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Compulsory training to instil discipline, not jeopardise freedom of choice

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By Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera

Rohana R. Wasala, whom I respect as an erudite academic, in his article ‘Candour without caution dangerous naivety’, published in The Island of July 29, 2021, does not think that a vast majority of our youth lack discipline, disobey rules and are without good behavioural values.

He was responding to one of my statements that all young persons, above the age of 18, should be subjected to military training to inculcate disciplinary values in them. Wasala at the outset says “not so arbitrarily, not so hastily” and continues to ask “isn’t it more urgent to look after the discipline of minority Police officers who act in ways unbecoming of their profession?”

Yes, of course, it is very relevant. As the Minister of Public Security, before I call for the training of the youth in the country on discipline, I must put my house in order. I have already taken steps to ensure professionalism of each police officer and man. This exercise is not confined to the freshly recruited young officers. Irrespective of rank or seniority, a serious effort is underway to weed out those officers and men in the police force who tarnish the good name of it through their corrupt practices.

Returning to the core question as to whether our youth are disciplined, we must ask ourselves as to what gave rise to the consensus that our youth are undisciplined, for that matter not only youth but a majority of our society. For example, during the past 10 years, the total number of deaths resulting from road accidents was 27,000. (During the three decades of war, only 29,000 have died). This year, from January to mid-August, approximately 1,700 have died on the road. The accidents were due to speeding, drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, violation of basic traffic rules, scant respect to other drivers or riders and lack of tolerance and restraint.

A few months ago, on Marine Drive, Bambalapitiya, an 18-year-old youth, riding his motorbike at high speed, killed, on the spot, a pregnant woman and her two children on the crossing. The future of the youth is also ruined as he has been charged with murder.

Discipline is the process of training oneself in obedience to the laws and self-control. This controlled, ordered behaviour of an individual resulting from such training is a basic requirement of a civilised society. Wasala should know whether schools in the country train the students in this regard. Aristotle rightly said discipline is obedience to rules formed by the society for the good of all. Talents and genius alone are not enough to achieve success. Discipline has an equally vital role to play. Talents blossom in a disciplined person.

A few years ago, I watched the World Cup football final in a famous city. The day before the opening ceremony, there was a musical show featuring world-famous musical groups. The ground was packed with more than a hundred thousand people, mostly youth, enjoying themselves thoroughly, singing and dancing, with cups of beer and wine in hand. Not a single incident occurred and after the show ended and people left, there was not a single paper cup or any other litter on the ground.

Regrettably, this is not the case with our musical shows in the suburbs. Almost every one of these invariably ends in stabbing or fisticuffs. Women are not safe without male escorts. Are these not indicators of an undisciplined society?

In Singapore, a young woman can safely travel in a taxi, even in the middle of the night. Ours is a Buddhist country where ‘Pirith’ is chanted morning and night with sermons of ‘Bana’ heard throughout the day. Yet, even an old lady or a child is not safe alone. That is the reality. This should put us all to shame.

Last year, there were 34,000 inmates in prisons of which 11,000 were drug addicts, mostly young. Clearly, our education system has failed to raise awareness, among children, on the devastating health effects of abusing substances, such as narcotics, or the dangers of associating with drug cartels. Where do we teach the youth that having in possession even five grams of heroin carries the death penalty or about the ruin that awaits the drug abuser and their families?

Once I visited Taiwan, with a Buddhist delegation, and had the opportunity to visit a College of Medicine in a national university. I was stunned to observe the discipline of both male and female students moving about and attending classes, their behaviour in the dining hall, the cleanliness of the premises and the beauty of the environment. That university is not only a training institution for medical personnel but also a centre of excellence to promote the advancement of society. Their objective is to cultivate cultural and humanistic students with morality, self-respect, responsibility, honesty and integrity. They attend humanities courses and participate in community services. They stress the importance of ethics. It is very strict with regard to syllabusses and examinations and each student knows exactly when he or she will graduate, provided they get through the exams. No strikes, no ragging.

What about our universities? Gaining university entrance is not an easy task. Although nearly 300,000 students qualify for tertiary education only about 30,000 gain university admission. One would think that after sacrificing the better part of their childhood to achieve this difficult goal, an undergraduate would appreciate every moment of this opportunity and make full use of it.

Instead, most of our young undergraduates do not even groom themselves properly. Such is the disrespect with which they treat this opportunity that is denied to many others. Sri Lankan medical students lost an entire year of studies by engaging in protests against SAITM. The loss of one year, from a person’s life, and the resulting colossal waste of state resources cannot be considered liberty or freedom of any sort. One’s liberty cannot violate another’s freedom. As such, discipline involves a measure of restraint on liberty, necessary in the interest of society.

Coming back to the subject of “compulsory military training” for the youth, one may remember the programme of “compulsory training” conducted by the army during the Mahinda Rajapaksa government for fresh university entrants, before the commencement of their degree courses. How many people, political parties and parents objected to it and criticised this initiation programme?

It was amidst such criticism that these courses were conducted. Yet, at the successful conclusion of these training sessions, students prostrated themselves before their instructors. The programme was very well received by the students, parents and also the general public. These undergraduates were taught how to dress properly and even trained on table etiqutte, allowing them to conduct themselves with dignity. They were also trained in unarmed combat! A sense of patriotism was also inculcated in them.

Malaysia, which secured its independence just one year before us has become a developed country mainly because of patriotism and discipline. When we compare our country to nations such as Japan, Singapore or China, it is obvious that we are very badly in need of discipline.

To develop the country, first and foremost, the people, including the rulers, must be patriotic. As such, there must be empathy for fellow citizens struggling with poverty. There must be a determination to promote material and spiritual wellbeing for all. Japanese schools have included ‘patriotism’ as a subject in their curriculum.

How many of our youth know our history? They must appreciate their heritage and nurture a sense of pride. Only through this sense of belonging can the country’s younger generation be moulded into responsible citizens.

Our society is diverse. Training courses for the youth will also help overcome racial, religious and other differences, and make them realise that all citizens are equal.

Military training does not mean training one to be a soldier. The assistance of the army should be enlisted because it has all the necessary facilities, human and physical resources to conduct such training.

In a democracy, anything ‘compulsory’ is seen as going against the democratic principle of ‘freedom of choice’. The absence of discipline means decay.

Nothing is lost by receiving this type of training. The worst that could happen is that some of the incorrigible may not change even after the training. However, this course will definitely not turn anyone into a terrorist or a criminal. The syllabus can be prepared with the sole objective of instilling discipline and patriotism and giving every individual a purpose in life. (Patriotic academics like Wasala may assist.) A training course such as this, that prepares one to face life with courage, will place neither the individual nor society in any danger. It is done with caution and not arbitrarily.

(Dr. Sarath Weerasekera RWP, VSV, USP, ndc, psc is the Minister of Public Security)



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Opinion

Are We Patriotic As A Nation?

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Extracts from book “G R A T I T U D E”
By Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne
(Retired from Sri Lanka Navy)
Former Chief of Defence Staff

I served as the First Secretary/ Defence Advisor at the Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi, from November 2001 to April 2004. I served under two High Commissioners, namely late Professor Senake Bandaranaike and the late Mangala Moonesinghe. The Late Lakshman Kadirgamar and the The late Tyronne Fernando were the Foreign Ministers during my tenure.

I was occupying a residence inside the High Commission complex at Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, in the diplomatic enclave of New Delhi. Our chief gardener was Perry Ram. He was a very experienced gardener who had served in the High Commission for 30 years. He was a very dedicated person who worked tirelessly to maintain the High Commission premises with beautiful flower beds and pots.

Our High Commission garden looked very beautiful during thanks to Ram and his assistants. He had received education only up to the fifth grade. Our High Commission garden won the “Best Garden in New Delhi” award three times in the 1990s. Now he is old and the award has been awarded to the garden of the Indian Chief of Air Staff (Indian Air Force Commanders’) residence.

I had a CD which contained Indian patriotic songs presented to me by the then Indian Chief of Naval Staff (Indian Navy Commander). I used to play these songs loud at my residence. They were beautiful and could be heard even from my garden.

I noticed something unusual when the song Aye Mere Wathan Ke Logo sung by Great Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar was played. Ram, who was working in the garden would stop his work and come into attention until the song was over. It’s not the Indian National Anthem! Then why does Perry Ram come into attention? I asked an Indian Naval officer why Ram was doing that. He said “Ravi, this song was sung by Lataji in honour of the Indian Armed forces personnel who died in the Sino-Indian War in 1962. So, everyone comes to attention when it is sung in honour of those brave service personnel who paid the supreme sacrifice.” The gardener showed me what gratitude was and how to honour the War Heroes.

Aye Mere Watanke Logo (available in YouTube – please listen) song was written by Kavi Pradeep (refer Wikipedia) saddened by the large loss of Indian Army officers and men in the Sino-Indian War in 1962. Stories about the bravery of the Indian forces to stop the Chinese advance were heard throughout India.

During his morning walks at Mahim beach in Mumbai, the writer of the song, Kavi Pradeep had some ideas for a new song to be dedicated to these gallant men. He immediately borrowed a pen from a fellow walker and wrote a few verses of this new song on a cigarette packet.

Later, the song was composed by C Ramachandra. The initial plan wasn to have the song sung as a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. However, the composer Kavi Pradeepopposed to the idea and it was sung only by Latha.

The song was first sung at the National Stadium of New Delhi on 27th January 1963 during the Indian Republic Day celebrations by Lata Mangeshkar in front of S. Radhakrishnan, the Indian President and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister (PM) of India. The stadium was packed its capacity and it was only a few months after the conclusion of the Sino-Indian War. The song became an immediate hit. The story says that Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to tears. Later, when it was inquired by a reporter, the PM said,

“Those who aren’t inspired by the Aye Mere Wathan Ke Logo song, don’t deserve to be called Hindustani.”

Artistes/technical staff and Lataji agreed that the income from the song should be sent to Indian Army welfare fund for the benefit of the families of the Indian Army personnel killed in action.

Even today, when it is sung, everyone gets u. At the end of the song, it says “Jaya Hindi Ke Sena” (Long live Indian Army!) Please enjoy the song:

Lata Mangeshkar

Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon (Original Version | Patriotic songs)

I wish we also have a song dedicated to our war heroes

O people of my
Country Let us shout
the slogan This
auspicious day Belong
to all of us

Hoist our beloved
flag and let us not
forget Our brave
warriors
Who left their lives on the border

Give a thought to them Let us also
remember Those who did not return
home O people of my Country

Fill your eyes with tears
Remember the sacrifice
of those who became martyrs
And lets you forget
them Listen to this story

When the Himalayas were
attacked and our freedom was
threatened they fought right to
the end

Then they laid down their
bodies with their faces on their
bayonets

The immortal martyrs went to
sleep when the country
celebrated Diwali They sacrificed
themselves
in the fire of holi.

When we were sitting safe in our
homes. They confronted the deadly
bullets blessed were they those
young men blessed was their youth
those who attained

Martyrdom Remember their great sacrifice
Sikhs, Jaat and Marathas
Gurkhas and Madrasis

All those who died at the front
every dead warrior at the front everyone
Belongs to India The bloodshed on
The Himalayas
That blood was India
their bodies’ drenched
blood they picked up their
guns and each killed ten men,
then they fell
unconscious and when
the end came

They said “We are dying
now “Be happy, beloved
countrymen
“We are going our journey”
How wonderful were those
warriors How great were those
people

Long live India
long live the Indian
army long live India
Long live India

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wvr8sX5-T_8

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Opinion

Ailing rubber sector?

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Rubber production in Sri Lanka commenced in 1876, with the planting of nearly 2,000 rubber seedlings at the Henarathgoda Botanical Gardens in Gampaha. The total extent under rubber in 1890 was around 50 ha and in the early 1900s it increased to around 10,000 ha. By 1982 the total extent under rubber was around 180,000 ha. However, the total extent under rubber declined subsequently and at present it is around 130,000 ha.

If the present financial situation of the country is given serious consideration, it is obvious that the income from our export needs to be increased. Rubber is one of the important export crop. It contributes about 0.6% of the total GDP.

Based on Central Bank annual reports the total rubber production in 2013 was 130.4 .1 million Kg and by 2021 it has plummeted to 76.9 million kg. The corresponding average yields are 1247 kg/ha and 679 kg/ ha respectively. These figures indicate that the Sri Lankan rubber sector is ailing in spite of several institutions/projects such as Rubber Development Dep, Rubber Research Institute and STAR project.

According to Statistical Data of the Ministry of Plantation Crops, 130,349 ha are under rubber. 89,246 ha are in the small holder (SH) rubber sector and 41,103 ha are managed by Regional Plantation Companies (RPC). The productivity (kg/ha) of the SH sector in 2013 was 1247 and has decreased to 679 by 2021 a drop of 45%. These values indicate that the productivity of the SH sector has decreased substantially during 2013-2021.

Those in the SH sector gets relevant skills and knowledge through the extension officers who work at grass root level. Thus, extension officers have an important role to play in the proper management of the rubber plantations and increasing rubber yields of the SH sector. It is because of the importance of management practices in the rubber sector, in early 1980 the Advisory Services Dept. was established with the involvement of the Smallholder Rubber Rehabilitation project (SRRP) to make the SH aware of the practices which have an important bearing on the rubber yields. At that time there were nearly 150 rubber extension officers, working for the Advisory Services Department of the Rubber Research Board to assist the SH in the eight districts, to grow, process and market rubber. However, at present there are only around 20 extension staff in the Rubber Research Board and as a result the rubber extension programme appears to be very weak which may have contributed to the decrease (45% ) in the productivity of the SH rubber sector. Extension service has a vital role to play in motivating farmers to cultivate rubber and increase its productivity. Hence, if the government is keen to increase the productivity of this sector, which plays an important role in increasing export earnings, it is essential that the Ministry of Plantation Industries provides an effective extension service and has a Rubber Advisory Department. Perhaps, the Ministry may amalgamate the Rubber Development Department and the Extension Department of RRI as was in the past. It is not necessary for the government to incur additional expenses to implement such changes.

Dr. L.M.K.Tilakaratna, former Director of RRI, writing to THE ISLAND some time ago very correctly has indicated that communication gap between the RRI scientists and those in the SH is one of the reasons for the decrease in productivity. The rubber training centre located in Matugama which played a very important role in providing knowledge and skills to the SH sectors is not functioning. It is the responsibility of the Chairman of Rubber Research Board (RRB) to see that these activities which have an important bearing on the productivity of the rubber sector are carried out without any interruption. But, the Chairmen of RRB during the last few years appears to have not taken appropriate effective action on these issues. Perhaps it may be because they did not have adequate knowledge on the rubber industry.

Around 70% of the rubber holdings belong to the smallholder sector. There are nearly 100,000 rubber small holders (SH) who need to be provided with technical know- how of the activities involved from land preparation to processing, so that the rubber production is increased qualitatively and quantitatively. In this regard the extension activities are important. It is essential that a better extension service by a trained staff is provided to the rubber smallholders if the government is keen to increase the productivity of this sector.

Dr. C.S. Weeraratna, csweera@sltnet.lk

Former Director, Advisory Services Department, Rubber Research Board.

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Opinion

‘Sethusamudram stupid project’: BJP TNA Chief Annamalai points out ‘multiple’ objections: Response

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ANI has, in a news item under the above caption in The Sunday Island has said the BJP Tamil Nadu K. Annamalai has reiterated his claim that the Sethusamudram waterway project fails on multiple fronts, one of which being the potential damage to the ‘Ram Sethu’ [bridge] which according to the epic ‘Ramayana’ was created to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana’. What a frivolous objection based on myth or legend at the expense of a development project. However, it is said that the Indian government intends to explore an alternative alignment so that no damage will be done to the Rama Sethu, which means that the Indian government is actively pursuing action on a request from Tamil Nadu to undertake the project by citing the benefits in international navigation through Palk Straits due to the shortening of distance and time.

It is recorded that this project was conceived as far back as in 1860 by Alfred Dunas Taylor during British rule and since then several feasibility studies had been done taking into consideration the objection of religious groups, fisheries, environmental and economic aspects. It is more likely, India may seriously concede to the request by Tamil Nadu and in which case, how will Sri Lanka be affected is a matter to be thought of and action taken to present our views. If this project is undertaken, ships will by-pass our main ports in the South, Colombo and Hambantota and load and unload cargo either at Kankesanthurai or Trincomalee. Our exports and imports will then have to be transported to Kankesanthurai or Trincomalee by rail, road or by ship. Thus, the importance of our main two ports on which we have invested to improve by large scale borrowing will be lost. On the other hand, if objections are raised by Sri Lanka, India may consider further improvements to Kankesanthurai and Trinco harbours as is seen India taking interest in undertaking projects to improve North in relaying the railway track destroyed by the LTTE, roads and also constructing houses including those of Tamil origin settled in estates and also the proposal to connect electricity supply, a vital utility for development of any country, from Tamil Nadu. With Jaffna having an International Airport and improved harbour facilities, Jaffna will be the main business hub, replacing Colombo. Added to all developments done to the North, now comes the news of proposals to implement the 13th Amendment, which will give wide powers for Northerners to transact business and self-rule, so to say, which would be advantages to India as our Tamil leaders look up to India. The keen interest India has taken to resolve the economic crisis by assuring IMF of its support is indicative of India’s interest in the affairs of our country, and maintaining peace in the South Asian region by thwarting attempts of China.

These are random thoughts of mine to be considered by authorities and wish to conclude posing a question – are we to be a colony of India, as we had been in the past with Portuguese, Dutch and the British?

G. A. D Sirimal

BORALESGAMUWA

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