Letters to the Editor

28th April 1996

Pearl of the orient now shedding tears of blood

"Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum ! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or having it, is satisfied? - Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out." (William Thackeray)

And so the child of Madame Bandaranaike told the party-men, what Milton said two centuries ago:-

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." In Sri Lanka, a one time Pearl of the Orient, now shedding tears of blood, the Party system has degenerated. The aim of one major party is to retain governmental power; the aim of the other major party is to topple the government and come to power; the aim of the minority parties is to play the role of king-makers and brokers.

Parliament, as it is, is top-heavy with too many members. The duty of all of them, barring a few, is to attend parliament merely to raise their hands, according to the dictates of the party Whip. Many of them have no other work and therefore find a place in the Devil's Workshop. They are a potential source of danger, sowing the seeds of discontent and dissension and bleeding the economy of the country. Some of them are completely lost in their super select Aircooler Pajeros, fashioned for the enjoyment of life.

In view of the interest evinced at present and the ongoing debates and views expressed in what is best suited to the governance of a United Sri Lanka, it may be of some interest to your readers, to know the views expressed by the late leader, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, referred to by the late S. Nadesan Q.C., an eminent jurist, in his, "Comments on the Draft Basic Resolutions Of the 1972 Constitution." He gave expression to his considered views on the subject in the course of an address on, "Democracy in Asian Countries" to the Indian Council of World Affairs in December 1957, He said:-

"Democracy is a good thing, but I am not altogether satisfied that, that particular machinery which developed in England is necessarily satisfactory for us...Now, I think in countries where you cannot be quite so certain of having a Two-Party system - where there are many parties divided on ideological grounds, political, economic, racial, religious, linguistic and so on - we cannot really hope at an early date to get two parties to divide on purely political issues. Then, in such a situation, there must be some modification, I think. Some modification where all Members of Parliament, whatever party they belong to, have some share in the executive work; although, naturally the majority party will have the majority share.

In my own country we experimented with that for ten years or more with what we called the Executive Committee form of Government. The Parliament divided itself according to the Ministries into equal number of members in each Executive Committee. The Executive Committee met and chose its Chairman who then became the Minister of the Executive Committee. Then the Ministers met and chose the Chief Minister who became the Prime Minister. In this way, every Member of Parliament, both backbenchers of the majority party as well as the Opposition Party shared the executive work, and you avoided that bitterness and sense of frustration that is liable to develop not only amongst the opposition but also among the backbenchers of the majority party."

S. Thambyraja

Colombo 3

Avert an ecological disaster

The day all our waterfalls, reservoirs and rivers go dry, our ignorant politicians and bureaucrats will realise we have reached the point of no return. The greatest ecological disaster on the face of this planet, was the devastation of forests in the hill country of Sri Lanka, by the ignorant, arrogant Anglo-Saxons, to pave way for tea.

The ecological balance and the ecosystem was forever altered to the whims and fancies of the greatest exploiter on earth, the Englishman. The consequences and repercussions of this vast destruction, to the tune of half a million acres, in our tiny island is only being felt now, with no proper monsoon rains and prolonged droughts.

The present day politician and bureaucrat are ignorant of ecology, ecosystems and ecological balance in nature. Our immediate step is to draw up a long term plan to redeem the forest cover. We lost to tea, especially in the hill country. Without trees there is no precipitation and without precipitation no rain is possible.

As a first step, I request the Forest Department and Irrigation Department to direct their available resources, to start growing trees in the vicinity of Sri Pada, where most of our rivers originate. Reforestation is no easy task and it has to be carried out with utmost care studying the flora and fauna in the area under consideration.

Another sensitive area to be considered is where waterfalls are found and reforestation will be vital where reservoirs exist. We defeat the purpose of conservation of water, as most of our reservoirs are at low levels most of the year. A gradual encroachment of hills through a carefully planned reforestation is imperative even at this late juncture, to reach a target of 50 per cent recovery after 100 years from now.

Some might argue that the average rainfall in the past 100 years has been fairly steady, yet now rain does not come down at the proper time and at the proper place.

The foreign exchange we lose to import fertiliser, pesticides and fungicides to keep the tea bush growing and the vast amount of money we lose every year on damage caused by mud slides (earth slips), crop failures due to prolonged droughts, production losses due to power cuts, could be averted once at least the unproductive tea lands are brought under a reforestation plan. It is time not to revive the tea industry but to discard it, keeping only the most productive tea lands moving for economic and social reasons. In fact today the tea bush is virtually grown on a 'Concrete' base, with no top soil, as soil erosion has played havoc with the soil configuration in the hilly regions. The hills, in 100 years have transformed into meadows as happened in England, with the clearing of hills covered with forest by the Anglo-Saxon, the invader.

The Rain Forest Conservation Society in Queensland, Australia will be inclined to help Third World countries in their reforestation efforts, as Australians have realised the importance of saving the existing forests, as well as redeeming the forest cover lost to commercial exploitation.

I wish our politicians, bureaucrats and the general public will be receptive to this important issue and take remedial measures in the near future, before it's too late.

As an immediate step, the authorities should declare the meagre 15 per cent forest cover we are left with, as strict forest reserves.

Sunil Vijayapala

Mt. Lavinia

What despicable hypocrisy?

It happened there in 1978. It happened there again in 1982. Yet again it happened there in 1993. It is being repeated once more with even greater ferocity since April 11. Each time it was unleashed, hundreds of men, women and children were killed, thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands simply forced to flee their homes, thousands of dwellings and buildings reduced to dust and destructions on a massive scale. I am referring to the brutal terror unleashed on Lebanon and its people by the one and only country in the world today that is cold blooded enough to perform such monstrosity with impunity, i. e. Israel. This is how this latest round of horror in Lebanon began.

After its last invasion in 1993 ended in failure, the Israelis withdrew with a face-saving agreement under which the Hizbollah agreed not to fire Katyusha rockets into Israel in return for Israel's pledge not to attack civilian targets in Lebanon. The Hizbollah however retained the right to carry out attacks inside the 15m Lebanese territory occupied by Israel since 1978.

Peace and quiet returned to Northern Israel in spite of clashes in Lebanese territory until March 30 when Israel provoked Hizbollah by commencing hostilities in breach of its agreement of 1993.

On March 30 Israel shelled Yater in South Lebanon killing two civilians and badly wounding a three year- old-child. Hizbollah replied by firing Katyusha rockets into Israel without causing casualties. An uneasy calm prevailed thereafter.

On April 9, Israeli provocation took place again when a bomb killed a 16-year-old boy and wounded three others in South Lebanon. A rocket barrage by Hizbollah in retaliation wounded 36 Israelis in the North.

On April 10, a mortar attack by Hizbollah on an Israeli outpost in South Lebanon killed an Israeli soldier and wounded two others. Israel once again violated the agreement by shelling four Lebanese villages wounding one person.

All hell broke loose on April 11, when Israel unleashed the full fury of its military might bombarding Lebanon from air, sea and land indiscriminately, causing widespread destruction, loss of lives and forcing hundreds of thousands of poor, helpless Lebanese to flee. In their much publicised precision bombing, the Israelis didn't spare even an ambulance, killing four children and a woman which they insolently justified without any remorse whatever! The Israelis, the chosen people they are, have blocked several attempts by the U.N. to transport badly needed provisions and rescue hundreds of civilians stranded from the beginning of this invasion. If this is not medieval barbarism, one wonders what is? Although in scale, the current invasion, running for the six day up to April 16 outstrips the three previous invasions - there is one major difference though. On earlier occasions there was widespread international revulsion and condemnation, notably from the third world and Europe. This time, there is deafening silence which is broken only to blame the Hizbollah as if to applaud the Israelis!!

Israel seems to have adopted and used the Pharaonic logic to its maximum advantage. Like Pharaoh, it thinks that it is the Lord, Master and owner of all it surveys; that others must accept its dictates with obeisance: that it has a right to trample whomever it pleases and those trampled must thank Israel for the favour, that it has no obligations to anybody, not even to its benefactors or supporters; others have only obligations, the most important of which is to respect, even to their own detriment, whatever Israel claims as its right. If anyone dares to challenge or resist this Pharaonic logic, Israel has the ultimate right to deal with such parties as savagely as it deems fit.

It is this logic that Israel used so successfully to occupy Arab lands, defying several U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and subdue Egypt, Jordan and P.L.O. besides attempting to subjugate Syria. It is the same logic that prompted it to occupy Lebanese territory since 1978. It is according to this logic that the Lebanese, spearheaded by the Hizbollah, have no right to resist the occupation of their country. It is precisely this logic that gives Israel the sublime right to savagely bombard the Lebanese until they submit, come hell or high water.

By its total silence to Israel's savagery, the International community seems to acquiesce in the Pharaonic logic of Israel. The U.N. the West and the International community took only minutes to loudly condemn the Hamas suicide attack just two months back and even demanded similar condemnation from Syria and Iran. The suicide attack is pin prick compared to the horrors of non-stop brutal bombardment by the Israelis which will continue indefinitely according to the Israeli Premier. What arrogance? Is there any justification for the strange, inexplicable silence from the U.N., the West and the International community? What despicable hypocrisy from the champions of freedom and human rights? Is there any limit to the abysmal depth to which the moral bankruptcy of the "Civilised' West can sink. Are we seeing the unfolding of the New World Order with all its evil manifestations? Bravo the sole super power.

Even our own Mr. Kadirgamar who lost no time in condemning the Hamas suicide attacks has observed a studious silence. Here is hoping that little Sri Lanka, like in the early seventies, will not be overawed either by the Pharaonic logic or by the New World Order. Over to you Mr. Kadirgamar. Here is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to set an example to the International community. Israel has broken not only all man-made laws and norms but also all divine laws. The latest we can do is to condemn Israel unreservedly.

M. I. M. Siddeq,

Colombo 8.

Lanka plagued with "Mad Bull Disease"

While England has taken all precautionary measures to control the Mad Cow Disease by destroying thousands of herds of cattle and seeking the assistance of the European Union to rehabilitate its cattle industry, one is deeply distressed to hear that Sri Lanka is now being plagued with a Mad Bull Disease.

It is reported that this mentally disordered disease has taken a most virulent hold on bodyguards of some politicians and even among the personal security staff of the Air Force Commander as in the case of the alleged apprehension and assault on Devinda Senanayake, a company Chairman, on the public highway. Even so-called do-gooders in such organisations as the Sudu Nelum Movement and the Samurdi Balakaya are not immune to this disorder. The sudden descent as if from heaven of an unidentified woman and her child from an Air Force helicopter on the Kandy Asgiriya grounds during an inter-school cricket match resulting in the players and the spectators running helter skelter, the bombing of the residence of the Nuwara Eliya Mayor, Thilaka Herath and the merciless assault by some death squads of a School Principal and his son for permitting a17-year-old student to imitate at a fancy dress parade a politician making election campaign pledges, are clear signals that goons with guns are now at large in our country.

Our President, in close consultation with the leader of the Opposition and with remaining statesmen, should immediately take positive action to stem this mad bull disease because, if this criminality is allowed to continue unabated, our already strained Police Force will not be able to maintain law and order while the Tamil terrorists will have a field day to continue without any hindrance their disastrous and dedicated mission to destabilise Sri Lanka. The present gross indiscipline among corrupt and unethical politicians will soon ring the death knell of democracy in our country thus providing a fertile climate for the emergence of War Lords as presently found in many impoverished countries in the African continent.

Stanley P. Wickremaratne,

West Australia.

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