Connect with us


Youth and discipline




Ref. ‘Compulsory training to instil discipline, not jeopardise freedom of choice’ by Rear Admiral (Rtd) Dr Sarath Weerasekera/The Island/September 4, 2021. It is a response to an earlier opinion article of mine under the title ‘Candour without caution dangerous naivety’ (July 29, 2021). Thank you, Dr Weerasekera, for your lavish compliment ‘erudite academic’, which I don’t think I deserve, but I sincerely appreciate your generous sentiments regarding me. I have similar thoughts about you. I am very sincere when I say this.

There is absolutely no disagreement between you and me about the subject you are broaching.  The themes announced in the titles ‘Compulsory training to instil discipline, not jeopardise freedom of choice’ and ‘Candour without caution dangerous naivety’ are not contradictory, but complementary.

I decided to write this after reading Dr Weerasekera’s piece only to  state two things: 1) that he seems to have misread my “Candour without caution….” article, and 2) that he has inadvertently misquoted me at the beginning of his piece, both not surprising, given the busy circumstances he must cope up with as Minister of Public Security.

To take the second point first, here is Dr Weerasekera’s obviously unintended misquote:

He has written: ” Wasala at the outset says “not so arbitrarily, not so hastily” and continues to ask “isn’t it more urgent to look after the discipline of minority Police officers who act in ways unbecoming of their profession?”, whereas what I actually wrote was: ‘But, anent this idea of his, I’d say in all humility: “Not so arbitrarily! Not so hastily!” However, as education is not his responsibility, the Public Security Minister may be making an implicit suggestion to his

Cabinet colleague who is in charge of that subject. Isn’t it more urgent for the well meaning Minister to look after the discipline of  the minority of police officers who sometimes act in ways unbecoming of their profession, by getting the police hierarchy to enforce discipline on those few of their subordinates?’. I need not dwell too long on the potentially harmful implications of this faux pas on the part of Dr Weerasekera. His “…..minority Police officers who…..” and my “the minority of police officers who…..” imply two different things.

To anyone comparing the two texts above (Dr Weerasekera’s and mine) the following will be instantly clear: I didn’t mean to reprimand Dr Weerasekera by cautioning him in a friendly spirit with the words “Not so arbitrarily! Not so hastily!”. It appears to me that he sometimes acts arbitrarily and hastily, because he is direct and honest in asserting what he believes to be the truth in any situation. I always admire him as a patriotic war hero, an honest politician, and an honourable upright human being. Ironically, he has a combination of good qualities that is likely to make him vulnerable in the cut-throat world of politics.

As the famed English playwright and poet William Shakespeare said “To be direct and honest is not safe” (Othello) in a world where “There is no trust, no faith, no honesty in men; all perjured, all forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers” (Romeo and Juliet). These pieces of wisdom are easily applicable to the political theatre in any country, including Sri Lanka, where the struggle for power is an immorally amoral, no-holds-barred contest. Honest men and women in politics, beware! be cautious! That’s all I tried to say in my opinion piece of July 29, 2021.

In the article that Dr Weerasekera is responding to, I explained my reasons why I believe that young people everywhere are generally uncorrupted, creative and sensitive to ethical direction. I am talking about the majority of young people, not the minority who display traits of delinquency and criminality, for which the adult society is generally responsible. It is more often than not the doings of the few young miscreants that hog the limelight in the media. That is also something rotten with the adult world.

If some of the young act in ways that reflect a negative standard of behaviour, then the adults must be held accountable for that. It is true that daily we hear in the media about delinquency among the youth. But what is the percentage of delinquents? Usually, delinquency among children and young adults is not without its causes, which often have no connection with any inborn moral depravity among them. It is often an acquired trait, something learned from corrupt adults. There is a grave lack of adult leadership in our country. Often, those who should model good behaviour for the young people to learn from, fail them. There are many youth betrayers in the country, many more of them than there ever were in the past. The point is clear enough, I think. I need not suggest examples.

But I can’t help pointing at one example. Look at how some of our teachers (under the aegis of trade unionism) are behaving like zombies in obedience to the rash dictates of their equally mindless leaders; who don’t seem to have had the benefit of even a smattering of education or culture. How unfortunate it is that a nation has no option but to entrust their innocent young to their care!

Incidentally, I watched a social media video of a group of striking teachers trying to get an audience with the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras in Kandy a couple of days ago.  The Nayake monks refused to see them. They were only allowed to hand over a petition that they had with them to the security officers at the gate in both places. For once the Most Venerable Mahanayakes were asserting their power of unquestionable leadership. Then the teacher delegates called on the Venerable Gatambe Hamuduruvo: He was blunt as usual. This is roughly what he said: “Your pay anomaly is a question that has been dragging on for over 24 years  passing on from government to government. We got Gotabaya Mahattaya elected as President because there is no one else for the job. We trust him. He will do whatever he can do to resolve your problem. But these are trying times, especially with this ravaging Corona pandemic. Not only our country, but the whole world is in dire straits. You are doing something that you should not be doing; that is instead of doing what you can do to help control the pandemic”. The teachers showed agreement with the monk, paid him obeisance, and left the place.

I am not against the idea of providing some sort of mandatory personality and leadership development training to our youth, comparable to what the Higher Education Ministry conducted in May 2011 for new university students, as a kind of initiation for them prior to the beginning of their academic lectures. (I mentioned this in my ‘Candour without caution….’article.). Some 20,000 fresh university students participated in the training at 28 centres across the island. I’d wholeheartedly support such a programme for young people above 18 as Dr Weerasekera proposes, be it ‘military’ or not. (‘Military’ in this context may not be politically correct, though it is no harm in reality. Shouldn’t we be mindful of that?) But it must be introduced after wide consultation and meticulous planning.

Discipline is something that cannot be imposed on thinking people, be they young or old. What we can do is to design a course of meaningful physical and mental activities for them to engage in that induce discipline in them on the lines of the 2011 leadership programme. However, it is good to remember that, in the information saturated world of today, packaging and marketing aspects cannot be neglected, even when perfectly good things are offered for popular consumption.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


One of best development administrators SL ever had



Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.

During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.

Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.

The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.

KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.

In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.

After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.

Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.


Continue Reading


It was not Central Bank bond scam



I was surprised and sorry to read a journalist attached to The Island writing about a central bank bond scam: surprised because, the editor of The Island, in his inimitable editorials, consistently refers to a treasury bond scam; sorry, because it is simply factually wrong. I have driven home that point several times in The Island and assumed that that canard was dead. Would you permit me to flog a not-so-dead horse?

There never was a central bank bond scam; there could not have been, because there was no market in central bank bonds. The central bank has not issued its own liabilities at least since 1967. The currency notes issued by the Central Bank are liabilities of the government (aanduva/state?) of Sri Lanka. (Should you not clear up that mess confusing ‘state’ with the ‘government’?  It is one thing to have faith in the state of Sri Laska and quite another to have faith in the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.)  The Central Bank issues those bills (it does currency) on behalf of the state/government of Sri Lanka and they are not the liabilities of the Central Bank or the Monetary Board. There was a scam in government bonds in 2015 as well as in 2016.

As became clearer in the course of the Chitrasiri Commission, the then-governor of the Central Bank and a few other officers of the Central Bank were parties to that financial fraud involving government bonds. The Central Bank is simply the agent of the government/state who markets government liabilities. Those liabilities do not become the Bank’s liabilities. When you carry Sri Lanka currency, you carry liabilities, much like government bonds, of an entity whose credit is low. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is not in the picture.


Continue Reading


Ampitiya That I Knew



Ampitiya is a village just two miles from Kandy. The road to Talatuoya, Marassana, Galaha and turning left from Talatuoya to Tennekumbura and Hanguranketha and beyond goes through Ampitiya.My family moved there in 1949 when our paternal grandfather bequeathed the ancestral home to our father to be effective after our grandfather’s demise. Until then the eldest sister of our father’s family with her family and the two bachelor brothers lived in the house. After living in various places our father was transferred to on duty, we had come to our final abode there.

The house was situated about 100 yards before the second mile post. There were paddy fields both in front of the house and behind it with a mountain further away. These were salubrious surroundings to live in. There was no hustle and bustle as in a town and the only noise would have been the occasional tooting of horns and the call of vendors selling various household needs.

The Ampitiya village extended from near the entrance to the Seminary and the school situated a short climb away along Rajapihilla Mawatha (now Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha) on the road from Kandy ending at the gate to the Seminary, and running up to the Diurum Bodiya temple.

Ampitiya was well known thanks to the Seminary of our Lady of Lanka located there. Newly ordained Catholic priests took theology classes here. The Seminary with its majestic building commanded a fine view of the Dumbara valley. The student priests lived in the hostel called Montefano St. Sylvester’s Monastery situated just above the sloping rice fields coming down to the Kandy-Talatuoya Road. There was a volleyball court within the Montefano premises and we used to see the young priests enjoying themselves playing a game in the evenings as the court was quite visible from our house.

We, as schoolboys of the neighbourhood, used to get together during many weekends and play cricket on the roadway to the Montefano which was just past the second milepost as there was no vehicular traffic then on that road.

Ampitiya had a school started by the Catholic Church and known as Berrewaerts College which later became the Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya. At the time our family became residents of Ampitiya this was the only school. Later the Catholic Church established a girls’ school named Carmel Hill Convent. This school enabled most girls who had to go all the way to Kandy or Talatuoya by bus to walk to school.

People who follow sports, especially athletics, would have heard the names of Linus Dias, Sellappuliyage Lucien Benedict Rosa (best known in Sri Lanka as SLB Rosa) and Ranatunga Karunananda, all Ampitiya products who participated in the Olympics as long distance runners competing in the 10,000 metres event. Linus Dias captained the Sri Lankan contingent in the Rome Olympics in 1960.Though they were not able to emulate Duncan White they took part.

Karunananda became a hero in Sri Lanka as well as in Japan when at the Tokyo Olympics of October 1964 he completed the 10,000 metre course running the last four laps all alone. The crowd cheered him all the way to the finish appreciating his courage in not abandoning the already completed race. Later he said he was living up to the Olympic motto which said the main thing is to take part and not to win.

Rosa captained the Sri Lankan team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He switched to long distance running while still a student thanks to the Principal of Ampitiya Maha Vidyalaya, Mr. Tissa Weerasinghe (a hall mate of mine one year senior to me at Peradeniya) who had noted his stamina and asked him to switch to long distance events. I must mention that Tissa was responsible for bringing this school to a high standard from where it was when he took over.

Coincidentally, during our Ampitiya days, all the houses from Uduwela junction for about half a mile towards Talatuoya were occupied by our relatives! They included the Warakaulles, Koswattes, Pussegodas, Sangakkaras, Godamunnes, Thalgodapitiyas and Wijekoons. Now most of these houses are occupied by others.

Ampitiya area had two Buddhist temples. One was the Dalukgolla Rajamaha Viharaya on the Ratemulla Road and the other, Ampitiya Diurum Bodiya, near the third mile post. From the latter temple a famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Ampitye Rahula Thero later joined the Vajirarama temple in Colombo and was highly recognized by Buddhists just like Ven. Narada and Ven.Piyadassi Theros.

The Uduwela temple had a water spout emerging out of a granite rock where the temple priests and neighbours used to bathe and wash their clothes. This spout never ran dry.

At present the landscape of Ampitiya has changed hugely. Most of the sloping paddy fields have been filled and dwelling houses have come up. The majestic view, except for faraway mountains, is no longer present. A five-star hotel has been built just beyond the second mile post and the area has lost its previous tranquility. A person of my vintage who once lived there visiting Ampitiya now wouldn’t be able to recognize the place given the changes.



Continue Reading