National Defence University Bill:
‘Uni outside purview of UGC, SLMC, etc., inimical to education system’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) spokesperson Dr. Prasad Colambage says the enactment of the General Sir John Kotelawela National Defence University Bill will create an institution outside the purview of the University Grants Commission (UGC) as well as the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC). The proposed University wouldn’t be subject to regulatory bodies of engineering, law and public administration, Dr. Colambage asserts.
In a brief interview with The Island the GMOA official said that the controversial move was contrary to much touted assurances given by the Joint Opposition (JO)/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in the run-up to the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliament elections. Referring to the failed bid to enact the Bill during the previous yahapalana administration, Dr. Colombage said that they were quite disappointed at the way the incumbent dispensation handled the issue at hand.
He strongly denied accusations that the GMOA was pursuing an agenda inimical to government efforts to expand higher education opportunities.
Responding to another query, Dr. Colambage attributed a last minute decision not to present the Bill in Parliament on July 08 to an obvious split in the ruling party. The Consultative Committee on Defence at a meeting chaired by State Minister of National Security and Disaster Management and State Minister of Home Affairs Chamal Rajapaksa was earlier scheduled to table the Bill in Parliament, Dr. Colambage said. Appreciating the decision not to present the Bill for the second reading , Dr. Colombage said that under the leadership of Vice President of the GMOA Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa a committee was examining the Bill as well as the one prepared by the previous administration.
When The Island questioned the rationale in the GMOA’s opposition to the Bill against the backdrop of it being sanctioned by the Legal Draftsman and the Attorney General, Dr. Colambage said that the whole process in the enactment of laws was dubious. The GMOA official alleged that various interested parties had been pursuing agendas in that regard under the very noses of those who were supposed to ensure national interest. The possibility of some lawmakers being aparty to projects disadvantageous to the country couldn’t be ruled out, Dr. Colambage said.
“Yes, it is certainly a very unfortunate situation. A key issue is whether the Parliament can be exploited by those pursuing agendas for personal benefit,” Dr. Colombage said.
The GMOA official emphasised that the Bill in its present form was not acceptable under any circumstances. How could those in authority seek to establish an institution through parliamentary Act contrary to the Universities Act No 16 of 1978? Dr. Colombage asked.
The Communications Department of the Parliament on July 7 quoted Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne as having told Consultative Committee on Defence chaired by State Minister Chamal Rajapaksa the then President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the Defence Minister made an attempt to enact the Bill. SLFP leader and Polonnaruwa District MP Sirisena according to the Communications Department had been present at the meeting along with Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Tiran Alles and Jayantha Weerasinghe, PC.
Dr. Colambage urged all political parties represented in Parliament to state their stand on the proposed Bill. The Parliament comprises 15 political parties with the SLPP being the largest with 145 seats followed by the SJB 54 and the TNA 10. Of the political parties in Parliament, nine are represented by one MP each.
Asked whether the GMOA intended to discuss the issue at hand with political parties, Dr. Colambage said that once Dr. Epitakaduwa made his report available within the next few days, stakeholders could be briefed. Parliament couldn’t absolve itself of the responsibility to thwart calculated attempts to deteriorate higher education sector, Dr Colambage alleged. The official stressed that their objections to the proposed Bill was not political. The primary issues here were that the Bill would result in the creation of a University managed by the military and selection of students outside the Z score, the GMOA spokesperson said.
Dr. Colambage was of the opinion that an independent University would cause deterioration of the entire higher education system and open the country for all sorts of external interventions. It could be a long term objective of interested parties to weaken the once proud University system at a time other countries were bent on tightening laws.
Outspoken GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando in a statement issued on Monday (12) speculated that the proposed Bill would pave the way for militarisation of the higher education system.
Dr. Colambage said that the GMOA received the backing of student groups and trade unions though the government sought to discourage ongoing protests against the Bill. According to him, a major fault in the proposed Bill was that it would allow admission of students without minimum qualifications. The Bill should be examined against the backdrop of reports that those without basic qualifications had been accommodated in Universities over the years, Dr. Colambage said.
“Our systems are fallible. There is no point in denying that fact,” Dr. Colambage said, alleging unscrupulous elements had proved over and over again systems at any level could be manipulated regardless of catastrophic consequences. “The ongoing high profile project to provide special status to KDU is case in point,” Dr. Colambage said, underscoring how influential persons sustained the operation in spite of the change of government in 2019. The role played by the Consultative Committee on Defence and the stand taken by different political parties on the KDU issue reflected the present crisis, Dr. Colombage said.
According to Dr. Colambage the KDU project could easily secure the support of those willing to exploit an opportunity to make gains at the expense of the national interest. The GMOA official said that the media should seriously cover the developments regarding the KDU matter.
Referring to the controversial circumstances under which Sri Lanka entered into Singapore-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (2018), Access and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) (2017), Geneva Resolution (2015) and the way attempts were made to finalize Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact as well as Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Dr. Colambage said that the country lacked overall strategy in that regard. Those in authority seemed to be disinterested in working out a common agenda, Dr. Colambage said, urging the government to review contentious KDU Bill.
The GMOA official asserted that the decision to hold back the Bill which was to be presented for the second reading was certainly a victory. They wouldn’t have done that lightly therefore it would be the responsibility of the Consultative Committee on Defence to consult all relevant parties in that regard. The incumbent government wouldn’t want to go down in history as the dispensation responsible for the ruination of the University system. The powerful doctors’ union said that deterioration of higher education standards couldn’t be permitted for the benefit of corrupt elements whose success largely depended on the failure of the political party system.
Dr. Colambage said that the crisis could be easily resolved by accommodating the KDU with 11 faculties within the University system. The controversial Bill had been there for 12 years and first major attempt to operationalise it was made in 2018.
Cabraal says Central Bank will guide markets
ECONOMYEXT – Sri Lanka’s central bank will guide markets and deploy monetary tools mindful of repercussions, and guide markets in turbulent times, newly appointed Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said last week.
“The policy measures must be taken,” Cabraal told a forum of senior central bankers and finance officials after taking office as Governor for the second time on September 15.
“There are no short cuts. Sometimes there are tough policy measures to be taken.
“When we take policy measures there are always repercussions from another side. Sometimes if you do not take those policy measures you meander along.”
“When a tool is used, and one area is getting cured, it can emerge as a problem in another area,”
“It is not easy to manage this balance. You have to be conscious of all the outcomes that generally arise when you take certain policy measures.”
Cabraal who was previously central bank chief from 2006 to 2014 said the central bank hoped to guide markets.
“We would need to lead the economy in these measures,” he said. “That means we have to be always one step ahead, two steps ahead sometimes three steps ahead.
“I think we would from now onwards take the lead in providing guidance to markets as well as the economy.
“We have got to take that step clearly and boldly so that the market would be able to read the signs that the central bank is making so that would need to use that guidance particularly in turbulent times like what we having now.
“This is not the time to abrogate that leadership role.”
Cabraal said he expected to seek the views of market participants and also staff.
He said some people wanted advice from outsiders like the International Monetary Fund but there was a lot of knowledge within the bank.
“Once course of action is decided, it has to be steadfastly followed, he said.
Sri Lanka’s gross forex reserves are now down to 3.5 billion US dollars and net reserves depleted after record money printing not seen in the history of the soft-pegged central bank.
Central banks that print large volumes of money and lose reserves become helpless and market participants also become helpless as the newly injected liquidity creates forex shortages, hit the exchange rate and drives up asset prices.
When rate normalization is delayed and net foreign assets turn negative, a central bank itself can rapidly accumulate quasi fiscal losses and lose its ability to carry out policy, analysts say.
Anagarika Dharmapala: Admirer of ‘Queen Mab’
by Rohana R. Wasala
It may look unfashionable or even indecent to write about Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) in these days of ‘reconciliation’ politics. But that is due to the deliberate distortion of facts by vested interests. So I beg my readers’ indulgence. The Anagarika has been consistently misrepresented by anti-nationalists as a Sinhala supremacist, a Buddhist fanatic, and a propagator of violent nationalism. But the truth was otherwise; he was none of these.
As anthropologist Gananath Obesekera, professor emeritus, Princeton University, mentions in his ‘The Doomed King’ (2017), “Dharmapala was the most passionate defender of Sri Vikrama in colonial times…”; Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe had been demonised by the British in the interest of their imperial scheme to annex the Kandyan kingdom. To the Anagarika, the last king of Lanka was a noble ruler and human being who was betrayed by traitorous chiefs like Ehelepola disava (as he conceived of them). He “defended Sri Vikrama and implored Sinhala people to model themselves on his life and history….” (ibid.) Gananath says Dharmapala was indulging in ‘hyper-glorification’ of the last king. Perhaps, he was; but that doesn’t invalidate the latter’s assessment of the king, whose non-Sinhala ethnicity did not trouble him. At the same time, I don’t share Gananath’s criticism of Dharmapala’s alleged anti-Christian attitudes.
Dharmapala was, first and foremost, an international Buddhist missionary, and only secondarily, a Sinhala Buddhist national revivalist and social reformer. Sri Lankans (native Ceylonese) were in urgent need of the brave leadership and guidance of such a heroic figure at that time. He excelled in both roles. Anagarika Dharmapala assumed robes as a Buddhist samanera at an advanced age in July 1931, after a very industrious and productive life; he received the upasampada or higher ordination under the name of Ven. Siri Devamitta Dhammapala, hardly four months before his death on April 29, 1933.
As was the standard practice among the well-to-do families in those colonial days, he received a good school education in the English medium. During all of his active life, he mostly used English for communication. More than 75% of his writings were in that language; he spoke English even more frequently in the course of his lifelong missionary work. No religious leader of the time, whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, devoted so much attention as he did to the need for a good modern education for the young that included mastery of languages and science and technology (practical skills).
Anagarika Dharmapala said that he got an insight into Buddhism after reading Sir Edwin Arnold’s poem about the Buddha “Light of Asia” (1879). He treated the latter as his teacher. Arnold received the Anagarika when he visited London. Dharmapala was not an enemy of English or the English people; he was well disposed towards both. But he was a vehement critic and opponent of British imperialism, which though he didn’t challenge politically, as he thought that it was not yet the time for it; he wanted to have favourable relations with the existing imperial government in order that he could get on with his global missionary work without any obstruction. His national endeavour was to lead his people towards freedom from foreign rule through peaceful means, which motivated his work for stimulating social reform and bringing about the moral edification of the masses.
This year marks the 157th birth anniversary of the revered Anagarika Dharmapala, who made an immense contribution towards the restoration of the national dignity and the religious and cultural regeneration of the oppressed Sinhala Buddhists in the heyday of British imperialism in our country. He was born to a wealthy business family in Colombo exactly 157 years ago, that is, on September 17, 1864. The young Don David Hewavitharne, as he was named at birth, despite his strong dislike of British colonialist rule, had a passionate love of English poetry. He particularly liked the poems of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, both assigned by literary critics and historians to the Romantic tradition of English poetry. Ever since he discovered the latter’s ‘Queen Mab’ in a book in his uncle’s library as a schoolboy, it had remained his favourite English poem.
The basis of his admiration of ‘Queen Mab’ is not difficult to find. He said about the poem: “I never ceased …. .to love its lyric indignation against the tyrannies and injustices that man heaps on himself and its passion for individual freedom” (as quoted in ‘Flame in Darkness – the Life and Sayings of Anagarika Dharmapala’ by the English monk Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita, (1980). There is no doubt that this specimen of Shelly’s juvenilia (i.e. works done in his youth) was nevertheless an important source of inspiration for the Anagarika in his life’s work.
What must have appealed to Don David Hewavitharne in ‘Queen Mab’ was obviously more than just the polemical attack it mounts on “the tyrannies and injustices” that humans inflict on fellow humans. The poem embodies many of the radical ideas that Shelley articulated in his works, and some of these such as his atheism, his criticism of meat eating as a cause of vice, and the implicit advocacy of vegetarianism, his idea of death as something not to be feared, his condemnation of political and religious tyranny, his socialist politics, his scientific attitude to human experience and the external world, his belief in the moral perfectibility of humanity, his nonviolence and antipathy towards war, and his vision of social and political change through intellectual transformation are sure to have struck a chord in the great patriot and Buddhist revivalist that the young David later became.
‘Queen Mab’, a book-length poem in nine parts, was written and privately distributed by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) in 1813. It was the poet’s first work of genuine literary merit. His decision to make it available to a select circle suggests the type of audience he wanted to address: the target readers were of the same patrician (aristocratic) background as himself who had the time and the means to get an education, and the leisure to read and enjoy poetry; the mostly illiterate downtrodden masses whose welfare he actually had in mind and who stood to gain most from the revolutionary changes he envisioned were for the most part outside of this circle; the Anagarika belonged to the same higher social class in this country as Shelley did in England.
Structurally, ‘Queen Mab’ is a fairy tale composed in nine cantos (main divisions). A fairy named Queen Mab comes down in her ethereal car to the sleeping Ianthe, a beautiful young maiden. Leaving the girl in her deep slumber the fairy awakens her Soul or Spirit and invites it onboard and transports it to her celestial abode at the uttermost edge of the universe. From that vantage point the Spirit (Ianthe’s Soul) is given a view of the universe stretching below. The fairy promises the Spirit to reveal the state presumably, of humanity’s past and present and the ‘secrets of the future’:
Critics have called this poem a dream vision allegory, a fairy tale, a utopian daydream, a protest- poem etc. The young David Hewavitharne might have identified ‘Queen Mab’ as a protest-poem. In terms of its substance we may call it a philosophical poem as well. In fact, the 1813 title of the poem was ‘Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem with Notes’. Shelley was a ‘philosopher’ among the Romantics in the sense that while treating the usual ‘Romantic’ themes of beauty, passion, power of the imagination, the natural goodness of humanity, political freedom etc which formed their characteristic subject matter, he discovered and articulated causal connections in them with rare precision and clarity. He was unique in this respect among his contemporaries, with the possible exception of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) as critics have pointed out. Reading ‘Queen Mab’ we feel that it qualifies for all the above labels.
Though it is unselfconsciously melodramatic, coldly polemical, and crudely emotive in much of its versification and though he himself seemed years later to have had second thoughts about its estimation as a poem worthy of publishing for public consumption when he came to know that a pirated edition of the poem had appeared in 1821 (which was just a year before his accidental death by drowning), the ‘philosophy’ that he versifies in it is found to be as mature as it ever got in his case (considering the fact that he died at the young age of 30). The poem has even been described as ‘monumental’ by more sympathetic, and in my opinion more rational-minded and more discerning, readers. Obviously, Anagarika Dharmapala was among this group of readers.
Both Shelley and Dharmapala were revolutionaries, though of different moulds. They agitated for liberty and morality in the political and socio-cultural spheres. They had similar views about how to foster social and political reform (though the political aspect was more subdued in the case of Dharmapala than in the case of Shelley, a difference between the two that points to the Anagarika’s realistic, pragmatic approach as opposed to the dream-visionary impracticality of Shelley’s): Shelley believed in the possibility of perfecting humanity by moral means, which forms the nuclear theme of ‘Queen Mab’; the revolution he envisaged appears to be something to be achieved in this way, but not through armed struggle (despite his probable allusion to the French Revolution in his sonnet ‘England in 1819’ suggested.
As socially conscious young men in their different places and times Shelley and Dharmapala had much in common. They shared the same reformist ambitions. Both, born into wealth and privilege, showed an unusual concern for the welfare of the poor and were totally committed to the social uplift and moral refinement of the society including particularly the traditionally oppressed. Shelley’s relentless criticism of authoritarian institutions in his country is explicitly articulated in his sonnet ‘England in 1819’: The state of Shelley’s England is such that the king is “old, mad, blind, despised, and dying”; the princes are “the dregs of their dull race”; the rulers who are unable to see, feel or know, cling like leeches to their country until they “drop, blind in blood, without a blow”; the ordinary English people are “starved and stabbed in the untilled fields”; the army is corrupt and inept; the laws “tempt and slay”; religion is “Christless – Godless – a book sealed”. (Won’t this sound familiar to readers in many countries of the world even today?)
All these (agents of tyrannous evil) “Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may – Burst to illumine our tempestuous day” (This could be interpreted as an allusion to the French Revolution, in which a crucial event was the storming of the ancient fortress of the Bastille and the releasing of the wretched prisoners there in 1789, just three years before his birth). Shelley’s diatribes like these preceded, by about three quarters of a century, the Anagarika’s vehement denunciation of the demoralizing British imperialism in our country. Just as Shelley rebelled (ideologically) against what he condemned as the tyranny of the king, priests and statesmen (‘statesmen’ not in its current dignified sense, but in the sense of mere ‘politicians’), Dharmapala adopted a defiant stance towards the occupying foreigners, errant Buddhist monks, and the Westernized local elite that so slavishly pandered to the interests of the colonial rulers.
But he was not an irrational hater of everything Western. He admired the positive aspects of European culture. He possessed a very good knowledge of the English language, which he used to write and edit many English publications in the pursuance of his Buddhist revivalist propaganda. His love of English poetry was consistent with the cosmopolitan Buddhist attitude towards what is admirable in other cultures. He criticized the tyranny and injustice of European colonialism, but he obviously had a high regard for the Western nations’ scientific and inventive genius. In return, he acted in compassion towards them according to his own religious convictions. He wrote in his “My Life Story” already referred to:
It is time that Buddhists of Asia should give the Dhamma to the people of Europe and America. Buddhism is for the scientifically cultured. The discoveries of modern sciences are a help to understand the sublime Dhamma. The mediaeval theology of ecclesiastical tussle may have satisfied the half-civilized consciousness of pre-scientific Europe and the paganized tribes of Europe of a barbarous age. Today the cultured races of Europe require a scientific psychology showing the greatness of human consciousness. The sublime doctrine of the Lord Buddha is a perfect science based on transcendental wisdom. This Dhamma should be freely given to the European races.
The unacceptable reality of our current domestic and international predicament is exactly what the farsighted Anagarika acted to forestall, against many odds, which limited his success. Paradoxically and quite unfairly, leaders like him are held responsible for our present ethnic problems by some individuals. My opinion is that had Anagarika Dharmapala and other patriots that he inspired not been there in that era and after, our plight today would have been worse.
“Asian elephant conservation: the long road ahead”
by Nilanga Jayasinghe
Asian elephants once ranged from West Asia, through the Indian subcontinent, and all the way north to the Yangtze River in China. Today, there are less than 50,000 wild elephants found in only 13 countries across Asia. Living on the most populous continent on the planet means that Asian elephants face the common threats of habitat loss and resulting human-elephant conflict across their entire range. To prevent further declines, addressing these and other threats are of paramount importance. To further elephant conservation, WWF works in 11 range countries to support human-elephant conflict management, community engagement, elephant population assessments, radio collaring to understand elephant movement, and reducing impacts to elephants from linear infrastructure, among others. Join WWF’s Nilanga Jayasinghe to learn more about the various efforts to support Asian elephant conservation.
Nilanga Jayasinghe is a Manager on the Wildlife Conservation team at WWF, focusing on Asian species, particularly elephants, rhinos, tigers, and snow leopards, among others. She has nearly 20 years of extensive experience in international species conservation and has worked on conservation issues across the board in Asia, Africa, and North America. Her areas of expertise include human-wildlife conflict, Asian elephants, strategic planning, connectivity conservation, protected area management, capacity building, and technological applications for wildlife conservation. She is a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) and the Asian Rhino Specialist Group (AsRSG) under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC), and a member of the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group under the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas. In her role, Nilanga works with WWF field teams and partners in more than 15 countries in Asia to further conservation efforts on the ground for WWF’s priority flagship species. She provides technical support for species conservation and management efforts and mobilizes resources to accomplish conservation activities. In addition, she works with global partners to develop and implement initiatives that harmonize species conservation with broader conservation goals.
NTB WNPS Public Lecture is presented in association with Nations Trust Bank and open to all. Please sign up here https://forms.gle/WoHurA2n2465k6Y76
Cabraal says Central Bank will guide markets
Anagarika Dharmapala: Admirer of ‘Queen Mab’
Sins of Fathers and Comrades
7-billion-rupee diamond heist; Madush splls the beans before being shot
The Burghers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka- Reminiscences and Anecdotes
Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans
news5 days ago
Private member’s Bill deemed unconstitutional:Tissa says he only complied with ‘Bills Office’ request
Features7 days ago
Ivermectin – A possible win-win situation
Opinion3 days ago
Ivermectin and Covid: no time to lose and lives to save
news7 days ago
Govt. urged to stop foreign scholarships awarded on basis of ethnicity
news5 days ago
‘War crimes’: Lanka rejects fresh probe
Features6 days ago
Commodifying ‘Discipline’ and Militarising Education
news6 days ago
UN goes ahead with fresh probe, seeks funding for project
Features5 days ago
SLFP – What fate awaits it