Wage increase makes mockery of collective bargaining
by J. A. A. S. Ranasinghe
Productivity Specialist and Management Consultant.
This addendum to the topic is based on the incisive analysis of the plantation wages: Collective Bargaining or otherwise by Gotabaya Dasanayaka (GD) in The Island of 01st March 2021. The eminent labour legislation specialist, former Director General of the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) has most undoubtedly hit the nail on the head drawing the attention of the readers to more sensitive aspects revolving round the importance of the time-tested collective bargaining systems prevailed in the determination of wages of the plantation workers for over three decades in particular as well as to the possible economic consequences, the new wage structure gives rise to the survival of the plantation industry in general.
Industrial Dispute Act No 43 of 1950 (ID Act)
The ID Act quite explicitly deals with the functions of the Commissioner of Labour (CL) under part 11 of the Act which says when an industrial dispute arose, it shall be the duty of the CL to refer such disputes for settlement by conciliation or by arbitration or by an Industrial Court including that of a District Court. It should be noted here that neither the Minister in charge of Labour nor the Commissioner of Labour (CL) nor the Deputy Commissioner of Labour (Industrial Relations) nor any other authorized person seems to have the gumption to abide by aforesaid conciliatory methods as envisaged in the ID Act, when the collective bargaining process of the plantation workers came to a deadlock a few weeks ago.
The most sensible course of action what the Minister or the CL should have done was to have recourse the dispute in question to a compulsory arbitration as per the provisions of the ID Act for a just and equitable award as articulated by GD. The reluctance on the part of the Minister to refer this sensitive issue to the compulsory arbitration is a moot point. Probably, he may have thought that the decision of the arbitration would not be favourable to the trade union demands. On the other hand, he may have thought that the reference to the arbitration is a time-consuming affair and the trade unions agitation is too severe to be ignored. However, it is crystal clear that the Minister had totally condemned the gist of the ID Act in toto by referring it to the Wages Board by circumventing all the bottlenecks in the pipeline for the first time in the history by creating a new precedent. It must be stated here that nowhere in the ID Act that an unfettered latitude is granted for the Minister to refer this labour dispute to the Wages Board. It is highly questionable as to why the Regional Plantation Companies did not challenge the Labour Minister’s arbitrary decision by way of a writ before the court and finally bore the brunt of the unconscious increase of the wages, which has far-reaching ramifications over the plantation industry and the smallholder sector.
Wages Board Ordinance (WBO)
Under section 8 of the WBO, the minister is empowered to establish Wages Board (WB) for any trade. It is a tripartite constituency representing the officials of the Labour Department, employers and employees of a particular trade. At present, there are 45 wages boards for different trades including that of plantation, agriculture and manufacturing industries and they receive minimum wages protection under this WBO. As regards the plantation sector, employees of rubber plantations 25 acres and above, coconut plantations 10 acres and above and tea plantations-no limit on acreage, are protected by the WBO. Though WB has been in existence for the last seven decades, the collective bargaining process initiated by the ID Act and the WBO functioned in tandem without interfering in each other’s territory.
As a matter of fact, collective bargaining process is more instrumental among the more organized sector where collective agreements are in force. By and large, the wage structure in the organized sector where collective bargaining operate is far superior to that of the establishments covered by the Wages Board. The minimum wages paid to employees covered by the WBO are conspicuously lower than the wages paid under the collective agreements. The Wages Boards are considered to be subsistence level wages as referred to above and in sectors where the trade unions are virtually non-existent. Hence, it is unprecedented that a matter which is subject to collective agreement was referred to wages board by the Minister of Labour in the annals of the labour movement of this country without realizing the repercussions that could arise. It is true that the plantation workers were covered by a Collective Agreement and periodically it has been renewed after collective bargaining. In a matter covered by Collective Agreement, if any dispute arose, the matter should have been referred to compulsory arbitration under the ID Act. However, in this instance, it is surprising that the issue was referred to the relevant wages board at the instance of the Minister of Labour.
Wage Impact on the industry
Mr. GD in his well-articulated article made a comparison between the wage structure of the different Wages Board in selected trades and the proposed daily minimum wage for the Tea and Rubber Growing and Manufacturing Trades and pointed out the huge disparity, if the proposed daily minimum wage of Rs. 1,000/= is paid across the board. Both the tea and rubber sectors are owned 70% by the smallholders, definitely the proposed increase will have a deleterious impact on the productivity of the tea and rubber sectors and the smallholders can ill-afford to bear the increased wage at this juncture. Right at the moment, a large number of rubber small holders in Kegalle, Kalutara and Ratnapura districts have abandoned their plots in the face of the exsisting wages and the dearth of labour. Right at the moment, Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) make a desperate attempt to contain the high cost of production and there will be an inevitable impact-detrimental to the well-being of the industry, in the face of the enhanced wages approved by the Wages Board.
GD in his article had incorporated the minimum wages applicable to selected eight trades to pinpoint the irrational disparity of wages and I would go further to highlight the inadvisability of enhancing wages through the wages board mechanism.
The Collective Bargaining process stipulated in the ID Act provided a reasonable effective mechanism to maintain healthy industrial relations and a healthy industrial peace and harmony for the last 30 years. Moreover, the sustainability of the industry and the commercial viability on the basis of labour productivity, profitability and the efficiency of operations were some of the key prime-movers at the collective bargaining table, which both parties took cognizance of seriously. Every Dick, Tom and Harry knew quite well that the government made a solemn pledge at the Presidential Election as well as the last Parliamentary election that the daily wage of the estate workers would be enhanced to Rs. 1,000/= as per the election manifesto (Chapter 10 of the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour). It is this pledge that the government had to initiate at the last Annual Budget at the instigation of the labour trade unions in the estate sector.
Obviously, there are many obstacles both statutory and bureaucratic in the implementation of this pledge. The Commissioner of Labour (CL) who was well versed in the sustainability of the estate sector and the procedural initiatives involved as per the ID Act and Collective Bargaining Process was seen as a stumbling block and he had to be booted out by installing a provincial bureaucratic who was absolutely unaware of the commercial viability of the plantation sector, which is associated with many operational and financial ills.
It must be stated here in fairness to the former Commissioners of Labour in the calibre of Mr. G.Weerakoon and Mr. Mahinda Madihahewa who had served the Labour Department with distinction adroitly and they did not succumb to the political pressure and had the capacity to appraise both sides when critical labour issues arose in fairness to both parties but they relied heavily on the sustainability of the industry on a more priority basis in solving labour disputes. The Government realized that the collective bargaining process outlined in the ID Act was an impediment to the smooth implementation of the proposed wage structure. So, the government insidiously shifted from the time-tested mechanism of collective bargaining process to Wages Board to expedite the process. According to the grapevine circulating in the Labour Secretariat that three strong party acolytes were brought in as nominated members of the Minister to the Wages Board in order to ensure the easy passage of wage increment of Rs. 1,000/=.
Future Trends of the Labour Movement.
From the pattern of the signals hitherto displayed by the government that came into power in 2019, it appears that every vibrant sector would be confronted with insurmountable labour agitations. Firstly, the industry has been agitating to do away with the obnoxious requirement of paying Rs, 200,000/= in case of terminations under the Employment of Termination Act. The employers pointed out over a decade of time that it was difficult to bring in foreign investment with such a legislation. The government did a U Turn by enhancing the payment of compensation to Rs. 400,000/= instead of scrapping this piece of legislation. Secondly, the amount of workmen compensation in the event of a death of an employee due to a fatal accident was increased almost double, placing more financial burden to the employers at the instigation of the trade unions. The third scenario was the manner in which it deviated from the time-tested collective bargaining mechanism and imposed unbearable financial constraints by way of enhanced wages to the employees of the plantation industry. The industry is unaware of any other ill-logical motives to be moved in the pipe-line against the well-being of the industry in the foreseeable future. What would happen if the rest of the Wages Boards request enhanced wages quoting the unprecedented mechanism adopted by the government and the resultant chaos would be inevitable. Unlike those days, the trade unions have become more aggressive with their political affiliations with the government and the civil society too have extended their support to trade unions to win over their demands, as can be seen from the Colombo Port ECT deal. There is obviously writing on the wall that the country would be inundated with heaps of labour unrest issues with the wrong signals given by the government.
Financial assistance to RPCs
It is factually correct that Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) and smallholders were resisting the wage increase proposal on the ground that the financial resources do not permit them to incur this heavy expenditure. If this is the truth, nothing but the truth and the whole truth, the government has an inalienable duty to provide some financial assistance to RPCs by resorting to unorthodox avenues to alleviate its financial suffering even on short time basis. In this regard, Dr.Janaka Ratnasiri, a regular writer to The Island newspaper has made a pragmatic proposal in his feature dated 16th February 2021. He contends that export of tea is subject to a CESS levied at Rs. 10/- per Kg which works out to LKR 2.9 billion. Out of this, Rs. One billion is collected as tea promotion levy by Sri Lanka Tea Board from the exporters. Another 1% or 2.4 billion has to be paid to Brokers for conducting the auctions and carrying out quality control checks and certifying on samples received. These brokers comprising 8 Companies deserve it because they ensure that quality tea is exported. After paying taxes, the exporters are still left with a profit marginof about 65 billion annually. Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri argues that would be more prudent to share this profit among this plantation workers. Otherwise, it could be proportionately be distributed among the RPCs so that heavy financial implications arising out of this wage commitment could be mitigated.
Crises in the plantation industry
Consequent to the announcement of the new wage increase given to the plantation employees, there has not been any knee-jerk reaction from the plantation companies for the last one week. Their studious silence will have to be observed with much circumspection. Both the tea and rubber industries are on the verge of collapse owing to heavy financial implications and it is not clear as to how they absorb this unforeseen expenditure. It is certain that the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) would continue to incur heavy losses with this wage commitment. It could be reasonably assumed that the production and its quality will be the immediate casualties and this trend, if any, does not auger well for the sustainability of the plantation industry.
It would have been the ideal opportunity for the Labour Ministry to harp on productivity-based wage model as a bargaining tool, which the ministry has pathetically failed to convince, given the sizable salary package. The word “productivity” is anathema to trade unions in Sri Lanka including that of the plantation trade unions. The ramifications arising out of this wage increase are far-reaching in character and it is advisable for the Employers Federation of Ceylon to educate the members of its broader ill effects by way of a public seminar and convey its dissatisfaction to the government.
The biggest casualty in the aforesaid wage episode is the gradual demise of the collective bargaining process that led to Collective Agreements and plantation companies will have to think twice whether there is any rationale in entering into Collective Agreements by giving enhanced wages and other perks, if ill-conceived mechanisms are adopted by the government to give enhanced wages through Wages Boards by ignoring time-tested collective bargaining mechanism.
(The views contained in this article are the professional views of the writer and he could be contacted on email@example.com)
What JVP-NPP needs to do to win
By Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
A young academic at the Open University writing on a popular website has recently defined the NPP project as ‘Left populist’, a term which is very familiar to us at least from the writings of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. He also mentions several parallels and precursors internationally.
As one who has been advocating a ‘left populist’ project for years, I am disinclined to nit-pick about whether or not the JVP-NPP fits the bill. At the moment and in its current incarnation, it is indeed the closest we have to a ‘left populist’ project. Its competitor the SJB, which its founder-leader identifies as social democratic, would be as approximate –and as loose– a fit for the labels ‘progressive populist’, ‘moderate populist’ or ‘populist centrist’, as the JVP-NPP is for ‘left populist’. But that’s the deck of cards we have.
The points I seek to make are different, and may be said to boil down to a single theme or problematique.
Distorted Left Populism
My argument is that the JVP-NPP is as distant from ‘left populism’ globally as it was from ‘left revolutionism’ globally in an earlier incarnation. In both avatars, it is unique in its leftism but not in a positive or helpful way for its cause at any given time.
Mine is not intended as a damning indictment of the JVP-NPP. It is intended as a constructive criticism of a rectifiable error, the rectification of which is utterly urgent given the deadly threat posed by the Wickremesinghe administration and its project of dependent dictatorship.
The JVP-NPP has a structural absence that no ‘left populist’ enterprise, especially in Latin America, has ever had. It is an absence that has marked the JVP from its inception and has been carried over into the present NPP project.
It is not an absence unique to the JVP but figures more in Sri Lanka than it has almost anywhere else. I say this because the same ‘absence’ characterised the LTTE as well. In short, that factor or its radical absence has marred the anti-systemic forces of South and North on the island.
The homeland of left populism has been Latin America while its second home has been Southern Europe. With the exception of Greece, it may be said that ‘left populism’ has an Ibero-American or culturally Hispanic character, which some might trace to the ‘romanticism’ of that culture. But such considerations need not detain us here.
‘Left populism’ has had several identifiable sources and points of departure: the former guerrilla movements of the 1960s and 1970s; the non-guerrilla movements of resistance to dictatorships; parties and split-offs from parties of the Marxist left; left-oriented split-offs or the leftwing of broad flexible even centrist populist formations; leftwing experiments from within the militaries etc.
Populism, Pluralism & Unity
Despite this diversity, all experiments of a Left populist character in Latin America and Europe, have had one thing in common: various forms of unity – e.g., united fronts, blocs etc.—of political parties. I would take up far too much space if I were to list them, starting with the Frente Amplio (which means precisely ‘Broad Front’) initiated by the Tupamaros-MLN of Uruguay and containing the Uruguayan Communist party and headed by a military man, General Liber Seregni, in 1970. The Frente Amplio lasted through the decades of the darkest civil-military dictatorship up to the presidential electoral victories of Tabaré Vasquez and Mujica respectively. Another example would be El Salvador’s FMLN, which brought together several Marxist guerrilla movements into a single front under the stern insistence of Fidel Castro.
Though the roots of unity were back in the 1970s, the formula has only been strengthened in the 1990s and 21st century projects of Left populism. There is a theoretical-strategic logic for this. The polarisation of ‘us vs them’, the 99% vs. the 1%, the many not the few—in socioeconomic terms—is of course a hallmark of populism. But pro-NPP academics and ideologues are unaware of or omit its corollary everywhere from Uruguay to Greece and Spain. Namely, that socioeconomic ‘majoritarianism’ is not possible with a single party as agency.
When the JVP and the NPP have the same leader, and the JVP leader was the founder of the NPP, I cannot regard it as a truly autonomous project, but a party project. Left populism globally, from its inception right up to Lula last year, is predicated on the admission of political, not just social plurality, and the fact that socioeconomic, i.e., popular majoritarianism is possible only as a pluri-party united front, platform or bloc.
This recognition of the imperative of unity as necessitating a convergence of political fractions and currents; that unity is impossible as a function of a single political party; that authentic majoritarianism i.e., “us” is possible only if “we” converge and combine as an ensemble of our organic political agencies, is a structural feature of Left Populism.
It is radically absent in the JVP-NPP and has been so from the JVP’s founding in 1965. It was also true of the LTTE.
It is this insistence on political unipolarity (to put it diplomatically) or political monopoly (to put it bluntly) is a genetic defect of the JVP which has been carried over into the NPP project.
I do not say this to contest the leading role and the main role that the JVP has earned in any left populist project. I say it to draw the Gramscian distinction between ‘leadership’ and ‘domination’. Only ‘leadership’ can create consensus and popular consent; domination through monopoly cannot.
The simple truth is that however ‘left populist’ you think you are; no single party can be said to represent the people or even a majority – as distinct from a mere plurality– of the people. Furthermore, the people are not a unitary subject, and therefore cannot have a unitary leadership. This is the importance of Fidel Castro’s insistence to the Latin American Left of a ‘united command’ which brings together the diverse segments of the left by reflecting plurality.
Anyone who knows the history of Syriza and Podemos knows that they are not outcrops of some single party of long-standing but the result of an organic process of convergences of factions.
Had the JVP had a policy of united fronts – within the Southern left and with the Northern left– it would not have been as decisively defeated as it was in its two insurrections, and might have even succeeded in its second attempt. Though it has formed the NPP which has brought some significant success, it is still POLITICALLY sectarian in that it has no political alliances, partnerships, i.e., NO POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS outside of itself.
I must emphasize that here I am not speaking of a bloc with the SJB, though it is most desirable, to be recommended, and if this were Latin America would definitely be on the agenda of discussion.
Let us speak frankly. The most important phenomenon of recent times (since the victorious end of the war) was the Aragalaya of last year. The JVP, especially its student front the SYU, participated in that massive uprising which dislodged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but it played a less decisive role in the Aragalaya than did the FSP and the IUSF which is close to it. This is by no means to say that the FSP led the Aragalaya, but to point out that it played a more decisive role – which included some mistakes– than did the JVP.
How then does one remain blind to the fact that the JVP-NPP’s ‘left populism’ does not include the FSP and by extension the IUSF? How can there be a ‘popular bloc’ – a key element of left populism—without the IUSF?
Given that Pubudu Jayagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa, Lahiru Weerasekara and Wasantha Mudalige are among the most successful public communicators today (especially on the left), what kind of ‘left’ is a ‘left populism’ devoid of their presence, participation and contribution?
What does it take to recognise that unity of some sort of these two streams of the Left could result in a most useful division of labour and a quantum leap in the hopes and morale of the increasingly left-oriented post-Aragalaya populace, especially the youth?
Surely the very sight of a platform with the leaders of the JVP-NPP and the FSP-IUSF (AKD and Kumar Gunaratnam, Eranga Gunasekara and Wasantha Mudalige, Wasantha Samarasinghe and Duminda Nagamuwa, Bimal Ratnayake and Pubudu Jayagoda) will take the Left populist project to the next level?
As a party the JVP from its birth, and by extension, the NPP today, have set aside one of the main weapons of leftist theory, strategy and political practice: the United Front. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Dimitrov, Gramsci, Togliatti, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro have founded and enriched this strategic concept.
It is difficult to accept that Rohana Wijeweera and Anura Kumara Dissanayake knew/know better than these giants, and that the JVP-NPP can dispense with this political sword and shield and yet prevail–or even survive the coming storm.
The JVP must present a LEFT option in the leadership of which is the major shareholder; not merely a JVP option or para-JVP option, which is what the NPP is. A credible, viable Left alternative cannot be reduced to a single party and its front/auxiliary; it cannot but be a United Left – a Left Front– alternative.
[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is author of The Great Gramsci: Imagining an Alt-Left Project, in ‘On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative’ eds Richard Falk et al, Routledge, New York, 2019.]
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
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