My craze for motoring in the rural backwaters once took me to Sandamal Eliya, five miles before one reaches Tantirimale.
The Sandamal Eliya Temple is run by Venerable Viharegama Sangarakkhita, a pupil of the chief monk at Tantirimale, who was killed by the LTTE.
I thought I was lost in the Illuk [spear grass] jungles of Mahawilachchiya and Tantirimale. I motored through the dense, seemingly endless illuk forest. I saw patches of illuk everywhere I looked. People had even resorted to burning illuk, which invaded their cultivations and gardens. When I finally reached the Sandamal Eliya temple I spoke with Ven Sangarakkhita and he said illuk had become a nuisance to the people in the area.
Then, I recalled that the machinery imported for Valachenai to make paper was to use illuk grass as raw material. What happened was that illuk grass was exploited fast and the machine idled. It was our engineers and scientists who for the first time figured out that straw could be used for making paper. Then the farmers at Hingurakgoda and Polonnaruwa made good money by selling truckloads of straw to the paper mill. My interests in industrial development made me visit the paper factory several times.
Our land is blessed with fertile land and rain, but some people are without enough food. The other day I came across a family of three living in a small house on a two-and-a-half perch land at Bandaranayakepura, Rajagiriya. Its members skipped meals. Go to the colonies at Padaviya and Mahawilachchiya, the situation is far worse. The rains will help harvest two crops of paddy, but the cost of getting machinery to plough and harvest is exorbitant. Once a portion of the crop is sold to recover production costs, etc., there is hardly any money left for the people, who go hungry.
The Illuk grass at Mahawilachchiya can come to their rescue if engineers and scientists can make it possible to use it for paper making. The task only requires paper making machines from India or China. It is a simple operation – cutting the illuk into small pieces, then churning it with a few substances to make it a pulp and then we can make cardboard or paper. All this is done with a small-scale machine, and the people will find employment and income while the country will be able to save the foreign exchange now being spent to import paper.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s team has done remarkably well during the past few months by reviving the Valaichenai Paper Factory; a factory closed and neglected for over half a century till the North and the East were liberated from the clutches of the LTTE.
I look forward to seeing the day when the illuk grass will be used to alleviate poverty in the dry zone.
Dr. GARVIN KARUNARATNE
Former GA Matara, Author of How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternative Programmes of Success, Godages, 2006; How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development, Kindle/Godages, 2017
garvin_karunaratne @ hotmail.com
Save us from our govt.!
When watching daily news bulletins, on several local TV channels, one could observe two significant matters.
One is how Gotabaya Rajapaksa shamelessly meets foreign diplomats and officers of international organizations, who are well aware of the grave situation of the country, and also the prime reason for it.
Remember, as kids, how we hide from our parents, or teachers, when some small mistake happens – that is because we were ashamed, and afraid of punishment. And ther, too, it would have been only our own mistake, not by the whole family of ours!
Next is how the Police and armed forces are let loose on the men, women and children who have been waiting in queues for hours or days. The authorities are not finding ways to stop queuing or at least maintain some order at those places, but chastise the people, for electing as Basil Rajapaksa had said, a stupid, clueless president and an incompetent government.
The greatest disasters we have faced since Independence are the JVP insurrection, the LTTE war and the tsunami in 2004, and during those times the people were protected by then governments; now Sri Lankans have to struggle against the government, which is steadily throttling them to death.
Challenges, and need for an all-party govt.
Whoever wants to take charge, must first disclose how they are going to set about it. making statements that ‘WE WILL PUT IT INTO ORDER’ is not acceptable. Even SJB, the main Opposition party, hasn’t put forward at least an outline plan as to how they will set about it.
What did the current President promise? What did the current PM promise.? What are their results? Can the country afford more of such vague promises? Three months have gone and still there is no plan from any Party in Parliament. How can any country or institution assist one who has no plan?
Challenges are many and very unpopular decisions have to be made. Resistance from entrenched interests, such as trade Unions, including the GMOA, some corrupt business interests, political interests, mafias, monopolies, etc., has to be countered. Are they prepared to overcome them?
Why go far? Are they prepared to reduce the Parliamentary allocation substantially, and even reduce the number of MPS from 225 to about 150 – on par with countries of similar size, population, GDP, etc.
Parties trying to form a Govt. must first agree amongst them on their Plan, at least on the following:
(i) on their strategy to get Foreign Exchange to purchase limited quantities of fuel for essential services, food, medicines. and fertiliser for the next 6-9 months. Their strategy to increase exports, foreign employment and foreign investment so as to increase Foreign Exchange in the short and medium term. With current conditions it is futile to expect tourists to come to Sri Lanka.
(2) as to how to balance the budget. Are they unitedly prepared to close down or privatize CEB, CPC, AirLanka and Water Board, etc.? Budgetary Allocation for Defence is another, which has to be drastically reduced, the developed countries spend only 2 to 3 % of their GDP on Defence. What does SL do? Out of the Defence allocation, Navy must have the major component for they have to patrol the sea area, which is many times larger than SL land area. SL sea resources are at risk from illegal fishing, human smuggling and illegal dumping, etc.
(3) Are they prepared to close down unnecessary Ministries, Corporations, and Departments, most of which were created for the benefit of politicians, especially for Ministerial Positions.
(4) Staff levels in Ministries, Departments. Corporations that are to function, have to be drastically reduced, so that they could function efficiently and cost effectively. Reducing staff will also reduce the need for large office spaces, electricity, telephone cost etc.
(5) What are their plans to support and or rehabilitate the staff so retrenched.?
(6) Their plan for distribution of essentials? Rationing?
(9) Can they agree on a small, efficient and capable cabinet? Let not the country have too many Ministers and or Officials telling the country different versions, confusing the people as to which is correct, and that too hoping that at least one will be correct.
(10) How will they source the revenue? Are they prepared to increase the direct tax component to 60% or even 75 % for the present? The majority of the population have been badly affected due to the current crises. Their only crime being they misused their votes. They should not be burdened further with indirect taxes. To reduce their burden indirect taxes have to be the lesser component of the revenue, at least for the present.
(11) Can they do away with duty free cars, and all other special privileges given to some sections of the society. All Laws must be equally applicable to all. Other than the First citizen of the country, all others (be it state employees or Parliamentarians) must be taxed on the same basis as others.
All Parties joining must undertake that they will no longer do politics with these issues, nor will they withdraw from the interim govt when it undertakes unpopular decisions on above issues. They must all commit to swim or sink together.
None of those who served as Ministers in failed Governments, or who were Ministers in MR’s Govts which decided on vanity projects, should not be given Ministerial positions. Same should apply to those Parliamentarians who voted for the 17 ,18,19 and 20th amendments should be excluded, as it shows they neither have principles, nor care for the country. Corrupt and convicts too should be kept out. KNOWLEDGE AND CAPABILITY should be the criteria in the selection of the Ministers. Those who are unable to deliver within 3 months must be made to stand down.
To the party leaders who want to form the government, may I say, first divulge your plan to the country.
Please, do not tell the country that you have a better plan. You can afford to fail but not the country or its people at large!
Fuel tokens, a big farce
The Minister of Power and Energy who covers a very responsible Ministry, was selected by the President probably due to his membership of the ‘Viyath Maga’, has undoubtedly proved to be a very inefficient Power and Energy Minister, and a complete failure without any doubt.
He is very capable of giving false hopes always of fuel and gas laden ships arriving on Sri Lanka shores, which have proved to be absolutely wrong. One wonders whether it is a gimmick to keep the fuel and gas starved motorists happy, and avoid the unending queues at fuel stations. This has proved to be a wrong system.
In order to control the daily queues, and knowing there will be no fuel ships for some time, he introduced the fuel token system out of the blues, and with no proper organizational effort. The policy announced regarding the token system, was to enable vehicle drivers to enter the fuel stations on a pre-selected day of the week, allocated to him/her, and dependent on the last digit of the vehicle number plate. This was again to avoid the long queues, according to the Power and Energy Minister.
With the latest innovative fuel token system announced, I visited the petrol station, in close proximity to my home on Monday 27th June, with much hope, and was among the first hundred with the details of my address, profession, NIC Number and contact mobile number. The relevant officer, who recorded the details, informed me that this was a pilot project, from Ratmalana to Moratuwa, and that when the fuel arrives at the petrol station, I will receive an SMS requesting me to report at the petrol station, at the allocated time, once again to avoid queues. But I did not receive the fuel token as it was not available. I was told that there was no necessity to have the token, as I will receive the SMS on my mobile phone.
The following day I received news that the fuel tokens are being issued. When I visited the fuel station, to obtain the token, there were four different long queues, along the road registering three-wheelers, motorcycles, vehicles needing diesel, and cars needing petrol. I met the S LAF officer, registering the cars queued up on the Galle Road, and told him that I am already registered in the book he was entering details and requested the token, which was denied to me. As the queues were there during the next two days, I visited the fuel shed on day four (30th June) when the officer was registering a few people. When my turn came, I showed the serial number and my name registered therein. I was told to wait until the SMS was received. He said that my registration will be cancelled if the token was given at a later date! Then I met the SL Air Force official and explained my position. He then approved the issue of the token. The delay in obtaining the token was nearly 15 minutes. By this incident it was evident that the advice given to Air Force officers to register and issue tokens was not properly given.
I was surprised to receive the token which was a slip of paper, with dimensions only 10cm x 6 cm. Inside it there were printed, Name of the Fuel Station, Type of fuel, Contact Number, Name, NIC Number, Vehicle No, , Date , Time, Signature of authorized Officer and Signature of vehicle Owner. With a microscopic piece of paper, it was with great difficulty that the necessary details were entered.
However, congratulations to the Minister of Power and Energy for drying up all the CEYPETCO FUEL STATIONS in The Island, without fuel for another three weeks or more, without queues, due to lack of fuel. Also causing unending long queues by supporting the LANKA IOC Fuel Stations, to issue your Fuel without Tokens at a higher price.
I politely ask you, Minister Kanchana, is not this another gimmick of yours to handover the CEYPETCO fuel stations to LANKA I O C?
So, we now know the reason for the latest gimmick of the Minister of Power and Energy to issue fuel tokens.
Do you now realise in your conscience, the problems created by you, especially to three-wheeler drivers, who are dependent on a daily living for their families by earning from hires, and now completely out of any earnings to feed their children, to give even a single meal?
Without creating further problems please resign from your post as the Minister of Power and Energy.
Eng. B.R.O FERNANDO
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