Dialogues and Education

The Media Analysis
Verité Research’s Dialogues and Education series includes a set of workshops and seminars designed for select clientele on themes of current relevance.

Verité has undertaken several initiatives under Dialogues and Education in order to broaden and expand public awareness of, and involvement in, issues of national significance. 


Upcoming Events

 

Verité Research hosts regular seminars with presentations by both internal staff as well as guest speakers. 

Visit this page for regular updates on our latest seminars and events, or email communications@veriteresearch.org for enquiries. 

 



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Past Events

Should Morals Restrict Rights? A Critique of Public Morals as Grounds for Limiting Free Speech and Religious Freedom 

Presentation by Gehan Gunatilleke 

The restriction of rights on the basis of ‘public morals’ is a recognisable feature of human rights law. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) includes ‘public morals’ as grounds for restricting a number of enumerated rights, including the freedom of expression (FOE) and the freedom to manifest religion or beliefs (FMRB). Sri Lanka's Constitution similarly contains 'public morality' as a ground for restricting basic freedoms such as FOE and FMRB.

This seminar discussed the question: should ‘public morals’ be retained as legal grounds for limiting FOE and FMRB? It critiqued the normative and practical defensibility of ‘public morals’ as legal grounds for limiting FOE and FMRB. Accordingly, it presented a case for abandoning the 'public morals' limitation ground due to its definitional imprecision, difficulty in verification, and the potential for abuse.

 

Do the poor benefit more from schooling in Sri Lanka? 

Presentation by Dr Rozana Himaz & Dr Harsha Aturupane 

This presentation looked at the effect schooling has had on household welfare in Sri Lanka during the 1990-2006 period, on average and across the welfare distribution. The authors used data from four cross-sectional Household Income & Expenditure Surveys. The results showed that the marginal effect of schooling on welfare is significant and positive and an extra year of schooling on the part of the most educated adult member in the household can increase welfare by 3.8 percent on average. However, the effect varies considerably across the welfare distribution, with the effect being highest at the lower and middle sections. 

 

Restored but Reversible: Do new proposals on state regulation threaten media freedom in Sri Lanka?

By Gehan Gunatilleke

The democratic transition of January 2015 promised a transformation in the state of media freedom in Sri Lanka. Decades of state repression under the pretext of national security had caused the mainstream media to become conformist and survivalist. But in the aftermath of the war, an alternative digital media domain emerged - bold and irrepressible in comparison to its mainstream counterpart. This domain was vital to resisting state control over the media, and was instrumental in the democratic transition that eventually restored media freedom in the country.


This seminar examined the two faces of the Sri Lankan media in the context of fresh proposals to regulate the news media. reflected on the challenges that the mainstream and alternative media will inevitably face when the state is granted authority to regulate a sphere that only recently regained its freedom.


Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period

By Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts’ book “Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period” has its roots in his course on “Nationalism and its Problems” taught at Peradeniya University from 1972-1975. The book addresses the lively literature on Sri Lanka produced by a number of scholars (mostly foreign) in the early 1990s who were influenced by the sociology of knowledge and “Post-Orientalist” thinking. These scholars validly pinpointed the danger of reading the present into the past. However, their conclusions denied the significance of Sinhala and Tamil collective identities in the pre-British period as a result of cultural exchanges and the ingress of different peoples from India into the southern areas of the island.

In this seminar, the speaker offered a clarification of how this book came to be written and gave a presentation of some key facets of this monograph.

 

Environmental Impact Assessment in Sri Lanka: State of Knowledge and New Directions

By  Joshua C. Gellers

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are management tools designed to explain how development projects might affect people and the natural environment. Curiously, research on EIAs has only examined how domestic and bureaucratic factors influence the quality of such reports. But with the dramatic increase in South-South development financing and charges that so-called emerging donors seek to undermine advances in environmental protection, human rights, and good governance, the consequences of a shifting international aid landscape are ripe for empirical investigation.
This talk examined the current state of knowledge about EIAs in Sri Lanka and offered fresh insights from data on the EIA approval process and characteristics of individual EIAs from 2010-17. In particular, the presentation discussed the efficiency of the EIA process, summarised weaknesses identified in the reports, and offered tentative observations about the impact of foreign financed development projects in Sri Lanka.

 

 

Migrants in the Gulf: 'Dormant' data and its Implications for Labour Markets in Sri Lanka


By Nilesh Fernando

According to recent estimates, Gulf states alone account for more than 1.5 million temporary Sri Lankan workers or nearly 20% of the labour force. This means that for every five people in Sri Lanka’s labour force, one is working in the Gulf.

This talk brought 'new' data to bear on labour migration and scarcity in Sri Lanka. In doing so, it charted out a research agenda that attempted to evaluate (1) Sri Lanka’s regulatory policy and migrant welfare, and (2) the implications of migration for structural change in Sri Lanka.

 

Improving health: Evidence on returns to public investment

By Dr Mead Over

United Nations’ adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals emphasises the importance of investments in improved health.  But how should ministers of finance and donors compare the returns on investment in the health sector to the other opportunities for investing in development – like infrastructure and education investments? In a landmark paper published in the Lancet in 2013, a group of economists including Nobel prize winner Ken Arrow and the Centre for Global Development board chairman Lawrence Summers estimated that the world would accrue $9 in returns for every dollar it invests in improving the health of the poorest populations.

This seminar reviewed the methods used by the authors of the 2013 paper and then applied them to the proposed investment in “ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030”. The concluding discussion considered the application of similar methods to estimating the rate-of-return to other hard-to-value social investments outside the health sector.


"Grease Yaka” Phenomenon: The Slippery Truth

Presentation by Dr Rajesh Venugopal

In mid-2011, Sri Lanka was paralysed by an episode of mass tension and anxiety caused by the ‘greasedevil’.  Reports of widespread attacks on women by this shadowy, ubiquitous, and powerful being led to heightened levels of vigilance and fear, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas. It had a particularly strong impact on the formerly war-torn north-eastern part of the island, where it led to violent confrontations between affected communities and the police and military. 

Research conducted by Verité on newspaper reports of the grease devil in the Sinhala and Tamil media over July - September 2011 helped to reconstruct two important elements of the phenomenon. Firstly, it provided very revealing insights into the anatomy of the crisis, how it spread from one town to another in the north and east over a few days in a very similar life cycle.  Secondly, it revealed an interesting ‘gap’ analysis, showing how the episode was reported and interpreted very differently in the two languages.  In this talk, the speaker described some of the evidence available, and also discussed what it tells us about the way that knowledge about such events is created and transmitted, both in everyday conversation and also more formally in social science research.

 

Ethics and Morality: What is a "good life" and how should we treat others?

Presentation by Anishka Arseculeratne

Two big questions in the philosophical sub-field of Ethics are: 1) What is a good life? and 2) How should we treat other people? Some philosophers argue that the first question is about Ethics and the second, about Morality.

There are many theories that propose answers to these questions. Two such theories are liberalism and communitarianism, which have traditionally been inconsistent with each other.

In his book, Ethics of Identity, Kwame Appiah claims to give an answer to these two questions that fuse elements of liberalism and communitarianism. Although these two "camps" of thought have been in tension since the 1980's, Appiah claims to combine them in an original way.

In this seminar, the presenter broke down Appiah's answers to these two questions and critically evaluated them. She also aimed to determine whether or not Appiah is presenting a "dressed up" version of liberalism, which he has been accused of doing.  

 

Book Launch: People of the Lion: Origin, Evolution & Transformation 

This book was a part of an initiative by Verité Research that aims to publish historical research on Sri Lanka written in English into Sinhala. It captures an academic debate between R.A.L.H Gunawardena and K.N.O Dharmadasa which challenges accepted norms on nationalism. The book was launched to the public on 28th September 2016. To purchase the book or obtain more information, contact communications@veriteresearch.org 

 

A Ship Without Sails: Trade Access Without Competitiveness

Presentation by Subhashini Abeysinghe

The limited diversification of markets and products has been highlighted as the core of Sri Lanka's export problem. In addressing this problem, the diversification of markets has received more attention in the recent past, and FTAs have emerged as the chosen solution to the problem. 

This seminar explored  how far the proposed strategy will serve to address the export problem and its limitations.  It did so by questioning whether the lack of diversification is the root cause of the problem or its symptom, and whether the root cause is in fact a lack of export capacity and low export competitiveness. 

 

The British Abolition of “Brutal” Kandyan Marriage Practices in 1859

Presentation by Michael Roberts

 

Kandyan men and women could dissolve their unions by mutual consent, while polygamy as well as polyandry was practised. The British missionaries as well as the local bourgeoisie converted to European ways of looking at these lifeways as “brutal” and “nasty.” However, the push for the abolition of such customs came from a deputation of Kandyan chiefs in the 1850s. This presentation surveyed the processes stimulating this step and the response of the British authorities to this request.

 

Iran: Looking Ahead Through History

Presentation by Shamara Wettimuny

Following the agreement of a historic nuclear deal in July 2015, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted earlier this year. These successive developments signal a shift in both Iran’s internal policies and the way in which it engages with the international community.

This seminar explored the reasons behind the imposition of sanctions, with particular regard to changing US-Iranian relations. The seminar also highlighted the reasons behind the lifting of sanctions and what it means for Sri Lanka and the world.

 

Re-thinking transport in the Megapolis

A Discussion with Professor Saman Bandara, Dr Dimantha De Silva and Nayana Mawilmada

Public transport is a critical aspect of urban functionality and quality of life. Urbanisation and development increases the importance of public transport. Yet, Sri Lanka's public transport has for many decades lagged behind the growing needs of the economy.

The Seminar featured researchers who have developed ideas and plans towards expanding the city of Colombo into a greater urban megapolis. They presented plans that were aimed at rethinking and addressing the needs of public transport within the concept of the megapolis.

 

Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Theory and Practice

Presentation by Supun Jayawardena, Assistant Analyst, Legal

Over the centuries, persons with disabilities were subject to theoretical as well as practical marginalization. Theoretical marginalization has continuously immerged in the law and policy making sector, which prevents disabled people from having equal opportunities and keeps them away from mainstream society. Presently, with the adaptation of CRPD and other such international treaties and conventions, most countries have implemented equality and non-discriminatory legislations to prevent persons with disabilities from maltreatment and discrimination. However, it is problematic whether these theories can be applied to existing scenarios.

 

Transitional Justice for Sri Lanka: Beyond Human Rights and Remedies for Victims

Presentation by Niran Anketell

This seminar explored whether Transitional Justice must move beyond being seen merely as a tool for human rights and victims' rights advocates seeking truth and justice, but also address the political and social challenges of a society dealing with its past. The seminar also discussed other theoretical and practical issues concerning Transitional Justice, such as sequencing, choices between mechanisms and international law.

 

Economics of shooting without aiming: the case of transport in the Megapolis -

Presentation by Professor Amal Kumarage

The recent unveiling of the Megapolis Plan raises a number of question on the suitability of the proposed 12 Bn USD plan for improving transport. There are procedural, technical, social, equitable, sustainability, economic and financial considerations that have been grossly ignored. 

 

The Need for a New Constitution in Sri Lanka: Challenges and Opportunities

Presentation by Rohan Edirisinha

Sri Lanka is in the important process of creating a new basic norm on which all structures of governance and the rights of citizens would be based. Towards this end, parliament has been tasked with sitting together as a ‘constituent assembly’. There is a general consensus that constitutional changes are required, but far less agreement as to what they might be and how they should be determined. Significantly, what role should the citizenry have in influencing this process? Has sufficient space been provided for this?


Media Sector Reforms in Sri Lanka: Challenges and Prospects 

Presentation by Nalaka Gunawardene

The number of media companies, organisations and products in Sri Lanka has steadily increased after private sector participation in broadcasting was allowed in 1992. However, more does not necessarily mean better. Media researchers and advocacy groups lament that broadcast diversification and a parallel proliferation of print media publications and websites has produced a corresponding rise in media pluralism – not just in terms of media ownership and content, but also in how the media reflects the full diversity of public opinion, particularly of those living on the margins of society.

Media sector reforms are needed to increase media pluralism, as well as professionalism and accountability. This talk will summarise priorities that have been identified through consultative processes this year involving media owners, practitioners, researchers, advocacy groups and educators.


A call for universal action on climate change

Presentation by Ashani Basnayake, Environment and Climate Change Consultant, Legal

Sri Lanka became a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the same year the treaty was open for signature. The 21st meeting of nations under this convention is taking place in Paris in the first two weeks of December, and the goal will be to agree on emissions targets between 2020 and 2030.

This presentation provided a brief overview on why it’s important we tackle the issue of climate change, the current state of play in climate negotiations, how different nations are responding and where Sri Lanka finds itself on this stage.


Lessons Learnt on Reconciliation: Implementation Status of LLRC Recommendations 

Presentation by Rehana Mohammed, Research Assistant, Legal

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was appointed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010, and published its final report in December 2011. The government released the National Plan of Action (NPA) to implement the LLRC's recommendations in mid-2012. Verité Research has monitored the implementation of LLRC recommendations since the release of the NPA. 
 
This seminar will deal with the implementation status of eleven categories of recommendations as at September 2015, and identify certain immediate opportunities to further reconciliation within the framework of the LLRC. 


Re-thinking security: Why the paradigm of human security is particularly relevant to Sri Lanka

Presentation by Matteo Busto, Intern, Politics 

Sri Lanka has become a safer place since the end of the Civil War in 2009. Yet, threats have now changed and the current understanding of security is too narrow. President Sirisena has vowed to reform the security agenda. He is however unwilling to move away from the traditional notion of National Security. Environmental issues, issues of economic security, the spread of pandemic diseases and other threats are on the rise. Those concerns need prioritization. The citizens, and not the state, need to be at the centre of attention, providing a wide-ranging security framework.

This presentation explored the current status of security in Sri Lanka. It provided the reasoning for reform, and argued for a shift to human security. Finally, it presented a strategic plan to put the security reforms in place.


Assessing the Effectiveness and Sustainability of Sri Lanka's Civil Society Sector

Presentation by Sabrina Esufally, Analyst, Legal  

This seminar explored recent developments in Sri Lanka's civil society sector. It placed particular emphasis on evaluating the drivers and inhibitors of sustainability in the CSO sector.

Ernesto Laclau's Life and Thought

An in-house presentation by Sumith Chaaminda engaging with Laclau’s contribution in theorizing radical and pluralist political alternatives to existing power structures. 

The Paradigm Shift in Sri Lanka's Transport Sector

An in-house presentation by Prof. Amal Kumarage assessing the paradigm shift in Sri Lanka's transport sector. 

Indian Elections: Winners and Losers

An in-house presentation by Janeen Fernando on the  Indian Lok Sabha elections giving an overview of the results and how they affected key players on the Indian political stage. Performance of key national politicians, alliances, regional players were examined to identify the “winners and losers’’ in light of the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) victory.

Launch of Manthri.lk

Sri Lanka's pioneering MP monitoring website was launched on the 23rd of August at a function held at the BMICH.

Quarterly Review of the Macro Economy

An in-house presentation by economist Jayani Ratnayake based on research over the past two decades on the Real Sector of the Economy.

Female Arts Graduates' Employment Choices

An in-house presentation by Aloka Kumarage about the job preferences of female arts graduates from rural areas of Sri Lanka. Most females prefer to take up jobs in the public sector due to intrinsic gender differences, a favourable working environment and the greater availability of public sector jobs in rural areas. Rural arts graduates also frequently lack the social networks needed to secure jobs in the private sector.

Media Ethics

A discussion organized by Verité Research regarding the growing standards in media and media ethics, headed by a visiting lecturer from the Colombo Theological Seminary.

Estate Workers' Wages

An in-house presentation by Janeen Fernando regarding wages in the tea estate sector and how the existing structure of daily wages based on attendance is detrimental to the interests of estate workers. Currently, poverty levels in the tea estates are amongst the highest in the country, and wages do not reflect the cost of living in the area.

Central Banking

A presentation and discussion by Dr. Udara Peiris from the Department of Economics, University of Warwick offering a new perspective on Default, Financial Stability and Capital Flows based on the collected works of Charles Goodhart, Dimitrios Tsomocos and Collaborators. He had researched the prudential requirements for financial institutions and considered the issues of financial regulation, capital flows and exchange rate management.

Electricity Pricing

An in-house presentation by Vidya Nathaniel concerning electricity generation and pricing in Sri Lanka. It included comparisons of Sri Lankan electricity prices with prices in other South Asian countries, shifts in the forms of electricity generation during the past few years and an analysis of what could have contributed to the recent rise in electricity pricing.

 

 

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