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Rebirth As Expounded In Buddhism

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(By Desamanya K.H.J. Wijayadasa; former Secretary to the President)

Rebirth is a fundamental tenet of Buddhism

As far as Buddhists are concerned, rebirth is not a mere theory but a fact verifiable by evidence and constitutes a fundamental tenet of Buddhism. It is on record that this belief in rebirth viewed as a transmigration or reincarnation was accepted by great philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plato. However, the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth is different from transmigration or reincarnation of other religions because Buddhism does not accept the existence of a transmigrating permanent soul created by god.

According to Buddhist teachings it is Kamma or Action that conditions rebirth. Past Kamma conditions the present birth and present Kamma in combination with past Kamma conditions the future. Thus the present is the off spring of the past and becomes in turn the parent of the future. The law of Kamma explains the incidence of suffering, the mystery of the so called fate and predestination of some religions and above all the inequality of mankind. Thus, to an ordinary Buddhist Kamma serves as a deterrent, while to an intellectual it serves as an incentive to do good. Interestingly, what constitutes Kamma are our thoughts, words and deeds. They pass from life to life exalting and degrading us in the course of our wanderings in Samsara.

Buddhist scholars are of the view that the Buddha is the greatest authority on rebirth. On the very night of his enlightenment, during the first watch, the Buddha had developed retro-cognitive knowledge which enabled him to read his past lives. During the second watch the Buddha with clairvoyant vision perceived beings disappearing from one state of existence and reappearing in another. In general discourses the Buddha clearly states that beings having done evil are after death, born in woeful states; and beings having done good are born in blissful states.

There are numerous instances of ordinary people in hypnotic states who have related experiences of their past lives. There are some unbelievable stories about the miraculous revelations of infant prodigies which have baffled many a scientist. It is an irrefutable fact that Kamma and Rebirth are two sides of the same coin. The concept of Kamma and Rebirth explicitly explains the inequality of mankind, the problem of endless suffering, the dissimilarities among children of the same family and above all, the arising of omniscient and super perfect spiritual teachers like the Buddhas who possess incomparable physical, mental and intellectual characteristics.

The Buddhist Doctrine of Rebirth

Professor K.N. Jayatillake, one of the greatest exponents of rebirth has not only proved beyond any reasonable doubt that rebirth is a distinct reality but also cleared several misconceptions woven around the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth and Kamma as expounded in the early texts of Theravada Buddhism. He has pointed out that rebirth or survival after death has its origin in the enlightenment of the Buddha itself and not in traditional Indian belief. By way of further clarification he has said that “it was on the night of his enlightenment that the Buddha acquired the capacity to know his past lives. It was when his mind was composed, clear, cleansed and without blemish, free from adventitious defilements, pliant and flexible, steadfast and undisturbed that he acquired the fabulous capacity to recall hundreds of thousands of prior lives and pre-history of the universe; going, back through immensely long periods of the expansions and contractions of the oscillating universe”.

This is the first item of knowledge which broke through the veil of ignorance (ayam pathama vijja). The second important item of knowledge (dutiya vijja) was obtained via the faculty of clairvoyance (dibba chakkhu) with which the Buddha was able to see among other things; the survival of beings in various states of existence, the operation of Kamma, galactic systems, clusters of galactic systems and the vast cosmos.

The Buddhist texts are emphatic regarding five states of existence; namely, lower world or niraya, animal world or tirachchana, spirit world or peta, human beings or manussa and higher beings or devas. Professor K.N. Jayatillake has stated that it is possible for a human being to be reborn as a spirit, come back to earth as a human being or go still higher and become a deity or deva. It is also possible to regress to animal or sub-human forms of existence. This happens not by any form of determinism or fatalism. According to Buddhism Kamma is only one of the five major causal laws. The other four are; physical laws, biological laws, psychological laws and laws pertaining to spiritual phenomena. Professor K.N. Jayatillake was of view that Kammic laws are tendencies rather than inevitable consequences.

Professor K.N. Jayatillake found enough material in the early Buddhist texts to show that the Buddhist doctrines of Kamma and Rebirth are not dogmas but were verifiable truths. For verification he relied on research studies of modern philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists. He has critically reexamined their findings on memory and the relationship between mind and body. In order to find plausible evidence acceptable to modern society on rebirth he classified evidence into two groups namely experimental and spontaneous. Experimental evidence is factual testimony obtained by means of age regression under hypnosis and the like.

Spontaneous evidence emanated from revelations made by people who claimed to remember their previous lives. Of course, both types of evidence depended on memory. Another argument advanced in favour of rebirth is the presence in people of skills and talents obviously not acquired in the present life. After making a scholarly study of the scientific literature on memory and the mind-body relationship he concluded that “conscious mental and cognitive phenomena function in dependence on its physical bases”. On the mind and body relationship Professor K.N. Jayatillake made the following observations. “None of the modern findings with regard to the mind and its relation to the brain nor the assertions of modern brain physiologists in any way preclude the empirical possibility of survival after death; it is an open possibility to be proved or disproved in the light of evidence”.

The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth rests on the fact that each individual is a conflux of mind and body. There is no permanent entity here; no soul. There is only mind and body, a dynamic flux, energized by stimuli and material food without and thought food within. It is presumed that mind and body constitute a force. No force is ever lost. There is no reason to believe that the force manifested in each being as mind and body is ever lost. This force is changing every moment of our lives; however it is not lost at death. The vitalizing mind is merely reset. It is the resetting of this vital flux in fresh conditions which is rebirth. Thus, each individual reborn starts with a unique set of latent potentialities. These are the accumulated experiences of past births. This is why characters differ, endowments differ and fortunes vary.

Investigations and Research into Rebirth

Following on the revival and resurgence of Buddhism in the 19th century, scholars and scientists throughout the world have engaged themselves in investigations and research into the doctrine of rebirth as expounded in Buddhism. The first reported cases of rebirth were from India and Myanmar involving children who remembered their last lives as human beings. Fielding Hall a member of the Indian Civil Service had recorded several cases of rebirth in his “Soul of the People”. He had ample power and opportunity to verify the veracity of the cases which were brought to his attention. He had made personal investigations and was satisfied that these were genuine instances of memory of past lives.

Dr. Cassius A. Perera (later Bikkhu Kassapa) writing to the Ceylon Observer of Sunday October 10, 1937 had described the previous life story of a boy from Myanmar as follows. “This child, born to simple village parents, when three years old, revealed unusual mastery of Pali texts; and an ability to expound Buddhist psychology, rivaling that of learned elder monks. Gradually the Memory faded and he became a normal child with great aptitude for the study of Pali. He entered the Buddhist order early and at age eighteen won the first place for all Myanmar for scholarship in Buddhist psychology.

Dr. Cassius Perera has placed on record the story of a little girl in India who remembered her last life, the place where she dwelt, her husband and relatives of that life and other details of property and money matters. The case was investigated and its truth had been proved beyond doubt. Other than rebirth, there is no reasonable explanation for the existence of infant prodigies in diverse fields such as music, mathematics and letters. Dr. H.S.S. Nissanka’s case study on rebirth entitled “The girl who was Reborn” appeared in the Ceylon Daily News of November 23, 1965. Martin Wickremasinghe, scholar, novelist and rationalist reviewed this article and said that, “the theory of rebirth was just an animistic survival, inherited from the primitive pre-Buddhistic culture of India and Sri Lanka and that it is incompatible with the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta”.

Professor K.N. Jayatillake who championed the existence of rebirth entered into a lively debate with Martin Wickremasinghe which went on for more than three months in the Ceylon Daily News and made some astounding revelations on the mystery of rebirth.

Nibbana; the only way out of Rebirth

It is a fundamental tenet of Buddhism that mankind is eternally in the throes of suffering and sorrow. The world is beset with extreme poverty, desease and squalor. Pestilence comes in the most dramatic and disastrous form and style. While earthquakes, drought and famine wreak havoc, fire, flood and storm take toll. The so- called omnipotent power is in eternal slumber and does not intervene to prevent them or to minimize the impact. It is man’s skill and enterprise and man’s sacrifice and painfully wrested knowledge that fights these calamities. Other than Buddhism almost all religions consider this mayhem as God’s vengeance. The Buddhist sees this as a reign of natural law powered by unending cause and effect.

Consequently, birth follows death as surely as death follows birth. The Buddhist concept of deliverance is Nibbana, signifying escape from the ever recurring cycle of life and death; not merely escape from sin and hell. Nibbana is also explained as extinction of the forces of lust (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha). Nibbana is also the ultimate achievement and the final goal of Buddhism. It is not something to be set down in print, nor is it a subject to be grasped by intellect alone. It is a super mundane state (lokuttara dhamma); to be realized only by intuitive wisdom.

It is indeed paradoxical that Nibbana; the ultimate goal of Buddhism is beyond the scope of logic. However, reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of life, the logical conclusion emerges that in contradistinction to a conditioned phenomenal existence, there must exist a sorrowless, deathless, non-conditioned state. When all forms of craving are eradicated reproductive Karmic forces cease to operate and one attains Nibbana by escaping the cycle of life and death.



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Covid-19 vaccination: Is it the proverbial ‘Silver Bullet’?

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Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

In this emerald isle, people take to any form of vaccination, like the legendary ducks take to water. Offer them a vaccine against anything and they will take it; at least most of them would do so. The vaccine antagonists and anti-vaxxers are extremely few and far between, so as to be almost a virtual non-entity. With a very high literacy rate, and a population that is prepared to take heed to the hilt, the axiom that dictates ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is the absolute dream of the experts in the public health scenario that there is unmitigated abiding interest on the part of our populace to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It has been said that vaccines do not save lives but vaccination most definitely does. Vaccines have to be given to people for them to produce the optimal effects. A receptive population to such a notion is indeed, a much-fancied reverie of all health service providers.

In such a background, it is most laudable that Sri Lanka is going pell-mell, even in an impetuous rush, to vaccinate her population against COVID-19, at what could best be described as at break-neck speed. Even given the spectacle of an insufficiency of adequate stocks of the coronavirus vaccines to freely vaccinate the population, the authorities are making the very best of the situation. We must, of course clearly appreciate the steps taken by the Government and the Ministry of Health in this initiative. The tri-forces, the Army in particular, have to be congratulated, in playing the lead role in organising a scheme of things to administer the vaccines in an orderly fashion. TAKE A BOW; ALL OF YOU, you are indeed giving the very best of yourselves in this endeavour.

Well, the goal is to somehow secure a high enough herd-immunity to defeat the virus; most definitely a commendable final goal. The currently prevalent mantra is to vaccinate, vaccinate, and vaccinate even more. Yet for all that there is much misinformation and an infodemic doing the rounds, especially on social media, about widespread speculations on loss of sexual prowess, impotence, subfertility and infertility, as undesirable effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ANY OF THESE IMPLICATIONS. NONE OF THE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE COVID-19 VACCINES DO ANY OF THIS. It is just stupid covidiocy on the part of a few anti-vaxxers. It has induced a lot of young people to refuse the vaccine. This is a crime against humanity to spread such falsehoods. It is absolutely crucial to realise that the current vaccination drive is just a very important one of quite a few things we can do to try and keep the coronavirus at bay.

We have seen the fantastic results of immunisations against ‘child-killer diseases’ in paediatric healthcare. This author, as a young junior doctor, was witness to the ravages of the much-feared childhood diseases that killed or maimed scores of young children even in the second half of the last century. Those diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, measles, Japanese encephalitis; just to mention a few that took scores of young lives of yore, are a thing of the past now. Adequate vaccination has completely wiped them out. The last case of childhood polio in Sri Lanka was seen just around a quarter of a century ago. The young junior doctors of today and the current lot of medical students have not seen any of these dreaded diseases.

In the child healthcare scenario, vaccination has become the panacea for all ills in the above-mentioned diseases. In the same vein, it is quite reasonable to expect the coronavirus vaccines to provide a similar end-result. However, is it really so? It is a most lamentable fact that it is perhaps not quite so.

There is a well-recognised fundamental difference between all the vaccines that are used to prevent the much-feared childhood diseases of the past and the currently available vaccines against the coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic. The vaccines against all those childhood diseases COMPLETELY PREVENT children getting the disease!!!, period. Well, if the recipients are protected against getting the infection, it is the end of the story; a definitive conclusion of the matter in hand.

However, right up to just a few days ago, none of the currently available vaccines against COVID-19, were thought to be able to COMPLETELY PREVENT anyone getting the disease to any appreciable degree. How they work is by reducing the severity of the disease and by preventing the deaths. So…, the basic end-result characteristics of all the currently available COVID-19 vaccines were thought to be quite different to the standard vaccines against all other infective diseases. One could still get the disease in spite of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and would still be able to spread the illness to others.

Yet for all this, there seems to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. In a most recent scientific publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, released as recently as 22nd September 2021, an interim analysis of a large study conducted in 99 centres of the USA has shown significant protection against CONTRACTING THE DISEASE as well as AGAINST MORE SEVERE DISEASE AND DEATH by the mRNA-1273 (Moderna/Spikevax) vaccine, administered as two doses 28 days apart. Vaccine efficacy in preventing Covid-19 illness was 93.2%, the effectiveness in preventing severe disease was 98.2% and the efficacy in preventing asymptomatic infection, starting 14 days after the second injection, was 63.0%. Vaccine efficacy was consistent across ethnic and racial groups, age groups, and participants with coexisting conditions. No safety concerns were identified.

Be that as it may, added to all our problems, now there is the daunting spectacle of the various types of variants and mutants, ranging from Alpha through delta, even to Epsilon and most recently to a particularly nasty strain called ‘Mu’, of the coronavirus which could cause problems even in the fully vaccinated. We still do not understand completely the potential impact of these more virulent strains in vaccinated people.

However, a case in point in relationship to these facts is the presently dominant situation in Israel. That country, one of the fastest in vaccination and most-vaccinated nations in the world, in spite of almost the entire population being vaccinated, is having some problems at the present time. By mid-March 2021, Israelis were partying as lockdowns ended and by April, masks had more or less vanished, turning the tiny country into a tantalising glimpse of a post-pandemic future. However, the crafty blight of a coronavirus seems to have come back with a vengeance. From a few dozen daily cases in early June 2021, even zero on June 9, new daily COVID infections twice hovered near 6,000 very recently, the highest daily rate in six months. Having won early access to supplies of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab in exchange for sharing nationwide data on how mass vaccination drives affect the pandemic, Israel is a closely watched indicator of a country where well-inoculated developed economies are heading.

As new infections soared, so did the long tail of hospitalisations in Israel. Even though the unvaccinated were five to six times as likely to end up seriously ill, the vaccine’s protection was waning fastest for the oldest; the most vulnerable, who got their first jabs as early as December 2020. At this rate, health officials predicted at least 5,000 people would need hospital beds by early September, half of them with serious medical needs, twice as many as Israel is equipped to handle. The current Prime Minister of Israel was honest with Israelis when he announced a new measure just a couple of weeks ago, whereby the government was trying to cushion the blow. On August 1, it had started offering people, over 60, a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, embarking on its own public health experiment as it tumbled into an unpredictable fourth wave. So far, 775,000 people have taken their third shot and doctors say they can see antibody counts rising measurably within days of the third jab.

For Israelis, the booster shots are a reminder that they are still on the frontier of Covid-19 vaccinations. They celebrated when they were the first to get jabbed, cheering Pfizer as lockdowns ended in March 2021. Now, they are the first to experience the limits of the vaccine and the first to accept a long-whispered inevitability: the need to give regular booster shots to stay protected.

All these facts tend to bring into sharp focus, again and AGAIN, the undoubted importance of time-tested manoeuvres of avoiding crowds, maintaining a social distance of at least one to two metres, wearing suitable and effective masks; even double-masking, and repeated washing of hands, as our own personal weapons against this dastardly blight. Vaccination against COVID-19 will probably not be the panacea for all ills in combating this pandemic, although it would be a very powerful tool in the hands of the authorities in their quest towards victory over this disease. It will certainly not be the ultimate ‘SILVER BULLET’ against the disease.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Israel today, it is this: corona, in fact, is not over; perhaps not for quite a while. This summer was just an intermission. Next may come winter., sadly perhaps, a winter of discontent. We do hope to high heaven that it may not be so for this beautiful and much-treasured Motherland of ours.

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Proposed Parakrama Samudraya walking path devalues ancient heritage

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By Eng. Thushara Dissanayake

The construction work of the proposed walking path on the Parakrama Samudra tank bund was suspended after the protest of a group of Buddhist monks. Whether it is appropriate for monks to intervene in this matter is a different issue and the objection is admirable because many remained silent over this issue of national significance.

Since then many views, both pros and cons, on the proposed walking path, have been expressed by various parties. Experts in the engineering field express views on the safety of the dam after the proposed construction, which meddles with its existing riprap, the structural arrangement that prevents bund erosion by wind-generated water waves. Some others, including local administrative level officers and politicians see this as essential development for the area. However, technical issues can be resolved at any cost, and I am more concerned about the facts whether this track is a genuine necessity and the possible subsequent damage it can inflict on the historical value of the tank and the image of the great King Pararamabahu.

The objective of a walking path is to help people maintain their health, not only by engaging in physical activities like walking and jogging but also by allowing them to be with nature. While walking and jogging, can improve physical health, a serene, natural environment can improve mental health. If we take an area like Polonnaruwa, which is not as urbanized as many of the major cities in the country, there are ample places that offer the above-mentioned benefits. Further, neither visitors of the area nor residents will use it as a walking track, and an observation platform would be sufficient, if people need to stay safe from traffic that moves along the bund. Therefore, this type of project would no doubt be a white elephant that ruins millions of public money.

There was a time when the leader of the country went about erecting clock towers at every junction. Soon after they were built many of them showed the wrong time due to inferior construction work, resulting from corruption, putting the public in difficulty. Unlike those days, today there is no need for clock towers as everybody has the exact time since everyone has a mobile phone, more accurate than a wristwatch. We have to come to terms with the reality that what we value today would become obsolete tomorrow in the fast-changing world. Who is to say that these walking paths would not become obsolete in the future given the fact that lives of people are becoming complex and busy, and people may turn to indoor gymnasiums and exercise machines?

Moreover, a closer look at some of the already constructed walking paths would reveal that the selection of locations for such facilities was ill-informed, without proper evaluation as they remain under-utilised. One such example is the track that has been constructed in Badulla urban park which is popularly known as the Wawul Park. This park is located on the edge of three main playgrounds of the city; Vincent Dias ground, cricket ground and football ground. The track is blanketed in thousands of droppings of bats that inhabit the trees of the park, the odour of it so foul that it is very difficult to reach the track. Every day hundreds of people walk in the aforementioned playgrounds while the walking path remains abandoned.

Coming back to the topic, after the walking path is constructed, as per the usual practice of the country, a huge plaque will be erected on the bund mentioning the names of politicians who suggested, advised, supervised, participated and declared open the track. There will probably come a day in future when our children, who visit the Parakrama Samudraya, would say that the tank was constructed by this and that politician. Alas! The statue of the Great King Parakramabahu, who had a great vision to manage the water resources of the country, will be disregarded.

Way forward

Before making any structural changes to heritage sites, opinion should be sought from experts and other stakeholders as well. According to personal experience, when I last visited the place a few years ago, people who visited the tank needed no walking path, but being travellers from remote areas, there was a crying need for other basic facilities. They required shelter, water, facilities to have their meals, dispose of waste safely, and a proper waste collection system, among other things.

In addition, a mini auditorium can be constructed at a suitable place in the vicinity, that has audio-visual facilities to educate children about the history of the tank. A model of the reservoir can be used to explain its components and operation. Then our children will not take this amazing Parakrama Samudraya, that they are endowed with today, for granted but learn to appreciate the great vision and dedication of their ancestors in making this marvel a reality.

Let me conclude with a poem I posted on my FB page sometime ago, with its translation.

There is a huge plaque at the end of the tank bund. It reads that the politician is akin to King Parakramabahu. The river downstream overtops with the sweat of the people who built the tank. Still, the people who built the tank are of no value)

(The writer is a Chartered Engineer. This article is based on his personal views and does not reflect those of the organisations where he holds positions)

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Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link

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Reams have been written in all local newspapers; much comment has traversed social media and persons have been bold to call for justice on two absolutely unrestrained and yes, evil, SLPP VIPs who have recently been dancing the devil as the saying goes. These evil doers seem to be pathologically unable to control themselves and behave as human beings: heads outsised with hubris and apparently bodies often pickled with liquor.

Very succinct comments have been made on Lohan Ratwatte, one being: “a leopard never changes his spots” referring to the many crimes supposed to have been committed by him, and the other that he is a gem of a man who may make a jewellery heist soon enough. He has the audacity to say he did nothing wrong in barging into two prisons; in one to show off to pals the gallows and in the other, to brandish a gun and place it against the heads of two shivering Tamil prisoners. All done within the week when world attention was focused on Sri Lankan human rights violations directed by the UNHRC

Cass’ comment is that Lohan Rat was committing hara-kiri (minus even a trace of the Japanese spirit of self sacrifice) and taking the entire country on a suicidal mission through his inability to hold his drinks and destructive hubris and murderous inclination. Cass particularly favoured Don Mano’s summation in his comment on the unlawful prison intrusions in the Sunday Times of September 19. “Any semblance of a shabby cover-up to enable Lohan Ratwatte to retain his position as State Minister of Gems and Jewellery will not only endanger the economy by depriving the nation’s dollar bare coffers of a GSP benefit of nearly 2.7 billion dollars, but will risk putting 21 million Lankans from the frying pan into the fire and test their tolerance to the core.”

The visit to the Welikada prison by the State Minister of Prison Reform and … was said to be with some men and one woman. Identities were kept under wraps and confusion raised by making the dame a beauty queen or cosmetician. But who she was, was soon known along the vine of gossip. One report said the person in charge of the prison or its section with the gallows, cautioned Lohan Rat and tried to dissuade his advance with friends in tow since the lady companion was in shorts and them walking through where prisoners were, would cause a commotion. But no, the State Minister advanced to show off the gallows with his short-shorts wearing woman companion and imbibing mates.

Cass is actually more censorious of this woman than even of the State Minister himself. Is she a Sri Lankan, so vagrant in her woman-ness? Doesn’t she have even an iota of the traditional lajja baya that decent women exhibit, even to minor level nowadays? Is associating with a State Minister and his drinking pals such a prized social event? Shame on her! She, if people’s assumption of identity is correct, has boasted political clout and been elevated by it too. Such our young girls! Do hope they are very few in number, though this seems to be a baseless hope as social events unroll.

Pistol packing – correction please – toy pistol packing Eraj Fernando is aiding the ex State Minister of Prison Reform to deface, debase and deteriorate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the world. He is interested in land and not in gallows or scantily clad gals. With thugs in tow he trespassed a property in Bamba and assaulted two security guards. Repetition of an incident he was embroiled in – a land dispute in Nugegoda a couple of weeks ago. He was taken in by the police and before you could say Raj, he was granted bail. What quick work of police and courts.

As the editor of The Island opined in the lead article of September 20: “The Rajapaksas have created quite a few monsters who enjoy unbridled freedom to violate the law of the land.” A convicted murderer known for his thug ways was presidentially pardoned a short while ago.

The good thing is that people talk, write, lampoon, and draw attention to these heinous crimes and do not seem scared for their necks and families. White vans have not started their rounds. And very importantly the memories of Ordinaries are not as fickle as they were. Wait and see is their immediate response.

New fad – jogging lanes on wewa bunds!

Some monks and men gathered recently on the partly torn up bund of Parakrama Samudraya and had the foolish audacity to say the bund needed a jogging lane. Tosh and balderdash! Then news revealed that other wewas too were being ‘attacked and desecrated’ to construct jogging lanes. In such remote rural areas which even tourists do not visit? Is there illicit money-making in this activity? Otherwise, no explanation is available for this sudden interest in farmers’ and toilers’ physical well being. They get enough exercise just engaging in their agriculture, so for whom are these jogging lanes?

Sharply contrasting persons

As apposite to the former two, are superb Sri Lankans up front and active and giving of their expertise, albeit unobtrusively. Consider the medical men and women and their service to contain the pandemic; farmers who protest to ensure harvests are not damaged too severely by false prophets who won the day for the banning of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides. The latest blow and justification of what so very many agriculturists, agrochemists, have been saying all along – organic is good but to be introduced very slowly; without importing compost from overseas, is the Chinese import containing evil microorganisms. Experts have categorically stated that chemical fertilisers are sorely needed for all agriculture; more so paddy and tea; and if used prudently cause no illness to humans or injurious side effects.

The four experts who comprised the panel at the MTV I Face the Nation discussion monitored by Shameer Rasooldeen on Monday September 20, agreed totally on these two facts and went on to say that it must be admitted a hasty decision was taken to stop import of chemical fertilizers. We listened to the considered wise opinions backed by true expertise of vibrantly attractive and articulate Dr Warshi Dandeniya – soil scientist, of Prof Saman Seneweera from the University of Melbourne, Prof Buddhi Marambe – crop scientist, and Dr Roshan Rajadurai – media person of the Planters Association. Listening to them, Cass swelled with pride and told herself see what sincerely-interested-in-the-country’s welfare eminent scientists we have in this land of rowdy politicians and uneducated MPs. They labeled the sudden banning of chemical fertilisers and insecticides and pesticides as “very dangerous and causing irreversible harm. It is not too late to reverse the decision, even if admitting fault is not possible.”

Garlic

Oh dear! The stench! Never ending series of scams; executed or approved by politicians and all for illicit gains. Even the tragedy of the pandemic and suffering of much of the population does not seem to have curbed selfish lust for money.

Focus on the Mahaweli Ganga

Interesting and deserving of thanks. Chanaka Wickramasuriya wrote two excellent articles in the Sunday Islands of September 12 and 19 on the Mahaweli Ganga, imparting invaluable facts of the present river and its history, as for example which king built which wewa or anicut. He ended his second article by hoping the waters of the great river will feed the north of the island too: “Maybe then this island will be finally uplifted. Not just from north to south, but across class and caste, language and philosophy, and political partisanship. Hopefully driven by a newfound sanity among its denizens, yet symbolically attested to by the waters of the Mahaweli.”

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