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We should get ready

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By Praying Mantis

This piece is all about getting ready for elections. God forbid… no, no, no and no… not the insignificant as well as totally worthless Local Government and Provincial Government Elections. It is all about the elections that really matter; the Presidential Election and the General Election, which are due in a few years’ time. Many who read this article may think that I need to have my head examined as there are over two years for those elections. But the truth is that although the said elections are way off, we need to contemplate the way to go from now itself. We simply have to reflect on what has happened over the last few decades and what the contenders are offering for the future. It is not a secret that all of them, without any exceptions, would be offering the moon and the earth to the inhabitants of this island which is said to be a land like no other. Of course, the million-dollar question is whether we believe them.

Sri Lankans are notorious for their extremely short memories. In such a scenario, all of what we are being put through now are likely to be forgotten in a few months, leave alone a couple of years. Yes…, I said ‘put through’ because, all except perhaps the henchmen and the people who control the statute, are being put through a wringer so as to extract the last drops of peaceful, happy existence in this country. When election time comes, the political dregs of all hues that we have around, will start to shout again even from the rooftops promising us milk, honey, prosperity, wealth, splendid governance, superb health and even everything else that is really nice. The gullible public will most conveniently not remember the partisanships, the hardships, the corruption, the lawlessness and everything else that is contemptible, that has gone under the bridge during these terrible times. The farmers, agriculturists, importers, villagers and workers of all sorts will listen to the rhetoric, the false promises and the lies of these miserable legislators and will cheerfully go and vote for the villains of the piece of the last couple of decades.

The populace of this country should take note of the perpetual and unbelievably cunning ways in which politicians continue to dupe them. When they are in power, “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” mentality and camaraderie amongst all politicians of many different colours and loyalties is there for all to see; perhaps a classic example of unity in diversity. Even the suspected and even proven miscreants are not put behind bars. One lot in power will never take steps to jail people from other camps. That is because of the lingering fear that if and when roles are reversed, then they would be paid back with interest. The only politician who was put behind bars in recent years was just the person who wagged his uncontrollable tongue at the judiciary. The judicial machinery got into gear ever so rapidly and the guy was made to pay the price. Yet for all that, some of the others who were accused of various crimes, even far more serious ones, and well known to be the perpetrators of all of them, have not even been brought before the judiciary by the law enforcement agencies.

It is not at all common for politicians to admit their faults and mistakes. We have hardly ever, if not never, seen the spectacle of a politician saying mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Even in the face of an indefensible faux pas, they will try their best to wriggle out and abrogate responsibility for the entire fiasco to others. On reflection, it is impossible to find a political party or a politician graceful enough to admit their past mistakes. If we can find even one, then pigs will fly. All political parties in the country today, without any exceptions whatsoever, are guilty of various types of wrongdoings and misdemeanours, in the not-too-distant past, some even to the extent of endangering democracy and our beloved motherland itself.

A case in point is the present Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) set. If we are to take their current policies and pontifications at face-value, they are quite reasonable; in fact, just what we need. They promise a whole lot of progressive manoeuvres, together with promises of firmly dealing with political miscreants and scoundrels of the past. They are the only people who seem to have been able to provide verbal fireworks of a kind of devastating type in our Parliament. However, can we trust them? Perhaps not, as there is no guarantee that they will be any different once they get power into their hands. It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The current band of sahodarayas or comrades of the JVP have not had the guts to come out and say that they made mistakes from the early seventies of the last century. They caused mayhem and threatened even the very existence of law and order on more than one occasion. They have not even bothered to come before the people, admit their past mistakes and apologise to the countrymen and countrywomen of our Motherland for all types of transgressions that they have inflicted on this country. They do not seem to realise that if they come clean in all honesty, the populace might; just might start to think, ‘OK, they made mistakes and they have the courage to admit them, let us give them a chance’. If they listen to reason, the sahodarayas and the sahodariyas will do just that. Then, and only then, will they stand head and shoulders above the rest of them all. The government-backed newspapers brand them as a spent old force but if they show up with honesty and a genuine desire to make a change for the better, egg and stone attacks notwithstanding, all other political parties will learn a really bitter lesson. It is also most important for them to come forward as a single unified party and not be a part of a coalition or a ‘sandhanaya’. This writer hopes that the likes of the prince, Vijitha, T-win, Lal the kantha, Bee-mal, h-rini, Sunil the handun …., together with a conglomerate of assorted comrades would take these random musings seriously. They must realise that our people have tried all other so-called front-runner parties and are sick to their back teeth with them. They will not think twice about trying out another novel lot. So, keep that firmly in your mind JVP, if you really want to get anywhere in this rat race.

Then of course there is the daasa guy from the opposing force who routinely shouts at a pretty high decibel level even when he has to convey something that is not of vital importance to the people. I do not think he realises that the sound level is not the thing that makes an impact, except on our eardrums. It is the substance that is vocalised that is of the essence. He should perhaps learn a lesson from a very prominent and very senior member of the powerful ‘clan’ who even when he held the highest position of the land, never raised his voice. He would speak most attractively and really modulate his voice as a part and parcel of his charismatic personality. In addition to the connotations on the sound level, the lot in that party of daasa are promising various types of corrections they would take to counteract the misguided and disastrous steps taken by the current lot in power. Of course, they do not mince their words and are on an attack mode all the time, with the ear-splitting voice blaring at the highest pitch. However, they and their affiliated colleagues have also promised all kinds of things in the past but their performance record is rather abysmal. Their henchmen too have tremendously benefited from all kinds of crafty manoeuvres and even blatant scams in the past. They too have not had the courage to ever come before the people and admit their mistakes. They probably think it is infra dig, but the truth is that the general public hold them responsible for all those misdemeanours and transgressions.

Then there is a cluster of other little lots of also-ran types who are not even worth bothering about. There are the likes of dehydrated pumpkins, the overfed rounded ones, the old man with dubious tendencies, the contingent of believers in extremism as well as fanaticism, and all kinds of we-are-also-there types. They are thoroughbred nincompoops and ignoramuses.

Judge all of our politicians and every single one of them by what they have promised in the past and what they have delivered; by what they have said they will do and what they have actually done and whether they are empathetic to their country-people or whether they have been the nasty vultures that sucked the life blood of the populace for personal benefits and those of their hangers-on. Did they pamper to the whims and fancies of their henchmen, even if those worthies were going against all that is decent and lawful? Most unfortunately and quite sadly, the answer is in the affirmative in the case of the majority of our legislators.

Niccolò Machiavelli is deemed to be the representative par excellence of the lack of morality and ethics in politics. The theory that ‘the end justifies the means’ encapsulates his political and moral thought. The popular conception is that Machiavelli’s political methods are amoral, evil, but yet perhaps rational and pragmatic in a perverse sort of way. It was advice like “It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong”, offered by Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, that made its author’s name synonymous with the ruthless use of power.

It was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the iconic President of the United States of America, who came out with the oft quoted line in his 1961 Inaugural Address “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country“. We should constantly remind our set of politicians of all hues that the same sentiments apply equally well to them as far as what they can do for our beautiful country and certainly not what our Motherland could do for them.



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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