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The social responsibility of a professional



How would a professional well respected at home feel in such a hostile environment? Material benefits alone without job satisfaction cannot make a professional happy and content. I know many of my medical colleagues working abroad are eagerly waiting to return home at the earliest opportunity, if the situation here is conducive.

By Dr. Sarath Gamini De Silva

(Motivational Speech Delivered at the Convocation of the Law Graduates of the University of Colombo on 19th December, 2021 at the BMICH.)

I wholeheartedly congratulate the new graduates for completing your tertiary education and entering society as productive citizens. Notwithstanding your superior academic capabilities, it is indeed an achievement to have completed your tertiary education at troubled times like these, when education in general had come to a virtual standstill for the majority of the younger generation. I have no doubt that your graduation is long overdue due to no fault of your own. The very problems and delays in the system has led to the waste of much of your childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. The frustration of such delays, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, must weigh heavily on your outlook on life. Most of you will become practising lawyers in courts of law, while others may continue in allied fields. Some of you may enter politics, a field in which many past luminaries of your profession have left an indelible mark.

You are now on the verge of being admitted to a very old, much respected profession, one of three learned professions recognized from mediaeval and early modern times, the other two being divinity and medicine. While we in the medical profession are expected to ensure good physical and mental health in the individual and the community, you in the legal field are supposed to promote good societal health by ensuring that justice is done without discrimination, thereby helping to create a law abiding society where all are deemed equal.

It is important at this stage to differentiate between a job and a profession.

A job is a role of a person in a society, for which a definite payment is made for a particular number of hours worked. Even without any training beforehand, one can learn on the job and can also be terminated by the employer at any time.

A profession, on the other hand, is defined as an occupation, at times life-long, founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to provide disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other personal gain. A professional is expected to work towards maintaining and uplifting the standards of the profession as well. There are well established codes of conduct and ethics to guide a professional, the breach of which can be punished by a statutory body which may even compel the professional to cease practice altogether.

By now you should be aware that many things are going wrong in our beloved motherland. You may have suffered already, due to various irregularities which have been blamed on the political leadership and the subservient populace. From the moment you entered Grade 1 in school until you completed your university education, you must have faced many undesirable influences, compelling you, at times, to act against your own conscience. Our system of free education has had little adaptation, over the years, to meet present day and future needs. Being mainly focused on passing examinations, there is hardly any emphasis on character building, developing good attitudes or learning to interact with others, leading to a society with peaceful co-existence. The younger generation is ill-prepared by such education to be useful, law-abiding members of the society. I believe undesirable attitudes developed in formative years are unlikely to be corrected easily in adult life. Accumulating knowledge without developing the wisdom to use it is of little value. The new normal of virtual or on-line education can only make matters worse, producing self-centred individuals growing up in isolation.

Most of you have been beneficiaries of free education throughout. However it should be kept

in mind that a significant proportion of the younger generation today studying in private, so-called international schools, have not benefited from free education until and unless they enter a state university. This could be a matter of personal choice or more likely due to the lack of access to a good state school.

You have been fortunate enough to reap the full benefit of free university education as well, overcoming many restrictions and other obstacles that could have prevented you from securing it. It should be borne in mind that many deserving students have been denied this opportunity due to merit determining only 40 percent of university admissions. I consider you as having made the best use of free education while a significant section of the society appears not to have made full use of that opportunity.

We are products of this society. If you have imbibed everything that is bad, then you will continue to indulge in and propagate bad behaviour. When you see how less educated people make a fortune, often through antisocial activity, and live in luxury, you too would get disheartened and be tempted to become dishonest. This would not happen if you have a good upbringing. One has to make a genuine effort not to fall into that precipice while trying one’s best to address those issues and rectify them wherever possible. With rampant lawlessness at all levels in the society it is not surprising that these shortcomings remain uncorrected. How those who openly break laws escape without punishment and remain free to continue as they like, is an insult to law abiding citizens.

My own medical profession is at the receiving end of much blame for not meeting the high expectations of the people. An outsider like me need not deal with shortcomings in your profession that should be obvious to any honest observer with common sense. Your purpose in life should be to assist in delivering justice to the common man, without leaving him financially bankrupt after unnecessarily prolonged litigation. Please do keep in mind that justice delayed is justice denied. A few errant members can tarnish the reputation of an entire profession.

Many of you may consider leaving the country at the earliest opportunity, to escape the evils of the motherland. Such a move could ensure an economically secure future with good education for your children. But think of the different set of problems one is likely to face abroad. With the social upheaval taking place everywhere, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant unemployment, there is increasing animosity towards the immigrant community, in the developed world. Physical harm in public places and racial slurs at the workplace are all too common. Whether a professional or otherwise, immigrants remain second class citizens. How would a professional, well respected at home, feel in such a hostile environment? Material benefits alone, without job satisfaction, cannot make a professional happy and content. I know that many of my medical colleagues working abroad are eagerly waiting to return home at the earliest opportunity, provided the situation here becomes conducive.

It is your bounden duty to give back to the motherland what its citizens have given you, for it was they who provided the tax money to pay for your free education. I agree that for you to serve the nation properly, the state should maintain a system of fair play and justice as well as opportunities for progress for yourself and your progeny.

It may appear to be the easier option to leave the country with a defeatist attitude, but your obligation, individually or as a group, is to strive and rectify the many maladies affecting our society. Being in the legal profession you are best equipped and better positioned to do so.

It is sad to say that many professionals taking to politics, including many from your own field, have performed no better than the average less educated politician. Why should a qualified lawyer, or for that matter any professional, sacrifice all his learning, integrity and dignity to please his political masters by agreeing to and actively promoting policies which obviously go against the basic principles of justice and democracy? It is really depressing to see how legal luminaries with political power have allowed or actively promoted many legislations which any person with common sense can see are detrimental to the functioning of a democracy. It is unfortunate that they have placed safeguarding of their own future in politics ahead of the welfare of the nation.

It is common knowledge in the medical community that some of our own colleagues, perhaps at the behest of interfering authorities, are disseminating misinformation among the public on various health related matters. That could cause more harm as the public is more likely to believe even falsehoods coming from reputed professionals while ignoring similar information conveyed by an ignorant politician.

While appreciating their dilemma in being obliged to obey the commands of higher authorities, it must be acknowledged that in doing so they abrogate their primary responsibility to provide disinterested, objective counsel and service, which amounts to professional misconduct. As such, ideally professionals should refrain from holding positions where their opinion is not solicited or respected and are expected to slavishly obey irregular or even unlawful orders of their political masters.

Many ills in the society may be minimised if those practising law and the judiciary take an upright position and are not swayed by various outside influences. That will provide a solid rock on which a healthy society with justice and fair play could stand. Any suspicion, in the minds of the people, of a breach in that noble concept could be a catalyst for much unrest and instability.

It has been said that there are three categories of people; those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who suddenly wake up wondering what has happened. I sincerely hope that you belong to the first category, making things happen for the betterment of all. Let me conclude by wishing you every success in your chosen career, with the hope that you will be exemplary citizens your countrymen could depend on and be proud of.

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Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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