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We get some things right!

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By Rajitha Ratwatte

A huge debate is going on at the moment in Aotearoa about if we should charge returning Kiwis or not for quarantine costs. At the moment they are put up in star class hotels in the inner city. Besides the fact that costs involved in accommodation like this is high, it also makes it tempting for the smaller-minded individuals to “escapes” and create panic and mayhem in the places they escape to!

In the Pearl we got it right eh! We put them in remote army camps, that’s what they get for free. Escape is impossible and even if they succeed it will be into wild animal filled jungles. Anything ‘better’ they jolly well pay for! Well done, great decision. However, you remove another point for debate and distraction at a time of a general election. Sometimes the masterminds at work in Aotearoa may think that putting the obvious solution in front of the public could be construed as naivety. It is better to play around with people and distract them with rubbish debates or is it?

Putting the armed forces in charge of enforcing quarantine. Another early and good decision taken in the Pearl. It has now been done in Aotearoa but only after a few ‘escapes’ and the resulting chaos and dramas, not to mention more ‘work’ for the media and a few ministerial casualties thrown in.

Deciding to go ahead with the election in the Pearl, is so WRONG that it leaves me gasping. The ramifications are horrendous …. Remember referendums and extensions of terms carried out by governments who were doing well up to that point, led to or could be construed to be reasons for insurgencies. JVP insurgencies have some root in such activities. Desperation that builds up during semi autocratic and seemingly uncaring rule, leads to the more radical elements of society turning to violence and the taking up of arms. This election would have been a foregone conclusion anyway with the Rajapaksa cohorts winning, but if it is conducted like this, when the country is not ready for it due to Covid-19, it will make the opposition forces desperate and lay a foundation for possible dissention in the future. Possible armed dissention and consequent decimation of an already partially destroyed economy.

As you know, we have an election in two months’ time, here in Aotearoa. Whilst the main purpose is to elect a new government, we also have two referendum questions which the populace will vote on. The first being if cannabis (ganja) is to be legalised and the sale and distribution of same is to be controlled by the government. The second is if, end of life by choice, is to be legalised. Coming from the straight laced and orthodox Buddhist background of the Pearl, my initial reaction is to say NO.

However, on second thoughts Cannabis being banned in NZ has resulted in a huge underground market, largely fuelled by Maori growers and gangs. As is the case with most of these “bans” the product is relatively freely available and anyone who really wants it can get it. Furthermore, the medicinal uses that Cannabis is being put to, especially for the relief of pain, is providing a lucrative and very profitable market for a special type, of the plant. American growers are already here, doing their research and earmarking properties. The illegal growers from the Maori community may find a legal way to make a living. The gangs who thrive by distributing the product and probably providing protection to growers and distributors, whilst creating a culture of violence and even murder, may cease to exist. I think I will vote aye.

The end of life choice is a bit harder for someone who follows the path of the Buddha. Are we not taught that one has to life the full lifespan that one brings into this world? Any suffering that we may undergo is based on the law of cause and effect. One is cancelling out the sins of past births and cleaning the slate, so to speak for the next life. However, when one sees the absolute vegetative state that some people are reduced to, and the many years that they simply exist, sometime in acute pain and discomfort, one wonders. To vote AYE on this one will be harder, but the jury is still out as far as I am concerned. I feel that the average citizen of Aotearoa will vote in the affirmative as putting animals out of their misery, if injured or sick, is par for the course in this country. Also, since almost everything is now reduced to profit and loss, it costs huge amounts of money to keep these terminally ill patients alive.

To digress for a moment before I conclude. I listened to a speech by Sco Mo (Scott Morrison the Australian PM) saying that he doesn’t plan to try to eradicate Covid19 in his country. He says the reason is that those countries that have attempted this measure (eradication) have suffered untold economic damage and loss of jobs. Of course, this is a rather clumsy attempt to take a swat at the success (so far), enjoyed by New Zealand. How can a leader of a country, let alone an elected leader, place human life and safety below economic gain? Is this how far civilization has fallen?

This great human civilization, built largely on economic theory. Economic theory that is mostly unrealistic, not practical, far from ‘real’ and exists only in text books and the stock exchange. By the way did you know that Alfred Nobel, left awards for most disciplines in his will, EXCEPT for economics! A set of rules and values that is enforced by “financial management” policed by accountants. If this is the full depth of what we have, we surely have reached the end of this delusion?

I am told the Kandy Daladha Perehera is being conducted sans any devotees and spectators. This must be the first time in the entire History of our civilization? Or is it? Or is our “CIVILIZATION” already over…

fromoutsidethepearl@gmail.com

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Development after the elections

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By Jehan Perera

Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place.  He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control.  The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country.  I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.

The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly.  The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote.  The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.

The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination.  But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.

EXISTENTIAL ISSUES

The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.

One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA.  This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.

It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.

PROVINCIAL COUNCILS

Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.

A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.

While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.

 

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A blazing story!

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The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.

After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.

These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.

The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.

The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.

So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!

 

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Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA

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Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.

This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.

Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.

Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.

Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.

The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’

The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.

Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.

The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’

The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.

Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.

“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.

The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’

 

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