By Dr. Ranil Senanayake
While the political narcissists play their pathetic game of musical chairs and the supporting cast of corrupt bureaucrats support that dance are completely removed from the deadly reality that the rest of us have to face. He who occupies any station of power must have some knowledge how of power is used and how that will determine the well being of this nation and its citizenry. The crises are manifold, best illustrated by the changes in weather patterns brought by Climate Change. Sri Lanka has been fortunate to escape the extreme weather experienced by many other nations, but that should not be a reason for complacency, the changes are real, we too will have to face them.
We know what lies ahead, if anyone involved in national governance, politician or bureaucrat missed the warnings that have appeared in the national press for over fifteen years, we might say they are too busy with the hubris of their own importance, to care about other national voices. But now, after being exposed to the consequences of climate change, there is still a willful, stubborn, ignoring of reality.
Fifteen years ago, the effect of sea level rise was being experienced, but there was no public awareness of the process. It was at that time the following observations were made and questions asked:
‘Has anyone wondered at the disappearance of the golden beaches that is being replaced by these rocky barriers to the ocean? Will our beaches go the way of the turtles that need to come up to sandy beaches to lay their eggs? How will tourists react to disappearing beaches? All valid questions ; But ask the community living in these areas and there is no understanding of global warming, its causes or effects. Their biggest concern is another Tsunami, not understanding that there is a creeping tsunami at their feet! Will the current system of irrigation locks be sufficient to prevent saltwater intrusion into agricultural lands? What adaptation strategies have we developed nationally? Perhaps the experts and pundits have sorted it all out but, some public capacity building activity must become evident or we will become unknowing victims to the affects of climate change, unable to mount any meaningful response’
Fifteen years later, the international community is informing us that there will be a rise in sea level by at least three to four inches (it could be more) as a consequence of climate change and there is sill no response from the government. I wonder if the climate change bureaucrats or at least the Ministry of Agriculture had taken notice of the fact that this will lead to the salinization of a large area currently under rice production. Have the urban planners taken notice of the fact that this will mean salt water intrusion up the Kelani River? Has the Colombo Municipality taken notice of the fact that unplanned (corrupt) urbanisation, has stopped water infiltration into the soil and will lead to flooding as the Kelani river loses its ‘fresh water tongue’ into the ocean?
While there is the excitement of building for tourists at the beach, what land planning has accounted for the beach being moved serval hundred meters inland? What sea level rise models does Sri Lanka contribute to? Why are sea level rise models not mandatory in coastal land use planning? These seem reasonable questions for an island nation.
Could it be that the government of Sri Lanka, is downplaying the impacts of climate change because they are following an agenda of ‘development’ set by the producers of fossil fuels? When the decision for Sri Lanka to place her development aspirations on energy based on fossil fuels was made the deed was done.
It was in 1979 when an official communiqué on development displayed in the nation’s newspapers stated: “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”, it seems clear that our current state of fossil addiction was not a function of some natural, uninformed social growth, it was designed to create an exponential demand to fossil fuels as the source of energy to power society. The ‘development’ of centralised energy entailed large sums of money in trading coal and oil. Attracting unsavory political and bureaucratic attention. The sleazy dealing behind our coal and oil supplies are now done as a matter of national importance.
However, today the world has woken up to the reality of climate change driven by the consumption of fossil fuels. Every time one travels or takes a flight or even switches on a light, we contribute to the acceleration of climate change. Renewable energy has become a catchword into the 20’s. but the focus of the government was on centralised energy generation through the purchase of fossil fuels and renewable energy was ignored.
Today, due to a tragic mix of corruption and ignorance, Sri Lanka has become a ‘bankrupt state’ and cannot import those quantities of fossil. It has now become ‘the canary in the coalmine’ of fossil powered economic growth, which promises ‘development’. The pain of withdrawal from addiction is felt from the cooking fires of its homes to the national energy grids. Can this pain provoke a realisation that the only way to stop it from happening again is to cease this addiction to fossil fuels and choose a new paradigm for growth and development?
There are innumerable, creative inventions made by our youth to respond to energy issues at the local level. There are small and medium industries that can arise around sustainable energy production, but unless this potential is recognized and encouraged, we will have to put up with the platitudes of those profiting off our energy dependence and occupying the seats of power that can make the change required.There is an obvious need to decentralise essential services, as much as there is a crying need for local responsibility and accountability. But while we bicker about the control of our national processes, the shadow of the global impact of climate change is almost upon us and the time that we have to plan and prepare is almost gone.
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and what it means for SL
State circles in Sri Lanka have begun voicing the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the country, on the lines of South Africa’s historic TRC, and the time could not be more appropriate for a comprehensive discussion in Sri Lanka on the questions that are likely to arise for the country as a result of launching such an initiative. There is no avoiding the need for all relevant stakeholders to deliberate on what it could mean for Sri Lanka to usher a TRC of its own.
Fortunately for Sri Lanka, the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), Colombo, took on the responsibility of initiating public deliberations on what a TRC could entail for Sri Lanka. A well-attended round table forum towards this end was held at the LKI on November 25 and many were the vital insights it yielded on how Sri Lanka should go about the crucial task of bringing about enduring ethnic peace in Sri Lanka through a home-grown TRC. A special feature of the forum was the on-line participation in it of South African experts who were instrumental in making the TRC initiative successful in South Africa.
There was, for example, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs and Communication of South Africa Roelf Meyer, who figured as Chief Representative of the white minority National Party government in the multi-party negotiations of 1993, which finally led to ending apartheid in South Africa. His role was crucial in paving the way for the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. Highlighting some crucial factors that contributed towards South Africa’s success in laying the basis for ethnic reconciliation, Meyer said that there ought to be a shared need among the antagonists to find a negotiated solution to their conflict. They should be willing to resolve their issues. Besides, the principle needs be recognized that ‘one negotiates with one’s enemies’. These conditions were met in South Africa.
Meyer added that South Africa’s TRC was part of the country’s peace process. Before the launching of the TRC a peace agreement among the parties was already in place. Besides, an interim constitution was licked into shape by then. The principle agreed to by the parties that, ‘We will not look for vengeance but for reconciliation’, not only brought a degree of accord among the conflicting parties but facilitated the setting-up of the TRC.
Meyer also pointed out that the parties to the conflict acted with foresight when they postponed considering the question of an amnesty for aggressors for the latter part of the negotiations. If an amnesty for perceived aggressors ‘was promised first, we would never have had peace’, he explained.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fanie Du Toit, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa, in his presentation said that the restoration of the dignity of the victims in the conflict is important. The realization of ethnic peace in South Africa was a ‘victim-centric’ process. Hearing out the victim’s point of view became crucial. Very importantly, the sides recognized that ‘apartheid was a crime against humanity’. These factors made the South African TRC exercise a highly credible one.
The points made by Meyer and Du Toit ought to prompt the Sri Lankan state and other parties to the country’s conflict to recognize what needs to be in place for the success of an ethnic peace process of their own. A challenge for the Sri Lankan government is to ban racism in all its manifestations and to declare racism a crime against humanity. For starters, is the Lankan government equal to this challenge? If this challenge goes unmet bringing ethnic reconciliation to Sri Lanka would prove an impossible task.
Lest the Sri Lankan government and other relevant sections to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict forget, reconciliation in South Africa was brought about, among other factors, by truth-telling by aggressors and oppressors. In its essentials, the South African TRC entailed the aggressors owning to their apartheid-linked crimes in public before the Commission. In return they were amnestied and freed of charges. Could Sri Lanka’s perceived aggressors measure up to this challenge? This question calls for urgent answering before any TRC process is gone ahead with.
Making some opening remarks at the forum, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya said, among other things, that the LKI discussion set the tone for the setting up of a local TRC. He said that the latter is important because future generations should not be allowed to inherit Sri Lanka’s ethnic tangle and its issues. Ethnic reconciliation is essential as the country goes into the future. He added that the ‘Aragalaya’ compelled the country to realize its past follies which must not be repeated.
In his closing remarks, former Minister of Public Works of South Africa and High Commissioner of South Africa to Sri Lanka ambassador Geoffrey Doidge said that Sri Lanka’s TRC would need to have a Compassionate Council of religious leaders who would be catalysts in realizing reconciliation. Sri Lanka, he said, needs to seize this opportunity and move ahead through a consultative process. All sections of opinion in the country need to be consulted on the core issues in reconciliation.
At the inception of the round table, Executive Director, LKI, Dr. D. L. Mendis making some welcome remarks paid tribute to South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela for his magnanimous approach towards the white minority and for granting an amnesty to all apartheid-linked offenders. He also highlighted the role played by Bishop Desmond Tutu in ushering an ‘Age of Reconciliation’.
In his introductory remarks, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in South Africa Prof. Gamini Gunawardena said, among other things, that TRCs were not entirely new to Sri Lanka but at the current juncture a renewed effort needed to be made by Sri Lanka towards reconciliation. Sri Lanka should aim at its own TRC process, he said.
During Q&A Roelf Meyer said that in South Africa there was a move away from authoritarianism towards democracy, a democratic constitution was ushered. In any reconciliation process, ensuring human rights should be the underlying approach with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights playing the role of guide. Besides, a reconciliation process must have long term legitimacy.
Dr. Fanie Du Toit said that Bishop Tutu’s commitment to forgiveness made him acceptable to all. Forgiveness is not a religious value but a human one, he said. It is also important to recognize that human rights violations are always wrong.
Cucumber Face Mask
* Cucumber and Aloe Vera
• 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel or juice • 1/4th grated cucumber
Mix the grated cucumber and aloe gel, and carefully apply the mixture on the face and also on your neck.
Leave it on for 15 minutes. Wash with warm water.
* Cucumber and Carrot
• 1 tablespoon fresh carrot juice • 1 tablespoon cucumber paste • 1 tablespoon sour cream
Extract fresh carrot juice and grate the cucumber to get a paste-like consistency. Mix these two ingredients, with the sour cream, and apply the paste on the face.
Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. (This cucumber face pack is good for dry skin)
* Cucumber and Tomato
• 1/4th cucumber • 1/2 ripe tomato
Peel the cucumber and blend it with the tomato and apply the paste on your face and neck and massage for a minute or two, in a circular motion.
Leave the paste on for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. (This cucumber face pack will give you brighter and radiant skin)
Christmas time is here again…
The dawning of the month of December invariably reminds me of The Beatles ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again.’ And…yes, today is the 1st of December and, no doubt, there will be quite a lot of festive activities for us to check out.
Renowned artiste, Melantha Perera, who now heads the Moratuwa Arts Forum, has been a busy man, working on projects for the benefit of the public.
Since taking over the leadership of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha and his team are now ready to present their second project – a Christmas Fair – and this project, I’m told, is being done after a lapse of three years.
They are calling it Christmas Fun-Fair and it will be held on 7th December, at St. Peter’s Church Hall, Koralawella.
A member of the organizing committee mentioned that this event will not be confined to only the singing of Christmas Carols.
“We have worked out a programme that would be enjoyed by all, especially during this festive season.”
There will be a variety of items, where the main show is concerned…with Calypso Carols, as a curtain raiser, followed by Carols sung by Church choirs.
They plan to include a short drama, pertaining to Christmas, and a Comedy act, as well.
The main show will include guest spots by Rukshan Perera and Mariazelle Gunathilake.
Although show time is at 7.30 pm, the public can check out the Christmas Fun-Fair scene, from 4.30 pm onwards, as there will be trade stalls, selling Christmas goodies – Christmas cakes and sweets, garment items, jewellery, snacks, chocolate, etc.
The fair will not be confined to only sales, as Melantha and his team plan to make it extra special by working out an auction and raffle draw, with Christmas hampers, as prizes.
Santa and ‘Charlie Chaplin’ will be in attendance, too, entertaining the young and old, and there will also be a kid’s corner, to keep thembusy so that the parents could do their shopping.
They say that the main idea in organizing this Christmas Fun-Fair is to provide good festive entertainment for the people who haven’t had the opportunity of experiencing the real festive atmosphere during the last few years.
There are also plans to stream online, via MAF YouTube, to Sri Lankans residing overseas, to enable them to see some of the festive activities in Sri Lanka.
Entrance to the Christmas Fun Failr stalls will be free of charge. Tickets will be sold only for the main show, moderately priced at Rs. 500.
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