THE APRIL 1971 REVOLT – I
By Jayantha Somasundaram
The 50th anniversary of the first JVP insurrection falls today. The 1971 rebellion was the first armed uprising against the state in modern times.
The JVP was the brainchild of Rohana Wijeweera. Born in 1943, at Hunandeniya, in the Matara District, his father was a supporter of the Communist Party of Ceylon (CPC). However, while studying medicine in Moscow, Wijeweera became critical of the Soviet Union, and, on his return, he joined the Communist Party (CP), which was Maoist. Not long after, in 1966, Wijeweera, along with his supporters, broke ranks with the CP to form their own movement, which would later become the JVP. Wijeweera had concluded that the agricultural labourer -̶ the rural proletariat -̶ was the largest and most important component of Sri Lanka’s working class, not the urban or plantation worker.
The JVP was able to attract university students to its cause. It gained recruits at Vidyalankara (Kelaniya) University by winning over students who were members of the PC-supporting Lanka Jatika Sishya Sangamaya (Lanka National Students Society) led by G. I. D. ‘Castro’ Dharmasekera. In 1970, the JVP wrested control of the Samajawadi Sishiya Sangamaya (the Socialist Students Society) at the Peradeniya University; while on behalf of the JVP, Mahinda Wijesekera led the Sangamaya at Vidyodaya (Sri Jayewardenepura) University.
In 1969, Wijeweera organised two Congresses, bringing together all his supporters. At the two-day conference in Madampella, Negombo, the leadership, which consisted of Wijeweera, Sanath, Karunaratne and Loku Athula, along with the District Secretaries, constituted the JVP Central Committee. Later that year, at Urubokka, in the Matara District, the movement took on its final configuration. Five-member cells formed the core structure, overseeing them would be area leaders who were in turn responsible to District Secretaries.
At the Urubokka Conference, the prospect of manufacturing weapons was taken up and the suggestion made that projectiles such as rockets would be effective against the Army’s Panagoda Cantonment, at Homagama. In early 1970, at the Dondra Conference, in addition to collecting and manufacturing weapons, the details of recruitment, training, uniforms, and collecting information on the Armed Forces, were discussed.
The JVP’s Ideology
The JVP was critical of the mainstream left parties, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party as they had entered into an alliance with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and would be constituents of the United Front (UF) government, which came to power in May 1970. However, it was in those very areas, that had been worked on by the older left parties for three decades, that the JVP took root.
The JVP leaders, however, were from backgrounds and experiences quite different from that of the old left parties. They did not come from Colombo’s public schools, few of them had been to the British-styled residential university at Peradeniya, and none to Western universities. Many were teachers and students of small-town Central Schools and the Pirivena (Buddhist monastic) Universities. “Unlike the traditional left, the activists of the JVP were the children of the 1956 Sinhala-only struggle, with its attendant limitations and advantages,” writes Michael Cooke in Rebellion, Repression and the Struggle for Justice in Sri Lanka: The Lionel Bopage Story.
The rank and file of the JVP consisted of militant Sinhala-educated young men and women. They were underprivileged rural youth, with meagre job opportunities, constituting a potential army of frustrated school and university leavers. Overwhelmingly Buddhist Sinhalese, they were drawn from marginalised castes. Wahumpura villages in Elpitiya gave the JVP strong support, while, in Kegalle, the Batgam were won over by the JVP. In Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy, James Jupp explains: “The JVP appealed to the Buddhist Karawe, Durawe, Batgam, Wahumpura … both from the Southern Province and the Kegalle District, anti-Govigama feeling was a motive behind the mass recruitment to the JVP in certain villages.”
The JVP endeavoured to recruit sympathisers in the armed forces, with Wijeweera establishing contact, as early as 1965, with Tilekaratne, a rating in the Royal Ceylon Navy. Later Uyangoda held classes for Naval personnel, made contact with Air Force personnel in Wanathamulla and Katunayake, and delivered lectures to them. They also provided classes for soldiers stationed at Diyatalawa.
The Party evolved its own Marxist ideology which was a hybrid. It drew on Trotsky’s criticism of Stalinism and the ‘popular front.’ From Mao it asserted the primacy of the peasantry as the backbone of the revolution. And from Castro it learnt armed insurrection. The JVP training for its cadres emphasised neo-colonialism, attacked parliamentarianism and rejected the mainstream left parties.
In its economic teaching, the JVP differed little from the LSSP or CP. However, they did not only point out the neo-colonial dependence of Sri Lanka’s economy, but identified the UF as part of this neo-colonial system. They called for a halt to the expansion of the tea plantations while advocating the intense cultivation of food crops and the collectivisation of land to overcome landlessness. The JVP in its propaganda organ Vimukthi claimed that “the socialist revolution would succeed in Ceylon only when the oppressed peasantry became politicised … hey are the moving force of the Ceylonese revolution.”
The JVP recruited cadres who would attend political training, delivered through five lectures. These covered the economic crisis, neo-colonialism, Indian expansionism, the left movement and the Sri Lanka revolution. Those who completed all five lectures and volunteered for combat, around 9,000, had military training.
It was in tactics, however, that the JVP differed radically from the rest of the left, which had been concerned with trade unions, strikes, rallies and elections. With the passage of time, the JVP evolved a tactic, where they functioned openly as an agitational group, whilst, at the same time recruiting combatants into a clandestine military organisation. They held that the socialist revolution in Sri Lanka would have to be a sudden armed insurrection, launched simultaneously across the country. This is the most advanced and complex form of revolutionary combat.
Their ‘24-Hour Revolution’ was premised on the assumption that the police and the armed forces had insufficient ammunition to survive a simultaneous uprising throughout the country. However they also wrestled with a critical tactical dilemma: “How to attack the government, moving carefully enough not to outpace the disillusion of the masses, yet fast enough to hit before the government struck at it.” (Fred Halliday The Ceylonese Insurrection in Explosion in a Sub Continent edited by Robin Blackburn)
The JVP came into the open, in 1969, through public meetings, the first of which was held at Vidyodaya University. This public profile brought a large number of new recruits whom the leadership claim reached about 23,000 committed members. But it also resulted in the police responding with widespread arrests amounting to about a thousand JVP activists. Fearing all out repression, they established protected villages in remote rural areas, as logistical bases. “The movement took no root in the towns, nor in the industrial coastal areas around Colombo, nor in the Tamil areas,” wrote the Belgian Catholic priest and sociologist Francois Houtart in Religion and Ideology in Sri Lanka.
Shortly before the May 1970 general election, Dharmasekera allegedly informed the Minister of State J. R. Jayewardene, through an intermediaries, of the JVP threat. This triggered heightened interest in the media which gave them the appellation ‘Che Guevarists,’ and the establishment of a special CID Unit, which began arresting JVP members. Wijeweera himself was arrested at Hambantota on 12th May. When he was released in July, Wijeweera launched a series of public meetings across the country, going as far north as Anuradhapura. There was a pause after October and then came a massive meeting in Colombo at Hyde Park on 27 February 1971.
The Prelude to the Uprising
The JVP’s highest decision-making body was its 12-person Political Bureau (PB) which, at its Ambalangoda meeting, in September 1970 decided to begin collecting arms, with Loku Athula placed in charge of the armed section and directed to collect 100,000 bombs. At the next PB meeting, held at year-end, Loku Athula reported that 3,000 bombs were ready.
The hand bomb was the JVPs main weapon. But guns and ammunition were also being purchased and stolen and stored by the JVP, in one instance at the Talagalle Temple at Homagama, which was raided by the Police. Uniforms for JVP combatants were being produced secretly, mainly at Vidyodaya Campus; a blue shirt and trouser with pockets, a cartridge belt, boots and helmet. In addition, Viraj Fernando, an engineer who was sympathetic to the JVP, had at Wijeweera’s request went overseas in November 1970 to make contact with foreign rebel groups to procure weapons.
Wijeweera also gave instructions to Piyasiri to build under-ground storage facilities to hide their stock of weapons and explosives, but on 9 March an explosion at one of these hideouts, in Nelundeniya, killed five. This drew attention, nationally to the fact that the JVP was arming itself.
Then on the 16 came an explosion at Marrs Hall at the Peradeniya Campus, in a room occupied by Hewavitharne. When the Police arrived and searched the halls of residence, they also found a stock of detonators at Hilda Obeysekera Hall.
A faction, within the JVP, led by Castro Dharmasekera, wanted the movement to remain secret and prepare for guerrilla warfare. But the majority disagreed and Dharmasekera and his supporters were expelled. In response, on 6th March, calling themselves the Maoist Youth Front, they held a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Colombo during which a police officer was killed. Although the JVP denounced Dharmasekera, Wijeweera and hundreds of his supporters were arrested during March, the JVP claimed that 4,000 cadre were now behind bars.
Dharmasekera’s provocation and the bomb explosions led on March 16th to the government declaring a State of Emergency, dusk to dawn curfew and their warning of a JVP plot to take state power. In response, the Army deployed two platoons of the 1st Battalion, Ceylon Light Infantry (1CLI) to the Kegalle District, which would soon become the centre of fierce fighting. This was followed by a further two platoons being sent to Kandy.
(To be continued tomorrow)
Ranjan loses the People’s Crown
Last week it was Avurudu Thel Keliya. Now we have come to Ranjan Keliya.
SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake has been removed from Parliament, in what is said to be in keeping with the decision of the Court of Appeal, to reject his application against the Supreme Court order sentencing him to four years of imprisonment for Contempt of court.
A parliament, of which Ranjan was a most active and spoken member, has shown its overall failure to deal with an issue that affects the rights of all citizens. The mockery of it all is to have a parliament where a person found guilty of murder and imprisoned by a court order is allowed to be a member of the House, but a person guilty of contempt of Court, who has not injured or killed anyone, is removed from it.
With all due respect and honour to the judiciary, one must begin to look at the entire thinking and process of charging people for and punishing them for contempt of Court.
In the present parliamentary situation, with all the power that the President and the government have with a two-thirds plus majority, the future Independence of the Judiciary is certainly in question.
If Ramanayake has committed contempt of Court, he is now the player in calling for a change of our legislation on Contempt of Court. Is it truly wrong to criticise a member/or members of the judiciary; are they above the law; what is the practice and trend on this in other democracies?
It is time our Members of Parliament, the Bar Association and organizations of Civil Society made deep study of this entire issue, and moved to prevent the right of free speech being incorrectly restricted. We must look at how Contempt of Court is considered legally in the UK, from where we got this.
How is Contempt of court handled by the Courts of India, our closest neighbour and next to us in years of democracy? How is this issue handled in other democracies too such as France and Germany, and even the US?
The Ranjan Keliya has certainly brought us to realising the Contempt for Democracy that prevails, and is being expanded in Sri Lanka. This contempt is the reality of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and the prevailing show of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Saubhagye Dekma”. Changing our laws on Contempt of Court to make them modern and democratic will be the real crowning of Ramanayake.
Beauty Queen crowns
We have now come to the Ru Rajina Otunu Keliya too. The story of the crown being grabbed from the new Mrs Sri Lanka has spread in the international media.
There was a lovely piece of social media, where Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is showing her joy at getting rid of Sri Lanka from the royalty domain as far back as 1948, as otherwise there would have been moves to grab her crown, too.
Mrs Sri Lanka or Mr. World is certainly not of much interest to us who are facing much bigger problems than the ownership of beauty crowns. Yet, the issue of a Mrs Sri Lanka or Mrs World having to be married does raise many issues today. Are the organizers of the global event thinking of temporary or shaky marriages, or those that last through decades and more, with a commitment to each other?
Can a person, who is undergoing the process of a divorce in a court of law, one who wants to leave a marriage through the law, be one who is really married? The very concept of marriage has undergone many changes in recent decades. Should these realities not be accepted by the organisers of these events?
Why not have a rule that a contestant for Mrs (Country) or Mrs World, should be married several times – as is fast becoming a reality in the west, and countries that are following such traditions.
We will certainly have candidates seeking the crown if a few or many marriages are a condition. It will also show a genuine interest in the promotion of marriages, without confining it to just a single marriage, even with a pending divorce.
We can then have a Mrs World, with a show of strength to those with achievements of more than one, or several marriages.
The “Vivahaka Ru Rajina” will then be a “Boho Vivahaka Ru Rajina”.
The current Mrs World, Caroline Jurie, who was the key crown remover in this show of crooked farce, and a model who helped her, are now facing action in the courts.
Marriage or not is certainly an issue for Miss or Mrs Sri Lanka. A winner of the very early Mrs Sri Lanka events had earlier contested a Miss Sri Lanka, while being married. If she had not lost the contest, we would have seen loud calls for her crown to be removed. The senior ladies who played a big role in this Mrs. Sri Lanka event, certainly reminded us of such past records.
Let the crown be with the people, whether married or not. The rising call is for the Janatha Kirula, against a Pol Thel or Seeni Vancha Kirula of the Abhagye Dekma.
A Pervasive Threat to Biodiversity and Human Security
By Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies
Continued from yesterday
According to Prof. Wijesundara, in 1994, a multinational company, W.R. Grace and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were granted a patent by the European Patent Office (EPO) “Covering a (special) method for controlling fungi on plants by the aid of a hydrophobic extracted neem oil” that is diluted with a certain percentage of water was withdrawn in 2000. Lot of concern after 10-year battle, some patents on neem were squashed some still prevail. There are 65 patents so far only for neem. According to Prof. Kotagama, a US company wanted to produce insecticide from neem. They came with Azadariktin as a product. They obtain the patenting required to use and own neem. There is a law that if you are contesting patenting right it has to be in the country it is registered at. So the neem battle has to be fought in the US. With lot of money and help from the NGOs and help along with the Indian government they fought against this patenting. The company contested that they did not bring neem from Asia or India, they brought it from Africa because it grows in Africa. But it was identified that the seeds that had gone to Kenya had been coming from Sri Lanka according to the Registers of the forest department records from Sri Lank. Based on that evidence the patent was revoked. The neem campaign was consisting of a group of NGOs and individuals was initiated in 1993 in India. This was done to mobilize worldwide support to protect indigenous knowledge systems and resources of the Third World from piracy by the west particularly in light of emerging threats from intellectual property rights regimes under WTO and TRIPS. Neem patent became the first case to challenge European and US patents on the grounds of biopiracy.
Basmati Rice patent case is another instance bio-piracy was reversed. Prof. Kotagama remarked that it is known as the India – US Basmati Rice Dispute (Case number 493, Case Menemonic – Basmati; Patent number – US 5663484A, publication). A US company registered a new hybrid variety of Basmati. India and Pakistan got together and they fought using media, using negative advertisement and they squashed American variety of Basmati) proving ‘Texmati’ was not Basmati.
According to Prof. Sarath Kotagama, an Indian Ecologist, Vandana Shiva has said ‘bio-piracy deprives us in three ways: It creates a false claim to novelty and invention, even though the knowledge has evolved since ancient times as part of the collective and intellectual heritage of India”. Secondly “it divests scarce biological resources to monopoly control of corporations thus depriving local communities the benefits of its use” and thirdly “it creates market monopolies and excludes the original innovators (farmers) from their rightful share to local, national and global markets”. She fought a lot for the biodiversity conservation in India and a well-respected ecologist in India who also had to do much with the fight against Neem, Basmati and Turmeric.
There are similar cases where patents were revoked: Kava Kava from Fiji and Vanuatu; Quinoa from Andes; Banaba and other medical plantys from Philippines; Bitter gourd from Sri Lanka and Thailan; Ilang-Ilang from Philippines and Periwinkle from Madagascar, highlighted Prof. Wijesundara.
In 1989 bioprospecting started with the Institute of Biology established in Costa Rica purely for this purpose. It was the idea to do research on rainforests, animals and plants in Costa Rica and give the ownership to the country if something was discovered. However, this institute was dissolved in 2015 in Costa Rica. According to Prof. Kotagama, the institute still exists with the idea surveys on the resources of rainforests and commercialization of the products will be done for the benefit of Costs Rica. Prof. Kotagama highlighted why bio-piracy needs to be also understood in legal jargon. In the research paper “Bio piracy and its impact on Biodiversity: A Special review on Sri Lankan context” (Kusal Kavinda Amarasinghe), it has mentioned that 34 plants and animals have been taken out of Sri Lanka and Indian subcontinent and patent obtained for biological constituents already. According to Prof. Kotagama, Naja naja naja (Cobra) is an endemic spices in Sri Lanka and still it has lost the control from the country and others are using the species to derive benefits. Prof. Kotagama also highlighted that while there is so much indifference, there is so much consorted efforts to prevent bio-piracy and bio-theft in the countries like the Philippine, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Nepal who have strengthen the situation and have increased regulations and continue strict border control measures.
Illegal Trafficking and Bio-Piracy
According to Prof. Siril Wijesundara, illegal trafficking is also directly linked to bio-piracy and theft. One of the ways that can prevent bio-piracy is through detecting illegal trafficking of various types of endemic and endangered plants and animals. Most common plant species affected by illegal trafficking in Sri Lanka at present are Gyrinops Walla Walla patta, Salacia reticulate Kothala Himbutiand Santalum album naturalized sandhun. Sri Lanka Customs have detected many instances of illegal trafficking. Target destination varies from India, Dubai, Pakistan, Australia, and China. The most popular destination for Kothala Himbotu today is China.
Another classic example of trafficking of plants is by misleading the authorities. Prof. Wijesundara highlighted that a plant called Kekatiya (Aponogeton crispus) were exported in large quantities under the name Aponogeton ulvaceus, a plant native to Madagascar. However, Prof. Siril Wijesuriya mentioned that during his tenure at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, he managed to test this plant and discovered it is a different plant from the one in Madagascar. After this discovery, this Sri Lankan variety of the plant (Kekatiya) was prohibited from being exported and necessary action were taken to a point where the company went out of business.
Importance of Utilizing the Chemical Compounds in the Medicinal Plants
Prof. Veranja Karunarathne highlighted the popularity among the people now for medicinal plants. That is because the Medicinal properties and compounds that are useful found in the medicinal plants. Natural products are made out of these compounds. According to him, the use of medicinal plants go over for 5000 years ago. Probably we have used medicinal plants since existence.
According to Prof. Veranja Karunarathne, the medicinal plants are being used in traditional medicinal systems popular in Sri Lanka such as Ayurveda, Deishiya Chikithsa, Siddha and Unani. Siddha and Unani don’t use much of the plants necessarily and have much to do with involving plants. In different medicinal systems, over 2500 plants are being used in Sri Lanka. These are being used for disease curing and ailments in traditional medicine practices. In the Western medicine sense, it is one compound for one disease. In Ayurveda and indigenous system, it is many compounds for one disease many compounds curing one disease. Pollypahrmachology is accepted in the indigenous system. These aspects of pollypahrmachology in traditional medicine are becoming valuable. If we take asprin that cures heart disease, it is isolated from Villon plant. Quinine that is used in Malaria prevention is isolated from cinchona plant. That is the practice of the Western medicine. Prof. Veranja Karunarathne says that if we look at plant evolution, it is evident that the plants didn’t intend to cure diseases. This evolution of the plants happened by co-evolving with the insects. It never intended to cure diseases for humans. In 1915, the Western medicine avoided using plants due to various issues including intellectual property matters and since plants are very difficult thing to manage. However, they have come back discovering medicine from plants. That is why co-evolution is important. Diversity of functional group of plants is important. Diversity of use of plants cannot be matched with the evolution of the plants.
From Kothala Himbotu, an endemic plant in Sri Lanka, water soluble anti diabetic compounds were found by Japanese scientist. There are over 50 patents for Kothala Himbotu plant. Sri Lanka has only one patent which was a discovery of a Sri Lankan team. As a Chemist who worked on the kothala himbotu plant and tried to find the chemical compounds, Prof. Karunarathne felt humiliated when Japanese scientists found that water based compound in the kothala himbotu plant. He used a Sri Lankan source and worked on a zeroing from Sri Lankan lichen, patented at the US patent office the, lichen called ziorine that can be used on cancer patients. Sri Lankan government dealing legally with bio-piracy is when they intervened to stop exporting Kothala Himbotu plant in bulk that is being used for anti-diabetic drug. For anti-diabetic drug creation some sections of the plant are still being exported, but in small quantities.
In the meantime, there is also bogus bio-piracy. An undergraduate student of University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka found out that Clarins skin care product in France is using Hortinia floribanda that is endemic to Sri Lanka.
In their website it was mentioned that this plant is being used to improve the skin tone. When studied their website, closely, they found that they are using plants found in amazon and plant found in Europe during winter. After finding the endemic Sri Lankan plant do not contribute to any skin tone improvement and when the research was published in National Science Foundation journal, the skin care production company removed the name of the plant from their website. This is an instance where bogus bio-piracy is being taken place and that it too needs to fight and that even an average Chemist can make a difference, said Prof. Varanja Karunarathne.
According to Prof. Varanja Karunarathne, there are about 3000 odd plants endemic to Sri Lanka, out of the total flowering plants, 2000 are endemic. Because of this density and diversity, UNESCO named Sri Lanka as a biodiversity hotspot. 1300 of these plants are in the Red book of endangered plants of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the value of the plant is only the timber value. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka value plants in Sri Lanka only for its timber value which is a drawback. The government needs to fund for projects that study the chemistry of these plants, government never have done such in that greater scale. The chemists would want be able to study the chemistry inside the plant, the knowledge inside the plant. It is important to lobby to find the chemicals of these plants that are endangered to Sri Lanka. This means conserving the knowledge inside the plant is much more than just evaluating its value for timber. There is a far greater use of the plant than just the timber value.
During the discussion, Mr. Lakshman Gunasekara highlighted the importance of getting media involved along with the Scientists to intervene in promoting knowledge, education and awareness about bio-piracy and possible ways of counter-fighting it. He said that unlike in the past, mass communication can bring this issue to a different level. In this regard the scientific community needs to intervene in order for the media community to get activated. However, Prof. Siril Wijesundara made a remark that media is always working with political agendas, but Scientists are not and they cannot do so. Therefore, it is important, media step aside from political agendas and look at this issue apolitically.
Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri highlighted the colonial dimension of bio-piracy. With the involvement of government in bio-piracy and the inclusion of concept of government and empire –building bio-politics came into being. In empire building, establishing the political centre outside the location of the centre was important. Same is true to colonialism which was more than traditional Empire building exercise. It was new kind of administration, where there was capturing a grip on the land and space, fauna and flora. It was rather “governmentalization” which has multiple dimension. According to him, in that sense, colonialism is a multidimensional phenomenon. It is not more colonialism now; it is a new process. This is very much part of the enlightenment project at the time. It was governed by knowledge. Accumulation of information of social and natural environment became a new kind of project. The new political challenge is also this.
Prof. Nalani Hennayake highlighted the fact that how in terms of conservation and information sharing India came out with digital library registered with patent offices in the inventories library in the United States, while Sri Lanka has our own Red Book of inventory. She further highlighted the fact that countries like Sri Lanka having enough laws that needs immediate activation. Monopolizing the ownership needs to end and commercializing our plants needs to happen according to the Fauna and Flora Act in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka said no to digital register of plants in 1994 and we need to rethink such decisions mentioned the discussants.
In his concluding remarks, Prof. Veranja Karunarathne said that at present, other people are working on synthetic biology, combination of chemistry, biology and genomics, creating biosynthetic pathway of genes. Genes are mass produced in genomic mass factories which is controlled exploitation of bio wealth. That is where the world is heading and he says Sri Lanka needs to value the conserved knowledge inside the plant and explore the immense possibilities that the plants are presenting. Concluded
Acknowledged (only?) Statesman speaks out; so do a few others
The editor of The Sunday Island (April 4), mentions in his succinctly titled editorial – Down the pallang with no end in sight – this statesman. He speaks of Ven Maduluwawe Sobitha’s successful manouevre to curtail the power of the Rajapaksas and President Mahinda R’s attempt to go in for a third term of his presidency in 2014. Thus, the editor writes: “It is in this context that the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) that Ven Sobitha founded now led by respected elder statesman Karu Jayasuariya ….” The organisation is seeking to push the rulers on to a correction course. It seeks to project an apolitical stance and denies subversive interest. “The 20th Amendment that abolished the 19th has thrown the baby with the bathwater….” Cassandra adds – and we are drowning in the waters; floundering in fear and surrounded by sharks of the sugar and oil scams; also those who are still destroying our natural resources.
Karu wise plus experienced and apolitical
The same paper published on page 3 excerpts of what the Chairman NMSJ – Karu Jayasurirya – said at a press conference at Janaki Hotel Colombo, on April 2. His considered warning was ‘Don’t fiddle like Nero as the country plunges into a precipice.’ A due warning of rather mixed metaphors. Cass would have preferred … ‘as the country burns’, but plunging into a precipice is really more catastrophic and that, says many, is what is happening to this wonderful land of ours. We should all read and reread what Karu J had to say; we should analyse and see whether he was correct and then in our own small way try to obtain a change of course. The principle consideration is that Karu Jayasuriya speaks apolitically here as an elder statesman who has been both in politics and the private sector and knows full well what he is speaking about. If you want definite credentials on his ability and sincerity, recollect how he acted as Speaker of Parliament when the then Prez, Maitripala Sirisena stole the government from its elected members of Parliament and handed it over to his dire enemy of yesteryear, now befriended buddy – Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coyotes to govern the land. PM Ranil W with loyalists holed themselves at Temple Trees and bided their time. Karu J faced a battery of assaults: vulgarly vocal, totally injurious thrown bound volumes and deadly chilli powder mixed with water. He braved it all; took his rightful seat and gave judgment that restored order from utter chaos.
He is one politician whom Cass and so many others rooted for. Now he is out of party politics but fighting for the very survival of the nation of free Sri Lanka.
Voices should be listened to
At the recent meeting of people to solve their problems and bring succour to them, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa somewhat belittled protestors attempting to save our forest cover. Cass heard him on TV news on Saturday April 3 speaking about people accusing a previous government of running white vans, threatening journalists etc and now it is environmental groups that are out against the new government and him. No, they and we are against those who cut trees, deforest the land, sand mine ruthlessly and of course make money on horrible scams and seem to get away scot free, not even paying to government coffers billions garnered illegally.
He, government Ministers and MPs, and relevant administrators should all listen to the call of even a single concerned person, and know they are calling out completely altruistically with no political biases. One such is Padmini Nanayakkara of Colombo 3 who cries out (we imagine in horror) Reservoirs in Sinharaja? in the Sunday Island of April 4. She starts her letter to the editor with this: “Have we an enemy within or has a foreign force taken over Sri Lanka? I can’t imagine any Lankan contributing to an idea as bizarre as building reservoirs in Sinharaja.”
The editor referring to the pronouncement made loud and clear by Minister Chamal Rajapaksa about building two reservoirs in Sinharaja as if it were a foregone construction plan; writes thus: “A minister from the ruling family outrageously declares that two reservoirs will be built in the Sinharaja reserve to provide water for their pocket borough, He promises to plant 150 acres elsewhere to compensate saying that rubber will be planted to give people an income”. The editor dubs it a “madcap project” (cheers!!). Plenty water could be tapped downstream of rivers flowing near Hambantota; and this for people and not to keep watered vanity projects like cricket stadiums.
Semicentennial of a terrible uprising
I speak here of the JVP uprising of 1971 which has been written about with Jayantha Somasunderam from Canberra detailing it meticulously with copious references. Cass has been typically Sri Lankan in that she had forgotten about those days of fifty years ago which she refuses to term either jubilee or never golden anniversary. The Editor/The Island introduced a new word – quinquagenary – a tongue twister but pins down the number five. Whatever its now earned name, it was a brutal and absolutely purposeless shedding of young blood: blood of youth by the government and killing of police and causing utter chaos by the newly marshaled JVP under Rohana Wijeweera. They were disciplined and dedicated to a cause then. Incidentally, his grown son was shown on TV news a few days ago. A misunderstood message to attack police stations, conveyed via radio annonced obituary notices, saved the country because the attack was so deadly, power over the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike could have been gained. The second JVP uprising was deadlier as it was minus principles and all restraint. Again the rivers flowed with young Sinhala blood. The 1971 insurrection was short lived and we who cowered, emerged to usual routines fairly soon. Not the 1ate 1980s uprising. It created widespread fear psychoses; complete mayhem from hospitals, schools and offices to thé kadés. Universities were closed for two years and thus a considerable exodus of young students to universities overseas. We lost many of our teenaged children and the country – brains and ability.
May such never happen again is our earnest prayer. The young seem to have imbibed or decided to work through principles. Consider the recent protests against environmental degradation, particularly denudation of forests. They were all peaceful and intelligently carried out, and acknowledged as such, and the message they carried should certainly have been given an ear to by the President, PM and Ministers in charge of relevant subject areas. Perhaps it was peaceful marches and speeches and placards because the aim was altruistic – benefit for the entire country and not for self.
Beauty gone batty?
The public fracas of excessively groomed and dressed up beauties at the recent Mrs Sri Lanka finals was shockingly disgraceful. It confirmed to Cass that even the slightest mix-up or argument in this land of ours very soon escalates to a debacle, often accompanied by violence. But in this incident, there wasn’t even a whimper of argument. We witnessed how last year’s Mrs S L – Her Mightiness Caroline Jurie – crowned, de-crowned and re-crowned Pushpika de Silva. The latter’s hair was pulled, since the crown was rudely pulled off her by Her Mightiness and another, but unless it had long sharp spikes it could not have injured the stunned winner’s head. And all because of a heard rumour at the moment of crowning. Cass spits out: How dare Caroline Jurie take judgment to her tearing hands when a panel had discussed, gone into details and decided on the winner; the panel including herself! Cass comments the glass slipper gifted to Cinderella Caroline a year ago seems to be a misfit now; her feet swollen to match her head.
Back to the ordinary: Cassandra wishes all her readers a family oriented Aluth Avuruddha, with safety precautions vigilantly observed against infection given first priority. Much should be sacrificed to prevent the deadly third wave of Covid 19.
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