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Policy blunders in agriculture:

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When will our leaders learn?

By Dr PARAKRAMA WAIDYANATHA

Blunders in state agriculture policy making has been rampant, and the need for our leaders to consult experts in policy making cannot be overstated. Let us dwell into some of the blunders. The ‘Yahapalana’ regime banned glyphosate herbicide use, but yielded when alternative herbicides used in tea had residue levels above allowable limits in the made tea, leading to serious tea marketing problems. Consequently, the re-use of glyphosate in tea and rubber only, but not for other crops, was approved! Rubber industry never asked for it because it is not critically needed, as weeds are essentially managed in rubber plantations with cover crops. On the other hand, coconut plantations have the serious problem of managing the highly competitive grasses, and research has established that their control with glyphosate yielded 38% more as against only 18% when grasses were slashed.

 

Toxin-free agriculture project collapse

Then the Yahapalana regime proceeded pell-mell from its commencement in 2015 promoting organic farming and overlooking conventional farming. The Strategic Enterprises Management Agency (SEMA) was totally transformed into an institute for promoting the so-called ‘toxin –free’ farming activities. The chief visionary of the programme was, of course, the then President. Neither the Ministry of Agriculture nor the Department of Agriculture were consulted, but compelled to carry out various short-sighted, organic farming- related activities. The officials meekly yielded. Ven Ratana thero, M.P, who was virtually the second in command in the ill-fated project, produced his own fertilizer named ‘Pivithuru Pohora’., running a factory in Mahaweli System B!

A team of senior retired agricultural scientists, who visited the site to examine the performance of this ‘wonder fertilizer’, was confidentially told by the farmers that the paddy crop turned yellow following application of Pivituru Pohora, a clear sign of nitrogen deficiency, and they then secretively applied urea! Why ‘secretively’, because they were selling the produce to the daughter of a top politician in Polonnaruwa as ‘organic paddy’, at Rs 10/kg higher than the conventional paddy! The ‘Pivituru Pohora’ was obviously sold to farmers without adequate testing: the Department of Agriculture trials at Aralaganwila did not show response to that fertilizer!

The SEMA toxin free project too was a total failure and was closed down in 2019 as a consequence!

 

New government making

the same blunder

The new government has sadly failed to learn a lesson from the failure of the organic agriculture and associated pursuits of the previous regime! The new President, in his policy statement, announced his commitment to make the country totally organic in the next ten years! And the Governor of the Eastern Province, overwhelmed with organic farming, is compelling the officials to only promote it in the Province!

The whole world has yet only 2% in organic farming of which 66% is in pastures (for the rich to eat organic beef steaks!), only the balance being in other crops. Organic agriculture is expanding by only at 10% of its farm extent annually, implying that it will take at least 35 years for the entire world to be totally in it! Will it ever happen? The whole world moved away from organic farming from about the 1820s because it could not produce the global food demand. Vaclav Smil, distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba, for example, in 1987, estimated that 40% of today’s population is alive, thanks to the Haber-Bosch process of synthesizing ammonia.. However, organic farming may be promoted as much as possible, as organic food fetches a premium price giving good incomes to the farmer and , in any case, adding organic matter to our soils is highly beneficial. Total banning of agrochemicals is, however, never attainable! The detrimental issue is its excessive use. What is critically needed is to educate the farmers in judicious use of agrochemicals. No government in the recent past has addressed this vital issue effectively.

 

The oil palm fiasco

The plantation companies wanted to expand its cultivation to 20,000ha from its current 11,000 ha replacing some unproductive rubber with it. The Yahapalana Cabinet approved it several years ago, following which the plantations set up nurseries with imported high yielding hybrid seeds at a cost of some Rs500 million. The then President, however, went back on the Cabinet decision suspending its cultivation expansion! It would appear that the presidential decision was on the basis of a highly flawed report by the Central Environmental Authority, which has been totally rejected by the majority of scientists conversant in the matter, including the Coconut Research Institute, the organization mandated for oil palm research.

The outcry of villagers living close to oil palm plantations in the south was that oil palm dries up the soil and water bodies in their villages! Scientific evidence does not at all support this contention. The research evidence is that per unit area of land rubber and oil palm evapo-transpiration rates are comparable, and more importantly, whereas the water footprint, that is, the volume of water required to produce one metric ton of raw rubber is 32,410 cubic metres, that needed to make a ton of crude palm oil is only 19,148! In any case, the responsible institutions should have carried out a comprehensive hydrological study, comparing an exclusively oil palm area vis a vis a totally rubber area, to convince the villagers and policy makers. The politicians totally backed the villagers’ protests, obviously because of the then pending general elections. And one government politician in the south even proceeded to fell an oil palm tree in the wilderness, with the media coverage, to impress the villagers, just before the election! Even the Minister of Plantation Industries, a southerner has apparently meekly heeded the villagers’ objections. Being a qualified medical doctor, he should have gone on scientific evidence and correctly briefed the people and the President too.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has banned further oil palm cultivation in Sri Lanka several months ago. It is obvious that he has been totally misinformed on the subject. The benefits of oil palm are huge. It is the number one vegetable oil in the world, producing 35% of the global vegetable oil demand from 19 million hectares as against the number two, soybean, which produces only 28% of the oil from 147 million hectares, because of its very low productivity being only about a tenth of oil palm. Coconut yields only one fifth that of oil palm. Over the last 50 years, its production globally has increased 30 fold from less than 2.5 million MT in 1970 to over 70 million. More than a third of the global oil palm plantations are in the hands of small farmers, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, where many are shifting from other crops such as rubber to oil palm because of the much higher returns. The Table below shows that the returns from oil palm in the local scenario is far more that of the other three plantation crops.

 

Palm oil and health

Some argue that palm oil has health risks. In fact, its cholesterol elevating saturated fat (palmitic acid) content is only about 45%, whereas that of coconut oil is over 70%. However, both these oils have a number of other health benefits. Palm oil has the advantage of having 39% linoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, (the same principal fatty acid as in olive oil), that lowers the bad cholesterol but does not affect the good cholesterol.

However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) pronounced a few years back that consumption of palm oil in moderation has no cancer risk. Further, a more recent, comprehensive review in the Journal, Nutrients (2019), 10 reputed scientists concluded that there is no direct or indirect evidence of palm oil consumption being associated with cancer in human beings.

It is unfortunate that the President did not consult the Coconut Research Institute, the organization mandated for R & D on oil palm, before making this vitally important national decision. Further, a team of sixteen senior scientists including eleven academics(professors) well versed in the subject, wrote to the President recently seeking an appointment to brief him on the subject, but, was told by his office that already a policy decision has been made on the matter! Must not faulty policies be rectified?

 

Expand coconut in the dry zone for oil?

Further, the government has now apparently rushed into a decision to plant up 50,000 ha coconut in the dry zone under drip irrigation for increasing oil production. It would appear that coconut is already grown in nearly all areas in the dry zone suitable for it. Is the water available during the droughts for irrigation?. Further, there is strong research evidence that with global warming and temperatures shooting up during droughts, especially in the months of April and August, coconut pollen germination is inhibited in the dry zone, causing poor fruit set. Have these factors been taken into consideration. Ideally the crop for the balance dry zone appears to be cashew, which can bring in more income if grown scientifically than coconut. We do not have highly productive cashew dwarf hybrids of the type in the picture.

They should be secured from other countries perhaps through a germplasm exchange programme. However, it is reported that the University of Wayamba has recently produced hybrids with a yield potential of 13-15kg/tree/yr after the 4th year and at least they should be actively promoted among growers.

 

Alternative land for oil palm

If the government is reluctant to grow oil palm in the wet zone rubber lands, an alternative is to use the uncultivated paddy fields which amount about 60,000 ha of which nearly 50,000 are in the wet zone. The appropriate ill-drained soils should be drained for the purpose and oil palm grown on raised beds as seen in the picture, being done for coconut in Thailand. The excess water can be retained in ponds at the bottom of the catena for fish culture. Such cultivation could provide our entire vegetable oil demand, saving some Rs 40 billion spent on import of palm oil. Alternative crops for these lands are of course coconut, vegetables and horticultural crops. The Agrarian Development Act of 2000 may need to be amended for the purpose.

 

Learning from India

We have lessons to learn from India both on oil palm and policy making! India is targeting cultivation of 2 million hectares of oil palm by 2030, replacing much of its nine seasonal oil crops from irrigated lands because of their poor yields (usually less than 1ton/ha/season). Already over 400,000 ha have been planted to it . India has a huge vegetable oil import bill much of it being for palm oil!

The decision to expand oil palm cultivation was made by the Planning Commission of India after extensive deliberations by the experts in the Commission. The Commission was first set up during the Nehru regime in the 1950s, and the present Prime Minister has changed its name to the National Technology Commission (Niti Aayog in Hindi). Its functions amongst others are creation of innovation and knowledge, and advising the government on major developmental policy issues. Sri Lanka should necessarily follow suit and have such a commission so that leaders act on the advice of experts, and not on misinformation of ‘Dicks, Toms and Harrys’!



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Opinion

Rise of Cheena Saubhagya

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Before the Aluth Avurudda dawned, we were talking about the lost crown of Ranjan Ramanayake and the grabbing and fighting over the crown of Mrs. Sri Lanka.

The auspicious time for the dawning of the New Year would have brought joy to those who were able to get enough rice, coconut oil and honey to make kiri buth, kevun, kokis and other delights, and even enjoy some of the avurudu games, although without elevated pillow fights and tugs-o-war. 

But the reality facing us all, with songs of the cuckoo and other birds, is a push into an inauspicious era in the country, with democracy getting its biggest blow from a government that pledged to strengthen the democratic rights of the people. 

We now face the reality of the Bill for the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, which, if enacted, would take us far away from the goals  of democracy that our people, and most political leaders and parties were committed to, from many years before independence. The proposed Colombo Port City has all the promise and assurance of being a new colony in South Asia, with the colonisers, as seen today, being the Chinese.

Is this the reality of the Rajapaksa dream and goal in politics and governance?

We do remember that when the work on the Colombo Port City was ceremonially launched in September, 2014, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the entire project – the artificial island to be constructed by the Chinese – was written off to China. A permanent Chinese holding.

It was left to the Yahapalana government, which followed in 2015, to have serious negotiations with China, and change the full ownership to a 99-year lease given to China. 

What we now see is that the Saubhagye Dekma of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is, in fact, the rise of the Cheena Saubhagya in Sri Lanka.

A country that has had free elections since 1931, even before independence, and has had a functioning parliament, since 1948, is seeking to do away with the very concept of parliamentary democracy. The Colombo Port City Economic Commission is the display of nondemocratic governance, where the nominees of the President, will be answerable to him and not to the country and people on the functioning of the Port City, its income and expenditure, and all facilities in the new Dictatorial City, inside the Democratic Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan voters have much to do with the threat that democracy faces today with the Port City exercise. The 69 lakhs that voted Gotabaya Rajapaksa to office as President, the somewhat smaller vote that gave a parliamentary majority to the SLPP – Pohottuva – alliance in the general election, and the two-thirds majority the government gained in the passage of the 20 Amendment, are core values of the Rajapaksa-Port City strike at democracy.

Mahinda Rajapaksa may have been a strong supporter of democracy, in his early years in politics, and his first election as President but the dictatorial trend in Rajapaksa politics has been clearly seen in the post-war Sri Lanka. Today’s dictatorial policies coming with the Port City Commission, began with Mahinda Rajapaksa drawing MPs from the Opposition and passing the 18th Amendment, which curbed the democratic trends of the 17 A.

After that, the 19 A of the Yahapalana, restored democracy and expanded the provisions and facilities of democracy with Independent Commissions, and considerable independence in the appointment of members of the judiciary. 

The Rajapaksas came again, after the Easter Sunday carnage, with their full strength, and popular support to remove the values of democracy that were brought into the Constitution from the 19A, to full and shameful strides into dictatorial governance, with the 20A.      

The massive threat to democracy that comes from the Port City Commission is also backed by the draft legislation to remove the court cases on crime and corruption against members and supporters of this government. This dictatorial move is also supported by the removal of the many cases filed in the courts by the Bribery Commission, on technical errors – which can certainly be corrected — but not thought necessary by a corrupt regime.

The Port City Commission is the complete flowering of corruption and dictatorial trends in this country. This is the show of majority dominance, not to serve the people, but to serve a large and powerful family,  and the catchers that serve and benefit from it, with claims of ViyathMaga or any such crooked players.

We now have a member of Parliament of the government, but not holding any portfolio or even a state ministry, come out in a loud criticism of the Varaya Nagara Keliya. Such critics were once very supportive of all the corrupt moves by the Avant Garde players, exposed by Yahapalanaya; but things do change. The Varaya Nagara Keliya is the display of the realities of Rajapaksa Balaya. It is in keeping with the Basil Rajapaksa call to learn more of the Chinese system of governance. 

What we see with the Port City is the vast abandonment of democracy. Such political thinking will not be limited to the Port City, but will soon extend to the entire island. It is the realisation of Rajavasala Thinking, where memorials for deceased parents could/should be built at State/People’s expense.   

What the people are told to accept today is the Cheena Saubhagya. It is just one display of Apey Pavul Saubhagya, which is the reality of Port City crooked governance.

Let us see how much the judiciary can help the people of Sri Lanka safeguard its longer commitment to democracy, beyond the crooked and deadly impact of the 20A.

Cheena Saubhagya, Bunga veva!  

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Opinion

First reign of terror by the JVP

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By MANO RATWATTE

I have been reading your articles on the 1971 JVP insurrection, quite avidly. A lot has been narrated about the fateful night of April 5th and the events that followed.

It was fascinating to read the accounts by the retired DIG. Thank you for all the articles. It brought back some vivid memories from my childhood.

My personal story from
that fateful period

I was a young boy, just past my 11th birthday and attending Royal College at the time. I was oblivious to the fact that, my father was the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, and my maternal grandfather was the Governor General (Ceylon had not become a republic yet – that would happen later), our family would be under attack. I remember the very tense period, and how my parent’s home had been marked for attack. The markings were faint, a crude “X” made with red brick. This was repeated at the homes of some other relatives of the Prime Minister, as well. We were oblivious, never noticing the ominous markings.

I have no doubt if the JVP had succeeded they would have executed Mrs. Bandaranaike and probably my father, who was her brother, as well. The PM’s Private Secretary is a position equivalent to a White House Chief of Staff. My grandfather, as the GG and nominally Head of State, would probably have been a victim, too. It is more than likely that the JVP would have massacred my entire family, emulating what their heroes, the Bolsheviks did to the Czar’s family in Yekaterinburg, after the Russian Revolution.

When the severity of the threat became apparent, we were whisked away on the night of April 4th to the GG’s residence, Queen’s House, because the Army Commander felt it wasn’t safe for us to remain in our home. My grandfather had been the Governor General, since 1962, so luckily, we had a safe haven that was familiar to us. As a kid I thought it was “cool” to be escorted by armed soldiers. But, looking back, I realise I may not be alive today, if the JVP revolt had succeeded.

The timing of the JVP’s 1971 rebellion was very poor. The United Front government, which had won a massive landslide electoral victory, in 1970, hadn’t been in power for even an year and had not been able to implement many changes. The economic hardships, food queues and rationing, which were to come in the aftermath of the global energy crisis of 1973, weren’t on the horizon yet. Ceylon was a pleasant place with a vibrant democracy; the exception being the notorious coup attempt of 1962. A violent overthrow of the recently elected government wasn’t something likely to gain much support with the populace.

However, it is likely that, not for the serendipitous incidents in March, reported in this newspaper previously, with the JVP’s bombs exploding prematurely, the security forces would have been far less prepared and the rebellion may well have succeeded.

The situation in the early days of the revolt was very tense. My father was very active in the discussions, and was part of the National Security Council at Temple Trees. It seemed ‘touch and go’ for a while, but my father said that the Prime Minister never panicked. I know my father definitely didn’t, remaining calm despite the initial flood of bad news.

My father never panicked, no matter what the threat was. He had previously faced down the Air Force guard that threatened to open fire on my aunt, in January 1966, along with the late Dr. Baduiddin Muhammed, at a political rally. Before that, in September 1959, he had helped prevent the domestic staff at Tintagel, the PM’s private residence, hack, murderer Somarama to death, after SWRD’s assassination on the front lawn of the property. If the assassin had been killed that day, the right wing conspiracy behind it would have never been uncovered.

Reminiscing o 1971, he told us much later, with a chuckle about the ashen-faced (his words) Army Commander who was at the NSC meetings held at the Temple Trees annexe. The General wanted the PM to ask Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito for military help. I’m not sure if the request was ever made or whether Mrs. B refused as she had faith in country’s military.

Lanka’s innocence was lost forever that day. Suddenly security and protection of VIPs became a thing in Ceylon. Prior to April 1971, the Prime Minister would have just a token escort, with a pilot-car containing a couple of armed guards and one personal bodyguard, typically a Police officer. The Governor General hardly had any security. A sleepy police Sergeant would be posted at Queen’s House. No bulletproof cars or decoy convoys like today. All that began during the war against the LTTE terrorists and suicide bombers.

I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation, until I saw guard points manned by armed sailors from the Navy, between Temple Trees and Queen’s House, during the curfew.

I remember riding in the GG’s vehicle to Temple Trees, and seeing Navy sailors in their blue uniforms and helmets with rifles and lights pointed towards the car, shouting “Halt” at the vehicle. They were mostly armed with obsolete WW1 vintage Lee Enfield Rifles, or the small Sterling ‘Sten’ submachine guns. I still remember their smart blue uniforms and the white garters (boot covers) around their boots. I also remember seeing a fleet of Indian Navy ships in Colombo, anchored facing Galle Face Green.

I remember my father, and the late Anuruddha Ratwatte (his cousin, then a Colonel), flying on Indian Air Force helicopters from the Royal Ceylon Air Force ground, that the retired DIG referenced. I tagged along in the vehicle that was used to drop them off there. They were overseeing the airdropping of surrender leaflets; an idea my father is believed to have thought of and proposed to the NSC. It offered amnesty and rehabilitation to JVP cadres who surrendered. The leaflets were dropped over the thick jungles where the remnants of the JVP were hiding. It may have been later in April or much later in May. I hope the DIG throws some light. The idea was a success with many fugitive JVP-ers surrendering to the security forces as a result of the campaign.

I have a lot more memories of those scary and sad days. The JVP has never apologized for the disruption of Ceylon’s society. Their actions were far worse in their second incarnation, but by then we were inured to violence. In 1971 we were still a peaceful and innocent country.

What if the 1971 rebellion had succeeded?

What if the JVP had seized power that April, 50 years ago? What would a Ceylon look like? A beautiful socialist utopia with complete state control of the economy? Thousands of grey Mao-suited robots with a little red book goose-stepping to herald a strongman similar to North Korea, who were supporters of the JVP? Would Wijeweera have been a Dear Leader and great benefactor? Or an Oliver Cromwell, a Gandhi, or a Pol Pot?

Act 2: Policy mistakes

Harping back to the 1971 insurgency; it shocked the leftist coalition government, headed by my aunt. As a result, some of the radical policy reforms, such as the Land Reform Act, were rushed through to assuage the anger demonstrated by the insurgents.

Land Reform, as my father later used to say, was one of the “most iniquitous” acts of policy. Think about it. Landholdings were restricted to 50 acres per adult. So if a family had adult children they could have 50 acres each, but even if a family had four young children, they lost most of their lands and six people would all have 50 acres in total ! It defied common sense and economic logic.

Did they assume the kids wouldn’t grow up to become adults? Or perhaps it was deliberately written to favour some, with thousands of acres of land and adult children, over others with young families or no children. Either way it was an absurd policy, which destroyed many viable plantations, reducing them to economically unviable smallholder status.

Housing ownership policies also were also rushed as a result of the 1971 rebellion. The implementation of this, too was botched and much wealth was destroyed. If the JVP had been more patient, they could have had a much better chance of wreaking even greater mayhem, when people were angry and tired of the stagnant economy post-1974.

But, indeed, it was serendipitous that those two premature bomb explosions happened in March. The second one happened the day my family was spending time with our uncle to celebrate his birthday.

Act 3 – The next JVP
insurrection

Their reign of terror and counter terror by the Government, in 1987- 89 was far worse for the entire nation. I was by then out of the country and did not experience any of it. My father wrote to me and asked me to stay in the USA as long as possible. An uncle of mine (a first cousin of my father’s) was burnt alive in Matale, during the hell the JVP unleashed in the aftermath of the Indian “invasion by invitation” after J.R. Jayewardene erred in handling relationships with India. Another good friend’s relative was chased down and killed at his estate, because he had raised the national flag on Independence Day as the government had requested. A respected scholar was assassinated on the University of Colombo campus – Professor Stanley Wijesundere. His son and I were good friends and classmates.

And no one should forget nor forgive the brutal murder of a great humanist and charismatic leader Vijaya Kumaranatunge, the leader of the SLMP and most popular celebrity actor. Why did the cruel assassins shoot him in the face after he was already dead and fallen? Was it because of sheer envy and evil thoughts of their leader who could not stand a good-looking popular rival?

My issue with all these lame excuses and talk about a ‘people’s struggle’, is that the JVP never sincerely apologized for the violence they unleashed, and keep celebrating their leader as if he’s a local Lenin; when he and his then generation of combatants had more in common with the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, than Marx.

Recap 1971

Harping back to the successful victory over the JVP, in 1971, it must be mentioned how quickly almost every major nation in the world came to help Sri Lanka. Because of the excellent relationship between Ceylon and India, they were the first to rush in help. I remember they even supplied the Army with SLR 7.62 automatic weapons, much more capable weapons than the ancient rifles and inaccurate Sten guns which was all they had. The Ceylon military, which up to that point was a well-disciplined force but mainly a ‘parade-ground army’, was called upon to quell a domestic armed insurrection while armed with vintage bolt action rifles.

The tiny Armoured Corps, equipped with a few Daimler armoured cars, (the largest of which had a 2-pounder gun) was used to secure Kegalle and Mawanella, which had been seized by the JVP. A few vintage Ferret Scout cars armed with WW2 era Bren guns, were deployed at Temple Trees. Later one of the Saladin six-wheeled armoured cars, with a bigger 76mm gun was also deployed facing Galle Road.

Ceylon’s tiny military, led by professional leaders, acquitted themselves really well. While there were sad incidents like the Premawathi Manamperi incident, they deserve gratitude and thanks of the entire nation. Especially a then 11-year old boy’s sincere thanks for protecting him and his family.

Hope

All is not hopeless. The new younger and more educated leaders of the JVP have embraced democratic politics and their performances in Parliament exposing corruption of governments (whichever government is in power), and their well informed and educated analysis and criticisms, are a fresh positive contrast to the adi-pudi abuse laden politics of everyone else. But they will remain a less than 5% party if they keep celebrating a man who twice took our nation down a path that was disliked or hated by most. Clearly, the UNP could also apologize for the counter terror they unleashed.

Geo political friends

India was the most important ally in 1971. Indian-Lanka relations deteriorated because of President J. R. Jayewardene’s hostile views and his foolish attempts to align himself with the US and ASEAN, totally oblivious to who the regional power was. This is something to be cognizant of today, in post cold-war realignment of alliances. The USA, which was once hostile to India, is now totally aligned in the QUAD coalition against China. India has justifiable fears and concerns about China. It stems from having been humiliated by China in the1962 border war which led to a loss of territory.

Sri Lanka really needs to nurture its friendship with India so that they will be like the 1971 ‘Dhosthi India’ and not the ‘Dushman/badamaash India’ following the gory Black July of 1983. Same country – two different postures.

The paradigm shift about security, in 1971, was significant and permanent.

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Opinion

Buddhism and all beings’ right to life

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A large majority of human beings deny the right to life of animals and other sentient beings, including insects. Why? (Sentient being is a living being endowed with mind and consciousness). The late Venerable Narada Thera in his book titled, Manual of Buddhism, states as follows- “The tolerance of the Buddha was not only to men and women but to dumb animals as well. For it was the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and admonished the followers to extend their loving kindness (maithree) to all living beings. No man has the right to destroy the life of another living being, even for the sake of one’s stomach, as life is precious to all” He quotes from the Metta Sutta: “Whatever living beings there be, feeble or strong, long, stout or medium, small, large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far and near, those who are born and those who are to be born, may all beings be happy-minded, without exception. Just as a mother would save her own child, at the risk of her own life, even so let him cultivate boundless love towards all beings.”

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi in his book, titled “The Noble Eightfold Path-Way to End Suffering” says: “The positive counterpart to abstaining from taking life, as the Buddha indicates, is the development of kindness and compassion for other beings. The disciple not only avoids destroying life, he dwells with a heart full of sympathy desiring the welfare of all beings. The commitment of non injury and concern for the welfare of others represents the practical application of the second path factor “Right Intention” in the form of goodwill and harmlessness. Abstaining from taking life (Panathipatha Veramani) – Herein someone avoids the taking of life and abstains from it. The intention of harmlessness, is a thought guide by compassion (karuna) aroused in opposition to cruel, aggressive and violent thoughts. Compassion has the characteristic of wishing that others be free from suffering; a wish to be extended to all living beings. It springs up by considering that all living beings, like ourselves, wish to be free from suffering.”

The Lankavatara Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism states: Quote: “For the sake of love of purity the Bodhisatva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood,etc., for fear of causing fear to living beings; let the Bodhisatva who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh. It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself. Meat eating in any form, in any manner and any place, is unconditionally and once for all prohibited”

 

The Surangana Sutra states: “In seeking to escape from suffering ourselves, why should we inflict suffering upon others? How can a Bhikkhu who goes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings? The Buddha forbade Buddhists from engaging in occupations that involve killing of animals, such as Butcher, Fisher, or Animal farmer.”

When it comes to small animals, like rats, and insects, the attitude of the large majority of humans is as if they do not have right to life.

According to Buddhism, they, too, have the right to life as human beings. While some human beings try to prevent cruelty to animals such as elephants, tigers, dogs, etc., I have never heard of any one talking of cruelty to insects. My opinion is that the first precept in Buddhism ( Panathipatha Veramani) applies to all animals, and insects, as well. They too feel pain.

I would like to obtain the observations of other readers of your newspaper on my opinions expressed above.

 

NEIL PERERA

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