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Are we slashing the nose to spite the face?

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Amending 19th Amendment

By Austin Fernando (Former Secretary to the President)

Recently, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to amend/repeal (?) the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (hereinafter referred to as 19). The media divulged that the government would retain positive features of the 19 and remove the unwanted. Concurrently, to identify and recommend these a Committee of five was appointed

 

Background of 19

The 19 has a chronological evolution. For conceptual value, let us review one aspect – the public service. The 1947 Constitution enabled an independent Public Service Commission (PSC) for them.

In 1972, the Sirima Bandaranaike government placed the public service under a PSC but brought in the Cabinet control for operationalizing. Through the 1978 Constitution, the JR Jayewardene government also placed public servants under the control of the Cabinet. These were acts of continuous politicization.

The Chandrika Kumaratunga government, by the 17th Amendment (Article 54), depoliticized the public service and other democratic aspects by the appointment of a PSC nominated by a Constitutional Council (CC), consisting of politicians and civilians. Seven similar institutions (e.g., the Election Commission, National Police Commission) also were legislated on-demand.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government passed the 18th Amendment to establish a government-biased “Parliamentary Council” (PC). The President snatched the depoliticization efforts under the 17th Amendment through Commissions.

By 2014, there were criticisms and deep dissatisfaction with politicization created by the actions of all political parties. This dissatisfaction created revitalized pressure for depoliticization. Ultimately, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena sought a mandate for the presidency on the depoliticization slogan. The 19 was the consequence. It is acknowledged that the passage of 19 would have inevitably failed, sans interventions of President Sirisena.

 

Are our politicians sticks in the mud?

The responses of parliamentarians for depoliticization, in general, had been ridiculous. They supported depoliticization by President Kumaratunga (17A); supported politicization (18A) of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They helped depoliticization (19A) by President Sirisena. Parliamentarians will sponsor the 20th Amendment to empower President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Strengthening the hands of the already empowered seems a hobby of Parliamentarians!

Political reactions created humour when a Minister recently declared that support for 19A was due to a promise made to change the electoral system, which of course, is a sheer necessity. Humorously and unfortunately, politicians who agree to change the Constitution on verbal agreements are elected to Parliament.

The clamor reinstatement of powers removed by 19

There is heavy orchestration that security and development would collapse with 19A. From 1978 to 2009, Sinhala and Tamil youth, especially in the North and East, revolted and thousands of innocents were killed or made to disappear, and suspects were killed in Police cells when Executive powers revoked by the 19A were with incumbent Presidents. The Executive powers were inevitably linked to the onset of conflicts. Therefore, it is a wiser step to find alternative solutions for enhancing human security than to demand the return of powers withdrawn by 19.

The same applies to development. Investment attraction during the tenure of President Jayewardene and infrastructural development during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s (although both face criticisms) were positive moments before the 19th Amendment removed powers. Despite these powers being intact, some Presidents did not undertake such compelling development. I will not mention names to protect their dignity. Thus, one may argue that development isn’t constitution-centric but leader-centric.

There are shortcomings in the 19A since it is a human product. Before the General Election, President Sirisena said that 19A had good aspects, but its flaws should be rectified. He singled out some drawbacks but did not suggest a Deputy Premier post in the 20th Amendment. But it is rumored so.

Meantime, some like Minister Wimal Weerawansa and parliamentarian Gevindu Kumaratunga, who wished immediate abolishing of 19A during the election campaign, now demand a new Constitution instead of patchworking 19 (e. g., dual citizenship issue). It is unknown why this change of heart. Guess is yours!

The President has made a firm statement on the 20th Amendment in his Throne Speech. Therefore, President Sirisena may have to support the abolishing of 19A. In politics, sacrificing principles for partisanship, hollow promises, and tribal branding are acceptable!

The significant changes in 19A are categorized under, change in the qualifications for presidency and powers of the President, enhancement of the capabilities of the Legislature (= Prime Minister), empowerment of Commissions by the Legislature, and the Right to Information.

 

Changing powers of the President

It is already stated that Articles 30 (2) and 31 (2) of 19, related to the five-year term of office of the President and the two terms in office and the Right to Information Act, would not be amended.

But the government would need the power to dissolve the Parliament without parliamentary consent or completing the four and half years mentioned in 70(1). While President Jayewadene has taught lessons on using alternative powers (i.e., Referendum) not to dissolve, the present government authorities otherwise learned negative lessons in October 2018.

Also, dual citizens are no longer allowed to be Parliamentarians. [Article 91 (d) (xiii)]. Critics who protest dual citizen Arjuna Mahendran appointed as Governor of the Central Bank do not mind a dual citizen becoming a parliamentarian, Minister, Prime Minister or President. Those who support Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s presidential aspirations (if any) seem not to understand that the change of dual citizenship could jeopardize this aspiration by introducing a competitor. Is the demand by some for a brandnew Constitution instead of amending 19 a response for this potential jeopardy?

When queried on these changes, Ministers GL Peiris and Wimal Weerawansa said that constitutional changes should not be person-centric. Based on Minister Peiris referring to Basil and Namal Rajapaksas by name, if the contention is that 19A was person-centric and has disadvantaged selected persons, then the 20th Amendment raises the question of awarding person-centric advantages to another.

 

Presidential and National Security

Under Article 43 (2) of 19, the Minister of Defense must be appointed from among the Members of Parliament. It is so in other countries that have more significant defence risks (e.g., India). Now the societal belief is that the President is the Minister of Defence. If true, the President has illegally “snatched” the subject of defence. Nevertheless, I passionately believe that the security function should constitutionally remain with the President.

I take this stance on constitutional grounds, quite impersonally. Article 4 (b) of our Constitution stipulates that the “executive power of the people, including the defence of Sri Lanka,” must be exercised by the President. The term defence’ is a specially chosen here. The President has the power and duty to “declare war and peace” [Article 33 (2) (g)]. The appointment of Military Commanders and the Police Chief is a presidential power (Article 61E), and, under Article 33A, the President is accountable to the Parliament on laws applicable to public security. Accountability to Parliament is about the President’s “own” powers, and not of another Defence Minister. The Ministry of Defence/relevant institutions must be under him to fulfil these functions.

When the President is held accountable for the duties performed by another Defence Minister, he is subjected to moral injustice, and the presidency is demeaned. The security/defence of the country is a constitutional responsibility of the President, and the 19th Amendment should be amended to strengthen his hands on defence and security. Technically “snatching security/defence” as purportedly done now is unacceptable. Also, he should not snatch other ministries on this basis, although he may prefer.

 

Increasing powers of the Legislature and PM

Sovereignty is “exercised and enjoyed” by the tripod Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary under Articles 4 (a), (b), and (c) of our Constitution. But what is heard, seen, and said now insinuates that all three functions should be left to the Executive. It seems to be the government’s political stance. It is not constitutional and decimates democracy.

When the Legislature is considered, the power of the President is weakened in several ways. Examples include the appointment of Ministers [(43(2)], non-Cabinet Ministers [[44(1)] ‘on the advice’ of the Prime Minister [43(2)] and remove any one of them on prime ministerial advice [Article 46 (3)(a)]. The power to remove the Prime Minister or any Minister was with the President [47(a)] in the 1978 Constitution.

The number of Ministers is decided by Article 46(1)(a) and (b). With 145 parliamentarians supporting the government President may opt to reward more portfolios and will require amending it.

Article 44(2) of the 1978 Constitution permits any subject or function unassigned to a Minister to be left with the President. This power was removed by 19, and the 20th Amendment may return this power to the President.

The sudden removal of the Prime Minister (as President Kumaratunga did in 2004 and President Sirisena in October 2018) [70(1)(a) of 1978 Constitutionn] is prohibited now. Such restriction is necessary for the stability of the Legislature and the country. Still, I think the 20th Amendment can be used to prevent the judiciary from rejecting such courses of action.

In this connection, the dissolution of the Cabinet and removal of the Prime Minister were issues. During the October 2018 constitutional crisis, it was argued that the President had this power over Article 48 (1) of the Constitution (Sinhala version), which is not in the English version. The judiciary rejected this. Any President will inevitably rush to regain that decisive power.

However, the extent to which these perfections are democratic is most questionable.

 

Duties of the CC

The CC plays a leading role in depoliticization in 19A. After abolishing 19A, the alternative to the CC could be the passage of an instrument closest to the 18th Amendment. Further provisions can be added as appropriate to concentrate power in the Executive. The 17th and 19th Amendments proposed a CC (including Members of Parliament and civilians). The 18th Amendment appointed a “Parliamentary Council” (PC) consisting of only Members of Parliament. It was total politicization. Although the PC could make nominations to the Commissions and Scheduled Offices in the 18, the President was allowed constitutionally to overrule them. The 19A allowed these appointments to be made only on recommendations of the CC [Article (41B (1)]. If the President did not appoint them within two weeks, they were considered “as deemed to have been appointed.” [Article [41B (4)] It prevented the President’s ‘monopoly’ of appointing. The President would like to use the 20th Amendment to remove these strictures on him.

Appointments under the 19A were mostly acceptable. The best evidence of the independence of the CC was observed when it (inclusive of Opposition membership) rejected two nominations made by President Sirisena to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. On a handful of occasions when the President did not agree to appoint some of the nominees to Commissions, they were successfully reconciled through dialogue. The CC should not be the cat’s paw of the President; nor should the CC be a dictator. Amendments to 19A for efficient and transparent operationalization of the CC could be undertaken now. But what the government needs is to win, at all costs, because of its two-thirds majority!

Critics of the CC highlight the failure to appoint a Police Chief and the conduct of a Member of the Election Commission. To correct these, they demand abolishing the Commissions! The former, I believe, is a result of public service disciplinary procedures that cannot be ignored by the National Police Commission. Critics could have sought legal redress if Article 41A (8) of the Constitution was insufficient to discipline this Member. Providing in 20th Amendment remedies for such will be more effective than crushing the CC. One should not slash the nose to spite the face!

Another complaint is that even the President cannot appoint a judge. The reason may be the failure of President Sirisena to appoint two persons nominated by him to the judiciary. There were Opposition members in the CC when those decisions were made. Yet, they do not accept these reasonable decisions. These are victories for democracy. Also, they are silent that the CC also considers Chief Justice’s recommendations.

If the monopoly on appointing judges is given to the President, there will be no space for objections in the CC. The President is a ‘political product.’ He is a human being. Therefore, the President can appoint his supporters to higher judicial posts from his professional organizations if he so wishes. The President must respect Lord Chief Justice Hewart’s maxim that justice should not only be done but should be seen to have been done.

Of course, one can criticise the CC for some questionable appointments. Again without slashing the nose to spite the face, the 20th Amendment could propose cleaner operational guidelines. In a country where judicial appointments were made (though rarely) based on personal consideration before the 19A, these critics should value the CC machinery as superior to pure presidential whim and fancy.

 

Information law and action

Some question whether the Right to Information Act is adequately implemented due to deliberated delays by the authorities. Although this is not changed, it is appropriate to strengthen operations through the 20th Amendment. I note that not only the RTI Act but also other Commissions may require similar legal changes.

 

The value of caution

It is not surprising that a two-thirds majority or a government capable of manipulating that superpower would somehow pursue achieving its goals. Everyone who came to power thought that power was eternal, though it is impermanent. It is also not surprising seeing leadership that utilized the 18th Amendment attempting to regain lost powers. Even the present Opposition may pray for rejuvenation of powers of the 1978 Constitution; because politicians are greedy for power. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are also fluid about 20A.

But it should be kept in mind that if a constitution that cannot be amended again without a 2/3 majority is promulgated today, it could endanger the constitutional complexity another day. The vision and aspirations of the incumbent President may be pure. He may not be entertaining dictatorial goals, as alleged. But we must not be blind, that one day someone like Robert Mugabe or Idi Amin will not emerge. Therefore, it would be better to fertilize democracy without cutting the nose to spite the face when dealing with 19A.



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Covid-19 vaccination: Is it the proverbial ‘Silver Bullet’?

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Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In this emerald isle, people take to any form of vaccination, like the legendary ducks take to water. Offer them a vaccine against anything and they will take it; at least most of them would do so. The vaccine antagonists and anti-vaxxers are extremely few and far between, so as to be almost a virtual non-entity. With a very high literacy rate, and a population that is prepared to take heed to the hilt, the axiom that dictates ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is the absolute dream of the experts in the public health scenario that there is unmitigated abiding interest on the part of our populace to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It has been said that vaccines do not save lives but vaccination most definitely does. Vaccines have to be given to people for them to produce the optimal effects. A receptive population to such a notion is indeed, a much-fancied reverie of all health service providers.

In such a background, it is most laudable that Sri Lanka is going pell-mell, even in an impetuous rush, to vaccinate her population against COVID-19, at what could best be described as at break-neck speed. Even given the spectacle of an insufficiency of adequate stocks of the coronavirus vaccines to freely vaccinate the population, the authorities are making the very best of the situation. We must, of course clearly appreciate the steps taken by the Government and the Ministry of Health in this initiative. The tri-forces, the Army in particular, have to be congratulated, in playing the lead role in organising a scheme of things to administer the vaccines in an orderly fashion. TAKE A BOW; ALL OF YOU, you are indeed giving the very best of yourselves in this endeavour.

Well, the goal is to somehow secure a high enough herd-immunity to defeat the virus; most definitely a commendable final goal. The currently prevalent mantra is to vaccinate, vaccinate, and vaccinate even more. Yet for all that there is much misinformation and an infodemic doing the rounds, especially on social media, about widespread speculations on loss of sexual prowess, impotence, subfertility and infertility, as undesirable effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ANY OF THESE IMPLICATIONS. NONE OF THE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE COVID-19 VACCINES DO ANY OF THIS. It is just stupid covidiocy on the part of a few anti-vaxxers. It has induced a lot of young people to refuse the vaccine. This is a crime against humanity to spread such falsehoods. It is absolutely crucial to realise that the current vaccination drive is just a very important one of quite a few things we can do to try and keep the coronavirus at bay.

We have seen the fantastic results of immunisations against ‘child-killer diseases’ in paediatric healthcare. This author, as a young junior doctor, was witness to the ravages of the much-feared childhood diseases that killed or maimed scores of young children even in the second half of the last century. Those diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, Japanese encephalitis; just to mention a few that took scores of young lives of yore, are a thing of the past now. Adequate vaccination has completely wiped them out. The last case of childhood polio in Sri Lanka was seen just around a quarter of a century ago. The young junior doctors of today and the current lot of medical students have not seen any of these dreaded diseases.

In the child healthcare scenario, vaccination has become the panacea for all ills in the above-mentioned diseases. In the same vein, it is quite reasonable to expect the coronavirus vaccines to provide a similar end-result. However, is it really so? It is a most lamentable fact that it is perhaps not quite so.

There is a well-recognised fundamental difference between all the vaccines that are used to prevent the much-feared childhood diseases of the past and the currently available vaccines against the coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic. The vaccines against all those childhood diseases COMPLETELY PREVENT children getting the disease!!!, period. Well, if the recipients are protected against getting the infection, it is the end of the story; a definitive conclusion of the matter in hand.

However, right up to just a few days ago, none of the currently available vaccines against COVID-19, were thought to be able to COMPLETELY PREVENT anyone getting the disease to any appreciable degree. How they work is by reducing the severity of the disease and by preventing the deaths. So…, the basic end-result characteristics of all the currently available COVID-19 vaccines were thought to be quite different to the standard vaccines against all other infective diseases. One could still get the disease in spite of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and would still be able to spread the illness to others.

Yet for all this, there seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. In a most recent scientific publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, released as recently as 22nd September 2021, an interim analysis of a large study conducted in 99 centres of the USA has shown significant protection against CONTRACTING THE DISEASE as well as AGAINST MORE SEVERE DISEASE AND DEATH by the mRNA-1273 (Moderna/Spikevax) vaccine, administered as two doses 28 days apart. Vaccine efficacy in preventing Covid-19 illness was 93.2%, the effectiveness in preventing severe disease was 98.2% and the efficacy in preventing asymptomatic infection, starting 14 days after the second injection, was 63.0%. Vaccine efficacy was consistent across ethnic and racial groups, age groups, and participants with coexisting conditions. No safety concerns were identified.

Be that as it may, added to all our problems, now there is the daunting spectacle of the various types of variants and mutants, ranging from Alpha through delta, even to Epsilon and most recently to a particularly nasty strain called ‘Mu’, of the coronavirus which could cause problems even in the fully vaccinated. We still do not understand completely the potential impact of these more virulent strains in vaccinated people.

However, a case in point in relationship to these facts is the presently dominant situation in Israel. That country, one of the fastest in vaccination and most-vaccinated nations in the world, in spite of almost the entire population being vaccinated, is having some problems at the present time. By mid-March 2021, Israelis were partying as lockdowns ended and by April, masks had more or less vanished, turning the tiny country into a tantalising glimpse of a post-pandemic future. However, the crafty blight of a coronavirus seems to have come back with a vengeance. From a few dozen daily cases in early June 2021, even zero on June 9, new daily COVID infections twice hovered near 6,000 very recently, the highest daily rate in six months. Having won early access to supplies of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab in exchange for sharing nationwide data on how mass vaccination drives affect the pandemic, Israel is a closely watched indicator of a country where well-inoculated developed economies are heading.

As new infections soared, so did the long tail of hospitalisations in Israel. Even though the unvaccinated were five to six times as likely to end up seriously ill, the vaccine’s protection was waning fastest for the oldest; the most vulnerable, who got their first jabs as early as December 2020. At this rate, health officials predicted at least 5,000 people would need hospital beds by early September, half of them with serious medical needs, twice as many as Israel is equipped to handle. The current Prime Minister of Israel was honest with Israelis when he announced a new measure just a couple of weeks ago, whereby the government was trying to cushion the blow. On August 1, it had started offering people, over 60, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, embarking on its own public health experiment as it tumbled into an unpredictable fourth wave. So far, 775,000 people have taken their third shot and doctors say they can see antibody counts rising measurably within days of the third jab.

For Israelis, the booster shots are a reminder that they are still on the frontier of Covid-19 vaccinations. They celebrated when they were the first to get jabbed, cheering Pfizer as lockdowns ended in March 2021. Now, they are the first to experience the limits of the vaccine and the first to accept a long-whispered inevitability: the need to give regular booster shots to stay protected.

All these facts tend to bring into sharp focus, again and AGAIN, the undoubted importance of time-tested manoeuvres of avoiding crowds, maintaining a social distance of at least one to two metres, wearing suitable and effective masks; even double-masking, and repeated washing of hands, as our own personal weapons against this dastardly blight. Vaccination against COVID-19 will probably not be the panacea for all ills in combating this pandemic, although it would be a very powerful tool in the hands of the authorities in their quest towards victory over this disease. It will certainly not be the ultimate ‘SILVER BULLET’ against the disease.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Israel today, it is this: corona, in fact, is not over; perhaps not for quite a while. This summer was just an intermission. Next may come winter., sadly perhaps, a winter of discontent. We do hope to high heaven that it may not be so for this beautiful and much-treasured Motherland of ours.

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Proposed Parakrama Samudraya walking path devalues ancient heritage

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By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The construction work of the proposed walking path on the Parakrama Samudra tank bund was suspended after the protest of a group of Buddhist monks. Whether it is appropriate for monks to intervene in this matter is a different issue and the objection is admirable because many remained silent over this issue of national significance.

Since then many views, both pros and cons, on the proposed walking path, have been expressed by various parties. Experts in the engineering field express views on the safety of the dam after the proposed construction, which meddles with its existing riprap, the structural arrangement that prevents bund erosion by wind-generated water waves. Some others, including local administrative level officers and politicians see this as essential development for the area. However, technical issues can be resolved at any cost, and I am more concerned about the facts whether this track is a genuine necessity and the possible subsequent damage it can inflict on the historical value of the tank and the image of the great King Pararamabahu.

The objective of a walking path is to help people maintain their health, not only by engaging in physical activities like walking and jogging but also by allowing them to be with nature. While walking and jogging, can improve physical health, a serene, natural environment can improve mental health. If we take an area like Polonnaruwa, which is not as urbanized as many of the major cities in the country, there are ample places that offer the above-mentioned benefits. Further, neither visitors of the area nor residents will use it as a walking track, and an observation platform would be sufficient, if people need to stay safe from traffic that moves along the bund. Therefore, this type of project would no doubt be a white elephant that ruins millions of public money.

There was a time when the leader of the country went about erecting clock towers at every junction. Soon after they were built many of them showed the wrong time due to inferior construction work, resulting from corruption, putting the public in difficulty. Unlike those days, today there is no need for clock towers as everybody has the exact time since everyone has a mobile phone, more accurate than a wristwatch. We have to come to terms with the reality that what we value today would become obsolete tomorrow in the fast-changing world. Who is to say that these walking paths would not become obsolete in the future given the fact that lives of people are becoming complex and busy, and people may turn to indoor gymnasiums and exercise machines?

Moreover, a closer look at some of the already constructed walking paths would reveal that the selection of locations for such facilities was ill-informed, without proper evaluation as they remain under-utilised. One such example is the track that has been constructed in Badulla urban park which is popularly known as the Wawul Park. This park is located on the edge of three main playgrounds of the city; Vincent Dias ground, cricket ground and football ground. The track is blanketed in thousands of droppings of bats that inhabit the trees of the park, the odour of it so foul that it is very difficult to reach the track. Every day hundreds of people walk in the aforementioned playgrounds while the walking path remains abandoned.

Coming back to the topic, after the walking path is constructed, as per the usual practice of the country, a huge plaque will be erected on the bund mentioning the names of politicians who suggested, advised, supervised, participated and declared open the track. There will probably come a day in future when our children, who visit the Parakrama Samudraya, would say that the tank was constructed by this and that politician. Alas! The statue of the Great King Parakramabahu, who had a great vision to manage the water resources of the country, will be disregarded.

Way forward

Before making any structural changes to heritage sites, opinion should be sought from experts and other stakeholders as well. According to personal experience, when I last visited the place a few years ago, people who visited the tank needed no walking path, but being travellers from remote areas, there was a crying need for other basic facilities. They required shelter, water, facilities to have their meals, dispose of waste safely, and a proper waste collection system, among other things.

In addition, a mini auditorium can be constructed at a suitable place in the vicinity, that has audio-visual facilities to educate children about the history of the tank. A model of the reservoir can be used to explain its components and operation. Then our children will not take this amazing Parakrama Samudraya, that they are endowed with today, for granted but learn to appreciate the great vision and dedication of their ancestors in making this marvel a reality.

Let me conclude with a poem I posted on my FB page sometime ago, with its translation.

There is a huge plaque at the end of the tank bund. It reads that the politician is akin to King Parakramabahu. The river downstream overtops with the sweat of the people who built the tank. Still, the people who built the tank are of no value)

(The writer is a Chartered Engineer. This article is based on his personal views and does not reflect those of the organisations where he holds positions)

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Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link

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Reams have been written in all local newspapers; much comment has traversed social media and persons have been bold to call for justice on two absolutely unrestrained and yes, evil, SLPP VIPs who have recently been dancing the devil as the saying goes. These evil doers seem to be pathologically unable to control themselves and behave as human beings: heads outsised with hubris and apparently bodies often pickled with liquor.

Very succinct comments have been made on Lohan Ratwatte, one being: “a leopard never changes his spots” referring to the many crimes supposed to have been committed by him, and the other that he is a gem of a man who may make a jewellery heist soon enough. He has the audacity to say he did nothing wrong in barging into two prisons; in one to show off to pals the gallows and in the other, to brandish a gun and place it against the heads of two shivering Tamil prisoners. All done within the week when world attention was focused on Sri Lankan human rights violations directed by the UNHRC

Cass’ comment is that Lohan Rat was committing hara-kiri (minus even a trace of the Japanese spirit of self sacrifice) and taking the entire country on a suicidal mission through his inability to hold his drinks and destructive hubris and murderous inclination. Cass particularly favoured Don Mano’s summation in his comment on the unlawful prison intrusions in the Sunday Times of September 19. “Any semblance of a shabby cover-up to enable Lohan Ratwatte to retain his position as State Minister of Gems and Jewellery will not only endanger the economy by depriving the nation’s dollar bare coffers of a GSP benefit of nearly 2.7 billion dollars, but will risk putting 21 million Lankans from the frying pan into the fire and test their tolerance to the core.”

The visit to the Welikada prison by the State Minister of Prison Reform and … was said to be with some men and one woman. Identities were kept under wraps and confusion raised by making the dame a beauty queen or cosmetician. But who she was, was soon known along the vine of gossip. One report said the person in charge of the prison or its section with the gallows, cautioned Lohan Rat and tried to dissuade his advance with friends in tow since the lady companion was in shorts and them walking through where prisoners were, would cause a commotion. But no, the State Minister advanced to show off the gallows with his short-shorts wearing woman companion and imbibing mates.

Cass is actually more censorious of this woman than even of the State Minister himself. Is she a Sri Lankan, so vagrant in her woman-ness? Doesn’t she have even an iota of the traditional lajja baya that decent women exhibit, even to minor level nowadays? Is associating with a State Minister and his drinking pals such a prized social event? Shame on her! She, if people’s assumption of identity is correct, has boasted political clout and been elevated by it too. Such our young girls! Do hope they are very few in number, though this seems to be a baseless hope as social events unroll.

Pistol packing – correction please – toy pistol packing Eraj Fernando is aiding the ex State Minister of Prison Reform to deface, debase and deteriorate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. He is interested in land and not in gallows or scantily clad gals. With thugs in tow he trespassed a property in Bamba and assaulted two security guards. Repetition of an incident he was embroiled in – a land dispute in Nugegoda a couple of weeks ago. He was taken in by the police and before you could say Raj, he was granted bail. What quick work of police and courts.

As the editor of The Island opined in the lead article of September 20: “The Rajapaksas have created quite a few monsters who enjoy unbridled freedom to violate the law of the land.” A convicted murderer known for his thug ways was presidentially pardoned a short while ago.

The good thing is that people talk, write, lampoon, and draw attention to these heinous crimes and do not seem scared for their necks and families. White vans have not started their rounds. And very importantly the memories of Ordinaries are not as fickle as they were. Wait and see is their immediate response.

New fad – jogging lanes on wewa bunds!

Some monks and men gathered recently on the partly torn up bund of Parakrama Samudraya and had the foolish audacity to say the bund needed a jogging lane. Tosh and balderdash! Then news revealed that other wewas too were being ‘attacked and desecrated’ to construct jogging lanes. In such remote rural areas which even tourists do not visit? Is there illicit money-making in this activity? Otherwise, no explanation is available for this sudden interest in farmers’ and toilers’ physical well being. They get enough exercise just engaging in their agriculture, so for whom are these jogging lanes?

Sharply contrasting persons

As apposite to the former two, are superb Sri Lankans up front and active and giving of their expertise, albeit unobtrusively. Consider the medical men and women and their service to contain the pandemic; farmers who protest to ensure harvests are not damaged too severely by false prophets who won the day for the banning of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. The latest blow and justification of what so very many agriculturists, agrochemists, have been saying all along – organic is good but to be introduced very slowly; without importing compost from overseas, is the Chinese import containing evil microorganisms. Experts have categorically stated that chemical fertilisers are sorely needed for all agriculture; more so paddy and tea; and if used prudently cause no illness to humans or injurious side effects.

The four experts who comprised the panel at the MTV I Face the Nation discussion monitored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Monday September 20, agreed totally on these two facts and went on to say that it must be admitted a hasty decision was taken to stop import of chemical fertilizers. We listened to the considered wise opinions backed by true expertise of vibrantly attractive and articulate Dr Warshi Dandeniya – soil scientist, of Prof Saman Seneweera from the University of Melbourne, Prof Buddhi Marambe – crop scientist, and Dr Roshan Rajadurai – media person of the Planters Association. Listening to them, Cass swelled with pride and told herself see what sincerely-interested-in-the-country’s welfare eminent scientists we have in this land of rowdy politicians and uneducated MPs. They labeled the sudden banning of chemical fertilisers and insecticides and pesticides as “very dangerous and causing irreversible harm. It is not too late to reverse the decision, even if admitting fault is not possible.”

Garlic

Oh dear! The stench! Never ending series of scams; executed or approved by politicians and all for illicit gains. Even the tragedy of the pandemic and suffering of much of the population does not seem to have curbed selfish lust for money.

Focus on the Mahaweli Ganga

Interesting and deserving of thanks. Chanaka Wickramasuriya wrote two excellent articles in the Sunday Islands of September 12 and 19 on the Mahaweli Ganga, imparting invaluable facts of the present river and its history, as for example which king built which wewa or anicut. He ended his second article by hoping the waters of the great river will feed the north of the island too: “Maybe then this island will be finally uplifted. Not just from north to south, but across class and caste, language and philosophy, and political partisanship. Hopefully driven by a newfound sanity among its denizens, yet symbolically attested to by the waters of the Mahaweli.”

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