Our people who take pride in the fact that they have a long history of great achievements in agriculture, architecture and literature, and “Sinhala Vedakama”, and even surgery, Buddhist lifestyle and subdued desires, could perhaps be easily duped by appealing to their inner consciousness of past glory. If you tell them this is how your ancestors fed, not only the people of Sri Lanka, but the entire East, and recommend ancient agricultural methods, they will believe you with an accompanying sense of pride. Same could be said of ancient medicine, home remedies, food habits and ancient industry. It is true that the ancient people had their science and their life was based on that knowledge, but some of it has been proved to be wrong while some has stood the test of time. It is the duty of the intelligent people to choose the grain from the chaff, and guide the ordinary people in choosing what is good for them. This has happened throughout history and societies have developed to the extent that they were successful in that endeavour.
Recently, in Sri Lanka, there had been instances of the wrong choice being made at heavy cost. Treatment of Covid with indigenous decoctions is a case in point. How much this cost the people in terms of money, time and inconvenience has not been calculated, but must be fairly substantial. The fact that there is no antiviral drug similar to antibiotics effective against the Covid-19 virus is well known to the eminent medical men and women of Sri Lanka. And these men and women know that immunity cannot be boosted by outside agents, but if the immunity is lowered due to a disease or a deficiency, it could be restored by treating the disease or correcting the deficiency. Yet charlatans were able to make millions selling their immune boosting decoctions. And there are medical men and women who recommend traditional remedies, which are supposed to have immune boosting properties. These remedies may have some benefits, like for example any warm drink when one has a cold, but not immune boosting ability. Could Sri Lanka effectively implement preventive methods like wearing of masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and lockdowns, when people are allowed to be misled by wrong information about the nature of this particular viral infection. People who have taken these decoctions for instance, may think it is not necessary to follow these health guidelines and protective measures.
Then there has been misinformation about the nature of the Kidney Disease that affects the Rajarata farmers. This wrong information has enabled unscrupulous politicians and some opportunist agriculturists, and even medical men, to prevail upon the government that Kidney Disease and also other non-communicable diseases are caused by aggro-chemicals. If there are scientists among these people, they are duty bound to examine the available evidence. They are under oath to practice evidence based medicine and science. The fact that KDu does not commonly affect people who drink tank or reservoir water, the fact that it mainly affects people who drink deep well water, and the fact that there is no agrochemical residue in well water, have been well established by good scientific research. Further there are no excessive amounts of these chemicals in the food these KDu patients eat. These facts prove beyond any doubt that this disease is not caused by agrochemicals. Yet these worthies support to the hilt the decision taken by the government to stop the import of inorganic fertilizer.
Use of organic fertilizer could cause a lowering of harvests which would make grain imports necessary, which in turn would have a negative impact on the economy. The practical problems of producing, storing and distribution of organic fertilizer and traditional pesticides are well known. Already there is malnutrition to a certain degree and some poor people may not be getting three square meals a day. A fall in the rice production would worsen this situation. Moreover, it has not been done successfully anywhere in the world. Yet these people encourage the government to venture into this disastrous journey, which could bring about the ruination of this government.
These non-scientists have called the chemical fertilizers “wasa visa”. The insecticides and pesticides may be called that if the harmful ones are being used or used in excess of the required amounts. But chemicals that supply the plant requirements of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc., are not poisonous, unless used injudiciously. The term “wasa visa” has now developed into a political slogan, and some people may have attracted a lot of votes in the last parliamentary elections by shouting out this slogan. These people are advising the government on the agricultural policies, and the top scientists on the subject are sidelined and slandered as beneficiaries of inorganic fertilizer companies. This is the unkindest cut.
What benefits could the government get out of being unscientific at this juncture is difficult to fathom. If the banning of fertilizer imports is going to save foreign exchange the loss in terms of low harvest, rice imports, possible collapse of the tea industry, and compensation to farmers could be much more. There is no scientific evidence that there would be health benefits due to the ban on the “wasa visa”. The excessive use of pesticide is a different kettle of fish that needs to be addressed separately. If the government is doing this to get political mileage or fulfill an election promise, it is again unscientific, and would amount to committing harakiri. Instead what the government should be doing is to listen to the top scientists in these fields, forgetting their political affiliations, and with their help develop a policy on the correct use of inorganic fertilizer, organic fertilizer, pesticides and other best practices.
If instead the government listens to non-scientists and hangers-on, it would be committing suicide. Then all the national minded people who love this country and who voted this government into power would be left high and dry.
N. A. de S. AMARATUNGA
MPs can show their colours
I refer to this article, ‘Covid bonanza for….’ by Shamnidra Ferdinando.
It was obvious that the LC could not easily be cancelled. It will be interesting to know when the LC was actually opened; before or after Cabinet approval? The answer will be revealing.
Now that the vehicles will come in, come hell or high water with burning ships, there is a simple solution.
If the government is sincere in its intentions to reverse this totally unnecessary expenditure, which the country cannot afford, scraping the bottom of the vangediya as it is, then the vehicles can be sold in the open market, in a transparent manner and at a profit, too, and the wasted funds reimbursed to the Treasury. Personally, I know this will not happen, seeing what we are helplessly seeing being enacted in the country yesterday, today and alarmingly, tomorrow, too.
The next best option is for those MPs who oppose this criminal waste of public funds, to work out a method by which they can sell the vehicles presented to them by the starving masses, in a transparent manner and utilise the proceeds again in a transparent manner to uplift the lives of the millions of poor citizens in their electorates.
ACabinet given opportunity for Members of Parliament to show their true, even if highly faded and smudged, colours!
Gazette Bill in blatant conflict with Constitution
The Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill had been gazetted on March 24 after Cabinet approval, and placed in the order paper of Parliament on April 9. Normally, before placing a Bill on the order paper of the Parliament, it goes through the levels of the Legal Draftsman, Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, and the Cabinet of Ministers.
According to a news item that appeared in the Daily News, on April 27, the Attorney General has informed the Presidential Secretary that the Port City Economic Commission Draft Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution. But the same Attorney General has advanced the submissions and amendments in court, during the hearing of 18 petitions filed by members of civil society alleging the Bill is inconsistent with the Constitution.
The Supreme Court has found more than one third of its clauses are conflicting with the Constitution – the supreme law of Sri Lanka. Thus, it has been proved the Gazette Bill was in blatant conflict with the Constitution.
High officials of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Legal Draftsman who are supposed to have been involved in the drafting of this Bill are professionals of recognized capability. They are committed to follow the best practices of their professions and should adhere to standards in procedural manuals and professional codes of conduct and ethics. They are bound by the oath taken by them in line with the Constitution and the accountability of the offices they hold. They also would have been supported by several legal eagles and experienced politicians in the Cabinet.
Citizens are confused as to how on earth such a Bill, in blatant conflict with the Constitution, could have been approved by the Attorney General and be drafted by the Legal Draftsman. 149 Members of Parliament have voted to amend 26 clauses of 75 clauses of the Legal Draftsman’s Bill. This is tantamount to a No Confidence Motion on the Legal Draftsman.
Probe into expressway construction and floods
The news item appearing in your issue of 10th June, regarding the Expressway Construction and Floods, is of interest to me, as I had handled Road Projects when attached to the then Department of Public Works [PWD] and later the Ministry for Highways.
It’s stated that Minister Johnston Fernando had instructed his Ministry Secretary to investigate immediately, whether there was any truth in the claim that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work, in the first phase of the Central Expressway, from Kadawatha to Mirigama; and continues to say ‘Yahapalana adjustments to the construction master plan may have lead to the present situation’, which could be insinuated as placing the blame on the previous Yahapalana government. This is the usual blame-game adopted by bankrupt politicians. It will not be surprising if the present government will be blamed when a new government is formed, for mismanagement of projects carried out now.
As far as I know, while construction is on, there comes up certain problems, which may necessitate altering or deviating from the original design. Hence the responsibility lies entirely on the Engineer, and not on any politician or government in power. Here the integrity of the Engineer counts. Sad to say, there have been accusations where professionals have given way to political pressure and projects have become failures. I would like to quote Moeller’s theory “One of the major reasons for a country to be subjected to bad governance is when its professionals do not speak out, but worst still, these professionals actually gang up with those committing anarchy for their own benefit. What the professionals do not realize is that in the long term, they too would be subjected to the worst treatment by these despotic dictators whom they were keen to protect. Moeller’s theory being proved time and again consorting with an autocratic regime is a worst act of treason against one’s own country and its people”
To the credit of Minister Johnston Fernando, he also mentions the likelihood of this flooding by saying “We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall in the known history was reported from this area”. Whatever, the findings of the investigations be, the accusation should be taken as fault finding of Engineers, and they should now come forward to protect their prestigious profession and give reasons, which lay, incompetent politicians, do not have the capacity to understand. Hope the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers will expose the viles of politicians to steer this country in the correct direction. This goes for other professions as well.
G. A. D. SIRIMAL
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