by Kumar David
When we wish to laugh at ourselves, we say “Sixty-nine lakhs of us voted for Gota three years ago, now ninety-six lakhs of us are chanting Go Gota Go!” The President, his goofy Viyathmaga advisors and his cabal of ex-military hangers-on have in three short years scored more own-goals than Muralitharan took wickets in his whole career. Still Gotabaya hangs on by his bleeding fingernails while the country erupts and rots. Another confusing thing is why did the JVP declare its innings closed even before batting?
Mahinda’s broadcast of April 11 confirms a decision has been made to fight to the finish. No resignation of Presidents or Prime Ministers, no talk of restructuring, no mention of quick elections, but chilling reminders of the heroic deeds of the military. He all but said: The Rajapaksas are Lanka’s symbol of power; we shall rule! The references to the military were chilling. Do protest leaders remember the White Flag Incident? Is this what awaits them? Have thousands of chanting youth forgotten the 60,000 who perished in 1989-90 and the LTTE “boys”? Either protests and “Gota Go!”, now extended to “Mahinda also Go!”, spreads to every town and corner the country, or this regime will repeat all this. The rumour mill is running overtime: Galle Face will be cleared by force (or ignored till the protesters quit, overcome by fatigue); rabble rousers and yellow-robed rascals will descend upon the protesters; provocateurs will dig deep, etc.
The Rajapaksa Clan is power-hungry to a degree that no previous ruling circle has been. But it is also said that Gota is fed up, knows he is despised, knows that an attempt at a military putsch will engender a mass backlash and that petrol-stations in sunny California beckon! From time to time there have been signals that he was inclined to throw in the towel and call it quits. Is it the choice between greed for power and peace of mind that he is unable to make? Does he fear that if unseated, he will be brought to book in domestic and international courts for mismanagement, abuse of power and crimes against humanity?
I think neither. Me thinks the problem lies elsewhere. If Gota falls, the Clan will cry out “Oh what a fall that is dear Clansmen, brother-officers, assorted crooks, friends and bungling imports from California. You and I and all us will fall”. (Mark Anthony won’t mind poetic licence in the service of this island nation). Yes, that’s the truth, too many crooks and knaves have been appointed as ambassadors, corporate chairmen, board members and asinine Central Bank bosses; too many Ministers and government MPs are ready-marinated for roasting in the bribery courts. That’s my reading; Gota cannot cut and run though it is as stark, staring clear as the noonday sun that he is despised and the people want him to “Go Gota Go!”
Where will this end? The end result will be that Gota is forced out this way or that; all he can do is prolong the misery and wound the country by delaying the inevitable. There is speculation that $1.5 billion in an Indian line of credit, repayment deferrals of Chinese debt and IMF mediated restructuring in international capital markets after the default will buy time to sooth the body politic and put up a show for the next election. SLPP, forget the next election! Even pacifying mass unrest is impossible. Forecasting elections is a fire that has singed everyone’s fingers but some edifices are too high to scale. Whether the Rajapaksa-rump plus SLPP will garner five, 15, or 25 parliamentary seats I will not speculate, but that this corrupt, financially bust, default-tainted Administration will be routed at the election is beyond doubt.
Thanks to India I can foresee diesel, petrol and cooking-gas shortages easing, I can see imported onions and dhal reappearing in grocery stores, but even a best-case scenario is inadequate to sooth the nerves of infuriated masses. Call our people foolish voters, but exasperated fools can’t be soothed. I can’t see the ‘Go Gota Go!’ chant subsiding till it achieves its ends. I can’t see how Gota can hang-on, bleeding finger nails and torn pyjamas as hungry crocodiles look up from the bottom of the cliff – do crocodiles smack their lips? Come on Mr President, do yourself a favour; cut and run before the night turns inky black. Unlike brother Bacillus you are not accused of personal corruption or 10% kickbacks. Only the Clan, Ministers and MPs are so accused, so why not hook it before your name too gets tarnished in this inky black?
Then there’s this conundrum about presidential elections. Ideally the Executive Presidency (EP) should be abolished without trace but what are the stages? That is the question. Sajith hankers for the presidency but it seems he will settle for the residual offerings of the 19th Amendment – that is repeal of the authoritarian 20th Amendment only. It is premature to predict how balances of power is likely to pan out after Gota bolts, but it sure is the best time to set in motion constitutional processes to bring about an irreversible repeal of EP.
There is little I have said so far that you have not worked out for yourself already though I have I hope emitted less words than writers prone to verbal obesity and column-inch inflation. Nevertheless, none has explored the curious behaviour of the JVP-NPP. Non-political friends make comments like “Curious”, “Difficult to understand”, “They don’t want to participate in anything not organised and led by them”, “Sectarians” and worse. First and most important, this outburst took the JVP 110% by surprise. The comrades were sound asleep when someone woke them and said ‘look out of the window, thousands are on the street marching against the government’. The comrades awoke, rubbed their eyes and exclaimed: “Vipleve patang arangthe? Aiyo aparade; ai kawruth apata kiuve naththe?” Ok, ok, I’m having a little fun as otherwise this piece is as heavy as a leaden cannon.
To be fair there are reasons why JVP-NPP banners and flags are not seen in the demonstrations. These events are organised via social-media networks and party logos are unwelcome. Still several NPP artists, students and academics participated. The organisers, for reasons best known to themselves, wish events to be non-party, not multi-party. The JVP-NPP has started organising events at town centres almost every day and will hold a three-day Pada Yatra from Kalutara to Kandy from 17-19th. Indeed, there will soon be many groups protesting; they need to be cooperative not confrontational. Best and most productive is all-sector, all-party mobilisation and a general strike; but this idea is too complex for the JVP and unfortunately even some in the NPP to grasp just yet. Actually, I am aghast at NPP-JVP standoffishness; it is critiqued by many as sabotage (kada-kappal vada) but neither do the middleclass organisers of the protests have adequate contacts and skills to draw in all political parties, all social complexions, trade unions and farmers? Lanka is battling for democracy; everyone must be there. The People’s Movement has to spread to every class and corner of the country to become ever more broad-based.
The JVP is confused because this People’s Movement is not a Mass-Movement of the type the left is familiar with. It is multi class, ethnic and religious. Artists, sportsmen, singers and writers have thrown in their weight. It is led by energised intellectuals, the liberal middle-class and ‘new’ youth – not militant workers, peasants and radical parties – and the objective is change of government not transformation of the state. These two videos illustrate its broad people-oriented rather than left-oriented nature.
This brings me to a crucial issue that the JVP needs to fret over. The reason it was astonished by the spontaneous people’s march was that initiative and leadership was and remains in the hands of the middle-class. Fine, no problem, whoever makes a start and gets things going, hats off to them. What I am attempting to say however is something else. The JVP has inadequate roots in the local middle classes and none among global left elites. It is a representative of the peeditha-panthiya alone. I have had bitter feedback from students, sons and daughters of small shop-keepers in the South, school teachers all over and of course Colombo intellectuals: “These JVP people have no use for us, we don’t know a single leader personally!” This is utterly different from the LSSP and CP of years gone by. Maybe the JVP scoffs at this snotty intelligentsia but it will never win a national election or administer the country unless it reaches into, wins over and establishes itself in the modern middle class and among 21st century intellectuals. It does not have one single NM, Colvin, Pieter, polished and prefect Bernard, Doric or Hector. Look guys, if you are serious about governing, you’d better understand your lacunae and fill the gaps.
I have grumbled ever so often that the JVP needs to accommodate modern intellectuals in its leadership structure which is now dominated by its peeditha-panthiya bread and butter core. My pleas have fallen on deaf ears; it’s not going to happen. This means we have to go about it another way. The NPP has to become the hub that sets the line and the JVP an associated partner. If Mohamed is incapable of climbing any mountain then the mountain had better put Mohamed in second place. I have often said that chaps like Prof Vijaya Kumar, Dr Harini Amarasuriya, Mr Lal Wijenayake, Dr Michael Fernando and many such others should play a decision-making role. Outside and inside the NPP the counry is studded with plenty of 21st century left-intellectual talent. Let the JVP do its job and bring up the shock-troops, but let strategic and economic thinking be broader based. I am aware that I have not included social-democrat economists in this name list, but such gaps are easy to fill. Bah! Engineers, economists, agronomists, medicos are but useful sounding boards.
The point is this. In fast approaching post-Gotabaya Sri Lanka only two political entities stand out, NPP-JVP and Sajith-SJB. The rest is barren wilderness; Ranil and Pissu Sira will hitch themselves to some star and the SLPP-Rajapaksa rump cannot win an election. The strength of the SJB is that it has liberals, neo-liberal Thatcherites (Thatcher was a man!), Royal-Thomian types and posh English speakers. You can sneer at this lot of second-rate intellectuals but in the corridors of power at home and abroad you have to match them and wipe the floor with them. The peeditha-panthiya is grassroots; ok, but the NPP-JVP also needs its Colvins and its Bernards. The comrades may not get the point yet, but no worry, they will, they will.
Glimmers of hope?
Some of Cassandra’s readers may ask whether she is out of her right mind to see glimmers of hope for the country. She assures them she is as sane as can be; she does cling onto these straws like the dying man does. How else exist? How else get through these dire times?
What are the straws she clings to? News items in The Island of Tuesday 24 May.
‘Sirisena leaves Paget Road mansion in accordance with SC interim injunction.’ And who was instrumental in righting this wrong? The CPA and its Executive Director Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. It is hoped that revisions to the system will come in such as giving luxury housing and other extravagant perks to ex-presidents and their widows. Sri Lanka has always lived far beyond its means in the golden handshakes to its ex- prezs and also perks given its MPs. At least luxury vehicles should not be given them. Pensions after five years in Parliament should be scrapped forthwith.
‘Letter of demand sent to IGP seeking legal action against DIG Nilantha Jayawardena.’ Here the mover is The Centre for Society and Religion and it is with regard to the Easter Sunday massacre which could have been prevented if DIG Jayawardena as Head of State Intelligence had taken necessary action once intelligence messages warned of attack on churches.
‘CIABOC to indict Johnston, Keheliya and Rohitha’. It is fervently hoped that this will not be another charge that blows away with the wind. They do not have their strongest supporter – Mahinda R to save them. We so fervently hope the two in power now will let things happened justly, according to the law of the land.
‘Foreign Secy Admiral Colombage replaced’. And by whom? A career diplomat who has every right and qualification for the post; namely Aruni Wijewardane. If this indicates a fading of the prominence given to retired armed forces personnel in public life and administration, it is an excellent sign. Admiral Colombage had tendered his resignation, noted Wednesday’s newspaper.
‘Crisis caused by decades of misuse public resources, corruption, kleptocracy – TISL’.
Everyone knew this, even the despicable thieves and kleptocrats. The glaring question is why no concerted effort was made to stop the thieving from a country drawn to bankruptcy by politicians and admin officers. There are many answers to that question. It was groups, mostly of the middle class who came out first in candle lit vigils and then at the Gotagogama Village. The aragalaya has to go down in history as the savior of our nation from a curse worse than war. The civil war was won against many odds. But trying to defeat deceit power-hunger and thieving was near impossible. These protestors stuck their necks out and managed to rid from power most of the Rajapaksa family. That was achievement enough.
Heartfelt hope of the many
The newly appointed Cabinet Ministers leaves Cass un-uplifted. She need not elaborate. She wishes fervently that Dr Harsha de Silva will leave party loyalty aside and consider the country. Usually, it’s asking politicians to cast aside self interest, which very rarely is done in the political culture that came to be after the 1970s. Thus, it is very unusual, completely out of the ordinary to appeal to Dr Harsha to forego party loyalty and do the very needful for the country by accepting the still vacant post of Minister of Finance. We are very sorry Eran W too has kept himself away. As Shamindra Ferdinando writes in the newspaper mentioned, “Well informed sources said that Premier Wickremesinghe was still making efforts to win over some more Opposition members. Sources speculated that vital finance portfolio remained vacant as the government still believed (hoped Cass says) Dr Harsha de Silva could somehow be convinced to accept that portfolio.”
Still utterly hopeless
Gas is still unavailable for people like Cass who cannot stand in queues, first to get a token and then a cylinder. Will life never return to no queues for bare essentials? A woman friend was in a petrol queue for a solid twelve hours – from 4 am to 4 pm. This is just one of million people all over the country in queues. Even a common pressure pill was not available in 20 mg per.
Cassandra considers a hope. We saw hundreds of Sri Lankans all across the globe peacefully protesting for departure of thieves from the government. The ex-PM, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s answer to this was to unleash absolute terror on all of the island. It seems to be that with Johnson a younger MP stood commandingly.
Returning from that horror thought to the protesters overseas, Cass wondered if each of them contributed one hundred dollars to their mother country, it would go a long way to soften the blows we are battered with. Of course, the absolute imperative is that of the money, not a cent goes into personal pockets. The donors must be assured it goes to safety. Is that still not possible: assuring that donations are used for the purpose they are sent for: to alleviate the situation of Sri Lankans? I suppose the memory of tsunami funds going into the Helping Hambantota Fund is still fresh in memory. So much for our beloved country.
Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis
By Prof. Rohan Rajapakse
(Emeritus Professor of Agriculture Biology UNIVERSITY OF RUHUNA and Former Executive Director Sri Lanka Council of Agriculture Research Policy)
There are two aspects of the ban on agrochemicals. The first is the ban on chemical fertilisers, and the second is the ban on the use of pesticides. Several eminent scientists, Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (formerly the Soil Scientist of RRI), Prof OA Ileperuma (Former Professor of Chemistry University of Peradeniya), Prof C. S. Weeraratne (former Professor of Agronomy University of Ruhuna), Prof D. M. de Costa University of Peradeniya, Prof. Buddhi Marambe (Professor in Weed Science University of Peradeniya) have effectively dealt with the repercussion of the ban on chemical fertilisers which appeared in The Island newspaper on recently.
The major points summarised by these authors are listed below.
1. These scientists, including the author, are of the view that the President’s decision to totally shift to organic agriculture from conventional could lead to widespread hunger and starvation in future, which has become a reality. Organic farming is a small phenomenon in global agriculture, comprising a mere 1.5% of total farmlands, of which 66% are pasture.
2. Conventional farming (CF) is blamed for environmental pollution; however, in organic farming, heavy metal pollution and the release of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases from farmyard manure, are serious pollution issues with organic farming that have been identified.
3. On the other hand, the greatest benefit of organic fertilisers as against chemical fertilisers is the improvement of soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties by the former, which is important for sustained crop productivity. The best option is to use appropriate combinations of organic and chemical fertilisers, which can also provide exacting nutrient demands of crops and still is the best option!
4. Sri Lanka has achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the efforts of the Research Officers of the Department of Agriculture, and all these efforts will be in vain if we abruptly ban the import of fertiliser. These varieties are bred primarily on their fertiliser response. While compost has some positive effects such as improving soil texture and providing some micronutrients, it cannot be used as a substitute for fertiliser needed by high yielding varieties of rice. Applying organic fertilisers alone will not help replenish the nutrients absorbed by a crop. Organic fertilisers have relatively small amounts of the nutrients that plants need. For example, compost has only 2% nitrogen (N), whereas urea has 46% N. Banning the import of inorganic fertilisers will be disastrous, as not applying adequate amounts of nutrients will cause yields to drop, making it essential to increase food imports. Sri Lankan farmers at present are at the mercy of five organizations, namely the Central Department of Agriculture, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture, the Private sector Pesticide Companies, the Non-Government organizations and the leading farmers who are advising them. Instead, improved agricultural extension services to promote alternative non-chemical methods of pest control and especially the use of Integrated Pest Management.
Locally, pest control depends mostly on the use of synthetic pesticides; ready to use products that can be easily procured from local vendors are applied when and where required Abuse and misapplication of pesticides is a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Even though many farmers are aware of the detrimental aspects of pesticides they often use them due to economic gains
We will look at the post scenario of
what has happened
1. The importation of Chemical fertilisers and Pesticides was banned at the beginning of Maha season 1 on the advice of several organic manure (OM) promoters by the Ministry of agriculture.
2. The Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the farmers to use organic manure, and an island-wide programme of producing Organic manure were initiated. IT took some time for the government to realize that Sri Lanka does not have the capacity to produce such a massive amount of OM, running into 10 tons per hectare for 500000 hectares ear marked in ma ha season.
3. Hence the government approved the importation of OM from abroad, and a Company in China was given an initial contract to produce OM produced from Seaweed. However, the scientists from University of Peradeniya detected harmful microorganisms in this initial consignment, and the ship was forced to leave Sri Lankan waters at a cost of US dollar 6.7 million without unloading its poisonous cargo. No substitute fertiliser consignment was available.
4. A committee in the Ministry hastily recommended to import NANO RAJA an artificial compound from India to increase the yield by spraying on to leaves. Sri Lanka lost Rs 863 million as farmers threw all these Nano Raja bottles and can as it attracts dogs and wild boar.
Since there is no other option the Ministry promised to pay Rs 50000 per hectare for all the farmers who lost their livelihood. It is not known how much the country lost due to this illogical decision of banning fertilisers and pesticides.
1. Judicious use of pesticides is recommended.
2. The promotion and the use of integrated pest management techniques whenever possible
3. To minimize the usage of pesticides:
Pesticide traders would be permitted to sell pesticides only through specially trained Technical Assistants.
Issuing pesticides to the farmers for which they have to produce some kind of a written recommendation by a local authority.
Introduction of new mechanism to dispose or recycle empty pesticide and weedicide bottles in collaboration with the Environment Ministry.
Laboratory-testing of imported pesticides by the Registrar of Pesticides at the entry-point to ensure that banned chemicals were not brought into the country.
Implementation of trained core of people who can apply pesticides.
Education campaigns to train farmers, retailers, distributors, and public with the adverse effects of pesticides.
Maximum Residue Level (MRL) to reduce the consumer’s risk of exposure to unsafe levels.
Integrated pest Management and organic agriculture to be promoted.
1. To ensure the proper usage of agrochemicals by farmers
All those who advised the Minister of Agriculture and the President to shift to OM still wield authority in national food production effort. The genuine scientists who predicted the outcome are still harassed sacked from positions they held in MA and were labelled as private sector goons. The danger lies if the farmers decide not to cultivate in this Maha season due to non-availability of fertilisers and pesticides the result will be an imminent famine.
The country also should have a professional body like the Planning Commission of
India, with high calibre professionals in the Universities and the Departments and
There should be institutions and experts to advise the government on national policy matters.
Thomians triumph in Sydney
Nothing is happening for us, at this end, other than queues, queues, and more queues! There’s very little to shout about were the sports and entertainment scenes are concerned. However, Down Under, the going seems good.
Sri Lankans, especially in Melbourne, Australia, have quite a lot of happenings to check out, and they all seem to be having a jolly good time!
who puts pen to paper to keep Sri Lankans informed of the events in Melbourne, was in Sydney, to taken in the scene at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition. And, this is Trevine’s report:
The weather Gods and S.Thomas aligned, in Sydney, to provide the unexpected at the Sri Lanka Schools Sevens Touch Rugby competition, graced by an appreciative crowd.
Inclement weather was forecast for the day, and a well drilled Dharmaraja College was expected to go back-to-back at this now emerging competition in Sydney’s Sri Lanka expatriate sporting calendar.
But the unforeseen was delivered, with sunny conditions throughout, and the Thomians provided the upset of the competition when they stunned the favourites, Dharmaraja, in the final, to grab the Peninsula Motor Group Trophy.
Still in its infancy, the Sevens Touch Competition, drawn on the lines of Rugby League rules, found new flair and more enthusiasm among its growing number of fans, through the injection of players from around Australia, opposed to the initial tournament which was restricted to mainly Sydneysiders.
A carnival like atmosphere prevailed throughout the day’s competition.
Ten teams pitted themselves in a round robin system, in two groups, and the top four sides then progressed to the semi-finals, on a knock out basis, to find the winner.
A food stall gave fans the opportunity to keep themselves fed and hydrated while the teams provided the thrills of a highly competitive and skilled tournament.
The rugby dished out was fiercely contested, with teams such as Trinity, Royal and St. Peter’s very much in the fray but failing to qualify after narrow losses on a day of unpredictability.
Issipathana and Wesley were the other semi-finalists with the Pathanians grabbing third place in the play-off before the final.
The final was a tense encounter between last year’s finalists Dharmaraja College and S.Thomas. Form suggested that the Rajans were on track for successive wins in as many attempts. But the Thomians had other ideas.
The fluent Rajans, with deft handling skills and evasive running, looked the goods, but found the Thomian defence impregnable. Things were tied until the final minutes when the Thomians sealed the result with an intercept try and hung on to claim the unthinkable.
It was perhaps the price for complacency on the Rajans part that cost them the game and a lesson that it is never over until the final whistle.
Peninsula Motor Group, headed by successful businessman Dilip Kumar, was the main sponsor of the event, providing playing gear to all the teams, and prize money to the winners and runners-up.
The plan for the future is to make this event more attractive and better structured, according to the organisers, headed by Deeptha Perera, whose vision was behind the success of this episode.
In a bid to increase interest, an over 40’s tournament, preceded the main event, and it was as interesting as the younger version.
Ceylon Touch Rugby, a mixed team from Melbourne, won the over 40 competition, beating Royal College in the final.
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