by The Rambler
Horagolla is well known as the location of Horagolla Walauwwa, the home of the Bandaranaike family. As the country seat of the Bandaranaikes it was brought into national prominence with the election of SWRD Bandaranaike as Prime Minister in 1956. A lesser known fact is that Horagolla was also the location of another family, perhaps much less known locally, but with an interesting history, who were the only other land owners of significance in Horagolla. They were the Bevens who owned a 250 acre coconut estate called Franklands and who were the neighbours of the Bandaranaikes in the village of Horagolla.
Local folk lore seem to suggest that the village of Horagolla came to be so named for the forest land dominated by Hora trees (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus) which grew in the area prior to it being cleared for the cultivation of coconut. It is believed that the original Horagolla Walauwwa was built nearly 200 years ago, around 1820, by SWRD’s great grandfather Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike (born in 1780) who was granted a 175 acre land by the British Government for his assistance in the construction of the Kandy Road, particularly the section between Colombo and Veyangoda. Sir James Emerson Tennent who was Colonial Treasurer of the time published his monumental two volume treatise “CEYLON” in 1859. In referring to the then existent Horagolla Walauwwa he said “the most agreeable example of the dwelling of a low country headman, with its broad verandahs, spacious rooms, and extensive offices, shaded by palm groves and fruit trees”.
According to Don Solomon’s grandson Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, the building was located on the site where his grandfather found an albino tortoise (kiri ibba) which he thought was a good omen and a suitable site to build his home. Don Solomon and his son and grandson later expanded their land holdings to cover over 3,000 acres of land some of which were maintained as hunting grounds as the area abounded in elephant, elk, and deer. The property portfolio included the Weke Group of about 900 acres of coconut, paddy, and forest land including a hunting lodge.
The wheel turned its full circle over 150 years later when the wife of Don Solomon’s great grandson SWRD Bandaranaike Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of the time in 1974, engaged in a national programme of land reform and reduced the Bandaranaike land holdings to 150 acres.
The progenitor of the Beven family in Ceylon was Drum Major Thomas Beven who arrived in Ceylon from England in the late 18th Century and was part of the 19th Regiment in Ceylon, a unit which was involved in several campaigns to oust the then reigning King of Kandy, Sri Wickreme Rajasinghe, who was finally captured with the help of Adigar Ehelapola. Interestingly, when the British together with Kandyan Chieftain Ekneligoda Dissawe took Rajasinghe as prisoner, among the low country chieftains present was Don William Adrian Dias Bandaranaike, a close kinsman of Don Solomon. Although there is no evidence on record of the role played by Thomas Beven in the regime change that unfolded at the time, the family that he founded has certainly played a significant role in the country in the 19th and 20th centuries.
His only son John married Sophia Maria Koertz whose forbears lived in Ceylon from the 17th century. He fathered a brood of 17 children of whom the fourth in order of birth was John Francis. Popularly known as Francis Beven he was born in 1847 and educated at the Colombo Academy (later renamed as Royal College).where he won the coveted Turnour Prize. He was enrolled as an Advocate at the age of 23 and at the time was one of only 21 advocates practicing in the island. * His mother being of European descent, Francis Beven was a member of the then dominant Burgher community. Beven commanded a lucrative law practice from his early days. He was also associated with the Exaniner newspaper, a bi weekly founded in 1846. It was purchased in 1859 by Charles Ambrose Lorenz reputedly the most highly regarded and famous member of the Burgher community of all time.
At the age of 23, Francis Beven became a co proprietor of the Examiner together with Lorenz and Leopold Ludovici. He was also its Editor for many years developing the paper to be a very influential and powerful voice for the Burgher community at a time when the country was under total British rule. Later the paper took a “pro Ceylonese” stance and was the voice for the entire community. The Examiner together with The Observer and Times were the only English newspapers of that era. As a busy lawyer and Editor of an influential newspaper he was both well known and powerful.
He was acting member of the First legislative Council and in the words of JR Weinman writing in 1918 “Francis Beven who hurls his thunderbolts from the Olympian heights of Veyangoda in the form of letters to the various Colombo journals, acted for some time for the late Mr Loos (in the Legislative Council). “F.B” as all Ceylon knows him is a man of great capacity. He is one of the most distinguished old boys of Royal College . Everybody who came in contact with him had the highest opinion of him.”
At the age of 34 Francis Beven had already made a fortune at the Bar especially at the Courts in Kandy where he commanded an extensive practice. A hearing impairment however impeded his further progress at the bar and in 1881, when 34 years old, he chose to try his hand at agriculture. He had earned enough at the bar to purchase a 250 acre coconut and cinnamon property near the Bandaranaike homestead. It is believed that the property was purchased from Mudaliyar DCDH Dias Bandaranaike the father of Sir Solomon and the only son of Don Solomon. Francis named his property “Franklands” and built a comfortable house to which he moved soon thereafter. The Bandaranaikes and the Bevens became firm family friends and neighbours.
Sir Solomon in his memoirs “Remembered Yesterdays” recalls his visit to Europe in 1914 where he met Mr and Mrs Francis Beven also holidaying in London. The family connection may have been so close that Francis Beven’s youngest brother H.O. Beven negotiated with Sir Solomon to lease the latter’s Weke Estate. That transaction soured later and Sir Solomon wrote “I was also compelled to go to law at this period (1915) as a result of some differences with HO Beven, who was the lessee of my Weke Estate. I was very sorry, as we had been friends for a long time. The late Mr W. Wordsworth tried the case (which was decided in my favour, with Beven cast in stiff damages), and I was represented by Mr EJ Samarawickrema (now KC) instructed by Messrs FJ and G de Saram while Mr EW Jayawardene (also now KC) instructed by Messrs Mack appeared on the other side. The case went up in appeal, and the damages were a little reduced.”
Francis Beven seemed to have lived in style emulating the life style of his illustrious neighbour Sir Solomon who was the confidante of successive Governors of Ceylon and known for his lavish entertainment of visiting royalty. With a palatial residence served by a string of domestic staff, Francis was also in the lap of luxury. He had married at the age of 23 and had seven children. The eldest son Francis Lorenz was educated at Royal College (as were his other sons). who on his return from England in 1895 was admitted to Holy Orders and served as Curate of St Paul’s Church, Kandy and later appointed Archdeacon of Colombo. Another son Osmund was a Medical doctor. The third son Alan Karl took to planting and was in charge of Franklands although Francis was still its owner and chief occupant. A smaller bungalow was built on the property where Alan resided with his family. Family lore suggests that despite father and son living in separate houses on the same property, relationships were formal as was customary in Victorian times. When Francis had Alan and family over for a meal for instance, the invitation was on a hand written card served on a silver platter delivered by a liveried butler!!
A brief reference to another sibling of Francis Beven may not be out of place here. The eldest sibling was John George James born in 1843 and died before he was a year old. The next was Thomas Edwin who was later a well known Proctor in Kandy and a Lieut Colonel in the Ceylon Light Infantry. He fathered 10 children among whom were the two daughters Harriet and Florence who occupied the family home “Rose Cottage” on Victoria Drive, Kandy after Edwin died in 1919. In October 1947 the two sisters, then in their late seventies met with tragedy. They employed four servants including a gardener and on that fateful night two intruders broke into their home with the aim of robbing the house. The sisters were strangled and Florence succumbed to her injuries while the elder Harriet recovered miraculously. She however died the following year. Two servants including one named KG Siyadoris who was a trusted servant for over 12 years were charged with their murder but were acquitted after a trial at the Kandy Assizes presided over by Justice C. Nagalingam.
Francis passed away in 1921 at the age of 74 and elder son Lorenz moved into the property which upon Lorenz’s death in 1947 passed on to Alan. Alan’s daughter Molly married Douglas Hennessy, Superintendent of Police better known as the author of the popular memoir “Green Aisles” which wistfully recounted their life in a home built in the middle of the jungle in Horawapotana. The Hennessys later moved to Quetta in Baluchistan after bidding a tearful farewell to their jungle home and pets including a pet bear, and finally retired in Australia.
With the death of Anura Bandaranaike the last surviving direct male descendant of Don Solomon, Horagolla Walauwwa would presumably be now owned by lateral descendants. As for Franklands, Alan willed the property to the Anglican Church and there ended the Bevens’ century old connection with Horagolla. For some years the legal firm of Julius and Creasy managed the property on behalf of the church.
The Bandaranaikes and the Bevens have in their own way played dominant roles in the development of Sri Lanka during colonial days and their generational triumphs and vicissitudes seem to mirror to some degree the hey day of British colonial rule and its ultimate demise. Three generations of Bevens could be identified in the accompanying photo viz Francis, his son Alan Karl and grandson Francis Vandersmagt. The descendants of the Bevens have since chosen to seek greener pastures overseas for their future generations. Francis Vadersmagt, Beven’s son Francis Hildon who migrated to Australia in the 1960s now lives in retirement after a successful career in Melbourne. Hildon like his forbears attended school at Royal College and in his youthful days in Colombo was a skilled spear fisherman and skin diver and prominent member of the old Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club. The Bandaranaike family however for their part continued to play a dominant role in post independent Sri Lanka, their well known contribution being indelibly marked in the recent history of the country.
* The other advocates in 1870 were James De Alwis, C. Britto, R. Cayley, Muttu Coomaraswamy, Harry Dias, W.D. Drieberg, J.H.Eaton, J.W. Ferguson, Nicholas Gould, C.S.Hay, C.A. Lorenz, R.F.Morgan, O.W.C. Morgan, R.H.Morgan, P.P.Mutukrishna, Louis Nell, P de M Ondatje, D. Purcell, J. Van Langenberg, and C.C. Wyman.
(Courtesy elanka, Australia’s premier website for Lankans Down under)
THE DEMOCRATIC PARADOX OF SRI LANKA
by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law
In the distant past, there were many approaches to running civilizations. Cruel and ruthless dictators perpetrated assault on human rights, with impunity. The best known among these tyrants were ATTILA the HUN (AD 434-453 of present day Hungary ), GENGHIS KHAN ( 1206-1227 in Central Asia and China ), TIMUR ( 1370-1405 of modern Syria, Iran , Afghanistan) and QUEEN MARY alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England ).
The combination of divine or absolute power and lack of contact with people made Dictators and Autocrats fascinating as well as terrifying. It is unclear if such characters suffered from mental illness as defined by current standards or whether their lives were marked by incidents that made them ruthless.
Hadenius and Teorell ( 2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships in monarchies, military regimes, one party regimes and restricted multiparty regimes. Studies have revealed that many dictatorial regimes, have democratic facades or some functioning democratic institutions, some holding regular elections and some having operational political parties and legislatures.
Dictatorships are a form of government in which all power remains in the hands of one person enjoying unlimited governmental power obtained by force or fraudulent means in sham elections. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths or killings because of greed, hatred, pride and yearning for power. For instance, Hitler caused millions of deaths of Jews, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians to forcibly change its culture and Idi Amin was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Indians in Uganda.
Autocracy is very similar to a dictatorship. Here too, the supreme power lies in the hands of an individual with some supported by a slavish political party. Autocrats use little or no consultation when making decisions and exercise independent authority over policies and procedures. Their decisions are not subject to any legal restraints. The system suppresses public debate and makes criticism of the government, a criminal offence.
Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest in many ways in despotism, oligarchy and fascism.
In the ideology of benevolent or enlightened despotism (popular in the 18th Century Europe),a absolute monarchs enacted a number of changes in political institutions and enlightened governance. Most of the despots started their careers as “freedom fighters”. Many of them amassed wealth abroad while the world was in denial.
An oligarchy is a form of government where power is in the hands of a small group of elite people, holding wealth or family or military prowess. Oligarchies are where a small minority rules the government and exercise power in corrupt ways. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.
Fascism is a political ideology that elevates the nation and race above the individual and advocates a ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’ led by a dictator under strict economic and social regulation while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Interestingly, the majority of the modern dictatorial regimes refer to their leaders by a variety of titles such as President, King and Prime Minister.
The 20th and 21st Century dictators and autocrats ruled with tyrannical power and never tolerated dissent. Some of them were VALDIMIR LENIN ( 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN ( 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI ( 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER ( 1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO ( 1939-1975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG (1949-1976- China ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda), AUGUSTO PINOCHET ( 1973- 1990 Chile ), GEOGIS PAPANDUPOULUS ( 1967-1974 Greece ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI ( 1969-2011 Libya ).
Dictator led countries are also associated with severe poverty, repression, decreasing health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and rising mental illnesses. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. However, VADIMIR PUTIN (since 2000 Russia ) and XI JING PING ( since 2013 China ) are leading economic powers, but these two countries have also never tolerated dissent.
It is common to see dictators and autocrats appointing prominent members of armed forces in civilian positions and show disrespect towards the independence of the judiciary and freedom for the media. Such systems and their rulers show no concern for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.
The suppression of the Pro- Democracy movement by the use of the army was followed by the wide spread arrest and deportation of foreign journalists and the strict control of the Press. In Russia, VADIMIR PUTIN, characterized his rule with endemic corruption, jailing political opponents, intimidating media freedom and free and fair elections. When Russia invaded Ukrain in February 2022, Putin ordered the arrest of thousands of its own citizens for protesting against the war. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.
Dictators and Autocrats are prone to create personality based autocracies surrounded by family members. Family bandyism weakened State infrastructure in Sri Lanka after 2005. The Rajapaksa family based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices and institutionalized corruption. Family members and lackeys of Iraq and Libyan leaders weakened the State apparatus of Iraq and Libya. The weakened States of Iraq and Libya were such that, it failed to produce nuclear weapons as planned, to meet the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq ) appointed his son- in- law and notoriously brutal Hussein Kamil, to fast track the production of nuclear weapons. That resulted in scientists in Iraq intentionally further slowing down the programme and nicknamed it the “unclear power”.
In contrast, the tyrant Gadaffi ( Libya ) was surrounded by ‘yes men’ and female bodyguards and an ego trip as a result of which, had no inclination to produce scientists and engineers for the country capable of dealing with complex technicalities associated with the production of nuclear power.
Dictators and Autocrats are prone to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. Chinese dictator XI JING PING despite being an economic power, is accused of subtle problematic debt trap diplomacy since 2018 in many poor countries in Africa and Asia ruled by corrupt and mismanaging leaders. PUTIN is facing credible allegations of gross violation of human rights in Ukrain and widespread calls for investigation leading up to a trial for war crimes.
Citizen tired of being oppressed and controlled made widespread demands for democracy and the creation of independent Nation States in Europe. Those revolutions popularly known as the ‘Peoples Spring’ in 1848, brought upheavals in Europe mainly due to the dissatisfaction with monarchies, which were at the helm of each country. The revolution started in Sicily and spread to France, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, Austrian Empire, German Empire and the whole of Europe. Monarchies were replaced by Republics. Old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions.
Caught off guard, aristocracy and their allies plotted to return to power and many leaders of the revolutions went into exile. In the decades after 1848, little had changed. Many historians considered the “People’s Spring” a failure, due to the seemingly lack of permanent structural changes. Karl Marx, disappointed with the bourgeois character of the revolution, expressed the theory of a permanent revolution according to which the proletariat should strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary forces, until the proletariat itself was ready to seize power.
The Autumn of Nations between 1981 and 1991 (143 years after the political upheavals in Europe), brought down the former Soviet Union (USSR) which was beset with economic stagnation, mismanagement and excessive dogmatism of the Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR without bloodshed to endorse democratic reforms in their countries. Poland was the first to shrug off communism in 1989 after almost a decade of struggles. It was followed by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.
Another wave of pro- democracy uprisings began in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain in 2010/2011. It was named the “Arab Spring” and started in December 2010 from Tunisia. However, not all the nations that witnessed such social and political upheaval changed for the better. Some of the very same leaders who fought for democracy in the Muslim world (and in many other parts of the world), presided over the gradual decline of democratic rule in their countries.
In Egypt for example, despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, authoritarian rule returned after the controversial election of Morsi in 2012 leading to a coup by his Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in 2013 and he remains in power till today. Libya, since Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown violently in October 2011, has remained in a state of civil war with two opposing governments ruling separate regions of the country. The civil war that began in Syria with the Arab Spring has lasted for several years due to ISIS declaring a CALIPHATE governed by Islamic Law in North East of Syria. The ISIS has been effectively defeated, but the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues with Russian support.
In modern times, generations have rebelled against dictatorships and autocrdacy and fought for human rights and respect for the Rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the method of rule most countries have begun to approve. Although democracy is vulnerable it is very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”
To be continued
My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment says Beyonce
Beyonce, shown attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, is slated to release a new album in July 2022
Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, r Six years after she shook the culture with her powerful visual album “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s seventh solo studio work is a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks aimed at liberating a world consumed by ennui.
Beyonce, the paradigm-shifting music royal whose art has long established her as one of entertainment’s seminal stars, released her hotly anticipated album “Renaissance,” a house-tinged dance record primed for its summer needle drop
Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history — Queen Bey interpolates Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder along with James Brown and the archetypal synth line from “Show Me Love,” the 1990s house smash by Robin S — the 16-song album is poised to reign over the season.
Prior to releasing her opus Beyonce had dropped “Break My Soul” to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artists and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.The megastar has indicated that “Renaissance” is but the first act of three, in a project she said she recorded over the course of three years during the pandemic.
“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce on her website.
“It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving,” she continued. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.”
“A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”
– ‘Expansive listening journey’ –
In the weeks preceding the release of “Renaissance” Beyonce teased the album with the steady stream of glossy, curated portraits of herself that over the past decade have become her signature.But though she’s received wide praise for keeping the world of music videos on the cutting edge, Beyonce put out her latest record sans visuals (they’re promised at a later date.)
In a statement her label Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records lent insight into the decision, saying the artist “decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey.”
Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.
“Unique / That’s what you are /Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar,” she sings on “Alien Superstar,” which samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” in a sonic ode to voguing, the stylized house dance that emerged from the Black LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1960s.
That song closes by sampling a speech from Barbara Ann Teer, who founded Harlem’s National Black Theatre.
On “Virgo’s Groove” Beyonce gets raunchy with an unabashed sex anthem, adding a titular nod to her star sign — the Virgo turns 41 on September 4.Along with a smattering of deep house cuts as well as tributes to gospel, funk and soul, Beyonce’s collaborators on “Renaissance” include Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Nigerian singer Tems, Grace Jones, Pharrell and, of course, her rap mogul husband Jay-Z.
– Album leaks, Beyhive stings –
Beyonce has long bucked music’s conventional wisdom, and is credited with popularizing the surprise album drop.She later made waves by releasing “Lemonade” — the groundbreaking work that chronicled her own emotional catharsis following infidelity within a generational and racial context — first on cable television, and limiting its streaming availability.
Since “Lemonade” she’s released “Homecoming,” a live album and film featuring footage from her mythic 2018 Coachella performance, as well as the critically acclaimed song “Black Parade” — which dropped amid mass protests ignited by the police murder of George Floyd.
That song saw the megastar, who first gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, become the winningest woman ever at the Grammys with 28, and the gala’s most decorated singer.But for all her cultural clout and an indisputable throne in music’s pantheon, Beyonce’s songs have not seen the same commercial dominance as other contemporary global stars — her last number one solo hit was 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
That’s poised to change with “Renaissance.”
The album’s release saw Queen Bey return to music business as usual, deploying pre-sales, a lead single drop, a tracklist and polished social media fodder.But it wasn’t without a hitch — in the days prior to the official release, the album leaked online.
Bey thanked her hive for waiting, and added that “I appreciate you for calling out anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early.”
“We are going to take our time and Enjoy the music,” the megastar told her fandom. “I love you deep.”–AFP
Are we to burn borrowed dollars just to cook a meal?
Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe
How many of the consumers who opt to use LPG for cooking, realize that they are burning the dollars borrowed with difficulty, just to cook a meal, while the use of LPG hardly brings in any foreign exchange? The reality is that while the country is struggling to raise the dollars even through loans to import adequate supplies of transport fuel, taking loans to import LPG, which will not result in any Forex earnings could hardly be considered ethical or a priority.
The CBSL data below shows the immense amount of dollars drained out of the country in the past years, purely due to the high powered promotions to coerce and trap the consumers to this non sustainable consumption.
With the escalation of world market prices and the depreciation of the rupee , the impact in rupee terms in year 2022, if we are to import the same quantities, would be much greater as estimated. The Governor of the Central Bank has quite rightly stated that
Sri Lanka will have to manage with available dollar inflows, not bridging finance: CB Governor
By Economy Next • Issue #391
However, the attempt by the government appears to be determined to continue this practice at whatever cost and detriment to the economy, to perpetuate a practice foisted on the people by unscrupulous officials, and thereby try and pretend that the gas queues are over. This has been achieved for the present, thanks to a further loan of $ 70 Million from the World Bank, to import 30,000 tons of LPG recently. Perhaps the daily visuals of the gas queues, that the electronic media took pleasure in broadcasting, may also have pushed the government to this short sighted move.
The other side of the coin is that, before the arrival of this load of LPG, while the empty cylinders remained in the queues, the people were absent. No doubt they sought and found alternative means of cooking their meals, albeit with less convenience than using gas. Obviously they would also have been helped in this by the intrepid efforts of many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured cooking stoves to use either fuel wood or charcoal, which do not require any dollars.
The novel stoves are yet to be available in adequate numbers in the market, although the manufacturers are running long waiting lists. As such some consumers may have been forced to revert to direct use of fire wood, accepting the disadvantage of smoke and soot. But Sri Lanka has already introduced most acceptable models of cooking stoves to use wood and wood charcoal, devoid of any smoke and soot. These have proved to be acceptable alternatives to the use of gas stoves for the daily cooking needs, even in high rise apartments.
The reality is that the consumers have recognized the fact that the government or the officials cannot be relied upon to provide their essential needs, and their salvation lies in seeking indigenous alternative solutions themselves which have proven to be equally effective.
But shouldn’t this positive change have been noted by the authorities and fostered with the same vigour with which the use of the imported LPG was promoted? What about the media? They diverted their cameras to the petrol and diesel queues, obviously the emerging negative scene of news value.
The officials of the Litro gas company are heard to give assurances of continued supply of LPG in the future, while they admit the loan received is adequate for supplies up to October only. According to their web page their customer base exceeds 4,000,000. The consumption in 2020 was 437,000 tons, purchased at a cost of $ 236 Million. By now it would exceed 450,000 tons annually. How far would the $ 70 Million loan go at present day gas prices? What happens next? Are they hoping to get yet another loan, when the Ministry of Power and Energy is forced to restrict the issue of essential transport fuels to a minimum, due to lack of dollars? Isn’t this a willful deception of the consumers?
Therefore, the discerning consumers are well advised to consider the following points in their decision making for the future.
- = The import of LPG is possible only through loans which will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren
- = Continued dependence on LPG is a never ending problem and will need more and more loans with no chance of the LPG used leading to any foreign exchange earnings
- = The loans taken have to be repaid by the entire country ,while the benefit is enjoyed by only a limited section of the society, which is morally unacceptable
- = For those fortunate to get even a cylinder of LPG, adopting the already available options of stoves using either charcoal or wood , for the cooking of the main meals , would substantially reduce the monthly expenditure as shown below. This would preserve the LPG cylinder bought with difficulty, to be available for any limited usage in between and for any emergencies for many months
- = The consumers can be the drivers of the change which would reduce the demand for LPG and thus save the country millions of dollars year after year
- = This would create a significant indigenous industry whereby the millions of dollars sent out would flow to the local industrialists and rural communities supplying the charcoal and wood. Even a 50% reduction of the imports could result in a local industry worth over Rs 80 Billion annually.
These are indeed practical and worthwhile contributions to resolve a national problem. Are each of us ready to commit to extend the use of our LPG cylinder to last several months, thereby reducing the demand to 50% or even to 25% in the coming year? This should be considered a national duty by all of us.
Just to assuage any fears of deforestation, contrary to popular belief, Sri Lanka already has adequate renewable and sustainable biomass resources formally counted as over 12,000,000 tons annually, contributing to 50% of the total primary energy demand. Simultaneously, a practical program of social reforestation has to be encouraged where the user of charcoal, plants wherever he can, plants trees to compensate for the charcoal he uses. In this way the next generation will also be assured of their own sustainable supply with absolutely no impact on the forest cover. A plant that can be recommended is Gliricidia Sepium among others, which can be harvested in two years, and thereafter every eight months.
(The writer is past president of the Bio Energy Association of Sri Lanka www.bioenergysrilanka.lk
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