Technically, Pushpika de Silva, the woman at the centre of last Sunday’s Mrs. Lanka hullabaloo, is correct in maintaining that she is a married woman as no competent court has yet put asunder what her marital vows had once enjoined. The filing of divorce papers in court does not change one’s marital status, though it [...]


Don’t cry Mrs. Lanka, the crown’s all yours…for now



Technically, Pushpika de Silva, the woman at the centre of last Sunday’s Mrs. Lanka hullabaloo, is correct in maintaining that she is a married woman as no competent court has yet put asunder what her marital vows had once enjoined.

The filing of divorce papers in court does not change one’s marital status, though it may signal one’s change of heart. In fact, so scrupulously do the courts view the institution of marriage as sacred that it refuses to accept that a marriage has irretrievably broken down even after formal divorce is given but grants a further six months period of grace for the parties to resolve their irreconcilable differences before final severance of the nuptial knot is ordered.

The filing of divorce papers indicates not the end but the beginning of the end of a marriage; and until the long process finally reaches the end when ties are cut and the spouses revert to their previous single status, the parties may be granted legal separation.

Pushpika de Silva, had filed papers in court to divorce her husband four years ago. The case is expected to be taken up middle of this year, possibly, to grant her uncontested petition to divorce. Until such time it is unequivocally clear that, legally, she remains married, though separated from her spouse.

Thus she is perfectly well within her legal right to insist that she is married and has not breached that one fundamental rule of eligibility the Mrs. World Contest organisers demand all aspirants to uphold: The rule of being married before applying for the contest, during the contest period and, if adjudged the world winner, one year after, which if flouted would render immediate disqualification.

But while being legally separated from her husband for four years and on the verge of being granted the divorce she has for long sought from the courts — who said this week she is proud to be a single mum of one — whether it was correct of her to have expanded the ambit of being married to the extreme, to enter a contest strictly reserved for married woman and held, as the Mrs. World Contest organisers proudly hold, as a ‘pageant celebrating the uniqueness of the married woman’, must give pause for solemn reflection on righteousness of conduct in the present arena of action.

Technically, also, ex-Mrs. Lanka but still Mrs. World Caroline Jurie was wrong to have played judge, jury and executioner on public stage last Sunday when shortly after Pushpika had been crowned Mrs. Lanka for Mrs. World, she claimed Pushpika was a divorcee, pronounced her disqualified and proceeded, with the help of backstage sidekick, to de-crown the ‘imposter’ and topple her from her newly won pedestal.

Clearly, it was not Caroline’s business to deliver summary justice on Nelum Pokuna stage. Her role on it was to dutifully perform the final rites of her own ending reign as Mrs. Sri Lanka and pass the torch to her new chosen successor and walk off into the sunset.

It’s possible that Caroline honestly believed Pushpika had ceased to be married. If she so did, then her private doubts and reservations should have been directly conveyed to the judges before or after the contest. Instead, she thought fit to usurp the judges’ powers in their absence, and unilaterally act as she did to reduce the level of farce to burlesque.

DOUBLE CROWNED MRS SRI LANKA: Pushpika struggles to hold back the tears as she gives her victory speech

Her only defence for unbecoming conduct may be to plead ‘mistaken belief’ in the manner a member of the public can claim after wrongfully executing a citizen’s arrest under section 72 of the Penal Code, ‘Nothing is an offence which is done by any person who is justified by law, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in good faith believes himself to be justified by law in doing it’.

But Caroline, still the reigning Mrs. World, remained defiant to the end despite being arrested on Thursday and later released on police bail over the incident. In a video statement, delivered on Friday night, she said she was ready to hand over her Mrs. World crown.

She said her only intention was to stand up for the injustice caused to the competitors throughout this competition which she alleged was tainted with heavy politicization. She declared: “It upsets me greatly when justice doesn’t prevail. This is why I stood up for injustice, from the beginning of the event, I stood up for what was wrong, but my efforts were futile until the very last moment, which led me to do what I did.’’

She said she only stood for what she believed was right and will follow all legal procedures – as a normal Sri Lankan citizen – without influence – while always holding her head up high.

And where does that leave the holder of the Lankan Mrs. World franchise, Chandimal Jayasinghe, a bridal designer better known for hosting extravagant multimillion rupee parties on Bollywood themes at Kingsbury and Shangri-La to celebrate his birthdays.

After Caroline had stolen the thunder on the big night last Sunday, he told the media that, “there is no need to take any action against Jurie as the whole country witnessed her behaviour and all are disgusted by her actions. We expect Mrs. World to take action against her. She made a huge blunder. She is responsible for her own actions.”

True. But what has he got to say of his own actions? He told the media, all contestants had to provide proof of their marriage and had to fill out the forms accordingly before taking part in the contest.

But did he know that Pushpika — though in the eyes of the law still legally married, had filed for divorce four years ago and was on the threshold of getting her divorce this year, which would have risked disqualification and risked further the Mrs. World concept as ‘a pageant to celebrate the happily married woman and promote the institution of marriage?

Or had he been aware of it and chosen not to use his discretion and reject the application, and viewed this blot on the Mrs. World landscape as a matter of no consequence? How will the parent body of the Mrs. World Organisation react should Mrs. Lanka’s divorce come through before the grand final of the Mrs. World Contest is held in December?

Does he agree with the re-crowned Pushpika’s assertion in her belated tear jerking victory speech that the crown she won was dedicated to ‘all single mums’’, when the Mrs. World’s concept dedicates it to ‘all married women’?

Sometimes, though a rule itself is not violated but when its spirit is transgressed, the ensuing results can be both damaging and dire. It need not shock, it’s only to be expected. It’s the natural law of cause and effect in operation.

And the message to the twice winner, who since then revealed her plans to enter high politics:  ‘Don’t cry Mrs. Lanka, the crown is all yours to wear…. for now.’

Tell Dr. Siddhika: She‘ll have to goThe Director General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) was plunged into hot water and left to drown this week when a choice remark casually made to a television reporter over the current ‘toxic coconut oil’ scare, placed the trust, credibility and future usefulness of one of Lanka’s top consumer watchdogs at stake.

An angry public outcry erupted in disbelief and shock when the nation heard SLSI Chief Dr. Siddhika Senaratne reveal to a television interviewer not only of the detection of imported coconut oil with thrice the permitted toxic level but also the  widespread availability of poisonous, cancer causing food stuff in the market.

In the shocking interview aired last Saturday, the interviewer asks Dr. Siddhika Senaratne: ‘Apart from detecting aflatoxins in chilli consignments, what are the other food stuff found that contained this cancer causing substance?’

SLSI DIRECTOR GENERAL SIDDHIKA: Shows Gold Award for Inspiration Women of the Year but looks askance at poison food in markets to help local traders

Dr. Siddhika’s reply: ‘It’s like this. Many of these things I cannot say because after I say it many of the local produces can collapse. So even though the media may think they have a right to ask, we have a responsibility to protect local produces. Instead what we do is we tell the Consumer Authority and together we all engage these businesses in discussion and we encourage them to desist from introducing such poisonous food stuff to the market and mend their ways.’

The interviewer asks: ‘Do you have any prohibition placed on you not to reveal these to the media? Why can’t you tell the public?’

She replies: ‘No, there is no prohibition of that sort. But if we tell the public these local businesses will totally collapse. So we do not.’

When the interviewer interrupted and asked: ‘So while they mend their ways, the people have to eat poison? Is that okay’

Driving the last nail into her own career at SLSI, she replied blithely: ‘Well, it’s only for a short time. We have to first correct these producers, no, and see that these companies mend their ways and do not have to close down.’

Her outrageous claim that food containing cancer causing poisonous substances was quite all right for human consumption for a short time since it kept food companies in good business health, naturally provoked an avalanche of protests and led many to bray for her blood.

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) sprang into action on Monday by lodging a complaint against Dr. Siddhika, urging the Inspector General of Police to immediately investigate her claim that she was aware of the fact that certain food items sold in the market contains substances unfit for human consumption.

The Government, too, washed its hands of Dr. Siddhika’s controversial comments. Cabinet spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the Government does not approve Dr. Siddhika’s remarks that exposing local businesses whose products are found to contain toxins could lead to their collapse. The Government has now launched an investigation into her statement.

So who is this Dr. Siddhika, supposed to be the guardian deity of the nation’s food consumption but who has since revealed even divinity errs?

Undoubtedly, she is eminently qualified academically for the job, having a PhD in Biochemistry from St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, UK in 2002 followed by two Post-doctoral fellowships at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, USA.

Pity, all those qualifications and recognition, but not the foggiest as to what her job as Director General of SLSI entails?

The SLSI has been the accepted final arbiter on what is fit for human consumption. Its decisions have been accepted without question or pause. The organisation was established in 1964 to protect the rights of consumers and to protect unethical business trade malpractices.

The Director General’s first duty is to the public. In determining whether any food is fit for human consumption or not, it is not her duty to take external factors into consideration.

But Dr. Siddhika has, unfortunately, based her decision whether or not to ban food containing cancer causing substances not on how it will affect the health of humans but on how adversely it will affect the pockets of local businesses.  She has allowed the unsuspecting public to consume toxic-hit food to give a helping hand to errant businesses peddling poison in the market with the full knowledge of the SLSI.

And, as a result the trust and credibility once unquestioningly reposed in the SLSI, now lie shattered and will continue to lie in fragments until the Government axe poised over Dr. Siddhika’s job is let to fall.

Else, it will be the continuing case of the watchdog not raising the alarm barking when thieves burgle the master’s home because it does not wish to disturb the master’s peaceful slumber.

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