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WHY THE HURRY ABOUT 20A?

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by Professor G. L. Peiris

Minister Of Education

May I begin by expressing my appreciation to the Kandy Professionals Association for embarking on this very timely initiative of meeting every month, on a Sunday, to discuss in depth the issues involving constitutional reform, and the way forward in our country. I consider this an exercise of immediate relevance and value.

The decision by the Government to present to the Cabinet of Ministers the text of the 20th Amendment to modify significantly the contents of the 19th Amendment and, after obtaining the approval of the Cabinet, to move the Amendment in Parliament, has attracted considerable public interest and discussion. As a preliminary to this, I think it is important to explain to the country the need for this. The public should have a clear understanding of the rationale underpinning this reform. This is all the more necessary because of the elaborate myths which have been assiduously cultivated, skilfully spread, by vested interests throughout the spectrum of our society.

The core of their argument is that the retention of the 19th Amendment is essential to preserve seminal values which we all believe in – the Rule of Law, independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. They contend that removal or reform of the 19th Amendment is an act of treachery and that all must stand firm against it. If this is allowed to happen, so they contend, the result will be a mortal blow struck against human rights, democracy and seminal institutions including Parliament. The argument, set forth in the most emotional terms, needs to be assessed in the light of cold reason. What is the truth of this? Nothing is more crucial at this point than to inform the public mind about the reality of the current situation.

It is strenuously contended by interested parties that the 19th Amendment brought immense benefits in its wake, and that it has to be protected at any cost. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is for the entrenchment of narrow vested interests that this intricately orchestrated campaign, fortified by abundant resources and closely knit organization, has been launched. Why is 20A necessary? For a variety of reasons, no doubt. But chief among them, indisputably, is the maintenance of law and order – essential as it is for the protection of life and limb. This takes precedence over all other obligations – development in the economic, social and cultural fields.

This, then, is the principal and indispensable obligation of the State. If this duty is not fulfilled, all else become illusory.

What impact did the 19th Amendment have in this regard? The 19th Amendment categorically states that the President is debarred from holding any portfolios. Who is the President? He is the leader elected by the entire population of the country by the free exercise of the franchise. The inalienable duty of the President is the security of the State and the People. But the 19th Amendment prevents him from functioning as the Minister of Defence. We emphatically reject this position.

The 19th Amendment did contain a transitional provision. That, however, was limited in its operation to former President Maithripala Sirisena, who was permitted to hold the portfolio of Environment and Mahaveli Development during his tenure of the Presidency. This was an individual-centric provision which did not apply to Presidents who succeeded him.

For all other Presidents, the 19th Amendment imposes an inflexible bar against the holding of any portfolio, including Defence. Arguably, Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution, read together, allow and indeed require, the President to hold the Defence portfolio, but this is a matter that would require judicial interpretation, in the event of a challenge in the Courts. Is this uncertainty and ambiguity desirable? Does it buttress or destroy the human rights and democracy which are sanctimoniously appealed to?

The 19th Amendment involves a basic conundrum. Articles 3 and 4 have the effect that the President is the repository of the Executive power of the State. Article 4(b) makes it clear that the defence of the nation is an integral and inseparable element of Executive power.

The defence of the country, then, is the sacred duty of the President. This is, without question, his responsibility. What he lacks, however, is the authority required to fulfil this responsibility. Here lies a fundamental contradiction, entailing as it does dire consequences for the nation’s security.

Prior to the enactment of the 19th Amendment, the Constitution of Sri Lanka contained explicit provision in respect of Urgent Bills. In the event of an unexpected contingency, an Urgent Bill could be presented to Parliament within seven days. The legislative process in ordinary circumstances, Is cumbersome and protracted: it may not enable a swift response to an unanticipated situation. To cater for this, the pre-19A law made provision for rapid intervention through the mechanism of Urgent Bills. It is this statutory provision that is abolished by 19A which compulsorily requires an interval of 14 days before legislation is introduced in Parliament. It is scarcely difficult to conceive of contexts in which this could imperil the safety and security of our country.

We have recently seen before our very eyes the horrendous consequences that were brought about by 19A. It created, in its foundation, two potentially warring centres of power. If the President and the Prime Minister belong to different political parties, we saw for ourselves the intensity of the conflicts, in terms of values, policy and even personalities, which arose in the day to day practice of Governance. It is the people of this country that paid an exorbitant price for this state of affairs. As many as 265 valuable lives were lost in the Easter Sunday carnage. To whom do we attribute responsibilities for this calamity? The Prime Minster says: “What can I do? I am not even invited to the National Security Council”. Indeed, meetings of the Council were not held for months on end. Was information conveyed to the President available to the Prime Minister, and vice versa? There was an internal tug of war – working not together but at odds with each other.

It is in the heat of this battle that the security of the nation collapsed altogether. The evidence being given on a daily basis before the Presidential Commission investigating this tragedy, is truly alarming. On the day this occurred, I was in Munich, Germany. On the following day the New York Times – a world renowned newspaper – carried on its first page the names, telephone numbers and addresses of those who were said to be involved in planning and executing this catastrophe.

Indian intelligence had brought these particulars to the attention of the Sri Lankan Government not once, but repeatedly. However, because of the internal dissensions which went from bad to worse, nothing whatever was done to avert the tragedy.

If there had been no 19A, responsibility would have been clear and undivided. What 19A did was to split it up and create chaos. The results are a permanent blemish on our national conscience. These are the matters of which the public should be informed.

What is the constant refrain of those who insist on the retention of the 19A? They proclaim the sanctity of the separation of powers, and regard authority in an individual or institution as the death knell of democracy and the basic elements of democratic culture. They assert their resolve to resist with the utmost vigour any attempt to dismantle the dual structure embedded in 19A. Is this an acceptable position?

At its very root, 19A elevated several institutions above the President. It took away the authority, hitherto vested in the President, to make appointments to high offices in the public service and the security establishment, including the Police. It characterised the retention of this authority in the hands of the President as a danger against which the public need to be protected.

On this footing the President was shorn of these powers. But to whom were they then transferred? To a Constitutional Council dominated by representatives of non-governmental organisations. This Constitutional Council is at the apex of the structure established by 19A, and wields the authority to constitute each and all of the Commissions which are said to be independent. Without the recommendations, or the approval, of this all-powerful body, the President is no longer empowered to make crucial appointments to the public service and the Police. In this regard the President is subordinated to this body – the Constitutional Council – which is sought to be sanctified as the embodiment of integrity, impartiality and probity.

Let us take a closer look at this body, close to being deified. Its membership includes persons who can in no way be regarded as legitimate representatives of the people. The whole object of the exercise, so the protagonists of the 19A whereby, stridently tell us, is to ensure depoliticisation of the State. Their contention is that everything in our country has become progressively politicised, and that the time has come to evolve a constitutional process where persons of undoubted rectitude, far removed from partisan politics, and professing fidelity to the highest moral and ethical standards, are vested with this awesome responsibility.

This is an absolute myth. Can it be maintained, by any stretch of the imagination, that the personnel constituting these Commissions are not tainted by partisan politics? A few examples will suffice. Professor Hoole is a member of the supposedly independent Elections Commission. He is expected to be apolitical. And yet, in an interview with a TV channel, he exhorted the public not to vote for the SLPP; he said that, if they were to do so, they would certainly regret their decision in the future. Can there be a more partisan intervention, coming as it has from a member of a Commission exalted as the zenith of objectivity and political neutrality? The yawning chasm between aspiration and reality is all too evident. Practice on the ground belies the grandiose pretence.

The Elections Commission is itself the creature of the Constitutional Council, identified by 19A as the source from which all the Commissions derive their authority. Mr. Javid Yusuf is a member of this overarching body. His impartiality is, therefore, by definition, axiomatic. Nevertheless, he makes so bold as to declare to the country at large in uncompromising terms, at a public forum: “Whatever you do refrain from giving the Lotus Bud a two-thirds majority. If you do this, you cannot evade responsibility for pushing the country to the brink of disaster”. Words to this effect are unabashedly uttered by a representative of the supreme body which functions as the fons et origo of all the “independent” Commissions.

Faced with this uninspiring reality, I state without hesitation that these “independent” Commissions brought into being by 19A are far more politicised than any other practicing politician in this country. It is to Commissions of this ilk that powers denied to the President of the country are supinely entrusted.

Here is a state of affairs which defies rational understanding, by any criterion. The position of apologists for 19A is, at bottom, the following: conferment of these powers on the President is preposterous and unthinkable; they represent an intolerable affront to the basic elements of democratic culture, and to the essence of human rights. However, these same powers, in the hands of institutions created in the manner defined by 19A, are innocuous and entirely acceptable.

Does this bear scrutiny for a moment? The President of the Republic is elected by all the people of our country, for the finite period of five years, at an Islandwide election. If they are dissatisfied with his performance at the end of his tenure, they have every right and power to reject him at the conclusion of this period. But can the people, in whom sovereignty resides according to the Constitution, make a similar decision is respect of the members of the Constitutional Council and the “independent” Commissions? They are a law unto themselves, accountable to no one.

During the last few months, the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament have all changed in keeping with the democratically expressed will of the People. But members of the Constitutional Council and the “independent” Commissions remain entrenched in their positions, impervious to the winds of change. Is this defensible as the epitome of a structure of democratic governance, to be acclaimed widely?

Nowhere are the effects of the dichotomy established by 19A more apparent than in the domain of the economy. Ever increasing volumes of debt cannot provide a sustainable avenue for economic advancement. President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in his Manifesto, has explicitly underlined the importance of resiling from the debt trap. The answer is investment, which is certainly feasible, but subject to obvious conditions. The essential requisite is confidence.

In the current intensely competitive international environment for investment, confidence has to be engendered by appropriate policy initiatives. Would any investor look seriously at Sri Lanka as a destination for investment, given the conditions generated by 19A?

The contemporary Yahapalana experience under the aegis of 19A was that the Prime Minister, in the exercise of authority conferred on him, established a Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) which, in effect, arrogated to itself, under his Chairmanship, the authority to make major decisions straddling the whole spectrum of the economy, these decision being submitted to Cabinet for its mere formal imprimatur. President Sirisena, increasingly incensed by what he saw as the relegation of the Cabinet with regard to economic matters, in due course found his patience exhausted, and eventually intervened by doing away with the Prime Minister’s brainchild and substituting for it a novel institution, the National Economic Council, under his own superintendence and direction. A few months later, however, he dismissed his own handpicked Chairman of this body, declaring that the officer concerned, although drawing a handsome salary, was seldom in the country. This state of things is hardly likely to offer any incentive for investment in Sri Lanka.

These developments provide the backdrop for a series of reflections. Empirical experience has convincingly demonstrated the weakness of the foundations of 19A. In truth, political power is not to be viewed with innate fear or obsessive suspicion. The contrary is a facile assumption, intuitively made with a total lack of dispassionate thought. Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia are telling examples of Asian countries which could not have achieved the remarkable economic development they did accomplish without the advantage of strong Executive authority.

Admittedly, any system of democratic governance must contain viable checks and balances. However, as with everything else in life, there needs to be a sense of proportion. If the Executive is to be so constrained and hamstrung in every way as to make coherent decision making and movement forward impossible, the inevitable outcome is stagnation, or worse, anarchy.

This is the sad legacy of 19A which is now sought to be swept away as a matter of urgent priority.

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Features

Viewing 20A through governance prisms

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By Austin Fernando
(Former Secretary to the President)

Twentieth Amendment (20A) is reviewed by commentators from political, legal, journalistic, and religious angles. Not belonging to any such group, I do not venture to cover the multitude of discussions on 20A. My focus is to view 20A to understand how it affects governance and causes political contradictions.

In democratic good governance, there are essential elements, such as the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensual oriented action, equity and inclusivity, accountability, and participation. Irrespectively, it is surprising to observe public administrators/their associations (except Auditors) in stoic silence on the 20A, though they will implement and experience fallouts of the 20A.

 

Ministerial Review Committee

The 20A created contradictory opinions even among the government ranks. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Committee of Ministers to review 20A. When this Committee Report was handed over, the public expected a review by the Cabinet. But it did not happen. Responsiveness, inclusivity, and participation have been lost even before 20A is passed, with a presidential directive to discuss the revisions of the Ministerial Committee at the Committee Stage. Such directives are common in Executive Presidency though one may question the applicability of Article 42(2) – “collective responsibility.” Anyway, the revisions will hence lack prior legal or public scrutiny.

 

Drafting crucial law

Probably, the Minister of Justice, who coordinated abolishing 19A, would have ordered the drafters to revert to 18A. Due to the critical nature, the Legal Draftsman would have officially conveyed the Cabinet of the implications of the amendments. It would have been opportune if that had happened, and their views shared, least as an Annex to the Cabinet Memorandum, especially for the Cabinet to observe the weaknesses/adversities of 20A, independently. Let me view 20A to observe the effects on good governance in this scenario.

 

Post-conflict issues and President’s duty

One sensitive amendment is the deletion of Article 33(1)(b) “Promote national reconciliation and integration.” It entered the 19A from post-conflict demands and tagged as a presidential ‘duty.’ Not much to exceptionally disturb the President through this ‘duty’ happened during the last five years. Hence, this deletion wrongly orchestrates negativism that he may be averse to ‘reconciliation and integration.’ It is unfair by him and hence deserves review.

 

Constitutional Council vs Parliamentary Council

Chapter VIIA – The Executive, matters to good governance. The first important issue is the erasure of the Constitutional Council (CC) and replacement by the Parliamentary Council (PC). The membership of the PC is political, and the proposed processes in application are subjected to presidential whim, especially by the power to supersede PC’s observations. These dilute PC’s independence and restricts inclusive participation.

 

 

Audit and Procurement Commissions

Under the 19A, nine Commissions were established out of which 20A has deleted the Audit Services Commission and National Procurement Commission (NPC). Erasing the Audit Services Commission does not reflect well for good governance.

Worst is to selectively leave-out audit of the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office by constitutional fiat [Article 154(1)- 20A]. The primary objective of auditing is to examine the accuracy of accounts and express opinions on financial statements. The secondary objective is to detect and prevent frauds, misuses, misappropriations, etc.  

Preventing auditing cheekily endorses the reluctance to be transparent and accountable; and could motivate officers to deliberately committing errors, frauds, and corruption. More important is the impact on parliamentary control of state finances (Article 148). The President, PM, and their officials, immune to parliamentary financial control, predict an accountability disaster. This also ridicules the government’s “One Country, One Law” rhetoric because other Ministers and officials have no such immunity.

In the private sector, the shareholders decide who the Auditors are, to audit the Board, Chief Executive (CEO), and all transactions. The 20A wants everyone to be audited, but not Sri Lanka’s CEO and his deputy. If 20A equivalent had happened in the private sector, shareholders would have revolted, but 20A is Amurtha (elixir) for government supporters.

Article 156C directs the National Procurement Commission (NPC) to formulate fair, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective procedures and guidelines for government procurements. These are extremely positive objectives. It is surprising for 20A to push them aside because we hear of wrongdoings, worth millions of rupees, happening even while the 19A is operative, as alleged by government spokespersons. What can we predict without an NPC? If the NPC is slow performing, corrections should be followed, rather than to abolish it.

“Independent Commissions”

According to the 19A, members of the Commissions were appointed by the President. (Article 41B and 41C). There had been very few disagreements on appointments between the CC and the Executive, which had been sorted out proving the ability to cohabit.

Special concerns on the CC are projected regarding higher judicial appointments. We sometimes hear the complaint of the President’s inability to get judges appointed at will. These are probably related to the CC’s unanimous rejections of two judicial appointment recommendations. Nevertheless, these decisions were made with the participation of the representatives of the then Opposition and civil society. Thus, 20A will ignore the latter arrangements negating an existing democratic process. Under 20A, a President’s recommendations, though wrong, may stay on, irrespective of negative observations of the PC. Article 41C blocked this happening, post-19A. Therefore, are the 20A provisions democratic and hail good governance?

Proposed Article 111D permits the President to appoint two members of his wish to the Judicial Services Commission. When such open-ended appointments are possible it gives hope to the judiciary that they could manipulate their personal gains.

 

Therefore, reviewing these appointments by the CC will do justice to the judiciary.

Though the incumbent President, with a strong Parliament, and personality, may not sometimes succumb to such influencing, but a weaker President certainly will, to sustain power. Constitutions must be drafted with appropriate controls applicable to any President, and not person-centric to the incumbent. This mistake has been repeated by us and should end.

Even the Public Service Commission (PSC) is appointed by the President after receiving PC observations. Again, overruling these observations, like in other instances, could make the PSC also toothless.

The effects will be observed in the short, medium, and long terms in recruitment, promotion, discipline, transfers, etc. The future of public administration may effectively face dismal problems.

We hear from the Minister of Justice of the constraints to appointment an IGP. He castigated the “purpose” or “use” of a National Police Commission (NPC) based on this. But such an appointment is prohibited by Article 155G. The increased numbers of criminal incidents were referred to prove the ineffectiveness of the NPoC. He ignored that the NPoC does not have the power to fight criminality. (Article 155G)

Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act No. 5 of 2002 clearly states that IGP’s removal is possible only under specified circumstances, such as insolvency, ill health, ceasing to be a citizen, etc. None of these sins were proved and the incumbent government retired him with all attached perks. Factually, there was no vacancy until he formally retired to appoint a new IGP. But when such irresponsible criticisms happen others hang on to such arguments. Therefore, they also pray for NPoC’s demise!

Dual citizenry

By deleting Article 91 (d) (xiii), 20A permits dual citizen’s appointment as parliamentarians. The need to use this amendment will be at the next general election, after five years. But the government is in a mighty hurry. Urgent implementation will be required if the National List is to be tampered for special political gain. Some ministers stated that 19A – 91(d)(xii) should be repealed because it was incorporated by person-centric lawmaking and thus wrong. The irony is that the 19A deletion also appears to accommodate person-centricity.

The keen advocates of this amendment are those who argued against Singapore-rooted Arjuna Mahendran. They forget that the difficulties with Mahendran would arise with dual citizen politicians sinning after 20A. Politicians sin whichever the party they belong!

When a clerk, a Grama Sevaka, IGP or a Secretary must be a citizen, but not parliamentarians, Ministers, PMs, or Presidents, it is a joke. Since the President has shown how to solve the dual citizenship problem, individually, why mess with the Constitution without following the Leader?

Another important reason is that this amendment will apply to any other dual citizens while being members of international terror groups (e.g. ISIS) or Tiger remnants. This situation is worsened by repealing the administering of the Official Oath (Article 53) in Schedule 7 of the Constitution. We are assured that the President will not do underhand deals with LTTE remnants or the Islamic terror groups. But this amendment affecting security governance could be used by another President or Minister, supported by extremists, by being inactive, permitting “support, espouse, promote, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state.”

This freedom to engage in separatist agendas may motivate helpful activities for separatism and it will be the base for another conflict that has to be fought. Such motivators are mentioned of previous regimes and cannot it repeat with the current and future regimes? This country has suffered enough and hence this amendment needs erasure or at least modifying.

Election promises and constitutional amendments

That the incumbent President received nearly seven million votes at the presidential election and a 2/3 majority at the general election is used to validate the 20A. But were the electors told that these questionable changes (e. g. abolition of dual citizenship, Audit and Procurement Commissions, Article 53, immunity, and castrating the independence of the CC/Commissions, etc.) would follow? No!

We must also remember that these amendments cannot be repealed conveniently. A President in power with a lean margin or performing with a weak parliamentary alliance can use these amendments to the detriment of democratic governance/country, even militarily. Canvassers may emerge inviting political leaders to be autocrats using some of these amended powers. In such circumstances, what is the guarantee that an Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe will not emerge from among our politicians?

President must be the Minister of Defence

The 20A corrects a prohibition in the 19A. The incumbent President, while possessing the power to declare war and peace and appoint the three Services Chiefs, is disabled to be the Minister of Defence because he is not a parliamentarian. I reason to differ from 19A, without being person-centric on the incumbent President’s professional suitability to be the Minister of Defence.

To wit, Article 4 (b) of our Constitution stipulates that the “executive power of the people, including the defence of Sri Lanka,” must be exercised by the President. Only “defence” is specially chosen here, not Agriculture, industry, etc. Under Article 33A, (which will be deleted by 20A, included in Article 42), the President is accountable for “his powers” to the Parliament on laws applicable to public security. Public security always combines with defence.

At present, there is no Minister of Defence and there is a Secretary Defence. According to Article 52(1): “There shall be a Secretary for every Ministry of a Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers.” By Article 52(2) the Secretary shall act “subject to the directions and control of his Minister…’’ It is the Cabinet Minister of Defence and not the State Minister. This status is thus challengeable legally.

When these situations are bagged together, the Ministry of Defence/relevant institutions should come under the President. However, 20A permits him to hold even any other Ministry [reintroduced Article 44(2)] and sadly this “residual power” deviates from democratic governance elements.

The 20A has revisited the issue. Taking into consideration the above-mentioned reasons only the Ministry of Defence should be handled by the President.

President the Messiah

There is a school of thought that considers the incumbent President as the Messiah who has proven prowess to accelerate action and therefore wants to “strengthen his hands,” to bring in political stability and economic revival. The successful manner the President managed the COVID-19 issues showed that for him the 19A was not a hindrance to perform efficiently and effectively.

However, considering the challenges ahead, the President requiring concentrated power is not surprising. Evening TV news everyday shows that he is attempting it. Concurrently, it is a fact that pre-2015 when Presidents had these executive powers there was an ongoing 25-year conflict. Equal development outputs were not observed during the tenures of some Presidents. Exceptional performances were based on individualistic strengths. Hence, to tag the Executive Presidency as a panacea for stability and development is a misnomer.

Emerging political contradictions

There seem to be six major political contradictions that affect political governance.

One is how the incumbent PM would bear the amendments reducing his powers substantially. Tisaranee Gunasekara has explained this, as quoted below. Agreement or not is your choice.

“Rendering the post of PM powerless is a measure of protection, in case the family is compelled by circumstances to bestow the premiership on an outsider, as a stop-gap measure. If the 20th Amendment becomes law, such a premier will be a mere cipher and will not have the power or the authority to challenge Rajapaksa primacy in any serious sense. His role will be to warm that seat until the next Rajapaksa is ready to step in.”

If true, brilliant manoeuvrering!

The second contradiction is the stance of the United National Party and break away Samagi Janabalavegaya. For them to oppose the 20A is a cautious ride. It is because the 20A basics evolved from their original Jayewardene Constitution, tinkered with by others later.

The third political contradiction is from the politicians who now venerate 20A – the by-product of the Jayewardene Constitution – the “Bahubootha vyavasthaava” (Mayhem Constitution)

The fourth extremely embarrassing political contradiction is for President Sirisena to vote for 20A, having praised 19A as the apex of democratic governance. He was the major force behind its approval in 2015. He may vote for the 20A, but his conscience will bleed until his last breath.

The fifth contradiction will arise from the expectations of the Tamil political parties who will see 20A to be the majoritarian political steamroller.

The last contradiction emerges with the speculation that the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress may support the 20A, as they did in 2010, and the sufferings Muslims experienced. Maybe, for the SLMC governance is reborn!

A historical opportunity has been given to consider solutions for the contradictions through constitutional amendments with a 2/3 majority in the Parliament. The country wishes the government will give priority to the country’s needs over personal or political group needs. It is a difficult proposition, but the government was given the unusual power to face and overcome even worse difficulties.

A short article cannot discuss the vast array of issues arising out of the abolition of the 19A. Hence, issues such as the presidential immunity, appointment and removal of Ministers and the PM, dissolution of parliament, etc., are not dealt with here though those issues certainly affect good democratic governance extensively.

There are deep ramifications of issues arising from the proposed constitutional amendments. The President must first protect himself, politically. As a democratically elected person he need not camouflage himself with an anti-democratic cloak because he has a massive vantage value unlike anyone else in his government, to take correct steps. Hence, his actions need not be at the expense of democratic governance. Regrettably, the published amendments do not show such. The sacred principles of good governance will safeguard him, us and the country.

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Features

The right groove…for local DJs

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Some of the big names in the DJ industry at the ceremony

 

We do have a few associations, around, that work for the benefit of those involved in the entertainment field.

Yes, there’s an association for oriental artistes and also one, catering to the needs of the local Western musicians.

In fact, I believe the second AGM 2020 of the Western Musicians’ Association was held just recently, in Colombo.

Well not to be outdone, an association, for local deejays, has become a reality. And, that’s encouraging news, indeed!

The Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) was incorporated on July 5th, 2020, and the inaugural forum, involving the disc spinners, as well as the big names of the past, took place at the Movenpick Hotel, on Sunday, September 5th.

Several well-known personalities, in the entertainment field, were seen at the forum.

The CDIA will certainly be a boon to the local DJ industry.

 

The lighting of the traditional oil lamp at the inauguration ceremony

 

The Vice-President of the Association, Romesh Fernando, said that connecting both the present and past DJs, within an industry with a rich history of over 45 years, is the cornerstone of the CDJA.

The forming of an Association for DJs was an idea in the making for many years, but never became a reality. However, with the entertainment scene changing drastically, due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected the whole world, and the hardships faced by many DJs, in recent times, the need for a Single, Unified Voice for all Disc Jockeys, in Sri Lanka, became an absolute necessity – thus, the Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association was born.

The Board of Management consists of some of the pioneering DJs, who have made a mark as business leaders and entrepreneurs in the country’s DJ and Entertainment Circuits.

The Office-Bearers are: Gerry Jayasinghe (Chairman and President), Romesh Fernando (Vice President), Kosala Sureshchandra (Secretary), and Kapila Peiris (Treasurer).

The Committee Members are: Bonnie Perera, Niranjan Wanigasuriya (Asst. Secretary), Chamila Perera (Asst. Treasurer), Thanujika Perera, Serul Wimalasena and Amal Fernando.

The Advisory Council consists of Harpo Goonaratne and Roshan Wijeyaratne, while the Legal and Compliance Officer is Tareeq Musafer.

“Our Mission is to be committed towards improving the career opportunities, skill levels and performance capabilities of our members, and gathering DJs from all around Sri Lanka, under a single Organization. Our Vision is to gain the professional recognition that talented and good DJs truly deserve,” said a spokesman for the Association.

The Constitution of the Ceylon Disc Jockeys’ Association (CDJA) is focused on three main principles. As an industry, to develop, improve and advance the Art and Science of the DJ, to advance Public Education and Understanding of the art and science of the DJ, and improving the Professional standing of the DJ.

The Association offers three types of Memberships – Full Time, Part Time and Student Memberships. It also has a category of Honorary Memberships presented to senior DJs who have significantly added value and changed the landscape of Sri Lanka’s DJ Industry.

Members will also receive many benefits from Insurance schemes, Healthcare privileges, Membership Recognition, Legal advice and Discounts from Equipment retailers. Above all, the CDJA offers a sense of Community and Oneness, as an Industry, and shall uphold its members at all times.

The Ceylon Disc Jockey’s Association (CDJA) has a very strong mandate towards Education. To that end, it will offer Soft skills Development in Communication Skills, Email Etiquette and Writing Skills, as well, and Basic Compering, etc., which are added proficiencies, required by DJs to better their business scope.

The Association has also planned for Seminars and Workshops on Small Business Development, Legal Compliance, Taxation, SME Policy Frameworks and Start up Training, conducted by Sector Professionals. Apart from Academic programmes, the CDJA will implement initiatives to inculcate Creativity and Originality in DJs.

Through these initiatives, the CDJA hopes to create a new landscape in the Mobile, Producer and Event DJ Circuits of Sri Lanka.

“Especially in these difficult times, a New Outlook and a Commitment to Excel, is what our Association hopes to promote and develop,” the spokesman added.

 

Invitees and celebrities taking in the scene at the Movenpick Hotel

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Features

China Cultural Centre – Sixth Anniversary celebrations !

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By Chamara Ranmandala
Consultant – local Affairs
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka
(Based on an interview with
Liwen Yue, Director
China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka

The China Cultural Centre (CCC) in Sri Lanka is celebrating its 6th year anniversary of its establishment as the official organization for cultural exchange in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka CCC is the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre established globally under the patronage of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which was inaugurated on 16th September 2014 by his Excellency the Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The preparations and establishment of the CCC was carried out by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka, and it is run and operated by a working team from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

This article attempts to highlight the significance of this cultural relationship, and the establishment of a path for cultural exchange between the peoples of China and Sri Lanka.

A 1000-year-old friendship refreshed

and renewed

Although the formal bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and China was established only 63 years ago, the history of the friendship between the two countries dates back far beyond. The recorded history origins from the times of Jin Dynasty of China, where such information is found in the written stories of famous Chinese buddhist monk Faxian, who travelled to Sri Lanka between 410 – 415. Sri Lanka has been a very important partner during the ancient times where significant trade was carried out through the maritime silk route, used as a gateway to bridge East Asia and South Asia. The archaeological findings in Sri Lanka are evident to this trade and exchange of cultural values taking place between Sri Lanka and China.

The establishment of the China Cultural Centre in the year 2014 has significantly brought the bilateral cultural exchange to a totally different level. Across the world, the Chinese Cultural Centres have contributed immensely to establish the meaning and significance of authentic cultural values of China, which is often misinterpreted by many. It is evident that the world has not enough chances to experience the traditional culture and values of China. Hence the 60+ cultural centres established in various countries have attempted to bridge this gap of understanding the real cultural values of China without infiltrating to the local culture but supporting and thriving together with the customs of respective ways and norms.

As the 16th overseas China Cultural Centre amongst the 60+ other centres across the world, and as the first center inaugurated by the two presidents of the respective countries, the CCC in Sri Lanka highlights its importance and the value placed on the friendship of the two countries, which was created many centuries ago between China and Sri Lanka.

 

Cultural exchange – continued effort with variation

The China Cultural Centre has now become a fully functional apparatus that enables cultural exchange through many different facets and complementing programs. The CCC is in a constant drive to educate the society at large how cultural exchange helps to bridge the gaps and bring the peoples of the countries much closer to each other.

During the past six years, the Sri Lankan culture-loving society was exposed to some of the unique experiences of traditional Chinese art, music and dancing, calligraphy, cinema, drama, authentic Chinese cuisine, photography and intangible cultural heritage through the commitment of China Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka.

The events carried out by the CCC are aligned to the diverse cultural heritage of many different parts of China, and many of them are held in the form of “Cultural Week”, planned by the CCC and organised together with some local partners, including scholars, artists, painters, photographers and journalists who have travelled across China. The “cultural weeks” reflect many aspects of Chinese cultural heritage from different areas. Based on the need, the CCC sponsors and brings down the respective professional artists who are highly regarded as unique contributors of nurturing and preserving the authentic cultural heritage of China. The CCC also accommodates Chinese scholars, journalists and media personnel to be a part of these “cultural weeks”, thus enabling the knowledge sharing amongst different audiences.

The cultural footprint of China is not only limited to events of cultural exchange, but also is extended to long standing relationships through memorandums of understanding (MOU) with many local institutions such as libraries, museums and various friendship associations. The contribution through the Confucius institutions established at various universities in Sri Lanka, such as the University of Kelaniya, is another approach adopted by the CCC to provide greater access to resources and scholarships for the students who pursue higher studies in Chinese language, literature and culture.

 

Appreciation of the communities

across Sri Lanka

The educational knowledge and unique experience achieved from those programs and events organized by the CCC can meet various appetites of a wider spectrum of the society and intellects. Moreover, the officials of the CCC have made every attempt to reach out to most remote communities in Sri Lanka creating value for all age groups who witness and engage with the programs. This is highly commendable since most international cultural programs are being focused only on a limited crowd in a major city in Sri Lanka. The CCC has done the opposite way and concentrated on both urban and rural areas, which benefited more people here.

At present, the CCC has carried out over 100 programmes, including more than 300 various types of activities and events (including performances, exhibitions, lectures, workshops, teaching programmes, and etc.). More than half of Chinese provinces (Jiangsu, Hubei, Canton, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Yunnan…and etc.), provincial-level autonomous regions (such as Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Xinjiang, and Ningxia), provincial-level municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin) , and Chinese SAR Hong Kong have been invited by the CCC to conduct different cultural exchange programmes in Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, the events organized by the CCC have reached people in all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka as well, where specially skilled artists are not hesitant to delight an audience of students or parents at a Sunday school, a university, a school in a remote part of a district, government institutions, and even a military camp. All events of cultural heritage are held with complete sponsorship of the CCC, thus enabling all Sri Lankans to experience most of these high-level events free of charge.

These events are a first to many where most Sri Lankans are amused and appreciative of the skill and professionalism of the artists and performers, who participate in these events and create positive vibes about China and its friendly people.

The efforts of the CCC are also extended to enable and strengthen the ties between the media and journalist forums of Sri Lanka and China. The cordial sponsorship of professional programmes conducted for the benefit of the Sri Lanka journalists in China is such an instance that the CCC extends their hand to build friendship and confidence among all stakeholders.

 

The future of the friendship

It is obvious that the expectation of the CCC is to build a cultural relationship amongst the peoples of both countries. The CCC has successfully created an atmosphere of understanding the true nature of authentic Chinese culture whilst respecting and appreciating the Sri Lankan values and traditions.

With the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which attempts to bring economic and cultural prosperity to all the nations from far East to Africa and Europe, there is no doubt that the China Cultural Centres will go on playing a vital role in defusing the misconceptions level against the great efforts of the People’s Republic of China. Sri Lanka, being part of the BRI through the maritime silk route and having a better understanding of China and its people, will also play an important role in bridging the gaps between the countries of the BRI.

The future road will probably be a challenging one! However, as proven in the past, the sincere friendship between the two countries and the mutual respect to each other’s culture and value will be the north star for both of our nations to follow during challenging and dark times. With the efforts of past six years, the China Cultural Centre has contributed much more to Sri Lanka and its people, and surely enough, it will continue to do so, nurturing the friendship which China and Sri Lanka value so dearly.

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