2 March, 2024

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Constitutional Tinkering Hardens The System  

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

“… I must warn the Honourable Members of this House: let’s stop pretending, let’s stop fooling the people or attempting to fool the people … You make a fundamental change – bring a new constitution, don’t pretend, don’t lie to the people and try to make the people fools”. ~ (M.A. Sumanthiran, M.P) 

When aragalaya was launched in March 2022, the protesting youth came out with two specific and complementary messages. One was directed mainly at the intelligentsia and policy makers to remind them that there need to be a radical systemic change and not finetuning of the current system so that the country could be pulled out of its multiple crises; and the other was to inform the voting public that the sitting 225 members in the parliament are incapable of effecting that change and that voters should elect a new team of legislators mandated afresh to bring about that change. The first message was also a virtual vote of no confidence on the existing constitution that legitimizes a type of political governance based on ethno-religious nationalism and a model of economic management accountable to no one. The entire system was designed by a generation of leaders whose hearts were not in the development of the country and its people as a whole, but on the development of themselves and the community and clan to which they belonged. To the aragalaya rebels on the other hand, who belong to a technocentric, apolitical and a-sectarian generation of globally connected young men and women, that system of governance and model of economic management has to be uprooted and a new system need to be put in place. Hence, their twin demands.   

Disappointingly however, the political changes that aragalaya provoked i.e., from the resignation of Prime Minister MR on 9 May 2022 to passing of the 22nd Amendment on 21st October, had sent a counter message or response to the rebels that the 225 would remain at least until the end of their term and continue to guard and strengthen the existing system with cosmetic changes to the constitution. Sumanthiran’s memorable words quoted above, endorses that message. The solitary maverick who voted against the motion did not want even that cosmetic change, while some of his colleagues who were vociferous in opposing that bill, finally decided not to make fools of themselves and showed their approval by absenting from voting. They must have realized that there was nothing substantial in that amendment to reduce the powers of the executive president. What a farcical drama, which actually ended in hardening the system rather than changing it? Yet, there are a few who argue that despite its flaws 22A was a victory for democracy. On the contrary, it was a victory for RW’s political chicanery. With all the tinkering, the constitution has left the Executive Presidency virtually as powerful as it was meant to be. The public has been fooled once again, and as the French writer Jean-Baptiste Karr wrote, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. 

Having got the amendment approved with two-thirds majority and got his powers virtually intact, RW has obviously won another feather on his cap, adding to his popularity. He will now focus his attention on the economy, which unfortunately cannot be won with the same two-thirds majority. To comply with IMF conditions, personal income tax, corporate tax, VAT, tax on export crops and a few others are expected to be introduced or increased in the 2023 budget. But the main problem with these taxes is not their punishing rates but their capacity to raise the expected revenue so that budget deficit could be reduced.

Laxity in tax administration is a perennial problem in the country, and RW has not said anything so far on how to improve its efficiency. The latest scandal about politicians, businesspersons, and dignitaries getting caught to a fraudulent investment scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars, operated by an “erotic queen”, raises the question as to how these victims were able to amass so much financial wealth and whether that wealth was net earnings after meeting their tax obligations to the state. In a system where corruption has become so endemic, tax revenue will fall far short of the expected total. Doesn’t this itself call for systemic change? 

Moreover, the impact of some of these taxes like corporate tax and tax on exports would be detrimental to foreign investment and export competitiveness. There are reports already that some companies with foreign affiliation are planning to shift their operation to other countries, and the popular apparel industry is reported to have frozen intake of new workers. These are not good news for economic revival, let alone transforming the country to an export-oriented mini miracle. Therefore, to overcome the negatives in foreign exchange earnings, RW will have no alternative but to go for a new round of loans with IMF certification, which means the debt burden would continue for another couple of decades at least. 

IMF initiated reforms are not going to change a political culture that thrives on ethnonationalist divisions, corruption, nepotism and injustice. When the supreme court itself swings like a pendulum, as described by Sumanthiran, and meet out justice in a manner reflecting the wishes of the ones holding political power, what justice could people expect from those occupying its bench?            

The demand for systemic change is more than an isolated and romantic cry from a bunch of upper and middle-class youth, as some had tried to denigrate it. It is an intergenerational struggle reflecting not only the changing demographics of the time, which is universal, but also a growing awareness among the youth of this country that the “polycrisis” facing the nation is the product of a pernicious ideology of divide and rule. A history of deliberate discrimination against certain sections of the population had deprived the country of incalculable intellectual, social and entrepreneurial capital. That same ideology manufactured a system of governance, which over the years had denuded democracy of its inner strength and produced instead a kakistocracy thriving on economic crimes without any accountability. RW’s silence about accountability to such crimes committed in recent past and by certain sitting members of parliament shows that he does not want to topple the apple cart. This is why aragalaya has to resume. The planned multi-sectoral demonstration in Colombo November 2nd may herald its resumption. 

*Dr. Ameer Ali, Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 7
    3

    LJ, because the comments under Sumanthiran’s speech / article is closed and this begins with his quote in parliament I respond to your last comment addressing Mallai. Yes, for a change you are right on this. “The CT editor surely must have one of the most unenviable jobs in the world in having to read through not just comments but a BS article like yours, on a daily basis prior to approval”. When no one dared (SB, real Buddhism, Hinduism) it’s you, a snobbish white collar prick wrote not just comment but entire article questioning “will Jesus approve a mass struggle like Aragalaya????, quoting chapter and verse from the holy book.

    • 5
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      “message was also a virtual vote of no confidence on the existing constitution that legitimizes a type of political governance based on ethno-religious nationalism and a model of economic management accountable to no one.”
      Easy enough to impute lofty motives , but it is a fact that both Sarath Fonseka and Omalpe Sobhitha were warmly received at the Aragalaya. SF still makes speeches at IUSF demonstrations. Sobhitha was last seen refusing to pay the electricity bills caused by extravagant lighting at his temple. It seems that the system change he wants applies only to other people, not himself.

      • 2
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        Sri Lanka’s multiple staged Crises starting with the CIA’s ISIS claimed Easter Sunday Hybrid War attacks on the Economy and then Covid-19 lockdowns for 2 years to destroy the economy were Exogenous Economic Shocks administered by external actors who want to Sabotage the Country. Have you read the Shock Doctrine? Disaster Capitalism.
        US wants to sabotage SL and has got it into the IMF Dollar Debt trap colonialism project as it does not want Chinese Port city project to lift off and help Sri Lanka! US is Making the Economy Scream with its IMF austerity measures and until the Aragalaya stars start addressing the Foreign Backers of Ranil Rajapakse – Donald Lu said that the Force was backing RW.
        CIA backed Aragalaya stars behave like they are like kids at a post-Covid-19 beach party at Galle Face.

        • 2
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          There are intelligent ways to protest and there are stupid, destructive and counter-productive ways to protest.! System change, without talking about Geopolitics and protesting the US backers of the Ranil Rajapakse Regime is too broad.
          There have to be strategic Economic Demands as the crisis is Economic: Otherwise these are stupid protests to destroy the country and deepen the economic crisis which is what the IMF wants to advance the Dollar Debt trap colonization project.
          Demands should be”
          Private Sovereign Bond Odious debt CANCELLATION, protecting energy and transport infrastructure against privatization for National Security at this time when supply chains are being hacked etc.

    • 4
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      Where is LJ?
      Editor, are we on the right page?

      • 2
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        Dear SJ,
        .
        I was myself wondering how to cross reference these various items. Quite puzzling it was.
        .
        LJ and his article are to be found here:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/would-jesus-have-supported-the-aragalaya/
        .
        chiv had got into a spat with Leonard here, but his opening comment is a non-sequitur.
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/22nd-amendment-people-are-never-fooled/
        .
        chiv is good commenter, who works within his competence. You are often brilliant as a commenter. As for Leonard, I did get into an argument with him. He does know the Bible (and even the wider Biblical Things pretty well). The problem is that he’s operating on a site where nobody is particularly interested in such “Biblical Insights”.
        .
        Now why not continues with responses to this article.

        • 3
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          SM, I just can’t stand HYPOCRITES, nothing personal. This guy is double headed, not just hypocrite but exploits religion to justify his BS. Isn’t this, the curse we are facing right now in Lanka ??? We have plenty of them out there, in all forms, do we need one here ?? Can anyone truly explain “what has Bible / Jesus to do with Aragalaya ?? an end product of corruption, political kleptocracy, starvation, suffering, child malnutrition, death, bankruptcy, . . . . . . If I remember right didn’t he write the article stating, it was a response to some comment or article elsewhere?? if true, what can be wrong in me responding to him said previously, where comments are closed ??

          • 1
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            I do enjoy the pathetic screams from ones who cannot politely admit a slip, and resort to abusive name calling.
            Tank you C, for making my day.

            • 4
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              I do not see any to admit. “Tank you C”, request your wife to keep you happy daily with pathetic screams.

              • 3
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                By the way humor is in short supply and do not confuse above with abuse. You seem to enjoy pathetic screams and abusive name calling, your wife will be the right person to provide that fun daily (unlimited).

              • 0
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                Is that how your wife pleases you?
                How interesting!
                You did not mean t be funny I guess.
                *
                I did not intend the tank part of ‘Tank you C’, but it can be a fair fit.

                • 3
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                  Retired, It’s you who came out ( of closet) admitting ” I do enjoy the pathetic screams of one and abusive name calling'”. Does she carry a whip ??? LOL
                  Tank you for making my day.

      • 3
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        SJ:
        I posted no comment under this article. What has happened is that an inmate escaped from a place that route number 134 took you to in days gone by has been let loose in the comments section of the CT with the connivance of the editor. 😎

        • 4
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          LJ
          Thanks for the trouble to explain.
          I had worked it out already, and was only having fun.
          Frankly, I too should be a 134 case to spend time with some cases on these pages.
          *
          Warning.
          Humor is in desperately short supply in these parts, and some confuse it with nasty abuse.

    • 5
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      chiv

      Here is the youtube clip you described:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gky_zukebvo

      This didn’t happen.
      It is mere western propaganda.
      He was not well and was taken to the rest room.
      ….
      ….

    • 3
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      Chiv,

      It is ok. LJ calling CT editors or rather teaching editing jobs to CT owners because of LJ’s nervosity to face reality. This is how the pathetic Sinhala Intellectual are running the government from 1948. if they cannot answer the people’s questions, they call the Rapist Army, PTO, Supreme Court, tweak the constitution, flare up pogroms, ……. At my start here, Sadampi, who wanted me out of here, frequently has been calling CT and asking the way they are doing the editing job. In response, I asked him how many printed and on-line news media he has been running so that he starts a consulting business on press editing. To the disappointment of LJ, CT is not the Rapist Army to call for the hand, but it is the “protesters” in the media world. As you might have noticed, few of us limit ourselves with political reformation, but CT gets involved with all aspects of human life. Earlier if we put the word “caste” in our comments, CT would remove the entire comments. It is to that nuance CT peruses the comments. You might have noticed that some of the comments appear even after one day’s delay. CT put it on hold for further examination. Shadowy Mussolinies call for CT editorial staffs’ help because of their lack of confidence to reply to opposing comments.

  • 4
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    Ranil is fooling the people, not the politicians. Ameer Ali is screaming loud, constantly. Politicians care two hoots!

    • 2
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      Nathan,
      .
      What you say is true, but I’m grateful to Dr Ameer Ali for his recent stream of articles.
      .
      At the very least it provides us with a place where we can express our views on very important issues. although the politicians don’t care two hoots, the comments section provides us with an opportunity for us to exchange views. This s my second comment, and I haven’t said anything useful – yet!
      .
      And now I have to decide whether to say thing below this article, or post them here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/uks-bumpy-fall-change-of-guard-lessons-beyond/
      .
      The purpose in providing that link? At the moment both are displayed. We may wish to return to them months (or even years) later.
      .
      Two comments by me with little said. I hope that these will not be considered trolling. More serious point will be made tomorrow.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 0
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    UK’s Bumpy Fall, Change Of Guard & Lessons Beyond!

    There young people when county is in bumpy fall can take over and rule the world country. Our country they jailing and suppress the not them to take the lead, like blowing off another’s candle for it won’t make yours shine brighter and looking people deem important, Leaders See the Future and Help Others See It or Plants Seeds Leaders Make Them Grow Sri lanka until it is bankrupt no one gave the signal to protect .

    • 2
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      Constitutional Tinkering Hardens The System

      Ranils like tikering as he cannot competer and come to President ,
      Now all system hardening and taxing to recovery

  • 1
    1

    Constitutional Tinkering Hardens The System

    Ranils like tikering as he cannot competer and come to President ,
    Now all system hardening and taxing to recovery

  • 3
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    Dr. A.A, You say kakistocracy thriving on economic crimes without any accountability has the leader’s silence. Chiv’s comment whether religions of B, H, M and C are snobbish for mass struggle like aragalaya makes one wonder whether the only truth which is one, can be camouflaged by so many different mental realities. It is possible for all ethnicities and religions to be equally acceptable as in the rest of the world, without feeling fear and inward insecurity.

    • 4
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      Davidthegood, “all ethnicity and religions should be equally acceptable”. Regardless of religion and race our country is bankrupt, failed, dysfunctional and suffering, 6.9 million are struggling to have three meals, lack of health care / essentials, the queues we saw few months ago does not identify one from another by race or religion. Bottom line, just a few corrupt families, politicians and their financiers/ businessmen are filthy rich. The amounts of money invested on “erotic queen” is a clear evidence. Many are reluctant to even file charges because of unaccounted wealth. They exploited the division, hate and immorality (religion/race) to get rich. In reality, progress, development and better quality of life should be the goal, which I doubt was ever considered in Sham Lanka. See the recent stats STD / HIV on the rise, high crime rate, more than 450 murders in past few months, more than 50 shot dead, drug menace . . . . .. . . . . . . . Few like LJ ( and relatives of his , with same initials, looking for his existence ??? ) carry over their BS here in CT with so called article and comments.

      • 3
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        Davidthegood, more to what already said, just 8, 000 or so Silly Lankans were fooled by a Crypto fund scam, to the tune of 14 BILLION. ( U.S $ 37,891,504). A Chinese couple with a help of a Lankan committed this mega scam. Do you think this money is accountable or due tax was paid by investors ??

  • 5
    4

    Where is LJ?
    Editor, are we on the right page?

  • 5
    1

    If the political situation is so badly screwed up so that all ‘gods’ including the IMF cannot salvage the country, and tinkering with the Constitution will just not do, how will a new constitution help in ant way.
    A clean overhaul takes more than the constitution.
    *
    And it is all down to RW as usual.

  • 1
    0

    Constitutional Tinkering Hardens the System
    Ranils like tinkering as he cannot compete and come to President, Now all system hardening and taxing to recovery he cannot come in power genuinely. Leaders See The Future And Help Others See It Too.The future here is bankrupt after having all political experience Everyone Plants Seeds… Leaders Make Them Grow our country parliament is stopping fertilizer and seeing for good future

    • 5
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      RBH59
      There have been several tinkers at work.
      Let Ranil not steal all the glory.

  • 1
    0

    What is systemic change?

    There are many sub –systems in the system that is current.

    By slightly fine tuning only one of the sub- systems in the present constitution it is not going to even make a dent in the crisis facing the country.

    That is what happened with the present 21st amendment.it is only a time buying exercise, merely postponing the day of reckoning that cheat the people into believing that a new era has already drawn, thereby postponing the struggle indefinitely .

    Unless the present system including all the existing corrupt sub-systems are overthrown and a new set of sub-systems are brought in to treat people equally,, democratically with human rights, law and order at the core, there is no salvation for the country.

    That is what is called a revolutionary change- a systemic change.

    • 3
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      Is the revolution round the corner, as Colvin would say some 80 Years ago?
      It is cheering to hear in these days bleaker than then for revolutionaries of any kind.

    • 2
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      SK,
      “What is systemic change?”
      It depends on who you ask.
      Omalpe Sobhitha would include free electricity.
      Tuk drivers would want petrol at 100 rupees.
      Bakery owners would want flour at 70 rupees.
      Rice farmers would want higher prices.
      Rice eaters would like lower prices.
      Wasantha Mudalige would want to ban private education.
      The CPC/CEB unions would re-nationalize everything.
      What to do?

      • 1
        0

        SJ and OC
        A quick response,
        I may commence this comment with an academic definition of a system.
        A system may compose of a series of sub-systems operating within specific environments. A system consists of a set of sub-systems or processes that are coordinated to accomplish defined goals.

        A systemic thinking or approach is necessary to prevent isolated piecemeal solutions and to look at the whole rather than the parts.

        Then, there within the single system of governance, there may exist many sub- systems such as, political system, electoral system, constitution itself, legal system, school system and many more, together these systems maybe called system. Of governance.

        The economic crisis facing the country today is only the manifestation of the total failure and unless all these sub systems are tackled simultaneously and replaced , it may lead us from one crisis to another.

        Whole is more than the sum of parts.

        • 1
          2

          “Whole is more than the sum of parts.”
          SK, I find it to be the other way round when I try finding spare parts for any machine I know of– be it a bike or AC equipment.
          *
          BTW
          I did not ask you what you meant by anything or for any explanation.
          You have yet to answer my question– never mind.

          • 1
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            OC
            Have I warned you earlier against unintentionally sounding to be serious in purpose?

            • 2
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              SJ,
              Have I screwed up a serious academic discussion?

          • 2
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            Whole is more than the sum of parts!
            SJ
            It is called “synergy” very useful management concept.

            when two companies merge , the production is not sum of production of the two companies, but more.

            That is why companies do go for merger.

            What is your question that I failed to answer?

  • 2
    1

    All the constitutions of Sri Lanka whether it is 1972 or 1978 or all these 21 amendments are prepared by our so called constitutional experts who did not bother the fact that Sri Lanka belongs to the people of this country which is a multi cultural, multi religious, multi racial, multi language and it should be a common country where all the citizens are treated equally and impartially. In contrast to the concept or principle of eqality our constitution are derived to divide the people focused on families, race, religion and they forgot that what characteristcs are needed in public service. Presidency, Parliamentary and Other institutions are public servants and they are accountable to what they do and what standards should they have or follow in providing service to people. Unfortunately, there is no such standards or principles in electing or selecting the leaders or officers in public service. For example, what standards followed in nominating Gotabaya for Presidency in 2019? When he was nominated there was number of cases against him in the Courts of Sri Lanka? Has lived in the country continuously for past five years? Mahinda and Ranil had several opportunities in the past to create a constitutuion to the people of this country but they failed it.

  • 2
    0

    MR.AMIR ALI-You are talking about constitutional tinkering-BUT THE MECHANIC Who did the tinkering through 22nd amendment WIJEDASA RAJAPAKSE is trying his level best against SUMANTHIRAN Who spoke against this patch work of tinkering re-22nd amendment debate in parliament.SUMANTHIRAN MADE SOME REFERENCE TO THE TWO DIFFERENT JUDGEMENT GIVEN BY SUPREME COURTS.Wijedasa has called for a PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE AND TRYING TO PUNISH SUMANTHIRAN.IS HE WIJEDASA TRYING TO PLEASE RANIL RAJAPAKSE AND SCORE SOME POINTS FROM RANIL AS SINCE OF LATE SUMANTHIRAN IN MOST OF THE TIME IN PARLIAMENT Attacking RANIL for his recent actions.WILL IT REALLY PUT SUMANTHIRAN IN TROUBLE AS EXPECTED BY WIJEDASA?

  • 3
    0

    You guys think there is something wrong with the country!

    The world go through periods of good times and bad times: countries go through periods of good times and hard times.

    People all over the world are going through hard times ………. the whole world is going through hard times

    Be thankful good ol’ Ranil the great redeemer is there to give ye at least 2 litres of gas a month! ………. How would ye like, if the Rajapakses and their sidekicks robbed that as well?

    Our pols have done the best they can …….. be thankful ……….. only the worst remain ….. after that we are on easy street


    How would ye like to be homeless in a big city? In the freezing cold winter? In blazing hot summer?

    Native how would you like to be homeless in NY? ……….. Maaaaan can you spare a dime?

    You don’t know what you’ve got!

    • 1
      0

      Nimal,
      Winter seems to have made you nostalgic. But there are worse places than NY in winter:

      https://twitter.com/sovietvisuals/status/1211944760405110785?s=20&t=1aDNaM1F4G-Tic8LrLKcWQ

    • 3
      0

      Nimal, LOL, I started my training years ago in NYC ( upper West and mid town) .We use to encounter many coming into ER for a night looking for a warm place and some food. Though unfortunate, as an intern , it was too overwhelming and exhausting . But over the years I felt the situation did get better. Bro, you were spot on about Sadomasochistic Lankans. Seems there are few ( dirty old perverts) here in CT.

  • 2
    1

    What AA wants to happen in SL is what most of us are eagerly awaiting to happen. We can consider the current political set up as a CANCER that has affected the patient (Mother Lanka). That cancer can only be excised by the Surgeon (Aragalaya Movement AM) in order to bring about a cure to our beloved Mother Lanka.
    The Political Party that promises to carry out the wishes of AM should come to the FOREFRONT

    • 3
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      N
      The surgeon is now in need of treatment.
      None of the doctors writing pages and pages in the CT has a clue about addressing the problem.

      • 0
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        That includes you the retired who has nothing to offer other than reminiscing about now dead Left party and Silly Mao. Truth is Lanka is a basket case beyond redemption. Every one is responsible in causing such tragicomedy and expecting one person to come up with answers is more of comedy.

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