What is the Samagi Balawegaya

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

For the past few weeks I have been asking people to join the Samagi Youth Corp, and rightly so many of them have asked me what exactly is the Samagi and what are the goals of the Samagi Youth.

I am taking this time to write a brief summary of what the Samagi is and how the youth corp will operate.

The Samagi Balawegaya (Force for Unity) is a coalition of civil society activists, trade unions, media groups, politicians and individuals who are concerned about and are dedicated to working towards a sustainable and all-inclusive future for Sri Lanka. The Samagi as a whole has agreed upon the ten principles detailed below: 

ONE 

Abolishing Executive Presidency 

TWO

Strengthening of Good Governance by re-installing the 17th Amendment to the constitution and removal of the obstructionist clauses under 18th Amendment

THREE

Affirming a united Sri Lankan identity by conserving the rights of every ethnic group in Sri Lanka’s diversity.

FOUR

Strengthening of Parliamentary democracy by repealing “Manaapaya” system

FIVE

Right to Information and Freedom Expression and Freedom

SIX

Re-affirming Rule of Law and Independence of Judiciary

SEVEN

Controlling Cost of Living and Implementing anti-corruption laws

EIGHT

Preservation and Strengthening of Universal Education and Healthcare benefits

NINE

Reducing the poverty and implementing a truly people-centric development plan for the country

TEN

Implementation of LLRC Recommendations

These ten principles will form the backbone of the Samagi as we continue to push the current government towards the change that the people of Sri Lanka are asking for.

What is the Samagi Youth Corp?

The Samagi Youth Corp is an arm of the Samagi that will work alongside the youth of this country who are committed to ensuring a future that we all agree upon. The main aim of the Youth corp is to demand from the government the necessary assistance in helping them build a future that is not only prosperous but also sustainable. 

Politics and politicians have, for too long, been allowed to sneak past the voters with the outdated populist methods. As the youth it is now our turn to take a step forward and start asking the hard questions and once again force the politicians to return to the role of being the representatives of the people. 

Asking the questions alone will not be enough, the Samagi youth will take upon itself the lead role. As we expand through the provinces, the corp will form a consensus among their peers over issues that our generation will be forced to inherit. The tough questions must be asked both of ourselves and the government. The traditional image of the role of the youth in society must be re-evaluated. 

While the demands are made of the government, we the youth must be prepared to work towards achieving the future that we want. 

The Samagi Youth Corp is throwing out an open invitation to all those who are interested to join up.

Palestine Given A Boost At The UN

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Sixty-five years on since the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition a territory in the Middle East into a Jewish state and an Arab State, the state of Palestine has been officially recognised by the UN.

While the state of Israel was admitted as a member of the UN back in 1949, it took the very people that created the Arab state over 60 years ago to recognise their creation. In that time countless lives have been lost on all sides over a war that could possibly have been avoided (or at the very least contained) had an official recognition of the state been given.

It has to be mentioned that originally, when the UN voted to partition the region into two states, the Arab Higher Committee rejected it while the Jewish leadership accepted it.

Over the next sixty plus years several wars were fought in the region between the newly formed state of Israel and its neighboring Arab countries. As these wars progressed Israel continued to accumulate more and more land.

Fast forward to 2012 and the world is finally welcoming Palestine as an official state. In an overwhelming show of support; 138 countries voted in favour, 9 voted against and 41 abstained.

While the majority of the General Assembly showed their support for the recognition, it is of little surprise that Israel voted against. What is a little disappointing is the US’ decision to vote against Palestine. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, explained why the US voted against the resolution, “Today’s unfortunate and counter-productive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace.”

Earlier in the year Barack Obama explained that they felt the recognition of the state of Palestine by the UN would deter future peace talks with Israel.

The office of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said “by going to the UN , the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.” Of course, what this means remains to be seen.

While Palestine has been recognised, they are still not a full member state but are instead bestowed with a non-member observer status. This will mean that they can, at any time, submit an application to the UN for full membership. Earlier in the year Mohammed Abbas, the Palestinian President, planned on doing so until the US promised to veto any such application.

Today’s vote means Palestine has access to numerous UN organisations including the International Criminals Court. This is something Israel has strongly opposed, while many Palestinians feel it is a step to investigating the allegations of human rights crimes being committed by Israel. The vote is an indirect recognition of Palestine’s claim of statehood on the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Regardless of what the future holds, the people of Palestine are out on the street rejoicing for what they can only hope will be a step towards permanent peace.

Goodbye To A Legend

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Cricket has come to that period where a generation says goodbye to the legends they grew up with. A few years back the world said farewell, albeit a little later than they expected, to Sanath Jayasuriya. Last year India’s most underrated batsman, Rahul Dravid, bowed out of international cricket; and today the world prepares to say goodbye to Ricky Ponting.

Ponting has been in an up-and-down patch in his career for the past year. Averaging less than 15, he had a superb summer against India which included a double hundred before being shored up against the West Indies and now South Africa. While most supporters of the man have called for his inclusion, many others (including himself) knew that time was running out.

He did what all great sportsman do and called time on a career that was reaching its end.

Ponting can leave international cricket behind with his head held high knowing he was only second to Sachin Tendulkar in both runs and centuries, while he also has the mantle of having won three successive World Cups leading his team in two of those. He was also one of the most successful captains in test and one day cricket, and while people argue it was the team that gave him this, his record as captain speaks for itself.

Of course his career will be pockmarked with the three Ashes losses, including one at home, while a couple of hiccups against India and South Africa also surfaced in his time at the helm. His last bout as captain came in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup against eventual winners India. Ponting shrugged off the criticism to play a great hundred, but was unfortunately unable to deliver his team to a fifth consecutive final.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ricky Ponting a couple of times and from a personal point of view was certainly impressed with him. Despite having a hectic schedule Ponting took time off to get a game of golf in during their World Cup campaign in Sri Lanka. Even better was the fact that I got to play with him. The game gave me an insight in to the man off the field and away from the public spotlight.

Friday will be his last test match, and ironically it is Australia’s opportunity to regain the number 1 mantle (a spot Ponting did a great deal to secure for Australia in the first place). I will certainly be watching the match, and no doubt be hoping to see him produce that great last innings (similar to Greg Chappell) to help his team take the series and the number one spot.

Morsi; The New Kid On The Block

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Egypt’s newly instated President, Mohamed Morsi, successfully orchestrated a ceasefire between Palestine and Israel this past week. In doing so he has announced himself as a key player in the post Arab Spring Middle East.

For many outside of Egypt, Morsi was a relatively unknown character prior to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Despite being a political figure for the better part of the 2000s, he failed to make headlines until he contested and won the Presidential election earlier this year.

Love him or hate him Mubarak left Morsi with some big shoes to fill. While his success was greeted with much jubilation in Egypt the rest of the world was waiting to see what the new President of the Middle East’s most populous state was capable of.

His opportunity of a meaningful contribution to the region came on November 14 when hostilities between Israel and Palestine escalated to aerial bombardment.

The US, which has been a vital component in the affairs of the Middle East for the past decade, was quick to jump in. Barack Obama voiced his support for Israel, justifying their defence of their country.

Obama’s relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu could be described as formal at best. Support for this act of aggression is surprising considering the heavy criticism Bashar al-Assad has received for similar action. The recently re-elected President’s support for Netanyahu would have come as a shock and disappointment to many.

Morsi’s time had arrived. With many people questioning America’s stance, Egypt came to forefront by hastily securing a peace accord between the two groups. It avoided, what was gearing up to be, an invasion of the Gaza strip by Israel. Morsi was suddenly the mediator of peace in the Middle East. Had the Arab Spring produced a leader who was capable of leading the region forward?

Syria’s civil war, Iran’s aggravation of the West with threats of producing a nuclear bomb, Libya’s rebuilding and Afghanistan’s turmoil are just some examples of the regions crises. Morsi decided to tackle the longest running issue, that of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was a success, not so much in that halted the conflict but rather it forced Netanyahu to agree to a highly unpopular ceasefire a mere two months before he stands for re-election.

All-out war has been avoided, at least for the time being, which has been a shift in the pattern of events seen in the Middle East. The Arab Spring, while signalling a change, was marked with US support of potentially violent actions (as was seen in Libya and now in Syria). Obama’s vocal support of Israel could be seen as following a similar vein.

Morsi has instead diffused the situation and shown that continuity was possible through peaceful means. Supporting Gaza, and by doing that open warfare, was avoided through the Egyptian President orchestrating a ceasefire that benefited the Palestinians. While rumours circulate that a deal has been made with Israel to ensure the ceasefire, on the surface Morsi has championed the Palestinian cause.

The result was a showering of praise from the international community. From being an obscure figure Morsi was now being labelled as the regions much needed driving force for sustainable peace and democracy.

Twenty-four hours after brokering the deal Morsi passed a string of decrees back in Egypt. The image was destroyed. Supporters of Morsi were suddenly torn between loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and a wish to see their revolution completed.

Morsi came in to power on the back of one of the longest running dictatorships in the region. He was looked upon to lead Egypt, and be an example for the rest of the Middle East. Instead he has now given himself powers which are further reaching than what was seen during Mubarak’s time.

While dividing the country over his new decrees, Morsi has also left the Obama administration embarrassed. A day after singing his praises the White House was forced to sit quietly and observe as, who they thought would be, the newest leader for Democracy take on a dictatorial stance.

He garnered admiration from the international community, he strengthened his standings in the region and now he has moved to cement his position as the undisputed leader of Egypt. Morsi is taking all of the right steps in announcing himself as a heavyweight of the Middle East, and from the early signs he is on the right path. However, it remains to be seen whether or not this will be a lasting reign.

Test Cricket Is The Ultimate Test

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

He stood at the top of his mark, barely able to hold himself upright. A deep breath was taken and he came charging down, an in-swinging yorker upended middle stump and suddenly the crowd was brought to its feet. There was a sense that he had got something out of nothing.

On the other end a man stood on his own fighting off cramps and back pains, he had been a wall blocking everything that was thrown at him. He too felt a sense that the improbable was now within his grasp.

As with all sports there had to be a loser, and on this occasion for Peter Siddle, Australia being unable to draw the match would have felt like one.

Australia-South Africa encounters have always produced nail-biting matches (a clash of the titans if you would). It was around this time last year that these two teams were locked in another struggle, on that occasion Australia walked away victorious (with only two wickets in hand and time not on their side). In Adelaide, once again it was not until the last ball of the match that a result was confirmed.

Australia dominated the first day of the test match, South Africa fought back on the second day before the hosts wrestled the initiative back on the third. The forth was a see-saw affair before the fifth was a display of test cricket at its best.

The cricket audience around the world have been “treated” to an overdose of twenty-twenty cricket, so much so that even the players have found it hard to readjust. Over in Bangladesh, last week, Chris Gayle decided to start a test match by hitting a six, on Thursday in Adelaide David Warner and Michael Clarke chose to rack up nearly 500 runs in the first day.

By the fifth day of this match all of that was forgotten, the big shots had been shelved and a solid defense was being employed by those in the middle. The bowlers knew wickets would not be easy to come by, they stuck to their plans and ran in every ball until they had none left. To add a little more spice to the game, both sides were a player down (South Africa without their star batsman Jaques Kallis and Australia without their key bowler James Pattinson). It was a game of attrition, both sides looked to etch away at the other’s mental make up.

Australia knew a win would go a long way in regaining the number one position, South Africa was out to show they deserved to hold on to that label.

As the day went on the weariness of both sides showed on their players’ faces, but ever so once in awhile a a deep breath was taken and they plunged back into battle. Faf du Plessis showed immense concentration, something that has abandoned most modern day players, while Peter Siddle brought out that trademark Aussie grit as he never gave up.

Fittingly it was these two who would see off the end of the day (and match). Siddle looked a spent force, yet he found the energy to produce two more probing and fiery overs. Du Plessis was close to collapsing from exhaustion, but, as he had done all day he continued to fight through the pain to ensure the Proteas walked away with a hard fought draw.

In four days’ time these two teams will be back out on the park in Perth ready to battle once more for the mantle of the number one team. Their clothes will be be clean, their energy back and possibly a few new faces in the lineups. Yet they will know that five days are before them, five days for them to suck in deep breaths, five days to run in hard and ignore the pain and at the end of those five days the number one side will be crowned.

Twenty-twenty cricket has the glitz and glamour, but for all of its dazzle it lacks the heart and fight which is shown in test cricket.

Speak Up Before It Is Too Late

November 19, 2012 1 comment

I wrote an article the other day about religious intolerance around Asia and it prompted discussion both online and among friends. 

One of the interesting comments, which can also be seen on the article, was that I had been making “a mountain out of a mole-hill”. Now obviously I do not agree with this otherwise I would not have written the article in the first place. 

But I will admit that while religious violence in Sri Lanka is not a grave issue it certainly is something that is unfortunately sprouting up from time to time. Furthermore for those who live in the country would no doubt be aware of the growing sense that a section of the Buddhist population are looking to overshadow the other religions. 

Last Tuesday was Deepavali and when I was driving around the city in the morning I was treated to a sight of a temple hosting a Perahera. Now these are usually held back for Buddhist religious occasions  so I was a little confused as to why this priest decided to hold one on this day of all days. 

The fireworks and colourful celebrations seen in the Kovils was my answer celebrating Deepavali.

This is of course not the first time I have seen this. Last year on Christmas the temple near my house decided to hold a Perahera. Earlier this year before Easter, a section of Mount Lavinia was decorated with Buddhist flags.

So while religious violence is thankfully not a major issue in Sri Lanka, all signs are pointing towards a growing degree of dominance by the majority. I am not saying that all Buddhists in the country support this, or even the majority of them, I am saying that a section does. This needs to be countered and quickly otherwise we could open ourselves to situations as is seen in Pakistan and other such countries. 

The complaint of me making a mountain of a mole-hill reminded me of a quote by Martin Niemoller, a Pastor who opposed Adolf Hitler.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Voting Closes In Key Swing State

November 7, 2012 1 comment

Polling stations have closed in Ohio and now the public eagerly awaits the results of the key swing state.

Ohio has 18 electoral votes up for grabs and whoever wins the state has been predicted as winning the 2012 Presidential election. To make matters more interesting, no Republican candidate has won the Presidential election without winning this state.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan both broke tradition and continued campaigning in Ohio on election day. An indication of the importance they have placed here.

Polling stations were open from 6:30am and by 7:15am the lines were growing as voters came out to cast their ballots. Initial indication of the voter turnout (12:30pm) was of a sizable support for the Democrats. By mid-morning in West Toledo, numerous stay at home mothers had turned up to vote. There was also a large number of African-Americans who expressed support for President Barack Obama.

However, by afternoon this changed rather dramatically. The Republicans started coming out in force with many middle aged white men leaving work early to cast their votes. They expressed confidence that they would win the state, despite early voting results having Obama ahead.

The length of the voting lines continued to remain the same, so it is difficult to comment without official figures on which candidate had a higher turnout.

While the voters split the day between themselves, it was clear that they all were not impressed with the time spent at the polling stations. One voter, Harry Johnson, stood in line for over two hours before he was able to cast his vote. “This is a big day for Americans and we would have hoped that the authorities would have been better prepared. These long lines are off-putting to voters”, he said.

Regardless of the complaints by voters about the length of the lines, there has been no serious issues around the state. Unlike the malfunctioning voting machines in Pennsylvania or the disregarded absentee votes in Florida.

While polling booths closed at 7:30pm around Ohio, those voters still in line braved the cold and stayed on to cast their ballots.

With news arriving that the provisional ballots in Ohio will not be counted until November 17, both the candidates and the public will hope that the result will not be dependent on this.