started descending. Thibba reduced the engine power and set the Y – 8 in the descending altitude. The most prudent and safes air-path to Pallali was over the sea as the runway was only one kilometer from the coastal belt. Flying Officer Sanjeewa Gunawardane was searching for any unidentified boat movements as the sea was very calm. The flight now descended to 500 feet and speed was almost 300 kmph. They were 7-8 Kms from the airfield but over the sea as they did a low-level approach to avoid possible enemy missile attacks from the uncleared Thondamannar area. SL Navy Dvoras were visible patrolling the area as well as an armored helicopter already placed on their approach path to protect the Y-8. They descended to 300 feet now, and the runway and Palali communication tower were visible. Just then the navigator Fly Off Sanjeewa Gunawardane shouted “two high-speed boats are approaching on our left.” At the same time, Palali Control Tower also informed the same but before they could complete the message they heard the loud explosion on the left-wing.

Simultaneously the Aircraft went into an uncontrollable nosedive. Thibba and his co-pilot Kumbalathara tried their best to control the plane but within a few seconds of the explosion, the Shaanxi Y- 8, one of the most popular Aircraft of SL Security forces crashed into the sea almost 3 kms from the coastline with 6 persons onboard and a payload of 35,490Kgs. Before the huge aircraft submerged Thibba, Co-pilot, and Flight Engineer managed to creep through a window and get out of the Aircraft. They removed their boots and were floating expecting the hovering Helicopters which were giving air cover or Naval boats which were giving sea cover to come and rescue. Both Thibba and his Copilot were great swimmers having participated in the Mt Lavinia 2 miles swimming event as schoolboys, but unfortunately, the Flight Engineer was not good at swimming. By this time they were caught in the crossfire between Navy and LTTE. Flight Engineer Sqd Ldr Lalith Nanayakkara was a big made officer and bigger than Thibba. Thibba tried his best to hold him and swim and Kumbalatara drifted away with the waves. The rest of the crew were sadly trapped in the aircraft not being able to come out and they went down with the Aircraft. The BELL 212 helicopter which was hovering above was unable to reach them as the fire from LTTE was so intense. The Helicopter crew spotted the copilot who was drifting towards the other side and they threw an inflated tube connected to a lifeline and rescued him into the chopper.

Later Thubba and Lalith Nanayakkara were spotted floating very close to each other and their heads were beneath the water. They both were unconscious and the helicopter crew could not take them on board and the pilot directed Naval crafts to that location and flew off to Palali. Naval crafts managed to reach Thibba and Nanayakkara and took them to Palali Military hospital, but sadly by that time both were pronounced dead.

Wing Commander TJCB Thibbatumunawe RWP had made the supreme sacrifice not just protecting his Motherland but also doing his utmost to save his friend and colleague. Later that afternoon a Sri Lanka Air Force Antonon AN 32 carried the bodies of Thibba and Nana to Ratmalana. The next day the body of Bala was found trapped inside the ill-fated aircraft by divers but the bodies of Fly Officer Sanjeewa Gunawardane and Sgt Jayasinghe were not found. Thibba being an experienced swimmer and lifeguard had done his utmost to help his Flight Engineer even at the last minutes of his life. Thibba being a strong swimmer there was every possibility that he could have saved himself by swimming towards one of the Naval vessels which were in the vicinity. But our Thibba, “The Lion Heart” ,was not going to let go of his mate to save himself.

Thibba’s body was taken to their residence at Wewalduwa Road Kelaniya and the funeral was held on the 20th evening with full Military Honors at Borella Kanatta amidst a large gathering of Military personnel, his college friends, and relatives. To bid my final farewell to my dear friend Thibba was a heart-wrenching moment for me. What he said to me at our former schoolmate IP Athula Perera’s funeral was ringing in my ears –”You got a good eye for detail Machan, so please do the same at my funeral aswell, and check that everything is in its correct place, if I die during the war”. Through tear-filled eyes, when I looked, there was nothing left for me to do, everything was in perfect order. Only survivor Wing Commander Bandu Kumbalathara retired from SLAF in 1999 and is now a Captain for Sri Lankan flying A320/A330.

At the time of Thibba’s sudden demise, his loving wife Asintha was six months pregnant with their third son. The eldest Menuka was just 5 years and Dliuka was 3 1/2 years. Asintha being a courageous lady singlehandedly brought up the 3 children with sheer dedication and commitment. She volunteered to offer her services at Ananda primary Library as Librarian until her three sons completed their primary schooling. She was a dedicated mother and was right behind her three sons when they were doing after school activities. She truly was Mother Courage personified. Like Thibba all three sons were highly involved in Swimming and Basketball and they won Island championships while representing Ananda. The eldest, Menuka, joined Sri Lanka Air Force as a Pilot like his beloved father and he is a Flight Lieutenant and Helicopter Pilot based in Anuradhapura Air Base MI Squadron.

Menuka married Sahani Jayathilake ( Familien, Executive in Commercial Bank) on 16th May 2019 and were blessed with a baby boy, Ayuk Kiveth Bandara Thibbotumunuwe ( 4th Generation of Anandians)

Second son Diluka, former National record holder for breaststroke with many national records for swimming and also a South Asian Games Bronze Medalist while still a schoolboy at Ananda joined Sri Lanka Navy and is presently holding the rank of Lt attached to an Auxiliary Vessel A521 as a Diving Officer. Diluka is a qualified Diver having completed specialized courses in China and India and winning the accolades of Best Clearance Diving Officer and Best Combat Diver. Diluka got married to Madusha Welihinda (Vishakian, Senior Software Engineer at IFS) on 8th January 2020.

The youngest son, Chamika, who had not seen his father, is reading his MBA at the University of Wolverhampton after graduating with first-class Honors.

It is now 25 years since Thibba left us forever. We all miss him dearly but still relive some of the wonderful memories he left us with. Where ever he may be his heart must be filled with pride at how his boys have turned out to be. Asinitha the love of his life took on the mantle of bringing up his sons for both of them. How proud and happy he would have been to be with his family and friends today. We miss you Thibba but we all are so proud and privileged to have known you and thankful for the time we shared with you. I wish to end this tribute to my gallant friend with the following dedication to Thibba.

 

With nerves of steel and a heart of gold

Thibba you Legend – our Flyer so bold

Three sons and a loving wife, you cherished to hold

You left behind with sorrow untold.

You served Sri Lanka with flamboyant flair.

Always considerate kind and fair

You flew many sorties with no rest or care

You were the best – a flyer so rare.

From where you left, your sons take on

Protecting Lanka – their lives go on

Brave Flyer, true friend, you soldier on

You may be gone but your legend lives on…….

 

May you Rest In Peace my gallant friend and may your journey through Sansara be short.



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THE DEMOCRATIC PARADOX OF SRI LANKA

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by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law

In the distant past, there were many approaches to running civilizations. Cruel and ruthless dictators perpetrated assault on human rights, with impunity. The best known among these tyrants were ATTILA the HUN (AD 434-453 of present day Hungary ), GENGHIS KHAN ( 1206-1227 in Central Asia and China ), TIMUR ( 1370-1405 of modern Syria, Iran , Afghanistan) and QUEEN MARY alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England ).

The combination of divine or absolute power and lack of contact with people made Dictators and Autocrats fascinating as well as terrifying. It is unclear if such characters suffered from mental illness as defined by current standards or whether their lives were marked by incidents that made them ruthless.

Hadenius and Teorell ( 2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships in monarchies, military regimes, one party regimes and restricted multiparty regimes. Studies have revealed that many dictatorial regimes, have democratic facades or some functioning democratic institutions, some holding regular elections and some having operational political parties and legislatures.

Dictatorships are a form of government in which all power remains in the hands of one person enjoying unlimited governmental power obtained by force or fraudulent means in sham elections. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths or killings because of greed, hatred, pride and yearning for power. For instance, Hitler caused millions of deaths of Jews, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians to forcibly change its culture and Idi Amin was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Indians in Uganda.

Autocracy is very similar to a dictatorship. Here too, the supreme power lies in the hands of an individual with some supported by a slavish political party. Autocrats use little or no consultation when making decisions and exercise independent authority over policies and procedures. Their decisions are not subject to any legal restraints. The system suppresses public debate and makes criticism of the government, a criminal offence.

Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest in many ways in despotism, oligarchy and fascism.

In the ideology of benevolent or enlightened despotism (popular in the 18th Century Europe),a absolute monarchs enacted a number of changes in political institutions and enlightened governance. Most of the despots started their careers as “freedom fighters”. Many of them amassed wealth abroad while the world was in denial.

An oligarchy is a form of government where power is in the hands of a small group of elite people, holding wealth or family or military prowess. Oligarchies are where a small minority rules the government and exercise power in corrupt ways. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.

Fascism is a political ideology that elevates the nation and race above the individual and advocates a ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’ led by a dictator under strict economic and social regulation while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Interestingly, the majority of the modern dictatorial regimes refer to their leaders by a variety of titles such as President, King and Prime Minister.

The 20th and 21st Century dictators and autocrats ruled with tyrannical power and never tolerated dissent. Some of them were VALDIMIR LENIN ( 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN ( 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI ( 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER ( 1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO ( 1939-1975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG (1949-1976- China ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda), AUGUSTO PINOCHET ( 1973- 1990 Chile ), GEOGIS PAPANDUPOULUS ( 1967-1974 Greece ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI ( 1969-2011 Libya ).

Dictator led countries are also associated with severe poverty, repression, decreasing health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and rising mental illnesses. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. However, VADIMIR PUTIN (since 2000 Russia ) and XI JING PING ( since 2013 China ) are leading economic powers, but these two countries have also never tolerated dissent.

It is common to see dictators and autocrats appointing prominent members of armed forces in civilian positions and show disrespect towards the independence of the judiciary and freedom for the media. Such systems and their rulers show no concern for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.

The suppression of the Pro- Democracy movement by the use of the army was followed by the wide spread arrest and deportation of foreign journalists and the strict control of the Press. In Russia, VADIMIR PUTIN, characterized his rule with endemic corruption, jailing political opponents, intimidating media freedom and free and fair elections. When Russia invaded Ukrain in February 2022, Putin ordered the arrest of thousands of its own citizens for protesting against the war. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to create personality based autocracies surrounded by family members. Family bandyism weakened State infrastructure in Sri Lanka after 2005. The Rajapaksa family based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices and institutionalized corruption. Family members and lackeys of Iraq and Libyan leaders weakened the State apparatus of Iraq and Libya. The weakened States of Iraq and Libya were such that, it failed to produce nuclear weapons as planned, to meet the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq ) appointed his son- in- law and notoriously brutal Hussein Kamil, to fast track the production of nuclear weapons. That resulted in scientists in Iraq intentionally further slowing down the programme and nicknamed it the “unclear power”.

In contrast, the tyrant Gadaffi ( Libya ) was surrounded by ‘yes men’ and female bodyguards and an ego trip as a result of which, had no inclination to produce scientists and engineers for the country capable of dealing with complex technicalities associated with the production of nuclear power.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. Chinese dictator XI JING PING despite being an economic power, is accused of subtle problematic debt trap diplomacy since 2018 in many poor countries in Africa and Asia ruled by corrupt and mismanaging leaders. PUTIN is facing credible allegations of gross violation of human rights in Ukrain and widespread calls for investigation leading up to a trial for war crimes.

Citizen tired of being oppressed and controlled made widespread demands for democracy and the creation of independent Nation States in Europe. Those revolutions popularly known as the ‘Peoples Spring’ in 1848, brought upheavals in Europe mainly due to the dissatisfaction with monarchies, which were at the helm of each country. The revolution started in Sicily and spread to France, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, Austrian Empire, German Empire and the whole of Europe. Monarchies were replaced by Republics. Old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions.

Caught off guard, aristocracy and their allies plotted to return to power and many leaders of the revolutions went into exile. In the decades after 1848, little had changed. Many historians considered the “People’s Spring” a failure, due to the seemingly lack of permanent structural changes. Karl Marx, disappointed with the bourgeois character of the revolution, expressed the theory of a permanent revolution according to which the proletariat should strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary forces, until the proletariat itself was ready to seize power.

The Autumn of Nations between 1981 and 1991 (143 years after the political upheavals in Europe), brought down the former Soviet Union (USSR) which was beset with economic stagnation, mismanagement and excessive dogmatism of the Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR without bloodshed to endorse democratic reforms in their countries. Poland was the first to shrug off communism in 1989 after almost a decade of struggles. It was followed by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Another wave of pro- democracy uprisings began in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain in 2010/2011. It was named the “Arab Spring” and started in December 2010 from Tunisia. However, not all the nations that witnessed such social and political upheaval changed for the better. Some of the very same leaders who fought for democracy in the Muslim world (and in many other parts of the world), presided over the gradual decline of democratic rule in their countries.

In Egypt for example, despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, authoritarian rule returned after the controversial election of Morsi in 2012 leading to a coup by his Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in 2013 and he remains in power till today. Libya, since Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown violently in October 2011, has remained in a state of civil war with two opposing governments ruling separate regions of the country. The civil war that began in Syria with the Arab Spring has lasted for several years due to ISIS declaring a CALIPHATE governed by Islamic Law in North East of Syria. The ISIS has been effectively defeated, but the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues with Russian support.

Democracy

In modern times, generations have rebelled against dictatorships and autocrdacy and fought for human rights and respect for the Rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the method of rule most countries have begun to approve. Although democracy is vulnerable it is very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

To be continued

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My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment says Beyonce

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Beyonce, shown attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, is slated to release a new album in July 2022

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, r Six years after she shook the culture with her powerful visual album “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s seventh solo studio work is a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks aimed at liberating a world consumed by ennui.

Beyonce, the paradigm-shifting music royal whose art has long established her as one of entertainment’s seminal stars, released her hotly anticipated album “Renaissance,” a house-tinged dance record primed for its summer needle drop

Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history — Queen Bey interpolates Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder along with James Brown and the archetypal synth line from “Show Me Love,” the 1990s house smash by Robin S — the 16-song album is poised to reign over the season.

Prior to releasing her opus Beyonce had dropped “Break My Soul” to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artists and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.The megastar has indicated that “Renaissance” is but the first act of three, in a project she said she recorded over the course of three years during the pandemic.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce on her website.

“It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving,” she continued. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.”

“A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”

– ‘Expansive listening journey’ –

In the weeks preceding the release of “Renaissance” Beyonce teased the album with the steady stream of glossy, curated portraits of herself that over the past decade have become her signature.But though she’s received wide praise for keeping the world of music videos on the cutting edge, Beyonce put out her latest record sans visuals (they’re promised at a later date.)

In a statement her label Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records lent insight into the decision, saying the artist “decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey.”

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.

“Unique / That’s what you are /Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar,” she sings on “Alien Superstar,” which samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” in a sonic ode to voguing, the stylized house dance that emerged from the Black LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1960s.

That song closes by sampling a speech from Barbara Ann Teer, who founded Harlem’s National Black Theatre.

On “Virgo’s Groove” Beyonce gets raunchy with an unabashed sex anthem, adding a titular nod to her star sign — the Virgo turns 41 on September 4.Along with a smattering of deep house cuts as well as tributes to gospel, funk and soul, Beyonce’s collaborators on “Renaissance” include Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Nigerian singer Tems, Grace Jones, Pharrell and, of course, her rap mogul husband Jay-Z.

– Album leaks, Beyhive stings –

Beyonce has long bucked music’s conventional wisdom, and is credited with popularizing the surprise album drop.She later made waves by releasing “Lemonade” — the groundbreaking work that chronicled her own emotional catharsis following infidelity within a generational and racial context — first on cable television, and limiting its streaming availability.

Since “Lemonade” she’s released “Homecoming,” a live album and film featuring footage from her mythic 2018 Coachella performance, as well as the critically acclaimed song “Black Parade” — which dropped amid mass protests ignited by the police murder of George Floyd.

That song saw the megastar, who first gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, become the winningest woman ever at the Grammys with 28, and the gala’s most decorated singer.But for all her cultural clout and an indisputable throne in music’s pantheon, Beyonce’s songs have not seen the same commercial dominance as other contemporary global stars — her last number one solo hit was 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

That’s poised to change with “Renaissance.”

The album’s release saw Queen Bey return to music business as usual, deploying pre-sales, a lead single drop, a tracklist and polished social media fodder.But it wasn’t without a hitch — in the days prior to the official release, the album leaked online.

Bey thanked her hive for waiting, and added that “I appreciate you for calling out anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early.”

“We are going to take our time and Enjoy the music,” the megastar told her fandom. “I love you deep.”–AFP

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Are we to burn borrowed dollars just to cook a meal?

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Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

How many of the consumers who opt to use LPG for cooking, realize that they are burning the dollars borrowed with difficulty, just to cook a meal, while the use of LPG hardly brings in any foreign exchange? The reality is that while the country is struggling to raise the dollars even through loans to import adequate supplies of transport fuel, taking loans to import LPG, which will not result in any Forex earnings could hardly be considered ethical or a priority.

The CBSL data below shows the immense amount of dollars drained out of the country in the past years, purely due to the high powered promotions to coerce and trap the consumers to this non sustainable consumption.

With the escalation of world market prices and the depreciation of the rupee , the impact in rupee terms in year 2022, if we are to import the same quantities, would be much greater as estimated. The Governor of the Central Bank has quite rightly stated that

Sri Lanka will have to manage with available dollar inflows, not bridging finance: CB Governor

By Economy Next • Issue #391

However, the attempt by the government appears to be determined to continue this practice at whatever cost and detriment to the economy, to perpetuate a practice foisted on the people by unscrupulous officials, and thereby try and pretend that the gas queues are over. This has been achieved for the present, thanks to a further loan of $ 70 Million from the World Bank, to import 30,000 tons of LPG recently. Perhaps the daily visuals of the gas queues, that the electronic media took pleasure in broadcasting, may also have pushed the government to this short sighted move.

The other side of the coin is that, before the arrival of this load of LPG, while the empty cylinders remained in the queues, the people were absent. No doubt they sought and found alternative means of cooking their meals, albeit with less convenience than using gas. Obviously they would also have been helped in this by the intrepid efforts of many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured cooking stoves to use either fuel wood or charcoal, which do not require any dollars.

The novel stoves are yet to be available in adequate numbers in the market, although the manufacturers are running long waiting lists. As such some consumers may have been forced to revert to direct use of fire wood, accepting the disadvantage of smoke and soot. But Sri Lanka has already introduced most acceptable models of cooking stoves to use wood and wood charcoal, devoid of any smoke and soot. These have proved to be acceptable alternatives to the use of gas stoves for the daily cooking needs, even in high rise apartments.

The reality is that the consumers have recognized the fact that the government or the officials cannot be relied upon to provide their essential needs, and their salvation lies in seeking indigenous alternative solutions themselves which have proven to be equally effective.

But shouldn’t this positive change have been noted by the authorities and fostered with the same vigour with which the use of the imported LPG was promoted? What about the media? They diverted their cameras to the petrol and diesel queues, obviously the emerging negative scene of news value.

The officials of the Litro gas company are heard to give assurances of continued supply of LPG in the future, while they admit the loan received is adequate for supplies up to October only. According to their web page their customer base exceeds 4,000,000. The consumption in 2020 was 437,000 tons, purchased at a cost of $ 236 Million. By now it would exceed 450,000 tons annually. How far would the $ 70 Million loan go at present day gas prices? What happens next? Are they hoping to get yet another loan, when the Ministry of Power and Energy is forced to restrict the issue of essential transport fuels to a minimum, due to lack of dollars? Isn’t this a willful deception of the consumers?

Therefore, the discerning consumers are well advised to consider the following points in their decision making for the future.

  • = The import of LPG is possible only through loans which will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren
  • = Continued dependence on LPG is a never ending problem and will need more and more loans with no chance of the LPG used leading to any foreign exchange earnings
  • = The loans taken have to be repaid by the entire country ,while the benefit is enjoyed by only a limited section of the society, which is morally unacceptable
  • = For those fortunate to get even a cylinder of LPG, adopting the already available options of stoves using either charcoal or wood , for the cooking of the main meals , would substantially reduce the monthly expenditure as shown below. This would preserve the LPG cylinder bought with difficulty, to be available for any limited usage in between and for any emergencies for many months
  • = The consumers can be the drivers of the change which would reduce the demand for LPG and thus save the country millions of dollars year after year
  • = This would create a significant indigenous industry whereby the millions of dollars sent out would flow to the local industrialists and rural communities supplying the charcoal and wood. Even a 50% reduction of the imports could result in a local industry worth over Rs 80 Billion annually.

These are indeed practical and worthwhile contributions to resolve a national problem. Are each of us ready to commit to extend the use of our LPG cylinder to last several months, thereby reducing the demand to 50% or even to 25% in the coming year? This should be considered a national duty by all of us.

Just to assuage any fears of deforestation, contrary to popular belief, Sri Lanka already has adequate renewable and sustainable biomass resources formally counted as over 12,000,000 tons annually, contributing to 50% of the total primary energy demand. Simultaneously, a practical program of social reforestation has to be encouraged where the user of charcoal, plants wherever he can, plants trees to compensate for the charcoal he uses. In this way the next generation will also be assured of their own sustainable supply with absolutely no impact on the forest cover. A plant that can be recommended is Gliricidia Sepium among others, which can be harvested in two years, and thereafter every eight months.

(The writer is past president of the Bio Energy Association of Sri Lanka www.bioenergysrilanka.lk
Email: parajayasinghe@gmail.com)

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