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Govt.’s woes and people’s responsibilities



The two huge problems that the government has at present are not entirely of its making. The economic problem, it inherited from the previous government, and COVID-19 is a natural disaster which even countries like the USA, the most powerful country in the world, have not been able to control. Of course the government had blundered on several occasions but then which government hasn’t. If there is a scale to measure the blunders that governments commit, the ‘yahapalana’ would easily win the Guinness record. When ‘yahapalana’ took over in 2015 the economy was on a sound footing with the GDP at a healthy six percent, foreign debt as a ratio of the GDP was about 75 percent and all other economic parameters were favourable. Sri Lanka was considered second only to China in the scale of development in Asia. By 2019 the ‘yahapalana’ government had managed to bring down the GDP to one percent and raise the debt ratio to 95 percent without the assistance of a civil war or a COVID-19 pandemic. The politicians responsible for those blunders are now in the Opposition trying to topple the government.

What is worse is that these politicians support and organise street demonstrations which very often end up as a confrontation between demonstrators and the hapless police where usually there is a huge congregation of people. These politicians are well aware of the implications of such gatherings where there is no adherence to health guidelines and the spread of COVID-19 is greatly facilitated. The question arises whether this is what they really want. The duty of the Opposition no doubt is to oppose the government, but in such a way that the faults of the government are exposed and the Opposition projects itself as the alternate government. This should be done with no risk of any damage to the people, their economy, their culture and their country. Destruction of the economy and people’s livelihood in order to achieve their goal is certainly treacherous and politics at its dirtiest.

The government had unwittingly given plenty of reasons for the Opposition and its supporters to rally round and lure the affected people onto the streets. One good example is the sudden fertiliser import ban which caused a serious shortage of fertiliser creating a desperate situation for the farmers who were more than willing to come out and shout slogans. Before these blunders were committed,several mistakes had been made which affected the lives of poor people’s lives. Rice mafia was taking a heavy toll and the government was ineffective in controlling it. There was an alleged sugar scam and aflatoxins were found in coconut oil. Even those who had voted for the government were losing faith and they needed little prodding by the Opposition to come out and demonstrate against the government. The salary issue of nurses and teachers were not resolved and these categories were also ready to jump on the bandwagon. To make matters worse the government attempted to get the controversial KNDU act passed in Parliament. These were grist to the mill of the leftist parties with a revolutionary bent. They are waiting for the opportunity to clash with the police and to be seen being dragged into police vehicles. Helpless university students are also forced to participate and swell the crowds. The government could have avoided this mess.

At a time like this when our country is in the throes of a relentless pandemic and struggling to survive, the people, majority of whom voted for this government, must pause and take stock of the situation. They must quietly ask themselves what wrong has this government done. Was it unavoidable? Was there really a sugar scam, is the Opposition exaggerating? Was the government incompetent in handling the rice mafia? Was the government responsible for the presence of aflatoxin in coconut oil or was it something that could happen anywhere in the world? Is the government responsible for the rise in the cost of living? More than 70 percent of poor people voted for this government. The government they had previously voted for had been so bad that they gave their new government a two-thirds majority. Isn’t it necessary to watch the situation for some more time before coming to the conclusion that the government has failed. The problems it inherited and the problems caused by natural disasters are too much to be solved in a short period of time. For instance, at present it is in a dilemma as to whether the country should go into total lockdown. As the Editor says the government is between a rock and a hard place. If the country is locked down the economy will be irreparably destroyed and if it is not COVID-19 will decimate half the population. At a time like this the people must take up positions in support of the government. Otherwise there will be no country to call our own. To support the Opposition is to court ‘yahapalana’ back into reckoning which would be a disaster. We know how they created problems out of thin air.

The countries that solve problems could do so to the satisfaction of everybody including the rest of the world only when the people are supportive of its actions. China for instance, it is said, could achieve in 40 years what no other country was capable of because there is strong affinity between the state and its people. This relationship is not seen in Western countries. The COVID variant Delta which is wreaking havoc in the USA will be defeated in China before it could affect the people or the economy. This is because the people strictly follow the health instructions issued by their close comrade, the government. In contrast people in Western countries would vociferously rebel against government instructions to curb movement and gathering. They would vehemently refuse to get vaccinated and form anti-vaccine societies that hamper the government efforts to vaccinate the people.

Semblance of such vehemence could be seen among our teachers who have taken to the streets demanding a quick solution to their salary issue which had been in existence for 24 years. They are not at all concerned about the grave risk they place the whole country in. It is this kind of attitude that retards countries like ours. What is even more worrisome is the non-committal neutral attitude of the general public towards these unfair activities. They are aloof after electing a government expecting it to deliver in every respect. This doesn’t happen. The government and the people must walk hand-in-hand if everybody is to succeed.

People cannot expect the government to solve all their problems. The Government also must try and mobilise the people to act in concert with it and together solve each other’s problems. In our country, people elect a government and then sit back and watch the government struggle with their problems. Unless the government is authoritative and oppressive the people must rally around it and support it to the hilt. People must not endorse the faults and blunders of the government but if it is genuinely interested in their welfare and development they must give the government a helping hand and not make unfair demands. The government also must take people into its confidence and take their viewpoints into consideration and look into their needs. A bond of confidence, regard and loyalty must be developed between the government and the people. Only then would the country be able to solve its problems and achieve social, economic and cultural development.

N.A. de S Amaratunga

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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.


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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.


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Ampitiya That I Knew



Ampitiya is a village just two miles from Kandy. The road to Talatuoya, Marassana, Galaha and turning left from Talatuoya to Tennekumbura and Hanguranketha and beyond goes through Ampitiya.My family moved there in 1949 when our paternal grandfather bequeathed the ancestral home to our father to be effective after our grandfather’s demise. Until then the eldest sister of our father’s family with her family and the two bachelor brothers lived in the house. After living in various places our father was transferred to on duty, we had come to our final abode there.

The house was situated about 100 yards before the second mile post. There were paddy fields both in front of the house and behind it with a mountain further away. These were salubrious surroundings to live in. There was no hustle and bustle as in a town and the only noise would have been the occasional tooting of horns and the call of vendors selling various household needs.

The Ampitiya village extended from near the entrance to the Seminary and the school situated a short climb away along Rajapihilla Mawatha (now Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha) on the road from Kandy ending at the gate to the Seminary, and running up to the Diurum Bodiya temple.

Ampitiya was well known thanks to the Seminary of our Lady of Lanka located there. Newly ordained Catholic priests took theology classes here. The Seminary with its majestic building commanded a fine view of the Dumbara valley. The student priests lived in the hostel called Montefano St. Sylvester’s Monastery situated just above the sloping rice fields coming down to the Kandy-Talatuoya Road. There was a volleyball court within the Montefano premises and we used to see the young priests enjoying themselves playing a game in the evenings as the court was quite visible from our house.

We, as schoolboys of the neighbourhood, used to get together during many weekends and play cricket on the roadway to the Montefano which was just past the second milepost as there was no vehicular traffic then on that road.

Ampitiya had a school started by the Catholic Church and known as Berrewaerts College which later became the Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya. At the time our family became residents of Ampitiya this was the only school. Later the Catholic Church established a girls’ school named Carmel Hill Convent. This school enabled most girls who had to go all the way to Kandy or Talatuoya by bus to walk to school.

People who follow sports, especially athletics, would have heard the names of Linus Dias, Sellappuliyage Lucien Benedict Rosa (best known in Sri Lanka as SLB Rosa) and Ranatunga Karunananda, all Ampitiya products who participated in the Olympics as long distance runners competing in the 10,000 metres event. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lankan contingent in the Rome Olympics in 1960.Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White they took part.

Karunananda became a hero in Sri Lanka as well as in Japan when at the Tokyo Olympics of October 1964 he completed the 10,000 metre course running the last four laps all alone. The crowd cheered him all the way to the finish appreciating his courage in not abandoning the already completed race. Later he said he was living up to the Olympic motto which said the main thing is to take part and not to win.

Rosa captained the Sri Lankan team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He switched to long distance running while still a student thanks to the Principal of Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya, Mr. Tissa Weerasinghe (a hall mate of mine one year senior to me at Peradeniya) who had noted his stamina and asked him to switch to long distance events. I must mention that Tissa was responsible for bringing this school to a high standard from where it was when he took over.

Coincidentally, during our Ampitiya days, all the houses from Uduwela junction for about half a mile towards Talatuoya were occupied by our relatives! They included the Warakaulles, Koswattes, Pussegodas, Sangakkaras, Godamunnes, Thalgodapitiyas and Wijekoons. Now most of these houses are occupied by others.

Ampitiya area had two Buddhist temples. One was the Dalukgolla Rajamaha Viharaya on the Ratemulla Road and the other, Ampitiya Diurum Bodiya, near the third mile post. From the latter temple a famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Ampitye Rahula Thero later joined the Vajirarama temple in Colombo and was highly recognized by Buddhists just like Ven. Narada and Ven.Piyadassi Theros.

The Uduwela temple had a water spout emerging out of a granite rock where the temple priests and neighbours used to bathe and wash their clothes. This spout never ran dry.

At present the landscape of Ampitiya has changed hugely. Most of the sloping paddy fields have been filled and dwelling houses have come up. The majestic view, except for faraway mountains, is no longer present. A five-star hotel has been built just beyond the second mile post and the area has lost its previous tranquility. A person of my vintage who once lived there visiting Ampitiya now wouldn’t be able to recognize the place given the changes.



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