By Kirthi Tennakone
The dwellers of the Japanese city Hiroshima resorted to their routine on 6th August 1945. That day the morning sky had been clear – people observed three air planes and descending parachutes. These are happenings to be expected at the time of a war and largely ignored.
Around 8.15 am a flash of light intensely brighter than the sun and a burning sense of heat terrified the population. The noiseless instant effect reacted more severely over a circular area of radius approximately 1 kilometer. Men, women and children exposed to the flash were incinerated to ash or fatally burnt. Cloths crumbled to pieces or spontaneously ignited – particularly if the shade is darker. A man dressed in white was burnt lightly, but his wife in black beside him died as a result of harsh burning. Most people within the range succumbed immediately- very few shielded by thick concrete survived. After fraction of a second a blast wave flattened almost every building in an area of nearly 40 square kilometers. A fireball formed created in the atmosphere expanded rapidly blowing a horrendously hot wind – setting fires everywhere up to a distance of about 4.5 kilometers from the centre. The pressure of the blast wave and heat of the rushing wind killed or wounded many more people. Expanding and a rising fireball created a white plume extending to the atmosphere up to a height of 6100 meters darkening the city as if night has befallen. Around 9 am a black toxic rain poured over a large area, sickening those who got wet. The death toll in the day of the incident exceeded 40,000 and subsequent mortality resulting from injuries was estimated to be more than 100,000.
The Japanese government and most of the world at large could not immediately fathom how a ferocious calamity unheard previously was inflicted. A devastation of such magnitude would require dropping thousands of most powerful conventional bombs simultaneously – a technical impossibility. On August 7th, the American President Harry Truman announced ‘It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East’. He further stated that the bomb had more power than 20000 tons TNT- more than 2000 times the blast power of British Grand Slam which is the largest bomb ever used in history of warfare.
The bombs based on detonators such as tri-nitro toluene (TNT) derive energy by breaking of the molecules of this substance into lighter more stable fragments. In contrast atomic energy is released when the nucleus of the uranium atom disintegrates into lighter nuclei – a process referred to as nuclear fission. A calculation based on Einstein’s theory of relativity revealed that the energy liberated in fission of uranium is about one million times the equivalent weight of ordinary explosives. Fission is triggered by hitting the uranium nucleus with a neutron. When the nucleus breaks-up several additional neutrons are emitted. Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard speculated extra neutrons might disrupt other uranium nuclei causing an explosive chain reaction–a possibility of making a dangerous weapon. In 1939 he persuaded Albert Einstein to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt pointing out the urgency of the United States engaging in this effort – otherwise the consequences could be disastrous if Adolf Hitler develop a nuclear weapon. United States Intelligence found Germany had already started to work on the problem, hastening President Roosevelt to appoint a committee replying Albert Einstein. Soon the research work aimed to develop a nuclear bomb was commissioned as the Manhattan Project – under scientific leadership of the Robert Oppenheimer and a team of several other eminent physicists excluding Einstein. Perhaps Einstein was considered too much even for a project of this nature because of his extreme radicalism and pacifist views.
Leo Szilard with Albert Einstein
Despite theoretical soundness of the argument of achieving an explosive nuclear chain reaction, the Manhattan project encountered many astounding practical challenges. Natural uranium occurs in two forms named as isotopes U(238) and U(235). A chain reaction is feasible only with U(235) occurring as 0.7 percent of the metal found in the uranium ores. Furthermore to initiate a chain reaction at least a critical mass of about 60 kilograms of U(235) is required. Refining the ore to obtain this amount was an arduous costly task. Another option explored has been to use plutonium instead of uranium. The advantage of the latter is the smaller critical mass 5-10 kilograms. Plutonium is not found in nature can be synthesized – again a time consuming costly affair. Expenses of the project ran to 100 million dollars a month!
The other hurdle was assembling of the critical mass.
The requisite amount of uranium or plutonium cannot be simply cast as an ingot. Moment the critical mass which depend on shape and density of the sample is reached. The chain reaction propagate emitting radiation, because even one neutron is sufficient for triggering. Some neutrons always exist in the environment and also produced by spontaneous fission uranium. A method planned was to collide two pieces of uranium in a gun-like device using dynamite so that their union creates the critical mass. Another method considered was casting uranium or plutonium into a sphere of calculated size and implode it to increase the density by firing an appendage ordinary explosives. These methods needed to be secured foolproof and tested.
TESTING THE BOMB
After three years of intensive activity, scientists and engineers at the Los Alamos Laboratory assembled an atom bomb on 13th July 1945. It was a plutonium device containing around 6 kilograms of this metal in the form of a sphere. Why was a plutonium bomb instead of uranium chosen for testing? The amount of weapons grade uranium available at that time was sufficient to make just one bomb, planned to be fired by the gun mechanism. Plutonium of much lower critical mass, adequate for several bombs was ready in the processing line. Furthermore, the implosion firing mechanism worked out for plutonium bombs demanded experimental confirmation.
Including accessories the bomb nicknamed ‘Gadget’ weighed nearly 5 metric tons. Gadget was transported to the testing site in the New Mexico desert and hoisted to a 100 m high steel tower. The bomb was scheduled to be exploded at 4 am 16th July 1945. However because of bad weather the time was pushed forward to 5.30 am. Scientists stationed 10 km away eagerly awaiting to watch the test were concerned. Some doubted whether the bomb would turnout to be a dud. Other pointed its power might exceed the expectation and pose danger to observers and community in the neighbourhood. Emphasizing this point, Edward Teller who later came to be known as the father of the hydrogen bomb distributed suntan cream.
When the trigger was switched-on at 5.30 am, the whole landscape was instantly lighted many times brighter than sunlight and a rising vividly coloured fireball appeared in the sky. The test was a success and a moment that changed the world forever. Seconds later the bang was felt, following a gush of wind. Physicist Enrico Fermi floated pieces of paper, timed their motion and quickly calculated the strength of the bomb, saying it is equivalent to 10 kilotons of TNT. More precise calculations carried out later revealed that strength was 22 kilotons.
The success of the atom bomb test was conveyed to President Truman but not publicly announced. general public inquisitive of the blinding flash and the bang were told an explosion occurred in an ammunition storage. President was planning to visit Germany to attend Potsdam conference – the famous big three Truman–Stalin–Churchill meeting. At the proceedings he hinted new development but did not elaborate. On 24th July Truman met Stalin casually and told him the United States has developed a weapon of unprecedented strength. Stalin did not react with excitement or interest and said ‘I hope the United States would make good use of it ‘. The reason for Stalin’s indifference became clear later. Soviet intelligence had been aware of the achievements in the Manhattan project.
Potsdam deceleration warned Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer utter destruction – which Japan did not accept. Immediately the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan was confirmed. The directive was said to be – hit Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata or Nagasaki after 3rd August as weather permitted.
The bombing operation was assigned to Colonel Tibbets of the US Air Force. On August 6th early morning he took-off from Tinian Island air base in the Pacific carrying the bomb. Two other planes accompanied the B-29 bomber to monitor weather and parachute instruments to record the physical effects of the explosion. At about 8.15 am the pilot released the bomb from an altitude of 9.5 kilometers. The bomb fell down for 47 seconds and exploded at a height 600 meters above the ground – the triggering mechanism designed to explode the bomb in mid-air for the purpose of maximizing the destructive power. Tibbets who hurried away was at a safe distance of 18 kilometers when he observed the flash and the fireball.
The bomb aimed to the Aioi Bridge missed the target by 250 meters and detonated overhead Shima Hospital flattening it instantly. Amazingly the structure of the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall almost at the epicenter did not collapse. A temperature exceeding 4,000 degrees Celsius burnt the roof killing everybody inside, but the peculiar way in which the shockwave approached, left the structural shell largely intact. This landmark ruin named Atomic Bomb Dome serve as a memorial for lives lost and a reminder for peace.
I (the author of this article) visited Hiroshima in the year 2000. My daughter then a high school student posed in front of the dome for a photograph and smiled. When I said this not a place to smile. A group of Japanese visitors at the site understood what I meant and emotionally expressed appreciation of my remark.
WORLD AFTERMATH HIROSHIMA
Even after Hiroshima attack, Japan did not surrender but vowed to fight. Soviet Union declaring war on Japan 8th August 1945 and United States dropping of a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki next day changed the situation. On 15th August 1945 the Emperor Hirohito agreed unconditional surrender effectively ending Second World War. Some celebrated the bombings implicating it’s a lesson to warmongering and crimes committed, but those died were innocent civilians. The horror atomic bombings particularly the late effects of radiation continued to uncover as days and months passed. Nevertheless there were glorifications of nuclear weapons. Many nations strived hard acquire them, boost their destructive power and develop strategic methods of delivery. Human desire for increasing power of self-destructive weapons did not end with atom bomb. In 1952 United States tested first hydrogen bomb or the thermonuclear device based on nuclear fusion – the opposite of fission where lighter nuclei similar to hydrogen fuse together to yield heavier nuclei liberating extra-large quantity of energy – thousands of times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb. In the following year, the Soviet Union exploded a similar weapon. Between 1950 -1962 the competition of super powers in detonating nuclear bombs polluted the atmosphere- increasing the incidence of cancer.
The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 forbid atmospheric tests. However, underground tests continued and the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of the United Nations could not be strictly enforced as some nations avoided the agreement. On July 2017, United Nations proposed the resolution – The Treaty on the Prohibitions of Nuclear Weapons. The enforcement of the agreement require signature and ratification of 50 states. To date of the 82 countries, who have signed the treaty, only 40 have ratified it. Some countries seem to abstain from signing and ratifying the accord on the presumption that those who might not agree will pose a threat – vicious circle contradicting attitudes. Global citizens worldwide and a number organisations advocating peace, campaign to prohibit nuclear weapons. Most vociferous among them are the survived victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki- popularly known as ‘hibakusha’. Their pledge is ‘so that the people of future generations will not have to experience hell on earth, we want to realise a world free of nuclear weapons while we are still alive’.
The first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima was Barak Obama. On May 26th , 2016, talking to a gathering there, Obama said ‘Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom require moral revolution as well ’.
Human greed – the limitless urge to acquire material possessions – is blind to dangers ensuing in the horizon, threatening their own existence. Nuclear weapons and excessive burning of fossil fuels are two examples.
The author Prof.Kirthi Tennakone, National Institute of Fundamental Studies can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Port City Bill Requires Referendum
by Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne,PC
The Colombo Port Economic Commission Bill was presented in Parliament on 08 April 2021, while the country was getting ready to celebrate the traditional New Year. With the intervening weekend and public holidays, citizens had just two working days to retain lawyers, many of whom were on vacation, and file applications challenging the constitutionality of the Bill in the Supreme Court within the one-week period stipulated in the Constitution. One wonders whether the timing was deliberate.
Special economic zones are common. They are created mainly to attract foreign investments. In return, investors are offered various concessions so that their products are competitive in the global market. Several negative effects of such zones have also been highlighted. The sole purpose of this article, however, is a discussion on the constitutionality of the Bill.
The Bill seeks to establish a high-powered Commission entrusted with the administration, regulation and control of all matters connected with businesses and other operations in and from the Colombo Port City. It may lease land situated in the Colombo Port City area and even transfer freehold ownership of condominium parcels. It operates as a Single Window Investment Facilitator for proposed investments into the Port City. It would exercise the powers and functions of any applicable regulatory authority under any written law and obtain the concurrence of the relevant regulatory authority, which shall, as a matter of priority, provide such concurrence to the Commission. The discretion and powers of such other authorities under the various laws shall thus stand removed.
The Commission consists of five members who need not be Sri Lankan citizens, quite unlike the Urban Development Authority, the Board of Management of which must comprise Sri Lankan citizens only. One issue that arises is that the vesting of such powers upon persons with loyalties to other countries, especially superpowers, would undermine the free, sovereign, and independent status of Sri Lanka guaranteed by Article 1 of our Constitution. It would also impinge on the sovereignty of the People of Sri Lanka guaranteed by Article 3 read with Article 4.
The removal of the discretionary powers of the various regulatory authorities is arbitrary and violative of the right to equal protection of the law guaranteed by Article 12 (1).
Under Clause 25, only persons authorized by the Commission can engage in business in the Port City. Clause 27 requires that all investments be in foreign currency only. What is worse is that even foreign currency deposited in an account in a Sri Lankan bank cannot be used for investment. Thus, Sri Lankans cannot invest in the Port City using Sri Lankan rupees; neither can they use foreign currency that they legally have in Sri Lanka. The above provisions are clearly arbitrary and discriminatory of Sri Lankans and violate equality and non-discrimination guaranteed by Article 12. They also violate the fundamental right to engage in business guaranteed by Article 14 (1) (g).
Under clause 35, any person, whether a resident or a non-resident, may be employed within the Port City and such employee shall be remunerated in a designated foreign currency, other than in Sri Lanka rupees. Such employment income shall be exempt from income tax. Clause 36 provides that Sri Lankan rupees accepted within the Port City can be converted to foreign currency. Under clause 40, Sri Lankans may pay for goods, services, and facilities in Sri Lankan rupees but would be required to pay a levy for goods taken out of the Port City, as if s/he were returning from another country! The mere repetition of phrases such as ‘in the interests of the national economy’ throughout the Bill like a ‘mantra’ does not bring such restrictions within permissible restrictions set out in Article 15.
Clause 62 requires that all disputes involving the Commission be resolved through arbitration. The jurisdiction of Sri Lankan courts is thus ousted.
In any legal proceedings instituted on civil and commercial matters, where the cause of action has arisen within the Port City or in relation to any business carried on in or from the Port City, Clause 63 requires Sri Lankan courts to give such cases priority and hear them speedily on a day-to-day basis to ensure their expeditious disposal.
The inability of an Attorney-at-Law to appear before the court even for personal reasons, such as sickness, shall not be a ground for postponement. These provisions are arbitrary and violate Article 12.
Clause 73 provides that several Sri Lankan laws listed in Schedule III would have no application within the Port City. Such laws include the Urban Development Authority Act, Municipal Councils Ordinance, and the Town and Country Planning Ordinance. Under Clauses 52 and 53, exemptions may be granted by the Commission from several laws of Sri Lanka, including the Inland Revenue Act, Betting and Gaming Levy Act, Foreign Exchange Act, and the Customs Ordinance.
The Commission being empowered to grant exemptions from Sri Lankan laws undermines the legislative power of the People and of Parliament and violates Articles 3 and Article 4 (c) of the Constitution.
Several matters dealt with by the Bill come under the Provincial Councils List. They include local government, physical planning, and betting and gaming. Article 154G (3) requires that such a Bill be referred to Provincial Councils for their views. As Provincial Councils are not currently constituted, passage by a two-thirds majority will be necessary in the absence of the consent of the Provincial Councils.
The exclusion of the Municipal Councils Ordinance from the Port City area is not possible under the Constitution. When the Greater Colombo Economic Commission was sought to be established in 1978 under the 1972 Constitution, a similar exclusion was held by the Constitutional Court not to be arbitrary. Since then, under the Thirteenth Amendment under the 1978 Constitution, local government has been given constitutional recognition and included under the Provincial Council List. Under the present constitutional provisions, therefore, the Port City cannot be excluded from laws on local government.
The writer submits that in the above circumstances, the Colombo Port Economic Commission Bill requires to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and approved by the People at a Referendum. Quite apart from the constitutional issues that arise, such an important piece of proposed legislation needs to be widely discussed. It is best that the Bill is referred to a Parliamentary Committee before which the public, as well as citizens’ organizations and experts in the related fields, could make their submissions.
I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.
We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?
At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!
We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?
We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.
I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?
In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.
Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.
Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.
Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.
All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!
The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants
Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.
It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.
On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.
My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.
Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!
Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.
And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.
I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.
There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.
But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.
When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.
Come on, they are no babes!
On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.
It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.
Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.
The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.
The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.
I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.
Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!
Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!
Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.
The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.
They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.
Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.
My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.
For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.
In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’
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