By Gunadasa Amarasekera
The reason for the SLFP leaders to celebrate its 70th birth Anniversary, I believe was promoted by a desire to make a comeback out of the depths to which it has sunk in recent times. Despite the desire to come back, has it the vitality, the elan left to do so? This is a question to be asked not only by the SLFPers themselves, but by the vast majority that happens to be the children of ’56 and also by all those who are interested in the well- being of the country-the nation. To answer this question, one needs at least a brief analysis of its genesis, its history and its past performance.
The biggest misfortune the SLFP has faced and is facing even today is its inability to identify itself, understand why it came into being. Except for a discerning few, most of the present generation including our so- called intellectuals and even those who have undertaken to lead the Party, lack this understanding.
For many, even today, it is a quirk of fate; for some elitist groups it’s the result of a demagogy spawned by a disgruntled few. Very few have addressed their minds to find an answer. GC Mendis was one among the few who sought to delve deep to seek an answer. He saw it as a lapse on the part of the main civilised political stream which allowed the barbaric tide languishing at the periphery to overtake it!
However, the die- hard SLFPers see it as nothing but the creation of its great leader-SWRD Bandaranaike – Bandaranaike with his slogan of ‘Sinhala in 24 hours’ was able to sway the masses, achieve victory and create history. Little do they realise that it is not the leaders that create history; instead it is history that creates leaders. Bandaranaike did not create a new party as such; he only delivered what was created by history, and played the role of the midwife or the obstetrician. This historical perspective has eluded those devotees of Bandaranaike.
The SLFP is a party that is different from all other parties that have emerged after Independence. The UNP was founded on the liberal ideology of the West, the Socialist parties were founded on Marxism, which once again was a product of the West. The SLFP, on the contrary, has its origins in the soil; it is rooted in the Sinhala Buddhist civilisation, which has nourished this nation over the centuries. This can be ascertained from the historical background that gave birth to this party.
After the Uva-Wellassa rebellion, the national liberation movement gave up the armed struggle and opted for a non-violent path. By then the renaissance movement initiated by Asarana Sarana Saranankara, during the Dutch period, had permeated to the rest of the country, especially to Ruhuna. It produced the intelligentsia, the educated Sangha community who were to spearhead the movement. Two great seats of learning – Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara were established by the pupils of Sarankara.it was this background that made Anagarika Dharmapala emerge by the end of the 19th century. It was he who took the message to the masses with a number of cultural movements. In his travels across the country, he realised that those villagers, the peasants, though living in poverty, had retained a civilisational consciousness inherited from a past; he also realised that this civilisational consciousness which lay dormant could be awakened in his fight against imperialist forces. By the beginning of the twentieth century the British ruler realised the threat imposed by Anagarika. The IGP said there was a likelihood of Anagarika surrounding Colombo one morning with ‘his barbaric hordes’. The rulers with the help of the comprador class and the deracinated members of the National Congress groomed by them were determined to take Anagarika off the stage, silence him and destroy his movement. They succeeded in doing so, but failed to destroy the seeds sown by him in the minds of the vast masses. Those seeds took root and flourished unnoticed with the passage of time, the nourishment needed was produced by the indigenous intelligentsia, the writers, novelists and poets of the time – sanga-veda-guru – the forces of ’56, came out of that milieu.
Except the young Bandaranaike, who had returned from UK, no other leader was aware of the silent revolution initiated by Anagarika. It was that awareness that made Bandaranaike establish the Sinhala Maha Sabha in 1934.The Sinhala Maha Sabha produced the blue print needed for the formation of the SLFP in 1951. The Sinhala Maha Sabha has suffered great injustice being labelled a chauvinistic Sinhala caucus. The truth is far from it. The SMS envisaged a political organisation that would not only look after the economic needs but also the cultural aspirations of the people who had suffered at the hands of the colonials. It addressed its mind to the unity of different communities and as a prerequisite to that unity it emphasised the need to unite the Sinhalese who were divided by political affiliations, by religion, caste and creed. It maintained that; it is only then, that other groups could be brought in as stake holders, participating in a common civilisation. This is possible when there is a non- antagonistic symbiotic relationship between these cultures and civilisations. (I think this a point that Huntington missed when he considered /assumed culture and civilization as one and the same.) This, I believe was the state of affairs in this country prior to the advent of the foreigner. This is so, even today at the village peasantry level, and this is what prompted President DB Wijetunge, a great villager himself, to make that most misunderstood statement -comparing the Sinhala nation to a tree around which the other ethnic groups should wind themselves for their survival. I believe this vision of the Sinhala Maha Sabha is more relevant today when the so -called reconciliation at the expense of the major community has failed miserably. It was a mistake on the part of Bandaranaike to have dissolved the Sinhala Maha Sabha when he joined the UNP; ironically what made Bandaranaike form the SLFP was the rejection of the proposals of the Sinhala Maha Sabha at the Madampe sessions by the UNP.
The great victory achieved by the SLFP in ’56 was not one that was anticipated by many. I don’t think that even Bandaranaike anticipated it; his close friend and founder member of the Party, Bernard Aluwihare left the party on the eve of the elections saying that he was not prepared to carry the coffin. There is a story I have heard from a reliable source that is symbolic of the situation and the quandary faced by the great leader and the nation. Bandaranaike, after a hectic election campaign had retired early to bed, the night, the election results were to be announced. He had told the family members, not to put him up; the family members though overjoyed by the results, had remained silent till the following morning. When they heard his footsteps coming down the stairs they rushed to announce the victory- Bandaranaike had stopped coming down and sat on the steps, silent, wrapped in deep thought for a long period.
I think this premature victory had its ill-effects on the party; it had the vision, but lacked the political structures, institutions, and the economic policies that were needed to translate the vision into praxis. Though it spoke of a nebulous middle path, a socialism of its own, there were no concrete plans to achieve those ends. I believe Bandaranaike had the vision, the intellect, to translate that vision. His death––a result of a conspiracy still unraveled––denied him that opportunity.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was able to implement some of the policies that were envisaged by her husband. But she had no holistic agenda. The Marxists who were with her, were partly responsible for it; they were interested not in a nationalist plan but a Marxist agenda. Some of the results were horrendous, such as taking away the lands of the locals; indiscriminate nationalisation followed by corruption, discouraging local entrepreneurship, austere measures –hal polu. miris polu and bread queues that made life impossible for the middle class, and the poor.
The situation was seized by the old fox JR to present the coalition as an adharmista evil force. What was ironical is that he was able to use the same lingo, the same terms dharmista which formed the core moral and ethical values of the SLFP. But this debacle suffered by the SLFP was temporary, it was no threat to its survival.
However, it was Chandrika Kumaratunga who assumed the leadership of the Party who was capable of thwarting) its survival.
It was Chandrika Kumaratunga who was able to destroy for the first time, the Sinhala Buddhist cultural foundation on which the SLFP was built. It was no longer the Party of the Sinhala majority-the backbone of the SLFP. It was turned into a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multireligious, multi-cultural party. Having transformed it, she was prepared to hand over North and East to Mr Prabhakaran for 10 years; invited the Norwegians to divide the country in the name of reconciliation, and was ready to execute the P-Toms together with Prabhakaran. She confessed later that the decision she made to dissolve Parliament was a mistake, which action was what allowed the war to be continued.
In all these, Chandrika Kumaratunga was ably supported by Mangala Samaraweera, with his thavalam and sudu nelum campaigns. I do not wish to believe that she extended her blessings to Samaraweera to co-sponsor the traitorous resolution by the US against our country.
The greatest harm inflicted on the SLFP was the derailing and destroying the economic policies followed by it from its inception. Though they may have not been clearly defined, they were always anti-imperialist, pro nationalist and pro socialist. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was always guided by her civilisational consciousness, she never allowed imperialist powers to exploit this country, she was fearless and bold enough to nationalise the American oil companies in spite of the threats of that super power. Her government cleared all the debts we had accumulated, JR Jayewardene reversed all this with his open economy -a euphuism for neo colonialism.
Chandrika never tried to get back to the economic policies of the SLFP, she was happy with the neo liberal policies of JRJ. Under the pretext of giving a human face, she embraced them gladly. However, what is most disappointing and damaging was that Mahinda Rajapakse who followed her als o continued with the same policies when he had the opportunity to change them.
The result of these contradictory, harmful trends, was the loss of vision, direction and loss of ideology, resulting ultimately in the loss of confidence of the people. The SLFP became a headless body-a kawandaya. No attempt was made to recover the lost head; what was attempted was to graft the heads of liberal donkeys and heads of Marxist horses, adding insult to injury. ( In my address at the Bandaranaike Commemoration I pointed this out.)
It was left to President Sirisena to complete the task and finish off the Party. He did so by doing the very opposite of what the founder of the Party did 70 years ago, by making the SLFP an appendage of the UNP, and taking it back to the folds of the UNP. The last supper (of hoppers) at the Temple Trees was followed by the crucification of the kawandaya.
This was the fate of the SLFP; the fate that awaits it today, cannot be much different.
What is really worrying is not so much the demise of the kawandaya, but its repercussions. Ranil Wickremasinghe may have thought that it was a superb strategy on his part to embrace Sirisena. He would have thought embracing Sirisena means destroying his opponent the SLFP for good. Little did he realize that it was the embrace of death, that it would kill his party as well as himself. He had ultimately secured a dishonorable grave for his grand old party after 75 years. In spite of all these repercussions, one would say that not everything is lost. The two main parties in their death throes have thrown up two saplings; the Pohottuwa and the Telephone which would carry on their mission. It would be extremely naive to believe in such a fantasy. The Pohottuwa will wither away before it blossoms, and the telephone will be dead before it answers the call.
Ultimately, we are left with a political dessert, a wasteland with no hope and nothing in sight as visualised by the poet – “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this this stony rubbish,”. All signs are there, that we are fast approaching that stage. (On the other hand the poet may be wrong where this resplendent isle of ours is concerned… that stony rubbish can produce heroes out of clowns and comedians as well as politicians to lead us.)
However, let me not end what I have to say only with this dismal picture to the children of ‘56, who had pinned their faith on this party and now feel betrayed and let down. There is no need to lose faith. The SLFP as a party may be dead, but not the ideology that gave it birth, it’s alive. It’s that ideology that made 6,900,000 of you to vote Gotabaya to power. That ideology founded on our centuries old civilisation as old as the Chinese civilisation will die only with the death of our civilisation. That it has not suffered such an untimely death is proved beyond all doubt by the victory of Gotabaya.
In 1959, three years after ’56, I wrote an article to that prestigious- now obsolete -journal Sanskrithi; I made the observation — that you the children of ’56 are the ones who would come to power and redeem this country. As you know that has not come to pass, it has remained a dream. The blame lies with you. You, living through dark times, especially after ’77, did not realise that what is needed is an enlightened dialogue, an intellectual engagement to prepare you for such a task. As a matter of fact, there had not been such a dialogue since Independence for you to get ‘connected to it’. What was there, was the despicable politics of power-hungry politicians to which you too became a prey. You thought the answer was in the barrel of the gun which wiped out a whole generation of you -that should have been a lesson to you.
I hope this present discussion on ‘the role of the children of ‘56’ would open your eyes to the need for such an intellectual engagement and an enlightened dialogue based on the civilisational ideology and the civilisational consciousness that it has generated, which you have not lost. It is only then, and then only that you can claim to seek power.
(Based on the contribution made on zoom seminar ‘On the role of the Children of 56.)
Covid-19 vaccination: Is it the proverbial ‘Silver Bullet’?
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.
Proposed Parakrama Samudraya walking path devalues ancient heritage
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.
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)
Antics of State Minister and Pohottu Mayor; mum on chemical fertiliser mistake; The Ganga – a link
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.”
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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