Friday, 9 January 2004  
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Be on a steady course to peace

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's recent pronouncement with regard to his inability to forge ahead with the peace process on account of his Government lacking the three Ministries which were taken over in early November by the President, has caused, widespread, understandable concern.

Power and its pursuit are at the heart of politics, but it cannot be politics as usual when the common good needs to be perpetuated and protected. Needless to say, the hearts of the majority of the people are in the peace process and this wish of the people should be respected by the Government.

While some heart could be taken from the Prime Minister's observation that it is not possible to go against the Ceasefire Agreement since it would amount to reverting to war, it is our hope that the squabbling arms of the State would come to grips with the issues at hand and opt for a process of negotiation and compromise.

Although that threadbare term "cohabitation" now tends to meet with widespread sneering ridicule, we still believe that it remains the best option for Sri Lanka.

We dismiss as preposterous, the notion in some quarters that another general election is the key to the country's deliverance from the present political gridlock.

The reasons for dismissing the latter option are too well known to be reiterated here. On the other hand - as we have right along maintained - the current political impasse needs to be regarded as a priceless opportunity and not a crippling problem, for the transformation of our political culture from one disfigured by confrontation between the major political parties, to one resplendently characterized by compromise, moderation and co-operation.

At this crucial juncture, it is our wish that wisdom and foresight would prevail between the President and the Prime Minister.

Although getting on to the road of compromise and cohabitation is unlikely to prove easy, it is the only avenue to the common good and should be tried willy-nilly by the feuding arms of the State.

If the Defence Ministry is continuing to be the bone of contention between the President and the Government, there is no choice but to persevere until a compromise formula is reached for the sharing of Defence Ministry responsibilities.

The Prime Minister needs to remember that the popular mandate of December 2001 was for the establishment of ethnic peace. The Government owes it to the people to fulfill this mandate.

Since the President too is committed to ethnic peace, the situation couldn't be more propitious for a joint pursuit of peace between the President and the Government.

This pursuit, however, has to be a single-minded one. No concessions could be made to those sinister elements which are today attempting to keep the country on the boil on a number of fronts - religion included.

Digital Cinema

Film has come a long way since the Lumiere Brothers projected a moving train on to a Paris silver screen in December 1895. Sound came to movies with the famous line 'you ain't heard nothing yet' in the 1920s. 'The Lights of New York' glistened in colour in the 1930s. In 1977, 'Star Wars' were waged with surround sound.

All this time, though, film remained just that - film, a strip of celluloid with pictures and sound. Now, the 'digital revolution' is threatening to send film to the dustbin of history. The age of 'filmless film' has arrived.

Like other segments of the entertainment industry, film could not resist the invasion of digital technology. Filmmakers have been using digital cameras and editing suites for years. Now they have taken the ultimate step of replacing film itself with digital media.

Theatres around the world are installing digital projectors, which use high-definition digitally-encoded discs instead of celluloid.

The advantages are obvious: Picture quality is superb; there is no loss of quality even if the film is played 1,000 times; digital media are highly portable; distribution costs are minimal because digital copies cost much less than film reels to print.

And the downside? Digital prints are a pirates' dream because illegal copies can be made easily if they hack the studios' encryption codes.

Moreover, the availability of true high-definition formats like VHS D-Theatre (in the US) and Blu-Ray Disc, the successor to DVD, (in Japan) means that viewers can experience digital cinema at home at near-identical resolution. It is only a matter of time before these formats go on sale around the world.

In the end, lower costs and higher quality alone can justify the shift to digital cinema. Film producers and theatres in neighbouring India are turning to digital cinema to revive the fortunes of their movie industry, with plans to have 1,600 digital theatres in one year.

The crisis-ridden Sri Lankan movie industry should take the cue from India and go digital to keep costs down and improve overall quality to give moviegoers a better deal.

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