“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir
I have, as the years rolled by, come to have greater respect and appreciate more women in various spheres of life. I write today about two such admirable women who have dominated some of the news in the past week or two. They are international figures, but this belief of mine is proven with our women too – at least those who conduct themselves well and deserve praise. For instance I watch one TV talk show without fail and this is Monday’s MTV I channel ‘Face the Nation’ panel discussion which Shameer Rasooldeen facilitates with a sure hand and strong voice. His journos too are fine. Whenever the panel has one or more women in it, and thankfully, every Monday sees at least one Ms. among three males; they outshine, out-argue, create a better impression and win approval and kudos, mine for sure and I am certain of very many others too. A research doctor admired greatly is Prof Malavige of the University of Kelaniya microbiology section.
Born in Hamilton, NZ, on July 26, 1980, Jacinda Kate Laurell Arden grew up in Morrinsville and Murupara attending a state school. She graduated from the University of Waikato in 2001 and became a researcher in the office of Prime Minster Helen Clark. Later she worked in London as an adviser in the Cabinet Office and was elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth. Returning to NZ and joining the Labour Party, she was elected an MP in the 2008 general election when the Labour Party lost power after nine years. In 2017, she was elected to represent Mount Albert electorate in a by-election. She was also elected deputy leader of her Party and leader soon after. Later in the same year she led the Labour Party to win 46 seats against the National Party’s 56. A coalition government was formed on October 26, 2017, of the Labour and Green Parties with Ardern, aged 37, Prime minister; the 40th PM of NZ and third female PM, after Jenny Shipley (1997-99) and Helen Clarke (1999-2003).
Jacinda Ardern describes herself as a social democrat and a progressive, and true to her views, her government has focused on housing for all; child poverty; social inequality and equality to the Maoris, among other concerns. In the 2020 general election the Labour Party won hands down with a majority of 65 seats in Parliament, a first since introduction of proportional representation in 1996. She is definitely a feminist too.
She is a shining example of a true statesman, acknowledged the world over. In March 2019 she led her country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shooting when 51 were killed and 49 injured. She rapidly introduced strict gun laws. Through 2020 and 2021, she most efficiently directed the country’s response to the pandemic, cited an example worldwide. Then came the knife stabbing of several people in a shopping mall in Auckland by a man of Sri Lankan descent, 37 year old Ahamed Adhil Mohamed Samsudeen of Kattankudy. Her wise words prevented hate and ostracism of races in NZ, and I must add no slur on a religion or Sri Lanka.
We all carry a picture of Ardern visiting Christchurch soon after the mosque murders, head-shawled and hugging Muslim women in sincere grief sharing. She received international praise. Then too her message was to shun racial labeling. Then came the recent terrorist stabbing. She announced to all: “It was carried out by an individual not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity. But an individual gripped by an ideology not supported here by anyone or any community.”
Another human story is that of her having a baby on June 21 2018, while PM, becoming the second elected head of a government to go on maternity leave; the first being Benazir Bhutto.
The father is her live-in companion since 2012 – TV presenter Clark Gaylord. In May 2019, they became officially engaged to be married. They named their daughter Neva Te Aroha; the first name being the localized Irish name Niamh, and Te being Maori for love; while the last name is that of a mountain near her childhood home.
A friend mentioned that Ardern is said to have Maori blood, so off I went searching Internet. She herself joined others in detective work on her ancestry. They climbed her family tree and studied DNAs. Conclusion is she has 54% Irish, 29% northwestern European, 10% French and German and 3.7% Scandinavian. No trace of Maori descent. Her father, born in Te Aroha, NZ, carries the appellation His Excellency having been an ambassador and was in the police force. Jacinda’s mother is Irish and has an ancestor who worked for Queen Victoria.
Jacinda Ardern is honest in her opinions and expresses them with restraint, diplomatically but truthfully. Interviewed some time ago by Christiane Amanpour on CNN, she puckered her face and said simply: “I just cannot understand Trump and the Americans.” That was indictment enough!
It is a happy thought that the world will see Jacinda Arden leading her country for much longer as she is young, and unlike most others, with increasing popularity.
With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and all the resultant upheaval and stark foreboding and fear suffered by Afghan women, this Chief International Correspondent and senior presenter of BBC, reported extensively from Kabul Airport during August this year, following the coalition’s rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Lyse Marie Doucet, OBE, CM, is a journalist born on December 24 1958 in Bathurst, Canada. She presents on BBC World Service radio and BBC World News on TV (UK) and also reports to BBC Radio 4. She graduated from Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. From 1983 to 1988, she worked as a freelance reporter in West Africa for the Canadian media and BBC. In 1988 she moved to Pakistan and then was based in Kabul to end 1989 reporting on the Russian withdrawal. In 1994 she opened the BBC office in Amman, Jordon, and from 1995 was based in Jerusalem up until 1999. She has covered the Arab Spring and the 2004 tsunami from Indonesia. She was back in Kabul after several visits to the place covering the Taliban takeover. The most striking factor is that she is in the thick of conflicts, head-shawled or otherwise. A recent BBC ad carrying the legend: we don’t only tell the story but live it, had shots of a young Lyse to the present, invariably with upheaval as background. Thus proof of her commitment to good reporting. She projects an appearance of determination, yet sympathetic empathy on her face and through body language toward the person interviewed or the country reported on,
Many are her achievements. She received the News & Documentary Emmy Award for outstanding continuing ‘Coverage of News Story in a Newscast’. Her movie productions include ‘Children of Syria’ 2014; ‘Children of the Gaza War’ 2015; ‘My Childhood, My Country’; ‘20 years in Afghanistan’ and ‘Syria: the world’s war’ 2018. In 2016 she received a Bafta Award. Her books include ‘Remarkable: five women who dared to make a difference’.
We will thankfully continue seeing more of this journalist too.
Why Small Farms will be the backbone of food security
The ecological axiom that: ‘Energy flow through a system tends to organise and simplify that system’, is abundantly clear in agriculture. As farms moved from small interdependent units, bounded by fences and hedgerows, to large cropping fields to accommodate machine management, we lose the biodiversity that once existed on that landscape and the biomass that provided the Ecosystem Services. This sacrifice was rationalised through the invocation of economic profit. The economic ‘profit’ gained by subsidies on fossil fuel and uncontrolled extraction from the Global Commons. The ‘development’ of agriculture has become a race to control the commodity market. The farmer ceased to be a feature of the farm. In a telling statement, the farmers of Sri Lanka sent the following statement to the CGIAR in 1998 :
‘We, the farmers of Sri Lanka would like to further thank the CGIAR, for taking an interest in us. We believe that we speak for all of our brothers and sisters the world over when we identify ourselves as a community who are integrally tied to the success of ensuring global food security. In fact it is our community who have contributed to the possibility of food security in every country since mankind evolved from a hunter-gather existence. We have watched for many years, as the progression of experts, scientists and development agents passed through our communities with some or another facet of the modern scientific world. We confess that at the start we were unsophisticated in matters of the outside world and welcomed this input. We followed advice and we planted as we were instructed. The result was a loss of the varieties of seeds that we carried with us through history, often spanning three or more millennia. The result was the complete dependence of high input crops that robbed us of crop independence. In addition, we farmers producers of food, respected for our ability to feed populations, were turned into the poisoners of land and living things, including fellow human beings. The result in Sri Lanka is that we suffer from social and cultural dislocation and suffer the highest pesticide- related death toll on the planet. Was this the legacy that you the agricultural scientists wanted to bring to us ? We think not. We think that you had good motives and intentions, but left things in the hands of narrowly educated, insensitive people.’
The diverse farm had to yield to production monoculture, which was made possible through the burning of fossil fuels. Ironically the burning of fossil fuels is the major reason for the current destabilised climate and threat to agriculture. One consequence of climate change is the predicted rise in global temperatures. If ambient temperatures exceed 40 degrees , which has become the reality in many places even today, food production will be compromised. All the food we eat originates with plants and plants produce using photosynthesis. Photosynthesis, or the capture of solar energy by plants, is done with chlorophyll, the thing that makes plants green and chlorophyll begins to break down after 40 degrees. Landscapes whose summer temperatures go beyond this limit will have smaller and smaller crops as the temperatures increase. The only solution to this oncoming crisis, is to begin introducing trees at strategic points on the landscape.
Trees and all other forms of vegetation cool the environment around them through the transpiration process, which takes place in the leaves. The water absorbed by the roots is sent up to the leaves which release it as vapor, cooling the air around it. Measurements on trees done by research institutions worldwide, indicate that an average large tree produces the cooling equivalent of eight room sized air conditioners running for 10 hours, a cooling yield 0f 1,250,000 Bthu per day. Plantations of trees have been recoded to have daytime temperatures at least 3 degrees below the ambient. This is an important aspect of Ecosystem Services that needs to be considered for adaptive agriculture.
Small farms which produce food with low external energy and maintain high biomass and biodiversity, are the models of food production that can face the climate compromised future before us. Capital, resource and energy expensive agricultural systems could fail in a high temperature future and threaten global food security, we need options. One would be to encourage a consumption and distribution system that facilitates small farmers to enter the market. Another would be to realise the value of the ecosystem services of a farm and develop systems to measure and reward. We are all aware of the future before us. Now is not the time to stand blinking like a deer facing the headlights.
But placing trees in and around cropping areas becomes a problem in large cropping fields designed to accommodate machine management. The management of such trees and hedgerows requires needs that cannot be provided without human management. Agricultural landscapes will need management that will be adaptive to the changing climate. An example would be; small interdependent units bounded by fences and that increase biodiversity and the biomass while providing Ecosystem Services.
Investment in food security, should take climate change seriously. All new agricultural projects should address the heat thresholds of the planned crops. The Sri Lankan country statement at COP 21 stated that :
“We are aware that the optimum operating temperature of chlorophyll is at 37 deg C. In a warming world where temperatures will soar well above that, food production will be severely impacted.”
And that :
“We are aware that the critical Ecosystem services such as; production of Oxygen, sequestering of Carbon, water cycling and ambient cooling is carried out by the photosynthetic component of biomass. This is being lost at an exponential rate, due to the fact that these Ecosystem Services have not been valued, nor economically recognised.”
These statements cry out for the recognition of the role that small farms will have to play in the future. In a temperature compromised future, small farms with high standing biomass, through their cooler temperatures will continue to produce food in heat stressed periods. If such Ecosystem Services can be given a value, it will strengthen the economy of small farms and ensure local, sustainable food production into the future.
Small farms which produce food with low external energy and maintain high biomass and biodiversity, are the models of food production that can face the climate compromised future before us. Capital, resource and energy expensive agricultural systems could fail in a high temperature future and threaten global food security, we need options. One would be to encourage a consumption and distribution system that facilitates small farmers to enter the market. Another would be to realize the value of the ecosystem services of a farm and develop systems to measure and reward. We are all aware of the future before us. Now is not the time to stand blinking like a deer in sheadlights.
Encouraging signs, indeed!
Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving
Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.
They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.
The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.
On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.
Constructive dialogue beyond international community
by Jehan Perera
Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.
In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”
Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”
The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.
There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.
President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.
An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.
The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.
Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.
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