ONE. Saman Indrajith in New York: “Kerry showers praise on national unity govt,” http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=152566
US Secretary of State John Kerry told President Maithripala Sirisena that they highly appreciated and admired the direction of the new government of Sri Lanka and would extend every possible assistance thereto. He said so when he called on President Sirisena on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly sessions, being held in UN Headquarters in New York on Sep. 21.
President Sirisena said that the current government of Sri Lanka continued on the path towards economic progress and reconciliation. He told the US Secretary of State that the government was facing a lot of challenges from the destabilising forces in the North as well as the South, who wanted to deter the reconciliation process. “For example, a small minority of the people in the North refused to go back to their lands due to pressure from extremist groups”, he said.
“Similarly, some Southern groups are engaged in decrying the reconciliation process. But, the unity government is determined to implement the intended programs despite such opposition”, he said. He said that though there were differences within the ranks of the unity government they had agreed upon a broad policy formula and would continue to implement it. “Therefore, while strengthening the stability of the government it remains committed to its main objectives as it is committed to fulfilling aspirations of the people who elected this government on January 08, 2015.”
The US Secretary of State congratulated the President on the achievements of the government during past 15 months and reassured US support to the Sri Lankan government.
TWO: Vikramabahu Karunaratne: “Lanka, indubitably a better place now” … in Daily News, 24 September 2016,
Political leaders often mention that Lanka is famous for preserving and distributing Theravada Buddhism. In addition, Lanka was under Marxist influence for a long time. It is continuing still. Even today we are told that university student organisations are dominated by Marxist ideology. Also, for generations rationalism was accepted by leading intellectuals of all communities. Long time before Marxism came to Lanka, Buddhist rationalism strongly influenced their day-to-day actions of ordinary people.
It is well known that the Buddha in Samaññaphala Sutta categorized astrology, and belief in demons as Moha. The extensive list mentioned in the Sutta includes palmistry, reading omens and signs, interpreting celestial events and dreams, and making predictions for state officials on such basis. However, though Lanka said to be repository of the Buddha’s teachings in their purest form, many Sinhala-Buddhists treat astrological predictions with the reverence that adherents of theistic faiths accord to the words of their particular god or prophet.
Slavish believers of stars: In these modern times where logical analysis and scientific thinking have gone to villages to revive Buddhist rationalism, still it is not uncommon to hear of pious Sinhala-Buddhists dying because they threw ordinary commonsense to the winds and obeyed the orders of an astrologer, an exorcist or katadiya. The exorcist may get arrested. He will be charged formally and tried in a court of law. The publicity garnered by such a trial, certainly would make at least many rationalists – including the country’s current leaders who pay respect to liberal rational thinking– explain the idiocy of trusting one’s future and one’s life to dabblers in magic.
Unfortunately Lankan leaders in general, were slavish believers of stars and their untutored interpreters; but none of them went as far to use state power and resources to reward or persecute astrologers as Mahinda Rajapaksa and his followers did. It is true that in general Astrology always played a prominent role in the private lives of most people including politicians. But under Rajapaksa regime, astrology was accorded a prominent place and his astrologer became a powerful person.
With that advice Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to hold a presidential election two years ahead of time. Everything he did during that election, from the moment he handed over his nomination papers to the Election Commissioner from an auspicious side, was dictated, to a large extent, on the advice of astrologers. During the election campaign, astrologers were giving directions, neglecting opinion polling and statistical analyses. The state television, for instance, aired many election forecast programmes featuring astrologers, which were comedy to rational viewers.
Democratic revolution: One of the most satisfactory outcomes of the Democratic revolution is the relegation of astrology from the public to the private sphere. Rational mass movement should check that the present administration does not take steps back to that silly past. We must remember that the Rajapaksa regime made history when they got an astrologer arrested for making a prediction which did not fit in with their agenda.
Chandrasiri Bandara, an astrologer known for his pro-opposition views, made an unfavourable prediction, the regime reacted with ferocity. Mr. Bandara was arrested, taken to the CID and grilled. It is true on the whole; the current government is not immune to superstitious actions or dictatorial solutions. But the democratic mass movement that made changes of post-January 2015 is alive and functioning, and it is a challenge to all reactionary thinking. Lanka is not a paradise of good governance. But it is indubitably a better place for its people today than it was under the Rajapaksa regime.
Hence let us agree with Thisaranee, “In 2015, we in Sri Lanka defeated our version of the Trump clan. We didn’t get rid of corruption and nepotism and all the other horrendous practices which flourished under the Rajapaksas. But we have better governance than we did during the Rajapaksa years.
Take the constitutional making process, which is more open and more inclusive than anything Sri Lanka has previously experienced. Be it new constitutions or amendments to the existing one, every past effort had been top-down ones where leaders decided what should be done and imposed their decisions on the people. In stark and commendable contrast, the new government is encouraging a broad public discussion about the nature of the new constitution.”
THREE: Mangala at launch of Peace Building Fund,” Item in Island, 23 September 2016, http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=152588
Sri Lanka co-hosted a Pledging Conference to Refinance the Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) held on 21st September 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York on the sidelines of the 71st sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. Sri Lanka together with Kenya, Mexico, The Netherlands, Somalia, Sweden, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom co- hosted the event. The conference was able to generate pledges from thirty countries amounting to US Dollars 152 million to support UN peace building efforts across the globe.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera chairs the Invest in Sustaining Peace – Pledging Conference for the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund at the UN Head Quarters in New York on 21 September 2016. Seated with him is UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson (R)
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, chaired one segment of the conference and delivered closing remarks on behalf of the co-hosts. In his national statement delivered at the conference Minister Samaraweera said that since the creation of the Fund in 2006, it had come to the assistance of many countries emerging from conflict. Sri Lanka, he noted, had been working closely with the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) since the Presidential Elections of January 2015, when the Government prioritised reconciliation and development as twin agendas to be pursued in guiding the nation towards a durable peace. He pointed out that last year, Sri Lanka was declared by the UN Secretary General as a country eligible to receive support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.
In his closing remarks on behalf of the cohosts, Samaraweera said due to the cooperation of member states, the Fund would be able to continue to support critical projects in countries emerging from years of violent conflict, like Colombia, and in other countries where peace is fragile and needs to be sustained, such as in Mali, Somalia and Sri Lanka. “We are also emboldened by the fact that so many of you pledged, making the Peacebuilding Fund one of the most broadly supported funds in the UN system, ” the Minister said.