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Challenge to SJB and JVP



By Fr. Chryso Pieris SJ

The SJB rally was memorable. Police obstructions at roads leading to Colombo was a favour done to the Opposition. The government in desperation and confusion is kicking into its own goal.

Obviously, this is a failed government in spite of 6.9 million people supporting it. They reversed practically every gazette they issued. Every deal the government has put through, Kerawalapitiya, Nano nitrogen, Chinese fertiliser, sugar, garlic and rice are scams. They are not lawmakers; they are daylight robbers. It is time to reverse the government itself and have a new government.

The memorable rally of the SJB is really not the result of the hard work of the SJB but rather of the mismanagement and thievery of the government. The Opposition has nothing to do. Like a ripe fruit, the government will simply fall into the lap of the Opposition.

By now, even the 6.9 million morons have realised that the current professional politician of Sri Lanka is a scoundrel. Ranjan Ramanayake has openly, and in public, said that they are all friends, together stealing the wealth of the country. Naturally, all at Diyawannawa are happy he is still in jail. That is what ‘Ali Baba and the 225 thieves’ mean and they hide behind the ‘Thattu Maru’ fraudulent democracy. We need a system change. We need to change this klepto-system.

The SJB is trying to project an image of themselves as new born babies; clean, pure and spotless. The JVP claims they are even cleaner than the SJB. But we know better. Just like thieves their rejected candidates have crept into Parliament through the fraud of a national list.

And that is a base insult to the people’s sovereignty. There is no need to list out the footnote gang and car permit sale, we know who they are.

In case this tottering corrupt government crashes, and there may be an election, we want 100 percent certainty about the honesty and integrity of the Opposition. We invite the Opposition to sign an agreement with the People. It will be drafted by brilliant lawyers and eminent people of integrity. It will be such a strong document that it will be accepted as a legally binding instrument, even in an international court. (For we hardly trust our courts any longer.)

The agreement will be their promises to the people. For the last 40 years, all the parties had been promising to abolish the Executive Presidency. But they lied and lied. So we want them to promise this time, in black and white, in a legally binding instrument, that they will abolish the Executive Presidency within a stipulated time frame. (In a few months not years!)

That is the first promise we need from them.

They always say they are the servants of the people. They proclaim with their hands on their hearts that they have come to serve the people. Servants cannot be better than their masters. The people are the masters of these servants. Then how come politicians are better fed, better clothed and better housed than their masters, the people? Therefore, henceforward, let their lifestyles proclaim their servant-hood by slashing their pensions and other perks. The second promise will be abolishing the pensions of the MPs after five years in Parliament, not only for the present, and the future, but retroactively up to JR. That is the first part of the second promise. The second part will be abolishing the selling of all permits, for cars, wine stores and petrol sheds. The third part is the abolishing of either the monthly salary or the attendance allowance. Nobody in the country gets a monthly salary and an allowance for coming to work!

Let Parliament be a House of lawmakers and not a den of thieves! The third promise is not to interfere in the civil administration and the judiciary of the country. The civil administration knows their onions. Every subject is now highly advanced technically, and specialised. The last two years have shown, by the reversal of gazettes, how ignorant and foolish politicians are. They interfere to grab commissions and bribes for themselves and their cronies. They intervene to free themselves and their cronies from court cases and jail sentences, even from the gallows!

The fourth important promise will be that they will pass a law that a person is allowed to be an MP only for two terms or 10 years. Because it is truly a service to the nation; the nation should not take advantage of their generosity and make them slave and waste away their lives in serving the nation. With gratitude they must be returned to their families and professions to enjoy their private lives in peace.

These are a few of the essential promises they must sign to prove their sincerity. Once

SJB the or,the JVP declare their intention, in public, of signing such a document, of proclaiming and proving their honesty and integrity; the lawyers will draft a document for study by them.

It will be given to the public, too; transparency is essential. The final document will be signed in public (At the Independence Square?) in front of the people.

Will the SJB and the JVP have the guts and the grit to take the bull by the horns and get their members to back such a brave, history-making decision? Or will they pretend not to have even heard of such a suggestion and slyly slither away to avoid all responsibility and accountability to the people? We shall wait and see.

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Govt. stubborn on organic manure from China



According to media reports, it is evident that the Government is hell-bent on importing organic manure from the same company that supplied the first shipment, rejected by the Plant Quarantine officials of the Department of Agriculture (DOA). We are aware that US$ 6.9 million of Valuable Foreign Exchange (VFE) has been paid to this company (when the country is hard pressed for foreign currency) as compensation for the manure rejected due to obvious reasons viz. contamination with harmful microorganisms.

This VFE thus paid as compensation could otherwise have been used to import the much-needed chemical fertiliser. for which the farmers are rightfully clamouring. It was also reported that the Minister of Agriculture is planning to get a new SLSI Standard established, to facilitate this importation.

First things first, and it will be best for the authorities in the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Government, to sit for a while and study the Plant Protection Act No.35 of 1999, without losing time – better late than never. According to provisions and regulations under this Act, commercial quantities of organic manure cannot be imported to Sri Lanka. Only small samples of such materials can be allowed by the Director General of Agriculture, who is the implementing authority for the Plant Protection Act, and such samples can be used only for laboratory research work and cannot be added to the land.

As a retired officer, who worked in the Ministry of Agriculture, I am aware that no amendments have since been brought to the Plant Protection Act to change the provisions referred to above, and the regulations thereon. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether such amendments can ever be brought, since plant quarantine is an issue that cannot be compromised on the whims and fancies of Governments, and is subject to international covenants/agreements, as health issues pertaining to plant, animal and human life are involved.

Whatever standard that the SLSI establishes for organic manure imports, as per the request of the Minister of Agriculture, will have to comply with the aforesaid provisions of the Plant Protection Act. The so-called fresh shipment, if it is called organic fertiliser/manure, will necessarily contain a concoction of microorganisms, coming in bulk from a foreign environment to that of ours, and this itself could be disastrous, That is exactly why Plant Quarantine Services, the world over ( including Sri Lanka), are so strict in adhering to the relevant regulations. ( In this regard, we are all aware of the havoc created by the tiny Corona virus that, in fact, originated in China.)

In the event a fresh shipment comes, and if the Plant Quarantine officials act in the same manner as they acted when the first shipment came, strictly on scientific principles and in keeping with the regulations, the new shipment should get rejected if the material is really organic manure. So once again are we going to pay a massive compensation and lose VFE once more at this critical juncture; when we are in dire need of the same, to meet basic requirements? It is felt the Government should even at this late stage reconsider its policy on importing commercial quantities of organic manure/fertiliser, which no farmers ever wanted, and hence stop it forthwith, without getting this country into a further muddle.

The best is to produce organic manure/fertiliser on-farms as much as possible, due to the hassle of transporting over large distances, the way it was practiced by some farmers earlier, too, and use it as a soil re-conditioner; along with chemical fertiliser, which will give the much-needed plant nutrients in appreciable quantities, to achieve the required yield levels which will be sufficient to meet the national targets. Organic farming per se has been and can be practiced in Sri Lanka in niches over the years; it is nothing new and is known to give low/moderate yields at high cost, for special markets. Organic farming can never cater to our total national need, and the Government needs to understand this fact and reconsider its policy.


Retired Director/Agricultural Development

Ministry of Agriculture

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Power Cuts: Engineers kept in the dark



The above news item says even senior engineers of the CEB were kept in the dark about the power cut on Thursday, 13th Jan, despite Minister Gamini Lokuge assuring the country of uninterrupted supply. This gives the impression that there is no proper coordination among the engineers within the bCEB and the Ministry for Power. Added to this catastrophic situation, now enters another player, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka [PUCSL] making matters worse, where it insists approval for power cuts, according to a schedule, should be obtained from them.

The present power cut may be that the CEB has given the correct picture to PUCSL, and the information to the Minister may be by a section of engineers who play politics. The Minister should take the advice and information from the General Manager, and he should be held responsible for any false or incorrect information. It must also be said that there could be unexpected or unforeseen failures, which could alter the plans, and in such circumstances the GM, CEB could be excused. It is very unfortunate there is no unity among the engineers in the CEB, which has caused this unpleasant situation, embarrassing the Minister, the government, and placing consumers in a state of despair.

This difference in opinions among engineers in the CEB, reminds me of a similar situation in the 1980s, when the hydro reservoirs were running dry due to a severe drought. One section of engineers, to please the Minister, advocated running the turbines, expecting rains any time; while the other section advocated a power cut, saying it is dangerous and makes matters worse as the turbines could be damaged with dead wood and other objects dragging in with the flow.

This matter was brought before the Ministry, and the then Secretary to the Ministry for Power and Energy, the late James H Lanerolle, advised the Minister to approve a power cut which was turned down. Not being satisfied and being national minded, and in keeping with the responsibilities placed on him by the President who appoints Secretaries to Ministries to advise and guide Ministers, with the permission of the Minister made representations to the then President J.R.Jayewardene. A meeting with the President was arranged with engineers of both parties. On giving a patient hearing and understanding the gravity, the President turned to the Secretary and said [I can yet remember clearly as I too attended this meeting] “James, carry out your decision to shed power”. This should be a lesson to the present Secretaries of Ministries, not to play politics, and serve the President who had appointed them for the purpose mentioned above.

If there was no PUCSL to interfere, then the CEB would have briefed the Minister and the Secretary to the Ministry, and taken a correct decision. As the CEB has to serve two masters – PUCSL and Ministry – the two factions of engineers in the CEB act differently, one seeking PUCSL and the other the Minister.

I recall here the plea made by former Minister for Power, Dallas Alahapperuma, to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to remove PUCSL from interfering with the CEB, which the President on understanding the difficulties of the Minister to carry out his duties efficiently, safeguarding the government, rightly agreed and issued instructions accordingly. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was also the Finance Minister, overruled the President’s order and allowed the same procedure to follow.

It will be advisable for the present Minister for Finance, Basil Rajapaksa, to review, under the present confusing situation, which has brought Minister Lokuge to a questionable situation, and also the public having no faith in the promises made by government


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Beginning of all things auspicious



Happy Thai Pongal!

Cosmic phenomena have baffled mankind since the beginning of time. ‘Sun worshipping’ or ‘Heliolatry’ was one of the most widespread forms of worship in ancient times. Historical evidence suggests that sun-worship was practised not only by Indians but by Africans, Egyptians, Chinese and Indonesians. In fact, a remnant of sun-worship, one time-tested ritual survives to-date. Thai Pongal, celebrated today by Tamils the world over irrespective of region, caste or creed, is the only form of Sun worship in existence today.

Thai Pongal is the Hindu version of Thanksgiving, performed by offering the first portion of the harvest to the Sun God, Surya. The festival has more than just religious significance. Especially in the tropics, where the sun shines throughout the year, it is an abundant source of power. Consequently, for millennia the sun has been the driving force of agriculture. In fact, in the tropics any cultivation thrives on just sunlight and rain. In short the tropics owe its plenitude to the sun.

Thai Pongal marks the Indic solstice when the sun enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Capricorn. The ‘Thai’ in ‘Thai Pongal’ represents the month of January (the 10th month of the Tamil Calendar), which marks the beginning of the harvesting season for Hindus. ‘Pongal’, rice from the first harvest, cooked in milk and sweetened with jaggery, is an offering to the Sun God, Surya. Pongal also translates to ‘boiling over’ or ‘overflow’.

Thai Pongal is celebrated with great enthusiasm and eagerness by Tamils the world over. Indicative of the bumper harvest, celebrations are more pronounced in the tropics. Unlike in Sri Lanka, in Tamil Nadu, where Thai Pongal is said to have originated, it is celebrated for four days. The first day, January 14 this year, marks the beginning of multiple festivals, characterised by a scurry of activities, just as before Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Houses and yards are cleaned and trash from the previous year is burnt. In fact, so much burning takes place that Tamil Nadu pilots have complained of navigation difficulties due to smoke! The burning of trash is also figurative. It signifies unburdening of past year’s mental encumbrances and the expression of gratitude.

On the morning of the first day of celebrations Hindu women decorate the floor of their houses with Kolam, intricate patterns made from coloured rice flour. Rather than mere artistic expression or decoration, Kolam symbolises happiness and prosperity. Kolam is also used to demarcate the sacred area where the Pongal is prepared. Milk is heated until it boils over and rice and jaggery are added afterwards. The boiling over of milk symbolises abundance. Prepared within the parameters of the Kolam, in a clay pot using fire wood, Pongal is offered first to the senior most members of the family on banana leaves, after the prayers.

‘Mattu Pongal’, the third day of celebrations is dedicated to paying respect to cattle. Much like the Sun, cows are an integral part of tropical agriculture, not to mention Hindu culture. The cows work the fields year round, helping the farmer reap a plentiful harvest, by pulling the plough. In fact, before the advent of commerce, much of the early Hindu economy was based on milk trade. During the festive season cattle are garlanded, kumkum applied on their foreheads, horns painted and fed a mixture of jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits, referred to as venn pongal.

On the first three days most Hindus restrict themselves to a vegetarian diet. But on the fourth day, hill country Tamils of Sri Lanka start eating meat. The third day is spent visiting relatives. Bull fights, referred to as Jallikattu, are the main attraction in India on the second, third and fourth days. These take place out in the open and is considered an extremely dangerous and gruesome sport. Consequently, those who participate are considered gallant. The season consists of many other games and festivities such as bullock cart races, harvesting dances, music and festivities at temples.

Thai Pongal signifies prosperity and abundance in the new year. Hindus reap their first harvest in the month of ‘Thai’. As such, it is a financially beneficial and prosperous month. Hindus make wedding plans, plan to buy new property and assets and start new jobs during this month. The Tamil saying ‘Thai piranthal wali pirakkum’ means ‘with the beginning of January a new pathway is also paved’. This is the essence of Thai Pongal, which marks the beginning of all things auspicious for the Hindus.

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