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Hands off Sinharaja

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It makes one sad, angry and puzzled. How could anyone, even with an iota of love for the country of one’s birth, who has been breathing its air ever since, bring oneself to do this? It is despicable. It is a heinous crime of immense proportions, an unthinkable instance of rape of Mother Lanka.

It seems that some of these half-wits wearing immaculate white, wielding political might cannot go to sleep without hearing the sounds of music (to them) playing in their minds: of trees falling, of bulldozers/caterpillars digging, and gnawing at soil that had been there undisturbed for millennia, while the surrounding forest or whatever is left of it wept in silence.

No matter whether it is Wilpaththuwa or Sinharaja or anywhere else, the story is the same: ‘they come, they see, they destroy, they make a huge profit and they go.’ How else can it be? They are just paying back to whomever they owe for the services (both in matter and money, of course) rendered during the election campaign, by robbing the land of their birth, while making sure that there will be enough for themselves too.

And this despicable political drama has continued for decades. The newcomers or many of them think it’s all theirs now. They take it for granted that everything under the sun of Lanka is for them, for the taking. Forests and rivers sit at the top of the list, amongst the most attractive, in terms of their personal returns and revenue.

Sinharaja, a world heritage site, has become the prime target once again. It escaped destruction in 2013, when some concerned environmentalists stepped in and lodged a complaint at the UNESCO World Heritage Site office, which stopped an intended road construction project that would have caused great harm to the forest.

Now, it seems to have started all over again. Even before the victorious finished their celebrations, one of the new custodians of the ‘Land of Lanka’ seemed to have decided to finish the unfinished job, which started in 2013. Fortunately, our new president, who, I am sure, is a people-listener and a people’s pulse-reader too, heard the uproar that has been on all papers and social media, intervened and stopped it. Even though the news reports say temporarily, I am sure he will stop this madness of politicians’ playing with our natural habitats, once and for all.

It is interesting to note whether these villagers are planning to drive motor cars on this patch of footpath, which now supposedly needs extension and widening. Or could there be another more attractive motive, such as facilitating vehicular traffic to something at the other end of the road, cutting through the ‘induction zone’ of the forest?

This is an extremely sad state of affairs. Our politicians taking turns to wreak havoc on our natural habitats and what not, at will. Quite often the damage caused to the environment by their actions is irreparable. And yet, they still get away scot-free.

The story so far “While the top order was busy with bigger affairs, the middle order was busy cutting and digging our forests and rivers, in that order. And the tail-enders at the bottom waited for the crumbs”.

I sincerely hope the new president would take timely action to end this sad story, never to be repeated again.

 

LAKSIRI WARNAKULA

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Opinion

Agriculture Dept. in a slumber

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The Department of Agriculture has been in a slumber for many years. Governments talk about developing agriculture in this country, but nothing happens. I am talking through experience. For the last several years I have been trying to obtain assistance from the department to fertilize my small coconut land and tea plantation, but with no success. In Galle my property is located about one km from the Highway on the Akuressa Road. I spoke to the officers through my cultivator at Walahanduwa and Labuduwa but the stock response is “SORRY the Government has not issued!” Do these officers ever visit these places ? ” NO”.

About two years ago I had to buy from a private trader to fertilize my coconut plants and part of my tea plantation. My profit is almost “NIL”. Due to lack of fertilizer the coconut crop dropped from five hundred nuts to 150/ nuts this month. Besides this, my buyer bought the coconuts @ of Rs 50/ per nut, whilst in Colombo I pay Rs 90/ per nut. Even, in my tea plantation there is a drop in the quantity of green leaf, as I have not fertilized it! Here too I am at the mercy of the buyer and have to accept whatever price he offers as there is no guaranteed price.

In my property I decided to plant cinnamon as it grows well along my fence , but the Agriculture Department told me that I will have to go to Matara to obtain plants, which is 28 miles from my place in Kalahe. Their attitude is very negative.

If one watches the Sinhala news on TV, it is quite evident that the Agriculture Department does nothing to encourage the cultivator in terms of providing fertilizer, advice against pests or even methods in improving the crop. Officers are warming their seats in the offices and never conduct field visits.

There is also no supervision or management by the Department. If from the head office they conduct surprise checks and visits, they will realise the exact situation. My visits to the branches indicated they are very poorly equipped in terms of furniture and equipment. It was found that they are poorly maintained and the premises, with broken furniture and unclean toilets, have never been swept or colour washed. A clear indication that none of the management teams from the head offices ever visit. The approaches to their offices are in a terrible state. Why cannot the management get these officers to provide a programme for the month, and get them to report on facts and figures, with acknowledgement from the growers being obtained with their comments; thus ensuring that the reports are genuine, and there must be sudden visits by the head office to these sites to check and supervise them. The department must adopt appropriate measures by giving proper directions to ensure that the cultivator/grower benefits from the department”. The Public are their Servants today.

The Vision of the Coconut Research Institute is to be the centre of excellence in coconut research technology, development and technology transfer in the region.

Its Mission – General knowledge and technology through excellence in research , towards increasing production & profitability of coconuts.

Its Mandate – 1. Maintain seed gardens.

2. Train advisory and extension workers to assist the coconut industry, guide & advise coconut industry on all matters of technical nature.

It is sad to say these so-called “Visions & Missions” are only on paper. Even the Mandate they talk about is also confined to paper! At grass root level “Nothing” happens.

There is no purpose in having any research and having great experts at the CRI, what matters is do the public benefit from them? It Is an Emphatic No!

No new seedlings are available. There is neither fertilizer nor expert advice. The Southern Province growers are completely neglected, as the so called institutions consist of incompetent and lazy officials who do not care about government or CRI policy. These CRI experts must not confine themselves to their offices; they must visit these places without giving them notice if they want to see what is happening.

 

NIHAL De ALWIS

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Opinion

Presidential words as orders

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At present two presidential inquiry commissions are working on – Easter Sunday Attack and Political Victimization. Many people come before these two commissions and mention many things that have been said/ordered by the former President, Prime Minister and various officials. It would be exceedingly difficult or impossible to check the veracity of those statements.

Now, incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa asks/orders (or in a way threatens) government officials to take his spoken words as legitimate circulars. One day those officers too would have to come before various commissions and judicial courts, to justify the tasks they carried out on verbal orders by a President (may be solely to save themselves from being punished), and then who would be there to safeguard them?

A RATNAYAKE

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Opinion

‘Amude’ also tried in Parliament

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There has been furor on the dress code of NC Leader Athaullah who came to the parliament in a decent Afghan-style dress. I could remember in the years of yore, our friendly Dahanayake from my former electorate Galle, tried to come to the Parliament in an Amude, but cannot remember what followed. He tried to enter the Parliament in Amude (Span Cloth worn by farmers) to protest against the imposition by Mrs Bandaranaike in 1964 of a ration of two yards of textiles per month per person, at a time of grave shortage of foreign exchange.

 When Gandhi came to the British Parliament many decades ago – MPs referred to him as “Naked Pakir walking down the British parliament steps”, as he was dressed in 3/4th trouser style cloth for the down portion, and top part of the body was naked, except for a thin shawl draped over the body exposing parts of his chest. Also in the recent past an ex-president was attired in Modi Dress ( I am not sure if he came to the parliament) for the top part (similar to the top part of Afghan dress) and no one in the government like MP Marikkar or Harin Fernando protested.

Is the so-called Kapatiya Dress in white only admissible in parliament? What about full suits worn by brown sahibs / ex-Royal politicians – this is also a British dress; so why make a big fuss about an Afghan style decent dress. Kandyans are not protesting when down south bride grooms wear the Nilame style dress, which is trending these days?

 

SUMITH DE SILVA

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