26 September, 2022


A Load Of Piffle Parading As “Policy”

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

On my checking out the web edition of a prominent English-language daily on November 5th, I was “greeted”, if that is the appropriate term, by unmitigated rubbish which, if the writer is to be believed, was about to be delivered by probably the most powerful man in the country – Ranil Wickremesinghe, our Prime Minster – in the form of a landmark policy announcement.

This spoke to a great and noble enterprise that invoked the late Robert Knox’s contention that, if you washed the mud off him, a Sri Lankan peasant was fit to occupy the throne. If one seeks the pith of that proposed wondrous policy it is little more than that which, during World War II, when the international sea lanes were utilized by the allies to transport troops and materials essential to the conduct of war, when we had, of necessity, to grow our own food if we were to avoid dying of starvation. This appears to be yet more proof positive that those who do not read history are doomed to live by the consequences of such self-imposed ignorance. The unfortunate part here is that those of us not contributing to this application of monumental ignorance are fated to suffer the consequences of their stupidity.

I cannot recall the number of times that I have spoken to the complete devastation of any efforts by rural people, particularly in the mid-country, to grow anything resembling food. There is literally no crop – root, vegetable or tree – that is safe from complete devastation by wild pigs, porcupines, monkeys, giant and flying squirrels and even muntjac or barking deer.

Apart from those plants traditionally treated as fruit or vegetables, a friend recently informed me that he had abandoned something like 30 Acres of cardamons because the monkeys had developed a taste for cardamom shoots and the sambhur had finished off what the simians had begun!

I am aware that, not so long ago, a meeting of academics and specialists – those engaged in trying to deal with the monkey menace – determined, unanimously, that the only means of dealing with the menace as killing them. It is interesting that those proceedings have never been exposed to the public and the only way I have knowledge of them is because an attendee told me about what had transpired at that meeting in Kandy!

While the villagers and those living in squatter colonies in our neighbourhood have given up completely on any effort at cultivating root, vegetable or fruit crops, two recent unsolicited reports might give one further pause. The first of these is that of dressed chicken awaiting cooking over an open hearth having “disappeared” when left unattended for a moment and monkeys on an adjacent tree seemed to be enjoying what seemed suspiciously like what was to be the family’s chicken curry! The other complained of the “disappearance” of free range chickens during the day while monkeys were in evidence. For those who are going to suggest that it was jackals that had done the damage, let me say that we have seen neither hide nor hair nor heard the traditional howling of jackals anywhere in these parts for the past ten years, a fact to which I will make reference further on in this piece.

The attempt to foist a bunch of unadulterated crap on those of us living in rural Sri Lanka is typical of the elites of Colombo who will, I am sure, lap up the kind of “information” that their fellow residents splash across the pages of their newspapers. I hope that what those of us from the “boonies” have to say doesn’t unduly impede champage-cocktail imbibing!

At least the Rajapaksa regime had the good sense not to insult its rural voter base with arrant nonsense like this.

This kind of rubbish with the potential for very serious negative economic consequences was preceded by much-heralded banning of glyphosate and asbestos.

I have some knowledge of the latter in particular and did in fact know a person who died of mesothelioma (asbestosis) through his exposure to asbestos dust/fibres over many years of employment at a Johns Manville factory, out of which came a variety of asbestos products. That said, I would be interested to know whether there has been even one recorded case of Mesothelioma caused by asbestos fibre in Sri Lanka. My expressed doubt is because asbestos is primarily used as a roofing material in the tropics and even if there is any dust/fibre released when cutting or drilling the sheets, it would be infrequently, in extremely small quantities and in an open space unlike in a country such as Canada where it was almost exclusively used in its fibre form for insulation and similar application indoors.

There has been more than one analysis of this issue in the media and, while it was very evident, that none of the writers had any association with those making or selling asbestos products, the consensus of opinion was that the banning of asbestos was a hasty and ill-considered step without a scientific justification.

The banning of Glyphosate (colloquially better known by one of its trade names of Round-Up) which could, at least, be considered controversial if not completely ill-advised, bears further and immediate review because there is a significant body of technical and scientific opinion that says that it’s banning could have huge negative implications for food and cash-crop production in this country because, with the “modernization” that has occurred in food production, particularly in paddy production, over the years, nothing short of chemical control of weeds will keep many food and commercial economically viable. Mark you, that is a clock that cannot be turned back for very obvious reasons.

From the unbiased scientific opinions that I have seen, the abuse rather than correct use of Glyphosate is the villain. The very strong circumstantial evidence for the disappearance of the jackal population in most parts of Sri Lanka has been attributed to the “abusive” application of weedicides by cultivators and I am personally aware that, in the ten years I have been back in my ancestral home, I have seen neither hide nor hair (nor heard the eerie pack-howling) of the Nariyas that used to be the bane of our lives as poultry-producers. My village friends say that this is a direct result of the abuse of insecticides in the paddy fields, particularly since the jackals could not differentiate between poisoned and non-poisoned fresh-water crabs, one of their favourite foods, in the paddy field.

An old school-mate, Cecil Dharmasena, wrote a couple of superb pieces in, I believe, the daily Island newspaper, a few years ago describing the damage that was done to agriculture in general by the destruction of the staff-structures in the agricultural department by the free enterprise-mad JR Jayewardene dispensation who removed, virtually overnight, the agricultural officers who provided advice to farmers and policed practices at the field level. It certainly is time for those articles to re-appear in the national media, in all three languages, to emphasize the need of a measured and meaningful approach to the challenges in agricultural production rather than indulge in the stupidities of banning this, that and the other product, willy-nilly..

In case the message still hasn’t come through, let me say simply that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not simply ill-advised but can result in serious economic repercussions for those for whom such steps were allegedly going to provide a “new dawn.” Rather than herald a “new dawn” it could well lead to the setting of the sun on their very existences.

The “Nouveau M-R” (Maithri-Ranil) bunch need to stop covering up for the sins of their most important predecessors, kick out the incompetents that they have put in positions of authority for goodness knows what reason and stop doing things that have serious negative consequences for the very people they claim are to be the beneficiaries of their Yahapalanaya.

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  • 7


    When I read headline of your article I thought you were referring to the ‘Economic policy statement’ made in parliament by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. That was an expensive waste of paper and words even Mrs. Malaprop would have been proud of. I am certain RW must have been pinching himself throughout the speech making sure he was awake. I think Ranil is really into his ‘Mr. Honesty’ mode that he expects his cabinet to be afflicted by the same yearning for honest public service.

    Let alone being honest, he is unable to get them to behave and act like normal Sri Lankans. It seems they are all in a hurry to make a quick buck before the govt collapses under the weight of its own hubris.

    • 6

      Emil, you are quite right!

      Ranil is following Mahinda Jarapassa’s Corruption precedent. Lets not forget that the Central Bank is today run by a corrupt Insider Trader, Arjuna Mahendran, who has not got the necessary qualifications and should be tried for the bond scam to benefit his son-in-law’s firm Perpetual treasuries.

      Recently in parliament on the Kandy road construction – without tender process Ranil has the idiocy to say: ‘Phase I of the Kandurata Expressway has to be constructed under an unsolicited system, as the previous government had entered into an agreement to grant one phase of the Construction under the same system, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday.’ In other words, because Rajapaksa and his corrupt clowns were corrupt and did not have tenders did it we must follow them!! This is what Arjuna Mahendan the insider trader at the Central Bank also did with the Bond issue for his Son in Law of Perpetual Treasuries – following the corrupt Clown Nivard Caraal’s precedent! In many ways Perpetual Treasuries and the Mahendran scam is the UNP’s equivalent of the Avant Guard Scam! We the Sinhala Modayas of Lanka are all being taken for a massive ride!

  • 3

    When it comes to Human rights, You sir are a champion of WESTERN Standards.

    So why not follow WESTERN Health and Safety Standards?

    From UK Health and Safety Executive:

    Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road. Around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure

    When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop(15-60 years), but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.

    Asbestos prohibition laws in the United Kingdom were first introduced in the mid-1980s. In 1985, the UK banned the import and use of both blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos. This rule was replaced in 1992 with a law that also banned some uses of white (chrysotile) asbestos, traditionally considered less lethal than the other forms of the mineral.
    In 1999, the government decided, with no exceptions, to ban the use and import of chrysotile asbestos

    Asbestos can cause the following fatal and serious diseases:

    Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

    Asbestos-related lung cancer
    Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.

    Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.

    Pleural thickening
    Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.

    Common materials that may contain asbestos:
    Asbestos can found in a many of the common materials used in the building trade. Some of these materials should only be worked on by a licensed contractor.

    Where – around boilers or calorifiers and around pipework.
    This is one of the most dangerous materials containing asbestos. You are more at risk from breathing in asbestos fibres because disturbance of the lagging or insulation releases fibres very easily into the air that you breathe.

    Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams/columns
    Insulation on the underside of roofs and sometimes sides of buildings and warehouses. Also used as fire protection on steel and reinforced concrete beams/columns and on underside of floors.
    This contains up to 85% asbestos and breaks up very easily. It is one of the most dangerous materials containing asbestos. Even minor disturbance of sprayed coatings can release large quantities of asbestos fibres into the air where they can be breathed in.

    Asbestos insulating board
    Where – partition walls, fireproofing panels in fire doors, lift shaft linings, ceiling tiles, soffits, panels below windows.

    Floortiles, textiles and composites
    Textiles can be found in fuse boxes behind the actual fuse. Old fire blankets and heat resistant gloves can also be made out of asbestos textiles.

    Textured coatings
    Textured coatings were used to produce decorative finishes on ceilings and walls. In the past, they have had various trade names such as ‘Artex’.

    Asbestos cement products
    Asbestos cement roofs, boiler systems, air conditioning and ventilation systems.

    Roofing felt, Rope seals and gaskets.

    Am I at risk?
    Workers involved in refurbishment, maintenance and other similar trades, could be at risk of exposure to asbestos during their work.

    This includes:
    Heating and ventilation engineers, Demolition workers, Carpenters and joiners, Plumbers, Roofing contractors, Painters and decorators, Plasterers, Construction workers, Fire and burglar alarm installers, Shop fitters, Gas fitters, Computer and data installers, General maintenance staff eg caretakers, Telecommunications engineers, Architects, building surveyors, and other such professionals, Cable layers, Electricians

    You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres in the air. The effects of being exposed to asbestos take many years to show up – avoid breathing it in now. People who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos is only a danger when fibres are made airborne and breathed in. As long as the asbestos is in good condition and it is located somewhere where it can’t be easily damaged then it shouldn’t be a risk to you.

    National Asbestos Bans
    International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
    (Revised September 30, 2015)

    Algeria / Argentina / Australia / Austria / Bahrain / Belgium / Brunei / Bulgaria / Chile / Croatia / Cyprus / Czech Republic / Denmark / Egypt / Estonia / Finland / France / Gabon / Germany / Gibraltar / Greece / Honduras / Hungary
    Iceland / Ireland / Israel / Italy / Japan / Jordan / Korea (South) / Kuwait
    Latvia / Lithuania / Luxembourg / Malta / Mauritius / Mozambique / Netherlands / New Caledonia / Norway / Oman / Poland / Portugal / Qatar
    Romania / Saudi Arabia / Serbia / Seychelles / Slovakia / Slovenia / South Africa / Sweden / Switzerland / Turkey / United Kingdom / Uruguay

    • 3

      Please take the time to read what I said apropos of asbestos and its applications.
      I spent in excess of three decades in a country which had used asbestos over the years for insulation of various kinds NOT AS ROOFING under tropical conditions. I have seen the challenges faced in trying to replace asbestos fibre used to insulate heating pipes and the fact that sections of basements had to be completely walled-off and heating and cooling pipes installed anew with such as fibreglass insulation.

      Would you take the time to answer my central question: Have there ever been cases of mesothelioma/asbestosis due to asbestos fibres identified in Sri Lanka and if so, how many and when? Since you’ve been able to quote so extensively on this issue, I am sure you will be able to answer this simple question as well.

      • 0

        Emil van der Poorten:

        “Have there ever been cases of mesothelioma/asbestosis due to asbestos fibres identified in Sri Lanka and if so, how many and when?”

        I’ll leave a Sri Lankan based professional to answer that.

        It is estimated that 107,000 people die of asbestos related diseases worldwide. We have used asbestos based products in SL for the last 50 years and I have seen the careless way in which it is used there. So, unless we have a special gene making us immune, there is no reason why we shouldn’t have our share of casualties.

        Maybe the following extract from a 2012 article in the Island by Rufus Randeniya could shed some light:

        “American lawyers keep on reminding the people that those who have been diagnosed as cancer patients of asbestos exposure can get compensations. Huge sums of money have been allocated to pay asbestos victims who could prove their case through articulate litigation.
        Third world countries keep this red light signals at bay taking advantage of the ignorance of their people. Many suffer and more die of lung cancer and it is just another unanalysed chest trouble. We have taken some steps to reduce lead content in paints. Similar awareness is urgently needed to be careful of asbestos risks”.

        BTW don’t think asbestos roofing is safe. Moss and lichen can cause severe damage if it grows through to the underside of the roof, when asbestos contamination inside the building can occur.

        A heavily mossed roof should be cleaned and then sealed / coated according to H&S guidelines. Moss and other debris on the roof should be collected and placed into approved asbestos waste bags for proper disposal, since it could contain asbestos fibres. In this case, it must be treated as contaminated waste and disposed of properly.

        Jet washing an asbestos roof is also not advisable.

        I suppose the above doesn’t apply to us Sri Lankans, with our special genes…

        • 0

          Thank you you for the extensive information about asbestos use and maintenance of existing roofing of that material, particularly that with regard to moss and lichen build-ups, though I have some question about doing anything that would release asbestos fibre into the atmosphere (and therefore the home and its surroundings using such material)

          Simply put, however, you have dodged my question as to asbestos-related deaths in Sri Lanka with a bunch of unsubstantiated generalities given the fact that asbestos has been used (only?) as roofing material in this country.

          As you might have noticed, I am not one to subscribe to the notion that Sri Lankans in general (and “Sinhala Buddhists” in particular) carry genes that make them immune from asbestosis or any other malady of body or mind!

  • 6

    “The “Nouveau M-R” (Maithri-Ranil) bunch need to stop covering up for the sins of their most important predecessors, kick out the incompetents that they have put in positions of authority for goodness knows what reason and stop doing things that have serious negative consequences for the very people they claim are to be the beneficiaries of their Yahapalanaya.”

    How can they do this, Emil, when they are personally responsible for appointing incompetents to positions of authority?

    The promised Yahapalanaya is quickly turning into a farce and unless MS and RW quickly kick out the incompetents and the relatives and friends they and others have appointed to positions of power and also punish those whose files are languishing in the Bribery Commission, they will be no better than the mafia that was deposed.

  • 6

    A Load Of Piffle, Hey?

    People against glyphosate have always known of its producer the imperialist multi-national Monsanto’s attempts to put pressure on governments to reverse the ban on glyphosate (Round Up) by hiring media hacks, the foul-mouthed ones at that. They are known to hire politicians and media-related bumpkins in developing countries to try and influence public opinion. Fortunately, they have miserably failed so far.

    To begin with, this hack needs to know that, in this information age, he can’t hide the fact that glyphosate is also obanned in many other countries including his native country (judging by the Dutch name), The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador and many more. Garden centers in France have pulled Roundup from the shelves and it can no longer be purchased in France.

    This champion of Round Up says “The banning of Glyphosate… bears further and immediate review because there is a “significant body of technical and scientific opinion” that says that it’s banning could have huge negative implications…”. Well this man is lying through his teeth! Scientific evidence?

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that glyphosate should now be categorized as a “probable carcinogen” for humans. It has been linked to Infertility, Birth defects, Kidney disease,Severe gastrointestinal ailments, Parkinson’s Disease, Nervous system damage and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. A new study published in the journal Biomedical Research International shows that Roundup herbicide is 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate studied in isolation.

    In fact, Monsanto have known for longer than 35 years that its glyphosate is linked to cancer and other health issues.There were many animal experiments (using rats, mice and dogs) that tested the acute and chronic toxicity of glyphosate in the period 1978-1986, conducted by laboratories Bio/dynamics Inc for Monsanto. But independent scrutiny of the adverse information has been denied on the criminal grounds that it is “Trade Secret”. As it always happens, the so-called US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has allowed Monsanto’s criminal secrecy of the damning evidence on flimsy pretexts.

    Negative implications? If saving poor farmers of deadly cancers, is a “negative implication”, yes.

    Showing how Monsanto exerts its influence in to the US politics, long-time Monsanto lobbyist the yew Jerry Crawford was recently appointed adviser to Hillary Clinton’s “Ready for Hillary” elelction campaign. Crawford has been Monsanto’s agent fighting small farmers in court to protect seed monopoly.

    In view of these “facts”, pushing for the removal of ban on glyphosaste and Round up should be categorised as a misuse of media freedom in a “wild-donkey” manner as the Sri Lankan saying goes. Attempts to put pressure on governments by loud-mouthed louts should be banned, not allowing loud-mouthed louts their undermining just because they can put a few English sentences together and hide accurate facts.

    Down with murderous multinationals and their paid agents.

    • 2

      The Scientist:
      I can now add to the long list of honours that have been awarded me the title of “hired gun for Monsanto!” Do you think you could provide me with a suitable address at which I might pursue this career option?

      Before you go throwing abuse and allegations around UNDER COVER OF A PSEUDONYM, why don’t you respond to the central issue of what implications there are for agricultural production in a primarily rural country if Glyphosate is banned? One scientist (a real one, not one who uses that term as a pseudonym) informed me that this could well be an effort to cause serious civil strife if there is a significant drop in paddy and other agricultural production. Conspiracy theories anyone?

      Incidentally, the reference to my Dutch ancestry is a thinly-veiled racist “shot”that only the brain-dead would miss! Good for you! Unfortunately, if I were to refer to your ancestry in similar vein,I’d likely be insulting “man’s best friend” and I wouldn’t want to do the entire canine world such a disservice.

      “Down with murderous multinationals and their paid agents” sounds suspiciously like a rallying call for the guillotines to be brought out, something even the recently departed regime of which you are very obviously a supporter, didn’t do!

      • 2

        What a dishonest, spineless response to some legitimate questions about the lies you try to propagate! In addition, the lier seems to be paranoid too.

        To remind the real issue you once again, you have asserted that glyphosate is good for us to consume and its banning will lead to starvation on the countryside.

        Here is another opportunity.

        Prove this lie rather than throw abuse at rational criticism of the dishonest rubbish you have written.

        Wish to remain silent on the rest of your cowardly diatribe which we treat as you “pissing against the wind”. That will be back on your face!

        • 3

          The Scientist:

          Considering your propensity for self-righteousness, perhaps you would care to tell us where I “have asserted that glyphosate is good for us to consume.” That statement suggests that that Ananias should be in a pantheon of saints compared to you.

          And apropos of your statement about
          “we treat as you “pissing against the wind”. That will be back on your face!”
          It seems like my nether human orifices are located a little differently to yours because, if I were to do what you suggest, the blow-back would end on my feet, not my face. However, if one’s brain is located as yours appears to be you might be at risk of such a consequence I suppose.

          • 2

            With every stinking digression you are trying, you reveal more of your lack of character.

            If you are saying that banning of glyphosate is going to destroy the countryside, tell us how. Are you saying that poor farmers’ lives have to be discounted?

            Come up with the answers or you will prove that you are a worthless piece of ‘you know what’.

            • 2

              The Scientist:
              In the absence of a real and economical alternative and with the very real possibility of its responsible use, the removal of glyphosate is going to have a a very serious negative impact on agricultural production in this country.
              The purpose of my responses to your nonsense which is very obviously based on a total lack of practical agricultural experience and knowledge is certainly not to generate your simplistic responses, incidentally.
              And while I am about it, I will say that your vitriol level seems to have risen since the time you were sending me threatening emails from down under. Has your loss of employment been the cause?

              • 1

                “you were sending me threatening emails from down under. Has your loss of employment been the cause?”

                What the bloody hell are you suggesting, you liar? I will not think in my dreams of sending threatening emails to a “piece of you know what” like you. Not worth it. THen what is is about loss of employment? Your ignorance and self-deceit knows no bounds, obviously.

                Dream on Poo…Ton

                • 0

                  The Scientist:
                  My belated, though sincere, apologies for confusing you with the other piece of material to which you seem to have such a huge attachment.

                  That said, I’m sure that you’ll agree that there is always the risk of mistaken identity between two people(?) hiding behind separate pseudonyms under remarkably similar rocks.
                  I don’t really know whether the rocks of anonymity under which you hide or the protection from you-know-who provide better cover. In any event, the monumental cowardice of such veerayas is only too evident. As they say, “You can run but you can’t (really) hide!”

              • 0


                “the removal of glyphosate is going to have a a very serious negative impact on agricultural production in this country.”

                Glyphosate has been banned. We will see the impacts soon. We must accept the “wait and see” approach.

                Without Glyphosate a lot more labor is required. I doubt if enough workers are available and how they will be paid with the existing market prices.

                However the fact remains that there was agriculture before Glyphosate.

        • 2

          Everything is relative. What would you prefer, thousands of farmers overusing chemicals and dying of CKD, or farmers NOT using chemicals and millions of consumers dying of starvation?
          Take your pick.

          • 2

            Old codger,

            Your remark does not deserve a response from anyone with any decency in them.

            People like you, Emil, merely steal our oxygen, water and food.

            Hope before long, a poor farmer will have the opportunity to live on the share you are consuming currently.

            • 2

              The Scientist:
              I am sure “Old Codger” can take of himself, but you appear to be on a campaign (against yourself?)in the expression of absurdity.

              “People like you, Emil, merely steal our oxygen, water and food” must be one of the stupidest statements ever made!
              Or do you have an even better one lurking in the wings?

          • 1

            Old codger:
            If you really belong to the generation that your pseudonym suggests, you will realise that “everything in moderation” has been the only real solution to humanity’s needs!

            I don’t think it has to be an “either/or” conversation. We CAN have it both ways.

            WE CAN’T TURN BACK THE CLOCK in the use of chemicals. Discipline and control is the key. People seem to forget that the very chemical that makes drinking water safe – chlorine – can be POISONOUS if used to excess.

            The stupidities (malice?) of people who have been insulated from the realities of ACTUALLY producing food or cash crops MUST NOT be permitted to do real damage, upto and including being responsible for major civil unrest and misery to those least able to go out and buy caviar at the neighbourhood store!

            • 1

              I agree with you entirely . I think the current hoo-ha about asbestos roofing is cooked up by the clay-tile lobby. As you said, nobody has been PROVED to have died of cancer caused by asbestos roofing. I don’t think Ramona Therese has ever lived under a Cadjan roof, otherwise she would know how much regular labour-intensive maintenance it needs.

              • 0

                old codger,

                What’s the difference between the labour intensity of the asbestos factory using automated machines mostly, and the CEO becoming a billionaire, and the labour intensity of Cadjan roofs that will spread the wealth and give employment to the masses? Clay tile, like the Cadjan roofs are traditional cottage industries, that need no lobbies.

                • 0

                  Ramona Therese,
                  ” the CEO becoming a billionaire, and the labour intensity of Cadjan roofs that will spread the wealth and give employment to the masses?”
                  I have not recently run into any “masses” that are willing to work on a cadjan roof.This is the 21st century.
                  My grandmother had a cadjan roof, so I know what effort it took to maintain it. The cadjans had to be replaced every couple of years.
                  At that time there were plenty of people to do the work at reasonable cost.When labour became expensive, she went in for a Calicut tile roof.
                  Just because some industry is traditional does not mean we have to doggedly preserve it. What about the horse-shoe (ladang)industry that thrived in Grandpass? Or the thirikkal industry?
                  You must realise that things change, as the Buddha said. Asbestos is now the most economical roofing solution. No leaks, no cracks as with clay tiles, less wooden framing than with clay tiles. There IS a clay tile lobby, including some big manufacturers who cannot compete with asbestos.There is no cadjan roof lobby because there are no cadjan roof builders. Neither are there mud house builders.
                  Economics underpins everything. You might be interested to know that in some parts of India, most houses have concrete roofs because wood is very expensive. Of course it gets very hot inside these houses.

                  • 0

                    old codger,

                    (Just to clarify: the CEO becoming a billionaire belongs to the Asbestos industry, and not to the cadjan roof cottage industry.)

                    Masses are out of proper employment, and many have to go to the middle-east, or involve in useless jobs specially created by Gosl to give employment, as there is nothing else to keep at least part of the masses occupied (as Elite hold on to all the money with limited and restricted employment creation-technique).

                    As major CEO’s, who are the job-creators, are minting money off e.g. Asbestos-roofing, with limited work-force, but plenty of automation, and masses hang around waiting for daily low-wage hand-outs of from billionaire CEO’s, thus is the countries monetary recourse tied up in a bottle neck that trickles down to the masses.

                    Now, on the other hand, if masses were given cadjan roof employment (or mud-bricks and tiles and walls employment), they wouldn’t have to undergo all of the above. If teams of workers are given such employment, they will happily, for acceptable wages, replace people’s roofs and walls every 2-5 years. After all, computers get upgraded every 6 months! Cars have new models every year. And this will be a modernized cadjan roof/mud-walls industry, that with scientific technique, will last about 10 years. CEO’s handling the industry will be part of the masses, and will hence possess the least capacity at corruptibility and desire for Elite hording.

                    ……..and while at it, let’s bring back the bullock cart industry also, and save up on petrol.

                    As per India’s concrete roofs…..OMG! Don’t even compare Buddhist Egalitarian Sri Lanka with Hindu India’s High-Caste Elite minting money off low-cost material and Dalit slavery, so they can evolve brains and bank accounts (usually in Western countries.

  • 4

    I always thought Poorty is matey with our Colombo Elite..

    Batalanada Ranil’s Economic Policies are all Piffle for sure. No argument mate..

    Colombo Elite and the Anglicans have already started planning their X Mas do.

    Soon they will raid Cargills, Arpico, and all other super super markets including the Wahabi owned ones, to grab any bargains from Toys to Black Label.

    But the poor will have to wait , Because Batalanada’s Policies haven’t generated even one job so far , let alone big Projects like the ones which we had until January 8.

    Latest economic news which I came across in the press yesterday.

    Srilanka scraps services to Paris, Frankfurt and Rome.So much for the Tourist Boom.

    JVP is organizing another Free TZ uprising. Against Yahapalanaya this time..

    Because Batakanda’s promise to give Private Sector Employees a Pension is just recycled Rajapaksa policy according to a JVP leader.

    Not the Prince mind you, who now works for Vellalas.

    Justice Minister sued our brand new Field Marshal for damages of 500 Million Yahapalana Rupees.

    And guess what..

    The Field Marshal has issued a counter claim for 5000 Million against the Yahapalana Justice Minister.

    That atleast sounds like is Economic growth, I guess.

    And the 22.5 Million monthly commission check to Perpetual SIL….

    • 1

      KASmaalam K.A Sumanasekera

      “to grab any bargains from Toys to Black Label.”

      On the other hand you get unlimited free supply of malt from your expat dalit inhabitants. Are they still friends with you?

      • 3

        Dear Native,

        In fact they love me more now than ever before.

        Because I am the only dalit who stand up for their rights here, which is the domain of the Colombo Elite, Anglicans , Vellalas and the Diaspora with the Dosh.

        • 0


          “Because I am the only dalit who stand up for their rights here, which is the domain of the Colombo Elite, Anglicans , Vellalas and the Diaspora with the Dosh.”

          We are a really powerful but small gang are we not?

  • 2

    Emil van der Poorten,

    I think you might have missed the 3rd step, from 1)the agricultural officers who provided advice to farmers and policed practices at the field level, to 2) glyphosate and asbestos, to 3)the present traditional organic farming(enhanced by world-wide environmental and ecological protection knowledge)……glad if Sirisena-Ranil is attempting to implement step 3.

    Whilst lamenting step 1), you want step 2) to remain a money-making commercial enterprise for the elite.

    Step 3) involves paying-your-taxes for the launch of the post-modern structure.

    Hope they will also launch a coconut fiber and thatch industry, thus giving traditional environmental-jobs to many a workman – coconut fiber and thatch industry to replace the production-cycles of the cancer causing Asbestos industry.

  • 1

    Ramona Therese Fernando:
    IF I understand what you are trying to say, the steps you have outlined are deserving of attention, though I am suspicious every time people talk about “traditional methods of agriculture” for the plain and simple reason that they appear to mean a return to mediaeval modes, replete with tenant farmers living in semi-serfdom.
    We CAN seek the best of both worlds, without retreating into the past or simply becoming the “profit-centres” for such as Monsanto and Shell. That does not come out of hysterical xenophobic ranting, however.
    I am glad that you refer to “paying your taxes” because I do not recall you ever making reference to this need while the previous lot were in power. Is that because those who ruled this land with an iron fist upto January 8th had no liability to taxes because, while what they garnered was “income,” it was gathered “off-the-record?”

    As for “thatch” covering for buildings, have you even considered the implications? I suppose it might be a “tourist attraction” to have the roofs of all of Colombo’s high rises (and your own dwelling) covered with “pol-athu” and we could employ all the Colombo 7 cuties to weave coconut cadjans in their spare time of which I expect they have oodles!

  • 0


    Traditional methods of agriculture have gotten a modern update. That’s why it is called post-modern, as it can be incorporated into the modern lifestyle. We have evolved since medieval times, and must evolve further. Monsanto and Shell (applied properly), cannot be incorporated into post-modern agriculture. If they are applied very cautiously, as you call for, it will surely drive their prices up, thus defeating the purpose of having such industries.

    No sir….. hysterical xenophobic ranting is never mine……unlike you, I give honor to the Motherland and acknowledge and appreciate the majority people.

    You might not recall that I called for tax during the previous regime’s time, but I did many a time. Both regimes are good, though they have different methods. The only folly of the Rajapaksa regime was the US-China imbroglio. I, like many others, was nervous about too great the China alliance, and hoped they would implement a tax-scheme to pay back loans.

    With Rajapaksa, we would have plentiful of money, but little security (with the Westerners). With Sirisena-Ranil, we have only India to rely on :(….(but we are free off the Western threat – almost). It might, however, be a good thing, because China’s ambitions are being thwarted a bit during this time- they might probably not have much of a chance in the future.

    Coconut cadjans can be used for post-modern housing, and will be a much needed industry for the rural dweller. But for buildings already there, especially the high-rises, there’s always environmentally friendly earthen-ware roof tiles.

    • 0

      Ramona Therese Fernando:
      If proof be needed of the illogicality of what you have to say, your last response provides it. I am beginning to believe that there is actually a place called “Cloud Cuckoo Land” after reading what you have to say.

      • 0

        Not at all EVDP,….not at all.

  • 2


    You have copped a bit of flak over this article of yours, sadly I must admit deservedly so.

    There is no argument; asbestos is bad for our health. Your request for proof of deaths ascribed to asbestos in Sri Lanka is poorly sought. Sri Lanka do not keep such statistics in the best of times. In a country where death no matter in whatever form is accepted as part of Karma and very rarely blamed on errant doctors, degraded environmental effects or due to acts of violence, keeping of statistics are the least of our worries.

    You also exhibit very little tolerance with the so called pests such as monkeys, bats etc. Well in the first place it is we who encroached on their lands and not the other way about. We need to find creative ways to coexist than to kill one species to sustain another, especially when the other is more destructive to the environment and everything else on earth than the pitiable monkeys.

    I disagree with Ramona Therese Fernando’s undisguised admiration of the MARA mob, however must agree with her that we need to evolve further and beyond the Monsanto/Shell decreed agricultural practices. There is ample evidence that Sri Lanka was self sufficient in food in the ancient times, prior to the advent of hazardous modern agricultural practices. We can do even better in this day and age compared to the ancient times with a plethora of knowledge on post modern agricultural practices and we do not need to kill some humans and babies to sustain other humans and babies.

    • 0

      BBS Rep:
      What has been most apparent to me, apart from the usual measure of simple abuse, is the fact that many who have, well-meaningly, contributed to this discussion are totally unaware of the reality faced by rural people, particularly in the mid-country of Sri Lanka.

      I would be only too ready to provide conducted tours in this part of rural Sri Lanka to anyone who has the time and inclination to see, at first hand, what the real practical importance is to them of the three issues I’ve raised.

      I never subscribed to the blanket term of criticism that the term “Colombians” implied, but I am beginning to perceive how different life is between middle class folk in urban Sri Lanka and those who live outside suburbia.

      • 1


        The mindset of town folk are always far too removed from the realities faced by rural folk – agreed. Most of my life was lived in rural Sri Lanka so the label ‘Colombian’ does not apply to me. I would never choose to live in Colombo anyway with its suffocating humidity; air polluted by an overabundance of trishaws combined with trucks and buses belching half burnt diesel fumes and worst of all breathing in the all pervading foul body odours of our own homo erectuses. Give me rural Sri Lanka any time and I will take it.

        Coming back to the argument whether organophosphates are essential for modern agricultural practices the answer is a resounding no. The way the world is going is the organics way and for good reason too. The cost of long term damage done to humans and to the lesser beings who inhabit the world along with us and to the environment etc is not worth the instantaneous profits the rural folk may generate to sustain life. I know you have a genuine concern for the rural poor but better sense must prevail in the long run. To feed ourselves with food laced with organophosphates and a surfeit of other related equally dangerous chemicals that help to improve the appearance and shelf life of agricultural produce, and then to spend half of our lives running between hospitals, vedamahattayas and kattadiyas do not make sense. We must find better ways to sustain ourselves and there are ways plenty out there.

  • 0

    Yeah EVDP!

    Ok,……in case you have assets and stocks in Monsanto/Asbestos industries, you need to phase out, cut your loses, and move to the next level(hope you didn’t put all your eggs in one basket). Do this before the rest of the world starts putting a new monetary value on organics.

  • 0

    Mr van der Poorten

    A most appropriate article; sadly I have seen the constant and regular misuse of materials in Sri Lanka, whether it being indiscriminate use of pesticides etc wrongful procedures when material handling, and a cavalier approach to medicines. Heck, the stubborn resistance to using crates instead of gunny bags to transport food – and save 30% of post harvest loss – just underlines the problems.

    More when I get a break from my Canadian visit.

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