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The World and Sri Lanka in 2022

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The Editor of this newspaper titled his editorial on January 1st 2022 ‘Our Annus Horribilis’. Justified since the year was horrible but most of the recent past years have been horribilis and unpardonably so because the horrors were man made by our leaders.

The late Queen Elizabeth II brought the Latin expression to prominence by using it to label the year 1992 in a speech she made at the London Guildhall celebration of her Ruby Jubilee (40 years) as queen. In that year she suffered three immediate family breakups and divorces, and fire at Windsor Castle to cap it all.

I failed to find out who first used the term and when to name a year of disaster and misfortune. Many have used it. Kofi Anan, UN Secretary General said 2004 was an annus horribilis for the world as so many upheavals occurred – in Afghanistan, the Congo, Palestine and even allegation of corruption leveled against UN officials in Iran. In 2020 the US awarded the Golden Raspberry to that year as the worst calendar year of events.

To come back to the editorial of the first day of the New Year, the Editor listed the political, agricultural, economic and health disasters that battered Sri Lanka. The saddest and most unacceptable fact is that Nature, though it blew tornadoes, stormed, flooded, ignited forest fires, warmed some countries and caused cold blizzards in others, left our country only slightly bruised by heavy rains and slight droughts, and even these few and far between. All the horrendous disasters were mostly man-made as I said earlier and accusing fingers can justifiably be pointed at one family and its cohorts for much of what hit us.

Global disasters

I list these according to my opinion of the gravity and how badly affected people were. The worst was the war in Ukraine which ushered in a war in Europe after about 78 years. The UN set up to prevent international conflicts seemed helpless. On February 4 Russia launched a ‘special military operation’ that it said was needed to force the ‘demilitarization and denazification’ of Ukraine. Warnings of what was comingt had been issued by many countries and organizations, but no serious note of these were taken. Hence Ukraine was taken somewhat by surprise though Russian troops and vehicles had been massing on its border.

I well remember columnist Gwynne Dyer whom I never miss reading in The Island, pronouncing Russia would not advance on Ukraine nor attack it. However, to the surprise of the Kremlin and most military experts, Ukraine withstood the onslaught. It continues to see- saw and Putin remains adamant in his desire to recreate a modern USSR, not minding one jot the mass murder of his men and Ukrainians as they are showered with Iran made drones. Of course NATO and western countries are pumping arms and ammunition to battered Ukraine. Let us admit President Volodomyr Zelensky, ex-comedy actor, is proving his mettle and leading his country courageously.

Many more disasters are ongoing such as protests in Iran over the death of young Mahsa Amin who was caught in public by a morality police with her head uncovered – no hijab. Her death drew millions out in protest. They continued their marches and slogan “Women, life, freedom’ even in the face of government decreed public executions. No peace or settlement of this women’s issue is seen.

Sad stories of people escaping their countries seeking greener pastures is daily news and many of these attempts to start new lives end in death – at sea on frail boats or unseaworthy trawlers or by suffocation in prime movers of cargo. Refugees in 2022 numbered well over 32 million it is estimated, and over 100 million when internally displaced, in-country refugees are added. This is a severe indictment on governments the worldover.

A disaster which affects the entire world is climate change. Forty years ago scientists warned the world was heading for trouble and that if not taken serious note of and remedied, could and would turn catastrophic. Heat waves intensified; just as freezing descended in winter. These disasters severely affect the people and the economies of countries; so also food production. The UN Panel of Scientists on Climate Change warns that the deterioration of the climate if not checked could soon be irreversible. There however are positive signs that the world, threatened by extinction, is waking up to danger and attempting remedial measures. To mention but one advance: electric cars are on roads, even a few in Sri Lanka. On the other hand this country is still importing coal to generate electricity with the sun beating down on us but not harnessed to produce solar energy.

COP 27 held recently did not achieve startling success in curtailing emission of poisonous gases to the atmosphere but ended with ‘loss and damage agreements’ where wealthy countries are called upon to compensate poor countries harmed by climate change. President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act with very important steps outlined to reduce emission of heat trapping gasses that cause climate change.

Britain had many PM changes during the last year. It pushed out Boris Johnson of the ‘endless parade of scandals’ and installed Liz Truss who holds the record of being the shortest serving PM of Britain having been in that position for only 45 days. Finally the first Prime Minster of colour, Rishi Sunak, was appointed and seems to be turning the economy of the country around.

The most noted event was the death of the longest reigning royal of Britain and its former Empire. Queen Elizabeth II lived to 96 serving her nation as she promised “as long as I live.” The entire world realized how honourable and duty bound she had been; a woman to be greatly admired and respected. People loved her and sorrowed at her death. King Charles III seems to be doing fine.

I read a line running below BBC TV news broadcasts –”Harry: I want my father and brother back.” It’s wrong in meaning and syntax too. Father and brother did not leave Harry, so how say he wants them back. He should say, I want to go back to my father and brother. This prefaces the fact that Prince Harry will release his book provocatively titled Spare on January 10. It was ghostwritten by J R Moehringer. To me he seems unable to accept the fact he is second prince in waiting. Perhaps Meghan and her prejudices have encouraged even that grouse. Will his book be another mean expose like the documentary Harry and Meghan and the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey? Or perhaps it will create no ripples and have no comments forthcoming from Buckingham Palace. .

Needless to say Covid 19 was a minus factor, which however reduced from pandemic level to almost just another virus infection. China is again under its spread; and losing its dynamism in development.

Our country

Many have detailed the happenings in Sri Lanka during the year just passed. It was an Annus Horibilis, but not at all the only one. We have suffered other horrible years – 1989; worst of civil war years; suicide bomb explosions on Easter Sunday 2019. Turmoil we suffered in 2022; the worst was Mahinda Rajapaksa, just before or after resigning as PM, unleashing thugs who were offered lunch and alcoholic drinks and then sent forth to destroy Gotagogama. The previous day he placed his head against the sparse branch of the sacred Bo Tree. Then he mingles with the dregs of society and gets them to do his bidding, never mind even killing peaceful protesters.

He, the projected father figure, carrying babies from among adoring crowds, was the violent one, while his brother Gotabaya, dreaded ordering shooting, sheepishly crawls out of President’s House and is secretly sailed to Malé. This topsy turveyness continued. A leader who lost his seat at the last elections and saw total defeat of his party is made in double quick succession PM, Acting Prez and President. The most hard-to-believe double turn is the projected conjoining of the elephant and the pohottuwa: SLPP and UNP

Women were seen and heard more – the good, the bad, the OK. Sandya Ekneligoda, widow of 12 years who seeks closure of the mystery of the disappearance of her journalist husband, traveling annually to Geneva, was nominated one of 100 famous women by BBC. Shocking Diana Gamage acts concerned about Sri Lanka while allegedly being a British citizen, or so reported, and threatened to bring crashing down the entire SJB if she loses her parliamentary seat. Powerful lass promoting gambling in Mannar, growing cannabis all over the isle and keeping bars open24/7. The OK dame is Hirunika. I admire her. Rip Van W of the Sunday Times considered nominating her Person of the Year. Not a bad choice, I add.

The Editor pronounced 2022 was annus horribilis. I say it was not all disaster and misfortune. We suffered a surfeit of these which will move to 2023, but there were the bright spots too. The brightest to me was the clean, self sacrificing Aragalaya of true patriots who protested peacefully. They achieved much: drove the President out and added the bonus of kicking out the PM too. With him departed the most incompetent Minister of Finance and son and nephew. But the brother keeps coming back from his home in the USA to develop his kumanthrana.

Also the Aragalaya opened people’s eyes, ears and more importantly, mouths. We speak freely now. Most significant of all: politicians and those in high posts cannot just rob and enjoy pickings. The public is alert.



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Features

Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric

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Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers

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Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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Features

A mask of DATES…

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Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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