by Kumar David
It has been a constant if annoying refrain of this column that there are powerful class, political, military, cultural and racial-religious forces pushing Lanka in the direction of an autocratic state. Up to now I have taken pains to delineate the factors encouraging autocracy while neglecting those impeding it. This was for reasons of electoral exigency – the country has had two elections on its hands and theoretical nuances needed to be set aside so as not to cloud practical urgencies. I will now depart from this constraint and discuss both push and pull pressures. This essay is going to be controversial but if it evokes healthy debate and provokes constructive comment it is worth the risk.
Let us not fool ourselves, the call for discipline, strong government and a no-nonsense autocrat at the helm has been widespread and gained further ground during the Gota presidency. Regarding COVID-19, confronted with the choice between biological survival and economic benefit Gota made the right choice. Hence his popularity is not limited to power hungry military-brass, slavish media, crooked and obnoxious SLPP politicos who spotted a messiah to pull their nuts out of the fire, and Viythmaga-Yukthiya upstart professionals seeking sinecures. No, it is more widespread. Autocracy-philia spread like a pandemic and penetrated the public mind as a Gota love-in; the abstract concept found personal incarnation. Over 70% of Sinhala-Buddhists and more than a usual number of Eastern Province and Vanni Tamils and Muslims voted for pro-Gota tickets.
A critical feature of this process that I will comment on anon is the emerging relationship between the Buddhist clergy and the hardening autocratic process. I am by no means convinced that the monks will one and all adapt to it. The history of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka has been rebellious. It did not get on well with Kasyapa and has a record of obstinate opposition to all colonial rulers. The conflict between the Abhayagiriya and the Maha Vihara in the 12th century is not at all similar to the current imbroglio but it does show that transformative political events profoundly disrupt the clergy. More on this anon.
Sleaze has been widely commented on so I can keep my harangue brief and pithy. The elections have proved that the public has no interest, absolutely none, in choosing parliamentarians of financial integrity with a proven work ethic. Please let this sink in! It is criminals, rogues and buffoons that are the squad of choice. Twenty to thirty such MPs are government, a few are SJB. All meet at least one, often more than one of the following criteria: murderer on death row; alleged murder; arrested, remanded and/or indicted for theft in some cases of tens of millions of rupees; criminal breach of trust; passport forgery; abuse of state property and vehicles; unlawful use of firearms; assault, making false statements to the authorities (police or courts), and on and on. Write-ups and a rogues-gallery of some photos is in Sunday Times 9 August in a piece by Namini Wijedasa; a fuller list can fill a page. Gota’s Cabinet includes about ten clean and competent choices but also ten others are publicly named and freely identified as “hora, jathivadhaya or buruwa”. The inclusion of so much muck in the Cabinet undermines Gota’s “I will set up a clean and competent administration” message.
On the obverse side of this ugly story is the tragedy that among the defeated MPs were those ranked among the best by Vertite Research an independent agency, say Sunil Handunetti and Nalinda Jayatissa. Other upright ones too were voted out to make room for scoundrels. I need to make it clear that I am not here discussing the moral debasement of the voting public, though that is horrific. My concern relates to the topic of this essay, the swing to autocracy. Why do people have so little concern for the quality of their MPs? Because their greatest desire is that the Rajapaksas wield supreme power. There is empathy between the cultural character of the people (mainly but not only the Sinhalese) and Rajapaksa mystique. What the Rajapaksas evoke is what Lanka is. It is simplistic to reckon that war victory still enamours Gota to the masses. No, it’s a deeper psyche than that; the Sinhala masses gel with what the Rajapaksas symbolise; what the Rajapaksa phenomenon emanates is what our polity breathes. This will not reverse until the economy collapses; at least till then Rajapaksa state power stands secure.
The UNP was wiped out and Sajith defeated not because of yahapalana’s ineptitude or the bond-scam. There are far bigger and bolder rogues per square centimetre in the SLPP than the UNP or Sajith’s outfit. Nor can the defeat be explained by the split, hugely biased media coverage, campaign restrictions due to the pandemic or the larger turn out of saffron for the Rajapaksas than for Sajith or Ranil. These things mattered but they were not decisive. Even if Sajith and Ranil did not tear out each other’s jugulars, even without the bond-scam, with better media coverage and more saffron robes on stage, still there would have been a huge swing to MR-GR because Sri Lanka psychologically wanted it. Pissu-Sira, had he been on an SJB or UNP ticket would have lost his deposit, shirt and underpants, but on the Rajapaksa bandwagon he romped home with more than 100,000 votes. This proves my message better than words. This is the truth; it is an ugly truth and we are stuck with this ugly truth.
The seamless blending of Gotabhaya mystique into Sinhala consciousness, this symbiosis of the personal with political culture, this choreography of the drama, is what brings the masses into line with an experiment in autocracy. He is the strong man who Asgiriya hailed as an Asian Hitler. The motto of the government going forward will be Gotabhaya adoration more than Sinhala-Buddhism. Hold it! What was that, what did I say? No, no, I don’t think it will be that simple because if Gotaism seeks to supplant Buddhism as the nation’s hegemonic faith much of the clergy will revolt. But you see the point is that autocracy needs an autocrat and an autocrat is built by a paraphernalia of mythologies about the Great Leader, the Helmsman, the Saviour. It is not possible to create an autocratic state without a great autocrat at the helm and that is not possible without an “overdetermining” ideological creed to prop up the Great One. Stop for a moment and consider – Tiberius was deified, Napoleon crowned, Mussolini glorified, Peron hyped and Stalin mummified!
A Gotabaya autocracy too will need the mythology of an overweening nation-wide Gota cult, but precisely this will be in tension with the “leading role of Buddhism.”. Signals of alarm at Gota glory’s overreach can already be detected in the saffron-set. Maybe instead of provoking an indomitable foe the proponents of autocracy may reduce the scope of their project and tone down their cult. For this and other reasons – this is one of the controversial hypotheses in this essay – there is a possibility that Gota and his inner coterie may think it tactically wise to retreat a little on their authoritarian mission.
On the political side an agent that may stall the project is class opposition, especially the working class in the state sector. Take the East Container Terminal slated for joint development with India. Assume for argument’s sake that it is a good joint-venture and assume also that far-reaching commitments have already been made to India. On the other side trade union hostility is implacable – the deal the unions struck with Mahinda only bought time. A second example: While in opposition and during the runup to this election the SLPP hyped the notion that the MCC was a sell-out to imperialism; the usual crap at the hustings. Now by hook or by crook GR-MR salivate for the $480 million. But the dogs they unleashed will turn around to bite. There are other examples of how a GR-MR autocratic project may come in conflict with radicals and unions. What will the state do; take the guns out of the armoury? No one can be sure. That’s why you call these scenarios “Known Unknowns”. The point is this, while a non-autocratic state can climb down, autocracy cannot without eroding its own credibility.
Everybody says “The economy will be the government’s and a would-be autocrat’s undoing” so I can be as brief semi-quaver. Using a broad-brush approach there are three crises; foreign debt servicing, fiscal deficit and third employment. I look at each in relation to what it has in store for the GR-MR outfit over the next one or two years. Dollar debt servicing over the next 12 months (not six, that’s the first course) threatens the very existence of the government, but it is also what it may be able to get around. Yes, we have to find some $4 billion before the end of the year and a like amount next year. If we default the rupee will crash, in that event the Sri Lanka foreign bond yield (effective dollar interest rate) will rocket to .20%, 30% . . . I dread. But the Rajapaksa siblings (all four) will beg, bow, plead and weep for a moratorium on repayments, new loans, enter into SWAP deals, IMF grants and throw themselves at the mercy of Father Confucius, Uncle Sam and Mother India. These gentle worthies will not let us sink; each for his own reasons does not want bedlam in this island. The conditions imposed may be tough, the belt tightened, but in the words of the hymn “We shall be Saved” before we drown in helpless hopeless default.
On the other two concerns – fiscal deficit and employment – I am not whistling so happily in this dark night. I can’t see a way out that does not provoke mass unrest and chaos on the streets. I predict that the deficit will stay for years. Expenditure will exceed revenue by10% of GDP in 2020; countries reaching 15 to 20% are called basket-cases. Lowering expenditure means reducing welfare (Samurdi etc), cutting wages, “labour market reforms” (euphemism for easy firing, reducing wages and employer friendly labour laws), and cutting spending on health, education and subsidies. Forget it, it can’t be done unless Gota’s Brigades are prepared to spray grape-shot in the streets. Raising revenue implies enhanced economic activity, steeper taxes on the rich and higher sales taxes – on all counts, dream on!
Economists are those queer chaps who sonorously, and in all seriousness, tell you that if your lovely old aunty had balls she could become your respected uncle. Their chorus right now is “Export, export, sadhu, sadhu, export”. How the devil to dramatically raise exports within a year or two in the midst of a global downturn, a turning inward to the domestic economy in the US and even Europe and when some 60% of the value of our manufactured exports are imported raw materials and machinery? Yes we must look outwards and integrate more, not less, with global partners but since the focus of this essay is short-term political prospects, I conclude with the comment that prospects are bleak. Furthermore. the deficit in the balance of payments will exceed $3 billion in 2020 and 2021 – everyone knows why; I don’t need to elaborate. So it will be hard going for any guns and thunder regime.
To dwell at similar length on the bleak employment outlook would need several more paragraphs. Autocracy and constitutional reform is a topic all of itself. This essay has been an analysis of “What Is” it has not touched on “What Is to be Done”, another huge topic. Editors like imams are frugal about column inches so I have to cut it short and stop the flow midstream despite my enlarged prostate.
Ranjan loses the People’s Crown
Last week it was Avurudu Thel Keliya. Now we have come to Ranjan Keliya.
SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake has been removed from Parliament, in what is said to be in keeping with the decision of the Court of Appeal, to reject his application against the Supreme Court order sentencing him to four years of imprisonment for Contempt of court.
A parliament, of which Ranjan was a most active and spoken member, has shown its overall failure to deal with an issue that affects the rights of all citizens. The mockery of it all is to have a parliament where a person found guilty of murder and imprisoned by a court order is allowed to be a member of the House, but a person guilty of contempt of Court, who has not injured or killed anyone, is removed from it.
With all due respect and honour to the judiciary, one must begin to look at the entire thinking and process of charging people for and punishing them for contempt of Court.
In the present parliamentary situation, with all the power that the President and the government have with a two-thirds plus majority, the future Independence of the Judiciary is certainly in question.
If Ramanayake has committed contempt of Court, he is now the player in calling for a change of our legislation on Contempt of Court. Is it truly wrong to criticise a member/or members of the judiciary; are they above the law; what is the practice and trend on this in other democracies?
It is time our Members of Parliament, the Bar Association and organizations of Civil Society made deep study of this entire issue, and moved to prevent the right of free speech being incorrectly restricted. We must look at how Contempt of Court is considered legally in the UK, from where we got this.
How is Contempt of court handled by the Courts of India, our closest neighbour and next to us in years of democracy? How is this issue handled in other democracies too such as France and Germany, and even the US?
The Ranjan Keliya has certainly brought us to realising the Contempt for Democracy that prevails, and is being expanded in Sri Lanka. This contempt is the reality of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and the prevailing show of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Saubhagye Dekma”. Changing our laws on Contempt of Court to make them modern and democratic will be the real crowning of Ramanayake.
Beauty Queen crowns
We have now come to the Ru Rajina Otunu Keliya too. The story of the crown being grabbed from the new Mrs Sri Lanka has spread in the international media.
There was a lovely piece of social media, where Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is showing her joy at getting rid of Sri Lanka from the royalty domain as far back as 1948, as otherwise there would have been moves to grab her crown, too.
Mrs Sri Lanka or Mr. World is certainly not of much interest to us who are facing much bigger problems than the ownership of beauty crowns. Yet, the issue of a Mrs Sri Lanka or Mrs World having to be married does raise many issues today. Are the organizers of the global event thinking of temporary or shaky marriages, or those that last through decades and more, with a commitment to each other?
Can a person, who is undergoing the process of a divorce in a court of law, one who wants to leave a marriage through the law, be one who is really married? The very concept of marriage has undergone many changes in recent decades. Should these realities not be accepted by the organisers of these events?
Why not have a rule that a contestant for Mrs (Country) or Mrs World, should be married several times – as is fast becoming a reality in the west, and countries that are following such traditions.
We will certainly have candidates seeking the crown if a few or many marriages are a condition. It will also show a genuine interest in the promotion of marriages, without confining it to just a single marriage, even with a pending divorce.
We can then have a Mrs World, with a show of strength to those with achievements of more than one, or several marriages.
The “Vivahaka Ru Rajina” will then be a “Boho Vivahaka Ru Rajina”.
The current Mrs World, Caroline Jurie, who was the key crown remover in this show of crooked farce, and a model who helped her, are now facing action in the courts.
Marriage or not is certainly an issue for Miss or Mrs Sri Lanka. A winner of the very early Mrs Sri Lanka events had earlier contested a Miss Sri Lanka, while being married. If she had not lost the contest, we would have seen loud calls for her crown to be removed. The senior ladies who played a big role in this Mrs. Sri Lanka event, certainly reminded us of such past records.
Let the crown be with the people, whether married or not. The rising call is for the Janatha Kirula, against a Pol Thel or Seeni Vancha Kirula of the Abhagye Dekma.
A Pervasive Threat to Biodiversity and Human Security
By Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
Continued from yesterday
According to Prof. Wijesundara, in 1994, a multinational company, W.R. Grace and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were granted a patent by the European Patent Office (EPO) “Covering a (special) method for controlling fungi on plants by the aid of a hydrophobic extracted neem oil” that is diluted with a certain percentage of water was withdrawn in 2000. Lot of concern after 10-year battle, some patents on neem were squashed some still prevail. There are 65 patents so far only for neem. According to Prof. Kotagama, a US company wanted to produce insecticide from neem. They came with Azadariktin as a product. They obtain the patenting required to use and own neem. There is a law that if you are contesting patenting right it has to be in the country it is registered at. So the neem battle has to be fought in the US. With lot of money and help from the NGOs and help along with the Indian government they fought against this patenting. The company contested that they did not bring neem from Asia or India, they brought it from Africa because it grows in Africa. But it was identified that the seeds that had gone to Kenya had been coming from Sri Lanka according to the Registers of the forest department records from Sri Lank. Based on that evidence the patent was revoked. The neem campaign was consisting of a group of NGOs and individuals was initiated in 1993 in India. This was done to mobilize worldwide support to protect indigenous knowledge systems and resources of the Third World from piracy by the west particularly in light of emerging threats from intellectual property rights regimes under WTO and TRIPS. Neem patent became the first case to challenge European and US patents on the grounds of biopiracy.
Basmati Rice patent case is another instance bio-piracy was reversed. Prof. Kotagama remarked that it is known as the India – US Basmati Rice Dispute (Case number 493, Case Menemonic – Basmati; Patent number – US 5663484A, publication). A US company registered a new hybrid variety of Basmati. India and Pakistan got together and they fought using media, using negative advertisement and they squashed American variety of Basmati) proving ‘Texmati’ was not Basmati.
According to Prof. Sarath Kotagama, an Indian Ecologist, Vandana Shiva has said ‘bio-piracy deprives us in three ways: It creates a false claim to novelty and invention, even though the knowledge has evolved since ancient times as part of the collective and intellectual heritage of India”. Secondly “it divests scarce biological resources to monopoly control of corporations thus depriving local communities the benefits of its use” and thirdly “it creates market monopolies and excludes the original innovators (farmers) from their rightful share to local, national and global markets”. She fought a lot for the biodiversity conservation in India and a well-respected ecologist in India who also had to do much with the fight against Neem, Basmati and Turmeric.
There are similar cases where patents were revoked: Kava Kava from Fiji and Vanuatu; Quinoa from Andes; Banaba and other medical plantys from Philippines; Bitter gourd from Sri Lanka and Thailan; Ilang-Ilang from Philippines and Periwinkle from Madagascar, highlighted Prof. Wijesundara.
In 1989 bioprospecting started with the Institute of Biology established in Costa Rica purely for this purpose. It was the idea to do research on rainforests, animals and plants in Costa Rica and give the ownership to the country if something was discovered. However, this institute was dissolved in 2015 in Costa Rica. According to Prof. Kotagama, the institute still exists with the idea surveys on the resources of rainforests and commercialization of the products will be done for the benefit of Costs Rica. Prof. Kotagama highlighted why bio-piracy needs to be also understood in legal jargon. In the research paper “Bio piracy and its impact on Biodiversity: A Special review on Sri Lankan context” (Kusal Kavinda Amarasinghe), it has mentioned that 34 plants and animals have been taken out of Sri Lanka and Indian subcontinent and patent obtained for biological constituents already. According to Prof. Kotagama, Naja naja naja (Cobra) is an endemic spices in Sri Lanka and still it has lost the control from the country and others are using the species to derive benefits. Prof. Kotagama also highlighted that while there is so much indifference, there is so much consorted efforts to prevent bio-piracy and bio-theft in the countries like the Philippine, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Nepal who have strengthen the situation and have increased regulations and continue strict border control measures.
Illegal Trafficking and Bio-Piracy
According to Prof. Siril Wijesundara, illegal trafficking is also directly linked to bio-piracy and theft. One of the ways that can prevent bio-piracy is through detecting illegal trafficking of various types of endemic and endangered plants and animals. Most common plant species affected by illegal trafficking in Sri Lanka at present are Gyrinops Walla Walla patta, Salacia reticulate Kothala Himbutiand Santalum album naturalized sandhun. Sri Lanka Customs have detected many instances of illegal trafficking. Target destination varies from India, Dubai, Pakistan, Australia, and China. The most popular destination for Kothala Himbotu today is China.
Another classic example of trafficking of plants is by misleading the authorities. Prof. Wijesundara highlighted that a plant called Kekatiya (Aponogeton crispus) were exported in large quantities under the name Aponogeton ulvaceus, a plant native to Madagascar. However, Prof. Siril Wijesuriya mentioned that during his tenure at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, he managed to test this plant and discovered it is a different plant from the one in Madagascar. After this discovery, this Sri Lankan variety of the plant (Kekatiya) was prohibited from being exported and necessary action were taken to a point where the company went out of business.
Importance of Utilizing the Chemical Compounds in the Medicinal Plants
Prof. Veranja Karunarathne highlighted the popularity among the people now for medicinal plants. That is because the Medicinal properties and compounds that are useful found in the medicinal plants. Natural products are made out of these compounds. According to him, the use of medicinal plants go over for 5000 years ago. Probably we have used medicinal plants since existence.
According to Prof. Veranja Karunarathne, the medicinal plants are being used in traditional medicinal systems popular in Sri Lanka such as Ayurveda, Deishiya Chikithsa, Siddha and Unani. Siddha and Unani don’t use much of the plants necessarily and have much to do with involving plants. In different medicinal systems, over 2500 plants are being used in Sri Lanka. These are being used for disease curing and ailments in traditional medicine practices. In the Western medicine sense, it is one compound for one disease. In Ayurveda and indigenous system, it is many compounds for one disease many compounds curing one disease. Pollypahrmachology is accepted in the indigenous system. These aspects of pollypahrmachology in traditional medicine are becoming valuable. If we take asprin that cures heart disease, it is isolated from Villon plant. Quinine that is used in Malaria prevention is isolated from cinchona plant. That is the practice of the Western medicine. Prof. Veranja Karunarathne says that if we look at plant evolution, it is evident that the plants didn’t intend to cure diseases. This evolution of the plants happened by co-evolving with the insects. It never intended to cure diseases for humans. In 1915, the Western medicine avoided using plants due to various issues including intellectual property matters and since plants are very difficult thing to manage. However, they have come back discovering medicine from plants. That is why co-evolution is important. Diversity of functional group of plants is important. Diversity of use of plants cannot be matched with the evolution of the plants.
From Kothala Himbotu, an endemic plant in Sri Lanka, water soluble anti diabetic compounds were found by Japanese scientist. There are over 50 patents for Kothala Himbotu plant. Sri Lanka has only one patent which was a discovery of a Sri Lankan team. As a Chemist who worked on the kothala himbotu plant and tried to find the chemical compounds, Prof. Karunarathne felt humiliated when Japanese scientists found that water based compound in the kothala himbotu plant. He used a Sri Lankan source and worked on a zeroing from Sri Lankan lichen, patented at the US patent office the, lichen called ziorine that can be used on cancer patients. Sri Lankan government dealing legally with bio-piracy is when they intervened to stop exporting Kothala Himbotu plant in bulk that is being used for anti-diabetic drug. For anti-diabetic drug creation some sections of the plant are still being exported, but in small quantities.
In the meantime, there is also bogus bio-piracy. An undergraduate student of University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka found out that Clarins skin care product in France is using Hortinia floribanda that is endemic to Sri Lanka.
In their website it was mentioned that this plant is being used to improve the skin tone. When studied their website, closely, they found that they are using plants found in amazon and plant found in Europe during winter. After finding the endemic Sri Lankan plant do not contribute to any skin tone improvement and when the research was published in National Science Foundation journal, the skin care production company removed the name of the plant from their website. This is an instance where bogus bio-piracy is being taken place and that it too needs to fight and that even an average Chemist can make a difference, said Prof. Varanja Karunarathne.
According to Prof. Varanja Karunarathne, there are about 3000 odd plants endemic to Sri Lanka, out of the total flowering plants, 2000 are endemic. Because of this density and diversity, UNESCO named Sri Lanka as a biodiversity hotspot. 1300 of these plants are in the Red book of endangered plants of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the value of the plant is only the timber value. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka value plants in Sri Lanka only for its timber value which is a drawback. The government needs to fund for projects that study the chemistry of these plants, government never have done such in that greater scale. The chemists would want be able to study the chemistry inside the plant, the knowledge inside the plant. It is important to lobby to find the chemicals of these plants that are endangered to Sri Lanka. This means conserving the knowledge inside the plant is much more than just evaluating its value for timber. There is a far greater use of the plant than just the timber value.
During the discussion, Mr. Lakshman Gunasekara highlighted the importance of getting media involved along with the Scientists to intervene in promoting knowledge, education and awareness about bio-piracy and possible ways of counter-fighting it. He said that unlike in the past, mass communication can bring this issue to a different level. In this regard the scientific community needs to intervene in order for the media community to get activated. However, Prof. Siril Wijesundara made a remark that media is always working with political agendas, but Scientists are not and they cannot do so. Therefore, it is important, media step aside from political agendas and look at this issue apolitically.
Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri highlighted the colonial dimension of bio-piracy. With the involvement of government in bio-piracy and the inclusion of concept of government and empire –building bio-politics came into being. In empire building, establishing the political centre outside the location of the centre was important. Same is true to colonialism which was more than traditional Empire building exercise. It was new kind of administration, where there was capturing a grip on the land and space, fauna and flora. It was rather “governmentalization” which has multiple dimension. According to him, in that sense, colonialism is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is not more colonialism now; it is a new process. This is very much part of the enlightenment project at the time. It was governed by knowledge. Accumulation of information of social and natural environment became a new kind of project. The new political challenge is also this.
Prof. Nalani Hennayake highlighted the fact that how in terms of conservation and information sharing India came out with digital library registered with patent offices in the inventories library in the United States, while Sri Lanka has our own Red Book of inventory. She further highlighted the fact that countries like Sri Lanka having enough laws that needs immediate activation. Monopolizing the ownership needs to end and commercializing our plants needs to happen according to the Fauna and Flora Act in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka said no to digital register of plants in 1994 and we need to rethink such decisions mentioned the discussants.
In his concluding remarks, Prof. Veranja Karunarathne said that at present, other people are working on synthetic biology, combination of chemistry, biology and genomics, creating biosynthetic pathway of genes. Genes are mass produced in genomic mass factories which is controlled exploitation of bio wealth. That is where the world is heading and he says Sri Lanka needs to value the conserved knowledge inside the plant and explore the immense possibilities that the plants are presenting. Concluded
Acknowledged (only?) Statesman speaks out; so do a few others
The editor of The Sunday Island (April 4), mentions in his succinctly titled editorial – Down the pallang with no end in sight – this statesman. He speaks of Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha’s successful manouevre to curtail the power of the Rajapaksas and President Mahinda R’s attempt to go in for a third term of his presidency in 2014. Thus, the editor writes: “It is in this context that the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) that Ven Sobitha founded now led by respected elder statesman Karu Jayasuariya ….” The organisation is seeking to push the rulers on to a correction course. It seeks to project an apolitical stance and denies subversive interest. “The 20th Amendment that abolished the 19th has thrown the baby with the bathwater….” Cassandra adds – and we are drowning in the waters; floundering in fear and surrounded by sharks of the sugar and oil scams; also those who are still destroying our natural resources.
Karu wise plus experienced and apolitical
The same paper published on page 3 excerpts of what the Chairman NMSJ – Karu Jayasurirya – said at a press conference at Janaki Hotel Colombo, on April 2. His considered warning was ‘Don’t fiddle like Nero as the country plunges into a precipice.’ A due warning of rather mixed metaphors. Cass would have preferred … ‘as the country burns’, but plunging into a precipice is really more catastrophic and that, says many, is what is happening to this wonderful land of ours. We should all read and reread what Karu J had to say; we should analyse and see whether he was correct and then in our own small way try to obtain a change of course. The principle consideration is that Karu Jayasuriya speaks apolitically here as an elder statesman who has been both in politics and the private sector and knows full well what he is speaking about. If you want definite credentials on his ability and sincerity, recollect how he acted as Speaker of Parliament when the then Prez, Maitripala Sirisena stole the government from its elected members of Parliament and handed it over to his dire enemy of yesteryear, now befriended buddy – Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coyotes to govern the land. PM Ranil W with loyalists holed themselves at Temple Trees and bided their time. Karu J faced a battery of assaults: vulgarly vocal, totally injurious thrown bound volumes and deadly chilli powder mixed with water. He braved it all; took his rightful seat and gave judgment that restored order from utter chaos.
He is one politician whom Cass and so many others rooted for. Now he is out of party politics but fighting for the very survival of the nation of free Sri Lanka.
Voices should be listened to
At the recent meeting of people to solve their problems and bring succour to them, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa somewhat belittled protestors attempting to save our forest cover. Cass heard him on TV news on Saturday April 3 speaking about people accusing a previous government of running white vans, threatening journalists etc and now it is environmental groups that are out against the new government and him. No, they and we are against those who cut trees, deforest the land, sand mine ruthlessly and of course make money on horrible scams and seem to get away scot free, not even paying to government coffers billions garnered illegally.
He, government Ministers and MPs, and relevant administrators should all listen to the call of even a single concerned person, and know they are calling out completely altruistically with no political biases. One such is Padmini Nanayakkara of Colombo 3 who cries out (we imagine in horror) Reservoirs in Sinharaja? in the Sunday Island of April 4. She starts her letter to the editor with this: “Have we an enemy within or has a foreign force taken over Sri Lanka? I can’t imagine any Lankan contributing to an idea as bizarre as building reservoirs in Sinharaja.”
The editor referring to the pronouncement made loud and clear by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa about building two reservoirs in Sinharaja as if it were a foregone construction plan; writes thus: “A minister from the ruling family outrageously declares that two reservoirs will be built in the Sinharaja reserve to provide water for their pocket borough, He promises to plant 150 acres elsewhere to compensate saying that rubber will be planted to give people an income”. The editor dubs it a “madcap project” (cheers!!). Plenty water could be tapped downstream of rivers flowing near Hambantota; and this for people and not to keep watered vanity projects like cricket stadiums.
Semicentennial of a terrible uprising
I speak here of the JVP uprising of 1971 which has been written about with Jayantha Somasunderam from Canberra detailing it meticulously with copious references. Cass has been typically Sri Lankan in that she had forgotten about those days of fifty years ago which she refuses to term either jubilee or never golden anniversary. The Editor/The Island introduced a new word – quinquagenary – a tongue twister but pins down the number five. Whatever its now earned name, it was a brutal and absolutely purposeless shedding of young blood: blood of youth by the government and killing of police and causing utter chaos by the newly marshaled JVP under Rohana Wijeweera. They were disciplined and dedicated to a cause then. Incidentally, his grown son was shown on TV news a few days ago. A misunderstood message to attack police stations, conveyed via radio annonced obituary notices, saved the country because the attack was so deadly, power over the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike could have been gained. The second JVP uprising was deadlier as it was minus principles and all restraint. Again the rivers flowed with young Sinhala blood. The 1971 insurrection was short lived and we who cowered, emerged to usual routines fairly soon. Not the 1ate 1980s uprising. It created widespread fear psychoses; complete mayhem from hospitals, schools and offices to thé kadés. Universities were closed for two years and thus a considerable exodus of young students to universities overseas. We lost many of our teenaged children and the country – brains and ability.
May such never happen again is our earnest prayer. The young seem to have imbibed or decided to work through principles. Consider the recent protests against environmental degradation, particularly denudation of forests. They were all peaceful and intelligently carried out, and acknowledged as such, and the message they carried should certainly have been given an ear to by the President, PM and Ministers in charge of relevant subject areas. Perhaps it was peaceful marches and speeches and placards because the aim was altruistic – benefit for the entire country and not for self.
Beauty gone batty?
The public fracas of excessively groomed and dressed up beauties at the recent Mrs Sri Lanka finals was shockingly disgraceful. It confirmed to Cass that even the slightest mix-up or argument in this land of ours very soon escalates to a debacle, often accompanied by violence. But in this incident, there wasn’t even a whimper of argument. We witnessed how last year’s Mrs S L – Her Mightiness Caroline Jurie – crowned, de-crowned and re-crowned Pushpika de Silva. The latter’s hair was pulled, since the crown was rudely pulled off her by Her Mightiness and another, but unless it had long sharp spikes it could not have injured the stunned winner’s head. And all because of a heard rumour at the moment of crowning. Cass spits out: How dare Caroline Jurie take judgment to her tearing hands when a panel had discussed, gone into details and decided on the winner; the panel including herself! Cass comments the glass slipper gifted to Cinderella Caroline a year ago seems to be a misfit now; her feet swollen to match her head.
Back to the ordinary: Cassandra wishes all her readers a family oriented Aluth Avuruddha, with safety precautions vigilantly observed against infection given first priority. Much should be sacrificed to prevent the deadly third wave of Covid 19.
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