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In defence of the line of seniority

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STANDING UP FOR CONVICTIONS AND STANDARDS

(EXCERPTED FROM SENIOR DIG (RETD) MERRIL GUNARATNE’S “PERILS OF A PROFESSION”)

The process of altering the line of seniority began to occur with monotonous regularity after 1977, due to acts of both politicians as well as police officers. When I was director of the National Intelligence Bureau in 1984, General D S Attygalle, Secretary of Defence, summoned me to the Defence Ministry and requested me to file a confidential report about SSP Tilak Iddamalgoda. He said the President had wanted this in view of complaints received against him in the context of impending promotions to the DIG rank of three officers: Kingsley Wickramasuriya, Neil Weerasinghe and Iddamalgoda.

I instinctively felt that insidious elements were at play, and in the presence of Cyril Herath who was director general of Intelligence and General Attygalle, informed the latter that I would not like to file a report since I was next in line of seniority to Iddamalgoda and would be promoted if the latter was denied promotion. Secretary of Defence then said that it was a directive from the president. I said that I would call for a report from my deputy and submit it without comment. I also added that I would “not like to cut an officer’s neck” and secure a promotion. The Secretary agreed with my proposal.

I thereafter directed my deputy to submit a report telling him that I did not wish to obstruct the officer concerned and secure a promotion at his expense. After a few days, my deputy brought me his report which was not favourable to the officer concerned. Expressing my dismay, I prepared a fresh, favourable report and requested my deputy to sign it. Iddamalgoda against whom a frivolous complaint with malevolent motives had been made, was thus able to obtain his deserved promotion. Neither the President nor Secretary of Defence found fault with me for my course of action. Expressing the truth candidly paid dividends.

A challenge to my own position in the line of seniority.

I was not a favourite of President Premadasa possibly because I had an excellent official relationship with President Jayewardene. It was in these circumstances that I was transferred out of the intelligence assignment in the Defence Ministry to serve as DIG of the Greater Colombo range in mid 1989. Not long after, there were well founded rumours that a DIG subordinate to me was being groomed to be the IGP and that the line of seniority was to be interfered with to facilitate this. I believe the premature retirements of Messrs Rajaguru, Iddamalgoda and Wickramasuriya had much to do with this plan. I was not to be dislodged, but heard that the “favourite” earmarked to be the IGP was to be placed above me in the seniority list by the grant of special increments.

Since 1977, I had always voiced strong views about what I then called the “rape of the seniority line.” In fact I had made room for Iddamalgoda to be promoted, while holding the prestigious post of director of the National Intelligence Bureau. I could have reversed his fortunes and acquired a promotion at his expense. I decided to confront President Premadasa and express my displeasure about plans to place a subordinate officer above me in the seniority line. The president about this time visited one of my areas, Kalutara, for the mobile Presidential Secretariat, and lodged for the night at the circuit bungalow of the Special Task Force. I got an opportunity to speak to him in the circuit bungalow. The president said, ” Gunaratne, what is your problem?” I replied as follows: ” Excellency, there is a move by an officer junior to me to overtake me. I am second to none. If it happens, I will resign from the service”.

For about 10-15 seconds, the president simply looked at me, perhaps startled at my boldness. He then regained his composure and said “I will speak to General Ranatunga, (Secretary of Defence) now. You call him in the night. I will see that you are not overtaken”. His assurance convinced me that the plan had been so well hatched that even the secretary of defence was well aware of it. When speaking, General Ranatunga gave me the impression that he was surprised as to how I had the nerve to speak to the president.

The “compromise formula” the establishment then hatched was for the junior officer to be granted a special increment, but not seniority over me. My position in the seniority line was thus not disturbed because I was not afraid to tell the truth to the head of state and government. It had been unfortunate that many officers who had been overtaken by juniors with influence, had not asserted themselves by making strong protests.

The run up to the general election of 1993

At that time, I was senior DIG of all territorial ranges in the country. DB Wijetunge was president. During the pre-election period, the Attanagalla electorate was tense, since an SLFP supporter had been shot dead, presumably by a UNPer. Gamini Silva who retired as a senior DIG, was SSP Gampaha police division at the time. On a Saturday, President Wijetunge telephoned me and ordered me to take police resources from Colombo and raid the SLFP office at Attanagalla saying that guns stored there were being used to harass political opponents. The party office was the base of Chandrika Kumaratunga who was leading the SLFP at the elections.

I phoned SSP Gamini Silva and ascertained that the guns in the party office were those of security officers. Armed with this information, I visited President’s House, met the president and told him that the weapons in the SLFP office at Attanagalla were legitimate ones and that hence there was no basis to raid it. The president did not take offence, and concurred with what I said.

The following morning, about 8 a.m. on a Sunday, I was again summoned to President’s House. When I entered his office, Paul Perera, minister and MP for Attanagalla was seated with him. The president addressed me and said that SSP Gampaha Gamini Silva should be transferred immediately. When I inquired for the reason, he said that the officer was very partial to the People’s Alliance, and that Minister Paul Perera had no doubt about bias being displayed by the SSP. I then confronted the minister with the question, “Sir, you liked him for so long, why did you suddenly change your mind?” The minister I think took offence, stared at me and said, “He is working for the Peoples Alliance”. I then told the president, “Sir, the SSP is a good officer and is not taking any sides. If you insist on transferring him, please first remove me from my post”. The president then decided not to persist with the matter.

A few days after requesting the transfer of SSP Gampaha, the president again telephoned me about an incident which had occurred in Maho. I was acquainted with the incident since in my post as Senior DIG (Ranges), I was monitoring election incidents in police ranges and divisions on a daily basis. The incident about which the president spoke was one where some UNPers had stormed the house of a SLFP supporter armed with dangerous weapons, in order to cause serious harm and damage to persons and property. The inmates of the house had no option but to defend themselves, and in the melee, one of the assailants had lost his life. The president spoke to me and gave a different version of the event. According to him, the UNPer was dragged from the road into the house and done to death.

I think what he expected of me was to distort the correct picture at the inquest. I patiently explained that his version was incorrect, and that according to evidence the ‘invader’ had met with his death amid the house residents exercising their right of self defence. I remember telling the president on the phone, “I am sorry Excellency, I can’t make the accused appear like the victim”. I think the president appreciated my frankness and did not insist on the police building evidence to support the version he had been given. The officers who worked with me in my secretariat monitoring election violence were present when the president spoke to me on the phone.

Minister Gamini Dissanayake’s hostile remarks

When serving as Director General of Intelligence and Security (DGIS) in the ministry of defence, I was once summoned by President Jayewardene to his residence somewhere in 1987. I did not know why I was required. Minister Gamini Dissanayake arrived shortly after me. He entered the office room of the president. A short while later I was called in. I saw a report of mine on the table in front of the president. He said, “Gamini, tell us about Trincomalee”. The minister gave a somewhat glowing report about the work of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Trincomalee. I realized that the minister had arrived at the president’s residence straight after an observation tour of Trincomalee. When the minister was briefing the president and praising the IPKF, I anticipated the latter asking for my views because the report I had submitted to the president about a week prior and which was before him, was critical of the IPKF performance in Trincomalee.

Just as I guessed, the president turned to me and asked for my views. I had to disagree with the views of the minister because I could not deviate from the content of my report which was before the president. The minister took offense, lost his temper and did not certainly address me in polite terms. I then requested the president to transfer me out of my post if I was not equal to the task (of handling that kind of crticism). The minister then said “sorry Merril”, and continued to discuss some other matters with the president.

Conference of Chief Minister of Western Province at Sethsiripaya in early 1990’s

Susil Moonesinghe, Chief Minister of Western Province, held a conference at the behest of President Premadasa at Sethsiripaya in order to explore ways of keeping Colombo and the suburbs clean. Police officials and heads of local government bodies attended the conference in large numbers. I remember the presence of over 200 participants. When the conference was in progress, Colombo Mayor Ratnasiri Rajapakse stated that the accumulation of dirt and garbage was a regular sight in front of the Pettah police station. The Chief Minister quipped, “Police are collectors of dirt, no?”, provoking laughter.

I felt that the unwanted derisive remark brought the police service to ridicule and thought it appropriate to express protest. Incidentally, I was DIG (Greater Colombo) at the time. The remark was actually in respect of Colombo which was administered by DIG AS Seneviratne. I rose from my seat amidst laughter, and addressing the Chief Minister, said, “Sir, I think it is a very unkind cut, you should withdraw it”. The chief minister immediately said in response, “I am sorry Merril, I am withdrawing it”. I had always believed that a public service should not be treated in a derisive manner in the presence of others for frivolous reasons.

Conference of President Kumaratunga at Temple Trees in 1997

The occasion was the presentation of the report by a committee assigned to examine ways of preventing abuses in regard to tobacco, drugs and alcohol to the president. The committee was headed by Tara De Mel, and I happened to be a member of a predominantly civilian body, since IGP Rajaguru had nominated me to serve on the committee. I was the only police representative in it. Incidentally, I was far from being a favourite of the president at the time, having had to face the Batalanda Commission which was directed against her political rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

At the commencement of the conference, Professor Sujeewa Ranaweera gave a brief on the findings of the committee, and when doing so, said that the illicit liquor menace in Chilaw district should also be eradicated. The President interjected and said “police are corrupt, you can’t stop it”. Much later the professor, when summing up findings and recommendations of the committee, again reminded the president that the illicit liquor menace in Chilaw should be eliminated. The President reiterated what she said earlier, “I told you earlier, police are corrupt, you can’t stop it”.

I felt that the police service was being held to ridicule in the presence of a body of officials when in actual fact, politicians of SLFP and UNP had been responsible for providing protection to illicit liquor dealers. I rose from my seat and said, “Excellency, I wish to express a point of view”. She said something like “go ahead”. I then said, “Excellency, it is not the police but the politicians in Chilaw who are corrupt and permit the growth of the illicit liquor menace”. I think my reaction surprised her. The president replied, “I have told the politicians not to interfere”. I thanked her and took my seat.

I later learnt that the president had removed my name from the committee. Cyril Herath, former IGP who then served as chairman NSB and the coordinator of intelligence agencies later said to me that it would have been better if I expressed what I said at the forum privately to the president. I had to explain to him that I was not sufficiently familiar to obtain an appointment with the president. I further said that it may not have been incorrect for me to have told the truth at the time of the conference.

Drought

I think there has been a drought in respect of the willingness or inclination of police seniors to express the truth to the establishment in order to protect those who have acted correctly, or where the service is needlessly ridiculed. If the service and it’s officers have to be protected, the onus lies with seniors including the IGP to express the truth to the political establishment, however unpalatable it may be. In fact, subject to exception, those in the establishment respect frankness. The expression of the truth has to be understood as the presentation of what is professionally correct. Any abdication of this responsibility which is now abundantly evident, only permits interference at all levels. I think we now continue to suffer a perpetual drought, perhaps without hope or redemption.



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Covid-19 vaccination: Is it the proverbial ‘Silver Bullet’?

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Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In this emerald isle, people take to any form of vaccination, like the legendary ducks take to water. Offer them a vaccine against anything and they will take it; at least most of them would do so. The vaccine antagonists and anti-vaxxers are extremely few and far between, so as to be almost a virtual non-entity. With a very high literacy rate, and a population that is prepared to take heed to the hilt, the axiom that dictates ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is the absolute dream of the experts in the public health scenario that there is unmitigated abiding interest on the part of our populace to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It has been said that vaccines do not save lives but vaccination most definitely does. Vaccines have to be given to people for them to produce the optimal effects. A receptive population to such a notion is indeed, a much-fancied reverie of all health service providers.

In such a background, it is most laudable that Sri Lanka is going pell-mell, even in an impetuous rush, to vaccinate her population against COVID-19, at what could best be described as at break-neck speed. Even given the spectacle of an insufficiency of adequate stocks of the coronavirus vaccines to freely vaccinate the population, the authorities are making the very best of the situation. We must, of course clearly appreciate the steps taken by the Government and the Ministry of Health in this initiative. The tri-forces, the Army in particular, have to be congratulated, in playing the lead role in organising a scheme of things to administer the vaccines in an orderly fashion. TAKE A BOW; ALL OF YOU, you are indeed giving the very best of yourselves in this endeavour.

Well, the goal is to somehow secure a high enough herd-immunity to defeat the virus; most definitely a commendable final goal. The currently prevalent mantra is to vaccinate, vaccinate, and vaccinate even more. Yet for all that there is much misinformation and an infodemic doing the rounds, especially on social media, about widespread speculations on loss of sexual prowess, impotence, subfertility and infertility, as undesirable effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ANY OF THESE IMPLICATIONS. NONE OF THE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE COVID-19 VACCINES DO ANY OF THIS. It is just stupid covidiocy on the part of a few anti-vaxxers. It has induced a lot of young people to refuse the vaccine. This is a crime against humanity to spread such falsehoods. It is absolutely crucial to realise that the current vaccination drive is just a very important one of quite a few things we can do to try and keep the coronavirus at bay.

We have seen the fantastic results of immunisations against ‘child-killer diseases’ in paediatric healthcare. This author, as a young junior doctor, was witness to the ravages of the much-feared childhood diseases that killed or maimed scores of young children even in the second half of the last century. Those diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, Japanese encephalitis; just to mention a few that took scores of young lives of yore, are a thing of the past now. Adequate vaccination has completely wiped them out. The last case of childhood polio in Sri Lanka was seen just around a quarter of a century ago. The young junior doctors of today and the current lot of medical students have not seen any of these dreaded diseases.

In the child healthcare scenario, vaccination has become the panacea for all ills in the above-mentioned diseases. In the same vein, it is quite reasonable to expect the coronavirus vaccines to provide a similar end-result. However, is it really so? It is a most lamentable fact that it is perhaps not quite so.

There is a well-recognised fundamental difference between all the vaccines that are used to prevent the much-feared childhood diseases of the past and the currently available vaccines against the coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic. The vaccines against all those childhood diseases COMPLETELY PREVENT children getting the disease!!!, period. Well, if the recipients are protected against getting the infection, it is the end of the story; a definitive conclusion of the matter in hand.

However, right up to just a few days ago, none of the currently available vaccines against COVID-19, were thought to be able to COMPLETELY PREVENT anyone getting the disease to any appreciable degree. How they work is by reducing the severity of the disease and by preventing the deaths. So…, the basic end-result characteristics of all the currently available COVID-19 vaccines were thought to be quite different to the standard vaccines against all other infective diseases. One could still get the disease in spite of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and would still be able to spread the illness to others.

Yet for all this, there seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. In a most recent scientific publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, released as recently as 22nd September 2021, an interim analysis of a large study conducted in 99 centres of the USA has shown significant protection against CONTRACTING THE DISEASE as well as AGAINST MORE SEVERE DISEASE AND DEATH by the mRNA-1273 (Moderna/Spikevax) vaccine, administered as two doses 28 days apart. Vaccine efficacy in preventing Covid-19 illness was 93.2%, the effectiveness in preventing severe disease was 98.2% and the efficacy in preventing asymptomatic infection, starting 14 days after the second injection, was 63.0%. Vaccine efficacy was consistent across ethnic and racial groups, age groups, and participants with coexisting conditions. No safety concerns were identified.

Be that as it may, added to all our problems, now there is the daunting spectacle of the various types of variants and mutants, ranging from Alpha through delta, even to Epsilon and most recently to a particularly nasty strain called ‘Mu’, of the coronavirus which could cause problems even in the fully vaccinated. We still do not understand completely the potential impact of these more virulent strains in vaccinated people.

However, a case in point in relationship to these facts is the presently dominant situation in Israel. That country, one of the fastest in vaccination and most-vaccinated nations in the world, in spite of almost the entire population being vaccinated, is having some problems at the present time. By mid-March 2021, Israelis were partying as lockdowns ended and by April, masks had more or less vanished, turning the tiny country into a tantalising glimpse of a post-pandemic future. However, the crafty blight of a coronavirus seems to have come back with a vengeance. From a few dozen daily cases in early June 2021, even zero on June 9, new daily COVID infections twice hovered near 6,000 very recently, the highest daily rate in six months. Having won early access to supplies of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab in exchange for sharing nationwide data on how mass vaccination drives affect the pandemic, Israel is a closely watched indicator of a country where well-inoculated developed economies are heading.

As new infections soared, so did the long tail of hospitalisations in Israel. Even though the unvaccinated were five to six times as likely to end up seriously ill, the vaccine’s protection was waning fastest for the oldest; the most vulnerable, who got their first jabs as early as December 2020. At this rate, health officials predicted at least 5,000 people would need hospital beds by early September, half of them with serious medical needs, twice as many as Israel is equipped to handle. The current Prime Minister of Israel was honest with Israelis when he announced a new measure just a couple of weeks ago, whereby the government was trying to cushion the blow. On August 1, it had started offering people, over 60, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, embarking on its own public health experiment as it tumbled into an unpredictable fourth wave. So far, 775,000 people have taken their third shot and doctors say they can see antibody counts rising measurably within days of the third jab.

For Israelis, the booster shots are a reminder that they are still on the frontier of Covid-19 vaccinations. They celebrated when they were the first to get jabbed, cheering Pfizer as lockdowns ended in March 2021. Now, they are the first to experience the limits of the vaccine and the first to accept a long-whispered inevitability: the need to give regular booster shots to stay protected.

All these facts tend to bring into sharp focus, again and AGAIN, the undoubted importance of time-tested manoeuvres of avoiding crowds, maintaining a social distance of at least one to two metres, wearing suitable and effective masks; even double-masking, and repeated washing of hands, as our own personal weapons against this dastardly blight. Vaccination against COVID-19 will probably not be the panacea for all ills in combating this pandemic, although it would be a very powerful tool in the hands of the authorities in their quest towards victory over this disease. It will certainly not be the ultimate ‘SILVER BULLET’ against the disease.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Israel today, it is this: corona, in fact, is not over; perhaps not for quite a while. This summer was just an intermission. Next may come winter., sadly perhaps, a winter of discontent. We do hope to high heaven that it may not be so for this beautiful and much-treasured Motherland of ours.

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Proposed Parakrama Samudraya walking path devalues ancient heritage

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By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The construction work of the proposed walking path on the Parakrama Samudra tank bund was suspended after the protest of a group of Buddhist monks. Whether it is appropriate for monks to intervene in this matter is a different issue and the objection is admirable because many remained silent over this issue of national significance.

Since then many views, both pros and cons, on the proposed walking path, have been expressed by various parties. Experts in the engineering field express views on the safety of the dam after the proposed construction, which meddles with its existing riprap, the structural arrangement that prevents bund erosion by wind-generated water waves. Some others, including local administrative level officers and politicians see this as essential development for the area. However, technical issues can be resolved at any cost, and I am more concerned about the facts whether this track is a genuine necessity and the possible subsequent damage it can inflict on the historical value of the tank and the image of the great King Pararamabahu.

The objective of a walking path is to help people maintain their health, not only by engaging in physical activities like walking and jogging but also by allowing them to be with nature. While walking and jogging, can improve physical health, a serene, natural environment can improve mental health. If we take an area like Polonnaruwa, which is not as urbanized as many of the major cities in the country, there are ample places that offer the above-mentioned benefits. Further, neither visitors of the area nor residents will use it as a walking track, and an observation platform would be sufficient, if people need to stay safe from traffic that moves along the bund. Therefore, this type of project would no doubt be a white elephant that ruins millions of public money.

There was a time when the leader of the country went about erecting clock towers at every junction. Soon after they were built many of them showed the wrong time due to inferior construction work, resulting from corruption, putting the public in difficulty. Unlike those days, today there is no need for clock towers as everybody has the exact time since everyone has a mobile phone, more accurate than a wristwatch. We have to come to terms with the reality that what we value today would become obsolete tomorrow in the fast-changing world. Who is to say that these walking paths would not become obsolete in the future given the fact that lives of people are becoming complex and busy, and people may turn to indoor gymnasiums and exercise machines?

Moreover, a closer look at some of the already constructed walking paths would reveal that the selection of locations for such facilities was ill-informed, without proper evaluation as they remain under-utilised. One such example is the track that has been constructed in Badulla urban park which is popularly known as the Wawul Park. This park is located on the edge of three main playgrounds of the city; Vincent Dias ground, cricket ground and football ground. The track is blanketed in thousands of droppings of bats that inhabit the trees of the park, the odour of it so foul that it is very difficult to reach the track. Every day hundreds of people walk in the aforementioned playgrounds while the walking path remains abandoned.

Coming back to the topic, after the walking path is constructed, as per the usual practice of the country, a huge plaque will be erected on the bund mentioning the names of politicians who suggested, advised, supervised, participated and declared open the track. There will probably come a day in future when our children, who visit the Parakrama Samudraya, would say that the tank was constructed by this and that politician. Alas! The statue of the Great King Parakramabahu, who had a great vision to manage the water resources of the country, will be disregarded.

Way forward

Before making any structural changes to heritage sites, opinion should be sought from experts and other stakeholders as well. According to personal experience, when I last visited the place a few years ago, people who visited the tank needed no walking path, but being travellers from remote areas, there was a crying need for other basic facilities. They required shelter, water, facilities to have their meals, dispose of waste safely, and a proper waste collection system, among other things.

In addition, a mini auditorium can be constructed at a suitable place in the vicinity, that has audio-visual facilities to educate children about the history of the tank. A model of the reservoir can be used to explain its components and operation. Then our children will not take this amazing Parakrama Samudraya, that they are endowed with today, for granted but learn to appreciate the great vision and dedication of their ancestors in making this marvel a reality.

Let me conclude with a poem I posted on my FB page sometime ago, with its translation.

There is a huge plaque at the end of the tank bund. It reads that the politician is akin to King Parakramabahu. The river downstream overtops with the sweat of the people who built the tank. Still, the people who built the tank are of no value)

(The writer is a Chartered Engineer. This article is based on his personal views and does not reflect those of the organisations where he holds positions)

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Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link

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Reams have been written in all local newspapers; much comment has traversed social media and persons have been bold to call for justice on two absolutely unrestrained and yes, evil, SLPP VIPs who have recently been dancing the devil as the saying goes. These evil doers seem to be pathologically unable to control themselves and behave as human beings: heads outsised with hubris and apparently bodies often pickled with liquor.

Very succinct comments have been made on Lohan Ratwatte, one being: “a leopard never changes his spots” referring to the many crimes supposed to have been committed by him, and the other that he is a gem of a man who may make a jewellery heist soon enough. He has the audacity to say he did nothing wrong in barging into two prisons; in one to show off to pals the gallows and in the other, to brandish a gun and place it against the heads of two shivering Tamil prisoners. All done within the week when world attention was focused on Sri Lankan human rights violations directed by the UNHRC

Cass’ comment is that Lohan Rat was committing hara-kiri (minus even a trace of the Japanese spirit of self sacrifice) and taking the entire country on a suicidal mission through his inability to hold his drinks and destructive hubris and murderous inclination. Cass particularly favoured Don Mano’s summation in his comment on the unlawful prison intrusions in the Sunday Times of September 19. “Any semblance of a shabby cover-up to enable Lohan Ratwatte to retain his position as State Minister of Gems and Jewellery will not only endanger the economy by depriving the nation’s dollar bare coffers of a GSP benefit of nearly 2.7 billion dollars, but will risk putting 21 million Lankans from the frying pan into the fire and test their tolerance to the core.”

The visit to the Welikada prison by the State Minister of Prison Reform and … was said to be with some men and one woman. Identities were kept under wraps and confusion raised by making the dame a beauty queen or cosmetician. But who she was, was soon known along the vine of gossip. One report said the person in charge of the prison or its section with the gallows, cautioned Lohan Rat and tried to dissuade his advance with friends in tow since the lady companion was in shorts and them walking through where prisoners were, would cause a commotion. But no, the State Minister advanced to show off the gallows with his short-shorts wearing woman companion and imbibing mates.

Cass is actually more censorious of this woman than even of the State Minister himself. Is she a Sri Lankan, so vagrant in her woman-ness? Doesn’t she have even an iota of the traditional lajja baya that decent women exhibit, even to minor level nowadays? Is associating with a State Minister and his drinking pals such a prized social event? Shame on her! She, if people’s assumption of identity is correct, has boasted political clout and been elevated by it too. Such our young girls! Do hope they are very few in number, though this seems to be a baseless hope as social events unroll.

Pistol packing – correction please – toy pistol packing Eraj Fernando is aiding the ex State Minister of Prison Reform to deface, debase and deteriorate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. He is interested in land and not in gallows or scantily clad gals. With thugs in tow he trespassed a property in Bamba and assaulted two security guards. Repetition of an incident he was embroiled in – a land dispute in Nugegoda a couple of weeks ago. He was taken in by the police and before you could say Raj, he was granted bail. What quick work of police and courts.

As the editor of The Island opined in the lead article of September 20: “The Rajapaksas have created quite a few monsters who enjoy unbridled freedom to violate the law of the land.” A convicted murderer known for his thug ways was presidentially pardoned a short while ago.

The good thing is that people talk, write, lampoon, and draw attention to these heinous crimes and do not seem scared for their necks and families. White vans have not started their rounds. And very importantly the memories of Ordinaries are not as fickle as they were. Wait and see is their immediate response.

New fad – jogging lanes on wewa bunds!

Some monks and men gathered recently on the partly torn up bund of Parakrama Samudraya and had the foolish audacity to say the bund needed a jogging lane. Tosh and balderdash! Then news revealed that other wewas too were being ‘attacked and desecrated’ to construct jogging lanes. In such remote rural areas which even tourists do not visit? Is there illicit money-making in this activity? Otherwise, no explanation is available for this sudden interest in farmers’ and toilers’ physical well being. They get enough exercise just engaging in their agriculture, so for whom are these jogging lanes?

Sharply contrasting persons

As apposite to the former two, are superb Sri Lankans up front and active and giving of their expertise, albeit unobtrusively. Consider the medical men and women and their service to contain the pandemic; farmers who protest to ensure harvests are not damaged too severely by false prophets who won the day for the banning of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. The latest blow and justification of what so very many agriculturists, agrochemists, have been saying all along – organic is good but to be introduced very slowly; without importing compost from overseas, is the Chinese import containing evil microorganisms. Experts have categorically stated that chemical fertilisers are sorely needed for all agriculture; more so paddy and tea; and if used prudently cause no illness to humans or injurious side effects.

The four experts who comprised the panel at the MTV I Face the Nation discussion monitored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Monday September 20, agreed totally on these two facts and went on to say that it must be admitted a hasty decision was taken to stop import of chemical fertilizers. We listened to the considered wise opinions backed by true expertise of vibrantly attractive and articulate Dr Warshi Dandeniya – soil scientist, of Prof Saman Seneweera from the University of Melbourne, Prof Buddhi Marambe – crop scientist, and Dr Roshan Rajadurai – media person of the Planters Association. Listening to them, Cass swelled with pride and told herself see what sincerely-interested-in-the-country’s welfare eminent scientists we have in this land of rowdy politicians and uneducated MPs. They labeled the sudden banning of chemical fertilisers and insecticides and pesticides as “very dangerous and causing irreversible harm. It is not too late to reverse the decision, even if admitting fault is not possible.”

Garlic

Oh dear! The stench! Never ending series of scams; executed or approved by politicians and all for illicit gains. Even the tragedy of the pandemic and suffering of much of the population does not seem to have curbed selfish lust for money.

Focus on the Mahaweli Ganga

Interesting and deserving of thanks. Chanaka Wickramasuriya wrote two excellent articles in the Sunday Islands of September 12 and 19 on the Mahaweli Ganga, imparting invaluable facts of the present river and its history, as for example which king built which wewa or anicut. He ended his second article by hoping the waters of the great river will feed the north of the island too: “Maybe then this island will be finally uplifted. Not just from north to south, but across class and caste, language and philosophy, and political partisanship. Hopefully driven by a newfound sanity among its denizens, yet symbolically attested to by the waters of the Mahaweli.”

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