Letters to the Editor

22nd September 1996


Strategy for Development and Priorities

In the management of a home, the most important thing to consider is the availability of food and that all members in the house are fed and even at the worst of times there is no need for concern with regard to food.

Similarly, in governing or administering a country any government that is elected to power should have as its first priority to provide the people their requirements of food at reasonable cost. Every other need is secondary. It is a time honoured precept that it is always an agricultural surplus that is invested in industry.

Judging by this criteria all governments since independence have had their priorities wrong. Sri Lanka is an agricultural country. In almost every part of the country edible crops can be grown. If this is done in an extensive and organised manner, the country will not only be self-sufficient in most of its food requirements but will also have a surplus too for export. With seasonal rainfall well spread out throughout the country and the soil too being fertile and suitable for agriculture, varied food crops could be cultivated. Annually the country spends a large amount of money to import sugar. If high quality sugar cane could be grown our requirement of sugar could be met within the country. A few days ago, it was announced that U. S. A. was giving us a loan to buy rice. It is indeed disappointing to realise that every party that came to power since independence said they could make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in rice which is our stable food. With scientific approach to agriculture, high quality seeds, agro/chemicals fertilizer and other inputs, the task could not have been difficult.

With high quality pasture which could be grown, dairy farming would have given all our requirements of milk and milk-based products. Similarly, the sea around our country and also the numerous rivers, streams, lakes and tanks could have provided all our sea food. If trawling had been organised well, we would have got all our fish requirements and the money that goes out of the country to import canned fish could have been saved. There is great potential for prawn culture, fishing and in other varieties of sea food. We have failed to take advantage of the potential that was available and exploiting their resources would not have been difficult. Here too, the country would have been self-sufficient and any surplus exported, thus earning valuable foreign exchange.

Since the plantation sector has the infrastructure and also the trained man power in the estates and if they could have only cultivated an acre or two in food crops, particularly vegetables and fruits, the country would have had all its requirements of vegetables and fruits and the prices of these too would have been within affordable limits to all sections of people in the country.

It is indeed unfortunate that we did not have a properly constituted permanent planning commission in the country which could have decided in a systematic and correct manner the stage by stage development of the country. There were only certain ad hoc organizations which left much to be desired. Moreover, a planning commission should be a permanent body of highly qualified and capable economists, agriculturists, etc., who could objectively and impartially collect all the required data and analyse them and decide on a priority basis the basic and other income generating projects in the national interest of the country.

The political parties have their own methods but mostly their extremism and narrowness of outlook only get them involved in highly controversial issues which destabilises the country. When the per capita income is at a fairly high level, there will be no place for any form of differences and the average person will want to be more cooperative, peaceful and progressive in outlook and also follow the principle of live and let live.

E. Sabaretnam,

Colombo 3.

Enter politicians and ruin cricket

Politicians have ruined our country, with their short-term and self-seeking natures. The ethnic problem, our flagging economy, our de-motivated public administration system, our poor education system are just a few examples.

Sri Lanka beat Australia in the Singer World Series finals which was magnificently conducted and broadcast to the world. The country was busy celebrating its great victory, but as usual politicians with their petty thinking were crying foul. It is time politicians showed their magnanimity and thank the officials and the sponsors for the wonderful organising of this tourney, without thinking of personal popularity.

Fortunately for cricket and for Sri Lanka with the exit of former minister Tyronne Fernando, the Board of Control for Cricket presidency went out of the hands of the politicians to the private sector's Ana Punchihewa who brought business-world professional management to Sri Lankan cricket. Within little over a couple of months the same team that was losing match after match for several years, was beating international teams in their own soil and soon became world champions.

With the board presidency mantle now moving to Upali Dharmadasa we hope politicians will stay out of cricket. If we let them enter, you can be sure the world beaters will, in no time be demoralised and de- motivated.

Our crickters, given good administration, and facilities have proved to be the best in the world. We can do it in so many fields like in education and industry, if only our country is less politicised by self- seeking politicians. Our people are most talented. Our country needs professional management. It is time honest, hard-working, professional managers, entered politics and got into the mainstream of running our country.

D.D.S. De Fonseka

Colombo 5.

Shortcomings of provincial council system

'Devolution package' - ,the need for a new beginning by Rohan Edirisinha is a succinct revelation of the shortfall of the Devolution proposals from the norms of Federation in the light of the categories of political science.

The International Political Science Association claims a valid distinction between federalism and federation and confirms that validity by the existence of both comparative federalism and federation research committees. "Federalism and Federation" (1982) by Preston King, and Federalism and Federation in Western Europe" (1986) by Michael Burgess represent the new, different approach to the subject.

Federal ideas and principles are at work in all unitary states and states which are not conventional federations. The extent of the federal factor is the test and measure of democracy in all political and administrative structures. "All authority in a democracy is factoral" is the cry of Harold Laski in all his prolific writings. Preston King claimed that, "although there may be federalism, without federation, there can be no federation without some degree of federalism". Spain and Belgium are regarded as having institutionalised federalism without arriving at federation. This is also recognised as the modus operandi of the European community as it moves towards further European integration. But the traditional categories of devolution, regionalism, decentralisation etc., are by no means synonymous with federalism.

The discourses on the devolution proposals do not seem to display the perceptions of the nuances of Federalism vis-a-vis federation. The nostalgia for the unitary and the assumption of its symbiosis with sovereignty incompatible as it is with regional autonomy, is a misconception blissfully imbibed from the British system - the Austinean legal fiction, the singular accident of the struggle between King and Parliament in the British constitutional history, that carries no external or Universal relevance. Today, the UK Parliament itself has surrendered its sovereignty to the European Community and its legislation is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Regional autonomy, without the other concomitants of federation viz: the supremacy of the constitution, judicial review, bicameral legislation, etc., leaves the unitary structure intact even if the word unitary is deleted.

The ethnic crisis that could have been averted, arrested or defused or resolved by the effective implementation of the BC, DC pacts, above all by the Provincial Councils has taken such a toll of time and trust as to justify a resort to extremism and violence, that only the postulates enumerated by Rohan Edrisinha can provide the viable and strategic constitutionalism for resolving the crisis and forestalling the centrifugal forces.

The crisis on an ultimate analysis is inherent in the conventional unitary structure and majority rule in a multi-racial society. Federation in the language of Lord Acton is the system of checks and balances against majoritarianism - the absolutism of the ethnic majority.

In an excerpt from an article by a research team of the Colombo University of which Prof. Peiris was a member, published in The Sunday Times of Jan. 2, 1994. The German Bundestag was extolled as a model for Sri Lanka to rectify the shortcomings of the provincial council system. It is unfortunate that the German Model has no place in the devolution proposals.

A. Nadarajah,

Colombo 5.

Advertisement for post of Vice Chancellor

It is with great surprise I read the advertisement in the newspapers for the above post.

It is noted that this is the first time since the Universities Act No. 7 of 1985 was enacted that such an advertisement has been made in Sri Lanka for this high esteemed office of Vice-Chancellor which has been referred to in the advertisement as a 'post'. The Universities Act No. 16 of 1978, there was provision through an Ordinance for the University Court to call for applications according to a laid down procedure and the final selection or election was by the University Court and not by any other higher authority, with the decision being final and the Chancellor making the appointment.

The spirit of the provisions of the procedure indicated in the Section 17 of the Universities Act No. 7 of 1985 is that of a 'Search Committee' as practised in some countries. In such an event the whole Council of the University would constitute the 'Search Committee' and then nominate a suitable and eminent panel of 3 persons to be considered by the President for the appointment of one of them to the Office.

It is very unfortunate that the principle of the 'Search Committee' nominating and recommending to higher authorities for the appointment to this high Office has been mixed up by calling for applications for a 'post' without a scheme of recruitment, which is there even for a clerk in the University system.

A former Vice-Chancellor

More letters to the editor - Thank God for Cricket * Plight of the pensioners * Revision of pensions *

Go to the Plus contents page

Write a letter to the editor : editor@suntimes.is.lk

Go to the Letters to the Editor Archive