Within days of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announcing his proposal to ban cattle slaughter but permit beef imports at a meeting of the government parliamentary group, where it touched a responsive chord among most MPs, the government got into reverse mode with spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella telling the post-cabinet news briefing that this matter had been laid by for a month. The government had obviously realized the error of rushed decision making, or had been nudged in that direction perhaps by the president, and decided not to hastily blunder into controversial areas without adequate study. Muslims, a beef eating community that also control beef and mutton stalls countrywide as well as most slaughter houses, would obviously be unhappy about any decision to ban the slaughter of cattle – something they have resisted over the years. They comprise a fair slice of our population and the new government will not wish to antagonize an entire community this early in its tenure. Surprisingly there was no angry outcry against the proposal no sooner it was publicized.
Nevertheless the first shot has been fired across the bows. We publish today a reader’s letter signed by a Muslim asking why only cattle? Saying, maybe tongue in cheek, that he welcomes the slaughter ban proposal, he asks why not also ban the slaughter of goats, pigs, deer, rabbits and what have you. He adds that to be fair on the quadrupeds, why not include the bipeds like fowl, duck, turkey and doves (we have not heard of doves being hunted for meat although snipe and teal-shooting was a popular sport many years ago). He also asks, sarcastically or otherwise we do not know, whether beef imports will not mean encouraging slaughter of cattle elsewhere to feed us. However that be, he has made a point.
A great many of the Buddhists among us do not eat beef. But they do relish mutton, pork, chicken and bush meat whenever available. This can be explained by the fact that although there is no ‘Sacred Cow’ concept here as in India, a lot of Lankans believe that it is sinful to slaughter and eat the flesh of an animal providing us with milk and playing a useful role as a draught animal to plough our fields and haul our loads. Of course bullock carts, hackeries, thirikkales and similar modes of transport are now receding into memory. However we do see the occasional bullock-drawn kerosene cart in Colombo and some of the other bigger cities. During the earlier and middle part of the last century, there were lot of these carts, owned by the father of the famed surgeon, Dr. P.R. Anthonis who had a large business distributing kerosene oil imported by multinational companies like Shell, Caltex and Standard Vacuum Oil Company until the Sirima Bandaranaike government nationalized the business of importing and distributing petroleum products.
Although it is illegal to slaughter buffaloes, who once served a very useful purpose tilling our rice fields, but have now been almost totally replaced by tractors, an illicit trade in buffalo meat has long existed. In addition to their value as a draught animal, buffalo milk which has a higher fat content than cow milk, is preferred for the making of curd with meekiri long enjoying a top ranking in the market. While on the subject of buffaloes, an anecdote related in parliament by the late Mr. Bernard Soysa during the debate on the Paddy Lands Act is worth retelling. The well-loved LSSP MP said that he and his comrades had toured the rice-gowing areas of the country to win over peasant support for the legislation. At Tissamaharama they told a group of farmers that they can till their fields in the future with tractors rather than buffaloes when an old farmer had piped, “but tractors won’t pataw danawa (calve) like buffaloes!”
Cattle thieving, inevitably for supplying illicit slaughter houses and butchers, has been rampant in the country for a very long period of time and continues either unabated or very poorly controlled to this day. A ban on the slaughter of these animals, will deliver a death blow to that menace and this will be widely welcomed in a country where many Buddhists seek merit by saving the lives of cattle bound for the abattoir. People doing such good deeds are often confronted with the problem of finding a safe haven for these animals to live out their natural life spans. The scarcity of such opportunities are known to sometimes result in the tragedy of once saved animals eventually ending under the butcher’s knife.
There are already meat and fish imports into the country to meet high-end demand in the big hotels where imported steaks and salmon are on offer, of course at a price that only the very rich can afford. In fact the domestic food processing industry imports mutton – we wrongly call goat meat mutton whereas mutton is the meat of a sheep or lamb – some of which is converted into corned mutton for export. In fact some non-beef eating Lankans domiciled abroad take back cans of corned mutton from here as corned beef is much more available where they live. Be that as it may, a ban on cattle slaughter will have ramifications that go well beyond the hostility of beef eaters who are not only Muslims. In the Eastern Province, for example, a tough and wiry peasantry has been created on beef and milk. Also, logical progression of a ban on cattle slaughter should eventually develop into a demand to end the fishing industry.
President Premadasa, in his tenure, halted government support for the inland fishing industry and some hatcheries producing fingerlings to stock irrigation reservoirs and tanks were closed. But inland fisheries have prevailed with perhaps some of those hatcheries resurrected. It is unlikely, if not impossible, for any country in the modern world to stop the consumption of animal protein. Even if the ban on cattle slaughter is not eventually imposed, we must ensure humane slaughter as a top priority. That is a must.
Hitler, Stalin and others
Wednesday 30th November, 2022
The Nazis of Sri Lanka (read the members of the current SLPP-UNP government, whose leader, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, has called himself Hitler recently in Parliament) have gone into overdrive to suppress democratic dissent. They invaded an auditorium at Hanguranketha, on Sunday, in a bid to sabotage a conference held by a group of SLPP dissidents. Thankfully, they failed in their endeavour.
The fact that the Sri Lanka police are functioning as the Sturmabteilung or Brown Shirts under the Third Reich in Germany, and the prevailing culture of impunity seem to have emboldened the Nazis here to unleash violence to intimidate their political opponents. The Hanguranketha attack presages trouble for democracy, the Opposition and the distressed citizens who are left with no alternative but to take to the streets.
What is up the government’s sleeve is not difficult to guess; even a female ruling party MP has warned that there will be attacks on the Opposition. State Minister Diana Gamage warned Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, the other day, in Parliament; she asked him to cancel a protest march to be held from Kandy to Colombo lest the people should set upon him on the way. The term, ‘people’, is a euphemism Sri Lankan governments use for their goons. One may recall that in the early 1990s, when some journalists covering a DUNF leaflet distribution campaign near the Fort Railway Station were attacked by a gang of UNP thugs, the then Minister of Defence D. B. Wijetunga claimed that ‘irate train commuters’ had assaulted the media personnel who were blocking the entrance to the railway station! We asked him, in this column, whether commuters carried firearms, swords, bicycle chains, and knives. President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was in power at the time, may not have thought his beloved son would come under similar attacks by ‘people’.
The government has sought to justify the use of draconian laws such as the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) to curb public protests on the grounds that political upheavals adversely impact tourism. If so, will the SLPP and the UNP explain why they resorted to street protests to engineer regime changes? The UNP held a large number of protests against the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, and the SLPP unsettled the Yahapalana administration by means of mass protests. The UNP backed the Galle Face protest campaign to the hilt when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the President. No sooner had Wickremesinghe been appointed the Prime Minister than he appointed a committee to look after the interests of the anti-government protesters!
Power cuts, scarcities of essentials, attacks on democracy and the exploitation of foreigners affect tourism more than peaceful protests do.
Political stability is no doubt a prerequisite for economic revival, but it cannot be achieved by suppressing public protests. Similarly, it is well-nigh impossible to overcome political instability while the people are undergoing economic hardships and demanding relief. The government must not only take action to stabilise the economy but also be seen to be doing so. Unfortunately, it is seen to be busy solving the problems of the Rajapaksa family, the SLPP, the UNP and their cronies! It also lacks legitimacy because it comprises the SLPP grandees who ruined the economy, and other failed leaders who were rejected by the people at the last general election for neglecting national security and mismanaging the economy.
There are some troublemakers hell-bent on plunging the country into chaos on the pretext of fighting for the rights of the people. They are the ones who carried out arson attacks, assaulted people and even killed an MP during anti-government protests in May and July. But that is no reason why the people’s fundamental rights should be curtailed. All violent elements that break the law have to be dealt with separately. Interestingly, President Wickremesinghe, who calls himself Hitler, has condemned anti-government protesters as Fascists! Some violent characters among protesters claim to be ‘students’. The government refuses to accept their claim. It does not seem to be aware that the terrorists who have ruined Afghanistan are also called ‘students’ or Taliban in Pashto!
Meanwhile, the unfolding politico-economic tragedy is not devoid of some comic relief. In the 1940s, Stalin had Hitler on the run. But, about seven decades on, here in this land like no other, we see ‘Stalin’ running like a rabbit with ‘Hitler’ in hot pursuit! General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, valiantly led mass protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the front, and was instrumental in engineering the collapse of the Rajapaksa regime, but today he is on the defensive, facing as he does harassment at the hands of the current dispensation. He has proved to be no match for Gotabaya’s successor, who calls himself Der Fuhrer; his bark is now worse than his bite.
Sport: Arousal of savage instincts
Tuesday 29th November, 2022
What is this world coming to when sport sparks violence and engenders animosity instead of unity and friendship? Riots broke out in Brussels, of all places, on Sunday during a World Cup football match between Belgium and Morocco, which pulled off a 2-0 upset win. It was too much for some football-crazy Belgians to stomach. But their reaction cannot be condoned on any grounds; violence engulfed several other Belgian cities as well with rioters setting vehicles on fire, pelting police with stones, and inflicting heavy damage on public and private properties while the football fans of Moroccan descent were painting the town red.
Football riots in Belgium occurred only a few weeks after a sport-related tragedy elsewhere. More than 130 people including children perished in a stampede at an Indonesian football stadium, where a pitch invasion led to clashes and police excesses.
Sporting contests are full of uncertainties, but most people cannot come to terms with this reality, much less defeats. These events have become ruthless competitions where sporting spirit has no place. Sport has long ceased to be fun, as a result. We are said to be living in a civilised world! The so-called enlightened Western nations that never miss an opportunity to take moral high ground have also failed to be different although they urge other nations to be tolerant of even terrorist outfits responsible for heinous crimes against civilians.
Sports and nationalism are an explosive mix, which turns sporting encounters into wars of sorts. Cynics say that one need not be surprised even if a cricket World Cup final between some nations in this part of the world happens to trigger a nuclear war!
Some Saudis are reported to have fired into the air in celebration of their country’s shock win against Argentina in a recent football World Cup match. It was no mean achievement for Saudi Arabia, but why should rifles be taken out? Such is their patriotic fervour; they are not alone in celebrating victory so passionately although in other countries, sports fans do not go to the extent of discharging their automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, religion has also wormed its way into the world of sport. Some sportspersons openly seek the intervention of supernatural forces to clinch victory in competitions, but such invocations often go unanswered if instances of inconsistency in their performance and ups and downs in their careers are any indication. Sri Lankan cricketers are a case in point. They make a public display of their religious faiths as well as superstitious beliefs. Some senior cricketers are reported to be followers of Gnanakka, a former hospital orderly, who claims to be a medium of divine revelations!
Sri Lankan cricket has become a confluence of politics, dosh, gambling, religion and superstition; it sadly lacks the sporting spirit. What they follow is the very antithesis of the core theme of Newbolt’s Vitai Lampada. Besides, their thick gold chains, bracelets, talismans, etc., seem to be weighing them down and impeding their performance.
It is only natural that all efforts to bring about global peace and save lives lost in conflicts have come a cropper. How can tensions among nations or groups of people be defused and armed conflicts averted or resolved in a world where even sport, which is meant to bring peoples together arouses ‘savage combative instincts’ and leads to aggression and even mindless violence?
Reports on football riots in Brussels reminded us of George Orwell, who has pointed out in his famous essay, The Sporting Spirit (1945), that football provokes vicious passions. He has made an interesting observation about all forms of sport: “I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield.” How true!
Mr. President abort this racket!
Monday 28th November, 2022
Some racketeers are making the most of Sri Lanka’s foreign currency crunch to put through various crooked deals on the pretext of promoting foreign investment and rake in billions of dollars at the expense of hapless Sri Lankans struggling to keep the wolf from the door. They are eyeing the country’s mineral resources among other things.
In June 2022, we exposed a sinister move by a foreign company and its local agents to carry out an ilmenite racket at Aruwakkalu, Puttalam, and the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promptly intervened to stop it, but six months on, the racketeers have made a comeback. They are so influential that they have gained access to President Ranil Wickremesinghe himself, who, we believe, is not au fait with the project. We hasten to add that the President is not involved in this racket; he may be driven by a genuine desire to bring in much-needed foreign investment to straighten up the economy, but some of his advisors seem to have misled him. That may be the reason why he summoned the newly-appointed Cement Corporation Chairman Jagath Dharmapriya on Friday (25) and instructed the latter to ensure that the project at issue was implemented forthwith. Sadly, the legal principle, Audi alteram partem (‘listen to the other side’), often goes unheeded!
Let the President be informed that about one and a half years ago, Sri Lanka Mineral Sands Ltd., and Sri Lanka Cement Corporation planned to embark on a joint venture to extract ilmenite found in overburden red soil removed for limestone quarrying on a 5,352-acre state land at Aruwakkalu. The project was expected to yield a great deal of foreign exchange for the country, but the aforesaid foreign firm, backed by a bunch of corrupt government politicians and officials, derailed it in a bid to secure the contract for ilmenite extraction; the country will get nothing from this firm other than royalty paid to the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, which is a den of thieves. The rogue company claims that it will invest a considerable amount of forex in the project, but it will bring in only machinery, which will be of no use to anyone in the end. Does the government want to swap ilmenite worth billions of dollars for a heap of scrap iron? The initial investment could be recovered in a few months, according to the project documents The Island has seen. No wonder some state officials and politicians are all out to have the contract awarded to the foreign firm!
The racketeers are so influential that they even had the then Cement Corporation Chairman Gamini Ekanayake, who together with some courageous state officials vehemently opposed the corrupt deal, removed from his post. But his successor Dharmapriya has proved to be equally intrepid; he too has chosen to protect the interests of the country by opposing the shady deal on the drawing board. He deserves praise. The country needs such upright officials.
Geologists inform us that what has surfaced with top soil at Aruwakkalu is only a fraction of a huge ilmenite deposit lying underneath. Sri Lanka will gain tremendously if it can export ilmenite as a value-added product. At present, a metric ton of ilmenite without value addition fetches about USD 300 in the international market, but its price will increase to about USD 2,200 if it is exported after being processed. What prevents value addition, which consists of several phases, and is very expensive, is that not enough ilmenite is excavated in the country at present to attract a foreign investor. Experts are of the view that the shortfall could easily be met with ilmenite found at Aruwakkalu for an investor to be invited in a transparent manner. The racketeers are striving to obtain ilmenite for a song with the help of corrupt politicians and officials here and make huge profits at the expense of the country.
The racket is being carried out at the behest of an ‘educated’ politician, who pontificates ad nauseam about the virtues of good governance and pretends to be a paragon of virtue. We will name him in this column when our legal team permits us to do so. We have no civil word to say about State Minister of Primary Industries Chamara Sampath Dissanayake but, credit where it is due, he has refused to help the racketeers. Thus, it should be clear that education alone does not make a good minister.
President Wickremesinghe may not be popular but he is widely considered an intelligent leader, and one can only hope that he will ensure that the country—and not a bunch of crooked individuals including some government politicians—will gain from the exploitation of ilmenite at Aruwakkalu. We wish to draw his attention to the historic Supreme Court judgment (2000) in Bulankulama and Others v. Secretary, Ministry of Industrial Development and Others—or the Eppawala case as it is better known; it specifies how to manage the country’s mineral resources for the benefit of the present-day Sri Lankans and generations to come.
We suggest that an expert committee be appointed to study the issue at hand. It should comprise officials from the Treasury and relevant ministries, the Land Commissioner, independent experts in the fields of geology, mining and economics, environmentalists, and representatives of the Attorney General’s Department.
President Wickremesinghe had better tread cautiously on this crucial issue lest he should have his reputation sullied again. The Treasury bond scams will pale into insignificance in comparison to the mega ilmenite racket to be carried out. The UNP does not want to be worsted ignominiously at future elections as well, does it?
Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged
Use existing resources for agri-food sector in Mahaweli areas
Lashmika, Rusanda guide St. Peter’s to final
‘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
Opinion6 days ago
Rohan Abeywickrema – A pioneer in transport professionalism
News5 days ago
GCE O/L results to be released today
Opinion6 days ago
Rise against state repression: A call to the people
News5 days ago
Public protests: Alles claims UN pleased with police response
Business6 days ago
SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka joins ‘Karuna.lk’ powered by Dialog Foundation
News2 days ago
SLPP dissidents ask govt. to bring back USD 35 bn ‘parked’ overseas
Sports3 days ago
Cricket needs to address discipline issues
News5 days ago
Weerakkody reminds parliament of Ranil’s murky past