A word of advice to govt.
By N.A.de S. AMARATUNGA
This Government was elected to office with a huge majority, considered impossible in a PR electoral system. There were two important factors that contributed to this victory; one was the immense popularity of the nationalist leaders of the SLPP, and two was the anti-national policies followed by the ‘yahapalana’ government and its dichotomous leadership, that bungled in every aspect of governance. Voters came, even from abroad, in large numbers, in a surge of nationalist feelings that seemed to proclaim “let us get together to save the country”. The Government, however, must not forget that such strong sentiment, like a tide, can turn against it if it does not get its act together.
It should not take for granted that just because it has the support of a large number of people, who have nationalist feelings, it could get away with major blunders, forever. Already the signs are visible that people are not very happy about what is going on, and all that disillusion is not due to Opposition propaganda alone. There seems to be a vibrant Opposition, as it should be, that grabs every opportunity to badly embarrass the Government. Instead of lambasting the Opposition, though there is enough ammunition to do so on account of their miserable failure during ‘yahapalana’ days, the Government must take stock of the situation and take remedial measures as soon as possible.
Issues seem to crop up almost on a daily basis, which, very often, take the form of a comedy of errors, with Government high-ups becoming the target of lampoons. There were several issues that impacted on the daily life of people, which were mismanaged and allowed to grow into disastrous situations; with growing suspicion that there could be corrupt practices also. Price of rice, the irregularity in relation to Customs duty on sugar, and import of contaminated coconut oil, were three such issues that caused a lot of damage to the reputation of the Government, recently. What made it worse for the Government was the unprofessional manner the Government explained matters to the public, and the appearance that an attempt was made to cover up. The various spokesmen for the Government could not, at least, speak in one voice. One would say contaminated coconut oil has not been released to the market and another would say coconut oil in the market is being tested for aflatoxin . The Opposition would latch on to this and shout from the tree tops that the coconut oil will bring cancer to the people in the New Year. With regard to price control of rice, one minister would say they will raid the stores of mill owners and take over the hoarded rice, while another would say they will import rice. The Opposition would shout that there will be no rice for the New Year “kiribath”.
Anyway, the issues regarding rice, sugar and coconut oil should have been more efficiently managed, without appearing to be bumbling along. If there had been any corruption, related to these matters, the Government must get to the bottom of it, find the culprits and punish them, irrespective of whether they are top ministers, government politicians or supporters. Else the canker will grow, resulting in the downfall of the government.
70% of those who voted for this Government are poor people. If the Government makes a genuine effort to improve their lot, mainly their income, health, education and housing, the effort of the Opposition to exaggerate the issues, which it must be said could occur under any government, would have less success. At present the Opposition seems to be having a field day with people tending to rally around it. The President’s visits to the villages would give a lot of confidence to the poor people, but whether what he promises are being implemented by the officials is something that needs to be looked into. The President must also focus on a comprehensive plan to take the people out from their abject poverty. He has said that is his intention and seems to be genuinely concerned about this matter. He had changed the strategy to combat Covid and avoided large scale lockdowns, keeping in mind the need for the economy to recover and things would have not been bad. Covid seems to be under control and the economy also seems to be recovering, according to the World Bank. The World Bank goes by economic parameters, like GDP, but whether the apparent growth reaches the people is not certain. Whether enough is being done to improve the poor people’s living standards is the question.
The President has said he would concentrate on developing an agro-economy. This indeed is laudable as 30% of the workforce, in Sri Lanka, is engaged in agriculture and related activities. Land is of short supply in a small island, and there is a tendency for encroachment, into forest reservation, for expansion of agricultural and other economic activity. This is like the stomach invading lung space and could be equally disastrous. Several such instances have been detected, and the Opposition may have exaggerated all this and attempted to show that the President is Eco-unfriendly. Some of his own MPs have added fuel to fire by taking on the forest conservation officers who are trying to do their job.
How could this problem be solved? An agro-economy would need to contribute at least 25% to the GDP. Now its contribution is only 8%. How could agricultural produce be increased without damaging the environment? What experts like Prof. C.S.Weeraratne have proposed is to employ scientific farming methods, like the use of high yielding varieties, better seeds and fertilizer, improved irrigation, greater mechanization, better storage and transportation facilities. Funding for this work must be found and there cannot be any excuses because people can see that the Government has enough money to spend on the comfort of their politicians. Further, if corruption is curbed, money would be available for these projects. The President is known as a big achiever and a ‘no-nonsense’ person, and his track record in this regard is excellent. It is disappointing and sad to see a Government, headed by such a person, bungling along, due to the activities of incompetent ministers.
Self-sufficiency in essential food items should be a priority. If this is the policy of the Government why is it importing coconut oil. If we are not producing enough coconut, why do we export coconut products. About 7% of our exports, in 2020, were coconut products, and 50% of this was kernel. Is it a better trade policy to export local products and import the same products in a different form from abroad? Is there any logic in this? We must export essential items only if we are producing in excess of local requirements. One hopes there is no corruption involved in the practice of exporting coconut kernel, and then importing it back in the form of oil.
Government must not forget that its sustaining force is its nationalist orientation. Its nationalism should be based on the national consciousness of the people, and it must be defensive and protective, but not oppressive or chauvinistic. It must protect all communities and treat them equally. It must look at every issue from the national point of view, and look for solutions within that framework. Nationalism of this government has been castigated as racial by some commentators who support separatism. Government must avoid doing anything that would be ammunition for such commentators.
Its decision not to enter into the MCC agreement is in keeping with its nationalist policies. The way it handled the UNHRC Resolution was also good, but more could have been done in this regard. It could have made use of the seemingly unsolicited helping hand that Lord Naseby extended. By unwittingly spurning it, the Government appears to be accepting the view of separatists and their supporters that Lord Naseby is a “backbencher”, and, therefore, his view does not carry weight. However, it could be said en passe that the viewpoints of people like Siobhan McDonagh, Labour MP who supports separatists, are being made use of by separatists, despite the fact that she is a “backbencher”.
Some say there is no unity in the Government and there are “ginger groups” and disgruntled members. There is reason to believe that this may be true. Disagreements and disputes came out into the open and there was washing of dirty linen in public. This could be very damaging to the future of the government and the SLPP. Such things should not be allowed to happen. Differences must be settled by engaging in cordial discussions in a spirit of give and take. A nationalist government in Sri Lanka, with its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, could have many powerful external enemies. If it develops internal animosity and strife its days would be numbered. Let it learn a lesson from what happened in 2014, which resulted in the ‘yahapalana’ regime and the ensuing huge damage to the economy and the independence of the country.
But more importantly, if the Government does not improve the poor man’s lot, which could be done only by developing a national economy, based on agriculture that contributes about 25% to the GDP, the Government would be doomed. It is not the time for mega projects, like elevated railroads and highways. Such activity will not reach the poor people sufficiently to alleviate their poverty, as shown in the past where nationalist governments were defeated, despite achieving much with such big projects.
Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May
by Nanda Pethiyagoda
The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.
The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.
This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.
His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.
A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.
The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.
More information could be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.
It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.
He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.
We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.
The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.
One of best development administrators SL ever had
Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.
During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.
Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.
The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.
KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.
In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.
After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.
Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.
It was not Central Bank bond scam
I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?
There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’? It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.) The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.
As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.
Veteran singer and musician Professor Sanath Nandasiri passed away at the age of 81
Clearview AI used nearly 1m times by US police, it tells the BBC
Second ODI between New Zealand and Sri Lanka abandoned
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
Sunday Island 27 December – Headlines
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
Features4 days ago
Happy Birthday dearest Mrs. Peries !
News3 days ago
Mano says LG and PC elections equally important
News5 days ago
Decorated gunship pilot blacklisted for appearing on political stage
Midweek Review6 days ago
Growing foreign dependency and India’s USD 4 bn lifeline
News5 days ago
No more selling of Hajj visas, assures Minister
Breaking News6 days ago
Property tax to be replaced with Wealth Tax, Gift Tax and Estate Tax – President
Editorial6 days ago
Celebration of debt
Sports5 days ago
Sri Lanka’s flawed ODI strategies