SRI LANKA NEWS IN BRIEF – NOVEMBER 2018 – Compiled by Victor Melder

SRI LANKA NEWS IN BRIEF
NOVEMBER 2018
Compiled by Victor Melder

Victor MeldorThe Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) recently computed the prices of residential, commercial and industrial lands, using per perch bare land prices (collected from the Government Valuation Department) and determined that the overall land price in the Colombo District has gone up by 16.3%, year-on-year. The computing of the three sub-indices has taken into consideration the diverse ways of land-use and the comparability of the quality of lands. The CBSL periodically compiles and analyses several indicators in order to monitor the developments in the real estate sector. Accordingly, the Land Price Index (LPI) (base year 1998) had been compiled annually from 1998-2008 and bi-annually from 2009-2017, covering 50 centres of five DS divisions in the Colombo District. With the increasing importance of monitoring land prices, geographical coverage of the LPI has been expanded to 82 centres covering the District and revising its base period from 1998 to 1st half of 2017 to accommodate this expansion. Areas included in determining the Land Price Index were; Seethawaka, Padukka, Homagama, Kaduwela, Kolonnawa, Colombo, Thimbirigasyaya, Dehiwala, Ratmalana, Moratuwa, Kesbewa. (Daily Island, 2.11.2018)

President Maithripala Sirisena said that he offered the premiership to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya first and then to UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa before considering former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the post of Prime Minister. Addressing a public rally named ‘Rata Surakina Jana Mahimaya’, he said the UNP MPs who met him during the past few days asked him why Mr. Rajapaksa was appointed the Prime Minister contrary to the aspirations of UNPers as they were the ones who installed him as the president in 2015, For the first time in four years, he appeared on the same stage with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday at this rally in Battaramulla. He said he met the Speaker eight months ago and insisted that he take over premiership. “I pleaded with him for several days to become the Prime Minister because I could no longer work with Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. But, he declined to accept the post citing his inability to pose a challenge to Mr. Wickremesinghe,” the President said. He said he approached Mr. Premadasa two months ago and offered the premiership to him but Mr. Premadasa also declined to accept it citing his inability to stand up to the leadership of Mr. Wickremesinghe. By sacking Mr. Wickremesinghe from office, he said he not only brought about a change of personalities but also a political programme that was attuned to the interests of external forces and against the cultural ethos of Sri Lanka. The President said he appointed Mr. Rajapaksa as Prime Minister as he was familiar with the local value system and formidable enough to outsmart Mr. Wickremesinghe in politics. Commenting on the government’s activities during the past three years, he said the decisions were taken by a ‘Samanala gang’ not by the Cabinet. He said the new government had secured the required simple majority of 113 MPs to govern the country and asked Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to cooperate with him. Also, he said he sacked Mr. Wickremesinghe from office through lawful means and asked the Speaker to respect his decision. “I never take my decisions single handedly. I consulted all concerned. The removal of the Prime Minister and the appointment of Mr. Rajapaksa were done lawfully. If there is anyone grieved by it, the Supreme Court can be petitioned,” he said. (Daily Mirror, 5.11.2018)

The Irrigation Department said eight sluice gates of Parakrama Samudraya had been opened to a height of five feet and two more to a height of two feet to mitigate the increasing water level of the tank due to incessant rains during the last few days. Irrigation engineer in-charge of Parakrama Samudraya Asela Udayanga said that the excess water was being released to Amban Ganga at 5,012 square feet per second. Pulasthipura police said that the approach road to the historical Somawathi Chaithya had been inundated, but it had not hindered motor traffic. Police requested motorists to exercise caution when driving as the road from Periya Aru bridge in Sungawila to Somawathi Chaithya was frequented by elephants as the area was under water. Asst. Director of the Disaster Management Unit of Polonnaruwa Upul Nanayakkara said no disaster situation had been declared in the area and its teams were ready provide relief in case of a disaster. (Daily Island, 7.11.2018)

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has ruled out support to the Sirisena-Rajapaksa government in parliament under any circumstances. A four-member TNA delegation led by its leader R. Sampanthan made its position clear to President Maihripala Sirisena yesterday. President Sirisena met the delegation, close on the heels of TNA MP S. Viyalendiran being sworn in as Deputy Minister of Regional Development (Eastern Development). The TNA delegation comprised R. Sampanthan, Selvam Adaikkalanathan MP, Dharmalingham. Siddarthan MP, and M. A. Sumanthiran MP. Political sources said that the TNA delegation had met President Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat on the latter’s invitation. The meeting lasted for one and half hours. Before Viyalendiran switched his allegiance to President Sirisena, the TNA parliamentary group comprised 16 lawmakers, including two on the National List. Another TNA MP Shivashakti Anandan, too, has rebelled and decided to remain independent. TNA spokesperson Sumanthiran said: “The situation currently prevailing in the country was discussed at length. The President explained to the TNA delegation the circumstances under which certain decisions were made. The TNA delegation explained to the President the reasons for the decisions that have been made by the TNA and its members of Parliament, which decisions had been made public and are well known to the country and the world. The TNA delegation also explained to the President that the decisions taken by the TNA cannot be reversed and that the TNA will stand by the said decisions. The TNA delegation also specifically told the President that in consultation with the President it would extend to the President its fullest support with regard to any future steps taken by him to stabilize the political situation in the country with the cooperation of all political parties. To enable this to be achieved at the earliest the TNA also urged HE the President to convene Parliament for a date earlier than now contemplated. The President stated that he would give his earnest consideration to this request.” (Daily Island, 8.11.2018)

Political sources told The Island that the TNA and the JVP would work together in parliament to thwart the new administration. Both the TNA and the JVP backed Maithripala Sirisena’s candidature at January 2015 presidential polls. The JVP parliamentary group consists of six members, including two on the National List. Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine has lost one out of its 95 member parliamentary group to the UNP since the President sacked Wickremesinghe as the PM on Oct 26. Sources said that seven SLMC MPs (six elected/appointed on the UNP ticket and one on the SLMC ticket) were still with the UNP though so far Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, Wasantha Senanayake, Ananda Aluthgamage, Suresh Vadivel, Dunesh Gankanda, S.B. Navinna switched allegiance to the new government. In addition Ven Athureliye Rathana appointed to parliament on the UNP National List has already declared his support for the new administration. The SLMC, too, backed Sirisena at the 2015 presidential polls. (Daily Island, 8.11.2018)

President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament last night. The President’s Office said the President’s order had been gazetted. A general election is likely to be held in early January, 2019, according to sources.
On Oct. 26, President Sirisena prorogued Parliament till Nov. 16, after pulling out of the national unity government and swearing in former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Subsequently, the President decided to reconvene Parliament on Nov. 14. The UNP refused to accept the formation of the new government, and ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been occupying Temple Trees in protest. The Sirisena-Rajapaksa government came under heavy international pressure to reconvene Parliament and go for a vote to decide who commands the confidence of the House. Several ministers were sworn in before President Sirisena yesterday evening, triggering speculation that Parliament would be dissolved. The UNP has said the President is without powers under the 19th Amendment to dissolve Parliament until it has completed four and a half years in office. The official position of the UNP on the dissolution of Parliament was not known at the time of going to press.
JVP MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa told The Island last night that his party would forge a broad alliance consisting of progressive political forces and intellectuals to contest the general election. (Daily Island, 10.11.2018)

A wild elephant trying to cross the railway line at Tekkawatte between Galgamuwa and Ambanpola succumbed to injuries after being knocked down by the Matara bound express train on Thursday evening. The elephant had died two hours after the accident, Wildlife officials said. Earlier two wild elephants were killed two kilometres away from the spot after they were knocked down by a Batticaloa bound train from Colombo. The postmortem conducted by North Western Province Chief Veterinary Surgeon Dr. H.K. Isuru revealed the elephant had died due to injuries caused to its trunk and the body and excessive bleeding. (Daily Island, 10.11.2018)

A wild elephant trying to cross the railway line at Tekkawatte between Galgamuwa and Ambanpola succumbed to injuries after being knocked down by the Matara bound express train on Thursday evening. The elephant had died two hours after the accident, Wildlife officials said. Earlier two wild elephants were killed two kilometres away from the spot after they were knocked down by a Batticaloa bound train from Colombo. The postmortem conducted by North Western Province Chief Veterinary Surgeon Dr. H.K. Isuru revealed the elephant had died due to injuries caused to its trunk and the body and excessive bleeding. (Daily Island, 10.11.2018)

Sri Lanka’s largest single party Saturday said it will mount a legal challenge against “tyrant” President Maithripala Sirisena’s shock sacking of the legislature. “We will go to the courts,” Mangala Samaraweera from the United National Party (UNP) told reporters in Colombo. “We will fight in the courts, we will fight in parliament and we will fight at the polls.” Samaraweera said his party had supported Sirisena to come to power in January 2015, hoping he would be a benevolent leader like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, but that he had shown himself to be a “tyrant.” “He (Sirisena) came to power promising to be a Mandela, but we ended up getting a Mugabe, a mad man,” Samaraweera said, referring to Zimbabwe’s strongman former president Robert Mugabe. He said the UNP along with its allies had an absolute majority in the 225-member assembly and despite the sacking of the assembly, the party would publicly demonstrate its majority to the people. “We will demonstrate to the public of Sri Lanka our majority. Maithripala Sirisena dissolved a parliament where we enjoyed a majority,” he said.”We will fight the emerging tyranny of Sirisena. We will fight it in the courts, fight it in parliament and we are also ready to fight against this tyranny at the polls. “We are on the right side of democracy, we are sure we can win this battle,” he added. He said Sirisena had “kicked the constitution in the teeth” when he dismissed the assembly after failing to muster a majority to legitimise his replacement prime minister Mahinda Rajapakse after a two-week stand off. (Daily Island, 11.11.2018.

The Supreme Court yesterday issued an interim order suspending, till Dec. 07, President Maithripala Sirisena’s gazette notification dissolving Parliament and calling a general electioni and granted leave to proceed with all the fundamental rights violation petitions filed against the recent dissolution of Parliament. At the outset Attorney General, Jayantha Jayasuriya President’s Counsel told the Supreme Court that Article 33/2/C of the Constitution empowered the President to exercise his executive powers, to prorogue, dissolve or summon Parliament and Article 70/1, explained the procedure he was bound to follow, in dissolving Parliament and fixing the dates for the nomination and the election. The incumbent President had followed the constitutional provisions in dissolving the Parliament and fixing a date for the election, the AG maintained. The aforesaid provisions had been endorsed even after the introduction of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 62(2) of the Constitution empowered the President to dissolve Parliament. In the 1978 Constitution, the executive presidency was introduced instead of a ceremonial one. At present the executive presidency was in effect. The Attorney General had been made the respondent in the twelve fundamental rights violation petitions filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the recent dissolution of the parliament by the President. The Attorney General requested the Court to dismiss the petitions as baseless. Seventeen intervention petitions were filed. Some supported the petitions while the others, opposed the petitions and said that the President had the power to dissolve Parliament. Prof. G. L. Peris, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna and Sanjeewa Jayawardena, PC filed two interventions which said that the President had the power to dissolve Parliament. Sanjeewa Jayawardena, PC and Manohara de Silva, PC both held the view that the President had the power to dissolve Parliament. The bench comprised the Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Justice Priyantha Jayawardane and Justice Prasanna Jayawardena. (Daily Island, 14.11.2018)

Ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said that he had mustered the support of 122 MPs to prove the ‘purported government’ did not have the required numbers in the House. “A no-confidence motion has been passed in Parliament. The Speaker officially announced the passage of the motion; 122 MPs have signed it, stating that they have no faith in this purported government,” Wickremesinghe said so, addressing the media at the Parliamentary complex. “If anyone doubts our majority, he can move a motion or resolution in parliament tomorrow against us or the motion we have passed today. It is now clear the purported government and its ministers are not legal anymore. We call on all public officials not to follow the orders given by the illegal ministers because carrying out their orders would be illegal. “I thank the Speaker and all political parties who helped us to ensure the restoration of democracy. “When a motion of stepping out of Standing Orders was passed, the House could be moved for a vote by the Speaker not adhering to the Standing Orders. It is a provision in the Constitution and parliament privileges. If someone says that it is illegal then it will be against the parliamentary privileges. After the motion of no confidence was presented the Speaker was asked to move the House for a division by name. The House was moved for the vote and as there was lot of shouting the Speaker decided to take it by a voice vote. The motion was declared passed. As there could be some doubts of the numbers, 122 MPs went to the Speaker’s office and signed the motion so that there will be no problem with regard to the numbers.” (Daily Island, 15.11.2018)

Sri Lanka’s rice harvest in 2018 minor agricultural season (Yala) is estimated to have grown 55 percent to 1.413 million metric tonnes with rains returning, driving up annual production by 82 percent to 4.3 million tonnes, official data showed. The Yala harvest is recovering from a slump to 909,000 metric tonnes in 2017 amid a record drought, from 1.517 million tonnes in 2016. The Yala 2018 harvest is only 3.0 percent below the three year average, the state agricultural office said. The Maha 2018 major agricultural season saw rice output recovering to 62 percent to 2.397 million metric tonnes, it said. Total rice production for 2018 is estimated at 4,350 million metric tonnes, up 82 percent from a year earlier. (Sunday Island, 25.11.2018)

Fisticuffs, hurling of projectiles, bloodletting and foul language were the order of the day in parliament yesterday, further aggravating the political crisis engulfing the country. A brawl erupted soon after the Opposition called for a vote on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’ special statement. Following the speech, UNP Kandy district MP Lakshman Kiriella called for a division on the speech. Speaker Jayasuriya said he could not decide on the matter and announced that he would let the House decide. Government MPs invaded the well of Parliament, condemning the Speaker. Sergeant-at-arms Narendra Fernando rushed to the Chair and took the Mace away. Opposition MPs ran to the Chair and blocked the government MPs from coming near the Speaker and in the melee some exchanged blows. MP Dilum Amunugama’s hand was injured. He was taken to hospital. Dustbins, files and water bottles were hurled at the chair by angry MPs, but the Speaker was not hurt. JVP and TNA MPs were seen watching the pandemonium. The House met with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya presiding and as he assumed his Chair the UPFA MPs booed him. The Speaker reacted with a “Thank you” and reminded all the MPs to act with restraint. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed the PM’s seat while former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe chose to sit in a back row of the Opposition. At the outset, the Speaker announced that he would not recognize any MP as the Prime Minister, Minister, State or Deputy Minister, Chief Government Whip or Leader of the House as the Cabinet of Ministers stood dissolved in view of the No-Confidence Motion on Wednesday. “A new Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers have not been appointed. There is free seating for the convenience of business of the House today,” he said. “I also remind you that according to the Standing Orders, the final decision on all Parliamentary affairs lies with the Speaker. Such decision can only be challenged inside the Chamber,” Jayasuriya added. Chief Government Whip Minister Dinesh Gunawardena interrupting the Speaker’s speech said that he should first read President Maithripala Sirisena’s letter which said that the President did not accept the no-faith motion. The Speaker replied that he would read it aloud with the reply he had sent to the President. As PM Rajapaksa concluded his speech, MP Kiriella moved a motion which said that the House had no confidence in the statement made by Rajapaksa and called for a division by name for it. As the Speaker let the House decide as to whether there would be a vote on it, the UPFA MPs started protesting. MP Thilanga Sumathipala hurriedly went near the Speaker’s Chair and a heated argument ensued Sumathipala was followed by a group of UPFA MPs and in no time the Speaker was under siege. UNP MPs Ranjan Ramanayake, Kavinda Jayawardena, Kabir Hashim, Hector Appuhamy, Asoka Abeysinghe and Mangala Samaraweera also rushed near the Speaker’s Chair. MPs exchanged blows near the Speaker’s Chair while Sergeant-at-Arms Narendra Fernando held the Mace in his hand to prevent the MPs from grabbing it. A water bottle, a dustbin, a copy of the Constitution were among the items hurled at the Speaker by the UPFA MPs. Amidst the free-for-all in the House, MPs Prasanna Ranaweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Harin Fernando and Naveen Dissanayake were seen exchanging blows. Caught up in the melee, MP Sidney Jayaratne and a few others fell on the floor. Some senior MPs of the both sides including Patali Champika Ranawaka, Vijith Vijithamuni de Zoysa and Sajith Premadasa were seen trying to separate the clashing MPs. PM Rajapaksa and former PM Wickremesinghe were seen seated throughout the fracas. MPs Ananda Aluthgamage, Prasanna Ranaweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Piyal Nishantha, Udaya Padmashantha and Palitha Thewarapperuma were seen behaving aggressively. The Speaker left the Chair. The party leaders, who met after the adjournment of the House, decided to have the next sitting at 1.30pm today. (Daily Island, 16.11.2018)

Yesterday’s parliamentary proceedings disrupted by the governing Joint Opposition (JO) due to the failure of party leaders to reach a consensus on the agenda despite an understanding by major political parties on Thursday as regards resumption of parliamentary sittings. President Maithripala Sirisena met senior representatives of the UNP, the TNA, the JVP et al and Prime Minister Rajapaksa separately. President Sirisena called for a vote on a fresh no-confidence motion (NCM) on PM Rajapaksa in a proper manner. He wanted an amended version of the motion, presented last Wednesday (Nov 14), to be submitted. But, the Opposition sought again to take a vote on the original NCM after having suspended Standing Orders in an exercise similar to the last Wednesday’s. JO Puttalam District MP Arundika Fernando sat on Speaker Karu Jayasuriya Chair before the commencement of the sittings. Surrounded by JO colleagues, Fernando taunted UNP and JVP members for over 30 minutes. Around 2.05 pm, Jayasuriya, surrounded by a group of unarmed police personnel made an abortive bid to reach the Speaker’s chair. The Sergeant-at-arms Narendra Mihindukumar Fernando, carrying the mace, followed the Speaker. However, JO lawmakers thwarted their attempt while the Speaker’s chair was taken away. An MP also grabbed a chair that was being used as an improvised shield by a police officer. JO members threw books and various other objects at Jayasuriya, his police guard as well as UNP, JVP and TNA members who remained seated and refrained from responding to the JO challenge. During yesterday’s incidents in parliament, President Sirisena’s Office issued a statement that the parliament wouldn’t be prorogued under any circumstances. A JO MP threw some liquid which Opposition MP Gamini Jayawickrena Perera (UNP) and Vijitha Herath alleged contained chillie powder. Earlier in the day, the party leaders failed to reach a consensus on the agenda in the wake of Speaker Jajasuriya not heeding government representatives’ call for tangible action against those MPs who had brought into the chamber what JO members called sharp objects.

Having failed to evict the JO group from the Speaker’s podium, Jayasuriya conducted called for vote on fresh NCM and declared it was passed by voice vote. Last Wednesday’s vote too was passed by voice vote according to the Speaker. The Sergeant at Arms carrying the mace stood next to the Speaker surrounded by police officers. Immediately after UNP, JVP, TNA MPs raised their hands to approve the fresh NCM; the Speaker left the chamber, while JO lawmakers threw various objects at them. The police refrained from responding to MPs throughout the confrontation. The parliament was adjourned till 10 am on Nov 19. Following the conclusion of day’s short proceedings, JVP MP Vijitha Herath alleged that the JO deliberately caused the disruption to prevent seven among its group voting for the NCM. Herath said that he was doused with water containing chillie powder and hit with a copy of the Constitution. The JVP group in parliament consists of six members. Addressing the media later, TNA Chief R. Sampanthan insisted that PM Rajapaksa should have proven his majority in parliament without causing chaos. Trincomalee District MP Sampanthan said that President Sirisena named Mahinda Rajapaksa PM as he believed Rajapaksa had the majority in parliament. The veteran politician said that Rajapaksa should have faced the NCM. The TNA parliamentary group comprises 15 in the wake of one lawmaker pledging allegiance to Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine. Both the TNA and JVP have pledged support to the UNP parliamentary group comprising106, including the Speaker plus one who contested on the SLMC ticket. (Daily Island, 17.11.2018)

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has informed President Maithripala Sirisena that a fresh vote of no-confidence on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the government was passed by Parliament yesterday. The Speaker said that a vote was taken for the second time in three days, after President Sirisena had told him and leaders of the United National Front, TNA and JVP during a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday night to follow proper procedure in moving the no-faith motion against Premier Rajapaksa and the government. (Daily Island, 17.11.2018)

The United National Party (UNP), Tamil National Alliance (TNA), and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) joined forces once again to show that parliamentarians supporting MP Mahinda Rajapaksa do not command a majority in the House when the Selection Committee membership was taken up for vote yesterday. As a result of the group backing Rajapaksa staging a walking out as the vote was called, their votes were not recorded. However, the UNP, TNA and JVP together with other constituent parties managed to show 121 votes. This resulted in the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) being given five slots and the UNP five, as well as one position each for the TNA and the JVP in the Selection Committee. Sessions began with Speaker Karu Jayasuriya explaining to the House the reasoning behind his decision to allocate an equal number of seats to both the UPFA and the UNP. Unable to reach a final verdict at the party leaders’ meeting held in the morning, Speaker Jayasuriya proposed to include lawmakers Lakshman Kirella, Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen, Mano Ganesan and Patali Champika Ranawaka from the United National party (UNP); MP Mawei Senathiraja from the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK); and MP Vijitha Herath from the JVP following the provisions of Standing Orders 136 and 143. With the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) lawmakers boycotting, the vote was taken by name using the electronic system and received 121 in favour of the appointment. “The party leaders were unable to reach an agreement in nominating MPs to the Committee of Selection. According to the Standing Orders of Parliament, 12 MPs should be appointed with my leadership to the Committee of Selection. In the absence of an agreement between the party leaders in appointing the members to the Committee of Selection, I will seek House approval to appoint MPs on par with the provisions of Standing Orders 136 and 143,” he said, setting the stage to go for the vote and to confirm the appointment of United People’s Freedom Alliance UPFA MPs Dinesh Gunawardena, S.B. Dissanayake, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Wimal Weerawansa. Lawmakers Thilanga Sumathipala and Udaya Gammanpila were unable to receive appointments.Rejecting the Speaker’s move to present additional names to the Committee of Selection and reducing the UPFA nominations, UPFA MP Dinesh Gunawardena now seated on the Government benches held that the Speaker had no right to challenge a decision of the Executive President and should accept changes in the new Government. “Every Parliament in the past allowed the political party with the highest majority to appoint the maximum number of MPs to Committees of Selection. The UPFA has the majority in this Parliament. On the other hand, the President has appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and his Government, which is now in full control of the country and its business. The party the Prime Minister represents will get the majority in the Committee of Selection. This has been the tradition. We will not accept your wrong decision highlighting that there is no government in the country,” said MP Gunawardena. The political party composition of the eighth Parliament at the commencement stood to include 106 MPs from the United National Party (UNP), 95 from the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), 16 MPs from the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK), six MPs from the People’s Liberation Front (JVP), and one member each from the Eelam People’s Democratic Party and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. (Daily Financial Times, 24.11.2018)

Rūkada Nātya, the traditional string puppet drama of Sri Lanka, has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity yesterday at the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage yesterday in Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius.
UNESCO New Delhi Director Eric Falt reacted to the decision saying: “I offer warm congratulations to the Government of Sri Lanka and all the stakeholders involved in preparing the nomination dossier for this inscription. This is Sri Lanka’s first-ever element on the intangible list of UNESCO and I am sure there will be more, given the country’s rich cultural heritage”.Rūkada Nātya is a string puppet drama traditionally connected to those of the Gamwari lineage in the Southern coastal part of Sri Lanka. It is also performed by puppet groups who have learnt the art from the Gamwari masters. By inscribing it on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Intergovernmental Committee wished to recognise the significance of this living performative tradition to transmit this knowledge to new generations, since themes are drawn from folktales, Buddhist stories, ancient literature, historical narratives, as well as anecdotes from contemporary life. It further recognised that this cultural element is valuable for creating a vibrant community life and encouraging social bonds, since performances are open to all and held at public spaces primarily during festive seasons. UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage aims at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, including through identification, documentation, promotion, transmission, and revitalisation of such heritage. (Daily Financial Times, 30.11.2018)

 

 

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