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Towards a future free from fears of Islamism – II



By Rohana R. Wasala

Part I appeared yesterday

During an interview conducted in Sinhala on a You Tube channel on October 27, 2021, Shiraz Yunus, who describes himself as Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s National Coordinator for Muslim Affairs, laments that by now there is clearly a split in the government between a faction that supports the President and another that stands by the Prime Minister. According to Yunus, the latter has been reduced to a nominal PM and rendered powerless. This, Shiraz Yunus says, is in spite of the fact that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) came to power due to the influence of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Yunus’s claim is not exactly true: I hear that the ordinary people whisper among themselves that the politically experienced Mahinda has ruined Gotabaya by restraining his actions, the latter being a neophyte in statecraft; Mahinda’s family bandyism and his softness towards certain notorious elements among his loyalists had already dented his heroic image, which helped the 2015 plot against him. The resounding victory of the SLPP in 2020 was not exclusively due to Mahinda regaining his old popularity. Probably, a more important contributory factor was Gotabaya’s image as an uncorrupt person and his reputation as an able civil administrator.

Yunus avers that the Rajapaksa government has lost all its credibility. If an election was held today, 98% of the Muslims would not vote for the SLPP; their (i.e., Muslims’) only hope is for this government to fall; Yunus asserts that the same hope is shared by all Sri Lankans. Only the remaining 2% of the Muslims will want the SLPP to gain power again! And who are those Muslims? “Businessmen and wheeler-dealers”, as Yunus claims, including presumably the likes of Rishad and Hakeem, who are communalist minority politicians. (In the past, Rishad enjoyed the indulgence of the government, whichever of the two major parties was in power.) Yunus complains that although he wanted to contest the last election from the SLPP, he didn’t get the ticket. Now he won’t even vote for the SLPP if there’s an election for it is sure to lose! My hunch is that though Muslims did not make any extraordinary contribution to Gotabaya’s or SLPP’s victory.

The PM’s National Coordinator for Muslim Affairs is no doubt performing his duty to the satisfaction of his employer. Surprisingly for a Mahinda loyalist, he argues that Rishad and Hakeem emerged and flourished during Rajapaksa times, which, however, is not an untruth. In his opinion, the majority Sinhalese were opposed to the 20th Amendment (that repealed 19A and restored the executive powers of the President that it had clipped). When enough MPs (required to form the two thirds majority) were not available to pass the 20A bill, some potentate arranged to cut a deal with the two to get their support. Yunus addresses himself directly to the duo (MPs Rishad and Hakeem) through the CP/Phone/TV screen, and takes them to task for sacrificing Muslim interests for personal political gain! He shouts “lajjai, lajjai” “shame, shame” at them. Rishad and Hakeem must have guffawed in private if they watched him performing his dramatic feigning. However, towards the end of the You Tube channel QA session, Yunus betrays his hypocrisy by inadvertently revealing that he, in addition to being a disillusioned politician, is a disgruntled businessman as well, with interests at least in fertilizer importation and hydro-electricity production. He asked for a permit, he tells the interviewer, for importing what he calls liquid organic fertilizer, but his application was not granted by the agriculture department (which, he implies, does not know what sort of organic fertiliser is good for the country).

Yunus makes the patently false claim that the two and a half million Muslim community live in fear today, implying that all Sri Lankan Muslims are being condemned, and discriminated against, as violent Islamists, which allegation a figment of his imagination. Which community does he hold responsible for this alleged anti-Muslim bigotry? The majority Sinhalese, of course. This is not the place to produce evidence to disprove his false charge (Yunus knows the truth to be otherwise).

Even before the April 21 attack took place, some young Sinhalese Buddhist activists and monks made credible claims that hauls of swords and knives were being concealed in mosques. Nothing was done to check the veracity of these alleged “wild fabrications”. When hoards of newly imported swords were discovered in mosques during police searches following the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, the Sinhalese Buddhist activists claims were found not to be fabrications, though the yahapalana government didn’t seem to take it seriously. The reality is that this close Mahinda Rajapaksa associate has been repeating the same sort of nonsense in his FB and Twitter accounts and in other mainstream and social media channels.

It is also clear that Shiraz Yunus is better received among global Muslims than the PM himself who consults him on Muslim issues. Yunus says that he has acted as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Muslim affairs coordinator since March 23, 2018 (that is, well before MR became PM). He stresses that he has no connection with the Muslim Cultural Department, which is paid separately. His job was earlier done by an MP. In his capacity as national coordinator he looks after all Muslim affairs. Yunus complains that those that he calls new ‘viruses’ that recently gathered round the PM have failed to communicate the true message to the Muslim public. There are contextual hints to say that Yunus’s alleged viruses are officials from the Muslim Affairs Department and the Muslim businessmen that allegedly surround him. But, doesn’t he himself belong to the same category?

He makes passing references to the problem of Muslim objections to the cremation of their Covid-19 dead and the Muslims’ perception of the cattle slaughter ban as discriminatory towards them as a community. Why didn’t Yunus, as PM’s paid overall Muslim coodinator (advisor/consultant in practice), prevent the PM from so egregiously mishandling both issues? At that time, cremation of covid dead was ordered by the Director General of Health Services, who had been appointed as the competent authority to decide on the way such bodies were to be disposed of. The DGHS made it mandatory to cremate bodies of Covid dead on perfect scientific advice in view of the water table situation of the country that made burial Covid virus infected bodies dangerous to public health. However, the government could have asked the experts to devise a safe way to bury the bodies of those Covid dead whose families insisted on burying them on religious grounds, such as impervious concrete walled coffins. Ironically, even the fiery Ven. Gnanasara Thera wanted Muslim sentiments respected in this regard, and burial permitted. But that was running counter to what scientific opinion demanded. The decision belonged to the authorities. The DGHS implemented what the health experts recommended. The government took it for granted that people of all religious persuasions would prioritise science over religion, and accept his decision. That agreed with president Gotabaya’s approach to the issue. But the biased media interpreted this as Sri Lanka forcing Muslims to cremate their Covid dead (in violation of their religious beliefs). However, some conservative Muslims and the few opportunistic Muslim leaders didn’t relent.

This handful of communalist Muslim politicians have a niche in both major parties. While this is the truth, many SLPP speakers have rubbished the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna for having included, in the past, business magnate Ibrahim (father of two suicide bomber sons who died during the April 21 Easter bombing attacks) in their national list! But the JVP may not have known that they too had been infiltrated by the same traitors.

Let’s hope that the emerging Jana Bala Vegaya and other patriotic alliances beware of the danger. Majority party politicians need not worry about losing the support of the few Muslim political crooks who are at present ruling the roost within the Muslim polity. They are being exposed, and their days are numbered. The future belongs to young Muslim politicians like national list MP from (Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front or NFF) Mohamed Muzammil (41), whose secular credentials are beyond question. By the time of the next general elections, there will be enough new youthful Muslim leaders of his ilk to elbow out the blighters.

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Territorial mindset, a recipe for disaster!



By Chani Imbulgoda

I recall a documentary on animal life on a TV channel. Describing the behaviour of lions, a caretaker said, “These lions are from the Dehiwala zoo. They are vigilant of other lions entering their territory, if one crosses the boundary they fight to death. They won’t like other lions entering their territory.” The announcer remarked, “Just like humans!”

Exactly, just like us. In the animal kingdom the survival of the fittest is the norm and not crossing others’ territory is a rule of thumb. Since the beginning of human civilisation there have been tales of battles. The Trojan war, Alexander’s, Caesar’s, Napoleon’s wars degraded human values. Saddled with cynicism, hostility and jealousy, we humans, like beasts, are at war with ‘others’ who do not fit into our ideologies or our comfort zones. History is a storehouse of tales of human battles over territories in the guise of civilisation. So-called civilisation itself was won over battles. In the local context, the native ‘Yakkhas’ were massacred by Prince Vijaya to develop ‘Sinhale’. America, Canada, Australia inherit a dark history of looting territories of indigenous people in the name of civilisation. Portugal, Spain, Britain tasted the blood of their ‘colonial slaves’. Centuries later, we have not yet shed our primary animal instincts. We battle tooth and nail to protect our territories, our autonomy, values and interests all in the guise of civilised behaviour.

We rarely welcome outsiders into our territories. In the 40s and 50s, women were kept out of men’s territory. Late British Prime Minister aka Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, had to struggle many years to break through another of man’s territories, the Parliament. In the movie ‘Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley’, she sobs to her husband that contrary to what she previously believed, despite hard work she cannot win on merit and that dedication and passion are irrelevant. One-time Prime Minister, Edward Heath condemns Thatcher’s outspoken nature to force her out of politics. Heath says that the Parliament is akin to an orchestra made up of many musicians and Thatcher is a French horn more loud than appropriate, that threatens the orchestra’s harmony.

This is how men and also women of the same flock air their resentment towards outsiders, in their own words ‘intruders’ who are colourful and loud in action. Insult, indifference, suspicion, suppression, oppression are not uncommon experiences of pioneers in anything in history or at present. I once heard a senior Professor advising a young colleague attempting to change the system for the better, “Lady, look, do not swim upstream, people would not like it.” Yes, despite good intentions any novel act breaks the harmony…That is why the Buddha had many foes. That is why the notorious thief Barabbas was chosen by the crowd over Jesus.

I tried to uproot a tiny cinnamon sapling that grew through my interlock pavement blocks, failing which I crushed it. It made me realise that this is what happens, no matter how valuable you are. If you crop up in a place where you would not be accepted, every effort is made to root out, failing which, crush you, to ensure that you would not resurface. I suppose many of us had faced similar circumstances at work places, in politics or within social circles. Why does this happen, because of ego, envy, distrust or insecurity? Or because someone deemed a threat by another individual, a leader or a group enters their territory?

A pack of wolves has a leader; the protection of lions’ territory is the responsibility of the leader; the leader is the first to announce danger. No outsider can cross the boundary. We see certain lions, wolves and foxes as alphas. The mentality ‘I am the boss, I know everything’ blinds them. They live on ego, with a superiority complex, under the assumption that no one can challenge their power. If the newcomer is meek and sucks up to the leader, he or she survives and can slowly squirm their way into the pack.

I have heard parents complain about how difficult it is to enrol their kids into various sports clubs in schools. I have worked in private as well as public sector organisations, local and overseas. I have experienced antagonistic behaviour in these organisations. Driven by their insecurity, superior or inferior complexes, they would go to any lengths to harass the outsider and go to any extreme to protect his or her territory. They are myopic to the point of rejecting ideas foreign to them no matter how good they are, as they see ‘danger’ in ideas alien to them. Some group ideologies are thicker than blood. Certain professional groups rarely welcome females. They believe that women cannot meet challenges as men do and can be fiercely territorial. Many qualified and capable individuals are ostracised from organisations or industries or expelled from positions because of this territorial mindset.

A person with a territorial mindset is often overcome by thoughts of safeguarding or enhancing his or her power, control, influence and self-proclaimed status. These are primitive emotions. Taking ownership and defending what people believe belongs to them is a positive trait. But it is this mentality that subjects newcomers to agony when they grow too smart for their own good. They are stifled when the power of those with a territorial mindset is threatened. Many novel ideas and skills go to waste while some newcomers or ‘misfits’ are forced to leave their workplaces, others would continue the fight or be forced to conform.

We talk of harmony, reconciliation, tolerance and unity in diversity. Why cannot we synergize each other’s differences? A French horn would add glamour and at least amuse the audience. A garden consisting of a variety of flowers is more awe-inspiring than a garden of roses alone. Poet Khalil Gibran said that when a river enters the sea, the river is no more, it is diluted in salt water and one cannot trace the river in the sea, but the river grows larger and so does the sea. When we come out of our confining shells we are exposed to greater opportunities as well as benefits for both the newcomer and those already in that society.

(The writer holds a senior position in a state university and has an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management [PIM], Sri Lanka and is currently reading for her PhD in Quality Assurance in the Higher Education Sector at PIM. She can be reached at

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Faulty decisions



Farmers protesting against the prevailing fertiliser shortage. (file photo)

The importation of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides was banned by a Cabinet Memorandum, dated April 27, 2021, to promote the use of organic fertilizers and natural pesticides. As a result, inorganic fertilisers such as urea, Triple superphosphate, Muriate of Potash and other agrochemicals (insecticides, fungicides etc.) became scarce. Agriculture Ministry in the meantime promoted manufacture of organic fertilisers (OF) but they were unable to get sufficient amounts of organic fertilisers manufactured. Most of what was available were of low quality with high C/N ratios. Agric. The Ministry is yet to produce natural insecticides, fungicides, etc. Thousands of farmers, all over the country, started to protest demanding that inorganic fertilisers and appropriate pesticides are made available, because they knew that these agrochemicals are necessary to get better yields from the crops they cultivate. The Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka, representing mostly the Soil Scientists and Agronomists of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Agricultural Economics Association, the professional body representing the agricultural economists of Sri Lanka predicted massive economic losses due to potential yield losses, with the implementation of the import ban on fertilisers and pesticides

In spite of all these protests, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) continued to ban import of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides, This caused immense economic and social problems to the people in general and to the farmers in particular. Farmers who cultivated Paddy in the current Maha complain of a reduction in the yields, and those who cultivated vegetables and other crops had to bear up a substantial decrease in quantity and quality of their produce. Production of maize decreased, resulting in a drop in poultry feed.

Reduction in local rice production made the government importing large quantities of rice from China and Burma. Food prices have increased causing thousands of people mainly the poor, going hungry resulting, health and social problems. Incomes of nearly two million farmers got reduced which affected their buying capacity resulting in numerous undesirable effects such as increasing unemployment, poverty and related issues. Tea small holders complained of reduction in quantity and quality of tea affecting their income, and also a decline on foreign exchange earnings which those in the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and other relevant institutions are frantically searching. All these are the result of the ban of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, a faulty decision.

In August, the Cabinet removed the ban probably realising the utter foolishness of the decision to ban import of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides. However, it is too late as it takes time to import fertilisers and other agrochemical which were in short supply due to the ban.

The main reason given for banning importation of inorganic fertilisers was that it caused chronic kidney disease with unknown aetiology (CKDU). Several research studies have been conducted since the year 2000, when it was reported to occur in some parts of the country. The findings of these studies do not indicate that there is any relationship between CKDU and fertilisers. CKDU has not been reported in many countries such as China (393 kg/ha) India (175 kg/ha) and United Kingdom (245 kg/ha) where the amount of fertilisers used per hectare is much larger than that of Sri Lanka (138 kg/ha). Note- the fertiliser consumption data given are for 2018 and are based on values given by Food and Agriculture Organization.

The growth rate of Sri Lanka has declined after 2015 . It dwindled to 4.5% in 2016 and 3.1% in 2017 and in 2020 it was -3.6 %. The Trade Deficit ( the difference between exports and imports- TD) shows a decrease but at present it stands at 6.1 US$ billion. Exchange rate continued to increase from Rs. 111 to a US $ in 2010 to Rs, 186 in 2020. Currently it is around Rs. 200. According to Central Bank, External Debt in Sri Lanka increased to 51117.43 USD Million in the third quarter of 2021. These figures indicate that Sri Lanka is heading towards an unprecedented economic crisis. Hence, the government need to implement appropriate strategies to increase exports and reduce imports.

Sri Lanka annually imports food worth Rs. 300 billion. Most of the food imported such as sugar, milk food, lentils, onion, maize, etc., involving around Rs. 200 billion can be locally produced, thereby reducing expenditure on food imports. In view of the current shortage of foreign exchange, it has become extremely important to promote the production of food locally which hitherto have been imported. The plantation sector, which includes tea, rubber, coconut, cashew, sugarcane and minor exports crops such as cinnamon, cardamom, cocoa ,plays a very important role in the economy of the country earning a substantial amount of foreign exchange, Hence, it is important to implement strategies to increase the productivity of the food crop and plantation crops sectors. Inorganic fertilisers, synthetic pesticides and herbicides play a very important role in this regard.

However, the Government is emphasizing that organic fertilisers (OF) are used in the coming yala season as well . Those in the government who made this faulty decision need to realise that OF can never replace inorganic fertilisers and that it can only be supplementary. They need to give serious consideration to the bitter experience of the farmers who applied OF to their crops during the current Maha. The Government needs to understand this fact and reconsider this faulty decision if they want to increase local food and export crop production.

In the year 2022, there will be a severe shortage of food negatively affecting food security, unless the government implements a realistic and effective programme from the beginning of 2022 to solve this issue. Implementation of foolish decisions such as to replace inorganic fertilisers with organic fertilisers, as done in 2021 is not going to solve this problem. Among the 17, he Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015, several are related to increase crop production. The Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka has a responsibility for coordination, facilitation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the implementation of strategies related to development of the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka.

As indicated by Edgar Perera, a former Director of the Dept. of Agricultural Development (Ref. The Island of 17 Jan, 2022) the most appropriate thing to be done is to use OF as a soil re-conditioner along with chemical fertilisers, which will give the much-needed plant nutrients in adequate quantities, to achieve the required yield levels which will be sufficient to meet the national targets.

Dr. C. S. Weeraratna

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Have pity on Afghans



A camp sheltering displaced Afghans.

Is there no end to the torment inflicted on the ordinary people of Afghanistan, by the United States?

Having being defeated militarily, and decamping ingloriously within 24 hours, like thieves in the night, the USA now inflicts starvation and destruction on Afghanistan from a “safe distance”.! Money that rightly belonging to the Afghan State is being withheld by the American dominant Financial system. Let this be a lesson to us.

A report in The Island of 17 January revealed that Afghan families were selling children and their organs in order to survive.

After all, what crime did the Afghans commit in resisting an invading foreign power? Sri Lanka should seek ways of offering direct Aid at least in small ways, to Afghanistan, whether the Americans approve or not.


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