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The People vs. The Political Class

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BY SANJA DE SILVA JAYATILLEKA

It’s The People vs The Political Class, in the Aragalaya. The People are winning because they are clearer, more intelligent and are way ahead of the politicians. The parliamentarians who can’t seem to get what the people have made crystal clear, can play silly buggers only until the people stop letting them.The People have come together for a common cause, irrespective of their other differences. They have managed to distil the essence of their demands into a couple of slogans which cannot be more explicit. The Parliamentarians, in the meantime, are still thrashing around, unable to come to a common position, nor able to persuade an adequate number into a majority to support any of their proposals.These things take time, they say. The Constitution doesn’t provide for that, they say. They look for solutions within their comfort zone, while the people, they represent, have long left that and are taking risks in a previously unchartered zone, packed with risk and danger. The politicians are not planning to follow their example anytime soon.

The People knew that the solutions had to come through the legislature. They did everything they could to send their message through their protests, which are spread across the island so no one could possibly miss it. But, increasingly, it is dawning on the people that their message is just not getting through. The ugly truth is revealed that the representatives of the people have been living in a parallel universe once they crossed the Diyawanna, in which they began to believe they acquired some special status which elevated them above the people who are pretty much a sideshow.

The People no longer trust the 225, and certainly not the +1 to represent them. They have put them on alert. The leaders of the April 28th demonstrations have even given them a deadline to do the job or get out of the way. It’s in the interest of the political class to quickly comprehend that the law, the constitution, and all other rules are kept by The People as expected, only as long as those who govern keep their side of the contract as well.The President was rudely awakened to this truth when on April 3rd the People flouted the curfew which sought to prevent the first mass demonstration. Even the cold-blooded shooting by the Police of an unarmed protester has not ebbed the momentum of an enraged people. The People have already declared that they will have those who refuse to leave, out on their ear before long. Constitutional niceties will matter little at that point. It will be ‘que sera, sera’ afterwards. Those who worry about who will fill this or that Constitutional post needn’t worry. If they don’t act fast, they won’t have any say in any of that.

There Will Be Blood

If the politicians don’t prevent the People having to do the job themselves, there will be blood. The People will have little regard to how they do the job at that point. How difficult is it to grasp that The People want the President, the PM and the Rajapaksa regime gone?

So, in the absence of a legislative solution, the solution will devolve to the street which can do it only one way. That way will inevitably elicit a response from the law enforcement and security authorities who have pledged to protect the political elite. The People will be beyond caring by then, having tried to persuade their politicians to get over themselves and do what the people demand. They will march forward regardless of the dangers to themselves and blood will flow on the streets.

Whoever fires the guns, this blood will be on the hands of the politicians. They would have failed the people who gave them the privilege of governing. While The People suffered, some died, most had enough, and almost all marched and protested, giving plenty of time to act with similar urgency to resolve the fundamental issue they had identified as the cause of their problem, the politicians couldn’t reach across their petty little differences as The People had done. Instead, they were huddled in corners endlessly debating the many versions of the 21st Amendment, the pros and cons of the Executive Presidency, and who would be President or PM. It may be none of them.

Tone Deaf in A Parallel Universe

The People said ‘Gota Go Home’. They said ‘MR Go Home’ or a much more flippant version of that. Addressing the regime, they said the lot of you get the hell out, because time is running out for us, but they are not being heard.The refusal of the President, the PM, the Rajapaksa regime to comprehend that they are being held to account for their actions, and that no mandate, Constitutional provision, or legality could excuse the conduct which brought the whole people to the streets in protest; and the shameful inability of the Opposition to work around any constraints to change the status quo in the governing structure without indulging in their own predilections; their inability to persuade their fellow parliamentarians to come to a common position and make them stakeholders in a new transformational arrangement, and the continuing divisions within them exposes something very concerning about them.

It will be seen that not one among them had what it took, to seize the moment, step outside the frame and muster the strength to do what is necessary to be the person or persons of destiny that this moment needs.If Parliament fails, that person or those persons of destiny will emerge from the struggle, after blood is spilled for want of courage and commitment from the political class. That class or political elite cannot see that The People don’t give a damn for the rules anymore as they gather in the proliferation of GotaGoGamas around the country. Every profession, every class, every category of people has shown courage and commitment as they join the struggle and do whatever they can in their own different ways to strengthen the call for change.All the People expect is for the President to accept responsibility for his monumental blunders and step down.

They expect the PM who couldn’t stop him, to also step down, in line with his own declared belief that once you’ve lost the confidence of the people, you must leave.It is the case that the 20th Amendment made the PM powerless, but he campaigned for the 20th Amendment. The regime has been a disgrace, and so The People expect the Rajapaksas to vacate forthwith so the country could be saved from plunging further into the abyss. If they don’t do so willingly, The People expect the Opposition to make this happen.That none of the above is likely to happen is the shame contained in the expensively maintained centres of governance and legislation. That the People of this island, are nothing like those who represent them, is clear in the precincts of every GotaGoGama, including in the supportive protests in the Diaspora.

Those of you in the business of governance, learn from the people and grow a spine. Put your bloated heads together and come up with a plan before The People have to. The People have already suggested what you should do. All you have to do is to unite to throw the perpetrators of this misery out, and quickly settle down to sorting this mess out. Remember, with or without you, The People are not planning to lose this one.No solution proposed to-date by the Politicians of all sides responds adequately to The People’s voices. But The People mean to be heard. They will shout louder for a time, in a last clutching at straws. Then the shouts will cease to be demands, and turn into roars of rebellion or even revolution. And as with all such overflowing of mass frustration, as they climb over the walls of the citadels they had privileged their leaders with, to throw them out with their bare hands, the guns aimed at them will claim their victims, adding for the first time to this island’s history, a People’s Revolution, not driven by ideology, but by existential imperative. The Martyrs will be celebrated and the political class denounced with every generation.



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Responding to our energy addiction

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by Ranil Senanayake

Sri Lanka today is in the throes of addiction withdrawal. Reliant on fossil fuels to maintain the economy and basic living comforts, the sudden withdrawal of oil, coal and gas deliveries has exposed the weakness and the danger of this path of ‘development’ driven by fossil energy. This was a result of some poorly educated aspirants to political power who became dazzled by the advancement of western industrial technology and equated it with ‘Development’. They continue with this blind faith even today.

Thus, on December 20th 1979, an official communiqué was issued by the Government and displayed in the nation’s newspapers stating, “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”. This defined with clarity what was to be considered development by the policy-makers of that time. This fateful decision cast a deadly policy framework for the nation. The energy source that was to drive the national economy would be fossil-based. Even today, that same policy framework and its adherents continue. Everything, from electricity to cooking fuel, was based on fossil energy.

The economics of development, allows externalizing all the negative effects of ‘development’ into the environment, this being justified because, “industrialisation alleviates poverty”. The argument, is that economies need to industrialise in order to reduce poverty; but industrialisation leads to ‘unavoidable emissions. Statements like, ‘reduction in poverty leads to an increase in emissions’ is often trotted out as dogma. Tragically, these views preclude a vision of development based on high tech, non-fossil fuel driven, low consumptive lifestyles. Indeed, one indicator of current ‘development’ is the per capita consumption of power, without addressing the source of that power.

A nation dependent on fossil fuel is very much like an addict dependent on drugs. The demand is small, at first, but grows swiftly, until all available resources are given. In the end, when there is nothing else left to pawn, even the future of their children will be pawned and finally the children themselves! Today, with power cuts and fuel shortages, the pain of addiction begins to manifest.

The creation of desire

This perspective of ‘development’, the extension of so-called ‘civilised living’ is not new to us in Sri Lanka, Farrer, writing in 1920, had this to say when visiting Colombo:

“Modern, indeed, is all this, civilised and refined to a notable degree. All the resources of modern culture are thick about you, and you feel that the world was only born yesterday, so far as right-thinking people are concerned.

And, up and down in the shade of glare, runs furiously the unresting tide of life. The main street is walled in by high, barrack like structures, fiercely western in the heart of the holy East, and the big hotels upon its frontage extend their uncompromising European facades. Within them there is a perpetual twilight, and meek puss-faced Sinhalese take perpetually the drink orders of prosperous planters and white-whiskered old fat gentlemen in sun hats lined with green. At night these places are visible realisation of earthly pleasure to the poor toiling souls from the farthest lonely heights of the mountains and the jungle.” The process goes on still …

Develop we must, but cautiously – with the full awareness of the long-term consequences of each process. Development must be determined by empowering the fundamental rights of the people and of the future generations. Clean air, clean water, access to food and freedom from intoxication, are some of these fundamental rights. Any process that claims to be part of a development process must address these, among other social and legal fundamental rights.

One problem has been that, the movement of a country with traditional non-consumptive values, into a consumerist society based on fossil energy tends to erode these values rapidly. Often, we are told that this is a necessary prerequisite to become a ‘developed country’, but this need not be so. We need to address that fundamental flaw stated in 1979. We need to wean ourselves away from the hydrocarbon-based economy to a carbohydrate-based economy. Which means moving from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy.

Fossil Fuels or fossil hydrocarbons are the repository of excess carbon dioxide that is constantly being injected into the atmosphere by volcanic action for over the last 200 million years. Hydrocarbons are substances that were created to lock up that excess Carbon Dioxide, sustaining the stable, Oxygen rich atmosphere we enjoy today. Burning this fossil stock of hydrocarbons is the principal driver of modern society as well as climate change. It is now very clear that the stability of planetary climate cycles is in jeopardy and a very large contributory factor to this crisis are the profligate activities of modern human society.

As a response to the growing public concern that fossil fuels are destroying our future, the fossil industry developed a ‘placating’ strategy. Plant a tree, they say, the tree will absorb the carbon we emit and take it out of the atmosphere, through this action we become Carbon neutral. When one considers that the Carbon which lay dormant for 200 million years was put into the atmosphere today, can never be locked up for an equal amount of time by planting a tree. A tree can hold the Carbon for 500 years at best and when it dies its Carbon will be released into the atmosphere again as Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide is extracted from the atmosphere by plants and converted into a solid form through the action of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic biomass performs the act of primary production, the initial step in the manifestation of life. This material has the ability to increase in mass by the absorption of solar or other electromagnetic radiation, while releasing oxygen and water vapor into the atmosphere. It is only photosynthetic biomass that powers carbon sequestration, carbohydrate production, oxygen generation and water transformation, i.e., all actions essential for the sustainability of the life support system of the planet.

Yet currently, it is only one product of this photosynthetic biomass, sequestered carbon, usually represented by wood/timber, that is recognized as having commercial value in the market for mitigating climate change. The ephemeral part, the leaves, are generally ignored, yet the photosynthetic biomass in terrestrial ecosystems are largely composed of leaves, this component needs a value placed on it for its critical ‘environmental services’

With growth in photosynthetic biomass, we will see more Oxygen, Carbon sequestering and water cleansing, throughout the planet. As much of the biomass to be gained is in degraded ecosystems around the planet and as these areas are also home to the world’s rural poor, these degraded ecosystems have great growth potential for generating photosynthetic biomass of high value. If the restoration of these degraded ecosystems to achieve optimal photosynthetic biomass cover becomes a global goal, the amazing magic of photosynthesis could indeed help change our current dire course, create a new paradigm of growth and make the planet more benign for our children.

Instead of flogging the dead horse of fossil energy-based growth as ‘Economic Development’, instead of getting the population addicted to fossil energy, will we have the commonsense to appreciate the value of photosynthetic biomass and encourage businesses that obtain value for the nations Primary Ecosystem Services (PES)? The realization of which, will enrich not only our rural population but rural people the world over!

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Australia-Sri Lanka project in the news…Down Under

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The McNaMarr Project is the collaboration between Australian vocalist and blues guitarist, John McNamara, and Andrea Marr, who is a Sri Lankan-born blues and soul singer, songwriter and vocal coach.

Her family migrated to Australia when she was 14 and, today, Andrea is big news, Down Under.

For the record, Andrea has represented Australia, at the International Blues Challenge, in Memphis, Tennessee, three times, while John McNamara has also been there twice, representing Australia.

Between them, they have 10 albums and multiple Australian Blues awards.

Their second album, ‘Run With Me,’ as The McNaMarr Project, now available on all platforms, worldwide, has gone to No. 1 on the Australian Blues and Roots Sirplay charts, and No. 12 on the UK Blues charts.

Their debut album, ‘Holla And Moan,’ released in 2019, charted in Australia and the US Blues and Soul charts and received rave reviews from around the world.

Many referred to their style as “the true sound of soulful blues.”

= The Rocker (UK): “They’ve made a glorious album of blues-based soul. And when I say glorious, I really mean it. I’ve tried to pick out highlights, but as it’s one of the records of this year – 2019 – (or any other for that matter) it’s tricky. You have to own this.”

= Reflections in Blue (USA): “Ten original tunes that absolutely nail the sound and spirit of Memphis soul. Marr has been compared to Betty Lavette and Tina Turner and with good reason. She delivers vocals with power and soul and has a compelling stage presence. McNamara’s vocals are reminiscent of the likes of Sam & Dave or even Otis Redding. This is quality work that would be every bit as well received, in the late 1950s, as it is today. It is truly timeless.”

= La Hora Del Blues (Spain): “Andrea Marr’s voice gives us the same feeling as artistes, like Betty Lavette, Tina Turner or Sharon Jones, perfectly supported by John McNamara’s work, on vocals and guitar…in short words, GREAT!”

Yes, John McNamara has been described as an exceptional vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, whose voice has been compared to the late great Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, while Andrea Marr often gets compared to the likes of Tina Turner, Gladys Knight and Sharon Jones.

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Manju Robinson’s scene…

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Entertainer and frontline singer, Manju Robinson, is back, after performing at a leading tourist resort, in the Maldives, entertaining guests from many parts of the world, especially from Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany, Poland…and Maldivians, as well.

His playlist is made up of the golden oldies and the modern sounds, but done in different styles and versions.

While preparing for his next foreign assignment…in the Maldives again, and also Dubai, Manju says he has plans to do his thing in Colombo.

Manju has performed with several local bands, including 3Sixty, Shiksha (Derena Dreamstar band), Naaada, Eminents, Yaathra, Robinson Brothers, Odyssey, Hard Black and Mark.

He was the winner – Best Vocalist and the Best Duo performer – at the Battle of the Bands competition, in 2014, held at the Galadari Hotel.

In 2012, he won the LION’s International Best Vocalist 2012 award.

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