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The lure and the lore of our jungles



by Jayantha Jayewardene

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, and even before that as Serendib and Taprobane, has different types of jungle that are of great interest to naturalists. The island has montane cloud forests, wet and dry zone forests – some of which are secondary forests – and savannahs. The coastal areas have a variety of mangroves. The extent of forest-land in the country has of late reduced to a large extent, mainly due to the demands for land from a rapidly increasing population. With three climatic zones in the island, the jungles have different types of vegetation.

Many early writers, who described these jungles or wilds, gave us an idea of what the country was like then compared with what we see today. My father, having been in government service, saw duty in many far-off places. By the time I was 12-years old we had lived in turn in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Maho, Vavuniya, Kurunegala, Puttalam and Bandarawela. This service began just after the Second World War and most of these areas were still quite wild. Our recreation was to visit these wild areas, sometimes on an evening drive or a longer trip over a weekend. Open patches in the forests, abandoned tanks and beds of streams and rivers were the favourite spots that we would visit.

My father’s escapade

One of the first jungle stories I heard was about my father. Soon after the war, in the late 1940s, he was stationed at Anuradhapura. A group of his friends, who had come from Colombo, had wanted to go on a hunting trip. My father, like me, was a reluctant hunter. He was a very keen wildlife enthusiast, and not bent on shooting an animal for sport. However, on this occasion he did not want to disappoint his friends, and therefore he went along with them.

In the form of shooting they undertook, the animals that were to be shot at were flushed out of a patch of jungle or thicket by beaters, who were employed to make a loud noise. Each member of the group was given a strategic position where the prey was likely to break cover when chased by the beaters. My father, who had with him a 12 bore shot-gun loaded with an SG cartridge, was given one such spot.

After a while, since he was not too interested in the proceedings, he lost concentration and began to look around and think of other things.

At one point he heard what he thought was a distant sound of a gun being fired. For a moment he wondered where the shot had come from. Soon one of his friends, hearing the shot, came running up to him to see what animal had been bagged. It was only then that my father realized that the gun in his hand, with the end of the barrel resting on his foot, had gone off. My father had felt no pain but found that he had shot off his second toe, which was literally hanging by its skin. The hospital at Anuradhapura dressed the wound and my father lived the rest of his life with only four toes on his right foot.

Animals at home

From the time I was very small, I was acquainted with animals at my home, which at different times was in various parts of the country. My first recollection is of a female sambhur looking through the kitchen window daily at breakfast time. This was in Polonnaruwa, where we had a house near the bund of Parakrama Samudra. She was brought to my father as a small baby and lived with us for many years.

I also have a vague recollection of a pangolin (Manic crassicaudata) being brought to my father. However, it did not last long. In captivity the diet, which consisted of ants sucked with the tongue, could not be provided easily to sustain the animal.

One night when we were at Anuradhapura, the domestic aide had heard a noise in the room where I was sleeping. She switched on the light, when she discovered a very large cobra in the corner of the room. My father had a gun but did not have a cartridge to shoot the snake. He had to send a message to a neighbour, Dr. P.C. Wickremasinghe, for a cartridge. The cobra, which waited all this time, was ultimately shot. It was an exceptionally large snake.

Giant squirrels were always favourite pets of my father. He has had as pets all three subspecies (the highland, western and common) at various times. He also had a Malabar giant squirrel brought from South India by his friend, Bunny Jonklaas.

My father has had all species of wild cats, except the leopard, at home. He bred a pair of fishing cats when he was in Kandy. However, a pair of jungle cats, that he again had in Kandy, did not breed. He brought them up from the time they were small babies. He had one female of the third species, the rusty spotted cat, which I obtained when I was on an estate in Kandapola. This is the most beautiful of Sri Lanka’s cats.

He also had a pair of jackals in his back garden in the heart of Ja-ela where he lived. He was able to breed them. In Puttalam he also had an outdoor aviary of birds, consisting of purple herons, egrets, water hens, blue coot, gargeny, whistling teal and a little grebe, which initially was kept in an aquarium. These birds necessitated a visit to the fish market each morning. Fortunately, Puttalam is on the coast, and fish was cheap and easily available.

When my father was in Kandy, he had a number of birds, some of which bred. These, except for a pair each of peafowl and jungle fowl, were exotic birds, which he imported from Singapore. In those days, it was very easy to import birds into the country.

I still travel to many of these areas and wherever I go, be it Mundel, Mullativu, Mankerni, Magama or Middeniya, I have seen many changes over the years. Some of these places do not even exist now. I have come across many legends and superstitions that have had their origins in these wild places.


I found that camping in the dry zone forests was much more interesting than in the wet and cold wilds of the hill country. In the dry zone, apart from the tolerable weather, there were more animals to observe and, for some of my friends, to shoot. The dry zone villagers were very hospitable people and that part of the country was full of legend and lore. On the other hand, there were fewer villages in the wet zone with comparatively less interesting animal species and an unpleasant climate for camping.

During all our trips -to the wilds we did not necessarily camp out. We stayed in rest-houses, schools and in any convenient building that was available.


One of the earliest writers on Ceylon, Knox (1681) strangely makes little reference to the jungles though he was captured in Trincomalee and brought to Kandy, where he was kept prisoner for ‘19 years, six months and 14 days’. Even though he was a prisoner, he had a great deal of freedom to move about within the kingdom.

Robert Knox mentions that the Sinhalese in the Kandyan kingdom used to ‘take great notice in a Morning at their going out, who first appears in their sight: and if they see a White Man, or a big-bellied Woman, they hold it fortunate: and to see any decrepit or deformed People, as unfortunate’. There were many who on hearing the sound made by a gecko at the start of a journey, will stop and wait for a little while or not undertake the journey at all.

A past practice for those who were to undertake a journey through the jungles or embark on a hunting expedition was to invoke the blessings of the spirits of the jungle. This was generally done by merely breaking a small twig and suspending it on a low branch of another tree. Another method was to suspend the broken branch or branches on a string or rope strung across two trees at a point where the traveler or hunter would enter and leave the jungle.

When I first started my trips to the jungles many years ago as a schoolboy, I noticed that our guides from the adjacent villages followed this tradition. However, in the course of time, these practices have been abandoned. In more recent times I found that some who accompanied us still carried out this practice but were secretive about it.

Purana villages

In earlier times many of the villages were in the middle of thick jungle and the inhabitants used to live in harmony with the jungles around them and its denizens. These were called purana (old) villages. Most of the inhabitants of these villages had extended families. They lived in mud huts, which were generally crude and simple in their construction. The roofs were thatched and the walls were built of wattle and daub.

There was a large open space between the jungle and the edge of the village, which was always kept cleared of trees. It was called tis bamba (thirty chains) and denoted the area which was a communal preserve. This cleared space also helped to act as a deterrent to many animals entering the village from the jungle.

The inhabitants of most of these purana villages were constantly fighting for survival. They had to depend on the rains for their cultivation. They also had to be on constant guard against a demanding jungle and its denizens, some of which were dangerous. Apart from the elephants, the villagers had to be constantly vigilant against animals such as the leopard, bear, cobra, viper, tarantula and hornet.

The villagers cleared patches of the forest and cultivated grain, such as rice, kurakkan or millet, corn, chillies and vegetables. However, it was a constant battle to tend these cultivations to fruition. They were dependent on the rains and if these failed, so did their crops. This meant that they would have nothing to eat till the next season except what they had stored after the last harvest. They also had to watch over their crops every night to prevent the depredations of animals. Elephant, deer, wild boar and hare were a constant threat, attempting to get in and eat what was growing in these chenas.

Many villagers watch over their crops at night, some alone and others with a group of farmers who too have crops to protect. This tedium takes a heavy toll of the farmer who has other chores to attend to during the day.

In some instances, for the protection of their crops, farmers set up trap guns. These guns are also set to kill deer and wild boar, either for the pot or for sale. These muzzle loading guns are set at the level of the animal targeted, generally a deer or pig and are pointed in the direction of the animal approaching along a well-used path. A string or wire is tethered to the trigger and brought in front of the gun. The gun is set to fire when the approaching animal presses on it, and thereby discharges its load, which consists of ball bearings, metal chips, old nails and the like. It kills the targeted animal, but others such as elephant and man, who are taller may get maimed.


One of the pastimes we indulged in at night when camping, especially in the dry zone, was to look for the loris. It is a nocturnal animal, which is sluggish by day but very active at night. It looks towards the bright torch and is easily detected when its large, circular eyes gleam in the light. The coastal belt of the Eastern Province is a stretch where we have come across many lorises. I also used to encounter a number of them when I was working in the Mahaweli areas in the North Central Province. Many of them, found during the jungle clearing operations of this project, were brought to me. I used to feed them on insects till I was able to despatch them to the zoo. One unfortunate loris was given a scorpion as food. It ate this with relish but was found dead the next day.

The loris has no tail but uses all its four long and thin limbs with equal ease and dexterity to move among the trees in search of its prey which consists of insects, lizards and sometimes even small birds. It moves very quietly up to its prey and in a swift movement seizes the victim by grabbing it with its hand. It then brings the prey close to its chest and eats it. There is a belief that the loris moves so slowly and quietly through the trees that if by chance a bit of bark gets loose it will carry it all the way to the bottom of the tree, leave it there and come back to resume the stalking of its prey. This manoeuvre would prevent disturbance and possible escape of the prey. There is also a belief that the loris would creep up to a sleeping peacock and snap off its head and devour the brain.

Many Sinhalese villagers used to believe that tears from the large saucer-like eyes of the Loris, when used in a concoction, would give one second sight. Some also believed it helped their sex drive. In order to obtain tears the captured loris is cruelly suspended by its legs over a fire till the smoke makes it tear. The loris is kept like this till sufficient tears have been collected.


Many of the jungle dwellers, especially Veddhas, do not refer to any animal in the jungle by name but by description. Therefore the elephant is the ‘Big one’, and the bear is the ‘Black one’ or the ‘One who throws up dust’. The latter description relates to a bear tearing away at an ant-hill in order to get at the termites therein. In the same way, pangolin is called the ‘One who rolls himself up’.

The pangolin or anteater is, like the loris, an entirely nocturnal animal. It is brown in colour but the young are pale white. One was brought to me when I was on an estate in Passara by some labourers who had killed the mother the previous night. I was advised to give it low fat milk by the local veterinary surgeon. Unfortunately it died two days later.

When the young have developed to a certain degree, they move about by clinging onto the backs of the mother. Pangolins have large scales on their body and powerful curved claws. They excavate anthills for ants and termites, which they lick up with their long, sticky tongues. They walk in a waddle but at the slightest sign of danger, curl up with the head inside the coil.

The oil extracted from the pangolin was used in early times as a medicinal potion. There is a story of a medicine man who thought he had killed a pangolin for its medicinal value. He had slung the animal round his neck and started on his journey back home. On the way the pangolin, which had not died, had revived and curled itself round the man’s neck, thereby strangling him. Later in the day the dead man and the wounded pangolin were found.

(To be continued)

(Excerpted from Jungle Journey in Sri Lanka edited by CG Uragoda)


Full implementation of 13A – Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state? – Part VI



President Jayewardene in New Delhi in November 1987 for talks with Indian Prime Minister Gandhi

by Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

(Part V of this article appeared in The Island of 02 Oct. 2023)

Six months later, in July 1986, further talks were held between the Sri Lankan government and an Indian delegation led by P Chidambaram, Minister of State, a person from Tamil Nadu. Based on those talks, a detailed Note prepared containing observations of the Indian government on the proposals of the Sri Lanka government as the Framework was sent to the Indian Government.

The following three paragraphs from this Note were cited in the Judgement of Wanasundara J in the 13th Amendment Case as relevant for its determination:

1. A Provincial Council shall be established in each Province. Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers shall be devolved upon the Provincial Councils by suitable constitutional amendments, without resort to a referendum. After further discussions subjects broadly corresponding to the proposals contained in Annexe 1 to the Draft Framework of Accord and Undertaking and the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils.

It is strange that this paragraph suggests to bring constitutional amendments to devolve Law-making and Executive (including Financial) powers on the Provincial Councils, without resort to a referendum. It is not clear on whose suggestion this phrase – without resort to a referendum – was included, Sri Lanka or India? But it is most likely that it was India, feeling the sentiments of the vast majority of the people in the South and knowing the most probable outcome of a referendum.

Inclusion of this phrase – without resort to a referendum – may have had some impact on the minds of the Judges in arriving at a determination on the Bills.

There can be no doubt that the phrase – the entries in List ll and List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution shall be devolved upon Provincial Councils – included on the suggestion of Indian side.

2. In the Northern Province and in the Eastern Province the Provincial Councils shall be deemed to be constituted immediately after the constitutional amendments come into force……..

What does this mean? Can they come into being even before the Provincial Councils Bill and the Provincial Councils Elections Bill are passed and the Elections held? Where is People’s sovereignty? This also appears to be an Indian demand.

3. ‘‘In a preamble to this Note, it was agreed that suitable constitutional and legal arrangements would be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination. In consequence of these talks a constitutional amendment took shape and form and three lists – (1) The Reserved List (List II), (2) The Provincial List (List I); and (3) The Concurrent List (List Ill) too were formulated.’’

‘Suitable constitutional and legal arrangements to be made for those two Provinces to act in co-ordination’. This is another subtle and mild formulation used to convey the idea that the Northern and Eastern Provinces would be merged into one unit.

Mr. Chidambaram may have seen to it that the aspirations of the TULF are incorporated into the agreement to a certain extent.

‘‘The Bangalore discussions held between President J. R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in November 1986 were the next stage of the discussions. At the Bangalore discussions Sri Lanka had to agree to all the Cardinal Principles of the TULF and other Tamil militant groups, which Sri Lanka had totally refused even to discuss at Thimphu talks and not included in the Draft Terms of Accord and Understanding reached in New Delhi in September 1985.

The Sri Lanka government’s observations on the Working Paper on Bangalore Discussion dated 26th November 1986 show that the following suggestions made by the Indian Government were substantially adopted:

Recognition that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples who have at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups;

Northern and Eastern Provinces should form one administrative unit for an interim period and that its continuance should depend on a Referendum;

The Governor shall have the same powers as the Governor of a State in India.

India had also proposed to the Sri Lankan government that

the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers;

provision be made on the lines of Article 249 of the Indian Constitution on the question of Parliament’s power to legislate on matters in the Provincial list;

Article 254 of the Indian Constitution be adopted in regard to the Provincial Council’s power to make a law before or after a parliamentary law in respect of a matter in the Concurrent List.

To ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka would comply with these suggestions in enacting laws for the implementation of these suggestions, the two most crucial suggestions were included in the Indo Lanka Accord signed by President J. R. Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the 29th July 1987 in Colombo.

The First part of the Indo-Lanka Accord reaffirmed what was agreed at Bangalore that (a) the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lanka Tamil Speaking people who at all times hitherto lived together in the territory with other ethnic groups. It also provided for (b) these two Provinces to form one administrative unit for an interim period and (c) for elections to the Provincial Council to be held before 31st December 1987.

From the above material, it clearly appears beyond any doubt that the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils are not a solution reached through consensus between two independent states following free negotiations, but something forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India, with a view to placating the demands of the TULF and the other Tamil groups, contrary to the wishes of the Govt of Sri Lanka.

This explains why Indian political leaders and high officials of the Indian Govt frequently visit Sri Lanka and meet our political leaders demanding the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. That is why leaders of our Tamil Political Parties frequently rush to the Indian High Commission complaining of their grievances and requesting the Indian High Commissioner to bring pressure on our Govt to grant their demands.

As shown above, due to India’s pressure, Sri Lanka had to adopt the three main proposals made by India at the Bangalore discussions. If Sri Lanka had adopted all the proposals as suggested by India and implemented them it would have been the end of the Unitary State of Sri Lanka and created a fully Federal State. However, President Jayewardene, as a shrewd and far-sighting politician, has taken care not to give effect to some of the proposals at the implementation stage.

President Jayewardene has not adopted the Indian proposal that ‘the Governor should only act on the advice of the Board of Ministers and should explore the possibility of further curtailing the Governor’s discretionary powers’. Under the 13th Amendment the Governor, as the representative of the President, is vested with undiminished power of exercising his discretion, not on the advice of the Board of Ministers of the Provincial Council, but as directed by the President. It is this Governor’s unfettered discretion that has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a full Federal State, with Provincial Councils as federal units.

The majority Judgement in the 13th Amendment case explains how this Governor’s discretion has prevented Sri Lanka from becoming a fully federal state, thus:

‘‘With respect to executive powers an examination of the relevant provisions of the Bill underscores the fact that in exercising their executive power, the Provincial Councils are subject to the control of the Centre and are not sovereign bodies.

‘‘Article 154C provides that the executive power extending to the matters with respect to which a Provincial Council has power to make statutes shall be exercised by the Governor of the Province either directly or through Ministers of the Board of Ministers or through officers subordinate to him, in accordance with Article 154F.

‘‘Article 154F states that the Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice, except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.

‘‘The Governor is appointed by the President and holds office in accordance with Article 4(b) which provides that the executive power of the People shall be exercised by the President of the Republic, during the pleasure of the President (Article 154B (2)). The Governor derived his authority from the President and exercises the executive power vested in him as a delegate of the President. It is open to the President therefore by virtue of Article 4(b) of the Constitution to give directions and monitor the Governor’s exercise of this executive power vested in him.

‘‘ Although he is required by Article 154F(1) to exercise his functions in accordance with the advice of the Board of Ministers, this is subject to the qualification “except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.” Under the Constitution the Governor as a representative of the President is required to act in his discretion in accordance with the instructions and directions of the President.

‘‘ Article 154F(2) mandates that the Governor’s discretion shall be on the President’s directions and that the decision of the Governor as to what is in his discretion shall be final and not be called in question in any court on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted on his discretion.

‘‘ So long as the President retains, the power to give directions to the Governor regarding the exercise of his executive functions, and the Governor is bound by such directions superseding the advice of the Board of Ministers and where the failure of the Governor or Provincial Council to comply with or give effect to any directions given to the Governor or such Council by the President under Chapter XVII of the Constitution will entitle the President to hold that a situation has arisen in which the administration of the Province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and take over the functions and powers of the Provincial Council (Article 154K and 154L), there can be no gainsaying the fact that the President remains supreme or sovereign in the executive field and the Provincial Council is only a body subordinate to him.’’ (Pp. 322 – 323)

That is why the Tamil political parties stand for the abolition of Executive Presidency.

(To be continued)

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Judiciary necessary to protect democracy



By Jehan Perera

The government has allocated Rs 11 billion in the provisional budget for next year for the presidential elections due in September. This is a positive indication that the government intends to hold those elections.  Free and fair elections being held when due is a core concept of a functioning democracy. This was called into question earlier in the year when local government elections were postponed.  They were due in March but were postponed on multiple occasions and now have been cancelled. There is no indication when they might be held. The government justified its refusal to hold those elections on the grounds that the country was facing an economic crisis and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

The government’s refusal to hold the local government elections was challenged in the courts.  The Supreme Court decided that the money allocated in the budget for elections should not be blocked by the government and needed to be released for the purpose of conducting those elections.  Without respecting this judicial ruling, government members threatened to summon the judges who made the ruling to Parliament on the grounds that the judiciary could not decide on money matters that were the preserve of Parliament. They argued that the powers and privileges of Parliament had been violated by the order issued by the Supreme Court instructing the government to refrain from withholding funds for the polls. There was an outcry nationally and internationally and the government members did not proceed with their dubious plan to summon the judges before Parliament.

Due to the government’s prioritization of the economy over elections, the prospects for elections continue to be challenging.  The economic crisis is in full swing with further price increases in fuel costs taking place and electricity costs about to be hiked.  The economy continues to shrink though at a slower rate than before. The government’s failure to obtain the second tranche of IMF support is a warning regarding the precarious condition of the economy.  The IMF has said that Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is still not assured.  It has also said that the government has not met the economic targets set for it, particularly with regard to reducing the budget deficit due to a potential shortfall in government revenue generation. The IMF has said the second tranche under its lending programme would only be released after it reaches a staff-level agreement, and there was no fixed timeline on when that would take place


Unfortunately, the willingness of government members to challenge judicial decisions with regard to the electoral process is having its repercussions elsewhere.  Parliamentarians have made use of parliamentary privilege to criticize the judiciary, including by naming them individually.   The purpose of parliamentary privilege is to enable the elected representatives of the people to disclose the truth in the national interest.  But this is a power that needs to be used with care and caution, especially if it is used to malign or insult individuals.  Those who have the protection of parliamentary privilege need to understand it is a very powerful privilege, and they should exercise the privilege with restraint. It is the abuse of privilege that brings it into disrepute and undermines the wider perception of the central role that privilege plays.

The conduct of some parliamentarians has now reached a point where a judge who was deciding on controversial cases involving ethnic and religious conflict has chosen to resign and even leave the country.  Successive rulings made by the judiciary in those cases appear to have been ignored by government authorities. The judicial decisions and rulings made have been subjected to disparaging and insulting remarks in Parliament and outside. Mullaitivu District Judge Saravanarajah, who ruled on the controversial Kurunthurmalai (Kurundi Viharaya) case, resigned and fled Sri Lanka due to alleged threats and pressure. In a letter shared on social media, the judge told the Judicial Services Commission that he was facing threats to his life. Such pressures placed on the judiciary are clearly unacceptable in a democratic country, especially in situations where the judiciary is being called on to defend the rights of the people who are being threatened by government overreach.

At the present time, democratic freedoms and space for protest that exist in the country are being endangered by the government’s efforts to silence public protest and criticism by means of the proposed Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) and the Online Safety Act which are to be placed before Parliament this week. The draft ATA gives the government the power to arrest persons who are engaging in public protest or trade union action who can be charged for “intimidating the public or a section of the public”. The Online Safety Act seeks, among others, to “protect persons against damage caused by false statements or threatening, alarming, or distressing statements.”  It will establish a five-member commission appointed by the President which will be able to proscribe or suspend any social media account or online publication, and also recommend jail time for alleged offenses which can be highly subjective.


The judiciary is being called upon to defend fundamental rights and freedoms in the face of the government’s bid to take restrictive actions. The draft ATA has been opposed by opposition political parties and by human rights organisations since it appeared about six months ago.  The ATA was drafted as an improvement to the Prevention of Terrorism Act which had been highlighted by the EU as objectionable on human rights grounds for the purposes of obtaining the GSP Plus tax benefit for Sri Lankan exports.   Additionally, it has brought in the Online Safety Act as a surprise instrument to stymie the dissemination of information that people need regarding the non-transparent conduct of the government. With the political and economic crisis in the country getting worse, it appears that the government is determined to go ahead with these laws.

The failure of the government to fulfil many of the IMF’s transparency requirements, such as posting its contracts and procurements on the website, and explain its rationale for tax holidays and those who benefit, have contributed to the loss of confidence in the government’s commitment to the economic reform process.  There is a widespread belief that corruption is rampant and that the inability to get new foreign investment is partly due to this difficulty of doing business in Sri Lanka, quite apart from the leakage of government revenues. The government needs to address these issues if it is to win the trust and confidence of the people and cushion the difficulties faced by people in coping with their dire economic circumstances. In particular, it needs to hold elections that can bring in new leaders that the country needs and cleanse the Augean Stables.

Despite the allocation of Rs 11 billion for presidential elections in the provisional budget for 2024, there remain questions regarding the government’s plans for the future.  The Chairman of the UNP, Wajira Abeywardena, is reported to have said that the presidential election may have to be postponed as it could undermine ongoing economic recovery measures.  The provisional budget for 2024 is Rs 3860 billion, of which Rs 11 billion would seem to be a small fraction. However, the budget for 2023 was Rs 3657 billion, and the Rs 10 billion that was needed for the local government elections was likewise only a small fraction of that budget. But those elections were not held and the government argued that this money was better spent on development than on elections. The issue of postponement of elections due to the ongoing economic crisis may have to be faced once again when the presidential elections are due. The courts would be the better option for undemocratic actions to be contested than the streets. The courts and the judiciary need to be kept strong and respected. The judiciary contributes to the trust of civilians in good governance and sustains social peace which should not be compromised.

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‘Lunu Dehi’…in a different form



The group LunuDehi

The Gypsies, with the late Sunil Perera at the helm, came up with several appealing and memorable songs, including ‘Lunu Dehi.’ And this title is again in the spotlight…but in a different form.

Dushan Jayathilake, who was with the Gypsies for 19 years, playing keyboards, is now operating his own band…under the banner of LunuDehi.

Says Dushan: “I was really devastated when Sunil Perera left this world. However, I was fortunate enough to meet Nalin Samath, who stepped in to play guitar for the band. During Nalin’s one year stint with the Gypsies, we discussed my dream of starting my own band. Sunil had always urged us to work on our original compositions and follow our own unique path.”

With Sunil’s words in mind, Dushan and Nalin decided to leave the Gypsies and strike out on their own and that’s how LunuDehi became a reality…a year ago.

“We were pondering over several names as we wanted to have a name that would reflect the distinctive sound and style of our music. Ultimately, it was my wife who came up with the name LunuDehi.”

Both Dushan and Nalin agreed that this name is perfect, adding that “Since lunu dehi is a side dish used in Sri Lankan cuisine to make food have a bit of a kick to it, our music, too, gives listeners that much-needed kick.”

Elaborating further, Dushan said: “As a musician with 26 years of experience in the industry, 19 of which were spent playing keyboards with the Gypsies, I can say starting my own band was a dream come true. And when I met Nalin Samath, who has 35 years of experience in the music industry and was the original guitarist for Bathiya and Santhush, I knew that we had the talent and skill to co-lead a band.”

Dushan Jayathilake: His wife came up with the name LunuDehi

As the lead composer and arranger for LunuDehi, Dushan says he is constantly in awe of the incredible individual talents that each of the members brings to the table, and this is what he has to say about the lineup:

Nalin Samath

, in addition to being an accomplished guitarist and vocalist, is a true entertainer, always keeping the crowd engaged, and on their feet.

Ken Lappen,

son of bassist Joe Lappen, has a gift for composing and arranging pop hits. His work includes ‘Mal Madahasa’ by Randhir and ‘Dias’ by Freeze.

Thisal Randunu,

former guitarist of NaadhaGama, who has played for prestigious concerts, is our current rhythm guitarist and vocalist. He is also an amazing composer.

Nadeeshan Karunarathna

, our drummer, has played for a number of bands and is always eager to learn more about music.

TJ,our vocalist, has an incredible voice that leans toward the deeper side and she can sing in over 10 languages. She participated in the first season of The Voice Sri Lanka in 2021 and is also a talented songwriter and composer.

Dushan himself has composed and arranged music for some of the big names in the local music scene, including The Gypsies, BnS, Lakshman Hilmi, and Chamara Weerasinghe.

Dushan went on to say that as a policy, they have always been selective about the venues they perform at.

“While we enjoy playing music for all types of audiences, we have always prioritized concerts, weddings, dinner dances, and corporate events over hotel lobbies, nightclubs, and pubs.

LunuDehi’s musical journey began at a BnS show held in Polonnaruwa. Since then, they have collaborated with BnS at concerts and have become known for their unique sound and energetic performances.

They will be backing BnS on their North America and UK tour in 2024.

Nalin Samath: Co-founder of LunuDehi

“This is a huge milestone for our band, and we cannot wait to share our music with new audiences around the world,” says Dushan.

Whatsmore, next month, they are off to Indonesia to perform at ‘Sri Lanka Night 2023’ to be held at Hotel Le Meridien, Jakarta, on 25th November.

Dushan says he is grateful to those who have supported them and given them the encouragement to break into the scene.

“I would also like to extend my appreciation to Sunil Perera, who, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He was like a second father to me, and never failed to push me to be my best self, also Piyal Perera, who has been supporting us from the start, as well as Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman, who have given us numerous opportunities to shine as a group.

“Our ultimate goal is to establish ourselves as a household name, with a repertoire of memorable songs that will secure numerous concert bookings and tours, hopefully worldwide.”

Their debut original is called ‘Rice and Curry.’

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