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‘We wouldn’t have spent 30 years of our lives fighting a war if we had right leaders and intellectuals’

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‘Then the war would never have even started’

– Ex Army Commander Gen. Daya Ratnayake

Former Army Commander and incumbent Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, General Daya Ratnayake, said that, in his experience, it is easy to get an education, it is easy to be educated, but what’s hard is to become a person, a human being with the capacity to work hard, to innovate, to choose right over wrong regardless of the consequences, to do the right thing, to do something simply because it has to be done and no one else is willing to take it on.

Speaking as the chief guest at the Pearson BTEC Convocation 2020 of the Esoft Metro Campus at the BMICH, he told the students: “You are educated. You will remain educated until the day you die. You will have that label and you deserve it. The question I put to you is this: are you satisfied with just that label or do you want to become someone special, someone exceptional, someone about whom others will speak of long after you are gone? Do you want to become a legend? If so, let this moment mark a beginning”.

Continuing, General Ratnayake said: “I see you, young men and women, about to close one chapter in your lives and ready to start a new one. In every single one of you, in your eyes, there’s joy and there’s hope. The future holds promise. Tomorrow will be better. Success will be yours. And let there be no doubt in your minds — that is exactly what I wish for each and every one of you. I want all of you to succeed because your success and the success of all students like you could add up to benefit the country of our birth, the nation we love and the people, our fellow citizens, among whom we grew up and must live.

“I want you to succeed and I will tell you why. I have been a soldier and not an academic. I spent 35 years in the Army and I was engaged in combat in 30 of those 35 years. I, like my fellow officers and every single member of the security forces, was ready to lay down my life for my country, for our people”, the former army chief stressed, while adding, “believe me, ready to die though we all were, there were times when I asked myself a simple question: ‘why did it come to this?’ I asked myself ‘what is it that forced me to spend 30 years of my life in uniform, carrying weapons, fighting a war?”.

Gen. Ratnayake added: “I am a Buddhist and Buddhism taught me the doctrine of cause and effect theory, Patichchasamupada. So when I was confronted by a question, I investigated. And my investigation revealed to me that not just the war but almost every major issue that we grapple with are effects of something else, some underlying cause which we have not confronted and resolved. Just the other day, some 60,000 graduates were given jobs in the state sector. A significant number of them, I found out, had been waiting for years for the various governments in power to offer them employment. During all those years, didn’t they look for jobs elsewhere? Didn’t they take the trouble to make a CV? And if they had a CV, didn’t they try to improve it by engaging in something, even voluntary work? If not, why not?

Most of them are beneficiaries of free education. It’s not only that. Most of them were born in government hospitals, when they were sick, they went to see doctors and got medicine from government hospitals. Not only did they enjoy free education until their A/ Levels, they benefited from free education in the universities as well. They got Mahapola Scholarship or bursaries. Who paid for all this? The people. And after all this, they want to sit at home until someone offers them a job!, he observed.

“It pains me to know this reality. It pains me that we have become a nation and a citizenry that has lost all sense of dignity and self-respect. It pained me. because, I remembered how hard I strove to become who I was. I did not become an Army officer, a General and the Army Commander by doing nothing. I wanted to join the Army when I was very young. It was a dream. And I worked hard to make it a reality”, Gen. Ratnayake further said.

He continued: “I found out what qualifications, skills, character and attitudes were necessary to become an Officer Cadet. I needed to be fit, I needed to be strong. So I took up sports. I need to have basic academic qualifications, so I studied hard. I needed to have a particular kind of personality, so I cultivated it. I would have to fight, so I learned how to fight. By the time I was a senior student in my school, I was a leader. I was a problem-solver. Whenever there was a problem, whenever there was injustice, I stepped in. After a while people came to me, asking me to resolve their problems.

“And when I joined the Army I had to learn new skills. I had to be a hundred times more fit. I had to work harder that I ever had in my life. I did all that. Dear students, you are young. You are excited about going out into the wide world. Out there, there is no one who will take care of you as though you were a baby. You can blame the government, you can blame society, you can blame the international political order, but at some level, you will have to stop complaining about things out of your control, look within yourself and fix the problems that you have the power to fix.

“Sadly, we have become a nation of complainers. We like to point fingers at others. We blame someone else for our misery. We don’t stop and ask ourselves if there’s something lacking in us. We don’t admit that we could be flawed/wrong. We have had hundreds of thousands of young people graduating from our universities. They are all educated. I am convinced that each and everyone of you can become extraordinary citizens, extraordinary human beings. I am convinced that you can leave behind a legacy which will make people speak your names with awe and respect. You can become legends.

“So far you’ve gone through the paces. You’ve done the work, passed exams and today you leave with a certificate. Ask yourself if your time here has been exceptional. Did you set yourself extraordinary targets? If you didn’t know much English when you entered, could you say today that you speak and write fluently and beyond what you yourself, your parents, fellow students and lecturers expected?

“My father was a farmer. When I was interviewed for the Army I was asked what my father did. I didn’t say he was a landed proprietor. I said ‘farmer’. I am proud of my father. I am proud that he was a farmer. I am proud that he was not a burden to anyone. He didn’t beg anyone for a job. He didn’t ask for handouts. He didn’t take out his frustrations by ragging someone. He worked hard. He wanted his children to get the kind of education he never had. He wanted us to be useful citizens. He wanted us to have strong values. He wanted us to be the best we can be and try to be even better.

Don’t settle for an ordinary future. Don’t settle for a job, a salary, marriage, home and children. Aim higher. And always remember that there are no shortcuts. There’s no substitute for hard work. Our nation needs you to be exceptional human beings. If all of you do in fact become exceptional human beings, then people like me will not have to spend 30 years of our lives fighting a war that would never have even started had we had the right leaders, right intellectuals and exceptional citizens.

“Remember, that tomorrow doesn’t belong to you. TODAY belongs to you. Be exceptional. Lead amazing lives. Conduct yourself with integrity, self respect, right characters and attitudes. You will no doubt end up as legends”.

The pinnacle Pearson BTEC in Business Management ‘Most Outstanding Performance’ and ‘High Achiever 2019/20’ awards at the Convocation were clinched by Ahinsa Udayani Perera, the winner of The Cambridge World Prize for Business Studies in 2016.

Dr. Dayan Rajapakse, Group Managing Director, ESOFT Group of Companies, Nishan Sembacuttiaratchy, Chief Executive Officer, ESOFT Metro Campus, Mrs. Premila Paulraj, Regional Director – Asia – Pearson Education and Suriya Bibile, Territory Manager – Sri Lanka & Maldives, Pearson Education were also present.

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Current wave of COVID-19:

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AG asks police to probe alleged negligence of Brandix, others

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, has called for an immediate investigation into circumstances that led to the coronavirus eruption at the Brandix apparel manufacturing facility at Minuwangoda early this month.

AG’s Coordinating Officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told The Island that a progress report had been called  by or before Nov 13.

The AG stepped in amidst Opposition political parties, both in and outside Parliament questioning the failure on the part of health authorities to establish how the eruption had taken place.

Instructions were issued yesterday (27) when the AG summoned DIG Ajith Rohana, a senior officer in charge of the police Legal Division. The State Counsel said that the AG wanted the Brandix management, its agents and government servants probed as regards their negligence and carelessness.

Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera recently told The Island that they were yet to ascertain the cause of the current wave. Health Secretary retired Maj. Gen. Sujeewa Munasinghe said they had probed several leads and were now close to bringing the inquiry into successful conclusion.

Both Dr. Samaraweera and Head of the National COVID-19 Task Force Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva have said the 39-year-old Brandix employee who was the first to be tested positive is not the patient zero as regards the garment cluster.

The AG intervened in the absence of a police investigation into various accusations regarding the second wave with the number of positive cases rapidly nearing 9,000.

Brandix, in response to The Island queries, has assured that it followed health guidelines when 341 workers attached to its facility in India and their families were repatriated in three batches. The company said that it would fully cooperate with government authorities inquiring into the outbreak.

The Opposition lambasted the government for the deteriorating situation during last Friday’s debate on the epidemic now threatening to overwhelm the health facilities.

JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe yesterday said that a comprehensive inquiry was needed to establish the truth. (SF)

 

 

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An Open Letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: 

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Don’t try to sign agreements in secret

Issued by the Sri Lanka
Study Circle 

We, the members of the Sri Lanka Study Circle in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, a founding member of the Non Aligned Movement – the largest organised grouping of Nations after the UN – that initiated a UN General Assembly Resolution in 1971 which was unanimously adopted by the entire World to make forever the Indian Ocean a zone of peace within which area no Nuclear weapons whatsoever would be permitted are a bit confused about the status of your visit to Sri Lanka due to a lack of transparency. 

Initially, your embassy in Colombo, when questioned about rumours of a possible visit by you to our country, denied those rumours. Several days later, the embassy made an announcement that you would be visiting our country for a day. 

We surmise therefore that you are visiting our country, not at our invitation but at your request, at a time when the ugly head of COVID is raising its head once again due to, what appears to be, the criminal negligence of a Company funded and mentored by your Government. 

We must express our dismay and protest that the forerunners to your visit have dampened the spirit and purpose of your visit by flagrantly violating the basic health guidelines, required to be followed by all entering our country, to bring under control the pandemic which has caused thus far the deaths of 218000 people in your country. 

 We trust that you and your entourage would subject yourself to the mandatory health checks, especially travelling from India which ranks number two, next to your country, in the number of COVID related deaths. 

We note that your visit has been preceded by many communiques appearing in the media.  

To comment on some of them: You seem to harbour an illusion that your country and ours has a common vision. No, we do not have a common vision; your country is a Capitalist country where the engine of growth is the private sector. Ours, Mr. Pompeo, as per our Constitution and the thinking of our people, is a Socialist State where, in perfect harmony with Buddhist principles, public interest prevails over private interest.  

The factors of production like Land are held by the State and not private individuals. That is why MCC goes against the very grain of Sri Lankan thinking, Buddhism and culture and does not have the people’s mandate. 

You have ‘advised’ our Government to take necessary and difficult decisions to secure her economic independence. Mr. Chairman MCC, we request you to keep your unsolicited advice to yourself. We are indeed sorry if some members of our country had portrayed themselves to you, as imbeciles. The majority of them are not capable of sagacious and independent thought.   

You seem to suggest that some of our donors’ conditions are not transparent and our discriminatory. In fact this is the very criticism the people have levelled against the MCC ; it is very discriminatory and the least transparent. The people of this country have yet to see the draft MCC document in the language they understand, Sinhala and Tamil. 

‘US officials warned the Sri Lankan Government who they team up with for their economic partnership’. Mr. Pompeo, if that is a threat you can go to Mars; you could spend your time more profitably over there. We are aware that you were refused an audience with the Pope and we are acutely aware that you have endorsed the torture going on in Guantanamo Bay and that you hold a view that the hell-hole you forcibly occupy there should not be shut down. 

It is laughable that you allude to debt diplomacy of some other countries. Does it not make you laugh that the US offers a gift horse – as your acolytes would say- worth 480 Million USD when the US has a sovereign debt of 26 Trillion USD. Amidst this debt from where did you get this pottage and why not use this amount to reduce your own debt? 

 ‘Secretary Pompeo will travel to Colombo to underscore the commitment of the United States to a partnership with a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka and to advance our common goals for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.’ 

Hitherto, your military reach in the Pacific was limited to the South-east Asian Countries because the Pacific ended there. The Indian Ocean was untouched and the littoral states in the Indian Ocean declared the Indian Ocean, a Zone of Peace.  

What you are now attempting to do is extend the Pacific Ocean to include the Indian Ocean.  

As a first step, you have artificially made two Oceans one, by calling it the Indo-Pacific Ocean. And the second step is to extend the militarisation of the Pacific Ocean to cover the ‘Indian Ocean’ portion of the Indo -Pacific Ocean.  

This is where the MCC, the ACSA, the SOFA and the QUAD fit in. This is how, in our opinion, the US would militarily ‘Pivot-to-Asia’ 

You have the gumption to say ‘free and open’ Indo Pacific Ocean when in the seas around the American Continents you restrict naval activity by applying unilaterally a doctrine, the Monroe doctrine. 

Make no bones about it, the Indian Ocean, Mr. Secretary, is a nuclear Free Ocean, and an Ocean of Peace. Sri Lanka is a committed Non-Aligned State and not a Neutral state. Some novices are confused about this. 

 If you wish to speak with Sri Lanka come in Peace and we shall talk. We shall talk openly and transparently. Do not attempt to sign Agreements in Secret because they do not have the mandate of the People.     

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CEJ warns of danger to health from lead in paints

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By Ifham Nizam

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) yesterday urged the public to be vigilant about the lead content in consumer items. Dilena Pathragoda, CEJ Managing Director said that most old buildings still had old paint with high lead levels.

Addressing the media at an event to mark the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action he said that some Sri Lankan companies dump lead contaminated liquid waste into our water ways without following the proper procedures.

CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage said: “In Sri Lanka, lead concentration in paint has been limited by the Consumer Affairs Authority as a result of a case filed by the CEJ in 2011. Accordingly, enamel and floor paints can have only 600ppm of lead while the limit is 90 ppm for emulsion and paints used on children’s products. This law came into effect from January 1, 2013. It is also mandatory to declare on the label if the paint is lead safe.”

Withanage added that it was the consumer’s duty to check for the lead level before purchasing paint. He added that many countries in the region had now reduced the maximum permissible lead level to 90 ppm in all types of paints. It was time to introduce more stringent standards for Sri Lankan paints, he said.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage in children, resulting in reduced Intelligence quotient (IQ), reduced attention span, impaired learning ability and increased risk of behavioral problems.

In adults it can affect reproduction, endocrine or the hormone system and the cardiovascular system. Research shows that the main source of lead poisoning is paint. The oil-based paints that are commonly known as enamel paint, floor paint, anti corrosive and lacquer contain high lead levels. These paints are commonly found on walls of preschools and childcare facilities, children play areas, furniture, baby cots and some toys.

In addition, researchers have revealed that lead is found in some imported plastic and rubber toys, stationery, paints on porcelain, cosmetics and artificial jewelry. People working in; e-waste recycling plants, lead-acid battery/ car battery recycling plants, metal smelting, construction and demolition work are highly vulnerable to lead exposure.

 

 

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