By A. PATABENDIGE
The ceremonial opening of the 9th Parliament, held on August 21, 2020 saw the President, a war veteran, nothing less, do away with the mainly military ceremonies that held sway before. However, what was unsettling were the actions of the Sergeant-at-Arms trio at the main entrance. They bushwhacked the President’s theme even if it was unintentional. It went largely unnoticed but needs to be corrected, fast.
The trio was armed with swords drawn. In fact, they looked somewhat dangerous and also totally incongruous. Where was the 24-pound gilded mace made of teak permitted by the Sergeant-at-arms but inside Parliament? It is the real symbol of authority even if it is blindly copied from the British. Similarly, as in Britain, he may carry a sword-which is safely sheathed and never drawn for obvious reasons.
The trio was spread out in line across the steps like a rugby front row at the kick off. They wore a peculiar black uniform with a shirt, tie and short jacket.
What was unsettling here was that they had swords drawn. While the Sergeant-at-Arms, according to British tradition, is permitted to wear a sword on the floor of Parliament and it is never unsheathed. In fact, a man in the UK (happens to be Nigerian) wears formal dress. His predecessor was a Moroccan Muslim when a Jew was Speaker. That is the beauty of British liberalism. There was once a female too, Jill Pay. Food for thought in SL.
According to the Parliament website the sergeants-at-arm are permitted to wear the gorget patches of a Major General and the epaulettes of an Admiral on what is meant to be the same as an Army officer’s No 1 dress! What an ill-begotten travesty equating this lot with the illustrious military, even if two of them have been senior military officers? Had their sword drills and dress passed muster with the Defence Ministry?
The Prime Minister in his normal white national dress and prominent ‘kurakkan satakaya’ arrived unescorted. As the Prime Minister walked up the steps, one of the trio, mulishly, thoughtlessly and acting dumb, stood directly in the path of the Prime Minister. He did not budge. The Prime Minister went around him nonchalantly despite having some difficulty in climbing. This has to be corrected and fast.
The President then drew up unescorted. He was dressed in a suit as a nod to this special occasion in Parliament. This would appear to be a calculated choice.
The national dance troupe that never fails to be anything but spectacular, sophisticated and captivating greeted him on the side of the entrance steps. At the top of the steps, a bevy of stunningly pretty schoolgirls, dressed in pleasant hues of pink and blue lama saris, stole the show as they sang jayamangala gathas beautifully and joyously. The President invited and spoke to them at tea after his address, making it a day they will never forget.
When the President mounted the stairs, the three swordsmen with drawn swords climbed the steps behind the President, the Speaker and the Secretary General. Does anyone in the close protection team of the President or even the Secretary General of Parliament, know how this potentially dangerous activity by men whose job is almost totally ceremonial and limited actually to the floor of parliament, was adopted, allowed, permitted or even considered at this ceremonial function?
A cordial chat with a genial Secretary General revealed that he was very proud of the inherited traditions of the UK Parliament as seen that day. He said the sergeant-at-arms tradition came from the time they were bodyguards to the British Sovereign. He said the Sergeant-at-Arms was the only one who was allowed to carry a sword (inside the floor of parliament). He did not say what that man was meant to do with it, except to imitate the UK model.
He was not much aware of the uniform with a tie, etc. that his Sergeants wore on August 21, 2020. He thought they had worn the military type dress uniform with gorget patches of a Major General and epaulettes of a ‘flag rank officer of the Navy’ approved as their ceremonial dress. He believed two of the trio were senior officers from the military. He was relieved to know the swords being ceremonial could not cut, but was told that a jab would be just as painful. He however did not show he relished even vicariously having Majors General and Admirals, at least as far as the uniforms went, obeying his orders.
SL’s Parliament may have copied all things British from the start. However, it is clear that SL has only inherited the form but not the substance of the British traditions. The conduct, behaviour and speech of MPs have been scandalous. While these experiments with dress were being introduced, it is good to recall that like in the UK a bomb was exploded by Guy Fawkes, while at Diyawanna it was by the JVP, which is not repentant but still tolerated. The danger exists.
It is time SL retained only the best of inherited ‘traditions’ and brought in the best and most appropriate traditions of yore to Parliament, to prevent dilutions and experiments, especially to allow Sergeants-at-Arms to run riot, befuddling the Secretary General and endangering both VIPs and all others.
Instead of there being various imitations of military dress, the trio could be dressed in the more majestic and imposing ceremonial dress of the Kandyans, provided the hill men do not object. Even the dress of the MPs could do with a stylised national dress the Kandyan way. This may have a salutary effect on their behaviour, too. Swords if they are to be retained by the Sergeant-at-Arms should never be drawn. And never again should a swordsman by any other name stand in the way of the Prime Minister.
Effort by All Ceylon Buddhist Congress to help govt. of Sri Lanka escape from dollar trap
By DR L M K Tillekeratne
Chairman of the National Development Committee of the ACBC
It is a well-known fact that one the problems faced by Sri Lanka today is caused mainly by shortage of electricity for domestic purposes and industries. Three decades ago, only 20 % of houses had electricity for lighting. But, today over 95 % of houses in the whole country have electricity. Total electric power the country needs is about 2,750 MW a day. In order to generate 65% of it by using diesel and coal, the cost involved now is tremendous and that is the main reason for the creation of dollar shortage in the country. Besides, when Russia’s invasion in Ukraine six months ago equally attributed to the fuel shortage in the whole world thus creating enormous social and economic impacts, and petroleum prices in the Sri Lankan market increased by over 300%, which is bound to increase further at an alarming pace.However, while having enough bright sunlight all over Sri Lanka throughout the year to generate solar power and enough wind power particularly in areas like Mannar and Puttlam districts, only 40% of our electricity requirements are supplied by non-conventional renewable energy, while 65% of the balance need is produced by burning imported fuel oil and coal at a cost of Rs 80 to 100 per unit, thereby subjecting the environment of the country to a great threat by increasing the level of Green House gases to our atmosphere. Further, this conversion of generating electricity by burning oil and coal thereby lowering the liberation of Green House gases to the atmosphere will enable Sri Lanka to earn huge amount of Dollars by trading Carbon.
According to energy experts, it is expected to reduce this 65% of the energy requirement by burning fuel oil and coal down to 40% thus using more renewable energy by year 2030, thereby lowering the cost of producing a unit of electricity to about Rs 35.00.
Surprisingly, according to hydro power generating experts, there are over 400 streams and small waterfalls distributed all over the country without exploiting yet for setting up of mini hydro power generators. If these over 400 water sources are converted to hydro power generators producing not less than 1000 mega Watts of power are started, and by converting the wind power and solar power available in unlimited quantities, Sri Lankans can earn more foreign exchange by selling the extra electric power available to neighboring countries.
Hence, at present most of the dollars available are spent for importing diesel and coal to the tune of USD 6,000 million per annum. It should be mentioned here that out of this USD 6000 million, about 4,500 million is used for transport leaving a balance of USD 1,500 million to import fuel oil for power generation. According to energy experts, USD 1,500 million could easily be saved here for the other priority areas of the country, if mini hydro power generators are set up in those streams which are idling now. However, sadly no payments have been made for the power generated and supplied to the national grid by the few existing mini hydro power plants; they have supplied power to the tune of over Rs 20 billion for several months and hence some of them have been compelled to close their power plants.
Based on this objective, the ACBC, the premier Buddhist and Social organization in the country realized the need to create awareness of the options available and organized an exhibition of inventions last week on generating power utilizing those three natural sources and to display the public as to how they could conserve scarcely available electricity thereby saving extra money spent for generating power wasted due to lack of knowledge.
This event was not merely organized as an exhibition but to showcase the new inventions to the public, but as a workshop for the interested water source owners to select the appropriate invention suit to them best according to the conditions available in his source of water/ solar power/ or wind. Once the prospective investor identifies the suitable invention ideally needed to his needs, the power expert committee of the ACBC is planning to provide them with every technical support they need to do the feasibility study and even to the level of selecting machines etc. up to the level of setting up the complete power station. Further, the Bank of Ceylon has already agreed to provide them with a soft loan of Rs 3 million at 16% interest rate for setting up of the power unit.
It should be mentioned here with appreciation that the Ministry of Power and Energy has already decided to pay Rs 35 per unit of renewable energy produced from the 17.39 paid previously and also to pay all the back accumulated payments due to power generators. ACBC takes an innocent pride to place on record that the power generation project designed and launched by the expert panel members of the ACBC consists of renowned scientists and engineers who have earned distinctive reputation in their respective disciplines. This particular project perhaps is one of the key projects engineered by the ACBC in its proudest history of over 100 years with a view to finding solutions to the macro-economic issues whilst enhancing income generation at the peripheral level so that it would provide a helping hand to reduce the poverty level of the country.
With these important decisions taken by the government to encourage renewable energy production in all unexploited natural energy sources, it is not a difficult task to generate nearly 1000 MW of power within the next two to three years. Minimizing energy wastes by households and industries through the educational campaign initiate by the ACBC recently, another sizable saving of electrical energy saving could be achieved. Hence, the Development committee of the ACBC is optimistic in saving substantial portion of the dollars spent on Oil and Coal imports thereby making savings available in the country to help Sri Lanka to be the Wonder of Asia by year 2050.
Are Murunga and Katurumuringa leaves toxic?
Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha
In an article titled ‘Throw more light on green foods’ that appeared in the Island of the 20th instant, Mr Gamini Peiris reports about an eminent doctor’s warning to his friend, who told the doctor that he regularly ate Katurumuringa or Sesbania grandiflora (Sg) leaves thrice a week, to stop eating it as it is toxic and so are Murunga(Drumstick) leaves! My family also eat Sg leaves once or twice a week, and hence sought information on the ‘toxicities’ of both species.
Both leaves and flowers of Sg are very commonly eaten. It is a common leguminous tree that grows to a height of about 6-8 meters, fixes nitrogen and native to South East Asia and Northern Australia. The leaves are commonly eaten in all growing countries and are reported to contain 25 to 30% crude protein. For this reason it is also widely used as a fodder for both cattle and goats, especially in India. Goat milk yield is reported to have increased by 25% with Sg leaf feeding. There is no evidence of leaf or flower material being toxic to humans and animals.
Muringa indica or Drumstick is native to parts of Africa and Asia. It is also cultivated in Central and South America, the Caribbean and South East Asia. India is reported to produce 1.2 million tons of pods per year from an area of 380 square kilometers. There are no reports of pods or leaves being toxic. Toxicity to humans being limited to certain compounds ( extracts) from the bark and roots, which are used in Aurvedic and other native medicines in addition to leaves and flowers. Both the pods and foliage are widely consumed in all countries where the crop is grown. For long term storage, dried leaves are powdered for preservation and are commonly added to sups sauces and smoothies. The leaves are rich in Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5 , B6 and C. In Sri Lanka, the crop thrives in the dry and semi-arid areas, and Jaffna Peninsula is the largest producer of the crop.
The good specialist doctor should do well to know that in general there are toxic compounds in most fruits and vegetables we eat! For example, all solanacious plants such as tomatoes, brinjals and potatoes contain natural toxins, solanines and chaconines which are glycol-alkaloids but in low concentrations. These toxins are usually produced in response to stresses such as bruising, UV light, insect and other pest attacks. Wild mushrooms which are widely eaten especially by inhabitants in the growing regions, contain several toxins such as muscimol and muscarine which are reported to cause vomiting diarrhea, visual disturbances and hallucinations. Kernels within the pits of some stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums and cherries contain cynogenic glucoside which can be converted to hydrogen cyanide, when consumed, which is highly poisonous. This toxin is also found in cassava(manioc) root and fresh bamboo shoots, necessitating that they are cooked before consumption.
The good specialist doctor should do well to remember the wise words of Bombastus Paracelsus(1591 – 1643), the father of the science of pharmacology, that ‘all substances are poisonous, there is none which is not and it is the dosage that differentiates poison and remedy’. Even water can be potentially fatal if too much is drunk (hyperhydration). So eat or drink anything in moderation!
The name Apple Green would certainly ring a bell to those music lovers who were very much active in the local music scene, in the eighties.
Their music was appreciated and they were true professionals in whatever they did…always looking for perfection.
Apple Green, led by Rohan Mendis, was there in a big way, at The Island Music Awards 1987, held at the Bougainvillea ballroom, of the Le Galadari Meriden Hotel, in Colombo, and they won the prestigious award for ‘Outstanding Music Group.’
I remember how the members of Apple Green leapt up from their chairs, that particular night, when the band’s name was announced!
Yes, those were the days, but the good news is that two of the band members, Rohan Mendis and his brother, Jehan, are still very much into music and are performing, on a regular basis, in the States – Southern California – where they now reside.
They operate as a four-piece band, along with Shehan Jayah and Mithuru Cabral, under the banner Apple Green-DYNASTY – keeping the name Apple Green alive in that part of the world, as well.
Says Rohan: “In 2019, an elite quartet of musicians, bringing experience and raw talent, came together, in Southern California, to bring a perfect blend of music, covering all genres.
“This was, initially, to fill the void that was missing in our circles of music loving fans, and partygoers, and, since then, our popularity has soared at a rate that exceeded our expectations!
“Our music loving fans, with a penchant for finer points in quality music, and repertoire, have made us our own critics, pushing us to perfection, leaving nothing for chance. Our goal is to go above and beyond for ourselves and our fans.”
And the lineup is as follows:
Rohan Mendis (Roh)-
A pro-musician for over 30 years, Rohan was the leader of the famed band Apple Green, before migrating to Los Angeles. A bass player, composer, solo performer and vocalist, and plays all instruments, he is also an accomplished recording tech, with the ability to perfectly balance the “old and the new,” through all music ages and genres.
Jehan Mendis (Rob)
– Another pro-musician, who, along with his brother Rohan, was a founder member of Apple Green. A versatile drummer/singer, he also handles the audio/sound responsibilities for the band.
Shehan (Shay) Jayah
– A very talented guitar player, with an amazing singing ability, his range is seemingly endless, says Rohan, adding that Shehan has loads of energy and the ability to keep all “laughing” – a fun guy to be around. He is the son of Sherwin Jayah, who was a frontline singer in Sri Lanka, and in the USA, as well.
Mithuru (Mitt) Cabral
– Super, cool as a cucumber guy, says Rohan, describing him as an excellent keyboard player, gifted in every sense. Reliable and “oozing” with talent, he is another multi-instrumentalist, blessed with perfect pitch! He is, by the way, the son of popular musician Mano Cabral.
Apple Green-DYNASTY will be performing at the prestigious St. Peter’s College Centinnial Ball, in New Jersey, on December 3rd, 2022.
“We are looking forward to this event and would love to see all our East Coast fans and Peterites in attendance,’ says Rohan Mendis, adding that he would keep music lovers posted “on our developments and projects on the new VLOG that I will launch soon.”
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