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Madness, sheer madness!



‘Colombo Dunes’, Sri Lanka’s first sand dune ATV adventure centre, was declared open by Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa at the Colombo Port City on 28 Oct. Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Transport Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and others attended the event (Pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)


“While the country is burning”: the caption for the front-page photograph in The Island of 29th October, displaying the antics of our senior government politicians at the opening of “Colombo Dunes” ATV adventure centre, said it all! Have they inherited the genes of Nero, who is supposed to have played the fiddle while Rome was burning? I wondered; or, has the Covid-19 virus had a specific effect on Sri Lanka, making many sections of the populace mad to varying degrees? This second explanation seems more plausible due to a variety of reasons.

Craziness does not seem to be confined to Pohottuwa politicians, the others behaving equally badly at the time of a great national disaster. There are rumours that the SLFP will split into three, and that would be the death knell of the Bandaranaike era! The leader of the SJB, who tries to cover up his inadequacies by verbosity, often inappropriate, is being undermined by some in his alliance. Ranil shouts loudly that the future of the UNP is with the youth, but refuses to hand over the reins to a young leader!

Of course, the government takes the cake! It seems to progress from one fiasco to the other. It wants to ‘go green’ and stopped importation of fertiliser at the most inopportune of times. Can we afford experimentation that may adversely affect the economy, at a time when the economy is on its knees? A secret midnight deal signed by a Minister holding dual US citizenship with a US energy firm is now threatening a split in the Pohottuwa, some ministers openly attacking in the strongest possible terms. When I posed the question “Pohottuwa: Will it blossom or wither?” (The island, 6 July), I never expected the withering to start so soon!

Unfortunately, the medical profession lost the esteem of the public, due to the long-standing erratic behaviour of its prime trade union. Even leaders of ‘learned societies’ seem to be making headline grabbing statements, rather than making positive contributions during a grave medical emergency. However, no one can beat the life-president of the GMOA, for making pseudoscientific statements that embarrass anyone with even a basic knowledge of science! I felt squeamish, to say the least, when I watched a video clip that showed him telling the President that kidneys should be given with chemical fertilisers! He seems to have his own statistics that show Sihalayas of yore had longevity, not recorded in any other source. He has written, in a Sinhala newspaper, that there was a time when human beings lived so long that a woman had to be 500 years old to get married! He seems to be propagating ‘folk’ Buddhism, not as a path to Nibbana, but as a path to Diyawannawa; or, perhaps, to the seat of Secretary of Health!

Talking of my profession, a retired physician, has written a piece supporting the teachers strike (‘In defence of teachers’ struggle; The Island, 25 October) maybe because his parents were teachers, or because he had been an active trade unionist in the past, or both. I got an interesting response to this from a friend of mine Dr Upali Abeysiri, retired Plastic Surgeon:

“One justification is that his parents were teachers. So were yours and mine. They were a special class. We always had at least two poor kids fed and housed at our home while having education. None did private tuition. If any student asked for tuition, it was given free when possible. Whenever there were any extra activities, they did not grudge or expect payment. Contrast some of the present generation. Their best talents are spared for tuition classes.”

He has not mentioned the fact that this old problem, not solved by many governments, cannot be solved at once due to the present circumstances. While an estimated 60% of the population of Sri Lanka did not have even two meals a day for over a year, they were paid for demonstrating on the road. Children were educationally at a standstill. How human are they?”

Another reason why Sri Lanka is a ‘land like no other’ is because it continues to pay those on strike! To its credit, the government went out of the way to find a solution to the teachers’ salary issue, but how did they respond? They left the youngest of children stranded for two days, extending their strike in a vain attempt to show their might. To me, this is madness of the highest order. Anyway, what is there to lose; they get paid whether they work or not! My parents, who dedicated their lives to teaching, would turn in their graves if they knew what is going on.

Among the striking teachers were Bhikkhus of the pirivena schools. As pointed out by Upali Abeysiri: “They don the robe saying, ‘sabba dukkha nissarana – nibbana sacchikaranatthaya’ meaning to strive to end all suffering. Is that ending suffering, demanding payment for teaching novice monks dhamma?”

I have written many times about Buddhist monks undertaking roles unbecoming of them. The latest fiasco involves Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, a controversial figure, about whom I changed my opinion after watching the Derana 360 programme, wherein he pointed out the representations made to him by moderate Muslims that their concerns about extremism has been disregarded by successive governments. It may be because of this that the President decided he should head the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to make recommendations in respect of the ‘One Country, One Law’ concept. When the President made this request, it would have been incumbent on Ven. Gnanasara to point out that it was a position a Bhikkhu should not hold, for many reasons. Unfortunately, he accepted it instead, which may produce disastrous consequences, if one is to go by Shamindra Ferdinando’s report in The Island of 1 November, to the effect that the Minister of Justice may resign over this issue.

As rightly pointed out in the editorial “It’s mandates stupid!” (The Island, 1 November), it is very democratic to question this flawed decision by the President. More so, if it means the resignation of a capable minister. Even a President can make mistakes, and admitting that and making amendments could only enhance the prestige of the President. It is only fools who refuse to admit mistakes and continue to defend the indefensible.

President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the only Muslim in the Cabinet, is one of the most educated and, more importantly, one of the most effective members of the Cabinet. His attempts to correct the slow turning of wheels of justice is much needed, and if he were to leave it would be a great loss to the country. May I humbly request Ven. Gnanasara to step down from the position, to not only avoid embarrassment to the government but also prevent the country losing the services of an able minister, a rare commodity nowadays. Perhaps, he can continue as a member in view of his experience regarding the grievances of the moderate Muslim community.

Another obvious lapse is the lack of a Tamil representative in the PTF. This anomaly can easily be rectified by the appointment of Mrs. P.S.M. Charles, who is eminently qualified to head the PTF. She, who served as Jaffna District Secretary, held the positions of the Director General of Customs and the Secretary to the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, before being appointed the Governor of the Northern Province. Someone of that calibre and experience is needed to head a Presidential Task Force.

The need of the day is consensus, to get our problems solved, not madness.

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Send them back to school!



We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.

We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.

Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.


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Compensate victims of gas explosions



There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.

The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.

All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.

M. B. Navarathne

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Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense



The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?

Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.

All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.

The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.

In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.

In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners

Sunil Thenabadu

Brisbane, Australia

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