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KAREN USHA GRAY – An accomplished soloist turning heads in Canada

Posted on 07 August 2016 by admin

Versatile soprano Karen Gray

Versatile soprano Karen Gray

By Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, The Times of Sri Lanka.

There are but a few Canadians of Sri Lankan Origin who possess latent talent in music – be it vocals or playing an instrument. Most leave this God-given gift at home while a handful reaches out for the stars! One such person who has reaching out is Karen Usha Gray. She has entered into a musical collaboration with Silver Lining Promotions and launched a 12-track album titled, “Rainbow in the Cloud”. Karen is an accomplished soprano with the ability to transcend her classical training and bring her versatility to the genres of gospel, jazz & contemporary music. She is hoping that her dream will become a reality with your support. The songs reflect her life and faith; she wants to share her passion for music with the world. The CD will launch just in time for Christmas!

Tracing the life of this talented soloist was quite revealing. Karen Usha Sabaratnam was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and showed promise from an early age. As a child, Karen had her baptism in singing while at Mt. Lavinia Methodist Church which led to voice training at age 4. Her performance at age 8 in 1985, at BMICH at the International Youth Festival of Song where she opened the show with Somehere Over the Rainbow from Wizard of Oz brought in rave reviews. This also marked the beginning of Karen’s musical journey that has been quite rewarding.

Two years later in 1987, she took part in The Young Performers’ Concert and was highly commended. Extract from a news item in the mainstream local print media states thus, “We have a promising young soloist with a bright future before her. She is Karen Sabaratnam, a 10 year-old from the Tiny Tots School. She has a wonderful voice for one so young”. In 1994 she was picked as the Most Promising Artist at the Island Music Awards. She also won the top prize in the vocal category in the Kandos Talent Search that earned her a singing contract at the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

A leading newspaper had this to say after this performance, “Classical singer Karen Sabaratnam is the type of performer who feels very comfortable in any atmosphere and really sings with ease without imitating the original”.

In 1990, she took the lead role in the musical Oklahoma as “Laurie” which further demonstrated her natural talent as a classical singer. In 1992, she had the distinction of been selected Queen of Karaoke organized by The Sunday Times & Mount Lavinia Hotel. Her fans loved her genial demeanour. In 1993, she represented Sri Lanka in the International Choir organized by the “World Scholar Athletic Games” held in Rhode Island, USA. She was picked the most promising artist and carried away the Coca Cola Trophy for The Most Outstanding Artist at the Island Music Awards. She also had a lead role in the production of “Tribute to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber” the same year. This period saw her emerging as a classical vocalist of repute.

Well known Sri Lankan Features Writer Sukumar Rockwood had this to say about Karen Sabaratnam in the Sunday Observer of December 27, 1992. “The songs she sang – one from the play Cats and the other from a Whitney Houston album amply justified the original songs. However, she gave the songs her own style which resulted in a brilliant performance. She sings like a nightingale”.

Karen has earned voice performance certificates from programs conducted by the Royal & Trinity College Schools of Music, London, England and Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada. In addition, she has picked up numerous awards for vocal, speech and drama. Her passion and innate talent for the theatre has led to lead roles in popular musicals and operatic performances in Sri Lanka, New York and Australia. She is highly regarded as a soloist in classical and contemporary music.

Karen immigrated to Canada in 1996, and has made Toronto her home. She is the daughter of triple international sports star Mahes Sabaratnam (Rugby, Boxing & Weightlifting) and his wife Vasundera. Rugby fans would recall the dashing wing three-quarter from Kandy Lake Club, Kandy Sports Club and CR & FC who dazzled the crowd in the sixties with his brawn and speed. Mahes Sabaratnam was called, “The Kandy Express” for his daunting speed and sizzling runs on the rugby fields in Colombo, Kandy and up-country.

In Toronto, Karen teaches children’s music programs through Toronto and Markham Public Libraries. She shares her natural talent by performing as a soloist at Concerts and places of religious worship for Charitable Organizations. Karen is confident that she could continue her musical journey following the success of the launch of the CD. She would like the support of the Sri Lankan community in Toronto. 

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History of the Colombo Plan

Posted on 05 August 2016 by admin

Colombo Plan

 

 

By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, TSL.

The Colombo Plan is a regional organization that embodies the concept of collective inter-governmental effort to strengthen economic and social development of member countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The primary focus of all Colombo Plan activities is on human resources development.

HISTORY – The organization was born out of a Commonwealth Conference of Foreign Ministers, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in January 1950. At this meeting, a plan was established to provide a framework within which international cooperation efforts could be promoted to raise the standards of people in the region. Originally conceived as lasting for a period of six years, the Colombo Plan was extended several times until 1980, when it was extended indefinitely. Initially it was called the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic Development in South and Southeast Asia. It has grown from a group of seven Commonwealth nations – Australia, Britain, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand and Pakistan – into an international organization of 26, including non-Commonwealth countries. When it adopted a new constitution in 1977, its name was changed to "The Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific" to reflect the expanded composition of its enhanced membership and the scope of its activities.

In the early years, Colombo Plan assistance from developed to developing countries comprised both transfer of physical capital and technology as well as a strong component of skills development. Hence, while infrastructure by way of airports, roads, railways, dams, hospitals, fertilizer plants, cement factories, universities, and steel mills were constructed in member countries through Colombo Plan assistance, a large number of people were simultaneously trained to manage such infrastructure and the growing economies.

Purpose

The Colombo Plan is not intended as an integrated master plan to which national plans were expected to conform. It is, instead, a framework for bi-lateral arrangements involving foreign aid and technical assistance for the economic and social development of the region.

Objectives

  • To promote interest in and support for the economic and social development of Asia and the Pacific;
  • To promote technical cooperation and assist in the sharing and transfer of technology among member countries;
  • To keep under review relevant information on technical cooperation between the member governments, multilateral and other agencies with a view to accelerating development through cooperative effort;
  • To facilitate the transfer and sharing of the developmental experiences among member countries within the region with emphasis on the concept of South-South cooperation.

Organizational structure

The principal organs of the Colombo Plan are – the Consultative Committee, the Council and the Secretariat. Administrative costs of the Council and Secretariat are borne equally by the 25 member countries.

  • The Consultative Committee (CCM), comprises all member governments and is the highest review and policy making body of the Colombo Plan. Its biennial meetings provide a forum for the exchange of views on current development problems facing member countries and review the work of the Colombo Plan in economic and social development within the region.
  • The Colombo Plan Council, comprises heads of diplomatic missions of member governments who are resident in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The President of the Council is nominated from among member countries annually on an alphabetical rotational basis. The Council meets every quarterly to identify important development issues facing its members and ensure the smooth implementation of the Consultative Committee's decisions.
  • The Colombo Plan Secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General is located in Colombo, Sri Lanka, since 1951 and functions as the secretariat for the Consultative Committee and the Council. The Secretariat is responsible for the effective administration and implementation of the programmes of the Colombo Plan, in partnership with member countries and collaborating agencies.

Funding

A special characteristic of the Colombo Plan is that the administrative costs of the Council and the Secretariat are borne equally by all member countries. However, the training programmes of the Colombo Plan are voluntarily funded by traditional as well as newly emerging donors among its member countries. Developing member countries are also encouraged to meet local currency costs whenever training programmes are held in their respective countries. The Colombo Plan training programmes are also funded by contributions from non-member governments and regional/international organizations.

In a speech made in Colombo on 5 July 2010, current Secretary General Dato' Patricia Yoon-Moi Chia said: "The gearing up of the level of our activities is made possible through the voluntary contributions of member countries and international agencies such as OPEC fund. Last year our programming was over US$10 million and we expect a more than US$12 million programming this year with almost another US$2 million in terms of cost-sharing from our member countries. With funding from the United States Government and 13 other member countries, the Colombo Plan is now the biggest stakeholder in drug demand reduction in the Asia-Pacific, with a special initiative in Afghanistan."

 

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10 Things You Can’t Say to a Canadian

Posted on 13 July 2016 by admin

Our Canada

 

 

Canadians have a reputation for being polite and easygoing, but that's only because you've never said any of these 10 things in front of them. Here's how to make any Canadian turn as red as a maple leaf. By Daniel Reid and published in Reader's Digest Canada. Courtesy of the writer and publisher.

1. Anything in a fake Canadian accent

When was the fake Canadian accent invented? It must have been sometime shortly after the country’s inception in 1867 because it’s really starting to show its rust. As cute and quaint as it might sound, the fake “Canadian accent” sounds nothing at all like how actual Canadians speak. That’s not to say we don’t have our own unique way of speaking, it’s just that we’re a lot more Wayne Gretzky than Doug Mackenzie.

2. Disparaging comments about hockey

You might think P.K. Subban is a showboat or that the Ottawa Senators will never win a Stanley Cup, and you might be right, but be careful before you utter a disparaging remark about a hockey player or team in Canada. As a general rule, Toronto Maple Leafs insults can fly pretty much anywhere across the country, even in Toronto where fans mostly have a sense of humour. Montreal Canadiens insults, on the other hand, can get you in trouble whether you’re in Beaver Creek, Yukon, or Blackhead, Newfoundland. Habs fans are everywhere and there’s nothing funny about the most storied team in NHL history. So when it comes to insulting the sport of hockey, just don’t do it, unless you really want to see the gloves come off.

3. “Cheese and gravy? Ew.”

No one can deny the magical relationship between french fries and ketchup. However, if you’re ordering fries and you’re asked if you’d like poutine instead, your answer should always be yes. For the uninitiated, poutine is a common Canadian dish that consists of french fries topped with squeaky cheese curds and gravy. If you’re concerned about that expanding gut of yours, many restaurants offer a healthier, vegetarian gravy substitute. Some diehard poutine fans might call mushroom or vegetable gravy sacrilege, but the only real crime is opting for boring old french fries when you can indulge in a Canadian delicacy.

4. “Hey! I’m walking here!”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Where do you think you are, New York City? In Canada, there’s only one thing you say when someone bumps into you: “Sorry.” The classic apology can mean anything from sincere acknowledgement of a mistake to passive aggressive annoyance. Just be sure you don’t put any stink on the word; as annoyed as you might be, it’s important to say sorry without sounding like you’re trying to start something. 

5. The F-word (in Quebec)

The next time you stub your toe in Quebec, you might also want to bite your tongueIt’s not that Quebecers are prudes or dislike foul language, per se, it’s just that they happen to have their own heavenly style of swearing, which involves cursing the sacred items of the Catholic Church. It might seem a bit weird until you let an angry tah-bar-nac (the box where the Eucharist is kept) roll off your tongue. It has to be one of the most satisfying words to utter in a fit of agitation. Other popular swear words include os-tee (the communion wafer) and ka-lees (the cup from which you drink the holy wine). For extra punch, try combining the words into super swears: os-ti tah-bar-nac or ka-lees tah-bar-nac. Whatever you do, keep those F-bombs to yourself.

6. “Canada is the 51st U.S. state.”

Canada is not the same country as the United States. Everyone in Canada knows this, which is why it’s so frustrating when people around the world don’t seem to realize that our home and native land isn’t simply the 51st state of the U.S. Their confusion is somewhat understandable: Canada and the U.S. are such strong allies and many Canadian celebritie hop the border to find success in Hollywood. But if you ever want to get under the skin of a mild-mannered Canuck, ask them if they’re voting for Trump or Clinton. You’re bound to get some major eye rolls.

7. “Canadian beer sucks.”

It’s not that we can’t take the criticism or that our taste buds are numbed by years of drinking “moose urine,” as the Americans like to call it, it’s simply that we don’t understand why a nation of light beer guzzlers think they have the right to insult beer, whether it be Canadian, German, Polish, English or Japanese. It’s a bit like someone who grew up on cheese-in-a-can screwing up their nose at free-range, organic chèvre. If you don’t know how beer is supposed to taste, please keep your comments to yourself.

8. “A-boot.”

Let’s face it: a-boot jokes have always confused Canadians It’s true what they say about accents: everyone has one and you can’t always hear your own, but this whole business about Canadians saying a-boot instead of about is just crazy. If anything, we say a-boat or, more accurately, a-beh-out. So, don’t say a-boot unless you want to get kicked by one.

9. “I disagree with your religious beliefs.”

Argue over politics, expound your views on hay marriage, even publicly take a stance on abortion, but never talk about religion. Unless, of course, you’re saying something to the effect of, “I support your right to believe what you believe.” Though the country is more than two-thirds Christian, religion remains an issue Canadians prefer to keep within the walls of their private homes and holy places. A lot of the world’s conflicts are rooted in religion and Canadians are a peace-loving people. It all comes down to the fact that we want to like each other. Maybe the best way to do that is to ignore each other’s differences.

10. “Quebec should separate from Canada.”

The issue of Quebec sovereignty has been a controversial topic in Canada for the last 50 years or so. To put it simply, a good portion of the Quebec population wants the province to separate from Canada, 49.2 per cent voted in favour of separation in a 1995 referendum. As for the rest of the country? Well, they see this as a bit of a snub. Quebec sovereignty deals with a lot of touchy topics from cultural genocide to violent revolution. If you want to give the pot a good ol’ stir, talk about why you think the province should become its own independent nation.

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Media circus was “common factor” in both Ghomeshi and Duffy trials

Posted on 23 April 2016 by admin

 

Total vindication of defendants in high-profile case.

By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, The Times of Sri Lanka

There were similarities in the Jian Ghomeshi trial that paralleled the case of Mike Duffy. The common factor was that both were tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. But both were cleared of all charges in the court of law. There was a stark similarity in the demeanour of the two high-profile defendants. Ghomeshi and Duffy were always clean shaven, well dressed in court and both abstained from talking to the press or even looking at the throng of media and onlookers on their way in and out of the courtroom. After the verdict, Ghomeshi and Duffy could have sneered at the media throng, including former friends and colleagues, who tormented them during their ordeal. But they walked out free men, totally vindicated and continued their “no look, no talk” demeanour. Good for them.

The Ghomeshi case was one of the country’s most high-profile trials in recent memory, and it sparked a national conversation on consent and sexual assault – and prompted fresh questions over the justice system’s ability to address allegations of sexual violence. Ghomeshi was the host of CBC Radio’s Q until the fall of 2014. He was represented by Marie Henein and Danielle Robitaille.

The law affects nearly every aspect of our lives on a daily basis. We have laws to deal with crimes like robbery, rape, fraud and murder. And we have laws that govern activities like driving a car, getting a job, and getting married. Laws give us rules of conduct that protect everyone’s rights. The rule of law, freedom under the law, democratic principles, and respect for others form the foundations of Canada’s legal heritage. As Canadians, we should understand the law, and the ideas and principles behind it. Our laws also recognize and protect basic individual rights and freedoms, such as liberty and equality.

Having said this, the law was put to supreme test in two high-profile trials where the media played a titanic part. Both cases, and even the pre-trial media circus drew national and international attention as each case was unique and the two people on trial were both high-profile Canadians. The mainstream media – be it print or broadcast went to town. The media circus surrounding the two Canadians who were brought to justice for two unrelated incidents was horrific.

Jian Ghomeshi was CBC radio star

Jian Ghomeshi with his defence lawyer Marie Henein

Jian Ghomeshi with his defence lawyer Marie Henein

The allegations of sexual abuse by Jian Ghomeshi came so fast and furious in the fall of 2014. The Toronto Star broke the story with an exclusive “bombshell” on a Sunday in late October. CBC’s The National and As It Happens aired interviews with an unidentified woman who said Mr. Ghomeshi beat her about the head and threw her out of the house. After much deliberation, Ghomeshi was charged with 4 counts of sexual assault, 1 count of overcoming resistance by choking. He was granted bail with the conditions that he post a $100,00 surety and that he live with his mother. Ghomeshi, through his defence lawyer Marie Henein, pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. Then on January 8, 2015, Police laid 3 new charges related to 3 new complainants against Ghomeshi. Women were coming out of the woodwork to nail Ghomeshi to the cross. About a year back on April 28, 2015, Ghomeshi pre-trial hearings began and he faced 8 charges in all. The drama took place in the Old City Hall presided by Judge William Horkins in the busy corner of Bay and Queen. In May, 2 sexual assault charges against Ghomeshi was dropped by the crown and the defendant pleads “not guilty” to 5 charges.

Finally, on March 24, 2016, former Canadian radio star Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges in the first trial to emerge from the barrage of allegations against the prominent celebrity. After more than a month of deliberation, Judge William Horkins on Thursday found Ghomeshi, 48, not guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking, dating back to 2002 and 2003.

Horkins said prosecutors had failed to establish Ghomeshi’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and highlighted inconsistencies in the testimonies of the three female complainants. The judge said that the crown’s case relied solely on the word of the witnesses. “There is no other evidence to look to determine the truth. There is no tangible evidence. There is no DNA. There is no ‘smoking gun’,” he said.

It was former Prime Minister Harper who named Mike Duffy to the Senate

Senator Mike Duffy

Senator Mike Duffy

It was former Prime Minister Stephen Harper who named Mike Duffy to the Senate, along with Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and 16 others. Senator Mike Duffy faced 31 charges. They fell into five categories: issues related to living expenses Duffy claimed for his suburban Ottawa home; inappropriate expenses relating to personal and partisan activity; inappropriate expense claims assisted with personal attendance and funerals and related ceremonies; disbursements of money paid to Duffy's friend Gerald Donohue for illegitimate expenses; and charges relating to the receipt of a $90,172.24 cheque from Nigel Wright, then the prime minister's chief of staff.

He faced jail time if convicted. The breach of trust charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Six of the fraud charges are for amounts over $5,000, which carry a maximum 14-year term. The fraud charges under $5,000 could be met with prisons terms of less than two years. The bribery count has a maximum 14-year sentence. Duffy was hounded by the media in and out to court. It was a sad sight to see the public trample each others feet in passing slurs on Senator Duffy. The media were no less aggressive. It was sad to see the behaviour of mainstream media go after Duffy. However, all came to an end on April 21, less than a month after Ghomeshi’s “not guilty” verdict. Mike Duffy walked out of an Ottawa court a free man after a judge cleared him of all charges while at the same time delivering a scathing indictment of the senator’s former political masters.

 

The aftermath of the Ghomeshi and Duffy trials point in one direction. Did the media act fairly in their reporting? Looking at how the media covered both cases, I would say a firm “no” they did not. The Principles for Ethical Journalism” calls for accuracy, fairness, right to privacy, independence, conflict of interest, transparency, and accountability. There is also the human angle like what happened to our former Mayor Rob Ford. The media just went after him and even invaded his privacy by hiding behind his house and confronting him in front of his own private residence in front of his wife and children. I do not believe this is fair journalism. In my humble opinion, journalists’ main goal is to ensure the right of citizens to truthful and important information, which allows them to form adequate impression about social processes, their essence and importance, about the situation in the modern world. The journalist bears responsibility before the society in general, before the law and before his or her employer. The social responsibility of the journalist requires that he acts in accordance with his personal ethical standards. The ethics of the trade involve permanent responsibility of the journalist for everything he or she does in the framework of professional obligations rather than play to the gallery.

In conclusion, how this writer sums up the Jian Ghomeshi and Mike Duffy trials is that the mainstream media won a few battles but the two defendants won the war! Let’s hope they pick up the pieces and re-enter life with much success!

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