LSSP not happy about former party man H.A. de S. Gunasekera being too powerful
By Leelananda de Silva
As senior assistant secretary, the management of the ministry (of Planning and Economic Affairs under the prime minister) was my responsibility. Management of what is a small- sized ministry (in terms of staff) is not a heavy burden. There was not much personnel management, unlike in ministries like education or health. The tasks were largely to do with the reshaping of the ministry, and its expansion to the districts.
It is my estimate that administration did not take more than five percent of my time. Although this work was not a heavy claim on my time, the responsibility for administration puts one in touch with almost everybody in the ministry and it gives you much more influence than it would have been if I was only the Director of Economic Affairs.
H.A.de.S (Gunasekara), the permanent secretary, was not interested or engaged in administrative matters, and he left me to get on with it. Instead of describing the repetitive tasks in administration which I had to deal with over seven years, I would confine myself to narrating a few of the more important of the tasks that I had to undertake. I shall also describe very briefly in this chapter several matters which I attended to as Director of Economic Affairs which appeared to be more administrative than substantive.
The Economic Affairs Division had taken over a rag bag of tasks which were undertaken by the now defunct private sector affairs division. Let me at this point describe the politics of the Ministry which also involved its reorganization. Under the previous government, the Ministry was known as the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs. When Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government came into power, the name of the Ministry was changed to Ministry of Planning and Employment. The idea was to stress the significance of the employment factor, as the new government had promised to create employment and that had to be highlighted in terms of ministry organization.
The internal ministry structure remained virtually the same as under the previous government, apart from adding a new division called the employment division. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s was a coalition government, and one coalition partner, the LSSP was not happy with Prof. H.A.de.S Gunasekara. They were anxious to curtail his authority and power. In 1973, they pressed for the Department of Plan Implementation to be taken out of the ministry and created as a separate ministry under another ministry secretary. It remained under the Prime Minister.
The objective was to curtail H.A.de.S’s powers. There was also pressure to move the External Resources Division to the Ministry of Finance, but that was firmly ruled out by the Prime Minister. When these changes occurred in 1973, the Ministry was once again renamed MY/P&EA. H.A.de.S felt very unhappy at this time and he left on some official mission leaving Dr. Ananada Meegama who was acting secretary and me to sort out the ministry reorganization and on which we worked with M.D.D. Peiris, Secretary to the Prime Minister.
An interesting task in administration was to oversee the expansion of the Ministry to the districts. H.A.de.S was anxious to establish a district planning mechanism, so that planning can be taken down to the district level. He was critical of earlier arrangements which, in his view, made the Planning Ministry look as if it was more connected with foreign bodies, than with domestic institutions and affairs. The decision was taken to establish district planning offices with a planning officer in charge, so that district level resources can be better utilized through establishment of a logical system of priorities for public expenditures.
One of the first questions that arose was whereto locate the district planning offices. There were those who argued that it should be an autonomous unit in the district. I argued for its location within the kachcheri and under the government agent. I had worked in kachcheries and I thought that it would be more effective if it was located there. There was the prospect that it could be the unit servicing district coordinating committees, making these bodies more effective.
H.A.de.S and the Prime Minister agreed with this arrangement and they were located in kachcheries. Financial provision was made to have new building space in the kachcheries. I prepared the cabinet paper on this subject. I lost touch with developments after 1977, when district administration became more political. However, a district planning mechanism would not be out of place whatever the system of provincial and district administration. The setting up of district planning offices constituted a major change in the system of district administration. I am very pleased to have been associated with this change.
With the setting up of district planning offices, and the expansion of the regional development division in particular, there was the need for more planning staff. I managed the process of recruiting about 50 planning officers over the period I was there. When these posts were advertised, there were a large number of applicants and we had to have at least three levels of interviewing these applicants. First we had a preliminary interview and weeded out about 80 to 90 percent of applicants. Then there was a second interview and the number was reduced to about thrice the number of potential recruits.
At this final interview, it was H.A.de.S who presided and I was there. I avoided sitting on the other interview boards as I was busy with my other tasks. Fortunately, we were able to get senor public servants from other ministries to sit on these boards. Through this expansion of numbers of planning officers, we were taking the first steps in creating a Planning Service.
When the Planning Service was being expanded, there emerged the need for two types of planning officers. Those going to the districts and working in regional planning, could manage with a basic level of English. The other divisions in the Ministry like external resources and economic affairs, with a heavy external orientation required officers who were competent in English. This created a problem in recruitment.
At this time, local universities could not supply sufficient graduates with a knowledge of English as required, specially in economics. So it was decided to recruit officers on a temporary basis on contract, at planning officer and assistant director levels. The Cabinet approved our proposal and through this process we were able to obtain the services of several highly qualified persons.
I remember that one of these recruits was Pat Alailima, originally from Sri Lanka and later living and working in Western Samoa. Mike Priestly, who was UNDP resident representative in Colombo knew her from his days in Western Samoa and it was he who suggested to me that she was highly competent. Pat Alailima went on to higher things later on, becoming director general of planning. It is sad that she died immediately after retirement.
Among others we recruited were Senaka Abeyratna (later a leading figure in culture and the arts), Naren Chitty (now a professor of media and communications at Macquarie University in Australia) and Sanjiva Senanayaka, later to be International Finance Corporation country director in Colombo. We also brought in one or two from the universities. Chandra Rodrigo was one of them, and she was later to be Professor of Economics at the University in Colombo. It was an enriching experience for her as well as for the Ministry. There was also Indrani Sri Chandrasekara who had worked earlier in the Central Bank.
The Census and Statistics Department, National Film Corporation (NFC), Water Resources Board and the Export Promotion Secretariat came under the Ministry, and I had to deal with whatever tasks that arose at the ministry level regarding these bodies. Three or four times I acted briefly as the Director of Census and Statistics. The Director at the time was L.B. Rajakaruna, a senior administrative service officer.
I had a difficult relationship with him. When he reached the age of 55, we suggested to the Ministry of Public Administration to transfer him as there was no prospect for him to obtain an extension from our Ministry. L.N. Perera was deputy in the department and he was a highly qualified statistician but the post of Director was scheduled as an administrative service post. In a very rare intervention, Mrs. Bandaranaike suggested that this post should go to L.N.Perera who was deputy director. So he was appointed, and Mrs. Bandaranaike’s intervention was certainly in the right direction. After all these years, we now had a specialized statistician as the head of the department.
The Chairman of the National Film Corporation was L. Piyasena, a confidante of the Prime Minister, and father in law of Gamini Dissanayaka. He was a kind and courteous gentleman. The general manager was D.B. Nihalsingha, who was later to be a leading personality in the film world. On the NFC board, there was always a lawyer or someone with a legal background. Wickrama Weerasooria was there at one stage.
Sometime in 1974, there was a vacancy for the legal slot on the board. I was attending a wedding at the GOH in Colombo and was seated next to G.L Peiris, then a young lecturer in law at the university (he was later to be Professor of law, Vice Chancellor, and important political personality). I asked him whether he was interested in being considered for a place on the board of the NFC. He said he was interested and he came to see me the next day in office, and I took him to H.A.de.S, and later, we recommended his appointment to the Prime Minister. He had a long tenure on the board and he tells me whenever I meet him that his interest in a public and political career originated with his experience on the board of the NFC.
The Chairman of the Water Resources Board (WRB) was the former Chief Justice, Hema Basnayake. Mr. Basnayake was interested in the rehabilitation of ancient irrigation works in the country and he had requested the Prime Minister for this job, in his retirement. The reason for locating the WRB in the Planning Ministry was that Mr. Basnayake was not prepared to serve under any minister, other than the Prime Minister. As chairman, he never came to see the permanent secretary of the ministry. He saw the Prime Minister on rare occasions.
Whenever there was any work relating to the WRB, H.A.de.S suggested to me that I should go and meet him at his office, taking into consideration his previous position in public life. I did see him from time to time and he was very courteous to me. He was deeply concerned with the rehabilitation of minor irrigation works in the dry zone. When he got to know that I had dealt with minor irrigation works years ago in Anuradhapura, he was happy to have more extended discussions with me. The Ministry of Irrigation did not want to hear much about this board.
(To be continued next week)
(Excerpted from the Long Littleness of Life an autobiography. The writer had an 18-year public service career serving as Senior Assistant Secretary and Director of Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affair in the 1970s working closely with Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. He thereafter had an international career as Resident Representative of the Third World Forum in Geneva from 1980-2013 and thereafter serving as a senior international consultant for many UN and non-UN agencies.)
S L – a cauldron of casualties and trouble
Cassandra has stopped watching news at night for the sake of her wellbeing and peace of mind. Watching English news at 9.00 p m on a local channel caused her to toss and turn or wake up at the ungodly hour of 2.00 am to again toss and turn, but this time mentally with suppressed anger, frustration, and fear for the future surfacing and consequently inundating the mind with unease. Why all this? Because Sri Lankan news is always of protests, ministerial pontificating with next to nothing done to lift the country from rock bottom it has been thrust to; and violence, murders and drug hauls. All worrying issues. The present worry is spending 200 m on a celebration that most Ordinaries, the public Cass means, DO NOT Want.
What are the issues of the week just past? Hamlet’s disturbed and disturbing ‘To be or not to be’ twisted to ‘Will happen or will not.’ That specifically relates to the LG elections scheduled for March 9. The government has tried every trick of delay just because they face sure defeat – the combined Elephant and Bud that rules us as of now. Everyone else shouts for elections and follows up with the threat to come out on the streets. That seems to be Sri Lankans most resorted to pastime. And we dread the melees; the water cannon, police brutality and the disgrace of saffron robed, bearded and hair grown men in the vanguard of slogan lofting shouters. All a useless and worthless expense of energy achieving nothing but tear gas and water shooting, and remand jail for some. Some of these protests call for the release of one such IUSF protester deemed to be a terrorist by a draconian law and confined in solitary imprisonment for far too long.
A shot or more of arrack or kasippu was resorted to by men and excused by other men as necessary mental trouble relievers. A woman would imbibe a bit of brandy if not a sleeping pill to ease her troubled mind and thus queasy gut. Not any longer if one takes advice that comes pouring in via social media.
Canada’s new move on Alcohol Guidance
As questioned by Holly Honderich in Washington BBC January 18: “What’s behind Canada’s drastic new Alcohol Guidance?” She says a report funded by Health Canada warns that “any amount of alcohol is not good for your health and if you drink, less is better.” This is contained in a 90 page report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Health issues result from the intake of more than standard drinks and these include breast and colon cancer. Honderich says it may be a rude awakening for the roughly 80% of Canadian adults who drink. The ratio is higher, Cass presumes, in this resplendent isle with its arrack, illicit brews and toddy both kitul and palmyrah. So the comforting statement that was earlier in vogue, that a daily tot of alcoholic drink is good for health, is sent overboard by the Canadian advice. Of course now with money so short except in the hands of the corrupt, the latter advice will have to be taken, voluntarily or otherwise, by most Lankans.
Prez Gotabaya and his advisors’ ruling
We have all seen at least on TV, farmers mourning their yellowing crops of paddy and heard their heart-rending cries of hopelessness at the loss of a third harvest due to the utter crime of overnight stoppage of chemical fertilisers and pest control. Cass wonders how the ex-Prez who decreed this and his advisors sleep at night having blighted long term the entire agriculture of this predominantly agricultural country. Farmers cry out they are in debt, have no money to feed nor school their children; added to which hospitals are bare of medicines.
A highly-educated and experienced agriculturist sent Cass an email the gist of which is that rice farmers all over the island report a ‘yellowing’ of paddy, stunted growth and dead plants in patches. They had all used ‘compost’ issued by the govt. There is a hint this could be due to a nematode infestation. If correct, this has grave implications. It has occurred in tea with no easy cure. Only costly fumigation was effective, eventually. Once rice paddies are infected it would be very difficult to control – almost impossible; already impoverished farmers can bear no further expense.
A three wheeler driver told Cass that river bed soil had been mixed with thrown away household garbage (both obtained free, obviously) and sold as organic fertiliser. I hasten to add this is hearsay, but the obvious truth staring all Sri Lankans in the face and sending shivers of apprehension down all spines is that this Maha season crop is kaput; gone down the drain with farmers cheated and someone or some persons having made money from the deal.
Pointless it is to curse those who were in the racket; useless to commiserate farmers and their families; impossible to compensate them. Will those responsible for giving out dangerous fertiliser for distribution be traced and brought to justice? Never! However, that word ‘never’ is now pronounced with a mite of doubt after M Sirisena and others were dealt justly by judges of the Supreme Court. There are glimmers of hope that wrong doers, actually criminals who bankrupted the country and damaged its agriculture, will be dealt with suitably.
There will be no Aluth Avuruddha for the backbone of the country in April since celebrations centre around a good harvest and R&R after a Maha season of toil and filling bins and storehouses with bountiful paddy. This was pre-Gota days. Now it is all round misery since urban dwellers sorrow, and also suffer, with the farmers who supplied them with food.
Clear stats given to prove inefficiency of the state sector
A video clip came to Cassandra with Advocata CEO Dananath Fernando speaking on the inefficiency of the public service due to being too many in number. Dananath is much admired and spoke clearly and convincingly. He said more conversing with Faraz Shauketaly on Newsline presented by TVI channel on Tuesday 24 January at 8.30 p m.
Dananath said our bureaucracy is inefficient and ineffectual. Main reason being there are too many to do the work. His fact check went like this. In India for every 177 members of the general public there is one (01) government officer or as named earlier ‘government servant’. In Pakistan the figures are 117 to one. Bangladesh is almost the same. In Sri Lanka (hold your breath!) to every sixteen (16) citizens there sits one government officer, mainly twiddling his/her thumbs. It would be interesting to know the ratios in developed countries. But the very relevant to us countries have been named by the Advocata finding. Cass does not need to spell what the result is; she has already indicated it with the image of the thumb twiddler.
We knew the bureaucracy was over staffed, bloated and bulging big like the leaders we have: 225 in parliament, then local councils and pradeshiya sabhas. And in each of them, law makers, decision takers and those who carry them out are far too excessive in number and cost the government excessively in salaries, infrastructure, travel modes; etc. etc. So Advocata asks how development, or even mere running of the country can be achieved efficiently and effectively. A further shock, at least to Cass, was dealt by Dananath in proving the point by revealing statistics for the police service. 50% of the entire police force is deployed on security duty to 225 MPs, Ministers and state VIPs while the balance half is expected to provide safety and security to 22 million people! Lop sided and thus the country slants to sink or disintegrate. It has already slanted to bankruptcy and begging as never before and selling the meager money making ventures we possess.
How did the public service get so bloated? Again the guilty are, or were, those in power. They kept sending persons with chits and they had to be employed. Reason? Sympathy for the jobless? Not at all. Pure unadulterated self-interest so votes are assured them.
Rise up and show thy face, thou olde pensioner
That’s a government order to be observed by the old; most finding walking difficult and many finding the necessity to gather some money for three wheeler hire denting their January budget. But present yourself to the Grama Sevaka of your area is a must if you want to continue receiving your pension, now totally inadequate; but still very grateful for. Hence the procession of the old and weak leaning on walking sticks, even crutches or on willing supporting arms offered them.
Some years ago, questioned by Cassandra, an obliging woman Grama Sevaka said that those unable to present themselves are visited in their homes by officers. We do hope this is done since there must be plenty thumb twiddlers in this government department too.
Cass most definitely is an admirer of beautiful Hirunika. She’s garnered another kudos by her latest action, OK, gimmick if you like that word to express the way she has shown displeasure, censure, disagreement of the general public on holding an elaborate National Day event to celebrate 75 years of’ democratic self-rule’ at the exorbitant cost of Rs 200m.. That expression itself calls for comment. Termed National Day it is far from being thus with so many protesting various issues. Celebration is a blatant falsehood. Feb 4 should really be a day of mourning, since the Nation is in the dregs of corruption, misrule and bankruptcy. Self-rule here equates to selfish rule by the leaders for themselves and misrule for us the public. Democracy is dead, actually it was totally dead during previous regimes but has revived somewhat lately,
And how did Hirunika express censure? By having black bows knotted on the posts erected to prop covered spaces for the march past, etc. Black connotes death, mourning, displeasure, bad times. Of course at expense, the bows will be removed before the posse of horses and motor riders and security cars conducts the Prez to the s venue. Cass entertains a jaundiced wish that the entire DPL Corps will, non-diplomatically, ignore invitation and not be present at the celebratory event. Rows and rows of empty chairs might convey the message of non grata, rather disdain for the powers that be. Ranil may be respected still, but those backing him and even guiding his hands are NOT.
Cheers till we meet next Friday!
By JAYDEV JANA
The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’, which means ‘way of living’. The judgement of right and wrong, what to do and what not to do, and how one ought to act, form ethics. It is a branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour.
Morality is the body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture. It can also derive from a standard that a person believes in. The word morals is derived from the Latin word ‘mos’, which means custom.
Many people use the words Ethics and Morality interchangeably. However, there is a difference between Ethics and Morals. To put it in simple terms, Ethics = Moral + reasoning.For example, one might feel that it is morally wrong to steal, but if he/ she has an ethical viewpoint on it, it should be based on some sets of arguments and analysis about why it would be wrong to steal. Mahatma Gandhi is considered as one of the greatest moral philosophers of India. The highest form of morality in Gandhi’s ethical system is the practice of altruism/self-sacrifice.
For Gandhi, it was never enough that an individual merely avoided causing evil; they had to actively promote good and actively prevent evils. The ideas and ideals of Gandhi emanated mainly from: (1) his inner religious convictions including ethical principles embedded in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity; (2) the exigencies of his struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the mass political movements during India’s freedom struggle; and (3) the influence of Tolstoy, Carlyle and Thoreau etc. He was a moralist through and through and yet it is difficult to write philosophically about his ethics.
This is because Gandhi is fundamentally concerned with practice rather than with theory or abstract thought, and such philosophy as he used was meant to reveal its ‘truth’ in the crucible of experience. Hence, the subtitle of his Autobiography ~ ‘the story of my experiments in truth.’ The experiments refer to the fact that the truth of concept, values, and ideals is fulfilled only in practice.
Gandhi’s ethics are inextricably tied up with religion, which itself is unconventional. Though an avowed Hindu, he was a Hindu in philosophical rather than a sectarian sense; there was much Hindu ritual and practice that he subjected to critique.
In his Ethical Religion, published in 1912 based on lectures delivered by him, Gandhi had stated simply that he alone cannot be called truly religious or moral whose mind is not tainted with hatred and selfishness, and who leads a life of absolute purity and of disinterested services. Without mental purity or purification of motive, external action cannot be performed in selfless spirit. Goodness does not consist in abstention from wrong but from the wish to do wrong; evil is to be avoided not from fear but from the sense of obligation. Consistency was less important to Gandhi than moral earnestness, and rules were less useful than specific norms of human excellence and the appreciation of values. Politics is a comprehensive term which is associated with composition and operation of state structure as well as its interrelationship with other states. It is activity centred around power and very often deprived of morals. With its power-mongering, amoral Machiavellianism, and its valorisation of expediency over principle, and of successful outcomes over scrupulous means, politics is an uncompromising avenue for saintliness. Inclusion of ethics in politics seemed to be a contradiction to many contemporary political philosophers.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak among others warned Gandhi before he embarked on a political career in India, “Politics is a game of worldly people and not of sadhus.” Introducing spirituality into the political arena would seem to betoken ineffectiveness in an area driven by worldly passions and cunning. It is perhaps for these reasons that Christ himself appeared to be in favour of a dualism: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” In this interpretation, the standards and norms that apply to religion are different from those relevant to politics.
Gandhi by contrast, without denying the distinction between the domain of Caesar and that of God, repudiates any rigid separation between the two. As early as 1915, Gandhi declared his aim “to spiritualise” political life and political institutions.
Politics is as essential as religion, but if it is divorced from religion, it is like a corpse, fit only for burning. In the preface to his autobiography, Gandhi declared that his devotion of truth had drawn him into politics, that his power in the political field was derived from his spiritual experiments with himself, and those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Human life being an undivided whole, no line could be drawn between ethics and politics. It was impossible to separate the everyday life of man, he emphasised, from his spiritual being. He said, “I feel that political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress.” Gandhi is often called a saint among politicians. In an epoch of ‘globalisation of selfcentredness’ there is a pressing necessity to comprehend and emulate the moralistic dimension of Gandhian thought and re-evaluate the concept of politics. The correlation between ends and means is the essence of Gandhi’s interpretation of society in terms of ethical value rather than empirical relations. For Gandhi, means and ends are intricately connected.
His contention was, “For me it is enough to know the means. Means and ends are convertible terms in my philosophy.” Gandhi countered the assertion that ends vindicate means. If the means engaged are unjust there is no possibility of achieving satisfactory outcomes. He compared the means to a seed and the end to a tree. Gandhi stuck to this golden ideal through thick and thin, without worrying about the immediate results. He was convinced that our ultimate progress towards the goal would be in exact proportion to the purity of our means.
Gandhi believed that “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” His seven social sins refer to behaviours that go against ethical code and thereby weaken society. When values are not strongly held, people respond weakly to crisis and difficulty. The seven sins are: (1) Wealth without work; (2) Pleasure without conscience; (3) Knowledge without character; (4) Commerce without morality; (5) Science without humanity; (6) Religion without sacrifice; and (7) politics without principle. Gandhi’s Seven Sins are an integral part of Gandhian ethics.
The Satyagraha (Sanskrit and Hindi: ‘Holding into truth’) as enunciated by Gandhi seeks to integrate spiritual values, community organisation and selfreliance with a view to empower individuals, families, groups, villages, towns and cities. It became a major tool in the Indian struggle against British Imperialism and has since been adopted by protest groups in other countries.
According to the philosophy of Satyagraha, Satyagrahis (Practitioners of Satyagraha) achieve correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a non-violence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love, and by undergoing a rigorous process of self-scrutiny. In so doing, the satyagrahi encounters truth in the absolute. By refusing to submit to the wrong or to cooperate with it, the satyagrahi must adhere to non-violence. They always warn their opponents of their intentions and forbid any tactic suggesting the use of secrecy to one’s advantage. Satyagraha seeks to conquer through conversion: in the end, there is neither defeat nor victory but rather a new harmony. Gandhi’s Satyagraha always highlighted moral principles. By giving the concept of Satyagraha, Gandhi showed mankind how to win over greed and fear by love.
There was no pretension or hypocrisy about Gandhi. His ethics do not stem from the intellectual deductive formula. ‘Do unto others as you would have them unto you.’ He never asked others to do anything which he did not do. It is history how he conducted his affairs. He never treated even his own children in any special manner from other children, sharing the same kind of food and other facilities and attending the same school. When a scholarship was offered for one of his sons to be sent to England for higher education, Gandhi gave it to some other boy. Of course, he invited strong resentment from two of his sons and there are many critics who believe that Gandhi neglected his own children, and he was not the ideal father. His profound conviction of equality of all men and women shows the essential Gandhi who grew into a Mahatma.
The question of why one should act in a moral way has occupied much time in the history of philosophical inquiry. Gandhi’s answer to this is that happiness, religion and wealth depend upon sincerity to the self, an absence of malice towards others, exploitation of others, and always acting ‘with a pure mind.’ The ethical and moral standard Gandhi set for himself reveals his commitment and devotion to eternal principles and only someone like him who regulated his life and action in conformity with the universal vision of human brotherhood could say “My Life is My Message.” (The Statesman/ANN)
Vibrant ties with M-E, a foreign policy priority for SL
Economics primarily drive politics and this principle applies to Sri Lanka’s relations with almost the entirety of the world’s regions. The fact that economic interdependence is compelling this country to break new ground in its ties with the Middle East bears this out fully.
Over the decades, Sri Lanka has prioritized the need to sustain vibrant ties with the Arab countries of the Middle East and this is quite in order when Sri Lanka’s overwhelming dependence on the region for its oil supplies and for increasing employment opportunities for its labour force are taken into consideration. However, the need is great, owing primarily to growing local economic compulsions, for Sri Lanka to adopt a more studied approach to strengthening its relations with the Middle East.
The latter exercise needs to be research-based if it is to bear ample fruit and it is for this reason that the re-launch of a study titled, ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’ by a Sri Lankan diplomat with considerable work experience in the Middle East in general and Oman in particular, O.L. Ameer Ajwad, should be welcomed. The book was re-launched on January 12 under the aegis of the The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International and Strategic Studies (LKI), Colombo, at the latter’s auditorium in the presence of an audience that consisted of, among others, ambassadors from a number of West Asian countries, including those of Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The book was initially published on February 17, 2021, to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Sri Lanka-Oman diplomatic relations and its re-launch served to emphasize the importance that Sri Lanka should attach to its wide-ranging ties with Oman. The author, a one-time ambassador of Sri Lanka to Oman, is currently the Director General of the Performance Review and Implementation Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The re-launch of the book was a collaboration among the LKI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Sri Lanka.
The book was formally launched by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya, Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardena, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Sri Lanka Ahmed Ali Saeed Al Rashdi and the author.
Foreign Minister Ali Sabry who addressed the audience as Chief Guest at the re-launch, following a welcome address by the LKI’s Actg. Executive Director Ms. E.A.S.W. Edirisinghe, said, among other things, that the book needed to be welcomed as a literary endeavor on the part of the author ‘to preserve the institutional memory of the Sri Lankan mission in Oman.’ It also needed to be valued in view of the fact that it ‘proposed a road map through an envoy’s personal experience, for future cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Sultanate of Oman.’ Minister Ali Sabry mentioned the elevating of relations with the countries of the Middle East as a policy priority for Sri Lanka.
State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, while focusing on Sri Lanka’s centuries-long ties with the Arab world, highlighted the importance of connecting the ports of Colombo and Sohar of Oman by a direct feeder service. The aim should be to create a trans-shipment hub for the respective regions, as proposed by the author.
It was left to Ambassador Ameer Ajwad to present to the audience a comprehensive overview of the contents of the publication. He said chapter five was especially important because it outlined in considerable detail the future course economic relations in particular between the countries could take.
The author does right by focusing on economic diplomacy in his publication. This holds the key to cementing cordial bonds among countries in contemporary times, given that antagonistic relations among states have the effect of perpetuating economic stagnation within countries. The latter condition is a sure recipe for intra-country social discontent and violence, besides acting as a stimulant for continued inter-state friction.
One of the chief strengths of ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’, is the stress it lays on the need for the countries concerned to exploit economic complementarities that exist between them in a number of areas, for the furtherance of shared development. There is tremendous potential here that is going untapped, the author points out. If utilized judiciously these complementarities could prove a vital factor in the economic betterment of the countries.
Some of these areas offering ‘synergies of growth’ or the potential for mutual cooperation are: trade and investment, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, education and maritime cooperation, to name a few. In this connection the author stresses that: ‘It is the lack of awareness of each other’s potentials and opportunities available in many areas of mutual interest’, that is getting in the way of the countries dynamically cooperating further for shared material improvement.
It is hoped that in the days ahead the Sri Lankan authorities would not only act on the insights thrown-up by Ambassador Ameer Ajwad but take into consideration the need to cooperate with the countries of the Middle East over existing divides, one of which is described as the ‘Arab-Israeli’ conflict.
Fortunately, economic compulsions have been compelling Lankan governments to recognize Israel as an important state actor in the Middle East. Likewise, some Arab states have today ‘broken the ice’, so to speak, with Israel, and are interacting with it in the economic field. In the case of Sri Lanka, it is quite some time since Israel has been opening up employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in multiple areas, such as agriculture and care-giving.
Accordingly, economics dictate politics. Old, adversarial mindsets needs to change for the ushering of the common good. There is a need for the international community to enlist the support of the Arab world and all other sections that have been having strained ties with Israel, to work towards the realization of the ‘two state solution’ in the Middle East. This presents itself as an equitable mechanism.
Looking for economic complementarities among countries presents itself as a wise course to take in inter-state relations, considering these complementarities’ peace-building potential, and it is hoped that the international community would put this item high on its list of priorities in the days to come. From this viewpoint, ‘Sri Lanka-Oman Relations: Past, Present and Future’ needs to be seen as a model study in the field of international relations.
Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention
CEB says suspension of power cuts not possible
PM’s Office: IMF impressed with progress made by govt.
‘Dates have the highest sugar content to fight Coronavirus’
Sunday Island 27 December – Headlines
U.S. Congress to probe assets fleecing by US citizens of Sri Lankan origin
Opinion3 days ago
Private tuition Mafia and indifferent Education Ministry
Features3 days ago
First appearance in Toronto, Canada
Business3 days ago
Kumar celebrates ten years in Corporate Etiquette training
Features5 days ago
BURGHER LIGHTS OF SRI LANKA
News6 days ago
Renewable energy, India extends hand to Sri Lanka
Business5 days ago
Income Tax, Professionals and Migration
Life style5 days ago
The truth about Japanese tempura
Features5 days ago
Death and tourism on the island of Bali – A true short story