Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Politics in the New Year

 Cartoon: HAPPY NEW YEAR -2012 (medium) by Aswini-Abani tagged aswini,happy,world,india,nature,poor,politicians,year,new,abani,aswiniabani

Three years ago in January 2015, democratic change with the overthrow of the authoritarian Rajapaksa regime was a great moment of hope. For social institutions and movements – the effective guardians of democracy – that moment provided the space to again organise without fear. In some regions such as the post-war North and East, the democratic opening was a change like night and day. People who were afraid to speak during the decades of war and the post-war years, began protesting out on the streets to regain their lands, to remember the disappeared and to demand sustainable livelihoods. 

On the other hand, the Government that came to power three years ago has little to show after its first hundred-day programme -- the constitutional amendment reducing the powers of the Executive Presidency was its main achievement. Since then, flawed policies and the infamous bond scandal have marred the first half of the Government’s term. 

The Government and the various political parties have not engaged the people on the constitutional political solution process in any meaningful way. The so-called “reconciliation” initiatives have been mainly for the benefit of the Colombo chattering classes and international consumption. Rural disenchantment with the long drought, youth unemployment and rising cost of living are mounting people’s frustrations.
If the current election frenzy reflects the future, there is little reason to believe that the political malaise will turn around in the coming years, particularly with more elections at the provincial and national levels. In this context, at a time when economic problems are mounting, with no meaningful social vision and widespread cynicism about politics, what is the agenda for progressive politics? 
As the new year dawns, electoral battles are again being waged by the bankrupt political parties, where staying in power or capturing state power to serve the interests of the politicos and their friends is the priority. Local government is about local infrastructure, including access to water, garbage collection, sanitation, rural roads and community facilities, but they are unlikely to be heard in these election campaigns. For the major political actors, whether it is the UNP, the SLFP, the joint opposition or the TNA, local government elections are merely a show of power. 

If the current election frenzy reflects the future, there is little reason to believe that the political malaise will turn around in the coming years, particularly with more elections at the provincial and national levels. In this context, at a time when economic problems are mounting, with no meaningful social vision and widespread cynicism about politics, what is the agenda for progressive politics? 

Democratic alternative

Historically, elections meant to freely elect representatives, have often led to violence and certainly create a fear of violence. And elections now may seem like a curse than an opening for change. However, elections are a necessary form of legitimisation. Entrenched regimes have been changed and unpredictable moves by voters result in new configurations in control of state power. In the month ahead, as the local government elections gain heat, regardless of whether the campaigns explicitly address people’s issues, there will be an underlying rumbling that will reflect their concerns.
The exercise of the vote, is a historically valuable strength of our society—the first country in Asia to achieve universal suffrage. Furthermore a democratic ethos is instilled in our social institutions. Even when intellectuals have given up on democracy, our people have made historic changes through elections. 

Yet that democratic culture in our country is often diverted by the ideological manoeuvres of the nationalists, elite class projects and political patronage. Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil nationalist forces are in fact twin allies that reinforce each other, even as they seek representational control of their respective communities. Next, technocratic economic programmes in the interest of accumulation by the elite often attack social institutions and dispossess people undermining broader democratic participation. And political patronage, characterised by political favours and handouts have ensured a representational structure that does not serve the people, but rather sucks them under its fold.
The challenge then is to create a credible alternative. And that has to begin with ideological battle that critiques nationalism on all sides, and puts forward a social and economic vision meaningful to the people. Next, there is a need to build democratic structures that can ensure the ground up accountability of elected representatives, rather than be diverted by the patronage of those in power. 
Such an alternative requires new and rejuvenated political formations. There is a need for progressive political parties such as those that are emerging after prolonged crises around the world; the refreshing wave of new political parties in Southern Europe and the revitalisation of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn are worthy examples. More importantly, we need the revival of our participatory social institutions that are the bedrock of democracy; trade unions, co-operatives and community associations, are some that have proven to be historically significant.
Left politics

Meanwhile, democracy is under attack internationally. Regimes are capturing state power through elections on nationalist and populist platforms. And once in power, they usurp the very democratic rights of the people with authoritarian moves and racist demagoguery. 

In the West as in our country, the history of democracy provides some lessons. Geoff Eley’s major work, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (Oxford University Press 2002), traces how the left movement including trade unions were crucial to the consolidation of democratic rights. Eley shows how the movement for workers’ rights contributed to the formation of democratic rights. This is also true of Sri Lanka’s late colonial and early post-colonial period, where trade unions and then the left parties were the bastion of democratic rights. 

At the same time, Eley is forthright in addressing the historical shortcomings of the left movement in not addressing gendered oppression and racism, including within its fold. In Sri Lanka, the left movement’s compromises with majoritarianism and nationalism, signalled its decline. Indeed, in our times, any movement for democracy has to address the social and economic questions including greater redistribution to address inequality, meaningful social protections and sustained decent work. And such democratisation should simultaneously address the rights of minorities, including of women and of oppressed caste communities. 
The Govt. that came to power three years ago has little to show after its first 100-day programme -- the constitutional amendment reducing the powers of the Executive Presidency was its main achievement. Since then, flawed policies and the infamous bond scandal have marred the first half of the Government’s term
It would be defeatist to simply dismiss electoral politics as a lost cause. Rather, we have to struggle to find alternatives to set electoral politics on a progressive footing. Trade unions and co-operatives are accused of capture by politicos through patronage.

Where that is true, the point is not to reject trade unions and co-operatives, but to strengthen them to determine electoral politics in the interest of their members and the public. The hard political road ahead is not going to be cleared by the political leaders that are the subject of much media musings and elite gossip, rather, it is about finding an alternative vision, revitalising social institutions and encouraging the democratic participation of the people.

Probe reveals criminally acquired overseas assets of politicians, officials

The Sunday Times Sri LankaBy Namini Wijedasa-Sunday, December 31, 2017
Some assets located overseas have been “provisionally identified” as being the proceeds of crimes committed by certain politically exposed persons (PEPs) of Sri Lankan origin, authoritative Government sources revealed this week. While they declined to say who these persons were, PEPs typically include politicians and bureaucrats.
These were the outcomes of investigations conducted by the CIABOC (Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption), the FCID (Financial Crimes Investigation Division) and the CID (Criminal Investigation Department), they said. “As at this moment, a few assets have been provisionally identified as proceeds of crime committed by certain politically exposed persons (PEP) of Sri Lankan origin.”
In financial regulations, PEP describes someone entrusted with a prominent public function. They generally present a higher risk for potential involvement in bribery and corruption by virtue of their position and the influence that they may hold.
“We are working with local and overseas law enforcement agencies to develop proof of the committing of such predicate offences and proceeds of such crimes having being used to acquire these assets,” the sources said. A predicate offence is the criminal activity from which proceeds of a crime are derived. They are generally crimes underlying money laundering or terrorist finance activity.
“Once that is established, we can move for seizure and confiscation of such assets in terms of the laws of those countries,” they asserted. “If and when that happens, applications can be made to have the value of such assets returned to Sri Lanka. It’s a long drawn process.”
And it will be complex and time-consuming, the sources warned. “We are also saddled with a total lack of cooperation from the UAE,” they said. “We also have a lack of expertise at local investigation level and other resource constraints.”
“If assets are found overseas and we can track them back to individuals in Colombo, that will be valuable evidence to prosecute them for the predicate offence of corruption or for money laundering, which generally covers dealing in any manner with proceeds of crime and those derived out of such proceeds,” they explained.
Investigators have relied heavily on the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act of 2005 as the basic domestic legal tool and the United Nations Convention against Corruption as the international legal instrument. “Political niceties between governments have also helped tremendously,” an informed source said.
Matters relating to proceeds of crime located overseas are coordinated with foreign law enforcement authorities by the Presidential Task Force for the Recovery of Stolen State Assets (START) of which the Executive Secretary is Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda and Chairman is J.C. Weliamuna, PC. The Task Force includes the heads of the CIABOC, the FCID, the CID, the Financial Intelligence Unit, Customs and several Secretaries. It was established through a Cabinet decision in April 2015.
Meanwhile, a draft Proceeds of Crime Act is still being drawn up. “We are looking at both confiscation following conviction as well as non-conviction based seizure and confiscation schemes,” a senior legal source said. Domestic prosecutions for predicate offences committed in Sri Lanka will be in terms of existing law relating to bribery and corruption, Penal Code offences such as criminal breach of trust and cheating and the offence of money laundering.
“But the Proceeds of Crime Act, once enacted, will be used prospectively with regards to any proceeds found from the time the Act comes into operation,” the source said. “But it could relate to proceeds of predicate offences committed at any point of time, including in the past.”
Non-conviction based asset confiscation and conviction based (criminal) confiscation share the same objective of confiscation by the State of the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime, explains a Transparency International project. The main distinction between them is that criminal confiscation requires a criminal trial and conviction where non-conviction based asset confiscation does not.
Amendments to the CIABOC Act are also pending. A fundamental change that has been proposed is to widen the prosecutorial ambit of the Commission so that it can launch prosecutions into cases of money laundering where the predicate offence is bribery or corruption; and to also be able to prosecute for ancillary offences to bribery and corruption such as forgery, tendering forged documents and genuine ones, falsification of accounts, etc. The CIABOC Act has not been amended since its introduction in 1994.

Sun, Dec 31, 2017, 09:42 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Lankapage Logo

Dec 31, Colombo: An election monitor and an anti-corruption watchdog in Sri Lanka has requested the President Maithripala Sirisena to immediately make the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Central Bank Bond Issuance available to the public.

Speaking at a media conference in Galle yesterday, Executive Director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) Keerthi Tennakoon has requested the President to promptly release the special 1400-page report, which was handed over to the President yesterday by the chairman of the commission Supreme Court Justice K. K. Chithrasiri, to the public.

The President appointed the Commission of Inquiry on 27th January 2017 to investigate, inquire into and report on the Issuance of Treasury Bonds during the period 01st February 2015 to 31st March, 2016.

CaFFE Executive Director said the civil organizations and the public pressed for the government to appoint a commission to probe the great bond scam and as a result the President appointed the Commission of Inquiry.

"The purpose of this commission was to identify individuals and organizations involved in the scam and to obtain a review report to ensure that similar scams will not happen in the future," Tennakoon said.

"The people of this country have a right to know about this report. They did not appoint the Commission to nominally write a report and keep it hidden in the hands of the First Person," the activist said.

"The People did not ask the President to keep this report of this massive financial crime, which is claimed to have made a Rs. 8 billion loss to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and a Rs. 8 billion loss to the government according to the Auditor General, in a safe," the CaFFE director said.

"There are definite evidence that a large scale financial fraud has been committed. Those who were involved in it have been revealed in an open investigation. Now the whole world is watching.

Therefore we honorably urge the President to reveal the report to the country," he further said.

Pointing out that reports of many presidential commissions in the past regimes have gone into oblivion, the CaFFE executive Director asked the President not to contribute to that history by keeping the report of the Bond Commission hidden.

Should Judiciary take the lead?


By N Sathiya Moorthy-

If any leader or institution wants to make a difference in the New Year to the character and characteristics of the nation, and for the better, the one and possibly the only one just now should be to focus on political defections, especially of elected representatives from parliamentarians downwards. It has always been crucial to ensure the nation’s character, and of its polity and political leaders at all levels, but it is also one area where no politician or parliamentarian, leave aside President or Prime Minister, or even Provincial Councils want to make a beginning.

It is sad that not one Provincial Council, starting with the otherwise highly ‘moralistic’, TNA-controlled Northern PC, has even passed a resolution on the need for a law banning defection by elected representatives, granting that they could not pass a legislation in the matter. A PC that could pass resolutions and even Bills that seek to impinge on the constitutionally-mandated ‘unitary’ character of the Sri Lankan State, does not have the inclination to pass an ‘innocent’ resolution or ineffective Bill, on a matter that would have endeared them to the ‘silent majority’ from among their own people, and even the majority Sinhalas than their not-so-infrequent protestations over ‘power-devolution’ and re-merger.

Not just for the Tamils, the TNA and the Northern PC. An ‘anti-defection’ law should have made a core theme of the ‘yahapalayana’ dispensation, both before Elections-2015 and after the national unity government came to power. It should have made the real difference between the old and the new, not just leaderships but to the entire political scheme and culture since Independence.

If anything, an anti-defection law as a part of 19-A, passed between the presidential polls of January 2015 and the parliamentary polls that followed eight months later, in August that year, would have been the best contribution of the yahapalanaya government to the ‘reforms’ that they had promised ahead of the successful presidential poll campaign. Given that it was a ‘national government’, and the unseated Rajapaksa-centric JO too was still in its infancy and was also still recovering from the shocking defeat, such a law as a part of 19-A would have had a smooth sail.

This apart, with Parliament anyway due for early dissolution, followed by fresh elections, tactically, not many incumbent MPs of the time would have bothered too much to contest a law of the kind. Strategically, for any major party to oppose any move initiated by any section from within Parliament could have been electorally suicidal, even if to a limited extent. If nothing else, the JHU and the JVP would have had a ‘real issue’ on hand – to compel / ‘expose’ the rest of them all – a proposition that none of them would have liked, not just as a short-term election tactic but more so as a medium and long-term political strategy.

Acting defections

Today, all of it is in the past. No sub-committee of Parliament, functioning intermittently as Constitution Assembly, has even known to have considered the possibility of an anti-defection law as a part of the nation’s new statute, which was otherwise supposed to help in usher in a new political culture, as well.

This apart, the yahapalanaya mood is lost, especially to the political class. Now, every party and leader is busy talking defections, acting defections. President Maithiripala Sirisena, whose attempts to put down the Rajapaksa-centric rebellion within the shared SLFP, may have been justified, if only up to a point. Today, it is a different ball-game altogether.

If anything, the Constitution-makers should have also considered the need for propping up the self-image and public perception of the high office Sirisena was elected to hold, and expected to cleanse of all past and accumulated sins. But he is the new one in the block who has been encouraging defections, not only from within the SLFP, but also from the JVP and the PHU, too.

It is no more the dog-in-the-manger game, if at all. It has become a dog-eat-dog competition, where Sirisena is no more seen as the upright President that he was elected to be, but a leader who has seemingly forgotten his pre-poll vow not to contest another election, and with that all pretences to yahapalayana of every kind.

Less said about predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime MinisterRanil Wickremesinghe. The former has tried and failed, but is not going to give up, now or ever. The latter has not attempted anything of the kind, not for want of trying, but only because with an uneasy coalition with President Sirisena still in place, if only to get parliamentary bills, resolutions and budgets passed, often with a two-thirds majority still, Ranil and his UNP can afford to relax for now.

However, if there is a different situation, as is being predicted this time with the arrival of the CB bonds-scam probe report, it may be a different Ranil, a different UNP, which may be at work. On paper at least, and until proved otherwise, a new, UNP-led coalition government is still possible, with the TNA, SLMC and others in this government continuing to back him.

Leave aside the immediate stability of any alternative to the incumbent combination, anything of the kind would find it difficult to sustain it, or face fresh elections without the promised power-devolution and a new Constitution, the latter incorporating the former, as there can be nothing new to a new statute without addressing the ‘national problem’. This would in turn require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, ahead of fresh polls (now due in 2020), and that would mean ‘defections’, then again, there again.

Belling the cat

If the nation agrees that defections is a bane of the polity, and none from inside even sees it as a bane to think of a cure, then the cure itself has to come from ‘outside’ of the political system. The sad part is that even the yahapalanaya mood of the nation, before and soon after the twin-polls of 2015, talked about defections as central to the nation’s problems of political corruption and corrupt politicians.

Yet, the incumbent government has had no problem in seeking external advice for fighting corruption when the cure lies within. Recent reports said that Sri Lanka now has an US advisor on the subject. It is a shame, and can end up as a sham, as well, as no one is going to talk about corruption when the stability of the government and his/her own electability at the centre. If anything, they may all end up learning more about sophistication in the place of sophistry in being corrupt and institutionalising the same, even more.

If there is anyone from within the Sri Lankan system and scheme who can do something about it, it is the higher judiciary, the Supreme Court in particular. Though lesser politicians do question court’s findings, including those on the ticklish ‘federalism’ question, at least in the under and in the new dispensation – and so with the larger JO, not many would want to be seen as crossing the sword with the Judiciary and lose their place in popular imagination, or whatever remains of them, out there.

In neighbouring India, for long, there is an anti-defection law, though ingenious political minds, often wearing the hat of the Speaker of the Legislature concerned, either national Parliament or State Assemblies, have given new and liberal or illiberal interpretations, to make a mockery of the scheme. But then from time to time, the Indian judiciary, starting with the Supreme Court, has set the record straight, and restored not only the spirit of the anti-defection law, passed through a Constitution Amendment in the Eighties when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, but also the people’s faith in the national scheme and system.

It is very much so in Sri Lanka, too, though on record some academics may still argue that the Supreme Court under the existing Constitution may not have ‘law-making powers’. Even so, there is no stopping the Apex Court if it so found the urgent need to advise the nation and the polity, Parliament and the President, to ‘behave’ themselves, and bring about laws, if they could not ‘behave’, leaving them all to decide, which way they wanted to go, and wanted to take the nation and its future generations with them.

This does not guarantee results, either in the form of a new law, or its success at implementation. But someone has to set the ball rolling. In a fits-and-starts run-up to a new Constitution, which otherwise promises nothing new, and a longer run-up to Elections-2020, no party or government may have the moral and possibly political courage to side-step any Supreme Court order, in which and into which the people put their heart and soul together. Civil society groups that talk tall on everything other than what really matters, too cannot, ignore, such a course, either!

(The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, the multi-disciplinary Indian public-policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi. email:

As polls campaign begins, Sirisena brings bribery and corruption to the fore

President Maithipala Sirisena addressing SLFP and UPFA local polls candidates at a meeting at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium.

View(s): 2846

  • All SLFP and UPFA candidates take pledge to work with high integrity, free of fraud, some already have charges pending
  • Bond Commission report handed over to President, speculation of serious charges against Mahendran but questions over whether President will make the report public before the polls
  • After rice and fuel crises, fertilizer shortage becomes major issue in rural areas
Many a political issue, some of them cause for great public discontent notwithstanding, President Maithripala Sirisena appears to have shifted focus to fight bribery and corruption during the local polls campaign. Needless to say, the move has revived public memories of assurances given during both the presidential and parliamentary elections to bring to book top personalities of the previous Government for such acts. Barring just one or two, others have fallen by the way side. Sirisena accused UNP leaders of stalling them. The UNP in turn blamed it on other state agencies.


Sri Lanka Brief31/12/2017

An official Committee has recommended substantial increases in pay, allowances and pensions of judicial officers, law officers of the Attorney General’s Department and the Legal Draftsman’s Department.The Cabinet of Ministers is expected to approve these recommendations following a submission by Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorale.

The only exception is the Judges of the superior courts – the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The Committee has said that the emoluments of the Chief Justice and the Judges of the superior courts have to be determined by Parliament.The Committee was headed by Cabinet Secretary Sumith Abeysinghe and included Justice Ministry Secretary Padmasiri Jayamanna and Director General of Establishments W.D. Somadasa. They were appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers. This was after Justice Minister Athukorale, among other matters, submitted cabinet memoranda on “Formulation of a new Salary Structure for the High Court Judges and the Judicial Officers in the Sri Lanka Judicial Service.” She also sought the creation of a new Service Category and formulation of a distinctive salary scale for the Law Officers attached to the Attorney General’s Department as well as those in the Legal Draftsman’s Department.

Minister Athukorale noted that “difficulties were being experienced in “recruiting and retaining required officers” due to “inadequacy of existing salaries and other privileges.”
Among the increases:

Salary and allowances of High Court Judges -from Rs 168,894 to Rs 304,200.

Salary and allowances of High Court Judges, presently the total salary and pensionable allowance which is at Rs 104,694 per month to be increased to Rs 180,000. Professional allowance will go up from Rs 15,000 to Rs 75,000. There will be an increase their allowances from Rs 168,894 to Rs 304,200. Besides this, they will also receive a housing allowance of Rs 50,000 (where there is no official residence) and a transport allowance of Rs 125,000 (where a vehicle and driver are not available). A driver’s allowance of Rs 25,000 has also been included.

District Judges/Judicial Officers -from Rs 151,424 to Rs 269,300.

District Judges/Judicial Officers (Special): The present salary and pensionable allowance which is Rs 71,941 to be increased to Rs 165,000. They will also receive a non-pensionable 50 percent of their salary from December 31, 2015 as personal allowance. Other than the salary, their total emoluments will increase from Rs 151,424 to Rs 269,300.

Magistrate/Judicial Officer -from Rs 49,079  to Rs 112,500.

Magistrate/Judicial Officer: Now drawing a salary and allowance of Rs 49,079. This will be increased to Rs 129,750. Total of the salary and pensionable allowance, which stands at Rs 49,079 will move up to Rs 112,500.

Attorney General- from Rs 201,850 to Rs 332,800.

Attorney General: Now drawing Rs 95,800 as salary and pensionable allowance. This will increase to Rs 240,000. With other allowances, the total which stands at Rs 201,850 will increase to Rs 332,800. Housing allowance which stands at Rs 12,000 is to be increased to 50,000(where official residence has not been provided). A Books allowance of Rs 30,000 has also been provided for.

Justice Minister Athukorale has also recommended to increase the “Allowance for Not Engaging in Private Practice” from the present Rs 50,000 to Rs 150,000.

Solicitor General – from Rs 177,125 to Rs 290,800.

Solicitor General: Present salary and allowances Rs 90,700.This will be increase to Rs 140,000. Total of salary and pensionable allowances will go up from Rs 99,700 to Rs 220,000. Other allowances (professional, judicial professional COL, telephone etc) will go up from Rs 177,125 to Rs 290,800.
Senior Additional Solicitor General: Total of salary and pensionable allowances to increase from Rs 73,779 to Rs 190,000. All other allowances to increase from Rs 151,328 to Rs 250,800.

Additional Solicitor General- from Rs 132,232 to Rs 205,800.

Additional Solicitor General: Total of salary and pensionable allowances to be increased from Rs 73,779 to Rs 170,000. Other allowances to go up from Rs 151,328 to Rs 230,800.

Senior Deputy Solicitor General – State Attorney: Total salary and pensionable allowances to go up from Rs 63,892 to Rs 150,000. Other allowances to be increased from Rs 132,232 to Rs 205,800.

Legal Draftsman: Total of the salary and pensionable allowance to go up from the present Rs 73,779 to Rs 190,000. Other allowances which stand at Rs 104,579 to be raised to Rs 222,800.

Additional Legal Draftsman: The present salary and pensionable allowance to be raised from Rs 73,779 to Rs 170,000. Other allowances to be increased from Rs 104,579 to Rs 202,800.
Courtesy of the Sunday Times.

A New Year of new hope, resolutions and expectations...

January 1st - the first day of the year is a day of traditional religious feast and an occasion for celebration. This time it is the dawn of the year two thousand and eighteen, the year during which all of us hope peace throughout the world and particularly harmony and economic prosperity in our motherland –Sri Lanka.  
January first came to be fixed as the first day of the year- New Year day in 158 B.C. Years were named and numbered after two Roman consuls. The date was chosen for military reasons. Throughout the middle ages a variety of Christmas feast days were used while the calendars often continued to display the months columns running from January to December in the Roman fashion and in most countries in the Western Europe January first was officially adopted as the New Year day even before they adopted the Gregorian calendar.  
New Year in the universe
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the New Year falls on January14, the first in the Julian calendar which has been adopted. Both in Gregorian and Julian New Year holidays are celebrated in most of the countries where Eastern Orthodox predominates. As such New Year is celebrated both as a civic holiday or the Gregorian day and as a religious holiday or the Julian day.   
God Janus with two faces
Romans derived the name for the month of January from their god Janus with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward. The practice of making resolutions to rid oneself from bad habits which were followed during the old year and to adopt better ones during the New Year. This practice is also dated to earliest times. This means that one should look back to realize the mistakes done during the year that is ended and to look forward to select better ones to be adopted during the New Year,  
New Year in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka January first is regarded as the beginning of the New Year administratively. Sinhala and Tamil New Year falls on April 13 or14 with the transition of the Sun from Pisces to Aries. The New Year in Khmer, Thai, Laos and Burma falls due from 13 to 15 April and often concedes with the Sinhala and Hindu New Year.  
The tournament of Rose parade in California dates back to 1886. In this parade the bowl of cut roses was carried. In that year members of the valleys hut club decorated their carriages with flowers. It resembles the ripping of the orange crop in that country. As part of the Rose bowl New Year foot ball game was played in 1902. In the following year it was followed by chariot races but the foot ball game returned in 1916 as the sports centrepiece of the festival. Many customs of the New Year festivals note the passing of the time with regrets for errors and mistakes during the old year and anticipation for luck and prosperity in the New Year.  
Now New Year is celebrated in Sri Lanka
We in Sri Lanka prepare milk-rice and oil cakes for the New Year feast. New Year dawns with the sound of crackers mixed with music, blessings and greetings. Many people mark the New Year with religious observations. Buddhists offer Dana and puja to the monks and Hindus make oblations to the deities. Christians go to the church for The Year prayers and Muslims attend to religious rites in their mosques.   

Tatas exit Sri Lanka tea business after 25 years

logo Saturday, 30 December 2017

DNA: After establishing a strong foothold in the tea industry of Sri Lanka over the past 25 years, the Tatas are exiting the business as part of the group’s ongoing strategy to review its global businesses and alliances under its new Chairman N. Chandrasekaran.

Tata Global Beverages has divested its full 31.85% stake in the three-way joint venture Estate Management Services Ltd. (EMSPL) to founding partner Sunshine Holdings Plc for Rs. 120 crore, the company told stock exchanges.

EMSPL is the holding company that managed Sri Lankan tea business consisting tea estates and brands. It manages one of the largest plantation properties of Sri Lanka and holds 53.75% shareholding in Colombo Stock Exchange-listed Watawala Plantations PLC and has a 100% shareholding in Watawala Tea Ceylon Ltd., a marketing company owning brands like Zesta, Watawala and Ran Kahata which together command over 30% market share of the branded tea market in Sri Lanka.

Sunshine Holdings would now be holding a 60% stake in EMSPL with the rest with the third partner Pyramid Wilmar Plantations Ltd., a joint venture of Asia’s leading agribusiness group Wilmar International, Watawala Plantations PLC has told Colombo Stock Exchange.

Year 2017 has been a year of divestments for Tata Global Beverages, which earlier exited its faltering overseas ventures in Russia and China to cut losses amid bleak revival scenario. In Russia, it sold off its popular coffee brand that it had acquired in 2012. It has also disposed of its 90% stake in Zheijiang Tata Tea Extraction Co to its joint venture partner Zheijiang Tea Group.

The process of review of its weak global businesses started during the tenure of Cyrus Mistry, and under the current chairmanship of Chandrasekaran, the strategy to exit the businesses is now being executed.

The sale of Sri Lankan business comes at a time when that country’s tea industry is witnessing falling crop and exports which started since the middle of 2015 due to continued adverse weather including drought condition of 2016.

Tea exports in January-November period dropped to 265 million kilograms, its lowest since the year 2000 and even lower than the poor shipment of 266 million kg last year when production was severely impacted by drought.

Meeting The Challenges of 2018

On a personal note, 2018 should be an year in which we embrace our triumphs and happiness but find meaning in our challenges and losses. It is time for new life. To start with the freshness of hope and all the happiness that our hearts can take. 

by Ruwantissa Abeyratne -
The greater part of our happiness or misery comes from our dispositions and not from our circumstances ~ Martha Washington
( December 31, 2017, Montreal, Sri Lanka Guardian) As we wake up on the first day of January, our thoughts could be twofold: how can I make this year better for myself (in other words, what are my new year resolutions?); and will this year be better for me than last year (in other words, will some unseen hand of providence hand me down some good fortune or luck?).  For many of us, neither attains fruition and the world goes on.  During the year, some of us may find our future partner; get married, and some of us may retire.  But one fact would remain: our character would be our fate in 2018 with regard to  factors within our control.
This essay is not a forecast of what will happen in the world in 2018.  For that, one has only to visit the website and the predictions of Azeem Azhar, a strategist and product entrepreneur at and its all there, much of which looks like a continuum of what took place in 2017. 2018 will see a proliferation of “crypto this” and “cyber that” and artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence will be the buzzwords.    Individually, one cannot influence the world and the megatrends that continue to affect us politically, demographically, technologically, environmentally and economically will flow regardless.  But we can  contribute to a collective effort to make the world a better place.  I offer the following in this context.
Incontrovertibly, 2018 will bring its own challenges to the world both in whole, or part thereof.  One of my friends in Sri Lanka has written to me saying that 2017 brought even more misery than in 2016.  Let us hope this trend is not a sign of things to come.  Inevitably, we would all be facing our own challenges as the year unfolds and it would depend on how we, individually, cope with the challenges we face.  We can begin with Martha Washington’s famous statement: “Every body and everything conspire to make me as contented as possible in it; yet I have seen too much of the vanity of human affairs, to expect felicity from the splendid scenes of public life. I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learnt, from experience, that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us, in our minds, wheresoever we go”.
A good example is found in my own profession – air transport.  The Economist, in its annual The World in 2018 predicts that in 2018, Americans will take 554 million business trips, which would be an increase of 3.1% more than trips taken in 2017. This portends good, in that the increase will add to productivity and prosperity and people will have more money to spend.  On the other hand, increase in travel will add to the misery of the traveller with the risk of premature ageing and increased risk of cardio vascular disease.  Added to the misery will be the inevitable loneliness in hotel rooms, isolation from family and the decrease in participation in family life. It   would be an egregious combination of emotional stress and overwork as well.  The Economist goes on to say: “In large organizations frequent business travellers can be three times more likely to make a claim on their health insurance for a psychological problem than their desk bound colleagues”.
There is also little doubt that the use of smart phones and social media will increase at least by one third over 2017 bringing exponential connectivity and discontent.  This is a dichotomy we must continue to grapple with in 2018.  On the one hand, as Nikola Tesla said: “If we want to reduce poverty and misery, if we want to give to every deserving individual what is needed for a safe existence of an intelligent being, we want to provide more machinery, more power. Power is our mainstay, the primary source of our many-sided energies”.  In this sense, artificial intelligence will continue to flourish. It is estimated that there are currently more than 1700 AI start-ups with over $14.6 billion in total funding from 70 different countries. Revenues from AI applications are expected to reach $47 billion by 2020, from $8.0 billion in 2016.  However, on the other hand, social media will bring people unhappiness through “Facebook Envy” according to a study carried out by the University of Copenhagen. Millions of people use Facebook each day. The study, which involved 1095 people revealed: “Those who admitted suffering high levels of Facebook envy, the tendency to be jealous of your friends’ activities on social media, benefited most from going teetotal”.
One of the most inspiring books I read in 2017 is Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, And Finding Joy Written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.  Sandberg – a high profile and high functioning technology executive, activist, and author who is also the chief operating officer of Facebook and founder of, –  lost her husband unexpectedly and suddenly during the celebration of a friend’s birthday in a resort in Mexico.  It was a profound shock which left her in extreme grief and isolation.  The book is about how Sandberg coped with the tragedy and its aftermath with a positive attitude. One reviewer called the book “a critical guide to reclaiming life”.  Sandberg wrote in June 2015 in Facebook about her loss: “I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice…You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.”
The key is to “find meaning” as Sandberg says.  One interpretation would be, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb says in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, to be “Antifragile” or the opposite of fragile that  makes you succumb to circumstances because you have no plan or flexibility to adapt. Taleb defines antifragile as: “a convex response to a stressor or source of harm (for some range of variation), leading to a positive sensitivity to increase in volatility”. A similar analogy is found in Naomi Klein’s book No is Not Enough where Klein says we need to be “shock resistant” and be prepared.  Although both authors are alluding to our reaction to global circumstances, their philosophy can easily be transported to our disposition when dealing with our individual circumstances.
Disposition versus circumstance and “finding meaning” is also a growing corporate trend where companies are shifting business investment to research, software and branding. Called “intangible assets” these help companies grow and enhance their profile.  Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, in their book Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of The Intangible Economy offers entrepreneurs advice on how to make the intangible economy thrive and overcome investment ambiguity and circumstance.
On a personal note, 2018 should be an year in which we embrace our triumphs and happiness but find meaning in our challenges and losses. It is time for new life. To start with the freshness of hope and all the happiness that our hearts can take.  The change of an year inevitably brings to bear life as a continuing illusion of gentle faces in cracking mirrors, their images clouded by too many tears. As the new year dawns, we could only hope that the new dawn would teach us to tread gently into the future.  We should not despair since we know that life gives us, together with misery and exploitation, love and hope to cherish forever memories of our courage that would never fade.
It is only our disposition that can ensure this.  And this is one resolution we can make, and keep.
I wish all a happy new year.

The Downside of New Year Resolutions

By Dilshani Palugaswewa-2017-12-31

Ceylon Today Features
As Christmas has come to an end and the New Year is just around the corner, of course, everyone is all geared up to step into the year 2018 while mulling over what their new year's resolution will be. A New Year's resolution which is rightly defined as a promise one makes to oneself – usually means either the ending of a bad habit or the developing of a good habit from the very first day of the year, which one intends to carry out throughout the year.

Although, we have many examples of resolution failures to our credit, most of us resort to the same strategic plan every December before being ambushed by the numbered days as we clock out of 31 December and arrive at the magical fizz that we hope 1 January holds, hankering on that this time, it will do the trick.

But then every year, 12 months down we find ourselves in the same old rabbit hole, forgetting why we couldn't follow through our previous resolutions. So we hop on it again, on to the very next January believing that this time, it has the energy of change.
While optimism is a good thing, remember the best possible, and most productive level of change is when it happens organically or at least when you have the fundamental understanding of why something was unsuccessful, rather than when it's enforced upon you. Thus, when it comes to New Year resolutions it can be tricky, because the only reason you're following through with your grand plan is because the digits of the year are going to change. Thus, keep in mind - your brain is partially unprepared to welcome the change that you have set with a new beginning of hope and evolution.

Otherwise, what unfolds is a three-ring circus. The goals you've set for yourself and the coming year will lose steam a few months into the 365 days, likely depicting you, as a failure along with reverberating a negative message in the ears of people you've confidently blown the trumpet, giving testament to how strong you are on your word. Because of course, at the beginning of the year, you plastered it all over social media and you're surroundings – "My New Year Resolution is ...."
So, to avoid such happenings and in order to understand this baffling belief we have in New Years that occurs time and time again, despite multiple failings - analyze.

Ever heard of False Hope Syndrome? If you haven't, then its time you did. In fact, this is the root causation for any failed resolutions you've had before.
False Hope Syndrome is basically when one sets a goal higher than their achievable capabilities along with miscalculating the speed of the execution of that task.

Moral of the story - look before you leap and think through the contingencies in order to cut the mustard. Without any consideration of strategies and viability, if one reaches for unattainable objectives, they are bound to fall short. As most resolutions are lifestyle and self-improvement changes, they have to be systematically aligned and tailored with one's potential.
Self-change methods can be effective if done right. Steps taken to improve one's mind, body and soul can be invigorating and optimistic. However, unrealistic expectations narrow the chances of any productive sustainability. While there is no problem in wanting a healthy lifestyle and wanting to wake up to a better version of yourself every day, overcoming fears and weaknesses - and just starting afresh, there lies a problem which occurs due to the aptitude we humans have of not learning how to walk before we start to run.

Own it! Change doesn't come easy. It has to be painstakingly thought through and acted out. Especially if you're trying to change negative attributes into positive ones. (There is no point in burning out a fire that you once kindled in order to bite the bullet.) And that is exactly what you need in order to sustain the same enthusiasm throughout the year. It is when you take those small steps first that you'll have a pretty good chance to make it further down the year than you would by taking longer strides with larger than life expectations.
The end result is a two way possibility. Either, (and this is the most likely possibility) you will be unsuccessful as you may lose sight and press the pause the button on the stairway to your resolution.
 In which case, you will end up losing your marbles while you remain despondent for the months subsequent to that, with no hope of attempting to trace back the steps to re-resolution. Left with the belief that there is no possible way you can achieve that goal you had once set, it gives you no valid reason to go back to the drawing board. Or you could still be riding on that same fuel of optimism – so full of vim and vigour that you'd re-try the same algorithm with no changes made to the path you chose to go down the first time around.

But here's what you need to know to be on the ball.
Resolution = Change, thus you have to analyze why and how your resolutions fail.
If you're unaware of the three stages of changes, you are bound to fail.
Pre-contemplation is the first stage of change. Meaning - at this point you're probably wondering if or not to make the desired change and if it is worth the time and effort you plan to put in.
Contemplation - which is the second stage of change, is when you mentally experience the desired change without actually experiencing it. This way, you go through the pros and cons to mentally draw the picture and prepare yourself for the uphill battle. Visualizing your desired results, could pump up your enthusiasms and dedication levels to get things

The third step of change is preparation. At this point, you understand that the desired change is essential to your life and thus will commit to go that extra few miles to see it through. This eventually turns into action which would be followed by productive results.
Bottom line - it is not pragmatic for you to take a leaf out of someone else's book to make changes to your life. Why twist your own arm, just as the year commences right? The way you kick start a new beginning is all in your hands.
Change in life will happen on the fly. So pull up your socks to learn and grow all year round. If there is no rhyme or reason to make new changes – then so be it. Nevertheless, you have 365 new days which comes with 365 new opportunities.
Here's to hoping that 2018 won't suck as much this year might have for you.

Happy New Year!

Positives and Negatives of 2017

In our last editorial for 2017, the Daily Mirror analyses the positives and the negatives of what happened this year in the socio-political, economic and other areas.

It is good to begin with ourselves and speak about media freedom. With the election of President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8, 2015 and the formation of the National Unity Government in August that year, media freedom was restored.

On the political front, one of the major events was the decision to change the system of elections and the announcement of elections to 341 local councils on February 10. 

The Ward System has been restored, and in terms of this, 60 percent of candidates will be elected according to the Ward System and 40 percent according to the Proportional Representation System. The new mixed system also demands 25 percent representation of women among the elected candidates.

For the first time since independence, the two major parties - the UNP and the SLFP- have been governing together in the National Unity Government. There have been disputes and divisions between them mainly on economic issues and the two parties are due to decide by tomorrow whether they will renew their Memorandum
of Understanding.

Most analysts believe that whether an MoU is signed or not, the two parties are expected to govern together in a coalition, because 2018 is likely to be a vital year especially for the economy, with foreign direct investments coming in and growth rates rising.

Analysts also believe it might be good for the country and the people, especially for the villages, if parties worked together in the Local Councils also.

On the economic front, we saw the restoration of Generalised Scheme of Preferences, known as GSP Plus on exports to the European Union.

The EU also lifted the fish import ban which had been imposed because of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices during the former regime.

This year alone, Sri Lanka exported about 18,000 metric tonnes of fish to Europe.

One of the main allegations against the former regime’s VIPs and top officials was corruption.
Though the new Government promised immediate and effective action to bring them to justice, it did not happen. The only significant incident that came to courts was the alleged misuse of Sil cloths to the value of Rs. 600 million, during the 2015 Presidential Election.

The former presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga was remanded for two weeks but released on bail while the case continues.

The Government decided late this year to appoint three special three – judge High Courts to hear cases relating to corruption, fraud or other political crimes. Thereby the cases are likely to be completed within months instead of years.

But corruption continues and a bombshell hit the Government itself with a Presidential Commission being appointed to probe the alleged bond scam in the Central Bank.

Senior Minister Ravi Karunanayake was virtually forced to resign because of allegations made against him during the Bond Commission sittings, and the Commission’s report is expected to be handed over to the President during this weekend.

The Commission’s recommendations and the February 10 Local Council election results are expected to be key factors in what happens or does not happen in 2018. Most analysts believe it would be good for the vision 2025 programme to be continued with the goal of creating a peaceful, just and all inclusive society.

Righteous Rulers Never Get Revenge

According to the Agganna Sutta, the evolution of the world, the appearance of greed and moral degradation caused the environment to decline.   With each successive moral decline, the beings and their environment devolved presenting an increasing challenge to feeding themselves.

by Ven. Aggamaha Pandita Dr. Walpola Piyananda-
( December 31, 2017, Los Angeles, Sri Lanka Guardian) In recent years, more and more people in Sri Lanka have been affected by drought, floods, landslides, and countless other varieties of natural disasters.  Of course, climate change is wreaking havoc all across the globe.  The punishment inflicted on the natural environment by human beings is, like anything else, subject to the law of kamma.  There is cause; there is effect.
The Buddha spoke of the effects of not taking good care of the environment, which includes its living beings: “Bhikkhus, when kings are unrighteous, the royal vassals become unrighteous…. (Likewise) Brahmins and householders…people of the towns and countryside…  …The sun and moon proceed off course, the constellations and stars… day and night…seasons and years blow off course….”  He goes on to point out how this affects rainfall, and therefore crops, and therefore food supply.
As I wrote in my book Away from L.A., the Buddha’s intention was to eradicate human suffering, so it stands to reason that he would speak about the natural environment and our close relationship with it.  According to the Agganna Sutta, the evolution of the world, the appearance of greed and moral degradation caused the environment to decline.   With each successive moral decline, the beings and their environment devolved presenting an increasing challenge to feeding themselves.
For a country to be happy, it must have a just government.  How this could be realized is explained by the Buddha in his teaching of the “Ten Duties of the King.”  Of course this teaching is applicable to “Governments” and therefore, applies today to all who constitute the government.  The first of these duties is liberality, generosity, and charity; the wealth and property should be used for the welfare of the people.  The second is that those in government should have high moral character, at least observing the Five Precepts of a layman.  Third, he should be prepared to give up all personal comfort, name and fame in the interest of the people.   Fourth honesty and integrity is important; he must be free from fear or favor in the discharge of his duties.  He must be sincere in his intentions, and must not deceive the public.  Fifth, he should possess a genial temperament; to be kind and gentle.  Sixth: He must have self-control; not indulging in a life of luxury.  Seventh:  He should be free from hatred, ill-will, enmity and not bear a grudge against anybody.  Eight:  Non-violence is important; he should try to promote peace through the avoidance and prevention of war and everything which involves violence and the destruction of life.  Ninth:  He must be able to bear hardships, difficulties and insults without losing his temper with patience, forbearance, toleration and understanding.  And finally ten; he should not oppose the will of the people, should not obstruct measures that are conducive to the welfare of the people.  In other words, he should rule in harmony with his people.
As the leading Theravada country in the world, Sri Lanka should be the embodiment of the Buddha’s basic instructions for the living, viz. the four Brahma Viharas, known in English as Lovingkindness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Appreciative Joy (mudita), and Equanimity (upekkha).   Successive governments in the history of our country have been sometimes more observant of these principles, sometimes less observant.  But the last few years, the rampant disregard of these principles has become critical, to a point where those of us who love our country cannot keep silent about it.
In Western psychology, there is a disease of character known as sadism, where one  derives pleasure from the infliction of evil.  Unfortunately, this is the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka under the current government. Three years after taking office, the government is still devoting countless resources to avenging perceived slights or offenses.  As soon as the government came into power a secret police unit was established with some officers loyal to current regime. Their ultimate goal was to go after political opponents in a vindictive manner; detaining and questioning them using unprofessional tactics. The secret police unit, FCID hunts its perceived enemies even abroad.
Not only had they detained the politicians that didn’t support current regime but also the government officers who had worked with past ministers. It is ironic that the FCID unit has become an obstacle to government’s day to day activities.  High ranking government bureaucrats are now reluctant to perform routine duties fearing that someday they too will be called by FCID.  Because of this, most of the allocated budgets for ministries are unspent. It is correct to state that the FCID has boomeranged on the people who formed it.
Let me tell you a little story about the Wolf and the Lamb, a tale from Ancient Greece by Aesop in which the wolf reminds me of the FCID.
A wolf was drinking at a spring on a hillside.  On looking up he saw a lamb just beginning to drink lower down.  “There’s my supper,” thought he, “if only I can find some excuse to seize.”  He called out to the lamb, “how dare you muddle my drinking water!”
“No,” said the lamb, “if the water is muddy of there, I cannot be the cause of it, for it runs down from you to me.”
“Well, then,” said the wolf, “why did you call me bad names this time last year?”
“That cannot be,” said the lamb, “I am only six months old.”
“I don’t care, snarled the wolf, “if it was not you, it was your father,” and with that he rushed upon the poor little lamb and ate her all up.
What does this have to do Sri Lanka?  This current government devotes itself of its attachment to past perceived slights, instead of devoting itself to improving the country by addressing our numerous problems.  These people are indeed sadists, and will face something like the “10 states” as explained by the Buddha in the Dhammapada, 137-140.
”He who inflicts punishment upon those who do not deserve it, and hurts those who are harmless, such a person will soon come to face one of these ten states:  he may soon come to terrible pain, great deprivations, physical injury, deep-rooted ailment or mental disorder, the wrath of the monarch or a dreadful accusation, loss of relatives, the complete destruction of wealth, or a sudden fire may break out and burn his houses.  After the dissolution of his physical body, he will surely be born in hell.”
This is a waste of time, energy and resources. It is antagonistic to all our common goals of wanting a better country with a stable, democratic government that represents all the people, and which, out of love for the motherland, want to develop it.  I appeal to the government to come to its senses and serve the country by doing the job for which you were elected.
( The writer is the Chief Sangha Nayake of America )