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MY JOURNEY AFTER LEAVING COLLEGE

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Sincerely dedicated to my dear Ananda ‘81 Members

By Sharwar Hafeez Yoonoos

I would like to begin my personal life experience starting from 1st November 1983, when I set foot on the “Land of the Singing Fish” (Batticaloa).

 I was posted to Batticaloa after my initial training in Nuwara-Eliya Territory under Ranjan Palpola. Upon conclusion of the monthly conference at “Wattles Inn” in Nuwara-Eliya which I attended, I took off in my company-maintained car – 11 Sri 9004 – with great pride and happiness.

 After the July ’83 riots, which resulted in the national and poltical scenario taking different shapes, it was the time I arrived at my first duty station. My predecessor, Channa Jagoda, was residing in the Batticaloa Buddhist temple. With my proficiency in the Tamil language, it was like “a duck taking to water”. I was able to interact and make friends with my trade colleagues from other companies, as well with the local community. 

The territory boundaries were from Oddamawadi to Pothuvil. Within this boundary were the strongholds of the LTTE and other groups, such as Unicchi/Kiren/Chenkalladi/ Wandaramunai/Karathivu/ Kallar/Kaluwanchikudi and Thirukovil, to mention a few.

 I never knew the undercurrent taking place within the region when I arrived. We used to go to Pasikuda during the weekends with friends and enjoy the beautiful beach; spending quality time till late evenings and even going for late Tamil movies.  

 

My First Unforgettable Incident

 This happened when I was swimming at Pasikuda with one of my “Batti” friends. Grecian (who was a Tamil Christian) was a good swimmer and he wanted to swim towards the reef. I too agreed and he was cruising ahead of me, while for some reason or another, I was feeling tired and fatigued. He reached the reef well before me and was waving at me to join him, while I was in discomfort and looked back to realize that I was far away from the beach. I was stuck without much energy “between the devil and deep blue sea” to reach the reef. I just thought “that’s it… I am going to drown”.

While trying to have a calm head at that difficult time, when like a “heaven-sent gift”, I saw a guy on a tube relaxing and floating about 200 metres away. I swam across with much effort and managed to reach the tube. We later became good friends. He was from “Mannar” and working for the Youth Council. Only then I knew the value of meeting “Bosco” at that crucial moment!

 Meanwhile, the first signs of disruption started during the latter part of 1984 with “Hartal” of closing of shops in the region. While the government forced them to open, shop owners, as well as poor sales representatives like me who had the heart to work, were in a dilemma.

During this period, we experienced roadblocks from the Police and the STF, which made free movement difficult and night travelling became unthinkable. Then we started to hear occasional gunshots and footsteps running around in the middle of the nights.

 The next serious occurrence was that people were being abducted from their sleep during the nights, by terrorist groups suspecting them as informants and they were innocent civilians. Some returned home, while some remain missing even to this date.

I experienced the change of people’s movements with gloomy looks, trapped between the forces and terrorist groups. The next shock was when some of the abducted civilians were shot dead and hung or tied onto a lamp post with a placard saying “Traitor”.

It was becoming terribly alarming and fearful.

 2nd Unforgeable Incident (Blast of landminds between two towns)

 Lever Brother’s Distributor was referred to as the Nominated Lever Wholesaler (NLW) and Siva Stores was located in Chenkalladi Junction. When I arrived at 8.00 am on that particular day, the staff were somewhat disturbed. I was to work in Eravur town which was 2 km from the NLW point.

I inquired what was the delay to get the lorry loaded. The shop manager told me that, between Chenkalladi and Eravur, a landmine was set under a culvert by LTTE who wanted the shops to be open as usual, so the armed forces/police would not suspect any abnormality. I was dumbfounded and told them to load the vehicle but not to leave the premises. I drove my car from Chenkalladi over the culvert by-passing the landmine and parked in front of Eravur MPCS. I crossed the road and went into the first store for the day.

The shop owner was disturbed as well with the situation and was not in a frame of mind to purchase and neither was I, to negotiate. It was around 9.30 am when we heard the blast and all shops started closing up and “poor Yunna” (short name for me) was left on the street with a few others. I ran towards my car and then realized that there could be an outbreak of gunfire at any moment and started tapping the warehouse door of the MPCS Union to let me in. I managed to get into safety and all what happened after that is history.

 

3rd Unforgettable Incident (Captured by the Terrorists)

 

A few months after the above incident, I was returning from Oddamawadi and stopped at NLW (Siva Stores) to hand over the dealer card. Meanwhile, two guys approached me with guns hidden inside a newspaper and wanted me to take them along and got into the car forcefully.

I was terrified but kept a calm mind. They told me to “Drive” before any forces could come and our lives could be threatened. A shop assistant at NLW saw the incident while I drove away to their command post towards Unicchi.

After driving for about 2-3 km, they got to a safe area with many other LTTE members joining us. I was told to hand over the car to them. I said the car belongs to me and cannot leave and I will lose my job. I was talking to them very politely to reach some settlement.

Meanwhile, my NLW managed to find the spot and reach the place where I was held captive. He had some connections with Jaffna and tried to influence them to release me with the vehicle. While they were waiting for some higher-up to give them direction, “my heart was in my mouth” thinking what was going to happen next.

My NLW kept on pleading with them and finally they agreed to accept Rs.30,000 to release me with the car. I was released around 10.00 pm after all the harassment and it was a “lucky escape” and I could be the only person to come out with the vehicle as well.

I simply cannot forget Siva who was my “guardian angel” on that day, saving me from the claws of terrorists, which could have gone either way.

 The next morning, I drove to Kalmunai and parked the car at NLW and started using public transport for my work, after that terrifying ordeal.

 

4th Unforgettable Incident (Batticaloa NLW getting killed)

 Day by day, the situation was going from bad to worse. Heavy sandbags were placed in front of the Batticaloa Police Station, which practice was adopted around all police stations in the Eastern Province. STF camp at Kaluwanchikudi was further strengthened and also in Akkaraipattu, under the command of Daya Jayasundara (if I am not mistaken).

 I used to meet Anura Kithsiri and Kithsiri Aponso who were in the STF and our seniors at College but refrained talking to them, as I could be assumed to be an informant if the locals saw me talking to them. The future was heading towards a tensed situation whether I liked it or not and I was somewhat trapped.

 On this particular day, I was working along Bazar Street in Batticaloa, which had a Police Post overlooking the lagoon. I finished my sales call at Murugan Stores (a wholesaler) and was walking towards Siva Nataraja Stores, another wholesaler, when a terrorist hurled a grenade towards the Police Post. As a defensive measure, they opened fired and my NLW (Abdul Qader) who was in the delivery vehicle got shot and succumbed to the injuries he sustained.

I was devastated, with people running all over the place and my dear NLW fallen across the seat, bleeding profusely. We took him to hospital but it was too late…. It was another sad and unforgettable moment in my life.

 

5th Unforgettable Incident (Kalmunai NLW’s son getting killed)

 Life was getting tougher day by day for the citizens, with restrictions of movement from both sides. This was the period when the forces used to have a “Goni Billa” seated in the jeep and getting him to shake his head by looking at passers by. Suspects were later captured and interrogated.

During this period, I was staying at St Sebastian Street in Battcaloa. Towards the end of 1985, due to the tense situation triggered by the communal riots, my Tamil friends in Batticaloa requested me to shift to Kattankudy until such time the situation became normal.

Because of the prevailing crisis, terrorists also took this opportunity to evict Muslims from the pro-Tamil areas, taking over their lands and belongings. So “Yunna” had to change residence to Kattankudy.

My Kalmunai NLW’s son (Zakariya) had come to Batticaloa to meet his sister who was undergoing an operation. He was a good friend, being of the same age as me. He stayed with me in Kattankudy that night for safety purposes and left to Kalmunai the next morning.

The day he returned to Kalmunai, a fight broke out between terrorists and Muslims and Zakariya was shot at point-blank range and died on the spot. The friend who was with me the previous night having dinner with me was no more. I was shell-shocked. I didn’t have anyone to express my inner feelings and sadness of losing people around me while dark clouds were looming around all the time and I was filled with so much of uncertainty.

 Further, I was feeling dejected and broken with no manager or associate from HO who could come. The hard work put in by me at this difficult time was fruitless, as no one was there to assess the tough situation I was going through. I requested for a transfer from HO, as things were getting out of control and beyond manageable proportions.

 Finally, I was transferred to Mahiyangana Territory, which ironically was a transfer from “the frying pan to the fire”.

 

6th Unforgettable Meeting of Athula Perera (Sudu Athula) my senior Rugger mate at College

 In mid-1985, I was driving from Kalmunai to Colombo via Amparai for a launch conference. I noticed a water bowser been escorted by a police convoy. The dashing Athula was seated on the bonnet of the jeep which was heading the fleet of vehicles and he was carrying a machine gun in his hand.

 

It was a real coincidence and he was heading the Central Camp Police Post which covered up to Vellaveli. He was operating in a high-risk zone which was connected to Kaluwanchikudi as well. He was giving protection for (Drinking Water) for the officials in the area.

I was so delighted to see him after 1981, when he broke his shin bone in the match against Trinity. We hugged each other and talked for a few minutes. The area we had stopped was vulnerable as well. We promised each other to be in touch but sadly that was the last time I met him.

 A few months later, on that fateful day of 28th October, whilst he was escorting the water bowser, a cruel landmine was set and blasted by the LTTE. The valuable lives of our dear brother Athula and others were snatched in the flash of a moment. We lost this young Anandian Rugby player and a patriotic son of Mother Lanka.

I would like to place on record the following points which I have observed & experienced over the years with my association with people from all walks of life.

 I have observed & experienced from my College days onwards, most of our sportsmen as well as students from other activities and fora joining the forces. Having sports related background and leadership awareness only is not good enough. One’s character also requires analytical skills, a calm mind, forward planning and strategic management, which are essential ingredients for officers in the forces and the Police.

I hope the top brass in the group will agree with me, but would also like you to add any other ingredients that I may have omitted.

 

7th Unforgettable Incident on 2nd June 1987 – Arantalawa Incident

Taking over Mahiyangana territory, which extended from Amparai to Hasalaka to Passara and a few outskirt towns such as Madolsime/Kandegedara/Katawela/Hettipola/ Meegahakivula/Bakinigahawela (some call it Bikingahawela – LOL) gave me mixed dimensions of normalcy and a treacherous area to work.

On this particular day, 2nd June 1987 to be precise, after finishing my (4-day) work at Amparai MPCS, I was to leave Amparai in the early hours, to reach Binnthenne –Pattu.

Of all days, I was feeling very restless to drive from Amparai to Maha Oya. Even though there were many Army Camps in-between, the stretch was very vulnerable and life-threatening, with many fatalities taking place around the villages and on the highway as well. More than once bitten twice shy experiences of horror incidents of two of my NLW’s losing their precious lives (Batticaloa & Kalmunai) and escaping many crossfires made me very uncomfortable on this particular day.

But with self-commitment and loyalty, I left Amparai around 6.45 am. When I was somewhere around Bakkiyalla, one of the Good Samaritans on the road stopped my car, Nissan Mach 13 Shri 6293. He told me that they heard many gunshots a little while ago. I was in a total panic whteher to proceed or not, with no mobile at that time and unable to speak to anyone to seek advice as to what I should do.

While I was waiting, to my horror I saw the CTB bus carrying the bodies of all the innocent Buddhist monks who were massacred by the ruthless terrorists at Arantalawa, with blood stains flowing over the window railings and driven back by army soldiers. I followed the bus up to the Amparai Hospital and then returned to Amparai MPCS (NLW) and no one knew until I told them.

This is one of the saddest incidents of my life and for which we all know the whole country weeps even to this very day.

These seven unforgettable incidents will linger in my memory forever and haunt me until my last breath.



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Sat Mag

Notes on a not-so radical class

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By Uditha Devapriya

A little over a year ago, Devani Jayathilaka, the Gampaha Division Wildlife Officer now on a crusade against the government, stood up to a State Minister and got away with it. Objecting to Sanath Nishantha’s proposal to build a children’s playground on forest land, she stood her ground even as the Minister and his acolytes attempted to intimidate her.

Videos of Devani retorting to Nishantha and those acolytes gained supporters across social media. Public opinion being very much with her, the government quickly began feting her: Bandula Gunawardena said that the Cabinet took her side, and S. M. Chandrasena regretted the incident while half-heartedly exonerating the Minister.

Devani Jayathilaka’s courage was seen at the time as a symptom of the President’s resolve to make the bureaucracy more independent and efficient, free of bias and politicisation. As such, supporters of the government jumped on the bandwagon. The Daily News dedicated an entire editorial to her, calling her “the toast of all environmentalists, nature lovers and generally all those who cherish our country’s legal and constitutional integrity.” Hopefully, the laudatory piece concluded, “this signal act… will be a beacon to others in the public service to do their bit in fulfilling their public duty while resisting the pressures of politicians.” The subtext was unmistakably clear: the President’s reformism had empowered the officer’s activism.

A year later, and here we are: the premature love affair aborted, the feeling of celebration dampened. Yet could one have expected otherwise? At no point here in living memory have environmental concerns permeated every layer of society, from Colombo’s civil society to Sinhala nationalist outfits, as they are now. A broad conjuncture of oppositional forces, some drawn from organisations that fuelled the ideology which brought the government to power (such as the Sinhale movement), has pitted itself against that government’s apathy over the environment, while social media continues to enthrone activists: environmentalists and state officials. The President’s men, meanwhile, seem to be resorting to a policy of either ignoring or retorting to these voices. In both cases, it’s the government that has lost out.

It is hard not to side with the activists. They have a point: no regime has engaged properly with the environment. Between 2017 and 2019, forest cover reduced from 29.7% to 16.5%. It was the yahapalana government, remnants of which are tweeting against the present regime’s environmental record now, that held

the reins of power then. Yet the administration before it was no different: in 2012, to give just one example, roughly 1,585 hectares of primary forest land were lost, the biggest annual loss in a decade. The numbers for 2020 and 2021 have not been released yet, but there’s no doubting they are as big as, if not bigger than, these figures; according to the Rain Forest Protectors of Sri Lanka, forest cover stands at 17%, above what it was in 2019, but well below the 30% promised by the president.

The politics of the campaigns against the government, however, goes well beyond a simple dichotomy between political representatives and wildlife activists. Frustratingly enough, it’s not easy to put a finger on the dynamics of these protests, to draw a line between protagonists and antagonists within them, not least of all because a simple twofold division – government versus us – has been replaced by a threefold one in them: the government (high level officials included) on one side, activists and officials on another, and us on yet another.

Led by a mostly Sinhala and Buddhist lower middle-class, including the clergy (no less than the Sinhala Ravaya), these campaigns, which have mobilised activists and officials, appear to have unearthed a rather interesting contradiction from within that middle-class: a distrust of political representatives, and an ambivalent attitude towards lower level officials. To identify this contradiction for what it is, and explore it, is not easy: that requires research, the mettle of an anthropologist or ethnographer, and I am neither. Yet from what little I have been able to gather, it appears that this recent spurt of activism has facilitated a shift in the character of anti-state activism, particularly in its class composition. How so?

Devani’s message resonates profoundly with a section of the country’s upward aspiring middle-class, educated mostly in Sinhala but idealising a better life: one to which they feel both government representatives and private interests are obstacles.

They hold contrasting views regarding the state. As far as the government proper – Ministers plus high level officials – is concerned, they are against it. It’s a different story with officials, not least because of the latter a great many hail from the milieu they do: Sinhala educated and upward aspiring. This is the demographic Patali Champika Ranawaka is targeting through his “43 Senankaya”, a demographic parties have not tried to court until fairly recently.

What explains their relationship with the state? Regarding government representatives, their opposition is easy to rationalise: most of these representatives are seen to have risen to where they are now by foul means, not fair. That irks an educated middle-class bereft of political or economic power; simply put, they feel hard done by, left out, unrepresented.

Such feelings of distrust cut through parties; indeed, a defining characteristic of the middle-class is the absence of a unifying political ideology. Any Opposition which believes that by coming to power on the strength of their convictions it can expect support from them forever is therefore walking on water, for this lower middle-class happens to be adamantly protean. It is their protean character, incidentally, that explains their response to state officials.

Their view of the latter is borne out by two main considerations: that they hail from the same class background, and that, since of late, these officials have taken up arms against political authorities, a group whose actions are seen as burdening the lower middle-class.

Indeed, far from berating officials like they berate political authorities, the lower middle-class rebelling against the regime share a desire to enter the bureaucracy as either professionals or administrators, though through education attainment, and not political backing. This desire is essentially a retread of the demand made by unemployed graduates: they want to fill a post in a state institution as soon as they leave university. Under Gotabaya Rajapaka their integration into the bureaucracy has been remarkably rapid: by September last year, for instance, around 60,000 graduates had been absorbed into the Public Service, as part of his “Rata Wenuwen Weda” programme. Yet even this rather modest realisation of lower middle-class aspirations has failed to dampen, or stunt, lower middle-class opposition to his government.

To sum up, what we are seeing here is a division between state officials, assumed to have entered the government through merit, and political representatives, assumed to have entered it through influence. That Devani Jayathilaka continues to be idealised by this class therefore points at the consolidation of a uniquely petty bourgeois consciousness, which at once aspires upward in the bureaucracy, and pits itself against the government overseeing the bureaucracy. Gravitating to meritocratic ideals, they have become a huge floating electorate.

This raises another point: their disavowal of party politics. Let’s not mistake karawala for mallum here, however; the line this milieu touts, that they lack party ideology, should not mislead one into thinking that they can’t be co-opted into any party ideology. For those who believe that a non-political middle-class rebelling against an elected government, even one infringing every other norm in the book, is incapable of political manoeuvring, the case of Anna Hazare offers a counterargument: opposed to political groups, what Hazare achieved in the end was an electoral landslide for just such a group, Narendra Modi’s BJP.

By no means am I saying that Anna Hazare was/is to India what officials crusading against political representatives are/will be to Sri Lanka. Yet not unlike Hazare, these officials have given what little of an Opposition that’s there in the country some much needed ammunition (with which to topple the government). Far from welcoming such a state of affairs, I see two problems with this: the lack of a proper policy on the environment from the Opposition (apart from a few perfunctory protests), and the risk of letting what environmentalists are combating continue under a future administration led by that Opposition. As environmentalists and Left activists have pointed out only too clearly, much of what is being protested against, including the Sinharaja debacle, can be traced back to the yahapalana period. How wise would it be to trust the party that held the cards then so much as to return them to power now?

To these two problems one can add a third: the contradiction between the social conditioning and the activism of the middle-class. That contradiction translates itself into another: between political ideals that pit this middle-class against political authority, and social aspirations that orient them towards personal achievement in education and employment.

One can ask why this is a problem, why it’s so problematic. In matters of political concern, so the idealists say, personal matters are of no relevance.

But that’s precisely the issue. How pertinent are one’s personal aspirations to one’s political inclinations? Not pertinent, some would say; pretty pertinent, in my book.

That leads us to a crucial issue, the most important to crop up from what we’re seeing today: the extent to which those leading the protests are willing to own up to how class aspirations, and not just state complicity, have contributed to environmental degradation.

Let me reduce this to a simple query: how much do you attribute everything wrong with the environment to the government’s doing and non-doing, and how much do you attribute it to, say, our propensity to import, a major factor in environmental degradation?

To be fair, of course, it’s not only imports. The truth is that degradation of the environment is linked inextricably to an economic model rooted in consumerism and urbanisation.

But that merely reinforces my point: consumerism is promoted by the private sector, and urbanisation by the public, because both have an audience: the same middle-class blaming the government for what’s happening to our forests, our rivers, our way of life.

To restate this as simply as I can, then, the problems of environmental degradation today are the result of a decades-long experiment with capitalism and neoliberalism that has failed. The crisis is thus a crisis of a consumerist and exploitative model based on a capitalist framework. Now no critique of what is happening to our forests can evolve without taking this model into consideration. As perhaps its biggest beneficiaries, the middle-class must hence recognise the need to formulate an alternative model to it, in line with their activist inclinations.

However, in continuing to ignore if not marginalise this need, those taking the government to task over the environment are offering an inadequate response, radical enough to question the regime for its failings, yet not radical enough to question our embracement of an acquisitive, consumption-led economic model that has contributed to the quagmire we are in. Now I hate gazing into crystal balls, but if this is what will continue in the future, then these protests, no matter how laudable, will someday, somehow, fizzle out. That would be a pity.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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Sat Mag

CELEBRATING EARTH DAY: THE VOICE OF THE NEXT GENERATION

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Our world needs transformational change, and it is time for us, those of the present generation to hold ourselves accountable for our role in the environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions. This year marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day and this Webinar is designed to commemorate the occasion and to support the worldwide efforts to conserve and revitalize the environment of the blue planet that is our home. If we are to succeed, we must listen to the children who will link hands from around the world during this webinar and voice their concerns and ideas to preserve a pristine environment for their generation.

This is the 17th of a series of virtual zoom panel discussions hosted by the America-Sri Lanka Photographic Art Society in Los Angeles California, USA (ASPAS); Member of Photographic Society of America (PSA) and The International Federation of Photography of Art in France (FIAP). The objective of the series is to showcase the beauty of world fauna and flora and promote environmental conservation in the context of nature photography and tourism, with a special focus on the grandeur of Sri Lanka’s natural habitat. The upcoming programme will commemorate World Earth Day 2021.

At a previous ASPAS Webinar, Dr. Peter H. Sand, former Secretary-General of ICUN, stated, “Pandemics, such as coronavirus, are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places, are the driving force behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans.” The ASPAS Webinars are intended to offer a platform to discuss a more balanced relationship with these ecosystems and the tools that can help us reach this objective, so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them sustainably and responsibly.

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 which gave voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet. Our planet is an amazing place, but it needs our help to thrive! That is why each year on April 22, more than a billion people celebrate Earth Day to protect the planet from pollution and deforestation and environment related issues. By taking part in activities like picking up litter and planting trees, we are making our world a happier, healthier place to live.

In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, the world was consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or the press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, the world remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health. Since, the great challenge for the environmental community is to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent policy makers, and a disinterested public. In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and established itself as a major movement for global action for the environment.

Over the decades, it has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteers in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major steppingstone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.

Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day. As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and mobilizing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.

It is quite apparent that the youth of our world should also be engaged in this vital conversation as an absolutely indispensable partner.

Governments have recognized this for decades and many have introduced some level of climate and environmental education into their education systems. But the truth is that impact of climate and environmental education is in some cases week, cursory, and still in many countries non-existent. In the decades since the launch of the global environmental movement, it is estimated that more than 3 billion young people have graduated from high school having learned little or nothing about one of the greatest issues that will shape their lives and their livelihoods for decades to come.

The time is now, indeed it is long overdue, for a massive environmental literacy campaign that can create a generation of citizens, workers and leaders who really understand why and how to stop climate change and environmental degradation, ensuring that every student around the world completes their formal education as an environmental and climate literate citizen. A citizen who is ready to take action and speak up for change and build knowledge and skills for the growing green sector of clean energy, efficient transportation, sustainable business and making themselves competitive for new jobs.

The youth must also equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to build a better future and be stewards of this planet. They must learn that to sustain a functional society and economy, natural resources must be used wisely and efficiently while protecting the ecological systems to ensure clean air, clean water, and food security for all.

But just as vitally, we need to equip future generations with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to survive and indeed thrive in the decades to come. And that begins in school. Even world leaders recognized that pivotal role as far back as 30 years, when the countries that forged the original United Nations climate change treaty in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit enshrined climate education as an essential part of a national response to a global emergency.

Educationists believe every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component. They have also pointed out that the onus for developing environmental consciousness in youth could not be the sole responsibility of schools as the young people need the help of adult allies. There is a role for everyone, parents, relatives, and society to support youth voices and stand alongside them.

It is in that spirit that the America-Sri Lanka Photohtaphic Art Society Los Angeles, led by its President, Suriya Jayalath Perera, has organized this Webinar to bring together 10 young people from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Sri Lanka to voice their concerns and present their ideas on the occasion of Earth Day 2021. Youth from ages six to 18, will address the entire gamut of environmental issues from climate change to plastic pollution. It would be a truly ground-breaking event, and you can be a part of it by virtually joining them on Sunday April 18th, 2021. The webinar will be moderated by Medini Ratnayake.

More Information: www.usacaaspas.com

Join us live on Sunday April 18th, at 8.30 P.M. 2021 https://www.facebook.com/aspaslausa/live Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana, Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations

 

 

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Sat Mag

How to flush cholesterol out of your body

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Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The cholesterol in your body that you do not need comes from animal bodies.

If you have more cholesterol in your body than you need, then you are heading for heart disease and heart attacks. A build-up of cholesterol narrows arteries, causing a restriction of blood flow to the heart. Very often a person with high cholesterol levels has no symptoms until he has his first heart attack.

This is even more problematic if you are overweight – which you will be, because the food that causes an increase in cholesterol also increases your weight. Though some cholesterol components are stored in the liver and gallbladder, the main storage area is in fat cells called adipocytes. When you have too much cholesterol, these cells swell up and you gain weight. Too much cholesterol can be caused by eating too much fat or carbohydrates.

 

There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL

High density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol which protects you from hearts attacks, and strokes, by mopping up excess bad cholesterol. It takes the cholesterol that you don’t need back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body. LDL is bad cholesterol. This blocks the blood supply and causes strokes and heart attacks. Non-HDL take cholesterol from the liver to the cells around your body. Too much bad cholesterol (non-HDL) can be harmful because it sticks to the inside walls of your arteries. This can lead to fatty material (atheroma) building up – this process is known as atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol is found in animal foods, meat, milk, butter and cheese.

There are only two things that raise cholesterol in the blood: saturated and trans fats.

Saturated fats are found in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods like biscuits and popcorn, margarine, deep-fried, and processed foods, basically junk food.

Trans fats occur in some fried and processed foods, also in junk food.

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered healthy. 200 – 239 mg/dL is borderline high. 240 mg/dL and above is high. LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.

How do you know that your cholesterol levels are high? You usually don’t. There are no typical signs if you have high cholesterol, which is why it is so important to get it checked. It is a hidden risk factor, which means it happens without us knowing until it is too late. Some people get soft, yellowish, growths or lesions on the skin, especially round the eyes, called xanthomas. If you are lucky you develop left-sided chest pain, pressure, or fullness; dizziness; unsteady gait; slurred speech; or pain in the lower legs. Any of these conditions may be associated with high cholesterol.

How do you flush cholesterol out of your body?

Stop eating meat or drinking milk. Avoid ghee, butter and paneer, and seafood like crabs, shrimps and lobsters. Don’t smoke. Exercise. Eat fewer refined grains such as maida. Foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol levels include white bread, white potatoes, and white rice, highly processed sugars. Fried foods should be avoided, as well as foods high in saturated fats.

Eat fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, every day.

A report from Harvard Health has identified foods that actively decrease cholesterol levels: Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower), fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus), soy and soy-based foods. Eating just one and one-half cups of cooked oatmeal a day can lower your cholesterol by 5 to 8%. Oatmeal contains soluble and insoluble fibre – two types that your body needs.

In June 2020 a report, led by Imperial College London Majid Ezzati, et al.​ and involving dozens of universities, “Repositioning of the global epicentre of non-optimal cholesterol” ​was published in Nature. It said that while cholesterol levels have declined in high income countries, particularly Europe, since 1980 , they have increased vastly in lower and middle income countries, with Asia, specially Southeast Asia, now being the centre.

The reason for this is the consumption of animal-based foods, refined carbohydrates (maida) and palm oil. In short, the heart attack and stroke risks have been globally repositioned with the shifting of a high cholesterol diet.

A group of nearly 1,000 researchers, from around the world, analysed data from 1,127 studies comprising 102.6 million adults, to assess global trends in cholesterol levels from 1980 to 2018. This is the largest ever study of global cholesterol levels.

Previously cholesterol was considered a problem in high income Western countries.

The report said that Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland (the centre of the milk/meat diet) and Iceland (meat) had shown the steepest declines in cholesterol, going from the highest to the lowest. There has been a sharp drop in LDL cholesterol in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

China, which had the lowest levels of cholesterol in 1980, was among the highest in 2018. India, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have not covered themselves in glory either.

In 1980 Australian women ranked 32nd highest in the world in cholesterol levels. Today they are 146th . Australian men have fallen from 31st highest to 116th. 

Dr Avula Laxmaiah, National Institute of Nutrition, one of the authors of the research paper, said LDL cholesterol among Indian men ranked 128th in 1980 and remained the same in 2018.  Women are 139th in the global line-up.

Other conditions, that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include diabetes drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol, such as progestins, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids. India is one of the highest users of steroids – not directly, but through these being fed to chicken.

The authors have suggested that each country in Asia set into place prices, and regulatory policies, that shift diets to non-saturated fats. But, at the end of the day it is not prices that will decide – meat/chicken and milk are already expensive but it doesn’t stop you from eating them. You will have to take a personal decision, depending on how much you value your life or the lives of your family.

(To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org)

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