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Turning points and dead-ends

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by Uditha Devapriya

After more than a year of holding back, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya has finally showed the government the proverbial finger. This is the biggest mass rally a political party has held in a long time. That it evokes memories of the February 2015 rally in Nugegoda only underlies its significance. At a time of deep political and social crisis, such movements can only bring to the streets a sweeping tide of discontent. Sceptical comments by Colombo’s upper classes and left-liberal blocs aside, that tide can’t be stopped or held back.

It is hence up to the SJB, with other Opposition parties, to seize the momentum. Whether or not it will do this depends on how far it can revisit and challenge old ideas, adapt to the new normal, and engage with groups hit hardest by the pandemic.

In characteristic élan and aplomb, Dayan Jayatilleka calls the SJB’s rally “the turning point”, presumably of the government’s disastrous post-2019 downward spiral. The timing couldn’t have been more symbolic. This week marks not just the SLPP regime’s second anniversary, but Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 76th birthday as well as the seventh anniversary of Maithripala Sirisena’s walk-out from his second government. These do not bode well for an administration that came to power on a sweeping mandate and, at least on paper, still enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament. It remains to be seen which way the wind will blow in the event of a local government election, but the writing is already on the wall: there’s dissent and despair smudged all over. Obviously, the government can’t be complacent forever.

What is significant is that it is the social groups and classes which the Rajapaksas counted among their strongest supporters who have turned the other way. The fertiliser imbroglio is a deeply divisive issue, and in the absence of scientific evidence it is difficult to comment on whether shifting from chemical varieties (inorganics) was a good idea. While environmentalists call it the most progressive decision the SLPP has ever made, agricultural experts are clearly opposed. We are yet to see debates between activists and agriculturalists (though the latter have had their say), but we are seeing protests by farmers, almost everywhere. Indeed, none less than Wimal Weerawansa, hardly the sort of politico you’d expect to make an incendiary statement about the government, has come out against its fertiliser policy, urging it to reconsider its decision.

It is against such a backdrop that Dayan Jayatilleka has cautioned the SJB against adopting a resistance strategy that places emphasis on urban elements over peasant interests. This is something no political analyst here has advocated, and it says a lot about liberal critics of the regime that while they fault the Opposition for not doing enough, they are quiet about what the SJB, or for that matter the JVP, must do. Dr Dayan, on the other hand, has more or less outlined tactics and strategies based on winning back electorates which a) the SLPP and the SLFP used to court, but have alienated and b) the UNP, the SJB’s parent party, alienated for a quarter-century. In other words, his argument is two-fold: get such groups on the SJB’s side, and ensure the SJB reworks its ideas and escapes its UNP past.

By all accounts, Dr Dayan’s strategy is well thought-out, even productive. No one has seriously considered the peasantry until now. This is because while the urban middle-class has figured in party manifestos, the subaltern classes – what Partha Chatterjee once called the “dangerous classes” – have remained, at best, a set of fringe groups whose relevance to mainstream political outfits crops up only during elections. The upper and middle classes, on the other hand, are more sensitive interests, whose choices determine not just the course but also the destiny of political parties and organisations. This is the same middle-class that the SLPP tapped into, and won in the hundreds of thousands, two years ago.

In the face of deteriorating economic conditions, an increasingly proletarianised middle-class is now defecting from the SLPP government. At the same time, the pauperization of the peasantry has brought farmers into the streets. While the regime has in no small part given the impression of kowtowing to big business interests, be it blue-chip companies or rice mafias and intermediate traders, the dangerous classes have banded together. That the middle-class, itself known for its hostility to radical action, has joined protesting academics, trade unions, and hungry farmers, certainly says much about the times we are in.

However, I personally believe that the radicalisation of the middle-class can go both ways. Traditionally, the UNP has always been the party of the well-to-do, the rich, the haves, the privileged, and the elite. Its programmes have appealed to Colombo’s bourgeoisie, which it lost to the Rajapaksas because of sheer incompetence. This is hardly a problem endemic to the UNP, but it is one endemic to the UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe, and of those Third Way Centrists who, under yahapalanaya, attempted to sweeten its neoliberal heritage by shifting its ideological commitment from free market to “social market” economics.

The SJB is trying its best, through the intervention of the likes of bright, sharp, intelligent MPs like Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, to escape this past. Yet there is a section within the SJB that believes in the ideas of the past, as well as the ideology of the UNP. Radicalised though they may be, the middle-classes remain beholden to these ideas. That is what explains their confused responses to price controls: while decrying those controls, they went back on their opposition to State measures once the government chose to let go.

In other words, to recall a point I made a few weeks ago, these groups will remain radicalised and ripe for revolution only insofar as their aspirations are being threatened by the State. Recovery will kick in sooner than later, and in the event that it does, we will see sections of these milieus reverting to their old ideas: namely, the ideas of the UNP, the same ideas that have at least cosmetically been discarded by the SJB.

The dangers of being a captive of these interests should not be lost on any movement trying to dominate the resistance. To be fair, it’s not just the SJB that should be wary of such a prospect: given its past record of flirting with Colombo’s liberal intelligentsia, even the JVP has to be cautioned. Dayan Jayatilleka’s strictures against the liberal intelligentsia, that it should discard its perspectives and attitudes, may go unheeded by the intelligentsia itself, but it should not go unnoticed or unheeded by oppositional parties that think they can milk political mileage by being fellow travellers of Colombo’s civil society circuits.

I am not aware of any other analyst who has raised these points. That is why Dr Dayan’s interventions, even if one does not agree with them, are useful guides for the Opposition. More specifically, that is why his cautioning against relying on urban elements over peasant groups must be listened to, heeded to, and adhered to.

In my view, then, there are three challenges the SJB must meet if it is to seize the mood of the moment and carry forward the momentum of last week’s rally. Firstly, it has to extricate itself out of the UNP. The SJB may have officially renounced its links to the grand old party by contesting separately, but when you see its MPs not just regurgitating the ideas of that party but conjecturing whether Ranil Wickremesinghe will strengthen its hands, you tend to wonder whose ideology it is promoting: its own, or its ex-parent party’s.

Secondly, the SJB has to resolve all internal differences. Most of these differences are to do with what it must do with the UNP, but some are more personal: I am of course referring to Champika Ranawaka’s decision to organise his own troupe, the 43 Senankaya. One can very validly ask whether these troupes are part and parcel of the SJB or whether they are “a band apart.” Mr Ranawaka appeals to a suburban Sinhala middle-class, and it is likely that he can pose a formidable challenge to Sajith Premadasa’s electoral prospects.

The issue, then, is whether he will contest on his own or whether he will be with and work for the SJB. That he chose to participate at last week’s rally does show that, far from trying to sabotage the party as some of his critics claim, he is being part of it. This is, at least from Mr Premadasa’s standpoint, to be welcomed. After all, if the experience of the 1980s shows anything, it’s that a divided Opposition will always be an ineffective one.

Thirdly, and critically, it must decide whose interests it wants to privilege from within the multi-class resistance bloc it has been bequeathed courtesy of the government’s policies. The SJB, for all intents and purposes, is still seen as an offshoot of the UNP, even if in 2020 supporters voted for it and departed from the UNP en masse. How soon it can escape being demarcated as part of the “same old” will depend on how fast it can aim at and target class interests and formations which are suffering the most under the pandemic.

In my opinion, it is the SJB’s inability to focus on these class elements that has kept and is keeping it back from dominating the discussion. By failing to focus on its priorities and not heeding the call of the hour, the SJB runs the risk of ramming into a dead-end. It must hence turn away and search inward, strategising no less than a way out of the past.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com



Features

Getting it right on human rights

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By Jehan Perera

Twice every year, the situation in the North and East of the country resembles that which existed during the three decades of war. One occasion is during 18-19 May, which is the anniversary of the end of the war in 2009. The other is 26-27 November, which used to be celebrated by the LTTE as Heroes Day, when they remember their war dead. Even though the war ended 12 years ago, these two days have the capacity to mobilise the sentiments of the Tamil people, particularly in the North and East and to generate an equivalent opposite reaction in the government, which leads to a heightened military presence. The period 2015-19, in which the government actively sought to promote a reconciliation process that gave more leeway to Tamil sentiment was one of de-escalation.

The wounds of war remain unhealed as the events of the past week have shown. The week leading up to 27 November saw people and organised groups in the North and East preparing to commemorate the war dead and the government preparing to forestall it. Police sought to get prohibition orders from the courts in the hope that the law would prevent the commemoration events from taking place. However, most of the courts did not oblige, and reaffirmed the basic rights to freedom of association and to remember the dead. They also ordered that no LTTE symbols could be displayed and refused to place further limits on the right to memorialise, except to the need to keep within Covid health guidelines. The right to remember is a human right, which the JVP practices faithfully every year, and the law setting up the Office of Reparations offers support to memorialisation.

Despite the presence of a large contingents of security forces in public places, and checkpoints and partrolling, remembrance events took place in most areas in public places and cemeteries, with people lighting lamps and candles. In some places memorials took place in the face of soldiers standing near to them with guns in hand. In other places the large numbers who gathered were not permitted to enter the area they wished to go to, and only a few were permitted in with the rest of them standing out. In many other parts of the North and East more low-key commemorations took place. Due to the heavy security presence and the fear of harassment, intimidation and detention, many opted to hold memorial events in their homes. A journalist was hospitalised after he was allegedly assaulted for taking a photograph of the name-board of the site where the last battle of the war was fought. This suggests the use of arbitrary power.

INTERNATIONAL CENSURE

The heavy-handed actions in the North and East take place at a time when the government is also trying hard to impress the international community that it is serious about improving the human rights situation in the country. The international perception that the human rights situation in the country is deteriorating is very strong. Recently the famous Scotland Yard, which had been training the Sri Lankan police said that they will not renew their training contract with the country’s police force during the remainder of the agreed period, which ends in March 2022. They cited human rights concerns. In recent days, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and human rights organisations have protested against the deaths in police custody of those accused of drug and other criminal offences. The cessation of training by Scotland Yard is liable to make a bad situation even worse.

However, the Scotland Yard decision is in keeping with the overall international assessment of human rights in Sri Lanka. In its latest report on the global human rights situation, the UK’s Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report issued in July 2021 stated Sri Lanka is among the 31 Human Rights Priority Countries. The January 2021 report on Sri Lanka by the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed deep concern over “trends emerging over the past year, which represent clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations”. The report further stated that “Security forces increased their surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists and their use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, with a number of arbitrary arrests. The government proposed new regulations with powers to arrest and send individuals to rehabilitation centres to be ‘de-radicalised’ with no judicial oversight or requirement for further process.”

In June this year the EU parliament gave an early warning that its GSP Plus duty free tax privilege would be withdrawn as a last resort unless Sri Lanka demonstrated that it was serious about keeping to its commitment to uphold human rights. This is an economic benefit that the Sri Lankan economy cannot afford to lose when foreign exchange earnings are much lower than the demand for it and there is a shortage of dollars in the market and new strains of the Covid virus threaten to strike. While the EU resolution states that 12 years on from the end of the war, domestic initiatives for accountability and reconciliation have repeatedly failed to produce results, thus more deeply entrenching impunity and exacerbating victims’ distrust in the system, the EU has indicated that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as it currently stands is central to what is unacceptable to them.

INDEPENDENT MONITORING

The government is currently in the process of amending the PTA. It appointed both a committee consisting of senior government officials headed by Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne to submit a report on the PTA, which they have done. Now that report is being vetted by a ministerial subcommittee headed by Foreign Minister Professor G L Peiris who are seeking the views of other sections of society. This past weekend they met with civil society members in the form of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus (SLCC), which consists of individuals drawn from civil society organisations that have reconciliation, human rights and peace building aims in their work. Prof Peiris explained that there was no draft legislation as yet to share but only a set of proposals which they wished to discuss with civil society and other groups.

Prof Peiris explained that the changes to PTA proposed were a result of consensus between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence and the Attorney General’s Department; these changes are not conceived as one time ones, but as a part of a continuum, there being other changes contemplated that will be agreed on later. He also assured the members of SLCC that changes in legislation will be rapid, and take place early next year. The changes proposed will fall short of expectations of those whose primary concern is human rights, but are an improvement over the present formulation of the PTA. The salient amendments described in the verbal presentation made by Prof Peiris was the shortening of the maximum period of the detention order, restriction in the use of PTA, judicial oversight, supervision by magistrates of detainees, access to lawyers by those detained, speedy trials and repeal of Section 14 with regard to publication. Prof Peiris promised that this was only the start.

The question, and the challenge, will be in the implementation. The present spate of killings in police custody is distressing. In one instance, the lawyers for the person under arrest had warned beforehand that their client will be killed in the next day or days in a shootout, and appealed to the Bar Association and to the police IGP to protect that person’s life but to no avail. All systems collapse and no perpetrator is identified and so there is impunity. In a statement the Bar Association said “Once again, the Sri Lanka Police is involved in an incident which has the hallmarks of an extra judicial killing. This killing comes at a time that Sri Lanka’s human rights record is under scrutiny and there are threats of consequences to the country and its economy as a result of the deteriorating human rights situation…Responsibility for these killings must lie not only with the persons who carried out the killings but also all those who command them and those who failed to ensure the safety and security of the suspect. The BASL calls upon the IGP to explain his failure to protect the suspect who was in Police custody.” There are other changes that need to be made, the most important of which is the need for a system of checks and balances that works and the Sri Lankan state to consider all its citizens to be precious.

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Generic system failure or inherent deficiencies in corporate ethics?

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SLIIT controversy in the context of establishing private sector higher education institutions in Sri Lanka

By Prof Susirith Mendis
(susmend2610@gmail.com)

Having been a regular contributor to ‘The Island’, I have ventured again into expressing my opinion in public spaces after an extended period of silence, as I felt compelled to, after I read the excellently argued piece by Prof R.P. Gunawardane titled ‘SLIIT should remain non-state and non-profit institution’ in The Island of November 23.

Prof. Gunawardane explains why Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) should remain non-state and non-profit. He also discusses dispassionately the ‘issues and concerns’ that have come up in recent times about the unsavoury circumstances under which SLIIT ended up completely under private ownership divesting itself from what they might have seen as ‘the restraining clutches’ of the Mahapola Trust Fund (MTF). Prof Gunawardane’s recommendations finally, as well, are mostly acceptable and valuable.

But there are a few places where I beg to disagree and also wish to extend comment on the two topics he has touched upon.

Leaving the comments about the restraints of the University Grants Commission (UGC) on the state universities for later, let me first take issues about SLIIT.

SLIIT and MTF

Things have ‘hit the fan’ since the COPE report on SLIIT became public. Minister Bandula Gunawardane has assured at a meeting chaired by the President, that in his capacity as Minister of Trade, “action would be taken to take over SLIIT divested through fraudulent means”. The Minister used the words “fraudulent means”. The Island of August 10, 2021 headlined its story on the COPE revelations on SLIIT, ‘COPE tells govt. to undo SLIIT swindle’. So, it has been named fraudulent and a swindle.

The Second Report of the Committee on Public Enterprises tabled in Parliament on April 6, 2021, was a Special Report on SLIIT. The report prepared on the basis of an investigation by the Auditor General’s Department has recommended that “the SLIIT be recognised as a non-governmental institution and that the decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers on 24.05.2017 not to include the said institution under any purview of the Ministry be reconsidered.” It also recommends that “the institution be taken over by the Mahapola Fund.”

Furthermore, the COPE recommended that action be taken under the Public Property Act against ‘all parties involved’ (my emphasis) in the action taken to deprive the government of its ownership of SLIIT and its control by an agreement signed on May 12, 2015 without any formal authority.

Therein lies the crux of this issue, that Prof Gunawardane failed to emphasise. But Prof Gunawardane rightly questions the bona fides of SLIIT in not responding to the summons of COPE to appear before it, using a technicality and informing, through their law firm, that it is ‘not legally obligated’ to do so. If all the actions of SLIIT in the process of the MTF divesting itself of SLIIT were above board, and there was nothing to hide, this would have been the best opportunity that the management of SLIIT had of publicly declaring that it had clean hands. Their refusal to do so is suspicious to say the least. A subsequent full-page advertisement (for which they must have spent a few cool millions) in The Daily Mirror of October 29, 2021, titled ‘The True Story of SLIIT’ was a varnished narrative signed, sealed and delivered to a gullible public. What was curiously revealing was, therein, they relate in passing, “the great risks and sacrifices made by the pioneers of SLIIT,” in particular those of Prof Lalith Gamage. It is a good advertisement. As good an advertisement as all advertisements are and expected to be, where critical information is suppressed, and high-points are emphasised and overblown. Like advertisements for milk foods or table margarines, for instance.

The refusal of SLIIT to appear before COPE may have prompted Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to move the Supreme Court in terms of article 126 and Article 17 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka to request the cancellation of agreements between the MTF and SLIIT. The former Minister of Justice as well as Minister of Higher Education under the Yahapalana government, has named Cabinet of ministers including the Prime Minister, Members of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the IGP, Attorney General, members of SLIIT and the Mahapola Higher Education Scholarship Trust Fund as respondents, and asked for issuing of notices to them and most importantly an order directing the Attorney-General to charge and indict Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Dr. Wickrama Weerasooriya (deceased), Anil Rajakaruna, Prof Lalith R. Gamage and Prof Luxman Rathnayaka, among others.

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe alleged that though he made a complaint to the CIABOC on February 25, 2019 that the loss caused to SLIIT as a result of the corrupt transaction at that time was about Rs. 23,000,000,000. (Rs. 23 billion), the outfit did nothing except recording statements from him twice.

As the Minister of Justice and of Higher Education, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was privy to all the sordid details of what happened at a particular MTF Board of Governors meeting when the Board was coerced into consenting to the divesting of SLIIT from the MTF.

Now, it is in the hands of the Supreme Court. We shall wait with bated breath. But in the meantime, a debate in Parliament is on the offing, which may bring to the public domain what is still not fully revealed.

Considering all of the above, I cannot but disagree with Prof. Gunawardane that the Vice-Chancellor/CEO of SLIIT should be retained in that position. He has apparently compromised himself, having started splendidly well in bringing SLIIT initially up to what it became later. Here was a golden opportunity for MTF and SLIIT to jointly set up a model for public-private partnership in the provision of higher education to an ‘education-hungry’ generation of Sri Lankan youth. But unfortunately, SLIIT has not conducted itself to be above reproach. Greed has, perhaps, taken over the early ideals of treading new paths in establishing a new kind of higher educational institution, as often as it happens in the conduct of most human affairs. In the end, it seems to have gone the same way as did North Colombo Medical College (NCMC) and South Asian Institute of Technology and Management/Medicine (SAITM) – manipulated by vested interests, for different ends, under different circumstances and different political regimes. Hence, my question in the title. Is it a system failure or corporate greed that creates an environment that attempts at private higher education, as in the three cases mentioned above, have failed our expectations? Failed to show that education, even in the hands of the private sector, is not wholly a ‘tradable commodity, but it is also a public good’.

We, the public also would wish, if it is at all possible, to know the answers to the following:

(i) Why has SLIIT not named the ‘company’ to which the SLIIT Board of Directors transferred the assets of SLIIT in 2015?

(ii) Who owns SLIIT now?

(iii) Why is there deliberate secrecy about ‘company’ that owns SLIIT?

(iv) Who are the shareholders of the above ‘company’?

(v) Does the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor/CEO or any other member of the Board of Management of SLIIT have any financial interest or any ownership or shareholding of the said unnamed ‘company’?

Until these questions have unambiguous answers, the truth about SLIIT will not be known.

I believe that a Presidential Commission has to be appointed to probe the allegations of a ‘fraudulent’ ‘swindle’ sullied by corruption at the highest levels of the SLIIT management.

State universities and the UGC

Prof R. P. Gunawardane argues that ‘UGC interference’ in State universities has retarded or restrained their growth and development as universities. I fully agree.

He quotes as examples Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and all ‘Ivy League’ universities in the US and to a lesser extent the British universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, that are free from the fetters of government control. I believe that we need to look at their origins and the context in which they were established. Oxbridge were established as religious institutions of learning. The origins of Oxford are lost in the mists of time and legend, but the influence of the Christian Church in these two institutions is well-known. Harvard was founded to train clergy as a ‘church in the wilderness’. Hence, we cannot compare our state universities with the hoary traditions and culture that are behind those institutions that have developed through millennia and centuries. As a result, neither their governance structures nor their ethos can be replicated to our contexts.

Having said that, I agree that we need to strive for higher goals and greater futures for our universities. But, having been in the system for four decades, I have many misgivings about the self-governance of our universities. We have not shown that we have the distinct capabilities of ensuring quality and standards of higher education without state overview. I wish it were otherwise. To illustrate this absence of educational as well as fiduciary or financial responsibility and accountability within our universities, let me quote these two examples.

(1) External Degree Programmes: Several state universities conducted external degree programmes. Sri Jayewardenepura, Kelaniya, Peradeniya and Ruhuna universities were prominent amongst them. As I estimate, 15,000 to 35,000 students were registered annually by each of them. Almost all of them, if not all, were degrees in the Arts and Humanities. The monitoring of quality and standards was poor, and often non-existent. Many academic staff of these universities were external lecturers at mushrooming tutories countrywide, that conducted classes. Though they were expected to make a declaration to their respective universities about their involvement as external teaching staff, to avoid conflict of interest when examiners were appointed, this was practised more in the breach. Corruption became rampant. Examiners were correcting over 5,000 answer scripts. I was not surprised that the Minister of Higher Education, S.B. Dissanayake said publicly that ‘examiners throw answer scripts in the air and give marks according to when and where they fall’. He must have had some inside information. One of them told me that he built his three-storey house from the external degree examination payments he received. The Director of the External Examinations Branch was a much sought-after position. And once in, few left willingly. No control was possible due to pressures of vested interests within universities until the UGC stepped in and limited numbers that could be registered for external degrees by a special circular.

(2) Master’s degree, postgraduate diploma and certificate programmes: Though Bachelor’s degrees are non-fee levying, all other programmes conducted by state universities are fee-levying. Such programmes began to mushroom in all state universities. Academic staff delivering lectures and examining answer scripts were paid handsomely. Therefore, such courses began to proliferate. Master’s programmes were the most lucrative. Some professors and senior staff in universities neglected their undergraduate lectures and concentrated on postgraduate lectures. Examinations were delayed and results were not released for months, if not years. Having paid large sums of money, postgraduate students languished without being awarded their degrees. Some newly established universities with a severe dearth of academic staff even to effectively conduct their undergraduate bachelor’s programmes, were commencing and conducting Master’s programmes. Some even commenced such programmes in Colombo in rented premises with minimal involvement of their academics in the teaching programmes. The quality of these Master’s programmes was much in question. Since the situation was going out of control, the UGC had to bring in stricter criteria for universities to establish postgraduate courses. This had to be done by the UGC because the powerful vested interests within the universities overwhelmed any attempt at internal reform. But, even now, the proliferation of Master’s degree programmes in our state universities are a matter of much concern and debate.

The above are just two examples of the lack of educational and fiduciary or financial governance of the state university system in Sri Lanka.

After all, we are currently debating the deficiencies of governance at the highest levels of government. It is my considered view that neither systems nor persons of adequate integrity are in place for us to entrust self-governance to our universities at present. Corruption will become rampant from student selection to awarding of degrees. This is despite a myriad of UGC circulars. What would the playing fields be, without such an independent referee, and if none of those restraints by circulars (rules) were in existence? I may be a pessimist. But I fear to envisage such a scenario.

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Negombo in the spotlight…

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DJ Ishan: ‘Negombo’ his first production

DJ Ishan, who has also done his thing, internationally, behind the console, has released his very first single, as producer, titled ‘Negombo.’

The song, written by Sampath Fernandopulle, with Pramul Elica on lead vocals, mastering by Ashan, and Vikith Perera with the baseline, is all about the vibe and colours surrounding the coastal town, and everyone featured on the song, and its production, hails from Negombo. The song and video were released online last week.

Ishan started out with Curzon Entertainers and then, 13 years later, formed his own unit, Entertainment ID, and has been seen in action, as a DJ, at top notch local and international events.

‘Retro Revival,’ one of the country’s most anticipated ‘90s parties, is the brainchild of Ishan. He was a regular feature at the immensely popular ‘9 Days of 90s’ party, ‘Dream Music Fest’ and the ‘Negombo Music Fest.’

He has also played at the VLV Lounge Singapore, Stock Resort Austria, Kristallehutte Austria, JW Marriott Malaysia, Dighali Maldives and was a support artiste for globally-renowned DJ Selectro, in Belgium.

With the release of the single ‘Negombo,’ Ishan is opening up a new chapter in music production, together with DJ MASS, in commercial pop music.

“Negombo is where I grew up, went to school, played cricket and represented the country with various teams, started DJing, and now started producing music. So, I always wanted to show my gratitude to my hometown and for the people of Negombo who have helped me right throughout. This song is about the city of Negombo, the people, the beaches and everything about this wonderful place I call home,” Ishan says.

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