Author Archives: AHAzeez

Patriot

 

 


-The poster, like the play, is more than usually out there

 

Our latest Forum Theater production will appear on November 2 at the Bishops College auditorium.

Forum theater is about audience interaction and expression. The play generally consists of five short scenes that last about 20 minutes. The audience is allowed to absorb the story in the first run and then the play is repeated; except this time the audience has the freedom to stop it at any point and attempt to redirect its course.

Normally the play focuses on a relevant social issue. The thespians’ last three productions tackled racism, disability and censorship, this time around the topic will be ‘Patriotism’. The play is rather straightforwardly titled ‘Patriot’.

It is however, anything but straightforward. The protagonist, David, is an adman who has to face tremendous opposition from the powers that be and his loved ones alike as he tries to stay a moral course that is compatible with his beliefs as well as capable of supporting his family.

He is caught in a dilemma when a promotional campaign for what he considers to be questionable government propaganda is thrust upon him by his boss. The consequences of his decisions are far reaching. And David is ultimately forced to find out just how far he is willing to go to stand by his beliefs.

The play is darker and more abstract that Beyond Borders’ previous attempts. Our last effort, Elected based on racism, drew record crowds.

The play starts at 6 p.m. Come with your acting juices flowing for maximum satisfaction. Entrance is strictly based on invites and there are still a few left. Call 0777 491718 to grab em.


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U Can Haz Constitution.lk

We have just launched a website about the constitution. Now stop that yawn and go check it out, because we’ve tried to convert the heavy worded constitution of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka to something more well, readable.

The project is a part of Beyond Borders’ Peace and Governance initiative. The site will have Sinhala and Tamil versions soon. In the meanwhile we would really like to hear what you think about the English version that is already up.

Why we did it

If you haven’t already rushed off to check out our shiny new website then let us tell you why we thought of doing it. Beyond Borders Peace and Governance from the outset had the primary goal of combating  youth apathy towards governance issues. Our research indicated that a lot of youth simply don’t bother with getting to know the fundamentals of our governance structure unless forced to by way of academics or threat of assault by blunt metal object.

One of the many reasons for this, we discovered, was the unavailability of youth friendly information sources. A lot of young people feel marginalized by our system. Others feel used by the powers that be. So the website idea came about as a humble effort by us to provide a young person friendly version of the constitution.

There, that’s the short answer. The long answer is too long to type, but this is the general gist of it. Remember to leave a comment about the site. Bouquets and brickbats equally appreciated.

Show us the (Green) Money

Talk about carbon trading and carbon emissions in Sri Lanka and the business savvy mind will immediately think of a company like MAS which became part of the world’s first ever fully ‘green’ supply chain together with Marks and Spencer. It may also think about various reforestation and sustainable energy projects that are implemented as carbon credit sources for trade with companies in developing countries.

The ‘green’ craze has taken over the world, if not politically, at least in the sphere of marketing. Increasingly firms are looking to go ‘green’ to attract eco-conscious customers. This may be a whole new wave of consumerist political activism where people use the choices in what they buy to influence policy. How can this influence policy? One might ask. They are only buying goods from firms, not from politicians they might say. But the truth is that all political systems are inherently tied to where the money is. Democracy is mainly conformed to the capitalists needs. Power needs money and who has money? The businessmen. The people influence businesses, the businesses influence the government, and the governments make the changes in policy.

Perhaps I have stretched that train of thought too far into a dark tunnel, let me pull it out and re-examine it. People want green goods because people feel guilty about the environment. This is mostly true of the Western consumer, only this efficacious creature has the time, money or the inclination to worry about the environment and incorporate room for it in his or her wallet. Green brands are popping up all over the place, all of them struggling to stamp out their ‘carbon footprint’ from the great beach of the atmosphere.

On the contrary most Sri Lankan consumers, when caring about the environment, will resort to refusing fresh plastic bags with their groceries. The typical Sri Lankan is worried about pollution, not global warming. The Kyoto protocol is something the average Sri Lankan is only dimly aware of.

The Kyoto protocol tried to bring in emission regulations for the countries of the world to follow. Attempts to apply uniform emission targets failed miserably. China, one of the biggest emitters of Carbon dioxide refused to reduce emission rates at the same level as developed countries claiming that all the ‘development’ enjoyed by these countries came out of large scale industrialization that couldn’t have given two hoots of a steam engine about global warming. Feeble excuses that none of these countries had ever heard of the phenomenon at the time were scornfully discarded.

The US has also notoriously been unwilling to conform. Barrack Obama’s lackluster performance at Copenhagen 2010 nailed the lid on the coffin of the much hyped sequel to Kyoto. As far as the big nations were concerned, global warming was a distant possibility that they were too busy getting richer to bother about.

But that is not to say a large number of countries did not ratify it. And from the Kyoto protocol was born the carbon emission trading market. Companies were given emission targets as part of a ‘triple bottom line’ financial model that was to take in the cost incurred to the environment by their operations. If they could not cut down their emission levels to what was required by the target, they were allowed to purchase extra emission credits from firms and entities that were well below their own targets. A lot of these provides for emission credits are green projects in the developing world. Sri Lanka itself has a number of waterfall centered sustainable energy projects that make a lot of money for their owners.

A system like this may have failed because the companies adopting the regulations would have been at a serious disadvantage in comparison to those that did not. And in fact, many of them did and still do depend on government subsidies.

The system would have collapsed were it not so appealing to the hippie inside every consumer. Large scale demand for products that had no ‘carbon footprint’ started to impact industries as diverse as supermarkets, financial services, internet services, couriering, transport, tourism you get the drift. Wherever there was an environmentally savvy consumer, brands could differentiate to appeal more to him or her.

Happily for the hippie in me, the phenomenon has also seeped into the unregulated sector. Companies that are not legally bound to follow the protocol are adapting its requirements to appeal more to customers. A whole new industry has emerged that services the needs of these companies. There are firms that will measure, set targets for and monitor your company’s carbon emissions and provide you with a globally recognized certificate for it. They will also help you market it to your customers.

As more and more consumers demand green products more and more companies will start to provide them more and more governments are being bypassed. This is how a democracy works; Money makes it move faster.

Sri Lankan firms should start looking for opportunities to go green as well. A new certification firm is in town and if the demand doesn’t exist, it wouldn’t be too hard to create it. Most industries that target Western markets will be inclined to tag along with the wave, tea, coconut, garments and IT services being a few. As for the domestic market, it will still be a while until Mrs. Perera inquires as to what exactly the carbon footprint of a kilo of that samba rice is at the supermarket.

By Halik Azeez

Halik is a core group member of Beyond Borders and is an erstwhile corporate desk jockey turned journalist and student. He also blogs here sometimes. His opinions are his own.

Climate Sustainability: A discussion with Mr. Uchitha De Zoysa

Revised Patriotism

In 1774 Samuel Johnson printed The Patriot; a critique of what he thought was false patriotism. He made his famous statement ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel’ on April 7th, 1775. This line was not about patriotism in general – but what patriotism was not. With this statement he defined ‘self confessed patriots’ and tried to carve out a niche for the true patriot who was in sight and rhetoric fast becoming obscured by the scoundrel.

If the Definition of Patriotism is ‘the love of one’s country’ and a scoundrel was someone who commits evil with deliberate intent – then the bulk of Sri Lanka is in trouble in its very core. The hallowed halls of leadership have self professed patriots who have imbibed their own version of patriotism on a people made divisive along the lines of differences.

It seems scoundrels have taken refuge in almost every sphere of Sri Lankan patriotism, and sustain themselves by using patriotism as a means to propel themselves to lay their hands on commissions from funded projects, tax collections and naked corruption.

There was a time when Sri Lanka was a country of true patriots, who by acts, deeds, examples and no mass media to propagate for them were branded as revolutionaries by a people who had genuine love for them, and not the reprobative hooligans we now have who try to encase themselves in supposed patriotism to disguise their evil schemes.

It is now obvious, ever since we gained independence in 1948 that patriotism is well and truly a place where scoundrels have found refuge. In this abode, they are refugees who have nothing else to cling on to, a group of people who have exhausted all their opportunities to serve their countrymen by using them to satisfy their own whims and fancies.

These scoundrels use patriotism to side with the patriotic fervour of the common man hoping that the common man would see their patriotism and not see the whole plethora of anti national activities they do inside this façade.

Who determines what Patriotism is today? In Sri Lanka in particular, and in the world in general.

Patriotism can be defined in almost every category of our day to day lives.  From the soldier who sincerely fights for his country to the little child whose day is spoilt when his national team loses a cricket match. They can be very little (deemed almost insignificant) deeds which reflect the patriotic philosophy emanating from within a person.

In essence they can be any one of the following, or much more –

  • Sri Lankans who have died in war or peacetime, by standing up in defence of Sri Lankan ideals and social ethics, of her liberties & peace and her people.
  • Standing up and expressing opposition when anybody (irrespective of who it may be) is subjected to injustice or discrimination.
  • The love for Sri Lanka that makes one sacrifice his/her own comforts just to make it a holistically better place to live for everyone.

Patriotism was in display when the Tsunami struck in 2004, when Sri Lanka won the Cricket world cup in 1996, when the ethnic diversity of the Sri Lankan cricket team was hailed  when they reached the finals of the 2007 world cup, and never when there is exploitation of a country’s resources (belonging to everyone) to enhance the lives of just the family, friends or near acquaintances, be it through mismanagement of economic resources, outright lies and deception, taking millions of rupees in commission from national projects, deceptive unconstitutional elections, allowing special interest groups to manipulate the infrastructure of a country and continued political practices that are blatantly unconstitutional.

Patriotism is the sound of the horn that calls ordinary people to become national heroes.

President John Kennedy is quoted as saying – “A Nation that is afraid to let its people judge
the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation afraid of its people.”

I quote below some of the salient points of ‘The Patriot’. The differences in the spellings of some words are possibly because those words were spelt that way when this was originally written.

It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities; who tells, that the last peace was obtained by bribing the princess of Wales; that the king is grasping at arbitrary power; and, that because the French, in the new conquests, enjoy their own laws, there is a design at court of abolishing, in England, the trial by juries.”

“The people is a very heterogeneous and confused mass of the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad. Before we confer on a man, who caresses the people, the title of patriot, we must examine to what part of the people he directs his notice. It is proverbially said, that he who dissembles his own character, may be known by that of his companions. If the candidate of patriotism endeavours to infuse right opinions into the higher ranks, and, by their influence, to regulate the lower; if he consorts chiefly with the wise, the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, his love of the people may be rational and honest. But if his first or principal application be to the indigent, who are always inflammable; to the weak, who are naturally suspicious; to the ignorant, who are easily misled; and to the profligate, who have no hope but from mischief and confusion; let his love of the people be no longer boasted. No man can reasonably be thought a lover of his country, for roasting an ox, or burning a boot, or attending the meeting at Mile-end, or registering his name in the lumber troop. He may, among the drunkards, be a hearty fellow, and, among sober handicraftsmen, a freespoken gentleman; but he must have some better distinction, before he is a patriot.”

“Much less does he make a vague and indefinite promise of obeying the mandates of his constituents. He knows the prejudices of faction, and the inconstancy of the multitude. He would first inquire, how the opinion of his constituents shall be taken. Popular instructions are, commonly, the work, not of the wise and steady, but the violent and rash; meetings held for directing representatives are seldom attended but by the idle and the dissolute; and he is not without suspicion, that of his constituents, as of other numbers of men, the smaller part may often be the wiser.”

“A disputed election is now tried with the same scrupulousness and solemnity, as any other title. The candidate that has deserved well of his neighbours, may now be certain of enjoying the effect of their approbation; and the elector, who has voted honestly for known merit, may be certain, that he has not voted in vain”.

“Such was the parliament, which some of those, who are now aspiring to sit in another, have taught the rabble to consider an unlawful convention of men, worthless, venal, and prostitute, slaves of the court, and tyrants of the people”.

“ That the text of the house of commons may act upon the principles of the last, with more constancy and higher spirit, must be the wish of all who wish well to the publick; and, it is surely not too much to expect, that the nation will recover from its delusion, and unite in a general abhorrence of those, who, by deceiving the credulous with fictitious mischiefs, overbearing the weak by audacity of falsehood, by appealing to the judgment of ignorance, and flattering the vanity of meanness, by slandering honesty, and insulting dignity, have gathered round them whatever the kingdom can supply of base, and gross, and profligate; and “raised by merit to this bad eminence,” arrogate to themselves the name of patriots”.

So will we allow patriotism to be tarnished by the scoundrels that hide beneath its cloak of executive privilege? The choice is ours to make as a critical election draws closer and Sri Lankans have, perhaps the first chance in a long time, to vote for patriots in the right sense of the term, whoever that may be interpreted to be.

Patriotism should never be the last refuge of scoundrels! A scoundrel is not a patriot.

Raashid Riza

Raashid is a non active core group member of Beyond Borders; meaning he is on extended leave. He is currently a fresh faced architecture graduate working in the UK. Sometimes, he also blogs here. His opinions are his own.

Casting It

We are just three weeks away from that crucial day of voting and a friend of mine asks the question; “why should I vote in this election”. I thought I knew the answer to it, before she actually said it, I thought that voting is the right that we exercise to elect the representatives we see fit to run the state. But in the context of this upcoming election, I just couldn’t give her that answer, as if something inside was stopping me.

So I thought about it for a while and asked myself the question but still, found no answer. So I tuned into the news hoping to gain some insight only to find what seemed like a ‘mud-slinging’ duel between the two main factions. Many months ago I did the same thing when I came across an online poll pertaining to the US presidential election. All i had to do was tune into a news channel and watch the two main candidates debating each other on the policies they each were going to implement  if elected. After a while, it was clear which candidate provided the better solution thereby allowing the citizens to make an informed decision when casting the vote.

Coming back to our election, is it possible to actually gauge the future plans of the candidates by tapping into the local media. The answer is NO! all that happens here is the exchange of insults and the accusations about past deeds, rather than a discussion on policies and reforms. So how really am I to decide on who to vote if neither of the candidates give me a reason to vote for them. Am I to vote for the candidate with the less shadier past? or the one who is better at rebutting insults hurled at him? So after hours of thinking, the question still stands for this election; why should I vote?

Lasantha David

Lasantha is somewhat obsessed with matching clothes and has a style that is, to say the least, unique among the Core Group. He sometimes blogs here. His opinions are his own.

The Known Devil Better Than The Unknown?

After over 15 months with Beyond Borders I have finally decided it is high time to voice myself simply because of the drama that we are been exposed to day in and day out courtesy of the post war hullaballoo and the upcoming presidential elections. Thanks to them we are not lacking entertainment but then again it is only when I reflect on these things that I realize how ridiculous all this is and has been.

What is being projected to us these days as politics in this country is simply a battle for votes by two individuals and their supporters. All we get to see is each of them and their supporters blabbing away about why the other should NOT become the next executive president of this country.  Now is this really what we want to hear? Do we/should we care about these things? Do they bother to tell us about their policy plans for the years to come, how we should proceed to solve the existing dilemmas, or have they asked us what we want or think? Do they even know what we want? Or are we, the so called citizens of this country, just a part of one big conspiracy?

In the present day the sad plight of us activists is that if and when we criticize the government and or point out where capacity should be built and where attention needs to be focused on we are labeled as a traitor or a supporter of the opposition. The charismatic movement provoked by Nationalism is such that people have become extremely defensive in all aspects of the present mechanisms of governance and it got me thinking; is it even worth talking to them about these issues? Whenever you try to bring it up you are ridiculed by emphasis on how the previous presidents and governments operated leading to justifications of the existing methods. They fail to realize with their pea sized intellects that an insight to an initiative is neither a conspiracy nor is it an attempt to break down the exiting governing order, not radically anyway. When would they understand that there is a fine line between constructive criticism and betrayal or treachery?

Our adults have labeled our youth political conversations, projects and initiatives as driven by a post-adolescent/youth hormone rush. I hate to break the news to them that we have better and more exciting pleasures in life to explore if we are being driven by our hormones! Starting from extreme sports, wild life adventures to plain old sex! Why we talk about these issues and try to bring them to the public attention is not because if the hormone rush but because we care about ourselves. We care about our future and we want to know how, who, why, when and if decisions about ‘our’ lives are being made. If you don’t think we should have a say in these aspects of our lives which have a direct effect on us, you need immediate mental health support!

The greatest obstacle I have faced thus far is in convincing fellow youth about why these aspects of governance are or should be important to us. To most of them the only things that matter are completing their education, getting a job, getting married, buying a house and a car and living happily ever after. How lovely! Funnily enough that is exactly what we want too but we are calling out for action for various reasons, reasons that range from our right to safe livelihoods to social injustice and corruption in public bodies.

Today’s youth seem to have forgotten the level of influence governance has imposed upon their simple interests. They have also forgotten their ability to influence and drive it to the next level for the betterment of their lives. It is either that they have failed to see their power (limited as it may be as individuals but also in its strength when it is a collection of people), or it is simply apathy.

Just have a look at something basic like exercising our right to vote; how do we cast our vote? As a silent observer, I came to notice that most of people I have come across are blinded by mere rhetoric or by an old age invalid family tradition or belief. Is this how we should select the people whom we chose to make decisions on our behalf? This is yet another flaw of democracy. I will spare you the misery of having to go through my perspective of this deceptive concept called democracy by not elaborating on it.

‘’So whom do you think would win upcoming election?’’ ‘’For whom are you voting this time?’’ Those are couple of most frequently asked questions these days and which give rise to various arguments but mostly jokes! Apart from the blind faith an appalling answer you could get is, ‘’no one deserves my vote’’ or ‘’I am not willing to vote this time’’. What does this say about our youth? That you don’t care about your own future? That you don’t bother who ever may come to power but you would live your life someway or other? Tired of this game of politics? Or is the known devil better than the unknown?

So what should be the incentive for the youth to dig deep in to the mechanisms of governance or simply to cast their vote? Once a good friend of mine said to ‘’only invest in places where you would have a direct return and if you don’t have a direct return don’t invest at all’’. So, is working on governance and policy issues a worthy investment? Or should we all just mind our own businesses and just try to fatten ourselves up with life’s numerous pleasures or try to hold on to your life when faced with obstacles which floats our way? Move on with what we are familiar by rejecting the unfamiliar? Stick to your own kind and just worry about your rear?

Just think about it. When will youth realize that apathy is boring? How do we communicate it to them? Is this a worthy investment? Is the known devil better than the unknown?

Bhagya Ratnayake

Bhagya is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders whose notorious silences are occasionally broken by such righteous outbursts. We hope she talks even more in the future. Her opinions are her own.

Apeksha – On Gender Based Violence

Apeksha is a play by Dramatic Action. It’s based on gender based violence and sponsored by Beyond Borders. It is going on the boards at the British School Auditorium on the 21st of December. All proceeds will go to a good cause. Come.

The Northern Displaced Muslims

As a part of a continuing Peace and Governance project. We will be paying a visit to Puttlam soon to have a chat with some youth from the Northern Displaced Muslim communities.

These IDPs are Muslims who were purged from the North by the LTTE during the early 90’s. As a result of their attempts at integration with the local communities of the areas they have settled in, many conflicts have arisen between the would be hosts and the IDPs over the intervening years. Now the end of the war poses new questions that must be answered and opens up the whole landscape to fresh possibilities.

This is a video of Dr. Farzana Haniffa talking about the post war implications to this particular group of war affected people to YA TV.

The aim of Beyond Borders’ Peace and Governance initiative is to create awareness and interest among young people on the importance of addressing governance related issues. We are currently carrying out some qualitative research engaging various segments of youth in conversation. More on the PnG project soon.

If you are a young person interested in governance and governance related issues and would like a platform to engage in activism in this regard you can join up as a volunteer; e-mail us at info@beyondborders.lk. If you are a professional or an academic interested in assisting us pursue our goals effectively please do also get in touch or leave a comment. We are open to all the help and advice we can get.

Watch this space for more on our findings and activities.

Social Cancer

Whenever we Sri Lankans look around, at a newspaper or the evening news, we see the farce that is our politics. It’s something that people like to chat about as well; “this minister did this”, “that minister was involved” and so on. So it is very easy to point fingers at our governing officials, but then again is it really their fault only?

In a democratic country is it not the people who elects a government into power? Is it not we who continue to tolerate their antiques and not do anything about it when we should? So what then is the point of us living in a democracy, a system where we have the rights to make changes for the betterment of our society? A democracy where everyone is not actively engaged, is no democracy at all and the very essence of democracy which is freedom, is lost.

So lets just trace it backwards starting from the country’s current political situation which is just a chum bucket full of corruption, flawed policies, nepotism, injustice, bloodshed and a lot more. What has led to this is the very actions of the individuals whom the majority has trusted to govern the country and fulfill the better interests of it’s people. Srilanka’s political atmosphere for the past few decades has been clouded with shady politics and maniacal individuals, but the majority of the people have done nothing to stop them, leaving the few who do try to be singled out and swiftly cut down.

So then comes the question as to how twenty million people can just watch a mere two thousand or so going about raping the country and their futures. And with that we take a step further back as to how they got into power in the first place.

Consider the naive voting choices due to the lack of education starting at one generation. This lack of education of course is caused by general apathy and unpatriotic thinking that leads to the wrong people being elected into the wrong places.  This apathy at the root of it all is like a cancer, originating at a cellular level and aggravating till the entire organism dies.

In the same way, this apathy started with maybe a certain segment of one generation and has slowly spread to subsequent generations thereby destroying the very foundations of governance and threatening the future. Repercussions of this extend from poverty to underdevelopment to the loss of a great many lives. Being the social cancer it is, apathy will just continue spreading across the generations, leading to more adverse effects on the country and this will just keep on getting worse till there is not a vestige of freedom left. When will people realize what’s happening and fight back?

The youth of this generation should step up and make right the mistakes of previous generations. It’s a now or never situation, time to counter apathy or watch and let it capitulate our beautiful country.

Lasantha David

Lasantha is a core group member of Beyond Borders.  His opinions are his own.