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Investing in Mawella

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Mawella beach (image courtesy Mawellabeach.com)

It is heartening to see a report in The Island which says that the Minister of Environment, Mahinda Amaraweera has assured definite action against illegal constructions at the Mawella Bay. This issue has been the bane of existence for the Bay area residents as it has clearly undermined the value of our initial investments.

When the CCD and the Fisheries Ministry made a sudden decision last year to pile up rock in this beautiful Bay, they said it was for the benefit of the fishing community. But it is important to have a sense of history when making such decisions. This Bay has existed for not hundreds but probably thousands of years and fishermen in this area have always used traditional methods of fishing when they go out to sea and have survived the vagaries of ocean currents and wave movements. Today, they use the same traditional, oru boats, to go to sea and as far as we know there have been no complaints from them about pulling their boats up onto the beach or of any erosion occurring in the Mawella Bay.

From what I understand there was no proper scientific study of the Bay area and coastline, before building the anchorage that is now standing. We now hear they are going to build two breakwaters. If they go ahead with this, we fear the serene waters of the Mawella Bay will go through the same devastation that the Unawatna beach went through. That beach was destroyed by such a construction.

Therefore, it would be a great pity if the same occurs in Mawella Bay especially because investors in this area, see a lot of potential for boutique hotels here which will also be a great help to the community. Already there are murmurs and one definite case of an investor pulling out. We know that the smaller boutique hotels work very well with the community because there is a kind of sharing of profits that happens. Undoubtedly the bigger share goes to the hoteliers who invested in the business but there are many ways for the community to earn their living from them and everything counts for these underprivileged families, especially the fisher folk. Every day, we hear of how fishing boats return almost empty and this is a sad situation for those who depend on the catch for their daily living, and our kind of tourism can be a great alternative for them.

If investors pull out due to bad decisions made by some of these state agencies then it would end up being a real disaster for the locals. This is why we are heartened by the Environment Minister’s decision to intervene in this issue. I do hope sanity will prevail and the madness around us will come to an end. Thank you.

Investor/villa owner



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Opinion

University of Peradeniya conferring Honorary Doctor of Literature degree on Dr. Amarasekera

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Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera

Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera spent his university life at the Peradeniya campus, which, no doubt, had contributed to the development of his career in literature and profession. Therefore, it is only right that the University of Peradeniya confer an honorary Doctor of Literature upon Dr. Amarasekera in recognition of his very substantial contribution to Sinhala literature and his many achievements in other fields. He had been awarded a similar degree previously by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Early life and education

Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera was born in 1929 at Yatalamatta, a village in the interior of Galle District. He had his primary education in the village school and later at Nalanda College, Colombo. He had shown his literary ability before he entered the university, winning a prize in an international contest, for a short story titled ‘Rathu Rosa Mala’. A collection of short stories of the same name was published by M.D. Gunasena. He entered a dental school in 1954 and qualified as a dental surgeon in 1958. He excelled in the field of dentistry and literature.

Contribution to Sinhala Literature

Dr. Amarasekera’s literary career started very early; his first collection of short stories under the title ‘Rathu Rosa Mala’ was published before he entered the university, and while studying dentistry as an undergraduate in the Peradeniya Campus, he published several collections of free verse, ‘Bhava Geetha’, ‘Amal Biso’, ‘Guruluwatha’, ‘Avarjana’ and also a short story collection, ‘Jeevana Suvanda’.

‘Karumakkarayo’ was his first novel, which created a stir in the literary arena as he ventured into new grounds, probably influenced by the writings of D.H. Lawrence. He wrote ‘Yali Upannemi’ and ‘Depa Noladdo’, continuing in the same genre. Later he realised that his style was imitative. He agreed with Martin Wickramasinghe’s views that the Peradeniya School of writers looked at our society through foreign lenses which took man out of his cultural context. He came to believe that there are no universal values that literature could make its eternal subject. His response was to write ‘Gandhabba Apadanaya’ which was published before he left for England to follow post graduate education and this work attempted to place the characters of the novel in their cultural milieu.

In England, he realised how radically different their culture was from ours. He wrote some of his excellent short stories following the ‘culture shock’; ‘Ektamin Polowata’, ‘Katha Pahak’ and also novels, ‘Asathya Kathavak’ and ‘Premaye Sathya Kathava’.

Dr. Amarasekera has always believed that literature has a social function and he discusses this idea in his book on literary criticism ‘Nosevuna Kedapatha’. He wrote several books on literary criticism in an attempt to develop a system relevant to our society; ‘Vinodaya saha Vicharaya’, ‘Abuddassa Yugayak’, ‘Aliya saha Andayo’ and ‘Sinhala Kavya Sampradaya’.

If literature has a social function it has to take into account the socio-political underpinnings of the times and this Dr. Amarasekera does in some of his novels like ‘Gal Pilimaya Saha Bol Pilimaya’, ‘Pilima Loven Piyavi Lovata’ and ‘Vil Thera Maranaya’.

He undertook the ambitious task of writing about the development of the middle class in Sri Lanka with the semi-autobiographical series of novels starting with ‘Gamanaka Mula’. It consists of seven beautifully written novels that analyse the predicament of the village intelligentsia who struggled to climb the social ladder oblivious of the value of their own culture.

He has published several collections of poetry and four long poems, ‘Amal Biso’, ‘Gurulu Vatha’, ‘Asakda Kava’ and ‘Mathaka Vatha’. In poetry he had developed a new poetic form called ‘Pasmath Viritha’ derived from folk poetry. He attempted to trace the link that modern poetry must have with folk poetry in his work ‘Sinhala Kavya Sampradaya’, which was critically acclaimed as an ‘insightful analysis’.

Professor Wimal Dissanayake in his book ‘Enabling Tradition’ considers Dr. Amarasekera as ‘the leading cultural intellectual of present times’. Several of his novels, short story collections and poetry have won national awards. His short stories are considered as comparable to the best in the world.

Dr. Amarasekera is 90 years old but he has not stopped writing. He published three books recently; ‘Sabyathva Rajya Kara’, a socio-political analysis which proposes an alternative to Neo-liberalism and Marxism based on civilization, ‘Dathusena’, a historical novel based on King Dathusena’s life story, which attempts to exonerate Kashyapa from the grave crime of patricide and ‘Sankranti Samayaka’ a novel that explores communal relations in Sri Lanka.

These three publications display the versatility of Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera. As a writer of novels, short stories, poetry, socio-political essays and philosophical theories, he is the foremost “cultural intellectual of the present times”.

Public intellectual

During the last three decades, Dr. Amarasekera has assumed the role of the public intellectual. This may have been prompted by the realisation that addressing socio-political and cultural issues directly may have a greater impact than through fiction.

His first work in this genre was ‘Anagarika Dharmapala Marxwadeeda?’. In this work Dr. Amarasekera attempts to rehabilitate Anagarika as an intellectual with a vision, taking away that dubious label of ‘a Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinist’ that had been pinned on him. This work has prompted others to rethink Anagarika as a man with a vision, deeply concerned for the country.

The outcome of this controversy regarding the Marxist interpretation was the publication of ‘Ganaduru Mediyama’ at the height of the JVP insurrection of 1987. It was in this work that he presented the concept of Jathika Chinthanaya. What Dr. Amarasekera seems to mean by the term Jathika Chintahnaya was the existence of a civilisational consciousness instilled into the psyche of a people by its civilisation. This notion doesn’t imply racial bias. It is considered to be an emotion that is ingrained in a people who had built, nurtured and protected a civilization on their land and it is protective and defensive and not racist, oppressive or chauvinist. Social scientists like Erich Fromm seem to share this viewpoint regarding civilisational consciousness.

‘Sabyathva Rajya Kara’ published in 2016 is considered the natural outcome of the line of thinking followed by Dr. Amarasekera. It is presented by the author as an alternative to the Marxist and Neo-liberal ideologies. Professor G.L. Pieris, reviewing this book says, “The central aim of this book is an assiduous search for the roots of a culture which needs to be rediscovered and revived as the only meaningful way forward.”

His next publication, ‘Danawadayata Wikalpayak’ (An alternative to Capitalism), is an extension of the same concept, a corollary. The central idea contained in this work has been summed up by Dr. Kamal Wickramasinghe in his review of the book: “He points to the need for awakening ‘social consciousness’ of a broader society that is common to all religion-based civilisations that share humane values.”

Contribution to dental profession

It may not be out of place to mention the services Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera has rendered, as a professional, to the dental services and dental education in the country. He was the first government scholar to be sent to UK to obtain the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgery (FDS, RCS). On his return he was appointed a Consultant Dental Surgeon and the Head of the Dental institute and served that institution for over 15 years. He was the first Chairman of the Board of Study in Dental Surgery at the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine. He has also served as the external examiner for the Final BDS and the Post Graduate MS in Dental Surgery examinations.

Prof. N.A. de S. Amaratunga DSc

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Opinion

Omicron could hinder economic revival of SL

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In the immediate term, all political parties in Parliament should bury their respective hatchets, and agree on a political truce for the next two years. They could take the next step and agree to form a national government, or a national governance council, for two years. The theme of such a government or entity, should be responsible governance as the most important political activity now is responsible governance.

By Raj Gonsalkorale

Sri Lanka’s dependency on export earnings, foreign remittances and tourist earnings for its survival has made it very seriously vulnerable to the effects of the latest COVID mutant, Omnicron. If it spreads and international travel restrictions become widespread, foreign remittances and tourism earnings will take a hit, and it could be a mortal hit for Sri Lanka which is already on the brink of bankruptcy.

The government appears to continue with its show of confidence that the economic situation of the country will be resolved. Increasingly, governance ineptness, infighting within the government, a seeming lack of leadership, is dashing the hopes of many people who bestowed their hopes on the President and the government. Government’s media strategists appear to be in a stupor as they have failed to pro-actively capitalise on the positive activities of the government. They have become a reactive, ineffective force.

The Opposition, like a set of Vultures, is sniffing a political opportunity thinking and hoping they will have a carcass to feed on soon. Some other politicians continue to wax their eloquence on everything that is wrong but never offering solutions as to how the wrongs can be made right. The TNA and some other North Eastern Tamil political parties act symbolically like the three Monkeys (the deaf, blind and mute) when it comes to national issues as they seem to be giving the impression they are interested only in the welfare of the Tamils in the North and East and not Tamils elsewhere, let alone the Sinhala and Muslim people.

The situation in the country reminds one of Sybil Wettasinghe’s children’s story “Labugediye Thoilaya”. Sri Lankan politicians of all hues appear to be inside the labu gediya, participating in a political ritual to ward off evil forces that have afflicted Mother Lanka, while the labu gediya has been swallowed by a large fish as described in Wettasinghe’s story.

In contemporary Sri Lanka, the labu gediya could be equivalent to the Parliament, and the fish, to the country’s foreign debt which could very likely and very soon, swallow the entire country along with the politicians and unfortunately, the people of the country as well. Some may say not so cynically that the Parliamentarians won’t be missed if so swallowed!

The naivety of the Opposition is only superseded by the reported reliance on personnel similar to devil dancers in the Labugediye Thoilaya by the powers that be, trying to ward off evil that have afflicted them and the country.

For the sake of the country, and the future generations, one can only hope that this collective tomfoolery ceases, and immediate remedial measures taken to keep the country afloat until the global economic situation shows positive signs of a sustainable recovery.

Dire need for a political truce

In the immediate term, all political parties in Parliament should bury their respective hatchets, and agree on a political truce for the next two years. They could take the next step and agree to form a national government, or a national governance council, for two years. The theme of such a government or entity should be responsible governance as the most important political activity now is responsible governance.

What should be the key tasks for a national political consensus when it comes to responsible governance? There are many. However, three key areas are mentioned here.

A stable economic
management structure

In the current and foreseeable future, it is unlikely that Sri Lanka will be able to earn enough foreign exchange to sustain itself, unless the entire foreign debt repayments are delayed at least for two years by mutual agreement with the lending entities. Considering that 45% of the foreign debt is in the form of international sovereign bonds falling due in the short term, this is going to be a hard task. However, mechanisms will have to be found to do this.

One avenue would be to seek IMF assistance to take over the short-term foreign debt component with a longer term, low interest long term repayment arrangement. This alone may not be sufficient and IMF assistance may also be needed to augment foreign exchange needs for import of petroleum, food items and medicines.

IMF conditions for such support will be stringent, but Sri Lanka is slowly but surely heading towards a disaster and may not have any other choice left to take but to agree to such measures.

This is where a political truce becomes critical. All governments of Sri Lanka have contributed to the perilous situation the country is in, and today, the Opposition cannot afford to blow their trumpets saying they can do better, considering they contributed hugely to the perilous state of the country with their ineptness for four and a half years, prior to the advent of the current government.

So, the problem is a creation of all previous governments, and therefore, the solution, too, has to be worked out by all political parties who have been a part of a previous government.

A political consensus achieved through a two-year truce should engage in some high-level priority policy settings on economic management, foreign policy, defence, food security, energy, environment and education. These key areas should not be treated like political footballs as they have been for the last 73 years endangering the hopes of future generations.

Measures to curb corruption

Secondly, there should be a consensus on measures to curb corruption, the bane of the country’s society and which has a direct impact on the much sought-after foreign investments. The instability of the Sri Lankan rupee with official rate for a US dollar being Rs 203 while the black-market converting it at around Rs 240, and the real value of the US dollar suspected to be more than Rs 300, show the volatility and the instability of the Sri Lankan rupee and why many would-be investors are not investing in Sri Lanka. Besides this, it is widely known that bribery adds another impost to any would-be investor, and the suspected range of this impost is reportedly anything from 10% to 50% of the value of a project.

Corruption has become endemic in the country and curbing it is in the hands of politicians as they are the ones responsible for introducing it and propagating it to the heights it has come to now. They need to enact new laws if what is there is not sufficient, but very importantly, they need to leave the justice system and the law enforcement system to carry out their tasks and responsibilities WITHOUT interference. A strong anti-corruption body with strong teeth, including judicial powers, is needed to instil some fear in potential bribe takers that they and their families could be called upon to pay for the crimes committed and languish in jail even for the rest of their lives depending on the severity of the crime. Everyone, from the President downwards, must be subject to anti-corruption laws and punishable irrespective of whether they are in office or not.

Legal framework for media operations

Thirdly, some measures should be taken through such a political consensus to determine how the politicians and the public should act to facilitate responsible governance via the media. A consensus on a legal framework for media operation including, very importantly, the social media is needed.

Social media, in particular, has become the repository and the facilitator of genuine news as well as fake news. Some information that is circulated via social media platforms is highly irresponsible and harmful to the very society in which such platforms provide the avenues to proliferate information.

While the intent should never be any curtailment of media freedom, responsible governance essentially has to be considered as a two-way process where those governing and those being governed should take equal responsibility about what they say and do. There may be many measures that could be taken to introduce a framework for all media operations without impinging on media freedom.

In this regard, Danushka Medawatte in an article titled Freedom of the Wild Ass (https://danumedawatte.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/freedom-of-the-wild-ass/)

states quote “Law is an ass” says Charles Dickens. This certainly seems to hold true in the light of the freedom that is enjoyed by media through the protections granted by both domestic legal systems and international law. While I am reaping the benefits of freedom of expression in making these claims, it needs to be highlighted that certain freedoms require to be curtailed and/or reviewed in order for the other rights to exist. At present, it is possible to note that some journalists exercise their freedom of expression in a manner harmful to the society. It is questionable whether such practices should be upheld in light of several recent circumstances. While freedom of expression is, without a doubt, one of the most important rights that perhaps functions as a premise for other rights, it is important to establish the framework within which one may swing one’s fist without striking another’s nose”

Medawatte encapsulates the view of all fair-minded citizens about democracy and media freedom.

Essentially, media freedom must be accompanied with responsibility as irresponsible circulation of unchecked, unverified, inaccurate and harmful information is not a characteristic of being responsible. Since politicians are tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and enacting laws, a political consensus becomes critical in ensuring that any media operation law including social media, has across the board support and does not become a political football to be kicked around by political parties.

Major social media platforms are under scrutiny throughout the world, and bona fides of some companies are in question as they have created an impression that revenue and revenue growth is what matters to them and not the means they provide to the good, the bad and the ugly, to propagate information and misinformation, with noble intentions as well as ignoble intentions. The proliferators of irresponsible information, using social media, need to consider whether they are doing a service or a disservice to the society and the country they live in.

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Opinion

Do they know what Parliament is there for?

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

The behaviour of our elected representatives, at times, is so reprehensible that it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate them from village thugs. In a way, it is not surprising because thugs are elected to positions of power. In fact, many others are waiting to be elected to the Provincial Councils, but I am sure many voters are hoping that these elections would never be held as they do not want more thugs to harass them. It is hoped that the second rung of government would be scrapped whatever our ‘big brother’ may say. However, we cannot do without the Parliament, and the behaviour of the members of the hallowed chamber has left us aghast. They simply do not seem to understand what the Parliament is there for. Maybe, the younger generations are not that concerned but we, ‘oldies’, are worried as this was not the way the ‘honourable members’ behaved in the past.

It is a great shame that the MP do not seem to understand that the Parliament is a place for discussion and debate, not cheap protests. If they have to be held, they should be within the confines of parliamentary norms. Though the Opposition uses this tactic more often, the governing party, too, indulges in this kind of gesture politics. Perhaps, it is the telecast of parliamentary proceedings that has resulted in these theatricals aimed at impressing the public.

What we are witnessing today, in addition to an inept government, is an Opposition engaged in gesture politics which, it seems to think, would propel them to power. Instead of contributing to nation building, in a constructive manner, with debate and discussion based on facts, members of the Opposition seem keen to hold protests inside the Parliament and spreading misinformation. Worse still, they engage in street protests, in spite of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic that is far from being controlled, as well alluded to in The Island editorial “Enemies of people” (The Island, 17 November).

Even if all this can be excused, the despicable behaviour of some ‘honourable members’ can never be condoned. They seem to relish using unparliamentary language, even raw filth! Quite often, exchanges between the government and the Opposition descends into a slang match, not infrequently leading to fisticuffs. too. Instead of being punished, they are rewarded for their misdeeds. One ‘honourable member’ who tampered with the private parts of a man-in-robes was rewarded with a ministry during the previous Rajapaksa administration! By the way, I have stopped referring to those who act against the teachings and the Vinaya rules of the Buddha as Bhikkhus, as they are nothing but men-in-robes seeking personal glory and power. They are more selfish than laymen and fight for seats in the Parliament. I am waiting for a government bold enough to stop Bhikkhus being elected to Parliament!

Obviously, disgraceful behaviour does not seem to be limited to uneducated MPs. Whilst there is a justifiable clamour for the introducing of minimal educational qualifications for MPs, lack of educational qualifications does not seem to be the only problem. What we need is an attitudinal change. I was shocked to watch a recent news item, where only a part of a speech made by MP Sarath Fonseka, former Army Commander, was broadcast. More than half of his speech was ‘bleeped-out’, making me wonder whether he was using unparliamentary language. What would have happened if schoolchildren had been present in the public gallery to watch democracy in action!

The Speaker of the House is supposed to be the guardian of the dignity of the chamber and it is his bounden duty to stop MPs from using unparliamentary language and behaving like thugs, but our modern-day speakers seem to be behaving like puppets! In the British House of Commons, the word that often rings loud is “Order”, sometimes repeated in a terse manner. Recently, the British Speaker reprimanded the PM when he was out-of-order! When will that happen in Sri Lanka? By electing a former Army man as President, voters expected discipline at all levels of government and public administration but, unfortunately, we seem to be having indiscipline from Parliament downwards.

MP Tissa Kuttiarachci opened a new low in the Parliament by making a speech full of double meanings in referring to some female MPs. It was so offensive that even a female minister raised objections. When the Speaker reprimanded him, he had the audacity to demand to know what wrong words he had used! Any decent individual would not hesitate to apologise to anyone upon being told that their feelings were hurt, but he refused to do so! Do these MPs lack even common decency? Or, are they deluded by grandiosity?

Parliament need not be a dry place. Debates can be, and should be, interesting. Good natured humour would be tolerated, enjoyed even though remarks may carry hidden meanings. After all, it was the great democrat and parliamentary debater Dudley Senanayake, on an interruption by Maithripala Senanayake, turned to the Speaker and said “Sir, he has reasonable use of Tamil at night”, alluding to the ethnicity of his wife Ranjini. The house roared with laughter, Maithripala Senanayake was amused! That is the finesse the politicians of the modern day lack. Crudeness seem to be their forte!

We had amazing speakers in the Parliament, one of them being the late Anura Bandaranaike. Though I did not have the fortune to listen to him, my good friend Nihal Seneviratne, former Secretary General of Parliament, confided in me that Anura was one of those rare MPs who frequented the library in the Parliament to gather fact for his speeches.

When the new Parliament was constructed, there was widespread criticism which was silenced by Minister Ananda Tissa de Alwis with a wonderful speech at the opening session of the Parliament. What has happened to Sri Lanka?

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