Wednesday, 21 January 2004  
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Towards people - centred development

The "Pancha Maha Piliveth," a throwback to the "Pancha Maha Balavegeye" of 1956, constitutes the most vital kernel of the ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday between the SLFP and the JVP. In it is contained the policy parameters of a future PA-JVP government and the broad guidelines within which Sri Lanka would be steered into the future.

Before we get down to commenting on the content of the "Pancha Maha Piliveth" or the "Five Noble Objectives of Governance", it would be relevant to dwell awhile on the political significance of this coming together of the SLFP and the JVP, in an alliance which could have a multiplicity of ripple effects.

In a sense, the SLFP and the JVP have more things in common than differences because their power base, essentially, consists of the rural masses, the economically-deprived and the "have nots".

They are by no means representative of the privileged groups in society; something which is glaringly marked in the UNP, which has been traditionally regarded as a bastion of reaction and conservatism. So, it is in the fitness of things that the SLFP and the JVP come together to form an alliance, which, we hope, would truly forge ahead with a Social Democratic program.

For, far too long the people have been left to their own devices and allowed to wilter in poverty and want, while a microscopic minority fattens itself on the economic surplus extracted from the poor. So, a government of the less privileged becomes a historical necessity, which, we hope, the SLFP-JVP alliance would be in a position to fulfill.

It could be also said that the sealing of the alliance marks the coming of age of the JVP, which was always viewed as a militant outfit which operated outside the democratic mainstream. The current Memorandum of Understanding marks an advanced stage in the maturing of the JVP, as a parliamentary party.

A glance at the "Pancha Maha Piliveth," reveals the alliance's commitment to the realisation of ethnic peace. While the SLFP states its commitment to power devolution, the JVP speaks in terms of power decentralisation; a wide gap in perception.

However, we could take heart from the fact that they are willing to talk to the LTTE - an essential initial step for peace. It is also encouraging that the alliance commits itself to the realisation of human rights and the establishment of equality among the country's communities.

We do not see how progress could be registered without these aims being met because they are the stepping stones to social peace.

The alliance's pledges to develop the indigenous economic base also needs to be lauded. For far too long we have been dependent on external economic assistance, with disastrous consequences. On the other hand, developing local agriculture, industries and entrepreneurial capability could lead to economic self-reliance - a crying need in this era of externally induced "growth". It must be noted that besides allaying the fears of the local business community the present MoU could also lay a firm basis for ethnic harmony.

Singing for health

It's official: Singing is good for you. A team of German scientists have found that singing strengthens the immune system.

Their study, published in the latest edition of the US Journal of Behavioral Medicine, concluded that singing not only boosted the immune system but also notably improved the performer's mood.

They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A - proteins which function as antibodies - and hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly during singing. Many other scientific studies have confirmed that singing is generally good for health.

This will naturally be music to the ears of all those who love to sing, be it on stage or in the bathroom. We have often experienced that music helps relieve stress. Humming a tune enables us to get over boredom and tension in equal measure. Singing is a natural antidote to the mental toxins of the modern world.

Some scientists believe that humans actually sang before they spoke structured languages.

There could be some truth in this assertion, because many other animals including marine mammals engage in some form of singing. Several of them even change the tunes year after year.

What really sets humans apart from these singing pretenders is our ability to compose music. We have been doing it for millennia. Strains of music waft through the air all over the planet. We sing in a thousand languages; but we all understand the language of music. One does not need to know any language to absorb every subtle nuance of a symphony by Mozart or Beethoven.

It has been proven that listening to music is as good as singing and that even babies appreciate a good melody. Parents have been advised to expose their children to good music, especially the classics, to develop their faculties. Furthermore, listening to music is said to be beneficial for recuperating patients.

Now that we know the truth behind the saying 'a melody for a malady', the time has to come to embrace singing and music with no strings attached. Singing to our heart's content may help us to live longer - and add life to our years.

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