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Need of the hour for Sri Lanka: The ‘MPH Formula of Singapore

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By Praying Mantis

It is often said that in the 1940s and 50s, Singapore was way behind Sri Lanka in all respects. Lawlessness and crime were rife in Singapore and corruption were at the highest level. There were ghettos everywhere in that country. Sri Lanka on the other hand, was a real paradise with a populace that was surging forward in many aspects of life.

Several decades later, today, Singapore is a proud member of the First World whereas Sri Lanka has sunk into a spiral of descent into the mire of the lowest third-world status. There must be something that Singapore did right, compared to us, for this striking difference in the progress of the two countries. With hardly any natural resources worthy of note, Singapore has relentlessly forged ahead, leaving us languishing in the doldrums of despair; very definitely, a paradise lost.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani is a born and bred Singaporean, of Indian ancestry, a civil servant, a career diplomat and an academic. During his stint at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Singapore, from 1971 to 2004, he served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and held the position of President of the United Nations Security Council, as well. From 2004 to 2017, he served as Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. In an exclusive interview, he outlined Singapore’s formula for success in the world. What he called the ‘secret formula’ adopted by Singapore, was known by the English acronym MPH. He clearly stated that any country that adopts and implements this strategy will succeed.

He said that the ‘M’ in MPH stands for Meritocracy, the ‘P’ is for Pragmatism and the ‘H’ is for Honesty. He then went on to explain how this principle works. He said that meritocracy means that you select the best people to run the country. He added that what brings many countries down, especially in the Third World, is that when it comes to selecting their finance minister, or the economics minister, or any other ministerial guardian of the legislature, they will give those jobs to their brothers, their cousins, their uncles, their relatives and NOT to the best people. These are his words; not mine.

Singapore did the exact opposite. In Singapore, their top jobs, not only of the Cabinet of Ministers but in every walk of life, were, and still are, given to the very best people, the most qualified and those with a proven track record. The current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, is Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son. When Loong went to study at the Cambridge University, he was a top student in the class and the university. The Professors were so impressed that they said that he should become a mathematician because he will become a world-class mathematician. Then he went to study at another great university, Harvard Kennedy School. There, he was one of the very few students to get an article published in a tier-one economics journal. Hardly any students get articles published in tier-one economics journals. He is incredibly brilliant. Then, if the best man for the job is Lee Kuan Yew’s son, he would be selected; not on the basis that he is the Prime Minister’s son, but because he is the best person for the job. So, meritocracy is the first pillar of Singapore’s Successful Formula.

The second pillar is ‘P’. It stands for pragmatism. Pragmatism is an English concept but the best definition of pragmatism was given by China’s leader, Deng Xiaping. He said, “it does not matter whether a cat is black or a cat is white. If the cat catches mice, it is a good cat”. So, in the same way, it does not matter what your ideology is; if it works, others could use it. So, Singapore was very pragmatic. It would take some capitalist policies, and some policies that are socialist, and even mix them up. That is what pragmatism is all about. You are not tied down by any political ideology.

Then the good Professor said that the third pillar, the ‘H’, is the hardest to achieve. It stands for honesty. He emphasised that what has brought most Third World countries down, and what has led to their failure in development, is corruption. So, Lee Kuan Yew after he became Prime Minister, made it a point to punish not the junior people but the very senior people. A Deputy Minister went on holiday with his friend, a businessman. When he came back to Singapore, he was arrested. He asked why he was being arrested and he was told, “you went on holiday with a businessman and the latter paid all your expenses and that is corruption. You will go to jail”. So, when a Deputy Minister is sent to jail then everybody says ‘oops., I got to be careful. I can also go to jail’. That honesty factor is one critical feature why Singapore has been exceptionally successful.

Now then…, here is the crux of this article of mine and for quoting the above interview. How does this scenario compare with what you get in our Pearl of the Indian Ocean? My considered opinion is that if you need to have the exact opposite of the secret formula for success in Singapore, you have it right here on our beautiful little island.

Singapore was way behind Ceylon in the 1940s. Even their enigmatic, compelling and famous Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, looked up to us. Even at that time, the MPH formula, or a similar recipe was not there as a total commitment in Ceylon but some things were done that fitted the bill, even just a little bit; a partial MPH. That was enough to keep us above most other Asian countries, given the natural resources of our splendid Motherland and the quality of its people.

Then over 70 odd years, even this partial MPH formula in Ceylon, and later in Sri Lanka, was eroded, knocked down, taken apart, emasculated and generally destroyed by all the regimes that came to power. We gradually drifted into an abyss of the ultimate denunciation of this wonderful formula. Henchmen as well as henchwomen and sparsely educated misfits were given top positions, year in and year out. They worked on personal agendas and not for the benefit of the country. Far from being patriots, they were scoundrels of the highest order.

The best people were repeatedly side-lined. Even some of the top-class people, who had made a name for themselves internationally while being here, were rudely ignored. As a result, some of our decent products and some really good brains left the country for good, only to do superbly well in their adopted countries.

Now we are content to sing hosannas and try to bask in the glory of those Sri Lankans, who have made a name for themselves in their adopted foreign countries. This is so, while the powers-that-be over here continue to suppress even some of the most brilliant ones who are still here. Those Sri Lankans, who are now citizens of other countries, were only born here. Now they are “foreigners”. Their so-called achievements are not as Sri Lankans. It annoys and discourages this writer to see these Sri Lanka-born foreigners being featured in the media as God’s own gift to mankind. It is also ironic that some of our top leaders have the ludicrous audacity to invite them to come back to serve our resplendent island. To say the least, that is sheer wishful thinking. They are not real Sri Lankans anymore. They will never come back for good.

The second pillar, pragmatism is quite prominent by its very absence in this paradise isle. Politicians of successive regimes could not see something that worked. They would try their best to put a spanner in the works. If something that worked was the brainchild of the previous regime, it simply had to be scuttled by their successors. Their ideologies are fixed and they are totally against any kind of compromise or being even a little bit flexible. Rationality, practicality, logicality and uncomplicatedness; the synonyms of the word pragmatism, are not there in their foolish philosophies and their vocabulary.

The last one of MPH, but certainly the most important; honesty, is completely non-existent in Sri Lanka. Ministers and top officials lie through their back teeth, enrich themselves with loads of filthy lucre and be dishonest to the core. The lower ranks follow the so-called leaders. If the featured Singaporean Deputy Minister went on a holiday paid for by a businessman, the indiscretions or forays of our comparable worthies defy even our imagination.

Commissions are paid, money exchanged under the table or in car parks, and all kinds of shady dealings are the order of the day. If Lee Kuan Yew was alive and was asked to sort out the current situation over here, he would probably have filled up our jails in no time. Knowing the cowards over here, it would need only just a few miscreants to be jailed for the others to fall in line; rather nicely as well.

As exemplified by Singapore, the MPH Formula works. Singapore and its charismatic leader Lee Kuan Yew, conscientiously and steadfastly, stuck to it, as if that was the gift from providence that would make a difference. It did make a supremely effective difference; Singapore has become a First World Country and soared way above us in this magnificent isle, while we are quite content to remain in the pits of the world, shamelessly boasting of our over 2500-year-old heritage. Given the resources that we have in plenty, the educational opportunities available to us and the natural aptitudes of our people, we should be flying way higher than Singapore. But sadly, our downfall has been orchestrated by some of our very own people.

Yet for all this, what rankles most is that for us, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We do not see a benevolent but strict and honest statesman or stateswoman on the horizon. Only a real patriot, who would be willing to put the entire house in order, could use this wonderful MPH Formula to good use to pull us up from the hole that we have been forced to creep into. We desperately need such a person who could take this country by the scruff of its neck, shake some sense into it and take us to an entirely different landscape of a promised land.

We should be most grateful to Professor Kishore Mahbubani for revealing the secret formula for Singapore’s success! The humble and modest man that he is, he did not boast about how brilliant he was. Being a top rung flyer, he was indeed the very best man for all the positions he held. Lee Kuan Yew probably hand-picked that man. In addition, what Professor Mahbubani did not say is that the acronym MPH also stands for miles per hour; a metric of speed. The Singapore MPH Formula has also shown that by using it, results would be obtained with considerable speed.

The need of the hour for Sri Lanka is this tried and tested Singapore formula for success–the MPH.



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Glimmers of hope?

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The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self-interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away.

Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?

What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.

‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.

‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.

‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.

‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.

‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.

Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.

Heartfelt hope of the many

The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”

Still utterly hopeless

Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.

Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.

Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis

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By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse

(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)

There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.

The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.

FERTILISER ISSUE

1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.

2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.

3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!

4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.

Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains

We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened

1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.

2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.

3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.

4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.

Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.

Recommendations

1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.

2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible

3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:

Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.

Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.

Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.

Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.

Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.

Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.

Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.

Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.

1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers

All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.

The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of

India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and

There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.

Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!

Trevine Rodrigo,

who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:

The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.

Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.

But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.

Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.

A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.

Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.

A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.

The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.

Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.

The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts.  But the Thomians had other ideas.

The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable.  Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.

It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.

Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.

The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.

In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.

Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.

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