Wood stacked high at the Gunawardana Tea Factory in Akuressa, Sri Lanka. In tea production, the tea leaves are smoke-dried to halt the fermentation process, and the smoke is produced as it has been for over a century in wood-burning kilns. Shot for my photo story, Tea in the Jungle, which ran in the November 2018 issue of Serendib magazine.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka (shot from the 230m-high Lotus Tower) yesterday ruled that President Maithripala Sirisena’s November 9th dissolution of Parliament was unconstitutional, marking a determined stride back towards democracy in the country. The dissolution came in the wake of Sirisena’s October 26th sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cabinet, and the appointment of former president and opposition MP Mahinda Rajapakse to the PM office. When the new appointments were protested by the legitimate government and large sections of the public, Sirisena prorogued Parliament to give his new prime minister time to lure enough members to his side and form a majority. When Rajapakse failed in this attempt, Sirisena dissolved Parliament and called for new elections, nearly two years early. It took a Supreme Court stay order on the prorogation and dissolution before Parliament was reconvened in November. In spite of the legitimate Ranil Wickremesinghe-led government then showing a majority in Parliament and passing several no-confidence motions against the newly appointed Mahinda Rajapakse-led government, the latter refused to step down, and the president ignored all calls to reinstate the democratic process.
While this Supreme Court ruling, along with an earlier Appeals Court order suspending Rajapakse and his cabinet, decisively return the government to its rightful leaders, President Sirisena still refuses to reappoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister. It is likely that it will take a court ruling on a pending challenge to the original sacking before Wickremesinghe will be able to resume office, thus sparing the president the humiliating ritual of reappointing the man he had fired less than two months ago.
The already precarious future of President Maithripala Sirisena now moves ever closer to the edge. A former minister of Mahinda Rajapakse during the latter’s presidency, Sirisena surprisingly crossed over to the opposition and stood as their presidential candidate in the 2015 elections, campaigning on the promise of good governance, clean government, and the dissolution of the executive presidency within his first term. None of these promises have come to fruition, with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe alliance fracturing amidst financial and corruption scandals. It is believed that Sirisena wishes to stand for a second term, in spite of Wickremesinghe’s objections, and it was in order to find a more compliant prime minister that led to the October 26th sacking. With a reinstatement of the legitimate government, more powerful now thanks to a crisis-tightened alliance with its coalition parties, and a weakening of the Rajapakse opposition that has lost a lot of its stature in its refusal to follow the democratic process, Sirisena himself could face impeachment before the end of his term.
A backdrop of heavy jungle, overlooking freshly harvested paddy fields, remind me that the Sinharaja Forest isn’t too far away. Shot in Akuressa, Sri Lanka, for my photo story, Tea in the Jungle, which ran in the November 2018 issue of Serendib magazine.
Shot from the top of Aberdeen Falls, close to Norton Bridge, in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, for my photo story, Flirting with the Seven Virgins, which ran in the October 2018 issue of Serendib magazine.
Lowland tea on display at the Gunawardana Tea Factory, Akuressa, Sri Lanka. Shot for my photo story, Tea in the Jungle, which ran in the November 2018 issue of Serendib magazine.
Manning Market, Colombo, Sri Lanka. April 2018.
A small household shrine in the jungle close to Akuressa, Sri Lanka. Theravadha Buddhism’s veneration of the bo tree (ficus religiosa), under one of which Gautama Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment, stands alongside trees of lesser sacredness, such as the na (mesua ferrea) or ironwood, under which the Sumana, Revatha, and Sobitha Buddhas are believed to have meditated. This tree worship has dovetailed into older forms of Sri Lankan and South Indian deva worship which was often strongly connected to trees which were thought to be the dwelling places of specific deities. Shot for my photo story, Tea in the Jungle, which ran in the November 2018 issue of Serendib magazine.
The view from the balcony of my room at the famous Belihuloya Rest House. January 2018.