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Ingratitude – farmers’ woes

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It is immensely disturbing, to see members of the farming community, compelled to abandon their fields and take to the roadsides, holding up placards to draw attention to their plight. This is a national shame. We are not short of jokers who parrot the “The farmer is king” or “wash off his mud and set him on the throne” – that kind of claptrap simply will not do, or that kite will not fly, or that cock will not fight. Let not the insensitivity or arrogance of the “powers that be” which, one fears may drive a normally peaceful community to resort to unpleasant or dangerous reaction. The signs are ominously evident.

On the one side there are the marauding elephants, who in a single night can devastate the entirety of a season’s labour or knock down the walls of modest hovels, which pass for homes. It could be argued that this recurring problem is something that the officers in the field can do nothing about. This is only partly true. The initial error was committed by officialdom choosing to locate settlers across the customary elephant migration paths, used by the animals for decades. The provision of elephant corridors, and electrified fences provide little relief, at very high cost. There is no immediate remedy that the hapless Agricultural and Wildlife officials can provide.

On the other hand there are remediable defects in supplying irrigation water. It has been widely said that we do not have many true “irrigation engineers”, only those who can “competently lead water from point A to point B.”

Then there is the very ill-advised (or non-advised), move to 100% “organic” fertilizer, and to abruptly cease fertilizer imports. If ones child is ill, it would be better to consult a pediatrician than a soil chemist. If one is in need of spiritual guidance, it would be wiser to seek a monk than an agriculturist.

In taking such a drastic step, radically changing a long practiced agriculturally central issue, drastic reversals are dangerously unwise. Several well-informed and knowledgeable scientists, quoting from acknowledged authorities, have urged caution. There have been no corresponding interventions from those who support this radical change. In a profoundly vacuous declaration, it was surmised that we wish to achieve the record on being the first to go “completely organic”. Maybe so. But we run a greater chance of being the first nation to commit “Organic Suicide”. Thus, wrecking over a century’s work in this field of plant nutrition, in the universally acclaimed Agriculture, Tea, Rubber, Sugar, Minor Export Crops and Coconut Research Institutions. Years of dedicated effort and the countless millions of hours and rupees invested in such work, is to be felled in one sweep? Who will take the responsibility and cover the losses certain to be experienced, in this fancy adventure? When it comes to matters of such grave technical importance, are we to be guided by sane scientific knowledge, or of un-informed upstarts or transient politicos and ‘Wannabies’?

As support for this folly, there have been two relevant “shots” fired by the valiant who favour this heroic venture (i) Mineral fertilizers bring in health hazards like CKDU. I do not need to pursue that line, shown to be wildly unproven. (ii) that all scientists who do not support this progressive move (someone even quantified this misconduct to 99.99% ), were bribed by multinationals. This is such a tiresome chant, that it need not be given the dignity of even a mention. I do so, because I feel “Short Changed” Having been involved in work related to crop nutrition for six decades or more, I have yet to be offered even */50 cents for my support, never mind the MN’s , not even by a local “Pohora velendha”. Maybe, I comfort myself by the thought that I am in that 0.01 % of incorruptibles. How nice. Who else, please?

But there is something shatteringly murderous. In answering the legitimate inquiry that since we have an unattainable and immediate need for millions of tons of compost for this 100% move, (as I recall, by that estimable Dr Mahindananda Aluthgamage), that if the is any shortfall in organic fertilizer, we could import compost, available in ample amounts in international markets. This is a palpable falsehood. I have seen only one advertisement for sales from one single country, and significantly well-timed for the remark of our good Min. of Ag.

If this is anything like possible, we should all stand up and in unison, chant “Not on your bloody Nelly.” This stark ignorance of the implication of dumping other peoples ’rubbish, (possibly carrying dangerously toxic metallic pollutants, pathogens (human and plant), weed seeds and a lot more fatally injurious “passengers” in imported compost, should be evident to the meanest nitwit of a village idiot.

Please let us be compassionate in meeting the legitimate fears and travails of our farmers, realistic in our need to be prepared and plan for widespread and certain to occur food shortages, even possibly starvation, to highly diminished export crops, domestics for the Middle East, unemployment in tourism involved sectors, GSP loss, emergency imports of essential foods and pharmaceuticals. Intelligent enough to seek and heed the counsel of those who know. Review the impetuous proposal for change in fertilizer, while taking note that a prudent mix of chemical and organic fertilizers is a worthy long-term goal that has to be based on sound science and not on the populist dreams of adventurers.

 

Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda



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Opinion

Role of Buddhism in cultivating inter-communal peace and harmony

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Buddhism is one religion which has never in its history anywhere in the world engaged in warfare to spread the Dhamma. Its scriptures do not preach violence as a means of conversion of people to Buddhism. World history does not record crusades undertaken for that purpose by Buddhism. This is not to denigrate other religions which have resorted to such means, for one needs to consider the context in which such things had happened before rushing into judgment, but to view everything in the right perspective at the beginning of this discussion.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka is in a position to protect all other religions and whatever cultures those religions may have developed in Sri Lanka, not only because it is the religion of the majority, but also due to its virtues such as religious tolerance, its pervasive compassion, respect for different views and particularly its denunciation of fundamentalism. Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutta (Diga Nikaya) had advised his disciples not to be displeased or generate rancour against anybody who speaks in disparaging language about the Buddha, Dhamma, Sanga.

More important is the Buddha’s opinion on religious fundamentalism. He had preached that one should not have dogmatic attachment to views and ideologies whether they are true or false. Such attachment could lead to the development of an attitude that states; “this view alone is true, all else is falls”. This type of attitude is defined by the Buddha as exclusivism (vide; Dhammasangani) which in religion could lead to religious fundamentalism. Buddha in his famous discourse on the Parable of the Raft says that his Dhamma is not for grasping but for crossing the river of samsara and the raft thereafter must be abandoned (Alagaddupama Sutta in Majjhima Nikaya). Buddha had discouraged religious fundamentalism amongst his disciples for it could lead to conflict and even war. Terrorist violence we experienced recently could have been due to religious fundamentalism.

Buddhism could be the protective religion for other religions not because Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhala Buddhists only. Indeed, it does not. Catholic, Hindu, Muslim religious leaders, have said that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country. To briefly clarify the matter, what one means when one says Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country is that it was Sinhala Buddhists who had built and protected the Sri Lankan civilisation which constitutes a nation. When Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith was questioned on this matter he said when one travels by helicopter one could see the ‘Stupa’ and the tanks together, the ‘Weva-dagaba’ concept, everywhere which is the symbol of Buddhist culture side by side. To identify Sri Lanka as Sinhala Buddhist is to make reference and give due recognition to this phenomenon. The good Cardinal had said that everybody in Sri Lanka had grown under the protective culture of Buddhism.

Buddhism could be the catalyst to bring to the surface all the goodness that resides in other religions and discourage evil if any. The Islamic fundamentalists who set off bombs in Catholic and Christian churches may have perhaps referred their scriptures, and disregarding context, focused on the content that recommends violence, and were motivated by it. Buddhist clergy and laity could by word and deed show that non-violence could be a very effective force. They must by their demeanour and action show how emotions could be controlled, and how non-violence work.

Instead if there is violence against fundamentalism as happened in Kalutara and Digana, the fundamentalists will never learn the wretchedness of violence, depravity of killing others and oneself and the importance of living in a Sinhala Buddhist country. They must see and feel the difference in Buddhism and life in a Sinhala Buddhist country. This cannot be achieved by attacking mosques and churches or harassing the minorities. They must feel they belong to Sri Lanka. They must feel that the famous singer late Mohideen Baig was right when he told his son that he will never go hungry as long as he lived among the Sinhalese. They must be made to feel that they belong to Sri Lanka. This is in the hands of the Buddhist clergy and laity.

Other religions on their part must appreciate the benign nature of Buddhism, its precept of non-violence, its ability to foster their religions and allow them to work in peace and harmony. Other religions must make use of these virtues of Buddhism and not abuse them. They must not make unfair and unethical advances, claims, and try to subvert the Buddhist culture that pervades the entire country. Instead it may be prudent to try and subject the cultural aspect of their religions to a process of localization or domestication, for instance in the areas of music, ritual, symbols and architecture. We see this happening in Catholic areas in the Western coast but seldom in the East coast’s Muslim areas. In fact, what we see there is a process of ‘Arabisation’. When we visit Kattankudy we feel as if we have come to the Middle East. This was apparently the experience of MP Prof. Marasinghe recently.

This kind of activity may hurt Buddhist sensitivity. After all Muslims happen to be in the East due to a kind gesture of a Kandyan king. Perhaps this kind of adaptation may be easier for Sinhala Christians as their culture is Sinhala Buddhist for their ancestors belonged to that culture before they were converted, which was often by unethical means and not conviction. Sinhala culture is inherent and visible particularly in the rural Christian folk if not in the urban westernised.

If religious harmony is to prevail unethical proselytizing, conversion without conviction for material benefits, has to be recognized as an evil for everybody. No genuine religious priest would attempt this kind of conversion. Only those who are tools in the hands of a global political power would engage in such unethical work. Stopping unethical conversions would go a long way in achieving religious peace and harmony. Paying lip service to peace while turning a blind eye to these happenings is to court disaster and to strengthen the hands of the extremists and pave the way for violent reaction which has the potential to trigger foreign interference in our internal affairs.

Buddhism seems to be slowly but surely gaining in strength internationally in providing a solution to the problems concerning peace of mind and harmony and control of greed. These changes are happening mainly in Europe and the US. In the US for instance, believers in Buddhism rose by 170 percent during the period from 1900 to 2000. This happened while successive generations moved away from belief in God and associated rituals. The majority comprising 53 percent of believers in Buddhism were white middle class highly educated young Americans and they had converted by conviction, 67 percent of American Buddhists had been raised in a religion other than Buddhism (Pew Foundation Survey, 2015; Russel Heimlich, 2008).

On the other hand the attraction of these groups to Islam and Hinduism is much less. This change had happened despite a concerted effort to prevent it. The main attraction of Buddhism has been its above-mentioned virtues and their final goal of peace achievable via its method of meditation. All this proves the point that Buddhism could play a role in uniting the people under one umbrella. In Sri Lanka it should be done by the priests and laity by word and deed. Whether politics would allow them is a moot point.

N.A. de S. Amaratunga

 

 

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Opinion

Collie Smith – the other ‘Sobers’ that West Indies lost

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When I read the article, “Cricket’s greatest is 85 today” by veteran cricket journalist, Rex Clementine of this newspaper on 28th July, I thought of writing the following article about a ‘Great loss’, incurred to Jamaica, West Indies and the world cricket.

The name Collie Smith would be familiar to the majority of cricket fans, fascinated by the history of international cricket of yester years. His full name was O’Neil Gordon “Collie” Smith who was born on 5th May 1935 in Kingston, Jamaica, before he met with an untimely accident and died on 9th September, 1959, in Staffordshire in England.

Following is an account of the accident extracted from the internet.

On September 6, 1959, Collie Smith, Garfield Sobers and Jamaican medium-fast bowler Tom Dewdney, met after their respective Lancashire League games ,and were all set to travel through the night to London to take part in a charity match, the following day. But, fate had different plans. At around 4.45 that morning, Sobers was in the driver’s seat, and it so happened that he was confronted with two dazzling headlights, coming straight towards him, leaving him no time to react. That was all, Sobers says, he could remember about the collision that followed. It was later learnt that the car they were travelling in had run head-on into a 10-ton cattle truck. Once out of the daze, Sobers immediately went to check on Collie, but the latter responded by saying “I’m all right, Maan. Go look after the big boy (Tom).”

Three days later, on September 9, 1959, Collie was declared dead due to a severe damage to his spinal cord. He had lapsed into unconsciousness after the horrific accident, and one of Jamaica’s favourite sons was no more. He was already an accomplished player by then, having scripted terrific centuries against formidable sides, like England and Australia. Sobers, in his autobiography, reckons that Collie would have been among the top players in the world had he not been taken away by that fatal accident. But on that day, the dreams of the Jamaican people and that of Collie’s had indeed come to an abrupt end. 

Following is what Sobers had written about the accident and Collie.

“There should have been four of us making the journey south on that fateful night. We were waiting for Roy Gilchrist, but after an hour or more we gave up and decided to make our way to London without him. Such is the fickle finger of fate. Had we left on time or had we waited for a little longer, who knows what might have happened. But there is no turning the clock back,”

“He was three years older than me and already a very fine cricketer who seemed destined to become even better. He was more than just an accomplished batsman, having scored big 100s against England and Australia. He was also developing into a very good off-spin bowler. I am serious when I say that he had the potential to be a top class all-rounder, probably one of the world’s best.” 

A crowd of 60,000 is believed to have attended Collie’s funeral in Jamaica. That speaks volumes of how popular he was back then. The people believed in his ability. 

His tombstone, in Jamaica’s May Pen cemetery, is engraved with “Keen Cricketer, Unselfish Friend, Worthy Hero, Loyal Disciple and Happy Warrior. A road in Collie’s birthplace is named ‘Collie Smith Drive’ in his memory.

Sobers was found guilty for careless driving and was fined although he pleaded not guilty claiming that he was dazzled by the oncoming headlights.

The following comments found in the internet, are truly interesting.

After the three ‘Ws’ –  Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott – had graced the stage for West Indian cricket, it was perceived that another trio in the form of Sobers, (Joe) Solomon and (Collie) Smith would take the cricketing world by storm. Sadly, the dream was short-lived.

Lalith Fernando

Panadura

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Opinion

Ministers at the Olympics “Fiddling while Rome burns”

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Olympics opening ceremony in Japan

Thank you for the editorial of 29 July, aptly headlined – “It’s MPs’ Code of Conduct, stupid”! We could also add, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Media Minister and government Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella’s remarks that several Parliamentarians (including himself!) had visited the Olympics where they enjoyed ‘fun and games” with sponsorship from private sector companies, warrants an inquiry by COPE. Such “sponsorship” of Joy Rides by Ministers would be illegal in many countries and is unethical under any circumstances.

Your hard-hitting editorial is summed up in the opening line- “What on earth are our politicians doing at the Tokyo Olympics?” Is the Sports Minister’s presence so essential at the Olympics? And if so why can’t all ministers self-fund this type of visit rather than expecting me and other taxpayers to pay? After all, no Minister is short of cash.

As compared to other countries our Vaccination program has been relatively very good. People in both Indonesia and Thailand are on a waiting list of several months before they can expect even the first Jab! As for the Phillipines,its even worse. This explains why the Sports Minister seems to be claiming kudos , by, as you call it, “monitoring the progress of the Vaccination drive”.

The function of the Sports Ministers of the recent past has not been particularly great- and include as you point out, Olympian Susanthika Jayasinghe, – the “poor lass who had to sprint so fast to escape the randy minister pursuing her.”

Sports Ministers frolicking at the Olympics, in Japan, during both an Economic crisis and Health pandemic at home, reflect their scant regard for the hardships of the public .

 

JAYMAN

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