The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

28th June 1998


Are they blind?

Looking through my bedroom window of the once beautiful vast green paddy fields and the marsh at Bellanwila, I begin to wonder whether the Government and the non-governmental organisations are wasting their money, energy and time. Are they serious in implementing what is laid down by law to safeguard the environment.

The area, Bellanwila - Attidya inclusive of the Bird Sanctuary has been declared an area where no filling, building or any other activity could take place. The Land Reclamation Board and theWildlife Department are the sole authorities to enforce the law. But what do we see today? Filling and construction of buildings go on under the very eyes of the authorities with impunity. In the centre of this vast open area of paddy fields was a threshing field (Kamatha) of about twenty perches where a wild bo-tree had sprung up. This was the haunt of Kabaragoyas and the buffaloes before it turned to be a place of worship of some ignorant people.

Now the area has been filled, covering about two acres and further extension is a certainty. Recently a few shanties have come up and it would multiply gradually with the blessings and blind eyes of the Land Reclamation Board and the Wildlife Department.

A shanty has come up right under the Notice Board put up by the Wildlife Department which warns the public not to build or fill the area with garbage.

Strangely, even after informing the authorities, over a year back, no action has been taken. With the place of worship coming up in the Kamatha, (Pillewa Bo-Tree) polythene bags, heaps of rotten decayed flowers are dumped causing damage to the environment. Notwithstanding that, the loud speakers which are switched on loud, makes life a misery in this once peaceful village town.

The police who seem to be the authority to curb noise pollution seems to take no notice. It would do no harm if the chantings are done, to cater to those who participate, but why annoy the residents? With the leniency shown towards this place of worship by the authorities, others have started filling and filling is now being done to set up a factory at ‘Ambalama’ Junction.

Aren’t the environmentalists and the NGOs concerned, working in close collaboration with government organisations or are they only paying lip service. One wonders what influence or effect the foreign funding agencies have on the government. I could understand how efficient the environmentalists and organisations connected are, when judging from what I see through my bedroom window.

One could also presume what fictitious reports they would be submitting to their head offices abroad.

Unless the NGOs, environmentalists, organisations funding this activity are firm with the government and its officials, they should pull out from this country and make themselves more useful somewhere else. Seminars and workshops are mere shows which bring no results. Can politics and politicians go hand in hand with saving the environment?



World of ‘real politik’

The recent nuclear bomb tests by India and Pakistan have raised a significant question. Have these tests resulted in a change in the old world order or alternatively, have they created a new world order?

The last time the expression ‘new world order’ was used, was in the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of USA as the sole global super power.

Since global wars are no longer fought, other yardsticks need to be used to determine a change in the world order. Today, the capacity to manufacture and possess nuclear weapons, must rank as the most significant yardstick to measure the rise of a nation and in turn its impact on the existing world order. The use of this measurement necessarily implies that the standing of both India and Pakistan has been elevated from a global military perspective, however regrettable the acquisition of nuclear weapons is.

In the grim world of ‘ real politik ‘ nuclear weapon-owning states command greater clout and therefore greater influence in international affairs. Since human societies began to function as nation states, the power of a nation has usually been measured in terms of its capacity to inflict damage on other countries. The greater the capacity of a state to cause destruction to an adversary, the higher has been its ranking in the world order.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is flawed. It perpetuates a form of apartheid by preserving the exclusivity of the nuclear ‘ haves’ club. Universal Disarmament is a worthy ideal, though the hypocrisy surrounding its implementation makes it look like an impractical proposition. De-militarization is undoubtedly the greatest ideal.

Unfortunately there are only a few instances in recorded history of countries having engaged in de-militarization. One instance was paradoxically in India, when Emperor Asoka (273 - 232 BC) upon embracing Buddhism, renounced warfare and adopted Ahimsa (non-violence towards both humans and animals) as the principal policy of governance. India was so inspired by the legacy of both the Buddha and Asoka, that India adapted the design of the Buddhist Wheel of the Law (Dharma Chakra) in its flag, and the Asoka Chakra (Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka) as India’s national emblem.

The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan would appear to have laid to rest an assumption that middle ranking powers (from the Third World) would continue to behave according to the criteria and standards imposed by the leading first world countries.

The countries that have the highest moral authority to denounce nuclear tests are those that have never had nor sought to acquire nuclear weapons.

If the USA (which has conducted 1032 nuclear tests compared with six each by India and Pakistan) and the old nuclear powers, were to give leadership and sincerely embark on a process of total nuclear disarmament, it will give the necessary moral impetus for other countries to follow. Should this process get under way, then the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan would not have been in vain.

Senaka Weeraratna

Darwin, Australia

Oh what a beautiful sight!

A few days ago I was standing at the front door of my home (which is at an elevation of about 2000 ft. and on the back slopes of the Hantane range) at about 2.00 p.m., when I saw a most beautiful sight just a few metres in front of me. It was an orange minvet (Pericrocotus flammeus Forster), which G.M. Henry calls “this beautiful bird” whose “brilliant orange and black make this bird unmistakable.”

Within a half-hour of standing in the same position I also saw a variety of sunbirds (common in our garden), what looked like a Ceylon Orange-Breasted Blue Flycatcher (Mucicapa tickelliae measaea), which, according to Henry is “a race peculiar to Ceylon” and a pair of Ceylon Black Bulbuls (also a common sight in our garden).

I have seen many Black Headed Orioles in the garden and in the neighbourhood, and although they are also a beautiful sight, they do not compare with the brilliance of the Orange Minvet.

Gerald Cooray


Banish those IA cronies

I was amazed to read of the cavalier treatment handed out to Ms. Frederica Jansz of The Sunday Times by the Norwegian NGO ‘International Alert’ after she exposed LTTE activities in Norway.

I really don’t know why I was amazed. I should have known all along what these NGOs are upto, here in Sri Lanka and in other Third World countries. I can possibly be excused because even Ms. Frederica Jansz did not know how beholden the very NGO she worked for is, to both the Norwegian Government and the LTTE.

Can you imagine that Frederica Jansz criticises the Sri Lanka Government and International Alert doesn’t care one bit. She criticises the Norwegian Govenment and the LTTE, and she gets fired. From her article it is clear that both the Norwegian Government and the LTTE terrorists are working together.

We can understand the LTTE headquarters in London howling when they are exposed, but imagine International Alert apologising to them.

The most dangerous thing is that it is clear that the Norwegian Government has orchestrated this cruel blow to Ms. Jansz. From what I read Ms. Jansz based her article on what the Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo said.

What the Ambassador said about a terrorist leader like Prabhakaran is damning. Even though Prabhakaran is on the wanted list by Interpol, Norway, is seems, is more than willing to allow him entry to their country.

We know there are other NGOs in Sri Lanka that are also funded like International Alert by the Norwegian Government. They must be investigated throughly.

The Foreign Minister must be congratulated, but how can he fight these Norwegians when other Ministers in the same Government are accepting their money to support the devolution package.

Like those demonstrators shouted outside the IA office in Colombo, “cronies” who take the Norwegian “Kroners” are our biggest fifth columnists.

They must be banished from Sri Lanka. Maybe the Norwegian Ambassador can give them an entry visa.

Inoka Amarasinghe


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