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The state in Sri Lankan nation

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By Neville Ladduwahetty

The prevailing state in the Sri Lankan nation is that while one group is engaged in protests, and making demands that cannot be constitutionally realised, another group is patiently lining up in long queues to collect supplies needed to fulfil their basic needs. The two groups are from two different strata of society. While the former consists of young and educated, and from the middle strata of Sri Lankan society, the latter is largely from the working class, and hence their focus is on how to survive in these trying circumstances.

This separation of interests has given rise to a political crisis as far as the first group is concerned, and an economic crisis as far as the second group is concerned. Although the political and economic concerns are those of two separate groups, there is a good possibility for the two concerns to merge if allowed to fester due to lack of attention. The general impression is that easing the economic situation in the country would prevent such a merger, and that in fact it may even ease up on the political demands.

DEMANDS of the PROTESTERS

The main demand of the protesters is in the slogan “Gota Go Home”. However, this is easier said than done, as it cannot be achieved constitutionally, as pointed out by recognised constitutional experts and other commentators. The methods being contemplated to oust the President are either to pass a vote of no-confidence (No-Confidence Motion (NCM) in Parliament or for Parliament to impeach him. In the case of a no-confidence vote, there has to be sufficient votes in Parliament to make it a reality; a fact that is seriously in doubt. Besides, even if there are sufficient numbers in Parliament to clobber together a simple majority, all that would happen is for the Cabinet of Ministers to “stand dissolved” (Article 49 (2) (c). As far as the President is concerned, he is constitutionally entitled to appoint a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet of Ministers. In short, the position of the President remains unaffected.

On the other hand, if the strategy is to impeach the President, a Member of Parliament has to give notice of a resolution addressed to the Speaker under provisions of Article 38 (2). However, such a resolution has to be signed either by a “not less than two-third” majority, or by a simple majority and the Speaker is satisfied that the claims of the resolution merit inquiry. Since neither a two-third majority nor a simple majority with the endorsement of the Speaker are realistic propositions, impeaching the President is not a viable option.

What these constitutional provisions mean is that the President cannot be sent home unless he resigns. Since both protesters and their supporters, advisors and backers are supposed to be smart and educated, how come they were not aware of the many constitutional constraints that prevent them from sending the President home? Other than, of course to plead their case. And had they realised their limitations, would they have opted for other approaches; that would gently persuade the President out of the goodness of his heart, to resign and go home? This also means, therefore that a need exists for protesters to revisit current strategies and use their charm and wit to persuade the President to go home, because the protests taking place at Galle Face Green and in the rest of the country would amount to nothing but expressions of frustration without substance, since he cannot be ousted constitutionally.

The fact, that these limitations have not occurred to them is disappointing, particularly because the protesters represent the future generations of Sri Lanka. It is they who have to take over the baton when the time comes. Furthermore, since they do not have a formal structure, it is not possible to bring these hard realities to their attention. Indications are that they too would blunder just as previous generations have done.

ECONOMICS ISSUES

Economic issues are affecting a vast swath of Sri Lankans and its numbers are more than those of the protesters. Yet, because they suffer in silence, they do not get the attention and publicity the protesters get. The majority of them are affected by lack of fertilizer and issues relating to the energy sector.

The practice thus far has been to import crude oil and refined products from a variety of foreign sources. Since Sri Lanka has failed to develop its owned fossil fuel deposits, said to be available in the Mannar Basin, the practice of importing energy needs has to continue. This has resulted in the import of both crude oil and finished petroleum products, as done in the past. The current lack of funds to continue with the practices of the past has brought the whole issue of energy to a head, because the inability to sustain imports has affected every sector of society, the most vulnerable being those who are not with the protesters. Therefore, there is an urgent need to adopt a fresh energy policy that would be in keeping with the prevailing reality of rock bottom Forex Reserves; a fact that now compels the government to abandon practices of the past.

FRESH ENERGY POLICY

A fresh energy policy should not lose sight of the long-term goal of meeting energy demands through technologies other than fossil fuels. The need to do so is dictated by global commitments to meet the realities of Climate Change. This is similar to the sudden switch to organic fertiliser which the government adopted without factoring in the inevitable public reaction to such a policy. Therefore, while recognizing the merits of both policies, their implementation should be undertaken in a measured manner; a fact now realized and admitted by the government as a mistake.

The proposed fresh energy policy should be treated strictly as an interim measure. While this interim measure is in operation, the government should set up the infrastructure needed to switch from fossil fuel dependence to alternate technologies, starting with the major cities. Such an approach should have been adopted in respect of fertiliser, too. However, a fact that should be realized in respect of both policies is that any government should engage in a campaign to secure the support of the public, if the benefits of both policies are to be realized.

An interim policy, relating to securing regular supplies of both crude oil and refined products, would be to negotiate with countries that are prepared to set up a Refinery of sufficient capacity in Trincomalee to supply Sri Lanka’s needs of refined products, and for them to export the balance to any country of their choice. In the meantime, Sri Lanka should expand the Refinery at Sapugaskanda from its present capacity of 44,000 barrels/day, which is reported to meet only 25% of Sri Lanka’s needs to 100,000 barrels/day so that Sri Lanka is not totally dependent on a single source for its energy needs. Since Refinery Capacities range from 100,000 to 250,000 barrels/day, a Refinery within the average range would be readily able to supply Sri Lanka’s needs, with export of the rest to Indian Ocean Rim countries.

In summary, the government should seriously explore an arrangement for the delivery of 44,000 barrels/day needed by Sapugaskanda in the form of crude oil and the balance refined products needed, while the new refinery is being set up.

The quantity of refined products would decrease with the expansion of the capacity at Sapugaskanda to 100,000 barrels/day. The cost of procuring Sri Lanka’s needs from the foreign owned refinery could be partially offset by the revenue generated from the lease of the land for say, 25 years, and from sources such as Port charges, rents from restored storage tanks, and other associated services. Furthermore, the cost of procuring refined products from such a Refinery would gradually decrease in proportion to the rate at which Sri Lanka accelerates its switch from fossil fuels to alternative technologies.

CONCLUSION

Notwithstanding all the shouting at Galle Face, and in other parts of the country, as well as abroad, with the call, “Gota Go Home”, the President cannot be removed constitutionally either through a No-Confidence Motion in Parliament or through a Resolution to Impeach, as explained above. Therefore, the only way for the President to be legitimately removed, is for a voluntary resignation. The fact that the protesters, their supporters and their backers failed to recognise this impediment before they started on their adventure, is disappointing for the generation that is supposed to represent the Future of Sri Lanka.

In the meantime, another section of society is patiently standing in lines to secure basic needs for survival. A section of this citizenry was affected by the policy relating to fertiliser adopted by the government. For them, there is hope that they would be able to restore their livelihoods with the government admitting that the policy while being commendable, failed in the implementation process; a realisation that has caused the government to revisit the manner in which the policy should have been implemented.

The rest of the Sri Lankan population is seriously affected by an inability to secure sufficient energy needs to continue with their livelihoods. This situation is unlikely to improve if the government continues to supplement its energy needs piecemeal, depending on lines of credit. The government needs to seriously engage with a willing party to address its immediate needs as an interim measure, not forgetting its long-term vision and its global commitments to phase out fossil fuels as a source of energy. The broad outlines of an interim arrangement are presented above for consideration. It is left to the government to seriously consider this or alternative interim arrangement, if the economy is to breathe again.



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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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