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Remembering Batty Weerakoon

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The first anniversary of the passing away of Richard (Batty) Weerakoon, who was Batty to all those who came to know him, falls on October 7th. He had a varied career as a political activist who rose to the position of the General Secretary of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, lawyer who rose to the position of one of the leading lawyers of our time and creative writer with a collection of serious writings to his credit He studied at Trinity College, Kandy, and was a contemporary of Lakshman Kadiragamar, who was a life-long friend of his. He entered the University of Ceylon, in 1952, and there he was elected as the President of the Student’s Council in 1955. He read English under Prof. Ludowyke at Peradeniya. He was committed to left politics and well-known for leading the University students on the historic March from the Peradeniya campus on Harthal day in August 1953; it ended in a clash with the police at the entrance to the university. He was Minister of Science and Technology and Minister of Justice and Ethnic Affairs in the Chandrika Kumaratunge Cabinet.

The biggest achievement he was proud of was to have successfully led the Ceylon Federation of Labour, which was the largest Trade Union Federation at the height of Trade Unionism in our country for long years

Batty, born on the 20th of January 1932, at Mathale to a well-known respected Kandyan family in Tenne with a conservative background took to left politics at a very young age, and this shows how attractive and respected the left movement was at that time. After he left the university he joined the LSSP and was closely associated with left stalwarts of the time like NM, Colvin, Leslie, Doric de Sousa and Bernard Soysa. In fact, he served for sometime as Private Secretary to NM when the latter was the leader of the Opposition in the 1956 Parliament. He passed out as an Advocate of the Supreme Court and had the privilege of studying under Colvin R de Silva, and this opened up his life to professional greatness. But Batty was essentially a left activist. As Minister of Science and Technology he fought against the sale of Eppawala Phosphate Deposit to foreigners and campaigned the protection of natural resources and the environment.

His Prof. G. F C. Ludowyke memorial lecture in May 2003 at the Peradeniya University stunned many academics at his incisive understanding of English Literature. He specially mentioned with deep gratitude that it was Prof. Ludowyk in his first year helped him discover in himself the talent to write imaginatively. He remembered with joy the occasion when he was offered by Prof. Ludowyk the prize to the student who could best turnout a story and how that prize had introduced him to the pleasing engagement to story writing. In spite of his busy life as a left activist, trade unionist and lawyer, story writing he did and published several well studied books such as ‘Sinhala Jathaka Stories ‘(1974), ‘Sri Lanka Mythology’ (1985), ‘Mythology and the Early Aryan State ‘(1998), ‘Elephant Kraal and Other Stories ‘(1990), ‘Alexander Solzhenitsyn – Soldier, Prisoner and writer ‘ (1072), ‘ Kusumasana Devi as Dona Cathrina of Three Sinhale.’ (2013). He also authored a book, “Sri Lankan Labour Legislation.”

Batty put out numerous booklets on political issues relevant to the time . These are available for reference at the Dr. N. M. Perera Memorial Library.

His deep insight into Sri Lanka’s mythology is evident in the dedication of his book on the subject to his grandfather; he says, “My paternal grandfather, born in Aluwihara, bought to me a representative of the last generation on which the old traditions had as yet been relevant, Bernard Soysa, having looked at the book, told me that I have written about my ancestors meaning the Yaksas. That I think is a relevant comment because one can regard the Yaksas as a people who passed on to us a large part -if not all of our indigenous mythology. In cultures that is transfered downwards done by ancestors who in the Vedda language are called Nae-Yakas. Theravada Buddhism did not seek to incorporate it unlike what Hinduism did to the Mythologies especially of the Indian peninsula. Our Mythology was thus preserved in tact for us. It is the language of a people and I found that it was there for me.”

One salient feature of Batty’s illustrious life that touched me was that he did not go after cheap popularity. He stood by principles even at the most adverse circumstances. When I met him in his last days when he was bedridden I saw that his main concern was about the deteriorating political situation in the country and in no uncertain terms expressed his dismay at the politics of today and the plight of the underprivileged and the working class for whose rights he had fought throughout his life.

He was a Buddhist in his way of life and his philosophy of life. May he attain Nirvana!

Lal Wijenayake



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Opinion

Effort by All Ceylon Buddhist Congress to help govt. of Sri Lanka escape from dollar trap

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By DR L M K Tillekeratne

Chairman of the National Development Committee of the ACBC

It is a well-known fact that one the problems faced by Sri Lanka today is caused mainly by shortage of electricity for domestic purposes and industries. Three decades ago, only 20 % of houses had electricity for lighting. But, today over 95 % of houses in the whole country have electricity. Total electric power the country needs is about 2,750 MW a day. In order to generate 65% of it by using diesel and coal, the cost involved now is tremendous and that is the main reason for the creation of dollar shortage in the country. Besides, when Russia’s invasion in Ukraine six months ago equally attributed to the fuel shortage in the whole world thus creating enormous social and economic impacts, and petroleum prices in the Sri Lankan market increased by over 300%, which is bound to increase further at an alarming pace.However, while having enough bright sunlight all over Sri Lanka throughout the year to generate solar power and enough wind power particularly in areas like Mannar and Puttlam districts, only 40% of our electricity requirements are supplied by non-conventional renewable energy, while 65% of the balance need is produced by burning imported fuel oil and coal at a cost of Rs 80 to 100 per unit, thereby subjecting the environment of the country to a great threat by increasing the level of Green House gases to our atmosphere. Further, this conversion of generating electricity by burning oil and coal thereby lowering the liberation of Green House gases to the atmosphere will enable Sri Lanka to earn huge amount of Dollars by trading Carbon.

According to energy experts, it is expected to reduce this 65% of the energy requirement by burning fuel oil and coal down to 40% thus using more renewable energy by year 2030, thereby lowering the cost of producing a unit of electricity to about Rs 35.00.

Surprisingly, according to hydro power generating experts, there are over 400 streams and small waterfalls distributed all over the country without exploiting yet for setting up of mini hydro power generators. If these over 400 water sources are converted to hydro power generators producing not less than 1000 mega Watts of power are started, and by converting the wind power and solar power available in unlimited quantities, Sri Lankans can earn more foreign exchange by selling the extra electric power available to neighboring countries.

Hence, at present most of the dollars available are spent for importing diesel and coal to the tune of USD 6,000 million per annum. It should be mentioned here that out of this USD 6000 million, about 4,500 million is used for transport leaving a balance of USD 1,500 million to import fuel oil for power generation. According to energy experts, USD 1,500 million could easily be saved here for the other priority areas of the country, if mini hydro power generators are set up in those streams which are idling now. However, sadly no payments have been made for the power generated and supplied to the national grid by the few existing mini hydro power plants; they have supplied power to the tune of over Rs 20 billion for several months and hence some of them have been compelled to close their power plants.

Based on this objective, the ACBC, the premier Buddhist and Social organization in the country realized the need to create awareness of the options available and organized an exhibition of inventions last week on generating power utilizing those three natural sources and to display the public as to how they could conserve scarcely available electricity thereby saving extra money spent for generating power wasted due to lack of knowledge.

This event was not merely organized as an exhibition but to showcase the new inventions to the public, but as a workshop for the interested water source owners to select the appropriate invention suit to them best according to the conditions available in his source of water/ solar power/ or wind. Once the prospective investor identifies the suitable invention ideally needed to his needs, the power expert committee of the ACBC is planning to provide them with every technical support they need to do the feasibility study and even to the level of selecting machines etc. up to the level of setting up the complete power station. Further, the Bank of Ceylon has already agreed to provide them with a soft loan of Rs 3 million at 16% interest rate for setting up of the power unit.

It should be mentioned here with appreciation that the Ministry of Power and Energy has already decided to pay Rs 35 per unit of renewable energy produced from the 17.39 paid previously and also to pay all the back accumulated payments due to power generators. ACBC takes an innocent pride to place on record that the power generation project designed and launched by the expert panel members of the ACBC consists of renowned scientists and engineers who have earned distinctive reputation in their respective disciplines. This particular project perhaps is one of the key projects engineered by the ACBC in its proudest history of over 100 years with a view to finding solutions to the macro-economic issues whilst enhancing income generation at the peripheral level so that it would provide a helping hand to reduce the poverty level of the country.

With these important decisions taken by the government to encourage renewable energy production in all unexploited natural energy sources, it is not a difficult task to generate nearly 1000 MW of power within the next two to three years. Minimizing energy wastes by households and industries through the educational campaign initiate by the ACBC recently, another sizable saving of electrical energy saving could be achieved. Hence, the Development committee of the ACBC is optimistic in saving substantial portion of the dollars spent on Oil and Coal imports thereby making savings available in the country to help Sri Lanka to be the Wonder of Asia by year 2050.

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Opinion

Are Murunga and Katurumuringa leaves toxic?

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Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha

In an article titled ‘Throw more light on green foods’ that appeared in the Island of the 20th instant, Mr Gamini Peiris reports about an eminent doctor’s warning to his friend, who told the doctor that he regularly ate Katurumuringa or Sesbania grandiflora (Sg) leaves thrice a week, to stop eating it as it is toxic and so are Murunga(Drumstick) leaves! My family also eat Sg leaves once or twice a week, and hence sought information on the ‘toxicities’ of both species.

Both leaves and flowers of Sg are very commonly eaten. It is a common leguminous tree that grows to a height of about 6-8 meters, fixes nitrogen and native to South East Asia and Northern Australia. The leaves are commonly eaten in all growing countries and are reported to contain 25 to 30% crude protein. For this reason it is also widely used as a fodder for both cattle and goats, especially in India. Goat milk yield is reported to have increased by 25% with Sg leaf feeding. There is no evidence of leaf or flower material being toxic to humans and animals.

Muringa indica or Drumstick is native to parts of Africa and Asia. It is also cultivated in Central and South America, the Caribbean and South East Asia. India is reported to produce 1.2 million tons of pods per year from an area of 380 square kilometers. There are no reports of pods or leaves being toxic. Toxicity to humans being limited to certain compounds ( extracts) from the bark and roots, which are used in Aurvedic and other native medicines in addition to leaves and flowers. Both the pods and foliage are widely consumed in all countries where the crop is grown. For long term storage, dried leaves are powdered for preservation and are commonly added to sups sauces and smoothies. The leaves are rich in Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5 , B6 and C. In Sri Lanka, the crop thrives in the dry and semi-arid areas, and Jaffna Peninsula is the largest producer of the crop.

The good specialist doctor should do well to know that in general there are toxic compounds in most fruits and vegetables we eat! For example, all solanacious plants such as tomatoes, brinjals and potatoes contain natural toxins, solanines and chaconines which are glycol-alkaloids but in low concentrations. These toxins are usually produced in response to stresses such as bruising, UV light, insect and other pest attacks. Wild mushrooms which are widely eaten especially by inhabitants in the growing regions, contain several toxins such as muscimol and muscarine which are reported to cause vomiting diarrhea, visual disturbances and hallucinations. Kernels within the pits of some stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums and cherries contain cynogenic glucoside which can be converted to hydrogen cyanide, when consumed, which is highly poisonous. This toxin is also found in cassava(manioc) root and fresh bamboo shoots, necessitating that they are cooked before consumption.

The good specialist doctor should do well to remember the wise words of Bombastus Paracelsus(1591 – 1643), the father of the science of pharmacology, that ‘all substances are poisonous, there is none which is not and it is the dosage that differentiates poison and remedy’. Even water can be potentially fatal if too much is drunk (hyperhydration). So eat or drink anything in moderation!

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Opinion

PERFECTION…their keyword

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Apple Green-DYNASTY: Active in Southern California

The name Apple Green would certainly ring a bell to those music lovers who were very much active in the local music scene, in the eighties.

Their music was appreciated and they were true professionals in whatever they did…always looking for perfection.

Apple Green, led by Rohan Mendis, was there in a big way, at The Island Music Awards 1987, held at the Bougainvillea ballroom, of the Le Galadari Meriden Hotel, in Colombo, and they won the prestigious award for ‘Outstanding Music Group.’

I remember how the members of Apple Green leapt up from their chairs, that particular night, when the band’s name was announced!

Yes, those were the days, but the good news is that two of the band members, Rohan Mendis and his brother, Jehan, are still very much into music and are performing, on a regular basis, in the States – Southern California – where they now reside.

They operate as a four-piece band, along with Shehan Jayah and Mithuru Cabral, under the banner Apple Green-DYNASTY – keeping the name Apple Green alive in that part of the world, as well.

Says Rohan: “In 2019, an elite quartet of musicians, bringing experience and raw talent, came together, in Southern California, to bring a perfect blend of music, covering all genres.

“This was, initially, to fill the void that was missing in our circles of music loving fans, and partygoers, and, since then, our popularity has soared at a rate that exceeded our expectations!

“Our music loving fans, with a penchant for finer points in quality music, and repertoire, have made us our own critics, pushing us to perfection, leaving nothing for chance. Our goal is to go above and beyond for ourselves and our fans.”

And the lineup is as follows:

Rohan Mendis: Was at the helm of Apple Green

Rohan Mendis (Roh)-

A pro-musician for over 30 years, Rohan was the leader of the famed band Apple Green, before migrating to Los Angeles. A bass player, composer, solo performer and vocalist, and plays all instruments, he is also an accomplished recording tech, with the ability to perfectly balance the “old and the new,” through all music ages and genres.

Jehan Mendis (Rob)

– Another pro-musician, who, along with his brother Rohan, was a founder member of Apple Green. A versatile drummer/singer, he also handles the audio/sound responsibilities for the band.

Shehan (Shay) Jayah

– A very talented guitar player, with an amazing singing ability, his range is seemingly endless, says Rohan, adding that Shehan has loads of energy and the ability to keep all “laughing” – a fun guy to be around. He is the son of Sherwin Jayah, who was a frontline singer in Sri Lanka, and in the USA, as well.

Mithuru (Mitt) Cabral

– Super, cool as a cucumber guy, says Rohan, describing him as an excellent keyboard player, gifted in every sense. Reliable and “oozing” with talent, he is another multi-instrumentalist, blessed with perfect pitch! He is, by the way, the son of popular musician Mano Cabral.

Apple Green-DYNASTY will be performing at the prestigious St. Peter’s College Centinnial Ball, in New Jersey, on December 3rd, 2022.

“We are looking forward to this event and would love to see all our East Coast fans and Peterites in attendance,’ says Rohan Mendis, adding that he would keep music lovers posted “on our developments and projects on the new VLOG that I will launch soon.”

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