King Devanapiya Tissa on the advice of Arahat Mahinda in the 3C. BCE made a far reaching statement for the environment, that not only man, but the animals in the forests, the birds in the air and the fish in the rivers and oceans have an equal right to live. It was understood that this was possible, only if the environment was protected. All kings that followed, respected this request. The highland forests were designated and declared “Deviyange Ratta”, not for exploitation. This effect was twofold, the animals were happy they had a secure space, and water security for the myriads of irrigation schemes that dotted the land was ensured. This simple rule was observed inviolate till the arrival of the colonial British in 1796.
The colonial package was if there is resource that could be exploited and or taxed it should be done. The clearing of millions of acres of prime forest land that constituted the cloud forests, to accommodate the plantation enterprise and with it the decimation, the cold blooded killing of thousands of elephants, male, female and even the young, all totally defenceless, by proud, arrogant colonial big game hunters with their powerful elephant guns. The elephants were all declared as pests, and were shot in the forest, and the hunters collected a couple of shillings for the tail as proof of their bravery. Ceylon witnessed the genocide of beautiful creatures, who only wanted a space to live.
The destruction of the forests, destroyed the water resources that irrigated the rivers and soon the village tanks went dry. The tanks were abandoned and similarly the fields. The colonial British were happy, they got their plantation revenue. But Ceylon was robbed of its cloud forests and its population of elephants, including tuskers by this indiscriminate systematic and even sudden annihilation of the elephant herds that lived happily in the forests. This is the prime reason for the reduced number of tuskers amongst the herds in Sri Lanka.
Over 35,000 elephant tusks from Ceylon were recorded at a store in a warehouse on the London docks. The quality of Ceylon elephant ivory was regarded as being superior and all the early piano keys were made from ivory collected by the indiscriminate killing of elephants in Ceylon. Giving rise to piano playing as tickling the ivories.
Everything exported was a profit. It has been said that the London underground was funded by the profit from the export of Ceylon tea. Certainly the colonial British took out more than they put in. This could be said of the Portuguese, the Dutch, and more so the British. They selfishly developed their countries at tremendous cost to countries like Ceylon, India, and in Africa and the Far East. They were all ruthless and the local population continued to suffer at the hands of the Black white men they nurtured and produced.
We still follow a colonial system of education. We are not producing students who are innovative. Those who can think. We are producing students capable of getting through examinations. Tuition is consolidating the student who is not allowed to think, only to do what is told. This was the colonial strategy and requirement. You do what you are told. We still follow the colonial method. We need to change. The future is in innovation and creativity.
The colonial system of indiscriminate exploitation of the resources is not the way forward, especially as it is based on profit, it is not sustainable. This is not development. The development as requested by two thirds of the population was a development that would benefit all the citizens of Sri Laṅkā, not an individual or a small group. A development that would also protect the environment, to be passed on to future generations in pristine form.
At present various agencies seem to act in their own cocoons, forgetting and without any reference that what they do, may affect another important agency. Sri Lanka has sufficient legislation to cover every eventuality. Some agencies prefer to change laws so that the primary legislation is confused. Agencies approving projects have to be more careful. Finally, it is not the investment only, but importantly, the possible future damage to the water security of the village, and many others, like the cost to the environment that should be considered.
The real need of the day is a statement from the Executive that all legislation, rules and regulations shall be adhered to, and shall remain inviolate or face the consequences. Almost a King Devanampiya Tissa statement in 2020 that would protect the environment of this beautiful country forever. This is what two thirds of the population wanted.
ASHLEY De VOS
Road accident killer:
One every three hours
There is a spike of serious traffic accidents and the number of fatalities reported from all parts of the country during the last few weeks. They have snatched many precious and valuable human lives. Media reports, quoting Traffic Police sources indicate, despite the country being in lockdown for three months due to COVID–19, that this year from January to the end of August, 1,418 persons have been killed in traffic accidents
A person is killed every three hours on our roads due to road accidents, and annually 3000 persons die in road accidents. Nearly 8000 serious accidents take place annually, and in many instances the victims end up never to lead a normal life again. In the last four years – in 2016 there were 3017 fatal accidents, while in 2017 it was 3147. In 2018 according to World Health Organization (WHO) data, Road Traffic Accident Deaths in Sri Lanka was 3590, and has been identified as the 10thcause of death in Sri Lanka’s top 50 causes of death, beating other serious diseases causing death in the country. In 2019 there were 2851 fatal accidents.
On September 2nd, a serious accident occurred in the Colombo city at Mattakkuliya. As reported in the media, in that accident three people died instantly when two three-wheelers were hit by a speeding lorry. Apparently, speeding, and driving the lorry without a valid license to drive, is sheer negligence and lack of responsibility of the lorry driver. Lack of care and responsibility for the life of others who share the road is a serious problem. Instilling road discipline in our drivers is paramount for the safety of all road users.
Drivers of motor vehicles need to be responsible and realise, the moment he/she sits at the driver’s seat and holds the steering wheel you are in control of a piece of heavy equipment, at high speed is mere seconds from a potential innocent victim. Furthermore, speed, while greatly increasing the risk of serious crash, increases the odds of an accident and increases its severity.
A driver under the influence of alcohol is as deadly, and similarly at risk of serious accidents. The harmful influence alcohol has on the crucial decision to drive is great. Drinker’s self assessment about whether he/she can drive safely is critical. The deadly influence alcohol has on the driver is great. Alcohol impairs the drinker’s ability of self-assessment. Reduces the driver’s ability to react to things that happen suddenly. The alcohol also blurs vision, impairs attention and reflexes are slowed.
The road accidents having reached such a horrendous proportion, random measures to instil road discipline in errant drivers are not effective. Speeding, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol are the major causes of serious traffic accidents. The Police launching limited enforcement and special operations during festive seasons, and operations targeting certain Police areas or specific Traffic Rule violations, are not enough to address this tragedy. Police must implement comprehensive long term programmes, employing technology and modern devices to detect traffic rule violations and make roads safe for all road users.
According to Colombo Traffic Police, there are 106 CCTV cameras operating in Colombo and use 3 Mobile CCTV Surveillance Vans to monitor traffic. Surveillance of Colombo using the Road Safety Camera system alone is not sufficient. Road Safety Cameras; Red Light violation detecting cameras, and combined Red Light and Speed cameras can detect a host of Traffic Rule violations. Sri Lanka Police should seriously consider expanding this method of surveillance using the Road Safety Camera system countrywide.
Road Safety Cameras installed at intersections in all cities and major towns, at strategic locations and high risk roads along the country’s entire road network, would be a deterrent to speed maniacs, and other road rule violators who know they are being watched all day and night. These cameras can be used as both detective and preventive measures. It’s a 24/7 surveillance.
The camera captures a host of data including the vehicle number plate, date, time and location of the offence etc., sufficient to prove the offence committed by the driver. In addition, mobile cameras mounted on Police vehicles positioned at strategic locations, and hand held cameras, could be used to book speeding drivers and other road rule violations.
As for alcohol-impaired driving, the government can do more to reduce the number of drunk-driving instances. Couple of years ago the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) proposed to reduce the maximum Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of drivers; at present it is 0.08 grams per 100 mm, to 0.03 grams per 100 mm. There is no indication thus far of any initiative of the government taken in this regard. Australia and most European countries have the BAC level of drivers at 0.05. Norway and Sweden in Europe, and China has this level at 0.02, while in Russia it is 0.03. Canada, USA and some countries have it at 0.08.
The government could look into lowering the legal BAC level to 0.03 as proposed by the NATA. This approach would better respond to discouraging drunk-drivers. The government could also consider making instances of driving while exceeding the legally permitted BAC limit, a criminal offence; initially applying it to drivers exceeding the legally permitted BAC level and meeting with accidents, and finally extending to exceeding the permitted BAC level under any circumstances, a criminal offence.
Clearly, the law can’t work on its own. The key factor in the reduction of Traffic Rule violations is enforcement and stiff penalties. Police should be provided with technology and modern devices used in other Police Forces around the world. Police should be given authority to stop and demand to undergo testing from any driver at the roadside more often, rather than testing after accidents occurred.
Cross-disciplinary learning to meet graduates’ skills shortages
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasized the importance of matching the skills acquired by University students with the demands of employers. Over the years, criticism has been directed at Humanities and Social Sciences programmes in local Universities, questioning their relevance to the needs of a developing economy. Besides, some of these graduates had problems finding jobs in the private sector. They have historically relied on public sector jobs, an expectation almost all recent governments have had to grapple with.
The employability of Humanities and Social Sciences graduates is not a puzzle unique to Sri Lanka. In Singapore, I encountered several contemporary students who feared their degrees were not well sought after by the industry. I have seen such students putting a lot of effort into studying a minor in fields of study that could give them an edge over their peers. A minor comprises a set of courses which helps a student to develop secondary expertise in addition to the degree requirements of one’s major field of study. Completing a minor is not compulsory in most cases, but it sends a positive signal to employers on the quality of their potential hire. Some of the most popular minors among my batch mates were Business, Computing, Economics, and Entrepreneurship.
Promoting such cross-disciplinary learning could be an immediate solution to the expectation set by the President. Local Universities already possess resources to implement such programmes. It eliminates the need for a hurried overhaul of the curricula in universities. Most importantly, a rapid increase in the output of graduates with qualifications demanded by the industry, could just be the solution to the critical skills shortage faced by sectors such as Information Technology.
Depositors and Stock Exchange
State Minister Nivard Cabraal recently requested Sri Lankans who have deposited money in banks and finance companies to use that money in shares on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Our ministers and officials who control state finances do not know that most of those depositors maintain those deposits not as investments. They live on the interest they receive monthly from those deposits.
Before 2015 too, Cabraal as Governor of CBSL and many others, encouraged those depositors to invest in shares, and many learnt the lesson as they were caught in the game of “pumping & dumping” by groups of some big fish. Cabraals are in a way hitting those depositors by ad-hoc reducing of interest rates, and now they ask them to follow the more easier path to think of committing suicide.
Have the higher-ups in the government ever investigated why people maintain those deposits and how many use the interest they receive to meet their daily needs, before playing around with interest rates in order to please the borrowers and lessees?
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