Gotabaya’s soliloquy before a sea of troubles
By Rohana R. Wasala
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
The initial two-year period of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential term has been largely wasted through no fault of his. The general public know this truth. At the beginning, the MPs of the overwhelmingly rejected yahapalanaya, instead of assisting the then minority SLPP government, formed after his election in November 2019, threw a spanner in the works by refusing to pass the ad hoc Appropriation Bill for securing the funds needed for conducting normal civil administration until a new Parliament was elected. I for one don’t think that the voting public have forgotten how the failed yahapalanites spurned the clearly expressed public will, on that occasion, and tried to scuttle the progress of the fledgeling government in order to get the parliamentary elections indefinitely postponed so that their own electoral prospects would brighten as the government’s would proportionately darken due to its inability to function freely. When the unexpected global corona pandemic hit Sri Lanka, soon after his inauguration, President Gotabaya was able to contain it with the assistance of the dedicated health and security personnel. But now, the government is floundering in a sea of troubles, principally due to decisions made for him by advisors who are after goals, contrary to his Vision of Prosperity.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was reported as having said the following at a ceremony to mark the Sri Lanka National Science Day and Science Week, in parallel with the World Science Day, held at Temple Trees, on November 10, 2021. To me, it appeared that, while making these remarks, he was not addressing them to the people sitting in front of him, on that occasion; but rather, he was soliloquising in the imagined hearing of the people who elected him as President:
“It was because of the failure of five years of (Yahapalanaya) that I was elected to this post. But they (the Opposition) speak as if nothing happened during the past two years, under my rule.
“To change this system, people ought not to bring back into power the old group, if they fail to deliver what you expect of them, be it me, ministers of my government, or MPs. Look for new ones. I don’t know how to do that, though. If we do something good, it is necessary for everyone to cooperate for the sake of the country. That is the duty of the Opposition. We don’t have enough funds to invest in development. We need to bring in foreign investment. A country like ours cannot do without foreign direct investment. We don’t have enough resources. We cannot achieve any progress unless we do these investments.
“We had to adjust to a new normal as a result of the Covid pandemic. It’s shameful that when a new normal is announced, they go on demonstrations or hold meetings. Is this what is needed under a new normal? This will lead to a new outbreak of the pandemic. Then we’ll have to close the schools again, and the country, too. Even the Opposition should think about these things.”
(The above is my free translation of the President’s words.)
I see this as an obviously unintended dramatic soliloquy in which the President reiterates by implication his sincere commitment to the pledges he has given to the public. What he almost literally says is that he won’t try to get elected to power again, if rejected, in case he fails to deliver the promised results like the previous unsuccessful yahapalana government. Detractors read the president’s words as a confession of guilt for having (allegedly) misled the public by offering false promises or as an admission of failure. In my opinion, both interpretations are baseless, considering the constitutional roadblocks placed on the path to recovery by the yahapalana, dominated Parliament, just before its dissolution by the newly elected President, and the severity of the economic issues resulting from the global corona pandemic. Whatever is happening now, the country owes the brightening prospects of the arrival of a younger, less self-centered generation of rulers to the achievements, as well as the defects of the shared leadership of the two brothers Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa. The ouster of the latter in 2015, in spite of his successful performance during his two terms, was facilitated by his own lapses as a politician and a person which, being so well known by now, need no elaboration. Those deficiencies are even more brazenly in evidence than ever before.
President Gotabaya’s problem is not a straightforward existential dilemma of ‘to be, or not to be’ that racked young prince Hamlet’s brain. It is definitely less life threatening or less fateful than the latter’s uncertainty. Gotabaya’s concern, instead, seems to be more mundane: it is about whether to maintain the illusion of the macho image of himself that the success of his performance as Defence Secretary, during his brother Mahinda’s presidency (2005-15) persuaded his admirers to conjure up in their minds; or whether to betray his feet of clay by reversing the earlier, apparently ironclad, policy decisions that he committed himself to under different circumstances. Relaxing, where necessary, his personally preferred military rigidness, in my opinion, is the need of the hour. Real or perceived lack of flexibility in the current situation (barring instances where leniency is not possible such as drug busting operations) is likely to wrack the boat that circumstances have made it his lot to skipper.
On an earlier occasion (opening of the new Kelani Bridge, November 6, 2021), president Gotabaya expressed his determination to fulfill the pledges stated in the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour manifesto. He described in some detail what the government had achieved amidst numerous odds stacked against it especially due to the unprecedented and unrecognised corona pandemic that dealt a severe blow on the country’s economy. These achievements were deliberately ignored by the Opposition, whose policies, when in power, led to a critical downturn in the economy. He stressed that he worked according to a plan, from which he would not deviate, come what may. He also said he was capable of forcing the cultivators to use organic fertiliser as through military coercion, though that is something he would never apply; he would never violate the country’s democracy for any reason.
Actually, there never could be any resistance to the ban on chemical fertiliser on the part of the poor farmers who are vulnerable to kidney disease due to drinking water contamination caused by chemicals, provided that an effective organic substitute is made available. However, this is not the time to introduce a total ban, in view of the looming food scarcity predicted by experts. A drop in crop productivity, during the switchover, is inevitable. It will affect not only rice production, but vegetables, tea, coconut, etc. I for one feel that, at least a large enough proportion of fertiliser provided should be of the accustomed chemical origin. Or the chemical fertiliser use could be subjected to a scientifically calculated phasing out period of gradual elimination involving the application of more and more organic with less and less chemical fertiliser, particularly for food crops. Priority must be given to production of food for domestic consumption, though producing organically grown food for export could be more profitable in terms of foreign exchange earnings. In any case, the organic food production industry must be rescued from the reigning mafiosi. People will not blame the President if he turns his hawk’s eye on them and the emerging criminals who trade in soil and rubble mixed with chemicals, claiming that it is organic fertiliser, and hangs one or two as a warning to others who may be thinking of following their example.
Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May
by Nanda Pethiyagoda
The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.
The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.
This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.
His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.
A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.
The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.
More information could be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.
It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.
He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.
We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.
The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.
One of best development administrators SL ever had
Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.
During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.
Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.
The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.
KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.
In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.
After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.
Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.
It was not Central Bank bond scam
I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?
There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’? It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.) The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.
As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.
Scientists discover water inside tiny beads of glass on moon
Three children, three adults killed in Nashville school shooting
Showers in Western, Sabaragamuwa, Uva and North-western provinces and in Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya, Galle, Matara and Mannar districts during the afternoon or night.
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
Sunday Island 27 December – Headlines
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
Features4 days ago
Happy Birthday dearest Mrs. Peries !
News3 days ago
Mano says LG and PC elections equally important
News5 days ago
Decorated gunship pilot blacklisted for appearing on political stage
Midweek Review6 days ago
Growing foreign dependency and India’s USD 4 bn lifeline
News5 days ago
No more selling of Hajj visas, assures Minister
Breaking News6 days ago
Property tax to be replaced with Wealth Tax, Gift Tax and Estate Tax – President
Editorial6 days ago
Celebration of debt
Sports5 days ago
Sri Lanka’s flawed ODI strategies