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The Nation heaves itself up as a final resort: enough is enough!

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There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat…

Shakespeare, aptly in Julius Caesar

We cannot take any more! That seemed to be the summation that drove the middle class and upper to hold silent vigils with placards hoisted. It was a giving vent to long pent-up disappointment, frustration, anger, outrage, and new found fearlessness. The pervasive feeling was being sick to the gills of the government and its leaders and debased Cabinet Ministers. I do not think those who originated the vigils ever thought results would emerge so soon and be accompanied by capitulation. The main slogan of the protests: Go Gota Go in Shakespearean language can be: Methinks thou art an offence and every man should beat thee.

I am not competent to analyse the situation at present in Sri Lanka and incapable of commenting on it with prognosis in the sense of forecasting likely outcomes of the situation, and predictions. But I have the gut feeling and sensibility of a mature woman who loves her country and her fellow Sri Lankans – all of them – except of course those in power and hangers on and toadies. Hence my going into a province of comment I avoid in this column. But what else can one write about when one’s thoughts, hopes and fears are pinned on the present situation. Times glory is to … unmask falsehood and bring truth to light (Shakespeare).

Speaking of predictions, a certain elevated hospital attendant from Anuradhapura comes to mind. We heard she was even dictating policy but we were too scared to even whisper her name. We know killings have taken place, abductions and white vans which mercifully were kota uda in the recent past. Hirunika, to whom I ascribe the honour of being the igniter of loud protests, brought this Anuradhapura dame to light by wanting to have a forecasting session with her but was stymied by a barrage of police persons. Who was she to be guarded so well?

Hirunika posed this question to the head police officer and also made a very succinct remark; “You should be guarding us, the members of the public.” Oh well, some have greatness accompanied by wealth, a palatial home, security and even permission to build a hotel into the sacrosanct Nuwara Wewa, thrust on them!

But now…Whoopee! All lost! Fear in its place in the hearts and bones of those who rode so high.

April Uprisings

The best known April/spring gathering in English literature was persons getting together in the last decade of the 14 century to go on pilgrimage from London to Canterbury to revere the martyr, Archbishop Sir Thomas Becket, killed in his cathedral by four emissaries of King Henry II in 1155. Geoffrey Chaucer recorded it in his Canterbury Tales in 1387, the first major work in the English language.

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

On March 31 and April 1 and thereafter, the people of Sri Lanka rose and gathered on a sort of pilgrimage in sympathy with the less privileged who were moving from queue to queue to get bare essentials and being deprived on all fronts. In the meantime the PM’s son, tipped by his mother mostly to be bequeathed future leadership as a birthright in this country they appeared to treat as their demesne, was sporting in the Maldives. He was then ready to be feted by school children and suckers when he declared open a playing field already in use in Bandarawela. His mother was journeying to be feted in a Carlton school.

Never mind the dying through hunger, the lack of essential medicines, the utter suffering of the masses due to government’s mismanagement. The tamashas which the Rajapaksa family love and their sycophants provide had to go on. Proof: holding a huge National Day parade this February 4. TV news mentioned that Brother Basil was busy planning May Day rallies! Thank goodness we poorer ones this year need not drool seeing the heavily laden Avurudhu Mese at Carlton House in Tangalla, the PM’s home turf residence. Fate of the banas at Temple Trees on poya days? Will they continue? Not many will attend.

I refreshed my memory about the former Spring Uprising, also brought about by rulers’ tyranny, incompetent governments and consequent suffering of the masses. That Arab Spring occurred in the early 2010s with a series of anti-government protests which spread across much of West Asia. It was in response to corruption and economic stagnation that started in Tunisia, and continued in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain where either the ruler was deposed – Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and two others, or escalated to civil wars as in Kuwait, Oman, Jordan and Sudan. The slogan was ‘People want to bring down the regime.’

The initial protests faded by mid 2012 as many were crushed by the governments of the various countries. However, some escalated to large scale conflicts like the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIL; an insurgency in Iraq and a coup in Egypt. That was the first instance of people gathering consequent to social media messages.

Many parallels can be drawn as also differences between the Middle East uprisings and ours. The Arab Spring fizzled out and they termed it the Arab Winter. People in usually complacent, submissive, compliant sunny Sri Lanka rose up: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by apposing, end them? We took the gamble and all right thinking, national minded people across the board say that the vigils and protests MUST go on. We cannot allow a winter to set in. We will have to suffer much more slings and arrows but they will be of a remedial kind; the economy et al will be set on correct courses but will be extremely arduous, time consuming and will call for much patience. Most importantly: competent, respected, honest people must take the lead. Absolutely no violence should be allowed at this juncture, particularly.

Again as Shakespeare pronounced: If you prick us do we not bleed? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?

Resignations

Delighted with the Cabinet resigning and the exit of the Governor of the Central Bank – but with a substantial pension. He it was that looked to be the cause of much of our country’s trouble: styming going for help to the IMF, paying off some loan that could have been deferred and printing money at a rate and saying it would not cause inflation. Of course he was listening to his master’s voice and performing at their bidding, but he should not have. John Maynard Keynes pronounced There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. That is just what CB Gov Nivard Cabraal did.

The rats slink away from the sinking ship

Apoi bohoma sthuthi

, nanri, shukriya, danke schon, gracias. The measly but rich rats are fast disappearing. The grapevine reported that one big man left while security cameras at Katunayaka Airport switched off. Families have been dispatched to safety. So also precious goods bought from looted wealth. Will countries like US, Britain, Singapore accept such as migrants? Of course the dual citizens will go back to doing whatever they did in their second domicile. Or will they, along with stained reputations, have to live in places like Seychelles, money haven African states, Dubai? Won’t they, after a time, yearn for our buth curry; our hills and valleys; temple, church and kovil bells ringing? Won’t sea, sand, sun; wild life and wild ways; and the glitzy artificiality of each of those three mentioned countries pall on the migrants? JOLLY GOOD for all their evil. Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end. Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend. They might also as they sit in loneliness with no sycophants or bum suckers, suffer as they made others suffer like Thajudeen’s family for instance, and ponder as Shakespeare wisely said: Life’s but a shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

We thank our well-to-do protesters who came peacefully on the roads to say most forcefully ‘enough is enough’. We all have to maintain that peace and the protest too.



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Features

Glimmers of hope?

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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.

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.

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Ban on agrochemicals and fertilisers: Post-scenario analysis

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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.

FERTILISER ISSUE

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.

Recommendations

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.

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Thomians triumph in Sydney 

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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!

Trevine Rodrigo,

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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