Sri Lanka Guardian Essays

Concept of state formation and contemporary policy issues in Sri Lanka

The starting point of the analysis in this short article is to question theconventional approach to studying a state.The conventional approach treatsthe state as a concrete, self-contained entity that has attained a final status.Much of the effort to promote goals such as economic growth, social development and democracyis based on a notion that states have been formed, and now the task is to focus on promoting these objectives.

In contrast,this article looks at states as products of historical processes, like any other social phenomena. Therefore, state formation is the more relevant term to use in studying a state.They are formed under certain specific historical conditions. They continuously undergo changes, and under certain circumstances can even totally disappear. A cursory glance at the history of the world will show this.

In addition, state formation always takes place in a global context, consisting of a system of states and global capitalism.The global system changes over time – this in turn has an impact on the state formation process of individual states. Changes in the global system are determined by actions of the more powerful players in the international system. While the capacity of smaller states to influence changes at the global level is limited, these changes have an impact on smaller states.

The earliest efforts within the Marxist tradition explained the state as a product of capitalist development. This economic reductionism was replaced by a notion of the relative autonomy of the state. This has developed further to distinguish between the logic of capital and the logic of state power. Now there are many more studies within the Marxist tradition that focuson the autonomous power of the state.

Individual states can be seen as strategic spaces. They have a degree of autonomy from other societal processesand cannot be understood by reducing them to any other feature in society. State formation involves developing mechanisms to control territory and to manage state-society relations. This takes place in a specific historical context, where certain state-society relations become more strategic in the state formation process. These strategic state-society relations can be managed either through coercion or consent. When consent overrides coercion in this process, we have states that have legitimacy in society. These states are strong. When coercion predominates, state security is given priority– but it undermines the security of individuals and groups in society.These are weak states.

A state needs resources to sustain itself and manage strategically important state-society relations. These constitute the economic security of the state.The resources for this have to be secured within global capitalism. The liberal answer to this is to promote markets and openness to global capitalism. Other ideological currents focus on various forms of state capitalism supported by ideologies of mercantilism and economic nationalism. But managing relations with global capitalism to achieve the economic security of the state is an on-going process. This means there is no guarantee that one can achieve a final status of economic security of the state. 

When a state has enough resources to manage strategic state-society relationsthrough specific policies and is able to meet other critical needs,we have a strong state. When this fails the state resorts to coercive measures, and this affects the pattern of state expenditure and the state becomes weaker.

In the post-colonial state formation of Sri Lanka there have been three strategic state-society relations. These are the relations between a centralised state and ethnic minorities; electoral politics and the political system and how they managed state- society relations; and relations between the state and the Sinhala majority in the context of the politics of capitalist transition. All three strategic state-society relations have resulted in conflicts in the post-colonial state formation of Sri Lanka

The foundation for all three were laid during British colonialism. This does not mean we can blame colonialism for all that happened during 75 years of post-colonialism. But an understanding of the colonial foundation is helpful, especially to realise how certain ideas about state formation that began during the colonial period still prevailand hamper the formation of a more legitimate state.

The period of British colonialism was an important turning pointin the history of Sri Lankan state formation. There were various forms of territorial control in the island before the British took over the island. When the British captured the Kandyan kingdom in 1815, the territory came under a single polity for the first time in several centuries. This allowed the construction of a state that formed the foundation of the post-colonial state.

The institutional structure,or what is popularly called the administrative structure, is the means by which the state controls its territory and people. It ensures political decisions made at the centre are implemented throughout the territory. The boundaries drawn to form the institutional structure are used to administer the territory. This institutional structure gets strengthened through a judicial system, structures to collect revenue, and coercive mechanisms to consolidate state power over the territory. These are major steps in the reorganisation of geographical space in state formation.

The British amalgamated the Maritime Provinces and the Kandyan kingdom in 1818. Further reorganisation of the territorial space to establish the new state took place through the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Commission in 1833. A new system of spatial identities replaced what prevailed before the British took over control of the land.Spatial units were named using the points of a compass. The concepts of modern cartography became an instrument of colonialismand were used to get rid of the spatial identities in the Kandyan kingdom.

In addition to establishing the institutional power of the state, state formation involves collecting information about the population. This is also a part of the technique of state formation to control territory and manage the population. A periodic census is the foundation for this.The division of the population into identity groups is a critical aspect of the census. At the level of society identities change over time – they are historical constructs. It is not unusual for individuals or groups of individuals to have multiple identities. But when a mechanism of state formation converts these fluid categories in society into divisions that the state recognises, they not only become rigid and static, but also begin to play a role in political struggles to control the state. Race was the term first used to identify these divisions of the population. This was replaced by ethnicity, and it became a major category in the post-colonial state formation of Sri Lanka.In addition, these techniques of state formation began to identify a particular geographic space with a particular ethnic group.

A central contradiction of these techniques of state formation was that on one of the techniques created a centralised state that controlled the entire territory. But on the other side another technique not only gave a new meaning to ethnic identities, but also identified territorial units within the territory with different ethnic groups.A single identity, which was called a national identity, was supposed to transcend these contradictions. A centrally controlled state with a single national identity was a transfer of a European idea of state formation to Sri Lanka. However, the formation of this single national identity was not successful. What happened was that the identity of the Sinhala Buddhists becoming the national identity.

The notion of a state with a single identity still dominates our political discussions of state formation as if this is the only way to build a state. Questioning this fundamental assumption is an essential conditionin building a more legitimate state in a society with multiple identities.

Using elections to choose the political elite who control the state was established during British colonialism. The territorial system of electorates was preferred. This added another territorial dimension in state formation. When it came to a voting system, the first-past-the-post system of elections was chosen. The regime that came to power in 1977 replaced this with a proportional system of elections. Areas with the Sinhala majority had more influence in choosing who came to power in both electoral systems.

The very first act of defining the citizenship of the post-colonial state disenfranchised the bulk of the Indian Tamil population. According to the 1946 census they formed the numerically largest minority ethnic group. With this step it was clear that ethnicity would be a major factor in electoral politics and the political system. Such a political system could never contribute to transcending ethnic divisions socially or spatially. Research in other parts of the worldwith a long record of continuous voting, such as Western Europe, shows that electoral politics and political systems are an important factor in constructing a national political space. This never happened in Sri Lankan state formation.Instead, electoral politics and the political system produced regional political spaces with ethnic characteristics. Therefore, it is more apt to discuss election results in Sri Lanka by dividing it into ethnic political spaces rather than treating the state as a unified entity.

Even now the discussions on electoral reformdo not question these fundamentals of the electoral system that contributed to the failure of state formation. The liberal idea that society is a collection of individuals who are given a free vote still dominates. The essentialist categorisation that Sri Lanka is a democracyalso makes it difficult to undertake a historically informed discussion. Sri Lankahad democratic institutions.But politics, which focuses on how power is managed in society,has been far from democratic and peaceful.Some even forget that Sri Lanka did not have universal franchise for a long time after the bulk of the Indian Tamils were disenfranchised.  There is a need to get over these assumptions so as tobegin a discussion on electoral and democratic reforms to build a more legitimate state.

The third important strategic variable in state-society relations are relations between the state and the Sinhala majority in the context of the politics of capitalist transition.Capitalist transition within a state is a process that involves changing institutions or the ‘rules of the game’, so that markets become the primary mechanism for resource allocation. These changes must be legitimised at an ideological level. When institutions to establish markets are successful, they become ideas that seem to be natural and common sense – thereby creating a hegemony. The establishment of the hegemony of markets is not a technocratic process, but a political process. Conflicts and struggles are always a part of this. The process of capitalist transition takes place in a particular society with its own history. This means that capitalism is not some sort of model. It is shaped by political struggles and historical processes in a particular context. Finally, it takes place within global capitalism.

British colonialism was a period when there was an intensive process of capitalist transition. Political unification of the territory facilitated the expansion of colonial capitalism. This was the third process that reorganised space during British colonialism. The plantation economy that developed during British colonialism was not confined to the central part of the country, as sometimes believed. The tea industry transformed the bulk of the highlands, parts of Sabaragamuwa, and the districts of Galle and Matara. Rubber and coconut encompassed the south-west quadrant of the country. What came to be known as minor export crops were in many parts of the island.

Data in the 1946 census demonstrates several important spatial outcomes of plantation capitalism. In 1946 districts that at present constitute the Western Province, Sabaragamuwa Province, and Galle, Matara, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Kurunegala and Badulla Districts accounted for 95.1 per cent of tea acreage, 92.4 per cent of rubber acreage, and 81.2 per cent of coconut acreage. These areas also accounted for 81.2 per cent of the population. This means that at the time of independence the bulk of the population was linked to the export-oriented plantation economy. People were involved in diverse ways of earning a living such as agriculture, selling their labour, trading, fishing, etc. The notion of characterising Sri Lankaprimarily as an agrarian society was an idea that emerged later. This was supported by the dual economy thesis, Sinhala nationalism and research that focused primarily in Kandyan areas. The picture was very different in the entire wet zone where the bulk of the population lived.  

The socio-economic impact of capitalism is always unequal. Some sections of the Sinhala majority benefitted more than others from capitalist transition. In other words, although the Sinhalese were unified in ethnic terms, they were divided in class terms. In a state where the state was identified with the Sinhala majority, and a political system where the Sinhala majority were the deciding factor in who came to power through elections, the political elite who controlled the state could not ignore the distribution of unequal benefits through capitalist transition. The inequality generated by capitalist transition within the Sinhala majority could always combine with the Sinhala nationalism that legitimised the state to oppose the regime in power. The opposition to regimes could also turn into opposition to capitalism, and a general opposition to the state itself.

In order to meet this challenge, the post-colonial state developed a number of policies.

The particular spatial distribution of the population at the end of the colonial period and the impact of economic recession in the 1930s had a lot to do with specific policies that were developed. These are what are usually called ‘welfare’ policies. The use of the term welfare ignores their strategic role as a technique of state formation. This makes it easier to argue that these policies are luxuries we cannot afford.

The ability of the state to continue with these policies depends on the performance of the Sri Lankan economy within global capitalism.  Economic policies that managed relations with global capitalism varied depending on the ideological orientation of the regime in power. While one section of the political elite preferred policies that gave prominence to the private sector, markets and openness to global capitalism, another section depended to a greater degree on the state playing a bigger role in the economy. This was backed by various ideologies including economic nationalism.  

In post-colonial history there were several instances when the strategies of managing relations with the Sinhala majority in a context of capitalist transition broke down. This resulted in protests, sometimes violent challenges to the state, and state repression. We have just witnessed the latest episode of such a breakdown with familiar outcomes.This is an area that demands a new discussion on social policy with a focus on inequality.

To end this short contribution, I would like to emphasise that looking at the state as an entity that is being formed helps to identifying strategic state-society relations in state formation. This process in turn provides a framework for a more comprehensive approach for discussing policy issues that Sri Lanka is facing today.

Tawheed the essence of Islam, Terrorism essence of the wicked, incorrigible devil

Four years have passed since the calamitous Easter Sunday explosion that took place in April of 2019. A bloody incident that devoured the lives of 270 innocent, unsuspecting people, scores injured some recuperating to this very day. One of the many dark days this small island nation had endured in its brief chequered history.  

Sri Lanka considered the pearl of the Indian Ocean, finding its waters muddied, dirtied and constantly facing turbulence. Its pearls removed and stashed in healthier and more secure waters, its people rendered impecunious by a bunch of charlatans not fit to even to run a bulath-kade leave alone a country, its minority made pawns for political ascendancy of a select few, finally its youth in a state of constant frustration, agitation and dissatisfaction, perfect fodder for violence, disorder and even terrorism.

On that fateful day in April 2019 secularly educated Muslim youth sans any worthwhile religious credentials coaxed by their guru decided to propel themselves to Al Jannah (Paradise) and enjoy its multiple bliss before their due time. This is where the malaise lies, misguided youth with ignorance written all over them, youth who disconnected themselves from the major scholars instead salivated behind imposters and criminals in search of beneficial knowledge. They resorted to violence and they perished.

The noble scholar of Islam Sa’lih al-Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said “I believe that there is no excuse for one who commits this during our time because it is an ill-famed, modern-day form of suicide that’s become widespread among people. As such, it is incumbent upon every person to ask the people of knowledge regarding such acts so that correct guidance may be distinguished from sin. It is amazing that these people even kill themselves (along with others) when Allah has clearly forbidden that, saying: “And do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is merciful to you all”. [Al Quran 4:29]

At the outset this writer wishes to express his sincere gratitude to his Lord Almighty (Allah) for not having being tried with misguidance and ignorance. Instead being conferred with opportunities to learn this precious religion from major scholars and their students, those firmly grounded upon the manifest Haqq (Truth).

Knowledge essentially vanquishes ignorance. Why am I even mentioning this? The one well aware of his religion will not even get remotely involved in any kind of murderous pursuits as witnessed on that fateful day.

Another victim of this bloody day though not officially acknowledged by mainstream media but extensively demonized and disparaged was the pure, pristine creed of the Muslims i.e. Tawheed – this is the very foundation of Islam. Tawheed met its harshest challenge in the soils of Sri Lanka, its own observers and followers acted contrary to its true tenets.

There is no Islam without Tawheed and there is no Tawheed without Islam. This fundamentally underlines the importance of this significant area of Knowledge. Almighty God (Allah) taught his final Messenger (peace be upon him) in Makkah for thirteen long years, nothing but Tawheed was taught in these formative years. And today we see foolish youth destroy it in just one day.

A bunch of untaught, completely misguided terrorists misappropriating this sacrosanct term Muslims from the earliest time of Islam paid special devotion to. The media went on a spree to savagely tarnish this creedal nomenclature. It was a Jamaath (congregation or group) who had initiated and orchestrated this project with substantial help from various quarters. This had become patently clear from evidence that had surfaced thus far. The bottom-line is that the religion of Islam and its core belief suffered a huge dent. These kinds of incidents necessarily cause a lot of pain to the scholarly community wherever it takes place.

Tawheed (the creed of  Absolute Islamic Monotheism, singling out Allah alone in all worship). A deluded, disillusioned and depraved extremist group arrogates a pernicious methodology and unleashes terror on an unsuspecting populace. Terrorism constitutes the very antithesis of Tawheed. Height of ignorance that reeks to high heavens.

Tawheed a term essentially integral to Islam and all its prophets, namely Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon all of them). A term loved and observed with endless devotion and invocation by approximately two billion faithful. A term for which God Almighty (Allah) created the seven heavens, the seven earths and everything within it. 

Tawheed a term amongst many which terrorists and extremists have misused, abused and misquoted sans proper knowledge, proper concern, proper insight, proper understanding or wisdom.

Tawheed a term amongst many with which extremists deceive, distort and debase and prey on the innocent and unsuspecting. 

The greatest of all that Allah commanded upon all His creation is Tawheed.  And what is Tawheed? It is that you affirm that Allah is The Creator, The Provider, The Giver of life, The Giver of death etc.Tawheedis to single out Allah with worship, because Allah said: “And I did not create the Jinn and Mankind except to worship Me. [Al Quran 51:56]. And the scholars of tafseer said: Worship Me – is to single out Allah (with all worship).

The concept of Tawheed is divine but attaching a Jamaath (group or congregation)  is a religious innovation. The Scholars of Islam have promulgated its meaning in the clearest of ways. Suffixing a group to a core belief necessarily superfluous, not a practice of the early Muslims. 

Violent groups call themselves many things either oblivious or ignorant to real consequences. When a Christian group calls itself Lord’s Army, the two have to be separated to preserve the essence and textual purity of the spirit of the scripture. When another group calls itself the Buddhist Force, the same has to be done. All of these groups in almost all the cases made political pawns. Same way Tawheed and Jamaath have to be separated. If this is not understood the religion and their faithful will be placed in the crossfire.

The intelligence community of Sri Lanka if necessary other communities of the world must note down the following facts about misguided Muslim youth gravitating towards violence and terrorism, this is rooted in a specific prophecy of the final Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) sent to all mankind before the hour.

The companion  Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (peace and blessings be upon him), said, “In the last days, there will appear young people with foolish dreams. They will say the best of words, but they will go out of Islam just as an arrow goes through its game. Their faith will not go beyond their throats.”Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4770, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1066. Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi (authenticity agreed upon) according to Al-Bukhari and Muslim

Words uttered over 1400 years ago and realized with immaculate precision. Muslims truly perplexed and struggling to understand how people can murder in the Name of their Lord. It is easy to say that these are crazy people, or had a troubled upbringing or paid by others to do this to make Muslims in general look bad or be a catalyst for imperial invasion of lands populated primarily by Muslims, or using such malleable youth to further political, economic goals of individuals (candidates aspiring for political office blaming a vulnerable section) and vested groups or people pretending to be Muslim to make us look bad. 

The reality is that those of us who study the sacred text know that these sinful, corrupt, murdering renegades are found, within our societies and communities. Their emerging pattern and behavior was witnessed by the  noble Prophet (peace be upon him) and their offshoots and variants were pursued and fought after by his companions. This

 is a murderous ideology that masquerades as sincere love for Islam, Islamic leadership and sympathy to everything Islamic. However, when you listen to the rhetoric and cut through the calls to emotional reactionism you see it as being perverted and a misconstrued understanding of Islam and its maqasid (objectives). They speak a word that resembles the truth but intend by it falsehood.

Here are some of the signs that are clearly visible to those who know the danger signs. Following are some of the signs of extremists collected from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the warnings of his companions.

They will be young in age. The companion Ali Ibn Abee Thalib said I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying, “In the last days (of the world) there will appear young people with foolish thoughts and ideas.” (Al-Bukhari 5057). This may seem arbitrary. Rather it is a very important statement. The Kibaar (Major/Elder Scholars) are the noble conveyors of knowledge and they say: When you see a group of people huddled around young individuals with little positions of trust, responsibility and life experience then know that if they agree on something that others around them far and wide dispute, then these foolish youngsters are to be turned away from. Although they may sound eloquent and sincere, their understanding is immature and baseless.

When scholars, from all sections of the Islamic World, condemn an action, then that is the truth of the matter and you fall in line and turn away from the youngsters. If you have major scholars from every corner of the world denouncing criminality and the renegades, then the few youthful voices are to be ignored. That is the way of the main stream of Muslims – Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah.

Angry and foolish. The Prophet (peace be upon him)  described their demeanor as harsh, volatile and prone to impudence. They speak before thinking, contradict without prior learning and assume the understanding they have is singularly the truth and those who oppose it, by necessity, must follow them or their way to find salvation.
It is a hallmark of extremism that the cause they champion is just, but their anger over it is beyond the limits of the law and morality. It is for this reason that the killing of 12 people for example can be seemingly be justified by their anger over the ridicule of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which we all are angered by. However our anger is channeled in legitimate means, not murder. So anger and hasty foolish action underpinned by immaturity become a consistent trait in them.


Misinterpretation of the Quran. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “They will recite Quran but it will not go any further than their throats.” (Muslim 1066). And he the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The will recite the Book of Allah fluently, but it will not go any further than their throats.” (Muslim 1064). Slogans, chants, etc are all emotional outbursts that do not provide  clarity on what is meant to reside in the heart. The Quran teaches an overwhelming message of Love, fidelity, Compassion and peace. This is all missed by those who focus on one aspect of faithfulness.

Eloquent in speech. The companion  Ali ibn Abee Talib narrated that I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: “There will emerge some people from my Ummah who will recite the Quran, your recitation would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs, and your prayer would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs, and your fasting would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs.” (Muslim 1066).The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There will be people who will speak well but act badly.” (Sahih Abu Dawud, Albani 4765). Its difficult arguing with an extremist. They are passionate and who can deny that the ummah is suffering. They are usually prepared with vague references of incidents to justify atrocity they support. If you condemn a crime they say what about the crimes done to us. If you condemn the killing of innocents, they say what about the drones. All this was witnessed with the killing of the innocent.

Arrogant and boastful. Companion  Anas ibn Malik  narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him)  said to me:“… the people will be amazed by them and they will be proud of themselves, and they will go out of the religion (discard Islam) as an arrow goes out through the game.” (Musnad Ahmad). When they see others struggling to become better Muslims, they are harsh in their condemnation and feel and display a sense of elitism. They feel exclusive and better than others and show it in the way they talk, walk and act. Labeling others with disbelief and hypocrisy is common and easily pronounced, without consequence of what that implies.

Abundant in worship, the companion Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him)  narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to me: “There will be among you a people who will struggle in worship of Allah, … and they will go out of the religion (discard Islam) as an arrow goes out through the game.” (Musnad Ahmad). Ali Ibn Abee Talib  narrated that I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: “There will emerge some people from my Ummah who will recite the Quran, your recitation would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs, and your prayer would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs, and your fasting would seem insignificant in comparison to theirs.” (Muslim 1066).

The fact that these young, immature, foolish people are sincere is not in doubt. They love God (Allah) and have a desire to give victory to faith. They believe in what they are doing. The tragedy is that although they strive harder they do not connect to its true meaning. It remains on the tongue and never touches the heart and woefully violates the methodology. It does not pass their throats. They do not understand the overarching meaning of the text but focus more on the one-liners. This leads them to consistent misinterpretation of the divine text. 

Passing out fatwa’s of disbelief against Muslims and considering their blood as lawful

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “They will kill the Muslims.” (Al-Bukhari 7432).It is truly amazing to see that those who plea love for Islam kill Muslims more than kill others. Bombs in market places, kidnappings, storming schools, shooting those who oppose their methodology. Here are a few of their courageous acts to defend Islam and Muslims. In Yemen, Al Qaidah attacked a hospital killing everyone. In Peshawar, they stormed a school killing 146 children. Bombings of mosques of other sects and arbitrary claiming the disbelief of those who disagree with them. 

Slandering scholars. These groups are notorious for slandering the noble scholars, when you mention ulama / scholars, they are labeled as Scholars for dollars, petro scholars, scholars of fiqh not Jihad…etc. They know very well their own deception and ticks will not work with them hence they spew a lot of adverse adjectives at them. They’re successful most of the time at impressing even convincing ordinary folk but not the scholars.

Who is responsible for this kind of ignorance which leads to extremism amongst Muslim youth not just in Sri Lanka but the world over. Three categories of people can be named. Parents especially the father, extended family and peers and finally the Ulamah / scholars – Jamiyathul Ulamah they are included in this category.

The primary responsibility falls on the parents. When the child reaches the age of seven the child is to be taught the foundations of the religion including Salah (prayer). The foundation includes Tawheed. If one is to break this down it includes the following:

(a) Tawheed ar-Ruboobiyah (Tawheed of Lordship),

(b) Tawheed al-Uloohiyah (Tawheed of Worship),

(c) Tawheed al-Asmaa was Sifat (Tawheed of the Names & Attributes of Allah).

First and foremost parents must commit themselves to acquiring this knowledge themselves before they embark upon teaching it to their children.

The second category is the extended family and peers category. A healthy family is where there is a tradition of knowledge. Where the grandfather is knowledgeable, the father is knowledgeable and so are the children. This is a common phenomenon in the Muslim world, this trend as a resuly permeates within the society until it becomes a norm in the neighborhood and the village.

Finally the indispensable responsibility of the Jamiyathul Ulamah, this cannot be discounted under any circumstance. Also they cannot shun their responsibility. If they are a community of scholars / theologians as the name implies all of them should make it their priority to teach Tawheed to their people, the correct Tawheed, the authentic Tawheed. Engaging in other activities or other businesses is uncalled for and unnecessary. If their own knowledge is lacking they must ensure that they connect with the major scholars of the world and upgrade themselves.

There are no short cuts to this or other alternatives available. Light vanquishes darkness same way knowledge eliminates ignorance.

Views expressed in this essay are the author’s own

‘Russia alone can already confront the entire West…’


The Russian media reported that President Vladimir Putin made an extraordinary gesture as President Xi Jinping left the Kremlin following the state dinner last week on Tuesday evening by escorting him to the limousine and seeing him off. 

And Xi during the goodbye handshake reportedly responded, “Together, we should push forward these changes that have not happened for 100 years. Take care.” 

Xi was alluding to the past 100 years of modern history that witnessed the United States transforming from a country to the north of Mexico  in the Western Hemisphere to a superpower and global hegemon. 

With his profound sense of history and dialectical mind, Xi was recalling the intense talks with Putin that dwelt on the contemporary realities burying the US’ unipolar moment in the dustbin and on the imperatives of China and Russia joining hands to consolidate the transition of the world order toward democratisation and multipolarity. 

It was an appropriate finale to a state visit that began the previous evening with Xi expressing confidence that Russians will support Putin at the presidential elections next year. At one stroke, Xi “cancelled” the West’s demonising of Putin, mindful of the absurdity of even arranging an arrest warrant against the Kremlin leader to detract from his talks in Moscow. 

China has a scrupulous policy of refraining from commenting on the internal politics of other countries. However, in the case of the situation surrounding Russia, Xi has made a notable exception by signalling his keenness for Putin’s proactive leadership in such tumultuous times. The majority of world opinion, especially in the Global South, will agree. 

Won’t the erudite Russian public opinion take cognisance too — with a roar of approval? Yes, Putin’s consistent 80 percent rating is a signpost. Xi may have poured cold water on the last desperate western ploys of instigating a bunch of Russian oligarchs to spearhead a regime change in the Kremlin.  

To be sure, the timing of Xi’s state visit in the middle of the war in Ukraine messaged the highest importance that China attaches to the relations with Russia. There is great deliberation in doing so, as both China and Russia are locked in spiralling tensions vis-a-vis the United States. 

There has been a dramatic change of mood in Beijing. The nadir was reached with the boorish behaviour by President Biden in his State of the Union address on February 7 when he went off-script and hysterically shouted, “Name me a world leader who’d change places with Xi Jinping.” 

In the Eastern culture, such boorishness is taken as unforgivably scandalous behaviour. In the weeks since the US shot down the Chinese weather balloon and maligned China internationally, Beijing has rebuffed several attempts by the White House seeking telephone conversation for Biden with President Xi. 

Beijing has had enough of Biden’s hollow promises to mend ties while on the sly strengthening alliances across the Asia-Pacific region, inserting the NATO into the Asia-Pacific power dynamic and sending additional forces and firepower to places like Guam and the Philippines, apart from single-mindedly striving to weakening China’s economy. 

Xi’s Moscow visit became a great occasion for Russia and China to reaffirm their “no limit” partnership and scatter the western attempts since the war broke out in Ukraine to create rift in the Sino-Russian relationship. 

To quote Professor Graham Allison at Harvard University, “Along every dimension—personal, economic, military and diplomatic—the undeclared alliance that Xi has built with Russian President Vladimir Putin has become much more consequential than most of the United States’ official alliances today.” 

However, alliance or not, the fact remains that this “new model of major-country relations featuring mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” — to quote Xi Jinping — is anything but a hierarchical order. 

America’s pundits have a problem comprehending equal relationships between two sovereign and independent nations. And in this case, neither Russia nor China is inclined to declare a formal alliance because, simply put, an alliance inevitably requires assuming obligations and limiting the optimal pursuit of interests in deference to a collective agenda.

What emerges, therefore, is that Putin’s strategic calculus in Ukraine will be shaped much more heavily by events on the battlefield than on any  Chinese input. Russia’s reaction to the Chinese “peace plan” regarding Ukraine testifies to that reality.

No sooner than Xi departed from Moscow, Putin in an interview with with Russia 1 TV, set the record straight that Russia is outproducing the West’s ammunition supplies to Kiev. He said, “Russia’s output level and its military-industrial complex are developing at a very fast pace, which was unexpected by many.”

While multiple Western countries will provide Ukraine with munitions, “the Russian production sector on its own will produce three times more ammunition for the same period of time,” Putin added. 

He repeated that the West’s arms shipments to Ukraine are of concern to Russia only because they constitute “an attempt to prolong the conflict” and will “only lead to a bigger tragedy and nothing more.” 

However, this is not to belittle the great significance of the partnership for both countries in the political, diplomatic and economic spheres. The salience lies in the two countries’ growing interdependency in multiple directions that cannot be quantified yet and keeps “evolving” (Xi) and appears seamless.

The Ukraine war, paradoxically, is turning out to be a wake-up call — a war that can prevent another world war rather than engender one. China understands that Russia has single-handedly taken on the “collective West” and shown it is more than a match. 

This assessment in Beijing cannot escape the West’s attention and will impact the western thinking too for the medium and long term — not only for Eurasia but also the Asia-Pacific. 

recent article in the Global Times some weeks ago by Hu Xijin, the former editor-in-chief of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee daily highlighted the ‘big picture.’ 

Hu wrote that the war in Ukraine “has evolved into a war of attrition between Russia and the West… While NATO is supposed to be much stronger than Russia, the situation on the ground doesn’t appear so, which is causing anxiety in the West.” 

Hu drew some stunning conclusions: “The US and the West have found it much more difficult than expected to defeat Russia. They know that China has not provided military aid to Russia, and the question that haunts them is: if Russia alone is already so difficult to deal with, what if China really starts to provide military aid to Russia, using its massive industrial capabilities for the Russian military? Would the situation on the Ukrainian battlefield fundamentally change? Furthermore, Russia alone can already confront the entire West in Ukraine. If they really force China and Russia to join hands, what changes will there be in the world’s military situation?” 

Isn’t the notion prevalent in the US and Europe that the Russia-China alliance is an alliance of unequals is itself a self-serving western fallacy? Hu is spot on: Although China’s comprehensive strength is still short of that of the US, in combination with Russia, there is a paradigm shift in the balance and the US is no longer entitled to act as it pleases. 

It is the common concern of Russia and China that the world order must return to an international system with the UN at its core and a world order based on international law. There is no question that the two countries’ strategy is to overturn the “rules-based order” dominated by the US and return to an international order centred on the UN. 

In fact, Article 5 is the very soul of the joint statement issued in Moscow: “The two sides reaffirm their commitment to firmly upholding the international system with the United Nations at its core, the international order based on international law and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and oppose all forms of hegemonism, unilateralism and power politics, the Cold War mentality, confrontation between camps and the establishment of cliques targeting specific countries.” 

Make no mistake that this is not about removing the US as the boss and replacing it with China, but about effectively checking the US from bullying smaller, weaker states, and thereby ushering in a new international order with primacy on peaceful development and political correctness that overrides all ideological differences. 

The Poverty Terminator: Xi Jinping’s Impact on China’s Economic and Social Development


About five months after his election as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi Jinping won his third term as Chinese president at the annual session of the national legislature, which concluded on Monday.

At the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), Xi was also elected chairman of the country’s Central Military Commission. Assuming the top posts in the Party, the state, and the armed forces, Xi is leading the country with 1.4 billion people on a new journey to modernization.

Wrapping up the session, Xi delivered a closely-watched speech to a gathering of nearly 3,000 lawmakers. “The people’s trust is my biggest motivation moving forward and is also a weighty responsibility on my shoulders,” Xi said.

Xi announced that the central task of the entire Party and all Chinese people, from this day forward to the middle of the century, is to build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and advance national rejuvenation on all fronts.

“The relay baton has been passed on to our generation,” he said.

A decade ago, when Xi was first elected Chinese president, he expounded on the “Chinese Dream,” saying the dream is about making the country prosperous and strong, rejuvenating the nation and delivering a happy life to its people.

Modernizing China has been a persistent pursuit of the Chinese since the Opium Wars. Over the course of a century, generations of the Chinese, led by the CPC, have charted a distinctively Chinese path toward that goal.

Born in 1953, Xi started his political career as the Party chief in a small village in northwest China. From there, over the past half century, Xi worked his way up through almost every level of the Party’s hierarchy. He has amassed extensive experience and made noteworthy accomplishments throughout his career.

Xi was first elected to the Party’s top post in late 2012. For the first time, the position was held by a person born after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Since then, he has taken the nation on an ambitious path of revival, according to international media reports. Xi has a clear vision for China, to see it as a powerful country in the world, the reports said.


In 1969, Xi left Beijing for a small village on the Loess Plateau to live as a farmer, sharing the same fate as millions of youths who came of age during the Cultural Revolution.

For someone like Xi who grew up in Beijing, life in the countryside was extremely difficult at the beginning. Villagers often went without meat for several months. Despite the hardships, Xi looked back on this experience as the time when he truly understood the struggles of the common people and society.

This unique experience fueled Xi’s determination to always do something for the betterment of the people.

While many of his college peers opted to go abroad, Xi applied to work in a poor county called Zhengding in Hebei Province in the early 1980s.

In 2012, soon after taking office as the general secretary, Xi visited poor rural families in Hebei. In Gu Chenghu’s home, Xi sat on a heated brick bed and chatted with him.

“I have come here to check your living conditions and see what the Party’s leadership can do more for you and people like you,” Xi said.

He held up Gu’s sleeve and showed it to the officials around him, saying, “Look, his coat is worn out.”

At the time, there were around 100 million rural Chinese living under the poverty line of earning an annual income of 2,300 yuan (about 366 U.S. dollars).

In less than a year, Xi put forward the “targeted poverty alleviation” strategy, and over the span of about eight years sent 255,000 work teams and 3 million cadres to villages, providing one-on-one assistance to impoverished farmers.

Xi himself conducted over 50 inspections and research studies on poverty alleviation, which included visits to all 14 regions with high concentrations of extreme poverty.

On Feb. 25, 2021, Xi announced that absolute poverty had been eliminated in China.

China’s poverty reduction rate has been notably faster than the global average, making it the country with the largest number of people lifted out of poverty worldwide.

“If not for Xi’s personal push, poverty reduction would have been even more difficult and taken longer,” said Zeng Shoufu, who once worked as a village poverty alleviation cadre in Fujian Province.

Another challenge was corruption. Upon taking the Party’s top office in late 2012, Xi cautioned that “if corruption is allowed to spread, it will eventually lead to the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state.”

Less than a month into the job, he fired the first shot in his war against corruption. Over the course of ten years, high-ranking “tigers,” including a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, were taken down.

Over 500 centrally-administered officials, most of whom were at or above the ministerial level, were investigated. Crooked officials who fled overseas were brought back through anti-corruption operations initiated by Xi.

In 2018, he announced that an “overwhelming victory” against corruption had been achieved. But the campaign did not end there. After the 20th CPC National Congress, another nearly 20 senior officials were investigated or punished for corruption.

Early this year, at the plenary session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the top graft-busting agency, Xi urged a crackdown on corruption that involves both political and economic issues. He emphasized the need to prevent leading cadres from becoming spokespersons or agents of interest groups and power cliques.

The success of poverty alleviation and anti-corruption has won Xi popular support, but this is not the only reason he was unanimously elected into the top office of the Party and the state. In the past decade, many long-standing problems in the country were solved under his leadership.

China has steadily developed and become stronger overall, with an average annual economic growth of 6.2 percent over the past decade. It was more than twice the global average. Per capita GDP has doubled to over 12,000 U.S. dollars.

China’s share of the world economy has increased from 11.3 percent in 2012 to 18.5 percent at present. The output of grain has consistently been abundant.

In the past, China’s manufacturing industry was often referred to as “big but not strong.” It took a billion pairs of socks to buy a Boeing plane, some said. Today, China has developed its own large passenger aircraft, and technological advancement contributes over 60 percent to the country’s economic growth.

China’s digital economy is the second-largest in the world, and its new energy vehicle production and sales have ranked first for eight consecutive years.

Shan Zenghai, a technician at the construction machinery manufacturer XCMG, recalled how in 2017, Xi toured the company’s workshop and mounted an all-terrain crane.

“He gave us great encouragement, saying that the real economy should never be sidelined,” Shan said. “He also said the Chinese economy must transition from high-speed growth to high-quality development.”

During a deliberation meeting at this year’s NPC session, Shan sat down with Xi again and informed him that all the components of the crane that Xi once mounted are now manufactured in China.

“Are the chips in your company’s cranes domestically made?” Xi asked.

“Yes. All are made in China,” Shan replied.

In the past ten years, while eliminating absolute poverty, China has built the world’s largest education, social security, and medical and health care systems. China is adopting measures to provide more accessible and continuous medical and healthcare services to farmers. The life expectancy of the average Chinese increased to 78.2 years in 2021, nearly 2 years higher than that of the average American in that year.

Without Xi, China’s ecological environment protection would not have attained historic improvements, observers said. The average concentration of small particles, PM2.5, in the air has decreased for nine consecutive years in major cities, with a cumulative reduction of 57 percent. The once-common occurrence of smog enveloping the skies of northern China has now become rare.

Xi pushed for green development as he tackled pollution across the board. He announced that China aims to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. He also pushed for the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Also thanks to his efforts, China was among the first to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — the world’s largest free trade agreement — and has expanded its free trade pilot zones from one to 21. The entire island of Hainan was turned into a free trade port.

Xi is a strong advocate of the spirit of self-reliance and self-improvement. He emphasized the need to enhance the confidence and pride of being Chinese, and the importance of promoting China’s excellent traditional culture, stating that blindly following others is not the way forward.

“Are not Hollywood’s films like ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘Mulan’ based on our cultural resources?” he said.

Xi’s reform measures have achieved “historical changes, systematic reshaping, and overall reconstruction” in many fields, ranging from the economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological protection systems, to national defense and the Party’s own institutions.

He made the decision to enshrine the statement of “allowing the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation and letting the government play a better role” into the Party’s documents, and led the establishment of the National Commission of Supervision, a powerful anti-corruption agency to oversee every single person in public office.

In late 2012, Xi initiated the eight-point decision on improving conduct. This is regarded as a lasting institutional solution to malaise such as squandering, indulging in pleasure, and extravagance. Through this move, Xi succeeded in curbing practices previously deemed uncontrollable.

In other aspects of institutional development, Xi oversaw the reform of the talent system to enable researchers at the forefront of science to benefit from their intellectual property rights.

A milestone CPC resolution adopted in 2021 states that the Party has affirmed Xi’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and affirmed the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

This, according to the resolution, reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historical process of national rejuvenation.

Xi considers the affirmation of his core status to be a weighty responsibility. In his words: “To honor the trust of the Party and the people, I will dedicate myself to the utmost and be willing to endure any hardship without hesitation.”

Party theorists say Xi’s sustained leadership in the Party and state apparatus provides direction, stability, and continuity for China’s development. They said this is conducive to strengthening the Party’s overall leadership and is an important manifestation of the political and institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Lu Man, who is an NPC deputy and head of an agricultural cooperative in Jiangsu Province, said the unanimous vote electing Xi as the Chinese president is a major outcome of this year’s “two sessions.” Lu added that the result is what people have been hoping for and is required to advance the Party and the state’s causes.

From the 20th CPC National Congress to this year’s “two sessions,” a new cohort of officials have assumed positions of governance, including members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee, ministers and provincial-level Party chiefs. Xi urged them to strive diligently and avoid letting down the expectations of the people.

According to Party insiders familiar with the matter, these new leading officials “share some common traits,” including their strong abilities in terms of political judgment, comprehension, and execution.

In the meantime, the military has also completed its leadership transition, with a new Central Military Commission team and a new defense minister.

In early November, Xi visited the military’s joint operations command center and called for “comprehensively strengthening military training and preparedness.” He emphasized multiple times “the absolute leadership of the Party over the people’s military.”

According to Xi, the Party’s leadership defines the fundamental nature of Chinese modernization.

Given the immense size of the Party and the country, it is impossible to achieve anything without the authority of the CPC Central Committee and its centralized and unified leadership, as well as the conformity of the nation, Xi said.

“General Secretary Xi has the charisma to unify the whole Party. He is our backbone as the nation charges ahead on the new journey toward modernization,” said Cai Hongxing, president of Yanbian University, who is also an NPC deputy.


The NPC is considered a major platform to turn the Party’s propositions into the will of the nation. This means that grand strategies for Chinese modernization, laid out at the 20th Party congress, are being translated into concrete plans at the “two sessions.”

In 1979, late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping introduced the term “Chinese modernization” at the beginning of the reform and opening-up as a reference to Xiaokang, or a well-off society. After achieving this goal, the CPC proposed the goal of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

Based on media reports, Xi first used the term “Chinese modernization” in a public speech in December 2015 while leading efforts to formulate a development blueprint aimed at propelling the nation toward a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

Six years later, during the centennial celebration of the CPC, Xi declared that this objective had been achieved.

Xi has continued to refine the strategic deployment of Chinese modernization, moving from building a moderately prosperous society in all respects to embarking on a new modernization journey.

At the 19th CPC National Congress, he established a “timetable” for achieving modernization, and at the 20th Party congress, five years later, he presented a “roadmap” to realize this goal.

Xi summarized five major features of Chinese modernization: a huge population, common prosperity for all, coordination of material and cultural-ethical advancement, harmony between humanity and nature, and peaceful development. This sketch of Chinese modernization is now even more precise, well-conceived, and feasible.

“He has given a lot of thought to modernization and put it into action. Throughout his career, he has worked from inland to coastal regions and from local to central levels. No matter where he worked, Xi was an active reformer and broke new ground in advancing modernization,” said David Ferguson, who edited four volumes of the English version of “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.”

The objectives for 2023 are to do solid groundwork for building a modern socialist country. The five years starting from 2023 is deemed a crucial phase.

The national legislature has approved the government’s growth target of around 5 percent for 2023, which is two percentage points higher than the actual growth last year. This means China’s economic growth in a single year is equivalent to the GDP of a mid-sized developed European country.

But China has 1.4 billion people, lowering the country’s development ranking in terms of per capita figures. Explaining the 5-percent growth target, Xi said if China will lift per capita GDP to that of a mid-level developed country by 2035, it is imperative to maintain reasonable growth on the basis of improving quality and efficiency. And China has the capacity to do so.

“High-quality development is the primary task of building a modern socialist country,” he said.

Almost all 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities on the Chinese mainland had set higher growth targets. Shanghai has set its target at 5.5 percent, while Xinjiang and Tibet have set their targets at around 7 percent and over 8 percent, respectively.

Wang Xiangming, a researcher at the Renmin University of China, said a notable change in Chinese society after the 20th Party congress is that people have a stronger sense of developing the economy. “Without a solid material foundation, it is impossible to achieve socialist modernization.”

A major change is a shift in COVID-19 response. Over the past three years, China’s rigorous response measures have effectively protected the lives and health of the people. Last November, Xi presided over a Party leadership meeting to adjust COVID-19 response measures. Three months later, it was declared that China had emerged victorious from the pandemic.

Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund, said China’s optimization of its COVID-19 policy will likely be the single most important factor for global growth in 2023.

Xi made his first out-of-town trip after the 20th Party congress to the countryside. He visited a fruit orchard in Nangou, Shaanxi Province and candidly asked fruit farmers how much they could earn in a day, what their incomes were like, and how their families were doing.

“What are the techniques for picking apples?” he asked, and picked a big red apple himself as farmer Zhao Yongdong demonstrated.

Outside an apple sorting workshop in the village, people gathered around Xi. “His top concern is the livelihoods of the people,” said Zhang Guanghong, a village cadre.

Before the Spring Festival, Xi spoke with cadres and people from across the country via video calls. He asked a cadre from a Qiang ethnic minority village in Sichuan Province about the number of tourists and their income. After Xi learned that the per capita income of the whole village exceeded 40,000 yuan last year, he exclaimed “Not bad!”

Wei Zhuo, a tourist, told Xi about her experience in the village. In particular, she said, the local Sichuan-style cured pork was delicious. “The general secretary asked me to eat more,” Wei said. “I feel that he cares a lot about rural development and boosting the income of the common people.”

Xi told the accompanying cadres that “the most arduous and demanding task of building a modern socialist country still lies in the countryside.” At the Central Rural Work Conference in late 2022, he said to strengthen the country, agriculture must be strong first, emphasizing that ensuring a stable and safe supply of grain and important agricultural products is always the top priority.

Seeking truth from facts is a tenet much cherished by Chinese Communists. Xi himself has set a good example. Over the past decade, he has made over 100 inspection trips to the grassroots level to obtain first-hand experience on the ground.

One time, he left Beijing early in the morning and arrived in a mountainous region in southwest China’s Chongqing in the evening. Sitting in the courtyard with the locals, he said, “I took a plane, a train, and a car, switching between three modes of transportation just to get here to meet you and hear what you have to say to us.”

Another time, at a group discussion of the “two sessions,” Xi said, “You officials cannot fool me. I come from a poverty-stricken area, and I know what it’s like.”

The “new development philosophy,” introduced by Xi in 2015, prioritizes innovation, coordination, green development, openness, and sharing. It is expected to guide China’s modernization drive.

Sci-tech innovation is a priority. Xi has urged the acceleration of the pace of self-reliance and self-strengthening in this regard.

Zhang Jin, an NPC deputy and president of robotic company Xinsong, recalled Xi’s visit to the company a few months ago.

“In the workshop, he almost stopped at every step and asked questions all the way, showing a strong interest, especially in the company’s self-developed products such as mobile robots used in automobile assembly production lines and robotic arms in the chip-manufacturing industry,” Zhang said.

During a conversation with young engineers, Xi stressed that independent innovation is crucial for a country’s transition to a manufacturing powerhouse. He raised the question of whether there are still lots of technical challenges that need to be addressed urgently, and stated that it is imperative to promote scientific and technological self-strengthening to resolve “bottleneck issues,” some of which are caused by Western technological blockade.

Xi repeatedly emphasized that reform must adhere to the direction of the socialist market economy. In January, he sent a vice premier to the Davos World Economic Forum annual meeting where the official announced that China will never go back to pursuing a planned economy.

In February, a major reform involving the entire capital market was introduced, promoting a registration-based system for the entire market and various public issuance of stocks, which is beneficial for better allocation of resources according to market mechanisms.

At the same time, Xi deployed measures to prevent systemic risks in finance, real estate, and local government debt.

He emphasized on different occasions that, on one hand, China must deepen the reform of state-owned assets and enterprises, and on the other hand, it should continue to improve the business environment for the private sector.

At this year’s “two sessions,” Xi told private entrepreneurs that the Party “has always regarded private enterprises and private entrepreneurs as its own people” and encouraged them to let go of their concerns and burdens, and boldly pursue their development.

“I have always supported private enterprises,” said Xi, who has worked for more than 20 years in the provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, both known for the vibrant private sector.

Chinese private enterprises have continued to grow. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in 2012, non-public enterprises accounted for only about 10 percent of the total market value of China’s top 100 listed companies. However, by the end of 2022, this proportion had risen to over 40 percent.

Xi said he plans to roll out a new round of overall reform measures this year. High-level opening-up will also be accelerated, including actively promoting the accession to high-standard economic and trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economic Partnership Agreement.

In 2021, China’s overall tariff level was reduced to 7.4 percent, lower than the WTO commitment of 9.8 percent. The country plans to further drop tariff rates for 62 information technology products, and the overall tariff level will be lowered by another 0.1 percentage point.

There are visible signs that the economic recovery is gaining momentum. In February, China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reached 52.6 percent, a new high in nearly 11 years. The economy is expected to stabilize and rebound in the first quarter, and foreign investment expectations remain positive.

The Canton Fair plans to increase its exhibition booths to nearly 70,000 this year. The China International Import Expo, the China International Fair for Trade in Services, and the China International Consumer Products Expo, all of which are strongly backed by Xi, are expected to see an expansion in their scales.

From building a socialist new countryside to building a beautiful China, from artistic creation to cultural-ethical advancement, Xi has made new arrangements covering all important areas.

Xi emphasized that achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation requires the complete reunification of the motherland, which is both necessary and achievable, and he has formulated a general strategy to resolve the Taiwan question.

Xi Jinping casts his ballot at a polling station to elect deputies to the Xicheng district people’s congress in Huairentang, Zhongnanhai electoral district in Xicheng District of Beijing, China, Nov. 5, 2021. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

In his speech delivered before the conclusion of this year’s “two sessions,” Xi said external interference and separatist activities seeking “Taiwan independence” must be resolutely opposed, stressing firmly advancing the national reunification process.

“Xi is an idealist and a pragmatic person. He is sober, practical, decisive, has a broad vision and a systemic view,” said a cadre who had worked with him in Zhejiang Province in the early 2000s. “He is good at turning crises into opportunities, and can see a blueprint through to the end.”


Xi is not just for the people but of them.

When he labored alongside rural farmers, he learned to grit his teeth while hauling manure and ignored the constant hunger pangs as he worked the land. These formative years taught him the true value of these often overlooked members of society, leaving him with a natural ability to connect and listen to ordinary people to help resolve their problems.

He may have left the fields decades ago, but even as general secretary, he has not forgotten those that toil there nor those that man the country’s backbone industries, from workshops to markets. He has remained committed to maintaining a public-facing presence through personal visits or correspondence.

During one visit to a Beijing hutong, the capital’s distinctive residential lanes, Xi rolled up his sleeves to make dumplings with one family, and the conversation flowed. Before he left, Xi confided that he draws strength from such interactions.

In spite of his busy schedule, Xi has consistently prioritized people’s happiness as essential. On more than one occasion, he said, “Development should benefit all individuals more equitably and comprehensively, and continually promote the all-round development of people.”

At the start of the year, Xi was unanimously voted in as a deputy to the 14th NPC through a competitive election in Jiangsu. He was just one of over 2,900 deputies elected nationwide, representing the country’s dynamic socio-economic diversity, from workers to farmers, technical professionals to migrant workers.

On March 5, Xi joined his fellow deputies from the Jiangsu Province delegation at the NPC session to deliberate the government work report and discuss state affairs.

The Jiangsu deliberation was not the only meeting Xi attended at this year’s “two sessions,” nor was it the only time he has interacted with lawmakers and political advisors.

From 2013 to 2022, Xi attended 53 deliberations and discussion sessions, speaking directly to about 400 lawmakers and political advisors. From asking about the marriage rate of an underprivileged central Chinese village to pressing for details of the winter tourism industry in the northeastern province of Jilin, his questions are always poignant and relevant.

People familiar with Chinese politics view such interactions as a manifestation of Chinese democracy. Accordingly, it is no surprise that Xi has gained a reputation for supporting public empowerment in their own affairs and encouraging their participation in political affairs.

“China is a big country. It is only natural for different people to have different concerns or views on the same issue. What matters is that we reach consensus through communication and consultation,” Xi said in his New Year Address 2023.

In June 2022, China completed the election for the county and township-level people’s congresses. The election involved 1.064 billion voters. It was one of the world’s largest grassroots democratic elections.

The people’s congress is the backbone of China’s political system, and NPC deputies are responsible for a wide range of duties, including formulating laws, supervising the government and judicial organs, and electing national leaders.

Each of the country’s 55 ethnic minorities is represented in the national legislature. Dong Caiyun is a member of the Bao’an ethnic group, which has a population of only about 20,000.

At the “two sessions” in 2019, she proposed a new expressway that would boost the development of her county in Gansu Province, northwest China. Other deputies lauded her proposal, and Xi, who was present at the meeting, responded by asking the relevant departments to study the proposal.

After rounds of research and feasibility studies, construction began. It is due for completion this year.

“This road represents the aspirations of the people in my hometown for a modern life,” said Dong.

Quan Taiqi, who works at a bus station in Lianyungang, Jiangsu, has just completed her second term as a deputy to the national legislature. She voted for Xi to be the Chinese president five years ago.

“I endorsed him [as president] because I believe he is a trustworthy leader who truly cares for the people,” she said.

She recalled that Xi was present during a deliberation years ago when she raised an issue about ticket-free child passengers on buses, who might cause over-sale of tickets. Xi immediately spoke up, taking Quan by surprise, as she thought the topic was too specific and menial for a state leader. Xi not only spoke up, but also asked about the practice on trains for reference. After the meeting, a review of the issue quickly began, culminating in a practical plan.

“When Xi spoke to us grassroots deputies, he was not condescending. He quizzed us, ‘Is it like this?’ ‘Is this good or not?'” Quan recalled.

During the “two sessions” in 2021, Quan met Xi again. She went up to him and brought up their previous interaction. However, the corridor was crowded, but as he left, Xi said, “Let’s talk about it later.” Quan thought that would be the end of their conversation, but around 11 p.m. that night, she received a call from Xi’s team, asking if she had any suggestions or problems to raise.

Xi believes that democracy is a requirement for modern countries, but it must be in line with national conditions, and Chinese democracy should by no means be the same as Western-style democracy. He describes Chinese democracy as a “whole-process people’s democracy,” which covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of society.

“The purpose of democracy is to address the issues that require resolution by the people,” he said.

Challenges to the system are not tolerated.

According to one witness, during a plenary session of the anti-corruption agency in 2014, Xi discussed at length a vote-buying case in the election of local lawmakers in Hunan. Visibly angered, Xi fired a barrage of questions: Where have the Party members gone? Where are their notions of Party discipline and law? Where is their conscience?

Afterward, Xi referred to this case on at least two other occasions. Eventually, 467 people were held accountable.

The Chinese practice of modernization has often been viewed by observers as difficult, especially given China’s massive scale — unprecedented since the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Xi has stated that even feeding over 1.4 billion people is a significant challenge. Issues such as employment, distribution, education, healthcare, housing, elderly care, and childcare should not be underestimated, especially given the size of the population.

According to Xi, advancing Chinese modernization requires a new journey of law-based governance. The issue of the rule of law versus the rule of man is a fundamental question and major issue that all countries must address in the process of modernization, Xi said.

In a signed article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the current Constitution’s promulgation and implementation, Xi emphasized the Constitution’s role in constructing a modern socialist country and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

On Monday, Xi and other NPC deputies voted to amend the Legislation Law, adding content to promote the implementation of the Constitution. In 2018, Xi was the first Chinese president to pledge allegiance to the Constitution. Last week, after being elected, Xi took the oath again, followed by members of his governance team.


In the second half of last year, Xi returned to “offline” diplomatic activities after the “cloud diplomacy” that characterized the two and a half years of the pandemic.

Over the past four months alone, Xi attended the G20 Summit in Bali, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok, and the first China-Arab States Summit and the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh.

On the sidelines of the multilateral events, Xi also held bilateral meetings with leaders from dozens of countries, including France, the Netherlands, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq.

At home, Xi hosted many foreign leaders and dignitaries in Beijing after the Party congress. The guests included leaders from Vietnam, Pakistan, Tanzania, Germany, Cuba, Mongolia, Laos, Russia, the Philippines, Iran, and Belarus. For some, this marked their first visit to China, while others were “old friends.”

Over the past decade, Xi has clearly conveyed that China will create new opportunities through development and add more stability and certainty to such a volatile world.

“As it develops, China will make greater contributions to the common prosperity of the world,” Xi said.

During his meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Riyadh in December, Xi mentioned the FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar, saying that the event injected fresh and positive energy into today’s uncertain world. Tamim thanked China for its contributions to the World Cup, noting that Chinese companies built the main stadium, and the arrival of two pandas added to the festive atmosphere of the tournament.

The stadium Tamim mentioned is Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, which hosted the final game of the World Cup between Argentina and France. It is regarded by many as an iconic achievement of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI, proposed by Xi in 2013, also helped Indonesia build its first high-speed railway. After the G20 Summit in Bali, Xi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo watched the operational trial of the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway through a video link. The railway, jointly built by the two countries, is expected to facilitate the move of goods and people and boost local incomes.

To date, 151 countries and 32 international organizations have signed documents under the Belt and Road framework, benefiting participating countries.

The Port of Piraeus of Greece has developed into one of the fastest-growing container ports in the world since a Chinese company joined its operation.

Another important proposal Xi raised in 2013 was the community with a shared future for humanity. It has been enshrined in both the Party and the country’s constitutions and incorporated into important documents of the United Nations and other international organizations or multilateral mechanisms.

Xi told the G20 summit that all countries must embrace the vision of a community with a shared future for humanity and advocate peace, development, and win-win cooperation.

“All countries should replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation, and exclusion with inclusiveness,” Xi said in the speech.

He also solemnly promised the world, “No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism.”

He believes that as long as major countries maintain communication and treat each other sincerely, the “Thucydides trap” can be avoided.

China has shown the world that a country can develop and progress without engaging in expansionism, and can help other countries develop simultaneously, said Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a signed article published before he visited China in February.

In response to Xi’s initiative, Saudi Arabia and Iran delegations held talks earlier this month in Beijing. The two countries have reached an agreement to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies and missions within two months.

One of Xi’s most high-profile diplomatic meetings in the past months was his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden since the latter assumed the presidency. During the over-three-hour talk in Bali on Nov. 14, Xi told Biden that China-U.S. relations should not be a zero-sum game where one side out-competes or thrives at the expense of the other, and the successes of China and the United States are opportunities, not challenges, for each other.

“China does not seek to change the existing international order or interfere in the internal affairs of the United States and has no intention to challenge or displace the United States,” Xi said.

Biden said the United States respects China’s system and does not seek to change it. The United States does not seek a new Cold War and does not seek to revitalize alliances against China, he said. Biden also said that the United States does not support “Taiwan independence,” does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan,” and has no intention to engage in conflict with China.

In his meetings with European leaders, Xi stressed that regarding the Ukraine crisis, China supports ceasefire, cessation of the conflict, and peace talks.

In February, China issued a 12-point peace plan on the Ukraine crisis, stating that all countries’ sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity must be effectively upheld, and universally recognized international law, including the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, must be strictly observed. “Nuclear weapons must not be used, and nuclear wars must not be fought,” said the policy paper.

Xi is a leader who provides vision and plans for promoting the solution of major problems facing humanity, said Keith Bennett, a long-term China specialist and vice chair of Britain’s 48 Group Club.


When Xi delivered his 2023 New Year Address, people noticed the tomes on the bookshelf behind him in his office, among them, A General History of China, Complete Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Global History, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Having called reading his favorite hobby, Xi is known to draw wisdom from the written word to govern the country.

After the Party congress, Xi headed to Henan Province, central China, and visited the Yinxu Ruins. The 3,300-year-old site was the capital of the late Shang (Yin) Dynasty, the first ruins confirmed from this period. Walking slowly into the Yinxu Museum, Xi thoughtfully took in the exhibits, spanning bronze ware, jade ware, oracle bone inscriptions, and other relics.

“I have wanted to visit here for so long,” Xi said. “I come here thirsty for a deeper understanding of Chinese civilization so that we can make the past serve the present and draw inspirations for better building modern Chinese civilization.”

With a long and continuous history, Chinese civilization shaped our great nation, and this nation will continue to be great, Xi added, urging efforts to promote traditional culture, which according to the leader, is the “root” of the Party’s new theories.

Xi proposed combining the basic principles of Marxism with traditional culture, believing that only when a country’s modernization is rooted in the fertile soil of its history and culture can it flourish and endure.

In 2014, Xi said he was reluctant to see Chinese classic poems and essays removed from the textbooks when visiting Beijing Normal University. In November 2013, he visited Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, and the following year, he addressed an international commemoration of the ancient Chinese philosopher. In 2021, when he visited a park dedicated to Zhu Xi in east China’s Fujian Province, Xi stopped for a long time in front of the words of the renowned Chinese Confucian philosopher in the 12th century. Zhu famously said that a nation is based on its people, and society is also established for the benefit of its people. Xi, in an earlier group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, had quoted Zhu’s words, stressing that no political consideration is more important than the people.

Xi has repeatedly lamented the humiliation and defeat suffered by the Chinese nation, despite its place at the forefront of the world over the past 5,000 years.

In particular, he felt that China’s modernization had achieved significant results “at great cost and with great hardships.” He stressed China, therefore, should blaze its own trail toward modernization. Experts believe that Chinese modernization, which offers a new form of human advancement, dispels the myth that “modernization is equal to Westernization.” Xi said efforts must be made to achieve higher efficiency than capitalism while maintaining fairness in society more effectively.

According to Zheng Yongnian, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), Chinese modernization is a way to deal with the problems all countries face. Above all, the source of its vitality is mainly sustainable economic development, he said.

British scholar Martin Jacques believes that if China can successfully address inequality in the way it has conquered absolute poverty, such fairer and more inclusive modernity will have an enormous global impact.

Xi is proud and confident of the achievements and prospects of the modernization drive. He once said, “China has been able to look the world in the eye,” referring to the country’s rise in strength. This, however, does not mean the pursuit of unilateral dominance, still less a clash of civilizations. He cited the famous “sleeping lion” metaphor for China and noted, “Today, the lion has woken up. But it is peaceful, pleasant, and civilized.”

He has underscored that China will not follow in the footsteps of certain countries that achieved modernization through war, colonization and plunder, and that China upholds peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, which is determined by the Chinese system and culture.

A phrase containing “promote humanity’s shared values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom” was written into the Party Constitution last year.

Xi also modestly proposed that socialism in the primary stage must conscientiously study and draw on the beneficial achievements of civilization created by capitalism. “The cause of promoting Chinese modernization, which is an unprecedented and pioneering venture, will inevitably encounter all kinds of risks, challenges, difficulties, and even dangerous storms, some of which we can foresee and others we cannot,” Xi said. “Let us harness our indomitable fighting spirit to open new horizons for our cause.”

“Those who work will succeed, and those who walk will arrive at their destination. A person of action will leave a good name in history,” he said.

(by Xinhua writers Wang Jinye, Meng Na, Li Zhihui, Xu Lingui, Gui Tao, Zhang Bowen, Yao Yulin)

Sri Lanka: Storytelling as a Tool for Healing and Empowerment



by Our Cultural Affairs Editor

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Native American Proverb

A residential workshop held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, brought together participants to explore the significance of real-life story writing in the local context, where the goals of reconciliation and economic growth are intertwined. Organized by the Sri Lanka College of Journalism and supported by civil society organizations, the workshop emphasized the power of storytelling in building social identity and empowering communities. Overall, the event served as a platform to highlight the importance of this creative medium for promoting positive change in Sri Lanka.

According to Chitra Jayathilake, a professor at Department of English and Linguistics, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, storytelling is a natural human activity and a primary form of expression. “Storytelling is in our blood,” says Robert Atkinson. People live surrounded by their stories and the stories of others. They see everything that happens to them through these stories and try to live their lives as if they were recounting them. The essential understanding laying on every human action, be it internal or external, is dialogue.

Resource persons: During the residential training for real-life story writing [ Photo Credit: Sri Lanka College of Journalism]

In storytelling, the convincing power of a story is not from its verifiability but from its verisimilitude. Stories will be true enough if they ring true, as Amsterdam and Bruner noted in their work. Storytelling has become more popular and useful than quantitative academic researches because it allows people to engage and empower themselves in building social identity through narrative turns.

During the workshop, participants engaged with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s influential essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Using deconstructionist approaches, Spivak’s work examines how global capitalism and the international division of labour shape our understanding of the world. In her essay, she aims to disrupt binary distinctions between subject and object, self and other, and center and margin, particularly as they relate to the divisions between the West and the non-West. By illuminating the intersection of factors like class, caste, religion, and nationality, Spivak highlights the deep-seated polarization that characterizes many parts of the world today.

M J R David, a noted journalist, who is the director of the Sri Lanka College of Journalism, emphasized the value of storytelling as a means of gaining deeper insight into ourselves and the world around us. As he explained, our lives are a collection of stories that reveal hidden truths and complexities beneath the surface. By neglecting these narratives, we risk overlooking important social, cultural, and personal realities. Only by acknowledging and engaging with these stories can we hope to create a more just and equitable future for ourselves and others.

Storytelling is a powerful tool that has been used for centuries to communicate ideas, beliefs, and values. It allows people to connect with each other on a deeper level and share their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Through storytelling, people can learn from each other, empathize with others, and gain a better understanding of different perspectives.

From the Ancient Greeks to Contemporary Society

Storytelling has played a pivotal role in shaping historical narratives and interpreting events. From the ancient Greeks to contemporary society, stories have been used to pass on knowledge, create a sense of identity, and provide a platform for debate and discussion. In the United States, the narrative of the Civil Rights Movement was told through the stories of people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who fought for justice and equality. Their stories continue to inspire and educate people today.

During the workshop, a new publication on female biographies in Sri Lankan history was also launched. [ Photo Credit: Sri Lanka College of Journalism]

Similarly, in South Africa, storytelling was an essential tool in overcoming apartheid and promoting reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 1995, used storytelling as a means of healing and rebuilding a fractured society. Victims and perpetrators alike were given the opportunity to share their stories in a public forum, allowing the truth to be exposed and the wounds of the past to begin to heal.

Ubuntu is a Zulu word that refers to the interconnectedness of all things and the idea that an individual’s well-being is tied to the well-being of the community. It emphasizes the importance of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness, and it was a guiding principle for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

During the Commission’s hearings, victims and perpetrators were given the opportunity to share their stories in a public forum. The process was designed not only to uncover the truth about past injustices but also to promote healing and reconciliation. By telling their stories, both victims and perpetrators were able to humanize each other and begin to understand the complexities of the conflict.

The power of storytelling and the principles of Ubuntu were evident in the case of former South African President Nelson Mandela. After serving 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities, Mandela emerged as a symbol of hope and reconciliation. He was able to forgive his oppressors and work towards a peaceful and democratic South Africa, all while maintaining his dignity and integrity.

Mandela’s story is an example of the power of storytelling to inspire and create change. His life and legacy continue to be celebrated around the world, and his story serves as a reminder of the importance of empathy, forgiveness, and unity in the face of adversity.

In India, the story of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle for independence has become a symbol of resistance and peaceful resistance around the world. His story has been told and retold in countless ways, inspiring generations of activists and leaders.

The power of storytelling in shaping historical narratives is not limited to the West. In China, for example, storytelling has played a central role in shaping the country’s cultural identity. Traditional stories and legends have been passed down through generations, helping to create a shared sense of history and values.

The importance of storytelling cannot be overstated. From the earliest human societies to the present day, stories have been a fundamental part of our lives. They have the power to inspire, educate, and heal, and they can be used to shape our understanding of the world and ourselves. Whether we are sharing personal experiences or interpreting historical events, storytelling has the power to connect us and help us make sense of the world around us.

Storytelling in Sri Lankan Context

In the Sri Lankan context, where the country has experienced decades of ethnic conflict, storytelling can play a crucial role in promoting reconciliation and building social cohesion. By sharing stories, people can learn about the experiences of others and gain a better understanding of the root causes of conflict. It can also help to break down stereotypes and biases that may exist between different communities.

Storytelling can also promote a more positive attitude towards diversity and multiculturalism. By sharing stories that celebrate diversity, people can develop a greater appreciation for the unique cultural traditions, customs, and practices of different communities. This, in turn, can lead to a more inclusive and tolerant society that is better equipped to address the challenges of social and economic development.

Storytelling has the potential to reconstruct the deteriorated social structure by providing a platform for underrepresented communities to express themselves. Vaclav Havel’s words, “The rescue of this world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility,” highlight the significance of storytelling. By enabling individuals and communities to share their experiences and shape their own stories, storytelling has the power to instill confidence and influence positive change. Through the medium of storytelling, marginalized groups can establish their identity and demand acknowledgement and reverence from the broader society.

Storytelling can play a vital role in overhauling the attitude of society and re-engineering the deteriorated social structure in Sri Lanka. By promoting reconciliation, building social cohesion, celebrating diversity, and giving voice to marginalized groups, storytelling can help to create a more inclusive, tolerant, and just society. The residential workshop organized by the Sri Lanka College of Journalism on the importance of real-life story writing is a significant step towards achieving this goal.

In her session at the residential workshop, Hansamala Ritigahapola, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sinhala and Mass Communication at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, delved deeper into the classifications of storytelling. She explained the various types of stories, including myths, legends, fables, and fairy tales, and how they are used to convey moral and ethical values. Dr. Ritigahapola also emphasized the importance of storytelling in preserving cultural heritage and passing down traditional knowledge from one generation to the next.

During the workshop, a new publication on female biographies in Sri Lankan history was also launched. The book highlighted the importance of storytelling with references to the many notable stories in the cultural history of Sri Lanka. It showcased the remarkable achievements of Sri Lankan women who have made significant contributions to society, but whose stories may have been overlooked or forgotten. The publication served as a reminder of the power of storytelling to elevate marginalized voices and empower underrepresented groups.

Power of Counseling

The day concluded with an inspiring session by H.M.C.J. Herath, the Head of the Department of Physiology and Counseling, the Open University of Sri Lanka. She described the basic principles and behavioural attitudes of counselling and victim narrations. Dr. Herath emphasized the importance of empathy, active listening, and trust-building in the counselling process. She also highlighted the critical role that storytelling can play in the healing process of victims of trauma and violence. Through the power of narrative, victims can reclaim their agency and gain a sense of empowerment over their own lives.

Counselling is a vibrant process that aims to help people overcome their emotional and psychological challenges. It involves a one-on-one conversation between the counsellor and the client, where the client can share their feelings, thoughts, and concerns in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Through active listening, empathy, and trust-building, the counsellor can help the client gain insights into their problems, develop coping strategies, and explore new ways of thinking and behaving.

Dr H.M.C.J. Herath, Department of Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Health Sciences, The Open University of Sri Lanka [ Photo Credit: Open University of Sri Lanka]

However, counselling is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each client is unique, and their needs and challenges must be approached with sensitivity, respect, and cultural awareness. Counsellors must adhere to certain ethical guidelines to ensure that they provide effective and ethical counselling services. These guidelines are established by professional associations such as the American Counselling Association (ACA) and the International Association of Counselling (IAC).

One of the fundamental ethical principles in counselling is confidentiality. Clients must feel safe and secure in sharing their thoughts and feelings, knowing that their information will be kept confidential. Counsellors must maintain strict confidentiality unless there is a risk of harm to the client or others. In such cases, the counsellor must inform the client of their intention to break confidentiality and seek their consent before doing so.

Another essential principle in counselling is informed consent. Counsellors must obtain the client’s consent before starting the counselling process, explaining the goals, procedures, and risks involved. The client must also be informed of their right to terminate the counselling process at any time and for any reason.

Counsellors must also be aware of cultural and diversity issues when working with clients from different backgrounds. They must respect the client’s cultural values, beliefs, and practices and avoid imposing their own cultural biases. Counsellors must also be aware of the potential power dynamics that can exist between the client and themselves and strive to create an equal and collaborative relationship. Counselling is an inseparable part of the process where the true stories of marginalized communities shall play a crucial role in social justice.

Lessons to be Learnt

Sri Lanka can learn a lot from other countries in terms of storytelling and its potential for promoting reconciliation, empathy, and understanding. For example, in Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a forum for survivors of the residential school system to share their stories and promote healing. The Commission’s final report emphasized the importance of storytelling in advancing reconciliation and recommended that the education system include indigenous history, culture, and perspectives.

Similarly, in Rwanda, the Gacaca courts provided a space for victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide to share their stories and promote reconciliation. The courts were designed to be community-led and focused on restorative justice rather than punishment. Through the process of storytelling and dialogue, many individuals were able to reconcile and move forward.

Resource persons and Participants during the residential training for real life story writing [ Photo Credit: Sri Lanka College of Journalism]

The aforementioned instances provide empirical evidence on the potency of storytelling to foster comprehension and reconciliation, hence serving as a paradigm for Sri Lanka’s own efforts towards reconciliation. Sri Lanka could implement storytelling and dialogue programs in schools and communities, emphasizing the promotion of empathy, comprehension, and reconciliation amongst diverse ethnic and religious groups. Such an initiative could dismantle prejudiced beliefs and encourage better comprehension among different communities.

Moreover, Sri Lanka can exploit its rich cultural heritage of storytelling and assimilate it into its reconciliation endeavours. The country has a longstanding oral storytelling tradition, which could be leveraged to cultivate understanding and dialogue between different groups. By accentuating shared values and common themes, such as community, empathy, and compassion, Sri Lanka could work towards fostering a more cohesive and comprehensive society.

Quoting the insightful words of Steve Jobs, we are reminded that the storyteller wields tremendous power. “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” As Jobs observed, the storyteller has the ability to shape the vision, values, and agenda of entire generations to come. This underscores the importance of storytelling as a means of creating positive change and promoting shared understanding.

Undoubtedly, storytelling is of paramount significance in advancing reconciliation and comprehension. Sri Lanka can capitalize on both international and domestic examples, including its own cultural traditions, to harness the potential of storytelling in promoting healing, empathy, and a peaceful future.

Why Sabotage Is a Growing Form of Warfare in Ukraine


On February 8, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh published an article detailing the role of the U.S. and Norway in the September 26, 2022, Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions. U.S. officials denied the findings, while Russia, which previously blamed the UK for the attack, hailed the article as proof of Western involvement.

There remains “no conclusive evidence” indicating Russia was behind the Nord Stream attack, according to a December 2022 article by the Washington Post. At the same time, apart from Hersh’s report, there is little evidence currently indicating the U.S. was responsible for the explosions. Nonetheless, the ongoing dispute has underlined the increasing role of sabotage in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Around two weeks after the Nord Stream explosion on October 8, another explosion took out much of a key bridge, which connects the Russian mainland to Crimea. While no one has taken responsibility for the attack, Russia blamed Ukraine for it. Weeks before in September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy encouraged Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territory to “sabotage any enemy activity” and “interfere with any Russian operations.”

Throughout the war, dozens of mystery fires in Russia have damaged or destroyed transportation routes, commercial and industrial centers, military and government facilities, and other infrastructure. Believed to be the work of both Ukrainian commandos and Russian dissidents, some U.S. experts also believe the U.S. and NATO states may be responsible for these “covert sabotage operations.” The Ukrainian government has typically neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in most attacks.

The Russian government often blames Ukraine for these fires but has downplayed their effects. While acts of sabotage can be used by governments to garner support for their cause, they may be wary of admitting successive instances of sabotage for fear of encouraging more, as well as showing their inability to protect the population and country. Furthermore, relentless acts of sabotage demonstrate that the effects of war have come home to populations thought to be removed from the conflict.

The attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline and the bridge in Crimea likely escalated the Kremlin’s resolve to respond to Western and Ukrainian sabotage efforts. While Russia’s most pressing concern is undermining Ukraine and damaging its capacity to sustain its war effort, conducting sabotage operations across the West has also become a major Kremlin policy.

Even before the war, Russia had indicated its ability to disrupt global underwater communications networks through its Main Directorate of Deep-Water Research (GUGI). In recent years, Russia has taken steps to develop submarines specifically to sever undersea cables that transport the world’s internet traffic. In early February 2022, Russia held military exercises in the Atlantic Ocean at a critical juncture where several submarine cables between the U.S., the UK, and France are located as a show of force.

The same month, France declared it would develop a fleet of underwater drones to protect undersea cables, while the European Defence Agency is expected to release a proposal soon for “a dedicated program for critical seabed infrastructure protection.” These developments show how seriously Western governments are preparing for Russian sabotage, particularly as recent cuts to Taiwan’s internet cables are believed to be the work of Chinese vessels and serve as an example of “a dry run for further aggression.”

Several incidents in Europe and North America in recent months have raised suspicions over the Kremlin’s involvement in these attacks, even if government agencies do not always label Russia as being responsible for them. On January 13, 2023, for example, an explosion at a gas pipeline in Lithuania near the Latvian border led to the nearby town of Valakelie being evacuated. While the pipeline’s operator dismissed suggestions of sabotage, Latvia’s Defense Ministry said it could not be ruled out. “Western leaders stopped short of publicly blaming Russia for the attack, but privately briefed their suspicions that Moscow was behind it,” stated a Daily Mail article about the explosion.

On February 7, 2023, a fire broke out at a U.S. company drone production facility in Latvia that supplies Ukrainian forces and NATO allies, with the local police stating that there was “no indication” of it being an act of sabotage. Moldovan President Maia Sandu, meanwhile, declared on February 13, 2023, that Russia was planning a coup, including the use of sabotage, to destabilize the country.

In January 2023, Polish authorities questioned and later released three divers who claimed to be Spanish citizens off the coast of northern Poland. The divers were rescued after their boat broke down while they were apparently looking for amber deposits. But amber farming is difficult to carry out in the dark and the divers also lacked the proper “amber-hunting equipment,” according to a CBS News article, raising suspicion about the explanation offered by them. Despite being caught near vital Polish energy infrastructure, the trio were let go and left Poland altogether shortly after. Speaking after the incident, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “amid the war in Ukraine, when the risk of sabotage by Russia increased immeasurably, it was necessary to strengthen the supervision of critical infrastructure. We are also reviewing this supervision.”

Western Europe has also emerged as a major target of apparent Russian sabotage efforts. On October 8, the same day as the Crimean bridge explosion, German officials stated that sabotage caused a three-hour halt in rail traffic in the north of the country after “cables vital for the country’s rail network were intentionally cut in two places.” On October 10, undersea cables providing electricity to the Danish island of Bornholm were cut. And barely a week later, internet cables in southern France were also cut, impacting connectivity “to Asia, Europe, U.S. and potentially other parts of the world.”

Suspicion over these attacks and others in Europe has fallen on Unit 29155, part of Russia’s military intelligence agency General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU). As mentioned in an article in the New York Times in 2020, the unit is believed to operate small groups across Europe and was responsible for a 2014 ammunition depot explosion in the Czech Republic, the 2018 poisoning of Russian dissident Sergei Skripal in the UK, and other attacks on the continent.

From 2012 to 2015, Russian-backed patriotic youth camps also emerged in California, Washington, and Oregon. Often targeting Russian and Slavic communities for recruitment, they mirrored attempts to develop militia groups in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. While it is difficult to say whether these groups are active, these initiatives demonstrate the Kremlin’s intention to make them viable actors in the U.S.

A series of train derailments in the U.S.fires at food processing plantsattacks on energy facilities, and other incidents across the country since 2022 have caught the attention of international news outlets and fueled conspiracy theories over who is responsible. Considering Russia’s reach in Europe, the possibility of Russian assets being responsible for some of these incidents in the U.S. cannot be ruled out entirely. On March 3, 2023, Peter Karasev, a Russian immigrant, was charged for two separate attacks on Pacific Gas and Electric transformers in San Jose, which took place on December 8, 2022, and January 5, 2023.

Russia, of course, is not the only country capable or willing to target the U.S. through sabotage. Several Iranian/Hezbollah sleeper agents in the U.S. have been caught in recent years surveilling vulnerable targets within the country to attack should they be given the greenlight. The downturn in U.S.-Iranian relations in recent years suggests that Iran too may be actively seeking to covertly harm the U.S. as payback.

Officially, the Russia-Ukraine war remains a conflict between the two states. Nonetheless, Russian and Ukrainian allies have supplied Moscow and Kyiv with significant aid. But sabotage is increasingly seen by both sides as a viable option to undermine their opponent. We should expect more sabotage incidents, not only in Ukraine and Russia but also across the Western world and beyond, as the conflict rages on.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Sri Lanka: President should be Responsible!

Reading news from Sri Lanka is depressing. Suffering of the people due to cost of living, loss of employment or small businesses, breakdown of welfare assistance from the government are some of the reasons. News from daily life of the people is also disheartening with full of crime, family violence, cheating, drug use, and stealing. All these are symptoms of a deeper crisis in society and a breakdown of a value system.

The day-to-daylanguage (yako, uba, thopi, thow) that people use, as evident from some teledramas,and social media is also clear of a social degeneration. Under these circumstances no one can blame the young people and the educated who try to migrate to other countries for living or for work.

The behavior, the actions and the explanations of the politicians are a deeper reflection of the above situation who are also mainly responsible for the country’s deepening crisis. Take the example of the President. It is the duty and the responsibility of a country’s leader to reveal and explain his or her positions to the country, and even to the international community, about important policy matters.

Elections and Jokes

In a democracy, there is nothing more important than elections. It was well known that local government elections were due in March. First, the President was obliquely silent. Then he started joking about it saying, ‘there is no elections to be postponed!’

There is no problem to the people that this President is a jovial man. But there should be a limit. He should not repeat his Royal Collage jokes especially when the country is in dire straits. It is good that he often appears in Parliamentary debates. But his behavior, arguments and jokes in those debates are reprehensible.

When he was appointed as the Prime Minister by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he even joked about the economy. He said ‘We invite tourists. They even can join the Protests!’ The above photo is by the BCC on this matter showing his jovial gestures. He even joked about the former British Queen just two days before her death which became condemned by many international journalists. What a Joker! It is difficult to believe that he is serious bout democracy or the economy. It is more difficult to believe that he will be trusted by the IMF although they might give priority to the country.

There is no doubt that compared to many other political leaders of the country he has some economic knowledge and experience. As a Minister (Finance or in charge of the economy) he can be good. But as the President of the country, he has so far proved to be hopeless,useless, and intolerable.

Importance Local Government

The local government system in Sri Lanka has a long history as Gam Sabha (village councils). It is not something just introduced by the British. Both the Colebrook Commission and the Donoughmore Commission acknowledged their importance. However, it was the British who introduced franchise to the system now under threat from the present President. It is difficult to believe that Philip Gunawardena’s son, as the Prime Minister, would oppose the elections. President undoubtedly is the culprit. From what heritage has he got this undemocratic orientation?

Of course, there are some weaknesses within the local government system. But who havecreated them? Present day politicians have done so. One of the major weaknesses of the present day politicians is their rigmarole manner in addressing crucial economic, political and social problems. They appoint committees (or commissions)and committeesand produce reports and reports. They are in the absence of commonsense, principles and practicalities. They change positions very easily and forget what they have said or promised even the last week! The reason is that they have come to politics for opportunistic purposes. Under the present ‘preferential voting’ system,it is difficult for the ordinary, the educated and genuine people to come into politics unless they go behind the opportunistic leaders.

The Heritage?

The present President has a more precise heritage. It is not directly related to his family except they all were rich and cherished personal wealth directly and indirectly. Wickremesinghe’s heritage is more of something created by him. It is about power, glory and perhaps fun! He has been the Prime Minister for five timesin the past without delivering much, except creating crisis from crisis. Can he deny that he was involved in Batalandatorture and violence? This was revealedby a commission, although no action was taken against him.

It appears that Ranil Wickremesinghe particularly has a hatred against youth from lower social classes.

Of course, no one can condone what the JVP has done in the past. Even at present they should be more careful not to ignite violence or unnecessary trouble in the country. But there are/wereindications that they are at a reform path, and this is something that should be strengthened without condemning all their actions and policies. Even in genuinely creating good governance (Yahapalanaya) they tried their best to support and participate. These principles also should apply to former LTTE supporters and even remaining sections.

There is a major task in the country to reform and reorient the youth for democratic processes and encourage them for positive, creative, and responsible activities. This cannot be done unless the establish political parties and leaders like Wickremesinghe, Kumaratunga or Premadasa take a positive attitude towards the JVP or the NPP. The universities, academics,and civil society organizations (NGOs) also can play a pivotal role in this endeavor if they free themselves from narrow party politics or similar orientations. A constructively worked out strategy is necessary.

Violence and Non-Violence

During the Aragalaya(struggle) last year, incursion and occupation of Presidential Office and Presidential House were perhapsinspired by what happened in America after the last elections. However, the invasion and damaging of Wickremesinghe’s private home was different and cannot be condoned by any means. Likewise, the attacks and burning of over 60 houses belonging to the government MPs also were despicable. If (or As) the JVP was involved, there is a necessity of soul searching in the country. Otherwise, the country would soon drag into the situation of 1980s.

Even if the JVP (or NPP) was involved inthese violence and violations, the President should not behave in the same manner. That is not expected from a democratic leader. This is not merely a defect of the presidential system. This is about the broader political system and qualities of the political leaders.

In coming straight to the recent situation, the way the police handled the protest march organized by the JVP and the National People’s Power(NPP) on 26Februaryin Colombo was reprehensible. Who was behind it? There cannot be any doubt that it was the President. Those parties and others have every right to protest over the virtual sabotage of the local government elections by the President. One has died and 28 others were hospitalizedbecause of police attacks at these protests. Although only water and teargas were used, those were enormous and brutal.

In sabotaging the local government elections,planned to be held on 9 March, the reason given was lack of funds. However, millions of funds were spent on Independence Daycelebrations for the armed forces. Instead of the military, school children should have been mobilized for the occasion.The election is not an ‘essential service,’ according to the President!The Speaker has agreed however now to allow the Parliament to put forward a resolution to allocate necessary funds for the local government elections. Parliament is supreme. If it is approved (no doubt) the elections could be held somewhere in April.

However, there are other matters to be considered. Majority of the trade unions are on (token) strike on 1 March against the new high taxation and coercion against the working class. The situation reminds the year 1980 where the present President’s ‘maha-guru’ (big teacher), J. R. Jayewardene took measures to attack the working people and the trade union movement as a measure of economic reform. This is again the trend today.

Under the present circumstances, it might be good for the country to go for an overall political change by holding both Presidential and Parliamentary elections together and look for a new economic agenda with the support of the international community and closely friendly countries like India, China, Japan, EU,and other countries. This will save money and possibly bring a new agenda for democracy and development.

Sri Lanka: Is 13A Panacea?


Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran says that his party has decided to boycott the independence day celebrations this year, as reported in The Island of January 31, 2023. Instead, they will declare it a Black Day and commence a movement towards achieving what they call true freedom. According to him, “Immediately after independence, it was transformed into a majority system under the guise of democracy. That’s why other people living in this country did not get freedom”. What he implies is that the ‘independence’ given was only for the majority Sinhalese, and not for the others (presumably, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, etc., the minority communities). Sumanthiran thinks that even though the  majority Sinhala Buddhist people had been under the impression that they got freedom for many years, they also now feel that they didn’t get any freedom either. So, when the 75th independence day is celebrated, the TNA “will declare it a black day and start a campaign for the country to get its freedom properly”.   

Meanwhile, the Indian news website The Federal reported that the 74th Indian Republic Day was celebrated at the Indian Consulate in Jaffna with a function attended by a large gathering of people including Indians, and  some local Sri Lankans, mainly Tamils, on January 26, 2023. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police took part in the celebration. Consul General, Madurai-born Raakesh Nataraj, mingled with the guests and exchanged greetings. According to The Federal, both Indian Republic Day and Independence day had been regularly observed in Jaffna until the outbreak of the ethnic conflict.

I wondered why our leaders (apparently) never thought of declaring a Sri Lankan Republic Day after the 1972 republican constitution was enacted on May 22nd that year, and the island nation became a republic independent of any links with the British monarchy . 

The truth is that Sumanthiran here, tongue in cheek,is  only hinting at a fresh (a last, hopefully successful, as he probably fancies) attempt at eventually realizing the idea of establishing a separate sovereign state for Tamils (but strategically camouflaged asTamil speaking people to co-opt Muslims into the project) in the (soon to be re-merged?) north and east provinces where respectively Tamils and Muslims form the majority, and the Sinhalese  are now in a thin minority due to ethnic cleansing by the LTTE. Late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi (1980-84) also talked about solving ‘the problem of the Tamil speaking people’ in these provinces in Sri Lanka, lumping Hindus and Muslims together as Tamil speaking people, in the interest of India’s own traditional expansionist ambitions against its smaller, weaker neighbours.

Sumanthiran is thinking exclusively about freedom for the Tamil minority, whereas the nationalists – the majority Sinhalese and the sensible majority of the Tamil, Muslim and other minority communities – are concerned about freedom for all who make Sri Lanka their home, that is, the Sri Lankan people or nation; they don’t talk about nations based on ethno-cultural identities.  Deliberate disinformation by Eelam lobbyists and parasitic NGOs has turned nationalists into racists, chauvinists, xenophobes, right-wing nationalists, and whatnot in the eyes of the global media. 

Since 1948, all Sinhalese leaders have acted on the basis of the concept of one nation or one country, where the majority Sinhalese, who are the true autochthonous inhabitants of the island, along with the veddahs, were joined by other numerically small groups in the course of history in various contexts, such as trade, war, invasion, travel, and so on. The first prime minister of independent Ceylon D.S. Senanayake, when asked by the Soulbury Commissioners at the end of the 1947 parliamentary elections how many Tamils he wanted in his cabinet, said he didn’t mind even if all the cabinet members were Tamil provided they acted as Ceylonese. No Sinhalese parliamentarian has deviated from this line of thinking. 

On the other hand, Tamil leaders like All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) leader and later founder of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) lawyer G.G. Ponnambalam were different. They adopted an anti-Sinhala racist attitude. They focused on perpetuating the special privileges that the Tamil elite enjoyed under the British. They felt threatened by a system of parliamentary democracy, because they feared that the Sinhalese majority would put an end to their privileged status. It was Ponnambalam who, for years before independence, had been making the absurd 50-50 demand (clamouring for the allocation of 50% of the seats in the  parliament yet to be introduced  for the Sinhalese who were the overwhelming majority of the population, and 50% for all the minority groups). The Soulbury Commissioners rejected that demand with contempt. Another Tamil lawyer who came from Malaysia, S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, founded the Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Tamil State Party/euphemistically in English the Federal Party) in 1949 and the rest is history. Sumanthiran seems to be basically among the latest in this tradition.

 While preparations are being earnestly made by the government for marking an independence that was not granted (a long retired civil servant likens it to a birthday party for a baby that was never born), the 25th anniversary of the devastating LTTE suicide-truck-bomb attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy fell on January 25, without anyone remembering it. It looks as if the government let it pass without any commemorative observances unlike in previous years. Why? (My sincere apologies to everybody concerned, if I am mistaken in this assumption) Was it in the name of so-called ‘reconciliation’, which has been a not so seriously meant, hollow slogan right from the beginning? Or was it in order to avoid spoiling the national mood for ‘consecrating’ some ostensibly momentous event that is going to coincide with the 75th independence day ceremony? The epoch-making event that Ranil Wickremasinghe wants to celebrate thus, as everybody knows now, is the purported settlement of the alleged Tamil ethnic problem through the full implementation of the controversial 13A (forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India, without doubt, in the latter’s exclusive national interest, in 1987). Grown-up Sri Lankans remember how thousands of our patriotic youngsters died in opposing Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs, in the second JVP uprising, which occurred in the years 1986-89 during UNP rule. A thirty year civil conflict claimed the lives of thousands of Sri Lanka’s defence forces personnel,  Tamil rebel cadres, and civilians caught in terrorist bomb blasts; the conflict left many more injured. All this was in trying to prevent the certain Balkanization of the country through the 13A. Seven executive presidents from JR Jayawardane to Gotabaya Rajapaksa back-burnered it for a legitimate reason. What are the benefits of a fully implemented 13A that justify such sacrifices of the country’s youth of the previous generation?

Be that as it may, does Ranil Wickremasinghe want to invest this servile surrender to foreign pressure with a sacred quality by having a special Sacred Tooth Relic exposition? It can’t be that he is mocking Sinhalese Buddhist sentiments. True, he was totally rejected by the mainly Buddhist Lankan electorate as a prospective candidate for executive presidency. It could also  be a similar passive-aggressive attack on his part on the pohottuwa alliance (the Sri Lanka Podu Peramuna, the SLPP). He must have been waiting for a chance to take his revenge on the SLPP, which turned itself into his nemesis in the last parliamentary election. But the principal partners of the SLPP, the treacherous Rajapaksas, as it has now become so clear to the betrayed public, were able to do this otherwise commendable thing, by pretending to espouse the popular nationalist cause, merely to hoodwink the masses to win votes. Ranil and the Rajapaksas are partners now. They are not strange bedfellows; they are natural allies. Whatever they are making common cause in achieving, turning the country’s hallowed Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage into a political football between rival factions of conflicting persuasions is something worse than the Maligawa bombing itself. It does not augur well for the future of our Motherland. It is the last thing that fair-minded patriotic citizens belonging to all communities are likely to take lying down. 

The only thing that people expect Ranil Wicktremasinghe to do at this moment is to focus on rescuing the country from the economic crisis that it is engulfed in, and leave it to the present day youth of the country from all the diverse communities to lawfully, democratically and peacefully usher in the new corruption free Sri Lanka that they want to build. 

When three LTTE suicide cadres drove an explosives laden truck to the Maligawa early on the morning of January 25, 1998, and set it off, it caused massive damage to the building, while killing seventeen innocent worshippers including two two-year old infants and the three suicide bombers. The attack was universally condemned across the civilized world in the sternest terms. It was reported that three times more money was donated by the ordinary people than was necessary for restoring the destroyed parts of the Maligawa, which was completed within two years of the heinous crime. Ranil Wickremasinghe was the leader of the opposition then. Condemning the bombing he said, “Not even in the darkest moments of Sri Lanka’s 2000 year history has such an act of destruction been perpetrated against the very symbol of our civilization and history.” He should know (I am sure he does, for he is a very well-read knowledgeable person) that the Tooth Relic has been a symbol of sovereignty over the island since the 4th century CE when it was brought to Anuradhapura from Dantapuri (modern Puri, Odisha) in India. If he insists on having the Mahanayakes agree to hold a Tooth Relic exposition to give some sort of legitimacy to his controversial move, and if his request is granted by them, then he will appear to mock the sanity of Sri Lankans and the sanctity of this national symbol. 

To my shock, however, I hear that the relic exhibition that Ranil Wickremasinghe proposed, is scheduled to start on March 4, a month after the day of disputed independence. If this incredible piece of information is true, then it means that the two Mahanayakes, the guardians of the Maligawa, (no one is above them in this matter) have agreed to bless the ultimate victory of those who wanted to destroy ‘the symbol of our civilization and history’!

Of course, Ranil Wickremasinghe alone cannot be held responsible for what is now almost a certainty. All the leaders (or most of them) and their mostly inarticulate juniors in parliament  reportedly support the president’s decision. They should share responsibility, too, for what is going to happen. Constitutionally, of course, there appears to be no barrier to the full implementation of 13A. But that is only a technical point, beyond morality. The three pillars of parliamentary democracy are said to be the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The country’s moral values reign over all three. The ethical conduct of the humans who embody the legislative, executive, and judicial powers is imperative for the proper functioning of the democratic system. That is my idea. 

Civil social activist and Vinivida Foundation convener, lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku argues in a recent video that president Wickremasinghe has no moral right to take that decision, but that it is in accordance with an agreement reached between the Tamil  National Alliance (TNA), the UNP, and the JVP (represented by Anura Dissanayake, now National People’s Power leader) on September 20, 2017. Recently, Anura Dissanayake even appeared on a TNA stage in the north, according to him.

The NPP leaders say that their goal is to bring in a good government that is free from corruption and theft, and that  establishes the rule of law. But that is the main platform on which even UNP’s J.R. Jayawardane fought the 1977 general election, pledging to bring in a Righteous Society (that has to date failed to materialise). The Island newspaper reported (February 2, 2023) that NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya, asked about her party’s stand on Ranil Wickremasinghe’s decision to implement the 13A fully, said she didn’t believe he would do that, because he didn’t do it when he could do it. The NPP also believes that it should be fully implemented, though there was still a debate about this within the party. She told The Island: 

“It has been presented as a solution to the national problem. It is already there in the Constitution and we believe that it should be implemented, but we have a debate whether it could be a tenable solution for the national problem. Our standpoint is that a government with genuine intention of addressing the issues of Tamil people must bring about solutions to the national problem, and we have no faith in other parties, but only the NPP could do that.”

It is not clear how the NPP is going to deal with the 13A issue. But if it is hoping to wangle the support of the Sinhala Buddhist masses while horse-trading with the federalists, Anura’s chances of becoming president will evaporate soon. As he has already apparently indicated that his prime minister will be Sumanthiran (I am not sure of this piece of gossip) in case he becomes president, the voters in the south will be even more sceptical about voting for him. Sumanthiran is the exact opposite of Lakshman Kadirgamar, that the Sinhalese universally loved, and honoured above all other politicians.

To return to Nagananda, he blames former elections commissioner Mahinda Desapriya for conniving at the TNA’s treacherous intentions revealed in its constitution. Desapriya had been given only the Tamil version of the TNA’s constitutional proposals, which he apparently couldn’t read and understand. He hadn’t asked for or they hadn’t given him the English version of the document (which means, according to Nagananda, they didn’t want its contents to be accessible to the Sinhala majority). Nagananda claims that he had some significant parts rendered into English: According to him, the TNA constitution (includes) “…… the right to self determination, the policy of founding an autochthonous Tamil State, Tamil Aru, and an autochthonous Muslim State, Muslim Aru, and thereby seeing the liberation of the political and economic aspects of the Tamil speaking people…….

Note: An absolute guarantee will be given to the right of religion and language of the minority national races that live in the autochthonous Tamil State that will be set up in the Tamil Motherland……..”.

(Incidentally, I do not agree with Nagananda’s explanation of the concept of the independence of the judiciary in this context.)

Now these autochthonous claims for Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka are ludicrous inventions. Authoritative historians (including Professors Karthigesu Indrapala and Kingsley de Silva) have shown that before the 13th century invasion by Magha of Kalinga, there was no Tamil kingdom in the north of Sri Lanka nor a settled Tamil population there. Tamils are the autochthonous inhabitants of Tamil Nadu in the mainland India. As for Muslims in the eastern province, they were settled there by king Senerath of Kandy (1604-1635 CE) as fugitives from Portuguese persecution in the coastal areas that they were occupying. Muslims and Portuguese were rival traders. The Sinhalese king also settled some of these Muslims in the central highlands. Still later the occupying Dutch and British brought Javanese and Malaysian Muslims, thereby adding to the growing Muslim population in Sri Lanka in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Implications of Nagananda’s revelations for the country need not be elaborated. He emphatically says that the ordinary Tamil people he met in Jaffna do not ask for a separate state. They only want to live in one Sri Lanka peaceably with the other communities.

Nagananda believes that the local government elections that are going to be held will not be of any value and that the Anura Dissanayake-led NPP is unlikely to win such a significant victory at imminent local government election. I personally think that the NPP appears to be the front runner, judging by the size of the crowds that attend its rallies (as reported on online media). But do these people know what the party leaders are really committed to, I wonder? There is no stamp of conviction on most faces, though. Most look sceptical of the leaders

We need statesmen/women, not mere politicians. People are fed up with the latter. Anura is not likely to turn out to be a real statesman, even if he gets the chance to do so one day, if he pursues his proven hypocrisy. However, compared to the leading buffoons of the two traditional parties (the UNP and the SLFP/or their ghostly modern reincarnations), Anura Dissanayake would be someone that the people can look towards as an alternative leader, provided he does not forfeit the trust of the majority Sinhala Buddhists in his attempt to win the loyalty of the traditional minority leaders, who will never ever change their spots, though they may change their hunting grounds.

Ranil Wickremasinghe has got his last chance to prove his statesmanship and retrieve his lost popularity and honour. He should not, as default president, abuse his executive powers to implement the long disputed 13A for the time being, but do whatever he can do to address the economic woes of our suffering masses before the current presidency ends. It is hoped that he will use his constitutional powers to achieve that end. Then let him call presidential elections and fight it himself or get his nominee to fight it on the single issue of the all important 13th Amendment, perhaps against a principal rival like Anura Dissanayake. Whoever it is, the next president must have the support of the active, truly educated youth of the country, not the half-wits now in the limelight.

What does Ranil Wickremasinghe have up his sleeve? 

Whatever it is, equipped with his education, native intelligence and acquired political wisdom, he will be able to hold the country whole until it passes lawfully into the hands of the uncorrupt patriotic young generation that is waiting in the wings in patient silence (not into those of the ignorant noisy buffoons in the ‘aragalaya‘). 

A number of sacrilegious attacks have been made in recent times on the Sri Dalada (the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy, astonishingly by some Buddhists. The two most recent instances are: Sepala Amerasinghe, an elderly YouTuber, committing repeated verbal sacrilege by calling the Tooth Relic a ‘labba’ (an impolite word implying a pendant male sexual organ) in his videos; the other instance may be described as a form of desecration of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy where the the Tooth Relic is housed: a kind of faith-healing veda mahattaya/native physician (a notorious charlatan and a crooked businessman according to social media accounts) by the name of Janaka C. Senadhipathi is building at Potuhera, Kurunegala, an unauthorized replica of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, claiming that the sacred relic will be miraculously transported to his new shrine from the Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa, which according to him, is polluted by the materialistic corruption of its present custodians). It is ironic that these acts take place (by design or coincidence) only a few days after president Ranil Wickremesinghe showed his desire to have a special exposition of the Dalada ahead of the next independence day due to be held in February. The president is obviously hoping to achieve something of tremendous importance for the nation that he seems to think is significant enough to be celebrated with a Dalada exhibition. What this epoch making development probably is not a mystery to adult Sri Lankans who have some idea about the dynamics of post-independence politics in Sri Lanka. It must be something to do with the final settlement of the so-called Tamil national problem or the implementation of 13A+.

This confronts the nation with a dilemma concerning Ranil Wickremesinghe as everybody’s  (225 in parliament’s and the general public’s) refuge/saviour: it is the general public perception that, at this moment, there is no political leader who can at least try to bring about some sort of economic stability to the country except Ranil Wickremasinghe. But will he be able to garner enough parliamentary support to implement 13A+? To compound the confusion, there is the problem of holding the lawfully scheduled local government elections, the likely result of which will not strengthen the mutually dependent parliament+president combine, nor benefit the nation economically or politically. The people will question: Why are you so particular about sticking to the electoral laws at this critical juncture where the flagrant violation of other existing vital laws such as the antiquities ordinances has introduced a previously non-existent religious and racial dimension to the country’s political divisions? But be that as it may. Let’s return to our present topic.

Since the arrival of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka in the 4th century CE (this is well recorded in the Mahavamsa and other chronicles), a tradition evolved according to which the ruler of the island acquired the legitimacy of his sovereignty by virtue of the possession of the sacred relic. The Dalada was held in a shrine within the palace complex. The shrine itself later came to be called ‘Maligawa’ or palace, the residence of the king, because of this connection between sovereignty and the sacred relic. Due to this reason, the Dalada was subject to changing hands between external invaders or internal rivals and the reigning monarchs in troublous times, as happened several times before the European advent in the island and after. The desacralization of the sacred relic and the attempted dilution of the sanctity of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy could be premeditated. Though it is  well known that the Dalada has neither any connection with, nor bears any responsibility for, the current economic and political crises, it has become a target for attack concerning even natural disasters. Sepala Amerasinghe mentioned above, before calling the Dalada a ‘labba’ for which offence he has been arrested and remanded till January 17, blamed the recent floods in Kandy caused by heavy rain on the ‘kunu datha’ (rotten tooth) in one of his videos. This was an oblique reference to the traditionally held belief among Buddhists that the Dalada has rain making powers. Such beliefs (and relic worship itself for that matter) are not found in Theravada Buddhism, but are imports from the Mahayana tradition which are now part of the local Buddhist religious culture.

So there seems to be a deliberate attempt by certain inimical forces  to dilute or totally negate the symbolic power of the Sacred Tooth Relic for the majority Sinhalese Buddhist polity. It is the bounden duty of the government on behalf of all concerned citizens to investigate what sinister force is behind these incidents and take remedial action. But there are no blasphemy laws in Buddhism. When a TouTuber brought the ‘kunu data’ insult to their notice by phone, the Anu Nayake Theras of both Malwatte showed little concern about it. It was when several concerned lay Buddhists complained to them again about Sepala Amerasinghe repeatedly making sacrilegious statements that the Mahanayake Theras and the Diyawadana Nilame, the guardian of the Maligawa, wrote to the president about it.

Incidentally, Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to be lurking protectively behind Senadhipathi. The former’s erstwhile sidekick Mervin Silva visited Potuhera, and ordered the demolition of the front part of the building in question, declaring that there should be only one Dalada Maligawa, the one in Kandy and that the rest of structures in the place must remain. Mervin Silva was reported to have threatened with death social activist Nilantha Ranasinghe who had raised the issue in public and exposed Senadhipathi’s questionable activities with audio, video and print evidence. Mervin Silva told another YouTuber (named Chaturanga Bandara) that Mahinda Rajapaksa phoned him to thank him for what he did.)  Mahinda exploited the nationalist groundswell to sweep the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections against the previous infamous yahapalanaya led by prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and president Maithripala Sirisena; but he totally betrayed that victory through the entrenched corruption he supported among his stooges and his own obsession with dynastic rule, which ultimately brought repeatedly rejected Ranil Wickremasinghe to the helm. Mahinda seems to have so morally weakened in parallel with his obvious physical degeneration as to make a futile attempt to salvage his lost popularity among the Buddhist voters by championing fake ‘Bosath’ Janaka Senadhipathi, with the help of thuggish Mervin. 

To return to the beginning, the media reported (December 24, 2022) that a request that president Ranil Wickremasinghe made for a special exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic before February 2023 when Sri Lanka completes seventy-five years of independence did not get a positive response from either of the two Ven. Mahanayake Theras of the Siam Nikaya, Malwatte and Asgiriya, in Kandy, who are joint custodians of the Sri Dalada Maligawa. The president’s request was conveyed to the prelates in a letter from him personally delivered to them by prime minister Dinesh Gunawardane, who expressly called on them for the purpose. The Malwatte prelate, according to the news reports, suggested that the PM should approach the Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera about this as it is the latter’s turn at the moment to be in charge of the service at the Dalada Maligawa. When the premier visited the  Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera with the president’s proposal or appeal, the latter wonderingly asked him  if a Tooth Relic exposition at this juncture wasn’t a difficult task to perform.

With hindsight one would hazard a guess that the two Buddhist prelates of the Siam Nikaya, namely the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and the Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, especially the former, might accommodate the presidential wish, if  Buddhist public opinion also favours it. There are two other nikayas, Ramanna and Amarapura, which signed an agreement to merge in August 2019; the expected merger was a step in the right direction, for the Maha Sangha unity is indispensable for the survival of the Buddhasasanaya as a religious cultural establishment. The living component of the Buddhasasanaya is the ‘sivvanak pirisa’ or the fourfold community of male and female bhikshus and male and female lay Buddhists. This is not a political entity, but a religious one, though it needs state protection (just as it enjoyed full royal patronage under Sinhala kings before the time of foreign invasions); in this, the Sinhala Buddhist community  is not different from other religious communities. (In Sri Lanka, 70% of the ethnically and religiously diverse total population comprise Buddhists.) No religion is more compatible with the best form of government evolved to date, democracy than Buddhism, though it is not your average religion. Bhikkhus and Bhikshunis may personally hold different political views, and even exercise their voting rights as they please, as citizens, but it is not proper for them to engage in partisan politics, because that would definitely cause divisions within the fourfold community of Buddhists. The clergy must leave active politics involving campaigning and electioneering entirely to the lay Buddhists. May the Mahanayakes have the wisdom to tell the president not to desecrate the Sri Dalada by dragging it into politics.

However, traditionally and historically, Buddhist monks have wielded great power over the Buddhist community including the rulers. Currently though, they are becoming increasingly powerless, mainly because of their meddling in politics, patronizing corrupt politicians, and also because of the Mahanayake Theras’ incomprehensible inaction and disunity. President Wickremesinghe’s seemingly cynical suggestion must be viewed in this context. Is he, through having a special Tooth Relic exposition held to coincide with the implementation of whatever solution he proposes to the Tamil ethnic problem, trying to make palatable to the Sinhala Buddhist majority something they would not normally look upon with favour. Is he bringing back an earlier unpopular deal that sent him and his party home at the hustings? But Ranil is too intelligent to repeat past errors.

I am tempted to say this because Ranil Wickremesinghe, unlike his predecessors Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, does not usually make a show of unfelt religious piety for hoodwinking the masses. If he wants, he uses religion in a more street-smart way. Unlike the latter duo again, he is no religious hypocrite; he doesn’t even care to show if he is really a Buddhist (which of course is right, and befits a genuine Buddhist). The important thing, I think, is that he seems to know that ordinary Buddhist voters, true to their faith, do not worry too much about whether he is a Buddhist or a non-Buddhist. (Unfortunately, however, global scale media distortion against them demonizes Sinhalese Buddhists as racist chauvinists and religious fanatics simply because circumstances force them to raise their voice when their human rights are violated by others (such as unethical conversion of Buddhists, encroachment or vandalizing or desecration of Buddhist archaeological sites, deliberate distortion of historical and Buddhist doctrinal facts).

What is happening in Sri Lanka in this respect, hardly recognized or taken seriously by the global powers that be, is doubtlessly a crime against humanity carried out by an externally well funded medley of subversive organizations and individuals, that is getting more and more explicit and more and more overpowering in the Sri Lanka’s present economically and politically debilitated situation. It can be argued that the same forces that are behind this insidious barbarity are at least partly responsible for worsening the political and economic maelstrom that is currently engulfing Sri Lanka, despite the abundance of  rich natural resources and the  high quality of the human resources locally available, both of which its citizens can be justly proud of.

For president Wickremasinghe to want a special Dalada exposition he must be contemplating to consecrate, as it were, something momentous like a nationally important historic event concurrently with government celebrations that will mark the completion of seventy-five years of independence (whatever the last word is held to mean) from British colonial occupation. When it comes to true freedom from Britain, we believe that the 1948 independence was eclipsed by the promulgation of the republican constitution in 1972 under the United Front government of Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike. Yet, it looks like that Wickremasinghe wants to return to the Western fold by ignoring the 1972 change, which was not supported by the Illankei Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Lanka Tamil Kingdom/State Party/or misleadingly called the Federal Party in English) founded in 1949 by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, an immigrant Tamil from Malaysia. (The clamour for a separate state for Tamils started soon after the grant of so-called independence, which was actually nothing more than dominion status. The 1972 declaration of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was until then known among foreigners and English speaking locals) as a republic severed that last link with the  British empire.

 Sri Lankans are a democratic people. Ranil Wickremesinghe or any other political leader could easily accommodate the legitimate interests of the global and regional superpowers that the country’s geographical location makes it obligatory for it to satisfy, if he did it with the people’s full democratic approval, while at the same time preserving their national dignity, sovereignty and independence.     

When in 2019 Wickremesinghe and the UNP that he still leads got kicked out of parliament, he had spent forty-two years in that august body as elected member serving repeatedly in responsible senior positions over that long period as cabinet minister, opposition leader, and prime minister, and now as president at least by default. Ranil Wickremasinghe the politician has nothing more to win or lose in his life; he has nothing to look forward to, except perhaps a dignified obituary. But he suddenly finds ‘greatness thrust upon him’ by a strange turn of events in a context where  Sri Lankans of all religious and political persuasions are up against the wall economically and politically. The Sinhalese Buddhists, in addition to this adverse global predicament experienced, not only in Sri Lanka, but across most of the world outside, are simply facing a form of cultural genocide as argued above. It is expediently connived at by our corrupt traitorous self-seeking politicians and blithely indulged by an apparently unconcerned, blissfully ignorant Maha Sangha.

Ranil Wickremasinghe can still use his intellectual superiority and political acumen to rescue our nation.

A very happy New Year 2023 to Sri Lanka and its people


I am writing from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I wish a very happy New Year 2023 to Sri Lanka and its people.

In the New Year-2023, Sri Lankans will need to put extra efforts together, to reignite the economy and promote growth and also to make it inclusive and beneficial to all. They will also need to intensify investment in education in 2023. They must work together to eradicate corruption, crimes, drugs and substance abuse as well as violence against people in their communities. Where they disagree, let them do so with dignity and respect and promote unity and cohesion as they build their country together. The challenge now is to continue to pursue the economic and political conditions that will spread the wealth throughout the population and provide an example for the rest of the world. They must work harder to build a truly caring society in 2023.

Despite all the success the country has achieved in recent years including 2022, new and old dangers – economic, political, and security-related – threaten to derail its progress. With sound policymaking, effective leadership, and enough foresight, however, can meet and defeat these challenges as well as the many more to come in the New Year. They probably use the beginning of every year to reflect on the past years, make decisions and set resolutions for the New Year. It is a good thing to make resolutions, but it takes a good deal of discipline and commitment to get results that would be different and better than what they got last year. Catherine Pulsifer wrote, “The New Year symbolizes the ending of one year and the beginning of yet another. We celebrate this event, yet it is only a moment in time, like any other day. But it is also considered a time when new beginnings can happen. Be determined to have a Happy New Year!” 

In the New Year’s foresight, Sri Lanka’s growth initiatives may be overarching themes that place the country at the tipping point and people perceive to be key areas for intervention to keep Sri Lanka on its current rising trajectory. This year’s format is different from years past, encompassing viewpoints from high-level policymakers, academics, and practitioners, as well as utilising visuals to better illustrate the paths behind and now in front of Sri Lanka. Growth in Asia and elsewhere has shown that industrialisation is crucial to job creation, a value that has to be enshrined in the new sustainable development goals of Sri Lanka.

The country has witnessed remarkable improvements in poverty reduction in recent years, but persistent challenges in inequality, education, health, and violence, among others, still plague it. As the 2023 year may provide the opportunity to be a jumping-off point for strong policies and efforts to accomplish the desired goals, they should understand the assortment of opportunities of 2022 provides for supporting human development efforts and argues for the central role that better data and corrective measures play in addressing them.

To explore the consequences of Sri Lanka’s rapid urbanisation which historically has facilitated the country transition from a reliance on agriculture to industry and jobs. However, without strong policies to deliver services, finance and build infrastructure, and support the urban poor, the country’s rapidly growing cities and intermediate cities cannot deliver on their potentials. The New Year may see a number of governance milestones and obstacles, and the march towards good governance. Any sort of violence, killing and destruction… shall have to be ruthlessly suppressed by the law and order controlling body of the government. People want peace and that has to be ensured. People do not want the banal forces and their mango-twigs to get any chance to fish out any benefits in the troubled waters. Raise your voice. Beware of that the ruffians must not get any chance to disturb them because Sri Lanka is for Sri Lanka’s people of all religions to live together in peace. 

The government should reflect on the country’s growth-governance puzzle and the complex institutional changes necessary to move from economic growth to economic transformation. Historically, urbanisation is a sign of economic prosperity. As a country underwent structural transformation, and its economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and industry, the composition of the population of the country shifted from being predominantly rural to predominantly urban. However, urbanisation in the Sri Lanka’s context displays different characteristics from the ones witnessed in Asia and other countries. This growth demonstrates a great need for better urban management and institution building. Thus, if managed properly, the new emerging cities can produce several economic opportunities as cities offer economies of scale, which can be conducive to sustainable economic prosperity and improved human development. 

Despite all the political and economic challenges facing the country, the people’s desire for a better life with better education for their children, strong domestic institutions, full employment opportunities and faster economic growth means that the future can be much brighter. Many of the hurdles they may uncover have policy solutions. Government should spend primarily on the work to improve not just education systems but also infrastructure across the board. Smart, pro-business policies will also help ensure the creation of decent jobs that can keep young people engaged in society and out of troubles.

Despite challenges on the economic front, together they made substantial progress in providing basic services, such as, electricity, housing, roads, water and sanitation, healthcare as well as accessible education. The country’s GDP has begun to show welcome improvements. Thus significant strides were made in the past years in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment. Still the government needs for renewed efforts to boost inclusive economic growth and improve the lives of poor and working-class; and it remains a key priority of the government.

The mornings of winter fall on the last of the fogbank and will wash it away. We can smell the grass again, and the torn leaves being eased down into the mud.  The few loves we have been allowed to keep are still sleeping on the sky of Sri Lanka. Here in the country, they walk across the fields with only a few young cows for company. Big-boned and shy, they are like girls we remember. Those girls are matured now. Like Sri Lankans, they must sometimes stand at a window late at night, looking out on a silent backyard, at one rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons and cry hard for whoever used to make them happiest, and wonder how their lives have carried them this far without ever once explaining anything. They don’t know why they are walking out here with their coats darkening and their boots sinking in, coming up with a mild sucking sound we, as foreigners, like to hear. We don’t care where those girls are now.  Whatever they have made of it they can have. Today, Sri Lankans want to resolve many things. They only want to walk a little longer in the cold blessing of the wind, and lift their faces to it.

Emotions and excitement will be lifted up inside eyes and mouth widely grinning hands clap together anticipation rising going through the whole body. As we, foreigners, wait for the sunrise, we wait for a shimmering blue sea in Sri Lanka. We shall see a beautiful golden sun. And we believe it will set them free. We put our pens down greatness without sound; love without a doubt and a heart unbound; freedom of tongues is freedom of minds; and free air is freedom of lungs. We smoke though, temporary satisfaction for eternal sorrow; one more drag; confidence to load the mag up against our heads, we then resurrect ourselves with memories of something else in Sri Lanka. So, we as foreigners are grinding again, making our way up the lane, but the cities big so we take a… Melody Beattie reminds us, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

With the moon as the conductor, the symphony of lights begins. As the heavens open in anticipation, stars one by one comes filing in with each rhythmic starlight flicker keeping in tune with the galaxy. Entire planets hold their breath in wonder from everlasting to everlasting nebula breeze. It all plays out in harmony keeping perfect 3-4 times and such beauty is not held by boundaries and seen and heard light years through time. The year 2023 should be to do only good deeds for Sri Lanka.

The winds of bearable and golden-like and sweet-note are on the heads of Sri Lankans. The winds of civility and refinements having good or auspicious marks; of commendable looks… good governance…gentleness of disposition…exquisite beauty or grace…quite consistence; very reasonable; judicious; fair; adequate; relevant; well-refined life shall prevail in their days; and I wish our Sri Lankan friends, and people in general a glorified and restful festive season. Celebrate new life in the New Year 2023. From Bangladesh, I wish to finish-off today in the words of Goran Persson, “Let your New Year’s resolution be this: you will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”

The End –

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