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Only deterrence can reverse the assault on democracy

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by Kumar David

The world has been spared a Third World War thanks to deterrence, that is the threat of mutual destruction. If only one nation possessed nuclear weapons all others would be enslaved. Likewise, should the threat of a military regime surface anywhere in the world, only the presence of countervailing opposition to ensure that the venture will be beaten back, can repel it. Morality and promises are poppycock; only power counts. Soft power is as pathetic and as toothless as Aung San Suu Kyi; the good lady will end her life in prison. From the first dynasties four millennia ago to the coups of yesteryear, that’s history’s stern lesson.

Let us stop playing Russian Roulette with authoritarianism, military dictatorships or fascism, as the case may be, in nation after nation. The state in the third-world, having subjugated every agency of society has emerged as a supra-national entity. This is a new phenomenon; it belongs to recent decades. Neither class, nor wealth, nor race, nor faith are barriers to which it is subordinate. When the nation-state emerged in 17th and 18th Century Europe and later in America it was different; it was the handmaiden of commerce and a rising bourgeoisie. As absolute monarchies receded the nation-state arose not as a power in its own right, but rather the state and its instruments and institutions were subordinate to class, society and liberal norms – brief Bonapartist interludes like Napoleon aside. Now except in the metropolitan world* a profound change has occurred; it is now different in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Asia (Cambodia and Central Asia). In the last two decades there have been about 40, at a guess, military seizures of power or annulments of elections by incumbent regimes which summoned the military to crush the people with an appalling lack of conscience and compassion. Hobbes’ Leviathan, Rousseau’s Social Contract and Marx’s version of the relationship of class and state to military power can do with updating.

The change is that the Nation-State is no longer what this term meant when nation was synonymous with country as it was with the French, British, American, Italian and Soviet nation-states though the constitutional arrangements varied. Then the nation was synonymous with country, the whole people but now the dramatic rise of narrow nationalisms has drastically altered this. The nation-state is now the nationalist-state is the narrow-nationalist-state which draws its legitimacy not from the whole but from a part of the citizenry. For example the Hindutva state, the Sinhala-Buddhist state, the Jewish state, the Burman-Buddhist state, Islamic ISIS, and the military dictatorships which draw their sustenance from a tribal (ethnic) group in West Africa or the Horn of Africa. The “Other” is not a foreign power but an “Internal-Other”. In these instances, respectively, it is the Muslims, the minorities, the Palestinians, the numerous ethnic peoples of Burma, the Shia and the other black or brown nearby peoples. The Other is an Internal-Other, the enemy is an enemy within.

To repeat, the critical factor is that fascist, militarist or dictatorial states now draw their strength and moral compass from narrow-nationalism, that is from the state’s manifestation as the enemy of the Internal-Other. The enemy is no longer the foreign foe but the Internal-Other. (Colvin once called our military “A toy army in war and a real army in peace”). Modi’s Hindutva derives its legitimacy as the sworn enemy of Muslims, the rightfulness of the Sinhala-Buddhist state is a beacon against the Internal-Other in the sixty years of SWRD, JR, Premadasa, Mahinda and Gotabaya presidencies. This symbiosis of brutal military regimes with narrow ethno-nationalisms is the fundamental paradigm shift in the modern third-world.

Paradoxically for this very reason these regimes can slaughter with impunity – horrendous carnage in Africa, the Civil War in Sri Lanka, the brutality of the Burmese army and ISIS’s atrocities. Politicians cheering these one-dimensional nationalisms are populist tribunes blaring out the slogans of the crowd or relaying the broadcasts of army TV and radio. The phenomenon draws its strength from the datum that every member of the primary nationalist category, without exception of class or wealth, is united within it; brothers in the crusade against the ‘Other’. This is the foundation of every military dictatorship of recent times. It had its origins in the obscenity of Nazism whose Internal-Other was the “greedy, licentious, dirty and avaricious Jew”!

I would like to further develop these theoretical propositions about the frequency and brutality of the modern military regime as an incarnation of dictatorship that alienates an Internal-Other, but for reasons of space I must draw up my paper and get back home. The stark reality at home is that if there is a power-grab in Lanka, then restoring democracy will be a road through hell. Does anyone imagine that restoring democracy in Burma, in Sudan, in Venezuela and everywhere where a military regime as foisted itself will take less than decades of anarchy, economic ruin, blood, civil war and revolution? This is the point at which I am flabbergasted by the JVP and the Sajith-SJB. I am not declaring that a military venture is likely. No, indeed the odds are less than even; it is not possible to predict the odds. But only a fool will say that economic disaster, an insoluble debt imbroglio, president-made fertiliser scarcity, man-made power crises and food shortages are not breeding grounds for frantic regimes to seek desperate responses!

Is it asking too much of the JVP and the SJB to concede that the danger is real even if the odds are less than even? Why not take simple measures to thwart it if the cost of such measures is insignificant? As with nuclear war the cost of deterrence is zilch compared to the charge that history will levy on a negligent world. What does it cost these two parties, the TNA, smaller entities, trade unions, civil society and Churches and Temples to convene, discuss, warn and issue proclamations to the effect that any extra-parliamentary adventure will be resisted, an attack on one will be deemed an attack on all, and postponement of elections will not be permitted?

JR and Mahinda in their day led pada yatra, People’s (foot) Marches; peaceful and orderly, clergy in the vanguard, expressing deep public anger and discontent. There is no shortage of issues today for grassroots mobilisation; ‘Hands off Democracy’, ‘Can we Farm without Fertiliser?’, ‘Give our Children Food’ are a few examples that will galvanise people. The objective at this point in time is by no means to bring down the government or to foreshorten its electoral term, rather it is as deterrence against authoritarian ambitions, to expose idiotic decisions and to deter unconstitutional excesses.

Deterrence! What does it cost the participants? Nothing! There is no commitment to programmatic unity or to future coalition government. No endorsement of each other’s ideology is implied. I have raised this several times in discussions and in my columns but received as response only inanities such as “We will consider when the time comes”, “There is no such danger now” and “Defensive preparations have to be done secretly”. Why oh why did god deprive some people of a brain!

To return to my theme that third-world dictatorship in recent times is the manifestation of a narrow-nationalist state in crisis, it is useful to appreciate that Sri Lanka may have progressed to a stage where that cock will not fight any more. Has the usefulness of the call to war against the demala and the hambaya lost its resonance? The results of the 2019-2020 election cycle may give you pause in endorsing this thought, but what has lost its sheen is the promise of this victorious regime. “The stupid 69 lakhs” is mockery even on the lips of those who themselves were among the 69! Is the sheen of narrow Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism wearing thin? Has the theme song of depicting the minorities as the felons lost its resonance? If you listen to the tales of woe at every street corner the culprit is the government, this Minister or that, the President and his aanduwa. A take-over to “safeguard the nation from the Internal-Other” is no longer credible. The same is not true of the military machine. The tri-services were purged of Christian and Tamil vermin in the wake of the 1962 coup and is now a purified and sanitised Sinhala-Buddhist triple-gem! (For the full story see Jayantha Somasunderam; The Island of January 26, 27, 28 and 29, 2022 and the Colombo Telegraph of January 25).

So then, we have an interesting dichotomy where narrow racist extremism is saleable to the military but less so to the Sinhala people at large. The appointment of loyalists to high posts such as state ministerships, ministerial secretary posts and corporate chairmanships, pardoning convicted killers and scuttling trials against alleged military-police murderers (Trinco student murders, Médecins Sans Frontières killers) would no doubt have cemented loyalty of the military to the regime. Therefore, we have a mixed equation; will a narrow-nationalist extremist power grab (or postponement of elections), citing the Internal-Other as the enemy within carry legitimacy only with the military? The one thing that the JVP-NPP, Sajith-SJB, trade unions and civil society can do is to make it clear that any such gorilla venture will be resisted by counter mobilisation of the people, mainly the Sinhalese people. This is the sole purpose of my column, not deep scholarship and profound analysis – others outrank me in these respects – but to kick the arses (editor permitting) of slumbering comrades who seem to have taken Robert Burns to heart. “My (comrades) are asleep by thy murmuring stream: Flow gently, sweet river, disturb not (their) dream”.

[However, all is not well in the First World either. The US Congress was informed last week that the Trump White House drafted two Executive Orders, one to the military the other to Homeland Security ordering counting machines be seized when the presidential election-count was going badly. The orders were not signed or issued, but this was a common practice in Latin America in the 1960s].



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THE DEMOCRATIC PARADOX OF SRI LANKA

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by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law

In the distant past, there were many approaches to running civilizations. Cruel and ruthless dictators perpetrated assault on human rights, with impunity. The best known among these tyrants were ATTILA the HUN (AD 434-453 of present day Hungary ), GENGHIS KHAN ( 1206-1227 in Central Asia and China ), TIMUR ( 1370-1405 of modern Syria, Iran , Afghanistan) and QUEEN MARY alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England ).

The combination of divine or absolute power and lack of contact with people made Dictators and Autocrats fascinating as well as terrifying. It is unclear if such characters suffered from mental illness as defined by current standards or whether their lives were marked by incidents that made them ruthless.

Hadenius and Teorell ( 2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships in monarchies, military regimes, one party regimes and restricted multiparty regimes. Studies have revealed that many dictatorial regimes, have democratic facades or some functioning democratic institutions, some holding regular elections and some having operational political parties and legislatures.

Dictatorships are a form of government in which all power remains in the hands of one person enjoying unlimited governmental power obtained by force or fraudulent means in sham elections. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths or killings because of greed, hatred, pride and yearning for power. For instance, Hitler caused millions of deaths of Jews, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians to forcibly change its culture and Idi Amin was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Indians in Uganda.

Autocracy is very similar to a dictatorship. Here too, the supreme power lies in the hands of an individual with some supported by a slavish political party. Autocrats use little or no consultation when making decisions and exercise independent authority over policies and procedures. Their decisions are not subject to any legal restraints. The system suppresses public debate and makes criticism of the government, a criminal offence.

Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest in many ways in despotism, oligarchy and fascism.

In the ideology of benevolent or enlightened despotism (popular in the 18th Century Europe),a absolute monarchs enacted a number of changes in political institutions and enlightened governance. Most of the despots started their careers as “freedom fighters”. Many of them amassed wealth abroad while the world was in denial.

An oligarchy is a form of government where power is in the hands of a small group of elite people, holding wealth or family or military prowess. Oligarchies are where a small minority rules the government and exercise power in corrupt ways. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.

Fascism is a political ideology that elevates the nation and race above the individual and advocates a ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’ led by a dictator under strict economic and social regulation while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Interestingly, the majority of the modern dictatorial regimes refer to their leaders by a variety of titles such as President, King and Prime Minister.

The 20th and 21st Century dictators and autocrats ruled with tyrannical power and never tolerated dissent. Some of them were VALDIMIR LENIN ( 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN ( 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI ( 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER ( 1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO ( 1939-1975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG (1949-1976- China ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda), AUGUSTO PINOCHET ( 1973- 1990 Chile ), GEOGIS PAPANDUPOULUS ( 1967-1974 Greece ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI ( 1969-2011 Libya ).

Dictator led countries are also associated with severe poverty, repression, decreasing health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and rising mental illnesses. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. However, VADIMIR PUTIN (since 2000 Russia ) and XI JING PING ( since 2013 China ) are leading economic powers, but these two countries have also never tolerated dissent.

It is common to see dictators and autocrats appointing prominent members of armed forces in civilian positions and show disrespect towards the independence of the judiciary and freedom for the media. Such systems and their rulers show no concern for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.

The suppression of the Pro- Democracy movement by the use of the army was followed by the wide spread arrest and deportation of foreign journalists and the strict control of the Press. In Russia, VADIMIR PUTIN, characterized his rule with endemic corruption, jailing political opponents, intimidating media freedom and free and fair elections. When Russia invaded Ukrain in February 2022, Putin ordered the arrest of thousands of its own citizens for protesting against the war. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to create personality based autocracies surrounded by family members. Family bandyism weakened State infrastructure in Sri Lanka after 2005. The Rajapaksa family based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices and institutionalized corruption. Family members and lackeys of Iraq and Libyan leaders weakened the State apparatus of Iraq and Libya. The weakened States of Iraq and Libya were such that, it failed to produce nuclear weapons as planned, to meet the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq ) appointed his son- in- law and notoriously brutal Hussein Kamil, to fast track the production of nuclear weapons. That resulted in scientists in Iraq intentionally further slowing down the programme and nicknamed it the “unclear power”.

In contrast, the tyrant Gadaffi ( Libya ) was surrounded by ‘yes men’ and female bodyguards and an ego trip as a result of which, had no inclination to produce scientists and engineers for the country capable of dealing with complex technicalities associated with the production of nuclear power.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. Chinese dictator XI JING PING despite being an economic power, is accused of subtle problematic debt trap diplomacy since 2018 in many poor countries in Africa and Asia ruled by corrupt and mismanaging leaders. PUTIN is facing credible allegations of gross violation of human rights in Ukrain and widespread calls for investigation leading up to a trial for war crimes.

Citizen tired of being oppressed and controlled made widespread demands for democracy and the creation of independent Nation States in Europe. Those revolutions popularly known as the ‘Peoples Spring’ in 1848, brought upheavals in Europe mainly due to the dissatisfaction with monarchies, which were at the helm of each country. The revolution started in Sicily and spread to France, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, Austrian Empire, German Empire and the whole of Europe. Monarchies were replaced by Republics. Old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions.

Caught off guard, aristocracy and their allies plotted to return to power and many leaders of the revolutions went into exile. In the decades after 1848, little had changed. Many historians considered the “People’s Spring” a failure, due to the seemingly lack of permanent structural changes. Karl Marx, disappointed with the bourgeois character of the revolution, expressed the theory of a permanent revolution according to which the proletariat should strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary forces, until the proletariat itself was ready to seize power.

The Autumn of Nations between 1981 and 1991 (143 years after the political upheavals in Europe), brought down the former Soviet Union (USSR) which was beset with economic stagnation, mismanagement and excessive dogmatism of the Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR without bloodshed to endorse democratic reforms in their countries. Poland was the first to shrug off communism in 1989 after almost a decade of struggles. It was followed by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Another wave of pro- democracy uprisings began in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain in 2010/2011. It was named the “Arab Spring” and started in December 2010 from Tunisia. However, not all the nations that witnessed such social and political upheaval changed for the better. Some of the very same leaders who fought for democracy in the Muslim world (and in many other parts of the world), presided over the gradual decline of democratic rule in their countries.

In Egypt for example, despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, authoritarian rule returned after the controversial election of Morsi in 2012 leading to a coup by his Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in 2013 and he remains in power till today. Libya, since Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown violently in October 2011, has remained in a state of civil war with two opposing governments ruling separate regions of the country. The civil war that began in Syria with the Arab Spring has lasted for several years due to ISIS declaring a CALIPHATE governed by Islamic Law in North East of Syria. The ISIS has been effectively defeated, but the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues with Russian support.

Democracy

In modern times, generations have rebelled against dictatorships and autocrdacy and fought for human rights and respect for the Rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the method of rule most countries have begun to approve. Although democracy is vulnerable it is very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

To be continued

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My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment says Beyonce

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Beyonce, shown attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, is slated to release a new album in July 2022

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, r Six years after she shook the culture with her powerful visual album “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s seventh solo studio work is a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks aimed at liberating a world consumed by ennui.

Beyonce, the paradigm-shifting music royal whose art has long established her as one of entertainment’s seminal stars, released her hotly anticipated album “Renaissance,” a house-tinged dance record primed for its summer needle drop

Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history — Queen Bey interpolates Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder along with James Brown and the archetypal synth line from “Show Me Love,” the 1990s house smash by Robin S — the 16-song album is poised to reign over the season.

Prior to releasing her opus Beyonce had dropped “Break My Soul” to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artists and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.The megastar has indicated that “Renaissance” is but the first act of three, in a project she said she recorded over the course of three years during the pandemic.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce on her website.

“It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving,” she continued. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.”

“A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”

– ‘Expansive listening journey’ –

In the weeks preceding the release of “Renaissance” Beyonce teased the album with the steady stream of glossy, curated portraits of herself that over the past decade have become her signature.But though she’s received wide praise for keeping the world of music videos on the cutting edge, Beyonce put out her latest record sans visuals (they’re promised at a later date.)

In a statement her label Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records lent insight into the decision, saying the artist “decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey.”

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.

“Unique / That’s what you are /Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar,” she sings on “Alien Superstar,” which samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” in a sonic ode to voguing, the stylized house dance that emerged from the Black LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1960s.

That song closes by sampling a speech from Barbara Ann Teer, who founded Harlem’s National Black Theatre.

On “Virgo’s Groove” Beyonce gets raunchy with an unabashed sex anthem, adding a titular nod to her star sign — the Virgo turns 41 on September 4.Along with a smattering of deep house cuts as well as tributes to gospel, funk and soul, Beyonce’s collaborators on “Renaissance” include Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Nigerian singer Tems, Grace Jones, Pharrell and, of course, her rap mogul husband Jay-Z.

– Album leaks, Beyhive stings –

Beyonce has long bucked music’s conventional wisdom, and is credited with popularizing the surprise album drop.She later made waves by releasing “Lemonade” — the groundbreaking work that chronicled her own emotional catharsis following infidelity within a generational and racial context — first on cable television, and limiting its streaming availability.

Since “Lemonade” she’s released “Homecoming,” a live album and film featuring footage from her mythic 2018 Coachella performance, as well as the critically acclaimed song “Black Parade” — which dropped amid mass protests ignited by the police murder of George Floyd.

That song saw the megastar, who first gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, become the winningest woman ever at the Grammys with 28, and the gala’s most decorated singer.But for all her cultural clout and an indisputable throne in music’s pantheon, Beyonce’s songs have not seen the same commercial dominance as other contemporary global stars — her last number one solo hit was 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

That’s poised to change with “Renaissance.”

The album’s release saw Queen Bey return to music business as usual, deploying pre-sales, a lead single drop, a tracklist and polished social media fodder.But it wasn’t without a hitch — in the days prior to the official release, the album leaked online.

Bey thanked her hive for waiting, and added that “I appreciate you for calling out anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early.”

“We are going to take our time and Enjoy the music,” the megastar told her fandom. “I love you deep.”–AFP

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Are we to burn borrowed dollars just to cook a meal?

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Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

How many of the consumers who opt to use LPG for cooking, realize that they are burning the dollars borrowed with difficulty, just to cook a meal, while the use of LPG hardly brings in any foreign exchange? The reality is that while the country is struggling to raise the dollars even through loans to import adequate supplies of transport fuel, taking loans to import LPG, which will not result in any Forex earnings could hardly be considered ethical or a priority.

The CBSL data below shows the immense amount of dollars drained out of the country in the past years, purely due to the high powered promotions to coerce and trap the consumers to this non sustainable consumption.

With the escalation of world market prices and the depreciation of the rupee , the impact in rupee terms in year 2022, if we are to import the same quantities, would be much greater as estimated. The Governor of the Central Bank has quite rightly stated that

Sri Lanka will have to manage with available dollar inflows, not bridging finance: CB Governor

By Economy Next • Issue #391

However, the attempt by the government appears to be determined to continue this practice at whatever cost and detriment to the economy, to perpetuate a practice foisted on the people by unscrupulous officials, and thereby try and pretend that the gas queues are over. This has been achieved for the present, thanks to a further loan of $ 70 Million from the World Bank, to import 30,000 tons of LPG recently. Perhaps the daily visuals of the gas queues, that the electronic media took pleasure in broadcasting, may also have pushed the government to this short sighted move.

The other side of the coin is that, before the arrival of this load of LPG, while the empty cylinders remained in the queues, the people were absent. No doubt they sought and found alternative means of cooking their meals, albeit with less convenience than using gas. Obviously they would also have been helped in this by the intrepid efforts of many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured cooking stoves to use either fuel wood or charcoal, which do not require any dollars.

The novel stoves are yet to be available in adequate numbers in the market, although the manufacturers are running long waiting lists. As such some consumers may have been forced to revert to direct use of fire wood, accepting the disadvantage of smoke and soot. But Sri Lanka has already introduced most acceptable models of cooking stoves to use wood and wood charcoal, devoid of any smoke and soot. These have proved to be acceptable alternatives to the use of gas stoves for the daily cooking needs, even in high rise apartments.

The reality is that the consumers have recognized the fact that the government or the officials cannot be relied upon to provide their essential needs, and their salvation lies in seeking indigenous alternative solutions themselves which have proven to be equally effective.

But shouldn’t this positive change have been noted by the authorities and fostered with the same vigour with which the use of the imported LPG was promoted? What about the media? They diverted their cameras to the petrol and diesel queues, obviously the emerging negative scene of news value.

The officials of the Litro gas company are heard to give assurances of continued supply of LPG in the future, while they admit the loan received is adequate for supplies up to October only. According to their web page their customer base exceeds 4,000,000. The consumption in 2020 was 437,000 tons, purchased at a cost of $ 236 Million. By now it would exceed 450,000 tons annually. How far would the $ 70 Million loan go at present day gas prices? What happens next? Are they hoping to get yet another loan, when the Ministry of Power and Energy is forced to restrict the issue of essential transport fuels to a minimum, due to lack of dollars? Isn’t this a willful deception of the consumers?

Therefore, the discerning consumers are well advised to consider the following points in their decision making for the future.

  • = The import of LPG is possible only through loans which will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren
  • = Continued dependence on LPG is a never ending problem and will need more and more loans with no chance of the LPG used leading to any foreign exchange earnings
  • = The loans taken have to be repaid by the entire country ,while the benefit is enjoyed by only a limited section of the society, which is morally unacceptable
  • = For those fortunate to get even a cylinder of LPG, adopting the already available options of stoves using either charcoal or wood , for the cooking of the main meals , would substantially reduce the monthly expenditure as shown below. This would preserve the LPG cylinder bought with difficulty, to be available for any limited usage in between and for any emergencies for many months
  • = The consumers can be the drivers of the change which would reduce the demand for LPG and thus save the country millions of dollars year after year
  • = This would create a significant indigenous industry whereby the millions of dollars sent out would flow to the local industrialists and rural communities supplying the charcoal and wood. Even a 50% reduction of the imports could result in a local industry worth over Rs 80 Billion annually.

These are indeed practical and worthwhile contributions to resolve a national problem. Are each of us ready to commit to extend the use of our LPG cylinder to last several months, thereby reducing the demand to 50% or even to 25% in the coming year? This should be considered a national duty by all of us.

Just to assuage any fears of deforestation, contrary to popular belief, Sri Lanka already has adequate renewable and sustainable biomass resources formally counted as over 12,000,000 tons annually, contributing to 50% of the total primary energy demand. Simultaneously, a practical program of social reforestation has to be encouraged where the user of charcoal, plants wherever he can, plants trees to compensate for the charcoal he uses. In this way the next generation will also be assured of their own sustainable supply with absolutely no impact on the forest cover. A plant that can be recommended is Gliricidia Sepium among others, which can be harvested in two years, and thereafter every eight months.

(The writer is past president of the Bio Energy Association of Sri Lanka www.bioenergysrilanka.lk
Email: parajayasinghe@gmail.com)

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