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A rare officer with honesty and integrity of a high order

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Late Mr Seekku Baduge Wimalasena de Silva, more commonly known as Mr S.B.W . de Silva was born on November 17, 1932 in Mirissa. He was a distinguished Old Boy of Mahinda College Galle, referred as Wimalasena or Wimale in school. His contemporaries included late Dr Nandadasa Kodagoda, late Ranjith Abeysuriya (former AG), and Mr P.L. Munidasa ( Rtd Deputy Inspector General Of Police, now in residing in Sri Lanka).

He joined the Ceylon Police on January 5, 1956 as a probationary sub-inspector and had a most illustrious career. He received training in Scotland Yard and several other international Intelligence organizations. His aptitude for police work was not limited to administration of which he was an expert, but in Investigations too like the Kalattawa murder case, when he was stationed as Headquarters Inspector of Police at Anuradhapura. His experience as an intelligence officer was greatly recognized by late Mr L.D.C. Herath who was the IGP and later Secretary Defence , and later by Secretary Defence General Sepala Attiygalla. He held very responsible positions as Director of the Police Training College and the Commandant of the Auxiliary Forces.

I first met him when he was the Officer- in-Charge of Grandpass Police station in 1965 when I was transferred to this station from Morawaka. He commanded great respect from the public, superiors , subordinates, courts, the Bar and the medical profession. His honesty, integrity, impartiality, knowledge of police, law and order, and deep sense of calmness and correct evaluation of situations certainly contributed towards, his achievements as a very successful policeman.

He always acted according to his conscience in accordance with values he acquired from his school (Mahinda College) and his religion as a devout Buddhist. He was a man of principle and had great respect for the views of others even though he may have disagreed. His decisions were based on the fact of always putting himself in the other man’s shoes and logically seeking the correct answer. On a very knotty problem I discussed with him, where I wanted to act emotionally, he advised me saying “Nihal put yourself in his position and then you will have the correct answer.” Don’t be impulsive.

He had the courage to say “NO” to many including a Senior Politician who was the deputy minister of Local Government and later the president of this country, late Mr R. Premadasa. Premadasa walked in to the police station with his entourage comprising of the late Mr Vincent Perera ( a minister later) and Mr Mahakumararge, an MMC. SBW offered them all seats. Mr Premadasa said: ” Mr de Silva I want you to bail my supporter who is locked up at the station and I will stand surety”. SBW politely responded, “Sorry, Sir I cannot accede to your request as it is not a bailable offence. It’s best you retain a lawyer and move for bail in court.” Mr Premadasa was certainly not happy with this response and pushed his chair back , stood up and said ” So you cannot help me?” At this stage Mr Vincent Perera interrupted and said ” Sir, Mr de Silva is a very honest officer who always helps us and we need to understand him. ” And all of them walked out.

The other incident was when Chevalier de Saram, who lives almost opposite the Grandpass police station (a powerful figure of the UNP) called SBW and said ” Mr de Silva you are the only OIC who has failed to visit me. All previous OICs visited me.” At this juncture very politely SBW posed the question, “Why Mr de Saram Do you have a problem?” He replied in the negative and SBW responded, “neither do I, but if there is a necessity I will visit you” and disconnected the phone. SBW had no problems with him thereafter.

My association with him grew closer when we worked together with him as my immediate superior in the Intelligence Division with the late Mr L.D.C. Herath as the Director. He always stood firm and never shirked his responsibilities. I remember an incident where I was alleged to have been after liquor by an ADC to the Governor General of the time (Late William Gopallawa), while I was the security officer for John Turner, former Prime Minister Of Canada when he visited us as Canada’s Minister of Justice. It was a misunderstanding due to my declining orders of the ADC to line up vehicles which I vehemently refused as it had nothing to do with my functions as a personal security officer to a VVIP. Some of my senior officers including Mr Herath appeared to believe this concocted report, but SBW stood by me and confirmed that I was a teetotaler.

During the years 1990 and 1991 Rtd Senior DIG Mr Edward Gunawardana and several retired ex Police and Armed Forces Officers were drafting a constitution and the minutes were taken by our good friend Archibald Van Sanden who had a hard time with SBW as he pointed out several omissions, including the absence of commas and full-stops etc. He was a perfectionist. He was the fourth President of the ISF (Industrial Security Foundation of Sri Lanka Inc). Later he was the Director training of the ISF which conducted many courses for security guards, supervisors and junior managers. His capacity to learn and teach others was indeed a delight. Even at the last AGM of ISF held on March 26, 2021, he displayed a high standard of integrity, and rose to the occasion to meet unfortunate challenges the ISF faces now with legal proceedings instituted. He authored the book of rules & the code of ethics of the ISF in accordance with Act Number 51 of 1999, on behalf of the committee.

His decision to prematurely retire from the Police was very disappointing to those who expected him to rise way beyond the rank he held at retirement. Those who were close to him realized that his disappointment was mainly because he felt that the Police department to which he was committed and loyal showed no recognition of his valuable services and betrayed his trust. The main reason being that many officers junior to him who had a “blemished” records were promoted over him as DIGs. Some of these officers were in fact managing private bus companies and hotel services. This was internal politics. He never went cringing and crawling to superiors or politicians. He stood by his principles with his conscience intact. He did not want to live with disappointments, and as the saying goes he “let it go” as is the hallmark of confident people.

Sadly the Police department often did not recognize scrupulously honest officers when their promotions were due. I can name a few – late A.C Dep (so many went over him to become IGP), V. T Dickman (not promoted as a DIG). SBW is another who should have retired as a Senior DIG. He was a much sought after leader in various professional organizations, besides being a past President of the Retired Senior Police Officers Association (RSPOA) which always sought his advice and guidance in organizing events like fund raisers and the Police Dance. He was one of those few senior officers who was always a result-focused leader who ensured that all rules and regulations were adhered to the letter leaving no room for criticism. These qualities made him the president of the Medico Legal Society of Sri Lanka, where for the first time a non legal/medical member was elected president bringing credit to the Police service. He was also a keen trainer and was the President of the Institute of Training & Development. His thirst for learning continued with his following a management course at the Open University with me. His skills for management training was a combination of theory , practice and experience which is a rare combination. SBW & his wife Dharma were blessed with three daughters, Risanthi, Dilum and Anoopa. Dharma was certainly part of his success story, silently giving unstinted support and encouragement in any decision he took. All three children are professionals. The eldest lives in Canada, the other two daughters were with their parents giving them a sense of security in their old age and caring for them with a great love and affection along with the extended family. The grandchildren living in the same compound probably gave them a new lease of life. I once saw his grandson taking a smiling SBW for a drive in a Volkswagen Golf.

He was no extrovert, always minded his own business and never got involved discussing others or even his own family . I am certain he always acted as a responsible husband and father with very high moral standards and never neglected his family, encouraging his daughters to be professionals enabling them to stand on their own. He never boasted about their achievements or sought to advertised the positions they hold. He certainly loved his children not because everything in them was lovely, and according to his liking, but because of the strong bond between them.It was a shock to his wife and family when he suddenly suffered a heart attack; he had told his daughter living next door about it and was perhaps attempting to dress himself to go to hospital when he had the second attack which was fatal. The RSPOA went into action and naturally under the present circumstances certain procedures had to be followed which made the family seek help from the RSPOA. I am still in shock as I have been constantly in touch with him, almost every other day and this was least expected.His contribution to the Police Department was never recognized, very sadly even in his retirement and death. He indicated to me that the present IGP had entrusted him with the task of amending the “Constables’ Manual” which is a guide to the rank & file and he being a perfectionist had said it was a challenging task but he was equal to it. Perhaps the least the IGP could have done was to pay his last respects to him & met, his family and paid a tribute to him at the funeral. It Is certainly a very sad situation. Here was an Officer who sacrificed his time and energy, and knowledge towards the Police department and the treatment meted out to Officers of this caliber does not augur well for the Police department. It should emulate the Sri Lanka Army in such matter and learn these basic obligations. I may sum up what I learnt from SBW and that is, “We, can only maintain good relationship with people if we refrain from crossing boundaries. If we respect the ‘spaces’ of our friends and relatives, we will never get into trouble with them.

In accordance with my religion I wish he is in heaven, with God almighty.

Nihal de Alwis



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Features

Glimmers of hope?

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The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self-interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away.

Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?

What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.

‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.

‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.

‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.

‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.

‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.

Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.

Heartfelt hope of the many

The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”

Still utterly hopeless

Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.

Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.

Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis

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By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse

(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)

There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.

The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.

FERTILISER ISSUE

1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.

2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.

3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!

4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.

Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains

We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened

1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.

2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.

3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.

4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.

Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.

Recommendations

1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.

2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible

3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:

Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.

Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.

Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.

Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.

Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.

Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.

Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.

1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers

All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.

The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of

India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and

There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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