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Country is going to be doomed?



The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a recent meeting, highlighted the need to shift towards organic fertilizers (OF) and decrease the usage of chemical/inorganic fertilizers. Application of OF has many advantages. Among these are increasing soil porosity, enhancing the capacity to retain water and nutrients. OF promotes growth of soil macro organisms such as eathworms. Micro organisms such as N fixing bacteria are also promoted by OF. In addition, OF supply micronutrients such as iron, manganese, etc., which are essential for crop growth. However, not using inorganic fertilizers in crop production has many disadvantages.

The Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka (SSSSL), the membership of which includes soil scientists representing the university academia, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Export Agriculture, research institutes and the private sector, in a letter sent to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has expressed its concerns over the proposed move to shift towards organic fertilizers. According to the Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka, banning import of inorganic fertilizers will have disastrous effects on the crop sector. SSSSL indicates that Compost-only nutrient-management practices will not be economical. .

Sri Lanka Agricultural Economics Association (SAEA) is the professional body, representing the agricultural economists of Sri Lanka. The SAEA, too, predicts massive economic losses due to potential yield losses, in the absence of proper substitutes for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, with the implementation of the import ban on fertilizers and pesticides. The immediate adverse impacts on food security, farm incomes, foreign exchange earnings and rural poverty can be detrimental.

A number of scientist in the field of agronomy, soil science, and entomology, in articles published in newspapers, during the last two weeks, have highlighted the undesirable effects of banning agrochemicals. Already paddy and vegetable farmers, in many parts of the country, are facing immense problems due to non-availability of inorganic fertilizers and other agrochemicals. According to them, yields are going to be reduced and pest and disease problems will have undesirable effects on crops.

There is a move to import organic fertilizers, with a ban on importing inorganic fertilizers. There is a grave risk in using imported organic fertilizers which is likely to have seeds of weeds, pathogenic bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc. Such organisms could cause disease outbreaks in crop, livestock and human society, leading to heavy economic losses. Imported organic fertilizers pose a high risk of contaminating our soils and water resources. Once the pollutants enter into our eco-system and destroys it, it is not easy to recover from the damage.

We spend nearly Rs. 300 billion annually to import food. Banning inorganic fertilizers, and other agrochemicals, will reduce local food production, resulting in a need to increase our food imports, causing expenditure on imports to rise. Our annual export earnings from tea is around Rs. 200 billion and non-availability of inorganic fertilizers will also reduce tea production which will cause a decline in export income, resulting in a rise in the Trade Deficit which at present is around Rs 2,000 billion. Reduction in local food production will affect food supply, making the less-privileged people under-nourished. It is essential that the relevant authorities seriously consider all the repercussions of banning the import of inorganic fertilizers, and other agrochemicals, and take appropriate action. If not the country is going to be doomed.


A citizen

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This refers to the superlatively interesting and provocative piece on the above subject by Dr Upul Wijewardene{UW) appearing in The Island of 21/3/23 wherein, as he states, he had been a victim himself at the hands of a well-known Professor of Medicine turned health administrator. He makes it a point to castigate the leaders of the Buddhist clergy for their deviation from the sublime doctrine of this religion.

My first thought on this subject is that it is a cultural problem of exploitation by the privileged of the less fortunate fellow beings. The cultural aspect has its origin in the religion of the majority in India, Hinduism. There is no such discrimination in Islam.

The first recorded case was that of a Sinhala member of the Dutch army fighting against the Portuguese (or the army of the Kandiyan kingdom) being prevented by the members of the higher ranks from wearing sandals due to his low status in the caste hierarchy. The Dutch commander permitted the Sinhala solder to wear sandals as recorded by Paul Pieris in “Ceylon the Portuguese era”

There is also the instance of a monk getting up to meet the King when it was not the customary way of greeting the King by monks.

In an article by Dr Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian published in a local journal, it is said that members of the majority caste (approximately 40% of the Sinhala population) were not permitting lower ranking public officials serving the British government wear vestments studded with brass buttons. The second tier of the hierarchy who had become rich through means other than agriculture like sale of alcohol in the early British times took their revenge by lighting crackers in front of houses of their caste rivals when a British Duke was marching along in a procession in Colombo.

It is not uncommon for members of minority castes numerically low in numbers to help their own kind due to the discriminatory practices of the higher tiers of the hierarchy.

Dr Leo Fernando
Talahena, Negombo

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Billion-dollar carrot



The IMF successfully coerced the government into falling line with its instructions on debt restructuring and increasing of revenue, among others, and in all probability will release the first tranche of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) during the course of this week. Regrettably, the IMF is not coercive where the violations of fundamental rights of a country, vis a vis universal franchise, is concerned. On its part, the government flaunted this invaluable tool on the public, as the only remedy for all its financial ailments. It was least worried of the consequences that would necessarily follow.

Taking the cue, professionals and trade union activists dangled the carrot of carrot of strikes to restrain the government on its implementation, the results of which are still in abeyance. Not to be outdone, the powers that be has refused to relent on the grounds that the economy has to be strengthened at whatever costs.

Now that the IMF loan has materialized, the government is already focusing its attention on securing further assistance from other lending agencies. How will the IMF monies be expended, and for what purposes? Naturally, the people would want to know since it is they who have to foot the bill at the end. The Treasury insists that it has no funds to provide for the conduct of LG polls. Just 10% of the rupee equivalent of the first tranche of US $ 300 million will suffice for the successful completion of the elections. Provided the government wants to.

The President has assured that no sooner the Agreement is signed with the IMF, he would submit a copy of it to Parliament. It would be prudent if he would also submit (without plucking figures from thin air) a comprehensive expenditure account on the disbursement of the first tranche. And continue to do so for the rest.

Being fully aware of the country’s top priority needs, attention should be focused on providing them at reasonable prices. Besides them, agriculture, fishing and domestic industries should also be given due consideration. Merely dangling of carrots before them will not suffice.

Non-essential development projects should be shelved until the dreamed of economic stability is achieved. Of special note is that upkeep and interests of politicians should not be addressed with these funds.Can the people expect some sort of genuine transparency even at this late stage?


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Death penalty – another view



In his article, (The Island, 8th March), Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne, would have us believe that the Death Penalty is not an effective deterrent and it should be abolished in Sri Lanka. Similar arguments are presented in India, home to some of the most horrendous crimes of violence against Women and children, and also in South Africa, where the death penalty was abolished despite strong opposition from the vast majority of the population.

Use of the Death Penalty purely for political purposes is always bad, but that’s not what the public are calling for. The public want the Death penalty implemented RIGOROUSLY, against those who have undeniably murdered children, and also serial killers whose victims are invariably women. Their crimes are gruesome but unfortunately need to be detailed to counter the pseudo- academic arguments of Death Penalty abolishonists. For example:

South Africa abolished the death penalty despite vigorous opposition. In South Africa one of its worst serial killers, led the police to the remains of 38 of his victims all of them women and all from the poorest class (mostly domestic servants).

On 12 March, India’s National Broadcaster NDTV reports the case of a man in Kashmir, whose marriage proposal was refused. He murdered his prospective young bride, cut up her body and disposed the remains in several places to avoid detection. A few days ago, a similar incident in India was reported by NDTV, where a 17-year-old was stabbed and dragged through s crowded street and murdered with no public intervention! In Sri Lanka a few years ago, four-year-old Seya fell victim to a murderer, rapist, a person known to her family, whom the child trusted. Likewise, a 17-year-old girl miss Sivaloganathan was raped and murdered in the North by a gang led by an individual known as “Swiss Kumar” a porn film maker of Sri Lankan origin, living in Switzerland. (One wonders whether he subsequently received the benevolent “Presidential Pardon”!

Other arguments used in Dr Wickremeratne’s article, are out of date. For example, he refers to wrongful convictions in a bygone age where DNA testing did not exist. DNA tests enable identity to be established and tie a murderer to the crime, beyond any doubt. Elsewhere he cites a Table where Murder rates are calculated as follows- “divide the number of murders by the total population, in death-penalty and non-death penalty states”. This methodology is patently flawed. It assumes that the populations of ALL 50 States in the USA are homogeneous in demography and other characteristics- it equates the violent State of New York with relatively peaceful Alaska.

Dr W advocated “long term imprisonment” in lieu of death penalty. Frankly this is the academic argument of a person removed from everyday life and steeped in Academia, “the social cost of rehabilitation” is Immense! It has been estimated that the cost of keeping a person on death row is at least Rs 50,000 per month – for the rest of the murderers’ life! It should ALSO be pointed out that in Singapore and other countries where the death penalty operates, murder rates are significantly low.


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