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Paan has come a long way



In days gone by, very few homes had bread for a meal. It was usually three meals of rice. Of course, the dishes of curry varied from one meal to another. Then, in some homes, they had something made out of grains and pulses, such as chickpeas or green gram, for breakfast. Bread was rarely eaten at most homes, especially in villages. But, the daily wage earner, at that time, who had to have their meals in a boutique, had roast bread with a little bit of any gravy available at the time, and topped it with a plain tea. This would have cost the person between eight to ten cents. But, today this roast bread is so expensive that even people who have a little money would think twice before buying one.

At first, bread was sold by weight. People asked for a pound of bread (paan raathalak). And it was really a pound or a little more, but nothing less. The pound of bread was not sliced, as you get some bread today. Now, we ask for a loaf of bread. Of course, it is less than a pound or its equivalent in grammes. And, now we have different types of bread, such as kurakkan mixed bread, French bread, garlic bread, sandwich bread, whole wheat bread, etc.

As there were no supermarkets, or large stores, where one could buy the bread, bread was available in some small boutiques to which the bakeries had delivered it. However, there were people who used to carry a large black bin on their heads, with all the products of the bakery. They used to walk all the way selling bakery items from house to house. Later, some of the bakeries had tricycles, with a large bin to carry the bakery products. In both these cases, the people who wanted to purchase something had to hail the bread man. Unlike in the case of the tricycle, the person who hailed the bread man, with the big container on his head, had to help him to put the bin down on the ground, till the purchases were done, and then again he had to be given a helping hand to get the bin back on his head; as the bin was rather heavy, when full with bakery items – from bread to tea buns, kimbula buns, hulang biscuits, rusks and other savouries.

At present, anyone who requires bread has to wend his way to a supermarket to purchase his requirements. But, any variety of bread is available if you have the wherewithal to purchase what you need.

Bread is now used in homes for various things. If a household is entertaining guests, they would use the bread to make sandwiches, the sandwiches varying from vegetable, chicken, meat or egg. In homes where they use bread for breakfast, it could be in the form of plain toast or egg, vegetable or cheese toast.

It is interesting to see how the use of bread has had varied uses during our lifetime, and how it has now become the main item in meals at most homes.


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Why Sri Lanka is losing many European tourists



By Anton Peiris, Nyon, Switzerland

The tourist season, in Sri Lanka, will comence in November. Tens of thousands of tourists from Switzerland, Germany, Austria and a couple of other European countries, except Ukraine and Russia, will not visit Sri Lanka for the following reason: They hate quarantine in a Level 1 Hotel for 24 – 48 hours because they think that quarantine, is unnecessary and they are right, because they bring their Certificate of Vaccination to prove that they have been vaccinated twice. They have undergone a PCR test in their home country less than 72 hours before departure and they will bring the certificate indicating that the test result is negative. All they want is to leave the airport and go straight to the hotel of their choice in Sri Lanka without undergoing the 24 to 48-hour quarantine. They want the freedom to go anywhere in Sri Lanka immediately after leaving the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Unfortunately, this is not possible in Sri Lanka. Level 1 Hotels are expensive. European tourists do not want to spend their foreign currency unnecessarily on accommodation in a quarantine hotel. This is another reason they hate quarantine.

Consequently, instead of coming to Sri Lanka, they will go to Zanzibar, Greek Islands, Sharm El Sheik or some other place because those certificates are accepted there and they can leave the airport immediately and go to the hotel of their choice without undergoing quarantine.

The correct method for the BIA authorities is to conduct PCR tests on them upon their arrival, take their contact details including their mobile phone numbers, and allow them to proceed to the hotel of their choice. They are to always wear a mask during their stay in Sri Lanka.

The risk of allowing them go is negligible because they have been fully vaccinated. Letting Sri Lankans who are not vaccinated walk on the streets in the country poses a much greater COVID-19 risk to the population.

Ravi Kumudesh, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, has told The Island of Wednesday , that the PCR lab at the BIA has the capacity to test 4,500 people a day and issue reports within 90 minutes. This lab is not operational because the Health Ministry has not authorised it to start administering PCR tests to tourists. The BIA lab has not received a single sample from tourists. Why? Because a group of Health Ministry officials have made large amounts of money from private laboratories and quarantine centres. Some of them are part-time practitioners in private labs. They continue to block the use of the state-of-the-art lab at the BIA premises built by the Airport and Aviation Authority. It is alleged that some of these ministry officials either own or have shares in these quarantine hotels and private labs. They keep sending tourists to Level 1 Hotels and quarantine centres and use their private labs to make money. They continue to maintain the unnecessary 24 to 48-hour quarantine regulation for European tourists to fill their own pockets. Are the Ministers of Health and Tourism aware of this racket?

Question: Who are the losers? Answer: The millions of ordinary people, hotel workers, tour guides, drivers, employees of National Parks, souvenier shopkeepers and many more, who have lost their livelihoods because tens of thousands of European tourists are not visiting Sri Lanka because of the unnecessary quarantine regulations of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism. Quarantine is necessary for tourists from Ukraine, Russia, India, Middle East and some other countries, but not tourists from Europe. More than 75 percent of the people in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and a couple of other European countries have been fully vaccinated.

The Swiss Edelweiss Airline brings 350 tourists per week from Switzerland and neighbouring Germany (Zurich to Colombo non-stop flight) during the period from November to April every year. That is about 9,000 tourists per year. Last year they had to cancel all their flights to the BIA because Europeans hate being subjected to quarantine at a Level 1 Hotel. I booked a flight with Swiss Edelweiss to come to Sri Lanka last March. One month before departure they informed me that the flight had been cancelled because they could not fill even 10 percent of the seats. They got their airfare refunded and I came to Sri Lanka on a Qatar Airways flight. I had to undergo two weeks quarantine in a Level 1 Hotel in Wadduwa despite being fully vaccinated. Moreover, I’ve had two PCR tests, one before departure and another at the quarantine hotel in Wadduwa on the day of arrival, administered by a private lab in Maggona. Both results were negative. You can imagine my frustration, I almost cursed those idiots in the Ministries of Health and Tourism. A spokesman for Swiss Edelweiss Airline says that they will have to cancel their flights to BIA this year as well unless the Ministry of Tourism abolishes this quarantine nonsense. They say that all their passengers have been vaccinated twice, that they agree to take a PCR test at the BIA, they will leave their contact details with the airport and afterwards should be free to go anywhere in Sri Lanka.

The other charter airlines in Germany, Austria, Sweden and a couple of other European countries that brought thousands of tourists to Sri Lanka say the same thing. So, we have lost tens of thousands of tourists from Europe.

This 24-to 48-hour quarantine regulation and the PCR tests administered by private labs for tourists is a racket invented by some unscrupulous officials of the Health and Tourism Ministries. They have turned a blind eye to the fact that Europeans are fully vaccinated. They want to continue to make big money from private quarantine centres and private labs. They don’t care two hoots about the millions of hotel industry workers in Sri Lanka who have lost their jobs.

Dear Ministers of Health and Tourism, please get the PCR test lab at the BIA up and running so all tourists from Europe can be administered PCR tests upon arrival. Take their contact details and allow them to go to hotels of their choice. They hate quarantine. Stop this 24-to 48-hour quarantine nonsense for tourists from Europe thereby opening the doors for tens of thousands of tourists to come to Sri Lanka. When you make things easier, more and more European tourists will come to Sri Lanka. The result: A million people in the tourism industry will get their jobs back. Additionally, take disciplinary action against those unscrupulous ministry officials who have been continuously blocking the authority of the PCR test laboratory.

It has been reported that Sri Lankans arriving at the BIA (those who are fully vaccinated) are now allowed to go home after taking a PCR test at the airport. The report is issued three hours after the test. If the report is negative, they do not have to go into quarantine and can leave home. Why not apply the same rule to European tourists as well?

Fully vaccinated travellers from Sri Lanka will no longer need PCR testing before departure for England. Our Minister of Tourism should apply the same rule to European tourists arriving in Sri Lanka because they will be given a PCR tests upon arrival at the BIA. Make things easier for them thereby gaining tens of thousands of European tourists who will provide the foreign exchange that Sri Lanka desperately needs.

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Grave crisis faced by Agriculture Sector



The importation of inorganic fertilisers, synthetic pesticides and herbicides (agrochemicals) was banned from the end of April 2021, to promote the use of organic fertilisers (OF) and natural pesticides. As a result, inorganic fertilisers such as Urea, Triple Superphosphate, Muriate of Potash and other agrochemicals (insecticides, fungicides, etc.) became scarce. Since then, as Gamini Peiris has mentioned in his article titled ” Fertiliser: getting curiouser and curiouser” in the Sunday Island of 19 Sept. dark clouds have started to descend on Sri Lankan agriculture.

Professional bodies such as the Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Agricultural Economics Association (SAEA), a number of scientists in the field of agronomy, soil science and entomology in articles published in newspapers highlighted the undesirable effects of banning agrochemicals on food security, farm incomes, foreign exchange earnings and rural poverty. Farmers all over the country who were affected to a considerable extent, financially, by the ban protested. In spite of all these, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) continued to ban the import of agrochemicals. The farmers suffered immensely during the last Yala season because of this, as their crops were badly affected by lack of inorganic fertilisers, especially urea and pesticides, especially insecticides. Many farmers complained of reduction in yields. Several crops are reported to be affected by pathogenic organisms, which could have been avoided if appropriate pesticides were available. Banning fertilisers and pesticide imports had serious repercussions on the quality and quantity of export crops, especially tea which brings in more than US $ 1.25 billion a year — accounting for about 10 percent of the country’s export income.

The Agriculture Ministry promoted the manufacture of organic fertilisers, but they were unable to get sufficient amounts of good quality organic fertilisers to replace inorganic fertilisers. Probably the Finance Minister, having realised the utter foolishness of banning import of inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides, lifted the ban and issued a gazette notification on 3 August re-authorising the import of several types of chemical fertilisers to be used in the forthcoming Maha season. However, in spite of re-authorising the import of several types of chemical fertilisers to be used in the forthcoming Maha season, according to media reports, Sri Lanka’s two state fertiliser companies have signed agreements with a Chinese fertiliser supplier to import a stock of 96,000 MT of OF inputs in granular form, containing 10 percent of Nitrogen. A ton of imports costs around US $ 300. (Those in the MOA may correct this figure if it is incorrect). The cost of a ton of urea is around US $ 300. It is difficult to understand why the MOA is keen to import OF containing 10%N from China, without importing urea which has 46% N. A few days ago, the MOA reported that OF to be imported are free of pathogenic organisms, but now reports are coming saying that samples of OF to be imported contain some pathogenic bacteria, such as Erwinia. If OF containing such pathogenic organisms are allowed to be imported, it will have disastrous effects on the country’s agriculture sector, by contaminating our soils and water resources. In countries such as Australia, no living plants or animals are allowed to be brought in. As it is, we are left with neither OF nor inorganic fertilisers for the coming Maha season, and it is the country in general and the poor farmers in particular who have to face the consequences.

Many crops are affected by pests and diseases. A fungal disease is affecting rubber crops and may have disastrous effects on the rubber production in the country. According to experts the disease is partly due to inadequate fertilisers. (See- Rubber growers call for immediate government intervention to solve ‘rubber industry’s COVID-19′. Sunday ISLAND of 5 Sept 2021.) There were reports indicating that betel , a crop which earns a considerable amount of foreign exchange , cultivated in the N.Western part of the country, is affected by a fungus. Army worm which affected many crops, is spreading. Pesticides are necessary to control these organisms, but importing pesticides is banned. No action appears to have been taken by the MOA to locally manufacture pesticides. As in the case of fertilisers, there are no appropriate pesticides available in the country for the coming Maha season, and again gravely affecting the country in general and the poor farmers in particular.

The economic and social benefits of the agriculture sector, which includes cultivation of food crops and plantation crops, are well known to most of us . But the foolish decisions taken by the MOA to ban importation of inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides, without getting appropriate alternatives, appear to have made the country not realise these benefits. As a result, nearly two million farmers and their families are economically and socially affected, and the country is losing foreign exchange, which those in the Central Bank and other relevant institutions are frantically searching for.


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Homage to Scholarly Excellence



Ananda Wickremaratne

by G. H. Peiris

Professor Ananda Wickremeratne ranked among our most brilliant scholars whose careers commenced in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ceylon in the 1950s and the early ‘60s. From about the late 1960s, as our political turbulences and economic hardships intensified, many among them were induced to emigrate to countries where their qualifications and skills could be put into more rewarding use. When Ananda joined that exodus in 1979, belatedly and somewhat reluctantly, the prospects in the ‘West’ (especially the United States) for our graduates in Arts and Humanities were far more restricted than in earlier times.

The information on Ananda’s death following several years of deteriorating health reached us about a week ago. Death is such a non-event here that even the passing away of extraordinarily erudite scholars and professionals tends to remain ignored. That does not matter. But what does matter is that their legacies also remain forgotten or unknown. It is in this latter context that I am impelled to offer this homage to my friend Ananda in the form of a brief sketch of his academic achievements.

In what could be considered as the first phase of Ananda’s teaching career he remained in the university system of Sri Lanka – briefly at Jayawardenapura, and over a longer spell at Peradeniya – where, apart from being an extraordinarily popular teacher, he, with his colleagues like Kingsley de Silva, Michael Roberts, Gananath Obeyesekera and Ian Goonetileke, made an indelible contribution to a flourishing tide collaborative research in the Faculty of Arts. A greater part of his remaining university career was spent in the United States.

Ananda obtained the baccalaureate degree in History with honours in 1961. Soon thereafter he was recruited to the teaching staff of the Faculty of Arts. Having been awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship for post-graduate study in Britain, he gained admission to Oxford and undertook a programme of research at the successful completion of which he was awarded the doctoral degree. The in-depth inquiry into education and religious affairs during what could be considered the most vicissitudinous phase during the ‘Victorian Era’ of British dominance over the island – 1865 to 1885 – one finds in his thesis a much greater focus on the impact of the related social changes on the indigenous inhabitants of the island than in other detailed studies (except Ralph Pieris’ ‘Society in a Time of Troubles’ – a series published in the University of Ceylon Review) of spatial and temporal overlap.

It was probably the quality of Ananda’s doctoral dissertation in terms of detail anddepth, and refinement of presentation, that earned him a ‘Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship’, enabling him in the mid-1970s to enrich his earlier research at the archival sources in London, expanding the scope of his interests on the impact of the fluctuating fortunes of that 20-year period – social destabilisation caused by the process of dispossession of vast extents of land from Buddhist temples and shrines (vihāragam and dēvālagam) in the enforcement of the ‘Temple Lands Ordinance of 1856’, the accelerated growth of coffee plantations in the highlands followed by the spectacular collapse of the coffee enterprise from about the late 1870s, the advent of rail transport and intensification of the road network, the discriminatory educational reforms, and the changes in the modalities of taxation of the those engaged in paddy production.

Several of his publications during this period such as ‘Religion, Nationalism and Social Change in Ceylon’, ‘Rulers and the Ruled in British Ceylon’, and ‘Famine Conditions in Late-19th Century Ceylon’, considered collectively, convey the impression that they were a prelude to what turned out to become one of his major research concerns – viz. Buddhist revivalism and nationalism in Sri Lanka. It was while working on that subject with the thoroughness typical of his efforts that he contributed to the aforesaid collaborative research in the Faculty of Arts, the most significant outcome of which was the long delayed ‘University of Ceylon History of Ceylon, Volume III’ (1973) for which Ananda contributed four chapters and co-authored another with Michael Roberts. Yet another product of collective faculty effort of much wider scope – Sri Lanka: A Survey (1975) – also included a study by Ananda on ‘Peasant Agriculture’, in addition to those by Ediriweera Sarachchandra on the performing arts, and K. N. O. Dharmadasa on literature.

From the information given to me by Ananda himself, it was Professor S. J. Tambiah, the world-renowned Anthropologist at Harvard University, which made it possible for him to proceed to that university on fellowships granted by its Department of Anthropology and the Centre for the Study of World Religions. The Harvard offer represented the severance of Ananda’s formal links with the university at Peradeniya, but enhanced his opportunities to focus on the Buddha Sasana and the State in British Ceylon.

Following the completion of his assignments at Harvard, Ananda shifted to Chicago, with a Fellowship awarded by the Kern Foundation, a major contributor to the Theosophical Society of the United States. He also gained an Associate Professorship in the Department of Theology at the Loyola University.

From copies of Ananda’s publications which I have received as gifts I am aware that he has authored at least three major monographs since making Chicago his place of residence and the base of his academic pursuits – The Roots of Nationalism in Sri Lanka (several publishers including the Cambridge University Press); The Genesis of an Orientalist: Thomas William Rhys Davids and Buddhism in Sri Lanka (1985); and Buddhism and Ethnicity in Sri Lanka (1995). There is a common methodological feature that could be discerned in all these works which Professor Paul J. Griffiths has portrayed in his ‘Preface’ to the first monograph referred to above as follows:

The writing of history, like so many intellectual endeavours during the past several decades, is in danger of being crushed under the weight of debates about theory and method. The virtues of historiography based upon close study of documentary sources from the period being written about, and with the unpretentious goal of offering a narrative account of what happened and why, are now rarely visible. This is both sad and unnecessary; sad because such historiography still has much to teach, and unnecessary whatever the value of purely theoretical debates, there is no reason at all why they should make every other kind of historical writing suspect. It is therefore a pleasure for me to write a Preface to Ananda Wickremeratne’s new book, for it is an instance, and a good instance, of the endangered species I have mentioned”.

As an avid reader of historical research on Sri Lanka but with no claim whatever to expertise in the related epistemological perspectives, I am reluctantly compelled to mention that the feature highlighted by Professor Griffiths is not the only difference between Ananda’s writings referred to above and the majority of other works of research in the same field by expatriate Sri Lankan scholars. What ought to be stressed is that, in Ananda’s publications, “what happened and why” in the highly ramified interactions between Buddhism and the State in ‘British Ceylon’ are presented to the readership devoid of any denigration of Buddhism as practiced in Sri Lanka.

Ananda being selected by the US State Department as chaperone for a well-planned tour of that country offered in 1986 to the Venerable Maduluwave Sobitha Thera was an interesting episode that had an inspirational impact on Ananda. The tour, covering as it did many places of interest, received considerable media coverage. During their sojourn in Washington DC I had an opportunity of meeting the Thera, and to observe the intellectual rapport that had developed between them.

Living in the 32nd floor of an apartment complex located on the ‘South Lake Shore Drive’ bordering Lake Michigan could have created in Ananda’s mind a yearning for a return to his ancestral home overlooking Bogambara Lake and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth-Relic in Kandy. This was the impression I got during my three-day visit to their home in 2003 when, as usual, Ananda, Swarna and their daughter Ranmini made my stay one of the most pleasant I ever had. Yet, returning to Sri Lanka was not an attainable option for Ananda – certainly not, because he could not abandon his wife and the children to fulfil his own desire. Nor, with failing health, could he survive without Swarna’s care – a consideration which became starkly evident when he attempted, with the consent of his wife and the children, a few years ago, to live alone at his home in Kandy, helped by a hired caretaker and his brother’s family supplemented with an occasional visit by friends.

Sadly, Ananda’s long-cherished research objective of producing a seminal work on Anagārika Dharmapala had to remain unfinished. The few drafts which I was privileged to read conveyed the impression that, despite failing health, he will somehow achieve his goal of presenting new insights on that sage in the literary style of effortless elegance typical of his writings. Finally, when he became almost totally incapacitated, that failure must have added to the burden of his grief.

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